25 May 2020


Potpourri 39 Comments

==> Holy crap, look at the turn this interview with Richard Epstein ends up taking.

==> CDC makes really dumb mistake (?) by mixing results of different types of corona tests.

==> Contrary to most online libertarians, I have been beating the pro-mask (for vulnerable people and any non-coerced businesses) drum for a while, so let me acknowledge that my go-to mainstream medical organization, CIDRAP, is now getting iffy about it. I still suspect a lot of this is driven by, “Save the masks for health care workers,” but I can’t deny that CIDRAP published something against mask policies.

==> To give you an example of some of the misleading anti-mask stuff: Check out this scientific article. They come out against masks, and yet their own results show that even the surgical mask reduced how much virus ended up in the petri dish. The people pushing masks aren’t saying, “Even a cloth mask will protect you for sure,” rather they are saying, “It reduces the amount of virus an infected person can pump out, so widespread masking in crowded areas will reduce the transmission rate.” This study’s results totally support that, even though the authors give conclusions that bolster those saying, “Science doesn’t support masks.”

39 Responses to “Potpourri”

  1. Magus says:

    Epstein’s an idiot. He initially said 500 people dead at most in US. Then lied and said it was typo and he meant 5k (first he revised it without telling anyone trying to get away with it.) Now 50k. Soon probably he’ll change it to 500k.

    When someone is off by several orders of magnitude, they should either check their priors or shut the heck up.


    • Toby says:

      Wow you wish he’d get the virus?

      “This essay, does, however, by its very existence, make a subtle and potent argument for letting the virus have its merry way with us: Richard Epstein was born in 1943.”

      Everyone who disagrees should get dangerously ill and/or die?

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s unfortunate. He seems quite flustered in the interview and this is definitely going to leave a bitter taste about his work even though he is generally quite good on legal issues.

  3. Tel says:


    That’s my local state sponsored news organization … they have a long expose on Japan with photos top to bottom of Japanese people. It’s such an incredible mystery how Japan did OK out of all this … can’t figure it out. Then if you actually take a look at the photos there is this thing you can’t help noticing. Then if you go and search the whole article there’s this thing in all the photos but never discussed in the article (mentioned once in passing). That’s the mystery!! Why can’t a government paid journalist pay attention long enough to actually take a look?

    You can observe a lot just by watching.

    – Yogi Berra.

    I should also note that Taiwan and Australia have similar populations but many fewer cases in Taiwan. What could it be that Taiwan and Japan have in common? Mystery!!

    Finally, I’m not in the least bothered by the number of cases in Australia, you want healthy people to get exposed once, get over it and get on with their lives. Hardly anyone in Australia died, and about half of those deaths were directly related to either cruise ships or nursing homes. For the record, I generally don’t bother wearing a mask, but if I was genuinely worried that I’m vulnerable, then yeah the wearing of masks sure does slow the spread.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      thanks Tel that was funny.

      • Tel says:

        Ha ha … no worries, comedy gold, huh?

        Now, imagine your tax is paying for that … brings a little tear to the corner of one’s eye … but do feel free to laugh at my expense because it’s not like I’m ever getting that money back.

  4. Harold says:

    On masks, if they do no good at all it does not cost a great deal to wear one. That is, assuming there are plenty available. It seems they may protect other people from you, even if they don’t help you as much. It is not quite the same as saying taking chloroquine is not based on sound data – the side effects from chloroqine are much more serious than the side effects of mask wearing. I say wearing a mask is a sensible precaution given the potential cost/benefit, even if they turn out not to be much use. They may contribute to lower infection rates in Asia, as Tel suggests, but we don’t now that yet. Just don’t let them give you a false sense of security.

    The article you link to says they do not recommend *requiring* mask wearing in asymptomatic people. Such a compulsion should require more evidence than is currently available.

    On tests, adding the current positive with positive antibody tests will give you the number of infected plus recovered. This is a useful number to have, but obviously should not be mixed up with the number of currently infected. It does seem very odd that the figures are combined.

    On Epstein, I don’t go to a lawyer for medical advice, nor a doctor for legal advice. If you want to know about epidemiology, go to an epidemiologist rather than a lawyer. The Epstein paper shows why. He says “And, so, the situation that you get is you cannot use any exponential system because essentially then everybody is going to be dead, because things just keep doubling, doubling, and doubling.” Duh, yeah. Does he thing that is what the experts are doing?

