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Posts Tagged ‘Covid-19 (Wuflu)

The song that never ends

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The following fits in well with a previous post (Run Hamster, Run) about the seemingly never-ending sets of hoops that populations are being made to jump through to get to freedom, or even just some ordinary pre-2020 normality.

What we are seeing here is truly “progressive”.

But this little video captures the changing story even better, except in this case, as we count down from 100%. This is actually “Regressive”.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 28, 2021 at 12:03 am

The Euros get restless

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There was the famous Year of Revolution in 1848, when protests and riots, sparking to full-blown revolutions, exploded across most of Western Europe.

I don’t think that’s what we’re seeing here since 21st century people live with a degree of ease and comfort that the people of 1848 would regard as possible only for Royalty.

Still, you have to wonder what electoral earthquakes might come from all this in upcoming elections.

Also, as you watch this, note that PM Ardern recently said – in response to a point-blank question about whether we would see a 100% mandatory vaccination programme here like that of Austria – that she would never do that, and remember this…

Know that Europe is now having a fourth wave and that the US Dow futures plunged more than 800 points last night with news from South Africa of a new Covid-19 variant called B.1.1.529 variant that appears to have a high number of mutation (about 30 in its spike protein, which will likely render it immune to current vaccines. It’s been given a name, Omicron. What happened to Epsilon? I liked that one.

All of which is 100% predictable for coronaviruses. If you think that 2022 will see us past the world of lockdowns, masks and the vaccination treadmill of booster shots then you are an optimist. I normally am too, but not about this, after almost two years of watching government responses around the world.

Austria

Austria decided to return to a full lockdown due to more cases. It’s the fourth one since 2020 and they’ve used those cases to justify closing non-essential stores and allowing people to leave their houses for a valid reason. The government is also enforcing a vaccine mandate in February 2022.

So 40,000 people came out to protest.

Belgium

I’m surprised since the Belgians hardly do anything and Brussels is possibly the worlds most boring city.

Holland

Italy

This one is a lot more peaceful, but a very large protest.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 27, 2021 at 7:45 am

Crystallization, Madness and Tyranny

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Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own.

There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as
protection against political despotism.


On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

That famous quote actually came about because Mill – the son of a famous economist who also contributed to the somewhat crude theory of utilitarianism (as did his son), which I must admit increasingly dominates our world, especially now – was in the end influenced and changed by that close observer of democracy, Tocqueville, and his notion of the tyranny of the majority, who pointed out that the tyranny unique to democracy gave rise to “the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion” in the social sphere, in our so-called free societies. It moved Mill to write his great plea for free speech.

The reason this came up in my reading was due to a lengthy (38 pages) and very thoughtful article published in Tablet magazine, Needle Points, which attempts to explore the world of “vaccine hesitancy” from an intellectual medical standpoint rather than the crude and simple-minded abuse that fills the screens of the MSM and more than a little of FaceTwit (full PDF version here). The author, Norman Doidge, is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and author of The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing.

He writes of one insight into vaccination from his days at medical school:

At times modern science and modern medicine seem based on a fantasy that imagines the role of medicine is to conquer nature, as though we can wage a war against all microbes with “antimicrobials” to create a world where we will no longer suffer from infectious disease. Vaccination is not based on that sterile vision but its opposite; it works with our educable immune system, which evolved millions of years ago to deal with the fact that we must always coexist with microbes; it helps us to use our own resources to protect ourselves. Doing so is in accord with the essential insight of Hippocrates, who understood that the major part of healing comes from within, that it is best to work with nature and not against it.

It is an unusual aspect of modern medicine, which can seem overly “cold and clinical”, the stereotype of that term in fact. He writes of the two sides of what he calls the behavioral immune system:

… ever since they were made available, vaccines have been controversial, and it has almost always been difficult to have a nonemotionally charged discussion about them. One reason is that in humans (and other animals), any infection can trigger an archaic brain circuit in most of us called the behavioral immune system (BIS). It’s a circuit that is triggered when we sense we may be near a potential carrier of disease, causing disgust, fear, and avoidance. It is involuntary, and not easy to shut off once it’s been turned on.

It’s useful, but:

One of the reasons our discussions of vaccination are so emotionally radioactive, inconsistent, and harsh, is that the BIS is turned on in people on both sides of the debate. Those who favor vaccination are focused on the danger of the virus, and that triggers their system. Those who don’t are focused on the fact that the vaccines inject into them a virus or a virus surrogate or even a chemical they think may be poisonous, and that turns on their system. Thus both sides are firing alarms (including many false-positive alarms) that put them in a state of panic, fear, loathing, and disgust of the other.

