Streetwise Professor

December 19, 2020

Sacrifice More Virgins!

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Economics,Politics — cpirrong @ 9:25 pm

Once upon a time, a tribe dwelled on the slopes of a volcano that towered over their tropical isle. When the volcano began to smoke and rumble, and lava started to flow down its slopes, the natives ran to their shaman. “Oh wise one, what shall we do to appease the volcano god?” they beseeched the wizened old man. “Sacrifice 10 virgins to the volcano god, and he will be appeased!”

Encouraged by the hope of sparing the multitude by dispatching a few, the tribesmen seized 10 virgins, and duly sacrificed them with great solemnity.

Yet rather than quieting, the volcano became more violent then ever. Massive rivers of lava were now flowing, and great plumes of ash were erupting from its crater.

So the natives again ran to the shaman. “Oh wise one, we did as you said, and sacrificed 10 virgins to the volcano god. But look–he is not appeased! He seems angrier than before! What shall we do?”

“Sacrifice more virgins, of course!” replied the shaman, who was angry at the natives’ temerity in questioning his awesome knowledge of matters supernatural.

This is a silly story, and fictional, of course. But it echoes a story the world is living out today, which is not at all silly, but is instead deadly serious. Namely, the responses of government shamans to the Covid-19 virus.

The world has experienced waves of lockdowns of varying intensity since March, lockdowns imposed by government authorities claiming to be acting on the basis of science and unquestionable expertise. The lockdowns are intensifying over the Christmas season, descending with particular ferocity in Europe, where the UK, Italy, and Germany have or will soon impose restrictions as draconian, or more so, than they did during the previous peaks in the outbreak.

Prior to 2020, lockdowns were NEVER the recommended response to a pandemic. Indeed, the WHO and other public health bodies recommended against them. Further, the evidence gained to date on these extraordinary interventions indicates that they have had no effect on the course of the pandemic, or at best a minor effect dwarfed by their adverse economic, social, and health (physical and mental) consequences. The course of the virus proceeds independent of the futile interventions of authorities and experts.

The studies claiming to demonstrate the beneficial impacts of lockdowns disproportionately rely on comparing model forecasts to outcomes. But the model forecasts have been proven wrong again and again. These studies are therefore just another indictment of the models, rather than an endorsement of lockdowns.

The current Cancel Christmas hysteria follows hard on the heels of the Cancel Thanksgiving panic, accompanied by dire warnings of a post-Thanksgiving spike due to the failure of people to sacrifice their family gatherings to appease the virus. This spike has not occurred. Indeed, in many states (e.g., the upper Midwest) infections and deaths have been on a downward trajectory since before Thanksgiving, and that trajectory has continued post-holiday.

Yet experience be damned. Sacrifice more holidays!

The economic, psychological, spiritual, and health havoc wreaked by the lockdowns is large, and clearly evident. Yet rather than recalibrate, let alone admit error, our supposed betters who pompously declare their fealty to Science!, ignore these costs, ignore the utter inefficacy of their past ukases, and issue more diktats instructing us to sacrifice yet again. And again. And again. They are indistinguishable from the shaman of the parable.

Lockdowns are one example of this phenomenon. Masks are another. The evidence on the effectiveness of masks in controlling infection that was accumulated before 2020 was largely negative, and equivocal at best: masks offer little or no protection. A recent Danish study, grudgingly published after months of lingering in peer review purgatory, shows a trivial reduction in susceptibility to Covid infection by those wearing medical-quality masks, not the type that most of the world actually uses. And the recent (almost certainly seasonal) resurgence in Covid-19 prevalence refutes the efficacy of masks, since it has occurred despite near universal mask mandates, and high rates of compliance therewith.

I am at something of a loss to explain this fetishism with lockdowns and masks. The enthusiasm with which politicians embrace lockdowns, in spite of the ravages they impose and in spite of the lack of evidence of efficacy (and the existence of evidence of inefficacy) is more than a little disturbing. What explains it? I think that any explanation is unlikely to be flattering to them–or the people who enthusiastically agree with them.

The most charitable explanation is that it is a hope born of desperation: people want to believe that there is a solution that humans can devise and implement, and their desire to believe blinds them to evidence that contradicts their beliefs. Failure actually feeds the desperation, which leads to doubling down in the absence of any ready alternative.

Less charitably, perhaps it is opportunism in the political class. The pandemic has presented politicians with an opportunity to exercise plenary powers this Christmas that they could not have even imagined last Christmas, even after overindulging at the annual holiday party. Power is an addictive drug to politicians. Once hooked, they will not give it up.

The most ominous examples of this are those who push the Great Reset or massive social transformations similar thereto. Many of these (e.g., Justin Trudeau, Klaus Schwab, Bill Gates) have been quite open in expressing their belief that Covid-19 presents a great opportunity to reorganize society on leftist utopian lines. Because those efforts have always worked out so well, right?

