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March 2021

The Fine Art of COVID-19

Editor's note: this month we let someone else take over the duty of ranting. We offer kudos to "Senior Anonymous" for putting this wealth of information together, and we agree with some, if not all. of his opinions!  If you want to express your point of view on our web site, contact us... there's no guarantee we will post your rantings, especially if you are what George Orwell might have called a "wrongthinker," compared to any opinions you might find slight hints of around the Microwaves101 website.

Some words on words

During this crisis, lots of different words were used to describe what was happening. The practice of calling differently the infectious agent and the disease is rather quite common in medicine. For instance, AIDS is the disease caused by the HIV virus. Usually people don’t pay so much attention to the vocabulary. However, in the current crisis, they paid lots of attention to the vocabulary because they had the impression that “politics have something to hide”.

The current pandemic is the pandemic of the Covid-19 disease. Covid means “Coronavirus infectious disease”, and 19 is for the year: troubles started in December 2019, even if public attention was only strong in beginning of 2020. By the way, more recent studies showed that the onset of the virus could have been even earlier, like November 2019. The virus responsible for Covid-19 is the SARS-CoV-2, for “Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2”. Note that is has the number 2: the number 1, now extinct, caused the SARS between 2002 and 2004. SARS was really China’s 9/11. Coronavirus is the name of the family of virus.

Sometimes, viruses are called by the name of a country with which the virus is associated. For instance, 1918 H1N1 flu pandemic is called the “Spanish flu”, even if it had nothing in particular to do with Spain. The only reason for this name is that Spain published information on this worldwide pandemic because it was neutral during the WWI, while other countries censored the information. This gave the impression that Spain was hard hit.

Some people try to call Covid-19 the “Kung Flu” as a desperate move to cover their own responsibility.

Portrait of a nasty family

Besides the SARS-CoV-2 of the Covid-19, it includes lots of nasty things. The Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-Cov) is little-known but highly fatal: 34.4 % of fatality rate. The historical, now extinct, SARS-Cov-1 had a fatality rate of 9.5 %. Other members that should be paid attention to are the Swine acute diarrhea syndrome coronavirus (SADS-CoV), harming pigs and killing young pigs, and the Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus (FIPV), killing cats.

SARS-CoV-2 clearly comes from the animal, even if the precise animal is still not known. It could even be a mix between several animals in some China meat market. Cleanliness in China’s meat markets must really be improved, particularly when dealing with still living animals. Better yet, there should be tighter regulation on what food can be sold to consumers.

A few words on Wuhan’s lab

Some people claim that the coronavirus comes from a lab because it came from Wuhan where there is a lab on coronavirus. However, Wuhan lab was built in Wuhan because there were coronaviruses in the area, not the reverse. To take an analogy, does someone ever seriously think that the Vesuvius was created by the Vesuvius Observatory?

However, in this case, there are NO stupid questions, only stupid answers. When people ask whether the SARS-CoV-2 came from a lab or not, they should be answered clearly and seriously, and not be insulted as “conspiracy theorists”.

“The answer is false” must not be confused with “the question is stupid”. Here, even if the answer is false, the question is relevant. Genetically-modified viruses are commonly used for gene therapy experiments. Animal subjects to such experiments could potentially escape. Humans near such experiments could potentially carry viruses outside of a lab, or there may be a more direct path. Keep in mind that in China, some scientist tried to genetically modify human (!) babies to protect them from AIDS.

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/06/03/727957768/2-chinese-babies-with-edited-genes-may-face-higher-risk-of-premature-death

So, even if the current virus clearly DID NOT come from a lab, the question was far from stupid.

The complexity of the living beasts

A Belgian cartoonist called Franquin has drawn this in his cartoon “Idées Noires” (Dark thoughts). It is in French, but the story can easily be understood without. Note the protective mask and the sanitizer lotion, so close to what’s happening currently! This cartoon was drawn in 1984, 36 years before Covid-19. Franquin was clearly a visionary!

