Rats are growing increasingly aggressive in their hunt for food as restaurants across the US remain shuttered to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned.
With many restaurants now only open for takeout services, the bins that used to be filled with scraps and refuse the rodents once feasted on are much emptier — and they are getting desperate.
“Some jurisdictions have reported an increase in rodent activity as rodents search for new sources of food. Environmental health and rodent control programs may see an increase in service requests related to rodents and reports of unusual or aggressive rodent behavior,” said the CDC in their release last week.
It advises that “sealing up access into homes and businesses, removing debris and heavy vegetation, keeping garbage in tightly covered bins, and removing pet and bird food from their yards” to ward off the pests.
The increased rodent activity around residential neighborhoods has health authorities concerned, with rats known to spread illnesses including salmonella and Weil’s disease, according to pest control firm Rentokil.
In several major cities in the US, reports have emerged of desperate rats swarming the streets in the search for food.
Here’s the funny thing; rats aren’t as different from us, behaviorally, as we’d like to think. If we cut off the flow of food into the major cities, you’d see food riots within a matter of days.
Most folks don’t realize what an enormous, teetering stack of cards our modern society is based on. The cities are literally fed and watered by a massive, complex and fragile logistics chain, and were that chain to be broken, the rats wouldn’t be the only ones affected.
And here’s the thing: No matter what else happens, the rats will come out all right. We might not, but the rats will. Humans have been contending with rats for many millennia, and the best we’ve ever been able to do is to fight them to a draw. The shutdown of rat food sources by the Kung Flu is a great illustration on just how easily the human/rat balance can be tipped.
Packing, packing, packing. We really don’t have that much stuff to pack up here, but any such task inevitably expands to fill any time available. This ain’t our first rodeo; we’ve done it before and will do it again, but in the meantime, the work awaits. And so…
CNN’s Matt Egan is an idiot, and economically illiterate. It’s waaaay past time Americans started saving again; for a couple of decades now the Fed has been making sure there is damn little incentive to do so.
I am not a physician, nor am I an expert in epidemiology or epidemiologic models. However, I am intimately familiar both with the development of quantitative models and with issues related to the management of risk and uncertainty. I have an undergraduate engineering degree from MIT, a PhD in engineering from Oklahoma State University, and a PhD in entrepreneurship from Oklahoma State. My engineering dissertation involved the development of a quantitative risk-management model for controlling cost overruns associated with capital-intensive construction projects. My entrepreneurship dissertation examined the ways in which entrepreneurs perceive and manage risk and uncertainty, with an emphasis on decision-making in the absence of relevant prior knowledge.
With that said, my goal here is to lay out a path forward that intentionally skews toward the ‘risk’ side of the spectrum and away from decisions that are wrought with ‘true uncertainty’ (i.e. an inherent lack of similitude with prior cases).
Cutting to the chase, here are my overarching conclusions:
Applying social distancing guidelines uniformly across all risk categories will result in 10x more COVID-19 fatalities compared to a simple two-pronged approach, namely loosening the social distancing restrictions on those least likely to develop serious complications while tightening the guidelines for protecting those who are most vulnerable (coupled with providing robust community support to ease the burden of isolation).
Risk Management is something I dabble in myself, although there are particular experts in that field in my industry and I’m not particularly one of them. But Dr. Trost seems to lay out a pretty sound case here for a lockdown being precisely the wrong way to go about dealing with the Moo Goo Gai Panic. And his primary conclusion is typical expression of tentativity, as befitting how science is done:
Whereas the models I have presented herein are admittedly unsophisticated, I suggest that an extensive sensitivity analysis be performed using the Imperial College London original model (which is now publicly available on GitHub) or something similar, augmented to evaluate the targeted-exposure approach to population immunity (as presented herein), in tandem with a localized trigger-based approach to protecting local critical care resources (as presented conceptually in both the Imperial College and Harvard models and also detailed here).
And here’s the gist of it: We may have screwed up. Badly. Yesterday we saw the Swedish model, and how they had good results by protecting the most vulnerable – a small minority of the populace – and letting the virus run its course to develop herd immunity. Instead we have locked down our population at large and shut down the economy.
What a cluster-fuck.
I’d love to see a more comprehensive analysis done as Dr. Trost suggests, but I suspect that won’t happen; if it yields similar results to the preliminary work here, there would be a considerable backlash against the Top Men who put our country into stasis and reduced a roaring economy to a Great Depression-type shambles. And those Top Men aren’t anxious to have that happen.
