No, I’m Not Worried: Part 6.5

This one is probably my favorite. A letter from President Trump to the governors.

The key point:

This is what we envision: Our expanded testing capabilities will quickly enable us to publish criteria, developed in close coordination with the nation’s public health officials and scientists, to help classify counties with respect to continued risks posed by the virus

In short: the plan is to start looking at individual counties when making policy decisions about the virus instead of the whole country or individual states.

Like I said, if you want me to start criticizing the administration, it’ll have to start making decisions I think are wrong.


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No, I’m not Worried: Part 6

Oh dear.

For those who didn’t click, the headline:

A scientist who warned that the coronavirus would kill 500,000 people in the United Kingdom has revised the estimate to roughly 20,000 people or fewer.

What a surprise!

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No, I’m Not Worried: Part 5

This is a somewhat special Not Worried, because this time I’m not going to quote any stats at all.

The reason for this is simple: It is becoming increasingly clear that the stats are total nonsense.

The GOOD news is that it’s almost certain that the stats are being skewed in a negative direction: In other words, it isn’t as bad as it looks. If you don’t believe me, look at how the Lombardy Death Zone counts its stats. Then look at how high the asymptomatic rate might be.

Only might? Yeah, only might. But that’s my point: We don’t know, but the odds are pretty good things are better than they seem.

Let’s go beyond that, back to NJ, our favorite second worst state in the country for the coronavirus. I haven’t looked at the stats today, as I said, but I do know one thing: The “explosion” happening in Bergen County?

Yeah, it hasn’t happened in the rural counties. Which makes sense, since they’re nothing like Bergen and Essex County.

“But Malcolm, if we don’t know, shouldn’t we work under the assumption that it’s Spanish Flu 2.0?”

Of course not. And if you think about it for a moment you’ll realize why.

We know for sure how many deaths driving causes, per day. And it’s a lot more than the coronavirus.

And yet, we drive. Because we know that there are many, many other things that will be affected if we don’t.

“That’s a strawman.”

People have told me this many times, and I still don’t understand why. Sure, it’ll tank the economy and affect how people do everything. So what? So will tanking the economy over a potential Spanish flu-tier pandemic that probably won’t happen.

In short: If we don’t know how many deaths the coronavirus is going to cause, but we have a good reason to believe it will be an order of magnitude less than the most dire predictions, the proper response is simple (and, once again, exactly what President Trump is going):

Monitor the situation closely, stop pretending every single place in the entire world is exactly the same as every other (unless, of course, things went surprisingly well, in which case they’re obviously an outlier that shouldn’t be taken into account at all), and, most importantly, make decisions based on the information we know rather than the information we don’t.

“Shouldn’t we be locking down and tanking the economy to protect the most vulnerable among us?”

Not for nothing, but why are “The most vulnerable” special? Everyone who drives a car is vulnerable – every single one. Should we not be driving to protect them too?

“A disease is different than driving. When you drive the drivers are the ones responsible for accidents. A disease is natural.”

This can only be said by someone who doesn’t drive much. Plenty of accidents are unavoidable and no one person’s fault, but an inevitable consequence of racing 40 to 80 miles per hour in small metal tubes with the very real potential to burst into flames.

“So are you saying we should be doing everything exactly the same as normal during the coronavirus outbreak, like we do when driving?”

No. As the threat increases, reasonable precautions should also increase. Shutting down the economy should not.

“What do you define as panicking anyway?”

When sane, sober people are telling me that anything short of shutting down jobs for months and completely tanking the economy means we’re going to get a Spanish flu-style multi-wave epidemic, that’s panicking.

What’s a step too far? That. That’s a step too far.

Wash your hands. But don’t feel guilty over getting drive-thru McDonald’s every now and then.

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No, I’m not Worried: Part 4.5

Anybody watch Trump’s press conferences?

If you don’t, do so. They’re genuinely fantastic – and not even because of (just) the occasional media bashing.

I 100% agree with everything Trump and his administration are doing.

And look, if you want me to say he’s doing something wrong here, I will when he does. It is rare indeed I can say something like this about such a complex and difficult situation, but that’s where I’m at. I can’t deny it.

Pointing out different areas of the country aren’t identical or being affected at the same rate?

