Pushback

The Xiden administration announced today that it will sue Texas over the SB8 abortion law, and His Fraudulency himself announce a package of patently illegal and unconstitutional Wuhan-Virus-related mandates and rules to promulgated.

This evening multiple state governors have announced their intentions to sue the federal government to protect their states’ citizens from Joe Xiden’s lawlessness.

UPDATE—The list as of 9 pm ET:
South Dakota
Texas
South Carolina
Oklahoma
Alabama
Wyoming
Tennessee
Nebraska
Idaho
Iowa
Georgia
Missouri
Arizona
Mississippi
Utah
Indiana

UPDATE 2—More States:
Florida
Montana
North Dakota
Arkansas

UPDATE 3—
West Virginia
Alaska

It Isn’t Exactly An Abuse of Authority

Most of the Wuhan Virus mandates announced today by Joe Xiden are being denounced as abuses of authority. However, one cannot abuse authority one does not have.

Usurping authority one does not have is arrogance.

Xiden has set himself—and the country—up for another failure.

Math is Hard—Logic is Harder—and Facts are Stubborn

Today, Joe Xiden said that 350,000,000 Americans have now been vaccinated against the Wuhan virus. Here’s a snapshot of the U.S. Census Bureau’s online population clock taken at 12:18:39 ET this afternoon—His Fraudulency is also encouraging those Americans who haven’t yet been vaccinated to get their shots.

I was going to write a longer post about vaccination records possibly being processed by the people who counted votes last November, but I’ve got real work to do.

Is it 2025 yet?

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.

Why #MeToo Instead of Manslaughter?

New York’s Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have announced that it’s time for Andrew Cuomo to resign. The reason they give is that a handful of the women who the governor may have sexually harassed have come forward with public complaints about his conduct. The Gentle Reader may wonder why the still intact lives a few people are of greater moral weight than thousands of the dead, but that’s not the question the senators are addressing.

Now that the Democrats have control of the White House and Congress, those with the top jobs are working to secure their positions and power bases—and to weaken and neutralize potential competitors. New York Democrats generally supported Cuomo’s handling of the Wuhan Virus Pandemic last year. They are vulnerable to being tagged as accessories or enablers to the granny killing. OTOH, if they can get Cuomo taken out for his personal behavior at times and places where they weren’t present, it may be possible for them to dodge any accountability for their Covid Collusion.

So Cuomo must go, and #MeToo serves the Inner Party’s interest.

Transferring Money From Red States to Blue

The fifty states have functioned as laboratories of democracy in their varied responses to the Wuhan Virus Pandemic. For the most part, it’s been the blue states who have done the most damage to their economies, and it’s these states that the Democrats in Congress want to bail out.

It might be wise for Congress to review some basic principles of planning and economics before they act. I’m providing a link to a basic economics text at Amazon that should be simple enough for most of the members of the House and Senate to understand.

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).

Civil Rights News

There are a couple of big civil rights lawsuits to comment on today.

The one that appears to be getting the most attention today is the Supreme Court’s grant of a preliminary injunction against further enforcement of Governor Cuomo’s arbitrary limits on attendance at houses of worship. Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, New York v. Cuomo. This is a significant First Amendment victory. The injunction also applies in Agudath Israel of America v. Cuomo.

The other case worth talking about is C. J. Pearson, et al. v. Kemp, et al. This case is filed in the U.S. District Court in Atlanta, and it alleges that this month’s election was conducted fraudulently in Georgia. The federal causes of action are based in 42 U.S.C § 1983. Section 1983 is a Reconstruction Era law which authorizes civil actions against officials acting under color of state law deprive a citizen of any of his rights, privileges, or immunities guaranteed under the Constitution. C. J. Pearson is not the first black voter to sue the State of Georgia. Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood are among the lawyers who signed the complaint.

The next few weeks will be interesting.

Bad Science and Even Worse Theology

The Federalist reports that Nancy Pelosi wants to keep churches closed. When asked to comment on her archbishop’s statement that the state and local governments’ restrictions on worship violate the First Amendment, the Speaker said,

With all due respect to my Archbishop, I think we should follow science on this. And again with faith and science, sometimes they’re countered to each other.

