Saturday, June 27, 2020

Coronavirus: why the advice on masks was botched

Because from February to April, the public policy elites who opposed universal mask wearing could not overcome their class consciousness.  They thought that if they advised everyone to wear masks, there would be a frenzy of infeasible N95 mask demand.  Because that's what their upper middle class circle would do. In fact,  cloth masks emerged on their own, and saved far more lives than the elite focus on ventilators. 

Friday, June 26, 2020


Frank Lampard (Snr), right, headed out on the field at Maine Road, Manchester City's ground, 21 March 1970, when West Ham stunned City who were otherwise having a fabulous season.

Frank's son, Frank, oversaw Chelsea's defeat of Manchester City last night, handing the title to Liverpool. The arc of history is ... weird. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Song in Honour of the latest DNA research findings about Newgrange

Side note: let's check back in 2 years as to how many of the media-friendly extrapolations about who is buried in the Boyne Valley neolithic tombs have stood up to scrutiny. It may be an Irish Pharaoh, but as the song says, it was hundreds of years before the dawn of history, and nobody know who they were or what they were doing. 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

He's read 25 books about Saudi Arabia

The Financial Times on West Bank annexation:

 "Netanyahu was surprised to hear how angry he [King Salman] was," says one foreign ministry official. "He had been told by Kushner that the Saudis were under control." 

Dictator loses election

That's the New York Times print edition for 17 June. Someone maybe realized that with the original decree powers having been proclaimed by elites as the end of democracy in Hungary, a headline saying that the end of the decree period was the end of democracy might be a stretch. So the current web headline is Hungary Moves to End Rule by Decree, but Orban’s Powers May Stay.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Why do Trump's past tweets predict his current behaviour?

A film plot:

A post-Apocalyptic future, caused by the presidency of Donald Trump. A desperate band of survivors builds a time portal where a message can be sent back before November 2016 to warn us about Donald Trump.

The problem: the portal is not for people. It has to be a piece of code, programming, a virus (if you will). And because of the Apocalypse, the only device for which our future heroes have the needed coordinates is ... Donald Trump's iPhone. 

So the message that is sent back in time is a series of Tweets appearing to come from Trump, but in fact are the warnings to our 2013-16 selves about what a future President Trump would do. 

But just like in The Terminator, the future forces of evil are not idle. They too can send back one piece of code to foil the plot to avert our disastrous future.

That code is ... a leak of Hillary Clinton's e-mails. 

Friday, June 12, 2020

Friday afternoon quality post

[Previously in this series]

The New York City disaster

The Wall Street Journal has a superbly-reported story on what went wrong with the Coronavirus response in New York City and State. It's subscription only and we're not excerpting. You'll come away with a very different perspective (worse) of Andrew Cuomo than you might have had from media coverage; your perspective on Bill de Blasio will be about as bad as you would have expected. The article should also be another nail in the coffin of the Spring 2020 ventilator hype -- as it explains, ventilators were at best a red herring, and at worst, might have actually killed people, because they were pushed into use without adequate staffing, supplies, or knowledge of how best to use them for patients that already had very poor odds by that point. 

Film recommendation

With the current events in the USA, which have spilled over to many other countries, it's tough to diversify from the grimness of the news. One form of escapism that's actually usefully relevant as well: watch, or re-watch Black Panther. Its resonant quote, near the end, from the dying villain Erik, completes its rumination on the relationship between Africa and America .... in the form of a really good "fantasy" film:

Just bury me in the ocean, with my ancestors that jumped from the ships  ... because they knew death was better than bondage.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Playlist for the week that social distancing died (2)

Playlist for the week that social distancing died (1)

For cat people only

From Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), discussing pet ownership as a form of wealth-signalling --

In the case of those domestic animals which are honorific and are reputed beautiful, there is a subsidiary basis of merit that should be spoken of. Apart from the birds which belong in the honorific class of domestic animals, and which owe their place in this class to their non-lucrative character alone, the animals which merit particular attention are cats, dogs, and fast horses. The cat is less reputable than the other two just named, because she is less wasteful; she may even serve a useful end. At the same time the cat’s temperament does not fit her for the honorific purpose. She lives with man on terms of equality, knows nothing of that relation of status which is the ancient basis of all distinctions of worth, honor, and repute, and she does not lend herself with facility to an invidious comparison between her owner and his neighbors. The exception to this last rule occurs in the case of such scarce and fanciful products as the Angora cat, which have some slight honorific value on the ground of expensiveness, and have, therefore, some special claim to beauty on pecuniary grounds.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Band name apt for the day

The song is pretty good too.

Eventually they troll themselves

Despite years of evidence that what's happening before one's eyes is indeed happening (Russian military and espionage operations overseas), media outlets still feel compelled to go to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and their wretched mouthpiece Maria Zakharova for a "balancing" quote in their reporting. As if the limits of that methodology were not already clear, we now have, via the New York Times, in the context of an alleged ricin plot in Prague:

The claim that Russia itself was responsible for fabricating the poison plot story — denounced as a “sick fantasy” by Russia’s Foreign Ministry when it first surfaced in April — added a bizarre new twist to an episode that has roiled already strained relations between Moscow and Prague.

As the story explains, the "sick fantasy" ricin story was a hoax, instigated by a Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs employee. 

Sultan Man Bad


ISTANBUL - Turks streamed outside on Saturday for their first weekend without a coronavirus lockdown in nearly two months, the day after President Tayyip Erdogan suddenly scrapped a stay-at-home order.


Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced a new peace initiative for Libya in Cairo on Saturday, flanked by the eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, whose 14-month offensive to capture the capital, Tripoli, collapsed this week.  ...  For more than five years, rival parliaments and governments in the east and the west have engaged in a stop-start conflict. Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia have provided support Haftar, but that backing has been outweighed in recent months by Turkish military backing for the GNA.

[previously in this series]

He's due to stop doing it

This is simple textbook regression to the mean fallacy. With randomness in the data, high observations are more likely -- purely for probabilistic reasons -- to be followed by lower ones, and low observations to be followed by high ones. 

It should be embarrassing that such a basic statistical error keeps being repeated, and to a large audience. 

Friday, June 05, 2020

What we know now about flattening the curve

Great (free link) Financial Times weekend look at the experience of Rosenheim in Germany where things looked grim at the beginning of the pandemic but as with Germany overall, success:

In the end, though, it never came to that: Rosenheim always had enough ICU capacity. That was partly due to a grim truth about Covid-19: at least half the patients artificially ventilated died within four to five days, some of multiple organ failure — a phenomenon that has been seen in many other hotspots. This meant beds were freeing up more quickly than expected.

Much of the early focus on number of ventilators in country X, and having that drive policy, was misplaced.

New White House compound -- exclusive photo

Above, President Trump (right) takes Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko on a tour of the American Presidential Palace at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, partly under construction. Jared Tower (formerly the Washington Monument) can be seen in the background. 

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

There is always a Tweet

The above, from the New York Times TV critic, was tweeted 2 weeks ago -- before Trump's sudden interest in walking to Christian churches.