COVID19 update, May 17, 2020: Exposé on decision making timeline in Germany; YouTube censorship asininity of the day

(1) DIE WELT AM SONTAG, the Sunday supplement of the German daily, has a very long article detailing the timeline of Germany’s response to the pandemic. I will try to put up a translation somewhere, but the bottom line is: decision makers — both in the government and in the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s infectious diseases authority — were lulled into a false sense of security by the misinformation spread by the Chinese regime. The article concludes that if these precious weeks had not been lost, Germany likely would have been able to contain the epidemic without a lockdown, and at a much lower cost in lives (not to mention the ruinous economic cost).

A virologist named Alexander Kekulé [a great-grandson of the Kekulé who first discovered the ring structure of benzene] acted as a Cassandra — saying “this isn’t your garden variety flu, but SARS all over again”— but found little resonance at first. A continuous tension existed between the Minister Jens Spahn and the Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (a former head of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Angela Merkel’s CDU). Seehofer favored more restrictive measures than his colleague.

Even as the duplicity and manipulations of the Xi regime became clear, Spahn tried to defend the WHO chief, saying he was in an impossible position since he was wholly dependent on the Chinese for information.

Then a number of things happened in quick succession:

  • 100 Germans came in on an evacuation flught from Wuhan. Two tested positive.
  • Diamond Princess ship, first major spread outside China
  • Examination of the first cases in Bavaria revealed that, unlike the 2002-3 SARS, this virus did not confine itself to the lower lungs but also sat in the throat and upper respiratory system , and therefore could spread much more easily.
  • News from Italy came in about the outbreak in the North
  • Following carnival celebrations, the first major “community spread” outbreak in Germany
  • a German dealer in medical PPE (personal protective equipment) sold out of his entire stock (good for about 5 months of normal sales volume) in a single day, and realized something was up.
  • Angela Merkel, in a goodwill gesture, sent 5.5 tons of PPE to China — and in order to do so, had to dig into Germany’s own emergency stockpile, as China was stripping the world market bare
  • at an intelligence briefing, the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst or Federal Intelligence Service, Germany’s CIA) showed satellite footage of mass graves in Iran that indicated the epidemic there was much more severe than they were communicating outside

Once the powers that be finally became convinced they were dealing with a potentially cataclysmic event, Germany appears to have gotten its act together quite rapidly.

(2) A commenter alerted me that Roger Seheult MD’s youtube video about the zinc-hydroxychloroquine combination, which I linked yesterday, had been deleted by YT for “violating community standards”. To call this asinine would be an insult to donkeys. Dr. Seheult is not your garden-variety crank poster pushing quack remedies, but a pulmonologist who actually deals with COVID19 patients and lectures in medical school, and who has been running an excellent medical school tutoring channel named MedCram on YouTube for some time. Whichever self-appointed medical authority at YT decided that we must be protected from “doubleplusungoodthink” ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Let me repeat once again a quote from the French mathematician, theoretical physicist, and pioneering philosopher of science Henri Poincaré that is something of a creed for French (and Belgian) secular humanists, but is a rallying cry for anyone who takes the pursuit of science and truth seriously:

Liberty is for science what air is for an animal: when deprived of liberty, it dies of suffocation like a bird deprived of oxygen. […] Thought must never submit — neither to dogma, nor to party, nor to passion, nor to special interest, nor to preconceptions, nor to anything but the facts themselves — for when thought submits, that means it ceases to be.

Quote from: Henri Poincaré, Le libre examen en matière scientifique [free inquiry in scientific matters], lecture Nov 20, 1909, on the 75th anniversary of the Université Libre de Bruxelles,

ADDENDUM: Mike Hansen MD on results from autopsies (the paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine being discussed is here: )

Reflections on the Harvard “Emailgate” controversy

The Volokh Conspiracy has been covering at length [link leads to subject tag] an “emailgate” at Harvard that is really getting my goat.

Executive summary: a Harvard law student sends a private Email (relevant passages reproduced here) in which she basically says she is “not 100% sure” that the intellectual achievement gap between ethnic groups might not contain a genetic component somewhere. Months later, without her permission, somebody forwards her email to the discussion list of the Black Law Students Association, where it (as expected) unleashes a firestorm. The student has been censored by the Dean of the Law School, has abjectly apologized in public, and is subject to calls for her expulsion.

Eugene Volokh (himself a law prof at UCLA), while not sympathetic to the content of what she said, says the whole incident reminds him of the former Soviet Union where he was born. He goes at great length into what he terms “the practical costs of condemning openness to distressing answers on factual questions“. David Bernstein gives a catalog of outrageous public statements that apparently are not taboo at elite universities, but happen to fit the prevailing PC, post-Marxist, Third-Worldist orthodoxy.

Personally, I think we understand as little about the mechanisms of heredity of intelligence as we understand about global climate, possibly even less. Thomas Sowell — whom I admire greatly — makes a strong case for an “all-nurture” origin of differences between groups. If this were a lecturer or professor having made a statement in public, this would be one thing: “Scholars, heed your words, lest you lead your students to a place of evil waters, and they drink from it and die” (Pirkei Avot 1:11).

But the idea that a student could be expelled for expressing in private even openness to an answer that runs counter to the politically correct orthodoxy — even on such a “third-rail” subject, but where we don’t really know what’s going on  — is truly chilling. Squatch at C2 quotes:

Thoughtcrime is death. Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime IS death. I have committed even before setting pen to paper the essential crime that contains all others unto itself.

And indeed, the whole incident reminds me more of George Orwell’s “1984” than of the principle of academic free inquiry as I’ve always understood it, and as best expressed by the Poincaré Declaration:

La pensée ne doit jamais se soumettre, ni à un dogme, ni à un parti, ni à une passion, ni à un intérêt, ni à une idée préconçue, ni à quoi que ce soit, si ce n’est aux faits eux-mêmes, parce que, pour elle, se soumettre, ce serait cesser d’être. (Henri Poincaré, Fêtes du LXXVe anniversaire, 21 novembre 1909).

[My free translation:] “Thought must never submit, neither to dogma, nor to partisanship, nor to passion, nor to interests, nor to preconceptions — nor to anything but the facts themselves — since for thought, submission would mean ceasing to exist.” (Henri Poincaré, remarks at the 75th anniversary celebration of Brussels Free University, November 21, 1909)

UPDATE: Taxprof has a roundup.

UPDATE 2: Some good verbal ju-jitsu from Ann Althouse. See also Neo-Neocon.