Thursday, April 30, 2020

In which I agree with Elon Musk

Obligatory disclaimer: he is (in my opinion) a modern version of the Gilded Age robber barons.  Specifically, he has figured out how to extract government funding for his private ventures.

Of course, that doesn't make him wrong, it just makes him an interested party.

But this is a fine rant, getting extra credit for being delivered on an earnings call.  He calls the government lock down fascist, explicitly using the term.  Maybe he just reads Borepatch.  Full marks.  Maybe he's read Borepatch for a long time*, in which case the question becomes "what took you so long, dude?"

Of course, sophisticated observers have know this for the better part of a decade, but it's gratifying to see a Captain Of Industry saying this out loud.

But yeah - fascist.  And a note to all government employees who think they might "follow orders" to ask for a "government permit" for free citizens out and about doing their business: you get extra crazy fascist style points** asking for the permit in the original German: "Papierien, bitte."

Extra crazy style points.

* Perhaps the finest comment ever left here was by The Czar Of Muscovy on that post.  Bravo.  And that post got a comment by Spandrell.  (Respectful) Fanboi Squee!

** Remember, the Wehrmacht got Hugo Boss to design their uniforms.  Extra crazy style points, amirite?

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Free to a good home

The Story Of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant, 10,000 pages of Pulitzer Prize winning Western Civilization.  Old School Western Civ.  Amazon is selling sets from around $100 (used) to over $600 (!) (new - who knew you could still get new?).

Mine are used, and there are a few Borepatch annotations in the margins about things that could make good blog fodder but which I never got back to.  I read each of the first ten volumes and around a hundred pages of the last before I ran out of steam.  Maybe you'll have more stamina than I do.

But they're free - I picked them up for a buck a copy at a library used book sale.  If this is your Bag, Baby, then it's first come, first served.  You can either pick them up if you're in the Maryland area, or I can ship them but you'll need to pay shipping.  Probably it would be cheaper for you to buy a used set off of Amazon, since they get a lot better shipping rates than I do.

UPDATE: We have a winner. I'm glad to see there's still interest in Western Civ among our readers, although I'm not at all surprised.  You seem to be smarter than the average bear.

Monday, April 27, 2020

How the CDC will destroy American healthcare

The CDC has a track record of incompetence - a better example of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy is hard to imagine:
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people":
 First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration. 
Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.
So while CDC doubtless has many employees dedicated to controlling disease, the organization is run by people motivated by typical Washington politicking.  That is a very plausible explanation of why CDC looks like it is trying to destroy the American health care system.


  • The CDC was the source of the estimates of Wuhan Flu death count (6.6M) that were used to shut down the American economy, and
  • The CDC was the source of the rationale for the shutdown - slow the spread of the disease in order to reduce the maximum number of ICU patients to a level that would not cause the collapse of the health care system.

It looks like Mission Accomplished.  Hospitals are empty, Hospital ships are leaving the ports they were to serve due to lack of patients, doctors and nurses are being laid off.  The capacity of the health care system has clearly been preserved from the Wuhan virus.

But it has not been preserved from the CDC.  Where are the recommendations from CDC to allow elective surgeries, reopening closed hospital wings and saving hospitals from bankruptcy?  The World wonders.  Hospitals from sea to sea are in precarious financial straits, due to the lockdown that was explicitly justified by CDC to prevent the same hospitals from collapsing.

But there's more, so much more.  Consider:

  • Most people in the United States get health insurance as a benefit from their employer.
  • By the end of this week, probably 30M people will have been made unemployed due to CDC's recommended economic lockdown.
  • The average number of people in the typical US household is 2.5.  Taking an estimated 1.5 employed workers per household, this means that by Friday probably 50M people will lack health insurance.

But those 50M people will need health care.  They just won't be able to pay for it.  Hospitals must (by law) provide services anyway, and so hospitals that are already in financial trouble due to CDC's recommended lockdown will face a flood of additional non-paying patients.


Now none of this is controversial, although no doubt CDC would engage in a lot of ass covering to try to cover up all their past fear mongering.  The implications are inescapable - the cure for American healthcare is worse than the disease.  CDC is burning the village in order to save it.

Relax, we're doctors ...
We don't even need to go into motivations, because they're entirely irrelevant.  It doesn't matter whether CDC is doing this because they're Deep Staters who hate Donald Trump and want to take him down, or whether they see this as an opportunity to collapse the health care system and have the Government take it over, or whether they're just a bunch of incompetent nincompoops who rose to control the agency due to superior bureaucratic infighting skills - none of this matters.  What matters is that CDC's recommendation is causing what is clearly a worse outcome for this country than just letting nature take its course.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Get rid of the CDC

How has CDC screwed the pooch?  Let us count the ways ...

Act The First: You don't need no steenkin' test kits!

Via Lawrence (in a fabulous post), Why didn't we get test kits in January?
In essence, the CDC-designed test kit included and extra segment that would have allowed users to include people who had SARS or similar coronaviruses. It’s not clear what the point of this third segment of the test was but the important point is that only the first two segments of the test kit were needed to identify COVID-19.
The addition of the third test segment might not have mattered except that it wound up creating a significant problem. The CDC decided to manufacture the test kids “in house” rather than rely on outside labs. And during that process, the reagents used in the third segment of the test became contaminated. We know this because when the CDC sent out the initial batch of test kits, nearly all of them gave false positives on the third segment.
The effort to create these kits was let by their top expert on respiratory viruses, so this is a first class screw up by the A-Team.  Top.  Men.  And pay no attention to the name of the agency: the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Act The Second: What do you mean, Ebola has reached Dallas?