Dead on.

Saying that hopefully there’s a chance certain areas can be open by Easter but that they take it on a day by day basis while carefully looking at the stats?

Dead on.

Pointing out that we put out more tests in eight weeks than South Korea did in eight days?

Dead on.

Look. Over 50% of the infected are JUST from NYC. Now add in CA and Seattle and you have the hotspots. Even here in NJ, Governor Murphy is relaxing certain restrictions. I have to admit, I don’t like Murphy, but he has reacted in a surprisingly sane way in contrast to the feckless coward Cuomo.

But somehow, I am reliably told, it is cowardice NOT to assume this will be a Spanish-flu level epidemic despite the lack of all available evidence pointing to this being the case.

It is cowardice to carefully assess things in two week intervals to make sure we are reacting properly.

It is the heresy of proportionality to question the accuracy of available medical reports and models, and want to adjust our responses accordingly.

And shutting down the economy for months based on current data telling us it probably ISN’T necessary is definitely NOT panicking.

I don’t buy it. No, I’m not worried.

Wash your hands.


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No, I’m not Worried: Part 4

This will be an interesting Not Worried, as the death rate has briefly jumped to 1.2% (thought the fluctuation over a mere 3 days of testing is interesting in itself). So how concerned am I about this?

Before I answer, first up: It is possible I get the coronavirus

It is possible I spread it to my family

It is possible I or one of them dies

It also probably isn’t going to happen – overwhelmingly so, in fact.

Will I get coronavirus? I work in retail. It’s a distinct possibility. But it doesn’t mean I or my family have to panic over it.

We all take reasonable precautions – wash your hands, disinfect, try not to get too close to people, bring around sanitizer. If you’re working a retail job like me, showering when you get home from a sift isn’t amiss. These are also wise precautions to take in a particularly bad flu season. I have no issue with it.

Now, onto the numbers.

So my prediction so far is, if not wrong, trending in the wrong direction as NJ’s death rate goes above 1%. What does this mean?

So over the past couple days we went from 1327 cases to 2844. Now over the next couple of days we went from 2844 to 3675.

Thus, we had a 1517 person increase in positives from day 1 to 2.

Day 3 to 4 we had only an 831 person increase in positives.

Deaths have jumped up by 17 from our last report. Also not good.

Worth noting – 609 of these cases are from Bergen County, 273 from Essex. Can’t find the death count, or the increase from day to day – make of that what you will. Original one I saw was 7 deaths in Bergen, but that appears to be outdated. In fact, the 609 appears to be outdated. Hmmmmm

So, what does this mean?

It means that by day 4 the increase in positives has gone down.

The death percentage has risen but with positive results going down we’re going to see the death percent increase from people who already have it.

It is early. Let us see if we end up below one percent when all is said and done.

“But Malcolm the Cynic, aren’t you only selectively reporting the good news and not telling the full story?”

True, yesterday I looked at the relevance of the dropping percentage while today I am saying the number of case increases is more relevant. But then, that’s because in this case the fact that the number of positives is increasing by less today than yesterday IS more important – it’s just that even when that wasn’t the case the death percentage was still dropping.

Wash your hands.

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Incidentally, on the Pine Barrens

It occurs to me that the idea of a sparsely populated, massive forest stretching across over seven NJ counties sounds kind of unbelievable. But this Wikipedia article is fairly accurate.

To give you an idea: The Pine Barrens averages fifteen people per square mile. I don’t know what the worldwide average is, but I DO know that on my small suburban block we have over fifteen people. Presumably, though, this does not account for the rumored forest people living deep within the national parks.

I know it says one of the big breadwinners of the area is tourism. This might be true, but I assure you, the main reason for this is the Pine Barrens simply does not earn a lot of money. Other areas of NJ are industrial enough that it doesn’t need to.

What I’m saying is, it’s kind of absurd this place exists in the middle of NJ, of all places. But there it is.

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No, I’m not Worried: Part 3

So the numbers. Like I said, next to nobody reads this and my opinions will change nothing, and getting in all the links to sources is annoying. So I’m not doing that. Instead I’ll tell you the numbers and you can contradict me if you think I’m wrong. I’ll update accordingly.

