Math and Science Are Hard

I was puzzled by the CDC’s recent claim that the Wuhan Virus Pandemic had cased a one year drop in life expectance in the U. S. It turns out that their claim is so screwed up it isn’t even wrong. If life expectancy has dropped because of Covid, the decline is probably less than a week, an amount so small that it’s inside the roundoff error of the statistics. Eugene Volokh has a post up with details from a report by Dr. Peter Bach.

Analysts estimate that, on average, a death from Covid-19 robs its victim of around 12 years of life. Approximately 400,000 Americans died Covid-19 in 2020, meaning about 4.8 million years of life collectively vanished. Spread that ghastly number across the U.S. population of 330 million and it comes out to 0.014 years of life lost per person. That’s 5.3 days. There were other excess deaths in 2020, so maybe the answer is seven days lost per person.

No matter how you look at it, the result is a far cry from what the CDC announced.

It’s not that the agency made a math mistake. I checked the calculations myself, and even went over them with one of the CDC analysts. The error was more problematic in my view: The CDC relied on an assumption it had to know was wrong….

Apparently, 2 + 2 equals whatever the public health establishment needs it to be.

Papiere, Bitte!

HHS Secretary Becerra has endorsed White House Press Secretary Psaki’s announcement that government agents would be going door-to-door to check on our Wuhan virus vaccination status. Becerra says it’s the government’s “business” to know your vaccination status.

Actually, for most of us the government has no business asking whether we’re vaccinated or not, a point Becerra tacitly conceded when he told CNN—

Knocking on a door has never been against the law. You don’t have to answer, but we hope you do. Because if you haven’t been vaccinated, we can help dispel some of those rumors you’ve heard and hopefully get you vaccinated.

There are medical reasons that might cause someone to decline to be vaccinated. One could be immunity acquired by having had the disease. But given the developing herd immunity, any real public health emergency is over, and it’s time for the bureaucrats to let us get on with our lives as we see fit.

BTW, I’m someone about whom the government has a legitimate interest in knowing my vaccination status. My work with NASA sometimes requires that I enter government facilities and work in close proximity with others. NASA hasn’t asked to see my shot record card, but I have it if they need to see it.

Doing Science in the Laboratories of Democracy

Different states have taken different approaches in dealing with the Wuhan Virus Pandemic. Some states have operated based on a working hypothesis that said extensive lockdowns, prolonged masking, and the like would provide better outcomes than states which began returning to normal life more quickly.

The various experiments have been run, the differing hypotheses tested.

Texas began reopening fairly early and reported no deaths from Covid-19 on Sunday.

Maryland, a smaller state which has followed a middle course, reported 3 Covid deaths for Sunday.

New York, which has taken one of the most restrictive approaches, reported 35 Covid deaths for Sunday.

The Gentle Reader may form his own conclusions as to which, if any, hypothesis has been shown false.

Team Kimberlin Post of the Day

Kimberlin’s empr dot media website continues to muddle along, but almost all of the news stories seem to relate to the quasi-war between Ukraine and Russia and COVID in Ukraine. Both are reasonable stories to be tracking, but … well, I’ll need to do a bit more research before I say more.

Papiere, Bitte!

I was given a shot record card with the details of first dose of COVID vaccine, and I expect it will be updated when I receive the second dose. I’ll pass the information on to the appropriate health care providers so they can keep my records up to date.

Yesterday, Rep. Mike Loychik tweeted, “Vaccine passports have no place in a free society,” to which I replied, “Well, yes. That’s why they are being proposed.”

I don’t plan to carry my vaccination records as some sort of internal passport.

Slow Blogging

Blogging was running in low gear at Hogewash! yesterday, and it will slow today as well. I woke up yesterday with a severe pain in my left maxillary sinus caused by an infection. The doc prescribed a course of industrial-strength antibiotics and some very nice pain pills. It may be a while before I sober up.

A Science Experiment

Whether or not they have realized what they were doing, the political leaders of several states have been conducting a scientific experiment. Their implied hypothesis is that extended draconian restrictions on the activities of the people in their states would result in fewer deaths from the Wuhan virus pandemic. Simultaneously several other states took the opposite approach to managing the pandemic, effectively providing a control group for the restrictive state experiment. We now have data comparing the results of the two approaches. Has the restrictive state hypothesis been falsified?

