The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Big Pharma

After his primary losses before COVID-19 became big news, Bernie Sanders and his socialist rants have thankfully dropped from the news. But far in the background, Bernie's demonization of "Big Pharma," echoes as the COVID-19 virus spreads. This is typical Bernie on the subject:
“How come people can't afford to get the prescription drugs they need because we have a bunch of crooks who are running the pharmaceutical industry ripping us off every single day? And I'll tell you something right now: In the midst of this epidemic, you got people in the pharmaceutical industry are saying, ‘Wow, what an opportunity to make a fortune.”
Like all fervid socialists, Bernie and his Bros wrap themselves in their version of "social justice," suggesting that profit is evil and that corporations can somehow be separated from the millions of people who work for them. They argue that government assistance for corporations in a time of crisis is a "slush fund." Never mind that a corporation that fails would put thousands of middle class wage earners out of work with all the suffering that entails.

In their lunatic world view, socialists believe that government should run the means of production. That would be the very same government that socialists and many progressives criticize on an hourly basis for not doing enough to stop the spread of COVID-19. Somehow, they are incapable of seeing the irony in their position, but socialists are incapable of seeing a lot of important things.

But back to Big Pharma. The Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal recounts the heroic efforts being made by Big Pharma—Abbott Laboratories, Johnson & Johnson, and dozens of others—to develop therapies and vaccines to combat COVID-19. I suspect that the average American would not begrudge any one (or more) of those companies from making a profit if they developed an effective therapy and/or vaccine that would reduce the effects of the virus and allow America to return to normal. In fact, with the exception of Bernie and a few SJWs, I suspect that they'd cheer for big Pharma if they succeed.

The editors write:
President Trump recently ordered the Food and Drug Administration to “slash red tape like nobody’s ever done before” to make medicines approved for other illnesses available for coronavirus patients. The FDA is famously cautious, and safety is important. But drug regulators need to be more nimble during a pandemic with millions of lives at risk.

The FDA was slow to approve tests by private and public health labs, though recently it has approved a point-of-care test by small diagnostic company Cepheid that can return results in 45 minutes. In the biggest breakthrough so far, Abbott Laboratories has received approval for a test that it says can show positive results in five minutes. The company hopes to start delivering kits this week, ramping up production to 50,000 tests a day.
Big Government is inherently slow and ponderous, bureaucratic and inefficient. And yet, Bernie and his Bros think that it should run healthcare. They believe, against all historical, factual, and anecdotal evidence to the contrary, that if they were in power, things would be different—that big government would be quick and agile, responsive and efficient. And if you are deluded enough to believe that, well ... you're a Bernie Bro.

Capitalism isn't perfect, but it's a hell of lot better, more quick and agile, more responsive and efficient than socialism would ever be. Why? Because capitalism is market driven, and responds to the wisdom of the market. If capitalism makes a mistake, the market punishes it immediately and corrections are made. Socialism, on the other hand, is driven by a central authority that is almost always wrong but doesn't have the humility to recognize and correct its many errors.


On a tangentially related subject, there's this commentary (rant?) offered by Kyle Smith:
Far from being killed off by the Wuhan virus, the woke virus is spreading faster than ever. Fran Drescher said on Twitter, “The heart of the problem, all problems with the world at its core is power & greed fueled by Capitalism.” On the contrary, I’m hoping greedy industrial companies can make a couple million ventilators for profit, because otherwise these things aren’t going to get made.

“Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can,” sang Gal Gadot and her Justice League of Idiots on that vomitatious “Imagine” video praising open borders, socialism and atheism in a country where people are praying to God because of a virus unleashed on the world by China’s socialist regime. I doubt Gal goes out for a meal without bringing along a very large man to keep fans at bay, so her personal borders likely begin at about a 3-foot radius around her. But while she sings to us from whatever $10 million palace she’s living in now, she should invite a hundred random citizens of Wuhan to move into her house, then continue to promote her “imagine there’s no countries” ideas.

Woke idiocy has attended every step of the coronavirus outbreak. On Jan. 30, just as it was starting to emerge as a serious worldwide issue, CNN published a huffy piece on President Trump’s health crisis managers that began, “It’s a statement that’s as predictable as it is infuriating: President Donald Trump’s administration lacks diversity.” Oh no, a lot of epidemiologists are white guys. Cancel them. Last week CNN invited notorious Hugo Chavez fanboy Sean Penn in as an expert on crisis management ...

Next year there will probably be a vaccine for coronavirus. But there will never be an inoculation for woke stupidity.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Prisoners of Two Ideas

Now that hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 tests are being conducted with many more to be available this week; now that personal protective equipment is being produced by the millions (albeit with spot shortages in heavily hit hot zones (e.g., NYC)); now that ventilators sit idle in warehouses waiting for the call and tens of thousands more will be produced over coming months, it appear that the latest stop on the media road to encourage fear and hysteria appears to be an either-or question: Do we maintain social distancing (and, according to the left-leaning media, care only about "lives)," OR Do we selectively re-open portions of the country to economic activity (and, according to left-leaning media, care only about "money.")

Those who pose the choice as binary have become the prisoners of two ideas. They argue that we can do one or the other, but not both, at least not for some indefinite time that they argue may be months away. They argue that we have to wait for COVID-19 cases to drop before it is safe to re-open even portions of the economy. After all, that's what all the scientists and medical experts are telling us. Ummm. No. That's what the scientists and medical experts the media has chosen as spokespeople keep telling us. But there's a large number of smart (eminent, even) scientists and medical experts who are questioning the efficacy (in fact, even the sanity) of an indefinite shut-down of our economy.

John P.A. Ionnidis (Professor of medicine, of epidemiology and population health, of biomedical data science, and of statistics at Stanford University) has written a detailed paper on the importance of statistical analysis before potentially damaging economic and societal decisions are made by our current leadership at the local, state and federal levels. Robert Zimmerman contents that despite pressure points like NYC, COVID-19 will not overwhelm our healthcare system. Martin Meltzner et al discuss the use of ventilators in outbreaks like COVID_19. David Zaruk discusses the use and misuse of the precautionary principle. Aaron Ginn presented a lengthy analysis of the statistics of COVID-19 (subsequently pulled down by Medium for reasons that are unclear). To my knowledge, not one of these researchers or their counterparts) have been interviewed on network television—after all, their comments collide with the prevailing narrative. I posted on the ravages of H1N1 in 2009 when we didn't hear a peep from the media or the usual medical experts. In fact, H1N1 statistics and a discussion of why it was such a ho-hum story in 2009 seem to be verboten among the media's trained hamsters.

It seems to me that we should not be prisoners of two ideas. We can fight the COVID-19 virus and protect the most vulnerable among us, and at the same time, selectively re-open portions of the economy sooner rather than later. We should also be able to hear from scientific and medical voices who argue that re-opening the economy is not only smart, it's essential.

Viruses are all about suffering and COVID-19 has achieved its purpose regardless of the tack we take. The sickness and death associated with the virus has unquestionably increased human suffering. But here's the thing. Our collective response to COVID-19, if not modified fairly quickly, will induce still more human suffering that is not health-related. Tens of millions will go into debt, millions of businesses will fail, putting hundreds of thousands or millions more out of work. As things escalate, social unrest is a possible outcome—all in the name of reducing suffering.

Our goal should be to minimize suffering across the board. You can't do that if you're a prisoner of two ideas. You can do it if you have the courage to do two things at once.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Lives and Livelihoods

A massive debate about re-opening the economy has already begun. Many believe that everything should remain shuttered—indefinitely—because COVID-19. The rest of us believe that we must work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, but do so without damaging the economy to such an extent that we initiate on long term economic calamity—a depression. "But why?" argue those who have allowed virus hysteria to dictate their world view. "After all, aren't lives more important than jobs, or money or ... well, anything?"

Yeah, all lives are important, especially the lives of those among us who are working so hard to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. The lives of doctors and nurses and front-line emergency responders are critically important. Victor Davis Hansen comments on other lives:
... who now is more important than the trucker who drives 12-hours straight to deliver toilet paper to Costco? Or the mid-level manager of Target who calibrates supply and demand and is on the phone all day juggling deliveries before his store opens? Or the checker at the local supermarket who knows that the hundreds of customers inches away from her pose risks of infection, and yet she ensures that people walk out with food in their carts? The farmworker who is on the tractor all night to ensure that millions of carrots and lettuce don’t rot? The muddy frackers in West Texas who make it possible that natural gas reaches the home of the quarantined broker in Houston? The ER nurse on her fifth coronavirus of the day who matter-of-factly saves lives?

Do we really need to ask such questions of whether the presence of the czar for diversity and inclusion at Yale is missed as much as the often-caricatured cop on patrol at 2 a.m. in New Haven?

Do social justice student protestors who surround and heckle the politically suspicious now in ones and twos also scream in the faces of the incorrect plumber who unclogs their locked-down apartment drain?

... When your refrigerator goes out under quarantine and your supplies begin to rot, do you really need another rant from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)—or do you rather need a St. Michael Smith and St. Uriel Mendoza to appear out of nowhere as the archangels from Home Depot to wheel up and connect a new one?
If we inadvertently destroy the economy, every one of the people VDH describes, along with the many medical personnel who treat the sick, will all suffer in ways that are not always obvious or predictable.

So the self-described 'elite' trained hamsters of the media, along with hysterics who argue for a lock-down that could last for many more months, are perfectly willing to risk an economic shutdown—all in the name of "saving lives." Their moral preening is impressive, but in reality, they're suggesting that risking the lives and livelihood of tens of millions is somehow a lessor risk than risking the lives of a small, relatively well-defined cohort of the population who can be protected by other means. One group is willing to kick the can down the road, hoping against hope that we can resurrect an economy after months and months of lockdown. The other believes we can do two things at the same time, saving lives and livelihoods as we go.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


As usual, the stimulus package currently in the Senate (and another under development in the House) are being held hostage to partisan politics. That's normal ... except that every politician tells us our country in a crisis situation. Given that, you'd think that the proposed legislation would focus solely on the crisis. You'd be wrong.

The Democrats have loaded the legislation with goodies that have NOTHING to do with the threat of COVID-19. Newsmax provides a list:
The 11 Democratic demands include:
  • $300 million in funding for public broadcasting;
  • Expansive new tax credits for solar and wind energy;
  • New emissions standards for airlines and a requirement for full carbon offset by 2025;
  • Required same-day voter registration and early voting;
  • Bailouts for the U.S. Postal Service, the union pension fund and student loans;
  • Retirement plans for community newspaper employees;
  • Publication of corporate pay statistics by race, and race statistics for all corporate boards;
  • A $1 billion “Cash for Clunkers”-style program where the government buys planes from airlines;
  • $1.5 million to study climate change mitigation efforts in civil aviation and aerospace industries;
  • New and burdensome OSHA requirements on hospitals; and,
  • $1 billion to build on a program expanded by President Barack Obama that provides discounted phone service for low-income consumers.
The Dems' trained hamsters in the media never mention the 11 items listed, but keep talking about a "slush fund" (a.k.a., loans and credits, along with hard cash to be provided to assist corporations that have been badly hurt by the economic shutdown). One can certainly debate the size and structure of these funds, but at least they're focused on the COVID-19 crisis. Can the same be said for same day voter registration?

Roger Simon comments:
... what the world is watching is a political party exploiting a situation out of a bizarre combination of habit and sleaziness, not to mention the ever-popular lust for power.

The habit part is knee-jerk ideology of the lib-progressive sort. It comes out like a computer program, albeit a moribund one. If this, then that.

Plug in virtually any code word—“workingman (or woman!),” “the people,” “corporate bad guys,” “Big Pharma” (you know, the evil folks working 24/7 to invent a vaccine against the new plague) and so forth—and the results spit out accordingly.

Example: Apparently one of the Dems’ demands was that airlines knuckle under to their carbon foot print strictures—this from the paleo-hypocrites who fly around endlessly in private jets. Who could’ve predicted it? (HINT: anyone breathing)

That the airlines could go bankrupt means little to them (until they need to go some place).

The sleaziness part referred to above couldn’t be more obvious. In a time of crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen since World War II, the Democrats are playing politics as if nothing has happened. Just thinking about it makes you want to… wash your hands. (Hey, there’s a good side to everything.)
If all of this weren't so predictable it would be shocking.

UPDATE (3/25/2020):
A little good news. COVID-19 economic legislation will be passed today without the goodies listed in the body of the post. It looks like the Dems decided that the optics were really, really bad. But it wasn't the optics, it was the intent to take advantage of a crisis to pass stuff you could never get passed otherwise.


From the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the media has done more than any other entity to stoke fear and hysteria among the public at large. They would claim that their only intent is to inform. BullSchiff. Their virus score boards, their inaccurate and context-free reporting, their purposeful attempt to avoid any news that might cause people to step back and recognize that although COVID-19 is bad, it is not Ebola—all of that and much more are indicative of an intent to stoke fear, uncertainty and doubt, thereby spiking ratings and/or clicks. And collaterally, doing as much damage to the sitting president as possible.

Victor Davis Hansen pulls no punches when he writes:
Everyone knew before just how biased and unprofessional the media had become in its maniacal hatred of Donald Trump. But few appreciated how uneducated, arrogant, and clueless about simple calculations and logic was this generation of reporters that has emerged from politicized schools of journalism, which taught therapy rather than knowledge, much less a code of conduct.

The media daily blares out preliminary models and data, without even the most remedial context. They parrot the supposedly historic death rate of the virus, without any knowledge that the numerator of virus cases is as inaccurate and misleading as the denominator of deaths is mostly factual.

Then they seemed surprised that the death rate dips as tests and supposed cases spread, without any appreciation that known cases are likely not representative of the populace as a whole, but represent only those who were tested (80-90 percent negative), and thus only of those who felt ill or were exposed enough to be tested. Few tell us that a small percentage of those tested, when ill, have COVID-19, or the death rate is warped by those over 70 with accompanying heart, respirator, and cancer challenges.

When journalists talk of “20,000 cases!” they never remind their readers that nearly 99 percent recover from the virus that has stealthily been with us likely since mid-January, and of those 20,000 or so cases, a large number of the sick are already well. There is now a parlor game on the Internet of cutting and pasting clips from cable news, PBS, and NPR to reveal how inane and unthinking reporters have become.
In 2009, our leaders did NOT suggest social distancing, a partial shutdown of the economy, and all of the many measures local, state, and federal agencies have put into place today. Without those measures, a serious flu, H1N1, infected tens of millions of Americans and killed over 10,000 of them under an administration that was led by a different political party and a different president. The media was generally silent. No criticism, no wild claims, no hysteria. Why is that?

Fast forward 11 years. Today, local, state and federal leadership have worked hard to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. One would assume that the results today should be better, not worse, than H1N1. Why then, does the media present wild and wholly unsubstantiated claims that hundreds of thousands (or in some hysterical claims, millions) of people will die from COVID-19? It just doesn't make sense, but then again, today's media never does.


In my darker moments, I'm beginning to think that the trained hamsters in the media actually want things to get worse—all because it will hurt Trump and provide electoral advantage in November. Why, for example, do the hamsters try to denigrate the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, a drug that early evidence has indicated is effective as a treatment for at least some COVID-19 patients. Is it because Trump said it might be a game-changer or maybe becuase an effective treatment might lighten the public mood, at least to some extent. Don't want that ... do we?

Consider the following tweet from the trained hamsters at left-leaning BuzzFeed and Mark Hemingway's response:

The level of blatant dishonesty in BuzzFeed's tweet (along with an earlier Bloomberg post) is astounding. But worse, progressive readers will scurry to parrot their lies, convincing everyone who will listen that Trump has suggested a drug that kills people. DISGUSTING, but sadly, not surprising.


The draconian measures at the local, state and federal level to mitigate the affects of COVID-19 have probably been necessary but they are already doing serious economic damage. In past posts (e.g., here and here), I've asked whether the cure is worse that the disease. Millions are already out of work and millions more are sure to follow. Hundreds of thousands of small businesses are stressed to a point where some will not survive. The Democrats are currently obstructing passage of an aid package that will provide limited relief, all because it also provides help for "big corporations" who BTW, employ half of the blue collar workers the Dems profess to care oh-so-much about. You'd almost think that the Dems in the Congress want the country to go into a depression—after all, it certainly would improve their election prospects in the fall.

The media drumbeat has already begin. The trained hamsters will claim that any attempt to restart the economy is irresponsible and ignores the advice of medical professionals. It will grow at about the same rate as COVID-19 cases, stroking still more hysteria—all with the intent of being sure that Trump will be blamed for COVID-19's spread. The trained hamsters seem unconcerned about the effects of a full blown depression (guaranteed if the economy shuts down for months and months). They seem sanguine about tens of millions out of work, people losing their homes, businesses disappearing, and a significant potential for social unrest. As Donald Trump correctly pointed out, we can fight COVID-19 and restart our economy at the same time.

Here's what I think should happen:
  1. One additional week of an extreme shutdown beyond Trump's 15-day timeline should be recommended with a date certain for restarting the economy in early April. The intent is to provide additional time for supply of all necessary testing kits, PPE, masks, etc. to hospitals and the construction of back-up medical facilities in COVID-19 hot zones.
  2. Governors will maintain the ability to establish local rules and regulations, but the federal guidelines for re-opening the economy will provide them with political cover that they need to restart their state economies.
  3. Social distancing and other recommended health care initiatives (e.g.,hand washing) should remain in place
  4. Hot Zones of COVID-19 (e.g., NYC, New Orleans) should remain shut down until data indicate that the spread of COVID-129 has abated. Travel into and out of those zones should be tightly controlled.
  5. Vulnerable populations (e.g., seniors with health issues) should continue self-quarantine, with mechanisms put into place to provide delivery of medicines and food for those who need them. All nursing homes and assisted living facilities should remain closed to all outsiders, and all workers at those facilities should be evaluated daily for evidence of infection.
  6. A detailed plan for restarting the economy should be published. Manufacturing jobs first, retail opening next, and so on.

