1,872 thoughts on “Open Thread 152.25

  1. DavidFriedman

    A meetup is going on now on the Parthenon on Mozilla Hubs, and it’s just what I hoped Hubs meetups would be — lots of separate conversations, like a realspace meetup. It peaked at 51 people, is now down to 20 or so. I just left it to have lunch. If others want to join in, it’s at:

    hub.link/Zd85BZs

  2. Ninety-Three

    A couple weeks ago Bernie Sanders conceded the Democratic primary race but did not drop out, telling his supporters to continue voting for him. Apparently this matters because even though Biden’s victory is a foregone conclusion, winning more delegates will give Bernie more negotiating power with the DNC. This is confusing to me, and news articles tend to be uselessly vague about what it means. What part of the DNC is set up such that Biden’s majority of delegates doesn’t allow him to ignore Bernie? Can someone explain the details of what procedures Bernie is trying to influence and why they might matter?

    1. matkoniecz

      It may be more about informal referendum and less about formal procedure.

      World A: Sanders has 0% of delegates, Biden 100%. Sanders and his ideas can be dismissed

      World B: Sanders has 49% of delegates, Biden 51%. Sanders and his ideas should be treated seriously (negotiating power).

      In both cases Biden wins primary, but other effects are vastly different. It seems that Sanders is trying to get closer to the second case.

      ————–

      Maybe there is also bizarre scenario with Sanders somehow winning primary, but I think that it should be treated as a fantasy as long as Biden is capable of speaking.

      1. DavidFriedman

        My guess is that there are votes at the convention on issues such as the platform. Biden’s delegates are committed to vote for him as the nominee, but I wouldn’t assume that means that he can tell them how to vote on everything else. So having more of Sanders’ delegates there might shift the results in a direction he would prefer.

    2. HeelBearCub

      There are two obvious reasons for Sanders to want more delegates.

      a) The visible one. Democrats want to appear united this time around, something they were definitely not in 2016. More Sanders delegates means more influence on the party platform (which they probably want to pass unanimously). Platforms don’t matter so, so much, but they aren’t nothing. But having a ton of Sanders delegates in the convention (assuming it happens) will influence how Biden and all of the various Democratic luminaries speak (if they want that appearance of unanimity). That’s worth more than the platform.

      b) The hidden one. Joe Biden is very solidly in the “at-risk” age group for Covid-19. What if Biden gets sick and dies/has to bow out in the next month or two? No one else is amassing delegates besides Bernie and Biden. Now all of a sudden you suddenly think you might have a way to, if not get Bernie the nod, at the very least heavily influence who those Biden delegates select.

  3. ana53294

    @Mark V Anderson

    Ana says it is not illegal but not necessarily legal in Spain. I’d like to better understand that.

    I decided to start a new thread, because it took me a while to check a few more sources. In Spain, it is common knowledge, that prostitution is “alegal”, not illegal or legal either. Note: all my sources are in Spanish.

    First, some history:

    So, in the 19th century, there were no national laws regarding prostitution, and it was left entirely to city and regional authorities, which regulated prostitution on the basis of public health, due to the spread of venereal disease. It was already a big problem in the big cities since the 18th century, and something commented with disgust in the newspapers. But the local authorities just jailed the women who made “insults and scandal”, and sent them back to their hometowns or released them to the care of their husbands or family after chastising them to stop bothering the public.

    Brothels had been banned and closed during Phillip IV reign in the 17th century (despite him being known for having many lovers). I went to check the history of prostitution before then, and it is even more fascinating: Phillip II (crowned in 1556; this was the heyday the Spanish Inquisition), made pragmatic sanctions that commanded the establishment of public whorehouses in all cities in Castille. It was especially noted they should be close to universities and ports. To be a whore, a girl had to be older than 12, not a virgin, orphan, and not of noble blood. She would have to go to a judge and say she voluntarily wanted to be a prostitute; if his moralizing didn’t work, she’d get a document allowing her to do sex work. Brothels were regularly checked by a doctor, who would ban the practice to those who had infectious disease, especially syphillis. The clothing of prostitutes was also regulated. They were also not allowed to participate in religious processions, so as not to get confused with decent women; instead, they were taken to a church where they’d get a sermon extolling them to leave their life.

    So anyway, they went back to publicly regulated brothels, sponsored by a french naturalised Spanish Count Cabarrus, who had been in various troubles with the Spanish Inquisition. So, in 1845, they mandated prostitution be done in brothels, prostitutes carry documentation, and medical checks be made. This was all made for reasons of public health, as syphilis was a big problem. It was seen as inevitable, and regulating it would allow public health to be improved. Apparently, those laws or similar ones remained until 1956.

    Going back to the discussion of why abortion is such a big deal in the US, whereas in Europe, it isn’t, I would like to point out that these quite liberal laws were in Catholic Spain, which was quite religious until very recently. If only American Puritanism is considered “religious”, then we are not defining “religious” fairly.

    Even in the heyday of the Spanish Inquisition, prostitution was regulated more out of NIMBYsm and public health viewpoint than a morality viewpoint. Morality was not much of a consideration, although it was much discussed. But legislation is more pragmatic than that, and made from a more practical point.

    Opposition to prostitution in Spain still mainly comes from NIMBYsm. Very understandable, by the way; who wants to live close to a brothel or to have prostitutes walking in their neighbourhood at night, encountering used condoms and pee in their streets in the mornings?

    At the moment, Spain neither bans nor regulates prostitution. The current left-wing government is in favor of banning, but they haven’t done it yet.

    What I mean by “not legal”: a contract for sex work cannot be valid, if a sex act is performed. If there is no sex, sex work (striptease, hostesses, all that), can be legally defined in a work contract, and a sex worker can sue an employer who does not pay. Don’t ask me what sex is, I’m unclear on this (PIV? handjob? not clear).

    Prostitutes can be undefined self-employed workers, and thus pay into Social Security. There is a co-op of prostitutes in Ibiza, which was initially banned but the courts allowed it.

    There’s a much criticised law that also establishes fines to clients of prostitutes who get sexual services in public places and places with minors. Nudity or disobedience of authority is also penalized for sex workers. Cities also regulate the activity; it’s banned in the streets of Barcelona, for example.

    Pimping is strictly illegal, as well as forced prostitution and prostitution of minors or the mentally disabled.

    So, at the moment, Spain has quite a bit of sex tourism (there is a huge brothel in the French border to acommodate French clients, for example). Apparently, it’s also the third country by the number of clients (20% of Spanish men admit having paid for sex). Brothels work like accomodation with extra security, AFAIU; they don’t take a cut, instead they take a fixed fee.

    The demands to ban prostitution come mainly from NIMBYs and feminists. It appears that feminism is the new religion, in its puritanism.

    My personal take: I think prostitution should be allowed and regulated, for adults, with consent, proper security and health measures. But I am skeptical of allowing non EU foreigners to practice it (if they’re illegal, they’re easily exploitable; but giving a working visa to practice sex work? that’s a bit too much for me).

    1. eyeballfrog

      There’s something amusing about a government program to license prostitutes that periodically nags them to give up the life and become honest women.

    2. Nick

      At a tangent:

      Going back to the discussion of why abortion is such a big deal in the US, whereas in Europe, it isn’t, I would like to point out that these quite liberal laws were in Catholic Spain, which was quite religious until very recently. If only American Puritanism is considered “religious”, then we are not defining “religious” fairly.

      Even in the heyday of the Spanish Inquisition, prostitution was regulated more out of NIMBYsm and public health viewpoint than a morality viewpoint. Morality was not much of a consideration, although it was much discussed. But legislation is more pragmatic than that, and made from a more practical point.

      It’s important to note that prostitution was the example in Catholic theology of something which human governments must probably tolerate, because prohibiting it forfeits greater goods or tends to greater evils. Aquinas, himself quoting Augustine:

      I answer that, Human government is derived from the Divine government, and should imitate it. Now although God is all-powerful and supremely good, nevertheless He allows certain evils to take place in the universe, which He might prevent, lest, without them, greater goods might be forfeited, or greater evils ensue. Accordingly in human government also, those who are in authority, rightly tolerate certain evils, lest certain goods be lost, or certain greater evils be incurred: thus Augustine says (De Ordine ii, 4): “If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust.”

      The way this doctrine of toleration is understood is that enforcing such a law consistently would itself consistently violate natural law. This is really clear with an example like lying. Lying is always wrong, but you would need some kind of incredibly draconian police state to have any reasonable chance of enforcing a law against lying. And instituting and running an incredibly draconian police state is a very great wrong, and only produces the good effect by being so run, so it violates conditions 3 and 4 of the doctrine of double effect. So you allow lying to happen instead.

      1. ana53294

        Interesting. Then the attempts to ban it by feminists, who are quite puritan, are because of a lack of Catholicism in Spain.

        But if you look at the countries that strictly ban it vs those that allow it, it doesn’t map that well to Catholic/Protestant.

        France banned it, Italy and Spain are a gray area, the Netherlands and Germany allow it, Scandinavian countries ban it, and for the rest, I don’t know.

        1. Nick

          Banning prostitution seems to me to be a pretty recent thing historically—I wouldn’t expect it to map well to Catholic/Protestant. And Protestant is also broader than Puritan, so I don’t know what e.g. Lutheran Sweden was doing for most of its history. I just figured this was relevant to your Spain example.

        2. Ant

          i think prostitution is legal in France, but brothel/pimping aren’t and you can’t do any soliciting.

        3. HeelBearCub

          @ana53294:

          You need to distinguish between 2nd wave feminism, and 3rd wave , and 4th wave feminism.

          3rd and 4th wave feminists are generally far more sex positive, and generally view the labor choice of sex-workers as an autonomous one. They are generally pro-legalization of sex work, as this increases the autonomy of those engaged in sex-work. They seek to destigmatize and legitimize these choices. This also applies to things like pornography, both consumption and production. See also things like “slut walks”, “yes means yes”, etc.

    3. Mark V Anderson

      Thank you Ana, that was very interesting. It also explained a little some others comments about European laws being less moralistic than in the US, by describing the laws as NIMYism. That is, more that bad actors are nuisances than that they are evil people.

  4. Wrong Species

    When did your measure of coolness become how much you tolerate people insulting you? In Ye Olde Days, someone insulted you, you either fought or backed down, depending on how scared you were of them. Now, there’s this whole song and dance where you are supposed to not get upset about an insult, make it prominent that you don’t care, but not let them know that you are affecting an attitude of non-chalance. And if you ever get upset, you lose. It’s ridiculous but everyone acts like it’s the most natural thing.

    1. LesHapablap

      While we are ranting about random things, I found this to be really really strange behavior, especially among jocks:
      after-winning-big-game-minnesota-hight-school-baseball-player-ty-koehn-hugs-friend-on-losing-team

      It is described on the news and elsewhere as heartwarming and empathetic, but if it was me that was just struck out I would be extremely embarrassed to be getting a hug. Because I don’t need a hug: I’m not a six year old who just dropped his ice cream. A friend doing this, in front of a ton of people, just seems cringey and awkward. And emasculating. And everyone around praising it and acting as if it is normal, it is like being on an alien planet.

      1. AG

        In contrast, I find the level of stoicism you’re expressing weird. Crying over sports by the players is often portrayed as the manly thing to do in sports movies and anime. It’s a mark of their passion for the game. Manly hugs between comrades is also pretty common in these narratives.

          1. AG

            Yes? I see nothing wrong with this? This kind of thing happens in other cultures with no implications on masculinity?

    2. Beans

      I really enjoy some good banter, when among friends and you know that there’s no real ill-will in it. Being able to laugh at each other and ourselves is a lot of fun, and, I think, important for coping with reality.

      Now, being yelled at by hostile people and random strangers isn’t nice, since in that case it’s probably not fun and games. But even then, what does showing that you are upset gain for you? If you’re lucky you might intimidate them into not doing it. At worst, you’ll fuel further conflict and, by having shown them that they can get under your skin, you’ll reveal that you are vulnerable to further harassment. Hostile people who are insulting you -want- a reaction. Why give it to them?

      1. Wrong Species

        I think this mindset is ridiculous. Defending yourself is what “they want”, meaning that you win by doing nothing and letting them walk over you? That is completely backwards.

        1. Cliff

          With random hostile verbal comments, I’ve tended to go the opposite way and immediately escalate to the maximum possible verbal response (C–T, etc.). In limited experience, this tends to discombobulate the person, and any hesitation tends to end things in that kind of situation where I’m already going on my way after responding. One of the few at least somewhat satisfying ways to resolve an incident like this. Now if you think the person might actually shoot you, of course don’t do this.

          1. LesHapablap

            Adam Carolla used to say that you should always keep a “F- off” spring loaded on the tip of your tongue.

        2. Beans

          Hey, hold on now. Your initial post was talking about just getting insulted. Now you’re talking about “letting people walk all over you”. I think these are different things that can warrant different reactions.

          When a random asshole insults you for no good reason or through some really petty dumb action, you really do win by doing nothing. If you don’t entertain someone accosting you for no good reason, they tend to get bored in not too long, and ultimately just end up looking like a child to anyone who is watching.

          But “walking all over you”, I think, implies exploiting you to get something from you. That’s a lot worse than simply getting insulted and I think it generally warrants escalating in whatever way makes sense.

          Maybe in your world, mere insult exploits you in that it takes some of your honor and you need to always fight to keep that intact. Since I don’t live in an honor culture like that, getting irritated by words seems silly to me unless those words are going to have concrete consequences for something that matters.

        3. The Nybbler

          No. As a former poster used to point out all the time, it’s all about status. If you’re high status, someone insulting you will be jeered at by others and lose their own status in the process, and you won’t have to do anything. If you’re low status, you lose by someone insulting you, but anything you do back (including insulting them) will lower your status and raise theirs even more.

          1. Wrong Species

            I think this is part of that larger phenomenon. Status has become abstractified and to some extent more solidified.

            Think of the classic example of the the high school bully. You are the nerd who gets picked on. Then one day you punch him in the face and he backs off. You have gained respect.

            It’s different now. They aren’t physically threatening you but you’re still in the same status. If you insult the high status guy, he doesn’t have to do anything because everyone will go after you. Meanwhile, if he insults you, you either defend yourself and get called thin skinned or do nothing and continue to be mocked. Both the high status and low status are told not to defend themselves but it conveniently works out for the high status guy.

        4. Purplehermann

          A prince would not respond to a beggar, except to give him a pennyif the beggar truly irked him, he’d have the beggar whipped.

          If you casually hold the offender in contempt, you win. Treat him like a joke, or a piece of cr#p on the ground – and if he takes it too far, like a joke gone too far or cr#p on your shoe.

          The whole thing is an issue of framing.

    3. The Nybbler

      With authority at all levels having obtained exclusive legitimate use of actual aggression, passive aggression is all that’s left. In the past, if you slugged someone who called you (or your wife) a name, probably nothing happens, maybe a night in jail. Now you’re looking at every charge they can pile on, hard time, long years of probation, and zero job prospects.

    4. mtl1882

      Related to this, I am really annoyed at how pushing back is equated with being “thin-skinned.” And I guess a related thing was equating insolence (probably not the term I’m looking for, but close enough) with criticism. This was not the case until sometime well into the last century.

      Of course, some people who lash out are thin-skinned. There are different ways to handle negative commentary, and if you lash out at every heckler, it’s probably foolish. But there’s a difference between disagreement and saying things that are really disrespectful. And one can return fire in a way that does not indicate being thin-skinned. This isn’t just a matter of tone or phrasing, and it differs based on the people involved.

      It is partly due to the turn away from physical aggression in our society, as The Nybbler says. That’s probably part of a larger turn away from an “honor culture” situation. In those societies, you responded to insult, but it doesn’t neatly track to “being offended” in a personal emotional sense. There were sort of honor codes that tended to clarify what sort of things you *should* be offended by, and be rooted in certain principles that were more than hurt feelings. And these codes provided specific ways to resolve the issue, usually quickly, including by physical violence. They forced a confrontation. A passive-aggression framework may avoid things like duels, but it has its definite downsides.

      This may be a good thing or a bad thing, but when we kind of lost the idea of shared fundamental values, any way to deal with this stuff kind of disappeared, because you couldn’t tell who was “wronged.” If the judgment is based on people’s feeling of being wronged, then in many disputes, both will understandably feel that way. This type of dragged out and painful to endure drama probably led to the framework in which you dealt with it by not showing offense and moving on. The sticks and stones framework has been around for a while, though–responding to any negative comment does tend to come across as thin-skinned. You didn’t duel about just any negative words, or because someone disagreed with your view, and get taken seriously. The person wronged was the one who had his honesty or courage falsely impugned, for example, either knowingly or by someone who refused to retract his error. I suspect that the way the modern media functions has made things too asymmetrical for this approach to survive, and “getting offended” doesn’t tend to play well on television for various reasons, mainly the way it can be turned into a sort out-of-context clip and separated from the remark its reacting to.

      1. Aapje

        This may be another victory by the well-educated over those less so, where the former have all kinds of ways to take revenge that the latter can’t use, while the more brutal solutions of the latter group have been banned.

    5. Pepe

      A while ago, I attended a talk by Jason Manning from West Virginia University, where he talked about his new book:

      https://www.amazon.com/Rise-Victimhood-Culture-Microaggressions-Spaces/dp/3319703285

      He talked about how we went from an “honor culture” where, as you said, if someone insulted you the right thing to do was to fight back to a “dignity culture”, where that is not the done thing anymore, and now to a “victimhood culture”, where the main response when wronged is an appeal to an external authority.

      Anyways, you might find it interesting. Here is an article on The Atlantic I found on the topic (haven’t read it myself):

      https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/the-rise-of-victimhood-culture/404794/

    6. eyeballfrog

      Wasn’t that always the measure of “coolness”? I mean, it’s right there in the name–see phrases like cool-headed, playing it cool, etc.

      1. AG

        This sent me right to West Side Story, where the mark of the characters’ immaturity was that they were engaging in a feud between juvenile delinquents (the Shark’s girlfriends continually call them children for their grudges). Tony is praised for leaving these petty conflicts behind to get a “real” job, and the tragedy is in how he is pulled back in by people who haven’t grown as much.

        Of course, WSS itself is just an update of Romeo and Juliet. I don’t know if people considered the Montague/Capulet feud legitimate or not back in the day, but I’m leaning towards not. “Two houses, both alike in dignity” has a sarcastic ring to it.

    7. John Schilling

      When did your measure of coolness become how much you tolerate people insulting you? In Ye Olde Days, someone insulted you, you either fought or backed down, depending on how scared you were of them.

      So, the average reign of kings was measured in weeks, because their political opponents could always hire a series of professional duelists to insult them and then kill them in one of the resulting duels? Or, alternately, reveal them to be such rank cowards that the Council of Nobles would just ignore them and run the country?

      Doesn’t work that way. If someone of comparable rank insulted you, you fought them or revealed your cowardice. More generally, insults are a status attack. An unanswered insult transfers status from the victim to the attacker – but the attacker has to be recognized as having relevant status for this to work. Donald Trump’s status is not even a tiny bit diminished by e.g. HeelBearCub calling him a deranged senile idiot one more time, because Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States and HBT is very much not.

      Which means, if there’s any doubt as to the attacker’s status, ignoring the insult is the winning move because it marks the attacker as being of ignorably small status. And, if the attacker is of unquestionably low status, responding to the insult is a losing move because it implicitly raises the attacker’s status and lowers your own – your response indicates that you believe there is only a small status gap between you and the apparent nobody who insulted you. Only if the insult comes from someone of roughly equal status (as determined by the audience) is there any need to respond.

      So, yeah, the number and quality of people whose insults you can ignore has always been a measure of coolness.

      1. mtl1882

        So, yeah, the number and quality of people whose insults you can ignore has always been a measure of coolness.

        Good point.

        Wasn’t that always the measure of “coolness”? I mean, it’s right there in the name–see phrases like cool-headed, playing it cool, etc.

        I think this connects to your ability to *control* your responses. Someone who keeps their cool is able to insults if they want to–they don’t fly off the handle at any heckling. But they may choose to strike back in some situations, and I don’t think that makes them not “cool”–it can be quite calculating. The question is whether it is a choice or a reaction. An example who pops into my head is Gen. Dan Sickles, who was often described as “cool as an iceberg,” but was extremely aggressive fighter. I generally agree that he was in control of his rage and more manipulative than hot-headed. He was the first American to mount a temporary insanity defense successfully after shooting his wife’s lover. He claimed heat of passion, but his detractors argued it was cold-blooded with a lot of planning, and the evidence seems to support this. It is dangerous to confuse someone who uses volatility as a strategy with someone who can’t control their emotions.

      2. Viliam

        I agree with your explanation in general, but there is a detail missing:

        More generally, insults are a status attack. An unanswered insult transfers status from the victim to the attacker – but the attacker has to be recognized as having relevant status for this to work.

        When the target is high-status, they can ignore your insult, because one of their followers is going to punish you (to signal their loyalty). It is precisely the reframing of the conflict as one between you and the follower, that demonstrates that the target is higher-status than you.

        If you meet Donald Trump and start yelling abuse at him, some security guy is probably going to stop you. Even if you insult Donald Trump on a web forum that is not fully controlled by neutrals, someone is probably going to insult you back.

        On the other hand, not having anyone come to your defense when you are attacked, is an obvious sign of low status.

        So a question still remains — why are you supposed to stay cool in the situations when you are insulted or attacked, and no one is coming to your defense. (Yes, it would be preferable to remain cool and have someone else defend you, but they are not there.)

        I suppose that for a high-status person, being temporarily without defenders is an exception. If you happen to meet Donald Trump without bodyguards, and start yelling abuse at him, chances are some bodyguard will appear soon and resolve the situation. Therefore, calmly waiting for the bodyguard to come is the right move. It shows the conviction that the inconvenient situation is temporary, which is a signal of high status.

        But is this really a good explanation why an average person should act the same way? Is it a form of bluffing? But the person insulting them is already calling the bluff, isn’t it?

        A cynical (but I have no idea how correct) explanation is that the official advice actually doesn’ t have to work for everyone. If it works for high-status people, it is a high-status advice, and it will get announced by the official channels. If it doesn’t work for low-status people, even if it actively harms them, who cares? (Advice aimed at low-status people is low-status itself; the socially savvy people would never be caught giving it publicly.) This doesn’t mean that all official advice is wrong for low-status people, rather that some of it is good for everyone and some of it only works for high-status people, because there is no reason for the high-status people to distinguish between the two.

        1. Purplehermann

          If you see a guy screaming at someone else ona bus, and the other guy looks at him like he’s insane and puts on headphones, who is a low status weirdo and who is cool

    8. AG

      The rubber/glue and sticks-and-stone playground rhymes are teaching the children this concept early on.

  5. broblawsky

    This would seem like a good opportunity for people to make predictions on whether or not Kim Jong Un is still alive/reasonably healthy.

    1. Lambert

      I’ll consider it plausible when BBC News, a broadsheet or John Schilling reports on it.

      So far, it just seems to be the rags putting out sensationalist stories.

    2. Azirahael

      They were saying it with no evidence beyond him not showing up for something.
      But, there is more and more leaked evidence tht he’s dead, and no countervailing evidence that he’s alive, so the probabilities are shifting rapidly.

    3. John Schilling

      It ain’t over untill the Pink Hanbok Lady sings. And for this she’d probably wear black. But North Korea has reported the deaths of their last two leaders promptly and decisively, and would probably do the same this time.

      There is a fair bit of circumstantial evidence that he is sick – well, sicker than usual – and hanging out in his Wonsan retreat rather than doing business in the capital. And since baseline sick for Kim Jong Un is pretty dismal, “sicker than usual” always carries the possibility that he shuffled off this mortal coil last night and they’re figuring out how to make the announcement. But all the claims that he’s definitely dead and we secretly know this, trace back to a very few anonymous sources. And there’s no reporting of e.g. panic in the streets of Pyongyang, elites putting on their golden parachutes and bailing out to China, etc. Everybody I trust in this field is still in wait-and-see mode.

      But it’s not too early to start fantasy-casting our “Death of Kim” movie. I’ll go with Randall Park for KJU himself; he did just fine last time. Dennis Rodman can play himself as the surprise power broker in the succession crisis. And I wish Jason Isaacs had a kid sister to play Kim Yo-Jong, because she’s going to need a pair of metaphorical giant brass ones to fill in for the literal cojones she lacks.

      1. Nick

        Is it too soon to talk succession? What is Kim Yo-Jong like? What are the prospects for NK liberalizing?

        1. John Schilling

          KYJ is apparently KJU’s mastermind of public relations and international diplomacy. She was largely responsible for the partial rapprochement between North and South Korea at the 2018 Olympics, which in turn led to the summit with Donald Trump. She may also be responsible for KJU’s secure ascension to power in the first place, by running the more populist-oriented PR campaign during the transition. She has taken on an increasing level of responsibility in the government in recent years, and there are rumors that she took over for her brother during a previous health scare. But even less is known about her than about Kim Jong Un. She shared his overseas education in Geneva, is in her early thirties, married to a VIP and with one or two children.

          Were it not for the matter of her gender, she’d be the unquestioned successor. KJU’s only surviving brother is described as too effeminate to be taken seriously as a ruler, and his children haven’t been formally introduced to society so they politically don’t exist. And nobody outside the “Mount Paektu Bloodline” is allowed to A: rule or B: establish the sort of power base that would plausibly let them rule. Women aren’t allowed to rule either, but it looks like her brother has allowed and maybe encouraged her to acquire real political power. It would be interesting to see her go up against the generals and the party elite.

          If she pulls it off, don’t expect liberalization except to the extent that KJU’s distinct style and policies constitute “liberalization”. KJU is perfectly willing to kill siblings he can’t trust with his political agenda, and has instead made his kid sister into his confidante and closest ally. If she pulls it off, think Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, or Maggie Thatcher, with a smile and a pretty dress and with the don’t-fuck-with-me-or-I-will-end-you dialed up to eleven. Nothing less will do for her, in that environment.

          If she doesn’t pull it off, which may still be the way to bet, I don’t think there is a clear favorite and it could be a bloody mess – but probably well short of a civil war, because a popular uprising would be shot down and military commanders aren’t allowed to have units personally loyal to them. Any violence will likely be handled quietly by the secret police.

          1. gbdub

            You mentioned that previous deaths were announced promptly… but would the lack of clear succession change that here?

          2. Mark V Anderson

            Yes I agree with gbdub. If Kim is dead, there is no way the top guard will announce it until they have a consensus amongst themselves as to who takes over.

          3. CatCube

            @Mark V Anderson

            I get they may not announce it formally–and therefore to their own people–but I question whether the rest of the world wouldn’t be able to find out even without a formal announcement. I mean, we have spy satellites. The power play you’re positing caused by the death of Kim Jong-Un, even if kept behind the scenes to the average North Korean, seems like the kind of thing that would result in fuckery visible from space. Major troop movements, especially if unplanned, are difficult to hide.

          4. bullseye

            The power play you’re positing caused by the death of Kim Jong-Un, even if kept behind the scenes to the average North Korean, seems like the kind of thing that would result in fuckery visible from space. Major troop movements, especially if unplanned, are difficult to hide.

            That assumes two or more factions who each control part of the military. I figure one of two things is happening:

            There are two or more factions, but none of them control any part of the military, because nobody is willing to fight for anyone other than the properly anointed Leader. The military may well be designed for this; there’s a comment somewhere in this thread mentioning that the generals don’t have any troops loyal to them personally. So the power struggle is playing out in private without any troop movements.

            or

            There are no factions, just one person or cabal in charge who is trying to decide who to put on the throne.

  6. Bobobob

    Wow, I’ve been visiting SSC for three years, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen an open thread approach 2,000 comments.

    Get out of the house, people! See a good movie! Have a nice dinner out! Hang out at a brewery with friends!

    Oh, wait…

    If I may quote The Simpsons, “Can’t you see this barnyard noise guessing game is tearing us apart?”

    1. Anteros

      @Bobo..

      I’ll add another comment to the thread, on the topic of…….your screen name.

      After seeing it for a while I realized it looked to me like one of those magic eye images, which I couldn’t focus on properly, which was weird, but weirder still was that when I stopped to think about it, I didn’t know how to pronounce it. This bugged me, and I had to simplify matters by deciding that it should read as ‘Bobo-Bob’, which I suppose is as good a Bob as any.

      At that point it occurred to me that maybe it was a name that came from Rowan Atkinson saying the name ‘Bob’, but I dismissed that as unlikely and too Anglophilic.

      That would have been the end of the matter, except for the slight worry that you might be offended by some other anonymous commenter thinking of you as ‘Bobo-Bob‘ when you think of yourself as ‘Bob-o-Bob’.

      As I preferred the sound of the former, I thought I’d stick with that, and not worry too much about offending you as you’d never know…. But then out of the blue I wondered if in a fit of quirkiness you thought of yourself as more of a ‘Bob-ob-ob’. Disconcerted, I once again resolved to see and think ‘Bobo-Bob’, and hoped that would be the end of it.

      Unsurprisingly, just when I was least expecting it, I saw a comment of yours and your screen name jumped out at me as ‘B-Ob-O-Bob’, which is surely one of the rarer Bobs of the world, but it takes all sorts.

      I’ll cut a long story short – there are heaps of Bobs, Bo’s, Obs, and Obo’s in many and various combinations, hidden in your screen name. Too many to get my head around! Perhaps you could put me out of my misery and confess to your own pronunciation of your name?

      ETA momentarily lost amid the cacophony of intermingling Bobnesses was one version I thought particularly fetching – ‘Bo-Bo-Bo-B’

      1. Bobobob

        As is probably evident by now, my name is Bob. When my friends’ kids were little, they would get my attention by yelling “Bobobob!” I’m not quite sure why I picked it as my screen name here, it was a spur-of-the-moment thing.

    2. cassander

      I’ve actually been on here a lot less lately. I’m bored with the endless covid discussions.

    3. Leafhopper

      “You mean we’re trapped like rats?”

      “No, rats can’t be trapped this easily. You’re trapped like… carrots.”

  7. Deiseach

    All the coronavirus update news I’m reading is depressing, and I’m not even interested enough to get into the latest slapfight over what Trump did/didn’t say/mean.

    So let’s have some silly gossip-magazine fluff of the kind I would never ordinarily read or have any interest in instead! 🙂

    Kanye West is officially a billionaire (though he’s still disputing his exact valuation with Forbes; they say he makes the $1 billion mark, he claims he’s worth $3 billion).

    I have to say, I’m impressed. I was vaguely aware of the guy as a rapper but I couldn’t tell you any of his songs (I’ve probably heard at least one but I wouldn’t know that was him) and of course all the celeb nonsense with the Kardashians, but as I say, I tend to avoid that kind of gossip-column entertainment news so I knew no more.

    I’m impressed because (a) I didn’t think there was that much money in rapping and self-publicity (b) even with the fashion/sportswear brand, that’s something that often fails – all kinds of sports stars etc. in the past have tried launching their own brands without much success (c) the conspicuous consumption of the lifestyle erroneously led me to believe he and his family were spending the money as fast as they made it and the end result would eventually be bankruptcy.

    So congratulations, Kanye!

    1. broblawsky

      If you’re actually interested in his music, you should check out My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It is, by far, his best album, and it has his best hook (in Power).

    2. m.alex.matt

      I couldn’t tell you any of his songs (I’ve probably heard at least one but I wouldn’t know that was him)

      All these kids are recommending things made in the last decade.

      Kanye is kind of old news, in that he’s only occasionally current pop and his maybe-one-hit-wonder stuff is fifteen years old. I’m someone who appreciates going to the source on things. Hey Mama, Gold Digger, and Jesus Walks are the songs that made Kanye. Hey Mama especially makes me personally feel things because mine passed at about that time and it just reminds me about how little of my life and accomplishments she got to see.

      I actually don’t know how it charted but it’s not a bad view into the man rather than just the artist. Gold Digger was probably the bigger song at the time.

      But his money is in production. Kanye isn’t just Kanye, Kanye is a businessman. He’s got a label (more than one, I think). That sort thing is common in ‘rapping’, the whole industry is generous to really successful artists: Everyone has learned the lesson of the Beatles.

    3. Erusian

      Almost all his wealth comes from his clothing brand Yeezy’s.

      What I find more interesting: apparently he disclosed that he owns $300,000 of livestock. What is that?

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        apparently he disclosed that he owns $300,000 of livestock. What is that?

        He’s going all in on Red tribe culture?

      2. Creutzer

        Does he actually own and have possession of the livestock, or is he simply in cattle futures?

      3. Nick

        He has a big ranch out in Wyoming, which he bought last year, but I don’t know how much ranching he’s actually doing.

  8. Tandagore

    Given the discussion below, how come that the US places that much political emphasis on abortion? As far as I can tell, it’s pretty much a non-issue in most European countries. Sure, there are always some smaller groups that protest, but even in Italy it seems like a pretty settled question.

    1. Nick

      It’s a non-issue in most European countries because most European countries have more restrictive laws than the US.

      1. Anteros

        I don’t see how that answers the question. People are vociferous and angry and involved… on both sides of the argument in the States. In Europe it’s much more a non-issue for everybody – both those who are generally ‘pro-life’ and those who are ‘pro-choice’.

        I think the majority of people in Europe couldn’t tell you what the laws concerning abortion are in their own country.

        1. Nick

          You’re correct, it does not explain why pro-choice people in the US vociferously defend and attempt to expand already unusually lax laws. That is very curious.

      2. thisheavenlyconjugation

        Do you think it would become a non-issue in the US if the laws of say France (on demand up to 12 weeks, no limit if two doctors agree that the woman’s health is endangered or that she would give birth to a child with an incurable illness) were adopted? I am certain it would not, and in fact I don’t think there would be much of a change in the discussion at all.

        1. Anteros

          That’s my feeling too. I read – and enjoy – Kevin Williamson’s writing in National Review, and whenever he mentions abortion I suddenly get the impression that he’s really serious about the issue. If he was magically transformed into an Englishman or a Frenchman, I doubt that he’d say ‘Oh, that’s more like it – I don’t ever need to concern myself about abortion anymore’

        2. gbdub

          Opposition creates polarization? American feminists would not be satisfied with the French law… but maybe they’d be happy with French law plus no major movement pushing for more restrictions?

          I don’t think “Free abortion until birth or you are ENSLAVING FEMALE BODIES” is actually a popular position, but that voice gets a lot of airtime because somebody needs to fight the good fight.

          Note that I think this works in the other direction as well.

          1. thisheavenlyconjugation

            I’m not sure whether they’d be satisfied with it as such, but I think if the anti-choice movement could somehow credibly commit to “French law, and that settles things forever” they would have a very compelling argument because it’s difficult to claim France is a patriarchal dystopia. But I don’t think they would want to do that. “Life begins at 12 weeks gestational age” is a weird position to take.

          2. LadyJane

            American feminists would not be satisfied with the French law… but maybe they’d be happy with French law plus no major movement pushing for more restrictions?

            This, exactly. My personal take is that on-demand abortion should be legal until the fetus has reached a certain stage of development, probably somewhere in the 12-20 week range (though I’m not an expert on fetal development and would defer to someone who is). After that, abortion should only be performed if the mother’s life is at stake and/or the fetus is going to die anyway.

            The problem is that the pro-life crowd doesn’t want that. I’m sure there are some individuals within the pro-life movement who’d be okay with that, but for the most part, it seems that the movement as a whole wants a complete ban on abortions and won’t be satisfied until they get it. If they support something like the French law, it’s because they see that as a stepping stone to full prohibition. So even if I’d otherwise be willing to support a ban on third term abortions with exceptions for health conditions, I don’t trust the opposition to allow those very necessary exceptions. You can criticize me for assuming bad faith, but it’s not without reason: There are some states that do ban late abortions, and I’ve heard too many horror stories of women who died because they were forced to give birth even though it’d put their own lives at risk, or women who were forced to carry fetuses that had no chance of survival. That, combined with the fact that late abortions are an extreme rarity even in the states that allow them, makes me skeptical of laws aimed at preventing them.

          3. LadyJane

            I don’t think “Free abortion until birth or you are ENSLAVING FEMALE BODIES” is actually a popular position

            I think you’d be surprised. American culture is very individualistic, and American views on abortion – on both sides of the debate – are no exception. In Europe, abortion is largely justified as something necessary for the overall well-being of society; it’s beneficial not to have too many unwanted children around, especially if their parents can’t afford to take care of them. In America, abortion is largely justified as a part of an individual right to bodily autonomy, which makes compromises like “you can have an abortion, but only in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy” less palatable. On the flip side, those who believe the fetus to be a unique individual that itself deserves human rights are also going to be less willing to compromise.

            “Life begins at 12 weeks gestational age” is a weird position to take.

            Not really? That actually seems like the most natural and logical position to me. “Human life begins at conception” and “human life begins at birth” both seem like weirder positions to me, at least if you consider consciousness and self-awareness to be a part of what makes human life human. “Consciousness begins at conception” is almost certainly false and can only be justified through some belief in an immaterial soul, which isn’t very convincing to secularists. As for birth, it’s a very obvious and useful Schelling Point, but I think few people would seriously argue that there’s any real dramatic mental difference between a fetus that’s about to be born and an infant that was just born. I don’t know if 12 weeks is exactly where the line should be drawn, but “when the fetus has achieved a certain amount of cerebral development” seems like the most ethical place to set a boundary.

          4. mtl1882

            That actually seems like the most natural and logical position to me. “Human life begins at conception” and “human life begins at birth” both seem like weirder positions to me, at least if you consider consciousness and self-awareness to be a part of what makes human life human.

            I think a focus on consciousness and self-awareness is a fairly modern, individualistic thing. Drawing the line at birth seems most “natural,” in that it is what most societies did in terms of practical enforcement before the modern era. Abortion was not highly regulated until the 1900s.

            I don’t deny the ethical concerns by any means, but the practical concerns seem so much more relevant when we’re talking about abortion laws, as opposed to moral or philosophical beliefs. The fundamentals are just different prior to birth. For example, if I believe that life begins at conception, can we really treat that as we would a born life when an embryo can split and then recombine, or partially combine and cause a parasitic twin situation? That’s not life that can neatly be protected under the existing framework for regulating human life. You don’t have to consider a fetus essentially non-human to consider it incompatible with the legal concept of human life. It seems like a false dichotomy to me.

          5. SamChevre

            LadyJane’s standard is very close to the traditional standard in English law of “quickening” as to when the fetus is a person for purposes of inheritance law.

            I judge the politics differently: I think that banning abortion after the first trimester (aka after quickening) unless it’s a “life of the mother” case would take a huge amount of support from the pro-life movement. The thinkers and people who get on TV wouldn’t find it satisfactory, but the mass of emotionally-involved opponents would be a lot smaller.

          6. LadyJane

            @SamChevre: There are only seven states in the US where late abortion is allowed without any restrictions: Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont. In the rest of the country, the limit is either somewhere between 20-25 weeks, or at the point of “viability” (which is currently around 24 weeks, but keeps getting earlier as technology improves), with exceptions made if the mother’s health is at risk or if the fetus can’t survive. Here in New York, the limit is 24 weeks.

            I could be wrong, but I’m doubtful that moving the limit up from 24 weeks to 12 weeks would satisfy the pro-life movement or take the wind out of their sails. Nor do I think that banning late abortions in the seven remaining states where they’re not already illegal will make much of a difference.

          7. BBA

            Re New York law: the Reproductive Health Act of 2019 repealed all remaining state laws restricting abortion and explicitly said that abortion until the 24th week was legal. So I think late-term abortion is legal in New York now, or possibly illegal but without any possible penalty or enforcement mechanism (whatever that means).

          8. LadyJane

            @BBA: Yes, until the 24th week. That’s exactly what I said. “Late abortion” typically refers to third trimester abortions (i.e. those performed after the 26th week), which are still prohibited in New York except under specific circumstances (e.g. the fetus is entirely non-viable, the mother’s life or physical health is at risk).

            EDIT: I did some research and it turns out the new law does change the level of offense. Previously, an abortion performed after the 24th week would’ve been considered a distinct felony in its own right and literally treated as a form of homicide, whereas it now falls into some broad “unauthorized medical treatment/medical misconduct” category. This is a lesser offense, since the penalty has been reduced from definite long-term incarceration to censure, revocation of one’s medical license, fines, and public service. The revised law also spares those who induce the death of a fetus through non-medical means (i.e. poisoning, assault, murder of the mother) from being charged with homicide for the death of the child, although by definition any such act would still be a serious criminal offense regardless.

            The other major change that comes with the new law is that non-viable fetuses can now be aborted, even after the 24 week mark. Previously, the mother’s life had to be at risk; even if the fetus was bound to die before birth, the mother would still be forced to carry it until it died.

          9. mtl1882

            LadyJane’s standard is very close to the traditional standard in English law of “quickening” as to when the fetus is a person for purposes of inheritance law.

            Interesting/good point. I was going to get into quickening being a theological standard, but thought it might get too abstract. I didn’t realize it had legal recognition in inheritance laws. There’s no question that prior to the 1900s, unborn children were regarded as human life, but the criminal code didn’t treat them the same way. That’s why I see the “when does human life begin?” question as rather unhelpful in dealing with abortion laws, or laws of any kind–“personhood” is more relevant. I imagine the inheritance law chose to define personhood there because they needed to split up the estate without too much fear of a future challenge by an unknown heir. Before pregnancy tests, quickening was a reasonably reliable sign that you needed to set aside a share for the unborn child.

    2. Deiseach

      My own personal opinion? Religion.

      Europe is more or less post-Christian now, and it doesn’t much matter which denomination you mean. The Protestant state churches have all obediently gone along with the Zeitgeist either enthusiastically or dragged along by legislation; the smaller Protestant free churches aren’t big enough or important enough to have any real political clout; the Catholic church has been embroiled in so much scandal, and has engendered enough rancorous and organised opinion and activism against it (to flog a dead horse, Richard Dawkins isn’t one whit concerned about the Church of England, even though as an atheist he should be very much opposed to ‘this is the state church established by law’ – I haven’t seen him protesting about the bishops in the House of Lords – but he had very definite things to say about the Catholic church and the Pope).

      Look how Ireland has modernised in social opinion over the past forty years – it has flipped from very heavily and publicly Catholic to “we’ve got divorce, contraception, co-habitation, gay marriage, openly agnostic and atheist and gay and lesbian government ministers, and now abortion! yay us!”

      In America, the religious section of the population was numerous enough, organised enough, and able to wield enough political clout that abortion could be opposed successfully (by which I mean “still is a live issue” rather than “never legalised”).

      1. DinoNerd

        I tend to agree. The US has a lot of nasty disagreements that basically boil down to religion at second hand. (Or has had them in my adult life time; in some cases, they’ve stopped making such a giant fuss about a particular issue.)

        Not all the people involved are religiously motivated, but a lot of the heat comes from those who are.

        I suspect part of the problem is that their constitution won’t let them make their arguments explicitly about religion. So instead it’s about enforcing some element of “morality” that turns out to be “what our church requires”.

        Mostly though, showing your friends and neighbours what a good whatever-religion-follower you are is much more profitable (socially) here, and it’s easier to do that by trying to enforce (some of) its rules outside the church, rather than by following those you personally find inconvenient.

        If you tried to show what a good Anglican/Presbyterian/Methodist/whatever you were in the UK, you’d probably be seen as a bit weird, though tolerated/supported as an eccentric. In the US, unfortunately, you wouldn’t be so weird.

      2. matkoniecz

        It is quite obvious when you have group that sincerely believes that doing something is evil and there is a group that sincerely believes that not doing this is evil then you will have a genuine conflict.

        “Europe is more or less post-Christian now” +1
        Similarly agitating for changing abortion laws in Saudi Arabia will likely go nowhere, so it is not particularly active topic.

        Countries that have both groups will have more or less active discussions. See Poland with large protests demanding more access to abortion and official attempt to change law to further restrict abortion that gathered over 830 000 signatures (in country with total population below 40 million).

        1. Loriot

          There also seems to be a reactionary affect. The late 2000s saw a huge wave of anti-gay marriage measures. Not because gay marriage was becoming less popular, but because it was becoming more popular, and hence an actual threat.

      3. Baeraad

        Europe is more or less post-Christian now, and it doesn’t much matter which denomination you mean. The Protestant state churches have all obediently gone along with the Zeitgeist either enthusiastically or dragged along by legislation; the smaller Protestant free churches aren’t big enough or important enough to have any real political clout; the Catholic church has been embroiled in so much scandal, and has engendered enough rancorous and organised opinion and activism against it (to flog a dead horse, Richard Dawkins isn’t one whit concerned about the Church of England, even though as an atheist he should be very much opposed to ‘this is the state church established by law’ – I haven’t seen him protesting about the bishops in the House of Lords – but he had very definite things to say about the Catholic church and the Pope).

        Yes, and why do you think that might be? Is it because Dawkins is a hating hater who hates and is doing it just because ewwwwww, icky Catholics, let’s kick them while they’re down?

        Or could it possibly be because the Church of England has, as you yourself note, gone along with the Zeitgeist while the Catholic Church has dug its heels in at every turn and insisted on its… old-fashioned, shall we say, way of doing things? In much the same way as New Atheists have gotten all sorts of flack for opposing Islam more vigorously than they have opposed either Protestantism or Catholicism, because Islam is even more resistant to secularisation than they are?

        I mean… congratulations, you have cunningly deduced that a prominent atheist is opposed to religious people in direct proportion to just how religious they are and just how much their religion influences their actions. That sure is a display of rank hypocrisy, somehow.

    3. Garrett

      A significant part is because the issue wasn’t settled through legislation but instead through a Court decision that created a right which ends up applying *only* to a woman seeking an abortion from an established medical provider. The same logic of Right To Privacy can’t be used for protection for anything else, *especially* those things which those on the right care about.

      1. ana53294

        The gay marriage issue was also settled through the Supreme Court, and doesn’t generate that much controversy anymore.

        1. Thomas Jorgensen

          That particular one is due to all the arguments against it that people used looking very damn stupid in a context where it has been legal for years and the sky staying aloft.

          1. gbdub

            No more so than the arguments about “safety” or whether or not abortion is really an important part of Planned Parenthood’s mission are for the abortion debate, yet those are used to eke out a little ground by the entrenched sides.

          1. Nick

            Yeah but some consider it a mortal sin, which isn’t supposed to be any better

            Don’t be absurd. Mortal sins admit degrees of gravity, too. Murder is worse than adultery, for example. As the Catholic Encyclopedia puts it,

            While every mortal sin averts us from our true last end, all mortal sins are not equally grave, as is clear from Scripture (John 19:11; Matthew 11:22; Luke 6), and also from reason. Sins are specifically distinguished by their objects, which do not all equally avert man from his last end. Then again, since sin is not a pure privation, but a mixed one, all sins do not equally destroy the order of reason. Spiritual sins, other things being equal, are graver than carnal sins. (St. Thomas, “De malo”, Q. ii, a. 9; I-II.73.5).

        2. eyeballfrog

          I think the fact that 37 states already had legal gay marriage when Obergefell was decided played a role there. When Roe was decided, 30 states had it banned and 16 more had only narrow rape/incest/health exceptions.

          1. 10240

            Most of those were also a result of court decisions in the preceding years. Only 11 states legalized gay marriage by legislative statute or referendum, with 5 more confirming its legality with legislative statute by the time Obergefell was decided.

      2. Ketil

        A significant part is because the issue wasn’t settled through legislation but instead through a Court decision

        This, but because a court decision tends to be an either-or thing, and not a reasonable compromise. In Europe, legislators could get together and work out a compromise (abortion up until 12 weeks, then only after application to a medical committee, which is a minuscule fraction of them and practically always granted). And perhaps due to the particular American mindset, where every cause is a “war on” something. Drugs, immigration, freedom, terror…

        That is not to say there isn’t conflict. Back when (70s or 80s), there were a couple of radical ministers and other religious people who were quite outspoken against abortions. But we’ve had our compromise for something like forty years, and changing it doesn’t seem to be high on the agenda for anybody. Recently, there was a dispute about “twin abortions”, whether it should be legal to remove one of a set of twins (which for medical reasons has to be performed later than 12 weeks, I think). This caused a ruckus, with the religious stating that if you can carry one to birth, you can carry both, and the feminists dressing up in full Handmaid’s garb to protest this violent oppression of women and their right to govern their own bodies. I think these are the fringes, and seriously, there is like two of these procedures a year, and always for medical reasons. And there was, I think, some voices on Women’s Day arguing for raising the limit to 18 weeks, and how horrible it is for women that they have to apply to a committe of old men, blah di blah. Again, it’s not high on anybody else’s agenda – the current compromise is good enough for most that there are other things to worry about.

        1. HeelBearCub

          But we’ve had our compromise for something like forty years, and changing it doesn’t seem to be high on the agenda for anybody.

          Yeah, sure it is. That’s why something like 30 or 40 state legislatures have enacted changes in abortion laws over the last 16 years or so, and why several different novel challenges to Roe v. Wade are working their way to SCOTUS, including a few states with outright bans.

    4. Dack

      Note that the euro laws are rather conservative compared to what abortion advocates push for in America.

      OTOH, I think it’s weird that Europe doesn’t seem to care. Because if you assign pretty much any non-zero moral value to the issue, it instantly becomes a strong contender for Worst Thing Ever.

      1. Creutzer

        That is because Europeans, unlike Americans, do not think of everything through the lense of morality. Morality is not an operative concept in how Europeans think about and discuss policies, or really anything else. I believe this is due to the fact that the presupposition of shared goals is still much stronger in Europe. Political disagreements are seen as disagreements about how to get to that place that we all presumably want to get. Thus, when the vast majority of society agrees on a policy and what its consequences are, for a few people to come and say “but this is morally abhorrent!” would be viewed as… somehow absurd. Talk of morality as such tends to be perceived as kind of… childish? Immature? Which I do think is enabled by the essential post-religiosity of Europe that Deiseach points out.

        This isn’t to say that people are above invoking ethics when it suits them. The Germans in particular love to do it in support of their atrocious medical “ethics”. But it’s invoked, if at all, to support the majority position, not the minority. The dissenting minority will point out consequences and ask “guys, seriously, is this really what you want? ’cause it’s kind of absurd and unreasonable”, not cry “but this is unethical!”. Somehow it feels like “unreasonable” seems to have a stronger pull on Europeans than “unethical”. My theory is that this has to do with how people determine their identities: Europeans want to be intelligent and rational, so accusing them of unreasonableness forces them to think and defend their status as rational beings. Accusing them of being “unethical” just gets you dismissed as a weirdo because morality is not part of people’s self-image in the same way that it is in America.

        1. Dack

          I find it unreasonable to be dismissive of morality.

          If one were to assume for the sake of argument that right and wrong don’t matter or don’t exist, then why should we bother having laws in the first place?

          1. Creutzer

            I suppose a flippant phrasing of “the European position” would be: without laws, society turns into a mess, and nobody wants to live in a mess because it’s really unpleasant, so let’s not be stupid and let’s have laws, shall we?

          2. Dack

            I suppose a flippant phrasing of “the European position” would be: without laws, society turns into a mess, and nobody wants to live in a mess because it’s really unpleasant, so let’s not be stupid and let’s have laws, shall we?

            Surely you don’t just want to have laws for the sake of having laws and expect that to make life pleasant/unmessy.

            For example, if there were only 10 laws total, and they all had to do with parking regulations, this would not be a pleasant and unmessy state of affairs, right?

            So some laws must be better than others. Now the question is what makes a good/right law and what makes a bad/wrong law?

          3. Creutzer

            And more specifically, without the moral angle, why restrict abortion at all?

            It feels to me like to even ask that question once again presupposes that you are thinking about the matter in terms of morality. And what I’m saying is precisely that that’s just not a good framework for making sense of Europeans’ policy preferences and disagreements.

            I’m not saying Europeans don’t have intuitions that you might want to call moral intuitions. They find certain acts icky or grossly indecent or what have you. Certain things are just Not Done. All of that is there. But they do not enter into the discourse as “but that’s immoral!”.

            And so there is an answer to your question that does not take resourse to moral language. It would probably not be most people’s answer because most people haven’t thought about the question and would probably be kind of dumbfounded by it and find it a weird thing to ask. But here’s what I think is a decent rationalisation of their attitude: to simply have unrestricted abortion would make a lot of people uncomfortable and they probably wouldn’t want to live in a society where that’s a thing. It’s also not really clear who would benefit from totally unrestricted abortion, so why make a whole lot of people uncomfortable for no reason? That’s not going to yield a nice society to live in.

            Surely you don’t just want to have laws for the sake of having laws and expect that to make life pleasant/unmessy.

            Of course not, why would you think that anyone does that?

            So some laws must be better than others. Now the question is what makes a good/right law and what makes a bad/wrong law?

            “Moral correctness” as an answer has been out of fashion in some circles for two centuries, and is still very much out of fashion in Europe.

            Which explains why abortion is not a burning political issue, because if you remove the moral question, there is no question left basically.

            On the other hand, climate change is just fine as an issue, because it’s a question of policy consequences, and if nothing gets done about climate change, we’re all going to die and wouldn’t that be horrible? Of course, I’m not at all saying that Europeans are rational consequentialists or anything like that. People are as irrational and tribal just as they are everywhere else. My claim is solely about which terms and frameworks are acceptable in European discourse – and that this explains the absence of certain issues because they cannot be meaningfully discussed outside certain frameworks.

            One thing that I now wonder about: is there anything that’s a hugely contentious political issue in Europe, but a non-issue in the US?

            EDIT: I should add that there are some things in European political discourse that look like they may be moral arguments, but they are not. They are, in fact, appeals to “don’t be like the Nazis”, which is considered a terminal good.

          4. eigenmoon

            European here, chiming in in support of Creutzer.

            Government and morality together make a notoriously bad combination. Here’s a prime example from Mussolini:

            Instead of directing the game and guiding the material and moral progress of the community, the liberal State restricts its activities to recording results. The Fascist State is wide awake and has a will of its own. For this reason it can be described as ” ethical”. […] The Fascist State is not a night watchman, solicitous only of the personal safety of the citizens; not is it organized exclusively for the purpose of guarantying a certain degree of material prosperity and relatively peaceful conditions of life, a board of directors would do as much. Neither is it exclusively political, divorced from practical realities and holding itself aloof from the multifarious activities of the citizens and the nation. The State, as conceived and realized by Fascism, is a spiritual and ethical entity […]

            So Europeans generally Just Don’t Go There. A European state is not an ethical or (God forbid) a spiritual entity. It’s exactly what Mussolini does not want it to be: it’s a board of directors organized to achieve material prosperity and relatively peaceful conditions of life.

            why should we bother having laws in the first place?
            To live peacefully even though we have different personal preferences.

            without the moral angle, why restrict abortion at all?
            Why has Germany (almost) banned smoking? Because people with personal preference for a ban on smoking have prevailed. I don’t recall anybody saying that smoking is immoral. Such a claim would probably even harm the anti-smoking case.

            what makes a good/right law and what makes a bad/wrong law?
            Is the law going to increase peace and prosperity?

          5. Dack

            So is it “we don’t discuss morality” with a wink and a nod (and presumably, codewords), or is Europe really utilitarian enough to be destined for a Repugnant Conclusion?

          6. Ant

            Repugnant conclusion are artificial situation without winning move. Once you have understood that, you have understood their lack of use in real life.

            But in practice, even the euthanasia debate is generally framed in a utilitarian way, and one attempt to frame it in the “sacred life” angle was generally frowned upon (the opposant to it prefer to use the too much power easy abusable by the doctors). Another example was that even people that I consider really into religion were shocked by the one MP who choose to use the Bible as an argument in a session.

    5. Kaitian

      I think it’s two factors:

      One, most European countries have more restrictive laws about abortion than the US (at federal level). In Germany, for example, abortion is technically illegal but will not be punished if certain criteria are met. Doctors can’t advertise that they perform it.
      There are some groups that protest this and want the law to be more liberal, but most people, including most feminists, are pretty OK with the status quo. Religious opponents of abortion seem to focus on persuading individual women to keep the child instead of trying to change the law.

      And secondly, people in the US on both sides have deliberately been persuaded into an emotional frenzy. It’s a war on women, or it’s industrial level baby killing. This is because only two parties in the US have any chance of winning major elections, so an emotional issue like this is a welcome opportunity to make the other side look monstrous.

    6. Beans

      I’ve always suspected that this and similar polarizing issues are constantly brought into focus because they get people to use up their time and energy on something relatively unimportant, and therefore reduce their ability to get serious about the various bigger and more substantial problems the nation has that nobody in power wants to be forced to deal with.

    7. Loriot

      It seems to me that there’s a lot of path dependence in which issues get politicized. For example, people make a big deal about (perceived) food safety in the EU, but it’s a complete non-issue in the US.

      1. Creutzer

        European countries have tons of laws about food safety, but is that the same thing as it being a politicised issue? Are there major political disagreements around the subject?

          1. Anteros

            My recollection is that anti-brexit rhetoric focused a great deal on how if we left the EU, we’d end up being flooded with poor quality, welfare-free, chlorine-soaked chicken from America.

            And we’d be too stupid to read the labels and a make an informed choice about whether we wanted to buy it or not.

          2. viVI_IViv

            One of the argument against Brexit was “without EU regulations, the Tories will relax food standards and import shit-tier food from Murrika which will make us all fat and stupid”.

            Specifically, the talking point was about chlorinated chicken. Apparently it won’t happen.

          3. Creutzer

            I see. But was it just a talking point, or were people actually in disagreement about the issue, i.e. was anyone saying “yes, we really should relax food safety regulations”?

          4. Lambert

            It was never really about chlorinated chicken. That’s just a good headline.
            It’s about food safety, environmental and welfare standards as a whole.

            As far as I know, the EU thing’s a bit of a red herring too. It’s not like the UK didn’t have any food standards pre-EEC.

          5. Azirahael

            But as part of the EU, it would be almost impossible to roll back those standards.

            Now they can do it, and import the crap food.

          6. Creutzer

            But do “they” want to? Because otherwise it’s just a talking point, not a political disagreement.

            (It may look like I’m shifting goalposts here, but I’m not. I totally concede that this shows that it’s just fine to call food safety a “politicised issue”. Rather, what I’m doing is asking a follow-up question: given that it’s politicised, is it, more specifically, the subject of disagreement?)

          7. ana53294

            “They” might not want to, but “they” will have no choice once the UK becomes America’s bitch now that it refused to be an equal partner in the EU. The US hasn’t taken the EU ban on chlorine chicken, raising the issue of agricultural imports every round of negotiations. Without the clout of the EU, does the UK really have a choice?

            The chlorinated chicken issue was always more about being America’s bitch than about food safety.

      2. DavidFriedman

        To what extent is the European hostility to genetically modified crops a religious issue, with “religion” broadly defined? Part of it is presumably just an excuse for agricultural protectionism, but is a large part hostility to what feels unnatural, hence polluted?

        Is the European enthusiasm for doing things to prevent climate change in part a substitute for religion? Most of Europe is far enough north so that warming is as likely to make the climate more attractive as less — the countries where there is most reason to be worried are either very hot already or very low lying. But those are not the countries willing to do expensive things to reduce CO2 output.

        Similarly for the anti-nuclear sentiment that resulted in Germany shutting down reactors at the same time they were trying to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.

        Now I’m wondering if there is a general pattern of more enthusiasm for secular “religions” in the absence of conventional ones. A possible counterexample would be communism in Russia, which I think was a pretty religious society c. 1918. Is the U.S. less inclined to such things than Europe, or is it only that European enthusiasms feel more religious to Americans than American enthusiasms do?

        1. Creutzer

          but is a large part hostility to what feels unnatural, hence polluted?

          Yes, absolutely. Same thing for nuclear power.

          Is the European enthusiasm for doing things to prevent climate change in part a substitute for religion?

          I suppose it is in the same way that American-style progressivism is a substitute for religion – in fact, in an even more uninteresting way, since I don’t think anyone has managed to tell a story about European environmentalism that is analogous to a certain story that has been told about the Puritan roots of American progressivism. 😀

          Now I’m wondering if there is a general pattern of more enthusiasm for secular “religions” in the absence of conventional ones.

          My own impression is that this isn’t really supported. That is to say, Europeans don’t quite make up for their lack of enthusiasm for conventional religion with extra enthusiasm for secular issues. (Unless my perception of the enthusiasm of American progressives in comparison is very miscalibrated.) Europeans are just less enthusiastic overall (and in some European cultures, being too enthusiastic, just like being too optimistic, is seen as kind of gauche).

        2. Anteros

          @David Friedman
          I think many European enthusiasms have a hint of religious feeling about them.

          My Guardian-reading friends who are anti-GM crops would be horrified at the suggestion that agricultural protectionism could be part of their mindset…. they are anti because, as you say, GM is unnatural, untested, and unwholesome.

          The climate change issue has even more religious feeling about it. We were tempted in the garden of Eden, partook of the fossil fuels, and are now paying for our sins. There is hope of redemption but we must repent!

          It is also true that when my same Guardian-reading friends quote Michael Mann or James Hansen, it really seems as if they’re quoting their high priests. And you know how they refer to heretics…..

          Germany seems something of a special case – their relationship with nature and the environment goes back a long way with deep roots. But there, too, I sense a religious flavor to the Energiewende.

          As Deiseach points out above, we in Europe are effectively ‘post-Christian’ and as many people have observed, quite a few environmentalists are people who would have been fairly fundamentalist Christians of a few generations ago.

          1. Creutzer

            The climate change issue has even more religious feeling about it. We were tempted in the garden of Eden, partook of the fossil fuels, and are now paying for our sins. There is hope of redemption but we must repent!

            You’re right! I may have to take back my above assertion that the connection isn’t very interesting. German culture in particular seems to have a lot of thinking about sin going on. The holocaust ist basically the new Fall of Man, too.

        3. eigenmoon

          A possible counterexample would be communism in Russia, which I think was a pretty religious society c. 1918.

          I don’t feel it’s a counterexample. Russian right-wing became really ugly after 1905. Russians eventually overthrew the regime and banned the far right organizations. (This wasn’t the communist revolution yet.)

          It’s plausible that religion in Russia formed such a tight bond with monarchy (and its propaganda) that the crumbling of monarchy left everybody confused enough to redirect their enthusiasm towards secular religions such as communism.

        4. viVI_IViv

          Part of it is presumably just an excuse for agricultural protectionism, but is a large part hostility to what feels unnatural, hence polluted?

          It think Europeans have a greater distrust for modernism and technology than Americans. Maybe it’s because Europeans burned themselves with modernist ideologies (fascism and communism), maybe it’s because European countries have older traditions e.g. people can just walk down the street and notice that centuries-old buildings look nicer than the modern ones.

          Distrust of modernity ties togheter anti-GMO, anti-global warming, anti-nuclear sentiments, and even the more fringe positions such as anti-vax and anti-5G.

          1. DavidFriedman

            Does that also mean that the SF Europeans read is more likely to be steampunk, less likely to be high tech futures, than what Americans read? Or that historical novels are more popular, SF less, in Europe? Or fantasy more popular, science fiction less?

            So far as authors are concerned, my feeling is that science fiction authors are mostly Americans, although that’s biased by the fact that English is the only language I know well enough to read books in, so mostly a comparison between England and the U.S.. I think fantasy has a much larger fraction of top authors English than science fiction. For two huge examples, Tolkien and Pratchett.

          2. viVI_IViv

            Does that also mean that the SF Europeans read is more likely to be steampunk, less likely to be high tech futures, than what Americans read? Or that historical novels are more popular, SF less, in Europe? Or fantasy more popular, science fiction less?

            I think all of these, maybe steampunk isn’t really big, but science fiction tends to be dystopian.
            In fact I struggle to think of European science fiction that is not dystopian, maybe Lem’s Solaris which is neither dystopian nor utopian or maybe the comics series Valérian and Laureline which is sometimes considered a precursor to Star Wars.

            In terms of contemporary pop culture, the biggest European science fiction franchise is Warhammer 40K, which is as dystopian as it gets.

            I think fantasy has a much larger fraction of top authors English than science fiction. For two huge examples, Tolkien and Pratchett.

            And Rowling. I think she said she took inspiration for certain locations in her books form various places in Edinburgh.
            And Tolkien based the Shire on the English countryside where he grew up.

            Outside the Anglosphere, Sapkowski got big in the fantasy genre with the Witcher franchise, and Eco was arguably the most prominent modern author in the historical fiction genre.

          3. matkoniecz

            Lem SF is certainly not overly optimistic. Even Solaris is about our failure in face of something truly unknown.

            For example Fiasco by Lem is a really great story about the first contact. It is not going to be a spoiler that it is ending in a complete mess (if someone will read it – beginning is a bit weird, later it gets better).

            Dukaj (not translated into English?) ranges from mildly optimistic through pessimistic into unbelievably pessimistic. Even in cases of high tech it is far away from Star Trek optimism. From what I remember in Perfect Imperfection character get resurrected multiple times on the first page page of the story, universes are routinely created, brain simulation is low tech etc but it is hard to describe it as an optimistic vision of a future.

            Many minor SF writers were writing stories that were clear allegories of a communist regime, generally not optimistic at all. Even in cases of regime described to be failing.

            BTW, it is quite popular to have SF rooted in history. All examples from Dukaj because I really like his books.

            For example an alternate history with science fiction elements set in Tsarist Russia (Lód by Dukaj).

            Or SF set in future but deeply rooted in a local history (Xavras Wyżryn by Dukaj).

            Or Other Songs (again by Dukaj) set in universe ruled by Aristotle’s metaphysics with mix of SF themes and historic themes.

    8. Thomas Jorgensen

      Because it got settled via the courts both the pro and the anti side think they have a chance of changing the status quo. European abortion laws were written by european parliaments, and generally speaking, all the main parties back the law as it is. That shuts down the debate because it is obviously futile – changing a law which currently has the support of 80+ percent of your national assembly is just not in the cards.

      … note here that it seems to me the republican party is “pro-life” mostly because the supreme court keeps them from having to actually legislate the line their rhetoric implies – European conservatives are in favor of the status quo because locking up a lot of doctors and teenage girls would be obvious electoral suicide, but in the US pols get to grandstand without having to follow that up with legislation and enforcement efforts.

      1. gbdub

        I think your last paragraph is key – both sides can afford extreme rhetoric because neither side has to put their position to a real vote. If they did, I suspect anything other than “pretty close to the current position” would lose badly, at least at the national level.

        The downside is it turns every Supreme Court appointment into a screaming match where both sides stake out positions they don’t really mean (as Tara Reade is discovering).

        1. GearRatio

          I think I disagree with “anything but status quo” being a loser. You are going to get the vast, vast majority of the right voting for a total ban. A surprising amount of moderates I know are, if not anti, very uncomfortable with abortion; that doesn’t make for them even showing up to vote. I’m not sure if there’s enough people left who actually vote to save it after that. This is entirely my impression, though.

          1. Thomas Jorgensen

            Because they have been staking out an extreme position for decades, and would find it difficult to recant. I agree with this, I just think it would promptly result in a landslide where they lost more or less every single seat up for election. Because actually locking up teenage girls and doctors by the thousands would not be popular, and conservative parties that have not been riling themselves up for decades can see this, so refrain from doing it, or indeed talking about abortion at all. (Because if they are not going to change the law, which they are not, the entire subject is a looser for them)

          2. Alexander Turok

            You are going to get the vast, vast majority of the right voting for a total ban

            27% of Republicans describe them as pro-choice, I think the number would be significantly higher if the issue were actually up for a vote:

            https://news.gallup.com/poll/244709/pro-choice-pro-life-2018-demographic-tables.aspx

            No one wants their daughter to come home from college with an unplanned pregnancy.

            Because actually locking up teenage girls

            This indicates a lack of familiarity with what the pro-life side actually advocates.

          3. GearRatio

            @Alexander Turok

            27% of Republicans describe them as pro-choice, I think the number would be significantly higher if the issue were actually up for a vote

            That’s higher than I expected, but I would note that if you are using leaned party ID as a metric there’s more “defectors” on the left than on the right here.

            No one wants their daughter to come home from college with an unplanned pregnancy.

            This works, but only if you work under the assumption that the anti-abortion folks are lying about their reasons in a way where they will immediately abandon their principles when faced with an only slightly more immediate risk. Most of them won’t have pregnant daughters at that moment, after all. For the equivalent, I could say this:

            No one wants their daughter to come home from college having killed a baby.

            I’m not sure I know how many republicans who are currently superficially anti-abortion would crumble under the slight pressure of their possibly non-extant daughter possibly getting pregnant out of wedlock and possibly wanting an abortion, but I’m also unsure how many democrats who are superficially pro-abortion are uncomfortable with it in the “well, I would NEVER do that myself, but…” way and would vote against or refrain from voting.