We are ruled by fools, knaves, and devils. And we are fools as long as we consent to let them rule us. We would be far better off pitching our shamans into the volcano, rather than following their commands to sacrifice ourselves.

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13 Comments »

  1. URLS disguised as https-colon//etc, to get past Craig’s spam demon.

    Check out Thomas Inglesby, et al., (2006) Disease Mitigation Measures in the Control of Pandemic Influenza Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science 4(4), 366-375 https-colon//doi.org/10.1089/bsp.2006.4.366.

    They included the 2003 SARS epidemic in their considerations. SARS is a corona virus.

    Every single Covid-19 tactic imposed by governments or recommended by the WHO, the CDC and Dr. Fauci goes in direct opposition to the recommendations in Inglesby. Recommendations that are the hard-won wisdom from past viral epidemics.

    In his testimony before Congress Dr. Fauci confused case fatality rate with infection fatality rate, giving the impression that Covid-19 was 10 times more deadly than it is in fact.

    A short video of his statement is here: https-colon//www.c-span.org/video/?c4860450/user-clip-dr-anthony-fauci-addresses-covid-19-mortality-rate%20

    Dr. Fauci’s terrible mistake is discussed in R. B. Brown (2020) Public health lessons learned from biases in coronavirus mortality overestimation Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness 14(3), 364-371 https-colon//doi.org/10.1017/dmp.2020.298

    The scare coming from that mistake is what prompted all the rest — state of emergency, the lockdowns, the general quarantines, the masks, the police abuses, all of it. So far as I know, Dr. Fauci has never admitted nor apologized for that mistake.

    And for the abusive governors and mayors, the beat goes on.

    Comment by Pat Frank — December 20, 2020 @ 12:23 am

  2. I was wondering when you would go back to COVID.

    1) There has been a post-Thanksgiving spike. US Covid deaths are at an all time high these weeks. US reported cases are also at a record high. How can you ignore that?

    2) you have been massively wrong about Covid in the past. Just as an example back in June you asserted that deaths from the virus were in terminal decline. Maybe you should revisit what you wrote back then and figure out where you were wrong before commenting on policy responses.

    https://streetwiseprofessor.com/hide-the-decline-coronavirus-edition/

    Comment by [email protected] — December 20, 2020 @ 9:52 am

  3. 16 December data from the CDC via https://www.heritage.org/data-visualizations/public-health/covid-19-deaths-by-age/

    Age____Percent_of_Covid_Deaths
    85__________31.61
    [Total Covid-19 Deaths at that count: 276,061]

    These numbers show that 80% of all Covid-19 deaths are among people aged 65 years and older.

    It is safe to say that there is no Covid pandemic in the population of age less than 65 years.

    It is very clear that any special care should be directed toward older people, especially those with otherwise compromised health.

    Among the population at large, lock-downs, masks, closing of businesses, closing of schools are all unnecessary; indeed thoroughly counter productive.

    This graphic shows deaths from Covid-19 as a percent of population in the various states. Heading the list is New Jersey, with about 0.21% of its population dead from Covid. New York is number two, with about 0.18% dead from Covid.

    The same site gives fraction of the state population infected with Covid-19. New Jersey has a 4.8% infection rate. For the population, deaths/infection = 0.2/4.8 = 0.042, which means the average recovery rate is 95.8%

    New York (#2 in deaths) is 4.1% infected, yielding a population average 0.18/4.1 = 0.044, or a 95.6% average recovery.

    As 80% of deaths occur in people over 65, then among, e.g., the 55-64 year-olds the recovery rate is 99.5% in NJ and NY. Among the 25-34 year olds, the recovery rate is 99.97%.

    It seems clear that the states with high death rates are evidently failing to protect their elderly populations. Because it’s not younger people (<64) who are dying.

    The closures and lock-downs are completely unnecessary. They are exercises in criminal incompetence.

    Comment by Pat Frank — December 20, 2020 @ 11:54 am

  4. The list of Covid deaths didn’t come out. My fault for using an html delimiter
    Here’s the list of age versus death rate:

    Age_______Percent_of_Covid_Deaths
    lt1__________ 0.011
    1-4___________0.007
    5-14__________0.02
    15-24_________0.17
    25-34_________0.71
    35-44_________1.85
    45-54_________4.92
    55-64________12.09
    65-74________21.39
    75-84________27.23
    gt85_________31.61

    Comment by Pat Frank — December 20, 2020 @ 11:57 am

  5. “We are ruled by fools, knaves, and devils. And we are fools as long as we consent to let them rule us.”

    No more true observation has been made.

    What a sad spectacle we will make as a society when future historians look back on this era – that is, of course, if the Orwellian 1984 scenario does not become our legacy. Given what has been taking place during the COVID crisis, has just happened in the US presidential election, and will almost certainly continue after Senile Joe takes office, such a concern no longer seems fanciful.

