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Posts Tagged ‘Computer Models

They got it wrong again.

Having already written in 2020 about the insanely wrong predictions made early that year by British epidemiological “expert”, Neil Ferguson, followed by his total hypocrisy in breaking his own lockdown rules for a little bit of crumpet on the side, I didn’t think I’d ever have to hear from him again.

I should have known better since that first post listed equally hysterical and wrong predictions from him going back twenty years across Swine Flu, Bird Flu and Mad Cow Disease. If they were still listening to him after those then his failures on the Chinese Xi Snot Alpha virus would not have stopped the MSM turning to him again for Omicron predictions:

I’ll let Mr Watson explain further.

Written by Tom Hunter

January 7, 2022 at 4:00 pm

The Pandemic ends when the polling says so

Reading this Atlantic article I feel much as Boris Yeltsin did when he saw supermarkets in the USA for the first time.

In two previous posts, Faces are nice and numbers are boring and the earlier Fear Pornography, I looked at how governments around the world, and our government in particular, would only start slacking off on their Chinese Lung Rot restrictions when polls began to turn against them.

despite, you know, the “science” and scientists still demanding them – the government would start declaring victory and moving on.

That’s because sooner or later, the very numbers that had helped them, would start hurting them. That started happening when Ardern stopped fronting the podium each day with case numbers, followed by not having any government figure fronting them, the usual MOH press release being sufficient.

However, there is a certain chunk of the population who are addicted to this stuff, and when they get told that it is time to move on, they’re not happy, as the responses to this article in the Lefty mouthpiece The Atlantic, showed, Where I Live, No One Cares About COVID:

Outside the world inhabited by the professional classes in a handful of major metropolitan areas, many Americans are leading their lives as if COVID is over.

Ouch! That’s brutal for the Believers. But the writer really rubs it in:

Indeed, in my case, when I say for a long while, I mean for nearly two years, from almost the very beginning. In 2020, I took part in two weddings, traveled extensively, took family vacations with my children, spent hundreds of hours in bars and restaurants, all without wearing a mask. This year my wife and I welcomed our fourth child. Over the course of her pregnancy, from the first phone call to the midwife a few months after getting a positive pregnancy test until after delivery, the subject of the virus was never raised by any health-care professional, including her doula, a dear friend from New York.

Reading this Atlantic article I feel much as Boris Yeltsin did when he saw supermarkets in the USA for the first time.

He makes two points: One about the bizarre spectacle of outdoor masking, something you only see in Blue cities, which he finds especially strange as people put on their masks to go outside after not wearing them indoors at a restaurant.

Another good point is about the absurdity of “public health authorities,” who make pronouncements that no one takes seriously like “having one unit of alcohol per day” is dangerous to your health. He points out that almost all adults are capable of dismissing this crap as pure CYA bureaucrat busywork bullshit.

Except in the singular case of Chinese Xi Snot – where Blue State progressives take every similar hypercautious, ultra-alarmist claim about the perils of jogging maskless perfectly seriously and perfectly gravely.

One John Ekdahl tracked the Faithful reacting violently to the Science Priests issuing these new heresies. Here’s just some samples:

I mean, thanks for keeping us informed that people are still huge pieces of shit who will keep this pandemic going for far longer than it ever had to. What an utter “common man” fuckwit.

Please get this fake bible thumper moron off my timeline. He lives in a little uncaring bubble, good for him. Next.

What is this garbage? I expect articles like this in Redneck MAGA fan weekly, not The Atlantic. Seriously rethinking my subscription. Ew.

And this is precisely the type of BS garbage article why I don’t bother subscribing to this magazine. Its like those so-called antivaxxer conspiracy FB friends/acquaintances I’ve blocked & got rid of. Good F*@kg riddance.

Anyone who brags about blocking “friends” on FaceBook as one of his major accomplishments is totally Winning At Life.

Do better Atlantic. Publishing this Rightwing AstroTurf cult-driven propaganda only harms the vast majority of REAL Americans trying to save lives and mitigate mass death, at 800K dead and counting. Please take this down.

People just keep dying when you publish irresponsible, badly thought-out, badly written pieces like this from people who already have their own outlet. You should be ashamed of this kind of article. It’s beneath you. It’s dangerous.

Why the f*ck did you publish this drivel? Seriously, why?

Shame on @theatlantic for publishing this anti-science screed.

How the fuck can you publish incredibly insightful and clear-eyed pieces on COVID from the likes of James Hamblin and Ed Yong … and then run THIS wildly insulting and irresponsible take?

Note the ever-reliable justification for censorship and the stifling of debate: “It’s dangerous.” It “causes harm.” It makes people “feel unsafe.” In which case this NYT article must have been the killer blow.

Six months ago it would have been unthinkable that either MSM source would have published stuff like this. But in the wake of the New Jersey and Virginia elections, and with polls showing the Republicans with generic leads of 9-10% (in the 1994 and 2010 Red Waves they were polling about even with the Democrats), the terror is growing in Progressive circles of the coming electoral carnage of 2022, especially if the Democrats go to the polls with more Lockdowns Forever, Masks For Toddlers and Vaccine Mandate messaging.

Some Democrat politicians seem to be realising this. The New Jersey governor talked candidly about the reasons for his shockingly thin victory in a Deep Blue state, saying that it reflected that people had had enough of the restrictions. Colorado’s Democrat governor Jared Polis says he won’t mandate masks, because “the emergency is over.” Even the Michigan nasty, Gretchen Whitmer is now… criticising Biden’s vaccine mandates.

But judging by those reactions to the Atlantic piece it’s going to be tough to de-program their own cultists, and that’s true across the Western world, especially when you’ve got headlines like this, NSW records highest daily Covid-19 cases ever and one death:

NSW has recorded its highest Covid-19 daily cases ever with 2213 infections and one death in the 24 hours to 8pm yesterday.

