Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Guest Post: @pdxsag Applies Occam's Razor to the WuFlu

[This is a guest post by @pdxsag, who previously wrote book reviews of Real Food on Trial and - coincidentally - Bottle of Lies, which was about the outsourcing of our pharmaceutical manufacturing to dirty, incompetent third-world places.]

Since my last post, twitter user @evdefender has continued to update his chart showing the phases of the outbreak in China. Originally, we thought China had returned to reporting the WuFlu was still in an exponential growth phase. Now that four more days have passed, we can see they are still pushing a recovery story, however, from a much higher starting point.

Furthermore, this week China has taken to reporting the numbers outside of Hubei province. As of February 18, China claimed - incredibly - that its area “outside of Hubei,” a population north of 1 billion people, had fewer new cases than the Princess Cruise ship quarantined in Japan with a population of less than 4000.

So once again we are back to observing a highly infectious, but not particularly deadly virus (most novel virii are). A further example of the suspiciously low severity is with the infected population in the rest of the world outside of China. It has continued to grow at an alarming rate. It has doubled in the last 4 days. Yet, there has been just one additional death: a Japanese woman in her 80's who caught it from her son-in-law in his 70's (implying she was probably closer to 90 than to 80).

And thus once again: China's response is vastly out of character given the health threat.

Their entire economy was entirely halted for two weeks. This week it is slowly and cautiously coming back online, but at best it appears it will be another two weeks before everything outside of Hubei is back to 100%. As for within Hubei, it's too soon to tell. The financial consequences both internally and externally are enormous. Setting equity markets aside, producers of real goods in the real economy will be having a rough go of it. Herds that can't be fed, produce that rots in the warehouse, workers in developing countries sent home without pay because of input shortages aren't solved by moving pixels on a computer screen.

Applying Occam's Razor to the question we see three distinct possibilities:

  • The response was a propaganda operation to scape-goat an already severe recession
  • The virus has a contagious, asymptomatic incubation period of 6 +/- 2 weeks.
  • There are two virii.
In support of scape-goat propaganda operation we have:
  • Baltic Dry Shipping Index crash commencing in September of last year.
  • Billions in fresh, new “uninfected” currency printed and ready for distribution.
  • Equity markets with a DGAF response to the whole thing.
  • High-profile thought leaders (President Trump and Elon Musk) making statements dismissive of the severity that might indicate they know more than they are letting on. Trump was roundly mocked for saying he thinks it will get better by April when the weather “warms up.” Mock it all you like, but it sounds exactly like something Trump would say if he knew it really would be better by April, but couldn't say why he knew.
  • Princess Cruise ship quarantine ended even though new infections continued to increase every single day. Indeed, of the couple hundred Americans evacuated by the State Department, 12 tested positive by the time they arrived in the United States. I suppose the answer is yes, we as a society really are that hubristic, but if this really were the capable of killing 2-5% of the population would you really have any desire to break a quarantine ahead of schedule.
In support of item 2 we have:
  • Chinese news stating some individuals were asymptomatic for 24 days
  • Infected count on Princess cruise ship continued to grow long after a quarantine was in place. This is what you would expect if they had contracted the virus well in advance of the quarantine.
  • Infected count in Japan, Hawaii, and Singapore growing in such a way as to suggest people contracted the virus prior to the travel ban from mainland China. (See LotB)
  • Popular Chinese travel destinations such as Canada, Australia, US universities, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, (unlike Singapore) not actively testing for the virus have not reported outbreaks. The implication is if those places were testing they would find the virus, but since the infected people are still in their asymptomatic incubation phase no one realizes it’s being spread. That will change in another 2-3 weeks.
In support of item 3 we have:
  • The bewildering difference inside Hubei vs. the rest of China and the world.
  • 100-fold delta in mortality rates: 3% vs 0.04% (see
  • France evacuated 200 people. But left behind 300 people. (see)
  • [Well, Barton certainly doesn’t think so -- but somehow it’s less deadly everywhere outside of Hubei?]

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