Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 06, 2020

"There Is No Glory In Prevention."

When the threat of a Covid-19 epidemic emerged the infectious disease epidemiologists began to build their mathematical models to predict how it would develop. They had to work with low quality data mostly from China and later from Italy. The main parameters where the replication rate R of the disease and the percentage of severe cases. Using the available numbers they predicted a high peak of serious cases that would overwhelm the health care system.

Their next step was to look at non-pharmaceutical measures that they hoped would lower the peak of cases. Some of these were less controversial than others. Closing cinemas and bars is a bit inconvenient but can be done without much protest. Closing down public traffic or schools is more controversial as the effects on the public and personal lives are way more serious.

We have little experience in taking such measures. The model builders do not know how much each of those restrictions will contribute to the lowering of the peak. They have to estimate those parameters. Until this month it was not even clear if children could get infected or were infectious. Arguing for closing schools without knowing that is quite difficult.

Clinical epidemiologists, who mostly work on randomized trials which produce hard data, are often critical of the model builders. They dislike the many assumptions that go into modeling and demand more hard data. Stanford's professor John Ioannidis, who ran the Santa Clara antibody study, is one of them. He is somewhat right. All models are wrong, but some are useful. A recent Boston Review piece looks at the differences between the two tribes of epidemiologists. It finds that we need both.

When the politicians take measures they are only in part based on the predictions the modelers made. They also have to look at economic outcomes, at other security issues and they have to take public opinion into account. Quite strict measures were taken in many western countries. They worked well in some of them. Germany has hardly any 'excess deaths' from Covid-19. Other countries, like Britain, acted too late or not to a sufficient degree and had to pay the price for that.

As the epidemic now starts to recede a bit there is quite a lot of criticism of the lockdown in Germany.  'The models were wrong,' some people claim. 'The lockdown measures were unnecessary.' This is followed by demands for the immediate lifting of most restrictions.

"There is no glory in prevention" is the frustrating aspect in the life of an epidemiologist. If they do their job too well everyone will bash them.

A month ago Max Abrams saw this development coming and commented:

  1. Models make assumption of how much people will social distance.
  2. Based on this assumption model predicts virus cases.
  3. More social distancing is practiced than assumed.
  4. Model over-predicts virus cases.
  5. Idiots say models are wrong so we don't need social distance.

Others point to Sweden and claim that its decision to let the epidemic burn without much intervention was a much better way than to go for lockdowns. But the evidence for that isn't there. The numbers show a different picture:

Barry Ritholtz @ritholtz - 18:03 UTC · May 3, 2020

Sweden’s Coronavirus death rate > its neighbors

Total Cases: 22,317
Per /1m Pop: 2,210
Deaths: 2,679
Recovered: 1,005

Cases: 9,523
/1m: 1,644
Deaths: 484
Recovered: 6,987

Cases: 7,809
/1m: 1,440
Deaths: 211
Recovered: 32

Sweden in fact had the very same problems with its medical systems that some other countries also had. It had to ration ICU beds by denying them to people above a certain age. Its economy was hit as bad as other ones:

The effect of virus-fighting efforts on the Swedish economy has been devastating. A very large number of small businesses have collapsed. All but essential industries closed down almost immediately and many face bankruptcy. People have been told to refrain from all non-essential travel. Virtually all air travel has been suspended. Unemployment figures are soaring. The opposition parties deem government counter-measures to be too little too late.
Contrary to impressions created in American media, Sweden’s approach to handling the pandemic has not been “relaxed,” but essentially the same as in other Western countries. This country of 10 million has been at least as preoccupied with the pandemic as other countries. Whether its approach has been as efficient remains to be seen. What may stand out as exceptional in the end is Sweden’s glaring lack of preparedness for a pandemic, especially for protecting its elderly, and that the dead are disproportionately recent immigrants.

While Sweden may not have ordered everyone into a total lockdown the people have largely done that by themselves simply out fo fear.

As a comment by one Richard England here (May 6, 2020 at 3:40am) describes that effect:

There are two kinds of lock-down, lock-down by fiat and lock-down by fear (or for that matter, self-preservation). The importance of lock-down by fear explains why Sweden has not done as badly as would be expected. Both forms of lock-down are economically destructive. Lock-down by fiat is usually either too slow or too incomplete to be much different from lock-down by fear, and both are more than enough to knock over a weak economy. Fear dissipates, and the economic life resumes more quickly where the disease has been essentially eliminated.

The effect is also captured in this graph by the German equivalent to the CDC, the Robert Koch Institute. It shows the replication factor R of the epidemic in Germany and three points in time where official lockdown measures were taken.


The replication factor of the disease in Germany was already decreasing in mid March before the more severe measures were ordered. R was below 1 even before March 23 when the government ordered the lockdown.

The simple reason for that is the people heard the news and watched TV. The pictures and death numbers from Italy in late February were quite brutal. When herd animals sense that an epidemic is taken place within their herd they distance themselves from each other. Humans behave similarly. As in Sweden many people in Germany went into some kind of lockdown and practiced social distancing even before it was ordered.

Some now claim that the RKI graph shows that the measures were not necessary. They are wrong. The data was not known when the measures were taken. The first of the simulations shown in the graph was done on April 1. In late March the R seemed to go again above 1 which meant that the epidemic was again expanding. Only the lockdown measures taken on March 23 pressed R below 1 and led to a slow decrease of new daily cases.

Germany is now slowly coming out of its lockdown. The U.S. is doing this too but at a point of the epidemic where it is way too early. There are economic reasons to do so but the early lifting of lockdown measures will likely cost the U.S. many human lives.

Fear will help to overrule that overhasty political decision. The news will continue to report new mass outbreaks in this or that part of the country. The fear will therefore also continue and the people will keep distancing themselves from each other.  How much that will help to slow down the epidemic is difficult to estimate. 

There is now some evidence that the summer will bring some relief from the onslaught of bad news. A study with data from 166 countries and published in Science of The Total Environment finds:

A 1 °C increase in temperature was associated with a 3.08% (95% CI: 1.53%, 4.63%) reduction in daily new cases and a 1.19% (95% CI: 0.44%, 1.95%) reduction in daily new deaths, whereas a 1% increase in relative humidity was associated with a 0.85% (95% CI: 0.51%, 1.19%) reduction in daily new cases and a 0.51% (95% CI: 0.34%, 0.67%) reduction in daily new deaths. The results remained robust when different lag structures and the sensitivity analysis were used. These findings provide preliminary evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic may be partially suppressed with temperature and humidity increases. However, active measures must be taken to control the source of infection, block transmission and prevent further spread of COVID-19.

A hot and wet summer is likely to lower the number of new Covid-19 cases. But after the summer come fall and winter during which we are likely to see a new peak. The fear will be back, social distances will again be practiced and the economic damage will further increase.

We had the chance to do things differently. China gave us time to take the right measures. It has, like Hong Kong, Vietnam, South Korea and New Zealand, practically eradicated the disease within its borders. It now has an advantage that will be difficult to beat.

Posted by b on May 6, 2020 at 18:57 UTC | Permalink

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Grieved @ 184 and fm @ 202

This would seem to imply that the virus was spread more inadvertently by the US military.

China turned out to be the clear winner by showing how to responsibly deal with this sort of threat.

Posted by: financial matters | May 8 2020 13:32 utc | 201

Walter @201

Agreed that "will" isn't a driver for revolution, but neither is necessity. Changing the social order because it seems that there is no other option is what leads to the opposite of revolution: reaction.

Revolution is driven by optimism. The belief that "We can run this shit-show better than them dumb assholes!" Revolution is a deliberate and conscious process, not a frightened and desperate mindless mob lashing out at perceived dangers in the shadows. Desperation and reaction are what lead to fascism, where the frightened cling to the strongmen and alpha dogs in the hopes for protection and relief from their suffering. Revolution is when the Joe Bloes of a society all step forward with the conviction to "Git `er done!"

This isn't to say that revolution cannot arise from desperate circumstances. After the February Revolution in Russia things seriously fell apart and the new bosses of the Kerensky government couldn't even keep the lights on. Through that year working people started running their workplaces even though their bosses didn't show up. They got the lights back on and the streetcars running and the grocery stores stocked. That gave the working people the confidence and optimism to conclude "To hell with the bosses! We don't need them!" and that led directly to the October Revolution.

Just to be clear, Russia's February Revolution itself arose from confidence as well, but it was the capitalist class that felt it could do a better job than the old feudal aristocracy.

Just because revolutions sometimes involve torches and pitchforks doesn't put them in the same category as mindless mob reaction. The surface similarities observed in a casual glance do not hold up for the internal dynamics of the two different processes.

Posted by: William Gruff | May 8 2020 14:02 utc | 202


Put https before this link.

Still more info about (not only) french athlete at Wuhan Games,falling ill with covid-like disease.

From another source it seems that the american participants did not win a single medal,very unusual.

Posted by: willie | May 8 2020 14:09 utc | 203

It is difficult to believe, whatever one's readings of past revolutions might be, that the current crisis, which in the United States has become the responsibility of a ruling class which is either the most callous or the most stupid in history, will not lead to a social crisis in the very near future.

"US government figures to be released today are expected to show mass unemployment in April unlike anything seen since the Great Depression. In numbers released Wednesday, ADP Research said that US payrolls in April fell by an astounding 20,236,000, a number far larger than anything ever previously recorded.

"Looked at another way, the number of jobs lost so far is equal to the total combined workforce of 25 US states. It is 41 times worse than the 533,000 jobs lost in November 2008 at the time of the last economic crash.

"The reality is even worse, since the official jobs figures for April are based on the state of the economy in the middle of the month. According to a report in Forbes Thursday, “The country is now at 40.6 million unemployed, or 24.9% of the work force. That matches the annual worst year of the Great Depression without considering how many have been unable to file.”

"The economic catastrophe is being compounded by the continued refusal of the US government to marshal aid for the unemployed. After handing out trillions to the banks, the ruling class, spearheaded by the Trump administration, is seeking to use social distress as a weapon in its campaign to break down public opposition to the reopening of the economy even as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

"Many workers, already struggling in the low wage economy and living paycheck to paycheck, have been left essentially penniless as overburdened and antiquated state unemployment systems have failed to pay out timely benefits.

"Meanwhile, a shocking report by the Hamilton Project found that 20 percent of households and over 40 percent of US mothers with children under the age of 13 are experiencing food insecurity.

"The death toll in the US is set to exceed 75,000 as the pandemic spreads into more rural areas of the country, many beset by poverty, with older populations and lacking adequate health care infrastructure. A number of states set to relax or eliminate social distancing measures are in precisely those areas where new cases are rising fastest, such as Mississippi, Nebraska and Georgia.

"Last week there were an additional 3.2 million new applications for unemployment assistance, bringing to 33 million the number of people who have filed since the outbreak of the pandemic.

"These numbers are a serious underestimation. The Economic Policy Institute reported that it found that for every 100 workers able to successfully apply for unemployment benefits, there are another 37 that had tried to file but could not get through the system...."

So far as revolution is concerned, the key factor in turning discontent and anger into revolution is the reaction of the ruling class. When it is as arrogant and error prone as the regime in DC (and its predecessors for at least the past 50 years) has shown itself to be , there is a very good chance of a general conflagration.

Posted by: bevin | May 8 2020 14:18 utc | 204

This is even more astounding!Athletes from Luxemburg present in Wuhan,giving details,like having a temperature scan,on arrival in Wuhan!
They say it looked like if they were isolated from the beginning,and that urban space around them was at standstill already.Forbidden to eat outside the sports village.

This enforces my take that the chinese knew exactly that there would be a bio-attack,after so many animal and human viral outbreaks over the years,and that this time they slamdunked the ball back to where it came from.

It's in french again,but comes from Luxemburg.//

please put https / before the link.

Posted by: willie | May 8 2020 14:33 utc | 205

"There Is No Profit In Prevention." ... there fixed the headline. Thanks for the great work B!

Posted by: Trisha | May 8 2020 14:38 utc | 206

William Gruff | May 8 2020 14:02 utc | 204 (rev)

Those are interesting ideas, Friend. But we have a semantic or assumption disconnect, I think.

"Necessity" is a big tent. My idea is that your "optimism" is created by necessity.

"Necessity", I define, as "when life cannot continue as before, then it continues differently." Yes, that probably encompasses fascist revolution as well as the better kind. Indeed, it seems that "necessity" creates both kinds in juxtaposition - something we see, I think, today.

I want to think more about your #204. Perhaps later...

Posted by: Walter | May 8 2020 14:58 utc | 207

@Lurk #161
You keep trying to push the meme that pigs cannot have been a source for COVID-19/nCOV migration into humans by pointing to studies saying nCOV doesn't easily infect pigs.
The problems with this statement include:
1) nCOV isn't the same disease as came from bats, or pigs, or whatever. The original bat coronavirus doesn't easily infect humans or pigs either.

2) The tests again are not conducted on pigs in true "field" conditions. It is well documented that the immune responses for farm animals is compromised by their living conditions - one reason why the animal husbandry industry uses so much antibiotics.
You still fail to address this discrepancy; all the nice clean lab tests in the world aren't going to, either.

There is also the reality that the pig population does turn over rapidly. At a generation every 5-6 months - plus the swine flu - it is more than possible that there have been population level genetic changes.

Nor am I changing my tune in any way. I've never said that pigs must be the way - what I've said is that pigs are a logical and promising path because of the huge scale of population and proximity to humans. I didn't come up with this - Rob Wallace is who I have seen first talk about it. Is a disease coming up through 100 million pigs in China more or less likely than a pangolin-borne disease? Or that a single lab in Wuhan discovered an infection path which nobody in the world had any idea existed?

Nor have I been switching from mutations to clades; I am the first one in this discussion to specifically call out a need to be clear.

Your comments have been vague as to clade or outright mutation; it is only with your latest posting that you now appear to be talking about clades.

each SARS-COV-2 protein is coded for by on average 1000 codons. Changing the expression of one protein into a different, but still functional and virulent protein generally takes more than one RNA base mutation.

As I understand it, an RNA can have 48 bases to code a protein = far less than 1000 RNA letters - please provide a link showing the protein coding lengths in the nCOV virus.

I do know that 64 codons produce only 20 amino acids, so variations which are codon different can be functionally identical.

This is irrelevant because the original point was simply that mutations are extremely rapid in a single strand RNA virus. The purpose of the codon overlap is certainly to help smooth over "minor" mutations, but they're mutations still.

The Iceland data backs this up with 528 variants appearing in only 1800 people.
So yet again, I am still awaiting illumination as to why
1) nCOV could not have mutated twice, or 6 times in order to achieve its present state given its documented variability
2) that nCOV could not be present in an intermediate species such as pigs

Posted by: c1ue | May 8 2020 16:04 utc | 208

@fairleft #184
You have completely missed the point.
The point is simple: there have not been any large scale, correctly architected and administered trials for chloroquine and/or hydroxychloroquine and/or azithromycin and/or zinc, at whatever stage.

The hyperbole being pushed on both sides (for and against) these drugs is actually damaging the capability to hold such studies - and the hyperbole is unwarranted on both sides in the absence of such data.

Posted by: c1ue | May 8 2020 16:07 utc | 209

@Lurk #161
A biolab has to have animal subjects to test.
How many animal subjects would be needed to test the likely number of variations to find a hitherto unknown infection vector?
How much time would it take to develop each variant, infect a monkey and observe the results?

You seem to think the CRISPR or whatever tech being used is magic - it is not. As I've noted before, even a single codon sickle cell anemia "fix" using CRISPR took 4 years to develop - and they already know 100% exactly what needed to be done.

Posted by: c1ue | May 8 2020 16:10 utc | 210

France reports an apparent community transmission case in December 2019

One sample taken from a 42-year-old unemployed male born in Algeria who had lived in France for many years was positive. His last foreign travel was to Algeria in August 2019. One of his children presented with ILI prior to the onset of his symptoms. His medical history included asthma and type II diabetes mellitus. He presented to the emergency ward on 27 December 2019 with haemoptysis, cough, chest pain, headache and fever, evolving for 4 days. Initial examination was unremarkable and chest computed tomography (CT) imaging revealed bilateral pulmonary ground-glass opacities in the inferior lobes


At admission, the patient had lymphopenia and elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) and fibrinogen, whilst the procalcitonin level was in the normal range. No pathogen was identified in sputum sample collected in the emergency ward. The patient was admitted to the ICU where he received antibiotic therapy and his clinical evolution was favourable until discharge on 29 December 2019.

Posted by: c1ue | May 8 2020 16:15 utc | 211

@215 FSD

Your link to the Chris Cook article is broken, but here is a working link:
The Shape of Things to Come

Interesting to read the view from Tehran. The Cook article looks very good but I'm only the first few paragraphs in yet. I would like to know the position of oil in this financial and economic crash - you seem to understand this, so please keep commenting, and Cook seems about to explain it to me in this article. Many thanks.


It begins to appear that there have been many moving parts in the scenario whose current edge is all we glimpse on the surface at this time. Oil, gold, banks, central banks, geo-strategic military relocations and even now a pandemic created by a new virus.

So as we piece together the data points of virology and the possible timelines and geographical spreads, we should also piece together the financial data. They seem to interconnect.


And again, this raises to my mind the question of how far into the future does insider financial intelligence actually reach (it seems at least 18 months), and how connected to the players moving the pieces on the board is it?

Posted by: Grieved | May 8 2020 18:23 utc | 212

FSD @215--

An interesting bundle you've provided. But I came to inform about the very loud and open advocacy for China to adopt more nukes to deter the Outlaw US Empire. Here are the main items, RT article distilling this editorial which is supported by this companion editorial.

On Boom Bust today, are we being misled:

"Boom Bust talks to former Federal Reserve insider Danielle DiMartino Booth about what all that means for the future.

"'We’re starting to see the actual numbers come out. It’s no longer $25 trillion of debt in theory…' she said. 'This is reality, folks. The Treasury will have to borrow a lot of money, and it’s a unique time when the stock market and the bond market are serving up such desperate views on the outlook for the US economy.'"

But, just why is there any real need for the US Treasury to borrow when it's the Fed that's printing as fast as it can and providing those funds to the wrong actors?

Grieved was correct to look at mid-2019 as the starting point for the current behavior. But as I see the Big Picture, the musical accompaniment began in 1970, and has become louder ever since.

Posted by: karlof1 | May 8 2020 18:32 utc | 213

Good thing we read FSD's comment before it vanished!!!!!!!!

Grieved @214--

The late Mike Ruppert had the CIA/Wall Street connection pegged back in the 1990s and wrote about them at his copvcia blog. The players involved suggest the connection goes back to before WW2 and that the Big Money picture's every bit as manipulated as BigLie Media's--they all colluded in laundering drug money from the OSS's Golden Triangle days during the War and escalated from there. Mike estimated it at $500 Billion at the "Crack Epidemic" peak in the 1980s. And just as the Mafia, the laundered funds were used to buy legitimate businesses besides financing further Black Ops, which is how the mining of the WTC was financed. Mike wrote Crossing the Rubicon, but after we chatted a few times, he admitted that was done much earlier. I still don't believe he killed himself; despite being almost totally marginalized, he knew way too much. I wish I'd spent more time with him.

These are Dark Times; but when we look at the Big Picture, it's hard to see when the sky was genuinely blue, serene, and filled with promise. But as Mike said, it's better to be outside the Dark Shroud than captured within.

Posted by: karlof1 | May 8 2020 18:53 utc | 214

a full copy of McCoy's "politics of heroin in southerst asia" is revieed at wiki and elsewhere and a full copy in pdf is free from the see eye eh?

I read Rupert. "White Lie" is also interesting.

At the essence, they say, big business, organized crime, and government are indistinguishable.

I might quibble, they themselves differentiate...but from our point of view...

Posted by: Walter | May 8 2020 20:35 utc | 215

oops. my bad. see eye eh has only a short memo.

Posted by: Walter | May 8 2020 20:37 utc | 216

karlof1 #134

Thank you for that link to the Pepe Escobar post on the origins of Covid-19. I will digest that and other posts here to see what the drift is.

Posted by: uncle tungsten | May 9 2020 0:46 utc | 217

William Gruff #130

Thank you Willian Gruff: finely stated analysis. Death to trolls - feed them not - If you must offer them anything then SILENCE!~

Posted by: uncle tungsten | May 9 2020 1:33 utc | 218

@216 karlof1

Noted. And your focus on the bigger picture.

When was the sky ever really blue? Maybe in the future. Seriously, it occurs to me that the people of the future - who if they live at all will live in a socialist world - will deserve and be grateful to know the truth of the past.

If all we can do at present is to keep digging and cleaning the picture of this reality, and help pass that along to the future, rather than let the managers of this day cover the record over with lies, that will be something.

I've never thought it true that we didn't struggle, or that we aren't struggling, or that we won't struggle. But if all that this produces is a blockchain record of what we came to see as the truth we'd been shielded from by our lifetime of propaganda, well, that may save future generations some digging.

It's at least a legacy of the dimension of the imperative that stares us all in the face forever if we the people are ever going to live a decent life here on this planet.

It's a valuable thing to be doing, to uncover the darkness and flood it with light, and this is reason reason enough for good-heartedness, I think.

Posted by: Grieved | May 9 2020 1:39 utc | 219

Walter #217

Thank you for the Alfred McCoy reference. Old memories. I met the lad when he was moving about and completing his opus on the Golden Triangle. There were many references, names exchanged and tales told over meals and drinks on a few occasions. He is a great writer and risk taker.
Yes, from our point of view they are all one and they are not friendlies.

Posted by: uncle tungsten | May 9 2020 5:33 utc | 220

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