There are 215 people in hospital, including 24 in intensive care.

As of last night, 94.8 percent of people aged 16 and over have had one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 93.3 percent of the same age group have had two doses.

NSW Health believes transmission is being driven by the Omicron variant.

Oh noes! To normal people this will produce a shrug of the shoulders about the already known high infection rate and low sickness/death rate of Omicron, plus the vaccine saving most of the vulnerable (the old and sick) from sickness and death.

But that’s not how the vaccines were sold. To the low-information crowd they were sold like Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket to Freedom. Except, as this Lancet paper reveals:

High COVID-19 vaccination rates were expected to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in populations by reducing the number of possible sources for transmission and thereby to reduce the burden of COVID-19 disease. Recent data, however, indicate that the epidemiological relevance of COVID-19 vaccinated individuals is increasing.

In Germany, the rate of symptomatic COVID-19 cases among the fully vaccinated (“breakthrough infections”) is reported weekly since 21. July 2021 and was 16.9% at that time among patients of 60 years and older [[2]]. This proportion is increasing week by week and was 58.9% on 27. October 2021 (Figure 1) providing clear evidence of the increasing relevance of the fully vaccinated as a possible source of transmission. 

Bugger! Back to those Atlantic and NYT articles: we’re going to have to learn to live with Covid – and that doesn’t mean living with lockdowns, masks, or the hamster wheel of endless booster shots.

I’ve no doubt the porn merchants will continue to push the forecasts of models:

This weekend, under their most gloomy appraisal, LSHTM forecasters suggested the country could be hit by 492,000 hospitalisations and around 75,000 deaths by the end of April. This was based on the Omicron virus having ‘high immune escape’ – ie evading existing immunity to earlier Covid-19 variants – and a lower effectiveness of boosters. Under their most favourable estimate, there will 175,000 hospitalisations and 24,700 deaths.Doomsters’ prediction of 75,000 Omicron deaths by May,

– Daily Mail, 12 December 2021

Frankly they should have been ignored since the original models hysteria in early 2020 proved so wrong, with their tales of 2 million dead (USA), 500,000 (UK) and NZ (80,000). But some people just can’t let go, as the predictions for the Northern summer of 2021 show:

When making similar estimates in April as to how the country might suffer when lockdown restrictions were lifted in the summer, the school was the most negative forecaster in the UK, only to be proven wrong. They warned against lifting restrictions and predicted there would be ‘a resurgence in admissions and deaths comparable to the magnitude of the second wave in January’, when there were more than 1,000 deaths a day. As Freedom Day in July neared, the LSHTM significantly scaled back their forecast as more accurate data became available. Then, under their more ‘realistic scenario’, they predicted 1,000 hospital admissions and fewer than 200 deaths per day. On July 19 when lockdown was finally lifted, deaths numbered just 71 in England.

So, they predicted 110,000 deaths, then revised the prediction by reducing it 80 percent, and they were STILL off by 99.68 percent. Their original calculation predicted 1,549.3 deaths for every one that actually occurred.

This nonsense, pushed by the MSM, will continue with Omicron and whatever variant follows. But a combination of public weariness and politicians increasingly fearful that their helpful monster is about to turn on them at the ballot box, hopefull will see them ignored.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 18, 2021 at 9:50 am

The Age of Men is over. The Time of The Orc has come.

This will not be news for people who play Dungeons and Dragons, the now almost fifty year old, role-playing game beloved by generations of nerds.

Dungeons and Dragons goes woke.

Well shit! What hasn’t been going woke recently? From the article a bit of background for non D&D’rs.

The science-fiction fantasy game was created in 1974 by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. Players pretend to be fantasy characters who are guided through adventures and scenarios by a dungeon master. 

By the early 1980’s, thanks to some insane and talented coders, I was playing a crude version of it with mates on our university’s computer system: the Digital Equipment Manufacturer (DEC) VAX 11/780, a 32-bit “minicomputer” that was far more attractive to learn on than the more common but huge IBM mainframes with their clunking batch-processing oriented architecture. Naturally we had to play the game in the wee small hours of the morning because 128Mb of RAM only goes so far even with a superb time-sharing OS. Typically for the times, nobody thought of commercialising it. After all, what computers could run such a thing from the comfort of your home?

🤣🤣🤣🤣

Anyhoo, I stopped playing it, whether on computers or in the traditional board version, as soon as I graduated. I thought it had been left behind with the world of nerds. It’s therefore been with baffled amusement that I’ve seen the Millennial and Gen Z generations glom on to it in recent years, with huge online viewing of D&D games on things like the live-streaming site, Twitch. (9 million viewers for one game in 2017: eat that TVNZ).

Because we lived in a vastly less inter-connected world, we weren’t aware for some years that D&D had played a significant role in the great 1980’s Satanic Panic bullshit, all because of one dickhead private “dick” hired by a family to find their missing 15-year old boy genius in 1979 – who just happened to be totally into D&D. There were others:

The panic continued into 1982 when Virginian high school student Irving Lee Pulling II killed himself. Patricia A. Pulling, his mother, claimed the game was responsible and founded ‘Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons.’ In 1984, Missouri teenager, Mary C. Towey, was strangled to death by Ronald G. Adcox and Darren Lee Molitor. What connected both cases? They all played D&D.

As you can imagine, by the time I and other nerds heard about this panic some years later it was merely good for uproarious laughter, scorn and ridicule of the moralising idiots pushing all the panic. It’s probably not surprising that sales went from from thousands per year to millions.

Which brings us to the moralising dickheads of today:

‘Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game — orcs and drow being two of the prime examples — have been characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated,’ the statement reads. ‘That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in.

