Morning Ethics Check-Up, 5/21/2020: My Mind’s On Viruses For Some Reason…

Feeling better.

Thanks for all the concern and good wishes.

1. How can we be told that we need to trust “scientists” regarding the Wuhan Virus when they have so far proven uncertain, inconsistent, and, much of the time, wrong? Chatting with my sister about my own symptoms, which I told her did not include key pandemic features but did include others not on the list, she informed me that the list of symptoms had been recently expanded by the CDC. I checked: she’s right. As of April 30, the symptoms of COVID-19 can include fatigue, dry coughs, non-dry coughs, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache,loss of taste or smell,  nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, as well as “other symptoms.”

Got it. Everything is a potential symptom, including no symptoms at all. Gee, CDC, thanks for all the timely information.

In further news, the  CDC now says coronavirus ‘does not spread easily’ via contaminated surfaces.

Our policy-makers have been making decisions in the dark from the beginning. The entire episode should go down in history as a massive failure of the public health establishment.

2. Speaking of being wrong…Jerry Falwell Jr. was roundly mocked and condemned in the mainstream media and social media when he opened up his Liberty University after Spring Break. Virginia governor Ralph Northam prevented on-campus classes from being held, but over a thousand students did come back to their dorms. In a perfect storm of derision for conservatives, evangelicals, faith, and supporters of President Trump, Falwell was accused of “creating a hot spot.” The New York Times quickly reported that several cases of students with “covid-like symptoms” had broken out (See #1). It was wrong, but never corrected itself.  An emergency-room physician was quoted as saying, “If Liberty University reopens, people will die.”The Washington Post headlined a story, “An authoritarian power structure brought coronavirus to Liberty University.”

In the end,  only one student tested positive for the Wuhan virus, a student who was online, and who hadn’t been on campus before or after spring break. Four employees either working remotely or from offices off-campus also tested positive. No infections were traced back to campus. No Liberty student living on campus tested positive.
Liberty has completed its academic year, and is not among the colleges in desperate financial straits because they kicked all the students out. That’s quite a story: is it “trending” in the news media? Are your social media pals admitting that they, once again, followed their biases and media narratives, and were dead wrong? Nah.

Of course, Falwell just as easily could have been wrong; the result was all moral luck.  Nonetheless, when one calls an administrator a fool and a prayer-dependent moron, asserting that he is dooming his students to a deadly fate, and your dire predictions prove wrong, the least you can do is admit it.

3. I’m glad I’m sick enough that I can justify not devoting a whole post to this one. President Trump  says he’s taking hydroxychloroquine. Observations:

  • If his doctors informed him of the risks and allowed him to go forward with this, then it’s a personal choice.
  • Yes, it was stupid and irresponsible to announce it. The President taking an unproven treatment can only prompt others to do so.
  • If Trump’s goal was, as it often is, to trigger his enemies—I think at this point “enemies” is a fair description—into making asses of themselves, well. mission accomplished. Nancy Pelosi responded by calling him “morbidly obese,” then yesterday complained about how the President says such terrible, disrespectful things about others, especially women. Trump isn’t morbidly obese—William Howard Taft was morbidly obese—he’s just fat, and saying so is a cheap shot that would be the cause of mass hysteria from the Left if Trump said something similar about, say, Stacy Abrams.
  • Joe Biden, of course, was ridiculous, saying, “It’s like saying maybe if you inject Clorox into your blood it may cure you. C’mon, man! What is he doing? What in God’s name is he doing? There’s no serious medical person out there saying to use that drug. It’s counterproductive. It’s not going to help, but the president, he decided that’s an answer….”

Uh, no Joe, it’s not like that at all. Nice job pushing another Big Lie: the President never suggested that anyone should inject bleach into their blood. There is no definitive proof that the drug—it is a drug, Joe, and people take it for malaria, so it’s not like bleach, you lying fool—does any good as a preventative, just anecdotal accounts. There also is no proof that it is doesn’t have salutary effects, though I read several news stories that claimed this. Sure enough, they were citing this study, hich was not what the news media claimed it was.

  • Meanwhile, the UK is buying hydroxychloroquine, in bulk just in case it does turn out to be an effective pandemic  treatment. Since we have been told that all of our allies hate the President and think he’s a fool, some “serious medical people” must think it’s worth exploring, especially since the “experts” have nothing better to offer. (See #1)

4. She’s a censor, a nascent totalitarian and an idiot: a perfect VP choice! Senator Kamala Harris has introduced a resolution condemning “all forms of Anti-Asian sentiment as related to COVID-19.”  Such anti-Asian sentiment includes referring to the virus that originated in Wuhan, China, as the “Chinese Virus” or the “Wuhan Virus.” Co-sponsors of the measure Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii.

In a memorable line from “Seinfeld,” Elaine is shocked to learn that men’s penises shrink when exposed to cold water, like the ocean. “I don’t see how you guys can walk around with those things,” she says. I don’t see how Democrats can walk around knowing their party is represented by people like Harris, Warren and Hirono.

94 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Check-Up, 5/21/2020: My Mind’s On Viruses For Some Reason…

  1. How can we be told that we need to trust “scientists” regarding the Wuhan Virus when they have so far proven uncertain, inconsistent, and, much of the time, wrong

    That’s what Science is, Jack. You want certainty? Try Religion. It’s more likely to be inconsistent and wrong, but at least it’s certain about things.

    Science is always our best guess based on what data there is to hand. Communication and distribution of knowledge is imperfect, so different scientists will have different subsets of knowledge, and thus reach different and thus inconsistent conclusions. Worse – from your viewpoint – they will always be tentative and uncertain.

    When action is called for, you have to go with your best guess, even though it could be wrong. I’ll modify that a bit – sometimes not your very best guess, but the one closest to it that you’re pretty sure won’t cause really dire consequences if you’re wrong, when the very best guess might be a little more likely to be true, but the consequences utterly catastrophic if incorrect.

    *NEVER* trust a “scientist” – scare quotes quite deliberate – who is utterly certain about all their conclusions, never changes their mind in the face of new evidence, and is never wrong – the last because it means that their conclusions are all so trivial as to be useless.

      • ZoeBrain wrote:

        That’s what Science is, Jack. You want certainty? Try Religion. It’s more likely to be inconsistent and wrong, but at least it’s certain about things.

        The things that religion are certain about — in the larger scale — have to do with a perceptual structure about the nature of life and of existence. That is to say: that we are born into a world where meaning — and of course moral meaning — exists. The religious viewpoint *sees* things about the world, and the world and existence, in a way that scientism simply cannot. Scientism is not so much a *view* as an absence of view. Science cannot interpret data. The purer the science, the less it has need, nor can distinguish, those *higher orders of meaning*. They simply become meaningless.

        First, the most horrifying events of all human history occurred in the 20th century — if the measure is mass death — and in the case of Stalinist USSR and Mao’s Communism under atheistic regimes. That is a hard fact for many people to face. There is no religious war that is even remotely comparable.

        The thing about *science* as a totalizing outlook is that it is in no way equipped to function as a worldview. One has to payu careful attention and to watch out very carefully when the totalizing *scientific* mind asserts itself as the ultimate arbiter. Surely many scientists with a necessary scientific outlook on limited problems do not make that mistake. But the scientific perspective — scientism — definitely seems to do this. And it allows certain corrupt tendencies already present in man to manifest and gives them a reign they never had.

        The curious thing about the time we are in is in the confusion of narratives. I would certainly truth a scientist to give me the best sense of how to act in relation to a contagious virus. But that is hardly the issue here. The issue has to do with *interest*: the contaminating interests of people and entities that fight power-battles in our present. The more that the power struggles intrude, the less does it seem possible and prudent to believe the one weaving the narrative. In this sort of a situation the average person cannot be certain who to trust. Because that *average person*, if he or she is awake, is aware that various powers view to control his opinion, to influence his or her interpretation.

