LZ Margo…The Dead Went Last

This story was published in the Naval Institute Proceeding magazine in November of 1995. It is written by my father, MajGen J.D. Lynch, Jr. USMC (Ret) who was the operations officer for BLT 2/26 at LZ Margo. This story is about a bad day in a forgotten place during an unpopular war. The men who died that day were representing this country well, some of them were draftees, none of them were happy about fighting in Vietnam but all of them did their duty. On this Memorial Day take the time to read about the kind of men we are honoring. This is history worth knowing because it is our story and the more you understand it the clearer your picture becomes of the sacrifice made by those we honor on this day.   

The 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines rarely appears in the Marine Corps’ illustrious combat history. The battalion saw only brief service during World War II. . . long enough to land in the assault wave at lwo Jima. Later, during the Vietnam War, it reappeared for a few years before its colors once again were returned to the museum curators. Its daily Vietnam experience was usually far less stressful than the Iwo Jima operation but Vietnam had its days and when it did, the late 1960s Marine of 2/26 experienced the horrors of war at the same levels of intensity faced by the generation that fought its way up the black ash terraces beneath Mount Suribachi. This is the story of one of those days: 16 September 1968.

Late 1968 found the 3rd Marine Division serving in the extreme north of I Corps, the northernmost corps area in what was then the Republic of Vietnam, controlling ten infantry battalions: those of its organic 3rd, 4th, and 9th Marine Regiments, plus 2/26. The division’s operational concept-an effective one – was as easy to understand as it was difficult to execute. Relying on few fixed defensive positions and even fewer infantry units to defend them, the defense was offense. Battalions stayed in the bush for weeks on end covering North Vietnamese Army (NVA) infiltration routes and, in general, looking for trouble. They moved constantly, on foot or by helicopter, and when they encountered an NVA unit all hell broke loose until it was destroyed.

Our battalion – I was the operations officer – celebrated the Fourth of July in an area near the coast called Leatherneck Square, where it was responsible for defending the square’s northern and western sides. In late July, the battalion was reinforced to conduct amphibious assault operations and designated Battalion Landing Team (BLT 2/26).

After training with the reinforcements, BLT 2/26 embarked in the ships of Amphibious Ready Group Alfa, including the famous World War Il Essex-class carrier Princeton (LPH-8), now an amphibious assault ship. Initially there was talk of landings just south of the Ben Hai river inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), but the pattern of NVA operations had shifted westward and the amphibious talk died out. An early-September landing well in- land marked a temporary end to our amphibious experience and the beginning of service as one of the division’s maneuver battalions. Despite the change in mission, the battalion kept its reinforcements-among them a tank platoon, a 105-mm. artillery battery, and a 4.2-inch mortar battery.

My Dad – then a major and the S-3 of BLT 2/26

Operational control shifted to the 3rd Marines, headquartered at Camp Carroll, but several days of aggressive patrolling yielded no enemy contacts. About 7 September, the BLT’s field elements were trucked to Camp Carroll and staged for two contingencies: a helicopter assault into Landing Zone (LZ) Margo, a barren hill- top just south of the DMZ, roughly l7 kilometers west-north- west of Camp Carroll, or a shift in operational control to the 4th Marines and a return to Khe Sanh where the battalion had served throughout the early-1968 siege.

To the relief of those who had served at Khe Sanh, the Margo operation prevailed – an assault into the LZ followed by movement north to the high ground on the southern border of the DMZ where the battalion was to turn east and sweep the high ground. The orders emphasized the need to take prisoners.

A typhoon brushed the coast and although the tree covered mountains inland showed no outward sign of the rains, movement became impossible. The war ground to a halt. Finally, the weather began clearing and, on 12 September, the commanding officer of the supporting helicopter squadron flew in for the Zippo brief – a planning and coordination meeting attended by the battalion and squadron commanders plus their staffs.

Zippos were businesslike affairs. Lives were at stake and the assaulting battalion and supporting squadron had to reach complete agreement and understanding. On the plus side, Margo was easy to find because of its location on the north side of the Cam Lo River inside a distinctive kilometer-wide and more than kilometer deep U shaped bend – unfortunately this plus was offset by several minuses – most of which stemmed from the tiresome but necessary subject of terrain.

Margo, which resembled a broken bowl, was smaller than the maps indicated. Using north as 12 o’clock, the rim from about 5 to l0 o’clock was the dominant piece of ground within the LZ. The southern side of the rim dropped sharply to the Cam Lo River, actually more stream than river at this point, while the interior slope provided good observation over the landing zone and north toward the DMZ. A spring near the center of the zone fed a stream that had cut a deep draw, which meandered eastward and exited Margo between 2 and 4 o’clock. Margo’s northern rim, from l0 to 2 o’clock, varied in height but was lower than the southern rim. lts exterior sloped sharply downward for a kilometer or so before reaching the steep approaches to the terrain fingers that led to the high ground in the DMZ. At its highest point, Margo was about 150 meters above sea level. The hills to the north were three to four times that height while the intervening terrain dropped to low points of about 50 meters.

It was rugged, forbidding country, made all the more so because-although Margo was clear-the heights and intervening valleys were covered with double- or triple- canopy forest.

The terrain inside the LZ made Margo a “one-bird zone,”-helicopters had to land and unload one at a time. This was hardly unusual, but it slowed the rate of assault dramatically. Margo also was too small to accommodate the entire BLT. Since the intent was to retain only G Company, the BLT command group, and the 8l-mm. mortars, engineer, and reconnaissance platoons in the zone for any length of time (a few days), the size of the LZ did not seem to be a major factor. lts rock-hard soil, however, was another problem. Digging in took time. Finally, there was Margo’s history. For a brief period, some months before, it had been used as an artillery fire support base-and the North Vietnamese were known to keep such positions under observation.

The terrain and history summed to the point that BLT 2/26 was landing, one aircraft at a time, into a zone that was:

  • Too small to hold the entire BLT
  • Dominated by high ground to the north
  • Probably the subject of continuing NVA attention at least to the point of registering mortar fires

Not good . . . but not unusual.

Friday the l3th of September 1968, a date not lost on many of the Marines, marked the beginning of several days of cloudless skies and comfortable temperatures. By 0700, a thousand or so Marines and corpsmen were waiting quietly in the Camp Carroll pick-up zone smoking, talking, thinking, and maybe, especially in Golf Company – which was landing first – praying. They were grunts, a term coined in Vietnam. While it may have been a derisive term originally, the sting was long gone, with a certain pride, it is what they called themselves.

Believing that the chances of infection dramatically increased with the amount of clothing worn when wounded, they were deliberately underdressed. Boots, socks, and trousers were the standard; no underwear and, quite often, no shirt during the day. Their faded helmet covers sported an elastic band around the outside intended to hold camouflage material when the wearer sought invisibility in the bush. More often, it held either a main battle dressing for use if the wearer’s luck turned bad or, in the case of optimists, a bottle of mosquito repellent. The graffiti on most of the covers addressed a variety of subjects but many tended toward the religious. David Douglas Duncan’s striking photographs of 26th Regiment Marines at Khe Sanh captured the phenomenon.

They all wore flak jackets, never zipped because shell or grenade fragments taken in the wrong place could jam the zipper, making it difficult for the corpsmen to remove the jacket and treat a wounded man in the field. The flak jackets, if anything, were dirtier than the helmet covers. Sweat-stained from long wear by a series of owners, they had the same faded color as the camouflage covers but their graffiti, for whatever reason, tended to more basic thoughts than those found on the helmets.

One of the famous Duncan Khe Sanh photos

They carried a haver sack holding a box of the venerable C-rations, a poncho, poncho liner, and most important of all, an extra two or three pairs of socks. They carried extra radio batteries; mortar ammunition, even though they were not mortarmen; rocket launchers; grenades; at least four filled canteens; and as much extra rifle or machine gun ammunition as possible.

They were typical grunts and corpsmen, normally unwashed, usually underfed, always overloaded and, more often than not, tired. The lucky ones, those who avoided disease, wounds, or death, did not enjoy a hot meal or cold shower for weeks on end.

Shortly before 0800 the CH-46s began landing in the pick-up zone with their distinctive whopping blade sound-unforgettable for those who rode them into combat. As the first wave launched, the sounds of the artillery preparatory fires in the distance and the roar of the fast-movers orbiting overhead helped ease the tension.

The actual landing was anti-climactic. There was no opposition, but it still took a long time. Echo, Foxtrot and Hotel companies quickly assembled and began moving north. Echo struck out for a finger on the right that led to the high ground while Foxtrot and Hotel headed for another finger on the left. Golf Company, the command post, the 81mm mortar platoon and others established defensive positions in the LZ and began digging in. Friday the 13th passed quietly.