Here’s a chart of the relative performance of the states plowing relative levels of restriction versus death rate. A higher number on the death rate axis corresponds to a higher death rate. A higher number on the restriction axis corresponds to tighter restrictions.Chart Source: Wallethub

While there are more restrictive states among the ten best performing states, restrictive states account for half of the ten worst. Thus, the data do not support the hypothesis that tight restrictions on the public’s activities necessarily will result in relatively lower death rates.

It’s possible that tight restrictions on public activity might be beneficial in some circumstance, but the data also suggest the possibility that many other factors have affected the variation in performance among the states. For example, Hawaii and Vermont have relatively high restrictions, but are their low death rates a result of their relative isolation from the nation’s large population centers or some other factor? Could such relative isolation have a part in Nebraska’s low death rate? Could California’s high poverty rate be affecting its poor performance?

The science isn’t settled on exactly why some states are doing better than others, but it does seem to show that lockdowns and other such measures weren’t and aren’t a magic bullet.

Oh, one more thing …

The average unemployment rate in the the most restrictive states is 7.1% (9% in California). The national rate is 6.7%. The rate in the least restrictive states is 4.7% (3.1 % in Iowa).

A Reasonable Hypothesis

Ali Alexander has a website up that deals with an hypothesis relating to Joe Biden’s health. He suggests that Biden may have Parkinson’s disease and presents evidence to support his hypothesis. The case isn’t airtight, but it’s a reasonable starting point for discussion of an import issue which the Biden campaign has tried to avoid.

Watch the video and discuss it among yourselves and with others.

Team Kimberlin Post of the Day

The ostensible reason for Bill Schmalfeldt’s recent “retirement” is a flare up of his Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Many were amazed by the apparent remission he enjoyed over the past couple of years as he bounced from one broadcasting gig to another. The Cabin Boy’s™ Symptoms were the subject of this post which appeared three years ago today. It appeared at the end a long series of posts that day debunking claims he was making during LOLsuit VIII: Avoiding Contact.

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Bill Schmalfeldt may have taken my suggestion that he thoroughly search this blog for references to him as a child pornographer or as someone faking Parkinson’s disease because he logged in to Hogewash! and conducted these searched this evening—

6:51:45 pm ET search=parkinson’s
6:56:27 pm ET search=child
6:58:39 pm ET search=pornography

So, how did that work out for him? I can’t say for sure, but at 7:08 pm this evening, I received a tweet from him with a dead link to one of his old websites and a copy of one of the pornographic images he created of me that was part of the evidence supporting Judge Stansfield’s finding that the Cabin Boy™ was likely to continue to harass me and that the first peace order should be extended.

The Gentle Reader should make up his own mind about what all that means.

UPDATE—So the Cabin Boy™ thinks I’ve lied?The Cabin Boy™ says I lied about his putting my face into pornographic images, specifically, an image involving anal intercourse. He may recognize the image on the left. It was stored on his Patriot-Ombudsman website as Screen-Shot-2013-03-24-at-5.07.52-PM_clipped_rev_1-2.33.37.png. (Since it was stolen from a video by Peter Ingemi, the Cabin Boy™ has no rights to the image.) It was this image that he photoshopped on the body of a man on the receiving in of anal sex. I have the original post as he published it in the vault, but I won’t post it here because I intend to keep my end of the 2014 Settlement Agreement. Also, this isn’t a porn site, so I do not choose to have such filth on this blog. However, if the Cabin Boy™ wants the image included in a court filing, I will do that if necessary. But he may want to remember Judge Kramer’s reaction to the other homoerotic image he posted with my face photoshopped in when it was entered into evidence in Schmalfeldt v. Hoge, et al.

Murum aries attigit.

UPDATE 2—The Dreadful Pro-Se Schmalfeldt may also remember tweeting this just before he posted that homoerotic image—

UPDATE 3—I’ll take this tweet as permission to reproduce the Cabin Boy’s™ original blog post and/or the homoerotic image here at Hogewash!However, I stand by my decision not to reproduce Schmalfeldt’s filth on this blog. For now, the most I will do is show the small section of the original image at right. The area behind my face has been blurred to remove pornographic content.

If the Cabin Boy™ wants to press the issue in court, I’m willing to produce all the evidence I have.

