Lion of the Blogosphere

Archive for July 2020

Will people return to Midtown?

According to this NY Times article, at one office building on 6th Avenue (in Manhattan, of course), only 6% of people are working in the building compared to the previous summer, so 94% are working from home.

That’s pretty much as I would have expected it to be. If anything, it’s a mystery as to why 6% of the building (500 people) are going into the office. The company I work for has announced that all offices are closed—you can’t go to work in them even if you wanted to—until 2021. And I have no reason to actually believe that they will make people go in in January 2021 if the pandemic isn’t over yet. The longer we all work from home, the more time there is for this to become the norm, and inertia will keep people at home.

This has nothing to do with Donald Trump or Andrew Cuomo, this is all about big corporations keeping their employees home regardless of whether Trump says everything should open or if Cuomo theoretically allows offices to re-open with social distancing. Big corporations don’t want to put their employees at risk or expose themselves to liability, not when everything is working out well enough with everyone working from home.

The big-money question is, what happens if there’s a vaccine and a successful vaccination program such that it’s safe for everyone to return to the office. Will everything go back to the way it was before? I don’t think so. With all the cool restaurants and stuff closed, what made going to work in Midtown fun (if you didn’t have to put up with a long commute) is no longer there. I bet a lot of top-level management has moved to the Hamptons and they may not want to go back themselves, having gotten used to a more rural lifestyle.

The article says, “New York survived the late ’70s, and everybody thought the city was over, rampant crime, near bankruptcy. It survives the market crashes of ’87 and ’89, it survives the dot-com crash of 2000 or so. It survived 2008. So it will survive.

I say that this time it’s different because, in none of those other economic downturns was the whole reason for NYC’s existence, people working in crowded office buildings, put into question. In those cases, some people were out of work, but the technologies to allow 96% or more of the white-collar workforce to work from home didn’t exist. Maybe it existed somewhat in 2008, but 2008 was just an normal recession and didn’t call into question the very reason for NYC being NYC in the first place.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 26, 2020 at 4:37 PM

Posted in New York City

The coming death spiral of New York City

The “death spiral” is an ill-defined term, but it’s generally applied to situations where, when things get worse, this causes things to get even more worse than before.

The NY Times recently published an article about a coming public transit death spiral. In other words, loss of revenue from lower ridership means that, in order to balance their budget (absent a massive infusion of outside monetary support), they need to cut service, increase fares, reduce capital improvement, all things which make the transit system even worse thus causing even lower ridership with corresponding lower revenue.

New York City as a whole is in the same unavoidable death spiral. Rich people are fleeing to the Hamptons, and businesses are abandoning their expensive Manhattan office buildings and telling everyone to work from home. This resulting loss of tax revenue means that NYC will have to slash spending and/or raise taxes (if it’s even possible to raise taxes any higher given that NYC already has the highest taxes of anywhere in the United States), making the city even less desirable than it was before, which would encourage even more people and businesses to move out.

In addition to normal downward-spiral economics, we have two other factor working against New York City:

(1) Memory of the pandemic. Those who remember it won’t want to go back to living in apartment buildings where you have to ride the elevator with people who could be contagious with something. Now yes, it’s a proven fact that many people, probably most people, especially young people, will just forget about the pandemic as soon as they can, even when the pandemic isn’t over yet. But the people who will permanently change their living preferences because of it are likely to be older and wealthier, the people who pay a disproportionate share of NYC taxes.

(2) Rising crime because of liberal policing. Now unlike the factors above which I am certain about, this is more speculative. When De Blasio took over years ago I predicted rising crime, which never happened. At least it never happened until this summer. There has been a big increase in shootings since the beginning of June. So although we should cautious about saying “this time it’s different,” the post-BLM-protests political environment truly feels different to me, and I think we could be entering an era of soft-on-crime policing that will lead to an explosion of crime that will make New York City that much less desirable.

What about the people who say something like “New York City is the most desirable place to live because all of the culture is here.” Well culture can move pretty easily. According to the Hamptons article above, expensive restaurants, stores, and art galleries that used to be in Manhattan are moving to the Hamptons. It’s pretty clear to me that the Hamptons will replace New York City as the most desirable place to live because of all the culture. Certain big institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art won’t be able to move to the Hamptons, but that’s mostly a tourist attraction and not something that the average rich New Yorker goes to on a regular basis.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 23, 2020 at 11:03 AM

Posted in New York City

What happens if?