        These are stark games of power and there are vast interests involved. Usually, the more *interest* the less one can believe and trust.

        As I understand things this is the nature of the time we are in. I do not want to indulge in paranoia, but neither do I want (nor can I afford) to misjudge or misinterpret. But from what I gather — speaking in meta-political terms — the nature of this juncture has to do with the advent of technology (that is, the fruit of science and scientism) that will be — is now in fact — being used to control human thought and behavior.

        Science has, in fact, rendered *freedom* to be meaningless. In the world of science, in the world view of science and scientism, there is simply no such thing as *freedom*. Science recognizes this because it can only discern determinism, and cannot discern an elective soul-function. So, the more that science and technology assert themselves — they inevitably do so — the more they destroy the former barriers against the total destruction of *freedom*.

        This seems to me to be the backdrop of our age. It is the beginning of ‘the end of the human’ and it coincides with the advent of the technologies of artificial intelligence. I describe this as the advent of the Machine (but I got this from Waldo Frank and it is certainly not a new notion).

        • Historian Richard G. Olson defines scientism as “efforts to extend scientific ideas, methods, practices, and attitudes to matters of human social and political concern.” (1) But this formulation is so broad as to render it virtually useless. Philosopher Tom Sorell offers a more precise definition: “Scientism is a matter of putting too high a value on natural science in comparison with other branches of learning or culture.” (2) MIT physicist Ian Hutchinson offers a closely related version, but more extreme: “Science, modeled on the natural sciences, is the only source of real knowledge.” (3)

          Sorry, had to look the word up. I learn something new every day.

          1. Olson, Richard G. Science and Scientism in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 2008.

          2. Sorell, Tom. Scientism: Philosophy and the Infatuation with Science. New York: Routledge, 1991.

          3. Hutchinson, Ian. Monopolizing Knowledge: A Scientist Refutes Religion-Denying, Reason-Destroying Scientism. Belmont, MA: Fias Publishing, 2011.

    • I know that, and you know that. But when said scientists are being held up as unchallengeable authorities, they have to be held to some standards. How can we accept “How dare you not follow the advice of experts?” when the experts are so spectacularly wrong?

      • In almost all cases, the issue isn’t scientists, it’s reporters and politicians. Because they either ignore or focus on caveats depending on the result they want to report.

        Although I may have to carve out an exception to that. I have seen actual scientists claim certainty based on models and statistics, but mostly when talking to reporters and politicians. It’s a bit of a trap for them. They understand both their caveats and the meta caveats but whoever they are talking too is likely to pick the worst possible interpretation of them.

        Models are incapable of proving something true. All they can give you is a particular prediction to test against reality. They can suggest something is true, they can be used to develop technology to do something based on those predictions, but they are not proof and the technology may not work. The definitely can NOT prove what would have happened in an alternate universe.

        It’s amazing to me how many people confuse the map for the territory, and then seek to change the territory when their predictions don’t work, or just ignore particular instances that don’t fit their predictions. Economists are possibly the worst of the lot, but an awful lot of medical professionals seem to trust numeric values over observable symptoms. It took forever for my fiance to get prescribed a treatment, which ended up working, because her blood test was consistently in the normal range.

        • The sudden retraction of surfaces spreading the virus is the final straw for me. What will they reverse themself on tomorrow? I’d rather then just admit, “Hell, we don’t know shit; you’re on your own.”

    • “Science is always our best guess based on what data there is to hand.”

      Baloney. Leaders were making unprecedentedly huge decisions based on models. There was virtually no data. Who knows whether “social distancing” “flattened the curve.” Do the pathogens travel six feet or twelve and a half feet? If I go with the latter based on cases in China, the current “social distancing” regimen is pointless. What was the curve based on? Models.

      Good leaders could have said, “I’m not buying it.” Or they could have listened to contrary positions by other experts and concluded “flattening the curve” was just a hypothetical construct.

      • Even saying “the virus travels 6 feet” or “the virus travels 12.5 feet” is a gross oversimplification.

        There is a virus distribution pattern. The closer you are to a person that is actively shedding the virus from the respiratory tract is creating a field around them full of viruses. There isn’t some distance where they suddenly stop. The density just decreases with distance. Stay further away and you’re exposed less.

        How much they are shedding, which is influenced by what they are doing and how sick they are; what the airflow in the area is, how long you’re nearby, how healthy you are and genetics also matter along with how far away you are all matter how likely you are to catch it and probably how bad you get sick. None of them are a cliff where you go from screwed to perfectly safe.

        Yet this is turned into a magic number of 6 feet like it is suddenly some safe distance.

    • This isn’t science. It isn’t even close. This is politics, pure and simple. For science, you have to reasonably interpret the data. Right now, we have no data of a major health crisis. Our hospitals have so few patients, they are laying off staff and closing. The deaths from COVID-19, even when inflated drastically, only amount to ~2% of the deaths that are happening normally. How can you have a major outbreak of a deadly disease with few patients and deaths? I would think that would be a prerequisite for a deadly outbreak. It is sort of like prosecuting people for embezzlement when there is no money missing (I know the Clinton’s did it, but still…).

      We have thrown away our schools for a year or more. We have created massive unemployment with future shortages of food and most products likely. We have reduced healthcare to the point that cancer diagnoses are down 40% because people aren’t getting tested. Some people aren’t getting treated for cancer. Each year, we have about 600,000 cancer deaths from over 1.5 million cases. Not diagnosing people doesn’t make it go away, it increases the death rate. Could we kill 100,000 people from cancer trying to save 5,000-10,000 from COVID? What about the heart patients, diabetes patients, etc? What about famine? Hamburger is up to $10/lb from $4 a few weeks ago in some stores here? What will the death toll be from our cowardice and fear? We have thrown away our freedom, allowing executives to make draconian laws and go after citizens for the crime of wanting to work. Look at the first paragraph. What about that indicates that all this was a necessity?

      Let’s look at the ‘scientific’ approach we took. What actions did we take to try to minimize the damage from this outbreak?

      •We prioritized the hospitals for COVID patients. OK, that makes sense. When those patients didn’t materialize though, we didn’t open the hospitals up for regular services, we just left them empty or closed them, neglecting normal, essential patient care.

      •We closed half the stores and shortened their hours. This crammed the same number of people into fewer stores in a shorter period of time. The experts decided this would get the public to spread out more because…science?

      • We closed the schools and daycares. We sent the group of people least likely to have serious complications home to be cared for in many cases by…the grandparents and great-grandparents. So we exposed the most vulnerable population to the little germ factories because….science?

      • In the case of New York, New Jersey, Massachussetts, and Michigan sent infectious COVID patients to nursing homes to infect the one vulnerable group we knew about because…science? Look who has the most severe outbreaks of coronoavirus…NY, NJ, MA, MI. Coincidence?

      • We used models to predict the future spread of the outbreak. The models never worked. The models were designed to model flu outbreaks and didn’t work for that, either. In science, if the model doesn’t work, you alter the model. In politics, if the ideology doesn’t work, you alter or misrepresent the facts. Which happened here?

      Looking at the data, there is no indication that any of the ‘preventative’ measures had any effect. The places hardest hit all had strict restrictions. Of course, other places with strict restrictions (like CA) saw COVID deaths within the standard deviation of normal deaths. So, there is no evidence that these measures did anything. So, why are we continuing to do them when they come with a serious cost. If the restrictions don’t reduce infections and death, then we did all this for nothing.

      Now, early on, it was prudent to take preventative measures. We had very frightening and confusing data from China. Part of that was the nature of the Chinese government. Part of it was the fact that the Chinese tests had a 20% false negative rate and who knows what the false positive rate was. This explains many of the results of people not getting immunity from it (they were positive, then negative, then positive just because the tests were so bad), the few people who were positive for long periods of time, etc. Once we figured that out and we found out that the actual death rate is between 0.1-0.5% including the vulnerable elderly population, we should have adjusted our approach. We didn’t. That isn’t science. Choosing ideology over the data isn’t science.

