## Downright Diabolical

Yesterday, while I was enjoying a cup of coffee at one of the allegedly hipster coffeehouses I frequent, the woman at the next table struck up a conversation. She and her husband had just returned from a bike ride about ten miles up the coast. I objected that the bike paths were closed by order of our scary-looking county public health official and assorted lesser authorities. I was informed that they were now open, whereupon I set off to explore.

Indeed, it was true! I was overjoyed. Everyone was delighting in a beautiful day by the beach, reveling in their new-found freedom. I was grateful to be able to resume some normal activities. Only one day before, there were orange barricades blocking entry and at many points along this path, and rent-a-cops enforcing the no-go zone. [click on photo to enlarge]... [Read More]

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## Source Code for Imperial Model is Found to be in FORTRAN; OMG

In 1969 my brother spent half his time listening to Janis Joplin, and the other half learning FORTRAN with his high-school special class held at U of Buffalo. I have a strong impression of the relative antiquity of that programming language.

Now the source code of UK’s Imperial Model has come under discussion in the public prints, as Jeeves would say. John Hinderaker posted on Powerline,  excerpting from Richards and Boudnik in The Telegraph.  Telegraph commentary also comes from Ridley and Davis.... [Read More]

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## How One School Pivoted After Campus Closure

I’ve been working long-distance for a small K-12 California school since 2006, and I’ve always appreciated the leadership–but wow, have the principal and faculty outdone themselves since school campuses were closed weeks ago, due to the virus. I could sense in the days preceding the closure that he felt some stress, and I was told that developments with the virus were weighing on him. It concerned me–none of us could predict what was coming and what it might mean for our school.

Then the principal’s letters to parents and staff started coming in: campus is closed until thus and such a date–no, it’s actually closed longer. Here’s the plan–no, here’s the new plan. There was a first phase of online learning with teacher training to buy time, and then everyone settled into a second phase with clear, uniform procedures. All of this was accomplished via positive e-mails and a weekly parent letter; sandwiched between a paragraph of encouragement and links to resources, each parent communication carefully explained any new developments so there were no misunderstandings. Regular social media photos feature young students beaming from their computers at home, seniors posing with certificates, teachers handing out weekly packets to families in cars. Anyone would think it was the best thing that ever happened to the school, and in spite of the uncertainties, extra pressures all around, and financial stress (I actually don’t know how much longer they can keep me on), there have been some upsides to it.... [Read More]

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## Debate: Is Deliberate Infection a Useful Strategy for Managing COVID-19

Prior to the development of vaccination, one approach to protecting people against smallpox was variolation: deliberately inoculating individuals with a small dose of smallpox from an aged scab.  Since the severity of the smallpox disease usually depends upon the dose of the infectious agent (“viral load”), many of those inoculated would develop a mild case of smallpox which, nonetheless, left them with immunity to subsequently contracting the disease.  Variolation was a risky procedure: the death rate from those inoculated was on the order of 1%.

On April 2nd, 2020, Robin Hanson, who has previously advocated controlled infection for managing the pandemic, and Gregory Cochran, co-author of the 10,000 Year Explosion, debated whether variolation is a strategy which should be explored in the present pandemic.  This is more of a joint discussion than a pro/con debate: Hanson argues for variolation, while Cochran does not oppose it, but rather says it should be pursued as one of a wide variety of strategies tested in parallel.... [Read More]

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## “Questioning Conventional Wisdom in the COVID-19 Crisis”

Dr Jayanta Bhattacharya is a professor of medicine at the Stanford University medical school.  In addition to an M.D. degree from Stanford, he also holds a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford and is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.  On 2020-03-24 he and Eran Bendavid published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Is the Coronavirus as Deadly as They Say?” (behind paywall), with the subtitle, “Current estimates about the Covid-19 fatality rate may be too high by orders of magnitude”.