BLT 2/26 riflemen moving up the fingers after flying in on the 13th

On Saturday, 14 September, the companies continued moving north at first light. While there were well-worn trails in the area and occasional sounds of movement ahead, there were no contacts. Even so, the companies called artillery and mortar fires on possible targets to keep the fire support system active. About mid-day, Hotel Company’s point, leading the movement up the left finger, saw movement ahead and signaled the company to move off the trail and wait. Their patience was rewarded as they watched a North Vietnamese soldier, weapon at sling arms, striding down the path towards them.

The point element was in an excellent ambush position and could have killed him. That they didn’t was a testimony to the discipline and the emphasis on taking prisoners. Waiting until the NVA soldier had passed, the point man re-entered the trail and, in Vietnamese, ordered him to halt-which he did promptly. The capture was reported to the company commander, relayed to battalion, and within a matter of minutes the 3rd Marines had learned of the potential guest speaker.  Within the hour the prisoner had been flown to Camp Carroll for interrogation.

Throughout the war, most higher headquarters consistently failed to pass timely intelligence information down to the battalion level where it could be acted upon. The 3rd Marines did not make that mistake. Just before sundown 2/26 learned that the prisoner had intended to surrender because he had been at Khe Sanh when the Marines first arrived. Stating that he “had a love of life” he added that he wanted no more of anything remotely resembling that battle, a confrontation that clearly had a psychological hold on both sides. Of greater interest was his disclosure that the lead company of the northwest finger – Hotel Company – would be attacked at about 2000 that evening. All three companies were alerted.

Echo, Foxtrot, and Hotel halted for the night and began registering artillery defensive fires. Hotel Company’s artillery forward observer (FO), controlling a supporting 155-mm. howitzer battery, had just started registering fires to cover a listening post located on the western side of the finger when the Marines manning the post reported hearing movement through the draw to their direct front. Since the registration rounds were on the way, they could only wait. Seconds later, as the roar of the explosions died away, the listening post reported screams and other sounds of panic. The FO immediately called “Fire for effect” and swept the draw with 155-mm rounds. Other than moans and the sound of some movement in the draw, the remainder of the night was quiet.

15 September dawned clear and cloudless. Visibility was so good that Marines could watch outgoing 8l-mm. mortar rounds until they reached their apogee. Again keeping the mortar and artillery fire-support systems active, E, F , and H companies resumed their slow and careful climb toward the high ground. Signs of enemy presence were plentiful but there was no contact.

The trouble started at noon, when a radio message from the 3rd Marines ordered the BLT to pull its companies back to the LZ and prepare to shift to the operational control of the 9th Marines.  The message was cryptic – it had to be because none of the radio transmissions with any of the battalions in the 3rd Marine Division’s area were secure. The encryption equipment of the day was too heavy to be carried in the field and, in any case, seldom worked in the heat and humidity of the bush. Problems with getting shackle sheets (codes) down to the company level precluded the use of even that decades-old mans of encryption. Everyone assumed that the North Vietnamese heard most of the radio traffic.

Communication security problems notwithstanding, the order was received with incredulity. There was little doubt that the NVA would follow companies back to the landing zone and less doubt that mortar and perhaps infantry attacks would follow. The three rifle companies were told to halt and then begin moving south to Margo; meanwhile, the order was strenuously argued. The regimental commander made it clear the order stood- but it was clear he agreed tactical assessment of what lay in store. Obedience would have a price, that much was obvious. What was not obvious was how much.

After a few hours, the three companies were told to halt, reorient, and return to the original northward advance. We had to know if the trailing -enemy theory was correct. The order did not specifiy how long to follow the reverse course but did tell the company commanders something they already knew – to expect contact. It came quickly on both ridges as small NVA units were surprised to find Marines heading north again. Breaking contact the companies once more turned south toward Margo. So far as 2/26 was concerned, the point had been proven. We reported this to the 3rd Marines and forcefully recommended cancellation of the withdrawal order.

The reply was more enlightening than helpful. The battalion was told that its arguing and temporary resumption of the offense had caused some difficulties (it wasn’t phrased that way) and that there would be a 24-hour postponement. Further, however, the entire battalion was to concentrate in LZ Margo south of the 61 grid line- an east-west grid line that split the LZ- by a specified time early the next afternoon, 16 September. In the interim, the BLT was authorized to do whatever it thought best to prepare for a return to the LZ. The maneuver companies were turned north again; within minutes they bumped into NVA troops following them down the ridge lines.

The enlightening section of the order was the part about moving south of the 61 grid line, It made no sense because the area remaining in the LZ south of the grid line was too small to accommodate the BLT in anything resembling tactical positions. Even worse, it did not permit a tactical defense of the LZ, especially against infantry attacks coming from the most logical direction – north. It was apparent that the order had emanated from a headquarters other than regiment of division, neither of which would have displayed that level of tactical ignorance, This, and the urgency associated with the 61 grid line provision, led to a conclusion that an Arc Light – high altitude B-52 area bombing mission- was imminent.

To those steeped in the traditions of obedience to orders, it might seem strange, but the BLT now confronted a dilemma. If its tactical assessment was correct, the order returning the maneuver units to the LZ would result in some form of NVA attack; if, on the other hand, the Arc Light guess was right there were other problems. The timing and target areas were unknown and, for security, would remain unknowns at the battalion level. Further, the tactically inane directive to move south of the 61-grid line indicated that the Arc Light was going in north of Margo – but close.

The dilemma was simple and stark: comply with the order and risk NVA action  or move the companies toward Margo, retaining some semblance of tactical deployment north of the LZ, and risk the Arc Light. To those who have seen a proper Arc Light, the choice was easy. The companies were directed to hold in place and begin moving south to the LZ early the next morning. But as a concession to common sense, that portion of the order regarding the 61 grid line was interpreted rather loosely. We would defend Margo.

The weather on 16 September matched the brilliance of the days gone by. Today, the Vietnamese Bureau of Tourism would be touting the weather, on that day in 1968, however, it turned into a scene from hell.

Occasionally stopping to engage NVA units following them, the three rifle companies slowly made their way back to Margo. Echo Company came in last. Commanded by Captain John Cregan, now a Roman Catholic priest, the company began to climb up Margo’s northern slope and by 1430 or so was beginning to take up it assigned defensive positions on the northern perimeter. Even after ignoring the order to stay south of the 61-grid line, there were too many troops in too small an area – and they had to contend with Margo’s hard ground. Digging in took more time.

Early in the afternoon there were ominous sightings of North Vietnamese soldiers with mortars fording the Cam Lo River west of Margo. Artillery fire was called, probably without effect. At the same time, there was a minor flurry of activity as the BLT shifted to the operational control of the 9th Marines and radio frequencies were changed and tested. That done, the chatter of the troops and clanging of their entrenching tools were the only sounds disturbing the quiet.

At 1500, Captain Ken Dewey, an F-4 pilot serving as the battalions air liaison officer, was looking north toward the left of the two hills that had been the original objectives when suddenly a mirror started flashing – followed immediately by the soft “thunking” sound of mortars firing in the distance. Within seconds Margo was blanketed with exploding 82 mm rounds from several points on the compass, especially the northern arc. The battalion began its “time on the cross” – as the French put it in an earlier Indochina War.

The noise was deafening. Each explosion filled the surrounding air with black, stinking, greasy-tasting smoke. The mortarmen poured it on until 200 to 300 rounds had pummeled the Marines and corpsmen, a good percentage of whom had no protection beyond that of shallow fighting holes. As the fire eased, the LZ sprang to life and First Lieutenant Al Green’s 81mm mortar began counter-battery fires, an action that won them concentrated NVA attention.

Battalion CP at Margo

Battalion machine gunners on Margo’s southern rim saw some enemy mortarmen and began to engage at long range-attracting in turn their share of the incoming. The exchange continued for a few more minutes until the mirror on high ground flashed again. The incoming barrage slowed, then stopped-but the noise in the zone went to deafening proportions as hundreds of rifles went into action. At first, it seemed as if the frustrated Marine riflemen were wasting ammunition on the out-of-range NVA Mortarmen, but a radio query to First Lieutenant Bob Riordan, the Golf Company commander revealed that from his position of the southern rim, North Vietnamese soldiers could be seen moving uphill to assault the LZ’s northern side.

Then the rifle fire stopped abruptly and, within seconds, the southern rim and center of the LZ were alive with Marines running to the northern side, Their fires had been masked by those manning the northern slope defenses and they were leaving their own positions to get into the fight. The enemy never had a chance. The NVA commander who ordered the assault probably had fewer troops than he thought as a result of previous contacts. In any case, the reaction of the defenders was too violent. No more than 20 minutes had elapsed. The cost to BLT 2/26 was more than 150 dead and wounded. The cost to the enemy was unknown.

At 1700, the mirror flashed again, and the mortars went to work. Once more, rounds rained down on Margo – fewer this time and without an infantry attack – but the BLT’s casualty list grew longer.

For the first time since the attacks began, medical evacuation of the wounded now seemed possible. It was likely that the NVA had expended most or all of their mortar ammunition and would not interfere with the helicopter evacuation.

The casualties had been separated by category…emergency, priority, routine…..and the “permanent routine” a euphemism for the dead that had crept into the radio operators’ lexicon. We hoped to MedEvac at least the emergency and priority wounded before nightfall. Several CH-46s and gunships arrived about 1830 and the laborious process of loading the casualties, one at a time, began as soon as the lead bird touched down.

MedEvac bird in LZ Margo

As always, the strength and example can be found in the casualties. I saw Staff Sergeant Donner from the reconnaissance platoon, covered with blood, as he was being escorted to the medevac staging area. He was refusing to leave, insisting that he was okay. I told him that he would leave.

Late the afternoon of 16 September, I watched as an uninjured Marine rapidly searched the rows of wounded , clearly looking for a friend. Suddenly, a large arm reached out and waved. “There you are” said the first Marine as he took the wounded man’s hand and squatted to talk. They held hands quietly until the medevac helicopters arrived.

The wounded Marine had been hit badly; I do not know if he survived. Nor do I know if his friend survived our subsequent encounters with the NVA. What I do know is that the wounded Marine was black and his buddy white. I remember thinking at the time how much better a people we would be if we were all like those two.

Recently, we have been told that the best and brightest did not go to Vietnam, When I heard that, I thought of those two Marines so long ago, the hardships they endured, and their obvious respect for each other. Maybe they were not the brightest. They were the best.

Realizing that there would be no other MedEvacs from Margo that night the last pilot insisted on overloading his aircraft with wounded. Over his objections, the loading was stopped, and the pilot told to launch. He must have been good. If not good, he was lucky. The overloaded CH-46 resembled a giant praying mantis as it struggled into the air, tail down, nose swinging back and forth in a wide arc, as though searching for escape from a trap. Finally, he nursed it a few feet higher, leveled, and began slipping sideways, just above the trees, down the slope that formed Margo’s northern rim. Again, the LZ filled with Marines running north; convinced that the 46 was about to crash. They were moving to assist survivors.

The helicopter disappeared from view behind the trees and, an eternity later, came back in view, this time in full flight , nose-high on a southerly course, jettisoning fuel to lighten the load and clear the ridge to Margo’s east. All movement stopped as everyone in the LZ watched the miracle claw its way over the ridge line taking the wounded to safety.

Quiet settled over Margo. As the troops returned to their positions, the silence was broken by a single “thunk” off to the north. This time there was only one round, but it landed precisely where the MedEvac birds had loaded. It was “Charlie”, saying he knew what had been done and could have stopped it anytime. He also was saying he was a “pro”. We knew that already.

The XXIV Corps Commanding General visited Margo the following morning. His worries about morale evaporated as he watched Marine improving their defensive positions. He then looked toward a large group of wounded waiting to be evacuated. In response to a question, he was told they were routine MedEvacs. Behind them were rows of ponch-covered objects. He looked at them, saying nothing, knowing what they were. Finally, a Marine broke the spell. “The dead go last, sir”.

______________Epilogue______________

The Arc Light went in five or six kilometers north of Margo on the afternoon of 16 September. Maybe too much had happened or maybe there was an unusually high number of duds. Regardless, it was unimpressive. Paradoxically, it hurt 2/26 more than it hurt the enemy.

Early on l7 September Golf, Foxtrot, and Hotel Companies returned to the familiar trails, attacking north. Echo Company, having lost nearly 70 Marines in the mortar and infantry attacks, remained behind. The LZ was mortared twice that day but there were few casualties. Margo’s final toll probably will never be known exactly. We evacuated more than 200 dead and wounded. some of whom doubtless died later. Before we left, we filled l8 helicopter external nets with packs, weapons, and other equipment no longer needed.

Eventually, after another long period of torrential rains, the attacking companies reached the high ground, where Golf found a graveyard-I8 graves with markers aligned in rows-near where the mirror had flashed before the mortar attack. They excavated a few to confirm that it was a graveyard. They also traced the extensive writings on the markers and sent them to the rear for translation. The writings turned out to be a history of each of the casualties. We learned that we had gotten the NVA battalion commanding officer and much of his staff. The CO had been a soldier since joining the Viet Minh in the late 1940’s; he was a professional. I think that whoever ordered all of the writing put on the markers did so, at least in part, so that we would not dig up their dead.

We stood by to attack to the west. It never happened. Near the end of September, the BLT moved by helicopter into another one-bird zone, this one in the DMZ just south of the Ben Hai River, nearly 15 kilometers north and east of LZ Margo. In a series of assaults, BLT 2/26 routed an enemy force defending a headquarters complex and artillery positions. During the last assault, Marines of Echo and Hotel companies were treated to the rare sight of North Vietnamese troops fleeing in panic.

The Marines and corpsmen of 2/26 formed a typical grunt battalion. They fought a dirty, unpopular war and they did it well. They never said that they were the best. All they said was that, if they met somebody better, they hoped he was on our side.

Apocalypse Not # 12 The SARS COV 2 Pandemic is Over

As COVID Anxiety is turning into COVID rage I am putting my streak of forecasting exactly how the SARS COVID 2 pandemic will play out on the line with another bold prediction. As this comes to pass remember you heard it here first (unless you listen to the No Agenda podcast). The SARS COVID 2 pandemic is over, the numbers of new infections may increase but the numbers of those patients requiring ICU treatment or dying from the virus will continue to plummet. This is because the virus was manipulated for gain of function experiments and once it got out of the lab and into nature; Mother Nature, recognizing a freak when she sees one, is forcing the virus back to its original state which is an annoyance to humans not a death dealing pathogen.

I am making this prediction from the work of Chris Howard, PhD (Biochemistry) and his wife Lynn Howard, MD (Pathogenic Microbiology and Infectious Disease Specialist). The paragraphs below are my notes from their presentation which can be found here. 

Lynn and Chris Howard are both experts on viruses and biology. And they coach Rugby (Dallas Reds and Atlantis). I prefer my experts to be  athletic as fitness is crucial to cognitive health as we age. I trust fit people over Fauci looking people because they demonstrate a fundamental  understanding of cause and effect.

Coronaviruses are found in most animal species in humans there are over 100 different variants of coronaviruses,  Historically they are nothing more than an annoyance, they cause  and viral sinus infections, or common colds. They have a distinct ability to penetrate epithelium cells, your first line of defense in the immune system, so when you find a virus that penetrates that epithelium and activates to enter a host cell then you pretty much have an annoyance and it’s usually a respiratory issue.

Coronaviruses have never been that virulent until the SARS 1 epidemic in 2001 -2002. We were originally told SARS 1 was found in bat caves  but if you look at the genetic sequence of SARS 1 RNA and compare it to SARS found in bats there are many similarities however they are not identical. The assumption is that it made a zoonotic leap from the bat to the human and in doing so mutated.  That sounds reasonable until you look at the sequence themselves and realize what has changed is not your typical zoonosis mutation. If  you dig deeper you’ll discover that many years ago (80’s and 90’s) we were manipulating viruses to learn more about them, and by manipulating them we made them more transmissible, more infectious, and more virulent. This supposedly teaches scientist and epidemiologist epidemiological behavior of potential pathogens and this type of study is called gain of function research.

When virus’s mutate and jump from to a different species or change hosts the main driver of those changes is evolutionary pressure to be able to bind better. Viruses themselves do not change; they are around for one thing; to make more viruses. When a virus finds a good mode of attachment, you will see less change in the virus. Both SARS 1 and the SARS 2 have identical modes of attachment from the ACE 2 inhibitor binding to S1. S1 splitting to the TMPRSS 2 binding site which opens the virus leading to exocytosis into the cell.  There’s no difference between SARS 1 and SARS 2 in that respect except for the internal dynamics of the virus’s which means it was man-made.

SARS COVID 2 (the etiological agent is for the disease state) is a chimera which by definition is made in a lab. Chimera’s take a target virus, incorporate other characteristics from other viruses to create something different.  A pertinent example of gain of function would be to use a COVID virus to create an HIV vaccine. HIV is a retrovirus and they don’t have that ability to penetrate epithelium. Vaccinating someone for HIV is not possible so scientists are trying to  find a way  to carry a vaccine (or antigen in this case) through the epithelium.

When the genome of SARS COVID 2 was uncoded there were four subsets that are identical to portions of the genome of HIV. That impossible in nature, it could not have happened to the COVID virus in a laboratory..

For viruses’ evolutionary pressure usually is based on the binding; it doesn’t change the internal RNA or DNA strands of viruses. With chimeras as they reproduce you get a shift back towards the original, natural type of virus. As a chimera goes through patient after patient and population after population mother nature recognizes it to be a freak. When you hear there are now 30 strains of CVOID 2 there are not really 30 different strains (they all have identical binding site) it’s same virus changing enough to revert back to the original wild virus which is, to humans, an annoyance, not a life or death threat.

Lynn and Chris Howard practice what is known as precision medicine. Precision medicine is a catch phrase for using your genetics and using epigenetics to take a very precise approach to optimizing your health. This is high end medicine targeting wealthy, high end clients like professional athletes and I imagine that is why their research is not receiving more attention from our know-nothing press.

If you look at how the SARS COVID 2 pandemic has progressed it is clear (to me at least) the Howard’s have articulated the Occam’s Razor solution. It is the simplest of competing theories and thus (most likely) the closest to the truth.  Mother Nature does not take kindly to the release of genetically manipulated organisms into the wild. She recognizes them and eliminates them with the same pitiless certainty she applies to all her creatures that are unable to respond to evolutionary pressures only she knows and understands.

With each passing day the evidence that the lockdowns were a massive waste of time and money accumulates. In South Texas where the wearing of face masks has been optional for a week I often am the only person in the local HEB not wearing a mask. Masks do not protect you from viruses nor do they prevent you from spreading a virus if you have one. Mask wearing is Kabuki theater just like TSA checkpoints in our airports. We have been victimized by politicians and medical “experts” who have been wrong about every aspect of this pandemic. When confronted with the conflicting facts from the ground they have doubled down with unreasonable, unconstitutional, ineffective actions that terrorize the uninformed and are destroying our economy. For this they will pay. Inshallah.

Apocalypse Not #11 The Lockdowns are Ending: Common Sense Prevails Over Low T Tyranny

The lockdown is, for all intents and purposes, over. Here in Texas the gyms are finally open as is the rest of the local economy, and mask-wearing is optional. In states with restrictive lockdowns people are taking matters into their own hands and opening up their businesses despite orders to remain closed. Never has the difference between the political parties been so blatantly obvious and Mother Nature is going to determine which party is using “science” in their COVID-19 response.

If you believe that COVID-19 is a killer just waiting for us to drop our mask wearing, social distancing defense so it can kill millions, hundreds of thousandstens of thousands, hundreds (depending on model used) then the republicans are doomed as they will pay the price for opening their states too soon.

If you believe COVID-19 is not a killer, that most people infected by the virus remain asymptomatic, and only the older, vulnerable portion of the population need to be protected then the democrats are doomed by retribution for the destruction of our economy by over-reacting to suspect models.

There are encouraging signs from the blue states with repressive lock-down policies.  In New Jersey Atilis Gym opened yesterday in direct defiance of the governors orders. When the State Police showed up they told dozens of protesters standing outside the gym they were in violation of the governors COVID-19 orders and then bid them all a good day. The crowd erupted in applause, this is exactly the kind of discretion we expect from our fellow citizens working in law enforcement.

There are also too many stories about intolerable abuses against law abiding citizens being reported daily. There is an epidemic of poor judgement based on questionable science by what the editorial board of Free Range International has designated Low T Tyrants sweeping across the Blue states.

In Salem, Oregon Lindsey Graham, the owner of Glamour Salon opened on May 5th because she needed to feed her kids, pay her bills and save her business from bankruptcy. She was closed by the police and fined $14,000.  Two days later Child Protective Services showed up and I’ll let her describe the visit:

On May 7 child protective services showed up at my home. They questioned my husband and I. Questioned my child without me present. They searched our home,’ she said as tears welled up in her eyes during a press conference Friday.

‘And I never expected such a violent, aggressive, vindictive thing could ever be done to me or my family because I’m trying to earn a living. Because I’m trying to work,’ Graham added.

Graham is a mother to three kids: a six-year-old son, a three-year-old girl and an eight-week-old son.

Salon owner Lindsy Graham – does she look like an America first, strict constitutionalist to you? Not exactly your grandfathers Republican I would think and I’d bet she’s now a 2020 Trump voter – not that her vote would matter in Oregon.

Low T Tyranny is defined as a government official knowingly lying to your face and daring you to call them on it. If you do they immediately play their victim card making you (not their bullshit answer) the problem. There is a lot of Low T Tyranny going around these days even in once reasonable states like Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine

Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health Rachel Levine was on a phone-in press conference explaining why she moved her mother out of a nursing home the same day she ordered recovering COVID patients be to sent from local hospitals to local nursing homes. During the press conference a local newsman referred to Ms. Levine as “sir” several times. That is understandable, I’ve listened to the tape and Ms. Levine (a transgendered woman) has retained her masculine voice. She answered the question the reporter saying her mother asked to be moved because she’s a smart old gal who can figure stuff out. This implied that if your mother wasn’t smart enough to ask you to move her out of a nursing home that is about to receive convalescing COVID patients then that’s on you, or her, or whatever.

Then Ms Levine had a melt down over being addressed by the masculine pronoun as if one can intuit declared gender over the telephone. Her outrage became the story; not her obvious hypocrisy in moving her mother out of harms way. That is Low T Tyranny, thrown right in your face, by a person who knows decent law abiding citizens will give her a pass at risk of being branded a transphobe.

So what now? We let the virus play out and one side or the other is going to be proved wrong. At this point I must note my theory about how the virus would go appears to be wrong. I thought the Wuhan Virus was every bit as virulent as advertised and it had already passed through much of the population. This theory was based on my conviction that our federal government cannot possibly react fast enough to contain a virulent virus. Now that there has been more extensive anti-body testing it appears that COVID-19 has a long way to go before we can reach anything close to herd immunity. COVID-19  did not tear through the land last December as I thought it had.

What does that mean? Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of the Stanford Medical School, who recently concluded a study of every major league baseball employee (only 0.7% positive for the COVID-19 anti-body) said this:

“I think in the back of people’s heads there is this idea that somehow we can eradicate this disease if we just stay locked down. That is not possible. The serologic evidence, even the MLB study, suggest this. It suggests the epidemic is too widespread to eradicate. It spreads via asymptomatic contact. Like people who don’t have very many symptoms, even mild cold symptoms can spread the thing. They aren’t going to show up for testing. They aren’t going to show up at a hospital or a doctor.”

Last march I wrote about Farr’s Law, named for British epidemiologist William Farr in 1840. He stated that epidemics develop and recede according to a bell-shaped curve with or without human intervention. It appears that COVID-19 is receding, that once again Farr’s Law has proved valid. The democrat politicians who are threatening to keep their state, city, or county locked down well into summer are in for a rude awakening. As each week passes with less cases identified and a declining death count they will be forced to make decisions that the public has already made for them.

They are going pay this November for the incalculable damage they have done to our economy. The United States is (in the words of T.R. Fehrenbach) “a country grown so great even fools cannot destroy it.” That doesn’t mean we have to tolerate them in elected office.

The John Paul Vann of Afghanistan Speaks

In the book The Operators by Michael Hastings there is a quote from Command Sergeant Major Michael Hall comparing General Stan McChrystal to John Paul Vann. John Paul Vann was a former army officer who went to Vietnam as a soldier and stayed on working as a Provincial aid advisor. He was famous for his ability to drive around and live in contested districts (alone) and was a tireless advocate for the Vietnamese people. He was also a compulsive womanizer, an alcoholic, and  a shameless self promoter. Remove those negative traits, replace them with a typical all-American Midwest kid raised in a stable two parent household where he developed a strong sense of commitment, a bias for action combined with the ability to thrive while taking calculated risks, and you have Chris Corsten. He was the John Paul Vann of Afghanistan

Our two-decade long involvement in Afghanistan has been a fiasco. Every aspect of our performance had major issues, none more so than the herculean efforts at re-building and rehabilitating the war-torn infrastructure. Yet buried deep inside the legacy of failure are stories of remarkable success. Carter Malkasain described one example of competent development leading directly to local prosperity (briefly) in the book The War Comes to Garmser.

Another example has just been published by my friend Chris Corsten detailing his decade in Afghanistan working both as a soldier and heavily armed humanitarian. The book is 3000 Days in Afghanistan, but I need to reveal something that you will not glean from Chris’s writing. In the world of outside the wire contractors, men (and a few women) who worked in contested districts infested with Taliban, who lived in local compounds, drove local cars, rarely spoke English outside their compound, wore local clothes and lived off the local economy to deliver massive aid projects on time and on budget, Chris Corsten was the best there ever was.

Chris stayed the longest, he had the most impact, he did, by orders of magnitude, the most projects and he was a shura ninja when it came to working through problems with tribal elders. Chris Corsten is a legend – to those of us who knew what accomplished and also to thousands of Afghans who became self-sufficient as hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland became productive again thanks to his irrigation programs.

The book is a clear reflection of Chris and if you know him the two personality traits that stand are conscientious and integrity. Those two traits were combined with an attitude that was the common denominator among all of us working outside the wire; zero tolerance for wasted efforts, make work stupidity, and excuses. Add to this mix the fact that Chris is a modest man who is not prone to exaggeration, routinely attributed all success to his subordinates, and loathes the idea of self-promotion and you have a writer who is going to lay out the facts. Which he does in a manner that is almost business like.

As you get towards the end of this remarkable story Chris lists the spectacular amount of work accomplished during the 2010-2011 surge, and if you know what was going on then in Afghanistan, it is easy to get confused. It seems impossible that Expats (mostly American, British, South African and Australian) were living and working in local Afghan communities while supervising massive irrigation projects in districts where the military was sustaining casualties on a regular basis.

If you don’t know much about Afghanistan, you can read through what Chris accomplished and miss what he accomplished. If you don’t know what was happening in provinces like Khost, Kandahar, Paktia, Kunar, Helmand, Farah, Nangarhar, Herat etc… in 2010 it is hard to appreciate the feat of finishing every project you started with supervision by expats who were out and about in Taliban contested areas daily.

What Chris and his crew proved was aid in contested areas can be delivered effectively, but it has to be done by guys who know what they are doing and have skin in the game. And, at least in Afghanistan, they needed to be armed.

Let me explain the weapons. Our model was if you can’t be safe be hard to kill. The threat to outside the wire contractors took many forms. The biggest was getting kidnapped, the other major problem was we had to store, transport, and distribute large amounts of cash. You are not safe when you are living in a local Afghan compound that contains a safe with over a million dollars in cash. You are not safe when you go to the local branch of the Kabul Bank and withdraw $700,000 for your monthly project payroll. You have to know what you are doing to convert $700,000 in Benjamins into small denomination Afghani’s.

Not all of us carried firearms either – Jeff “Raybo” Radan, a former Marine infantry officer and Ranger School graduate (thus the Raybo call sign), worked a year in the Helmand and never carried a weapon. He did projects in contested towns like Now Zad but being a former Marine he knew how to get a ride on Marine air and thus was able to travel safely. But most of us were armed, and all of us had weapons, including belt fed machine guns (in some provinces), inside our living compounds. Our arming authority came from the Provincial governors and if we ever used our weapons, we were accountable to them as well as the US Embassy.

Chris explains why former, experienced, military men, who have already acquired knowledge of local atmospherics and a solid understanding of local culture, are the best option for staffing aid programs in conflict zones. All the men mentioned in Chris’s book (he uses assumed names) were prior military and all of us had years on the ground before we were able to transition into what I term “Free Range” contracting.

3000 Days in Afghanistan should be required reading at both US AID and the Department of State as they sift through 20 years of lessons learned in Afghanistan. This week a senior USAID executive, who had extensive Afghanistan time, released a paper titled USAID Afghanistan: What Have We Learned. He concludes his assessment with four lessons;

  1. do not try to do everything
  2. stick to proven development principals
  3. flexibility and adaptability are key, and
  4. expect and plan for high levels of oversight.

All four of these lessons are addressed in detail by Chris as he explains how he avoided graft, corruption, security services shake downs, how he dealt (effectively) with theft, and delivered aid that was meaningful while injecting cash directly into local economies. The added benefit of taking Taliban off the battlefield by exchanging a couple months of hard labor for a decent amount of pay was something we discovered early in the program but had not anticipated.

Chris throws no stones as he explains what we were doing and why we felt we should do more. He describes his disappointment at not getting traction with USAID and the State Department and then moves on. The program he was running got plenty of attention in the press at the time. There were NPR radio interviews, 60 minutes segments, multiple magazine articles including this classic account in the Toronto Star about our team in Kandahar. The FRI blog was booming back then as I documented our massive infrastructure projects in Nimroz province. In the end none of that mattered, it turns out being successful where everyone else is failing can be problematic.

As William Hammink admits in his review of USAID in Afghanistan, we threw too much money into a country that could not absorb it. What is now obvious is that Chris Cortsen showed USAID exactly how to do Afghanistan aid. Spend a few years and a few million dollars to get all the irrigation systems back up and running, build a few schools, pave a few roads, bring in engineers with some commercial demo to blast rock and build runways in remote mountain-top towns, and you have done about all that should be done to get the country heading towards self-sufficiency.  Then you can leave.

3000 Days in Afghanistan is an easy read about a remarkable guy who sticks to the facts to make a case on how sustainable development in conflict zones should be done. Buried behind the facts and the business-like narrative are the stories that someday will emerge from this program as historians start to comb through the records in the search of what really happened in Afghanistan. They will find plenty about Chris, hopefully telling  his story in rich detail. There is a lot there and although Chris may not be seeking recognition for what he accomplished he certainly has earned it.

Apocalypse Not #10 Something is Happening Here

What it is ain’t exactly clear; and that’s an understatement. In the past national emergencies brought the country together, at least a for awhile. From the reaction to 9/11 to the legions of people conducting water rescues after Houston flooded a few years back, we have always come together as a people to face down a threat. When the COVID-19 virus was discovered it appeared to bean an existential threat. Based on modeling from epidemiological experts we expected millions, then hundreds of thousands, then tens of thousands of deaths and this with the extreme lock down measures included in the modeling.

The models were not just wrong they were not even close. We now know, based on COVID -19 antibody testing in California, Boston, and Iceland that the infection fatality rate (IFR) is somewhere between 0.1 and 0.3 percent. The more testing we do the lower the IFR drops as the number of positives (the denominator) increases.

Last week a trio of Silicon Valley legends (T.J. Rodgers, Joe Malchow, and Yinon Weiss) conducted a regression study to determine if the rate of lock down  in each state had a statistically significant effect on the number of reported cases. They found the correlation coefficient on early vs late (or no) lockdowns was 5.5%. That number is so low that it is essential no correlation. The lockdowns had no effect on the outcome in each of the 50 states.

One of the most eminent Professors of Epidemiology, Medicine, and Population Health, John P.A. Ioannidis, MD, DSc  has again warned, we are making high-stakes decisions without reliable data. Yet the narrative marches on with the media and authorities using the case fatality rate (CFR), not the infection fatality rate (IFR) to justify their caution.

So what now?

Unfortunately there is no what now; instead there is a deeper polarizing division within the population. A good percentage of the population would agree with my timeline and assessment. But it is also apparent there is a large percentage of Americans who believe there is a deadly virus out there that will scythe through the population if we lift the various lockdowns affecting 43 of the 50 states.

There is no way forward if we cannot, as a nation, agree on or define the threat. The problem now is defining the threat becomes a threat to the reputations of the leading scientists running our public health system, powerful academic institutions like John Hopkins and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, as well as powerful philanthropists like Bill Gates and, of course, the legacy media.

The failure to adopt to the virus as it has presented itself is, according to physicians on the front line, costing lives. John Hinderocker from the Powerline blog explains the details in this post. He quotes from Dr. Paul Marik, Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the Eastern Virginia Medical School, Critical Care COVID Management Protocol

It is our collective opinion that the historically high levels of morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 is due to a single factor: the widespread and inappropriate reluctance amongst intensivists to employ anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant treatments, including corticosteroid therapy early in the course of a patient’s hospitalization. It is essential to recognize that it is not the virus that is killing the patient, rather it is the patient’s overactive immune system. The flames of the “cytokine fire” are out of control and need to be extinguished. Providing supportive care (with ventilators that themselves stoke the fire) and waiting for the cytokine fire to burn itself out simply does not work… this approach has FAILED and has led to the death of tens of thousands of patients.

As Powerline further notes:

The systematic failure of critical care systems to adopt corticosteroid therapy resulted from the published recommendations against corticosteroids use by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Thoracic Society (ATS) amongst others.

It appears the most effective treatment for COVID-19 is a combination of very inexpensive, readily available drugs. This will prove catastrophic for reputations of those who continue to insist that mass testing and a proven vaccine or effective drug targeting the virus like remdesivir, the antiviral medicine from Gilead Sciences , are required before the lockdowns can end.

The lockdowns are going to end and they are going to end soon. Shelter in place  type orders have proved an incredibly destructive policy, and the harms have not been distributed evenly across the United States. Some people are suffering much, much more than others.

Yet the lockdown continues here in Texas with the Kabuki theater of partial openings. Restaurants cannot turn a profit when they are forced to run at 50% capacity. I’m not sure why you would open movie theaters but keep gyms closed given the co-morbidity associated with lifestyles of the large and lethargic.

Getting the population out into fresh air and sunshine to bolster their immune systems with some exercise would seem to be what public health officials should want to do. But what they are doing is pretending they can calibrate the economy to limit exposure to a nasty bug despite the fact that “science” in the form of epidemiologic  studies and regression analysis would tell you these steps are not helping – they are hurting.

As Texas and other states come out of lockdown there will be more positive tests because there will be more tests. What we will not see is a giant wave of critically ill patients needing ICU beds. That hasn’t happened yet and it is not going to happen now or in the future.  When what is not going to happen, happens, what are the elites and the press and all the politicians who have been crying wolf for months now going to do? Who know? Owning up and admitting their mistakes is not part of their DNA so we can rule being honest out.

The great and powerful Texas historian T.R. Fehrenbach once wrote that America is a land so great that even fools cannot destroy it. We are in the middle of seeing his thesis tested. Let’s hope he was right.

Apocalypse Not #9 What Happened to the Models?

It is now obvious the modeling driving the COVID-19 response was wrong. They caused the nation to overreact and now that we realize COVID-19 is not the threat we were told it was what do we do?  What theTrump Administration just did, right in front of you, was disappear the models, switch data sets, and start talking recovery. It was awesome to watch made more so by the fact that not many people realized what they were seeing.

During Thursday’s Corona Virus Task Force presser all mentions of modeling were gone, replaced with slides from the   US Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network. From the linked article:

Birx said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be relying on its existing surveillance practices for “influenza-like illnesses,” which will be attuned to look for coronavirus, and fielding more new tests even for asymptomatic people to get better fidelity about the pervasiveness of the virus.

It appears the death rate from this virus will not exceed the number of flu deaths from the 2018-2019 flu season. We are learning, through anti-body testing, that the China Flu bug arrived here earlier than thought and has already passed through a good percentage of the population.

This is fantastic news but we’re not celebrating, or relaxing the lockdown, or re-starting the economy.

In Texas our governor has just appointed a commission to look at how to open up the state. When he announced the members of the commission he included Ross Perot, who died a year ago, which is suspicious. We are weeks away from spring football practice and the governor, instead of acting on facts, is appointing dead people to commissions. That is not very Texan like and I wish we had a better leader like one of the seven governors who were not bullied into economic suicide by hysterical progressive elites.

Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota – An American hero for keeping her state up and running. Too bad she isn’t a Texan; we could have used her common sense down here last month.

On the very day Governor Abbot announced his strike force Governor Inslee of Washington State launched a tweet storm of unhinged ad hominem attacks on the President. He is convinced The Wuhan will mow down millions if we dare break the protocols established to flatten a curve that never came, predicted by models that were wrong.

The insistence of progressives politicians in believing the obviously flawed models of elite academics is going to, without question, kill Americans. And we don’t need models to know how many. Citizen Journalist Betsy McCaughey points out:

No model or guesswork is required to foresee the deadly impact. Job losses cause extreme suffering. Every 1% hike in the unemployment rate will likely produce a 3.3% increase in drug overdose deaths and a 0.99% increase in suicides according to data provided by the National Bureau of Economic Research and the medical journal Lancet. These are facts based on experience, not models. If unemployment hits 32%, some 77,000 Americans are likely to die from suicide and drug overdoses as a result of layoffs. Scientists call these fatalities deaths of despair.

The impact of layoffs goes beyond suicide, drug overdosing and drinking. Researcher Michael French from the University of Miami points out the death rate for an unemployed person is 63% higher than for someone with a job. It is obvious that the unwarranted and unnecessary lockdowns come with a butchers bill that is larger than the COVID-19 threat.

Why can’t our leaders see this? There are dozens of pieces coming out daily pointing out the same thing yet the narrative continues on as if the pandemic is performing as predicted. 

After the terrorist attacks on 9/11 our country went through a spasm of federal government action to “make us safe”. What came of that was the TSA. The TSA is in the business of ‘Security Theater‘; it fails, over 95% of the time, security tests. They routinely allow weapons and ammunition to be unintentionally carried onto aircraft, something I’ve done myself. No security professional mistakes the TSA as anything other than Kabuki Theater. If you want safe air travel screening you need to do it like the Israelis do, but we won’t do that because of Muh Racism.

The Kabuki theater being generated by this crisis is going to be continued  ‘social distancing’ and mask wearing. As Dr John Lee, joining hundreds of other reality based front line physicians like Keith Rose and Jonathan Greach, point out there is no direct evidence the lockdowns are working. The argument that social distancing and mask wearing slows the spread of the Wuhan virus makes sense, but then again so does the argument for developing  herd immunity.

It is impossible to evaluate scientific data when the credentialed experts working the data do not agree on what it is saying. Occam’s Razor is a solid approach and it was the reason I have said at the start of the Pandemic, that we were too slow and bug had long ago escaped into the population. I had no way of knowing it would prove mostly benign but it did and here we are.

The truth about the threat of COVID-19 is obvious. The reluctance of progressive democrats to accept that their academics, experts, and pundits were wrong is fascinating to watch, but this isn’t funny. Lives are now in jeopardy by continued forced unemployment and forced loss of assets on the part of local and state governments.  If this does not end quickly we are going to lose more than the 2020 NCAA football season.

Apocalypse Not #8 South Texas Lockdown

The Rio Grande Valley consists of four counties Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy. The population is almost 90% hispanic, and the majority of the folks born and raised here, whites included, speak fluent Spanish. Despite the prevalence of Spanish speaking It’s still an unmistakably American place. The infrastructure is new as the population has grown significantly over the last 20 years. The VA system here is excellent as military service is and always has been popular with South Texans.

The migration pressure on the border comes from Central Americans who muster at collection points on this side of the border for speedy processing. Once processed and released they are taken to Catholic Relief shelter, given food and a bud ticket to the interior and dropped off at the Greyhound station. Mexican citizens can cross the border and stay in the valley as long as they want but they can’t go inland without a visa. A significant percentage of the local economies in cities like McAllen comes from Mexican tourism, especially during Christmas and Easter.

The McAllen/Edinburg area has a serious public health problem; we are (according to a recent Grub Hub ranking) the fattest metro area in the United States.  Morbid obesity leads to type II diabetes and hypertension, and all three are the principal comorbidity factors contributing to fatal outcomes from COVID-19.

The counties have all issued shelter in place orders and masks must be worn in public except when exercising. Cameron County has issued the most draconian mandates which include prohibiting more than two in a vehicle, which will be a problem for lawn maintenance crews, and children under age 14 have been confined to quarters. These measures are exactly the wrong ones to take if we are concerned about the health and welfare of our fellow citizens.

One of the known characteristics of COVID-19 is that hypertension, diabetes and being overweight dramatically increase hospitalization and fatality rates. It seems to me the perfect vehicle for public health officials to attack the epidemic of obesity in the population. If there was ever a time to start messaging about the necessity of a balanced diet combined with regular outdoor exercise that time is now.

Instead local officials have done the exact opposite. When the schools and non-essential businesses closed the local parks and play grounds were active. They were not crowded, there were no social distancing issues, but you would see groups of half dozen cross-fit folks working out together, families using the picnic benches, and others running or using exercise stations.

I would think the city leader would be encouraging people to get out of the house and into the many city parks to let their kids burn up some energy. Instead the city placed barricades around all jungle gyms, removed every picnic bench, closed all the park parking lots, and made it clear it doesn’t want people exercising in the parks.

Remember the purpose of flattening the curve was not to shelter in place until the bug was gone, the assumption that we will all eventually be exposed remains in place. If we are all going to get the bug eventually should we not be strengthen our immune systems now when we have all this time on our hands? Getting people, especially children, outside and active strengthens immune systems. Being immobile and sedentary indoors, passively watching television while eating highly processed food decreases immune systems.

The Land Shark is a lock down essential. It’s flat here, the streets are empty and this old school custom bike can fly. Getting outside to exercise instead of using an indoor gym has been the surprise of the COVID quarantine. I had forgotten how good it felt to train outside – and its good for the immune system too.

The local hospitals are empty so the curve has flattened which was the purpose of social distancing and mask wearing. Now that we accomplished the goal of the shut down why are we continuing the shut down?

The reason to open the economy is it will save more lives than it will cost.  There is little question that the lives lost to the economic catastrophe following an extended shut down and collapse of the economy would dwarf the numbers of lives lost from  COVID-19.

The alternative to relaxing the quarantine and allowing the virus to run its course is to remain locked down until there is a vaccine or cure. This is why prominent health policy types like Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel are talking about an 18 month lockdown. That is flat out insane. How can American look herself in the mirror and call herself the land of the free without NCAA football this fall? The question answers itself.

Apocalypse Not #7 Policy Based Evidence Making

The projected fatality numbers from the Wuhan Flu are sinking like a stone which is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the story line. From the start I have maintained the COVID-19 projections and mitigation steps were total BS based on my conviction when the federal government has closed the proverbial  barn door the horses are long gone. It is not “anti-science” to be skeptical of government claims to expertise in medical, social and political matters, it is “pro-historical.”

But there is no reason to take the word of a retired Marine on this topic. Dr Keith Rose explains, in an enjoyable 50-minute podcast, the medical perspective on the over-reaction to COVID-19. He is spot on and using contemporary data to explain why we should be getting back to work.

It is now so obvious that the Wuhan flu modeling is wrong that the legacy press now accuses republican politicians of using the bogus numbers to intentionally scare the public into reelecting them.

You cannot make this stuff up.

We have shuttered our economy, sentenced an unknown (but large) number of citizens to penury in an attempt to slow a virus we know very little about. To this day we have no idea how far it has spread or how deadly it really is. When we listen to “experts” explain why the mitigation steps are necessary keep in mind those experts do not know or understand the characteristics of the COVID-19 virus any better than you do. They are guessing at both its virility and morbidity based on obviously inaccurate computer modeling based on flawed data obtained from an untrustworthy international competitor.

Serious journalists are now challenging the coronavirus narrative. From the linked article:

Alex Berenson has been analyzing the data on the crisis on a daily basis for weeks and has come to the conclusion that the strategy of shutting down entire sectors of the economy is based on modeling that doesn’t line up with the realities of the virus.

The models are flawed, and you cannot say social distancing worked without first testing a significant percentage of the population for the COVI-19 antibody.

We will not know how easily this bug is transmitted or how deadly it is without extensive testing of the general population for COVID-19 antibodies. That provides an accurate denominator to use with the body count for determining lethality. When we have an idea on infection rate we still may over-state the Wuhan lethality as the legitimacy of the nominator  (body count)  is now questionable.

Remarkably, our meritocratic elites insist on doubling down on their flawed models and assumptions. We have seen Dr Anthony Fauci, continiously equivocate over the use of hydroxychloroquine in treating the Wuhan despite the fact that it obviously works. The legacy media, on cue, has been blasting away at the off label use of the anti malarial with articles like this one in today’s USA Today; What do you have to lose talking hydroxychloroquine? Potently your life.

What the press has refused to do is ask how many medical professionals in New York City are taking hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic. (anecdotally the number is high, but who knows)? That the drug works is now so obvious the  governor of Michigan has switched from outlawing its use  to demanding millions of doses.

An even worse example of ignoring the obvious is Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the White House adviser for health policy under former President Barack Obama. He just said the following in a April 7th interview:

Realistically, COVID-19 will be here for the next 18 months or more. We will not be able to return to normalcy until we find a vaccine or effective medications. I know that’s dreadful news to hear. How are people supposed to find work if this goes on in some form for a year and a half? Is all that economic pain worth trying to stop COVID-19? The truth is we have no choice.

If we prematurely end that physical distancing and the other measures keeping it at bay, deaths could skyrocket into the hundreds of thousands if not a million.

Do any of you honestly believe that lifting our half ass quarantine will lead to a million deaths? That is obvious lunacy, a real time demonstration of cognitive dissonance among our meritocratic elite. The reality is the models used by our expert class were wrong, any attempt to attribute the flatting  curve to the effectiveness of social distancing or cower in place orders is disingenuous.

The COVID-19 is not even approaching the morbidity of this years flu season. Hat-tip to John Hinderacker at Powerline

The reaction to the Wuhan flu virus clearly demonstrates the futility of using computer modeling to make dynamic decisions in an environment characterized by limited, conflicting,  intelligence coupled with the demand for immediate action. A combat experienced infantry battalion commander would have the ability to make better decisions that react faster to the threat then an epidemiologist. One has trained to make life and death decisions quickly with a bias for action,  the other has trained in microscopic sleuth hunting and generating and manipulating data for use in academic research papers.

Maybe one of the lessons learned here will be to bring experienced high pressure decision makers into the process. Given the as incalculable damage to the economy and the lives of millions of our fellow citizens by flawed decision making one would hope for several volumes of lessons learned from federal, state and local officials.

There should foreevermore be healthy skepticism about our academic and scientific elites, the legacy media, seedy federal politicians who used this crisis to push their agendas, and state and local officials exercising excessive ’emergency’ powers. Special attention needs to be paid to elite institutions that drove us over this cliff; they are compromised by Chinese money and need to divest from it. Their research labs and programs are infested with Chinese spies; and there is no reason to continue to ignore this belligerent behavior from China.

You may not find the  Harvard Department of Health Management and Policy accepting a 350 million dollar naming endowment from China alarming, but I do. It is now the T.H. Chan School of Public Health and if you think the flow of money into institutions that formulate public policy is benign you are not paying attention to what is happening with the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the dust settles there better be some scalp collecting along with a transparent investigation into how and why the experts were (again) completely wrong about COVID-19. We have to develop better strategies that protect the vulnerable without shutting down our economy.

Apocalypse Not # 6 Reality is Disrupting the Legacy Media Narrative

I started the Apocalypse Not series because I do not trust computer modeling nor do I trust any experts warning of apocalyptic doom based on computer modeling. As Richard Fernandez who writes the Belmont Club blog observed: “My dear old statistics teacher used to say that relying on any model however good but founded on past data was like driving by looking at the rearview mirror; fine as long as the future looked like the past“.

It is now clear the future does not look like the past. I knew a flu virus, that had the same symptomology as the Wuhan flu, swept through the Rio Grande Valley last December/January,  Given the reported virulence of the Wuhan strain, it made sense to conclude what had swept the valley was the Wuhan flu. This mild form of Wuhan was no picnic, my wife has never been so sick, for so long, as she was around Christmas.

I went on to note that on March 3rd scientist has identified two strains of the Wuhan virus, one that spreads quickly but is relatively mild, and one that spreads slowly that is dangerous. That explained to me what we experienced last Christmas, but my speculation was met with alarm by my liberal friends (and I have many who I value and respect) who responded with arguments from authority  that stressed I was no expert and should not be commenting on topics I do not understand.

But then I remembered I was an expert, one of the few people who has ever deployed ashore off naval shipping into a combat zone to hunt down a microscopic pathogen that was turning into a killer. I mentioned this tongue in cheek, I was a navy corpsman, trained as a advanced medical laboratory technician, sent ashore to obtain and process samples identified by environmental health officers who were the real experts.  It is on such thin gruel claims of expertise are often made.

HM2 Tim ‘Doc’ Lynch ashore in Beirut in February 1984 hunting down the source of a nasty typhoid outbreak at the Beirut Airport

Despite not being a real expert it now seems the rest of the world is catching up to me. This morning USA Today published an article saying there are 8 strains of the Wuhan circulating the globe. Plus the fatality numbers in the USA are not adding up (as I have been pointing out for a month now) with most of our cases being confined to New York City.

Existential  crises reveal the character of both our leaders and the people. The governors of Washington State, Michigan, and Nevada have been revealed to be not only incompetent, but cowardly. The Governor of New York and the mayor of New York City have been revealed as opportunistic. They are cooperating with the Trump administration to cover for their gross incompetence in emergency management preparation. It is no coincidence that New York City is getting slammed by the flu, they were completely unprepared.

Our country has unprecedented wealth, leisure, economic freedom, and security because men who are the antithesis of Mayor de Blasio  and Governor Cuomo have eradicated every existential  threat to the people of the United States. Those two men are directly responsible for the lack of preparation in New York.  As Julie Kelly, writing in American Greatness observed;

A public policy researcher in 2015 detailed long waits in New York City emergency rooms. The head of the emergency department for the Mount Sinai hospital system quit in 2018 after less than a year on the job.

“I had to follow my moral compass and leave and decide this is not an organization that cares for patients,” Dr. Eric Barton told the New York Post.

Last year, city nurses threatened to strike due to overcrowding at three major hospital systems. “Nurse Anthony Ciampa said he had to choose recently between feeding an elderly patient at New York Presbyterian and treating several acutely ill patients because there weren’t enough other nurses on duty,” according to a March 2019 report in the Daily News.

And the outcry about ventilators? State officials were informed several years ago that the stockpile of ventilators was woefully inadequate to handle a severe pandemic. But instead of preparing for a looming crisis and buying 16,000 ventilators, the state’s health commissioner formed a task force to develop a system to ration the life-saving equipment. The task force “came up with rules that will be imposed when ventilators run short,” the New York Post reported last week.

I expect gross incompetence from big city governments and democratic governors. They have been focused for years on ramming through their progressive agenda while painting all opponents as virulent racists or stupid hicks who don’t understand the need to eviscerate our traditional relationship with governmental organizations. What is alarming to me is the new intolerance of dissent on display in the chattering classes. As Brandon O’Neil observed;

…the implacable rage against anyone who deviates from the Covid-19 script and asks if shutting down society really is the right thing to do. Like medieval scolds, they brand such people dangerous, insane, a virus, accessories to manslaughter. ‘Shut them down!’, they cry, thinking they are signalling their concern for the public’s health when really they are advertising their profound contempt for freedom of thought and critical debate.

We do not know how badly the over-reaction to this virus will hurt our economy. We do not know how many citizens will be financially ruined by the heavy-handed response. What we can safely assume is that measures to control the public (smart phone tracking for one) will be part of our lives from this day forward. That is not good.

What is also not good is our crappy main stream media. Here is the perfect example of how crappy they can be (hat tip to the Mark Margolis at PJ media):

Here are the top six countries by confirmed cases (based on the case numbers from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University as of 2:30 pm ET March 27) in descending order:

  1. USA (94,238)
  2. Italy (86,498)
  3. Spain (64,059)
  4. Germany (49,344)
  5. Iran (32,332)
  6. France (29,593)

Now, here are the top six countries by confirmed cases per capita (based on population numbers from the CIA World Fact Book):

  1. Italy (1386.13)
  2. Spain (1280.78)
  3. Germany (615.57)
  4. France (436.17)
  5. Iran (380.72)
  6. USA (283.30)

The United States’ confirmed cases are the lowest of the top six countries affected by the virus. Yet the media and the shitbird democrats want you to believe we are far behind the curve because Orange Man Bad. This nightmare will end sooner than you think.  When it does, the public officials who displayed gross incompetence, who used this crisis for personal gain, and who refused to work with the federal government because Orange Man Bad, should be voted out of office. The politicians who loaded the stimulus bill with traditional DC pork should become social pariahs.

