Free The Animal

Coronavirus #3: Denise Minger is Thorough But Misses the Boats

Previously on Free The Animal:

For those unaware of Denise Minger, she’s an English major who moonlights as a statistics geek-nerd.

Laugh all you like, but she’s to be taken seriously. She splashed on the diet and health scene in the summer of 2010 (wow, 10 years already!) by, of all things, reaching out to me. She had zero audience and had done the most unlikely thing. She took on T. Colin Campbell and his The China Study in a thorough post using the same raw data Campbell himself used (it’s not a book review): THE CHINA STUDY: FACT OR FALLACY? So, I promoted the hell out of it, this blog being much more popular back then. And, I induced many others to do so as well. All together, we helped to elevate her to paleo Superstar of the Universe for a while. Well deserved it was and shall be. That’s how universals work.

As a result of her newfound fame, youth, adorableness, and geek-extraordinaireiness, she got a number of speaking gigs for some years, as well as a book deal, Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health. Good for her. Nothing to take away from that whatsoever.

After some years out of the scene and limelight—assuming there’s any such thing, anymore—the ‘rona has motivated her to once again come forth with a shiny new blog post: SOME THOUGHTS ON THINKING CRITICALLY IN TIMES OF UNCERTAINTY, AND THE TRAP OF LOPSIDED SKEPTICISM: CORONASPIRACY THEORY EDITION.

But then COVID-19 happened, and if that isn’t the biggest cosmic plan-changer that ever did plan-change, then I don’t know what is. So we’re gonna roll with it. And at the risk of writing something that’ll already be outdated by the time I hit publish (such is the nature of current events), I’m hoping this post will stay evergreen (or at least ever-chartreuse) by sheer virtue of its universal core theme: navigating conflicting, emotionally charged narratives in which objectivity behooves us but doesn’t come easy. (emphasis added)

I said it was thorough. What I mean by that, though, is that as thorough as it is, I find it quite pedantic, the formal word for mental masturbation. Sorry, Denise. Her post is essentially an exercise in debunking the debunking. But, no debunking of debunking supports the original premise (that COVID-19 is a big deal, that it’s necessarily worse than a typical flu season—that kills 300,000 – 650,000 annually—that it’s containable—unlike the thoroughly uncontainable: common rhinovirus or coronavirus head colds, influenza, or pneumonia—a vicious, contagious killer of 2.5 – 4 million annually … including children under 5 … 2 million per year … the chief killer of kids under 5 in the world … 15 – 20% of deaths of under-5 are from pneumonia. Did I mention it’s contagious? How many of you wear masks around young children TO SAVE LIVES, DAMMIT!!!???). You know the bromide. “You can’t put a price on a human life.”

Pneumonia kills more children than any other illness – more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. Over 2 million children die from pneumonia each year, accounting for almost 1 in 5 under five deaths worldwide. Yet, little attention is paid to this disease.

https://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/documents/9280640489/en/

Let me cover my critique in two general parts. But first, my development of the gut feel causing me to dismiss the panic and hysteria early on that was the result of kind of being “near the action.” I think it’s important to have my perspective that’s not simply anger over all that’s going on. Frankly, there’s no place I’d rather be to endure this than where I am, in the company I keep.

… I left the USA one bright morning of January 14, 2020, bound for Qindao, China from SFO on a wide-body flight full of Chinese people. After a 15-hr flight and 3-hr layover in an airport crowded with Chinese people, onto the same plane … full of Chinese people … for a 4-hr flight to Kunming where I would spend 9-hrs just walking around an airport crowded with … Chinese people.

The final leg, a flight from Kunming to Chiang Mai, Thailand in the north was on … you guessed it … a plane full of Chinese people. And if that’s not Chinese enough for you, it so happens that the apartment I’d rented for a month was in the Nimmanhemin district of Chaing Mai and guess where all the Chinese hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and other such stuff is, packed with tens of thousands of … Chinese people? Yep, Nimman.

By this point, no mask wearing was going on in terms of widespread adoption. It was a few days, maybe a week, before I heard of this “novel” coronavirus, and my spidey sense went up. I already had awareness that corona viruses had been with us forever (discovered in the 1930s), just like rhino viruses (both cause common colds—you’ve all had the ‘rona, probably a bunch of times). Then I see people on social media, people IRL, and news media beginning to give great attention to it, and then I see it almost immediately become politicized and I went, ‘uh, oh, Impeachment 3.0‘. And that’s still my view. Politicization, combined with a mature social media that almost everyone participates in, along with global access to smartphones, even amongst poor people.

Here was the first thing I said about it, January 25, 2020.

So the CDC info I looked at says around 97% of those who contract this Corona virus will recover without medical attention. Given the symptoms, I can’t see how it would be distinguishable from the common cold for most.

The ones (few) dying are the same as it always is. The old and otherwise highly health compromised.

So what’s the hand wringing hysteria all about?

Almost three months later, I’m still asking essentially the same question, and plus, the numbers keep revising downward. Ironically, this was about the same time as, in retrospect and learning its symptoms, I’m quite confident—though not certain—that I had it. Weirdest “cold” ever, since there was no nasal issues. Fever, ache, mucous cough 2-3 days morphing into dry cough. I sought no medical treatment, just used some OTCs. I got a test here at the international hospital a couple of weeks back, which came back “undetected” for COVID-19. I’ll sure be anxious to get an antibody test when available.

It would take two months from my arrival in Thailand on January 16 for the shit to hit the fan in Southeast Asia at about the time I sensed the hysteria waning—which I had chalked up to the tens of thousands of Chinese being in town, but who had all since departed. My visa expired March 15, I had a visa for Vietnam, and my flight got cancelled. I did some scrambling which didn’t work, so checked back into the same hotel room from which I’d checked out of 2 hours prior.

Went to the immigration office the next day where a 4-hr wait and a $60 fee got me a 7-day extension, no additional penalty for an overstay. The next day, I rented a car, loaded up the Thai-GF-Unit, and did the 4 1/2 hour drive straight north to Mae Sai, right on the Myanmar border with Tachileik. There’s a provision there where Myanmar will give you a 1-day entry permit so you can do what’s called a “visa run.” You get your Thai exit stamp, enter Myanmar, mill about, shop, eat, and re-enter Thailand with a new 30-day visa (which can be extended for another 30 days—4-hr wait, $60).

But the shit has only begun to hit the fan. ONE HOUR before I arrived at the border, Myanmar suspended entry permits—everyone has to have an official visa. But finally something went right. I’m a clever fuck. I sit in a cafe, start searching about on my iPhone, and voilà, there’s a nicely functioning Burmese website for e-visas, plus an expedite service for 24-hr processing. Takes about 20 minutes to get through it, $56 fee, and I wait, intending to stay the night if need be. But I had the visa within 1 1/2 hours, got it printed, and to the shock and amazement of both Thai and Burmese border agents, I got the job done. I was the first to circumvent intensions. Clever fuck.

The next day, Myanmar eliminated Tachileik as a point of entry for the e-visa.

Then the next day, the cascading shutdown shitstorm saga in Thailand begins. First it was the bars, massage parlors, nightclubs, boxing arenas movie theaters, etc. Essentially, anyplace where people congregate and have fun. For about a week, that was the extent of it. Restaurants were still open, but tourists were leaving in droves…

I grabbed a flight to Koh Samui. Word was there was still life happening there, and there was—until the next day after arrival when all alcohol service in service establishments was suspended. And people were leaving in droves. By day eight, I was one of two rooms occupied in a 200-room beach resort. At least the beach was still open, the pools as well.

So I said effit, if I’m going to suffer Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds, then I might as well be back in Chiang Mai and ride it out with the TGFU (Thai girlfriend unit) and others I know, including those at the French expat bar next to the hotel.