    9. herbert herberson

      I think one big factor is federalism. Most Euro countries have settled on a reasonable and uniform middle ground that a majority of people can live with. That doesn’t work in America for two reasons:
      – We have blue states with liberal regimes that are too liberal for many people, so they organize to stop it, and we have red states with conservative regimes that are too conservative for many people, so they organize to change it. Note also that once you have the level of institutional organization on an issue that this country has on abortion, it becomes fairly self-perpetuating–if Roe was overturned tomorrow, do you think pro-life orgs would disband on the ground that it was now up to the states, or get to work on restricting abortion in blue and purple states? Can you imagine circumstances under which pro-choice orgs would hang it up?
      – It means there’s a real lack of trust that a facially fair accomodation won’t be undermined by enforcement differences or minor regulations in different localities. For example, if I were a German looking at a German law that barred third trimester abortions except when medically necessary, I would be confident that the exemption would in fact work, but if Louisanna did that, I’d assume that the exemption was accompanied by fine print that would make it worthless except, perhaps, to a few wealthier/well connected families. Note that disparities in health care access also contributes to this.

      Altho, of course, the biggest reason is probably that it’s a big important issue that has nothing to do with economics, and in U.S. politics–with one major party being nominally on the left, but beholden to wealthy urban donors, and the other on the right, but a consistent interest in appealing to working class people anyway–that is a real golden goose.

    10. HeelBearCub

      A few thoughts to inject into the conversation.

      The US religious history on abortion is more complex than people are acknowledging. Before Roe v. Wade, there may have been more vocal opposition to abortion bans, than the opposite.

      Even post Roe, many religious organizations we identify as “pro-life” now had much more modulated views. The Southern Baptist Convention actually supported the Roe v. Wade ruling at the time it was issued, saying:

      Religious bodies and religious persons can continue to teach their own particular views to their constituents with all the vigor they desire. People whose conscience forbids abortion are not compelled by law to have abortions. They are free to practice their religion according to the tenets of their personal or corporate faith.

      The reverse is also now true since the Supreme Court decision. Those whose conscience or religious convictions are not violated by abortion may not now be forbidden by a religious law to obtain an abortion if they so choose.

      The history of abortion in the US can’t be separated from things like the absence of universal healthcare, the generally puritan impulses about sex, sex education and birth control and the easier ability in the US political system to create and foment wedge issues.

      1. SamChevre

        Agreed.

        Note that part of what you’re seeing is the widespread adoption of Catholic arguments by Evangelicals, as they looked for better arguments. Until the 1960’s both opposition to eugenics and opposition to segregation were mostly Catholic concerns.

    11. Ant

      There was a huge and violent debate about abortion in France in the 60-70. The christian at the time had a lot of political power which they abuse by for example banning newspaper and controlling the unique television channel. Today, they don’t, in part because of these abuse, and neither does their at the time primary opponent, the communist.

      I honestly think this is going to be a non issue in the next twenty years in USA. Like France in the 70 and Canada in the 90, the religious have lost the war but haven’t yet surrendered. They are going to lose more and more symbol as time goes, and abortion will probably be one of the first to go.

    12. AlesZiegler

      So we reached a point when I welcome a discussion of an abortion as a distraction from red hot CW topic of the day, great.

      I do not think that is more complicated than that there is a much large contingent of people in the US that subscribes to “abortion is murder” as an article of religious faith than in Europe, combined with the fact that majority does not subscribe to that. Abortion is also unusually polarizing in Poland, but not quite to US levels, I think because “abortion is basically murder” crowd has a clear majority there.

      What is somewhat puzzling is that despite that the US indeed has on paper lighter legal restrictions on abortion than many European countries. Probably it is because people who would prefer some but not absolute restriction tend to align with pro choice absolutists, since “abortion is murder” is a position that does not lent itself to compromise.

  9. DavidFriedman

    One more time.

    Everyone is invited to an online meetup on Mozilla Hubs, starting 2:00 P.M. Pacific time. It will start at the Parthenon [hub.link/Zd85BZs]. If there is a problem with that, or if more people appear than will fit — I think the limit is fifty — it will shift or expand to a meeting space I constructed [hub.link/q7PLxgT]. For details see the webbed announcement.

    Mozilla Hubs provides a VR scene which multiple people can enter and move around in. The farther you are from someone the fainter his voice. That should make possible the sort of meetup that consists not of a lecture but of multiple simultaneous conversations. Wander around listening to what other people are talking about, join any conversation that seems interesting.

    Just as happens in at least some realspace SSC meetups.

    1. bean

      I tried to join, but my browser basically couldn’t handle it. I spent most of the time banging into walls, and lost connection a couple of times. I do wish there was a less system-intensive way to do it.

      1. DavidFriedman

        We had about sixteen people there, and the meetup lasted for a couple of hours.
        If you want to try out the software, you can put in the link I gave and visit the Parthenon, or my meetup space, by yourself any time. You can even use one of them for your own meetup.

        There is another one at the Parthenon, not organized by me, at 10:30 A.M. tomorrow morning, Pacific time.

  10. 205guy

    Radu Floricia had a comment (https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/04/22/open-thread-152-25/#comment-886210) about how without omniscience, the lockdown was the logical thing to do at the time–and most comments disagreed. I did agree, and then had lots of other observations, so I thought I’d bump this up to the top as a new comment instead of burying it in the replies. I’m new here, so I hope that’s not too much of a faux pas.

    FWIW, I agree with Radu, the lockdown in the US was seen as the only way to save lives. There was the example of China and we knew we could neither weld people into their homes or build 2 dedicated hospitals in 2 weeks (that was before people had heard of our own hospital ships). There was also the ongoing example of Italy and its first-world healthcare system visibly overwhelmed. CA started early and kept things in control, NY started late and almost lost it. It seems like NY was right at the edge, any number of factors being different and it might’ve been a disaster. So while it looked like they were just whelmed the right amount, it was pure luck it wasn’t worse.

    Then there is the issue of nursing homes. I think the description of dry tinder is apt. Again, there were examples of very high mortality in certain ones where the virus got in. I think they are still very much at risk in any re-opening, and may be like the smoldering stumps of a forest fire.

    Personally, I agreed with the lockdown at the time, I still think it was the right thing to do around the CA timeframe, and I still agree with it continuing now. Yes, it has flattened the curve, and yes, it will make the lockdown last longer. The things that countries can do to avoid lockdown and keep spread of the virus in check, such as phone surveillance and GPS ankle monitors in Asia (Taiwan and South Korea), are things that the US will not do. In the category that we could do but don’t I will include competent contact tracing and keeping sick employees at home with benefits. So the mostly voluntary and goodwill lockdown in the US will continue.

    If the US reopens too soon, we will be hit by second waves, and like the 1918 flu, they could be even deadlier. I think one under-appreciated aspect of lockdown is that it still allows the asymptomatic spread. As several recent studies have shown, there have been more asymptomatic spread than expected, so the lockdown will still help reach herd immunity (provided having it confers individual immunity–which still seems unclear).

    On the example of Sweden, I see it as an outlier like Taiwan and South Korea. They had little to infection to begin with, and when everyone else went into lockdown, that protected them from more outside cases. I’m not sure what their border protocol is right now, but I see them like an island: low infection rate with competent tracing, socially minded population doing things to personally reduce the spread while still allowing work and life, and no cases from foreigners to spark new spread. I don’t think conclusions about Sweden can be generalized.

    From an economic point of view, there is no doubt the lockdown will kick the US into a recession. But I think we were already on the brink of one, with everything very fragile, so it’s unfair to blame it entirely on the virus response. I see the people clamoring for no-lockdown or opening-up-now to be selfish and borderline greedy. Yes, people are unemployed and truly suffering for lack of money, but the trump-bucks, and rent and mortgage relief should kick in, grants and food donations so no one starves, small business loans, etc. Ideally, it’s just a pause, people survive, and for all business purposes, it’s like those/these months didn’t exist. I understand it’s not working, and people are really feeling the pinch. But instead of saying “end the lockdown,” they should be saying “make the lockdown survivable.”

    I think there’s a certain character that doesn’t like being told what to do, and opposes the lockdown on that one pure principle. Then there is the type of person who can’t stand not being productive and making money, who can’t stand pausing for a few months. I also think there are those who are overly leveraged and feel their financial dealings will collapse if they don’t have all 12 months of income/profits in the year, who effectively cannot pause. I’m afraid there is too much of that in the economy, making it fragile. Ideally, every lease, every loan, every contract, and every arrangement will be renegotiated so that the months of lockdown are neutral to both parties.

    And then there is greed. Just like all the people being caught speeding over 100mph on empty freeways, I think there are a lot of people who see the lack of economic activity as an open opportunity to grab if only they’re the first to reopen. There are fewer competitors now, there are lots of potential customers itching for some entertainment, so the ambitious or greedy want to re-open ASAP so they can take advantage of this first-mover advantage.

    Personally, I’m for limited reopening in counties and states that have very low cases, but with some strict distancing and mask-wearing rules still in place. But there is also the issue of movement and travel. Again, short of being an island nation that either keeps planes out or quarantines ALL arrivals with an ankle monitor, how do you stop people from other places from bring the virus back? So you have reopening of a few restaurants with sparse seating, maybe campgrounds and national parks in some areas, but not airline travel, concerts, hotels, conferences, etc. So it won’t look like much of a re-opening and people will continue to chafe.

    Finally, as if I didn’t have enough SSC-controversial points in this post, I don’t like Trump, but I don’t think the lockdown or the recession will hurt his chances at reelection–and I think there’s a high chance he’ll win again. His waffling and timing of the lockdown was definitely late, but he can spin that to his followers. Yeah, he’s in charge during the ensuing recession, but he gave out checks with his name on them so he looks like a savior. The only thing I think that might hurt him is saying obviously stupid stuff like injecting bleach, that might turn off a few swing voters, but I don’t think it will last for many news cycles.

    1. Jake R

      If the US reopens too soon, we will be hit by second waves, and like the 1918 flu, they could be even deadlier.

      This is almost certainly true. The question is whether or not the words “too soon” add anything to the evaluation. If we’re burning the economy to the ground so shit can hit the fan two months from now instead of now, that doesn’t seem especially helpful.

      Granted there’s a lot we can do to mitigate the effects that would make those two months valuable, but I have seen no attempts to do any of those things.

      1. Clutzy

        Attempts isn’t relevant until you have a strategy. None of the high profile people who are currently very strong on lockdown (say more bearish than the Gottleib or Manhattan Institute plans) has articulated a reasonable strategy to start preparing for. There is only so much testing you can do. Track and trace is only viable if you have testing capacity that seems 6+ months in the future based on current burn and buildup. Vaccines are too speculative to set any timeline around them, and therapeutics share the same weakness now that the possible low hanging fruit of Cloro+Zpack+Zinc isn’t a silver bullet (it might be effective to some extent, but not nearly enough to really change your plans). So what is the plan for lockdown bears? How could they even prepare for it?

      2. Athos

        The mechanism by which the second wave of the Spanish Flu was so deadly is pretty unique and interesting. The second wave refers to a more deadly strain of Spanish Flu that mutated from the first waves strain. Viruses usually ‘burn out’ if they become too severe, because they kill off their hosts before they can spread very much, or at least make it obvious to the host that they need to quarantine themselves or be restricted to a hospital. Since the second wave of the Spanish Flu occurred during WWII, many of the victims were soldiers deployed to the European battlefield. When they became critically sick, instead of confining themselves indoors, they were put on trains, ships, planes, etc. and sent back home or to public hospitals. This allowed the virus to have much more exposure to people than would occur under typical circumstances, and makes this type of virulence and death rate very unlikely to occur with the current coronavirus.

    2. m.alex.matt

      From an economic point of view, there is no doubt the lockdown will kick the US into a recession. But I think we were already on the brink of one, with everything very fragile, so it’s unfair to blame it entirely on the virus response.

      It’s not unfair because we really, genuinely were not ‘on the brink’ of one. The US and global economies weakened in 2019 (probably as a result of accidental over-tightening by the Fed trying to shrink its balance sheet combined with risk aversion surrounding the trade war), the US was in recovery and the rest of the world was showing signs of moving in that direction. Had there been no pandemic, unemployment would still be low, wages would still be growing, and it wouldn’t be totally crazy (although by no means the only possible outcome) to say we had five more years of growth in front of us.

      Expansions don’t die of old age. Australia went a quarter century without a recession. There’s no really great reason to suspect there was going to be a 2020 recession without the epidemic and attendant lockdowns.

      1. baconbits9

        Australia went a quarter century without a recession.

        This is specific to some peculiarities about Australia, they avoided technical definitions of recessions for a long period but not in a way that is repeatable/imitable for larger countries.

        1. Loriot

          Also, a lot of Australia’s growth came from shipping rocks and metal to China and thus piggybacking off China’s economy.

          You can’t piggyback off others so much when you’re already the largest economy.

        2. Cliff

          Actually they did it in a way that is eminently repeatable/imitable for larger countries. They kept a steady NGDP growth rate.

          1. baconbits9

            They kept a steady NGDP growth rate.

            And how did they do that? No, its not the ‘they did monetary theory right’ answer, its a simple demographic answer. Australia has high levels of immigration and they specifically choose wealthy immigrants to admit. They had a per captia GDP recession in 2008, their UE rate jumped from 4% to 5.9% between August 2008 and May 2009, but it wasn’t a recession because they posted a very high immigration rate (over 2%, the highest in at least the past 40 years).

            Likewise they posted an UE increase from 6% to over 7% in 2001-2002, but had a 10 year high in immigration in 2001.

    3. ltowel

      My personal mind has changed from “we should open everything up immediately” to “in many places we’re being overly cautious to the point of ignoring real harm to people”, so take whatever I saw with whatever size piece of salt you prefer.

      I don’t think greed or some need for financial well being is the primarily motivating factor – I think people want to live their lives. I think a lot of people want to see their friends, go to their neighborhood bars or restaurants and have those places continue to exist into the future – and I think that there are people (including myself) who are seriously suffering when they can’t do that. For instance, suicides aggressively spiked in Tennessee when they imposed stay at home restrictions.

      Donald Trump is incompetent and has clearly made this crisis worse, but if lockdowns in my state continue past mid May I will vote for the incompetent the GOP is running against my Democratic governor solely on this single issue.

    4. Radu Floricica

      Thanks for bumping. For the record, right now I think the lockdown should be selectively eased. It was a good idea when the worst case scenario looked pretty bad, but right now quite a few things have changed. No, we do not have a treatment, nor a vaccine, nor a proper strategy. But that’s ignoring the pretty important things we do have:

      – We know we can stop it. Whatever we do right now is working, so that’s a hard cap on “worst case scenario”. We’re definitely not going to a 5% of population dead scenario, no matter what. That’s a BIG relief.

      – We know it’s not as bad as we thought. Two months ago we assumed >1% IFR with a potential of much higher numbers in case of overwhelmed health systems. Now we’re leaning towards <1% IFR, and since placing people on their stomach is much much cheaper than ventilating them, health systems are less likely to be overwhelmed.

      True, this isn't a miracle cure. But, like I said, the very important thing it does is limit the worst case scenario, a lot. That's why lockdown under fog of war was the right decision, and that's much less so right now.

      This being said, I think most discussion should focus on what "selectively eased" means, because that's the truly relevant question right now. I don't have strong opinions on that, but I very much like to see the conversation.

      Disclaimer, re the "greed" comment: crisis is starting to affect me financially, possibly pretty bad in a couple of months.

      1. Loriot

        We know we can stop it. Whatever we do right now is working

        On the other hand should it prove necessary in the future, Lockdown v2 is likely to have a lower compliance rate than the first one.

      2. Creutzer

        We’re definitely not going to a 5% of population dead scenario, no matter what. That’s a BIG relief.

        We’re not going there no matter what we do, because the virus is just not that deadly. Even in a scenario of completely unmitigated spread, we’d only lose <1% of the population.

        1. Radu Floricica

          Well yeah. That’s what I mean. But that’s hindsight – we had no idea what the real mortality is at the time. Now we know it’s just not that deadly, and we should reconsider the lockdown. Not back to normal (as if back to normal is even an option now…), but we can start talking options.

          And speaking of options, the one I really don’t see mentioned, probably because it’s politically incorrect, is reverse quarantine. It’s much easier to determine a county is clear, so you can give it a “green” status and check only traffic between green and yellow/red areas.

          1. The Nybbler

            We should reconsider the lockdowns, but we’re not going to, because the politicians like it and in the police state of New Jersey, the police like it. Got thrown out of a field in a park this morning (where I was flying a model helicopter, alone), along with a bunch of other people in other parts of the field, by a Sheriff’s Department officer who obviously had nothing better to do. Far as I can tell one of the major purposes or perks of government power at all levels is going around and ruining everyone else’s fun, so if you give them an excuse to do so, they’ll seize on it.

          2. 205guy

            I touched on this by mentioning island nations. Once they have no new cases for 2 weeks, they can open up internally, as long as they keep the borders closed or strictly regulated. But a lot of island nations depend on tourism, so they might feel better having restaurants and hanging out with friends and family, but their economy won’t recover to the same point. Then again, some places were overly-touristed and might appreciate the opportunity to take back their beaches—or at least their short-term rental stock.

            And I think a lot of the US internal economy depends on easy travel. That’s why I mentioned concerts and conferences, and even forgot about sporting events. A lot of people hop on planes to the next big city for business for 1-5 days, or drive to the races for the weekend with the family. So reopening one county or state at a time won’t bring back the economy (the airports and airplanes will still be empty, and so will the Boing and Airbus factories and suppliers, etc.). Not to mention the logistics of roadblocks to enforce it, let alone the strangeness of enforcing internal borders that the US has never enforced before.

            Nybbler: see this is the attitude I would call selfish or entitled. Presumably, exercise is allowed but other outdoor activities are not. Presumably, you are aware of this, so you’re just hoping you won’t get caught. When caught, you complain about the heavy-handed police and say nothing about your rule-breaking. You know, we all get it: many outdoor activities are solo and naturally distancing. I can go hiking because it’s allowed for exercise, but I can’t go camping like I usually do.

            I believe the rationale is to limit going out because there are always chance non-distancing (parking lot, restrooms, etc.), and also because when everyone goes out for fun, it’s no longer possible to keep your distance. Keeping everyone mostly isolated only works if people voluntarily stay isolated. Some places are starting to crack down and give out fines—France is one example where people were warned and then fined by the Gendarmes.

            So saying we’re going to keep lockdowns for the reason that authorities like to bully the population is just nonsensical. There are lots of common sense reasons for the lockdown—we all know them even if we don’t like them, but you prefer to ignore them, which is disingenuous.

          3. The Nybbler

            Nybbler: see this is the attitude I would call selfish or entitled. Presumably, exercise is allowed but other outdoor activities are not. Presumably, you are aware of this, so you’re just hoping you won’t get caught. When caught, you complain about the heavy-handed police and say nothing about your rule-breaking. You know, we all get it: many outdoor activities are solo and naturally distancing. I can go hiking because it’s allowed for exercise, but I can’t go camping like I usually do.

            First of all, you are factually incorrect; all activity in county and state parks, including solo hiking and other solo exercise, is banned by order of the governor.

            Second, we have a clash of values, which is that I put little to no moral weight on the law itself. That the Governor arbitrarily made a rule to bully the population (his claimed reason was that people weren’t social distancing in parks, so he had to close them entirely; classic collective punishment even if true) is not better than the police arbitrarily bullying the population on their own accord. It may be “selfish” to wish to engage in recreational activity without getting rousted by the police, but I’m not so selfless as to think it’s OK for the police to prevent that, not for the benefit of others, but for no benefit to anyone but merely to enforce the state’s arbitrary whim.

          4. Radu Floricica

            @The Nybbler

            Just a comment on having no intrinsic respect for the law. It’s of strictly theoretical value because in this case I happen to thoroughly agree with you.

            We (homo sapiens) have a pretty big coordination problem that’s not entirely solvable by non-aggression libertarianism – commons. Health is one of them – if a certain percentage of the population isn’t vaccinated, we don’t have herd immunity and he have epidemics that affect even some that did have the vaccine, or those that for medical reasons can’t have a vaccine. Or well, the classic example of thread depth in tires.

            Add to this the studies we know of that say we’re much likelier to see the straw in the neighbor’s eye. For example asking husband and wife what percentage of chores each of them does will constantly sum over 100%.

            Put the two together and your should be very careful when you say you’re above the law. If everybody does it, we’re wired to go WELL over 100%.

          5. The Nybbler

            Put the two together and your should be very careful when you say you’re above the law. If everybody does it, we’re wired to go WELL over 100%.

            I don’t say I’m above the law. I’m not; the law has guns and I don’t. It’s plain old force and while most people choose to pretend otherwise (while carefully avoiding any situations which would put them in a position to face said force), I don’t. I say the law has little moral suasion.

            If the law is solving a co-ordination problem (e.g. setting which side of the road to drive on), it’s an exception, but in this case it is not.

          6. DavidFriedman

            Put the two together and your should be very careful when you say you’re above the law. If everybody does it, we’re wired to go WELL over 100%.

            That’s an argument against saying it. It isn’t an argument about believing it or acting on the belief.

            I only control my own actions. I should take account of any effect my actions have on other people, but that’s an argument for hypocrisy — pretending to endorse the rules you want other people to follow, but not following them yourself when you can get away with not doing so.

            The situation where I see that as a real issue is jury nullification. If I am on a jury and defendant is charged with, and guilty of, some law that I think is unjust, my moral obligation is to vote to acquit, so that he will not be punished for doing something that, in my view, he had a right to do. But if everybody believes that and acts accordingly, it may become impossible to enforce many laws I approve of, because enough people disapprove of them, say 20%, so that a jury will usually have at least one such person on it.

          7. Radu Floricica

            @DavidFriedman

            I just see it as an argument for adding a reflex nudge towards cooperation. The jury example is clear cut – you can follow the numbers and reach a nice, clean conclusion. But in most real life situations you don’t have this luxury – but you do know that the metaphorical percentages tend to add over 100%. Doesn’t matter if it’s the husband or the wife who overestimate their housework – on average, human beings overestimate their housework, I am a human being, therefore it’s a good idea to be just a bit more cooperative than I’d feel like. This would be the gist of my argument.

            Not sure if your ever got to read EY’s Timeless Decision Therory. I’m pretty sure you’d like it. It’s not directly related to this conversation, but it’s a good practical exercise in abstracting the “I am a human being”.

      3. Randy M

        We know we can stop it. Whatever we do right now is working, so that’s a hard cap on “worst case scenario”. We’re definitely not going to a 5% of population dead scenario, no matter what. That’s a BIG relief.

        We surely can’t lock down forever, so we can’t stop it if it doesn’t die out completely before the will/ability to lock down does, barring effective vaccines.
        We’re under siege, and the walls are holding. But the enemy is still at the gates.

      4. salvorhardin

        We also have improved testing capacity, despite widespread incompetence around this, in ways that meaningfully improve the ability to slow a resurgence via test-and-trace. In parts of California, for example, “essential” workers can now get tested even if asymptomatic, which matters a lot since these folks are both at highest risk of infection and of spreading infections to others.

    5. A1987dM

      Ideally, every lease, every loan, every contract, and every arrangement will be renegotiated so that the months of lockdown are neutral to both parties.

      My preferred solution would have been to make February 2020 99 days long, thereby postponing all human-set deadlines by 70 days (and then make every month after that one or two weeks longer than normal until the seasons got back into alignment).

      1. Radu Floricica

        Uhm… you know this is worst for the poorest, right? It takes care of the fixed expenses, but not the variables ones. Like gas for transport companies and… food for people. Poorer you are, bigger percentage of expenses is just survival.

    6. The Nybbler

      CA started early and kept things in control, NY started late and almost lost it. It seems like NY was right at the edge, any number of factors being different and it might’ve been a disaster.

      There’s no “losing it”. If the lockdown had significant effect in NYC, and happened later or not at all, then hospitals in NYC would have been overwhelmed. This would have resulted in a combination of harsher triage, adding capacity in NYC (as was indeed done, and not nearly filled) and transferring patients elsewhere. And would likely have resulted in more deaths. But there’s no positive feedback here; the epidemic doesn’t get worse because hospital capacity is reached.

      If the US reopens too soon, we will be hit by second waves, and like the 1918 flu, they could be even deadlier

      Despite Business Insider’s story, the second wave of the Spanish Flu pandemic was widespread and was deadlier everywhere it hit; it is believed (but never shown, as only the second wave virus was ever recovered) that it was a slightly more virulent strain, and it is known that getting the flu in the first wave provided immunity against the second. If that’s true, lockdowns which protected against the first wave were actually (in hindsight) counterproductive.

      Ideally, every lease, every loan, every contract, and every arrangement will be renegotiated so that the months of lockdown are neutral to both parties.

      So are states and localities going to stop collecting taxes? Certainly New Jersey localities have not, my town has been quite adamant that everyone pays their property taxes on time or else.

      The modern economy is not fragile compared to past economies. But “a few months” is not a short time, and the entire country or world cannot simply pause with little consequence.

      1. AG

        I’ve seen this point multiple times that NYC hospitals weren’t overwhelmed. Can you link a source on that? Accounts seem to say differently.

    7. DinoNerd

      I’m currently of at least two minds.

      I don’t believe it’s possible to keep everyone safe. It’s too late to eliminate the virus entirely, as was done with past smaller potential pandemics. Vaccines and/or significantly improved treatments are likely to take longer to develop than we can possibly maintain a lockdown; a single year seems implausible for a continuous lockdown, and it took 20 or more years for AIDS to reach the stage of no longer being an automatic nearish term death sentence.

      If it’s only a matter of time til I catch it, and my chances of surviving it are much the same whenever I get it, so long as my local hospitals are not overwhelmed, then where I am – with plenty of hospital capacity – lockdowns should be relaxed. Instead, each renewal of the lockdown seems to add more onerous rules.

      I’m also seeing a nasty assymmetry in who this lockdown actually protects. I’m WFH, mostly protected from both catching the disease and being unable to afford necessities. A lot of people are stuck in harms way, either as essential workers at more risk of catching it than I am, or as freshly unemployed people wondering how long they can pay their bills.

      I could pretty easily be convinced that the right thing to do currently, in places doing as well as the Bay Area (where I am), is to relax the lockdown enough that more people can work, moving carefully enough that the resulting increase in cases doesn’t overwhelm any local medical system.

      All this goes out the window, if the risk of dying of it (having caught it) really is likely to decrease significantly over short periods of time. At that point, delay is valuable.

      It also goes out the window if there’s no significant post-infection immunity, no vaccine (ever), and no treatment improvements. If people are just as likely to die the 5th time they catch it as they were the first time, then the only question is whether to implement some permanent measures to reduce the frequency with which people catch it.

      I’m pretty much discounting contact tracing and quarantine as a way of doing that. If we can get it together to do that effectively, that would be great – but it doesn’t seem to me as if the US is likely to manage that. (At best, it will trace people who carry cell phones everywhere they go, and keep their bluetooth signal turned on, in spite of the effect on battery life, presumably because they use non-wired ear/headphones. Because the methods being proposed seem to be entirely technological so far…)

      If we can keep the frequency down with contact tracing, that’s great. But I’m kind of expecting a permanent partial lock down, and, most likely, an under class that can’t work from home and/or can’t work at all, with a statistically reduced life expectancy.

  11. Atlas

    What are some good books on the Eastern Front of World War 2? I enjoyed Ostkrieg by Stephen G. Fritz and Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder. I’d prefer books like that that also discuss the politics, economics, etc. of the conflict in addition to the purely military aspects, as opposed to e.g. Alan Clark’s Barbarossa.

    1. Chevalier Mal Fet

      In addition to Overy, mentioned below, David Glantz has good books on just about everything Ostfront related, although mostly military focused.

      It’s not specifically Eastern Front, but Why the Allies Won, also by Richard Overy, has a lot of good material on the factories and production side of Russia’s war effort (in addition to good chapters on Stalingrad and Kursk).

  12. HeelBearCub

    Here is something that bears watching closely.

    As of Tuesday, 2,011 inmates — more than 80 percent of the population at the minimum- and medium-security facility – have tested positive for COVID-19, according to state data. Combined, that means almost 16 percent of Ohio’s 13,725 total coronavirus cases come from the Marion prison.

    One inmate and one staffer have died.

    One reason for the large number of positive tests at the prison is that there has been so much testing there – about two weeks ago, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered that every inmate at Marion and two other prisons be tested. Many of those who tested positive showed no symptoms.

    Hopefully we can get some good epidemiological data from this unfortunate set of circumstances. I’m guessing another week and we might have some idea on some bounds on herd immunity, IFR in certain demographics, etc. Not sure what the demographic of the prison is (aside from male), but I’m guessing it’s going to skew young, especially given that it’s minimum and medium security.

    1. beleester

      To put this in context, here is the Ohio DoH’s coronavirus data. You can see pretty clearly when the testing happened (April 16th and 17th), and if you click on Marion Country (the dark area just north of Columbus) you’ll see an even more dramatic spike.

    2. LesHapablap

      From googling, it seems like globally 10-12% of people are 60+. That’s 6% in the US prison system. So they do skew younger but not terribly so.

      1. HeelBearCub

        Do have a cite for 6% of the US prison system being 60+?

        And does that cite break out state vs. federal, and minimum/medium vs. a maximum security?

        My thought is that a) youth predisposes you to crime in general, but b) sentencing can make you old. Thus the population in state minimum security prison should skew younger than the prison population, and the population in general.

        ETA: Oh, and percentage of the US that is 65+ is 15% (probably more now). The first world in general is going to skew much older than the world, for a variety of reasons.

        1. LesHapablap

          https://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_age.jsp

          If the testing was done April 16 and 17 then we haven’t seen all the potential deaths from it yet, especially given that it would have spread VERY fast. Most of those 80% would have gotten it within the week prior to April 16 and 17 I would guess. So not too useful yet to get morbidity rates, and it skews young, and male, and probably really unhealthy.

          So with all those factors I don’t know how useful it will be: we already know people who are fairly young have <1/1000 death rate, so a sample of 2000 prisoners won't tell us much unless loads of them die.

          Later on we'll be able to see if they get reinfected, so that might be useful.

          1. HeelBearCub

            That’s the Feds. They don’t prosecute all the piss-ant stuff that lands you in a state minimum security prison. That age demo isn’t really relevant. Off to see if I can find stats for Ohio.

  13. matthewravery

    According to Reuters (and NYT, apparently), top Navy brass recommended reinstating Crozier.

    This seems like the morally correct outcome, but what does it say about Navy leadership? My assumption is that the “independent investigations” are going to pin any wrong-doing on Modly (perhaps justly?), and the Navy as a whole will wash their hands of the saga.

  14. Wrong Species

    Everyone’s talking about social distancing vs opening up but there’s one point I haven’t really seen and it’s that, theoretically, the Coronavirus should be exterminated if everyone limits their social contacts to people that they regularly come in to contact with. If no one is interacting with new people then it should die out on its own. It’s the same reason why we talking about being inside your own home but not in your own room. Obviously, it’s more complicated than that but surely it’s something to keep in mind when opening things back up again. So that means higher priority should be given to things like opening up schools, office jobs, churches, maybe gyms, or anything that’s part of your regular schedule.

      1. Clutzy

        Or, more likely, the hospital. The way hospitals work, generally, you can never really root out a virus like this.

    1. palimpsest

      The people you see at church also go to work and see other people that have families, churches, gyms, etc of their own, etc. I think the graph of social connections would have to be much more cliquish than it is for “only go to places where you see the same set of people” to be helpful.

    2. John Schilling

      Theoretically, the Coronavirus should be exterminated if everyone limits their social contacts to people that they regularly come in to contact with

      That theory is only sound if you remove the word “social”, and make clear that the word “limits” is a literal absolute. Doing so makes clear that the proposal is wholly impractical.

    3. meh

      Most places have been under lock-down for weeks now, yet the transmission rate is only moderately low. Why is it not extremely low?

      1. albatross11

        Do we have good data on how much transmission has taken place?

        I’d guess most transmission in most places is happening in a healthcare setting right now–if you have a few people coming to the hospital with COVID-19 every week, there’s lots of opportunity for doctors and nurses to take it home with them.

      2. VoiceOfTheVoid

        Because “lockdown” is an exaggeration; grocery stores are still open, and so are enough other places.

        1. Clutzy

          Indeed, everywhere that supplies grocery stores and hospitals is necessarily open. My brother who works in pharmaceuticals, for example, has to go into work. Otherwise people will die of non-C19 things, notably he had to just ramp up an emergency production of a new MRSA drug because the regular supplier got interrupted.

        2. meh

          They are open, but are taking measures to operate at reduce risk. Most places still have transmission barely below 1, or even above 1. This is not encouraging.

          1. Cliff

            Most places still have transmission barely below 1, or even above 1.

            I think this is doubtful. The one “real-time R0” site is not credible scientifically based on analysis I have read.

      3. DinoNerd

        It’s somewhat difficult to distinguish transmission from discovery. As testing ramps up, we find more institutions where the virus is running rampant – jails, old folks homes, meat packing plants, etc.

        The lockdown is also leaky. Many people are working outside their homes; many of those are in contact with random strangers (retail, medical care). And some quantity of people are still breaking their local rules – something I personally find more and more tempting as the rules get more and more onerous.

        Mostly though, it does seem to be working where I am. Our local cases are down – even while this is swamped in most news reporting by new cases found elsewhere in the state, including a different metropolitain area that seems to have screwed up by the numbers.

        1. meh

          I understand all of that, but we are still barely below one, and this is likely the strictest form of lockdown we will have. Nobody is talking about increasing restrictions, only relaxing them. The strictest lockdown seems to barely be doing the job.

          1. albatross11

            It’s not clear to me that we even know whether this is true or not. Testing is still not being done widely, and it’s still a common story that someone is quite ill but can’t get tested.

          2. DinoNerd

            Frankly, I’m not clear that R0 is barely below one in the SF Bay Area – the 6 counties where I live that started closing things down by at least March 5 (when the city health department told my bridge club to close) and went to official lockdown on March 17.

            Now that the local news is not so scary, it’s getting drowned out by California averages (not so good) and particular institutional disasters. I’ve had a lot of trouble recently finding a source for deaths/known cases in our 6 counties – or in any one of them – plotted against time.

            When I finally found one at https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/coronavirus/list-of-coronavirus-cases-in-the-bay-area/2248581/, the cumulative number of cases over time appeared to be increasing linerarly, not exponentially, and possibly even dropping below linear over the past couple of weeks.

            Note that AFAIK, the graph is “total ever diagnosed up to date x” rather than “total diagnosed on that day”, which makes the graph less convenient for estimating R0, or even eyeballing it. But since it looks nothing like a hyperbola, it’s not exponential.

            When I harvest actual numbers from the badly designed graphic, I see something a bit less flat. Assuming 14 days from inception to cure or death, I get numbers like this for Santa Clara. [I chose it because I live there.]

