Featured Post

The Coup Attempt Continues

Some eight days before Trump's inauguration, and in the midst of the Russia hysteria, I wrote I have never seen such a pile on as the ...

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Risky Business

All this ChiCom Virus insanity has me mulling over the idea of "risk" and its management.

There's a ton of stuff out there about "risk" and "risk management." I read a lot of it in my college econ classes and in the econ course I took at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI)--and, of course, every book about wars has at least an implied look at risk and the calculations made to deal with it. I have long had a fascination with the concept of "risk," and find interesting how humans in different endeavors try to manage risk, to balance it against gain or opportunity.

I will not get too philosophical or delve into complex models of "risk management." I have long expressed doubts in other postings about models that seek to explain a variety of human enterprises and predict behavior and outcomes. Let's face it, scientists can't even predict with any great accuracy the track of a hurricane, much less tell us about "global warming/cooling/change/ whatever." I am going to ramble a bit on some of my own experience with "risk management." Not very interesting, so you can stop reading right about now. Or maybe now. Or now.

One of the more unusual jobs I had in my Foreign Service career took place in Panama, 1997-2000. As we prepared to hand over the Canal and our military bases to the Panamanians in accord with the Carter-Torrijos Treaties, we ran into the issue of unexploded ordnance (UXO) on a few of the old firing ranges (some not very accurate leftoid articles about it: here, here, and here.) I got the job of leading the U.S. team negotiating with the Panamanians over the UXO issue. It was rough. The Panamanians proved extremely unreasonable and, at least, pretended not to understand the concept of "risk." I gave, even if I say so myself, some very good speeches and wrote some good papers on the topic. The point I sought to make to the Panamanians, and to the lefty commentators in the US, was that Panama was getting a great deal with minimal risk, a "risk" that could be easily managed. The risk of death from UXO was extremely low; the US military had done a terrific job cleaning up the old firing ranges. There were a very few, very isolated spots where it was not possible to certify the land as fit for human habitation. The military fenced those off, identified them with lots of signage, trained Panamanians in what to do with any UXO  they found, and often poured tons of dirt, gravel, and sand over the most "dangerous" areas. When, however, such a spot had been identified, the Panamanians almost always would announce that on that precise location they planned to build a school or a playground. One small and remote area, in particular, had some ten feet of sand poured on to it; we told the Panamanians that it was not possible to do anything more with that site; they immediately unveiled plans to place a school there, and to dig down eleven feet. I remember telling them in one raucous meeting, "Don't do that! You'll blow yourself up!" I was the pride of the diplomatic corps, yes, indeed.

In the end, nothing happened. We did not pay the billions the Panamanians wanted in "compensation" for the UXO; they took the billions worth of property and technology, instead, and, of course, nobody built playgrounds or schools on top of unexploded 60mm rounds. Not even the goofy Clinton administration would give the Panamanians even more than we were already giving. Risk identified. Risk handled.

In subsequent years, as DCM and Charge of a couple of embassies during the height of the war on terror, I had responsibility for thousands of people. We would get intel all the time telling us that the Embassy and Americans were being targeted. What to do? Should we shut down every time we got these reports? Shelter in place? Run screaming into the night and for the airport? No. We took sensible precautions and carried on with our mission. Combat veterans know about this much better than I: in combat, soldiers have to make rational decisions about risk in the midst of an irrational environment. They have to weigh the mission against the danger.

In recent decades, Western society has become increasingly risk averse. The legal codes of our societies are packed with regulations governing everything from seat belts and bike helmets to building codes and the running of nuclear plants. Some of that, of course, makes sense, some proves excessive. Overregulation, for example, appears hindering the search for a "cure" or a vaccine for the current ChiCom virus epidemic.

