A Journal of the Plague Year (39)


April 24, 2020

The Party of Science?

Something a little on the lighter side today. Well, not really, because it shows how hopelessly clueless some of the leading personalities in the media are [h/t, thanks to Instapundit].

Chris Cuomo, aka Fredo, is one of CNN’s chief piffle-meisters  and brother to Governor Cuomo of New York State. CNN, the Cuckoo’s Nest Network, is one the propaganda machines of the Democrats and can be guaranteed to follow orders from the Party Politburo. Poor Chris came down with the coronavirus but didn’t seem to have too bad a time of it in his multimillion dollar mansion in New York. Later, so did his wife.

Whenever the Democrats talk about being the “party of science”, they mean exactly the converse. They are the party of pseudo-science and quackery. Whether it’s the end of the world next week, or President Trump is the cause of coronavirus or any other popular delusion of the Hollywood League of People Who Are Truly Bonkers, they don’t disappoint.

Chris Cuomo’s wife, Christine, immediately got to work to cure her illness. Here’s bit from her blog:

At the direction of my doctor, Dr. Linda Lancaster, who reminded me that this is an oxygen-depleting virus, she suggested I take a bath and add a nominal amount of bleach. Yes, bleach. So, I add a small amount—1/4 to ½ cup ONLY—of Clorox to a full bath of warm water (80 gallons). Why? To combat the radiation and metals in my system and oxygenate it. “We want to neutralize heavy metals because they slow up the electromagnetic frequency of our cells, which is our energy field, and we need a good flow of energy.”…

Clorox combating radiation and neutralizing heavy metals; my God, what planet are we on here?



On Tuesday, my sinus congestion was so painful that I enlisted Dr. Roxanna Namavar from Pretty Healthy NYC, who also does vitamin drips, COVID-19 tests and anti-viral tests at home in the Hamptons. Doctors suggested the drip because New York hospitals and hospitals all over the world are using the vitamin C drip as part of their COVID-19 treatments since vitamin C has anti-viral properties, when vitamin drips had previously been brushed off as “alternative.” Dr. Roxanna shows up in a hazmat outfit and 3M mask. “Orally you can’t absorb the amount of vitamin C comfortably that is required for the anti-viral properties to combat this virus. The IV version is a safe alternative to untested pharmaceuticals,” says Dr. Roxanna.

All–righty…You have to wonder how anyone with half a brain can believe all this tripe. It’s just nonsense with some impressive-sounding words tacked on.

So just who is Dr Linda Lancaster [here] ? Well, she’s mixed up with Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Alternative“ medicine scam. Lancaster advertises herself as a “Board Certified Naturopathic Physician and Homeopath”—in other words, a quack. And Dr Roxanna Namavar [here] advertises herself as a psychiatrist, just the type of doctor required to give expert advice on viral diseases!  She also lists all the medical reporting services she does NOT contribute to, such as the

Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) [is] a Medicare program encouraging health care professionals and group practices to report information on their quality of care. Quality measures can show how well a health care professional provides care to people with Medicare.

And what did poor hubby Chris do? Well,

Every day, Chris and I both ate Ayurvedic food from Corey de Rosa at Tapovana to-go in Bridgehampton; his menu treats food as medicine. Aside from improving digestion, Tapovana’s Southeast Indian dishes are also nourishing and cleansing.

This is the mental state of people who try to pass themselves off as our betters, people who know more than the army of “deplorables.” Aside from being totally ignorant of elementary chemistry and medicine, they make no attempt educate themselves.

It is said that ignorance can be cured, but stupid is for life. Case closed here.

Rebel Yell

A Journal of the Plague Year (38)


April 23, 2020

Sometimes perspective is a hard thing to come by. Projected deaths from covid-19 are about at the level of the 2017–2018 flu but significantly larger than the Swine flu of 2009. Still projected, not actual.

Bearing in mind the concern about the number of hospital beds available to treat seriously ill patients, this graphic from “Our World in Data” shows some of the comparison around the world:


Note that vast swaths of Africa present no information at all. These countries are without a functioning health care system, for all practical purposes. Also note, the Americas, both North and South, have a low number compared to Europe and Russia.

For New York, the epicenter in the US, hospitalizations have fallen. The US Navy ships sent to New York were barely used. What about the daily count? From NYHealth:


As things change for the better, will the level of hysteria subside—especially with some of those wanna-be authoritarian governors in the US? People are accommodating to a different world, and that includes a world with a higher level of risk. Real risk initiates real caution. It wonderfully sharpens the mind. The general population seems to have got it, only the media, as usual, have not.

