Friday, April 03, 2020

The shutdown is excessive

In Italy, all those who die in hospitals with Coronavirus will be included in the death numbers. In the article, Professor Walter Ricciardi, Scientific Adviser to Italy’s Minister of Health, reports, “On re-evaluation by the National Institute of Health, only 12 per cent of death certificates have shown a direct causality from coronavirus, while 88 per cent of patients who have died have at least one pre-morbidity—many had two or three.”

Recording the numbers of those who die with Coronavirus will inflate the CFR as opposed to those that died from Coronavirus, which will reduce the CFR.

And, indeed, in an Italian study of those who died, only three patients (0.8 per cent) had no pre-existing health condition, 99 percent had at least one preexisting condition, half had three, and the average of all was 79.6 years. Those figures give some indication of the difference between dying withcoronavirus and dying of coronavirus. That’s a somewhat technical difference to the deceased and his family, but it’s a significant difference to any judgment of how big a threat the virus poses to our peoples. Ignoring it inflates the total of deaths owing to the virus; correcting it must mean reducing the raw data of Italian CFRs to something nearer the German ones. As the CEBD authors point out, moreover, the various estimates of case fatalities all decline substantially from the start of an epidemic to its final tally. Swine-flu estimates fell fivefold over that period.

Reports in the past few days, moreover, suggest that over the weekend the Italian curve “peaked” and should now gradually decline until it dissipates entirely. That may take some time, and I leave it to the epidemiologists and statisticians to guess where both will end up. At this “peak point,” however, the Italian figures are 69,176 infected and 6,820 deaths, while Germany at an earlier point on the curve is looking at 31,260 infected and 156 deaths. These two countries point to quite different estimates of final fatalities.

Let’s look at a slightly more average case. The U.K. has 8,164 infections and 423 deaths. It has far fewer infection cases than Germany does and three times the number of deaths. And in the report of the Imperial College scientists—the one that underpins the policy of the British government—their estimate is that the coronavirus could lead to the deaths of between 20,000 and 500,000 people, depending on whether nothing is done or a quite draconian “lockdown” is imposed. And Boris Johnson has just done the latter. (Their estimate for the U.S. is between 500,000 and 2,200,000 deaths.)

Their report, though not without its technicalities, is closely argued and readable. My advice is to read it here. I shall not attempt to paraphrase it, since Peter Smith, a former colleague at Quadrant and a fine economist, has done a first-class job of both summarizing and critically analyzing it. But I will make a few points that strike me as relevant and important:

The IC report itself is a balanced and flexible document. Though its authors chose a policy of “suppression” over “mitigation,” that was a matter of emphasis rather than of a strict division. Most of the practical policies to tackle the pandemic—case isolation, voluntary home quarantine, social distancing of the elderly, social distancing of the entire population, closure of schools and universities—are proposed under both headings but in different combinations, timescales, and so on.

The report itself was not a departure from previous government policy—the “U-turn” much touted in the media—but the evolution of policy that was a response in real time to the dimensions of the threat posed by the virus. What led the scientists to propose a move from mitigation to suppression was data from Italy showing numbers of infected people so high that the hospitals were overwhelmed.

Without a policy of suppression—i.e., immediately halting the spread of the virus by quarantining the population—the National Health Service would be overwhelmed, as in Italy. But the virus would remain in the population and resume spreading when quarantine was eased. There would be a second upsurge of infections and deaths in the fall, as has happened in earlier epidemics and may now be happening in China. And so a second lockdown. Or third.

At the same time, a “lockdown,” partial or total, under suppression would gravely damage the economy, perhaps reducing the gross domestic product by a fifth to a third and creating mass unemployment. It would also halt the gradual expansion of “herd immunity,” which under mitigation would have meant that most people would have suffered the mild symptoms of a weakening virus, thereby becoming immune, while the elderly and at-risk groups were protected by quarantine measures reserved for them until the virus had been more or less eradicated.

Great depression or the breakdown of the nation’s health service? It’s not an easy choice, and to be fair to the scientists, they recognized this in the report, acknowledging both that there were crucial social and economic aspects of the crisis and that they could advise only on its medical aspects.
Once the report was released, however, all restraints of practicality were released too. A mass public pandemic of panic took over. The merits of suppression versus mitigation seem to me to lie narrowly on the mitigation side of the argument. But its great failing is that allowing a virus to spread, albeit to sections of the population resistant to it (while protecting the vulnerable), is a very hard sell. That failing was magnified by media that scented government incompetence in the mythical U-turn (a reversal denied by the IC chairman) and set off to prove it. And that press campaign was made as toxic as the coronavirus by the fact that large numbers of pundits, including some conservatives, are in the grip of a wildly irrational “Boris Derangement Syndrome” that leads them to believe the most exaggerated (albeit contradictory) charges against him—“He’s a fascist who wants to control everyone.” / “He’s a libertarian who won’t impose the necessary controls on people.” (Much the same syndrome can be seen in the United States; indeed, some say it was invented there.)

One result is that public opinion has demanded—and governments have yielded to—the imposition of lockdowns that go much farther than the IC report proposed. The report was, for instance, ambivalent-leaning-to-hostile with respect to school closures. They would not reduce transmission of the virus between children, since they would still be mixing outside; if they had been infected, they might transmit the virus to vulnerable grandparents given the task of looking after them by harassed parents; and those parents working in the health sector and emergency sectors, now greatly needed to deal with higher patient loads, would be kept at home. But governments all over Europe—except, to its credit, the Dutch government—have now closed schools in response to public pressure, even though the ministers in them will tell you privately they think this is a bad idea with likely bad consequences. Boris Johnson’s Tory government has gone to extreme lengths in this regard, literally imprisoning people in their homes, with only an hour or so for exercise or shopping every day.

It offers only a little solace that Boris is doing this reluctantly. It is still leading to the deliberate economic ruin of the country. President Trump sees the same thing and so proposes ending or avoiding a shutdown, but without a plausible way of dealing with the threat of the coronavirus in the longer term. There is a basic flaw to this approach. As Peter Smith writes: “The policies being adopted by governments are not tenable. They will bring about unquantifiable and crippling economic and social (and quite possibly serious health) consequences. Make no mistake, governments will be forced to reverse course . . . and adopt a different strategy.”

What he has in mind is a weaponized version of the mitigation strategy.

Recall, this strategy consists of socially distancing only those who fit in the category of being particularly vulnerable to the virus, and quarantining those with the infection and those living in the same households. If that were done, it would cause some economic dislocation—e.g., for the travel and tourism industries—but it would allow most everyone else to get on with life as normal, albeit while practicing good hygiene. That is the economic and social advantage of mitigation.

The medical advantage is that it leads to a rapid spread of the virus and to herd immunity, “leading to an eventual rapid decline in case numbers and transmission dropping to low levels.” Unfortunately, in the meantime, under assumptions about its transmission to vulnerable groups (because of the likely degree of contact despite encouragement of social distancing) and the number of available critical-care hospital beds, it overwhelms health services and causes many deaths.

If we could solve the medical flaw in this strategy—and that might be possible: read on—it would still face a more obstructive flaw. Governments have already committed themselves and their prestige to a bold (if mistaken) policy and invested immense amounts of political capital in it. It’s hard enough to change their minds before they’ve made such a commitment; it’s nigh impossible to do the same when they’ve bet the house on a single number in roulette. Okay, events will force a retreat to mitigation or something like it eventually. But it would require a bolt from the blue to get them to change now.

