Leftists just KNOW what is good for us. Conservatives need evidence..

Why are Leftists always talking about hate? Because it fills their own hearts

As President, Trump will be as transformative as Reagan; He has blown the political consensus out of the water

This document is part of an archive of postings on Dissecting Leftism, a blog hosted by Blogspot who are in turn owned by Google. The index to the archive is available here or here. Indexes to my other blogs can be located here or here. Archives do accompany my original postings but, given the animus towards conservative writing on Google and other internet institutions, their permanence is uncertain. These alternative archives help ensure a more permanent record of what I have written. My Home Page. My Recipes. My alternative Wikipedia. My Blogroll. Email me (John Ray) here. NOTE: The short comments that I have in the side column of the primary site for this blog are now given at the foot of this document.


31 August, 2020

How Trump Has Changed the Republicans

The article from the WSJ below is a useful summary of conservative thought in the last 4 years so is well worth looking at now that another election is almost upon us. It is a long article so I will leave it to tomorrow to post a critique of it that sets it in a broader historical context

The president has reshaped the GOP in his own image, and a new generation of conservatives is trying to learn and extend the lessons of his insurgent rise.

By Gerald F. Seib

For almost four decades, the conservative movement was defined by one man, Ronald Reagan, and his movement, the Reagan Revolution.

Reagan was an unlikely revolutionary figure, a modestly successful actor with a self-effacing style and no intellectual pretensions. Yet he personally made the Republican Party into a conservative party, and his legacy inspired the movement’s leaders, animated its policy debates and stirred its voters’ emotions long after he left the scene.

Then four years ago, it all changed.

Donald Trump ran in 2016 and swamped a sprawling Republican field of more conventional conservatives. In doing so, he didn’t merely win the nomination and embark on the road to the White House. He turned Republicans away from four decades of Reagan-style, national-greatness conservatism to a new gospel of populism and nationalism.

In truth, this shift had been building for a while: Pat Buchanan, Ross Perot, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, the Tea Party, an increasingly bitter immigration debate— all were early signs that a new door was opening. Mr. Trump simply charged through it. He understood better than those whom he vanquished in the primaries that the Republican Party has undergone profound socioeconomic changes; it has been washed over by currents of cultural alienation and a feeling that the old conservative economic prescriptions haven’t worked for its new working- class foot soldiers.

Now, as Republicans prepare to nominate Mr. Trump for re-election at their truncated convention this week, there is simply no way to put Trumpism back into the bottle. If the president wins this fall (and even more so if he loses), the question that Republicans in general and conservatives in particular face is simple and stark: How to adapt their gospel so that it fits in the age of Trump?

Trump turned the GOP away from Reagan-style conservatism and toward populism and nationalism.

As it happens, a new and younger breed of conservatives has set out to do precisely that, often by stepping away from strict free-market philosophies. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is pushing for what he calls a “common-good capitalism,” in which government policies promote not just economic growth but also provide help for families, workers and communities. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, a likely presidential aspirant, is calling for leaving the World Trade Organization and managing capital markets to control the inflow of foreign money into the U.S.

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the lone Black Republican senator, has ushered into law a plan to use government incentives to lure investment dollars into underserved communities. Yuval Levin, a former George W. Bush White House aide, publishes a newwave conservative journal and advocates for government programs specifically crafted to help young parents. Oren Cass, a young conservative intellectual, recently launched a new think tank, American Compass, from which he advocates an “industrial policy” that gives specific government help to manufacturing firms—a concept long heretical in free-market circles.

Former South Carolina governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley—another likely futureWhite House hopeful— has her own think tank promoting a more conventional, Republican interventionist version of foreign policy. Meanwhile, the U.S.-educated Israeli philosopher YoramHazony is beating the drum for a Trumpian embrace of a nationalist foreign policy.

From many of these new-wave Republicans, the message is this: Conservatives faltered over time by becoming too enamored of their own ideology, too committed to globalization and free trade, and too indifferent to their effects on average working Americans. Looking past the Trump era, these conservatives argue, their movement needs to climb down from the ivory tower of handsoff economic theory and create a more practical conservatism that somehow embraces populism and nationalism, while seeking to retain core elements of free-market economics and Reagan’s “peace through strength” brand of internationalism.

Christopher DeMuth, a former president of the American Enterprise Institute who is now a fellow at the Hudson Institute, says that much of today’s ferment can be traced to conservatives growing insular and losing touch with voters, especially on trade and economic hardship. “‘Washington consensus’ conservatism was much too smug on these matters, and much too detached from a lot of pain and suffering that was going on in the country,” he says.