UPDATE 4—I grabbed the tweet in UPDATE 3 out of my web browser immediately after seeing this tweet pop up in Tweet Deck—I normally save tweets as rendered by a browser because they tend to be more compact when included in a blog post. Note that the timestamp on the this tweet is 3:10 am, 9 July. My Tweet Deck program uses UTC which is +4 hours from ET. The tweet in UPDATE 3 is timestamped one minute later.

It appears that in the interval between when I noticed the new tweet in Tweet Deck and the time I opened my browser, the Cabin Boy™ deleted his original tweet and retweeted it without the words, “Post the image …”

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BTW, it appears that Schmalfeldt is no more successful building an audience on YouTube than he was trying to gin up believable claims during his LOLsuits. As of 8:30 ET yesterday evening, he hadn’t picked up any additional subscribers since last Thursday.

Who Wants To Go To Work?

I don’t especially want to go to work. I’m doing just fine, sitting in my office at home and telecommuting. As long as I keep getting paid with money that has sufficient purchasing power in the economy, I’d just as soon not have to drive to someone else’s office to do what I can to across the hall from my kitchen. (And my coffee is better than the Folger’s junk that seems to infest so many workplace coffee pots.)

Looking around the neighborhood, I can see several other professionals who have moved their work into their homes and who are continuing to do well economically. Other neighbors aren’t doing so well. They normally engage in businesses, trades, and professions that require close one-on-one interactions with people. Some of them haven’t earned anything for weeks.

Gentle Reader, can you guess which group is more favorably disposed to reopening the economy quickly?

On the leading edge of the Wuhan virus pandemic, most Americans were willing to put up with some significant disruptions in their personal lives in order to protect the public health. There really was a sense of “we’re in this all together,” but that has dissipated as people who want to feed their families are told by a governor that they can’t buy seeds to plant in their gardens because of a virus lockdown. Another governor’s sending Covid19-infected patients to old folks’ homes has not increased the public’s trust in government’s competence either. Thus, we have a large group of Americans who are wanting to and are ready to go back to work—and who are losing or have lost patience with the “experts.”

Meanwhile, those of us doing “essential” work have been paid all along—at least so far—but now, the lack of tax revenue is eating away the ability of many states and localities to make payroll. Oh, and advertising is now down, resulting in media layoffs. It may be that some of the less protected members of the “essentials” may begin to favor reopening the economy as well.

So, who is still in favor of broad, non-targeted lockdowns? Cui bono?

That should be an interesting topic for research by a good investigative reporter.

You know, I once saw a movie about investigative reporters. The line in the film that helped them put their big story together was the advice, “Follow the money.” I’ll bet that would be good advice for this story.

Team Kimberlin Post of the Day

When you’re writing about a bunch of psycho, you can wind up writing about psychology. This TKPOTD appeared six years ago today.

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This post is about Team Kimberlin and psychology, that is to say, their crude attempts at the practice of psychology. One of the characteristics that I noticed fairly soon into my coverage of these folks was their continued reference to the alleged mental illnesses of those who wrote about them. This has included such absurd claims as that someone might be dangerously violent because he has ADD. Or that another person has substance abuse problems. I’m supposed to have OCD.

According to the DSM-IV (that’s the psychologists’ diagnostic bible), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a ego dystonic disorder. That means that the sufferer actually suffers because he is distressed by his own behavior. I am pleased to say that I’m not usually bothered by my own behavior, so if I have anything like OCD, it would be Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder which is ego syntonic, meaning that the behavior fits with the person’s self-image and doesn’t cause him distress. Someone with OCPD is not aware of anything abnormal. He explains why his actions are rational, it is usually impossible to convince him otherwise, and he tends to derive pleasure from his obsessions or compulsions. Those around him suffer.

I’m told neither OCD nor OCPD fits me; however, Jerk NOS has been suggested by a friend who is a psychologist. I think she was joking.

But back to Team Kimberlin …

If I remember my Pysch 101 from 1966 (or there about) correctly, Sigmund Freud defined psychological projection as a defense mechanism by which a person unconsciously rejects his own unacceptable attributes by ascribing them to objects or persons in the outside world instead. Projection involves psychically expelling one’s negative qualities onto others. It’s a common psychological process, and I suppose projecting one’s own propensity for violence and lying or one’s own obsessive behaviors onto others makes it easier to live with a corrupt personality.

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Crazy People Are Dangerous™

Crudely Modeling Herd Immunity

So what is this “herd immunity” that people keep talking about?

