Open Thread 149.25

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1,328 Responses to Open Thread 149.25

  1. Nick says:

    (Epistemic status: humorous)

    I had a dream last night. I was in the backseat of a van, another young man was sitting shotgun, and George Mason economist Tyler Cowen was at the wheel, driving us through rural country. An audiobook was playing, and Cowen testily commented that he had heard this one before. I asked if he wanted to listen to something different, but he said no, adding after a pause that he was just really bored. We soon arrived at our location, somewhere in rural Alabama, and understanding came the way it does in dreams that Cowen was making a new reality show illustrating economic principles, and we were his assistants; I found the camera equipment piled in the back with me. It was a bare bones affair.

    We set up a kind of Christmas ornament black market, so they must be banned in Alabama. And sure enough, people showed up. It was my job to illustrate the economic principle, so I tried to lead them into saying the function of a black market, but no one was picking it up, to my increasing irritation. Finally, one older woman got it, but as she made to leave, she told me patronizingly that “the public” had decided they couldn’t buy Christmas ornaments, and it was not for us to disagree.

    I finally lost it, and yelled at her that the point of an economy was to satisfy desires, and for some people it doesn’t matter what “the public” thinks about it, whence black markets. Marking this down a failure, I went to Cowen with my tail between my legs. Given his attitude earlier I expected him to be displeased, but he was actually quite happy with how it turned out; evidently my exchange with the woman was just what we needed. Roll credits.

    I look forward to your theories as to the meaning of this dream.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Sorry, I’m distracted by the observation that illegal drugs get sold in more concentrated forms. How do you concentrate Christmas tree ornaments? Advanced tech so that you expand the hollow balls when you get home?

      • yodelyak says:

        Hmm.
        Contact lenses that make everything sparkly and throw red-green on things.
        Earplugs/earmuffs that look like conventional non-tech but actually store and play Christmas songs.
        Red and green food coloring.
        and, of course,
        Illicit very small gatherings of people, secretly coming together to celebrate Christ, and picturing in their minds the larger communion of the faithful.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’m assuming the law is based in prejudice against Christianity, but Christianity isn’t illegal. You can have your church services in churches, just no Christmas decorations.

          Tinsel is a low-weight, low-volume decoration. People will hack LED strings so they just to red and green instead of a rainbow cycle.

      • b_jonas says:

        Illegal christmas stuff fall into the following categories.

        1. Cheap christmas tree lights in which the bulbs are connected in series, with the single wire badly isolated, and occasionally shock people or cause fire. I’m not sure how to concentrate these: led lights instead of small incandenscent bulbs are possible now, and the leds are more concentrated, but they’d be proportionally less dangerous too.
        2. Candles or candle-holders that often light the tree on fire. You could concentrate these to small cigarette lighters running on gas.
        3. Cheap christmas tree bases that make it easier for the tree to fall over, thus facilitating the above fires and other accidents. These get more dangerous the more concentrated they are.
        4. Shiny but fragile orbs that break into jagged pieces that cut your skin. You concentrate them by saving the trouble of breaking them to the customer, selling just the broken pieces, because then more of them fit to a box.
        5. Sparklers. I’m not sure how to concentrate them.
        6. Fireworks, though they’re more of a new year thing.

    • Randy M says:

      If the Berenstain Bears taught me anything, this means you must have spent yesterday listening to a Tyler Cowen audio book while putting away Christmas decorations and watching Pawn Stars or something.

      • Nick says:

        One would think, but I spent my evening playing obscure solitaire variants, listening to Youtube videos about SCPs, reading Gene Wolfe, and editing the campaign notes for my Star Wars campaign. The dream is… well, about as far from those things as one can get.

        • Randy M says:

          It’s possible the Berenstain Bears taught me nothing.

          Maybe I should have had your dream, I watched a stream of a weird recent game where you work in a tv studio.
          Wasn’t much of a game, but there was some good humor in the f*ke news casts.

          heh, screwed up my posts with some banned words actually used literally.

          • FLWAB says:

            The folk psychology that your dreams are influenced by what happened to you that day has never, ever worked for me. Despite some of my best efforts to influence my dreams that way. The only time I have found it to be true is that if I spend many hours playing certain kinds of video games I end up dreaming about them. Games like Civilization, or Minecraft, or Stellaris can give me the most mind numbing dreams where I spend all night clicking buttons and trying to accomplish tasks, though nothing works the way it is supposed to.

          • AG says:

            It didn’t used to be that way for me, either. I would dream about random high school classmates that I hadn’t thought about in years, or celebrities I had only thought about months ago. More recently, though, I have had more coherent dreams on thoughts that I’ve nursed over the long term, including that day. So for me, it may have partially been a function of getting older, having less novel thinking.

    • Atlas says:

      In other Tyler Cowen humor news, after listening to his (amazing) conversation with Slavoj Zizek, I had the brilliant and/or terrible idea for Tyler and Zizek to team up buddy-cop movie style to solve a murder (or something) in Singapore. (I’ll have to consult some bird entrails before I can interpret the dream…)

  2. jermo sapiens says:

    So it looks like Bernie is all but done. (Or is it, is there any way for Bernie to come back and win this?) I’m trying to find whether Bernie is doing worse or better than in 2016. This suggests he’s doing worse in 2020 than in 2016. Is it because he’s a bit more woke than an economist populist as he was in 2016? Or is it because people are afraid that he’s less electable than Biden? Probably a bit of both but I’m curious to hear your takes. I’m also curious whether you think Bernie supporters will vote for Biden or whether a significant chuck of them will sit it out.

    • jasmith79 says:

      Cards on the table: I don’t like Trump as president.

      That being said, he will almost certainly win re-election and in terms of this particular race it matters very, very little whether it’s Sanders or Biden. The record for the incumbent for the last 50 years is almost unbeaten, the incumbent has won the last three elections with an incumbent (Clinton, W, Obama), all the people that voted for Trump the first time are unlikely to switch sides for either Biden or Sanders, etc.

      • Chalid says:

        The record for the incumbent for the last 50 years is almost unbeaten

        “50 years” sounds like a lot but it’s actually a really small sample and most of it is of dubious relevance.

      • cassander says:

        if there’s a recession, I think it’s very likely trump is done no matter who gets the nomination.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I think that very much depends on the extent to which people blame COVID-19 for the recession. If there’s a downturn because, hey, crazy virus what do you do, and we just need to keep on plugging with the economic policies that were working right up until then I don’t see there being that big of a hit.

          • acymetric says:

            Not sure I agree, as the blame will inevitably be placed on the people in charge not managing the crisis correctly.

          • Loriot says:

            It also depends on how much people blame Trump for the government’s handling of the outbreak.

            Though I suspect that the effect of the economy does not actually depend on whether people consider it to be the president’s fault or not in the first place.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Does anyone seriously think the federal government can do much about the outbreak?

            It seems like perhaps the same sort of motivated reasoning thing we get into about whether or not the economy is the president’s fault. If it’s your guy in office and the economy goes bad, “well, there’s not much the president can do about the economy.” If it’s the other guy in office, “this schmuck tanked the economy!”

            I think the response to the outbreak should mainly be done at the local level, with schools and businesses closing as needed depending on local conditions.

          • Just because our government will probably screw it up doesn’t mean that there’s nothing that could be done. South Korea has managed to get it under control right now.

          • J Mann says:

            Conrad, I’m reminded of W’s experience.

            After 9/11, he was clearly seen on the front lines doing something – standing on the rubble, forming TSA, bombing Afghanistan, etc. People tried to second guess him and there was a whole Congressional inquiry into whether his administration had dropped the ball prior to 9/11, Michael Moore made mean movies, etc., but IMHO, voters weren’t moved because they saw him out there doing stuff.

            On the other hand, the Katrina response was a mess of failures at different government levels, but Bush took a major impact because people didn’t think he was out there getting stuff done.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Maybe. I kind of think an epidemic is qualitatively different. After a terrorist attack you can go visit the wreckage, visit the first responders, grieve with the families of the victims, bomb foreigners. Same with a natural disaster although perhaps less bombing of foreigners. If you don’t do those things it’s very easy to look at the President and say “why didn’t he do those things I would have done?”

            But nobody really knows what a leader should personally be doing about a nebulous epidemic. So it’s hard to judge him positively or negatively when you have no idea what you’d do, either.

          • Evan Þ says:

            The federal government could have done something about the outbreak last month by getting out of the way and not stopping hospitals and private labs and anyone not the CDC from testing people.

            To echo Scott, the reason we’re late addressing this virus is that the government threatened to shoot anyone who tried to test people for COVID-19.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            How do you figure administering unverified tests to people who don’t have the disease would have helped us a month ago?

          • Aftagley says:

            I don’t know if you saw this, but there was an article in the NYT today that made me absolutely furious.

            Apparently there was a Dr. in Seattle who was already collecting samples from people for an unrelated study. She was barred from testing her, again, already collected samples for COVID 19 due to the fact that since they hadn’t consented to this screening it was apparently unethical.

            When she ended up running the tests without permission she found several active infections. Had she been able to do the tests earlier, she would presumably have been able to warn people / quarantine faster.

          • JayT says:

            Not sure I agree, as the blame will inevitably be placed on the people in charge not managing the crisis correctly.

            I think it really depends on how the US ends up doing compared to other countries. If things continue as they are right now, even if the US is severely impacted, as long as there is a country like Italy doing worse, I don’t think Trump will get too much blame. If the US ends up getting it worse than any other first world nation, then I think he will get the blame.

          • John Schilling says:

            Does anyone seriously think the federal government can do much about the outbreak?

            The whole “Trump will win if the economy is good, loose if there is a recession” bit is predicated on most voters seriously thinking the federal government can do much indeed about macroeconomics. Compared to that, believing the government can do something about a viral epidemic is sane and reasonable. So, yes.

            Also, Trump had his chance to play the “this is a catastrophe that no one can do anything about card”, and he had his chance to play the “Only I can save you from the dread Yellow Coronavirus Peril”card, and he instead went all in on “Move along, nothing to see here, it’s all just a Democrat hoax anyway”. And there’s a fair chance that will work out for him, with northern-hemisphere spring and decentralized action by everyone but the Federal government synergistically combining to end the pandemic.

            But if it doesn’t, if the reason the US economy has tanked is the hundred thousand dead bodies stacked up outside overtaxed hospitals and the hundred million Americans afraid to come out of their house to work or consume, or anything visibly like that, then yeah, people are going to believe that Trump could and should have done more. And the Democrats will spend about a billion dollars of Michael Bloomberg’s money reminding them.

          • meh says:

            isn’t it pretty universally accepted that the ‘average voter’ will give the president undue credit or blame for the economy, regardless of things in the presidents control? I don’t see why we are now suddenly being charitable towards the publics ability to distinguish the factors influencing the economy???

          • JayT says:

            The drop in the stock market has been directly linked to the virus, so in this case the average voter has a concrete villain to blame that isn’t the president. Similarly, I don’t think W. Bush was all that affected by the early 2000s recession, because in the public’s mind that was because of 9/11 (even though it started a few months before 9/11).

            On the other hand, the 2008, 1991, and 1980 recessions didn’t have an easy scapegoat, and the party in charge lost their next election.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            isn’t it pretty universally accepted that the ‘average voter’ will give the president undue credit or blame for the economy, regardless of things in the presidents control?

            100%. We are not much better than people voting for witch doctors based on the recent weather.

            What John Schilling said about Trump and the virus is true, too. Trump tried to bluff his way through it, and frankly that worked for a lot of other things in his Presidency, because a popular President with a good economy can bluff his way through lots of things and make things in the political world happen by declaring them to be such. But you cannot bluff a virus.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m officially registering my predictions for both “blame for virus” and “blame for economy’s reaction to virus” as “I don’t know and I don’t think you do either.”

          • Garrett says:

            > due to the fact that since they hadn’t consented to this screening it was apparently unethical

            Scott wrote a piece about his IRB nightymare and a subsequent post of comment highlights.

            We’re decided that in exchange for being certain that we don’t do experiments like the Nazis we’ll just let people spread disease instead.

          • J Mann says:

            Aftagley, Garrett – I read the NYT piece yesterday, and it made me think of the IRB nightmare article too.

            If you think it’s worthwhile to have regulations forbidding people to use samples for purposes the subject haven’t consented to, and forbidding research labs from doing clinical testing, then it’s reasonable to ask when, if ever, the FDA should be waiving those regulations.

            Those restrictions don’t just cost lives here, they cost lives every day, but we’ve apparently decided that’s worth the cost.

            There may be some exception that allows the FDA or the president to waive the regs and allow studies without subject consent, and I could see arguing that based on what we knew then, someone should have thrown that switch, but I’d like to know more about the regs and the process.

          • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

            @J Mann
            My understanding is that whenever there is such an exception, there’s another spiderweb of red tape waiting to catch you as soon as you cut through the first layer.

      • There’s a phenomenon where as soon as people start noticing a trend and try to use it predict something, that trend stops happening. See the whole discussion about “inverted yield curves”. And even ignoring Bush senior, the unbeatable incumbent trend only goes back about four times.

        • Belisaurus Rex says:

          There was a sci fi story where this happened. Rules of thumb and other trends started breaking down from being used, and at the end even the laws of physics broke down. I think the explanation was that when humans observe the rules they start breaking down, and bigger rules took longer to break but smaller rules broke almost immediately.

          Vague memory and only tangentially related, but does anyone remember this story?

          • helloo says:

            I can remember a SMBC about it but having a hard time finding it.

          • toastengineer says:

            I do remember the story, it was in some random collection of short stories. Only other detail I remember is that the main character is an African scientist.

            The punchline, spoilers I guess, is that now that they understand the rules about how the rules stop working when we understand them, that rule will stop working soon and science will start working again.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I remember the story, or at least a story about statistical regularity breaking down. I don’t think there was any explanation.

        • Business Analyst says:

          Isn’t an inverted yield curve a predictor of recessions/bear markets over the next year? The curve inverted last Aug/Sept. That seems like it would make the current swoon another success, if the markets continue down.

      • salvorhardin says:

        The problem with this logic is that there was also an unbeaten record of rich guys with no prior electoral experience trying to muscle in on the Presidential election and losing… until there wasn’t. These days I think we should revise upward all our estimates of previously unprecedented political things happening generally.

      • winston says:

        3 out of 5 is almost unbeaten?

        • winston says:

          i miscounted

          its 4 of 7 right.?

          carter,ford,bush

          obama,clinton,reagan,other bush.

          the current streak is three, but this hardly looks ‘almost unbeatable in 50 years’

      • meh says:

        all the people that voted for Trump the first time are unlikely to switch sides for either Biden or Sanders, etc

        there is a path to win even if they dont

    • Statismagician says:

      Minimum-variable explanation: a lot of people just really hated Clinton without being particularity interested in Sanders’ policies.

      I expect approximately everybody who voted in the Democratic primary to also vote in the general, most of them against Trump rather than for Biden.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        a lot of people just really hated Clinton without being particularity interested in Sanders’ policies.

        Interesting. I dont think the first part is controversial at all, but I’ve never heard of people supporting Sanders just out of spite for Clinton. Maybe they exist, but if they really hated Clinton, they’re probably not in love with Biden.

        • BBA says:

          A big lesson I’ve taken from the 2020 primary season so far is that people are a lot more superficial than you’d think. Even the educated Very Online political junkies. Especially them.

          Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren have practically nothing in common besides being older white women with law degrees. And yet, the crowd that was most enthusiastic about Clinton, the pragmatist, centrist career politician, went gaga over Warren, the wonky ideologue who came to politics late in life. For all their talk about how much policy matters, apparently all the Pantsuit Nation really wanted was a woman in a pantsuit, it doesn’t matter who.

          Meanwhile Biden picked up most of the unenthusiastic Clinton voters, the rank-and-file who’ll vote for whoever the machine wants them to vote for. And among people who were voting Sanders just because they couldn’t stand Clinton (for whatever reason), Biden is superficially different enough for them to support.

          • cassander says:

            Their policies were very different, but not their attitudes or the way they spoke to people. They both pitched themselves as cool, competent, educated, no nonsense believers in science and studies that absolutely reeked of high status blue tribe. And the attitude matters way more than the policies, which most voters don’t really know about beyond the level of slogans. People want someone in power about whom they think “this person is like me”, or at least “this person has the back of people like me”.

            You can call that superficial if you like, but I think it’s incorrect to say that they had little in common.

          • baconbits9 says:

            For all their talk about how much policy matters, apparently all the Pantsuit Nation really wanted was a woman in a pantsuit, it doesn’t matter who.

            Not really true, they didn’t go for Gabbard, Klobuchar, they went Warren specifically.

          • JayT says:

            Warren had the most name recognition of those three, though. If Klobuchar had been in the public eye starting a few years ago instead of Warren, I think she would have had Warren’s levels of support, or higher.

          • matthewravery says:

            @JayT-

            Warren’s strength was college-educated white women. This demo tends to be more liberal than moderate, so IMO Warren’s policies and background are a much better fit than Klobuchar. Name recognition and first-mover advantage probably had something to do with it, too, but I think the policy match was better with Warren.

          • JayT says:

            I still think that Klobuchar would have had more support than Warren did if their place in the public conscience was swapped, because the college educated white women would have still gone for Klobuchar in large numbers, even though they might be to the left of her (they went for Hillary, right?), but Klobuchar had a better chance to connect to men and people without college educations.

          • BBA says:

            What I mean by superficial is: there’s virtually no difference in what the government would be like under Clinton versus under Biden. They’d have largely identical policy priorities and they’d hire most of the same staffers and Cabinet members off the DNC rolodex. There’s a big difference between either of them and Warren. And yet Warren is seen as Hillary 2.0, while Biden isn’t.

          • DarkTigger says:

            It might be my special neck of the woods, but didn’t those people also regularly said they wanted a woman?

            So people who say they want to be ruled by a woman, vote for a woman. There where some funny coalitions around Chancelor Merkels first election here in Germany. Or at least I thought they were funny back than.

        • John Schilling says:

          Interesting. I dont think the first part is controversial at all, but I’ve never heard of people supporting Sanders just out of spite for Clinton.

          It’s not a question of voting for Sanders out of spite; it’s about voting for a president that you don’t hate. Most of the people who were going to vote in the Democratic primary at all, already hated Donald Trump. If they also hated Hillary Clinton, what else were they going to do? Throw their vote away on a third-party candidate?

          Bernie Sanders, for all of his problems, isn’t really hateable. His policies legitimately frighten a fair number of people, but most of those normally vote in the Republican primary.

          Which, come to think of it, is another major difference from 2016. The economic pragmatists in 2016 were voting in the Republican primary even more than they normally would have, to ensure that the GOP not fall into the abyss of Trumponomics. In 2020, they’re more likely to vote in the Democratic primary because that’s now the best place to find an economically pragmatic alternative to Donald Trump.

          • acymetric says:

            This seems like a really excellent summary.

          • cassander says:

            I’m not sure there are that many people actually changing party registration from election to election.

          • acymetric says:

            Not all states require to to register with a party to vote in their primary. Seem’s like it’s right around 50/50 open vs. closed primaries (but please don’t quote me on that) and even in at least some of the closed primary state people registered as independent get to pick which primary to vote in (North Carolina is this way for sure).

            So it doesn’t require changing registration for this to happen, in many cases.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Lots of people will choose a candidate for a petty reason, and then retroactively decide they liked all his policies to avoid uncomfortable cognitive dissonance.

      • matthewravery says:

        I think the past 3+ years of political coverage have greatly underrated this as a factor in the 2016 election. Lots of folks, but most electorally relevantly, working class whites, despised Clinton. In the primary, this manifested as Sanders doing well with these groups and pulling out unexpected wins in, for example, Michigan. This year, running on essentially the same platform against a DNC-backed establishment politician with similar policies to Clinton, Bernie is doing worse in that demo basically everywhere.

        Clinton’s weakness with working-class whites persisted in the general against Trump. It’s unclear whether Biden’s (relative) strength with this group will also carry over. It seems clear to me that the DNC’s calculus in backing the centrist over the lefty is that the hit in excitement from the left is worth it if it helps you win back some of the Obama-Trump voters and helps make sure you don’t scare away all of the suburban whites that helped you win the house in 2018.

        I see folks on the left gnashing their teeth about re-running the 2016 playbook, but that doesn’t seem like an awful electoral strategy: (1) I don’t see any way you get folks to hate Biden as much as folks hated Clinton. The right has been going after HRC since, like, 1991. Biden’s rep is as a bit of an old-fashioned goofball who occasionally says/does inappropriate things. I just don’t see him sparking the level of vitriol HRC did. (2) Clinton won the popular vote, and that despite the biggest “October surprise” in decades caught her in the form of the Comey letter. (Which, incidentally, fed directly into long-standing narratives about her.) (3) Trump is no longer an unknown in government. He remains ~10 points underwater in terms of popularity. Whereas in the voting booth in 2016, folks could still imagine him to be lots of things or “mellowing” as he governs or moving to “the center” or whatever, there’s now less opportunity for wishcasting.

        On the other side of all of that is the fact that he’s an incumbent, there isn’t a (major) war ongoing, and the fact that the way in which COVID plays out in the US over the next 2-9 months might matter more than any of the rest of that.

        • Garrett says:

          FWIW, I’ve never *liked* Clinton, but I never hated her deep-down. I viewed her as condescending, likely corrupt, with a large policy platform I was strongly against. But it’s mostly intellectual dislike.

          I have a visceral reaction against Biden. That stupid smugness combined with that smirk just gets to me.

        • I wonder if part of Sanders doing less well this time around is that it’s a result of Trump winning last time. As long as it looked as though Trump was obviously going to lose there was little pressure to avoid the more extreme candidate, since many Democratic voters thought he could still win. With Trump as an incumbent, the same voters think they need someone sufficiently centrist to pull votes away from him.

          • matthewravery says:

            It’s empirically quite a large part, with something like twice as many voters in Democratic primaries yesterday saying in exit polls that voting for a candidate who was more likely to win was the most important thing vice a candidate whose policy positions they agreed with.

          • meh says:

            DavidFriedman, I have the same opinion of the brexit vote. Margin of victory does matter in terms of political capital, and imo many voted to leave thinking remain would win, but wanted to send a message.

    • Salentino says:

      He’s definitely doing worse than in 2016. See here https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2020/Pres/Maps/Mar11.html (very good daily blog by the way)

    • Plumber says:

      @jermo sapiens says:

      “So it looks like Bernie is all but done”

      Yes.

      “(Or is it, is there any way for Bernie to come back and win this?)”

      Sure, Biden could put his foot in his mouth even worse than he has.

      “I’m trying to find whether Bernie is doing worse or better than in 2016. This suggests he’s doing worse in 2020 than in 2016. Is it because he’s a bit more woke than an economist populist as he was in 2016?”

      Yes, he seems more pro-immigration now.

      “Or is it because people are afraid that he’s less electable than Biden?”

      Yes, I strongly guess that most working class Obama to Trump voters will still vote for Trump, and while Sanders may get a few more back than Biden will, Sanders won’t get as many other voters support than Biden, but more importantly it looks like Biden has longer “coattails”, and without Congress no progressive agenda would be enacted anyway (not that much will happen under Biden anyway, he himself said “, I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else”.

      “I’m also curious whether you think Bernie supporters will vote for Biden or whether a significant chuck of them will sit it out.

      My guess is that maybe 20% of Sanders supporters won’t vote for Biden in the general election, but California and Washington (which Sanders won) will still vote for the Democrat in November, while Biden has a better chance to win in Virginia, and North Carolina, and Biden has a slim chance to flip Texas, which if he did would win him the Presidency.

      On Biden’s campaigning in South Carolina, from The New York Times, February 29th “Joe Biden’s Last Stand

      ‘…If nothing else, Mr. Biden seems to pay little penalty here for being his full self: long-winded, nostalgic, liable to quote a different relative at every stop:

      “As my grand-pop would say …”

      “As my wife the professor would say …”

      “My dad had an expression …”

      “If my mother were here,” he said in Sumter on Friday, 19 minutes into a speech he promised would last “10 to 12 minutes,” “she’d say, ‘Joey, hush up.’” (In one lengthy detour the evening before, Mr. Biden lamented the kind of abuse of women that was once tolerated in England — “England, not Zambezia, or Zambia or any other.”)…’

      and from today

      “…Mr. Biden has never been the most exciting choice in this race. But that is kind of the point”

       So that’s Joe Biden, tongue tied, rambling, not all there all the time, but it looks like he’ll be the nominee. 

      I find it endearing in a “could have a beer with” way similar to how George W. Bush was, but I can see how others would be repelled. 

      I feel kinda bad for Sanders and his supporters (for the record I voted for Sanders in the 2016 primary, and I mailed in my vote for Biden in February before South Carolina voted), but (like most Democrats my age and older) I voted for Joe. 

      For demographics: I’m a 51 years-old, white man without a college diploma, I voted for Clinton in ’92, for Dole in ’96, Kerry in ’04, and for the Democrat since.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Yes, he seems more pro-immigration now.

        I think this is the right answer. If you look at where Sanders is doing better than 2016 it’s among Latinos and young whites. Where he’s doing worse is working class older whites and blacks.

        Basically Sanders made the mistake that @Plumber keeps warning everyone not to make in that he confused the Twitterverse with the Democrat primary electorate.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          This is my view also.

          I think the notion that being an immigration restrictionist (relative to current levels) is racist extends beyond the twitterverse, but people’s revealed preferences show that the number of non-racist people who would rather reduce immigration levels is quite large. And if this is true, as long as an increased social safety net is tied to opening our borders even more, the US will not vote for an increased social safety net.

        • Ketil says:

          Yes, he seems more pro-immigration now.

          I think this is the right answer. If you look at where Sanders is doing better than 2016 it’s among Latinos and young whites. Where he’s doing worse is working class older whites and blacks.

          Doesn’t have to be immigration, does it? Perhaps for latinos, but I suspect the young whites are the woke young whites, who now no longer have a woman candidate as an alternative. Working class would probably prefer the moderate Biden to the radical Sanders, but Sanders to the arrogant/elite/bureaucrat Clinton – in a “could have a beer with” way. I don’t think Clinton qualifies there.

        • Plumber says:

          @EchoChaos, >

          “…Sanders made the mistake that @Plumber keeps warning everyone not to make in that he confused the Twitterverse with the Democrat primary electorate….”

          Thank you, I’m feeling very vindicated right now after a year of most of the NY Times/Washington Post voices going “Of course it will be Bloomberg/Warren!”, until they changed to “Well, at least it’s not Sanders/How could you peons not vote for Warren!”, making me start to doubt my guesses until I changed to thinking of them: “Mike Royko and his generation of pundits seemed much better at this than you guys and ladies”

          • EchoChaos says:

            Note that Biden occasionally forgets that himself, as when he yelled at a union guy for asking him about gun control.

            Thank you, I’m feeling very vindicated right now

            Definitely take your victory lap.

          • Aftagley says:

            Of course it will be Bloomberg

            I’m a regular reader of NYT and Wapo and a couple other magazines. The strongest I remember them ever being in support of Bloomberg was “yes, he’s a weak candidate, but maybe we shouldn’t dismiss him out of hand.”

          • Plumber says:

            @EchoChaos > “…Note that Biden occasionally forgets that himself…”

            At this point it’s clear that either Biden forgets the last time, or he’s just learned to like the taste of his own feet.

            At least we got ”lying dog-faced pony soldier” out of this election cycle.

            A gem for the ages!

            I suspect the closest to a winning campaign move would be a few scripted speeches (long on “unity”), and telling Biden to just flirt with a lot of old ladies until October, but otherwise stay quiet.

            I don’t think I’m misreading the electorate to say that most voters nearly 20 years after 9/11 and within ten years of the Great Recession are craving a Taft style “return to normalcy”, and a ‘Silent Cal’ type of “don’t rock the boat” presidency, maybe with a mild expansion of Obamacare, but otherwise keep the Social Security and Medicare checks coming, and don’t change much for a while, I think the electorate wants “sleepy”

            An Eisenhower, not a Reagan or Roosevelt (not that Biden has the temperment or the frontal lobe capacity for radical change anyway).

            A lot depends on who succeeds Pelosi and McConnell but, assuming she, he, and/or Schumer have a say in their successors the next few years should be a time of coasting.
            .

          • Plumber says:

            @Aftagley > “I’m a regular reader of NYT and Wapo and a couple other magazines. The strongest I remember them ever being in support of Bloomberg was “yes, he’s a weak candidate, but maybe we shouldn’t dismiss him out of hand.””

            My apologies, it’s likely then that since my wife supported him, the thousands of television ads broadcast this year of his, plus my deep dislike at the thought of Bloomberg winning made the pieces I read supporting him and predicting his triumph stick out, like a broken bone, memorably for me.

            Since I didn’t do a count I don’t doubt you.

          • John Schilling says:

            At this point it’s clear that either Biden forgets the last time, or he’s just learned to like the taste of his own feet.

            Also, Biden is a stutterer. The reason you probably don’t know that is that he he has mastered the art of covering it by, when the words he wants to say get logjammed somewhere between the brain and mouth, immediately shifting to different words even if they aren’t always the right words. Usually they’re close enough, and anyone who says otherwise is a lying dog-faced pony soldier.

      • Aftagley says:

        So that’s Joe Biden, tongue tied, rambling…

        In this one way, Joe and Trump kind of remind me of eachother. Both of them tend to be great to listen to in person. Taken as a whole, their speeches are fun, but they have a bad habit of containing little bits that don’t make sense and/or don’t look good when isolated out and played on TV. I speak from personal experience, even as someone who doesn’t like him it was easy to see Trump’s charisma when i was at a Trump rally, and I’ve enjoyed every Biden speech I went to.

        Overall, I’d advise people who don’t think it’s a bid deal that Trump occasionally goes off script and says weird stuff during speeches to apply that same level of charity to Biden. I will be doing my best to to the same, but in reverse.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I was surprised that Bernie did as well as he did this year. Even being the favorite for a few weeks was a surprise result (imo). I think his main problems are that he has no energy, enthusiasm or charisma (compared to the top level candidates who come out of nowhere to win a primary like Bill Clinton/Obama, not compared to your typical 78 year old). Bernie can’t really sway you personally, you like his politics or you like his demeanor generally, but he won’t make large swaths of the electorate like him generally. You can be Joe Biden/Hillary Clinton that way because you politics are more or less center of the road for your party, so people can dislike you but still vote for you in large numbers.

      • Loriot says:

        IMO, Bernie’s big problem is that he doesn’t attempt to appeal to the majority of democratic voters. He has his (large, incredibly devoted) fanbase, but 35% isn’t enough to win elections when it’s down to a two person race.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Speaking of Bernie’s fanbase, I am looking forward to Reddit switching on a dime and going all in on Biden, who they’ve been bashing for the last 6 months.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m more looking forward to Bernie’s own speech at the convention where he wholeheartedly endorses Biden.

          • meh says:

            This would mirror I think nearly every primary either party has ever held. What’s to look forward to?

    • JonathanD says:

      Biden does a lot better with blue collar workers than Hillary did. In 2016, Sanders won that demo, and now he’s losing it, so all he’s got are the kids and the serious progressives. That’s not enough to even keep it all that close, now that Biden has outlasted his rivals and consolidated the moderates and the institutional party.

      I don’t really see Sanders as having changed much. My wife really liked Warren and more or less held her nose and voted for Bernie yesterday. Her comment, “Every one or Warren’s policies is intersectional, and none of his are, and you can’t talk about class if you don’t talk about race.” At least among the woke, Sanders is seen as rejecting wokeness in favor of older-style strictly class based appeals.

      • Statismagician says:

        Real question – is the intersectionality of policies only about messaging, or are there supposed to be substantive differences as well?

        • JonathanD says:

          I don’t know. I believe in this sort of stuff but I mostly take my wife’s lead on it.

        • JonathanD says:

          So, I went to Warren’s campaign page. On her plan page, her fifth heading is “Ensure racial and economic justice and opportunity for all”. The first plan is “A Comprehensive Agenda to Boost America’s Small Businesses”. The first few paragraphs:

          Small businesses are the heart of our economy. And even though Americans are as entrepreneurial as ever, there are signs that it’s getting harder to start and grow a small business. New business formation is down over the past decade, and small businesses are dropping in numbers and in market share.

          The challenges are even greater for communities of color. We have a long history of small businesses owned by people of color. The businesses they’ve nurtured through years, and even decades, of hard work often serve as long standing pillars of their communities. But many of those businesses are under threat as wave after wave of gentrification brings skyrocketing costs. Today, Black and Latinx small business owners own less than 10% of businesses with employees.

          This isn’t a question of good ideas: just look at the many successful examples of Black and Latinx-owned businesses that contribute more than a trillion in revenue to our economy. Entrepreneurs of color in particular are a powerful force, with Latinx-owned businesses growing at double the rate of all American businesses. But they face unique barriers to access: access to capital, resources, and markets. The typical Black entrepreneur starts a business with a third of the startup capital of the typical white entrepreneur. Assuming an entrepreneur can access capital, she then is less likely to have access to the informal business training and networks that can help her navigate the regulatory hurdles ahead. And finally, in an economy where market access is predicated on size and connections, she’ll face even greater barriers to breaking into the market.

          Part of the problem for small businesses is Washington. A lot of Washington politicians claim they are “pro-business.” What that often means, though, is that they’re pro-big business, and they’re willing to go to bat for every loophole, every tax break, and every other special favor that giant corporations want. And being pro big-business means, by and large, being pro-white male businesses. A lot of politicians may praise the entrepreneurs and the mom-and-pop shops in public, but their actions support the big guys that can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers, and can hand out maximum campaign contributions.

          The stuff she wanted to do goes on for quite a while, and I’m just skimming it, but it looks to me like her point is that she would level the playing field, which would make things less favorable to the entrenched, big business interests, which would have the effect of helping black and latinx people more than anyone else because they’re the ones currently being screwed by structural racism.

          Edit: screwed up the pasting.

          • Aapje says:

            Her proposal is outright discriminatory, though, as she only wants to give these grants to (some) minorities.

            Note that they are not loans, but free money, which encourages scams, unless her “diverse set of investment managers” are unrealistically capable of assessing proposals.