I stumbled across this (pdf) recently from The Lancet, which is one of the most reliable and reputable medical journals in existence. Excerpt:
Many countries (and members of their press media) have marvelled at Sweden’s relaxed strategy in the face of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic: schools and most workplaces have remained open, and police officers were not checking one’s errands in the street. Severe critics have described it as Sweden sacrificing its (elderly) citizens to quickly reach herd immunity. The death toll has surpassed our three closest neighbours, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, but the mortality remains lower than in the UK, Spain, and Belgium.
It has become clear that a hard lockdown does not protect old and frail people living in care homes—a population the lockdown was designed to protect. Neither does it decrease mortality from COVID-19, which is evident when comparing the UK’s experience with that of other European countries.
Read the whole thing at the link – it’s only about a page – and check the references, which I haven’t reproduced here. Here’s the author’s background:
And honestly, for once, a European nation has a model we may actually want to emulate. The Swedes didn’t lock down their economy; they focused resources on protecting the vulnerable while allowing the inevitable spread of a virus that in the majority of the population is either asymptomatic or causes only minor illness.
We may be moving in that direction to some extent, as the country slowly starts to re-open, but I’m afraid the re-opening plans – some done in defiance of state “authorities” – may be too little too late; it may take a decade to recover from the economic damage that has already been done. The Imperial City’s response to the economic fallout has been to print trillions of inflation-inducing dollars to throw at the problem.
Dr. Giesecke concludes:
In summary, COVID-19 is a disease that is highly infectious and spreads rapidly through society. It is often quite symptomless and might pass unnoticed, but it also causes severe disease, and even death, in a pro-portion of the population, and our most important task is not to stop spread, which is all but futile, but to concentrate on giving the unfortunate victims optimal care.
The U.S. and, indeed, most of the world, went down the other fork in that road, and our children and grandchildren will pay the price for it.
The American Council on Science and Health have debunked the anti-GMO “grassroots” folks. Hint: It’s astroturf. Excerpt:
Based on a year-long investigation of tax records and annual reports from hundreds of anti-GMO advocacy groups and their donors, the GLP tracker reveals that, instead of underdogs taking on the corporate establishment, many activist groups are highly skilled public relations operations with big budgets working to demonize crop biotechnology. Over the five-year period 2012-2016, anti-GMO groups received $850,922,324 in donations from organic food companies and wealthy foundations.
The tracker features an interactive network map illustrating the financial relationships between donors (yellow circles) and recipients (blue circles), as well as exportable financial data and detailed profiles of the top 50 organizations. All the data can be toggled by year and size of the organizations (top 10, 25, 50 etc.) (See this article for an in-depth explanation on how to use the tracker.)
A network map depicting donors and recipients.
These nonprofit groups comprise a highly organized movement that promotes a similar message, shares many of the same donors and, in some cases, the same leadership. Veteran Greenpeace researcher Charlie Cray, for instance, sits on the board of directors at U.S. Right to Know, an organic industry-funded activist group known for attacking biotech scientists as agrichemical industry “shills.” Likewise, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), creator of the infamous “Dirty Dozen” list, is funded by an industry lobbying outfit called Organic Voices Action Fund (OVAF). EWG president Ken Cook sits on OVAF’s board of directors.
Beyond the extensive latticework of activism laid bare by GLP’s tracker, there are more illuminating facts consumers, policymakers and journalists should be aware of.
Here’s something the report doesn’t mention; see that big blue funding source at the bottom left? The Tides Center? That’s a Soros-funded operation.
Now, George Soros has the right to spend his money as he pleases, same as anyone. And we have the right to detest him for his choices. And I won’t speak for you, True Believers, but I find Soros eminently detestable.
But that’s not the point of this article.
Here are a couple of later excerpts that lay out the real takeaways:
Anti-GMO activists are wont to complain that the biotech industry has spent enormous sums of money lobbying politicians to block regulation of its genetically engineered seeds and pesticides. This is simplistic, since biotech and plant protection products are tightly regulated by the FDA, USDA and EPA, at considerable cost to the industry. But the more important point is that the activist groups have spent far more on lobbying than ‘Big Ag,’ and the reason is simple, as GLP points out:
“Based on the data we’ve been able to ferret out … pro-GMO spending is sizable but remains a fraction of the expenditures of anti-GMO groups … While anti-GMO groups spend hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying through the media and the internet to make their case that transgenic and gene-edited crops are unhealthy or unsustainable and therefore should be banned or labeled, biotechnology companies spend most of their money on product development.”