Now, NJ today: I said this earlier, but it bears repeating. For the third day in a row since testing increased, positive cases jumped (of course), but the death rate dropped again -we are now below 1%, at .9.

So here’s another reason I’m not worried: Trump’s response is dead on. Seriously dead on. He is doing almost exactly what I would do. This is fantastic news.

Trump CureEvery single word of that sentence is completely correct and exactly what I’ve been saying all along. What do you do after the fifteen day period you explicitly put in place to monitor things carefully and decide what to do?


And THEN Trump points out all of the issues with the numbers – the clustering in certain areas, how it isn’t spreading at nearly the same rate in other areas, how even states can’t be looked as an aggregate when only certain sections are showing large outbreaks – and really, how can I ask for a better response?

Not that you’d know by the media.

“Malcolm, how do you define panic anyway?”

What the media is doing.

I am also in the rare position where I’m strongly disagreeing with fellow folks in the right wing. Take Brian Niemeier’s post.  He says this:

But yesterday, Trump posted a tweet that many interpret as as signaling a loss of resolve on the President’s part. Market-worshiping bowtieCons were ecstatic at the prospect of direct human sacrifice to Mammon. Their elation is understandable. Normally, only Moloch worshipers get that kind of action.

Trump’s reticence is also easy to understand. Much like James T. Kirk, Trump is a guy who never believed in the no-win scenario. His style has always been to dive into the maelstrom and grab the best deal that bubbles to the surface–all the while keeping his options open in case a better deal emerges. He knows that chaos can be good for business.

That’s why Corona-chan has him at a disadvantage. She offers no good outcomes.

Keep in mind – I LIKE Brian. I agree with him at least 90% of the time. He is a fellow Catholic and brother in Christ. I have no quarrel with him.

I also find this so stunningly wrong, and unintentionally insulting, I am honestly kind of dumbfounded.

So Trump’s tweet says, quite reasonably, that the cure shouldn’t do more harm than the problem. This is so obvious as to be practically self-evident. He also says he will make a decision at the end of the fifteen day period, which is literally exactly what he said all along.

So how can anybody possibly interpret this tweet as a “loss of resolve” unless one was intentionally misrepresenting him – much as the media does every day?

So apparently, the people who were “ecstatic” about this were “market-worshipping bowtieCons”.

This is a stunningly tone deaf thing to say. You know who’s happy with it? The people who are currently out of work, and the small businesses on the verge of bankruptcy. I’m certainly happy about it, because I was working multiple jobs and now I am working one, and it is not in my field. All of my careful plans are suddenly up in smoke. I will have no health insurance by June and the only way for me to get it with the schools down is to work full time at Wal-Mart. And THERE’S a job that pays well, right?

You know who else is happy with it? People who are stuck in lockdown despite being in areas nowhere near the center of the action. They’re also happy with it.

And the only people Mr. Niemeier notices who are “Happy with it” are market-worshipping bowtieCons” who want to sacrifice people to Mammon. This is straight nonsense.

He continues with this:

Trump’s choices right now are:

  1. Enforce the several-week lock down urged by medical experts, and tank the economy.
  2. Loosen containment guidelines, get a Spanish Flu style multi-wave plague, and tank the economy.
Squaring that circle is tricky, but not impossible if your moral compass is calibrated right. You take option 1, save as many lives as possible, and brace for the consequences.
Bonus: If you want to know who is a) innumerate and b) ruled by greed, take note of who’s embracing option 2.

This is, once again, straight nonsense. First off, we have absolutely no reason, none, to think that this is going to be a “Spanish Flu style multi-wave plague”. I’m pretty sure not even the majority of the gloom-and-doomers think this.

…And that’s it. That’s really the only response needed. Nobody is embracing option 2 because they don’t care about deaths, or at least not most. They are because the vast majority of those deaths are probably not going to happen, and pretending they will is going to hurt people a lot more than what amounts to a bad flu season in certain areas.

Side note: Have you noticed how eerily this all matches to global warming predictions? Remember how the U.S.A.’s response wasn’t nearly strong enough and we were DOOOOOOMED. Remember that chart saying we would match Italy’s numbers if we didn’t DO SOMETHING, except apparently we didn’t do nearly enough? Remember how we didn’t even come close to matching the expected numbers anyway?