I mean, we've been sending out happy happy press releases for weeks now:
(CNN) -- A second health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan has tested positive for Ebola, health officials said Wednesday -- casting further doubt on the hospital's ability to handle Ebola and protect employees.
Meanwhile, CDC supergenius Frieden has decided that maybe sending an actual, y'know, CDC response team, to Dallas immediately might have maybe sort of possibly perhaps been helpful, unlike all that bloviating and reassuring from 1500 miles away with their heads firmly clenched somewhere upstream from their anal sphincter muscle. 
More Frieden jackassery on parade. 
Great work, Frieden. 
Pity about the additional 100+ people now known to be exposed because you and your agency are run like the government equivalent of the Jamaican Bobsled Team, but thanks for the comedy relief.
Top. Men.  And pay no attention to the name of the agency: the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Act The Third: Sorry about that "make patients go cold turkey on their pain meds" thing ...

People put through excruciating withdrawal symptoms because CDC told doctors to stop prescribing?  My bad, Bro:
Last month saw a letter to the CDC, a letter that documented hundreds of patients suffering the adverse consequences of the CDC's guidance.  The letter was signed by hundreds of doctors and nurses.  And suddenly the CDC is stumbling all over itself to "clarify" their 2016 guidance:
Acknowledging the suffering caused by "misinterpretation" of the opioid prescribing guidelines it published in 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday sought to clarify that it never recommended imposing involuntary dose reductions on chronic pain patients. In a letter to physicians who had objected to that widespread practice, CDC Director Robert Redfield emphasized that his agency "does not endorse mandated or abrupt dose reduction or discontinuation, as these actions can result in patient harm."
Except that's exactly what their guidance had told doctors.  Click through for the gory details, but all I can say is that this is what you get when you have your national health care run by Top Men.

Postscript: How did we get here?

A Charlie Foxtrot this bad doesn't happen by chance, but rather is built brick by brick over the course of decades.  As the old saying goes, enough layers of bureaucracy ensures that disaster is not left to chance.

And if you think I'm being hard on CDC here, check back tomorrow when I describe how CDC will single-handedly collapse the health care system in the United States.  They have Top Men working on it.

Cesar Cui - A Feast in Time of Plague

Картинка из Википедии
Things are sometimes not what you would think.  For example, you might think that a composer with the name "Caesar Cui" was Italian, or maybe French.  You wouldn't think that he was a Russian Army engineer, much less a full General who taught fortifications in the Imperial Military Academy and who wrote textbooks on the subject.

But today he is best known for his other life, the one in music.  As a child he received a first rate education which of course included the study music.  It turned out that he was gifted, and was writing piano pieces by the time he was 14.  While his day job no doubt kept him busy, he wrote a lot of music, most of which was based on Russian themes.

This piece is from his opera based on Alexander Pushkin's poem of the same name.  Originally performed in 1901, it was more or less forgotten until 1999, when the Tchaikovsky Opera revived it for the Pushkin bicentennial. In 2009 it premiered on these shores.

You might think that this was pretty obscure, but at the time he was a big deal.  He was one of "The Five", along with Mily Balakirev, Modest MussorgskyNikolai Rimsky-Korsakovand Alexander Borodin - basically, Russia's musical Hall Of Fame.  He is buried with the other members of The Five at  the Tikhvin Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, Saint Petersburg.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Ronnie Dunn - Cost Of Livin'

We're only tracking half the cost of the Wuhan Virus.  We have meticulous (if somewhat suspect) data on the number of deaths; we have increasingly inaccurate data on the number of sick and the number of recovered.  There are big gaps in the data, but data are being collected and published.

But this is only half the story.  The country has been locked down, and a million people lose their jobs each day.  The Press is full of stories about people who are sick and their sufferings.  But when it comes to the unemployed Stalin's dictum is on full display: One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.

All we are told about the unemployed are the statistics - that hides the human face.  This song shows it.

Cost of Livin' (Songwriters: Ronnie Dunn, Phillip Coleman)
Everythin' to know about me
Is written on this page
A number you can reach me
My social and my age

Yes, I served in the army
It's where I learned to shoot
Eighteen months in the desert
Pourin' sand out of my boots

No, I've never been convicted of a crime
I could start this job at any time

I got a strong back, steel toes
I rarely call in sick, a good truck
What I don't know I catch on real quick
I work weekends, if I have to, nights and holidays

Give you forty and then some
Whatever it takes
Four dollars and change at the pump
The cost of livin's high and goin' up

I put Robbert down as a reference
He's known me all my life
We attend the same church
He introduced me to my wife

I gave my last job everythin'
Before it headed south
Took the shoes off of my children's feet
Food out of their mouths

Yesterday my folks offered to help
But they're barely gettin' by themselves

I got a strong back, steel toes
I rarely call in sick, a good truck
What I don't know I catch on real quick
I work weekends, if I have to, nights and holidays

Give you forty and then some
Whatever it takes
Three dollars and change at the pump
The cost of livin's high and goin' up

I'm sure a hundred others have applied
But rumor has it you're only takin' five

I got a strong back, steel toes
I'm handy with a wrench
There's nothin' I can't drive
There's nothin' I can't fix

I work sunup to sundown
Ain't too proud to sweep the floors
The bank has started callin'
And the wolves are at my door

