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More Covid Thoughts - Page 3
Here it is April 29.  I spent yesterday applying my age old 'Al Howard' approach and pumped investment into the family medicare system, as in planting into compost loaded soil such that we will have fresh radishes on the table in short order!  Just great having a small greenhouse a few foot steps from the back door of the house! And there are lots of other garden plants getting started at the same time as the radishes. So simple a tactic and such an ignored principle. And once you lock onto the habit, you marvel at its lack of popularity. Simple things, once you are into them are so relaxing, fulfilling, and fun! And the viral test that everyone is experiencing, I am quite confident, will illustrate how forward thinking and preemptive action pays off.
Meanwhile, the morning news indicates that the worldwide efforts to keep people safe in the short run have rather significant side effects.
Let's have a look at the morning Worldometers data.
Seasonal flu is hanging in there.  Covid is well behind suicides and I do wonder if the suicide figure shown is lagging, given the unusual circumstances that are boosting stress on everyone. We know a fiend who is involved with a crisis center and it seems that action is on the up in that department.
Stats from different countries are interesting. What they tell us may not be clear until the dust settles. Note the death rate per million population.  If Covid killed one tenth of a percent of a population, we are talking 1000 fatalities. Spain is at 510. Amazingly, China is at 3 - seems hard to believe. I have my eye on the Swedish count of 244 which is fairly high, though less than the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, France, and Italy. What will things look like in a week or two weeks.  And what will the economic scene look like in various countries, and the world as a whole, in a week or two weeks? And who is dying and why? Are those struck down randomly taken or is there cause and effect in play?  And do authorities and researchers even care?

Yesterday, BBC posted a 10 minute investigative report on Sweden under their Future heading. Much of the material for an earlier article (see on Page 1) was collected at the same time by reporter, Gabriel Gatehouse.
The video is a great mind stimulator.  It has a type of objectivity but I do wonder if the effort to 'be objective' is to give credibility to the ultimate effort to knife the Swedes in the back. The report ends with playing on the word "hunch" that was milked out of a short clip of a mature and experienced supporter of the Swedish policies. The final signoff is " For now, it does feel like a big gamble." The 'safe strategy' that is in effect promoted by the reporter is to do exactly what just about everyone else is doing.

So for all of us who are in two places at once - on the sidelines as well as being in the storm - we can eye the presentation that pits two different mindsets against each other and we can bet on the winner. It is a game, as individuals, we can't lose. We will all have to eat reality but before the outcome is determined, thinking about the issues will provide us with a fabulous education. Is the mass mindset correct or are the Swedes correct.  And if the outliers win, why?  How did they see their way through the panic, if indeed there has been a panic?  

The first part of the video is a glowing coverage of the dreamland that appears to exist in Sweden vs the social disaster zones that are everywhere else in the world. Parks and cafes are full of happy people.  Fear does not seem to be on every face. Happy children go to school. The economy is running. The reporter talks about 'Trust' that is promoted by the government and a 75% approval rating by the people with regard to government policy.
Then the reporter shifts gears.  Johan Giesecke, who at one time was the chief scientist with the European Center for Disease Prevention but is simply listed as an advisor to the Swedish Government gets a short air time and I feel is cast as a bit slow vs the knowledgable reporter.  He is the man who is pictured as running on a 'hunch' and little more.
The interview with Dr. Anders Tegnell has been used in an earlier BBC presentation. One amusing incident, that I have partially caught in a screen capture, is where Anders grimaces as he is listening to the reporter frame his next question.  I wonder if he has dealt with enough reporters and has been grilled enough times that he knows what is coming and is thinking "Not again!"
Lena Hallengren, the Swedish Health Minister, is presented in the selected moments of her exposure as being a bit indecisive - certainly she is put on the defence.  She gets no praise for being involved with a carefully thought out approach that is geared to minimize the impact of a real disease issue that must be confronted.
Then the reporter quotes a doctor who does not want to be named who accuses the government of "gambling with the people's lives and gambling with the lives of those who are trying to save lives'.  Irresponsible gambling with the welfare of others is a major push of the reporter's presentation.  And one can only move towards feeling that the beautiful opening scenes are simply of ignorant and pathologically dangerous folk wallowing in a temporary fools paradise.