So I came back, barely scooting in a day or two prior to the institution of a mandatory 14-day lockdown quarantine for all arrivals to Chiang Mai, and rented a very nice modern apartment of Swiss design next to the hotel, to sit out the madness. By then, all restaurants were take-out only. Then, a few days later, no alcohol by any service establishments—though still available in stores, from 11:00 – 14:00 and 17:00 – midnight. Then, the curfew, 22:00 – 04:00, otherwise one can walk around at will. There’s still no legal requirement to wear the Mao Uniform … uh … mask, and I’ve yet to catch shit from Thais who are about 99.99% duped into doing that. Some stores require it to enter, so I have other people buy my stuff for me.

And since then … let’s see … a total ban on all sales of alcohol anywhere, including package stores, 7/11, and supermarkets. Fortunately, I have #ThaiConnectons, so I can get #PriceGouged by 50%, a gouging I’m more than happy to pay.

Now, in addition to the 2 million babies dead of pneumonia annually—an ignorance that afflicts most everyone—let’s put this in further perspective. For one, respiratory-infection viruses do not seem to fair all that well in sub-tropical regions. So, Thailand, if you will, seems to enjoy both a reprieve on that score, as well as malaria not being too big of a concern. For the former, I understand that it could be both a function of the year-round heat, as well as lots of sunshine and a likely good average vitamin D status.

In Thailand, 8 people per 1,000 die every year. The population is 70 million. So, 560K die every year, 1,534 per day. The very first COVID-19 case was January 12, about 97 days ago. 149,000 Thais have died since the worisome “outbreak.”

Who cares? It literally happens every day. But, there’s an extraordinary popular delusion, fueled by the madness of crowds with smartphones and real-time social media where everyone 1) scares the shit out of everyone else and 2) puts all their virtue on display for everyone to see. Notice how so many social media profile pics are now with the Mao Uniform on display?

Understand. Those 47 deaths in 97 days come out to about a half death per day, or one death every two days. That half death per day is 0.03% (0.00032) of the daily deaths from all-cause, and the damn world is shut down and children video conference their mommies and daddies in tears (I’ve seen it first hand—my GF has 10 and 9 yo daughters), afraid they’re going to die of Corona. Well, they see the whole world around them acting like abject duped fools, what are they to think? They’re children.

And you’re not [children, supposedly]. At least you’re not supposed to be. Here, get a dose of adult.

So let’s move on to Denise’s post. I’d didn’t expect the introduction to be that long, but there’s a lot of unique context surrounding how I regard this mess. I’m not just some bed-wetter dwelling in mommy’s basement yelling at people on the internet to JUST STAY HOME!!!

Don’t Take Knives to Gunfights

Denise’s prémisse évidente“objectivity behooves us”—deserves scrutiny.

Like, why does such virtue behoove us when it’s an unobtainable panacea?

Few people are ever objective and what’s more, what’s objective in the slightest surrounding politics when this bastard of a global mess has surely been politicized? Sure, there’s the aura—or stench—of “objectivity” but when you peel it away, it’s just faux authority, the kind based on political power and not objectivity.

Objectivity might happen in a chemistry lab, but the raw data isn’t understood by most, so the results are filtered through lenses of interest, from corporate, to media, to ruling elites—and everybody wants some thing.

It’s the first time a medical crisis has been politicized since HIV/AIDS that I’m aware of (I didn’t look hard, because it’s rather irrelevant … this one is … a sort of Impeachment 3.0 since the other versions failed). The Swine or H1N1 flu of 2009/10 did quite a number, infecting an estimated 1 billion globally and taking out a half million. But Black Jesus was president. No politicization needed.

The world was gaga in love. No number of lives could have been worth all the Social Justice(tm) coming down the pike any second now.

Denise picked four principal debunks of the political, media, social media, and smartphone epidemiology narrative to counter-debunk, because it’s apparently very important that we tell truth to lies. Or something.

#1 The CDC has literally issued guidelines telling doctors and medical examiners to classify deaths as COVID-19 if they “presume” the patient has it—no test results needed.

But they have, and probably it’s not a conspiracy, but where else does that happen? I believe the answer is: nowhere, at least not like this. Yes, many good docs were quick to point out that indeed, without autopsy, it’s tricky to establish cause of death (sometimes with autopsy as well).

But what many of those same docs pointed out was the specific naming and coding that’s really unusual. Apparently, there’s no such thing to this extent for the flu. Why? It kills a very lot every year.

