Covid Masquerade

Roger Koops provides needed context and perspective about coronavirus and useless symbolic gestures that have themselves gone viral.  His article is The Year of Disguises.  There is much valuable information at the linked essay, of which only some excerpts are here in italics with my bolds.

2020 is a year of disguises. Some examples include;

  • computer models/modelers disguised as “science/scientists,”
  • Tyrants/Dictators/Totalitarians disguised as “elected officials,”
  • propaganda machines disguised as “news sources,”
  • brainwashing disguised as “information,”
  • censorship disguised as “public health safeguard,”
  • panic and fear disguised as “social responsibility.”

Even the virus itself has been disguised by humans as an “apocalypse.” But, the last part is not the doing of the virus, but the doings of a select number of humans who are responsible for many of the other disguises as well. And if you look at the totality of events in 2020, it is clear that the average citizen has been treated generally less than human, certainly not as adults in any case.

I believe we are in as great a crisis as a species as we have ever been. The crisis is not from some seasonal virus (which is a health issue), but it is from ourselves and what we have devolved into as a species (social, cultural, ideological issues).

I have debated with myself on how to approach the following essay. Under normal circumstances, it would be easy. But, the topic has been so warped and sensationalized into political and social hyperbole, it is difficult to get a handle on it. I could go at it strictly from a scientific perspective, but that would tune many people out.

After about two weeks of my own internal debate and several versions, I have decided to treat the readers of this essay as Human Adults. I will try to not get too technical but rather use rational arguments to approach the issue of a viral infection from the perspective of the virus molecule outside of the host, i.e., the natural environment.

Computer modeling is “a” tool, not “the” tool. The model is only as good as the assumptions put into the model. It has been clear from the start that the modelers have NO idea of how a virus works in the natural world. They have based their modeling on the assumption that the culprit is the human being. The human being must be controlled in order to control the virus. This is completely wrong. I hope to present arguments that illustrate the weaknesses of the modeling concepts.

Human Perception

The natural perceptive abilities, i.e. the physical senses, of human beings are quite poor. For example, we can see only a very, very small part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Smaller things, things we cannot see we have trouble with. We live, and have always lived, in a world with things that are far smaller than our ability to detect without some instrumental aid. For example, when I tell people that their bodies are mostly empty space, they scoff. We have solid substance, they say, we can feel it. I respond that the reason we feel it is solid is because that is how our brain interprets it.

Bacteria and fungi, at the cellular level, exist at the micron scale (see the scale diagram below). But, they have the cellular machinery to grow on their own, i.e., their cells will divide and multiply as long as they have nutrients. We cannot see them normally without a microscope. But, if they keep growing, eventually we can see them (as things such as moldy bread, or mildew on the wall), or even feel them (old vegetables that get a “slimy” feeling actually have a bacterial plaque on their surface). Both bacteria and fungi can form “spores” to protect themselves under harsh conditions. It is a form of hibernation.

We have bacteria and fungi in our bodies constantly. Our immune system usually keeps them at bay, or more accurately, keeps them in balance. However, if our immune system weakens, or if a balance is shifted towards the bacteria/fungi, the balance can tip in their favor and we can experience disease. We tend to have more difficulty with control of bacterial/fungal infections than viral infections.

In fact, the most common cause of a fatal outcome due to viral infection, including coronavirus, is a bacterial infection.

The reason the second week of infection is considered the worry stage is NOT because of the virus; rather this is the time when a weakened immune system, either by exposure or by losing the balance battle cannot prevent the bacteria/fungi from taking off. Most people who die from influenza, coronavirus, even rhinovirus, do so primarily from pneumonia (bacterial infection) or some other systemic bacterial infection.

The Virus: What are we dealing with?

My Doctoral degree is in “organic” chemistry, specifically, chemistry involving carbon-based compounds. Chemistry is about working with problems at a molecular level. Guess what a virus like coronavirus is? It is a complex organic molecule. Organic chemists would call it a “macromolecule” where “macro” means large. It is only considered “large” in comparison to small molecules. I am naturally inclined to look at a virus like coronavirus as an organic molecule.

Coronavirus (CV) and influenza (IF) are very similar at the molecular level. Both are ribonucleic acid (RNA) viruses and both are enveloped helical (meaning that they have a similar 3- dimensional structure with a protein outer part and the RNA inside). CV is a positive strand RNA and IF is a negative strand RNA. This means they have opposite structures much like you have a left hand and a right hand. Their viral class identification is different partly for that reason.

Both CV and IF behave almost the same outside of the body and this is due to their size, structure, and relative chemical similarities. On average, both are about the same size, ranging around 100 ±30 nanometers or nm (CV can range smaller in size than IF). For consistency purposes, I will refer to both of them at the 100 nm size, which is reasonably accurate (nm is 10-9 meter (0.000000001 meter), a micron (μm) is 10-6 meter (0.000001 meter). The meter is about 10% longer than a yard, or 39.37 inches so 1 micron is 0.00003937 inch.

As the chart shows, both CV and IF as a molecule outside of the body are VERY, VERY small. They are undetectable without the use of an electron microscope. We simply cannot detect it in the natural environment. The tip of your finger, maybe 1 square millimeter, can literally pick up tens of millions of virus particles and you could not see any of them.

Most molecules have conditions that can render them either more stable or less stable. Clearly, with an infectious disease molecule, we would want to try and break it apart, or not give it stability. Breaking it apart usually renders it inert; i.e. non-infectious.

In an outdoor environment, we know that the CV/IF molecule will start to break apart within minutes or maybe last an hour or two. The local environmental conditions will determine how fast the molecule breaks up. We know that heat and ultraviolet (UV) radiation are pretty good at breaking it up.

There are things that chemically will help break it up. For example, saline conditions, like in an ocean are good (it may be considered a “natural disinfectant”). There are man-made disinfectants such as bleach. We know that CV/IF are not stable under pH of 3 or over a pH of 10. So if the molecule encounters either natural or man-made conditions that deal with these pHs, the molecule will break up. Common soaps are good for breaking up the molecule. This is why there is the recommendation to wash with soap and water.

Likewise, there are conditions that increase the stability of the molecule. Both CV/IF survive longer under colder conditions. This is probably one reason why they tend to favor winter months and colder climates.

The Virus in Disease Transmission

The “rationale” for lockdowns, masks, distancing, etc. all rest on the assumption that human direct transmission is the greatest risk for disease. Anyone, at any given time, in any place can pass the virus to another. It sort of reminds me of the character “Cofi” in the movie “The Green Mile.” People seem to be convinced that somehow, the only way to catch this virus is because it makes a beeline from person to person. In other words, we are the culprits.

But, is this really the case? In short, “No” and here is why.

Because of the modeler’s view, if we imprison people (“lockdown” – a term used in penal institutions when prisoners become unruly), cover their faces (“masking”), and keep them from doing what people do, i.e. socializing (“distancing”), we can stop the virus. This concept is what “wanna-be” dictators all over the world have embraced.

This is NONSENSE. Certainly, you can get infected that way but that is only one way of many ways. It may not even be the main way. It is “losing sight of the forest for the trees.”

Aerosols and droplets, after leaving the mouth/nose will quickly lose their moisture, i.e. the water base will evaporate. The smaller the particle, the quicker this will happen. With aerosols, it may be within a fraction of a second. Environmental conditions will also affect the timing. Warmer and dryer conditions will speed up evaporation while colder and more humid conditions will slow it down. Studies have indicated that under most normal temperature conditions, aerosols and droplets less than 100 micron in size evaporate before they hit the ground.

What happens to the hitchhiking virus? IT IS STILL THERE! It does not evaporate. It has lost its ride but it is still there.

What happens to it now? It can go anywhere, i.e. it can be dispersed just like the free molecule. It will last as long as it is stable. It can be carried by the wind (outdoors) or by air movements or HVAC (indoors). It can hitch a ride with other carrier things (outdoor examples such as above). It can land on surfaces, any surface, whether indoors or outdoors. Animals or even insects can carry the molecule if it lands on them. If it lands on another person, it can land on their clothes, hair, skin, etc. and be carried by them. If it happens to get sucked into the respiratory tract or absorbed on the eye, it may eventually lead to infection if it can survive the body defenses. The possibilities really are endless.

It should be easy to see why a lockdown is disastrous. A single sick person can spread a virus throughout a whole building and no one would know it until too late. Clearly, air handling, sanitation, people movement, shared items, all will play a significant role in transmission risk.

Further, indoor conditions are better generally for stability and survival of the molecule. Why are meat processing/packing plants at risk? They are refrigerated facilities. There are many people so there is a lot of movement. There are many surfaces for the molecule to sit, like carcasses, that are handled often and routinely.

What Difference do Masks Make?

The idea of “masks” on people did not suddenly appear in March of 2020. The usage of face protection with infectious diseases has been well studied, especially with influenza. Do not forget, the mechanics of these two viruses (CV/IF) are essentially the same so what works or doesn’t work for one is the same for the other.