But be worried guys, it’s just two weeks away, TWO WEEKS, unless we DO SOMETHING. Or something like that, I dunno.

Let’s continue, however.

Side note: This wasn’t meant to be a fisk article, but Mr. Niemeier is a very good writer and he is articulating the consensus of a lot of people about as well as anybody could. So that makes it a useful article to respond to if I want to make my points.

Anyway, let’s move to the comments section. I wrote this:

I suggest you check out the blog of Dr. Briggs. Two weeks and evaluate to see if the impact is proportional to our actions is the 100% correct response.

This was Brian’s response:

I read Briggs back when Z-Man linked to him last week. Both he and you are falling for the heresy of proportionalism.

So what is that heresy? Let’s see:

In classical moral theology, the fonts of intention and moral object are not proportional; they do not tolerate any evil. But the third font of circumstances allows for a certain proportionalism, such that some bad consequences are tolerated if they are morally outweighed by the good consequences. The heresy of proportionalism occurs only when the other fonts of intention and/or moral object are considered to be proportional.

Quite a mouthful right there. Let’s try to break it down.

1. The intention is the intended end, or the end in view, or the goal or purpose for which the subject performs the act. The intention is a type of end chosen by the subject, the person who acts.

2. The font simply called ‘moral object’ is actually more complex: it consists of the objective act (what you have chosen to do) and its intrinsic ordering toward a proximate end, in terms of morality, called the moral object. In Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II called the objective act the ‘concrete act’ (what you have chosen to do). All knowingly chosen acts have an inherent moral meaning (an essential moral nature or moral ‘species’) that is determined by whether the chosen act is inherently ordered toward a good or evil proximate end (the moral object). And that is why intrinsically evil acts are called disordered acts; they are inherently ordered toward an evil end.

3. the circumstances of an act is evaluated based on the reasonably anticipated good and bad consequences according to their moral weight — evaluated in terms of the love of God and neighbor.

Let’s try to parse this out. Intention is the goal we are trying to achieve when we perform an act. The moral object is, essentially, whether or not the act is good or evil regardless of intent. And the circumstance is what we can reasonably conclude the consequences of the act will be, evaluated based on the principle of loving God and neighbor.

So we can say that the heresy of proportionalism is committed when one tolerates an evil goal (intention) or an evil action (moral object) when committing an act; occasionally we can tolerate evil consequences (circumstances) if we believe the good consequences will be greater.

So: Is Dr. Briggs committing the heresy of proportionalism when he says we are overreacting to the coronavirus and we shouldn’t shut down the economy to prevent the disease? Am I committing it when I agree with him?

Well, let’s see. What us our intention? To get the country running normally and not put millions of people out of work. So the intention is not evil.

What is the moral object? The moral object is lifting quarantines and other restrictions in areas where cases and deaths won’t occur at a rate higher than, say, a typical seasonal flu. Unless one were to say that letting the economy run normally in flu season is intrinsically immoral, you really can’t say the moral object is immoral. So the second condition necessary for the heresy does not exist.

And while deaths may possibly increase somewhat as a result of our actions the belief of Dr. Briggs and me is that putting millions of people back to work and allowing Churches, for example, among other things, to re-open is better for society than a massive shutdown over what amounts to a bad flu – that the long term effect on society of martial law lite is worse than the terrible and unfortunate deaths of people infected by the virus. In point of fact, most people would agree with me if it really was the equivalent of a bad flu season.

So nobody is committing the heresy of proportionalism. It is a non-starter and thus can be ignored.

Now, Mr. Niemeier has a background in theology, which is why we should take accusations of heresy by him quite seriously. Of course, I also have a background in Theology, so you should also take my responses seriously when you come to your own conclusions about our exchange.

Oh, but wait! A bunch of phones went offline in China. Why, I guess that must mean millions of people must have died – never mind that we aren’t remotely close to those sorts of numbers literally anywhere else in the world, Lombardy included.

Wash your hands. Don’t go inside restaurants. Wave instead of shake hands. Don’t sit too close to strangers, and wash up if you spent a few hours working in retail.

And also, relax.

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