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

April 20th US Covid Numbers

In response to the Atlantic article on how limited testing is affecting the Covid-19 statistics, our benefactor writes:

Our positivity rates at 20 percent are extremely high and consistent across time. I suspect that low numbers of new cases in the South are partially a reflection of a lack of testing. If you only have so many tests and beds, you will only get so many cases. Most early estimates were that the coronavirus would have to infect up to 60-70 percent of the population in order to reach herd immunity. We currently have .2 percent of the population with known cases. That’s tiny. Current states with the highest increases (over eight percent) of new cases are IA, KY, MI, ND, NE, OH, and WV. That’s not as large a sample as NY, but it tells you where testing has increased.

In addition, the mortality rate was expected to be one to two percent. We keep climbing every day and are well past 5 percent mortality rate. Sweden is at a 10.7 percent mortality rate. If we were testing a much larger population, our mortality rate would be dropping… Finally, though, I am hearing reports of declining ICU populations in NYC. That’s fantastic.


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The Mass Delusion of Self-Actualization


April 21st US Covid Data


  1. Joan

    I need morticians to step up to the plate and give us the real numbers in the south. No way is this accurate if that many people went to church and shook hands. This whole thing will be swept under the rug if the government reports tens of thousands of deaths while the undertakers process hundreds of thousands more bodies than usual. Some of that would be unrelated medical complications and people avoiding the hospital, sure, but still.

  2. The mortality rate statistic the “benefactor” is using is misleading since it is highly variable due to scope of testing, as they themselves acknowledge. What is the purpose of using it?

  3. Hvd

    Well at a minimum it might encourage more testing to avoid having the worst mortality rate.

    Without more testing we really know very little statistically.

  4. I think instead it may just decrease trust in statistics.

  5. Willy

    Depends on whose doing the trusting, methinks. Any ideas on how we can regaining a trust in these sorts of things, amongst the non-trusting?

  6. Zachary Smith

    Today I was out for the first time in several days on a milk and eggs run. On the way I flipped on the car radio and found about half the stations featured rants by rightwingers about the lockdown. Paraphrasing one guy, “98% of the people getting this disease don’t have any symptoms – they don’t even know they have it.” Another fellow was more incoherent, speaking of the foreign origins and possibility of the virus being deliberately released – for this we’re shutting down the country?

    Arriving at the second grocery store, I made an idle remark wondering when it all would end. It was like pulling the chain on a Chatty Cathy doll – the guy started a monologue about how “they’re taking our freedoms”. Maybe what irked him was the employer-supplied mask he was required to wear. He had the thing on, but deliberately pulled it down to cover only his mouth and leaving his nose uncovered. I said nothing, but wondered about the wisdom of spitting into the wind. The rRump Sniffers are unwilling to use their gray matter if doing so contradicts their hero. From the Hullaballo site:

    I don’t want anyone to die of this thing. Not even people like this who are brainwashed by right-wing dogma and Donald Trump and can’t see the forest for the trees. But while these people may have a “right” to risk their lives over this, they really don’t have a right to spread it to others simply to make a political point.

    I guess they are all martyrs to their cause. But it’s a very stupid cause …

  7. gnokgnoh

    @mandos, I am the benefactor. None of these data are reliable for many different reasons. We look for trends and comparisons. We will not really know the extent of the coronavirus until after this has all ended, and we can look at mortality rate fluctuations from the norm. NYC is already doing this, which was partially what caused them to take a closer look at home deaths and restate the total deaths last week. See this NY Times article.

    Regarding mortality rates, specifically, we expected the increase in rates, because of the lag time between testing and recovery or death, but it just keeps going up. As testing went up, the expectation was that mortality would decrease. It appears that the Atlantic article is spot on.

  8. gnokgnoh

    @mandos, the ambiguity of the statistics is exactly the point. It allows one faction to claim that we are under-counting and the other faction to claim over-counting. I don’t mean to use false equivalency, the science-based faction is very clear that we are under-counting. The lack of trust is all wrapped up in the deep state cabal view of the world.

    Science teaches us to count, re-count, count again, and keep adjusting the analysis. The goal is to get it right. In the middle of the process, data are often quite unreliable, but we need to keep counting and trying harder.


    We will not really know the extent of the coronavirus until after this has all ended…

    IF it ends, and, I would say, we will never know the extent of it, whether it ends or not.

  10. Ian Welsh

    I consider the data useful, and better than just throwing our hands up in the air and saying “well, no one knows!”

    Even with bad testing, we can see a trend right to the capacity of testing to see it. Dips in cases and dips in known deaths are also both meaningful stats, even if they are undercounted.

    We won’t know the full extent till population studies are done afterwards, but in the middle of it, what numbers we can get are useful, especially when we know their limitations and take those limitations into account. That’s why I bring up issues, like New York not (before) counting deaths at home, limited testing, and so on.


    He had the thing on, but deliberately pulled it down to cover only his mouth and leaving his nose uncovered.

    I’ve seen this too on a number of occasions. I mean, why bother to wear a mask at all and if the employer requires it, shouldn’t the employer require the employees to wear the masks correctly? You would think, but then again a lot of this seems to be going through the motions for most people meaning they feel they should do it but they’re doing it half-assed.

    For those who believe it is a hoax and/or want everything to go back to normal and throw all caution to the wind, have them sign a waiver that precludes them from medical intervention when and/or if they contract it. Our healthcare professionals don’t need to risk their lives for people like this. If it’s Vegas, let them live, and die, with the consequences of their gamble.

  12. anon

    Trump and his ilk love to accuse China of not reporting accurate numbers but the numbers that are coming out of the USA seem even more unbelievable to me. I expect the South to have some of the highest numbers in the country if there was widespread testing and reporting. Poverty, religious fundamentalism, a disbelief in science, and underlying health problems like obesity and diabetes will exacerbate an already bad situation in the South and major cities across the country.

  13. Joan

    I definitely appreciate these statistics, for sure. Thanks to Ian and the benefactor.

    (450 you said you’d go spend time with your family. You commented too often and too much before. I’d be trying to keep track of the flow of conversation and you’d flood it out.)

  14. I agree that data is useful, it is merely a matter of *which* data, and (obviously) how it is interpreted. I agree that within-country fluctuations even of an imperfect measure is useful information.

    I see that I may be stepping into an ideological conflict that has labels that are not conventional to me, such as the use of “science-based” to refer to the (probably correct) undercounting “faction”. (In the sense that there are probably more Americans that are dying of the disease than are counted as having died of the disease.)

    I’m more concerned about the use of misleading statistics in international comparisons, because these have many greater degrees of freedom to be abused for ideological purposes. Sweden’s 10.7% mortality rate is due to few tests — it may go down as the Swedish government ramps up testing (as they will apparently do). On the other hand, a cross-sectional sample of the Swedish population shows a test positivity rate of about 2.5%. But the test positivity rate of people who were tested due to being suspected of having the disease is much much higher, because only a few were tested. But this wildly different context is being used as a sort of benchmark for comparison with the USA. Same for countries that had it badly — Italy and so on.

    Like you said, we may only have a good way to analyze these differences some time down the road.

  15. “Dr. Fauci’s own career-making medical research had no clinical control group, used historic controls #coronavirus” @

    So, Fauci wasn’t a methodological purist in his younger days. What a nasty piece of work!

  16. Stephen McIntyre @ClimateAudit heaps big praise on statistic professor Xihong Lin@XihongLin

    ” this professor of statistics at Harvard is (by far) the most accurate commenter on COVID policy abd has published excellent article on Wuhan. Urge you to pay careful attention.”

    She is reporting US states stuck at R = 1. She shows a graph of how Wuhan’s R was dropped to .1, by March 8, as a function of public policy, here:

    Of course, March 8 was over a month, ago…. Also, large data correction was just a few days, ago, but that involved under-reported deaths from early in the outbreak.

    I’d be curious to hear her thoughts on re-opening economies. With such a low R, progress toward herd immunity doubtless screeched to a halt.

  17. bruce wilder

    I do not know why all of a sudden, but I find I am tired of the pseudo-ideological posturing along the lines of “look at those stupid people over there!”

    I frequently wear a mask now and I know why I might sometimes shift the covering away from my nose: breathing thru your nose into a mask can quickly become quite uncomfortable and the slightest exertion makes the problem worse. The mask is not protecting me; it is a courtesy by which I signal my willingness to observe precautions to protect others. Doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable and as long I remain symptom-free and have no known contact with an infected person, there is no strong reason for me to believe that it is anything other than a symbolic gesture that I am engaged with. I do not do it for fellowship with morons who think Biden would be better than Trump, because Rachel Maddow said the guy who puts the ‘dem’ in dementia is a decent fellow or some such nonsense. I get why someone might have ambivalence about the mask thing or any number of other seemingly arbitrary restrictions on movement or commerce. I get why almost anyone would be skeptical about the expertise of experts in authority. These people were poo-pooing the need for masks not so long ago. Then, they could not organize mass-production and distribution of masks. These are the same people who bollixed testing badly enough to put us all in this desperate situation. Putting on your tribal hat and claiming you are morally superior because you are “science-based” is a silly conceit.

