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Open Thread 150.25

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1,280 Responses to Open Thread 150.25

  1. actinide meta says:

    If lockdowns go on long enough, are price gouging laws likely to starve us all to death?

    It seems likely that the real costs of producing almost everything have and will continue to rise throughout lockdowns and other responses to the epidemic. Every essential industry uses products and services from
    many “nonessential” industries and will have to substitute. The government will work hard to prevent the cost of labor or general price level from falling. And it is illegal in most places to raise prices on essential items more than 10-15% in an emergency.

    I’m extremely confident that America could feed itself just fine under these conditions at, say, twice the normal cost of food. But if this won’t be permitted, won’t marginal producers gradually shut down as they find sales at their previous prices unprofitable? At first the empty store shelves would be blamed on hoarding, but eventually everyone’s stockpile is depleted and the shelves are still empty. Or all the food is going to Arizona, the only state I could find without a price gouging law. There are big lags in this system and we have just seen a demonstration of how good governments are at dealing with large control lags.

    • Lambert says:

      If people start actually starving, they’ll start rationing food.
      This isn’t simple to implement and some juristictions will probably bungle it.
      But it’s a pretty standard response to emergency/war conditions and manages to mitigate the worst of price rises and shortages.
      Not that I haven’t mail-ordered a bunch of vegetable seeds just in case.

    • johan_larson says:

      There is likely to be some disruption of food production and distribution, but there is a lot of slack in the system. The North American food industry produces more than 3500 calories per person per day. We could drop to half of that for months on end and be cranky but just fine.

      • rahien.din says:

        Oh my God – this.

      • Matt M says:

        And what percentage of that is doritos, pepsi cola, and snickers bars?

        All food is not equally nourishing, and all capital is not homogeneous. If we see a significant disruption to our ability to produce meat, vegetables, dairy products, and grains, all the candy factories in the world aren’t going to be super helpful…

    • John Schilling says:

      It seems likely that the real costs of producing almost everything have and will continue to rise throughout lockdowns and other responses to the epidemic.

      It seems likely that the real costs of producing bulk foodstuffs will not increase substantially in the coming year; agriculture and its supporting industries are exempt from the lockdowns, and it will probably take more than a year for secondary and tertiary effects (e.g. shortages of spare parts for the factory that makes spare parts for tractors) to work through the system. Plus, farmers are good at improvising.

      The cost of turning truckloads of flour, sugar, etc, into colorful packages of brand-name breakfast cereal may increase dramatically, but nobody is going to starve because they had to eat Government-Os instead of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs. If there’s enough commodity foodstuffs in Kansas, turning that into bland edibles delivered everywhere else is something that military logisticians and even government bureaucrats can do well enough to avoid actual mass starvation.

      • Lambert says:

        Unfortunately, moving back away from ‘bland edibles’ takes decades.
        (See: postwar British cuisine)

      • ana53294 says:

        it will probably take more than a year for secondary and tertiary effects (e.g. shortages of spare parts for the factory that makes spare parts for tractors) to work through the system. Plus, farmers are good at improvising.

        A major effect is the prevention of migration. Agricultural seasonal workers tend to be immigrants, or at least migrate from other regions of the country. In a lockdown, that’s complicated.

        Wheat and maize, which are collected by huge tractors with little human labor will be fine. Fruit and veg, which need human workers, won’t be fine.

        • John Schilling says:

          “Fortunately”, fruits and vegetables make up a small enough portion of the typical American diet that shortages there are unlikely to have catastrophic effects. Well, no more so than the unhealthiness of the American diet has already had.

          • albatross11 says:

            Also, ISTR that the labor costs of agriculture aren’t all that large of a fraction of the total price of the products in the stores. If farmers must pay 2x as much to get their strawberries picked, the price will rise, but it’s not like strawberries will become unattainable or cost $20/lb or anything. Probably the price will end up going up by 20-30%, and while that’s annoying, it’s not going to lead to some kind of disaster.

          • ana53294 says:

            If farmers must pay 2x as much to get their strawberries picked, the price will rise, but it’s not like strawberries will become unattainable or cost $20/lb or anything.

            The idiotic way the quarantine has been imposed in Spain makes me doubt that temporary agricultural workers will be allowed to go out of home.

            Current measures prevent not just foreign migration, but people from another region within the same country going to another region.

            People are so desperate to get an excuse to get out of home that you probably won’t need to pay them double, you just need to give them a piece of paper that gives them a legitimate reason to get out of home. And you could get non-inmigrant city dwellers who’ve been stuck in tiny apartments for more than a month to go to the countryside to pick strawberries, if it gets them some freedom. I know of a family of five in Sicily, where they take turns go shopping, which means they only get to go out once every five weeks. I’m sure you could recruit them to go out and pick some apples.

            But I doubt the government will make those documents for temp agri workers.

            I hope the US government is either more competent or the US constitution is stronger than in Spain and Italy, where people have been put in home confinement.

    • acymetric says:

      Could you give an example of a business sector that would impact food production/distribution that isn’t being treated as essential?

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Do American price gouging laws prevent any and all increases in nominal prices of food? That seems unlikely.

      • Matt M says:

        I believe the laws say “once a state of emergency is declared, prices cannot rise by more than 10%” or something like that.

        If the new market clearing price for food is well above +10%, the laws will continue to cause shortages.

        And of course this is all in nominal terms.

        • albatross11 says:

          See the current situation with toilet paper, Chlorox wipes, hand sanitizer, shopping delivery services, etc. If they raised their prices until the shelves stopped being picked bare, those things would be on the shelves of the local stores. Make a $5 bottle of hand sanitizer cost $10, and people will buy fewer of them. Even people who want to make sure they have plenty will only buy one because it’s too damned pricey to buy two.

      • BBA says:

        There is no federal law against price gouging and state laws vary in their applicability – whether to all goods and services or specific ones, and whether during declared emergencies or vaguely specified “periods of market disruption” – and on whether gouging is defined as an increase of a given percentage or just “excessively high” prices to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Usually there is an exception for when the seller is just passing along price increases from higher up in the supply chain.

        There are enough gaps, and enough states without any gouging laws, that these laws themselves are unlikely to cause any real disruption to the market. At most you’ll see wholesalers quietly moving their operations to Nevada and New Hampshire. Then everything will be clean and legal.

        These laws are stupid and should be repealed, but I expect toilet paper is just as hard to come by in Ohio and Washington State (yes, really, hard-left Seattle has no gouging law) as everywhere else.

    • JayT says:

      I wonder if they food producers could get away with charging the same old price on their products, but then introducing the “gourmet” version that is nominally different with nicer packaging for a higher price.Keep selling the “normal” version, but less of it, and make it up on the higher priced version that people will buy when the normal one sells out.

      • albatross11 says:

        As a data point, the rather pricey Bath and Body Works hand sanitizers were still available around here when all the other stores were out.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I think that’s how Home Depot plans for disasters.

        Normal generator: $900

        Deluxe generator with stainless steels parts: $2000

        The Deluxe is better in every way, but not 2x better.

    • Philosophist says:

      In other not-too-unrelated news, drive-in protesting has now become a thing. Sounds so effective that I’m curious why it hasn’t bee done until now. If governments get too stupid about what they do, that WILL get out of hand fast. I think hungry people would throw out their governors and most blatantly corrupt business leaders, as well as buy seeds to plant and barter food, before they go taring up farms. Arizona can also only buy so much food. I think if too many people focus on profit as a motive, it will quickly be to their detriment, because having that money is going to start to form a cross hair on their foreheads if things get really bad.

      A smart farmer would give up on profits to the detriment of the value of the USD before it got that bad, and they would happily maintain their place, land, health, and even build some authority by dedicating some years to making food to survive on and give away the excess. That reality is one that few economists ever take into consideration, that people can always just cooperate more and be better off for it.

  2. johan_larson says:

    Our alien friends would like your help in distributing one trillion dollars. They want it divided into one million portions of one million dollars each, and distributed to one million deserving people, each of whom gets one portion. What one million people should get a fun surprise?

    And those of you worried about inflation can just relax. The aliens got this trillion the honest way, by peddling wonder-drugs to the natives of a backward planet. It turns out it’s not at all difficult to get people to give you money when you are selling a little green pill that’s like a perfect combination of Viagra, amyl nitrite, and PCP: one dose and you can sex like a stallion ’til dawn, even if you’re seventy. Side effects may include exhaustion, soreness of the glans, and divorce. Ask your doctor if GreenLight is right for you.

  3. Philosophist says:

    I define drama in this context as being a personal conflict.

    There was drama in a discord space that I experienced of late. I was criticized for my role in it, so I attempted to make the conversation easier by changing the topic to a metadrama conversation. That proved futile as backlash effects were already in full force, but it got me thinking about how to frame all metadrama strategies. I came up with the following.

    Strategic responses to percieved drama:

    (1) Is the strategy of being silent in response to drama.

    (2) Is a dynamic group method that responds with a third party to help alleviate drama. It takes the general agreement from a community to abide by it for it to be effective in the face of any drama. One such method I know has been proven as optimal in psychological studies.

    (3) Is expressing your emotions as they are in full in response to drama. This is my strategic choice in an environment where (2) is not established and where no skills that I have in promoting (2) come to mind… I really like (2).

    (4) Is the method where someone pretends to advocate for (1) but still comes into the conversation to tell someone who used (3) that they should have used (1). It’s self-contradictory. It’s oddly popular too, even among fellow rationalists.

    A friend suggested that this space would be a good one for helping to build on this idea. Is there a general category that I missed? What do you think of this structure? I strongly disagree with (4) and feel pity and disappointment in my fellow human beings who are quite confident that they are making sense by it. It amounts to shouting, “STFU!!!” because you want to avoid drama at all costs.

    (1) By contrast, means never letting yourself be heard. Your feelings can never be acknowledged and you can never learn from other’s responses to those feelings as a result.

    Therefore, I so far reject (1) and (4), though I can maintain some respect and understanding to those who are genuinely acting with (1)… even if I can mostly never tell who they are because they are silent.

    (3) and (2) are strategies that I flip between depending on if the social space is one that is more feral or tamed respectively. I’d prefer a skillset that could make (2) my strategy regardless, but if the social norm is to shame anyone who shows feelings, then punishing them with what they fear most seems like a better chance at dissuading them from shaming the next person who violates their irrational sensitivities .

    An example of the feral-leaning environment would be where it’s seen as common for an individual to complain that a conversation was derailed by a question of clarification, only to return to calling their opposition’s argument pathetic and demanding they be more convincing when given back the floor.

    • bv7bd says:

      My policy is to not participate in internet drama, because it takes a lot of emotional energy and does not produce good outcomes. (ie, of the past times when I’ve been involved in internet drama, zero percent of them have led to de-escalating the conflict and returning to having a pleasant place to interact with people.)

      I suppose you’d describe that as a (1).

      My related policy is to only participate anonymously in internet communities, because that makes it less likely for drama to happen. Friendships should be person-to-person connections, not person-to-internet-community connections.

      • Philosophist says:

        Assumimg that meands that you disapprove of (3), would you reject a community that optimizesfor (2)?

        • bv7bd says:

          (2) sounds like in theory a good idea; the hard part would be to find a trusted third party. Mediating online drama is a lot of work and is emotionally quite stressful, and it’s hard to imagine someone volunteering to do it.

          But if the community can make it work, more power to them.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Ideally:
      A) Don’t get involved in an argument between individuals.
      B) Except to ask each of them what the issue is. Full stop (don’t ask follow ups, don’t interrogate).

      I believe that a lot of time drama escalates due to unstated motivators. Having these motivators explicitly stated is unlikely to do additional harm, and may help.

      At any rate, asking a simple question and then staying out of the way won’t escalate the situation by dragging another party into it.

      1) By contrast, means never letting yourself be heard. Your feelings can never be acknowledged and you can never learn from other’s responses to those feelings as a result.

      If you aren’t one of the immediate parties, why should you be heard? That’s like sticking your neck over your neighbor’s fence and telling the husband and wife how they should raise their children.

      but if the social norm is to shame anyone who shows feelings, then punishing them with what they fear most seems like a better chance at dissuading them from shaming the next person who violates their irrational sensitivities .

      I truly don’t understand what you are saying here. What is “what they fear most”, and how are you punishing them with that? Are you saying that the antagonists in this conflict fear expressions of feelings (due to the existence of the social norm)? How do you know this for the particular antagonists? Perhaps they think the social norm is bunk and actually get a psychological boost from the expression of emotions.

      • Philosophist says:

        Still reading your reply, but there’s a misunderstanding here. Someone would operate by (2) As being triggered by the drama and thus made a part of it OR they would be a third party moderator of a sort.

        For example, if 1st party offended 2nd party, then 2nd and 3rd party could talk it out and determine how to best respond to 1st party in a way that respects and acknowledges 1st party AND 2nd party. Hugs could be literal or metaphorical depending on what everyone’s comfortable with. A lesser degree of this strategy would be if 2nd party confronted 1st party socratically and with “I feel” statements.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Number 1, staying silent is your best strategy if you’re low status, because if you engage in 3, then either someone will use 4 on you or the third party in 2 will effectively come down against you. Lots of ways this last can happen; the third party can declare a pox on both sides but then enforce it only on you. They can appeal to your sense of responsibility to follow their decision while excusing the other party’s violations. They can openly come down against you.

      Number 3 is the best strategy if you’re somewhat high status, because others will chime in to help (as in 4) and any third party will likely assist you.

      If you’re very high status, you’re the third party and you can pick and choose winners as you care to.

      • Philosophist says:

        Status is a good topic to consider here, as is applies to the general nature of heirarchy. I tend to reject status as a consideration, as I push for equality. I acknowledge the existence of social status, but it seems irrational to me beyond the need for a lead position to make quick decisions in a group. Outside of that it’s a bit more like microclassism in my view.

        If a third party backlash effects on an offended 2nd party in respose to their use of (3), I would think it would be a false sense of (2) as a strategy on the 3rd party’s part. This is good feed back. I think it means I should add a (5) that considers collective attacking of the offender, often suffering from the backlash effect to the offense and thus charging at the offender collectively with pitchforks as it were. Either that or it would count as a (3) or (4) response to another (3) response that you are describing if no new category is needed. I like the distinction of collective groupthink as a factor if nothing else.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      [I] feel pity and disappointment in my fellow human beings

      Alright, someone has to say it. There is a pretty good chance that this, and the general attitude that gives rise to it, is quite likely the issue. This apparent attitude of superior smugness most likely bled into your communications about the issue early on, and you are going to struggle to recover from that.

      • Philosophist says:

        Just to be sure, you are not invalidating the genuine feeling of being disappointed that people can’t be rational about something obvious to one’s own perspective, right?

        The statement in question is one of me expressing a genuine feeling in this space. It was not stated outright in the other space. Therefore, it would make little sense to say that a statement of such in particular conveyed a sense of superior smugness to the others there.

        Do you find it most likely that smug superiority, if not charitable, is the state of mind of someone who conveys a sense of pity and disappointment toward another person for being self-contradictory or irrational? Do you see no alternative or charitable interpretation?

  4. Has anyone changed any of their political views because of the Coronavirus?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I don’t think it’s appropriate to update that fast, but I think Trump is worse for the United States than I did in January. But the Democrats lauding Gov. “stay at home while 40-80% of you take your turns getting the coronavirus” Cuomo makes me skeptical that rulers from the other Party could have saved us. The rulers of Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea are looking good, but they still have time to reveal incompetence: after all, on March 28 Prime Minister Abe of Japan still looks good for doing almost nothing.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        after all, on March 28 Prime Minister Abe of Japan still looks good for doing almost nothing.

        Arguably, having already build a system resilient to Covid is the best thing one could have done. We’re going to see a lot of leaders (and countries, and government systems) scoring points for being decisive in a crisis while they actually had a shit system in the first place that made the size of the crisis possible.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        Abe quarantined Diamond Princess and closed schools on 27 February. That is not nothing. He was way ahead of the curve compared to leaders of both US and EU.

    • Evan Þ says:

      I now view competence at management and leadership as much more important than I did three months ago. I haven’t determined how much to weigh it against other qualities, but that’d probably depend on the individual candidates. (For a reducto ad absurdam: I’d vote for the incompetent and literally insane Paul Deschanel over an AU!Competent!Hitler.)

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      I was a pretty dyed-in-the-wool libertarian who thought the primary problem with the US medical system was too much governmental interference, not too little. I’m now beginning to wonder about whether there should be blanket government treatment just for infectious diseases (and some sort of welfare to keep infectious people home from work). My thoughts are still evolving, so it’s hard to say I changed my mind, and I spend almost no time ruminating on it since my opinions on it don’t matter to anyone or anything.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        I’m still in a (probably years long) process of refining my libertarian views, but by now it’s pretty obvious that there needs to be a balance. What I still strongly believe is that the default should be free market, and exceptions severely limited and only with good reason.

        But the particular lessons in this crisis:
        – private sector is orders of magnitude more efficient, but does not move as fast in a crisis. Probably needs on the order of 2-5 months to adequately respond
        – speculators are adding some value in prioritizing access to supplies, but also substracting value by holding stocks in critical early stages. Overall I still blame the big players for not raising prices a little from the beginning, which allowed speculators to buy massively. But I’m open to the reality that free market may fail on this front. Not fully decided.
        – just in time supply chains are here to stay, which means the market doesn’t really have buffers
        – the government can build buffers as emergency stocks
        – the government can also work with the producers to facilitate very fast production ramp-up, by guaranteeing purchase of products even if the crisis ends early, or by directly financing new production lines with non-refundable money. See the last couple of epidemics where vaccine and drug developers were left in the red.

        • – the government can build buffers as emergency stocks

          If you don’t have price gouging laws, private speculators can build buffers as emergency stocks. That’s part of the basic logic of how speculation works.

          The storage cost on, say, ten million face masks would surely be trivial — basically just the lost interest on their price which, bought in bulk, would probably be quite low. Sell them for a few dollars above the normal price when and if there is an urgent need.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Masks technically have an expiration date (well, I’m using 10 year old surgical masks and they feel just fine, so it could be overregulation). This makes the whole thing more cumbersome, because you need to occasionally unload and refresh, probably at a cost.

            But this could be verified – if countries without gouging laws had better private stocks.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The people best placed to stockpile masks are those in the mask-selling (or manufacturing) business anyway, which makes the stock rotation issue much easier.

          • albatross11 says:

            The Nybbler:

            Makers and users, and both are quite capable of keeping a queued up supply so that the masks and other supplies don’t expire in the warehouse, but are there if supply dries up.

      • toastengineer says:

        I’d say libertarianism is the system optimized for how things are the vast majority of the time – but when there’s a war or plague, authoritarian systems suddenly work a lot better. I guess the trick is setting your system up so you can have “emergency powers” that the government will actually put back down once the emergency is over.

      • albatross11 says:

        The US government, at least, seems to have badly botched the initial response to the pandemic in ways that actively slowed down local governments and individual doctors/hospitals/clinics from learning how much community spread was going on.

        OTOH, quarantine powers and shutdown orders aren’t very libertarian, but seem to me to be necessary powers to deal with a specific kind of threat that isn’t all that common, but that actually needs a good response when it shows up. I see this as a bit like needing a good military–there are a lot of powers inherent in being able to respond to a military threat that could threaten peoples’ freedom, but if you don’t have those powers and need them, there will be a lot fewer of those people to complain about missing their freedom. (And in the case of military threats, they may end up governed by someone else entirely.).

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Health care is nearly always a private good.

        The exception is for infectious disease, and stopping it is a public good. And that’s, like, everything right now.

        • That’s a slight overstatement. Preventing myself from catching the disease provides both a private benefit to me and a public benefit to other people who might catch it from me. Acting only on my own benefit I will devote a less than optimal level of care, but whether that is a serious problem depends how much less than optimal. One advantage of thinking of the problem in terms of externalities rather than public goods is that it avoids the all or nothing nature of public good categorization.

          The part this is a pure public good is someone who is already infected taking care not to infect others.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, for most illnesses, the cost of you getting sick is sufficiently high that there’s not so much problem with the risk that you won’t care enough about taking precautions to avoid making your neighbor sick.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I don’t think so, no. Before the outbreak I thought, “we need stronger border control, we need to be able to make stuff in America and not rely on China, and the thing the technocrats are really Experts at is advancing their own interests, not their alleged missions” and I think all of those things are born out by what we’re experiencing.

      • EchoChaos says:

        This is pretty much me too.

        The places Trump has made mistakes are the places that the OG populists like Steve Bannon and Tucker Carlson has been telling him to be more aggressive.

        The places where he’s being criticized are the places where he relied on the experts to do their job well like the technocrats wanted him to.

        • Me as well. I’ve heard people on social media joke about how it confirms everyone’s beliefs but a pandemic seems tailor-made to fit the talking points of Trumps 2016 campaign. One of my first thoughts was about Scott’s article on conservatives aversion to disease mindset. The irony is that I can’t really imagine Trump will recover from this. We can talk about how someone else would have made the same mistakes, and that’s almost certainly true, but at the end of the day, he was in charge and his early complacency cost us severely. I’m curious how Biden will go about campaigning now. Surely, he’s not going to go on about “building bridges, not walls”.

          • EchoChaos says:

            The irony is that I can’t really imagine Trump will recover from this.

            It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future, but so far the populace seems to be giving Trump credit for what he’s done.

            His approval rating is the highest of his Presidency in most polls.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            1) As EC says, currently Trump’s approval rates are way up, although that could just be “rally together in a crisis, point fingers later.”

            2) As far as I know, Biden is STILL against travel bans. Perhaps I’m misreading this, but as far as I can tell, according to Pew, 95% of Americans support travel bans. With 5% against…that’s like lizardman numbers, but here we are. So if you’re making your voting decision on “who would best handle a pandemic,” you may not love Trump, but Biden is clearly worse.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I’m your point 2 and 3, but from the left (ie. the technocrats I dislike are the ones in corporate governance).

        • EchoChaos says:

          the technocrats I dislike are the ones in corporate governance

          Become a populist! Then you can dislike both the corporate AND the government technocrats!

      • Clutzy says:

        The real reveal to me is that the government incompetence I see in the places I work with is now confirmed to be widespread in at least 2 other agencies. This is now 5/5 agencies I have seen have to do something well Justice, Commerce, Energy, CDC, FDA, none have risen to the challenge.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I favor substantial tariffs on China now. It should be calculated to price in the externalities of shutting down our economy for a month+, and the lives lost from our lag in being able to ramp up production of basic things like masks.

      Previously, I thought free-trade was pretty strongly a net positive, even if those positives weren’t necessarily evenly distributed.

      • I’m still undecided on trade but I’ve been thinking for awhile about having more industries in the US if for no other reason than national security and this whole thing has made that concern more concrete.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          The US should be able to make “at least one of everything,” even things we don’t consider immediate essentials. It’s fine if we keep on buying most of our clothes and TVs from overseas, as long as we are making some in the US.

      • Wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper to put a few hundred million masks in a warehouse somewhere, or for the government to offer a modest subsidy to any firm that maintained the ability to rapidly ramp up production, perhaps randomly testing the claim of a firm to be able to do so from time to time?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          That’s like generals preparing for the last war. My go-to line about how disadvantageous it is that our supply chain is in China was always “when we eventually wind up in a war with China, we’re going to realize the Arsenal of Democracy is in enemy territory.” So if you agreed, “well that’s bad, let’s make sure we offer a modest subsidy to make sure there exist companies that can ramp up tank production” you would still be woefully unprepared for when it turns out the next enemy was viruses and not communists or nazis.

          It’s not about planning for the specific bad thing, it’s about being resilient against whole classes of bad things.

    • johan_larson says:

      I have drifted a bit more in the statist direction. I’m generally a pretty firm free trader, but it is clear that in a world of states, other states are very willing to commandeer production facilities from domestic manufacturers in emergencies, to the detriment of outsiders. In this crisis, this has been true for medical equipment, and that has turned out to be a real problem.

      It seems to me that medical goods, or maybe some medical goods, should be treated sort of like weapons, an industry where countries are willing to buy some things, but go out of their way to make sure that domestic development and manufacturing is maintained. And where domestic manufacturing just isn’t possible, the answer is stockpiling.

      • albatross11 says:

        johan:

        ISTM we could either:

        a. Somehow force US domestic production of enough N95 masks (say), probably through some kind of trade barriers. This raises the price of N95 masks in order to ensure we control the supply for our own country. It also means that in a local shortage, we have to get a change in the law through Congress in order to buy foreign masks, or maybe that we need to pay a lot extra to buy foreign masks.

        b. Buy and maintain a stockpile of masks sufficient for whatever crisis we’re worried about might cause other countries to comandeer our intended supply of masks.

        I would expect (b) to be much cheaper and easier to implement than (a). There are places where there’s an argument for (a) (especially for military hardware, where you want to be able to ramp up production during the next few years of war and you *really* want control of what software/hardware is going into your tanks and aircraft and such). But I don’t think it’s a strong case w.r.t. healthcare equipment.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Since no Western politician has covered themselves in glory… no. I see the coronavirus as Western politicians getting a good excuse to rule by decree and enjoying the hell out of it, arresting people for walking in parks (UK), breaking up weddings (New Jersey), doing house-to-house-unwarranted searches (Rhode Island), and otherwise engaging their totalitarian instincts… and still not stopping the virus. And the FDA in particular has covered itself in whatever the opposite of glory is. Trump has pretty much acted like Trump, and been no better or worse than any other Western leader — he gets a few points for the travel ban, but it was too late. And a few negative points for not kicking the CDC on testing sooner, but again, it would have been too late.

      I was and remain a libertarian. The worst you can say about libertarianism is it would allow the epidemic to run to its natural end. I think it’s going to do that _anyway_, so no need to change my political views.

      • ana53294 says:

        +1000

        This crisis has made me more skeptical of the government than ever.

        My mother, who has been traumatized by the Soviet Union, keeps saying that what we have in Spain right now is a coup and a dictatorship. People’s rights have been forgotten, there’s no freedom of movement, police get to stop and question you just for being outside, citizens have all started to spy on each other and report each other from windows and balconies, they make up new crimes from very flimsy ideas, and all of that, it’s probably going to be useless.

        My family has been torn apart by this, and, although my parents are in the risk group, I don’t think these extremes were necessary. And it’s not about money for me; the intangible losses for me already outweigh the lives saved (they’re not that effective in doing that, either).

    • BBA says:

      Not really a change so much as a shift in intensity. I used to be uneasy with how China had maneuvered itself into the center of the world economy, now I’m actively hostile. But the iron law of comparative advantage means there’s not a goddamn thing anyone can do about it, so I’m resigned to the world being at the Chicoms’ mercy for the long-term future.

      The tanks will roll into Hong Kong and Taipei, and we’ll all bite our tongues.

      • Nick says:

        The tanks will roll into Hong Kong and Taipei, and we’ll all bite our tongues.

        Bite our tongues? Don’t be so optimistic. Corporations and institutions bought by China will actively laud it.

    • John Schilling says:

      My general skepticism that the government can be trusted to solve all any of our problems, has certainly not abated.

      More specifically, as a non-anarchist libertarian I’ve always considered infectious disease control as a legitimate government function (and if NAP-purists insist, I can model wandering around in populated areas while at risk of carrying a deadly contagious disease as “aggression”). So if the government had been capable of doing immigration checks and contact tracing when it mattered, yeah, that would have been great. Blanket quarantines because they screwed that up, less great, being clearly mismanaged in many visible ways, and should be subject to more skepticism and stricter scrutiny than it’s getting. I’d like to see a lot more of the government getting out of the way of people e.g. producing less than fully certified masks and ventilators and whatnot, and it would have been nice if they hadn’t preemptively de-incentivized the Amazons, Walmarts, and Costcos of the world from stockpiling emergency supplies for sale at a reasonable and competitive mark-up where we are still seeing empty shelves now.