The understanding has been that a “mask,” and that term usually refers to either a SURGICAL mask or N95 mask, has no benefit in the general population and is only useful in controlled clinical settings. Further, it has been considered a greater transmission risk than a benefit in the general population. If people still have a memory, you may recall that this was still the advice in February 2020. That understanding has not changed and I will explain why.

I could spend time on the viral transmission ineffectiveness of the variety of face coverings and fitted masks based upon the material, pore size, non-fit, etc., as well as the studies. I will say that there has been only ONE type of mask, the SURGICAL mask, which has shown any ability to reduce, not eliminate, virus transmission because it is actually rated to a 100 nanometer pore size AND it is rated for ingress and egress. But, the SURGICAL mask is not intended for use outside of a controlled, sterile hospital surgical field where its use and function can be controlled. It has limitations.

So, the face covering acts as an intermediary in transmission. It can alter the timing of the virus getting into the environment, but it now acts as a contact source and airborne source; virus can still get into the environment. Since we know that the stability is good on most covering and mask materials, it does nothing to break down the virus until the covering is removed and either washed or discarded (appropriately).

Here is an important point, as more virus molecules accumulate, more are expelled. The face covering is not some virus black hole that sucks the virus into oblivion.

This is a common sight with most face coverings, including the “stylish” coverings that people are wearing (I often see the covering moving back and forth against their mouth and nose even as they breathe, like a diaphragm), as well as with the cheaper dust masks and homemade cloth masks. If you inhale, you can become contaminated. If you touch the face covering, such as pulling it up and down, you can become contaminated.

Further, because the surface is contaminated, a person can also expel the virus back out into the environment just as with egress. This can be done by talking, breathing, coughing, etc.

Stopping a *droplet* is NOT the same as stopping the virus!

It boggles my mind when there is some notion that by wearing a face covering you are actually doing a “service” to your neighbor and therefore everyone has to protect everyone by this. Actually, the opposite is true. You are now becoming an additional potential source of environmental contamination. You are now becoming a transmission risk; not only are you increasing your own risk but you are also increasing the risk to others.

I cannot tell people to not wear a face covering. I chose not to wear face coverings for two reasons, the first is all of the above, and the second is that I have experienced this virus. When I see people with them, I think of virus heaven. But, I am also not afraid because this virus does not frighten me.

My view of dealing with the virus is at the molecular level. Do what we can to actually deplete the molecule, not give it stability.

We cannot eliminate this or any other upper respiratory virus.

Maybe someday we can advance our immunological techniques to the point that it might be possible to make it a minor player in humans, but we are not there yet. But, we can defend against it by our immune systems and by trusting those with stronger immune systems to protect the weaker. Despite the propaganda, herd immunity was the standard before March 2020; it is not a “fringe” concept.

What is the Way Forward?

It is time for human beings to be human beings again. Stop trying to lay blame and guilt on people for a natural virus.

If governments want to be helpful in reducing severe disease and deaths, imposing more laws and restrictions is not the answer. Rather, focus on educating people on how to better maintain their immune systems. Encourage healthier lifestyles through education and wellness programs, especially in the less fortunate of our society. Provide or encourage businesses to consider better sick leave alternatives for people in ALL jobs/vocations so that people are not driven by the choice of work to live or stay home and be sick.

The healthy people in our society should not be punished for being healthy, which is exactly what lockdowns, distancing, mask mandates, etc. do. This goes completely against the principles on which the United States of America was founded. We have lost the meaning of “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave” to “Land of the Imprisoned, Home of the Afraid.”

Roger W. Koops holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Riverside as well as Master and Bachelor degrees from Western Washington University. He worked in the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Industry for over 25 years. Before retiring in 2017, he spent 12 years as a Consultant focused on Quality Assurance/Control and issues related to Regulatory Compliance. He has authored or co-authored several papers in the areas of pharmaceutical technology and chemistry.

CBS Climate Fright Night

 

The pandemic has sucked the air out of the climatism scare, so the usual suspects are stirring the pot this Halloween season.  Of course many are joining to make up this witches brew, but take for example this CBS News report today: For many climate change finally hits home.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

2020 has been a year of nonstop crises. For a while there, it was almost possible to forget an ongoing crisis that used to have our attention: climate change. But Nature found a way to remind us.

In the Midwest, punishing 100-mile-per-hour winds. In the Southwest, a brutal succession of floods and droughts. On the coasts: a freakish number of devastating hurricanes.

And in our Western states, historic mega-fires that sent a plume of ash and smoke all the way to the East Coast. More than four million acres have burned in California alone. To put that into perspective, that is larger than the state of Connecticut.

In the last 20 years, we’ve experienced twice the number of weather disasters as we did in the previous 20 years. Cost so far? About $3 trillion.

Yes, climate change is back in the headlines.

Wallace-Wells said climate change is not just about warmer weather: “It changes the whole system. Rainstorms are gonna be more intense. The oceans are heating up, which means that hurricanes are gonna become more intense and more frequent, as they already are. There are gonna be extreme droughts, as well as extreme rainfalls.

“It’s just a kind of a scrambling of what had been a very stable system on which we’ve erected all of human civilization.”  And it’s not just unstable weather, it’s unstable us.

“Agricultural yields could fall by half or more over the course of the century if we don’t change course,” said Wallace-Wells. “It affects respiratory illnesses, cancer. It affects cognitive performance, development of children.”

So, there is some good news: more people are talking about the climate crisis; more countries are doing something about it (even China); and last year, for the first time, the price of clean, renewable energy actually fell below the price of burning coal.

On the other hand, we’re getting started far too late.

Pogue asked David Wallace-Wells if the latest developments give him any hope: “If you’re hoping to preserve the planet of our grandparents, there’s no reason for hope,” he replied. “If you’re hoping to preserve the climate as we know it today, there’s really no reason for hope there, either. 

The antidote to this feverish litany of climate cliches is to remember the facts which contradict the alarmists’ appeal to feelings.  A previous post explains why the media persists in this behavior and why they abuse our trust in their slanting of the news. From

Climate Hype is a Cover Up.

 

Background and Context

Back in 2015 in the run up to Paris COP, French mathematicians published a thorough critique of the raison d’etre of the whole crusade. They said:

Fighting Global Warming is Absurd, Costly and Pointless.

  • Absurd because of no reliable evidence that anything unusual is happening in our climate.
  • Costly because trillions of dollars are wasted on immature, inefficient technologies that serve only to make cheap, reliable energy expensive and intermittent.
  • Pointless because we do not control the weather anyway.

The prestigious Société de Calcul Mathématique (Society for Mathematical Calculation) issued a detailed 195-page White Paper presenting a blistering point-by-point critique of the key dogmas of global warming. The synopsis with links to the entire document is at COP Briefing for Realists

Even without attending to their documentation, you can tell they are right because all the media climate hype is concentrated against those three points.

Finding: Nothing unusual is happening with our weather and climate.
Hype: Every metric or weather event is “unprecedented,” or “worse than we thought.”

Finding: Proposed solutions will cost many trillions of dollars for little effect or benefit.
Hype: Zero carbon will lead the world to do the right thing.  Anyway, the planet must be saved at any cost.

Finding: Nature operates without caring what humans do or think.
Hype: Any destructive natural event is a result of humans burning fossil fuels.

How the Media Throws Up Flak to Defend False Suppositions

The Absurd Media:  Climate is Dangerous Today, Yesterday It was Ideal.

Billions of dollars have been spent researching any and all negative effects from a warming world: Everything from Acne to Zika virus.  A recent Climate Report repeats the usual litany of calamities to be feared and avoided by submitting to IPCC demands. The evidence does not support these claims. An example:

 It is scientifically established that human activities produce GHG emissions, which accumulate in the atmosphere and the oceans, resulting in warming of Earth’s surface and the oceans, acidification of the oceans, increased variability of climate, with a higher incidence of extreme weather events, and other changes in the climate.

Moreover, leading experts believe that there is already more than enough excess heat in the climate system to do severe damage and that 2C of warming would have very significant adverse effects, including resulting in multi-meter sea level rise.

Experts have observed an increased incidence of climate-related extreme weather events, including increased frequency and intensity of extreme heat and heavy precipitation events and more severe droughts and associated heatwaves. Experts have also observed an increased incidence of large forest fires; and reduced snowpack affecting water resources in the western U.S. The most recent National Climate Assessment projects these climate impacts will continue to worsen in the future as global temperatures increase.

Alarming Weather and Wildfires

But: Weather is not more extreme.
And Wildfires were worse in the past.
But: Sea Level Rise is not accelerating.
Litany of Changes

Seven of the ten hottest years on record have occurred within the last decade; wildfires are at an all-time high, while Arctic Sea ice is rapidly diminishing.

We are seeing one-in-a-thousand-year floods with astonishing frequency.

When it rains really hard, it’s harder than ever.

We’re seeing glaciers melting, sea level rising.

The length and the intensity of heatwaves has gone up dramatically.

Plants and trees are flowering earlier in the year. Birds are moving polewards.

We’re seeing more intense storms.

But: Arctic Ice has not declined since 2007.

But: All of these are within the range of past variability.