Four dollars and change at the pump
The cost of livin's high and goin' up

Thursday, April 23, 2020

The shutdown is not about protecting people's health

Sure, that's how it was sold to the public, but that isn't how it's being used.  The Queen Of The World saw this on the Book of Faces, and it is so dead on target that I'm posting it here:
When the State tells you it's safe to go to Home Depot to buy a sponge but dangerous to go and buy a flower, it's not about your health. 
When the State shuts down millions of private businesses but doesn’t lay off a single government employee, it's not about your health. 
When the State bans dentists because its unsafe, but deems abortion visits are safe, it's not about your health. 
When the State prevents you from buying cucumber seeds because it's dangerous, but allows in person lottery ticket sales, it's not about your health. 
When the State tells you it's dangerous to go golf alone, fish alone or be in a motor boat alone, but the Governor can get his stage make up done, and hair done for 5 TV appearances a week, it's not about your health. 
When the state puts you IN a jail cell for walking in a park with your child because it’s too dangerous, but let’s criminals OUT of jail cells for their health- It’s not about YOUR health! 
When the state tells you it’s too dangerous to get treated by a doctor of chiropractic or physical therapy treatments yet deems a liquor store essential- It’s not about your health! 
When the State lets you go to the grocery store or hardware store but is demanding mail-in voting, ITS NOT ABOUT YOUR HEALTH. 
It's not about your health.  It's about the exercise of power by the State.

I don't think that I'm the only one who thinks this; the wave of protests we're seeing across the country are likely driven by this recognition.

And can we pretty please once and for all admit that "smart" public policy can't fix all problems if we just got the right Smart People® in power?

It's been a while since used the fascist post tag, but the last couple days I'm wearing it out ...

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Well, it looks like I've been banned

Over at Aesop's place.

Weird, because I can't think of how I would have been abusive there.  But his place, his rules.  Whatevs.  Maybe debate isn't his forte.

FYI[1]: I've only banned one person here, and it was my ex-wife who was posting nasty stuff on (for example) my post about my Father-In-Law's funeral.  The ban took a court order  to enforce.  I actually apologized to everyone here, but was pretty covert.  I should be more explicit: my ex-wife ("Mrs. Borepatch") intentionally tried to inflict emotional distress on The Queen Of The World (who had been nothing but nice to her), on the occasion of TQOTW's Father's funeral.  It really sucks to have to get a court order.  Aesop and I don't agree on some things, but he's never been abusive here to me or TQOTW.  I really hope I don't have to ban anyone other than the ex, and with almost 40,000 comments here I think there's some hope that I might not have to.

FYI[2]: Aesop, you're not banned here.  We don't always agree, but you're smart and passionate and that's something that adds to the discussion here.

FYI[3]: Maybe it's just a Blogger hiccup.  I hope so.

UPDATE: Aesop stops by to say that I'm not banned, he's just shut down comments due to an infestation of morons.  It makes me very grateful for the high caliber of the comments here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Nobody will argue your virus math

They will argue your virus assumptions.
To err is human; to really foul things up you need a computer.
- Unknown, from the 1960s
This is the problem with the virus models (as with all models).  The math is the easiest part, and modeling software libraries are pretty thoroughly debugged.  The crank and the gears that turn are doing what they're supposed to do.

But if the input data is wonky, then the output will never be accurate.  Some of the inaccuracies are unescapable, for example delays in reporting deaths.  Different countries have different reporting policies and cadences, and there's really not much that can be done about that.  After all, the data are the data.  But some really important data are poorly known, or not known at all:
  • True infection rate can only be known with mass testing of the population.  You don't need to test everyone, but you do need to test a statistically significant sample.  For the US, we're talking about hundreds of thousands or even millions of people.  Nobody is working on this, so we simply can't know what the infection rate really is.  several small scale studies strongly suggest that it is much higher - perhaps ten times or more higher - than is being reported.
  • The recovery rate can only be known with mass testing of the population.  We are seeing that many people who catch the virus are asymptomatic; since they don't feel (or act) sick, they don't get care and so are not included in the total number of infected.  Again. small scale studies suggest pretty strongly that the recovery rate is much higher than is being reported.
  • The number of deaths includes a wide range of victims, some of which almost certainly were not killed by the virus - rather, they were killed by other ailments ("co-morbidities") but also had the virus along for the ride.  Right now, all of these are included in the virus death rate, overstating its lethality by an unknown amount.
  • Since lockdowns vary by geography and by what is allowed or prohibited, tracking the result of the lockdowns is fiendishly hard, and I haven't seen anything that is even trying.  We're told that "we're all in this together" and "we're making a difference" but there's no data about how much - if at all.
Put all of these together and it's simply impossible to provide good inputs into any model.  This is basically a game of guessing, and the result has been a series of model re-works that dropped the projected death toll from 6+M to 500,000 to 120,000 to now (maybe) 60,000.

Which is about what the death toll from seasonal flu is.  I'm not saying that this new virus is no more lethal than the flu; I'm saying that the people running the models are saying that maybe this is the case.  Those models have been wildly inaccurate repeatedly in the past, so take the latest model results with a huge grain of salt.

But governments are sitting on top of increasingly restive populations.  The populations have very good reason to be restive - the world economy has taken probably a $10T (that's Trillion) hit.  That hit has been very unevenly distributed.  In economic terms this is a very regressive tax targeting the poor and working classes.  Ask Louis XVI or Czar Nicholas II how that turned out.