That brings us to perhaps the greatest example of grotesque "risk" aversion: the current economic shut-down in response to the ChiCom virus. We have closed down the greatest engine of prosperity in the history of the world in order to "fight" a virus that, while highly contagious, is not particularly deadly to the general population. This flight from "risk" is proving catastrophic: we will suffer the effects of this strategy for a long, long time. We have a political-technocratic class that will oppose ending the shut-down no matter when. They will bombard us with tales of this or that person who fell ill from the ChiCom virus after returning to work. The "experts" will lecture us on "science," and regale us with their increasingly discredited "models." They will tell us that we risk blood for money, profit over people. Yeah, yeah.

Well, as a member of one of the most "at risk" groups, i.e., old fart with underlying medical conditions, let me tell you something about creating massive poverty by closing the economy, "NOT IN MY NAME!" There you have it, a lefty slogan repurposed.

Let's get back to work. We can handle the "risk."


23 comments:

  1. Dip, please don't underestimate this virus. I had my doubts for a couple of months but in my search for greater detail than the MSM was providing, I found this video. May I suggest you cut & paste this into your browser and take the 35 minutes needed to watch it.

    It's an education.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4J0d59dd-qM&feature=share

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Someone else posted this on FB and I found it unhelpful. He quotes a bunch of stats, none of which really have a context.
      Then he goes on to describe when covid-19 turns deadly, but you can do this for just about ANY fatal condition because dying of something is generally UNPLEASANT, duh.

      Delete
    2. "It's an education."
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4J0d59dd-qM&feature=share

      Affirm, Stephen!
      Dr.Vuong is an effective and accurate, medical/ physiological/ immunological/ lecturer on the SARs -Novel COVID19 subject. Thanks for sharing.

      Here's a 1st hand account of infection/treatment video that a microbiologist/virologist shared with me.
      Subject:
      "Nice Video by an intelligent elderly couple recovering from COVID19 after catching it on a cruise." He dodged a bullet...

      On Watch~~~
      https://youtu.be/H2E1t3yMXgE

      Delete
  2. Bravo, Senor Dip!

    It is interesting the risks we are all prepared to take -- driving a car, climbing a ladder, getting onto an airplane. But 24/7 foolishness from the media can distort our perception of risk. Let's leave it for another time to explore whether the media is driven by Hatred of the President or Love of Chinese Money … or maybe both.

    It may be that one of the reasons our manipulators have been able to use "safety" as a tool to enslave us is the decline in religion. Organized religions (all kinds) have a lot of sins to answer for, but they mostly did remind people that life is transient, and we all die. That helped give people a more realistic sense of perspective.

    My fear is that 5 years in the future, looking back, people will think that the relative handful who died in 2020 with C-19 in their systems were the lucky ones. They will have been spared the chaos, deprivation, and violence stemming from the Political Class's foolish decision to shut down the economy for everyone instead of properly focusing on protecting the small At Risk population.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This virus has most folks cooperating with the lockdown because it unfamiliar. We all deal with the prospect that the seasonal flu can kill us. There are vaccines, but many choose not to get them, because we have all had the flu, and it sucks, but for the most part you survive. This is different in the transmission rate is very high, and that it is a respiratory illness without a proven therapy.
    Something that I have begun to take notice of, is that in states where there is little in the way of mass transit have much lower inflection rates. Which explains why NYC is 100K infections, and LA is a few thousand. I think this is going to become apparent and present something of a way forward for those who live and work outside of metropolitan areas and do not rely on mass transit.
    This is turning out to be the anti-progressive plague. Mass transit spreads it. The reusable bag requirements, and plastic straw bans have been rescinded. Allowing China to do all that dirty manufacturing that they didn’t want here, but still wanted cheap stuff. Yeah, that is going to change. The EU is going to fall apart, or at the very least Italy and Spain will exit. Having borders is shown to matter. People and even prior anti-gun people are buying up firearms like crazy. What is going to happen next time the gun control comes up?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Posit that millions in the US die of this disease. It will be the 'quick, dictatorial actions of our elites' that saved us from having tens of millions die, just like when the climate *continues* in natural variance twenty years from now it will be 'the bold actions taken' and 'speaking truth to power' that will have saved us from doom.
      There have been no actions, but that's not going to matter.
      It's basically just like the many old pseudo-science scandals, only the newfound power of modern media allows the perpetrators to get away with it.