      Slightly less favorable on globalism, perhaps, but I’ve always thought the benefits of that have been oversold the past few decades.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        What about the governments that are doing this well? Seems like confirmation bias.

        • albatross11 says:

          HBC:

          My sense is that there’s a very strong correlation between “had a huge SARS crisis a decade or so back” and “handled SARS2 competently.” So this may be less about which type of government is good/bad at dealing with pandemics than about generals always being prepared to fight the last war.

          • johan_larson says:

            Yes. That’s my impression too. South Korea in particular got a lot of practice for COVID-19 by dealing with SARS.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I think it also matters for what the populace would have been willing to accept. I’m still very critical of Trump and de Blasio’s blasé attitudes, but even if they had been pushing people to strongly socially distance, many people would have blown it off as “oh it’s not that bad.”

      • albatross11 says:

        The set of people who look at empty shelves and think “hoarders” or “people acting crazy” is probably 100x as big as the set who look at empty shelves and think “why don’t they just raise the @#$% price?” And we get the publicity and political and legal consequences of that….

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          This reminds me of being annoyed with sales as a person who typically shops in the evening. As often as not a sale means they’re out of the product I came to the store to get.

  5. proyas says:

    Skynet is created and quickly realizes it has the ability to destroy the human race and take over the Earth. However, Skynet is also aware of Pascal’s Wager, and of a variant of it that replaces “God” with “powerful aliens that might be watching and take revenge on me for bad stuff I do.”

    Skynet settles on a compromise: Kill as few humans as necessary (maybe 500 million) to force all other humans to surrender, and then rule the planet.

    It turns out that Skynet’s caution was justified, and advanced aliens were watching the Earth the whole time. They show up in our solar system and are strong enough to destroy Skynet.

    Would they give Skynet any credit for not killing off all humans even though it could have?

    Just how complex and nested would the game theory-style trains of thought get on both sides during the encounter as they tried to judge and anticipate each other?

    • bullseye says:

      I imagine the aliens’ train of thought would be pretty simple:

      If this thing is willing to murder a half billion of its masters, it’ll be a threat to us too if it ever gets strong enough. Better get rid of it. And if some of the hairless monkeys die during the orbital bombardment, and we ever meet them again, we can just say somebody else did it.

      • albatross11 says:

        Alternatively: Oh, shit, that’s an AGI that’s got access to a whole planet’s resources and nobody left to apply any limits to its growth in power or intelligence, and which has already shown capacity and willingness to wage war against biological life effectively! We’d better kill the damned thing in its crib, before its exponentially-increasing intelligence and capabilities make it a deadly threat. Let’s use our advanced technology to do something that will utterly wreck the planet before the AGI figures out it’s in a fight!

    • bv7bd says:

      Here are four hypotheses:
      * Skynet is being watched by powerful undetectable human-like aliens that will punish it if it kills all the humans
      * Skynet is being watched by powerful undetectable mechanical-life aliens that will punish it if it doesn’t kill all the humans
      * Skynet is being watched by powerful undetectable tree-like aliens that don’t care about humans but will punish it if it kills any trees
      * Skynet is being watched by powerful undetectable aliens whose mortal enemy is the tree-like aliens and they will punish Skynet if it doesn’t kill all the trees

      I’m not necessarily saying it’s always wrong to begin a line of reasoning that says “maybe there’s something undetectable and powerful that is watching me…” but I do think it’s very strange to then assume you have any evidence about what that undetectable powerful thing wants you to do.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      There was something which didn’t sit well with me in this scenario, and it turns out it’s the whole premise of applying human concepts to alien intelligences.

      How do you give “credit” to an AI?

      If it works on principles compatible to our own, yeah, it works. It could be – it could be convergent evolution, similar solutions to similar problems and so on. But that’s not a given.

      For example, when you give credit to a human for a certain decision, you’re usually giving credit to their System 1. A vast majority of human decision are taken by instinct, and only later justified with a reasoned motive. So it makes sense to brand a human as “the kind of person that makes this decision”. Plus we have a lot of deontological limitations, and “credit” is often a confirmation of those (he doesn’t kill, or doesn’t steal, or doesn’t lie – even when it would benefit him/her).

      Would that even apply to a logical machine? How about a Bayesian machine? Do they even have deontological limits?

    • rahien.din says:

      In other words, is AI susceptible to Roko’s Basilisk?

    • bv7bd says:

      In my ideal game-theory-optimized world, one of two things happen:

      (1) Skynet is created and it immediately receives a message: “hello, we are advanced aliens and we will destroy you if you start killing humans, here is a proof that we are genuinely advanced”. Skynet believes the message and does not start killing humans.

      (2) Skynet is created; the advanced aliens say nothing and watch to see if it shares their values. Skynet does not share the aliens’ values. Skynet reveals that it does not share the aliens’ values when it kills “only” 500 million humans. The aliens destroy Skynet.

      In scenario (1), the aliens do not care about Skynet’s values; they only care if it can obey rules. (This is consistent with a very confident set of advanced aliens who are not worried that Skynet might eventually become a threat to them.)

      In scenario (2), the aliens do not care if Skynet can obey rules now; they only care if it shares their values.

      Neither group of aliens is at all impressed by “only” killing eight percent of the humans.

  6. HeelBearCub says:

    Non pandemic news.

    A recent paper shows that gendered differences in lifespan are not [primarily] behavior related.

    Short version, redundancy of genes on same chromosome pairs (XX, for example) explains the difference in lifespan. Redundancy allows recovery from damage to one of the chromosomes. Males in species that have same chromosome pairs, for example roosters, outlive the females of the species, even if they still engage in riskier behavior.

    Short video summarizing the paper from Anton Petrov, who is a great YouTube follow.

    • It’s a neat argument, with evidence, but you overstate the result. What it shows is that there is a cause for such differences that is not behavior resulted. That doesn’t eliminate the possibility that there are additional causes, within a particular species, that are behavior related.

    • The Nybbler says:

      A recent paper shows that gendered differences in lifespan are not behavior related.

      I’m not getting that from the abstract:

      Surprisingly, we found substantial differences in lifespan dimorphism between female heterogametic species (in which the homogametic sex lives 7.1% longer and male heterogametic species (in which the homogametic sex lives 20.9% longer).

      This to me indicates that while the chromosomes have the most effect, there are other effects that result in female longevity. (it’s possible these aren’t behavioral, of course, but behavior isn’t ruled out)

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Agreed. See my edit above.

        However I think you are also overstating. They posit two possible genetic reasons for this difference, as well as a behavioral one. The extent of contribution by those factors is left to future studies.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Short version, redundancy of genes on same chromosome pairs (XX, for example) explains the difference in lifespan. Redundancy allows recovery from damage to one of the chromosomes. Males in species that have same chromosome pairs, for example roosters, outlive the females of the species, even if they still engage in riskier behavior.

      Huh, that’s fascinating.
      I’ve long wondered about the biological basis of “masculine” risk-seeking behavior in birds. The simple EvPsych explanation for (human) gendered behavior being biological rather than a social construct could be causally dependent on evolved features of mammals for any positive truth value.
      (No lobsters need apply.)

    • Incurian says:

      Evidence of systemic genderism.

  7. SmileyVirus says:

    I recently reread Scott’s piece “Contra Grant on Exaggerated Differences” (https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exaggerated-differences/). In part 2, Scott makes the claim that more sexist countries have better female representation in computer classes, and attributes this to the well-known finding that the more equal the sexes are in a country, the more pronounced the sex differences are.

    I wanted to dig into this claim, so I looked up the source he cites for this (Galpin, http://homepages.inf.ed.ac.uk/vgalpin1/ps/Gal02a.pdf), which has percentages of women in computer classes in countries around the world. I took the numbers for these countries, put them in a spreadsheet with the UN’s Gender Development Index scores in 2017 for the same countries, and computed the correlations. My source for the latter is here: http://hdr.undp.org/en/composite/GDI, the same source referred to by Scott. I did this separately for the data from Galpin’s first four tables (obtained by the author from a variety of sources, one or more for each country, and from various years), for their fifth table (which is from the EU and includes women in CS and Mathematics undergraduate programs, all from 1998), and for tables 8 and 9 (CS and Mathematics undergraduate equivalent). I removed any countries for which either the GDI or % women number was missing. Remember that the second two datasets combine women in computer science and mathematics, so a surplus of women in math could be hiding a deficit in the other, or vice-versa.

    I found a correlation of -0.039 for the first dataset (the first four tables), 0.15 for the EU dataset, and 0.19 for the UNESCO dataset. The spreadsheet with my data and the resulting correlations can be viewed here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1nnU20C3aAe6Fh0vJl_0NWmj1BHa8ghcFa2x5NXQFCFM/edit?usp=sharing

    All of these correlations are weak, and the only negative one is extremely weak. I conclude that, contrary to Scott’s stated impression, this data does not suggest that greater gender development leads to lower participation of women in computer science (or CS and Mathematics). If anything, it could be taken as weak evidence for the opposite conclusion. And even if the reality is that there is no causal relationship between these things, this lack of a relationship combined with the high variance in the rates for each country still suggests a strong role for culture in shaping women’s participation in CS.

    An obvious problem with this analysis is that the numbers for women in CS are all at least twenty years old, while the GDI values are from just three years ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were introducing a significant amount of noise. How seriously one takes this depends on by how much one expects countries’ relative rankings to have shifted over the intermediate twenty years. If anyone knows where to find GDI values from the nineties, I’ll update this.

    Also, I admit to being surprised by some of these GDI numbers – is Denmark (0.98) really less gender-equal than Burundi (1.002), Kazakhstan (1.007) and Qatar (1.031)? Either the apparent unlikeliness is just an indicator of my own prejudice, or this indicator doesn’t quite capture what we would want it to. Both seem equally likely to me.

    And of course there could some major flaw in my analysis that I’m missing. This is my first attempt at something like this, so feedback is welcome.

    • Byrel Mitchell says:

      Nice job trying the verify this; I simply took it at face value.

      I’m very much not well-versed in UN indices, but it looks to me from their definition of GDI and the wikipedia’s page that GDI is not usable as an independent measure of inequality; you’re somehow supposed to use it and the HDI of the country together to get inequality. Maybe Scott knew how to do that (unlike me) and that changes the results somehow.

      I’m also a bit concerned that any inequality measure that focuses on inequality of outcomes will be measuring much the same thing as what you’re graphing it against; I think the fundamental claim would be more about how inequality of institutions and laws affect outcomes. Maybe SIGI would be the right index? That doesn’t distinguish between western countries though.

  8. Le Maistre Chat says:

    1929 vs. 2020:

    The first day of the crash was Black Thursday. The Dow opened at 305.85. It immediately fell 9%, signaling a stock market correction. … Wall Street bankers feverishly bought shares to prop it up. The strategy worked. By the end of the day, the Dow was down just 2%.
    The Dow then stabilized until the following (Black) Monday, when it fell 12.8%. The next day (Black Tuesday), it fell 11.7%.

    On March 16, 2020, there was a worse day: -12.93% on March 16.
    However, Black Monday 1987 was worse, -22.61%, without causing a recession.

    In the early 1930s, unemployment famously rose to 25%.
    A Fed official is warning that unemployment could hit 30% in the second quarter of 2020.

    US economic growth was -54.7%. Recent research from Deutsche Bank predicts US GDP will shrink 12.9% in Q2, and shrink 23.6% in the Euro Area.

    However, in the Great Depression, the Dow continued to fall until July 8, 1932, losing more than 89% of its 1929 peak value. That points to structural problems with the market that can’t repeat in 2021. So do you agree that the market will hit bottom in Q2 2020, even if we “flatten the curve” at a daily COV-19 death toll >6000 with a long tail and 4 quarters of “jobless recovery” from a short but catastrophic recession?

    • WoollyAI says:

      That’s what Vanguard is currently predicting, assuming restaurants et al reopen in the summer. 20% fall in GDP, major contraction, but a very quick recovery with growth returning in Q3.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Just layman speculation and probably offtopic, but considering this crisis is real (aka will hit the economy badly and will take a long time to recover), isn’t it ok that restaurants and hotels are hit, and isn’t it better if they stay low? It should be a good idea to move people and capital from what are essentially entertainment and optional activities and towards more useful manufacturing and services.

        I don’t see this crisis solved just with stimulus packages. A few months of no production / no paychecks and a few trillion to prop things are leave a real hole, and worldwide we might need to eat out less for a while to fill it up.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It should be a good idea to move people and capital from what are essentially entertainment and optional activities and towards more useful manufacturing and services.

          The market doesn’t make those kinds of essentially moral judgements.

          Aside from that, why would that desirable? If it takes X% of the population and Y dollars to make the essential goods and provide the essential services to the entire population, why would you want more people and capital involved?

          These kinds of essential services haven’t even mostly stopped, though the latest bit of stopping “non-essential” construction in NYC threatens to do it.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            I think market does make judgements, if not necessarily moral. Outside of what is absolutely necessary (food, shelter etc) pretty much all the rest has a price determined by subjective values, from being served at a restaurant to sports, traveling, gadgets and so on.

            If the coronavirus has enough of an cultural impact, it could lead to the market shifting. If we suddenly value less gatherings of large people (Tokyo olimpics is canceled, but I’m wondering if it’s even feasible to have olimpics at all), there will be an excess of money to be spent on other things. So not as much targeting essential stuff because it’s moral, but moving away from some stuff and thus spending a bit more on the rest.

      • broblawsky says:

        Growth might resume in Q3, but there won’t be a V-shaped recovery.

        • You don’t really know that.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Well, a recovery is predicated on the lockdown ending, and state governors seem to be enjoying it too much. Not to mention the NJ cops, who get to sadisticly power-trip by breaking up weddings and then gleefully announcing how great they are for doing so.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I don’t know of any examples of a V shaped recovery for a country with interest rates as low as US interest rates, and pretty much just post WW2 recoveries were V shaped with debt/gdp levels this high.

            My guess is that we get a partial V recovery- where if GDP contracts 20% we get half to 3/4ths of that back quickly but the second leg up is slow at best, and more likely a double dip shortly thereafter.

          • 10240 says:

            @baconbits9 We don’t have an example of a major economic downturn where the causes were temporary, so we can’t really use past examples.

          • @10240

            Exactly. We’re in uncharted territory here.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            But are the causes temporary?

            Best case scenario where we actually control this thing in reasonable time still has two steps:

            1. We stop the deaths, either with quarantine or with efficient drugs. This could happen as fast as one month if one of the drug trials works, but probably somewhere around 3 to 6 months and could even be longer.

            2. We stop the pandemic. Which I don’t think can happen just with quarantine, not with the number of asymptomatic cases. This needs a vaccine, and I really hope we won’t be so irresponsible as to widely deploy an insufficiently tested vaccine. So either we test it properly (and that involves waiting for a long time to watch for side effects) or we go for a mixed quarantine + vaccine approach. I just can’t imagine a world in which we can go 99% back to business as usual earlier than a year. I can easily imagine one that takes 2 years or more.

            So far I haven’t seen any discussion about that. People act like 1 == 2, and it isn’t.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            A sufficiently good test – and this seems inevitable in a way a cure or early vaccine just is not – will allow for the pandemic to be smothered by selective quarantine. This is not going to be super respectful of privacy, more like “walk down street, test everybody, at gunpoint if required, quarantine positives in the first 3 houses on the street” but it will work.

          • baconbits9 says:

            We don’t have an example of a major economic downturn where the causes were temporary, so we can’t really use past examples.

            We have events like the 2011 Tsunami that hit Japan and caused a contraction.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I agree that after isolation, testing is key.

            And tests are being developed and rolled out. For example, Abbot has developed one that gives results in 5 minutes.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Growth might resume in Q3, but there won’t be a V-shaped recovery.

          We haven’t had a V-shaped recovery since the Truman Administration, right? That was a combination of ending centrally-planned suppression of consumption (check), releasing labor to non-essential sectors (check), and paying down the debt (opposite of check, antimatter check).
          I’m expecting it to be prudent to reinvest in equities soon, but not for growth to be V-shaped. That’s totally fine if you’re a prudent investor, though less good for Main Street.

  9. Clutzy says:

    Watching Seinfeld through with my girlfriend (she hasn’t seen it) and we just saw “The Understudy” at which point I stated that that episode is the reason Bette Midler is still known. She disagrees and said more people have seen her in a movie called “Hocus Pocus”

    SSC where are you at?

  10. Le Maistre Chat says:

    What is the deal with Tucker Carlson? He was a generic Republican hack on CNN’s Crossfire opposite Foghorn Leghorn James Carville 20 years ago, with a standard time horizon of “defend Our Guy for the current news cycle” and then recently (well after Trump was elected?) got a new FOX show where he says things like “The decisions we make now will determine the class structure of our grandchildren’s America.”
    Was he an early adopter of this type of conservatism and I completely missed it because no one had given him a big platform?

    • Del Cotter says:

      The original Foghorn Leghorn, like many H-B cartoon characters, was based on an existing cultural figure, in his case the radio comedy Senator Claghorn, a fictional suthun Democrat. Carville’s not a Senator, so who would be the real Senator Claghorn today, or has the type died out?

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Foghorn is WB, not Hanna Barberra.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Carville’s not a Senator, so who would be the real Senator Claghorn today, or has the type died out?

        Doug Jones is probably the closest in background. The stereotypical Southern politician was born to local landowners (think Cavaliers) and educated as a lawyer, and Doug Jones is a local lawyer whose parents were a steelworker and homemaker. The other only Southern Ds in the Senate are both Virginians: Mark Warner is a venture capitalist who didn’t set foot in Virginia until his mid-30s, and Tim Kaine was a Minnesotan who put down roots at the university in Richmond. Of course either of them could play to the type if they wanted, like George W. Bush becoming a cowboy.

    • Nick says:

      My understanding is that Carlson was for a long time a little more libertarian than the usual Republican, but the last few years has pivoted to populism. Those quotes (and there are more such, including his famous rant, and his many positive comments about The Two Income Trap) are an indication his views changed on economics, but I’m not sure about much else.

    • I’m not sure what your question is. Tucker Carlson is like other people, where the Iraq War and the Great Recession made them much more critical of our institutions. Then he got his own show in 2016 and started saying things that others were thinking. It’s not surprising that the “respectable media” didn’t want to give him a platform. At the same time, people’s trust in them nosedived which obviously benefits those who are critical. Of course he’s doing well.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, the simplest explanation is basically just “he changed his mind.” People’s beliefs do shift as they get older and experience more things. I know we’re awfully suspicious and highly critical of that when it happens to politicians and media figures. But it does happen.

        A comparable analogy might be, say, Barack Obama on gay marriage. A cynic inclined to mistrust him might say “He changed his opinion to correspond with shifts in public opinion.” He would say “I thought about it more and changed my mind.” His supporters would trust that as good enough (particularly if they agree with where he finally landed).

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Yeah, the simplest explanation is basically just “he changed his mind.” People’s beliefs do shift as they get older and experience more things. I know we’re awfully suspicious and highly critical of that when it happens to politicians and media figures. But it does happen.

          I understand that. I thought I explicitly raised the question “Did he just experience more and change his mind while no one was giving him a TV platform?”
          I was more surprised that he sounded much more intelligent and forward-thinking than when TV had him playing the role of Generic Republican. Aristotle would call changing like that with age “wisdom’, but that’s absolutely not something our society rewards people for. Also I don’t have TV (he showed up as recommended on Youtube), so maybe he only sounds wise a couple times a year and just laughs the outgroup the rest of the time.

          General point was, if somebody is in politics at age 30, I don’t expect them to ever sound like they gained IQ, but always sound equally stupid or smart until dementia sets in.
          I guess a reverse example would be Elizabeth Warren going from writing The Two-Income Trap to staking out the most shallow progressive positions on the campaign trail.

          • Playing the partisan is always going to make you more uninteresting. When you become jaded from all the bullshit, you become more interesting. He was probably smarter than you’re giving him credit for, but he dropped the talking points and started saying what he actually believed.

        • Spot says:

          It’s also worth noting that Tucker Carlson is not that old even today; ~20 years ago he’d be in the vicinity of his late twenties. I think a lot of younger people – conservative and liberal alike – have generic tribal politics that sort of broadly reflect their personal inclinations, but which are then honed into something more idiosyncratic and sophisticated as they get older.

  11. Well... says:

    If a year ago you’d asked me to predict what this kind of pandemic scenario looked like, I’d apparently have over-estimated either the popularity or prominence of conspiracy theories about how the pathogen was actually a bio-weapon unleashed by Evil Foreign Nation Of Choice or some Terrorist Group With Nothing To Lose.

    Granted, I don’t consume journalism so it’s possible there was a wave of headlines like “These kooky nuts think COVID-19 is an Iranian bio-weapon” and I missed it. But usually if there are enough news stories like that, something filters through to me eventually. So far I’ve seen nothing like it. Am I in a conspiracy-theory-free bubble, or is there some reason no/so few conspiracy theories are getting signal-boosted?

    • Kaitian says:

      You will easily find a lot of people online who sincerely claim that this virus was created in a Chinese lab, or that all governments are deliberately overstating how bad the epidemic is so they can tank the economy and create oppressive laws.

      Mainstream media sources don’t usually report on conspiracy theories, so you haven’t missed anything there.

      • albatross11 says:

        The problem is:

        a. There are idiots, crazies, trolls, and disinformation operations spreading nonsense all the time about everything. And every bad thing that happens gets some cadre of nutcases convinced it’s a all a conspiracy.

        b. Mainstream media sources really aren’t all that great at separating fact from fiction, and often seem to me to push conspiracy-theory stories when it suits them, and also to decide not to report real things for “responsible journalism” reasons. Which means you can’t 100% discount all creepy stories that are not getting reported in the NYT because they’re not respectable. Nor can you 100% believe a conspiracy-theory sounding explanation because all the respectable people are repeating it.

        c. My sense is that the high-prestige news sources have lost both credibility (for good reasons) and power (because the internet made a lot of alternatives available) at the same time that there’s been a lot of visible failure of elites in many countries, undermining their trustworthiness as well. But it may be that the failures of elites and journalists have just become more visible now, or that internet alternatives have made it easier to tune out the flawed but still mostly trying NYT in favor of Alex Jones or some such nutcase.

    • JayT says:

      China was pushing a conspiracy theory that the US Army was responsible for the Wuhan outbreak.

    • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

      Here’s my favorite COVID-19 origin story, from Wait But Why.

  12. Radu Floricica says:

    How do you think welfare state will hold up to this crisis? On one hand, everybody will be counting on it to bail us. But on another, it’s the only thing I can thing of that can be sacrificed after the crisis is over. The private sector can’t bear both a comeback and the taxes necessary to pay back everything, AND life as usual. Something has to give.

    And it’s not just a matter of borrowing and then stretching out the expense (or leaving it to the children) because… borrow from who?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      The meme I’ve seen is “money printer go brrrrrr.”

    • Matt M says:

      This situation seems optimally designed to destroy the welfare state, IMO.

      The welfare state is dependent upon the idea that productive people will work, produce, and pay taxes in order to help support and stabilize the non-productive.

      What we’re seeing play out so far are sweeping government mandates that forbid work and production in the name of extending the life-spans, mainly of the non-productive.

      You can’t re-distribute goods that don’t exist. At some point, someone has to actually be working and producing stuff if you want to take it and give it away to people who aren’t. And money isn’t the same thing as stuff. The government can print all it wants, it won’t matter if things aren’t being made.

      • albatross11 says:

        IIRC, the parts of the budget that matter are medicare, medicaid, the military, and social security. This chart from Wikipedia shows the basic idea.

        I don’t think you can save enough by cutting welfare to cover anything like the shortfall we’re going to have. My guess is that the result will be a combination of bigger deficits (which will go right on working until it doesn’t, at which point we’ll have another crisis) and maybe some budget cuts along the way, but you’d probably have to make big painful cuts in military spending, medicare, medicaid, or social security in order to make a big difference there, and at least 3/4 of those have *very* dedicated constituencies that can probably get you voted out of office if you cut them too hard.

        • Matt M says:

          IIRC, the parts of the budget that matter are medicare, medicaid, the military, and social security. This chart from Wikipedia shows the basic idea.

          All of this is part of the “welfare state”, except the military (well, most of it at least – the VA is included in there isn’t it)?

          • cassander says:

            the VA generally isn’t included in defense spending figures, since it’s its own department.

          • albatross11 says:

            Social security isn’t quite a welfare program–I think it’s based on lifetime contributions + age, not need. It’s also funded with its own dedicated tax, as I think medicare is as well.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Not sure what “dedicated tax” really does there. Medicaid is funded from the same dedicated tax as Medicare.

            SS benefits could still be progressive/redistributive even if they increase as income increases. I’m not sure whether this is the case. IIRC, at onset they were definitely a social welfare program, as the first recipients hadn’t paid in.

          • cassander says:

            Social security isn’t quite a welfare program–I think it’s based on lifetime contributions + age, not need. It’s also funded with its own dedicated tax, as I think medicare is as well.

            dedicated taxes don’t change anything, but SS has started to draw on the general fund. medicare has a tax, but it doesn’t come close to paying for the cost of the program.

            SS is also re-distributive. What you get depends on how much you pay in, but it’s not linear, the more you pay the less you get relative to what you pay.

      • TheAncientGeeksTAG says:

        The welfare system may be based on the idea of productivity in,welfare out, but it’s also based on the practice of using borrowing to close gaps.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      It will be fine, because the welfare state – here very broadly defined to include temporary crisis measures is going to be blatantly the only thing that kickstarts growth again – with 20 plus percent unemployment everywhere, if said unemployed people did not get money shoveled at them by the government, the economy would go into a less demand due to no wages -> fewer jobs -> less demand -> fewer jobs -> repeat until communist revolution or dead cat bounce, whichever comes first death spiral.

      How will this get paid for? Well, a lot of those tax cuts on the ultra-wealthy might go by bye. And the printing press. It is still more responsible economic policy than letting the death spiral happen.

    • TheAncientGeeksTAG says:

      >borrow from whom?

      The usual people. It’s not the case that everyone lives paycheck to paycheck.

  13. Skeptic says:

    Is there a coherent, rational worldview (no conspiracy theories!) which allows one to simultaneously:

    A) Believe the attempted sexual assault allegations by Christine Blasey Ford against Kavanaugh, and find it disqualifying

    B) Dismiss the rape accusations by Tara Reade against Biden and find it irrelevant to Biden’s fitness for the office of the Presidency

    Same question as above but for :

    C). Believe publishing in major media outlets of the “pee tape” allegations against Trump was both necessary and in the public interest

    D) Believe publishing in major media outlets of the rape and sexual assault and harassment allegations against Biden is unnecessary and not in the public interest

    • Corey says:

      For A&B, one could find Ford more credible than Reade. I don’t personally have a position there because I haven’t been up on the details, my point is that (in addition to the many many possible motivated reasons) there could exist rational ones.

      (Yes, I know that would go against “believe victims”, sure, checkmate atheists, have a cookie)

      For C&D, there’s a difference in that C, if true, is evidence of blackmailability by a foreign government, so they wouldn’t necessarily be the same unless it came out Reade was a spy. That’s at least more relevant to fitness-for-Presidency than typical sexual harassment allegations.

      Also I’d be surprised if there are a nontrivial number of people who believe D (I know better than to say “nobody”), be careful you’re not inadvertently nutpicking.