Amazingly enough, two bolts have suddenly appeared from the blue.

The lesser bolt is that, as we noticed earlier, researchers have only lately begun to point out that the Italian statistics may greatly exaggerate those deaths caused by the virus: They amount to only 12 per cent of the total number of those who died with the virus. Most died, in effect, from other causes. And that smaller death rate from COVID-19 is likely to shrink farther as the pandemic runs its course. These doubts about the Italian statistics are important because governments and the media have been treating Italy’s experience with COVID-19 as a guide to what their own countries are likely to suffer after a time lag. What if it isn’t? This question has particular significance to the U.K. The IC scientists chose suppression over mitigation in their urgent advice to the British government because they were alarmed by data they had just received from Italy. Did that data exaggerate the Italian death rates? Or did it take into account the growing doubts about them? Probably the latter, though the U.K. media have begun to follow this story only in recent days..

Even if the Italian data showed no bias, however, a third factor must be taken into account: namely, the annual death rate in the U.K. In 2018, one full year before COVID-19 was heard of, 541,000 people died in England and Wales, most of them older and less healthy people. That’s almost the exact prediction in the IC report of how many people would die if nothing was done. Are the 510,000 deaths in addition to the annual total? Apparently not. They will be part of the total. Naturally, no one now knows how large a part, since the deaths are hypothetical and the deceased still alive. But since those Brits who died in earlier years are similar in relevant respects to the great majority of Italians who died with the coronavirus rather than by it, it’s reasonable to argue that the deaths from the virus in the U.K. will not add all that many to the annual total of the dead of previous years, since many of them would likely die if the virus hadn’t erupted among us.

That’s not to dismiss the fates of human beings with a claim on us, merely to refine what is at stake. If the main aim of policy is to prevent those deaths from occurring all at the same time and overwhelming the health system, then—yes—it makes sense to adopt suppression. But if the main aim is to save their lives while avoiding an economic dislocation that would put many more lives at risk too, then that might be better accomplished by Smith’s policy of weaponized mitigation. His policy would combine paying the elderly to self-quarantine for a period while organizing industry and the voluntary services to equip hospitals with more beds and better medical technology in real time. And the latter is already happening throughout the English-speaking world.

That approach would work more easily and surely, however, if “herd immunity” were more advanced in Britain, so that fewer people would be at risk of catching the illness and therefore fearful about it. That possibility has just been delivered by the second bolt from the blue, hurled, oddly enough, by the “Pink’ un.” The Financial Times has just broken a story that Oxford medical researchers have developed a model that shows among other things that Britain has already developed a high degree of “herd immunity.” Work by Oxford’s Evolutionary Ecology of Infectious Disease group suggests that the coronavirus could have arrived in Britain in mid January, far earlier than previously believed, spread widely under the radar for more than a month, and by now infected up to half of the population, most without their ever realizing they had been infected. Sunetra Gupta, the leader of the study and a professor of theoretical epidemiology, told the FT that, if the results are confirmed, they mean that “the vast majority develop very mild symptoms or none at all.”

If Professor Gupta’s work survives testing and, presumably, some pushback by the scientists at Imperial College, it will be a great and welcome achievement. It would mean that far fewer people are now at risk of a painful illness and death, that the balance of advantage between mitigation and suppression has now changed decisively in favor of the former, and that the destructive policy of closing down the economy to fight the coronavirus at recurring intervals can now be reversed or at the very least put on hold. As Robert VerBruggen points out on The Corner, “this is a possibility the paper sketches out, not an actual finding inferred from the data.” But if that possibility turns out to be true, it would change the entire gloomy landscape we have all felt trapped inside.

Millions of people already feel luckier. Among them, Lucky Boris, who’s been handed an alternative to trudging into a socialist prison (if he’s prepared to take it), and Lucky Trump, who’s been given the justification he needs to close down the shutdown.




Stocks close historically bad quarter with losses; Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq all down between 15% and 24% (The Hill)

Larry Hogan and Gretchen Whitmer: What governors need from Washington during this health emergency (The Washington Post)

How South Korea reined in the outbreak without shutting everything down (NPR)

New Jersey backs down on gun-store closures (The Washington Free Beacon)

An answer to China? Trump calls for $2 trillion infrastructure bill as "Phase 4" of coronavirus response (Fox News)

For the record: Ten insanely wasteful spending items in the relief bill (The Federalist)

"Millionaires don't need a new tax break": In ironic turnabout, Grassley blasts Pelosi's attempt to eliminate SALT deduction cap (National Review)

The rule of men: DOJ IG checked 29 more FBI spy warrants and found problems with all of them (The Daily Caller)

Unconstitutional ban? District court finds bump-stock proscription may constitute a taking, because the federal government lacks a police power (The Volokh Conspiracy)

"Preparing for worst-case scenarios": The U.S. military's dealing with the virus — but keep it a secret (RealClearInvestigations)

With friends like these, who needs enemies? Chinese propaganda is now citing U.S. journalists' and Democrats' coronavirus rhetoric (Washington Examiner)

Marine Corps plans to cut tanks, shrinks F-35 squadrons to confront China (Naval Technology)

Policy: Even during these dark days, it's not all bad news in the jobs market (New York Post)

Policy: Why it's so hard to escape anti-poverty programs (Foundation for Economic Education)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Thursday, April 02, 2020

The Swedish alternative to ferocious shutdowns

Note that the death toll below becomes comparable with other countries only if we take Sweden's small population into account -- 10 million. So the 105 deaths reported below amount to less than 1 per capita, which is less than almost anywhere except Australia

There have been recent prophecies that Sweden will have to crack down soon.  But so far they are just that: Prophecies.  The basis of the claim is that deaths in Sweden have risen a bit recently.  They are however still very low by world standards

In the bright spring sun, flaxen-haired families held barbecues on the beach. Crowds in this provincial Swedish town shopped in ­designer boutiques and in supermarkets laden with toilet paper and pasta.

As much of the world hunkered down at home to hide from the coronavirus, life in Sweden was — for many — carrying on almost as normal last week.

Swedish public health experts argue that the virus can be stopped solely by vaccination or by herd immunity.

Since a vaccine for widespread use is still at least a year away, they say, the only possible way to stop the epidemic is by isolating vulnerable people while allowing the virus to spread as slowly as possible through the healthy population as they build resistance.

Scientists at Sweden’s public health agency say this will also prevent a harsh resurgence in ­infections. “It’s important to think how long can you keep these measures going,” said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.

“What we’re doing now we think we can do for a long time. Of course it slows down many things in society but we can make it work. We all know that this is going to go on for months. You can’t keep schools closed for months.”

There were 3447 infections in Sweden and 105 deaths by Sunday. Some restrictions have been imposed to slow the spread of the virus and protect the vulnerable.

Gatherings of more than 50 people are banned and colleges and universities are closed. Those over 70, or with pre-existing health problems, have been asked to stay at home except for a daily walk. But restaurants and bars are open and children are going to school.

The authorities say Swedes can be trusted to follow recommendations to socially distance and do not need draconian laws to slow the spread of the virus.