And so very interesting things are happening to the data.  Very interesting things indeed:
Last week we saw that we went from dying from, to dying with, to just plain dying. Even people who haven’t been tested are now classed as dying from coronavirus. This is juicing the numbers in the direction of the models. Whether this was intentional, to avoid confessing to the most colossal and costly blown forecast of all time, or this is more panicked over-reaction, I’ll let you decide. Either way, they did get a boost in the numbers from the re-definitions, which we’ll see below.  
We saw yesterday that counting who dies of flu or any virus is not so straightforward, that it’s always the result of a statistical model. Every single flu death is not trumpeted from every media organ for months on end, but if they were, then we’d have counts similar to the way we have counts for coronavirus.  
Something else strange in the numbers. Remember how every week I’d cut and paste the CDC’s update flu hospitalization and death estimates? Can’t do it anymore, because why? Because the CDC stopped reporting on them. This could be because of over-burdened government workers, or because flu deaths aren’t as sexy as coronavirus deaths (even though the totals are similar), or because something else is going on.
And it's not just here in the New World:
It isn’t only in the US where the numbers are looking funny. France, too: 
It’s already happening – France has stopped publishing the weekly mortality report in mid March – where (the lack of) excess mortality could readily be seen. Instead they created a new publication focused only on covid deaths.
Is this all political ass covering by the health services?  Beats me.  Certainly it looks like the motivation exists.  Remember, the reason for all this government-imposed misery was to protect the health care services from becoming overwhelmed.  Well, we're seeing hospital ships with no patients and Army field hospitals being demobilized because there are no patients and the Javits Center (which had been turned into a makeshift hospital) empty and there are doctors and nurses being laid off all over the country.  And there are very odd things happening to the data.

But juicing the numbers can only go so far:
The temptation to juice coronavirus deaths must be overwhelming! The models promised unimaginably huge numbers. We haven’t come anywhere close to them. Millions and millions and millions of lives the world over have been ruined, with more ruin on the way, as the result of trusting expert models. They have to find a way to bring actual numbers in line with models. 
They’re running out of options, though. Dying with from dying from was a good move, and we saw it immediately pop up in the death counts. Dying with suspicion from dying with was also clever enough, and we saw that, too. 
What else is left, though? Only one thing. 
If “dying from” is defined as dying with presence of COVID-19 antibodies, then once we reach herd immunity, which it seems is close in many places, then about 80% of all deaths can be classified as coronavirus deaths.
So where is the crisis?  It's entirely fair to ask this question when literally everything we were told about this "pandemic" has turned out to be somewhere between overblown and flat out wrong.  And quite frankly, not unusual in recent historical terms:

As with the Global Warming hysteria, if the science were as settled as we're being told there would be data falling off of trees confirming everything.  Instead, everywhere we look we see data that calls the projections into question.  If we want science-based public policy then its reasonable to ask for, well, science-based public policy.

Two days ago I posted that we need to re-open the economy.  We're seeing a million people a day lose their jobs, so that's 2 Million more people without a paycheck, just since Sunday.  It may be for nothing: there's actual data that suggests that the lockdown doesn't do much, if anything: Sweden hasn't implemented a lockdown at all and their death curve looks basically identical to the USA's:

The caveat about the problems with the data is a good one, and echoes what I wrote here.  But the data are what we have, and if the lockdown - and the 25M newly unemployed - were actually effective you'd think you'd see something.  You don't.

Enough, all ready.  There is simply no rational, science-based justification to keep the lockdowns in place anymore.  We see this recognized by Governors (who are starting to end the lockdown) and by the population in general (who are starting to willfully violate the lockdown).  Everybody but the "experts" is starting to recognize this, and the "experts" may be refusing to recognize it so that they don't get blamed

Sunday, April 19, 2020

It's time to re-open the economy

Nobody is talking about the justification the government used shut down the economy: the health care system will collapse unless we "flatten the curve".  It wasn't "people will die unless we do this" - people will die no matter what.  Instead, it was to protect the health care system from collapse.

Well, mission accomplished:

The curve is flattening all over the world.  It's at or approaching the top of the bell curve, and will be dropping soon.  We see the same thing in the US:

Even New York which has kept its Petri Dish subway system open if flattening.  I guess the reason you close restaurants but keep the subway open is that Public Transit has been sprinkled with magic government dust.

Curve, flattened.

Note that we don't know what flattened the curve.  The models that projected disaster are full of crap* and so this might just be the normal course of the disease.  Note that we don't know exactly how many people really dies from this disease because of sloppy record keeping.  There are tons of co-morbidities and a death often gets chalked up to the virus when the patient was on Death's Door anyway.  The data is not great, and you don't need to be a conspiracy theorist to wonder if the Powers That Be at CDC are shifting into ass covering mode and fiddling the data.  It wouldn't be the first time that data got "adjusted" to suit political purposes.

At the end of the day, what will protect sick people from this virus is herd immunity.  We don't even know how many people have had this and recovered, because the CDC screwed up the test kits and we aren't systematically testing the population.  However, it looks like the number of recovered is much, much higher than predicted (remember - the models are crap).  The key metric now has shifted from Hospital Bed Usage to Percent Recovered.

So it's time to declare victory.  We can't increase the number of recovered fast if everyone is under house arrest.

And quite frankly, enough damage has been done to the people of this country.  80% of restaurant owners polled are unsure if they will survive until things return to normal.  23M people are out of work, just in this country.  Enough.

But we're not done.  We're seeing that the fascist instinct is alive and well at all levels of government.  I won't bother with exhaustive links, but people getting tickets when they are in their cars in their church parking lot, Chicago closing hair salons except for the Mayor, and New Jersey claiming that political protests are illegal are just a few examples.  The government has gotten a taste of power, and likes it.