      I'll continue to tell the truth, yet nobody outside my family line will listen, and they may stop as well.

      - reader #1482

      Delete
  4. You are right again, DiploMad. As a nation, we have lost our ability to manage risk. The precautionary principle uber alles.

    ReplyDelete
  5. If nothing else, I think this will blow the floor out from under the "experts" in the medical community. Who may have been exposed to a course on statistics, but clearly don't comprehend how to do multi-variable analysis...or refine a math model.

    We SHOULD be getting models updated every two to four days, with more accurate matches to the actual data each run. That's what we would be doing in the Aerospace Engineering world. But then, in Flight Test you either get it right, or get dead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, yes, yes!!! CDC should have a web site that says this is our model. This is how we adjusted it based on yesterday's data. Our new projection is that deaths peak X days from now at Y deaths. previous projections at the link..And here are several university models that we think are done well.

      Error bars should get smaller over time. People should be back-calculating the R0 (and other) values as a way of improving the model. We should (if science is being done) end up with separate models for urban and rural areas, that take into account different human behaviors or lockdowns. It can be done, it's not beyond the scope of statistical modeling, and it is extremely useful as a guide to future policy.

      I want the economy back! I'm doing fine, but I want all these restaurants and other small businesses to survive the lockdown.

      Delete
  6. Service above and beyond...
    Hand Salute Mr. Dip! My hope/
    opinion is,that the CNC has
    allowed the rank n'file voters
    the opportunity to see and
    experience once again, the
    DEATH of America,that the
    Progressives have arranged,
    for US dedicated deplorables!
    We know the drill-Time now to:

    ~~~Make America Great Again~~~

    On Watch~~~
    "Let's Roll"

    ReplyDelete
  7. We must destroy the country in order to save it.....

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have been shocked by the lack of skill in building a model that remotely comes close to predicting the trajectory of this disease. Did they buy the same one as the Boiling Sea cult whose dire predictions of the end times are incorrect with every single attempt? However, with the BS cult their models are always far enough in the future that people forget about their Armageddon scenarios and the BSers are free to foist another one on us. Not so here, where people watch this unfold in real time. We need to hold them accountable for their crap and insist this economy begin to open up again.

    This was the weekend it would hit the fan, as opposed to two weeks ago when we were going to be Italy. NYC is run by incompetents as is NY state. Quarantine them off from the rest of the country and let's get back to work. Enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does not surprise me in the least. Models are only as accurate as the data going in and the algorithm that manipulates it and there are far too many unknowns and too much variability in this situation to produce a credible model. What surprises me is that otherwise rational people actually place faith in models when it is clear that the underlying situation is poorly understood. They are pretty much guaranteed to be wrong and usually by a pretty large margin.

      Delete
  9. paul vincent zecchinoApril 5, 2020 at 8:30 PM

    Dip -

    Spot on, as ever. They'll gladly bring about poverty, pestilence, civil collapse and genocide in their 'war' against this cold virus.

    We're in Jim Jones territory now. Expect anything.

    Thank you for stating the truth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It takes a true progressive to turn something good into something bad. Jim Jones was the penultimate progressive and his results speak for themselves. Today's heroes of the left almost uniformly lionized, embraced, and followed Jones. Jerry Brown, Moscone, Milk, Brown, everybody was infatuated with Jones.... until 'the incident', then everybody walked away as though they'd never known the guy.


      - reader #1482

      Delete
    2. paul vincent zecchinoApril 5, 2020 at 10:27 PM

      Isn't that the truth! Thanks for that. Yeah, criminal and communist Jones was the darling of all the big libs. They couldn't get enough of him.

      Reports say even MOB daughter, Pelosi, was a big admirer as was Mr. Peanuts.

