Blogs, that is. I started this blog lo these many years ago (11? 12?) to have a place to put criticisms of modern science, how it is conducted and reported. I’ve had the horror of watching all the worst trends in science and science reporting converge and amplify to produce mass hysteria, panic, and gross political manipulation. We’re all gonna die! Eventually! Of something!
Plus random social and religious commentary. That would be Blog #1. Then there’s education history and the social commentary associated with that. That’s become a larger part over time, although opportunity and interest come and go. Need to get on this.
Finally, are my feeble attempts at humor and writing, music projects, home improvement projects, and on and on.
I do plan to split off a strictly writing blog as soon as I get stuff ready to publish (no, really! This time, for sure!). Under a nom de plume, via a VPN, on a Linux box, from a secure location. This would be stuff I hope to make money on, and so need to play nice.
For the education and science stuff, I guess I’ll keep it here until I can’t. So, two blogs is the goal, if you can call it that. For now.
On the weather front, we did get 5 inches of rain over about 48 hours, over 6” in 5 days. Some places got a little less, higher elevations a lot more. I made the briefest check into what the media was saying – I’ll shower with soap and pumice later – and, as usual, they were playing this as some sort of epic disaster.
Sorry to disappoint – nothing much unusual happened. 5 inches of rain, high winds, some trees go down, some people lose power, a few mudslides – same old same old. The only thing really unusual – storms like this, which happen every few years, don’t often happen in October. Much more a December through March thing. I’m sure that this week’s storm of the century will be forgotten by next week.
On the plus side, last year’s season total rainfall was 40% of average. This one storm put us over 35% for the season, with the rainy months still ahead of us. Yes, out here in sunny California, 6” of rain is over 1/3 of season average.
There are no more storms forecast for the next couple weeks, but we’ve already got more than we average through December. All this really means is the panic mongers will switch to something else. I am not willing to taint myself any further to check what nonsense is being reported, but I can guess: climate change! I’ve already read how this storm doesn’t really end the threat of wildfires, which only an idiot would say: landscape soaked with 6” of rain in less than a week don’t burn too good, especially with temperatures not getting much out of the 60s. Idiots gotta idiot, I guess.
We were sitting around discussing the possibility of buying some land and building houses for us and the kids on it. I used the term ‘compound’ which didn’t go over well with younger daughter. “That is what it would be called,” I replied, “I won’t be writing a manifesto or anything “ She suggested ‘homestead’ which I objected to because it’s wrong – we’re not going to be homesteading.
Youngest son suggested we call our fantasy future digs a “fun size gated community.”
Too disgusted to look up this stuff again, so, mostly from memory, roughly: (I’ll list a few caveats in a note below)
About 0.5% of Americans are institutionalized in nursing homes. With a US population of about 332 million, that’s about 1.7 million people.
Nursing home residents have a median life expectancy of around 6 months. The 2.2 year average (not median) you often see comes from dementia patients, who make up about 45% of nursing home residents and typically live 5-10 years or more once incarcerated.
A little math: with a median life expectancy of 6 months, the non-dementia nursing home patient population of about 900,000 turns over about twice a year – that’s 1.8 million deaths per year in nursing homes in the normal, sad, course of things. That means that about 2/3 0f the annual 3 million deaths in the US are from seriously ill people in long-term (sic) care.
About 2/3 of deaths attributed to COVID are in nursing homes.
Above: How people who never go to nursing homes might like to imagine them. The existence of the burgeoning field of nursing home neglect lawyers suggests otherwise. And that was a trend before the Coof.
US deaths attributed to COVID peaked first in April, 2020, then fell off dramatically, only to peak a second time in December, 2020 – January 2021, then fell off a cliff. What if – just to toss a hypothetical out there – that 2/3 of all deaths attributed to COVID that take place in nursing homes was due, rather, to the removal of all independent oversight of nursing home care? Nobody but the ‘professionals’ and their terrified minimum wage staff get to routinely see nursing home patients. These are people who know that all they are doing is, at best, keeping grandma comfortable for the last few weeks and months of her life. When nobody else is checking, what’s the harm in speeding it along a little? Who wants to keep changing that diaper, or cleaning those bedsores? What’s the harm in upping the morphine dose? An IV is more convenient to me than having to spend 20 minutes getting gramps to drink a cup of water.
This is not to say COVID isn’t a nasty respiratory bug – to about .05% of the population. It’s just that, people being people, and some people being sociopaths, locked down nursing homes are a perfect place to speed along the inevitable outside anyone’s purview. So old uncle Bill dies in 3 months instead of 6 – big deal. Makes my life as a nursing home doctor or administrator easier, and the extra COVID care money is nice. To imagine this isn’t what’s happening, or at least a large part of what’s happening, strikes me as horribly naïve.