I don't often disagree with Aesop, but he's entirely wrong in his latest post.  The curve has flattened.  Sure, reopening might lead to a spike but that's just conjecture.  Certainly any models showing this are suspect, based on the crummy track record of previous model projections.  And we don't know how many of the deaths would have happened anyway without the virus, but it sure isn't zero.

Lastly, I have to call Godwin.  Those of us who are saying we have to reopen the economy aren't the brown shirts.  On the contrary, Aesop can drive out to San Clemente to look at the sand filled skate park.  There's your fascist, right in your own back yard.

It's not Wall Street that's hurting, it's the small businesses which are the core of the country.  These are our neighbors.  Their dreams are being crushed.  The government said it had to be done to protect the health care system from collapse.

Well, mission accomplished.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Queen Of The World tells it like it is

On the Book of Faces:
After reading the governor of CA is planning to give money to illegals to help them thru the virus, it finally dawned on me! 
All Americans struggling financially need to do is become a fake illegal. You’ll get education, medical, food stamps, a check from California, and you can vote twice - once legally and once as an illegal! 
And THAT’S the next crime some of these political geniuses are paving a way for when they make it easier for illegals to break our laws!
Can't argue with The Queen ...

Friday, April 17, 2020

The CPC Virus models are total crap

"Experts" told us that he had to pull the master breaker switch on the economy because the Fung Flu virus was so damn infectious that a huge portion of the population would catch it.  "Experts" told us that most of those infected would end up in the ER, turning American health care into a scene from the Black Death.  "Experts" told us that millions would die and we needed to pull the dam switch RIGHT DAMN NOW!!!!11!!!eleventy!!!!!!!

Well, never mind:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now “actively looking into” results from universal COVID-19 testing at Pine Street Inn homeless shelter.

The broad-scale testing took place at the shelter in Boston’s South End a week and a half ago because of a small cluster of cases there.

Of the 397 people tested, 146 people tested positive. Not a single one had any symptoms.
My emphasis.

My goodness, whatever would we do without fancy computer models?  Next you'll tell me that the Earth will become uninhabitable unless we end use of fossil fuels and turn the everything over to a Socialist World Government ....

This would all be light hearted mockery if it weren't for a 600% increase in calls to the Suicide Prevention hotlines.  The company I work for supplies software that the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is using to rapidly scale work-from-home to handle the load.  It's cool that this can be done, but it seriously stinks that it has to be done.

At this point, the projections that were the justification for shutting down the economy are worthless.  Entirely worthless.  Nobody has a basis for the shutdown that's more than having a bad feeling.

That's not a justification, that's a cliché.

Thursday, April 16, 2020


Will be busy all day.  Back tomorrow.

There are a bunch of great blogs on the blogroll.  Check 'em out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

How the Novel Chinese Virus kills

This is a great article about how the Kung Flu virus works and why it is so deadly.  In particular, this explains why so many patients who go on ventilators end up dying:
Without the iron ion, hemoglobin can no longer bind to oxygen. Once all the hemoglobin is impaired, the red blood cell is essentially turned into a Freightliner truck cab with no trailer and no ability to store its cargo.. it is useless and just running around with COVID-19 virus attached to its porphyrin. All these useless trucks running around not delivering oxygen is what starts to lead to desaturation, or watching the patient’s spo2 levels drop. It is INCORRECT to assume traditional ARDS and in doing so, you’re treating the WRONG DISEASE. Think of it a lot like carbon monoxide poisoning, in which CO is bound to the hemoglobin, making it unable to carry oxygen. In those cases, ventilators aren’t treating the root cause; the patient’s lungs aren’t ‘tiring out’, they’re pumping just fine. The red blood cells just can’t carry o2, end of story.
It also talks about why Hydroxychloroquine is effective, even though Malaria is bacterial and the Kung Flu is a virus.  This is exactly what the main stream media should be publishing but isn't (because they're all busy shouting ORANGE MAN BAD!!1!!eleventy!).

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Grace inside the Madhouse

If the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party. The world says, Mind your own business, and Jesus says, There is no such thing as your own business. The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, Follow me and be crucified. The world says, Drive carefully — the life you save may be your own — and Jesus says, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The world says, Law and order, and Jesus says, Love. The world says, Get and Jesus says, Give. In terms of the world's sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion.
- Frederick Buechner
The World has gone Mad.  From sea to shining sea people are under house arrest, and by the end of this week the government will have forced 20 million onto the unemployment lines.  It is indeed a heavy Cross to bear.

I posted the following on Easter in 2012, but it applies today as well.


(Image source)
Somewhere in the world there is a defeat for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory.
- John Steinbeck, The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights
Nietzsche famously wrote that which does not destroy me makes me stronger.  That's almost certainly not true, but even if it is it's a cold comfort.  Some tasks laid at our feet are hard, maybe hard unto death.  Things that are easy leave no mark but we find ourselves branded - sometimes to our core - by the critically important but seemingly impossible.  The Quest with no end in sight, that promises no victory, and maybe not even survival.

If Woody Allen's dictum is true that eighty percent of life is showing up, we see around us people who didn't, or who did for a while and then stopped.  Whether they are destroyed by defeat, or simply overwhelmed by a lifetime of trouble compressed into a few years, human strength has a limit.  The unlucky among us will find that limit of our own strength - the lucky ones manage to get through without ever being tested to the breaking point.  The question before us, as we gaze into that Abyss is what will we do, now at that critical moment?

Our heroes are those who keep going past that 80% mark.  They are the ones who keep going, even in defeat and hopelessness.  They are the ones who when the Quest looks broken and the end is upon them, they go forward anyway.  Heroes are rare because it's not easy.

