URLs du Jour

2021-11-08

  • Rochelle, Rochelle! Vinay Prasad (Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco) wonders out loud: For Whom Do the Covid “Fact Checkers” Really Work? He is not a fan of this tweet:

    In case you missed it, that's Rochelle the CDC Director. Dr. Prasad comments:

    I don’t know how to put this politely, but it is a lie, and a truly unbelievable one at that.

    First, of all, if it were true, it would mean that masking was more effective that the J&J vaccine (implausible). Second of all, we have actual cluster RCT data from Bangladesh showing a 11% (relative risk reduction). This occurred in a massive trial where masks were provided for free and encouraged. Even here, only surgical masks worked, and cloth did not, and had no where near this effect size. The idea that masks could reduce the chance of infection by 80% is simply untrue, implausible, and cannot be supported by any reliable data.

    Click the video if desired, but Dr. Walensky doesn't provide any evidence for her claim; it's just a 37-second repetition of the assertion.

    At this point in the pandemic, do we really need the CDC Director to further erode her credibility?

    (Not to mention that her low-res uncanny valley videos always remind me of Max Headroom.)

    (Via Cafe Hayek, a one-stop shop for distrusting government on Covid; classical reference in headline.)


  • Why my local paper sucks, a continuing series. The Sunday edition of my local paper had the sad story on page A8: Climate anxiety has many feeling hopeless.

    The online version's headline is even more dire: "Climate anxiety: Feeling hopeless, not wanting to have kids. What can you do about it?" It's truly a bizarre article.

    Sixteen-year-old Ben Doyle often feels "pervasive guilt." It creeps up when he leaves the water running a little too long while brushing his teeth, or when he drinks from a single-use plastic bottle.

    In those moments, he says, "I really feel like I’m only hurting myself and acting against my interests and the interests of everybody around me."

    Doyle, a student at Portsmouth High School in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, said he experienced "hopelessness" when the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2020.

    Oh, good grief. My summary of the article: "After being inundated by 24/7 climate alarmist propaganda for their entire lives, kids are freaking out. Or at least that's what they say."

    Read on, and you'll learn of Kelsey Hudson, "a climate-aware therapist who works at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders". She "runs a private practice specifically dedicated to young people and adults with climate distress." And (I assume) business is good, dealing with psychic traumas she helps create.

    Also reported in this "news" article:

    On a spring morning in 2014, Kate Schapira, a poet who teaches at Brown University, set up a table and stool in a downtown Providence, Rhode Island park and put a hand-painted sign out in front. It read: “CLIMATE ANXIETY COUNSELING 5¢. THE DOCTOR IS IN”.

    Part public art installation and part serious effort to stimulate conversation around a subject that was consuming her, Schapira’s act, with its tongue-incheek nod to Lucy’s psychiatric booth in the Peanuts comic strip, drew international media attention.

    Yes, breaking news from 2014. Don't worry, we are reassured: "Schapira is not a trained therapist." As noted, she's on the faculty at (where else) Brown University. And she's tweeting stuff like:

    All in all, the article could well be the basis for new chapter in The Coddling of the American Mind ("How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure").

    I still get the Sunday paper for its two crossword puzzles, and the occasional money-saving coupon. Advocacy pieces pretending to be "news" are occasionally entertaining, like this one, but maybe not enough to make the subscription worthwhile.


  • Aieee! Where's my therapist for this? Via Slashdot, the folks at MIT diverted momentarily from cancelling lectures from unwoke heretics to report: Hackers are stealing data today so quantum computers can crack it in a decade

    While they wrestle with the immediate danger posed by hackers today, US government officials are preparing for another, longer-term threat: attackers who are collecting sensitive, encrypted data now in the hope that they’ll be able to unlock it at some point in the future. 

    The threat comes from quantum computers, which work very differently from the classical computers we use today. Instead of the traditional bits made of 1s and 0s, they use quantum bits that can represent different values at the same time. The complexity of quantum computers could make them much faster at certain tasks, allowing them to solve problems that remain practically impossible for modern machines—including breaking many of the encryption algorithms currently used to protect sensitive data such as personal, trade, and state secrets.

    While quantum computers are still in their infancy, incredibly expensive and fraught with problems, officials say efforts to protect the country from this long-term danger need to begin right now. 

    OK, maybe this is "we have to protect our phony-baloney jobs here" hoopla, but maybe not.


  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, Stuart Baker provides an xkcd takeoff: Cybertoonz 3!

    [Hero!]

    Heh! Original here.


  • Doe normaal. That's Danish, Kevin D. Williamson claims, for "Just be normal." But (in an NRPlus article) he reports: For Democratic Party, No New Normal

    When Donald Trump was elected, Democrats howled that it was the end of the country — and Democrats from Joe Biden to Hillary Rodham Clinton, let us not forget, rejected his election as “illegitimate.” But even those of us who opposed Trump also remember that Democrats had said much the same thing about every Republican president since Dwight Eisenhower: George W. Bush was going to usher in the dark forces of American fascism (remember Kingdom Coming in 2007 and American Fascists in 2008?), George H. W. Bush was a tool of the “New World Order,” Ronald Reagan a warmongering madman, etc. We had left-wing kooks trying to assassinate Gerald Ford, for goodness’s sake. Our friends on the left have been promising us either a corporate dystopia or a Christian Taliban courtesy of the GOP for decades. So far, neither has materialized.

    But it’s not just losing elections. Everything is the end of the world for Democrats. Climate change? End of the world. Economy? End of the world. Caitlyn the social-media intern has to pay back her student loans after Oberlin? End of the whole damned world. Inflation? You can bet your ass that rising prices for groceries and energy would be the end of the world if Ted Cruz were president — but inflation is, apparently, the new homelessness: It’s only an issue when it might hurt a Republican.

    When you are addicted to crisis, you cannot doe normaal — normal is the enemy. Twenty years ago, we might have worked out a reasonable cap-and-trade approach to greenhouse-gas emissions. Milton Friedman had proposed cap-and-trade systems for conventional air pollution, the George H. W. Bush administration had implemented a successful cap-and-trade program for acid-rain reduction, and in 2007 National Review published Jim Manzi’s “Conservative Strategy on Global Warming,” making the case for a cap-and-trade approach there. But in our time, the so-called Green New Dealers propose remaking essentially every aspect of our national economy and the world economy, from transportation and manufacturing to labor markets and trade policy, subjecting the entirety of the global marketplace to political regimentation — going far beyond anything that might plausibly be understood to be a climate program. The result: angst and wailing, buckets of hysteria, and . . . no real climate policy. In fact, the Chicken Little stuff has made achieving a bipartisan, consensus-oriented climate policy an even more remote possibility today than it was in the 1990s or at the turn of the century.

    That's probably an unfair-use excerpt, but it's hard to know where to stop with KDW.


  • Correction course. I approvingly cited a David French essay ("The Threat From the Anti-Woke Right") a few days back. In the interests of equal time, let me point out some criticism from Patrick Frey, aka "Patterico": David French Once Again Misrepresents a Law Addressing "Critical Race Theory".

    It's a detailed and important criticism. And it's painful, because Patterico obviously agrees with French on many issues, and much of what he has to say in the essay in question.

    I’ve just quoted a lot of language, so let’s break it down in a simple, easy-to-digest manner:

    • French says “the complaint is complaining about photographs and descriptions that depict what life was actually like for black Americans living in the Jim Crow South.”

    • French tells his readers that this complaint is made possible because the state law “bans any ‘concept’ that  ‘promot[es] division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class, or class of people.’”

    • French neglects to tell readers that the law he cites explicitly allows schools to present “[t]he impartial instruction on the historical oppression of a particular group of people based on race.” That language would allow the schools to use the very photographs and depictions that French claims the law bans.

    This, my friends, is a misleading summary of the law by French.

    No question, there are problems with "anti-CRT" legislation going too far in attempting to shut down valid lessons in American race relations. But I'm convinced that French let his enthusiasm in making that point go too far, veering into misrepresentation.

    Or maybe not. Maybe French has a good rebuttal. If he does, I suppose I'll have to link to it.