Perhaps it’s because that over many decades of experience, flu-like (and isn’t COVID “flu like?”) seems a better call. Or, maybe it’s because that on autopsy and lung biopsy, they often find several viral and bacterial respiratory infections in a single elderly subject.

In an autopsy series that tested for respiratory viruses in specimens from 57 elderly persons who died during the 2016 to 2017 influenza season, influenza viruses were detected in 18% of the specimens, while any kind of respiratory virus was found in 47%. In some people who die from viral respiratory pathogens, more than one virus is found upon autopsy and bacteria are often superimposed. A positive test for coronavirus does not mean necessarily that this virus is always primarily responsible for a patient’s demise.

https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/17/a-fiasco-in-the-making-as-the-coronavirus-pandemic-takes-hold-we-are-making-decisions-without-reliable-data/

So what I’m groking out of all of this is that even though there’s decades of experience and tens of millions of deaths surrounding “flu-like” respiratory infections, it’s still a guessing game sometimes, which is why they don’t put “Influenza [type xyz]” on a death certificate. So ask, why are they doing that for COVID-19, a very specific infection down to the whatever?

Could there be any un-objective political motivations for doing so?

#2 CDC data shows a precipitous drop in pneumonia deaths right around the same time COVID-19 became a thing—suggesting pneumonia deaths have been getting reclassified as COVID-19 deaths, and creating the illusion of a pandemic.

Well, yes, many got taken in by the data lag on that one, me included.

But I find it almost hilarious that there’s a BIG QUIBBLE over the non-objectivity there—and in the midst of going out of our way to classify deaths as specific COVID-19 when we don’t even do that for specific influenza viruses—but absolutely zero ever is said in terms of proportionality, that upwards of 4 million die of pneumonia and 2 million of them children under the age of 5!

For me, I was not the slightest bit aware of that proportionality. Moreover, exactly ZERO children have died globally under the age of 10 from the great and “novel” COVID-19, all the while sniveling, low-T, white-knight beta-boys on the Internet admonish you to JUST STAY HOME!!! and DON’T KILL MY GRANDMA!!!

#3 People who die with coronavirus, but not from coronavirus, are getting counted as COVID-19 deaths—again inflating the body count.

I think that’s adequately dealt with in #1. The issue is not that. The issue is that COVID-19 is a flu-like illness and unlike other flu-like illnesses, it enjoys top status as a very specific cause of death, down to the damn RNA of the thing. That’s never been done before.

So why the compelling need to do it now? From my light Googling, the H1N1, for example, was all estimated as the probable cause way after the fact. In other words, they used death certificates as part of the analysis, death certs that did not have H1N1 specifically on them, because none did. Noodle that.

#4 Despite COVID-19 mortality skyrocketing, total mortality is staying the same (or even dropping)—suggesting a “cause of death” shuffle, if you will, and betraying the idea that we’re seeing additional deaths from a new disease. (Alternatively: “Only people with preexisting medical conditions are dying and they were gonna keel over any minute anyhow.”)

There are any number of ways to approach this but my favorite is who the fuck cares? I don’t, and neither should you. Everyone dies of something and old people die more frequently than most and for more family members than you care to think about, it’s a relief in their heart of hearts.

There is a very silver lining to this specific one. It is almost exclusively culling the herd from the top down in age; whereas, previous infections like H1N1 hit the young very hard. Even still, 4 out of 5 of the elderly survive anyway, and good for them.

This sounds harsh and callous I know, but c’mon, everything—owing to shaming media and social media—has been a non-stop emperor-esque no-clothes parade of faux concern, faux moralizing, and faux virtue signaling for months.

Please let me off the clown carousel. And CockZucker has taught so many so well, where it’s not enough to just troll social media for opportunities to cajole and admonish, you now get to call the HOTLINE!!! and report those neighbors you didn’t like so much anyway. And you get thanked, rather than like in the old days when astute mommies told you to stop being a pathetic little tattletale (#asshole).

