Posts Tagged ‘coronavirus’

A Very Intriguing Theory about Possible Artificial Origins of COVID-19

April 26, 2020 28 comments

A couple of days ago, I came across a rather long medium post about how COVID-19 aka SARS-2 might have been created in a laboratory rather than through natural selection. While I considered posting a link to it yesterday, it was prudent to do some due diligence first. See.. part of my job and training involves using software tools similar to the ones used in that post, so I decided to first independently verify a few of the main sequence alignments, structural models of proteins and publications etc before promoting it. Well.. while I have not re-verified every single point of data in this post, whatever I have done to date suggests that its main conclusions are correct.

Here is the post: SARS-CoV-2 Genealogy Through the Lens of Gain-of-Function Research

Since this post is very long and technical, let me summarize it- very briefly. The author starts by pointing out the unusual coincidence of an absolutely minimal furin cleavage site evolving at the junction of S1 and S2 subunits of the Spike protein in SARS-2. This is suspicious since gain of function by natural mutations usually tend to first create less than optimal sequences for new functions before being optimized via evolutionary selection. But this virus is too new for such an optimization to have occurred naturally- at least, that is not the most likely explanation.

He then points out that the two viruses which SARS-2 is most similar to ones discovered a few years ago (2014 and 2017/2019) in two different parts of the China. The Bat virus (RaTG13 with 96% similarity) came from a faecal swab from bat droppings from some cave in a part of China that is over 1,000 km from Wuhan, while the Pangolin virus (MP789 – 70% something similarity) came from autopsy of a bunch of smuggled sick pangolins from Malaysia in 2017. He then compares their sequences and while the Bat virus (RaTG13) is very similar to SARS-2, the Pangolin Virus has considerable dissimilarity with SARS-2 in first quarter of sequence for Spike Protein. Homologous recombination in a host infected with two viruses of same “species” without a segmented genome requires them to be very similar to each other.

More curiously, the new furin cleavage site in SARS-2 is a “gain of function” mutation, which means that it allows the virus to be more pathogenic (more infectious or capable of infecting a wider range of hosts/ cell types). It should be noted that more than a couple western research groups tried to insert similar enzymatic cleavage sites into other Coronaviruses such as SARS, MERS etc in the past. So it is not unreasonable to assume that the Chinese group in that Wuhan lab might have also tried it. In fact, we know that multiple research groups in Beijing tried that same gain of function mutation in a chicken Coronavirus. Oh ya.. and they also showed that putting that site into the S protein of another bat Coronavirus allowed it to infect human cells.

He then goes on talk about the whole field of Coronavirus research including many publications by a prominent researcher named Ralph Baric, who pioneered many of these techniques used for creating “gain of function” mutations in Coronaviruses. And yes.. he collaborated with the head of that Wuhan Coronavirus lab over the years, so it is makes perfect sense that you would see some his techniques are used in the later’s lab. Long story short, they looked at many “gain of function” mutations which made the resultant viruses deadlier. Also, Baric’s work seems to be have been “inspirational” to the lab in Wuhan since they kept trying out his ideas on Bat Coronaviruses.

The author then goes on to point out that accidental “leaks” of viruses from secure labs are far more common than most people realize, and are almost always due to poorly or hastily trained staff. So the idea that a poorly trained or careless researcher getting infected, but not developing serious illness and going on to spread it outside the lab is far more plausible than many would like to believe. He also points out the restriction enzyme map of nucleotide sequence, necessary for many types of genetic engineering, is rather similar for SARS-2, Bat and Pangolin coronvirus. And there are some other unusual similarities between the nucleotide codons used for certain amino acids- The explanation for which is a bit technical and complicated.

To summarize, the likelihood that this virus was created (along with others) to study effect of various “gain of function” mutations in Coronaviruses but then accidentally released into community through the actions of a poorly trained junior researcher is much more likely than it evolving naturally from a bat Coronavirus found in some remote part of the Yunnan province in China somehow magically recombining with a Pangolin Coronavirus from Malaysia and gaining just the right fragment of the Spike protein from it.

What do you think? Comments?

Inept Western Response to COVID-19 Will Result in Public Backlash: 4

April 13, 2020 26 comments

In the previous post of this series, I made the point that all of the dumbshit “democratic” western countries and their sad imitators (India etc) have not thought through the full consequences of shutting down most of their economies in response to the SARS-2 pandemic. Because, if they had performed any due diligence, it would be obvious that stopping the collection of all types of rents and bills had to be done before shutting down other things. It is also no secret that some large countries (USA and India) lack both the bureaucratic and financial infrastructure to deliver timely and sufficient money to most of their people who have lost income because of this shutdown. Even those who have done a far better job in this regard (Denmark, Canada, UK etc) are still half-assing it by not covering all their people and cancelling economic rents. Bad as these things are, these are not their biggest failures- so far.

In my opinon, the single biggest failure (thus far) has been the complete lack of any exit plan- something which Kim Iversen alluded to in one of her many videos. Any politician, bureaucrat or “credentialed epidemiologist” who cannot present a definitive and feasible exit strategy from this thoughtless lockdown is not living in the real world. While there will be ample opportunity to dunk on politicians and bureaucrats later on this post (or series), let me start by exposing the utter incompetence of all those “credentialed epidemiologists” who staff the public health departments of western countries. You know who they remind me of.. WW1 generals. If you have read a significant amount of history, you will be aware that the vast majority of generals in WW1 on both sides were epic disasters and clusterfucks whose decisions caused far more casualties than if they hadn’t been born. But why were they such massive disasters? Well it has to do with how they ended up in their positions and careers prior to 1914.

See.. for almost 50 years prior to WW1, there was no large scale warfare in western Europe. The only real action most soldiers and generals in that part of world saw from end of Franco-Prussian War in 1871 to the start of WW1 in 1914 was restricted to putting down rebellions in colonies and a few small skirmishes in the Balkans. Therefore, an entire generation of western generals had never faced anything beyond dark-skinned tribals with spears and a few old firearms. To put it another way, the upper military ranks of western countries were filled with shysters and dummies who had reached their position via family connections, patronage and bribes, flattery and good social manners etc. Sure.. many of them had attended “prestigious” schools and universities and were capable of accurately reciting back whatever they had learned in them. To put it another way, they were incompetent posers who could nevertheless give the appearance of competence. But reality cannot be fooled and WW1 exposed them in a most unflattering manner.