Oh FFS! What a complete and total load of crap. But it also ties in so well with other such developments, such as the drive to pervert the works of that dreaded Catholic Conservative, J.R.R. Tolkien (from which D&D took much inspiration), with a new Lord Of The Rings spinoff that’s going to employ all that hot and saucy Game of Thrones stuff, no doubt with really cool Elvish sex action among other things.

Ok. Let me think about that last a bit more.

Anyway, the problem with trying to pull this with D&D is that the gamers themselves will subvert it just as thoroughly as they did the “Satanic” bullshit.

‘The beauty of D&D is that players can ignore the official storylines, narratives, maps and characters if they find them ridiculous,’ radio host and D&D junkie Larry O’Connor told The Spectator. ‘So this entire exercise is performative to get attention but the actual players will just look the other way and laugh.’

They already are.

Even that isn’t new. Way back in 2003 McSweeney’s Quarterly took a witheringly precise slice at a supposedly “unused audio of a discussion between Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky”:

CHOMSKY: The film opens with Galadriel speaking. “The world has changed,” she tells us, “I can feel it in the water.” She’s actually stealing a line from the non-human Treebeard. He says this to Merry and Pippin in The Two Towers, the novel. Already we can see who is going to be privileged by this narrative and who is not.

ZINN: Of course. “The world has changed.” I would argue that the main thing one learns when one watches this film is that the world hasn’t changed. Not at all.

CHOMSKY: We should examine carefully what’s being established here in the prologue. For one, the point is clearly made that the “master ring,” the so-called “one ring to rule them all,” is actually a rather elaborate justification for preemptive war on Mordor.

ZINN: I think that’s correct. Tolkien makes no attempt to hide the fact that rings are wielded by every other ethnic enclave in Middle Earth. The Dwarves have seven rings, the Elves have three. The race of Man has nine rings, for God’s sake. There are at least 19 rings floating around out there in Middle Earth, and yet Sauron’s ring is supposedly so terrible that no one can be allowed to wield it. Why?

CHOMSKY: Notice too that the “war” being waged here is, evidently, in the land of Mordor itself — at the very base of Mount Doom. These terrible armies of Sauron, these dreadful demonized Orcs, have not proved very successful at conquering the neighboring realms — if that is even what Sauron was seeking to do. It seems fairly far-fetched.

Another argument that is no longer off-limits

One of the detailed points of argument during the Great Chinese Lung Rot pandemic was around the definition of what actually constituted a Covid-19 death.

Early in the hysteria it was pointed out that deaths were being recorded as Covid simply because the patient had tested positive for Covid. This included even ridiculous examples such as deaths by car accident.

Naturally the pro-hysteria side, with the aid of the “If It Bleeds, It Leads” MSM, ferociously attacked such arguments. For the MSM it’s quite natural that the more death there is the better the story. That’s been true since the days of William Randolph Hearst and his famous “Sob Sisters” over a hundred years ago.

But even the medical “experts” had motive to push death numbers higher, since the more death there was the more likely they could persuade politicians and The People to undertake the extremist controls they advocated. Some of this was obvious with the pandemic models pushed by the likes of Neil Ferguson (“A spherical cow of uniform density in a frictionless vacuum“).

Naturally their counter-attacks against such critics focused on how you should not argue with medical experts, even though medical experts were among the critics of the Covid-death classifications. The motivations of the likes of Ferguson and company were not to be questioned, only those of their dastardly and uncaring opponents.

My, how things change when the motivations run the other way. In this case the criticism around deaths of people who have been vaccinated for Covid-19. Placed under such pressure, no less than the head of American Center for Disease Control (CDC) backs into …. the precise arguments put forward by critics of the Covid death counters.

Walensky is drawing a distinction between those who died directly because they got COVID and those who may have tested positive, but ultimately died of another comorbidity or condition. Now, to most people, that would seem like common sense. After all, why would you count someone with terminal cancer or an already failing heart as a COVID death – just because they had the virus when they died?

Obviously, what Walensky is saying is true. What we’ve known about COVID from early on from those hit the hardest told us that co-morbidities, including heart problems, lung problems, and morbid obesity, are the top factors, and that very old people (70+) naturally suffered more from the first two factors, hence them suffering a higher Covid-19 death rate than other age groups. If someone is otherwise terminally sick, even a mild case of Covid-19 could expedite matters – just as the Flu or Pneumonia normally does. The latter has long been called the “Old People’s Friend” for that very reason.

But the real point I want made clear here is that what Walensky is saying has previously been declared to be completely off-limits for over a year by the powers that be. In fact, it’s the kind of thing that has often gotten right wing-leaning sites in trouble with the social media censors of FaceTwit and company.

Yet, here is the Biden administration saying what was previously labeled as taboo, just because it now fits their narrative, which is driven by the motivation to reduce the death count rather than increase it because the latter would blow up the vaccination programmes. Meanwhile, the media don’t question it, and the social media overlords just shrug.

Oh, and the CDC has recently and rapidly shifted their positions on masks. Because Science.

Swedish models again

My Photo

No not her!

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The mathematical models used by epidemiologists to forecast how the Chinese Lung Rot disease was going to progress.

While it’s true that we are still some months away, perhaps a year, from a full assessment of the health impacts of the Wuhan Flu, enough time has passed since it started in China in January for some conclusions to be drawn.

First up of course is something known since at least February when it was hitting Italy, as well as China, and that was that the primary victims were old people, especially those with co-morbidities; other diseases. Anybody younger than 60 with no other illnesses was highly unlikely to even show much more than cold-like symptoms, let alone die.

But the other great debate that is still churning along as we pass the peak and head into its decline is what strategies were the best for combating the disease, with the lockdown of the healthy populations – to greater or lesser degrees – being the most common solution of governments.