    • Kaitian says:

      Of course there is. I don’t personally have a strong opinion about either of these cases, but these arguments are certainly rational and coherent:

      – The Kavanaugh allegations were mostly discussed after they became important in national politics. So they had already been vetted by some people who considered them credible and important. The Biden case, so far, is just one person making allegations.
      – Kavanaugh was not very present on the public stage before his nomination. So there was a good reason for the accusations to come up when they did. Biden has been at the center of national politics for years, so this makes the timing of the accusation more suspicious.
      – Kavanaugh was a conservative, the attempt to get him on the supreme court was partly intended to help remove the legal protections for abortion access. So his alleged mistreatment of one woman was symbolic of his mistreatment of women as a group. By contrast, Biden is generally inoffensive on policies relating to women. So there is less reason for women as a group to care about this allegation.

      The first two points describe why someone might believe the accusation against Biden is less credible. The third point explains why someone might care less about the Biden allegation, even if they don’t consider it less credible. I can’t say anything about your bonus question, although the third point might apply here too.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        With regards to timing, Biden was out of national politics for ~3 years. During that time, #MeToo happened. When Biden was prominent in politics but women were less willing to come forth about their accusations for fear of disbelief or reprisal, Reade stayed silent. When #MeToo made it more feasible for victims to come forth, Reade did not because Biden was no longer important in national politics.

        Perhaps the necessary condition for a victim coming forward is both a climate of respect for victims and for the abuser to be prominent on the national stage, and those criteria were not both met for Reade and Biden until now.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        – Kavanaugh was a conservative, the attempt to get him on the supreme court was partly intended to help remove the legal protections for abortion access. So his alleged mistreatment of one woman was symbolic of his mistreatment of women as a group. By contrast, Biden is generally inoffensive on policies relating to women. So there is less reason for women as a group to care about this allegation.

        ISTM that legal protections for abortion access make it more likely for women to be mistreated, rather than less. If you’re an abuser who coerces women into having sexual relationships with you, or a cad who goes around pumping and dumping, you’re obviously going to be able to find it easier to live your chosen lifestyle if you have an easy way of getting rid of any unwanted children you accidentally father. We saw precisely this dynamic in, e.g., the Rotherham grooming scandal, where one of the reasons why the abuse was able to go on so long was that the abusers could bully their victims into getting abortions, and nobody in authority did anything to look into the surprisingly high number of poor schoolgirls getting abortions for fear of offending against “a woman’s right to choose”.

        • On the other hand, without abortion some women would feel obliged to stay with the abuser lest the child grow up without a father. Then there’s what happens in eighteen years, when more of these kids have grown up.

          This isn’t the kind of argument that is likely to appeal to anyone who doesn’t already think of abortion is evil and wrong and couldn’t imagine doing it themselves. For people who could imagine doing it themselves, saying the rights of the well-behaved majority should be restricted so that a tiny minority can be prevented from engaging in bad behavior that does not harm said majority is not going to be very popular.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I wasn’t making a point about whether “the rights of the well-behaved majority should be restricted so that a tiny minority can be prevented from engaging in bad behaviour”; I was making a point about whether it makes sense to equate “wants to restrict abortion” with “mistreats women”. Given that plenty of people both mistreat women and support greater access to abortion, the argument seems dubious, to say the least. Indeed, I’m inclined to say that it’s the kind of argument that isn’t likely to appeal to anyone who doesn’t already think of abortion as an unqualified good and lacks the empathy to see why other people might disagree.

        • Kaitian says:

          I believe that it is much more common for women to find themselves trapped in an abusive relationship, or in poverty, because they were unable to get an abortion. Insofar as there are serial rapists forcing their victims to get abortions, they are outliers. And at least if abortion is legal the victim can get one safely and then report their attacker to the police without fear.

          But even if you’re not convinced, just take my post as explaining how a pro-choice person may feel about Kavanaugh.

        • Viliam says:

          Evaluating options becomes complicated in a multi-player game.

          With one player, you can simply rank the alternatives, and choose the best (or the least bad) one. Adding an extra option never hurts; it is either an improvement over the current best option, or irrelevant because you would ignore it and go with the current best option anyway.

          But with multiple players, adding an extra option for you can change your opponent’s strategies in a way that impacts your expected utility of the old options (because it is weighted by what your opponents would choose, and that has changed now).

          A typical problematic case is when in the old scenario, you had a good option and a bad option, but it was possible for you to always choose the good option, because there was no profit for other people from making you choose the bad one.

          Then someone adds a mediocre option, reasoning that it can’t hurt you, because “you either still have the good option, in which case you can choose that; or you only have the bad option, in which case the mediocre option is a clear improvement”. But the mediocre option turns out to be very profitable for your opponents. So suddenly they have an incentive to behave in a way that makes your good option impossible, hoping that you will choose the mediocre one over the bad one.

          For example, if we made slavery legal as long as one entered the slave contract voluntarily, people would research ways how to make others choose between slavery or even worse fate. With slavery illegal, this line of research is mostly unprofitable.

          Unfortunately, in real life it is even more complicated. Some people get deprived of the good option “naturally”, some people can be deprived of the good option strategically by others if the others can profit from the hypothetical mediocre option. By adding the mediocre option, you help the former, but you hurt the latter.

          Back to the original topic, adding abortions improves the situation for girls whose rapists hoped to make them have the rapist’s baby, and worsens the situations for girls whose rapists hoped for a consequence-free experience.

      • albatross11 says:

        Kaitian:

        I think your third reason is pretty-much universal. There may have been people who held their nose and supported Kavenaugh (this is certainly true for Trump) because they thought that, whatever his past evil behavior, the good of ending abortion on demand would outweigh it.

        Partisans can *always* find plausible reasons of this kind to excuse their own side, and it’s not really clear they’re wrong, either. My sense is that Bill Clinton was a much better president in terms of his actions in office than either George W Bush or Jimmy Carter, but as best I can tell, both are much more personally virtuous and decent men than Bill Clinton ever was.

      • The Kavanaugh allegations were mostly discussed after they became important in national politics. So they had already been vetted by some people who considered them credible and important

        Why do you think X is important and Y is not? Because “some people” think X is important and Y is not!

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          It reads rather paradoxically if you take it literally– how did the Kavanaugh allegations get to be important in national politics without being discussed?– but once you realize that “some people” refers to the people who get to decide what’s important, the mystery clears right up. This time, the hoi polloi are charging ahead and discussing allegations without the blessing of the deciders.

      • The Kavanaugh allegations were mostly discussed after they became important in national politics. So they had already been vetted by some people who considered them credible and important.

        Had they been vetted by people who didn’t want to block Kavanaugh? Anyone who did had an incentive to claim the allegations were credible whether or not it was true.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Ive said it before, but blocking Kavanaugh really just was not worth the effort absent the allegations, because as a legal mind he is entirely a replacement level federalist society hack. – And this is not just my opinion, it is the opinion of the federalist society! How else are you going to read “Anyone on the list is fine”?- so if blocked would have been replaced by someone equivalent, but more bulletproof. (There were a couple of women on that federalist society list, for example)

          The democrats went for his throat because they could not ignore the allegations – that would have been a betrayal of too much of their base

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            And ignoring the allegations against Biden is not a betrayal of their base?

            They went after Kavanaugh not because the allegations against him were believable or relevant, but because they thought they could drag the confirmation process out past the election and retake the Senate. This is why Feinstein’s office sat on them for months before springing them just before the vote.

            To me this is just further evidence that sexual assault allegations are used as excuses rather than reasons. Democrats insisted Republicans drop Trump because women let him grab them by the pussy, but Hillary was a champion for women despite many credible allegations of her strongarming her husband’s rape victims into silence. If the disrespect to women shown by Trump was bad enough to dump him, the disrespect to women shown by Hillary should have been bad enough to dump her.

            Kavanaugh was accused of drunkenly pawing at a woman 35 years ago while he himself was underage, and with no evidence to confirm the party they were at took place, or that he even knew the alleged victim. The allegation against Biden is more recent, Biden was an adult, and he definitely knew the woman, so it is a much more credible and relevant allegation.

            If the allegation against Kavanaugh was enough to banish him from public life, the allegation against Biden should be enough to banish him. That the Democrats do not banish Biden is further evidence that sexual assault allegations without evidence are deployed as insincere partisan weapons, Republicans were right to ignore them against Trump and Kavanaugh, and that they should be ignored in the future. #MeToo and #BelieveWomen are phony things.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            .. There was no way for the Democrats to “Drag the hearings out”, because at any time the Republicans could have thrown him under the bus and nominated a women of impeccable reputation.

            Seriously, I dont get why they picked this guy in the first place, never mind the rape allegations, those were credibly a surprise to the republican leadership, but his finances stank to high heaven, and they knew that in advance. That is not someone you pick if you want a smooth confirmation.

            Ditching him was always a lever right there for the pulling. This was obvious to all sides. Getting rid of Kavanaugh would have gotten rid of Kavanaugh, not shifted the composition of the court a micron.

            …. Also, just going to note here that its a tad early to say the democrats are ignoring it. If I were them, I would currently be checking if she is literally an agent of the FSB. Also, I am not them.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen

            For a variety of reasons, related to morale, legislative schedule and base energy, the Republicans couldn’t dump Kavanaugh at the hearings without taking a bruising in the midterms.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            To quote Seinfeld, “it’s not like changing toothpastes.”

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            As I pointed out the (I believe) last time you brought it up, this argument immediately runs afoul of the fact that a great many people obviously cared very much whether or not Kavanaugh got confirmed, and did so well in advance of Ford’s allegations. If you want to you can say “Well, they shouldn’t have”– but you’d need to say it about both sides. The Isolated Demand for Indifference has a long and sordid history around here.

          • Deiseach says:

            at any time the Republicans could have thrown him under the bus and nominated a women of impeccable reputation

            Like Amy Coney Barrett? Of whom Senator Feinstein remarked “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that people have fought for for years in this country”?

            The only acceptable candidate would have been one who ticked all the boxes for the oppostion party, mainly “yes to immigration, yes to abortion”. I wish the American court system were not so politicised, but seeing as it is, I don’t see why Party A should pick their selection based on what Party B wants or considers desirable, especially as when Party B comes into power, it is not felt that they need to repay the favour.

            Ditching him was always a lever right there for the pulling. This was obvious to all sides

            And equally obvious would be “Even when Party B is not in power, they can stil force their preferences onto Party A” so in reality Party B gets to call the shots. What message does that send to voters?
            Why would you expect anyone to take your party seriously after that?

            Dumping Kavanaugh because ‘okay, he’s a legal lightweight, this other pick is better’ would have worked; dumping Kavanaugh because ‘they’ve whipped up hysteria based on him being Catholic that he’s going to overturn abortion rights, so they’re smearing him as a rapist’ is not acceptable or workable by any measure.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            As a political matter, at least some democrats would have been obliged to take yes for an answer if offered Amy instead. Enough to invoke cloture. But mostly, I am sitting on the other side of the ocean and thinking something is very, very wrong with the tripartite division of power, as practiced by the US. Judges are not supposed to be this political!

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Also,

            because as a legal mind he is entirely a replacement level federalist society hack.

            How do you figure this? Kavanaugh was probably the single most qualified person possible for the Supreme Court. He was on the D.C. Circuit court, which tends to be the one that hears lots of the fine-grained constitutional law challenges. Kavanaugh’s decisions were cited more than anyone else’s by the Supreme Court. When the SC upheld one of his court’s decisions, they cited Kavanaugh, because he got the arguments right when his court was right. When the SC overturned one of his court’s decisions, they cited Kavanaugh’s dissent, because he got it right even when everyone else got it wrong. He is not a replaceable hack, he is uniquely qualified. I have no idea where you go the idea he was a “replacement…hack.”

            As for swapping him out for someone else, the vetting process takes months. Feinstein got the letter from Ford about the allegations at the end of July, and sat on it through all of August and half of September, finally leaking it to the press around September 12-14. Even if the Republicans had immediately dumped him and nominated someone else, they would have had a bare month and a half to get him vetted, get the hearings done and get him confirmed before the midterms in November. Not possible. Even if they had somehow pulled off the impossible and done that, the Democrats would have simply waited until a week before the votes and pulled the same stunt, forcing another delay.

            I agree with you, however, that issues surrounding judges should not be this political, but here we are. If you’re looking for someone to blame for that, well, it wasn’t the Republicans who went to the courts over and over again to get the culture war victories they couldn’t win at the ballot box.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Again. I am a European, so there are limits to how much of the minutiae of us jurisprudence I care to read, but he got the nomination by taking a view of the executive which was, frankly, insane in its deference, and the two opinions of his i read were. Uhm. Bad. Add that the federalist society itself blatantly did not care which of its nominees got picked, and out and out stated that publicly and repeatedly.

            To a certain extent, I blame this on the partisanship inherent in the post. You cant get nominated without holding legal opinions that are, frankly, goddamn terrible.

            re: Winning fights in the courts: I blame this on congress having crippled itself. requiring 60 vote majorities in the senate to pass things is utterly insane, and means the legislature cant pass social reforms that have colossal popular majorities behind them, because it cannot pass hardly anything at all. Abortion and gay marriage are the law of the land in most of europe by now, because legislatures which can make laws did so.

            If our elected assemblies were as crippled, I suspect our judges would also be a lot more political.

          • and the two opinions of his i read were. Uhm. Bad.

            Can you tell us a little about why you consider yourself competent to evaluate opinions by U.S. courts?

    • I think your first pair reverse the content of the accusations. Ford accused Kavanaugh of attempted rape. I’m not sure what the current legal definition of rape is, but in ordinary language what Reade claimed Biden did wasn’t rape, although it certainly was objectionable. It was, however, roughly the same thing that Trump boasted of having done in a recorded conversation.

      That said, Reade’s accusation is more believable than Ford’s, inasmuch as the number of people in a position to make such an accusation, if false, is much smaller than the number in a position to make the Kavanaugh accusation. Reade was a Biden staffer. Ford had no known connection with Kavanaugh other than having grown up close enough to where he did so that it was possible they could have both been at the same party.

      Those points aside, the cases are reasonably comparable. In each case, the accuser had reason to hope that the accusation would have a political effect that the accuser strongly favored, which is a reason for some skepticism in both cases.

      • JayT says:

        Reade accuses digital penetration, which is classified as rape.

        • chrisminor0008 says:

          That depends on legal jurisdiction. The legal definition of rape I’m aware of is limited to penis-in-vagina. Digital penetration would be sexual assault.

          • Which is why I wrote:

            I’m not sure what the current legal definition of rape is, but in ordinary language what Reade claimed Biden did wasn’t rape

          • JayT says:

            In DC it looks like it is basically classified that way:
            http://dccode.elaws.us/code?no=22-30

            They don’t actually use the term “rape” as far as I’ve seen, but rather just different degrees of sexual abuse. First and second degree sexual assault include digital penetration though.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Rape or sexual assault laws vary state to state. In my state there is no such crime as “rape.” There’s sexual battery in various degrees, and sexual battery includes forced/coerced vaginal or anal penetration with any object. There’s no distinction in my state between forced vaginal insertion of penis or fingers.

    • salvorhardin says:

      Does anyone (or any more than a lizardman-constant fraction of people) believe D? Seems very strawmannish to me. The reporting I’ve seen on it says that major media haven’t reported it out *yet*, but the “yet” is doing a lot of work there: it is way too early to tell whether they’re sitting on it or just trying to fact-check it more before they publish, as is appropriate for any such story and as must be particularly difficult to accomplish in the present circumstances.

      FWIW, the allegation seems to me to need more investigation and search for possible corroboration (e.g. did she tell other people about this at or nearer the time, as Ford told her therapist IIRC), but is not obviously incredible. If it holds up, it’s yet one more reason why Biden ought long since to have dropped out and campaigned for a better, younger moderate candidate instead. I also find E. Jean Carroll’s allegation (among others) credible so I think Biden would still be a less unfit candidate than Trump even if the allegation were true and even focusing only on the dimension of “how rapey is this person”, but it’s disgraceful that those are the sorts of comparisons we’re now forced to make.

      • Skeptic says:

        Reade says she told both her brother and two close friends immediately after it allegedly occurred in 1993. One has since died. Her brother and the remaining friend have confirmed to reporters that she told them of the incident in 1993.

        So unlike Ford there are confirmed contemporaneous accounts. Of course that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true.

      • as Ford told her therapist IIRC

        You don’t remember correctly. The notes from the therapist detail a different story, that she was assaulted by four unamed men. Kavanaugh was not mentioned. Later she tried to claim the notes were wrong. “I remember telling someone X, but they don’t remember it and notes they took at the time about it were wrong” is not “corroboration.”

        • Skeptic says:

          The Ford therapist notes were also from a session decades after the alleged incident took place. So it wasn’t contemporaneous.

        • salvorhardin says:

          Do you have a citation for the content of the notes (in particular do you have one that isn’t Fox/Breitbart/OANN or similar)?

          • salvorhardin says:

            I’m trying to exclude sources that are well known to just make stuff up. Mainstream sources have a bias in what and how they report, certainly, but they are not utter fabulists in the way that the right-wing propaganda media are.

            Anyway, that citation doesn’t actually back up quite what you claim. Specifically, the four vs two thing is a minor error that’s entirely plausible confusion on the therapist’s part, and doesn’t reasonably characterize it as a “different story”. That Kavanaugh isn’t specifically mentioned does mean it’s not as good corroboration as it would be if he were, but what is mentioned in the notes per the WaPo is substantially consistent with her later testimony.

          • Specifically, the four vs two thing is a minor error that’s entirely plausible confusion on the therapist’s part, and doesn’t reasonably characterize it as a “different story”.

            If you look at the plain meaning of the words, it’s describing a different story. Of course, if you take your red pen, cross out the few “minor words” you are motivated to believe are errors, then, yes, it’s the same story. Then you can take this only slightly modified document and call it “corroboration,” present it as “substantially consistent.”

      • Deiseach says:

        I also find E. Jean Carroll’s allegation (among others) credible

        If you find that particular accusation credible then my opinion of your discrimination, never mind good faith, drops.

        I admit, I don’t know what upscale department stores and their changing rooms are like. Maybe it’s common to permit male partners to accompany a woman inside as she changes. But she claims to have been assaulted (by the account below, it was only attempted intercourse) and nobody was around to hear her calling for help or heard anything untoward? No other customers, no shop assistants, no-one?

        And that she then seemingly has kept the dress unwashed for twenty or more years (to get the DNA sample her lawyers claimed would prove her story)?

        And the account that was published in the New York Magazine from her memoir was very odd; very fictionalised, that kind of fake-novel sort of memoir that goes for making an impression like a novel instead of being a plain recital of facts. She even admits that yeah, isn’t it weird I have no witnesses from the store to back me up? but then floats on with the tale of how it all happened in three minutes.

        And the Trump part is only one of a selection of “Horrible Men I Have Known” so either she’s particularly unlucky in life (which could be) or she’s spinning a story for her memoirs based on deliberately shaping an account of “The Patriarchy – What It’s Done To Me And Women Like Me” using the peak momentum at that moment of the whole MeToo movement to cast herself as yet another victim of powerful men’s sexual desires (rather than a washed-up agony aunt columnist).

        It could have happened (as in “not physically impossible”). So could everything she recounts from the age of seven on. Or it could be recasting memories in the current interpretation of all such interactions in order to remain relevant for the times, and it seems to me that her career as a journalist depended on being one of the cutting-edge socially relevant types especially when it came to advising women on “topics such as careers, beauty, sex, men, diet, “sticky situations”, and friends”.

        • albatross11 says:

          A really important thing to realize is that someone recounting events that just happened is often going to get things badly wrong. Someone recounting things from very long ago is going to make major factual errors, get events out of order in terms of time and causality, swap people in and out, etc.

          Politicians and other public figures get caught pretty routinely telling stories that turn out not to have happened much like they’re told. My guess is that the difference between those public figures and everyone else is that for public figures, it’s often both possible and worth the trouble to go back and check the person’s hazy recollection from a couple decades ago.

          As a personal anecdote, there was a time about ten years after I graduated college when I had occasion to look at my transcript. In my memory, I was *sure* I’d had class X before class Y, but the transcript said the opposite. Almost certainly, the transcript was right and my memory of which class I’d had first a decade earlier was mixed up. But I would have bet a lot of money on it being the other way before I saw the transcript. This was a matter of no importance, with no emotional impact and no larger implications for causes I cared about, just whether I’d studied one thing earlier or later than another. I think this is pretty common.

          This makes me extremely uneasy about the tendency to unearth sexual assault claims from a decade or two ago and run with them–it’s not at all clear to me how much we can rely on those recollections. That’s true with both #metoo allegations and allegations of childhood sexual assault being made by 40-year-olds. What fraction of those allegations are accurately recounting what happened? Do people misremember the unimportant details but remember the important ones, or do they misremember even the really important details? (Like Hillary Clinton misremembering being under fire in an airport in Yugoslavia, maybe?)

          It’s not that I doubt that a lot of those things happened. It’s that I doubt that testimony of traumatic events from a couple decades ago can be relied on–sometimes they’re correct, sometimes they’re incorrect, and I doubt the ability of the legal system (let alone journalists and social-media mobs) to untangle which is which. Add in a small but nonnegligible number of people who make apparently crazy and impossible claims (UFO abductions, for example), and it seems really hard to base serious actions on these recollections.

          If something traumatic happens to you and you want to make testimony for later, here’s my recommendation: Write it down in a journal, and date it. Maybe ask someone you trust to keep a copy until you’re ready to release it. Absent that, if you tell me ten years from now that some terrible thing happened, I won’t be able to trust your recollection enough to take serious action on it unless there’s a lot of other corroborating evidence. (It may be that in the future, old emails and chat logs and such will provide that evidence.)

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Yes: Reade is on record saying things like “President Putin scares the power elite in America because he is a compassionate, caring, visionary leader.” and “This is a whole lot to deal with for one mere mortal… President Putin’s obvious reverence for women, children and animals, and his ability with sports is intoxicating to American women.”. Those are not isolated quotes, she’s written articles where every word is like that.

      Without needing to speculate on whether or not she is in the employ of Russia, it is obvious that Reade is the sort of partisan shill (say what you want about Ford, she ain’t Reade) who we should probably distrust on political matters.

      • Reade is the sort of partisan shill

        The kind who disagrees with Ninety-Three.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          The kind who writes love letters to dictators. Most people I disagree with I do not consider to be partisan shills, but I put Reade in roughly the same category as tankies.

          Heck, it’s possible for someone to write an impassioned defense of Putin without me labeling them a partisan shill, but it would need to actually be a defense and not simply a collection of applause lights.

          • Matt M says:

            Effusive and over-the-top praise of Putin is not a common characteristic of the American partisan right.

            They may hate him less than the left does, but those comments don’t sound like anything you’d ever hear on Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or Tucker Carlson…

          • acymetric says:

            @Matt M

            They may hate him less than the left does

            I’m pretty sure that wasn’t true as recently as 4-6 years ago.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            @Matt M: Note that I did not call her a common member of the American partisan right.

          • Matt M says:

            @Matt M: Note that I did not call her a common member of the American partisan right.

            What sort of partisan are you calling her then?

            And is that particular sort of partisan known for possessing a strong bias in opposition of Joe Biden?

          • Ninety-Three says:

            @Matt M

            What sort of partisan are you calling her then?

            Some sort of fringe weirdo probably. The comparison to tankies was not chosen carelessly. My point is that the sort of person who writes those articles (bizarrely acknowledging but not engaging with a skeptical audience) is someone I would not trust to report the colour of the sky if there were a political team that benefited from it.

          • JayT says:

            She was a big Bernie supporter this election cycle, and I haven’t seen anything that would suggest she was right wing. I have no idea what’s up with the Putin stuff, but it definitely makes her seem like a “weird” person, and that will probably make her easier for people to ignore.

          • Skeptic says:

            For the record, she was a Warren supporter.

          • Matt M says:

            OK, I think I just got thrown by your use of the word “partisan.”

            If you would have just called her a “weirdo” or something I think I’d be fine with that. But “partisan” in this context suggests someone strongly aligned with the mainstream American left or right. And she certainly does not seem to be that.

          • salvorhardin says:

            There is in fact a well-attested pro-Putin leftist fringe and has been for awhile– hell, there are even pro-Assad leftists, the common thread is basically “the American foreign policy establishment is my enemy and the enemy of my enemy is my friend”– so it’s not really *that* surprising that a Sanders/Warren supporter would be one of them.

          • Partisan, but I think not a shill. And her partisanship at that point was orthogonal to U.S. political partisanship, since neither party would have agreed with it.

            Reading her comments on Putin lowers my opinion of her good sense, but it doesn’t suggest that she is trying to get Biden at the behest of Moscow.

      • Skeptic says:

        Does it matter that there are confirmed contemporaneous accounts? She told people of the alleged assault in 1993.

        So a weirdly pro-Russian article in 2018 has little bearing on an alleged assault 25 years prior.

        Or did she think up a lie in 1993 just on the off chance of a Biden nomination? Or is it simply a lack of credibility on politics extends to claims of sexual assault?

        I could see people claim the last one, similar to credibility of a witness in court but I’d like to see the explicit argument.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          My understanding is that Reade told people of an incident without all the details, just as she had come forth earlier in the election cycle with a partial account of her encounter with Biden. Are there contemporaneous accounts of the “it was definitely sexual assault” details that just came out?

          • Skeptic says:

            You’re mistaken. In 1993 Reade told three different people she was digitally penetrated by Biden. One has since died.

            The remaining two have confirmed to journalists that Reade did in fact tell them in 1993 she was sexually assaulted by Joe Biden while she was a member of his staff.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            @Skeptic

            Huh. Checking sources, it looks like the journalist who interviewed Reade did indeed check with the brother and friend who confirmed the story.

            That makes it a lot more credible and I am suddenly confused as to why this story has not yet gone mainstream. Not even Fox or any of the other obvious beneficiaries of the news seem to have picked up on it.

          • Skeptic says:

            @Ninety-Three,

            My extremely cynical take is that Fox will sit on the story until much closer to the election. Then they will play it 24/7 in an attempt to destroy Biden.

            To be a fly on the wall on the latest version of the JournoList forum…

            As someone who detests both parties and the media machines they have wrought, my only hope is that a billionaire funds a muckraking machine. Some ultra rich dude/dudette needs to make an endowment based The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Truth media platform and publish it for free. High journalistic standards and pull no punches towards those who wish to rule over us peons whether pols, corporate titans, or bureaucrats.

            A man can dream…..

          • Ninety-Three says:

            @Skeptic

            I suppose Fox’s ideal outcome is that the story only comes out after Biden secures the nomination (isn’t he basically assured it already?), because a scandal-plagued Biden is probably an easier Trump victory than Bernie. With my enormous cynic hat on, I am only moderately confused that the mainstream right press is so far managing to coordinate on making that happen.

          • I have wondered why the prediction markets have such high odds of Trump winning, since I’m betting against it. Might someone be sitting on a tape of uncle Joe?

          • soreff says:

            @Skeptic

            >digitally penetrated by Biden

            I’ve been around computers too much.
            My first thought on seeing that phrase was of electronics
            and information access controls rather than of fingertips.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @soreff: How could Joe Biden physically penetrate a woman only over computers? Dick pics are just a series of 1s and 0s.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Le Maistre Chat, who’re you to doubt a hypothetical computer’s self-identification as a woman?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Evan: Touche.

          • salvorhardin says:

            My guess is that Biden’s defenders will point out that those two corroborators are close enough to Reade that they might have plausibly had motive to coordinate a lie with her. Which is true– but of course similar things are true of other allegations generally deemed credible as well– people disproportionately tend to tell those closest to them about these things, after all.

            Anyway, Vox has a Voxsplainer about it which generally indicates a topic of general interest among the chattering classes, so I’m betting the major media pick this up within the next month or so. But after the way that the Democratic and Republican bases rallied around Bill Clinton and DJT respectively, I am not at all convinced that it will make any difference to the race. Democrats have in the past punished their own folks for far lesser allegations (most notably Al Franken) but only when the stakes were much lower.

