Thursday 9 April, 2020

Pic of the Day

Madingley Hall, photographed recently.

Automated wisdom

A colleague received this automated response from a Brazilian academic he had emailed about edits to a journal article.

Let’s slow down and stay home. We cannot continue to live in the way we have been living. We have been working extra-hours and not doing the essential work. It’s time to say farewell to the productivist nightmare.


E pluribus unum — the New York Phil’s tribute to healthcare workers

This time, it’s Ravel’s Bolero.


This stuff is a wonderful by-product of the crisis. Also, a dazzling bit of video editing.

Thanks to Quentin for the link.

I’m not the only one doing a Quarantine Diary

But this one comes from a grimmer place.

The near-term future

A one-para summary from Tyler Cowen:

I don’t view “optimal length of shutdown” arguments compelling, rather it is about how much pain the political process can stand. I expect partial reopenings by mid-May, sometimes driven by governors in the healthier states, even if that is sub-optimal for the nation as a whole. Besides you can’t have all the banks insolvent because of missed mortgage payments. But R0 won’t stay below 1 for long, even if it gets there at all. We will then have to shut down again within two months, but will then reopen again a bit after that. At each step along the way, we will self-deceive rather than confront the level of pain involved with our choices. We may lose a coherent national policy on the shutdown issue altogether, not that we have one now. The pandemic yo-yo will hold. At some point antivirals or antibodies will kick in (read Scott Gottlieb), or here: “There are perhaps 4-6 drugs that could be available by Fall and have robust enough treatment effect to impact risk of another epidemic or large outbreaks after current wave passes. We should be placing policy bets on these likeliest opportunities.” We will then continue the rinse and repeat of the yo-yo, but with the new drugs and treatments on-line with a death rate at maybe half current levels and typical hospital stays at three days rather than ten. It will seem more manageable, but how eager will consumers be to resume their old habits? Eventually a vaccine will be found, but getting it to everyone will be slower than expected. The lingering uncertainty and “value of waiting,” due to the risk of second and third waves, will badly damage economies along the way.

Written with the US mainly in mind, but sounds relevant for the UK too.

Given that there’s no conclusive end in sight, the challenge will be how to live with the virus longer-term at lower intensities until a vaccine appears.

Shockwave: Adam Tooze on the pandemic’s consequences for the world economy

Terrific analysis of the impact of COVID-19 by a distinguished contemporary historian. Long read, but well worth it. Not reassuring. Ends like this:

And once the crisis is over? What then? How do we imagine the restart? Before he was forced to retreat, Trump evoked the image of churches filling at Easter. Will the world economy rise from the dead? Are we going to rely once more on the genius of modern logistics and the techniques of dollar-finance to stitch the world economy back together again? It will be harder than before. Any fantasy of convergence that we might have entertained after the ‘fall of communism’ has surely by now been dispelled. We will somehow have to patch together China’s one-party authoritarianism, Europe’s national welfarism and whatever it is the United States will be in the wake of this disaster. But in any case, for those of us in Europe and America these questions are premature. The worst is just beginning.

What Joe Biden should do now

Intriguing idea from Dave Winer.

Biden can assemble a panel of scientists and medical doctors to keep the public informed. An hour a day, press conference style. What the CDC would be doing if Trump weren’t president.

And he (Biden) would step back, an example for what Trump should do. Let the doctors and the military manage it. Stop campaigning while thousands of Americans are dying. Biden wouldn’t even have to say it. It would make Trump look immediately tone deaf which he most certainly is.

What makes this idea so appealing right now is that the governors are linking up and sharing resources. Someone should be providing the science for them. The government is failing. But there’s plenty of unused talent out there, it just needs to be managed.

This would be a smart idea, given that Bernie Sanders has quit the race, leaving Biden the Democratic candidate. Essentially, it would mean that Biden was showing the country what a real US President should be doing — leading by example. And it would drive Trump nuts. He’s always thought that Biden would be the guy he’d have to beat. That’s what drove all the skullduggery in the Ukraine.

Quarantine diary — Day 19


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