The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Accountability #2: Sweden’s Decision to Let Old People Die Who Could Have Been Saved

So, Nature has put out a report on how Sweden’s herd immunity policy worked.

It didn’t. Herd immunity isn’t possible with Covid, more people died in Sweden per capita than almost any other country,

I suggest reading the summary, but I want to highlight one part:

Thousands died in Sweden because the state chose not to provide adequate care. Infected elders were given morphine instead of oxygen, even though the system had plenty of oxygen. The Nature report adds that “very few elderly have been hospitalized for COVID-19. Appropriate (potentially life-saving) treatment was withheld without medical examination, and without informing the patient or his/her family or asking permission.” The state even denied the right of infected elders to seek a medical assessment on their condition. Physicians examined less than one-tenth of COVID patients. Many were given morphine and “end of life treatment” without a positive COVID test.

This is mass murder. It is not triage. In triage, you choose the people most likely to survive because you don’t have enough resources to save them all. But Sweden had oxygen and chose to administer morphine, or it chose to not even examine old people with symptoms and treat them, either in hospital or out, with anything but morphine.

Murder. Mass murder. Some have called it eugenics, because, clearly, Sweden decided that the lives of old people didn’t matter.

Every politician and public servant involved in this decision, and probably every doctor who went along with it, should go to prison for life. They are mass murderers. They let people die, who, just by giving them correct medical care, could have lived.

This is an extreme example, but it is the extreme at the end of the standard Covid policy spectrum in most of the developed world, where people could have been saved, but our elites chose not to do so. We refused to admit Covid was airborne for ages, we locked down too late, we did not improve indoor ventilation, we did not get people to wear masks soon enough, and we didn’t mandate N95 masks (which are more effective), we let ICUs get filled more than once, we did not track and trace, we did not isolate, we did not properly shut down international travel (the most important step), and so on.

But Sweden went one extra step, and deliberately let people die whom they could have saved if they’d simply given them oxygen. Swedish officials knew they could have saved those people and didn’t.

The only high profile criminal act that is worse is New York Governor Cuomo sending infected patients to old folks homes, thus killing swathes of old people who would never have been infected otherwise. (Cuomo, of course, has never been indicted for his mass murder, and he never will be.)

Your elites kill you. I can only assume they like killing you.

And because we aren’t rising up in revolution (and the freaks who are protesting seem to be saying “Kill us faster, please, masters!”), I can only assume we are okay with this.



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  1. ibaien

    china did all the things you advocate. i suggest looking at how shanghai is faring, and asking yourself if that’s an appropriate – and seemingly endless – response. your policy positions used to be so sensible.

  2. rangoon78

    June 22, 2020:: “People suffocated, it was horrible to watch. One patient asked me what I was giving him when I gave him the morphine injection, and I lied to him,” said Latifa Löfvenberg, a nurse. “Many died before their time. It was very, very sad.”

  3. Ian Welsh

    China did not do all the things I advise. They have not done a large refit of ventilation and they do not use N95 masks, and the latest breakout came from Hong Kong (which was not doing what mainland cities mostly do), so they also didn’t control travel properly. I don’t know if they admitted Covid was airborne, but if so, they have not acted on it, since if you admit that you go to N95 masks and fix ventilation. They also have not pushed vaccination very hard.

    No, sorry, Covid was never “impossible to control.” In fact, if everyone had done this stuff immediately there would never have been an Omicron and probably not even a Delta.

  4. Stormcrow

    If this subject had been broached a week ago, my opinion would have been solidly with Ian’s.

    Today, I’m not so sure.

    I’m not sure I need to mention this, but Shanghai was also placed under a level of stress high enough to render actions that were “acceptably” safe, i.e., effective within the context of a zero-Covid strategy, suddenly unsafe. The problem, at bottom, was that when BA.1 was displaced by BA.2 globally, the transmssibility of a disease that was already referred to, by an expert, as “the second most contagious virus on the planet” was jacked up by a factor of 40%.

    When that happened, the limits within the people managing Shanghai’s piece of the pandemic had to work, were abruptly and savagely contracted.

    And this is going to happen again. I’m not guessing. Every single time the dominant Covid varaint gets replaced, the variant that out-competes it, does so by increasing transmssibility .

    Yesterday, I read this little bundle of joy on Twitter: In April, 10 variants more infectious than #BA2 were detected. Some have the #L452R pathogenic mutation, which is also found in the Delta Variant.. Take a good long look at Abdulkadir’s list. Notice the way the transmissibilities have increased yet again?

    BA.4 has a 63% growth advantage over BA.2. BA.5 has an 84% growth advantage over BA.2. So [BA.2 transmissibility] x 1.84 becomes a lower bound on the transmissibility of whatever variant succeeds BA.2. Think about that for a minute.

    The WHO added both of these to the list they were watching closely, and they are not wrong to do so.

    I’m not even going to try to exculpate the ruling elites in Sweden, or for that matter, those of every country outside of the PRC and South Korea and New Zealand and a very very few others. And I most certainly do not intend to exculpate the Biden administration. FWIW, I’m going to sit out the 2024 Presidential election if Biden is on the ticket. Obama merely abetted the theft of my entire retirement savings. Biden OTOH has made himself a credible threat to my life.

    But I also find it hard to condemn the leadership of the PRC for failing to get absolutely everything right this time. Particularly when Covid’s ever-increasing transmissibility crushes its way through the efforts of the most conscientious planners on the planet.

  5. Ian Welsh

    The more we didn’t do the right thing, the more Covid had chances to mutate. I even wrote about it back in the day, though I can’t be bothered to try and find it right now.

    Also, China hasn’t done everything right and Shanghai messed up. Rather than shutting down fast and hard they played games. Shenzen, for example, had a breakout, shut down and stopped it cold.

    However, yes, as variants get worse and worse even China may not be able to stop them. That does not mean Zero Covid couldn’t work, it means that we needed to make a sincere global effort, which we never even tried.

  6. curious bystander

    @ibaien had to chime in, the situation in shanghai was mostly poor handling of shanghai government, shenzhen had the same influx of infected from hk and did pretty well.
    as long as you act early and decisively, it can still be controlled, even if you messed up initially like xi’an, as long as you don’t ignore it three times in a row figuratively speaking. it is in the nature of exponential growth.
    shanghai deliberately trying to be lax to minimize impact to economy, the result proved that strategy to be counter-productive.

    right now the debate is whether kill rate is low enough to justify abandoning quarantine.

  7. curious bystander

    lol, ian just said it, sorry didn’t read through all of it.

  8. Lex

    The only place that did it right was early on in China. But the whole thing is a game of statistical probabilities, so the fact that nobody else (mostly) bothered to even try doing it right means that doing it right gets harder and harder, bordering on impossible.

  9. anon y'mouse

    China should install the arduous standards Taiwan had at one time for keeping out the virus, as they have been successfully suppressing it thus far and so new variants will have to be coming from the outside.

    This means people travelling to China will be on their own mini-lockdown prior. Unless they can set up their own Ellis Island situation.

  10. VietnamVet

    This is very true. China’s is doing the best that humans can do and could fail at implementing Zero-COVID. Taiwan is reportedly about to give up. That’s it. Worker’s will be forced to labor till they get ill and then die unattended once superfluous. No one’s thinking it through. Without prohibition, indoor gatherings like Gridiron Dinner will keep the coronavirus variants circulating. Sooner or later, everyone will be exposed socially, during resupply, or at work. The earth’s population of humans will be corresponding reduced. But survivors will now have long-COVID comorbidities affecting health and cognitive abilities.

    If by itself, humans probably will co-evolve with coronavirus like we did with the Russian flu in the 1890s after a decade or so. But, at the same time, WWIII is in its initial stages and everyone is dividing according to their biases into Russophobes or Russophiles. Nuclear war is approaching. Climate change storms and fires are already causing regional damage. All this is on top of resource depletion. The future is very bleak. The current human governments and societies are too dysfunctional and corrupt to address these challenges. Either there is a new Reformation or there will be a human extinction event.

  11. Stormcrow


    I’m afraid I have to agree with just about everything you said.

    Of course, if you’ve seen my comments here, you probably already know that my brass is on extinction.

    Humans, both taken as individuals and as a species, never evolved the mental capacity to manage the complexity of the environment their tools have now created. That requires, at minimum, the ability to process logic with the same facility we do ordinary languages, and human brain hardwiring simply does not support that ability. People with this capability grade from one per billion at the pessimistic end to 1 per million at the optimistic end. And nobody in or out of neuroscience has the slightest idea of how they manage it.

    That takes Peter Watts’ escape hatch (i.e., change the species) off the table. All that’s left is species termination.

  12. Mark Pontin

    Stormcrow: ‘Humans, both taken as individuals and as a species, never evolved the mental capacity to manage the complexity of the environment their tools have now created. That requires, at minimum, the ability to process logic with the same facility we do ordinary languages, and human brain hardwiring simply does not support that ability.’

    A lot of assertions here without evidence. Especially as the primary fact not addressed is that human beings are literally getting stupider. On average, the race today is substantially dumber than the average Cro Magnon human 30,000 years ago.

    Specifically, in the last 10,000 years the average human brain has shrank two-hundred cubic centimeters. Putting that in context, if we shrank another two-hundred, we’d again have the IQ of Homo erectus, the earliest member of genus Homo, who lived two million years back in the Pleistocene and was the predecessor of Homo heidelbergensis, who preceded Homo neanderthalis and Homo sap. That’s a vast decline in 10,000 years.

    Here’s a piece I wrote for MIT Technology Review, where I talked to Colin Renfrew (aka Lord Cairmsthorn), among other interesting folks, that gives the big picture and is easy to grasp —

    ‘Our Past Within Us: The new field known as archeogenetics is illuminating prehistory.’

    Again, this decline in human intelligence is a radical recent reversal of the whole previous trend of human evolution, which was towards ever larger brains. Moreover, alongside this decline, there’s an accompanying evolutionary trend

    Which is, if you compare modern humans to our ancestors, we exhibit a large number of phenotypic traits you only find in domesticated animal species. Just the four most obvious ones are smaller teeth, shorter faces, reduced sex differences, and smaller brains.

    Alongside that, our behaviors—our low rate of face-to-face aggression and high capability for cooperation, for instance, *relative to non-domesticated species*—are also more typical of pets and cattle.

    Which raises the question: Whose companion animal are we?

    I don’t buy it. Or, rather, I think the real question is: *Which* humans domesticated which other humans? Because the transition from Paleolithic to Neolithic existence was where both the trend towards declining IQs and human domestication syndrome really kicks in.

    And the fact gets glossed over, but the move to agriculture and permanent settlement very much did *not* benefit the average human back then. The record is very clear that Paleolithic humans were taller, healthier, lived longer as hunter-gather nomads, and worked far less. Conversely, permanent settlement and agriculture were seriously detrimental for Neolithic humans, who had lower life expectancies and were physically shorter — because those selectively bred crops produced a steep nutritional decline — and worked long, back-breaking days. Simultaneously, having domesticated animals around mostly meant that a bunch of pathogens jumped species to humans, as well as diseases like rickets, osteomalacia, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, osteitis, poliomyelitis and leprosy all emerging. Additionally, women gave birth to more children, and we know that because the record shows that more died in childbirth.

    So give all that, why did people endure the transition to agriculture and permanent settlement if individually it was so far from beneficial?

    They were forced into it because agriculture produced lower-quality food but more of it, allowing larger populations and groups. No Paleolithic population ever prevailed against the greater numbers and organization of a Neolithic group.

    And that’s the point.

    If you’re a human predator who preys on other human beings and you find yourself in a Paleolithic kinship group of twenty to thirty hunter-gatherers, your scope for predation is relatively limited. Maybe you can threaten or kill members of your group so the rest comply with your demands, but they can still gang up on you or run off while you’re sleeping at night. What you can also do, however, is point to some other tribe and say they’re a threat. Any of your group’s members who argue, you can attack as weak and disloyal, while you excite the rest with stories about taking whatever the other tribe has—women, food, tools, maybe access to some particular land—that your group wants.

    Think about what’s happened there. If you’ve had your hunter-gatherer group raid another group, whereas before your group’s members were foragers with no real concept of property, now you’ve not only introduced that concept but also a heirarchy with yourself on top, your warriors below you, the rest of your group below them, and however many of the other tribe you enslave or kill at the bottom. Most of all, you’ve enlisted at least some of your people as junior predators, as they’ve now enjoyed the spoils from attacking other groups, and *you* now control whatever surpluses of food and anything else the group creates.

    The rest of the last 10,000 years of human culture — nations, empires, money — all scales from that.

    As for how the selective breeding for lower IQs and human domestication syndrome worked–and works–that derives from two obvious trends.

    Firstly, those who were intelligent and non-docile enough to not resist were either killed, or ran off–or in some instances became elites — and were culled from the breeding pool.

    Secondly, a lot of humans too stupid to survive in a state of nature *could* survive with the support of a Neolithic or modern human population; as the late George Carlin said, elites want uneducated populations just intelligent enough to do the stupid jobs that create elites’ surpluses.

    Hope this helps. And Ian — you now have a potential explanation for human docility in the face of our murderous elites.

  13. Astrid

    I wouldn’t rush into to interpreting this situation showing zero Covid isn’t possible. Shanghai and Hong Kong were outliers in how China handled COVID. Other cities had flare ups and locked down harder successfully. I imagine they were intentionally given rope to hang themselves as demonstrations to the rest of China of the need to maintain zero COVID.

    N95 masks are not necessary if you can keep COVID at a low enough level and we do see higher PPE usage at high risk areas like airports. Yes, once it gets to Shanghai levels, then it will reduce R0, but things shouldn’t get to Shanghai or Hong Kong levels in the first place. KN95 masks are not comfortable to wear for long durations.

    Given the risks of long Covid (including T cell exhaustion) and evolving strains, I think it’s nuts to “let it rip” at this moment. The Chinese I know tend to be extremely health conscious and I think the people complaining, especially those complaining about the lockdown as opposed to poor implementation of specific food deliver and quarantine programs, are a small minority (very likely those with business interests being adversely affected).

  14. Mark Pontin

    Stormcrow: “Nobody in or out of neuroscience has the slightest idea of how they manage (engineering higher human intelligence). That takes Peter Watts’ escape hatch (i.e., change the species) off the table.”

    You’re wrong. It’s very much on the table. We know: –

    (1) Higher human intelligence is possible because of instances like John von Neumann —

    (2) There are approximately 2,000 genes responsible for human intelligence and we know which they are. Yes, the relationships are so complex as to be beyond mapping out with our conventional computers. For quantum computers, they will not be.

    Essentially, if you have a system capable of handling a thousand qubits—the quantum equivalent of bits in classical computing—and they’re entangled, an amplitude exists for every possible configuration of those thousand qubits. That’s two to the power of one-thousand amplitudes, which is much more than the number of atoms in the universe. And that’s the power of quantum computing.

    Of course, elites don’t want smarter cattle and will resist it. We’ll hear lots of cries about the evils of eugenics, etcetera. But the advantages that would accrue to any group that does it– and the Chinese may be very capable of it — would be so overwhelming that it will eventually be done by some group.

  15. Ian Welsh

    Mark Pontin,

    great comment on domestication, and agreed. We have definitely been domesticated (but I didn’t know about the intelligence decline, thank you) and agriculture remains the worst thing that ever happened to the human race.

    Since you seem to be a bit of an expert, any chance of getting that brain back thru relatively fast methods? Of un-domesticating? How would we do that?

  16. Willy

    I’ve heard the domestication argument before. That person claimed that most people do want to be controlled, but only in ways acceptable for them.

    So would the chickens prefer to live in cramped barns with rows upon rows of tiny cages, feeding troughs, and poop chutes? Or would they find the free range lifestyle more acceptable? Obviously lower chicken IQs solves that issue, since they’d lose the ability to discern lifestyles. I’d think that domesticated humans have a ways to go before getting to that place themselves.

    But what about the chicken farmers themselves? I find it hard to believe that chicken farmers choosing between a more efficient but ruthless farming style, and one more pleasurable for the chickens, to be solely a function of their own, and the chickens, intelligence. It seems other variables are involved.

  17. StewartM

    Mark Pontin

    Specifically, in the last 10,000 years the average human brain has shrank two-hundred cubic centimeters. Putting that in context, if we shrank another two-hundred, we’d again have the IQ of Homo erectus, the earliest member of genus Homo, who lived two million years back in the Pleistocene and was the predecessor of Homo heidelbergensis, who preceded Homo neanderthalis and Homo sap. That’s a vast decline in 10,000 years.

    1) How was brain size determined? There has existed a whole cottage industry of measuring the brain size of famous people, and there have been large differences there (Einstein’s, for an example, was on the low size of average). Brain size correlates with overall body size, so you can do a correction for that, but you have to be careful there too, as a 300-lb 6-ft tall man is not half as smart as a 150-lb 6-foot tall man. Moreover, at least by the autopsy measurements, extracting and weighing brains isn’t a trivial task either.

    Nor is brain size constant in life. In fact, it’s relatively biggest in out mid-teens then declines in size in adulthood. Does that make teenagers the smartest of us all? One hypothesis is that teenaged brains are so big because they’re ‘stupider’, and less efficient, and as the brain becomes more adept at doing tasks it becomes more efficient so (being an expensive organ to maintain) it shrinks. This notion would however, also explain why older people get less mentally flexible compared to teens–we’re more ‘stuck in our ways’.

    So count me highly skeptical, as the article also points out.

    2) Your prehistory I find out of whack. While indeed hunter-gatherers who existed long enough to be studied fight ‘wars’, they tend to be relatively low-casualty events and they have no sociopathic ‘headmen’ by any description I’m aware of. That’s because your status as a leader is granted by both your track record of competence–people listen to you as you’ve been proven to know what you’re talking about and the fact you always ‘do the right thing’ by others–which often means you eat last after everyone else has eaten. Being a headman over hunter-gatherers is really a (materially speaking) thankless task; you have no real coercive power and you thus ‘rule’ by example and by platitude (as you dare not accuse other of bad behaviors directly, but in a small group everyone knows who you are talking about).

    Then there’s the question of the low population density of such groups. Say, in an area the size of France about 20,000 years ago, the estimated human population ranged from 2,000 to 20,000 individuals. That’s not much rubbing elbows to fight wars over territory. And not many casualties would thus result.

    Anthropologists have witnessed hunter-gatherer ‘wars’, and they’re often largely theater. In one description I’ve read, everyone in group A isn’t trying to kill those in group B, it’s more a case of *some* in group A having a problem with *some* in group B, while the non-involved are uninterested. It also involves the aggrieved menfolk yelling insults at each other and spear-throwing at long ranges, while womenfolk run yelling at the men to behave themselves. If perchance someone actually got *hit* by a weapon in one of these ‘wars’, everything stopped (“OMG, someone actually got hurt!!”).

    This latter description, mind you, was from a battle between two Australian aborigine groups, who are among the more warlike of hunter-gatherers. And you also must keep in mind that the hunter-gatherers who existed long enough to be studied existed precisely because they were driven to pieces of land that others didn’t want, which probably exacerbated any population pressure on them. Moreover, they had experienced contact with more ‘advanced’ peoples who did practice aggressive war, which would have driven them to also learn to fight if nothing else in self-defense.

    All the things you say happened did indeed happen, but they happened once humans became at least horticulturalists and likely agriculturalists. There, with the environmental simplification and degradation that accompanies agriculture, the increase of population density, and the reliance on staple crops both increase population pressure as well as provide (eventually) any leaders with the means to tangibly reward followers and punish transgressors. In addition, the increased prevalence of conflict and violence means that leaders do become bloody-handed men, who have fewer and fewer qualms about hurting others to get what they want. It is that that translates sociopathy from being a detriment trait (as it is in hunter-gatherers) to being a positive advantage for leadership (at least the milder version of it).

  18. Ché Pasa

    Just as a side note to Sweden’s sacrifice of their elders to the pandemic:

    A Swedish friend of mine wrote a poem some years back titled “To the Precipice,” to mark an ancient Nordic practice: when the old folks became useless, couldn’t take care of themselves, or were otherwise incapacitated, they took themselves or were taken by their families “to the precipice”. There they were expected to throw themselves off to their deaths below. Or if they resisted, they were thrown off by their loved ones. All for the greater good, don’t you know.

    Here’s a Wiki entry on the practice:

    My friend didn’t think it was legend, nor was she all that sure it wasn’t still being practiced.

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