In the first panel, the character says “Why these experiments? Do I introduce viruses into bacteria?” This is funny, but not only funny. Did you know that cholera was caused by the bacteria “Vibrio cholerae”, itself infected by the bacteriophage virus CTXφ? Bacteriology is very a complex science!  The second panel shows our hero getting worried by seeing more victims of the disease being rushed to the hospital, despite wearing a mask as recommended by authorities.  By panel 3, he pulls out the hand sanitizer as an ambulance rushes by, in panel 4 we see the a hearse heading out as the government is trying to calm people down: "Every effort has been take to control, without delay, this unknown infectious germ."  In panel 5, he fears he himself might have this awful disease, and in panel 6 he is considering whether or not he should escape - to the mountains, perhaps?  In the end, he repeats what he heard on the radio "Don't panic: Authorities will take the necessary emergency actions" (as truckloads of hearses go by). 

A not so recent history

Roughly 2 years before the Covid-19 crisis a book was published entitled “The fate of Rome: climate, disease, and the end of an empire” by Kyle Harper.

This book must really be read in the current times. In this book, we learned that the usual explanation of the end of the Roman Empire by the invasions. However, climate changes and epidemics also played a major role. “Emerging diseases” are not something new, and diseases regularly appear, or more precisely move from animal to humans.

More recently, several WHO reports told specifically that “something could happen in the future”. Coronaviruses were also getting attention.

So, even if the SARS-CoV-2 virus is something new, the global phenomenon of emerging diseases is not: this story will repeat sooner or later, and we must prepare ourselves. Even without the second wave of the SARS-CoV-2, there will sooner or later be a wave of something else.

The crisis, health or economical?

In ancient times, when one dealt with a new disease without the modern tools to fight, it was a health crisis. In modern times, when modern tools DO exist, but are not available, it is not a health crisis. It is an economic crisis.

To understand the problem, the first question to ask is “what is an economic system?” Simply, an economic system functions to allocate the means in priority to ensure the manufacturing and availability of the most needed things. An economic system without any shortage of the latest Switch console, but unable to ensure the availability of masks and artificial respirators in sufficient quantities is clearly a failure.

Note that what makes this a real failure and not only a very immoral choice between health and producing frivolous stuff is that the crisis eventually causes a shortage of this frivolous stuff. So well played!

The zero stock policies

An interesting fact in the current crisis is that the economic system is now able to produce enough masks a day, at a rather cheap price. This is not the chronic shortages of the USSR. However, during the crisis, we had rather hard shortages, because the needs for masks suddenly increased while the production chains needed time to produce masks.

The function of stock is clearly to be able to fill the gap between a surge in need and the progressive increase of production capacity. Too bad, we didn’t have a stock of masks.

For several years, corporations developed “zero-stock policies” and so on. Basically, instead of producing what is needed before we need it, it is produced “just in time”. This increases pressure on employees who must follow the rhythm, whatever its variations. For corporations, the interest of having zero-stocks is to spare the total cost of the storage to have more money in their deep pockets. But only in the short term… On the first crisis, when a company cannot make products because they have no supplies of components and their suppliers are in trouble, no money enters while all fixed costs (buildings, salaries …) must still be paid. Fortunately for such managers, at least in US and Canada, it’s easy to fire people and to lower the salaries to repair their mismanagement.

Bad tax laws also have a part of responsibility in this problem. A quick example is that things are taxed not when they are sold but as soon as they are produced, which increase the cost of a stock by forcing companies to pay taxes on things before they are sold to their consumers. Ask your congressman to work on issues like this! Instead of taxing supplies, why not make a system which would tax the lack of them? Something could be done in this domain…

Money über alles!

A cause of this problem is that a proper allocation of the available means to produce the most important things needs a philosophical system which answers the question: what is important? Previous societies had systems which answered this question, mainly God or The King. These systems failed because they were highly unequal. So, they were abolished and replaced by… nothing!