Rebel Yell

A Journal of the Plague Year (37)


Number of Confirmed Cases per million

A Journal of the Plague Year (37)

April 22, 2020


Lockdown or not?  The US and the UK are doing the complete lockdown trip.  Is this making any really significant difference to the number of cases of corona virus and deaths?


But Sweden is taking a different tack.  Will it work, in the sense of keeping the county working as approximately normal, and having no significant difference in the number of deaths due to corona virus?


The graph above is very interesting for precisely these reasons.  The cases (per million of the population) for Sweden is lower than that for the US and the UK.  What does this tell us?  Right now, the jury is out on that, but it seems that the difference is not that much.  Is the total lockdown an over-reaction?


Sweden is the experiment that will tell us that.


Total Number of Confirmed Deaths per million

Here, the data are less clear: Sweden is between the US and the UK. Again Sweden has no lockdown and the US and the UK do.  So far, it doesn’t seem to show up in the data. Maybe Sweden is playing with the Devil.  Stay tuned on that one.


Rebel Yell

A Journal of the Plague Year (36)


April 21, 2020

In a very revealing article by Dr Max Pemberton in the Daily Mail (UK) , some of the real reasons behind the failure of the British medical establishment to tackle the corona crisis are laid bare. As expected, the real people who make things happen, the doctors, nurses, paramedics, cleaning staff and everyone else can work wonders. But,

…It’s been fascinating to watch natural leaders taking charge in place of those we can now see were just in management positions because they’d been on the right courses. I’ve seen junior nurses step into the shoes of senior managers who have gone sick and bring a new passion.
Services haven’t disintegrated — in fact, if anything they have got more efficient. Long term we need to target resources at nurses, physiotherapists, doctors, healthcare assistants and porters — not the bureaucrats.

As in all bureaucratic organizations, eventually all the management positions are filled by the bean counters, MBAs, political hacks and talentless “managers”, exchanged between various management positions in the civil service, who know nothing about any science, medicine or nursing; in other words, the form-fillers and box-tickers. When the right people get going, Dr Pemberton says:

One of the things that has shocked me is the speed at which things are now done. It has forced people to prioritise jobs.
The NHS has had to start behaving more like a Silicon Valley start-up than the dusty, bureaucratic organisation it is known as.
Decisions that used to take months or even years because of endless, pointless form-filling and meetings are now made in less than the time it takes to boil a kettle.
This is how it should have been in the health service all along — but at some point the apparatchiks took over and stifled innovation.

Well, that’s what happens when everything is controlled by government.
On the business front, a similar picture of chaos and confusion  is apparent.

Michelle van Vuuren, who runs a London-based property company, turned her business into a PPE distributor working with Chinese suppliers last month as the virus began to spread around the world.

After failed attempts to contact NHS procurement services, Miss van Vuuren contacted Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s office on March 20.
She was subsequently passed to the Cabinet Office but her inquiries went ‘into a vacuum’ and were met with only an automated response.
Despite offering to sell millions of masks, gowns and aprons she said she had spent ‘five weeks hammering at the Government’s door’ without response.



A British supplier said they were forced to sell millions of life-saving items overseas after attempts to equip the NHS were met with an ‘impenetrable wall of bureaucracy’.
Other firms complained they had ‘no choice’ about sending masks, respirators and other pieces of kit abroad because the Government had repeatedly ignored offers of help.

It’s pretty sad state of affairs for such an advanced country as the UK to be behind the eight-ball on such an elementary part of preparing for a health emergency. The other part of the problem, apart from the fossilized bureaucracy, is the just-in-time global supply chain. Any chain is only as strong as its weakest link and everyone in Britain, and other countries including Canada, are finding out that many strategic goods like protective equipment and drugs need to be manufactured at home, in house, for the needs of our citizens.


This is something that President Trump has been emphasizing for years: bring essential manufacturing back home. Perhaps the American people will now demand it of their feckless business community—and Canada will too.

While we all dearly love to hold the feet of our political leaders to the fire, expecting them all the time to be able to see into the future, like journalists and political talking heads, the “experts”, so beloved of the media-bitches of the press, are often wrong, more so than they would like us to know.

In an article in STAT : “Several months of magical thinking”, shows how even the best of the medical experts can misjudge events.