Next we travel into the country where a virologist, Lena Einhorn, is self isolating. She positions herself on a boat pier where a microphone has been placed and Gabriel talks to her from 30 feet away.  It is a beautiful scene with lake and sky and peace, and a perfect image of virtuous appreciation of the importance of social distancing.
Lena Einhorn then points out how she feels that drugs to treat Covid and save lives are just a short time away and that it is folly to not institute a lockdown so that time can be gained for reseachers to achieve breakthroughs. Gabriel does not grill her as to whether her optimism is a hunch or a certainty. Nor does he grill her on whether she feels her enthusiasm for a lockdown will have major side effects that might ultimately kill far more people than she is trying to save in the short run. Is her approach not a gamble with lives while the actual government action is? The reporter does not seem to be worried about this possibility.

The pattern likely changes constantly but when I viewed the Reel video, it was immediately followed by a short video explaining 'herd immunity' and how it is vital, to protect the weak in society. The solution being that everyone needs to be vaccinated. I am sure that Lena Einhorn would endorse this thinking.  I am not sure why the clash exists where WHO and also Canada's top doctor, Dr.Tam, are negative, temporarily at least, on the value of herd immunity in the case of Covid. And where do these folks stand on the view that major parts of Sweden are nearing herd immunity via an immediate approach?
So, another day in the ongoing drama! Lots of debate and chaos on many fronts. Lately, a week seems like a year.  Eye the Reel video and call a winner in the debate and then sit for a bit while the 'Reality Jury' comes up with a verdict.  This is a REAL Reality Show!
So, another day in the ongoing drama! Lots of debate and chaos on many fronts. Lately, a week seems like a year.  Eye the Reel video and call a winner in the debate and then sit for a bit while the 'Reality Jury' comes up with a verdict.  This is a REAL Reality Show!
I stumbled across a click trap on 'hygiene' in the Wild West and went for it.  And I was glad that I did.  The link is available via the hit button below.
Medical science often claims to have boosted life spans and ended disease and death issues, but thinking about how times have changed makes one realize that the advances are more complex than that narrow bit of back slapping. Even things like soap and toilet paper availability are linked to economics and specialization and human and business interconnection. Where do you get water purification equipment or septic systems or bathtubs or shower fixtures in a fledgling society with very little economic development? Food production and distribution is no simple matter as early pioneers likely realized more than people today, who usually take these things for granted. The economy is a siamese twin to humans and in the enthusiasm for lockdowns, leaders should not be blind to this fact.

A few screen captures help illustrate the point quickly.
Note the comment above of how filth was actually associated with disease protection!
No pressure to hoard toilet paper back then.  In the wild west it didn't exist!  And where do flush toilets and water piping and pressure pumps and sewage systems come from. Back then, you couldn't drop into Home Depot and pick up the goods for a reasonable price! And they likely weren't available via mail order and if they were, transportation systems were not like they are today. Again, the economy is a living entity and vital to our welfare.
Things like window screens and warm clothes and insulation and central heating and the kitchen sink and tooth brushes would sure be missed if the economy disappeared.
There was a time when face masks were far more important than they are now.
Japan has been a nation geared to hygiene for hundreds of years and long before the filth of the wild west. I wonder if their covid impact has been influenced by that ongoing attention to cleanliness!
I recently chatted with a friend who works in a hospital ICU. He had experience with Covid cases and found being close to the problem sobering. The disease is real and it kills people in a rather impressive manner and he and other health workers are at the focal point of the storm. And the medical staff are people, just like the victims they see being taken out. A sure formula for at least some stress!

The disease can be pictured as a bully wandering around, ignoring most people but picking a mild fight with a few and really beating on a very few, usually those who are clearly weak. For the moment, for various reasons, the bully seemingly cannot be restrained and trying to stay out of his way – delaying confrontation seems to be the popular approach. There is some reason to think that if you meet him and he doesn’t pick on you, or gives you a mild beating, then he will not bother you again. But the really bad outcomes that do occur put people on edge. The Cancer bully does far more actual damage but he is different than the Covid bully. The Covid bully hides in people, so for each individual, other people, be they a menace or not, are suspect. The Cancer bully is invisible but not associated with other people. You can’t blame his attacks on others in the same way as with Covid. So human relations are not impacted with Cancer.