      Now, there are still going to be the people who scream ‘but people are going to die’ and ‘we could get a second wave’, etc. However, if the government is going to claim they need emergency powers to deprive people of their jobs, healthcare, and their rights, shouldn’t the government need to show some pretty convincing proof of the need. I shouldn’t have to prove there isn’t an emergency. They need to PROVE there is one. I would think patients threatening to overwhelm the healthcare system and a significant number of deaths would be a prerequisite to even start such a conversation. It is frightening that they can claim such powers without even that.

  2. Regarding #4, why is it racist to call the main disease the “Wuhan” covid, but not to call the poorly understood after-reaction experienced by some children the “Kawasaki” syndrome?

    Stay strong, Jack!

  3. 2. Is moral luck really the only descriptor of being right on this thing? Is Sweden moral luck or better decision making? Are the results of leaders panicking simply moral luck or bad decision making? If all results are moral luck, why do we bother with case studies or, for that matter, the recording and study of history? We can ignore the past with impunity?

      • Everything’s a crap shoot? Someone couldn’t have said, “Uh, wait a minute. We want to cause The Great Repression based on … what exactly?” No one could have said, “Don’t we need to know more about this thing before we do something completely unprecedented?” A zugwag, so called, get’s leaders off the hook for panicking and “doing something?” When is something a zugwag? What if it’s just a delusion?

  4. 1–“Everything is a potential symptom, including no symptoms at all.”

    Not unlike the “Global Warming That’s Here And Worse Than The Models Predicted,” am I right?

    3–”(Which) would be the cause of mass hysteria from the Left if Trump said something similar about, say, Stacy Abrams.”

    THAT would be accurate, if a tad boorish.

    The Runway Supermodel reference which DIDN’T cause an uproar? Whither the mass hysteria from the Body Image protecting/Objectifying_X-Chromosomal_Units_Bad Feminist sharpshooters?

      • I’ve been wondering whether obesity being an underlying problem with the Wuhan Flu wouldn’t dampen the current ridiculous excitement around fat chick chic.

      • Me? M…M..M…ME???

        It’s YOU PEOPLE (it may come as no surprise that this group mutually excludes your’s truly!) who have, through generations of EVIL White Male Patriarchy, established standards of female physique/beauty/countenance/décolletage which are impossible to attain!

        • The White Male Patriarchy dates from at least the Garden of Eden, not from the publication of “Feminine Mystique.”

  5. #4 It’s dumb-asses like Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Mazie Hirono that will destroy the United States Constitution by chipping away at the Amendments one word at a time. Their primary tool to destroy the Constitution, they’ll trot out one heart wrenching bleeding heart story at a time and in the end they will squeeze every drop of blood from the people of the United States.

    I don’t trust these people in positions of real power.

  6. Trumps announcement of his use of hydroxychloroquine is not as dumb as it seems. There are currently several clinical trials examining its efficacy (not anectdotal).
    These doctors are are complaining that the media is scaring trial subjects away.
    The fact is, according to one cardiac physician who was discussing the problem of getting subject volunteers both asprin and Tylenol rank higher on the dangerous drug roster than Hydroxycholoroquine.

    Remdesivir has no track record yet they are distributing 1600 doses to NewJersey.

    I believe the hype on Remdesivir and the anti hydroxychloroquine rants are driven by financial considerations. Much like never let a crisis go to waste the corrollary in the pharma business is never promote a generic drug when a much more expensive proprietary drug is in the offing.

    • There was a double blind study of Remdesovir that showed statistically significant results in reducing illness time by 25%.

      A decrease in mortality of 3% was suggested, but at 1 chance in 17 that it might have been coincidence, was not deemed statistically significant.

      • True – but it’s also important to remember a few things about this. Remdesivir is still technically in trials and is only being administered to hospitalized patients – typically, the REALLY sick ones. As things push forward we’ll likely have a better understanding of what impact it has on patients who are hospitalized but not in intensive care.

        Part of the problem here is that it can currently only be administered IV, which makes it impossible to gauge its effectiveness on people who have confirmed COVID-19 but aren’t sick enough to be admitted. And unfortunately, Gilead Pharmaceuticals – which created the drug – apparently has no current plans to produce it in pill form. Not sure why; some people with experience in drug research think this could actually be done fairly easily.

        • Concur – though it sounds like you know something I don’t re ease of putting in oral form. I do know it’s an iron plated bitch to synthesise.

          My recent research publications have been in computational chemistry, determining preferred shapes and thus likely medicinal properties of such molecules. BUT.. emphasis on the “computational”: rather than “chemistry”. Meta genetic algorithms, empirically testing the existing theoretical structure of the mathematical models rather than formulating novel hypotheses. Lots of PetaFLOPs. The 6-11 order of magnitude increase in efficiency was an unexpected side effect, though obviously useful to drug companies.

          Regarding medicinal properties – it’s 3D Tetris. But thousands of games at once, and the pieces break up and change shape a bit, and a winning solution in more than one game causes a loss.

          Yes, you kill the virus in the game you’re looking at, hurray. But the byproducts of metabolic breakdown futz up heart muscles in one of the simultaneous parallel games, patient dies, game over. Bugger.

          Biochemistry is hard. Give me my usual day job, Rocket Scentist.

          • Even harder than you think. Viruses are not alive to begin with, so there’s no “killing” them. Viruses are in no sense living things, viruses are bits of chemical coding designed to do one thing – replicate itself. It does this by commandeering healthy cell processes and ordering them to make duplicates of the viral particle and protein coat to the specifications in the viral programming. It neither consumes nor produces energy, it merely performs a block function — replication — that kills the targeted cells and thereby poisons the host by reducing normal metabolic function.

            Antivirals like Remdesivir block a protein path that prevents the virus from attaching to receptor sites, making it harder for it to enter target cells. It essentially reduces the virus’ opportunity to replicate itself, like a rear-guard action in combat — trading ground for time until the immune system is fully engaged and overwhelms the infection. If the immune system cannot respond sufficiently, the host always dies.

            Viral infections are a numbers game — if the reproduction rate of the virus exceeds the body’s ability to neutralize it, the infected organism gets progressively more ill until one of two things happens: The immune system catches up, or the virus kills the host. The mechanisms of host demise are interesting but irrelevant to this discussion.

            Anything that delays viral reproduction gives the immune system time to ramp up production before the death of the host. Otherwise, it’s just a race to either host expiration or effective immune response that allows the host to survive and rid itself of the virus. Inactive virus particles are shed via normal metabolic function.

            Viruses have more in common with a poisonous substance than a living organism in the way they work on their hosts. Just as the liver and kidneys work to reduce the concentration of poisons to the point they are no longer killing the poisoned person, the immune system “filters” out the virus if it is able to fully engage before host expiry.

            • I oversimplified antivirals a bit – some of them affect viral replication in ways other than inhibiting attachment, but in general, the just reduce the rate of viral replication to the point that the body can deal with them.

            • Etymology of the word *virus*:

              The word is from the Latin neuter vīrus referring to poison and other noxious liquids, from the same Indo-European base as Sanskrit viṣa, Avestan vīša, and ancient Greek ἰός (all meaning “poison”), first attested in English in 1398 in John Trevisa’s translation of Bartholomeus Anglicus’s De Proprietatibus Rerum.Virulent, from Latin virulentus (poisonous), dates to c. 1400. A meaning of “agent that causes infectious disease” is first recorded in 1728, long before the discovery of viruses by Dmitri Ivanovsky in 1892. The English plural is viruses (sometimes also vira or viri), whereas the Latin word is a mass noun, which has no classically attested plural (vīra is used in Neo-Latin). The adjective viral dates to 1948.[19] The term virion (plural virions), which dates from 1959, is also used to refer to a single viral particle that is released from the cell and is capable of infecting other cells of the same type.

              In a limited way I think I understand why you say that “viruses are not alive to begin with, so there’s no “killing” them. Viruses are in no sense living things, viruses are bits of chemical coding designed to do one thing – replicate itself”. But there is some debate as to their living or non-living nature.

              At least according to Wiki: “Viruses are considered by some biologists to be a life form, because they carry genetic material, reproduce, and evolve through natural selection…”

              They certainly have a function within life-processes.

              I am interested in the symbolic content of the present pandemic, that is if I were to take a Jungian view. Given that in my rather non-optimistic and paranoid-realistic understanding that mankind is on the verge of tremendous threat by mechanical forces (the machine) that man himself invented and installed, and that these also now are verging into artificially intelligent non-living *organisms* that are mechanical and potentially self-replicating, it is interesting (in a limited way) to consider the *meaning* of these present events.

              from Latin: slime, poisonous liquid; related to Old English wāse marsh, Greek ios poison

              Interesting — just noting — that marsh and swamp are obviously connected. A low-lying area where things are subject to rot. A virus is then an agent of decomposition I guess? I mean, that is its biological (and necessary) function?

              Non-living, or semi-living, viral entities that come out of the ooze or the marsh . . . [As in mud or slime, it (the word ‘ooze’) traces back to an Old Norse word meaning “puddle, stagnant pool”].

              I might have to write a song about this! 🙂

              • No doubt there is debate about whether or not viruses can be considered “alive,” in the sense that their replication mimics a fundamental process of life — reproduction.

                However, the fact that viruses are organic and contain genetic coding is, in my opinion, a very stilted view of what constitutes life. All life forms of which I am aware consume energy to survive and reproduce. Virus do not do that — they force other life forms to use their energy on their behalf by taking over their instruction set.

                Viruses are a comparatively simple set of instructions to do one specific thing — produce exact duplicates. Of course, in that sense, their programming is flawed, because they are not well-designed enough to avoid errors during the replication process (usually because they can’t tell where the cell’s DNA strand ends). Calling this “natural selection” is really a stretch — if you replicate enough programs with errors, some of them are going to be viable inevitably. Sometimes even more virulent, or acting in a way that hides them from the immune system.

                But this isn’t natural selection, it’s random accident driven by sheer volume. What makes it possible are the sub-microscopic nature of viral particles and the vast numbers in which they replicate. It’s like the old idea that if you give a monkey enough time, he can eventually design a 747.

                I guess it all depends on how you look at it, but all known viruses lack the ability to do anything at all outside their host organism, unlike virtually every other form of life. So if they are “life,” then it’s by a vastly expanded definition. They are functionally indistinguishable from a computer virus other than their organic hosts.

                • Interesting perspective. I’ve never thought about such things. I suppose there are virologists that study the origin of viruses? They had to have been around for a loooooonnngggg time. I assume that they are quasi-life forms or life forms that are symbiotic to organisms. I would be led to ask what their function is, as for example in the natural ecosystem. [In Vedic cosmology they would be linked to the guna ‘tamas’: decay. I only mention this because they seem to attack the weak among those organisms and thus their function is to cull out the weak).

                  However, the fact that viruses are organic and contain genetic coding is, in my opinion, a very stilted view of what constitutes life.

                  I wonder if there is any other sort of entity, or even a chemical substance, that use genetic coding? Isn’t the code itself — something that could not (mathematically impossible) be arrived at by random processes evidence, if not of life itself, but the coding that stands behind (anterior to) all life?

                  But this isn’t natural selection…

                  Yet they had to have evolved. I.e. to have come onto the scene at some point and become a part of life and life’s processes.

                  But this isn’t natural selection, it’s random accident driven by sheer volume.

                  That is, of course, an expression of opinion. An opinion that fits into a larger scheme of opinion. It has coherency, but is not necessarily *truth*.

                  Any thoughts on the counter-Dawinist termite-like underminings of people like Stephen C. Meyer?

                  • You said: I would be led to ask what their function is, as for example in the natural ecosystem.

                    This is a fine question and a primary reason for why I consider them non-living. They have a single block function — reproduction. They do not infect purposefully, or transport useful things like pollen or act in a symbiotic manner with any known organism. Outside of a host organism, they are inert. When they are in a position to attack a host organism, they always do, but the attack is purely biochemical in nature. They could no more decline such an attack than teleport themselves to Mars.

                    You said: I wonder if there is any other sort of entity, or even a chemical substance, that use genetic coding?

                    I am unaware of any. Prions are the closest analog of which I am aware, but they don’t really use genetic information. They are far more comfortably described as a kind of organic poison.

                    You said: Yet they had to have evolved.

                    Umm. This statement shows a remarkably blinkered attitude. They may have been intentionally made. It is the, “By whom or what” that is the million-dollar question.

                    Programs, as we know them, are written. Maybe it’s no different for organic programs like viruses.

                    But let’s look at evolution. The answer is simple — RNA, the stuff of viruses genetic material, is far less complex than the DNA that resides at the heart of cellular organisms — the type of organism viruses target. RNA is very likely to have occurred in nature long before DNA. Therefore, it is likely viral analogues existed before the first cells. How they came into being is a matter for debate, but it’s roughly the same debate as how cellular life originated.

                    That is, of course, an expression of opinion. An opinion that fits into a larger scheme of opinion. It has coherency, but is not necessarily *truth*.

                    Right on both counts. I am incapable of relating “truth” in this matter, because as far as I know, there is none — at least, none that we can identify as such with confidence. I have an opinion, which I have shared for what it is worth — probably about what it cost.

                    Any thoughts on the counter-Dawinist termite-like underminings of people like Stephen C. Meyer?

                    None that are worth sharing, I ‘m afraid. 🙂

                    • Thanks for that. I was tempted to make a comment . . . or two.

                      The question I would ask is: What in nature is understood to have truly self-defined purpose? that is not merely nature’s non-intended purpose? which is only continuance (reproduction)? I always thought that this was the final conclusion of those who studied nature *scientifically*. There is absolutely no purpose and no *will* in nature.

                      The way I understand life and life’s origin — indeed the kosmos and the origin of the kosmos — is to suppose that even before that moment at which everything is said to have come into existence, even existence itself, there had to be the *idea* of all things. I suppose that what I am saying is *blinkered* but so-be-it.

                      I have no idea how physicists go to work mentally on these primary questions. But it simply seems to me that before creation was created there had to *exist* the idea and the structure of possibility that eventually existence flows into. I admit that the ideas I have are certainly *primitive* if compared to the elaborate schemes of physicists.

                      I also admit that these are ‘mystical notions’ that are proto-philosophic. I have to admit that I am amazed that we are given *a world* (this place that we find our self) in which we carry on. Yet here we are. Can this be approached in any other way, I mean in the larger sense of the question, than through mystic relationship? It does not seem so to me.

                      But it is really curious that we are meditating on the fact of a virus’s existence, and the nature of a virus. It is, when reduced to a *meaning*, an agent of Death is it not? It is something that we find in nature, a literal thorn or a ‘prick’ which signifies chaos, suffering and loss: these eventualities that we so much hate and rebel against.

                      In Medieval philosophy it was actually supposed that it was everything ‘mutable’ that had, at some point, to be resolved into *perfection*. This notion lives still be strongly in the Christian sense of ‘Heaven’ and a world free of strife and mutation.

                      Therefore, in one conceptual sense, a ‘virus’ is a poison and a mechanism that is part-and-parcel of the classical ‘fallen world’ conceived of by the Medieval mind. It brings the plans and hopes of man to an end. Or it is a sort of wall that we must face. In Vedic philosophy that *world* was understood to be what they call ‘the material entanglement’. This of course supposed another level of being, or other levels of being, both higher and lower. We find our self in a *liminal* existence in which we recognize both ‘the heavenly’ and the ‘eternal’ but as creatures mired in the ooze of mutability and eventual decay. Decay, death, loss, pain, end.