The answer given by our current economic system is an institutionalized lack of an answer: since nobody is wise enough to give the answer, just let the market set the priorities. Whatever makes the most money is considered by our flawed economic system as the most important thing. Here comes the troubles! The people who made this system have ignored an incredible huge flaw: people have a tendency to spend their money for short-term frivolous needs instead of long-term important but invisible needs… until it is too late.

Let’s take an example: suppose you have $10 in your pocket and you go to the local store. In front of the local store, there is some guy who collects money for the public hospital. Would you give your $10 to this guy, and go home, or go to the shop buying your new video game? Most people would not give the money for the hospital, and this is part of the problem. Until some big crisis makes them understand where the real needs are.

The proper misuse of the masks

When we had no masks, the French government had two possible reactions:

  •         Telling everyone that there aren’t enough masks, apologize for this fact, promise that they will take the needed measures to not have this situation happen again, and in the meantime ask all people to not wear the masks they have but instead give them to the nursing staff and doctors.
  •         Telling everyone that masks are useless because people would not know how to properly wear them.

Guess what reaction they chose? The second, unfortunately.

Let’s remember two things: 1/ most people are not stupid, and 2/ when people are stupid, fire the minister of education, because making people less stupid is his damn job.

The fine art of Thaumaturgy

For people who haven’t followed their history lectures, “thaumaturgy” is the ancient belief that somebody can be healed by being touched by someone important enough, for instance the King. Such kings are called “thaumaturge kings”. These practices were highly common in medieval France as well as in England, but we are quite sure they were also common elsewhere.

In history lectures, a tradition wants to laugh at “such stupid people from the past”. Now, it’s time to straightly state a simple point: these people were far from stupid, they believed such things just because the reality was too hard for them. They had no modern science, no modern tools, and simply died from most diseases which can be healed in the present day. The fictions helped them just to support their lives.

Technology and knowledge improves, but human nature does not. We have a crisis, but the modern economy was more focused on producing Nintendos than on producing medicine. So, we had no masks, and guess what happened? Thaumaturgy! Again!

In France, during the containments, people had to fill out a paper called a “derogatory attestation” each time they went outside. Of course, such papers are useful to enforce the containments, but the administration seemed to me more focused on the quality of the paper than on anything else. For instance, some people were fined not because they have violated the containments rules, but simply because their paper was filled with erasable pencil instead of non-erasable pen. And the prime minister said on TV that “people are really careful… they all fill out their papers”. So, when we have the irrational belief that the paper protects from the virus, what should it be called? 21st century Thaumaturgy!

The guilty people

During this crisis, people started wanting to punish the people guilty for this crisis in rather extreme and harsh ways. In France, terms like “axe” and “guillotine” quickly come into discussions.

Anger can lead people to wish some things they should never wish. Death penalty is a really awful thing, which has been abused so much and should definitely be abolished. Like Cesare Beccaria pointed out, even in times where people were widely for the death penalty, the public executioner was despised. This is the sign something is clearly wrong with it!

We find such methods a bit extreme. So, we suggest a few alternative punishments for the guilty people:

  •         Wearing a heavy necklace, starting from at least 1 kg, with written on it “I [caused/increased] the Covid-19 crisis by [not following containment/not buying enough masks/…]”. The weight of the necklace could be adjusted depending on the seriousness of the fault.
  •         Wearing a tee-shirt with similar writing written on it.
  •         Spending some months on probation in a hospital with Covid-19 cases.

Specifically for politics, we suggest the following punishments:

  •         For the former US president, be locked in a room without the right to post anything on Twitter.
  •         For French politicians, wearing a 10 kg necklace with written on it “Masks are useful, French citizens are intelligent enough to wear them, I should have organized stocks of it, and I should give my salary to the public hospital”.
  •         For French politicians, be forced to recopy by hand, date and sign with a non-erasable black pen some random certificate. On this point, remember that some people were fined just because they have signed the document requested to go outside with erasable pencil instead of non-erasable pen? Government didn’t seem to like recycling paper.