    The effect he talks of about viruses becoming less lethal is real. Viruses have no interest in killing their host. A virus that kills the host quickly does not get spread. The virus thrives when it does not kill the host but causes them to act in a way that spreads the virus, such as coughing and sneezing for colds, and foaming at the mouth and biting things for rabies. Viruses in new hosts can be “too lethal” for effective spread, and viruses that are less lethal will tend to survive better until a balance is reached. Epstein seems to have heard about this and just assumes this will happen in this case and do so within a month or so. This is totally unfounded.

    Attacking the journalist when you have no good answer is straight out of the Trump playbook.

    As Bob more or less said, make your case for limiting the restrictions using the evidence, not by ignoring it or making up your own.

  5. Tel says:

    Can’t resist posting this, because lip syncing has never been this easy before.


    I still suspect a lot of this is driven by, “Save the masks for health care workers,” but I can’t deny that CIDRAP published something against mask policies.

    Yeah, I get where you are coming from. The problem with the officials telling lies to people, is then later on they can’t walk back those lies so we end up in this insane situation where they have to tell everyone to wear masks after telling everyone they do no good. Then people just get pissed off with the whole deal and produce videos like the above.

  6. Harold says:

    Article from AIER

    Magness discusses an NBER review of models of Covid-19

    He quote mines to make his point and makes no attempt to summarize the study.
    So he includes:

    “The NBER study thus concludes:

    “In sum, the language of these papers suggests a degree of certainty that is simply not justified. Even if the parameter values are representative of a wide range of cases within the context of the given model, none of these authors attempts to quantify uncertainty about the validity of their broader modeling choices.””

    But fails to include:

    ” Current simulations suggest that the health consequences of reaching this endpoint
    rapidly would be very, very bad (Greenstone and Nigam (2020)). And there would likely be
    severe economic disruption even if we abandoned all distancing efforts–few people would want
    to go to work, send their children to school, or eat in a restaurant if we reached a peak where
    fully 10% of the US population was currently infectious. ”

    He says “A month later, it has become readily apparent that the 2.2 million death projection was off by several orders of magnitude, as was its UK counterpart of 500,000 projected fatalities.” No! It was not off because this was a projection of what may happen if there were no change in behaviour. Since there was a change, this scenario did not occur. It does not make it “off by several orders of magnitude” But even if his premise was correct, likely deaths are off by one order of magnitude, not several.

    Ferguson makes this clear in his report.
    “In the (unlikely) absence of any control measures or spontaneous changes in individual behaviour… In total, in an
    unmitigated epidemic, we would predict approximately 510,000 deaths in GB and 2.2 million in the
    US, not accounting for the potential negative effects of health systems being overwhelmed on

    He acknowledges that changes in behaviour either spontaneously or by control measures are likely to occur, and thus this number of deaths is unlikely.

    The whole article is an example of what Bob asked proponents of minimal compulsion not to do – minimize the evidence for the seriousness of the disease.

    The paper discusses policy implications. There is a chance we could get some good news on treatment or that the disease is less lethal than we think. it would probably not be a good idea to act as though we already have this good news. It is worth a read.

  7. Ken P says:

    I’m a pro-mask guy too Bob. The study is interesting. There were some good critiques in the comments.

    I’m skeptical when they are doing PCR. I would be more swayed by TCID50 than PCR since it is possible that RNA fragments are being counted as intact viruses. The critical thing to me is whether there are infectious units there. But there may not be good models for that or the lab may not have the right cell lines.

    Theoretically, the virus should fall off with the cubing of the distance in the absence of gravity. But there is gravity so it makes me wonder if tall people have a lower infection incidence.

    At least we don’t have price gouging on masks. We can give away trillions of dollars in bailouts but I’d hate to see someone make another quarter per mask.

    • Harold says:

      The comments are interesting. the authors themselves say “As Dr. Camioli’s comment and the CDC guidelines, wearing any kind of masks in public settings with hand hygiene is highly recommended.”

      It seems the conclusions have not been stated well. “Neither surgical nor cotton masks effectively filtered SARS–CoV-2 during coughs by infected patients.”

      I think by “effectively” they mean it did not prevent any getting through. They do acknowledge in their comment that the masks may still have an important role in prevention. I think it would have been very useful to include this caveat in the paper itself.

      • KEN P says:

        Right. Not 100% effective. But do they reduce the overall rate of transmission? I would expect that. The study is one direction as well. I would expect it to be more protective from outside coming in due to lower velocity.