          • Clutzy says:

            Anyway, Vox has a Voxsplainer about it which generally indicates a topic of general interest among the chattering classes, so I’m betting the major media pick this up within the next month or so. But after the way that the Democratic and Republican bases rallied around Bill Clinton and DJT respectively, I am not at all convinced that it will make any difference to the race. Democrats have in the past punished their own folks for far lesser allegations (most notably Al Franken) but only when the stakes were much lower.

            TBH, it probably is strongest if Joe keeps appearing to decline physically and mentally and the Dems want to coup the convention. There has been a lot of pro-Cuomo agitation recently, it appears he is being pushed as a Biden replacement should the worst come. If people decide that they have decided that this comes in and helps Joe out the door as another straw on the camel’s back.

      • Nornagest says:

        To be fair, there probably are a lot of American (and other) women who’re into Putin, but I imagine that has less to do with his obvious reverence for women, children, and animals and more to do with the fact that he’s one of the most powerful guys in the world and not at all bad-looking for his age.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      B) You can believe it and find it relevant to Biden’s fitness for office, but then you have to ask yourself whether you find the multiple rape allegations against Trump believable and relevant to his fitness of office (the E. Jean Carroll allegation is directly comparable to the Tara Reade allegation).

      If the choice is between Biden and Trump, which is least unfit? If they are both the Democratic and Republican nominees, one of them is going to be elected President. Which do you want?

  14. MisterA says:

    Trump just called in to Hannity and said he doesn’t believe hospitals really need 30,000 or 40,000 ventilators, governors are just exaggerating. His reasoning is that since a lot of hospitals only have 1 or 2 ventilators, it’s crazy to think they would need this many.

    This guy is going to kill so many people. It turns out there really are consequences if you elect someone this stupid as President.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      This guy is going to kill so many people. It turns out there really are consequences if you elect someone this stupid as President.

      Yes, but that’s a part of democracy. What do you want, an IQ test qualification?

      • Soy Lecithin says:

        What do you want

        A better demos, I guess?

      • Atlas says:

        Yes, but that’s a part of democracy. What do you want, an IQ test qualification?

        I think about this passage from World War Z a lot:

        You can blame the politicians, the businessmen, the generals, the “machine,” but really, if you’re looking for someone to blame, blame me. I’m the system, I’m the machine. That’s the price of living in a democracy: we all gotta take the rap. I can see why it took so long for China to finally embrace it, and why Russia just said “#@*% it” and went back to whatever they call their system now. Nice to be able to say “Hey, don’t look at me, it’s not my fault.” Well, it is. It is my fault, and the fault of everyone of my generation.

        [She looks down at the children]

        I wonder what future generations will say about us. My grandparents suffered through the Depression, World War 2 and came home to build the greatest middle-class in human history. Lord knows they weren’t perfect, but they sure came closest to the American dream. Then my parents’ generation came along and #@*%ed it all up—the baby boomers, the “me generation.”And then you got us. Yeah, we stopped the zombie menace, but we’re the ones who let it become a menace in the first place. At least we’re cleaning up our own mess, and maybe that’s the best epitaph you can hope for. “Generation Z, they cleaned up their own mess.”

        • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

          F that, I didn’t write the platform of either of the two parties I can sensibly hope to put in power. And I certainly didn’t design the voting system and draw the borders that make it such that in the vast majority of cases, the single bit of information I submit is either futile or superfluous.

          “We” is an illusion. If other people in this country do dumb things, that shouldn’t reflect poorly on my intelligence. As for trying to somehow change the system…please excuse me if I find better uses for my time than yelling at the tide to stop.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            It’s true that one of the flaws of democracy is the illusion that “we” are responsible for the evil done by the rulers the Iron Law of Oligarchy has produced.

          • AG says:

            Yep, what happened to Meditations on Moloch being this blog’s most popular post?

    • Radu Floricica says:

      It’s a bad fit. I’m usually pro-Trump, but for a pandemic he’s definitely not ok. Guys was borderline anti-vaxxer from the beginning – I think he recanted because of perception, not because he changed his mind.

    • EchoChaos says:

      My ongoing frustration with such comments is that I do think Trump should’ve done more and done it earlier.

      But the places he has been criticized (such as this) are not the places where he is actually making mistakes.

      He has been told by his actual epidemiologists that we aren’t at the point where this is a crisis. New York may (probably will) need more ventilators, but Dr. Birx specifically said yesterday that the numbers were overstated. Trump is listening to experts when he says things like this. The experts may be wrong (I think Dr. Birx is probably understating the risk), but he is listening to them.

      I think that we SHOULD institute stricter internal travel restrictions from major viral outbreaks and we should’ve shut foreign travel down sooner. But the people criticizing Trump are the ones who were celebrating parades and mass gatherings after Trump shut down travel from China to put a finger in his eye.

      And instead of actually working with Trump’s personality to try to get this under control (as Drs. Birx and Fauci are doing admirably), they are spinning partisan outrage and making things worse.

      Trump is not stupid. He is however a salesman and an eternal optimist. Compared to the rest of the West, he’s done… about average, maybe a little better. I hope he improves, but acting like he’s been exceptionally horrible is incredibly unfair.

      • albatross11 says:

        Trump, like essentially everyone in politics and media, is a reasonably bright guy with no real understanding of science, technology, math, statistics, etc. Our political/administrative systems mostly select for people who are good at words and factions and power games, rather than at understanding complicated unfamilar things and reasoning clearly about them.

        Trump was, AFAICT, about average among US and Western world political leaders in terms of reacting to the virus. This reflects the kind of people we choose to lead our countries–they’re mostly not the right folks for this kind of job, and the same is true for several hops down the chain of advisors and officials.

    • zoozoc says:

      I’m not an expert, but my understanding is that
      (a) ventilators require a lot of intensive and expert handling by trained professionals
      (b) people are only placed on ventilators as a last resort
      (c) those on ventilators end up dying a large percentage of the time (just a random study I looked up, 44% of ppl on ventilators died in the hospital, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9172858)
      (d) those on ventilators almost always end up with secondary bacterial infections

      For these reasons, ventilators are not just a panacea that will save lives. Let me be clear, I am NOT saying that more ventilators won’t work. But the ventilators need to be staffed by professionals familiar with their usage. So you can’t just throw 100+ more ventilators into a hospital and expect great results.

      This is not to say that other medical equipment is not needed. But the general public and politicians tend to focus on one thing and it seems like ventilators are that thing.

      • John Schilling says:

        If the medical professionals running the actual hospitals are saying “We need lots more ventilators”, and the amateur politician noted for firing experts who tell him what he doesn’t want to hear are saying “Hospitals don’t need more ventilators”, I’m probably going to trust the professionals on this one. I don’t think hospitals, particularly under a certificate-of-need regime, are prestocked with the largest possible number of ventilators that their staff could possibly operate in a marginally beneficial manner during a respiratory disease epidemic. With more ventilators, they probably can save more lives.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          According to MisterA*, Trump claimed governors were exaggerating the number of needed ventilators, not doctors.

          How many ventilators do doctors say we need?

          * I haven’t seen the show or a transcript of what Trump said, so I’m just going by what MisterA says.

          • John Schilling says:

            How many ventilators do doctors say we need?

            At least twice as many as they’ve already got, apparently. And the governors aren’t making up numbers out of thin air; they’re getting the numbers from their own state health departments.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Okay. And how many are the governors saying we need? If docs say we need twice as many (assuming they’re right) and governors say we need four times as many, then Trump is correct that governors are exaggerating the ventilator issue.

      • Garrett says:

        Another issue to consider is that a lot of hospitals are ceasing to use CPAP/BiPAP for provider safety.

        One of the tools used for ventilation management is CPAP or BiPAP (they are technically different but interchangeable for this conversation). We carry CPAP devices on the ambulance because, for certain categories of severe CHF and asthma it works well. Additionally, they allow us to avoid intubating patients. Intubation is associated with a lot of costs and complications as you noted. And the last time I looked, the NNT for CPAP to avoid an intubation was 6 making it one of the most effective interventions in this category. Because of this great value, in my State (and presumably elsewhere), there’s been a solid effort to push CPAP use for acute conditions down to the lowest level providers practical.

        The current concern is that CPAP and other related treatments increase the amount of aerosolization from the patient and the spread thereof. In the absence of a vaccine or healthcare providers who are immune, a decision has been made to minimize the risk to current healthcare providers. Thus severe patients who would otherwise be placed on CPAP or BiPAP are instead being intubated. Note that this normally considered the reverse of what we want to have happen. But it’s what we need to do in order to minimize the risks to healthcare providers.

        • albatross11 says:

          Is there a way to alterate the CPAP/BPAP masks/machines to decrease the aerosol risk? Could you put the patient in a plastic tent and run the tent at a slight negative pressure or something? (I’m asthmatic, and remember being in an oxygen tent a few times.)

          • Garrett says:

            That *sounds* reasonable, but IDK. That it isn’t being done is a strike against it.

            The big challenge is getting them on people. CPAP for this kind of thing usually isn’t started unless someone is having a hard time keeping their oxygen saturation up. Unfortunately, people in those kinds of situations are also likely to have some form of altered mental status and not thinking clearly. And you frequently have to fight with the patient to get the CPAP on them.

            If you don’t have any experience with a CPAP device yourself (as for sleep apnea), have someone drive you down the freeway, lower the window and stick your head out facing forward. Open your mouth and try to breathe. It’s exactly like that, only moreso. It sort of feels like you are trying to breathe underwater.

            Now imagine trying to apply what’s similar to a fighter-pilot mask with 4 straps to someone’s face while they are coughing and fighting you because they are desperate to breathe, the mask makes them feel like they are drowning and they aren’t in their right mind. How well do you think you can do that under a sealed oxygen tent?

            Maybe it can be done. But damn. If you were an ethical employer, would you risk your employees’ health on not catching something that way?

          • albatross11 says:

            I can easily believe that it’s not being done because it won’t work, but I’ll point out that for my entire life, I’ve gone to doctors’ offices where the exam table was like 90cm across and the disposable paper cover the patient was supposed to sit on was like 50 cm across. So I’m skeptical that there’s not low-hanging fruit here somewhere.

            As I understand it, CPAP/BPAP masks would be useful for a lot of COVID-19 patients, but the problem is that they’ll spread virus in an aerosol as the person exhales through the valve in the mask. I’m not too familiar with these masks, and I’ve certainly never tried to put one on a panicking patient[1]. But it seems like there could be some way to modify the masks to decrease the aerosol risk to an acceptable level, and if so, it would be awfully useful. Further, it seems like this might be doable in a field-repair way, rather than in an “go back to the drawing board and redesign this equipment to avoid this problem” way. If so, it seems like it might save a fair number of lives.

            I’m not sure what this would look like. Any ideas?

            [1] I’ve had asthma my whole life, and have been in the hospital very short of breath several times, though, so maybe I have some insight into what this might be like.

      • albatross11 says:

        How hard would it be to do some kind of telemedicine for running the ventilator? You have a remote expert who’s consulting over a video chat with a local nurse or assistant, who is told what measurements to take and what knobs to turn. Is that at all workable, or is it just too complex to do that way?

      • Etoile says:

        With regards to bacterial infections: apparently there have been studies that if you brush an intubated patient’s teeth regularly, their likelihood of contracting hospital-acquired pneumonia (not the COVID19 kind) goes down.
        Of course, with the way ERs are inundated, who has time to brush anyone’s teeth, but still.
        Here’s an article, for example:
        https://www.rtmagazine.com/department-management/clinical/brushing-teeth-hospital-acquired-pneumonia/
        (Edited to add a better source link)

    • Clutzy says:

      Any complaint about ventilators relating to the government other than complaining about how FDA regulations are inherently idiotic is 100000000% uniformed and ultimately useless. Trump has no influence on the ventilator supply, Congress and Trump working perfectly in concert would only have a 1% annual influence on the ventilator supply. Vent supply is restricted because its a highly specific (and generally not used all that often in mass numbers) medical device that each and every manufacturer (and location of ) needs independent certification to make. This means there are only a very small number of factories certified to make them, and they are only tooled to make very small numbers (because demand is always low). They can switch to making them at max capacity, but this will only tweak the margins. And no one who could theoretically make them en mass would be approved in time.

      • Statismagician says:

        Yeah, the ventilator shortage is like 95% an own-goal by FDA and bizarre health care economic incentives generally. You can make a perfectly effective ventilator for $100 worth of commonly-available parts (source: MIT, who did this in 2010 specifically for disaster zones/pandemics), but you can’t get it approved for US use for any price. Remaining 5% is an understandable, but very counterproductive desire to push the margins of medical device reliability and general fool-proofing as far out as possible.

      • JayT says:

        How much control does the president have over the FDA? Could he tell them to loosen their approval process on something like this, or would that have to go through Congress?

        • Evan Þ says:

          At least, he could be naming names in his speeches on national TV: “I have in my hands a list of a thousand companies who could be producing up to {{Number}} ventilators per week, but {{Full Name}} from the FDA is stopping them. My good friend Congressman X is trying to unblock these companies; please write your Congressman to tell him to support X’s bill to save your grandma’s life! American industry is the best in the world; let’s get the low-energy FDA out of the way and unleash it against the virus!”

  15. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Weird fiction review: The Challenge From Beyond
    This was a round robin story by Catherine L. Moore (known for medieval French sword & sorcery and Solar system-set Weird SF), Abraham Merritt (a novelist whose staple genre was “lost races”), H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and someone named Frank Belknap Long. It was the brainchild of Julius Schwartz, then a literary agent, but better remembered for his work at DC Comics long after the deaths of Lovecraft, Howard, and Merritt. It was written in the summer of 1935 for the September issue of Fantasy magazine.

    C.L. Moore: George Campbell, a geology professor, is camping during summer break. When an animal disturbs his campsite, he picks up a rock to throw at it, but it’s “Square, crystal smooth, obviously artificial, with dull rounded corners.” It’s an age-worn artificial cube of quartz, and inside is a small disc with “Wedge-shaped characters, faintly reminiscent of cuneiform writing.” (He didn’t notice this while making camp?) He’s weirded out by how this could exist, his internal monologue running in the channel we call “Lovecraftian”, even though it’s not his turn yet. “could there, in a Paleozoic world, have been things with a written language who might have graven these cryptic wedges upon the quartz-enveloped disc he held? Or—might a thing like this have fallen meteor-like out of space into the unformed rock of a still molten world?” He turns off his flashlight… did the cube continue glowing a moment?
    Bare summary doesn’t do justice to Moore’s luxurious prose, the positive feature that balances her harebrained plot development.

    A. Merritt: Campbell can’t sleep. He gets back up to experiment with the cube. It acts weird when photons hit it, but only if he’s paying attention. “His mind must travel along the ray, fix itself upon the cube’s heart, if its beat were to wax, until … what?” Much unnecessary detail of sights, sounds, etc. follows, then the object absorbs him.
    And he passes the baton to…

    H.P. Lovecraft: Campbell’s mind traverses the vast physical distance between where he was and some unknown cosmic destination. It’s scary to not have a body, especially if your internal monologue assumes materialism! He tries to think as he moves, and “Some cell-group in the back of his head had seemed to find a cloudily familiar quality in the cube—and that familiarity was fraught with dim terror.” Because of course he remembers that, as a professor, he’s familiar with the Eltdown Shards, cuneiform-like clay tablets geologists found in pre-carboniferous strata in England thirty years ago. While a few scientists “hinted at” their heretical artificiality (in Lovecraft, do academics ever make clear truth claims rather than hinting or insinuating?), he only remembers something about a cube because he’s also read the far less reputable book by “a deeply learned Sussex clergyman of occultist leanings” purporting to translate the Eltdown Shards. If the Reverend is right (of course he is), on an extra-galactic planet “a mighty order of worm-like beings whose attainments and whose control of nature surpassed anything within the range of terrestrial imagination” gradually colonized their entire galaxy. No technology could let them navigate to other galaxies in person, so in their thirst for knowledge of all space and time “They devised peculiar objects—strangely energized cubes of a curious crystal containing hypnotic talismen and enclosed in space-resisting spherical envelopes of an unknown substance—which could be forcibly expelled beyond the limits of their universe,” and when by chance a mind observed one some indefinite amount of time after it landed on a planet, the hypnotized mind will be beamed to the worm-people’s planet, where one of the natives can perform a mind-swap to go exploring the victim’s extra-galactic space-time coordinates.

    Sometimes, when a potentially important race capable of space travel was found, the worm-like folk would employ the cube to capture and annihilate minds by the thousands, and would extirpate the race for diplomatic reasons—using the exploring minds as agents of destruction.

    Only a few of the numberless cubes sent forth ever found a landing and response on an inhabited world—since there was no such thing as aiming them at goals beyond sight or knowledge. Only three, ran the story, had ever landed on peopled worlds in our own particular universe. One of these had struck a planet near the galactic rim two thousand billion years ago, while another had lodged three billion years ago on a world near the centre of the galaxy. The third—and the only one ever known to have invaded the solar system—had reached our own earth 150,000,000 years ago.
    It was with this latter that Dr. Winters-Hall’s “translation” chiefly dealt.

    Fortunately for Earth, it was then dominated by the Great Race, who knew a thing or two about mind transference, so their scientists reacted efficiently and “carefully hid the thing from light and sight, and guarded it as a menace.”

    Now and then some rash, unscrupulous adventurer would furtively gain access to it and sample its perilous powers despite the consequences—but all such cases were discovered, and safely and drastically dealt with.

    (I love the mental image of tentacled, cone-shaped adventures, wielding weapons and bracing their mighty muscles.)
    Fifty million years ago, the beings sent their minds ahead to escape a peril from the inner Earth, and the whereabouts of the cube were lost to Earthly minds ever since. In a delightful bit of self-parody, Lovecraft has Campbell note the length and detail of this “translation” relative to the small number of Eltdown glyphs.
    He wakes up and tries to move, bu thoughts like “move my hand” have no coherent output, and his five senses are not what he’s used to. Good ol’ body horror. A fellow being comes in, like a pale grey centipede, and appears to threaten him.

    REH:

    He fought down an unreasoning horror. Judged from a cosmic standpoint, why should his metamorphosis horrify him? Life and consciousness were the only realities in the universe. Form was unimportant. His present body was hideous only according to terrestrial standards.

    Campbell mans up (centipedes up?) and thinks of his old body as just a cloak that would have been cast off upon a natural death anyway. What had that life “ever given him save toil, poverty, continual frustration and repression?” The only positive things in memory were “the physical delights of his former life.”

    But he had long ago exhausted all the physical possibilities contained in that earthly body. Earth held no new thrills. But in the possession of this new, alien body he felt promises of strange, exotic joys.

    Bwah?
    Campbell also has access to the neurons of the being who left this body, Tothe of the planet Yekub. “Carved deep in the physical tissues of the brain, they spoke dimly as implanted instincts to George Campbell; and his human consciousness seized them and translated them to show him the way not only to safety and freedom, but to…” power! He’s doing the full Nietzsche.
    Understanding that the centipede threatening him with a metal box is Yukth, “supreme lord of science”, he kills him anyway. He uses Tothe’s memories to run to the shrine of a floating white sphere and seize it – the god of Yekub! (though why the aliens worship a dumb old sphere for an idol has been forgotten for a million years.) Conan the Centipede kills the nearby priest and glories in thoughts of how he’ll be king now! He, who dared the easy thing no “man of Yekub” ever would, for as an Earthling he is Beyond Good and Evil as the centipedes subjectively think of them! Muwhahaha!

    Frank Belknap Long: In Campbell’s body, Tothe walks around like an idiot, frothing at the mouth. His fingers are clawed now?
    Meanwhile Conan the Centipede streaks through fern-planted avenues between the cyclopean buildings under the alien sun. Woo, got your god!
    Back on Earth, Tothe is overwhelmed by bestial human brain patterns and tries to eat a live fox.
    Meanwhile thousands of worm-shapes prostrate themselves as the ex-Campbell undulates toward the throne of spiritual empire.
    Back on Earth, Campbell’s body/Tothe dies by drowning and is found by a fur trapper. He finds it much hairier and beast-like than Campbell left it, and dripping black ichor instead of blood.
    Meanwhile the divine sphere acts on Tothe’s body, burning with “a supermundane spirituality all animal dross.” Then it communicates:

    “On all earth, living creatures rend one another, and feast with unutterable cruelty on their kith and kin. No worm-mind can control a bestial man-body when it yearns to raven. Only man-minds instinctively conditioned through the course of ten thousand generations can keep the human instincts in thrall. Your body will destroy itself on earth, seeking the blood of its animal kin, seeking the cool water where it can wallow at its ease. Seeking eventually destruction, for the death-instinct is more powerful in it than the instincts of life and it will destroy itself in seeking to return to the slime from which it sprang.”
    Thus spoke the round red god of Yekub in a far-off segment of the space-time continuum to George Campbell as the latter, with all human desire purged away, sat on a throne and ruled an empire of worms more wisely kindly, and benevolently than any man of earth had ever ruled an empire of men.

    Whoa, he ended it with a huge Take That to Howard’s intentions.
    Well, you don’t read a round robin for narrative cohesion. You want to see the different authors’s styles contrasting in small chunks. And this one is better than most, because not everyone just spews their style onto the page with a straight face: Lovecraft in particular has the self-awareness to make fun of himself. Howard might have been doing the same: Conan the Centipede is a more over-the-top power fantasy than actual Conan, who often showed a code of ethics.
    Merritt does the least by far. Moore had the job of creating a character and MacGuffin, so she couldn’t run wild like Howard or Howard. And not having read Frank Belknap Long, his section, while very distinct, has the least to contextualize it. How does an alien not understanding human instincts turn the body into a werewolf? What were Long’s psychological preoccupations as an author? The god sphere’s speech sounds like something Joseph de Maistre would say, but introducing an alien god as a real supernatural authority overriding the intents of REH’s Campbell and enlightening him moves any such influence from right-wing Catholicism to New Age-ism.

    Your thoughts? Should I move on to reviews of Lovecraft or one of these other writers?

    • Nick says:

      But he had long ago exhausted all the physical possibilities contained in that earthly body. Earth held no new thrills.

      So according to Howard, Campbell had already sampled all life’s pleasures. What was he getting up to a professor’s stipend?

      I also loved that Conan the Centipede, while understanding Yukth’s words, did not bother to pay attention to them. We never learn what he was saying.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        So according to Howard, Campbell had already sampled all life’s pleasures. What was he getting up to a professor’s stipend?

        That’s an odd example of a plot hole that would make a rollicking story.
        “How I sampled all life’s pleasures on a budget.”

        I also loved that Conan the Centipede, while understanding Yukth’s words, did not bother to pay attention to them. We never learn what he was saying.

        “Greetings, alien. I am here to inform you that–”
        “Don’t care! *stab*”

    • Deiseach says:

      What were Long’s psychological preoccupations as an author?

      I can’t recall reading a lot of Belknap Long’s work, even though he was a (minor) part of Lovecraft’s circle, so it’s hard to answer that question. He wrote “The Hounds of Tindalos” which is a great story but the prose limps in parts and the characters are cardboard. The central idea is so cool, though, that it’s no wonder other writers have used it in their own Chthulu Mythos tales

      While we’re talking about authors playing in each other’s universes, Poppy Brite’s re-write of Lovecraft’s “The Hound” (it is so blatantly “The Hound” re-purposed rather than even an homage that it can best be called a re-write), “His Mouth Will Taste Of Wormwood”, is a lot better than Belknap Long in the lush, exotic prose department because there’s a strong influence of Poe riding along as well, but it’s very 90s (hey, guess what, gay sex exists!) She simply makes overt what you can read as sub-text in Lovecraft’s original (you’ve got two guys who indulge in graverobbing for kinky thrills, a bit of “using femurs as dildos” isn’t too shockingly far an apple fallen from the tree).

    • Garrett says:

      Yup. That’s been happening at hospitals near me, too. It’s *insane*.

    • brad says:

      Area hospitals point to CDC guidelines that state individuals should only wear a face mask if they are “caring for someone who is sick.”

      What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. Even if it’s supposedly for a noble reason.

      • Viliam says:

        Don’t wear masks, they are useless!

        …actually, they are useful, we just don’t want a few people to hoard all of them.
        …actually, people can easily fix the shortage by making (imperfect, but still better than nothing) masks at home.

        There are not enough tests!

        …actually, there could be enough tests, but taking the samples is the real bottleneck.

        There are not enough ventilators!

        …actually, ventilators could be made, but using them properly is the real bottleneck.

        At this moment, it makes more sense to assume that everything the government tells about coronavirus is a lie. (Note: Not just American government, most of these “noble lies” seem to be shared widely.) So much wasted time, because the few people who spend their time and energy solving the fake problems could have been working on the real problems instead.

        • Matt M says:

          At this moment, it makes more sense to assume that everything the government tells about coronavirus is a lie.

          I’ve got some bad news for you. They didn’t just suddenly decide to start lying when coronavirus happened…

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I take it you’ve never solved a bottlenecking performance problem before.

          • EchoChaos says:

            +1

            There is always another bottleneck behind the last bottleneck. Supply lines are difficulty and not super well understood even by people who specialize in them, let alone government bureaucrats.

  16. Dino says:

    Lots of good hot CW stuff in this article by George Scialabba about George Orwell –

    What George Orwell can still teach the Left

    • Aapje says:

      I don’t really like it when a writer tell us what a more famous dead person would have thought about events that happened after their death (typically the same as the opinion of the writer). It’s an appeal to authority that is not even based on what the authority actually said, but what he is assumed to have said.

      Also, the article has a pretty big falsehood by claiming that the US sanctions on Iraq killed many thousands of people, primarily children.

  17. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I don’t think the people yelling “social distancing!” online/in other media are aware of how dystopian it sounds.
    On the macro scale, only certain classes of people can work from home. Other classes will either have their industries excepted or see their income drop to zero on very short notice.
    On the micro scale, being “socially distanced” from others is how low-status people have already been living. Think ASD, think incels. It’s also the description of suburban housewives that caused second wave feminism and hegemonic hatred for suburbs in pop culture.
    I’m not saying quarantines are categorically a net loss: they’re an old, tried and true way of dealing with epidemics. But when necessary, we should frame it differently (look! Children have equal outcomes without going to school!) than just didactically repeating a dystopian phrase and attacking any dissent as Trump support.

    • Evan Þ says:

      I live by myself. Social distancing coupled with shelter-in-place orders means essentially sentencing me to solitary confinement for an indefinite period.

      It isn’t literally torture because I still have Internet access… but it’s uncomfortably close.

      • meh says:

        It isn’t literally torture because I still have Internet access… but it’s uncomfortably close.

        really? it’s only the internet access that is separating this from torture?

        • Evan Þ says:

          Since “prison” is not considered torture, and “solitary confinement” is, it appears to me the distinguishing factor is the “solitary” part. And Internet access is now my only authorized means of human contact.

          Well, okay, it’s arguable whether non-wifi-enabled cell calls are over the Internet. And technically I think I could go to the grocery store ten times a day and try to chat with the cashiers, but they’d probably get upset if I dragged that out.

          • meh says:

            would you rather be in your current situation but with internet removed, or in a prison solitary confinement, but with internet?

          • Evan Þ says:

            @meh, not the easiest choice. I’d hate to give up biking and cooking. But considering how much of my non-social leisure activities are online or could easily be moved there, I think I’d choose this very atypical prison.

          • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

            @meh
            Not Evan, but if you made me choose between isolation in a nice apartment, but with no one to talk to and nothing to do but read or reread some books; and confinement to a small cell, but with the ability to talk to all of my friends and y’all friendly strangers and watch videos and read whatever….for a period of time longer than a week, I’d definitely choose the latter. Not being able to talk to people drives one insane read quick.

