Category Archives: Policy

I no longer believe anything from public health officials – or police

Today was the final straw for me. I no longer believe a word uttered by public health officials, epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists.

Not. One. Word.

I unsubscribed from my County’s daily public health newsletter, and when they asked for a reason, I told them: I no longer trust them.

  • Last week it was “Stay Home. Save Lives.”
  • This week its “Go out and protest and attend super spreader events”. This is more important than fighting a virus, they said.

Yes, over 1,000 public health sociopaths actually said that.

Public health no longer has any credibility and we are now ignoring them.

Continue reading I no longer believe anything from public health officials – or police

Police blame the mandatory wearing of masks for assaulting the media

Last month, I privately wrote some predictions for the rest of this year. One of those predictions was that these continued lock downs, well past the “Flatten the curve” milestone and which have led to mass unemployment, would lead to mass riots in the streets this summer. My timing and the ignition source was off a bit – but public health created a tinderbox that needed only a single match to explode. Minnesota police lit the match.

I feared the inconsistent, contradictory, incoherent and confusing messaging coming out of public health would lead to fiascoes, which did occur with regard to wearing face masks. People were shamed for wearing a mask, then shamed for wearing the wrong kind of mask, and finally, shamed for not wearing a mask. People have been verbally and physically assaulted, knifed and shot over mask wearing. “Karens” of the world have posted photos in online social groups to shame people in regards to their mask wearing. Everyone is becoming enraged over something.

Now the police blame the mandatory wearing of masks for mistakenly targeting, assaulting and arresting journalists. At least half a dozen were targeted with rubber bullets, point blank tear gas or arrested – for legally doing their jobs.

Continue reading Police blame the mandatory wearing of masks for assaulting the media

Secret government and Democratic Authoritarianism

Democratic Socialism is so 2019. I do not usually post on politics but some one has to point this out.

In Oregon we have Democratic Authoritarianism where the Governor acts as a Supreme Leader, with extraordinary powers to do anything she wants . She issues executive orders and rules in secret and cuts out public input using the pandemic as an excuse.

When a Court ruled her executive orders were wrong – implying she should consult with the Legislature as one of the laws require, she has appealed the ruling to the State’s Supreme Court. The other, sensible option would have been to  consult with the Legislature. Instead, she seeks to preserve her immense power over the people. She is no longer interested in democracy.

She holds secret meetings,  and refuses to divulge the content of those meetings or the attendees. There is no transparency and this appears to be in violation of the state’s open meeting laws. She decides who gets access to health care. She decides which businesses live and which will die.

This is no longer a democracy.  This is  Democratic Authoritarianism .

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s administration has briefed lawmakers daily on the state’s coronavirus response for more than two months, in private teleconferences.

Source: Gov. Kate Brown’s administration briefs lawmakers daily on Oregon’s coronavirus response. The public isn’t invited. – oregonlive.com

Months in to this, there is no reason why our Supreme Leader is acting like one – she should be seeking input and guidance from the Legislature and the public. Instead, she continues to issue Executive Orders  more like a tyrant: this is apparently who she is.

Looming pandemic of bicycling-related injuries in post Covid-19 world?

Thousands of cooped-up Americans have been snapping up new bicycles or dusting off decades-old bikes to stay fit, keep their sanity or have a safe alternative to public transportation.

Source: Pandemic a boon for the bicycle as thousands snap them up | KOIN.com

Additional points left out of that story:

  • Bicycling has a high incidence of crashes and injuries.
  • Vehicle accidents are the only segment for which there is good data so this is what nearly all news stories cover.
  • Vehicle accidents account for a fraction of bike related accidents and injuries.
  • Most bike crashes (probably 90%) involve roadway hazards, debris, potholes, sewer grates, collisions with other bicyclists, pedestrians, dogs, other animals, bike break downs, etc – or alcohol on board the bicyclist, or other bicyclist or vehicle driver, or on board everyone.
  • Fatalities are rare (less than 1,000 per year) but most  involve a collision with a vehicle. (Pedestrian versus vehicle fatalities are about 8x more than vehicle versus bike-related fatalities.)
  • About 1/2 million bicycle-related injuries are treated by ERs (ER’s collect and report this data). An unknown number are treated by individual physicians (not in ERs) and an unknown number are not treated at all. Some estimate total injuries in the 1-2 million per year range. Keep in mind – we have no hard data on how many people ride bikes, how many miles they travel, the nature of their riding nor a count of injuries-we have to rely on surveys. Hard data on crashes not involving vehicles is nonexistent. There is tons of research on fatal bike accidents and vehicle-related crashes but little on  non-vehicle crashes. And like the data here, it is not weighted by participation rates.
  • Almost all bike safety initiatives are geared to reducing car versus bike crashes. Almost none address bike versus roadway hazards, which account for most bike crashes. Bicycling advocates are focused on the bike versus vehicle category, unfortunately. 
  • In the U.S. the use of bike helmets is estimated to cut the risk of brain injury in half. Bike helmets distribute impact over a wider area of the head, reducing the incidence of bone fractures but may not reduce brain injuries by as much – brain injuries often come from the brain’s movement inside the skull.

An increase in bicyclists, as suggested by the article, if continued long term will lead to an increase in injuries and an increased demand for (expensive) medical care services. If the trend continues as  post-pandemic response, this will lead to an increase in injuries and costs as a consequence of the pandemic.

There is support for that conclusion in published literature, including this example:

Continue reading Looming pandemic of bicycling-related injuries in post Covid-19 world?

Covid tracking apps summarized

When people mention “Covid tracking apps” it would be useful to first define what is meant by “Covid tracking app”. There are many approaches in use and many that are proposed. The various methods are remarkably different. When you hear that “Country X used a tracking app and they have fewer cases”, this does not mean they used a tracking app like you have in mind.

Most apps use location data provided by the cellular network itself or on GPS/Wi-Fi position fixes stored on the phone and shared directly with public health authorities.  Some use the data for contact tracing, coupled with free Covid-19 testing, while others use location data to enforce strict geo-fenced quarantine procedures that if violated, may result in arrest and imprisonment. Few existing apps use  close contact tracing based on Bluetooth.

Contact tracing apps, by themselves, appear to provide little value. As we will see, to be useful there needs to be supporting infrastructure outside the app – such as Korea offering Covid-19 testing to those in close contact. And the app must be installed by nearly all smart phone users (and this will miss about 15% of phones that are not smart phones). Most countries are not using  phone-based apps to track location – they are using the phone network to report locations on 100% of phones in use, which is very different than voluntary installation of a tracking  app.

Consequently, when you hear someone refer to “contact tracing app”, you need to ask them to define what they mean by “contact tracing app”.

What follows is a review of various “contact tracing” apps used in different countries.

Continue reading Covid tracking apps summarized

Inflation: Why is the stock market shooting up?

This is not perplexing but by design:

Stock market has the richest valuation in 18 years even as profit outlook worsens

Source: Surge in layoffs is unlikely to help profits, no matter what the market thinks

Update – I see one financial analyst thinks “It’s different this time” and there is little risk of inflation. So there is that view too. Deflation is certainly likely in the shorter term due to suppressed demand (retail sales and services fell by over 16% in April). 

Why the stock market rise? Probably because of future inflation. The U.S. government is printing money like crazy – calling it an “economic stimulus”.

Chart of the U.S. Money Supply from U.S. Federal Reserve:

How will these trillions in spending be paid for? Inflation.

Inflation devalues the dollar making today’s debt’s cheaper to pay off in the future. Governments have always done this. Will this be what happens this time? Who knows for sure?

Inflation taxes everyone simultaneously by lowering the purchasing power of the dollars they hold.

Continue reading Inflation: Why is the stock market shooting up?

Transportation: Tesla deletes car features via software update, after cars are sold, used

Should Tesla be allowed to remove features from a vehicle that’s bought secondhand?

Source: Tesla yanks Autopilot features from used car because ‘they weren’t paid for’ | ZDNet

This is a troubling issue where we rely on software for every feature of consumer products. Software that can be updated to add features can also be downgraded to remove features.

Years ago, Amazon deleted e-book copies of George Orwell’s novel, 1984. Apparently Amazon did not have the distribution rights signed up correctly and customers who had bought the e-book addition discovered Amazon remotely deleted their copy of the book. (Amazon did refund the purchase price). That this was a giant corporation removing, of all things, 1984, was a bit of a shock to many.