        If you ever been in a cell culture lab you see two things. Plexiglass between you and the culture in a vertical flow hood and if it’s a horizontal hood no plexiglass but the person will always wear a mask. Most people wear masks with vertical hoods too. The primary purpose is to protect the culture from bacteria and fungi but the droplet reduction is going to reduce viruses too.

    • Khodge says:

      Big government can yield a sledgehammer not a tack hammer. What we need is specific, correct information such as if you care for someone with diabetes, avoid these environments. What we get is don’t go to church.

      Grocery stores can set aside certain hours for seniors. An unresponsive state government cannot distinguish between two goods and lumps a right to fair treatment by nursing homes with a need to safeguard healthy clients.

      It’s the nature of the beast.

    • Harold says:

      It may contain accurate information, but they gave their game away by saying “so-called pandemic” in the first line. It is a pandemic. I treat the rest with suspicion.

      • skylien says:

        The way you interpret things is really interesting. They say “With the advent of the so-called COVID-19 pandemic,” Which means in my view nothing else than “The pandemic that is called the Covid19 pandemic.” They refer to the name not question the classification as pandemic..

        You seem to see ghosts.

        • Harold says:

          Your interpretation is very charitable.

          It can be used to show that something is commonly designated by the term It can also be used to express one’s view that the term is inappropriate.

          You *could* be right that it is just clumsy and confusing writing. I doubt that the author is unaware of the double meaning and to use it with one meaning when it risks conveying the other is poor communication.

          It is sufficient to view the rest with suspicion.

          • skylien says:

            “Most historians agree that it was bubonic plague, a bacterial disease that periodically flared up in Asia and Europe. The so-called Plague of Justinian devastated the Byzantine Empire in the sixth century, killing an estimated 25 million people.”


            Do you also think that the so-called National Geographic magazine doesn’t really think the Plaque of Justinian was actually a Plaque?! Why are they so clumsy… They should be aware about the double meaning.

            But whatever, your self-perceived so-called objectivity doesn’t stand my smell test, I know for while already that everything you say I file under suspicious.

            • Harold says:

              Your quoting single examples adds nothing. The meaning is clear there, because the term Plague of Justinian is not a commonly used term. The term Covid-19 pandemic is common today and does not need to be clarified.

              Would it help if I produced dozens of quotes of people using so-called to mean they do not think the term is appropriate? No. We all know it is used that way, so providing confirmation adds nothing.

              But I may be wrong, so I did a test. Search “so-called Covid-19 pandemic” to get a favor of who is using the term. I checked the first 3 pages or so and I found 3 neutral uses (one from a restaurant in Bankok, so maybe difference is usage there) and 15 from sites arguing for reducing the restrictions and playing down the effects of Covid 19. I did not count where the original Balylock article was quoted.

              I think it is clear that more people are using the term to play down the seriousness, rather than to point out the name.

              • skylien says:

                “From 1918 to 1919 the so-called Spanish flu raged, which killed more people than during the First World War, including Freud’s daughter Sophie (died January 25, 1920)” (Freud / Abraham, 2009, p. 621)”


                The Freud Museum wants to downplay the Spanish flu!

              • skylien says:

                “… After the first cases of respiratory illness were reported in December 2019, a novel coronavirus, designated as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified to cause the so-called coronavirus disease , which meanwhile has become a worldwide pandemic [1,2]. In general, three distinct phases characterize progression of COVID-19”

                Researchgate.Net doesn’t even think it is a disease!


              • skylien says:

                “Scientists say the virus likely spread from a Wuhan market selling exotic and wild animals for food, and environmentalists and animal rights activists have demanded the elimination of the so-called “wet” markets. ”

                Voanews wants to downplay “wet” markets to actually be markets!


              • skylien says:


              • Harold says:

                Spanish flu is so-called because it was not Spanish. That is widely accepted and this is a good was to use so-called to indicate the name is not appropriate.

                “Covid disease” is not the official name of the disease, so “so-called” is a good way to indicate that this is what people were calling it.

                A wet market is market selling meat etc, as opposed to a dry market selling durable goods. The term is not used widely in USA therefore so-called is a way to indicate that the name does not necessarily mean the market is “wet” in the normal sense.

                It is extraordinary that you continue to cite meaningless examples that demonstrate nothing.