                      As you see I am more inclined to meditations on *meaning* than on aspects of physical science! It is a curious thing though to consider the ‘religious’ reactions. What I refer to as the Medieval notions (which indeed they are, and they are still very much with us). Again, in Vedic philosophy we have to come to realize, through sober realization, that we have come to find our self in this *liminal* realm of ‘material entanglement’. One false step away from that *sober awareness* and we (as souls) can fall evermore into that dread *material entanglement*. They of course understand this as the endless succession of births. But it is a very interesting idea really. That we either ascend or we descend through the things we do.

                      Damned virus! It is really getting in my way and beginning to get on my nerves!

                • …if you give a monkey enough time, he can eventually design a 747.”

                  Or at least the flight control software for a 737 MAX…

                • Viruses are a comparatively simple set of instructions to do one specific thing — produce exact duplicates. Of course, in that sense, their programming is flawed, because they are not well-designed enough to avoid errors during the replication process (usually because they can’t tell where the cell’s DNA strand ends). Calling this “natural selection” is really a stretch — if you replicate enough programs with errors, some of them are going to be viable inevitably. Sometimes even more virulent, or acting in a way that hides them from the immune system.

                  But this isn’t natural selection, it’s random accident driven by sheer volume.

                  With the greatest respect, that, plus a fitness function is exactly what natural selection AKA Evolution is. A fitness function just means there is some way of sorting these randomly changed accidents into “fitness” to survive. Does a randomly corrupted program run or not – is it viable – that would be one such.

                  One example – a poster prepared for an audience knowing little about evolution or chemistry – is

                  Meta-Genetic Algorithms, Molecules, and Supercomputers
                  MA Addicoat, ZE Brain
                  Poster, SC10 Conference on High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis, New Orleans, 2011.

                  Unlike most academic publications aimed at an expert audience, this should be easily comprehended by a lay audience.

          • Concur – though it sounds like you know something I don’t re ease of putting in oral form.

            I wouldn’t trust that structure to last long in the stomach unless it’s way more stable than it looks.

            I do know it’s an iron plated bitch to synthesise.

            I count two chiral resolutions. It’s purifying the diastereomers, isn’t it? Those sorts of steps almost never go to 100%, and then you’re left hoping they separate on the column.

            • Now we’re into the realm of chemical engineering, rather than chemistry.

              I am never forget the day
              I am given first original paper to write
              It was on analytical algebraic topology
              Of locally Euclidean metrization
              Of infinitely differentiable Riemannian manifold
              Bozhe moy!
              This I know from nothing

              Oddly enough I *do* know something about “analytical algebraic topology of locally Euclidean metrization of infinitely differentiable Riemannian manifolds”. It’s why and to what extent an oblate spheroid like the Earth appears flat locally. Useful in cartography and navigation.

              I wrote my undergraduate Pure Maths thesis on the history of nonEuclidean geometry.

              Stereoisomers I know a little about. Purification and yields thereof, this I know from nothing. I can tell you what the low energy conformers of each are though.

              Optimization of a genetic algorithm for searching molecular conformer space
              ZE Brain, MA Addicoat
              The Journal of chemical physics 135 (17), 174106-174106-10

              • I took the liberty of rewriting your unintended (?) *poem*.

                I am somewhat confused as to your *identity* but I give this a male perspective.

                Oh when the man was a man and the woman a woman! [Lo the centuries it seems!]

                I am never forget the day
                I am never forget
                I am given first original paper to write
                But I went to the flowers in the field instead
                It was to be on analytical algebraic topology
                Of locally Euclidean metrization
                But her lips deterred me
                As the smell of sweet dirt and pungent stem betranced me.
                Oh infinitely differentiable Riemannian manifold!
                “Bozhe moy! Bozhe moy!”
                This I know from nothing
                As from nothing all is (un)known
                Except that when those lips I kissed
                Doubt faded

                • I can be a little dense about metre and stanzas, but this one seems like a sonnet. The troll composition from the other day seemed a less classical. Are you experimenting with a diversity of genres?

                  Or maybe I’m allowing the words themselves to color my reading. I should read more poetry!

              • Now we’re into the realm of chemical engineering, rather than chemistry.

                Organic synthesis, actually – though it occupies that same strange space between a science and a trade. I never thought I’d encounter my field here. When you said there were challenges in the drug’s synthetic pathway I couldn’t resist finding the scheme and trying to guess. (Not knowing the answer is going to motivate me to steal a moment or two of company time later to scour the literature.)

                Stereoisomers I know a little about. Purification and yields thereof, this I know from nothing.

                You know, after reading your paper I think you’d be more interested in chiral resolution techniques than you might guess. The last one in the scheme probably exploits a proprietary enzyme to semi-selectively hydrolyze the undesired epimer, unless they’re “resolving” it on the column, in which case I quibble with it being listed on the scheme like that. The first, if I’m interpreting things correctly (and my interpretation from the scheme alone could be called controversial by a miserable contrarian cynic), uses a Lewis acid and a non-reactive, non-coordinating solvent to put a covalent bond into a breaking/reforming equilibrium. These sorts of resolutions rely on the control of a variable (almost always temperature) to steer the result to the thermodynamically or kinetically most favorable product. In a certain simplistic sort of way, it’s an in vitro analog of one of your in silico experiments, fluctuating positions in space and time until it arrives at a low-energy state.

                I suppose the same could be said of any reaction really, but this is a much more representative case with the relevant principles at the forefront.

                • Now you’re giving me a Geekgasm by explaining things at exactly the right level for me to understand.
                  Thank you.

        • Remdesivir is still technically in trials and is only being administered to hospitalized patients – typically, the REALLY sick ones.

          Just a note, since I’ve known so many people to misunderstand this point, often resentfully: Trial drugs are not given automatically to “really sick ones” over “slightly” sick ones. The “really sick ones” are necessary for trial purposes, though the opportunity may go down the line. Drugs whose reliability are not yet confirmed (something that usually takes years) are generally done first on two groups of people — those involved in the official trials (which must be a random choice from specific groups) and “the really sick ones.” Both require consent.

          “Consent” in medical terms means Informed Consent. In the case of trial drugs, that means it is legally necessary for all adult patients as well as the “really sick ones.” The process is voluntary, rescind-able at any time, and even more detailed than the Informed Consent for most surgery; also the proof of comprehension is usually more rigorous than in other cases.

          • Clarification: the “REALLY sick ones,” in this case hospitalized, would become part of the trial itself, with the cooperation of the patients’ physicians and the hospital itself.

      • Zoe
        Hydroxychloriquine has a track record of 65 years from which we can draw conclusions about safety.

        It is one thing for reporters to claim there is only anecdotal data on efficacy but they are claiming it KILLS people. That is BS. My point was the fear mongers are interfering with ongoing efficacy studies by scaring people away from participating. I’ll stack up my longitudinal data on safety over the longitudinal safety data in Remdesivir.

        • See

          Hydroxychloroquine cardiotoxicity presenting as a rapidly evolving biventricular cardiomyopathy: key diagnostic features and literature review
          Emer Joyce, Aurelie Fabre, and Niall Mahon
          Eur Heart J Acute Cardiovasc Care. 2013 Mar; 2(1): 77–83.
          doi: 10.1177/2048872612471215

          Hydroxychloroquine-induced cardiomyopathy and heart failure in twins
          Hang Zhao, Joyce Wald, […], and Yuchi Han
          J Thorac Dis. 2018 Jan; 10(1): E70–E73.
          doi: 10.21037/jtd.2017.12.66

          Bear in mind I am not an MD, my qualifications are in Pure Mathematics and Computer Science, my publications mostly in Evolutionary Computation, Genetic Algorithms and Meta Genetic Algorithms in the context of Chemical Physics and Physical Chemistry.

