Caitlin on Covid-19

17 Mar

I’m a big admirer of blogger Caitlin Johnstone. Along with John Pilger and Julian Assange she’s one of the best things to have come out of Australia. She doesn’t always wow me – unlike me she posts daily so that would be a big ask – but her hit rate is high.

Park that thought.

I’ve said often that the world is run by gangster capitalists who control the narrative on pretty much anything that matters – Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Syria, just for starters – through media (including entertainment and education industries) whose political economy almost guarantees they manufacture our views in ways most favourable to a rotten status quo. And where those political-economic guarantees are deemed insufficient we see direct intererference – as with the Guardian after the Snowden revelations.

It seems to me absurd, however, to assume that on every aspect of every matter our rulers and their tame media will always be lying. What, for the practice?

Which brings me to Covid-19. Are we being lied to on the scale of the threat? I don’t rule that out – but nor do I automatically rule it in. On more issues than one – both sides of the Brexit divide and climate change spring to mind – I note a degree of certainty, often among people I respect and whose views I share on many issues, that strikes me as unwarranted. How, I ask myself, can they be so sure?

Now back to Caitlin, who often gets my agreement not only on the substantive assessments of an issue but has an uncannily zeitgeist way of voicing my own nuances of thought and feeling.

Might I recommend her post today, Nine Thoughts On COVID-19 And What’s Coming? To this passage in particular:

Everyone in conspiracy circles has strong opinions about what’s going on, so anything I could possibly say about this is going to get a ton of pushback from some faction or another. That’s fine. In my opinion the fears that the ruling class will seize this opportunity to advance preexisting authoritarian agendas are well-founded, and people are right to have suspicions about the official narrative on the origins of the virus, but people who are still saying the whole thing is fake from top to bottom and it’s just another flu/no big deal have been proved wrong by facts in evidence. People should minimize social contact to avoid overburdening healthcare systems and thereby killing people. No matter how certain you are that this is all fake, you’re not certain enough to justify needlessly risking lives.

I wouldn’t go so far as Caitlin does in saying those who believe the whole thing a fake have been proved wrong. In fact, the link she inserts to back up that claim is to a piece that falls woefully short of proof. Check for yourself.

But on her main thrust – how can we be sure this is all some fiendish hoax? – I fully concur.


7 Replies to “Caitlin on Covid-19

  1. I did an exercise running some numbers last night based on the available data and average rates etc.

    As with all such modelling the numbers get to a point when they start to look daft because at some point there will be a peak and a downturn.

    However, it’s going to be a useful guide to compare with he daily figures in the coming days.

    I’ve already spotted one problem. Which is the issue of known cases. This in reality is actually discovered cases. Point being that when you don’t have a sufficiently robust set of testing protocols – as complained about here last Friday 13th:

    – you miss actual cases and skew the anticipated real figures through under reporting making things look better than they actually are.

    For example: Taking as a base the reported increase (on Friday last) in UK cases by 200 to 798 for Thursday 12 March tells us that on Wednesday 11th March we had 598 cases. That 200 daily increase more or less matched the 33% average increase seen elsewhere which I provided in another link in an earlier post on one of the other threads on this site.

    Keeping that average 33% increase would anticipate around 1800 cases by Sunday 15th March. However, this site:

    shows a UK case level of around 1100 for the 15th which could be good news except for the fact hat the daily increase from Saturday is around 42%.

    For sure, fluctuations are going to average out. However, it seems reasonable to observe that discovery rates will change (or not) dependent on the efficacy of testing methodology and associated regimes. To date the UK Powers That Be responses and attitudes have been at unenthusiastic amatuer level at best. Suggesting a probability of a higher than normal level of undiscovered true cases.

    The only way which springs to mind of getting a feel for if this is the case is by looking at the daily and cumulative mortality rate to see if it is higher than the World average (3.4%).

    If it starts to creep up towards the 7% seen in Italy it could be down to a number of factors which might need some weighting analysis modelling – from colder comparable temperatures in the UK, age demographics comparisons, poor testing and discovery rates or actual true cases or even that the measures are not working.

    The key dates on this trajectory in the model (33% daily increase average) will be around 4th and 5th April. That is when we should hit the 1% infection rate. If we hit it before it’s a sure sign whatever measures are adopted were adopted too late/are not working (both can be true).

    If we don’t reach that infection rate by around those dates than the spread rate of change will have been slowed down or not as virulent. Demonstrating either measures to flatten out rhe exponential growth rate are working or not enough real true cases are being discovered.

    Which is why the mortality rate needs keeping an eye on. A poor discovery rate would reduce the 80.1% average number of mild cases but show an increase in severe cases (13.7%, I think), critical care cases (4.7%) – both of which require a hospital bed and associated care facilities – and mortality rate (3.4%).

    I’ll be trying to keep an eye on the daily figures to compare with the crude model I have to see how matters are progressing and if there is anything worth noting I’ll try and keep you posted.

    • Thanks Dave. Numbers, stats, exponentials and epidemiology I struggle with so will need a little time to digest all you say. I note that, separately, you’ve sent me a link to the Imperial College report your fellow Sheffielder – Bryan, below – refers to. I’ll be reading that tonight afore I swicth out the light for some well earned shut-eye!

  2. Thankyou Phil for linking and highliting what I think is an excellent post from Caitlin and one that questions the current tendency in many left writings and BTL comments to concentrate on how numbers are being used / misused to scare us all shit less about Covid-19. I agree with her that the developing crisis provides many opportunities for The Right in the medium term but feel that to focus on this aspect of the phenomenon when reports from medics in Italy indicate a health system that is no longer functioning for those unlucky enough to contract severe Covid-19 as being worryingly bizarre. Like you I do not embrace conspiracy as my go to explanation for things – nor do I rule it out – but in this situation surely the key issues for consideration are how do we maintain a health system that can reduce what would be many preventable deaths in the high risk 60+ age group and how do we support people of all ages who don’t get paid if they are sick or laid off due to the associated economic fall out.

    The Imperial College modelling report published yesterday (the one that informed the UK’s Government change of approach from containment / laissez faire to suppression ) clearly outlines the scale of what is coming and the range of options required to ameliorate it. I can’t attach the link here as I’m sitting in a van in a field in Cornwall practicing social isolation but I’ll try to send it separately.

    • Bryan as it happens I have the Imperial College report. Dave Hansell (see his comment above) has emailed it to me, and I’ll read later.

      Covid-19 as hoax doesn’t IMO pass the cui bono test. It’s exposing the moral/practical bankruptcy of capitalism as nothing in my lifetime has. At every level – big pharma, lack of adequate health/social care, the west’s booming precariat, the superior response of nations hitherto demonised (China, Russia, Cuba), glaring failures of EU, UK and USA – Covid-19 as trojan horse for further ruling class devilry seems to me a crap effort from Odysseus! Not since WW2 has there been such a plethora of evidence, confronting so many all at once, that capitalism just isn’t working for 99% of us.

      Did you see the Double Down News video of Kevin Ovenden?

  3. Quick note as I have some pressing matters to attend to.

    Digging out some of the data from the official UK Government web site alerted me to some of the other problems I mentioned with available figures and statistics.

    Not least of which is the tendancy of media reports to operate on the basis of neat round figures rather than actual ones.

    I’ll be amending some of the above earlier analysis when I get time.

    • Thanks Dave. I’ve just been through the Imperial College report, and though I struggled with some sections, got the gist of it I think. Of course, the methodology sections necessarily makes many assumptions – we simply don’t know enough yet.

  4. I promised a revised update earlier.

    The Government has a web site where you can download daily statistics here:

    The first issue to note is the heading in the first left hand column – “Date Val”

    Going back to the figures quoted in last Friday’s Telegraph of 200 it was fairly straightforward to suss out the figures given for a given date under that “Date Val” column are for the cases reported the previous day. Thursday 12th March was actually 207 not the nice round 200 figure reported by the Telegraph the following day. Bringing the cumulative number of cases to 797 on that date (March 12).

    Having revised the tracking spreadsheet I put together this means the actual % increase from the previous day (Wednesday 11th) is actually just over 35%.

    At present the number of cases at close of play yesterday (17th March) was 2,626 – an increase of 676 (35%) from Monday 16th. Worryingly the cumulative number of those who have succumbed jumped from 56 to 103. This means the present, but obviously fluctuating daily, mortality rate stands at 3.92%.

    The good news is that these figures are already (at least for the time being) behind the predicted spreadsheet figures based on a simplistic 33% daily increase on case numbers and also on mortality numbers.

    However, to repeat an earlier health warning these are known cases only. The data from China in Chart 7 of the previous link to the article by Pueyo in Medium shows known cases are a significant fraction of the true cases, particularly early on.

    So, before commenting on some of the other data available from the Government web site by Health Authority Areas, an observation on past figures.

    The first reported cases – 2- in the UK were validated on 31/1/20, which means they were discovered on the 30/01/20.The next case was discovered on the 5/2/20 (validated on the 6/2/20). The fourth case was discovered on 8/2/20 with a further four on the following day 9/2/20.

    It therefore took 9 days for the original 2 cases to double and 1 day for those four cases to double. The next case arrived four days later on 12/2/20 and no more were discovered until another 4 on the 23/2/20. In just over three weeks we jumped from the original 2 to 13.

    Then on 27/2/20 it started to kick off.

    Six cases on the 27th; another 4 on the 28th. Twelve further cases on the 29th, another five on March 1st bringing the total up to 40.

    By the time I landed at Heathrow on March 2nd there were another 11 cases bringing the cumulative total to 51. That week saw things really take off.

    34 more cases on March 3rd; 29 on the 4th; 46 each on 5th and 6th; 65 on the 7th; 50 on the 8th; 52 on the 9th. In the space of a week the number of discovered cases had shot up from 51 to 373.

    Remember, there were no screening or separation protocols at ports of entry when I landed at Heathrow on Monday March 2nd. A responsible, competent Government would have put these in place by at least mid February.

    The fact this did not occur will be a major factor in the level of cases and the speed in which they have occurred. The true figures for cases on those date will not be known until further into the future – if this Government deem to actual release that data.

    The Government web site also provides a breakdown by Regional and District Health Authorities. As advised at Monday evenings press conference London is ahead of the rest of the country with, as of close of play yesterday (17th March) 953 cases, up from 480 on Monday. South East 285 (up from 173) and Midlands 234 up from 129.

    By District perhaps the most interesting are Middlesbrough, NE Lincolnshire, Rutland and Telford & Wrekin who to date do not have a single case between them.

    Moving on to focus again on responsibility the issue of the announced £320 billion “rescue package” for industry is of deep concern.

    This is throwing public money at private industry a proportion of which – and it is likely to be substantial – will go under anyway giving no return to the taxpayer. Wasting good money and doing nothing for the UK debt to GDP ratio.

    It would be far better to follow the example of other Governments by nationalising these industries and companies to keep them afloat for the benefit of the economy and the wider public/commonwealth rather than bankrupting the Country in order to keep billionaires and their flunkey’s in luxury in their private retreats and tax havens.

    Does anyone have a set of instructions for a self assembly set of stocks?

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