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Posts Tagged ‘declining west’

Initial Thoughts on Real Significance of GameStop Short-Sell Squeeze

January 28, 2021 19 comments

In the past few days the intertubes have been full of news and opinion about the GameStop short-sell squeeze. The very short version is that a lot of normal people who spend too much time on the internet have decided to buy shares of that corporation to raise its price thereby squeezing a couple of large hedge funds who were shorting that particular stock. While this series of events would, as late as 2014, might not have had any long-term significance- we live in 2021. As I have mentioned in more than one of my previous posts, the context and background of events matters far more than the event itself.

Consider the fact that there were many attempts at political assassinations of royals in late 19th century Europe, with more than a few being successful. However only one, in the early 20th century, set off WW1. The key to understanding why all those other royal assassinations did not start a world war while that one did is to appreciate that the later occurred against the background of a peculiar set and mixture of social, economic, political, ideological, geopolitical and technological conditions which did not exist for all those other ones. Or think about how all of numerous revolts within east-European countries in the late- 1940s, 50s and 60s were easily put down by USSR but they were unable to do so in the late-1980s.

My point is that the background against which seemingly a insignificant event plays out make all the difference if it turns out to be a proverbial flash in the pan or presages something much larger. AS many of you know, I have long held the opinion that GFC of 2008 was the official beginning of the end for West. To quickly recap, that event destroyed the faith of people in meritocracy and competence of western ‘elites’ as well as making it impossible for them to return back to their pre-2008 view of how the world worked. The immediate aftermath of that event also marked the point when China’s economy (in real terms) finally surpassed USA.

It is no exaggeration to say that many events which have occurred all over the world since then, including Brexit vote of 2015 and Trump’s election in 2016, would not have occurred without the background of GFC and its persistent second and third order effects. But what does any of this have to do with people on social media banding together to short-squeeze hedge funds trying to make money by shorting shares of GameStop? For starters, consider the background against which this event is occurring and the reaction by ‘elites’ thus far. As most of you know, the background for this event is even darker than the GFC of 2008.

Over the past ten, or so, months a ever-expanding series of very inappropriate reactions by western governments and ‘elites’ to the COVID-19 pandemic have caused unprecedented levels of job and livelihood loss in addition to massive social disruption without any worthwhile effect on the spread of that disease. I would go so far as to say that overreaction and mal-reaction to this pandemic has caused many times the damage caused by it. An increasing percentage of the population of many Western countries has lost all residual trust in the governments that which rule those countries and, far more importantly, the institutions which support them. In this country, there is the additional issue of the 2020 presidential election.

It is no secret than only a minority of republican voters believe the “official” results of 2020 election- and for good reason. Not only did the MSM manufacture an endless parade of fake scandals to damage Trump from the moment he was elected in 2016 but it is now clear that the deep state and large corporations went out of their way to sabotage Trump- even when he tried to do stuff that was actually good. The way internet monopolies conspired with each other to de-platform Trump after January 6 have not helped either and let us not forget that he received almost 75 million votes in 2020. Between that and the government’s extremely ineffectual and disjointed response to the pandemic, it is no surprise that any residual legitimacy of institutions has taken a even larger hit in USA than other western countries.

And let us not even go into how the obvious lies and bullshit peddled by ‘liberal’ institutions from the FDA, CDC, MSM to teacher unions and democrat-led local governments in many states have screwed up things much more than Trump. Long story short, there is a massive and rapidly growing trust deficit among the majority of people in this country towards pretty much every single major institution and all of this is occurring against the background of depression-like economic conditions. Which brings us to the performance of stock market over the past 10 months in contrast to the rest of economy.

As you all know, the trillions of dollars pumped by government into the financial sector and large corporations over past 10 months has caused a massive increase in both their stock prices and wealth. It does not help that this is occurring at same time as the unwillingness of government to do anything worthwhile to help most people. In a previous post, I wrote about how financialization is the cause of brick-and-mortar retail in this country. Now put all of this together and you will understand why hedge-funds trying to short the shares of GameStop, a company which represented the old way of doing business, elicited the response it did. It is not a coincidence that the internet mob went after hedge-funds trying to short shares of AMC- another business representing the older way of doing things.

In my opinion, what we are seeing right now (everything from Brexit 2015 and Trump 2016 to ongoing anti-lockdown protests and riots in many countries +internet driven short-squeezing of hedge funds) represent steps towards a final and irreversible collapse of public belief in, and legitimacy of, institutions in Western countries. All of this is very reminiscent of what happened within east-European countries in the 1970s and 1980s. Think about it.. this country now has a visibly senile leader leading a bunch of equally senile people supported by small army of careerist apparatchiks who have no talent beyond being parasites and hiding their incompetence behind a facade of bullshit wordiness.

What do you think? Comments?

Some Recent Examples of West Losing Touch with Physical Reality

December 14, 2020 13 comments

It is no secret that the so-called ‘West’ is in the midst of a terminal death spiral and there is no shortage of evidence, especially over past two decades, to supports this assertion. We can go over tons of data-points and trends ranging from changes in fertility rates, technological stagnation combined with loss of existing abilities, rise of magical thinking and cults such as environmentalism, centralization of power into hands of incompetent professional managerial class, rapidly rising inequality and many more. While it is possible to keep trudging on in the presence of one or two of these adverse trends, facing them all at once is.. to put it lightly.. not survivable in the medium to loner term. I will now add the knowing and unknowing loss of touch with physical reality to this growing list of adverse trends.

To be fair, the ‘West’ (especially USA) is the not the first empire or culture to have exhibit this particular trend. Indeed, almost every single dying empire and civilization in recorded history has exhibited such behavior pattern. The noteworthy point about this pattern is that it occurs towards the very end of that empire or culture. In other words this is a marker of imminent demise or permanent loss of status. Here are a few examples of such behavior throughout history. Towards the end of the western roman empire, specifically the last 4-5 decades, it became unable to defend even its main cities against repeated sackings by groups who the empire had successfully kept at bay for centuries. While many “academics” pretend that the end was part of a longer trend, we know they are spouting bullshit because the eastern roman empire survived centuries after its western counterpart was distant memory.

But have you ever wondered what the “elites” in western Roman Empire were thinking when all this shit was going around them? Well.. a few saw what was coming and some others tried to change with the circumstances. However a majority of them only paid lip service to the idea of substantive change while believing that all of this would blow over and things would return to the previous status quo. They also came up increasingly elaborate explanations to convince themselves of the validity of their beliefs, even if those beliefs were clearly not congruent with objective reality around them. And they were far from the only dying empire which did so. In the early 20th century and WW1, the Ottoman Empire kept behaving as if everything that was going within their domain and in the course of WW1 was not occurring or as serious as it was.

The same is true for both the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Romanov Dynasty and their courtiers in Russia. In the first few years after WW2, Britain kept behaving as if it still was a global superpower in spite of losing all its major colonies until severe economic and military setbacks forced them to accept reality. It took getting defeated and kicked out of Algeria for France to finally accept that it was just another second-rate western military power. It took decades of defeats at hands of western power for China (century of humiliation) to finally accept that their previous system and status quo was no longer workable. And it gets worse.. a rather large percentage of Indians still haven’t accepted the reality about why they were repeatedly colonized and exploited by foreign empires and continue to labor under delusions that their myths and legends are completely factual. Crazy.. huh.

But what any of this have to with USA and the ‘West’? Well.. a couple of news items within past 2-3 days brought the issue of these countries losing touch with reality to the forefront.

The first one concerns development and recent approval of a vaccine against COVID-19. Yesterday many blue check mark dumbfucks on Twatter were busy claiming that USA was still innovative because it had developed and approved a vaccine against COVID-19 before any other country. Except that this not true. Both China and Russia have approved adenovirus-based vaccines against COVID-19 at least a couple of months ago. In fact the first Chinese vaccine has been already used to vaccinated more than a million people in multiple countries while the Russian vaccine has been used on over 200k people. I should also point out that the adenovirus-based vaccine is far closer to the kinds of vaccines we have some experience with in humans and animals. RNA-based vaccines, like those from Pfizer and Moderna, have never been previously approved for use in humans or animals.

In addition to that, they are deliberately doing slower and more deliberate rollouts to catch rare but severe side effects. Compare that to USA and ‘West’ who want to inject hundreds of millions with vaccines based on new technology for which we have no historical long-term safety data. It is also worth mentioning that China is also developing multiple protein-subunit based, whole-virus based and RNA vaccines and many of these are in Phase II or Phase III human trials as we speak. The way China has gone about developing vaccines shows a far better appreciation for issues such as not betting the farm on one new technology, concern for long-term safety and an appreciation of the logistics of production and deployment. And yet, the vast majority of “intellectuals” and “elites” in USA and ‘West’ are acting as if this reality does not exist. Mind you.. these are the same idiots who have no realistic long-term plan to control COIVID-19 spread in their own countries or just live with it.