California is still a face diaper state, with only marginal ‘loosening’ of the house arrest/suspension of the right to freedom of assembly rules, but other states have ‘opened up’. I repeat the one prediction I’m sticking to: our betters will never surrender the power to lock us up, deny us the basic right of doing what we want to do, and placing infantile symbolic restrictions on us. And here’s one way it can be done:
Since the non-dementia population of nursing homes cycles through on an average of 6 months or so, the backlog of potential COVID victims is restocked, as it were, twice a year. The weaker inmates are going to go first, by and large, then the death rate will fall back to normal or below as the stronger weaken and die more in line with long-term trends. But then a new load of patients are incarcerated, and the process can repeat again.
For maximum compliance, rules cannot be rational nor consistently applied. Arbitrary rules are best. Think of animal training or schools, insofar as those two can be distinguished. All the key rules, the breaking of which gets you into immediate trouble, are completely arbitrary. For animals, it’s stay until I say you can go, it’s sit, stand, roll over – for no reason except I say so. In schools, it’s bells, lines, grade segregation, permission slips – for no reason except I say so. That’s how you make the training really stick: keep the trainee guessing, desperate to know what it is you want NOW. If the rules made sense, then a dog or a kid wouldn’t need to hang on the trainer’s every word – they could figure it out. So rules are by design arbitrary.
Enforcement is equally arbitrary. Sometimes, a teacher will go ballistic if kids don’t get in line or talk in class; other times, a teacher will let it slide. Often, it’s the same teacher. This is designed to remove reason from the equation, to keep kids (and dogs) anxious and insecure. The only difference: good dog trainers do all this so that the dog can be happy in his role in the ‘pack’. The unhappiness of school kids is meant to be permanent.
Our betters will pump the brakes on COVID rules and enforcement. I’m playing the game now of seeing how far ignoring the rules will be allowed to go. So far, California and our county mostly go soft on enforcement unless someone makes a big deal out of it – that must not be allowed. As long as I don’t get confrontational, it seems I can do almost whatever I want. The bigger stores and churches are still scared Karen will turn them in. Otherwise, people seem pretty cool. But I expect this to change with the next ‘wave’. Because that’s how this works.
Death rates from COVID – attributed deaths ‘involving’ the Coof, per the CDC – have bottomed out over the last few months. We are approaching 6 months since the end of the last ‘wave’ – our nursing homes should be fully reloaded with soon-to-die patients within the next couple months. Unless nursing homes are reopened to everyone who wants to visit, which is very unlikely, I expect another ‘wave’ starting – well, whenever convenient starting in about August. Maybe they’ll wait for late fall, the traditional beginning of the peak of deaths in the US. The next wave will start whenever politically expedient. The state’s new power to restrict or remove our rights and freedom will never be surrendered voluntarily.
Note: Caveats to any numbers about nursing homes:
What qualifies as a nursing home and what doesn’t was not at all clear when I tried to figure it out months ago. A large range of facilities, from hospices to rehab, might conceivably fall under the term.
Is the definition of a nursing home the same from place to place and over time? Also unclear, but almost certainly not.
What if someone is released from a nursing home to some sort of hospice care? When they die, how is that counted? I imagine this is unlikely in the age of the Kung Flu, but can’t be sure.
Are nursing home patients sent to hospitals when they need more intense medical care? If they then die in the hospital, is that counted as a nursing home death or a hospital death?
I can’t see a way to get numbers about nursing homes about which I’m very confident. Nursing homes are ubiquitous, and people are generally sent there to die – that much is clear.
Booting up the Neural Integrated Math Module for the first time felt like having a high-end micro-processor explode inside your skull. I kind of liked it.
We humans are more than a little stupid, which I suppose is the point of cybernetic augmentation. Yet, because we’re stupid, many of us fought the very idea of neural implants of any kind. Math was the compromise first step. Who could object to having, all at once, von Neumann level mental math capabilities, even if it did involve a little brain surgery? I mean, where’s the risk? You’re mathematically a doof going in, and summing infinite series in under a second coming out. If it fails, you remain a doof. Work, maybe you can get a job.
I sat up. “You good?” asked the young doctor, who I could not help notice was lovely.
“Doing fine, sweetheart.” I layered on the insouciant charm. Like there’s any downside to taking a shot, like I could be any more contemptable in her sight.
She smiled with professional disdain. “Good. Please turn your attention to the screen to your right. The next step is to check that the system is working properly. Please solve the following problems. Push the button when you have the answer, then state the answer out loud.”
“Whatever you want, darling.”
An ugly math problem come up on the display. For a moment, it was as baffling and meaningless as math had always been to me. Then, I recognized it, understood it, and, with no conscious effort, arrived at the answer.
“Very good.” Dr. Lovely noted something on her tablet. “Let’s continue.”
For what seemed like an hour but could hardly have been more than a few minutes, I recognized, understood and solved a broad range of math problems. I could see the answers to instances of Maxwell’s equations and other wave functions at a glance. I could visualize the mass and charge of particles by their curving paths as they passed through specified fields. The simultaneous solution to large arrays of sparsely populated linear equations was obvious upon inspection. And so on. My mind still seemed the same as ever, except for the small and shrinking moment before the NIMM kicked in. After a dozen equations, that moment evanesced.