There were a couple of exceptions to this, notably in Europe, but also among the US States which, thanks to the Federal nature of their government, could react differently. The Federal government, particularly President Trump’s administration, could issue guidelines and offer support, but the primary decisions as to what to do lay in the hands of the State Governors, as usual.

Stockholm during Wuhan Flu (Getty Images)

The most prominent nation that refused to follow the lockdown policy is Sweden, and they got hammered by the media and epidemiologists around the world about this, which was amusing because it was Swedish epidemiologists and health experts who recommended against the lockdown.

Sweden has suffered 3,646 COVID-19 deaths as of this writing: a rate of 361 / million popn, putting them 6th worst on the global list.

But the epidemiological models predicted far worse for Sweden’s approach. These models were very similar to that of the British Imperial Model that predicted 500,000 dead Brits if lockdown was not done. In the USA the IHME models followed the Imperial version closely, although the growing revelations of terrible programming in the Imperial Model have cause people to wonder how similar they really all are.

Nevertheless, the one aspect they’ve all had in common is predicting horrendous death tolls unless governments went early and hard on population lockdown. In the case of Sweden the models effectively took the attitude that it was too late for lockdown and mitigation, as reporter Johan Norberg notes in the Spectator UK:

Sweden did not close borders, shut down schools, businesses, restaurants, gyms or shopping centres and did not issue stay at home orders.

Maria Gunther and Maria Westholm at Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s biggest daily, just took a look at two of the most influential models in Sweden, both were inspired by the Imperial College study and published on the preprint server MedRxiv in April. Both were used by critics to argue that the Swedish model would quickly break our health care system – and that we had to make a U-turn into lockdown, as Britain did.

The vertical scale in these graphs are the daily numbers of patients requiring ICU treatment.

H. Sjödin et al: ‘Covid-19 health care demand and mortality in Sweden in response to non-pharmaceutical (NPIs) mitigation and suppression scenarios’, 7 April. 

The graph suggests critical care demand would peak above 16,000 patients per day by early May, and pre-pandemic intensive care unit capacity would be exceeded 30-fold.

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J. Gardner et al, ‘Intervention strategies against Covid-19 and their estimated impact on Swedish healthcare capacity’, 15 April.  

It was an even more pessimistic assessment, showing a peak of over 20,000 patients by early May – with an ICU requirement around 40 times the actual capacity.

82,000 Covid-19 deaths by 1 July.


As the article goes on to note the Swedish Public Health Agency rejected these models – which again it must be noted were from early to mid-April and simply took for granted that it was already too late for lockdown. Sweden had rolled the dice and now would have to ride the consequences of mass infections that would overwhelm their healthcare system as Italy’s had been, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths. Still, it’s not as if the Agency did not plan for some surge:
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It instead planned for a worst-case scenario that was much less pessimistic, suggesting a peak around 1,700 ICU patients in the middle of May. Still more than three times more than the pre-pandemic capacity. Sweden, almost alone in the world, refused to lock down.

And here are the actual numbers: around 500-550 per day since mid-April. No surge. No exponential growth. Not only was Sweden’s ICU capacity not exceeded the pandemic never even came close to swamping the system

And the Swedish numbers would be even better had they done a better job protecting the highest risk populations of retirement homes and other places where old people were concentrated. The Agency and the government have acknowledged they screwed that up.

As the article summarises:

One reason why the models failed is that they – just like most countries’ politicians – underestimated how millions of people spontaneously adapt to new circumstances. They only thought in terms of lockdowns vs business as usual, but failed to consider a third option: that people engage in social distancing voluntarily when they realise lives are at stake and when authorities recommend them to do so.

Shocking thought I know. Trusting your people to do the right thing. The irony is that without the cooperation of people the lockdowns themselves, even with all their harsh police measures, would not have worked.

In Britain, it’s argued that if the number of Covid deaths is far lower than the models predicted, well, this is the result of lockdown! Some even argue that the difference between the predicted and the actual is the lockdown effect. But you can’t say that for Sweden. We banned gatherings of more than 50 people, but that was about it. All other behavioural change was voluntary: something the models did not properly understand.

And Sweden did this without screwing over their economy or their civil liberties by setting the cops and their own citizens on each other.

========

I thought I’d play with some of the Statista.com numbers for Sweden. So based on the previous ten years the nation by May 8, 2020 would have normally expected 32,040 deaths, whereas they currently have 38,409. That difference is a little less than twice the counted Wuhan Flu death toll, which could mean several things: virus deaths uncounted; deaths arising from people being too scared to go to hospital for needed medical care; Statista.com screwed up? It’s a large list of possibilities.

But let’s assume they’re all virus deaths. What does that do to the expected death toll for 2020? Since the Wuhan Flu infection and death rates have plateaued they will decline. So it’s reasonable to assume that the overall death rate falls back to the 2010-2019 average: adding on the current excess deaths it would mean 97,024 deaths for 2020, higher than any time in the last decade.

And what does that do to the total population death rate? It puts it on the same level as 2010 and 2012. And while you could add on another thousand Wuhan Flu deaths it’s also quite possible that the death rate will be lower than average for the rest of the year because elderly people have died sooner than they otherwise would have. At this stage it looks like Sweden has not suffered any significantly abnormal death impact.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 16, 2020 at 5:10 am

This man WILL never be listened to again

My PhotoBack on April 18, I wrote about the British epidemiological “expert”, Neil Ferguson, whose hopeless chicken entrails computer model, had led the British Government a pretty dance on dealing with the Wuhan Flu.