It works something like this:

Adam becomes infected with some disease. We’ll call it Batpox for this example. It turns out that the statistics of Batpox’s transmissibility are such that it is about as contagious as measles. Measles has a basic reproduction number (R0) of about 12. When Adam goes to visit his friends Betty and Chuck, the odds are high that they will both become infected as well—unless they are already immune because of a previous encounter with the disease or a vaccine. OTOH, if enough of the people Adam contacts while he’s sick are immune to Batpox, the disease isn’t likely to spread any further. A population has reached herd immunity for a disease when enough of the population is immune to prevent the disease from easily spreading.

The percentage of population required for herd immunity is greater for larger values of R0. The formula for the approximate percentage of immune individuals necessary for herd immunity is

X = (1 – 1/Ro) X 100

For measles X is about 92 %. That’s why it’s important for kids to be vaccinated in order to get the number of immune individuals as high as possible.

The initial estimate of R0 for the Wuhan virus was around 2.7. That would imply that we’d need about 63 % of the population to be immune in order to achieve herd immunity. However, the Real World data for Covid-19 shows much lower values for R0. That’s values, plural, because different places have different factors that affect transmissibility.

Take a look at these charts of how R0 has varied over time in various states. (Source: rt.live) The solid lines represent the calculated values for R0 and the shaded areas around the lines show the confidence intervals for the calculations based on the amount and quality of the data. These plots are for entire states; the New York and Michigan numbers would be even lower with the effects of New York City and Detroit removed.

Note that these states have all achieved an R0 of about 1. Plugging that value into our formula for herd immunity gives a required immunity percentage of … pokes at calculator …  zero.

Now, I’ve been engaged in modeling here, and we know how problematic that can be, but I believe this gives us a hint about why people are ready to get back to their normal lives in large swaths of the country. Certainly, a value of R0 below 1 explains why the death toll hasn’t spiked in Georgia.

There are still places in the country struggling to contain the Wuhan virus outbreak, and they should be supported in their efforts. However, the data support letting the rest of the country get on with our lives.

I’m So Old …

… I remember when they taught this sort of stuff in ECON 101.

What happens when people are out of work and lots of stores are closed? Income tax and sales tax revenue drops. Bloomberg is reporting that New York’s tax collections have dropped by over two-thirds. Meanwhile, over on the left coast KPIX reports that Governor Hairgel is proposing pay cuts for California state workers because state revenues are down over 20 percent.

As the old Russian proverb says, “Го́лой овцы́ не стригу́т. (One doesn’t shear naked sheep.)” I suspect that we’re about to see a large portion of the bureaucracy begin to favor an expeditious reopening of the economy.

Fighting the Last War

There’s an old adage which states that most armies are prepared to fight the last war. It has a deep basis in Reality. After our 1892 medium-power Krag rifles were outclassed by the full-power Mausers used by the Spanish in 1898, we adopted the Mauser-clone 1903 Springfield for World War I. The lessons learned about firepower in that war led to the adoption of the M1, which would have been a superior weapon in WW1, but was outclassed by the German Strumgewehr 44 (the original assault rifle) by the end of WW2. We entered the Viet Nam War armed with the M14, which would have been a great weapon for WW2, only to be outgunned by the other side’s AK47s, true assault rifles. I went through basic training with an M14, but was finally issued an M16 in Viet Nam.

Armies aren’t the only bureaucracies that cling to outdated “solutions.” The public health response to the Wuhan virus pandemic is a case in point.

The 1918 influenza pandemic was worse than it had to be, in part, because of the failure of some communities to take proper measures to prevent rapid spreading. The proper lesson from that pandemic is that dangerous communicable diseases must be contained by reducing interpersonal contact until other means of fighting it are available.

The initial restrictions imposed as public health measures dealing with Covid-19 were reasonable and cautious responses to a potentially catastrophic situation. They would have been excellent in combating the 1918 flu, but it appears that they’ve been overkill in vast swaths of America with disastrous unintended (I hope) consequences. For many the cure is worse than the disease.

Most Real World situations don’t track well with our attempt to model them because we never seem to be able to understand all of the ways that things interact. Experience and common sense and a willingness to take risks are necessary live in the Real World. Credentials are not the same thing as experience, and non-expert expertise has failed. It’s time to get back to living in the Real World. That will require that public health concerns take their rightful place among other factors to balances with economic realities and civil rights.