Private sector jobs were down in RI in September, partly owing to health care workers.

By Justin Katz | October 21, 2021 |
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A water drop and ripples

The RI Department of Labor and Training has changed the way it reports monthly labor information. But one notable observation is that the number of payroll jobs based in Rhode Island actually fell from August to September.  Total jobs went up, however, owing to big increases in state and local government jobs.

The industries that saw decreases are worth noting:

  • Construction down by 100
  • Financial activities down by 300
  • Health care and social assistance down by 400
  • Leisure and hospitality down by 700
  • Other services down by 100

The relatively big decrease in healthcare and social assistance during a time of shortage makes one wonder if that’s a result of Governor McKee’s vaccine mandate.

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Funny how political defenestrations only ever go one way.

By Justin Katz | October 21, 2021 |
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A water drop and ripples

Expressing a view on a political or social issue can be harmful to your career, if it isn’t of the progressive-approved variety:

The CEO of an American video game developer stepped down after he issued a statement supportive of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of a law in Texas that bans abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat.

The company, Tripwire Interactive LLC, announced in a statement on Monday that John Gibson “has stepped down as CEO” of the company, effective immediately.

In general, people with more-conservative views tend to be more tolerant of other positions.  Unfortunately, that reinforces progressives’ sense that nobody decent disagrees with them, making disagreement seem like evidence of deplorableness.  So bravo for John Gibson.  More people need to speak up.  Of course, the consequences can be so severe for merely not agreeing with the left-wing fascists that it’s understandable that more people don’t.

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The evicted mother’s story reveals much more that our society needs work on.

By Justin Katz | October 21, 2021 |
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Apartment buildings

One difficulty with assessing sympathetic stories associated with public policy debates (and the reason advocates actively seek and promote them) is that they short circuit rational discussion about tradeoffs.  The position of seeming to lack sympathy is so uncomfortable that the public debate leaves important details unraised and, typically, the villain is assigned to be vague and off camera, so to speak, and the solutions presented as obvious.

Such is the case with Alexa Gagosz’s two compelling stories about single mother Donna Wood as she struggles to find a home for herself and her four children after her youngest arrived with a severe disability.  (Here and here.)

The story isn’t told simply as an unfortunate human tragedy calling for the help of charitable souls.  Rather, it fits in a topical political issue around housing security and eviction, and a specific policy makes an appearance:

Unlike in neighboring states, Rhode Island does not require just cause for eviction.∑

It is not my intention to argue against or for a change in this policy in Rhode Island, but only to point out that it is the only solution placed in the narrative, and it gives rise to a list of other heart-rending stories listed by an advocate.  In contrast, another significant detail appears only as a parenthetical in the second story and is presented with no policy implications.

The father of Wood’s youngest child (and maybe the others, though we aren’t told) “helps out when he can, but does not live with them.”  No advocates appear with the suggestion that couples should have to prove just cause before separating from each other.  Wood’s eldest son, now 20 years old, “helps in any way he can,” but the question remains unaddressed whether anything is hindering his ability to do more — having been priced out of the job market by growing minimum wages, perhaps, or having been deprived of an adequate education in a school system set up to be a accountability-free jobs plant for unionized adults.

No doubt, the sorts of advocates whose minds go first to treating property owners as if they are little more than franchise operators for the government would have a too-easy solution to all of those other contributing factors.  Too much divorce and separation?  Increase mandatory child-support payments and/or welfare.  Young adults can’t find work and have been poorly educated?  Have taxpayers fund free college and a universal income.

Even so, imagine how the picture would change if each of those prescriptions found its way into the same story.  The consequence would become clear — namely, government becoming the all-powerful patriarch of every citizen as it attempts to solve problems it may very well have helped cause.

Take housing.  One way in which to help people who have a hard time finding suitable affordable homes is to allow the market to build them (which would, happily, also increase the opportunities for folks like the construction-worker father of Wood’s son as well as her eldest).  But the market might want to go about this in a way of which one special interest or another disapproves, so government has chosen a different path.  Perversely, making it more difficult to become a landlord (as with just cause provisions) would translate into less rental housing.

