As if like a faint echo, Phantom responds…

Apparently our old friend and interlocutor Phantom is still reading the blog and leapt to the defence of Ms Hoyt’s argument for not applying social distancing measures in Colorado.

“I note at this time that the odious flopping cameltron has decided that he/she/it must decree that Sarah and the rest of us are all A) uneducated losers and B) racist bigots.”

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2020/04/03/assume-a-spherical-cow-of-uniform-density-in-a-frictionless-vaccum/#comment-664138

Uneducated? No. Reasoning poorly? Yes. Many educated people make poor arguments, particularly when they apply their learning and reasoning to the purpose of convincing themselves that what is not true is actually true.

Racist bigots? I’ll be politic and diplomatic and simply say that if I was attempting to establish that the denizens of the comment section were either racist bigots or happy in the company of racist bigots, I wouldn’t start with this post from Sarah Hoyt.

“Nowhere in the camel’s analysis and defense of computer models do I see mention of the A) failure of Western governments to hold back the infection by restricting air travel, or B) the failure of socialistic countries to have adequate medical supplies for an emergency.”

Because neither points were pertinent to the question at hand: whether the people of Colorado should follow social distancing measures now – in the current situation.

Should governments have shut down air travel earlier than they did? Yes. You and Hoyt would have howled and howled about overreacting and governments interfering with business etc because the *right* way to have taken that extreme step would have been to shut down far more than flights to and from China. Of course that requires 20-20 hindsight and I can forgive even Donald Trump for not having that.

And more pertinent to Ms Hoyt’s and Mr Phantom’s ideology, why did CAPITALIST fail to have adequate medical supplies for this emergency? In Particular why was the supposedly greatest nation on Earth, the USA, so woefully unprepared? Mr Phantom’s own nation of Canada, is currently managing the disease better than the USA — not flawlessly by any means but still better. Why is that if the USA is just so good at things and has such great leadership currently?

“What would be cheaper: shutting down the airline industry for December, January and February when the virus first broke out, or doing what we’re doing now? I can hear them screaming RACIST!!! from here.”

Shutting down air travel in JANUARY completely would have worked. That’s pretty much what would have been needed. To isolate the disease just in China you’d have needed to shut down air travel to and from China in December or probably even November. Nobody, including the good Mr Phantom, knew that at the time of course except maybe the government of China. The President of the USA didn’t establish the Whitehouse Coronavirus Taskforce until January 29.

And yes, the Chinese government deserve a huge heap of blame as a consequence. Not that helps contain or treat the disease now. Nor does it in anyway help Sarah Hoyt’s argument. Oh yes, obviously I understand that rather than presenting any specific logical or factual challenges to the arguments I made, that you seek to find some kind of point scoring instead.

“Could we have kept it there long enough to generate a vaccine and get it distributed to all the vulnerable people in our populations?”

Maybe. After all the 2013-2016 ebola outbreak was largely contained within three countries, with just a few cases spreading beyond and cases in the UK, USA and Italy being confined to healthcare workers who had bravely gone to contain the outbreak. Of course that was a different era and the USA acted cooperatively to limit the outbreak.

Could the same have been done with China and Covid-19? Maybe. It would have needed a degree of international cooperation that sadly seems to have gone by the wayside since 2016. It would have needed a greater degree of trust between the US and China and, let’s face it, it would have needed a more competent POTUS (that’s not an ideological point, a more competent GOP president of any kind, even Bush Jr would have been less disastrous).

And again, none of that points to Hoyt’s position being correct: that the virus isn’t as dangerous as it is or that social distancing measures aren’t currently the main weapon we have.

A general update

I’m largely not covering the covid-19 pandemic here mainly because there’s so much coverage and I largely have nothing to add but here are some general updates.