By the way, some people spend years in prison for trying to steal cigarettes while corporate and political criminals never seem to be punished. Money as well as social class must be removed from the punishment equation!

China is too easy to blame

Of course, the virus came from China. Of course, their meat markets have serious hygiene problems. Of course, they did without information, at least in public sources.

However, who chose to believe China which told that “almost nothing happened” while at the same time they put in place a hard containment in entire territories? Who didn’t anticipate that a containment would be needed when, time after time, ever more countries were forced to put in place containment measures? In France, who decided to let happen the first round of municipal elections just the day before a hard containment would be decided? This day, who announced in the morning that he will “decide something at 8pm”, leaving lots of hours for people to possibly panic because they could be imagine whatever they wanted?

China lied, but quickly acted because they knew since 2003 what is an epidemic and that is follows an exponential dynamic. When you have 1 death the first day and 2 deaths the second day, it’s not “just 3 deaths” but it is a doubling of the deaths each days. Dare to calculate how much deaths you could end up two weeks later in the lack of strong and serious actions?

Your greed

Why did Ebola stay in Africa while Covid-19 has spread worldwide? Simply because too many people travelled towards or from Wuhan? Ok, but who really wants to make a tourist trip to Wuhan? Who dreamed of visiting Wuhan? Who even knew where it was before Covid-19 occurs? Answer: nobody outside of corporations! People travelled to and from Wuhan for their jobs, to transport all the stuff produced in China towards elsewhere.

Let’s make here a clear statement: the main problem of the “Made in China” is not “Made in China”. It is “Made in awful conditions thousands of kilometers away because we are cheapskates wanting to save a few bucks”. Replacing China by almost anything else wouldn’t have changed the problem. Although international trade of high value stuff is perfectly normal, common stuff should be produced near the consumer. Period! For common stuff, US people should buy from US, but in the same way Chinese people should by from China. Like N95 masks…

In the US, “in the early days of the pandemic, the U.S. government turned down an offer to manufacture millions of N95 masks”. In France, government put pressure on local companies to stop everything else to produce lots of masks… eventually choosing not to buy the French masks but to continue buying them from Vietnam, leaving these companies with lots of produced masks in their stock rooms unable to sell them and even facing bankruptcy. Two questions arise: 1/ why French government don’t buy these masks, at least to avoid bankruptcy of these companies, better to make some stock? 2/ Don’t we think that on the second wave, these companies will tell “fuck you!” when the government will ask for masks?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/in-the-early-days-of-the-pandemic-the-us-government-turned-down-an-offer-to-manufacture-millions-of-n95-masks-in-america/2020/05/09/f76a821e-908a-11ea-a9c0-73b93422d691_story.html

When you go to the store buy a new iPhone, would you rather pay $100 for a phone coming from China or $200 for a phone coming from USA? If you choose the first answer, YOU are partially guilty. Of course, you shouldn’t be in prison, at least because we need people to guard in prison the other guilty people. But I would be very pleased if you were condemned to wear a 3 kg necklace with “I partly caused Covid-19 by buying stupid things from China” written on it.

By the way, although such penalties seem strong, they are not so much. Chinese smartphones are such an obvious open door for China’s espionage that their buyers could be convicted for espionages with a mere re- interpretation of the current law. But this is another topic.

You might say that you would rather pay the $200 for a USA phone if it was simply available on the market. Well, in this case, you deserve just a 2 kg keychain. But not much less. Because you still preferred to buy the $100 China phone with a big processor to the $100 US phone without the big processor.

Which leads us to next section.

The boss’s greed

Most of the time, we can’t even find USA phones in the local store. Why not? Why can’t the country which sent men to the moon and has excellent integrated circuit manufacturers produce a phone?

