Archive for the ‘Behaviour’ Category

The number reported infected is of little relevance

March 27, 2020

I am amazed at the shallowness and downright stupidity of some of the headlines hyping the number of people infected in any country. Countries are following widely divergent testing policies. Apart from for celebrities looking for publicity, testing is only carried out for those showing some symptoms or who are known to have been, or are at risk of of being, exposed. The number being reported as infected says very little beyond the boundaries of the testing policy. Comparing numbers from countries implementing different testing policies is just dumb.

Around half a million positive tests have been reported around the globe. That only reflects the number of tests carried out on varying population groups.  Probably ten or twenty times that number have actually been mildly infected (5 – 10 million). The number reported infected only says how many tested positive of those few who were tested.

The only statistics that are really relevant are:

  • how many have been hospitalized,
  • how many are in intensive care, and
  • how many have died.

It is desirable that everybody be mildly infected to develop a mass immunity. It is desirable that the vulnerable not be infected at all, until a vaccine is available. Any country’s strategy has to be a balance between maximizing the number to be mildly infected (such as with a vaccine) and minimizing the number severely affected. The objective currently should be to prevent infection, in general, and especially to prevent infections among those likely to suffer severe effects. That should mean ensuring social distance for those with other underlying conditions (of any age). Of course, other exacerbating conditions are more likely among the older population. General, draconian lock-downs are not sustainable for very long. The conventional wisdom seems to be that about 3 weeks may be sustainable. The purpose of any such restrictions can only be to win some time.

It will take a year or more for a vaccine. It makes more sense to follow sustainable rules of social distancing for the most vulnerable for the next 3 – 6 months and to allow the general population to return to normal. If the most vulnerable are protected then it makes sense for most of the population to be mildly affected, recover and carry on.


 

Sweden’s voluntary lock-down may be able to flatten the curve

March 26, 2020

Sweden has been following a voluntary lock-down for some time now. Those who feel ill (with a cold or influenza-like symptoms) have been asked to stay at home. Those over 70 have been asked to self-isolate, stay home and only go out if absolutely necessary. Formally, only public gatherings of over 500 are not permitted. People have been asked to be socially distant but there are no compulsive measures. The strategy is absolutely reliant upon people being responsible. Of course, there are cases of irresponsible young people. However, bearing in mind that the areas of critical judgement in the human brain are not fully developed till the age of 25, this is not too surprising. Mass testing for the virus is not being carried out. Only those who clearly show symptoms and require hospital treatment are tested. Large scale testing of hospital staff and health care workers is being done. So there is no clear number of how many are actually infected. The only reliable statistics are the number of those hospitalized, those in intensive care and those who have died. Of course, the markets have crashed and small businesses are dying. Travel services, restaurants and all the service industries are in deep trouble. Big companies are sending workers home and declaring redundancies at an alarming rate.  Economic support packages are being announced every few days.

Anders Tegnell is the chief epidemiologist at the Public Health Agency and is on the news every day. To me he has been the face of common sense, even if many “influencers”, some in the media and prominent celebrities have been crying out for draconian measures to be applied (always it seems, to others). Saint Greta has been starved of attention and has just dramatically announced that she has probably been infected with Covid-19 but is recovering. (!!!??). It is not yet clear if the relatively low-key Swedish approach has worked and it will be some time before this real crisis is over. It is quite interesting that Sweden takes the common sense approach when dealing with a real crisis but becomes hysterical when dealing with imaginary crises. Virus smart but climate dumb. However, every day that goes by without the number infected increasing sharply (“day zero” when exponential growth takes off) means that the time baseline has been extended and the potential peak has been reduced. It is thought that it needs 80 days after “day zero” for the virus to have run its course.

Anders Tegnell: “Contrary to many other countries, like Great-Britain or Germany, the number of infections in Sweden has not yet started to incline dramatically, despite the fact that 36 Swedes have already died of covid-19. No region, not even Stockholm where the virus has spread considerably, has already experienced their ‘day zero’. Everything lies still ahead of us. Moreover, day zero will most likely not arrive simultaneously in the different Swedish regions.”