            Giving grants is also simply very inefficient, because you can help far fewer people that way. With subsidized loans, part of the money comes back and can be used on the program again.

            Aside from being economically unwise, it’s also politically unwise, since it greatly increases the incentive to cancel the program (especially with the high amount of scams that I predict). The scams and the racism will likely make it very unpopular with non-woke white people, which is a huge boost for the Republicans in their campaigning.

            it looks to me like her point is that she would level the playing field

            It wouldn’t, though. Under her plan, a white person in otherwise similar circumstances would not get the same opportunity to get free money as a black, Latino or native person. If she excludes Asians, as she seems to imply, then Burmese Americans are excluded, even though their average income is below the average Latino income.

            Also, my observation is that woke policies tend to be sold as helping poor minorities, but in practice tend to often actually help rich or otherwise advantaged people who are minorities. If that is the case here, where most of the money doesn’t go to actually disadvantaged people, but to the likes Oprah Winfrey and Robert L. Johnson, which are also entrenched, big business, then she wouldn’t be leveling the playing field, but just favoring one subset of big business.

            Warren seems to believe that entrenched, big business is uniformly white, which makes it a huge risk that she equates minorities with poverty, not recognizing how policy for minorities can end up profiting a small and advantaged subset of the minority community.

            because they’re the ones currently being screwed by structural racism.

            Her campaign page is similar to an article she wrote for Medium, where she put in a paragraph that she left off her campaign website:

            The small business gap is another example of how the racial wealth gap in America holds back our economy and hurts Black, Latinx, Native American, and other minority families and communities. And because the government helped create that wealth gap with decades of sanctioned discrimination, the government has an obligation to address it head on — with bold policies that go right at the heart of the problem.

            This is false, of course. People who migrate from poorer places to richer places typically have less wealth than natives, because they couldn’t gather as much wealth in their old country. You can’t blame this on the new country being discriminatory. European migrants to America also very often started off poor and built up personal/family wealth over time, often over generations. Attributing this to structural racism is anti-white rhetoric.

            Anyway, my conclusion is that it is not just messaging, but that Warren is woke in her policies as well.

            I looked at Sanders’ campaign site and his woke rhetoric does appear to be superficial. For example, on loans he wants to eliminate redlining, which, unless he redefines that word substantially, is not racist.

            His 10-20-30 program to increase government spending in communities with structural disadvantage, looks at historic poverty levels in that community, rather than at race. So again, not a racist policy.

            So Sanders gets my Non-Woke Stamp of Non-Disapproval for his actual policies, unlike Warren. I can see why JonathanD’s woke wife would be discontent with Sanders’ actual plans for the opposite reason of why I am discontent with Warren’s actual plans.

          • JonathanD says:

            @Statismagician,

            @Aajpe actually did the assignment. Looks like it’s both policy and rhetoric that are intersectional.

            @Aajpe, I should add here that I can’t imagine my wife ever calling herself woke. I’m pretty sure that calling yourself woke is strongly correlated to youth, and we’re forty-somethings with three kids. She would say she’s an intersectional feminist who believes in social and economic justice. I’m just using woke as the local shortcut.

          • Deiseach says:

            Latinx? That term alone demonstates she didn’t write it, some 20-something campaign volunteer was given a handout on her policy and told to write something up for the website but make it catchy for The Youth.

            I agree with Aapje; there are going to be some scammers attracted to this like flies to honey, because there are always some scammers everywhere who try to get free money. The problem would be if people trying to implement this scheme weren’t allowed to winnow out scammers because “that’s racism to presume that Manuel’s ‘holistic organic herbal remedy small business idea’ is a scam just because Manuel is a small-time drug dealer and his ‘remedies’ got him banged up for 5 years last time”.

          • Aapje says:

            @JonathanD

            I think that the relevant distinction is whether one believes that disparate impact is enough (for example, helping the poor helps black people more) or whether one doesn’t require actual proof of the person being disadvantaged, but assumes it based on group-level characteristics/stereotypes.

            If the policy merely stereotypes people based on one ‘axis of oppression,’ as Warren’s policy does, then I don’t see how it can be called intersectional.

            After all, shouldn’t an intersectional policy treat people differently based on all their ‘axes of oppression’? For example, instead of giving all Latinos a grant of X, it should give a bigger grant to Latino women than Latino men.

            Although doing this with the original definition of intersectional is nearly impossible, because that argues that combining different ‘axes of oppression’ results in a different outcome than just adding them up. So then intersectional policy can’t give Latinos a grant of X, women a grant of Y and Latino women a grant of X + Y, but there would need to be a grant level that reflects the intersectional oppression of Latino women.

          • DarkTigger says:

            @Deisach

            Latinx? That term alone demonstates she didn’t write it, some 20-something campaign volunteer was given a handout on her policy and told to write something up for the website but make it catchy for The Youth.

            What did you expect? That important politicians write texts and speaches themself? I wouldn’t even expect the first Handout to be written by her.
            What did you think people like Miss Levinsky were doing in the White House?

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            I don’t see how you can filter out the scammers in advance. How does Warren distinguish the person showing up with a decent plan that actually intends to start a business from one with a decent plan that will immediately spend the handout on coke and Lord Byron books?

            It seems to me that the only way is to check that they actually did start the business without engaging in various shenanigans, so at that point you have to set up an auditing system that somehow distinguishes between the unwilling and the incompetent. That in itself is a nightmare.

            And how do you prevent Whitey McWhiteface from giving a loan to Mr. Latinx, who then ‘founds’ a company with the government grant while Whitey secretly does all the work, where Mr. Latinx later has to sell the company to Whitey for the exact same price as the loan, to be able to repay the loan. With that scheme, Warren’s minority-only grant system suddenly becomes race-neutral.

            Of course, the best way to game the system depends on the specifics, but it seems to me that it is not really possible to prevent fraud from being fairly easy, unless you spend lots of money on overhead. And even then it seems doubtful that it will work.

            PS. Warren has said Latinx in speeches, so it is language that she uses, although those speeches may of course also have been written by 20 year old so-white-that-they-are-nearly-transparent unpaid interns.

          • Anthony says:

            I don’t know which is worse – that Warren let a campaign intern use “la tinx” without correcting it, or that she wrote it herself.

            That usage needs to die. It’s ugly, it’s ahistorical, and it’s colonialist. Latinos have a perfectly good native-language term – “latinos” (in both Spanish and Portuguese) – which is not difficult for Anglophones.

            (I’m part of that 97% of estadounidiense latinos who don’t prefer to be called “la tinx”.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I don’t know which is worse – that Warren let a campaign intern use “la tinx” without correcting it, or that she wrote it herself.

            Did you intend to type “Latinx”, AKA “Anglo Social Justice Warriors colonizing Spanish in the name of anti-sexism”? Because as it stands, I’m trying to figure out who the Los Angeles tinx are. 😛

          • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

            The term strikes me as one that must have been coined by someone who spends so much time reading twitter and/or X studies papers that they forget words are often supposed to be spoken aloud.

          • Plumber says:

            @VoiceOfTheVoid says: “The term strikes me as one that must have been coined by someone who spends so much time reading twitter and/or X studies papers that they forget words are often supposed to be spoken aloud”

            Warren has said “Latinx” aloud, and when I heard her use the term in one of this years debates I immediately thought “There is no way this lady will win the election“, a thought admittedly mostly based on my Latino (and one Latina who workd across the hall who often eats with us) immediate co-workers (two of whom are ex-U.S. military).

            Most of them are Democrats (but not all, one is pro-Trump) but none are “cultural progressives”.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            outreach to Hispanic voters using the term “Latinx.” (Though she did take a little flak, after the first Democratic debate, for pronouncing it “Latin-X.”)

            Ha, so not only do the Woke have to say this out loud, they get flak if they pronounce it “Latin-X”?
            On reflection, if you have to speak that word, “Latin-X” seems like the coolest way. It sounds like the X-Men’s ancient Roman-themed member.

          • Aapje says:

            Some people are actually using “Latinx men” and “Latinx women.”

            :O

          • Lambert says:

            How do they pronounce it?
            /ks/ like anglophone imperialists who haven’t bothered to check how many codas are allowed to go on a syllable in Spanish or with a velar fricative like someone who is saying ‘latin’ as they are about to sneeze?

          • Anthony says:

            I pronounce it like I spelled it: “la tinx”

            Don’t do a google image search for “la twinks” at work, or if you’re offended by male nudity.

          • Randy M says:

            Some people are actually using “Latinx men” and “Latinx women.”

            If one were to adopt a Latinx persona, would that be complicating things terribly?

          • Deiseach says:

            What did you think people like Miss Levinsky were doing in the White House?

            DarkTigger, certainly not what we were told she was doing!

          • Deiseach says:

            How does Warren distinguish the person showing up with a decent plan that actually intends to start a business from one with a decent plan that will immediately spend the handout on coke and Lord Byron books?

            Quote part of The Prisoner of Chillon and see if they complete the verse? 🙂

            I’d imagine some kind of “okay, fill in this application form, tell us what your idea is, give us background information about yourself and what you’ve been doing for the past few years re: employment or whatever”. Ordinarily, people who have been in customer-facing positions for a couple of years dealing with public service and the public get to know the type of scammers and twisters who try things and to recognise a bullshit proposal when it’s being made. The upper levels who decide that a Community Business Grant is a great idea are the ones who over-rule any “Look, I know this guy, I know where the money will really go and it’s not to creating a local business, it’s to pay off his drug-dealer” protests by the coal-face staff.

            And usually Start Your Own Business courses and grant-aiding do have conditions attached so it’s not just anyone who can stroll up and say “Gimme my free money”.

            I’m part of that 97% of estadounidiense latinos who don’t prefer to be called “la tinx”.

            Anthony, yours is the attitude I’ve seen when native-speakers and actual Latino/Hispanic people discuss this term. Personally, I was pronouncing it as spelled so “lah-tinks”, but I then learned it was supposed to be “Latin-Ex”. Truly, only people who get their knickers in a twist over gendered language would be so opposed to “how very dare other languages have gendered terms to distinguish between male and female persons” that they invented a new word that, ironically, ignores the feelings of people who are within those groups/speak those languages, all in the name of Diversity, Correctness, and Sensitivity.

    • salvorhardin says:

      I think the D primary electorate may actually be less leftist than 2016 due to the influx of former independents and moderate Republicans who hate Trump. The leftists are certainly louder and angrier this time, and they probably are somewhat more numerous in absolute terms, but they may not be more relatively-numerous.

      • matthewravery says:

        I believe turnout in the Democratic primary is quite a bit higher than it was in 2016, but the increases have been in middle-aged and older voters, not the younger, more liberal ones Bernie’s campaign was premised on bringing in. For example, Virginia had nearly twice as many voters in the 2020 Democratic primary than the 2016 Democratic primary. Whether that’s because of the shift in the state’s voters (see the 2018 midterms) or because there wasn’t a Republican primary for independents to choose from is relevant is not clear.

        • Plumber says:

          @matthewravery,
          Virginia and Texas both had open primaries, I’ve read a comment of a poll worker who said that in her town some residents requested Democratic primary ballots that in previous years requested Republican ones, and I’ve seen a few comments of folks saying that they’re former Republicans who voted in this year’s Democratic primary, more against Sanders than for Biden.

          We’ll find out in November if they vote for Biden again or cross back.

          • matthewravery says:

            Yup. One data point is the 2018 midterms, when both Texas and Virginia had House seats flip from Republican incumbents to Democrats. This is consistent with a theory of highly-motivated voters interested in getting rid of Trump. But both primaries and midterm elections (even ones with record turnout) are relatively narrow slices of the electorate that participates in generals.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I personally did that here in Washington. The Republican primary’s virtually uncontested; the Democratic wasn’t.

            For November, I’m undecided between Republican and third-party.

          • Loriot says:

            I almost did that in 2016, in the hopes of stopping Trump, but then Cruz’s support collapsed in the last week and the Republican primary was over before it got to me, so I switched back to Democrat.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      College-educated young voters and great recession victims are not gonna turn out for the bankruptcy reform guy. Trump in a landslide.

      • acymetric says:

        Curiously, the assumption seems to be that Dems need to cater to the moderates, and take for granted that the more progressive voters (who likely have the most passionate policy stances) will simply fall in line, when it seems likely that they will not do that, and that the reverse would have been more likely.

        • salvorhardin says:

          Progressive/leftist voters fell in line in the swing districts where moderate Dems got elected in the 2018 midterms. Why would they not do so in a presidential election with much higher (or at least higher-feeling) stakes? I can see people doing that if Bernie or someone of similar stature were to mount a third-party candidacy, but that seems super unlikely.

      • matthewravery says:

        Where do those voters live? Do the Dems need those voters more, or do they need voters who wouldn’t vote for a Socialist under any condition but might pull the lever for Scranton Joe?

  3. Thegnskald says:

    I’ve been pondering the social equilibrium around remote work.

    I’ll observe that there were many events, such as power outages, at the company headquarters when I worked for that company remotely, which meant from the perspective of our clients business continued as usual.

    This leads me to a thought that decentralization of this kind brings with it some substantial resilience against localized problems.

    However, I think it imposes a higher entrance fee in terms of conscientious, which, given that looking around most of my coworkers spend most of their time not doing work already, may override those benefits.

    There are also network effects which make being in the same location somewhat more beneficial.

    I think the former would require invasive levels of monitoring to counter – in terms of people being aware they are being monitored to the same extent they are in an office, if not more – and the latter requires some substantial technology to mitigate (both real and social), which maybe we’ve been making strides towards anyways in terms of coordinating offshore teams.

    I think the monitoring, if the social equilibrium continues moving in favor of remote work, is probably inevitable for some things. (Other things might be measurable in terms of output, so avoid that issue.). Likewise I think technology will eventually render network effects substantially insignificant for most professions, and the increase in delivery services will render most interpersonal contact basically irrelevant.

    So, my expectation is a new class divide will begin forming between remote work, and work that cannot be performed remotely.

    Also, society will become even more atomized. But I expect a countercultural trend of increasing local community involvement, as people start experiencing greater social contact needs currently fulfilled by their occupations; I expect the major beneficiaries there to be religious institutions and community organizations (Moose Lodges, for instance).

    • AG says:

      Increasing local community involvement is dependent on having the time and energy to participate. If remote work hours are less productive per hour but maintain output, then the worker is taking it easy at remote work over a longer period of time, which still leaves them less time and energy outside of work.

      I expect more of a “convenient social consumption” trend, a la startups that arrange singles’ events, wherein atomized people purchase social experiences, pushing off any organization effort onto others as paid work. Convention customer to volunteer is still a rare narrative.

  4. Chalid says:

    Last OT we talked a bit about whether schools should close.

    Separate question: given that my kids’ school has not closed, should I pull my kids from it and limit their contacts to a small group of carefully selected friends? I don’t have any issues about being able to afford it and I don’t think it will much increase their contact with vulnerable people. It seems prosocial to do my small part to bring down R0.

    • acymetric says:

      Is your school going to let your kids complete the year remotely if you pull them?

      • Chalid says:

        Let’s assume there are no academic impacts.

        • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

          Seems like a dubious assumption to me. Though I do think a lot of public school is useless busywork, there’s a good proportion that’s actually useful. Being able to ask a teacher your questions in real time can be majorly helpful (vs. reading a textbook or watching a recording). And for some people, lectures are just easier to learn from than a textbook in general. Plus, if you know what the teacher is focusing attention on in class, you know what to focus your attention on when studying for the exam.

          All that, not even considering the practical issues of “the school is not closed and your kids are expected to be there physically.”

          In any case, I suspect the marginal impact of a single (non high-risk) person or family self-quarantining, without everyone else doing likewise, is quite low.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It stops your kid from being the vector that infects you. I figure that school transmission is just about guaranteed given how children act.

            If your area doesn’t have any cases of community transmission, waiting it out is probably fine; let things function for as long as they can. In my area, the school system is asking people to self-quarantine for 2 weeks after spring break if they travelled anywhere. That will probably be the end of the in-school year for us. (We are planning travel; will self-quarantine afterward; figure other people probably will not; expect that the school system will make the decision to send all the kids home before those 2 weeks are up).

          • Chalid says:

            My kids are young enough that academics hasn’t gotten “real” yet. They’re not getting tested in any way that matters. There aren’t grades that matter for anything.

            If this was high school I’d be more concerned.

            I suspect the marginal impact of a single (non high-risk) person or family self-quarantining, without everyone else doing likewise, is quite low.

            This is the sort of thing I was thinking about. Naively, the number of interactions goes as the square of the number of kids in a class, so the first to self-quarantine actually has a higher-than-average impact, right?

          • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

            @Edward Schizorhands
            Sure, that’d be a good personal benefit, but I don’t think it would be terribly prosocially relevant.

            @Chalid
            Hmmm… I was thinking in terms of “it will probably spread to everyone no matter what, unless everyone self-quarantines”, but thinking about it more the rate at which it spreads could be important. A fairly scaremongery article* makes the case that slowing the rate of infection, even if the same number of people get infected, will help ensure that everyone doesn’t get infected at the same time. The goal being to avoid or mitigate the disaster scenario in which hospitals reach capacity and can’t handle all the cases simultaneously.

            *ETA: the same one that @matthewravery just linked in a top-level post

          • Chalid says:

            slowing the rate of infection, even if the same number of people get infected, will help ensure that everyone doesn’t get infected at the same time

            Right. There is also the effect that we will better understand how best to treat the disease over time (there a couple drugs which preliminary evidence suggests help people survive – moving infections later means that there’s more time for people to understand those drugs and mass-produce the ones that turn out to be effective). Also, there’s a good chance that summer weather will suppress the virus, so delaying infections helps a lot there too.

        • Garrett says:

          If there are no academic impacts I’d argue you should never send your kid back. Most schools are hell for the types of people who are likely to post here.

    • Do you live an area where there has been high community transmission? If you live in Seattle, that’s probably a good decision. If you live in some small town, it’s probably excessive.

    • Chalid says:

      We are doing it. We will pull the kids out of school after tomorrow.

      • Chalid says:

        … and the school closed anyway. Well, at least I was prepared.

        • Chalid says:

          *sigh*

          After hearing that the school closed, my wife’s parents offered to help babysit. We told them very strongly that it was unsafe, that the whole point of schools closing is to protect people like them from the virus, and we’ll have the rest of our lives to spend together if we are careful to get through the next few weeks or months safely.

          So, naturally, they’re babysitting my brother-in-law’s kid instead 🙁

          (I know, I know, get a blog)

  5. DragonMilk says:

    So who like me bought the dip in the first few days and have seen the dip go further?

    My friends believe my superpower to be to influence the market – the more I buy, the more it goes down in the short term! Never have I lost so much so fast. While I primarily bought index, I also put about 3% of my stock holdings in cruise ships…of which RCL is down by over half in less than two weeks.

    Anyone else have unwanted super powers like this?

    • Thegnskald says:

      You haven’t lost it until you sell it. And that is a fantastic superpower, you could easily get rich with that, by buying and selling incrementally; say the market goes down 10%, buy with 10% of your assets. Follow it to the bottom, wait for random fluctuations to bring it back up, sell, and repeat.

    • broblawsky says:

      I sold 50% of my investments (which had, up until then, been 100% in stocks) and put it into a money-market fund in late January 2018, and then maintained 50/50 stocks/cash up until now.

      • cassander says:

        By my math, that means you’re about even to slightly behind with where you’d be if you stayed in stocks, before taxes.

        • Eric Rall says:

          In hindsight, a better move would have been to shift the money into long-term bond funds, which show a total return of about 30% (mostly from interest rates dropping) since a year ago.

          But that’s hard hindsight: a year ago, I would have expected interest rates to be more likely to go up than to continue to go down. That’s why my bond allocation is in short-term bonds, which are much less sensitive to interest rate changes in either direction. When I want to accept more risk for more return, that’s what my stock allocation is for.

        • broblawsky says:

          Yeah, I wasn’t bragging. I’m a little ahead because the Trump tax cuts gave me a tax advantage for selling in 2018, which did factor into my decisions. The algorithm I put together is good at telling me when to sell (it also called out late September 2019) but bad at telling me when to buy. So, essentially still pretty useless.

        • cassander says:

          I’ll brag. I sold enough index funds on January 23th, 2018 to make up the downpayment for my house. My closing got delayed because the bank screwed some stuff up, so that was about a month after I was supposed to close, during which the market went up over 10%, and 3 days before an 8 month peak. And I got the bank to kick back some of the closing costs for screwing things up.

          • broblawsky says:

            If that was luck, I think you must have burned up a whole monastery’s worth of karma.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @cassander

            Are you me? We’re closing today and I did the exact same thing. I pulled out over half my 401k in a “401k loan” in order to make the contingency requirements for building my house.

            I got the cash back in late January, but sensed the market turmoil so I’ve just held it in cash.

          • cassander says:

            @broblawsky

            It certainly wasn’t skill!

    • Garrett says:

      Meeee!

      After seeing the dip last Friday, I figured things couldn’t get any worse. I’ve had a cash position I’ve been meaning to convert to equities for way too long, so I logged in and bought my diversified ETFs.

      Then Russia decided to destroy the world economy or something.

      • Matt M says:

        After seeing the dip last Friday, I figured things couldn’t get any worse.

        I really don’t understand people saying this. In the 2008 crash, stocks ended up losing ~1/3 of their value from the peak.

        Based on that sort of logic, I’m waiting for the S&P to fall below 2,000 before going shopping myself…

        • Chalid says:

          stocks ended up losing ~1/3 of their value from the peak.

          Over 50% actually (going by the S&P500)

    • Loriot says:

      I did some tax loss harvesting, and finally got around to putting in some spare money that had been sitting in my bank account which I’d been meaning to invest for a while now anyway. But for the most part, I stick to the exact same strategy regardless of what the market is doing. Trying to time the market is a fool’s game. Being consistent will at least mean you don’t panic and buy high sell low like most people.

    • baconbits9 says:

      This is why it is ill advised to follow your investments if you are buying for the long term. You don’t want to know what happens in the short term.

      This looks like a ‘sell the bounce’ market, not a buy the dip market. Uncertainty is almost always bad for markets, and it is going to be hard to get a sustained run in this environment.

    • cassander says:

      I work for the aerospace arm of an events company. Their stock is down 40% since the start of the year. I was going to invest in the employee stock purchase program, but I had an unexpectedly large tax bill that ended up eating the money that was going to go into it. So I’m feeling kind of smug, actually.

      • Matt M says:

        Honestly, you should basically never invest in your own employer in any case.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Honestly, you should basically never invest in your own employer in any case.

          That’s what the startup lottery is all about.

        • cassander says:

          They’re giving us a substantial discount on the price, paying all the fees, and shielding us from taxes until we sell, so all in all it was a pretty good deal, especially since I’ve maxed out other options and have a lot of other money in more diversified investments.

          • Ghillie Dhu says:

            This. I max my ESPP purchases and pocket the 10% discount my employer gives us by selling immediately; as long as there’s less than a 10% drop between the purchase date & sale date you’re still ahead.

          • cassander says:

            @Ghillie Dhu

            Ours was better than that, we got the lower of the beginning or end of the quarter, then 15% off.

        • Loriot says:

          ESPPs are an exception to that, because they usually give you a substantial discount on the stock. It’s basically free money with the downside that you have to hold stock for a year or two.

        • Nornagest says:

          Maxing out your ESPP is often a good idea because of the favorable purchase terms most of them give you, but you should usually sell the shares as soon as you get them (or, if the ESPP sucks, as soon as they vest). With typical terms, that sale usually nets you 15-30% (depending on how the stock’s been doing) on your money over six months to a year, which is about as good a risk-adjusted investment as you’ll ever make.

          • Loriot says:

            Yeah, I thought that went without saying. Never hold more stock in your company than you have to, lest your 401k goes the way of the Enron 401ks.

            Although the tax treatment of ESPPs specifically means there are rare cases where it makes sense to hold onto the stock for an extra year before selling, IIRC.

        • DinoNerd says:

          My employer sells me stock at 15% less than the minimum price at the start and end of the investment period. If you sell instantly, even with the stock falling, you’ll get most of that 15% as profit. I consequently put as much of my pay cheque into this program as they’ll alow.

          Where you get in trouble is when a combination of doing this, but not selling, and collecting additional stock via RSU bonuses, leaves you with too much of your money in a single stock. But I’m no longer concerned about that stock being my employer’s – they are far more likely to lay lots of people off in a successful attempt to raise the stock price, than to get into hot water and start laying people off even as their stock price tanks.

    • Eric Rall says:

      I’ve got a bond allocation (Vanguard’s short-term corporate bond ETF) that has post-dip risen to about 15% of my portfolio. I’m planning on rebalancing that down to 10% or less, but not immediately because I expect the market to keep trending down as long as things are actively trending worse. I’m watching the new confirmed cases count for signs that COVID-19 spread is contained in the US, and I plan on trading based on that. I don’t think it’s contained now, and I expect the confirmed new case numbers to continue to rise sharply (making things look worse than they are) as the bottleneck in testing capacity gets sorted out.

    • Elementaldex says:

      Me! I have about half my income going into stock ETFs all the time anyways but this sale was so exciting that I’m cutting costs to channel more money in and the sale keeps getting better! My wife is starting to get ticked about this behavior so I might need to go back to just all the automatic investments…

    • tossrock says:

      “Don’t try to catch a falling knife.”

    • toastengineer says:

      I would’ve, but preppers had already bought up all the tortilla chips.

    • beleester says:

      Don’t worry, even the world’s worst market timer can turn a healthy profit over the long term!

      • baconbits9 says:

        That story only works because the guys name was Bob. If his name was Sota* its suddenly a much different problem, he’s investing in the Nikkie at almost 40,000 and its currently at 1800 and he has not seen a return on that money in 30 years, and interest rates have been near zero for that whole stretch and taxes steadily rising so saving that amount of money was more difficult than in the US. The author wrote that in 2014 which was 24 years into the bear market in Japan with a series of lower peaks (which was finally broken in 2015, but the recent decline is still well below the 2000 peak and near the 2007 peak).

        It drives me nuts that people are using the stock markets in the strongest economy in the world over the last century and act like they aren’t cherry picking.

        *Googled common Japanese names.

        • Loriot says:

          The Italian stock market took 70 years to recover. The 1900 era Russian stock market never recovered.

          People who think stocks only go up in the long run are benefiting from survivorship bias in the US.

          • DarkTigger says:

            Than let’s make sure we neither have a communist nor a fascists revolution shall we?

          • Loriot says:

            The point is that an international investor in 1900 would have had little reason to favor the US over Russia based on the information available at the time.

          • DarkTigger says:

            You mean except that one is an economic backwarter that can’t win a war with an nation that literally still was in the feudal age 30 years before, and the other is one of the most industrialized places in the world, that spend the last 50 years gobbeling of the former Spanish Empire, and was the biggest coal, steal, grain and cotton producer in the world?

            I mean, you are right no one could have known that the Bolshewiks would take over Russia. But those are the kind of events, were keeping your money in cash, wouldn’t exactly help you either.

          • Loriot says:

            At the time, Russia was industrializing, freeing the serfs, etc. I think it would be a bit like investing in China in the 1990s, and noone would look askance at you for that.

          • Wency says:

            Russia was absolutely the China of the pre-WW1 period. Its economy and population were both surging, and just as many eyes look to China and its emerging geopolitical power, it was fear of Russia’s seemingly-inevitable rise that led the Central Powers to be eager for war in 1914. In 10 years, they didn’t think they could beat Russia. The smarter minds in Russia wanted to postpone war for as long as possible.

            Russia performed poorly in the Russo-Japanese War, but if the people had the political will to keep going, they probably could have prevailed (at least on land). Japan was broke and didn’t have nearly the ability to fight a sustained land war that Russia did. In their decisive land victory at Mukden, the Japanese still took a lot of casualties.

            If WW2 in the Pacific had ended with the Japanese conquest of SE Asia and the Philippines, it would be remembered similarly.

            The Russian Empire had deep political problems. But as an investor, this could be seen as an upside opportunity from political reform. The idea of a socialist revolution that permanently wiped out investors seemed pretty far-fetched compared to the alternative scenarios. As late as a few months before the October Revolution, Lenin himself didn’t think he could do it, that it might take another generation.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            If you’re trying to decide how to balance between stocks and bonds, the fact that the Russian stock market went to zero is irrelevant, because the bonds were also repudiated.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Douglas Knight,
            There are 4 categories of jnvestments, not 2.

          • JayT says:

            Cash and property didn’t exactly do great during the revolution either.

          • JayT says:

            I’m guessing most of the people that had gold, didn’t get to keep it.

    • ana53294 says:

      Well, I sold at the dip – the last Friday of February, before the Fed rate cut (and the consequent uptick). I was kicking myself for a while, but it seems like it was the right bet. Now I’m waiting to buy, but can’t decide how to do it.

      I guess staggered investment is the way to re-enter the market at this scary time.

    • fraza077 says:

      As someone who has never dabbled in the stock market, how would I go about buying the dip? Should I bother, given I don’t really know what I’m doing and am just going off what other people are saying about markets always recovering?

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        Right now, you would be very likely to be catching a falling knife by the blade. The market will turn when there are actual good news – that is, a vaccine or alternatively, when the epidemic has burned out. Until then, lots of space on the downside.

        • fraza077 says:

          Ok, thanks.

          I’m also wondering about the efficient market hypothesis.

          Is it possible that an asymmetry exists, because people (and companies) are trying to gain liquidity right now and are therefore desperate to sell? I’m fine for liquidity, I can afford to invest a little bit of money, would this be my comparative advantage?

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Good lord no, the market is drowning in liquidity. Also, this is a panic, people are pricing things by guessing at how scared everyone else is. If you want to time the crash, I think the best bet is to be plugged into the efforts to develop a vaccine and treatment – if you can manage to know when a treatment regime is going to appear before the average market participant, you can buy off the back of that.

        • JayT says:

          There’s lots of space on the downside, but there’s also lots of space on the upside. It seems that if you have money that you don’t _need_ any time soon, now would be as good a time as any to buy into the market. I’m not trying to get fancy or anything, but I’ve been saving up cash for this, and plan on investing in some mutual funds.

          Even though it still had a long way to go down, Summer of 2008 would have been a great time to go long on the Dow.

  6. Bobobob says:

    Best pop/rock/folk songs about death, Coronavirus panicked overreaction edition!

    Richard & Linda Thompson, “When I Get to the Border”
    Leonard Cohen, “Who by Fire”
    June Tabor, “Now I’m Easy”
    Bob Dylan, “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”
    Blue Oyster Cult, “Don’t Fear the Reaper”
    Jethro Tull, “Locomotive Breath”

    Any other candidates?

  7. Bobobob says:

    Message from my Wells Fargo financial advisor, of all people, about coronavirus. Not just to me, to all his clients:

    “I received this from a client whose brother is on the Stanford hospital board. This is their feedback for now. The new Coronavirus may not show signs of infection for many days. How can one know if he/she is infected? By the time they have fever and/or cough and go to the hospital, the lung is usually 50% Fibrosis and it’s too late.”

    I want to a) fly to New York and punch him in the face, and b) take away all my money and give it someone with an actual brain.

    • The Pachyderminator says:

      What is it about this behavior that upsets you exactly? (Also, what is “this” in the message?)

      • Bobobob says:

        Well, it’s wildly inaccurate, right? He (or his source) is basically saying that by the time you develop a fever, you’re likely to have 50% scarring of your lungs and be well on your way to the morgue.

        • Lambert says:

          Can fibrosis even happen that fast?
          I thought that was a chronic aftereffect of lung damage.

          • Bobobob says:

            The guy is a dope. I wouldn’t mind so much, except my 90-year-old mother also uses his services and I don’t want her panicking (or, worse, calling me while she’s panicking).

    • The Nybbler says:

      Don’t fly to New York to punch him in the face; you might get coronavirus. Do take away all your money from him, though good luck finding a financial advisor who has both an actual brain and the desire to use it for his customer’s benefit (as opposed to his own).

    • acymetric says:

      I’ve seen this a couple times on Facebook now by people I would have thought would be much to smart to spread such nonsense. Not great.

    • anon-e-moose says:

      Well your advisor won’t be there for long. WFC compliance has almost certainly heard about that email already. Big brokerages frown upon this kind of speculation to a surprising degree. I was written up when I was at a big Fortune 500 brokerage for telling a client that Obama wasn’t going to cut his social security.

      But really you should be using an independent fiduciary. Wells Fargo is a joke in just about every aspect of their business, and if he was any good, he wouldn’t be there.

    • Lurker says:

      that particular message seems to have spread internationally. an aquaintance forwarded this (translated basically word for word) in German with some more awful nonsense.
      Who comes up with this stuff?!?

  8. Matt M says:

    Let’s say you wanted to build a schooling curriculum that was based around “skills” rather than “subjects” as such. What are the five general skills you would want to focus on to best serve a young person? To get an idea of “how general” I’m thinking here, this is my own proposal, roughly sorted in order of importance:

    1. Effective communication (this would mostly be focused on informal writing, public speaking, and basic powerpoint and other visualizations)
    2. Basic numeracy (this is where “math” goes, focusing on arithmetic, fractions, percentages, and basic algebraic equations)
    3. Information gathering (how to locate and critically evaluate various sources, basic statistics and probability theory)
    4. Problem-solving techniques (case interview logic, basic excel)
    5. Intelligence signaling (humanities, arts, pop culture, basic science, and pretty much everything else that 99% of people don’t really need to know but will make you look smart and/or help you fit in)

    This would be designed for something like K-8, with high school age shifting to increased specialization in specific disciplines, based on the student’s particular interests.

    • There should be some kind of socializing practice. Many people come out of high school not knowing how to have a conversation. It’s not because they’re “introverted”. It’s because they don’t have to.

      • Statismagician says:

        Could you say more? I’m having trouble picturing this.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          A lot of people don’t know how to make small talk.

          BTW, my advice is FORM: Family, Occupation, Recreation, Motivation. And really the first three should be modified by the last.

          “Where’s your family from? Oh, really, why’d [you|they] come here?”

          “What do you do for a living? Oh, really, what made you want to get into that?”