The current crop of “credentialed epidemiologists” in USA and other western countries are, in many ways, similar to WW1 generals. Here is why.. firstly, neither has actually faced a large scale challenge of this magnitude in their entire careers. Sure, there have been bad influenza seasons and occasional outbreaks of some exotic diseases in Africa or East Asia- but dealing with routine or small-scale problems does not prepare one for making decisions during large scale meltdowns. Secondly, just like their military counterparts a century ago, the bulk of these “credentialed epidemiologists” went to “prestigious” universities where they learned to regurgitate the alleged “wisdom” of those who had fought past wars while also building up their social networks. Most importantly, their training and experience leaves them particularly unequipped to think outside the box of “conventional wisdom” and “established norms”. You know.. in some ways, they remind me of the current democratic party establishment.

But why does any of this matter? The brief answer is as follows: any strategy or plan is always subject to the constraints of the system it operates within and available resources. Sure.. you can always find new ways to unlock resources that were previously unavailable or partially bypass existing constraints, but in the end the feasibility of any given plan is dictated by what exists and is available at that time. Let me explain that concept with a couple of examples- the stalemate of trench warfare in WW1 was ultimately broken by using shock-troop tactics by Germans and combined arms operations by the other side- but both approaches, though new, were extensions of what was feasible at that time. Similarly, in WW2- the development of jet aircraft made it possible to fly faster, V1 and V2 demonstrated that cruise and ballistic missiles were not pipe dreams. However, once again, they were extensions of what was feasible at that time.

My point is that physical, logistical and technological feasibility of any strategy or plan of action is central to success- whether you are waging war or trying to control a pandemic. With that in mind, let us talk about something almost every commentator in mainstream media seems to have missed. Ever wonder how you can motivate people to follow a plan of action which might be painful in short-term, but potentially rewarding in long run? The more delusional of you might think that fear would work. However any close reading of history shows that fear by itself, at best, can only buy you a short time (weeks to months). So what else can? The answer is hope.. specifically hope for a better future. In other words, a leader with a reasonably feasible plan to overcome whatever adversity they are facing will always motivate people to go along for a far longer time than somebody who is using only fear. Hope trumps fear. With that in mind, let us go through their stupidities, not necessarily in order of importance.

1] ‘Social distancing’ and shutting down most of economy is unworkable over any period longer than a few weeks. Even countries which provide far more generous direct monetary support to their population than USA have been either unable/unwilling to provide full income replacement. Consequently, any shutdown that goes on for more than a few weeks will definitely have very nasty downstream and knock-on economic effects. But why does this matter? Well.. here is why. SARS-2 aka COVID-19 has a maximum fatality rate of about 1.5% in populations which conduct extensive testing + factoring in asymptomatic or very mildly symptomatic patients who recovered (not counted in official positive numbers). Compare this to massive and inevitable job loss in the service sector due to ‘social distancing’ guidelines and the inevitable closure of many small business.Long story short, shutting down economy for more than a few weeks gives results in unemployment rates reaching 30% and beyond. Note that this will be on top of all the other problems caused by many people being unable to pay rent and other bills.

To put it bluntly, the number of severely pissed off people who are unemployed and in poverty will exceed the potential number of who might die by a minimum of over 20 times. Continuing the bullshit charade of ‘social distancing’ and shutdowns until we develop an effective vaccine a year or more from now is not a viable option, regardless of what dumbfucks such as Faucci or Bill Gates want to to believe. We are already seeing lineups of thousands (who own cars) in many american cities to use food banks- and this is just the beginning. Let me remind you that similar combinations of unemployment and non-existent safety nets have, in the past, led to the rise of people such as Mussolini and Hitler. Unless the “credentialed epidemiologists” come up with a viable plan to reopen the economy real soon, things will develop a momentum and direction of their own- in ways that are not controllable.

2] ‘Social distancing’ and ‘flattening the curve’ loses its utility after a few weeks. Slowing the spread of a highly contagious but not-especially-lethal disease (in the absence of effective treatments or vaccines) for more than a couple of months merely prolongs the outbreak. While such measures can buy us a few weeks (at the beginning) to get things in order, find a better protocol for treatment or develop better measures to protect the most vulnerable groups etc- it cannot stop the inevitable. This becomes much more relevant once you understand that excess deaths due to ignoring other diseases and conditions, because of a misguided focus on SARS-2, will keep on increasing and quickly eclipse the extra mortality due to the later. People don’t stop having heart attacks, strokes, needing anti-cancer therapy, requiring elective surgery or receiving treatment for other acute and chronic conditions because there is a moderate pandemic of some sort. Anything which takes resources away from other medical issues will increase total mortality.

To make matters more interesting, most people above 80 who require incubation due to severe presentations of SARS-2 don’t make it- at least with currently used therapeutic interventions. This groups also makes up the majority of deaths due to that disease. At some stage, people will start asking whether intensive therapeutic interventions in severely ill people over a certain age is desirable given that it takes those resources away from people with far more treatable disease conditions. In wretched countries such as USA and India, the loss of income in a system without a decent safety net will cause additional problems such as many people being unable to purchase medications, seek medical help or even buy food. Do not, even for a minute, believe the idiots who are trying to tell you that such deprivations won’t cause widespread and violet social unrest.

Since this post is already close to 1700 words, I will stop now. In the next part we will talk about why legal enforcement of ‘social distancing’ and shutdowns are going to cause far more problems than you realize- especially after next two weeks. Will also go into why the fear of looking bad due to covid-19 deaths after shutdown is lifted might cause decision paralysis among the “credentialed” leading to further collateral damage. Might also go into the scientific and clinical evidence behind using Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine to treat SARS-2 in early stages of disease. Here is a quick spoiler, there is considerable evidence that both drugs are very effective at reducing the number of those who require hospitalization and ICU care, but only if given within first few days of initial symptoms- and this actually supports their known mode of action.

What do you think? Comments?

Inept Western Response to COVID-19 Will Result in Public Backlash: 3

April 1, 2020 22 comments

In the previous post, I posted links to two YouTube clips by Kim Iversen in which she makes the point that shutting down economy of most countries for many months, till the COVID-19 virus is contained, is just not feasible. Nor is it possible, without a yet to be developed and efficacious vaccine, to eliminate a highly infectious virus with a low mortality rate which has already spread all around the world. The point she was trying to make is that the bullshit being sold to you as official government response and policies is likely to cause far more collateral socio-economic damage and human deaths than the viral pandemic itself. Some of you might have also noticed that tons of online virtue signalling losers, who have never worked a manual job in their entire life or being anything other than economically secure, were infuriated by her observations and are still busy trying to censor and “de-platform” her.

It is telling that the so-called “left” in western countries is as intellectually bankrupt as the right-wing nutcases they pretend to oppose and claim moral superiority over. This similarity between supporters of the two alleged political extremes will, however, not be surprising to some readers. As you might have also read in some of my other previous posts on this topic (link 1, link 2) the governmental response to this pandemic in most western countries has so far heavily favored corporations and very rich over the majority of their citizens. Even western European countries, who have so far done more for their citizens than USA, have still not formulated an effective response. Now.. I am not saying that they won’t get their shit together eventually, but they have not shown any signs of doing that- so far. Confused at what I am talking about? Let me explain..

1] Let me ask you a series of simple questions. What percentage of all paid jobs in the west are not in the ‘essential’ category AND cannot be performed from home? You know the answer to this one- the majority. Now let us follow on to the related question. How many jobs in these sectors pay more than what you can get on unemployment insurance? The answer tro this one is that a large percentage do pay more than even the generous unemployment insurance paid in west European countries today. Things might have been different decades ago, when it was higher in those countries- but that is a topic for another post. Now, some of you might counter by pointing out the governments in many west European countries are willing to cover 75-80% of the pay (upto a certain amount) of employees for a few months, if their employer does not lay them off. Well.. the key words here are ‘if their employer does not lay them off’.

The point I am trying to make is that even if you assume this economic disruption will not extend past a few weeks, affected employers (aka corporations) will lay off a significant percentage of their employees. In other words, a shutdown which lasts more than a few weeks is going to put a massive number of people on relatively stingy unemployment insurance. This problem is hard to solve in so-called “liberal democracies” where interests and needs of corporations and capitalists always outweigh those of the majority. See.. the government of one-party states such as China can simply order its corporations to keep paying their employees at an acceptable rate, because those corporations know that they will be refunded by government and have no option other than accepting the government’s order. Even other supposedly democratic east Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea can make their corporations and businesses retain employees in ways than supposedly “liberal democracies” cannot or don’t want to.

And the situation get even more dismal once you consider things such as residential and small business rent, auto insurance, utilities and other forms of economic rents on the majority. Do you really think voluntary guidelines and suggestions to postpone rent and similar payments is going to cut it? Do you really think that people on significantly reduced income who don’t have much money saved because they were paid so poorly even before this crisis can afford the upcoming balloon payments on rent, utilities etc while being able to afford all essentials and have enough leftover to to stimulate the depressed economy by spending like they used to? And let us clear about something else, most of the trillions being given to corporations right now are going to end up in secret bank accounts in oversea tax havens- one way or the other. And this holds for large corporations that are based in west Europe as much as those based in USA.

2] No western country (which I am aware of) has thus far implemented a freeze on financial rents of any type. To put it bluntly, most of the paltry unemployment insurance payments (to those who ‘qualify’) are just going to end up in the pockets of those collect rents, credit card payments, auto loans payments etc. In other words, many large corporations will receive government money twice- once directly to “save” jobs and then indirectly as people who could barely afford these rent payments in past have to pass an even larger portion of their income onto those corporations. Now imagine what this will do for the disposable income and ability of those people to support business which do not collect such rents. And this not a trivial question as businesses which do not collect such rents employ many times the number of those that do collect rent. Imagine the effect of such an economic contraction on all those retail stores in malls and other business which depend on them. And it gets worse.

Have you seriously considered the impact of this pandemic on the financial situation of those who work in airlines, airports, tourism, hotels and restaurants. What about those who livelihood is connected to running music concerts and other large cultural gatherings? You do realize that most people working in those sectors aren’t well-paid in the best of times.. right? Have all those idiots who incessantly talk about shutting down the economy indefinitely “until the pandemic is over” understand the ramifications of such actions on the livelihood of a substantial minority of the population? Given that most western countries have still not offered to replace income of their working citizens and small businesses in addition to freezing rents, where do they think all that money necessary for restarting the economy is going to come from? Then again, virtue signalers are not known for their ability to think through their actions.

To make matters more interesting, the mortality rate of COVID-19 (once you factor in people who don’t develop symptoms and recover uneventfully) is less than 1%. And ya.. I am basing that number on countries such as South Korea and Germany who have done a much better job of extensive testing of their population than others such as Italy and Spain. Did I mention that majority of those who die will be more than 80 years old? The point I am trying to make is as follows: At some stage relatively soon (not more than four weeks from now) a lot of people who are younger and not well-paid or compensated for this shutdown will start asking questions about whether ineffectual attempts to stop a disease that kills mostly very old people is worth them losing their livelihoods and future. To make matters worse, if that is possible, the pig-headed response of bureaucrats to such concerns will only inflame this situation further. And it is going to cause far more problems in countries such as USA and UK than Italy or Spain who have the social structure necessary to deal with prolonged economic adversity.

In the next part, I will write about how the lack of realistic plans for controlling this virus or mitigating its effect and reopening economy will make the situation far worse than it has to be. Might also write about how this pandemic will diminish the already decreasing the direct and indirect power of USA (and west in general) outside their borders.

What do you think? Comments?

YT Clips about Problems with Current Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

March 28, 2020 27 comments

Here are a couple of interesting YouTube clips about the absolute inadequacy, and highly magical thinking underlying, current official responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first clip, Kim Iversen, correctly makes the case that the virus in question is already so well distributed in global human population that it is impossible to contain it without an effective vaccine- which won’t be available for at least a few months or a year. Her point is that you just cannot shutdown entire countries without very serious, and far worse, collateral damage to the lives of everybody else and the economy. It seems she got a lot of flack from virtue-displaying dumbfucks aka modern western nosy leftists aka proto-SJWs for pointing out the obvious.

Clip #1: Is THIS Really Our Strategy?

The second clip is about whether we should do a cost-benefit analysis for measures to control this pandemic, especially given its rather low mortality (at the population level). She correctly points out the hospitals and doctors who spend all their time on trying to help COVID-19 patients are doing so by neglecting others with much worse illness- from heart attacks and strokes to cancers. She also points out that short of shutting down the world economy till we develop a vaccine is a really bad idea with even infinitely worse consequences. Similarly the bullshit idea known as “social distancing” does not help in the long term- and, in fact, might make acquisition of herd immunity much harder. Some of you might like it, but she is correct. FYI- one of my degrees is in Microbiology and a lot of the stuff pushed by so called “experts” about controlling this pandemic has always sounded like a lot of wishful aka magical thinking to me.

Clip # 2: Plan B For #COVEXIT

What do you think? Comments?

Inept Western Response to COVID-19 Will Result in Public Backlash: 2

March 24, 2020 38 comments

In the previous post of this series, I promised to write about how the poorly thought shutdowns in combination with inadequate income support will likely cause epically bad public reactions all over USA in the next two to three weeks. Let me quickly update that prediction by saying that the bad public reactions to shutdowns in countries doing an even shittier job of income support, such as India, will be worse. Having said that, there will be far more public anger and discontent in this country than any other major developed country. So let us start talking about the many reasons that thoughtless governmental reaction to this pandemic is likely to discredit both them and other associated institutions even further.

1] One of the most important lessons that western governments have not learned is that, over past three decades, an increasing distrust of them by public as well as vastly increased flow of information makes lying a really bad choice. See.. it was far easier for governments to lie during first half of 20th century because mass media was new and people had not become so cynical and atomized. For example, analysis of the absolutely pathetic quality of military leadership during WW1 took over a decade to even begin entering into the sphere of public conversation. Something similar occurred with WW2 where it took almost two decades for critiques about it (especially for the “victorious” side) to start entering into popular culture. Public critiques about Vietnam war took a few years, Gulf War 1.0 about 2 years, Gulf War 2.0 less than a year.

But how is any of this relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic? Well.. by now I am sure you must have heard or read screeds by numerous media busybodies about how even young people can die from COVID-19 infection. This bullshit usually takes the guise of some breathlessly retweeted article about how one or two under-40s died of it in Italy or Spain, or how some unnamed doctor is tweeting about how there are many young people in the ICU because of respiratory symptoms due to this infection. But the hard data (graphed in this tweet) tell a very different story. To put it bluntly, less than 1 in 500 people under 50 years of age with symptomatic COVID-19 infection of any type (fever, cough to respiratory distress) verified by PCR -based tests end up dying. Even those under 60 experience a mortality rate of somewhere between 0.4 to 1.3%.

These patterns holds irrespective of country or continent. Don’t forget that a good percentage of infected people either don’t become symptomatic or the symptoms are mild or vague enough for them to not seek medical attention or testing. To put it another way, it is realistic to assume that the mortality rate for people with COVID-19 infection who under 50 is below 1 in 500 and likely closer to 1 in 1000, once you factor in the untested asymptomatic (or mildly symptomatic and untested) individuals. The same is probably true for those between 50 and 60 years, with the real mortality rate (for all infected individuals) in this group approaching somewhere between 1 in 200 to 1 in 400. Officials pretending that mortality is not low in individuals under 60 is going to hurt their public credibility- when they need it the most.

2] Now let us talk about the topic of money, or more specifically how most people are going to have enough money to survive let alone pay bills during this shutdown. Given that the economy and most jobs in western countries is based on mass consumption, it is darkly comic to see that not one government (even among the supposedly socialist nordic countries) seems to have a fucking clue about how they plan to replace the income of every person in their country. Yes.. you heard that right! Every person, not just every person who can file an unemployment claim. This is especially important since a pretty sizable minority of people under 40 in those countries do not have regular well-paying jobs. Given that this group is also the one least affected by COVID-19, any decrease in their already meager lifestyle will make them ask questions about the utility of boomers and older people- to put it mildly. Did I mention that western countries are already socially atomized and most of them just don’t care about old people.

Even paying 80% of the salary of those not yet been fired from jobs is insufficient. And I am also pretty sure that the neoliberal mindset which pervades political and bureaucrat types in these countries will not consider a worthwhile universal basic income (albeit, temporary) until it is too late. To put it bluntly, any governmental measure to replace lost income which does not actually put enough money in the pockets of people by mid-April in USA and mid-May in most European countries is going to be basically useless- as far as the longer term is concerned. Many idiots like to believe that crisis bring people together, however a reading of history suggest that this occurs only when the crisis is well-manged by governments in charge. Don’t believe me.. just read about what happened in the aftermath of WW1, where even countries that were on the winning side (Italy, Spain, many countries in Eastern Europe) experienced long-term civil strife which led to authoritarian governments. That is why so many dictators arose in 1920s and 1930s.

This is even more relevant today since the 2008 global financial crisis destroyed the faith of many people (especially those under 40) in the previous systems and its institutions. There is a reason why Trump is the president and Bernie can get donations from millions of supporters. Expect the trend of people under 40 (and even 50) distrusting institutions to increase, not decrease. Should also point out that a pretty significant number of those under 40 don’t have kids and family and are therefore likely to go much further than those who might have something to lose. It does not help that an open-ended shutdown of most parts of economy is a very bad idea, even when faced by something like pandemic. People will not come together in solidarity if there is no light at end of tunnel and have nothing to gain by playing nice.

Let me spell that out a bit more clearly. See.. unless most under 40s (and under 50s) see a much better future at end of this particular tunnel, they will stop complying and playing nice with the system- especially if they see no compensation for the loss caused by measures which might reduce the mortality among boomers and older people. And you can’t blame them- what do they have to lose? It should also be noted that social atomization in western countries has long since reached levels where majority of people don’t really care about their old parents. Now try making people care about the welfare of old people to whom they are not related. This is also why I believe that Trump’s idea of slowly opening economy will get far more public support than most LIEbrals realize, even if doing so resulted in the death of many old people.

Will write more in next part about why Trump’s idea of opening the economy much sooner than recommended by “credentialed experts” might actually be one of his best brainfarts. And yes, he is absolutely right to ask whether the human loss and ruin caused by shutting down the economy is worth the lives saved by controlling this specific open-ended but low-mortality pandemic.

What do you think? Comments?

Inept Western Response to COVID-19 Will Result in Public Backlash: 1

March 22, 2020 25 comments

Initially, I considered making this the next post in my previous series about how the coronavirus pandemic will cause the most damage to USA. But upon further thinking, I realized that while the USA is going to suffer the most direct and indirect damage from this pandemic, so would most other western countries- if on a smaller scale. Then it hit me.. the most important reason behind why the western countries would suffer far more damage than east-Asian counterparts has a lot to do with differences in how government is structured (and works) in those two systems. The west, especially in past four decades, have become truly capitalist in that the needs and demands of those who have capital (corporations and very rich) supersede those of everybody else. In contrast, east-Asian countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan etc are not capitalist in the same way as western counties, because the demands and needs of society will frequently supersede those of their moneyed classes. Let me explain..

1] Initially, the provincial administration in Hubei tried to first minimize and then cover-up the impact of this outbreak, but failed. Once this became obvious, the central government in China just stepped in put and put incredible amounts of physical and monetary resources to control the outbreak. Most importantly, they did it without any concern to the cost of doing so or potential economic losses which their own moneyed class might suffer. To make a long story short, they put the welfare of majority above the needs and demands of their moneyed class. Their ability to marshal resources to get personal protective gear to affected areas, stop price gouging, maintain law and order, ensure people are fed and taken care of during the ensuing lockdown, remove affected people into quarantine, start dozens of clinical trials is very impressive. Most importantly, they let people who understood the problem (medical experts in infectious diseases) make all important decisions rather than let commercial interests and local capitalists hinder or dilute their recommendations for controlling the outbreak.

But they did not stop at just epidemiological measures to control this outbreak. Soon after the central government got involves, it ordered banks to stop collecting mortgage and loan payments and well as made sure that utilities stopped collecting bills. They made sure that people did not have to worry about pay rents or not having enough money for food and other necessities. To that end, they poured hundreds of billions (at least) into their economy to make sure that people kept getting paid even when they could not work due to being under lockdown. They went so far to make sure that food was regularly delivered to apartment buildings in areas under lock-down and that important functions such as garbage collection, food transport etc were not interrupted. My point is that the Chinese government did a lot to make sure that its own people (at least the majority) did not suffer from the consequences of not being able to work or move about freely when under lockdown because of the outbreak. To summarize, they did everything a competent government which cared for its own citizens would have done.

2] Now compare this to the shitshow currently playing out in western countries. First, they were delusional enough to believe that the outbreak would not spread to the west. This was also when their presstitutes were busy writing editorials about how China’s response was either too much, too little or otherwise “not correct”. They also spent the next two months doing almost nothing useful such as developing and distributing diagnostic tests etc. Then some of these idiots were spending time fantasizing about how this outbreak would destabilize China or Iran. Of course, China has never cared about what some idiots in declining western countries have been saying about them for decades. I remember how even two weeks ago, many credentialed losers in the field of biomedical research in west were busy writing editorials about how China’s approach to testing any drug which might have some therapeutic effect in those patients was a bad idea. We now know who was right, don’t we?

But it gets worse. When it became obvious that the virus had reached and was spreading in parts of northern Italy, governments in the EU were more concerned with potential losses suffered by their capitalist minority than the health of the majority. It does not take a genius to figure out that a sharp but brief shutdown of northern Italy along with a simultaneous massive increase in testing (perhaps with kits imported from South Korea) could have prevented much of the spread we are now seeing in Europe. While Italy, Spain and some other European countries have since implemented such socialist ideas such as freezing mortgage, utility, loan and in some cases rent payments, along with income support, it took them much longer than China to take these obvious steps. My point is that they could done this much earlier and with far better outcome, but a combination of magical racist thinking, obsession with interests of capitalist minority and general lack of competent people in their bureaucracies prevented them from making the right decisions at right time. But, at least, they are finally catching up with reality.

3] The response in USA has, thus far, been the biggest shitshow of them all. And let us be honest about something else- Trump’s contribution to this farce is minor, at best. Many features of the american system which contributed to this farcical response predate Trump, in many cases by a least a couple of decades. The current round of downsizing in public health institutions began under Obama- not unlike putting brown children in cages. Similarly, many governmental programs for developing drugs to treat emerging infectious diseases have been downsized for almost a decade now. Also, institutional sclerosis which prevents the government or companies from trying out new ideas under extreme circumstances has been a feature of biomedical research in USA for over two decades. We also cannot forget how concentrating research money into a few “prestigious” universities filled with mediocre credentialed but highly politically connected researchers has destroyed the quality of research in this country.

The response in USA to this pandemic has similarly been pathetic and comically inept. They have closed down the livelihood of over 100 million people (most of whom live paycheck to paycheck) without offering them prompt economic relief in the form of no-strings attached governmental money. They are still pretending that young people have the same risk of death from infection as boomers- something, which is going to backfire real soon. They are trying to bail out corporations without making sure that average people are bailed out first. They have offered no timeline for the return of normalcy. They have offered no hope to people in the form of of-label use of drugs which might reduce mortality in high-risk groups. Trump promoting Hydroxychloroquine or Chloroquine + Azithromycin to reduce viral loads and thus mortality is the probably the only good thing that has come out of the government, so far. And ya.. there is enough evidence that these drugs have some therapeutic effect- especially if given early in course of disease.

In the next part, I will write about how the poorly thought out shutdowns in combination with inadequate income and other support for most people will likely cause epically bad public reactions all over USA in the next two weeks. And yes, I am willing to bet that the legislative critters in Washington DC won’t be able to get their shit together and pass something that will stave off the beginnings of widespread social unrest in about two weeks. FYI- two weeks is about the length of time most people in USA can go without a paycheck. Did I mention that public trust in institutions (governmental or private) has never recovered since global financial crisis of 2008.

What do you think? Comments?

USA Will Likely Suffer the Most Damage from Coronavirus Pandemic: 2

March 18, 2020 24 comments

In my previous post, I wrote about how structural characteristics of the american economy and long-standing institutional decay will likely result in USA suffering the maximum damage from the Coronavirus pandemic. In it, I also promised to talk about other related issues which make USA especially vulnerable to the direct and indirect damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. These include the lack of a usable social safety net, staffing of nursing homes and elder care in general by precariat workers, ideological unwillingness of government to directly workers for lost earnings especially if they are temporary and part-time, the risk of shortages of medicines, chemicals, electronic stuff etc caused by temporary disruption of supply chains in China. So let us dive right in by starting with the issue of a social safety net, or more precisely its lack, in USA.

1] Even the most delusional ‘murican would agree that the social safety net in this country is very meager compared to what exists in other developed countries. While most west-European countries once had similar attitudes towards social safety nets, things changed a lot after WW2. There is a reason why the average European after 1945 decided that working under conditions similar to those found in USA today was unacceptable. And let us be honest about something, the European rich were (and are) not better human beings than their American counterparts. They just had to go along with what the majority in those countries wanted after WW2, or risk losing it all. However, since the USA experienced a long-boom in the aftermath of WW2 (1945-1975) most of its workers never experienced the socio-economic pressures which led to creation of the modern welfare state in European countries.

To make a long story short, socialism never took root in post-WW2 USA because the median american worker in the first three to four decades did not live through prolonged bad times. And this is also why all this current talk of socialism in USA only began after the majority experienced a full decade of stagnation and decline in aftermath of 2008 global financial crisis. So what does all of this portend for the public reaction to the fallout of this ongoing crisis. Well.. let me put it this way. Unemployment rates of over 20% (maybe even north of 30%), even if short-lived, are unworkable in a system without a decent social safety net and where the median person cannot afford to miss even a single paycheck because they have less than 500 dollars in the bank. Things will get very ugly in this country if the government cannot drop a couple of grand of ‘helicopter money‘ per household within the next two-three weeks.

2] To Trump’s credit, he is clever enough to see that this problem and seems to have embraced the idea of ‘helicopter money’. As I have mentioned many times in the past, He may not be a genius (to out it mildly) but the guy is pretty street-smart and is very ideologically flexible when he feels the need to save his behind. Mark my words, he will even channel FDR if necessary to keep the angry mob way from him. Ironically, it is loser establishment democrats such as Pelosi, Schumer etc who are talking about fiscal restraint, “deficits” and “means testing”. To be quite blunt- if Trump is successful with getting the ‘helicopter money’ thing done, along with massive stimulus for especially affected sectors of economy, democrats can forget winning anything let alone the presidency in 2020. Also, let me remind you that Obama did nothing along those lines in 2009 or 2010. And that is why he barely scraped by to win in 2012.

It does not help that between trying to nominate a used-car salesman with dementia (Joe Biden) as their candidate and shouting about Russia, Putin and Ukraine for over three years, they have not done anything big to actually convince potential new voters to vote for them in 2020. Their so-called “victory in the 2018 mid-terms was only possible because Trump was stupid enough to try repealing ‘Obamacare’ without replacing it with a better system. And in case you didn’t notice it, he has learned from that mistake. In my opinion, what happens in USA in the next few months depends on whether Trump can deliver somewhere between 2-4 k to most american households by mid April- at the latest. If he can do that + properly bailout major sectors hit by indirect effects of this pandemic- he will win in 2020. If not, he will be reviled for a long time.

3] Regardless of what he does within next 2-3 weeks, the american economy will enter a steep recession with economic contraction of somewhere between 15-20% in next few months. And no.. these are not the feverish dreams of somebody who wants to see USA fall, but conservative figures floated by people working in supposedly “respectable” banking institutions. I would not be surprised if the economic contraction (and unemployment rate) reached 30% for almost a year. This is great depression territory and much more deeper as well systemic than the GFC of 2008. You know something else, mass unemployment in a country with a functional social safety net at that time was a very important factor for the rise of Hitler to power. And not just him, since almost every strongman of the 1920s-30s (from Mussolini and Franco to many others in East-European countries came to power in the aftermath of mass unemployment and disillusionment with existing institutions and the status quo.

Since we are already close to a thousand words, I will write about the other issues raised in this post in a subsequent part of this unintentional series.

What do you think? Comments?

USA Will Likely Suffer the Most Damage from Coronavirus Pandemic: 1

March 14, 2020 45 comments

Some of you will remember that I have previously written four previous posts (link 1, link 2, link 3 and link 4) on the ongoing global coronavirus outbreak. Consider this post as the next part of that unofficial series. And yes.. there is a specific reason why I am not making it into an official series, yet. The situation is still evolving and could take a number of highly consequential turns. For example, it is possible that one or more of presidential candidates (Trump, Biden, Sanders) might catch COVID-19 and pass away by election day. Imagine the impact on political scene if Dementia Joe, who also has a long-standing cardiac arrhythmia (atrial fibrillation), dies within the next month. So let us now talk about the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on USA- which I predict will suffer the most damage (direct and indirect) of any country.

1] It is, now, almost a given that there will be an economic recession in this country within the next three months. Sure.. Trump’s fucking up things will make it worse, but it would have been pretty bad even if a semi-competent loser such as Obummer was in office. One cannot just shut down or reduce the activity of so many businesses sectors (airlines, hotels, other tourism related business, restaurants, shops etc) without causing a serious economic downturn. Unlike during previous eras, most jobs in this country are now in the service sector. Did I mention that these jobs offer low job security and poor pay? To make a long story short, most people in the service sector and other business dependent on it are not going to get paid soon- which is a problem since over 60% of people in this country don’t have enough savings to cover their next month’s rent or mortgage payment. And it gets worse.

2] As many of you know, the so-called ‘gig economy’ which flourishes by exploiting ‘independent contractors’ has become a fixture of life in many larger cities over past decade. While these “jobs” are often not the only source of income for those who perform them, they often provide the extra money necessary for many people to “participate in the consumer economy”. So even if ‘Uber’ guy also drives for a regular Taxicab company, any reduction in his expected income from rise-sharing services is going to fuck with his ability to pay bills on time, let alone keep spending on stuff he would normally buy. But the numbers in the ‘gig economy’ pales in comparison to those employed as ‘independent contractors’ by large companies. These ‘contractors’ are often employed by businesses who themselves are dependent on contracts from large companies such as Google, FakeBook, Amazon, Walmart and yes.. even your local hospital, university, school etc.

3] Some democrat cultists (MikeCA?) will try to tell you that the Obummer administration would have done an infinitely better job than the Trump administration. But it is that really true? While the Obummer administration did face some pandemics such as the influenza pandemic of 2009, there is no way to accurately predict how they would have would responded to such a pandemic. See.. COVID-19, unlike Ebola or MERS, is far easier to spread. While it is likely that the Obummer administration would have behaved more professionally, it is unlikely this would have somehow translated into better policy. If you don’t believe me, just look at how that administration handled the foreclosure crisis in 2009-20210 or how it kept pushing outsourcing and globalization even when it was obvious that those policies were screwing over their voter bases. So ya.. there is no definitive evidence that a Obummer administration would have done screwed up any less- even if they would have acted more “professionally” while doing so.

4] Let us now talk about how the defects inherent in the american “healthcare” system, default neoliberal ideology among both political parties and Trump’s obsession with the stock market will fuck things up- even more than they have to be. For starters, consider the issue of testing. Ask yourself a simple question- how can countries such as South Korea and Canada quickly test a pretty high number of people for COVID-19? Well.. the simple answer is that healthcare in both those countries (and every developed country other than USA) is treated as a public good which is highly regulated by the government to make it available (rather than merely “accessible”) to all their people. In contrast, the “healthcare” system is a bureaucratic nightmare full of multiple powerful lobbies whose sole purpose is to extract the maximum amount of money for the least amount of actual healthcare. This intentional design choice makes the system almost incapable of responding or adapting to new challenges and pressures.

Then there is the issue of how people within the system work, or don’t work. See.. in all other developed countries, physicians and other people actually involved in running the system have considerable freedom to make decisions on the fly if conventional approaches don’t seem to be working. For example, in both South Korea and Canada, insurance companies have no role whatsoever in approving tests, treatments in hospital etc. Also the vast majority of hospitals in those countries are not run to make a profit. Consequently, they put the welfare of patients above considerations such as whether some test or medication will get reimbursed. That is why countries such as South Korea were able to put up scores of convenient testing facilities so quickly. However this is not the case in USA even today, and Medicare for all is still considered a pipe-dream by “centrists” such as MikeCA. Moving on to governing ideology..

5] Every developed country other than USA has far more competent governmental bureaucracies because their politicians and populace understand their necessity. However, in this country corporate-funded politicians a good percentage of their brainless subjects are more than happy to go along with the bullshit about governmental bureaucracies being inefficient and “bad”. Guess what.. once you assume that and defund government bureaucracies you will end up with hollow shells of once well-known institutions such as the NTSB and CDC. And this is how you end up with disasters such as the Boeing 737-Max fiasco and, now, the COVID-19 outbreak spiraling out of control in USA. While shills such as MikeCA would like to blame all of this on evil republicans, let me remind you that all the cutting and slashing of governmental bureaucracies which occurred from 1980 to today was largely supported by a bipartisan “consensus”.

Since this post is already above a thousand words, I will leave discussion about other issues such as the lack of a social safety net in this country, the staffing of nursing homes and elder care by precariat workers, unwillingness of government to directly compensate temporary and part-time workers, risk of widespread shortages of products such as medicines, chemicals, electronic stuff etc caused by temporary disruption of supply chains in China, to another post or a new series.

What do you think? Comments?

An Unusual Observation about Ongoing Coronavirus Outbreak in China

February 8, 2020 18 comments

As mentioned in the previous post on this topic, it is my opinion that the coronavirus outbreak in China is far more hype than reality. To be clear, I am not denying that a bit over 700 people are dead from this particular outbreak at the time of writing this post. Then again, a few thousand people die from influenza and its many complications in USA every single year- in a ‘good’ year. My point is that we should look at the actual evidence to make decisions and prognostications rather than let racism and stupidity make them. With that in mind, here is an odd feature of this current outbreak which sorta validates my initial assessment. It began with an observation about the prognosis of 2019-nCov infections outside China.

As some of you might have heard there are over a couple of hundred confirmed infections of this specific virus outside China, but only one death- thus far. So what is going on? Why is the death rate of patients outside China less than 1%? After posing this question on twitter, I got an interesting reply in the form of an attached table- based on available data from two days ago. Have a look at highlighted row- specifically the low death rate of patients in China (0.21 %) outside Wuhan and the province of Hubei. Note that this rate is rather close to that of cases outside China (0.39%). So, what is going on? Why does the fatality rate for this outbreak drop depending on your distance from Wuhan (4.11%), even in the province of Hubei (0.81%)?

Now let us consider and go through a few hypothesis which might provide an explanation for this unusual pattern. But before we do that, let me say something that is obvious but has to be stated for the benefit of delusional white racists. The numbers provided by Chinese government seem to be as accurate as those which would be provided by the american government under similar circumstances. This is bolstered by the fact that this outbreak seems to noticeably less deadly (on a percentage basis) than SARS. Let me remind you that SARS killed 43 people or almost 20% of the people who got infected in Canada and almost all nations with more than 10 cases ended up with mortality rates over 10%. On to the hypotheses..

1] Are people of Chinese ancestry more susceptible to infection by 2019-nCov and die from it? While the overwhelming majority of those infected and dead, so far, are of Chinese ancestry, the significantly lower death rates outside city of Wuhan (but still in Hubei) suggest that ethnicity and race are unlikely to be an important factor. Also, the majority of 2019-nCov cases outside China (to date) have occurred in travelers of Chinese ancestry from China. In other words, there is no real evidence that people of Chinese ancestry are somehow more susceptible to infection by 2019-nCov or die from it. They were just at the wrong place at a bad time.

2] The virus strain inside Wuhan is different, and more lethal, than the one outside that city? While its certainly possible that more than one strain of 2019-nCov is in circulation, the evidence we have so far suggests that all known isolates are extremely similar and have jumped into human hosts very recently. Having said that, it is common for RNA-based viruses such as Coronaviruses to mutate from more lethal strains into less lethal ones which spread more easily. Need I remind you that some species of coronaviruses are among the many which cause the common cold. In other words, it is possible – but there is a much more likely explanation.

3] In my opinion, the most likely explanation is as follows: there are far more milder infections in Wuhan than have been acknowledged. Imagine that only 1 in 10 or 20 patients have symptoms bad enough to seek medical attention. Now this will result in a 10-20 fold concentration of the worst cases in hospitals. If the infection has a death rate of 0.5%. and only the most ill 10% seek medical attention, the recorded mortality rate at hospitals will immediately jump from 0.5% to 5%. It is therefore likely that, over the next few weeks, we will find out that majority of infections caused by 2019-nCov are mild or asymptomatic and only a small percentage get ill enough to seek medical attention. Not sure if this soothes existing worries, creates new ones or both.

What do you think? Comments?

Some Initial Thoughts about the Recent Coronavirus Outbreak in China

January 31, 2020 12 comments

More than one commentator on my previous post wanted me to write something about the recent Coronavirus outbreak in China, especially regarding how bad it really is or might become in the near future. Since useful and concrete information about this outbreak has been overshadowed by a lot of racist mental projections in the declining west, I thought it was a good idea to write down my initial thoughts about the situation. FYI, one of my degrees is in microbiology. So let us talk about about this outbreak, starting with what we know for sure about the virus in question.

1] The Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) behind this outbreak is fairly close in its sequence to one which caused the SARS outbreak in 2003. And yes, it is closer to some known bat coronaviruses, but not others. Also, both SARS and 2019-nCoV almost certainly jumped from bats to human hosts. The odd thing, though, is that most bat species in Wuhan are currently hibernating and the initial outbreak occurred at a seafood market, suggesting that another mammalian species acted as an intermediate host between bats and humans.. perhaps a sick cat, dog etc.

2] Initial sequence analysis of virus samples from multiple patients and comparing them to each other strongly suggests that the jump from bats to humans occurred very recently, mostly likely within the past 2-3 months. Interestingly it seems to bind to the same human protein (for entry into cells) as the coronavirus which caused SARS. Given the fairly high similarity in sequence, same protein used for entry into cells and similar clinical disease produced by 2019-nCov and SARS we can make an educated guess that many other characteristic (infectivity etc) are also similar. Think of 2019-nCOV as a sibling or cousin of SARS.

3] It therefore follows that 2019-nCov is likely to be similar in its infectivity to the one which caused SARS in 2003. While some preliminary analysis by western scientists pretend that the former is more infectious than the later, everything we know about viruses tells us that they are very similar viruses which use the same protein to gain entry into human cells. I do not expect 2019-nCov to be significantly harder to control than SARS. The key word is ‘harder’ as 2019-nCov might end up infecting more people than SARS- but ease of control will be similar.

4] So far, the percentages of 2019-nCov infections ending in death is around 10%, and is similar to what we saw over the entirety of SARS outbreak. It is well known that viral strains which cause severe infections and high rates of mortality evolve into ones that cause mild infections and low rates of mortality because the former burn themselves out due to lack of new hosts. We can therefore expect the mortality and morbidity rates due to this virus to drop over the course of time due to better quarantine (corrals more aggressive strains) and treatment (lower mortality). Some of you might have noticed that the increase in number of deaths is now far slower than the number of confirmed infections- which is a good sign.

5] It is highly unlikely that 2019-nCov was developed by China as a biological weapon for the simple reason that biological weapons are, for the lack of better words, stupid and dangerous. See.. unlike nuclear weapons (which China posses), biological weapons cannot be controlled once unleashed and are likely to kill as many on your side as the other side. This is especially so, if there is no readily available vaccine or decent drugs to treat that infection. Furthermore, modern scientific techniques allow us to track back their creation to a degree that was unimaginable in even as late as the 1980s. Being greedy is not the same as being stupid.

6] Most hype about 2019-nCov has a lot to do with the increasingly rapid decline of the dying west. To make matters worse, it is now obvious that the western system of corporation-controlled capitalism is vastly inferior to the Chinese system of state-controlled and directed “capitalism”. In case you think otherwise, tell me how people similar to Trump (fraudulent right-wing populists) are increasingly getting elected in western countries. Every white idiot (and non-white idiot from subservient countries) expressing public alarm about 2019-nCov outbreak is subconsciously or consciously driven to do so because of a combination of racism and the unspoken recognition that their own system is in terminal decline with no realistic hope of recovery.

7] To be clear, I am not minimizing the potential problems this outbreak could cause. Having said that, the Chinese system is probably the most capable of actually stopping such an outbreak. As mentioned above, having a state-controlled system of governance not beholden to corporations and other short-sighted moneyed interests allows you to get things done and devote resources in ways that are impossible for corporation-controlled “democracies” such as USA, not to mention semi-functional anarchies such as India. You can be certain that Chinese government will things done, regardless of the financial cost and suppression of worthless “human rights”.

What do you think? Comments?