“If the public health agency goes out and says stay home, ­people do stay home,” Dr Tegnell said. “My feeling is that the actual impact of having a law in another country and a recommendation in Sweden isn’t that different.”

Last week The Netherlands, which has been aiming for herd immunity, announced a ban on ­almost all gatherings amid public fears over a large projected number of deaths.

In Sweden, scientists at the public health agency are shaping the national response to the virus together with the government, but — by law — politicians cannot ­intervene in the details of its ­implementation.

“The agencies have the technical and scientific expertise. The government has the expertise in policies and politics,” Dr Tegnell said. “Most experts in the world agree that there’s no way of stopping this any more. It hits almost every country in the world. We can’t get rid of it, that never happened in history — only with smallpox after decades of vaccination.”

Anders Bjorkman, a leading ­epidemiologist who spent years at the forefront of malaria research, challenges the model used by ­researchers at Imperial College London, which estimated that about 1 per cent of those who contracted the virus would die. He ­argues that the estimate is misleading as it does not include those with the virus who exhibit no symptoms.

“They say there’s 1 per cent mortality. That’s not true. They completely discard the asymp­tomatics,” he said. “In all these groups there are some who don’t have symptoms and aren’t reported. In Sweden the average age of all reported corona cases is 56 years roughly. The average age of the population is 40 … and I believe that all age groups have been more or less equally exposed. Among the younger population, those under 40, there are so many non-symptomatics.”

The death rate in Sweden, he said, was likely to be closer to 0.1 per cent than 1 per cent. Hundreds, rather than tens of thousands, would die before herd immunity was achieved.

The public health agency said that in tests of about 5000 people who had returned to Sweden from visits to Italy, the few hundred that were positive all exhibited mild symptoms — implying that there could be a large number of people in Sweden who are asymptomatic — with mild or no symptoms — who have not sought medical treatment.



Are We Sacrificing Liberty for Security?

We must evaluate the real price of the near-total economic shutdown.

In the midst of the current China Virus pandemic — and the media-generated panic that greatly exacerbates it — the reality of the above quote remains immutable. And right now, the presumptive default position — for reasonable Americans, at least — is that government is operating in our best interests. One says reasonable because there will always be those incapable of transcending politics. What they’re afflicted with is far worse than coronavirus, because while viruses may be ultimately beaten back, rabid partisanship appears eternal. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (SC) privately told his Democrat Party members that a coronavirus bill supposedly aimed at giving relief to millions of unemployed and sick Americans was “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”

What kinds of “tradeoffs” were Democrats seeking? Courtesy of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who showed her true colors in time of crisis, a hard-left wish list of items wholly unrelated to helping a nation teetering on the brink of collapse. One suspects millions of Americans beset by a crushing combination of self-isolation, unemployment, impending bankruptcy, and fear of death or serious debilitation are appalled by “solutions” that included same-day voter registration, ballot harvesting, gender and racial diversity data requirements for corporations and the government, automatic extensions for nonimmigrant visas, more wind and solar tax credits, or requirements that an already reeling airline industry cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 50%.

Pelosi ultimately caved, but one hopes voters will remember such despicable self-interest next November. Yet that is a topic for another day.


It will be interesting to see if he has even that much time. While our media elites have already branded Trump’s since-revised assertion as a choice “between solidarity and barbarism” or called it an “astoundingly boneheaded idea,” there is either a stunning level of naiveté or monumental self-unawareness attached to such sentiments.

First, the difference between solidarity and barbarism is in the eye of the beholder: New Yorkers fleeing Manhattan and hunkering down at well-stocked beachfront mansions in the Hamptons are likely far more sanguine about self-isolation than a single mother forced to wait it out with her two kids in a tiny apartment in the projects. And again, it’s easier to be noble when one is blessed with recession-proof wherewithal rather than facing financial calamity. Moreover, some people can tolerate loneliness, isolation, and adversity; some cannot — not even for a week.

Second, while it is easy to focus on the mortality rate of the coronavirus wholly by itself, to ignore the potential mortality rate associated with isolation-engendered drug and alcohol overdoses, accidents, suicide, or murder is a fool’s errand. In many cases, simply contemplating a future of enduring financial ruination may be enough to push someone over the edge.

Thus, to simply dismiss the idea of what may be best described as a more targeted approach to the dilemma as barbarism or boneheadedness — or, worse, to assume that such an approach is evil — is itself an indication that some types of solidarity are “more equal” than others.

At some point — utterly irrespective of the president’s hopes, expert advice, or a poisonous media thoroughly invested in sowing panic, discord, hatred, and hysteria — the pressure to reintegrate will become unbearable. It’s impossible to say where prolonged purposelessness ultimately leads, but to completely dismiss it as part of the equation is shortsighted.

Another factor? By self-isolating and social distancing, could we be kicking the proverbial can down the road and extending the timeline of the pandemic? We are told such measures are necessary to prevent overloading our healthcare system, but what happens to that same healthcare system when it must deal with a persistent level of coronavirus, coupled with the additional pathologies arising from the scourges of isolation and economic catastrophe? It’s worth remembering that the deaths arising from America’s opioid crisis — largely attributed to economic disruption exponentially less serious than what could happen now — outpaced those arising from car accidents. It’s also worth considering how many healthcare providers would be put out of business by an unprecedented economic catastrophe.

Moreover, when does “an abundance of caution” lead to an abundance of oppression? If it turns out coronavirus is only marginally more deadly than flu, what becomes the “standard” mortality rate for shutting down an entire nation, imposing draconian government controls, and essentially subverting the Constitution?

And not just for coronavirus, but any potential deadly disease going forward?

Already the Justice Department is asking Congress to expand its powers during a national emergency, including the ability to allow chief judges to permanently detain an individual without trial. As columnist Douglas MacKinnon reminds us, such “temporary” power, once given to government, “is rarely returned to the people and often abused.”

Moreover, do the people get a say in the matter? MacKinnon believes — and one suspects millions of other Americans do as well — that some sort of national referendum should be held. Let the people decide whether we continue indefinitely sheltering in place, or embrace a possible “herd immunity” strategy that incorporates a new set of social mores designed to provide safety to the nation’s most vulnerable people. One that can be effected without committing economic suicide.

Unthinkable? With regard to the seasonal flu, it’s a choice we’ve already made, even though millions will get it and thousands will die — year in, year out.

That such a longstanding choice has never been turned into a political issue is telling. There is little doubt that widespread panic is a great enabler of power consolidation, and once the crisis passes — or Americans decide to endure a certain level of risk to put it behind them — the necessity of a thorough review regarding who can essentially suspend constitutional rights “for emergency sake” is absolutely imperative. If we don’t review such power grabs, many Americans will wonder whether we were properly responding to a crisis — or creating a template for totalitarian governance.

And finally, the media. The one that makes a complete mockery of hope, largely because hope doesn’t accrue to its political sensibilities, even when hope may be the only thing keeping millions of Americans from losing their minds. Fueled by arrogance and condescension, the media’s unrelenting effort to divide America during its most dire crisis is the sorriest spectacle of rank self-interest this nation has ever witnessed. This is one American who fervently hopes this contemptible army of doomsayers, panic-mongers, propagandists, and outright liars gets the mother of all comeuppances, as they have proven themselves incapable of embracing simple decency when it matters most.