Most of the hang-ups and bungling has come from incompetent bureaucrats, over-regulation and pointless red tape in many countries. Even when spots of infection appeared around the world, the epidemiologists, who should have known better, were ignoring their own basic teaching:


Epidemiology 101 lesson: It takes time for a virus that spreads from person to person to hit an exponential growth phase in transmission, even if every new case was infecting on average two to three other people….“Everybody was in denial of this coming, including the U.S. And everybody got hit — just as simple as that,” Gary Kobinger, director of the Infectious Disease Research Center at Laval University in Quebec, told STAT.


Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, and an expert in the field, was quick off the mark. After saying in early January that he didn’t think that the Wuhan virus would turn into a pandemic, the rapid spread in China, and the frantic reactions of the Chinese, convinced him that it would be….

…Within days, Osterholm’s thinking shifted. By Jan. 20, he was warning the 3M Company — which makes N95 respirators — that the virus, in his opinion, would cause a pandemic. The company immediately moved to increase production.

Note that private industry was moving rapidly before any of the bureaucracy knew what was going on!

And Dr Fauci, the CDC Head, now on the President’s team was saying…

…Even in mid-February, Fauci was describing the risk to Americans as “relatively low,” saying that he hoped sustained human-to-human spread might not occur in the United States.


Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, agrees that there was a kind of unreal quality to the emerging evidence as cases continued to climb….“There’s a sense for all of us pandemic influenza planners and responders and respiratory virus folks that look back at [the Spanish flu pandemic of] 1918 and say, ‘Well, we always need to prepare and be ready for that.’ But in the back of your mind it’s sort of ‘Yeah, but I’m not going to have to go through it…’”


That, strangely, is in the minds of everyone who is, or has been, part of emergency response operations, whether for a plague, nuclear accident, radiological disaster or whatever. It’s.. “yeah, this is the exercise, but it won’t really happen on our watch.”

Yeah, right.

Rebel Yell

barrelstrength.ca – a belated introduction from Dalwhinnie

Herakles takes a break: Athena pours him a libation


Greetings readers, fellow Barrelstrengthians, strangers:

Barrelstrength dot com is in the process of being discontinued and carried over to Barrelstrength dot ca.

Our former webmaster died untimely a few months ago – we suspect of a very early case of Covid19 flu. In any case we had no access to our management files so that we could renew the payment for the website and renew the domain name with certainty of success. Thus we were forced to relocate in subspace. Our archives will be gradually moved to Barrelstrength.ca.

The same gallery of writers, some steady, some intermittent, continue their labours. The fifth labour of Hercules was to clean out the stables of King Augeas, where for some reason the cattle had been left untended. We are still trying to clean out the stables, as it were, in a never ending struggle against the build up of mental manure in every corner of society, including especially academia.

Hercules was cheated out of his payment by King Augeas for cleaning the stables. We have not been cheated; we work for free. We defy the adage of Samuel Johnson that “Only a fool writes for anything but money” . We were paid quite well in our careers for writing, but now we get to say what we like, which is payment enough.


A Journal of the Plague Year (35)



April 20, 2020

As General Turgidson said in the War Room in Dr Strangelove, “…Although I hate to judge before all the facts are in, it’s beginning to look like General Ripper exceeded his authority.”

Maybe the same is true of some of the computer modeling being used by politicians to direct their decisions in this recent unpleasantness? Maybe not. The science journal Nature reports: Antibody tests suggest that coronavirus infections vastly exceed official counts. The Nature article refers to the Santa Clara county study in California published in medRxiv
The testing involved a test for Covid-19 antibodies in the blood of the local population, a random sample of which was selected for the study. In the paper the authors say:

…A combination of both data sources provides us with a
combined sensitivity of 80.3% (95 CI 72.1-87.0%) and a specificity of 99.5% (95 CI 98.3-99.9%).

That’s a pretty good specificity.

…We conclude that based on seroprevalence sampling of a large regional population, the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in Santa Clara County was between 2.49% and 4.16% by early April. While this prevalence may be far smaller than the theoretical final size of the epidemic, it suggests that the number of infections is 50–85-fold larger than the number of cases currently detected in Santa Clara County.

If true, this is huge. Why? Because a vast number of people may have encountered the virus, been infected, developed antibodies, and never gotten ill, which means that many more people are now immune than has been supposed. The only way to settle this is for all regions to carry out significant randomized sampling for the antibodies. Everyone seems to be behind the curve on that one.

In terms of projections, the School of Public Health at Georgia State University, has online a set of interactive graphs tracing the projected cases at various times with the actual data illustrating how the projections change all the time. It should impress one thing on everyone’s minds–data are real, projections are not.

Short memo today; interrupted by online cocktail party.

Rebel Yell


PS Interview with Swedish epidemiologist; Why the lockdown approach is a waste of time and counterproductive….