Thus you have the debate; do you want to gamble on whether Covid will beat you up, right now or would you like to stall off any confrontation and remain in doubt? And do you want to determine the stalling tactics yourself or do you want the government to act on your behalf which means that one size must fit all? It is a multi facet situation that is sure to create major social tensions.

Medical folk likely are going to opt for a stalling tactic. Economic and number people are likely going to opt for an immediate confrontation. Is there a middle ground that minimizes total damage due to deaths and the degrading of lives that remain?

The difficulty with the concept of ‘social distancing’ (especially in an autocratic lockdown format) is that you are dealing with a Siamese twin (the human patient AND a reflectively bonded and vitally supportive economic twin). What seems to be a quick and convenient medicine for one member is a deadly poison for the other.  

Further, an unnatural condition is held up as a virtue and its broadly illogical and painful nature means the newly defined ‘righteousness’ fosters fear, suspicion, conflict, and frustration at the very time unity is vital.

A problem, as in ‘the covid problem’, requires coping. But a coping approach that acknowledges this broad system reality and is wisely measured is the only hope for eventual success. A narrow focus on only one of the twins will eventually prove fatal for both. The Swedish approach seems to be an island of appreciation of this complexity. Unfortunately that island, which like everywhere else is part of a world economic system, may be too small to offset the general tsunami.

Look at your car, your house, your tooth brush, dental floss, almost all food items on your plate, the courier delivery, your cell phone, the internet, your electrical supply, your clean water, your sewage disposal system, the drugs you may depend on – all are the products and services of your Siamese twin. In the 1500s, the twin was very tiny and for that reason few of the listed items or services were possible. The ‘now massive’ twin has failings – pollution, energy dependency, depletion of essential resources, economic disparities, large scale national rivalry, ultra powerful and destructive military capacity – but we have become so bonded and interdependent that the twin’s sudden death would not permit a return to the less dependent past. JOINT survival - joint death – double suicide – leaping off the cliff together – those are the only options available.

The universal covid response seems to overlook the ‘twin’ reality. Whether the low Covid death rate vs numerous other health hazards warrants social distancing in the first place is a big ‘numbers before feelings’ question. And the certainty of major collateral damage makes the tactic even more sketchy.

The images used show Chang and Eng Bunker, the Thailand twins who popularized the Siamese Twin name. They lived for 62 years, were very active, each had a wife and multiple children, and the pair achieved significant economic success. Cheng died of a cerebral blood clot and Eng, of course died a few hours later.

The Hensel twins, Abby and Brittany, were born in 1990 and are a remarkable pair, capable of doing things that seem beyond imagination from the standpoint of the coordination of two independent minds. They are alive and going strong and an illustration of amazing cooperation and skilfully managed interdependency.

As I struggle to make sense of the Covid storm, I find that writing about the topic helps me to sort out my own thinking. My “Siamese Twin” production is one kick at the cat. Here is another analogy effort. Some few will read this material and hopefully my productions will be a thought stimulator. For balance, I would have liked to add the ICU intro from the ‘Siamese’ essay to the ‘bee hive’ essay but there is already enough repetition between the two efforts. Keep in mind, there is a reason why the social distancing approach is popular – covid is a real issue and any route through it presents challenges.

. . . . . . An unusual characteristic of life on planet Earth is how analogies are such common occurrences. It is like we are bombarded by déjà vu experiences every time we turn around. Analogies don’t actually prove anything nor are they ever totally parallel but they are wonderfully valuable for stimulating theories which can then be tested over time, for accuracy.

Here is an example of a stimulating analogy; let’s compare society to a bee hive and think about parallel dynamics that world leaders might be wise to consider.

The difficulty with the concept of social distancing (especially in an autocratic lockdown format) is that we are like bees in a hive. Our individual existence depends on the existence of the hive. If a treatment for the ‘bees’ is a poison for the ‘hive’, a different treatment must be applied or eventual failure is assured.

A hive is defined by integrated specialization and the interaction of its individual residents is the life blood of the hive. If you somehow destroy or seriously damage that interaction – the hive dies – and its resident dependents subsequently also perish. If damage to a hive system progresses too far, a cascading effect due to a vital missing element, will spell the eventual death of the entire hive system.

