Must We Always Expect The Worst?

There is only one news item now: coronavirus. Nothing else matters.

And it looks set to stay that way for months.

Yet I’m still not sure how bad it’s likely to be. Must we always expect the worst? Must we always prepare for the very worst imaginable outcome?

This applies not just to pandemics, but to everything else as well. The global warming scare is one which has the likes of Greta Thunberg believing that “the world is on fire.” And of course the supposed threat of secondhand tobacco smoke has been used to exile smokers to the outdoors, and to destroy a convivial culture. Many of us now expect the worst everywhere, and are frightened of everything. Theirs is an existential terror, of impending doom, coming from almost anywhere.

A few days ago I came across a headline:

NASA Warns Two Asteroids Could Cause Atmospheric Explosion Over Earth This Week

Closer examination revealed that:

CNEOS states 2020 EF is expected to fly past the Earth from a distance of 0.04241 astronomical units or approximately 4 million miles. Meanwhile, 2020 DP4 will approach Earth from a much closer distance which according to CNEOS, is only 0.00901 astronomical units or around 840,000 miles.

Since the Moon is about 240,000 miles from the Earth, both of these bodies will be a lot further away than the Moon, and so there’s no possibility whatsoever that either will explode in the Earth’s atmosphere. To suggest it is to engage in pure scaremongering. But how many people know that the Moon orbits the Earth at a distance of 240,000 miles, and are terrified at the thought of any rock getting anywhere near the Earth?

The scaremongers are winning in the case of coronavirus. The entire economies of countries are being closed down in response to an ill-defined pandemic threat. It will bring about mass unemployment and a deep economic slump. Is it really necessary to do this?

Peter Hitchens has the same question:

And so here I am, asking bluntly – is the closedown of the country the right answer to the coronavirus?

He goes on to ask:

How long before we need passes to go out in the streets, as in any other banana republic? As for the grotesque, bullying powers to be created on Monday, I can only tell you that you will hate them like poison by the time they are imposed on you.

When it’s all over, and we know how many the coronavirus will have actually carried off, will we still think that this shutdown was necessary? May it not seem that we overstated the threat of the virus, and simultaneously underestimated the threat of an economic shutdown?

At what point do we tell all the scaremongers to be begone, and never darken our doors again? Who is going to tell us, like FDR, that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself?

I suppose these must be some of the powers about which Hitchens warns:

Police, public health and immigration officers will be able to detain people suspected of having Covid-19 and exact £1,000 fines for refusing tests under emergency powers rolled out by the UK government.

The guidance detailed in the coronavirus bill allows public health officers to order someone believed to be infected to undergo screening and testing within 14 days. They will be required to provide biological samples and disclose their travel history.

Alongside the police, they will also have the power to force potentially infected people to isolate, restrict their travel and activities and contact with other people.

Immigration officers and police will also be handed powers to send people for screening and testing and hold them for a period of time before a public health officer can be consulted.

These “public health officers” will be the zealots in Public Health England, who spend their days demonising tobacco and alcohol and fast food and sugar and salt.

About Frank Davis

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21 Responses to Must We Always Expect The Worst?

  1. Mark Jarratt says:

    An island of balance, perspective and rationality in a sea of headless chicken syndrome. Tanking the global economy, bankrupting treasuries, destroying the (remaining tenuous) fabric of society, or believing that throwing ill targeted public funds is the best action appears at best neurotic. Every tyrant was once a saviour… Smokers could be expected to tolerate social isolation and living in an open prison better than others, as targets for ‘tude adjustment over decades.

  2. Rose says:

    “There is only one news item now: coronavirus”

    Case in point.

    Coronavirus: Chickens sell out as families try to set up small holdings to make their own food
    21st March

    “Consumers are flocking to buy chickens are being unable to buy eggs in supermarkets
    Live poultry breeders across the UK have seen their barns stripped of birds over the past seven days as families unable to find eggs in the shops turn to chicken keeping.

    Farm gates were closed early at Rosehill Hatchery in Hanningfield, Essex on Thursday after they sold an unprecedented 300 hens in just 48 hours. Jane Hunter of Edinburgh Chickens in Rosewell, Edinburgh said that all her weekend appointments were booked up by Wednesday and that even her suppliers are out of stock.

    “I’ve been selling chickens for twelve years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Annie Hall, of Annie Hall’s Poultry in Westerleigh, Bristol.”

    Very resourceful, I didn’t think of that but I rarely eat eggs.

  3. slugbop007 says:

    In the 1970s I lived in a triplex near downtown Montreal. My landlord was Portuguese and so were many of my neightbors up and down the street. There’s a narrow pedestrian passageway that connects one street to mine. One morning as I walked through this passageway I heard a rooster crow.

    Zealous health police officers roaming the high streets? I hope not. Not in World City London, doubt if they could afford it.

    If we heed Eric Idle’s message to always look at the bright side of life what would be the ideal, positive outcome of this mess if everything pans out in our favour?

    It is possible that the perfection obsessed, totalitarian Chinese government was so embarrassed at being unable to contain this virus outbreak that they decided to suppress it and hope for the best. Whoever leaked out the story might now be in prison, or worse.

    There is too much secrecy in our world from governments, organizations and the like. People are promising us transparency and accountability all the time but they rarely deliver on their promises.


    • Joe L. says:

      It is possible that the perfection obsessed, totalitarian Chinese government was so embarrassed at being unable to contain this virus outbreak that they decided to suppress it and hope for the best. Whoever leaked out the story might now be in prison, or worse.

      The initial whistleblower, Dr. Li Wenliang, is dead, supposedly after contracting the virus himself, but many believe his death was quite convenient. Before he died, he was publicly ridiculed by the Chinese government and forced to sign a letter which accused him of making “false statements.”

    • Frank Davis says:

      Apparently the Chinese are quite obsessive about keeping up appearances. They do not like to “lose face”. This from a guy who lives in Hong Kong and encounters a lot of them.

      • Dmitry says:

        I’m tired of acting as a Chinese ambassador, but… Appearances aside, the Chinese have reacted (this time) with a terrific speed, overreacted with their shutdown and admitted it, killed the panic (again by overreacting), and the epidemy in China in general, and are now doing well, helping Italy, Greece and half of the world. These are just facts.

        • Joe L. says:

          Sure, apparently after weeks (possibly months) of trying and ultimately failing to suppress information from leaking out, China then overreacted with a tremendous speed, purportedly even welding and barricading citizens into their own apartments in Wuhan. Now, a couple months later they claim they have everything under control–that is, as long as you believe the official information from the Chinese government. They claim that life is returning to normal in Hubei, but if you watch some live camera feeds of Wuhan (at least as of a couple days ago), the streets are still practically entirely void of traffic. I need to hear accounts from multiple actual citizens of Wuhan (those who are fortunate enough to still be alive) before I draw any conclusions, but thanks to the “Great Firewall of China,” that is practically impossible.

        • Frank Davis says:

          As a sinologist and orientalist, Dmitry is probably the most China-connected commenter here, which is probably why he’s acting as Chinese ambassador. How much he really knows what’s happening in China is open to question, since he provides no supporting evidence.

  4. slugbop007 says:

    I watched several Sabine Hossenfelder videos last night. She’s a German particle physicist. Very astute. One of her videos was about study made in 2003 on the power of Googlearchy, the trouble with Facebook:

    ‘Our empirical results, however, suggest enormous disparities in the the number of links pointing to poliitical sites in a given category,’

    ‘In each of the highly diverse political communities we study, a small number of heavily-linked sites receive more links than the rest of the sites combined, effectively dominating the community they are a part of …’

    Sounds familiar. Google does it all the time. You have to browse through pages of links before you reach a contrary study or opinion. WorldWideWeb Payola.


  5. Александра Собина says:

    Oh yes, very familiar. It took me a good while to find Frank Davies for example. Every time I tried to find some thing smoking related, all I got was direct opposite stuff of anti-smoking. I could not believe there is none at all, so kept trying and one day succeed. I found Frank.

  6. Александра Собина says:

    I have found one old article dated back to 10 Aug 2016
    At the very end there is one comment. Good thing: only one.

  7. slugbop007 says:

    Here is an example of a medical expert throwing in the smoking/coronavirus meme for the heck of it without any proof to back it up:

    Kent Sepkowitz

    Then there is gender. The gender split in COVID-19 cases worldwide is about 50-50, but there are gender differences in survival. According to data from the original outbreak in China, the overall death rate is 4.7% in men versus 2.8% in women — a whopping difference. Which is good news for South Korea, where 62% of cases occur among women. Smoking is another factor clearly associated with poor survival. Smoking rates are about the same between the two countries: 24% for Italians and 27% for South Koreans. But gender differences among smokers are widely different: In Italy, 28% of men versus 20% of women smoke, while in Korea, it is about 50% of men and less than 5% (!) of women. It's time to let the experts do their jobs, Mr. President It’s time to let the experts do their jobs, Mr. President In other words, South Korea has an outbreak among youngish, non-smoking women, whereas Italy’s disease is occurring among the old and the very old, many of whom are smokers. (We do not know the male-female breakdown of Italy’s cases).

    So there is an outbreak among younger, non-smoking women in Korea. Does that mean that they contracted lethal secondhand smoke. What is he talking about?


  8. slugbop007 says:

    In addition, he says that many elderly Italians that have died were smokers, but cannot state a specific number as to how many of them died. 3%, 5%, 50%? How many non-smokers died? He doesn’t know that either. Typical vague, disingenuous and dishonest posturing. If you don’t really know then shut your gob! I bet that Stan Glantz is using a similar tactic in his rants and ravings.


    • Fumo ergo sum says:

      And yet, there is no reason at all for the antismokers to be so rude and presumptuous toward smokers. I just discovered that virology, the scientific study of viral particles, apparently only really started to take of in the late 19th century thanks to… tobacco! And thanks to a Russian botanist named Dmitri Ivanovsky:

      « He studied at the University of Saint Petersburg under Andrei Famintsyn in 1887, when he was sent to Ukraine and Bessarabia to investigate a tobacco disease causing great damage to plantations located there at the time. Three years later, he was assigned to look into a similar disease occurrence of tobacco plants, this time raging in the Crimea region. He discovered that both incidents of disease were caused by an extremely minuscule infectious agent, capable of permeating porcelain Chamberland filters, something which bacteria could never do. » ( )

      Perhaps something to remind your local antismoker in the neighbourhood? That without the « evil plant » tobacco, we would all still be completely clueless about what is going on in the world nowadays…

  9. slugbop007 says:

    I first heard of Sabine Hossenfelder when she was interviewed by Fraser Cain on Astronomy Cast about her latest book. . What a great discovery! She is cogent, a stickler for logic, doing science the right way and expresses herself very well in English. I tried to follow the comments section on many topics in her BackReaction blog but most of it is way over my head, but her videos are well presented and much easier to understand.


  10. Joe L. says:

    For the past week or so, we’ve seen stories from eco-terrorists Environmentalists gloating that the COVID-19 pandemic is helping battle Climate Change. Any day now, we should be hearing the same cheers from the Healthists. With pubs and restaurants closed, and now McDonald’s announcing it is temporarily closing all UK locations (see below), we should soon be hearing about obesity rates dramatically falling in the UK. Hooray for global pandemics! Just the cure we need for all our deplorable lifestyles and behaviors!

  11. melinoerealm says:

    Guys, check this out;

    Influenza mortality rates in Italy, (2013/14–2016/17 seasons).

    • In the winter seasons from 2013/14 to 2016/17, an estimated average of 5,290,000 ILI cases occurred in Italy, corresponding to an incidence of 9%.
    • More than 68,000 deaths attributable to flu epidemics were estimated in the study period.
    • Italy showed a higher influenza attributable excess mortality compared to other European countries. especially in the elderly.

    In short, the number of ill and deaths, are more or less the same….

  12. jaxthefirst says:

    What I haven’t been able to get my head around over this whole virus thing is – why the panic over this one? Yeh, yeh – I know it’s new and so no-one’s got any immunity so far, but surely, with regular seasonal flu mutating every year isn’t that always the case (which is why there’s a need for new vaccinations each year, as researchers try and “predict” which one will occur, often getting it wrong)? From everything I’ve read about this one, in most people it only causes “mild symptoms,” seemingly about as bad as a bad cold, but not as bad as regular (proper) flu. So why is there all this panic about what is, essentially, a “mild” illness? Of course those with underlying conditions need to be careful, but then they always do every year for seasonal flu, too, so nothing different there, either. I’ve asked many fearful types this question, thinking that perhaps they know more about this illness than I do, but as yet none has been able to come up with an answer which justifies such desperate measures over this illness and not others.

    I do wonder sometimes if the virus was an escape from a Chinese lab, but the problem was that the lab concerned didn’t know exactly which one/s had escaped. And, as well as the “mild” one which is circling the globe right now, there could very well have been an awful lot of extremely nasty ones being tested/developed there too. Hence the sudden, draconian action in Wuhan which put the bejeezus into every other countries’ Governments. It’s even possible that the Chinese privately told all those other Governments that maybe there was something horrible coming their way, and that they should act as if it was a “nasty” one, just in case, because at this stage they couldn’t be certain which one or ones had escaped. Then, as it became clear that the one which had escaped was, thankfully, only a “mild” one, they were able to declare that they had it “under control” – but alas, too late to quell the rising panic-actions which were already underway elsewhere in the world, or at least too late to do so in a way which would save face for everyone.

    • Joe L. says:

      I have also wondered if multiple viruses somehow escaped the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the panic has ensued over one particularly lethal virus among them. The descriptions thus far of what has been dubbed SARS-CoV-2 are not very congruent with coronaviruses. The coronaviruses that we are familiar with can only survive on surfaces for a matter of hours, but this one can supposedly live for up to nine days on glass and metal surfaces. Coronaviruses tend to have an incubation time of ~48 hours, but this one can supposedly incubate for 14 days (or in some reports, 27 days!). Those infected with coronaviruses do not “shed” (i.e., are not contagious) until they present symptoms, and normally stop shedding once their symptoms subside. With SARS-CoV-2, hosts can supposedly shed the virus for days while asymptomatic, and I have seen reports which state they may still shed the virus for weeks after their symptoms subside. From all accounts, the virus which is causing the panic does not fit the bill of a coronavirus (or at least not a naturally-occurring one).

      There are websites set up which list the supposed symptoms of COVID-19, along with a hotline to call if you believe you are experiencing those symptoms. I have read accounts of people calling these hotlines and basically listing off the symptoms from the website verbatim, only to be told nonchalantly they most likely have a cold or flu and just to stay home and get rest. It’s almost as though there is some tell-tale symptom of the extra-virulent virus which is purposefully not being publicized which is being screened for by these “hotlines,” and if someone mentions that specific symptom, the screener knows it is very likely that the caller has contracted the severe, lethal virus.

    • Rose says:

      It’s beginning to remind me of the 2007 Foot and Mouth outbreak blamed on crumbling drains from a lab.

      Foot and mouth disease returns to the UK

      “Laboratories under the spotlight as disease found on farm.
      Foot and mouth disease has once again appeared in the United Kingdom, a country whose farming industry was devastated by an outbreak in 2001. On Friday 3 July, the country’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed it had identified the disease virus in cows on a farm in Surrey. The virus is already suspected to have come from one of two nearby laboratories working on the disease and its vaccine.”

      “The disease is a particularly sensitive issue in the UK where over six million animals were culled in a previous outbreak in 2001. Research shortly after the outbreak claimed that more rigorous control measures could have reduced the number of animals culled by up to 60%”

      Why are laboratories being blamed?

      Defra says “present indications” are that the strain involved in this outbreak is similar to one called 01 BFS67. This strain was isolated 40 years ago in the 1967 outbreak, but it is used at two laboratories at Pirbright, about four miles from the affected farm.
      “We’re not completely sure yet, but it looks like it is a laboratory release,” says Professor Neil Ferguson, a modeller of disease spread, based at Imperial College London.

      The Institute of Animal Health site at Pirbright uses this virus as a reference strain for its research on foot and mouth disease.”

      New leak of foot and mouth disease discovered at Pirbright laboratory

      “Ministers admitted the virus “probably” escaped through a faulty valve at the Merial plant in Pirbright, Surrey, on Monday – two weeks after the facility was given the all-clear to start producing foot and mouth vaccine again.

      The private vaccine manufacturer and the nearby Government-owned Institute for Animal Health were criticised earlier this year after foot and mouth escaped into nearby farms.”

      “The August outbreak infected eight farms in Surrey. Hundreds of animals were slaughtered, costing the farming industry millions of pounds.
      The virus escaped through crumbling drains and leaky manhole covers in Pirbright into a field, where it was picked up by lorries’ tyres and carried to nearby farms.”


      The then government didn’t want to take responsibility for that either.

      Psychosocial effects of the 2001 UK foot and mouth disease epidemic in a rural population: qualitative diary based study


      “The United Kingdom’s foot and mouth disease epidemic in 2001 has been described as the most serious ever to occur in a country previously free of the disease1 and “a traumatic and devastating experience for all those who were affected by it… a national crisis… probably one of the greatest social upheavals since the war.” Between 6.5 million and 10 million animals were slaughtered across the UK, and in north Cumbria 893 farms had confirmed infected cases, with a further 1934 having complete or partial culls of livestock, representing 70% of farms.

      Restrictions on public rights of way and advice to stay away from the countryside led to a collapse in tourist numbers and loss of recreational use of the landscape for a year.”
      https ://

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