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Monday, 30 March 2020

COVID-19: Viral Politics, Viral Economics, Viral Healthcare




In Some Decades, Nothing Happens; In Some Weeks, Decades Happen.
                                                                                              — Vladimir Lenin


Everywhere there is a mixture of growing apprehension, divergent opinions, and outright confusion and fear. If the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center’s interactive map is accurate, there are currently 716,101 cases of COVID-19 worldwide, 33,854 deaths and 149,071 recovered, as I write this on Sunday March 29th, a mortality rate of 4.7%.

I simply don’t believe it. The “true” number of infections, that includes asymptomatic carriers, will be much higher as testing rolls out. It is thought that as many as 50-75% of those infected with SARS-COV-2 are asymptomatic. Why do some people have no or mild symptoms and subsequently recover and others require ventilators as a matter of life and death? We need data, data, data.

Bill Gates and The Gates Foundation have been warning about a global pandemic for at least four years. The world’s greatest threat according to Gates and what has been keeping him up at night, was a global pandemic. The Institute of Disease Modelling predicted that a severe flu pandemic could kill more than 33 million people, world-wide, in just 250 days. The virus is in Africa, particularly in coastal areas, unsurprisingly, that are involved in the BRI. They are unprepared and will require a Marshall Plan to cope. Sadly, resources are stretched thin and help won’t likely be forthcoming. The continent will be on its own.

Conspiracy theories on the origins of COVID-19 are of course a very convenient and useful tool for the Chinese government, because they deflect attention from the fact the outbreak can easily be attributed to bad government. I find the idea that the virus originated in a Wuhan “wild food” or “wet” market to be compelling (see this documentary by 60 Minutes Australia, and this short piece by Vox), and this has direct consequences for perceptions of Chinese Communism. There are now over 300 papers on MedRXiv concerning the structure, nature, and origins of the virus. There is no evidence suggesting an artificial origin of any aspect of COVID-19. It is not a bio- weapon. Yet rumours and conspiracy theories persist… however, that’s not to suggest that it might not have escaped from the virology lab in Wuhan.

The consumption of “exotic” foods is itself a legacy of the Great Chinese Famine 1959–1961, after which the government permitted private farming but failed to prevent the monopoly by big companies of the rearing of conventional livestock. Poor farmers and peasants, priced out of the market, resorted in large numbers to the farming of wild animals. The government backed these initiatives because it prevented starvation and then in 1988 made the domestication and breeding of wild animals “legal.” The Chinese say of themselves that they'll "eat anything with wings except an airplane, and anything with four legs except a table."

Wildlife farming became an overnight industry. Bears, snakes, penguins, rats, lizards, and bats began to be mass-produced for human consumption, and sold in wet markets across the country. In these markets, multiple species, dead and alive, are stacked in cages, with the animals soaked in urine and excrement—each cage a petri dish for respiratory diseases, with the potential to jump to humans. When Westerners were exploring the world’s flora and fauna they were most concerned with appropriate classification. In China, they were more interested in how can we cook this?

Viral Politics


Progressives and liberals don’t want to blame China for their role in the unfolding catastophe. They want to blame Donald Trump. They try hard to downplay where the virus came from and how Chinese policies and customs allowed it to get out of hand. China’s response has mostly earned praise from journalists, in spite of the nation’s response being responsible for its global spread. Liberals and Progressives also seriously consider China’s conspiracy theories that the U.S. created the coronavirus. Social media platforms allow these theories to spread to millions while censoring anyone who claims it’s a Chinese bioweapon. China effectively pushes its narrative to the West. Chinese officials know the best way to persuade liberals is to cry racism. Judging by the way minorities are treated in China, that seems hypocritical.

Why would the left in the West shill for China? For a couple of reasons. One is that they hate the President so much that they will counter-signal any popular opinion from Republicans and the right. More ominous still, many admire China despite the massive IP theft; and China’s brand of predatory, unfair, mercantilist capitalism and their treatment of the Uighurs, Christians and the Tibetans. Rumours of industrial-scale human organ harvesting and trade are dismissed out-of-hand.

Many on both the right and the left see China as a necessary counter-weight to America. China offers an alternative to democratic liberalism. They are naïve. China is intent on not only redressing the century of humiliation but the establishment of a Sinocentric world order by 2049, the 100 year anniversary of the Glorious Revolution. The West and Canada will become nothing more than tributary states, like Jamestown to Great Britain. Made in China 2025, BRI and Huawei are game, set and match.

Criticizing China and the Communist Party, in particular, comes at a price. China announced last Tuesday it would expel the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post reporters over mildly critical coverage. A few weeks ago—before a trillion dollars in wealth was destroyed by the coronavirus panic and we learned the real disease was racism—everyone, including the New York Times, admitted that the virus was brought to Italy by two Chinese tourists.

Chinese tourists in Italy fighting racism.

As I write this, Congressional Republicans and Democrats continue to spar over a massive $2.0T new coronavirus relief package. This is in addition to the $4T of asset purchases. That’s $6T total. Expect that number to grow over the months to come. Keep in mind that they don’t have the money. They will have to borrow more from China. Canada intends to deploy $82B swelling the deficit to over $112 Billion dollars. We don’t have the money either. In our pathological altruism, Canada will spend millions to help “the world’s most desperate people” fight COVID-19 “because it is in the country’s long-term security interest as well as being the right thing to do,” says International Development Minister Karina Gould? Let’s keep the money at home and take a Canada First approach.

The Republicans have proposed:
  • Direct payments to the American people ($1.2K/person, $2.4K/couple, $500/child) in “helicopter drops”
  • $350B for small businesses 
  • $250B in unemployment insurance 
  • $100B for hospitals 
  • $4.5B for the CDC 
  • $11B for vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and other preparedness needs 
  • $5B for FEMA Disaster Relief Fund 
  • $1.7B for Strategic National Stockpile 
  • $12B for the military 
  • $20B for Veterans health care 
The Democrats, on the other hand, are clearly focused on using this crisis as a kind of payday for their various client groups, especially non-white minorities, and Leftist activist groups, and unions. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced her own emergency coronavirus stimulus bill last Monday, leading angry Republicans to argue that much of the proposal contained a progressive wish-list unrelated to the crisis including:
  • Resurrection of the notorious "Obamaphone" program-half price smart-phones for “low-income” earners.
  • Same-day voter registration 
  • Force federal agencies to explain to Congress how they are increasing their usage of "minority banks."
  • Publication of corporate pay statistics by race and race statistics for all corporate boards 
  • Expansive new tax credits for solar and wind energy 
  • $300,000,000 for non-resident refugees

Viral Economics


COVID-19 has thankfully accelerated discussions about the need to become more supply chain independent from China. Several multinational corporations with manufacturing based in China, having already considered diversifying their supply chains because of the U.S.-China “trade war,” are now likely to further and extend their plans. Apple, for example, intends to move some manufacturing of its products (including Air Pods and Apple Watches) to Taiwan.

In Washington, members of Congress have used the outbreak to call for scaling back U.S. reliance on China, especially for prescription drugs, medical supplies, and other resources considered to be critical to national security. Roughly 80% of base pharmaceutical ingredients (BPI) and 92% of antibiotics are made in China, a hostile global rival. Hopefully, the West will reject Huawei’s push to infect our telecom infrastructure. It’s surprising that “we” allowed Wall Street and Walmart to get away with off-shoring our manufacturing capacity. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t bring these high value-add facilities back on American soil or Canadian soil for that matter. Why make Taiwan or Vietnam great?



It’s estimated that seventy-two thousand factories and roughly 22 million jobs moved to China from the United States over the last 3 decades, leaving a wasteland of despair, alcohol and drug abuse, shorter life expectancy, plunging birth rates, soaring suicide rates and lives without dignity.

For what? A wage arbitrage trade from thirty dollars an hour with benefits and pensions to thirty cents a day, that’s what. Making billionaires out of a few at the expense of the rest of us. That looks short sighted in hindsight. We have turned a blind eye to China’s failure to abide by the rules of the WTO; the illegal militarization of the shoals in the South China Seas or what I prefer to call the North Philippine Sea, which are now bristling with SAM sites and 10,000 foot runways for nuclear bombers, effectively creating stationary aircraft carriers; the illegal subsidization of state-owned enterprises including strategic organizations like Huawei, the tip of the PLA spear (which stole IP from Northern Telecom and forced one of Canada’s biggest enterprises out of business and into insolvency); the use of slave labour and recycling of their crony-capitalist cash through our real-estate markets; so much so that our children are forced out of their own markets and prices completely disconnected from local economies.

Before this is over, Canada should close the birth tourism/anchor baby industry serving the Motherland in the Lower Mainland, cancel their Passports and ban all Confucian Institutes. Let’s also close down the 7 new Visa centres that Mr. Hussen opened across China. We don’t need any more Chinese people to prosper. In addition to over-capacity and deflation, China is now exporting global pandemics on a fairly regular basis. They are predictable and therefore preventable. The West should demand reparations and debt forgiveness.

Viral Healthcare


The outbreak of COVID-19 is projected to test Western healthcare provision to the limit. It’s been particularly interesting that the outbreak in Italy has effectively led to systemic failure and broke the health system in Lombardy, widely regarded as one of the best in the world. Before the outbreak, it was remarked that:
The Lombardy healthcare system, characterised by quality and efficiency, is a model of reference both in Italy and worldwide…Lombardy has 56 University Departments of Medicine, 19 IRCCS (IRCCS means an institution devoted to excellence in clinical care and research) which represent 42% of the national total, 47 Institutes and 32 Research Centres. As a result, Lombardy and in particular Milan have always attracted the most renowned physicians in every field of expertise.
As far back as 2003, a Library of Congress report cited Lombardy as having the highest concentration of Chinese immigrants in Italy. Our media refuses to tell us this fact today—or any day. It appears that there are roughly 300,000 Chinese Nationals working in the leather, garment, textile and fashion industries in the region. Lombardy is quickly learning that there is nothing more expensive than cheap Chinese labour.

Director-General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is the leader of Ethiopia’s Maoist Party. I am of the view that he postponed the declaration of a “pandemic” for more than 40 days, under pressure by the Chinese Communist Party. Similarly, the rebranding from Wuhan flu to COVID 19 wasn’t a coincidence. There is a considerable movement, led by the World Health Organization, to stop naming diseases and pathogens in general, after places, and to re-name those that have customarily been so named.

We’re working with poor quality and quantity of data, from which all kinds of contradictory things can be deduced. There doesn't seem to be any international standards for data reporting, either. Germany's reporting a mortality rate of 0.3 percent. Italy's reporting 7.9 percent? And 70% of Italian victims are men?

And what, by the way, is the rate of false positives? Here are few other questions I have:
  • How exactly does the virus spread?
  • How can the contagion be slowed down other than by social distancing?
  • What is the share of asymptomatic carriers?
  • Are they contagious? How much?
  • What are potentially treatments while we wait for a vaccine?
  • How about Hydroxychloroquine that the President supports and has been vilified for?
  • How long does it survive?
  • On what surfaces?
  • Can those “recovered” get back to work and when? 
  • How do we test for those antibodies quickly and efficiently?
  • Will we all have to wear masks in public spaces as they do in some Asians cities?
  • How do different social distancing measures impact the transmission rate?
  • What’s their cost?
  • What are the key comorbidities?
  • What are tracing best practices-and how Orwellian?
  • How reliable are our tests?
The whole area of testing for the virus is an embarrassment. The CDC and the FDA, given the task of creating and distributing tests, failed. They disagreed on a multi-test versus a single-test and in the end, it cost them 3 critical weeks. That is bureaucratic bungling at best and at worst, incompetence. No sense in pointing fingers now but heads will roll. South Korea tests ten to twenty thousand people a day; the U.S.A. was testing two thousand on a good day. The government of Taiwan attempted to warn the U.N led WHO of the deadly potential as far back as December 2019, but Ghebreyesus failed to share Taiwan’s findings with the rest of the world.

Michelle Malkin notes that the U.S. Center for Disease Control is a bloated federal government agency with a long history of incompetence, fraud, secrecy, mission creep and shady alliances with both social justice causes on the left and private corporations on the Big Business right.

At nearly $7 billion, notes Malkin, the CDC's annual budget is more than 200% larger than it was two decades ago. In 2007, Sen. Tom Coburn's fiscal audit of the agency discovered vulgar expenditures including CDC syphilis prevention funds spent to host a "safe-sex" event with a porn star, CDC HIV/AIDS prevention funds spent on a transgender beauty pageant, and $45 million in CDC funding spent on conferences featuring prostitutes, protests and beach parties.

Despite the flood of money, the agency been caught flat-footed on outbreak after outbreak. They squander untold millions on other health threats in favor of pushing gun control and nanny state hobby horses (TV violence, helmet laws, video games, anti-bullying campaigns and explicit sex education, for example). The CDC has one primary job—Disease Control—but has managed to botch it without ever learning from past failures. 



I don’t want to make light of what is a very serious situation but this was the choice our political leaders faced: Drive the economy off a cliff or “geezers on gurneys.” Either do a full-court press on social distancing, or face scenes of hospital parking lots and school gymnasiums filled with hundreds of geezers on gurneys, coughing their lives away because we don't have the staff or equipment to help them. We stand on the shoulders of those geezers and it would be unconscionable not to do anything and everything possible.

Given the likelihood of that appalling spectacle, you can't blame them for what they are doing. Will it prove in the end to have been unnecessary? Will we have destroyed our economies for nothing? Possibly, but if we do, the massive stimulus will re-ignite it quickly and from cabin fever will emerge a remarkable recovery. The underlying data is, questionable although there is clearly an exponential rate of growth in the number of new cases. Case, case, case. Cluster, cluster, cluster. BOOM!

According to the dire estimates of the Imperial College of London—whose assessment I am following—excepting those with underlying medical conditions, the new coronavirus is far less deadly than the seasonal flu to anyone under 60 years old. It’s no worse than the 2017-18 flu season for those in their 60s. But it's five to 10 times deadlier than the regular flu for those in their 70s and 80s, respectively?!

A Novel Hypothesis


There is another important development in the story that is worth noting. It appears that people who are being hospitalized and who are likely to “crump” are much more likely to be those who have co-infections with COVID and influenza, particularly if they have no comorbidities or are not old. This may explain why Italy, which basically does not vaccinate the elderly, is getting hammered. France may be worse and is seeing significant numbers of younger patients being hospitalized.

In the US and Canada, we vaccinate the elderly first and foremost, the young (6-17yrs.) second, then 50-65 yrs. The lowest rates of flu shots are for people from 18-49 (roughly only 25-30 percent of people). Coronavirus just might be permitting “opportunistic” infections to get us. There is a case report from China of co-infection that shows that these patients experience severe symptoms and require ventilators as a proof of concept. In the bureaucratic bungling and false positive problems with the test kits, CDC and WHO, at least in America, as mentioned earlier, have opted for a single COVID 19 test. That may prove to be a critical mistake.

This hypothesis can be quickly testable using big data analytics on large databases of patients, such as Kaiser-Permanente’s. I’m not sure if there are there any legal or regulatory roadblocks.

Among all the unknowns possibly the most important is what happens in the Fall? H1N1 developed a second, more severe leg of infection after going dormant in the summer. If we can get a handle on things these over next few weeks, and the warmer weather causes the virus to quiesce, although that too, is a stretch, with maybe just a mild resurgence in the Fall, we'll be able to ride out the economic consequences and get the economy back on track in a year or two, as we did after the 2008 meltdown.

Viral Capital Markets


Just days ago, JPMorgan projected that a recession will hit the US and European economies and by extension Canada, by July, with US GDP to shrink by 2% in the first quarter and 3% in the second, and Eurozone GDP to contract by 1.8% and 3.3% over the same periods. Other estimates are emerging that suggest contraction will be far deeper than that. Sudden cessation of economic activity through quarantines, event cancellations, social distancing, and the almost complete shutdown of the tourist industry will have both immediate and longer-term consequences for national economies. Many commentators have been using the “D” word. These same commentators are also suggesting that Crude Oil could go negative. Surely, we’re close to peak pessimism.

It’s easy to argue that this is potentially worse than the 2008-09 credit crisis. That bear market dropped roughly 54% from top to bottom. As a counter point, however, there are different “types” of bear markets. 1) A “Structural Bear”- where there are structural imbalances in economies such as financial bubbles and a subsequent deflation. 2) Another type of bear market is “Cyclical.” A cyclical bear market would be caused by rising interest rates leading to a recession and lower profits. 3) The current bear market is described as “Event Driven” where there is an exogenous shock to the system often described as a “Black Swan.” Historically, going back to the twin depressions in the mid-19th Century, “Event Driven” bear markets find a bottom, on average, within 6 months; and typically drop 30%. Cyclical bear markets can take 2 years to bottom and Structural Bear markets, 4 years. On Friday March 20th, 2020, the Dow had dropped 32.7% from it’s high on February 21st. On the following Monday morning it was down roughly 35%.

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