URLs du Jour

2022-03-02

  • Biden's lips moved, so… Eric Boehm does the SOTU analysis at Reason, and summarizes: Biden Tries To Twist His Domestic Agenda Into a Form Joe Manchin Will Support. I wish him bad luck with that. But I found this bit to be… OK, let's say amusing:

    As [Biden] made clear a few moments later, promising that "by the end of this year, the deficit will be down to less than half what it was before I took office," and following up by claiming that he would be "the only president ever to cut the deficit by more than one trillion dollars in a single year."

    That's a clever little game. Thanks to pandemic spending, the federal budget deficit ballooned to over $3 trillion during 2020 and rang in at $2.8 trillion last year. As the pandemic passes and all that emergency spending comes off the books, the deficit is projected to fall to about $1.1 trillion this year before leveling off and then rising again:

    [follow the bouncing ball]

    That decline is not the result of anything Biden is proposing to do—and it doesn't mean that the underlying problems with the federal budget have been addressed.

    Biden is setting the lowest possible goal for deficit reduction, setting himself up to take credit for achieving it, and hoping that's enough to convince moderate Democrats to vote for more spending.

    Bottom line: I'm glad I watched Free Guy instead.


  • Doing the math. I've been trying to deal with the shame of living in one of the New Hampshire counties (Strafford) which the CDC classifies in its latest algorithm as having a "High COVID-19 Community Level". I.e., the worst. As I type. They offer a widget, if you're interested:

    But I think I have good news. The CDC's algorithm is expressed in a table at the above link. I translated it into a bare-bones Perl script, probably readable even if you don't know Perl:

    #!/usr/bin/perl
    
    print "Please enter...\n";
    print '    New COVID-19 Cases Per 100,000 people in the past 7 days: ';
    chomp( $nccr = <> );
    print '    New COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population (7-day total): ';
    chomp( $ncar = <> );
    print
        '    Percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients (7-day average): ';
    chomp( $psib = <> );
    
    if ( $nccr < 200 ) {
        if ( $ncar >= 20 || $psib >= 15 ) {
            $cl = 'High';
        }
        elsif ( $ncar >= 10 || $psib >= 10 ) {
            $cl = 'Medium';
        }
        else {
            $cl = 'Low';
        }
    }
    else {
        $cl = ( $ncar >= 10 || $psib >= 10 ) ? 'High' : 'Medium';
    }
    print "Your community level is $cl\n";
    	

    The input data numbers for the CDC algorithm are available via the CDC COVID Data Tracker.

    First the bad news for us Straffordites: as of Monday (2022-02-28), our case rate (NCCR) is 581.78. Whoa, way high.

    But here's the good news: there have been only 11 new admissions of Covid patients in the week February 21-27, giving us a rate (NCAR) of 8.42. And the bed percentage figure (PSIB) is a mere 3.26%.

    I think that means that (unless something very bad happens Covid-wise) we should be upgraded to a "Medium" Community Level the next time CDC figures that out.

    As I've said before: the new CDC standards are just as arbitrary as their previous standards. But those are the standards via which we are currently being nagged. So the bottom-line good news is that we can expect a decrease in nagging. I hope.


  • I think you should calm down. Our local news, WMUR, featured an alarming climate change story, based on the recent release of a report from the "UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change". I can't find the story on their website, but let's go with a typical example, as mainstream as it gets, the Associated Press: UN climate report: 'Atlas of human suffering' worse, bigger

    Deadly with extreme weather now, climate change is about to get so much worse. It is likely going to make the world sicker, hungrier, poorer, gloomier and way more dangerous in the next 18 years with an “unavoidable” increase in risks, a new United Nations science report says.

    And after that watch out.

    The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report said Monday if human-caused global warming isn’t limited to just another couple tenths of a degree, an Earth now struck regularly by deadly heat, fires, floods and drought in future decades will degrade in 127 ways with some being “potentially irreversible.”

    It's doomsday, I tells ya.

    A useful antidote from hysteria comes at the site Watts Up With That, featuring Roger Pielke Jr.'s take on the report from "Working Group II" (WG2). He refers to "Representative Concentration Pathways" (RCPs), various scenarios based on different assumptions about likely future emissions.

    Whereas [Working Group I] received a mixed review in my areas of expertise (specifically: poor on scenarios, solid on extremes), my initial reaction to the WG2 report is that it is an exceedingly poor assessment.

    The first observation is that the report is more heavily weighted to implausible scenarios than any previous IPCC assessment report.

    In particular, RCP8.5 represents ~57% of scenario mentions

    Remarkably, RCP8.5 is characterized in the report as a "business as usual" future, and RCP4.5 is a "low emissions future".

    In actual reality, RCP4.5 is currently thought of as an upper bound trajectory under current or stated policies & RCP8.5 is implausible.

    On a related note, Biden's speech last night contained two references to "climate change".

    And no mention at all of "nuclear".

    It's a cliché, I know, but: I'll start believing it's a crisis when the people in charge start acting like it's a crisis.