    Comment by Ben — December 21, 2020 @ 6:52 am

  6. Fauci announced that you could catch AIDS around the family breakfast table. He did not retract this until a year after it had been demonstrated to be utter nonsense.
    Ferguson had a long record of grossly overestimating the effect of epidemics and the reliability of his models. His forecasts for Swine flu, Foot and Mouth, BSE were out by at least one order of magnitude and sometimes two.

    These are the most influential men of the age. Are they fools or knaves? I’d prefer them to be knaves because knaves are rational. But I fear they are fools.

    Comment by philip — December 22, 2020 @ 3:58 am

  7. This won’t stop until assassinations begin.

    Comment by Christopher L Hunt — December 24, 2020 @ 7:12 am

  8. I would like to share the official French stats: https://www.gouvernement.fr/info-coronavirus/carte-et-donnees

    The panel on the left is the most relevant.
    – Click on “patients en reanimation” (patients on breathing-machines) and you will see the chart (scroll down) showing as plain as day the rapid increase in March and the rapid decrease brought about after about after a few weeks by the very strict lockdown (anybody who thinks that would have happened anyway needs a math class…).
    – The lockdown was repealed in stages and was pretty much gone throughout August to September (warm weather), only to be followed by another rapid rise in cases in October, notable for two reasons:
    1. The lower rate of increase vs the March wave. A result of social distancing? Better hygiene? Mask wearing? I don’t believe anybody who tells me that they can know for sure either way.
    2. Just as it did before, a new lockdown brought about a sharp reduction in cases (faster this time – the result of better treatments being available?).

    – The 2nd lockdown ended (except for sports facilities, bars & restaurants and except for an 8PM curfew and a limit of 6 adults per social gathering) and cases then plateaued out at a higher level than their previous steady state, presumably for seasonal reasons and presumably also because the economy was mostly allowed to function throughout, as is the nature of trade-offs: Tolerating a certain number of cases in exchange for not destroying GDP.
    – The cause and effect is abundantly clear in the French data. So to say that lockdowns are useless is, for me at least, patently false.

    That being said, there are lessons here in how to use lockdowns:
    – Early and briefly.
    – As a means to prevent hospitals being overrun (official capacity on breathing machines is 5000), with the lockdown ending when that goal was achieved.
    – Leaving open absolutely everything in the economy that can possibly be left open (I barely noticed the second lockdown, apart from not being able to socialise).
    – NOT as a means to reduce the infection rate, which is A: Impossible and B: Not accurately measured anyway.

    As always, I find myself dismayed by the American Right (CONSPIRACY! COUP! THINK OF THE COST!) and the American Left (CLOSE EVERYTHING! THINK OF THE CHILDREN! THE COST DOESN’T MATTER!)… Y’all need to calm down…

    Comment by HibernoFrog — January 4, 2021 @ 11:23 am

  9. To ‘HibernoFrog’ – the same French website shows that the reproduction number was already sharply dropping prior to our most recent ‘confinement.’ The second confinement achieved the same as the first: needless social and economic destruction with no measurable benefit to public health. And while I agree with you that the second confinement was less strict, I am not sure les petits commer├žants, les restos etc. would say that they barely noticed the second lockdown.

    Comment by Matt — January 4, 2021 @ 2:54 pm

  10. The best way to avoid lockdowns is to treat Covid cases with HCQ, zinc, Vitamin D, and Ivermectin.

    The age/mortality demographic in any case does not justify society-wide lockdowns.

    Comment by Pat Frank — January 4, 2021 @ 5:09 pm

  11. @Matt:
    I don’t put much stock into the positive test rate since it’s such a dependent variable, but even leaving that aside, I don’t see how you come to the conclusion that the reproduction number was sharply dropping prior to the most recent lockdown, given that positive test results were rising exponentially right up until the second week of November (i.e. well into the lockdown) and has been increasing linearly since late November and currently shows no sign of changing.

    As for small business: Agreed. And I’m happy for my taxes to pay for whatever support they need to weather the storm. But saturating the hospitals is a far worse outcome.

    @Pat: If it were that easy, everybody would be doing it. Unless it’s a conspiracy. CONSPIRACY I TELLS YA!

    Comment by HibernoFrog — January 5, 2021 @ 3:42 am

  12. @11 HibernoFrog, the data say it’s that easy. You decide why it’s not being implemented.

    Comment by Pat Frank — January 5, 2021 @ 10:44 am

  13. @Hibernofrog – do not take my word for it, consult the website yourself. You provided the link. The government’s own estimate of the reproductive rate peaked on/around 23 October, and then fell sharply.

    Comment by Matt — January 11, 2021 @ 2:42 pm

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