Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics (Coronavirus Edition)

In the comments section Curle referred to a post over at the West Hunter site, Just another flu in Bergamo. Greg Cochran is one who is firmly with the worst-case-scenario crowd.  The money shot is this:

All this means that official death count in Italy ( 743 today) is a serious underestimate: the actual numbers must be something like 4-9 times bigger – say 4000 a day.   Does influenza do this?  One did, back in 1918.

However this basic point of agreement between the “Just a Flu” crowd and the “1918” crowd is that we can’t trust the numbers.  This unfortunately has been true from the beginning.  I’ve never believed the Chinese numbers, and I don’t believe their current “no new cases” claim now.  However, what’s a WHO going to do?  The World Health Organization initially only had Chinese numbers, and those numbers began to shape our understanding of this virus.

But of course we are still trying to find gold from dross, which is how 743 deaths times x (with x being guesswork) gives you 4,000 dead Italians a day.  But I don’t see how Italy can tell us anything about the virus.  That country has been an outlier throughout this crisis.  Look at the (official) death rates compared to some comparative countries:

Mises.org

I could argue contra Cochran, “Hey look at Germany!”

Of course for all I know Germany is fiddling with their numbers to mitigate the impact of the virus.  The truth is, we just don’t have good numbers, and frankly I don’t trust Italians to keep good records in the first place.  I do trust the records of the US however, with qualifications.

As of today (March 26th):

The qualifications?  I buy the death rates (1,163), but I don’t buy the number of cases (80,854).  Testing for COVID-19 is still mostly limited to first responders, medical personnel, celebrities (?), and people showing symptoms at the doctor’s office or emergency room.  That is not a representative sample. At the earliest it will be weeks, and more likely months, before the US has enough data to really have a good idea how the bell curve of severity of symptoms plays out with COVID-19.  In the meantime I can agree with Cochran that the Italian numbers are probably wrong.

 

Age of Coronapocalypse

America 2020

It’s been 5 days since President, now War Leader Trump, declared a state of emergency against the dreaded COVID-19.  It’s astounding how quickly civilization collapsed.  Today I had to do the unthinkable; I had to leave the house.  We needed supplies.  Our stocks were low but luckily I had something to trade.  As we arrived at Barter-town (formerly known as Publix Supermarket) the hulking guard, with a human skull necklace had me check my guns.  “Sure,” I said, “but don’t get any funny ideas.”  I nodded over my left shoulder, to make sure that he could see my wife, perched atop our SUV, aiming the AR onto the scene.  These days, when you go shopping, you have to have backup.  He got the message, and to ease the tension, I noted, “Nice skull.”  “Hmm Amazon.” He half grunted.  I’ll have to check that out.  Human skull jewelry and accessories are all the rage in these benighted times.

I got in line to see the assessor.  Cash was mostly worthless now, having been used as toilet paper in the early days of the crisis. But the absence of cash was my fortune.  I had something to trade.  When it was my turn, I stepped up to the grizzled assessor and began unbuckling the straps to my canvas bag.  “Nice purse” the assessor said, trying to establish dominance.  But I wasn’t going to let him get the upper hand.  “It’s a Murse thank you.”  I replied.  I tried to sound extra snippy, like Niles Crane challenging a dock worker to a fist fight.  “OK whatcha got?” he huffed.

White Gold

 

I pulled it out; it almost glowed with its crisp, clean whiteness.  I slowly passed it over to the assessor.  He was quiet now.  He pulled out a small jeweler’s loupe, twisted it into his eye and examined.  “Fine grain, two ply of course, crisscrossed ridge pattern, and…” his voice trailed off.  “…soft…” he looked up at me again.  “Extra absorbent?” he asked, although he already knew the answer.  I nodded.

“Cottonelle.” I replied.

After staring almost dreamily for a moment, no doubt thinking what he would do to that roll if he had a chance, the assessor was suddenly all business.  “I can give you three cans of beans.  No more.”   “That’s ridiculous!” I replied, and we proceeded to haggle.  Since the country went on the can of beans standard, it had turned every transaction into haggling like a Middle Eastern bazaar.  When you can’t split the can into decimals…

We finally came to an agreement of four cans and I tossed in a coupon.  Heading back out, I checked out my guns and spied my wife still on top of the SUV, weapon at the ready.

The traffic after shopping is murder!

 

So it was another successful shopping trip.  I do regret that we had to crash the economy, destroy the livelihood of millions, and leave a wreck of a country in the wake, but this is how we live now. Hey, at least we’ve avoided the sniffles!

