Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Frederick Douglass’s oration on the 4th of July (abridged)

Frederick Douglass’s oration on the 4th of July (abridged)

The middle portion of Douglass’s famous speech, delivered in 1852 to white abolitionists in Rochester, NY, where Douglass lived at the time, and is buried — “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” — is best known.

But in the first portion he allowed for the celebration of the principles enunciated by the Founders in the Declaration of Independence: “your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately, under the inspiration of a glorious patriotism, and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep the corner-stone of the national superstructure.”

And in the Concluding portion, he “dr[e]w[ ] encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions” for the future.

In our own moment of critical trial and literal iconoclasm, Douglass’s ability to see the Founding Fathers as 3 dimensional, lauding their accomplishments as well as damning their collusion in evil, and for girding one’s loins to the crisis of the present, with abiding hope for the universality of decency and justice in the future, is particularly inspiring.
____________________

The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a 4th [of] July oration.
The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable—
This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the 4th of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; … The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence. May he not hope that high lessons of wisdom, of justice and of truth, will yet give direction to her destiny? Were the nation older, the patriot’s heart might be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow. There is consolation in the thought that America is young. ….
there was a time when to pronounce against England, and in favor of the cause of the colonies, tried men’s souls. They who did so were accounted in their day, plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, dangerous men. To side with the right, against the wrong, with the weak against the strong, and with the oppressed against the oppressor! here lies the merit, and the one which, of all others, seems unfashionable in our day. The cause of liberty may be stabbed by the men who glory in the deeds of your fathers. But, to proceed….

Comments (2) | |

June data starts out with a bright spot in manufacturing

June data starts out with a bright spot in manufacturing

Earlier this week the last of the regional Fed Districts, Dallas, reported their manufacturing indexes for June. The overall picture has been a strong rebound:

Regional Fed New Orders Indexes

(*indicates report this week) 

On a month over month basis, the average is up +36 from -30 to +6

=The regional Fed indexes almost always telegraph the direction, and sometimes the amplitude, of the ISM manufacturing index for the entire country. That was certainly the case for June.

This morning the ISM reported that manufacturing in the US rebounded strongly, up +9.5 from a contracting reading of 43.1 to an expanding reading of 52.6. The even more forward-looking new orders subindex rose from a horrible 31.8 to a strongly expansionary 56.4:

Comments (1) | |

Competency

Competency

by   Ken Melvin

What is the first criteria when a Board of Directors goes looking for a new CEO? When the construction firm goes looking for a project manager?

Of late, too often, US Politics seems to have a new standard for selecting officeholders. We have been, are, watching this horror of a Pandemic being mismanaged by elected incompetents. Incompetents who might have been promoted to yet higher positions if their incompetence hadn’t been exposed by the course of events. This isn’t about The Peter Principle at play. This is about a large group of US Politicians who were elected to high-level Executive positions based on their perceived allegiance to a specific ideology or dogma.

It is to be expected that Political Appointees, chits come due, are most often incompetent. But, here, we are talking about some Mayors and Governors, people elected to Executive Roles; that simply could not step up to the task at hand. Noted: There were, indeed, those who did step up; did so handsomely.

For weeks, we had been witness to some of these Governors’ media paean to: Markets, Capitalism, The Confederacy, Christian Values, Western Heroes, American Independence, … only too soon to be followed by record rates of Covid Infections in their states. Why follow the advice of Science and the Scientists? Why heed the guidelines of the CDC? What does Science know?

Appears that they still don’t understand the math, the doubling, science stuff like that. Easily influenced, these Governors followed the lead of an incompetent President who, too, didn’t understand the Science, nor the math; who couldn’t be bothered to read his briefings.

Comments (23) | |

Trump’s recent polling in retrospect

The betting markets and statistical models of the 2020 election suggest Trump is either likely or very likely to lose.  I have no reason to doubt this, but it is interesting to look back at the history of his approval ratings.

Trump’s approval trended down throughout his first year in office, with low points in the summer (Charlottesville, Obamacare repeal) and winter (highly unpopular corporate tax cut).  He finished the year with approval around 37 or 38%.  In 2018, his approval rose from the high 30s to the low 40s, with a dip in September to around 40% corresponding to the Mannafort prosecution and Kavanaugh fiasco.  In January 2019 his approval briefly dipped below 40% due to the month long government shutdown.  Since then his approval has bounced around from 41 to 43%, with a surge to 46% in March 2020 due to a relatively small coronavirus “rally around the flag” effect, before falling to around 41% over the past couple of months due to some combination of COVID and his response to the George Floyd murder and the BLM protests.  So right now, Trump’s approval is not all that much lower than it has been the past couple of years, and it’s still higher than it was during the highly unpopular policy actions Republicans took while they controlled Congress in 2017.  That’s interesting, to me anyway.  COVID and Trump’s racist response to the police brutality protests is less of a problem for him than Charlottesville/Obamacare were.

Turning to polls of the contest between Trump and Biden, Biden has been fairly stable since March, at around 50%, and Trump has declined by about 4 points to 41.5%.