Obviously, there's a lot more to this, but that's a simple start. Flexibility and adaptability are a must, but anyone who thinks that our country can remain shut down for months and months with economic activity at near zero levels is either monumentally deluded or economically ignorant. An aside: The trained hamsters are lauding South Korea as the leader in the right way to handle COVID-19 and at the same time castigating the federal government for not being more like the SoKos. It's interesting to note that South Korea did NOT shut down its economy.

Monday, March 23, 2020


When Donald Trump mentioned that the drug hydroxychloroquine coupled with azithromycin might be a major mode of treatment for COVID-19—available right now, the Trump Derangement Syndrome crowd went into overdrive to criticize him for even mentioning the treatment. Giving god-like credence to Dr. Anthony Fauci's qualifying comments, they suggested that the drug wouldn't work and that suggesting that it would was irresponsible. They even alleged that it could kill people. As usual, they were wrong—very, very wrong.

Jeff Colyer and Daniel Hinthorn report:
A flash of potential good news from the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic: A treatment is showing promise. Doctors in France, South Korea and the U.S. are using an antimalarial drug known as hydroxychloroquine with success. We are physicians treating patients with Covid-19, and the therapy appears to be making a difference. It isn’t a silver bullet, but if deployed quickly and strategically the drug could potentially help bend the pandemic’s “hockey stick” curve.

Hydroxychloroquine is a common generic drug used to treat lupus, arthritis and malaria. The medication, whose brand name is Plaquenil, is relatively safe, with the main side effect being stomach irritation, though it can cause echocardiogram and vision changes. In 2005, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study showed that chloroquine, an analogue, could block a virus from penetrating a cell if administered before exposure. If tissue had already been infected, the drug inhibited the virus.

On March 9 a team of researchers in China published results showing hydroxychloroquine was effective against the 2019 coronavirus in a test tube. The authors suggested a five-day, 12-pill treatment for Covid-19: two 200-milligram tablets twice a day on the first day followed by one tablet twice a day for four more days.

A more recent French study used the drug in combination with azithromycin. Most Americans know azithromycin as the brand name Zithromax Z-Pak, prescribed for upper respiratory infections. The Z-Pak alone doesn’t appear to help fight Covid-19, and the findings of combination treatment are preliminary.

But researchers in France treated a small number of patients with both hydroxychloroquine and a Z-Pak, and 100% of them were cured by day six of treatment. Compare that with 57.1% of patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone, and 12.5% of patients who received neither.

What’s more, most patients cleared the virus in three to six days rather than the 20 days observed in China. That reduces the time a patient can spread the virus to others. One lesson that should inform the U.S. approach: Use this treatment cocktail early, and don’t wait until a patient is on a ventilator in the intensive-care unit.

A couple of careful studies of hydroxychloroquine are in progress, but the results may take weeks or longer. Infectious-disease experts are already using hydroxychloroquine clinically with some success. With our colleague Dr. Joe Brewer in Kansas City, Mo., we are using hydroxychloroquine in two ways: to treat patients and as prophylaxis to protect health-care workers from infection.
One of the most disgusting aspects of this era is the manner in which Trump's opponents are reacting to his effort to manage this health crisis. Donald Trump is far from perfect and his administration's approach is as well, but demanding seamless planning and perfect timing in a time of crisis is intellectually dishonest and generally despicable. Even worse, stoking panic among the population (main stream media, are you listening?) in a far-less-that-subtle attempt to injure Trump politically is reprehensible.

In the management of the COVID-19 epidemic, Trump, despite his usual bluster and over-statements, has been far more organized, far more measured, and far more correct than any of his many media and political opponents. The growing evidence of the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine is but one example.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Accountability? Nope.

In the age of Trump everything is political. The COVID-19 virus follows the natural progression of all epidemiological outbreaks and the number of cases and deaths among older, health-compromised citizens increase. As this happens, the main stream media is working hard at two things: (1) context-free reporting intended to increase the fear among the general populace, and (2) trying to lay the blame for COVID-19 and its predictable spread on the Trump administration in general and Donald Trump in particular. Michael Goodwin comments:
... after failing to bring down Trump with Russia, Russia, Russia and impeachment, [the media is] now putting their chips on the narrative that he’s bungling the public health crisis.

To get there, they’ve had to reverse themselves on a key allegation. For three years the same media told us Trump was a fascist and a budding Hitler, but now his refusal to rule with an iron fist is also cause for condemnation.

Suddenly, the man whose “Authoritarian style is remaking America” (Washington Post), and whose “Authoritarian Ambitions” were exposed by impeachment (New York magazine), foolishly refuses to use the powers of the Oval Office. As usual, other countries are doing it right and America is wrong.

When Trump advised people to stop unnecessary travel and avoid bars, restaurants and groups of more than 10, a Times headline moaned that the “Guidelines Fall Short of the Mandates in Other Countries.”

The Gray Lady’s latest complaints involve the Defense Protection Act, which gives the president the authority to commandeer private industry. But he’s a lousy authoritarian because, as the Times put it Friday, “Trump Resists Pressure to Force Companies to Make Coronavirus Supplies.”

Behind every complaint is a roster of anonymous sources and Obama administration grousers.

Meanwhile, because of its one-track agenda, the media are missing one of the biggest stories — the sense of unity against the epidemic being forged across America.

Even Dem presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders largely slipped out of sight, a welcome sign that they realize now is not the time to try to score political points.

And the public, despite the media, gets it that the president is doing his best against an unprecedented and invisible enemy. Polls reflect a belief that, after a slow start, Trump is mobilizing an enormous national response involving both the public and private sectors and is committed to victory.
At first, a lack of comprehensive testing was the media boogie man—as if that alone would stop the spread of a global pandemic. Now millions of COVID-19 test kits are coming on-line, so the media shifted to Ventilators.* Here's a thought: When 9,000 to 13,000 mostly older people died in the US in 2009 (CDC data) due to complications arising from the H1N1 (swine flu) epidemic, why didn't the then-Democrat administration (Barack Obama was in the first year of his presidency) order thousands ... no wait, hundreds of thousands, no wait ... millions of ventilators over the 7 years he remained president? Nobody's asking that question. But Obama was probably correct in not stock-piling that equipment because a stockpile of ventilators alone would not stop the majority of deaths among health compromised seniors.

Just this morning, the trained hamsters in the media castigated Trump for not nationalizing industry to produce ... what exactly? Ventilators? That's already in the works. Masks? tens of millions will be available within a few days. Vaccine? Working on it but it takes time. Other treatment options? Read the next paragraph.

In one of the most egregious displays of media bias, the trained hamsters jumped on Trump's recent suggestion that the drugs, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin** might be used to help in the most severe COVID-19 cases. Data from small samples in Italy indication some efficacy, yet if you were to believe the media, Trump's suggestion was somehow "confused" or "crazy" or "dangerous" or counter to what a god-like Dr. Fauci would recommend. None of that is true, of course, but it does serve to further roil public attitudes—exactly what the trained hamsters want. In one of the most egregious media plays, Bloomberg (then picked up by many other left-leaning media outlets) went so far as to suggest that hydroxychloroquine would poison people—a blatant lie based on doses that are 100 times larger than recommended prescription doses.

All of this further erodes trust in the media. In this case, as well as others, they have become partisan shills that try to inflame public opinion and sentiment, rather than inform. The irony is while they demand "accountability" from everyone else, they avoid any accountability themselves.


* In today's news, an innovative Canadian anesthesiologist used a DIY modification to transform a single-patient ventilator into one that can simultaneously treat nine (9) people. The mods take less than an hour. That should put a dent in the shortage of ventilators -- don't you think? I wonder when the main stream media will report this story with as much enthusiasm and coverage as they've reported all the COVID-19 negative news? Nah ... won't happen.

** Looks like a few major drug companies think there's something to the hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin treatment regimen for severe COVID-19 cases. Novartis, Bayer and Teva, among others, have indicated they'll be producing over 300 million doses soon. I wonder when the main stream media will report this story with as much enthusiasm and coverage as they've reported all the COVID-19 negative news? Nah ... won't happen.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Risk Management

Risk management is a topic that most Americans understand intuitively—understand the risks you face, whether they're likely to affect you, and then decide whether they're worthy of concern, and how you'll respond to them. Yet, technical risk management is not taught in most curricula. We leave it to "experts" who, given current events, aren't doing a particularly good job with it. Stated simply, technical risk management involves accurately stating each risk, defining the statistical probability that the risk would occur, identifying the "cost" if the risk should occur, and then for those risks that are considered important, identifying a mitigation strategy, if one exists.

David Zaruk writes:
Two decades of the precautionary principle as the key policy tool for managing uncertainties has neutered risk management capacities by offering, as the only approach, the systematic removal of any exposure to any hazard. As the risk-averse precautionary mindset cements itself, more and more of us have become passive docilians waiting to be nannied. We no longer trust and are no longer trusted with risk-benefit choices as we are channelled down over-engineered preventative paths. While it is important to reduce exposure to risks, our excessively-protective risk managers have, in their zeal, removed our capacity to manage risks ourselves. Precaution over information, safety over autonomy, dictation over accountability.
As we spiral into a massive over-reaction to COVID-19, we keep hearing the phrase "an abundance of caution" while political leaders do a calculus that devolves into CYA. Shutting down a state economy (e.g., CA) because ... precautionary principle. Closing schools because ... precautionary principle. Limiting local movement because ... precautionary principle.

There's only one problem. There's another major risk associated with the mitigation efforts for the COVID-19—doing significant and lasting damage to our economy and in so doing, ruining the lives (at least for a time) of tens of millions of people. And that RISK isn't being discussed with the same level of intensity as the COVID-19 risk. It should be.

Zaruk continues:
Precaution’s answer to COVID-19 is to quarantine the outbreak to try to minimise exposures to the virus. Given the incubation period can be as long as 14 days, this is like locking the doors after everyone has left the room. As that measure will inevitably fail, the next step is to shut everything down. Economies will suffer much longer than our fear of COVID-19 uncertainty, with the undesired public healthcare funding effects, but precautionistas have never been much bothered with lost benefits or dire consequences.

So rather than letting schools manage risks, they are closing them down. Couldn’t teachers use this opportunity to reinforce hygiene skills and expand the use of disinfectants? (Or did the schools ban the use of effective chemicals in the last precautionary wave?) Rather than promoting the immunity benefits of fitness and well-being, organisers in Tokyo, Rome and Paris have cancelled this year’s marathon races. Couldn’t these cities use the opportunity to stress fitness and healthy living as a good prevention to diseases. Rather than using the COVID-19 pause in the West to educate the public on immunity-building measures, the regulators are wasting time reassuring their populations bad things won’t happen to them. Rather than trusting the public to self-isolate when potential COVID-19 symptoms arrive (what is basically done with every other flu outbreak), our authorities have created mass panic in the supermarkets, economic recession and further public trust declines ....

People do get sick, people do die – that’s life! Nature is such that strong people recover from diseases and viruses like COVID-19 (and often get stronger) while we need science and humanity to protect the weak. The objective of risk management should always be to reduce vulnerability.

Risk managers should have done the obvious with limited hazard reduction means: allocate all resources and energy towards building firewalls to protect the vulnerable in hospitals and nursing homes while leaving the rest of society to manage the risks of the present outbreak via self-isolation and according to their situations, capacities and resourcefulness. Instead everyone is mixed into the same viral soup. The strong (but nervous) are clogging up the hospital emergency waiting rooms while the elderly and at risk ride the buses. And where there are quarantines, the strong and the infirm share the same air. The Yokohama-quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship debacle will serve as a good case study where, in a stumbling precautionary world, the risk management profession was non-existent.
Are David Zaruk's comments extreme? Possibly, but to use the politically correct terminology—his position deserves a serious "conversation." And that isn't happening.

Otherwise rational people have been driven into a panic by a completely irresponsible media that reports edge cases as if they are representative of COVID-19's reality (they are NOT) and presents projected extreme worst-case scenarios as if they are a dead lock to actually happen. They will NOT.

For those who are approaching panic, I would strongly recommend reading one of the best treatments of the COVID-19 facts as we currently know them. The author, Aaron Ginn, has developed an extremely detailed analysis of the global impact of COVID_19 with specific emphasis on the United States. Ginn provides reassuring hard data-based evidence that the virus is NOT "unprecedented." It is NOT nearly as communicable as some in the media would have us believe, and it is NOT nearly as fatal as the current media bellweather—Italy—would indicate.

He writes:
The following article is a systematic overview of COVID-19 driven by data from medical professionals and academic articles that will help you understand what is going on (sources include CDC, WHO, NIH, NHS, University of Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, NEJM, JAMA, and several others). I’m quite experienced at understanding virality, how things grow, and data. In my vocation, I’m most known for popularizing the “growth hacking movement” in Silicon Valley that specializes in driving rapid and viral adoption of technology products. Data is data. Our focus here isn’t treatments but numbers. You don’t need a special degree to understand what the data says and doesn’t say. Numbers are universal.
I hope you walk away with a more informed perspective on how you can help and fight back against the hysteria that is driving our country into a dark place. You can help us focus our scarce resources on those who are most vulnerable, who need our help.
The article is long on facts and statistics and short on narrative-driven hysteria. Read the whole thing if you want to better understand COVID-19.


As one of dozens of examples of really bad government decision-making grounded in the precautionary principle, the PA Department of Transportation shut down all trunk stops and rest areas "to stop the spread of the virus." There's only one small problem, trucking companies and the truckers who enable the critical supply chain for food and medical equipment need those areas. My god, these so-called decision-makers really have lost their minds! One can only hope that other states don't follow suit.


To its credit, a source of much fear-mongering and continuous criticism of the federal response to COVID-19, The New York Times, published an op-ed entitled: "Is Our Fight Against Coronavirus Worse Than the Disease?" that begins the "conversation" I referred to at the conclusion of my post.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Worst Case

This morning, the Editors of the Wall Street Journal have voiced what some of us have been saying since the COVID-19 hysteria began:
This won’t be popular to read in some quarters, but federal and state officials need to start adjusting their anti-virus strategy now to avoid an economic recession that will dwarf the harm from 2008-2009.

The vast social-distancing project of the last 10 days or so has been necessary and has done much good. Warnings about large gatherings of more than 10 people and limiting access to nursing homes will save lives. The public has received a crucial education in hygiene and disease prevention, and even young people may get the message. With any luck, this behavior change will reduce the coronavirus spread enough that our hospitals won’t be overwhelmed with patients. Anthony Fauci, Scott Gottlieb and other disease experts are buying crucial time for government and private industry to marshal resources against the virus.

Yet the costs of this national shutdown are growing by the hour, and we don’t mean federal spending. We mean a tsunami of economic destruction that will cause tens of millions to lose their jobs as commerce and production simply cease. Many large companies can withstand a few weeks without revenue but that isn’t true of millions of small and mid-sized firms.

Even cash-rich businesses operate on a thin margin and can bleed through reserves in a month. First they will lay off employees and then out of necessity they will shut down. Another month like this week and the layoffs will be measured in millions of people.

The deadweight loss in production will be profound and take years to rebuild. In a normal recession the U.S. loses about 5% of national output over the course of a year or so. In this case we may lose that much, or twice as much, in a month.
It's time—RIGHT NOW—for local, state and federal leadership to come to an understanding that the cure they have concocted may become far worse than the disease they are trying to battle. It's reasonable to argue that they have acted with the best of intentions, but that doesn't necessarily mean the the best of outcomes will be the result. If they inadvertently destroy our economy and severely impact the lives of tens of millions of working people—all in an effort to flatten the viral spread—they will have accomplished little.

Those at greatest risk are people over the age of 65 with a compromised health profile. And even among that group, COVID-19 is NOT Ebola. The vast, vast majority of seniors who contract the virus will recover. And the vast, vast majority of seniors are not selfish. They recognize that life has risks, including the occasional worldwide viral pandemic (no ... COVID-19 is hardly "unprecedented"), and turning the country and the economy upside down is not the best strategy for their children, their grandchildren, or the future in general.

This morning, CA shut down all but essential businesses. The current argument for the action is that the medical system will be overwhelmed, but that's a worst case scenario numbers game. It could happen, but there's little hard evidence that it will. If the state remains shut down, CA leadership will have achieved what may very well be an actual real-world worst case, millions out of work, potential social upheaval, and—this is important—the virus will still spread and will still kill.

I can only hope that leaders in other states have the intelligence and political courage to go a different way. But at this point, I'm not optimistic.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

A Flu by Any Other Name

I thought (well actually, I had hoped) that the mainstream media would recognize that their COVID-19 scoreboards, their hyperventilating use of words like "skyrocketed" and "soared" when referring to an absolutely predictable increase in COVID-19 cases and yes, deaths, their consistent use of worst case scenarios and provably incorrect statistics (like the canard that COVID-19 has a 6.35% morbidity, and their uber-partisan treatment of Donald Trump's handling of this crisis (e.g., that he called COVID-19 a hoax—and outright lie, or that he told Governors they were "on their own" in getting ventilators—another outright lie) would abate, and these so-called "journalists" would recognize their responsibility to our nation and tone it all down. Nope.

Conservative firebrand Kurt Schlichter is not impressed:
This was the media’s time to shine, a moment when we needed clear, objective information delivered by intelligent people who asked the important questions people care about so Americans could protect themselves and their families. It was a critical juncture when the media could step up and show us all that yes, the media is still important. It still matters. It still deserves our respect.

Instead we got, “Mr. President, isn’t accurately pointing out that the coronavirus originated in China racist?”


That was a thing.

Pointing out that the Wuhan flu came from Wuhan is racist?

Oh, and then literally shaking that someone made an amusing funny joke by calling it the “Kung Flu.”

I wish I was joking.

I wish I was exaggerating. I wish my ability to generate hyperbole in the pursuit of critiquing our failed establishment was so great that I could construct a sublime image of allegedly serious reporters, in a time of national crisis, forgoing the chance to disseminate lifesaving 411 to the masses and instead, and on purpose, choosing to pursue the fevered SJW obsessions of daddy-issued Wellesley sociology sophomores.
Schlichter is not wrong.

But then again, it appears that political correctness has pervaded much of the media's treatment of COVID-19. If you have the temerity to ask intelligent questions, or suggest fact-based decision making, or question whether shutting down the economy is the right option given the reality of COVID-19, you're a "DOUBTER" or a "DENIER."

And when PC takes over, common sense and rational decision making goes out the window. We're seeing that on a daily basis. I don't fear COVID-19 half as much as I fear the ramifications of some of the decisions that are currently being made to combat it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Killing the Elephant

As the economy slowly comes to a partial halt, the opinion of most politicians, virtually all of the media and many health-case professionals is that saving lives MUST be our #1 priority. In the abstract, that view is hard to argue, but it's critically important when adopting policies, legislation, and mass restrictions on people, businesses, and society as whole to base decisions on accurate data—not emotion, or anecdotes, or data that has been tainted in a variety of different ways.

John P.A. Ioannidis (Professor of medicine, of epidemiology and population health, of biomedical data science, and of statistics at Stanford University) has written a detailed paper on the importance of statistical analysis before potentially damaging economic and societal decisions are made by our current leadership at the local, state and federal levels. He writes:
The current coronavirus disease, Covid-19, has been called a once-in-a-century pandemic. But it may also be a once-in-a-century evidence fiasco.

At a time when everyone needs better information, from disease modelers and governments to people quarantined or just social distancing, we lack reliable evidence on how many people have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 or who continue to become infected. Better information is needed to guide decisions and actions of monumental significance and to monitor their impact.

Draconian countermeasures have been adopted in many countries. If the pandemic dissipates — either on its own or because of these measures — short-term extreme social distancing and lockdowns may be bearable. How long, though, should measures like these be continued if the pandemic churns across the globe unabated? How can policymakers tell if they are doing more good than harm?
Ioannidis' analysis is arcane and detailed. He argues that the current "evidence" we have on COVID-19 is insufficient for the kinds of profound decisions (e.g., keeping children out of school for months at a time). He doesn't minimize the potential threat but notes that our estimates of mortality and spread may be off by orders of magnitude and that current statistical data are based on very limited samples that are often skewed by age, time of reporting, and many other factors. He writes:
Some worry that the 68 deaths from Covid-19 in the U.S. as of March 16 will increase exponentially to 680, 6,800, 68,000, 680,000 … along with similar catastrophic patterns around the globe. Is that a realistic scenario, or bad science fiction? How can we tell at what point such a curve might stop?

The most valuable piece of information for answering those questions would be to know the current prevalence of the infection in a random sample of a population and to repeat this exercise at regular time intervals to estimate the incidence of new infections. Sadly, that’s information we don’t have.

In the absence of data, prepare-for-the-worst reasoning leads to extreme measures of social distancing and lockdowns. Unfortunately, we do not know if these measures work. School closures, for example, may reduce transmission rates. But they may also backfire if children socialize anyhow, if school closure leads children to spend more time with susceptible elderly family members, if children at home disrupt their parents ability to work, and more. School closures may also diminish the chances of developing herd immunity in an age group that is spared serious disease ...

Flattening the curve to avoid overwhelming the health system is conceptually sound — in theory. A visual that has become viral in media and social media shows how flattening the curve reduces the volume of the epidemic that is above the threshold of what the health system can handle at any moment.

Yet if the health system does become overwhelmed, the majority of the extra deaths may not be due to coronavirus but to other common diseases and conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, trauma, bleeding, and the like that are not adequately treated. If the level of the epidemic does overwhelm the health system and extreme measures have only modest effectiveness, then flattening the curve may make things worse: Instead of being overwhelmed during a short, acute phase, the health system will remain overwhelmed for a more protracted period. That’s another reason we need data about the exact level of the epidemic activity.
To date, we do not have statistical evidence on the virus that is trustworthy and accurate across all age groups and populations. Lacking that, we don't know whether morbidity is 5% as some claim or 0.5 percent as some data suggest. Ioannidis uses an interesting metaphor:
That huge range markedly affects how severe the pandemic is and what should be done. A population-wide case fatality rate of 0.05% is lower than seasonal influenza. If that is the true rate, locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be totally irrational. It’s like an elephant being attacked by a house cat. Frustrated and trying to avoid the cat, the elephant accidentally jumps off a cliff and dies.
We need statistically valid, time-sequenced random testing across the United States before still more draconian measures are put into place. Hard decisions may very well be necessary, but only after statistical evidence is compelling. If we choose to proceed driven by emotion rather than data, we may very well kill the elephant while the cat runs free.

UPDATE (3-19-2020):
Daniel Henninger comments on the political actions that are on-going:
Again, it’s hard to be optimistic. Even as medical professionals in hazmat suits focus on mitigating infection, Washington addresses financial panic with its own panic. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in concert with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, wants to throw a trillion dollars into the country. Meanwhile local officials in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco are talking about releasing prisoners. And this even as an estimated 200,000 mom-and-pop stores in New York have voluntarily closed. Who’s going to release them?

Here’s a recovery idea Bernie Sanders won’t like, but what Bernie represents is looking pretty yesterday by now. Before this crisis, the real economy and the people who do real work were strong. When it’s over, every level of government—federal, state and local—should declare a two-year holiday from regulatory costs, such as the minimum wage. Ask any big-city shopkeeper or business owner if that relief wouldn’t help them hire back staff and turn the curve up quickly. Ask the laid-off workers if they’d take that deal.

The heroes of 9/11 were cops and firemen. The heroes of the pandemic of 2020 will be hospital workers. Miracles aren’t much in fashion, but if politicians took real risks to free the economy after the crisis, someone might even call them heroes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Pump the Brakes

At a recent news conference during which he announced near-draconian measures (school closures, shuttering of bars and restaurants, cancellation of any event with more than 10 people, etc., etc.) NY Governor Andrew Cuomo was asked whether the potential economic and societal damage caused by those measures (and related federal measures) had been weighed against the threat of COVID-19. With righteous indignation, Cuomo responded that when human lives (particularly the most vulnerable) are at stake, other costs have relatively little weight.


Every day humans make and very often accept the consequences of decisions and policies that result in life or death. Consider two examples:

Every year, approximately 39,000 people die in auto accidents—young, old, children, minorities, men, women. That's over 150 people—a day! Yet, there are no media scoreboards for automobile deaths, no mass wringing of hands, and absolutely no attempt to ban cars or demand that they drive single file at 20 mph separated by 10 car lengths. As tragic as each of the automobile deaths are, our society is willing to accept them because car travel is an integral part of our daily lives and cars themselves are a major economic engine within our country.

Every year, there are about 70,000 deaths from drug overdoses. That's almost 200 people—a day! Yet, there are no media scoreboards, no mass wringing of hands and although there have been decades-long policies to outlaw drugs and interdict them, in recent years, there have been attempts by a majority of Democrats and a significant minority of Republicans to reduce the penalties for drug use and distribution. As tragic as each of the overdose deaths are, our society is willing to accept them in order to avoid a police state.

So yes, Governor Cuomo, it is important to weigh the unintended by still very real damage (e.g., small business bankruptcies, mass unemployment, loss of life savings, economic damage to a middle class that has recently been doing very well) caused by our collective reaction to COVID-19.

No doubt, some consideration of these things has been done (witness the usual Congressional bills that "protect" the constituencies that have been impacted), but it now appears that no leader (including Donald Trump) has the political courage to say, let's step back and consider the costs associated with shutting down the U.S economy. Worse, it appears that the "temporary" restrictions that have been put into place will now last not for weeks, but potentially, for months. No politician wants to be the first to say—enough! They fear a fear-mongering media that is out of control and will second-guess any "uncaring decision" that "kills the elderly."

We're heading toward a very bad place and no one in leadership has the courage to say, let's pump the brakes on policies that may very well attenuate the spread of the virus but at the same time, wreck our economy.


There is a growing chorus of voices that have watched the COVID-19 hysteria grow and are willing to ask why. But because such questions are now politically incorrect, those voices never make it to mainstream media outlets. Michael Fumento writes:
What’s always lost in epidemic hysterias are two things: perspective and data that’s readily available but ignored because it doesn’t serve the agenda of the budget-hungry health organizations and headline-happy media – with their “experts” who are often designated as such by the direness of their predictions.

For perspective, at least 22,000, and perhaps more than 50,000, Americans have died from this season’s flu so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a recent year, it estimated there were 80,000 flu deaths. Worldwide, flu grimly reaps about 291,000 to 646,000 annually. As in all past hysterias, you hear about exceptional cases such as Tom Hanks and wife. But how many famous actors have gotten the flu? Who knows? Nobody cares.

Alarmists will say the comparison isn’t fair in that we have some natural immunity to the flu, plus a flu vaccine. Yet, the opposite case can be made: These people are getting the flu and dying of it even though many of us have some natural immunity to it and there’s a readily available vaccine.

Further, the direct economic impact of COVID-19 (again as opposed to that caused by hysteria havoc) is muted in that even more so than the flu it’s a disease of the old and infirm. An analysis by China’s Center for Disease Control & Prevention found that most deaths occurred in those age 80 and over, which is rather startling given the relatively small number of Chinese that old. Nobody younger than 10 died. Further, almost all those elderly dead had “comorbid” conditions of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or hypertension. (Interestingly, because of the overlap in potential victims we can expect fewer flu deaths this year.)

In watching the hysteria grow, it appears that an irresponsible media is happy to parrot any "expert" prediction no matter how outrageous. That's why we hear about the "potential" for millions of dead. Fumento continues:
Regarding those dire predictions of future cases, as with all those aforementioned panics it’s sheer nonsense. Far from an exponential explosion, COVID-19 cases are following the normal pattern of “Farr’s Law.” First promulgated back in 1840 and taught in Epidemiology 101, it states that all epidemics tend to rise and fall in a roughly symmetrical pattern or bell-shaped curve. AIDS, SARS, Ebola, Zika – all followed that pattern. So does seasonal flu each year. In America, it usually appears in September-October, and is completely gone by April-May.

Importantly, Farr’s Law has nothing to do with human interventions and predates public health organizations. It occurs because communicable diseases nab the “low-hanging fruit” first (in this case the elderly with comorbid conditions) but then find the fruit harder and harder to reach.

Therefore, coronavirus will, and indeed is following Farr’s Law, too. But rest assured, wherever it does health authorities will take credit instead of saying the disease followed its natural course.


I commented on the H1N1 virus of 2009 a few days ago. Sarah Hoyt continues the discussion and poses a few comments and questions that are relevant to this post:
The World Health Organization declared swine flu [H1N1] a pandemic in June 2009. President Obama didn’t declare it a national emergency for four months, until October 2009 ...

In contrast, the WHO declared coronavirus a pandemic on March 11. Two days later on March 13, President Trump declared it a national emergency. Two days versus four months. Yet if you watch cable news, it’s Trump who doesn’t know what he is doing and is dropping the ball. What a difference a president makes.

Given the mass hysteria, supply hoarding, event cancellations and abject panic in America over the coronavirus, the numbers must be far worse now compared to the swine flu pandemic a decade ago. Let’s see if that’s true.

Swine flu caused 60.8 million illnesses, 273,304 hospitalizations, and 12,469 deaths in the U.S.

Worldwide, swine flu may have killed up to 203,000 people, more than the number thus far infected with Coronavirus, and the vast majority of those infected recovering uneventfully.

Why wasn’t virtually every major sporting event in 2009 cancelled given these numbers? Especially with swine flu preferentially affecting the young?

How did the media react in 2009? The NY Times praised Obama’s leadership. From a May 1, 2009 article,

A week after his administration first received word about a deadly flu spreading across Mexico, President Obama convened his cabinet on Friday and instructed every agency to play a role in preparing the United States for a pandemic.

The president’s comments came at the end of a weeklong balancing act in which his public words and actions were carefully measured to summon a sense of urgency without setting off a panic. It was no coincidence, his aides said, that he played golf the day his administration declared a national emergency.
Imagine if Trump played golf last week. I’m sure the media would just mention it in passing as an example of President Trump trying to avoid setting off a panic.

Otherwise the two presidents did much the same, convening their cabinets, creating a game plan, and insisting on interagency cooperation. Was media reaction the same? Hardly.

Good luck finding a description of Trump’s response to coronavirus from any newspaper or cable news show comparable to how they reported on Obama as he faced the swine flu pandemic. What a difference a president makes.

Swine flu came and went, leaving a far greater swath of destruction compared to the current coronavirus outbreak. The economic and societal disruption from the reaction to coronavirus is likely to be far worse to whatever damage the virus does. Yet the reactions are far different, flames of panic stoked by the media.
The response from the politically correct crowd would be that we've learned and are trying to damp the spread of COVID-19. There is some truth to that but as I noted in the body of this post, there are costs as well. When Hoyt writes: "The economic and societal disruption from the reaction to coronavirus is likely to be far worse to whatever damage the virus does," she's not far off the mark.

Monday, March 16, 2020


Now that COVIS-19 "testing" is coming on line in a big way, the Democrats and their trained hamsters in the media need to pivot to the next topic that will increase fear, uncertainly and doubt (FUD) among members of the general public. After all, it's very important for the media (and their Dem masters) to keep the hysteria dial maxed out. No context, under any circumstances! Use language such as "cases skyrocketed!!!!" rather than a more measured, "As expected, there was an increase in cases as the progression of the virus continues."

One of the topics recently chosen to spike FUD is the availability of "ventilators"—medical devices that are necessary in the rare cases when COVID-19 progresses into a full-blown pulminary threat (particularly among the old who have been admitted to an ICU).

The Dems keep telling us they're "science-based" and that the Trump administration is not. There is no basis whatsoever for that allegation, but it's yet another catalyst for FUD. There are, of course, real scientists who take these issues seriously and have for some time. In a 2015 scientific paper by Martin Meltzer et al, the researchers examined the availability of ventilators and their impact during a pulminary event. The study is complex, and I encourage those so inclined to read the whole thing. The authors derive mathematical relationships to predict ventilator requirements in best and worst case environments. They conclude:
Our results demonstrate that the next influenza pandemic will likely produce a surge in patients, admitted to hospitals under current standards of medical care, who will require mechanical ventilation. It must be acknowledged that in pandemics caused by influenza strains that cause large numbers of critically ill patients, there may not be the ability to meet peak demand for ventilation. Thus, public health officials, hospital administrators, and practicing physicians need to develop plans now as to how to allocate scarce ventilators [20]. If ventilator capacity becomes scarce, then each hospital or group of hospitals need to consider how they will practically and ethically prioritize patients be placed on a ventilator. Powell et al [21] describe a triage system developed for use in New York state hospitals that included the following components: “duty to care, duty to steward resources, duty to plan, distributive justice, and transparency.” The authors considered their triage system to be a “… radical shift from ordinary standards of care.”
This paper was written in 2015, during the previous Democratic administration. If we were to use the (admittedly idiotic) criteria currently being applied by the Dems and their trained hamsters in the media, we would breathlessly ask:

-- Why did President Obama not act on this 'science-based' analysis?
-- Did his administration not care about people afflicted with a flu virus?
-- Did he and his advisors reject science?
-- Is he to blame for a lack of ventilators now.
-- Is he, therefore, culpable for COVID-19 deaths among the elderly?

Of course, all of these questions are grossly unfair and ridiculous -- Just like the ventilator questions that are being asked right now by Obama's own party and their media flunkies.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Compared to What?

In yesterday's post, I touched on the gross irresponsibility of the media as they induce panic across the country. Their reporting is 'fake news' because they conveniently ignore context that would ease the minds of many. As of this morning, 0.00019 percent of the U.S. population has tested positive for COVID-19. Of that group, at least 80 percent will require no treatment, outside staying at home in self-imposed quarantine, yielding 0.0000183 percent of the U.S., population that is currently at risk of serious health consequences or, in the extreme, death. I'm well aware of the characteristics of geometric progression and the manner in which COVID-19 case could increase rapidly. But despite the media propaganda, social distancing efforts at the personal, local, state, and federal level will result in smaller geometric coefficients and exponents with resultant flattening of the growth curve. You'd think that this information would be presented EVERY time the number of cases and the number of deaths is reported. You'd be wrong.

In a worthwhile article (read the whole thing), Heather McDonald presents the context that the media refuses to discuss. She writes:
Compared to what? That should be the question that every fear-mongering news story on the coronavirus has to start with. So far, the United States has seen forty-one deaths from the infection. Twenty-two of those deaths occurred in one poorly run nursing home outside of Seattle, the Life Care Center. Another nine deaths occurred in the rest of Washington state, leaving ten deaths (four in California, two in Florida, and one in each of Georgia, Kansas, New Jersey, and South Dakota) spread throughout the rest of the approximately 329 million residents of the United States. This represents roughly .000012 percent of the U.S. population.

Much has been made of the “exponential” rate of infection in European and Asian countries—as if the spread of all transmittable diseases did not develop along geometric, as opposed to arithmetic, growth patterns. What actually matters is whether or not the growing “pandemic” overwhelms our ability to ensure the well-being of U.S. residents with efficiency and precision. But fear of the disease, and not the disease itself, has already spoiled that for us. Even if my odds of dying from coronavirus should suddenly jump ten-thousand-fold, from the current rate of .000012 percent across the U.S. population all the way up to .12 percent, I’d happily take those odds over the destruction being wrought on the U.S. and global economy from this unbridled panic.

By comparison, there were 38,800 traffic fatalities in the United States in 2019, the National Safety Council estimates. That represents an average of over one hundred traffic deaths every day; if the press catalogued these in as much painstaking detail as they have deaths from coronavirus, highways nationwide would be as empty as New York subways are now. Even assuming that coronavirus deaths in the United States increase by a factor of one thousand over the year, the resulting deaths would only outnumber annual traffic deaths by 2,200. Shutting down highways would have a much more positive effect on the U.S. mortality rate than shutting down the U.S. economy to try to prevent the spread of the virus.
No one is suggesting that the media be muzzled or that bad news should disappear, but many of us are suggesting that 'fake news' on COVID-19 (that is, news that lacks context) is dangerous and irresponsible. As bad (and maybe worse), are politicians who lack the courage to say, Everyone needs to take a breath and calm down. You're not going to die, and if you do contract COVID-19, it's very likely to be nothing more than a bad cold.

We need a few profiles in courage—Democrats and Republicans who stand up and calm fears, not exacerbate them.


It appears that anyone who suggests that the media should provide context instead of fear mongering is now guilty of "denialism," a phrase used by the left-leaning Minneapolis Star Tribune to condemn any comparison of COVID-19 with the common flu (they conveniently avoid discussing why it shouldn't be compared to the more serious H1N1 virus of 2009). It appears that the progressive editors of Star Tribune have decided to adopt a standard tactic of the Left. Rather than debating a topic based on facts and their interpretation, name calling ("denialism") is the operative strategy. NO ONE denies that COVID-19 is a threat. The real question is how to best handle the threat and how to manage public reaction to it.

As a subtext, there's also the question of how this health crisis has been politicized by members of the administration's opposition and their trained hamsters in the media to such an extent that it's laughably obvious. Creating an atmosphere of hysteria that needlessly puts the economy in jeopardy (remember that the very people who will be hurt by this are the same people who the Left tells us they care so, so much about) is worthy of discussion and criticism based on the facts—not name-calling.


Some are beginning to sound the alarm that an "hysteria virus" has been unleashed by an irresponsble media and by despicable politicians who view the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to win in November. If left unchecked, the hysteria virus could ruin more lives and create more upheaval that the biological threat that has been used as an excuse to unleash it. Douglas MacKinnon comments:
The purveyors of greed, hate, and partisanship have worsened the most turbulent, most threatening storm of our lives. Knowing that, the “adults in the room” from the media and political classes need to step up immediately to calm those troubled waters by speaking as one and emphasizing not just the frightening but also the positive and the hopeful aspects of this crisis.

Beyond that desperately needed fix from the media and our politicians, each of us can and must play our own roles by acting responsibly and altruistically within our own communities.

The opportunists using the coronavirus to feed their greed and hate must not be allowed to tip the world toward oblivion. There is still time to stop them.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Blood in the Water

The Democrats smell blood in the water as their trained hamsters in the media take a serious but manageable viral outbreak and spin it in a way that induces hysteria and panic across broad swaths of the population. New cases and death are emphasized, while context and calm are jettisoned to achieve maximum panic.

The Dems have settled, it seems, on three talking points: (1) there are not enough "test kits" for everyone to get tested immediately for COVID-19; (2) we wasted time once the earliest signs began coming out of China and should have been preparing since at least January, and (3) the Trump administration is in chaos and has no plan for battling the virus. Let's take each of these points in sequence.

Testing. COVID-19 has no cure, except time. Therefore, knowing you have it does little to improve your health. Testing does provide additional data for the government (worthwhile) and another notch on the media scoreboard (questionable), but in no way leads to getting better. That takes time, and in 8 out of 10 cases, no medical attention is required. Knowing you have COVID-19 should lead to self-quarantine, but if you're sick with any flu, shouldn't you do that anyway? And for those who sneeze once and demand a test? The test you use might have been better applied for someone who actually presents recognizable symptoms to a medical professional.

Slow reaction. Exactly what do the Democrats mean when they tell us that reaction time was slow. They were outraged when Donald Trump banned travel with China, now considered to have been a very wise move. As media induced hysteria ramped up, they criticized Trump for trying to calm fears, suggesting that he wasn't being honest. When he suggested recently that things would get worse before they got better, they criticized him for stoking panic. But the Dems are silent when asked specifically what they would have done differently. Do they suggest that we should have closed schools in January, or maybe hoarded toilet paper when news first came out of China. Or maybe we should have created test kits and a vaccine for a virus whose genome was not yet fully defined. Interesting that none of this concern for lack of preparedness for a black swan event was evidenced in 2009 when H1N1 hit our shores.

A Plan. Joe Biden has offered up a plan that is nearly identical to the actions already put in motion by the Trump Administration who he criticized for "no plan." No surprise there. Biden also formed his own "science based" advisory board (made up of Obama administration retreads), with the outrageous implication that the Trump's advisors are NOT science-based. Tell that to Anthony Fauci, MD.

An example of the media reaction to Trump's recent oval address address is provided by Roger Kimball:
The wretched Jim Acosta, court jester on CNN, complained about Trump calling the virus ‘foreign’ and his identifying the source of the virus as China. That was ‘smacking of xenophobia’ said the babbling head. I wonder if he feels the same about calling German measles ‘German measles’, worries that Ebola is named after a river in Africa, its source, or that Zika is named after some other God-forsaken place in the dark continent. How about Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: is that racist about the Rocky Mountains, Jim?
It would be okay if little* Jimmy Acosta were an outlier, but he's representative of a media that hates, hates, hates Trump and allows that hatred not only to obliterate their judgement and objectivity but turns them into Democratic operatives with bylines.

It appears that progressives have decided that anyone who counsels a more measured approach to reduce the outright hysteria that has gripped vast numbers of people is being politically incorrect, and that any one who criticized the hyperbolic, context-free** "reporting" by the media is irresponsible. Progressives claim that their "concern" and their personal sacrifices (e.g., self-imposed social distancing) will help the most vulnerable among us. As usual, exactly the opposite is happening. Broad-based cancellations (e.g., school,*** events, businesses), many highly questionable, have already led to additional costs and significant income loss for millions, many in the lower and middle classes.

Kimball concludes:
[COVID-19] is a formidable bioweapon, not because of its lethality, which is modest, but because of its power as a propaganda weapon in the hands of power hungry politicians and bureaucrats who deploy it to undermine Trump and feed their own authoritarian impulses.

Maybe that's the real answer to the question I posed at the conclusion of my last post.


* I use the adjective "little" not as a reference to Acosta's height (I have no idea how tall he is). Rather, it's a reference to his professionalism, which is infinitesmally small; his objectivity, which is smaller still; his demeanor, which reflects the behavior of a "little" child, and his intelligence, which is little more than passing. Jimmy has "little" to offer anyone except those who are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome. He is truly a "little" man.

** On their never-ending scoreboard of COVID-19 deaths (designed to enhance ratings/clicks and increase unease), the media trumpets deaths in Italy (BTW, a socialized medicine country, but never mind). What they purposely leave out is context, as supplied by the respected medical journal, Lancet:
The mean age of those who died in Italy was 81 years and more than two-thirds of these patients had diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, or cancer, or were former smokers....Of the patients who died, 42·2% were aged 80–89 years, 32·4% were aged 70–79 years, 8·4% were aged 60–69 years, and 2·8% were aged 50–59 years (those aged >90 years made up 14·1%). The male to female ratio is 80% to 20% with an older median age for women (83·4 years for women vs 79·9 years for men).
For the many innumerate progressives who keep telling us that "sacrifice" is necessary to save "the most vulnerable" among us and that statistical context is politically incorrect, let's be crystal clear. If you're under 80 and in good health, you're far more likely to be killed by a lightning strike than by COVID-19.

*** This evening, the CDC announced that school closures are not such a good idea and that hand-washing (a good idea) would be far more effective in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Hmmm. This after closures in 38 states.

Friday, March 13, 2020


Eleven years ago, the H1N1 pandemic swept the globe. According to the CDC and WHO, among others, there were over 762 million cases of H1N1 reported in 214 countries worldwide. There were 284,000 deaths associated with H1N1. The CDC estimates "between 34 million and 67 million cases of 2009 H1N1 [in the United States] occurred between April and November 14, 2009. ... CDC estimated that between about 7,070 and 13,930 2009 H1N1-related deaths occurred between April and November 14, 2009."