At some point, we’re going to have to ask ourselves whether we’re not missing something much more fundamental when the weight of society’s and individuals’ choices knocks people to the ground.

 

Featured image by Isaac Quesada on Unsplash.

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We need to restore the sense of going out for adventure.

By Justin Katz | October 21, 2021 |
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A water drop and ripples

While he goes a bit far in framing ’80s dance parties as a path to God, Mark Judge makes a great point, here:

Going out was a long ride uninterrupted by texts, which didn’t exist, or phone calls, because phone booths were hard to find. The experience formed a kind of meditation. The professional world was not just lost for an hour of yoga or pilates, but completely abandoned for a lengthy, restorative journey. It often changed you. As Mohaghegh observes in Night, “Night brings revolution against the archetypal. It overthrows the dominant hierarchies and universal myths in favor of the beautiful diary of the masquerade or the bonfire. It is where one fathoms otherwise, the time-space of the visionary, the imaginary, the unreal, the unknown, the elsewhere, the outside, and the emergent. It is where one builds machinations of radical thought…those droplets of mad and dangerous consciousness.”

The movies back in our youth drove the point home.  Whether Dazed and Confused, Weird Science, or dozens and dozens of other hits of the time, we cultivated a sense of adventure, as if anything could happen.  You disconnected from ordinary life, and sometimes the sun came up on a world transformed.

Of course the movies exaggerated, and we should have no illusion that attempting to prove them right caused some in our generation a fair bit of pain and harm, but too much of that sense of possibility seems to have been lost.

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Let’s have P-Tech-type innovation instead of critical race theory.

By Justin Katz | October 21, 2021 |
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A hoodie on a beaten school bus

Providence schools don’t necessarily have to sign up with Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), but doesn’t this seem like the level of innovation and drive that we ought to have seen after the dreadful John Hopkins report more than two years ago?

Founded in 2011 by IBM and the Bloomberg administration in New York City, P-TECH has spread to 10 states with 127 schools as of last year, achieving remarkable results for the low-income, black, and Latino students they serve. In Dallas, for example, 72 percent of students graduated with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in about four years. That’s about eight times the national average for on-time community college graduation by students of color.

After decades of struggle in America to lift the fortunes of low-income students, an answer has emerged in P-TECH, which operates within public school systems, typically taking over all or part of existing schools.

What’s the secret sauce? It starts with an accelerated curriculum and frequent testing to keep students on track–the very things that progressive educators are trying to stamp out today. Students complete a two-year community college associate’s degree in addition to the typical high school program as early as 12th grade, a notable achievement. In another break from standard fare, schools bring on corporate partners who inspire students with the opportunity for jobs in hot fields like computer programming and health care technology—a boon for companies that can’t find qualified candidates to fill such positions.

Tragically, it seems the chances of such programs are getting dimmer, not brighter, at least in places like Rhode Island.  The challenge was daunting enough when mounted only by the establishments’ guardians of mediocrity, the teachers unions, but now there’s a new ideological front.

The RealClearInvestigations article at the above link raises critical race theory in this context for good reason.  CRT finds fault with other people (“the system”) and seeks to radically transform everybody on the claim it will help those who are disadvantaged.  P-TECH proves that “underperforming students from poor communities can master a race-neutral mainstream STEM curriculum.”

In addition to reviving racism from its near-death to the flower of health, CRT locks in exactly the frame of mind that prevents academic and economic progress for the young people its advocates claim to support.

 

Featured image by Cleyton Ewerton on Unsplash.

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Shouldn’t “epidemiologist” Bostom be better with numbers?

By Justin Katz | October 21, 2021 |
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A blurry streetscape

As a Rhode Island conservative, nothing would please me more than letting Andrew Bostom go off and do his thing.  Unfortunately, people with whom I generally agree and think of as allies keep citing him as a credentialed epidemiologist (which he’s not) and even utilizing him as an expert witness in court.

Look, I agree with his final conclusions, but his work is sloppy.  I’d just as soon rely on the guy talking sense at the end of the bar because, after all, who knows what he does for work and what hobbies engage him while he isn’t drinking.  (Of course, “guy at the end of the bar” would probably a pretty good description of me if I didn’t do most of my drinking at home.)

I’m referring to Bostom’s latest post, with the eye-catching headline, “Rhode Island September 2021 Data Reveal ‘Natural Immunity’ Afforded ~90% Greater Protection, Relative to Full Covid-19 Vaccination, Against Covid-19 Infection, Hospitalization, and Death.”

The data didn’t “reveal” that.  He’s mangling the math, with the funny consequence that, in some ways, he’s greatly understating his case.  “90% greater protection” would mean that natural immunity is almost twice as good.  What Bostom’s numbers actually show is natural immunity eliminating 90% of the risk that remains for vaccinated people.  That’s much better, although this is where Bostom’s numbers get in the way.

Before I explain, let’s detour for a moment to address a different problem with Bostom’s analysis.

To compare COVID-related outcomes for Rhode Islanders in September, Bostom looks at those who’ve been fully vaccinated, those who are not fully vaccinated, and those who were previously infected.  These groups vary hugely in size, so he analyzes them in “simple, unadjusted population-based rates (per 100,000).”

The problem, here, is that a key attribute of COVID (for which we should be grateful) is that it affects different groups very differently, particularly by age.  “Simple, unadjusted” numbers are less useful if, for example, the group that is most likely to be vaccinated is also the most likely to be affected by the virus, including by breakthrough infections.  This is the case with COVID.

I’ll focus on hospitalizations.  Bostom shows that vaccinated people wound up in the hospital with COVID at a rate of 20 out of 100,000 in September.  Meanwhile, 95 out of 100,000 unvaccinated people did the same.  This suggests that the unvaccinated are about five times more vulnerable, on average.

Dividing people up by age, however, shows a range of vaccination rates, from 96% of 70-somethings to 32% of 10-14-year-olds (and obviously 0% below that age).  That means older unvaccinated people were a much, much smaller pool than their vaccinated contemporaries, and yet, they still were hospitalized more often.  Thus, unvaccinated 70-somethings were about 27 times more likely to wind up in the hospital with COVID.  From 30-69, the multiple ranges from 15 to 20.  Over 80, it’s only 3 times, while it’s 7 and 9 times for people in their early and mid-20s, respectively.  Note that not a single vaccinated person under 20 was hospitalized, while around 22 unvaccinated minors were.

Now to Bostom’s claim about natural immunity.  The problem, here, is that Bostom doesn’t use the State of Rhode Island’s count for the number of infections.  He uses an estimate from a group of experts (who actually are epidemiologists) that is 3.6 times higher than the state’s.  That’s fine; it’s probably even preferable.  However, it’s the state’s data that marks somebody as previously infected or not.  If the claim is that 3.6 times more people have been infected, that changes the numbers.

Bostom’s numbers are therefore meaningless.  He either has to use the state’s numbers for previous infections, which means the denominator in his calculation is much smaller, or he has to more than triple the numerator, which is the number of those who’ve been infected again.

Either way, his rate for hospitalizations of those who should have natural immunity moves from 2.3 per 100,000 to around 8.5 per 100,000.  Obviously, that’s still better than the rate for the fully vaccinated, but not nearly by as much.

I should note, too, that we’re now back to another problem with Bostom’s analysis that we’ve explored before:  Many of the people with natural immunity have also been vaccinated, which means the denominator for purely natural immunity has to shrink even more, which means the rate will go up again.

 

Featured image by Alex Knight on Unsplash.

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Take note of what the government thinks “working” means when it comes to mandates.