Humans are not tiny, super complex robotic creatures that are programmed to consistently function a certain way, as are bees. Our interactions are determined by highly flexible individual minds that can reason, but can also be dramatically influenced by all sorts of outside influences.

It is possible for leaders to champion an unnatural condition and promote it as a glowing virtue while its broadly illogical and painful nature means the new ‘standard of righteousness’ fosters fear, suspicion, conflict, collapse of trust, and frustration in the masses at a time when interactive unity and optimistic confidence is vital. Furthermore, once interpersonal interaction is damaged or destroyed, the rebuilding of relaxed trust is a very slow process, unlike its rapid destruction.

A coping approach that acknowledges this reality and is wisely measured is the only hope for eventual success. A narrow focus on the individual ‘bees’ while ignoring the ‘hive’, will eventually prove fatal for both. True wisdom does not settle for a few quick wins chained to a losing strategy.

The good news is that humans are incredibly resourceful and while a bee hive can collapse and the entire bee population can, as a result, die, bees are not creative, free agent ‘personalities’, with minds combined with flexible creative powers. Humans can take incredible abuse and still formulate and build a rebound response. The bad news is that this amazing human creativity has in relatively recent times, achieved capacity to design and build dramatic destructive powers. Such is unfortunate, given our sustained inability to peacefully coexist especially under interpersonal stress, plus our proven failing of resorting to using all weapons at our disposal, if leaned upon to do so. Few disagree that we have the power to self destruct. The ingrained habit of forming into competing camps that refuse to back down from a fight provides critical mass to the ‘societal bomb’. Covid response strategy risks being the hand that pulls the detonator pin.

The Covid situation is a wonderful thought stimulator. I love autobiographies and I feel that many older autobiographies, of which there is a huge available inventory, are often storehouses of currently applicable wisdom. How do you know what to read? Well, it is wise to pick a winner. How do you know who is a winner? Well, see if he was winning when he finished the race and then wait a few years to give judges a chance to verify that he played fair and didn’t cheat – sort of a copy of an instant video replay. Of course, also keep an eye on the integrity of the judges and whether or not they are, in some way, on the take! Can you hear an axe grinding as they deliver their judgement?

A remarkable currently relevant example is Louis Agassiz, a man who was regarded as the Number 1 natural scientist around 1850 – a rapid 170 years back. Today he is unheard of and has even been slapped with somewhat of an ogre image – a mistake perhaps – that fact having considerable relevance to the universal approach taken with regard to the covid virus. Factoring in another wise thought from Charles Kettering, also a deceased winner, but a huge player with regard to your refrigerator and automobile; “It is not the things that we do not know that get us into trouble – rather it is the things that we are certain of which happen to be incorrect”.

Agassiz was a hands-on, practical, hard core system thinker, unlike most modern scientists. While many modern scientists and political leaders will look for clues that will help to solve a pressing mystery, pick three clues, and act, Agassiz would have been more likely to look for ten clues before acting. He appreciated complex, designed interrelationships far more than what can be seen as the slap-happy immature style of today.

An Agassiz quote that has hung around states “ . . . You should never trifle with Nature. . . . This is the charm of Study from Nature itself; she brings us back to absolute truth whenever we wander.”

Hang that statement up against the analogy of the bee hive. How can witless bees teach staggeringly impressive human minds anything? Yet a man who cannot see vital, currently relevant principles built into this analogy, or can see them but ignores the facts is shirking his duties as a member of humanity.

Agassiz was a buddy of Henry Longfellow and at a gathering for Louis’s fiftieth birthday Henry presented a poem that was accurately inspired by Agassiz’s eventful life to that point.

And Nature, the old nurse, took
The child upon her knee,
Saying: "Here is a story-book
Thy Father has written for thee."

"Come, wander with me," she said,
"Into regions yet untrod;
And read what is still unread
In the manuscripts of God."

A simple little product exported from China may well be one of the biggest universal educational gimmicks to have hit the world for a long time! Sir Albert Howard claimed that a virus that produced a negative effect was an educator and an indicator of underlying errors in practice. It may be that the biggest impact covid has is to highlight failings in human wisdom and thinking patterns. If bees and a bee hive provide an educational and directional analogy is it possible that comparing Howard’s agricultural observations to errors in human wisdom systems is equally valuable at indicating a positive path forward?

