2021-01-12

Coronavirus days: how's my vaccinating?

1610023068469-16cf3c99-8fe2-4404-bc75-a2d3df9758f4 Vaccine rollout begins, but I notice a curious lack of numeracy, or so it seems. Sometimes numbers are reported, sometimes vague deadlines like "spring" or "autumn". I wonder, how does it stack up?

The UK govt plan says we have already vaccinated over 2 million people, and are on track to deliver on our commitment to offer a first vaccine to everyone in the most vulnerable groups by the middle of February. Later, "mid" becomes clearly "15th", and the four groups are those in care homes; 80+ and frontline health and social; 75+; 70+ and clinically extremely vulnerable1.

Update: (thx AS): note that "offer", above, is weaselly. If they offer appointments for three days in advance, then on the 15th they can claim to have "offered" everyone an appointment. Furthermore, are they factoring in the proportion who will decline, when offered?

And the numbers are then 0.3 + 0.5 + 3.3 + 2.4 + 1.4 + 2.3 + 3.2 + 1.2 = 14.6 million, unless I've miscounted (ah, but they says that total priority cohorts 1-4 is ~15 million). Since we're currently on ~2.4 million vaccinated (we claim 2.4 million, OurWorldInData says 4.2% which I make about 2.8 million; and I'm accepting first-dose-only as good enough for now), that's an additional 12.2 million in 34 days, or  375 k / day. Our current best rate looks to be a shade under 200 k / day, so... we're not going to make it. The plan says By late January we aim to have the capacity to vaccinate at least 2 million people each week, but that is somewhat under 300 k / day, so even if we hit that target, it won't be enough. And that's assuming working seven days a week, which I think we currently aren't.

So even on their own terms, they won't hit their target, and yet they claim to be "on track". And, here I return to my point about numeracy, they carefully avoid calculating the rates they need and seeing if they are indeed on track.

Did I get my numbers right? I find this (sorry, it's the Sun) which talks about 13 million by mid-Feb, so I think my 14.6 is about right. This, from Sky, says 14 million in six weeks, and agrees with my calculation of ~400 k / day (although the "conclusions" section seems rather muddled to me).

FWIW I think that, in retrospect, we were far too slow at approving the vaccine, and should have accepted greater risk.; and wasted our opportunities when the infection rates were low However, I didn't say that at the time so can't really complain at other's lack of prescience; and doubtless there would have been endless hand-wringing from the usual suspects if the vaccine had been "rushed".

My picture shows a French snail-collector, somewhere near Verdun, who I met one misty morning in 1989, on my way to Nis.

Updates


Vaccination rates do seem to be going reasonably well: 324k on the 15th, and just under 300k on the 16th, a Sunday 277k on the 16th, a Saturday. I say reasonably well, but they aren't good enough to hit the targets, so hopefully they will improve (update: they didn't: down to only just above 200k on the 18th). There seems to be some nonsense about doses being wasted - see, e.g. this, where the bureaucracy discovers that it needs to give permission not to waste them - but I suspect this is a minor effect.

Notes


1. There is some possible scope for ambiguity in these groups. I believe that by "four groups" they mean everyone in one of the first four (numbered 1-4) priority cohorts, of which there are eight different groups (for example, care home residents and residential care staff are two separate groups in cohort 1).

Refs


* Reflections on the President’s Conduct by Robert A. Levy - Cato: In short, President Trump’s conduct has been unacceptable. To be sure, the nation needs time to heal. So, the decision – urged by some observers – to impeach the President a second time, or remove him from office by invoking the 25th Amendment, may well hinge on prudential rather than legal assessments. Still, at a minimum, a congressional censure – joined in particular by Trump’s Republican enablers – would be both welcome and warranted.

2021-01-07

All this fuss over one dickhead

IMG_20210101_211331_410 I think the DailyMash called this right: All this fuss over one dickhead: THE world cannot believe that all this fuss is being caused over one mumbling, egotistical, incoherent dickhead. Of course, that means I too have fallen into the trap, for which I apologise. But! I have my own iconoclastic take on this, which few others are saying, so my words are so worth it.

The reaction is all overblown. In some vague sense this was indeed a coup attempt, but in such a pathetic weak disorganised and always utterly hopeless way that it doesn't really deserve the name. Better said, it was a riot, with (as many have commented) laughably weak policing in stark contrast to how BLM was handled. But - as is evident from the pix and vidz - the rioters had no plan, and no idea what to do when they got in. And they could not have had a plan, because what could it have been? Seize the building and hold it? Why: what use would that be: none at all. The only plan that would make sense would be: seize-and-hold and then wait for the national insurrection, which you've just inspired. But, there was none, and their could not have been, cos all the nutters they could dredge up were in the riot.

This brings me to part B, the twilight of the Trump. Various folks have said that Trump will remain dominating the Repubs; might even run in 2024, and so on. I don't believe it. He has not the patience, or the staying power. He will just fuck off and ghost-write his memoirs, or retreat to playing golf, or some other stupid thing.

Other commentary

Which I'll update as interesting things come in. Do I agree with "Don’t exaggerate the threat of the Capitol rioters" from Spiked? Mostly. Certainly the initial stuff. But he disappoints with his But I’m more worried about the anti-democratic elites - which he mostly targets at fb and Twatter for blocking the Mango Mussolini. I think fb and Twatter are being reasonable; even restrained. But I do hope this small episode isn't used to push for yet more securitisation of pols.

Update: impeach?

Effort to impeach Trump again gathers pace after 'attempted coup' at Capitol says the Graun, and plenty of others (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would move forward with impeachment if Mr Trump did not resign immediately). Mostly this is rather unattractive you-lost-we-won-now-we're-going-to-grind-your-face-in-the-dust kind of stuff, which is the antithesis of democracy. Remember, part of making transitions violence-free is the assurance that the losers will not be punished - just look at all those African (or Syria) strongmen hanging grimly onto power because if they lose it, they'll be strung up.

At this stage, impeachment seems symbolic, perhaps even nakedly political: there seems little prospect of it going through in time, and perhaps the only real Dem aim is to be able to say later "but Repub X refused to join in". The Dems are spinning the symbolism as "no bad deed should go unpunished" but I don't agree. Lots of bad deed should go unpunished. The best thing to do with Trump is to forget him, not martyr him.

Update: there is unclarity on this. For example, Mitch McConnell: Senate can’t consider Trump impeachment until after term is up would make the impeachment moot; and I think the Dems know this, but they still want to go ahead. So all the twatting about nuclear codes is so much drivel. Is it even possible to impeach someone once they've left office? This tells me that “shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” which makes me doubtful that it is possible (though the linked article convinces itself otherwise).

Update: Twatter and Free Speech

Twitter permanently suspends Trump's account says Aunty. I have mixed feelings about this. As so often happens (I've seen this on wiki too) after a long period of trouble the actual words cited as outrageous appear rather if not totally innocuous then as rather thin grounds for a ban. The hyperbolic responses that this is the death of free speech are foolish, with proponents of that view unable to see the contradiction in Trump's widely-reported comments on the attempt to silence him.

The first amendment says "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" and that is good; but that says nothing about the decisions privately made by private entities. Wiki's FoS page says Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction. and the only difficult word there, for these purposes, is "censorship", which it defines as the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient." Censorship can be conducted by governments, private institutions, and other controlling bodies. I consider the inclusion of private entities dubious.

Anyway, my mixed feelings: shutting Trump's account may calm things down, at a time when some calm would be valuable; it also sends a signal concerning what are the limits of tolerable behaviour. But it seems terribly late to be doing this, and in not-very-long it will be irrelevant. This kind of political censorship should only be done if necessary, and I am very doubtful that it was necessary.

Refs

* It was all a waste of time: Congress confirms Joe Biden's victory - Beeb.
* Editorial: Another call for the justices to speak to the country - SCOTUS blog: an examle of the kind of thing that won't happen.
* IS TRUMP READING BREITBART OR THE GUARDIAN? - though I preferred the original title.
* Capitol riot: Recriminations and arrests after Washington violence - Beeb - for all those saying "why hasn't X been arrested?"
* Social Censorship: The First Offender Model - SSC
* Quotation of the Day… nationalism, socialism, liberalism.
* SCOTUSblog: Justices issue more orders from Friday’s conference, decline to fast-track election-related cases. The Supreme Court on Monday morning issued more orders from the justices’ private conference last week. After adding 14 new cases to their docket for the term on Friday afternoon, the justices were not expected to grant review in additional cases on Monday – and they did not. Monday’s order list was nonetheless noteworthy because the justices turned down a group of requests to expedite the consideration of petitions for review in cases seeking to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election. The denial confirms that the justices will not consider the petitions until after the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, effectively rendering the disputes moot.
* Parler sues Amazon for kicking it off the internet.
* The Economist explains: Can the Senate hold an impeachment trial after a president leaves office? The constitution does not forbid it, but it is uncharted territory.
* Sedition Charges Are Almost Always a Terrible Idea: Laws against sedition have historically been used by insecure officials to punish critics. J.D. TUCCILLE 

YouTube suspends Donald Trump's channel - Beeb. It kinda looks like his power is ebbing away.

2021-01-04

In many Congressional districts, the primary is more important than the general election?

PXL_20210101_192041129~2 It is a commonplace that

In many Congressional districts, the primary is more important than the general election. In those districts, extreme partisan politics is rewarded and centrist politics is punished. This makes bipartisan legislation impossible, because a representative who votes for such legislation will be branded a traitor and voted out of office in the next primary.

But why is this so? In a simple model of politics (the real election, not the primary) voters are sprinkled left-to-right, and each of two candidates wins all the electors "closest to them"; which is to say, all the electors on the side away from the other candidate, and all the ones in-between that are closer to them. This model tends to push candidates towards the middle of the spectrum.

Now consider the primary. Exactly the same applies, except the electorate is different - most points are now either to left, or to right, of the center. So why do we see quotes such as the above (that do seem to have some basis in reality). I'm thinking of primaries in districts where one side is almost certain to win, so the primary is effectively the real election - but nonetheless, the same logic would appear to apply: you should get candidates pushed half-way out, not to extremes.

2021-01-01

Have we reached peak CO2 emissions yet?

50735769393_7be4a73eb1_o Have we reached peak CO2 emissions yet? wonder Ken Caldeira and Ted Nordhaus. There's all of $2k at stake, with KC taking "no" and TN "yes". TN's argument is that it would have peaked mid-20's, but the Covid-decline of ~7% means the peak is now past. KC is more optimistic about the South's econ dev, and more skeptical of new tech.

I'm not sure; it's an interesting question. I'm inclined to believe in a rapid recovery from Covid, looking somewhat on the bright side by hoping for a not-too-badly-fucked-up-vaccination, but a recovery probably accompanied by much more homeworking, which will help suppress emissions. And I'm more optimistic than KC about new solar+wind+tech-in-general, and China and India's adoption of it, and decline in their usage of coal.

Nordhaus expands on his reasoning.

 My pic is of Christmas Unikitty who, let me remind you, will tolerate No Negativity At All (as seen as a full-size model in the local Grand Arcade).

Betting

Per comments, we have our own betting ring running:

* Anteros: offers £150 (to my £100) of KC's side, up to 2023.

* rustneversleeps: $100 of KC's side, up to 2022.

* Tom: $50 of KC's side, up to 2022 (I presume).

All bets in your preferred currency. I'm not sure exactly what we use as CO2 emissions data... we'll have to be gentlemanly about it; probably (per comments Global Carbon Project). I propose that if it is "close" - defined in some sensible way, possibly as in different data sets give different answers - then the bets are void; they only pay if the answer is "clear".

Refs


* And at ATTP.

BATTER my heart, three person’d God

IMG_20200803_120259 Aka the year in Stoats, 2020. Once again, top posts ordered by comments by month. This year I've gone through and reviewed all my drafts, and either discarded them entirely or posted them, fragmentary as they are, as valuable evidences of the evolution of my deeply interesting thought processes.

Jan: Socrates, himself, is particularly missed; A lovely little thinker, but a bugger when he's pissed (42) - Australian wildfires. Bonus: reviewing drafts, I decided to publish the fragment 0.5°C makes a big difference for mitigation?

Feb: Tasting the whole worm; or; "Pielke shumps the jark?" (13).

Mar: Coronavirus days: policy? (30).

Apr: Coronavirus days: masks (16). Bonus: I used to think that climate change denial was built on some logical argument...

May: Coronavirus days: regionalism, modelling, hypocrisy, global warming (27).

Jun: Legislation: BOSTOCK v. CLAYTON COUNTY, GEORGIA (72).

Jul: Into the distance disappear the mounds of human heads (26).

Aug: Coronavirus days: France (7) Bonus: The Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis: report.

Sep: Russell on Aristotle's Politics (61). Bonus: Kant on Morality.

Oct: Me on USAnian politics (51).

Nov: The dim and distant history of Global Warming on Usenet (14).

Dec: A warning on climate and the risk of societal collapse? (61).

The theme for the year is clear enough, but the winner is the more abstract legislation of June. And so another year has slipped by... Happy new Year to all and my thanks for your continued readership.

Note: this isn't the post reviewing what the Coronavirus year has been like, I'm still turning that over in my mind.

Pic

Me, D and E on top of Point Louise, Ecrins on a cloudy day. Follow the link for more pix. And any resemblance between the title and the picture is, I swear, entirely accidental and only noticed in arrears.

Books

Exciting new feature: books of the year (prompted by someone else doing it properly). Except it isn't really that, it's just the books I have reviewed. I do these partly to record what I have read, but it's an incomplete list. And, a couple of films.

Dec: Look to Windward

Nov: Howard Zinn: A People's History of the United States (incomplete)

Sep: Space, Time and Nathaniel

Aug: Bastiat: The Law

Jul: Consider Phlebas

Jun: For Whom the Bell TollsThe Undercover Aliens

May: The White Mountains, Big Planet, The Mirror and the Light

Apr: Emphyrio

Mar: The Brightness Reef trilogyMusical review: Hamilton

Feb: Starship TroopersThe Guermantes WayFilm review: Starship TroopersBring up the Bodies

Jan: Family film night: the Matrix

Ergs

New Year's Day 10k: 40:50.2. A minute slower than last year. HR max 167, 4 lower.

Brexit

We've finally left. In one sense I think "thank goodness the endless chatter and speculation is finally over"; but I very much doubt it is. My initial view - which you're doubtless interested in - is that the "deal" looks not totally insane, in that it roughly mimics EU membership whilst regrettably losing things like free movement; but really it looks like "why would you bother" - the nominal sovereignty gains appear weak enough to be not worth it, except to fanatics.

But I hope to think about this more carefully in future.

And, well, I suppose the promoters of "Singapore-on-Thames" will get their chance to show they mean it. Ho ho.

Refs

You ain't ever gonna burn my heart out (2019)

* The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne (2018)

* Donne via Time considered as a helix of semi precious stones via Goe, and catche a falling starr.

2020: A year in review - ATTP

* My Top 12 Blog Posts of 2020 by David Henderson

* When May We Be Happy? by Bryan Caplan

Christmas Trilogy 2020 Part 3: The peregrinations of Johannes KCharles not Ada, Charles not Charles and Ada, just Charles…

2020-12-29

Carbon taxes and pandemics

PXL_20201224_103929583 Prompted by an exchange on Titter beginning with that nice JA: a pandemic is such a problem for the right, as it's an existential threat to their entire philosophy of individualism. There's a lot of language clutter in there which is probably irremovable (I don't regard myself as part of the "right" but I am very keen on "individualism" re-written as "lack of coercion" or as "as opposed to tribalism") but the exchange continues with my CC can be (largely, in theory) solved by carbon tax; but it is hard to see a pandemic equivalent.

The carbon tax part first, prompted by the-Ken-formerly-known-as-ATTP's not understanding my carbon taxes are ensuring that the costs of emissions are factored into those emissions; a subtle but important difference [from the idea that they are a payment for the damages]. I say "my" but the idea is of course not mine, and was transmitted to me by Timmy (via PeteB in that case, but I'm pretty sure there's a better example I failed to find). Also, disclaimer, IAMAE. This is all part of prices-are-information theory. For most things, the price of the thing reflects the cost of making it (and marketing it, and so on) and you-the-consumer get to decide if that price is low enough for you to want to buy it. And so we have economically sane activity: things are bought (and therefore, are made) if there is demand, at price. But there are externalities, the most obvious of which is CO2, whose cost is not in the product. And so we risk economically insane activity: things being made, whose (total, true) cost is less than their sale price. Which is to say, the process destroys rather than creates value.

This version of the theory doesn't require govts to use the carbon tax proceeds for any particular cause... building windmills, paying for storm prevention, insulating homes, whatever. The other version, KR's which I shall unkindly call the "naive theory", is that the carbon tax is paying, in advance, for a cost that will be incurred). This is - I now think - a mistake, but one I've made before1. If it is a mistake, it should have some consequences; ideally I'd be able to say "but then when you apply it to this, it all goes wrong". But I think it is only a theoretical mistake; sort-of like the way using a Hamiltonian helps you to get from classical to QM physics.

Pandemics

The Covid pandemic rolls on, depressingly. There's a new strain, of greater transmissibility but as yet not-known-greater-damage; Cambridge(shire) is in tier 4, thus scuppering my plans to visit the Lakes (I say these things for context so that when I come back in years future I'll know about where we are).

But just as, in theory, a carbon tax is a liberty-preserving solution to GW, is there an equivalent to lockdowns (which greatly resemble, because indeed they are, regulation). JA offers In theory we could pay for people to isolate as required. That itself wouldn’t solve the problem but it would surely help but I think that's problematic (I think he intends this as a liberty-preserving solution, not as a solution; but I don't think it is. The liberty it doesn't preserve, in case it isn't visible at first sight, is of the people you'll have to take the money from). If you want the "std" answer (with the caveat that there isn't a std answer4) then I think the best presentation I've seen is Life-Years Lost: The Quantity and The Quality by Bryan Caplan. This attempts to use cost-benefit analysis3 to show that reaction2 to Covid has cost more than the unchecked pandemic would have cost (and was therefore a bad idea).

I don't know whether I believe it or not; I incline towards belief. The analogy I'd use - and argument from analogy is always valid, recall - to answer the inevitable "but people would die; life degraded through lower quality doesn't matter in the same way; you can't sum up lives" is with the inevitable reactions to protectionism: the benefits (preserving our jobs) are visible and accrue to obvious people; the losses (higher costs for everyone; bureaucracy; more govt) are diffuse and hard to see.

interreg

interreg isn't a thing I'm familiar with. My picture is of a poster - found on the kiosk on Jesus Green near the lock - which says there is an initiative to increase tree cover in Cambridge. I can't say I've noticed any such, or even that there are obvious ways to do so. It might draw a hollow laugh from the folks on Milton road who have tied yellow ribbons around their trees to protest plans to cut them down. But don't let me be too negative; there may be some as-yet-unperceived value in the scheme. Indeed this bit is part of Nature Smart Cities across the 2 Seas programme and specifically the Cambridge bit is Cambridge Canopy Project: the average tree canopy cover figure is 16% in England. Cambridge currently has 17% tree canopy cover. We are working to increase this to 19%, which will need more than 800,000m2 of new tree cover

more-covid

Update: Schadenfreunde

Probably a mistake, but I can't resist. At the time of the initial outbreaks, much was made of the incompetence of the right-wing US and UK govts in contrast to the more successful socialist responses of various countries, most notably Germany. But that success - though you could note various factors that made it plausible - was always a bit mysterious, and has fallen apart recently. Though I've left it long enough that they're back below us now (although possibly the over-Christmas data isn't totally reliable, and the sharp falls from US, Germany and France might be spurious). And yes, if you count cumulative deaths then Germany has done significantly better.

Update: economics and morality

The Twitter conversation continues as, apparently, a sequence of misunderstandings on my part: see the conversation, perhaps ending at KR's All I really mean is that how we assess the costs cannot really be done in a truly value-free way.  So, even if we do decide to estimate the price of carbon emissions and to then use that to set a carbon tax, this is not a value-free assessment. With which I have no disagreement. Some aspects of economic costs of GW are explicitly value judgements: how much do we value lost mountain glaciers? And some are value judgements, but wrapped in economics: if we lose winter skiing, how many jobs are lost? The latter is more measureable, but still value judgements, because the choices of the people that wanted to go skiing are inevitably part of the economics.

You might - if you have a decent memory - object that this contradicts my earlier That it is easier to agree on economics than morality and in some ways it does, or at least pushes against it. And so - given that there are people who would make the mistake of calling economics value-free - it isn't unreasonable for KR to make this point. I'll paraphrase what I said at Morality and economicsI don’t, of course, mean to suggest that it is entirely an economic and not at all an ethical problem. I mean to suggest (see aforementioned post) that thinking about it primarily as ethical [value-judgement] is unhelpful.

Update: FT's sausage pic

Updated, in response to CIP's comment, the FT's "sausage" pic, which to me shows that initially it was all EU and US; in the middle, EU dwindles to nothing and the US is a small proportion of the global total; and now Europe plus US is 60+% ot the total whilst everyone else is sort-of stable. Admittedly, these are reported, so perhaps it is possible that Europe and US are better at the reporting; but I can't see how that explains it all.

cov

Refs

* Congratulations to James and Jules for being part of Science breakthrough of the year (runner-up).

* Donald Trump's influence will evaporate once he leaves office. Here's why; Julius Krein, in the Graun. This is close to what I think, but few others seem to be saying; our celeb-obsessed news world, sez I. Trump, out of power, will fade away; and doesn't have the staying power to regroup for 2024.

Not even half-way there - JA

* New Year Wish: Political Wars of Religion? by Pierre Lemieux - the will of the People

Matt Zwolinski Replies

Notes

1. Also I have a feeling that when I said this before, Richard Tol said no, it was also paying for damages, so if you prefer you may take his viewpoint with some degree of support.

2. An analogy that he doesn't make is the immune system's allergic response.

3. See my failed attempt to propose similar.

4. Another is Lockdowns and the Presumption of Liberty by Don Boudreaux; or Nice vaccine; pity there's no distribution mechanism by Scott Sumner

2020-12-15

A warning on climate and the risk of societal collapse?

PXL_20201212_185625846 Just when you were bored with Covid, along comes a little light relief in the form of A warning on climate and the risk of societal collapse. It is full of the usual ill-defined hang-wringing, will be ignored - we can hope - by just about everyone, except for the denialists (who will use it as yet more evidence of alarmism), the nutters (whose belief in collapse will be reinforced) and the commenterati who will entertain themselves writing pointless blogs about it. Like this one :-)

Or so I wrote about a week ago, thought "nah, even I don't care enough", and left it in draft. But now, you lucky people, you get to read these words 'cos ATTP has blogged on it3 - and tastefully quotes me, always nice to see. His justification is I think we should be willing to discuss worst-case scenarios so as to, ideally, avoid them, and while that is an uplifting sentiment, it doesn't justify the letter, because the letter adds absolutely nothing, and we're already discussing GW, under whatever name you please. As usual in these discussions, there's a sop to the whatever-you-call-them by talking about "global north" but this is a pointless distinction best ignored. There are various WYCT countries where society actually is collapsing - Sudan, say; or Yemen, depending on your standards for this ill-defined "collapse" - but this has little to do with GW2 and almost everything to do with crap govt, either in the country concerned or its neighbours.

Having said that, since I bothered to write the words below, I'll publish them:

Let's start with While bold and fair efforts to cut emissions and naturally drawdown carbon are essential. That sounds both noble and bold. One pictures a mighty Climate Leader, helping hand supporting some oppressed peasants, noble chin uplifted and mighty hand pointing boldly forwards into the glorious carbon-neutral future. But actually, restricting yourself strictly to "fair" efforts is a mistake: would you really refuse to save the planet, if it was only possibly to do so unfairly? And notice that they say that fairness is essential, so that is what they are saying. Nor can it be turned around: it is not plausible to claim that only fair efforts have any chance of success. Similarly, I'm doubtful of the bold part of the claim, with it's implication of extraordinary efforts designed to scare off people who are doubtful of the Cause. More likely commonplace efforts and sanity (like the Krauts not shutting down their nukes, the Yankees not slapping tariffs on Chink solar panels) and a carbon tax would do1.

Continuing, researchers in many areas consider societal collapse a credible scenario this century. Do they really? How might we evaluate such a claim? Well, if only the idiots who wrote the letter had provided some details, or even a link to the details elsewhere, it could be evaluated. Failing that, it's just empty words. For my part, I think certain groups of people are rather prone to overestimate the fragility of society; everything from Covid to the so-called Great Recession is taken of evidence of such fragility, rather than what it actually is, i.e. the reverse.

I think you can tell how broken their thinking is from their worry about the way modern societies exploit people. Yes, exploiting people is indeed a concern, but has little or nothing to do with the possibility of collapse. It is a perfectly valid concern about fairness, which they're entirely welcome to worry about, but mixing it all together with GW into a muddy slurry of words helps no-one.

Who is responsible for this guff? If you click on "246 others" you end up at http://iflas.blogspot.com/2020/12/international-scholars-warning-on.html which leads me to https://www.cumbria.ac.uk/research/centres/iflas/our-people/ which leads me to Jem Bendell. Say no more guv.

Update: so, does thinking about "societal collapse" help? Although I've criticised their thinking as broken, what about the underlying idea: does framing the problem in terms of societal collapse help at all? It doesn't seem to have helped them - other than in the matter of that all-important publication count and getting your name in the papers - because they didn't manage to say anything interesting or new. The "bar" of interest is I think 2 oC - or arguably 1.5 oC - because we've already "agreed" so-to-speak to limit ourselves to +2 oC, so anything that kicks in much higher than that isn't very interesting. Would SC happen before +2? If ecosystems collapse, then perhaps, but we're already worrying about EC, so that gets you nothing. Is there some excitingly non-linear effect that we're missing? If so, we're missing it, and this hasn't helped find it. Perhaps the subtext is "ooooooh, modern society is so complex and therefore fragile, we should, like, go back to a simpler era maan and live in harmony with nature". But that's wrong: modern society is complex and therefore resilient.

Refs

If it isn’t catastrophic we’ve got nothing to worry about, have we? - my post that ATTP refs, but at the Wordpress address. Those were the days when I could just toss off a quick post. * Welfare in the 21st century: Increasing development, reducing inequality, the impact of climate change, and the cost of climate policies - BjornLomborg4
The impact of climate change, and the cost of climate policies - ATTP.

Recommendations for Improving the Treatment of Risk and Uncertainty in Economic Estimates of Climate Impacts in the Sixth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report?

Notes

1. You could argue that such efforts are out of the ordinary, which in this world alas is true. And yes, I know it's too late for the Krauts.

2. And phrasing it as "Not all of this is climate related" is I think deceptive.

3. Which is fine. Re-reading this, I may sound a bit harsh on him, which I don't intend, but rather than rephrase anything I'll just add this little note which will make everything better.

4. Reminder. Inclusion of a reference does not imply that I agree with it.

2020-11-30

The dim and distant history of Global Warming on Usenet

125035466_1640259442837036_5068309285886602215_o Once upon a time, before blogs and wiki and even before the web, there was Usenet; and on Usenet there was sci.environment. This was a loooong time ago. Punting back through Google Groups I can find stuff going back to the unimaginably distant past of 1994. Here's a link to it. My recollection is that Usenet groups were not archived; disk space was scarce in those days, and anyway Usenet was for discussion; why would you bother archive it? Things that needed archiving were kept elsewhere; for example, every now and again Robert Parson would post a link to the Ozone FAQ. Dejanews began archiving in 1995; and later got bought out by Google, which accounts for the beginnings I now see.

I turned up somewhat earlier, but I cannot now recall how early; certainly, after I joined BAs in 1990. Almost the first thing I saw was the classic "what do you mean 'we', white man?" joke, immeadiately followed in true welcome-to-Usenet style by some fool misunderstanding it and getting all huffy. 

The great virtue of Usenet was that no-one owned it and anyone could post. The great vice of Usenet was that no-one owned it and so anyone could post1. My recollection is that things got worse, particularly as internet access became more common and more fools came online, but that may just me believing in the Age of Gold, which you shouldn't, except for exceptional cases. Nonetheless, it did do away with tedious arguments about comment censorship on blogs, and I did sometimes advise people to post there during the period they ran in parallel; I gave up Usenet in 2006. 

The cast of characters in those days was rather different. When I turned up folks like Robert Grumbine, Michael Tobis were already there, and now I look at early 2005 so were Raymond Pierrehumbert, Len Evens, Carlo Izzo, Robert Parson, Rich Puchalsky, John McCarthy, Jan Schloerer, Dean Myerson, David B. Benson, Paul Farrar, Carl J Lydick, James Annan, Ian St. John, David Ball, Coby Beck, Lloyd Parker, FerdiEgb, Roger Coppock, Eric Swanson, Steve Schulin, Scott Nudds, Bruce Hamilton, Thomas Palm, H. E. Taylor, Steinn Sigurdsson, Alastair McDonald, Peter Hearnden, James B. Shearer, Josh Halpern and probably many others who I have rudely forgotten, but those are all names I recall, somewhat vaguely, and could probably divide roughly into "good", "bad" and "squonk", which latter class I've just had to invent; if it helps, JMC is put into it. For these were early days, the science of GW was unclear (do not believe the fools that tell you we knew it all in 1960, or 1970, or 1980...), most of that science was not on the web (because the web didn't exist; recall that Netscape was formed in 1994) but was "hidden" in hard to access libraries; even the 1990 IPCC report wasn't widely available. "Yeah, GW might be a thing, but I am unconvinced" wasn't an unreasonable position, for anyone unfamiliar with the science. The unambiguously "bad" were a small minority.

So quite a lot of the conversation was noobs asking noob questions and getting polite and useful replies. The rest of it, apart from pure noise, was the usual kind of global warming wars. Over time, it became obvious that something more consolidated and buildable was more useful for the general-questions aspect; Wikipedia came to fill that role.

There was also sci.geo.meteorology, which was more science-like, as you'd hope, and thus lower traffic, as you'd expect. For example, someone in 1995 asked for the BAS website, and I pointed them to our FTP, which had GTS data. There was also talk.environment, but that was even noisier than sci., and I think I ignored it.

What did we talk about? The earliest thread I can find is about what would a zero CO2 world be like? JMC wanted to tell us why we should postpone coming to a steady state in population, energy use, and flow of materials for 50 or 100 years. Hugh Easton got in early on that perennial favourite, Will polar ice melt more quickly than previously thought? There was a kinda thread on can-forcing-produce-negative-output but it didn't go terribly well. We even did solar cycle length and solar forcing; but that was before Damon and Laut.

Well, that will do. On the whole, I didn't find wading through the past particularly enlightening.

Notes


1. Late on - 2006, I see - "we" created a moderated group, see James' Announcing: Moderated global change discussion forum, and at one point JA discouraged comments at his own blog, in favour of responses there, if I recall correctly (I can find one instance of me doing similar). As a noble attempt to deal with the S/N ratio problem on sci.env, without being subject to the whim of one person's moderation, it was a bold endeavor, but I believe it failed.

Refs



2020-11-26

Coronavirus days: SCOTUS

PXL_20201112_103007048 What with Trump giving up, things were in danger of becoming dull, but happily the SCOTUS has come along to liven up our lives, by upholding the constitution1, in particular the "free exercise" clause of the first amendment. Which I think is beautifully crafted, so I'll quote the whole thing: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Bold for the FE clause, obvs, is not in the original.

You might thing that the "Congress" in that limits the clause to the Feds, but this is not so, by the incorporation doctrine; for "Congress", read "any layer of govt". 

People make the most basic of errors in reporting on this2. The NYT, which really should know better, asserts that "In an unsigned opinion, the majority said Mr. Cuomo’s restrictions violated the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion". But that's not true. Instead, it has said that the applicants "have shown that their First Amendment claims are likely to prevail". This is, after all, but an injunction, not a judgement. It merely prevents NY from "enforcing Executive Order 202.68’s 10- and 25-person occupancy limits on applicant pending disposition of the appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari, if such writ is timely sought". This is the court doing the bare minimum it can, whilst having regard to the constitution; and reserving the right to change it's mind later. Doubtless they hope that the lower courts will decide, and it won't come back to them, now they've fired this warning shot.

The facts of the case are generally agreed, except for how restricted the religious were, in comparison to comparable secular institutions. Here the concept of "essential" businesses comes in, and NY (and the dissents) rely rather heavily on the literal use of the word essential. If this word could be clearly used and had a clear meaning that might work; but it can't and it doesn't: businesses are things that sell things or services, and one persons essential is another's frippery; as Gorsuch notes, "acupuncturists, and liquor stores" are on the essential list. The religious also note, and I don't see NY denying, that large stores had no attendance limits imposed on them. The imposed limits made no concessions to the size of the building, and this seems like a simple error on NY's part, as the ruling makes clear: "Among other things, the maximum attendance at a religious service could be tied to the size of the church or synagogue". If NY offers any explanation for why it refuses to do this, I missed it. And I really really hate it when da govt behaves unreasonably and refuses to explain itself.

Although the case turns on FE, I'd also take more seriously "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"; ideally laws should simply not mention religion; they should be written in a general way ("any building may only have x people per y square meters of floor area...").

The dissent leans on the religious being treated no more harshly than, say, lecture theatres or cinemas. And there's a question there: do you compare the treatment of the religious to those you're treating most harshly, or those you're treating least harshly, or those you think are most comparable, in some sense. G deals with this by asserting that if you create a "favoured" class - the so-called essential - then you must compare the religious to that. This is, incidentally, admitting that the FE clause isn't absolute; that the state may override it if essential; and that deference is due to the executive; but this is nothing new.

Roberts says that the case is moot - as it technically is at this point - because the religious are not currently afflicted by the zones; and therefore would deny relief, whilst admitting that if things change, they could come back. That seems like a combination of an attempt to keep the peace of his polarised court, and a laudable attempt to avoiding ruling where no ruling is needed. Although "keeping lawyers out of USAnian life" is a ship that has sailed.

Overall, I think this represents the court giving a rap over the knuckles to arbitrary govt, and I approve of that. If your response is "but this will lead to super-spreading" then you've failed to notice that all agree that it is currently moot.

Other people's opinions

Brian: I'm shocked at how conservative judges have manipulated the law but shouldn't be. Power to quarantine is a fundamental power of govt dating centuries. Right not to be quarantined is an unenumerated right wholly invented by conservatives, in the last year. My reply: That seems mad. You may not like the decision but it could be reasonably argued either way.

So, the main point: Brian errs, I am certain, by regarding the judgement as outside the bounds of reason. I happen to think it was right, but had it gone the other way, it would have been merely a different and not unreasonable interpretation. Secondary: Brian is here trying to win the argument by "stealing" words. There is no "Right not to be quarantined" and no-one has suggested there is any such right; instead, there is a right to liberty and freedom from unreasonable govt interference, and the quarantine is just an aspect of that. "Power to quarantine" is somewhat dubious; this rests less on anything explicit and mostly on people-have-done-that-before; like, for example, interning Japanese-ancestry folk during WWI.

Cuomo speaks

There's been a fair amount of complaints in the UK about the govt not showing proper respect for court judgements, and I think complaints about Trump, too; so what about Cuomo. I think he fails: the NYT quotes him saying "You have a different court, and I think that was the statement that the court was making... We know who [Trump] appointed to the court. We know their ideology".

Follow-ups

Christian school in Kentucky asks justices to intervene in dispute over in-person classes at religious schools looks to be taking the piss: this is a case where the state has closed public and private elementary, middle, and high schools and the religious want a pass. I think they'll lose, and that they should.

Notes

1. Yes yes I know, I'm being provocative, this is the broad-brush intro, read on for the details.

2. A hostage to fortune if there ever was one. Go on, do your worst.

Refs

BLACK MONOLITH STUNS UTAH XENOCLIMATOLOGISTS

* The Pivotal Justice in the Supreme Court Decision? by  Pierre Lemieux. The "The" point is one I thought about then decided to ignore, as uninteresting. But the last para is worth copying: An observation of a different sort is that all three Justices nominated by outgoing president Donald Trump voted to defend freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment, which is a good point in his favor—although he himself, to say the least, did not demonstrate strong preferences for the free-speech protections in the same amendment. The Supreme Court decision also suggests that conservative judges are often more likely to protect individual liberties than “liberal” ones, even if caveats are in order, including regarding Justice Roberts in this case. We are told that Trump consulted the Federalist Society on judicial nominations instead of relying on his empty and dangerous intuitions. One wishes he had done the same on trade and other economic matters.

Hire people who give a shit

2020-11-18

Coronavirus days: does science help?

covid-again I can't answer that, but the Economist has a recent article Are governments following the science on covid-19? Which has a chart of how much a country's scientists think that policymakers have followed scientific advice. Scraping the numbers for the "agree or strongly agree" line (using "disagree or strongly disagree" produces much the same), I can compare that to deaths-per-million. The Economist itself doesn't attempt any quantification, contenting itself with The countries hit hardest by the pandemic have been those where policymakers have strayed furthest from scientific recommendations. In Brazil, for example, most researchers believe expert advice has been disregarded. In America, which appears at the bottom of the Frontiers ranking, Donald Trump has dismissed his public-health advisers as “idiots”, mocked face masks and suggested that the disease might be treated with injections of disinfectant.

So there is a relationship, and it even goes in the right direction: more scienceyness gets you fewer deaths. But the scatter is large and the relationship looks weak (I threw in an Excel regression line).

Refs


* Speaking of science, the Graun's relentless negativity is notable: "For all its bluster, the UK will continue to be a customer of others’ innovations, not an inventor of its own". What, we're going to invent and innovate nothing? FFS. Of course we're not got to invent everything whatever our idiot gov says, but going to the opposite extreme is cretinous.

Climate change doesn’t work like that?

IMG_20201104_223215_500 ATTP, in Climate change doesn’t work like that, makes the conventional "the streets will be yards deep in horse shit" mistake: "On our current trajectory1, atmospheric CO2 will remain above 400ppm for thousands of years, and won’t return to pre-industrial levels for 100s of thousands of years". 

Of course, this is only true if nature takes it's course, which (assuming our industrial civilisation survives the next 100 years, which in itself seems very likely) is very unlikely. If we get that far, pulling CO2 out of the air is very likely to be possible in 100 years, and almost undoubtedly possible in 1000 years; so speculations as to CO2 levels thousands of years into the future that ignore human influence are pointless.

Notes


1. Of course he doesn't mean "current trajectory"; if we follow that, CO2 will continue increasing from our emissions; he means, "even if we stop emitting in ~2050 and then allow levels to naturally decline" I think.

2020-11-03

The dim and distant history of Global Warming on Wiki: the GW wars

50540415507_74b10d7c15_o After the intro, the next step really ought to be the development from there. But, perhaps the wars of ~2010 are of more interest; they are for at least one other person, hence this post; and they also seem to be of more interest to me, in that I can be bothered to write about them a bit. From my viewpoint, of course; if you're expecting self-criticism, look elsewhere. There is very little to say that is new; but the material is getting hard to find.

If you look at my talk page, you'll find the case of 2010, Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Climate change, which ran June to October. If you're wondering what I thought about it, you can read my talk page, trawl through my responses at the case, or read what I wrote at the time, They make a wasteland and call it peace; having just re-read that, I haven't changed my mind.

Preceeding, and somewhat overlapping with that, was Wikipedia:General sanctions/Climate change probation/RFC. This was a sort-of attempt to handle the problem within the community, rather than via Arbcomm. It didn't work - we ended up with an Arbcomm case - for a variety of reasons, mostly the entrenched disagreements, but also because of Admin fuckwittery. It is perhaps unfair to single out anyone in particular since the problem was widespread; The Wordsmith and I think Lar spring to mind; but it was a long time ago and I'm afraid I haven't kept the burning flame of animosity as bright as I might have hoped.

Not directly relevant to GW, but affecting my wiki-reputation and so indirectly relevant, was 2009's Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Cold fusion 2, which is the one that got me de-sysopped. I wrote something about that in Up before the beak again; that, too, demonstrated Arbcomm's stupidity, in failing to realise that Abd was a useless twat. Preceeding that was another case, which is hard to interpret unless you know that Giano has a lot of influential friends.

Before that, so long ago that I found it hard to find, was Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Climate change dispute. That was a much smaller issue mostly caused by two denialists; it featured the Great Edit War over the Greenhouse Effect article. That case was also poorly handled, though it improved in Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Climate change dispute 2 when the revert parole on me was declared a mistake and removed; thnx Stephan. See-also Connolley has done such amazing work...

Returning back to 2010 post Arbcomm, what was the result? Apart from the regrettable scorched-earth stuff, it was a Victory for Science, in that the articles remained sane. There's a long-standing question of why the denialists and nutters fared so badly; not really understanding the science didn't help them, of course; but the exact mechanism or process by which this works out is obscure.

Refs

Wikipedia as soap opera - 2005

No-one understands wiki, part n+1

A child’s garden of wikipedia, part II

Wikipedia: the dim and distant history of NPOV

2020-10-28

Me on USAnian politics

PXL_20201026_101945221 Well, there's an election coming up - you may have noticed - so it is Time to Opine, thereby fixing my words in stone for posterity to hold against me. Just like last time the presidential choice is unappealling. Trump is, obviously, horrible: personally, and in many but not all policies. By contrast Biden is a nice enough std.pol, or at least projects that as an image, but it is hard to get enthused over his policies. Given his opponent I hope he wins; and given a choice I'd hold my nose and vote for him2; and in the remainder I'll assume he wins, as that seems quite likely3.

Perhaps a place to start is The Economist's The pragmatist: Joe Biden would not remake America’s economy: He would improve its fortunes, though. It isn't anything very complimentary, mostly a discussion of a list of special cases, because Biden - as far as I can tell - doesn't have much in the way of principlesthat you could derive general policies from, and so would govern by a series of ad-hoc decisions. Not as badly as Trump, though, since Trump often seems to be either genuinely malicious or shamelessly self-centered. A quote: having rejected its signature policies and outmanoeuvred its star figures, Mr Biden might try to placate the left of his party by giving it lots of jobs in the regulatory apparatus where they would emit a cacophony of left-sounding signals.

Another place might be my WATN: Trump from 2018, wherein I defend my assessment of him overall as "minor"5. Given all the outrage that might seem perverse, but - as the Economist notes - while Biden might be nicer than Trump there are quite a few dumb Trump policies, most obviously tariffs on China, that Biden isn't in any hurry to revoke, at least judging him by public utterances. And yet, conversely, if those hadn't been in place I doubt he'd have added them. So he seems rather a let-things-be kinda guy. While this is an improvement on Trumps do-random-dumb-things, it doesn't seem terribly glorious or inspiring or principled.

What would I like to see him say that he hasn't? That he'd drop the protectionism (he won't say this, but might slowly edge that way, quietly); that he'd push for voting reform such as prohibiting gerrymandering; that he'd continue Trump's people's deregulationary intent (obviously, no hope there); that he'd like a carbon tax. That's he'd back away from the Google-bashing Trump has started so strangely. And so on.

SCOTUS

The Evil Repubs have pushed through Amy Coney Barrett, thereby demonstrating conclusively that they are not gentlemen; the Dems, alas, had no real principle with which to oppose this: their pathetically weak argument was that the Repubs had said, four years ago, that they wouldn't do this kind of thing. Suppose the Dems are in any position to do anything about this (which I take to mean controlling the presidency and the senate) what should they do? Astonishingly, Biden's plan - a special commission to suggest supreme court reforms - makes sense to me. Despite all the angst, ACB will probably turn out much less exciting than feared4; and the threat of court-packing will probably constrain the court. And if you did want to "rebalance" as Brian does, adding two seats to a 6-3 split isn't really going to help; you'd need to be bold and add 4, which would probably be regarded as Well Over The Top.

Repubs post Trump

Shirley it is not too much to hope that, if Trump is defeated, the Repubs will come to their senses? I like Steve Landsburg's My fantasy outcome for next week’s election is for Trump to lose every state by a wide margin while mainstream Republicans take over both houses of Congress and revert to their better selves.

Refs

* America’s election: Why it has to be Biden: Donald Trump has desecrated the values that make America a beacon to the world - the Economist:  THE COUNTRY that elected Donald Trump in 2016 was unhappy and divided. The country he is asking to re-elect him is more unhappy and more divided. After almost four years of his leadership, politics is even angrier than it was and partisanship even less constrained. Daily life is consumed by a pandemic that has registered almost 230,000 deaths amid bickering, buck-passing and lies. Much of that is Mr Trump’s doing, and his victory on November 3rd would endorse it all. Joe Biden is not a miracle cure for what ails America. But he is a good man who would restore steadiness and civility to the White House. He is equipped to begin the long, difficult task of putting a fractured country back together again. That is why, if we had a vote, it would go to Joe. And then quite interestingly Mr Trump has fallen short less in his role as the head of America’s government than as the head of state. He and his administration can claim their share of political wins and losses, just like administrations before them. But as the guardian of America’s values, the conscience of the nation and America’s voice in the world, he has dismally failed to measure up to the task.

The moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the Republican Party?

The Volokh Conspiracy: Why Biden is a Lesser Evil than Trump by ILYA SOMIN.

Trump no more: Joe Biden is set to capture the White House: After a hard electoral battle the Democrats have almost certainly won the presidency, but they have done less well than they had hoped - the Economist.

Why a Vast Election Fraud is Highly Implausible by Pierre Lemieux 
America changes course, while remaining very much the same - the Economist: in other words, this race ended up looking very much like what would occur if a generic Republican ran against a generic Democrat in a year when not much of note took place.

Elections Are Neither a Ruler's Toy Nor a Sacred Panacea

* Theses on Trump (SSC, from before). Also SSC: plebs like Trump because although wealthy, he is clearly a pleb himself.

Notes

1. Distinguish "doesn't have much in the way of principles" as in not really having anything that would guide your political course from "is unprincipled" meaning "a bad person; untrustworthy".


2. For anyone uncertain, I'm in the UK, so I don't have a vote. Elections like this, with candidates like these, are a great advert for the idea of "negative voting"; I'd vote "not Trump", if I could, in preference to "for Biden".


3. With the appropriate genuflections to the gods for the impiety of being hopeful out loud.


4. This is my SCOTUS prediction. That, and to note that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh haven't done anything outrageous yet.

5. Clear evidence of this is found in Counterfactuals: What If Clinton Had Won in 2016? by Pierre Lemieux.

2020-10-26

Exclusive: GM, Ford knew about climate change 50 years ago?

tempt The latest installment in a long line of bollox. E&E News breathlessly tells us that Scientists at two of America's biggest automakers knew as early as the 1960s that car emissions caused climate change, a monthslong investigation by E&E News has found.

Can they really prove this? Of course: In a 1975 paper in Science, she asserted that aerosols caused "heating of the atmosphere near the poles... published in the Journal of Applied Meteorology in 1979. It focused on albedo, or the measure of how well a surface reflects sunlight. Their second paper, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research in 1981, explored "increases in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide." Or perhaps you prefer: Before arriving at Ford, Plass had published a series of eye-grabbing pieces on the climate, including a 1956 article in the magazine American Scientist titled "Carbon Dioxide and the Climate" and a 1956 paper in the journal Tellus titled "The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climatic Change." And so on. In case you should think that these papers were ignored - and therefore the auto-makers, who, errm, sponsored them before they employed these people, errrm, had some kind of inside track, E&E helpfully destroys its own case by noting that Plass' findings reached the highest levels of the U.S. scientific community.

Yup, you read that right: their evidence was that they published public research papers. In other words, the "GM, Ford knew", with its implication (actually, more than an implication: E&E lies directly: More than two decades after GM and Ford privately confirmed the dangers of climate change...) of sekrit knowledge, is utter drivel: whatever they knew was public. This is the fruit of a months long investigation? 

All of this stuff is stupid. It is done by idiots trying to plump up their public profile, and with a future eye on lawsuits, which judging by Alsup will fall over horribly because they will learn nothing from that case. The idea that people really knew with any confidence about GW in the 1960s is obvious drivel; see previous posts; at best, you could claim that the first IPCC report in 1990 is a good date, but even that is doubtful, if you've ever read the thing. The idea that the oil companies, or anyone else, knew anything sekrit is also drivel: #everyoneknew.

Refs

* TIRED OF MONSTERS BRED BY THE SLEEP OF REASON?

* More drivel, this time a Twat from Alexandria Ocasio-CortezI’m willing to hold you accountable for lying about climate change for 30 years when you secretly knew the entire time that fossil fuels emissions would destroy our planet. Fuckwit.

2020-10-23

Mistah Morner – he dead

Another Hollow Man shuffles off, though I don't have an RS for that, only the Potty Peer. Oh, the shame. Does no one else notice, let alone care? Morner made it into Myths of the Near Future all the way back in 2005, though he was only #10 on the list. That seems to be about it, though I did also glancingly diss him in 2018.


Refs


Nils-Axel Mörner har gått bort - he's also dead in Swedish.
* Another one bites the dust (Fred Singer, 2020).
Science advances one funeral at a time (Robert Carter, 2016).

2020-10-14

Coronavirus days: the only way is up

Not so long ago, when I last wrote - the first of October - the Beeb was reporting "Covid-19: Growth in cases may be slowing in England". That was stupid, even at the time4, and has not aged well. Now a more typical headline is Coronavirus: Northern Ireland set to announce partial lockdown: Stormont thrashes out plan including closure of businesses and schools, as well as new limits on gatherings. Our own idiot populace bears much responsibility for this, with stuff like Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson says partying crowds have 'shamed' the city being all too common1. And lest we somehow think our glorious British govt uniquely incompetent2, I include this nice pic from the FT, showing the Spanish doing about twice as badly as us right now, and the French roughly as rubbish as us. And even the nice Krauts are suffering something of an uptick, though doubtless they will crush it.

But now let us turn our thoughts towards the future, helpfully projected - note, projected, not predicted - by JA. We see a peak of perhaps 5k stiffs/day5, about 5x the initial peak, and surely that would not be tolerable; our medical services would be overwhelmed, not to mention the sadness of so many premature deaths.

But we have left it rather late to turn the ship around. As JA thoughtfully notes today, we have "baked in" a significant increase already, and unless the govt does something soon other than rename things, we'll soon be baking even more.

In retrospect, the relaxation in July instead of continuing to drive the numbers down, looks to be an error. But I'm pretty sure the natives were getting restless at that point - see comment above about our poor-quality population - and the relaxation was definitely popular. So overall I'd say we're getting the epidemic we deserve, and I feel somewhat pessimistic about the future3.

Leaving aside the prospects of a higher quality citizenry, the other obvious failing is anything vaguely competent in the nature of test, or trace. The latter I think I have something of a hard time believing in, but the test element could be done so much better, and should be. It also looks like I am to some extent getting what I wished for in "Regionalism", but in the confused atmosphere of a state occupied by morons, I see how hard this concept is to explain. Can we perhaps be more Swedish? I wanted to say something sympathetic about The Great Barrington Declaration, too. So I have.

Update: circuit-breaker

People - including Labour - have called for a "circuit-breaker" of a couple of weeks. I think this is an example of people giving a name to an idea, and then taking the name for the thing, an imagining that because the thing has a given name, it will work as the name implies. But reality isn't like that.

Update: GDP

Cruel though it is to say it from my comfortable position, I don't think the impact on GDP is as large or as important as it looks. To an extent, we're losing "fluff". Of course I regret losing my weekly coffee-in-Waterstone's, and this loss reduces GDP, and someone is no longer being paid to serve it to me; but this loss in the service economy isn't as serious as losing food production or imports; and so on. It also implies, to my mind, in a rather half-formed thought, that the country can "afford" to continue paying wages for those so laid off; though in this experiment, to maintain balance, the money would have to come from the likes of me, which is to say higher taxes.

Notes

1. Good liberal commentators like the Graun struggle personfully to blame it all on the Govt, or Boris; but this is a pathetic abdication of responsibility: people are responsible for themselves, if they are adults.

2. That nice SR seems rather prone to this particular error.

3. I say that from the comfort of my home, and my desk job that has if anything got more comfortable in lock-down. I miss my Saturday coffee-n-book in Waterstone's, and of course the bumps were cancelled, but that's about as bad as it gets for me personally.

4. It now appears that while this drivel was appearing in public, behind the scenes by Sept 21st SAGE was arguing Cases are increasing across the country in all age groups... the doubling time might be as low as 7-8 days... not acting now to reduce cases will result in a very large epidemic with catastrophic consequences... If schools are to remain open, then a wide range of other measures will be required... [including] A circuit-breaker (short period of lockdown) to return incidence to low levels and so on. It is now 3+ weeks later with only the token changes.

5. Somewhere on Twatter I think he qualified that somewhat; with different parameters you could plausibly halve the peak perhaps; but even 2.5 k would be a lot.

Refs


* COVID-19: nowcast and forecast; Paul Birrell, Joshua Blake, Edwin van Leeuwen, MRC Biostatistics Unit COVID-19 Working Group, Daniela De Angelis - turns out to be optimistic
Quotation of the Day… "Donald Trump, Peter Navarro, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, Oren Cass – the list is long of people who continue proudly to peddle the economic equivalent of Ptolemy’s “theory” of celestial spheres".

2020-10-01

Coronavirus days: fog of war

Things are getting somewhat confusing. In our own parochial UK... no wait, in our own parochial East, things aren't too bad; we're one of the lower regions. But in the UK as a whole, there's uncertainty. There are so many clamouring voices saying so many things, it's no wonder people don't really know what is going on. Some of the voices are genuinely trying to help, some are just looking for the oxygen of publicity, but the end result is unclarity.

I think the prime example of this is Covid-19: Growth in cases may be slowing in England:

The growth in cases of coronavirus may be slowing down, the largest study of the infection in England suggests. A team at Imperial College London analysed samples from 84,000 people chosen at random from across the country. They said the R number, the virus's reproduction number, appears to have fallen since measures including the "rule of six" were introduced. However, they warn cases are high, with one in every 200 people infected. The React study is highly influential, both due to its size and because it gives an up-to-date picture of how the virus is spreading. The last samples used in the analysis were collected as recently as Saturday. It was the previous React report that found infections were doubling every seven to eight days in late August and early September... Then the research group estimated the R number for their study - the average number of people each infected person is passing the virus on to - was 1.7. The latest analysis, of swab samples collected between 19 and 26 September, suggests the R number has fallen to about 1.1 - although the precise figure is uncertain.

EjOIRCqXsAIGdSH This is from Dear Aunty Beeb, you can trust her even in times of war, and all that gumpf. However is it true? Probably not. Consider the pic, stolen from Oliver Johnson's Twat. It-was-1.7-it-is-now-1.1 is based on interpretation B. Whereas interpretation A seems more natural.  Apart from anything else, B is discontinuous, which is unphysical. Also I just don't trust their underlying "explanation" for the slowdown: that the Glorious Leader's "rule of six" has pulled down R. That may have made some difference, but not a lot; and the return-to-school and return-to-university has certainly pulled the numbers in the opposite direction; finger-in-the-air, I'd say those latter two will have made more difference. JA is barely able to believe that people are still falling for this stuff, and yet they do. People want the Bad Thing to go away.

[Update: alerted by Twatter, I bothered to read further down the article, and find However, Prof Oliver Johnson, from the University of Bristol, said the conclusion that cases were slowing down was "wrong and dangerous". And he doubts both the old and the new estimates of the R value. He said: "I suspect they were both wrong, and it was actually more like R=1.4 each time.". So not finding that the first time was a bit crap of me. But burying it so far down was even crapper of the Beeb.

More people not being dead impressed can be found at [E]xpert reaction to preprint with the latest interim data from the REACT-1 study on COVID-19 spread across England, but even there they lead with someone liking it.]

Also, version A is consistent with James Annan's daily-updated modelling, which looks vastly more sane than anything Imperial have been able to do. I admit that I did lose faith a little when deaths clearly fell below the curve towards the end of August, but happily the corpses have started stacking up since then, and my trust is restored.

The govt of course has not helped the aura of confusion by being a pack of incompetent clowns; but there's more blame to go round. The media have been irresponsible too, and not a few of my fellow citizens have been dumb enough to go out partying, the tossers1.

It is conventional to compare Science in Covid and Global Warming. When Science delivers us a vaccine, all will be well let us hope, but at the moment Science isn't doing a brilliant job on Covid, except in a rather confused, muddling-along, ants-moving-a-leaf kind of way. Certainly in the UK we haven't managed to get any competent unified voice speaking sense. SAGE is too tied to the govt; and anyway doesn't seem to manage to be particularly sensible, and doesn't really speak in public. Unlike, say, the IPCC. Though the IPCC has the luxury of much longer timescales; and doesn't I think say much that is influential on the economics, instead grinding over long-solved problems in ever greater detail2

Indeed the competence of (local?) govt seems to be more important than Science; though the latest FT Covid pix blow the idea of some Socialist Miracle; France and Spain now have deaths well over the UK; only the Squareheads are looking good.

Away from whingeing, via PaulThis Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic from The Atlantic. Oversold, of course, but perhaps correct in that looking at the average too much hides important information.


Refs


Today's random restrictions, by region - DailyMash
* Self-Help Is Like a Vaccine by Bryan Caplan
* Ridiculous Widespread Beliefs by DON BOUDREAUX and Expert Failure to Know
CAN CARBON-NEGATIVE SOLAR CREMATION ECLIPSE THE ANTINOMY OF CASTE-NEUTRAL SUTTEE? 
Jeez People, Get This Right - Timmy
* Adding to my JA Twit collection; shame he is so restrained.

* The Dunning-Kruger effect: Misunderstood, misrepresented, overused and … non-existent? Just stop using it!

* Opinion: The case for voting against presidential candidates by GEORGE LEEF. But, why only for presidential voting? I've advocated similar, but can't now find where. Related: Why Can't They Both Lose?


Notes

1. Anecdote: a friend of my daughter's is at St Andrews, now isolating in his household, because another member of the household has got Covid, due to going out and screwing around. This is irresponsible, but on a statistical level that's going to happen when young folk go away from home.

2. I exaggerate for effect, you understand.