69 minutes | Sep 8th 2020

Episode 269 - Handcuffed in her pyjamas

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In this episode we discuss the woman handcuffed in her pyjamas, the Victorian roadmap, the trade off between health and the economy and the inability of modern Labor to defend superannuation.Following up from last weekRobin Bristow and the Black mass.He is being forced by the venue to supply security guards.I wonder if the IPA will advocate for him? From the IPA website:La Trobe University is encouraging censorious behaviour by charging special security fees for an event with commentator Bettina Arndt hosted by the campus Liberal club.Security fees create a heckler’s veto: the charge empowers the people who disagree to organise the biggest, most aggressive and therefore costliest protest they can muster. The Liberal club could ultimately be forced to cancel the event if security fees become too high. In the end, the censors win, free speech loses.The charging of security fees to the Liberal club is a form of victim blaming. The disturbance is not expected to come from within event, it could only come from outside. It makes no sense to punish Liberal students for the danger imposed by others.Also Handcuffed in her pyjamasFrom CrikeyBernard Keane… the #IstandwithDan crowd on social media has been strangely silent over the absurd, and scary, arrest of Ballarat mother Zoe Buhler over a Facebook post she made proposing a protest against Victoria’s lockdown.Buhler’s house was raided and searched by Victoria Police, and she was handcuffed until officers were satisfied the location was “secure”, presumably worried she might deploy a like button against them.Police took her computer equipment and have banned her from using social media.The Fist: She should’ve been given a notice to appear.The Victorian RoadmapBy Joshua Gans for the Conversation writing in The GuardianI totally support the goal of eliminating the coronavirus from Victoria and at the same time hopefully eliminating it from all of Australia.I’ve written a book making the case this is the best way to get Australia back to normal given the uncertainty of the timeline for a vaccine and the difficulty of continually managing a pandemic.But an examination of the modelling the Victorian government has used to justify an extension of Melbourne’s stage four lockdown for a further two weeks suggests its deficiencies might have driven the results.A different, more traditional, model would have suggested a more granulated location-based (eg local authority or postcode group) easing of restrictions, achieving the same result with fewer economic and social costs.… The trigger for step 2 is fewer than 50 new daily cases on average over two weeks, while the trigger for step 3 is only five new daily cases over two weeks. For step 4, the trigger is fewer than five mystery cases over two weeks, and for the end of restrictions no new cases for two weeks.The model used by the Victorian government has been published in the Medical Journal of Australia. It is peer-reviewed. But peer review only tells us that the model is accurate for what it claims to do, not whether or not it is the right model for the decisions being made.The model is an “agent-based” epidemiological model.That means that unlike the standard “SIR” model which uses as inputs the number of Susceptible, Infected, and Recovered individuals and explicitly lists equations to describe behaviour and information flows, this one is a computer simulation based on the interaction of agents.It runs the simulation over and over again as agents randomly run into each other, and observes how the pandemic progresses. That can be a useful approach, but it is heavily dependent upon a critical assumption: that agents spread the virus by interacting with neighbours, but that (in order to make those interactions computable) the geographical distribution of those agents is pretty smooth.This means such models don’t divide the population into groups, with the result that, if there is a little bit of the virus somewhere, they predict it will eventually end up everywhere. They invite the conclusion that the best way to stop the virus ending up everywhere is to eliminate the cause of transmission, which is people movement.Not surprisingly, that is what Victoria has decided to do.It used a model that is well-calibrated but is based on people moving around, and then decided to stop people moving around because, not surprisingly, in the model that is about the only thing that works.Is it the right model?Recall that the premise of the agent-based model is that people interact with neighbours and are linked in a fairly smooth, albeit probabilistic, manner. Is this the case for the spread of the coronavirus?Here is a map of the pattern of outbreaks across greater Melbourne where the strongest lockdowns are in place.  Photograph: Victoria Department of Health and Human ServicesThis is the pattern right now, but I have been watching all along and it has been the same throughout.The pattern suggests that people interact more intensively within their own local areas than in ways that create the same probability of transmission city-wide.It also suggests that if you are going to have a stringent lockdown and need resources to make that work, there are places where it is more important to put resources than others.… the government could make reopening either postcode-based or local government area based. That way the government can monitor whether the low-prevalence areas it reopens first have outbreaks and use that to inform the pace of reopening.Google and Facebook Vs MurdochFrom CrikeyNews Corp charges that when Google (mostly) and Facebook use its headlines and automatically generated “snippets” of News Corp stories on their sites, they are stealing content, and should be made to pay for it via a licence fee that will “reflect the financial benefit digital platforms derive from using snippets”.It also complains that longer “snippets” deter people from clicking through the attached link to the original story because they get all they need from what’s displayed.Except the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) digital platforms inquiry found that News Corp’s claims don’t stack up.Headlines and snippets aren’t theft of content: “generally, digital platforms’ use of article headlines is unlikely to infringe copyright protections in Australia,” the ACCC noted. “Digital platforms reproducing a snippet of a copyright-protected news article does not infringe copyright protections if the snippet does not reproduce a substantial part of the article.”And the ACCC found that the tech companies, media organisations and consumers all benefit from the use of snippets. Specifically, “media businesses benefit because a snippet provides context and an indication to the user of the value of that content, increasing the likelihood of consumers clicking through”.Real-world evidence backed this up. “As a result of a German copyright law requiring Google to pay fees to publish snippets from news media websites, Google stopped showing snippets from [media company Axel Springer’s] news articles. Axel Springer noted that the lack of snippets led to a nearly 40% decline in referral traffic from Google Search and an almost 80% decline in referral traffic from the Google News user interface”.The ACCC also “does not agree that longer snippet lengths necessarily have a negative effect on referral traffic, with users remaining on an aggregator or search platform rather than clicking through to a news media business’s website”. As a result, it did not recommend that a mandatory licence fee be imposed.Where it did agree with media companies is that they have little bargaining power with Google et al when it comes to the length and composition of snippets. They can block Google from automatically generating snippets, but beyond being able to “opt out”, they have no way of managing them, or maximising click-through.The ACCC thus proposed the industry-led development of a code of conduct to be agreed between media and tech companies to address this “imbalance of power” and enable media companies to get access to data and negotiate more effectively with the likes of Google.Such a code of conduct might also cover how revenue is shared “where the digital platform obtains value, directly or indirectly, from content produced by news media”.How much value do digital platforms obtain from news content? Google doesn’t show any ads on its news feed, and “does not generally sell advertising opportunities next to search queries that are considered by Google as having a ‘news intent’”. In other countries where it has been ordered to pay fees, it has simply stopped carrying snippets if it can’t do so for free. In Spain, it shut down Google News.Interestingly, the result in Spain — and one echoed elsewhere — was that smaller media sites lost a large volume of traffic while major media sites suffered relatively little loss. It would be to News Corp’s considerable advantage if that same result eventuated in Australia, with smaller competitors in an already marginal economic environment suffering a major loss in traffic.None of these facts stopped Frydenberg and Fletcher, who have demanded the ACCC impose a mandatory code of conduct on the tech companies, backed by legislation, that would “get payment for original journalistic content”.The word “content” was used repeatedly. Fletcher referred to “businesses acquiring content from another without the opportunity for a fair discussion about what they pay for it”.“The ACCC”, Frydenberg said, “is going to be looking at the method by which the payment for content would occur.”The tech companies of course are not using any “content” beyond the headline and metadata-generated snippets that are not considered content under copyright law. And in defiance of the evidence from the ACCC, Frydenberg reiterated News Corp’s claims that it “is very lucrative for the tech titans to use the original content on their website”, when they do no such thing.No one, and certainly no one in the mainstream media, called out the bizarre situation of the Treasurer publicly reiterating claims by a foreign multinational that one of the country’s key economic regulators — one in his own portfolio, no less — has publicly and at length discredited.Nor did anyone note that one possibility as a result of Frydenberg’s action is that News Corp’s smaller, locally owned competitors suffer a massive hit on top of what the government has created with its lockdown restrictions.Liberal politicians eager to hand wins to the foreign-owned News Corp are nothing new. Perhaps Frydenberg thinks that in aligning himself with News Corp, its editors and executives will promote him as a putative successor to Scott Morrison.In which case, Frydenberg might do well to heed the fate of Malcolm Turnbull. Turnbull as prime minister amended the media ownership laws to help News Corp, and slashed funding to its enemy the ABC. And all he got from the Murdochs was an extended effort to overthrow him.No sign of a health-economy trade-off, quite the oppositeFrom Our World in DataWhich countries have protected both health and the economy in the pandemic?by Joe HasellSeptember 01, 2020Responses to the pandemic have often been framed in terms of striking a balance between protecting people’s health and protecting the economy. There is an assumption that countries face a trade-off between these two objectives. But is this assumption true?A preliminary way of answering this question is to look at how the health and economic impacts of the pandemic compare in different countries so far. Have countries with lower death rates seen larger downturns?Comparing the COVID-19 death rate with the latest GDP data, we in fact see the opposite: countries that have managed to protect their population’s health in the pandemic have generally also protected their economy too.This chart shows the scale of the recent economic decline across 38 countries for which the latest GDP data is available.1 It plots the percentage fall in GDP seen in the second quarter (April – June) of 2020 as compared to the same period last year, adjusted for inflation. We see that in some countries the economic downturn has indeed been extremely severe: in Spain, the UK and Tunisia, the output of the economy in the second quarter was more than 20% smaller than in the same period last year. This is 4 to 5 times larger than any other quarterly fall on record for these countries.2 And in Peru the year on year fall was even larger, at 30%. In other countries, however, the economic impact has been much more modest. In Taiwan, GDP in the second quarter of 2020 was less than 1% lower than in the same period in 2019. Finland, Lithuania and South Korea all saw falls in their GDP of around 5% or less.  No sign of a health-economy trade-off, quite the oppositeHave the countries experiencing the largest economic decline performed better in protecting the nation’s health, as we would expect if there was a trade-off?The chart here shows the same GDP data along the horizontal axis. Along the vertical axis is the cumulative number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths per million people.Contrary to the idea of a trade-off, we see that countries which suffered the most severe economic downturns – like Peru, Spain and the UK – are generally among the countries with the highest COVID-19 death rate.And the reverse is also true: countries where the economic impact has been modest – like Taiwan, South Korea, and Lithuania – have also managed to keep the death rate low.Notice too that countries with similar falls in GDP have witnessed very different death rates. For instance, compare the US and Sweden with Denmark and Poland. All four countries saw economic contractions of around 8 to 9 percent, but the death rates are markedly different: the US and Sweden have recorded 5 to 10 times more deaths per million.Clearly, many factors have affected the COVID-19 death rate and the shock to the economy beyond the policy decisions made by each government about how to control the spread of the virus. And the full impacts of the pandemic are yet to be seen. But among countries with available GDP data, we do not see any evidence of a trade-off between protecting people’s health and protecting the economy. Rather the relationship we see between the health and economic impacts of the pandemic goes in the opposite direction. As well as saving lives, countries controlling the outbreak effectively may have adopted the best economic strategy too. Speaking of the Economy – The Share Market is CrazyFrom The AustralianRecently on Wall Street, two key companies, Tesla and Apple, split their shares. Apple surprised with a four-for-one split that was the company’s fifth since going public in 1980. Apple shares immediately added 3.4 per cent. Electric car manufacturer Tesla announced a five-for-one stock split in August. The split converted one $US2300 share price into five smaller shares, ostensibly to make buying the shares “more accessible” . The shares surged 12 per cent. In fact in the past 21 days, Tesla’s share price is up by about 50 per cent and the only announcement of any note during that three-week period was the stock split. With Tesla shares up 577 per cent since the March lows, and Apple up 140 per cent, it is important to understand that splitting shares has absolutely no impact on the value of the business. A split merely takes a slice of pizza and slices it again. The size of the pizza remains exactly the same. Nevertheless, both Tesla and Apple are now trading at record highs. The other crazy observation is that Apple’s market cap is now on par with the market cap of the entire US small cap index, the Russell 2000. Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Google represent 25 per cent of the market value of the entire S&P. Fist: That chart shows why Trump is considered a great economic manager but look at Obama https://yhoo.it/3i4t2v9… It seems the local market is not immune to the optimism surrounding loss-making companies either: 63 companies in the All Ordinaries index gained 20 per cent or more this reporting season. But what Josh Clark from...
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