Let’s just kill this pedantic nonsense that’s touted as The big Big One. Here’s a chart from EuroMomo.eu, a site that tracks all mortality in 24 participating European countries and territories on a weekly basis. It’s updated every Thursday, we’re on week 15.

A brief explanation should suffice.

You don’t suppose there’s anything afoot here, any sort of motivation where you’d want to shut down the whole world over this, do you? Of course locking everyone up saves lives. Duh. So, why not just lock everyone up for all time, then? Isn’t that your prime and fundamental standard, to save lives, without any other considerations?

Let me see if I can drive home my point for you. Sure, ok, if we’re in a laboratory pure science setting you’re likely to find very good objectivity, intellectual honesty, and proper science. But we’re not. We’re all in the very messy lab of human endeavor where lies, dishonesty, anything-but-objectivity, politics, agendas, and every other nefarious thing under the sun prevail.

So, would you rather play Pollyanna with Rose Colored Glasses, or be effective?

You do not counter congenital liars and manipulators with your bright shining, objective truths. Did Denise convince T. Collin Campbell of a single damn thing, even though she exposed The China Study—as no one else ever did—as a general pack of fucking lies to fit a vegan agenda?

So, as very good as that was, it was largely an exercise of preaching to the choir. But who knows? I’d like to think its main force is in helping the objectively, science-minded over time to better evaluate, since the whole rest of the world is against them.

Sometimes, the pragmatic approach, especially in a literal emergency—and I don’t mean the virus—is to wing it. You don’t need a China Study Exhaustive Takedown when so many are trying to make sense of the insanity, questioning their gut instincts because everyone on a smartphone is #NPCing them.

Liars are no more interested in the truth than are predators interested in your gun laws. You don’t defeat them with laws … or knives. You defeat them with bigger and better guns.

Or, how do you deal with a liar? Lie better, especially in an emergency … like … the world just came to a complete screeching halt because no number of lives or any amount of financial ruin is too much if you can just rid the world of Trump. I saw you Trump-hating leftists and Democrats coming a million miles away in this never-let-a-crisis-go-to-waste, third impeachment attempt. And Trump hating isn’t just an American thing, it’s a global thing; because he so effectively FUCKS with you better than all of you put together can ever hope to fuck with him.

Rather Than Criticize The Criticisms, Offer Better

Whereas, Denise’s China-Study takedown was an exercise in negation, falsification, and people should just revert to the default omnivore narrative once convinced enough that veganism sucks Soy Balls, this is an in-your-face immediate emergency. No, again, not the whimpering virus that can’t even manage a decent tough flu-year.

There is no time to evergreen a post so as to be idle for another three years.

Shit, or get off the pot.

So let me do what Denise ought to have done, which is to offer better critiques, proposals, and analysis than those four that have already swayed millions into doing an about-face on this insanity. Now, were we to do this exercise independently, the results would be quite different. Women would tend to like Denise’s proscriptions better, and men, mine.

Make your own judgments as to what that might portend in reflection of the 19th Amendment.

In no particular order.

#1 Don’t you find it odd, or at least curious, that this biological viral pandemic falls into general party lines, left and right, so meticulously? I’ve already said that it’s politicized, but this isn’t a point to be overlooked. Why is it so steeped in left-right politics this time, not since HIV/AIDS?

It’s said that everything is politics, and that’s probably true, but there are times when even individual politicians seemingly set it aside in order to see if better political use of the event can be had later—or it just fades away into the memory hole anyway.

This one went highly political almost immediately and had Trump gone it alone on this house arrest lockdown thing, there would be hell to pay, rightly so. For whatever reasons (I know if you don’t), the entire modern world went in lock step, except Belarus and Sweden. So they can’t get Trump on that, because, y’know, lefties and their internationals. On the other hand, had Trump said fuck you! to all the dire predictions and done little to nothing, he’d be sitting pretty right about now.

Instead, he’s chosen, politically, to believe the crazy computer models and I saw him on TV yesterday say twice or three times that his administration’s and states’ actions saved 2 million lives. That’s bullshit, but politics is politics.