                One interpretation is that they were just indicating that this is the name given. The other interpretation is that they are using so-called to indicate this is not an appropriate name. We have seen that the majority of people using it are doing so in the context of playing down the significance of the disease. I think I am justified in my interpretation, you do not agree, but citing examples where people have used it in one way or the other does not get us anywhere.

              • skylien says:

                It was clear to me that it doesn’t get you anywhere here, because you have made up your mind, that you have found the (imaginary not even real) hair in the soup that can make you dismiss the info in the article I linked. That is your MO and I know it won’t change. I merely provided exactly similar examples to show to you how common this use is. And to interpret like you do is ridiculous.

                Whatever, interpret it how you want, I don’t care..

              • Harold says:

                Do you accept that “so-called” can be used to indicate that you think the term is inappropriate?

      • guest says:

        “… but they gave their game away by saying “so-called pandemic” in the first line.”

        Watch this documentary before some organization like the UN finally memory-holes it.

        It’s called Plandemic.. YouTube wants to make sure you don’t think for yourself, so they banned from their site.

        But here it is on Bitchute:

        Dr Judy Mikovits PhD Molecular Biologist on the Coronavirus Plandemic and Big Pharma Corruption

        The only problem I have with it is, at one point, it actually contradicts something that was said in one of the very videos that it plays no-audio clips from.

        The chick in Plandemic says you don’t die *with* coronavirus, you die *from* coronavirus.

        Whereas in one of the videos that is being referenced (with no sound) – which was the video made by the two doctors in Bakersfield -one of the two doctors says that, because there may be (and are) comorbidities to factor into a death, it is not correct to say that people die *from* coronavirus, but rather *with* coronavirus.

        Here’s the video of the two doctors from Bakersfield; You can watch it from the below link, and also download it (YouTube banned this one from their site, also):

        MEGA – Dr. Erickson Covid-19 Full Briefing .m4v

        • Harold says:

          The Makovits video is bunkum. The AAAS checked it and found it to full of unsubstantiated claims and conspiracy theories.

          It has been checked by many others also. Her paper on chronic fatigue syndrome and XMRV virus was retracted and she contributed to a later replication effort that did not find the virus.

          The Erickson video is similarly flawed. He conflates positive test rates with population infection rates, when initially only those suspected of having Covid-19 were tested.

          Here is a quote from him
          “So if you look at California—these numbers are from yesterday—we have 33,865 COVID cases, out of a total of 280,900 total tested. That’s 12% of Californians were positive for COVID.”

          I think it is obvious that that does not mean 12% of Californians were positive.

          The AIER has the transcript, and also some misleading comments.

          “In a study released April 14, Stanford University epidemiologist John Iannodis conducted serology tests on 3,330 residents of Santa Clara County meant to be a “representative sample of the county by demographic and geographic characteristics” and found that the number of people who had gotten and recovered from Covid-19 was more than 50 times higher than previously thought. ”

          The actual study did not find this. They found 50 times more than the previously confirmed cases, which nobody believed was the total number of cases.

          How does it compare to Erickson’s estimate? The prevalence after adjusting for demographics was 2.8%.

          There is so much good information out there, with academic papers getting published before peer review and lots of good comments on them. Why rely on nonsense? It seems the more something is shown to be wrong, the more some people believe it is right.

          • guest says:

            “The AIER has the transcript …”

            No, my friend. No it doesn’t.

            Here’s what AIER says:

            “Here are some selected quotes from their interview with a hostile reporter.”

            Selected quotes are not a transcript.

            “I think it is obvious that that does not mean 12% of Californians were positive.”

            It’s only “obvious” because you only read the “transcript”.

            Here’s what you think they said, based on the transcript (cut and pasted):

            “So if you look at California—these numbers are from yesterday—we have 33,865 COVID cases, out of a total of 280,900 total tested. That’s 12% of Californians were positive for COVID. So we don’t, the initial—as you guys know, the initial models were woefully inaccurate. They predicted millions of cases of death—not of prevalence or incidence—but death. That is not materializing. What is materializing is, in the state of California is 12% positives. You have a 0.03 chance of dying from COVID in the state of California. Does that necessitate sheltering in place?”

            This is missing an ellipsis. Here’s what was actually said:

            [at 4:56]

            “They predicted millions of cases of death — not of prevalence or incidence, but death. That is not materializing. What is materializing in the state of California is 12% positives.