Mrs. Pelosi is wrong in multiple ways in her statement. First, there is less science involved the medical response to the Wuhan virus pandemic than many people imagine. Good medicine, like good engineering, uses scientific knowledge and principles to the extent they are available and applicable to the case at hand, but sometimes a new problem must be dealt with without existing good scientific knowledge available. Guesswork based on experience may or may not give an optimal solution, and some guesses will be wrong. Today’s news about Nashville’s wrongheaded response in closing certain business is just one example of how fallible public health officials, mayors, and governors have been. Continuing to act as if a failed hypothesis is correct in bad science.

Second, while her invocation of science is bad science, her theology is even worse. Without exception, apparent contradictions between what we think we understand from science and theology wind up being caused by a lack of clear understanding of what one or both of them are trying to tell us—or from asking one of them to answer questions about which it has no answers. Science tells us how. Religion tells us why. (See the posts under the Science and the Bible tab in the menu above for more on this point.)

Third, her due respect for the pastoral authority of her Archbishop requires that she submit to his spiritual leadership. If she can not or will not, she has a limited range of options. She can go full Karen and speak with his manager. The Pope would probably take her phone call. (Come to think of it, she might even get support from Pope Francis.) Her other honest choice is to leave the Catholic Church. I expect she will do neither.

The voters of San Francisco are getting what they voted for. Good and hard.

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.

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.

Phase One Starts at Close of Business Friday

Governor Larry Hogan has announced the Maryland will begin dialing back Wuhan pandemic restrictions at 5 pm of Friday evening. The Gentle Reader may remember I reported a few days ago that the state’s new case and death rates began to flatten around 23 April. Over the past few days, deaths have shown a noticeable decline. Hmmm, things are beginning to proceed a bit faster than i had foreseen. I had expected Maryland to wait another week before loosening up.

I am pleased.

Bending the Curve

Here’s the Wuhan virus stats for Maryland as found around noon today at the State Department of Health’s Covid web page. These show for confirmed cases and confirmed deaths.Note that the moving average death rate has been flat at roughly 46 (±2) per day for the past two weeks. It will be useful to learn what factor or factors caused that abrupt downward bend (from the +2 deaths/day slope of the previous three weeks), and why deaths have plateaued rather than falling as initial modeling predicted.

Stay tuned.

A Karen Named Patricia

Reason has a post up about what happened in St. Louis when the identities of the tipsters who had reported businesses operating in violation of a shutdown order were posted on Facebook. Their complaints were matters of public record and were obtained under Missouri’s sunshine law by Jared Totsch, who was interviewed by a local TV station.

“I’d call it poetic justice, instant Karma, a dose of their own medicine,” he responded. “What goes around, comes around. They are now experiencing the same pain that they themselves helped to inflict on those they filed complaints against.”

The station also interviewed one of the tipsters, a woman named Patricia.

“I saw a lot of businesses that were non-essential that were open and had lines outside, parking lots filled as if the order didn’t matter to them,” she explained to the station. “And that was kinda frustrating.”

Patricia says she has lupus and is particularly at risk during the Wuhan virus pandemic. She may be, but lots of other people are also especially at risk, including me. I’m elderly and have heart problems. However, I need to weigh my risks against the risks of the people around me; I need to take reasonable precautions for my own health while imposing the least possible bother on others.

People like me may have special risks, but everyone has general risks caused by curtailing “non-essential” activities for too long.

People are being impoverished by layoffs and business shutdowns, and that artificially induced poverty is stealing away resources required for healthy living. Children are missing well-child medical visits, delaying vaccinations and increasing their risk of childhood diseases. Taxes needed to finance the operation of public health infrastructure won’t be paid on income that isn’t generated. The list goes on.

The time has come to begin moving to more targeted responses to the pandemic. There are probably communities and activities that still should remain locked down, but most of the country is ready for less heavy-handed measures.

The Karens have had a nice run for the past couple of months. It’s time for them to let go.

Bending the Curve

Earlier this week, I posted day-by-day graphs of the Wuhan virus cases and deaths reported for Maryland by the state’s Department of Health. Here are updated charts.

First, the daily new confirmed cases—Over the past few days the curve was trending downward, but the large spike of new confirmed cases on 1 May has pushed the moving average up again. I don’t have any information about the 1 May data other than the raw number. It may have been caused by the state’s testing program finding a large at-risk population, or it there may have been a burst of new cases.

OTOH, the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths is beginning to trend down.

If the spike in new cases is just noise in the data, then Maryland may have turned the corner on the pandemic.

We shall see