As of writing there have been 44 deaths in Sweden attributed to the virus and nearly all had some other underlying conditions.

The voluntary approach can only work if the sense of civic responsibility is strong. Civic responsibility runs high here. I note that it had to be enforced in China where they seem to be coming out of the crisis. It also runs voluntarily very high in S Korea and Japan where the curve does seem to have been flattened.

At the personal level, we have been “social distancing” for more than a week. Our lives are somewhat discommoded. It isn’t quite warm enough to be out on the deck. Much needed and necessary surgery is inevitably being delayed since intensive care places are limited. We don’t have the usual network of relatives or friends to run our errands or do our shopping for us but I remain quite hopeful that common sense will prevail.


 

The Corona Revels: Lock up the weak so the strong can party

March 22, 2020

I suppose it is a valid strategy.

Lock up all the old and the weak so that the young and strong can continue to party.

 

Corona Revels


 

Coronavirus: Flight first, but now comes fight

March 17, 2020

Today all 70+ in Sweden were advised to stay home. Many jobs are being threatened or already lost. But I also read today that manufacturing in China has restarted and is well on its way back. Two of the specialist corona patient hospitals that were opened in China have now been shut down for lack of patients. Trials of proposed vaccines have started in a number of countries. Existing medicines  which seem promising for supporting the immune system are being tested with infected patients. Some results in Australia have shown very good effects.

In almost all European countries the initial panic response was/is driven primarily, not in the first instance for the saving of lives already under threat, but for the avoidance of the health care systems being overwhelmed. Flatten the curve has become the guiding strategy. In the traditional sense this trying to run away or hide away and avoid the virus describes a classic flight response.

It strikes me that humanity as an organism shows the flight/fight response but initial flight is often to be able to marshal resources so as to fight again.

The initial flight reaction is now shifting to fight.

Flatten the Curve

I expect (perhaps a little optimistically) the world is shifting from flight to fight. But I think human resilience will not allow us to cower and hide and not fight back. That fight involves many battles on many fronts:

  • Modifying use or application of existing drugs
  • Developing new designer-vaccines
  • Increasing ICU places with access to respirators
  • Increasing availability of respirators
  • Improving treatment therapies to suppress the worst side-effects of the virus
  • ……..

It is always dangerous to be too optimistic too early. There are going to be many more deaths. I am sure we have a long recession ahead – perhaps six months. But it is not just doom and gloom.

There is a lot of gloom ahead but it is not doom.


 

Corona virus fatality rate: Playing with numbers

March 14, 2020
  1. Over the last 50 days (starting January 23rd), 5436 deaths around the world have been attributed to complications after being infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus. While the number of deaths yesterday was 448, the peak may not yet have been reached. Hopefully all the restrictions in place will lead to the peak being reached soon. The global number of deaths over this period has averaged about 110/day. A vast majority of the deaths are of people over 65.
  2. Around 152,000 people die every day (7.7/1000 of population). Around 65% of these die due to age related causes.
  3. Symptoms of influenza rarely lead to testing for the influenza virus. Every year an estimated 290,000 to 650,000 people die in the world due to complications from seasonal influenza (flu) viruses. This figure corresponds to 795 to 1,781 deaths per day due to the seasonal flu.

But:

  • In retrospect it seems that this coronavirus first appeared around November 2019. So some of the deaths attributed to influenza since then may have been due to Covid-19.
  • At least 145,000 people have tested positive for the virus. However people are not generally tested unless symptoms are severe. Many are infected and show no symptoms at all. Many are infected and recover without ever having been diagnosed.
  • The number of people infected is – as an estimate – around 10-20 times the number who have tested positive (1.4 – 3 million).

Even if the number of deaths due to coronavirus is certain, which it is not, the fatality rate depends entirely upon what number is used to divide by:

  • Around 0.07% of all daily deaths
  • Around 0.15 – 0.35% of those infected
  • Around 3.7% of those who have tested positive
  • Around 6 – 15% of daily influenza deaths

Numbers don’t lie but the same numbers can be used in many different ways. They can be used rationally or, more likely, to promote an alarmist agenda or a political agenda.