            Mar 12 cases unreadable; 115 by March 15
            Mar 26 542 cumulative
            Apr 9 1380 cumulative, so 838 new cases since Mar 26
            Apr 23 1987 cumulative, so 607 new since Apr 9

            So between Mar 26 and Apr 9, less than 542 cases generated 838 new ones. R0 > 1, assuming no effect from improved testing

            But between April 9 and April 23, 838 cases generated 607 new ones (same assumptions). R0 is about 0.72

            That’s not “barely below 1”, particularly when it’s likely that more of those who contract Covid-19 are being tested and diagnosed over time.

          3. HeelBearCub

            @DinoNerd:

            That’s not “barely below 1”, particularly when it’s likely that more of those who contract Covid-19 are being tested and diagnosed over time.

            You are making an assumption that cases found is always equal in ratio to cases existing. There are reasons to believe it might be so, but there are reasons it may not be. You are going to need to show that Bay Area tests are staying the same or increasing, and they are increasing in a way that should keep the ratio the same. And that case growth isn’t skewed from previous. I don’t think that’s trivial.

            For example, if the Bay area “looks good” and tests they would have had are diverted elsewhere, we could see a decrease in testing locally, as we see fewer people who are symptomatic.

            This might be especially the case if those most likely to be symptomatic have changed their behavior more than those who are more likely to be asymptomatic. The young may be much more mobile than those who are older.

            I’m not saying the raw numbers don’t look good, just that I don’t think you can draw conclusions unless we actually have sufficient testing, or at least a good handle on any changes in how and where tests are being administered over time, which I don’t know that we have.

          4. baconbits9

            But between April 9 and April 23, 838 cases generated 607 new ones (same assumptions). R0 is about 0.72

            That’s not “barely below 1”, particularly when it’s likely that more of those who contract Covid-19 are being tested and diagnosed over time.

            I’m not sure this is the correct approach but-

            If we start with 600 active cases and an R0 of 0.75, and a 2 week contagious period then we should have 450 cases in 2 weeks, 337 in a month, then 253 in 6 weeks, then 189, 142 and then 106. So with an R0 of 0.75 and 600 current cases you are still above 100 active cases in 12 weeks, and you need 10 more weeks to get it below 25 active cases. 6 months of lockdown and an R0 of 0.75 would be almost eradicating it in an area, down to less than 10 cases and some positive variance away from being zero. Anything less than that is going to lead to an immediate surge once lock downs are lifted*.

            Anything over 0.5 is to high for lockdowns to be successful, and even at .5 you need 12 weeks to get to single digit cases. This is one reason why Singapore is still extending its lockdowns, actual eradication through this method is extremely difficult with any notable base number of cases.

            *assuming its the lock downs keeping the R0 down.

          5. HeelBearCub

            @baconbits9:
            It’s actually much worse than that, I think, because those are diagnosed cases, which we know is an undercount.

            Declining diagnosed cases may be a reasonable way to conclude R0 is under 1, but they don’t help you determine how many actual cases are out there absent a good measure of the undercount.

          6. abystander

            I suspect that after following the moderate measures of covering your face and staying six feet away from other people, most transmissions aren’t driven by the 99% who are following lockdown except to go to the grocery store, but the 1% who simply are not following lockdown.

          7. The Nybbler

            Any reason I should believe that model? It looks to me like they’re basing it on new positive tests, which is still a signal completely swamped by artifact. They show NYS being below 1 until recently; a check of the data reveals a spike in new tests recently.

          8. meh

            @The Nybbler

            I asked upthread where people are seeing other estimates. Where are you seeing other estimates?

          9. The Nybbler

            I asked upthread where people are seeing other estimates. Where are you seeing other estimates?

            If you want, I could make up my own; they’d be as valid. I’m not going to consider known bad data just because good data isn’t available.

          10. meh

            @The Nybbler

            If you want, I could make up my own;

            yes, I do want. What are your estimates?

            they’d be as valid.

            of course they would. you’re an SSC commenter.

          11. The Nybbler

            The only thing I can tell you is that in any area where daily deaths (collected by date of death) are falling, R was below 1 as of about three weeks ago. In any area where daily hospitalizations (by date of admission) are falling, R was below 1 as of about 1 week ago.

            Any more precision than that requires a lot of information I don’t have. If you pick a period where R0 is constant, you could theoretically get some of this information. But in addition to that, you need to know both the recovery rate and the IFR or hospitalization rate (to scale deaths or hospitalizations to the population infected). There’s enough unknowns that I’m not willing to guess anything other than “clearly above 1, about 1 (plateauing), clearly below 1”.

          12. Cliff

            There was a link recently from MR about that site. The linked people who were shitting on that site said there’s no way we can know what R0 is but they put a maximum of 0.7 in the U.S. if I recall correctly.

          13. meh

            well done to everyone. the rt.live site i was looking at has updated their model, and is now mostly below one.

        2. DinoNerd

          @HeelBearCub

          You are making an assumption that cases found is always equal in ratio to cases existing.

          Not really. I’m just suggesting that the % of exisiting cases which are found is not decreasing. Put that explicitly, I agree that we can construct scenarios where that would not be true. I don’t think those scenarios are likely.

          If we were deciding when/whether/how much to reopen, it would help to have good error bars on my estimates – and that’s not possible with the kind of back-of-the-envelope estimates I produced. Hopefully the PTB have better data, and know how to use it.

          But I think I produced enough to challenge “barely below 1” – you need better evidence to support that claim than “there are possible patterns of systematic reporting errors that might produce it”. OTOH, that was never your claim in any case, if I’m reading backwards in this thread correctly.

          [Oops – this response appeared right below HBC’s comment, but at the wrong level of threading. Unfortunately doubt I can fix that without the anti-spam feeatures preventing me from reposting in the right place, even if I delete this post.]

          1. HeelBearCub

            Yeah, those are all valid points.

            I think it’s likely we have R0 under 1 in some specific areas. But I also think that, based on what we know about where diagnosed cases are growing, that those local conclusions only spread out so far.

    4. albatross11

      It should be extinguished if we can make each new infection cause less than one additional infection on average. The lockdowns probably accomplish that, but they’re expensive and unpleasant. The interesting question is whether we can maintain that less-than-one-additional-infection with something less restrictive.

      1. baconbits9

        It should be extinguished if we can make each new infection cause less than one additional infection on average

        Not in practice unless you are keeping lockdowns in place for extremely long periods of time and every other country in the world also does the same (or you heavily restrict border crossings).

    5. Hefficurious

      I wish we had better stats on which people are getting covid.
      In the news I see mostly cases in long term care homes, meat packing plants, and prisons – all the places where people can’t isolate.

    6. Athos

      Natural reservoirs would persist even if human-human contact was reduced to zero for months. These reservoirs can range from animals carrying the disease to blocks of ice preserving the virus until they thaw and are spread by birds.

  15. bv7bd

    On grounds of “paternalism is bad”, I think I support ending the lockdowns. If people want to accept a 1% chance of death (and a much higher chance of lung damage) in return for not being stuck in their home for months, we should let them make that choice for themselves.

    We should couple this with a clear message that the plague is very dangerous and bad. We should do reasonable things to make it easy for people to stay home if they want to, such as cancelling rents for a few months.

    But if people understand the risks and want to go to the beaches anyway, let them go to the beaches anyway. It’ll build herd immunity.

    (I, personally, will be staying inside whether the lockdown is cancelled or not.)

    1. Milo Minderbinder

      If the only effect of breaking quarantine conditions was an individual incurring some X% chance of death, yeah, 100%. But that’s not how infectious disease works. If someone contracts Covid-19 (symptomatic or not) they expose others (who may not have consented to bear the risk of breaking quarantine) to the same X% risk.

      1. albatross11

        Further, the risks are very different for different people. Some folks are driving around in SUVs and others are driving around on mopeds–if we just say “don’t worry about traffic laws, just drive in a way that you’re willing to accept whatever risk you’re taking on,” the SUV drivers will fare a lot better than the moped drivers.

      2. bv7bd

        I don’t think that’s how quarantine works.

        I think that, if someone is quarantining, they’re not exposed to the people who are breaking quarantine.

        If someone contracts Covid-19, they expose other people who are breaking quarantine to the disease.

        1. Alexander Turok

          they expose other people who are breaking quarantine to the disease

          And also essential workers and those going outside to buy essential supplies. Thus my mostly-not-serious proposal below.

          1. DavidFriedman

            And also essential workers and those going outside to buy essential supplies.

            If the essential workers are out of quarantine only to work, they are unlikely to be exposed to non-essential workers in the process. And if people who go outside to buy essential supplies do it via curbside pickup, or if they have their essential supplies delivered, they too are unlikely to be exposed to the people breaking quarantine.

            Most of the burden of increased infection goes to other people not quarantining and doing so for a purpose other than working at an essential job.

            Also, you are ignoring the external benefit that people who break quarantine provide. People getting infected produce a benefit by moving us closer to herd immunity.

          2. Doctor Mist

            If the essential workers are out of quarantine only to work, they are unlikely to be exposed to non-essential workers in the process.

            Hmm? Do only essential workers go to the grocery store?

            I must not be understanding you here.

      3. zoozoc

        How is someone who is breaking quarantine exposing those who are not breaking quarantine to more risk? In reality, what you are actually comparing is people who are all breaking quarantine. The only way to ensure you don’t get sick is to stay isolated.

    2. John Schilling

      I’ve suggested a plan to give people their freedumb back if it’s what they want.

      I really think you want to walk that one back.

        1. Alexander Turok

          The intention of the proposal is to ask the people who think it’s the flu and demand the “right” to go outside, because liberty, would they be willing to agree to that proposal? And if not, why not? Is it just the similarity to certain historical events? Or does it say something more about how much these people really believe in freedom?

        2. John Schilling

          I was only 5% serious.

          Then you really want the other 95% to include a bare minimum of gratuitous mocking insult. And the bare minimum for that is always 0%.

        3. The Nybbler

          The intention of the proposal is to ask the people who think it’s the flu and demand the “right” to go outside, because liberty, would they be willing to agree to that proposal? And if not, why not?

          Because that’s not really a proposal to restore anyone’s freedom. It’s a (sneering) proposal to take it away by other slightly more deniable methods, and (perhaps partially because of those historically significant events) doesn’t really fool anyone.

        4. baconbits9

          The intention of the proposal is to ask the people who think it’s the flu and demand the “right” to go outside, because liberty, would they be willing to agree to that proposal? And if not, why not?

          Liberty isn’t freaking liberty if you get to impose restrictions like this.

          Hey, you guys are all pre free speech, how about you get to say whatever you want, whenever you want but we won’t prosecute anyone who punches you in the mouth for saying something they don’t like. Sounds fair right? If you REALLY liked free speech this should be totally acceptable.

        5. Alexander Turok

          It’s a (sneering) proposal to take it away

          How much is being taken away, though? From the perspective of the deniers, if it’s not a danger to you, why do you need to go to the hospital? We allow people to gamble their money away and have their assets seized when the gambles don’t pay off. We don’t consider that a restriction on freedom. And as for giving up anti-discrimination law, that’s not a restriction on your freedom from a libertarian perspective, which is what most of these people claim or at least appeal to. You want to be free from the government telling you what you can and can’t do? Okay then, give up your right to use the government to coerce others to associate with you. As for the symbol, yes, that’s a restriction on freedom. Yes, some would see it as a badge of shame. But it’s only worn by people who made the decision to cease social distancing. They think that behavior is reasonable. So you really can’t compare it to other instances when people were made to wear warning badges for things which were not their own choices.

        6. The Nybbler

          I was quite serious when I said you weren’t fooling anyone, and repeating things that won’t fool anyone more emphatically doesn’t make then fool any more people.

        7. DavidFriedman

          From the perspective of the deniers, if it’s not a danger to you, why do you need to go to the hospital?

          Why do you assume that the only people who want to leave quarantine are ones who think the virus is of no danger to them? Indeed, why do you label people who have made a different evaluation of cost and benefit than you have “deniers”?

          Do you drive? Does it follow that you believe auto accidents are of no danger to you, that you deny they exist? Was everyone in the military there only because he didn’t believe that bullets kill?

          Read your own words. Can’t you see how arrogant they are? The implicit assumption is “it’s so obvious that people ought to behave in the way I think they should that only someone denying reality could disagree.”

        8. DavidFriedman

          And as for giving up anti-discrimination law, that’s not a restriction on your freedom from a libertarian perspective

          Correct. People should be free to discriminate for or against others on the basis of what precautions they are or are not taking.

          Thus, for example, the only people outside of my household who I have let into my house in the past five weeks are my older son, his wife and their infant daughter — because they, like us, are self quarantining.

          But your version of the badge doesn’t make much sense. If you are not taking any precautions, it should be pretty obvious in those contexts where others might encounter you, since they observe you not wearing a mask, not social distancing. What I really want to know is whether you are infected.

        9. ana53294

          @Alexander Turok

          No, actually, many of the people who are demanding the end of lockdowns acknowledge the coronavirus is more lethal than the flu, and accept the cost of lifting the lockdown because they see a higher cost to the economy.

        10. Randy M

          It seems to me like everyone demanding an end to the lockdown is also repeating this “corona is the flu” nonsense.

          Not around here (SSC) at least.

        11. DavidFriedman

          It seems to me like everyone demanding an end to the lockdown is also repeating this “corona is the flu” nonsense.

          It seems to me like it’s easier to be confident you are right if you get to make the other side’s arguments for them.

          Have you been reading this blog? If so, have you noticed that some people here think the current lockdown may be a mistake, and none of them are claiming that Corona is the flu?

    3. LesHapablap

      While we are in the mood for trading civil liberties to save lives, we can make abortion illegal. Or, if people really insist on control over their own bodies, they have to get a tattoo on their forehead for each abortion. We can make it a tally like fighter planes get for each kill.

      1. Alexander Turok

        The forehead tattoo doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. In contrast, the corona symbol has a clear purpose of warning others away from the potential danger.

        There were actually suggestions to put tattoos on the butts of people who had AIDS.

        1. LesHapablap

          More to the point: I find it depressing that human lives have such a wide range of value. The average age of COVID-19 death is about 79, and yet we are willing to spend something on the order of $1MM to $40MM per life saved. You can save a child from dying from malaria for about $2k. There is no clamoring to save African children though. To a westerner, one elderly westerner is worth between 500 and 20,000 Africans.

          Or in another context: we are perfectly willing to kill many Iraqis and some Americans in order to depose a despot like Saddam Hussein. A busload of soldiers dies or a wedding gets bombed and that is business as usual, normal, expected.

          I find it particularly annoying to be lectured about how we can’t put a value on human lives from people that will spend more on medical care for their own pet than that of a human being in another country.

        2. Alexander Turok

          I think we should put a value on human lives and would like to see the calculations. There was an estimate in TheMotte of about 30,000 per life-year, which compared favorably to standard medical care. I also think the desire of younger people to not be sickened should also count.

          Also, a not inconsiderable portion of the ‘economic loss’ involves the shuttering of zero-sum signaling games which don’t produce any value.

        3. Skeptic

          Zero sum games? What

          People will lose their homes, some will become homeless. Tens of millions will go bankrupt. Marriages will dissolve, millions of families will implode.

          Hundreds of thousands will turn to drugs or alcoholism.

        4. matkoniecz

          Divorce rates have skyrocketed in Wuhan after the lockdown was lightened.

          Not sure. Note that during lockdown it was impossible to divorce, one week of doubling divorces after one week of making impossible to divorce would result in 0 additional divorces.

          Wuhan has reopened to see its divorce rate double

          For how long?

    4. bv7bd

      I really wish you’d hold yourself to a higher standard of discussion than “freedumb”.

      1. Alexander Turok

        Point taken, thanks.

        I composed the idea for use on the Unz Review comment section and exported some of that persona here, will try not to do so in the future.

    5. DavidFriedman

      It would be useful if there was some way of distinguishing four categories — people who are infected, people who might be infected, people who are definitely not infected, and people who are immune. Your proposal doesn’t do it very well. For one thing, “people who work jobs which must be done” are as much at risk as people who work jobs that don’t have to be done, so your symbol does a poor job of distinguishing those who might well be infected from those very unlikely to be, which suggests that your real objective is not to provide information to others as to whom they should avoid but to punish people who don’t act as you want them to. For another, someone who isn’t in lockdown but has gotten a negative test recently is unlikely to be infected, so shouldn’t have to wear your symbol. More generally, your symbol isn’t a sign of likelihood to be contagious so much as of not having followed the particular strategy for avoiding contagion that you prefer.

      I suggest instead three symbols, all based on testing. One is for people who have had the virus, recovered, and so are presumptively neither contagious nor at risk. They ought to command a wage premium on the market, both because they are not a risk to others and because they don’t have to be protected in their work.

      A second is for someone who has recently been tested and found not to be infected. The third is for someone known to be infected. Others wear no special symbol, indicating that they might or might not be contagious.

      1. Alexander Turok

        For one thing, “people who work jobs which must be done” are as much at risk as people who work jobs that don’t have to be done

        The assumption is that those working in essential jobs will still follow the rules outside of their workplace.

        which suggests that your real objective is not to provide information to others as to whom they should avoid but to punish people who don’t act as you want them to

        On some level. You don’t want to be in a situation where your healthcare workers are suffering negative repercussions for doing their jobs. But of course that needs to be balanced against the safety of everyone else. So you could change it to a three-tier system of deniers, essential workers, and quarantiners, with the immune able to move among all the groups freely.

        1. DavidFriedman

          You might think about the implication of “deniers,” both in this context and in the more common context of climate arguments.

          You undoubtedly deny the truth of some propositions I think are true. What do I imply if I label you a denier? What would I have to believe to justify the label? Is that belief justified? Is it in your case?

    6. ana53294

      The whole point of breaking quarantine is so they can work and go to the shops, and socialize with people at places of business.

      Except for Spain and Italy, AFAIK, people are still allowed to go out for a walk in the park. You’re already allowed to do that. Breaking the quarantine is to get everything else (get a job, date, go to church, etc.).

      And yeah, “freedumb” is a mind-killing attack on the outgroup. Just because others value some things more than you do, doesn’t mean they’re dumb.

      1. Radu Floricica

        We had Italy/Spain isolation in Romania even with a much lighter case load. Probably worse, if you take into consideration the absurdly high fines (500-4000 EUR). There’s also the logic that less confident you are in your health system, more motivated you are in having a hard quarantine, so we’re probably not a singular case.

        1. ana53294

          The fines in Spain are 300-60,000 euros.

          There’s also the logic that less confident you are in your health system, more motivated you are in having a hard quarantine, so we’re probably not a singular case.

          Or maybe countries with more autocratic regimes enjoy the power trip and were just looking for an excuse.

          The lack of trust of Romanians in their health system is a reason to voluntarily self-isolate, not to impose strict home jail on everybody.

        2. Radu Floricica

          Strange thing is, we have a very new temporary government, closest to (ideologically) libertarian we’ve ever had. And they have everything to lose by pushing too much right now – elections are coming in a few months. Whatever this is, I’m pretty sure it’s not autocracy. Incompetence, maybe. Or plain fear.

          We can go out but with a written plan for the trip, and there’s rumor of people being fined for small mistakes or misunderstandings. And given the size of the fine, it’s a pretty big incentive to stay on the safe side. Which is probably what they intended, so in this respect it’s working.

          How are you personally happy with Spain’s, btw? I was wondering.

        3. ana53294

          I don’t live in Spain at the moment (I’m a PhD student in the UK). But no, I’m not happy with a system that is driving my family members and close friends nuts, and is impoverishing people who have just started to recover from the previous crisis (saved enough for a deposit, got a stable job, that kind of thing).

          But I’ve been against the lockdown from the beginning, since I don’t think it’s worth the cost. And the way it was implemented in Spain had so much more to do with politics. It was implemented the 11th of march, just three days after the 8th of march, after our politicians were telling us that it was perfectly safe to go out for the demonstrations. Since this government is explicitly trying to appear feminist, it shows the kind of political thinking going on.

          So I see it as a power play on the autonomy (health is supposed to be a transferred competence in the Basque country, at least), and one done after a massive politically motivated fuckup.

      2. The Nybbler

        Except for Spain and Italy, AFAIK, people are still allowed to go out for a walk in the park.

        In New Jersey most parks are closed. Same in Texas until tomorrow.

      3. John Schilling

        Except for Spain and Italy, AFAIK, people are still allowed to go out for a walk in the park.

        I’m on the far side of an ocean and a continent from Spain and Italy, and I’m not allowed to go out for a walk in the park.

    7. Deiseach

      I’ve suggested a plan to give people their freedumb back if it’s what they want.

      C’mon mate, I’m pro-social distancing and lockdowns and caution and prudence but this kind of language isn’t helpful. What next, you’re going to rant about “sheeple”?

    8. Deiseach

      The problem is that the risk isn’t confined to oneself; if you get sick who are you going to infect?

      If the risk amongst the “healthy 20-40 year old population” is minimal, then great, take your chances – oh, but what about any 40 year old asthmatics? or 20 year old Type 1 diabetics? There’s a proportion of the “healthy young population” that is not that healthy.

      “Herd immunity” is a great concept – if it’s done under controlled circumstances. As it stands, these circumstances are not controlled; it’s not like “expose little Johnny to the measles” (and remember, back before all this, the concerns over the rising cases of measles and mumps and anti-vaxxers?)

      1. The Nybbler

        There isn’t any way to avoid these risks. Either we reach herd immunity (and right now there is no controlled way of doing it) based on an R0 for an unrestricted population, or we stay restricted indefinitely.

      1. matkoniecz

        Because at time of proposing them such quarantines would be lasting for the entire life?

        And waiting for a full cure would mean life-long quarantines also nowadays?

        1. John Schilling

          Because at time of proposing them such quarantines would be lasting for the entire life?

          No, just until the FDA approves a vaccine or a cure for AIDS. Which seems to be exactly the standard for the coronavirus quarantine, so the analogy holds.

  16. HeelBearCub

    So, in other news from that press conference yesterday, we got the following interesting information that gives us a plausible reason to believe that sunshine and humidity (seasonality) do indeed reduce R0, by at least some amount.


    Type -- | Temp | Hum | Sun -- | Dur.
    --------|------|-----|--------|------------
    Surface | 70-75F 20% | No Sun | 18 hours
    Surface | 70-75F 80% | No Sun | 6 hours
    Surface | 95F -- 80% | No Sun | 1 hour
    Surface | 70-75F 80% | Summer | 2 minutes
    Aerosol | 70-75F 20% | No Sun | 1 hour
    Aerosol | 70-75F 20% | Summer | 1.5 minutes

    (Has to be a better way to do tabular data, right?).

    The reason given for humidity mattering is that it essentially diluted the saliva, which was needed to keep the virus viable.

    So that gives a plausible mechanism for seasonality. But, it also strongly cautions against gathering in dry, indoor air, or at night.

    Of course we don’t know how these things affect R0. What steps would you take to harness this information?

    1. Erusian

      Honestly, I kind of want to gut check this. Miami or Puerto Rico have been in those temperatures and humidities for most of the outbreak. Are they seriously underperforming the rest of the country in infection rate? If you expect weather will have that effect, then we should see differences where the weather conditions already match that.

      1. Matt M

        If outdoor transmission of the virus is rare in all cases (relative to indoor at least) then this won’t have much of a regional effect overall. Which I suspect might very well be true.

        1. Erusian

          The data says it should be reducing the lifespan of the virus indoors with no sunlight from days to a few hours. That should still be having a serious effect if true, not to mention the fact that equatorial regions also get a lot of sunlight which might reduce its lifespan well under an hour.

          1. Matt M

            In the south, people love their AC though.

            I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the average indoor temperature in the summer in Houston was colder than the average indoor temperature in the summer in New York.

          2. HeelBearCub

            I agree that it would be good to compare this to whatever we might know about spread in equatorial regions.

            But I haven’t seen a lot of data on that. I’m also not sure what percentage of those we might be likely to get data from have AC. I would think there would be selection bias favoring that, at least somewhat.

          3. HeelBearCub

            So, here is some data on New Orleans humidity in February (the month before Mardi Gras, which led to a large outbreak.

            Humidity average over 70%, pretty much year round. A data point moderately against humidity hugely affecting R0.

          4. Erusian

            In the south, people love their AC though.

            I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the average indoor temperature in the summer in Houston was colder than the average indoor temperature in the summer in New York.

            Except the question is whether seasonality will affect the virus’s spread. AC is a constant: you have it in New Orleans and Boston. But while New Orleans will be hot and humid both now and in the summer, Boston will be colder now and warmer in the summer. In effect, Boston has seasonality while New Orleans has the conditions Boston is hoping will change the calculus.

            If you’re counting on seasonality (specifically heat and humidity) to have an effect, you should be observing that effect in New Orleans or Miami or wherever now. If it’s foiled by AC, it will be foiled by AC in Boston in summer too.

          5. Uribe

            New Orleans and Miami both had big festivals which appear to be the source of spread. These are festivals in which tens of thousands of people from all over the globe pack themselves as tightly as they can into bars, yelling, touching, kissing strangers from early in the day till the small hours of night. The effects of humidity never had a fighting chance.

          6. Jake R

            New Orleans the past few weeks has been as hot and humid as some parts of the country ever get. That said the numbers here don’t look too bad if you squint. It’s possible we had one really bad event (Mardi Gras) and apart from that the spread hasn’t been too bad.

          7. baconbits9

            I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the average indoor temperature in the summer in Houston was colder than the average indoor temperature in the summer in New York.

            AC certainly makes the air dryer relative to the outdoors as well.

    2. Edward Scizorhands

      As much as people make fun of Florida for opening (some) beaches, it looks much safer than being at the grocery store.

    3. Randy M

      In a not terribly surprising turn of events, I’m going to admit some ignorance here.

      Why are viruses is this virus harder to spread in humidity? It seems to me that water spreads everything better, especially across mucus membranes in humans.

      Is it basically functioning to periodically collect water soluble droplets and pull them out of the air, like small drops on your windshield coalescing and rolling down?

      1. HeelBearCub

        I edited in a that what was presented is that the humidity essentially mixed water with the saliva, effectively diluting it and making the droplet less hospitable to the virus.

        Whether that is a generic result, I don’t know. This presented as novel information, but it could be just reconfirming something we’ve always known. Although, I’ve never heard this discussed in reference to flu seasonality, so we might be breaking new ground.

        1. Deiseach

          I edited in a that what was presented is that the humidity essentially mixed water with the saliva, effectively diluting it and making the droplet less hospitable to the virus.

          At the risk of sounding like Donald Trump here, so the old home remedies like gargling with salt water might indeed be of some use? You’d definitely be diluting saliva and spitting everything out, and if you did it regularly every hour or couple of hours, you might see some benefit?

          1. Garrett

            Not enough information. It’s possible that the bits responsible for spreading come from deeper in the lungs and so you’d only be getting trivial improvements. And saliva is continually produced.

          2. HeelBearCub

            Benefit in preventing you being spreader? On the bare edge of maybe, I’d guess. But no effect on either your risk of infection or disease progression, so not at all like the folk remedies.

          3. Kaitian

            Gargling salt water is supposed to help with swelling and pain, and in my experience it does. I don’t think it has any effect beyond that.

          4. HeelBearCub

            @Kaitan:
            I think that frequently gets rounded off to “gargling salt water cures a sore throat”.

            And of course what’s going around social media is that it will keep you from getting covid-19.

    4. Matt M

      What steps would you take to harness this information?

      Immediately re-open every park, playground, and other outdoor space in the Southeastern US.

      1. HeelBearCub

        We don’t yet know how this affects R0. This could all be distinction without a difference, no matter how intuitive it is.

        The question I was asking was how we could smartly determine which actions were prudent.

        1. baconbits9

          So now the default is we can’t do anything until an impossible standard of accuracy in determining its impact on R is made? You wouldn’t accept this in any other scenario in life.

        1. Matt M

          Yeah, and “centralize all economic decisionmaking in the hands of a few government executives” is what a lot of people wanted to do before COVID, too. What’s your point?

      2. Radu Floricica

        I _really_ don’t like mixing parks with playgrounds. Park = place you go for a walk, maybe get an ice cream, sit on a bench and read. Playground = place where little critters run around in close contact with each other.

        One is much safer than a grocery store, the other much less safe.

        1. Evan Þ

          Thankfully, here outside Seattle, the local government has indeed distinguished between the two. Playgrounds have been closed for several weeks, but almost all local parks have been open.

        2. baconbits9

          One is much safer than a grocery store, the other much less safe.

          No, there is no evidence that kids playing on playgrounds is less safe than a grocery store and no reason to believe it is. We have a ton of data showing that outdoor activities are unlikely vectors for transmission and that kids are unlikely to get and spread this illness.

    5. AG

      Just tried inputting an HTML table. No dice.
      My guess is that you should just give the data in csv format, and everyone can open the data in their spreadsheet program of choice.

  17. Two McMillion

    The United States seems to be trapped in a cycle of polarization between the red and blue tribes, and it seems to be getting worse every cycle. How can we fix this?

    1. Matt M

      Dissolve the federal union and return sovereignty to the states (with the option of some of them coming together to form new nations, if they so choose).

      1. salvorhardin

        +1, and you can already predict which subsets would come together to form new nations: the same subsets now coming together to do regional compacts for pandemic response. I for one would love to be an independent Pacific Coaster/West American/Cascadian/whatever, especially after we sign a Schengen style agreement with Canada.

        One of the most important lessons from this and many other recent experiences is that no institution can be governed well if there isn’t a supermajority consensus among the stakeholders on certain basic facts and values. The US doesn’t have that consensus and hasn’t for decades. No matter who you blame for that, it ain’t coming back anytime soon, and there is certainly no 2020 election result that will bring it back.

        1. Skeptical Wolf

          This sounds more like a recipe for war than depolarization. State lines aren’t currently doing a very good job of convincing people to “live and let live”, what makes you think calling the same lines national borders would help?

          More optimistically, I think there is still a substantial set of shared values in the United States, if only because both sides tend to accuse the other of very similar failings (authoritarianism being the easiest one to find examples of). More generally, many/most criticisms of opposite tribes involve ascribing values to them that they do not themselves profess. If there was actually no middle ground left, the dialog would be less like today’s “You’re authoritarian! No, I’m not – you are!” and more like “You’re authoritarian! Yes, and you should be too!”.

          1. Matt M

            This sounds more like a recipe for war than depolarization. State lines aren’t currently doing a very good job of convincing people to “live and let live”, what makes you think calling the same lines national borders would help?

            Because all of society is constantly saying that state lines are silly and irrelevant but national borders are super important and must be respected. People in California are taught, from birth, that is their birthright to be able to boss around people in Mississippi, and vice versa. The way to stop that is to simply stop teaching that. There is no culture war between California and Alberta, or between Alabama and Quebec, because there’s no expectation of association between those places.

            If there was actually no middle ground left, the dialog would be less like today’s “You’re authoritarian! No, I’m not – you are!” and more like “You’re authoritarian! Yes, and you should be too!”.

            Because in modern usage, “authoritarian” is just a buzzword that means “bad.” It is a contentless smear.

        1. Matt M

          Do you think the people of all three countries would be happier/better off had they been forced to remain together under one unitary government?

          1. LadyJane

            That’s a very hard question to answer, especially while the events are still in progress and we don’t have the benefit of hindsight. For instance, if India and Pakistan vaporize each other’s largest cities in a nuclear exchange, it’s safe to say the answer would be yes, they’d have been better off a single united nation. It’s an admittedly extreme and unlikely example, but I think it proves my point.

            Let’s say a full-scale non-nuclear war breaks out between India and Pakistan. Would that be better or worse than a civil war drawn along similar geographic and demographic lines in an alternate universe where they were still the same country? I’m really not sure.

      1. Erusian

        Ah yes, Sulla. Famously the guy who ended all factionalism and strife in the Roman Republic forever and ensured no civil war would ever happen again. (/s, obviously)

        1. Wrong Species

          It’s a meme I’ve seen. He’s basically the father figure that ends our squabbling through brute force. The non-tongue-in-cheek argument would be something like that Rome was inevitably heading towards strongman rule and that Sulla’s only problem was trying to turn it back to a Republic instead of passing the mandate on. The better example would obviously be Augustus, but of course, the Republic was already dead at that point anyways.

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            @Wrong Species: technically popular rule and the republican constitution don’t die until two progressive brothers are murdered by wealthy politicians, then the citizen army is replaced by professionals and political norms are eroded in the name of the common people (Marius), then the Sullan dictatorship followed by–

            … oh, well crap.

    2. HeelBearCub

      I honestly don’t know the answer.

      But I would suggest that the following is at the very least not helpful:

      Yep, Trump’s a dolt. Probably going to vote for him anyway. Such is life.

      I’m not sure if writing that caused you to write this, but it is an interesting duality.

      1. CatCube

        This is just as true today as it was when it was posted two years ago.

        I fall out a little bit differently that @Two McMillion, where I think Trump’s a dolt and probably won’t vote for him, but I’m not going to vote for the party of baby-murder either.

        1. HeelBearCub

          I’m not going to vote for the party of baby-murder either.

          Ah. So nice to see that in a post bemoaning the rise of polarization.

          1. CatCube

            *Shrug* If the Democrats want my vote they can change their platform to not be so monstrous. Republicans nominating Trump doesn’t change that fundamental fact.

          2. albatross11

            More broadly, there are many people who see some important aspect of one party’s likely policies as so horrible, they’re never going to be okay voting for them. With respect to abortion, there are substantial numbers of voters on both sides for whom that’s the core issue–I’ve certainly seen plenty of appeals to shut up and vote for the Democrat for president because it’s the only way to protect abortion rights from a Republican appointing too many supreme court justices.

          3. Deiseach

            Ah. So nice to see that in a post bemoaning the rise of polarization.

            Given this article, which starts off with how Crisis Pregnancy Centres are serving poor women in deprived communities (and which had me thinking “Well, the New Yorker Magazine is covering this fraught topic in an admirably even-handed manner”) but which then slid into “pro-life is anti-woman, anti-poor, taking money from the poor and giving it to programmes which force women to have babies, and it’s all got Mike Pence behind it who is driven by religious ideology” of the usual type I originally expected, I’m with CatCube on this: if they’re so wedded to baby murder, then call a spade a spade.

            I’ve read screeching articles by both professional journalists and ordinary people calling for pregnancy centres to be made illegal because if they’re not offering abortion, they’re fraudulent and trying to trick women by fear and coercion into continuing with pregnancies, and it’s all to do with relgious bigots and fanatics trying to control and punish women’s sexuality as well as being homophobes and transphobes yadda yadda yadda. I think ‘baby-murder’ is exactly the term.

            The Wikipedia article on this topic is cute.

            However, CPCs have also frequently been found to disseminate false medical information, usually about the supposed physical and mental health risks of abortion, but sometimes also about the effectiveness of condoms and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections.