The second recent example of western “intellectuals” and “elites” having lost touch with reality comes in the form of their response to the failed test flight of Elon Musk’s latest scam aka the “Starship” prototype. Not only is the name of that chemical-rocket powered launcher supremely delusional, but it also won’t have a significantly higher payload than Saturn V launcher from late-1960s. Yes.. you heard that right! The full-scale and developed version of that ‘Starshit’ will, even under the most optimistic conditions, not put more into low earth orbit than the upgraded Saturn V launchers NASA wanted to build in mid 1970s.. about 45 years ago. As some of you know, the most recent test of a small-scale prototype of that launcher ended in a spectacular explosion also known as a failure.

But this has not stopped many pressitutes, blue checks shitheads on Twatter and many self-anointed “experts” from claiming that a rocket flight which ended in a giant explosion was a great successes. To be clear, almost every aspect of that flight which these “experts” claimed to be a roaring success had been already demonstrated with Falcon 9- especially during some of its developmental flights. If you still believe that this is innovation, then I have a bridge to sell you. But what is especially troubling to me is that so many people who should have known better were going overboard pretending that the delusional emperor was wearing clothes. Given that Musk is not constantly paying these idiots to pretend that his failures are smashing successes, one has to consider the other option- namely, that they are willingly deluding themselves into seeing what they want to believe.

But why do they want to willingly believe in something which is not real. Could it be yet another sign that “elites” in West have lost touch with physical reality?

What do you think? Comments?

Response to COVID-19 Has Exposed Chronic Dysfunction in the West

November 14, 2020 23 comments

While I would love to finish a bunch of my drafts about topics ranging from how the computer revolution of past 20 years has been a failure to why the 1990s was the last good decade for people living in west, we seem to keep coming back to topics such as COVID-19 and Trump. So consider this post as another one in an already long list about the incredibly dysfunctional response by western countries to the COVID-19 pandemic. But how is this one different from the ones I posted over past few months? Well.. because it seems that systemic dysfunction exhibited by western countries has not improved, and in some cases, gotten worse.

1] Have you noticed that even after 8 months, western countries have still not shown the willingness or wherewithal to treat COVID-19 infections in high-risk patients with anti-viral and anti-inflammatory drugs? Let me explain a bit about what I am talking about. See.. based on results of many small and large clinical trials around the world, we know that treatment of COVID-19 patients at higher risk of hospitalization with certain drugs does reduces the risk of hospitalization, ICU usage and death. Furthermore, many of them such as Indomethacin, Doxycycline, Ambroxol or Bromhexine, low-dose Colchicine, Ivermectin are both readily available and fairly safe, especially for short-term use.

Yet no government in the West has even bothered to honestly find out if all the positive results seen in other parts of the world are reproducible. It is noteworthy than many of these reports come from more than one country and were often published at round the same time. There is definitely something going on with these compounds. Of course, these drugs would be most effective in high-risk patients who receive them within the first 3-4 days of symptomatic illness. But almost no large clinical trial in the West is even trying to assess their efficacy in reducing hospitalizations, ICU usage and death. It is as if the establishment in West has no interest in strategies which don’t involve them riding on their favorite hobby-horses.

2] Related to this shortcoming, is the inability or unwillingness to deploy orally available direct anti-viral drugs to treat COVID-19 in high-risk patients as early as possible. As mentioned in at least one previous post, a Remdesivir analog known as GS-441524 has the same degree of efficacy against Coronaviruses as it well-known chemical cousin in addition to being orally available and noticeably less toxic. So why isn’t nobody in West trying to find out if giving this drug (already tested in animals) early in course of disease reduces the risk of hospitalization etc in older patients? What about EIDD-2801, another even more potent and orally available anti-viral compound which has passed toxicity and efficacy tests in animals?

Do you see a trend? It is as if there is no systemic and coordinated effort in the West to treat COVID-19 before people end up in the hospital. The same is true for all those monoclonal antibody cocktails which would be far more useful if they were given to high-risk patients before they get sick enough to be hospitalized. I mean.. look at Trump.. he got the antibody cocktail and anti-viral drug at right time and hence recovered much faster than otherwise. Isn’t it interesting to note that the most aggressive use of medicines to stop high-risk patients from getting worse is occurring in countries such as India, Russia, Malaysia etc rather than the supposedly “advanced” West? What is going on?

3] And it gets worse. Have you noticed that western governments are still pretending that COVID-19 can be controlled or eliminated by a hastily thrown together bunch of measures such as “hard lockdowns”, ineffectual talismans such cloth masks, social distancing and then pretending that the continued rise in cases in spite of implementing these measures is due to poor “compliance” rather than they being close to useless. Have you also noticed that most western governments are pretending that COVID-19 infections in children and adolescents have a higher mortality than the common cold. Also, if you are interested in preventing high-risk teachers from getting infected, why not keep teachers over 50 or 60 at home and let the others go about their normal routine.