Then came an equation that I didn’t solve. I could feel the NIMM kicking in, but no solution, or, indeed, any sense of recognition or understanding, followed.
“I don’t know this one.” I looked over at the doctor. She looked at me with detached interest, like a mountain lion examining a jogger. “That’s to be expected. Some equations don’t make any sense. The NIMM will not waste any time trying to solve them. Please proceed.'”
I turned back to the screen. The thrill I felt solving those first equations was gone, as was the cocky attitude with which I’d made passes at the doctor. I wanted to be certain, to be right. And I wanted to be done.
I looked at another dozen or so question, 2 more of which I could not solve. The discomfort which had arisen the first time I had failed faded with repetition. Now, having questions raised that the system would not address seemed perfectly normal and did not disturb the calm I felt when the NIMM was in control.
The quiz ended. “You did great,” said the doctor. I felt nothing, “Now we will test your base, non-mathematical brain functions, to make sure everything is working as expected.”
“OK,” I mumbled. I wanted this to be over.
What followed was one of those psychological exams, like how in school you learn what is the right way to think by being corrected for wrong opinions. I remembered hating those exams, back then, but felt nothing now. I quietly answered a string of questions.
“What is 2 + 2”
“Five.” I answered automatically. I felt a moment of doubt, of confusion, then felt the NIMM take control. It comforted me – that’s the right answer. But then some part of my mind started to claw its way to consciousness, objecting that that wasn’t the answer at all, that I knew, apart from the NIMM, that wasn’t right. Again, the implant took over; again, I was reassured that 5 was the right answer.
That was the last time I ever doubted the NIMM. Since then, with a great sense of relief, I know the right answer without a second, or even a first, thought.
The doctor looked up at me one last time, the look on her face completely unreadable, like those equations NIMM didn’t try to solve.
In the midst of the despondency and despair tempting the children of light in this land of darkness, my Faithful Readers took an active, in terms of comments to the last post, interest in what I’m making for the family for Christmas Dinner. I’m touched, you guys are great. Therefore, instead of my usual doom and gloom:
Merry Christmas! And a Happy New Year!
Since you’re dying to know: First off, even more than usual, there will be several feasts over the holidays. I may be able to work some of the generous suggestions into the future dinners, but the Christmas Day one is now pretty much set. This year, our beloved elder daughter and her husband just moved into a house they bought in Sacramento. Yes, crazy kids these days, in their mid-20’s, have saved up enough to buy a freaking house in CALIFORNIA 5 months into their new life of wedded bliss. Our daughter has always been preternaturally responsible; if my new son in law were any more responsible, I’d have a dadgasm and die. Anyway: since they are living amidst dust and boxes at the moment, we all agreed that we’d cook up a dinner and show up on Christmas afternoon, to kick off the new digs proper-like.
Then, a few days later, Middle Son and HIS NEW, AS OF YESTERDAY, FIANCE arrive from New England by way of Alabama. So, we’ll do something again. Then, we try to do Epiphany as big as Christmas, because it is. Three pending feasts and counting.
So, for feast #1 at Elder Daughter’s house: Got a nice 5 lbs lamb roast AND about 3 lbs of wild-caught salmon at Costco. Menu will include The Usual: mashed potatoes, gravy, peas, homegrown sweet potatoes in some form, salad, homemade bread. Dessert will include cheesecake – my specialty – as well as assorted pies – wife’s specialties. I suspect son-in-law’s Napa connections (his home town) will supply the libations.
We have a local produce market that caters to ethnic cooking – ideal. I was there to grab a variety of apples – a very nice lady I knew back in New Mexico made the best apple pies, so I asked her what she did. Her rules:
Make the crust from the recipe off the Crisco can
use fresh cinnamon and nutmeg
use a variety of apples
And that works. Classic straight up apple pie. So I always get a collection of apple varieties, favoring old school varieties like Braeburn and Granny Smith, and avoiding ‘delicious’ varieties, Gala, and Fuji on principle.
For reasons unknown, this produce market has a fishmonger attached. After (of course) buying the on sale but still dear salmon at Costco, I spot huge farmed salmon at this market at $7 lbs. Picked up a 5 lbs roast, threw it in the freezer. So, that will be featured at some point.
I will not be taking any COVID vaccine for many years, if ever, and recommend no one take it, either. Because:
If it were possible to create effective vaccines against constantly mutating airborne respiratory viruses, we’d all get a one-time flu & cold shot and be done with it. Big Pharma would be highly motivated by the billions they would make on such a vaccine, if it were possible to make it. But we don’t, and nobody has done it. I will believe it when I see it, as in, years of evidence from disinterested parties.
Effectiveness and side effects will not be known for many months, probably several years. Beware rush jobs when billions of dollars stand to be made by them.