And Earth Abides.

With Suleimani, a Trump Gambit in the Middle East

The killing of Quds Force commander Qassim Suleimani by a US drone has lit a fire not only with the Iranians, but with their allies in the United States; the Democrats and their mouthpieces in the media.  I’ve had a lot of fun this weekend arguing this issue on social media, with the left clearly painting this as Trump’s attempt to plunge us into World War III.  For me, when it comes to terrorists, I like the idea that if you hit us, we hit you back.  But I guess that might not be a very progressive view of dealing with state sponsored terror.  The progressive view is to send pallets of cash to terrorist regimes, because nothing says “that’ll teach you” like paying off terrorists.But part of the natural backlash of such a move was this:

Iraqi parliament calls for US troops to be expelled

The Iraqi parliament passed a resolution Sunday calling for the government to expel foreign troops from the country in the wake of an U.S. airstrike that killed a top Iranian general, raising questions about the future of the allied mission that has successfully fought the “Islamic State,” or ISIS, in recent years.       

The resolution asks Iraq’s government to cancel the request for assistance from the U.S.-led coalition operating in the country against the “Islamic State,” which once controlled large swathes of Iraq and Syria before allied intervention.

“The government commits to revoke its request for assistance from the international coalition fighting Islamic State due to the end of military operations in Iraq and the achievement of victory,” the resolution read.

“The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason.”

Given a majority Shia population, this is not much of surprise.  There are a lot of Iranian sympathizers inside Iraq and they hold considerable political power.  This is one of those unintended consequences that has the establishment and the neo-con Never Trumpers screaming at the top of their lungs, “stupid Trump is getting us kicked out of Iraq!  Arrgghh  Acck!”

Or is it unintended?

I don’t claim to know Trump’s mind on this, but killing a terrorist who is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans while at the same time being forced to leave Iraq sounds like a win/win for Team Trump.  They want out of the Middle East and have been engaging in a struggle with the permanent government that wants to maintain and expand our military presence there. Now it’s possible they will be given no choice in the matter.  We have to respect the wishes of a sovereign state right?

Assuming that’s what Iraq wishes.  It’s unclear whether this is a show put on by the Iraq government for domestic consumption or if they’re really serious.  Maybe they think this gives them a position to bargain for more money, more aid, or more something else.  If so, they might be surprised that Trump might well simply bow to Iraq’s public wishes and withdraw American troops, and the protection they provide, fulfilling another campaign promise as a consequence.

 

The White Vote will be less important in 2020

The New York Times gives away the game yet again in another opinion piece on demography, liberal Democrats style.  I didn’t find this until after the string of mass shootings of the past week, so it probably reads a bit different to me than was originally intended.

Democrats Can Win by Running Against Trump’s Racism

“In every presidential election for the past 50 years, a majority of white voters have voted against the Democratic nominee, and the overwhelming majority of people of color have sided with the Democrats.”

This is the major political divide in the US, and has been for a long time.  Good luck trying to get this clarity on TV news, but on print in the Times, it probably feels like a safe space, with no one not in the club listening.

“What we learned in the 2016 election is that 37 percent of the white vote is enough to win the popular vote by nearly three million people. Obviously something went wrong in three critical states — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — where Mr. Trump prevailed by nearly 80,000 votes, tipping the Electoral College in his favor.”

Despite the overwhelming Electoral College victory Trump enjoyed, it was hanging by a hair, and that will be doubly true in 2020.

“Mrs. Clinton came exceedingly close to winning those states. Had she secured just 0.5 percent more of the white vote, she would be president.

…The number of voters who stayed home in 2016 in Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia was far larger than the margin of Democratic defeat in those states.”

This matches my conclusions from the result of the 2018 Midterms.  Democrats have finally cracked the code on midterm turnout, and a turn out increase during a Presidential election year could yield big wins for Democrats.

“As people of color become a bigger portion of the voting population, the number of white votes required to win steadily shrinks. In fact, a group of think tanks released a report last year showing that if all of the country’s racial groups replicate in 2020 their voter turnout and partisan preferences of 2016 — essentially a “do-over” — the Democrats would win Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, just because of the demographic changes over the past four years.”

Did someone just say, “Demography is Destiny?”

“America is getting browner by the hour, given that every single day, as of 2016 data, the United States population increases by 8,000 people and 90 percent of that growth comes from people of color. Moreover, an additional seven million teenagers of color will have turned 18 since the 2016 election. With this demographic revolution transforming the country, Democrats do not actually have to increase their level of white support — they just need to hold it steady, as the core of whites who vote Democratic have done for 40 years.”

I find myself in complete agreement with these conclusions.  All things being equal, Democrats win just letting things continue as they have.  It’s a bit amusing that this New York Times piece basically agrees with the El Paso shooter’s manifesto.  That’s why I’ve found no comfort in the full measure of insanity that the Democratic Party has embraced.  They’ve gone so far left so quickly, that Biden and Pelosi, liberals their entire political lives now find themselves “moderates.”  But none of that really matters in modern day America.

The real question is can the GOP increase their percentage of the white vote to counter this?  My obvious answer is no, since the establishment GOP doesn’t even accept this analysis.  They still think tax cuts and political positions matter.  Trump’s policy positions did matter to the 80,000 votes won in three States in 2016, but those people will likely be drowned out by the rising tide of identity politics voting.  That’s why I think Trump’s chances of winning, even with the benefit of being an incumbent, are slim, and are shrinking as the author of that piece says, “every single day .“

Tick tok.

The Democratic Open Borders Debate

To an outside observer, the Democratic debates last week looked like a one way trip to crazy town.  As The New York Times noted:

“Raise your hand if you think it should be a civil offense rather than a crime to cross the border without documentation?” José Díaz-Balart, one of the moderators, asked.

Eight candidates raised their hands, some more eagerly than others. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. raised a finger.

When pressed by Mr. Díaz-Balart about whether he would deport undocumented immigrants without a criminal record, Mr. Biden did little to clarify his specific stance, instead defending the Obama administration’s policies that deported roughly three million undocumented immigrants.

So come on in!  How a “civil offense” would work in real life was left unexplained.  If the Border Patrol comes across some border crossers, do they just write them a ticket and send them on their way?  “Civil Offense” is just another way to say we’ve stopped enforcing borders.

But that wasn’t even the craziest part.

As The Washington Times notes:

Every single Democrat on the debate stage Thursday said he or she would grant government health insurance to illegal immigrants, plowing new ground well beyond the boundaries of Obamacare.

“Our country is healthier when everybody is healthier,” said Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Even former Vice President Joseph R. Biden said he would extend coverage to illegal immigrants — a reversal from his stance in the Obama administration, when Democrats considered and specifically rejected the idea as too controversial and unfair.

“You cannot let people who are sick, no matter where they come from, no matter what their status, go uncovered,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s the humane thing to do.”

Democrats are so enthusiastic about illegal aliens, they’re going to give them healthcare.  I imagine the 7 billion plus future Americans all around the world know who they’re supporting! And yet, in spite of this insanity, I saw the media weekend damage control on the rounds of cable TV insisting that the Democrats were not open borders.

Really?

Although this debate was as in-your-face on open borders as you could imagine, it’s not actually a new position.  They’ve just decided to stop hiding it.  During the 2014 border crisis, prominent Democrats couldn’t wait to embrace all of border crossers who made it onto US territory.  Of course that was a different time, when President Obama could stack illegal children in cages like cordwood with zero bad press for his trouble.

It does make you wonder, who is the voting constituency for all of this pandering to non-Americans?  Is the desire for open borders really that strong among the Democratic base?  And even if it is, why is Beto campaigning in Mexico this week? Even by Democratic pandering standards, this is bizarre.  Well I hope the asylum seekers in Ciudad Juarez ask some tough questions of their candidate.

 

Building a Better Human

Well it seems like it’s finally happened:

A Chinese scientist who claims to have created the world’s first genetically edited babies said at a conference on Wednesday that his actions were safe and ethical, and he asserted that he was proud of what he had done. But many other scientists seemed highly skeptical, with a conference organizer calling his actions irresponsible.

“For this specific case, I feel proud, actually,” the scientist, He Jiankui, said at an international conference on genome editing in Hong Kong.

Indeed, the only thing Dr. He apologized for was that news had “leaked unexpectedly” that he had used the gene-editing technique Crispr to alter embryos and then implanted them in the womb of a woman who gave birth to twin girls this month.

Or maybe it didn’t happen.  How many times have we fallen for cloned baby hoaxes?  On the other hand, even if this isn’t the real thing, it’s bound to happen eventually, and it’s bound to happen in China.

The West, in spite of our massive intellectual capital in genetics, is unlikely to ever do more than play catch up to the East which doesn’t have the western hang up of “but Hitler,” to stifle every development in genetics applied to humans (and to stifle about every policy argument).  On the other hand, the West has a lot of other hang ups that will make further practical scientific advancement impossible.  We can build great rockets, but while we’re arguing over fitting 52 different bathrooms on it to handle the multiple genders, the Chinese will simply colonize the solar system with just two bathrooms.

So China it is. In this case, the Chinese team disabled the CCR5 gene, to confer resistance to HIV, Smallpox, and Cholera. It’s a naturally occurring mutation that appears in some Northern European populations, and recreating it in the embryos of families where the fathers are infected with HIV (as this study claims) seems like a win/win.

So if these trials, and by trials I mean the two baby girls, are a success, what other CRISPR additions could be added?

How about a healthy copy of BRCA1?  A mutation of that gene leads to ovarian cancer in families, and the chance to eliminate it would allow many people to live without a heavy predisposition to cancer hanging over their heads.

A mutation of GLP1R protects against Type II diabetes.

The MSTN R allele confers greater muscle mass and is found among high performance athletes.

A gene carried by a Papua New Guinean tribe that confers resistance to dementia.

The Bajau people of Southeast Asia have a variation of PDE10A, which gives them spleens twice the “normal” size.  Why does that matter?  The Bajau can hold their breaths for up to 13 minutes at depths of up to 200 feet.

Actually I could go on and on listing the many local adaptations that have appeared in populations around the world: Lactose tolerance is probably the best known, but there are others such as high altitude adaptations, and malaria resistance.  All of those genetic adaptions could be up for grabs and available to anyone willing to travel to the East for a clinic that preforms such genomic surgery.  It’s sure quicker than the old fashioned natural selection way.

Of course, the real prize would be multiple gene qualities like high IQ.  The ability to add a few IQ points to embryos will give whatever countries allow it a significant boost; one that would be nearly impossible to catch up to.

“Screw the Optics:” Thoughts on the Pittsburgh Shooting

Last Saturday, watching the breaking news of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, I reached a point where I just had to cut it off, it was dragging on me, and with the “breaking news” essentially over, I decided I could wait for the details, without being under the cloud that the news brought with it.  Getting the details later hardly helped.  The shooter, Robert Bowers, 46, was simply a hate filled nut.  But then again, it wasn’t that simple at all, since his level of hate seems to be off the charts.  Posting on social media before the shooting, he wrote, “Screw the optics, I’m going in.”  Then apparently he did just that, seemingly getting up from the computer, grabbing his guns, and shooting up Saturday morning services, shouting, “All Jews must die!”

Eleven dead, six wounded.

I’ve written about the inanity of anti-Semitism before, again noting that of all of the various hates, bigotries, and prejudices of mankind, anti-Semitism seems to be the most obsessive.  Maybe that’s why I find it so difficult to understand.  Having few obsessions myself, it’s hard to put myself in the place of someone who can literally think of just one thing, all day, every day, and apply that obsession to every single situation.

Given the various websites and forums that I visit, I decided to visit one that I knew had its fair share of anti-Semites to gauge the reaction to the shooting.  What was I expecting?  Not what I got.  On one site (I won’t identify it) there is a regularly anti-Semitic poster who’s every post was, no matter the topic, was something-something Jews.  Given that, I had long ago learned to skip his posts because of his single minded obsession.  But this time…

Well he didn’t disappoint. His reaction (and I’m paraphrasing here) was, maybe this will wake up the normies as to why Jews are being targeted.  Maybe there’s a good reason…

That is so over the topic Bonkers that it might well put him in Bowers territory.  The idea that the shooting might be a good opening conversation starter for why Jews should be shot is in a territory of hatred all its own, and seems to be the exclusive domain of the anti-Semite.  Sure, there are plenty of people who hate other groups of people.  That fuels half the wars in undeveloped world, but even the Hutus had reasons (to them) to genocide the Tutsi; or the Serbs and the Croatians.  Maybe not good reasons and certainly not reasons that could justify what they did, but there were at least a track record of grievances.

What grievance did Bowers have against Jews?  I suspect we’ll learn a lot about his motivations in the coming weeks.  Clearly he has a story to tell, but I suspect that in the end, we’ll still not understand a thing as to what drove him to mass murder.

In human experience, anti-Semitism seems to be its own thing.  There isn’t a human bigotry, prejudice, or hatred that comes close.  It’s a bizarre mind virus having to do with a specific group of people.  And I suspect I’ll never have an understanding of it.