          I am not entirely clueless in this area… not entirely. But it would be a decent first order approximation. Enough clues to know I’m mostly clueless. In this area I rely on a friend of mine in Queensland Public Health who deals with cardiac issues caused by auto immune disease and malaria. To over simplify, killing one and saving ten is a good deal. So is extending lifespan by decades with lupus. He knows a lot about HQ.

          In Australia, of the 7000 confirmed cases, 3 have had lupus and 2 rheumatoid arthritis, and were on HQ. Any prophylactic effect is not obvious and spectacular, but only an obvious and spectacular effect would be detectable with the numbers we have.

        • Our study has several limitations. The association of decreased survival with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine treatment regimens should be interpreted cautiously. Due to the observational study design, we cannot exclude the possibility of unmeasured confounding factors, although we have reassuringly noted consistency between the primary analysis and the propensity score matched analyses. Nevertheless, a cause-and-effect relationship between drug therapy and survival should not be inferred. These data do not apply to the use of any treatment regimen used in the ambulatory, out-of-hospital setting. Randomised clinical trials will be required before any conclusion can be reached regarding benefit or harm of these agents in COVID-19 patients. We also note that although we evaluated the relationship of the drug treatment regimens with the occurrence of ventricular arrhythmias, we did not measure QT intervals, nor did we stratify the arrhythmia pattern (such as torsade de pointes). We also did not establish if the association of increased risk of in-hospital death with use of the drug regimens is linked directly to their cardiovascular risk, nor did we conduct a drug dose-response analysis of the observed risks. Even if these limitations suggest a conservative interpretation of the findings, we believe that the absence of any observed benefit could still represent a reasonable explanation.

          In summary, this multinational, observational, real-world study of patients with COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation found that the use of a regimen containing hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine (with or without a macrolide) was associated with no evidence of benefit, but instead was associated with an increase in the risk of ventricular arrhythmias and a greater hazard for in-hospital death with COVID-19. These findings suggest that these drug regimens should not be used outside of clinical trials and urgent confirmation from randomised clinical trials is needed.

  7. Who needs to trust scientists. There are “academic experts” who have our backs during these trying times.
    Dr. Bonomi (
    and Dr. Viveiros ( f’rinstance:

    “There’s an unconscious bias in virtual meetings. Here’s how you can avoid it.

    While employees use videoconferencing now more than ever, there’s an issue happening beneath the surface with platforms like Zoom, Teams and Skype beyond stress and mental health that’s affecting its users.

    Amy Bonomi, a social science researcher from Michigan State University, and Nelia Viveiros from University of Colorado, said that these platforms are a ripe setting for unconscious bias — or, when people act based on prejudice and stereotypes without intending to do so.

    “Unconscious bias includes using language, symbolism and nonverbal cues that reinforce normative social identities with respect to gender, race, sexual preference and socioeconomic status,” Bonomi said. “For example, when the virtual background of a Zoom meeting attendee has pictures of his or her wedding, it unintentionally reinforces the idea that marriage is most fitting between opposite sexes.”

    In fact, even a simple icebreaker — common for videoconferencing settings —can be a pathway for reinforcing dominant social norms and identities…”

  8. Kawasaki disease is named after the doctor who first reported it. The disease was first reported by Tomisaku Kawasaki in a four-year-old child with a rash and fever at the Red Cross Hospital in Tokyo in January 1961, and he later published a report on 50 similar cases.

    SARS-CoViD-2 is only called kung flu, chink plague, wuhan virus etc to make political points, usually racist or xenophobic. Right now, the best bet is that it originated in the Wuhan area of China around October 2019, via a wildlife wet market, though there is also evidence pointing to a European or Algerian origin in September. The assertion by some Chinese functionary that it was spread by the US was plucked out of his arse, and deserves mockery.

    After a series of lab accidents in the US where virusses escaped containment around 2015, the research on that particular line moved to Wuhan which was thought to have better containment. Research on some other virusses was moved to Victoria in Australia, also thought to have better containment. Better they might be, perfect, not.

    You’ve probably never heard of Hendra virus. Endemic in bats, but when passed on to horses, can then infect humans. More deadly than MERS, which is similarly passed on via camels. Discovered in 1994, a vaccine is available for horses, but not for humans. 60% fatality rate.

    Nipah virus is very similar, but is passed from bats to pigs, thence humans, and unlike Hendra, there is significant human to human transmission. 75% fatality rate.

    You can see why the route bat -> some animal -> human is considered likely.

    Look upon COVID as a live fire exercise. More infectious than the likely Very Bad Indeed Virus, but only just deadly enough to be terrifying rather than leaving bodies in the streets. Good practice for the inevitable main event(s).

    As we’ve been saying for decades now. It can be quite depressing.

    • Where does this “COVID-19 is just a dress rehearsal for ‘THE INEVITABLE BIG ONE!” mantra come from? I hear it all the time from a friend in Austria who’s husband is a now-retired GP. It reminds me of market prognosticators who constantly say “a correction or a recession is coming.” Eventually, they’re right and can say “I told you so.” But what’s the utility of such behavior? What drives it?

    • “SARS-CoViD-2 is only called kung flu, chink plague, wuhan virus etc to make political points, usually racist or xenophobic.”

      Frankly, bullshit. And you know better. The first two, maybe, especially the second one…. But no one is seriously asserting that the virus is properly called that. The fact that we’re calling this, for the most part, “COVID” as opposed to the Wuhan Flu (which would be following in the footsteps of damn near every pandemic over the last hundred years of either being named after the place of origin, or the scientist who discovered it, see MERS, to use your own example) is because the Chinese propaganda machine went into full spin-cycle to try to distance China from the virus, because that’s what China does.

      The reason we didn’t have a proper name for the virus until late February was because China was arresting doctors who tried to report on the virus as early as October the year before, throwing them into Gulags and letting them die. The Wuhan Flu was given the Voldemort treatment until nearly 5 *million* people had left Wuhan province and spread the disease across the world, and doctors outside the protective umbrella of Chinese sensors were able to look at the Virus.

      The WHO’s response to this? They put out more papers concerning the tone of calling the virus the Wuhan Flu than they did actual fact sheets about the virus. While the CDC was warning about human to human transmission, the WHO was putting out “fact” sheets playing down the virus. This, despite evidence now that they had a pretty good idea about not only what they were dealing with, but how serious it was, back in 2019.

      Every week the world hesitated in dealing with the Wuhan Flu, the initial infection rates got worse. The studies and models are all over the place, but they seem to have a consensus around the idea that if nations reacted about four weeks earlier than they did, and did noting other than curb traffic from China, then up to 90% of worldwide infections could have been stopped.

      But you’re here asserting that calling it the Wuhan Flu is steeped in racism. Huh. How does carrying water for a tinpot dictatorship by being an arm of their propaganda machine feel?

      • It’s not an influenza virus, it’s a coronavirus . Different beast entirely. Sharks bite. Tigers bite. A Shark is not some form of Tiger, though both are vetebrates, and being bitten by either is to be avoided, and exactly which does the biting may not matter too much to the victim.

        ” How does carrying water for a tinpot dictatorship by being an arm of their propaganda machine feel?”

        I’m not a member of the Trump administration or even Trump’s fan club, so wouldn’t know.

        • So… It’s wrong to call it the “Flu” because it’s not technically the flu? Tell than to the Chinese censors that called it 武汉肺炎 for four months.

          But sure, we could be better. Ebola doesn’t mention hemorrhagic plague, only the river it originated from, so we could just call it “Wuhan” and be assuaged, “Wuhan Virus” is less discrete, but it still gets the job done. How about WARS (Wuhan Area Respiratory Syndrome) or CARS (Chinese Area Respiratory Syndrome)? I mean, those are both snappy acronyms and very much in line with previous iterations of coronavirus.

          It’s actually funny. we have never before in the history of coronavirus, called a coronavirus “Coronavirus ID (Year)” outside of labs, but we’re being told that we could not possibly in good conscious name it like we’ve named diseases for literally hundreds of years, because we might hurt some poor dictators feelings.

