Thackeray “The Virginians”

While Trump endures months and years of unrelenting and unscrupulous attacks, this passage comes inevitably to my mind, and no doubt yours. A young officer is displeased that the Marquis Lafayette is brought into the American army as a major-general. He reproaches Gen. Washington. And Washington replies.

Tis easy to sneer at him (though, believe me, the Marquis has many more merits than you allow him); to my mind it were more generous, as well as more polite, of Harry Warrington to welcome this stranger for the sake of the prodigious benefit our country may draw from him—not to laugh at his peculiarities, but to aid him and help his ignorance by your experience as an old soldier: that is what I would do—that is the part I expected of thee—for it is the generous and manly one, Harry: but you choose to join my enemies, and when I am in trouble you say you will leave me. That is why I have been hurt: that is why I have been cold. I thought I might count on your friendship—and—and you can tell whether I was right or no. I relied on you as on a brother, and you come and tell me you will resign. Be it so! Being embarked in this contest, by God’s will I will see it to an end. You are not the first, Mr. Warrington, has left me on the way.’

 ‘Ah!’ he added, ‘an open enemy I can face readily enough. ‘Tis the secret foe who causes the doubt and anguish! We have sat with more than one at my table to-day, to whom I am obliged to show a face of civility, whose hands I must take when they are offered, though I know they are stabbing my reputation, and are eager to pull me down from my place. You spoke but lately of being humiliated because a junior was set over you in command. What humiliation is yours compared to mine, who have to play the farce of welcome to these traitors; who have to bear the neglect of Congress, and see men who have insulted me promoted in my own army? If I consulted my own feelings as a man, would I continue in this command? You know whether my temper is naturally warm or not, and whether as a private gentleman I should be likely to suffer such slights and outrages as are put upon me daily; but in the advancement of the sacred cause in which we are engaged, we have to endure not only hardship and danger, but calumny and wrong, and may God give us strength to do our duty!’ 

A Journal of the Plague Year (12)

March 28th, 2020

So here we are, the online companies delivering food, booze, and other essentials of life are set to make money and supply a vital service to the public at the same time. It’s not very often that the social attributes of the good are rewarded monetarily. But, hey, they deserve it.

I spent much of the day on WhatsApp video phone calls with friends. This may well be a significant new quantum of our social relationships in the future, nay, the present, until new rules of proximity have been developed.

Placed an order for two weeks food and other groceries…pick up next weekend. Wine and liquor to be delivered in a few days.

President Trump is postulating a quarantine for New York. Apparently, the zombie Democrats may be flooding out and infecting the rest of North America will liberal absurdity—but, too late, they’ve already done that.

If the American health care system cannot cope with the case load, then nobody can. According to the Society of Critical Care Medicine [here], the US has more critical care beds per 100 000 people than any other nation. And six times as many as Britain, with their National Health Service (the envy of the world). If the Americans are in trouble, so is everybody.

Here, a new paper [here] in bioRxiv is predicting the peak of new cases around mid-April and then a tail off. Check it out. That’s the good news.

Well, we don’t really know what the bad news might be. I’m having an early night tonight. One aside, this whole affair is making me sleep 8–10 hours a night. That can’t be bad.

And a friend finally arrived back from Portugal after multiple flights and country hopping. As he says: “I’m now under house arrest! But fine.”

Rebel Yell

A Journal of the Plague Year (11)

Today I’ve been busy trying to organize bookmarks in my browser in the right folders so as to make everything readily accessible for my preparation of the latest screed.

Also, Zotero for the academic publications to be saved for references.

First, an excellent source for the real meat of this thing with all the latest from {here], a preprint server like for physics.

Second, BoJo himself in the UK has been diagnosed with corona virus; rich and poor can be cut down. But we hope he’s going to be OK, he’s got a lot of work to do—no time for slacking.


And now…

In a situation like this, there is precious little time for partisan shenanigans, but you wouldn’t know it from the behavior of Pelosi and the Democrats in the US. Blame seems to be cast always on the politicians in office.

Actually, I’m going to go out on a limb here and cut the politicos a bit slack. Not much, but a bit. No country in the world has been prepared for this. Europe, America, the UK, Canada, wherever, no-one. Political leaders are always confronted with the Something-Must-Be-Done Syndrome. Whatever problem or fresh disaster occurs, whatever weird social deviance is suddenly de rigeur for the chattering classes, whatever new degeneracy deserves some special new “right”, our political leaders Must-Do-Something. When, most of the time, nothing need be done. Their skepticism really is justified much of the time.