            CPCs are typically run by Christians who adhere to a strictly socially conservative viewpoint …During the Presidency of George W. Bush (2001–2009) CPCs received tens of millions of dollars in federal grants. As of 2015, more than half of the U.S. states helped to fund crisis pregnancy centers either directly and/or through the sale of Choose Life license plates.

            Legal and legislative action regarding CPCs has generally attempted to curb deceptive advertising …While CPCs often look like abortion clinics and are intentionally located near them, most are not legally licensed as medical clinics and do not offer medical services. …CPCs have been criticized for misleading advertising, for the dissemination of inaccurate medical information, for religious proselytism, and for subjecting clients to graphic videos. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, an independent abortion-providing agency, said that young women were particularly vulnerable to religiously-influenced anti-abortion “Crisis Pregnancy Centres”, unregulated by the National Health Service, because many of the women knew less about the healthcare system or did not want to consult their family GP

            I particularly liked the comparison with abortion provision centres – so those do offer medical services, hmmm? Funny, I seem to remember howls of protest about requiring such places to have admitting privileges to local hospitals as this was all part of a sinister plot to force them to close down. And it’s nice to see we can take the word of an independent abortion-providing agency as fair, unbiased, disinterested, and certainly not with an agenda of their own.

          4. Baeraad

            I think ‘baby-murder’ is exactly the term.

            Would that make you happy? Fine. I admit it, you caught me. I consider myself to have the right to murder any baby that, in order to continue living, would require me to be mutilated and tortured. And especially if, even after I was done screaming, it would try to hormonally brainwash me into destroying my life for its benefit. I would not necessarily be happy to have to do it, but if it was me or it, guess what? I was here first.

            That, however, is the only circumstance in which I would want the right to murder a baby. It is not a circumstance that I expect will occur in my own life, but since I want that right for myself, I also want it for the people for whom it is more possible that it will at some point be a concern.

        2. Garrett

          I’m just disappointed that the Democrats don’t actively support baby murder. It’s hard for me to intellectually care and shape policy about a being that’s so fragile it can suffocate if put on the ground in the wrong way.

    3. bv7bd

      We can’t fix it because the politicians don’t want to fix it.

      My list of things that would help a lot includes:
      * end gerrymandering
      * jungle primaries
      * take party affiliation off the ballot
      * state funding only for political campaigns

      I think these reforms would remove power from the political parties and make centrist candidates more viable.

    4. Skeptical Wolf

      This is a really hard question. But it’s one that I’d like to try to engage with, rather than just snarking away.
      So consider this a brainstorm and feel free to add to it.

      1. Rebuild a centrist media. Much hay has been made over media bubbles and politicized news, but I know one major challenge to cross-tribal discussions is the difficulty of finding any news source that at least one side won’t reflexively distrust (usually with good reason).

      2. Push political reforms that would erode the two-party system. Parliamentary representation and ranked-choice-voting are both possibilities, but by no means the only ones. Serious campaign finance reform might help here, but is probably not sufficient on its own.

      3. Figure out a way to make appealing to undecided/centrist voters more effective for the parties than increasing turnout among their core base. My favorite idea for this is to make any registered party member that doesn’t vote worth 50-60% of a straight ticket vote (thus halving the relative benefit of convincing them to go to the polls relative to getting someone undecided to vote for you). Any other method of making voting substantially easier could probably have a similar effect (among many others).

      4. Invent artificial wombs. Abortion is one of the main wedge issues between the tribes and this is a technology that would enable a compromise that most people on both sides might actually be able to live with.

      5. Develop a healthier social media culture/ecosystem. I’m somewhat optimistic that this will happen organically as more people encounter social media during their formative years.

      6. Form some kind of activist group dedicated to moving calls for violence outside the Overton window. I know I had an easier time being charitable to my political opponents before I read my hundredth “people like you should be shot” article. If we could take one step back from this sort of rhetoric, I think it might help people step back from siege mentality.

      7. Actively promote anti-polarization values. While culture consists of more than the sum of individual actions in the moment, those actions do exert a real influence. I know this sounds idealistic, but it’s how several major social changes came about in the last century and change.

      1. Garrett

        I read every one of those while concurrently asking: “and how is this going to be used against me?”

        1. Skeptical Wolf

          We live in an environment with a lot of groups trying to weaponize vast swaths of society against each other, so that sort of caution is entirely reasonable. But would you prefer the status quo?

          Put another way, someone has to be the first to deescalate. If one believes that any deescalation is merely weakness that will be ruthlessly exploited, then “How can we reduce polarization?” is the wrong question and we should be asking “How can we completely defeat our outgroup?”. I am more optimistic than that. We’re fond of calling this sort of conflict “Culture War”, but wars can be ended by measures short of one side’s annihilation.

      2. salvorhardin

        Re: centrist media, you need an audience and you can’t force people to listen. It’s not clear to me how centrism is going to hold its own against polarizing clickbait.

        Re: political reforms, I would love this, but actually enacting most of the big ones requires supermajority consensus (e.g. for constitutional amendments) that in the current environment amounts to assuming a can opener. RCV state by state and NPV compact expansion are worth pursuing, though.

        Re: anti polarization values, what prior social changes would you model anti-polarization on? The big social changes that come to mind from living memory are largely those where what is now the consensus view used to be a polarizing view (and before that was a fringe view). The change didn’t happen by avoiding polarization, but by leaning into it and achieving complete cultural victory for one side.

        Ending explicit racial discrimination and allowing gay marriage were both of this type, for example. In both those cases the side that won did so partly by finding sympathetic victims of the other side’s preferred policies, partly by letting the other side defeat themselves in the court of public opinion by their own inflexible and inhumane defensive responses. Both sides of the abortion debate see themselves as heirs to the civil rights revolution; both have pushed hard on this exact strategy for decades and failed. Advocates for loosened immigration restrictions are starting to use this strategy now (e.g. highlighting the kids in cages) with modest and uncertain effect. But I don’t see examples of successful movements achieving cultural change through depolarization and reconciliation and compromise. Do you?

        1. matkoniecz

          But I don’t see examples of successful movements achieving cultural change through depolarization and reconciliation and compromise. Do you?

          Religion A vs religion B ending in a religious freedom.

          I am not talking about a modern Europe, where it is mostly achieved by not caring about religion. But rather about examples of areas with religious freedom during say, medieval times.

          —-

          Political situation in Western and Central Europe after WW II can be also described as of 2020 as “depolarization and reconciliation and compromise”.

          1. salvorhardin

            Yeah, those are good examples, and it’s noteworthy that they occurred in the aftermath of terrible, exhausting wars. IIRC Jacques Barzun has a discussion in _From Dawn to Decadence_ about how the modern idea of tolerance was seeded by that sort of postwar exhaustion, where two groups had fought each other to a standstill and were simply unable to go on, and it’s not clear whether it would have ever taken off otherwise.

        2. albatross11

          I don’t think we know what media will look like in ten years. Most of the industry is not financially viable, and clickbait to harvest ad revenue from hatereads is probably not actually a workable strategy to support it. Certainly not to support anything worthwhile, and probably not to support anything at all.

          With a different funding model will presumably come different incentives and constraints, and thus different behavior. I sure don’t feel like I have a good intuition what that will look like, though.

        3. Skeptical Wolf

          Re: centrist media, you need an audience and you can’t force people to listen. It’s not clear to me how centrism is going to hold its own against polarizing clickbait.

          I’m not interested in forcing people to listen, I’m interested in people having the option to do so. Reliable information and righteous outrage are different products. I don’t currently buy one because I don’t particularly like it, but would happily buy the other if I could find someone selling it. I don’t think this is an inherent state of affairs so much as a correctable market failure.

          Re: anti polarization values, what prior social changes would you model anti-polarization on? … The change didn’t happen by avoiding polarization, but by leaning into it and achieving complete cultural victory for one side.

          The examples you provided will work fine. The gay rights movement didn’t succeed by making straight people stop being straight. Its “complete cultural victory” was to spread the idea that culture need not be homogeneously straight. That looks a lot more like depolarization to me than it does destroying one’s enemies.

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            The gay rights movement didn’t succeed by making straight people stop being straight. Its “complete cultural victory” was to spread the idea that culture need not be homogeneously straight. That looks a lot more like depolarization to me than it does destroying one’s enemies.

            You’re forgetting destroying the enemies’ bakeries.

          2. Skeptical Wolf

            They also liked to shut down adoption agencies. And as we’ve seen in recent threads, trying to shut down emergency hospitals.

            I have not been aware of this and my search-fu has failed me. Would you be willing to share a link?

          3. ana53294

            They also liked to shut down adoption agencies.

            They did not succeed, but they tried.

            And as for hospitals, it’s about Samaritan’s purse denying a gay volunteer because he wouldn’t accept their guiding principles.

          4. The Nybbler

            @ana53294

            And as for hospitals, it’s about Samaritan’s purse denying a gay volunteer because he wouldn’t accept their guiding principles.

            Other way around. A gay activist volunteered and refused to accept their principles in order to provide a cause of action against Samaritan’s Purse.

          5. ana53294

            @The Nybbler

            That’s what I meant, but I guess my wording was poor. But somehow I came to say the opposite of what I meant (although I still don’t see the mistake).

        4. Kindly

          It’s not clear to me how centrism is going to hold its own against polarizing clickbait.

          That part seems easy. Polarizing clickbait gets shared because it pisses people off. Centrism pisses off twice as many people.

          1. LadyJane

            Centrism pisses off twice as many people.

            That certainly describes my social media experience.

    5. AG

      1. Change election systems to not be FPTP. (Or, make it a rotation of election systems.)
      2. Make it so that voting is easy-and-often.

  18. Nancy Lebovitz

    Stolen Valor (30 minutes)

    Stolen Valor is falsely claiming to have been in the military and/or to have gotten honors.

    It’s unsurprising that there are people making these claims, though I’m amazed at the gall of people including false claims as part of their political campaigns. Democrats *and* Republicans, in case you were wondering.

    What really surprises me is that people who haven’t been in the military are able to fool those who have been in the same branch in the same campaign. Military talk has so much jargon and detail that I’m amazed an outsider can get it right. Maybe it’s no harder than learning a new language? Still, learning a language isn’t the same as convincingly appearing to be a native of a particular place. Maybe military experiences are so varied that when a statement seems to be a little off, it’s written off to that.

    One of the fakers in the podcast said he’d had a head injury, so he was cut slack for a while.

    It gets weirder– while making these false claims (some of them are to get quicker service at the VA) is illegal, the easiest way to make it possible to check on them would be for the military to make service records public. This has been declared illegal on privacy and freedom of speech(!) grounds. In general, freedom of speech doesn’t include fraud, though I’m interested in other examples.

    I don’t *think* people generally have a privacy interest in keeping their military record quiet (assume an honorable discharge), and at least there could be an opt-in system for disclosure.

    Also, the podcast includes a snippet of the Marine choir singing “Let the Sunshine In”. This is from “Hair”, a profoundly anti-war musical. I don’t think it has much to do with the subject, but I can see the temptation to include it. The narrator points out the irony. The lyric fits the subject, but still…

    1. Matt M

      What really surprises me is that people who haven’t been in the military are able to fool those who have been in the same branch in the same campaign. Military talk has so much jargon and detail that I’m amazed an outsider can get it right.

      I didn’t watch your video, but my impression is that most of these people are the types that are very much interested in and fascinated by the military, such that they learn enough about it “as a hobby” that they can speak the jargon convincingly enough.

      Most of it isn’t literally secret in any way. If you have military friends and keep up with (public) military information sources and such, you can immerse yourself in the culture without actually being of the culture.

      Edit: For a perhaps too close to home example, do you not think that our very own bean could pass for a Naval officer, if he so chose?

      1. Nancy Lebovitz

        I think bean would be excellent about ships. I’m not as sure that he’d get details of daily life right.

        You’ve got a point about hobbyists, thoguh.

        1. Matt M

          I think bean would be excellent about ships. I’m not as sure that he’d get details of daily life right.

          I think he could. And remember, you don’t have to get every last thing 100% right. You just have to get enough right such that nobody is willing to publicly accuse you of being a complete and total fraud.

          1. John Schilling

            Bean would have the additional advantage of having hung out with a whole lot of naval veterans for a long and amicable time. That probably counts for more than knowing about the hardware and the history.

    2. baconbits9

      What really surprises me is that people who haven’t been in the military are able to fool those who have been in the same branch in the same campaign

      I think that if someone defaults to trusting you then you get a lot of leeway and if someone who defaults to not trusting you then you get a lot of scrutiny. I would expect that saying you were in the same branch of service as a military man would default to trust, you would really have to be obviously faking it to break that for most people.

    3. bean

      One probably underappreciated aspect of this is that a lot of veterans do not have clear memories. I don’t mean that perjoratisvely. I’ve met a lot of very nice veterans who swore up and down to things I can prove are not true. A lot have told me that battleships move sideways when they fire. They’re arguing with basic physics, and as an engineer, conservation of momentum beats everything except thermodynamics. One insisted they’d had remote control of their Tomahawks in Desert Storm, a capability that is well-documented to have arrived over a decade later. If you’re familiar with this (and I imagine it’s just as bad on non-technical subjects) you’ll probably cut people slack and/or use it to your advantage.

      As for actually knowing this stuff, it’s not that hard to pick up if you’re interested enough. I’ve been a military nerd for 20 years now, and in that time, it’s possible to soak up a lot of the culture. My biggest surprise from my visit to the USS America was how much it was like I expected. Unless you take the BS too far (claiming to be a SEAL/Ranger is the common pitfall here) or happen to get really unlucky, it really wouldn’t be too hard to get away with.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        Unless you take the BS too far (claiming to be a SEAL/Ranger is the common pitfall here) or happen to get really unlucky, it really wouldn’t be too hard to get away with.

        Especially if you claim to have served 1500 tours of duty.

    1. HeelBearCub

      Dan Carlin (Hardcore History) would disagree, IIRC.

      I believe he has referenced ancient works that sound a lot like descriptions of PTSD, for example when he did the review of the various Greek vs. Persian Empire battles in “King of Kings”. But, like I said, IIRC.

      1. Lambert

        ACOUP counters that those are a few cherrypicked accounts from a historical record that follows milennia of endemic warfare.

        1. Thomas Jorgensen

          Millenia of war, handful of written accounts, and those mostly written by people deeply, deeply steeped in honor and glory cultures. It would not have mattered if a fifth of all their friends were suffering from ptsd, they would very rarely write about it.

          1. John Schilling

            Explicitly addressed by acoup, and no – we’ve got enough material from people who explicitly weren’t honor/glory martial enthusiasts that widespread PTSD should be evident and isn’t. For example, monasteries had instruction manuals on how to take care of all the honorable glorious warriors who had gotten sick of all that and wanted to retire to monastic life, and the troubles they describe don’t seem to match up with PTSD.

          2. Belisaurus Rex

            One of the book reviews here suggested that PTSD was caused by immobility while traumatic things were happening to you, so more like being in a trench that was being shelled than fighting for your life at close range.

    2. Filareta

      It’s strange that author didn’t consider change in fighting tools as cause for emergence of PTSD.

      BTW if it is true and rightly explained by the “change of culture” hypothesis, then we have a question about culture and other causes of PTSD to answer.

      1. Wrong Species

        It’s strange that author didn’t consider change in fighting tools as cause for emergence of PTSD.

        It certainly sounds plausible. I remember hearing about a WW1 soldier who was fine with a rifle but couldn’t handle artillery. If I was going to theorize, I would suggest that it was because our weapons are more… not abstract but something like that. It’s one thing when your enemy pulls out a knife. But an RPG or a mine is just something that springs up out of nowhere, killing a group of people in an instance. There used to be a more clear delineation between combat and non-combat. But when you’re on patrol, you could suddenly die from an explosive at any moment. Maybe that kind of messes with your mindset, making the transition out of the military more difficult.

        1. SamChevre

          There’s a theory I’ve run across, but can’t find quickly, that PTSD is primarily driven by artillery, theorized to be due to the concussive effect.

          1. albatross11

            I know (somewhat distantly) a guy who was caught up in a mass-shooting, and he apparently had serious PTSD symptoms for many years afterwards. The SWAT team did *shoot* the mass-shooter in the course of rescuing this guy and the other people caught in the middle of it, but they didn’t use any artillery.

          2. John Schilling

            I think we’ve discussed this here recently, and it’s a nice story that doesn’t really hold up. Doctors in WWI who specifically looked, couldn’t find much difference in “shell shock” rate or severity among soldiers who had been exposed to artillery and those who hadn’t. If you spent enough time on the line, you were at risk even if people were “only” trying to kill you with machine guns. Also, while traumatic brain injury is a thing, artillery does most of its killing by fragmentation rather than blast. Before the invention of kevlar, if you were close enough to an exploding shell to get clinically significant TBI, the TBI was probably the least of your worries.

            It was, however, a very nice story back in WWI, because the official policy was still to shoot soldiers for cowardice or “lack of moral fiber”. Which almost nobody really wanted to do, so commanders were very happy to have doctors spin them a bit of pseudoscience about how this was really a physiological injury no different than e.g. a bayonet thrust even if the symptoms don’t include bleeding. So it stuck in the popular consciousness, and military and to some extent even medical lore.

          3. Randy M

            this was really a physiological injury

            This reminds me of the story of Sammy Jenkis’ wife in Memento, who really wanted her husbands injury to be physiological rather than psychological, because psychological means you can stop if you really want to.

            Of course, that’s hardly evidence of much, being a fictitious story inside a fictitious story. But it illustrates the mindset of the time, perhaps.

          4. Garrett

            That doesn’t explain how people in non-military events can develop PTSD. Like public safety or rape victims.

    3. baconbits9

      How would you pick it up against the background noise? During large swaths of history losing multiple children to death before they reached adult hood was the norm, what does PTSD look like when the average soldier has watched multiple siblings die before he goes to war?

    4. cassander

      My understanding of PTSD is that it’s caused by extended exposure to the feeling of “people are trying to kill you.” The vast majority of casualties in all wars prior to the 20th century were caused by disease/hunger/exposure, not the enemy, and most of ancient armies would spend very little time in the presence of the enemy. You’d march around for months, but outside of sieges, the battle would be over in a few hours. Modern combat requires (and enables) soldiers to spend far more of their time within reach of the enemy, so you’d expect far more PTSD.

      That said, this is a very controversial topic among people interested in the issue.

    5. edmundgennings

      Why not compromise. PTSD did occur but at far lower rates. High rates of PTSD for much of history are prima facia implausible. It is non adaptive and does not seemingly driven by genetic load. Full modern PTSD would not have been adaptive and yet would impose costs historically which implies that it is new. A certain high level of caution perhaps and even some manifestation of excessive caution would be an acceptable cost but PTSD suffered by a significant percent of the fighting population seems way too high.
      But evo psych is speculative and most reaction to trauma seems maladaptive.

      1. Thomas Jorgensen

        Azathoth is not that efficient an engineer. Something being mal adaptive is not a very good argument as to whether it exists. Evolution is powerful. It is also the blind gibbering god falling about with no plan, no purpose and no intent.

    6. John Schilling

      I was surprised by the lack of discussion about the fundamental difference between ancient and modern warfare.

      Ancient warfare was basically a long, miserable camping trip with your best buddies, punctuated by very occasionally spending a few hours in mortal combat of the most glorious(*) type. And “long, miserable camping trip with your best buddies” is something that some of my best buddies report as being one of the great formative experiences of their life. Somewhere between 1850 and 1915, that transformed into very prolonged near-continuous mortal combat where you can’t even take a nap without having to tune out the harassing artillery fire that might kill you before you wake.

      And, we are now pretty confident that the most effective treatment for PTSD is that which is prompt, close to the front, in the company of one’s comrades, and followed by getting back onto the (perhaps literal) horse rather than being sent home as a loser/coward/victim while your comrades go back to the front without you. Which is difficult to arrange in modern warfare, but pretty much the default in ancient (or even early modern) conflicts. So, much less exposure to the things that cause PTSD, and a much better environment for recovery. Even if ancient treatment fro PTSD consisted of a quiet chat with the unit chaplain rather than prolonged attention by a professional psychiatrist, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if ancient societies suffered much less in the way of PTSD.

      * relatively speaking; net glory may still be negative, but going shield-to-shield with an honorable foe is way above lobbing shells at map grid over the horizon and even more so being on the receiving end of the shells.

      1. Statismagician

        It occurs to me that this might show up in differential PTSD rates for the World Wars – am I right in remembering that Allied troops get leave individually and German units are rotated out of the line together?

        1. John Schilling

          Yes, and I think we’ve discussed that here before. The Americans blundered into the worst way to handle the issue, and the Germans blundered into the best.

          1. Statismagician

            Yeah, I knew it had come up a few OTs ago but I wasn’t sure I had the details right. Does anybody know if the Germans had an equivalent euphemism to ‘battle fatigue?’ I know the Soviets did, ‘affective shock’ or something like that.

    7. Erusian

      I’ve heard a theory (I think from Grossman) that PTSD is most likely to occur in cases where you have a triggered fight or flight response but cannot act on it and lose a sense of agency.

      If this is the case (and that’s a huge if), you’d expect PTSD to start occurring from combat roughly in the mid to late 19th century. That’s when an important part of warfare became, “Take large amounts of enemy fire and don’t do anything.” Line infantry before that had to take enemy fire but there was a smaller volume and they were expected to shoot back. But the volume of fire by the mid-19th century had become so large that sometimes the best response was to hunker down in a trench and wait until the bullets and bombs stop flying. We don’t use trenches as often but soldiers still have the experience of getting pinned in mobile warfare.

  19. Tatterdemalion

    I wonder if some of the people arguing that the lockdowns to reduce spread of coronavirus should be lifted are being mislead by an instinct that’s generally sensible but doesn’t apply here, for interesting reasons.

    To a spherical-cow level of approximation, we have two problems – people dying of coronavirus, and people losing their livelihoods because of the countermeasures – the severity of which is determined by a single parameter: how severe the countermeasures are. The more steps you take to stop coronavirus spreading, the less severe the medical consequences will be, but the more severe the economic consequences will become.

    The goal, obviously, is to choose a level of severity that minimises the sum of the two problems.

    In general, in this sort of problem – minimising the sum of an increasing and a decreasing function of a single parameter – there’s a very useful heuristic, which is “balance the two sides”. That won’t necessarily give you the lowest total cost, but it will always get you within a factor of two of it, because even if making the lockdown just slightly more/less severe than the point where the two costs balance were to completely eliminate one of them, the other could only increase, and so you’re still left with at least half the problem.

    Now, obviously, I don’t think that most people are actually thinking in terms of algorithmic optimisation here. But I do think that a lot of people have the instinct “if we’re trying to trade off evils A and B, and B is much worse than A, then that means we should probably accept more A in order to get less B”. And most of the time that instinct is absolutely correct. So why isn’t it here?

    Well, first of all the dual of the rule “balanced solutions are always close to opimal” is not true: optimal solutions are not always close to balanced. In particular, if the derivative of one of the two functions is high, an optimal solution may be radically unbalanced.

    In this case, as I understand it, in fixed conditions coronavirus will either spread or decline roughly exponentially. If n people have it today, then about rn people will have it tomorrow, and r^2n people the next day, for some number r. This exponential growth or shrinkage will continue until either a) most of the population has been infected and we achieve herd immunity, b) coronavirus dies out, or c) we tighten or relax our social distancing rules and change the value of r.

    Let us say that there are going to be 200 days more of this, and then a vaccine will be discovered and coronavirus will magically go away. So, barring changes to social distancing, we’re going to tend towards r^200 n. If r = 1.035 then that will be 1000n; if r = 0.966 then that will be n/1000.

    So if r is even slightly greater than 1 then we’ll grow to herd-immunity levels. How much greater than 1 doesn’t make much difference – if r^200 n is a million times the population of the country, that doesn’t mean we’ll all get coronavirus a million times, it just means the exponential approximation will break down sooner and herd immunity will be reached faster (but probably with more deaths along the way).

    In the other direction, the number of people infected is the integral of an exponential, which is proportional to n/(1-r).

    So (under spherical-cow conditions, which in particular don’t include people from other regimes entering the country), number of deaths and illnesses as a function of severity of lockdown is roughly hyperbolic in r on one side of the critical value, and roughly constant on the other side of it.

    The optimal sum of costs will be somewhere very close to that critical value, but slightly more severely locked down than it, where the gradient is very steep; the extra cost of deviating from it in the direction of too tight a lockdown is non-trivial (we suffer even more economic damage than necessary), but the cost of deviating in the direction of too loose a lockdown (coronavirus has 200 days of spreading slowly-but-exponentially instead of 200 days of declining slowly-but-exponentially) is massive.

    The balance point is somewhere very close to both the critical r=1 point and the optimal point, with very similar measures, a tiny bit less economic pain, and many more deaths.

    This is probably a bit clearer with a graph; if anyone’s interested I’ve crossposted this with a graph here

    Of course, cows aren’t actually spherical. There are many different forms of social distancing that can be turned on or off, not just a single parameter; people from abroad will add extra infections that will become relevant if coronavirus becomes rare here; and, critically, we can intersperse periods of tighter and less tight control, letting the number of infected people grow and then forcing it down again.

    But hopefully this gives some insight into why the instinct that the lockdown is too severe is a natural one, and correct in a lot of situations, but not this one. At the moment, I think it’s pretty clear that the cure is worse than the malady, but not as bad as the malady would get if untreated. And treatment significantly less effective would accomplish very little.

    1. Randy M

      The severity of [lost livelihood] is determined by a single parameter: how severe the countermeasures are. The more steps you take to stop coronavirus spreading, the less severe the medical consequences will be, but the more severe the economic consequences will become.

      This oversimplifies in at least two relevant ways. For one, the economic impact of Corona virus is also related to people’s perceptions of the dangers of the virus, especially for every voluntary social venue, which are related to the response but not the same.
      Also, the economic impact of lockdown measures is not strictly proportional to their effectiveness.
      We can and should be regularly adjusting as new information is uncovered and the scenario adjusts.

      1. Tatterdemalion

        This oversimplifies in at least two relevant ways.

        In the same way that there are at least two stars in the sky, yes. I’m trying to illustrate a point, not provide a comprehensive or accurate model.

    2. Lambert

      +1

      The problem is that we don’t have a good measure for R right now.
      Deaths are a decent proxy for R two weeks ago but confirmed cases still depend too much on how many testing kits we make. Until randomised testing becomes widespread, we’re trying to drive at the speed limit with a speedo that has a five minute delay.

      I think you can measure ‘amount of lockdown’ as a single parameter: a point on the pareto frontier of possible things to lock down. There’ll be a low-hanging fruit effect leading to diminishing returns.

      1. albatross11

        I think one issue I have is that we don’t know how to get to the best set of tradeoffs for a given stringency of lockdowns. To use a simple example, how important is it to keep theaters closed down? You can make some kind of argument that it’s not very important because we don’t know of superspreader events there. You can make another argument that it is important because the nature of droplet spread indicates that a theater full of people who occasionaly all burst out in laughter, or where a couple people are coughing a lot, should be a good place to spread the disease. I think we don’t know whether “close the theaters down” should happen at lockdown level 90% or lockdown level 10%.

        1. Randy M

          It sure seems like theaters should be prime spreading grounds.

          Maybe a bit less than churches, since everyone faces the same direction (unless they turn around at some point) and generally are encouraged to be quiet–though who wants to bet their life on a quiet theater? Also, maybe sick people are less likely to go to the theater than church?
          On the other hand, you are in church with the same people each week, give or take, but theaters have strangers. And eating, ie, energetic repeated opening of mouths. And in either case you are confined a couple feet from several people for an hour or two.

          Similarly, if mass transit doesn’t have very high risk–for riders, as opposed to the employees HBC mentioned recently–I’d be shocked. 2-3 feet from a stranger, possibly facing each other, on a subway at least.

          This is based on supposition rather than case studies, but it seems like the presumption would be that these are dangerous.

          1. John Schilling

            Right, hence the “counterintuitive” part. Supposition, intuition, and simple logic all suggest that these should be prime superspreader events, but we keep not finding them.

          2. Randy M

            Sure, and as above, my position is that we should modify the specific policies as actual facts about the virus are uncovered. If that means the movie theater is low risk but the high risk Opera, great, open the theater.

            Well, probably.
            There’s the risk people get pissed because I can’t go to church/the buffet/whatever actually spreads disease, while he can go to the theater, which is superficially identical? Not that irrational behavior is an overriding concern, but it bears consideration.

        2. Lambert

          Trial and error.

          Devote a lot of resources to testing and contact tracing. Open things up gradually, in the less bad areas first and shut them back down if they result in a lot of spread.

          1. Evan Þ

            That would be great, except apparently American industry has decayed so much that we can’t produce enough test kits.

    3. Subotai

      As someone who opposes the lockdowns, I agree with most of your analysis (in particular, the point that a partial lockdown may be the worst possible policy) but I draw a different conclusion. Since we will still reach herd immunity whether r = 1.05 or r = 3, I think we should repeal most of the lockdown restrictions immediately and allow the epidemic to spread quickly (as long as hospitals are not overwhelmed). I believe that the alternative – a very strict lockdown to keep r below 1 until a vaccine is developed – is worse than the disease.

      1. VoiceOfTheVoid

        (as long as hospitals are not overwhelmed)

        I think this is the key phrase that invalidates the rest of your point. Once we can tell that the hospitals are going to be overwhelmed, it’s already too late.

        1. Clutzy

          Have ICUs been shown to be effective? It seems ventilators have not. I think its pretty feasible to have makeshift beds that provide O2+IV drips

        2. Subotai

          Once we can tell that the hospitals are going to be overwhelmed, it’s already too late.

          Could you expand on why you think this? Epidemic modeling still isn’t perfect by any means, but we have learned a lot about the coronavirus over the last few months. I would expect that we should be able to make reasonably accurate predictions within a time horizon of a few weeks. Indeed, if that’s not true, it seems to me that the strategy advocated by the OP (a lockdown just barely strict enough to keep r below 1) would be very risky. A serious modeling error, especially near the peak, could easily cause many extra deaths if we relax the restrictions too much and accidentally allow the pandemic to grow rather than shrink.

          Also, to me, “too late” means primarily that we reach a point where running out of ICU beds is inevitable. Given that that hasn’t happened in Sweden, I don’t think it is a particularly plausible scenario in other first-world countries either, especially with simple mitigation measures like masks and social distancing. The most likely exceptions would be very dense major cities, but antibody test results suggest that a significant percentage of the population (probably >10% in New York City, for example) has already been infected there.

    4. baconbits9

      This type of reasoning can be flipped against the lockdowns. The majority of the economic damage that will be done will be long term, not short term. The spherical cow here is the expectation that we can paper over the economic pain for a little while and then everything goes back to normal. Just because you aren’t experiencing what the long term damage is right now doesn’t mean that the long term damage isn’t there. More or less to make your argument you have to assume something that you can’t possibly know, when the lockdowns will be lifted, how effectively the re-emergence of the virus will be addressed and what happens to the economy as it tries to restart. If you aren’t going to include estimates for how bad an economic depression could be then you can’t possibly make this argument in good faith.

    5. Clutzy

      The more steps you take to stop coronavirus spreading, the less severe the medical consequences will be, but the more severe the economic consequences will become.

      An important argument against lockdowns is that part a of your 2 part proposition is unproven, and indeed not really supported. The medical consequences will be mostly similar whether you lockdown or not, provided you have enough IVs to plug into patients (because ventilators and the other extreme measures have proven less effective than the shutdowners had hoped, if not wholly ineffective).

    6. abe

      The fraction of people removed (either recovered or killed) by a disease at the end of an epidemic (roughly what you refer to as “herd immunity levels”) is sensitive to R_0. Reducing R_0 reduces this final fraction, even if R_0 is still greater than 1. See these notes on the SIR model.

    7. LesHapablap

      The graph is a nice visual, but you are trying to minimize ‘total cost’ which is the sum of ‘medical cost’ and ‘economic cost.’ ‘Medical cost’ is mostly deaths and suffering and some money, and ‘economic cost’ is mostly money and suffering and some deaths. You can’t add the two costs together unless you convert them all to $$, or QALYs.

      I also disagree as well with your blue line (economic cost vs. R). I think getting R anywhere close to 1 for your 200* days is not possible without widespread breakdown of law and order, possibly famines, war, horrifying authoritarian control. Then you have the blue line flattening out, but getting the R to .001 for 200 days would require welding virtually every single person into solitary confinement, which would result in death by starvation for 99% of the population, so the blue line needs an asymptote on the right edge.

      *what happens when we are at day 199 with no vaccine, and 20% of the country is starving, protesting and rioting while the police and army struggle to maintain control? Does the government tell the people just a few more months?

    8. John Schilling

      The optimal sum of costs will be somewhere very close to that critical value, but slightly more severely locked down than it, where the gradient is very steep;

      Wait, where did you even discuss these costs that you are now “optimally” summing? All I’ve seen so far is a bunch of math about reducing coronavirus spread, nothing about the costs associated with doing so.

      the extra cost of deviating from it in the direction of too tight a lockdown is non-trivial (we suffer even more economic damage than necessary)

      And here’s the first discussion of cost, and very nearly the last discussion of cost, in your analysis. If your cost function is just that economic damage is “non-trivial”, I’m going to call your analysis non-sensical. And why haven’t you moved to Venezuela yet? Their economy is rather seriously damaged, yes, but their coronavirus numbers are really good.

      But there’s also the problem that your proposed solutions can’t be implemented. A 200-day lockdown actually implemented at “optimal” levels from an R0 perspective, is as ludicrous a thing as a Soviet Five-Year Plan. We’re dealing with human beings, not New Soviet Antiviral Men, and you aren’t their God-King. They don’t have a God-King. There’s been non-compliance with your lockdown from day one, and it’s only going to get worse with time. And it’s going to get worse with the perception that the virus has already been licked and the lockdown is nonsensical. And the manner in which it is expressed, is going to get increasingly unpleasant in “non-trivial” ways.

      So, for starters, redo the math including a noncompliance term in the lockdown that is exponential with both the severity and duration of the lockdown. What now is the optimum? Do we even want to implement the lockdown now, or do we want to wait until later so that we have stronger compliance near the peak of the pandemic?

      And then there’s the part where you are treating 200 days as a constant. It is looking increasingly unlikely that the FDA will approve a vaccine in 200 days – such a vaccine would be slightly risky and very imperfect and they’d be blamed for all that. Same goes for any of the other possible countermeasures. Contact tracing would be imperfect, it would miss some people who would then die, so it doesn’t look line anyone is seriously planning for contact tracing. Maybe that will change in the future. But how it changes, depends on the threat driving the changes.