US IS able to produce phones. However, the bosses of the corporations prefer to manufacture the phones at $50 in China than to manufacture them at $100 in US to put the difference in their pockets. Sometimes the consumer doesn’t even see the difference in the final price they pay: they just face the pandemic locked in their small flats, having to work outside without decent health insurance while the big bosses can enjoy containment as a vacation in their beautiful secondary residences.

For them, I suggest a 10 kg necklace.

Still your greed

Unfortunately, there will be always in this world “humans” greedy and stupid enough to continue this mess. For them, only proper laws can prevent their selfish actions. Sometimes political candidates really do want to make some change, but unfortunately, they are never elected. If you didn’t choose to vote for some candidate who  wanted to improve a bit the things because “he’s an awful communist who would tax my assets”, you are part of the problem.

Even if there are no such candidate at an election, because they didn’t dare to have such a program, you have a part of responsibility for the lots of times you said on discussions or opinion polls that you will never vote for somebody like that.

Put things in perspective: to avoid a taxation on your assets, you contributed to create an awful crisis which could wipe out those assets entirely! You wanted to have enough assets to hire yourself a good doctor instead of voting for someone who would make free health insurance for all? Congratulations: on the next crisis, you’ll lose your job, you’ll lose your health insurance, big corporations will manage to steal your assets in some way or another, and you’ll die of the virus because the private clinic does not want to heal you without health insurance or cash. What a clever move!

Your kids’ greed

Maybe your kids love the stupid things coming from China.

Still your greed

Wait a minute… Who taught your kids to love such stupid things? Instead of locally produced things, books, and so on.

The mental health of the population

In France, the first 15 days of the containment were very welcomed by the population. But thereafter, the containment was extended several times. And there was a second containment. And now the curfew. In a nutshell, after work, you must not only go home without making anything else, but you must run to be home before 18H or risk to be fined.

When France considered making a second containment, the WHO said that this second containment would not be a good idea and that it would be risky for the mental health of the population, and reminded us that health is a global thing, not just “not being death”. Of course, they did their second containment.

Psychiatrists are saying that they are overloaded. Strangely, there is no psychiatrist in the scientific community of France.

Next, the curfew. This measure is really tiring because people must always think to the clock, plan everything, and so on. The problem with this measure is that the ratio between the efficiency and the tiredness is low, in such a way that if further action would be needed, people will simply be too tired to do it.

French government considered a third containment. But, in the Netherlands, a usually quiet country, they were riots to protest against a curfew. So, French government stepped back and just waited….

Stop! Too much is too much. There is no point in a little improvement of physical health if the mental health is much more worsened. We just have to live with it, until science and vaccines to their job.

At least I hope that the decision makers just forgot this point, and are not guided by other considerations, like thinking only to protect the physical health of the workforce needed to produce stuff.

Science to the rescue

In less than a year, scientists from all the world produced a vaccine. To them, all our congratulations.

Times will be hard…

This covid crisis will end… someday. And the longer it takes for that time to come, the harder it will be to continue to live with the measures put in place to fight the epidemic. Note that I said “put in place to” and not “needed to” because some quite stupid decisions were made.

Waiting for the vaccine, governments will have to be very careful in the measures they take, because people are too tired and angry to accept anything. They will have to maximize the ratio efficiency over tiredness, not only because it is needed to fight the covid-19 with a limited population capacity to support this, but also because population won’t accept measures they don’t believe to be efficient.

I fear that governments won’t be careful enough by themselves and will need some riots to remind them. Remember that crimes are motivated by the feeling of impunity or the madness. With a tired population, we can fear the worst.

But after this crisis ends, all the power greedy people will want their money back. And the economic crisis will be hard.

And, after the final end, when both the covid and its economic consequences have been conquered, this won’t be the real end. The same causes will have the same effects. Environmental problems will continue, as well as the greed. So, a new crisis could happen. And new containments and so on. With a population who will say “stop” louder and louder. Riots? Maybe.

Times will be hard, I fear.

 

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