29 April 2021

In defence of government

Figure: "Thank you" in sign language. Source: https://www.babysignlanguage.com/dictionary/thank-you/

Start with a particle so small that 100 million of them fit on the head of a pin. Each of these particles can replicate inside the human body, disable you, kill you. Each of them can mutate and become nastier. A lot nastier. 

Add to this an array of professional politicians, administrative bureaucrats, health officers, statisticians, ecological modellers, epidemiologists, vaccination experts, drug regulators, welfare economists, financial experts, experts on trade agreements, on constitutional law, on law enforcement, ... This is your government. All imperfect people, all with imperfect information.

Add their constituents -- children, students, senior citizens, citizens informed, half-informed, misinformed, disinformed, people who fell ill, people who lost family or friends, ... Throw in different interest groups -- ethnic communities, congregations, small business associations, the nurses' union, the teachers' union, First Nations, doctors' associations, ... 

Add actors from areas that are suffering economically -- face-to-face retail, restaurants, the travel industry, tourism, oil and gas, sports, concerts, theatres, ... Add actors from areas that are benefitting -- pharma big and small, e-commerce, streaming services, food delivery, hot-tub installers, ... Be sure to add some actors who are uncertain where they stand -- banks who suddenly see no need for expensive downtown office towers, credit card companies who see an explosion in credit card usage, universities who can operate at lower cost using blended course contents delivery, ... 

Don't forget to add a few anarchists and archconseratives who share in their delusion that the best government is no government, some anti-vaxxers who think that the government is out to get them, some loud pundits trying to make a name for themselves, and a few people who are simply nasty for no particular reason.

Now, consider the demands on the government to fulfil the varied goals of all the different stakeholders. Consider that government actions are always limited. Consider that outcomes are always uncertain. Consider that indicators are often ambiguous. Consider that data are always incomplete and often inconsistent. Consider that no government action occurs in isolation.

Hey presto! The CoViD crisis.

I don't know where people like Dr. Henry and Mr. Horgan find the strength to get out of bed in the morning. But I for one thank them that they do.

(After I had finished my article, my wife and I had a discussion over dinner what it is that you can demand from your government. That they be honest with us and that they give it their best effort towards the public good, not less, not more. In Canada, we sometimes forget how lucky we have been. Think anything Trump, think Brazil, Russia, India, and China, think W.M.D.s in Iraq, think Iran-Contra, think Chernobyl, ...)


08 April 2021

Get your vaccine, for crying out loud.

It is baffling, the discrepancy between how ill-informed people are about vaccines in general and how everybody has become an instant expert on CoViD vaccines and risk.

I dare to say that few people would know who manufactured their last tetanus shot, what the brake failure rate of their car model is, or how many toxins, and how much of each, are contained in their beauty care products.

But with CoViD ...

Remember 2003 when everybody after reading Brown's The Da Vinci Code became an instant expert on Christian mythology. (It is a mystery novel, you know that?)

The following article is written for 12-year-old geeks. It is useful if you have the courage to admit that you know nothing about vaccines.


#getyourCoViDacttogether, #stopyourfriendfrombeingCoViDstupid


01 April 2021

Letter to the young people of British Columbia

On Tuesday I sat down for an hour to crunch the CoViD case data, specifically to find out which age classes contribute to the CoViD infections in British Columbia above their fair share. When I was done, I sent the graph you see below to my wife with the words:

"Dare I suggest that young people just shut the fuck up and do as they are told."

My judgement did not sit well with me. There is something sinister about blaming a group -- think race, national origin, colour, age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, et cetera. It goes against my sense of peace, and justice, and human dignity. We all act as individuals, and none of us acts in a vacuum.

Moreover, accusing you of being careless about CoViD goes against my personal experiences. I rarely see any of you blatantly violating the three W-s (Wear a mask, Watch your distance, Wash your hands), and we all forget some of the things some of the time. If anything, you seem to be more careful than I am, and I am careful.

Apart from that, I would not blame you for being uncooperative: We have left you with a planet in ruins, an education system that is joke, and an economy that is a war zone.


But the data speak for themselves. Your age classes have contributed to the CoViD infections in British Columbia above your fair share for a long time now. And while I believe that many of you are abiding by the rules, many of you are not.

(In crime a few very bad eggs can commit the majority of violations. In CoViD infection this is not the case. There is the possibility that you are more susceptible, but I have not seen evidence for that.)

What I think is going on is that you are doing something stupid when I do not see you. And it is up to you to figure out what that something stupid is and stop doing it.

I know, I know, infectious disease prevention is utterly unheroic, because the lives you protect, the economic losses you avert, the time you save us all to return to normality cannot be measured easily. Prevention seems nothing compared to the lifesaving actions of our frontline personnel. But prevention is all we can do. So, get your CoViD act together.


But you may argue that your sacrifices will be in vain, because your friend, classmate, cousin, co-worker, et cetera, continues to be CoViD stupid. So, stop your friend from being CoViD stupid. This is not rocket science. Find a way.

Let us bring CoViD behind us as quickly as possible, and then I hope you will fight us again on the real issues we old people have ruined for you.

Michael Baumann

#getyourCoViDacttogether, #stopyourfriendfrombeingCoViDstupid