Cumberland Advisors Market Commentary – Three Items to Consider

Author: David R. Kotok, Post Date: October 11, 2020
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Market Commentary - Cumberland Advisors - Three Items to Consider

Item 1. My friend Nick Colas of DataTrek sent along a link to a Lapham’s Quarterly piece by Francine Prose that dives deeply into previous pandemics around the world and draws some surprising parallels with the way our present political establishment has managed the pandemic. The author says,

“What’s so startling about the texts and images in this issue is that they seem less like glimpses through the lens of ancient history, less like gazing at distant worlds through a window fogged by time, than like catching a clear, unnerving glimpse of our world, right here, right now. Reading these passages feels a little like turning a corner and—suddenly, shockingly—seeing our face, reflected in a mirror.”
(“Signs and Wonders: Reading the literature of past plagues and suddenly seeing our present reflected in a mirror,” https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/epidemic/signs-and-wonders)

Item 2. “Clinical criteria for COVID-19-associated hyperinflammatory syndrome: a cohort study” (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanrhe/article/PIIS2665-9913(20)30343-X/fulltext)

Here’s a summary of this interesting paper from The Lancet medical journal:

“A subset of patients with COVID-19 develops a hyperinflammatory syndrome that has similarities with other hyperinflammatory disorders. However, clinical criteria specifically to define COVID-19-associated hyperinflammatory syndrome (cHIS) have not been established. We aimed to develop and validate diagnostic criteria for cHIS in a cohort of inpatients with COVID-19.” [emphasis mine]

So why are we sending this technical paper link in our Sunday morning missive that leads off with an article about plagues? Let me offer a couple of reasons.

First, the paper describes an important system of establishing clinical criteria for evaluating COVID-19 patients according to six categories of criteria. Then you can determine for yourself where you might fit. Please note that you could also use this method to determine where President Trump fits, using what information is publicly available. Then you may judge all you’ve been reading and hearing for yourself.

My second reason for including this particular research paper is my familiarity with Salt Lake City and Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare, the organization that sponsored the paper and made major contributions to it. The group has 24 hospitals and is an important global force in medicine and medical research. I have personally visited some of their impressive facilities.

One of the two senators from Utah is Mitt Romney. He is a politician with a distinguished career. I’ve met him and respect him for his willingness to make independent decisions and for his public service in so many ways. You can disagree with Romney on policy. You cannot find evidence of his failure to respect civics and civil behavior.

The other senator for Utah is Mike Lee. He is the third reason I selected the Item 2 research piece, so he becomes Item 3.

Item 3. Utah Senator Mike Lee has demonstrated his level of concern about COVID-19 risk and his knowledge about it. He has also demonstrated how closely he paid attention to the expertise housed in his state as evidenced by item 2 above. Here is his 11 minutes of fame at a Senate hearing. Note the absence of a mask. “Mike Lee May Have Infected Senate Judiciary Committee Members With COVID-19,” https://www.huffpost.com/entry/mike-lee-covid-supreme-court-hearing-amy-coney-barrett_n_5f775beec5b6d4e948b523fb

Here is a video of his careless behavior at the infamous Rose Garden superspreader event: https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4911899/user-clip-mike-lee-hugging-kissing-folks-white-house-5-days-announcing-covid-19, where social distancing and masking was ignored by many.

And here is the report of his contracting COVID along with others in the government, including some in the Senate who are colleagues of Mike Lee: “Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee has COVID-19; ex-Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway also tests positive days after Rose Garden ceremony,” https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2020/10/02/sen-mike-lee-has/.

Mike Lee is also a politician. A profound question for Utah is if he’s an example of political malfeasance in the face of COVID-19.

Here’s my conclusion: In the historical review featured as Item 1 above, there was one plague not mentioned. Those who have read the ten plagues listed in the Bible may want to think about an eleventh plague. Those who have studied the plague in Athens that Thucydides described in his chronology of the Peloponnesian War can see, in addition to disease, the eleventh plague, as we are calling it, recorded by that great historian. And those who are now watching the current blame-game allegations about the COVID-19 pandemic can see that we face not COVID alone (as if that crisis is not enough), but the eleventh plague.

The eleventh plague is composed of those politicians who are locusts. And that plague, like locusts, seems to have staying power for the ages. Utahns or Utahans (either is correct according to Deseret News) can decide if Senator Mike Lee is one of them.

Happy Sunday.

David R. Kotok
Chairman of the Board & Chief Investment Officer
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