What happens if we re-open schools, but the white kids are obeying the rules to wear masks and the black kids are not. If the teachers discipline the black kids, then the SJWs say that this is RACIST because black kids are being disproportionately disciplined. So the teachers do nothing, and the black kids catch the virus and spread it to their families, and more black people die. And the SJW say that society is RACIST because black are disproportionately dying from the virus.

And if an SJW were to read this blog post, they would say that I was RACIST for imagining the scenario in the first place.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 22, 2020 at 3:51 PM

Posted in SJWs

My blog has totally been banned by Google

Doesn’t show up in search results at all, even if you search the site explicitly.

The tech companies are busy at work supressing free speech.

For example, a search that ought to return a lot of results:

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There is no due process. No right to find out what triggered the banning, how to appeal it, etc. Total dictatorship.

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UPDATE: now my site is showing up again.

Theory: Google keeps track of wrongthink sites and subtly causes them to have much lower results in search results, but they accidentally turned it way up earlier today.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 21, 2020 at 12:35 PM

Posted in Technology

Did Zuck really do this?

A commenter writes the following:

I have it on the authority of a friend of mine who worked in the valley, that Zuck was once hosting an expensive dinner at a restaurant which provided numerous forks/knives/spoons. He commented on the silverware, and someone sitting near him started explaining what they were all for.

Zuck said: Anyone who knows what each piece of silverware is for raise your hand. Then he said: Everyone with your hand raised, get up and leave. I don’t want or need you.

In other words, Zuck only wants/needs poor people. Maybe because they are more desperate to keep their jobs?

* * *

Commenter Kruck writes:

It seems massively unlikely that he would do that, knowing that the incident would inevitably be talked about, and would cast him in a negative light. Would SAT 1590 or 1600 Zuck make that kind of error? I do not think that he would. And the anecdote has all the signs of an urban legend, “some friend of mine who works at such-and-such said that he heard this-and-that from somebody.”

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 21, 2020 at 12:33 PM

Posted in Wealth

Do Haredi Jews in NYC have (temporary) herd immunity?

Frequent commenter Yakov reports that the Haredi Jews in NYC are ignoring social distancing yet no one’s getting sick. At least not this month.

Back in April the NY Times reported that the Haredi community was hit vey hard and there had been 700 deaths. That’s actually quite a low number considering there are something like a quarter of a million Haredi in Brooklyn. If there had been a 1% fatality rate, there should be 2,500 dead Haredi.

However, the Haredi population is very young because they have massive numbers of children, and we know that the fatality rate is a lot lower for the young than the old.

Additionally, 700 could be an undercount, and furthermore people were still dying when this article was written and there were surely more deaths since then.

Epidemiologists should study the Haredi community to learn about what would happen if we refuse to do social distancing and just let everyone get infected.

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The Haredi were probably responsible for contributing to the spread of the virus outside of their community.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 16, 2020 at 2:29 PM

The virus is a big deal

One of the big deficiencies of pandemic reporting is the failure to report things by age groups. Back in May I did a ballpark estimate of the IFR by age group, and given the lack of anything better, I think my estimates are pretty good.

During the current spike in cases, Republicans have been insisting that the virus is no longer a problem because deaths have been trending down. (Except this is wrong with respect to the most recent week because deaths are now going up in places where cases started increasing a few weeks ago.)

One thing that has been reported is that younger people have been a disproportionate percent of cases during this second wave of cases. Because people between the ages of 18 and 44 have only a 0.1% infected fatality rate (although the case fatality rate would be higher than that), this would be an important factor in explaining the immediate lack of deaths corresponding to the rising number of cases. (The other important factor is it takes weeks before a reported case turns into a reported death. Cases today predict deaths in the future.)

But it doesn’t mean the virus isn’t a big deal because younger people are getting infected.

(1) If large numbers of young people are infected, they will spread it to older people.

(2) it’s wrong to think of the virus in terms of a binary live or die situation. There is evidence that many people who caught the virus and survive will suffer continuing health consequences. I list again some of the known health consequences: permanent loss of smell, blood clotting (leading to dangerous strokes), heart damage, permanently reduced lung capacity, chronic fatigue syndrome, multi-system inflammatory syndrome. What percent of people will have continuing health problems? I don’t know, but better safe than sorry, because optimism about this virus has been proven wrong over and over again.

