2020-04-30

What Do Donors Want? Heterogeneity by Party and Policy Domain

donors Via TF; see-also Twatter. It is fashionable, especially amongst the Left, to decry the influence of money in politics. This note, by David E. Broockman and Neil A. Malhotra, looks at how donors and public differ, by party. It considers them as blocs, so takes no account of how one may have influenced the other and come to alignment over time. The abstract:
Influential theories indicate concern that campaign donors exert outsized political influence. However, little data documents what donors actually want from government; and existing research largely neglects donors' views on individual issues. We argue there should be significant heterogeneity by party and policy domain in how donors' views diverge from citizens. We support this argument with the largest survey of U.S. partisan donors to date, including an oversample of the largest donors. We find that Republican donors are much more conservative than Republican citizens on economic issues, whereas their views are similar on social issues. By contrast, Democratic donors are much more liberal than Democratic citizens on social issues, whereas their views are more similar on economic issues. Both parties' donors are more pro-globalism than their citizen counterparts. We replicate these patterns in an independent dataset. These patterns can help inform significant debates about representation, inequality, and populism in American politics.
For the figure, you need to know The economic and social issues are coded to lie between 0 (most liberal) and 1 (most conservative). The globalism items are coded to lie between 0 (most pro-globalism) to 1 (most anti-globalism). Oh course, this is all written in USAnian, so when they say "liberal" on economic policy they don't mean liberal at all; they mean state-interentionist.

I wanted to trust their questions on the three issues, so I wouldn't have to bother read them, but grew suspicious and did. On social issues, their questions make sense (though they class The government should make sure that every American has health care coverage, even if it means raising taxes to pay for it as economic rather than social). Globalism is in some respects iffy (We should protect American jobs even if it means reducing the standard of living of people living overseas - this is protectionism, which is bad, including for Americans, so this question is hard to answer if you're economically sane). The Hill and Huber ones are worse: for globalism, only one question is about tariffs, and the other four are about sending troops abroad. This explains the massive differences between the two sets of results. Having said that... let's ignore all the caveats and just look at the graphs.

The Repubs are closely aligned with their electorate, except on globalisation; the Dems aren't very aligned - consistently further out - but are closest on economic.

Refs


What Tech Leaders Really Want - same authors, on Youtube. Irritating, as talking heads on Youtube usually are.
A Swedish Perspective on COVID19.
I CAN TOLERATE ANYTHING EXCEPT THE OUTGROUP - SSC.

2020-04-17

Coronavirus days: the IHME model is worthless

93486463_10158072109287350_8516462141245489152_o James half said this a bit ago in Dumb and dumber but on reflection he only half said it. But people keep on saying, effectively, "well the IHME model isn't very good is it" without ever bothering to look at exactly what it is. James said "some sort of fancy curve fitting that doesn't seem to make much use of what is known about disease dynamics" and I think that's true though I'm not sure how much it deserves the "fancy". I've been drifting along on the stream of all this modelling and not bothering to peer into the murky depths much, but I was very struck by this IHME "prediction" that James Twat; I've inlined it. If you look at it, there are - as James said - a number of obviously very strange things about it:

* the uncertainty range immeadiately leaps up on the first day of prediction to completely implausible levels (as well as having an implausible lower limit too);
* the model has an implausible level of certainty that the whole thing will be over by the end of the first week in May;
* it's all a bit Gaussian looking.

That's taken from https://covid19.healthdata.org/united-kingdom, if you want to look for your self.

I finally dragged myself out of my lethargy to read their paper and discovered that they don't go out of their way to tell you what their methods are. But if you read it, it's fairly plain:  The cumulative death rate for each location is assumed to follow a parametrized Gaussian error function. So, that's their "modelling". But that's worthless, because epidemics don't follow a Gaussian, especially if they've got a lock-down in the middle of the data, whereupon fitting a Gaussian goes form being a bad idea to a cretinous one.

I'm guessing (though I haven't looked) that this explains their uncertainty bounds too: all they've done is taken the mean and fuzzed it, so the uncertainty is proportional to the value. Which is also worthless.

This also explains why the model goes to zero when it does: since we happen to look like we've got to the "top" of the Gaussian, it's simply predicting a mirror-image of itself as a decline. Also worthless.

But then we get people like Nate Silver Twitting "There are some good critiques of the IHME model in here IMO" and... it's all to wishy-washy. Yes there is in that one good point: According to a critique by researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Imperial College London, published this week in Annals of Internal Medicine, the IHME projections are based “on a statistical model with no epidemiologic basis.” (my bold). And yet despite all this no-one can actually be bothered to read their paper and say what's wrong with it.

Coronavirus days: Bluetooth based contact tracing

Contact tracing is going to save us all5, and, as my cartoon suggests, involves Bluetooth. VV reckons that a privacy respecting track and trace app to fight Corona is possible and effective; Ross Anderson and Bruce "who he?" Schneier are somewhat more doubtful. But never mind that; and never mind the Upper Layers gumpf about encryption and so on which is conveniently over my head: what of the lower layers?

There are apparently several suggestions; the one VV links to is distinctly light on radio protocol and looks like it has spent all its energy on privacy paranoia1, so instead I'll look at the Apple / Google one; the Bluetooth spec is over here (via more specs here). Wiki has an embryonic article which alas points out that the bureaucrats are keen to stick their sticky fingers in.

Which Bluetooth?


First of all, this is done via BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) not Bluetooth Classic (aka BREDR). They don't (unless I missed it) explain why they use BLE not BREDR but it does make sense: BLE adverts were pretty well designed for this kind of use case; and perhaps BLE is I think less locked down in the phone's OS (not that last bit matters too much if you're Google or Apple...)4. As everyone else also points out it doesn't use GPS at all, so there's no actual location data involved, only "proximity".

Distance estimation?


Don't be confused by the name "Low Energy"2 BTW; it is generally about the same power as "normal" Bluetooth. The radio spec says nothing about estimating distance; it does note that RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator) should be captured. BLE has a potential range of ~100 m in open spaces so I'd expect some kind of filtering based on RSSI is going to be needed, but I don't see that in their spec (though the spec does say that RSSI should be in the info captured; perhaps they hope to work out what to do with it later).

Digression: I made a brief attempt to Google this stuff, and found confused things like this, so it's probably worth a discussion. So: people often want to do ranging via Bluetooth, it seems obvious: the louder the signal, the closer you are, and vice versa. But "normal" Bluetooth has power control on links: if a device can't hear its peer clearly, it asks it to speak up; and if its getting deafened, asks it to be quieter. That obviously gets in the way of ranging. But, (a) this is BLE so there is no power control3 and anyway (b) there's no link up so there's no power control.

But although Bluetooth can have a long range in open air it can have a short range when expected to go through squishy wet human bodies (is your phone in your back pocket away from the person you're very close to?); it can bounce off walls; and (as RA points out) it can go through thin walls and glass.

All of which comes down to: distance estimation is difficult.

Protocol


Your phone sends out BLE "adverts", which the other side receives. And, vice versa. But, each side is one-way, so to speak: there's no link, there's no two way exchange (the Verge seems confused on this, writing about a two-way code swap, even though their text is about a diagram that clearly shows one-way flow).

The adverts are non-connectable undirected (section 2.3.1.3 of 5.2 Core Spec if you want details; I only copy this here to show you the level of detail they are providing, for those interested). Non-connectable means they are outgoing adverts, and cannot be used to attempt to form a connection back again (this is one of the design functionalities of BLE: devices can be temperature or battery sensors, that put out little blobs of data ("adverts") and never know if anyone heard them).

The other side "scans" (aka listens) for these adverts, and will record those it hears.

Whenever you have this kind of TX-RX pattern, you need to arrange it so that the communication has a reasonable chance of working, whilst not using too much power. So if devA TXs an advert every second, but devB is only listening for a packet start in a 1 ms window every 5 minutes, you're very unlikely to get lucky and hear devA. In this case the protocol says TX about every 200 ms, i.e. 4-5 times a second, which is fair enough, but the words about scanning are somewhat vaguer: Scanning interval and window shall have sufficient coverage to discover nearby Contact Detection Service advertisers within 5 mins. Scanning strategy that works best is opportunistic (leveraging existing wakes and scan windows) and with minimum periodic sampling every 5 mins. So I think this is saying that if you're scanning already, as you may well be, just leverage that. Notice that although this appears to say "scan every 5 minutes" it doesn't actually say that; it says scan-to-detect-within-5-minutes which is rather different. Minor: note that BLE adverts can be on one of three channels (unless you deliberately restrict yourself to just one, and the spec doesn't say to do that) so the scanning needs to be across those three channels. Also, I'd have thought you want to distinguish people who you briefly passed as against people you've actually been next to for some time, for which scanning rather more frequently and keeping those you've seen quite a few of might be more helpful.

Refs


* Without Apple and Google, the UK’s contact-tracing app is in trouble - the Verge, 2020/05/05
UK virus-tracing app switches to Apple-Google model - Beeb, 2020/06/19 - aka "govt IT falls part into steaming heap of drivel shocker" surprises no-one.

Notes


1. And it talks about BLE "beacons", which I don't fully understand in this context. I think they mean just adverts with a 16-byte payload, for a 16-byte Contact Detection Service service (which Gapple tell me is 0xFD6F), leaving 1 byte for flags, which would be a 31-byte advertising payload, which is the largest you're allowed.

2. It went through a variety of names while the marketing folk tried to find a name than conveyed the idea of long battery life but didn't sound wimpy; so ULP ("Ultra Low Power") came and went.

3. OK, there is power control in the 5.2 spec, but most devices in the field aren't 5.2.

4. An article I read but cannot now find said that at least on Apple, Apps using Bluetooth need to be running in the foreground, i.e. to be the active App. And that this was some kind of security measure. This is all way up the stack from me, but this Apple article appears to support that. Maybe Apple would remove that requirement for Covid-tracking baked into its OS?

5. Or, if we're honest, probably not. Me on COVAD-19 Contact Tracing Apps is Bruce Schneier offering his opinion.

2020-04-12

Coronavirus days: endless summer



2020-04-12_08-58-34
A wasps nest. Not new; I suspect from last summer; in which case
it's odd I haven't noticed it before. In other news, I've learnt how to
do image captions.
It has been a strange few weeks, and a strange last few days. This is the Easter - bank holiday here - weekend, so we have Friday and Monday off, and endless time in which to sit watching the garden, tidying the garden, reading books, web browsing, erging, playing Dominion, doing Sunday evening dinner over Zoom, and anything else. And all in near constant glorious sunshine, though I hear rumbles of distant thunder.

In virus news, James has called the peak, so it's all downhill from here. ATTP has a post I like on models, which almost but doesn't quite say what I've been thinking, which is that the epidemic modelling isn't really ready for the big time. Which brings me back to ...and global warming. Anything you do, and don't test, will be wrong.

Somewhat related, Interventions are likely to be fat-handed with incentive research as a case from TF. Which starts off with some cognitive-bias research which finds that even large incentives don't remove the bias; but then segues into the nice thought that this is only true if you leave the pool of those solving the problem untouched; but large incentives would of course attract those able to better solve the problem. Which is another way of expressing the advantage of the free market.

Contact tracing via smartphone is very much in vogue as an idea, so I'll point you at LBT's Contact Tracing in the Real World. If Google does it, it will be competent; but if (as the news appears to suggest) the NHS does it... we'll be perfectly safe from it for a couple of years. Incidentally, determining range from BT (certainly from BREDR; might be easier from LE) has a long history of being Difficult.

Refs


Will Fermi and Dirac Save Us All? Probably Not.
* A failure, but not of prediction - SlateStarCodex
* How to Win Friends and Influence People Book Club, Part 4 by Bryan Caplan
Why do human beings keep getting diseases from bats?
* Markets, Morality, and Mises by G. Patrick Lynch at EconLib

2020-04-07

Another one bites the dust

Well, there are only so many headlines in the world, ol' Folksy Fred will have to make do with a retread now he's pushing up the daisies. Which fits his schtick. I'm sure everyone will recognise him from the picture.

As to his quality, I think How to be wrong is about right. That's most of a decade old and he's done precious little since then.

If you'd like to read someone at least ostensibly sad, you can read Joseph Bast writing as if through a veil of tears although presumably not actually through a veil of tears. Or there's some gushing stuff at WUWT, as you'd expect.

But for anyone tempted to fall for the "nice old guy" bullshit, don't miss A Note About Roger Revelle, Justin Lancaster and Fred Singer from Eli.

Best Twatter response.

Take it away, Freddie...

Update


THE MANY GOOD WORKS OF S. FRED SINGER points out: Over four decades S. Fred Singer produced dozens of interesting, and stimulating, contributions to  astronomy and space physics, including seminal  and much cited work on cosmic rays and radiation in near Earth space (including one co-authored with  James Van Allen,) and his highly original, and still controversial theory of the formation of the Moon. However, none of these noteworthy scholarly papers had much to do with atmospheric science, and obituaries by partisan institutions like CFAC,  and the Heartland institute have accordingly ignored them. This indeed has strong similarities with the passing of Carter. Eli in similar vein offers Fred Singer the Good (there is lots of bad and ugly). Meanwhile, there are 49 comments on the WUWT post, which is rather low for them. Even Carter got more.

Refs


Interesting times (2008)
Eric Fnorrd and his Ouija Board? (2010)
Sea level rise in pictures (2018)
COLLEAGUES MOURN PASSING OF NOTED CLIMATE BORE
* Fred Singer Has Died - QS
* Fred Singer Has Passed. He Took Pleasure In Bullying Scientists. May He Rest - Paul Thacker doesn't like him either.
* Another giant of science has passed - go on, guess who. It is Dennis Avery, well known giant. How do we know he's a G-man? Because he is a coauthor of Unstoppable Global Warming – Every 1,500 Years.

2020-04-03

Coronavirus days: masks

MVIMG_20190908_153753 As I said about a week ago, wearing masks seems like a good idea. It doesn't have to be a real one, just anything that stops your breath travelling quite as far will reduce the risk of you infecting everyone if you're infected-but-asymptomatic.

Now, even the Graun has noticed the bleedin' obvious, and speculation mounts that even the thick-as-pigshit Mango Mussolini might get there eventually1. In which case that clown Bojo will doubtless slavishly follow suit. Some months later the WMO will issue guidance, apparently shielded by that old trick, "new research".

As far as I can tell the problem is that govts - ours in particular, but all of them really - are incapable of thinking or expressing any thought beyond the comprehension level of a six year old.

So the idea that Joe Public shouldn't buy quality facemasks because the govt, the NHS, and most medical practices were all too stupid to get in enough supplies in time and so need all the available ones has had to be expressed as "don't wear facemasks" because adding "but it would be a great idea to wear some homemade barrier" would make the thought too complex. And of course it would spoil our glorious pols dignity to appear with a facemask on.


Death


There's an interesting Twit from AukeHoekstra pointing to EuroMOMO, who publish weekly bulletins of the all-cause mortality levels in up to 24 European countries or regions of countries. Fascinating stuff. I've never heard of them but I'm going to trust their pix, because they say something I want to see. Firstly you can "nicely" see the spikes in winter deaths in previous years. This year seems to have been rather mild. "Week 13" is I think 23-30 March, so nominally includes lots of recent death, but they're not showing up clearly on the graphs, which is odd.

I think the deaths are per week, so I think that in the "bad" year of 2017 there was at worse 10k deaths/week, which by eye lasted for ~5 weeks, so 50k excess deaths. It is estimated by ECDC that at least 40,000 people die each year from influenza in the European Union (EU) so that about fits. So far the EU has about 34k deaths from Coronavirus. That number, alas, seems likely to increase; I'm still somewhat doubtful that the relative responses to the two situations are balanced.

Uupdate: a week later, EuroMomo is a bit more exciting, as James points out. Most countries are now up to previous peaks, but few exceed them (Italy does).

Winning!


It looks like the USA is winning at the moment: The focus of the coronavirus crisis has switched decisively from continental Europe to the US, with the country reporting the highest daily death toll of any nation so far, sez the Graun.

Update


To the extent practical, without significantly impacting mission, all individuals on Department of the Air Force property, installations and facilities are required to wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain six feet of physical distance in public areas or work centers. Meanwhile, The Economist is part of the giant supertanker slowly swinging over to recognise the bleedin' obvious. This is all so Overton-window-ish; what is acceptable to say sloooowly changes. Or the BMJThe suggestion that the public should not wear masks because healthcare workers need them more is valid up to a point, but it is surely an argument for manufacturing more masks, not for denying them to populations who could potentially benefit from them.

2020/04/28: Scotland advises face covering.

2020/05/01: even that dickhead Pence can be shamed into wearing a mask.

2020/05/22: Cloth Masks May Prevent Transmission of COVID-19: An Evidence-Based, Risk-Based Approach.

2020/06/04: Coronavirus: Face coverings to be mandatory on public transport.

Update: doctors


I don't see the medical establishment being keen on masks either. An analogy occurs to me: the reluctance of their earlier colleagues to wash their hands.

Refs


* James continues his heroic exploits with Lombardy Lockdown is working?!? and Are we achieving suppression in the UK?
* When you gotta go: Ghana's dancing pallbearers
* Our economy will likely reboot too slowly by Scott Sumner
* Economist: How covid-19 is driving public-sector innovation, aka "How an emergency reveals how stupid all your pointless regulation and bureaucracy was".
NHS worker quit when she was stopped from wearing face mask from the Graun; it could have been titled "NHS is a Stalinist bureaucracy".
* Face Masks Against COVID-19: An Evidence Review; Jeremy Howard et al.

Notes


1. The Trump administration announced Friday that the CDC is now recommending people consider wearing cloth face coverings in public settings sez NPR, but in a determined effort to retain that distinctive TaPS moniker, they note There's one big reason for the change: There is increasing evidence that the virus can be spread by presymptomatic and asymptomatic carriers. Which is of course a lie: that evidence has been there for rather a long time now. This is the familiar bureaucratic tactic of making things up in order to cover up earlier indecision. Colorado seems to be sensible too. Trump, who genuinely is a fuckwit, won't take this advice.