          Water getting heavy yet?

          • I think you are not accurately capturing his Zoe’s view. It is not unreasonable. But things have to be separated out so that they make sense.

            The virus likely originated in China, but really could have originated anywhere. Other areas are possible.

            That China, for all the reasons that can be critiqued with great force, mishandled the outbreak and which led to little effort to alert the rest of the world and, perhaps, contain the virus, is a separate issue from the origin of the virus itself — all that is true. But the virus is not Communist.

            People are — indeed they are! — channeling anger, contempt, frustration, and also (if one accepts these terms) racism and xenophobia onto the Chinese because people always have a tendency to allow one narratives to contaminate other narratives. Separating things out is not easy.

            So, Zoe (I was going to say she but I am not sure!) does not see her self as carrying water for the Chinese communist party, but rather as trying to stay within clear narrative divisions. Such a virus could break out anywhere, and at any time.

            “I’m not a member of the Trump administration or even Trump’s fan club, so wouldn’t know.”

            Now this is hyperbolic because Trump is not heading up a régime comparable to that of the CCP. But, it has to be said that ‘Trump support’ — the blind, flag-waving variety — has a fairly strong and quite noticeable demogogic aspect. He is a master manipulator and works within a system that allows for masterful manipulation (think The Iraq TeeVee Gulf War to get a sense of the origin of this massive obscuring and manipulative power).

            To ‘support Trump’ is associated with support of a whole range of policies and activities which are achieved by definite forms of manipulation. The *system* that is America does this. It is part-and-parcel of that system. Not the same as but similar to that of more recognizable régimes that we freely critique because they are *not us*.

            This view of Trump and the ‘Republican establishment’ is not unreasonable by any means. In fact it is entirely reasonable. But it is possible that it is easier for Zoe to see it because she is on the outside and has a (potentially) more objective perspective.

            If I don’t get a cookie for this I am pretty sure I am going to start crying.

            • Re Cookies : Chocolate chip do? We have Tim Tams too.

              Yes, it’s she. Please excuse my lack of knowledge of Espanol, I only picked up a few words when working in collaboration with Bazan shipyards and the Armada de Chile. Castillian and Chilean are …different. Anyway, my writing style is not strongly gendered.

              My snarky serve about Trump fans was not as accurate or fair as it could have been,. On the other hand, to allow repeated barbs to go unchallenged might lend some credence to them, so it was a very mild and hopefully witty return, with a reasonable degree of truthful justification. More wit than truth though.

  9. Re social didtancing and models.

    Fortunately we have experiments to test our models.

    Early fanatic social distancing – New Zealand, Mongolia(!)
    Early slightly looser social distancing – Australia
    Late inconsistant social distancing – USA
    No social distancing – Brazil. (Belarus, Tajikistan…)

    Results so far –

    Bear in mind that excess mortality is a better figure than deaths, and only in countries with an initially minimally functional healthcare system, a relatively low level of corruption, and at least a partly free press are trustworthy rather than wholly fictional.

    The SIRE model, despite it’s simplicity, when modified for unspecified but partly effective countermeasures, seems to fit the observations pretty well.

    • Have all the other possible explanations for variations in deaths in particular countries been disproved? The WHO says deaths in Africa will be less because the population is younger and healthier. Are developed countries seeing more deaths because we keep our sick and elderly alive for such long periods of time? What countries other than the U.S. have 1.3 million people in nursing homes? How many elderly Americans are in the functional equivalent of nursing homes? How many people come out of nursing homes alive? None I know of.

      • Yes, there are tons of epidemiological differences that needed to be accounted for. Another consideration is that a TB vaccine regularly administered in developing countries appears to have protective respiratory effects in this epidemic. It’s not currently considered medically necessary in the U.S. though.

        The polio epidemic was similarly a result of better hygiene causing more debilitating symptoms due to people’s first exposures to the pathogen coming at later development stages where the effects were worse than if the body had developed immunity at an earlier age.

    • I just want to point out that the numbers for China on that sheet are 82,000 total infections, 2 new cases, 4000 total deaths and 0 new deaths. Which is to say: Bullshit. These numbers are based on the nations own reports, so believing numbers out of places like China, North Korea, or even Russia is… incredibly naive or purposefully and willfully ignorant.

      It also bears noting that that chart calculates cases and deaths per million people, and looking at anything else first is an extreme dereliction of data. Reporting raw numbers that compare a country like America with a population of 330 million people to a country like New Zealand with a population of 4 million isn’t useful unless you’re trying to make a political point.

      It might bear noting, then, that San Marino, Belgium, Andorra, Spain, Italy, the UK, France, Sweden, Saint Martain, the Netherlands and Ireland all have deaths per million rates higher than America, and that San Marino, The Vatican (although no deaths (yeah right)), Quatar, Andorra, Luxemborg, Spain, Mayotte, Iceland, Singapore, Ireland and Belgium all have worse case per million rates than America.

      Now to be fair, even by the proportional measures, Australia and New Zealand are actually in pretty good shape, from a case and death standpoint. But I want to pivot to the nation everyone should be talking about but isn’t: Sweeden, where they to this day have not shut down in any real way. Sure, they preach social distancing. Sure, restaurants are take-out only. But the schools are open, the beaches are open, the malls are open, and they always were. Their rates, despite business as almost usual, are higher than average, higher than America, but not higher than some and not significantly higher than most, of their neighbors.

      I think what we all need to come to terms with is that we cannot continue to live in fear of our own hands for the foreseeable future, shutting down production, forcing people into being hermits, until we develop a vaccine. Not least because it’s probable that there will never be a vaccine, *most* corona viruses don’t have vaccines, but because even if there is a vaccine, eventually, it’s ETA is in the order of years, not months, and we cannot possibly continue this into 2021.

      The point of social distancing was to flatten the curve. Remember that old saying? We were supposed to flatten the curve not to keep people from eventually getting sick, but to lower the new case rate so that it was less than peak medical capacity. We were buying time for our infrastructure to adjust so we could handle the cases. That worked; As far as I know, no one has died for lack of a ventilator, no hospitals have been overrun.

      What we’re doing is delaying the inevitable, and hurting ourselves while we are doing it. The virus will be no more or less deadly six months from now. On a long enough scale, absent a vaccine, no more or fewer people will die from the disease once the disease has gone through the population and we develop something approximating herd immunity. It’s just a matter of how close together those deaths are going to be.

      I’m not a doctor, I just read a lot and digest information, so take all of this with a grain of salt, but I’m going to lay out one of my predictions: Hindsight is 20/20, but only three months in it already appears as if the Swedish model worked: They don’t have materially worse results in health than their neighbors, and their economy isn’t in the tank. In five years, we will look back on this, and instead of blaming Trump for not moving quickly enough, Democrats will have moved on to blaming Trump for the extent of the lockdown.

      • I just want to point out that the numbers for China on that sheet are 82,000 total infections, 2 new cases, 4000 total deaths and 0 new deaths. Which is to say: Bullshit.

        On stilts. No one but Sino apologists even pretends to take those numbers seriously. Playing silly games like this is not helpful. The Florida practice of only counting deaths of permanent residents, deliberately excluding snowbirds and those in nursing homes, is of the same ilk, just not as ridiculous.

        Bullshit is too mild a term by half.

  10. 3. So women can take birth control pills that can cause potential severe and lifelong side effects. My body my choice.

    Teens can be given hormone blockers that can cause severe and lifelong side effects for a self-image perception. The girls can also get double mastectomies at age 13, 15, 17 with possible lifelong consequences. My body my choice.

    How many other necessary and unnecessary medical treatments can be taken that ultimately end up causing issues later? For example I took shots for one condition that now years later my body is still paying for in negative ways. It was by body and my choice, wasn’t it?