(3) The number of people who need to be hospitalized exceeds the number of people who die. What happens to people who need to be hospitalized, but because of a huge surge in cases the hospitals are full? The answer is that the case fatality rate increases when this happens. Furthermore, what happens to people who need hospitalization for other reasons when the hospitals are full? Hospitals full to capacity with Covid-19 patients is a huge public health crisis independent of the fatality rate for people who get good care.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 15, 2020 at 1:43 PM

Some pessimism about the pandemic

Some may ask, “hasn’t your blog been pessimistic enough about the pandemic?” And the answer is no, I’ve only been realistic.

So here’s some pessimism to consider:

(1) Immunity to the virus only lasts a few months. This means that the optimistic view, that people getting sick and dying from the virus is, at least, for the greater good of herd immunity, is wrong. There will never be natural herd immunity to Covid-19 because after a few months people can catch it again. Those who got sick and those who died, they did so for no benefit to society. They are just victims of our nation’s dysfunctional response to a health crisis.

(2) The virus isn’t a binary case of either you have a mild case and it’s a “nothingburger” (as some delusional commenters say), or you die but that only happens if you are really old and old people deserve to die anyway. There’s a lot of unknowns, but the pessimistic viewpoint would be that a pretty significant number of people who had the virus and didn’t die from it directly will suffer long-term health problems which may later prove to be fatal. Some of these health consequences include blood clotting and strokes, heart damage, lung damage, permanent loss of smell, chronic fatigue syndrome, multi-system inflammatory syndrome.

(3) There’s no magical end to the pandemic other than a vaccine. That’s not pessimism, that’s just realism. But the pessimistic outlook on vaccines is that you won’t get vaccinated as soon as you would like, not going to happen until a year from now at least. And when you do get vaccinated, it will only give you immunity for a few months and then it will go away. If that. The only way for the vaccine to be effective is if everyone, and I mean everyone, gets it, and gets it again at regular intervals. While other more competent countries will be able to handle that, will the dysfunctional United States have the political will to require vaccinations, like it or not?

(4) Given that the virus will be endemic and only controlled by vaccines rather than eliminated, social distancing will never entirely end, we will never return to life exactly the way it was before. Crowded cities with crowded office buildings and crowded bars and restaurants and crowded public transportation won’t make sense. Cruise ships won’t make sense. College students living in dorms (and other communal living situations) won’t make sense. The economic disruptions will be huge and ongoing. There’s certainly not going to be a “v-shaped” recovery.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 14, 2020 at 9:03 AM

Schools and the virus

I tweeted that yesterday.

Today it occurred to me that the push to re-open schools is an unholy alliance between Trumpists who deny that the virus is harmful and insist that it’s a global conspiracy to get Biden elected, so they want schools to open in order to boost the economy and Trump’s chances of winning reelection, and between leftist types who are more worried about the “gap” than they are about doing the right thing for the majority of the people in order to close the “gap” (which can’t be closed because of HBD).

Although there is strong evidence that children are less likely to catch and spread the virus than adults (and also that seniors are more likely to catch and spread the virus than younger adults, which is why the virus spreads so easily though nursing homes), and there are less likely to be outbreaks at schools than at adult work places, nevertheless, there have been outbreaks at schools in Israel. And there are teachers who caught the virus at summer school in Arizona. There have been outbreaks at youth camps. So outbreaks at schools can definitely happen, and surely will happen if we just reopen schools the way they were before the pandemic.

Some may argue it’s no big deal if children catch the virus at school because they rarely get sick from it. There are two problems with this argument. (1) We don’t fully know to what extent children’s long-term health could be impacted by the virus. It’s known that a small number of children get a serious condition they call multi-inflammatory syndrome after being exposed to the virus. (2) Children who catch the virus at school will go home and spread it to their parents who are at more risk. Even though children may not be as contagious as adults, let’s use some common sense. People living in the same household are going to catch it because of the large amount of time spent in close contact with each other. And this is true even if the point of entry into the household is a child. I’ve read that children shed half as much virus as adults, but that’s enough virus to spread it to adults in the same household.

With such a huge amount of virus in the United States, it’s not wise to open schools right now. In other countries, where the virus is more under control and the people act more responsibly and they have uniform national guidelines that are followed, those other countries are in much better shape to open schools than we are in the United States. Let’s let other countries do it first and learn from them.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 13, 2020 at 1:35 PM

The slow-motion trainwreck

I can’t write about the pandemic without writing about how horrible Trump is. This is important for the audience of people who read this blog, because most of the readers are Trump supporters. I voted for Trump (but won’t make that mistake again). I was excited as anyone when he beat Hillary. Even though by the time of the election, I already know that Trump was full of shit on a lot of things and he didn’t even understand his own policy platform. I knew that Mexico was never going to pay for the Wall, but I was optimistic that the Wall would be built anyway. (Of course, no Wall was built.)

Maybe Trump is going senile. I hope he’s going senile because that would excuse me for voting for him. How could I have known in 2016 that he was going senile and was no longer the same person who he was when he was younger? If that’s really what’s happening.

Back in 2016, I was optimistic that Trump would become more Presidential once he actually became President. I can’t say that ever really happened, but during the last year especially he has declined into being even less Presidential than he was when he was running for office back in 2016. So maybe the senility explanation will hold up. Or maybe it’s just a Trump personality flaw that he retreats into bozoness when faced with adversity, and there has been a lot of adversity for Trump during the last year.

Maybe, if we are lucky, Tucker Carlson, one of the few smart people who understands and supports what a Trumpist national policy actually means, will run for President in 2024 and win. But that’s a real longshot.

But regardless, you Trump supporters need to STOP believing what Trump says and stop repeating his stupid talking points which have become more and more divorced from reality. Clearly, Trump is not able to process the reality of the pandemic. Trump supporters make excuses for Trump saying that the virus was a hoax, but it’s pretty clear that Trump truly believes that the virus is a fake narrative was made up by his enemies and the virus would go away if we just stopped paying attention to it.

How else do you explain Trump’s intentional sabotaging of our efforts to control the virus? Encouraging people to protest the shutdowns, encouraging people not to wear masks or socially distance, preventing the federal government from actually doing anything useful to coordinate our response to the pandemic, leaving it up to the governors of the 50 states, with each state doing its own thing.

The latest Trump talking point that this followers are repeating is that deaths have been going down, therefore everything is good and under control and we don’t have to do anything. To the extent that deaths have been declining because we have better treatments for the virus than we had back in March, that’s great, but it’s a dangerous assumption to make that that’s the only thing that’s happening and treatments will continue to get so much better that we can stop worrying about the pandemic.

The two major reasons why deaths have been declining despite rising cases (other than better treatments) are:

(1) Deaths are a lagging indicator. It takes a week before an infection because a reported case, and then another four weeks before a reported cased becomes a reported death. Thus the increase in cases that began in mid June haven’t had enough time to cause a large increase in reported deaths. Furthermore, because actual infections lag reported cases, and because infections increase at a geometric rate and not a linear rate, there could a big wave of infections that haven’t been reported yet as cases. So I have no doubt that an increase in deaths will come.

(2) The latest cases have been disproportionately young people because they have been the ones who have been going to bars and parties and protests. We know that young people have a much lower fatality rate than older people. But this doesn’t mean we can relax. Infected young people are still contagious and they will infect their older family members and “essential” workers. Also, it’s not yet clear that young people suffer no consequences from a mild case of the virus. It could be that a worrisome percentage of people, even young people, with mild cases of the virus could have longterm health consequences. The medical community is still learning about this virus.

Right now, the U.S. looks like a slow-motion train wreck. States with rising numbers of cases are shutting some things down, but I don’t think enough things are shutting down to lower the R0 below 1, which means that infections will still increase and hospitals will become full and there won’t be enough resources to treat everyone who’s sick, and not only will the fatality rate for the virus increase, but people will die from other causes because emergency healthcare won’t be available for them. Eventually there will be an “oh shit” moment and strict lockdowns will be instituted, which means we will be back to where we were in March, the last three months totally wasted, while in other countries they have gotten the virus under control and are able to SAFELY open up the economy because they have few cases plus robust contact tracing.

And about contact tracing: the U.S. also sucks at that. A combination of a “diverse” population that doesn’t voluntarily comply, and a lack of political will to get tough and make people comply.

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Apparently, another totally false Trump talking point that needs to be addressed is that the only reason there are a lot of cases in the U.S. is that we are doing a lot of testing.

Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the FDA (appointed by Trump) shows that’s totally false:

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 7, 2020 at 11:43 AM

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