Anti-GMO activism is funded to a large extent by the organic food industry, which sees biotechnology as a threat to its profitability. Nonetheless, a sizable portion of the donations collected by anti-crop biotech groups comes from foundations that otherwise fund mainstream scientific research and education.
The Packard Foundation, for instance, has contributed to a variety of science-based organizations, noting on its website that it “supports creative, timely research to spark fresh thinking and produce effective, innovative solutions.” However, the foundation also gave the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) $1,250,000 between 2012 and 2016.
NRDC hasn’t been shy about opposing the scientific consensus on GMOs, reciting the familiar talking point that biotech companies “have a stranglehold” on the federal agencies that should be regulating them. The environmental group has also worked with journalist Paul Thacker, who refers to pro-science groups, including the Genetic Literacy Project and ACSH, as Monsanto’s “spies” for educating the public about GMOs.
For many foundations, this tracker should spark some reflection and reconsideration of its funding practices, as the GLP notes:
Even some of the most aggressive anti-GMO groups devoted solely to attacking biotechnology have received sizable grants from otherwise pro-science foundations … Are these foundations aware that they are funding activist groups that rely on scientifically unsound research and reject the overwhelming scientific consensus that GMO technology is safe?
So the anti-GMO groups cry “victim” status while outspending the actual science side by orders of magnitude – and some of the money they are spending come from people and organizations that really ought to know better. What a debacle.
The real tragedy in all this is that GMO crops like golden rice could solve food shortages all over the Third World by producing high-yield crops that can be more easily grown on the marginal lands that many Third World nations seem to be cursed with. But well-meaning yet ignorant activists in the U.S. and Europe campaign against these crops for no good reason.
And people like the detestable George Soros fund them.
Ten days and counting, before we can leave New Jersey in the rear-view mirror. It can’t happen too soon for us! This whole year and nine months has been odd; while there are things I like about the area, not least of which are the great diners and Italian restaurants, it’s baffling to me how anyone would want to live here. At least Raritan isn’t a congested area. On the contrary, it was a distinct small-town feel. But the state government? Holy crap. What a shitshow.
I’m actually kind of looking forward to our upcoming road trip.
It’s always fun to see the countryside. And even when confined to this little apartment in NJ during the Moo Goo Gai Panic, most days Mrs. Animal and I are generally involved in our own work during the day and don’t often just sit and talk. But on road trips, while on the road we do nothing else but talk, and I enjoy that a lot.
So, on the road again!
And with that, we return you to your Wednesday, already in progress.
Two weeks from Saturday, and we pull out of New-Friggin’-Jersey. That can’t come too soon. We’ll be traveling the week of Memorial Day, stopping in Iowa along the way to visit some family; I’ll try to have regular posts up but may have to resort to some placeholders. And boy howdy, Colorado may be well and truly Californicated these days, but at least it ain’t New Jersey – yet.
It’s not well known today, but Rome once suffered a plague much greater than the Moo Goo Gai Panic: Smallpox. Excerpt:
In the face of smallpox’s sustained assault, the resilience of the empire amazes. Romans first responded to plagues by calling on the gods. Like Hierapolis, many cities across the Roman world sent delegations to Apollo, asking for the god’s advice about how to survive. Towns dispatched the delegates collectively, an affirmation of the power of community to stand together amidst personal horror.
And when communities began to buckle, Romans reinforced them. Emperor Marcus Aurelius responded to the deaths of so many soldiers by recruiting slaves and gladiators to the legions. He filled the abandoned farmsteads and depopulated cities by inviting migrants from outside the empire to settle within its boundaries. Cities that lost large numbers of aristocrats replaced them by various means, even filling vacancies in their councils with the sons of freed slaves. The empire kept going, despite death and terror on a scale no one had ever seen.
Roman society rebounded so well from smallpox that, more than 1,600 years later, the historian Edward Gibbon began his monumental Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire not with the plague under Marcus Aurelius but with the events after that emperor’s death. The reign of Marcus was, to Gibbon, “the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous.” This historical verdict would have astounded Romans if they’d heard it back when they suffered through what came to be called the Antonine Plague. But Gibbon did not invent these sentiments. Writing after the turn of the 3rd century, the Roman senator and historian Cassius Dio called the empire under Marcus “a kingdom of Gold” that persevered admirably “amidst extraordinary difficulties.”