We certainly hope President Trump’s current desire to reopen America by June 1 can be realized.



More on the deceptive coronavirus models

Why is pinpointing the arrival of SARS-CoV-2 into the U.S. so important? Because the Task Force must make decisions based on sound modeling. To avoid deep and prolonged economic harm, we should return to business as usual (excluding those at high risk) in the coming month. And if SARS-CoV-2 actually arrived here between mid-November and mid-January, then the modeling trajectory of its spread and fatality rate is significantly different than what has been projected and reported.

To that point, yesterday Task Force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx made a remarkable disclosure. She condemned the "Viral Fear Pandemic" fomented by the mainstream media and, though she did not name them, the Democrat leaders who have disgracefully politicized that fear.

Regarding the breathless pandemic modeling that has been promoted by the media, Brix declared: "Models are models. When people start talking about 20% of a population getting infected, it's very scary, but we don't have data that matches that based on our experience." She said the media should not assert "that when people need a hospital bed it's not going to be there, or a ventilator it's not going to be there [because] we don't have evidence of that." She added, "It's our job collectively to assure the American people. There is no model right now [and] no reality on the ground where we can see that 60% to 70% of Americans are going to get infected in the next eight to 12 weeks. I want to be clear about that."

She referenced the "recent report out of the UK ... that said there would be 500,000 deaths in the UK and 2.2 million deaths in the United States." She noted, "They've adjusted that number in the UK to 20,000. Half a million to 20,000. We are looking at that in great detail to understand that adjustment. ... The predictions of the model don't match the reality." That original UK report was widely promoted by the mainstream media.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Wednesday, April 01, 2020

The curious age discrimination of coronavirus

The generational effect of the corona-virus is cunning and baffling. By often being so mild in the young and healthy it turns people into heedless carriers. By often being so lethal in the old and sick, it makes carriers into potential executioners of friends and neighbours.

The virus is very dangerous for people who have certain underlying illnesses, which is probably the main reason it is so serious for the elderly. It is almost as if it does not kill people by itself, just worsens other disorders. This is unlike flu, where children are as much at risk as old people. By contrast, in this case, young people in good health, even very young children, generally get such a mild coronavirus infection that they rarely have to seek treatment. An analysis of Chinese cases found that just 0.1 per cent of children under the age of nine who caught the virus needed to go to hospital and only 5 per cent of those needed critical care; just 0.002 per cent died, compared with 9.3 per cent of those over 80.

It is surely this pattern that is making the disease so difficult to stop. People are passing on Covid-19 before they feel unwell, perhaps without ever feeling sick. According to a study of 468 cases in China, where the source of infection could be traced, the average time between one person getting ill and the person he or she gives it to getting sick (the ‘serial interval’) is about four days, with 59 of the infectees getting sick even before the infector felt ill — a so-called negative interval. (This could have been, for example, a young person with no early symptoms giving it to an older person.)

That serial interval is half as long as Sars, and signals how contagious Covid-19 is. In the absence of social distancing, the average person gives the disease to about three people, twice as many as flu. In short, the evil genius of this virus is that it is creating an epidemic of rapid transmission without making most of its victims sick enough to stop getting out and about. That is why its lethality for a few is not such a problem for the germ itself: normally, a virus transmitted by coughing would have to evolve towards not killing people in order to keep going.

The relative invulnerability of the young probably explains the indifference of some people to the government’s increasingly desperate advice that people should keep a distance from each other. On Sunday evening, a television reporter interviewed fit young men using exercise bars in a London park in close proximity to others and -frequently swapping equipment: an ideal recipe for spreading the virus. They were not bothered. ‘I thought, you know what,’ said one, ‘this is even better because I’ve got the fresh air.’ It had not dawned on him that he might pass on the virus while feeling fine.
Many younger people feel invincible anyway, but the horrible truth is that the data from the epidemic has made them more confident rather than less, apparently forgetting their risk as carriers, rather than victims, of the virus.

Typhoid Mary was a cook who moved from one rich employer to another in New York and Long Island, infecting seven households with typhoid between 1900 and 1907 before doctors traced her as the common cause of the infections. The key point is that she was in good health herself throughout. When confronted, she indignantly refused to submit stool samples for analysis, until eventually imprisoned for this refusal.

After three years she was released while promising not to work as a cook. -Unhappy with the low wages of a laundress, she changed her name, resumed cooking and resumed causing typhoid. After a 1915 outbreak in a hospital for women in which 25 people fell ill and two died, Mary Mallon/Brown was again arrested and kept in quarantine for the rest of her life, refusing to have her gall bladder removed. When she died in 1938, an autopsy revealed a thriving colony of typhoid bacteria in her gall bladder. For some genetic reason they had not caused any symptoms in her.

I am not suggesting that people are being as deliberately irresponsible as Typhoid Mary, and of course people are infectious with the coronavirus for only a week or two, not a lifetime. But there is a disturbing echo here, in the crowds that turned up at parks, markets and shops last weekend, of her unwillingness to believe she could have been part of the problem.

There may be another reason too. This was articulated by the broadcaster -Timandra Harkness on Twitter: ‘Is it tactless to -suggest that people who have spent the past 20 years being told not to do anything fun because it’s bad for them may now be less receptive to urgent Public Health advice?’ Don’t drink! Don’t eat sugar! Don’t leave your home! The indifferent may not be very public-spirited, but they are not irrational. Most people’s chances of dying if they get the disease probably are very low. The case fatality rate overall is likely to be well below 1 per cent. It seems much higher right now because most of those being tested are the people who have fallen ill enough to go to hospital. We all now know people who have caught the virus and are showing the symptoms — including that unusual feature of a loss of smell and taste — but have not been tested. And if you are under 70, then you are almost certain not to die unless you have a serious other condition.

Indeed, perhaps that is true if you are over 70 too. The elderly are increasingly plagued with ‘co-morbidities’ — the name for those who have several different things wrong with them, all being treated with separate drugs — and this is perhaps why they are succumbing to the virus. It may have nothing to do with age itself.

Thus, if we really could isolate those with underlying conditions from the rest of the society then everybody else could get the economy back to normal, push on through the epidemic to gain herd immunity. Schools could reopen, businesses get going again and the health service might cope. Once enough people were immune, they could care for those who are more vulnerable. But can that be done? How does a care home operate if some of the staff are spending time out in the rest of the world? Delivering post or shopping to a person with heart problems is itself a risk. Besides, the death of several doctors in Italy implies that the virus can still kill healthy people sometimes — though these individuals probably received much larger doses of the virus than most people would.

With luck a better choice may present itself: test and trace, as seems to have worked in South Korea. Once we have enough test kits, including a serological test to find those who have had it and are immune, then we can test enough people to identify and trace the contacts of every carrier, and we can surely turn the tide. But by then the health service might have been overwhelmed.



Poll: 15 Percent of Bernie Supporters Will Vote for Trump Over Biden

A new ABC News/Washington Post opinion poll has some very bad news for former Vice President Joe Biden. If he secures the Democratic presidential nomination -- which he will, of course -- a full 15 percent of Bernie Sanders supporters plan to cast their vote for President Donald Trump's reelection. That's extremely troubling for Biden, because in 2016, only 12% of Bernie's supporters broke for Trump after their guy's historic intraparty fight with Hillary Clinton.