    Interesting that a medical intervention “choice” is okay for everyone else except Trump. His announcement was definitely silly but when it comes to his health, in consultation with his medical team, it’s his body and his choice.

    Sure he could just wear a mask. So could women stop having sex with idiots who’ll get them pregnant. Teens could wait to see how they adjust to their developing bodies. And I could have tried other less invasive treatments.

    So if “[S]cience is always our best guess …” Trump is allowed to use that guess as he wishes, just like others do for possibly far more harmful/stupid reasons.

    • I also think it’s important to point out that his doctor prescribed it. You can’t go out and buy medical hydroxychloroquine off a shelf, so unless he’s downing fish tank cleaner, or has a very eclectically stocked drug dealer, then his medication was prescribed by a physician who was allowed to prescribe the medication because it passed FDA requirements.

      Getting this drug is not as simple as “Trump said so on TV”, and pretending that Trump is responsible for any of the scribbles on prescription pads across the nation is insane.

      • You assume Trump is actually taking HQ. He has been known to be economical with the truth to an unprecedented, but not UnPresidented, extent.

        Is he taking HQ? No idea. Assume he is until there’s evidence otherwise. Patient confidentiality means such evidence is unlikely to be forthcoming.

        • I suppose that’s fair. He could be talking out his ass…. I don’t think anyone would be particularly surprised. I don’t know if that changes my calculus much though, HQ is still an FDA approved drug that has to be prescribed by a physician. Journalists saying with all seriousness while facing the camera “People will die if they take this” is not only untrue, but absurd, and I’m not particularly fond of treating absurdity like it’s reasonable. .

  11. Jack,

    The following is just an opinion, so please consider that when formulating the tone of any future responses, but …

    I don’t know that it counts as totalitarian censorship when the issue in question stems from a non-binding resolution that “condemns” behavior, but does nothing to outlaw it. Hundreds of similar resolutions get passed every year honoring various people, making various proclamations, and otherwise wasting time. They mean next to nothing, outside of allowing Congressfolk to look important to their constituency.

    I have no doubt Harris and others would love to ban all sorts of free expression if they could, but this isn’t a step down that slope. They’re just virtue signaling, which happens to be part of their speech.

    • I know. Nonetheless, condemning speech, and words, at the Congressional level is directly anti-speech, particularly when the words being condemned are factual. I detect a creeping fondness for these kinds of attacks—they chill speech, and they are designed to chill speech.

      • Exactly. It is a form of censorship, even if it she doesn’t propose a censorious law. Her intent is to try shame people into self-censorship, and make it more powerful by enlisting the congress.

    • But isn’t such behavior by Harris terribly significant and indicative of her scary predilections?

      It’s not the worst thing?

      They all do it?

  12. Jack, I’m so glad to read that you’re feeling a little better. I hope a rapid improvement is on the way.

    The CDC is incredibly frustrating…to the point that I believe the ever-changing symptoms, potential treatments, contaminated-surfaces-are-bad-and-now-they’re-less-bad, wear a mask, don’t wear a mask – all of it – is intentionally designed to keep people confused and, ultimately, scared.

    • The CDC is incredibly frustrating…to the point that I believe the ever-changing symptoms, potential treatments, contaminated-surfaces-are-bad-and-now-they’re-less-bad, wear a mask, don’t wear a mask – all of it – is intentionally designed to keep people confused and, ultimately, scared.

      I am interested in your statement insofar as it illustrates a general sentiment that I notice — we all notice it of course — coming out as people, under these strange, bizarre and also different pressures in an ever-weirdening present try to *interpret* what is going on and why it is going on.

      Yours is one of the more limited comments in that it does not have a great deal of interpretive conclusion, and remains within a limited scope, yet it does mention narratives, distributed en masse, “designed to keep people confused and, ultimately, scared”.

      It is also limited because it implies that only by sending out different messages about whether, or not, to wear and mask, or whether or not the virus survives on surfaces, and for how long, are confused messages which could be understood to be ‘reasonable’ even among scientists, doctors and biologists (and epidemiologists), this it is here that the confusion is generated. But what is the purpose of keeping people confused and ultimately scared?

      Your assertion comes right up to the edge of interpretation but does not cross the line. It makes an interpretation without really making an interpretation. What is curious, from my perspective — as one trying to make large interpretations, meta-political interpretations, and in doing this having to choose to examine all sorts of different materials — is to pay attention to all the different narrative strains that are being assembled. For example, I get emails from various Catholic-centered educational organizations (the ones that ask for financial support so they can continue with their research and reporting, and with every passing day the *interpretations* get more pointed. The implication being that there are global entities and enterprises with an interest in . . . in what exactly? The accusations remain, necessarily of course, vague. Something is noticed — a constricting vice being applied — but it is not possible to locate the source of the constriction, nor the ultimate reason for it except if one make reference to the obvious and outrageous examples of extreme political control: Communist China for example.

      There, it is all *seen clearly*. Vast technological systems under the control of the sort of régime that, historically, has done little but evil. Well, evil according to us. (Many Chinese interpret their own Communist overlords quite differently).

      But what interests me is in noticing that when it comes to seeing clearly, or seeing in accord with a similarly clear interpretation-structure, that certain Americans cannot bring themselves to clearly see their own government/industrial system/economic system from a similar remove. There is a whole range of reasons why their interpretations never coalesce. Or when they coalesce they only coalesce within rather strict limits. Americans divide their interpretations along party lines! That sounds obvious but it is curiously complex. Our interpretive structure, if we consider it *true*, should be outside and above ideological imperatives. Yet *interpretation* is always determined by an ideological perspective.

      Here, on this blog, I have noticed an evolution in *perspective*. I define the blog’s denizens as ‘Patriotic Americans’, some for example having served in the military, and some having actually participated in the Neoconservative-generated Forever Wars — those wars borne out of another massive psychological event of 9/11, a whole other area of murkiness but that is another story! They seem only to be able to notice *evil* if it is formally outside of their own self and *over there* among *those others* (Hilary, ‘the Democrats’, radical students, ‘progressives’), but to have serious problems in recognizing it within their own self. And then within their own group.

      Now things are at least a bit different. And that is why I noticed what you wrote. I hope that you will excuse the ‘scientific focus’ as if I am a researcher studying *you-all* (that is in fact what I am in one sense at least). But it is precisely in this focus that I desire to locate my *viewing*.

      Political control systems are totalitarian by their very nature. Now, people are beginning to describe, as if they are just beginning to see, a global control system by men who are non-different from any one of us. They are us! They are here among us. We are complicit and we are active participants. Therefore — that is if you accept the statement I am making — we have to become, at one point or another, brutally honest: cuttingly honest. We have to start to tell the truth.

      But how?

  13. 1. Regarding the “evolving” symptom list for COVID-19:
    I am a physical therapy patient with a fairly rigorous three-day-a-week regimen. About eight weeks ago the clinic began screening patients upon entry, taking temperatures, questioning about symptoms, requiring masks, and beefing up what I would describe as an already robust disinfection process for surfaces and equipment.
    About two weeks ago I began to notice that I was experiencing more shortness of breath than usual during therapy sessions and was needing more “recovery time” between events. My springtime allergies have been giving me a fit this year, and I initially chalked up the shortness of breath to a combination of the allergies and hard breathing through the mask. The shortness of breath got worse and I began to notice increased fatigue even on non-therapy days (when I exercise at home). Last week I threw in the towel and went to see my doctor. Since I had not experienced any fever during this time, I had minimal fears of viral infection, but it was still on my suspect list due to the wildly varying symptoms described.
    After all the normal questioning, poking and prodding, my doc ordered an EKG, chest x-ray and lab work. Shortly, she had a diagnosis: Atrial fibrillation. A referral to a cardiologist this week confirmed the diagnosis, for which I am now being treated. No prior history of cardiac issues of any kind, just BAM, here you go!
    Getting old: Not for the squeamish!

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