Lockdowns kill

As was extremely obvious from day one, “lockdowns” – the government-enforced suspension of normal human life – kill lots of people. This was ignored in the general panic over the virus, but the truth cannot be suppressed any longer, as a study out of the UK suggests:

Almost 2,700 people a week have died because of the effects of the coronavirus lockdown, analysis of official data suggests.

A study by economists and academics from Sheffield and Loughborough universities suggests that more than 21,000 people have died as a result of the measures, which were introduced in March.

The analysis examines Office for National Statistics (ONS) data in the eight weeks that followed the national lockdown.

Researchers said the findings show that “lockdown has killed 21,000 people” because the policy has had “significant unintended consequences” such as lack of access to critical healthcare and a collapse in Accident and Emergency attendances.

Back on March 19, I wrote (regarding the US):

A nationwide shutdown that lasts 15 days is perhaps survivable. One that continues for, say, five months probably is not. Having the entire country hunker down at home for a prolonged period of time will slaughter the economy and hurt millions of Americans, perhaps killing a large number of them through knock-on effects: stress, drink, drugs, suicide, vitamin D deficiency… At a certain point you begin to wonder whether the cure won’t be orders of magnitude worse than the disease.

The UK study seems to focus on the effects of reduced health care access, including cancer screening and referrals, which I did not consider, but that will certainly prove to be a huge issue in the US as well:

A model created by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) predicts that tens of thousands of excess cancer deaths will occur over the next decade as a result of missed screenings, delays in diagnosis, and reductions in oncology care caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remember that non-COVID excess deaths aren’t caused by the “pandemic”; they are caused by the misguided reaction to it, on the part of both health care providers and panicked patients:

A recent survey suggests more than a third of Americans have missed scheduled cancer screenings because of COVID-19, concerning health experts who warn this could be another fatal consequence of the coronavirus pandemic.

Prevent Cancer Foundation released survey results of more than 1,000 respondents that found about 35% of Americans have missed routine cancer screenings due to COVID-19 fears. Additionally, 43% of Americans have missed medical appointments.

Tyranny Down Under

Every day I ask myself: Is this real? Is this really happening? Still? Please note that this totalitarian absurdity is being rolled out in a country with – checks Worldometer – 232 total COVID deaths:

After reading yesterday’s “Postcard From Melbourne” I didn’t think things could get any worse in the capital of Victoria. But yesterday the power-crazed Premier of the state – Daniel Andrews, known as Kim Jong Dan – announced tough new “Stage 4” restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne, including an 8pm curfew. […]

Here is a list of the “Stage 4” measures introduced from 6pm yesterday and due to last for six weeks:

The “state of emergency” in Victoria has been upgraded to a “state of disaster”, meaning police can now enter your home to carry out spot checks even if you don’t give them permission and they don’t have a warrant.
Between the hours of 8pm and 5am, you’re not allowed to leave your homes except for work, medical care and caregiving.
Outside those hours, you may only leave your home for four reasons: shopping for food and essential items, care and caregiving, daily exercise and work. “We can no longer have people simply out and about for no good reason whatsoever,” said Kim Jong Dan.
Daily exercise can only take place within a 5km radius of your home and cannot last longer than an hour.
You cannot exercise in groups of more than two, even if they’re members of the same household.
Apart from daily exercise, you are only allowed to leave your home once a day for essential supplies and food.
In the whole of Victoria, you cannot buy more than two of certain essential items, including dairy, meat, vegetables, fish and toilet paper.
Schools have closed again, with all Victoria school students returning to remote learning from Wednesday (except for vulnerable children and children of permitted workers). Childcare and kindergarten will be closed from Thursday.
Golf and tennis venues, which were open, have now been closed.
Weddings will no longer be allowed from Thursday, and funerals will be limited to 10 people.
Face nappies anywhere outside your home have been mandatory for people in metropolitan Melbourne since July 22nd, but that rule has now been extended to the entire state of Victoria.
You cannot have visitors or go to another person’s house unless it is for the purpose of giving or receiving care. However, you can leave your house to visit a person if you are in an “intimate personal relationship” with them, even during curfew hours. So no “bonk ban”.
If you have a holiday home or were planning a holiday outside Melbourne, tough cheese. You must remain in the city for the next six weeks.
The maximum fine for breaching a health order currently stands at $1,652, but Kim Jong Dan said he would have more to say about penalties later today, i.e. he’s going to increase them.

The plan

By now, it’s pretty obvious what happened. The lockdown scenario was prepared well in advance, and was sitting on the shelf, waiting to be used. Then the virus came along – probably by chance – and the global elite saw an opportunity to grab more power, so they dusted off the plan.

We can see this in the bizarre nature of the political reaction to the virus, which had two stages. In the first stage, lasting roughly through the end of February, Western governments reassured their people that there was no reason to panic, even as an estimated 760 million Chinese citizens were placed under lockdown. Meanwhile, normal public health measures were taken to monitor the outbreak and prepare hospitals for increased stress.

In the second stage, which started in late February or early March, the Western establishment executed a rapid and complete U-turn. Public officials and the media began spreading the message that this virus was the end of the world as we know it; millions will die unless you cease all social activity and stay home indefinitely. Key moments in this U-turn include the phased lockdown of Italy (starting with a dozen towns in Lombardy and Veneto on Feb. 22, extended to a quarter of the Italian population on March 8, and finally to the whole country on March 9); the curfew imposed on Hoboken, New Jersey on March 14; the lockdown of the San Francisco Bay Area announced on March 16; and the federal social distancing guidelines unveiled on the same day. On March 23, the Washington Post reported that nearly 100 million Americans were living under stay-at-home orders. Germany banned all gatherings of more than two people on March 22 and the radical lockdown of Britain began on March 23.

Thus, if we take the Italian lockdown as the starting point, there was a period of a month during which the Western world lurched from relative nonchalance about the virus to a state of total emergency in which normal life was suspended by government decree. The vast majority of these changes happened after March 8, so it would be fair to say that the seismic shift in the Western response to the virus occurred over the span of roughly a fortnight.

Now, it needs to be remembered that at the time, the death toll from coronavirus fell far short of what one would expect from a truly dangerous pandemic. By March 23, there had been a grand total of about 15,000 coronavirus deaths in the whole world – more than 10 weeks after the first known death was reported on Jan. 11. To put this number in perspective, the US experienced some 61,000 influenza-associated deaths in the severe flu season of 2017-18. The current, probably inflated, death toll stands at around 205,000 in Europe and 154,000 in the US. The global death toll has now reached 685,000; still less than the roughly one million people estimated to have succumbed to the Hong Kong flu in 1968, including roughly 100,000 deaths in the US. (Note that the US population in 1968 was about three-fifths of its current level and the world population was less than half.)

Lockdowns, moreover, are pseudo-scientific nonsense, an experimental measure pioneered by Communist China and untested in the West when the flurry of decisions were made to shut down the world. The public health benefits of placing whole populations under de facto house arrest were never clear, whereas the terrible costs of such an intervention were only too obvious. Yet all major Western nations (the US, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Russia a bit later…) adopted the same radical policy at almost the same time, like a school of fish turning in unison.

Such an anomaly cries out for an explanation. Fortunately, the global elite likes to signal its intentions, and a remarkable scenario-planning document from 2010 prefigures the Great Lockdown of 2020 with such eerie precision that it reads more like a blueprint than a hypothesis about the future. The report, released by the Rockefeller Foundation, is titled “Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development,” and it covers four scenarios, the first of which is called “Lock Step.” Here is the relevant passage:

LOCK STEP

A world of tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership, with limited innovation and growing citizen pushback

In 2012, the pandemic that the world had been anticipating for years finally hit. Unlike 2009’s H1N1, this new influenza strain — originating from wild geese — was extremely virulent and deadly. Even the most pandemic-prepared nations were quickly overwhelmed when the virus streaked around the world, infecting nearly 20 percent of the global population and killing 8 million in just seven months, the majority of them healthy young adults. The pandemic also had a deadly effect on economies: international mobility of both people and goods screeched to a halt, debilitating industries like tourism and breaking global supply chains. Even locally, normally bustling shops and office buildings sat empty for months, devoid of both employees and customers.

The pandemic blanketed the planet — though disproportionate numbers died in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America, where the virus spread like wildfire in the absence of official containment protocols. But even in developed countries, containment was a challenge. The United States’s initial policy of “strongly discouraging” citizens from flying proved deadly in its leniency, accelerating the spread of the virus not just within the U.S. but across borders. However, a few countries did fare better — China in particular. The Chinese government’s quick imposition and enforcement of mandatory quarantine for all citizens, as well as its instant and near-hermetic sealing off of all borders, saved millions of lives, stopping the spread of the virus far earlier than in other
countries and enabling a swifter postpandemic recovery.

China’s government was not the only one that took extreme measures to protect its citizens from risk and exposure. During the pandemic, national leaders around the world flexed their authority and imposed airtight rules and restrictions, from the mandatory wearing of face masks to body-temperature checks at the entries to communal spaces like train stations and supermarkets. Even after the pandemic faded, this more authoritarian control and oversight of citizens and their activities stuck and even
intensified. In order to protect themselves from the spread of increasingly global problems — from pandemics and transnational terrorism to environmental crises and rising poverty — leaders around the world took a firmer grip on power.

At first, the notion of a more controlled world gained wide acceptance and approval. Citizens willingly gave up some of their sovereignty — and their privacy — to more paternalistic states in exchange for greater safety and stability. Citizens were more tolerant, and even eager, for top-down direction and oversight, and national leaders had more latitude to impose order in the ways they saw fit. In developed countries, this heightened oversight took many forms: biometric IDs for all citizens, for example, and tighter regulation of key industries whose stability was deemed vital to national interests. In many developed countries, enforced cooperation with a suite of new regulations and agreements slowly but steadily restored both order and, importantly,
economic growth.

The full report is available here (PDF). Keep in mind that this fantasy of a “more controlled world” presupposes a very deadly virus that harvests 8 million people in seven months, the majority of them healthy young adults. When all is said and done, COVID-19 is likely to kill a fraction of that number, and most of the victims will be elderly and/or people with chronic illnesses. In other words, the virus we ended up with is too weak to serve as a plausible pretext for the sort of totalitarian power-grab envisioned by the report; yet the power-grab happened anyway, as if the nature of the threat doesn’t matter. That is, of course, because the nature of the threat does not matter; the lockdowns are not about the virus – they were never about the virus!

Luckily for the architects of our new reality, most people are too stupid or brainwashed to see through the scam or too passive to resist it in any manner. The Western public marches forward as if in a daze, completely in thrall to the arbitrary commands of their new masters, the public health experts – or whoever is working through them. Perhaps it seems that the lockdowns are being “lifted” and “eased,” but that is like letting the dog outside to play. The basic relationship between the public and their new masters, established in March, remains intact: they tell us what to do, and we do it. The public has more or less accepted that the lockdowns are here to stay, modulated by experts as the alleged threat waxes and wanes. Of course, we will never be free of deadly viruses, so there is nothing stopping the experts from telling us to wear masks or avoid human contact year-round. Maybe they will discover tomorrow that masks are dangerous and ban them. And we will obey, because we must – we have accepted the principle that they rule us with an iron fist, albeit one covered tactfully with a medical glove. The plan worked.

If the dam breaks

Good thread delving into what could happen if the largest dam in the world collapses under the pressure of the current severe deluge:

𝐖𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐋𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐞 (𝐨𝐫 𝐃𝐚𝐦) 𝐁𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐤𝐬

1,000 km upriver from Shanghai and the mouth of the Yangtze Delta sits a marvel of modern mega-engineering:

The Three Gorges Dam.

It might be about to collapse. What happens if it does?

1/

Completed over twenty-one years (1994-2015) out of more than 28 million cubic meters of concrete and 463,000 tons of steel, the 185 meter tall Three Gorges Dam is today the largest hydroelectric dam on earth.

It generates around 2% of China’s total electrical power demand.

2/
As far back as 1918, Chinese political leaders have promoted damming the Three Gorges due to the ever-present threat of catastrophic flooding up and down the Yangtze River.

In 1931, more than 300K people were killed by floods.

In 1954 and 1998, 3K+ perished in each year.

3/
In 1982, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping promised to make the Three Gorges Dam a reality.

By 1992, enough political support had been assembled for the project to be approved.

The groundbreaking was in Dec 1994, though it wasn’t until 1997 that the first concrete was poured.

4/
The Three Gorges Dam has become a point of pride for the CCP.

Mega-engineering projects are a signal to the world that a nation has stepped into an elite tier of economic powerhouses.

For the CCP, it is further proof that authoritarianism is more effective than capitalism.

5/

However, the project did not come without enormous costs.

The price tag has run more than $30 billion USD.

Choking off the sedimentary flow of the river reduces the available fertile silt required by farmland downstream, and increases risk of flooding.

6/

All things considered, the Three Gorges Dam truly is a herculean feat of engineering, political willpower, and propaganda.

This despite the risks and challenges for the people of China – especially the more than 55 million people who live along the Yangtze downstream.

7/
It’s beyond my ken to assess the structural risks and likelihood of failure for the TGD.

CCP officials are downplaying risk, because that’s what they do.

Now to the point of this thread – extrapolating the geopolitical/supply chain impact of failure of Three Gorges Dam.

8/
We must first understand the importance of the Yangtze River in practical terms.

The watershed of the Yangtze is broadly divided into the Upper, Middle, and Lower Reaches.

Each reach is an industrial powerhouse, with specific economic and military significance.

9/
The westernmost Upper Reach is anchored by Chongqing, a massive megacity-region of more than 30 million people.

As China’s west-facing #BeltandRoad gateway, Chongqing plays a critical role in connecting the Yangtze to Central Asia and Europe via rail – the “New Silk Road.”

10/
The rail service – called “Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe Railway” – stretches more than 11,000 km and traverses a number of Central Asian nations.

It is operated jointly by Chinese, Russian, and German logistics companies, and just departed its 10,000 train in March.

11/

However, the CXE does not just serve Chongqing and Chengdu.

It connects cargo to China’s massive central/eastern industrial base via the Yangtze River’s container-on-ship service.

This subsidized, shorter routing cuts transit time to Wuhan from Europe by 10-14 days.

12/
This two-way multimodal service was a safety valve for the central China industrial region (centered in Wuhan) when ocean and air cargo service ground to a halt at the onset of COVID-19.

Trucks travelled to Chongqing, with cargo moving to Europe on the CXE.

13/
While Chongqing is the westernmost cargo hub on the Yangtze, it is closely connected via the river to the Port of Shanghai some 1,400 km away.

At Chongqing, all ocean-bound exports to/from western China are consolidated, numbering more than 1,000,000 containers/yr.

14/

Further, the ASEAN nations have become critical trade partners with Chongqing/W.China, as traffic along the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor has exploded.

This China-Singapore joint venture has seen almost 2,000 container trains move since 2017.

15/

It is clear that the CCP views connecting China’s western provinces to the world through Chongqing as a major strategic initiative.

And while rail is the primary mode to achieve this, it is the freight carrying capacity of the Yangtze that makes the project possible.

16/
Eastward from Chongqing, we come to the Yangtze’s Middle Reach, home to the Three Gorges Dam.

313km downriver from the dam sits Wuhan at the border of the Lower Reach.

It’s the most important interior city in China and a critical military, manufacturing, and tech hub.

17/
In this article for @theammind, I explored the importance of Wuhan to China and global trade.

It is the central node of the Yangtze River’s logistics network.

A failure of the ports here means zero ocean container traffic upriver from the delta.

When China Sneezes…
How U.S. Supply Chains Caught A Cold.

When China Sneezes…

18/
The Port of Wuhan handles more than 1.5 mil containers/year, 50% more than Chongqing.

Wuhan’s Tianhe airport serviced more than 24 million passenger in 2018, and a little more than 220K MT of air cargo (equivalent to about 2,000 747’s).

It’s also the PPE hub of China.

19/

So, let’s divert for a moment to what happens downriver if the Three Gorges Dam fails.

A 100m-tall wall of water will rush out at more than 100 km/hr.

In 30 minutes, Yichang and its 4 million residents will be engulfed.

(Map Credit: u/BerryBlue_BlueBerry @ Reddit)

20/

Zero+1 hour, Jingzhou and 5.7 million people will be swept away.

Zero+5, the major industrial city of Yueyang (5.5 mil people) will sit 5m underwater.

Zero+10 hours, Wuhan (11 mil people) will face flooding of 6-8m in all major industrial and port zones.

21/
Zero+15 hours, Jiujiang (another major PPE hub with 4.7 mil residents) will be hit with several meters of flooding. All cropland and infrastructure will be flooded and damaged.

Zero+24 hours, Shanghai’s neighboring city of Nanjing will see its port crippled.

22/
Note, the Yangtze watershed is massive, but Biblical levels of rain have been flooding western and central China for weeks.

There simply is nowhere for the water to go, except outwards towards the East China Sea, and the world’s largest port of Shanghai.

23/

Circling back now to Wuhan and the impacts to supply chains…

Ports along the Yangtze saw more than 19.4 million TEU (standard unit of container measure, “twenty foot equivalent unit”) in cargo traffic in 2019.

By comparison, Shanghai handled 42 million TEU in 2019.

24/

In simple terms, the Yangtze River logistics and manufacturing complex comprises 46% of the volume of the largest port on earth, since all cargo flows through Shanghai.

Failure of the Three Gorges Dam would annihilate the entire logistics infrastructure of central China.

25/
The Yangtze River east of the dam bases many PLA anti-air, ballistic missile, and PLA Air Force assets.

Several entities (Taiwan included) have speculated openly about the ability to strike the dam with missiles and cause massive downstream devastation.

26/

Such an unlikely attack on the dam would no doubt trigger immediate reprisal by the CCP and PLA.

But what happens if the dam naturally fails due to excessive water and engineering flaws?

How does China respond, and how do foreign companies recover manufacturing capacity?

27/
From an economic/military standpoint, all activity on the Yangtze would halt.

The rescue and recovery efforts will be enormous, taking months to complete, and only after the waters recede.

Peak water levels may not crest until August…and Yangtze ports are already slowed.

28/
The Yangtze River Economic Basin has a GDP of more than $6.5 trillion, or about half of all China’s GDP.

Recall, China represents 28% of all manufacturing output – globally. More than half of that is in the YREB.

15% of the world’s production would go offline in 24 hours.

29/
A wipeout of the Yangtze River would further cripple the already-congested Port of Shanghai, slowing vessel rotations to other Chinese and Asian ports by days or weeks.

Food imports – a critical item for China – would be slowed as refrigerated containers are bottlenecked.

30/
A slowdown at Shanghai would place additional pressure on the northern ports of Tianjin and Qingdao, and central/southern ports like Ningbo, Xiamen, and Yantian.

More manufacturers will offshore from China to SE Asia, creating more chokepoints.

31/
China’s central banking system, already cracking under the pressure of COVID-19 and the trade war, will not be able to help domestic companies recover fast enough.

The CCP will not be able to keep subsidizing production in attempt to keep the economy growing.

32/
The middle reach of the Yangtze River is also China’s main agriculture production zone, where the crops are enaring harvest.

African Swine Fever rages on.

Famine will follow without huge imports of protein from the US, Europe, and S. America.

Hmm.

China makes its largest ever purchase of U.S. corn
Far behind on its “phase one” commitments with the United States, China bought 1.76 million tonnes of U.S. corn, its largest purchase ever. of American corn.
https://www.agriculture.com/news/business/china-makes-its-largest-ever-purchase-of-us-corn

33/
China’s central and northern region water supply – especially in Beijing – is dependent on the Yangtze.

Additionally, given that 2% of China’s electricity is produced by the dam, recovery of the industrial base in the YREB would be crippled due to energy shortfalls.

34/
The lingering health effects associated with so many dead or sick from the flooding will crush the already-strained health services in the region, which are still trying to recover as the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And…it gets worse.

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It’s the habit of authoritarian regimes to deflect from domestic disasters by lashing outward to external enemies or entities.

It is thus a certainty that a failure of the dam will be painted as enemy action – likely pointing the finger at the US and/or Taiwan (recall #26).

36/
Within days, the CCP/PLA will start saber-rattling.

Harrassment of US and allied naval assets, wargames involving intermediate-range ballistic missiles, rhetoric aimed at Taiwan, etc.

This will spill over into major disruptions of the East and South China Seas.

37/
Commercial shiplines (such as Maersk, MSC, CMA-CGM) and their import customers in North America will see increased transit times as non-China transshipment ports take on add’l volume and vessels redirect around the contested waters.

As with COVID-19, the system will buckle.

38/
Many companies in Europe and North America still recovering from the supply chain shock earlier this year will close down, ratcheting up anti-CCP sentiment further.

All of these factors combined will nearly guarantee open conflict between the US and China.

39/
So what does a failure of the Three Gorges Dam look like?

It would be among the most horrific humanitarian crises in memory, triggering a cascade effect of famine, war, and economic depression that will threaten global peace.

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For just one example of how we need to build proactive solutions to address China’s increasingly unstable house of cards, see @SecStudiesGrp’s proposal to support the Philippines in rebuilding Subic Bay into a logistics and manufacturing powerhouse.

Blunting a Rampant China’s Threat to Southeast Asian Shipping – Security Studies Group
A bold plan to repurpose a turnkey Free Trade Zone at Subic Bay. […]Read More…

Blunting a Rampant China’s Threat to Southeast Asian Shipping

41/
For more detailed analysis on China’s naval and missile programs, as well as their geopolitical moves in the South China Sea and at Diego Garcia, see this thread and the ones embedded within:

A prophecy fulfilled

You know, I really should stop predicting things. My dark imaginings have a disturbing tendency to come true.

Back in March 2019, pretty much apropos of nothing, I suggested that mass international tourism could be a temporary phenomenon. Quote:

International tourism arrivals grew by nearly 6% last year to 1.4 billion, according to figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization. […]

That is, of course, if current trends continue. But what if they don’t? We take it for granted, but the ease and safety of global travel today is really unbelievable, relying as it does not only on technology, but also the low cost of fuel, geopolitical stability, the openness of many countries to tourism, and a global middle class that can afford to vacation abroad. The problem is, none of the above conditions are set in stone. A large-scale war, economic depression, or energy shock, among other possible disruptions, could trigger a collapse in international travel, perhaps marking the end of the era of mass global tourism.

I should have added “engineered mass hysteria and global lockdown in response to a virus” to that list of possible disruptions, but nobody’s perfect.

In any case, here we are (article from July 9, 2020):

The world’s tourism industry is losing at least $1.2 trillion, or 1.5% of global gross domestic product after four months of travel being shut down, according to research from the U.N.’s Conference on Trade and Development. Those numbers could nearly double to $2.2 trillion and 2.8% of global GDP if the stoppage in international tourism lasts eight months; losses could soar to $3.3 trillion (4.2% of global GDP) if international tourism shuts down for 12 months. […]

In May, the U.N.’s World Tourism Organization released a report stating that international tourism fell 22% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year. UNWTO researchers said at the time that international tourism for all of 2020 could fall anywhere from 60% to 80%. Those estimates were based on factors such as how well countries contain the spread of the virus, how long travel restrictions are in place and how long nations’ borders are closed.

Prophetic? You be the judge. Anyway, it remains to be seen how long the travel restrictions will last and/or people are too terrified (or poor) to fly to foreign lands. Governments and airlines are also doing what they can to make the commercial aviation experience as miserable as possible, so that alone will likely deter a lot of people from traveling. I suspect the global floating population of backpackers and country-hopping “digital nomads” will be cooling their heels for a while yet.

Is immunity widespread?

The former director of the Institute for Immunology at the University of Bern explains why everything you think you know about the virus is probably wrong:

This is not an accusation, but a ruthless taking stock [of the current situation]. I could slap myself, because I looked at Sars-CoV2- way too long with panic. I am also somewhat annoyed with many of my immunology colleagues who so far have left the discussion about Covid-19 to virologist and epidemiologist. I feel it is time to criticise some of the main and completely wrong public statements about this virus.

Firstly, it was wrong to claim that this virus was novel. Secondly, It was even more wrong to claim that the population would not already have some immunity against this virus. Thirdly, it was the crowning of stupidity to claim that someone could have Covid-19 without any symptoms at all or even to pass the disease along without showing any symptoms whatsoever. […]

The penny dropped only when I realised that the first commercially available antibody test [for Sars-CoV-2] was put together from an old antibody test that was meant to detect Sars-1. This kind of test evaluates if there are antibodies in someone’s blood and if they came about through an early fight against the virus. [Scientists] even extracted antibodies from a llama that would detect Sars-1, Sars-CoV-2, and even the Mers virus. It also became known that Sars-CoV-2 had a less significant impact in areas in China where Sars-1 had previously raged. This is clear evidence urgently suggesting that our immune system considers Sars-1 and Sars-Cov-2 at least partially identical and that one virus could probably protect us from the other. […]

In mid-April, work was published by the group of Andreas Thiel at the Charité Berlin. A paper with 30 authors, amongst them the virologist Christian Drosten. It showed that in 34 % of people in Berlin who had never been in contact with the Sars-CoV-2 virus showed nonetheless T-cell immunity against it (T-cell immunity is a different kind of immune reaction, see below). This means that our T-cells, i.e. white blood cells, detect common structures appearing on Sars-CoV-2 and regular cold viruses and therefore combat both of them. […]

So if we do a PCR corona test on an immune person, it is not a virus that is detected, but a small shattered part of the viral genome. The test comes back positive for as long as there are tiny shattered parts of the virus left. Correct: Even if the infectious viruses are long dead, a corona test can come back positive, because the PCR method multiplies even a tiny fraction of the viral genetic material enough [to be detected]. That’s exactly what happened, when there was the global news, even shared by the WHO, that 200 Koreans who already went through Covid-19 were infected a second time and that there was therefore probably no immunity against this virus. The explanation of what really happened and an apology came only later, when it was clear that the immune Koreans were perfectly healthy and only had a short battle with the virus. The crux was that the virus debris registered with the overly sensitive test and therefore came back as “positive”. It is likely that a large number of the daily reported infection numbers are purely due to viral debris.

This may explain why the behavior of the virus appears to be largely unaffected by government action; cross-country comparisons suggest no obvious patterns. Japan, for example, did little to combat the virus and has suffered less than 1,000 deaths, to the media’s great puzzlement.

A provocative thesis

For casual observers of China, such as myself, the CPC’s ham-fisted attempts at diplomacy have been a longtime source of hilarity. Here’s a post from May of last year expressing my amazement at a statement by the Chinese ambassador to Canada, in which he accused the country of being infested with “demons” because it shot down a Chinese M&A deal.

But since the onset of the global COVID fake emergency, China has embarked on a spree of egregious diplomatic self-destruction that makes its previous missteps look like minor faux pas. I admit I find this puzzling. Are Chinese leaders really that dumb, or are they doing this on purpose? Geopolitical thinker Peter Zeihan takes a stab at explaining China’s seemingly nonsensical behavior:

The propaganda out of China of late has been…notable. Beijing has accused the French of using their nursing homes as death camps, has blamed Italy for being the source of the coronavirus (at the very peak of Italian deaths), has charged the US Army with bringing the virus to China in the first place, has thrown a “fact sheet” of truly disbelievable disinformation at the fact-oriented Germans, and turned the country’s ambassadorial core into cut-rate tabloid distributors – all while leaning on anyone and everyone from the United Nations to the World Health Organization to the European Union to regional legislative bodies to alternatively suppress and delete any information or analysis that does anything but laud China, as well as push them to take public stances that slobberingly praise China.

In doing so the Chinese have seemingly deliberately wrecked their relations with the Americans, French, Italians, Germans, Czechs, South Africans, Kazakhs and Nigerians, just to name a few. (The Swedes had all but ended their diplomatic relationship with China – having come to the public conclusion that the Chinese government was a pack of genocidal, power-mad, information-suppressing, exploitive, ultranationalists – before COVID.) […]

The explanation is unfortunately very simple: the Chinese leadership is well aware that soft power isn’t what is going to solve the problem they see. There’s some guidance as to the CCP’s thinking in how the propaganda effort is being explained within China, and it doesn’t bode well for the future.

Semi-officially, the CCP called the April (official) effort Wolf Warrior diplomacy, in reference to a recent (and wildly popular) Chinese movie series about ethically pure Chinese soldiers who purge the world of evil American mercenaries. The closest equivalent I can think of would be like calling an American propaganda effort Starship Troopers diplomacy. (Yeah, it is as stupid as it sounds.)

The (more disperse) May effort, in contrast, is being referred to as a Yihetuan Movement mindset. It is a reference to a particularly chaotic period at the turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries when a particularly violent strain of ultranationalism erupted in response to foreign actions within China. Most non-Chinese readers probably don’t recognize the Yihetuan Movement reference, but they probably do recall how it was labelled in the West: the Boxer Rebellion. More on that in a minute.

This new propaganda program isn’t about Xi attempting to convince the wider world of China’s greatness or rightness. This isn’t about the United States or Europe or Africa, and certainly not about global domination. Instead it is about intentionally saying things so far beyond the pale that there’s a global anti-Chinese backlash. The backlash itself isn’t the goal, but instead a means to an end. Xi is attempting to use a global anti-Chinese backlash to enflame anti-foreigner nationalist activity within China. Put simply, Xi is trying to get the world pissed off at China so that China becomes pissed off at the world.

Xi feel he needs to hyperstimulate and mobilize a large enough proportion of the population so that they can assist the state security services in containing, demoralizing, cowing – and if necessary, beating, killing and disappearing – those who do not buy in.

And from the next installation in the series:

The short version is that China’s spasming belligerency is a sign not of confidence and strength, but instead insecurity and weakness. It is an exceedingly appropriate response to the pickle the Chinese find themselves in.

The COVID cult

Did I not warn you, nearly two years ago, that we were living in an age of cults? Here is what I said:

We certainly appear to be living through a time of mass hysteria and apocalyptic thinking, at least in the US, which may explain the plethora of cult-related headlines. As social mood continues to darken, the prevalence and popularity of cults may well increase.

Well, in the last few months a vast and sinister new cult has taken over the English-speaking world. It is the cult of COVID-19. At its core is not a charismatic leader, but a mysterious virus that must be appeased and propitiated through an array of bizarre rituals. These include “social distancing,” i.e. the avoidance of human contact, and the universal wearing of masks. It does not matter, of course, that these behaviors have no scientific basis, nor that the epidemic in the US is for all intents and purposes over:

From the CDC:

Based on death certificate data, the percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia, influenza or COVID-19 (PIC) decreased from 9.0% during week 25 to 5.9% during week 26, representing the tenth consecutive week during which a declining percentage of deaths due to PIC has been recorded. The percentage is currently at the epidemic threshold but will likely change as additional death certificates for deaths during recent weeks are processed.

I could be mistaken, but my sense is that the initial fear of the virus has worn off as the daily death numbers have dramatically declined. But this has not loosened the grip of the cult, as we see by the flurry of mask edicts that are being issued in places such as Pennsylvania, Kansas, Oregon and Texas, and the closure of beaches across Southern California for the Fourth of July weekend. What began as COVID panic or hysteria has hardened into a COVID religion, a kind of formalized belief system that one must simply obey.

Peter Hitchens considers the situation in his country of Britain:

When this madness began, I behaved as if a new and fanatical religion was spreading among us. Be polite and tolerant, I thought. It may be crazy and damaging but in time it will go away.

Now it is clear that a new faith, based on fear of the invisible and quite immune to reason, has all but taken over the country. And it turns out to be one of those faiths that doesn’t have much tolerance for those who don’t share it.

My guess is that about 85 per cent of the population now worship it and will continue to do so. The rest of us are, as each day goes by, a persecuted minority, forced to go along with beliefs we do not hold.

Its evangelists will not leave you and me alone, but constantly seek to force us to join. This is why I make such a fuss about the demand to make us all wear muzzles. This is not about health.

There is simply not enough evidence to compel us to do so. It is an attempt to force submission on Covid unbelievers.

That is why it spreads, despite the absence of any good case for it. […] In Texas, of all states, the governor seeks to make muzzles compulsory in all public places.

Did the lockdowns work?

This is a good debate involving Knut Wittkowski (who has been cited previously on this blog) about whether the lockdowns worked. Short answer: no, because the number of infections in the US peaked on March 8th, before the lockdowns began. You can’t “flatten the curve” if the curve has already peaked! Weird to think that all those stay-at-home orders, business closures and sweeping suspensions of civil liberties were completely pointless. Oh well.