      So, instead of “200 days”, progress towards a solution that is a variable function increasing with the perceived severity of the crisis. Arresting the spread of COVID-19 early, means reducing the urgency with which the government pursues a lasting solution or allows medical researchers to pursue a solution. Now what does the optimum look like?

      Of course, cows aren’t actually spherical. There are many different forms of social distancing that can be turned on or off

      And there are many ways that your solution can wind up terribly suboptimal, only one of which is “dialed in the wrong level of officially-mandated social distancing”.

      The biggest problem with spherical-cow analysis is that, when you’re deciding which dimensions to wholly leave out in the name of simplicity, it can be awfully tempting to leave out the dimensions where you intuitively know the analysis would point contrary to your preferred solution. And when the dimensions you leave out are practicality of implementation and economic cost of implementation, yeah, that’s not going to give you a viable answer.

  20. edmundgennings

    It seems possible that we will get to a situation where by the fall the evidence makes it clear to the dispassionate observer that the lockdowns were a mistake from the post facto perspective. The fatality rate turns out to be in the .5 range. Everywhere is going to reach herd immunity and lockdowns were not the best way to spread the strain on the healthcare system. A much more mild form of social would have been better. Thus they were very expensive mistakes though they did save some lives.
    I do not know if that is the world that we we in fact are in, but it is possible that it is and we have a decent chance of knowing if we are in that world by the fall.
    If it is, what impact would it have politically? I do not see Biden really being able to say “Trump did too much to save grandma” even if that was in fact the case if most people know someone who died from covid. The lack of clear party divides makes things harder.
    Yet campaigning on anything other than covid seems hard as well.

    1. Tatterdemalion

      I think it’s very unlikely that that’s the world we’re in, and even more unlikely that evidence that convincingly illustrates that it is comes to light.

      Essentially, the only thing that would qualify is if coronavirus /does/ get out of hand and spread massively, and turns out not to be that bad after all. 0.5% fatality rate * 60% infection rate is still about a million people dying in the USA, so clearly that’s not going to cut it, but if the fatality rate turned out to be 0.05% (which it won’t) then we might be looking at a political impact.

      And if you don’t get massive infection, we won’t know whether the health care system would have stood the strain if you had, and so there won’t be convincing evidence that lockdown was a mistake.

    2. Matt M

      I posted here right around the time the lockdowns started being implemented that I purchased shares of Biden on predictit, because this is exactly what I think will happen.

      Biden will run on “Trump wrecked the economy.” Regardless of how bad COVID is. And this will be a factually correct statement. All media outlets will confirm it. The fact-checkers will (correctly!) declare it to be absolute truth.

      The obvious counter-argument of “yeah he did but it saved millions of lives” or “Biden would have wrecked it even more” will be unheard of outside of FOX News, talk radio, and the usual such places.

      I expect it will work, and most of the public, being generally dissatisfied with living through an economic depression, will vote for the non-Trump guy. But I could be wrong about that.

      1. Milo Minderbinder

        That checks out as the correct political move. Presidents are unfairly viewed as having more power over the economy than they actually do, but Trump leaned into this perception particularly hard in the good times. If he wants to own a market he has limited control over, he has to keep owning it.

      2. Wrong Species

        Biden will run on “Trump wrecked the economy.” Regardless of how bad COVID is. And this will be a factually correct statement. All media outlets will confirm it. The fact-checkers will (correctly!) declare it to be absolute truth.

        I’m skeptical. Right now,roughly, the left is the one who is pushing for maximal social distancing while the right is talking about opening things up. They could turn on a dime but I just don’t think it would work. Most likely they would say something about how if Trump did more in the beginning, then it wouldn’t have been so bad and we wouldn’t have needed to wreck the economy.

          1. Wrong Species

            It has very different implications. “If Trump did more in the beginning, then it wouldn’t have been so bad and we wouldn’t have needed to wreck the economy” suggests that by the time the Coronavirus hit, we needed to do lockdowns to stop the spread. But Matt is suggesting that they’ll promote the idea that it was never so bad, and that the lockdowns were a complete mistake. Both involving criticizing Trump. But one jibes with what the left is saying now while the other doesn’t.

          2. Lillian

            I would argue that if the economy is bad, Trump will get the blame for it regardless of whether he deserves it. He would get the blame even if it had happened due to a literal act of God that everyone agreed there was nothing he could have possibly done anything about. There’s a lot of gut feeling that goes into people’s voting decisions, and voting to re-elect the incumbent party is voting for more of the same. So if things are good they will be inclined to the idea, and if they are bad they will instead be inclined to the alternative. That inclination is generally not enough to swing an election by itself, but given Trump’s scandals and the lack of major policy accomplishments, I think it’s ultimately going to come down to that.

          3. HeelBearCub

            @Wrong Species

            That’s not really how political arguments work. You don’t need to make a logical proof. It’s mostly just capturing an emotion.

            I saw an ad the other day of Reagan’s “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago” speach intercut with images and news coverage of covid-19 and Trump’s various false promises.

            Joe Biden doesn’t actually have to make the argument we would have been better off under Clinton or Democratic leadership. He just has to point at Trump and say “He failed.” Then Biden talks about his plans for right now, and points to all of the times he was calling for more action, better action.

            Biden had a different, more aggressive plan and Trump’s plan failed. Boom, done.

          4. HeelBearCub

            @Wrong Species:
            Here is the ad I mentioned.

            Note, this isn’t trying to get steady Trump supporters to vote for Biden. Attempting to get solid partisans to flip is near impossible.

            This is “get the waffling voter to vote against Trump, reduce the desire of the begrudging Trump supporter to get to the polls, increase the desire of the tepid Biden supporter to vote, amp the base”. So, if you recoil because it feels to harsh, well, Reagan’s “Daisy” ad was harsh, but it’s regarded as one of the more effective of all time. Vote for me or your kid gets nuked.

          5. HeelBearCub

            @Paul:
            No, I just munged it with “Morning in America”, the other most effective ad of all time, because I was already talking about Reagan. Not the same kinds of ads at all.

          6. Matt M

            But Matt is suggesting that they’ll promote the idea that it was never so bad, and that the lockdowns were a complete mistake.

            Nah. I think they’ll just say “Economy is bad because Trump” and leave it to everyone else to fill in the blanks.

            Providing details in this case is a bad idea, because the details do in fact lead to questions like “Would Biden have made decisions that resulted in a better economy” which are harder for them to answer.

    3. baconbits9

      It seems possible that we will get to a situation where by the fall the evidence makes it clear to the dispassionate observer that the lockdowns were a mistake from the post facto perspective.

      I don’t think there will ever be such evidence by the fall unless the world is in horrific economic shape, in which case Trump is a dead duck as president.

      1. John Schilling

        Evidence, schmevidence. If people have paid dearly for a vital thing, and now have that thing and are no longer desperate to secure it, they tend to be very receptive to arguments of the form, “The thing didn’t need to cost nearly that much; they took advantage of your desperation to rip you off for their own nefarious ends”. Come fall, if people believe that they now have an acceptable level of security from the coronavirus, they won’t demand evidence that they paid too much and were ripped off.

    4. Alexander Turok

      the evidence makes it clear to the dispassionate observer

      What would it matter? The voters are not dispassionate observers, the media are not honest reporters of the facts. So even if this does happen, and I don’t think it will, I say it won’t have any effect at all. It’s kind of like World War II. After Germany declared war on the US:

      British experience in the first two years of World War II, which included the massive losses incurred to their shipping during the “First Happy Time” confirmed that ships sailing in convoy — with or without escort – were far safer than ships sailing alone. The British recommended that merchant ships should avoid obvious standard routings wherever possible; navigational markers, lighthouses, and other aids to the enemy should be removed, and a strict coastal blackout be enforced. In addition, any available air and sea forces should perform daylight patrols to restrict the U-boats’ flexibility.

      For several months, none of the recommendations were followed. Coastal shipping continued to sail along marked routes and burn normal navigation lights. Boardwalk communities ashore were only ‘requested’ to ‘consider’ turning their illuminations off on 18 December 1941, but not in the cities; they did not want to offend the tourism, recreation and business sectors.{snip}

      {snip}

      When the first wave of U-boats returned to port through the early part of February, Dönitz wrote that each commander “had such an abundance of opportunities for attack that he could not by any means utilize them all: there were times when there were up to ten ships in sight, sailing with all lights burning on peacetime courses.”

      What happened after this, politically? Nothing. You have to understand how many normies operate. They want to see that their leaders “feel the pain” of the victims and are “doing something” with the intention of helping them.

      I’ve talked to people who were angry with Trump over global warming and I’ve asked them, ‘what do you want done,’ and suggested raising the gas tax, so it costs 4$ again, so people will use less gas. And they’re like, no, no, not that. They want “scientific research.” Okay, nothing wrong with that. But what I think they really want is for Trump to get up there, signal his empathy with the alleged victims of global warming, and say he’s doing something to solve the problem, so long as it doesn’t get in the way of their lives.

      With coronavirus, the emphasis in the near future will be on empathizing with the victims. Through a bunch of statistics and numbers at normies and they don’t respond to that.

      1. TheAncientGeeksTAG

        The obvious answer to what he should do is the reverse of everything he has done so far — resigning the Paris agreement, and so on.

    5. meh

      If I give you 10-1 odds on a coin flip to come up heads, and it comes up tails, was it a mistake to bet on heads?

    6. matthewravery

      While it will certainly be obvious retrospect that there were particular things that could’ve been done differently to great net benefit, I don’t think that the lockdowns, as implemented in the US, will be the biggest thing.

      The most obvious post hoc criticism of our response will be (and already is!) that we completely botched the development and deployment of testing, and then dithered for a month when COVID-19 went from a small but manageable problem to something that required a dramatic response similar to the one we made. “We should have had a lighter touch in Wyoming” is irrelevant in comparison.

      Why focus on the hard stuff (“What is the precise level of lockdown would have been optimal in at each point in time at each locality in each state?”) when the big stuff is starting you in the face?

  21. Alexander Turok

    Is anyone here in a position where they may be in charge of laying off workers? If so, I suggest reading this first:

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/23/business/economy/unemployment-benefits-stimulus-coronavirus.html

    And considering the moral hazard in laying off your worst-performing employees. Instead, get your employees together, explain the situation, give them pieces of paper, and ask them to indicate privately if they’d like to be laid off or not. Collect all the pieces of paper and lay off the best worker who wants you to do so, or the worst worker if nobody wants to.

    1. baconbits9

      I don’t have access to the NYT, but I cannot imagine the rational for this. The moral hazard argument sounds ridiculous for what I know the explanations of moral hazard to be.

      1. Christophe Biocca

        I think the argument here is:

        – Unemployment benefits are high enough that some people would like to be laid off, as they’d see their take-home income increase (or decrease so little as to be a good trade for 40 hours of their lives).
        – If a company is clearly following a policy of laying off the worst workers, workers that want to be laid off will adjust their productivity downwards to try and be part of that set. This is the moral hazard (or at least incentive misalignment).
        – As an employer you can circumvent this issue by first using layoffs as a reward for high performers for as long as people are expressing an interest in being laid off.

        1. Randy M

          Frankly, it may be worth running the experiment to gauge morale. If your workforce would rather be unemployed than work there, you won’t long have a workforce and should probably look into increasing compensation or something.

          Or else unemployment is currently stupidly good, which I doubt is commonly the case.

          1. Randy M

            This kind of mentality is part of the problem. Most people don’t like work and would prefer to not do it if they got just as much money.

            I was intending that to be read “given the price you are paying them.”

            Note that my remedy was to pay them more, not hold surveys on how to improve morale.

            I would like to have guaranteed income (or equivalent wealth) and total freedom; given that I don’t expect this to be on the table, I value a solid employment history of well paying jobs above time off on the dole.

        2. Matt M

          Even more simply than that… if you want to reward your good workers and/or punish your bad ones, you should ensure that the thing you are doing to them (either keeping them on or laying them off) actually matches their preferences (or doesn’t, for the bad ones), and not what you might assume their preference is…

        3. baconbits9

          The rebuttal is simple- if you refuse to fire the worst employees then there is no incentive to be a better employee. You are sacrificing your primary leverage against the very people you have identified as the worst employees, then of course your firings are weighted towards better employees and you know what companies who are in cost cutting/panic mode need? Its not your worst employees, its not the people who are the easiest to live without I can tell you that much.

          BTW there is no real moral hazard here- MH is a problem in a repeated game, if you forgive my bad behavior this time then I can behave a bit worse next time, and worst the time after that. There is no repeat here, someone behaves badly and they get fired* and now they cannot behave badly again against you. Firing ends the iteration and that is where most of the damage comes from.

          *Also the simple fact is the people who will try to get fired are showing you a pretty negative side, if you are willing to act badly to get a few hundred extra dollars of UE payments then you are way more likely to be willing to act badly in other ways as you continue to be an employee.

          1. Alexander Turok

            The rebuttal is simple- if you refuse to fire the worst employees then there is no incentive to be a better employee.

            Next time find a way to get around the paywall or don’t comment, you seem to have missed the point that unemployment benefits are for some people better than working.

            Even if there is no technical moral hazard, I personally would have a hard time looking at my employees with a straight face if I told them for years I wanted them to do X, then took an action which penalized them for doing X.

            Also the simple fact is the people who will try to get fired are showing you a pretty negative side, if you are willing to act badly to get a few hundred extra dollars of UE payments then you are way more likely to be willing to act badly in other ways as you continue to be an employee

            Workplace performance is a spectrum: some will just shoot for the average.

          2. baconbits9

            Next time find a way to get around the paywall or don’t comment, you seem to have missed the point that unemployment benefits are for some people better than working.

            I know that going in, it doesn’t change a single damn thing about the analysis. Moral hazard and incentives are iterated, not once off, when you know that you know that you can’t apply moral hazard to firing employees in this way because once they are fired you lose all the costs and benefits of iteration. The only way you can build this in a MH framework is to start with the assumption that you are completely indifferent between employees, which breaks the assumptions you laid out originally.

        4. baconbits9

          Even more simply than that… if you want to reward your good workers and/or punish your bad ones, you should ensure that the thing you are doing to them (either keeping them on or laying them off) actually matches their preferences (or doesn’t, for the bad ones), and not what you might assume their preference is…

          But if you fire them they aren’t your employees anymore. If you want to reward your good employees they have to remain at work to reap the benefits.

          1. Matt M

            But if you fire them they aren’t your employees anymore.

            Then commit to re-hiring them when their UE runs out. If they come back, it was meant to be. If they don’t, they were never yours to begin with! Or something…

          2. Conrad Honcho

            Then commit to re-hiring them when their UE runs out.

            This is what makes me angry about furloughing. One of my friends is furloughed for three months from his job. So, he’s not getting paid, he’s not getting UT…and there’s no guarantee any time in the next three months they won’t just say “nope, fired anyway.”

          3. baconbits9

            My understanding was that furloughed employees are eligible for the full $600 a week from the feds and UE benefits in most states (though not full benefits in every state).

    2. gbdub

      This is further complicated by the small business support loans, which can be forgivable but only if the business follows certain rules – one of which is not laying anyone off!

      There was a story about a spa owner who got a support loan and used it to hire back her staff. (The spa had to stay closed) Most of the staff was pissed because their pay was lower than the newly increased unemployment benefits. They weren’t working either way, but they got bigger checks with unemployment.

      And this wasn’t “minimum wage is not livable!” issues – the break even point for unemployment vs working was over 20$ an hour.

    3. FLWAB

      Instead, get your employees together, explain the situation, give them pieces of paper, and ask them to indicate privately if they’d like to be laid off or not. Collect all the pieces of paper and lay off the best worker who wants you to do so, or the worst worker if nobody wants to.

      Funnily enough my employer recently recieved the following email from our state’s unemployment insurance bureaucrats.

      The (my state) Department of Labor and Workforce Development takes fraudulent activities to collect unemployment insurance benefits seriously…If an individual refuses an offer of work because unemployment insurance pays more than their weekly wage, is asking to be laid off, or requests to have their hours reduced so they can collect UI benefits, they may be committing fraud. Employers should immediately report these activities for investigation.

      So it looks like your proposal would probably be considered illegal? It’s a bit confusing, given a scenario where you were going to lay off X employees anyway. It is in any case something bureaucrats don’t want to happen.

  22. johan_larson

    It sure looks like what Canada is doing about COVID-19 isn’t working all that well. The number of new cases is every day is rising roughly linearly. Yesterday we had a new high of 1920 new cases.

    Some provinces are doing OK. The graphs for British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and New Brunswick look good. But the largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec, continue to struggle. Nursing homes in particular are a real problem.

    1. Wrong Species

      It seems like every time we praise some country for their response in keeping it from being an epidemic, it doesn’t mean they are actually doing anything to stop it. It’s just coming later. The exceptions being a few East Asian countries and some islands.

      1. Clutzy

        Whats interesting is that this is what the initial doomsday models predicted: You could either take the disease slowly, or quickly. The preference is slowly so your hospital situation doesn’t collapse, but that doesn’t actually improve your actual C19 situation all that much.

        Since then that talking point “flatten the curve” has been bastardized into a new motto which doesn’t make sense which is, “wait for a while, then we will use omniscience.”

        1. Radu Floricica

          Not omniscience. We had reasonable hope – at drugs, ventilators, random new information. At the time it was the right decision to play for time.

          What we got is a very mixed bad. Drugs turned out not to work (not shocking, in retrospect – there’s that old bite about science not being able to cure common cold). Ventilators apparently are much less useful and possibly harmful. IFR is much lower than expected, but still pretty high. Masks work.

          Was it worth it? Doesn’t matter – at the time the box was not transparent.

          Edit: And in time to edit my comment, I’m just reading a local hospital is changing its treatment strategy to prevent thrombosis as a high risk for ICU. The bet for time may yet turn out a big win.

          1. Matt M

            Was it worth it? Doesn’t matter – at the time the box was not transparent.

            Strong disagree.

            Figuring out whether it was worth it matters a lot for the next time around we have to deal with something like this.

          2. Radu Floricica

            Pandemics are … very different. A small coefficient change made Sars 2 be so different from Sars 1. Next one could be all over the place. I think we’re in the mess we are partly because we did take the lessons from the last 2-3 new viruses and applied them.

          3. baconbits9

            Not omniscience. We had reasonable hope – at drugs, ventilators, random new information. At the time it was the right decision to play for time.

            Disagree here. There isn’t/wasn’t any reasonable expectation that a vaccine would come on line early enough which is the best case scenario. Drugs are almost always a mixed bag on their own and we knew (or had good reason to expect) early that the elderly were more at risk, and the elderly already take a large amount of prescriptions, a hope that we would find workable drugs quickly that didn’t interfere with the treatments these patients needed as it was a distant hope not a reasonable one. Basically every piece of data that came out, starting early, should have made it abundantly clear that it would take multiple combinations of drugs to treat the majority of those who were at risk of death.

            Finally though, and I made this comment early on this is not back seat prognostication, playing for time sets up the absolute worst case scenarios where the economic slowdown cannot be reversed without encouraging a massive reemergence of people who have had their immune systems weakened by the measures. We know that people under prolonged stress have weaker immune systems, that lack of activity, purpose, sunlight and socialization can exacerbate these problems. The play for time strategy assumes that our vulnerable population is more or less static, and that our capability to service them won’t be hampered in anyway.

            Scare tactics up front with optimistic estimates on treatments is not a good combination, and causes people to make bad decisions.

          4. Matt M

            Finally though, and I made this comment early on this is not back seat prognostication, playing for time sets up the absolute worst case scenarios where the economic slowdown cannot be reversed without encouraging a massive reemergence of people who have had their immune systems weakened by the measures.

            Indeed.

            I think at this point it’s almost certain that we haven’t had the best possible response. But it is entirely possible we’ve had the worst one.

            The worst case scenario is not, as most would have you believe, “do nothing and COVID kills millions.” No, it’s something much closer to “have a lot of lockdowns that do tons of economic damage and also COVID kills millions.”

            My primary reason for opposing lockdowns is less that I don’t think COVID might kill millions, and more that I’m not confident the lockdowns will actually stop COVID from killing millions.

          5. Edward Scizorhands

            At the time it was the right decision to play for time

            I think Nate Silver tried to enumerate all the points of what the delay was supposed to accomplish in a tweet, but I can’t find it any more.

            Anyway, there were lots of different reasons, and I remember #4 was basically “we are delaying until we figure out the right thing to do.”

          6. Radu Floricica

            Are you guys sure you’re not just a bit affected by hindsight? I remember I was pro isolation at the time, and my logic was simple: with overwhelmed hospitals, we’re looking at a potential 10% fatality rate, for anything from 20-80% of population infected.

            I was actually quite the moderate then, because I agreed with Britain being a bit more flower power, even if it was only to have some variance in the response to be able to optimize it later. That was not a popular opinion in most places.

            Even now, I can pretty much go into my then-head and think: no knowledge of masks, no knowledge of real IFR but strong hints it’s above 1% with hospitalization… yeah, I’d close things down for a month. Not two. Maybe 6 weeks. Except in regions like Lombardia where medical system is clearly overwhelmed. It’s pretty hard to use just my then-head … I keep wanting to add how concentrating covid cases in hospitals is a bad idea – but I didn’t suspect it at the time.

          7. salvorhardin

            I think it is very likely (p = 0.95) we will look back five years from now and still think, in retrospect, that *some* fairly severe level of restrictions was justified.

            I also think it is fairly likely (p = 0.7) we will look back and think that the Swedes got it about right, and that interventions more severe than theirs (and note theirs are still pretty severe vs pre-pandemic baseline) ultimately saved few incremental QALYs at high incremental cost, except possibly where needed initially to build up hospital surge capacity and PPE supplies.

          8. baconbits9

            Are you guys sure you’re not just a bit affected by hindsight?

            How could we not be affected by new information and time in some way? I don’t see that it changes the core position. The economic costs of a broad shut down are obviously very large, this is obvious from a basic logic and math perspective and it was also obvious from the early data coming out of China. It was also obvious that the lock-down would not be lifted quickly. 2 weeks was the bare minimum for a perfect lock-down that immediately dropped transmission rates to zero, and that would include perfect border security, no healthcare workers getting it and transmitting it etc, etc, etc. It is also true that the better your lockdown works the larger the cost of a reinfection.

            These aren’t details that we couldn’t know, or weren’t obvious that are only now clear, they were just shouted over. You can’t value lives over jobs! One death is to many!

          9. John Schilling

            Not omniscience. We had reasonable hope – at drugs, ventilators, random new information. At the time it was the right decision to play for time.

            Time to do what? If all you’re going to do is hope for “a miracle occurs”, that’s not the right decision unless you can buy time on the cheap. And we paid dearly for this time.

            Which we have very nearly squandered, as near as I can tell. No attempt to develop the infrastructure for large-scale contact tracing. No attempt to develop accelerated testing protocols for vaccines or other new drugs, nor willingness to accept even small risks to that end. Not even any attempt to do serious research on the relative transmission risks of e.g. schools, subways, parties, theaters, restaurants, churches, parks, offices, etc, so that we can make informed decisions on how to eventually relax the lockdowns. We have to look to random nerds on the internet for that vital information.

            This would have been the right decision if the decisionmakers had any clue what to do with the time they were buying at so dear a price. They didn’t, so it wasn’t. Or maybe it wasn’t cluelessness but political risk-aversion – all the realistic plans involve accepting the fact that a bunch of people are still going to die after the lockdowns are lifted, and “lockdown until someone else makes us lift it” makes that Someone Else’s Fault in a way that “here’s my plan…” doesn’t.

          10. albatross11

            Lots of scientists have been doing research on the virus, and doctors have been working out what techniques are more or less helpful (don’t put people on ventilators so fast–first roll them on their bellies and see if their O2 sat numbers start looking better). But it sure is hard to see a lot of steps toward a coherent response. As you said, public health authorities in every state should be hiring people to do contact tracing, everyone at the FDA should be doing everything in their power to get experimental treatments tested and vaccine trials going and tests done widely, OSHA or CDC or someone should be working out protocols for going back to work without COVID-19 spreading, etc. If that stuff is happening, it’s sure not very visible. I’ve seen a ton of efforts from different people to find ways to contribute, but not much from the top.

          11. The Nybbler

            New York City has had over 1.5 million cases, according to the antibody tests. Contact tracing simply isn’t going to be practical. As for anything else… the lockdowns took the pressure off, so why should they do anything? Governor Inslee swears he needs “an order of magnitude more tests”, but Washington State has made little progress in testing since the lockdown. Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo claims if he lets off, you get a second wave that’s way bigger than the first by fall… but he’s not saying how he can ever avoid that, nor is anyone asking him. So there’s no real plan to get out of lockdown, only excuses not to, and lockdown will end when people the governments or press are sympathetic to start rioting.

        2. The Nybbler

          Yeah, it seems to me that early lockdown is just extending the pain. California was praised for its swift lockdown and New York lambasted for its slow one, but New York is now on the downswing and California still headed up (from a much lower number).

          There’s a “momentum” to epidemics (basically, the number of infected), so it’s possible the slow way gives you less total death, but that’s going to be really hard to figure out and you have to wait a long time to find out.

          1. Matt M

            And it’s worth noting that this is exactly why many of us opposed such extensive lockdowns in the first place!

            If you accept that “lockdown until vaccine/track and trace” is infeasible, then herd immunity is the only ultimate solution.

            And if that’s true, the only benefit of lockdowns is to “flatten the curve” in the original sense (i.e. prevent hospital capacity from being overwhelmed).

            Which strongly implies that any lockdowns in places where the medical system isn’t/won’t be overwhelmed are all cost and no benefit. You are merely delaying the inevitable at the cost of economic destruction and massive reductions in human quality of life.

          2. Conrad Honcho

            The medical system isn’t overwhelmed anywhere in the US to my knowledge. The nurses are all dancing on tiktok. Restrictions should be lifted to the point where the medical system is at least whelmed.

          3. Matt M

            Yeah, it certainly seems like the only place in the US where the medical system was ever overwhelmed was NYC, and even there only for a few days.

            Even in Seattle, where things looked really bad early, they built and scrapped an entire military field hospital, which saw a grand total of zero patients.

          4. The Nybbler

            The medical system in NYC was what I think Conrad Honcho calls “whelmed”. A small number of hospitals briefly overwhelmed, a larger number more hectic than usual for a while. And hospital morgues overwhelmed, which is gruesome but since temporary expedient measures were able to keep up, not harmful to outcomes. This is all past now.

            From a purely public health point of view, the lockdown timing in NYC was probably exactly right; the peak hospitalization hit right about the available capacity. But when you add the politics in, there shouldn’t have been a lockdown. Because here we are, over three weeks past that peak, and the lockdown continues in both NY and NJ with no end in sight. Once the lockdown is in place it’s easy to justify keeping it in place.

            It doesn’t help that the media is fearmongering. In NJ there have been breathless stories about hospital emergency departments going on divert. Sounds scary… but it’s actually pretty common. At least one of the stories in NJ, when I investigated, included a hospital that was on divert for lack of psych beds, which is rather unlikely to be due to COVID-19.

          5. broblawsky

            The medical system isn’t overwhelmed anywhere in the US to my knowledge. The nurses are all dancing on tiktok. Restrictions should be lifted to the point where the medical system is at least whelmed.

            I have several friends who are part of the medical system in NYC, and none of them are dancing. One of them described his job as a, and I quote, “corpse parade”. How confident are you in your sources?

          6. Matt M

            Because here we are, over three weeks past that peak, and the lockdown continues in both NY and NJ with no end in sight. Once the lockdown is in place it’s easy to justify keeping it in place.

            Right. As much as I hate to say it, I think the politicians have made the right political calculus here. As grumbly as the public is starting to get about these lockdowns, it’s still going to be much easier to keep the current lockdowns in place than it would be to end them, and then attempt to re-institute them some weeks/months later. If you want to lockdown, this is probably your one and only shot. People aren’t going to agree to this again, absent the real, no-kidding, bodies-in-the-street, everyone knows at least 1 COVID fatality scenario.

            At least one of the stories in NJ, when I investigated, included a hospital that was on divert for lack of psych beds, which is rather unlikely to be due to COVID-19.

            But is quite plausibly due to government policy placing the entire country under indefinite house arrest. My understanding is that volumes of calls to suicide hotlines are several multiples higher than normal.

          7. Conrad Honcho

            I have several friends who are part of the medical system in NYC, and none of them are dancing. One of them described his job as a, and I quote, “corpse parade”. How confident are you in your sources?

            NYC is the worst hit place in the US and it’s not overhwelmed. Did they put a single patient on the hospital ship? If they didn’t, then no, while the NYC medical system is burdened, it’s not overwhelmed. Therefore, no place in the US is overwhelmed.

            My local hospital certainly isn’t. For the past 5 weeks or so since this all took off, every Friday the CEO puts out a video for the hospital staff on YouTube. I’ve been watching them (they’re not private). The first four weeks were pretty inspiring when they were talking about all the preparations and progress they made for the pandemic to hit. Overflow capacity, drive through testing, massive rollouts of telemedicine capabilities, plans to redeploy people from the clinics closed as non-essential. But last Friday it was a completely different tone. “Well, I don’t know about you guys but I sure am looking forward to the weekend. Anyway, here’s a video montage of all you wonderful folk” and then straight up played a video of pictures of the nurses at their stations looking bored or, yes, nurses and staff doing stupid dances. Oh, and they sure didn’t need that redeployment: everyone is now required to take one day of paid time off a week because they have so little business. I don’t know about you, but that does not sound “overwhelmed” to me. That sounds like we’ve massively overreacted.

          8. matkoniecz

            Did they put a single patient on the hospital ship? If they didn’t, then no, while the NYC medical system is burdened, it’s not overwhelmed. Therefore, no place in the US is overwhelmed.

            Please check your sources before posting. Quick googling found that it is untrue since at least 3 weeks.

            See https://www.navytimes.com/news/coronavirus/2020/04/02/just-18-patients-combined-were-sent-to-the-usns-mercy-comfort-this-week/

            Not sure about the current state (article is really old) but your “Therefore” is based on clearly false claims that hospital ship received 0 patients.

          9. Conrad Honcho

            Oh okay 18 patients were put on the ship. I stand corrected, let’s keep the lockdowns forever.

            ETA: Correction 3 patients were seen at the NYC ship, Comfort.

          10. Matt M

            The conversation was about NYC as a whole. If the Comfort saw less than 100 patients, it’s almost certainly true that most hospitals in NYC sent them zero, and therefore that NYC as a whole was probably not “overwhelmed” by any reasonable definition.

          11. DavidFriedman

            The option I haven’t seen calculations on is the more extreme version of the Swedish approach. Isolate the vulnerable population, mostly the old. Do nothing much for the rest. Let the non-vulnerable population reach herd immunity, then let out the vulnerable population, into a world with almost nobody contagious.

            Optimistic estimates of the overall death rate for infected people, based on random sample estimates of how many have been infected, suggest about .1%. I’m not sure how much of that is from the vulnerable population, but my impression is a sizable majority. To be optimistic and make the arithmetic easier, I’m going to assume 90%. So getting to herd immunity for the non-vulnerable population would kill one in ten thousand or, for the U.S., 30,000.

            The U.S. has a little under 3 hospital beds per 1,000 people. If we assume that the number of infected people who require hospitalization is ten times the number who die, that’s only about a third of the hospital beds. If we assume they all require ICU beds, of which the U.S. has about .3/1000, and we use all the ICU beds for the purpose and each takes two weeks, we can accomodate all the patients in a month and a half.

            There is a lot of hand waving in the numbers above, most of it in an optimistic direction, so I would be interested in seeing a more careful calculation. But it does suggest that the strategy I described might make quite a lot of sense.

          12. Edward Scizorhands

            Around .15% of NYC is dead already, and we don’t think they have all had it.

            Imperial College looked at various models, including SDO: Social Distancing for Older people only. This was combined with two other obvious proposals: CI, Case Isolation for those showing symptoms; and HQ, Home Quarantine for those with a symptomatic person in the household.

            https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf

            This was what made the UK change its mind, because they would still get overwhelmed.

            Maybe they were wrong to change their strategy, but “isolate the old” is something that some governments considered then tossed.

          13. HeelBearCub

            My gut says it’s not actually possible to “isolate the elderly”. I think that might be a semi-interesting hypothetical to think about.

            However, I bet this is actually more important. If you isolate the old, guess what you don’t have when you stop isolating them?

            Herd immunity goes out the window.

          14. Edward Scizorhands

            In theory, if we could isolate the elderly such that, say, 90% of the rest of the community had it, wouldn’t that be “enough” to keep the elderly safe? You would have a lot of available workers who had passed a serological test, too.

          15. HeelBearCub

            @Edward Scizorhands:
            Whatever the percentage is that we need to get herd immunity, we won’t surpass it unless we purposely start infecting people.

            And once we let those old people out and about, no we no longer have herd immunity, so when the virus reenters from some pocket of infection, now it just spreads.

            Especially if you consider environments like rest homes, where they won’t be anywhere close to herd immunity.

          16. The Nybbler

            Whatever the percentage is that we need to get herd immunity, we won’t surpass it unless we purposely start infecting people.

            That’s not true. At the point you reach herd immunity in an epidemic you have momentum (the number of currently infected), and you will overshoot it. So it’s quite possible that once the epidemic has died down among the un-isolated, you still numerically have herd immunity in your un-isolated population + your formerly isolated.

            Of course your rest homes and such are still basically dry tinder if a case reaches them. But there’s no practical way of avoiding that.

          17. Garrett

            > Imperial College

            That estimation may have been the best available at the time. But it was still trash. It made a significant number of assumptions (without support). Most notably, it assumed a significant number fraction of the elderly would not comply with the isolation, it assumed that half of the infected people ordered to quarantine would not comply, and that exactly 1 month after stopping all other interventions all of the elderly/vulnerable people would go out without any isolation. There never was a “isolate the elderly/vulnerable until the herd immunity has develops” in that model.

          18. Radu Floricica

            Around .15% of NYC is dead already, and we don’t think they have all had it.

            Just a quick comment on the percentage. We live less than 100 years, so over 1% of the population dies every year, or about 0.1% per month.

            Found it’s useful to keep in mind when talking about deaths.

          19. HeelBearCub

            Just a quick comment on the percentage. We live less than 100 years, so over 1% of the population dies every year, or about 0.1% per month.

            It’s 0.15% over and above the base rate, though. You can see that in year-over-year all cause mortality. Not that you are necessarily making this mistake, but it’s very easy to speak confusingly about this.

          20. Edward Scizorhands

            Which basically just means that the dry tinder will burn.

            I dunno how late I am. This was in my head all weekend.

            Given: if we let herd immunity build up by letting the disease run wild in the “normal” population, the nursing homes will still be dry tinder when we return them to the normal population, because there are too many of them.