            Well, if we – we have 39.5 million people. If we just take a basic calculation and extrapolate that out, that equates to about 4.7 million cases throughout the state of California. Which means this thing is wide-spread. That’s the good news. We’ve seen 1,227 deaths in the state of California with a possible incidence or prevalence of 4.7 million. That means you have a 0.03 chance of dying from Covid-19 in the state of California.

            “Zero-point-zero-three chance of dying from Covid in the state of California. Does that necessitate sheltering in place?”

            33,865 / 280,900 = 0.1205… (truncated, not rounded)

            Extrapolating for the population of California:

            39,500,000 * 0.12 = 4,740,00

            Go watch the watch the whole video for yourself.

            More to come.

            • Harold says:

              Thank you for pointing out that this is not a transcript. Using selected quotes as actual quotes could indeed lead to error. In this case not so much, because the meaning in the full quote is just as flawed as the selected quote. They do say if we take a basic calculation and extrapolate, which is exactly what I was criticising.

              • guest says:

                “In this case not so much, because the meaning in the full quote is just as flawed as the selected quote.”

                No it’s not. I literally did the math for you in my response.

                Seriously, just go watch the whole video for yourself.

              • Harold says:

                It is not the math, it is the premise. The people who were tested were those presenting with symptoms. It is not representative of the population, so extrapolation to the population is not a valid approach.

                One person likened it to determining how many Catholics are in the US by sampling the communion line.

              • guest says:

                ” It is not representative of the population, so extrapolation to the population is not a valid approach.”

                If you, personally, need to be 100% certain that you won’t catch the Covid-19 virus, then you can voluntarily remain in your house until you believe you have a greater risk of starving to death.

                For those of us that don’t need that amount of certainty, we’re not your slaves, and so we’re going to be going on with our lives.

                Food for thought:

                Ex-CDC head recalls ’76 swine flu outbreak

                April 30, 2009

                “The man who led the response to the 1976 swine flu outbreak is defending the vaccination campaign that led to more deaths than the disease, but says he’s sorry for the people killed or sickened. …”

                “… He was fired in 1977, after 11 years on the job. Now 84 and retired, he said this week that health officials “acted on the best knowledge that we had and believed that we were doing the right thing.

                “But he added, “We know a lot more about viruses than we did then.” …”

                “… In the aftermath, the government was criticized for pushing Americans to get unnecessary vaccinations. “But we also have to feel if we didn’t do something and swine flu spread, more people would have died,” Sencer said.”

                Not only do we know more about viruses, today, we also know more about how the government’s good intentions can be ill-directed.

                Let’s apply your precautionary principle to government’s and “health officials'” (read “follow the science”) ineptitude, and choose laisse-faire and personal cost/benefit analysis, instead.

                HT to Ron Paul:

                Ron Paul: People ‘Should Be Leery About’ a Coronavirus Vaccine

              • Harold says:

                Guest, your first link is not working for me.

              • guest says:

                Try searching for the URL on the Wayback Machine:


              • Harold says:

                Thanks, that worked. The chronology is interesting. The cases at Fort Dix (which were the only cases) occurred in January, were confirmed in February and the President was informed in March. The first inoculations were at the end of September.

                The problem seems to have been that the decision to develop and use the vaccine was taken in March. With hindsight, the vaccine should have been developed but the decision to use it should have been delayed. By October no further cases had been found, so there was no need for the vaccinations to be rolled out. By then they had already committed to the vaccinations.

                Apparently at least some scientists thought the Govt was going too far and the Govt thought the scientists were giving them no choice but to go ahead. I don’t know if communications have improved since then.

              • Tel says:

                Let’s apply your precautionary principle to government’s and “health officials’” (read “follow the science”) ineptitude, and choose laisse-faire and personal cost/benefit analysis, instead.

                That’s called the Hippocratic Oath: first do no harm. It dates back to 400 BC.

              • guest says:

                Tel, I was actually thinking about you when I wrote that, because you made a comment some time ago about how the precautionary principle is self-defeating.

              • Harold says:

                Nice of you to attribute the precautionary principle to me, but I assure you it is not mine.

                Like the Hippocratic oath, it makes little sense if taken literally. In medicine, all surgery causes harm, so would not be allowed with a literal interpretation of the Oath. Nevertheless, the Oath is taken as a useful guide.

                Similarly, the precautionary principle taken literally, or the “strong” version, would prevent all action, including Government action. The weak version can be considered trivial. Nevertheless, if taken as a guide, then it can inform, as does the Hippocratic Oath.

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