Comments (15) | |

A New Covid Study

Henry Ford Hospital Group (Michigan)  released its peer reviewed observational study on using HCQ, HCQ+AZT, and AZT in the treatment of Covid 19. At 4:30 AM (can’t sleep sometimes), I read it and this is difficult reading while yawning. The stats are within the text of the limited study. I am not going to put them in this brief recital of the study. My version is not all inclusive and I may have missed some issues or facts of importance. I invite you to read it and form your own conclusions.

Treatment with Hydroxychloroquine, Azithromycin, and Combination in Patients Hospitalized with COVID-19″, Henry Ford Covid-19 Task Force, International Journal of Infectious Diseases, July 1, 2020

Cohort, Application, and Dosage:

All patients evaluated were 18 years of age and older and were treated as inpatients for at least 48 hours unless they expired within the time period. The primary objective was to assess treatment experience with hydroxychloroquine versus hydroxychloroquine + azithromycin, azithromycin alone, and other treatments for COVID-19. Treatments were protocol driven, uniform in all hospitals and established by a system-wide interdisciplinary COVID-19 Task Force. Hydroxychloroquine was dosed as 400 mg twice daily for 2 doses on day 1, followed by 200 mg twice daily on days 2-5. Azithromycin was dosed as 500 mg once daily on day 1 followed by 250 mg once daily for the next 4 days. The combination of hydroxychloroquine + azithromycin was reserved for selected patients with severe COVID-19 and with minimal cardiac risk factors.

The methodology of application and dosage appears to be similar to what was used in France and as detailed in others less exact reports. This is not a full-fledged study as one might find in an FDA report. It did involve ~2400 patients.

Limitations:

Include the retrospective, non-randomized, non-blinded study design. Also, information on duration of symptoms prior to hospitalization was not available for analysis. However, our study is notable for use of a cohort of consecutive patients from a multi-hospital institution, regularly updated and standardized institutional clinical treatment guidelines and a QTc interval-based algorithm specifically designed to ensure the safe use of hydroxychloroquine. To mitigate potential limitations associated with missing or inaccurate documentation in electronic medical records, we manually reviewed all deaths to confirm the primary mortality outcome and ascertain the cause of death. A review of our COVID-19 mortality data demonstrated no major cardiac arrhythmias; specifically, no torsades de pointes that has been observed with hydroxychloroquine treatment. This finding may be explained in two ways. First, our patient population received aggressive early medical intervention, and were less prone to development of myocarditis, and cardiac inflammation commonly seen in later stages of COVID-19 disease. Second, and importantly, inpatient telemetry with established electrolyte protocols were stringently applied to our population and monitoring for cardiac dysrhythmias was effective in controlling for adverse events. Additional strengths were the inclusion of a multi-racial patient composition, confirmation of all patients for infection with PCR, and control for various confounding factors including patient characteristics such as severity of illness by propensity matching.

The First (bolded) point made is important as all other commentary made concerning HCQ stressed early intervention in the treatment of Covid to prevent replication of the virus. Subsequent studies such as the VA study involved later intervention of treatment when using hydroxychloroquine.

A Suggestion for further study and a role in treatment:

Our results also require further confirmation in prospective, randomized controlled trials that rigorously evaluate the safety, and efficacy of hydroxychloroquine therapy for COVID-19 in hospitalized patients. Considered in the context of current studies on the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19, our results suggest that hydroxychloroquine may have an important role to play in reducing COVID-19 mortality.

This document is open to the general public. There is “nothing” blocking you from reading it.

Tags: Comments (19) | |

June jobs report: the last hurrah of the wished-for “V-shaped” coronavirus recovery

June jobs report: the last hurrah of the wished-for “V-shaped” coronavirus recovery

HEADLINES:
  • 4,800,000 million jobs added. This makes up about 22% of the 22.1 million job losses in March and April.
  • U3 unemployment rate improved 2.2% from 13.3% to 11.1%, compared with the January low of 3.5%.
  • U6 underemployment rate improved 3.2% from 21.2% to 18.0%, compared with the January low of 6.9%.
  • Those on temporary layoff declined 4,778,000 to 10.565 million.
  • Permanent job losers increased by 588,000.
  • April was revised downward by -100,000. May was revised higher by 190,000 respectively, for a net of 90,000 more jobs gained compared with previous reports.

Leading employment indicators of a slowdown or recession

 

I am still highlighting these because of their leading nature for the economy overall.  These were uniformly very positive:

  • the average manufacturing workweek rose 0.5 hours from a downwardly revised 38.7 hours to 39.2 hours. This is one of the 10 components of the LEI and will be positive.
  • Manufacturing jobs rose by 356,000. Manufacturing has still lost 757,000  jobs in the past 4 months, or 6% of the total.
  • construction jobs rose by 158,000. Even so, in the past 4 months 472,000 construction jobs have been lost, or about 6% of the total.
  • Residential construction jobs, which are even more leading, rose by 19,100. Even so, in the past 4 months there have still been 45,900 lost jobs or about 5% of the total.
  • temporary jobs rose by 148,900. Since February, there have still been 696,100 jobs lost, or 24% of all temporary help jobs.
  • the number of people unemployed for 5 weeks or less declined by 1.037 million to 2.838 million, compared with April’s total of 14.283 million. This is similar to the “less awful” readings of the weekly initial jobless claims.
  • Professional and business employment rose by 306,000, which is still 1.830 million, or about 8% below its February peak.