            (I don’t necessarily agree with that. But I am accepting it for now, because I want to see where the conclusion leads us.)

            Taken that given, there is no way for us to ever have the nursing homes be safe, until we have a vaccine. Whatever mitigation strategy is insufficient for a herd-immunity population, it won’t work for a non-herd-immunity population.

  23. Lambert

    Recombinant vaccine trials have begun in the UK.
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-52394485
    https://www.covid19vaccinetrial.co.uk/press-updates

    It’s developed by a team at Oxford who previously worked on MERS vaccines.
    They can’t directly challenge with SARS-NCOV2 for ethical reasons but the test subjects are healthcare workers so enough of them out to get infected. Failing that, there are plans to test in parts of Africa, where cases are yet to peak.

    It’s an RCT of 800 people, using a meningitis vaccine as an active placebo.

    1. salvorhardin

      “They can’t directly challenge with SARS-NCOV2 for ethical reasons”

      (tears hair out re: incoherent ethical standards costing both liberty and lives)

      meanwhile, I assume people in the UK remain able to volunteer to join the military and get shot at?

      Nonetheless grateful that the thing is happening at all.

      see also:
      “Our ability to determine vaccine efficacy will be affected by the amount of virus transmission in the local population over the summer, and we are also beginning to consider initiating trials with partners in other countries to increase our ability to determine vaccine efficacy.”

      i.e. unlike a challenge trial, a normal vaccine trial works less well the better social distancing works.

  24. Dewwy

    As a non-USian I am not quite intimately familiar with the electoral system over there and it has recently come to my attention by following the democratic primary that US state and local governments are directly involved in primary elections.

    This confuses me. Primary elections are private affairs are they not ? They are events by private organisations, in this case political parties, why are state governments involved at all ? How enshrined are political parties in law over there ? Can I set up a new political party in some state and get that state government to foot the bill/organise our private election of a candidate we intend to run for any official election ? Just presidential candidates ?

      1. Dewwy

        Hmm, there’s a lot of interesting stuff in there that seems to suggest that the state(s) have had a hand in primary elections for a long time. All the way through it seems to be treating the primary as a kind of state election (or at least that’s how it seems from my outside perspective)

        In U.S. v. Classic, two federal indictments were brought against six election commissioners, alleging conspiracy and corruption in the Democratic primary election for U.S. Representative. They were charged with miscounting and altering the ballots that were cast.

        Which still leaves me with the question, why are election commissioners counting ballots for Democratic primaries at all ? What happened in US history that got primaries wrapped up in state election infrastructure ?

    1. Matt M

      Can I set up a new political party in some state and get that state government to foot the bill/organise our private election of a candidate we intend to run for any official election ?

      Not only can you not do that, it’ll take a lot of time, effort, and money to even get on the ballot at all.

      The libertarian party has been the largest and most popular “third party” in the US for a couple decades. Only last cycle (2016) did they manage to achieve the feat of getting on the ballot in all 50 states. And this was considered a huge and celebration-worthy accomplishment that had been decades in the making.

      1. Eric Rall

        The libertarian party has been the largest and most popular “third party” in the US for a couple decades. Only last cycle (2016) did they manage to achieve the feat of getting on the ballot in all 50 states.

        They did get their Presidential ticket on the ballot in all 50 states + DC in 2016, but not for the first time. The Libertarian Presidential ticket was also on the ballot everywhere in 1980, 1992, 1996, and 2000. The problem is that minor-party ballot access in many states requires requalification every election cycle. For the 2020 election cycle, for example, the LP is currently qualified for the ballot in 35 states plus DC, and are still working to qualify (mostly signature-gathering) in the other 15 states.

        1. HeelBearCub

          That, I believe, is down to their candidate not getting enough votes. In NC in the 90s and the 2000s the Libertarian party maintained ballot access, with candidates for both President and Governor, by getting a small percentage of the overall vote. I can’t recall exactly what the percentage was. 5% seems too high, but that is what comes to mind.

          Then they ceased to get the necessary votes, so they lost automatic ballot access.

        2. Matt M

          Thanks for the clarification. I must have misheard or misunderstood the semi-regular propaganda I receive via e-mail from the LP 🙂

    2. Del Cotter

      I’ve noticed this is a source of confusion. I get weirded out by how you have to “register” with one party, then the American gets weirded out that I can’t vote for the party candidate. Then gets more weirded out that I could, but I’d have to join the party, for which I would have to pay the annual membership fees. “You have to pay money to be allowed to vote!?”

      (to avoid more confusion, of course nobody has to pay to vote in the election, for one of the many candidates, some of whom have the nomination for a political party. It’s just that nobody outside the party had a say who got the nomination, because it wasn’t our business)

      1. Matt M

        It’s worth noting that this varies from state to state. In some states, primaries are “closed” (only registered party members can vote). In others, they are “open” (any registered voter can vote).

        1. Del Cotter

          Yes, but you still have the register. We don’t have a register (the parties have membership records, but I doubt they share them)

          This leads to statements like “I’m registered Independent”, with the explanation that Independent is not the name of a party. We’re like “you’re what?”

          “The Independent Party” would be a pretty cool name. We have a newspaper called “The Independent”.

          1. John Schilling

            The United States already has the (fringe right) American Independent Party, which in fact does get a good number of voter registrations by people who don’t read the fine print and think they are registering their independence from party politics altogether.

            I don’t think this leads to many people actually voting for their candidates in general elections, when you’re picking named individuals rather than party labels, but it makes them look bigger than they are in the primaries.

        2. Dewwy

          In others, they are “open” (any registered voter can vote).

          Is this really what an open primary is ? So if I’m registered to vote I can participate in the Odin Party candidate selection even though I’m actually a Satanist Part Member and just want to select the Odin Party candidate who I think is most likely to lose the general election ?

          1. HeelBearCub

            @Dewwy:
            Modulo that there are different forms of “open” primaries, yes that is correct.

            It does mean you have to give up the option to influence your own parties selections, but you will occasional see party figures encouraging the behavior you are suggesting.

          2. bullseye

            Yes, some people vote in the other party’s primary for their weakest candidate. Alternatively, if your district is overwhelmingly Odinist and they’re sure to win, you might as well vote in the primary that matters.

    3. Radu Floricica

      I read something here recently about registered party members being given different ballots. Didn’t care enough to google, but I really hope I misunderstood.

      1. SamChevre

        That’s the case here in Massachusetts, for the PRIMARIES (not the general election). If you are a registered party member, you automatically get the ballot for your party’s primary. If you are not, you can ask for either party’s ballot. (Note–some states have closed primaries, where you have to be registered with a party to vote in that party’s primary. Massachusetts has open primaries.)

      2. HeelBearCub

        Different primary ballots? Yes.

        You only get to vote in one party primary. Why is that weird?

        Some states strictly restrict party ballots to registered voters. In some other states, you can chose to vote in any party primary, regardless of registration. There are states that give only unaffiliated voters the ability to vote in any party’s primary. Another set of states have “jungle” primaries, where there is a combined primary and the top two vote getters, regardless of party, advance to the general. (That obviously doesn’t apply to the Presidential primary).

        In California, a “jungle primary” state, the “America Independent Party” still exists as a party (not the same as unaffiliated) that you can register with. That’s a long story tied up in the civil rights era of American politics. If you mistakenly register with that party, you won’t be able to get a Democratic or Republican presidential primary ballot.

        1. Dewwy

          You only get to vote in one party primary. Why is that weird?

          I think the confusion doesn’t come from this, at least not for me. It comes from the involvement of government officials in the internal affairs of political parties beyond things like financial fraud and other lawbreaking.

          For example, in the UK (to the best of my knowledge) if I am a Labour party member, or a member of certain affiliated groups (mostly unions), I can vote for the Leader of the Labour Party. The Labour party conducts this election on its own, the UK electoral commission/returning officers are not counting ballots for them.

          If am a Labour party member I can’t vote in elections by the Conservative Party for Leader of the Conservative Party not because I am registered as for Labour and won’t get a ballot from the electoral commission but because the Conservative Party won’t let me be a member of theirs if I’m also a member of another party, and only their members vote for party leader (after their members of parliament whittle down the candidates to two in a multi-round elimination process, but I digress). Basically the parties can do whatever they want in choosing their party leaders (who are effectively their candidates for Prime Minister but only by strong convention)

          Conversely it seems to me that in some US states that election commissioners for states and other local government are actually counting the ballots in various political party primary elections. For example this Wikipedia page for the New York City Board of Elections says its responsibilities are

          1. Conducting fair and honest elections, from local to federal levels: the preparation of the ballot for primary, special and general elections to the extent that all vacancies for public office and party positions may be filled.

          3.Conducting elections, certify the canvass and to retain the official records: that the votes of the electorate at primary, special and general elections be properly canvassed and that a true count be given for each candidate voted for.

          Emphasis mine

          1. Loriot

            On the other hand, American’s get weirded out when they hear that the British prime minister was chosen by a relatively small group of party members with no input from voters. (Though there has since been an election, so Johnson does have electoral legitimacy now).

            Different countries do things differently and people are weirded out by what they’re not used to. I was recently surprised to learn that in Canada, people buy milk in bags.

          2. Dewwy

            On the other hand, American’s get weirded out when they hear that the British prime minister was chosen by a relatively small group of party members with no input from voters.

            It weirds out Britons who aren’t aware of it at first (which is many of them), though I think this may be due to American pop-cultural influence to some extent. We do get people who think parts of our legal system work the way they do on TV (the way they work on Law & Order)

            Different countries do things differently and people are weirded out by what they’re not used to.

            Of course, I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to have these things tied together. It’s just interesting as a point which causes some confusion between countries. That and I’m curious about where this difference came from, what problem was it a solution to ?

          3. Del Cotter

            I was charmed, not weirded, to learn that in some parts of Germany you can buy milk from a machine, putting your own bottle, or a bought bottle, into the machine as if you were filling your car with gas.

            Apparently you can do this somewhere in England, but I’ve never seen it. Years and years ago this was done in a much less technological way, of course, by bringing a jug to a store, or to a passing cart.

    4. Garrett

      > why are state governments involved at all

      As with everything weird in this country, the answer comes down to “slavery”. After the Civil War, the former Confederate States enacted several measures to disenfranchise (among others) the former slaves. Unpassable literacy tests were one mechanism, but poll taxes were another. And for the same reason, the Democrats were the party of the South, having risen in response to the acts of President Lincoln (a Republican). With the ratification of the 24th Amendment in 1964 this all changed. Text of

      Section 1:

      The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.

      Requiring party membership as in paying dues is treated as a poll tax. So everybody needs to be allowed to participate without spending money, though the specific terms are dictated by State law.

      1. Del Cotter

        Thanks for that very interesting history. I hadn’t thought about it that way.

        Was John Kennedy’s nomination race against Johnson a small scale affair, even a smoky back room arrangement? Not picking on Kennedy, Johnson, the Democrats or anybody, just wondering how different the atmosphere was before 1964.

        1. Loriot

          The current primary system dates back to 1972, as a response to the fiasco of 1968 (when the Democratic convention experienced riots). I’m not sure exactly how things were before, but my impression is that it was mostly party insiders in smoke filled rooms choosing the nominee.

      2. 10240

        This says that the US or the state government can’t require party dues, not that the party can’t. Formally it doesn’t imply that the state should be involved in the primary, or that the party can’t restrict primary voting to dues-paying members, though it may follow in judicial interpretations.

      3. BBA

        Government-run party primaries go back further than that. New York’s primary dates back to 1890 and the other states don’t matter probably adopted it at about the same time.

        Now obviously a reformist Democrat wouldn’t trust the Tammany-dominated Democratic Party to run a primary between a Tammany candidate and a reformist candidate. What’s unclear is why they’d think the government would be any more trustworthy.

  25. HeelBearCub

    Trump had this to say yesterday. I slept on it to see if it sounded any less unhinged. Nope.

    This is what he had to say immediately after a presentation on research showing how long covid-19 survives on surfaces and in the air under different conditions.

    TRUMP: … A question that probably some of you are thinking of, if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful, light. And I think you said that hasn’t been checked, but I think you’re going to test it. And then I said: Supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that too. Sounds interesting. And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute—one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside? Or almost a cleaning? Because, you see, it gets in the lungs and it does tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that. So you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds interesting to me. So we’ll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute, that’s pretty powerful.

    Video of his remarks starts at 1:42 in, with [some of] that presentation beforehand.

    This isn’t spinnable as 4D chess to “wind up the libs”. This guy really is just as impulsive and ill informed as he seems.

    The Emperor has no clothes and everyone around him has to pretend they see invisible silk, or it’s into the proverbial pit. I hope at some point everyone will realize that, as otherwise the rebuilding will be that much harder.

    1. EchoChaos

      He’s clearly thinking out loud. Should a President do that in a press conference? No, he should not, but eh.

      Good thing the Dems are running a clear communicator who doesn’t have spells of weird talking against him as a contrast. If they ran someone who communicated even less clearly that would be a huge mistake.

      1. NostalgiaForInfinity

        If that’s how he thinks, out loud or in his own head, he should not be the President of a country of 12 people, let alone 350 million. The problem isn’t just that he said it at a press conference but what it reveals about how dumb and uninformed he is.

        It is unfortunate that the two candidates for the Presidency are senile, but I’m fairly confident that Biden doesn’t think injecting people with disinfectant or “bringing a light inside the body” is going to cure people of coronavirus.

        1. Conrad Honcho

          Great, find me someone who has the correct policies on trade and immigration and also a medical degree and I’ll vote for him. In the meantime I suggest not taking medical advice from Dr. Trump.

          1. Matt M

            Great, find me someone who has the correct policies on trade and immigration and also a medical degree and I’ll vote for him.

            Done.

          2. Matt M

            Free trader yes. Open borders no. I’d say he’s a “private borders” guy which is right in that sweet spot where red tribe thinks he’s open borders but blue tribe thinks he’s anti-immigration.

      2. HeelBearCub

        He’s not thinking out loud. Pay attention to what he is saying. It’s in the past tense.

        1. Matt M

          He’s speaking in the past tense regarding a conversation he had with someone else where he is clearly speculating as to something that might be tested/done in the future. Note the many uses of “supposing” and such language…

      3. m.alex.matt

        I’d vastly prefer a President with a stutter than one without the mental competency to make it through a press conference without recommending laparoscopic UV sterilization.

        1. Matt M

          He didn’t recommend anything. He described a conversation he had with someone about a hypothetical method of treatment, that would need to be tested first, and specifically clarified that it would have to be managed and overseen by medical doctors.

          1. albatross11

            So, what I get from this is that Trump is having conversations with technical advisors, but he doesn’t really have the right basic knowledge to understand what they’re saying, and he’s walking away from those briefings/discussions with some pretty profound misunderstandings. Or alternatively, he’s getting briefed by technical advisors who themselves don’t know what they’re talking about or are quacks, but I’d guess it’s that they know what they’re talking about but Trump doesn’t understand it very well.

            Now, I think this is fairly common. My mom and stepdad are smart, college-educated people (actually both with graduate degrees), but with no technical background. Every now and then I’ll have a conversation with them where it becomes clear that they’ve really fundamentally misunderstood how some bit of technology works. I’ve also had technical conversations with management/administrative people before, and then watched them display a deep misunderstanding of what we’d just discussed. Once, I even watched as the CEO of a company I’d done a lot of technical work for got up in front of several hundred people at a conference and “explained” how the technology we’d designed worked. (Spoiler alert: It didn’t actually work anything like what he said, and much of what he claimed it was doing wasn’t even possible.).

            The difference between Trump and 95% of other politicians is not intelligence or technical background–as best I can tell, he’s probably about as smart as the median high-level politician and isn’t any less technically savvy. The difference is that most politicians are afraid of looking like fools by saying something that displays their misunderstandings, and so they’re careful to go over exactly what they’re saying with their advisors until they hopefully get it right. Trump isn’t into that kind of care w.r.t. what he says. That has probably helped him in debates, where he managed not to sound like a trained seal reciting his lines.

            Now, in this kind of situation, what we’d really like would be a leader who was both reassuring and careful not to overstep what he knew, and to make sure anything he said wasn’t going to cause Tony Faucci to quietly do a facepalm in the background. But that’s not the leader we have.

            The quality of decisions we can expect from Trump probably follows the same pattern–he has no internal mental model that would let him reason well about any of this stuff, studying up on it isn’t his style and anyway he probably doesn’t have the time, and so he’s likely unable to tell when he says or hears something silly vs something plausible vs something rock-solid. As best I can tell, though, that’s also true for most of the political class. An overworked 63-year old with a law degree who’s spent most of his adult life in politics (which is more-or-less what the median elected official looks like) is unlikely to have a deep understanding of epidemiological models or virology or whatever. He’s dependent on his advisors for that. The fact that most elected officials don’t want to look like fools in public (and Trump doesn’t care so much about that) doesn’t change the fact that when they’re making decisions, most of them probably don’t have more than a basic cartoon-physics understanding of what they’re doing.

          2. m.alex.matt

            I think you mean he described his incredibly poor, borderline child-like understanding of a conversation he had with someone.

            He’s the kind of guy who reads a four page newspaper article, remembers the one-sentence tagline underneath the title, and then starts making detailed decisions about the world based on that memory. People believe a lot of dumb shit because of having a poor understanding of limited amounts of information, but this person is the President of the United States with access to expert advisors in literally any field he would care to try to understand. With this guy they’re stuck with crayola drawings to try to get him to understand anything and even then he seems to fail to grasp anything but the broadest of details.

          3. salvorhardin

            @albatross11 I agree that Trump has probably just catastrophically misunderstood his advisers on this stuff, but disagree that we can’t do better by substituting more typical politicians. Yes, plenty of smart people fundamentally misunderstand technical issues in ways that seem obviously laughable to specialists. And if Trump had mused aloud about a screwy, wrong interpretation of R_0, or even of the phenomenon of exponential growth generally, I would say that would be the explanation. Most people don’t get that if the whole lily pond is covered in 30 days then half the pond is covered in 29 days, and probably neither does the median politician.

            But there’s a difference between that level of knowledge and the more basic experiential and practical knowledge of the world that most median-or-above-intelligence people acquire by puberty. I would argue that this latter level of knowledge includes both

            — the fact that “X disinfects surfaces effectively” doesn’t even remotely imply “X would disinfect your body effectively and safely if you ingested it”

            — the fact that ingesting Lysol is obviously and extremely bad for you

            That Trump lacks this knowledge is not, I think, evidence of a lack of raw cognitive capacity; his extreme strategic cunning for publicity-seeking testifies that he has that. Rather, it is evidence that he is both unusually incurious and unusually sheltered. Most people learn the facts above, along with many other facts about the world, as part of learning to be ordinary self-supporting adults. Trump was too cosseted in privilege from a young age to ever have to learn them, and too uninterested in how ordinary life operates to ever want to. It’s the Bobby Newport syndrome, basically– or, if you like, a much more consequential version of Bush I having no idea what a gallon of milk costs.

          4. Matt M

            Do you honestly believe that Trump does not understand that ingesting Lysol would be bad for you?

          5. Conrad Honcho

            If you have someone who’s a billionaire, who’s built skyscrapers and golf courses all over the world, who ran a top-rated TV show for years, and who succeeded in beating the Most Qualified Candidate for President Ever to win the office of Literally Most Powerful Person Ever in Existence, and this person says something that sounds screwy, the correct answer is probably not “oh, he’s actually too dumb to tie his own shoes.” The correct answer is probably, “he messed up a word or two explaining a novel concept.” Which seems to be the case with the UV light in the lungs treatment.

            I always thought Obama was a pretty smart guy, being president of the Harvard Law Review and all, and getting elected to the Senate, and the Presidency. But then he said he’d been to 57 states, when any school child knows there are only 50! I’m sure you now agree that the whole “Harvard” thing and “winning national office” thing were just dumb luck, and Obama is actually a blithering idiot, right? It couldn’t possibly be that he was tired from a long campaign and flubbed “47” for “57.” No, it makes much more sense that he’s actually dumber than rocks and the impressive accomplishments were just luck or cheating or something.

          6. DavidFriedman

            The difference between Trump and 95% of other politicians is not intelligence or technical background–as best I can tell, he’s probably about as smart as the median high-level politician and isn’t any less technically savvy. The difference is that most politicians are afraid of looking like fools by saying something that displays their misunderstandings

            Yes. For my favorite example of how ignorant a top-level politician can be:

            “When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed.”

            That’s Biden in an interview, not a prepared speech. He apparently did not know either that FDR was not president when the stock market crashed or that television at the time was still being developed.

            Seven years later, there were about 200 television sets in use worldwide.

          7. albatross11

            Note that Trump is supposed to be a germophobe, so he’s probably pretty familiar with how disinfectants are supposed to work.

          8. NostalgiaForInfinity

            @Conrad Honcho

            Trump built his business empire when he was younger and could string a sentence together. He’s now in his 70s and although this particular goof is worse than most of his others, it’s part of a consistent pattern. I highly doubt that Trump now could sit down for an hour long interview and talk like he does in that one linked to above.

            He wouldn’t be the first President / PM / Chancellor to start to go senile in office. Or for it to get worse anyway.

          9. Conrad Honcho

            I highly doubt that Trump now could sit down for an hour long interview and talk like he does in that one linked to above.

            And yet he does it quite frequently, and he holds rallies where he talks for an hour or more, frequently going off topic and speaking extemporaneously. These are the things I see, because I’ve watched dozens of Trump rallies. And now that I think about them I really miss them. Stupid virus. Anyway, but the media doesn’t show this stuff. It’s the 30 second outtake where he said something screwy, as people tend to do.

            Trump has taken cognitive performance tests in office, and passed just fine. So, no, he’s not senile. This is just media manipulation. How about I put you on camera and record 90% of everything you say for a month, take the 5 stupidest utterances you produce during that time and show it to a test audience? What do you think their opinion of NostalgiaForInfinity’s mental aptitude is going to be?

          10. Edward Scizorhands

            Trump was amazing to be able to compose paragraphs on the fly. He could compose a better argument in his head than most people could sitting down with pen and paper and given a half-hour.

            I think the refusal to admit this is part of the problem. People who never could do that would never start trying.

          11. Chalid

            @David Friedman

            There was a major stock market crash in 1937 in which the Dow fell more than 40%.

          12. mtl1882

            The difference between Trump and 95% of other politicians is not intelligence or technical background–as best I can tell, he’s probably about as smart as the median high-level politician and isn’t any less technically savvy. The difference is that most politicians are afraid of looking like fools by saying something that displays their misunderstandings, and so they’re careful to go over exactly what they’re saying with their advisors until they hopefully get it right. Trump isn’t into that kind of care w.r.t. what he says. That has probably helped him in debates, where he managed not to sound like a trained seal reciting his lines. …. As best I can tell, though, that’s also true for most of the political class. An overworked 63-year old with a law degree who’s spent most of his adult life in politics (which is more-or-less what the median elected official looks like) is unlikely to have a deep understanding of epidemiological models or virology or whatever. He’s dependent on his advisors for that. The fact that most elected officials don’t want to look like fools in public (and Trump doesn’t care so much about that) doesn’t change the fact that when they’re making decisions, most of them probably don’t have more than a basic cartoon-physics understanding of what they’re doing.

            Exactly. Fantastic post.

            And another fantastic post:

            If you have someone who’s a billionaire, who’s built skyscrapers and golf courses all over the world, who ran a top-rated TV show for years, and who succeeded in beating the Most Qualified Candidate for President Ever to win the office of Literally Most Powerful Person Ever in Existence, and this person says something that sounds screwy, the correct answer is probably not “oh, he’s actually too dumb to tie his own shoes.” The correct answer is probably, “he messed up a word or two explaining a novel concept.” Which seems to be the case with the UV light in the lungs treatment.

            I always thought Obama was a pretty smart guy, being president of the Harvard Law Review and all, and getting elected to the Senate, and the Presidency. But then he said he’d been to 57 states, when any school child knows there are only 50! I’m sure you now agree that the whole “Harvard” thing and “winning national office” thing were just dumb luck, and Obama is actually a blithering idiot, right? It couldn’t possibly be that he was tired from a long campaign and flubbed “47” for “57.”

            Leaders regularly have no idea what they are talking about, even smart ones. Sometimes they do, but they misspeak. Trump is somewhat more flamboyant in his mistakes, because that is how he is in general. The Obama example is perfect because it shows that making this an issue of basic knowledge is silly. We misspeak on fundamental things that we understand viscerally, especially when tired and on-camera all the time. Parents mixing up kids’ names and all that. You need to look at context. I’m sure Obama knows how many states there are.

            That doesn’t mean that spending hours practicing a script produces better results–yes, it protects you against people drinking Lysol based on your comments, but that benefit may be outweighed by the cost of never being able to speak without a script and spending valuable hours polishing other people’s words. Obviously, the ideal is a leader who makes consistently sensible comments, but people seem far more concerned with the possible effects of Trump’s words than what he actually appears to understand. They’re often as upset with him for misspeaking as for just being wrong. This is an absurd standard for any leader in a crisis who has to be making public comments all the time on complex and changing issues and is probably *tired.* You can’t compare it to a SOTU address.

          13. Conrad Honcho

            @albatross11

            Which is why I have posted precisely zero “ZOMG u guise Biden said something dum how can you vote for hime?!?!?” threads.

    2. Purplehermann

      4d chess, or even just show-host level chess:
      most people are either smart enough to know that President Trump is not part of the medical side of things (as an expert at least) and to disregard this, simple enough that hearing the President talk about possible fixes makes them feel something is being done, or anti-Trump/jaded/etc enough that they’ll pretty much disregard everything he says unless they are getting outraged

    3. Robert Liguori

      I mean, I’m not a biologist. I do strongly speculate that, I dunno, intubating someone with respiratory difficulties and shining a bright UV light into their lungs would trade sterilizing the surface viruses only for massive irritation and much worse respiratory difficulties, and yes the whole injecting light sounds very weird and I can’t even imagine any way to salvage that into anything vaguely reasonable.

      But given that we are already pursuing novel and wide-sweeping changes in society, why not give a few mouse lungs bad sunburns to see what happens?

      1. HeelBearCub

        Read more carefully. The UV light was “under the skin”. It was “disinfectant injections” that was connected to the lungs.

        Your theory amounts to “let’s get the monkeys banging on typewriters going. Maybe my term paper will pop out.”

        1. EchoChaos

          Okay, so I found what he was talking about. Clearly someone medical mentioned this study to him.

          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29124710

          Ultraviolet Irradiation of Blood: “The Cure That Time Forgot”?

          It isn’t technobabble, he’s saying we should try a study a doctor mentioned to him under a doctor’s supervision.

          1. EchoChaos

            @NostalgiaForInfinity

            Speculating. Just as everyone on the other side is speculating that Trump is an idiot.

          2. EchoChaos

            @HeelBearCub

            I have exactly as much evidence as you have that he wasn’t referencing this.

          3. NostalgiaForInfinity

            I wouldn’t say I was speculating so much as I was just reading what he said.

            I have exactly as much evidence as you have that he wasn’t referencing this.

            So as long as there exists any published article, which – if you put it through a meat grinder – vaguely resembles something Trump said, there’s no reason to think that he wasn’t referencing that study?

          4. Chalid

            So his advisors are bringing to his attention a paper from three years ago with four citations?

            I guess that checks out with Trump’s self-proclaimed mastery of medical knowledge.

            Any promising papers about injection of disinfectants?

          5. matkoniecz

            @EchoChaos

            I was (and I am still doing this). But thanks for admitting to not arguing in a good faith.

          6. EchoChaos

            @matkoniecz

            My statements here are in good faith. I genuinely believe that Trump heard of this or some other treatment. More likely the one @The Nybbler found, but who knows. This is the one I found when I Googled “UV blood irradiation”.

            In this particular thread, I am frustrated at the entire assumption of idiocy and/or malice on the part of Trump, which is clearly not in good faith either.

            There is a rather obvious explanation for Trump’s statement, which is that someone told him of some related medical procedure that he has mangled to one degree or another.

            Assuming instead idiocy is more bad faith than my sarcastic rejoinders in this thread.

            Edit:

            Actually, thank you very much for your statement. You’ve reminded me why this kind of thing is such a mind-killer on this board. I will step back from this thread.

          7. Conrad Honcho

            If you’re not going to argue in good faith, you shouldn’t be here.

            In EC’s defense, he’s not wrong. HBC knows Trump is not stupid, and knows Trump is not senile, and posted this anyway. Love you, HBC, but this whole thread was poor form.

          8. HeelBearCub

            Bad form? What is this, the “Dear Leader” forum? Criticism of Trump will not be tolerated?

            I don’t know what precisely caused Trump to say what he did, but he said it. Not me.

            I just pointed out that it’s mind-bogglingly stupid. The fact that some are unwilling to recognize that isn’t my fault.

          9. meh

            There is a rather obvious explanation for Trump’s statement, which is that someone told him of some related medical procedure that he has mangled to one degree or another.

            Assuming instead idiocy is more bad faith than my sarcastic rejoinders in this thread.

            Can’t both of these things be true? Someone told him of the study, and his poor grasp of medicine led to him mangling it to one degree or another.

            The real disagreement is some want to call this mangling ‘idiocy’, while others prefer to call it ‘mangled’

          10. DavidFriedman

            HBC knows Trump is not stupid, and knows Trump is not senile, and posted this anyway.

            Unaccustomed as I am to defend HBC …

            Unless I missed something, he said “impulsive and ill informed,” not stupid and senile.

            Trump appears to be impulsive. Whether he was ill informed in this case is unclear — he may just have been talking loosely about real possibilities that he didn’t understand well enough to describe in any detail. But I can easily believe that HBC thought he was ill informed.

          11. broblawsky

            I don’t see how HeelBearCub could be accused of not arguing in good faith. EchoChaos claiming that Trump’s rambling diversion was “clearly” the product of him having a discussion with an actual medical professional is a lot harder to defend, especially now that he’s claimed that he was being sarcastic.

          12. The Nybbler

            did trump say he was being sarcastic?

            Yes, but only about the disinfectant thing, which is not what people (including myself) were talking about with the study thing. Besides, CNN has inside knowledge of Trump’s intention and says there’s no way he was sarcastic, and I believe them.

          13. meh

            stupid or liar?

            this is why I don’t buy TDS. It’s not a matter of being deranged, it’s just a matter of not having the secret decoder ring.

          14. Conrad Honcho

            Bad form? What is this, the “Dear Leader” forum? Criticism of Trump will not be tolerated?

            I’m saying it’s a lame argument, as if I were to post clips of Obama saying dumb things like “57 states” or “if if if if if if okie doke” (and don’t even get me started on Biden) so I could dunk on Dems, you might also consider that “poor form.”

            And replying, “I don’t know what precisely caused Biden to say what he did, but he said it,” wouldn’t be much of a defense. We all know how selective quoting works.

            @DavidFriedman

            Unless I missed something, he said “impulsive and ill informed,” not stupid and senile.

            True, but that’s what he was getting at. For instance, his comment above yours,

            I just pointed out that it’s mind-bogglingly stupid.

            But, HBC knows Trump is not stupid. Therefore, harping on this particular comment serves what purpose?

            He already knows the response he’s going to get is the exact same response he would give if somebody started talking about how “ill informed” Obama is for truly and honestly in his heart believing he’s been to 57 states. It is not a good faith argument, because HBC knows Trump is not so dumb as to believe in injecting disinfectants, but he’s posting a confusing statement so he can dunk on Trump supporters. Great. Dunking achieved. Enjoy your two points.

        2. Robert Liguori

          You mean these monkeys?

          Led by Mark Pimentel, MD, the research team of the Medically Associated Science and Technology (MAST) Program at Cedars-Sinai has been developing the patent-pending Healight platform since 2016 and has produced a growing body of scientific evidence demonstrating pre-clinical safety and effectiveness of the technology as an antiviral and antibacterial treatment. The Healight technology employs proprietary methods of administering intermittent ultraviolet (UV) A light via a novel endotracheal medical device. Pre-clinical findings indicate the technology’s significant impact on eradicating a wide range of viruses and bacteria, inclusive of coronavirus. The data have been the basis of discussions with the FDA for a near-term path to enable human use for the potential treatment of coronavirus in intubated patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). Beyond the initial pursuit of a coronavirus ICU indication, additional data suggest broader clinical applications for the technology across a range of viral and bacterial pathogens. This includes bacteria implicated in ventilator associated pneumonia (VAP).

          It looks like Trump’s query about getting the sterilization ability of UV light directly into people’s lungs is already attempting to be a thing. And again, describing shoving a UV light source into people’s lungs as ‘injection’ is weird, but these are pretty clearly off-the-cuff comments.

          Now, again, I’m not a biologist, and sterilizing with UV that’s not the UVC Shred All the DNA sounds slightly sketchy to me, but the concept Trump is clearly describing is plausible enough for a reputable hospital to investigate it.

    4. Matt M

      Sounds to me like kind of a standard Star Trek-esque technobabble sort of thing.

      Obviously the ultimate cure, treatment, vaccine, etc. for COVID will be medically and scientifically complex. But I’ll bet you anything the way it will be explained to the public is via some incredibly over-simplified and likely flawed analogy: “It’s like injecting your lungs with disinfectant!”

      I feel like this is TDS and if Fauci said the same thing, nobody would bat an eye. I also think that this was not just Trump making shit up on the fly. It reads to me like someone probably already theorized this to him and he was repeating (in his own words, of course) some sort of theory he’d already heard. Whether he heard that theory from a legit scientist or read it on Infowars I couldn’t say.

      1. Kaitian

        I imagine the conversation went something like this:

        Doctor: we’re looking for a treatment that can destroy the virus in the body.
        Trump: how can we destroy the virus?
        Doctor: on surfaces lots of things destroy it, uv light, disinfectant, …
        Trump: so we’re trying to do something like that inside the body?
        Doctor: something like that, yes.

        And then Trump’s brain scrambled it into what we got. I don’t think he literally believes you can just use disinfectant on people’s lungs.

        1. EchoChaos

          I linked the study (or one like it) that Trump almost certainly heard of that resulted in this.

          1. NostalgiaForInfinity

            “Almost certainly”.

            You found a review article – not a study – on the historical use of UV as a treatment. You have no idea if that article or anything like it was presented to Trump, or if Kaitian’s description of what happened is what actually took place, or if he came up with the idea himself.

          2. EchoChaos

            @NostalgiaForInfinity

            I mean, it’s totally possible that Trump was brilliant enough to immediately reproduce one of the premier pre-antibiotic treatment regimens on his own, but I was assuming a more modest level of genius in our President.

          3. NostalgiaForInfinity

            @EchoChaos

            One half of his ramblings, if viewed in the most favourable conceivable light, vaguely resembled an old anti-bacterial therapy. The disinfectant injections are yet to be explained as actually a stroke of genius.

      2. beleester

        Let me get this straight. Trump said something that you can’t tell if it’s legitimate medical advice or something he heard on Infowars… and you think this is an acceptable, normal level of communication, no worse than any other medical expert would have done to explain it? How low are your standards?

        I feel like there’s some sort of opposite to TDS, where rather than parsing reasonable statements in the most unflattering light, people take Trump’s most absurd statements and explain why, if you make all the most flattering assumptions you can, they aren’t actually that dumb.

    5. Bobobob

      Donald Trump is an idiot. I’m not saying all Republicans are idiots, I’m not saying all Democrats are saints, I’m not saying that no other politicians in history have spoken off the cuff and gone off the rails (sorry for the mixed metaphor). I think it is a calamity of historic proportions that Trump, rather than Obama, or Romney, or Clinton, or even (take your pick) a Bush, should be president of the United States during the COVID-19 outbreak.

      1. Matt M

        So under your theory, can you explain why the US is not leading the world, by a significant margin, in per capita COVID deaths?

        If Trump is uniquely ill-equipped to manage COVID, why are multiple European nations experiencing similar results?

        1. NostalgiaForInfinity

          Two possible reasons:

          1) State governors have some influence over the response and were able to reduce cases regardless of Trump’s incompetence.

          2) The US is behind Italy, France and Spain in terms of when their respective outbreaks really got going. There’s still time for the US to overtake them.

          1. Matt M

            1) State governors have some influence over the response and were able to reduce cases regardless of Trump’s incompetence.

            The places with the worst outbreaks are the ones that are the most stridently ant-Trump and have only Democrats in leadership position.

            If you slice America into Trump states and Hillary states, Trump states have much better outcomes to this point. You can claim this is just a fluke and that they’re totally on the verge of having worse outcomes if you want… of course this is what red states have been hearing (just wait! in two more weeks you’ll be stepping over bodies in the streets!) for over a month now.

            2) The US is behind Italy, France and Spain in terms of when their respective outbreaks really got going. There’s still time for the US to overtake them.

            The US has many different separate outbreaks. The worst ones seem to have peaked. While it’s true that more may arise or get worse, that remains entirely hypothetical. It’s also true that Italy, France, Spain etc. have not yet achieved herd immunity and may very well have worse outbreaks in the future still as well.

          2. matkoniecz

            The places with the worst outbreaks are the ones that are the most stridently ant-Trump and have only Democrats in leadership position.

            Clearly confounded by fact that epidemics are quicker and worse in urban areas. And Democrats are typically getting better results in cities.

            Possibly confounded also by other effects like quality of statistics.

          3. EchoChaos

            @matkoniecz

            Clearly confounded by fact that epidemics are quicker and worse in urban areas.

            Republicans control the second and third largest state in the Union (Texas and Florida), both of which have large urban areas and both of which are doing per capita fairly well.

            Of course, this is confounded by weather, since Texas and Florida are hot and humid, which COVID doesn’t like at all.

            Republican-controlled Utah and Democrat-controlled Colorado are very similar, each dominated by one large urban area with lots of rural areas and ski resorts. Utah is doing way better.

          4. albatross11

            Or possibly:

            3). Within broad limits, the competence of the executive isn’t actually very relevant to how the disease works out. You can maybe get exceptionally good (Taiwan’s VP being an epidemiologist) or bad (Brazil’s president denying the existence of the virus and overruling local-government shutdowns) executive responses, but anywhere in the middle 2-sigma band, it doesn’t matter much. A much more competent president would have been less useful to us that a slightly more competent CDC and FDA.

          5. meh

            The places with the worst outbreaks are the ones that are the most stridently ant-Trump and have only Democrats in leadership position.

            I don’t see how this follows? Isn’t the administration *less* likely to cooperate with democratic states?

          6. Clutzy

            I don’t see how this follows? Isn’t the administration *less* likely to cooperate with democratic states?

            1. Not based on evidence.
            2. Even if you turned up a bit, he doesn’t have much ability to stop them from what they think is right without the cooperation of a largely Dem-Aligned bureaucracy.
            3. And even if he had that, he doesn’t have much authority. Pandemic control is a classic police power mostly reserved to the states.

          7. quanta413

            Thank you albatross for giving the much more likely explanation.

            Worse than that, you couldn’t transplant the equivalent competence of the Taiwanese or South Korean system (their entire public health apparatus more or less) here and expect the same effect.

            Although sometimes overrated, I think there is something to the idea that people in the U.S. and Western Europe are much less likely to go along with an effective policy response to a pandemic in time. The cultural tendencies that make this true are a positive sometimes, but not right now.

        2. Bobobob

          I can’t argue the point. I would say that Trump’s idiocy affects me more, personally, on a gut level, than any effect it has had on COVID-19 fatalities. It’s almost like an allergic reaction.

          Would you argue that Trump is displaying a Roosevelt, Churchill, Obama level of calm, reasoned, determined, and articulate leadership through this crisis? I wouldn’t.

          Edited to add: I’ve spent a significant portion of my career in science- and medicine-adjacent fields, and I’ve written a couple of books explaining those topics to kids. So to see a grown human in a position of power spouting this kind of nonsense is especially irritating.

          1. Aapje

            On the plus side: there are a lot of people who can say idiotic things in an intelligent-seeming manner. Trump makes lots of people think for themselves rather than be suckered in by the charm 🙂

          2. Matt M

            I can’t argue the point. I would say that Trump’s idiocy affects me more, personally, on a gut level, than any effect it has had on COVID-19 fatalities. It’s almost like an allergic reaction.

            This is the closest thing I’ve ever heard to someone basically admitting, “Yes, I have TDS.” So uh, thanks for being honest about it, at least?

            Honestly, I recommend you just turn off the news. I used to feel this sort of anger and resentment and hopelessness during the Obama administration. I just started trying to avoid him as much as possible and I started feeling a lot better in life…

          3. albatross11

            Bobbob:

            I feel your pain. At a personal level, I find Trump’s leadership style to be fingernails-on-a-blackboard level grating, and also find that almost any other political leader I can think of would be more reassuring to me in times like this. Most political leaders are not much for understanding science or math or technology or for valuing actual truth over social truth, but Trump takes the cake.

            And yet, it’s not at all clear to me that this has actually made things much worse in the US w.r.t. COVID-19.

          4. DinoNerd

            @Matt M I’m not quite sure what is meant by
            “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” but I probably also qualify. I don’t pay attention to anything Trump says, because it would be likely to make me mad, but if I did, I’d come close to regarding “Trump said it” as increasing the odds that the statement was false. (As it is, I only hear about his most idiotic statements, because some people delight in repeating them ad nauseam. Of course that confounds the ongoing impression I get of him ;-()

          5. Garrett

            > Obama

            If someone’s going to screw up my life, I’d prefer it to be done out of idiocy rather than contemptuous malice. At least that way the magic 8-ball might sometimes work in my favor.

          6. Edward Scizorhands

            I think the #1 problem right now is lack of testing to open things back up.

            A few weeks ago I was optimistic about the US capability to increase this capacity quickly, but the test numbers stalled out around then.

          7. DavidFriedman

            I’m not quite sure what is meant by
            “Trump Derangement Syndrome,”

            Consider something Trump does or says which it is possible, by stretching things a lot in one direction, to view as completely crazy, ignorant, and/or evil, and by stretching things a lot in the other direction as entirely reasonable, if perhaps mistaken. The bit this thread has been about is a good example, with comments demonstrating both possibilities.

            TDS is the attitude that will always take the first option. I don’t know of a similar term for the attitude that will always take the second.

          8. albatross11

            Note that this is a spectrum, and it was previously applied to Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Like, when Obama bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia during a meeting, this was seized upon by a certain subset of writers with moderately large platforms as evidence that Obama was signaling some kind of allegiance to Islam, or maybe to Saudi Arabia, or somehow was lowering America’s status. This was goofy, but sufficiently committed partisans could convinced themselves it was true because tribalism makes you stupid.

            One difference is that, IMO, Trump intentionally plays up the things that get the TDS-sufferers going, basically trolling them in order to get their outraged takes in order to get his own base riled up.

          9. mtl1882

            Would you argue that Trump is displaying a Roosevelt, Churchill, Obama level of calm, reasoned, determined, and articulate leadership through this crisis? I wouldn’t.

            I certainly understand why many people find Trump’s style grating, and it certainly isn’t maximally calm and articulate.

            But I’m not looking for “calm, reasoned, determined, and articulate leadership”—I’m looking for effective leadership. And I think part of the problem is that we care a lot more about whether something looks right or is inoffensive (i.e. not grating) than effective. And I don’t think the correlation between the two is anything near what people think it is. (Effective leadership requires rational understanding, good communication, and resilience, but may not appear calm, reasoned, or particularly articulate). I’m not saying Trump has been effective, but that’s the real issue here. I am not confident Obama would have been any more effective, though he would have been more calm and articulate and he would have *appeared* more reasoned. My personal opinion is that , as other posters have said, this is a serious institutional issue that makes effective leadership by recent presidents very difficult.

            Roosevelt and Churchill would have been better positioned institutionally than their predecessors, but i think it is a huge mistake to categorize them with Obama as some sort of coherent group. Churchill and Roosevelt’s style was not very Obama-like. It would also be foolish to categorize them as Trump-like, but in some ways their style was more like his. Would Obama have said something like this after 2008?

            Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.

            I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.

            Roosevelt’s speech is more articulate than Trump’s speeches, but very aggressive. Then you’ve got the nothing to fear but fear itself thing, an attitude would go over poorly today, but was also pretty Churchillian.

            Interesting Churchill excerpt:

            It would be much better to call a halt in material progress and discovery rather than to be mastered by our own apparatus and the forces which it directs . . . No material progress, even though it takes shapes we cannot now conceive, or however it may expand the faculties of man, can bring comfort to his soul. It is this fact, more wonderful than any that Science can reveal, which gives the best hope that all will be well.

            This wasn’t a guy who just deferred to medical experts.

        3. salvorhardin

          Executive competence is at least as much a symptom as a cause. Arguably what matters for effective pandemic response is institutional competence, not the degree of competence of any one executive. As albatross11 said, if the CDC and FDA had been on the ball this time as much as they have often been on the ball before, that would have made orders of magnitude more difference than anything Trump has done or not done.

          The case for hating Trump in response to this crisis, then, is that the same larger forces that have produced general US institutional decline also produced Trump. These forces certainly include the Revolt of the Public that Gurri describes, where sclerotic and out-of-touch elites find it harder to hide their sclerosis and out-of-touchness, and some non-elites respond with a “burn it all down” sentiment that is, you’ll excuse the metaphor, a cure worse than the disease. This also likely contributes to the institutional dysfunction in many EU countries producing similarly bad pandemic outcomes.

          I would argue that in the US the relevant larger forces also include the resurgent influence of the anti-intellectual, anti-institutional Borderer culture in the past 50 years, which has been both harnessed and stoked by two generations of right-wing politicians now, starting with Nixon and Wallace and continuing with Trump. TDS is a distillation of resentment of this culture and its continuing influence in the US. In my view this resentment is 100% justified, even if its focus on a single individual leads people to overstate the effect of that individual.

          1. quanta413

            As albatross11 said, if the CDC and FDA had been on the ball this time as much as they have often been on the ball before, that would have made orders of magnitude more difference than anything Trump has done or not done.

            When’s the last time we had a severe situation where we could get an idea of CDC or FDA competence when swift action was required?

            Ebola didn’t plausibly have an R0 > 1 in U.S. conditions. Swine flu wasn’t as lethal.

            It’s difficult for me to see how an institution like the CDC or FDA can be kept well functioning for rapid pandemic response when the population doesn’t take it seriously and will not put up with costly preventative measures for low probability but extremely large downside events.

        4. Humbert McHumbert

          There is a huge amount of stochasticity (ie, luck) in how badly epidemics hit different countries. The explanation for why Italy is as bad as it is, is 90% luck or more.

          But the US is in a unique position as a global leader. For a comparison of how things might have gone, look at the way the Obama administration handled Ebola.

          I am not saying COVID-19 wouldn’t have become a pandemic at all if Obama had been president, but I’m saying there’s a chance of that. At least he would have tried to prevent it, and maybe succeeded the way he did with Ebola.

          1. quanta413

            Ebola did not have an R0 > 1 in American conditions. It probably wouldn’t have if literally nothing was done differently from normal.

            The CDC may have prevented some deaths in the U.S. during Ebola, but the difference in CDC effectiveness then vs now is mostly down to the disease being different.

    6. Randy M

      Light injections sound rad. Hey, it cured dark matter syndrome on Exosquad.
      “Injecting disinfectant” sounds kind of like my wife’s cancer treatment. It would probably have similar side effects, lol.
      But sadly, if you are infected with a virus, it’s inside your cells. Disinfecting your interior tissue surfaces doesn’t seem sufficient at that point. Maybe it would slow the spread to other parts of your body or other people, in the hypothetical world where such a thing were possible.

    7. The Nybbler

      Someone probably mentioned this to him and he repeated it in his usual garbled Trumpian way. Yes, it’s UV light, inside the body. It’s crazy and probably won’t work, but it’s not so crazy that a legitimate company isn’t willing to take a shot.

      1. Radu Floricica

        Crazy or not, but thanks to this I just found out about two pretty rad technologies just in this thread. Second Aapje that he’s making people think for themselves, intentionally or not.

        1. albatross11

          Wow, I bet someone explained that idea to him (maybe on TV) and that’s what he was remembering.

      2. HeelBearCub

        While this might be something that will be leaned on after the fact, it doesn’t match other things he said in the same press conference

        But there was more. “I would like you to speak to the medical doctors to see if there’s any way you can apply light and heat to cure. You know? If you could,” Trump said to Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator. “And maybe you can, maybe you can’t . . . I’m not a doctor.”

        This is Trump clearly indicating that he wants to apply the lessons learned from killing the virus on surfaces, and trying to make a logical leap to what would kill them in the body.

        ETA: Even if, the first time he asked the question, someone said “actually there is a potential UV treatment being looked at” (side note: that looks like a puff piece playing for money, but who knows). The link for Trump doesn’t appear to be that.

        1. Matt M

          Even if you assume Trump made that up on the spot, and it’s overwhelmingly unlikely to work, what exactly is the harm in Trump asking the scientists to look into it?

          To the extent that Trump has an idea of how to eradicate the virus, asking Deborah Brix to look into it seems like the exactly correct thing he should do. Now maybe you can argue that it might be better if he ask that privately rather than publicly. And maybe you can argue that such an idea is so obviously terrible that only an idiot could think it’s even worth looking into. But what exact harm is being done here?

    8. Elephant

      I’m not sure which is more depressing, the jaw dropping scientific illiteracy that doesn’t immediately connect “inject* disinfectant” with “kill people,” or the absurd apologies in the comment thread. One can legitimately be in favor of Trump’s policies, and can legitimately point out that the leader of any nation doesn’t affect the course of a pandemic much, and still acknowledge that the things that come out of his mouth are utterly idiotic, worth criticizing if they came from the mouth of anyone over the age of 10.
      *Edited; mis-typed “ingest” earlier

      1. Matt M

        How do you think doctors/scientists initially explained the concept of chemotherapy to the public at large?

        Was it “utterly idiotic” to suggest that we might cure lung cancer by blasting your lungs with high dosage of radiation?

        1. NostalgiaForInfinity

          You appear to be confusing chemotherapy with radiotherapy.

          You’re assuming that Trump has good scientific reasons for suggesting disinfectant injections, and that he is simplifying the explanation for the public’s benefit. What is the evidence that this is what he’s doing, rather than that his grasp of the topic is as bad as it appears?

          1. Matt M

            I’m not assuming anything.

            It was overwhelmingly obvious that Trump was describing a hypothetical treatment method that he had previously discussed with someone else, that still needed to be studied, and that would only be administered through medical physicians.

            At no point did he say “individuals should start injecting disinfectant” or anything even close to that.

          2. NostalgiaForInfinity

            @Matt M

            That’s a highly flattering rephrasing of his statement.

            The “hypothetical medical treatment” in question is “injecting disinfectant”. You were implying that what he said was actually a simplification analogous to how a doctor might explain cancer treatments to the public. If you called out a doctor on their simplification, they could provide an actual medical explanation that explained why the treatment was safe and sensible. You’re assuming that Trump could do the same. I do not think it is overwhelmingly obvious that this is the case.

            At no point did he say “individuals should start injecting disinfectant” or anything even close to that.

            Thank heavens for small mercies.

          3. Matt M

            You were implying that what he said was actually a simplification analogous to how a doctor might explain cancer treatments to the public. If you called out a doctor on their simplification, they could provide an actual medical explanation that explained why the treatment was safe and sensible. You’re assuming that Trump could do the same.

            Incorrect. If someone asked Barack Obama to explain chemotherapy/radiotherapy/whatever, he would probably say something like “We expose the affected area to high dosages of radiation in the hopes that it will kill the cancer cells.”

            And any journalist who tried to run a headline of “Obama recommends sticking your head in the microwave” would be seen to be obviously engaging in a partisan hit-job.

            It’s pointless to speculate as to whether or not Trump understands the science behind this well enough to provide more details of exactly how it works if he would have been asked. Because nobody would ask him. Because asking him would be pointless. Because everyone understands that he isn’t a doctor and doesn’t have specific medical expertise and is not up on stage for the purposes of recommending individual treatment plans to be carried out without medical supervision.

          4. beleester

            “Obama recommends sticking your head in the microwave”

            Can you see why someone might consider changing “Expose cells to radiation” to “Stick your head in the microwave” to be more of a stretch than changing “I see the disinfectant… is there a way we can do something like that with injection inside” to “Trump asks if you can inject disinfectants”?

            Like, it’s not the case that the moment you stop giving exact quotes then truth becomes meaningless and all interpretations become equally false. Some paraphrases are more accurate than others!

      2. EchoChaos

        Fortunately, nobody said “ingest disinfectant”. Not sure why you put quotes around something that wasn’t said.

        1. Elephant

          “inject,” Sorry. But do you really think it’s fine with “inject” rather than “ingest”??

      3. Conrad Honcho

        Yes, I’m in favor of Trump’s policies, I don’t think the president can do much about a pandemic, but I’m not overly bothered by Trump garbling some medical explanation. I’m an electrical engineer, so I know a thing or two about computers, and the things that come out of my grandma’s mouth about her computer defy description. But I can’t expect everybody to be an expert in everything.

      4. quanta413

        It’s wrong but such botched understanding is depressingly common even among people who in theory would know better. After seeing plenty of doctors say stupid things back in February or March and then having my own doctor say multiple stupid things in April, well…

        Let’s just say the President saying stupid things is the least of my worries. I already expect garbled nonsense from him.

    9. NostalgiaForInfinity

      One of the bitterly amusing aspects of Trump’s senile rambling is people contriving defensible interpretations of his statements that he undermines the next day by saying something completely at odds with them.

      Trump now claims it was sarcastic and he was trolling the media.

      This is entirely compatible with a senile narcissist incapable of admitting an error, less so with someone who was inelegantly summarising genuine medical research.

      1. Edward Scizorhands

        “They go out on a limb to defend Trump, and he saws it off right behind them. And then we repeat the same thing within a week.”

      2. Conrad Honcho

        I’m pretty sure the part where he tells the media he was just pretending to be retarded is him trolling the media.

      3. Randy M

        Gallows humor might have a place in society, but spreading misinformation during a crisis is a worse look for a leader than senile.

      4. Rob K

        Heh, beautiful timing.

        For the people offering the strained defenses above, I have no expectation that anything said here will function as persuasion, but I’d like to at least suggest that you recall moments like this if, in the future, you find yourself confused over why so few people coming of age around now want anything to do with you politically.

        You’re free to call it Trump Derangement Syndrome; folks my age were told we had Bush Derangement Syndrome when we noticed that the Iraq War was a crock of shit.

        Fundamentally, though, you sent a child to do a man’s job, it’s on glaringly public display, and people who are forming their political identity right now aren’t going to forget it.

    10. John Schilling

      Trump had this to say yesterday. I slept on it to see if it sounded any less unhinged. Nope.

      Neither less, nor more, so what’s the point of bringing it up?

      The underlying thoughts are not inherently unreasonable. That internal illumination with spectrally appropriate IR/visible/UV light might be an effective way of attacking pathogens is a thought I’ve had myself, and done BOTE calculations and said “probably not but might be worth a look by an expert”. And as noted elsewhere in this thread, the experts at Cedars-Sinai still think it’s worth a look. That “X kills cancer cells/viruses/whatever” doesn’t mean “X may be the cure!” is something I at some point learned not to take seriously, but I’ve seen enough otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people fall for it that I’m not going to hold it against Trump.

      That the appropriate place for these thoughts is in a private discussion with experts and with a willingness to accept “nope” or “not yet” as an answer, rather than in a Presidential press conference, obviously. But we all know by now that this isn’t how Trump rolls. And we know that the bureaucracy filters out the Trumpian nonsense before it turns into policy, and that Trump himself will forget it in a week. Aside from a maybe few complete idiots mainlining bleach and killing themselves, nothing will come of it.

      It serves only to provide confirmation bias for a pre-existing case of Trump Derangement Syndrome, and to drive his opponents into an apoplectic rage that does pretty much the opposite of facilitating their effective opposition to his rule. Which may be deliberate on his part. So why play along by dwelling on it?

        1. Lambert

          It’s crazy, by definition.

          Disinfectants are for surfaces, antiseptics are for external use and antibiotics/antivirals are for internal use.

        2. Another Throw

          What exactly do you think Penicillian is?

          Because if you try to “well akswually!” me on this you will be proving the point. I know it makes you tear your scalp off in rage whenever you hear someone in a position of power use a low-class dialect. Which is deliciously ironic because the Academic English world has turned descriptivism, as opposed to perscriptivism, into unquestionable gospel. If they aren’t updating the OED as we speak I will be very disappointed.

          1. HeelBearCub

            If you are attempting to round Trump’s statement off to “Have you looked into injecting medication”, that statement is possibly even stupider, if less dangerous.

            Actually.

          2. Another Throw

            I honestly do my best to avoid listening to or reading anything he says because it makes me tear my hair out. Having done a reasonable job at this the last few years I haven’t gotten down to my scalp yet. But if you are going to call out two words as especially worthy of scorn I am going to respond on that basis.

            And on that basis I don’t think the majority of English speakers agree with you. (ETA: Or, for that matter, product labeling regulatory agencies.) To basically everyone I know, using “disinfectant” means you are not making specific claims about the biology; whereas using a term from the tree rooted at “antibiotic” means you are making specific claims about the biology. Antibiotic meaning it an anti-fungal and/or an anti-microbial. An anti-microbial is an anti-bacterial and/or an anti-viral. Plus wherever paramecia and eukaryotes fit in there. Etc.

            This contrasts markedly with Lambert’s taxonomy———

            Which, by the way, thank you for letting me know I can safely inject my underwear. I’ve got a wicked case of gonorrhea coming on, what do you recommend? Grind them up in the blender and shoot `em straight into my scrot?

            ———So I really don’t think that this is something to flip your shit over.

          3. HeelBearCub

            If you want to analyze words free of the context in which they are uttered, I got nothing for you. Maybe if you had kept the underwear on you wouldn’t have gonorrhea.

          4. Another Throw

            Then maybe don’t call out two words and act like they are so obviously worthy of scorn that the context doesn’t matter?

            But also reading your excerpt was surprisingly coherent for a Trump Salad. Others have addressed your other objections and I don’t have anything to add if they can’t explain it.

            Thank you for your concern about my health. To be honest, though, I did it through the fly. I thought that was how it was supposed to work!

        3. John Schilling

          What Another Throw says. If say Barack Obama had been giving a speech about the glories of science and the need for STEM education, and said something about how we lived in an age of darkness until Fleming discovered we could “cure infection by injecting bread mold”, no one in Blue Tribe would have used pedantic literalism to mock him as an imbecile.

          Partly because he’s one of yours, partly because he would have spoken in upper-class erudition, and partly because pop-culture STEM education has done a really poor job of explaining what the hard part of curing a disease really is.

          1. HeelBearCub

            Again Jon, if you want to make that statement mean “Have you tried medicine? I really think we should try medicine.”, then it’s even more dumb.

            And Trump recognizes just how dumb it is! That’s why he is now claiming it was “sarcastic”. He himself puts the lie to this interpretation.

            Come on.

          2. John Schilling

            “Have you tried medicine? I really think we should try medicine.”

            Oh, fuck off. You’ve been arguing in extremely bad faith from the start here, and this is no exception. The more appropriate reading is, “I’ve learned that this thing is really good at killing viruses – maybe it would be the basis for an effective antiviral medicine”. Which is naive, but neither crazy nor tautological – and it’s a brand of naiveté that even otherwise intelligent and knowledgeable people often fall prey to.

            That’s why he is now claiming it was “sarcastic”. He himself puts the lie to this interpretation.

            He’s lying now when he says that it was sarcastic then. You know this. But your Trump Derangement Syndrome is making you sound crazier than Donald J. Trump, and you really need to knock it off.

          3. HeelBearCub

            The two specific things that were mentioned in the press conference were bleach and isopropyl alcohol. Those are the disinfectants mentioned. They were specifically talking about killing the virus on surfaces with disinfectants.

            How does that map to a reasonable “maybe it would be the basis for an effective antiviral medicine”?

            ETA: Because to me, it looks like you are the one who is arguing in bad faith. Seriously, understanding that injecting bleach or isopropyl alcohol is a bad idea is not a high bar to clear.

          4. CatCube

            @HeelBearCub

            Look, you’re arguing that Trump must have “really” meant that you should inject bleach. Step back for a second here. There are two possibilities:

            1) A guy made it to his 70s without a minder but thinking that you can inject bleach

            2) He’s inarticulate and completely fumbled what he meant to say.

            It’s possible you can sit down and make a sentence diagram of his statements that imply you should inject bleach; if you say he did this, I’ll take your word for it. Listening to what he says is such a phenomenal waste of my time that I won’t bother. But ask yourself: is this at all a likely interpretation of what he thinks?

            Is he screamingly inarticulate? Yup. Prone to garbled off-the-cuff statements? I think the mangling of his speech that resulted in a rush to the airports because people couldn’t tell whether or not they’d be allowed to travel shows this. Utterly thin-skinned and prone to saying something and walking it back? Yup again. Unfit for office? Well, I didn’t vote for the guy before and probably won’t again, and you’ve seen my opinion of the Democratic party in another thread which should give you an idea of how much of a push to pull the lever for (R) that I have.

            But the dude doesn’t have an IQ of 60. If there’s an interpretation where he doesn’t think you should mainline bleach, it’s a safe bet that’s what he was groping towards.

          5. Clutzy

            More importantly, if people hadn’t idiotically made a big deal out of it no one would have contemplated the idea of bleach injections. To the extent that someone did, it would be like the fish tank cleaner story: Most likely a cover up of a murder.

            “My rich 80 year old husband was so scared of Covid he drank a bottle of rubbing alcohol and shot bleach into his arm.”

            -25 year old wife 3rd wife.

          6. HeelBearCub

            @CatCube:
            a) I don’t think it takes an IQ of 60 to believe in the power of anti-scientific health cures. The last year plus has seen a rise in people thinking that ingesting bleach was a good idea. Pretty much every snake-oil remedy out there has it’s backers. I’m guessing their median IQ is around 100. The average might be less, but not by huge amounts.

            b) I also think the iconoclastic urge of “People only think this is crazy because they are conformists” is in play frequently. People love a good counter-intuitive hunch on what you should do. Trump is definitely high on the iconoclast scale.

            c) (Note: I would really like you to think about coming up with a similar example to this within the field of engineering.)

            Let’s consider the following scenario: A research hospital is currently undergoing a MRSA outbreak. As a result, they have been doing some testing of the requirements for disinfecting surfaces and equipment. UV is shown to effectively sterilize instruments, and disinfectants such as bleach, Lysol and other detergents are shown to disinfect surfaces.

            c1 – A patient asks “Why can’t you just hit me with that light, maybe under the skin? Or inject me with disinfectant?” This is standard “Today’s 10,000” kind of stuff.

            c2 – The patient having had it explained, persists the next day wanting to check with the doctors about “UV light sterilization under the skin” and/or “disinfectant injections”. We are now starting to deal with something different. They are suffering from confirmation bias. They’ve decided this should be worthwhile pursuing and are disposed to reject evidence to the contrary.

            c3 – The CEO of the hospital has heard about the research. They ask these same questions in a small meeting with the infection control team, after the outbreak has been going for quite a while. This is quite a bit more concerning. They should already have some working knowledge of the domain.

            c4 – The CEO of the hospital repeats this questions in a news conference wherein the research results of the measures to combat the MRSA outbreak are being presented to the public.

            c5 – Rather than c3/c4. the CEO of the hospital simply blurts out these questions during the news conference, but lies and presents them as if they have already been reviewed and approved by staff.

            Are you really telling me that c3 – c5 aren’t enormously concerning? In ways that “Jo Q. Public has uninformed ideas” are not?

          7. CatCube

            @HeelBearCub

            The problem with your hypothetical is it’s assuming those previous conversations have happened in the way you sketched out. I think you’ve let yourself get talked into that by Trump’s defenders here. They…might not be super-great sources of interpretation of his words either.

            We already know that Trump can garble things into incomprehensibility, and I think that taking whatever he said and turning that into “LOL, he thinks people can inject bleach!” is probably overreading his statements. I’m going with Ockham’s Razor: he probably doesn’t think you should inject bleach.

            Further, why should either of us care if he thinks that? That’s a problem that solves itself! If he really thinks injecting bleach is a good idea, then soon somebody’ll find him laying on the floor of the bathroom with a syringe hanging out of his arm and a jug of Clorox next to him, and you don’t have to hear from him again and I get to vote for President Pence. I’m not counting on that, though, because again: I don’t think he thinks you can inject bleach.

            I feel like I’m arguing with my Birther father* here–and I also hated President Obama along with him! There are so many good reasons to hate this guy, why do you insist on latching on to the worst and least-likely ones?

            * It’s worth noting that my Trump-voting dad seems to really be souring on him because of how inarticulate and combative he is at these briefings. I don’t argue with you that he’s doing a bad job, but 1) this exact thing doesn’t fall into that bucket, and 2) much of what went wrong is more a function of failures by the permanent bureaucracy, and not the President. He’s certainly not helping, but probably not hugely hurting. Who’s been elected has way less to do with what happens on a day-to-day basis than is healthy.

          8. HeelBearCub

            @Cat Cube:
            Read c5 again. I’m not assuming that conversations occurred before hand. I’m laying out possible scenarios c4 and c5, one of which has to have occurred. Either he had conversations about the ideas that he expressed at the press conference beforehand, as he says he did, or he did not, and lied about them.

            I’m not asking you to conclude that Trump thinks injecting bleach is a good idea. I’m asking you to accept that he was genuine in his statements that linked the idea of “these things kill the virus on surfaces” to the public announcement “we should investigate whether we can inject disinfectants because we know they kill viruses” and think about the possible ways to reach that conclusion.

    11. Ant

      What is especially amazing is that he said this just after promoting chloroquine as a safe cure. A competent and morally decent politician would know not to publicly suggest any hypothetical cure in the first place, a reasonably incompetent one would learn to shut up for at least a month on this subject after provoking one death, but as usual Trump can’t even manage this incredibly simple thing, and it’s his opponents that are supposed to be irrationally hateful, not his supporter who by their own admission would vote for anyone who is for their pet issue and had to settle for this.

      1. matkoniecz

        and it’s his opponents that are supposed to be irrationally hateful, not his supporter who by their own admission would vote for anyone who is for their pet issue and had to settle for this.

        Sorry but no. It is not “irrationally hateful” to vote for a politician who is a horrible person with poor policies but prevents politician with policies believed to be horribly awful.

        Still, it is hilarious and scary to see people claiming that comments about injecting disinfectant were in any way defensible. And attempting to compare this to penicillin/chemotherapy.

        It was simply a contentless rambling due to lack of brain-mouth filter revealing appallingly low level of medicinal knowledge. Probably caused by overestimating himself (‘Maybe I have a natural ability’).

  26. Purplehermann

    Warning, griping, shaming. Corona.

    Mark Linsey, who posted here as Mlinsey, collected donations for buying masks from china for healthcare workers.

    He claimed that he had contacts who could supply many more masks, he just needed money.

    I tried contacting him multiple times about helping get masks to healthcare workers, the provider was willing to pay for masks if he could get them (quickly enough to matter).

    He never responded. A few of those workers are dead now.
    Would this have changed that? Maybe maybe not. He couldn’t be bothered to answer an email though.

    1. Vitor

      Sorry, but can you be more precise? Your vague accusations sound a bit like “murder or jaywalking”.

      What exactly are you accusing this Mark guy of? That he wasted your time by offering help but not actually coming through? Sounds mildly bad, but not “those workers are dead (because of him)” kind of bad.

      If you meant to warn us that this person is a fraudster trying to scam money out of naive altruists (which you might be hinting at, not sure), then please say so outright.

      1. Matt M

        Agreed. This seems incredibly uncharitable. Running some sort of donation scam is deplorable and should be called out, but the notion that everyone who might conceivably have donated to provide PPE, but didn’t, is somehow responsible for the deaths of health care workers (which ones? where? how many? does it even matter?) is absurd.

      2. Purplehermann

        He claimed he could get masks, he just needed money.

        He didn’t answer emails asking for help buying masks for health workers.

        Now some of them are dead.
        He might not have been able to affect that, but maybe he could have. It is and was plausible that he could have saved lives, and he didn’t make any effort to.

        I am accusing him of not doing all he could, and not in the trivial sense.

        That’s all.

      3. quanta413

        @Purplehermann

        It’s possible he’s not doing all he could or worse is scamming. I really don’t know.

        But it’s also possible your e-mails went to his spam filter or that he was inundated with thousands of e-mails and accidentally deleted yours while trying to filter for genuine request or who knows what else.

        1. Purplehermann

          I used his ‘contact me’ button on his donation page. A few times, over multiple days. (Also tried getting his attention here once or twice, but it makes sense for him not to see it here.)

          It seems unlikely to me that they went to spam, or that he just happened not to find them. It is possible, but I don’t believe it.

          I am not claiming he is a scammer.

  27. Le Maistre Chat

    Any thoughts on the term late capitalism?
    “… neo-capitalism was most often used by intellectuals in Belgium and France around that time. This term drew attention to new characterististics of capitalism, but at the time ultra-leftist Marxists objected to it, because, according to them, it might suggest that capitalism was no longer capitalism, and it might lead to reformist errors rather than the overthrow of capitalism.