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Why we should question………..everything! July 25, 2022

Posted by shaferfinancial in Self Reflection, Uncategorized.
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A newly published study calls into question the low serotonin = anxiety/depression theory. In fact this meta study puts a huge dent in that theory to the point that doctors should change their prescribing habits. One of the fastest growing prescriptions of the last generation is SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) used to help people with anxiety/depression. These class of drugs have significant side effects. Turns out that their primary action (increasing serotonin) does not actually decrease depression.

Conclusion from the study found at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-022-01661-0:

Our comprehensive review of the major strands of research on serotonin shows there is no convincing evidence that depression is associated with, or caused by, lower serotonin concentrations or activity. Most studies found no evidence of reduced serotonin activity in people with depression compared to people without, and methods to reduce serotonin availability using tryptophan depletion do not consistently lower mood in volunteers.

What does this tell us? First, this is another example of how medicine isn’t a science. Or at least, it demonstrates how physicians methods aren’t scientifically verified as most people assume. I did my PhD dissertation on an entire occupation that was based on the use of a technology that for 20 years was used increasingly until someone finally looked at it using the scientific method and found it wasn’t accomplishing what physicians assumed. It disappeared from use, while the workers remained. But let’s not pretend that this is all on medical practice. The vast majority of what we think is scientifically verified in all parts of life isn’t. It is theory based, but lacks verified evidence.

But do SSRIs work? Maybe, but it looks like when it does, it is some combination of a placebo effect and the overall masking of all emotions. This masking effect is what is described by many of its users; no more highs or lows, just the middle. This should give folks pause as the pandemic has increased anxiety/depression acutely in teenagers and young adults who are the prime candidates for being prescribed this class of therapeutics.

In a study published on the CDC website it states that over 13% of adults had used SSDIs WITHIN THE LAST 30 DAYS (2015-2018). Let that sink in. In any given month during that time period 13% of all adults had been taking a drug that doesn’t have any direct effect on the problem it was believed to alleviate. So before you get all up in arms, it’s not my intent to call into question a lot of well meaning people trying to help others. Yes, this is an indictment of the medical industrial complex, but that is not the take away I am looking for.

In order to go about modern life we need to take a whole lot for granted. It would be impossible to get through a day not doing that. But maybe, the life skills needed to be taught, is when one might want to do actual research into things they are asked to do and how to go about that research? (Have to say that last part because going to some ideologically driven website to parrot someone else’s critiques isn’t doing research). Now in practical terms, we know that most people don’t have the time nor the ability to read scientific journals and decipher what each study might mean. And the folks who are suppose to do that for us, journalist, are an archaic occupation that largely doesn’t exist. But, next time some “expert,” no matter what alphabet letters they have by their name, asked you to do something that could have life altering consequences, maybe folks should at least try. We do have the internet now which puts information at our fingertips. Maybe folks will at least get some questions to ask the expert and can evaluate their reaction to help guide them to a decision.

Finally, we should all recognize the inability of anyone or any method to be 100% right about anything. A little humble pie for those who think they might have answers including yours truly.

On Covid 19; According to the CDC it’s over May 24, 2020

Posted by shaferfinancial in Covid 19, Interesting Reading, paradigm shift, Retirement Income, trust, Uncategorized.
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It’s hard to reconcile seemingly conflicting information/data coming in at the same time. So, I’m sure when people see this, there won’t be much they will find that is believable. But, pandemics go in stages.  1st stage is community spread, where an infected person enters the community and it spreads from person to person.  Then the virus burns out for several reasons some known and some unknown. Seasonal affects. Enough cross immunity is developed. The people who are going to get sick from the virus have already gotten sick. Etc. Finally, there are usually smaller waves that come into a community annually or occasionally. During all this the virus mutates into different forms which usually are less virulent forms of the virus. But it is impossible to predict when and how bad the waves will be.