A Journal of the Plague Year (34)

April 19, 2020

Making sense of the data coming in is a huge problem for the decision makers. So much is contradictory. Only if you are a “journalist” can you blame people for not seeing the future.

In Ottawa, in the Frozen North, 22 deaths are reported  in total, of which 19 are in one care home facility west of town. Non-essential border crossings to the US are to be extended for another 30 days. Also, the Élizabeth Bruyère research institute reported that

…’“Outbreak is a very scary word, so we need you to know two things. The first is that in the response to COVID-19, given the vulnerable nature of our long-term care population, one staff member having a positive result is enough to declare an outbreak, regardless of where they acquired the virus,” the statement said.’

So an outbreak may be one case.

Just how some figures can be misleading, consider the figures for New York City, about which much raving nonsense is available on the Fake News media. The graph below shows the distribution of cases between NYC and other cities:


Note the vast difference between NYC and any other place in the US. At the time President Trump was shutting down travel to and from China, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo were driveling on about …”travel on the subway, go out and mix, there’s no problem”. Meanwhile, real men were getting down to work.

Of course, it was exactly the wrong position to adopt and NYC is paying the price. Mayor de Blasio, don’t blame others for your bad call.

On another front, Nature  reports that:

…An analysis of the blood of some 3,300 people living in Santa Clara county in early April found that one in every 66 people had been infected with SARS-CoV-2. On the basis of that finding, the researchers estimate that between 48,000 and 82,000 of the county’s roughly 2 million inhabitants were infected with the virus at that time — numbers that contrast sharply with the official case count of some 1,000 people reported in early April, according to the analysis posted today on medRxiv. The work has not yet been peer reviewed.

Here, antibody testing seems to reveal that vastly more people have been infected, without getting sick, and, presumably, generated antibodies in their blood. If that is true, then the infection fatality rate (IFR) is very much less than the case fatality rate (CFR).

The Santa Clara team estimated an IFR for the county of 0.1–0.2%, which would equate to about 100 deaths in 48,000-82,000 infections. As of 10 April, the county’s official death count was 50 people. The study’s IFR is lower than the IFR used in models by researchers at Imperial College London, which estimated an IFR for Great Britain on the basis of data from China to be 0.9%. In another study, the same group estimated an IFR for China of 0.66%, and a study of deaths on the Diamond Princess cruise ship estimated an IFR of 0.5%.

All of which indicates a significantly smaller death rate than heretofore presumed. Which brings us to the point of considering when the economy should be opened up and wound up: people need to get moving. Some doctors, Jonathan Geach https://medium.com/@jbgeach/changing-the-goalposts-four-more-reasons-it-is-safe-to-open-america-560cfc0ab4c3 MD on Medium, are claiming that…

…The purpose of “Flatten the Curve” was to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed with patients suffering from COVID-19. The reality is that the healthcare system is now underwhelmed and healthcare workers are being laid off and furloughed in droves as a result of healthcare centers having neglected patient care not related to COVID-19 in fear of a COVID-19 surge that failed to materialize on a nationwide basis. This means tens of millions of patients are failing to receive the medical care they need in a timely manner. Almost every hospital outside of the hotspots is empty.


If the goal of the shutdown was to flatten the curve and prevent healthcare system utilization, why are we still under a shutdown when the healthcare system is significantly underutilized and tens of thousands of healthcare workers are being terminated or furloughed? Why are we still denying non-COVID-19 patients the care they need when hospitals are sitting idle and laying off staff in droves? The only surge we’ve seen thus far is with respect to initial weekly jobless claims; tragically, there’s a good chance we will see a surge in suicides later this year as well.

Well, yes. When will there be a cool analysis of the situation? And from Neurologica blog, some mixed feelings about the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO has long been in the back pocket of the communist tyranny in China. But that’s not the worst part. By kowtowing to the PC world and “respecting” cultural differences, for instance, like “traditional” medicine, aka quack medicine, they have done a huge disservice to the developing world. As Neurologica points out:

…Perhaps most outrageous was then they straight-up endorsed traditional Chinese quackery. They [WHO] wrote:
The goal of this policy “is to promote the safe and effective use of traditional medicine by regulating, researching and integrating traditional medicine products, practitioners and practice into health systems, where appropriate”.

But we have heard this defense before – you cannot regulate nonsense. You cannot mix quackery with real medicine without destroying the scientific standards of medicine. This move only served to validate unscientific medicine. I cannot tell you how many times people have used the WHO position to justify their own use or endorsement of quackery, both personally and institutionally. It has had the exact effect that we warned about.