The article pointed out that his models had provided similarly catastrophic predictions of death and destruction over the past twenty years with things like CJD (Mad Cow) disease, Foot and Mouth, Bird Flu, and Swine Flu,

Based on all that, I made the point that:

THIS MAN MUST NEVER BE LISTENED TO AGAIN
 

Well it now turns out that this guy, the “gold standard” of disease modeling, according to the New York Times and Washington Post, never actually followed the rules he lectured everybody else about following:

On Tuesday night, we discovered that the furrowed-browed scientist, who has been at the Prime Minister’s side throughout this crisis, is in fact Austin Powers in a lab coat. He’s been having an affair with a 38-year-old married woman who travels regularly across the capital from her home in south London to spend time with him.

What.
A.
Prick.

He’s resigned now, and with any luck will never be heard from again.

Now I have to admit that the lass making the booty calls – pictured here with Ferguson –  probably is worth breaking a few rules for, and were it anybody else NOT in a position of authority I’d probably be cheering the couple on as they gave the fingers to the Police State.

But of course that’s not who he was. As the article points out, this was Professor Lockdown, the guy telling 66 million Britons they must remain in their homes to protect the NHS and save lives (sob).

I also liked this quote:

Why is it that the most zealous advocates for reining in human behavior, whether it’s in Prohibition-era America or the midst of a public health crisis, always get caught with their pants down? I’m reminded of something the late Christopher Hitchens said:

‘Whenever I hear some bigmouth in Washington or the Christian heartland banging on about the evils of sodomy or whatever, I mentally enter his name in my notebook and contentedly set my watch. Sooner rather than later, he will be discovered down on his weary and well-worn old knees in some dreary motel or latrine, with an expired Visa card, having tried to pay well over the odds to be peed upon by some Apache transvestite.’

But like the writer I’m less concerned about the pathetic double standards than about what this actually means about our society – and who rules us:

It deserves the frontpage treatment it is getting today. For Ferguson’s booty call with his married lover actually reveals a great deal about the 21st-century elites and how they view their relationship with the masses. It’s one rule for them and another for us. They can carry on enjoying sneaky freedoms because their lives and jobs are important; we can’t because we are mere little people, whose silly work lives can casually be disrupted, whose love lives can be turned upside down, and whose families can be ripped apart. The Ferguson affair provides an illuminating insight into the new elitism.

And this regarding “experts”:

The Gospel of Ferguson is really a story of the confused relationship between politicians and experts today. Instead of our elected leaders deciding what is best for the political, economic and social health of the nation, and then employing experts to ensure this vision becomes a reality, we have politicians who bow too cravenly to experts and outsource political authority to them. And so, as some commentators have pointed out, Britain currently feels like it is being run by scientists. That’s bad for politics, which becomes less democratic the more that unelected scientific experts get to make the major decisions, and it’s bad for science, which risks becoming politicised under this pressure to guide the nation. Ferguson bought into the political use of his work. He backed the lockdown. Ferociously.

Fuck them. And the horse they rode into town on.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 7, 2020 at 2:58 am

A picture is worth a thousand graphs

I wish I’d seen this graphic when I published Visible Death vs. Invisible Death a few days ago.

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Produced for those complaining about articles that have too many words, numbers and graphs.
 

Having said that, here’s a very cool graph from Snopes of the progress of the virus. An interesting way of portraying the data, at least up to early April.

 

Written by Tom Hunter

April 28, 2020 at 11:14 pm

Visible Death vs. Invisible Death

One of the most famous economic essays ever written is That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen, by 19th century French economist, Frédéric Bastiat. He introduced what he called the fallacy of the broken window, where the money spent to fix the window – paying the person who made the glass and the glazier who installed it – is seen, but other costs are not:

 

Frédéric Bastiat


But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, “Stop there! Your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen.”


It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way which this accident has prevented.

The lockdown of New Zealand society to deal with COVID-1984 is presenting the same problem, except instead of money, the counting is in deaths.

In the post, More Epidemiology Modelling Problems, I looked at a report of the results from testing the epidemiological model used by the NZ governments’s health care advisors.

Buried within the report was a short section that made crude sensitivity estimates of the costs and benefits of the Lockdown across just one part of the NZ economy: building and construction. The report estimated the benefits of avoiding deaths and hospitalisations in that industry at $7.6 million and the cost at $3 billion (one month, 250,000 workers at $3000 per week).

The point of this was not to try and calculate precise numbers but to test the ranges and comparisons across different runs and sensitivities to get a handle on the possible cost/benefit. As the report said:

Of course, the benefit cost ratio of .003 is from just model run. Different, and plausible, assumptions can readily generate benefits that are a order of magnitude, say, ten or twenty times, higher than the $7.6 million. But it is very difficult to see how they could be over 300 times higher.

But what I was interested in was the assumptions had purloined from government sources (p. 25):

  • The value of a statistical life is $4.5 million;
  • The life years conversion factor is 0.10 for over 70s and 0.55 for under 70s;
  • The cost of an illness is $4000;
  • The cost of a hospitalisation is $30,000.

The value of a statistical life!

A précis of that report was linked to in an article of Michael Riddell’s Croaking Cassandra blog, Coronavirus economics. But there was another section of Riddell’s article looking at an unpublished (as yet) economic analysis that took a different bite at the cherry.

This analysis was performed by one of New Zealand’s leading academic economists, Professor John Gibson from Waikato University, and he decided to look at the Lockdown policy from the POV of how it might affect population-wide life expectancies in NZ.

The flu kills about 500 New Zealanders a year but it can kill more in a bad season like that of 2015, when 767 died from it. A season worse than that would be “flu shock” and Gibson picked a figure of 875 for that edge-case scenario. That produces a reduction in life expectancy of 0.14 years across the whole population.

Ten such shocks would therefore drop it by 1.4 years: that’s 8,750 dead people, which is in the range of the middle scenario of the Otago model for COVID-19 deaths.

In other words, in saving all those lives the lockdown could be expected to prevent the population life expectancy from dropping by 1.4 years, and more again if the third scenario of 14,000 deaths eventuated.

But at what cost? We’ve allowed ourselves to be bullied by shroud-wavers talking about preferring to make a buck over saving the lives of old people. But that’s a false choice and an emotional weapon wielded by people who don’t want their solution to be questioned. The fact is the lives will be lost as a result of the lockdown.

It turns out that life expectancy in New Zealand is more sensitive to changes in real income than is so for many countries.

In other words, a ten percent decrease in real per capita GDP reduces life expectancy by 1.7 percent. The most recent period life tables for New Zealand report that male life expectancy was 79.5 years and female life expectancy was 83.2 years, so 1.7 percent of the average of those two values is 1.4 years.
 

In other words, if real per capita GDP in New Zealand falls by ten percent due to the lockdown and other effects associated with Covid-19, life expectancy would be predicted to fall by 1.4 years.

And we could be looking at an annual GDP drop of more than 10%. By contrast, even going by the real worst-case death rate of New York City, currently 1,085 deaths per million, we’d be looking at a life expectancy drop of 0.93 years.

So even in that highly unlikely example the lockdown solution would still result in reducing life expectancy by an extra 0.5 of a year. The apparent kindness of doing everything possible to limit deaths due to Covid-19 would, instead, be killing more people by making them poorer.

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And we may not need to dabble in such statistical comparisons of invisible deaths anyway. As this article by six American doctors points out, the US hospital system has been so emptied out that doctors and nurses are being laid off and furloughed in droves:

Almost every hospital outside of the hotspots is empty. The dramatic reduction in healthcare utilization and capacity is by no means limited to small, country hospitals. Mayo Clinic is empty: 65% of the hospital beds at Mayo Clinic are empty, as are 75% of the operating rooms. This is the world’s premier medical center. If Mayo Clinic is empty, imagine how dire the situation is at smaller, community-based healthcare centers. Given the complexity of the patients referred to Mayo Clinic, its emptiness alone will have a significant negative impact on healthcare outcomes.

Same with this article written by Dr Scott W. Atlas, of Stanford University Medical Center:

Most states and many hospitals abruptly stopped “nonessential” procedures and surgery. That prevented diagnoses of life-threatening diseases, like cancer screening, biopsies of tumors now undiscovered and potentially deadly brain aneurysms. Treatments, including emergency care, for the most serious illnesses were also missed. Cancer patients deferred chemotherapy. An estimated 80 percent of brain surgery cases were skipped. Acute stroke and heart attack patients missed their only chances for treatment, some dying and many now facing permanent disability.

Same in Britain:

It’s chilling to know that many hospital wards, waiting rooms and car parks are now empty. Before this country was hit, only 800 of the NHS’s 4,125 critical care beds were vacant at one time. Now it’s 2,300. Even with some of the worst fatality rates in Europe, some hospitals now report being half empty since they paused almost all non-emergency work.

Richard Sullivan, a professor of cancer and global health at King’s College London, says: The number of deaths due to the disruption of cancer services is likely to outweigh the number of deaths from the coronavirus itself over the next five years. Cancer screening services have stopped, which means we will miss our chance to catch many cancers when they are treatable and curable.

And there are almost certainly deaths happening right now because of the focus on saving people from COVID-19:

Accident and Emergency chiefs in London are concerned that more people are dying of non-coronavirus-related illnesses than normal because they are reluctant to leave their homes and be a burden on their local hospital. They believe there has been a ‘sharp rise in the number of seriously ill people dying at home’. They report that dozens more people than normal are dying at home from cardiac arrests, for example, presumably because they do not want to impose upon our locked-down society and what is continually presented to us as a busy, stressed-out health service.

Spain:

In Spain, health investigators found a 40 per cent reduction in emergency procedures for heart attacks at the end of March compared with a normal period.

Australia:

there has been a ‘drastic drop’ in cancer and heart-attack patients presenting to the health services. In Victoria, health officials report a 50 per cent decline in new cancer patients and 30 per cent decline in cardiac emergencies. It is now feared that ‘coronavirus anxiety’ could lead to ‘more deaths from cancer and heart attacks’.

And back to NYC:

The New York Times published a piece on 6 April headlined, ‘Where have all the heart attacks gone?’. It was written by a doctor who likewise described hospitals in the US as being ‘eerily quiet’. He has heard from colleagues who are seeing fewer patients with heart attacks, strokes, acute appendicitis and acute gall-bladder disease than they would normally see.

In Britain at least they appear to have asked the question:

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, refuses to give a figure for the potential non-Covid fatalities from this catastrophe but the cabinet was told it could be up to 150,000 avoidable deaths.

I’ve seen no evidence that we asked that question of our public health experts, either inside government or outside. It cannot be possible that the same deaths are not happening here. We’re just not seeing them widely reported in the MSM or announced in the PM’s press conferences.

The Swedish View on COVID-19

Sweden has been in the news almost more than Italy, France, Britain and the USA when it comes to dealing with Chinese Lung Rot AIDS because it has taken the opposite approach to their nationwide lockdowns or – given the USA’s Federal system, partial lockdowns.

Sweden, almost alone among nations, is using the strategy of what is simplisitically called Herd immunity. This is not quite as crude as the critics would have it, which is that the government simply sits back and lets her rip.

In fact Sweden is pushing testing and tracing of those who have the disease as well as trying to quarantine the most at-risk groups, which are the elderly, especially in hospital, rest-home and aged-care facilities where the disease has proven deadly if it gets in.

The thing is that some of the global criticism has been muted because this has not been done at the behest of Evil Corporates Who Care Only About Money, or fanatical Objectivist political leaders or because it’s a selfish, uncaring society that kicks the poor to the side (aka the Evil USA). It’s Sweden FFS and it’s following this strategy on the advice of its health experts.