  • Australia has increased social distancing measures a notch and has now banned public gatherings of more than two people.
  • The data here is suggesting that maybe (and it will take days of data to confirm) that the graph is turning and rates of infection have slowed. (possibly premature) yay!
  • That does mean we are in for the long-haul: a slow spread through the population while keeping hospitals from being overwhelmed.
  • So…social distancing measures are likely to be months.
  • New Zealand might be in for a longer (but safer) haul. They might be close to containment (i.e. the virus not spreading at all) but that means waiting for a vaccine.
  • The UK still worries me.
  • The US frightens me but I know individual states may be doing a better job than federal response. Please stay safe and if you can, stay home.
  • On the right denial, misinformation and racism are still the thing. Interestingly, while the misinformation and racism is consistent across different groups, the denial is strongest on the pseudo-libertarian right rather than the alt-right.
  • There’s a big thing on the right that official Chinese government stats on covid-19 cases is all fake. Well, I guess I wouldn’t put to much faith on the Chinese governments honesty either but a big part of the disbelief is forgetting how regional China is as a nation and the degree to which the Chinese government controls internal travel. So, I’d guess those official numbers are understated, maybe even 50% higher in reality but…
  • …the USA probably still has exceeded the number of cases in China already. We’ll never know exactly which day last week or this week it was but that milestone has been passed. Eventually, unless there is a vaccine soon, China will exceed the USA again simply because it has more people but that’s another story.
  • The (very faint) upside is now is a great time for people who love to stay at home and look at data visualisations all day. Lots of great trackers available. The one I keep looking at is https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus because it has some handy customisations on its graphs. There’s a lot to wade through there though and there are better snapshot sites
  • What graphs am I looking at? The site above has a “Total confirmed cases of COVID-19 per million people” section. The default display is a map but you can switch it to a time series graph. Adjusting for population throws up a lot of noise for very small countries, so it is only useful for comparing countries with some consistent data collection. Using a log scale for the vertical axis makes it easier to compare trends but (obviously) makes totals look a lot more similar than they actually are.
Up to March 28 – Log scale

In the meantime, please all stay as safe as you can and wash your hands and be kind to one another.

Add Commanding Authority to Your Online Meetings

Many of you maybe enjoying the delights of video-conferencing from the comfort of your own shed, bedroom, bathroom or impromptu tree-house. Wherever you are hiding from the rest of the people in your house, it is important to project to your colleagues at work a sense of being-in-control, resoluteness and decisive decision making. Who better to emulate in these times than the CEO of Cattimothy House Publishing, Timothy the Talking Cat (MBA, Phd, NRL, OMG, GCSE).

To help you send the right visual message to your forlorn co-workers, we proudly present the Timothy the Talking Cat CEO-Video Presence Mask®©℗™.

Simply print out at a suitable size then cut out, add string and suitable eye-holes and you to can enjoy the quiet confidence of one of the world’s great thinkers.

How are things down under?

The short answer is that it could be worse. Obviously a pandemic is not a good thing and Australia’s main contribution to the world’s response was the embarrassing toilet-paper panic (whose only upside was as a boon for economists looking for metaphors).

New Zealand is still low on actual cases but is implementing a very drastic policy of asking any overseas visitors (except from Pacific island nations) https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12316692 There’s an announcement pending on mass gatherings. Meanwhile Australia has banned from Monday organised gatherings of 500 or more people (with some exemptions) and is asking people not to travel overseas.

Two events from the past are making the current Federal government less disappointing than they could be:

  • The shambolic Federal (and Prime Ministerial) response to the summer bushfire crisis (oh so long ago now) led to very poor poll numbers for the government. You would think they wouldn’t needed that reminder to work out that you have to at a minimum seem to be proactive in a crisis but apparently the lesson was learned. Still less than perfect but Scott Morrison isn’t the hate figure he was in January.
  • The 2007 general election. That election resulted in a Labor government under Kevin Rudd (who had his own severe personality flaws). What that meant was that when the GFC hit Australia went with stimulus rather than austerity. Australia weather the crisis better than most, much of which was due to minerals and China but stimulus helped (not surprisingly because it really should). That led to the received wisdom in Australia that in a crisis the government should spend money. Yes, they should spend more than they are planning but at least they aren’t doing the opposite.

Less good news is that there is currently a shortfall of testing kits but in the cities at least, dedicated covid-19 clinics have been established. Workers on casual contracts losing shifts because of people not going out or because they are unwell or have to self-isolate are being hit hard even though some government benefits can be accessed.

Smaller coastal communities in Australia were heavily impacted by the summer bushfire crisis. Naturally they had hoped for some economic boost from autumn tourism but now they are faced with a general economic downturn and the dilemma of tourists being a possible vector for a viral infection in communities with less access to healthcare.

In the meantime, keep washing your hands and being nice to people.