Comments (0) | |

Wildly Off Forecasts?

Wildly Off Forecasts?

The macroeconomic forecasting business has become quite unhinged in the current situation, with existing models seeming to have their wheels coming off as old relationships simply do not hold and reported data seems unreliable and going in all sorts of directions.  We have already seen this happen regarding forecasts that were made for the May employment numbers, with most forecasters projecting employment declines that would have been more than 10%, some of them by a lot more than that, although none more than 20%. But in the end employment was estimated to have grown by over 2%, a situation of the forecasters simply being wildly wrong.

As it is, with the month of June now over and thus the second quarter over, it looks increasingly to me like most of the forecasters have not learned their lessons from that May employment fiasco.  I suspect that in many organizations they find it hard to revise their models, especially on short notice, even when it is clear their models are not working.  We see a lot of the forecasters making predictions of a large second quarter decline in GDP, but more numbers have come out for May, and most of them have been positive, some of them very positive, and if June continues to be positive, even if at a lesser rate than May given renewed shutdowns occurring due to the uptick in Covid-19 infections as June proceeded, this may further make some of these strongly negative forecasts even further off.

So what are some of these forecasts and what do the latest reported numbers look like?  First, we must note the first quarter outcome.  It seems that GDP declined by -4.8% or 5.0% for the first quarter at an annualized rate.  All of the decline occurred in March, more than offsetting modest growth in both January and February.

Comments (22) | |

Equivalence

Equivalence

by

Ken Melvin

These two things are not the same.

Giving a woman the right of choice doesn’t deny others that right of choice; makes no imposition on the rights of others. Denying a woman the right of choice imposes the will of others upon her.

When is it lawful for some members of a society to impose their will upon others? What right has the State to impose its will upon its citizens? When it is the writ of law. A State can declare acts to be illegal, even criminal, by the enactment of laws, so long as such laws aren’t in conflict with the State’s constitution. Since at least the 13th century, advanced States’ constitutions have guaranteed certain individual rights. The US Constitution explicitly guarantees certain individual rights and freedoms in the first (8) of its first (10) Amendments. Other rights are implicitly granted with:

the 9th Amendment

  • The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people —

and the 10th Amendment

  • The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people 

Succeeding ratified Amendments have explicitly, and implicitly, guaranteed other individual rights and freedoms. A citizen doesn’t have a constitutional right to steal from others, so it is constitutional to make stealing from others a crime; a case of society having the right to tell someone what they can not do.

So, it seems that the State might have the right to deny a woman the right of choice if women do not have the constitutional right of choice. It seems highly unlikely that such a right would be found in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights since women were but inhabitants, not even granted full citizenship, or even personhood, at the time, or even later when these first 10 Amendments were ratified. Women didn’t get the right to vote until 1920.

Comments (11) | |

Oklahoma Expands Medicaid

Kind of a big deal because Oklahomans rejected Trunp’s Medicaid and Republican block grant-program which would be more vulnerable to cuts of Federal funding.  It is unfortunate Oklahoma did not get on board with the ACA Medicaid expansion as 100% of the costs of the Medicaid expansion from 2014 – 2016 and 90% there after. I could never understand the cold-hearted logic of states in not expanding Medicaid. Much of the costs of expanding Medicaid now would have been covered.

In spite of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s plan to make the state a test case for the Trump administration Medicaid block grant program, Oklahoma voters narrowly approved its own initiative to expand Medicaid for low income people. In theory, the state will be in the driver’s sit (mostly) in deciding how much money it will allocate to the program rather than the Federal government.

Oklahoma is the the first state to expand Medicaid during the Covid pandemic. Oklahoma has the second-highest uninsured rate in the country following up Texas who is #1 in both uninsured and the numbers of new Covid cases. The State Question 802 initiative was passed by a margin of less than 1 percentage point amongst voters. It was strongly supported in metropolitan areas such as Tulsa and Oklahoma City and widely opposed in rural counties. While Idaho, Maine, Nebraska and Utah expanded Medicaid through ballot questions and amended state statutes, Oklahoma State Question 802 amended the Oklahoma Constitution which prevents  the Republican-controlled Legislature from altering  the Medicaid program or rolling back coverage.

At an “Americans for Prosperity” forum, Governor Stitt said “We will have a $billion shortfall next year. The state will have to consider raising taxes or cut to such services as education, first responders, or roads and bridges” in order to cover the additional costs of Medicaid.

Looking back, the expansion of Medicaid and also the ACA mandate would increase the numbers of people having healthcare insurance which would be a boon to healthcare insurance companies. The ACA tax on healthcare insurance companies (who would benefit greatly from the new business) was meant to provide additional funds to cover the costs of healthcare. Instead, the Oklahoma plan will increase the fees on hospitals from 2.5% to 4%.  There is more to this issue and I will tackle it another time.

 

 

Comments (12) | |