One of them is Professor Johan Giesecke who just happens to be one of the world’s most senior epidemiologists. He was the first Chief Scientist of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and an advisor to the director general of the WHO.

An expert in other words. You know how we must listen to experts – instead of random internet bloggers – and do what the experts say, right?

The following is a 35 minute interview Giesecke and it’s perfect lockdown viewing while we wait for Judge Jacinda to decide if we’re allowed out for good behaviour.

 

As far as I can summarise these are the main points of that interview:

  • The flattening of the curve being seen in countries is due to the most vulnerable dying first as much as any lockdown.
  • The results will eventually be similar for all countries.
  • Covid-19 is a “mild disease” and similar to the flu, and it was the novelty of the disease that scared people.
  • The actual fatality rate of Covid-19 will in all likelihood turn out to be in the region of 0.1%
  • At least 50% of the population of both the UK and Sweden will likely be shown to have already had the disease when mass antibody testing becomes available. (Something already also suspected for California, which was expected to be hit like NYC but has not been).
  • The correct policy is to protect the old and the frail only (he says that Sweden did not do a good job on this, hence its death toll is higher than it should be); employ social distancing with restrictions on crowd size to no more than 50; keep schools open for older kids who know how to maintain social distancing.
  • This will eventually lead to herd immunity as a “by-product”. You can’t stop it spreading anyhow.
  • The initial UK response, before the “180 degree U-turn”, was better than the lockdown now being used by it and other European countries.
  • The theory of lockdown is not evidence-based.
  • The Imperial College paper was poor and far too pessimistic in not accounting for the ability to rapidly increase ICU capacity.
  • The paper was so poor that even in the unlikely scenario of no mitigation measures being implemented he rejects its projection of 510,000 deaths for the UK.
  • He has never seen an unpublished, non-peer-reviewed paper have so much policy impact. 
  • Any such models are a poor basis for public policy anyway, because they take no account of real world specifics.
  • Getting out of the lockdowns will be the big challenge since the question is around which restrictions can be lifted, followed by watching for upticks in cases and deaths at each stage, with increases met by what? Reinstating the restriction?
It’s also nice to see a scientist with a sense of civil liberties, where he talks about the concerns of having the Police stopping and interrogating people on the street to enforce laws, especially when those laws are not based on science.

At the moment the NZ Lockdown supporters are winning the public argument because we’ve only had 1431 cases (297 per million popn) and a dozen deaths (2 per million) while Sweden has had 14,385 cases (1,424 per million) and  1540 deaths (152 per million).

 
The thing is that Sweden has not flattened one third or more of it’s businesses and crushed its GDP by some 40% in a month. They’ll come out of this pandemic in much better shape than NZ and then we’ll see if we want to point the finger and say how cruel and uncaring the long respected idol of Democratic Socialists is.
 

Written by Tom Hunter

April 20, 2020 at 1:10 am

More Epidemiology Modelling Problems

“You fucked up. You trusted us.”

I was rather hard on Epidemiology Professor Neil Ferguson the other day because of his history of repeated false calls over two decades on various disease pandemics. But I also pointed out that his Imperial College model appears to have fed into models in other countries around the world, and this criticism is starting to mount up:

“It’s not a model that most of us in the infectious disease epidemiology field think is well suited” to projecting Covid-19 deaths, epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health told reporters this week, referring to projections by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. 

Others experts, including some colleagues of the model-makers, are even harsher. “That the IHME model keeps changing is evidence of its lack of reliability as a predictive tool,” said epidemiologist Ruth Etzioni of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, home to several of the researchers who created the model, and who has served on a search committee for IHME. “That it is being used for policy decisions and its results interpreted wrongly is a travesty unfolding before our eyes.”

Not that you’d know any of this from following the MSM, especially here in NZ, or Lefties busily masturbating over pictures of Jacinda, like Chris Trotter, (“SO FAR, SO BLOODY FANTASTIC!”),  Martyn Bradbury (“Thanks to our Government’s wisdom and leadership…”) or Frank Macskasy (“Wonder Woman”).

Amusingly they have all taken swipes at China – without noticing the sickening similarity between their local worship of our government and the standard boilerplate praise lavished on Xi Peng by China’s state media.

By contrast it’s been pleasing to see that none other than the Imperial College is starting to do what scientists are supposed to do: comparing models with reality, although they don’t seem to have got stuck into Ferguson’s to the same degree – yet:

According to a critique by researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Imperial College London,  published this week in Annals of Internal Medicine, the IHME projections are based “on a statistical model with no epidemiologic basis.” 

“Statistical model” refers to putting U.S. data onto the graph of other countries’ Covid-19 deaths over time under the assumption that the U.S. epidemic will mimic that in those countries. But countries’ countermeasures differ significantly.

There are other technical reasons to distrust the IHME model, but the bottom line is that it misinforms national leaders.

This appearance of certainty is seductive when the world is desperate to know what lies ahead,” Britta Jewell of Imperial College and her colleagues wrote in their Annals paper. But the IHME model “rests on the likely incorrect assumption that effects of social distancing policies are the same everywhere.” Because U.S. policies are looser than those elsewhere, largely due to inconsistency between states, U.S. deaths could remain at higher levels longer than they did in China, in particular.

Still, those who live by the sword will likely die by it. Right now those who are in love with government lockdowns and mass house arrest are pointing to the models predictions of mass death early on as justification. Computer models! Run by Experts! But what the scenarios show are ranges so wide that the models could equally screwup in the opposite direction, which is not a comforting thought for governments trying to get out of the mess they have created.