On May 5 I saw a BBC article that I find shocking. Apparently Prof Neil Ferguson was a key player in convincing Boris Johnson that a UK lockdown was essential. He speculated that 250,000 people would die if a lockdown did not occur. On May 5, by comparison, Sweden had 283 Covid deaths per million population while the UK had 423. Sweden didn't lockdown.  The UK did lockdown.  In the back of your mind, keep the picture of the collateral damage to social fabric and long term economic essentials that lockdowns cause.

Ferguson apparently resigned as a general advisor on coronavirus after catching flak for breaking the lock down rules by visiting his girl friend.

To get a feel for magnitude of numbers, given that Covid has inferior numbers compared to cancer and suicides and is not shockingly worse than conventional seasonal flu, 1/10 of one percent of the UK population would be 1000 deaths per million and a total of 68,000 people.  Currently 28,700 have died and likely a large percent of those victims died from other problems in conjunction with covid.  Given the hit rates on mini-society cruise ships, Ferguson's number isn't impossible but whether a lock down would have a significant lowering effect, if that level of weakness exists in UK society, is speculation.  Given the Swedish comparison, it is questionable whether lockdowns have any effect.

The shocking aspect is that Neil Ferguson has had an impact on other UK disease outbreaks.  Read the two articles on the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak - they aren't long but they are gruesome.  Then read the article telling about Neil Ferguson. Consider the carnage in 2001 and the award that Mr. Ferguson received because of his contribution to that magnificent victory. Has the world gone mad?
The issue of whether the virus is the problem or whether underlying issues are the problem is never discussed, be it Covid or Foot & Mouth virus.  There is good reason to believe that underlying issues are at stake.  Why does a disease kill one person in spectacular fashion and not even touch many others - again, an obvious puzzle that isn't being puzzled over.  If underlying factors are the issue, then this 'Angel of Death' scenario makes sense. If the virus is the enemy, then the reality of experience doesn't make sense. Where is Real Science? Why is there a seeming veto on such an obvious question while vaccination research spending goes ballistic? It is well known that a virus is constantly adapting. The slow reaction vaccination effort isn't up to a moving target.
19 years after the events of 2001, Mr. Ferguson has a chance to impact the human world after doing his earlier number on the animal world. Is another OBE about to be awarded?

When you read the horror/panic stories that are the standard news diet, the inference is that Covid is a constant danger to the entire population. No one is safe. The lion is roaming the streets and there is no protection but to hide. The 'kill the virus' mentality is the underlying driver of this thinking.  But if the issue is 'underlying factors', then this 'fear campaign' is nonsense.  Why isn't the topic given attention or even suggested as a possible reality.  Indulging in a fearful flight of fantasy rather than constructively working on a real solution is not rational. As mentioned earlier on the page - it isn't what we don't know that gets us into trouble - rather it is the things we are sure of that happen to be wrong.  So why not at least give such a vital possible angle some thought? That stubborn blindness is more of an issue than the challenge of finding solutions.
As the panic stricken world falls apart, it is worth looking back at the recent history of a world that has been here for a LONG time.  On Page 1 of the Covid coverage on this website, there is a link to a CBC archive video dealing with a pandemic in 1970.  How many people even remember that a virus was on the loose at that time? And it is hard to detect much panic in the approach of the doctor who is being interviewed? What a contrast to the current scene.  Back then, was there vaccine excitement and urgency and massive budgeting? Was there seeming surprise and fear that viruses constantly mutate? What % of national budgets went to health care at that time vs today? Was a 'new normal' being agonized over?

Look back to an even more recent historical happening - SARS.  Three screen shots are shown below from the Wikipedia page.  Check the page.  There was LOTS OF excitement at that time. SARS seemed to be very nasty. The pandemic appeared to some to be here to stay due to the level of spread. Why did lockdown not enter the minds of WHO and most of the world's political leaders? How many deaths occurred vs the regular beatings that the world takes daily? Notice the third screen shot to get an answer to where SARS is today. Viruses are complex and if the virus is the total problem with no underlying factors, why are humans not extinct? Why do panics pass rather than being proved valid by 'new normals'? Will Covid be remembered for disease deaths or for social and economic destruction triggered by mass panic of wise men who should have been wiser?