‘Seriously, Y’all. Stop it.’

‘Seriously, Y’all. Stop it.’

At age seven he had read most of the dialogues of Plato. The next year he began Latin, having meanwhile digested Herodotus, Xenophon, Diogenes, Laertius, and part of Lucian. Between eight and twelve he finished Virgil, Horace, Livy, Sallust, Ovid, Terence, Lucretius, Aristotle, Sophocles, and Aristophanes; had mastered geometry, algebra, and the differential calculus; written a Roman History, an Abridgment of the Ancient Universal History, a History of Holland, and a few verses. At the ripe age
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20 thoughts on “‘Seriously, Y’all. Stop it.’

  1. What if John Stuart Mill’s parents had placed him in front of a TV playing Fox News 24/7? What if he had been told from an early age that people like him were the rightful beneficiaries of his country’s wealth, and that people different from him were interlopers and were inferior? It is very hard to escape early influences and ingrained biases, no matter how intelligent one is.

    1. Well, to be honest, he was reading all those highfalutin’ Greek texts and still managed to think that “barbarians” and the poor needed to be deprived of their freedoms for their own good… unless they consented to being abused in which case it was all good.

      In short – “the social contract, it’s complicated”. Yeah. Thanks a bunch, never could have figured that out on our own.

  2. My personal level of empathy—which was never high to begin with for anti-maskers—has pretty much dropped to zero for anti-vaxxers, and I am on the verge of hoping they will all just die. And an unbelievable number of my acquaintances are expressing the same thing. People are just tired of this nonsense and the burden it’s imposing on everyone else.

    1. The sympathy well is not dry, but it is low and remaining reserves diverted to those who actually deserve sympathy. Such as the HCW who are exhausting themselves trying to care for the self-destructive.

  3. Thinking about viral evolution: the selection pressures are fairly well understood. However, I’ve never considered if there is a different selection pressure when it comes to a social animal that has evolved complex communication skills. Consider the case of a highly lethal and rapidly incubating virus. At some point, most people will figure out how not to get infected and take protective measures, because there is an easily discerned connection between getting infected and facing consequences. Those who don’t learn are removed from the reproductive pool at a high rate. Consider, on the other hand, a virus that is highly infectious but usually not lethal, has a relatively long incubation period, and often causes asymptomatic infection. Has such a virus evolved to take advantage of misinformation and cultural clashes?

  4. Slowly, very very slowly, Darwin does his work and the species slowly improves.

    Caleb Wallace, rather than having six or eight children, now is limited to just four.

    We know that the vaccines are effective. We know that Ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, intravenous bleach, and other drugs are not. But, for whatever reason, a good fraction of Americans are adverse to real science, and at the same time will suck up every bit of witchcraft they hear on the internet. Have we always been this stupid?

  5. J.S. Mill, Isaac Newton, J.S Bach, Mozart, all geniuses of the last four hundred years. Heilbrouner was one of the first books I was assigned in college, along with Max Weber. Mill was reading such works before he turned eight, in three languages. I look at what Mill did as a child and all I can see is the time I wasted watching TV as a child. I took Latin and Greek in HS but could never read all the stuff Mill did as a mere child. An apocryphal story about Mozart concerned a trip he was forced to take by his father one winter in his tender youth. Dad took the two of them from Paris to Vienna in the dead of winter in an essentially open carriage, no real shelter from snow and ice, a trip that took over two months. During the trip the child Mozart wrote two symphonies, an opera, and numerous pieces of chamber music. No cell phones, TV or other childhood distractions. No “are we there yet?” The music from that trip is still performed. I have CDs of much of it. And we are busy fighting over masks.

    When my (mostly senior) university students were being particularly stupid I used to ask them why they were in college. What was all the money for? The truth is a typical student spending four years in college takes roughly 40 courses. Each of those courses generally includes one or two assigned books to read and study. Aside from the fact that most students no longer read the assigned work, or even acquire it, a shocking number of courses get so bogged down by the lack of student discipline that the prof and the students don’t even nearly finish covering the assigned book(s). I had four courses in college that required me to buy and read 30 books and write papers about all of them. (For two of these courses I still have all the papers.) I assigned four books once and was hammered by my students in the end-of-semester evaluations. “Why are you making us learn so much stuff?”, they would ask. The real truth is anyone in college could sit down and read all the assigned work they will see over four years in a few months and not have to pay for it, if only they had the discipline and preparation required for the task. What students really pay for is 40 “maps” for the study of one subject each (the course syllabus, remember those? Mine was thirty pages, a map with tools.) By the end of the four years, if they have learned what they are supposed to, they should all be able to draw up their own maps and teach themselves new subjects. Mill started doing this when he was three. My wife was a bit of a reader, as am I. When we moved to our current location we found we had acquired about 5000 books, mostly read, We didn’t want to move them all so we gave 40 cartons to a local library to use in their rural library outreach program. Not that hard to do really if you put your mind to it. A controversial notion is that man is loosely descended from the great apes, If COVID has taught me anything it is that too many of my “neighbors” seem to be in a big hurry to descend back to their prehistoric ancestors.