That realization, Mr. DeMuth says, has led many conservatives to rethink their adherence to small-government policies and open their minds to a bigger role for government in attacking economic problems. Increasingly, he says, some Republicans have a new attitude: “This thing about conservatives not wanting to use government power? We’ve got big problems out there, and damn it, we’re going to use government power to fix it.”

Mr. Trump certainly doesn’t cling to intellectual principles in his governing style. His approach is instinctual. When he briefly contemplated entering the 2012 presidential race, he talked periodically about the idea with the conservative political activist David Bossie. At one point, Mr. Bossie told his friend Steve Bannon, with whom he had worked on some controversial films, that the New York billionaire was considering running for president.

“Of what country?” Mr. Bannon recalls replying.

Still, Mr. Bannon agreed to accompany Mr. Bossie to a meeting with Mr. Trump in New York City to talk through the possibilities. Once there, Mr. Bossie provided an overview of the political message of his idol, Ronald Reagan. He then turned to Mr. Bannon, who argued that the times required a much more populist approach than Reagan’s, invoking such insurgent figures as Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Perot and even William Jennings Bryan in doing so. “That’s the populist message,” said Mr. Bannon, who was in the news again as he was indicted Thursday for alleged fraud involving a fund-raising campaign to help build the Trump-inspired border wall with Mexico.

Mr. Bannon recalls Mr. Trump responding enthusiastically, saying, “That’s what I am: a popularist.” Later, Mr. Bannon concluded that— mangled terminology aside—the mogul was right. Mr. Trump would set out to be a popular populist, and “the seed was planted.”

When that seed sprouted, it produced a kind of identity crisis for traditional conservatives. They have long preached the economic virtues of immigration; Mr. Trump doesn’t buy it. Conservatives seek to reduce government spending; Mr. Trump was overseeing a trillion-dollar federal budget deficit even before the coronavirus hit. Conservatives preach limited executive power, but Mr. Trump has embraced an expansive view of presidential reach. During the pandemic and this summer’s racial unrest, he has issued executive actions to send out government benefits that Congress failed to approve and simply declared that he has the power to override governors’ decisions and send federal forces into their states even if they don’t want them there—a far cry from Reagan’s frequent invocation of the Tenth Amendment, which grants states powers not specifically enumerated for the federal government.

As former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says of Mr. Trump, “He’s not a conservative. He didn’t sit around reading National Review,” the traditional conservative magazine. Instead, Mr. Gingrich defines Mr. Trump more in cultural terms than ideological ones, calling the president “an anti-liberal…a commonsense, practical person who understands howmuch of modern political correctness is just total baloney.”

When asked whether Mr. Trump is a conservative, Corey Lewandowski, his campaign manager for a time in 2016, says, “He’s a pragmatist.”

Among other things, this means that Mr. Trump simply doesn’t have the same sympathy toward traditional bigbusiness positions in favor of open trade, which business leaders see as the best way for a mature economy such as America’s to continue growing. The shift became obvious during the 2016 campaign, when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce— the traditional bastion of big-business sentiment and sensibility, and normally a reliable ally of Republicans—attacked candidate Trump and was, in turn, attacked by him.

At one point during the race, the chamber’s president, Thomas Donohue, called out Mr. Trump by name, saying he “has very little idea about what trade really is.” When candidate Trump became President Trump, he didn’t forget. Early on, aides sent out the word: No Chamber of Commerce officials would be hired for the administration (an edict that didn’t last). In hopes of smoothing over relations, a White House aide invited the chamber to send a representative to a meeting Mr. Trump was holding with business leaders to discuss his agenda. Mr. Trump had too much antipathy toward Mr. Donohue to invite him to represent the group, so Thomas Collamore, the group’s longtime executive vice president, drew the assignment instead.

Mr. Collamore knew that he might be heading into hostile territory, so he sought to make his presence lowkey. At the outset of the meeting, with a contingent of White House reporters and network cameras in the room to catch a few minutes of the session, the business representatives each, in turn, identified themselves. Mr. Collamore dutifully did so. Then the president shooed away the press and turned to Mr. Collamore. “Hey, chamber guy,” he said. “What’s the problem with you guys?”

Mr. Trump’s departure from the national-security precepts of the neoconservatives whom Mr. Reagan brought into the party is just as profound. Mr. Trump simply doesn’t share their hawkish worldview or their belief in the necessity of U.S. international engagement.

In the summer of 2018, for example, Mr. Trump came far closer than is publicly known to simply withdrawing the U.S. from the crown jewel of its military alliances, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. At a summit meeting in Brussels, Mr. Trump was so critical of what he considered the alliance’s unfair reli ance on the American military, and even of the amount of money NATO had spent on a new headquarters building, that his fellow leaders convened a special, closed session to discuss his grievances.