Given the time past since Gibbon’s day, I’d take issue with his description of the Roman Empire under Marcus Aurelius as “…most happy and prosperous.” While Marcus Aurelius may have been the best of a bad lot, he was nevertheless a dictator with literal power of life and death, which no man, anywhere, ever, should have.
But leave that for the moment.
Think about the implications of this bit of history for a moment. The Romans were struck by a virulent plague, with a fatality rate far higher than the Kung Flu; they had no modern medicine, the “physicians” of the time little better than witch doctors. They had little if any idea what caused the disease. They had little if any idea what to do to treat it. And even those who recovered were scarred, inside and out, for the rest of their lives.
And yet Roman society quickly picked up and moved on.
Granted the Romans of 165CE, even the wealthy and ruling classes, led a life much more rigorous than the pampered urban Eloi of the modern West. And maybe that’s the key; there’s an old saying that goes:
Hard times make tough people.
Tough people make good times.
Good times make soft people.
Soft people make hard times.
I think there’s a key point to be found in that. Our soft, pampered urban Eloi, in the U.S. as well as in Canada, Europe and most of the developed world, seem determined to stamp out any trace of self-reliance in the rest of the populace, of which agenda these seemingly-endless (and unconstitutional) Kung Flu lockdowns are just the latest act.
I’ve been thinking a bit about picking up a .22 bolt gun. The .22 rifles I have are all semi-autos, from the Old Man’s old Mossberg that Mom bought him in 1950 to my tricked-out Ruger 10-22. But if I do this, I won’t buy a new model; what I’d really like to have is a nice pre-64 Winchester 52 sporter. These are neat little rifles, well-made and usually sporting some nice American walnut furniture.
I’ve set up a recurring search on Gun broker. We’ll see what, if anything, that turns up. If I find something suitable, watch these virtual pages for a report.
The (Kung Flu) virus will teach us many things, but one lesson has already been relearned by the American people: there are two, quite different, types of wisdom.
One, and the most renowned, is a specialization in education that results in titled degrees and presumed authority. That ensuing prestige, in turn, dictates the decisions of most politicians, the media, and public officials—who for the most part share the values and confidence of the credentialed elite.
The other wisdom is not, as commonly caricatured, know-nothingism. Indeed, Americans have always believed in self-improvement and the advantages of higher education, a trust that explained broad public 19th-century support for mandatory elementary and secondary schooling and, during the postwar era, the G.I. Bill.
But the other wisdom also puts a much higher premium on pragmatism and experience, values instilled by fighting nature daily and mixing it up with those who must master the physical world.
The result is the sort of humility that arises when daily drivers test their skills and cunning in a semi-truck barreling along the freeway to make a delivery deadline with a cylinder misfiring up on the high pass, while plagued by worries whether there will be enough deliveries this month to pay the mortgage.
An appreciation of practical knowledge accrues from watching central-heating mechanics come out in the evening to troubleshoot the unit on the roof, battling the roof grade, the ice, and the dark while pitting their own acquired knowledge in a war with the latest computerized wiring board of the new heating exchange unit that proves far more unreliable than the 20-year-old model it replaced.
Humility is key to learning, but it is found more easily from a wealth of diverse existential experiences on the margins. It is less a dividend of the struggle for great success versus greater success still, but one of survival versus utter failure.
So far in this crisis, our elite have let us down in a manner the muscularly wise have never done.
And that’s the rub, True Believers. Why the hell should we have this self-anointed “elite” in the first place? Our ancestors fought a bloody revolution to rid themselves of an aristocracy; now we have substituted what Ayn Rand called “the aristocracy of pull,” unelected bureaucrats who issue pronouncements, the consequences of which they are shielded by the seemingly-endless network of their fellow bureaucrats, all of whom are surrounded by rules, regulations and “guidances” that were not voted in by any legislature.
Take the current crisis. Given some of the differences COVID-19 evidences from other coronavirii, such as its long latency period and the rather significant percentage of people who contract the bug and remain asymptomatic, I can see for myself that it’s a serious thing. And yes, I’m more than capable of assessing the risk and taking what I think are appropriate actions on my own.
I don’t need Governor Polis, or President Trump, or any petty bureaucrat or puffed-up local official harassing me about it. As I’m fond of proclaiming, in my best libertarian-speak: