Current Affairs

Birthday Thoughts – 18th June 2020

  1. My birthday 

I officially became old UK pensionable age today at age 65. Nothing eventful. I have a slight creak (hernia, to be operated on once Mary is better), but other than that, my body seems to be in good shape. We live in interesting times, I am not so much worried about myself as I am worried about the robber baron fascist scumbags totally taking over the USA and the UK. The electorates in both countries have, in aggregate, been foolish enough to vote for authoritarian scumbags, and it may or may not be too late to turn that back.

2. Covid-19

The published number of new cases in Dallas County late yesterday is BAD. A new bad record.

3. The Pandemic Insurance market that never took off

This is an interesting article about an attempt, starting some time ago, to seed a general insurance market for Pandemic protection insurance. It never took off, because the potential buyers failed to take the impact of a pandemic seriously enough to be prepared to pay premiums up front. Today, it would be different, but because of the infrequent and huge payouts involved in this type of insurance, up-front payments for years are needed for insurers to have enough reserves to actually pay any resulting claims. It’s not motor insurance.

4. Pandemic mask wearing and logical fallacies

There are any number of people who are behaving like privileged asshats, laboring under the delusion that (a) not wearing a mask in public is a good idea, (b) that they somehow have this magical “freedom” to do whatever they like. This leads to all manner of expansive and bullshit claims being made when organizations mandate mask wearing. The Google School Of Law has never been busier.

“I refuse to wear a mask” justifiers are tying themselves into knots over the issue. This person hit a perfect twofer for logical fallacies in their attempt to argue that they should not have to wear a mask:

The CO2 poisoning would be news to all of the doctors and nurses who have been laboring for hours at a time for decades in hospitals wearing face masks. So I definitely detect the fragrant odor of caca on that excuse.

But notice how he tries logical fallacy #1 – Moving The Goalposts, by swiftly shifting to complaining that masks are never 100% effective anyway.

He walks right into logical fallacy #2 –  Fallacy of Binary Thinking instead. No, you fool, a mask is not 100% effective. but then nobody with any pretence to smarts claimed that it is 100% effective.

To use an analogy, seatbelts are not 100% effective at stopping people from being killed or injured in road accidents. but they are mandatory, and most people accept that they are not 100% effective. However, you will notice that there is a small subset of the population who are hostile to wearing them, on the same damn grounds that people are trying to refuse to wear masks – they are not always effective, and Mah Freedoms.

However, the analogy, while useful, is not a match. The difference between a person who refuses to wear a seatbelt and who dies or is injured in a road accident is that they only harmed themselves. Not wearing a mask not only increases a person’s chances of contracting Covid, it also increases the chance that they will aerosolize the air around them with virus, which may increase the chance of others contracting the virus.

Unfortunately, pseudo-libertarians and retarded adolescents (who are often the same group) keep trying these “mah freedoms!” arguments. They are never cogent or useful, but they keep trying.

 

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Brexit Saga – 16th June 2020

The fundamental underlying issue with Brexit is that in almost every respect it is a backward-looking strategy. The absurd reliance on World War II metaphors and memories (very selectively slanted in favour of the UK and against other foreign contributors) tells me that the Golden Age Fallacy is underpinning a lot of attitudes in the UK towards Brexit. It is as though the entire memory of World War II is derived from watching episodes of Dad’s Army, intercut with footage from Pathe News of great wartime feats of valour by plucky little Britain.

As this article explains, what the UK really needs is not freedom from Europe, but to be liberated from its own delusions.

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COVID stuffs – 16th June 2020

  1. Ask the people who actually know

An expert actually, you know, went off and talked with experts today. This is his summary. It’s not good reading.

2.The Dallas County Graph is still bad.

3.  Florida and Arizona

Bars and Restaurants in Florida are finding out the hard way that re-opening when a pandemic is in full swing is…not a good idea.

In Arizona, restaurants are making the same unfortunate discovery.

4. Deaths – South Korea vs. the USA

Currently, the official death toll in South Korea from Covid-19 is…278

The US total just passed 200,000.

If you pro-rate the South Korea death rate upwards by the difference in popuations between the USA and South Korea (320 million vs. 52 million), the death toll in the US for the same death rate would be…

1,732

The US death rate is 115 times higher.

It’s not a population density thing. South Korea has a much higher population density than the USA. It’s a competence of government difference, and a population attitude difference. You don’t hear about South Koreans rampaging in the streets without masks, ratchet-jawing about “my rights”.

 

 

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Thoughts – Saturday 13th June 2020

As the clock ticks towards my 65th birthday (eek), and I work to get Mary mobile and well again so I can schedule my overdue hernia surgery, the Western world teeters on the brink of a massive recession and social unrest is bubbling.

  1. London 

Black Lives Matter was planning a demonstration in London today, but decided to call it off. This may have been a very smart move, since all of the fascists who were planning to show up to fight them did show up. However, having nobody to fi…er, demonstrate against,they were left to take out their drunken anger on whoever from the media happened to be too close, or the police. 

It is rather obvious that these people are not fans of democracy, inclusion and the equitable treatment of minorities. They are, however, for many people outside of the UK, the face of modern England.

2. The irrelevance of Nigel Farage

Poor Nigel Farage. A 7 time (count them) failed parliamentary candidate in the UK, a long-term mostly-absentee MEP (get Nigel to tell you how many EU Fishery Committee meetings he attended while he was a member of that committee), and now he has been released from his LBC contract.

The problem with leading a single-issue pressure group is that if the issue is resolved, you have no rationale for public existence. I suspect that Nigel’s backers no longer need him, so he is old hat, yesterday’s man. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

3. Brexit fiascos, continued

The UK seems determined to ignore most of the normal rules about negotiation, as it tries to look tough. The problem with these normal rules is that they exist for a very good reason: they are smart.

One fundamental rule of negotiations is: keep your options open. If you are ever faced with a scenario where you have only one option, you have no leverage, and your opponents will squeeze you.

The UK just violated that rule (yet again) by announcing that it does not want an extension to the EU departure transition period.This means that at midnight on 31st December this year, all agreements that currently exist with the EU will disappear, unless they are replaced by new ones. If they are not superseded by new agreements, the UK will become a totally outsider country, with no trading,customs, aerospace, travel,fishing agreements…the list goes on. This will not end well. The UK’s current behavior is going to result in it becoming an international pariah.

The delusion that the UK is going to magically obtain a “good deal” on fishing rights and quotas is another area where the UK has violated fundamental rules of negotiation. The government and its supporters keep insisting that fishing is an important subject, and that the UK will get a good deal. (This persistently ignores that the fishing industry in the UK is less than 0.5% of GDP, and it is declining).

When you publicly put yourself in a box like this, there are going to be one of two likely outcomes, both of which will be bad for the UK:

  1. The UK, desperate to obtain some useful concessions on fishing that it can sell as a victory to its supporters, will end up making big and damaging concessions on other issues, which will end up severely damaging the UK economy in the medium term
  2. The UK will fail to get a good deal on fishing (because the other concessions would be way too damaging), and the fishing industry in the UK will be left to twist in the wind, amid allegations of betrayal and sellout

The right answer would have been to adopt a calm and measured approach to negotiations, not making bellicose statements in advance in an attempt to negotiate in public. But the bunch of unqualified juveniles currently running the UK government cannot manage something that simple.

4.  COVID-19 in Texas

The graph of new cases shows a worsening trend. The economy was opened way too soon here in Texas. This is not just true for new cases. The overall death chart is also worsening.

The idea that you could re-open the economy in states like Texas, Florida or Arizona is going to be seen, before long, as the naive and deluded actions of free-market idiots.

6. The NFL continues with virtue signals but…

…until they apologize to Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, and ensure that they are signed to teams, the gestures are deficient, defective and hollow.

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Briefs – Sunday 31st May 2020

  1. Riots

The appearance of angry demonstrations in many US cities is no surprise to me. The peaceful protests from several years ago against entrenched and endemic racism were contemptuously dismissed at the time (see Kaepernick, Colin). So now the disaffected have moved beyond peaceful and passive demonstrations.

There is a lot of evidence that agents provocateurs are operating within demonstrations. This is SOP for fascists, it is one of the standard tactics from their playbook, going back to Germany in the 1930s.

Media members are being caught in the crossfire all over the place, but when you have a supine, non-inquiring media that insists on perpetuating a clearly false “both sides”narrative, and which refuses to take the correct action when confronted by a President who routinely dismisses them as enemies of the people, this is the logical end result. The media becomes a target for law enforcement, just like the demonstrators. The media, in a broader sense, have been demonstrating so far in 2020 that they have learned nothing from 2016. As Jay Rosen keeps pointing out, they are using a broken playbook for dealing with Donald Trump.

2. Covid-19

The Dallas County Covid-19 new cases trend is now upwards,following a decline in the number of new cases for over a week. I predicted this, but it is not good to see. I have not looked at the trend in other counties. I still worry about rural counties, which have limited to non-existent medical treatment capacity for people who become very ill. And many of those rural folks, here in Texas, are not going to be insured against medical costs.

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Covid – the danger point

With a number of US states (including my own state of Texas) starting to re-open, we are at what will probably be seen, looking back, at a point of inflection.

The states opening up are desperate to re-start many economic activities that almost ceased during initial lockdown, since many of the activities most affected are ones that employ a LOT of people.

The fundamental issue, which the political leaders, in their usual fashion, have avoided discussing where possible, is that increasing activities relying on personal interaction is bound to lead to an increase in Covid contagion, unless a significant percentage of the population has already been infected by the virus. My blunt question would be whether they have actually performed any mathematical analysis about how many extra deaths they are prepared to accept. That would be regarded as a taboo subjects, but that really is one fundamental question.

The other fundamental question is: how far down the contagion path is the region of the USA that a governor controls?

The problem is that nobody knows the general level of infection in any local population anywhere in the USA. This is because testing has been a severely constrained resource, only used for individuals who are regarded as highly essential or important, or people who are suspected of having contracted Covid-19. So the population for testing, instead of being random, is highly pre-selected, making it useless for any statistically valid estimation of overall infection rates.

Absent useful information on overall infection rates, opening up high-social interactions within the economy is an uninformed gamble, not a sensible, measured decision. Everybody needs to realize this.

We will know by the end of next week whether the decision in Texas was a wise one.

Personally, I would rather be accused of being cautious rather than excoriated after the fact for being reckless.

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Dallas County – Covid cases rate of increase graph – 13th May 2020

This is the rate of increase graph for Covid-19 cases for Dallas County. As you can see, the rate of increase has plateaued in the last 4 days at around 250 new cases a day.

I expect this rate to jump at the end of this week or the beginning of next week as the effect of the loosening of lockdown and stay-at-home works its way through into infection rates. The only way that we will not have a steep increase will be if a significant percentage of the population is already infected with Covid-19. This is possible, but since testing is confined to people suspected of having the virus, and no generalized testing of the population is being conducted, no information exists to determine the current general level of infection.

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