I will not allow our clearly corrupt government to decide for me what I have to do for my health. They don’t care about the 123K people killed by the lockdowns so far; why now so concerned with me and mine?
Finally, COVID is such a ridiculous low risk disease for me and anyone even moderately healthy, the idea that I’d need to take any steps at all beyond what one should take for the flu is Orwellian insanity.
Also for the record, I am not anti vax. I’m anti rushed, needless, government and big pharma mandated vaccines that stand to make some people much richer and are designed to humiliate into compliance anyone who dares flip them the bird.
A. The level of idiocy remains at critical levels. It’s looking likely that about 220,000 ‘excess’ deaths will take place in 2020, of which about 150-170K might be attributable to the damn virus. Back in April and May, I didn’t think 100k was likely; now, I don’t know if it’s possible to back out the deleterious effects of the lockdowns with any accuracy. It is clear that about 50,000 ‘excess’ deaths (and counting) are not directly caused by the virus, but it’s harder, conceptually, to show they are caused by the lockdowns. The anecdotal evidence is strong, as is my bias to believe it – therefore, I’m exercising caution.
What the CDC data shows is significant upticks in deaths attributed to stress and panic related causes, such as suicide and heart attacks. It would take a massive independent audit, however, to show how many such cases show up in the COVID numbers. We know that sickly old people do in fact have their deaths speeded up by stress and loneliness, which the lockdowns have ratcheted up to inhuman levels.
So, as of now, it’s pretty clear that there are not 250,000 COVID deaths, or whatever count is being bandied about at the moment. At most, there could be about 170,000 COVID deaths, max (the 220K ‘excess’ deaths minus the 50K non-COVID ‘excess’ deaths). Of course, one could cook up a theory that the lockdowns saved lives that would have been lost to non-COVID deaths, such that the net – 250,000 COVID deaths minus the ‘saved’ (from flu? Colds? Traffic accidents?) gives us the 220,000 ‘excess’ deaths the CDC’s data shows. Far-fetched doesn’t begin to describe such a theory. That won’t stop people from proposing it.
The plan is to take a detailed look at the final or near final numbers from the CDC in January, and back into some totals. Without that audit, there’s no good way to really sift out the effects of the lockdown versus the virus. I expect the excess deaths – which are merely the difference between the CDC’s estimated weekly deaths and actual deaths as counted by death certificated submitted to the CDC (with a lot of small, often pointless, and needlessly complex adjustments) – to stay right about 220K, or perhaps even drop some, as some of the sickly elderly who might have hung on until Christmas in a normal year are already dead.
The overall story remains the same: the original forecasts and model used to gin up the panic, put together by the non-scientist, non-medical finance guy and operative Ferguson, have proven wildly inaccurate. Real world experience has confirmed what I, and everybody else who took an intelligent look at the original numbers out of Wuhan, the Diamond Princess, Italy, etc., noted: the overall real-world fatality rate was nothing like the 2-4% Case Fatality Rate range typically reported. The real infection fatality rate – the number of interest – couldn’t be over about 0.25%, and is probably lower. This virus is no more deadly than a bad flu – the 1969 and 1958 flus were worse; 2018 was almost as bad. The 2017 pre-COVID planning literature, prepared by the same CDC that’s helped create the panic, did not propose lockdowns or mask for scenarios an order of magnitude worse than this – the theoretical benefits of lockdowns and masks do not offset real costs.
The CDC data, at least, the reporting of it, is already being monkeyed with. As William Briggs noted, the weekly fatality graph used to go back many years, but now only goes back a year. This is suspicious, as a glance at the longer-term pattern made it clear that, while 2020 was shaping up to be a bad year, it wasn’t significantly worse than many preceding years, and that the pattern of more deaths in the winter and fewer in the summer was playing out exactly in 2020 – that what one would expect to see, based on history, without lockdowns and masks is exactly what one did see with them. My confidence that any numbers that can be used to expose the fraud will remain available has thus decreased.
But we’ll see.
UPDATE: Seems someone has already done what I proposed above.
What this chart shows are the breakdowns between attributed COVID deaths and *excess* (as defined above) deaths from all other causes. You get this by looking at the details for each category the CDC tracks. They forecast, based on history, population growth & aging + some really minor adjustments, is of how many death there ought to be in each category. Here’s my comment from Clarissa’s blog post:
Last I checked, CDC shows 220K excess deaths total so far this year. If the attribution of every excess death shown here to the lockdown is roughly true – seems likely & reasonable – then there are fewer than 100K total deaths caused by COVID, rather than deaths where COVID appears anywhere on the death cert, which is the way you get that 240K number, as you noted. Even that 100K number is almost certainly high, as the bulk of COVID deaths – between 60-70% – were nursing home patients & other very sick elderly people, who had a median life expectancy of about 6 months even if they didn’t catch the virus. Over time, these slightly premature deaths would (if the lockdowns ended) show up as lower deaths in the corresponding age bands over the next year. But the lockdowns, and the deaths they cause, mask this effect.