But when it does need to be done, when it’s based in the scientific reality of the world and not the fevered imaginations of some deranged progressives, it’s suddenly very difficult.

An interesting article appeared today in the City Journal, (America’s Regulatory Framework Exacerbated Covid-19 Crisis) an American blog, concerning the lead up to this disaster in the US. As the preliminary phases of the epidemic began to show up on the radar of medical professionals, the warning signs were noted. I’ll just quote this passage in toto, as I can’t summarize it any better and the details are important…[CDC = Center for Disease Control]:

As has been widely reported, the CDC’s in-house testing design was flawed, thus compromising early testing results. Mistakes happen, but the impact of the test-design flaw was much greater than it should have been—owing to the U.S. bureaucracy’s tightly controlled process. Even had the CDC test worked perfectly, not nearly enough tests would have been available for wide-scale testing on the South Korean model.
The reasons: the American regulatory system, cumbersome even in emergency settings; and the specific choices made by regulators that proved to be tragic misjudgments. As Alec Stapp of the left-leaning Progressive Policy Institute has documented, after Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar declared a public-health emergency on January 31, private laboratories had to obtain an Emergency Use Authorization to conduct their own testing. On February 4, the FDA approved an authorization for the CDC—and only the CDC. This created a testing bottleneck, with all testing in the nation routed through the government agency. By February 28, the CDC had processed only 4,000 tests. The next day, the FDA finally invoked the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments to permit testing at some 5,000 highly specialized virology labs (among more than a quarter-million laboratories nationwide with some testing capability). The first Emergency Use Authorization granted to any entity other than the CDC was issued on March 12, to Roche. Throughout this period, the rollout of mass testing was limited by privacy rules in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA); they were not waived until March 15.
Some of the holdups in the critical early U.S. testing effort read like paradigmatic illustrations of bureaucratic bloat. In Emergency Use Authorization applications in the face of an epidemic, the government was actually requiring labs to mail in CD-ROMs for agency review, rather than permitting online submission, owing to outdated rules. (Thankfully, they’ve since dropped that particular rule.)

That mailing in CD-ROMs in this day and age at the apex of a national emergency is not only so 20th century but shows the suffocating force of bureaucratic red tape—in an organization that is responsible for dealing with emergencies! So anyone thinking that more government control of the health care business is a good thing should think again.

In any emergency response operation, responsibility for much decision-making and action has to devolve to those on the front lines who are dealing with the actual problem. The bureaucracy is always worrying about what the clouds of parasitic lawyers might do if a decision later turns out to be not the best choice (which invariably happens in real emergencies). And the political leaders are always worrying about how this will look on the re-election prospects. “You told us it was a national emergency and only 300 people died!” —as the media-bitches will whine afterwards.

Perhaps Satan has a special room for some of the media.

Rebel Yell

A Journal of the Plague Year (10)

March 26th, 2020

Time to reflect a little on the hysteria surrounding the corona virus outbreak. Every day you can hear some frenzied journalist (especially in the US) rabbiting on about how many millions will die because a) President Trump, b) President Trump, c) President Trump. Actually, after a shaky start he seems to have come to grips with the issue quite well; would that we could say that about the political class in general. The attempts by Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in Congress to insert billions of pork-barrel items into a piece of emergency legislation beggars belief. It’s nothing but venality to the n-th power.

Every day a new “study” appears filled with new prognostications and predictions for the future. Let’s put aside the predictions for the political future, or futures, and take a look at the science picture. The main subject of discussion has been a paper from Imperial College that modeled the likely outcomes in terms of cases and deaths based on certain prior assumptions:

We assumed an incubation period of 5.1 days. Infectiousness is assumed to occur from 12 hours prior to the onset of symptoms for those that are symptomatic and from 4.6 days after infection in those that are asymptomatic with an infectiousness profile over time that results in a 6.5-day mean generation time. Based on fits to the early growth-rate of the epidemic in Wuhan10,11, we make a baseline assumption that R0 = 2.4 but examine values between 2.0 and 2.6. We assume that symptomatic individuals are 50% more infectious than asymptomatic individuals. Individual infectiousness is assumed to be variable, described by a gamma distribution with mean 1 and shape parameter alpha = 0.25. On recovery from infection, individuals are assumed to be immune to re-infection in the short term. Evidence from the Flu Watch cohort study suggests that re-infection with the same strain of seasonal circulating coronavirus is highly unlikely in the same or following season (Prof Andrew Hayward, personal communication).