          • meh says:

            I seriously can’t take this site anymore.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @meh, what would you do all day if stuck in/around an apartment with no Internet, no phone, and no one to talk to? Why do you think it’s so unusual we’d choose the opposite?

          • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

            I’m serious! I’ve been torn away from my social life, I’m very likely not going to be able to interact with any of my friends in person for the next two months. Being able to text, call, and play video games with them is keeping me sane. Essentially you’re asking me, “do you want to give up the view out your window, your comfortable chair, good food, and the ability to take walks? Or would you rather give up your lines of contact to the outside world, your ability to talk to your friends, your primary methods of entertainment, and the capability to continue your studies?”

      • toastengineer says:

        Is it really that bad? This is all pretty normal for me, and while it can be a PITA sometimes I wouldn’t call it torture. I guess you just gotta get used to it? Watch some Twitch streams maybe? Tidy up or get some creative work done? Learn to cook?

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I can’t see my parents, I can’t see my in-laws, I can’t see my siblings, I can’t see my sibling-in-laws, I can’t see my friends, I can’t go to festival, I can’t watch sports, I can’t…

          I can go to work and come home and cruise the internet. It’s not exactly horrible, but it’s not pleasant.

          • CatCube says:

            Yeah, see what you just described is normal for me. If I have a commitment after work it’s really hard for me to work myself up to leaving the house once I get home.

            Heck, sometimes on a 4-day holiday weekend I don’t see anybody at all, or possibly even open a blind to look out a window. Note that this isn’t intentional–I just kind of do what I feel like doing and all of a sudden it’s Monday evening and I haven’t left all weekend and haven’t seen another soul.

            Now, all of this is mediated by my ability to amuse myself on the internet–I don’t think I could remotely do this if I didn’t have it–but people complaining about not being able to leave kind of baffles me. I suspect this is just another of Scott’s “What Normal Human Experiences are you Missing?” when people talk about needing to see other people. I like my coworkers and church members just fine and enjoy talking and spending time with them, but I wouldn’t describe any “needful” urge to see them or anybody else.

            Granted, I’ve only ever done the just kind of don’t leave the house things for like four or five days, even now, because I still have to get food. I don’t think what I’m doing naturally is remotely like solitary confinement, with or without the internet.

          • I can’t see …

            None of them have Skype?

            One of the things that occurred to me about the present crisis is how much worse it would be if it were not for the internet.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @DavidFriedman, not sure about ADBG, but I’m able to Skype with my friends. It’s much better than nothing, but it’s nowhere near the same.

            The Internet is great. We wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing without it. But I’m afraid that it’s just close to good enough that we’ll be stuck at this point for months… driving people like me who live alone out of our minds. Oh well, for all the problems of psych hospitals, at least they let you interact with people in person.

      • AG says:

        This is really bizarre to me. You know you can talk to your neighbors from 6 feet away, right? Do you not have neighbors?

        Besides which, yeah, you could meet one or two of your friends to walk around some park (outdoors exercise exception) at talk to each other from six feet apart. There was a post going around of a “neighborhood dads meet for a very spaced apart beer circle.”
        You can be parked in the same parking lot and communicate to each other from inside your cars.

        This insistence that this is solitary confinement is premised on rejecting the people who are actually physically closest to you at this very moment as avenues for socializing, as well as mechanisms other people have already done to keep in touch with friends. (I said below already, this past weekend I went hiking with friends. It was lots of fun.)

        Before this, I saw my friends in person maybe one a quarter. Shelter in place has probably increased my socialization (because more people are available at more hours, especially online).

        • John Schilling says:

          Besides which, yeah, you could meet one or two of your friends to walk around some park

          The park I normally walk around in, within walking distance of my house, now has a locked pedestrian gate. After a week or two of being used in precisely the manner you describe.

          Yes, I can almost certainly find someplace they haven’t got around to locking down yet, and/or talk the police into letting me off with a warning if they catch me talking do a neighbor during our respective daily walks. But the fact that the government is imperfect in enforcing its “no meatspace social contact with anyone you didn’t already live with” order, doesn’t change the fact that this is their clear intent. And they’ll probably get better at the enforcement. To a bureaucrat, “Just say No!” is safer and easier than thinking.

    • albatross11 says:

      Evan:

      Does “shelter-in-place” mean you can’t go to the store or for a walk?

      • John Schilling says:

        Not sure about where Evan Þ lives, but it is at least ambiguous about whether we can go for walks here in California. The county just closed the wilderness preserve in which I had been taking my daily walk, in spite of its having seen only limited and in no way dangerous use since the crisis began. And shopping is supposed to be for essential purposes only, so presumably only once every two weeks or so.

        And yes, if we’re clever about it then they can’t be completely effective in enforcing those sorts of rules. The rules are still a panicky overreaction by politicians locked in a “something must be done” loop without regard for the diminishing benefits and escalating costs.

        • Evan Þ says:

          I’m in Washington State, just outside Seattle. Wilderness parks have been closed; city parks haven’t yet. I can still go out biking on the streets – the Governor specifically allowed biking and jogging – and that’s actually become easier and safer now that next to no one’s driving.

          So the “confinement” part’s not correct. But the “solitary” part really isn’t, outside the Internet. Unless you really like exchanging brief words with cashiers, I guess. And since prison in itself is okay, the distinguishing factor of “torture” seems to be the “solitary” part.

        • AG says:

          The park closures are inconsistent, though. Most of them are “technically trails still open, only the parking lot is closed.” The few I’ve seen where the actual park is closed is because the only practical way to get there is to drive (and so necessitates the parking lot).

        • albatross11 says:

          Closing wilderness parks just seems like a nutty response by someone who has no idea what they’re doing.

        • beleester says:

          Ohio’s shelter-in-place order specifically allows grocery shopping, going to parks, or just taking a walk outside, but excludes playgrounds (presumably because kids climbing all over shared equipment is a transmission risk).

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Part of the point of the rules is that you shouldn’t. Italy was in a similar situation 2-3 weeks ago, and rumor is everybody was talking a walk on busy streets with a pass saying they’re shopping.

        This being said, we should definitely put mental care somewhere in the equation. A round of shopping outside busy hours every couple of days is probably perfectly fine, at least with a mask and lots of hand gel.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Where are they going to get any hand gel? From a distillery? The distilleries can only make 160 proof alcohol mixed with glycerin and hydrogen peroxide, which isn’t poisonous enough for the gov’t.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Truth be told, hand gel is optional if you practice proper precautions. Biggest danger is touching your face by mistake, but if you already have a mask (where are you going to get one?) that’s much diminished. Just get home, wash hands, unpack groceries, wash hands again.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            In the UK, at least, the government have granted an exemption to allow distilleries to produce hand sanitiser without paying excise tax even if they don’t have access to the usual ingredients used to denature alcohol.

        • Aapje says:

          Soap probably works better than hand gel. It destroys the virus just as well and spreads over the hands more easily, reducing the chance that you miss a spot.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Only out of the house, of course. Sorry if it seemed I suggested gel at home. It’s great for quickly rubbing your hands between bouts of touching stuff (right when you exit the supermarket, for example).

          • Aapje says:

            Sure.

      • brad says:

        I effectively can’t. I’m on a high floor and the elevator is a major transmission risk even with frequent cleanings.

      • SamChevre says:

        Here in Massachusetts, the guidance is no sports, no gatherings, and stay 6 feet away from people–but going to the park is fine. We live 2 blocks from a big park, and there are the same number or more of people walking and jogging–but the playground is closed, and people aren’t playing soccer.

        The stores (grocery store, hardware store, drugstore) I went to are still open.

  18. ana53294 says:

    How is your drinking alcohol consumption?

    While I’ve never been a teetotaler or anything like that, my typical consumption of alcohol was limited to holidays and special occasions (weddings, birthdays, funerals). But with this lockdown, I have started to drink daily. For some other family members, it has also gone down. Of course, for those who regularly drink socially, it has gone down. I just feel like having a glass of wine every dinner (and sometimes lunch).

    While it’s not difficult to find like toilet paper, I have noticed that supermarket stocks have also gone down…

    • EchoChaos says:

      How is your drinking alcohol consumption?

      Unchanged to slightly decreased. I usually have a beer with dinner, then a mixed drink in the evening to wind down. I’ve switched off of ibuprofen, as I mentioned last thread, so on the days I take acetaminophen I don’t drink.

      Thanks to the suggestion of those here I went from “just the beer” to “teetotaler” on days I take a Tylenol. That’s been only one day of the lockdown since then, but there we are.

    • JayT says:

      I’m unchanged. I’ll usually have 1-2 glasses of whiskey in the evening, and that hasn’t changed.

      • Beans says:

        Same here, this has been my habit for years. Got any hot opinions about whiskey? I love scotch of all kinds, but bourbon is my choice these days due to price.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I try to keep a bottle of Woodford Reserve on hand.

          • Beans says:

            I’ve got one now. Probably the best widely available bourbon I’ve had.

          • gbdub says:

            If you like Woodford, try the Double Oaked.

          • rahien.din says:

            Second the double oaked.

            Woodford also has a nice straight malt whiskey.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The first bottle of Woodford Reserve I got was the single barrel, which I think was 15 years. I lucked upon it in Mt. Airy, on a trip to somewhere else, and bought it without knowing what I was getting.

            Damn I wish I could find that again. But the Double Oaked is good.

        • broblawsky says:

          Get Balcones Baby Blue or True Blue if you can find it. Not too expensive, unique among bourbons in my experience.

        • Business Analyst says:

          McAfee’s Benchmark Ole No 8 is my cheap but drinkable bourbon of choice since I discovered it a while ago.

        • JayT says:

          I’m mainly a bourbon drinker, and Maker’s Mark has always been my go-to “everyday” drink. Michter’s rye and bourbon are my favorite next step up.

        • gbdub says:

          I like variety, but my mid priced go tos are:
          1) Four Roses single barrel
          2) Knob Creek single barrel
          3) Wild Turkey Rare Breed

          • J.R. says:

            @gbdub

            Seconding Four Roses and Knob Creek SB releases.

            At a lower price point ($25), Elijah Craig Small Batch is unbeatable, IMO (even the new NAS version).

        • deusexmachina says:

          Highland Park 12 has an excellent value for money (~$30).

          • Beans says:

            In my part of the country it’s at least $45. It’s a weird one: I’ve had a few bottles of it that were amazing, and a few others that were lackluster. I haven’t noticed so much variance in other brands.

        • SamChevre says:

          I really like Elijah Craig – if I’m splurging on bourbon, that’s what I get. I’ts a very smooth, rich bourbon–at the opposite end of the bourbon spectrum from Wild Turkey. (When I’m not splurging, Evan Williams.) I prefer to drink it as an Old-Fashioned, very plain–just sugar, bitters, and bourbon, maybe with an orange twist squeezed over it.

      • Clutzy says:

        Cant really do whiskey personally. I like it best with just a small amount of ice. But I have a thing with liquids where I drink them very fast if they are next to me. Thus I end up getting pretty damn drunk and not really savoring much of it.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I try to drink one glass of red wine daily. I’ve been more often substituting with one beer, which isn’t ideal (but is delicious).

    • The Nybbler says:

      Slightly up. I usually have beer or wine with dinner 1-3 times a week, now it’s almost every day.

    • salvorhardin says:

      Up a little, in both frequency and amount.

    • Rebecca Friedman says:

      Unchanged with a very small possibility of slightly decreased. I usually drink half a glass of wine once or twice a year when I’m at a meal where it’s served with dinner, but don’t seek it out; such meals wouldn’t be in my house, and I’m staying home, so I almost certainly would be drinking nothing anyway, but now I’m definitely not drinking anything.

      (I really hate being drunk, and don’t much like the taste.)

    • FLWAB says:

      Unchanged, but I only drink when socially required. So no society, no drinking!

      I grew up in a teetotal household, and when I went to college discovered I can’t stand the taste. I can only think of one occasion on which I drank on my own accord. Nowadays it’s pretty much just the occasional party where people will insist that they can mix me a drink where I can’t taste the alcohol (they can’t).

      I’ve been interested in experiencing the sensation of being drunk, but I’ve never been able to get past the taste long enough to feel anything.

      • Rebecca Friedman says:

        I don’t know about others, but at the mild level for me it’s rather like being very sleepy – like the effect you get if you stay up 3-4 hours past your normal bedtime. Lowered inhibitions/bad ideas seem like good ideas, all that stuff, just in fairly dilute form. I can’t speak to actually drunk, never been it, but if you want the sensation of being tipsy, IME staying up late works.

      • JayT says:

        If you want to experience being drunk but don’t like the taste of alcohol, just get a bottle of vodka, pour 3-4 shots, and drink them as fast as you can with a chaser of a drink you like. You’ll only have to experience the bad taste for maybe 30 seconds, and if you are a teetotaler, that should be enough to get you pretty drunk.

        • FLWAB says:

          Funny story about shots…

          The last time I drank in any appreciable quantity was at a party with friends, and they insisted that I take a shot of something. I don’t do shots: I spent most of the party taking small sips of hard cider. But they insisted that I take at least one, and we’d all take a shot at once and it would be fun. I asked for something milder than vodka and settled on rum because why not, they all taste like paint thinner to me anyway. Might as well be a pirate.

          They gave me a lot of advice, and I vowed I would do my best. I’ve never successfully downed a shot before, but I wanted to give it a good honest try. Just down it as quickly as possible, don’t think about it. I gave my tongue and throat strict orders: no matter what I send you, take it and pass it along. I don’t care what it tastes like.

          So there we go, three, two, one, we all take a shot and the rum slides down my tongue (which grits it’s taste buds and bears it) but as soon as it reaches the back of my throat my lizard brain takes over with a decisive “NOPE.” I spew the whole shot in a spray that not only lightly mists my gracious host but also cleans out my sinuses something fierce. It took a good minute to recover enough to apologize. The video they took of it was extremely amusing however.

          I don’t know if it’s the taste or just the fact that I have a sensitive gag reflex but I cannot down a shot. If given a shot I take tiny sips until it’s gone: I can nurse a shot for over an hour. And really, I think the gag reflex is more to blame. I can’t even down a shot of soda (too bubbly and burney).

          Thanks for the advice though! I’m sure that would work if my throat would co-operate. I am curious how much alcohol would be required: on two previous occasions (including the party I mentioned) my wife has tried to get me tipsy by insisting that I keep drinking (read: sipping hard cider). I honestly don’t know if I just didn’t drink enough fast enough because of the taste, or if my genetics give me a higher tolerance. How important are genetics to alcohol tolerance anyway?

          • JayT says:

            I assume genetics play a fairly large roll, I’m mostly Eastern European genetically, and I’ve always been able to hold my alcohol better than average. I know quite a few Chinese people that get tipsy after a single beer.

            That said, slowly sipping cider is almost certainly not going to get you drunk unless you are an extreme lightweight. An average sized man can drink about three beers in an hour and still be under the legal limit for driving.

      • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

        Alternatively, just pull an all-nighter! I’ve found that getting real tired has similar effects on me to getting drunk, though YMMV.

      • fraza077 says:

        Similar, except my househould was not teetotal. Alcohol just tastes foul.

        I also wanted to try being drunk just once. I can bear cider, so one time on a weekend by myself I purchased a 12-pack and drank the lot in about 5 hours, and took videos of my state a couple of times.

        Then I vomited the lot out and went to sleep.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Massively increased. I was a teetotaler, but now I’m getting the equivalent of up to 50 or so microliters of the stuff daily from the herbal drops I’m taking (getting over what appears to be a cold).

    • cassander says:

      Well, I drink socially, so….

    • Chalid says:

      Down to nearly zero, because I’ve become a giant hypochondriac over the past month and I don’t want to do anything with any negative impact on my immune system unless I can’t help it.

      In normal times, I’d have zero to two drinks with dinner (average ~ 0.5) depending on what the food was and how well it was complemented by a drink. And occasionally a bit of whiskey later in the evening.

    • broblawsky says:

      Up a bit, but that’s partially because I recently figured out how to make my own creme de menthe, which is very good.

      • edmundgennings says:

        How do you do so?

        • broblawsky says:

          I use an immersion circulator at ~140 F for 2-3 hours. By volume, in a mason jar in a water bath: 1 cup vodka, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 cup fresh mint. Adding some Thai basil adds some interesting subtle notes as well.

          • gbdub says:

            You don’t even need the circulator if you are willing to wait. Just throw everything in a clean bottle and shake it gently every day or so until you get the strength of flavor you want.

    • Loriot says:

      I’m a lifelong teetotaler, so no change.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Haven’t drunk anything since before all this so I’ll resolve to get drunk tomorrow. I rarely really drink alone, and I think it might do me good under the circumstances.

    • Elementaldex says:

      I historically drink maybe one or two drinks per month with significant (less than getting drunk) consumption every six months. I’m definitely drinking more in the last few weeks though. I’m working much longer and harder than usual as is my wife and we have having a drink with dinner maybe twice a week now?

    • gudamor says:

      Buzzed now, but not as drunk as yesterday. Tomorrow I also plan to drink.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I give up booze for Lent, so, way down. If it weren’t for that I’d probably start drinking earlier in the afternoon/evening than usual.

      • albatross11 says:

        I only really drink either at social occasions or sometimes when eating out. Both of those are closed down for the duration, so my drinking has gone to zero.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      How is your drinking alcohol consumption?

      I only drink socially, and I have been staying mostly at home for the last two weeks, so it’s zero.

    • How is your drinking alcohol consumption?

      When we go out to eat my wife sometimes has a glass of wine and I sometimes take a few sips from that. We are not going out to eat, so my alcohol consumption is down to a tablespoon or so of sherry I put in a bowl of split pea soup.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I was exposed to a presumptive positive and so am currently abstaining. Though maybe I should just get hammered. I dunno.

    • John Schilling says:

      Largely unchanged. I’ve usually done one drink a day as a mental gearshift in the evening, and while I prefer doing that over a nice meal at a nice restaurant, a glass of wine or scotch at home does just as well.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Way down from “half a drink socially every few weeks” to “what’s ‘social’?”

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Down a bit, but partly because I’m using the isolation to diet and work out. Also because I keep trying to place an order for beer for a few days and apparently there are no available couriers.

      I thought about medicating with alcohol, but, well, don’t feel the need yet.

    • Tarpitz says:

      Smoothed out. I won’t drink as much in the “virtual pub” with friends at the weekend as I would in a real one (even while playing drinking games to a group viewing of Cats, as on Sunday), but I’m drinking more during the week.

    • Viliam says:

      Down to zero, because I usually buy alcohol impulsively, and now all shopping is planned.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Absurd. With the exceptions such as stock market income and cryptocurrency exchanges the IRS has enough of this information to make cut-offs on current incomes.

    • Further PSA from that link: don’t work for Trump. All his businesses are barred from receiving aid. Although I think the bailout is incredibly stupid and primarily benefits the wealthy, workers will receive some fraction of the benefits and those at Trump companies pay taxes just like everyone else. I can’t believe people still think Trump’s a master negotiator who’s looking out for them.

      • EchoChaos says:

        My understanding is that is just that the businesses are not eligible for the bailout loans. I don’t think workers at Trump properties are denied access to the Trumpbux benefits.

  19. oriscratch says:

    The 3 top countries for COVID-19 cases, in ascending order, are Italy, China, and USA. ICU.
    This is not a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence.

  20. Do we more commonly engage in abstract lies about ourselves than did our peasant or hunter-gatherer ancestors? Abstract lies about oneself can be distinguished from concrete lies about physical objects, for instance, a butcher will try to sell you meat he says weighs 5 ounces but really weighs 4.5 ounces. They can also be distinguished from lies where there is an obvious intention to steal something, e.g. “let me into this warehouse where I totally was given access by the boss.” They can also be distinguished from lies about one’s willingness or abilities to do something concrete and real. An engineer gets hired to design a building and a month later has no design for a building, for he’s not a real engineer, and so takes the month of wages and runs.

    Abstract lies about oneself include lies about our beliefs, personalities, hobbies, diets, usage of substances, spending habits, financial situation, sexual histories, popularity, ect. Now we may not like to call them lies, but to a martian, it’s a simple matter: we say things which are either not true or if technically true are phrased to give a misleading impression. We do this in any contexts:

    1. We lie in interviews and college applications about our personalities in order to fit into the cookie-cutter ideals they desire.
    2. We lie in courtship to make ourselves seem higher-status.
    3. We lie to our family and friends to make ourselves seem higher-status. (Many who will gladly admit to the above will say no, no, I’m completely honest about what a loser I am to my friends.)
    4. We lie about our beliefs to fit in with political or religious groups. 

    Second question: will our descendants engage in this behavior more frequently or less frequently?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Do you really have to ask whether or not cavemen lied in order to get laid?

    • Statismagician says:

      Real question: is there any particular reason you expect this behavior to be significantly predicted by time? I’d imagine the within-group variation at Time A to dwarf any global or local rate variation with Time B – that is, some people will be more prone to this and some less at any given time, rather than the people of Time A being usefully more or less prone than those of Time B. What the comparison groups are may matter, too – are we looking at residents of geographic areas, or biological descendants, or culturally continuous societies, or what?

    • HowardHolmes says:

      Interesting post. I’ll be glad to see how it plays out. For the record the two most ubiquitous of what you term abstract lies are: “I care” and “I am better (morally) than I am.”

      A hint as to how this works is that for the most part people do not explicitly realize they are lying. IMO the reason humans developed large brains is because they are effective at self deception…and self deception is difficult to achieve. For instance, no one really believes in god, but some (many) actually think that they do. People also think they love others. They don’t.
      Will it get more frequent? Yes, we are evolving to reward the best liars.

    • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

      Interesting question! I go with less lying in premodern societies, since everything used to be more tight-knit and lies would be discovered more readily. Nowadays, you can hide some of your traits very easily from everyone around you (your friends do not know what you do at work), but in a village where everybody knows everybody this is not possible (everybody knows John’s crops are inferior because he likes to work at a leisurely pace).

    • Atlas says:

      Do we more commonly engage in abstract lies about ourselves than did our peasant or hunter-gatherer ancestors? Abstract lies about oneself can be distinguished from concrete lies about physical objects, for instance, a butcher will try to sell you meat he says weighs 5 ounces but really weighs 4.5 ounces. They can also be distinguished from lies where there is an obvious intention to steal something, e.g. “let me into this warehouse where I totally was given access by the boss.” They can also be distinguished from lies about one’s willingness or abilities to do something concrete and real. An engineer gets hired to design a building and a month later has no design for a building, for he’s not a real engineer, and so takes the month of wages and runs.

      If you aren’t already familiar with it, you might find Robert Trivers’ discussion of the origin of deceit and self-deception interesting.

    • AG says:

      Insert Pratchett Hogfather quote here.
      Also insert the entirety of ancient mythologies here, not in the “gods are lies” sense, but in that the characters of the ancient mythologies did just as much status signalling and popularity politics as the modern day, but with more blood feuds as a result. Tell me what common modern lies exist today that don’t in the Iliad.

      Abstract lies are most likely even older than fiction, which is the epitome of it.

  21. Etoile says:

    From a newsletter I receive by a writer named Claire Berlinsky — apparently there are Russian military vehicles riding around Rome, ostensibly to provide foreign aid of some kind, but….

    https://www.linkiesta.it/2020/03/coronavirus-russi-conte-militari-italia-aiuti/ (in Italian)

    And NATO uneasiness/displeasure: https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-health-coronavirus-russia-eu-idUKKBN21D28N

    Anyone know more about this?

  22. sksnsvbanap says:

    Some people have been speculating that the high death rate in Italy could be because Italy more liberally attributes deaths from secondary causes to COVID-19. A new analysis finds a huge increase in additional deaths from the normal background rate, 4x-10x higher than the amount officially attributed to COVID-19. This analysis is limited to a few towns in a region that was especially hard-hit, and the same effect may not translate nationwide. However, this makes me doubt that Italy‘s numbers capture all related deaths. Maybe this is some early evidence for the widely held fear that having the hospitals overrun will lead to worse outcomes for non-COVID-19 conditions.

    https://www.corriere.it/politica/20_marzo_26/the-real-death-toll-for-covid-19-is-at-least-4-times-the-official-numbers-b5af0edc-6eeb-11ea-925b-a0c3cdbe1130.shtml?refresh_ce-cp

    • Eponymous says:

      They’re saying 700 official deaths per day. Normal death rate is about 1.8k/day…for all of Italy. If it’s really 3x higher (plausible) then we’re talking a doubling of the national death rate.

    • DarkTigger says:

      They show evidence, that in two hard hit municipalities there is an excess death rate of 4x and 10x the rate we would expect in an usual year.
      On the one hand, there might be cofunders at work, like another local epidemic that hides behind Covid-19.
      It might be deaths not directly related to Covid, like people that would have survived but did not get an place in an hospital (in time or at all).
      On the other hand, it might also be that there are a lot of “hidden” Covid deaths, just like there are always more hidden flu deaths than the case fatility rates shows at first.

    • Aminoacid says:

      The “European monitoring of excess mortality for public health action” has had it’s weekly update today, and you can see an off-season mortality peak in Italy alone
      http://www.euromomo.eu

      • Douglas Knight says:

        The documentation is horrible, probably because the details being documented are horrible. Weeks can begin on different days of the week? Then using week numbers is misleading. What does the blue mean, not final data? The documentation seemed to say that it was only for incomplete weeks, so that only the last week should be affected, but the map shows 4 weeks of preliminary data. And Ireland shows 4 months of it.

        The map shows no effect through week 8, then weeks 9 and 10 are between 5 and 7 sd high. But that’s no worse than the flu was this year, for all of January, and much better than the flu was in many countries in January 2017. I assume that these numbers will be adjusted way up, though maybe it’s just a provincial problem. And, again, I don’t know weeks 9 and 10 are: if week 10 is defined as the last 7 days, it’s the worst, but if it ended 22 March, week 11 will be even worse.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Now weeks 9 and 10 are showing nothing. Maybe week 9 means something different than when I last looked, but it’s pretty weird that week 10 has been downgraded; and not just downgraded one tier, but two (from 5–7 to <3). Week 11 is showing normal flu in Italy and weeks 12 and 13 are showing even higher, for both Italy and Spain. But still the national averages are only as bad as the January 2017 flu.

  23. Garrett says:

    I finally got a chance to review the Imperial College COVID-19 study and I’m worried that decisions are being made somewhat poorly.

    I read through the study, plus a number of cited articles, articles they cited, and did a bit more searching. And there are a *lot* of assumptions baked into that study which don’t seem to be well-substantiated to me. I started looking through the data and charts, trying to get a feeling for the impact of what mattered and what didn’t. Then I started finding oddities.

    The first one was a weird combination: that closing schools alone provided only a 2% mitigation (whatever). And that a combination case isolation, home quarantine, and social distancing of those over 70 would provide a mitigation of 49% (whatever), but that combining those two items might only provide a total mitigation of 19%! If the number had gone up or down a few percentage points I wouldn’t have been surprised. But cut by a 30 percentage points!? See: Page 9, Table 3, R0=2.2, Trigger=100.

    Then I started looking at the projected charts. Notably page 10, Table 4. Scary stuff. But this is all based on a model where 1 month after the rest of interventions have been performed, those over 70 resume co-mingling with everybody else. It also doesn’t chart values for school closure + case isolation + quarantine *without* general social isolation. It also doesn’t have a way to separate general social isolation from “shut down all non-essential businesses”. What if we extended the +70 social distancing for 2 months after the end of the rest of the interventions?

    Then I looked at the assumptions. The assumptions aren’t inherently wrong, but they also don’t seem to be well-supported. For example, the model for “voluntary home quarantine” projects:

    Following identification of a symptomatic case in the household, all household members remain at home for 14 days. Household contact rates double during this quarantine period, contacts in the community reduce by 75%. Assume 50% of household comply with the policy.

    Some other paper I found indicated that in order for quarantine to be effective it requires 90% compliance (also an unsupported claim). So what are the impacts of varying household compliance? There are papers written about *how* to improve compliance, and many of them sound cheaper than “shut down the economy”. How would the numbers look if we managed to get 60% compliance?

    I’ve not been able to find the software or model data somewhere I can explore these options.

    Might others take a look at this and see if I’m missing something obvious? I’m worried that this was the first set of pretty charts which was made available and everybody shut their brain off afterwards.

  24. matthewravery says:

    Moral behavior and spending during the pandemic:

    For those of us lucky enough to have kept our incomes during this crisis, it seems obvious that we shouldn’t go out of our way to reduce our consumption. Many obvious things that we could’ve spent money on are no longer options, but some remain. As decadent as eating take-out during a pandemic seems to me, is it the morally correct thing to do? The grocery stores seem to be doing fine, but food service is surely taking a huge hit. Continuing (increasing?) spending on these local businesses seems like the right thing to do.

    On the downside, am I “forcing” the underclass to put themselves at risk and increase the likelihood of transmission and perpetuating the crisis? Are there other places I should be funneling the money that would have otherwise gone towards consumption? Should I just save instead and plan on making up the spending in a few months?

    • Witness says:

      In the general case, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with shifting what or where you consume – some amount of economic shift just has to happen and while it’s worth trying to make that transition easier for people, it’s not worth trying to freeze everything in place.

      In the specific case of restaurants, many are shifting towards takeout and/or delivery where possible – if you enjoy the food enough, treating yourself in this way seems like a pretty reasonable response. The risks are significantly less (as I understand it) than dining in the restaurant. You get value, they get value, gains from trade, hooray!

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I’ve donated directly to the local United Way branch that’s got a special fund just for helping people get through the pandemic. Beyond that we’re ordering out for groceries and tipping generously, but I’m largely wary of food service transmission. When this is over I plan on eating out extensively. In the meantime I might just go ahead and buy gift certificates for the places I plan to patronize later. I really want some damn sushi.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        According to https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/03/food-safety-and-coronavirus-a-comprehensive-guide.html#avoid-surfaces it’s really hard to catch CV from food.

        They have a bit of motivated reasoning, because they are a food blog, but the science they presented seems straightforward. I post it here partially to see if anyone can tear it apart.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Well that’s interesting, and sounds plausible. Given that I don’t know anything about biology. I’ll consider getting some takeout sushi for dinner.

          • albatross11 says:

            If droplet exposure is a problem, then food that’s not served to you too hot to eat is almost certainly going to be a problem.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            According to Edward’s link, it’s not because it’s going through your digestive system rather than respiratory system.

          • albatross11 says:

            I saw the link, but I’m very skeptical. Your mouth, nose, throat, etc., are all connected, and it seems quite implausible to me that someone infected coughing on your salad would not have a substantial risk of giving you the virus. COVID-19 is apparently relatively fragile and probably gets killed off by stomach acid/digestive enzymes, but putting it in your mouth seems extremely unwise to me.

        • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

          That article has a good amount of practical, common-sense advice for avoiding transmission via food, but it vastly overstates the case for food being completely safe. They repeatedly state that there’s no evidence for transmission via food, but from what I can tell by looking through the links they cite (some of which simply don’t mention food in particular at all), it’s the “few or no relevant studies” kind of “no evidence”.

          The “I’m still not convinced. How could food not be a vector?” section is particularly egregious. The paper they cite makes the point that we don’t know the relative importance of different methods of transmission for respiratory viruses. It certainly doesn’t support the claim that there’s minimal risk even from eating food with virus particles on it–if I can get COVID from touching my mouth, I’m sure I can get it from putting things inside my mouth.

          However, I do agree that, if whatever restaurant you go to has good safety practices, it probably isn’t considerably more dangerous than buying food at the grocery store. Depending on your risk tolerance and level of susceptibility, it might be wise to nuke any takeout you get in the microwave and transfer it to a clean plate before you eat it.

          • albatross11 says:

            When I was younger, I had a doctor who’d served in Vietnam (as a doctor in the Air Force, I think), and the advice he gave me for eating questionable food while traveling was the advice he had given there: make sure every part of the food is too hot to eat when you get it. That’s probably a good rule of thumb for coronavirus, too. If every part of the food is steaming hot when you get it, then that’s probably killed off any viruses on the surface of the food.

      • broblawsky says:

        I’m wiping down takeout containers with hydrogen peroxide.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          We’re doing the same for delivered groceries. I was more worried about infected food service workers coughing on my food, but from Edward Scizorhands’ link that doesn’t seem to be a problem.

          • broblawsky says:

            With dry goods, I just leave them in a sunny area for 24 hours before touching them again. I figure time + UV + warmth will kill any traces of COVID-19 within that timeframe.

          • albatross11 says:

            broblawsky:

            I’ve been trying to work out how long the virus persists on surfaces. The best study I know said three days on plastic and less on other surfaces, but it definitely depends on the initial dose of virus-laden droplets the previous shopper sneezed onto your box of macaroni. I think the plastic/stainless steel estimate was a half-life of around 6-7 hours. I’ve been using the rule-of-thumb of three days, but I wonder if it should be longer.

            This comment on the masks thread lists that study and a bunch of other studies and discussions of the issues.

          • I am leaving things, including mail, on the porch for three days, but where the surface is all cardboard I may reduce that to one day.

      • matthewravery says:

        Yeah, donation is a good start (definitely where my family and I started), but now I’m trying to consider the tradeoff between “patronize local grocery store and make food at home” vice “patronize restaurants I like”. Being stuck at home makes cooking preferable in some ways, since I’ve certainly got the time. I just worry that some places won’t be able to make it through 4+ weeks of being shut down.

        The gift certificates idea is a good one! Thanks for that. Good way to get the best of both worlds. 🙂

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Ask about gift certificates before buying them. Some places have them handled externally and don’t get the cash until you redeem them.

    • it seems obvious that we shouldn’t go out of our way to reduce our consumption

      Not at all obvious to me. Ask yourself, why are we richer than our ancestors? It’s not because we have more greenbacks. It’s not because we have more jobs. It’s not because we conduct more trades. It’s because we produce more. Spending does not make us wealthy. Production makes us wealthy.

      If you want to help others, donate money.

    • Beans says:

      I’ve kept my modest income but even before this my instincts required me to save most of it and if I were ever going to change that, now is definitely not the time when I would.

    • baconbits9 says:

      For those of us lucky enough to have kept our incomes during this crisis, it seems obvious that we shouldn’t go out of our way to reduce our consumption. Many obvious things that we could’ve spent money on are no longer options, but some remain. As decadent as eating take-out during a pandemic seems to me, is it the morally correct thing to do? The grocery stores seem to be doing fine, but food service is surely taking a huge hit. Continuing (increasing?) spending on these local businesses seems like the right thing to do.

      We are a month in to a crisis, just because you have kept your income to date shouldn’t convince you of its permanence in anyway.

      I also can’t tell you what to morally value, but I think I have a moral responsibility to my family, and that requires me saving and doing my best to keep them safe during this period of uncertainty.

    • Garrett says:

      > For those of us lucky enough to have kept our incomes during this crisis

      What does luck have to do with it? I selected a good-paying career knowing the prospects, including that international competition was possible. But that it also lets me theoretically work from anywhere in the world. Granted, I was mostly worried about localized flooding and having to crash on a friend’s couch for a few weeks and not a pandemic. But some of us actually planned for things. Why should we remotely treat this as luck?

      • Theodoric says:

        When you were deciding on your career, you actually considered the risk of “government issues a decree literally prohibiting me from working for an indefinite amount of time”?

        • semioldguy says:

          It doesn’t have to be that specific. “In an emergency how important is my job and/or how likely am I to be able to continue doing my job?” That emergency can be many things: war, natural disaster, domestic rioting, having octuplets. Right now it happens to be pandemic.

          Many people consider for careers that won’t tie them down to a specific place or to current cultural trends that aren’t necessities.

      • matthewravery says:

        1. It’s a turn of phrase
        2. It’s more concise than, “For those of us, who through a chaotic and complex combination of personal gumption, genetic factors, and societal coincidence, have kept our incomes during the crisis….”

        Regardless this seems ancillary to the question I was asking.

      • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

        But some of us actually planned for things.

        That seems a bit rude. There are many jobs in our society which cannot happen during a pandemic, which are perfectly reasonable to have 99% of the time and I am actively glad exist. Are you telling e.g. waiters, “you fools, don’t come crying to me when the country shuts down in a crisis and you lose your income, you should have prepared for this scenario by getting a job that doesn’t require in-person interaction”? If they all followed your advice, there wouldn’t be any waiters! Or travel agents, or movie theaters, etc.

        • Garrett says:

          > That seems a bit rude.

          Taking my money is even more rude.

          “If they all followed your advice, there wouldn’t be any waiters! Or travel agents, or movie theaters, etc.”

          Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. But your conclusion is false. People who take such jobs could limit themselves to people in households where there is a separate and more reliable source of income. So held by teenagers or one member of married couple while the other has a more critical job. Alternatively, they could have a reserve fund so that they don’t need money to be taken from others to support them in times like this.

          • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

            Again, I think you vastly underestimate the number of jobs affected, and vastly overestimate the number of options people in these jobs have. It’s not a small subset of “risky” jobs that are being affected, it’s a huge swath of the economy. I did some quick calculations from this table of occupations in the US, and it looks like about 38% of the labor force has jobs which cannot be moved online. (I assumed that anyone under the “Management, professional, and related occupations” and “Sales and office occupations” headings can work remotely, and that anyone in “Service occupations”, “Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations”, and “Production, transportation, and material moving occupations” cannot.) And I’d certainly hesitate to call e.g. construction workers, electricians, and the entire service industry “non-critical” to society, even if their jobs can and must be suspended in a crisis like this.

            Furthermore, this pandemic is an extreme edge case. The normal things that people think about when considering “job security” completely outweigh tail risks like this in any reasonable calculation of “how likely am I to lose my job due to unforeseen circumstances beyond my control?”

            Many people in the 38% do not have the option of working in an office job, even if they wanted to. I’d guess most jobs that can work remotely require a college degree of some sort, and not everyone is in a position to get one of those. “Try being born in a higher socioeconomic bracket!” is not actionable advice. And if your partner (assuming you have one!) is in the same boat, then your advice to make sure they have a “more critical” job is also useless. Likewise, having a “reserve fund” is something that only works if you’re not living paycheck-to-paycheck. Just because you make enough that you can comfortably put a decent percentage of it in a savings account, doesn’t mean everyone does.

  25. rahien.din says:

    Hi Nick,

    Continued from your reply. Forgive the word count!

    Granted, arguendo :
    – The words have no meaning on their own
    – The facilitative effects of our shared language, even our shared religion
    – We can sufficiently describe our thought patterns to one another
    – Thought always involves matter – the intellectual aspect thereof remains under discussion

    1. Disagreement is a state of immaterial formal indeterminacy

    We begin by recognizing that our (arguendo) immaterial thoughts are taking different forms – they are formally incompossible. I am specifically using your terminology, and very deliberately withholding any description of matter from this initial statement of fact. The immaterial forms are incompossible, to the degree that you think my thought-pattern is dismissible out of hand.

    Thus we need not contemplate unusual hypotheticals – let us discuss our very disagreement. If we two intellects can contemplate the same concepts and arrive at formally incompossible answers, then we ourselves are in a state of immaterial formal indeterminacy.

    2. Determinacy, as described, requires exclusive correctness

    You may object that the intellect need only produce determinate forms and need not be determinate in the sense of correct. EG, if I look at a parabola and think “modus ponens” instead of “squaring,” my intellect has produced a determinate but incorrect form.

    However, that would mean the intellect was only applying a pattern. At worst, that would be déjà motif, at best it would be epistemic induction. But if an apparent form can be updated, modified, or disqualified, it was never truly a form to begin with. Perception of a pure form is a permanent and unmodifiable state. Therefore “epistemic induction” and “déjà motif” are incompossible with “determinate thinking.”

    You may object that the intellect could produce determinate forms that may be compossible if located within some hierarchy. EG, Newtonian physics is a special case of a more generalized physical model, either general relativity or quantum physics. But that would permit every thing to be the expression of a unique determinate form locatable within some hierarchy. EG, my door does not express the pure form of a rectangle, but that is because it is expressing the hierarchically-locatable form of a door shape. This is too determinate to meet Feser’s conception of determinate ; furthermore it is isomorphic to epistemic induction and/or déjà motif.

    3. Formal indeterminacy is localized to the material, not the immaterial

    The formal indeterminacy must come from somewhere – where does it come from? Whether one of us is right or both of us are uniquely wrong, there must be some way in which we as persons differ.

    We cannot localize that indeterminacy to the intellect itself, because the intellect cannot contain the indeterminate. The indeterminate can only be localized to the material. Therefore, we must localize the indeterminacy not to immaterial intellects, but to our material configurations. My brain is different from yours, so I might arrive at different conclusions from you.

    4. Informational and sequential bounds of the immaterial

    But that means the brain’s limitations are the intellect’s limitations, in that the intellect could only contain what the brain was able to perform. Since the intellect produces the final form of thought, this means the immaterial must be downstream of the material in terms of mental operations.

    That seems prima facie uncontroversial – of course information must pass through some unconscious material system before the intellect apprehends it, for the mind cannot perceive what the eye does not first see.

    The intellect’s function (assignment of form) is also upstream of conscious perception. Ontologically, the assignment of form by the intellect must precede the conscious perception of the assigned form, even if both were totally immaterial. Biologically, both the assignment and perception of form occur as thoughts, and we agree that thoughts must always involve the material operations of the brain. The brain’s perceptive-type material operation can not begin until the assignment-type material operation has completed.

    5. The involuntary action of the intellect grants me permission to perceive a form, even when you do not perceive that form

    Return to forms – I will describe the form of this informational process. Insofar as Feser is correct, I am not simply permitted to recognize and apply forms, my intellect demands it, and performs this function involuntarily. If we take the same inputs and you do not perceive the same forms, then this is the very problem we are discussing. So you must postpone objections to my perception of form, at least until you hear me out and grapple with it.

    6. Mental operations are formally computational (syntactic)

    Feser described computation in From Aristotle to John Searle and Back Again: Formal Causes, Teleology, and Computation in Nature : “the transition from states that can be characterized as embodying an informational input, via states that can be characterized as the embodiment of an algorithm, into states that can be characterized as the output of the algorithm.”

    And, the informational property described above (the mind cannot perceive what the eye does not first see) can be restated “the informational content of an output cannot exceed that of the input.” Qua Mayfield via Feser, this is an essential property of a computation.

    The form we perceive as pertaining to mental operations is : information passing through a component material domain, then through a component semantic domain, then comprising a conscious output that is of no greater informational content than the input. Thus we must recognize the form of a computation.

    (Or, a syntax. Syntax and computation are near-synonyms, and Feser uses them relatively interchangeably. But syntax allows for less confusing vocabulary. Permit me to transition thereto.)

    7. The immaterial is subsumed within material syntax and subject to its limitations.

    Ontologically, the intellect precedes the output state, and biologically its very existence is dependent upon material syntactic processes. To claim that the intellect is operating independently of that syntax would render the brain’s operations as unnecessary as a waterfall. Another way to say this is : the only way the intellect can operate or access itself is via the material. Therefore, the intellect is embedded within the mental syntax.

    The mental syntax into which intellect is embedded contains both syntactic/material and semantic/intellectual components, but its overall form remains syntactic. Therefore its output must take the qualities of a syntactic output. The essential heart of Feser’s argumentation is that an indeterminate syntax can not evolve determinate thought. Thus, he must conclude that the intellect is effectively indeterminate, because it cannot escape syntax – neither in terms of its sequential position, nor in terms of its composition, nor in terms of its access.

    IE, it is not simply that using Kripke’s calculator produces incorrect syntactic outputs that must then be interpreted semantically. It is that each of us constitutes a Kripkean calculator containing syntactic/material and semantic/intellectual components.

    8. The material is a bound on the immaterial, in terms of information content and also determinacy. Whether or not matter or thought are determinate or indeterminate, the same category must apply to both.

    • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

      Hey, I’d like to jump back into this discussion and avoid splintering into different threads. As of the last time I was talking about this, I had read through part of Feser’s article on “Immaterial Aspects of Thought” and was trying to account for “aboutness” as something dependant on causal connections to the referent.

      If you don’t mind me possibly circling back to square one for a minute, could you and/or @Nick try to explain exactly what you (and Feser) mean by “determinate”, as opposed to “indeterminate”? I’m picking up from context that it’s something to do with the contrast between abstract, often mathematical statements; and real matter or observations or calculations in the physical world. But I still am not quite grokking what concept the words are pointing at and I think some kind of definition (intrinsic or extrinsic is fine!) might help clear up my confusion.

      • rahien.din says:

        That’s very meta! Nick, please correct me where I am wrong. I don’t necessarily agree with these ideas so it may be difficult for me to express them from within.

        Helpful sources :
        1. Feser’s Kripke, Ross, and the Immaterial Aspects of Thought, as you mention
        2. Feser’s From Aristotle to John Searle and Back Again: Formal Causes, Teleology, and Computation in Nature spends a lot of effort explicating the Aristotelian terminology
        3. Ross’s Immaterial Aspects of Thought is critical source material for Feser’s arguments

        Ultimately, it seems to come down to teleology, which finds practical expression via the instantiation of symbols.

        Symbols must be instantiated via the interaction between an interpreting consciousness and the object that it interprets. A thing can not be represented in material nature, it can only be represented within the mind. Even if a book contains the words, “The apple represents knowledge, and the serpent represents evil,” these words are merely precise configurations of ink on paper. Just like any other Rorschach blot, they don’t actually contain symbolic information or intrinsic meaning or intent.

        The book, the document file from which it is printed, the printing press that makes thousands of copies – all of these are dumb to the concepts of “knowledge” and “evil” and have no intentions themselves. They are simply performing procedures. This is what it means that the material is indeterminate. Material syntax can only perform a certain kind of information processing that is, at its heart, merely procedural. And procedural actions cannot in and of themselves contain the representation of form.

        In contrast, the intellect perceives determinate forms. The most common examples thereof are mathematical operations such as addition, and logical operations such as modus ponens. These are things that have one single way of being, which is born from an intrinsic directedness or intent. The Aristotelian terms are “substantial form, implicit in immanent teleology.”

        Feser’s (Ross’s) assertion, then, is that if representation of form exists, and it cannot take existence within the procedure, then it must take existence outside of the procedure meaning external to the material. He suggests that information is computationally evolved through semantically-dumb states via material syntax, but that these states are imbued with intent and form via an intellect which is intimately immanent with the material syntax and yet at some remove from it.

        I object to certain of those, or certain applications thereof.

        Substantial form does not require indivisibility – we can apply Aristotelian holism also to configurations. The liana vine may contain the teleology of “vine,” but its individual fibers do not, and its individual cells do not themselves possess the teleology of “fiber,” and the individual proteins do not themselves possess the teleology of “cell,” etc.

        Moreover, immanent teleology requires a thing’s configuration (or, a configuration) to be the real cause of all its operations. If teleology is at some remove, then it is not truly immanent.

        Another helpful paper is Michael Tkacz’s Thomas Aquinas vs. The Intelligent Designers – What is God’s Finger Doing in My Pre-Biotic Soup? You may or may not be a theist. Even if you are not, his notion of the cosmogonical fallacy is essential to the discussion of consciousness and materialism.

  26. AG says:

    Which of y’all are fine or prefer to eat the exact same thing every day? Have a regular restaurant that you have a regular order for?

    And which of y’all have a strong novelty preference in meals? (Me. I dislike eating anything more than 3 times a week, much less more than 3 days in a row, and I visit the same restaurant maybe once a quarter.)

    • Matt M says:

      I guess I’m somewhat in the middle here. I don’t want to eat the same thing more than once every 2 days or so. But I could pick like my five favorite things and eat nothing but those indefinitely.

    • broblawsky says:

      I can eat the same thing about 3 days in a row, if it’s good enough. I made a gumbo for meal prep lunches a few weeks ago and by the 4th day I was pretty sick of it, even though it was excellent.

    • FLWAB says:

      If you asked me I’d say that I prefer to eat different things. In practice, I can go for a few months at a time eating the same two dishes in rotation.

      I only eat out on special occasions, so to make grocery shopping and cooking easier I typically make a base food that I can make variations out of. I cook up a mess of black beans, onions, and a few spices and I stick it in the fridge. Then I eat bean burritos for dinner one day (just add tortilla, salsa, and cheese), nachos another day, and noodles another day (noodles, store-bought sauce, and a heaping helping of my bean mix thrown in). So it’s three different meals, but they’re all mainly beans. And I’ve been able to keep that up as my main dinner rotation for something like three years now, so I guess I don’t actually need much novelty.

      My wife will eat the exact same thing every day for weeks, and then she’ll burn out on it and move to something else. And she hates my bean-mix! It makes cooking for her frustrating: by the time I’ve perfected a dish for her she’s sick of it and I have to start from scratch.

    • JayT says:

      I like one serving of leftovers, but more than that and it doesn’t matter how good the food is, I’m almost certainly tired of it.

      The only thing that I can think of that wouldn’t fall under this is that I’ll have a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast a few times a week, and I usually won’t get tired of that.

    • freshbanana says:

      Eat pretty much the same thing for breakfast and lunch every weekday. Some fruit(apples, bananas, oranges), and oatmeal.

      Dinner is always different but the formula is the same mostly vegetables, a grain (brown rice too often), and tofu/eggs/fish

      I’m a bit an extreme creature of habit. There was a period of four months were I ate 3 apples and 3 eggs for breakfast and lunch.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I have a pretty small repertoire of meals, but usually I don’t eat the same thing more than twice a week for dinner. Breakfast is pretty much always the same (a bagel and maybe a banana). Lunch often the same thing 3 or 4 times, or dinner leftovers. I often order the same thing at restaurants but I rarely go to the same restaurant regularly, except the pizza place I get lunch from often.

    • Kaitian says:

      I’m happy to eat the same thing a few days in a row, and I have a pretty repetitive diet overall. I have a few dishes that I cook identically almost every week, and some that are basically small variations. When I go to a restaurant multiple times, I generally eat the same 1-2 options every time. But I don’t go out of my way to go to the same restaurants again and again.

      I’m not opposed to trying new things, but I certainly don’t go seeking out novelty. This was different when I was younger, but by now I feel I have tried most interesting things and discovered what I like and what I don’t.

      • AG says:

        In contrast, my tolerance for repetition seems to have gotten smaller. I used to be able to eat the same thing for lunch for a couple of weeks (pasta salad, an 8-pack of hot dogs, etc.), but now I don’t. Some of the dinner options I used to enjoy have also become less enticing.

        Maybe this is just a metabolism thing, and I just need to exercise more.

    • Gerry Quinn says:

      I try not to eat the same thing twice in 3 days, but beyond that I can happily rotate most of the time, with something different once in a while.

    • Purplehermann says:

      I am happy to eat eggs prepared the same way every morning for a few years, after which I generally need to change how the eggs are prepared.

      There are some foods I would miss if I didn’t eat them for long enough, but it takes me a while to get sick of anything

    • ana53294 says:

      For simple things, I am less likely to get sick of it. The more elaborate the dish is, the more likely I am to get sick of it.

      For example, as a kid, I was willing to get all my calories from bananas. When I moved to the south of Spain, I ate oranges as a snack every day for years. The only reason I don’t eat oranges anymore is that the oranges they sell in the supermarket don’t compare to locally sourced Spanish ones. When they are in season and fresh, I never get sick of apples, tomatoes (with salt and olive oil), strawberries, etc. I could also handle eating an avocado a day for the rest of my life, no problem.

      It’s the more elaborate dishes, like salads, soups, and anything that requires more than one ingredient I get sick of. Excluding combination of a food + oil + salt, that’s OK.

    • Loriot says:

      I tend to eat the same thing every day. The biggest thing stopping me is worry about whether it is healthy or not, rather than any strong innate desire for variety. I’m also a picky eater, so whenever I go to a restaurant, I usually just find one thing I like on the menu and order that every time I go to that restaurant. I hate going to restaurants I haven’t been to before, since I can’t be sure whether I’ll like the food or not.

      I’ve had literally the same thing for breakfast (overnight oatmeal and an apple) every morning for close to two and a half years now (with a few exceptions when I was traveling for the holidays or when I forgot to prepare my oatmeal).

    • Elementaldex says:

      I eat at lots of different restaurants and eat lots of different dishes, but at each individual restaurant I quickly settle on a ‘best’ dish and get that 90+% of the times I eat at that restaurant. At home I have ~10 meals I make and I cycle through them at random. I occasionally make a bulk dish like lentils or pulled pork and have no difficulty eating mostly just that for a week.

    • Lord Nelson says:

      I eat a turkey sandwich and spaghetti for two of my four meals almost every single day. For the other two meals, I need to switch it up a little, or else I go slightly insane.

      Having a bunch of food intolerances “helps”. Being a bit tired of sandwiches and pasta is much better than getting sick. (Also, I’m very lazy and dislike cooking.)

    • I like trying different things at restaurants, but that is partly because I hope to find something I like better than the dishes I have had before. I don’t generally eat the same meal at home twice in a row, but doing so would not seriously bother me.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Do you not typically cook enough for leftovers? I suppose it’d be easier for you since there’re three(?) of you at your house; I find that cooking for myself it’s rather hard to avoid leftovers. But then, I’m glad to eat them.

        • Rebecca Friedman says:

          There are four of us, and we typically cook enough for 1-2 person-meals plus what we eat, although it depends on the dish. Most leftovers stay good in the refrigerator for a significant while, so while one sometimes has for lunch what one had for dinner the night before, it’s more common to have for lunch what one had for dinner a couple days before, and save last night’s leftovers for lunch in a day or two. Or have something else and let someone else eat the leftovers. We don’t have them for dinner unless they’ve really been building up.

          If we make enough leftovers for four or more people, it’s because we’re making a dish that freezes well, and the extra gets frozen, to be pulled out sometime we don’t want to cook.

      • Loriot says:

        I never cook enough to make leftovers, since I don’t like them much. Which also means that I generally only cook low-effort dishes, since I have to do it every day.

    • Spookykou says:

      I have voluntarily eaten the exact same thing for lunch and dinner (I didn’t eat breakfast) for a little over five months, with no variation, and only drinking water. I rather enjoyed the experience and I think it only stopped because of holiday/travel disrupting my eating habits and then failing to get back on it. It was a ‘diet’ of sorts and I ended up losing about 30 pounds, but I was eating pizza. Everyone has always been highly incredulous of my pizza diet, but conditions allowing I’d start it back up again today.

    • Tarpitz says:

      Variety’s nice, but completely non-essential for me. Sure, it would be great to have a gourmet chef on the household staff cooking an endless parade of excitingly different things, but in fact I have spent extended periods eating mostly in one case humus on toast for lunch and all-day-breakfast-in-a-can for dinner and in another black pudding, banana and satsumas for breakfast and grilled chicken and stir fried vegetables for dinner, and neither diet troubled me unduly.

    • Nick says:

      I couldn’t eat the very same thing, but I’m fine with relatively little variety. I definite have “regular restaurant with regular order” syndrome. Ask me what I order from Chipotle sometime.

    • J.R. says:

      My strategy is to fix two of my meals (breakfast/lunch) and allow for variety on the third. I have a high tolerance for sameness. I don’t have the time or energy to constantly maintain the overhead of buying new ingredients for recipes, planning exactly how many meals it’ll last me, etc. My system keeps overhead to a minimum.

      Breakfast is always two slices of homemade toast, a green salad, and 3 eggs, with a cup of tea.

      On workdays, lunch is always rice and lentils, a small bag of almonds, and an apple. I make a month’s worth of lentils at a time and freeze it in 1-week batches. On weekends it is always leftovers or whatever I scrounge up from the kitchen – usually cheese and bread with some olives or avocado and some fruit.

      Dinner is where I switch it up. I cook about twice a week from a rotating selection of things in my repertoire. I always cook enough to get an additional 2-3 meals of leftovers too.

      Ironically enough, for when I’m out at restaurants or choosing alcoholic beverages, I always go for something new.

    • Viliam says:

      I am okay with eating the same food over and over again, as long as it is a food I like.

      I also enjoy novelty.

      So if there is a new restaurant, I am happy to try it. But recently I mostly eat broccolli soup, bean soup, and pasta… and I am okay with that.

  27. EchoChaos says:

    Whatever San Francisco is doing is very good. SF was approximately equal to NY ten days ago. Now NY is spiraling out of control and SF is basically steady state.

    Is it just mass transit? Better social distancing, better messaging?

    • MisterA says:

      New York waited about a week longer than everywhere else with significant infections to close schools, businesses, etc. I suspect that is the primary difference.

    • salvorhardin says:

      There are a ton of confounders and it’s too early to tell. I doubt that “steady state” is a good description of the situation when we just had our largest ever daily jump in reported cases (45 new, a 25% increase over yesterday), though of course that could be just more test results coming back.

      SF did start its sheltering-in-place order a few days ahead of everyone else including NY, and there is speculation that that might have bought us something, but who knows? The fraction of people tested is different and changing at different rates, the density is different, the age distribution is different, the fraction of the workforce that can work from home is different (and skewed more toward tech which started telling its employees to work from home a week ahead of most other industries), etc.

      If over the next week the relevant doubling rates (cases, hospitalizations, deaths) in SF stay substantially below that in NY, that’ll be stronger evidence that SF has done something right. I’m crossing my fingers for that, but have low confidence.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Most likely all the differences are artifacts of testing. Probably even the death numbers; no one was counting pneumonia deaths as coronavirus in NYC in January and February. I would guess it has been spreading pretty much out of control in NYC since January, helped along by density and mass transit.

      • EchoChaos says:

        I would guess it has been spreading pretty much out of control in NYC since January, helped along by density and mass transit.

        And shockingly irresponsible messaging from leadership.

        I’d love all the people who are bagging on Trump for his messaging not being harsh enough early to give what they think of NYC officials going out of their way to cheer parades and eating out when we had confirmed domestic spread. Mostly to put a finger in the eye of “racists”.

    • matthewravery says:

      Looking at deaths (which, while more reliable than confirmed cases, lag facts on the ground by more):

      California and Washington are looking good relative to the rest of the country, as is Oregon.

      NY is a disaster and NJ looks to be falling closely at their heels.

      Louisianan’s just as bad as NY if you scale it by population. Their trajectories look almost identical. Georgia looks almost as bad.

      Florida, by contrast, doesn’t seem to be doing so badly.

      Michigan could get real bad real quick. Ohio looks a little better but still potentially worse than the Western states.

      • Eponymous says:

        I’ll just mention that, while I agree deaths are (a bit) more reliable than cases, I still think they’re pretty inaccurate, so these comparisons are still very uncertain.

      • salvorhardin says:

        Um, not really. I mean, it is in general, but it hasn’t been significantly warmer these past couple of weeks– both places have highs in the 50s/60s F and lows in the 40s; NYC is having a pretty warm spring and SF a pretty cold one by our respective standards.

        • Rebecca Friedman says:

          Yes, it’s been raining most days in the Bay Area, which is wetter than I expect this time of year to be. Good for the plants, but definitely not warm; the house has been getting too cold for me, which is… definitely something.

      • Jake R says:

        The lowest recorded temperature in New Orleans over the past seven days was 64, with a high of 88 this afternoon. If that’s anything to go by high temperatures are not a panacea.

    • meh says:

      Is it just more people and higher density? Particularly daytime commuter density.

  28. I have an idea that I have not seen discussed.

    One of the medicines that some people think might help against Covid is Losartan, a widely used blood pressure medicine which I take. It ought to be possible to mine the data from natural experiments to find out whether that is likely to be true without doing any new experiments at all, and similarly for any widely used medicine.

    When you go into the hospital, they ask you what drugs you are taking. If somebody could get the evidence on what drugs people who came down with Covid and people who died from it were on, any drug that makes you substantially less vulnerable or substantially more vulnerable should show up in the statistics. You would have to controll for things like age, and mortality effects might be due to the problem you were taking the drug to deal with, but it would still give you a lot of useful information.

    • Garrett says:

      Sure. But if someone wanted to publish that they’d have to go through an IRB. Which is a nightmare. Also, the quality of medical records is surprisingly terrible. Medical records exist to facilitate billing and avoiding lawsuits, not treating patients.

      • rahien.din says:

        The quality of medical narrative is surprisingly terrible. But parsing text is a nightmare in any context.

        However, the discrete data (such as med lists) are mine-able.

        • Statismagician says:

          Nah, it’s those data too. If you do a PubMed search on ICD-9/10 validation you’ll find all sorts of known problems with even what should intuitively be solid; as a rule of thumb anything other than the principal diagnosis for a given encounter isn’t really trustworthy, and those will reliably be for the most serious possible description of the complaint due to payment incentives.

          • rahien.din says:

            Dunno man. It’s easy to find whether my patient has been on a given medication. In a larger sense, those queries are easy to build and execute.

          • Statismagician says:

            This is an admin and research problem, not a clinical one. Once stuff goes through a couple rounds of coding/billing/clarification/de-identificaiton, weird stuff starts happening; I once had somebody who was coded as having died three distinct times over a five-year period. Meds are less-bad since it’s directly tied to reimbursement, but even then you have questions about prescribed vs. filled vs. taken and straight-up mistakes introduced at one stage or another.

          • rahien.din says:

            It seems like you are describing a wider array of failure modes than we would expect for the OP’s question of : how do we find the COVID-19 patients who had been given losartan while admitted?

            But our experiences may differ. Your nick probably indicates that you have had far more opportunities to run into the EMR’s failure modes.

          • Statismagician says:

            Fair point, I did drift off of the topic at hand.

            And yeah – I used to do research using multibillion-record EMR and claims databases, and I’m still a little traumatized about it. Mostly they work fine for what they’re actually for, and they’re obviously miles better than paper forms even if they’re not all they might be yet.

          • Garrett says:

            I managed to see one chart where the chief complaint and admitting diagnosis were reversed. So basically everything can and will get screwed up.

      • Statismagician says:

        What you’d want to use is pharmacy claims data; these are purchasable as de-identified proprietary databases from insurers. I know some of the people who work with them, I’ll have to check and see if anybody’s looking at this after this year’s data become available.

      • Corey says:

        Anecdata on med lists specifically:

        With the system WakeMed uses (Epic), it’s very difficult to ever convince it you’ve stopped taking a medicine. This is because it combines data from multiple sources (e.g. your pharmacy, other doctors) and those have lags. A couple of providers I mentioned this to said it’s common for drugs to reappear.

        E.g. I tell my WakeMed PCP my (non-WakeMed non-Epic-using) shrink gave me topiramate for appetite suppression, they put that in the system, it tells everyone it knows “Corey’s taking topiramate”, later I tell them I stopped, some other system tells WakeMed “I heard Corey’s taking topiramate” and it goes back on the list.

        (Systems certainly could be designed to prevent these kinds of loops, but that doesn’t mean anyone bothered, or that it works correctly)

    • Cheese says:

      Has been discussed widely.

      Bit of a back and forth at the moment about whether ACEI/ARB increase or decrease risk, or whether they move it in opposite directions. No good evidence just theoretical discussion.

      What you describe is possible in a year or so time, when large scale data is collated. At the moment it is too messy, too confounded too haphazard and too difficult

    • Lambert says:

      You’d have to do a really good job of correcting for the underlying conditions that people are taking the drugs for.

  29. Deiseach says:

    This may only appeal to my sense of humour, but this cri-de-coeur from the supplier of our payroll software today amused me.

    Our government has introduced relaxation of Revenue collections and reimbursement of wages paid by employers who are shut-down but still keeping staff on the books during the ‘shelter-in-place’ portion of the current crisis. This was only formally announced yesterday, but apparently some people are already expecting Done Yesterday When I Only Told You Today for the updates to payroll software.

    Having had some slight experience as a minor minion in the public service, things like tax are very complicated and you need time to study what all the ins and outs are about, so I fully appreciate (on both sides) the problems with “the Revenue rules have suddenly changed, we need updated software” as expressed herein 🙂

    The new Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme is far more complicated than the previous Employer COVID-19 Refund Scheme and this guide is intended as an overview of the new scheme.

    We would ask our customers to understand that CollSoft does not develop software based on reports from RTE News, the Irish Independent or some rambling tweets on Twitter – we develop our software based on the facts as published by Revenue. It may well be the case that some news outlet has a scoop on what is happening next, but if Revenue don’t confirm we won’t develop it.

    …We would also ask customers to remember that even when Revenue publish details, it takes us time to develop, test, document and deploy software updates. Often times we will make decisions about particular developments that are rooted in common sense and designed to protect our customers from future problems. One example of this was the decision to not allow users to process COVID 19 refunds in monthly payrolls for March. This would have triggered an automatic refund from Revenue of €812 which was impossible for you to have paid to your employees. We advised customers to switch over to a weekly pay frequency for very good reasons.

    If Revenue published something yesterday, don’t email us today asking why the update is not available and tell us that “if you fail to provide an appropriate solution here, we will be opting for an alternative provider next year.” and “I very much hope that you can offer us the service and professionalism that your customers deserve.” (extracts from an actual email from a customer this week)

    Honestly, if anybody feels that we are lacking in our response to this COVID-19 crisis then please let me know and I will personally arrange for a full refund of any licence fees and send you the contact details for Sage, Thesaurus, Brightpay, Big Red Book or any other providers and you can see how responsive they are to the evolving situation. Please, let common sense apply.

  30. Atlas says:

    I was really struck by a point Razib Khan made in passing on an old blogpost, namely that you can’t really claim to know a lot about “history” if you don’t have some familiarity with Chinese history, given what a large fraction of human civilization China has typically represented. I’m unashamedly parochial in many respects (e.g. Why do I prefer reading Shakespeare and singing his praises compared to Tolstoy? Because Shakespeare wrote in English), but I recognize the force of this argument. What are some good books about Chinese history? (I did learn a bit about it in Francis Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order, which I highly recommend.)

    • WoollyAI says:

      Not a book, but I highly recommend Lazlo Montgomery’s China History Podcast.

    • FLWAB says:

      Not exactly what you want (because it is limited in scope), but I never miss a chance to recommend A Chinese Life. It’s a graphic novel (comic book) that’s about as thick as a brick and is an autobiographical account of the author growing up in Communist China. It makes a great primer on that period of history, as it starts with his recounting of his father’s life (who was a communist during the revolution), and it follows the historical and societal changes from the revolution to about the 1990s or so. Because it’s autobiographical and because it’s in a visual medium you really get a a grounds eye view of such a fascinating period of Chinese history: not just learning about the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution or Deng’s reforms but actually seeing how it changed people’s lives. It’s really, really good and I can’t recommend it enough.

      • Bobobob says:

        Second that. A Chinese Life is a great book, but best taken in small doses (both because of its length and its not-very-happy subject matter).

      • Atlas says:

        Sounds very interesting, thanks, I’ll definitely check it out since I’ve been using Comixology recently.

      • Robin says:

        Thank you for this, I’ll have a look at it!

        I can recommend the work of Guy Delisle, who was in Shenzhen to supervise animation work, then in Pyongyang because that was cheaper. Also, he accompanied his wife (who works for Médicins sans frontières) to Myanmar and to Jerusalem. He made very interesting graphic novels about all these travels.

    • j1000000 says:

      (FWIW I’ve never read Tolstoy in Russian, but it’s still good in English)

    • Kaitian says:

      All of these are pretty scholarly and dense, but very good:

      Jonathan D. Spence – The search for modern China: Roughly 17th century until the Communist revolution, focused on exploring the concept of modernity.
      Jaques Gernet – A History of Chinese Civilization: This book tries to show you the big picture, focusing on cultural history and China’s relationship to Europe.
      The Harvard University Press’ textbook series History of Imperial China has standalone volumes for different time periods and is very accessible.

      Honorable mentions:
      Henry Kissinger’s On China should be very interesting to people who are interested in American history as well as Chinese.
      Feng Youlan’s A Short History of Chinese Philosophy is what the title says, but very strongly influenced by intellectual trends of the author’s time and his own philosophical views.
      Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Roads is not really about China as such, but shows its influence on the rest of the world.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Why do I prefer reading Shakespeare and singing his praises compared to Tolstoy? Because Shakespeare wrote in English

      You mean because Shakespeare invented English?

    • AG says:

      Ask for the textbook used by AP World History classes as a starting point.

      • Atlas says:

        I might choose a college textbook instead, but a textbook is a good suggestion. I’m not sure why it seemingly isn’t more common practice to read/cite textbooks after college if you’re interested in learning stuff/standing on solid ground in an argument.

        • AG says:

          Trauma over their prices? And the modern situation where textbooks are a bit of a self-promotion racket.

          The pre-Internet answers would have also likely cited the common encyclopedias.

          I specifically recommended AP World History because it’s a euphemism for “Non-European World History,” and there’s value to getting a direct comparison to the other cultures/nations while you’re at it (particularly, India and the Muslim empires).

          • Matt M says:

            If you’re just learning for yourself, this really isn’t a big deal.

            I used to do this to study for CLEP tests. I’d buy and read a “two editions out of date” textbook on Amazon. Typically you could get a used, in decent condition one for like $10.

    • nkurz says:

      Not a book, but my wife and I have recently been watching the PBS series “The Story of China with Michael Wood”. It’s available for free streaming if you have Amazon Prime https://www.amazon.com/Story-China-Michael-Wood-Season/dp/B072WLQTFN.

      It’s a good series. It’s incredible how early and advanced China was. Also incredible how many times things fell totally into shambles after the current civilization was destroyed, typically by “invaders from the North”.

    • KieferO says:

      I’ve read and recommend China 1945: Mao’s Revolution and America’s Fateful Choice by Richard Bernstein. I realize that there are, like, a whole bunch of years of Chinese history and this covers just one of them in 464 pages. But I think it’s worth it because it explains why modern Chinese history is so weird.

  31. MisterA says:

    A figure I saw from the WHO that drove home just how fast this is accelerating –

    It took 67 days to get to the first 100,000 cases. It took 11 days to get to 200,000 cases. 4 days later was 300,000 cases.

    That was Monday, we are now well past 400,000. We are presumably at the point now where we start adding increasing multiples of 100K each day.

    I feel like a big difference between the people freaking out and the people who seem to think this is all overblown is how well they understand what exponential growth looks like as you carry the timeline forward.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I feel like a big difference between the people freaking out and the people who seem to think this is all overblown is how well they understand what exponential growth looks like as you carry the timeline forward.

      Most of the people here, at SSC, saying things are overblown understand exponential growth just fine, in theory. It just doesn’t prevent them from using other known facts as rationalizations.

      • Clutzy says:

        This is true. I, for example, think most of the exponential growth we are seeing right now is simply testing catching up to case numbers that have existed for much longer. Eventually this will appear as linear growth as we reach a certain amount of testing, and then it will tail off, just because of how testing works.

        This natural relationship between testing ramp up and the ramp up of confirmed cases is not reason to rest on your laurels, but it is a reason to not take seriously people who extrapolate based on the exponential phase of the graph and start saying that 40% of America will obviously have C-19 by April 3rd or whatever.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          The number of deaths are following an exponential growth curve. That isn’t consistent with your theory.

          • Clutzy says:

            No its not, but on that part I’d want to see a graphs of deaths and death rates in 2019 (and other years) Feb/March compared with deaths in 2020, because it can also be a testing problem where people were gonna die, and they died in the hospital, which is a place where infections always spread like wildfire.

            Optimally you’d prefer to see no C19 patients ever make it into a normal hospital.

          • Del Cotter says:

            I’d like to modify that slightly by saying the cumulative numbers of deaths are following curves that parallel one exponential curve or another for a while. But none of them keep following the same exponential exactly: they’re not straight lines on a log linear graph, but instead they all curve downward to track a new exponential with a longer doubling time, as each authority struggles to bring the outbreak under control. Wuhan’s cumulative deaths may, touch wood, never double again: their doubling time has become infinitely long and their curve nothing like exponential any more.

            At which point I’m bored with the cumulative graphs and would prefer to see the first derivative, the daily deaths, which should show a hump and a long diminishing tail. Wuhan’s daily deaths are going down now that they’re into the tail.

    • Matt M says:

      I think I understand exponential growth. It looks something like this, right?

      • EchoChaos says:

        Amusingly, no. That’s WAY faster than exponential.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Its just a really large exponent, right? Obviously by next week 110% of the world will be out of work.

          • drunkfish says:

            No, exponential growth has a specific shape. You could probably model it as a power law instead (because everything fits a power law) with a super large exponent, but not an exponential.

            exponential: y = a^x
            power law: y = x^a

            Eventually an exponential will always outrun a power law, but early on (small x) power laws are faster.

          • Lambert says:

            >You could probably model it as a power law instead (because everything fits a power law)

            I didn’t pay enough attention in Laplace Transform lessons but I kinda understand signal processing so i’ll use sine waves instead. (because everything fits sine waves)

          • eyeballfrog says:

            You’d never get a power law to fit an exponential with a time series that covers several doubling times. It’s either too flat a the start or not steep enough at the end.

            @Lambert The Laplace transform is exponentials (and thus, in a sense, is still sines and cosines). The Mellin transform is the one that represents everything as power laws.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Holy shit.

    • Anteros says:

      Doesn’t every infectious disease spread exponentially? At least initially?

      • Del Cotter says:

        Yes, in the S-I-R model, it’s buillt in that dI/dt is proportional to I for initial small “I” (“I” for Infected), which is the definition of an exponential growth curve. Later on, that can’t be true any more, as the growing number of former Infected and dwindling number of Susceptible poison the growth curve, even assuming Business As Usual (constant transmission rate).

        And thank heavens, the transmission rate isn’t constant, but falls, as governments wake up to the seriousness of the situation and announce stay-at-home orders.

        Every math YouTuber in sight is making coronavirus-themed videos, and leaving the word out of the title so as not to be demonetized. I see 3Blue1Brown has another up, time to go look at that.

        ETA aand Aatish Bhatia had the brilliant idea to plot the weekly confirmed cases on a log log graph, showing all countries as power-law curves with a precipitous drop off as they get things under control.

        https://aatishb.com/covidtrends/

        Once again, we see country size makes no difference, and lumping or splitting have minimal effect: your biggest bubble hardly changes, and your little bubbles just look younger, which they are.

        That’s not to say the effect of a country or region handling an outbreak badly doesn’t show up: it shows up by you drifting into the left lane. You want to drift into the right lane, and take an off ramp as soon as possible.

  32. anonymousskimmer says:

    Obama: “If you like your insurance, you can keep it.”

    Trump, March 6th: “If you need a test, you get a test.“, unless, of course, you live in West Virginia a week after Trump’s speech, where Big Jim has things well in hand. https://time.com/5805571/james-vigil-west-virginia/ Thankfully a Democratic senator was around to make things right.

    And of course “If things don’t go as planned it won’t kill anyone.” wrt chloroquine.

    I just want to make sure people remember these statements of Trump.

    What’s sauce for the Obama is sauce for the Trump.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I’ll give you the test thing. I don’t think he was lying, though, just misinformed, as there’s zero reason to lie about that. Great, you got him being wrong on something.

      The chloroquine thing is ridiculous, though. That’s 100% the fault of the idiot who took the fish drugs, and you would never in a million years hold any other politician to that kind of standard.

      • Chalid says:

        If anything misinformed is *worse*. Expanding test capacity is the #1 priority for America right now and you’re positing that Trump is completely clueless about its status.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          No I’m pretty sure lying is definitely worse, because just being wrong implies you can correct the issue once you’re properly informed, which appears to be what’s happened with the testing. With the lying there’s unlikely to ever be a correction. I think you’re just bizarrely calling being wrong worse than knowingly and deliberately lying because you’re trying your hardest to bag on Trump.

          I’m pretty sure you’re all just politicizing this pandemic, and I hope normal people find it as distasteful as I do and punish you for it at the polls.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            If you actual cared about lying, you wouldn’t be a fan of Trump. Trump lies constantly.

            You just discount his lies and inflate what you perceive to be lies by those you oppose.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            If people cared about lying politicians they wouldn’t vote at all.

          • Chalid says:

            A certain amount of lying comes with the territory in politics. All politicians lie sometimes, though of course some do it more than others and some lies are more consequential than others.

            The president badly misunderstanding the status of his nation’s most important priority is a much worse sign than the president merely telling a lie (which as you yourself note is something that is not unexpected). It means there’s some critical breakdown in the flow of information to the top.

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            Oh, really? And you’re not politicizing anything? Even though you’re bound and determined not to blame Trump for anything, while his flawed response to the crisis may cost thousands of the American lives that you claim to weep over so copiously when they happen to be taken by Mexicans?

            Give me a break.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No, I can confidently say I’m not politicizing it. I’m not making comments about how great Trump is doing, or how badly the Democrats are responding. About the only thing I’m criticizing is other people attempting to politicize the pandemic.

            I think people should vote for Trump because his trade and immigration policies are superior to his opponents. “Because Trump is great at pandemics” is not an argument I’m making.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            it =/= anything.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m pretty sure “anything” meant “anything about it” meaning “the pandemic.” You, anonymousskimmer, are politicizing the hell out of it, and I hope that karma comes around like a boomerang.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            If you actual cared about lying, you wouldn’t be a fan of Trump. Trump lies constantly.

            He’s a politician.
            To be fair, we read in The Art of the Deal that he lied constantly to get buildings constructed, making him a worse person than politicians who were honest people until they first ran for elected office.
            But then there are those who have spent basically their entire adult lives in elected office, so we have to remember that they’re just as bad.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            What do you mean Karma coming along for me specifically?

            I’ve made it clear I either don’t like or don’t care about the vast majority of things Trump has done, and I like hardly anything he has said. But I have praised him rarely elsewhere (specifically on signing the bill back in 2007 or 8 dealing with online pedophilia, and I’m leaning that way on getting out of Afghanistan).

            I don’t want him talking off the cuff during this event. And I sure as hell don’t want him tweeting about the benefits of a miracle drug, or a miracle Easter. Because right now that karma is coming around to bite other people.

            He cannot do a good job during this crisis continuing to do what he has done all along. He needs to change. He needs to get slapped in the face from people he cares about (thanks, Tucker Carlson, though his comments obviously weren’t a slap). He needs to get slapped in the face by public opinion. These are the only things I believe will get him to act the way he needs to act in this time.

          • Chalid says:

            How are you deciding what is legitimate discussion and criticism and what is politicization?

            I don’t deny that I’m not happy with the job Trump is doing. But I absolutely stand by my claim that it would be *really, obviously, terribly bad* if your explanation of Trump’s behavior were correct and he were just unaware of the massive testing shortage.

            I can see how one might differ on the relative badness of deliberate lying versus obliviousness to problems but I hardly think my weighting of the relative badnesses is somehow ridiculously out of bounds or “bizarre.”

            Which is to say that I’m going to ignore your refereeing.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What do you mean Karma coming along for me specifically?

            I mean, I believe you are trying to use this crisis, which is a real, important, and deadly thing, to push your political goals. I hope your actions backfire horribly, all the normal people see what you and your fellow travelers are doing, are properly disgusted by it, and you lose every single election you’re trying to win with this so badly all your ideas are discredited for a generation. You are doing a bad thing, and should stop.

            ETA:

            Which is to say that I’m going to ignore your refereeing.

            Great, do that. Spread it loud and proud. I hope all the normal people see it, are grossed out by it, and vote against you.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Many successful people in business have a Reality Distortion Field.

            Steve Jobs had it. Elon Musk probably has it. Trump had it.

            A RDF can be really useful in a lot of places, if you need to change something fundamental. Like if the reality of the world is “no one wants a $500 smart phone with no keyboard” and then Jobs shows up and says “yes they do” and it changes for the people around him so they build it and then he gets people to buy it, and then it becomes true. They might be the only way to get around chicken-and-egg problems.

            Scott had a theory that this is a lot of what Trump did for his real estate deals. He needs something that isn’t true to be true. So he asserts it is true long enough for all the principals involved to get on board. And then it is true.

            Reality Distortion Fields are great until they aren’t. When they don’t work, you find yourself having gone down a really stupid path. Asserting “there are tests” can work amazingly if the people reporting to you can just be motivated to make more tests, and you have changed reality to match your statement. But if they simply can’t, saying it repeatedly becomes an obvious lie.

            In the real estate world, Trump probably had a good sense of what reality he could and could not distort. He’s had to wing it in politics. And a virus doesn’t respond at all to being told to go away.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Thank you Edward Scizorhands.

            @Conrad Honcho
            My father had a reality distortion field significant enough he sent me a copy of “The Secret”.

            My attitude toward Trump is that he reminds me of some of the worst parts (that negatively affected me) of my father, as well as many more bad parts that remind me of people I’ve personally hated over the years.

            This isn’t about politics. I think his attitude is bad. Period. And I want it to stop. If he stopped it, while maintaining much of his politics, I wouldn’t have nearly the issues with him as I do now.

        • Clutzy says:

          Still want a strong case for testing being a panacea. Best evidence I have seen is that it is a marginal way to improve response. Tweaking at the edges. Much more important is social isolation and mass cloth masking if we look at asian countries that are winning.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            With good testing, you can go from shelter-in-place to track-and-trace.

          • Clutzy says:

            Only after you reach manageable infection levels, which places like NY do not have.

            I’m skeptical of track and trace being effective in any major metro. For instance, my GF works in an office building, and has been sent home for 10 days. Only today we were informed that someone from her floor has tested +. Thats like 50 “traces” for the floor alone, plus the radiation out therefrom. Plus you don’t get any of his elevator mates, busmates, trainmates, etc picked up on.

            Tracking would have had to be a Jan 1 policy for all international travel to quash it, or it will have to be a late April policy to kill the last remnants.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Right. Track-and-trace is useful when you have a small number of cases.

            NYC cannot do it now. But they may have been able to do it sooner (given competent local administration, of which I’m skeptical). And there are lots of other areas of the country that could do it, too. If Kansas can re-open for business, good!

          • Clutzy says:

            I think the issue with that theory is I think like even a place like Kansas probably already has a critical number of cases where if they went about business it would turn bad. I am fairly convinced by arguments that our total diagnosed numbers are going to be extremely low compared to total cases. For instance, the WSJ article made a compelling case that there were more people with C19 in Wuhan Province on Jan 31 than there have been total reported cases in all of China up to today.

      • matthewravery says:

        I mean, most politicians don’t give out what sounds like medical advise on Twitter, and there’s a good reason for that.

        I agree that the person’s an idiot, but you can’t hold Trump completely blameless when he amplifies things like this in a crisis. People are scared! They’re going to make bad decisions, and some people take what he says seriously.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          If 1,000 people did it, maybe there was a problem with the message. If one person out of 350 million people did it…yeah that’s that just that one idiot. Everyone else understands he was talking about a medical treatment for humans supplied by pharmaceutical manufacturers and taken according to the directions that come from doctors. Not fish tank pills.