And they can be used maliciously.

I find the most significant statistic for my own behaviour (and since I am in the risk-age group) is that risk of death increases by a factor of about 50 if I get infected. However, even if I do get infected the chances of survival are around 10 times higher than the chance of dying. It makes sense to exert myself to avoid infection but I don’t need to kill myself to avoid being infected.


 

Repetition of a mantra – even a “human rights” mantra – does not make it true

May 27, 2019

Article 1 of the Declaration of Human Rights begins with a mantra.

Mantra – “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

Reality – Human beings are unique and different. They are born with varying physical and mental characteristics. Their genetic characteristics define and constrain the limits of their physical and mental potentials. At birth they are incapable of survival in isolation. From birth and through their lives they are afforded privileges (rights) by the surrounding human society. Their capabilities – mental and physical – develop by the nurture they receive in their early years and their development is constrained by their innate (genetic) capability. The nurture they receive varies according to the resources and will of the surrounding society to provide such nurture. Human behaviour is a consequence of their genetics and their nurture. In similar situations humans may behave similarly but any individual’s behaviour is unique. An individual’s behaviour determines the respect afforded by the surrounding society.

The mantra is a nonsense. It is little more than “a sanctimonious wish, full of ill-defined words, signifying nothing”. It is repeated incessantly, but it is not true, cannot be true and should not be true. For it to be true would require that all humans be identical down to the last atom. For it to be true humans must lose their uniqueness and be a species of clones.

The difference between natural law and human laws is that natural laws cannot be broken. Compliance is assured even if the natural law is not even formulated. Human laws do not command automatic compliance. In fact, any human law which did command complete compliance would be an unnecessary law. “Human Rights” (and all human rights are nothing but privileges) are all attempts made by societies to regulate human behaviour. If the mantra were true, no “human rights legislation” would ever be necessary.

The reality is that human beings are not born equal in dignity and in rights.

A concept of “equality” which ignores the reality that humans are innately unequal is fundamentally flawed. Humans are unique and are not equal, or of equal value. Justice demands inequality. The very concept of justice requires unequal treatment. A child is not equal to an adult. A murderer is not equal to a saint. The perpetrator of an injustice is not equal to the victim. To treat a child as an adult is unjust. To respect bad behaviour is both unjust and stupid. Any society which treats a murderer the same as it treats a saint is an unjust society. Any concept of “equality” must be subordinated to justice.

I would take the UN Declaration more seriously if it simply began:

 “All human beings shall be afforded just dignity and respect by all human societies”


 

Lamenting Modi’s absolute win is more phobic than rational

May 25, 2019

The point about phobias is that they are all irrational fears. A phobia is not removed by rational argument but by addressing and removing the underlying fear(s). “Phobic” assertions are futile then in a rational discussion just as “rational discourse” has no impact on reducing a phobic fear.

I have been hearing many people lamenting the absolute win that Narendra Modi and the BJP party have just achieved. They believe themselves – in the main – to be of the educated middle classes; to be liberal, secular and rational. Nearly all of them believe themselves to be atheists (conveniently forgetting that their atheism is existentially dependent upon others’ beliefs) and they are all generally contemptuous of those who profess themselves to be religious. They generally claim a monopoly over “reasoned argument” and dismiss nationalistic or religious claptrap out of hand.

But what strikes me is that their lamentations about the Modi win and the rise of dark, nationalistic and religious forces are more manifestations of a Modiphobia or a BJPphobia than the exercise of reason. It is not unlike the Trumpophobia that now dominates the Democrat discourse in the US. But just as in the US, the apparently “rational arguments” are subordinated to irrational fears and only carry the appearance of rationality. They end up being phobic assertions and lose rationality along the way.