  • He's definitely several sigma off the mean, but… Does that make him nuts? Theodore Dalrymple wonders What’s Behind Putin’s Eyes?

    When I watched Vladimir Putin, with what the Russians so graphically call his “tin eyes,” justify his invasion of Ukraine, I thought, as did many others, that he looked a little deranged. Denazification, indeed! Had he failed to appreciate that Ukraine, not noted throughout its history for its philo-Semitism, had elected a Jewish president, and that by a large majority, thereby suggesting a major cultural shift in the country?

    It then occurred to me that Putin looked rather puffy in the face, and I wondered whether he could be taking steroids. These drugs are noted for their numerous side effects, not the least being psychological changes such as paranoia and elevation and depression of mood. Then there was the question, of course, as to why Putin would be taking them. Cancer, perhaps—a lymphoma? This brought to mind Evelyn Waugh’s somewhat uncharitable remark when Randolph Churchill underwent surgery for cancer: that it was characteristic of modern medicine to have removed the only part of him that was not malignant.

    "Somewhat" uncharitable?

    In any case, Dalrymple points out the hazard of putting Putin into the "nuts" pigeonhole:

    This is for two reasons: first, the diagnosis may be wrong—the apparently mad may in fact be sane—and second, madness can have its own rationality. Indeed, the mad of strong character can often take others along with them: they can persuade others that their paranoid view of the world is correct. This is especially so when they possess levers of power over people of lesser character than themselves.

    I guess I'd add that a diagnosis of mental illness would almost certainly not be of any use in guiding our future actions.


  • What's a little unconstitutionality between friends? Charles C. W. Cooke looks at the Constitution and finds that Congress Has No Power to Pass National Laws Regulating Abortion. Based on the recent defeat of the "Women’s Health Protection Act", a "radical piece of pro-abortion legislation that 'codifies Roe v. Wade'".

    The federal government enjoys only the limited powers that are delegated to it by the federal Constitution, and setting abortion policy is obviously not among them. Abortion is not “Commerce,” as that term was originally understood by the public — and nor is it a tax, duty, impose, excise, debt, or credit; a rule of naturalization or bankruptcy; a standard or weight of measure; a punishment against counterfeiting; a post office or postal road — or the use of them; a type of patent; a lower court; an example of piracy or felony committed on the high seas; a matter of war, or a letter of marque and reprisal, or an army or navy; or a calling forth of, or disciplining of, the militia. Abortion is not spending; it’s not naturalization policy; it’s not the addition of a new state or territory; it’s not the time, place, or manner of a federal election. Nor, in either direction, does abortion come within the purview of any of the 27 amendments that have been added to the Constitution since 1787. It is, in short, precisely the sort of question that is reserved to the people and to the states, and any Supreme Court decision that has concluded to the contrary is wrong — yes, including the 2003 law that prohibited the abomination that is partial-birth abortion, and which should have been struck down by the Court for lack of an enumerated power to justify it.

    Every Senate Democrat voted for it, except Joe Manchin.


  • And just a quick note: Bryan Caplan has a new blog: Bet On It.

    Why is this blog called “Bet On It”? Most directly, because over the last two decades, I’ve strongly committed to making public bets on a wide range of topics. I am convinced that such bets are one of the best ways to (a) turn vague verbiage into precise statements, and (b) discover the extent of genuine disagreement about such precise statements. I am also convinced that (c) examining bettors’ long-run track records is one of the best ways to assess thinkers’ credibility. Since my current track record is 23 for 23, it is easy to dismiss the latter view as self-serving. But I did start defending the epistemic value of bets long before I had a track record to brag about.

    I've subscribed to the RSS feed. See if it's up your alley.


Last Modified 2022-03-15 5:45 AM EDT

Free Guy

[4 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Well, I certainly wasn't going to watch Biden's State of the Union speech. Due to the strong possibility I might throw things and damage the TV.

Brief summary: enjoyable, great CGI, marred by slow spots, too long (just under two hours). Mrs. Salad didn't enjoy it, falling asleep for about the middle half.

Guy lives in a world where violence is the norm: in his job as a bank teller, he's routinely interrupted by gun-wielding thieves. Outside, explosions, gunfire, and wanton destruction are the norm, thanks to heavily-armed warriors, maniacal drivers, and battles between futuristic vehicles on land and in the air. Guy and the rest of the town's citizens take it all in stride.

As it turns out they are "NPCs": non-playing characters in "Free City", a video game; all the carnage is caused by real-world people playing. And (as it turns out) Guy's programming has bequeathed him with sentience and free will. He becomes embroiled in a real-world dispute between the megalomaniacal owner of the company that produced "Free City" and a couple of its developers. The game becomes a battleground for that fight, bewildering everyone.

Most of the reason the movie works is Ryan Reynolds, bringing his usual charm and wit. Jodie Comer is also pretty good as one of the developers, flitting between reality and Free City in her quest for justice.