Another NYT reporter for the block list

Those two tweets come from a thread looking at one particular series of false claims a recent New York Times article made, but it's not the only distortions the piece makes. I've decided to follow Antonio's suggestion here:

I'm still not sure it's worth following through with mass-blocking of NYT reporters as I think there are still interesting ones remaining working there. That said, it's not a very credible organization anymore.

Random links

Layla Saad: a curious case of false identification with black America
"Saad has never once commented on crimes, either historic or modern, committed in the country in which she has spent almost all her adult life. Although Qatar officially outlawed slavery in 1952, there are estimated to be more enslaved people now living in the country than in almost any other worldwide and the Qatari government’s tolerance for the practice — which I have written about previously in these pages — has led the UN to threaten international sanctions. It is quite possible that Saad is not directly implicated in any of these abuses. But her silence on the subject of this ongoing form of slavery is striking, given her own commitment to the idea of collective guilt."
Why Do Chinese Liberals Embrace American Conservatives?
"The issue of political correctness in particular fascinates them, with many seeing in it uncomfortable echoes of their own experiences in a society where speech is severely constrained. They perceive Mr. Trump as embodying the sort of no-filter approach to free speech that they dream of, while viewing American liberalism as having strayed from its core values."
Did people really drink bleach to prevent COVID-19? A tale of problematic respondents and a guide for measuring rare events in survey data
"In a series of studies totaling close to 1400 respondents, we show that 80-90% of reports of household cleanser ingestion are made by problematic respondents. These respondents report impossible claims such as ‘recently having had a fatal heart attack’ and ‘eating concrete for its iron content’ at a similar rate to ingesting household cleaners. Additionally, respondents’ frequent misreading or misinterpreting the intent of questions accounted for the rest of such claims. Once inattentive, mischievous, and careless respondents are taken out of the analytic sample we find no evidence that people ingest cleansers."
The Voluntariness of Voluntary Consent: Consent Searches and the Psychology of Compliance
"In two preregistered laboratory studies, we approached a total of 209 ... with a highly intrusive request: to unlock their password-protected smartphones and hand them over to an experimenter to search through while they waited in another room. A separate 194 ... were ... asked whether a reasonable person would agree to the same request if hypothetically approached by the same researcher. ... Study 1 found that whereas most Forecasters believed a reasonable person would refuse the experimenter’s request, most Experiencers — 100 out of 103 people — promptly unlocked their phones and handed them over."

The case against bioethicists

I recently listened to a podcast episode entitled Vaccine Hesitancy is Solvable where the podcast host said the following:

When I hear about white people who don't want to take the vaccine I just have a gut reaction: that's irrational, that's conspiracy thinking, they're anti-vaxxers, I have no sympathy whatsoever

He contrasts that to the sort of history you'll find documented in books like Medical Apartheid. He's certainly right that there are quite substantial differences, but I don't think it's too hard to argue that that white people might be justified in being concerned about how they'd be treated by the medical system at the moment. Consider how US federal government workers talked about prioritizing vaccinations based on how people were classified:

It's actually worse than that. To quote Why I'm Losing Trust in the Institutions:

It gets even more shocking. The difference in the percentage of white people across age groups is comparatively small. The difference in the percentage of infected people who succumb to Covid across all age groups is massive. Giving the vaccine to African-American essential workers before elderly African-Americans would likely raise the overall death toll of African-Americans even if a somewhat greater number of African-Americans were to receive the vaccine as a result.

In other words, the CDC was effectively about to recommend that a greater number of African-Americans die so that the share of African-Americans who receive the vaccine is slightly higher. In blatant violation of the “leveling down objection,” prioritizing essential workers in the name of equality would likely kill more people in all relevant demographic groups.

What did you here from the medical community? Barely a whisper ... it was only others which was a position that got Nate Silver the target of a pile-on by "experts":

In the days after ACIP published its preliminary recommendations, barely any epidemiologists or health officials publicly criticized its findings or its reasoning. But thankfully, prominent journalists like Zeynep Tufecki, Matt Yglesias and Nate Silver publicly made the case against them. (So did I.)

A day or so after the outcry changed its course slightly ... to include the elderly above a certain age threshold. But it gets worse again.

i.e. After a couple of weeks trying out its slightly-less-bad strategy, what was happening? Hospiitals were sometimes forced to throw out unused supplies of the scarce vaccine if they couldn't find arms that met the crazy criteria to inject it in.

You were left with in a situation wherein pompous douchebags like the epidemiologist being retweeted here were writing telling others to stay in their lane:

... resulting in a situation wherein the official advice had to change not just once but twice to accomodate the criticism made by the original policy's critics. (Note: as mentioned here there were no logistics experts in the room). It's even sillier when you read up the background of the epidemiologist in quesion - i.e. he was an AIDS activist who was griping about failure to act early there and then trying to talk people out of reacting to COVID19.

... and then there's the group claiming not to have done what their slides showed they did:

And just to add a final way-in-which-it's-still-worse, if you look at life expectancy based on how people are grouped into racial categories in the US, you'll notice that life expectancy is higher for both Hispanic and Asian Americans than it is for White Americans. i.e. you were left with a policy recommendation which should not only be expected to result in a higher number of African-American deaths but also come at a disproportionate cost to the crowd that the media likes to refer to as Latinx (but which virtually no one else does).

The title here comes from this tweet which I can't quite decide whether or not to describe as "snarky":

Overall bioethicists really haven't been putting forward a particularly good case for their existance. As a difference example, I find it interesting to think back to stories like Fact check: Coronavirus vaccine could come this year, Trump says. Experts say he needs a 'miracle' to be right.. They were far off in their estimates there, but things could have been so much faster. I'm not just talking of stalling the approvals process to try to create trust, I'm talking of the approvals process for a vaccine created in two days.

Take My vaccine crackpottery: a confession

I think that, in a well-run civilization, the first covid vaccines would’ve been tested and approved by around March or April 2020, while mass-manufacturing simultaneously ramped up with trillions of dollars’ investment. I think almost everyone on earth could have, and should have, already been vaccinated by now. I think a faster, “WWII-style” approach would’ve saved millions of lives, prevented economic destruction, and carried negligible risks compared to its benefits. I think this will be clear to future generations, who’ll write PhD theses exploring how it was possible that we invented multiple effective covid vaccines in mere days or weeks, but then simply sat on those vaccines for a year, ticking off boxes called “Phase I,” “Phase II,” etc. while civilization hung in the balance.

Human challenge trials which could probably have delivered on those timescales basically involve giving people the vaccinate and then exposing them to the infection. It's basically a risk of commission (those you actively exposed may die) vs. one of omission (many more die while waiting for a large enough set of your study participants to contract the disease through natural exposure). The public seems fairly comfortable with the risk/reward ratio of human challenge trials and they've had tens of thousands of volunteers but this seems something that it's the sort of thing it's near impossible to get past bioethicists.

(EDIT: Digging further through my notes noted that the UK is finally starting a human trial ... and as is noted there, with this approve the results that basically should have brought the vaccine instantly into use at least on a temporary basis based on predefined condition in November, could have been approved sometime in the May or June timeframe had this approach been tried.

sigh ... in this case I'm guessing the approvals process cost a million lives and probably trillions or tens of trillions of dollars relative a process that probably would have put probably 100 or so people at < 1% risk of death (assuming they're using those in lower risk categories ... so even a 1% risk there might be a significant overestimate).

Random links

"Average working hours in European countries, from Rasmussen and Knutsen "Reforming to survive: The Bolshevik origins of social policy"
This is a pretty fascinating graphic!
Estonia has a new way to stop speeding motorists
"Drivers caught speeding along the road between Tallinn and the town of Rapla were stopped and given a choice. They could pay a fine, as normal, or take a “timeout” instead, waiting for 45 minutes or an hour, depending on how fast they were going when stopped. The aim of the experiment is to see how drivers perceive speeding, and whether lost time may be a stronger deterrent than lost money. ... Public reaction, though, was not what they expected. 'It’s been very positive, surprisingly,'"
Intergenerational Mobility between and within Canada and the United States
"Intergenerational income mobility is lower in the United States than in Canada, but varies significantly within each country. Our sub-national analysis finds that the national border only partially distinguishes the close to one thousand regions we analyze within these two countries. The Canada-US border divides Central and Eastern Canada from the Great Lakes regions and the Northeast of the United States. At the same time some Canadian regions have more in common with the low mobility southern parts of the United States than with the rest of Canada, and the fact that these areas represent a much larger fraction of the American population also explains why mobility is lower in the United States." (via Marginal Revolution)


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