#2 The COMPUTER MODELS!!! as though computers are still a novel thing. This again touches on the general political antagonisms, but have you noticed that the same people who have touted global warming … no … climate change computer models for decades—that are ALWAYS way wrong, often by orders of magnitude—touted the grossly and insanely wrong COMPUTER MODELS!!! for this particular bastard just the same?

I don’t know whether it’s a 1-1 correspondence, but it’s got to be within a c-hair.

#3 This will ruffle feathers, but no, I don’t care about your grandma. You do. I don’t. And, news flash: neither does anyone else who doesn’t know you, social media virtue signaling and comment threads of pray-praying-prayers notwithstanding.

Consider, for a second, the practical efficacy of this virus. I mean, since we’re not talking principles of liberty or anything, or its trade-away for feelings of safety and security. It’s killing 1 of 5 very expensive people who don’t produce any longer. It’s leaving the productive and potentially productive alone. Unscathed. Not a single infected under age 10 death on the planet. That’s something big.

Sounds callous, but given the cradle to grave health maintenance plan you want, that even pays for oil changes and flat tires in order to bolster the illusion that it’s FREE!!! I ask you what a few more months of “life” is worth—at a cost to your diamond-level healthcare membership of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars—when the money pit can just be over with right now?

How many have thought of the upside to their National Health Care Systems, having now been culled of so much costly dead weight quickly—especially for you Euros with your sécurité sociale, plus développé du mond?

#4 While on the subject of principle dump, how about a different mix of lockdown? Why not just be pragmatic as fuck? The data is rolling in still, but it’s pretty clear that obesity and all the down streams of that play an important role.

How about close and liquidate all junk food producers, fast food, pizza, Starbucks Sugar Coffee Company, et al?

No?

Why, politically untenable?

But I thought we’re in it to win it…

Let me get this right. You have the political and “ethical” gumption to destroy the financial lives of billions around the world, but the various and sundry boards of directors and and a few million shareholders are gonna have a hissy fit so no? Ok then.

#5 The thing nobody gave a shit about because it wholly contradicted (falsified, really) the convenient panic-and-hysteria narrative that was just accelerating, gaining speed, and attaining critical-mass momentum. The cruise ship Diamond Princess.

On 20 January 2020, an 80-year-old passenger from Hong Kong embarked in Yokohama, sailed one segment of the itinerary, and disembarked in Hong Kong on 25 January. He visited a local Hong Kong hospital, six days after leaving the ship, where he later tested positive for COVID-19 on 1 February. On its next voyage, 4 February, the ship was in Japanese waters when 10 passengers were diagnosed with COVID-19 during the early stages of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.

The ship was quarantined on 4 February in the Port of Yokohama in Japan.

[…]

As of 16 March, at least 712 out of the 3,711 passengers and crew had tested positive for the virus. As of 24 March, twelve of those who were on board have died from the disease.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_coronavirus_pandemic_on_Diamond_Princess

Well isn’t that cute, Wikipedia. What’s wrong with the whole context?

#6 Ah, but wait! we have another ship where Denise missed the boat. This just in. The USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71).

USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71)

Now, of course, I’m an ex-Navy officer, ship driver variety (SWO). Before I explain the results of their COVID!!! OUTBREAK!!! (it’s very novel) let me make a couple of distinctions between this tin-can petri dish and the other one.

So what happened in a quite different controlled “experiment,” but with quite an inverse age-population makeup (this means: good)?

Denise darling, you missed the boats.

While it’s true I used my gut and no data initially to place my all-in bet on how this plays out, the Diamond Princess was a perfect revelation. I found almost zero interest in it while at the same time, I then knew with absolute certainty how this plays out.

And now we have another boat. Different day, different boat, same essential result and even more pristine, an inverse age-population and the number that matters in the end, death, just about what you would expect given the age distributions.

So, now, Denise, feel free to take on my 6 tries, above. Otherwise, I shall wait by my email inbox waiting for the eventual though infrequent missive from you, “do you ever get tired of being right?” as you sent on November 4, 2015, knowing I’d said in 1992 that Hillary will never be president and in November, 2015, went all in with Trump to take the whole thing. And I never wavered.

Well, it’s been fun. This post only took 8 hours.

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