In fact our climate is remarkably stable, compared to the range of daily temperatures during a year where I live.

And many aspects follow quasi-60 year cycles.

The Impractical Media:  Money is No Object in Saving the Planet.

Here it is blithely assumed that the court can rule the seas to stop rising, heat waves to cease, and Arctic ice to grow (though why we would want that is debatable).  All this will be achieved by leaving fossil fuels in the ground and powering civilization with windmills and solar panels.  While admitting that our way of life depends on fossil fuels, they ignore the inadequacy of renewable energy sources at their present immaturity.

An Example:
The choice between incurring manageable costs now and the incalculable, perhaps even
irreparable, burden Youth Plaintiffs and Affected Children will face if Defendants fail to
rapidly transition to a non-fossil fuel economy is clear. While the full costs of the climate
damages that would result from maintaining a fossil fuel-based economy may be
incalculable, there is already ample evidence concerning the lower bound of such costs,
and with these minimum estimates, it is already clear that the cost of transitioning to a
low/no carbon economy are far less than the benefits of such a transition. No rational
calculus could come to an alternative conclusion. Defendants must act with all deliberate
speed and immediately cease the subsidization of fossil fuels and any new fossil fuel
projects, and implement policies to rapidly transition the U.S. economy away from fossil
fuels.

But CO2 relation to Temperature is Inconsistent.

But: The planet is greener because of rising CO2.

But: Modern nations (G20) depend on fossil fuels for nearly 90% of their energy.

But: Renewables are not ready for prime time.

People need to know that adding renewables to an electrical grid presents both technical and economic challenges.  Experience shows that adding intermittent power more than 10% of the baseload makes precarious the reliability of the supply.  South Australia is demonstrating this with a series of blackouts when the grid cannot be balanced.  Germany got to a higher % by dumping its excess renewable generation onto neighboring countries until the EU finally woke up and stopped them. Texas got up to 29% by dumping onto neighboring states, and some like Georgia are having problems.

But more dangerous is the way renewables destroy the economics of electrical power.  Seasoned energy analyst Gail Tverberg writes:

In fact, I have come to the rather astounding conclusion that even if wind turbines and solar PV could be built at zero cost, it would not make sense to continue to add them to the electric grid in the absence of very much better and cheaper electricity storage than we have today. There are too many costs outside building the devices themselves. It is these secondary costs that are problematic. Also, the presence of intermittent electricity disrupts competitive prices, leading to electricity prices that are far too low for other electricity providers, including those providing electricity using nuclear or natural gas. The tiny contribution of wind and solar to grid electricity cannot make up for the loss of more traditional electricity sources due to low prices.

These issues are discussed in more detail in the post Climateers Tilting at Windmills

The Irrational Media:  Whatever Happens in Nature is Our Fault.

An Example:

Other potential examples include agricultural losses. Whether or not insurance
reimburses farmers for their crops, there can be food shortages that lead to higher food
prices (that will be borne by consumers, that is, Youth Plaintiffs and Affected Children).
There is a further risk that as our climate and land use pattern changes, disease vectors
may also move (e.g., diseases formerly only in tropical climates move northward).36 This
could lead to material increases in public health costs

But: Actual climate zones are local and regional in scope, and they show little boundary change.

But: Ice cores show that it was warmer in the past, not due to humans.

The hype is produced by computer programs designed to frighten and distract children and the uninformed.  For example, there was mention above of “multi-meter” sea level rise.  It is all done with computer models.  For example, below is San Francisco.  More at USCS Warnings of Coastal Floodings

sf-ca-past-projected

In addition, there is no mention that GCMs projections are running about twice as hot as observations.

Omitted is the fact GCMs correctly replicate tropospheric temperature observations only when CO2 warming is turned off.

Figure 5. Simplification of IPCC AR5 shown above in Fig. 4. The colored lines represent the range of results for the models and observations. The trends here represent trends at different levels of the tropical atmosphere from the surface up to 50,000 ft. The gray lines are the bounds for the range of observations, the blue for the range of IPCC model results without extra GHGs and the red for IPCC model results with extra GHGs.The key point displayed is the lack of overlap between the GHG model results (red) and the observations (gray). The nonGHG model runs (blue) overlap the observations almost completely.

In the effort to proclaim scientific certainty, neither the media nor IPCC discuss the lack of warming since the 1998 El Nino, despite two additional El Ninos in 2010 and 2016.

Further they exclude comparisons between fossil fuel consumption and temperature changes. The legal methodology for discerning causation regarding work environments or medicine side effects insists that the correlation be strong and consistent over time, and there be no confounding additional factors. As long as there is another equally or more likely explanation for a set of facts, the claimed causation is unproven. Such is the null hypothesis in legal terms: Things happen for many reasons unless you can prove one reason is dominant.

Finally, advocates and IPCC are picking on the wrong molecule. The climate is controlled not by CO2 but by H20. Oceans make climate through the massive movement of energy involved in water’s phase changes from solid to liquid to gas and back again. From those heat transfers come all that we call weather and climate: Clouds, Snow, Rain, Winds, and Storms.

Esteemed climate scientist Richard Lindzen ended a very fine recent presentation with this description of the climate system:

I haven’t spent much time on the details of the science, but there is one thing that should spark skepticism in any intelligent reader. The system we are looking at consists in two turbulent fluids interacting with each other. They are on a rotating planet that is differentially heated by the sun. A vital constituent of the atmospheric component is water in the liquid, solid and vapor phases, and the changes in phase have vast energetic ramifications. The energy budget of this system involves the absorption and reemission of about 200 watts per square meter. Doubling CO2 involves a 2% perturbation to this budget. So do minor changes in clouds and other features, and such changes are common. In this complex multifactor system, what is the likelihood of the climate (which, itself, consists in many variables and not just globally averaged temperature anomaly) is controlled by this 2% perturbation in a single variable? Believing this is pretty close to believing in magic. Instead, you are told that it is believing in ‘science.’ Such a claim should be a tip-off that something is amiss. After all, science is a mode of inquiry rather than a belief structure.

Footnote:

Say what you want about the liberal arts, but they’ve found a cure for common sense.

By Robert Curry writes at American Thinker Making Sense of Common Sense. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

As we all know, acquiring common sense can be a matter of life and death. I’m thinking, for example, of the teenage boy who swallowed a garden slug on a dare, became paralyzed, and died recently. Because children lack common sense, parents must do what they have always done, trying to instill common sense in their children while at the same time using their own common sense to encompass the growing child.

Becoming a person of common sense has always been a life-defining challenge, but acquiring common sense has gotten a lot more difficult for young people in our time, especially if they have spent some time in our institutions of higher learning. My witty friend Robert Godwin has this to say about that: “Say what you want about the liberal arts, but they’ve found a cure for common sense.”

When I headed off to college, my high school teacher who was my mentor offered me two commonsense rules to follow: “Take care to stay well, and choose professors, not courses.” Because of my high regard for him, I took his words to heart. Later, when I saw the problems my fellow students brought on themselves by not getting enough sleep and generally being careless about their health, I understood the practical wisdom of what he had told me. And the second rule helped me more quickly understand the value of navigating my way through college by who was teaching the course rather than by the course title.

For years, I handed on the same commonsense wisdom to young folks I knew when they headed off to college. But I have not offered that advice for some years now. Here is what I tell them now: “They are going to try to knock common sense out of you; don’t let them.”

Post script: From the comments below, Otto was pushing for info regarding volcanoes and the Holocene Climate Optimum. I responded thus:

Otto, I don’t see volcanoes causing the HTM (Holocene Thermal Maximum).
The HTM ended at different times in different parts of the world, but it had ended everywhere by 4,000 BP (BP here means the number of years before 2000) and the world began to cool. Your link refers to the Santorini eruption ending the Minoan warming as well as that civilization.

From Renssen et al. 2012:
“The Holocene Thermal Maximum (HTM) was a relatively warm climatic phase between 11 and 5 ka BP, as indicated by numerous proxy records (Kaufman et al., 2004; Jansen et al., 2007, 2008; Wanner et al., 2008; Miller et al., 2010a; Bartlein et al., 2011). The relatively warm conditions during the HTM are commonly associated with the orbitally-forced summer insolation maximum (Wanner et al., 2008; Bartlein et al., 2011). However, proxy records suggest that both the timing and magnitude of maximum warming varied substantially between different regions across the globe, suggesting involvement of additional forcings and feedbacks (Jansen et al., 2007; Bartlein et al., 2011). One important additional factor affecting the early Holocene climate is the remnant Laurentide Ice sheet (LIS).
https://dial.uclouvain.be/pr/boreal/object/boreal%3A112248/datastream/PDF_01/view

From this we learn three things:

Climate warms and cools without any help from humans.

Warming is good and cooling is bad.

The hypothetical warming from CO2 would be a good thing.

It’s just common sense, after all.

Ocean Temps Dropping Sept. 2020


The best context for understanding decadal temperature changes comes from the world’s sea surface temperatures (SST), for several reasons:

  • The ocean covers 71% of the globe and drives average temperatures;
  • SSTs have a constant water content, (unlike air temperatures), so give a better reading of heat content variations;
  • A major El Nino was the dominant climate feature in recent years.

HadSST is generally regarded as the best of the global SST data sets, and so the temperature story here comes from that source, the latest version being HadSST3.  More on what distinguishes HadSST3 from other SST products at the end.

The Current Context

The cool 2020 Spring was not just your local experience, it’s the result of Earth’s ocean cooling off after last summer’s warming in the Northern Hemisphere.  The chart below shows SST monthly anomalies as reported in HadSST3 starting in 2015 through September 2020. After three straight months of cooling led by the tropics and SH, August anomalies were up slightly due to NH.  Now all ocean sectors are cooling off.

A global cooling pattern is seen clearly in the Tropics since its peak in 2016, joined by NH and SH cycling downward since 2016.  In 2019 all regions had been converging to reach nearly the same value in April.

Then  NH rose exceptionally by almost 0.5C over the four summer months, in August exceeding previous summer peaks in NH since 2015.  In the 4 succeeding months, that warm NH pulse reversed sharply.  Now again NH temps are warming to a 2020 summer peak, matching 2019.  This had been offset by sharp cooling in the Tropics and SH, which instead warmed slightly last month. Thus the Global anomaly steadily decreased since March, then rose, now presently matching last summer.

Note that higher temps in 2015 and 2016 were first of all due to a sharp rise in Tropical SST, beginning in March 2015, peaking in January 2016, and steadily declining back below its beginning level. Secondly, the Northern Hemisphere added three bumps on the shoulders of Tropical warming, with peaks in August of each year.  A fourth NH bump was lower and peaked in September 2018.  As noted above, a fifth peak in August 2019 and a sixth August 2020 exceeded the four previous upward bumps in NH.

And as before, note that the global release of heat was not dramatic, due to the Southern Hemisphere offsetting the Northern one.  The major difference between now and 2015-2016 is the absence of Tropical warming driving the SSTs, along with SH anomalies reaching nearly the lowest in this period. Presently both SH and the Tropics are quite cool, with NH coming off its summer peak.

A longer view of SSTs

The graph below  is noisy, but the density is needed to see the seasonal patterns in the oceanic fluctuations.  Previous posts focused on the rise and fall of the last El Nino starting in 2015.  This post adds a longer view, encompassing the significant 1998 El Nino and since.  The color schemes are retained for Global, Tropics, NH and SH anomalies.  Despite the longer time frame, I have kept the monthly data (rather than yearly averages) because of interesting shifts between January and July.

Click on image to enlarge.

1995 is a reasonable (ENSO neutral) starting point prior to the first El Nino.  The sharp Tropical rise peaking in 1998 is dominant in the record, starting Jan. ’97 to pull up SSTs uniformly before returning to the same level Jan. ’99.  For the next 2 years, the Tropics stayed down, and the world’s oceans held steady around 0.2C above 1961 to 1990 average.

Then comes a steady rise over two years to a lesser peak Jan. 2003, but again uniformly pulling all oceans up around 0.4C.  Something changes at this point, with more hemispheric divergence than before. Over the 4 years until Jan 2007, the Tropics go through ups and downs, NH a series of ups and SH mostly downs.  As a result the Global average fluctuates around that same 0.4C, which also turns out to be the average for the entire record since 1995.

2007 stands out with a sharp drop in temperatures so that Jan.08 matches the low in Jan. ’99, but starting from a lower high. The oceans all decline as well, until temps build peaking in 2010.

Now again a different pattern appears.  The Tropics cool sharply to Jan 11, then rise steadily for 4 years to Jan 15, at which point the most recent major El Nino takes off.  But this time in contrast to ’97-’99, the Northern Hemisphere produces peaks every summer pulling up the Global average.  In fact, these NH peaks appear every July starting in 2003, growing stronger to produce 3 massive highs in 2014, 15 and 16.  NH July 2017 was only slightly lower, and a fifth NH peak still lower in Sept. 2018.

The highest summer NH peak came in 2019, only this time the Tropics and SH are offsetting rather adding to the warming. Since 2014 SH has played a moderating role, offsetting the NH warming pulses. Now September 2020 is dropping off last summer’s unusually high NH SSTs. f(Note: these are high anomalies on top of the highest absolute temps in the NH.)

What to make of all this? The patterns suggest that in addition to El Ninos in the Pacific driving the Tropic SSTs, something else is going on in the NH.  The obvious culprit is the North Atlantic, since I have seen this sort of pulsing before.  After reading some papers by David Dilley, I confirmed his observation of Atlantic pulses into the Arctic every 8 to 10 years.

But the peaks coming nearly every summer in HadSST require a different picture.  Let’s look at August, the hottest month in the North Atlantic from the Kaplan dataset.
The AMO Index is from from Kaplan SST v2, the unaltered and not detrended dataset. By definition, the data are monthly average SSTs interpolated to a 5×5 grid over the North Atlantic basically 0 to 70N. The graph shows August warming began after 1992 up to 1998, with a series of matching years since, including 2020.  Because the N. Atlantic has partnered with the Pacific ENSO recently, let’s take a closer look at some AMO years in the last 2 decades.
This graph shows monthly AMO temps for some important years. The Peak years were 1998, 2010 and 2016, with the latter emphasized as the most recent. The other years show lesser warming, with 2007 emphasized as the coolest in the last 20 years. Note the red 2018 line is at the bottom of all these tracks. The black line shows that 2020 began slightly warm, then set records for 3 months. then dropped below 2016 and 2017, peaked in August and is now below 2016.

Summary

The oceans are driving the warming this century.  SSTs took a step up with the 1998 El Nino and have stayed there with help from the North Atlantic, and more recently the Pacific northern “Blob.”  The ocean surfaces are releasing a lot of energy, warming the air, but eventually will have a cooling effect.  The decline after 1937 was rapid by comparison, so one wonders: How long can the oceans keep this up? If the pattern of recent years continues, NH SST anomalies may rise slightly in coming months, but once again, ENSO which has weakened will probably determine the outcome.

Footnote: Why Rely on HadSST3

HadSST3 is distinguished from other SST products because HadCRU (Hadley Climatic Research Unit) does not engage in SST interpolation, i.e. infilling estimated anomalies into grid cells lacking sufficient sampling in a given month. From reading the documentation and from queries to Met Office, this is their procedure.

HadSST3 imports data from gridcells containing ocean, excluding land cells. From past records, they have calculated daily and monthly average readings for each grid cell for the period 1961 to 1990. Those temperatures form the baseline from which anomalies are calculated.

In a given month, each gridcell with sufficient sampling is averaged for the month and then the baseline value for that cell and that month is subtracted, resulting in the monthly anomaly for that cell. All cells with monthly anomalies are averaged to produce global, hemispheric and tropical anomalies for the month, based on the cells in those locations. For example, Tropics averages include ocean grid cells lying between latitudes 20N and 20S.

Gridcells lacking sufficient sampling that month are left out of the averaging, and the uncertainty from such missing data is estimated. IMO that is more reasonable than inventing data to infill. And it seems that the Global Drifter Array displayed in the top image is providing more uniform coverage of the oceans than in the past.

uss-pearl-harbor-deploys-global-drifter-buoys-in-pacific-ocean

USS Pearl Harbor deploys Global Drifter Buoys in Pacific Ocean

Health Sciences Polluted by Critical Race Theory

Connor Harris writes at City Journal Fighting Racism Instead of Disease. Excepts in italics with my bolds.

The intrusion of critical race theory into medicine and public health threatens the well-being of all Americans—especially nonwhites.

The Covid-19 pandemic in the West has disproportionately harmed racial minorities, especially those of African descent. According to a United Nations report from June, African-Americans in the United States had twice the death rate from Covid-19 as other races, as did black and South Asian ethnic groups in the U.K. Death rates among black minority groups in France and Brazil were also markedly elevated.

Many have taken it for granted that these differences stem from poverty and racism, which force nonwhites into crowded housing and jobs with high disease exposure. For Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, Covid-19 “expose[d] what should have been obvious—that unequal access to healthcare, overcrowded housing and pervasive discrimination make our societies less stable, secure and prosperous.”

But a September 10 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association by three doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York identified another possibility: racial differences in levels of TMPRRS2, a protein in cell membranes that many viruses, including coronaviruses, use to gain access to cells. The authors reported that in a sample of 305 patients at Mount Sinai, black patients had stronger expression of the gene that codes for TMPRRS2 in the tissue lining their nostrils than white, Asian, Hispanic, or mixed-race patients.

When JAMA tweeted this study, though, dozens of Twitter users who advertised their academic credentials in medicine and public health accused the journal and the study’s authors—all nonwhite, and one a black woman—of racism. “I can’t with these folks,” said one doctor with a Master of Public Health degree. “This is sounding way too much like blaming and rings of eugenics.”

“Come on @JAMA_current do better. I hope you a) retract this paper and b) invite an editorial on why publishing articles like this in the first place is a terrible idea,” said Josh Mugele, a doctor with over 35,000 Twitter followers. One M.D.–Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin asked, “Do you have someone on your editorial board who studies racism in medicine or has a background in critical race theory? Repeatedly publishing articles that use race as biology seems to indicate you could use more expertise in that area.”

Many responses claimed that race was a “socially constructed” concept with no biological meaning.

“Race IS NOT genetic,” said one medical resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a former researcher with the World Health Organization. Another pediatrician told JAMA, “Attributing genetic variants to race (which is socially constructed) is racist. Stop. And systemic racism is why . . . BIPOC [black, indigenous, and people of color] are disproportionately harmed by COVID-19.” “It is 2020. This is unacceptable. Race is a social NOT biologic construct,” said a researcher at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Such tweets reflect the penetration of public health by critical race theory (CRT), an intellectual movement that blames racism for every ill that afflicts nonwhites. CRT is hostile to basic scientific norms of skeptical investigation, and it threatens to degrade scholarly standards in the health sciences and worsen the quality of public health—not least for racial minorities.

CRT in public health is founded on the notion that race is a “social construct” without biological meaning, so racial differences must spring from racist social structures. This idea is a corruption of a genuine sociological insight: not that race is illusory or unrelated to genetics, but that delineations of racial categories are somewhat arbitrary and can differ between societies. For example, persons of mixed European and African ancestry usually count as black in the United States, but other societies give them a separate category, such as “coloured” in South Africa and pardo in Brazil. And, to an extent, individuals in liminal racial categories can choose their racial identification: for example, increasing numbers of Hispanics in the United States identify as white.

In any case, though, Americans’ racial self-identifications line up well with genetic clusters.

And even if the genetic divisions between races are fuzzy, they remain meaningful enough that racial differences in medical conditions could stem from genetic differences. To take one clear example, African-Americans suffer Vitamin D deficiency about twice as often as whites—a condition that seems to worsen vulnerability to many respiratory diseases, including Covid-19. On the plus side, though, they contract melanoma at less than 4 percent of the rate among whites. The principal cause of both differences is genetic: dark, melanin-rich skin is less vulnerable to sun damage, conferring a Darwinian advantage in the tropics, but it is also less efficient at synthesizing Vitamin D, a drawback in high-latitude areas with weak sunlight.

Some doctors who object to using race in medicine merely warn that races are crude categories, and that racial averages can obscure within-race variation. For example, the misapprehension that sickle-cell anemia is a uniquely “black” disease, though it is as frequent in some white subgroups such as Greeks and Italians as it is in African-descended populations, has led doctors to overlook many cases among white patients.

But critical race theorists go further. CRT starts from the premise that systemic racism has corrupted the most basic structures and beliefs of society. Ostensibly genetic racial categories, in the CRT view, are themselves tools of racism: they serve to justify mistreatment of nonwhites and pass off the health harms of racism as the consequences of genetic inferiority. Pervasive racism even corrupts the scientific process itself. As Chandra Ford and Collins Airhihenbuwa, two prominent advocates for CRT in public health, put it, “the systematic nature of the scientific method enhances the reliability of empirical findings, but this does not necessarily eliminate the influence of racial bias.” Racism can be overcome, CRT says, only by explicitly race-conscious research methods that amount in practice to assuming from the outset that racism stands behind every racial disparity. Ford and Airhihenbuwa tell researchers to design studies around the assumption that “race is socially constructed [and] is less a risk factor itself than a marker of risk for racism-related exposures.”

The CRT doctrine of omnipresent racism is powerless to explain health discrepancies that disfavor whites, such as their elevated risk of skin cancer or atrial fibrillation, or the consistently lower mortality rates of Hispanics compared with whites. But it is also a severe threat to the health of racial minorities. First, CRT proponents disapprove of efforts to promote healthier behavior among minorities—or, as Boyd and her coauthors put it, “ineffective behaviorist approaches to problems that are actually institutional in nature.” This is a profoundly disempowering message. It would imply, for example, that if African-Americans smoke cigarettes to cope with the stress of racism—a common claim in studies of racism and public health—then it would be futile to persuade black smokers to quit, or to switch to less harmful alternatives such as nicotine gum or vaping, as long as racism lingers.

But more importantly, the no-causes-but-racism doctrine may stymie valuable research and lead doctors to make bad decisions for minority patients. Investigating the biological roots of racial disparities can shed valuable light on the causes of, and possible treatments for, medical problems among nonwhites. If Vitamin D deficiency, for instance, plays a role in higher Covid-19 deaths among blacks, then widespread Vitamin D supplementation could yield immediate benefits for all races and ameliorate ethnic disparities—and far faster than any redoubled effort to eliminate racial socioeconomic gaps could succeed. (One small trial in Spain has suggested that Vitamin D supplementation might virtually eliminate the need to send Covid-19 patients to the ICU.) If recent findings on the role of the TMPRRS2 protein in Covid-19 bear out in larger studies, similarly, drugs targeting that protein might reduce infection and death rates.

Critical race theory in medicine and public health, based on a misunderstanding of the concept of race and an inflexible, unfalsifiable dogma of systemic racism, is a huge obstacle to understanding health problems among racial minorities. A public health and medical profession that follows critical race theory will waste time chasing down phantom racism while overlooking genetic and biological factors that could be addressed immediately. Anyone who cares about public health and improving outcomes for nonwhites should help drive critical race theory out of the health sciences.

Love Of Theory Is The Root Of All Evil
–William M. Briggs, statistician

Fallacies about Herd Immunity


Dr Sunetra Gupta writes at AIER, American Institute for Economic Research Matt Hancock is Wrong about Herd Immunity.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Yesterday in parliament, Matt Hancock explained to the house why, “on the substance”, the central claim of the Great Barrington Declaration was “emphatically not true”.

“Many diseases never reach herd immunity – including measles, malaria, AIDS and flu…” he said. “Herd immunity is a flawed goal – even if we could get to it, which we can’t.”

Let’s have a look at the diseases he mentions. Measles, if it arrives on ‘virgin soil’, can devastate a population. In Tahiti and Moorea and the South-east and North-west Marquesas, between 20% and 70% of the population was lost to the first epidemic. Natural infection with measles provides lifelong immunity, and we now have a vaccine which provides similar solid, durable protection. We have not been able to eliminate the disease, but those who rather selfishly choose not to vaccinate their children are only able make that choice because the risks of infection are kept low by those who are immune — currently, a combination of those, like me, who caught it and recovered and many others for whom it is vaccine induced. The vaccine does not work in babies, which is why you have to wait till they are a year old before they get it. We can do this because herd immunity keeps the risk of infection down, so they are are unlikely to be infected in their first year of life. Without this herd protection, many under ones would die (as they regularly do in sub-Saharan Africa) despite a vaccine being available.

Malaria (a primary focus of my research) is caused by a parasite which carries at least 60 different outfits with which to disguise itself from immune attack. We, nonetheless, typically acquire sufficient immunity upon first infection so as not to suffer severe disease and death upon further attacks. This is a feature it probably has in common with Covid-19. But that is where the similarity ends. It has been difficult to make a malaria vaccine that covers all of its diversity, but fortunately that should not be a problem for Covid-19.

AIDS is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus which also has an extraordinary capacity to change outfits during the course of infection. This, and other mechanisms of subverting the immune response, allow it to persist indefinitely in an infected person. Even so, rates of infection will slow down as the virus runs out of people to infect.

Fortunately, Covid-19 does not possess such an array of immune evasion mechanisms that could seriously compromise any possibility of vaccine development in the next few years.

Like HIV, influenza also has the ability to change its outfit, and periodically a new strain emerges requiring a new vaccine. It is because sufficient immunity accumulates in the population that a radical change of outfit becomes worthwhile. What Mr Hancock means when he says we do not reach herd immunity to flu is that it finds ways around it; it is unlikely, given the nature of coronaviruses that the SARS Cov-2 virus would be capable of doing the same thing.

In a nutshell, the development of immunity through natural infection is a common feature of many pathogens, and it is reasonable to assume that Covid-19 does not have any tricks up its sleeve to prevent this from happening — it would pose a very serious problem for the development of a vaccine if it did. Having said this, the Covid-19 virus belongs to a family of viruses which do not typically give you lifelong immunity against infection. Most of us will never have heard of these other four ‘seasonal’ coronaviruses that are currently circulating in our communities. And yet surveys indicate that at least 3% of the population is infected by any single one of these corona cousins during the winter months. These viruses can cause deaths in high risk groups or require them to receive ICU care or ventilator support, so it is not necessarily true that they are intrinsically milder than the novel Covid-19 virus. And like the Covid-19 virus, they are much less virulent in the healthy elderly and younger people than influenza.

One important reason why these corona cousins do not kill large numbers of people is because even though we lose immunity and can be reinfected, there is still always a decent enough proportion of immune people in the population to keep the risk of infection low to those who might die upon contracting it. Also, all the coronaviruses in circulation — including the Covid-19 virus— have some features in common which means that getting one coronavirus will probably offer some protection against other coronaviruses. This is becoming increasingly clear from work in many labs, including my lab in Oxford. It is against this background of immunity from itself and its close relations that Covid-19 virus has to operate.

So what does Mr Hancock mean by “reaching” herd immunity? Herd immunity is a continuous variable which increases as people become immune and decreases as they lose immunity or die. He is perhaps referring to the threshold of herd immunity at which the rate of new infections starts to decrease. We do not yet have a very clear idea of what this threshold is for Covid-19 as the landscape in which it spreads includes people who are susceptible to it, people who have built up immunity to it, and people who have immunity to other coronaviruses.

Unfortunately, we do not have a good way of telling how many people have actually been exposed to the new virus, or how many people were resistant to start with. We are able to test for antibodies – and my lab in Oxford has been doing so since early April – but, as with other coronaviruses, Covid-19 antibody levels decline after recovery, and some people do not make them at all, and so antibody levels will not give us the answer. More and more evidence is accumulating that other arms of immunity, like T cells, play an important role.

Indications of the herd immunity threshold having been reached are available from the time signatures of epidemics in various parts of the world where death and infection curves tend to “bend” in the absence of intervention or to stay down when interventions were relaxed (in comparison with other locations where the opposite happened). But we do not know how far we are from it in most parts of the UK. It is important to bear in mind that the attainment of the herd immunity threshold does not lead to disease eradication. Instead it corresponds to an equilibrium state in which the infections lingers at low levels in the community. This is the situation we tolerate for most infectious diseases (like flu which kills 650K people every year globally). The situation can be vastly improved through vaccination, but it is very difficult to eliminate the disease even with a good vaccine.

We are of course also able to test for presence of the virus, and there is much attention on this with ‘test and trace’ strategies. However this test, known as the PCR test, is of limited value as it cannot tell us whether someone is infectious and can pass on the disease, whether they have the virus but cannot pass it on, or indeed whether the virus has been destroyed by the immune system and only fragments remain. This means that we need to make public health decisions based on only partial information, and in a changing environment, and is why assumptions of how many people have been infected and are immune are so important.

The Great Barrington Declaration proposes a solution for how we may proceed in the face of such uncertainty. It suggests that we exploit the feature of this virus that does not cause much harm to the large majority of the population to allow them to resume their normal lives, while shielding those who are vulnerable to severe disease and death.

Under these circumstances, immunity will build up in the general population to a level that poses a low enough risk of infection to the vulnerable population that they may resume their normal lives. All of this can happen over a period of six months, and so this Focused Protection plan does not involve the permanent segregation of the vulnerable from the rest of the population.

It is important that any new proposal should receive close scrutiny and constructive criticism. I’ve addressed the short duration of immunity; but another worry is the ‘occult damage‘, or secondary effects sustained by those who are not obviously vulnerable. It is not at all unexpected that some people would suffer post-viral symptoms for extended periods of time (I believe I did!) and that it may be quite debilitating for some. Among the lessons we could learn from this crisis could be a wider recognition of the frequency and intensity of post-viral syndromes and an investment in support (leave of absence from jobs, help with daily activities) of those unfortunate enough to suffer in this way. But it is not a new phenomenon and cannot be a good enough reason to stop the world and potentially let tens of millions of people starve to death.

How such a plan may be put into place is obviously the next step to detail, and it is natural that some people might view with scepticism that it can be achieved other than in theory. Many components of protecting the vulnerable have already been enacted in the process of locking down so we should be discussing how these can be improved rather than dismissing them. Directing efforts at hospitals and care homes is one obvious priority. Other parts of the problem – such as the protection of vulnerable people within family settings – require careful discussion and thought, but it must always be borne in mind that these are temporary measures and in the long run could save more lives than cycling in and out of destructive lockdowns.

One colleague likened the GBD plan to “putting all your antiques in a room while your house is burning and fanning the flames”. A better analogy for the build up of herd immunity would rather be to douse the rest of the house with water (which could damage the Chippendale commode) — but it is hard to see how these could be the terms of a serious discussion.

Since the declaration last week, the Great Barrington Declaration has come under attack across the media, online (including Wikipedia and Google) from fellow academics as being part of a Libertarian conspiracy (my politics are not remotely libertarian) or being based in “pseudoscience”; others attempting to be less defamatory say that our views are “fringe”. The large number of serious scientists from top institutions taking part suggest otherwise. There are genuine good faith disagreements that must be aired and discussed — the impact on the world is too significant for us to fail to have this discussion in a serious way.

Footnote: The chart compares covid deaths in Germany with fatalities prior to covid. The chart plots deaths from all causes by calendar weeks. The green line shows the average death rate in Germany from 2016 to 2019. The yellow line is deaths by weeks in 2020. The red line shows covid deaths. Clearly in April covid deaths contributed to the peak for 2020; which was slightly lower than the March average. However, a second peak in August is not due to covid deaths, but may rather reflect social restrictions imposed upon the public. H/T Virtual Reality

 

 

Will Americans Resist Progressive Revolution?

Joel Kotkin explores the public response to the leftist socialist cultural revolution fronted by mass and social media these days.  His article at City Journal is Will the Cultural Revolution Be Canceled?  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and images.

The challenge to our civilization is real, but most Americans aren’t sympathetic to social radicalism.

It’s an article of faith among many conservatives, and some liberals, that we’re being swept by a Maoist cultural revolution destined to transform American society into a woke collective. Yet before surrendering basics like equality of opportunity, social order, and free speech to leftist authoritarians, we should consider whether they’re the ones who will wind up getting canceled.

Most Americans don’t favor defunding police or instituting race quotas; they are wary of the costs connected with the Green New Deal and of allowing Washington to control local zoning. Many are already voting with their feet, fleeing places that promote these ideas and seeking out areas aligned with more recognizable American values. Over the past 20 years, virtually all the most progressive large states—New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and California—have suffered massive outmigration, while red or purplish states like Florida, Texas, the Carolinas, or Arizona welcome more and more Americans to resettle there. On the metropolitan level, even before Covid-19 accelerated the trend, a steady, largely unacknowledged, movement from the deep-blue core to the less progressive suburbs or exurbs has been underway.

Political correctness—the secular religion of elite liberal society—turns out to be enormously unpopular, something President Trump has exploited politically.

Some 80 percent of Americans, notes one recent survey, including most millennials and minorities, see political correctness as “a problem,” not a solution for the future. Progressive social activists, a survey by the liberal research organization More in Common found, account for barely 8 percent of the adult population, less than a third of the number who identify as traditional conservatives.

The fact that most Americans—Democrat and Republican—fall between these two categories suggests that social attitudes may be far less polarized, and less susceptible to political correctness, than has been widely assumed. As seen in the reaction to the George Floyd case, most Americans generally back the police but also embrace the notion of police reform; they are increasingly hostile, however, to the wave of violence that has accompanied some of the protests. Rather than support growing attempts to limit free speech, almost four in five Americans, according to Pew, support protecting it. These attitudes extend well beyond the base of Trumpian conservatives to include most Americans, regardless of ethnic background.

Media Not Trustworthy

The media epitomize the gap between the public and the nation’s dominant institutions. Subjectivity, notes a recent Rand study, has replaced the world of shared facts with approaches that lead to “truth decay.” Reporters once believed that their mission was to inform the public, but now many journalism schools, including Columbia, embrace progressive groupthink, openly advancing a leftist social-justice agenda in which reporters are advocates. Even Teen Vogue has taken a neo-Marxist tack. “Moral clarity” replaces objectivity. Free speech is somehow linked to white privilege.

These partisan attitudes have dramatically eroded trust in media, according to a new Knight Foundation study. Public trust in most large media has declined steadily over the past four years, with the biggest drops among Republicans; the New York Times, the publisher of the 1619 Project takedown of American history, is trusted by less than half of the public, compared with almost 60 percent in 2016. Gallup reports that, since the pandemic, the news media has suffered the lowest ratings of any major institution, performing even worse than Congress or President Trump.

Certainly, the shift leftward has not helped the progressive-dominated newspaper business. Between 2001 and 2017, the publishing industry (books, newspapers, magazines) lost 290,000 jobs, a decline of 40 percent. Endless partisan sniping and countless crises have boosted CNN, but the network lags well behind right-wing Fox. NPR has seen its ratings drop as many listeners gravitate to less predictable, livelier voices like Joe Rogan.

The new media also suffer from a credibility crisis. Controllers like those at Facebook, Google, Apple, and Twitter are increasingly determined to curate “quality content” on their sites, or even eliminate views they find objectionable, which tend to be conservative, according to employees. The idea that managers of huge social-media platforms aim to control content is more than conservative paranoia. Over 70 percent of Americans, according to a recent Pew study, believe that such platforms—as demonstrated in the case of Reddit, Facebook, and Google—“censor political views.” In California, the center of Big Tech, people express more trust in the marijuana industry than they do in social media, according to a 2019 survey.

Decaying Arts and Entertainment

A similar trend is at work in arts and entertainment, where partisanship has rapidly become the standard. Once divided between conservatives and liberals, Hollywood, in the words of liberal journalist Jonathan Chait, now exhibits “a pervasive, if not total, liberalism.” This tilt reflects the political views of the executives: over 99 percent of all political donations by major entertainment executives in 2018 went to Democrats.

In the past, however, many filmmakers, liberal and conservative, tried to separate politics from the business of art; today, priority often goes to gender issues and racial grievance. Quality films with broad popularity—in the vein of the The Sound of Music, The Godfather, or, more recently, Lord of the Rings—rarely win the top prizes anymore. Instead, award-winning films largely are chosen for their appeal to insiders, even as they generally do at best modest box office. To make money, Hollywood resorts to producing superhero movies.

This phenomenon is likely to get worse before it gets better. Just recently, the Academy announced that applicants for Best Picture must fulfill quotas for minorities, women, the disabled, and gays. Under these conditions, some suggest, even as brilliant a film as the Oscar-nominated 1917—set in World War I trenches—would face tough barriers since its cast, and directors, were all white men.

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Americans are not enthusiastically embracing the new cultural orthodoxy. Many may share progressive views on gender and the environment, but they don’t necessarily want to spend their free time being reeducated.

Before Covid, the audience for awards shows such as the Emmys and Oscars, increasingly disconnected from the values and tastes of many Americans, had already dropped to record lows. And since the pandemic, the ratings, as seen in the Emmys, have headed down still further. Attendance at theaters plunged even before Covid, and the prospects for a strong recovery—given an unappealing product for many—seem limited.

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Political Corruption of Sports

Much the same can be said about television and sports. Ratings for politicized media like ESPN have plummeted. The decision by A&E to drop its popular Live PD show—made to appease anti-police sentiment—cost it roughly half its viewers. The industry may be thriving in its progressive lane, but it’s clearly out of touch with much of its market.

Even sports are losing their allure. Even as much of the population remains quarantined at home, ratings for the National Basketball Association—the wokest league of them all—have cratered, falling behind Fox’s Tucker Carlson, not someone who appeals beyond the right. With players “taking the knee” and threatening walkouts after reported police incidents, the numbers are also way down for Major League Baseball and the National Football League. Perhaps Americans would prefer some entertainment in these hard times, and not to have to listen to “social justice” rhetoric from the likes of LeBron “Peking” James, a multimillionaire and passionate defender of the league’s Chinese sponsors.

college grad by jimbob

Educational Malaise

Higher education has served as master instructor and amplifier for the new orthodoxy, but impatience is growing with the performance of our schools. College students are graduating with fixed ideas about racial politics but few real-world skills. One recent study of American college students found that more than one-third “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” over four years of college. The products of today’s universities maintain rigid positions on various issues, confident of their superior intelligence and perspicuity. Employers also report that recent graduates are short on critical-thinking skills.

Many colleges were hurting before Covid-19, with a growing percentage of enrollees engaged in online learning. Many students and parents, particularly at less prestigious schools, are questioning the cost of higher education. And universities have been losing confidence with a majority of Americans, according to Gallup. Employers—including Google and Elon Musk—are more willing to challenge the validity of degrees. If this trend continues, the whole university structure faces a challenging future. In examining some 442 American universities, NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway estimates that more than 20 percent could fail because of the lockdowns, and that another 30 percent will struggle to stay afloat.

It would be overly optimistic to imagine that the cultural revolution will fade away of its own accord. A taste for authoritarian solutions, Right or Left, is usually acquired. This is not a liberal or conservative struggle; it is a civilizational one. If nearly 40 percent of young Americans think that the country lacks “a history to be proud of,” they won’t see anything precious to protect. A civilization can survive only if its members, particularly those with the greatest influence, believe in its basic values.

Unfortunately, we can’t count on our elites in the academy, the media, the corporate hierarchy, or even the clergy to support the core values of American democracy.

Not anymore. Only stubborn resistance from the middle and working classes can push back against an assault being largely directed from above. “Happy the nation whose people have not forgotten how to rebel,” wrote British historian R. H. Tawney. It’s up to Americans everywhere, regardless of their party registration, to put a halt to a cultural revolution that our children may otherwise inherit.

An End to Frivolous Climate Lawsuits?

Craig Richardson writes at Real Clear Energy The Supreme Court Is Taking Critical Step Towards Resolving Frivolous Climate Suits. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Sometimes the most important Supreme Court decisions are overlooked because of their technical nature. That is the case with the Supreme Court’s choice to hear jurisdictional claims in B.P. P.L.C., et al. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore.

The Court’s ruling will either allow cities to pursue superfluous nuisance claims against energy companies in state courts or limit the suits to federal courts that are less prone to accept broad liability claims.

These jurisdictional claims are significant because they set the appropriate scope of appellate review for these suits. Lawsuits predicated on federal laws and involving federal officers’ actions should be decided at the federal level. By agreeing to hear arguments in the Baltimore case, the Supreme Court is taking a crucial step towards setting a consistent legal playing field.

The Supreme Court will not rule on the merits of Baltimore’s claims. Instead, they will decide whether the defendants can appeal a jurisdictional claim after a federal court rejects it.

Under existing law, it is clear the defendant can appeal aspects of the decision, but not whether the whole claim is fair game. A ruling in favor of the defendants would force multiple Circuit Courts to reevaluate their previous rulings and rehear jurisdictional claims by the energy companies.

Even though the justices won’t decide on the merits, the key is the context of Baltimore’s lawsuit. For years, city and state officials have been – in partnership with trial lawyers and leftist environmental groups – twisting the meaning of public nuisance laws to sue energy companies for their alleged contributions to climate change, even though these companies aren’t breaking the law. In recent months, localities have filed even more suits, making it especially important that lower courts know whether these cases should be resolved at the federal or state level.

These suits aren’t about helping the environment but are filed by leftist politicians and their backers hoping to score political points as they desperately attempt to fill their city or state coffers.

A senior Rhode Island official said the state’s climate lawsuit was designed to create a “sustainable funding stream” for Rhode Island. The state is desperate for funding because decades of big-spending policies have left Rhode Island officials with a budget deficit approaching $160 million.

In another instance, San Mateo County filed a lawsuit claiming there was a 93% risk of deadly floods by 2050 while telling municipal investors they had nothing to worry about. The S.E.C. is now investigating the county for fraud, and it is clear its lawsuit is motivated by politics, not science.

Instead of addressing climate change or working to build a sustainable future, leftist officials are trying to profit off energy companies, which would drive up the cost for all Americans. Given the clear political undertones of these cases, and the potential devastating impact on the U.S. economy, they must receive a fair hearing in a neutral venue.

It shouldn’t be surprising that state and city officials are fighting to have the cases heard in the state courts, the most favorable jurisdictions possible for them. Local officials are confident they can find a state judge who will issue a broad ruling against the energy companies, which would be difficult to overturn on appeal, regardless of the merits.

This outcome would be a disaster for energy companies and their customers, who would have to worry about individual state judges’ whims. These judges could create a mishmash of legal rulings that ends up being totally incoherent. It is easy to imagine a scenario where the defendants prevail in most of these frivolous lawsuits but lose a few in unfriendly jurisdictions and all of us will pay the price monetarily.

Additionally, state courts shouldn’t be addressing national political issues, especially on climate change, an issue that in the past the Supreme Court ruled should be handled by Congress and the president, not state courts. If laws need to be changed, Congress should change them, instead of having individual judges legislate from the bench. Some courts have already dismissed similar climate suits for this very reason.

Allowing state courts to decide debates of global importance is a recipe for disaster.

Generally, federal courts “are far less likely, as a whole and with some exceptions, to be willing to entertain expansive theories of liability than state courts,” according to George Mason University law professor Donald Kochan. This means federal courts are unlikely to perform legal gymnastics to try and hold energy companies accountable when it is clear they are operating within the law and have permits from the government.

Covid: The Big Picture in 7 Charts

Thanks to Swiss Policy Research for providing perspective on the coronavirus contagion in a few charts.  Their article is Covid: The Big Picture in 7 Charts, updated to October 10, 2020.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

1) Global covid “cases” and deaths vs. all-cause deaths

Chart number one shows global covid deaths by September in blue (about 1 million) versus global all-cause deaths in purple (about 40 million). The chart also shows the cumulative number of global covid “cases” (i.e. positive PCR tests) – the so-called “casedemic” on top of the pandemic.

In contrast, the UN expects that the political reaction to the pandemic may put the livelihood of up to 1.6 billion people at immediate risk and may, by the end of 2020, push an additional 130 million people “to the brink of starvation” and an additional 150 million children into poverty.

Global covid deaths and “cases” vs. all-cause deaths (interpolated data; source: OWD)

2) Covid mortality vs. flu mortality

Chart number two compares mortality by age for covid and for seasonal influenza (based on US CDC data). Below 50 years, influenza is somewhat deadlier than covid; above 50 years, covid is quickly getting deadlier than seasonal influenza (for which vaccines are available).

This “close to natural” mortality profile explains the very high median age of covid deaths in most Western countries (80 to 85 years in Europe, about 78 years in the US).

Overall, in Western countries a medium pandemic influenza (like 1957 and 1968) remains the best comparison to covid in terms of overall lethality and mortality. In non-Western countries, including Japan and most of Africa, covid mortality appears to be comparable to seasonal influenza.

Flu vs. covid mortality by age (CC/CDC). The chart in log-scale shows that COVID-19 is less lethal than flu up to the age of 48.

3) The role of nursing homes

Chart number three compares covid lethality (IFR) for the entire population (including nursing homes) and the non-nursing home population in Belgium (the hardest hit country in Europe; nevertheless, Belgian peak mortality is comparable to flu waves in the 1950s and 1960s.)

In most Western countries, nursing homes account for about 40% (Germany) to 80% (Canada and some US states) of all covid deaths, but they encompass only about 0.6% of the population; their IFR (ca. 30%) is about 100 times higher than for the general population (ca. 0.3%) and about ten times higher than for people of the same age group (75+) outside of nursing homes (ca. 3%, see below).

When calculating and communicating IFRs, it is therefore crucial to distinguish between the nursing home and the non-nursing home population in order to provide meaningful values. Nursing homes do not require a general lockdown of society, but targeted and humane protection.

Belgium: IFRs in entire population vs. non-nursing home population (Molenberghs)

4) Covid mortality in the USA

Chart number four shows monthly mortality in the USA since 1960. Regarding covid, the US is one of the hardest hit Western countries; nevertheless, its peak monthly mortality (driven by the Northeast region) is comparable to the strong influenza waves of the 1960s.

If covid had hit the US in the 1960s, its impact would have been much lower, due to a younger population, fewer nursing homes (which account for about 50% of US covid deaths), and much lower metabolic disease prevalence (i.e. diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease).

However, in much of the US (and Europe), coronavirus antibody prevalence is still below 10% (compared to values between 20 and 50% in global hotspots). It is therefore possible that the new coronavirus will cause additional deaths if high-risk population groups get infected. On the other hand, both intensive and early treatment options have improved in the meantime.

US: Monthly all-cause deaths since 1960 (Whelan/CDC)

5) Covid mortality in Sweden

Chart number five shows monthly mortality in Sweden since 1851. Sweden did not impose a covid lockdown, did not introduce a face mask mandate, and has one of the lowest intensive care bed capacities in Europe (two times lower than Italy). Nevertheless, its peak mortality is comparable to the strong seasonal flu waves of the 1990s. The chart also shows the k of the 1918 influenza pandemic and the nineteenth century cholera and hunger epidemics.

Sweden: Mortality since 1851 (JH/FOHM)

6) Epidemiological models vs. reality

Chart number six shows covid mortality in Sweden predicted by Imperial College London (professor Neil Ferguson) without measures (orange) and with moderate measures (gray), compared to the actual mortality curve (blue). 70% of Swedish deaths occurred in nursing facilities, while mortality in people below 65 remained below the five-year average.

Sweden: Predicted deaths vs. reality (HTY/FOHM)

7) Economic and social impact of political measures

Chart number seven shows US job losses in post-1945 recessions. The political reaction to the new coronavirus, notably lockdowns, has caused the worst employment recession since 1945, putting millions of people out of job and bankrupting tens or hundreds of thousands of businesses.

US recessions in comparison (BLS / CRB)

Conclusions

Covid is a very serious global public health issue, but:

  1. Talking about “cases” as if these were sick people is misguided.
  2. Talking about IFRs (lethality) without distinguishing between the general population and nursing homes, as well as early and late pandemic phase, is misguided.
  3. Saying covid is “worse than the flu”, without saying for whom, is misguided.
  4. Saying the recession is “due to covid”, not the political reaction, is misguided.
  5. Saying epidemiological models have been accurate and helpful, is also misguided.

Why They Trash Talk Sweden

Dan Hannan explains in his Washington Examiner article The better Sweden does on the coronavirus, the angrier they get.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

My columns on Sweden’s laissez-faire approach to the coronavirus always provoke an angry response. But it is striking that, the better Sweden does, the angrier its critics become.

Like anti-Trumpers who couldn’t hide their annoyance at the success of the U.S. economy, or British Remainers who longed for a recession so as to be able to say “I told you so” about Brexit, lockdown enthusiasts determinedly screen out the good news.

They trot out three main arguments. First, they say, “You can’t compare us to Sweden. It has a low population density.” Second, they argue that “Sweden hasn’t succeeded; it has had more deaths per capita than neighboring countries.” Third, the claim that “Sweden has taken an economic hit as well — the worst of both worlds.”

I’ll come to these assertions in a moment, but it is worth noting that they are all retrospective. The lockdown was initially sold across the world as the only way to avert calamity. The cost of the closures (in terms of lost liberty, lost livelihoods, and, indeed, lost lives through non-coronavirus health conditions) was so vast that there was no other way to justify it. Lockdown proponents didn’t say, “This might slightly reduce the mortality rate.” They said, “Do it or our hospitals will be overwhelmed!”

Which was, to be fair, what they initially expected to happen in Sweden. “Heading for disaster” was the headline in Britain’s right-wing Sun. “They are leading us to catastrophe,” agreed the left-wing Guardian. Time magazine reported that “Sweden’s relaxed approach to the coronavirus could already be backfiring” and quoted a doctor saying that it would “probably end in a historical massacre.” “We fear that Sweden has picked the worst possible time to experiment with national chauvinism,” chided the Washington Post. President Trump, justifying his own crackdown, bizarrely claimed that Sweden “gave it a shot, and they saw things that were really frightening, and they went immediately to shutting down the country.”

Not one commentator in March or April argued that Sweden might be less at risk than other places. Lockdown enthusiasts have switched very suddenly from “Sweden is heading for a genocide” to “well, we couldn’t do that here because we’re nothing like Sweden.”

What we are seeing is a version of the sunk cost fallacy — a determination to justify the huge losses imposed by the lockdown. It is beyond depressing to see scientists give in to these basic cognitive biases.

So, to the specific criticisms: Yes, Sweden has a low population density if you divide its population by its land area. But Swedes are not evenly spaced out across their country. Most of them live in towns and cities — 85% of the population occupies 2% of its surface area. The idea that Swedes live shyly among the birch trees, plunging into their chilly lakes at the footfall of a stranger, is one of the oddest arguments to have come out of this whole unedifying debate.

It is true that Sweden has had more coronavirus fatalities than other Nordic states. But remember that the lockdown was only intended to buy time. Infection rates are now rising faster in the rest of Scandinavia as things catch up.

In any case, though, so what? The argument for the lockdown was that there was no alternative. For that argument to work, it is not enough for Sweden to lag a bit behind Finland. Sweden would have to stick out like a sore thumb on every graph. It doesn’t.

As for the argument that the Swedish economy has taken as bad a hit as everyone else’s, it is nonsense. Obviously, a medium-sized country will be affected by a global downturn, as well as by its own voluntary distancing measures. But Sweden got off more lightly than most. Its GDP dropped by 8.3% in the second quarter of this year (compared to 2019). In the United States, the drop was 9.5%, in Germany 11.7%, in Canada 13.5%, in Britain 21.7%, and in Spain 22.1%. In 2020 as a whole, according to a new paper by Danske Bank, Sweden is expected to see a 3.3% contraction, compared to 4.3% for the U.S., 5.8% for the United Kingdom, and 8.3% for the eurozone.

The philosopher Karl Popper argued that the defining characteristic of science was that its propositions were falsifiable. But we have somehow reached a place where everything is turned into an argument for more restrictions. If infections rise, we need a tougher lockdown. If they fall, the lockdown is working, so we should keep it.

Yet, there it stands, stolid, sensible, social-democratic Sweden (alongside its U.S. equivalent, South Dakota) silently rebuking the doubters by its success. No wonder they get so angry.

Hurricane Season Overview Oct. 11

Your weather channel is airing charts like this to show how active is this year’s storm season impacting the Caribbean and US east coast.  So far, there have been many more named storms, two more hurricanes than average, and one less major hurricane at this point in the season.  Dr. Ryan Maue provides (here) a global context for understanding storm activity this year, updated October 11, 2020.

So globally, the ACE (Accumulated Cyclone Energy) is 2/3 of the average 1981-2010 at this point in the season.  ACE compiles the storm strengths as well the the number of storms.  Clearly the North Atlantic is 143% of average, but slightly behind 2019.  This indicates that many of the named storms were not that strong.

Meanwhile the Northern Hemisphere is running 69% of average and well behind last year.  This is due to North Pacific having a quiet season offsetting North Atlantic activity.  See the graph below from RealClimateScience

The historical summary of Tropical Hurricane ACE as of September 30, 2020:

Figure: Last 50-years+ of Global and Northern Hemisphere Accumulated Cyclone Energy: 24 month running sums. Note that the year indicated represents the value of ACE through the previous 24-months for the Northern Hemisphere (bottom line/gray boxes) and the entire global (top line/blue boxes). The area in between represents the Southern Hemisphere total ACE.

The hiatus of storms lasted a decade after 2006 (Thanks Global Warming).  Now seasons are more active (Your fault Global Warming), though somewhat less than previous peaks.   Maybe it’s Mother Nature after all.