National security adviser John Bolton accompanied Mr. Trump to the meeting, which turned tense and testy. At one point, Mr. Bolton called White House chief of staff John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, who had intended to skip the meeting to tend to other business, and told him: You’d better get over here. We’re about to withdraw from NATO.

Mr. Kelly hustled to Mr. Trump’s side and found that the president was, in fact, considering simply declaring that the U.S. was out of the alliance. Mr. Kelly talked the president off that ledge, in part, by convincing him that he would be crucified by the political establishment and the press if he wrecked NATO. But some Trump aides remained worried that he still might pull the plug on NATO at some point. Those attitudes seem to represent instinct more than a governing philosophy, so some conservatives are trying to construct a philosophy around them.

Mr. Cass of American Compass is one of them. “I see myself as engaged in the project of post- Trumpism,” he says. In that post-Trump era, he argues, conservatives must move beyond their instinct that market forces and a light government hand automatically offer the best answers. “What we call conservative economic policy isn’t actually small-c conservative in its orientation,” he says. “It’s libertarian economic policy.”

Mr. Cass argues that free markets don’t allocate resources well across all sectors of an economy. Specifically, markets leave some important sectors—including manufacturing— without sufficient investment. “Manufacturing provides particularly well-paying, stable employment— especially for men with less formal education,” he said in remarks last year. “Manufacturing also tends to deliver faster productivity growth, because its processes are susceptible to technological advances that complement labor and increase output.”

Thus, Mr. Cass argues, government should have policies that actively favor the expansion of manufacturing, including funding more research that can help manufacturing companies; giving engineering majors in colleges more government aid than, say, English majors; putting a “bias” in the tax code to help manufacturers; reducing—to nearly zero if necessary—the number of visas given to Chinese citizens until China changes policies that harm American companies; and requiring U.S.-made components in key products. “In the real world as we find it, America has no choice but to adopt an industrial policy, and we will be better for it,” Mr. Cass said.

Trump is ‘not a conservative. He didn’t sit around reading National Review.’ NEWTGINGRICH Former speaker of the House

Similarly, Mr. Rubio has decried what he calls a misplaced conservative “obsession” with economic efficiency. Economics and culture “are strongly intertwined,” the Florida senator argued recently in a speech at Catholic University. What’s needed, he said, is a system that creates greater incentives for businesses to create “dignified work” that strengthens the families and the kind of culture so important to conservatives. “Our current government policies get this wrong,” he said. “We reward and incentivize certain business practices that promote economic growth—but it’s growth that often solely benefits shareholders at the expense of new jobs and better pay.”

For his part, Mr. Hawley has proposed having the government subsidize employers’ entire payrolls during the coronavirus crisis, paying 80% of workers’ wages up to the national median wage, on the theory that conservatives’ goal right now should be keeping workers above water during a crisis not of their own making.

Mr. Hazony makes a similar argument when it comes to foreign policy. He contends that cultural and religious values should be as important as globalization, which means that clear borders and a nation’s cultural identity must be seen as core values of a new conservative philosophy. He convened a conference inWashington last year to explore such ideas. “What we’re trying to do is unite the broad public and the elites as much as possible,” he says. “The broad conservative public is ready for nationalism. That’s the reason they voted for Donald Trump. That’s the reason they voted for Brexit.”

Ms. Haley, a likely 2024 presidential candidate, is also striking a nationalist tone, stressing the need for strong borders. But she appears to be betting on a return to a more traditional Reagan-esque posture, railing regularly against the Chinese Communist Party, arguing for an activist policy to counter Venezuela’s socialist government and lamenting Congress’ “irresponsible spending” on the coronavirus

Some religious conservatives are doing a different kind of rethinking, considering how to best preserve the culture they value—and whether they have been looking in the wrong place for answers. Author Rod Dreher, who writes for American Conservative magazine, says that he and other religious conservatives were “shocked” and “demoralized” when the Supreme Court, in a decision written by a Trump appointee, ruled recently that civil rights law protects gay people from workplace discrimination. “We on the religious right have wrongly prioritized law and politics as what are important to us,” he concludes. “What is important to us is the culture.”

Mr. Rubio tried to address the dissatisfaction with traditional conservative prescriptions in his own 2016 campaign—and, as the son of Cuban immigrants, did so without all of the Trumpian nativist overtones. But he found his message drowned out by Mr. Trump’s megaphone and maelstrom. Now he thinks that the anger at the economic status quo and the political establishment is a sign that America— not just the conservative movement— has reached a crossroads.