  18. krake

    Hear, hear Mandos and Bruce.

  19. Benjamin

    @bruce wilder

    “Doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable and as long I remain symptom-free and have no known contact with an infected person, there is no strong reason for me to believe that it is anything other than a symbolic gesture that I am engaged with.”

    Christ, we’re how many weeks into this thing and you apparently aren’t aware that many people with it are asymptomatic? Or are you speaking rhetorically from the perspective of the idiots who won’t use their fucking masks properly? Because they are, in fact, idiots if they also don’t know it can be asymptomatic.

    And you opened with how you’re ‘tired of the pseudo-ideological posturing’ of calling other people stupid, before you yourself calling Liberal Democrats stupid. Guess what? They are fucking stupid. But so are the morons who keep listening to Trump.

    I’ve had direct interactions with these people. They are morons, pure and simple. One guy in particular, a little over a month ago: ‘This thing is nothing, it’s just a bad cold.” At least 41,000 corpses later: “This thing is a joke, something something seasonal flu”.

    I used to say (not on here) something to the effect that there were people who Trump could literally kill their dog in front of them and they would find a way to rationalize it and excuse him. Well now that’s basically what’s happened, and what are they doing? Screaming at nurses about how they want to work, because he told them to on Twitter.

  20. Zachary Smith

    The mask is not protecting me; it is a courtesy by which I signal my willingness to observe precautions to protect others.

    Unless I’ve been misinformed, inhaled air going towards your face and exhaled air going away is passing through the exact same fabric/material each way. (An exception to that rule might be if you’re using one of the cheap, rigid, and ill-fitting paper dust masks. When I found a very elderly aunt was proudly using those from her husband’s workshop, I hastily got some surgical masks into the mail to her.)

    Playing nice with the social rules is fine, but staying hale and hearty is even better. The way I see it, if me and somebody else are both wearing decent masks and are otherwise not acting stupid, our odds are pretty darned good. Those viruses would have to travel through two sets of mask materials, and even if there is an exposure, it’s a known fact that a very small dose is far better than a large one. Once again, improving the odds.

    Putting on your tribal hat and claiming you are morally superior because you are “science-based” is a silly conceit.

    Then color me conceited. I’m a big believe in “history based” and “reality” too. I’m obviously not a fan of the despicable Apartheid state, but that doesn’t cause me to wander into loony-tunes lands as a Holocaust Denier. I’m not a fan of Big Pharma either, but working to keep people from getting their vaccinations is something done by homicidal fools.

    It’s a fact Biden is a worthless POS, and would be so even if he had all his marbles. This is NOT any kind of defense of the Lawless Clown Trump.

  21. Stirling S Newberry

    World 253635
    USA 76406
    Italy 29525
    Spain 25790
    France 25150
    UK 21903
    + Islands 21983
    Belgium 7091
    Iran 6160
    Germany 7397
    China 4682
    Netherlands 5221
    Brazil 3388
    Turkey 5910
    Canada 2817
    Sweden 2212
    Switzerland 1824
    Portugal 1710
    Mexico 983
    Ireland 1431
    India 1325
    Indonesia 861
    Ecuador 930
    Romania 800
    Austria 654
    Peru 890
    Philippines 698
    Russia 2568
    Algeria 445
    Poland 784
    Denmark 505
    Japan 744
    Egypt 363
    S. Korea 348
    Dominican Republic 450
    Hungary 274
    Czechia 451
    Colombia 338
    Norway 528
    Israel 651
    Pakistan 513
    Ukraine 411
    Morocco 270
    Argentina 249
    Chile 423
    Panama 351
    Serbia 406
    Greece 193
    Saudi Arabia 547
    Bangladesh 239
    Finland 186
    Malaysia 191
    Iraq 104
    Slovenia 130
    Luxembourg 217
    Australia 185
    Moldova 171
    South Africa 167
    North Macedonia 102
    Belarus 335
    Bosnia and Herzegovina 92
    Thailand 84
    Croatia 100
    Honduras 67
    UAE 336
    Bulgaria 78
    Cameroon 82
    Estonia 106
    San Marino 57
    Tunisia 72
    Burkina Faso 47
    Lithuania 89
    Andorra 58
    Cuba 74
    Afghanistan 78
    Bolivia 60
    Albania 37
    DRC 39
    Channel Islands 43
    Armenia 58
    Nigeria 44
    Lebanon 48
    Niger 45
    Kazakhstan 88
    Azerbaijan 50
    Kenya 23
    Mali 22
    New Zealand 34
    Slovakia 58
    Diamond Princess 15
    Cyprus 45
    Martinique 15
    Sudan 16
    Singapore 371
    Iceland 30
    Ivory Coast 39
    Uruguay 20
    Venezuela 17
    Tanzania 21
    Sint Maarten 12
    Qatar 281
    Kuwait 89
    Ghana 55
    Mauritius 13
    Isle of Man 13
    Bahamas 11
    Somalia 19
    Paraguay 15
    Guadeloupe 11
    Trinidad and Tobago 12
    Liberia 12
    Bahrain 63
    Oman 65
    Kyrgyzstan 25
    Jordan 13
    Sri Lanka 16
    Guatemala 20
    El Salvador 15
    Guyana 9
    Costa Rica 32
    Taiwan 16
    Congo 12
    Togo 7
    Uzbekistan 73
    Latvia 37
    Guinea 29
    Senegal 11
    Montenegro 15
    Jamaica 14
    Myanmar 10
    Bermuda 7
    Barbados 7
    Hong Kong 23
    Georgia 19
    Mayotte 11
    Palestine 21
    Malta 18
    Ethiopia 7
    Monaco 6
    Zambia 4
    Haiti 5
    Syria 4
    Zimbabwe 4
    Antigua and Barbuda 3
    Djibouti 39
    Aruba 4
    Saint Martin 2
    Angola 2
    Belize 2
    Malawi 2
    Nicaragua 2
    MS Zaandam 2
    Brunei 2
    Gabon 6
    French Guiana 2
    Liechtenstein 2
    Cabo Verde 4
    Cayman Islands 3
    Benin 2
    Libya 2
    Eswatini 1
    Botswana 1
    Curaçao 1
    Turks and Caicos 1
    Gambia 1
    Suriname 1
    Mauritania 1
    British Virgin Islands 1
    Burundi 1
    Réunion 8
    Vietnam 2
    Faeroe Islands 0
    Rwanda 3
    Gibraltar 0
    Cambodia 0
    Madagascar 4
    Equatorial Guinea 3
    Maldives 2
    French Polynesia 1
    Uganda 0
    Guinea-Bissau 2
    Macao 1
    Sierra Leone 1
    Eritrea 1
    Mozambique 1
    Chad 1
    Mongolia 1
    Nepal 1
    Timor-Leste 1

  22. Willy

    Tired of posturing along the lines of “look at those stupid people over there”?

    Just because you’re tired, doesn’t mean there aren’t stupid people over there out to get you.
    I’d keep on wearing the mask, especially around Cracker Barrels, Liberty University, and most evangelical churches. Just to play it safe. It isn’t just blacks and metrosexual gays causing this thing.

  23. It’s a very peculiar moment when Bruce and I end up vaguely on the same side of an issue on this blog 🙂

    I fully agree that coronavirus is a serious problem, social distancing matters, drastic solutions are required in some countries, different countries have made different mistakes to different degrees, the pandemic reveals the flaws in our neoliberal world, etc, etc, etc.

    I find a couple of things disturbing, however. One thing is the nearly neurotic moralization of the issue at an individual level. The people who want to party at the Cheesecake Factory after church see the disruption of their life-routines as real suffering and are not going to be hectored out of their feelings by being told that their desire is equivalent to wanting to kill a lot of old people they don’t think they’ll ever meet. You are not going to convince them that Zoom parties and Netflix are a substitute for their normal lives, it only confirms to them their cultural difference from you and the general alienness of the urban liberal. It happens at a smaller scale too — where otherwise socially distanced people are shamed for even taking a walk in the park by people you feel were just waiting for “their moment” to bring out their inner “hall monitor”.

    This will eventually result in the next wave of coronavirus or some other likely/inevitable pandemic with an exacerbated “screw it, let em die” reaction. This is a horrible attitude, but it is in the normal range of human reactions to things you perceive only affect strangers.

    When Trump and other Republicans muse about opening churches etc, they know what they are doing. Whether or not they intend to do it, they are showing to their supporters that they take their supporters’ self-perceived suffering seriously, rather than seeing it as a shameful entitlement.

    The “opposite” tack is not better either. The emphasis, for example, that “young people die from it too”, while true, is intended to obscure what everyone knows: young people don’t die from it very often, comparatively. People are telling this to young people to appeal to their self-interest, rather than being honest and saying that it is ultimately about placing restrictions on the young to stop the old and sick from occupying hospitals that will result in the death of more old and sick — primarily. This messaging increases mistrust.

