The competition to appear high status is pushing politics in an extreme direction
Just before the dark times began I re-read Bobos in Paradise, David Brooks’s entertaining, best-selling 2000 book about America’s then-new elite, and it was striking how the age described seems so vanished. And, in many ways, changed for the worse.
The most striking bit was where Brooks writes about a media class comprised of journalists “at national publications [who] can now count on six-figure salaries when they hit middle age”, and of liberal arts majors who “can wake up one day and find themselves suddenly members of the top-income bracket”.
He speculated that life was becoming so comfortable for Bobos that politics might become quite boring, the two main parties so close together in ideology people would only be arguing about technical details (in so many words). ...
It's complacent to assume that irredentist movements are a thing of the past
Do you know what ‘autochthonous’ means? If you’re an avid follower of the singer Dua Lipa, you probably do. That’s because she tweeted out a dictionary definition over the weekend — “indigenous rather than descended from migrants or colonists.”
(of an inhabitant of a place) indigenous rather than descended from migrants or colonists pic.twitter.com/OD9bNmLcZ4
— DUA LIPA (@DUALIPA) July 19, 2020
I like the idea of pop stars explaining big words to their fans. Perhaps Taylor Swift could define ‘sesquipedalian’ for us, while Justin Bieber takes a stab at ‘discombobulation’. If schools don’t reopen in September, then social media may be the new classroom. ...
The latest conspiracy theories have left rationality behind completely
The internet outdid itself this weekend with a brand-new conspiracy theory: Boris Johnson’s baby is a fake.
An official photo was released, showing Boris Johnson alongside Carrie Symonds and their newborn baby. On cue, the more barmy of those internet-dwellers who automatically suspect anything Boris-related of foul play took to Twitter to cancel Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson.
Or, more accurately perhaps, to unperson him, on the grounds of not being a real baby but a Photoshop edit. Or being real, but actually a rented toddler. Or a real baby, but much older than claimed, and possibly the child of one of Boris’ other lovers. Or perhaps being a fake baby and also a Russian asset. ...
The story of the neoliberal era in one chart...
The ‘elephant graph‘ is a contender for the most important economic chart of the age.
It’s the work of the economists Branko Milanovic and Christoph Lakner. It shows income growth between 1988 and 2008 for every percentile of the world population — from the poorest 1% on the left-hand side to the richest 1% on the right. Join the dots and the resulting curve looks like an elephant.
Among the lowest income percentiles, there is very little income growth, but then just a bit further up the scale, there’s a steep increase in the growth rate — thus forming the hind quarters of the elephant. The bulk of the world’s population, roughly from the 10th to the 60th percentile, enjoyed the highest and fairly similar rates of income growth — thus forming the elephants back. ...
Freddie Sayers speaks to Profs Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson
Yesterday we published a short interview with Professor Carl Heneghan about his extraordinary finding that the Public Health England daily death totals included anyone who has ever tested positive for Covid-19 (even if they recovered completely).
But we wanted to learn more about the current state of the pandemic and the direction it was headed. Joining Freddie Sayers was Prof Heneghan and his Centre for Evidence Based Medicine colleague Tom Jefferson who shared their thoughts in this wide-ranging discussion. Have a watch above, key quotes below…
- Tom Jefferson: “Aside from people who are exposed on the frontlines, there is no evidence that masks make any difference, but what’s even more extraordinary is the uncertainty: we don’t know if these things make any difference…. We should have done randomised control trials in February, March and April but not anymore because viral circulation is low and we will need huge number of enrolees to show whether there was any difference”.
- Carl Heneghan: “By all means people can wear masks but they can’t say it’s an evidence-based decision… there is a real separation between an evidence-based decision and the opaque term that ‘we are being led by the science’, which isn’t the evidence”.
On the life cycle of the pandemic:
- CH: “One of the keys of the infection is to look at who’s been infected, which shows a crucial difference when comparing the pandemic theory to seasonal theory. In a pandemic you’d expect to see young people disproportionately affected, but in the UK we’ve only had six child deaths, which is far less than we’d normally see in a pandemic. The high number of deaths with over-75s fits with the seasonal theory”.
On Covid seasonality: ...
The police should not have access to the most intimate corners of our lives
Imagine you’ve been violently attacked. When you report it to the police, they say they will only take the case to court if you agree to them searching your house from top to bottom — your diary, your address book, your underwear drawer — to check there is nothing that contradicts your version of events. Would that put you off reporting crimes in future? Don’t the police need a warrant to search a home?
Now think how much of your life is on your mobile phone, and how much of the lives of your family, friends, workmates. How happy would you be to let the police download all of that? Photographs, text messages, location records, content from apps you thought were encrypted, anything that might be used in court to undermine your credibility as a witness. ...
The Oxford epidemiologist has uncovered some worrying things about the way the data is recorded
Professor Carl Heneghan is Director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University, and has been paying close attention to the Covid-19 statistics. In a post yesterday evening he revealed an extraordinary detail: the Public Health England daily death totals announced to the media include anyone who has ever tested positive for Covid-19 — even if they recovered completely.
Earlier this week we completed a wide-ranging interview with Professor Heneghan and his CEBM colleague Tom Jefferson on the current state of the Covid-19 pandemic, which we’ll be publishing shortly.
But I caught up with Prof Heneghan this morning just to hear more about this latest development. Have a watch. ...
Sometimes, we just need to put our individuality aside
Why make everyone wear masks — even people who are the least likely to spread the disease? (Read Paul Embery’s case against compulsion, here).
Well, when it comes to R, every little bit helps — but, more importantly, the general rule creates a social norm. This makes it much harder for those who are most likely to infect others — “super-spreaders” — not to wear a mask. In other words, collective action has an impact over-and-above the sum of the individual actions.
Mask wearing is far from the only example. I’m old enough to remember when, in 1983, seatbelt wearing became compulsory for drivers in the UK. There were those who bitterly resented the new law — and, later, the requirement for passengers to buckle-up too. But there’s no doubt that compulsion worked — and not just because people feared being caught. It was the creation of a social norm and reinforcement of habit that did the trick. ...