          “What do you like to do for fun? Oh, really, how did you get into that?”

          Obviously not everything is going to land, but if they can get through all three without taking the open-ended question bait they probably just really don’t want to talk to you.

          Also I sometimes short circuit the process by asking “So what’s your deal?” “What do you mean?” “Oh you know, where you from, what’s your family like, what do you do for fun, hopes, dreams, fears, all that good stuff. What’s your deal?” Works okay for me.

        • Beans says:

          I’m having trouble picturing someone who can’t picture this. There’s a ton of people in this world who can barely keep any form of communication on track for more than two minutes.

          • toastengineer says:

            Christ, one time I ordered a pizza carryout, went to the pizza joint, walked in, and took more than a minute to figure out how to say “I am toastengineer, give me my pizza.”

          • Statismagician says:

            I don’t believe I’ve met anyone who literally didn’t know how to have a conversation. I’ve certainly met people who didn’t want to, either with somebody in particular, at some particular time, or about some particular topic, or who had had a long day and were too tired to do a good job of it – that’s me pretty regularly. The former is indeed a problem, but not one I think is going to be amenable to classroom instruction. The latter is not a problem at all, and I think treating it like one is likely to work out about as well as open-plan offices – very badly for me personally and everyone else who values peace and quiet.

          • @Statis

            You ever have a conversation with a young child? They either go on rants about something they are interested in, ignoring you, or they clam up whenever you ask a question. A lot of people aren’t much better than that. Every person should be able to have a five minute conversation with anyone they meet. Why? Because you can’t have meaningful connections with people until you know them. Small talk leads to big talk. Having meaningful connections is a good way to keep people from shooting themselves in the head.

      • Matt M says:

        This should definitely fall under “effective communication.”

        One of my biggest problems with how education works is that we have “classes” that cover topics like “public speaking” or “english composition” but we present these things as hyper-specific domains that are useful in specific academic or professional contexts only.

        That’s all wrong. Yes, giving a formal lecture on an academic or general interest topic to a seated and quiet audience for a specified amount of time is public speaking, sure. But arguing with your friends over whether Batman could defeat Captain America is also public speaking. Introducing yourself to a stranger at a party is also public speaking. Giving a toast at your brother’s wedding is also public speaking. And so on.

        The “effective communication” bucket is basically “be good at talking and writing in their most common and useful forms.” Small talk is definitely a common and useful form, so it should be included.

    • Plumber says:

      @Matt M says

      “…this is my own proposal…”

      That looks like a very good list to me, I’d add “shop” (basic carpentry), and “home economics” (basic cooking) to your list.

      “…with high school age shifting to increased specialization in specific discipline…”

      I’d have high school as it exists now just be two years at most, and then have college for some, and vocational school for most, while “barista with a PHD” is a minority, and most college graduates do better than non-graduates, the increasing numbers of “some college, but no diploma” are getting hosed, and would’ve been better off learning a marketable skill, or just earning an income and getting job experience.

      In some ways “college for all” seems a Ponzi scheme, with enough of the jobs for graduates just being teachers or in college prep (judging by my peers who went to college, the vast majority of those who graduated became public school teachers).

    • 2181425 says:

      How To Think (which might slot as 3.5 on your list). For younger kids, “The Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments” continued for older students with David Hackett Fischer’s Historian’s Fallacies.

      • This is not a viable plan by any means but I think it would be hilarious if we taught students a system of beliefs, constantly drilling it in to their minds, and then the last week of high school tell them that it was all lies. Mix in some half truths and illogical inconsistencies and see if anyone figures something is wrong.

    • johan_larson says:

      I really think it’s useful to have a certain core of basic knowledge about the world. I mean things like knowing that the world is spherical, with continents separated by a mass of sea, some parts of which have names. Or that we used to have kings, but now mostly have presidents. Some of this comes under the heading of intelligence signalling, but it is more broadly useful for having a sense of what the world looks like and how it works. If you are reading an article about France, say, and need to understand some current issue, it’s really useful to be able to find it on a map.

      I’d put the basics of science, history, and geography here.

      • bean says:

        This. It’s easy for those of us who read random wiki articles for fun to underestimate it, but some basis in general knowledge is really helpful in making good decisions about broader issues. Used to, one of the main purposes of education was supposed to be creating the knowledgeable citizens necessary for a democracy. (Yes, David Freidman, I know about rational ignorance.) I don’t think we should lose sight of that entirely.

      • Matt M says:

        If you are reading an article about France, say, and need to understand some current issue, it’s really useful to be able to find it on a map.

        What if I told you that 80% of the American population can’t locate France on a map, and that this is not inhibiting their daily life in any significant way?

        “Intelligence signaling” might not be the best label. But I see this as the equivalent of the “self actualization” tip of the pyramid in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s a worthy pursuit and you should do it… if your basic needs are already sufficiently met.

        For the average person, gains in communication, mathematical, and reasoning ability could make meaningful differences in their ability to improve their circumstances. Gains in knowledge of European history won’t.

    • Secretly French says:

      1. Literacy – being literate, then being well-read
      2. Rhetoric – basically effective communication
      3. Numeracy – being numerate, and being intuitive about size, amount, money, estimation, extrapolation
      4. Logic – everything from lateral thinking to critical thinking I guess
      5. Civics – knowing who and where the fuck you are and what’s going on around you, how is this not a bigger thing

    • baconbits9 says:

      Temperament classes. People who are agreeable need to learn a little bit of independence in though and vice versa.

    • dark orchid says:

      I’m curious why you’d want to do that?

      I agree that we should have a list of skills that students have when they leave school/college/university, but that doesn’t mean we have to structure the curriculum that way, nor that a subject-based curriculum won’t teach skills alongside.

      Take your “numeracy” for example, which I agree should be on the list. Whether you label one of your classes “numeracy” or “math” I don’t mind, but I don’t see how you can turn out students with the skill of numeracy without teaching the subject of math (or, as you say, the topics of fractions, percentages etc.)

      For another example, “coding” is a skill whereas “Programming in Python 101” is a subject, but I don’t see how you’d teach the skill without settling on a particular programming language to teach, at which point you’ve created a subject.

    • proyas says:

      Working in teams (leading, following, resolving conflicts, delegating tasks)

    • Erusian says:

      Presuming we have an eight class schedule:
      1.) Numeracy & Mathematical Problem Solving (ie, math and how to create math problems to simulate situations)
      2.) Literacy, Speech, & Composition (how to read, write, speak, and communicate)
      3.) Accounting, Business, Finance, & Economics (ie, here’s how you manage a household budget, here’s how jobs work, here’s why businesses hire and fire, etc)
      4.) Civics & Citizenship (America is great, some history, here’s how the government works, here’s some basic skills we need in our citizens, maybe some integration with service and self-defense.)
      5.) Science of choice
      6.) Art of choice
      7.) Sport of choice
      8.) Trade of choice

      For the last four, students would be committing to multiple years (four?) of courses. They would be designed so that a student who took the full course would be competent to do at least some basic work in the field and someone who took the full twelve years would probably already have the equivalent of a bachelors or maybe even a masters in the relevant field.

      The goal would be for the first half to establish a basic set of common knowledge and skills (everyone can read, write, knows how to balance a checkbook, knows about voting…) The second half would allow people to self-select into specializations. Rather than passing them through a bunch of milquetoast half-baked general science or music classes, let them start specializing in being a chemist or a guitarist from a young age. Force them to take one of each so they’ve got a diversity of skills but otherwise let them choose.

      • Why require everyone to take a sport, a science, and an art? Any of the three is something that some people can live a happy and productive life without. Probably any two, especially given that you already have items 1-3.

        I’m in favor an approach that biases schooling much more towards what students want to learn, much less towards what other people think they should be made to learn.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I think it’s a good idea for them to try one of each, at least, so they can see if they have a talent for it or take a particular liking to it. Don’t force them if they don’t like it, but I think it’s a good idea to say to kid “do you want to play an instrument? Which one? What’s your favorite instrument?” and get them some lessons for awhile. If they don’t like it, fine, but for all you know they could take to it like a duck to water and have something that gives them joy status for their whole life.

        • Erusian says:

          I debated that and if it was a real proposal that system would be more complex. To illuminate the thought process, the trade is so they have a way of supporting themself and the sport is a way to backdoor in physical fitness. That leaves two, which ideally could be different to give them some degree of breadth. I’m not married to those two being a science or an art by any means. That’s also where I’d put aspiring historians, for example.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I don’t have this fully formed but some kind of ability to observe what you’re doing, and what the likely outcomes are.

      • BlazingGuy says:

        Hopefully the kids will develop that anyway, their prefrontal cortices are still very much under construction.

    • b_jonas says:

      Ah yes, renaming school subjects as a political marketing deal. We had a little of that craze when I was a school student, so instead of drawing classes we had “visual education”, and instead of history classes we had “history and civics” or some such. It didn’t actually change anything about what was taught.

  9. hash872 says:

    So, I returned to a small city that I lived in 14 years ago this weekend, and was shocked by the massive number of homeless & street people that weren’t there before. This is in a rural state that’s way outside of the huge coastal city beltway, and also I live in a Tier 1 US city and so thought I was pretty inured to homelessness by this point. So, a question and a comment:

    Question: Is there good literature on anything that actually ‘cures’ homelessness, especially for the long-term ones? I have to admit I’m quite skeptical, they seem to lack the basic skills to function on any level of society, so I don’t see how just giving them a free home, medical care, drug care etc. would ‘fix’ them. Is there anything empirically proven to work?

    Comment: No matter where you live, fight with everything you’ve got against your city installing a homeless shelter, halfway house, treatment clinic, resource shelter- anything that would bring street people. Rage against the do-gooders and do literally anything possible- chain yourself to the building if you have to. (I suppose if you’re a renter you can just move, so it’s less dramatic). This small rural city had a shelter/treatment center downtown 14 years ago, and there were always half a dozen characters loitering around, but it was basically a Normal City. Now I saw a small army of 30 aggressive street people hanging around in front, plus dozens and dozens and dozens scattered throughout the city, wandering around, aggressively panhandling, passed out, etc. It was frankly shocking- it looked like Mad Max had taken over this quaint small city. And again, I’m a veteran big city dweller and don’t blink twice at ‘normal’ homelessness. They are all drawn by the shelter/center. I spent the weekend discussing the issue with everyone I found there.

    And of course once the shelter’s there, the do gooders will fight twice as hard to prevent removing it. I can see an argument for locating shelters in industrial centers where no one goes, but dear Lord, don’t allow one in your city. I’d rather place one in a rural area and be willing to pay for 3 buses a day back and forth (with the driver safely behind a fence, like a prison bus). Vastly cheaper to pay for the bus than the loss of property values, business revenue, policing & jail costs, loss of tourist revenue, etc.

    • metalcrow says:

      No matter where you live, fight with everything you’ve got against your city installing a homeless shelter

      strikes me as a very dramatic and somewhat unethical? stance. I understand the drop in comfort, perceived safety, and other QOL issues that such a shelter can bring in, but the fact of the matter is homeless people exist whether or not the shelter does, not building one simply makes them suffer somewhere else, where you can’t see them. At least a shelter improve their lives in measurable and objective ways: food, beds, and health care to name a few. To fight against granting these significant benefits to people is unusual.

      • The Nybbler says:

        It shouldn’t be considered unethical to fight against giving people things at the cost of your own quality of life.

        • metalcrow says:

          Depends on your ethics.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Note that in Christianity, which likely invented the principle “do good to those that hurt you”, lowering your quality of life to help people who won’t return the favor is considered supererogatory.
            Inventing ethics that tells everyone who doesn’t hurt themselves for a marginal increase in the QOL of society’s least functional people “you’re completely unethical!” seems like risky business for the whole society.

          • beleester says:

            NIMBY isn’t universalizable – if everyone says “homeless shelters are good, but not in my backyard” the result is that no homeless shelters can be built anywhere, regardless of how good they are.

            Inventing ethics that say “If something that benefits society will require anyone anywhere to sacrifice quality of life, it should not be done” sounds just as bad, TBH.

          • JayT says:

            But if the sacrifice is bigger than the benefit, then it doesn’t seem at all wrong to say that thing shouldn’t be done.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I think there may be a distinction between “this is bad for me but good the homeless so I do it anyway” and “this is bad for me and bad for my neighbors but good for the homeless so I do it anyway.”

        • albatross11 says:

          How about if you spend your resources campaigning for a big homeless shelter to be built in some other town instead?

      • hash872 says:

        Do you have a family, kids? Female partner? I invite you to bring them to the Thunderdome-style location I was at over the weekend and walk around. I’ll even give you the address. It was like visiting a slum in a 3rd world country (though, extremely white). Then imagine that mob of street people moving in, say, next door.

        There’s nothing wrong with taking care of your family before others. Even if you live alone, I would bet an extremely large sum of money that you’d move and/or sell your condo at a fire sale price if this group showed up in your neighborhood say next week. Also, I specifically list alternate locations for homeless shelters going forward, such as industrial areas or rural areas with bus service.

        Personally I would be fine with shelters if a) folks didn’t hang out in huge mobs outside, and b) it didn’t attract homeless who otherwise wouldn’t be there

        • metalcrow says:

          Apologies, rereading your post i do see you would be fine with shelters in less viable or rural areas. I was more surprised by the visceral opposition to shelters in general the first time around i read this that the minor reference to this escaped me. To clarify my position, i understand what you mean and yeah, if it really is that bad that the average/total utility of the normal citizens living there is brought down more than the benefit it brings to the homeless, i would agree it’s unethical. My response was more that you seemed to be extremely and strongly against homeless shelters in their entirety, not just in this specific case, which doesn’t mesh with my experience where my (admittedly larger) city has a few homeless shelters downtown and our visible homeless populations is extremely low. Specifically the reference to people who advocated for the shelter as “do gooders” was really unusual. I’m wondering if perhaps there are some extenuating circumstances in your town that’s caused this behavior.

          • hash872 says:

            It’s not my town, was just visiting, but having lived there a while ago the difference was really shocking.

            Perhaps homeless shelters can exist in huge cities without changing the look, though in the Tier 1 US city I live in now the two sketchy parts of town are centered around the two shelters. I think what you’re not factoring in is in placing a shelter in the middle of a smaller town, you’re not just servicing the local homeless population, but attracting a large number who wouldn’t otherwise be there. My issue is not with homeless, but homeless in vast quantities.

            I feel like whatever we owe the homeless doesn’t extend to allowing our neighborhoods to be taken over by open drug usage, scattered syringes, open defecation, petty crime, break-ins, hassling women walking through an area, etc. If you feel so sympathetic to them, why stop at a shelter- why not invite them into your home?

          • metalcrow says:

            @hash872

            I guess to get to what i view as the Motte part of your post; i agree. A small town like this, where the influx of homeless residents causes a significant decrease in quality of life for the residents, isn’t good. And absolutely, having open drug usage, scattered syringes, open defecation, petty crime, break-ins, etc isn’t something you owe the homeless in exchange for a shelter. That’s unreasonable, even as a utilitarian. I suppose the key point it comes down to is that a shelter should be constructed if the resulting influx can be handled by the city and infrastructure. In a smaller town where the population is small enough the influx can account for a substantial chunk of the pop, it’s not feasible to construct a shelter because of the reasons you described. But in larger cities, where these extra costs can be easily absorbed by the nature that they’re small relative to the total population, it makes sense to have shelters.

      • baconbits9 says:

        but the fact of the matter is homeless people exist whether or not the shelter does

        Do you think that there are zero homeless people who respond to incentives?

        • metalcrow says:

          By respond to incentives, do you mean “becomes homeless” or “move to this area to improve their lives”? Assuming the latter, of course they would do that, it’s rational. But denying shelters in their entirety (which i now understand hash was not doing, it was just rather strongly worded), strikes me as throwing a blanket over pits of suffering.

    • Business Analyst says:

      Seams easier to just hire someone like Will Teasle to be your sheriff after building whatever homeless facilities your area wishes.

    • Plumber says:

      @hash872 says:

      “So, I returned to a small city that I lived in 14 years ago this weekend, and was shocked by the massive number of homeless & street people that weren’t there before…”

      Same thing for Berkeley and Oakland 1975 to 1990, and damn near everywhere in the San Francisco bay area (except fir the island City of Alameda which somehow seems spared) from 2005 to now.

      They started “de-institutionalization” (kicking folks out of the state mental hospitals) in the late ’60’s (the “plan” was for them to go to local ‘mental health clinics’ instead), but as I remember it (as a teenager) the numbers of street beggars most dramatically increased during the early ’80’s recession and “crack” epidemic (I don’t remember homeless shelters existing during those years of increasing beggars, those came later), the visibly homeless decreased a little bit in the late ’90’s, but never went back below the levels of the ’70’s (and according to my grandparents and parents there were no visibly homeless after the start of WW2 until the ’70’s).

      The next big increase in visible homelessness I saw was in 2009, but 2012 on was even more dramatic (so the recession was bad, but the recovery was worse).

      As far as I can tell increased visible homelessness correlates with

      1) Drug addiction

      2) Job losses

      3) Rent increases.

      Frankly I’m pro ’30’s style “make work” programs, ’50’s style public housing (but not towers), involuntary confinement of schizophrenic street screamers, and of re-starting the drug war (though the last is also because I’m tired of the common smell of marijuana and the sight of discarded hypodermic needles).

      • JayT says:

        (except fir the island City of Alameda which somehow seems spared)

        A tent city has recently popped up right by the Webster Tube, so Alameda is no longer an outlier. Also, they are building a homeless outpatient shelter in town, so I expect the situation to get significantly worse.

        • Plumber says:

          @JayT,
          Well that’s distressing, I had taken my wife shopping and my son to playgrounds in “the city that time forgot” this last year and was impressed, all good things must come to end I suppose.

          • Anthony says:

            Alameda has some homeless people, but it’s only a “problem” by the standards of the 1980s (unless that tent city is bigger than I remember). We have some people living in vehicles, but they seem to be mostly in functional vehicles, which indicates they have at least some of their shit together, which is a step above the vehicle-dwellers in San Francisco.

          • JayT says:

            There was an Oakland-style tent city that popped up pretty much overnight a few weeks ago. Then they shooed them all away last week, but there are already five or six tents back.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Frankly I’m pro ’30’s style “make work” programs,

        Plumber, you bring this up frequently and I’d advise you to revise your rhetoric, because people keep thinking you want to pay one guy to dig a hole and another guy to fill it in, when what I think you (and I) want is infrastructure. Build bridges, dams, roads. This may be “make work,” but it’s useful work.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Infrastructure program dollars in the US have a habit of disappearing into the gullets of contractors with not much to show for it. I also question whether modern bridges, dams, and roads can be built safely with the kind of labor quality we are talking about.

        • Nick says:

          Sorry, but I’m skeptical. Is this infrastructure that we would be building otherwise? If not, why are we building it at all? How much is that infrastructure going to cost us decades down the line?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Our bridges and dams are falling apart as is, so I would like them fixed, and we have (or had) people who need jobs, so it sounds like a two birds, one stone situation.

          • JonathanD says:

            I hiked with my two older kids in a regional park last weekend, and, at the top of one of the hills, came across a picnic shelter that was clearly a CCC/WPA era construction. We stopped and started a fire and loitered awhile before moving on. There different sorts of useful.

          • Loriot says:

            Honest question: How many of the people who need jobs are capable of doing skilled construction/engineering work?

            The days when construction work involving stacking up stones and banging things with hammers is long gone. I don’t have any personal knowledge of the industry, but just from watching construction sites, I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of training involved.

          • Nick says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            My understanding is we’ve overbuilt, though. So yes, there are old things we want to repair or replace, but on net we should be doing less building, not more.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The days when construction work involving stacking up stones and banging things with hammers is long gone.

            JonathanD’s family is enjoying stuff built that way about 80 years later. So…oh no, if we do it the old fashioned way we only get at least 80 years out of it instead of 150 years or something? This seems like letting perfect be the enemy of good.

          • JayT says:

            There’s a pretty huge difference between building bridges and building picnic shelters. One is (ostensibly) useful, the other is definitely make work.

            I also through my vote to “the people that need work are largely not able to do construction work”, because if they were, they wouldn’t need work. Construction worker unemployment has been below the country’s average.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Sorry, but I’m skeptical. Is this infrastructure that we would be building otherwise?

            The answer could be “no we wouldn’t, but we probably should.”
            If we were as competent as Eisenhower-era Americans, we could build highways to relieve the overcrowded ones built in the 1950s. But apparently we’re incompetent and carrying a high parasite load of Cost Disease.

            If not, why are we building it at all?

            Because it’s useful?

          • albatross11 says:

            Where I live, construction is overwhelmingly done by guys with little education who came to the US without overmuch concern for legalities involving border controls and mostly don’t speak English. I don’t think this requires a ton of training, though it does require being a functional person who can be relied upon to show up on time to work and to do your job.

          • Plumber says:

            @Loriot says:“Honest question: How many of the people who need jobs are capable of doing skilled construction/engineering work?…”

            Honest answer: not many of those now marginally employed, but others more gainfully employed move up into those positions, and then the jobs they vacated become open.
            I’m projected from my own experience of working retail for small pay when I was in my 20’s until the tight labor market of the late ’90’s created openings in construction work for me.

            The historic W.P.A. did more than construction projects though (the really big projects were a separate agency, the P.W.A. which was less focused on how many could be employed just to be employed, and the death rates from accidents show that), besides famous/infamous murals there were circus performances for children, guidebooks written, plays (with very large casts!), archaeological digs, interviews with former civil war soldiers and slaves – it really was an “employer of last resort”, and they tried to make the jobs not feel like ‘bullshit’ ones because the point was dignity – these were already people on “relief” (what welfare assistance was called then).

          • DarkTigger says:

            Honest answer: not many of those now marginally employed, but others more gainfully employed move up into those positions, and then the jobs they vacated become open.

            Also many of those who are actively threatened by unemployment at the moment are miners, steal workers, oil workers, farm workers, and harbor men.
            I would be surprised if those couldn’t be taught to use the kind of machinery used on construction sites.

            Edit: Repaired the blockquote

          • John Schilling says:

            When I used to teach experimental spectroscopy, one of the neat tidbits that went with the lab exercise was that the standard references for what elements had what emission lines and how relatively bright, came out of a WPA project to pay unemployed scientists to sit in front of a spectrometer and measure everything in sight. That was in one sense busywork – basically nobody in 1930 had any real need for the emission spectrum of selenium – but it’s real data that we were going to need eventually, and I’m glad we paid unemployed scientists to do it then rather than paying them to sit at home on the dole.

          • CatCube says:

            @Plumber

            Look, man, there just aren’t as many people needed on a jobsite as we did in the ’30s. Most of the people on the big projects at the time were laborers. They were there to pick up heavy things, move them to a different place, and put them down. My agency has plenty of pictures of the construction of Bonneville Dam, and there are a lot of wheelbarrows in use. Nowadays we use heavy equipment to fill dump trucks, using far fewer people for far higher production rates.

            Further, you absolutely wouldn’t want to recreate these jobsites: you would literally go to jail if you did. A favorite picture we have posted on the walls of our office can be found here, of construction workers with a turbine runner in Bonneville Powerhouse 1 in 1937. @Plumber knows construction sites, so I’m going to talk to the rest of you who don’t: Everything in this picture is fucking absurd. It is wrong in every direction at the same time.

            To orient you to the site, let’s look at the floor where the three guys on the furthest left bottom are standing: that is the floor of the generator hall at Elevation +55.0′ (El. 16.8m). The drop you see in front of them leads down to the turbine pit, then down to the draft tube which bottoms out at El. -34.0′ (El. -10.4m). In case you didn’t notice, those are positive and negative signs, indicating that the first is fifty-five feet (or sixteen and eight-tenths meters) above sea level, and the bottom of the pit they are over is thirty-four feet (or ten and four-tenths meters) below sea level. You see a picture of 51 people riding the load* over a drop of 89 feet (27.1m). I repeat: there are 51 people riding a load over a drop of 9 stories, without a single one of these individuals tied off, for a fucking photo opportunity.

            If this picture happened today, the C-suite of the Contractor would fire the entire project management team of the project, and if they didn’t, the Government would terminate their contract for default**. @Plumber, you cannot wishcast the PWA back into existence, and you wouldn’t like it if it did come back. Can you honestly say that as bad as any of your employers were that they were this cavalier with your life? I remind you that this wasn’t some developer hammering on contractors to get an apartment building done so he can start collecting rent, the Owner here was the US Government. I’ve seen even more cavalier attitudes towards safety in other Corps Projects built in the early 20th century (the old derrick for placing upstream stoplogs at Ballard Locks in Seattle is particularly absurd), so this wasn’t just “evil capitalists,” just the entire society not valuing safety.

            *Edit: I forgot to mention that these guys are riding the load–on top of something being moved by a crane–which is absolutely forbidden today for safety reasons.

            **Second Edit: I’ve not seem names and job titles for the subjects of this photo, but the odds are good that the Government both approved of this photo and has some of its representatives in it–I mean, we have it posted in our office (and I honestly think it’s a cool photo). I want to be clear that the safety violations I’m talking about are very, very unlikely to be something just on the Contractor alone.

          • Del Cotter says:

            Look, man, there just aren’t as many people needed on a jobsite as we did in the ’30s

            That’s another way of saying we could have more jobsites for the same number of people. Which is good to know when everyone is crying “labor shortage!”. Whenever I see assets uncommissioned, I ask why we as a society are not commissioning them, and I get told it’s the labor shortage.

            for a fucking photo opportunity

            Don’t do unsafe things for a photo opportunity, check.

            the entire society not valuing safety

            and now the entire society does. Honestly, this sounds like an exercise in i-suppose-you-thinkery: “I suppose you think we should go back to unsafe practices!”

          • Lambert says:

            @John Schilling

            So that’s where the Department of Irradiation came from.

            But I think spectrographing anything that isn’t nailed down is more like basic research than busywork.

            Folks in pure maths faculties are not trying to do anything practically useful but decades later, their research turns out to be unreasonably effective in the natural sciences.

          • bean says:

            That’s another way of saying we could have more jobsites for the same number of people.

            Assuming that raw people are your only limiting factor, sure. But that’s very much not the case. A lot of people were employed as laborers, whose job was to pick things up and put them down somewhere else. This isn’t even a skill, while safely operating modern construction machinery isn’t something you can do naturally. So we have to train people in that, and provide them with machinery. Both of these are going to be major bottlenecks.

            Also, people are more expensive these days. CatCube has lots of stories about how this has changed dams and such, but I’ll use naval manning. A modern American destroyer has basically the same crew as a WWII-era destroyer, despite a fourfold increase in size. And the USN is definitely not in the vanguard of manning reduction.

          • Plumber says:

            @bean > “Assuming that raw people are your only limiting factor, sure. But that’s very much not the case. A lot of people were employed as laborers, whose job was to pick things up and put them down somewhere else. This isn’t even a skill, while safely operating modern construction machinery isn’t something you can do naturally. So we have to train people in that, and provide them with machinery. Both of these are going to be major bottlenecks.

            Also, people are more expensive these days. CatCube has lots of stories about how this has changed dams and such, but I’ll use naval manning. A modern American destroyer has basically the same crew as a WWII-era destroyer, despite a fourfold increase in size. And the USN is definitely not in the vanguard of manning reduction.”

            And that’s a reason why I think we need more “employer of last resort” actions, they’re simply less jobs now for guys “on the left-hand side of IQ distribution”, and more guys now aren’t considered marriageable, which on average shortens their lives and increases the likelihood that they’ll be jailed, and/or become addicts. Single women don’t seem as harmed by their status as men are, but they do report lower levels of happiness, beyond that though I think most folks want to feel useful, which does mean the jobs need to not feel like “bullshit” ones, which frankly is harder to do then just cutting checks, but somehow our grandparents generation did it.

            Regardless, I see a need for re-building infrastructure that’s overdue, and I’ll remind that the folks doing construction work don’t have to be the least employable for more construction jobs to increase the demand for employees.

            Say a youngish man works at the parts counter at a motorcycle shop in Oakland, California for chump change and learns of an opportunity to earn more working construction jobs in and near San Jose, California – that guy moves on and a job opening is created at the motorcycle shop (which was filled by the ex-wife of customer of the shop BTW), extra openings cascade through the labor market.

            Another factor is that private businesses need to make a profit to stay in business, while governments don’t (well, not to the same extent, a thriving private sector does help in revenue collections, but governments may borrow a lot more), and often private businesses just won’t hire folks that they consider too expensive to train (especially when a competitor may “poach” their skilled employees), this is where on-the-job training in government jobs may help, i.e. my “international” (Canada and the U.S.A.) union has found that just admitting military veterans works better than interviews and/or tests to decide who gets hired as apprentices, as the vets “turn out” and become journeymen at higher rates.

          • JayT says:

            If it was true that the average guy that’s holding down a job at the garage could just jump into a construction job so that a guy that is unemployed could jump into the garage job, why isn’t it already happening? There is a labor shortage in the construction industry, how is adding more projects going to fix this? Is the new WPA going to accept lessor workers than the private firms currently do? Will they pay less? Will they lower safety regulations? What is the mechanism that will move all these non-construction people into construction jobs?

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            “Have more apprentices”. Construction firms really dont much care for having apprentices around, because they are not as fast. They hire them at all only because the union and the government both leans on them in the interest of still having a construction workforce in twenty years. A wpa-novo program can elect to not care that it takes 30% longer to build that train station because half the workers are learning, and if it works, private industry will hover them up as they learn the trade.

          • Plumber says:

            @Jay T > “…Is the new WPA going to accept lessor workers than the private firms currently do?…”

            Yes, that’s kinda the point. 

            “..Will they pay less? Will they lower safety regulations?..”

            Hopefully not but probably there will be some loss of safety as new untrained hires tend to have higher accident rates.

             “…What is the mechanism that will move all these non-construction people into construction jobs?…”

            Most know that construction is “boom or bust”, an expectation that the busts will be softened by an “employer of last resort” will attract to and keep in more in the trades, but I remind (again) that the historic WPA employed folks in jobs that weren’t construction.

            There’s a few overlapping things:

            1) Is there infrastructure that needs rebuilding? 

            I’d say so, even if there was even hire labor force participation (IIRC men’s participation was highest in the ’50’s than now, but total is up because of more women with paying jobs).

            2) Are there folks who could’ve found work before that don’t now? 

            Unless somehow the men of the ’50’s were much more fit and talented than the men of today are I’d say so.

            3) Is “college for all” a good idea?

            I’d say that the increased numbers of “some college but no diploma” indicates no, a lot of folks just learn better on the job than in the classroom.

            In San Francisco there’s a couple of poorer than average neighborhoods, and back in the early ’90’s an “afirmative action” program that reserves some entry level City jobs for folks from those neighborhoods, as well as an ordinance mandating a set percentage of large private employer construction jobs done in those areas be for local residents (you don’t actually have to be poor, or black like those neighborhoods used to mostly be, I know a white guy who wasn’t poor who got hired that way, he just wanted a job closer to home).

            One of the entry level jobs is steam cleaning the streets so they don’t smell so much like urine, and most anyone with a nose can tell that this is a job that’s worth being done and there’s call for the job to be done more of. 

             Again, having folks do work that seems useful isn’t as cheap as just cutting checks, but I think would be a good thing dignity-wise, on top of that I think there’s public benefit work that should be done anyway (i.e. the bridges @Conrad Honcho mentioned).

          • Aftagley says:

            Maybe I’m dumb, but the argument that safety standards would be officially lowered seems like a non-sequitur to me.

            Safety standards in general were lower back in the 1930s. The fact that they were lower during the time of the WPA doesn’t mean that the WPA contributed to or is dependent on said lower standards.

            Is there any evidence that safety standards were deliberately lower than industry standards under the WPA?

          • more guys now aren’t considered marriageable, which on average shortens their lives and increases the likelihood that they’ll be jailed, and/or become addicts

            You hear this, and you could imagine a world where that’s true. But I have a hard time making sense of “he’s not good enough to marry but is good enough to be the father of the child I’m having out of wedlock.” I think marriage declined because good behavior declined(among both groups) and not the other way around.

            Unless somehow the men of the ’50’s were much more fit and talented than the men of today are I’d say so.

            You’re assuming they have no agency.

          • Aapje says:

            @Alexander Turok

            That makes perfect sense if the available men are bad providers, but have strong genes.

            Government welfare policies that act like a provider for single moms compete with men, who need to provide more value than welfare.

          • @Aapje,

            Sure, it makes sense in that cultural/ecological context. But when Plumber spoke of “marriageability,” he was speaking as if the women in that context are using the concept in the same way women would have in 1950. In the mindset with which women in 1950 thought about “marriageability,” that behavior makes no sense at all.

        • Matt says:

          My grandfather told me that when he was a young man during the Depression, he had a job polishing the concrete on a bridge by hand. That is, rub this rag over this concrete until it shines.

          • Eric Rall says:

            Do you know whether your grandfather was doing this in a construction context or a maintenance context?

            If the former, it might not be pure make-work. It’s pretty common to work the surface of newly-poured concrete as it sets, to even out the surface, push down larger pieces of aggregate so they aren’t sticking out, and to make give surface either a glassy-smooth finish (e.g. garage floors) or a rough non-slip texture (e.g. sidewalks). The last step is usually done with a trowel or a brush or broom today, but I suppose a rag might work in place of a brush.

            Or your grandfather’s account could be oversimplifying the task. You can also use a rag to apply a finish (usually mineral oil or a vaguely paint-like concrete sealer product) to add some shine and a bit of weather-resistance to the concrete.

            If he was maintaining an existing bridge, however, then polishing the concrete with a rag does sound rather silly and may well have been make-work. Nowadays, I’d expect a pressure washer or sand blaster for a functional heavy-duty cleaning. Back then, I’d expect a good scrub brush. Using a rag to scour grime off concrete sounds like trying to dig a ditch with a teaspoon.

        • Plumber says:

          @Conrad Honcho >

          “…people keep thinking you want to pay one guy to dig a hole and another guy to fill it in, when what I think you (and I) want is infrastructure. Build bridges, dams, roads. This may be “make work,” but it’s useful work.”