    But worst of all is that a discourse of mathematical modelling (excluding difficult-to-quantify social questions) and ethic of risk management driven by a (not-so-strange) alliance of authoritarians with the “Taleb-an”, so to speak, has slid under the radar as the One True Way to think about the problem, aside from the measurements themselves and research into treatments and so on. The calculable risks are assumed as the only thing to guard against; the uncalculable ones theorized about using highly unrealistic takes on human political morality and psychology.

    In this context, all of this makes the following scenario more likely: because of Trump’s obvious incompetence now, he is more likely lose to Biden, but only by default/loss of marginal voters. Biden may get the presidency “for free” and be in no way upholden to any form of left progressive for even the votes to win the Electoral College, who would have cemented a reputation for the above hectoring and pandemic moralization and uncritical acceptance of “Taleb-an”* ideology.

    *As in N. N. Taleb.

  24. gnokgnoh

    @mandos, what moralizing are you talking about? When was any of this ideological or pseudo-ideological? The epidemiologists and doctors are trying to use data and numbers and historical experience to give us advice and to help guide policy. The politicians and whoever else has a hand on the tiller are not providing us with the sufficient tools to count accurately, because mostly we don’t have sufficient tests or tracing capacity. That’s called under-counting.

    The other faction, which gets an out-sized amount of press because the media like a good conflict, asserts that we are over-counting because politicians are trying to scare us and bring us under their control (deep state cabal). If pushed for sources about how this is being done, they will say that the government is counting people who have died of pneumonia as coronavirus victims.* I have had these conversations several times with smart people, including relatives and colleagues, who really believe this.

    Finally, when NYC starts adjusting its numbers up to account for home deaths, they are not testing all those people who died at home, although new antibody tests are coming out that will help make this more accurate. Nor is everyone who died at home being counted as a coronavirus-related death.

    It’s not ideological. This is not a political argument. I am not moralizing. The science-based faction is listening to public health officials, epidemiologists and doctors.** A lot of other people are not. These are not two data sets with competing interpretations. It’s one data set with competing interpretations.

    *I’m not going to argue this point. The causality between the flu and pneumonia has been clear for years. The same goes for the coronavirus.

    **I also realize that there are differences among epidemiologists (e.g., we have some who assert that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment.) Different issue.

  25. @bruce wilder
    “I do not know why all of a sudden, but I find I am tired of the pseudo-ideological posturing along the lines of “look at those stupid people over there!”

    It’s mostly just more of the same. The same ‘infection’ of partisanship, tribalism, and irrationalism and/or semi-rationalism. And, frankly, a sort of layman’s natural incompetence, which somehow seems ‘natural’, due to the dumbed down and partisan nature of the media.

    Also, I realized when I went to college that people like to irrationally complain. (Don’t know why, frankly.) People would make fun of the dining services food, but I always thought it was very good, with some notable exceptions, like their habit of freezing (then thawing) fresh celery.

    The year I graduated, my school won “best cafeteria food” amongst colleges in the US.

    Another large installment by expert John Ioannidis dropped, recently, and he still humbly explains that various responses to lockdowns were made in a low-information environment, and it’s necessary not to point fingers, at least for now, but to make a good faith effort to assess as time goes on.

    He WAS asked about Sweden, and refused to say “oh, what blunderheads! They obviously want to kill themselves!”. I wish the people who say similar things about citizens in the US would show such humility as this world-class expert. Oh, and also explain to us how they intend to build up herd immunity. Or, if they want to pin their hopes on a vaccine, explain to their fellow citizens just how long they are willing for us, as a society to wait for one, and at what cost.

    Similarly to the so-called “climate change” (non)debate, the covid-19 catastrophists don’t even attempt cost/benefit analyses. In fairness, and unlike the so-called “climate change” debate, I don’t hear any of the people who want to open up businesses and schools in the short term point to any comprehensive cost/benefit analysis, either. I SUSPECT THAT THERE ISN’T ONE. (Unlike “climate change”, where one can point to Lomborg’s analysis, e.g., which takes as a starting point IPCC projections, seriously).

    So, we know that maintaining current lockdown conditions will mean ever-increasing suicides, ill mental health, probably increasing early deaths from delayed medical procedures, more domestic violence, more homelessness. Of course, if things progress to food shortages (which, I’ve read, shouldn’t happen in the US; but, of course, other countries didn’t have food security even before covid-19), we could be looking at major riots, as well. And even before we get to possible food shortages, the lousy American diet, which is killing far more people than covid-19 ever will, is going to get even worse, as people will turn to cheap carbohydrates, even more. Just what we need, even more hyperinsulinemia!