Unfortunately it’s not just the IHME or Imperial College models that have got it so wrong. There’s quite the history of fail in epidemiology:

‘The crisis we face is unparalleled in modern times,” said the World Health Organization’s assistant director, while its director general proclaimed it “likely the greatest peacetime challenge that the United Nations and its agencies have ever faced.” This was based on a CDC computer model projection predicting as many as 1.4 million deaths from just two countries.  

So when did they say this about COVID-19? Trick question: It was actually about the Ebola virus in Liberia and Sierra Leone five years ago, and the ultimate death toll was under 8,000.

Oh dear. The article lists a few others, including bring Ferguson into the picture again.

For AIDS, the Public Health Service announced (without documenting) there would be 450,000 cases by the end of 1993, with 100,000 in that year alone. The media faithfully parroted it. There were 17,325 by the end of that year, with about 5,000 in 1993. SARS (2002-2003) was supposed to kill perhaps “millions,” based on analyses. It killed 744 before disappearing. 

Later, avian flu strain A/H5N1, “even in the best-case scenarios” was to “cause 2 (million) to 7 million deaths” worldwide. A British professor named Neil Ferguson scaled that up to 200 million. It killed 440.

As the article points out, if epidemic models were just haphazardly wrong, we would expect about half the time they would be too low. Instead, they’re almost universally vastly too high. It’s so bad that even the experts in charge of public health in the US have begun to express their doubts:

Then Fauci finally said it. “I’ve spent a lot of time on the models. They don’t tell you anything.”

The fuck? They told our governments to shit themselves and put us in lockdown, a phrase previously preserved for controlling prison riots.

A few days later CDC Director Robert Redfield also turned on the computer crystal balls. “Models are only as good as their assumptions, obviously there are a lot of unknowns about the virus” he said. “A model should never be used to assume that we have a number.”

The fuck? As I said before, the numbers are the whole point. Without numbers you don’t persuade anybody, politician or ordinary citizen, to do anything about this.

As far as I know there have only been a couple of analysis of the NZ models. Both are referred to in this post at Croaking Cassandra. The first looks at cost/benefit in terms of life expectancy gains and losses across the whole NZ population due to the disease and the lockdown.

The second analysis is more appropriate here in that the analysts actually ran the model used by the Otago Covid-19 Research Group (OCRG): it’s in the public domain: covidsum.eu. You can read the full report here, but the following are the key points to take away from it.

We found that OSRG’s model runs grossly overstated the number of deaths because they made an assumption about the critical tool in the Ministry’s arsenal. It was assumed that there would be no tracing and isolation of cases. This led to an explosion in the number of cases and deaths. 

The reporting of the range of deaths was also inflated by the simple expedient of excluding the model runs that produced low numbers. One of their six scenarios showed just seven deaths over a year.

That of course was not what the public saw from the MSM. They saw the following (Stuff quote):

Up to 14,000 New Zealanders could die if coronavirus spread is uncontrolled, according to new modelling by the University of Otago, Wellington.

But to be fair to the MSM they were not given the R0 ranges either, just the range of 8560 and 14400 deaths, and naturally because they’re the media the emphasised the BIG SCARY NUMBER on their headlines, since that’s all that most people read.

If the OCRG had so little confidence in the 1.5 estimate then they should have replaced it with a more plausible lower estimate, such as a R0 of 2, and then reported that number. Similarly the upper estimate could have been set at a high, but still reasonably possible 3. Instead the public is given a range of between 8560 and 14400 deaths, giving the misleading impression that there is a good deal of certainty around the estimates of high death numbers because the upper and lower bands are relatively close together.

My existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives!”

Whether our Prime Minister and her Cabinet actually asked any probing questions about all this is not known, but given that she paraphrased “tens of thousands” of New Zealanders dying it’s a good bet that she simply followed the slots and grooves already prepared for her by the experts. And there’s no evidence that anybody else was handed the model to see what they could produce from it. As Tailrisk notes:

When we ran the Covidsim model we found credible paths that could reduce the pace of infections to sustainable levels. Deaths in the range of 50 – 500 over a year are more realistic numbers. 500 deaths is around average for normal seasonal flu [note that Gibson used 870 annual flu deaths].

Credible paths meaning they looked at what other nations had already been doing for two months. But they also did what good modellers are supposed to do; they tested the robustness and sensitivity of the model by altering key variables. One would hope the OCRG did this as well, but perhaps they just didn’t care to think about the life impacts of locking down the economy and simply adopted an autistic view of the disease problem.

Our benchmark model run shows 105 deaths after six months, and 157 after one year. This is broadly consistent with the experiences countries such as South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, which have achieved a good measure of control over their epidemics without the need for harsh lockdowns.

Those are numbers to keep in mind over the winter. They also ran the Te Pūnaha Matatini Model – which produced and publicised even higher death tolls of 80,000 – and found similar problems, although it’s a more sophisticated model.

This is a case of getting out of the model what you put in. In our view, TPM did not use the best available information, and should have either: not released their report until it was updated (and should have told a different story); or released a heavily caveated paper, without any media fanfare.

One month ago the instant reaction to critics of the lockdown was the shroud-waving cry of “You care more for money than old people”, which has natually been very effective in public.

But of course it was never about lives vs. money: it was always about weighing lives vs. lives.

The economy is people’s lives and the next six months are going to be a terrible test of the theories that have paradoxically been pushed for years by groups such as Otago University healthcare experts; that economic decline and increases in poverty translate into more deaths as well as a miserable quality of life for those still living.

We’ll then see how well the macho attitude of “We saved old people’s lives” still stands in front of a weary, scared and miserable public.

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See Also:
A spherical cow of uniform density in a frictionless vacuum.

Visible Death vs. Invisible Death

 

Written by Tom Hunter

April 19, 2020 at 6:00 pm