It was this paper that led to the change of course of the British government.

From this, and the use of the modeling algorithm, they can make predictions of outcomes after making various changes to attempt to modify R-naught and bring down the rate of infection. R-naught is not just a function of the virus, but a function of other things such as the different behaviors of the population like social distancing. Based on certain of these assumptions, this is where the prediction of nearly half a million deaths came from.

Another paper out of Stanford University claims that the prognosis is way over-estimated (can’t find the link right now), but a paper in The Lancet addresses a small study from China. Also, Tomasso Dorigo, an experimental physicist at CERN, thinks that the hype is turning physicists into crackpots.

Although it’s early days, some caveats need to be borne in mind.

First, computer models do not produce evidence of anything. Repeat that to yourself.

Second, computer models produce conjecture—not data.

The models are exactly that, they produce numbers (often displayed with very pretty graphs and diagrams) that are generated by an algorithm operating on a given set of assumptions. The numbers coming out are only related to the initial parameters and the algorithm in the software, which may represent the real world accurately—or not.

Third, data are generated by performing scientific experiments and making measurements and observations of the world around us. This is evidence.

Fourth, when the data match the output of the model then, and only then, can you say that the model may be a reasonably accurate representation of the real world. Note that any change in the parameters in the algorithm or any change in the logic path in the algorithm can lead to radically different computational outcomes. This happens all the time in modeling.

In computer science, the GIGO Principle is undefeated: Garbage In—Garbage Out. Computer models are fine as far as they go, but reality gives data.

Hence, suddenly, claims that the Imperial College model overestimates the numbers of cases. If the coronavirus has infected many more people prior to the panic, who then developed antibodies and they have never shown symptoms of disease, then the case fatality rate will be much lower than heretofore believed. However, we can’t know this until extensive antibody testing is done on the population—all the population not just sick people.

Even if that is true, the tsunami effect on the health care system is still just as real, but the time frame may be much shorter.

The less information we have, the greater the uncertainty. Both these views of the problem may be wrong (they can both be wrong but they cannot both be right!). Millions of tests must be done to make the enemy visible. If there are large numbers of people with antibodies, then they are immune and can get back to work and get the economies moving again, but this can only be ascertained by testing for the antibodies, not just the antigen.

All these discussions between scientists are perfectly normal and good—the science is never settled. That’s only in Al Gore’s fantasy world. Only journalists and politicians think they’re always right. And remember the words of the great physicist Richard Feynman—

…any scientist talking outside his field is just as dumb as the next guy.

When someone you’re talking to keeps dumping on President Trump, remember, he’s the guy making the political decisions—that’s what he was elected to do. After this thing is over, you’ll be glad there was an alpha-male in charge.

[Update: see article [here].  Could the predictions be out of line?]

Rebel Yell

A Journal of the Plague Year (9)

The Imperial Dirigible Service

“The New Normal”…How many times have we heard that before? In our city there were no new cases today, but we all know that the storm is coming. But forewarned is forearmed so emergency preparations are moving into full gear. The last time that a city emergency was declared was only last year and lasted six weeks due to excessive spring flooding. That time, however, did not involve the whole population being housebound.

Our local area of town seems ordered and low-key. Canadians tend to be a reserved and placid lot, which, as it happens, is a great attribute in times of stress. It must be the climate. When you’re alone in a cabin for a six-month winter, you learn quite bit about introspection, its uses and abuses. And for all our foreign fans, no we don’t live in igloos.

For those of you who want to really bone up on the medical research in real time, check out the JAMA Network[here], interviews with leading researchers in the US and the world with Howard Bauchner, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

One of the real-time effects of this thing is that medical research is, to a considerable degree, dispensing with much of the time-consuming peer-review process and other publication bottlenecks to get the latest findings on to the Web. The peer-review process has been under much scrutiny over the past few years, being accused of being too much of a “pal-review” process among other things. This is why sites like Retraction Watch [here] have been so active in the last few years keeping track of the faults in this process. It is important, but it’s become sclerotic and is in need of major rejuvenation.