The purpose of religion is to put us in tune with what it is to be fully and completely human, as we would wish to be.  To take the defeats and turn them to our own spiritual enlightenment.  Those who do this we call saints.  
The love for equals is a human thing--of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing--the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing--to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. 
- Frederick Buechner
Nietzsche understood many things, but not saints.  That's a hard road to walk, and most don't.  We can learn from those that do, that despite the difficulty do it anyway.  We can take what we learn from them and turn it around for our own Quest.  Because in that unexpected persistence, even in the face of despair and defeat - especially in the face of despair and defeat - there we find heroes and saints.

There we find triumph, triumph of the soul.

It's easy to say this, and hard to do it.  The eighty percent from showing up is just eighty percent, that last twenty percent sometimes feels like the other eighty percent.  Sometimes the only company we have with us on that impossible road are the footprints of heroes and saints.  Footprints left by those who when faced with as bad or worse as we are, did it anyway.  Who even in defeat found triumph.

Holidays are a meditation, if we bother.  The meditation of Easter is not the joyous renewal; we've been given a great gift, but now we need to ask ourselves what will we do with it.  The hard slog begins again.    But in that journey we walk with saints and heroes.  May the walking be easy.  If not, let it be a triumph.
(Image source)

Easter Morning Music

The LORD is risen, alleluia!  Here is a mix of music worthy of the occasion.

Purcell sets the stage as only he can.

I think that this is my favorite hymn, especially for Easter.

And the celebration ends with a sendoff from Handel's Messiah.

He is risen indeed, alleluia!  Alleluia

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Teaching My Fingers to Fight - A Brigid Guest Post

ASM826 saw this on my FB page and asked that I post it here as well.  May you all have an Easter weekend of peaceful time to reflect with loved ones. - Brigid

Blessed be the Lord, my strength, who teaches my hands to war, and my fingers to fight. - Psalms 1:44

On my last trip home before his death, I took my big brother to breakfast one morning while Dad was at the doctor's office. Not feeling so good after chemo, he went only to please his little sister. Before we dug into our plates we prayed. As we bowed our heads, the entrance door opened with a waft of cold air and the murmur of pouring rain. I looked up and noticed the people at the next table were not looking at the door, but rather, at our table, as if our actions were unknown to them

My brother and I were adopted and although not related by blood my family shaped me in ways I'd not have known otherwise. We grew up in a small logging town, a community both inside, and outside of the church. I was raised with the values of my parents, meals taken as a whole family, said around the table, with Grace always being spoken before we began.

When I would go back to my hometown, we would eat at that table; still sit in the same pew in church. There's comfort there in that community of saints and sinners. As we prayed, I glanced at my Dad, who has lived a life of total love, service, and honor, sensing how his heart will soon fail him. It's a strong heart, a good heart, but it is failing him more each day. He saw me looking at him and put his hand on mine as we bowed our head in the silence that is not silence but is innumerable.
Is that fair? Yet, he's had almost ten decades more than his first daughter, born in extraordinary perfection, simply too early and too small, the awful perfect prayer of his firstborn, who breathed only days, my mom rendered barren from the travail of the birth. Yet from that death came life, adopting children no one wanted, and soon the table was filled, with small hands, small hearts and much laughter.

Had my parents closed off their hearts in that original loss, that table would have been silent. Although I’ve already lost my Mom, my Stepmom, my brother, and soon Dad, they leave me with love and forgiveness, just as my heavenly Father does.

I've certainly had to ask for that forgiveness in my talks with God. For I talk to Him regularly, in the woods, when the light has a weary quality to it, like a backwater pool of light lying low, winter's light is crisp, clean, illuminating everything so clearly. The words are less than wishes and more than regrets, and even if I didn't state them out loud, I could hear them with my breathing as they gathered within the intent of breath and came forth in a rush of cold air, invisible words going up to an invisible God.
Sometimes He and I talk as I'm standing in the middle of a scene of dark desolation and crime scene tape, black bag in my hand, red smeared on my boots, as bold as if painted on a door frame, a sign, that for tonight, I was to be spared. Perhaps this one time I did not save His sparrow which He perhaps neglected to mark, but I am here to reconcile the remains. It's just talk; but it's still a prayer; prayer being more than the order of words, the conscious calling of the mind that is speaking, or the sound of the voice praying. I do not expect to hear anything back, the communication between us tongued with fire beyond the blaze that is dying next to me. But it's comforting, words spoken into the void, penitence, and belief, as all around hope is falling into embers. He may not respond, but He is there, Never and Always.

So I do not care if someone looks at me oddly if I bow my head. I only smile when someone says, how can you do that with all that you've seen, the pain and harm that man can inflict on one another?

But I can, for I have come to realize that the same God that seemed to sit silently while hearts ceased beating, also blew life into everyone else around me that I love deeply, now shaping their strong hands and putting spark in their vision. So it is, I don't clench my hands in anger in all that I've witnessed, have borne, but simply give thanks. God writes death on all our hearts, just as he writes life, our story penned as much by our actions as His creation, our heart a journal that only we keep, its entries scribed by both man and God, it's ending as much as a mystery as we are.
I, for one, am thankful for the words.

Good Friday was six years since my brother passed, the few precious things he left me, on the shelves with other treasured things where I can see them when I wake up each morning. Small, simple things - powerful things

With the meal, I will say a prayer, of thanks for that and many things. For my brother and his brave heart. For those that prayed for me over the years, even when I didn't deserve it. For forgiveness of sin, for the blessing of the one that loves me, even in my imperfections.

