Razib Khan corona-casting in the time of coronavirus

By Razib Khan 8 Comments

I recently talked about coronavirus with our old friend Kushal Mehra. I decided this is probably a time where I can post all the different coronavirus related podcasts I’ve done. I started on February 17th, on my podcast with Spencer Wells. You can see all the podcasts in rough order of date recorded…

It’s not live yet, but I’m going to have an episode on Two for Tea soon (it was recorded before the two below, so I put it here).

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8 Replies to “Razib Khan corona-casting in the time of coronavirus”

  1. Good podcast with Kushal, but I really wish it had been a bit more bidirectional; as in, you’d quizzed him as much about the Indian government’s handlings (and failings) of the lockdown as he quizzed you about American government’s and society’s failings. Perhaps you’ll do that when you have him over as your guest sometime?

    Somewhere in the beginning of the podcast, Kushal said something like “the Indian government’s managed this so well” and I had a relapse. Does he even know what’s happening on the ground? Not just the partly lackadaisical/partly brutal enforcement of the lockdown, but all the stuff you talked about people losing their livelihoods without any help from govt is manifest at orders of magnitude more in India. He also mentioned something about the Prime Minister holding press conferences (truth: Modi has held ZERO press conference not just since COVID-19 but since he took office as PM!); communication from state chiefs has not been very brilliant either.

    And then there’s something close to my heart, ’cause it affects my mom; the suspension of regular medical treatment all over the country in the expectation of future COVID patients (who may never materialize; I’m talking of places that have ZERO cases on April 21.) Do only COVID deaths matter? What about cancer patients? It’s OK for them to die? I know why you’d do this in New York or in Lombardy. But in the Indian boondocks?

    (Sorry, end of my rant.)

    1. I am sorry to hear that.

      just my 2 cents, that in India there is no better way to handle it. Perhaps there could be some tactical changes on how to go about it, but overall any Indian Govt would have done exactly the same. This point is illustrated more as state govts which are ruled by other parties have been clamoring for the lockdown even b4 the centre announed it, this time around. No one really wants to take the blame if things go sideways.

      On the economic hardship at the end of the day ,the states know the union will bail them out, and union knows that it necessarily does not have to pay its bills, but some future govt will. People dont see state as wealth/job creator or service provider but more of “minimum subsistence provider”. Which the Govt is trying to do by various BPL schemes and all. Over that its upto the person to fend for themsleves.

    2. This gets to the heart of what is bothering me about the lockdown.

      The politicians and policy makers making the decisions have no skin in the game. Their livelihoods are not impacted by this.

      We are past the point of being able to snuff out the virus globally. So we have two options.

      1. A prolonged lockdown while vaccines or therapeutics are produced, tested, and distributed.

      2. A phased reopening of the lowest risk populations.

      I think option 2 makes more sense. In some sense with 1 the side-effects of the lockdown maybe worse than the direct impact of the coronavirus.

      Neither choice is great, but these are the options countries must choose from.

    3. At the risk of sounding repetitive, there was no way to have a lockdown in India without strict enforcements & overreach from police. If they had just left it to a statement on paper, it would have never materialized on ground. And there are no win win solutions either. More like lose lose.

      The one place where Modi can be criticized rightfully is inadequate planning and anticipating what their orders could result on ground and the usual dramatization of announcements (8pm reveal of plan that starts in 4 hours)

      Surprisingly the opposition was mostly on same page on most issues including lockdown extension. YSR has some difference of opinion but that too has been taken in operation by creating red, green zones.

      Rest is usual politics where Modi lovers see no wrong whatsoever and Modi haters see no right however this unfolds.

    4. I believe Kushal said Modi is having 1-2 week conference calls with the Chief Ministers of each state – he didn’t say anything about press conferences.

      Rest is your personal experience and opinion and you’re entitled to it. Wish the best for the family; mine is also in a red zone.

    5. The communication from the Central Govts and State Govts have been exceptional. A press conference is just one of the ways to get out information. Missing the wood for the trees!! Only old timers used to newspapers are unable to digest that twitter and radio are equally powerful mediums to connect.

      Close to 48% of the GDP has been unlocked since April 20 (Agriculture, Food Processing, ESMA). The economy vs lives was always a binary game. If you think that people’s livelihoods have taken a hit, then it means that the lockdown was very successful. It also shows up in the low number of fatalities.

  2. Inadequate planning is being refered as if in India anyhting is really planned. The whole migrant saga , police /health officials being attacked etc , no one in India has enough foresight to really factor in.

    In some ways we r lucky that Modi gets some amount of trust from the populace. At least the middle classes are in thrall of him, and decided to stay put. Had it been some other guy we woud have seen pandemonuim on every shops , folks hoarding , breaking all social distancing rules and the lockdown mostly on paper. Unless army being called and curfew applied throughout the country.

  3. Appreciate all the comments in response to mine! I agree completely about there having been no ideal choices, but just have to disagree with the opinions that the only way out was the draconian policy applied by the government. I’m not a COVID-skeptic, but I’m unconvinced that we had a big enough emergency to justify the most extreme kind of policy (if I were a New Yorker, I’d have supported this, but I’m not). I’m not sure if any of you are doing a proper cost-benefit analysis to determine whether the gains outweigh the losses.

    If you watched the video in full, Razib talks about Americans justifiably getting angry about their livelihoods being destroyed by something that was brought into the country by the “passport holders”. Well, guess what; the same thing applies in India, but Kushal didn’t seem to be able to relate to it, and seemed to conclude that the Americans are doing everything wrong and the Indian govt is doing everything right. I just felt some cognitive dissonance watching that.

    (As for communication, to each their own. I guess my standards are different.)

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