The rapid spread of corona has shown in stark detail the unresponsive nature of many bureaucracies around the world. When decisions have to made in hours, a wait of a week for some bean-counter stifled in red-tape is not helpful [here]. The federal bureaucracy in the US, the Center for Disease Control, has been a part of the problem. As reported on NBC News:

As a result of the CDC’s being the sole organization to make and distribute the authorized test kits, the agency needed to strictly ration distribution. Because of the tight supply, the CDC initially set very restrictive criteria on testing individuals. To make matters significantly worse, by mid-February, the CDC had learned that many of its tests, for all the supposed focus on quality control, were inconclusive because of a flaw in one of its components and needed to be fixed. Meanwhile, no competing manufacturers were ready to meet the increasing demand.

As usual, in the US, the private sector is rapidly stepping up to the plate.

In the US, tests for the virus had to be sent out. Now they are being done in hospitals and private laboratories, which, prior to this event, did not have approval. There was no reason for this but hopefully this strangulation of private initiative will be greatly curtailed in the future. Especially when time is of the essence.

Further, as the New York Times from Reason (some actual reporting of facts, which must be new for the Times),

Seattle infectious disease expert Dr. Helen Chu had, by January, collected a huge number of nasal swabs from local residents who were experiencing symptoms as part of a research project on flu. She proposed, to federal and state officials, testing those samples for coronavirus infections. As the Times reports, the CDC told Chu and her team that they could not test the samples unless their laboratory test was approved by the FDA. The FDA refused to approve Chu’s test on the grounds that her lab, according to the Times, “was not certified as a clinical laboratory under regulations established by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a process that could take months.”

So really, too much government control can result in disaster. Again, medical institutions should be run by doctors, nurses and medical professionals, not bean-counters, bureaucrats and MBAs. And certainly not politicians.

And of the future: maybe travel will be slower, and rapid airplane travel replaced by a more sedate Imperial Dirigible Service as depicted above. Mint Juleps served prior to dinner.

Rebel Yell

A Journal of the Plague Year (8)

There is some good news from Italy today; over the past three days, the daily increase in the number of cases has fallen from just under 7 000 to just under 5 000—hardly an occasion for great joy but moving in the right direction. The quarantine effects are just beginning to be noticed—as predicted, about ten days to two weeks after their implementation.

The daily increase in the number of cases is the essential measure. But this can only be known by testing the population, meaning that testing must be as extensive as possible. If antibody testing is available soon, then testing will enable us to determine who has been infected, and now has antibodies in the blood, and is now immune. These people can get back to productive activity and help out others.

Now, confined to quarters, can be a good time to catch up on some of the things we might have wanted learn. The mathematics behind the statistical analysis of disease and infection has been a subject of great interest to only a few people in the disaster business (as was I). Check out this talk on the nature of modelling and prediction  [here].

Also, an interesting video on the Science Paper That Has Changed US And UK Covid-19 Policy (from Imperial College) and why it happened… [here] You can read the paper  [here].

Also, Thunderfoot, a British science guy, does easily understandable videos [here].

And now, Prime Minister Modi of India has announced a three-week lockdown of India. All of it! 1.3 billion people. Nothing like this has happened in history before and ‘interesting times’ doesn’t even come close to describing it.[here]

As I submit this paltry screed for publication, the world case toll passes 417 000. We can only hope that our medical people can cope with it. After this, they will be remembered.

We’re in for a bumpy ride…

Rebel Yell

“Not to defend the country but to make it worth defending”

The interview with Freeman Dyson is a magnificent review of the effectiveness of WW2 bombing, the ending of World War 2 with Japan, science policy, what to do with surplus nukes, too many science labs focused on nukes, how to control the spread of nuclear weapons, and he reveals a careful, sensible mind. I cannot believe I said that. I know he is wrong but I am not sure why. I may be coming around to many of his views.

And God said….

God has heard us and answered our prayers. We said: too much carbon dioxide being spewed into the atmosphere. We must cut back on carbon emissions. The planet is heating at an unusual rate. The Lord, tiring of the whining, and knowing full well an ice age will shortly arrive (as reckoned in celestial time), put forth His hand and said: let there be a pernicious virus that will keep everyone at home. I will not make it too deadly, but I will make it as contagious and surreptitious as possible. The carbon dioxide will be cut way back. Families will be forced to play board games, and mothers will be forced to educate their children, such as by making up new rules for creating property rights in Monopoly or by teaching them not to cheat (or how to cheat). Travel will virtually cease. Skies will clear. China will be disgraced. Trump will be humbled (greatest miracle of all). The mighty will be brought low, and the poor truck drivers and store clerks exalted. And great shall be the joy in heaven thereof.

The clangour of global warming hysteria has finally creeped Him out. He has determined to put an end to Greta Thunberg’s pernicious moral influence.

Does this sound plausible? Once you grant a Supreme Deity, the interpretive possibilities are much richer.

Image result for The lord has heard your prayers and they are really creeping him out

Changing the track on a skid steer

I thought the readership of Barrelstrength would be informed and spiritually refreshed by an Andrew Camarata video. This one involves changing the track on a skid-steer. Maybe as many as half of you will have never heard of a skid steer. As you contemplate the world from inside your sealed compartments, just imagine needing to have a skid steer to get your work done. It is not a form of software download or a protocol translator.

Also, in terms of cool forestry equipment, there is a company in Sweden call Kranman making cranes and haulers that work from an ATV rather than from a tractor. The idea started as a toy for kids until the builder began to receive interest from adults, and voila, a small industry was born.

I am sure there is thesis for a business school in this story somewhere: innovation, small business, marketing, youtube, market need. I know that if I were rich I would definitely get one. Though I would not dress up as a Korean riot policeman to go into my woods.

A Journal of the Plague Year (7)

One week ago, I asked the technician coming to do a small job on my Yamaha digital piano to may be put it off a bit. Well, one week later, the whole country grinds to a halt. Is this over-reacting? This is the subject of today’s missive from my digital scriptorium.

First, on the local front, everyone has stopped frantic messaging and has started swapping recipes for pantry cooking and the best sites for online games–symptomatic of a massive cool down. Local grocery stores will prepare orders for pick up, thereby significantly reducing unnecessary contact with essential staff. Our in-house volunteers pick up recyclables to take down to the building disposal. Doors and handles are cleaned and maintenance is done. So far everything is operational.

On the world front, as the picture above shows, events can reach unmanageable proportions quickly. One school of thought uses figures that relate to the overall death rate from corona which may be much lower than currently thought for a variety of reasons. (See Plague Journal (5)). The other school lays much more importance on the rate of change of numbers and the tsunami of seriously ill people affecting the health care system in a short time. The picture above illustrates the situation in Spanish hospitals in Madrid.

It seems to me that the most important issue is tactical: how will the health care system cope with the wave of severe cases that appears in any affected population. We know this from the Chinese experience and later from Italy. The number of new cases per day is the critical number to watch. If this is decreasing, then there is hope that the disease may be under control. However, we do not know really how many actual cases there are in the general population as testing is so sporadic and sparse right now. The latest news from Italy may have a sliver of hope.[here]

The next two months will be critical in that regard. This is a virus on a blitzkrieg, so tactics will determine our success or failure.

After this, the failure of the managerial “elites”, that shower of lawyers, economists and other people of nothing must be held accountable, and then replaced with people fit for purpose.  I don’t know exactly how that will happen, but happen it must.

No matter the medical results, the economic, social and political fallout will be bigger than anyone thinks right now. Personal relationships have changed; our relations with the ruling class, the media, and the irrelevant parasites that occupy our social airspace—all that will change.

Watch the interview via the Journal of the American Medical Association with Dr Michelle Gong from New York, Chief of Critical Medicine at the Montifiore Medical Center for news on the front line.

Also, the drug Arbidol (Umifenovir, in the West), an antiviral treatment for influenza, has been around for years in Russia and shows some promise for treatment [here]. Of course, it has not been approved by the US FDA; where would the US be without its own Soviet bureaucracy. Some studies in Russia and China have shown that it can be effective against some influenza types of disease. Some work must be done on this.

While the members of our society who have real value, the nurses, doctors, truck drivers, garbage collectors, sewer maintenance engineers, are keeping the world turning, let’s give a thought to the narcissistic, fatuous, useless hypocrites of the chatterati, the celebrities, social justice whiners, and other pustules on our body politic. They really have shown how utterly worthless they are when the chips are down.

To close today, a comment from an American scribe on the wretched media and political elites (h/t Kurt Schlicter):

Our elite has contributed nothing to this fight, except self-serving lies, cheesy power grabs, and terrible covers of the worst song ever recorded, “Imagine”. As usual, as always, our salvation comes from you, the normal American who sees a challenge and meets it. We had a paradise, and in paradise, you can indulge in silliness like multi-culti blather and meaningless virtue signaling. But things just got real. We have no time for that crap now. The elite who imagine themselves indispensable to the world that normal people built, run, and defend, are being revealed as useless and ridiculous just when things got serious. We won’t forget how much they suck when this ends.

I could not put it better myself.

Hang tight, we’re all in for a bumpy ride.

Rebel Yell