Bless us oh Lord for these thy gifts. . . .

Dolly Parton - He's Alive

You should go read this post by co-blogger and Brother-From-Another-Mother ASM826.  It explains today.  Tomorrow is the day of triumph, but today the World still waits, expectantly.

Dolly Parton captures this story.  The song starts fearfully and expectantly, but ends in triumph.

He's Alive (Songwriter: Don Francisco)
The gates and doors were barred
And all the windows fastened down
I spent the night in sleeplessness
And rose at every sound
Half in hopeless sorrow
And half in fear the day
Would find the soldiers breakin' through
To drag us all away

And just before the sunrise
I heard something at the wall
The gate began to rattle
And a voice began to call
I hurried to the window
Looked down into the street
Expecting swords and torches
And the sound of soldiers' feet

But there was no one there but Mary
So I went down to let her in
John stood there beside me
As she told me where she'd been
She said they might have moved Him in the night
And none of us knows where
The stone's been rolled away
And now His body isn't there

We both ran toward the garden
Then John ran on ahead
We found the stone and empty tomb
Just the way that Mary said
But the winding sheet they wrapped Him in
Was just an empty shell
And how or where they'd taken Him
Was more than I could tell

Oh something strange had happened there
Just what I did not know
John believed a miracle
But I just turned to go
Circumstance and speculation
Couldn't lift me very high
'Cause I'd seen them crucify him
Then I saw him die

Back inside the house again
The guilt and anguish came
Everything I'd promised Him
Just added to my shame
When at last it came to choices
I denied I knew His name
And even if He was alive
It wouldn't be the same

But suddenly the air was filled
With a strange and sweet perfume
Light that came from everywhere
Drove the shadows from the room
And Jesus stood before me
With his arms held open wide
And I fell down on my knees
And I just clung to Him and cried

Then He raised me to my feet
And as I looked into His eyes
The love was shining out from Him
Like sunlight from the skies
Guilt in my confusion
Disappeared in sweet release
And every fear I'd ever had
Just melted into peace

He's alive yes He's alive
Yes He's alive and I'm forgiven
Heaven's gates are open wide
He's alive yes He's alive
Oh He's alive and I'm forgiven
Heaven's gates are open wide
He's alive yes He's alive
Hallelujah He's alive
He's alive and I'm forgiven
Heaven's gates are open wide
He's alive He's alive He's alive
I believe it He's alive
Sweet Jesus

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Seen and the Unseen about Kung Flu

One of the most important economic principles comes from the nineteenth century French economist Frederick Bastiat.  The "Broken Window Fallacy" derives from the fact that you are only looking at part of the picture - you see some things, but don't see others and so come to faulty conclusions.  This is what is called "The Seen and the Unseen":
Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James Goodfellow, when his careless son has happened to break a pane of glass? ...

Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the accident brings six francs to the glazier's trade – that it encourages that trade to the amount of six francs – I grant it; I have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is seen.

But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, "Stop there! Your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen."

It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another.
The national lockdown is basically breaking thirty million windows, and the governments are all patting themselves on their backs for all the lives they are saving.  But are they really?  Sure, we see some: the curve is starting to bend, and mortality rates are (thankfully) lower than predicted.  This is What Is Seen.  The Silicon Graybeard has a brilliant post about What Is Unseen:
The problem as I see it is we're not tracking any of the impacts of shutting down the country and just tracking how well we protected the health care system from collapse due to an increased workload.  There are many reports going around about increases in calls to suicide hotlines and telephone counseling facilities as more and more people face depressing situations.  There are anecdotal reports of increased calls to domestic violence agencies.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, reported an 891% increase in calls over last year.  Doctors are reporting fewer patients in Emergency Rooms for heart problems and other typical conditions they treat and doctors think patients are staying at home when they think they're having a heart attack instead of going to the Emergency Room.  This isn't good.
In New York City, the number of people dying at home has surged in recent weeks to about 200 a day, compared with about 22 to 32 deaths during the same time frame last year, according to the New York City Fire Department’s data on cardiac arrest calls.
Nearly 68% of cardiologists who responded to an informal Twitter poll posted this month by, an online community of cardiologists, said they have been seeing at least 40% fewer cases.
I know that when this topic comes up, the leftist wokescolds start to say, "you only care about money!  You don't value life!"  The answer is that the country is only looking at how many lives we're helping in one very specific place and totally ignoring the much, much larger group that's being impacted by these policies.  We can't put a price on it because it's impossible to know how many lives we've saved.
Most importantly of all, we're not tracking (well, modeling) how many of the Kung Flu deaths are people who had severe health problems and would likely have died soon anyway.  Sure, there are stories about young healthy people keeling over from this; we know that this is a vanishingly small minority of the total deaths.

But we know that we are putting the population of the country under severe strain, and that this has very real consequences.  Aesop left a comment from the health care front lines that illustrates this:
And yes, in one night, three of the traumas we had were domestic violence.

Normally, we see one of those a month; at worst, one a week. Not three in one night.

But it hasn't been that way every night. Yet.
SiG isn't the only one making this point:
Overall? I see little evidence that the various measures adopted by the western nations have had much effect. And with the exception of closing schools, I would not expect them to do so given the laxness of the lockdown and the vague nature of “essential business”. I’ve mentioned before, here in Sonoma Country California, the local cannabis retailer is considered an essential business … strange but absolutely true.
Finally, I want to talk about that most mundane of things, the humble cost/benefit analysis. Draw a vertical line down a sheet of paper, label one side “Costs” and the other “Benefits”. Write them down on the appropriate side, add them up. We’ve all done some variation of that, even if just mentally.
Unfortunately, it seems Dr. Fauci doesn’t do cost/benefit analyses. It seems he only looks at or cares about the benefits. He called millions of people being thrown out of work “unfortunate” … unfortunate? It is a huge cost that he doesn’t want to think about. He’s not going to lose his job. His friends won’t lose their jobs. Meanwhile, at the same time that he’s saying “unfortunate”, the mental health hotlines and the suicide hotlines are ringing off the wall. People are going off the rails. Domestic violence calls are through the roof, and understandably. Forcibly take the jobs away from a wife and a husband, tell them that they are under house arrest, that’s stress enough … and meanwhile there’s no money coming in, rent and electricity bills are piling up, can’t put gas in the car, kids bouncing off the walls from being cooped up … of course domestic violence and suicides and mental health problems are off the charts.
And this doesn't count important intangibles.  Once a government executes a particular power, they will want to do it again.  Most of the country in under house arrest; where does that lead in the future?  To SiG's point that people will answer this by saying that people will die and isn't it heartless to let them die over a hypothetical, let me reply by asking how many people?  Because we don't know the number because we're not measuring the factors that would tell us the answer: how many are very sick and would die within the next 6-12 months?  Sure their lives are valuable but do we wreck 50 million lives to give them and extra 6 months?  That sounds harsh, but that's exactly the tradeoff that we are making.

It's the Unseen.  And the costs are Unseen, too, because no Governor in the land wants to make it explicit to the voters just what are all the many miseries that have been unleashed on them by said Governor.  That it is Unseen is not by accident.

And so our policy makers see the situation poorly, looking through a glass darkly at only a portion of the situation.  Of course the resulting public policy is hideous.  Interestingly, the misery is concentrated on Trump voters (the hourly wage class), not the governing class (who work from home via videoconference).  You can't get to your factory job that way, but the salaried class are doing fine.  No doubt this is all a coincidence.

Also interesting, the only person who has been talking for over a week about getting this fixed is Donald Trump.  No doubt this is also a coincidence.

But hey, we are governed by really Smart® people, are we not?  Relax, citizen - all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.  The bread is free and the circus is entertaining.  And even better, the chocolate ration has been increased from 3 ounces to 2.5 ounces ...

Thursday, April 9, 2020

So Bernie dropped out

Gone.  I told you this was the best case scenario, and that was before we all found out that Joe was a senile old rapist.

The Trumpslide cometh, this year and in 2024.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

R.I.P. John Prine

Without doubt one of the last century's top ten songwriters.  Everyone is going retrospectives of his life and it's always Sam Stone or Angel From Montgomery.  I want to put up some lesser known songs that really highlight just what an incredible talent he was - both as a poet and as a musician.

1973's song Dear Abby.  I hadn't listened to this for years and it had me laughing all the way through.

1975's He Was In Heaven Before He Died.  There's a lot going on in these lyrics.

2004's version of My Old Kentucky Home.  In this day of "the New Nashville" this traditional version of the song is a breath of fresh air.  His voice is iconic, in a similar way to Willie Nelson or Gordon Lightfoot.  Also, The Queen Of The World is a Kentucky Girl.  Love this version.

Rest in peace, John.  Thanks for all the great music.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Acting SECNAV makes two new envelopes

Don't let it hit you in the ass on the way out, Scooter:
Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly has officially resigned, capping perhaps the most tumultuous 24-hour public relations period the Navy has encountered. 
Modly notified Secretary of Defense Mark Esper of his resignation Tuesday following a meeting between the two, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

Modly’s resignation offer comes less than a day after numerous Democratic members of Congress called for his firing over his handling of the dismissal of the commanding officer of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, Capt. Brett Crozier, and subsequent decision-making that raised eyebrows throughout the fleet.
Congressional Democrats went after his scalp and I can't for the life of me see why Trump would stick up for the doofus.

Turning the corner

Worldwide deaths per day from the Wuhan Virus have been dropping for several days:

The US Government model predicting max deaths has been revised lower, down from 90,000 to 80,000.  Of course, as with climate modeling, take the model predictions with a big grain of salt.

Next step: start easing up on the lockdowns.

UPDATE 7 April 2020 11:18: Ed Bonderenka in the comments Links to another post at W.M. Briggs (Statistian to the Stars!) (I link to an older post of his above).  It's very important and I recommend you read the whole thing.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Poetry in prose

Of course, that would be Brigid, my Sister-from-another-mister.  She paints not with oils on canvas, but with words.  It's quite an unusual talent to combine both the technical with the deeply psychological, and she's the only one I know who can do it:
The sea is a broad expanse that neither eye nor voice can span, and when it's calm it lulls you into a false sense of comfort as the engines hum and you gaze out the window with clear, unconscious eye. You are not pondering thoughts that come to you poignant and silent, the order of your conscious, the conduct of life if there really is a proper way to die. You are not thinking of the operational capacities of a Vickers Pump or your own limitations. No, you are thinking about the really cold beer you will have at the end of a day, and the laughter of companionship. That is when you hear it, or think you hear it. That sound.

An aircraft engine has as many variances of sound as a human. There are satisfied hums, deep throated snarls, and the incessant whine of someone who is never satisfied no matter what you do for them. Then, there is that sound, in and of itself, the sound of an aircraft engine over the ocean at night, when there is not enough fuel to turn back, only to go forward to a far away shore.
Get you hence and read.