Ponder the numbers in the first paragraph for a moment. Then consider that currently, there have been no more than 2000 COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S with fewer than 40 deaths. Let's assume under-reporting by an order of magnitude. That would be 20,000 cases and 400 deaths at this time. Let's further assume the frightening prospect that even with all of the measures currently in place, those numbers will increase by two more orders of magnitude leading to 2 million cases and 40,000 deaths. That's very serious and tragic, but it remains well within the range of the H1N1 data for the United states.

Now, let's ponder the difference in media reporting, government response, political and public reaction, financial markets reaction, and overall societal upheaval between the serious events of 2009 and the equally serious portent of 2020. In 2009, H1N1 was a topic of reporting, but discussion was generally muted. There were no travel bans, little government action beyond the CDC and the healthcare community, no special legislation of any significance, few, if any, large event cancellations, and very little public hysteria. The administration at the time got almost no serious criticism for its handling of the H1N1 pandemic, even though it did little if anything beyond standard disease response. There were no cries for "more testing" and no political recriminations, although H1N1 was quite serious and deadly. There were few predictions that our hospitals would collapse under the weight on H1N1 patients (even though there were over 34,000,000 cases).

After-action data indicate that H1N1 was 0.2% lethal—in most cases killing the elderly with underlying health conditions. Because data are preliminary, it appears that COVID-19 is deadlier, with current morbidity estimates of about 2 percent. But as the number of reported cases rise (along with expected recoveries from those cases), the morbidity percentage is expected to drop (possibly significantly).

Some people argue that COVID-19 is somehow unique in the world of viruses, but there is little, if any, evidence to support that claim. Yes, COVID-19 is dangerous, yes, it spreads geometrically if left unchecked, yes, it will kill the elderly who have compromised immune or pulmonary systems, but that was equally true of H1N1.

One could argue, I suppose, that we've learned from H1N1 (along with other viruses) and have tuned our response accordingly. By implementing closures, travel bans, school closures, and other rational measures of social distancing (and self-quarantine), we can flatten the growth curve and avoid geometric spread. That's all good.

But why the difference in reporting and why ... the hysteria? COVID-19 like H1N1 is a serious threat, but it's not armageddon. If you listened to the mainstream media and more than a few politicians, you'd think that it was.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Compare and Contrast

The Democrat frontrunners for the presidential nomination, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have been VERY critical of the Trump administration's response to COVID-19 as have other Democrat leaders. They claim that Trump has "allowed" the virus to spread by not doing enough testing early enough. Trump has "minimized the threat" and "cares only about politics." Trump has demonstrated a distinct "lack of leadership."

Given that, we have an opportunity to compare and contrast. I recommend that during the upcoming 'debate' between Biden and Sanders, responsible moderators should probe the candidates' understanding of COVID-19 in-depth, so that we can all see how they would do so, so much better at handling this pandemic.

The moderators would ask Biden specifically how he would have acted differently than Trump (not accepting vacuous Biden platitudes as an answer). They would probe how he would improve the government's existing plans for handling an epidemic, and ask why the Obama-Biden administration "allowed" tens of thousands of cases of H1N1 (swine flu) virus in the US to occur in 2009 and why about 12,000 people died. They would demand that he cite exact statistics to demonstrate how much better his grasp of the problem is when compared to Trump. They would as him why an epidemic response team he would appoint would be more qualified than the team that Trump has created. They would demand that Biden offer a cost-benefit analysis that would demonstrate how his proposed actions would save lives but at the same time not ruin the economy.

Then the moderators would ask Sanders (and Biden who supports a variant) how his Medicare-for-All plan (a policy that would likely gut private sector investment in medical care) would result in faster development of vaccines or a more robust response to the next pandemic. They would ask him how his proposed policy advocating open borders (because ... "racism") would stop the flow of potentially COVID-19 infected individuals from entering the country.

They would reject Sanders' leftist jibberish about "free" stuff and demand hard answers about how socialized medicine* would reduce the spread and mortality of the next COVID-19. And if Sanders fulminated about the slow response for the distribution of tests kits for COVID-19, the moderators would ask how government agencies (e.g., the CDC and the FDA) would magically become efficient and timely under socialized medicine but are currently inefficient and slow. Exactly how does that happen?

Yeah, that's what they should ask. Too bad they won't.


* Andrea Widburg provides a few comments on the harsh realities of socialized medicine:
... socialized medicine doesn't offer care; it offers access. Access without good outcomes is not medical care ...

... Single payer also means single buyer. That means the dynamics of the market get eliminated. One of the natural checks-and-balances of finding a hot-shot surgeon willing to do the risky procedure or even just seek a second opinion, get chopped away little by little. Because now we're answering to the government. It isn't answering to us. After all, where are we gonna go? They've got us. And our cancer treatment or skin graft surgery or kidney stone blast is up to their red tape. Sure, we can get in the door for free. But we might die in there, waiting on someone with no incentive and who faces no recourse, to change our plasma bag ...

... the only way to control prices under socialized medicine is to deny care to society's "dead weight" — the old and sick. You see that with Britain's Liverpool Care Pathway, which sent thousands of elderly patients to an early death.

... Democrats are ignoring a salient point about the coronavirus: it started in a country with socialized medicine (China) and is having its worst effects in two other countries with socialized medicine: Iran and Italy. There's a bright, flashing message in that that American leftists refuse to read.

Socialized medicine is not better medicine. It's a chimera that American leftists like because they are completely ignorant about its brutal realities.
Harsh, but true.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

A Mess

Now that a broad-based anti-Bernie Sanders vote has revived Joe Biden's candidacy in two recent Democrat primaries and catapulted him to frontrunner status, its time to discuss his situation—gently, I hope, but honestly.

But first a digression.

My dad suffered from dementia—Alzheimer's disease—for almost 14 years, until his death at 94. At first, his disease was hardly noticeable, and those of us who loved him dismissed the early signs as "senior moments." At first, he was more lucid than not, but he also had temporal and factual slips where he imaged events and times that never happened. He confused people and events on a regular basis, had unpredictable outbursts of anger (very unlike him), and had a strange 'look'—sort of like a thousand yard stare—that is unmistakable to those who know Alzheimers. The disease is unrelenting, unforgiving, and incurable, and within just a few years, he had trouble processing information, recognizing people, and otherwise being an independent person. As time passed, it became far worse. It NEVER gets better.

Joe Biden—because we can observe him on the public stage—is beginning to exhibit all the early warning signs I saw in my father. His family, like mine, most likely has dismissed these early signs. I'm sympathetic to their situation and to Biden's condition—truly, I am, but it's time for some frank talk. Kyle Smith doesn't pull any punches when he writes:
Even at his best, Biden was notorious for being loopy, digressive, and sloppy, and he’s long past his best. Clarence Thomas noted of Biden’s line of questioning during his Senate confirmation hearings, “You have to sit there and look attentively at people [who] you know have no idea what they are talking about.” His bizarre 2012 debate with Paul Ryan consisted of bursts of strangely out-of-context laughter and boorish interruptions. His own aides panic every time he goes off-script, to such a degree that David Axelrod once quipped that Biden was being kept in a “candidate-protection program.” When he starts riffing, he is given to making false claims such as that he was arrested trying to visit Nelson Mandela in prison. His answer to all questions in debate is a subject, a verb, and Obama.
Biden's advanced age is a concern in itself, but when it's coupled with continuous "gaffs" that aren't gaffs at all, it's time to get real.

The President of the United States must process information without impediment. He or she must not exhibit the temporal and factual slips that occur regularly with Biden. Look closely, the thousand yard stare is in evidence—not always, but often enough to be concerning—very concerning. The trained hamsters in the media dismiss all of this as slips of the tongue or momentary confusion or misinterpretation but an honest appraisal of Biden's behavior tells us it's more ominous.

Yeah, I know, the Democrats will claim that Donald Trump is "unbalanced," "insane," and doesn't process information normally, and as a consequence, should be removed from the presidency.* If that's true, why would they nominate a man who almost certainly is in the early stages of a disease that may destroy his ability to adequately process information and properly execute his job as president should he be elected.

What a mess.


* Over the past few years, Yale psychiatrist, Brandy Lee, MD, has been trotted out by the media because she has been vocal about her belief that Donald Trump is mentally unfit for office. Forget the fact the Dr. Lee has never treated Trump, but provided her diagnosis based on public observation, the Dems use her opinion repeatedly.

Recently, Dr. Lee was asked to provide a diagnosis for Joe Biden, based on public observation of his words and behavior. She refused, stating:
"I do not diagnose without examination and do not speak about public figures in general, unless there is evidence of such profound danger to public health and well-being because of serious signs of mental instability in a public servant, that it would be a public disservice not to share the knowledge and training that I have. Biden has not risen to this threshold…"
He has now. Waiting ... waiting.