          Good point, I tend to assume that thr lasting beauty and utility of the works of then are evidence enough that “make work” may be useful, but I drive on a ’30’s public works built bridge, went to a high school that most of the buildings there were a W.P.A. project, as was my nearest public library branch, and even a sidewalk not far from my house, so I’m a bit biased.

    • DinoNerd says:

      It’s been interesting to listen on SSC to the consensus about bad homeless people. I tend to figure “there but for the grace of God go I”, particularly in a country that’s big on rugged individualism and not so big on social safety nets.

      • albatross11 says:

        There’s a collective action problem here. Each individual town/city can provide for a small number of homeless people with reasonable compassion, but nobody can afford to take care of all the nation’s homeless people. Add to that, there’s probably a hard core of homeless people who just need to be institutionalized for their own safety, and no compassionate program is going to work well with them unless it involves treating schizophrenia.

    • Hoopdawg says:

      It’s pretty clear from what you wrote that you don’t really see the homeless as your fellow humans, and that they don’t really cause any actual problems, you just don’t like encountering them.

      I essentially have a negative empathy for your predicament here. I mean, one some level I can understand the natural reaction of fear and revulsion you’re experiencing, I just don’t think it’s valid or that it should be considered when making important decisions like how to help people survive the elements. (And I say this as someone who had no qualms about throwing out homeless people trying to sleep in my tenement’s entrance hall. Streets are public spaces, you don’t get to decide who can and cannot use them for a reason.)

      • JayT says:

        “loss of property values, business revenue, policing & jail costs, loss of tourist revenue, etc” aren’t actual problems?

      • hash872 says:

        Um, zoning decisions are absolutely a thing, no piece of property in any developed country is a free-for-all where you can simply build whatever you like. As public spaces paid for by taxpayers, and living in a democracy, citizens absolutely do get to decide who can build what where. Or can I replace your neighbor’s home with a biker bar, nuclear power plant or mercury manufacturing facility?

        I specifically listed alternate options for shelter locations- industrial areas, or rural ones with a designated bus service, and I’d be happy to pay for any of them out of my tax dollars. This is why I used the slightly inflammatory phrase ‘do gooders’, because I really resent the moralizing where simply building a homeless shelter isn’t enough- you have to literally be OK with it moving in next door or you’re a bad person. A shelter built elsewhere would be awful, because reasons. In general I support more social welfare spending, and anyways I spend a third or more of working week just funding that.

        My point is that the externalities of something that attracts a vast population of homeless is bad for the common good, and that it’s OK to consider other human beings besides just the homeless when making decisions. We can accept balances and tradeoffs, etc.

        The argument is not about whether homeless shelters should be supported with public funds- I’m for that- but *where they should be physically located*, and who gets a voice in that. How about the 50% of the population that would like to be able to walk down the streets of their city without being catcalled, harassed, subject to crude comments, possibly assaulted, etc.? Do you have negative empathy for them?

        • Matt M says:

          Or can I replace your neighbor’s home with a biker bar, nuclear power plant or mercury manufacturing facility?

          You could try, but that would be a pretty terrible business decision. My quiet, expensive, residential neighborhood would be a very sub-optimal location for any of those enterprises.

          I specifically listed alternate options for shelter locations- industrial areas, or rural ones with a designated bus service, and I’d be happy to pay for any of them out of my tax dollars.

          Those won’t work because the homeless won’t go there. My hometown actually tried this once. They thought they’d clear out the encampments around downtown by finding some farther away rural-ish location (with a nearby bus route) where the homeless could camp in peace and not bother anyone. Win-win, right?

          lolno. The homeless don’t want to be in some remote area (even if there’s a free bus). They want to be near fast food, public services, parks, and high-foot traffic commercial areas where they can more efficiently panhandle. Put more bluntly, they want to bother people. So nobody left for the nice, new, official camp, and the local cops didn’t have the stones to remove them by force.

      • Thegnskald says:

        And I say this as someone who had no qualms about throwing out homeless people trying to sleep in my tenement’s entrance hall

        I’m curious whether you think this strengthens your case, or weakens it.

        The comment about streets hints to me at a cultural difference here, in which one culture thinks of the commons as communally owned, and the other thinks of the commons as entirely unowned; or perhaps there is a discrepancy in terms of who the community is.

        I analogize to walled gardens and witches, and wonder if maybe the end result is what we already see now, with walled communities for the affluent, who can afford to be separated from the witches.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        Streets are public spaces, you don’t get to decide who can and cannot use them for a reason.

        Ah, but we do decide how streets and public spaces get used. All the time. Presumably, you can get fined for littering or not picking up your dog’s shit where you live? Public disturbance is also punishable, I am guessing? Indecent exposure laws are a thing, yes?

        Anti-loitering and anti-vagrancy laws have been around for ages in some form or another. The effect of such laws is that, yes, you are free to use streets and other public spaces in the same manner as other people (e.g. for getting from point A to point B), but not in a manner they aren’t intended for (e.g. for sleeping in).

        There’s a good reason for this and it has little to do with “[not] really see[ing] the homeless as your fellow humans” and very much to do with the requirement that all members of a community must abide by the same rules and share a broadly similar system of values if you want any level of trust.

        It is beyond question that there is a sizeable portion of the homeless population that does not share the same values and abide by the same rules as the rest of the community (shitting in stairwells is not a done thing). Whether this is purely due to difficult circumstances or whether there is some element of choice involved is an open question. Nevertheless, you cannot embed a minority that abides by a completely different social system in a community and expect to not have a conflict. If the community fails to either bring such minority in line in some way, or expel it from the location, the community shall disintegrate because its individual members negatively affected by the presence of the minority will decide membership in the community isn’t doing them any good.

        Worst case scenario, you get a Hitler, because he makes a compelling case for solving the unsolvable.

    • No matter where you live, fight with everything you’ve got against your city installing a homeless shelter, halfway house, treatment clinic, resource shelter- anything that would bring street people. Rage against the do-gooders and do literally anything possible- chain yourself to the building if you have to.

      Trying to prevent obstruct other peoples’ charitable activities is rarely a good look and something I would have a hard time getting behind. The problem here is that you’re accepting that you live in a society where hobos will be able to get away with all these already criminal behaviors. And then you propose responding with a different type of aggression. My three-part plan:

      1. Legalize flophouses.
      2. Police and prosecutors begin enforcing laws against hobo criminality, stop the catch and release crap.
      3. Repeat offenders get long terms in an exile ghetto.

      • Statismagician says:

        Note that 1) is, at the low end, just a for-profit (and so very likely more efficient and pleasant for both users and neighbors) kind of shelter; I imagine this will pretty much take care of the problem all on its own. My understanding is that long-term homelessness basically didn’t exist before these were banned, especially if we can work out something to replace now-diminished religious and community-organization charity.

        Also note that, tactically speaking, I think that you literally could not have chosen a worse name for 3) than you did. I propose something like ‘rehabilitation community,’ or is that over the line into suspiciously euphemistic?

  10. helloo says:

    What satire you are aware of that caused prolonged and substantial change in its satirized material?
    That is, the satire was effective enough to cause a change of behavior possibly to the point where the satire no longer applied.

    Do NOT include satire that simply became popular or more popular than what it was parodying.
    Also try not to include rebranding.

    It’s not as easy as it sounds. British seem to be the masters of the craft, but Loadsamoney’s creator Harry Enfield, complained about how most people thought his character was endearing rather than deplorable, and as noteworthy Johnathan Swift was, he was never able to get rid of their Irish baby eating problem.
    At first I was going to ask for examples of satire that turned around and became/promoted what they were satirizing, but I found it a lot easier to find examples of that than the reverse.

    The most well known example I’ve thought of is that of Mary Sue – please disregard its current vague/widely applied usage.
    Originally it was parodying a rather niche style in a rather niche field – self-insert romantic fanfiction. And from what I am aware, even before it become widespread to the broader public, quite a few writers tried avoiding to write Mary Sues after the term came about (with varying success – which is partially how we know it was being avoided).

    • matthewravery says:

      Relevant podcast by Malcolm Gladwell: http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/10-the-satire-paradox

      (No, there’s nothing in there about needing to parody something for at least 10,000 hours before it sticks.)

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      If you’ll excuse something from vague memory, I think the abolition of dueling had a lot do with it being portrayed as ridiculous.

    • BBA says:

      There were a lot of big-budget disaster movies in the ’70s, in particular the Airport series, and then Airplane! made the genre look so ridiculous that it never recovered. (They still make a new one every so often, but I can’t remember the last one to be much of a hit.) It also remade Leslie Nielsen from a character actor in dramas to a star of absurdist comedies.

    • Jaskologist says:

      The internet tells me that TGI Friday’s got rid of “pieces of flair” because of Office Space.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I immediately thought of the affair Sweden had with a marginal income tax rate of 102%, because it had been called out in an essay by the author of the popular Pippi Longstocking books. However, it seems the tax rate was 102% only if you squint a certain way. Still, it did contribute to Sweden’s Social Democrat Party being voted out for the first time in 44 years.

    • Biater says:

      This Hour has 22 Minutes (a famous Canadian satirical news show) had a skit about how the Canadian navy had no submarines, while even West Edmonton Mall had a submarine. Did this impact the Canadian navy soon after buying submarines from the UK?

      Jon Stewart made fun of Crossfire and Tucker Carlson, and it was soon cancelled with the producer saying it was because he thought Jon had made good points (if I remember correctly). Although Jon’s jokes / insults to Tucker weren’t really satirical.

  11. proyas says:

    Do “deep” audio speakers produce better sound than “flat” audio speakers?

    Have there been any scientific studies into this, including tests where listeners had to rate the audio quality of a speaker without knowing its design?

    Deep: https://www.crutchfield.com/p_107TSI100B/Polk-Audio-TSi100-Black.html
    Flat: https://www.crutchfield.com/S-rNdi3gZMrqr/p_991T301B/KEF-T301-Black.html

    • Lambert says:

      Like, they’ll have focus groups and Brüel & Kjaer mics and fourier transforms, oh the endless fourier transforms! And helmholz equations and numerical solvers and hordes of once-optimistic R&D engineers, their eyes long dull and matplotlib heatmaps and impedance curves.

      At least what they’re doing is linear the lucky sods.

      Tl;Dr: it’s not like people buy bulky speakers for no reason. But a decent speaker company will have spent a buttload of money making their flat speakers as good as possible. I’d naively expect flat speakers to not be great in the bass range. There will probably be some aqudiophile forum where everyone is bald and has a goatee where they explain the tradoffs.

      https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20140010561.pdf
      Ok, they probably actually make their heatmaps with COMSOL. Do you even need multiphysics? There only seems to be one Physics going on: sound waves. Find a dedicated Helmholz solver.

      (Normal service will be resumed shortly, when I get my accoustics diss handed in.)

      • salvorhardin says:

        Flat speakers are in fact notorious for having relatively little bass, but this is easily fixed by adding a subwoofer. I have enjoyed the “boxless” sound of my KEFs and Magnepans over the years, and compared them favorably to the Triangle, Klipsch, and B&W “deep” speakers I’ve had, but I recognize that this is not in any sense a scientifically informed opinion.

  12. MrApophenia says:

    NBC News is reporting that in a closed-door briefing with Senate staff, the Congress and the Supreme Court’s attending physician is saying they expect 70-150 million people in the US to be infected. And in the public briefing to Congress, Anthony Fauci from the NIH is sticking to the estimate of roughly 1% mortality for the infected.

    I am wondering how long folks will be sticking to the idea that people are overreacting.

    • salvorhardin says:

      What are the best estimates of the number of people in the US who get seasonal flu in a typical range of flu seasons? (Yes, I know this is lower than we would expect for COVID19 because of flu vaccination. OTOH it’s at most 2x lower since the flu vaccine is not that effective, AIUI.)

      • Douglas Knight says:

        The CDC estimates that in the past decade the annual number of cases ranged from 9.3 to 45 million. Pruning the highest and lowest, 21-36.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I am wondering how long folks will be sticking to the idea that people are overreacting.

      Top-level comment elsewhere in the OT:

      “I received this from a client whose brother is on the Stanford hospital board. This is their feedback for now. The new Coronavirus may not show signs of infection for many days. How can one know if he/she is infected? By the time they have fever and/or cough and go to the hospital, the lung is usually 50% Fibrosis and it’s too late.”

      “Seemingly-healthy people, go to a hospital to get treated for Coronavirus! By the time you have a symptom, the lung is usually 50% Fibrosis and you die!” Does seem like overreacting.

      What priors is the Congress and the Supreme Court’s attending physician plugging into the numbers they crunched to get 21.4-46% of the population will be infected? Is the high number under the assumption that the federal, state, and local governments do nothing and the lower that they start doing ???

      We don’t want to get into Fallacy of the Excluded Grand Canyon where no people are overreacting because “folks” are underreacting. (Spellcheck thinks Coronavirus and underreacting aren’t real words. Hrm.)

      • Bobobob says:

        FWIW, I emailed the boss of the guy who sent me that message. I wouldn’t mind if he gets fired.

    • gph says:

      >I am wondering how long folks will be sticking to the idea that people are overreacting.

      Well I think the main thing is that people are stockpiling as if this is just something they’ll need to wait out for a couple weeks. But I think we’re past the point of containing it. And it’s not like it’s going to spread to 70 million people overnight. That’s going to take several months, it’s not really something we can all sit home and wait out for. It’ll still be useful to slow down the spread for various reasons. But normal healthy people under the age of 50 should probably continue going about their lives for the most part. I think there’s more danger in supply chain issues if healthy working age adults stop being able to work, ala factory closings in Wuhan. Though I could be wrong about that as the numbers out of China seem to indicate the extreme measures might work. But whether they can really keep that up long enough to drop the R0 rate below 2 will be the interesting question I suppose.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        Stocking up 2 weeks serves 2 purposes:

        1. Those who are sick have supplies they can use while remaining home and not trying to get more and infect others

        2. Those not sick when the virus hits their area are not affected by the inevitable rush on grocery stores.

        • DarkTigger says:

          3. Those that are not sick, don’t have to put themself and people in their household in danger, when they visit the grocery store once or more a week.

    • John Schilling says:

      70-150 million is about the number of people we would expect to be infected if we did nothing. People, and state and local governments, and businesses, are doing a fair bit of stuff to try and minimize infection. If the expected result of that is the same as if we did nothing, then maybe they are overreacting?

      I think it is more likely that Congress’s attending physician is overpredicting and that private and public action will reduce the count to rather less than 70 million infected / 700k dead.

      • MrApophenia says:

        I actually largely agree with this, but it’s sort of a Catch-22, isn’t it? The general position I am seeing a lot of and classifying as the “everyone is overreacting” position is something like, “Shutting everything down like this and staying home for a month is a huge overreaction! It’s going to crash the economy for no good reason!”

        Saying that the death rate will be low if we shut everything down doesn’t seem like a great argument for that position.

        (Not that you are arguing for that position here, but it is the one I was reacting to in the first post.)

        • acymetric says:

          For me, I have a few concerns.

          I don’t just think people are overreacting, I think the are reacting badly, in ways that ultimately won’t actually help that much long term but will cause significant (unnecessary) damage in other areas. I do think some action is warranted, this isn’t a case of “much ado about nothing”, it is a case of “too much wrong stuff ado about something”.

          My second concern is looking to the future. No matter what happens, nobody is ever going to admit that anything we have done or will do was unnecessary. If it turns out not to be as bad as some have predicted, it will be taken as inherent truth that everything we did was 100% necessary and is the only reason things weren’t as bad (even if there is strong evidence later that it wouldn’t have been as bad without some of the more extreme actions). Why is this bad? We get new disease outbreaks seemingly every handful of years. Expect the current reaction to be the new normal, if anything expect stronger reactions in the future. If we’re going to go down that road we probably needed to start designing our entire country, infrastructure, and economy around shutting down for several months every few years yesterday…not sure how long it would take us to actually be able to make that work but it isn’t now and it won’t be in time for the next health scare.

          • theodidactus says:

            Maybe there needs to be some sort of rhetorical fallacy or term for what’s been happening.

            With a problem of this import and magnitude, you are *totally justified* in getting upset if someone underestimates the magnitude of the problem. You’re also *totally justified* if someone overestimates it.

            This means you can rhetorically attack anyone that does not precisely estimate the danger involved.

          • matthewravery says:

            For the record, how many deaths would the current level of action need to prevent for it to be justified in your eyes?

            ETA: The NBA just had a player test positive for COVID and immediately canceled the game in which he was about to play. Appropriate response? They’ve also suspended the rest of the season. Appropriate response?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Cancelling the season? Really? (That’s rhetorical, because I just checked. Wow.)

            Is it uneconomical to play games in empty stadiums? If people are stuck at home, give them some sports to watch, even if the stands are empty. Watching a sports game on TV is the ultimate social distancing.

          • matthewravery says:

            @Edward Scizorhands-

            They suspended the season. The game itself got “canceled” in so far as they didn’t play the game and kicked everyone out of the arena. If the season resumes, they’ll presumably play the game at some point.

            Thread on /r/nba.

          • acymetric says:

            @matthewravery

            For the record, how many deaths would the current level of action need to prevent for it to be justified in your eyes?

            Hard to say. I feel like I recall seeing something posted (I assume here, because I don’t know where else I would have come across it) about being able to attribute x deaths for every y% drop in GDP, so that would probably be a good place to start for a baseline. I don’t think what we’re doing is saving very many lives at all.

            @Edward Scizorhands

            Cancelling the season? Really? (That’s rhetorical, because I just checked. Wow.)

            As someone else noted, the season is suspended. One of the players tested positive, so there is concern that some or many other players/coaches may also be infected. This is the right call, 100%. If they determine that other people in the league were not infected, they should start up again in a few weeks. If a lot of people are infected, they should resume play once those people have recovered and are no longer contagious. If they end up just cancelling the season no matter what (which I think is a strong possibility) that would be a mistake.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            When I read this about what Rudy Golbert did https://old.reddit.com/r/Coronavirus/comments/fh8ee6/the_nba_has_suspended_its_season/fk9l9sz/

            okay, yeah, suspending the season until they can get players tested is the right thing. Anyone infected sits out.

      • b_jonas says:

        There is an argument that we can’t do much about how many people will be infected total, but everything that governments and businesses do helps spread out those infections to a longer timespan, because if everyone is infected simultaneously that causes more problems. I’m not sure I believe this, it’s the position that David Madore holds. I guess the truth depends on how much this virus can survive during the summer, and we can’t answer that yet.

        • silver_swift says:

          I guess the truth depends on how much this virus can survive during the summer

          Given that Iran doesn’t appear to be doing great, I don’t know how much we should be banking on that.

          • Creutzer says:

            Iran is not a hot country at this time of the year. The temperature in Tehran is about 20°C right now. Iran is on a plateau and therefore significantly colder than you might expect given its latitude. They have snow in winter.

        • SamChevre says:

          That makes a lot of sense to me. Assuming that the death rate goes up a lot if the number of people who need hospital care is greater than the number of people who can be cared for in hospitals, just getting the max number of people sick at one time down–even if the total doesn’t change at all–will be likely to help.

          One of my vivid memories is of a severe flu outbreak when I was in my teens. Usually, there were enough people well to get help with chores if you were really sick–but so many people were sick that there weren’t people able to help. I remember trying to carry feed and water to the cows while feverish enough that I couldn’t remember where I was or what I was doing consistently.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Wow. Do you remember when that outbreak was? I’ve heard bad things about the 1958 Asian Flu, but nothing between then and the H1N1.

          • SamChevre says:

            By my age, late 1980’s or very early 1990’s.

            I doubt it was severe at a national level – just in my specific community. It both spread faster and people were more severely ill than was typical, but was “just flu.”

    • HarmlessFrog says:

      NBC News is reporting that in a closed-door briefing with Senate staff, the Congress and the Supreme Court’s attending physician is saying they expect 70-150 million people in the US to be infected. And in the public briefing to Congress, Anthony Fauci from the NIH is sticking to the estimate of roughly 1% mortality for the infected.

      I am wondering how long folks will be sticking to the idea that people are overreacting.

      I think we’re already in stage four. I think we were in stage four since the beginning of the outbreak, given how contemporary society is globalized.

    • hls2003 says:

      So first, I agree with John Schilling that the 70-150 million number seems predicated on absolutely zero action, declaring “National High Five Day,” what have you. We are obviously doing something. Telling people “there is a contagious new virus, it is sort of like the flu except more virulent, for the love of God wash your hands, no more handshakes, and don’t stand near people if you can help it” should presumably accomplish some reduction. If it doesn’t, then there’s a lot of very bad advice being given out.

      Personally, I suspect that better hygiene practices would actually get you the majority of the benefit, and the rest of the stuff is working to help at the margins. But I have no data on that and I certainly won’t insist on it.

      But at some point, if we’re dealing with “flu, but significantly more virulent,” well, we have a model of how to deal with flu. It’s basically “get a flu shot, otherwise nothing unusual,” and over 20,000 people died this year alone. I don’t bet on things like this, but if I did my bet would be that fewer people die of coronavirus than have died during this flu season. That’s still a lot! That’s thousands / tens of thousands! But if so, it is still in the ballpark of a really bad flu season overall (flu + coronavirus). We don’t usually shut the country down for that. Again, I have no data on this guess. I’m just putting it out there as my gut prediction. The main point is that the flu sets a marker – for flu-level problems, you don’t tank the economy. I think that’s pretty clear from our past actions. For greater threats, maybe you do. So let’s look at that.

      Let’s take the upper range of the “do nothing, infects 150 million” estimate given above, with its 1% mortality. That’s 1.5 million dead. That’s a ton. That’s ten times worse than the worst flu season we’ve had in the last few decades, IIRC. So that really is awful to contemplate. That being said, let’s assume the following postulates: (1) costless measures like “wash your hands” campaigns do literally nothing – they prevent zero deaths; (2) a complete shutdown of the economy for a month will completely stop the epidemic; (3) said complete shutdown is the only way to save 1.5 million lives; (4) during “complete shutdown” the economy actually works at 1/2 capacity (working from home, essential personnel, etc.). U.S. GDP is something like $22 trillion. Losing 1/2 of one month of that production would be 1/24th of that, say $900 billion lost. That comes out to a cost of $600,000 per life saved, with the caveat that most of those lives will be elderly / frail / sick people – e.g. the sad case of the nursing home residents in Washington. By my calculation, with the over-65s at about 1/7th of the population, they would account for something like 70-80% of the total fatalities (20 million infected, say 6% death rate, with the other 120 million healthy at a .2% death rate). Let’s say that the average person whose life is lost loses, say, 10 years of life expectancy (I’d guess it would be closer to five given that age mix).

      The U.K.’s NICE board calculates prices they will pay for treatment based on Quality-Adjusted Life Years, QALYs. The current going rate for approval that I Googled is, I believe, about $40,000 (30,000 pounds) per QALY. Based on our back-of-envelope figures above, that intervention even to prevent the worst-case scenario would cost about $60,000 per QALY. The NICE probably wouldn’t approve it. If my (admittedly unsupported) estimate of a flu-level event – 20,000 dead – is correct, it would be $45 million per life, $4.5 million per QALY. The EPA statistical value of a life (not adjusting for age or QALY) is about $7.4 million. You need to project 120,000 saved by these non-costless measures alone (i.e. if handwashing gets you halfway there, the numbers have to double) just to get into striking distance of the EPA value of a life. You need to have over 2 million saved to get into NICE QALY territory. And again, the baseline in our country for 20,000 – 60,000 dead from regular flu season is more or less “do nothing extraordinary.”

      I’m not saying these numbers are perfect, but I don’t think they’re hugely off. I’ve seen multiple investment analyst estimates suggesting a loss of several percent of GDP, and the life / QALY values are all based in real world numbers. The lives saved are total speculation by just about everyone, and we used the highest end of the scale. So when you say “over-reaction”… I’m not saying my numbers are definitely right, but I hope someone somewhere is running these same, or similar numbers with real-world values. Someone should think about these numbers, and it’s not going to be the general public, who (justifiably) mostly care about their loved ones and say things like “If it saves just one life…” non-ironically. It is totally possible to over-react, and I think we are doing it on a significant scale. But my opinion isn’t important; the point is that authorities should balance these concerns, and if anyone says “something else needs to be done!” then the burden should be on them to specify exactly what, how long it will take, how much it will cost, and how much marginal benefit we expect from exactly X, Y, or Z intervention they suggest.

      • matthewravery says:

        I agree with your general premise of “It is technically possible to overreact”, but your numbers are hugely off because they ignore the effects on the health care system and you dramatically over-estimate the economic cost of shutting down the NBA and doing college remotely.

        1% mortality is probably right if we can give proper healthcare to the people that need it. We have about 100,000 ICU beds in the country. Occupancy rates were around 66% back in 2010. So that leaves around 35,000 unoccupied at any given time. If our hospitals get hit with the full brunt all at once, mortality will spike, and you’ll also see folks die from things that aren’t COVID at higher rates for lack of care.

        This also ignores the losses from all the folks that are sick. If 1.5 million die, then you’ve probably got 15 million who are very sick and require care, either from a medical professional (except they’re all way too busy now) or a spouse or loved one. So you still have folks that aren’t going into work because now they’ve got to care for Grandma.

        I also think you’re pessimistic about the economy. Large parts of the economy won’t be effected. The Airlines and hospitality industry will be hit extremely hard, and the food services industry will be hit as well, though probably not as bad. Rounding that up to half of GDP for a month seems absurd to me. The government will continue to pay out 100%, and most office jobs will move to telework. On top of that, for every dollar folks aren’t spending that month, they’ll spend $0.90 (or something like that) in subsequent months. Or they’re spending it today on toilet paper.

        Anyhow, I think the problem we’re facing now is that we under-reacted for the past month. So now when major steps start happening at once, folks are left a little stunned. If you haven’t been following this closely, suddenly having all sports and concerts canceled does seem a bit dramatic.

        • hls2003 says:

          I think this amounts to whipsawing the issue. I’m not ignoring the health care system burden, and my point is that “canceling NBA games and doing remote college” is either (a) not significant, in which case why is it being touted as a panacea?, or (b) it’s a lot more than that which is being requested, in which case the costs are much higher. The numbers I was using were taken directly from the “worst case scenario” top post. I am no epidemiologist, so I’m not saying they’re right or wrong, but I think death rates is one of the most obvious fudge factors here. You’re arbitrarily saying they’ll be higher than the worst case scenario Fauci outlines; you can do that practically indefinitely until it becomes a minor Pascal’s Mugging. Moreover, there’s a common “double-counting” that happens where the number of cases is said to be arbitrarily higher than confirmed cases (usually 20-100 times greater) thus justifying the mass measures (because the horse is out of the barn) but then the death rate is calculated using only confirmed cases. It’s hard to hide deaths. If there is a pool of 50x the confirmed thousand cases, but we’re only seeing less than fifty deaths, then it suggests overall mortality cannot be as great as indicated. Or if there really are so few cases, then the mortality is very troubling but we should still be using more focused measures.

          As for the economics, I postulated a shutdown of almost all jobs, not just NBA and college. If that’s not what’s being recommended, OK, but then what else is there to do? And it’s still not accounting for the benefit brought by simple, costless measures like hand-washing and social distancing. Also, if you literally shut things down, then you are foregoing production. You can “make up” spending but you can’t “make up” production unless there is a bunch of slack in your production system. If my factory runs at a max capacity of 100 widgets per day, and I shut down for ten days, then I will make 1,000 fewer widgets that year.

          I think a lot of this is typical-minding from folks like me who sit at a desk, can post half-formed thoughts on the Internet, and probably can work from home without a huge loss in capacity. But that’s a small part of the economy, and especially the “essential” economy that deals in real live goods-and-services that society needs to survive. If all lawyers stop working for a month, nobody dies. If all truck drivers stop working for a month, or all hazmat cleanup crews, or all retail stockers, or all logistics supply personnel, then we’re really in trouble. Jeff Bezos is probably working from home; I bet you dollars to doughnuts that his warehouse workers aren’t. If they’re shut down, then it won’t be long before economic output takes a real big hit.

          • uau says:

            The numbers I was using were taken directly from the “worst case scenario” top post.

            They’re plausibly worst case when heath care is working, but I don’t think they’re the worst possible case if health care collapses under the load. And Italy’s example shows that that is a realistic risk.

            Also, your economic numbers likely overestimate the cost of setting up significant restrictions to limit the spread of disease, and 100% certainly seriously underestimate the cost of doing nothing. You’re assuming that if nobody worries about the virus and keeps behaving like before, this strategy ensures the virus will have no effect on the economy whatsoever. But a portion of the workforce getting sick will have serious effects even if they don’t ultimately die, and international effects alone will have economic consequences whatever a single country does.

          • Orion says:

            I work in a restaurant kitchen and two of my three roommates are bartenders. I don’t think it makes any sense to call social distancing “costless.”

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        If shutting down the economy for a month costs us $900 billion, we should consider alternative remediation.

        Like, what would it cost to isolate the vulnerable population? Have their only interaction be with people who are checked daily and themselves take social distancing steps.

        It looks like there are around 80 million people above age 55, give or take. That gives us a budget of about $10,000 per person. That seems plenty.

  13. Well... says:

    I live in a state where marijuana is not legal but I expect it to become legal here in the next 2-5 years. (My understanding is it is already grown here legally, though I’m not certain.) Let’s say I have $1000 to invest right now in some aspect of the marijuana industry in my state. What should I do with it so that in 10 years hence I’ll get the greatest return with the least amount of effort?

    • JayT says:

      Put it in a mutual fund and forget about the marijuana industry? It seems that there is more money being lost in the legal weed game than being made right now.

    • Ghillie Dhu says:

      Don’t be the prospector, be Levi Strauss.

    • gph says:

      Find a black market dealer and see if they need an investor? There seems to be evidence that black market sales will still out-compete legal weed because of tax/regulation avoidance. Plus the majority of consumers are already comfortable using black market dealers, why change up for a product that likely isn’t any better and costs more?

      • Lambert says:

        You might get all your profits eaten by the cost of kneecap surgery.

      • albatross11 says:

        Are legit marijuana businesses still having trouble getting banking services thanks to hassling by the feds?

        • BlazingGuy says:

          Yeah, dispensaries are still cash-only, even in legal states. Weed is still federally illegal, so banks (whose regulators all happen to be feds) won’t touch it with a 10-ft. pole.

  14. I’m currently in Europe, which started me thinking about voltage and suicide.

    The U.S. has a high rate of gun suicides, presumably because it has a high rate of gun ownership. Europe uses higher voltages than the U.S., so suicide by self-electrocution should be easier. Does Europe have a higher rate of suicide by electrocution?

    Or is killing oneself that way so scary that would-be suicides almost always pick other methods?

    • Wency says:

      Is it true that European outlets are more lethal? Not an electricity expert, but I was always told the amperage is the real killer, and Europe and US standards are similar on this (15-16A). But I don’t 100% understand the relationship between voltage and amperage.

      I think the formula is voltage equals amperage times resistance. So does this mean a European device has some mechanism in it that offers twice the resistance compared to an American one? Though if this were true, I don’t know how an EU-to-US converter could ever give you anything more than half-power.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Voltage matters because of Ohm’s Law: current (amps) equals electrical potential difference (volts) divided by resistance (ohms). Resistance is roughly constant in similar electrocution scenarios, so roughly doubling the voltage of standard residential electrical supply (110-120V in the US vs 220-240V in Europe) will double the current that actually passes through your body in a given scenario.

        That said, resistance varies with circumstances a lot more than voltage varies between countries. In particular, dry skin has something like 500x the resistance of wet skin, so wet vs. dry is about 250x more important to the danger level than 110V vs 220V.

        Where the current is happening in your body matters quite a bit, too: an isolated shock on an extremity can hurt quite a bit, and with enough current may cause severe local injury, but is very unlikely to kill you regardless of voltage. But it only takes about 100 mA of AC current flowing through your chest to stop your heart. That’s why if you’re working on potentially-live AC circuits, the standard precautions include several things intended to minimize the risk of forming a current across your heart: wearing shoes with non-conductive soles, only using one hand whenever practical, wearing a glove on at least one hand when you need both hands, and using special hand tools (pliers, screwdrivers, etc) with handles made of non-conductive material.

      • The Nybbler says:

        What I heard was that if you grab a 110V wire with dry hands, you can let go. But if you grab 220V (or 110V with wet hands), the muscle contraction will be so strong you can’t let go. This is probably largely not true — there’s too many variables to skin resistance. But it is at least true that higher voltage means you’re more likely to be unable to let go.

        I’ve only gotten bit by 110V (well, and a photoflash probably at roughly 400V, but that was one pulse, and I got blisters under my skin from it), and never had enough of a “grab” to worry about it — if you put your hand around a live electrical outlet and touch both sides, it hurts a LOT but it doesn’t stop you from using the large muscles of your leg to pull yourself away… violently.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      I’m currently in Europe, which started me thinking about voltage and suicide.

      Ok, this is weird even for the standards of this blog.

      Europe uses higher voltages than the U.S., so suicide by self-electrocution should be easier.

      According to Wikipedia, the human skin has a non-linear voltage-current relation, but there resistance is not much different between 100 V and 220 V. If I understand correctly, if you are a healthy adult and the shock occurs though intact skin, you are unlikely to die from a shock from a household power supply, because the various fuses or the circuit breaker will usually trip before you get ventricular fibrillation, though you can’t rely on it.

      Faulty and/or improperly disassembled equipment (even battery-powered) that store energy in capacitors or coils can deliver lethal shocks, though I’ve never heard of anybody using them for suicide.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Speaking as a European (which, frankly, is too broad a category to be useful, but whatever), I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of a case of suicide by electrocution. Anecdata ain’t data, but taking a bath with a toaster (or such) is something I’ve come across exclusively in American media.

      Back in the early Nineties, before all entrances were fitted with electronic locks, the building I lived in seemed to be a fairly popular suicide destination, being twelve stories high with rooftop access. I think I can recall three separate cases of someone leaping to their death, one of which happened just around the time I was coming home from school.

