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The origins of the COVID virus and the WHO response

Matt Ridley is obviously not a nutter. Fifth Viscount Ridley, (family fortune made in the early coal revolution – coals to Newcastle), author of many books on biology, economics, innovation and how the world is improving. Accomplished, personable, rational and manifestly sane.

His comments on the origins of the Wuhan COVID flu are as provocative as they are based in fact. All of the interview is enlightening but the parts relating to COVID and the WHO start at 35:00. As one of the interviewers said, the first part of the interview will offend followers of David Ickes, the second will send them into firm agreement.

To be clear, Ridley maintains that the evidence leads to the conclusion that likely cause of COVID was the escape of laboratory experiments in recombining various corona viruses, and he explains why this is a reasonable inference. Quite deadly.

My ambivalence towards Trump

It is confession time. I was watching the interview between Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution and Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal yesterday. There came the moment at minute 41:00 of the interview when Peter Robinson expressed perfectly how I feel about Trump, as Peter described Trump’s leadership style. Peter holds his forehead and gropes for the right closing question to ask Kimberly Strassel, and he says, “…a lot of people who like Trump (small pause) can’t stand him up to this point” and then he notes how people may have shifted to a more positive view over the past few weeks as the Donald has handled the coronavirus epidemic.

I think I will adopt that phrase as exactly capturing my ambivalent feelings: “Even people who like him can’t stand him“.

I would still vote for him in a heartbeat.

Robinson’s comment was the preface to a more comprehensive question to Strassel about whether in the past few weeks Trump has become “the country’s President”, the guy we need to succeed. To that I say, yes, we need him to succeed.

To the Trumpophobes my reaction may be seen as tragically inadequate, and to the Trumpophiles it may be seen as insufficiently zealous, perhaps. Insufficient zeal is not yet a thought crime. As a position on the Donald I am sticking to it. I like him but I can’t stand him. But he has my vote.

Which is about as relevant as approving of Caesar Augustus if you had lived during his reign, I suppose.

And God said….

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

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

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

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

Disasters and alarms

  1. Let’s start with coronavirus. Imagine that within 18 months, 2% of humanity might have died from it. Exaggeration? Try this sober analysis from Richard Hatcher. Attack rates could be between 50 and 70% of global population. Death rates, even if low, may not mean that much if we all have to go into our cells and stay there.

Meetings are being cancelled, people are working from home, supply chains are being disrupted, businesses harmed, and things are not being done because of the epidemic. High rates of illness may be the more important aspect than the actual deaths that ensue. The disruption occurs when public assembly points are shut down: schools, theatres, shopping centres. The social isolation that people use to protect themselves generates most of the disruption. The combination of infectiousness and lethality has not been seen since the Spanish flu of 1918, which killed 50 million.

20% of people who are infected show no symptoms, hence they can roam freely. We have no built-up resistance to it, so the disease is new and may become endemic, meaning it will become a permanent feature of existence.

We may be experiencing something akin to the waves of plague and disease of the latter Roman Empire, when smallpox and other new diseases came out of Africa and killed large portions of the population. Kyle Harper’s The Fate of Rome must be read to appreciate that Rome fell under a series of blows of plague, and barbarian invasions driven by agricultural collapse caused by sudden global cooling around AD 400. It did not fall from one thing, but a combination of things. We may be at the start of a series of hammer blows that could disturb all the benign predictions ever made by Steven Pinker about the golden age we have been living in, or we may by contrast be at the start of a minor perturbation in the long run of history. Either way we are in for a tough year.

The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire (The Princeton History of the Ancient World)

The nature of exponential increase is explained in this youtube from 3blue1brown.com. Watch it for the mathematical truths that are explained.

Aside: I am not the first to observe that, when people believe there is a real risk, they act on that belief. When people are not persuaded there is a real risk, then no matter what they actually profess to believe, they act as if there were no risk. Think of Obama buying an 15 million dollar house six or ten feet above sea level at Martha’s Vineyard. Does Obama believe glaciers are melting? With one part of his mind he does. Does he believe his house will become unlivable as a consequence? Obviously not.

2. Then there is the collapse of investment in Canadian energy projects. This is not an act if God. It is a deliberate policy pursued by Gerry Butts and the Prime Minister. I need not write more about it here, you have seen the details in the papers.

3. The Indians of Canada have been deceived into thinking that they now hold the reins on economic development of natural resources, and perhaps they are right in that opinion. This is another man-made disaster of the federal Liberal party and its feckless leader, Justin Trudeau. The Indians, aided, abetted and driven on by anti-development leftists among Canadian whites, have not been resisted at any stage by the governments of Canada from an arrogant usurpation of the rights of their fellow Indians and ordinary Canadian citizens who favour economic development.

4. Oil price collapse. Russia is feuding with Saudi Arabia over oil production. The effect on US oil production, which has become highly dependent on shale oil, may turn out to be disastrous. Lower gas prices may not mean much when your schools are closed or when factories operate at far less than capacity because of supply chain disruptions caused by coronavirus. The effect on other oil producing countries like Iran or those in Africa, whose costs of production are high, will be severe.

Image result for breakeven oil price by country 2019

The breakeven price for Canadian oil sands is $70/barrel, according to the graph above. It is questionable whether the figure for shale oil is correct in terms of today’s technology. 96% of Canadian oil reserves are in the form of tar sands.

Conclusion

It has not been a good week, and it has not been a good month, and it is going to get worse.