    Good on ya, H. his was a good one.

  6. I once asked a class of fairly smart college students how many would quit college right now if I promised them $120,000 indexed for inflation for for the rest of their lives. A sizeable number raised their hands. The others must must have wanted to stick around for the parties.

  7. Warning: long post.

    On the topic of Covid denialism, I had a theory back at the start of all this:
    – Covid’s infection fatality rate (IFR) is low (est 0.5% or thereabouts), so on average only about 0.25 deaths will occur per 100 persons. Why? If 50% of them get infected at 0.5% IFR, 0.005 x 0.5 x 100 = 0.25.
    – The lower the education, information, cognition level of a person – let’s just call it being “lower information” – the less likely s/he is to grasp and absorb abstractions and the more dependent they are on learning through their own personal experience. I have no hard evidence to cite for this, hence it is just a “theory”.
    – Lower information persons are more likely to have smaller close social groups. Again, no hard evidence.
    – Therefore, lower information persons are less likely to personally know someone close to them who has died from Covid and are less likely to be swayed by data about deaths of persons not close to them or who they do not know, e.g. reported community fatality rates.
    – Lower information persons are thus less likely to see Covid as a real threat, and more resistant to being inconvenienced by Covid control measures.

    In March 2020, I asked my friends via social media this question: how many people do you know, whose death would actually trouble you, beyond a cursory “that’s too bad, pass the biscuits please”. My friends are almost all high information persons. Even in that group, the average answer was between 50 and 100. My conclusion was that a large portion of Americans would not take Covid seriously and/or resist inconvenient control measures.

    I think that theory is turning out correct, albeit other factors like political motivations and deliberate misinformation may be larger factors.

    So, let’s talk about another theory I had back in late 2020, that has yet to be be proven or disproven:
    – I modeled likely US Covid deaths based on virus transmissibility, IFR, vaccination rate, magnitude of protection from vaccination and from acquired immunity, and duration of non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI).
    – I assumed that 70% of Americans would be vaccinated by mid 2021 and 30% of Americans would forever refuse vaccination. The former has proven too optimistic, the latter may prove too pessimistic.
    – I also assumed that vaccinated persons would still be able to be infected by and transmit the virus, even if their IFR was extremely low due to vaccination protection. This was clear from pre-clinical data showing that vaccinated NHP (non human primate – they used rhesus monkeys) who were exposed to SARS2 still became infected and harbored large numbers of virus particles in their nasal passages, albeit for fewer days than unvaccinated NHP and without the virus spreading to their lungs as happened with the unvaccinated NHP.
    – I assumed that after all persons willing to be vaccinated were, all NPI would be terminated and we’d go back to packing into bar and inhaling each others’ exhalations at close range. The reasons for this assumption are obvious; it may be too pessimistic, but jury’s out.
    – Finally, I assumed that the protection from acquired immunity (getting then recovering from Covid) would only last a year, while protection from vaccination would be permanent – the latter because I assumed we’d get re-vaccinated as often as required. I think that still looks like a reasonable assumption.
    – I did not assume there would be virus variants with significantly greater transmissibility or IFR. That may have been a major error.
    – I did not assume “herd immunity”. That was because I thought unvaccinated persons would cluster together, so that even if the overall vaccination rate was 70%, it would be much lower where most unvaccinated persons live. That looks reasonable.

    I calculated that the US would have about 1MM Covid deaths by end 2022 and about 100K per year thereafter. The dynamic is that, with NPI lifted, Covid burns unchecked through the entire unvaccinated population, who endure repeat reinfections because their acquired immunity only lasts a year.