      Then, after his little tropical soiree, they were gone like the morning mist.

      Delete
  10. I thought when he started down the path of talking about risk management he was going to talk about how badly we screwed the pooch in preparation for this event. The two factors to consider in managing a risk are how serious are the ramifications if the risk becomes reality and how likely is that the risk will become a reality. People have known that this sort of an event has a fairly significant chance of occurring and we also know that the consequences could be extreme. And what did our garbage elite do? Whistle past the graveyard, hoping it wouldn't happen on their watch I guess. If this does not cause the American people to wake up and smell the coffee then I despair for the future of the Republic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The probability, as it currently stands, is < 1% per annum.

      The confidence interval on that is *huge* because there are only 1-2 data points. The first data point is the spanish flu. The second data point is, possibly, covid-19.

      We are supposed to elect 'leaders' not because we want them to handle the known issues/threats, but because we want them to handle the as-yet-unknown or poorly-known threats. There you're talking about the 'kind of person' who will be prepare, but also about the kind of person who will make tough choices early on.... like accepting being called a racist for implementing a travel ban that would be clearly understood as 'smart, not racist' much later.

      That was a very good call, and it was made because the people in charge *were* trying to safeguard the people who elected them. Any democrat would've kept the borders open on account of "we're in it with our global brothers and sisters, regardless of whether we were elected to safeguard them... because every life is just as important to me in my official capacity as the life of a US citizen"

      It's all very pretty when actual lives and livelihoods aren't on the line.

      - reader #1482

      Delete
    2. Refilling the nation's reserve of N95 masks in the Obama years would have been a lot cheaper than shutting down the economy now. I wonder of our media 'betters' would consider asking Obama or his vice president (who was that again?) why they never bothered to replenish supplies used during the big flu that hit when they were in charge.

      Delete
  11. William: "we also know that the consequences could be extreme."

    Do we really? On the famous Diamond Princess where At Risk people were given a heavy exposure to this virus, the observed survival rate has been .. 99.8%.

    If we think that the loss of 0.2% of the population is extreme, just wait until the next Carrington Event occurs, and electrical systems over at least half the Earth burn out. Last one was in 1859, before we all came to depend on electricity for everything from milking the cows to running the ventilators.

    What is extreme about Covid-19 is the inappropriate governmental over-reaction -- and that is causing big problems! And let's not forget -- our leaders are doing nothing, zip, nada to prepare for the inevitable next Carrington event.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The nice thing about the Diamond Princess was that *everybody* was tested. 700(ish) were infected, but everybody was tested.
      That bad thing about the Diamond Princess is that I'm pretty sure those infected aren't being carefully tracked. There are, according to some places, 100(ish) unresolved cases. Those are probably mostly 'lost track, assume they're not dead', but it shows very poor tracking of a very valuable set of test subjects.
      So far, 1.5% case fatality rate for that cohort. It might go up, but definitely won't go down (at least not unless the CPC decides they need the media to rewrite those statistics, which our media gladly will do... never found a foreign government those idiots didn't want to worship.)

      Roughly 20-25% of the Diamond Princess got infected, and 1.5% of those infected have died. I'm going to try to stay in the 75-80% group... at least where reasonably possible.

      - reader #1482

      Delete
  12. Yup.. models are being 'revised downwards'. No doubt, collective dictatorial action will be credited with saving us from doom, as 'proved' by models. Next step is: "Obviously we have to do the same thing for global warming. You either agree or you are a denier!"
    Prepare for this to be a many-year disaster.

    - reader #1482

    ReplyDelete
  13. "What surprises me is that otherwise rational people actually place faith in models when it is clear that the underlying situation is poorly understood."

    People know that figures don't lie. Computers are really good at producing massive amounts of figures.

    Most people forget that, while figures don't lie, liars figure. Fools, the ignorant, the mistaken, and the misguided also figure.

    iowaan

    ReplyDelete