But, USA Today reports, there's some good news in there. You see, the 15% of Bernie-istas who plan to vote for Trump in that scenario represent "just 6% of Democrats and voters who lean Democratic." Meanwhile, "Trump won 8% of Democrats in 2016."

Huh? Wait a minute. How about Democrat or Democrat-leaning voters who supported other candidates in the primaries... or who may not have supported any of them? Isn't it likely that these Democrat runaways will add some percentage points to the stat cited above?

You'd think so. And matters may get even worse for Biden considering the fact that Trump's approval rating is on the rise. That too will convince at least some traditional Democrat voters to go with Trump this time around.

Oh yes, this could get much, much worse for Biden than USA Today anticipates.



The Coronavirus Killed the Progressive Left

Covid-19 and the Democratic presidential primaries, the two biggest stories of the year so far, reflect a common theme: the death of the progressive left. Looking back, historians may well see late 2019 and very early 2020 as a kind of high-water mark for American progressivism.

It wasn’t so long ago that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were commanding most of the attention in the presidential campaign, especially among intellectuals. Right before Super Tuesday, Sanders was a clear favorite in the prediction markets. Yet the actual voting showed the strength of Joe Biden, a (relative) centrist; Warren attracted very little support, and Sanders failed to reach the same vote totals he achieved four years ago.

And a big comeback for the left four years from now seems unlikely. Democratic Party success is likely to come from other directions. Covid-19 could well be a front-page story for the next year or two, possibly more. Over the span of less than a week, virtually every major institution in American life has been subject to radical changes to their daily operations, and it is not clear when things will return to normal. Covid-19 may well make a bigger impression on the national consciousness than 9/11 or the financial crisis of 2008.

How will Covid-19 reshape public opinion? I am not suggesting that what follows is rational, much less correct, but here are some guesses:

-- The notion of very open international borders will seem strange and indeed intolerable, as most of the world’s wealthy nations have been looking for ways to keep foreigners out. The new restrictions on movement will not be repealed so quickly or so thoroughly, and for a while the U.S. may restrict movement across domestic states and cities. President Donald Trump will appear to have been ahead of his time, and immigration will no longer be a viable mobilizing issue for the left.

-- The egalitarianism of the progressive left also will seem like a faint memory. Elites are most likely to support wealth redistribution when they feel comfortable themselves, and indeed well-off coastal elites in California and the Northeast are a backbone of the progressive movement. But when these people feel threatened in their lives or occupations, or when the futures of their children suddenly seem less secure, redistribution will not be such a compelling ideal.

I am not saying you have to welcome this change, only that it is likely.

-- A massive dose of fiscal policy has been another progressive priority. Now that even Republicans are embracing stimulus, as a political issue it will cease to be effective for the left.

-- The case for mass transit also will seem weaker, because subways and buses will be associated with the fear of Covid-19 transmission. In a similar fashion, the forces of NIMBY will become stronger, relative to those of YIMBY, because people secure in their isolated suburban homes will feel less stressed than those in densely packed urban apartment buildings.

-- There is likely to be much more government intervention in some parts of the health-care sector, but it will focus on scarce hospital beds and ventilators, and enforce nasty triage, rather than being a benevolent move toward universal coverage. If anything, it will drive home the message that supply constraints are binding and America can’t have everything — hardly the traditional progressive message.

-- The climate change movement is likely to be another victim. How much have you heard about Greta Thunberg lately? Concern over the climate will seem like another luxury from safer and more normal times. In addition, the course of anti-Covid-19 efforts may not prove propitious for the climate change movement. If the fight against Covid-19 suddenly improves (perhaps a vaccine working very quickly?), Americans may come to expect the same in the fight against climate change.

Alternatively, if Covid-19 risk persists, it will distract and seem like the bigger problem. And the various national responses to date also do not suggest that international cooperation is going to be very successful on a wide variety of issues, climate change included.

Again, this is all conjecture. But as Covid-19 continues to spread, it is likely that the list of things it will change — in politics and the world of ideas, much less daily life — is only going to grow.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Monday, March 30, 2020

America's Superb, Unappreciated President

A close look at what Trump has done to combat the current pandemic -- amid constant Democrat assaults

It has been a very long time since Americans last saw such a clear distinction between the considerable leadership qualities of their president, and the shameless political maneuverings of an opposition party constantly lusting for power. Let us review exactly what has happened in this country over the past two months, vis-a-vis the coronavirus pandemic.

On January 29, President Donald Trump created a White House Coronavirus Task Force to coordinate the federal government's response to the virus outbreak and to keep the American people as informed about it as possible.

At that time, you might recall, congressional Democrats were giving precisely ZERO attention to the coronavirus threat. They had not held even a single hearing — for even a single moment — about the matter. Instead, they had spent the preceding four months entirely obsessed with one agenda item: impeaching President Trump and trying to remove him from office. The Senate impeachment trial, which had commenced on January 21, was still in high gear. Since the previous September, the faces of Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schumer, Jerrold Nadler, Adam Schiff, and a host of other Democrats had become fixtures on every television screen in America as they salivated over the smell of political blood. They talked about nothing but impeachment, as their normal legislative duties were all but forgotten. Coronavirus was, quite literally, the last thing on any of their minds.

Two days later, on January 31, President Trump formally declared coronavirus to be a public health emergency and he implemented a ban on travel from China to the United States. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci later noted that “the very timely decision on the part of the president to shut off travel from China” had “absolutely” gone “a long way” toward limiting the number of coronavirus infections in the U.S.  “We did it early,” said Fauci, “and as it turned out, there were relatively few cases, in the big picture of things, that came in from China. Unfortunately … in European countries they didn't do that [ban travel from China], and they got hit really hard.... When the infection burden shifted from China to Europe, we did the same thing. We shut off travel from Europe, which again was another safeguard to prevent influx from without, in.” Also by Fauci's telling, the Trump administration's “coordinated response” to the crisis — dating back to “the beginning [when] we [first] recognized what this [virus] was” — had been undeniably “impressive.” “I can't imagine that, under any circumstances, anybody could be doing more,” said Fauci.

But Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden failed to recognize any value in Trump's actions. Instead, he saw a golden opportunity to inject his campaign with a bit of life by doing what he does best: branding a political opponent as an out-of-control bigot. On February 1 — just one day after Trump had announced his China travel restriction — Biden depicted the president as a racist whose heart was filled with hatred for Asian people. “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia — hysterical xenophobia — and fearmongering,” said the former vice president.

Notably, it would not be until four days later — on February 5 — that the Democrats' failed impeachment trial in the Senate would finally draw to a close. That was the same day that the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs held its very first coronavirus hearing.

In subsequent weeks, President Trump announced further travel restrictions on certain global hot spots where coronavirus was becoming increasingly widespread — namely Iran, South Korea, and eventually, all of Europe. American citizens returning from travel-restricted countries began to be routed to specific airports, where they could be properly screened and, if necessary, isolated. Eventually, in March, the president officially closed both the southern and northern borders of the United States, so as to prevent the unnecessary influx of any further coronavirus cases from Mexico or Canada.

But at that very same moment in time, a host of Democrats and their supporters suddenly became quite enamored of a talking point that had recently been floated by Communist China's foreign ministry: the notion that it was somehow “racist” for anyone to make reference to coronavirus as a phenomenon of Chinese origin. Joe Biden, true to form, latched on to the Beijing propaganda and suggested that Trump's decision to describe the pathogen as “a foreign virus” or “a Chinese virus” was evidence of the president's … yes, you guessed it, racism and xenophobia. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton jumped aboard the bandwagon as well: “The president is turning to racist rhetoric to distract from his failures to take the coronavirus seriously early on, make tests widely available, and adequately prepare the country for a period of crisis.”

In conjunction with the Trump administration's around-the-clock efforts to accelerate the development of coronavirus diagnostic capabilities, treatments, and vaccines, on February 29 the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency approval for the development of new commercial coronavirus tests. To enable this goal to be realized as quickly as possible, President Trump instructed the agency to dramatically cut the bureaucratic red tape that traditionally had stood in the way of swift action. Meanwhile, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) provided large sums of money to help accelerate the production of diagnostic tests. Trump also issued emergency orders that allowed HHS “to immediately waive provisions of applicable laws and regulations to give [all] healthcare providers maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and care for patients.” And on March 16, the National Institutes of Health announced the start of a clinical trial aimed at creating a coronavirus vaccine — representing one of the fastest vaccine-development launches in the history of medicine.

But alas, Joe Biden was unimpressed. “The Obama-Biden Administration set up the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense,” he boasted, “to prepare for future pandemics like COVID-19” — the disease caused by the coronavirus. “Donald Trump eliminated it [the Directorate], and now we're paying the price.” Trump's “draconian cuts,” said Biden, were now costing people their lives.

Not surprisingly, Biden's very serious charge caught the media's attention on a grand scale. Too bad it was an unadulterated lie. Former National Security Council (NSC) official Tim Morrison, who was the senior director for counter-proliferation and bio-defense at the NSC when Trump's “draconian cuts” had supposedly occurred, explains that the office in question was simply combined with others in a reorganization that “left the bio-defense staff unaffected.” “What actually happened,” says the American Spectator, “was that the president streamlined the bloated NSC, reorganizing some sections to accomplish that goal. In that process, three departments with roughly the same mission were consolidated.” Morrison painstakingly laid out these facts in an op-ed published by the Washington Post, where he not only praised the president for his efforts to “finally create real accountability in the federal government’s expansive bio-defense system,” but also derided critics for having “misconstrued or intentionally misrepresented” the facts regarding Trump's action.

On March 4, HHS announced that it was going to purchase 500 million N95 respirators for the Strategic National Stockpile. A week later, President Trump signed a memorandum directing his administration to make general-use face masks available to healthcare workers. And six days after that, on March 17, the Department of Defense, in response to a request by the president, announced that it would be providing 5 million additional respirator masks as well as 2,000 specialized ventilators.

But Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg lamented that many Americans would tragically have to “pay a heavy cost” for “the president’s management incompetence.” Former vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine likewise derided Trump for his “massive missteps that have led to the United States being so far behind other nations in the world” in responding to the crisis. 

On March 5, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) created new billing codes for coronavirus tests, so as to facilitate accurate tracking of the public health response. The following day, President Trump signed legislation securing $8.3 billion for coronavirus response efforts — money that would cover the costs of things like public lab testing, isolation and quarantine initiatives, the sanitization of public areas, and vaccine research. And a week after that, Trump officially declared a national emergency, which freed up an additional $42 billion to fund the cause.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer decided that the best way they could now help the American people rally their energies to fight the pandemic, would be to release a joint statement declaring that “President Trump continues to manufacture needless chaos within his administration, and it is hampering the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.”

In an effort to be responsive to the needs of American businesses and their employees, President Trump met with executives from the banking, health insurance, pharmaceutical, airline, grocery store, and retail store industries, among others. On March 10, he urged Congress to pass a payroll tax cut. That same day, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) — in fulfillment of “a top priority for President Trump and this Administration” — announced new flexibilities that would allow meal-service programs to remain active even while schools were closed due to coronavirus. And CMS, after meeting with President Trump and Vice President Pence, announced that Medicare Advantage and Part D plans could now waive co-payments for coronavirus tests and treatment.

But according to recent Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, “Trump’s incompetence” in dealing with the pandemic was akin to “a neon sign going like, ‘I stink at my job. Yeah, I am a dummy! Ok?’ by Donald Trump.”

On March 11, The Trump administration announced that health savings accounts could be used to cover coronavirus testing and treatment without co-payments. That same day, the president directed the Treasury Department to allow coronavirus-impacted individuals and businesses to defer the payment of taxes that they owed.

But in the words of former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat: “We got a guy in the White House who doesn’t know anything about patriotism, doesn’t know anything about empathy.”

On March 12, Trump instructed the Small Business Administration to make available some $50 billion in low-interest disaster loans for businesses impacted by the virus.

That was the same day that Joe Biden parroted an already-debunked Democratic talking point when he said: “By cutting our investment in global health, this administration has left us woefully unprepared for the exact crisis we now face.” Biden was referring to the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), to which the United States had contributed $600 million in 2015. The Washington Free Beacon explains: “As the initial funding dwindled in early 2018, reports emerged suggesting the Trump administration would scale back GHSA operations in all but 10 countries. But the cuts never happened, and the Trump administration’s proposed 2021 budget includes an increase in the GHSA’s annual appropriation.”

Did Mr. Biden ever apologize for his premeditated, malicious lie? Don't be ridiculous. For Biden's purposes, his lie about Trump and the GHSA achieved its objective with flying colors: Many Americans who heard him articulate the falsehood will undoubtedly never find out that not a single syllable of it was true. They'll just remember the urgent-sounding tenor in Biden's voice. What more could a lifelong congenital liar ask for?

On March 12 as well, the Trump administration increased the flexibility of unemployment insurance programs, so as to allow workers impacted by the coronavirus to benefit from them.

At that point, Hillary Clinton decided that she could raise the bar of statesmanship to new heights by tweeting sarcastically: “I know this is all hard for you, @realdonaldtrump, so let me spell it out.” She then proceeded to list a series of anti-coronavirus measures that, contrary to her false implication, President Trump had already enacted. Finally, Mrs. Clinton informed Trump that he might do a better job of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic if he were to try, for a change, “giving a damn” about the American people. That same day, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell pronounced in the gravest of tones: “More people are sick in America tonight because Donald Trump is president. More people are dead and dying in America tonight because Donald Trump is president.” 

On March 13, President Trump authorized HHS to waive its existing rules and regulations so that healthcare providers could respond to the crisis with as few restrictions as possible. That same day, he directed the Energy Department to purchase — at a very favorable price — large quantities of crude oil for the National Strategic Reserve. Trump likewise directed the Education Department to waive interest payments on student loans held by the federal government. On March 14, the administration negotiated legislation to provide tax credits for businesses that chose to give paid leave to employees affected by the virus. And four days later, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that it would temporarily suspend foreclosures and evictions affecting families whose mortgages were insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

But according to Michael Bloomberg, President Trump had thoroughly “failed to prepare for a deadly pandemic — leaving Americans deeply unsettled” as a result.