Medically speaking, this is malpractice of the first order. There is no way Western governments should be contributing to an organization that is undermining the first principles of scientific modern medicine. “Alternative medicine” is an alternative to medicine.

And these guys in the WHO were supposed to be the experts? All their recommendations at the beginning of this unpleasantness were wrong.

At least we know why now.

Rebel Yell

See you one trade deal, raise you one plague

This is self-explanatory.

Our California correspondent writes from his bunker in ultra-liberal Berkeley:

“Whether it’s gene editing human babies, irresponsible AI research, creating space junk on purpose, or their ruinous virus research; China has way too little ethical/moral awareness for how much access they have to global catastrophe- causing technology.

“They either need a cultural realignment (ie elevation from their “insectoid” attitude), or the world (ie the western world) has to take their toys away (which they won’t allow – meaning global conflict).”

A Journal of the Plague Year (33)

Say “Ahhh!”

April 18, 2020

Now that we are all enjoying our coronacations we have time to think about what political leaders, scientists and experts are saying to us. The scientists, of which tribe I am a humble member, will in their better moments remind everyone that they might be wrong, and we really don’t know much about this new bug and its behavior. As the great physicist Richard Feynman said, “…any scientist speaking outside his field is just as dumb as the next guy.”

Worth remembering. When politicians crow about “listening to the experts” and making “science-based decisions” the experts are often wrong, and the science is vague and contradictory at times. How then to make a decision?

Many decisions must made with incomplete information and conflicting advice. That’s how it goes. Maybe later it was the right call, maybe not.

So, getting the economies rolling again. And helping those in trouble now. It seems that President Trump is getting all kinds of kudos from many people least expected to give it.

Alex Brummer writing in the UK Daily Mail writes:

…One of the great hobbies of the British public and commentariat is to mock US policy.


When Trump claimed that $70 billion (£57 billion) of loans to small businesses had already been made, there were loud guffaws. What we now know is that the scheme for small enterprises operated through the Small Business Administration, with the loans made by hundreds of commercial lenders across the country, has been a roaring success.
The $350 billion set aside was exhausted in less than two weeks and a further 700,000 SMEs are waiting on Congress to approve new funds.
The key to getting the money out was Mnuchin’s insistence that applications be processed on one side of A4 and all the normal credit checks set aside with the government taking on the risk of cheats and bankrupts.



The contrast with the UK, where the banks are patting themselves on the back for getting just £1 billion of small business loans out of the door while the sector and its self-employed owners sink into the mire, could not be more stark.
Trump may be crazy but the efforts of his business and financial team put those of Sunak and our own banking pygmies in the shade.

And in Canada, the Macdonald Laurier Institute , a sort-of establishment think tank, writes:

Last week’s aid package ticked all the Trudeau government’s electoral boxes, targeting Aboriginals, the homeless, women’s shelters, students and low-income earners. The business community was largely overlooked, except for banks being asking to defer mortgage payments for people losing incomes (despite the failure of working with banks to mitigate foreclosures in the U.S. in 2009). The government also largely neglected the problems of small businesses, such as restaurants, whose revenues are collapsing while property taxes and utilities still have to be paid. Offering temporary support to workers is basically pointless if their employer goes bankrupt. The U.K. understands this and is offering direct aid to small business.

It seems that Trudeau is simply out of touch with the real world, adrift in the fantasies of the chatterati.

…The contrast between the business community’s “can do” optimism and the public sector’s overall moroseness is striking. While the U.S. stresses a pharmaceutical resolution to the crisis, Trudeau offers only the prospect of “weeks or months” of social distancing.
Doug Ford’s government in Ontario seems the most disposed in Canada to view the private sector as a creative partner in solving the crisis. Ford cites companies switching their beverage manufacturing to hand sanitizers, auto part plants offering to convert to making ventilators, Canada Goose manufacturing medical gowns instead of parkas, and firms making phone banks available to Ontario Health to help field questions from a worried public. Ford asked the business community to “keep your ideas coming. If you have an idea, there’s no such thing as a bad idea.” By contrast, the federal government has only belatedly spoken of involving business in fighting the virus.

That’s sums it up really. And in the US, as Nancy Pelosi is vying with Hillary Clinton for the title of the country’s most ghastly woman, Pelosi blocks a paycheck protection plan for small business while chomping on chocolates in her wall-protected mansion in Californistan.

Trump will crush them in November.

Rebel Yell

[PS Antibody testing tomorrow–now more bourbon]