Also, could you please post the source link? I know it’s on the picture, but tiny, I can’t quite make it out. Eyes are getting old. Thanks.
So, if these calculations are correct, and barring some unlikely and counterintuitive offsetting effects somewhere in here (somehow, many thousands of lives were saved from non-COVID death by COVID, lockdowns, and masks) the total death toll from COVID is under 100K; the total excluding very sick elderly people is maybe 30-40K. Most of that 30-40K seems to have had multiple pre-existing conditions.
Thus, as the CDC correctly believed right up until they stopped believing it around April, 2020, lockdowns do more harm than good. Lockdowns kill people, and, unlike routine airborne respiratory viruses like COVID, lockdowns are completely preventable and don’t run their course within a few months.
B. I want to do something, but I don’t know what. I’m praying harder than I ever have for God’s mercy on our country, because if we get what we deserve based on our sins, the Great Leap Forward will look like a picnic. I’d like to do something to put our little infant sociopath of a governor in his place. But I don’t even know how to fly a helicopter. (That’s hyperbole for your spy bots.)
Lord, remember your promise of mercy. For if you remember our sins, Lord, who could stand? For the sake of the Sorrowful Passion of your Son, have mercy on us and the whole world! Amen.
Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!
Holy Mother Mary, Queen of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us!
St. Michael, Prince of the Heavenly Host, defend us in battle!
C. About a week ago, started learning the 2nd movement of the Moonlight Sonata, the one everybody forgets is even there, as the 1st and 3rd movements are epic. Been working on a dozen or so pieces from the Well Tempered Clavier and on the Sonata Pathetique for years now, and have years to go at this rate, and I needed a break.
Almost got it down, as it’s very short and repetitive. Here’s someone who really can play it:
I find it very beautiful and fun.
D. Bunch of good stuff happening on the family side, but I’m sworn to silence for now.
E. I need to remind myself that I’m one of the most blessed and happy people I know, great marriage, wonderful kids, nice home in a beautiful state, lots of friends. Thank you, Almighty Father, giver of all good gifts.
This one is for my Christian and especially Catholic readers. I may have come off as too pessimistic and almost despairing. That’s not the right attitude here.
There are legions of angels, flaming swords drawn, ready to fight this fight, which is clearly not of flesh and blood. God, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, does not expect us fragile, weak humans to stand alone against demonic forces – humility, let alone sanity, demands we seek help.
There’s help. We have to ask, and get out of the way, and do whatever small part we are called upon to do.
After first asking Our Father to remember His promise of mercy, the promise he made to Abraham and we, his children, forever, and beg Him not to remember our sins -for who could stand? – we can then ask for the help of those beings which were given by God the task of protecting us.
First and foremost, that would be Mary, Queen of the Angels, their holy commander and the one, after only Christ Himself, most feared by Satan.
My son looked over my shoulder as I looked for images, he liked this one a lot:
Next up would be my patron, St. Joseph, given the job of protecting Christ and His Mother:
He followed orders, did what he was told to do: take Mary into his home, flee to Egypt from Herod with her and her Child, return with them to the Holy Land once safe, then spend the rest of his life providing and caring for them.
And the Gospels do not record a single word he said. He is called Terror of Demons: what could be more terrifying than a guy with Jesus in his arms and Mary at his side?
Therefore, I resolve to keep this image in mind:
God has sent His legions to protect and defend us; Mary, their Queen, with St. Joseph on her right and St. Michael on her left, leading countless legions of angels, flaming swords drawn, as they descend to save us from the clearly diabolical situation we find ourselves.
And we must be humble, keep our focus, and follow orders. The first order: pray without ceasing.
Lord, have mercy!
Christ, have mercy!
Lord, have mercy!
Beloved Mother Mary, whose humble ‘Yes’ brought Emmanuel, God Among Us, Queen of the Angels, Crusher of the serpents head, lead your legions to save us!
St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, defend and protect us! Pray that we have the grace to follow your holy example, and be humble, brave, and obedient to God’s word to us.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, cast into Hell Satan, and all evil spirits that prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls!
From Clarissa’s blog. She has been posting helpful link regarding the current unpleasantness. I merely note that one does not have to have the sterling credentials of this Swedish doctor to notice, upon little more than inspection, that most of his points are valid.
UK policy on lockdown and other European countries is not evidence-based The correct policy is to protect the old and the frail only This will …
Every death is a tragedy, at least on some level. And everybody dies.
Here, for this analysis, we will recognize upfront that tragic deaths have occured due to COVID 19. Nobody sane is happy about that, and I and everyone of good will has nothing but sympathy for those suffering such loses.
Having acknowledged that, we will set aside our perfectly healthy and human emotional reactions to take a look at what should reasonably be done.
Death is a petty, fickle thing. The most innocent activities can get you killed. For example, every year:
about 3,500 Americans a year drown in their backyard pools.
about 2,700 Americans die in motorcycle accidents.
about 36,000 Americans die of falls.
And on and on. About 4o,000 Americans die every year in automobile accidents, not counting pedestrians who get run over; commercial fishing and raising cattle are two other comparatively dangerous occupations, with disproportionately high accidental death rates.
We all know this, or at least used to. Used to be, we accepted reasonable risk and the inevitable tragedies as part of the price of freedom. What a ‘reasonable’ level of risk is varies, but, generally speaking, if we felt (it’s mostly feelings – we’re people, after all, not computers) the risk was either unavoidable or at least partly something we can control, we were generally good with it. Thus, backyard pools can be fenced, children can be watched; motorcyclists can be very careful and wear helmets; we throw a non-slip rubber mat in the shower.
Something else we used to understand: bad stuff happens. The neighbor kid will climb pool fences, and sometimes drown; the careful, law-abiding motorcyclist will die when somebody runs a red light or makes a crazy lane change; and grandma is going to die of something, and falling and whacking her head is a possibility no matter what we do.
In moments of clarity and humility, we accept that all we can do is take prudent precautions, that bad stuff will happen no matter what steps we take. We recognized we’d end up living lives of paranoia and slavery if we can’t accept a good level of risk.
Now? Check this statement out:
“The truth is, there is no such thing as an accident. We know what to do to save lives, but as a nation, we have not consistently prioritized safety at work, at home and on the road.”
“…no such thing as an accident.” I don’t know whether to prescribe some basic philosophy, psychological counseling, or serotonin reuptake inhibitors to treat such an insane misapprehension of reality. On a logical basis, that claim is sheer fantasy. As propaganda, however, it’s genius. Under this rubric, LITERALLY EVERY BAD THING THAT HAPPENS IS SOMEBODY’S FAULT. “We” know how to prevent every bad thing. If every bad thing has not been prevented, some other “we” – certainly not us! – has failed! Implied: “we” – first “we” again – need MORE POWER in order to properly “prioritize safety”.
The National Safety Council is a hoary institution, dating back to the Wilson administration, a time when our betters were pretty public about their conviction that they could solve all problems if we little people would just let them, so it would be tempting to think this view represents some sort of outdated extreme. Alas, this is exactly the view expressed by Governor Cuomo and others to justify anti-COVID 19 measures that would have been considered crazy a generation (or, perhaps, one administration) ago.
And measures not remotely justified by the information we had available at each point of this fiasco.
How did we get here? A big part was played by models that predicted millions of dead and a collapse of health care systems under the strain of tens of millions of critically sick. Those claims were made not just on extremely unlikely worse-case scenario assumptions, but in the face of known contradictory evidence. Yet, our well-schooled, by which I mean functionally innumerate and alogical, population continues to fall for it. Let’s take a look at models at a high level.
The first thing a pro, even so meager a one as myself, wants to know when constructing a model is: what does the data look like? Is it clean and consistent? Is it reported in an orderly, reliable manner? Is it clearly defined? Because your model – your predictions – will never be any more accurate or reliable than the data they are built upon. This is a truism: garbage in, garbage out.
So, something clear to anyone who cared to look from Day 1 of this mess: the data is garbage. Teasing anything meaningful out of this inconsistent, incoherent pile of junk was always going to be a challenge, and would always be highly uncertain.
Simple questions a pro would ask:
What constitutes a ‘death’?
What constitutes a ‘case’?
Are these defined and reported consistently from place to place and over time?
And slightly – and only slightly – more sophisticated:
Anybody have an interest in the numbers going one way or the other?
Meaning: is it in anyone’s interest to over or under report any of this?
Let’s take it one by one:
Death: Completely inconsistent or undefined from place to place and over time. In some places, such as Britain and New York, a ‘death’ for COVID 19 purposes means: person was determined to have COVID 19 at the time of death. ‘Determined’ means that the person who fills out the death certificate puts COVID 19 anywhere on it. It does not mean: the deceased tested positive. It could mean: the deceased had symptoms consistent with COVID 19, for example, a fever and a cough. Sure, that’s also consistent with the flu or a common cold, but whatever. ‘Death’ as used in the reports, at least from some of the places reporting, literally means that an asymptomatic person who tests positive and then gets run over by a lorry on his way home counts as a COVID 19 death.
That may seem far fetched, but this next example certainly isn’t: yesterday on Twitter, people were mourning the death of a man well known in certain geeky circles. His death was classified, and people were referring to it, as a COVID 19 death – that’s what the official report said.
He was 79, almost 80, and had been in a nursing home for the last few months after having suffered a massive stroke. Now, I gather few healthy people spend much time in nursing homes. Unfortunately, I have, because my father and two older sisters spent time in nursing homes prior to their deaths, and I have had a number of other occasions over the years to visit a variety of such facilities.