Following the Indian elections the BJP, by itself, now commands a comfortable majority in parliament. The BJP with its allies now have almost two-thirds of the seats in parliament (353 of 543). Narendra Modi is unchallenged as Prime Minister and is perhaps the first to to have transcended some of the traditional block-voting patterns of caste and religion.

Back in 2014, I posted:

If Narendra Modi manages to break – or even to weaken – the debilitating stranglehold that caste and clan have on Indian life, he stands some chance of releasing the huge potential that is still buried deep in the country. Paradoxically, his brand (now mellowing) of Hindu nationalism may allow him the freedom not only to challenge the shackles of caste and clan but also to keep in check the extravagant expectations engendered by the pampering of minority groups (which was unavoidable with a coalition government).

I find the lamentations now lacking in reason:

  1. There was not a single individual among all the opposition parties who realistically aspired to be or (or was capable of being) the Prime Minister.
  2. There was no majority coalition of any kind remotely feasible without the BJP.  The option of the BJP not being in government did not exist.
  3. A parliament having a party with an absolute majority is more likely to be effective as a parliament and less likely to be disrupted than a minority or a coalition government. A BJP minority government or a BJP led coalition (and since BJP is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha) would have given India an impotent government.

India will have at least 5 more years of Narendra Modi and the BJP. From 2020 the BJP will likely have a majority even in the Rajya Sabha. The subcontinent is awash with fractures and fissures. My reason tells me that the chance of Indian potential being unified and harnessed is far greater now than it has ever been since independence in 1947. It is greater now than it was under Nehru and his phobias, and greater than it was under Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. I may not like some of the fanatics riding the BJP wave, but paradoxically, a strong Modi has a better chance of keeping them in check than a weak Modi.

I suspect that 2020 – 2024 will see a period of unprecedented growth of not only the Indian economy but also of Indian infrastructure and social welfare.


 

What’s best for me is my call

May 18, 2019

I dislike and have always disliked political labels. I particularly dislike being forced into the mould of a particular political party. Since I became “politically aware” in my teens I have always found that my own views are never completely encompassed within those of a single political party. Invariably I find my views straddling those of opposing parties.

It is easier sometimes to consider what I cannot – at the core of me – support. And I find that this is actually one of the fundamental values I have. All other views flow from these core values/beliefs.

I am fundamentally opposed to being coerced – under threat of force or law – by others as to

    • what I should or should not think,
    • what I should or should not say,
    • how I should or should not behave, and
    • who I should or should not support (financially or otherwise)

Advice from others is one thing (my doctor, my car mechanic, my plumber, my teachers), but I find it unacceptable for someone else to impose upon me what he/she thinks is for my own good and best for me. I find I am not prepared to compromise on retaining the ultimate judgement of what is best for me. In the classical conflict between the individual’s good versus the common good, I take the position that it is the individual’s good which is paramount. If the “common good” does not itself accommodate the individual’s good it is no longer the “common” good, but is in fact “the others’ good”. In practice, society imposes many things upon me which I accept, even if without much enthusiasm.  I do so because it creates sufficient good for me even if it is not for my best. The “sufficient good” may be no more than retaining membership of the surrounding society. But I do so in the illusion that it is my own decision. This preference for the individual inevitably pushes my views towards the right of centre of the political spectrum. I do not like my compassion to be coerced. Sanctimonious compassion is an existential threat. I find it unconscionable to be forced to support “bad people”. I do not like science by consensus. I find “fashionable” science contemptible. I find the use of “mental sickness” to excuse bad behaviour to be brainless.

I choose to pay my taxes. I choose to comply (mostly) with road speed limits. I choose to follow most societal rules which make sense. But I choose to ignore those who will tell me what I cannot think or what I cannot say or what I cannot eat. Political parties whose universal solution is to forbid some behaviour are not for me. Those which have no other solution than to get others to pay for their self-righteousness are equally anathema to me. I choose to ignore those who would tell me what I should consider good or bad. I choose to ignore those I consider stupid.

And anybody who claims to know, and wants to impose upon me, what is best for me is just stupid.


