URLs du Jour


In these dreary times, you deserve to have something fun up front: Google Trends brings us:

Unlike Vermont, we here in New Hampshire know how to spell "tong".

(But they were probably going for "tongue", right?)

  • Andrew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center points out what should be good news for our fair state: The justifications for prolonged closures are unraveling. After praising our governor for managing "a difficult challenge with great skill", things aren't going that well in the bowels of the state's executive branch:

    Yet it is not clear what data are guiding New Hampshire’s approach and what the precise goals are. Business owners and employees remain frustrated because the state has offered little clarity on how emergency rules are to be lifted.

    Initially, the state’s emergency measures were focused on ensuring adequate hospital capacity in case of a surge of COVID-19 cases. The curve flattened weeks ago and the anticipated surge never happened. This week the governor ordered 10 of the state’s 14 overflow hospital sites closed.

    Yet the governor also extended his emergency order and the stay-home order this week. People see the numbers going down, the curve flattened, but emergency orders and restrictions remaining in place.

    Asked on Tuesday what data the state is using to guide its decision-making, Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette struggled to give a coherent answer. After being asked several times about the state’s declining infection rate, she seemed to say that the state’s goal was to prevent every long-term-care facility employee from getting infected.

    Governor Sununu is an MIT engineering graduate, so he's not an idiot. Must be some other reason for the obfuscation and continued "orders".

  • Of course, there are "scientists" on the other side too. According to Nancy West of InDepthNH.org: Scientists Frustrated Sununu Refuses Mandatory Mask Order.

    Local scientists who have urged Gov. Chris Sununu to mandate face coverings for almost two months believe lives could have been saved and more saved going forward except that Sununu ignores their advice even though Maine, Massachusetts and New York have issued mandatory mask orders.

    “Lives definitely could have been saved,” said Rich DiPentima, who retired after serving top public health posts in the state and Manchester, including several stints as the acting state epidemiologist.

    The article continues with DiPentima saying "I can’t quantify the number, but…". He's pretty sure, in a handwaving way, things might have been different in some imagined alternate universe.

    But "scientist"? That "acting state epidemiologist" thing sounds impressive. But Ballotpedia notes that he's also "former Democratic member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, representing the Rockingham 16 District from 2008 to 2012." And his educational background:

    DiPentima earned B.A. in sociology from the University of Connecticut; BSN in nursing from University of Connecticut; and MPH in health administration from University of Oklahoma.

    You see an epidemiology degree in there anywhere? Me neither. His CV (on the page linked above) cites a number of job positions, none screaming "actual researcher".

  • At Reason, Billy Binion describes How This Bill Gates Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory Made Its Way from a Reddit Thread to Laura Ingraham.

    "The difference between a conspiracy theory and a scientific theory," the sociologist John Gagnon once said, "is that a scientific theory has holes in it."

    The sort of conspiracy theory that Gagnon was mocking—an all-encompassing narrative that explains away any apparent discrepancies as part of the cover-up—doesn't require a crisis to exist, but they often proliferate with one. COVID-19 is no exception.

    Consider Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire who, some say, has branched out from his tech empire to invent something different—the novel coronavirus—so that he can track everyone's movements.

    "Whether Bill Gates played some role in the creation and spread of this virus is open for vigorous debate," former Trump campain aide Roger Stone told radio host Joe Piscopo ealier this year. "I have conservative friends who say it's ridiculous and others say absolutely."

    If you actually discovered a conspiracy, the very last thing you would want to do—the thing, in fact, you would desperately want to avoid doing—is to trumpet it on Reddit, QAnon, Unz, MSNBC, etc. That would give any good Bayesian ample reason to dump it into the "almost certain bullshit" heap.

    Side note: I recommend a very good podcast from Jonah Goldberg on this topic: The Vast Mermaid Conspiracy. Find out why Argentinians believe the Vatican is hiding aliens!

  • George F. WIll tells us (almost certainly correctly) How Congress can expedite — or continue to delay — economic recovery. It's a layperson-summary of an NBER Working Paper/BFI Report (PDF) from Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, and Steven J. Davis.

    And now come some unintended, but not unpredictable, effects of government policies intended to be palliative. The BFI report says that policies designed “to preserve all pre-COVID jobs and employment relationships could prove quite costly” because they “are analogous to policies that prop up dying industries and failing firms.” These policies exact a high cost in resource misallocation and taxpayer burden.

    In contrast, there would be “potentially large benefits” from policies “that facilitate a speedy reallocation of jobs, workers, and capital to newly productive uses.” Slowing this will prolong the “reallocation shock.”

    Seems pretty sensible. Will attention be paid? It seems safe to assign a low probability to that.

  • New Hampshire liberty-lovers will want to check out the Club for growth New Hampshire State Legislative Scorecard for 2019 (PDF).

    State Scorecards are created by the Club for Growth Foundation to educate the public about the voting records of the legislators who serve in state legislatures. It is part of a larger scorecard project that the Club for Growth Foundation has created to educate the public about the economic positions taken by legislators in states across the country.

    And in my case the results are unsurprising but depressing.

    • Senator David Watters: 2%
    • Rep Catt Sandler: 1%
    • Rep Cecilia Rich: 1%
    • Rep Wendy Chase: 0%
    • Rep Gerri Cannon: 1%

    I wonder, with the Beach Boys: Wendy, Wendy what went wrong? Oh so wrong.

  • Last but definitely not least, Jeffrey A. Singer and Richard P. Menger have a lesson we should be (but are not) learning from the pandemic: Medical-Licensing Laws Need Reform.

    Of the many lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most obvious is the need to reevaluate state-licensing laws that impede the free and rapid movement of health-care workers to places they are needed. Many governors suspended state-licensing requirements in early March so that doctors, nurses, and other health-care professionals licensed in other states could help with the public-health crisis in their own states. These governors should not resume the ways of the past when the crisis ends.

    Individual state-licensing requirements for health-care professionals do not help patients or ensure quality. Rather, they serve as a mechanism to protect health-care provider interests.

    I'm kind of a wild-eyed radical on licensure. "Even doctors?" you gasp. Yup, ever since I read Chapter 9 of Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom.