URLs du Jour

2021-10-02

  • Letting people make up their own minds? Cue ominous voiceover… Charles C. W. Cooke on Twitter:

    I'll point out that on the New York Times Covid stat-summary page, New Hampshire's average daily new case rate is 35 per 100K. Florida's is 25 per 100K. Maybe Governor Sununu could call up Governor DeSantis for some tips.


  • If it quacks like… Michael Brendan Dougherty opines about New York's new chief executive: Governor Kathy Hochul Is One Weird Duck.

    It’s as if she’s still trying to master the ways of Earthlings. While at a church in Brooklyn, she said, “Yes, I know you’re vaccinated. You’re the smart ones, but you know, there are people out there who aren’t listening to God and what God wants. You know this. You know who they are.” Then she said, “I need you to be my apostles.” She held up her necklace, which adverts her status as a person vaccinated against COVID-19. Because normal people routinely commemorate their immunizations with gold jewelry. Later she explained that the National Guard would take the place of the unvaccinated nurses who would be fired in a few hours.

    You know, normal stuff for Earthlings. I’ve discharged your health-care workers and replaced them with the military.

    If a red-stater such as Greg Abbott, Ron DeSantis, or Bill Lee had asked worshippers to be their apostles, and to make their neighbors listen to God, there wouldn’t be enough helicopters east of the Mississippi to carry in the lawyers from the ACLU, or the hysterical reporters from the Atlantic to talk about the dawn of theocratic fascism. But in New York, from a New York governor, the statement is illegible. Is this how Governor Hochul speaks? Or is this how she imagines religious people speak all the time, with a kind of breezily insistent form of overfamiliarity and personal authority?

    With all of Governor Sununu's foibles, he has never asked anyone to be his apostle. I'm sure I would have heard about it if he had.


  • OK, one more Covid thing. Sorry. Glenn Greenwald hosts Jeremy Beckham at the Outside Voices substack, with a bit of MSM debunkery: The NYT's Partisan Tale about COVID and the Unvaccinated is Rife with Sloppy Data Analysis.

    A widely shared article recently appeared in The New York Times’ “The Morning” newsletter titled “Red Covid,” authored by David Leonhardt. This article, presented as news reporting and not an opinion piece, argues that deaths from COVID-19 are “showing a partisan pattern,” with the worst impacts of the disease “increasingly concentrated in red America.” Given that this narrative perfectly flatters a liberal sense of superiority, it has predictably gained substantial traction on MSNBC and on Twitter

    One particular claim in the Times' article caught my attention: that there is a clear and strong association on a county level between COVID deaths and support for Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Specifically, the article alleged that those counties which voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump had more than a four-fold greater mortality rate than those counties which decisively voted against Trump. If true, that would indeed be a striking observation.

    But, as is often the case with epidemiological observations, the question is more complicated than two variables. There are three analytic errors that can lead someone to make false conclusions from what appears to be a meaningful association between two variables: bias, confounding variables, and random statistical error. In this case, the Times’ analysis failed to discuss significant confounding variables.

    Specifically, age. Does that shaky correlation still hold if you control for the fact that those "red" areas are also areas where people are old?

    Now, it so happens that there's an apparent overlap between vaccine skepticism and Trump-loving in one of the websites I've long been a fan of. Sigh, love 'em anyway.

    But that's not much of a knock-down argument either. We've seen plenty of anti-vax sentiment in the Black Lives Matter crowd and NYC teachers. Neither well-known for being Trumpers.


  • From our "Construct the Modus Tollens" Department… Veronique de Rugy implicitly poses one of those if-then conditionals in her headline: If Democrats Truly Wanted To Level the Playing Field, They’d End Crony Corporate Handouts.

    How to best ensure substantial long-run economic growth should be a question on everyone's mind. Its benefits can't be overstated, and it's undeniable that the lack of growth is a root contributor to many seemingly disconnected economic and social problems. That's the central theme of a recent podcast discussion between The New York Times' Ezra Klein and George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen.

    They both expressed support for reforms to make government less bureaucratic and more agile. For example, Cowen cited the Food and Drug Administration's recent failure to approve COVID-19 treatments quickly enough, while also getting in the way of COVID-19 tests' development and distribution. In an ideal world, Cowen's sensible observation should lead to serious reform of the FDA along with other alphabet agencies that fail the American people through slow and counterproductive processes. During ordinary times these bureaucratic problems loom large enough; during a pandemic they're devastating.

    My issue, however, is with Klein's suggestion that changing the status quo requires conservatives and libertarians to stop denouncing Uncle Sam for big fiascoes like Solyndra, the solar company that infamously went under shortly after receiving a $538 million loan guarantee from a green-energy program under the Obama administration. Denouncing such waste, Klein insists, only serves to embarrass the government for its failures, thus prompting it to be more cautious. As such, Klein would like "to somehow quiet these players looking to point out every failure."

    That's wrong. Klein misunderstands why I and other free-market proponents fight against private companies receiving government-granted privileges—which is called "cronyism." It's not the wasteful spending that I mostly focus on; it's the unfairness.

    Good point. But on the other hand, the wasteful spending is pretty bad too.


  • Time zones: threat or menace? Well, there's plenty of evidence that they were just a bad idea. One more is the current slap fight: tz database community up in arms over time zone merges.

    The time zone database hosted at the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) has been updated following threats, earlier this year, of a fork over a proposal to merge time zones.

    The update, the 2021b release of the tz code and date, was published over the weekend and omits some, but not all, of the issues that have caused concern in the project's mailing list.

    The tz database is a hugely important resource that contains information on the world's time zones. It also attempts to keep track of historical changes since 1970. Its usage is relatively straightforward; a time zone has an offset from UTC and a set of rules governing daylight saving time (should it apply).

    tz is "hugely important" only because of our insistence that our local clocks must roughly correspond to daily light/dark cycles.

    Nevertheless, tz is a mess, because politicians keep dinking zone boundaries and rules. The maintainer decided to simplify things by ignoring some of the meddling that occurred over 50 years ago. (Example in the linked article: Berlin and Oslo have been using the same zone since 1970. But before that, not.)


Last Modified 2021-10-03 6:07 AM EST