By Justin Katz | October 20, 2021 |
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A water drop and ripples

The title of this Barbara Morse piece on WJAR carries an important point of political philosophy:

Health leaders say Rhode Island health care COVID-19 vaccine mandate is working

By “working,” they mean that the percentage of healthcare workers who have been vaccinated has gone up to 95%, which is probably an increase of around 10 percentage points.  If the goal isn’t vaccination, but the balance of public health with individual rights, I’d say it isn’t working.  If the goal is to affect the spread of the virus, the best we can say is that we don’t know if it’s working.

And don’t forget an important point, if we care about people:  The percentage of vaccinated people has gone up in part because they forced unvaccinated people out of the job.  Based on the article, that’s probably about 4 percentage points of the 10, the rest being people who couldn’t afford to lose their jobs.

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What do you call it when the administration secretly transforms the country?

By Justin Katz | October 20, 2021 |
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Image of illegal immigrants about to board buses in RI

Nick Miroff (of the Washington Post, of all publications) reports that arrests along our southern border are occurring at record rates.

Meanwhile, the New York Post has photos of illegal immigrants being flown into New York in the middle of the night, for distribution in nearby communities.  This recalls news items coming in from around the country, such as this May post from Judicial Watch marking an investigation in Tennessee:

In an apparent effort to avoid public scrutiny, the Biden administration is transporting planeloads of illegal immigrant minors in the middle of the night then busing them to cities in the southeast. Even members of Congress representing the impacted districts are being kept in the dark about the covert operations and the Department of Defense (DOD) is contracting big tour buses to move the migrants to nearby states once they land, presumably from the southern border region.

Seeing all these headlines, a Rhode Islander might wonder whether this is happening in the Ocean State.  John DePetro has evidence that it probably is, including the photo used for the featured image of this post:

What is all the nighttime activity at the airport at Quonset point? President Biden was there a few months ago and since that time residents around Quonset claim people are arriving by plane at night. The White House confirmed illegals are being flown at night to small airports around the country and dispersed into the local towns very discreetly.

This isn’t some sort of conspiracy theory.  This is happening.  If our news media were more inclined to do its job than support Democrats and progressive causes, John DePetro wouldn’t be the only person with coverage of the issue.  With the apparent cooperation of state governments, the presidential administration is quietly changing the population of the country.

While leaving the borders open and putting forward massive welfare spending proposals for the benefit of illegal immigrants, the White House is quietly distributing a generation of foreign nationals across our country.  It isn’t zenophobia to think that ought to be the subject of public inquiry and debate.

So, the question is:  What is this?  What should we call it?  One can reasonably wonder whether the craziness around race and gender that’s keeping a low-grade sense of disbelief and turmoil even in Democrat strongholds is being done deliberately to keep us distracted.

This is an underlying thesis of Kevin Williamson’s writing about the two Democrat parties, the Pillage Party and the Freakshow Party:

The Pillage Party goes all the way back to Andrew Jackson, and its platform has always been precisely the same: transfer as much money as possible to constituents from non-constituents.

What do you call it when the people who’ve seized control of the government use that power to import people to whom they can transfer the money of the people who supposedly elected them?

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Remember when it was the height of bigotry to worry about biological men in women’s private spaces?

By Justin Katz | October 20, 2021 |
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A water drop and ripples

The most infamous and egregious case, of course, is the reported rape by a boy in a skirt of a 15-year-old girl in the girls’ bathroom in a Loudon County, Virginia, school.  The school department lied about the case and tried to bury it, and the case wouldn’t be nearly as infamous if the news media hadn’t tried to make the girl’s father a poster-child for parent-terrorists when he was arrested at a school committee meeting.

Closer to home, a Woonsocket man has been arrested for dressing in a wig and dress in order to enter the bathroom at the Wrentham mall and videotape women and girls as young as 8.

Police Chief Bill McGrath blames the technology and says people have to keep their “eyes wide open” in public areas where they disrobe.  The problem with that is we’re simultaneously being berated if we notice something off about the guy in the dress going into the women’s room.

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UPDATED: Tiverton is last for vaccination but near-best for COVID hospitalizations?

By Justin Katz | October 20, 2021 |
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Image of COVID as planet Earth

Living in the town, of course it caught my eye that Dan McGowan of the Boston Globe outed Tiverton as the only town in Rhode Island with a vaccination rate below 50%:

Tiverton is now the only city or town in Rhode Island with a COVID-19 vaccination rate below 50 percent, according to data from the state Department of Health. The town’s vaccine rate is currently 49.5 percent, and its partially vaccinated rate is 52.6 percent.

As a state, 69.2 percent of Rhode Islanders are fully vaccinated – tied with Connecticut, Maine, and Guam for second best in the country behind Vermont’s 70 percent, according to The New York Times. Tiverton’s rate is on par with Montana, Indiana, and Missouri, which are all at 49 percent. Twelve states are even lower.

The strange thing about that is the state’s data shows Tiverton as having the very best hospitalization rate in the Ocean State among towns in which the number is given, with just 22 people.  Here’s a list of the worst and best municipalities for vaccination with their ranks in hospitalization rate:

  • Lowest vaccination:
    • Tiverton: 49.5% vaccinated, 1st lowest hospitalization rate
    • Woonsocket: 50.6% vaccinated, 33rd lowest for hospitalization
    • Newport: 54.7% vaccinated, 11th lowest for hospitalization
    • Burrillville: 54.9% vaccinated, 15th lowest for hospitalization
    • Little Compton: 55.9% vaccinated, hospitalization rate not calculated (probably because too low)
  • Highest vaccination:
    • North Kingstown: 75.1% vaccinated, 16th lowest hospitalization rate
    • Jamestown: 75.9% vaccinated, 2nd lowest hospitalization rate
    • Barrington: 76.9% vaccinated, 12th lowest hospitalization rate
    • East Greenwich: 79.2% vaccinated, 21st lowest hospitalization rate
    • New Shoreham: 100% vaccinated, hospitalization rate not calculated (probably because too low)

As a reminder, that’s out of 39 communities.  Of course, having Woonsocket on the lowest-vaccination list throws things off, but otherwise, the five least-vaccinated towns are doing better with hospitalizations than the five most-vaccinated towns.

Of course, there are all sorts of variables that play into these results.  To really understand what’s going on, we’d have to look at age mixes, prevalence of congregate living facilities, occupational factors, and so on.

Still, McGowan has given us an example of the problem with COVID coverage from the beginning.  We can measure and rank things like vaccination, but does it tell us anything important?  Isolating Tiverton for scrutiny without digging deeper gives the impression of shortcoming and danger.  Maybe that’s justified, or maybe it’s not.  Maybe there’s more to the story that would be helpful to understand, just like with vaccination and mask mandates.

But the political narrative requires a simple rule.

 

Update (5:00 p.m., 10/20/21)

Julia Kline points out to me on Tiverton that Town Administrator Christopher Cotta claims 2,500 residents of Tiverton were vaccinated in Massachusetts and are not, for some reason, included in Rhode Island’s numbers.  I’ve interacted with Cotta enough over the last two decades to know that he has no problem flat-out lying when the truth might make it more difficult for him to get what he wants, and being a government-centric person, he obviously thinks the vaccination rates of Tiverton reflect on him.

Notably, adding 2,500 vaccinated people to Tiverton’s total only brings the town to 65%, which is obviously better than 50%, but still a distance from 75%.  Surely he’s aware that’s the difference between middle-of-the-pack and top 6.

That said, the tendency of residents of a community to cross the border in their daily life is certainly one of those other variables that affect the results.  The two lowest states for vaccination rates, according to Rhode Island are Tiverton and Woonsocket, after all, according to Rhode Island.  And while the line isn’t perfect, of course, it does generally look like the closer one gets to the center of the state, the higher the vaccination rate tends to be.

All of this simply reinforces to irresponsible construction of a narrative on the part of the media.  If journalists are going to be reporting the statistics government feeds them, it shouldn’t take a couple folks chatting on Twitter to get at a relatively obvious disclaimer.

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