Meanwhile, the FAA has proposed a massive, Rube Goldberg-like regulatory scheme for small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS), also known as remote control model aircraft. The FAA envisions a world where all model aircraft regulations are enforced by software, logging their position with government designated Internet databases, once every second during flight – rather than the traditional trust and enforcement mechanisms of all other laws. There are multiple issues with the FAA’s proposal, but one side effect of their attempt to enforce the law via software is they’ve managed to eliminate essentially all indoor flight by model airplanes and quadcopter – because a one-size fits all rule does not work. They’ve also created a monster that would enable automated  drone fleets – and consumer drones – to be enlisted by foreign adversaries in international espionage, permitting – indeed, encouraging – all drones to collect aerial imagery and other data as they fly over our homes and cities.

Transportation: Congress proposing an annual Federal tax on electric vehicles

Source: Congress could make EV drivers pay – POLITICO

My state, Oregon, introduced state fees for fuel efficient vehicles, beginning January 1, 2020. These fees are added to existing annual license fees. Oregon issues vehicle licenses for a 2 year period, not one, so the fee paid when renewing is twice the value shown:

a) For vehicles that have a rating of 0-19 MPG, $18.

(b) For vehicles that have a rating of 20-39 MPG, $23.

(c) For vehicles that have a rating of 40 MPG or greater, $33.

(d) For electric vehicles, $110.

The reason they charge for 2 years is it enables the state to increase the effective rate. On average, people will sell their car with one year of their license remaining. However, when sold, there is no refund. And presumably you buy a new vehicle and pay a new license fee. Same thing if you move out of state – you lose the unused portion of the fee. Now they offer a 4-year pre-paid option – don’t go there!

Oregon has also introduced a “pay per mile” license tax and says that some people may pay less fees under this scheme. When I checked the numbers for my Honda Fit, I would pay more under their pay-per-mile scheme – and I only drive about 7,000 miles per year. Sure, that pay–per-mile fee makes sense – not!

The state increased the regular vehicle license fee by 30% in 2017, and increased the state’s gasoline sales tax, which will increase every other year through 2024. The State also increased the title records fee and added a per-vehicle-sold tax on car dealers, and added a $15 tax on new bicycle purchases.

The proposed Federal tax – amount unknown – would be in addition to State license fees.

Software: Why hiring professional software engineers might have been a good idea #IowaCaucus

Oh my:

It wasn’t so much that the new app that the Iowa Democratic Party had planned to use to report its caucus results didn’t work. It was that people were struggling to even log in or download it in the first place. After all, there had never been any app-specific training for his many precinct chairs.

No training? This points to a lack of common sense and systems analysis at the start of the project. How was this missed?

Further, they likely had not created use cases, which would have caught the next set of failures.

So last Thursday Mr. Bagniewski, the chairman of the Democratic Party in Polk County, Iowa’s most populous, decided to scrap the app entirely, instructing his precinct chairs to simply call in the caucus results as they had always done.

The only problem was, when the time came during Monday’s caucuses, those precinct chairs could not connect with party leaders via phone. Mr. Bagniewski instructed his executive director to take pictures of the results with her smartphone and drive over to the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters to deliver them in person. She was turned away without explanation, he said.

Source: ‘A Systemwide Disaster’: How the Iowa Caucuses Melted Down – DNyuz

I live in the state that featured Cover Oregon[1], a $450 million health exchange that never enrolled a single individual subscriber. It was a complete failure. Healthcare.gov received most of the media attention concerning large government failed software projects but several state projects also failed.

Both health exchange fiascos – and the Iowa Caucus disaster – point to over reliance on software and an assumption that more tech is always better. Tech can make things better, but only when qualified people are involved in all aspects of the project.

Update – my guess was correct says the NY Times:

Shadow was also handicapped by its own lack of coding know-how, according to people familiar with the company. Few of its employees had worked on major tech projects, and many of its engineers were relatively inexperienced.

Only 25% of precinct  chairs were able to successfully install the app. Colossal failure. The system relied, in part, on “security by obscurity”, which never works.

Update: “They” have quite a history with  failed software development. The Associated Press said it could not name a winner of the Iowa Democratic Party Caucuses.

Continue reading Software: Why hiring professional software engineers might have been a good idea #IowaCaucus