The Trump administration has provided every state in the Union with increased flexibility to approve the establishment of coronavirus testing laboratories as well as drive-through testing sites. On March 14, it was announced that the administration was working with Google to develop a website designed to help Americans learn learn coronavirus prevention procedures, determine whether or not they needed a test, and, if so, where they could get one. Four days later, the administration launched a partnership with the Ad Council, various media networks, and a number of digital platforms to produce public service announcements about the coronavirus. In March as well, CMS dramatically expanded access to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries, thereby enabling more patients to consult with their doctors remotely while avoiding potential exposure to the virus.

But Joe Biden, in tones that were at once somber and outraged, lamented on March 15 that the World Health Organization had “offered the testing kits that they have available and to give it to us now,” but Trump “refused them.” Unfortunately for Mr. Biden, this latest claim was no truer than any of his other malicious lies. Kaiser Health News quotes World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Margaret Harris as follows: “No discussions occurred between WHO and CDC [Centers for Disease Control & Prevention] about WHO providing COVID-19 tests to the United States.”

On March 18, the Trump administration announced that the U.S. Navy would soon be deploying two medical ships to help support areas impacted by coronavirus. On March 19, the president signed into law a bill to not only ensure paid leave benefits to many Americans, but also to make free coronavirus testing available to anyone in need, including the uninsured. Moreover, that same bill supported nutrition programs such as the food stamp system.

But during a speech on the Senate floor that very same day, Senator Tim Kaine chastised the president for engaging in “inflammatory China-bashing” and “weeks and weeks of tweeting lies and misinformation about the virus, while the leaders of other nations were taking steps to make sure their populations could be safe.” Former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took time to weigh in as well, condemning Trump's “failure as a leader” and depicting the president's supporters as nothing more than “cult members” who “mindlessly follow a stern dictatorial father-figure who tells them what to do and think. Like, well, Nazis.”

On March 21, the FDA announced that it had approved a rapid coronavirus test that would require no training to administer and would yield results in less than an hour. On March 22, Trump asked multiple car companies to mass produce ventilators to help combat the pandemic.

On that very same day, however, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — another Democrat who had recently sought his party's presidential nomination — accused President Trump of refusing to “lift a finger to help his hometown” (New York) deal with with the coronavirus outbreak. “I can’t be blunt enough,” said de Blasio. “If the president doesn’t act, people will die who could have lived otherwise.”

In a March 22 interview, Fox News host Mark Levin said to Dr. Anthony Fauci: “There is this statement put up, [by] some in the press, [by] some in the opposition party of the president, that the president doesn't follow the science. Is the president following the science?” After replying that in the daily Coronavirus Task Force meetings “we make all of our decisions and recommendations that are based on the science,” Fauci said:

“I have never in that room had a situation where I said, scientifically, this is the right thing to do and they said, don't do it. Or [I have never said] scientifically, this is the wrong thing to do, and they did it anyway. Then we get up and we present it to the president. And he asks a lot of questions. That's his nature. He is constantly asking the question, and I never, in the multiple times that I've done that ... He has never overruled me.”

And yet, on that very same day, New York magazine's Jonathan Chait published an article titled “Trump Is Back to Waging War on Science, at the Worst Possible Moment.” The piece concludes with this stinging indictment of the president: “Public-health professionals have had nothing to offer him but facts and science. They never had a chance.”

The coordinated campaign of premeditated lies and smears that the Democrats and their media mouthpieces have been waging against President Trump ever since the word “coronavirus” first entered the American people's consciousness, has been obscene. But there is something else that also needs to be addressed. Have you noticed that even now — after the life-and-death dangers inherent in the Democrats' open-borders, catch-and-release immigration policies have been thoroughly laid bare by the current crisis — Democrats in public office have been utterly silent about those dangers? Have you noticed that they have not ventured even to speculate that perhaps President Trump's pre-coronavirus warnings about the need to regulate our nation's borders were well-founded and had absolutely nothing to do with racism?

This is because the Democrat narrative never changes in any significant way. It merely makes minor adjustments for the sake of political expediency. So because right now it would be politically inconvenient to link racism to the type of border security that is very obviously a matter of life-and-death for many Americans, the Democrats have simply found a new way of framing their tried-and-true “racism” charade. Thus have we heard one Democrat after another intone their latest mantra-of-the-moment: the notion that Trump's use of the term “China virus” is damnable proof of his “racism.”

The Democratic Party has devolved into something quite diabolical. Its very considerable energies are now spent on little more than a constant stream of frenzied efforts to cover their political foes in rhetorical bird droppings. Aside from that, the party has nothing to offer the American people.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Sunday, March 29, 2020

President Trump should issue the Buy American executive order to end China’s control of our medicines

This is good patriotic stuff and there is some point in it.  But we must be careful to avoid overkill.  The writer below shows no awareness that he is advocating a big leap in the costs of most medicines. American workers will not work for Chinese wages. Medicines are costly enough without a step-change upwards.  Such a change would produce a big political  backlash

A more moderate and realistic policy would be to draw up a short list of critical (life-saving) medicines and mandate that they be obtained only from America or its allies.  Both Britain and Europe have substantial pharmaceutical industries with established production of many medicines so could help a rapid turnaround of the supply chains of many medicines.

By Bill Wilson

With all we are facing today, with all the fear and outright transformation of our entire society, it might seem odd that a group of medical organizations would sign a letter opposing American independence in the production of medicines and medical equipment.  You would think that in the crisis these groups would want to see America move toward a strong, independent position.  But you would be wrong.

The Association for Accessible Medicines (AAM), a trade association for large pharmaceutical manufacturers is pushing a letter opposing an executive order proposed by President Donald Trump that would reduce or eliminate regulations that have raised the cost of manufacturing medical compounds and equipment in the United States.  His goal is to end American dependence on China for the medicines we need.

The big international corporations, of course, say the order will make it difficult for them to supply antibiotics and equipment needed now to fight the Chinese coronavirus.  Their stated reason for opposing the President is that they want to “do their part” in fighting the scourge.  But there is likely a far more sinister reason for this action.

The Chinese Communists will do just about anything to keep their stranglehold on the supply of medicines, the components to make medicines and medical equipment, This is about power — the power of the Chinese Communists to dictate terms to America and Europe.  And they are delivering this message through the serpentine voices of major corporations.

So far, the letter being circulated by the pharmaceutical giants has 40 signatures, mostly from associations funded by the pharmaceutical firms themselves   In all fairness, most of these groups need the funding from the corporations so it is no surprise that they are doing as they are told.  And, as would be expected, there are a handful of so-called “conservative” groups reciting their “free trade” mantra.  They, sadly, are so blinded by their failed religion of globalism that they cannot see the threat to America their position holds.

The move by President Trump to begin to bring the production of medicine and medical equipment back to the United States is the only honorable and right thing that could be done.  For those corporations now under the golden thumb of China to oppose this basic movement toward American sovereignty is tantamount to a renunciation of their U.S. citizenship.  They now side with the rulers of a foreign, hostile regime over that of the people of the United States.  Going forward, they should be treated as foreign agents, because that is what they are.

We can expect more pushback to efforts by President Trump and the growing legion of elected officials that see the damage done by the globalist agenda.  But understanding that these pathetic attacks are simply the end result of dictates from Beijing renders them inert.  They have no meaning or bearing.  The march to restore America, to return basic industries to our shores, to rebuild tens of thousands of communities will continue.  The tide of history cannot be ordered to not come in.



How a handful of Democratic activists created alarming, but bogus data sets to scare local and state officials into making rash, economy-killing mandates

As U.S. state and local officials halt the economy and quarantine their communities over the Wuhan virus crisis, one would hope our leaders were making such major decisions based on well-sourced data and statistical analysis. That is not the case.

A scan of statements made by media, state governors, local leaders, county judges, and more show many relying on the same source, an online mapping tool called COVID Act Now. The website says it is “built to enable political leaders to quickly make decisions in their Coronavirus response informed by best available data and modeling.”

An interactive map provides users a catastrophic forecast for each state, should they wait to implement COVID Act Now’s suggested strict measures to “flatten the curve.” But a closer look at how many of COVID Act Now’s predictions have already fallen short, and how they became a ubiquitous resource across the country overnight, suggests something more sinister.

When Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced a shelter-in-place order on Dallas County Sunday, he displayed COVID Act Now graphs with predictive outcomes after three months if certain drastic measures are taken. The NBC Dallas affiliate also embedded the COVID Act Now models in their story on the mandate.

The headline of an NBC Oregon affiliate featured COVID Act Now data, and a headline blaring, “Coronavirus model sees Oregon hospitals overwhelmed by mid-April.” Both The Oregonian and The East Oregonian also published stories featuring the widely shared data predicting a “point of no return.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer cited COVID Act Now when telling her state they would exceed 7 million cases in Michigan, with 1 million hospitalized and 460,000 deaths if the state did nothing.

A local CBS report in Georgia featured an Emory University professor urging Gov. Brian Kemp with the same “point of no return” language and COVID Act Now models.

The models are being shared across social media, news reports, and finding their way into officials’ daily decisions, which is concerning because COVID Act Now’s predictions have already been proven to be wildly wrong.

COVID Act Now predicted that by March 19 the state of Tennessee could expect 190 hospitalizations of patients with confirmed Wuhan virus. By March 19, they only had 15 patients hospitalized.

In New York, Covid Act Now claimed nearly 5,400 New Yorkers would’ve been hospitalized by March 19. The actual number of hospitalizations is around 750. The site also claimed nearly 13,000 New York hospitalizations by March 23. The actual number was around 2,500.

In Georgia, COVID Act Now predicted 688 hospitalizations by March 23. By that date, they had around 800 confirmed cases in the whole state, and fewer than 300 hospitalized.

In Florida, Covid Act Now predicted that by March 19, the state would face 400 hospitalizations. On March 19, Gov. Ron DeSantis said 90 people in Florida had been hospitalized.

COVID Act Now’s models in other states, including Oklahoma and Virginia, were also far off in their predictions. Jordan Schachtel, a national security writer, said COVID Act Now’s modeling comes from one team based at Imperial College London that is not only highly scrutinized, but has a track record of bad predictions.

Jessica Hamzelou at New Scientist notes the systematic errors researchers and scientists have found with the modeling COVID Act Now relies on:

Chen Shen at the New England Complex Systems Institute, a research group in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his colleagues argue that the Imperial team’s model is flawed, and contains ‘incorrect assumptions’. They point out that the Imperial team’s model doesn’t account for the availability of tests, or the possibility of ‘super-spreader events’ at gatherings, and has other issues.

Among other issues, COVID Act Now lists the “Known Limitations” of their model. Here are a few that seem especially alarming, considering they generate a model for each individual state:

Many of the inputs into this model (hospitalization rate, hospitalization rate) are based on early estimates that are likely to be wrong.

Demographics, populations, and hospital bed counts are outdated. Demographics for the USA as a whole are used, rather than specific to each state.

The model does not adjust for the population density, culturally-determined interaction frequency and closeness, humidity, temperature, etc in calculating R0.

This is not a node-based analysis, and thus assumes everyone spreads the disease at the same rate. In practice, there are some folks who are ‘super-spreaders,’ and others who are almost isolated.

So why is the organization or seemingly innocent online mapping tool using inaccurate algorithms to scaremonger leaders into tanking the economy? Politics, of course.

Founders of the site include Democratic Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins and three Silicon Valley tech workers and Democratic activists — Zachary Rosen, Max Henderson, and Igor Kofman — who are all also donors to various Democratic campaigns and political organizations since 2016. Henderson and Kofman donated to the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016, while Rosen donated to the Democratic National Committee, recently resigned Democratic Rep. Katie Hill, and other Democratic candidates. Prior to building the COVID Act Now website, Kofman created an online game designed to raise $1 million for the eventual 2020 Democratic candidate and defeat President Trump. The game’s website is now defunct.

Perhaps the goal of COVID Act Now was never to provide accurate information, but to scare citizens and government officials into to implementing rash and draconian measures. The creators even admit as much with the caveat that “this model is designed to drive fast action, not predict the future.”

They generated this model under the guise of protecting communities from overrun hospitals, a trend that is not on track to happen as they predicted. Not only is the data false, and looking more incorrect with each passing day, but the website is optimized for a disinformation campaign.

A social media share button prompts users to share their models and alarming graphs on Facebook and Twitter with the auto-fill text, “This is the point of no return for intervention to prevent X’s hospital system from being overloaded by Coronavirus.”

The daunting phrase, the “point of no return,” is the same talking point being repeated by government officials justifying their shelter-in-place orders and filling local news headlines.

Democrats are not going to waste such a rich political opportunity as a global pandemic. Americans already witnessed Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats attempt to take advantage of an economic recession with a pipe-dream relief bill this week. Projects like COVID Act Now are another attempt to play the same political games, but with help from unknown, behind-the-scenes Democratic activists instead.




PORK: Millions for Kennedy Center, arts included in Senate rescue package (Fox News)

GAME CHANGER? New Oxford study suggests millions of people may have already built up coronavirus immunity (The Week)

LEADERSHIP: Gallup: Trump approval up five points to 49%, his handling of COVID-19 at 60% approval (

AND LEFTISTS HATE THEM: Trump's daily briefings are getting huge ratings (The Daily Wire)

RACE BAIT: SPLC blames Trump's "racist, anti-Asian epithets" for coronavirus-related anti-Asian harassment (PJ Media)

KAVANAUGH'S ACCUSERS UNAVAILABLE FOR COMMENT: Woman accuses Joe Biden of sexual assault (The Daily Wire)

A BIOLOGICAL AGENT: Coronavirus crimes can be charged as acts of terrorism, DOJ says (NBC News)

ENSURING "THAT WE'RE NOT BRINGING THE VIRUS BACK HOME": Pentagon orders halt overseas movement for U.S. military (Reuters)

"DIED WHILE IN IRANIAN CUSTODY": Family concludes former FBI agent Robert Levinson died in Iran (NBC News)

IVORY TOWER Harvard, boasting $40 billion endowment, lays off dining hall workers (The Washington Free Beacon)

PUTTING CONNECTICUT ON NOTICE: Justice Department: Don't treat trans athletes as girls (AP)

CAPITULATING — SORT OF: Pennsylvania gun shops allowed to reopen on a limited basis (NRA-ILA)

POLICY: Congress should let licensed physicians practice across state lines (City Journal)

POLICY: GOP rightly blocked Nancy Pelosi's mail-in-balloting nonsense (Washington Examiner)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement