Tuesday, June 9, 2020
Can We Help Bill Maher Increase His COVID IQ?
Have the last remaining sane and rational neurons ensconced in Bill Maher's 3 pounds of gray matter finally been eviscerated? This is the question one must ask after watching yet another round of his lockdown criticism and deliberate diminution of Covid 19 on his last Real Time episode, June 5th). In the latest iteration questioning the severity by comparing the coronavirus to yearly deaths from medical errors (100,000) and the Hong Kong flu of 1968 (100,000) he faced only mild pushback from guest Michael Steele - former RNC chair - and now MSNBC commentator.
I had the Hong Kong flu - desperately ill for a good 3 weeks in December of '68- but I would argue it's nothing like the worst cases of Covid, where intubation is often the key to survival for the very ill. Also, it leaves those intubated patients with major cognitive and other deficiencies (see WaPo link at bottom of this post). In other words, the respiratory difficulties I faced with the Hong Kong flu were nothing compared to what moderate and severe Covid patients experience. But Maher in his several episodes denying or diminishing the impact of Covid 19 has yet to process any of this. Invariably choosing to diminish its effects by invoking sketchy relative to 'x' "arguments".
Though Hong Kong flu had a comparable R0 (est. 1.o6- 2.06 for first wave) the data remain elusive and most of the transmissibility aspects have been derived from the 2nd wave. All I can say here is that as I recall, ICUs were not flooded by patients as they have been with Covid. Even now as I write this warnings from state medical authorities have gone out in Arizona, as well as Mississippi and 19 other states, that ICUs are close to being overrun and patients may have to be redirected to other facilities.
Regarding medical errors being compared to Covid 19, that's a gross false analogy. The reason is that as deadly as medical errors are they are distributed over lengthy time and don't occur in massive waves which demand extraordinary medical resources - like N95 masks, ventilators, face shields, protective gowns and other ppe.
On the blurring of lockdown vs. non-lockdown stats (i.e. infection rates, fatalities) Maher succumbs to a favorite trope of contrarians, i.e. that the data indicates none of the lockdowns have worked. However, this is a misguided statistical comparison, often like literally comparing apples to oranges. Take the matter of timing. We have the data - incontrovertible - showing that those that acted earlier (like South Korea) were more successful in containing the epidemic. In S. Korea's case a draconian lockdown wasn't needed because it had developed a suitable infrastructure for testing, contact tracing in combination with suitable quarantine. Meanwhile, the U.S. with Trump loafed for two weeks, messed up on the use of tests and tracing - so was more or less forced into the "bludgeon" response of total lockdown.
The case of Sweden is also invoked - usually by the Rightists to push for premature U.S. reopening - but we now know Sweden has the highest fatality rate of the Nordic nations as well as northern European nations. Besides, the experiment is still not over. What will a 2nd wave do? What manner of havoc will it wreak? Will deaths double, triple? We don't know but may find out in 2-3 months, and by then the praise of Sweden by the 'Murican Right may not be so loud and goofy.
Sadly, given all the above - using the fallacy of composition, multiple false analogies, non sequiturs galore, Maher seems to be going along the same backward IQ arc as the FOXites and WSJ anti-lockdown toads like Holman Jenkins Jr. Like Jenkins Jr. Maher, to support his specious contentions, has either cited or actually had quacks on his show to prop him up. (It's a wonder, given his aversion to vaccines, he hasn't had a prominent anti-vaxxer on yet).
Maher's main quack of choice thus far has been David Katz, featured on Real Time about 6 weeks ago. . Katz bloviated for 10-15 minutes along similar lines to Dr. John Ioannidis of Stanford, and mostly just reinforcing Maher's Covid "meh" confirmation bias. That is, that this virus isn't much worse than flu and certainly that a lockdown is an overreaction. Oh yeah, and if people just stopped eating so many cheese burgers all would be okay, their immune systems would kick in.
All Maher succeeded in doing is reveal "even more dangerous quackery" - his own - in hyping Katz. This from a guy (supposedly high IQ) but still leery of vaccines, e.g.
As noted from the above link:
On Friday night, instead of opting for a despicably racist rant against China over the novel coronavirus or blaming the media, Bill Maher welcomed Dr. David Katz, a doctor and ex-instructor at the Yale School of Medicine, onto his show Real Time.
Dr. Katz, who consistently flaunts his Yale ties despite the fact that they were severed in 2016, has become something of a right-wing darling after penning a controversial New York Times op-ed on March 20 titled “Is Our Fight Against Coronavirus Worse Than the Disease?” In it, Katz argues against the self-isolation policies put in place by most of the U.S., instead saying the country should isolate the elderly and infirm, which would thus “allow most of society to return to life as usual and perhaps prevent vast segments of the economy from collapsing. Healthy children could return to school and healthy adults go back to their jobs. Theaters and restaurants could reopen, though we might be wise to avoid very large social gatherings like stadium sporting events and concerts.”
Following his op-ed, Katz has made appearances on Fox News touting his hole-filled theory, thereby co-signing a network that’s called the pandemic a “hoax”; repeatedly downplayed it; and spent hours and hours pushing hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure, even though it’s been determined by most of the medical community to do way more harm than good following a series of poisonings and deaths. On top of that, a convincing refutation of Katz’s ill-advised piece was published in The New York Times from those currently at the Yale School of Public Health that read, in part: 'it is not yet known who all of the most vulnerable people are. We believe that it is easier, quicker and more efficient to reduce transmission over all than to permit high levels of transmission in the community but somehow keep it from afflicting susceptible people in our highly networked world.'
Despite all this, there was Katz on Maher’s HBO show regurgitating the arguments he made in his ridiculed Times piece—which he wrote when we were at 200 deaths nationwide; we’re now at 52,400 deaths and climbing with strict shutdowns and social distancing in place. "
To Katz’s argument that everyone should want to get infected with COVID-19, Maher actually replied, “Yeah, I think you make a lot of sense there. And I think it’s a shame—you talk about politicization, that people like you who sound reasonable, maybe it’s not the exact one true opinion you hear somewhere else, has to go on Fox News.” Seriously, Bill? Hey, he had to go on FOX News because that is the domain for pushing hoaxes, hoax "cures" (like hydroxychloroquine), oh and quacks like David Katz.
Another aspect of Katz and why he bears distrust and scrutiny: He was rightly pilloried by skeptics back in 2008 for propounding the concept of "fluidity of evidence". In fact there is no such thing. Evidence either exists in an objective form or it does not, there is no 'fluidity' about it. As noted from Science Blogs (June 18, 2008)
"No, he is not happy at all. Specifically, he is not happy with the skeptical blogosphere. He apparently feels that we nasty, close-minded skeptics have been so very unfair in our discussions of him. Specifically, he is not happy how several of us have called him to task for his remarks at the 1st Annual Integrative Medicine Scientific Symposium held in April at Yale University. In particular, what stood out (and provoked the sarcasm and contempt of several bloggers devoted to discussing scientific medicine and going after quackery) was Dr. Katz's fanatastically Orwellian advocating for a more "fluid concept of evidence" in evaluating so-called "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM) or "integrative" medicine. His remarks were lambasted in particular by Professor David Colquhoun (who characterized his remarks as "not science" and "not even common sense"),
Incredibly, Katz also claimed on that Real Time segment that it’s “the liberal ideology that seems to be so resistant to talking about unemployment and the economy,” when amid the COVID-19 crisis, the progressive left wing of the Democratic Party—Bernie Sanders, AOC and the like—have been fighting hard for workers and arguing for rent cancellation as well as giving $2,000 a month to each household during the shutdown. Maher's response? A bot -like nod of the head, no challenge, no criticism - despite having interviewed Sen. Sanders only a few weeks earlier (April 3rd Real Time) and being told first hand the mission.
All of which explains why Janice is no longer able to watch Maher, as he has allowed an original welcome independence of thought to descend into a form of stupidity in the name of misplaced political incorrectness.
No doubt there still might be some small probability of getting Bill Maher to rise from the "moron" level of Covid -19 intelligence levels. (Janice suggests "imbecile" level.) but I would not hold my breath waiting for him to demonstrate it anytime soon.
In the meantime, I suggest Bill read the WaPo piece showing that shutdown orders prevented about 60 million novel coronavirus infections in the United States and 285 million in China. This according to a research study published Monday that examined how stay-at-home orders and other restrictions limited the spread of the contagion.