    The back of envelope math is:
    – start year 1 (2022) with 90MM unvaccinated persons = 30% of 300MM. Assume 50% of them were infected (and recovered) in 2021.So the other 50%, or 45MM, unvaccinated persons are vulnerable to infection during 2022.
    – assume SARS2 infects 50% of the vulnerable population during 2022 (because no NPI at all), that’s 22.5MM = 0.5 x 45MM cases and 0.5% IFR is 0.112MM deaths (112K) in 2022. Deduct 0.112MM from 90MM for 89.888MM unvaccinated persons at the start of year 2 (2023), of which 67.5MM did not have Covid during the previous year and are thus vulnerable in year 2.
    – assume SARS2 infects 50% of the vulnerable population during 2023, that’s 33.75MM = 0.5 x 67.5MM cases and 0.5% IFR is 0.169MM deaths (168K) in 2023. Deduct 0.169MM from 89.888MM for 89.775MM unvaccinated persons at the start of year 3 (2024), of which 56.137MM did not have Covid during the previous year and are thus vulnerable in year 3.
    – repeat. The modeled death number oscillates then settles down at about 0.148MM/year (148K). That is in unvaccinated persons. The modeled deaths in vaccinated persons is low enough that I disregarded it.
    – however, I assumed improved therapeutic options would reduce the IFR over time, so I came up with the round number of 100K deaths per year (that’s an IFR of about 0.3%).

    I don’t know how correct or not that theory will turn out to be. So far, it looks like I was too high on total deaths by end 2022 (we are tracking to more like 0.75MM) and I hope I’m too high on recurring deaths. But even if the forecast is somewhat off, the point is two-fold:

    First, Covid may continue to be a significant burden for many years. 100K deaths/yr may be non-material in a population of 300MM, but the consumption of medical resources and the follow-on effects of “long Covid” on labor force participation and supply may be material.

    Second, the market for Covid vaccines and therapeutics should continue to be significant for many years. The former is well-recognized, but the latter may not be. If we’re going to have 30MM new Covid cases a year, of which perhaps 15MM (?) are symptomatic and 5MM (?) are serious enough to warrant treatment, then at $5K pharma revenue per person treated that’s a $25BN/yr drug market in just the US.

    TL:DR investors need to consider the scenario in which Covid is here to stay – not just the investment negatives, but also the investment positives.

    1. From 2010 to 2018, the estimated annual number of influenza fatalities in the US was 12,000-61,000. A bad flu year (2017-18, 61,000 deaths) approaches your 100k/yr covid estimate. I think there are already better therapies for covid than we have for influenza, and they will get better, e.g. the AZD7442 antibody cocktail, which could have vaccine-like efficacy even for immunocompromised patients who don’t benefit from vaccines. Not sure what this means for your hypothesis, though. I think covid will have a continuing psychological impact that influenza has not had on our generation.

      1. As far as I know, the antibody cocktails have to be given fairly early in the disease, typically when symptoms are still mild if any. I don’t know if the standard of care will really be to give a $2-4K antibody course to every diagnosed Covid patient? If it is, then the antibody market could be larger than the vaccine market. That seems unlikely but, hmm, bears investigating.

    2. I admire your modeling and thank you for your work.
      There is one major flaw and that is the possibility of bio-terrorism.
      It is very easy to culture SARS in a non-laboratory environment.
      On the farms, where people have to gather in close workstations, we use Ozone and ultraviolet to keep the the products safe and clean. This resulted in a very very low spread of Covid among the staff. (maybe 2 0f 100)
      I inserted an assembly within the HVAC system in my home. And I still flew my family to Baltimore for the first shots available.
      Take care of yourself (and those you love) first. If the never Vaxers and other suicidal idiots want to get sick, deny services.
      My great-grandfather died of the Spanish flu living in Cleveland. You don’t have to hit me with a hammer to learn a lesson.

      1. I cut off my office from the building HVAC and installed my own heat/AC pulling outside air. No-one but immediate family was allowed in my house for 18 months. Got my family vaccinated as early as possible and will get the boosters as soon as possible. We’re all still masking in public places, regardless of mandate. Even now, we only do in-person things with vaccinated persons, and preferably outside.

        Read that ~600,000 courses of antibody cocktail were used in three weeks this August. 80% in the South and SE US. At $2,500/course, that’s ~$1.4BN in three weeks. Almost all for unvaxxed. Insurance companies must be looking at their options.

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