And now these two sides of the vaccination debate are tearing America apart. . .

America? The world.

We see it firing every day now, when someone drives alone wearing a mask, or goes for a walk by themselves in an empty forest masked, or when someone—say with good health and no previous known adverse reactions to vaccines—hears that a vaccine can in one in 500,000 cases cause death, but can’t take any comfort that they have a 99.999% chance of it not happening because it potentially can. Before advanced brain areas are turned on and probabilities are factored in, the BIS is off and running.

Meh. The human brain is not equipped to understand probability. But the aspect of a mass of numbers is not just about probability but something more viciously concrete:

It seems to me especially vital that we broaden our understanding of the history and current state of vaccines because, over the summer, many who chose vaccination for themselves concluded that it is acceptable to mandate vaccines for others, including those who are reluctant to get them. That majority entered a state of “crystallization”–a term I borrow from the French novelist Stendhal, who applied it to the moment when a person first falls in love: Feelings that may have been fluid become solid, clear, and absolute, leading to all-or-nothing thinking, such that even the beloved’s blemishes become signs of their perfection.

Crystallization, as I’m using it here, happens within a group that has been involved in a major dispute. For a while there is an awareness that some disagreement is in play, and people are free to have different opinions. But at a certain point–often hard to predict and impossible to measure because it is happening in the wider culture and not necessarily at the ballot box–both sides of the dispute become aware that, within this mass of human beings, there is now a winner. One might say that a consensus arises that there is now a majority consensus. Suddenly, certain ideas and actions must be applauded, voiced, obeyed, and acted on, while others are off limits.

It sounds like witch burning, or perhaps in a less damaging form, a version of the focus of the famous book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. But Doidge brings us back to Tocqueville:

One person who understood how this works intuitively was Alexis de Tocqueville. In democracies, as long as there is not yet a majority opinion, a range of views can be expressed, and it appears there is a great “liberty of opinion,” to use his phrase.

But once a majority opinion forms, it acquires a sudden social power, and it brings with it pressure to end dissent. A powerful new kind of censorship and coercion begins in everyday life (at work, school, choir, church, hospitals, in all institutions) as the majority turns on the minority, demanding it comply. Tocqueville, like James Madison, was concerned about this “the tyranny of the majority,” which he saw as the Achilles’ heel of democracy.

It isn’t only because divisiveness created a minority faction steeped in lingering resentment; it’s also because minorities can sometimes be more right than majorities (indeed, emerging ideas are, by definition, minority ideas to start with). The majority overtaking the minority could mean stamping out thoughts and actions that would otherwise generate progress and forward movement.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson made that point about Western societies, especially democracies, many times in his book Carnage and Culture. I think we’re losing that in our technocratic age, dominated by giant monopoly IT companies that increasingly control our discourse.

It is a fascinating moment when this sort of crystallization happens in a mass culture like America’s, because seemingly overnight even the definition of legitimate speech (or thought or action) also changes. Tocqueville observed that quite abruptly a person can no longer express opinions or raise questions that only days before were acceptable, even though no facts of the matter have changed. At an individual level, people who were within the bounds can be surprised to find themselves “tormented by the slights and persecutions of daily obloquy.” Once this occurs, he wrote, “your fellow-creatures will shun you like an impure being, and those who are most persuaded of your innocence will abandon you too, lest they should be shunned in their turn.”

We are so close to this here in New Zealand. Far closer than in the federated world of the USA, where actual states, almost nations in themselves, can chart different courses. But in a nation state such as ours there is only one course, that determined by Parliamentary Supremacy, boosted by a majority government not anticipated by the supporters if MMP. The only reason I voted for National in 2002 was precisely to prevent Helen Clark, competent as she was, getting FPP control.

And so…

A June 2021 Gallup poll found that, among the vaccinated, 53% now worry most about those choosing not to get vaccinated, “surpassing concerns about lack of social distancing in their area (27%), availability of local hospital resources and supplies (11%), and availability of coronavirus tests in their area (5%).” True to the BIS’s impulses, this fear is metastasizing into disgust, even hatred, of those who–because they believe or act differently–are now perceived as threats: On Aug. 26, in a front-page story in the Toronto Star, my local newspaper, a resident was quoted as saying: “I have no empathy left for the willfully unvaccinated. Let them die.”

Heh. I have seen much the same on FaceTwit from (now former) friends and acquaintances. You can read the rest of the analysis in these sections.

CHAPTER II: The kernel brilliance of vaccines

CHAPTER III: A new plague descends

CHAPTER IV: Getting out

But one aspect of the crystallization that amuses/bemuses me is summarised very well by the following point from the article:

As of a September 2019 Gallup poll, only a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic, Big Pharma was the least trusted of America’s 25 top industry sectors, No. 25 of 25. In the eyes of ordinary Americans, it had both the highest negatives and the lowest positives of all industries.

At No. 24 was the federal government, and at No. 23 was the health care industry. These three industries form a neat troika (though at No. 22 was the advertising and public relations industry, which facilitates the work of the other three.)

Those inside the troika often characterize the vaccine hesitant as broadly fringe and paranoid. But there are plenty of industries and sectors that Americans do trust. Of the top 25 U.S. industry sectors, 21 enjoy net positive views from American voters. Only pharma, government, health care, and PR are seen as net negative: precisely the sectors involved in the rollout of the COVID vaccines. This set the conditions, in a way, for a perfect storm.

You know who probably were the dominant members of those untrusting American souls on “Big Pharma” and the “Health Care” industry pre-Covid-19?

The Left. In the USA, the Democrats. Here, Labour and the Greens.

Politics and the madness of crowds can work miracles in changing people’s minds. As the Joker said in The Dark Knight:

Madness, as you know, is like gravity.
All it takes is a little push”

Written by Tom Hunter

November 25, 2021 at 11:13 pm

Human Rights? In New Zealand? 😆😆😆😆😆😆

with 10 comments

It seems that some people are getting very upset about the “traffic light” legislation currently being rammed through under urgency by the government.

This is David Farrar’s take over at Kiwiblog:

Ramming massive human rights legislation through Parliament under urgency

This legislation will make some citizens, second class. They will have fewer rights than other citizens. Such a law should not be rushed through under urgency. Labour will not even be allowing a single New Zealander to submit on this law, despite the fact it will take basic rights away from several hundred thousand Kiwis. Even if you support the law, you should be appalled at this abuse of process.

Oh Pffft….

Even if you support the law”. That, right there, is the National-ACT dilemma. This was always going to be the natural result of supporting the idea of vaccine mandates and passports. It was signalled ages ago by the Prime Minister, Two classes of New Zealanders:

This really was the slippery slope and we’re not at the bottom yet.

Frankly I prefer this to a careful, slow examination of the legislation which will strangle my human rights anyway. Better to have the fast, slipshod job that this crowd will put in and enjoy exploiting the holes in it.

It is going to be funny to see if any lawyers want to have a crack at this using our Bill Of Rights, so puffed up decades ago by its author, Geoffrey Palmer. This just goes to show again what a complete and utter farce it is on more than the tiniest things. Parliamentary Supremacy trumps it and always will unless we make some radical, fundamental changes to our unwritten constitution and institutions, which we won’t because they, plus the people, are enamoured of Big Government, despite all the guff we’ve heard for forty years about Rogernomics.

Just as a sidebar, it would not hurt National and ACT to say that the first six months of their next government will be spent reversing every single piece of legislation this crowd passed on their own, plus every regulation and then firing every bureaucrat they’ve hired. Straight out demolition of some government departments, ministries and quangos wouldn’t hurt either

Written by Tom Hunter

November 24, 2021 at 2:47 pm

We’ve always thought this of Aucklanders

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I was amused by one part of the latest Newshub/Reid poll that asked about people’s attitudes toward the border between Auckland and the rest of the nation, and opening it up.

That’s going to happen in mid-December anyway but…

Auckland border

  • Allow Aucklanders out for Xmas – 56.7%
  • Keep them in – 32.2%
  • Don’t Know – 11.1%

“Keep them in” got 32% support?

We all know that “Jafas” are not well liked in the rest of New Zealand, something I’ve been aware of all my life. I live here and even I don’t particularly like the place.

But is that what’s really driving this, or is this just another example of how terrified we have been made of Covid-19 by the government and Public Health officials that even a 90% vaxxed population is going to be barely welcomed to visit the beaches, lakes and countryside of the nation over this summer?

Written by Tom Hunter

November 22, 2021 at 8:13 am

Yellow is not the appropriate colour

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A few weeks ago I posted on a story out of Germany where a bunch of idiot politicians decided it would be a great idea for vaccinated people to wear a yellow badge, They teach history, don’t they?

But it’s not Germans “leaders” forgetting their history. Out of Britain comes this news:

But back to Germany – well, Austria actually – showing that they can forget history just as well as everybody else, Austria orders new lockdown, says COVID-19 vaccination will be mandatory:

Austria will again impose a national COVID-19 lockdown next week in a bid to control another wave of infections — and in three months will begin requiring that all adults in the country are vaccinated, officials said Friday.

Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced the measures and said the lockdown will begin on Monday. The vaccine requirement will start in February.

As the Babylon Bee put it, To Defeat Delta Variant, Experts Recommend Doing All The Things That Didn’t Work The First Time.

In the world’s second bio-fascist state (after China) I feel that they’re getting closer to what I had merely written as satire a few months ago, especially given the glorious language that Austrians speak and the demonstrated lack of historical knowledge I really would not be surprised if they put up signs reading, Impfung Macht Frei.

Coming to New Zealand next Autumn perhaps, with another surge of cases?

In other posts I’ve used a picture of Aldous Huxley with a quote from him about people coming to love their oppression, but it turns out there was an American TV interview with him in 1958 where he got to expand on the subject in more detail: twelve minutes long but worth your time.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 21, 2021 at 7:49 am

What’s normal again?

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I already covered this topic in the post, We’re never going back to normal, which were actually the words spoken by some Australian health official suffering from Fauci/Hendy/Baker/Wiles/Bloomfield disease.

But it’s nice to see that some former fanatics are having a bit of re-think, as evidenced by an article in – of all places – the NYT, “Is it time to start moving back to normalcy?”.

The writer, one David Leonhardt, reports the views of “one of the more cautious” of “the Covid experts I regularly talk with”, Dr. Robert Wachter, chairman of the medicine department at the University of California San Francisco:

“He worries about ‘long Covid,’ and he believes that many people should receive booster shots. He says that he may wear a mask in supermarkets and on airplanes for the rest of his life.”

Okay. So obviously not a right-wing Covid denier. Nonetheless he…

… also worries about the downsides of organizing our lives around Covid. In recent weeks, he has begun to think about when most of life’s rhythms should start returning to normal. Increasingly, he believes the answer is: Now.

This belief stems from the fact that the virus is unlikely to go away, ever. Like most viruses, it will probably keep circulating, with cases rising sometimes and falling other times. But we have the tools – vaccines, along with an emerging group of treatments – to turn it into a manageable virus, similar to the seasonal flu.

Given this reality, Wachter, who’s 64, has decided to resume more of his old activities and accept the additional risk that comes with them, much as we accept the risk of crashes when riding in vehicles.

A sane conclusion. Meantime, Leonhardt, also reaches a sane conclusion based on the data he’s gathered:

Covid now presents the sort of risk to most vaccinated people that we unthinkingly accept in other parts of life

When The Washington Post recently asked Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, when the pandemic would end, she replied: “It doesn’t end. We just stop caring. Or we care a lot less.” She added, “I think for most people, it just fades into the background of their lives.”

I realize that answer may sound jarring, but the alternative – a society permanently dominated by Covid – is jarring, too. Eventually, the costs of organizing our lives around the virus will exceed the benefits. In some cases, we may have already reached that point.

He should try living in New Zealand. Even though Covid-Zero was abandoned weeks ago it seems to me that this government and its supporters, including the scientists listed above, pushed the low death rate so hard and so successfully as a measure of their success (something endlessly echoed by their supporters) that they’re terrified of the backlash that would occur were it to rise into the hundreds or higher, and they are willing to do anything to avoid that.

They’re not alone. At the wonderful Stromata blog, which has only recently re-started after a decade, I came across this anecdote:

Just this weekend, I heard about a writer at a science fiction convention who complained vehemently to the organizers when a single unmasked individual appeared in the audience at one of her panels. The incremental risk that she faced as a result was undoubtedly too slight to be measured, yet it threw her into a simulacrum of fear.

As that blogger points out about his own area in Washington State (data obtained via that NYT link to another site):

The CDC has decided that a [7-day average] rate over 10 per 100,000 [popn.] is dangerous enough to demand special precautions, and most of the country outside the Southeast is above that level. In my home county (Pierce County, Washington), it’s 30 per 100,000 as a I write. If the disease were to move steadily through the county at that rate, each inhabitant could expect to fall ill at some point in the next nine years. That hardly conjures up images of the Black Death and makes one wonder why the CDC thinks the rate must be a third of that to be tolerable.

So here’s our case rate – 3.6 per 100,000.

There are other ways of overstating the risk, which have been used to the maximum here in New Zealand by our health experts, government, and MSM, and that is the deception of aggregate statistics and averages that don’t actually give one a true picture of risk:

According to another of the site’s maps, one in nine people in Pierce County has so far suffered from CCP Flu; one in 988 has died of it. Bear in mind that the number of cases is most likely understated (because those who are infected by the virus but have no symptoms are counted only by happenstance) while the risk of death may be overstated.

As Mr. Leonhardt notes, “The aggregate statistics on Covid deaths and hospitalizations exaggerate the risk to most Americans, because a disproportionate share of severe illness occurs among people with specific medical vulnerabilities.

The Italian Institute of Health has found that only three percent of patients in that country who were suffering from CCP Flu at the time of death were free from other morbid conditions.

But actually this is not new, or specific to Delta. This has been known from the start, based on information from China and Italy, as well as the petri dish of the Diamond Princess cruise liner, all in early 2020.

There have been similar comments from the US state of Minnesota, which seems awfully similar to NZ in terms of its approach to lockdowns, masks, vaccinations and the rest, including the new fanaticism of vaccinating kids aged 5-12. Author Kevin Roche managed to get an opinion column published in the Minnesota Star Tribune, “Time to face hard truths and get on with life – virus and all”, which did a detailed breakdown of the numbers and the problems the state government faces (he also runs the blog Healthy Skeptic)

Many people must now be wondering how the COVID-19 epidemic ever ends. The approach adopted by the current federal administration, and echoed in Minnesota, relies on demonizing the unvaccinated and doubling down on largely futile actions. There is no reason to have confidence in this approach, as it fails to address the underlying problem, which is the vaccines’ failure to meet inflated expectations.

Misinformation provided by governments has also created an inaccurate picture of the epidemic and of the steps which likely do create a rational and reasonable exit strategy.

Our current problem is not that large numbers of people aren’t vaccinated, but that notwithstanding extremely high levels of vaccination, we see ongoing significant numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths and renewed epidemic waves in different regions.

He suggested six steps to exit the pandemic, all of which apply to New Zealand as well:

  1. Stop obsessive reporting (faint hope: If It Bleeds, It Leads)
  2. Stop over-testing. (start recording “cases” the way we do with the flu, i.e. symptomatic people)
  3. Stop quarantining children and adults who have not tested positive. (Asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic transmission is actually low. Most transmission occurs from a few persons who are symptomatic, have large viral loads and substantial contact networks.)
  4. Stop wasting money on ineffective contact tracing (take a look at our growing number of “unlinked” cases)
  5. Refocus public policy on overall public health and well-being. (how many surgeries have been cancelled?)
  6. Most importantly, declare the epidemic over, declare victory if you are a politician and need that win, and celebrate that we survived this epidemic.

That last will only happen when the politicians – whether Minnesota Governor Walz or NZ PM Adern – have this ongoing “crisis” start hurting them politically rather than helping them as it has.

But Roche got an avalanche of hostile comments, so he then wrote a piece in the famous Powerline Blog:

What really strikes me is how wedded many people are to having the epidemic and its restrictions last forever. What kind of mental illness is this? But I have made the point many times before that I have no intention of trying to change these people’s minds.

This is belief and religion on their part, not data or science or logical analysis. I don’t even want to engage with these people. And they are a serious impediment to trying to get our society back to some kind of rational policy on the epidemic.

In the words of Captain Adama: So say we all.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 17, 2021 at 11:05 am

The politicisation of bureaucracy

with 5 comments

The following story is from the USA and concerns a government agency very much in the news over the last couple of years – the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) – but you have to wonder to what degree the same thing is happening now in New Zealand.

The story actually arises as a bit of a sidebar from a Fox News interview of one Dr. Marty Makary, a professor of surgery and health policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The purpose of the interview was to discuss the development of an anti-Covid-19 oral pill:

Merck & Co’s stock price rose sharply on Friday after the drug company announced positive clinical trial results from its experimental anti-viral Covid-19 pill. Data showed the pill halved the chances of dying or being hospitalized for at-risk populations—a breakthrough advancement in the fight against the global pandemic. 

It would be quite a fantastic scientific advance. Makary said that it is the…

“…most profound scientific achievement since the vaccines. A fifty percent reduction in the death rate, an oral pill with a simple 5-day course. It’s safe, it works against all variants, it can be used in combination with other therapies. The FDA needs to enact an expanded access protocol to liberate this medication. We’ve got 1.7 million on the shelf, we need to give it to people sick with Covid today under this protocol while they consider if for an emergency use authorization.”

You want any medicine to be thoroughly tested of course, but the FDA’s procedures have increasingly come under attack by taking excessive precautions and there has been a slow but steady decline in drug development in the last thirty years. Until Covid-19 of course, which saw quite a bit of “emergency use authorisation”.

But this was the part of the interview that got attention:

Kilmeade: “[Why is Merk not going] to bat for their own drug.”

Makary: “Well, they’ve got to be very careful with the FDA. If you do something out of line with what they want you could offend them and the FDA is vindictive and they will hold up authorizations and approvals.”

Kilmeade: “Are you kidding? The FDA is vindictive?”

Makary: “First of all this is the most political FDA in U.S. history. Second of all, the FDA has a long history of pulling products from companies that are unrelated to mistakes in other medication and device applications so companies have to be very careful, and that’s why you generally don’t see pharma complaining about the bureaucracy and red tape at the FDA …”

Kilmeade: “… They’re afraid,”

Makary: “Yeah, they’re afraid of the backlash”

In some ways it’s not surprising to hear this. All bureaucrats gain a giddy sense of power over time and I reckon we’ve all seen things like this in our lives. Certainly it’s understood that if you piss off a bureaucrat they can find myriad ways to lead you into all sorts of problems. It may be the reason behind the problems here that medical testing company Rako has encountered with the MOH over saliva testing.

It also reminds me of this comment way back in 2017 by Senator Chuck Schumer, responding to Trump’s criticisms of the US intelligence agencies:

The new leader of Democrats in the Senate says Donald Trump is being “really dumb” for picking a fight with intelligence officials, suggesting they have ways to strike back, after the president-elect speculated Tuesday that his “so-called” briefing about Russian cyberattacks had been delayed in order to build a case.

“Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community — they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,”

In the next four years they did, all the way from “leaks” about Russian paying the Taliban to kill US soldiers (a claim made as Trump mulled withdrawing from Afghanistan), to the now infamous Hunter Biden emails being dismissed by a group of recently retired intelligence officers as products of “Russian disinformation”.

Between them and the news above about the FDA, it really does make you wonder who is running our nations?

Written by Tom Hunter

November 16, 2021 at 7:50 am

The Covid-19 Royal Commission

with 7 comments

I doubt that the Labour government will be willing to do it but there must be a Royal Commission on this subject. Perhaps it’s best delayed until 2024 anyway; as time removes us from this situation there will be fewer concerns about criticising poor decisions by both government and its bureaucracy. People will feel able to speak up and be heard.

As Lord Sumption, a British historian and former Supreme Court judge, said about instilling fear back in April while Britain was still in the grips of another lockdown:

What we have got at the moment is a desire to instil fear in people… It’s not been a total clampdown, but there has clearly been a serious reduction in the space for debate. I get many, many emails, some of them from people in senior positions in politics and the health service, who say that they agree entirely with what I’m saying, but they don’t dare say it themselves. I hear from hospital registrars and consultants, pointing out things that are happening in their hospitals, about the misclassification of deaths or the long-term effects of lockdown on cancer diagnoses and other illnesses.

So what should the topics be and what are the key questions in each case? Here’s my list.

Lockdowns

I already looked specifically at this in posts last year here, here, here, and this one that focused on the fight by epidemiologists against the concept when the Bush Administration introduced it in 2006. But since there are studies being done of the current situation, including 2021 data. The following article looks at a group of them, Covid-19 Lockdown Cost/Benefits: A Critical Assessment of the Literature:

An examination of over 100 Covid-19 studies reveals that many relied on false assumptions that over-estimated the benefits and under-estimated the costs of lockdown. The most recent research has shown that lockdowns have had, at best, a marginal effect on the number of Covid-19 deaths. Generally speaking, the ineffectiveness stemmed from individual changes in behavior: either non-compliance or behavior that mimicked lockdowns. The limited effectiveness of lockdowns explains why, after more than one year, the unconditional cumulative Covid-19 deaths per million is not negatively correlated with the stringency of lockdown across countries.

There’s also the open letter to the UK government signed by a large number of doctors that makes several key points, of which this is just one:

It is for this reason that lockdown policies were never part of any pandemic preparedness plans prior to 2020. In fact, they were expressly not recommended in WHO documents, even for severe respiratory viral pathogens and for that matter neither were border closures, face coverings, and testing of asymptomatic individuals.

Aside from weighing the costs and benefits it was nice to see some experts who, unlike Baker, Bloomfield and Wiles, were not autistic fanatics or publicity hounds and thus had a grasp of the non-medical side of nationwide lockdowns.

South Korea is a democratic republic, we feel a lockdown is not a reasonable choice,” says Kim Woo-Joo, an infectious disease specialist at Korea University.

New Zealand was no exception to that rule, as shown by the New Zealand Influenza Pandemic Plan, last updated by the MOH in 2017. In its 193 pages you will search in vain for the word “lockdown”, let alone any suggestion that standard practices such as quarantining infected and exposes people could be translated into such.

KEY QUESTIONS:

  1. What were the decision criteria that basically dumped that plan in favour of the national lockdown strategy in 2020.
  2. Assuming that one of the key decision criteria was the epidemiological computer modelling used to make forecasts of cases, hospitalisations and deaths under different scenarios, are those models being revised for future use and how can we determine that they are fit for purpose, given the huge variations in their forecasts?
  3. What were the decision criteria for the the 2021 lockdown, when it was already well understood by mid-2021 from overseas experience that the Delta variant was more infectious than the Alpha and unlikely to be stopped by a lockdown? Did the MOH and government think it would work a second time?
  4. Was there any single decision criteria for the second lockdown that overrode all others, a likely candidate being the very low vaccination rates?
  5. Was the traditional “Focused Protection” approach ever considered and if so, why was it rejected?
  6. When the extreme L4 lockdown approach was abandoned in September 2021 what were the decision criteria? Was there any beyond the simple fact that, unlike 2020, the L4 had failed to “crush” the Delta variant and that therefore Covid-Zero had failed?
  7. A complete assessment of the benefits and costs of the New Zealand lockdowns is required, given the need to move beyond a simple death count in assessing any public health strategy.

Masks and Virus Transmission(inc. fomite transmission)

In this post I looked at the lack of medical experimental data supporting the wearing of masks, citing multiple studies as well as the CDC (early on) and other medical experts, plus the complete lack of correlation between mask mandates and case numbers across nations, also here and in particular the problem of pro-maskers citing observational studies rather than Randomised Control Trials. At best the N-95 masks showed some effect but their expense and lack of availability made them a non-option.

Including the hypocrisy of experts and politicians who clearly did not believe their own bullshit about masks, there was clearly a startling lack of evidence for wearing masks and much evidence that they were useless (hence the Fauci comments & CDC recommendations of early 2020).

KEY QUESTIONS:

  1. What medical experimental evidence did our NZ experts use in recommending cloth masks?
  2. What evidence existed that they should also be worn outdoors?
  3. What medical evidence existed that the virus was transmitted by surface contact, requiring “deep cleaning” of hotels and warehouses?
  4. When it became clear through 2020 that no cases of SARS-CoV-2 transmission could be traced to fomite transmission why did deep cleaning continue into 2021? Why did the MOH not advise in at least 2021, if not 2020, that this was unnecessary.

Vaccination programme

I’m not going to delve into the well-known problems with the government roll-out of this programme in 2021 as they are raised by the questions that need answering.

KEY QUESTIONS:

  1. Why was the programme so slow after promises had been made about NZ being first in the queue turned into us being almost last in the developed world, with a very low vaccination rate?
  2. Was the rollout slowed by the lack of Covid-19 in the community through late 2020 and early 2021 – as the government publically rationalised?
  3. Did the government officially decline a speeded up delivery because it felt other nations were in more need – as the government publically rationalised?
  4. The supply contracts with Pfizer must be revealed to the Commission so it can be determine that the government’s negotiators did not come “late to the party, did a poor job and got a raw deal“.
  5. Why was Pfizer the only vaccine chosen and was this decision re-visited as other nations such as Israel discovered in 2021 that its efficacy waned in just a few months?
  6. As the understanding of waning efficacy grew through 2021, what discussion took place in the MOH and government as to the need for booster shots? Also, when were orders placed for booster shots and what was the government’s desired timetable on these?
  7. Was any modelling done on the parallel development of immunity in the NZ population via vaccine and via acquired natural immunity, which is the typical track for reaching herd immunity for transmissible diseases or was vaccine immunity considered to be the only option here?
  8. Was any discussion held with any of the vaccine makers regarding the possibility of evolutionary pressure on the virus resulting from a mass vaccination programme, as raised by Andrew Pollard, one of the developers of the AstraZeneca vaccine,
  9. What studies of the vaccine for children aged 18 or less were looked at, or did we simply rely on FDA approval in the USA? What level of attention was paid to the near-zero incidence of Covid-19 sickness and death in this demographic? What were the decision criteria here for a large-scale vaccination programme to be enforced with this age group, particularly those aged 5-11 (I am assuming the government will do this in 2022)

Testing, Tracing and Quarantine

A key argument for the need to lockdown in early 2020 was that New Zealand lacked the sophisticated track and trace capability of nations like Taiwan that would have enabled a traditional track, trace and quarantine approach of infected and exposed people.

KEY QUESTIONS:

  1. What steps need to be taken to provide such a system so that in future the recommendations of the New Zealand Influenza Pandemic Plan can be followed rather than the lockdown approach?
  2. Will the WHO definition of Covid-19 deaths – that people who died WITH the virus must be counted along those who died FROM the virus – be followed for future pandemics, including seasonal flu? Does this increase the possibility of making poor public health decisions in the future by overstating the risks of sickness and death from some future virus?
  3. Why was the PCR test the only one used for detecting the virus, especially given that its own inventor recommended against non-laboratory use given its well-known extreme sensitivity and high rate of false positives? Related to this is a detailed breakdown of how decisions were made about the PCR test cycle rates used.
  4. Why was the saliva testing of Rako, available by January 2021, rejected by the MOH? What lessons can be learned from this to prevent similar MOH mistakes in the future?
  5. Why were antibody testing kits not purchased from overseas and made available in 2020 or at least 2021 so that people could privately test themselves for exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and subsequent natural immunity?
  6. Why was the decision made that MIQ facilities would be used for positive cases rather than home isolation, especially given the tendency of respiratory viruses to spread more easily in AC-reliant indoor spaces like hotels?
  7. What efforts were made to expand MIQ spaces when it became clear that the system was being swamped by New Zealanders attempting to get home? Was self-isolation considered as an option in this scenario and if so, when?

Therapeutic Treatments and Hospitalisation

KEY QUESTIONS:

  1. Why was the ICU capacity of hospitals not expanded throughout 2020 and especially in 2021 when the Delta variant emerged overseas? Could this have been done with temporary facilities as Singapore has done over the years?
  2. Was the actual constraint the number of ICU doctors and nurses? How many such people were trapped in the MIQ or immigration systems and could they have been given priority?
  3. By mid 2020, monoclonal antibody infusion was demonstrated as an FDA-approved, safe, practical and highly effective means of treating patients with Covid-19. Were any efforts made to obtain these treatments, in sufficient numbers for the forecast numbers of cases, and if so, what became of these efforts?
  4. What, if any, other therapeutic treatments for Covid-19 patients were proposed and/or studied by the MOH or other government bodies?

An examination of past flu pandemics

This would perhaps form more of a footnote for the Royal Commission but any studies of the pandemics of 1918 (Spanish), 1957 (Asian), and 1968-69 (Hong Kong) should be included. In particular I’d like to hear from Professor Geoffrey W Rice, whose study of the 1918 pandemic in New Zealand was deemed by the MOH “invaluable to our planning”.

A detailed study of excess mortality in the last two years would also be useful, so that in future we’re not guided by the politically useful but simple-minded counting of deaths or cases. Certainly the excess mortality of the nearest thing the world has to a control nation – Sweden – puts that criteria in perspective:

Assuming the excess mortality in 2019–2020 “fully balanced” the mortality deficit in the previous flu year, the true excess mortality in Sweden was less than 1% (about 700 deaths). And if we assume, absurdly, that the mortality in 2019–2020 was not affected at all by the mortality deficit in the previous flu year, then the excess mortality in Sweden did not exceed 4.1% (about 3,800 deaths).

To remind us, the hysterical response to the pandemic was not due to fear of an excess annual mortality of 4% or even 10%. The apocalyptic forecasts, which caused the world to shut down, predicted about 90,000 deaths from the coronavirus in Sweden by the summer of 2020: 100% excess mortality! No wonder policy makers around the world prefer to forget those predictions.

Eyal Shahar – Professor Emeritus of Public Health (University of Arizona); MD (Tel-Aviv University, Israel); MPH, Epidemiology (University of Minnesota)

Readers are welcome to suggest other questions that might reasonably fall under the sway of such a Royal Commission.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 15, 2021 at 5:18 am

The Newspaper of Record is mystified

Mr Blow is one of the voices employed by the New York Times to explain what’s happening in the world to its otherwise mystified and unknowing “Liberal” readership.

Thus there is a problem when Mr Blow is the one who is mystified and unknowing, along with the rest of the NYT staff who apparently don’t know enough about the Chinese Xi Snot pandemic to be able to provide him with explanations.

It’s an even worse situation when he feels entirely comfortable in going public with his mystification and in so doing, revealing the problems of the little bubble in which he lives and works, thus providing amusement to the non-NYT worshipping crowd.

I’ll give just one small glimpse into the explanation Mr Blow is seeking: the CDC is not the only place where disease experts reside and the imprimatur of having a PhD and working for a government organ is not proof of being an expert, let alone a wise one (see also NASA, Department of Defence, Department of Education, NIH, …)

Written by Tom Hunter

November 14, 2021 at 3:37 pm