They are still pretending that the mortality rates for under-50s is more than 1 in a few thousand. Even the rates for under-60 crowd remain at somewhere between 1 in 500 to 1 in a thousand. Shouldn’t we be therefore devoting resources (such as N95 masks etc) to those at high risk of adverse outcomes such as those above 70 or 80 and in assisted living situations rather than fight the losing battle to stop COVID-19 infections in low-risk people. Hasn’t it become obvious by now, after 8 months, that eliminating COVID-19 from the population by such measures is a fool’s errand. Who are trying to impress with this seemingly unending list of failures?

4] But the crowning glory of their ineffectualness has been their profound inability to come up with a realistic plan to emerge from this self-inflicted crisis. Do you see any government in the West putting forth a realistic plan for dealing from the situation. And no.. ideas centered around daily ‘cheap’ tests for everybody and vaccinating everybody are not realistic as anybody who knows even a bit about error rates in testing and logistics of producing and distributing vaccines knows. Too make matters.. more interesting.. most vaccines being developed in the West are of types which have not been previously used in humans. Yes.. RNA-based vaccines such as those being developed by Pfizer and Moderna have not been previously used in human beings. Nor have those which use adenoviral vectors such as the ones from Astra-Zeneca, CanSino or the Sputnik V Russian vaccine. To put it another way, we are in totally uncharted waters with these vaccines.

I cannot help pointing out that inactivated virus vaccines against COVID-19 are perfectly feasible. Indeed, such vaccines have been used against Poliomyelitis, Hepatitis A, Rabies, Influenza vaccines etc for many decades. Yet for some odd reasons, there are only a few groups developing inactivated virus vaccines for COVID-19. What makes this even more odd is that such vaccines have been successfully tested and used for multiple types of Coronaviruses affecting animals. So why aren’t we using tried and tested methods for vaccine development, which are almost certain to work, in favor of sexy but unproven methods of achieving the same results. And yes.. I am aware that inactivated virus vaccines require boosters, but so do the others being currently tested for COVID-19. Also, what about vaccines based around protein subunits, such as the ‘spike’ protein, another well-known way of developing them.

Since we are already past a thousand words, I am not going to go into the hilarious stupidity and callousness displayed by western governments when it comes to issues such as helping save small businesses, jobs in the most affected sectors, running schools and universities into the ground and much more. Might write a followup part based on responses.

What do you think? Comments?

Some Predictions about Downstream Effects of COVID-19 Shutdown: 1

May 20, 2020 12 comments

Since I have been recently writing a lot of posts about the COVID-19 shutdown (link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4, link 5, link 6), I thought it might be a good idea to write down some more and specific predictions about the downstream effects of COVID-19 shutdown. So here are some of them, in no particular order of importance or significance. Just so you know, most are pretty depressing.

1] As I have mentioned many times in the past, jobs in the service sector dominate the economic landscape of post-industrial western countries. Just think about how many people you know who work in a place which makes a real physical product or processes some raw material vs all those who work at some shop, mall, hotel, restaurant or something similar. But this goes even further, as the largest employers in most towns and cities in this country are either hospitals, universities or school districts. While these more “credentialed” jobs might seem to be something other than service sector jobs- they are just that and you will see why that matters later in this post.

While jobs in the service sector might seem too heterogeneous to be hit by the shutdown and its aftermath, they share some common features that make them especially vulnerable to economic disruption. Firstly, majority of business in the service sector operate on much low margin of profit compared to some other sectors. For example, there is no service sector equivalent of Apple or Microsoft with a few hundred billion dollars stashed into overseas accounts and obscure financial instruments. In other words, consumer sector businesses and employers lack the very deep pockets of corporations in other sectors.

Secondly, as a partial consequence of the first, they are heavily dependent on highly predictable levels of businesses activity and are usually (especially in west) financially over-optimized to the point that they cease to be profitable or even viable when capacity utilization levels are not close to maximum. This is a fancy way of saying that restaurants, bars, hotels, airlines, most shops in malls etc become money pits if they are not operating at close to their maximum capacity for a good part of the year. FYI- this is less of an issue in some Asian countries where the proprietors often own the premises and are not so heavily financially leveraged.

But why does this matter? Well.. because even if they can survive a couple of months of being closed down due to helicopter money from the government, they are just not viable if forced to operate at 25% or 50% capacity for even couple of months. Sure.. restaurants which do mostly takeout (pizza joints, chinese) might survive, but the vast majority will simply close it down because there is no way a sane person would operate, for more than a couple of months, under poorly thought and uncertain regulations made up by bozos without any skin in the game.

And it gets worse.. the service sector is far less monopolized than other sectors of the economy, and the majority of business in it are either small or medium sized. Given that government largess seems to preferentially benefit the large and politically connected in every sector, it is likely.. almost certain.. that many small to medium sized businesses will go bankrupt or close forever. What makes this outcome especially problematic is that those business account for the majority of jobs in that sector. In other words, we will a large rise in long-term unemployment in the very societies which have decided (about four decades ago) to abandon their economies to the “free market” aka financialism and monopolization by choice.

To add insult to injury, the vast majority of people in this sector are under 60 years of age and therefore the least likely to die (less than 1 in 1,000 chance) from COVID-19. And here is what will happen next.. tens of millions will be unable to pay their rents, mortgages, student loans, car loans etc for a prolonged time. Of course, trying to throw so many people on the street and out of their cars will have some very nasty political repercussions- more so because the majority are young. Some of you might say.. but what about unemployment insurance? Well.. that amount paid by most western countries (but especially USA) is not adequate for covering majority of their bills- more so if you live in a medium to large city.

And it gets worse…

2] The whole “social-distancing” and “quarantine” bullshit along with dubious measures such as requiring everybody to wear mask in public perpetuates the atmosphere of a perpetual crisis. I liken these measures to the security theater we saw in USA after 9/11- but with the potential to cause infinitely more economic problems. Think about it.. would you eat out at restaurants with same frequency as before if you server was wearing a face mask and every alternate table was closed off with big stupid stickers? Would you go to a pub as often? What about a movie theater? What about shops in malls pestering you to disinfect your hands every time you walked into them? Would you buy as many clothes as before if you couldn’t try them out in fitting rooms?

What about airlines? would you take a flight as often if you had to deal with all that bullshit? What about vacations? Would you stay at hotels as often even if you still had a job? And all of this security theater for what end? To maybe slow spread of a highly infectious disease with an gross population IFR of less than 0.5% and mostly problematic in people over 70 and 80? A disease that does not cause symptoms bad enough to seek any medical attention in over 90% of those infected. A disease that is functionally asymptomatic in most people it infects? A disease that the vast majority recover from without any therapeutic intervention or long-term sequelae.

The vast majority of disease control measures deployed to stop this pandemic are closer to ritualistic virtue display than good science. Consider for example, face masks. Do they benefit people under 70 to the same extent as those over 70? And given the highly infectious nature of this disease along with very low mortality in most age cohorts, isn’t it a good idea to let non-vulnerable people get the illness and recover from it. thus conferring them immunity than wait for an effective and safe vaccine- which will likely take at least a few months. Now let me ask you another question- do you think I am the only one thinking along these lines?

It is becoming increasingly harder to maintain lock-down in many parts of the world and while those regions might suffer more death at first- it will become increasingly obvious that letting people under a certain age get infected while protecting the more vulnerable minority is the least bad option. Notice I said ‘least bad option’ because there is no realistic good option in the near future. You are really choosing between options that front-load death or those which spread far wider economic misery over a much longer time-scale. Personally, I choose the first and you can be sure that the majority will eventually choose it because the second one sucks far more.

Noe let me ask you a related question- what happens to the credibility of the people and institutions who pushed the second option. As many of you know, it is my opinion that Trump’s rise of power had a lot to the non-recovery of most people from the GFC of 2008 and continued neoliberal policies under Obummer. Imagine what such a crisis and much bigger repudiation of “credentialed” people and institutions would do for the political scene in this country. You might remember that in a previous post I made the case that rise of fascist and strong-men type leaders in continental Europe during 1920s and 1930s had everything to do with high rates of unemployment among men combined with a repudiation of the elites who led them into WW1.

You think Trump is bad? Just imagine the type of right-wing ‘populists’ that will arise in response to these stupid and ruinous lock-down policies. In future posts of this series, I intend to write about the impact of these stupid policies on schools, universities, future of “left”, effects on certain parts of manufacturing sector, municipal bonds, velocity of money, effect on rates of drug use and much more. But before I finish this post, let me say something else. If you think that a crisis of this extraordinary magnitude will make corporate-owned western governments question their faith in neoliberalism- think again.

And another thing.. this crisis will destroy whatever residual faith people in many countries still have in the WHO- but that is the topic of another post.

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?