The MSM is  trying to make you believe that the coronavirus in the United States is spiraling out of control. They want you (you dumbasses) to understand Orange Man Bad when the majority of us think he’s doing a good job. But the most ergregious crime of this crisis is the destruction of our economy. For that the press, the alarmist governors, and the so-called “experts” who continue to cry wolf in the face of solid evidence they are wrong should pay a steep price.   

No matter what happens de Blasio, Schumer, Pelosi and that strange  looking woman who is now the governor of Michigan (wasn’t she a he before and a olympic decathlon winner)?  will do fine because they have no skin in the game. Destroying our economy will cause no disruption in their lives, they don’t stand in line for toilet paper, they know there will always be a respirator and hospital bed for them, they will always get a paycheck, and they will always have well compensated employment.

This crisis should spell the end of virtue signaling politicians. As this lockdown continues we shall see what the consequences are for shills who ruined millions of American families for their own vanity. If this lasts for months, without the massive numbers of deaths we are being told are inevitable; there will be blood.

Apocalypse Not # 5 Argumentum ab Auctoritate

Argument from authority is defined as “Insisting that a claim is true simply because a valid authority or expert on the issue said it was true, without any other supporting evidence offered.” It is a classic logical fallacy that is used to stifle conversations that are becoming uncomfortable to those in authority.  There are technical areas that I know little about, and in those areas my observations are worthless, we all have that problem. One of the areas where I am not rank amateur is epidemiology, thus I feel comfortable weighing in on this important topic.

HM2 Tim Lynch ashore in Beirut hunting down the source of a nasty typhoid outbreak in early 1984. How many men do you know with real world pathogen hunting experience?

In fact, back when combat helmets were made of steel (as were the men who wore them), I was dispatched ashore at the Beirut International Airport to find the source of a para-typhoid bug that had damn near killed several artillerymen. I was an advanced lab technician  and my job was to obtain samples from sources the Environmental Health officers ashore had identified as potential problems. I obtained the samples, put the them in transport medium to take back to the ship (USS Guam LPH-7).  I then attempt to isolate the pathogen so we could target it with effective antibiotics instead of shotgunning every antibiotic we had into the fallen Marines.

I never isolated the bug, about a week into my attempt we pulled out of Beirut and headed for liberty call in Haifa, Israel.  Once we pulled the plug on the Beirut I autoclaved all the samples and prepared to fly back home. We clearly knew the problem Salmonella Paratyphoid but we never isolated or identified the strain.

I had forgotten all this until I started the Apocalypse Not series and got so much pushback from my liberal friends that I concluded I might be an asshole for writing what I was thinking. But I know a lot of assholes and I also know I’m not like any of them, so I’m continuing my attempt to explain why what you are seeing, has little resemblance to what the experts are telling you is happening.

The pushback from my earlier posts can all be summed up with “are you an authority? No? STF up then”.  The classic argument for authority response. Turns out I am an authority, I even have a degree (associates but still a degree) in medical technology and had mad, cutting edge, microbiology skills back in 1984. So, from this point forward remember that everything I say comes from a position of authority.

Now look at this:

Graph by John Hinderaker at Powerline

And this:

I believe what we are about to experience demonstrates the limitations of modeling. I have never believed the man-made climate change hysteria because it was based on models. The United States Marine Corps is about to become completely irrelevant as it sheds infantry, tube artillery and attack helicopters in favor of missiles, and that plan is based exclusivly on modeling. The lesson we are all about to learn is that modeling and reality are different things. In reality there are too many unknowns we cannot explain or anticipate that are never captured in computer models.

A relevant example of this can be seen in the reality of our current heavy handed public health measures. The biggest concern of every emergency management official when discussing the implementation of quarantines is public unrest. Yet around the country the public has accepted these extreme measures, have cooperated with authorities, and have caused no unrest (yet). The public unrest may yet surface but to date the American public is handling the destruction of their lives and livelihoods with remarkable equanimity.

What happens in two or three weeks when the crisis we have been told is eminent fails to materialize? What about the citizens who have been ruined by lockdowns and forced closures for a bug that was no worse than a flu bug? How will we look at “the experts” in the future when, once again, they were not a little wrong, but dead wrong about the nature of this pandemic?

The overreaction to this flu should drive a stake through the heart of man made climate change because the models supporting that theory are based on more speculative data then epidemiological models. That may be the only silver lining in this crisis.  I doubt identity politics, political correctness, open borders, and encouraging homelessness have long shelf life now either.  Those are issues of concern for affluent, educated people who have the time and resources to spend a lifetime worrying over shit they can’t change or understand.

I forgot where I found this but it speaks truth to current progressive power

My 1 virus 2 strain theory is surfacing again as people who are not experience virus hunters like myself catch up.  People are starting to understand the Pandemic has failed to materialize outside of New York City and the Pacific Northwest. The fatality rate in those two areas remains low, well below the morbidity and mortality of a regular flu bug. I understand that those numbers can shoot up and the bug suddenly start killing people in Ghenghis Khan type numbers because the New York Times told me so in this nifty graph they made to explain a complex event you cannot see out in flyover country.

What the experts cannot explain is how a virulent pathogen arrived in the country last November but waited until now to start replicating.

Even the Huffpo took a break in their 24/7 Trump Derangement Syndrome outbursts to publish “Is It Possible That You Had The Coronavirus Earlier This Year?” This article mirrors comments I’ve been seeing on Facebook as thousands of people speculate the flu bug that burned through the population in December/January was most likely the Wuhan flu. We will not know if that theory is true until we develop a test for COVID-19 antibodies. But the observations of my fellow citizens matches mine and I have to remind you I am an authority. My 1 virus 2 strain (which I’m unilaterally modifying to a 1 virus multiple strains because of expert reasoning I can’t explain to you damn laymen)  theory has more fact behind it than the NYT’s graph.

I am concerned about the millions of Americans who are stuck at home with no money, no food, no job, and bored children. The measly 1400 bucks that may show up in a few weeks is too little, too late to help them. What happens when the people understand that we have been fooled again by charlatans who will weather the storm they created without a problem or concern in the world? The people who are posing the unreasonable restrictions on every aspect of your life do not have to worry about getting tested, access to a ventilator if they fall ill, not having any money in the bank, or food in the house.  In fact they will make money buying stock at fire sale prices and (of course) rewarding themselves by allocating more tax money to themselves.

This analysis by the ever prescient Kimberly Strassel, writing in the Wall Street Journal, which you can now read because the paywall is down, sums up the new stimulus package nicely:

‘Missing from their list is an important category, which underlines an inescapable fact: Government mostly “Cares” for government. Bills that hand out money are written by appropriators. And appropriators never miss an opportunity to expand departments, agencies, bureaus and commissions. A rough calculation suggests the single biggest recipient of taxpayer dollars in this legislation—far in excess of $600 billion—is government itself. This legislation may prove the biggest one-day expansion of government power ever.”

Talk about never letting a crisis go to waste.

There is good news from this crisis; celebrates, professional athletes, and social influencers are no longer important or relevant. I like that because I find celebrity and pro sports culture unappealing.

Joe Rogan the actor/comedian is now irrelevant, Joe Rogan the podcaster is very relevant.   On the 10th of March he had on Michael Osterholm, an internationaly recognized expert on infectious disease, and the podcast was downloaded 17 million times. It unquestionably freaked out a large proportion of his vast audience. Here are some quotes from the interview:

First of you have to understand the timing of it in the sense that is just beginning and so in terms of what hurt pain suffering death is account happened so far is really just beginning. I think what people don’t quite yet understand and is this really is acting like an influenza virus something that transmits very very easily through the air we now have data to show that you’re infectious before you even get sick….I brought some numbers and we estimate that this could require 48 million hospitalizations, out of 96 million cases actually occurring and  over 480,000 deaths over the next three to seven months with this situation so this is not one that to take lightly.

Seventeen days later do any of those predictions sound likely to you? Granted maybe we dodged the bullet because of the lock downs and social distancing. My expert opinion is that is unlikely, the bug has been here since November and not one expert I know of can explain the curious lack of bilateral pneumonia cases that should be evident around the country given the virulence of the pathogen and delay in its detection (thanks to China, not Trump).

My county in South Texas is now on lock down,  if you leave the house for an unofficial reason and you could be fined 1000 bucks.  We have no Wuhan Virus cases in the county and the “shelter in place order” is scheduled to last two weeks. President Trump said he wanted to get the country back to work by Easter Sunday but we are on lockdown until the day after Easter Sunday….. maybe that is a coincidence, or maybe that is a dig at a President the elites despise, but who is growing more popular with the people by the day…you decide.

For now the only thing we can do is “shelter in place”, cooperate with the authorities and watch out for our neighbors. This is the land of the free which is why we should support our civic leaders but at the same time express our alarm at the destruction of our economy. Arguments from authority are a cowards way out of explaining what is increasingly obvious, cannot be explained.