The majority of people in these places were put there to die. If they are very lucky, some family member will get them released into hospice care so that they don’t have to die alone in a place stinking of urine. But few are there to get better; at least, if they are there to recover, they are not generally there for long.
I’d be happy to be contradicted by medical pros or somebody with experience working is nursing homes, but here’s what I suspect: if you’re pushing 80 and have a massive stroke and don’t bounce back within 2 months, the only way you’re leaving that nursing home is feet first. Barring a miracle, of course.
No rational person would count that death as due to COVID 19. He died in the aftermath of a massive stroke. The stroke killed him. The most COVID 19 might have done was speed up his death some. But the flu or a cold would have done as much, most likely.
Now put this anecdote together with some other bits of information that have been generally available from the beginning: that people who were old, or with preexisting medical conditions, or both, were disproportionately killed by COVID 19. That COVID 19 broke (a small portion of) the Italian medical system when it ripped through nursing homes in Lombardy. That the average age of death was 81 years old.
The ability of even the most vigorous 80 year old to fight off and recover from illness is seriously impaired in almost every case. Now, start with what in almost every other case is a very minor illness – very few people who aren’t old or already sick so much as develop serious symptoms – and you’re in for a lot of deaths, provided you count every old or sick person who catches COVID 19 and dies from whatever causes as a death FROM COVID 19.
If I were building this model, as a first-pass data clean-up, I’d exclude ALL deaths of people over, say, 65 and ALL deaths of people with preexisting conditions. THEN, if I could figure out a reasonable way to do it, add back in some small fraction of those deaths on the assumption that some, at least, would have survived, say, a year and a day if they had not caught COVID 19.
That would be the professional, responsible thing to do. The number of death, after such a merely prudent clean-up, would be much smaller that currently reported. Using the raw data would be irresponsible, as it clearly misrepresents reality.
Let’s take a look at that. Back in March, when we were losing our minds:
That likely explains why although older Americans represented 31% of the cases, they accounted for 45% of hospitalizations, 53% of ICU admissions, and 80% of deaths, the CDC reported.
Ninety-five percent of New York City’s almost 200 deaths from the new coronavirus had underlying health conditions, though almost half were under the age of 75, according to data published by the city’s health department on Tuesday.
So, we’ve known for weeks now that only 5% of the deaths associated with COVID 19 were otherwise healthy people, and that 80% were people over 65. But rather than take prudent precautions around the sick and elderly, we shut down the economy.
If I were building this model, I’d use that 5% – that’s 1,200 deaths at the moment – as a baseline number, then add back to it some percentage – half? I’d need to do some research, but that seems generous – of the other deaths, under the assumption that those were people who, despite being abandoned to die in a nursing home, might still make it a year and a day if they hadn’t caught the virus. I’m being only slightly flippant here – to have sane numbers, you’d need some approach that filters out people who died of other causes while infected (or suspected of being infected) with COVID 19, to better reflect the real risks. If you’re dying anyway, COVID 19 isn’t really a risk, is it?
So, maybe I start with 13,200 deaths in my model. Seems high.
Next, let’s look at the Chinese. I don’t know how they define a COVID 19 death, and wouldn’t trust them to tell the truth anyway, but: if the Chinese, for their own selfish reasons, decided to count only deaths where COVID 19 seriously contributed to an untimely demise, excluding from the count people who were already seriously sick before they caught the virus, their reported numbers, which seem so low, might actually be accurate. At least, more accurate than the ridiculous numbers coming out of the West.
And – here’s the main point – if, and it’s certainly a big ‘if,’ the Chinese were in fact reporting in this manner, they would be reporting COVID 19 deaths in a way that’s much more like what a reasonable, normal person would consider a COVID 19 death.
Now consider the ‘consistent over time’ issue. New York changed to the ‘count every death where COVID 19 shows up anywhere on the death cert’ method a few days ago. They got what must have been a gratify uptick in deaths – gratifying, because why else would you do such a ridiculous thing? In this current panic, was there any reason to think deaths in New York were being underreported? Really?
Imagine if you fanned a panic and things didn’t turn out too bad, so that, come election time, your opponents can point out that your panic mongering was directly responsible for millions of lost jobs and falling incomes and destroyed businesses. Better do something about that. Today, New York ‘found’ some more deaths:
New York City today has reported 3,778 additional deaths that have occurred since March 11 and have been classified as “probable,” defined as follows: “decedent […] had no known positive laboratory test for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) but the death certificate lists as a cause of death “COVID-19” or an equivalent” [source]. We will add these to the New York State total as soon as it is determined whether the historical distribution can be obtained
Wow, nick of time. First, you change the requirement so that every death with COVID 19 anywhere on the death certificate is classified as a COVID 19 death, then you mine the old death certificates to find any where they listed COVID 19 but didn’t list it as a significant cause, so you can then throw them into the count. That this happened just as the totals for New York and the US were turning downward is one of those amazing coincidences that just keep popping up.