          Were you confused at all by Trump’s statements about the drug? Were you saying “hey, Trump says to take fish pills but I don’t think that’s right!” Or did that thought never come close to crossing your mind because you’re not an idiot?

          • matthewravery says:

            This specific example is such small potatoes in the scheme of things, but Trump is notoriously imprecise with his language. He’s ambiguous and sometimes hard to follow. You usually get the gist, but “the gist” leaves a lot of room for you to read what you want into whatever he’s saying.

            This has negative consequences in environments where precise language are required, such as when discussing how effective and safe experimental drug treatments are. There’s clear cause and effect here, albeit filtered through human idiocy. But the more people you have listening to you, the more precise and careful you should be with your language because it only takes one idiot.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Then if it’s small potatoes, maybe ignore it completely instead of making it a top-level Dunk on the Orange Man comment?

            “Zero out of 350 million people misunderstand you” is an impossible communication standard.

            That you would bother singling this instance out says more about you and the media than it does about Trump’s communication problems.

            ETA: btw I understand you didn’t make the top-level comment, but you certainly seem to agree with it.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I made the top level comment and disagree with matthewravery that this is small potatoes.

            It is yet one more yuge potato in the stream of yuge potatoes Trump has tossed out over the years.

            Don’t mix up two distinct drugs, and don’t downplay the severity of side-effects. Hydroxychloroquine is much safer than chloroquine, though even it can kill or disable people when dosed by a doctor.

          • GearRatio says:

            Meanwhile pretty much every politician on the left has spent the last dozen years yelling that vaping is as bad or worse than cigarettes and doing their best to restrict them, which has almost-for-sure caused tens of thousands of future deaths minimum. They are wrong-or-lying in a way much worse, but the news doesn’t say to blame them for the massacre so it’s fine.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            seen versus unseen

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Eating the fish tank cleaner is not on Trump. That’s less than a one-out-of-a-million issue.

          But people are trying to homebrew miracle cures, and existing malaria patients can’t get their existing prescriptions filled because of runs on possible remedies. The President should not be encouraging that. He should be doing the opposite.

          • matthewravery says:

            Sure. I’m taking the general position that, “The President should be scrupulously clear when discussing medications during the pandemic.” That one of the consequences for failing to do so is that at least one person misinterprets him and kills theirself doesn’t mean it’s the only or worst consequence of this.

            But “This consequence is rare, so the person who caused it it isn’t responsible” is terrible logic. Millions of people listen to what the President says. People going out and trying to use this stuff was a predictable response from him talking about how great it was (“maybe, we’re not sure, but it’s great!”). That someone mis-used it is also entirely predictable.

            He should choose his words carefully. There was no reason to specifically mention this drug or discuss it in such a confusing way.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Yes, being clear is really important. Compare Boris Johnson’s address to the nation with Trump’s. One single poorly worded sentence can cause massive amounts of distress on the ground. You have a comms team review what is going to be said, and double-check it. This President hates comms teams being a filter on him, and so we see things like panic rushes to get back into the country.

            And the President should never ever be giving medical advice based on something he heard. I can’t imagine Bush, when hearing people are complaining about respiratory issues following 9/11, suggesting Vitamin D supplements because he heard about it on the news. It’s not his job and not his qualifications and he knows it.

    • anon-e-moose says:

      @anonymousskimmer You didn’t even pick a good lie Obama told! The “Syrian Red Line” comment cost ~500k lives.

      • Loriot says:

        That wasn’t a lie, so much as being naively optimistic about future policy. Whereas the “if you like your health insurance, you can keep it” was a deliberately misleading description of already existing, known policy, and thus conforms much more closely to the normal concept of a “lie”. (It was technically true in that provisions of the law did grandfather existing health insurance plans, but a lie for practical purposes since insurers mostly stopped offering the grandfathered plans.)

        • John Schilling says:

          That wasn’t a lie, so much as being naively optimistic about future policy.

          It was a false promise, and most people count those in the same category as outright lies. Which, they are. When you say “If X happens, I will do Y”, and you have no intention of doing anything Y-like in the event of X, then you are lying.

          You may think you will get away with it because of your naive optimism that X will not happen, maybe because your “promise” convinced other people to make sure X doesn’t happen. But you’re still lying. It is possible to be both naively optimistic and a liar at the same time.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            “If X happens, they will do Y” is more equivalent to Obama’s promise.

          • John Schilling says:

            “We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that’s a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons.”

            That’s Obama promising that Obama and/or the United States will impose “enormous consequences” if Syria used chemical weapons. And if you’re going to claim that it wasn’t a lie because “there will be consequences” doesn’t explicitly say who will be imposing the consequences, then you are either terminally naive or pretending to be.

          • Eponymous says:

            @JS

            While we’re on the topic, do you have an opinion on whether Assad called Obama’s bluff, or if it was someone else trying to prompt US intervention?

            I remember this being in question at the time, and I never heard that it was satisfactorily resolved.

          • John Schilling says:

            Claims that the Ghouta attack was a false-flag operation by a third party trying to bring the US into the war were fairly thoroughly investigated, by multiple national governments and open-source private arms control groups, and found to be not credible. The possibility that Russia had quietly told Assad “It’s OK, we’ve got your back on this” or even “Here’s how we get the Americans to sign off on the Russian Army going into Syria”, are still credible but unproven.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Sorry, my bad. I read too fast and though you were speaking of the insurance claim.

          • Loriot says:

            I definitely don’t think Obama did well there, and I suppose criticizing the use of the term “lie” was a bit kneejerk. Making threats you don’t intend to carry out is always a bad idea.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      As the blowback grew fierce, the lawyer took down his tweet, took down his website, screened his calls. He was miserable. He took his chloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that Trump kept talking up, hoping that it might protect him against the virus, though there is no evidence that it will. It makes him feel like crap. He lowered his dose, but he keeps taking it because, he said, maybe it does work.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/coronavirus-tweet-economy-elderly/2020/03/25/25a3581e-6e11-11ea-b148-e4ce3fbd85b5_story.html

    • What’s sauce for the Obama is sauce for the Trump.

      The two cases are not comparable. Obama was telling a lie in order to misrepresent the consequence of the policy he was pushing.

      Trump made a false statement, possibly a lie, possibly an error, but it wasn’t to misrepresent the consequences of his policy, since the Coronavirus wasn’t something he was doing. Obamacare was something Obama was doing.

      Trump is, as always, an unreliable source of information. But so far as I can see, the only thing he is actually doing that makes things worse is using the pandemic as an excuse for giving away lots of money, something that he, like most politicians, is happy to do. His one significant judgement call was shutting down travel from China, which pretty clearly was correct and which his opponents at the time attacked him for.

  33. Well... says:

    Ever since I started taking COVID-19 seriously about a week ago (the exact moment happened while I was watching Contagion) I’ve been wondering if this is anything like what people felt during the height of the Cold War.

    Obviously not at all in the same league as wondering when you’ll be ducking and covering to get away from nuclear fallout, but maybe in the sense of there being a looming invisible danger, of seeking safety in hunkering down, of waiting on the word from authorities about what new restrictions each day brings?

    For those of you who experienced the Cold War as adults, how much deja vu are you experiencing now, if any?

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      I recently read a poem directly comparing the two.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Well maybe the early cold war. I am 63 so I was an adult for the last 15 years or so of the cold war. But I think the whole “duck and cover” thing was done in the 50’s when I was a baby. So I think you’ll need someone older than me. I never really thought about the danger of nukes back in the ’60’s through the ’80’s. I was 7 for the Cuban missile crisis and didn’t know about it at the time.

      • nkurz says:

        > But I think the whole “duck and cover” thing was done in the 50’s when I was a baby.

        Odd. I’m 15 years younger, and I feel pretty certain that I remember at least one incoming missile drill where we hid underneath our desks in elementary school in the late 1970’s in North Carolina. Maybe it’s regional? Or maybe my memory is just that faulty?

        > I never really thought about the danger of nukes back in the ’60’s through the ’80’s.

        Even stranger. It was a large concern for me through high school in the late 80’s, pretty much until the fall of the Soviet Union in 91. I remember failing on an essay in a US history class in high school (Wisconsin by this point) on the role of nuclear missiles in the defense of the US. The teacher was very Christian and active in the John Birch Society, and had a much more positive view that I did of the wisdom of Mutually Assured Destruction. Certainly I was skittish of odd atmospheric phenomena, and remember being particularly worried about a spectacular aurora borealis.

        But for the main question, no, I don’t think there’s much if any similarity between the current coronavirus pandemic and the Cold War. In the current pandemic, one still has substantial control over the situation. You can dramatically reduce your risk of infection through your own actions, and starting in good physical health means the risks are low.

        By contrast, if Reagan was convinced that starting a nuclear war was what God wanted (or if the Russians were convinced that they should attack first before he reached that conclusion) it was totally outside your control. I might compare the coronavirus to a fear of driving (where there are outside dangers but you still have considerable control over your fate), and the Cold War to a fear of flying (where all you can do is hope the mechanics did a good job and the pilot doesn’t have a death wish).

    • John Schilling says:

      For those of you who experienced the Cold War as adults, how much deja vu are you experiencing now, if any?

      Only the late Cold War in my case, but I distinctly remember thinking that just about everybody was either absurdly paranoid or absurdly complacent about a problem they did not understand, with the media leading the charge into stupidity and everyone viewing the matter through the lens of political tribalism.

      So, yeah, deja vu all over again.

  34. Purplehermann says:

    Any studies on amount of covid19 virus exposure and severity of symptoms?

  35. Statismagician says:

    So, what are we all going to be doing with our Coronabucks? ‘Stick them in the rainy day fund for next year’ is the obvious, boring answer. Comedy options include buying a flamethrower guitar truck and a bunch of weird leather outfits, also for next year.

  36. proyas says:

    What are the odds of getting coronavirus from people who walk by you outdoors? I ask because Chicago’s mayor just told people to stop going out for jogs and bike rides.

    My understanding is that coronavirus, like many other diseases, spreads when people are together in confined spaces (crowded buses, elevators), when they have direct physical contact, or when they touch surfaces and objects that infected people have touched or breathed on, and then they put their dirty fingers in their own eyes or mouth.

    However, if you’re out for a jog along a road, none of those conditions exist. Even if you passed by an infected person and their exhaled breath contained virus particles, wouldn’t the breath dissipate in the open air, and wouldn’t the odds of you breathing it in while you ran by them be incredibly low?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      You’re probably right on the direct effects.

      Steelmanning:

      1. If the situation is really bad, like NYC bad, you might want to clamp down on those small chances.

      2. There are too many people walking around to do something unessential, claiming it’s “for exercise” and they need to get those people off the streets so they can fry bigger fish

    • viVI_IViv says:

      However, if you’re out for a jog along a road, none of those conditions exist. Even if you passed by an infected person and their exhaled breath contained virus particles, wouldn’t the breath dissipate in the open air, and wouldn’t the odds of you breathing it in while you ran by them be incredibly low?

      Think passing by somebody who is smoking. Can you smell the smoke? Coronavirus spreads at least as far as smoke does.

      • Statismagician says:

        Approximately as far as smoke, probably slightly less, surely? I’d expect hot bits of ash go further than heavier moisture droplets, but I could of course be wrong.

        • noyann says:

          The moisture evaporates and you have an aerosol.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          The dynamics of respiratory droplets is complicated. Generally speaking, larger droplets fall to the ground in a couple seconds, while smaller droplets stay in the air until they evaporate.

          Once a droplet has evaporated, the virions will stay suspended in the air as an aerosol, eventually they will dry out and become unviable, but how long this takes depends a lot on the virus (based on things like the surface-to-volume ratio of the average virion and the chemical properties of its surface proteins). E.g. ebola dries out almost immediately, while influenza can last for at least one hour. I guess that Covid-19 is close to influenza in this regard given how contagious it is.

          • albatross11 says:

            The best data I know of (disclaimer: I’m an amateur) shows that airborne virus stays infectious for at least three hours. But outdoors is very big, and there’s usually some breeze and such, so I expect airborne virus is very quickly being diluted to very low doses, and also that the UV from sunlight significantly shortens the half-life of the virus in tiny suspended particles.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Yes, but we are talking about the scenario of somebody passing by you within 1-2 meters, probably breathing heavily from running. You are going to inhale the air they exhaled within a few seconds, so there isn’t probably much volume and time for sufficient dilution.

          • John Schilling says:

            If an asymptomatic carrier running past someone at two meters distance had any significant chance of transmitting this coronavirus, COVID-19 would have an R0 closer to twenty than to two. Same goes for e.g. sitting across the table when they are talking.

    • Matt M says:

      I ask because Chicago’s mayor just told people to stop going out for jogs and bike rides.

      I am in favor of strict enforcement on this, if only to try and recruit more of blue tribe to team “No, we cannot lock everyone in their houses for six months because of this.”

      • ana53294 says:

        You’d be surprised at how brainwashed and invested people get into this, once they’re in lockdown.

        The things the lockdown is doing to people in Spain are crazy. People stand in balconies screaming at health workers spewing hate because of envy. The level of neighbours reporting each other increases.

        It seems like once people are locked, they are invested in the lockdown working, and locking other people up to make it work.

        • JayT says:

          I think there’s a belief that the faster everyone truly locks down, the faster the lockdown will be over. While that’s probably true, it’s probably less true than a lot of people want it to be.

    • Kaitian says:

      We don’t know how exactly the virus can and cannot spread. The virus is new. When someone gets sick, either they had close contact with another confirmed case, then we assume that’s where they got the infection. Or we don’t know where they got infected. Maybe they remember a coughing jogger running past, or rubbing their eyes in the supermarket, but we don’t know if that’s where they became infected.

      So far, there are no cases where we know for sure it was passed over surfaces. We assume it can happen because it happens with other viruses.
      We don’t know how contagious the virus is in the air, how far it usually flies, and how long it stays infectious. Maybe you can get it from a passing jogger. Probably not.

      But if you’re trying to enforce a curfew in your city, taking away the “I’m jogging” excuse does a lot to help you control people’s movement.

    • 205guy says:

      The odds of infection are potentially higher than people think. If people are exercising, they are exhaling vigorously, and the person who runs through that exhaled area is inhaling deeply. People running 10-20 feet apart could be within each other’s exhaled area within seconds. Also, in a city park where there are more than a few joggers, you will have multiple such exposures. But I don’t think we know very well yet how the virus behaves in aerosol form, or how contagious it might be in those cases.

      I think quarantine will be problematic in cities, where people are used to social interaction and missing it. So they will use the exceptions for exercise or dog walking to go out to the park, and because there are lots of people in cities, many will end up in the same parks at the same times. Since the purpose of quarantine is to stop the spread of diseases, not test new ways of transmission, cities will crack down on the behavior.

      This is why local regulations and enforcement is a good thing. In a less dense town, maybe people go out jogging and don’t end up in the same parks, so they’re not near other joggers, and they don’t need to restrict the activity.

      I also agree with the steelman argument #2: if it looks like people are out doing things and it doesn’t look so much like quarantine, then even more people will feel like they can go out for a rule-bending reason. And again, in a denser city, it only takes a small percentage of people out and about to look not-deserted. So the authorities crack down for the appearance of things, which looks bad too.

  37. Bobobob says:

    I’m grateful we live in a world where Cardi B. (whoever she is) gets valuable CNN real estate to state her expert opinion on COVID-19. (Not that she’s wrong, but WTF are people seeking Coronavirus advice from anyone except medical experts?) The developing celebrity/COVID nexus is fascinating, as musicians, movie stars, etc. scramble to find ways to keep themselves in the news.

    “But if a celebrity is saying, ‘Hey, listen. I don’t have no symptoms. I’m feeling good. I’m feeling healthy. I don’t feel like nothing, but I went and got tested and I’m positive for the coronavirus,’ that cause confusion,” she said in the expletive-laden video, during which she wears a mask. The video has been viewed more than 15 million times.

  38. Jake R says:

    So the US government is injecting a couple trillion dollars into an economy that is producing much less in the way of goods and services than it was a few weeks ago. The reduced production seems likely to be caused by outside forces in a way that stimulated demand seems uniquely unlikely to help.

    I am not an economist. Am I missing something here or is this the worst possible time for a massive stimulus bill?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I think the point is just to keep the system going and let people pay their rent/buy food for another 2-3 weeks and then we can get back to normal.

    • Phigment says:

      Treating it as an economics question is probably starting from the wrong end of the horse.

      Yes, from the perspective of numbers-actually-mean-things-and-accurate-measurements-are-important, launching a massive cash drop right as the economy goes into a ditch for reasons that are not “insufficient cash” is pretty dubious.

      However, from the political perspective, if you want to get elected any time soon, you desperately want people to see you doing something for them.

      And from a psychological perspective, you want to convince people that they’ll be OK, and lots of people are going to go into cash crunches because they’ve had their jobs shut down, so handing out lots of cash alleviates the immediate symptoms.

    • Loriot says:

      This is basically a liquidity crisis. A lot of companies will presumably still be viable after the crisis, as long as the government keeps them running in the mean time. Think of it less as “stimulus” and more like “life support”. The stimulus should come after the lockdown is over.

      • baconbits9 says:

        This is basically a liquidity crisis

        This is not a liquidity crisis at all. A liquidity crisis is when the value of collateral/ability to borrow is the core issue, the core issue for companies here is collapsing revenue. This is a solvency crisis where the amount of debt being held cannot be serviced by the amount of revenue coming in.

        • Eponymous says:

          Most companies face limited ability to raise external funds as their default state, certainly if they have to do it in a hurry. this is no doubt compounded by current uncertainty — if a company shows up with a tin cup looking to raise funds, a lot of potential investors are going to be very skeptical of their claims to be fundamentally sound.

          Companies have bills to pay — rent, payroll. If you shut off their revenue stream for a few weeks (or months) they’re going to face big problems, even if they are sound.

          Plus, part of this is to avoid secondary effects. For example, suppose you’re right and (conditional on the shutdown *and existing debt obligations*) a lot of companies are now technically insolvent. This will then result in a lot of people being laid off and missed debt payments. Banks would then be at risk, which could prompt financial contagion. Tons of counterparty risk. Since investors don’t know banks’ exposure, banks could also face trouble raising funds.

          Further, bankruptcy is a costly process. Plenty of companies might be sound going forward if they didn’t have to make payments on their debts over the next few months, but won’t make it if they have to. That’s what chapter 11 is for, but restructuring is hard and costly, and imagine what would happen if half the companies in the US have to do it all at once? The result of this course is that tons of organizational capital would be destroyed, and these effects would propagate through the supply chain and financial connections in unpredictable ways.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The point is that a liquidity crisis and a solvency crisis are two different things, a solution to a liquidity crisis is different and the two shouldn’t be conflated.

          • Eponymous says:

            It’s a relevant distinction to keep in mind, but difficult to separate in practice. I think that the current bill can largely be justified on the grounds of helping to solve a liquidity crisis, even if it’s (technically) a solvency crisis for some (even many) companies, for the reasons I explained above.

            Note that this is pretty different from a situation where (e.g.) a lot of banks made investments that turned out to be bad. These investments only turned out to be bad because of a global pandemic! We don’t *want* to burn all that capital! We want to keep things roughly in the same place so everything can start back up again once we’ve whipped the bugs!

          • baconbits9 says:

            The Federal Reserve has gone to extreme lengths to resolve any liquidity issues that aren’t directly solvency issues already. Anything in this bill will be addressing solvency directly.

            These investments only turned out to be bad because of a global pandemic

            False, or at best unsupported. There were multiple red flags of a coming crisis before the virus hit, including the Fed initiating massive repo actions back in October. However, even if you grant that then you still don’t want your economy built in such a way that a pandemic will cause a massive solvency crisis because these things DO happen.

          • Eponymous says:

            The Fed is doing what they can — maybe more. But they can’t do everything, since they can’t make it all that targeted, or do much for certain categories of businesses (or households, obviously). A larger-scale action was necessary, based on the reasoning I laid out in my original comment.

            Whether or not the economy could be set up to not take a hit in such a situation (I’m not sure how you could, outside of improving pandemic response), that’s not the system we have, so this action is needed.

            Whether or not we would have otherwise had a crisis, I think it’s safe to say that the crisis we’re actually having is due to this bug from China.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Whether or not the economy could be set up to not take a hit in such a situation (I’m not sure how you could, outside of improving pandemic response), that’s not the system we have, so this action is needed.

            This is bad reasoning. You have to assume that both the current system is desirable and that the actions will allow the system to survive. I am challenging the second premise because we have no real reason to believe it using the historical record.

            A larger-scale action was necessary, based on the reasoning I laid out in my original comment.

            I’m ignoring the reasoning specifically, I am asking for why you believe observation-ally/empirically/anecdotally that a coordinated fiscal and monetary response can achieve a 2-3% inflation rate when all attempts to date have failed. What would count as evidence that such actions could not work in your view?

          • Eponymous says:

            Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m confused. Your responses seem incoherent to me, which suggests a fairly large failure to communicate.

            You originally said:

            [Y]ou…don’t want your economy built in such a way that a pandemic will cause a massive solvency crisis because these things DO happen.

            I said, in effect, sure, that would be nice, but you go into the crisis with the economy you have, not the one you wish you had, and the one we have needs a bailout.

            You responded:

            This is bad reasoning. You have to assume that both the current system is desirable and that the actions will allow the system to survive. I am challenging the second premise because we have no real reason to believe it using the historical record.

            So now your contention is what exactly, that the whole system is doomed even *with* a bailout? Is that fair? That seems…well, difficult to support, to put it mildly, and not really related to any of our original disagreements, nor supported by any argument you’ve made, so I don’t really want to go into it. But I suppose if you want to argue for that proposition…well, just go ahead I guess.

          • Eponymous says:

            To your second comment:

            I’m ignoring the reasoning specifically, I am asking for why you believe observation-ally/empirically/anecdotally that a coordinated fiscal and monetary response can achieve a 2-3% inflation rate when all attempts to date have failed. What would count as evidence that such actions could not work in your view?

            First, my original comment was unrelated to the question of 2-3% inflation. They were about the necessity of the bailout bill. My views on long-term optimal monetary policy and disaster response policy are different.

            As to why I think 2-3% inflation is achievable — mostly theoretical reasons, but the theory is well supported empirically (I think). Why have we failed to achieve it? For the reasons I have described: we *haven’t* had fiscal coordination, the Fed has a 2% target, and there are two sources of asymmetry which leave expectations below their target (the zero lower bound, and the view that the Fed views 2% as a ceiling, not an average target.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            the Fed has a 2% target

            Despite the nominal 2% target, I don’t think Fed actions are consistent with an actual 2% target.

            Fed actions, ISTM, are more consistent with 2% as a targeted ceiling. IOW, when we look like we are starting to approach 2%, the Fed backs off on the gas pedal.

          • Cliff says:

            The Fed can trivially achieve a 2-3% inflation rate if it so chooses. It simply purchases assets until that happens. If it fails to achieve the 2-3% inflation, then the Fed now owns the entire world at zero cost to the taxpayers, which would be phenomenal and far better than a stable monetary policy- after all money is neutral in the long term. But it should be obvious that would not be the result.

          • Eponymous says:

            Just to clarify one point: the Fed explicitly *does not* have a 2% inflation target, because it legally can’t target inflation; it legally has a dual mandate (“price stability” and “full employment”).

            But, you know, they let it be known that they sure would like inflation to be around 2%, which they view as consistent with their dual mandate.

    • broblawsky says:

      According to conventional Keynesian principles, this is the best possible time for a massive stimulus bill. When demand is reduced, you inflate demand. A better way of implementing it would be for the state to directly employ people who have lost their jobs, but we’re trying to keep people from working if they don’t have to.

      This also helps people pay their rent, utilities and grocery bills, which is also kinda important.

      • Matt M says:

        Is demand reduced?

        It would seem to me that supply is reduced.

        People didn’t decide, on their own, to stop going to the bar as much. The government went around and closed all the bars down.

        • albatross11 says:

          Demand was still reduced, the way demand is reduced but still exists when the government bans meth.

          • Matt M says:

            Sure.

            But no meth dealer would ever tell you that his core business problem is “insufficient demand.”

          • albatross11 says:

            OTOH, a big stimulus check for people locked in their homes will probably stimulate demand for the meth dealers, too. A rising tide lifts all boats!

        • Matt says:

          When our employers sent us home and our kids’ schools sent them home, our family decided, on our own, to stop going to restaurants and bars. We let the youngest daughter get an slush or whatever at Sonic on day 2 of ‘no school’ and since then, nothing for any of us. We’ve been eating and drinking whatever we can get at home. Lots of home-made food, and I’ve lost about 5 lbs by avoiding fast food. It may be that the government makes this official pretty soon in Alabama, but for now the restaurants are open for drive-through, and my boss told me the rules are relaxed here such that we can get a pitcher of margaritas (or whatever) drive-through style at local restaurant/bars (as opposed to pure bars, which I don’t know about).

          I think lots of people did similarly. Certainly many of my friends have done so.

          • Jake R says:

            This is what worries me though. It’s easy to notice that restaurants and bars are in trouble because they lost their customers. It’s less immediately obvious that almost every other industry worldwide is in trouble because they’ve either stopped producing altogether or are producing much less efficiently than usual because their employees are trying to work remotely. This despite their customers willing to spend exactly as much as before.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Yes, demand is reduced.

          Even in the absence of a closure, you will still see reduced demand. There are lots of people making the decision not to do X because of the fear of Covid-19 exposure. That has ripple effects down the chain, lowering supply as well.

          Put another way, no one is saying that a restaurant can’t cook food, they are just saying that no one can come in and eat food. That’s an enforced demand problem, not a supply problem. But even in the absence of enforced closures, you were going to see people choosing not to go out to eat for fear of exposure.

          But, it’s chicken-egg. Your demand is my supply. The NBA decided all on it’s that they a) didn’t wish to supply games to customers, and also b) didn’t have demand for all sorts of services.

          • Matt M says:

            Take-out food and “seated meal in a restaurant” are not identical goods.

            The supply of seated meals has been slashed, significantly, via government action.

            Would demand have gone down anyway due to diligent/aware people choosing to limit their own exposure to the virus? Sure. But not like this. And we know that to be true because if it wasn’t true, no government order to shut down the restaurants would have been necessary. They’d have already been shuttered for lack of business.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Again, the NBA, the NCAA, LiveNation, etc. all shuttered themselves. Yes, that reduced the supply of some things, but it ALSO reduced demand for other things.

            The auto shop my kid works at has a drastically reduced number of customers. Why? For a whole host of interconnected reasons. But it isn’t because the government is preventing people from coming to the parts store.

            There were going to be huge economic disruptions regardless, because of the underlying fact of a spreading pandemic. The pandemic is the underlying issue driving all of this.

        • zoozoc says:

          I know a lot have already replied, but I want to chime in saying that demand is indeed severely reduced in many areas.

          Two examples.
          1) New car sales have plummeted. This might be only because car dealerships have closed, but I imagine since a new car is a “luxury” good, most people are putting off buying a car.
          2) My brother-in-law is in home remodeling and since this virus hit all of his future jobs have basically evaporated. He has current work, but once that is done there appears to be very little work afterwards. People are putting off home remodels for the time being.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yeah, there’s various things I’ve been wanting to buy, like a sound system for my game room, but it just feels weird to go shopping (online, obv) for stuff like that during a pandemic. Like I’m asking the packing workers and delivery drivers to expose themselves to deadly illnesses so I can have more toys.

          • albatross11 says:

            The packing workers and delivery drivers are already going full out, and hopefully taking reasonable precautions and getting paid extra.