“If you look at human history, when these sentiments are not addressed, people throughout history always tend to go in one of two directions,” Mr. Rubio says. “Socialism— let the government take over everything and make things right— or ethnic nationalism, which is, ‘Bad things are happening to me, and it’s someone else’s fault. And they happen to be from another country or another skin color.’

“Neither one of those ends up in a good place. And both are actually a fundamental challenge to the very concept of America, what makes us unique and special.”



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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30 August, 2020

The Lessons from Italy That Turned Into a Containment Success Story

I am not so sure about the explanation below.  I think COVID roared through Italy's care homes and killed off most of the vulnerable people.  So there is now nobody left for it to kill

ROME - When the coronavirus erupted in the West, Italy was the nightmarish epicenter, a place to avoid at all costs and a shorthand in the United States and much of Europe for uncontrolled contagion.

“You look at what’s going on with Italy,” President Trump told reporters on March 17. “We don’t want to be in a position like that.” Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, used Italy’s overwhelmed hospitals as evidence for his opposition to Medicare for All at a presidential debate. “It is not working in Italy right now,” he said.

Fast forward a few months, and the United States has suffered tens of thousands more deaths than any country in the world. European states that once looked smugly at Italy are facing new flare-ups. Some are imposing fresh restrictions and weighing whether to lock down again.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain on Friday announced a delay to a planned easing of measures in England as the infection rate there rose. Even Germany, lauded for its efficient response and rigorous contact tracing, has warned that lax behavior is prompting a surge in cases.

And Italy? Its hospitals are basically empty of Covid-19 patients. Daily deaths attributed to the virus in Lombardy, the northern region that bore the brunt of the pandemic, hover around zero. The number of new daily cases has plummeted to “one of the lowest in Europe and the world,” said Giovanni Rezza, director of the infective illness department at the National Institute of Health. “We have been very prudent.”

And lucky. Today, despite a tiny uptick in cases this week, Italians are cautiously optimistic that they have the virus in check - even as Italy’s leading health experts warn that complacency remains the jet fuel of the pandemic. They are aware that the picture can change at any moment

How Italy has gone from being a global pariah to a model - however imperfect - of viral containment holds fresh lessons for the rest of the world, including the United States, where the virus, never under control, now rages across the country

After a stumbling start, Italy has consolidated, or at least maintained, the rewards of a tough nationwide lockdown through a mix of vigilance and painfully gained medical expertise.

Its government has been guided by scientific and technical committees. Local doctors, hospitals and health officials collect more than 20 indicators on the virus daily and send them to regional authorities, who then forward them to the National Institute of Health.

The result is a weekly X-ray of the country’s health upon which policy decisions are based. That is a long way from the state of panic, and near collapse, that hit Italy in March.

This week, Parliament voted to extend the government’s emergency powers through Oct. 15 after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte argued the nation could not let its guard down “because the virus is still circulating.

Those powers allow the government to keep restrictions in place and respond quickly - including with lockdowns - to any new clusters. The government has already imposed travel restrictions on more than a dozen countries to Italy, as the importation of the virus from countries is now the government’s greatest fear.

There are a lot of situations in France, Spain, the Balkans, which means that the virus is not off at all,” said Ranieri Guerra, assistant director general for strategic initiatives at the World Health Organization and an Italian doctor. “It can come back at any time.”

There is no doubt that the privations of the lockdown were economically costly. For three months, businesses and restaurants were ordered closed, movement was highly restricted - even between regions, towns and streets - and tourism ground to a halt. Italy is expected to lose about 10 percent of its gross domestic product this year.

But at a certain point, as the virus threatened to spread uncontrollably, Italian officials decided to put lives ahead of the economy. “The health of the Italian people comes and will always come first,” Mr. Conte said at the time.

Italian officials now hope that the worst of the cure came in one large dose - the painful lockdown - and that the country is now safe to resume normal life, albeit with limits. They argue that the only way to start up the economy is to keep tamping down the virus, even now.

The strategy of closing down completely invited criticism that the government’s excessive caution was paralyzing the economy. But it may prove to be more advantageous than trying to reopen the economy while the virus still rages, as is happening in countries like the United States, Brazil and Mexico.

That does not mean that calls for continued vigilance, as elsewhere in the world, have been immune to mockery, resistance and exasperation. In that, Italy is no different.

Masks often are missing or lowered in trains or buses, where they are mandatory. Young people are going out and doing the things young people do - and risk in that way spreading the virus to more susceptible parts of the population. Adults started gathering at the beach and for birthday barbecues. There is still no clear plan for a return to school in September.