Update: I was wrong.  The waves are very large in several states.  Mostly young and unaffected folks are getting infected and spreading this.  Also some small rural communities of mostly minority population are see high rates of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Fortunately, overall, the hospitalizations and deaths per infection are going down significantly.  Unfortunately, the fear mongering is not.  Some front line workers and scientist think the virus has mutated to a more infectious, but less virulent form. Hopefully they are correct.


nchs-mortality-report.gif (900×580)


Look at the above graph from the CDC.  Note the spike in Pneumonia, Influenza and Covid mortality. When we reach the peak of the curve (about 3-4 weeks ago, was when the epidemic in the USA was essentially over. Now we are just dealing with the fallout. Note the sharp decline over the last 3 weeks. That is another indicator that community transmission of the virus was done.

But, how can this be?  Aren’t people still getting infected and dying???

Yes.  Again aftermath of the viral spread. Deaths are 2-4 weeks after infection. When a person tests positive for the viral infection, that is 3-7 days after infection. The majority of new infections are from institutions like nursing homes and prisons.  Doesn’t this mean the pandemic is still going strong?  No, it means that moved to a cluster phase, where people not in the general public or have jobs that get them large viral loading are getting infected.


What other proof is there. Well Emergency Room Visits are way down.



These are the CDC charts for ER visits. Notice the peak was around week 14-15 of the year. So middle of April. Note, that in the second chart that combines all influenza like illnesses (ILI), we are now below baseline. This indicates we are now below normal for emergency room visits for ILI’s. Most of the remaining COVID visits from the first chart are probably from nursing home and prison clusters along with health care workers and prison guards.  This is the last remnants of the viral epidemic that remains.

Please note, we are probably going to live with this virus for a long time, vaccine or no vaccine. Time will tell if it will fade into the tapestry of ILI’s, peaking in the winter and fading into the summer.


So, now you are probably pointing to all this and saying look how well the shelter in place is working. Well, there is an increasing amount of evidence that mitigation strategies didn’t mitigate much.  And there seems to be one item they can say by comparing different countries with different mitigation strategies. That is there is no scientific evidence that shelter-in-place worked to avoid the spread of Covid.

And just for fun, here is an article detailing how this strategy came into being in the USA. There is a link to the scientific paper written by epidemiologist of the time (2006).


Here is a key paragraph:

“There are no historical observations or scientific studies that support the confinement by quarantine of groups of possibly infected people for extended periods in order to slow the spread of influenza. … It is difficult to identify circumstances in the past half-century when large-scale quarantine has been effectively used in the control of any disease. The negative consequences of large-scale quarantine are so extreme (forced confinement of sick people with the well; complete restriction of movement of large populations; difficulty in getting critical supplies, medicines, and food to people inside the quarantine zone) that this mitigation measure should be eliminated from serious consideration…”


“Travel restrictions, such as closing airports and screening travelers at borders, have historically been ineffective. The World Health Organization Writing Group concluded that “screening and quarantining entering travelers at international borders did not substantially delay virus introduction in past pandemics . . . and will likely be even less effective in the modern era.”… It is reasonable to assume that the economic costs of shutting down air or train travel would be very high, and the societal costs involved in interrupting all air or train travel would be extreme. …”


“During seasonal influenza epidemics, public events with an expected large attendance have sometimes been cancelled or postponed, the rationale being to decrease the number of contacts with those who might be contagious. There are, however, no certain indications that these actions have had any definitive effect on the severity or duration of an epidemic.”

Happy reading…….

The 2006 Origins of the Lockdown Idea



The 1957 Asian Flu May 20, 2020

Posted by shaferfinancial in paradigm shift, trust.
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In 1957 a pandemic of the “Asian” flu hit the USA. This flu (H2N2) killed 116,000 Americans and millions around the world. It lasted 10 years as a seasonal virus and morphed into the Hong Kong flu in 1968-69. The IFR was estimated at .69%. The virus killed mostly older Americans and pregnant women. At the time the population was 1/2 what it is now. On top of that the USA was much younger and had less obesity/chronic diseases with the exception of smoking related diseases. With our current population that would 232,000 deaths. Note, the IFR was at the top range of what we are experiencing now with Covid 19.

There was common awareness at the time of this pandemic. A few conventions that had a significant amount of older folks were canceled. The media covered it as a medical event. A few schools were also closed down when an outbreak occurred. A vaccine was soon found, but it wasn’t very effective. But here is the big difference, politicians didn’t step in. Media wasn’t constantly reporting exaggerated or false claims. Somehow our 1957 selves were able to muddle through, even our 1957 health care system.

Have we lost the ability to think rationally? Or politically are we so sick as to have weak-minded politicians? How can our politicians not understand to protect the older folks and health care providers, from day 1, when we have history of many large and small pandemics? Where did they get the idea that we could do shelter-in-place and protect grandma????? Note 40%-78% of all deaths around the country are from long term care facilities. 15%-35% of cases are from health care providers (depending on state). I was amused when the NY governor seemed perplexed about over 60% of new cases in NY came from people abiding by shelter-in-place orders. In 1918 it was found that fresh air and sunshine was most helpful for the pandemic victims of that time. We know that these viruses spread in closed areas and that the longer you are in a closed area with infected people the higher the viral loading gets. Yet, our governors told us for a month or longer to stay at home.

Did this protect grandma???? No. Did this prevent folks from getting infected???? No. Did it lower the curve?? Probably. Did this extend the epidemic? Yes. Should there have been shelter in place orders? Yes, but only in a couple of places where the infections were raging so much to put hospital beds in short supply.

Latest update: Some colleges are starting early as to end the semester by Thanksgiving given there is evidence that this will become a seasonal affect pandemic. They hope to not have students on campus at the beginning of winter when the flu season usually starts.

Overall number in the USA remain stubbornly high in high density areas. Most states are starting to open up slowly. The numbers of deaths and cases (highly affected by numbers of tests) are on a downward trend. We are testing 3 times as many as 3 weeks ago. Average positive per test has plummeted (a great sign for our testing program as well as an indication of waning infections). My area has around 1 infection and 0 deaths per day. There has been a total of 3 deaths in my area (population 120,000) and around 110 infections. Was able to sit outside at a restaurant yesterday. That was nice. Beaches still closed, so probably no summer work for my son.

Musings on Covid 19 May 1, 2020

Posted by shaferfinancial in paradigm shift, trust, Uncategorized.
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There is so much panic and subterfuge now around Covid 19, that it is close to impossible to write anything based on what the science is demonstrating without having people jump right to criticism and emotional outbursts. Note the craziness over the release of pre-prints of the antibody testing now ongoing. People weren’t willing to allow science to guide their opinions and the outcry and criticism of the Stanford research was laughable. And it turns out that now multiple studies with various sampling methods, many randomized are proving the Stanford researchers correct. USC researchers, University of Miami researchers, Harvard researchers and the state of NY public health researchers all concur that there are many many people out there that have had the infection without symptoms. And the worst part is this is great news. It means the virus isn’t as deadly as we thought.

The 2008-2009 H1N1 pandemic provides an interesting comparison. This influenza A pandemic started in the US and like Covid was a novel virus. It spread to the rest of the world and in its first year it was estimated to have killed 360,000 people. So far, it has been estimated that Covid 19 has taken 233,000 deaths.

But that is where the comparison stops. That strain of H1N1 mostly killed children and young adults. While the average age of death for Covid 19 is around 80. It was thought that the reason for this was that older people had antibodies from a previous strain of H1N1, that occurred many years before. That is why this pandemic was much worse in 3rd world countries, than the US. While we had 12,000 deaths here in the US, countries with larger percentage of the young had much worse deaths. By June, the end of the influenza season the CDC reported more than 1 million cases in the US. 980 schools were closed in early May in places that had significant activity. The pandemic that started in mid-April was essentially done by mid July of that year. It has reappeared yearly since then, but in much reduced numbers. In July of the first year clinical trails started for a test. And by September 15th a vaccine had been made. A second wave started in late September causing school closure again. But that second wave subsided in 2 months. The vaccine was distributed to the public in December of that year and provided significant immunity. This H1N1 infection faded into the background and is still with us today. There were some hospitals that erected tents to treat patients because of overflow from this virus.

Note our response to a virus that was killing children and young adults. It was rational. School closures in hot spots. Erecting tents to provide health care in areas that were overrun with patients.

Now, what we know of the COVID 19 virus is it is killing older people at a much greater rate than the H1N1 virus killed young folks. That is common sense, of course, as 80 year olds are much sicker in general and don’t have reserves to overcome novel viruses or strong immunity systems. And I say this without prejudice or meanness in mind. The life span of someone born in 1940 (80 years ago) was 70. These folks dying of Covid 19 have already outlived their peer group by 10 years or more. And this is what we are seeing. The oldest and sickest people, mostly in long term institutional care, are dying from Covid 19, while each younger segment are mostly recovering and at the youngest age groups showing little or no symptoms.

So that begs the question, Why, like the 2008-09 pandemic, did we not do a vertical integration mitigation strategy? In other words, in the 2008-2009 pandemic we closed schools in heavily impacted areas because the children were the ones most heavily impacted. Why did we not lock down long term care facilities, shelter in place orders for those 65 and older who don’t work, masks for health care workers who work with the elderly, etc.? Why instead did we do a horizontal mitigation strategy, closing down our entire society? And don’t say we didn’t know, because we did from both China and Italy/Spain. We knew who was at risk and how to best protect them. Don’t say in order to protect Grandma, we needed to keep their grandchildren out of school, because that violates all we know about how to stop pandemics and what we have done every time since WW2.

Next post I will take a look at the 1957 flu pandemic.

I hope I have left you with some more understanding of pandemic societal reactions and some deep questions.

Be safe.

On the Misbehavior of Elites/Corporations March 20, 2019

Posted by shaferfinancial in Finance, mutual funds, Mutual Funds for Retirement, Retirement Income, trust.
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Last month a couple of insurance companies, ones that I don’t do business with, added new EIUL products. Both of these products are examples of companies putting out products that are not only inferior to their competition, but goes against the benefits of owning an EIUL in key areas. I am always surprised when things like this happen. It’s like back in 2004 or so when I was in the mortgage business and mortgage companies started to put out the pick-a-pay mortgages with teaser rates that lasted 3 months so they could get people qualified for property they couldn’t afford. I wonder why they would do something so harmful to consumers and would give the whole industry a black eye.

But, then I remembered there are always these folks out there. Ones that are just predatory by nature. They act the way they do because they are pretty sure there will be no repercussions, just like those mortgage executives. In that whole mortgage mess, the only people who were held responsible were a few bad mortgage brokers who took advantage of the rules set up by the mortgage companies and added in outright fraud.

So, where does that leave us? For consumers, it is even more important to deal with responsible folks who have been in the business long enough to recognize the faults within the given industry. When I was in the mortgage industry, I refused to write pick-a-pay mortgages because I knew people got fixated on that teaser rate and refused to understand the total cost of the mortgage, which was higher than the conventional mortgages. I know I lost a lot of business because of it. There was nothing I could say to someone desperate to buy a house, a house way too expensive for them, that is looking at the teaser rate and thinking they will be OK with the monthly amount. They were already into a system where the real estate agent had pushed them into a mania because of rising RE prices, got them to fall in love with a house they couldn’t afford and now the mortgage broker was going to complete the financial death with a bad mortgage that would push them into foreclosure and probably bankruptcy.

Fortunately, the bad EIUL structure isn’t going to push anyone into foreclosure. But, it will give the insurance industry another black eye and give the mutual fund/Wall street industry more ammunition against good products. (another industry full of sharks with no regard for consumers)

There is never a good time for the uninformed or the naive in the financial world. What everyone must do is find an ethical guide to get between them and these large institutions we all must deal with. That in itself is problematic as the consumer has a tough time seeing the difference between a corporate shrill and someone that truly will align your needs with the guide against the large institutional forces. It’s the conundrum of our age. Institutional propaganda plus an army of sales folks aligned in saying the same thing with no place for dissent is what we all deal with. Combine this with government interest in pushing Wall Street plans and you have a mean stew for people to deal with.

Trust is in short supply in our society now as it should be. And that might be the biggest victim in all of this. How can a society function with this loss of trust with each other, our government, our large institutions?

Sorry about this negative post, but it needs to be said. Any thoughts you have are appreciated.