 

Boeing made survival an “optional extra” with the B737 Max

April 30, 2019

It does not look good for Boeing (or the FAA).

It seems that a sensor advising of a malfunction of the MCAS was deactivated intentionally and made an optional extra to be bought separately.

“Not fit for purpose” comes to mind.

Boeing de-activated a signal designed to advise the cockpit crew of a malfunctioning of the MCAS system ……. Boeing had opted to make the malfunction alert an optional extra costing more money — and had deactivated the signal on all 737 MAX …….. Neither of the Boeing 737 Max planes in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia or the Ethiopian Airlines crash were equipped with the signal that is supposed to show a malfunctioning of the MCAS

It seems that at some level within the FAA this was seen as a potential problem last year, but the issue was not escalated within the FAA nor was it acted upon.

If surviving a flight is an optional extra an accident is no longer a random event. What somebody at Boeing did may not have been murder but it comes preciously close to manslaughter.

Yahoo News: New York (AFP)US regulators considered grounding some Boeing 737 MAX planes last year after learning of a problem with a system that is now the main suspect in two deadly crashes, a source close to the matter said. Investigators in the Lion Air crash in October off the coast of Indonesia and the Ethiopia Airlines disaster in March have zeroed in on the planes’ anti-stall system, called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.

Last year, inspectors with the Federal Aviation Administration discovered Boeing de-activated a signal designed to advise the cockpit crew of a malfunctioning of the MCAS system, the source said. The inspectors were in charge of monitoring Southwest Airlines, the biggest user of 737 MAX planes, with a fleet of 34 of them at the time, added the source.

Before the Lion Air crash, which killed all 189 people on board, “the (signals) were depicted as operable by Boeing on all MAX aircraft” regardless of whether the cockpit crew thought they had them turned on or off, said a Southwest spokeswoman. She said after the accident, Boeing told Southwest the signals were “turned off unless they were specifically designated as being turned on” — prompting the airline to choose that option for all its aircraft. It was at that point inspectors learned Boeing had opted to make the malfunction alert an optional extra costing more money — and had deactivated the signal on all 737 MAX delivered to Southwest without telling the carrier. They considered recommending grounding the planes as they explored whether pilots flying the aircraft needed additional training about the alerts, said the source. They decided against that — but never passed details of the discussions to higher-ranking officials in the FAA, the source said, confirming a story in The Wall Street Journal.

……… The Ethiopia Airlines crash left all 157 people on the plane dead and led to all Boeing 737 Max planes all over the world being grounded. In this case too the MCAS is being looked at as a possible cause of the crash.

In times of mid-air distress, the system is supposed to activate on its own and push the nose of the plane down to keep it from stalling. Boeing is working on changing the MCAS so it can get the planes back in the air. The grounding has already cost the carrier a billion dollars, Boeing said last week. But the bill will probably climb because Boeing is expected to pay money to airlines forced to cancel thousands of flights and hire more reservations and services staff. Boeing has suspended deliveries of Boeing 737 Max planes and cut production of them by 20 percent.

Neither of the Boeing 737 Max planes in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia or the Ethiopian Airlines crash were equipped with the signal that is supposed to show a malfunctioning of the MCAS, an industry source told AFP in March. Called “disagree lights” in Boeing parlance, these lights turn on when faulty information is sent from so-called angle of attack sensors to the MCAS. Those sensors monitor whether the wings have enough lift to keep the plane flying. …. 

image – Zero Hedge


“Liberal” bigotry at the New York Times

April 29, 2019

Published under pressure by the New York Times.

An opinion piece by Bret Stephens – where the publishing of a critical article is supposed to balance the blatant and bigoted propaganda that went before.

As prejudices go, anti-Semitism can sometimes be hard to pin down, but on Thursday the opinion pages of The New York Times international editionprovided a textbook illustration of it.

Except that The Times wasn’t explaining anti-Semitism. It was purveying it.

