The famines cometh

You thought WuFlu was bad? WuFlu is nothing. The global death toll as of this writing is 258,295. LOL. Tuberculosis kills 1.5 million people every year.

Hunger, though. That’s going to be a bitch:

Major world disasters produce multiple ripple effects. Like a powerful tsunami, they trigger one shock wave after another, each producing injury and mayhem. In the case of Covid-19, the first wave was the global health crisis, still spreading around the world. Next came the stay-at-home requirements and the resulting shutdown of the world economy, resulting in massive job layoffs everywhere. These, in turn, are producing a third wave, possibly even more catastrophic in its outcome: the collapse of global food-supply systems and widespread human starvation.

Who could have predicted this? Well, here is what I wrote on March 30:

We don’t know if the repressive measures that are being taken to “flatten the curve” in the West, such as turning Britain into an Orwellian dystopia where you are only permitted to walk your dog once a day, will be beneficial overall, given the speculative nature of the epidemiological models used to justify them and the (unaccounted-for) public health costs of putting hundreds of millions of people under de facto house arrest. But it seems obvious that if these mega-interventions continue for the duration that is apparently required for them to be effective, then they will trigger a violent collapse of the global economy, and with it, widespread immiseration, political chaos and a truly Biblical scale of human suffering and death.

Guess shutting down the global economy and confining billions of people to their homes was a pretty dumb idea, after all.

The lockdowns will continue until morale improves

The state of Connecticut (population 3.6 million) has had a grand total of 2,436 WuFlu deaths.

Hospitalizations (a lagging indicator of infections) declined for 11 straight days as of May 3.

Nursing homes account for some 55% of WuFlu deaths in Connecticut.

Yet the state must remain on full lockdown until May 20, at which point a phased easing will commence. Another brutal 16 days of little to no revenue until restaurants with outdoor dining areas, hair salons and nail salons will be permitted to open their doors again. If certain conditions are met.

None of this makes any sense.

Where is the pressure coming from?

Who or what is the source of the demented zeal to shut down society worldwide? If any of us survive the present crisis, this question will need to be investigated and the people responsible for this monstrous self-inflicted catastrophe will need to be named and shamed.

Here’s an illuminating article about the pressure on Japan to lock down its population of ~127 million, despite the fact that the country has suffered – are you ready for this? – 517 deaths from WuFlu as of May 2:

Under Japan’s coronavirus state of emergency, people have been asked to stay home. Many are not. Some still have to commute to their jobs despite risks of infection, while others continue to dine out, picnic in parks and crowd into grocery stores with scant regard for social distancing.

The horror!

On Wednesday, the first day of the “Golden Week” holidays that run through May 5, Tokyo’s leafy Shiba Park was packed with families with small children, day camping in tents.

The lure of heading out for Golden Week holidays is testing the public’s will to unite against a common enemy as health workers warn rising coronavirus cases are overwhelming the medical system in some places. Experts say a sense of urgency is missing, thanks to mixed messaging from the government and a lack of incentives to stay home.

Let’s see who is pushing to turn Japan into an open-air prison camp:

To get better compliance, the government needs stronger messaging, said Naoya Sekiya, a University of Tokyo professor and expert of social psychology and risk communications.

A tougher lockdown would also help. […]

“The message coming from the government is rather mild, apparently trying to convey the need to stay home while prioritizing the economy,” Sekiya said. Since people lack a shared sense of crisis, instead of staying home they’re hoping for the best and assuming they won’t get infected, he said.

No shared sense of crisis? Very troubling. Perhaps the Japanese media can start running breathless stores about how MILLIONS WILL DIE, even young and healthy people! Or perhaps Japan can begin holding regular clapping session for the poor frontline workers to create an impression of national emergency.

As elsewhere, meddlesome officials and panicky governors are among those leading the charge to make “stay home, save lives” the new operating principle:

Officials are trying to fight back. In Kichijoji, they patrolled shopping arcades carrying banners saying “Please, do not go out.” Local mayors appealed to the government to close the crowded Shonan beach, popular with surfers and families, south of Tokyo. Some prefectures have set up border checkpoints to spot non-local license plates.

“It seems not everyone shares the sense of crisis,” said Kazunobu Nishikawa, a disaster prevention official in Musashino city, which oversees Kichijoji. “Many people understand the risks of this infectious disease,” he said, but “others seem to think COVID-19 is nothing more than a common cold and don’t care as long as they don’t catch it.” […]

Abe did not ask non-essential businesses to close. But Koike, the Tokyo governor, fought and prevailed in requesting that schools, movie theaters, athletic clubs, hostess bars and other such businesses in the city be asked to close. Most restaurants and pubs still can operate from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., and grocery and convenience stores and public transport remain open as usual.

With most of the world’s rich nations committing seppuku over this virus, Japan may emerge out of this crisis in a relatively strong position.

He’s back!

Prof. Knut Wittkowski is back for a follow-up interview:

He says that the number of coronavirus infections peaked around March 8 in the US – before the lockdowns began.

“Shutting down schools and restaurants and he economy around 10 days later is something that is totally absurd.”

See the first interview with him here.

The manufacture of consent

Clap Because We Care NYCWhat is the purpose of “Clap Because We Care,” the nightly ritualized clapping and cheering for medical personnel and other essential workers* in New York City?

As far as I can tell, the function of this ritual is threefold:

1) To heighten the impression of total and permanent crisis, reinforcing the need for indefinite lockdowns;

2) To evoke traditional celebrations of military personnel and first responders, creating the impression that the viral outbreak is similar to a war or terrorist attack;

3) To generate a (fake) sense of community with strangers who are similarly confined to their homes (this being the only large-scale social activity still permitted), and therefore conditioning New Yorkers to accept, embrace and even enjoy their isolation and confinement as the “new normal.”

In summary, the purpose of these orchestrated clapping sessions – like the terrifying stories being spewed by the media and social media – is to manufacture consent for ongoing, massive political and societal changes that would otherwise be unacceptable.

Creepy stuff.

*(The category of “essential workers” is quite broad; based on the city’s definition of “essential businesses or entities,” it seems to include bankers and journalists as well as healthcare workers treating WuFlu patients. By some accounts, the clapping is primarily directed at medical personnel, but other reports mention truck drivers, grocery store workers, etc. The vagueness of what categories of workers are being celebrated is another creepy aspect of the ritual. At least in Airstrip One, the clapping is specifically for the NHS.)

The reset

In a couple of important blog posts, energy and economics researcher Gail Tverberg explains how the corona crisis has pushed an already strained global economy to the brink of collapse:

Economies won’t be able to recover after shutdowns

Citizens seem to be clamoring for shutdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There is one major difficulty, however. Once an economy has been shut down, it is extremely difficult for the economy to recover back to the level it had reached previously. In fact, the longer the shutdown lasts, the more critical the problem is likely to be. China can shut down its economy for two weeks over the Chinese New Year, each year, without much damage. But, if the outage is longer and more widespread, damaging effects are likely.

A major reason why economies around the world will have difficulty restarting is because the world economy was in very poor shape before COVID-19 hit; shutting down major parts of the economy for a time leads to even more people with low wages or without any job. It will be very difficult and time-consuming to replace the failed businesses that provided these jobs.

When an outbreak of COVID-19 hit, epidemiologists recommended social distancing approaches that seemed to be helpful back in 1918-1919. The issue, however, is that the world economy has changed. Social distancing rules have a much more adverse impact on today’s economy than on the economy of 100 years ago. […]

If a large number of businesses are closed for an extended period, this will have many adverse impacts on the economy:

  • Fewer goods and services, in total, will be made for the economy during the period of the shutdown.
  • Many workers will be laid off, either temporarily or permanently. Goods and services will suddenly be less affordable for these former workers. Many will fall behind on their rent and other obligations.
  • The laid off workers will be unable to pay much in taxes. In the US, state and local governments will need to cut back the size of their programs to match lower revenue because they cannot borrow to offset the deficit.
  • If fewer goods and services are made, demand for commodities will fall. This will push the prices of commodities, such as oil and copper, very low.
    Commodity producers, airlines and the travel industry are likely to head toward permanent contraction, further adding to layoffs.
  • Broken supply lines become problems. For example:
    A lack of parts from China has led to the closing of many automobile factories around the world.
    There is not enough cargo capacity on airplanes because much cargo was carried on passenger flights previously, and passenger flights have been cut back.

These adverse impacts become increasingly destabilizing for the economy, the longer the shutdowns go on. It is as if a huge number of deletions are made simultaneously in Figure 1. Temporary margins, such as storage of spare parts in warehouses, can provide only a temporary buffer. The remaining portions of the economy become less and less able to support themselves. If the economy was already in poor shape, the economy may collapse. (…)

COVID-19 and oil at $1: Is there a way forward?

(…)

We seem to be reaching the limit of making our current global economic system work any longer. The only hope of partial salvation would seem to be if core parts of the world economy can be made to work in a more separate fashion for at least a few more years. In fact, oil and other fossil fuel production may continue, but for each country’s own use, with very limited trade.

There are likely to be big differences among economies around the world. For example, hunter-gathering may work for a few people, with the right skills, in some parts of the world. At the same time, more modern economies may exist elsewhere.

The new economy will have far fewer people and far less complexity. Each country can be expected to have its own currency, but this currency will likely be used only on a limited range of locally produced goods. Speculation in asset prices will no longer be a source of wealth.

It will be a very different world!

Speaking of which:

Inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (real GDP) is expected to decline by about 12 percent during the second quarter, equivalent to a decline at an annual rate of 40 percent for that quarter.
The unemployment rate is expected to average close to 14 percent during the second quarter.
Interest rates on 3-month Treasury bills and 10-year Treasury notes are expected to average 0.1 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, during that quarter.

For fiscal year 2020, CBO’s early look at the fiscal outlook shows the following:

The federal budget deficit is projected to be $3.7 trillion.
Federal debt held by the public is projected to be 101 percent of GDP by the end of the fiscal year.

Greatest act of societal and economic self-destruction in history.

New Jersey police use Chinese drones to harass Americans

Remember when we laughed at China for using drones equipped with loudspeakers to enforce lockdown orders? Back in the good old days of… early February? Yep, those were the days.

Well, it didn’t take long for that dystopian innovation to reach America’s shores:

Police departments across the country are resorting to the use of drone surveillance to enforce social distancing in both public and private spaces during statewide shelter-in-place orders.

New footage shot by MSNBC shows police in Elizabeth, New Jersey using drones to look for people not social distancing in areas their patrol cars cannot access.

“The drones make it easier for people to see into certain areas where access by patrol car is more difficult,” Rehema Ellis, an NBC news correspondent said. “That includes tight spaces between buildings, behind schools, and in backyards.”

Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage told MSNBC that cities need to get creative, and defended the intrusive tactic as potentially saving lives.

“If these drones save one life, it is clearly worth the activity and the information the drones are sending,” the mayor said.

Of course. That is going to be the justification for every outrage in the future. “If it saves ONE LIFE, it’s worth [… suspending your civil liberties, trashing the economy, dissolving society… forever].” One life. I wonder what the founding fathers would have made of this argument?

When a drone identifies a group of people collected together, such as individuals quarantined in their backyard, it says, “you should not be congregating in groups.” Consequences for refusing to abide by the drones in Elizabeth, NJ include a court summons or a $1,000 fine.

Here’s the kicker:

A Chinese company known as Da Jiang Innovations (DJI) donated these types of drones to 43 law enforcement agencies in 23 states. Last May, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo warning that Chinese drones are possible security risks, ripe for the “potential use for terrorism, mass casualty incidents, interference with air traffic, as well as corporate espionage and invasions of privacy.”

Donated, seriously? And the police departments thought this was a good idea?

Wall Street always wins

The American Economic Liberties Project explains (PDF) why Wall Street loves the CARES Act, the galactic economic bailout signed into law at the end of March. In short, while it’s not an explicit bank bailout, the benefits are massively lopsided in favor of big business and big finance… again:

The Treasury and Federal Reserve programs — more commonly referred to as bailouts — were a controversial part of the legislation that the American Economic Liberties Project opposed as part of the immediate legislative response. While much of the discussion of the legislation focused on the $1,200 payout to workers, the $4 trillion of credit in this bill that will go to big business and Wall Street is equivalent to a $13,000 loan to every single man, woman, and child in America.

Now that the bailouts are law, these provisions represent a massive, enduring transfer of power to billionaires and big businesses. It’s critical to seek opportunities to blunt this power transfer and be clear-eyed about the economic and social implications for workers, small businesses, communities, and society over the longer term. […]

The Fed has, accordingly, opened a variety of new lending programs. Last week, it opened seven new ones, on top of what it had already put out. The Fed can make up to $2.3 trillion in additional loans through these seven programs. Some of the programs are meant to help cities, states, small businesses, and so on. But they will also bail out private equity funds, which invest in riskier companies in search of bigger profits for rich and powerful investors. […]

WHO EXACTLY WILL GET MONEY THROUGH THE FED’S NEW LOAN PROGRAMS?

1. Private equity investors. One of the Fed’s new programs provides $750 billion, or $2,500 for every man, woman, and child in the U.S., to a junk bond-buying program, which the Fed calls the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility. Junk bonds, or “high-yield corporate bonds,” are risky loans that powerful financiers known as private equity funds use to take over corporations. The Fed can also use this program to lend to safer, well-managed corporations.

2. Big corporations and businesses. The Fed will also provide up to $750 billion, or $2,500 for every man, woman, and child in the U.S., to corporations through a program called the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility. Specifically, the Fed will lend money to large businesses by buying bonds from corporations.

Etc.

As Matt Stoller has written:

Large banks, private equity corporations, and foreign central banks get dollars through the capital markets, by trading bonds and stocks. It turns out that the Federal Reserve is very good at working in these markets, and can move trillions of dollars relatively quickly. So that’s why the real estate arms of the largest private equity funds in the world are skyrocketing today. They know that the Fed turned the spigot on, and that spigot is instant and functional.

However, the Small Business Administration, unlike institutions in the 1930s and 1940s, does not have the workforce or ability to make direct loans to businesses. They have to guarantee loans made by banks, who in turn are supposed to make loans. Or that’s the theory, but in America, commercial lending institutions have hollowed out dramatically. Neither the banks nor SBA nor anyone else have the people to originate loans. We can’t do it. And our unemployment offices aren’t much better. The only functional bureaucracy that touches business and people is the IRS.

Never let a virus go to waste.

Top Swedish epidemiologist explains why lockdowns are wrong

Watch:

His bio on the WHO site:

Johan Giesecke trained as an infectious disease clinician in Stockholm, Sweden during the 1980’s, and from his work with AIDS patients he became interested in the epidemiology of infectious diseases. He received an MSc in epidemiology from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1992, and then worked as a Senior Lecturer at the school for a few years. After this he became State Epidemiologist for Sweden (1995 to 2005) and during a one-year sabbatical 1999-2000 he led the group working on the revision of the International Health Regulations at WHO HQ. From 2005 to 2014 he was the first Chief Scientist of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Professor Giesecke has written a textbook on infectious disease epidemiology, and now teaches on this subject as a professor emeritus at the Karolinska Institute Medical University in Stockholm.

Stop calling it a “quarantine”!

Not. A. Quarantine. (Source)

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. –George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”

We need to get something straight amid the current global insanity. A “quarantine” is when you separate people who are infected, or likely to be infected, from the healthy population. Here’s the Google-promoted definition from Lexico.com:

NOUN

A state, period, or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are placed.
‘many animals die in quarantine’

Here’s the definition from WebMD:

What does it mean to be quarantined? People who have been exposed to an infectious disease and may be infected but are not yet ill may be quarantined. That is, they may be asked to remain at home or another location to prevent further spread of illness to others and to carefully monitor for the disease.

During quarantine people are able to do most things they can do indoors within the constraints of the location they are at. For example, if people are asked to stay at home then they would usually be asked to take their own temperature and report daily to health authorities on how they are feeling. They are given instructions on what they can do and not do around family members and are informed of other disease precautions.

The word comes from the Black Death-era Venetian practice of requiring ships from infected ports to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing (quaranta giorni is Italian for “40 days”).

It’s perfectly clear, then, that the mass “lockdowns” and stay-at-home orders affecting billions of people around the world are not quarantines! Ordering healthy people, who have no known exposure to the virus, to stay indoors is not a quarantine. Banning all forms of real-life social activity is not a quarantine.

What should we call it, then? Personally, I prefer the term “mass house arrest” – because, stripped of its legal connotations, that is what it is!

Let’s check the Wikipedia entry for “house arrest”:

In justice and law, house arrest (also called home confinement, home detention, or, in modern times, electronic monitoring) is a measure by which a person is confined by the authorities to their residence. Travel is usually restricted, if allowed at all. House arrest is an alternative to being in a prison while awaiting trial or after sentencing. […]

The terms of house arrest can differ, but most programs allow employed offenders to continue to work, and confine them to their residence only during non-working hours. Offenders are commonly allowed to leave their home for specific purposes; examples can include visits to the probation officer or police station, religious services, education, attorney visits, court appearances, and medical appointments.[3][4] Many programs also allow the convict to leave their residence during regular, pre-approved times in order to carry out general household errands, such as food shopping and laundry. Offenders may have to respond to communications from a higher authority to verify that they are at home when required to be. Exceptions are often made to allow visitors to visit the offender.[5]

It’s fascinating to note that prisoners under house arrest often have more freedom of action that the average American/European/Indian/etc. under the current regimes of medical house arrest. For example, Americans are not allowed to attend religious services – whereas prisoners under house arrest are.

You may think this is a trivial issue, but in reality, it’s of the utmost importance that we call things by their correct names. If we don’t, we won’t understand the true nature of what is happening, and we will tolerate the intolerable and defend the indefensible. False language is the handmaiden of evil. Pseudo-scientific babble is being invoked to justify vast and possibly irrevocable political and societal changes. Calling mass house arrest a “quarantine,” as many people are doing, makes it more palatable. Quarantines are good; who doesn’t support quarantining the infected? Forget that most of us are not infected, or that if we are, we don’t need to quarantine everyone because it’s already too late.

If you care about language, if you care about science, if you care about logic and clarity of thought, please… stop calling it a quarantine!!!