With one foot in medicine and another in economics, Dr Bhattacharya sat down for a special abbreviated Uncommon Knowledge interview with Peter Robinson on 2020-03-31, discussing the argument in the article, what we know and don’t know about the virus and the disease it causes, and weighing the human costs of the pandemic against those of the economic consequences of a protracted shut-down of the global economy.... [Read More]

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## Models, Schmodels

Models are judged by their predictive skill. During today’s COVID-19 press briefing,* Dr. Birx presented the latest modeling that is informing decisions at the federal level. The model makes specific predictions about the number of deaths expected under the current “full mitigation” scheme. Within about two weeks, deaths are predicted to peak at 2.2k per day and it should be clear if the model has predictive value or not. The advantage to using deaths instead of confirmed cases is that the latter are subject to testing bias; corpses are easier to count.

This graph plots the number of deaths per day (vertical scale: each division is 500) versus date (February 1 through August 1). Click on the graph for a full size version. The area under the graph is the cumulative (total) number of expected deaths. The dashed curve is labeled as “projected,” which I take to be the principal prediction within the wider band of uncertainty. The projected curve is approximated by
$$deaths per day=120(x-3.5)^4 exp[ -4(x-3.5) ]$$.
The total number of deaths obtained by integrating under the curve is about 90k, which is in good agreement with an eyeball estimate. The lower and upper bounds are 40k and 140k, respectively.... [Read More]

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## Birx

Dr. Deborah Birx is making quite a name for herself at the Daily Coronavirus Briefings.  She is poised, knowledgeable and professional.  No wonder; she is a former Army Colonel who studied HIV/Aids for the Dept. of Defense at Walter Reed.   She is winning many fans.

Mass media, you know, the Enemy of the People, aka Talking Snake Media, all seemed to notice her today.... [Read More]

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## Bankruptcy Socialism: A Dystopian Tale

In September, 2008, with the financial crisis of that year triggered by the collapse of the mortgage-backed securities bubble shaking the foundations of financial institutions world-wide and an election in the U.S. looming which had the prospect of electing the most explicitly left-wing president in the country’s history, I wrote a Gnome-o-Gram titled “The AIG Takeover and Bankruptcy Socialism”, in which I introduced the term “bankruptcy socialism”.  I have appended that original article, unmodified, to this post so you can see what I was thinking at the time and how things evolved subsequently compared to what I envisioned.

Although I wish for nothing more earnestly than the kind of optimistic outcome from the present disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic and the measures taken to deal with it, such as those sketched by TKC 1101 in his post “So What Is the POTUS Strategy?”, I also believe it is wise to look at other, darker strategies which may be put into place by those with agendas very different from the swift and complete recovery from the present troubles for which I, and most people, hope.... [Read More]

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## Associated Press falsely fact-checks Trump

A.P. FACT CHECK: Trump Falsely Says Ventilators Coming “Fast”

That headline is currently featured at the Google News aggregator. The lying liars at Associated Press are saying that Trump is lying. The only evidence they give amounts to them guessing that, when the new ventilators start arriving, then the Associated Press will judge that the amount of elapsed time, whatever it is, will not qualify as “fast.” ... [Read More]

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## Discordant Data from the Diamond Princess

One of the first concentrated outbreaks of COVID-19 was on board the cruise ship Diamond Princess, one of whose passengers tested positive for COVID-19 in Hong Kong on 2020-02-01.  The patient had onset of symptoms on 2020-01-19, one day before boarding the ship and disembarked at Hong Kong on 2020-01-25.  When the ship returned to Yokohama, Japan on 2020-02-03, it was held in quarantine, during which time a total of 3,063 PCR tests were performed on the 3,711 passengers and crew.  By 2020-02-20, there were 634 confirmed cases on-board, of which 328 were asymptomatic (positive on the PCR test, but with no self-reported symptoms as of that date, although symptoms may have developed subsequently).

A detailed analysis of this outbreak by eleven authors from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, “Estimating the infection and case fatality ratio for COVID-19 using age-adjusted data from the outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship” [PDF] has been posted on the medRxiv preprint server.  The paper has not been peer-reviewed.... [Read More]

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## Strategic Reserve

Way to go, President Trump.

“We’re going to fill it right up to the top, saving the American taxpayer billions and billions of dollars, helping our oil industry and making us even further toward that wonderful goal, which we achieved, which nobody thought was possible, of energy independence,” Trump said during remarks Friday in the Rose Garden outlining the White House’s response to the coronavirus.... [Read More]

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