The US in general changed its method of counting COVID 19 deaths a week or so ago, to be more ‘generous.’ US counts are therefore inconsistent over time. Even this ignores the enormous amount of discretion local officials – doctors and coroners – have in what they put on a death certificate, especially in cases where cause of death is complicated, as it always is when preexisting conditions are involved. Even under the same rules, what counts as a COVID 19 death in Peoria may not be what counts as one in Santa Barbara, nor one on Tuesday versus one on Saturday, even in the same location. Lots of uncertainty here.
Finally, add in the political, professional, and social pressures. We’ve just burned a couple of trillion dollars in economic activity, gotten millions laid off and many millions more are seeing income reductions – you want to be the guy who calls ‘Ooopsie!’ on all this? Or do you double down? Do you want to be the one doctor who refuses to play games, or you just going to follow orders and put what they tell you to put on the death cert? New York and the recent redefinition of COVID 19 deaths shows us exactly how that’s going to work.
Similar problems exist everywhere. France, for example, had a spike in deaths when they ‘discovered’ a whole bunch of people who died in nursing homes had not been counted. France, by the way, is experiencing a ton of social unrest at the moment; Macron would like it to go away. Maybe, just maybe, he might like this whole thing to drag on a bit?
As of this moment, 125K deaths from COVID 19 have been reported worldwide. There is no reason to believe this number is remotely accurate by any reasonable definition of ‘death caused by COVID 19’ and every reason to think it wildly overstates the number of such deaths. This problem has been obvious from Day 1.
Next, we have similar issues with Cases, which I will not belabor again here. The real issues with cases is that people still insist on thinking cases = number of infected people. With rare exceptions, case counts will NOT INCLUDE asymptomatic people, for the simple reason that, so far, almost all test are of people suspected of having the virus. Somebody with no symptoms is most likely not getting tested. In the few general semi-random tests done so far, around 50% of infections are asymptomatic. Further, 96% of cases show mild symptoms. Again, many people with mild symptoms are likely not getting tested.
Again, all I’ve done here is ask the basic questions any competent model builder would ask about the data, and discovered that cases must significantly understate the number of infections in the world. Yet people who should know better keep insisting cases and people infected are the same. For example:
Must harp on this one more time:
Case Fatality Rate (CFR) = number of people identified as COVID 19 deaths on their death certificates / number of cases.
Fatality Rate = number of people who died from COVID 19 (however defined) / number of people infected with COVID 19.
Unless we test every human being on the planet, we will never know the true number of people infected. It was always be an educated guess. All we can reasonably know is that it must be more, and probably a lot more, than the number of cases.
Now let’s put these two things together:
Since the number of deaths has been demonstrably overstated, AND the number of people infected is demonstrably understated by the number of cases, THEN: the CFR OVERSTATES how deadly COVID 19 is. Based on my semi-educated proposed adjustments, outlined here but explained in more detail in earlier posts, I’d guess that factor is at least 4. If your CFR is 2.5%, then, the logic here shows the real fatality rate, the real risk someone who catches COVID 19 will die of it, can’t be more than 2.5/4, or 0.625% EVEN IF we make the completely insane assumption that ALL deaths WITH COVID 19 are in fact deaths FROM COVID 19. If my guesses are in the ballpark, cut those numbers in half again.
These number ignores the age/health component to risk. If you’re healthy and not old, your risk is effectively 0 – too small to mean anything in practice. Effectively, you’d be better off getting some exercise and and maybe cutting some calories than doing anything at all to avoid COVID 19. Even if you’re old, if you are otherwise healthy, your risks are tiny.
It also needs to be said that this sudden concern for the sick and elderly is ironic, by which I mean, rank hypocrisy. We routinely warehouses the sick and elderly under the care of minimum wage workers so that they are no bother to us while we wait for them to die. Again, ever been to a nursing home? For every resident who gets daily visits from loved ones, there are probably 4 who rarely, if ever, get a visitor. Ask somebody who works in one of these places. We abandon them to die, and now we’re all concerned about them dying? Give me a break. (Note: we have my 82 year old MIL living with us. She’d still be in a nursing home if we hadn’t sprung her. There are cases where this is not possible, where more care is needed than a normal family can provide. But there are plenty of cases where it would be possible, if anybody cared to do it. And nothing prevents frequent visits or at least phone calls.)
So, what would simple prudence dictate as proper actions to take in order to protect the vulnerable from COVID 19?
If you are sick or have been exposed to COVID 19, stay away from the sick and elderly (duh).
Similarly, if you are sick or elderly, you might want to consider avoiding crowds for a while. I say ‘consider’ because lack of human contact can damage people too, and loneliness is a big problem for many elderly people. If gramps want to accept the risk and go to the church potluck to be with his friends, who are we to say no?
Wash your hands.
I leave the proper steps to best care of hospitalized and institutionalized people to the pros. The rest of us should get back to work.