      Those were, on the whole, harmless compared to the brainiacs who thought to poison themselves with cooking gas – no doubt reading about it in a book – without taking care to note that the gas being delivered was no longer quite so poisonous (for obvious safety reasons), but was, in fact, quite explosive.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Those were, on the whole, harmless compared to the brainiacs who thought to poison themselves with cooking gas – no doubt reading about it in a book – without taking care to note that the gas being delivered was no longer quite so poisonous (for obvious safety reasons), but was, in fact, quite explosive.

        As I recall, the problem there is that older cooking gas was Town Gas, a flammable gas produced as a byproduct of producing coke (a vaguely charcoal-like substance which is the preferred fuel for steel production) from bituminous coal. It’s poisonous because it contains a significant amount of Carbon Monoxide. Modern cooking gas is natural gas (mostly methane, with little or no CO), and while it can asphyxiate you by displacing oxygen, it won’t poison you as such, and it becomes an explosion hazard long before it suffocates you.

      • Lambert says:

        > for obvious safety reasons

        What part of Europe are you talking about?
        Britain switched from town gas (coal + steam = H2, CH4 and a lot of CO) to natural gas (CH4) after they started drilling North Sea oil and gas. I think the switch was as much econonomic as safety-related here.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        What part of Europe are you talking about?

        Poland. After doing a bit of extra research (finding the details turned out to be harder than I thought), it seems that economic factors were in play here (mostly inadequate gas production facilities), too, but safety was also a consideration. The fact that we’d been drilling natural gas since way before WWII certainly helped.

        In Warsaw, the switchover ended in 1978.

    • tossrock says:

      Methods of suicide tend to be some combination of dramatic, instantaneous, and painless – eg jumping from a height, taking a bunch of pills, hand guns, etc. Death by electrocution is so gruesome, painful, and challenging*, that almost no one would ever do it intentionally. A hundred volts isn’t going to change that.

      *: To successfully kill yourself with wall power takes a pretty substantial effort, just “taking a bath with a toaster” is not going to do it most of the time. Thanks, ground fault interruptors!

    • Ketil says:

      Or is killing oneself that way so scary that would-be suicides almost always pick other methods?

      Unscrew a lightbulb, put your finger in the socket, and get back to us?

      Or if you’ll take my word for it, you’ll get a severe shock, and you probably won’t do it again. I have learned to check both wires and use double circuit breakers, my son learned not to unscrew lightbulbs. Otherwise, we’re fine.

      220V is usually not enough to kill somebody unless you are really unlucky and have a heart condition or other frailty. You could probably rig something up that would keep voltage running through your heart or brain until it stopped working, but it would likely take a lot of ingenuity, multiple failed and very unpleasant experiments.

      88 cases of electrocution, all accidental: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s41935-018-0103-5
      Half of them died after contact with household current (220V in India), some from low voltages, and some from high voltage train rails/wires.

      Here are 3 cases of actual suicides: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10641944

      TL;DR: it is possible to kill yourself if you can create a circuit running the current through the heart, but there are probably better ways.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      The major difference due to the voltages is that EU electric kettles are literally twice as fast, which makes them much more popular. A few other household gadgets also come in higher power versions by default, but people and workers are quite sufficiently weary of live wires that electrocution is not a thing. Nor is it a popular suicide method, too obviously painful and unreliable.

    • DarkTigger says:

      I don’t know if the number of attempts of self electrocution is higher in Europe than in the US, but I know that the last time I heard of an attempt, the main-fuse in the street blew out, and the person survived with minor injuries.
      On the other hand “taking a bath with a hairblower”, or “taking the toaster to the bathroom” used to be common code for suicid.

      • Ketil says:

        On the other hand “taking a bath with a hairblower”, or “taking the toaster to the bathroom”

        I think this only works in the movies, somebody dropping a hair dryer in the tub would just short it out, the fuses would blow, and no current would go through the immersed body, since it a) is not part of the circuit and b) is a better electrical insulator than a lot of other immediate objects (the drier, electrical chords, the water, pipes, the tub if of metal, etc)

    • JPNunez says:

      Guns are tools for killing, and when you have a hammer, all problems look like nails.

      And yeah, electricity sounds painful and unreliable as suicide method. People survive electrocution all the time. Fire is widely available too and suicide by fire is p rare…outside of dramatic demonstrations.

  15. Luije says:

    Hi. I want to read introductory-level nonfiction books, mainly those about the natural sciences and rhetoric.
    If, off the top of your head, you can think of books you’d have wished to read in my situation, please mention them.
    I already used the lw list.
    Highschool is rather slow these days and I want to learn stuff in my free time!

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The Origin of Species is a book about a natural science. It is also an example where the author was particularly concerned with rhetoric.

      • That’s pretty outdated though. The Selfish Gene holds up well and gives you the same gist, but updated information.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          includes the very first discussion of memes.

          But do those memes include any rare Pepes?

          • In complete seriousness, I can’t wait for the first academically oriented book on Pepe.

          • Aapje says:

            Here you go, abstract:

            This article explores the Pepe the Frog Internet meme through a spatial approach that targets the ways in which netizens attempt to repurpose it, so as to build a communal space in which meaning is constantly negotiated and hijacked. We argue that Pepe the Frog and other memes can be interpreted as “cyberplaces” defined as computer environments that display the ideological polemics between netizens as they struggle to build a sense of community. Moreover, the rhizomatic stratification of such cyberplaces reveals a more nuanced view of meme dynamics, one that takes into account the agency of users as they efface and impose meanings on memes, not unlike the process of deterritorialization enacted on places.

        • Lambert says:

          OtOoS is also more rigorous than you necessarily want nowadays.
          If it’s the 19th century and people want extraordinary evidence to back up exatraordinary claims, you need to go into exquisite detail on the artificial selection of pigeons etc.
          Nowadays, most people don’t need a proof so much as an explanation. Also Darwin didn’t have the Central Dogma and all that.

          Blind Watchmaker is good too. Includes a very early exploration of evolutionary algorithms.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Should you read Dawkins before reading Darwin? I did. But it’s definitely no replacement.

        To all of these suggestions, I say: read harder books. In between Gardner and Stewart’s stints at Scientific American, was Douglas Hofstadter’s Metamagical Themas. Before Ryan North’s glib book, there was The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Civilization in the Aftermath of a Cataclysm, by Lewis Dartnell.

    • Atlas says:

      I highly recommend Steven Pinker’s books (e.g. The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of Our Nature and Enlightenment Now).

      Razib Khan has a lot of good book recommendations.

      As a general piece of advice, I like Tyler Cowen’s suggestion to “read in clusters.” That is, try to read clusters of books that approach the same question/issue from different angles, because you might understand, remember and learn more that way. (References and acknowledgments can let you do this in an “island hopping” way.) For instance, I really enjoyed reading some of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Phil Tetlock and Danny Kahneman’s books in succession. They all dealt with a heavily overlapping core theme of how cognitive biases impede our capacity for good judgment, but in different domains—Taleb discussed finance and philosophy, Tetlock discussed political science and Kahneman discussed psychology and economics. I’m now doing some reading about “violence,” broadly construed, and I’ve likewise enjoyed reading books that deal with the same global issues on different intellectual continents. (E.g. Ian Morris and Azar Gat discuss military history, Rachel Kleinfeld discusses contemporary political science, Lawrence Keeley discusses anthropology and Steven Pinker discusses everything.)

      At least I’ve found that, while I can sometimes barely remember anything about an individual book I read a few years ago, if I read a cluster of books about the same related subjects I can often remember some core facts and insights about the topic.

    • yodelyak says:

      American perspective here…

      Rhetoric: read Lincoln’s major speeches (both inaugurals, gettysburg, the famous speech he gave to the boarding school, and cooper union), alongside reading Language Intelligence: Lessons on persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga by Romm.
      Alternate take, a bit less of the all-time best, but more width and breadth, read “Lend Me Your Ears” edited by Safire, and get yourself “The Best Essays of the 20th Century” edited by Atwan and Joyce Carol Oates.

      Natural sciences… Isaac Asimov has a bunch of short intro-to books, like “The Human Body: Its Structure and Operation” and “The Lefthand of the Electron”. Not all of it is still totally up-to-date, but Asimov is super readable. +1 to recommending Pinker’s books. Also recommend Richard Feynman.

    • AG says:

      How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler, by Ryan North
      The Way Things Work, by David Macaulay
      Any Mary Roach book

    • zardoz says:

      Here are some nonfiction books that I enjoyed recently:

      Oliver Sacks – The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. A lot of psychology books are mostly (dubious) theory. This one is mostly firsthand observation of very strange phenomena: the guy who can’t form new memories, people who are convinced that their own bodies aren’t part of them, and of course the eponymous man who mistook his wife for a hat. The author was a neurologist.

      James Mahaffey – Atomic Awakening: A New Look at the History and Future of Nuclear Power. This is a great introduction to the history of nuclear power. There are a lot of interesting things in this. Like, what if they designed a spaceship powered by nuclear bombs? As it turned out, they did (although it was never built.) What if they designed an air-cooled nuclear reactor out of flammable graphite? They did that one too, and actually built it as well (yikes!). At some point I’ll write a long review of this for SSC. For now, I’ll just say… recommended.

      John Brooks – Business Adventures. This is a book containing about a dozen business-focused short nonfiction stories, set in the 1950s and 60s. It’s very colorful and definitely worth the read. I’m writing reviews of each chapter for SSC in various open threads. The book itself is available freely online in PDF form.

    • Evan Þ says:

      I love early American history, so I’ve got a long list of my favorites! Here’re some of them, mostly written for general audiences:

      * Our First Revolution – a good history of the Glorious Revolution which led to the English Bill of Rights. Not technically American, but in the Anglo-American tradition and a point frequently referenced by the Founding Fathers.
      * Washington’s Crossing, by David Hackett Fischer – Military history of the Revolution in 1776 and early 1777, emphasizing public opinion, the importance of the individual Patriot’s commitment to the cause, and Washington’s leadership
      * Founding Brothers, by Joseph Ellis
      * America Afire, by Bernard Weisberger – The First Party System, from Washington’s administration through the climactic election of 1800
      * The Slave Power / Leonard Richards – Sole book here not for a general audience, this more academic work explores Southern planters’ dominance of the antebellum government and how the Abolitionist movement reacted to it.
      * Battle Cry of Freedom / James McPherson – the best one-volume history of the Civil War that I’ve read, incorporating both political and military aspects in a history quite aware of the ethical dimensions of the conflict. Shelby Foote’s old three-volume history also offers a quite comprehensive history of the military aspects, but Foote says little about politics and totally ignores ethics.
      * The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge / David McCullough

      And also, check out John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government if you’re into abstract political philosophy, or the Federalist Papers if you want it more practical.

    • zzzzort says:

      Math (not a natural science, imo): Surreal Numbers by Knuth and On Numbers and Games by Conway

      Actual science: A Traveller’s Guide to Spacetime by Moore. A bit textbookish. Chaos by Gleick is good, but a bit dated at this point.

      • littskad says:

        If you want to see lots of interesting mathematical ideas, you could do a lot worse than the books which collect Martin Gardner’s Mathematical Games columns from Scientific American. There are fifteen such—see here—together with one which is sort of a “best of” (Colossal Book of Mathematics), and the whole collection is available on a CD-ROM, if you can stand that sort of thing.

        The books which collect Ian Stewart’s later Mathematical Recreations columns from the same magazine are also quite good.

  16. AlexanderTheGrand says:

    I really liked the xkcd from a couple days ago.

    The converse of this idea is that when the world comes together and averts disaster, that can be seen as evidence that the problem wasn’t a big deal in the first place. Potential candidates for this: global warming, COVID-19, polio, AI apocalypse, the list goes on.

    Democracy, for better or worse, essentially operates on majority opinion, so “let idiots believe what they want, doesn’t change the laws” isn’t a great long-term strategy.

    Has Scott or anyone else in this sphere written about this? Any interesting thoughts from you all?

    • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

      One important point that I think is often overlooked: Make sure that whoever you’re presenting to actually has the power to affect the line somehow.

    • Eric Rall says:

      The Y2K problem is a classic example of this: it actually would have been a huge problem if it had been ignored (albeit significantly less than the absolute catastrophe some were envisioning), and required substantial effort to mitigate, but all the critical stuff got fixed in time, so when the day rolled around the result of the still-unresolved instances of the problem was closer to “several dozen people inconvenienced” than “all the computers stop working”.

      It helped that the problem had been on people’s radar for decades by the late 1990s, too: the first major instances of the bug causing real-world issues occurred in January 1970, when newly-issued 30 year loans were entered into accounting computers that used two-decimal-digit dates and promptly noted that there was a payment due in January 1900 that was now 70 years late. It also helped that most software written after maybe the mid-70s had standardized on 32-bit time formats that doesn’t roll over until 2038 (expect to start hearing about problems from UNIX epoch 32-bit rollover bugs in the coming decade), and newer software uses 64-bit formats that should be good for billions of years.

      • DarkTigger says:

        I would not be so sure there won’t be any problem at the end of 2038. There where a couple of reports at the beginning of this year about software failing because the people that fixed the Y2K errors did not anticipate that their software would still be running 20 years later. Stuff like trains not starting because the computer thought it was 2000.

        Every year I feel we are moving towards WH40K, were some Tech-Priest managing generations old technology that they neither understand nor could replicate.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        The big difference with Y2K is that the people who could fix it were also the people who would be most screwed by it if it weren’t fixed.

      • Garrett says:

        One reason why Y2K was containable is that the problem was both well-defined and bounded.
        Well-defined in that it was obvious what the problem was. (2-digit date format for years).
        Bounded in that it only had to address, potentially, all of the existing computer software and data which stored dates in 2-digit format.

        Sure, “all existing computer software” sounds like a lot, but it means that you can audit the existing code-base with high degree of accuracy and enumerate everything which might need to be fixed or replaced (or ignored). Same with importing/migrating data. It also means that you don’t have to worry about eg. the pens in the office suddenly not working.

        With a lot of the other issues at hand such as covid-19, climate change, whatever, we’re trying to take action in the face of substantial unknowns where the underlying systems are changing. We have no practical way of enumerating who has or doesn’t have covid-19. Testing everybody still might mean that someone will get the disease between when swabs are taken and the results are returned.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Y2K was both a problem that needed to be fixed in some cases, and one that was blown way out of proportion in many more. Yes, there existed certain programs that would crash and kick up all manner of chaos if not patched. However, there also existed vast numbers of programs that would crash but affect nothing else, programs that would not crash, but exhibit errors in hilarious ways that were easily covered for by humans (the world wasn’t nearly as computerized in 2000 as everyone thinks), and programs that were never going to crash at all.

        I was working on one of the latter programs, and had to assure management it wouldn’t crash on Jan 1. The fact that it was developed in Java in 1998 – using Date objects that internally relied on milliseconds since epoch, and whose year strings were for display only – wasn’t good enough; we were required to churn out stacks of documentation proving it wouldn’t crash, on a set of inputs they supplied that wouldn’t even apply to what our program did.

        We had to divert so many resources to proving it wouldn’t crash that we were unable to move forward on main development. Management then declined to support the program because it didn’t have enough capability, even though it was Y2K-ready.

        We weren’t alone. Billions were spent on wasted programmer labor, and no one outside programmer circles at that time remembers.

    • Loriot says:

      > Potential candidates for this: global warming, COVID-19, polio, AI apocalypse, the list goes on.

      I think the best example is the ozone hole. We now get people unironically saying stuff like “I wonder what ever happened to the whole ozone hole thing. Guess it was just an unfounded panic.”

      • rumham says:

        Guess it was just an unfounded panic

        I have heard that a significant portion was. They didn’t realize at first that it naturally changes size seasonally and made a bunch of wild projections. Not to say that CFCs weren’t an issue, just not as much as predicted.

        • rumham says:

          Interestingly, I just read some literature to refresh myself on it. Seems Dobson discovered it in 1956 and noted the seasonal variability back then. subsequent studies show that the size is also affected substantially by solar cycles. None of this was ever mentioned in anything I’ve read about the Montreal Protocols. Was science journalism ever good?

          • fibio says:

            As a rule, no. Generally the only people who are trained and educated to the point of being able to appropriately interpret scientific studies are scientists themselves.

            At best science journalism is a rough transliteration of a press release, that was also itself written by someone who isn’t a scientist, written to jazz up a generally boring paper and justify further funding. At worse, you get howlingly bad interpretations (such as an article about new new 900 milliwatt power-station being built) or a complete inversion of the original research.

    • zzzzort says:

      My own bias is not just that stuff isn’t important, but that the people worrying about them tend to be extremely annoying and uncool. There’s just something inherently mockable about e.g. putting hand sanitizers in public places ahead of H1N1 (even though that was a good idea). Covid is one of the first times I remember thinking “I wish the government was taking this more seriously”, and it’s made me feel a bit guilty about all the public health officials that gave me the luxury of thinking the ebola response was overblown.

      • Loriot says:

        I never really thought about it that way, but I think that pretty accurately sums me up as well.

  17. zenojjones says:

    Reposting in the fresh open thread since I just missed the new one by an hour or so:

    Alright, so to continue my look into mining and mining communities before WWII, below is a link looking at the poverty and hardships of everyday living these people faced. I began thinking a lot about how famous tenement housing and urban poverty in major cities is widely taught in schools here in the US, but rural poverty other than the Great Depression is largely ignored. What other things in history get focused on or ignored because of their proximity to major city?

    Dark as a Dungeon- Mining in Appalachian Kentucky: Part 2

    • Silverlock says:

      Maybe the focus on New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina? There were small communities on the coast that were hit harder, but the coverage was mainly about Nola. In terms of numbers, though, I’m not sure that is what you are after.

    • SamChevre says:

      Have you read Orwell’s Down the Mine? It captures the sheer difficulty of the work and the terrible working conditions–men working in clouds of coal dust wearing only shoes, shorts and kneepads.

  18. theodidactus says:

    I guess one neat thing about a potential Biden presidency is that it might be fun to watch the “president doesn’t need to cooperate with investigations” crowd whipsaw to a different position at lightspeed.

    Continuing a discussion i started on the last fractional open threadis this the new normal, or is everyone involved going to just laugh this off in 25 years?

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      My (completely unsubstantiated) feeling is that things will only get worse. Everything feels very Late Republic

      • yodelyak says:

        “Happy republics are all alike, but each unhappy republic is unhappy in its own way.” –Nott Tolstoy

        I have the same feeling about how our civic decay is currently experiencing a Late Republic moment–environmental spoilage and lead in the aqueducts/flint pipes, professionalization of military to point wars are waged by professional class for profit, not by society for defense or ideals, decline of trust, breakdown of social mores and marriage, increasing birth control, declining family, declining fertility rates, economic grandeur masking brittle overextensions… a lot is similar. Still, I think it may be the too-easy prediction that we’ll follow the Late Republic story. There are many things in our era with no equivalent or analog in other eras. High tech and 20-million-people-in-a-city density and global disease and pictures of the earth from space and foreign invasion risk and monetary policy and literacy and and and—all these things are wildly different now than in Rome, and it seems as likely that major facets of conventional human nature are going to break (e.g. sex with humans might become less good than sex with bots!–the internet may become consistently more fun for all than meatspace–things are very unstable with the level of tech we have now). We may be about to embark on something very much without analog from history. Maybe we’re about to die in whatever pandemic starts next year. Maybe Putin is going to get diagnosed with something terminal and pick a nuclear fight for funsies. Maybe social technology will spawn an authority-less big-brother state. Dunno, but I don’t really expect you can make a prediction that will usefully pay rent on the idea that all institutions will only get worse.

      • Lambert says:

        Things will be bad for a while followed by several centuries of unrivalled prosperity?
        One oughtn’t take the Roman obsession with decay at face value.

        • Right. Rome in the first century BC was an extraordinarily confident society, easily able to defeat their enemies. That’s why the fall of a Rome is a better comparison. You had a constantly declining civilization that still had a lot of prestige but was falling apart.

          But one connection I haven’t anyone make is Rome right before the crisis of the third century. A resurgent enemy state. More intimidating barbarians. An unknown plague sweeping the country. A decadent society that doesn’t believe its old gods but doesn’t have new ones. A government that is increasingly losing its legitimacy. Even Trump could be thought of as a kind of Commodus like figure, more concerned with his vanity than anything else. Commodus wanted to be a gladiator, the reality stars of Rome. Rome survived their crisis. Will we survive ours?

      • theodidactus says:

        I’ll sadly note just for the sake of humility and lols that I thought you were referring to this republic not this one

        • Jake R says:

          I’d be pretty surprised if the similarity was coincidental.

          • Nick says:

            It’s not coincidental. Though I’ve heard claims that Star Wars is actually the story of the second Vatican council.

          • Dack says:

            Though I’ve heard claims that Star Wars is actually the story of the second Vatican council.

            How does that work?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      McGhan I think is a non-central case. The argument against Trump cooperating with the Democrats’ investigations was that the investigations were not properly initiated. Few people argued the Executive was immune to investigation. So no, you would not get a whipsaw, you would get two different arguments.

      “The President has to respond to properly initiated investigations. The investigations of Trump were not properly initiated.”

      “The President has to respond to properly initiated investigations. The investigations of Biden were properly initiated.”

      • Dan L says:

        This discussion was literally a week ago. It can be (is, I’d argue) true that the legal process sometimes produces facially preposterous results, but you can’t just ignore them because you’d prefer a different system.

      • theodidactus says:

        I think the exact problem is that no one can articulate what “properly initiated” means in this context, and in the absence of a rigorous accounting, it really does mean the executive is immune to investigation if he or she wants to be. There’s no “properly initiated” subclause in any part of congress’ investigatory powers, or for that matter the justice departments, so we’d have to dream up an exception specific to the executive (all matter of weirdness results if it’s a *general* exception). The exception would go something like this: “The executive need not comply with a baseless investigation initiated purely to serve a political agenda, but must comply with one that is credibly linked to actual wrongdoing”

        My previous threads have attempted (perhaps inartfully) to explain why this exception doesn’t work. For one thing, sometimes investigations are BOTH credible and largely motivated by partisan rancor, for another, we can only meaningfully talk about “wrongdoing” or “credible” if we’re able to investigate. Literally everyone targeted by an investigation (criminal or otherwise) since time began has initiated their defense by saying “I have come under suspicion for a baseless reason.”

        So who decides what “properly initiated” means?

        If “properly initiated” is simply what either congress or the executive thinks it means, we’re right back here again, and I’ve dedicated two previous fractional open threads to trying to explain why it’s unlikely (and potentially dangerous) for courts to continually step in and ajudicate whether this or that investigation is “baseless” or “has merit”

        EDIT: Added some stuff to clarify the difficulties involved in applying a “properly initiated” rule in practice.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          So who decides what “properly initiated” means?

          I would have liked for the courts to do that, but after reading your explanation of McGhan last week it seems like they didn’t. “Properly initiated” would be “in accordance with precedent.” The argument on Trump’s side was that in previous impeachment investigations the full House voted to exercise its impeachment powers before it started issuing subpoenas and this time the Speaker just said “investigation started” and then committees started doing it. “House has sole power of impeachment,” sure, but that doesn’t mean they can just do whatever they want. They can’t declare “impeachment” means “trial by combat, get your nets and tridents.”

          I don’t want this thread to turn into 50 back-and-forths as to why this is or isn’t a good argument. I’m just saying I would want the courts to settle that argument, whether I agreed with their decision or not.

          • rumham says:

            They can’t declare “impeachment” means “trial by combat, get your nets and tridents.”

            A man can dream, can’t he? CSPAN would be awesome.

          • Dan L says:

            The argument against Trump cooperating with the Democrats’ investigations was that the investigations were not properly initiated. Few people argued the Executive was immune to investigation. So no, you would not get a whipsaw, you would get two different arguments.

            You have correctly identified these as two different arguments.

            The argument on Trump’s side was that in previous impeachment investigations the full House voted to exercise its impeachment powers before it started issuing subpoenas and this time the Speaker just said “investigation started” and then committees started doing it.

            I don’t want this thread to turn into 50 back-and-forths as to why this is or isn’t a good argument. I’m just saying I would want the courts to settle that argument, whether I agreed with their decision or not.

            I disagree with your stance but agree that I would like it settled, but it’s an easy issue to table. Because – and this is the point I’m trying to hammer – in the McGahn case the administration walked into court and made the other argument. It has carried the day, and pending appeal the precedent now set is that the Executive is functionally immune to investigation whenever it pleases (and impeachment is an acceptable response by Congress to such obstinance). We are in a situation now where the acceptable outcomes all probably require SCOTUS deciding to disregard the arguments actually in front of it in favor of granting itself novel powers of oversight, then immediately putting those powers to use on the most fractious political issue in decades. Not great.

          • theodidactus says:

            Well of course, the constitution for this reason specifies an objective formulation of what is necessary for impeachment to be tried in the senate: “…no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present…”

            What the constitution doesn’t do is provide an enormous list of addenda for how impeachments are to be carried out in the house, what constitutes an “impeachable offense”, etc. The founders generally recognized it would be foolish to do that.

            I guess to re-center to my initial question: you seem to be saying that the period of executive nocooperation will be transient, perhaps because in the future congresses will scrupulously follow relevant precedent insomuch as it can be determined, when they set out to investigate?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            you seem to be saying that the period of executive nocooperation will be transient, perhaps because in the future congresses will scrupulously follow relevant precedent insomuch as it can be determined, when they set out to investigate?

            I don’t really have a prediction for what will happen. From my reading, what I would have liked to have happened is:

            1) House scrupulously follows precedent when they set out to investigate.

            2) Executive either cooperates or, exercising due diligence in protecting the independence of the Executive branch, challenges validity of House investigation in the courts.

            3) Court correctly rules on said arguments. If the ruling is in favor of the Executive, the House shuts up. If in favor of the House, the Executive either complies, or the House impeaches the President for non-compliance, as ruled on by the courts.

            Instead my reading of the situation is:

            1) House doesn’t follow precedent and issues possibly invalid subpoenas.

            2) Executive defies them with bad argument instead of good argument.

            3) House doesn’t wait for ruling on bad argument and impeaches anyway, failing to convict in the Senate.

            4) Court eventually rules accepting the bad arguments, setting bad precedents.

            And now everything is screwed. It would have been really nice for everybody if Pelosi had just gone through the exact same impeachment process everyone agrees was fair for Nixon and Clinton. There are other issues with Johnson’s impeachment that aren’t relevant, but we’ve got two recent impeachments of presidents from both parties, and pretty much everyone agrees they were treated fairly. Instead she played partisan political games and now everything is screwed up for everyone.

          • theodidactus says:

            It’s worth asking yourself, if it’s such an astoundingly bad argument, how at least two commentors on this forum predicted, in advance, that the administration would make this argument, and a court would buy it.

            I’m not saying it was the most likely result, or the one I agree with, but it’s a completely reasonable result in light of both the way the courts have been heading, for years, regarding executive power, and the way this administration has behaved, in specific.

            EDIT: Also I’m a little confused why this is ultimately Pelosi’s fault. The “precedent” you are describing exists nowhere in law, or the constitution. While it’s a “good idea” to have congress have to behave that way, I have no clue how congress is supposed to go about divining appropriate precedent in this matter. Surely you realize that it’s impossible to go through “the exact same process” every time…and there is literally no guidance on what prior acts are good precedent and what are just insignificant details. Two examples:

            I think it would also be a good idea not to impeach the president in an election year. We’ve never done that before, does that make the whole thing invalid?

            We’ve never impeached the executive for actions that, if true and harmful, would have primarily harmed people outside the country instead of inside the country…is that relevant or not? (It’s worth noting that I considered like 15 potential differences before considering that one. Each impeachment scenario is so different)

        • Literally everyone targeted by an investigation (criminal or otherwise) since time began has initiated their defense by saying “I have come under suspicion for a baseless reason.”

          A nice example of the misuse of “literally,” with “literally everyone” a strong way of saying “most people.”

          Do you think nobody has ever responded to an accusation by confessing? By saying “yes, I did it, but it was self defense/temporary insanity?”

          • theodidactus says:

            You’re right, by literally I meant “very nearly almost.” Apologies if this offended anyone.

            To clarify: It is very very very very very very very very very very common for people targeted by investigations to express the belief that they were wrongfully targeted by said investigation.

    • Clutzy says:

      Congress always has the power of the purse. That the House didn’t feel the need to exercise it is illuminating.

      • theodidactus says:

        I’ve been very interested in how a “cutting you off” battle between the house and the presidency would go. My reach is “not well” simply because congress would look mulish as hell…of course, the fact that so much of the public would predictably hold this opinion speaks volumes about public priorities, and vox populi, vox dei after all…

        • Clutzy says:

          It would go where the people want it to. The reason the House refused to use its power of the purse to coerce witnesses to testify is the same reason it ultimately failed in the Senate: It was unpopular with Americans. And this is despite the House, in this particular instance, having a huge media advantage.

          • theodidactus says:

            So to be clear: In a future battle of the wills between say, any future president and a house with a yen for investigation, do you think that if the house lacks the political will to exercise the power of the purse to coerce witnesses, the correct inference to draw from that is “this is not a high priority for the public” possibly followed by “let’s move on?”

          • Clutzy says:

            If those witnesses are subject to executive privilege, particularly regarding foreign policy, I don’t think there is any other sane option.

            But, generally, withholding funds should be Congress’s primary weapon. That is the intent of the Constitutional structure as it is set up.

          • Loriot says:

            #remindmeinJanuary2023

          • theodidactus says:

            #also2027-2029-2033-2036-and-2041 under a future Biden, Rubio, Rossino, Occasio-Cortez, and Robo-Biden administration.

    • it might be fun to watch the “president doesn’t need to cooperate with investigations” crowd whipsaw to a different position at lightspeed.

      Nothing contradictory about favoring cooperation with law enforcement in general but making an exception for investigations launched without any evidence of wrongdoing.

      In any case, lawyers generally advise not cooperating, period.

      • theodidactus says:

        Everyone loves that video…and with good reason, it’s important.

        So what I’m asking (and frankly, nailing everyone down on) is this: If future presidents refuse to cooperate, the correct conclusion to draw from that is “well they’re just doing what any normal citizen would do: not giving their legal adversaries an inch, and not cooperating with any investigation until they absolutely MUST”

        …must, of course, determined by a court, or the court of public opinion?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          If future presidents refuse to cooperate, the correct conclusion to draw from that is “well they’re just doing what any normal citizen would do: not giving their legal adversaries an inch, and not cooperating with any investigation until they absolutely MUST”

          Yes.

          …must, of course, determined by a court, or the court of public opinion?

          I’d prefer starting with the courts.

          theodidactus, you seem to be demanding one-way virtue here. The Executive must comply with congressional investigations, but you don’t seem to be particularly concerned with holding congress to standards. Should they make any attempts to follow precedents when holding inquiries? Are concerns that they’re merely engaged in political maneuvering rather than investigations of legitimate wrongdoing any cause for concern? If you think they should be concerned with such things and not simply say “House has sole power of impeachment,” what should they do so they can reasonably say to the public and to political opponents, “we’re being fair here?”

          • theodidactus says:

            I’ll note: I’m not really saying the executive MUST comply with congressional investigations. I’m saying there are two possibly good systems here:

            1) Impeachment is a purely political process, subject only to the very minimalistic rules laid out in the constitution. If the executive doesn’t want to comply with an investigation, that’s fine, but then it’s perfectly valid to impeach the executive for not complying (if you can get the votes). It’s also perfectly valid to impeach the executive for gross incompetence (not a crime) or wearing a brown suit at a press conference (as long as you can get the votes).

            2) Impeachment is a formalistic process where you move forward based on an elaborate system of rules and procedures. Congress must have a “valid reason” to investigate, and impeachment can be for only, eg, actual crimes as defined by the US criminal code, and so on. The judiciary can oversee and overrule congress (or the executive) on any part of the impeachment process. The president need not comply with an “invalid” act, and congress must go to court, all the way up to the supreme court, if they wish to validly, in the eyes of the electorate, enforce their subpoenas through mechanisms like impeachment.

            I prefer 1, you prefer 2. I think I prefer 1 because I want a less activist court that rules based on law and the constitution, not what “feels right” or “seems like a good idea”…but I truly believe, were we starting a country from scratch, we might pick either one and have a good system.

            …but we’re not starting a country from scratch. We are instead rapidly approaching the point where we have the absolute worst aspects of both systems. So for example during the impeachment process itself, many republicans hung their vote and made their determination based on having a system like #2 above. Courts should weigh in, high crimes should be specifically criminal. Impeachment should proceed based on “precedent” as defined by some strange mix of policy and what has been done before. Barring that, they just had to vote “no”

            …but then the Trump administration marched into court and aggressively argued for a system like #1. Courts, in this paradigm, have no place adjudicating power struggles between the executive and congress (Why did they make this argument? Probably because they knew a court wouldn’t buy their argument based on bare precedent…because they knew they were going up against a relatively conservative court). Whether or not you would “prefer” a system like 2, courts in the united states, particularly and especially conservative judicial appointees are accepting arguments more like 1.

            I want to say again, as I said when I initially posed the “President Kunzelnick” hypos, that a system like #2 is fundamentally incompatible with a system where the presidency can readily resist investigations. One cannot meaningfully discuss whether conduct is criminal or blameless, within or outside the scope of a president’s powers, without a very very very large body of facts, which can only be assembled using investigatory powers. The difference between a crime and an innocent act, a smoking gun or an irrelevant detail, is often as simple as who reached for a gun or the tone of voice someone spoke in

            Whether we’d prefer a system like #2 or not, the trump administration is arguing for a system more like #1, and importantly they could have (and frankly, would have) made such arguments even if pelosi had scrupulously followed what you imagine to be “important precedent”…their argument (which they made in court before, and after impeachment) is that courts should not get involved in these power struggles. Now what? If you think they need to walk this back, the question is how?

            EDIT: Changes for clarity and style and a question at the end.

  19. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Conan reviews #20: “The Scarlet Citadel”
    Originally published in Weird Tales, January 1933. Beaten for the cover by “Buccaneers of Venus”.
    Frank Frazetta illustrated it.

    King Conan stands on a battlefield with “the pick of his chivalry” all dead around him, none having fled. (He’s said to have brought 5,000 knights, so if that’s “the pick” rather than a supreme effort, Aquilonia’s military resources must approximate France’s circa Agincourt.) He came as an ally of King Amalrus of Ophir to the south, whose plea for help was a double-cross: at Ophir’s southern border, he joins forces with purported enemy King Strabonus of Koth. Tsotha-lanti, the wizard of Koth, forces his king to take Conan alive. Tsotha does this by touching him where the mail was hacked away, with a ring that has a retractible spike.

    “It is steeped in the juice of the purple lotus which grows in the ghost-haunted swamps of southern Stygia,” said the magician. “Its touch produces temporary paralysis.”

    The king sends his General Arbanus to the Aquilonian border, to “invest the city of Shamar”, while kings and wizard withdraw the wounded with part of the baggage train to Koth’s capital. Conan recovers chained in a citadel. The rulers say they’ll free him and give him gold if he’ll abdicate. He says:

    “I found Aquilonia in the grip of a pig like you—one who traced his genealogy for a thousand years. The land was torn with the wars of the barons, and the people cried out under oppression and taxation. Today no Aquilonian noble dares maltreat the humblest of my subjects, and the taxes of the people are lighter than anywhere else in the world.”

    Conan the libertarian!
    The King of Ophir wants to kill Conan, but Tsotha casts a temporary blindness spell with a powder to stop him. He has him chained down in the dungeon instead.

    “And so, farewell, barbarian,” mocked the sorcerer. “I must ride to Shamar, and the siege. In ten days I will be in your palace in Tamar, with my warriors. What word from you shall I say to your women, before I flay their dainty skins for scrolls whereon to chronicle the triumphs of Tsotha-lanti?”

    The first dungeon encounter is with an eighty-foot venomous snake (why would such a huge snake evolve venom – what larger prey would it need to hunt?). The outer door suddenly clangs and the snake slithers away. The source of the noise is a gigantic black nudist, taunting Conan with the keys: “What will you give me for them?” This guy is taunting him because when Conan was a corsair, he sacked a walled village called Abombi. The man’s brother died, Conan (and presumably Belit, not named here) sailed away with the loot, and this man ended up enslaved by Stygians for lack of village defenses. Conan of course has to be reminded because he’s killed a LOT of people’s brothers.
    Holy crap, Conan was the original M. Bison.
    He offers his tormentor’s weight in gold pieces for the keys, but money can’t buy what he’s lost! He wants bloody revenge.

    “The price I ask is—your head!”
    The last word was a maniacal shriek that sent the echoes shivering. Conan tensed, unconsciously straining against his shackles in his abhorrence of dying like a sheep; then he was frozen by a greater horror. Over the black’s shoulder he saw a vague horrific form swaying in the darkness.
    “Tsotha will never know!” laughed the black fiendishly, too engrossed in his gloating triumph to take heed of anything else, too drunk with hate to know that Death swayed behind his shoulder.

    (Laughing “Tsotha will never know!” at the top of his lungs just makes me think he’s Dan Backslide.)
    Anyway, at that moment the snake darts out to make him its dinner, and the dead guy drops those precious keys.
    Now Conan is free in a locked dungeon with monsters and possibly traps. He just needs to find some other Player Characters for this story to hit full RPG mode. Next, Shukeli the eunuch/chief jailer, who had followed his stolen keys, confronts Conan from behind a barred gate. He gets stabbed through said gate for his trouble.
    Conan thinks he hears a woman weeping and skulks in that direction, but…

    Its unstable outlines somewhat suggested an octopus, but its malformed tentacles were too short for its size, and its substance was a quaking, jelly-like stuff which made him physically sick to look at. From among this loathsome gelid mass reared up a frog-like head, and he was frozen with nauseated horror to realize that the sound of weeping was coming from those obscene blubbery lips.

    Running away, he trips over something and loses his only torch. Some Lovecraftian horrors are insinuated, then Conan finds another prisoner, held in bondage with weird vines. Freed, he says he’s Pelias, a rival sorcerer.

    He pent me in here with this devil-flower whose seeds drifted down through the black cosmos from Yag the Accursed, and found fertile field only in the maggot-writhing corruption that seethes on the floors of hell.

    (That’s the planet Yag-Kosha and all his kin came from. “The Tower of the Elephant” was actually the next story written after this one.)

    The wise man explains the dungeon’s backstory:

    “He did not dig them. when the city was founded three thousand years ago there were ruins of an earlier city on and about this hill. King Khossus V, the founder, built his palace on the hill, and digging cellars beneath it, came upon a walled-up doorway, which he broke into and discovered the pits, which were about as we see them now. But his grand vizier came to such a grisly end in them that Khossus in a fright walled up the entrance again.”

    (Interestingly enough, one of the largest subterranean towns in the real world was rediscovered when a local homeowner was doing renovation in his basement and discovered a mysterious room behind a wall. That was only forty years after it was abandoned, though.)

    Pelias casts a Fear spell on the snake, briefly animates the dead Shukeli, and scries on Shamar. Conan says it’s hopeless to rally his kingdom if they escape, because Shamar is a day’s ride and the capital five more. So Pelias summons a winged creature “neither bat nor bird”, from the far reaches of the skies, its species unguessed of men, for Conan to ride. Pelias says it’s OK to split the party: he’ll cast another spell and catch up at Shamar.

    Meanwhile at the capital, Count Trecero whom Conan left in authority tries to be honorable, but the commons riot out of distrust of each noble’s ignoble past, making an opening for one Prince Arpello to seize the baton and declare himself king. Class conflict is narrated at length. Suddenly, Conan awes the people with his supernatural authority by simply landing the Lovecraftian bird-bat on a tower. Arpello attacks him and gets thrown off the tower.
    After the necessary time for persuasion and logistics, King Conan rides to lift the siege of Shamar.

    “You are mad!” squalled Tsotha, starting convulsively. “Conan has been in Satha’s belly for days!”

    You say, without having stayed to watch. What a Bond villain.
    Strabonus with vastly superior force plucks defeat from the jaws of victory by getting into single combat with Conan, whose zweihander crushes his skull through its helmet. So the invaders’ morale is hurt. In the general retreat, Conan recklessly chases Tsotha for revenge.

    Conan rushed, sword gleaming, eyes slits of wariness. Tsotha’s right hand came back and forward, and the king ducked quickly. Something passed by his helmeted head and exploded behind him, searing the very sands with a flash of hellish fire. Before Tsotha could toss the globe in his left hand, Conan’s sword sheared through his lean neck.

    He must feel really good about himself. The kingdom is safe and personal revenge was had– or no, what’s this? Tsotha’s head still glares at him, and a sightless body gropes for its head. Luckily the wise man Pelias prepared for contingencies beyond a barbarian’s ken: an eagle swoops down to fly away with the head and laughs with Pelias’ voice.

    Then a hideous thing came to pass, for the headless body reared up from the sand, and staggered away in awful flight on stiffening legs, hands blindly outstretched toward the dot speeding and dwindling in the dusky sky. Conan stood like one turned to stone, watching until the swift reeling figure faded in the dusk that purpled the meadows.
    “Crom!” his mighty shoulders twitched. “A murrain on these wizardly feuds! Pelias has dealt well with me, but I care not if I see him no more.

    I love that ending. I also love the whole middle section with Conan in the dungeon, despite any and all literary shortcomings.
    I don’t sympathize a lot with Conan, though. My attention is drawn more to Pelias and the Phyrric-victorious Aquilonia. We’re told:

    Of the nineteen hundred knights who had ridden south with Conan, scarcely five hundred lived to boast of their scars, and the slaughter among the archers and pikemen was ghastly.

    That’s 6,400 professional warriors/landowners/administrators and countless commoners dead. Seems like an absolute disaster for the victors.
    Your thoughts?

    • broblawsky says:

      Pelias is vastly more powerful than the half-demon Tsotha-Lanti. Everything Tsotha-Lanti does, with the exception of his ability to not die despite decapitation, is just weird chemistry/alchemy stuff. Pelias animates the dead, calls a byakhee, trivially scries on his enemies, and spooks a quasi-divine snake with sheer wizardliness.

      Interestingly, this presages The People of The Black Circle: “A human steeped in the dark arts is greater than a devil.”

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        +1
        Pelias even says “Tsotha was only able to throw me in the dungeon because my guard is down when I drink. Man do I love wine.”
        Yet for all that he’s way more powerful, it didn’t leave me an obvious impression that he was bullying a weaker sorcerer.

    • Deiseach says:

      Conan should really know better by now than to trust the Kothians, isn’t this at least the second time they pulled something sneaky re: peace treaties or not being enemies, then turned on the forces Conan was fighting with?

      why would such a huge snake evolve venom – what larger prey would it need to hunt?

      You probably shouldn’t ask that question in this kind of story 🙂

      This guy is taunting him because when Conan was a corsair, he sacked a walled village called Abombi. The man’s brother died, Conan (and presumably Belit, not named here) sailed away with the loot, and this man ended up enslaved by Stygians for lack of village defenses.

      That’s actually a neat little bit of context, showing that the dashing freebooter lifestyle has consequences; yeah it’s all fun and treasure-hunting for Conan and crew, but the people who get looted suffer, and suffer from a chain of problems arising out of that raid. Despite what Disney tried to do, pirates are not fun happy people who commit victimless crimes!

      • John Schilling says:

        I was actually hoping for Conan respond along the lines of “Then I shall return and give you my head, once I have seen to my kingdom and those who would despoil it! This I swear; only do not make the people of Aquilonia suffer for my misdeeds!” There has to be a last Conan story, and that would have been a fitting end.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Conan should really know better by now than to trust the Kothians, isn’t this at least the second time they pulled something sneaky re: peace treaties or not being enemies, then turned on the forces Conan was fighting with?

        In “Shadows in the Moonlight” it wasn’t intentional treachery: a rebel prince hired mercenaries, lost his rebellion and was like “Sorry, sire. Peace?” The clever angle was showing a nice honest peace treaty from the view of po’ people rather than the government.

        You probably shouldn’t ask that question in this kind of story 🙂

        Oh right.

        And yeah, it’s a really neat bit of context.

    • helloo says:

      why would such a huge snake evolve venom – what larger prey would it need to hunt?

      To be more serious than really necessary –
      A) It might have been an overgrown/magically supersized species of smaller size
      B) Big snakes tend to kill their prey by constriction and then swallow them whole. However, there might be some things in Conan’s world that are difficult to constrict to death (things that don’t breath? things that are too hard? things that don’t die? most things do tend to at least be affected by blunt trauma though…)
      C) A lot of snakes have venom for DEFENSE as much as offense. What larger predator should it fear?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      How are we supposed to act on such negative truth claims?
      If you live with a spouse, parents, or roommates, you generally don’t have the authority to forbid them going to

      all educational establishments (schools, universities…), gyms, museums, ski stations, cultural and social centers, swimming pools, and theaters.

      When those all remain open for business. And we have jobs to go to that can’t be switched to work from home.
      Seems like it’s 100% up to the government.

      • Garrett says:

        > Seems like it’s 100% up to the government.

        I disagree. It’s more like 50% up to the government. Skipping things like work or buying groceries is difficult for most people. But converting from the gym to a walk in a park, or a theater to a night in can be done on an individual level.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        When those all remain open for business. And we have jobs to go to that can’t be switched to work from home.

        My job can be switched to work from home. Should I ask my boss to let me do this or nah?

        • Aapje says:

          Have there been cases or risk areas* near your work or near where your colleagues live? Are your colleagues in the habit of traveling to risk areas?

          If not, there seems relatively little risk.

          * Airports, tourist hot spots, Italian/Chinese restaurants**
          ** Just kidding on this last one

          • Randy M says:

            Is there a website or app or something where you can put in your zip-code and it tells you the infection rate for your area? Or is this the kind of thing local papers are good for?

            I don’t think this question makes sense based on the numbers at the moment.

            I’d like to take appropriate measures, but it feels unnecessary to strictly isolate ourselves if there aren’t active cases nearby.

            Staying away from the amusement parks and hospitals seems like an obvious move, of course.

          • Garrett says:

            My State is delaying the release of specific information because of a 1955 syphilis privacy law.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          Probably yes, with reservation that I do not know anything about your personal situation.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I talked to my boss and she said there’s a meeting about this at lunch so who knows. I might get told to stay home.

          • acymetric says:

            Personally, I think any employer who has employees that can work from home should encourage them to do so, even if their area doesn’t appear to have been hit by the virus yet. Helps protect the employees individually, the community generally (limiting opportunities for transmission), and also provides significant risk mitigation for the employer (would you rather take the productivity hit from people working from home, or roll the dice and hope nobody get sick, knowing that if there is an outbreak in the office you could be down 50-80% of your staff for weeks)?

            I’ve been pretty anti-alarmist here, but this as struck me as an obvious and reasonable course of action pretty much since the virus reached the States.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If your employer has not been preparing for people to remotely work (if possible), they are pretty dumb. I don’t know the odds of travel restrictions in your area but they aren’t 0.0% over the next few months. (Even if this whole virus were a hoax there would still be the chance of it happening because of over-reaction.)

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          My job can be switched to work from home. Should I ask my boss to let me do this or nah?

          Yes.
          There are tons of jobs where we physically have to touch stuff or the work doesn’t get done. No reason not to try to move every desk job to home from the bottom-up if it hasn’t been done top-down like last week.

        • yodelyak says:

          I think trying to work from home, if that is available, once there is a 1 – 3% chance that someone in your office has the virus is a good policy.

          It seems reasonable that true cases in the U.S. are probably between 20 and 100 times higher than reported cases. (In Wuhan, at the date they locked down the province, it was 27 times more.) Already there are ~ 1k reported cases (I’m using numbers from Johns Hopkins CSSE), decently widely spread out, so let’s say that means there are actually 27k around the US, or about one person in a thousand. If you work in an office building visited by 1000 other people, it’s already time to ask to work remotely. And that seems to be what every major tech company has figured out: stayinghome.club has a list of all the tech companies with mandatory or encouraged work-from-home rules newly implemented. If it’s you and three other dudes who you know live quiet lives at home, then maybe wait another few weeks, what the heck.

          Some links: https://www.sacbee.com/news/nation-world/national/article241141661.html

          https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-act-today-or-people-will-die-f4d3d9cd99ca

          • Nick says:

            that means there are actually 27k around the US, or about one person in a thousand

            One person in 10,000, actually. Still, if we run your numbers, that’s about an 8% chance someone in the office is infected. I’m sure it could be refined based on number of cases in that state vs state population and the like, though.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            So what happens if you work in an Amazon fulfillment center in WA? In Kentucky?

          • Nick says:

            @Le Maistre Chat
            Running the numbers it looks like the Lexington fulfillment centers have 600 employees, and if we assume ~200 real cases in Kentucky that’s a chance of between 2% and 3% chance of a carrier.

          • yodelyak says:

            @Nick

            One person in 10,000, actually. Still, if we run your numbers…

            Sheesh, yeah, I was in a hurry, and I guess at least I should be glad my analysis made it kind of obvious that I wasn’t actually being sufficiently careful with my numbers. Seems like I managed to be mostly right by being wrong by x10 once in each direction. (Overestimated by 10x the national prevalence, but underestimated how prevalence translates into likelihood a coworker is infected by x10 or so, and on net, not crazy far off.)

            @Conrad Honcho
            Playing still more with my 27000 infections number, and using Nick’s helpful wolfram alpha formula, if you have 120 employees at your office, odds are maybe about 1% that one person or more is a carrier. The CDC seems to put the doubling period at about 7 days, so by next Friday, if there will then be 54000 cases, then company spaces with 60 coworkers will have a 1% or so chance that one is a carrier.

            If your decision-tree gives you a lot of space to pick the exact day to immediately start working from home, you could use this sort of math to try and get it exactly right… but a lot of people can’t work from home at all, and maybe it’s more realistic for you to model yourself as having a once-per-week ability to rejigger your willingness to really push your boss to switch to having folks work at home… unless it’s a pretty small office, you might as well start really pushing now. (Or that’s my analysis–IANAD, IANA-epidemiologist.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m working from home right now. The meeting my boss had yesterday was apparently what to do about customer-facing employees, which was mainly mitigation strategies. Nothing about the back-end people like me who could work from home yet. She said, “it’s not required, but if you want to work from home I won’t stop you.” And I said, “then that’s what I’ll do.”

            ETA: I would also like to take this opportunity to point and laugh at Past Conrad, who in the thread about the “impact of coronavirus” a month or two ago rated the likely personal impact of the virus on him as a 1. Haha, that guy’s an idiot.

          • Nick says:

            Incidentally, I got the formula from Alex Tabarrok. He writes a little about the numbers; what affects the percent the most is how many people are in the group.

          • John Schilling says:

            One person in 10,000, actually. Still, if we run your numbers, that’s about an 8% chance someone in the office is infected.

            Now for the next two steps. If COVID-19 has an R0 of 2.5, that means an average associate of a carrier has a (2.5/Dunbar’s number) or 1.7% chance of themselves being infected. So, 8% * 1.7% = 0.13% chance of being infected in that office environment. COVID-19 mortality among the working-age population is 0.67%, so
            0.13% * 0.67% = 0.00089% probability of death for coming in to work the next two weeks in this hypothetical. Just under one in a hundred thousand.

            Except, probably better than that because R0 goes down as people start taking basic precautions like extra hand-washing and fewer meetings, and the baseline R0 is already weighted by high-risk cases like hospital workers taking care of fully symptomatic individuals.

      • Nick says:

        Seems like it’s 100% up to the government.

        My workplace is going to have an outbreak if we don’t get our shit together fast. We have local community transmission as of yesterday, a salad bar, and weekly, packed 250+ person gatherings. But they’re just recommending we stop “close contact” with each other.

        • rumham says:

          Judging by the symptoms and contagiousness, my entire workplace caught it about 6 weeks ago. Only one person even missed a day of work. But we don’t have any baby boomers here.

          • acymetric says:

            It seems highly unlikely that it was the coronavirus, as opposed to some other illness with similar but milder symptoms.

          • rumham says:

            For the majority of people, covid-19 has incredibly mild symptoms. A light cough for a week or two is it. The only person who caught a fever was diabetic. This tracks with what I’ve read.

          • Dan L says:

            The only person who caught a fever was diabetic. This tracks with what I’ve read.

            ???

            The WHO report lists the incidence of fever at 88%. Barring fresher data, it’s literally the most common symptom.

          • Deiseach says:

            A light cough for a week or two is it.

            Ah, no? The symptoms, so you can tell you may have something more than a cold or a dose of the normal flu, according to our Health Service are:

            The main symptoms to look out for are:

            – a cough – this can be any kind of cough, not just dry
            – shortness of breath
            – breathing difficulties
            – fever (high temperature)
            Other symptoms are fatigue, headaches, sore throat, aches and pains.

            It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of coronavirus to appear.

            If most people in your workplace only had “a light cough” then they all got colds (probably from one another if they turned up to work while sick), not the coronavirus.

          • DarkTigger says:

            not the coronavirus.

            It is even possible that it is a coronavirus. But not the coronavirus that started somewhere in the city of Wuhan sometimes in late 2019 early 2020, and is running amok around the planet since than.

          • rumham says:

            I stand corrected. It stood out to me as unique due to the mildness of the symptoms, the duration of the infection and how incredibly infectious it was. Never had one like it before.

      • John Schilling says:

        Seems like it’s 100% up to the government.

        Is your advice to spouse/parents/roomates that they avoid public gatherings 100% ineffective just because those things are open for business? Is the government going to switch 100% of your household’s jobs to work-from-home? Does it take a government order to get your family to wash their hands?

        If no, then it’s not 100% up to the government.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Is your advice to spouse/parents/roomates that they avoid public gatherings 100% ineffective just because those things are open for business?

          I mean, if just going to the gym is one of the best vectors short of environments where there’s a crowd jostling together or handshakes and greater physical contact are part of a ritual (like church), my personal willingness to avoid the gym until the pandemic passes counts for nothing unless my advice is as 100% effective as real authority. If you’re a woman and your husband insists on touching gym equipment in a crowded place 4 days a week, you are going to get the gym’s coronavirus anyway and ought to go all the same days to get the benefits of lifting.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Is there a safe way to use the gym? Is it necessarily a petri dish?

            If I wash my hands regularly in the gym, am I saving myself?

          • acymetric says:

            Not if the virus is airborne, right?

          • Chalid says:

            Can’t you convince them to just do burpees at home or go jogging or something for a couple weeks?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If the virus is airborne, the grocery store seems as bad as the gym.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Chalid:

            Can’t you convince them to just do burpees at home or go jogging or something for a couple weeks?

            I am trying, but we’re also getting opposite signals from family who don’t live with us (eg. my over-55 mother-in-law who hates Trump still says “go to the gym if the CDC and the governor don’t say otherwise”). Ugh.

            @Edward Scizorhands:

            If the virus is airborne, the grocery store seems as bad as the gym.

            Not pumping iron for a few weeks is an option. We can’t avoid the grocery store at this point. We have toilet paper, filtered municipal water, dog food, beans and brown rice, canned tuna and mayo, and a mix of frozen and perishable breakfast ingredients, but we’re going to have to go out at least one more time under the existing viral conditions, more if we don’t succeed in hitting a place with abundant supplies.

          • abystander says:

            Even before the current pandemic, I heard that it was good practice to sanitize gym equipment before using it and good etiquette to clean after using the shared equipment.

            Maybe this can be pitched as an opportunity to tryout a new training routine that works out different muscles

          • noyann says:

            The gym is worse than a grocery store, because people breathe deeper and faster there.

          • John Schilling says:

            The gym is worse than a grocery store, because people breathe deeper and faster there.

            The whole reason humans have muscles is so that we can navigate and manipulate an enormous world full of not-gyms. I’m pretty sure that we can adequately develop and exercise our muscles in the remaining not-gym parts of the world. So what’s the deal with everyone insisting that they have to go to the gym to exercise?

            I’m guessing that gym-going is basically a social thing, that even if you’re not actively talking to people, vigorous activity in a room full of other people similarly engaged tickles the gregarious ape-brain in a way that e.g. climbing a mountain doesn’t. OK, sure, that’s reasonable. But if the order of the day is social distancing, “How do I safely engage in vigorous sweaty exercising in a room full of strangers?” is not the right question to be asking.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The gym-going probably has a social purpose for many, but for others it’s a way of obtaining use of fancy exercise machines without having to buy and store them. Certainly you can exercise without them, but a lot of people find using the machines more pleasant than the alternative.

          • John Schilling says:

            OK, but from the looks of it the fancy machines are just an expensive way of duplicating the effect and experience of walking, running, riding a bicycle, and/or lifting weights. Do people really find riding a bicycle in a converted warehouse to be more pleasant than e.g. riding a bicycle on a bicycle path?

            I’ll give you the residents of cities with perpetual rain and cities with no bike paths or safe roads, but I’m seeing an awful lot of gyms in places without those excuses.

          • The Nybbler says:

            OK, but from the looks of it the fancy machines are just an expensive way of duplicating the effect and experience of walking, running, riding a bicycle, and/or lifting weights. Do people really find riding a bicycle in a converted warehouse to be more pleasant than e.g. riding a bicycle on a bicycle path?

            Dedicated bicycle paths you can actually get serious exercise on are few and far between; usually if you want to ride hard you have to be on the road, which has its own problems. You’re also at the mercy of the weather, and the difficulty of your workout is not easy to control. On a bike trainer, no weather issues, and the workout is exactly as hard as I choose. Personally I prefer riding outside (when the weather is good), but I probably get better exercise on the trainer.

            I imagine similar issues apply to treadmills.

          • Spookykou says:

            To add to what Nybbler is saying about the functional benefits of a gym, I think there can be psychological benefits to the environment that facilitate exercise.

            Actor Terry Crews has a simple mantra on how you can stick to the habit of going to the gym: treat it like a spa. You can even go and not work out, if you don’t feel like it. But just go.

            Some of us have to stack the deck and trick our monkey brains into doing things we want it to do(assuming you accept this framing of the human experience), and gyms can help with that.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Yes, going to a place to workout is helpful to me working out. I’ve had days where I’ve said “oh, I’ll just do some planks/dumbbells at home,” and have a very low success rate actually following through.

            I am definitely mentally preparing myself for fewer or even no gym days at some point.

  20. EchoChaos says:

    So Trump has banned all travel from continental Europe (due to extensive passport data sharing, the UK is not banned).

    I know that several people here have said that Trump wasn’t doing enough and was just blustering his way through, but it seemed obvious to me that his tweets were exactly what the CDC experts were telling him translated into Trump-speak.

    This shutdown is probably a bit late, like his ban on travel from China, but not terribly late and possibly as early as it could be for political reasons.

    Overall, the right call, would’ve been better a week ago, but the administration seems to be doing all that it can.

    • meh says:

      The problem is nobody knows how to translate trump-speak, so your statement is unfalsifiable, making it somewhat silly to dispute it with you. It seams the translation is ‘whatever he said was perfect, save a few instances that we’ll say were less than perfect as to lend credibility to the scam’.

      And what does it matter if the trump-speak was perfect when 55% of Americans, and nearly all of the rest of the world can’t speak this language?

      Finally, being ‘a bit late’ for this situation is probably a bit worse than in other situations.

    • matthewravery says:

      My read is that he and his administration ignored the views of experts for weeks because they were worried about the effect on global markets. Trump publicly downplayed concerns, saying Democrats are politicizing it and that it’s their new “hoax”. His administration has claimed are recently as a week ago that the virus was https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/06/america-should-stay-at-work-despite-coronavirus-larry-kudlow-says.html. Trump told people last week that, “anyone who wants a test gets a test“.

      These time for stern-faced people delivering a clear, consistent message of calm and competence. What we got was self-serving remarks the ranged from misleading to obviously false. Because Trump views any criticism of his administration’s actions as bad-faith partisanship, he interpreted criticisms of his administration’s response to the virus as insincere. He therefore dismissed the criticisms as partisan and responded to them as such. Instead of presenting this as a non-partisan health crisis, it was treated for at least a month like a Dem hit job. And now you’ve got folks like McCarthy calling it the “Chinese coronavirus”, attempting to further politicize it.

      There is now (or at least was a week ago) a substantial partisan divide over how concerned folks are about the virus.

      And of course the kicker is this administration’s decision in 2018 to dump the individual and team responsible for Federal responses to global pandemics and then not replace them.

      • EchoChaos says:

        My read is that he and his administration ignored the views of experts for weeks because they were worried about the effect on global markets.

        Trump cut off travel to China pretty early, so what experts was he ignoring then?

        Trump publicly downplayed concerns, saying Democrats are politicizing it and that it’s their new “hoax”.

        Democrats ARE politicizing it, and he called it a “hoax” to compare it to the attacks from the false Russia story, not that coronavirus was a hoax. In fact he specifically said that he was getting the US prepared and that we would lose people to it in the sentence after that.

        His administration has claimed are recently as a week ago that the virus was https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/06/america-should-stay-at-work-despite-coronavirus-larry-kudlow-says.html.

        Kudlow specifically in your link said the virus was serious and that you should avoid places with outbreaks. He was warning against overreaction where it isn’t spreading.

        Trump told people last week that, “anyone who wants a test gets a test“.

        Yeah, that one is probably implausible.

        These time for stern-faced people delivering a clear, consistent message of calm and competence. What we got was self-serving remarks the ranged from misleading to obviously false. Because Trump views any criticism of his administration’s actions as bad-faith partisanship, he interpreted criticisms of his administration’s response to the virus as insincere.

        Probably because the criticism of his administration’s response was insincere. Here is the Democratic governor of California on the response:

        https://www.newsweek.com/californias-democrat-governor-praises-trumps-coronavirus-response-every-single-thing-he-said-1491294

        And now you’ve got folks like McCarthy calling it the “Chinese coronavirus”, attempting to further politicize it.

        It’s a Chinese coronavirus. How is that politicizing it? It’s like saying that calling Ebola Ebola is politicizing it because it points out it was from the Ebola river. Or MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome).

        There is now (or at least was a week ago) a substantial partisan divide over how concerned folks are about the virus.

        That is indeed true. Probably partially because where people live. Democrats tend to be urban, where they are at much higher risk.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Democrats ARE politicizing it

          Some are, yes.

          and he called it a “hoax” to

          Lemme stop you right there. It is irresponsible to call anything related to this a “hoax” at all. If that means you give up some ammunition against Democrats, too fucking bad.

          On February 26, Trump said we had ’15 people, and in a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.’

          National Review’s editorial on Tuesday put it well

          At the same time, however, it is important that the president’s defenders not be blinded by partisanship of their own into excusing failures of leadership and diminishing the danger of the epidemic itself. This can be particularly difficult because some of the most significant inadequacies of the administration have been the president’s own. So far in this crisis, Donald Trump himself has obviously failed to rise to the challenge of leadership, and it does no one any favors to pretend otherwise.

          The disastrous missteps involved in the effort to make testing kits available nationwide are not the president’s own. They are the fault of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they represent a serious scientific, technical, and bureaucratic failure for which the appropriate officials should be held responsible. But those problems are clearly being corrected now, and there is every reason to think testing kits will soon be available to all who need them.

          The failures of leadership at the top, however, show no sign of being corrected. In a serious public-health crisis, the public has the right to expect the government’s chief executive to lead in a number of crucial ways: by prioritizing the problem properly, by deferring to subject-matter experts when appropriate while making key decisions in informed and sensible ways, by providing honest and careful information to the country, by calming fears and setting expectations, and by addressing mistakes and setbacks.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Lemme stop you right there. It is irresponsible to call anything related to this a “hoax” at all. If that means you give up some ammunition against Democrats, too fucking bad.

            Asking Trump to stop talking like Trump isn’t going to happen. He communicated accurate information about the outbreak as of that date, including severity.

            National Review’s editorial on Tuesday put it well

            National Review is right-leaning, but they also hate Trump. I don’t trust their analysis either.

            In a serious public-health crisis, the public has the right to expect the government’s chief executive to lead in a number of crucial ways: by prioritizing the problem properly, by deferring to subject-matter experts when appropriate while making key decisions in informed and sensible ways, by providing honest and careful information to the country, by calming fears and setting expectations, and by addressing mistakes and setbacks.

            Trump has done literally all of those things. He also punched back at the people making political hay.

            He cut all travel to China early, he had the FDA declare it an emergency (that actually hurt because of red tape, but he couldn’t know that), he’s given the same information as the CDC constantly, just in Trumpian terms.

            He’s been TRYING to calm fears constantly, but the people who want to make political hay are intentionally arguing against him.

          • anon-e-moose says:

            Lemme stop you right there. It is irresponsible to call anything related to this a “hoax” at all. If that means you give up some ammunition against Democrats, too fucking bad.

            How many are dead? Has the total number deaths in the entire 300m+ country reached a bad summer weekend in Chicago yet?

            We’re contemplating shutting down the entire US economy over the deaths of 38 individuals. Now that’s certainly not a good thing, but again…38 people. That’s less than the number of people attached by sharks last year!

            Almost 100 million Americans are pre-diabetic. When do we declare that public health crisis?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Asking Trump to stop talking like Trump isn’t going to happen

            I don’t care. If Biden likes pushing big red buttons I’m not going to make excuses for him launching nukes.

            I approve of Trump’s cutting travel from China. I think it bought us maybe a month, but a month that was wasted dicking around with testing kits and pretending nothing was going to go wrong The Quillette article posted elsewhere shows what Earth-2 Trump could have done and still been Trump: travel restrictions, but also cutting through the stupid red tape and preparing people months ago.

            he’s given the same information as the CDC constantly

            God damn. Just God damn.

            March 2, Trump: “So you’re talking over the next few months, you think you could have a vaccine.”

            March 2, director of NIAID: “You won’t have a vaccine. You’ll have a vaccine to go into testing. A final vaccine could be ready in a year to a year-and-a-half.”

            March 5, head of WHO: “Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died…By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected.”

            March 5, Trump: “Well, I think the 3.4 percent is really a false number. Now, this is just my hunch, and — but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this, because a lot of people will have this, and it’s very mild.”

            March 10, Trump: “A lot of people think [corona] goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in.”

            March 12, CDC director of NCIRD: “I’m happy to hope that it goes down as the weather warms up, but I think it’s premature to assume that, and we’re certainly not using that to sit back and expect it to go away.”

            This one is out of time order, from around February 26 but I saved it for last:

            Around February 25, CDC Director NCIRD: “Ultimately, we will see community spread in this country. It’s not a question of if, but rather a question of when and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”

            One day later, Trump: “I don’t think it’s inevitable. It probably will. It possibly will. It could be at a very small level or it could be at a larger level. Whatever happens, we’re totally prepared.”

            So, yeah, “he’s given the same information as the CDC constantly” if you mean that he’s undermined the CDC’s attempts to warn people that community spread was going to happen. Yeah. Great. Sure. Fuck.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            1: That’s Trump asking a question. Asking questions is what he should do.

            2: Trump is saying, ACCURATELY, that it’s not 3.4% of all cases, but 3.4% of identified cases because we know there are other unidentified cases. Probably also using the fact that South Korea, with the most extensive testing, has a death rate under 1%. https://time.com/5798168/coronavirus-mortality-rate/

            3: That’s him agreeing with Trump and then saying we need to be prepared in case he’s wrong. So exactly what I’m talking about.

            4. That’s Trump agreeing AGAIN: “It probably will but we’re prepared”.

            Look, Trump is giving the most positive spin on the issue because he’s Trump and he’s trying to keep people from panicking, but in none of those is Trump lying.

          • Garrett says:

            > On February 26, Trump said we had ’15 people, and in a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.’

            This absolutely turned out to be wrong. But at that time my understanding is that the CDC and all other public health officials thought that tracking down people using contact tracing plus quarantine of those people would be sufficient to stop any outbreaks. So you’d have a few dozen people symptomatic, a few hundred carriers which were asymptomatic and needed to wait a few weeks, and then it would be over. Not great, but not terrible.

            This is used to deal with diseases typically considered to be more severe such as tuberculosis.

            Unfortunately, it turned out that the disease was far more contagious than originally suspected and that contact tracing ultimately failed. The science is evolving.

            (I make no excuse for Trump’s terrible communication)

          • John Schilling says:

            On February 26, the United States had fifty-three confirmed COVID-19 cases. I’m pretty sure nobody at CDC, etc, was telling Trump that the number was going to go to zero in “a couple of days”; almost certainly they were telling him that there would be more yet-unconfirmed cases showing up in new testing. But he was well off on the proven facts on the ground as they were known at the time.

          • broblawsky says:

            National Review is right-leaning, but they also hate Trump. I don’t trust their analysis either.

            Whose analysis do you trust?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            1. Conceded.

            2. The WHO had earlier given fatality rates of 0.7% to 4%, and readjusted to 2.3% with more information, and readjusted again to 3.4%. That number will undoubtedly change a lot more with more data as time goes forward. When Trump says the head of WHO is giving out, I quote, “a false number,” that is not deferring to the SMEs.

            3. Where is the CDC guidance that coronavirus “goes away”? https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2020/02/10/donald-trump-optimistic-spring-heat-will-kill-coronavirus/ Who are the SMEs that he is talking about? There is reason to think transmission will slow. But you claimed “he’s given the same information as the CDC constantly” and you sure will not find the CDC saying “a lot of people say coronavirus will go away in April.” He twice said it would go away that day so it wasn’t some stutter.

            4. Inevitable means it is going to happen. Saying “It probably will. It possibly will” is saying it is NOT inevitable.

            Feb 26: “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

            Feb 26: “We hope it doesn’t spread. There’s a chance that it won’t spread too, and there’s a chance that it will.”

            Feb 28: “and we only have 15 people and they are getting better, and hopefully they’re all better.”

            None of those are agreeing with “inevitable.”

        • rumham says:

          It’s a Chinese coronavirus. How is that politicizing it? It’s like saying that calling Ebola Ebola is politicizing it because it points out it was from the Ebola river. Or MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome).

          Ya, the barrage of articles calling anyone who calls it Chinese coronavirus or Wuhan coronavirus racist is only slightly more ridiculous than the weekly facebook posts saying (insert recreational drug here) cures it.

        • matthewravery says:

          What you want in a crisis like this is for your leader to reassure people. Taking dramatic steps isn’t the same thing as panicking. You want someone to get out in early February, when I was traveling domestically, listening to and reading about this virus and the threat it posed to the US, to clearly and accurately communicate facts to people*. To explain what risks folks face individually and what risks we face as a country. Or point to the expert and shut up.

          We didn’t get any of that, and IMO “Well, Trump doesn’t do that sort of thing” is damning not exonerating.

          In Trump-speak, everything related to Russia was a total sham. Talking about COVID using the same language and in the same context implies that everything related to COVID is also a total sham. Trump doesn’t want you to believe what Government experts say about Russia or Ukraine because those folks are part of the Deep State. So now anything that sounds different from what Trump has told you about COVID sounds like its coming from the Deep State. When you deliberately erode trust in Government institutions, you don’t get to then say, “Well, he sometimes says things that are incorrect, but those Serious Government Bureaucrats will correct him and it own’t have an effect on the way the public reacts.” Those Serious Government Bureaucrats look just like the ones he’s told you are full of shit and are really Democrats out to get him!

          Aside from banning travel to China, the feds have been consistently lagging behind local and state governments, schools, and businesses. This is bad for the nation because it’s the Feds that have sole control over interstate travel. Local communities can contain outbreaks locally, but it’s folks driving and flying from state to state and ensures that this won’t be a localized thing.

          *In every conversation I’ve had with people about COVID over the past six weeks, I’ve expressed high levels of uncertainty. There was never clear communication about the virus from our Government. It consistently felt like the Trump administration thought the media was blowing things out of proportion (they are known to do that) and responded by minimizing the potential risk to an absurd degree as an attempt to balance things out or something. The communications strategy felt like a political one rather than a public health one. Experts weren’t trotted out to testify publicly and give briefings to the press. Rather, they were told not to talk to the press. So we were left in this weird spot where it felt like everything was spin and nothing was factual.

          This is precisely why it’s important to have an apolitical bureaucracy that you can point to and say, “Don’t believe me, believe these folks.” But when you’ve spent years attacking these folks as political hacks, you lose that, and the result is what we’ve had: Uncertainty, confusion, and toilet paper shortages.

        • Plumber says:

          @EchoChaos >

          “…the Democratic governor of California on the response…”

          FWIW, this week on the radio I’ve heard our Republican President, Democratic Governor, and Democratic Mayor all speak with one voice about The Grand Princess ship’s landing (which I saw docked on my way home, and my wife saw containment tents for passengers from it at a local hospital yesterday), then I heard Republican Vice-President Pence praise California’s response, then I heard Governor Newsom praise the Federal government’s response, all of which seemed to me to be fine “partisanship ends at the waters edge” stuff, then, immediately after my hearing Pence and Newsom, I heard U.S. Senator Murray light into what she said were inadequate responses of both the Federal and local governments in her own Washington State (presumably mostly Democrats), so she did bipartisan censure! 

          A lot of events, schools, et cetera in my area are closed, but we haven’t yet had the infection rate that Seattle has had (my wife is a bit afraid for her Mom who lives in Seattle and has near neighbors that sometimes visit family in China).

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Because Trump views any criticism of his administration’s actions as bad-faith partisanship, he interpreted criticisms of his administration’s response to the virus as insincere.

        The problem is that there has been so much bad-faith partisanship barely masquerading as legitimate criticism, it is essentially impossible for me to tell whether or not criticism of the administration’s handling of COVID-19 is legitimate or political maneuvering. The left media was extremely worried about the surveillance state…until the surveillance state went after Trump, and then we have to defer to the wisdom of the patriots in the “Intelligence Community.” Approximately 99.978% of human beings despised brutalist federal buildings until the Trump administration recommended a default of classical architecture for new buildings instead, and now gosh those grotesque concrete blobs are the best things ever. I could list many, many, many more examples.

        Now I know something about internets and government surveillance and since I am possessing of eyes I am able to make my own judgements about architecture so I could see that these reactions to Trump’s actions constituted bad-faith partisanship. Unfortunately I don’t know crap about medicine or diseases. I’m vaguely aware that there exists squishy stuff inside of my body, and if that stuff were to come out, I would die or something? That’s about all I know about medicine. So I do not know what the correct course of action for responding to COVID-19 is. I strongly suspect no one else does either because this is a novel, chaotic situation with unknown unknowns. The only pattern I’ve got here to trust is the one that says “it doesn’t matter what Trump does, his political enemies will condemn him.”

        Wolf has been cried many, many, god so many times about Trump, and there’s never a wolf. Maybe there is this time. Maybe this time is the time the wolf is really here. I don’t know. But I’m guessing probably not.

        • acymetric says:

          You could start with the fact that Trump couldn’t even communicate basic information about the new travel restriction policy accurately. There have been several instances in the past week where Trump conveyed flat out wrong information that later had to be corrected (but too late, because some people are now locked in on whatever it was they heard Trump say originally regardless of later clarifications).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I haven’t seen much news today, what were the misstatements/corrections?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Things the White House had to clarify within minutes of the speech last night:

            1. Europe travel bans on cargo (oops, only on people)

            2. Travel ban leaving from Europe but not UK (depends on time in residence in countries, not source; and does not apply to US citizens)

            3. Insurance companies cannot charge for coronavirus treatment (cannot charge for testing)

            Item 1 appeared to be as-is in the prepared speech, so who knows wtf was actually intended before the speech.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Okay, those things should probably have been said more correctly but it doesn’t seem like the end of the world. I’m really more interested in the impact of the actual policies rather than getting all the words perfect.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            That sounds like normal “here are the exact boundaries of the policy” clarifications of a politician’s speech to me.

          • John Schilling says:

            Okay, those things should probably have been said more correctly but it doesn’t seem like the end of the world.

            If you’re trying to avoid economic disruption, having the President of the United States of America signal, “Well, I think we should shut down all trade with Europe, but my advisors have talked me out of it so far” seems like kind of a big deal. How’s the market doing today, again?

          • JayT says:

            It’s debatable that he said cargo would be banned. It was a confusing sentence, but my reading of it is that he’s saying cargo is exempted, but that could change.

            To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground.
            There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing. These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.

            https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/11/politics/read-trump-coronavirus-address/index.html

          • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

            @JayT

            “There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval.”

            This sentence says that the prohibitions will apply to trade and cargo, and other things as they get approval for them. “Not only trade and cargo” means “trade and cargo plus other things”, surely? An interpretation strengthened by the next paragraph:

            “Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing.”

            “Anything” presumably includes “trade and cargo”.

            I don’t see how it’s debatable at all.

          • JayT says:

            This part:

            these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval.

            Definitely makes it sound like cargo is banned. However, That is immediately preceded in the sentence by him talking about exemptions, so to me, it isn’t clear that he wasn’t talking about things that are banned in paragraph 1, and things that are exempted in paragraph 2. Also, he ends the second paragraph with
            “Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing.”
            Which would imply that they are “discussing” banning cargo, not that cargo has been banned.

            It’s a confusing section where he goes from exempted, to banned, to maybe banned. I’m not surprised that they had to clarify it.

        • Nick says:

          Bad faith abounds, but speaking as your ingroup, there’s room for legitimate criticism of the Trump administration’s response. (Even aside from CDC screwups.) See e.g. Ben Sixsmith here, who put well my frustration and bafflement with Trump’s response ever since this started. ETA: To be more direct: I wanted the “this is a case for railing at China” and “this is a case for economic nationalism” and “this is a case for stronger borders” Trump, and we didn’t get him. And you support those things, too, so you have to see the missed opportunity here.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m torn on that one. On the one hand…yes, I support those things. On the other hand, my immediate goal is “not having people die and/or the economy shut down because of the virus,” and think politicizing the disease is a bad idea that encourages others to also respond with politicization, which is also bad and makes us all incapable of solving the problem. Railing at China, economic nationalism, and strong borders aren’t going to solve the immediate problem. Let’s solve the immediate problem, and then after the crisis is over, make the political cases that the crisis wouldn’t have happened or wouldn’t have been as damaging by railing at China, promoting economic nationalism, and having stronger borders.

          • John Schilling says:

            On the other hand, my immediate goal is “not having people die and/or the economy shut down because of the virus,”

            That’s like saying your immediate goal is having your cake and eating it too. The only way to not have people die is to shut down the economy (and more). Pick one.

            Or, more realistically, pick one of the intermediate options, because there is going to be some economic disruption and some deaths no matter what. But you are at best trading one against the other.

            At worst, you’re trading a few more weeks of ignorance and denial against both greater economic disruption and more deaths. Trump got dealt a bad hand in this, both in the wet markets of Wuhan and the bureaucracy of the CDC, but he’s been playing that hand particularly badly as well.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @John Schilling

            I am curious what specific actions that Trump took you see as particularly bad?

            Because Trump’s response has been so good (outside the obvious cock up FDA/CDC stuff) that Joe Biden literally stole his plan: https://pjmedia.com/trending/joe-biden-blasts-trumps-coronavirus-response-then-plagiarizes-trumps-plan/

          • John Schilling says:

            I am curious what specific actions that Trump took you see as particularly bad?.
            Because Trump’s response has been so good (outside the obvious cock up FDA/CDC stuff)

            But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

            The FDA/CDC stuff is now mostly on Trump. Their not being prepared is on them, but that was months ago. Someone should have been on the phone to the WHO, like, six weeks ago, saying “We’ve had a bit of a snafu here; how soon can we get 50,000 of your test kits to distribute to our state public health agencies?” Trump could have made that call himself, if he couldn’t find anyone to delegate it to. And he can fire the head of the FDA if the head of the FDA doesn’t personally write the letters authorizing local and private labs to set up their own tests; that’s a thing two top-level people in an office can fix without needing the help of the Deep State bureaucracy.

            There’s also the bit where he didn’t have a plan for what to do with 3,500 people on a cruise ship with an active outbreak off the California coast, because in a perverse application of the Copenhagen interpretation of ethics, having a plan would have meant adding to the official infection count.

            There’s the EU travel and trade ban, oops no just a travel ban, oops, no, it’s now EU+UK, a month too late to do any good and rolled out in such a hamfistedly slapdash manner as to panic the markets into their worst day on over thirty years.

            But probably the most consequential failing, was the month of messaging that this was no big deal, no worse than the flu, nothing to get excited about. There are at least a hundred million people who trust Trump and his loyalists over the CDC, CNN, and anyone else trying to get out accurate information on COVID-19, and a month of those people not washing their hands, postponing their family vacations, etc, is a month of unrestricted spread among a vast population.

            There’s responsible don’t-panic messaging, and there’s actively encouraging complacency to score short-term political points. Trump, as usual, went with Plan B. He is now beginning to do the right thing, in both messaging and executive action, but he’s doing it far too late and with no excuse for that.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            a month of those people not washing their hands, postponing their family vacations, etc, is a month of unrestricted spread among a vast population.

            Except he specifically said for people to wash their hands, don’t touch railings etc. These are the most important things regular people can actually do. So would you agree you were mistaken here, and Trump passed this part of your critique with flying colors?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @John Schilling

            I agree on the testing, although I’ll note that the FDA started the fast-track two weeks ago on the 29th.

            The Diamond Princess case I don’t know the right call, but when even the Democrat governor is calling Trump’s reaction right, I am going to assume that no significant harm was done by that decision.

            Dr. Fauci has said that the travel ban was a good decision, so Trump is at least listening to the experts, which he has been called on to do. Execution was sloppy, but sorted out within a day (and the markets rallied).

            The last is completely unfair. Trump DID say that we were going to get cases but were prepared for it. He specifically called on people to wash their hands and disinfect in accordance with the CDC guidelines in February, using his own hand-washing and being a germophobe as an anecdote to encourage his supporters to do the same.

        • Chalid says:

          The extremely low numbers of tests in the US relative to other nations is an unambiguously bad sign about how we’re responding, right?

          Sure there were various obstacles (and I’m sure we differ in our views of what they were and how they got there) but a determined push from the top would have helped a lot in overcoming them.

          And if we’d had effective testing all along we wouldn’t have to essentially shut down large swathes of the country, as we probably will.

          • EchoChaos says:

            The extremely low numbers of tests in the US relative to other nations is an unambiguously bad sign about how we’re responding, right?

            Yes, test production has been one of our major failures, I’d agree.

            Sure there were various obstacles (and I’m sure we differ in our views of what they were and how they got there) but a determined push from the top would have helped a lot in overcoming them.

            I don’t know enough about the CDC and FDA to know that for sure. But that is an area of criticism that would be reasonable. Ironically, it looks like the FDA declaring it an emergency slowed it down rather than sped it up.

          • Clutzy says:

            @Chalid

            Quickness is the opposite of FDA internal policy. They are probably the most sclerotic bureaucracy on the planet, intentionally. That is how the civil service has shaped itself. No matter what Trump and Pence and whoever directed there are several layers of resistance set up against them, not to mention the possibility of “resistance” members in the agency.

        • Thegnskald says:

          I am, as usual, entertained.

          I’d say the people who generally defend Trump here have gotten more predictions right over the last five years than those who generally criticize him, which suggests something about whose model is more accurate.

          From the primary, to the election, to Russiagate 1.0, to Russiagate 2.0, to the impeachment trial, and a host of smaller things along the way, the conservatives here appear to have had a more consistently correct worldview as it pertains to concrete predictions.

          Past performance and all that, but I’m getting the impression a lot of people here are having some serious issues changing their minds.

          • matthewravery says:

            I’m getting the impression a lot of people here are having some serious issues changing their minds.

            Couldn’t agree more.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Past performance and all that, but I’m getting the impression a lot of people here are having some serious issues changing their minds.

            Are you talking about me? I’m not defending Trump’s actions as correct, because I do not know what the correct actions are. Given the nature of the problem, I do not think there necessarily are correct actions. Even if there exist correct actions, given the nature of the problem, I do not believe those dunking on Trump know what the correct actions are.

            “People who attempt to dunk on Trump even when Trump obviously right attempt to dunk on Trump when Trump not obviously wrong.”

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I think he’s saying that people like you and me who defend Trump have a better track record and that the people who are wrong about Trump regularly aren’t changing their view of him.

            I may have misunderstood.

          • Dan L says:

            Me, I just want to see the ledger. Because it seems obvious that an informal attempt to track that sort of thing through anything other than explicit two-sided bets is going to be swamped by favorable readings and selective memory. And afaik, money hasn’t changed hands terribly often.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I thought he was saying since we’ve been right about Trump before, now when we’re wrong about Trump, we’re having a hard time changing our minds.

            And I guess that’s true that the people slamming Trump right now aren’t convincing me to change my mind from “beats me” to “Trump is screwing up COVID-19,” but that’s not because I think Trump is right but because I have no idea how to evaluate whether Trump is right or wrong, I don’t think we’ll have the information necessary to do that until after this is over, and I don’t think the people criticizing Trump have the ability and information I lack either.

          • John Schilling says:

            Generally yes. Trump’s presidency through 2019 has been outrageous but mostly harmless, and the harm has been mostly in setting precedents that may become dangerous when used by more competent presidents with a longer attention span. Too many of his critics have been, well, deranged, and this has been amusing to watch from a distance.

            This has been the first real external crisis of Trump’s administration, the first time “mostly harmless” hasn’t been enough. It has revealed (or at least highlighted) a particular shortfall of skill and character that has been present all along and that, oops, we weren’t lucky enough to get through four to eight years without invoking.

            Peacetime presidents (prime ministers, etc) often turn out to be unsuited to wartime leadership, so when the war comes you need to be able to reevaluate.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            This has been the first real external crisis of Trump’s administration, the first time “mostly harmless” hasn’t been enough. It has revealed (or at least highlighted) a particular shortfall of skill and character that has been present all along and that, oops, we weren’t lucky enough to get through four to eight years without invoking.

            You don’t know that, and do not have any plausible way of knowing that, which is my point.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Conrad: My impression of you is that you are not a yuge fan of Trump, but find yourself in the position of defending him a lot.

            Indeed, that is my impression of most of his defenders here. In a sense, it is my impression of those who will vote for him as well, by and large.

            I wouldn’t you as saying his actions are correct, but rather pointing out that the criticisms raised, and the predictions made, are inaccurate; or, from my frame of reference, that the criticisms and predictions are being raised from a position of bias that makes it difficult to ascertain the correctness of given claims.

            I’m not a fan of his either. I’d rather have a lot of other people as presidents. But I also recognize this bias and try to correct for it, which a lot of people here seem incapable of doing, I’d guess for social reasons.

          • Randy M says:

            You don’t know that, and do not have any plausible way of knowing that, which is my point.

            We should all have a pretty clear picture by November, anyway.
            Well, whether he was catasrophically wrong or not.
            Might be hard to judge between if he was right and a little unlucky, or wrong and a little lucky or whatever.

          • albatross11 says:

            There are a lot of parallels between the European travel ban and the travel ban for the seven terrorism-heavy countries–the details were either not worked our not communicated well, there was little notice, lots of relevant people expected to enforce the rule were caught flat-footed. etc. This looks like a failure to me.

          • Machine Interface says:

            I’d say the people who generally defend Trump here have gotten more predictions right over the last five years than those who generally criticize him, which suggests something about whose model is more accurate.

            I don’t remember Trump defenders predicting that he would accomplish nigh nothing while destroying decades-worth of US soft power.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Machine Interface

            I demand better bait than that.

          • Jaskologist says:

            This has been the first real external crisis of Trump’s administration, the first time “mostly harmless” hasn’t been enough.

            At the time, the same thing was said of, at least: Trump’s negotiations with North Korea, his saber rattling with Iran, and his trade war. For that matter I heard similar rhetoric around the end of Net Neutrality, or his indebtedness to Russia, or later his dealings with Ukraine.

            Maybe this time it’s true. Or maybe in a few months this will just be another item on list.

          • John Schilling says:

            At the time, the same thing was said of, at least: Trump’s negotiations with North Korea, his saber rattling with Iran, and his trade war.

            Those are things that had the potential to become serious crises, but fortunately didn’t. For example, none of them have killed any Americans, except possibly by secondary economic consequences of the “trade war”.

            If your standard for a serious crisis is that e.g. North Korea develops thermonuclear ICBMs even if they don’t use them, then OK, you can call that a serious crisis. But if that’s the standard, then it’s a crisis where Trump’s leadership and administration clearly came up short.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            While I think there is a good chance we are overreacting a bit*, there is an extremely small chance that this is all a lame non-event, just looking at how Italy’s hospital system was overwhelmed.

            * By which I mean some of our inventions are causing so much economic damage that even seniors would be better off if we didn’t do them.

          • BBA says:

            On changing one’s mind: A few weeks ago I admitted, against every one of my bleeding-heart liberal instincts, that Trump had brought us three years of peace and prosperity, none of the warnings about the parade of horribles he’d inflict on us had come to pass, and he deserved to be reelected. I’m still not voting for him because I disagree with him on all the issues (and I do mean all – yes, I like modern architecture, I’m the one) but that’s the only reason. “Threat to democracy”? Give me a break.

            It defies all logic but I’m guessing this will turn out to be no big deal and Trump will come out smelling like roses, because that’s what’s happened every time before. My instincts are telling me no, we’ve just been lucky every time, he’s the crackhead Uber driver – but my instincts don’t have a good track record, and besides it’s not like there’s anything I can do about it.

            Meanwhile the Democrats, who ought to be presenting an alternative to inspire confidence, are instead playing “Fight Song” at official congressional meetings. And that’s not some newly elected member of the Squad, that’s Donna Shalala, who was HHS secretary for eight years and really ought to know better. In the immortal words of Casey Stengel, can’t anybody here play this game?

          • Clutzy says:

            @John and @Edward

            The problem with the model of “Trump failing” on corona is that the most effective measures taken by his administration are being the first “western” nation to get into the travel ban business. His Wuhan, then China, then most of East Asian travel bans were widely panned at the time (with your gratuitous “racist” takes being incredibly common in the media).

            The US West Coast is the most connected place to East Asia in “the west”, if he had followed more standard (WHO) advice, California would look like Italy on steroids. Europe on average is doing much worse than we are. The place where our response has been the worst is at the US agencies of the FDA and CDC which are places he’s required to lean on career bureaucrats to carry out effective policies. Both are notoriously slow by nature, and it would only take 1-2 highly placed “resistance” types to grind the gears to a near total halt.

          • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

            @Clutzy

            Italy banned flights from China before the US. Link.

          • DinoNerd says:

            I’m getting the impression a lot of people here are having some serious issues changing their minds.

            Trump managed to do a great job of convincing me that he was an evil person, who would probably take pleasure in harming me. IIRC, I came to this visceral conclusion watching a video of his fans chanting “lock her up”. I understood that as meaning that to him and his fans, opposing him was a criminal act, that ought to be suppressed by the power of the state.

            He didn’t keep that campaign promise of course – no criminal charges were laid against Hilary Clinton. But that video turned me from “political opposition” to something much more like hate.

            And yes, I know. There was a whole meme at the time about insecure email servers, that supposedly justified this hypothetical future prosecution. It doesn’t matter – the level of hate in that chanting wasn’t consistent with the supposed provocation. I wound up hating him right back.

            That hasn’t changed.

          • Thegnskald says:

            DinoNerd –

            What do you think that does to your credibility on anything Trump related?

            At this point I don’t bother to check the shit people say about Trump, because that has been enough of a waste of my life.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I understood that as meaning that to him and his fans, opposing him was a criminal act, that ought to be suppressed by the power of the state.

            That is very far off from the meaning of what they were saying. You may want to revisit this one and why you clearly misunderstood a very clear statement.

            To echo @Thegnskald above, there has been so much lies and false alarms surrounding Trump, that for me and millions of others, anything that comes out of Trump-haters’ mouths is not taken seriously at all.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The last four years have pushed me rightward, and driven my trust in anything the left says down considerably. More, it has retroactively decreased my trust in information, and framing of information, prior to the last four years.

            Shifting your trust in evidence you’ve built your priors around shifts your priors a hell of a lot.

          • nkurz says:

            @DinoNerd:
            > I came to this visceral conclusion watching a video of his fans chanting “lock her up”. I understood that as meaning that to him and his fans, opposing him was a criminal act, that ought to be suppressed by the power of the state.

            I’m not a fan of Trump, and have never chanted “lock her up”, but I don’t think your interpretation is correct. Instead, I think the feeling was that Clinton (correctly) believed herself to have been above the law, and the chanters were declaring that once Trump was elected, she would be subject to penalties. They (and I) genuinely believed that she had flouted the law regarding the handling of classified information, and should be punished. Factual or not, the underlying issue was her apparent flagrant violation of the law rather than her opposition to Trump.

            > He didn’t keep that campaign promise of course – no criminal charges were laid against Hilary Clinton.

            I don’t like the “of course” here. While it might be true, in the absence of investigation I don’t think it’s in any way obvious that Clinton did not violate the law. Without personal knowledge, how can one be sure of this? Or do you mean that because of her position in society it’s clear that criminal charges would never be filed against her regardless of the legality of her actions? If so, I think this is the part that really bothers others.

            > There was a whole meme at the time about insecure email servers, that supposedly justified this hypothetical future prosecution

            I think it’s highly misleading to dismiss this as merely a “meme”. Are you aware that the “Judicial Watch v US Department of State” is in fact still rolling right along, and that earlier this month the judge issued a sharply worded order, which subpeonas Google for the remainder of Clinton’s emails and requires Clinton and Cheryl Mills to appear in person for deposition?

            The order also makes very clear the judge’s frustration with the State Department’s responses to date:

            “With each passing round of discovery, the Court is left with more questions than answers. What’s more, during the December 19, 2019 status conference, Judicial Watch disclosed that the FBI recently produced approximately thirty previously undisclosed Clinton emails. State failed to fully explain the new email’s origins when the Court directly questioned where they came from. Furthermore, State has not represented to the Court that the private emails of State’s former employees who corresponded with Secretary Clinton have been searched for additional Clinton emails. State has thus failed to persuade the Court that all of Secretary Clinton’s recoverable emails have been located. This is unacceptable.”

            This is a pissed-off judge who feels he’s been given the run-around. The order is full of other “choice words” directed at the State Department. If your current view is that the whole affair is nothing but a meme, I think you might find it interesting reading: http://cdn.cnn.com/cnn/2020/images/03/02/hrc.pdf.

          • zzzzort says:

            @Clutzy

            travel bans were widely panned at the time

            Do you have a cite for this? I’ve heard this from a variety of Trump defenders (including Trump himself), but never came across any actual criticism in the wild.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            “Guiding Trump’s response is a hardheaded nationalism. On January 31, the administration announced strict travel bans: Most foreign nationals who’d recently been to China were barred from entering the U.S., and Americans were warned to stay clear of the country.” Also said he would “double down on xenophobic suspicions.”

            Biden slams Trump response to coronavirus epidemic: This is no time for “fearmongering” “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia – hysterical xenophobia…”

            I don’t know exactly what sources count as “the left” or “the media” or whatever. Just search for “Trump China travel ban racist” and you’ll find pages of either left/media articles calling the travel ban racist, or right wing outlets calling out the left/media articles for calling the travel ban racist.

          • Clutzy says:

            @zzzrot, along with what Conrad posted, one think I’d like people attacking Trump’s response to do is show prominent left wing figures proposing things that Trump should have been doing in December, Jan, Feb, etc. In December and January, while Trump assembled a C-19 taskforce and worked up a travel restriction plan Democrats…worked on an impeachment that was always going to fail.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @Thegnskald

            What do you think that does to your credibility on anything Trump related?

            Since about the only thing I say about him is variants on “I hate him” – specifically, I language, referring to my own emotions – probably nothing at all.

            I do believe in character, and my opinion of Trump’s character is that he’s probably sociopathic, and also probably takes positive pleasure in demonstrating his powerfulness by causing fear and/or pain, but I’m not out there making statements about what he’s doing or what the probable consequences of the latest action “obviously” are.

            That would be either preaching to the choir, or casting pearls before swine. His followers won’t be convinced, and his opponents could stand to talk about something else for a change.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @Aapje

            Dems taunt Trump with threats of prison time

            Two wrongs don’t make a right.

          • zzzzort says:

            @Honcho

            The first piece seems somewhat ambiguous. It’s definitely critical of Trump, and claims that his xenophobia will hamper an effective response to the virus. But, about the travel ban in particular, it says ‘These measures—which career public-health officials argued were needed to delay the virus’s spread—broke with guidance from the World Health Organization, which did not recommend curbs on travel or trade.’ where ‘career public health official’ is blue tribe code for good guy.

            The Biden piece doesn’t mention travel restrictions at all; it knocks Trump for cutting funding for the CDC (which I don’t think he actually did, to be fair, just proposed), and again accuses him of xenophobia.

            The suggested google search gives me a least a fact check page saying ‘None of the party’s congressional leaders and none of the Democratic candidates running for president have directly criticized that decision, though at least two Democrats have.’ Other results were mostly right wing sources decrying people being mean to Trump, using the same sources, and a hoax about a Chuck Schumer tweet.

          • zzzzort says:

            And just as a comparison, for the ban from predominantly muslim countries more or less every democrat is clearly on the record calling for the ban to be rescinded and generally claiming the policy is racist, eg pelosi, biden, sanders, aoc. There’s an idea on the right that the left will call anything they do racist no matter what, but it does seem to actually depend on the particulars.

          • Jaskologist says:

            It occurs to me that the current crisis may actually give us a decently objective way to judge Trump’s competence. Once the dust settles, we could compare fatality rates between different countries and see how America stacks up against the rest.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Clutzy:

            (with your gratuitous “racist” takes being incredibly common in the media)

            Whose “gratuitous takes” now? You specifically namechecked me and Edward on this one. I haven’t accused anyone of racism in this manner, and I don’t see where Edward has either. I don’t like being accused of racism, I don’t go around accusing other people of racism without a very good reason, and I also don’t like being accused of gratuitously accusing other people of racism.

            So knock it off with the “evil meanies are falsely accusing poor innocent me of being a racist” shtick. That’s not what you are being accused of.

          • Clutzy says:

            So knock it off with the “evil meanies are falsely accusing poor innocent me of being a racist” shtick. That’s not what you are being accused of.

            @john

            I didn’t say you called me racist, I said Trump was called racist by the media. And I’ve elaborated that no one has pointed to Biden, Bernie, Pete, or Warren talking about aggressive anti-Corona measures in January. Biden called the Chinese travel ban “hysterical xenophobia and fearmongering”. I don’t think you can get any stronger version of a 180 than the standard Dem/Centerleft media position in Jan-Feb 2020 and their current stance in mid-March 2020.

          • John Schilling says:

            You said “your gratuitous racist takes”, when you were specifically talking to me and Edward. Not “the media’s racist takes”, mine and Edward’s. I’m not the media, I don’t own the media, I’m pretty sure Edward doesn’t either, and you didn’t mention the media, only me and Edward.

            Please go take some time away from this issue until you can think more clearly about what you really want to say.

          • CatCube says:

            …with your gratuitous “racist” takes being incredibly common in the media…

            John, that’s just a common figure of speech to refer to a generality. It’s definition 3 here.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Jaskologist

            It occurs to me that the current crisis may actually give us a decently objective way to judge Trump’s competence. Once the dust settles, we could compare fatality rates between different countries and see how America stacks up against the rest.

            Hard disagree. If America stacks up well, at best that tells you that Trump didn’t screw up badly. And if America stacks up badly, Trump could have done things near perfectly, and it could end up being because some city mayor or state governor or CDC official screwed up terribly.

            On the one hand even in the presence of poor leadership, America may do better as a nation because it’s less dense and has more warm and humid areas than lots of Europe and East Asia.

            On the other hand even in the presence of great national leadership, America may do worse as a nation because it is more decentralized, and Americans hate restrictions on their liberty.

          • Clutzy says:

            @John

            I’m not the one who needs to re-evauluate myself.

            This is you:

            January 21, 2020 at 4:04 pm
            At this point, it looks like human-to-human transmission is possible but rare, so not a big deal for anyone who isn’t closely associated with Chinese food markets. It will likely remain so, but worth watching.

            February 7, 2020 at 6:51 am
            February 7, 2020 at 6:51 am
            chrisminor0008 Asked: I’d like to throw a question out for the thoughtful commetariat here. What are your predictions of how bad conditions will get in Asian countries besides China due to the coronavirus?

            Due to people becoming severely ill, not too bad. Secondary transmission of coronavirus outside of China seems to be sub-exponential, so quarantine and isolation will probably keep things within tolerable limits.
            Due to people becoming severely ill, not too bad. Secondary transmission of coronavirus outside of China seems to be sub-exponential, so quarantine and isolation will probably keep things within tolerable limits.

            February 24, 2020 at 3:08 pm
            It asserts that it is not possible to contain the coronavirus; I must have missed the part where there was any real argument on that point. I would really like a good argument on that point; it’s counter to my own assessment, but I’m the wrong kind of doctor to have high confidence in that assessment – and I’m disappointed by the quantity and quality of relevant information generally available on that front.

            The bulk of the article is a pretty good description of what we ought to be doing, globally and locally, if containment has failed and a developed-world pandemic is inevitable. It just doesn’t establish that premise.

            In your own words. All you did was click your tongue at people worrying about C-19. This appears to be the first open thread in which you expressed any serious worry about the virus (strangely around the same time as the media anti-Trump freakout) and immediately started banging the Trump bad hammer.

          • John Schilling says:

            In your own words. All you did was click your tongue at people worrying about C-19.

            On February 7th, yes, I was predicting that it probably wasn’t going to be too bad.

            On February 24th, I was lamenting the shortage of hard data with which to assess how bad it was going to be. That’s something the CDC among others should have been much better at providing, and unlike myself, POTUS doesn’t need to just lament the CDC not providing him with enough information.

            It’s the government’s job to be prepared for worst-case as well as best-guess outcomes, so even on the 7th they should have been on the ball about making sure they had enough test kits to positively track whatever was going to be happening. And, contrary to your “immediately started banging the Trump bad hammer” bit, I’ve been quite clear that the early failings in that matter were not Trump’s fault. And I’ve been pushing back on the “millions will die because Trump screwed up” hysteria as well. Possibly that fairness on my part is wasted effort, and since I’m not welcome in your tribe I might as well signal my loyalty to the other tribe.

            But your guy has long since exhausted any credit he once had on “the bureaucracy screwed up, how was I to know!” grounds.

          • Clutzy says:

            On February 7th, yes, I was predicting that it probably wasn’t going to be too bad.

            On February 24th, I was lamenting the shortage of hard data with which to assess how bad it was going to be. That’s something the CDC among others should have been much better at providing, and unlike myself, POTUS doesn’t need to just lament the CDC not providing him with enough information.

            So, at the time when any plausible quarantine measures would have been really effective (early Feb/Late Jan ) you were predicting the opposite. By Feb 24 when we already had data it was a particularly bad disease you lamented the lack of data.

            I really don’t know what to say. You are blaming Trump. No one on the right says he’s been perfect, or even good. But the best evidence we have is that all the prominent Democrats would have been much worse, because they wouldn’t have closed any borders until March, I’m not sure if any has even talked approvingly of the idea yet. None were talking about aggressive corono responses in February, it basically was not an issue with them.

    • Murphy says:

      I still find it bizarre that the US seems to be trying to avoid testing people. From the outside it looks like an attempt to keep the official numbers down.

      Travel ban seems a tad pointless since it’s now firmly spread to the US.

      “quickly! We must shut the stable door before the horses bolt!”

      [a week later, shuts the stable door]

      “Acting on the advice of experts I have shut the stable door!”

      [supporters]:”What more do you want? he did what the experts told him to do!”

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        It’s incompetence, and also red tape, and also IRB nonsense https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/10/us/coronavirus-testing-delays.html

      • zzzzort says:

        I don’t know if it’s avoiding testing, so much as rationing tests (the shortage of tests being the central regulatory failure, rather than the testing guidelines).

      • DinoNerd says:

        Any wet-behind-the-ears apprentice conspiracy theorist can find some really nasty explanations for the testing debacle. A journeyman conspiracy theorist can find even worse explanations for the overall handling of the disease in the US, if not globally. And I’m not sure what a master could find – my talents don’t stretch that far, even by imagining that I’m reading a political thriller rather than the lastest news articles.

        I’m still inclined to favour incompetence, with a smidgen of short sighted, short term but ordinary self interest.

    • Machine Interface says:

      The Department of Homeland Security clarified that this travel suspension only applied to the Schengen Area; it does not apply to European countries that are not members of the Schengen Agreement, such as the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Croatia, Albania, or Belarus.[337] Furthermore, the travel ban does not apply to US citizens or permanent residents, or their family members, or those traveling on certain types of visa.

      It’s not only too late to make a difference, it’s also completely useless as formulated. French people who had planned to travel to the US sometimes soon are already changing their flight so that it leaves from the UK instead.

      If they wanted something useful they should do what Israel or Lebanon is doing: ban anyone who has stayed more than 6 hours in a hotspot country (with quarantine for returning citizens). But it’s way too late for that anyway.

      Everytime I think I might give Trump the benefit of the doubt, he somehow manages to immediatly shatter any illusion that he seems to know what he’s doing.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        It’s also completely useless as formulated. French people who had planned to travel to the US sometimes soon are already changing their flight so that it leaves from the UK instead.

        The policy isn’t “as long as you leave from the UK you are OK.” One reason that the UK is exempted is because they are sharing their flight information, and we can tell if you are just skipping through the UK to get into the US.

        https://twitter.com/DHS_Wolf/status/1237915985476227078

        which suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States. These countries, known as the Schengen Area, include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland

        The White House had to walk back three separate things Trump said last night within minutes of his speech, so confusion about this policy is normal.

        • acymetric says:

          so confusion about this policy is normal expected under this administration.

          I would prefer not to call an inability to communicate important polices that impact thousands or millions of people “normal”.

    • sty_silver says:

      The expert Sam Harris interviewed recently (link) mentioned flight bans as a way to react to a pandemic.

      Conclusion: it does a reasonable but not an amazing amount (delays the worst by a couple of weeks – I forgot the numbers). However, that was based on the assumption that the ban goes in place early afair, so this should be significantly less effective. Closing schools would contribute more.

      So it’s too late and it’s not the right lever and it’s not enough. Still, I think it’s the right decision. It should save some lives.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Banning travel from Europe, at this point, gets me a “meh.” We are probably going to have an order of magnitude more cases from local transmission than imported cases from the EU (especially since American citizens are exempt — unless they will be held in quarantine?).

        But it’s a common tactic, and people really shouldn’t be flying around the world during a pandemic anyway. There are other more important things to complain about.

    • winston says:

      the ‘trump speak’ assertion seems unfalsifiable, since most americans, and the rest of the world don’t speak this language. i would also argue that he shouldn’t use this private language given that most of the world does not understand it.

  21. TheContinentalOp says:

    Personal finance experts recommend that individuals and families have six (or nine or twelve) months worth of spending in an emergency savings account.

    Are there similar guidelines for businesses? There’s talk about how the airlines, cruise industry, resorts, and such are going to need a bailout. Is keeping that much cash on hand unproductive except for the black swan events where you’ll need it or go bust?

    • acymetric says:

      IANAE (I am not an economist), but it seems like any business who tries to do that is going to be out competed by one who doesn’t, so the only businesses that could even consider it are businesses that are so entrenched and have such an advantage that they have no concern about competition. Not sure how many businesses that would be, but probably not a lot.

      That advice for individuals/families has always seemed a little pie-in-the-sky to me. I’m an individual who makes pretty decent money and I don’t have to support a family. Saving up 6 months worth would probably take me a couple years if I lived extremely frugally.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        You want a few months of expenses, not income. If you lost your job and cancelled all non-essential things like cable and gym memberships, what would you need to pay for insurance, housing, food?

    • Murphy says:

      The norm seems to be the opposite: encouraging firms to take on as much debt as they can handle.

      This always seemed utterly absurd to me since sure, it boosts returns but it makes the whole thing extra-fragile.

      In a competitive market it would need to be regulation across the board to require companies over a certain size to keep money in some kind of emergency escrow fund, (that they aren’t allowed mortgage, borrow against etc) enough to cover emergencies or pay employees back pay and taxes if the firm suddenly went belly up or hit a major emergency.

      I’m sure some people would love to suggest insurance… but insurance works poorly against risks that suddenly hit everything at once worldwide because then the insurance fund just goes bust and everyone is fucked. They rely heavily on a limited fraction of policy holders ever claiming all at once.

      What you really need for emergencies is stockpiled money and resources, not just risk pooling.

      • AG says:

        That’s what I’ve heard from corporate higher-ups before: that having a certain amount of debt is more beneficial than being totally in the black, so they do it deliberately.

    • DarkTigger says:

      I remember that back in the accounting class I had in my German vocational school our teacher made an advice about the amount of liquidity that is consindered normal in different industries.
      But I don’t remember how much that was.

    • mfm32 says:

      Liquidity analysis is a core part of evaluating the health of any business. The posters above seem to be working from broad-brush economic first principles, which in this case are highly misleading. I would bet that businesses are in general more liquid and less indebted than households in the US.

      There isn’t really a universal rule because of the greater diversity in the types of assets and liabilities that businesses have and because this analysis is a standard part of any creditworthiness determination. Anyone considering investing in or loaning money to a business will do a detailed analysis of liquidity. Businesses will do similar analyses on significant suppliers or customers. I’m not a banker, so I’ll leave discussion of the details to others.

      Lots of rules of thumb exist, like the quick ratio. The “healthy zones” differ by industry. It is generally accepted that most businesses should be able to meet the next year of liabilities with liquid assets, though, which accords with the standard household guidance.

    • John Schilling says:

      Any business that has a credible chance of surviving, can secure commercial credit to cover a short-term cash crunch. There are still legitimate reasons for a business to have a fair degree of cash(*) around, e.g. being a seasonal business that has to make off-season payroll from their seasonal revenue. But for dealing with emergencies, credit works well enough.

      And, “what if the emergency includes a banking system failure so we can’t get credit”, usually gets the proper rebuttal that in that case your suppliers are shut down and your customers are broke so your vault-o-cash is just a consolation prize rather than the salvation of your business.

      * In the broadest sense of the term; almost never literal banknotes

    • SamChevre says:

      Businesses make a difference between “cash on hand”, “liquid assets”, and “marketable assets”, which very few households have enough assets to worry about.

      Cash on hand is managed very tightly, because a shortage is only a problem if there are banking-system issues. “Liquid assets” (T-Bills, commercial paper, etc) are where most “we might need this next weke” assets are kept. But for paying employees if something goes wrong, “marketable assets” are fine – investment grade bonds are a very common investment in this category.

      • Eric Rall says:

        I thought “cash on hand” and “liquid assets” were usually lumped together as “cash and cash equivalents”, with the defining feature of the latter being that due to a combination of very close maturity date and very low default risk, cash equivalents almost always trade within a few percent of face value. As the name implies, there’s little practical difference for a business between “cash” in the form of checking or money market deposits vs “cash equivalents” in the form of T-Bills or commercial paper.

        On the other hand, the “cash and cash equivalents” category might be specific to Financial Accounting. If you’re talking in a Managerial Accounting context, I’m less confident that they get lumped together in a single category.

        • SamChevre says:

          For measures of financial stability, you are correct. For a Treasury function, managing to keep most of the “cash and cash equivalents” in cash equivalents is part of their job. And in 2008, it was relevant for a few days, as some cash equivalents were suddenly much less liquid than typical.

    • Deiseach says:

      I think (and I know less than nothing about economics) the argument there is that having a pile of cash sitting in a bank or wherever doing nothing while waiting for a rainy day is bad for the business, bad for the economy, because that is money that could be put to use (e.g. invested) but instead it’s just sitting there.

      So businesses aren’t really encouraged to have piles of cash sitting around doing nothing (unless they’re Apple or Google or the likes who can’t help accumulating Scrooge McDuck vaults of dosh).

    • AG says:

      Well, for gentrifying areas, small businesses can’t save anything because of rising costs eating any revenue increases.

    • Chalid says:

      You’re thinking about Optimal Capital Structure.

      I can’t sum it up any better than the first paragraph:

      “The optimal capital structure of a firm is the best mix of debt and equity financing that maximizes a company’s market value while minimizing its cost of capital. In theory, debt financing offers the lowest cost of capital due to its tax deductibility. However, too much debt increases the financial risk to shareholders and the return on equity that they require. Thus, companies have to find the optimal point at which the marginal benefit of debt equals the marginal cost.”

    • abystander says:

      Individuals are different than business because they want to retire, so naturally should be building up reserves for when they retire and having savings of several months of expenses is a step in that direction. Cyclical business may need savings for downturns. In the long term if a business ages and its products are not longer desired, it just returns what money it can to the owners.

    • Konstantin says:

      If the businesses are fundamentally sound, somebody will extend them credit. If you have a secure LOC of 6-9 months working capital you probably don’t need that much cash on hand.

  22. Bobobob says:

    Is this whole Coronavirus panic some kind of liability cascade?

    Harvard suspends classes, generating headlines and setting the nationwide standard. Other major universities follow suit, all around the country. At the few college/universities that are still open, this discussion transpires:

    Administrator A: “It seems unreasonable to suspend classes. This disease doesn’t even largely affect college-age kids.”
    Administrator B: “Well, what if a kid does happen to get sick and die? We’d be wide open to a lawsuit. We need to preserve our endowment. Better to suspend classes and be safe.”

    Now imagine this discussion multiplied 100,000 times, at every school, business, institution, etc. across the country.

    Might one solution be to legislate against Coronavirus-related lawsuits? Can that even be constitutionally done?

    (Just to clarify, I do believe the flattening-the-curve argument, but I don’t understand all the actions targeting younger people when it’s clearly much older people who are at risk.)

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Two reasons: first, all those young people meet elders. So having 50% of population infected, even if it’s mostly young ones, makes a lot harder from elders to stay healthy than if it’s just 5% infected.

      Second, number of available beds in intensive care is astonishingly small. We’re not talking literal beds, we’re talking a bunch of machines that have (real) costs of thousands of usd PER DAY. So even if the young ones have complication rates of 1% (conservative estimate, if death rates are 0.2%), this still makes for simultaneous cases that are probably one or two orders of magnitude over the available “beds”.

      • DarkTigger says:

        Second, number of available beds in intensive care is astonishingly small. We’re not talking literal beds, we’re talking a bunch of machines that have (real) costs of thousands of usd PER DAY. So even if the young ones have complication rates of 1% (conservative estimate, if death rates are 0.2%), this still makes for simultaneous cases that are probably one or two orders of magnitude over the available “beds”.

        Also ICU beds have strong oportunity cost of the “we could not put this stroke/accident/assault/flu victim in an ICU bed because none were available.” and “we are down 2 doctors and 8 nurses, because some got infected, and the others had to work 3 shifts straight and are now on the brink of collapse” kind.
        This happened in Wuhan and is happening in Lombardy.

    • Aapje says:

      Harvard also has professors and other older people running around.

      Besides, it would be a PR disaster just to become a COVID hot spot, even if no ones dies.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I don’t think you can legislate against this. Regardless of lawsuits, no administrator wants to be dragged in the media because they didn’t follow “better safe than sorry” even if that leads to dumb results.

      (Background:
      1. I think a lot of reactions are appropriate to stop the US from turning into Italy.

      2. But “better safe than sorry” can lead to making things much worse for everyone.

      3. But college kids are right at the age where their risk-accepting parts of their brains have been set to “STUPID”, and they are very mobile and travel around the country, so they are possibly even worse super-vectors than elementary school kids.)

      • acymetric says:

        3. But college kids are right at the age where their risk-accepting parts of their brains have been set to “STUPID”, and they are very mobile and travel around the country, so they are possibly even worse super-vectors than elementary school kids.)

        Are college students more likely to travel and make stupid decisions while engaged in structured/scheduled in person classes or when they are basically given a semester off?

        • Bobobob says:

          Good point!

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It is a good argument. If they are being sent home to their parents, presumably mom and dad aren’t going to be willing to pay for Johnny to go to Italy to get a virus that will kill them, though.

            Also, then you push responsibility off to the parents.

          • acymetric says:

            Sure, but Johnny wasn’t going to Italy in the middle of sprint semester anyway. He might decide, now that he has all this free time, to go visit his friend in [distant city] and bring the virus with him if he is already carrying or pick it up and bring it home if anyone is infected there/along the way.

            College is a more effective quasi-quarantine than being at home doing whatever.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Maybe. Although if he’s at home, mom and dad might not let him take the car.

            On the other hand, living in dorms, one student per room, with professional cleaning staff disinfecting the common bathrooms and kitchens twice a day could be a really good solution for containment.

          • acymetric says:

            Maybe. Although if he’s at home, mom and dad might not let him take the car.

            I think you are drastically overestimating the amount of control parents can exert over most 18-22 year olds. Probably even the amount of control most parents want or attempt to exert.

            And for the parents that do have full control of their kids actions (ha), it still requires that the parents place the importance of limiting viral spread high enough for them to decide not to let their kid leave the house.

          • Anthony says:

            it still requires that the parents place the importance of limiting viral spread high enough for them to decide not to let their kid leave the house.

            And for the parents to decide that limiting their chances of catching the virus doesn’t involve telling their kid to stay away from the house

        • zzzzort says:

          The big danger is lectures, which are often 100’s of people in a room, and in lecture halls that are used intensively, such that the same seat could be occupied by 5-10 people over a couple days. The most common response so far is cancelling lectures; kicking people out of student housing seems only a logical outcome of no longer having any event on campus.

    • Deiseach says:

      Not so much the young people being at risk, more Young Tom gets it, gets a mild case, gets better. However, before he was diagnosed as having it, he was in contact with Grandad Bert and Granny Lucy and old Mrs Smith and …. then somebody gets it via community-transmitted infection, and if they’re Old Mr or Mrs Smith with high blood pressure or a bad heart or diabetes, they are much more likely to die.

      Especially if Young Tom is not 20 but 4 years old. Kids that age are constantly getting sick and passing it on to other kids, parents, their families, childcare workers and teachers, etc. etc. etc. This is bad enough if it’s colds and flu, or the odd time they may have been exposed to someone with chickenpox etc. Just imagine if it’s coronavirus. 4 year old Tom may be okay, but Grandad Mike isn[t likely to get off so lightly.

      • acymetric says:

        It makes more sense for K-12 students who come home every day. It makes less sense for college students who live at school, and are arguably better quarantined/separated from the vulnerable living in dorms on campus than living at home*.

        *There is the issue of older teachers and support staff, of course.

    • acymetric says:

      Is this whole Coronavirus panic some kind of liability cascade?

      Without commenting on the merits of closing/canceling things in general, NCAA basketball conferences just canceled all the major conference tournaments. The Big East canceled their tournament at halftime of the first game, which is obviously 100% about optics rather than effects because the relevant people where already in the stadium and breathing/sweating on each other for 20 minutes…any damage was already done. Not saying there is no benefit to cancelling the tournaments, but there is pretty clearly no benefit to cancelling an in progress game at halftime.

      • Matt M says:

        Right. I wouldn’t say it’s a “liability” cascade so much as it is a “public relations” cascade.

        If this gets really bad, to the point where at least, say, 10% of the population becomes infected, it would be very difficult to prove that any individual infected person contracted the virus from any specific other individual at any specific location or event. The risk of a basketball fan successfully suing the NBA, a specific NBA team, or a specific NBA venue is virtually zero.

        But once the dominant popular narrative becomes “we can prevent this by shutting down public events” and once governments start officially recommending the shutdown of public events, well, it would take some major cojones by the NBA to just keep on playing games as usual. And if they do that, and if we then do reach the “really bad scenario,” the popular narrative will quickly become “it’s the NBA’s fault we have this pandemic.”

        I can’t think of many things that might engender more hatred towards a brand, to the extent that it represents an existential threat to their ongoing business model, than being blamed for exacerbating a global pandemic.

        And keep in mind that all of these events are entertainment. Luxuries. Wal-Mart can stay open for a while making a (legitimate) argument of “If we shut down, people might starve.” The NBA can’t do that.

    • gbdub says:

      Many US colleges are on spring break, so closing things down for a couple weeks now prevents having students who picked up COVID on their trips from returning to school while infectious but not yet symptomatic.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      @Bobobob

      Did you make up the term “liability cascade?” DDG doesn’t return anything that looks like it’s a common meme. That term should be added to the glossary and you deserve credit for it.

      My kid’s chess tournament tomorrow is canceled/postponed. There’s no reason to do that when the schools are still open, but “abundance of caution” and all that. Liability cascade. That’s a good term.

  23. Loriot says:

    Apparently, the S&P 500 has hit circuit breakers to temporarily limit trading three times this week, including twice just this morning. Has that ever happened before?

    • acymetric says:

      If it hits one more time trading is done for the day…

    • DarkTigger says:

      I was told when it hit the circuit breaker the first time this week, it never happened before under the current regulation (which admittelty only is in effect since 2013) and was only done once in 1997.

      I should have sold my stock positions back in late Feburary.

    • broblawsky says:

      The circuit breakers have only existed since 1987, so that’s only 4 bear markets before this one (if you count Dec. 2018).

    • BBA says:

      Only twice – once on Monday and once today. Both cases were just minutes after the open and expected given drops in foreign and futures trading, which is not really what the circuit breakers are meant for. They’re more for sudden intraday drops, possibly due to trading errors, but the regulation as written says “down 7% from yesterday’s close? 15-minute halt” no matter when or why the 7% drop occurs (other than the last 25 minutes of the day when the rule is suspended).

      • Loriot says:

        I was confused by the distinction between futures and actual stock market circuit breakers. Apparently pre market futures trading hit the circuit breakers on Monday, Thursday, and Friday, while the actual market hit the circuit breakers on Monday and Thursday.

  24. AlesZiegler says:

    Fyi, Czech government just ordered closing of all pubs in the country from 20 to 6 every night. If you know anything about Czechia, you know that this is very serious step.

    • Deiseach says:

      It must be serious, our lot may have cancelled the Paddy’s Day bash but they’re letting the pubs stay open!

      Stay strong (and sober), brother!

      • AlesZiegler says:

        Judging by the statistics, you really are not much better off than us.

        You probably do not have so many people coming from Italy – there were thousands of Czech tourists there days ago, and of those few of them who were tested, many came positive. Also we have a shortage of medical personell, tests and protective equipment.

        But regardless, if I would be Irish, I would probably write to my parliament representative to demand closing of everything nonessential.

        • Deiseach says:

          They cancelled the Six Nations rugby match, but.

          But.

          Never mind letting the pubs stay open, they let Cheltenham go ahead. Well, most of that is on the UK not cancelling it, but I can understand why with the likely enormous economic losses that would entail.

          But.

          There has been at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Cheltenham. Thousands of Irish have travelled over to the festival where it’s expected around 60,000 people will attend over the four days.

          So the racing bosses said “No problem, go ahead”, the British government don’t seem to have said a single word one way or the other, and our own lot were gearing up to head off for (reduced) Paddy’s Day junkets abroad.

          If X hundred people return home and come down with community-transmitted infections from the racing, it’ll be too late to bolt the stable door. But who knows? Maybe there will be nothing from it!

          • Watchman says:

            Flippantly, cancelling Cheltenham would be a really bad idea: rioting Irishmen, a virtual state of war across the UK’s only land border, the added drinking pressure on the Birmingham St Patrick’s day parade (also not cancelled- there’s a pattern here…).

            Seriously, why would the UK, which hasn’t yet called for closures (either in a bid to reach the Easter holidays, or because they are looking to lower the curve of infection not postpone a high peak), cancel Cheltenham? Ireland is behind the UK on the curve so having loads of Iris come here is low risk for the UK. And there’s a traditional view of decisions affecting Ireland negatively in politics here…

      • Anthony says:

        Keeping the pubs open because alcohol is a disinfectant?

  25. Thegnskald says:

    Anyone know the average investment portfolio of baby boomers prior to the current activity?

    My gut instinct is that this is going to trigger a long term shift into less risky investments by that generation, which could have longer term impacts on the stock market. It wouldn’t surprise me if, adjusting for any inflation in the meantime, it is a decade before the stock market “recovers” from this crash. (Also it might be tomorrow. Don’t take this as investment advice, just a personal expectation.)

    • acymetric says:

      I’ve been expecting 10+ year recovery time for over a week now*.

      *I am not an expert.

    • Randy M says:

      Going by standard advice, Boomers, being close to retirement or recently past it, should have shifted to low risk options, right?

      • Thegnskald says:

        My anecdotal evidence suggests they didn’t, but it is biased by the samples in question.

    • anon-e-moose says:

      Yes, most boomers are invested more heavily in equities and high (relative) yield stock-based investments because they can’t get yield anywhere else. Let me assure you that Joe and Mary Smith, age 70, would much prefer to be in a Municipal or Corporate bond ladder pulling 5-6%, rather than hunting for overpriced low-volatility dividend paying stocks. The issue is that most retirees need a 5-6% return in order to meet their spending needs, because they haven’t saved enough. If they can’t get that return via more conservative investments, they’re forced to take more investment risk in order to meet their return requirements.

      The investment industry has been aware of this since ~2011 or so. Hence the creation of equity indexed annuities and similar products for middle-income or upper-middle investors. Higher net worth investors are inundated with marketing “Alts,” or alternatives that supposedly track contra or decoupled from the equity markets.

  26. Deiseach says:

    Start tolling the plague bells, the schools are closing over here! The big Dublin St Patrick’s Day parade was cancelled only recently, following most towns and cities around the county cancelling theirs, but the schools weren’t supposed to close (the irony in this article is thick: “no, it’s only rumours and misinformation that the schools will close Friday, ignore it – Dept. of Education”. Today – “schools will close Friday”).

    Okay, at around 11:30 a.m. local time we got the news to close our service from 6 p.m. this evening for the next two weeks (so, if we don’t all keel over and die, we’ll re-open on 30th March).

    News was announced by our Taoiseach who, conveniently, is in America at the moment. All schools, colleges and childcare services, as well as cultural institutions, are to close. Restaurants and pubs can stay open, but should encourage “social distancing”.

    The government (we don’t have a new one yet, so the old one is in place until we do) are taking a level-headed approach to this, and admitting that yeah, there will be deaths (the first death happened yesterday, an elderly woman with underlying health conditions who seems to have been a case of community transmission):

    There will be many more cases.

    More people will get sick and unfortunately, we must face the tragic reality that some people will die.

    So, I’m off work for the next fortnight. We’ve had two confirmed cases of Covid-19 in my county (it was only a matter of time until it spread here from Cork) and mostly I’m watching the news to see who’s going to be next. Already, by 12 noon, I was hearing reports that everyone was queuing up to buy the shelves bare in the shops in town. Glad I did my weekly shopping early this week!

    If you don’t hear from me again, you’ll know what happened! 😉

    • silver_swift says:

      Meanwhile, despite having an order of magnitude more cases, the Dutch government just decided to keep all the schools open (though everybody is strongly recommended to work from home wherever possible and to cancel events with over 100 people).

    • HarmlessFrog says:

      Schools and universities closed in Poland as well, for two weeks. I think people are way too worried about this thing.

    • Plumber says:

      @Deiseach says:

      “Start tolling the plague bells, the schools are closing over here! The big Dublin St Patrick’s Day parade was cancelled only recently, following most towns and cities around the county cancelling theirs, but the schools weren’t supposed to close…”

      A few that had sick students already were (no one said so, but knowing which schools had been closed they were one with many Chinese surnames students), but come Monday all of San Francisco’s public schools will be closed (“public” as in “state”, not ‘public’ as in how the island next door to yours uses the term), the Archdiocese of San Francisco yesterday closed all 90 of its schools in San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties after a student tested positive for the virus.

      Our St. Paddy’s Day parade (which has long substituted for our Labor Day parade and was kinda a big deal for building trades unions here) is cancelled as well, as are many other events. 

      Selfishly, I’m hoping major league baseball games are also cancelled because that means a shorter commute for me, and on that note: I’ve read reports of “San Francisco seems like a ghost town with so many now telecommuting”, but the roads sure still seem full to me, but I understand that folks are abandoning BART (our local subway) and busses.

      • BBA says:

        The report from Manhattan: I normally walk to work, and I guess I still do now that the office is closed and everyone’s working from home. Just, uh, walking a couple of feet to my desk instead of a couple of blocks to my office.

        I took the subway the other day, and it was surprisingly pleasant – the train was at about half capacity and smelled of disinfectant. I guess now we know what it takes to get the MTA to start cleaning the subway.

      • JayT says:

        I took Bart on Wednesday, and I was able to get a seat at 5:00pm. I was pretty shocked . I had heard 15-30% drop in ridership, but it seemed more like 75% off what I normally would see at that time, which is literally shoving your way on.

  27. rlms says:

    The SSC diplomacy game is probably looking for a replacement France (they don’t seem to be messaging anyone so I’m assuming they’ve dropped out). If you’re interested in joining, click here if you want to play by yourself (only for people who’ve played before) or comment below if you’d like to join as part of a team. Once I’ve confirmed they’ve dropped out I’ll put someone/a team in to replace them. The game hasn’t started yet (still in Spring 1901) so you shouldn’t be at a significant disadvantage.

  28. winston says:

    My comments have intermittently not been showing up on ssc, I do not believe I have been banned, since it has been happening for multiple accounts on multiple devices (this account sometimes works and sometimes does not). Any advice on how to get tech help?

    • acymetric says:

      Are you including links? Sometimes links (or too many links) can trigger the filter, although I’ve never seen any explanation for exactly what links will do so. Alternatively, you might be using a filtered word (check out the comments page and scroll down to “Censored Words”, and note that the list of examples is not all inclusive).

      • winston says:

        i dont believe i have used any banned words. the filter also seems to be on or off for blocks of time, and not on a per comment basis

  29. Bobobob says:

    Surefire ways to avoid Coronavirus!

    –Dunk your head in a bucket of supersaturated vitamin C solution three times. Remove it twice.
    –Don’t take any wooden nickels. However, ingesting one real penny every ten minutes will provide more than adequate levels of zinc.
    –Teach friends and family the art of Japanese Reverse Coughing, wherein an incipient cough is arrested in the trachea, rerouted down the pharynx, and emerges via peristalsis as an antiseptic fart.

    Hey, just a few more of these and we can submit something to McSweeney’s under Scott Alexander’s name!

    • FLWAB says:

      Harness the antiseptic properties of copper by bronzing your mucus membranes.

    • anon-e-moose says:

      It’s a well know fact that bioavailability is higher in rectally administered medicines, versus orally. Which is why, in my household, we’re applying our hand sanitizer via butt-chug.

    • John Schilling says:

      Social distancing is clearly going to be vital here, so we’re going to need solitary alternatives to traditional social activities. Therefore…

      Reality wins. I got nothing on this.

    • noyann says:

      Gargle every 30 minutes for 3 minutes with a soap solution.

    • Statismagician says:

      The situation is developing rapidly, so be sure to attend your daily meeting on social distancing measures.

      • Matt M says:

        You joke but this did literally happen to me yesterday. Boss asked me to host a meeting on coronavirus safety. He sat right next to me (it was a large room, plenty of other spaces were available).

        I tried not to glare at him when I went over how a six-foot distance is recommended.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Avoid touching your Facebook.

      • AG says:

        But you can just keep Tumblrin’ down, as long as you stay six feet away from the dash.

        Make sure to stock up on a month’s worth of Grams. Hurry, with panic buying they’re sure to be gone in a Snap, and the time is TikTokin’ down!
        In the event of a power outage, submit your location to Wattpad.

    • helloo says:

      Remote access to your work computer from your home computer which you are accessing remotely from your underground bunker.

      Keep 1 meter distances from all humans. Including yourself (presumably)

      Increase your chance at having access to a nearby hospital by turning your home into one.

      Eat large amount of salmon and salmon eggs and hibernate for a few months.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Parents are facing increasing difficulty as a result of widespread school closings, and the consequent need to ensure their children are supervised.

      However, it’s important to note that airfares are lower than ever.

      Parents can take advantage of this by booking their kids on round-trip flights during the day.

  30. AKL says:

    It has been fairly well established that what “we” can do basically boils down to social distancing, washing our hands, not touching our faces, and trying to build a month or two supply of essentials.

    Presumably, the government and private sector are moving as fast as possible to manufacture and distribute diagnostic tests at scale (though I have not heard anything significant about screening tests).

    Pretty clearly, leaders of organizations are at least actively thinking about canceling events and gatherings. Towns may elect not to cancel school, but it’s at least no one is ignoring or missing the possibility.

    What about hospital capacity? I understand we can’t just conjure 10x the ECMO capacity out of thin air… but presumably hospitalization short of intensive care can make a significant difference for many, many people. What is the art of the possible here in one week? Two weeks? One month? Why aren’t there field hospitals going up in every major city, or at least preparations for such? Why are we hearing nothing about this from our (US) government?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Presumably, the government and private sector are moving as fast as possible to manufacture and distribute diagnostic tests at scale

      We’ve been hearing that the CDC is moving as slow as possible on rolling out tests at scale. Not sure what the current state of lower-level governments and the private sector being allowed to move as fast as possible is.

      • Matt M says:

        I’m hoping that at some point, some sort of large entity (either private sector or state/local government) will use this opportunity to call the feds’ bluff.

        What would happen if Johnson and Johnson came out and gave a press conference and said “We have developed a test. We’ve tested it thoroughly and are confident that it is 99% accurate. We are hereby offering it, at cost, to any public or private entity who wants it. It is not approved or endorsed by the CDC, FDA, or anyone else. We don’t care. We can’t wait for them. If they want to stop us from distributing this, they’ll have to throw us all in jail.”

        The government has backed down from over-regulation before when the stakes were a lot less than this. Uber operated in defiance of the law in plenty of markets, and got away with it because they were too popular – any city official that tried to throw the book at them risked being voted out of office.

        • matthewravery says:

          I heard something about the Gates foundation planning to do something like this for Seattle, but that was, like, a week ago. Haven’t heard anything since.

        • hls2003 says:

          Maybe I am misusing my Bayesian statistics, but I think mass testing is not a great idea, at least at this stage.

          Let’s say you have the 99% accurate test you are saying, so that it gives a false positive 1% of the time. There are currently a couple thousand confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., about 1 per 100,000 population. Let’s assume that it is actually 100 times more prevalent than that with undiscovered low-intensity cases, so actually it’s 1 per 1,000. If you test 1,000 people with your 99% accurate test, it will produce 10 false positives mixed in with the true positive. So if I test positive, assuming no other information, I should estimate there is about a 10% chance I actually have the disease. Right?

          Of course, you can mitigate this by having independent lines of evidence, but even that becomes more difficult if you start testing at mass scale. If you test 100 million people and have to wade through 1 million false positives, you’ll need a couple other statistically-independent tests at 99% just to get to a manageable number.

          • actinide meta says:

            I think it would be a really good idea if we had the capability (and I think we would already have the technical capability if we had the social capability).

            First of all, if you could identify people with a 10% chance of having the disease, interventions (social distancing, etc) concentrated on them and people close to them would be orders of magnitude more cost effective than those spread across the whole population of infected and noninfected people. You could also be ready to give them chloroquine or remdesivir or whatever at the first sign of fever and cough.

            Secondly, I think “false positives” for RT-PCR tests almost all boil down to sample contamination or something in the prime/probe sequences that isn’t actually unique to the target virus. In the latter case you could start sequencing them and updating the tests until they are basically perfect in that respect. In the former case you can repeat tests. It should be possible with a modest overhead to make the actual error rate really small. It isn’t like tests where the thing measured by the test just has a modest correlation with the thing you actually care about.

            Thirdly, even if the information was useless as to individuals, having better estimates of how many people are infected in what places would make for drastically better decision making and modeling. Right now everyone is flying blind with a 2 week delay and a large unknown factor between our measurements and the actual number of infections.

          • John Schilling says:

            The value of large-scale testing is that it lets you do contact tracing. If you do contact tracing on everyone who is identified as carrying COVID-19, you have to do roughly Dunbar’s number of tests per patient, which would have meant roughly 10,000 tests two weeks ago and 200,000 tests now. That gives you ~2 new real cases and, if the test is only 99% accurate