It did so in the form of a cartoon, provided to the newspaper by a wire service and published directly above an unrelated column by Tom Friedman, in which a guide dog with a prideful countenance and the face of Benjamin Netanyahu leads a blind, fat Donald Trump wearing dark glasses and a black yarmulke. Lest there be any doubt as to the identity of the dog-man, it wears a collar from which hangs a Star of David.

Here was an image that, in another age, might have been published in the pages of Der Stürmer. The Jew in the form of a dog. The small but wily Jew leading the dumb and trusting American. The hated Trump being Judaized with a skullcap. The nominal servant acting as the true master. The cartoon checked so many anti-Semitic boxes that the only thing missing was a dollar sign.

The image also had an obvious political message: Namely, that in the current administration, the United States follows wherever Israel wants to go. This is false — consider Israel’s horrified reaction to Trump’s announcement last year that he intended to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria — but it’s beside the point. There are legitimate ways to criticize Trump’s approach to Israel, in pictures as well as words. But there was nothing legitimate about this cartoon.

So what was it doing in The Times?

For some Times readers — or, as often, former readers — the answer is clear: The Times has a longstanding Jewish problem, dating back to World War II, when it mostly buried news about the Holocaust, and continuing into the present day in the form of intensely adversarial coverage of Israel. The criticism goes double when it comes to the editorial pages, whose overall approach toward the Jewish state tends to range, with some notable exceptions, from tut-tutting disappointment to thunderous condemnation.

For these readers, the cartoon would have come like the slip of the tongue that reveals the deeper institutional prejudice. What was long suspected is, at last, revealed.

The real story is a bit different, though not in ways that acquit The Times. The cartoon appeared in the print version of the international edition, which has a limited overseas circulation, a much smaller staff, and far less oversight than the regular edition. Incredibly, the cartoon itself was selected and seen by just one midlevel editor right before the paper went to press.

An initial editor’s note acknowledged that the cartoon “included anti-Semitic tropes,” “was offensive,” and that “it was an error of judgment to publish it.” On Sunday, The Times issued an additional statement saying it was “deeply sorry” for the cartoon and that “significant changes” would be made in terms of internal processes and training.

In other words, the paper’s position is that it is guilty of a serious screw-up but not a cardinal sin. Not quite.

Imagine, for instance, if the dog on a leash in the image hadn’t been the Israeli prime minister but instead a prominent woman such as Nancy Pelosi, a person of color such as John Lewis, or a Muslim such as Ilhan Omar. Would that have gone unnoticed by either the wire service that provides the Times with images or the editor who, even if he were working in haste, selected it?

The question answers itself. And it raises a follow-on: How have even the most blatant expressions of anti-Semitism become almost undetectable to editors who think it’s part of their job to stand up to bigotry?

The reason is the almost torrential criticism of Israel and the mainstreaming of anti-Zionism, including by this paper, which has become so common that people have been desensitized to its inherent bigotry. So long as anti-Semitic arguments or images are framed, however speciously, as commentary about Israel, there will be a tendency to view them as a form of political opinion, not ethnic prejudice. But as I noted in a Sunday Review essay in February, anti-Zionism is all but indistinguishable from anti-Semitism in practice and often in intent, however much progressives try to deny this.

Add to the mix the media’s routine demonization of Netanyahu, and it is easy to see how the cartoon came to be drawn and published: Already depicted as a malevolent Jewish leader, it’s just a short step to depict him as a malevolent Jew.

I’m writing this column conscious of the fact that it is unusually critical of the newspaper in which it appears, and it is a credit to the paper that it is publishing it. I have now been with The Times for two years and I’m certain that the charge that the institution is in any way anti-Semitic is a calumny.

But the publication of the cartoon isn’t just an “error of judgment,” either. The paper owes the Israeli prime minister an apology. It owes itself some serious reflection as to how it came to publish that cartoon — and how its publication came, to many longtime readers, as a shock but not a surprise.

“Liberal” bigotry is bigotry masquerading under the cloak of self-righteous, and sanctimonious pretense. It is corruption when the New York Times uses its reputation for integrity to tout propaganda.


 


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