    Just how much reality based are the people who want us all to self-isolate, indefinitely, and “let the virus decide”, with nary a thought for building up herd immunity ASAP or what a fat tailed distribution implies? Not very, I’d say.

    The best explanation that I’ve heard, of a way forward towards re-opening (and partly the way we should have approached things, from the beginning) is a fine grained one, involving VERTICAL interdiction. I managed to extract the following transcript from “Perspectives on the Pandemic | Dr. David L. Katz | Episode 3”, on youtube. Note that this interview runs :59 minutes. This guy will never be given 59 minutes on a prime time news show, not even as a special.

    Mark Levin, of Fox, did do a recent interview of John Ioannidis, which I assume is longish, because that’s what he normally does, I think. However, he is probably the exception that proves the rule. And I doubt that even he is bright or caring enough to try and facilitate a bottom up, citizen directed effort, to try and push the various state governments (plus the federal government) in the right directions. (Notice the plural).

    I’m not going to take the time to add punctuation to the following. The interview is well worth listening to, as are all of the “Perspectives on the Pandemic” playlist entries at the Journeyman Pictures youtube channel.

    “VERTICAL INTERDICTION means selectively protecting the population what about this and what about that what about these what about those so yeah well you know what if you’ve got in the same household low risk and high risk what do you do and my answer now is then is it’s a twelve hundred page policy manual basically you need three hundred masters level people under the supervision of a large group of leading experts it’s an intensive whiteboarding experience for several days and then it gets you know basically each of three hundred intelligent young people is responsible for three or four pages and two different scenarios so you know an older person caring for their grandchildren a multi-generational home a child with diabetes and healthy parents that you know what do we do in all these situations but at the end of it all there’s still some fairly simple conclusion so we might be able to say every household where no one is over 70 and no one has heart disease or diabetes out into the world now I don’t know that that’s right I want data to inform this but if I were in charge I ran the zoo you know whether we would be there actually or virtually it’s never been a better time to put Camp David to use convene a multidisciplinary group of experts start out by talking through all the data we have make sure we’re getting all the data we need and start to generate these kinds of high-level policy ideas and then Commission I don’t care it’s the Army Corps of Engineers it’s the nation’s public health students but you know a large group to work through every permutation just the kind of questions you’re asking now so what if here’s the structure of my house right I’ve got one person who’s got this and one person is this age and this person’s caring for that person there are a lot of those variants but on the other hand they fall into patterns and essentially AT THE END OF THE DAY WE’RE TALKING ABOUT A VERY LARGE DECISION TREE if this then this and there may be a wide array of them but fundamentally there is a large number of households we’re based on what we know so far the risk for everybody there is pretty low and they could probably safely mingle with all the other households in that same state and then we could concentrate our protective resources on those households that need to stay away from this longer and they come back to the world a bit later” (emphasis mine)

    P.S.: Masks are a good thing.

  26. krake


    Not answering for Mandos, but: the moralizing is embedded in every assumption that data is absent ideology, or that its use is exempt from prior moral judgments.

    Perhaps a better way to illustrate this is by reference to helmet or seatbelt laws. The data regarding distribution of costs (injuries; public funding of hospitals, emts, emergency services; insurance rates; long term care) is pretty clear: it’s cheaper to require minimal personal contraint (wear a helmet/seatbelt) than to backload and socialize the costs of injuries like head trauma, elsewhere.

    There is, fundamentally, a moral and ideological use of the data, there: that individuals are obligated to self-constrain in the interests of the commonweal, and cost-efficiency. But, this moral use of information also very patently ignores or presupposes the invalidity of other moral-ideological lenses, because it assumes both that the administration of the commonweal is benevolent and that it is separate from the carceral, milice, police and leviathan powers of disciplinary states whose taxation and punishment regimes fund it. It also assumes, quite insidiously, that corporate and technocratic efficiencies are the best tool by which to measure public good.

    In other words, it makes a moral assumption that the now captive Commons is not beholden to the command and control states and non-state actors that are, in fact, demonstrably in possession of the commonweal.

    It doesn’t really matter that some factions of those vested interests are astroturfing protests against public health, in order for you, I, or anyone else to examine and understand that the (yes, often self-betraying and unreliably narrated) mistrust of the leviathan powers is not automatically a function of stupidity, moral failure or merely crude self-interest.

    I would argue that as long as the Commons are captive to states and extraction regimes, ‘data’ re: public health will always obviously be equally encoded as ideological, and put to use as a moral cudgel.

  27. krake

    I think I may have dropped a long reply to gnokgnoh w/o typing name and email in the requured slots.

  28. S Brennan


    Excellent article, the “clinical trials must be completed 1st” is crap.

    Had Homo Sapien insisted on the “clinical trial” approach in times of desperation some 100,000 years ago we’d still be using clubs and denigrating fellow apes who advocate switching over to spears and arrows as “unproven” technology. I can hear it now, “No Flintstone, we can’t switch to a new technology until the results of the clinical trials are definitive and…after what happened to the last control group, we haven’t been able to muster enough volunteers for a follow-up study. We’ll just have to go after that sabre-tooth with clubs”.

    The reason war has repeatedly advanced technology is, desperate people are willing to throw convention aside and try new approaches. Desperate times call for innovation, often, on the fly. The P-51 Mustang went from cocktail napkin to combat in six months. The P-51 had a lot of problems coming out of the gate but, by wars end it was the conflict’s most effective fighter. We are at war, solutions, not political infighting are what’s needed.

  29. gnokgnoh: I was not primarily addressing you but rather making a rather, er, “unintentionally” extended assenting side-comment to Bruce.

    However, reading what krake said, I must co-sign. The science you are talking about may indeed at its core be truth-seeking, and there may be an astroturf industry intended to obscure it and confuse the public. But because it has to do with people’s lives, it takes place in a political context with a particular moral ideology of public risk. The motivations for some members of the public to want to believe the people telling willful untruths is in large part a reaction to an implicit moral agenda in the presentation of that science, one which they don’t instinctively agree with but feel badgered or forced into obeying. Some of that morality comes from a good and well-intentioned place and even one I agree with, but some of it does have whiff of dubious esoteric political agenda (the influence of folks like NN Taleb I mentioned and of course many fellow travellers).

  30. Mojave Wolf

    I understand what Mandos and Bruce are saying and agree with much of it. And Krake and Gnokgnoh & S Brennan.

    Part of the problem is most of us (certainly not I) have no idea exactly how scary this is or could get. Medical professionals seem to think it is very scary, so I am deferring to them.

    At the same time, depending on how bad it might get, there’s the very real possibility that the cure of shutting things down indefinitely is going to be worse than the disease, consolidating the power of the very rich and the larger companies and decimating everyone else.

    So, at the moment, I am all for masks and gloves and wish it were a lot easier to get more, while thinking we are mistaken in shutting down all the businesses and more or less ruining lots of people, possibly the majority of small business people. (I say this as someone who is still working but is making less than I would be on unemployment-+pretty much think my company is run by liars and thieves and should be prosecutable for all sorts of things; am putting in for underemployment, will see what happens). Some countries seem to be having better results than us without the giant shutdown, not sure why we aren’t trying to emulate them (yeah, Ian has several posts marvelling at our bipartisan incompetence; can’t really argue there).

    The encouraging people to snitch on people who get out of line disturbs me, even aside from sharing Mandos’ dislike of people who think it’s fun to play hall monitor.

    I’m not going to go to a beach party, but the idea of arresting people for it horrified me, unless there’s bsome reason to think this is going to turn into Captain Trips or the Georgia Flu (literary references, not real diseases). Is there?

    Otoh, the shutdown I just complained about has probably been awesome for wildlife and possibly helpful in combatting climate change, so maybe I should be glad if it anyway even if bad for us humans?

    And that is my long winded way of saying I don’t really know what to think, whilst waiting for people to unload my truck.

  31. Benjamin


    “The people who want to party at the Cheesecake Factory after church see the disruption of their life-routines as real suffering and are not going to be hectored out of their feelings by being told that their desire is equivalent to wanting to kill a lot of old people they don’t think they’ll ever meet.”

    Too bad. Because that’s literally what they’re doing. And it’s clear to me that many of them are simply too damn stupid to grasp this, no matter what anyone says or how politely they say it. And they will continue to be fools at least until the bodies start dropping in earnest in their local area a couple weeks after their region reopens.

    They think the ‘disruption of their life-routines’ is suffering? Wait until they’re dead and don’t have any routines at all. “Hey, grandma’s dead, but at least we all had cake!” And it isn’t just that they shouldn’t be going to parties after church, they shouldn’t be going to church in the first place (the religious of various stripes all over the planet have accounted themselves in an utterly shameful manner in this crisis. Their faith has made them, literally, terminally stupid. Loathsome.).

    It’s not about feeling ‘screw it, let em die’. Have you missed the part where this thing is highly contagious? It’s about the fact that their selfish willful ignorance will get *other* people killed in the process. Fuck these people; they’re a danger to the rest of us who aren’t morons.

    Not surprised to see a liberal trying to tone police the rest of us for not being nice enough to manslaughterers.

  32. Benjamin’s contribution is really funny to me because he accuses me of being a tone-policing liberal when it is usually the liberals who are yelling jonstewartishly at the churchy unscientific normies. Bonus points for missing the point of why people go to church. *shruggie emoji*

  33. krake

    As a godless apostate materialist I still cannot see anything fruitful in militant, evangelical, self-satisfied atheism.

  34. krake

    @ Mojave Wolf,

    Way I see it, it is reasonable and sensible to know that you don’t have a map to unmapped terrain. Your starting position makes sense, because it isn’t an attempt to reduce chaos to warring polarities.

  35. Benjamin


    I’ve observed this site for a long time. You are a Liberal, regardless of how you may categorize yourself. Your contributions are almost always uniformly useless, and only serve to make Welsh look that much better.

    As for religion, I’ve said literally nothing about religion or believers as a whole. I’m talking about people who insist on performing their devotions in large groups in the midst of this pandemic. The South Korean outbreak was essentially started by the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which is some sort of weird Christianity-adjacent cult. A guru in India managed to infect 15,000 people before himself dying of it. Also in India a Muslim missionary group seems to have become a massive vector. Meanwhile in the US many churches, usually evangelical (who, incidentally, Welsh has referred to as a ‘putrescent abscess’ before, just fyi if we’re going to play this cute game of berating people for not being religiously tolerant) have both refused to close, repeatedly managing to kill their own members in the process, and been loudspeakers for fake news and denialism in regards to the virus. And I can guarantee you that the a lot of the members of the ‘liberate the states’ ‘movement’, as well as Bolsonaro’s useful idiots in Brazil are from these same kinds of churches.

    So yeah, I’ll reiterate my point that the faithful have made a dire spectacle of themselves in this crisis. I’m sorry (not sorry) if you think that’s mean or bigoted or whatever. This isn’t just about idiots getting themselves killed, their stupidity is going to get other people killed. Possibly even you or me. I’m done being nice to fools.


    “militant, evangelical, self-satisfied atheism”

    Actually right now it’s militant, evangelical, self-satisfied not-wanting-to-catch-super-flu.

    I’ve literally said nothing about atheism, guy.

  36. Mojave Wolf

    @Krake — thank you. And yeah, that is exactly what too many are doing, imo.


    Interesting. I mostly agree with Benjamin’s comments and rather strongly disagree with Mandos’. Not here. Very weird times indeed.

    I mean, I also tend to dislike large scale organized religion, and did even when (decades ago) I was a devout Christian, because the leadership of such tends to become …. Corrupt, hypocritical, loathsome, tyrannical, etc. But that isn’t contradictory to the idea of people finding community with well meaning others of shared value, and seeking spiritual meaning and transcendence, which is possible even if they are going to a church run by one of the slimeballs Benjamin is referring to. And times like this are when such a community could be especially valuable to people’s mental health and well-being.

    There’s also the general American rebellious streak and dislike of excessive supervision. Our workplaces have tried very hard and been somewhat successful at replacing it with “see your neighbor not working constantly/acting like a terrorist/doing drugs/not wearing a mask/gathering in groups larger than four? Call 1-800-2Snitch!”

    I am again unsure that repressing rebellious instincts in this era is worth the cost, especially since we have no idea how to keep this up long term, and some countries are possibly doing better than us with less lockdown, etc.

    And yah, if this is Captain Trips/the Georgia Flu, I am wrong and Benjamin right (tho still, not letting people in to see dying parents? It’s their life they are risking, just quarantine them after or something. That’s just plain cruel and excessive even if this was on the 99 per cent fatality level)

  37. Benjamin

    @Mojave Wolf

    They can have their community. Just don’t do it in person for the time being. Live streaming exists. Use it.

    And it isn’t about specific leaders being scumbags (though those certainly exist). It’s about people, plural, refusing to not get together in massive groups that endanger themselves and others. And religion is being a consistent cause of this. It is pure stupidity, and it is a public health nightmare. The ‘faithful’ are willfully engaging in manslaughter.

    Oh, also, Matthew 6:1-8. Keep it to yourselves.

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