There is also a burgeoning, and politically motivated, anti-mask contingent led by nationalist Matteo Salvini, who on July 27 declared that replacing handshakes and hugs with elbow bumps was “the end of the human species.”

At his rallies, Mr. Salvini, the leader of the populist League party, still shakes hands and wears his mask like a chin guard. In July, during a news conference, he accused the Italian government of “importing” infected immigrants to create new clusters and extend the state of emergency.

This week, Mr. Salvini joined other mask skeptics - nicknamed the “negationists” by critics - for a protest in the Senate library, along with special guests such as the Italian crooner Andrea Bocelli, who said he did not believe the pandemic was so serious because “I know a lot of people and I don’t know anyone who ended up in an I.C.U.”

But the country’s leading health experts say that the lack of severe cases is indicative of a decrease in the volume of infections, as only a small percentage of the infected get very sick. And so far, Italy’s malcontents have not been numerous or powerful enough to undermine what has been a hardwon trajectory of success in confronting the virus after a calamitous star

Italy’s initial isolation by European neighbors at the outset of the crisis, when masks and ventilators were hardly pouring in from across the borders, may actually have helped, Mr. Guerra, the W.H.O. expert, said

“There was competition initially, there was no collaboration,” Mr. Guerra said. “And everyone acknowledged Italy was left alone at that time.” As a result, he said, “what they had to do at that time because we were left alone turned out to be more effective than other countries.”

Italy first quarantined towns and then the Lombardy region in the north and then the entire peninsula and its islands, despite the near absence of the virus in much of central and southern Italy. That not only prevented workers in the industrial north from returning home in the much more vulnerable south, but it also fostered and forced a unified national response.

During the lockdown, movement was strictly limited, between regions and towns and even city blocks, and people had to fill in “auto-certification” forms to prove that they needed to go outside for work, health or “other necessities.” Masks and social distancing regulations were enforced by some regional authorities with steep fines. Generally, if grudgingly, the rules were followed.

As searing scenes of human suffering, empty streets and the heavy toll on an elderly generation of northern Italians spread, the transmission rate of the virus quickly decreased, and the curve flattened, as opposed to other European countries, such as Sweden, which pursued an alternative to locking down.

That the initial outbreak was localized in the overwhelmed hospitals created enormous stress, but it also enabled doctors and nurses to expedite contact tracing.

Then the country reopened, gradually, expanding liberties at two-week intervals to respond to the virus’s incubation period.

The lockdown eventually had a secondary effect of decreasing the volume of virus circulating in society, and thus reducing the probability of coming in contact with someone who had it. At the end of the lockdown, the virus circulation had steeply fallen off and in some central and southern regions, there were hardly any chains of transmission at all.

“It’s always a matter of probability with these pathogens,” said Mr. Guerra, adding that new early alarm systems such as the monitoring of wastewater for traces of virus had lowered the probability of infection even more.

As the government considers a new decree to reopen night clubs, festivals and cruise ship travel, many health experts have implored the country not to let down its guard.

“Even if the situation is better than in other countries, we should continue to be very prudent,” said Dr. Rezza of the National Institute of Health, adding that he thought the question of what Italy had done right was better posed “at the end of the epidemic.”



Patients deserve a 'right to try' drugs that are safe and might help with COVID-19

If a drug is proven to be safe, is Food and Drug Administration-approved, has been administered hundreds of millions of times, and your doctor believes that it might possibly help your health, would you want access to that drug?

Of course you would. You would want the right to try it, even if you weren’t sure it would be effective. Yet, the right to try a pharmaceutical that is safe and possibly effective is being denied throughout this country.

I led the fight that my predecessor in Congress, Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon, a Republican, had started in order to gain access to potentially lifesaving drugs that had not been fully approved by the FDA. The “Right to Try” legislation allowed for the use of drugs that had cleared phase one of FDA trials — the trials that determine drug safety.

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence joined in supporting the effort, and the bill eventually passed both chambers of Congress in a bipartisan fashion. Trump signed the bill into law.

I did not anticipate that just a couple of years later, in the middle of a pandemic, that the medical establishment, primarily public health officials, would prevent the use of a medicine that has been proven safe and has been approved by the FDA. In fact, the drug has been used for almost 80 years and is safer than some over-the-counter pain relievers.

The drug I’m speaking about has been studied relentlessly. In fact, several months ago, the World Health Organization released a paper indicating that there were two identified drugs that showed promise as a prophylaxis and therapeutic: remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine. Oddly, when WHO officials issued a statement and announced their findings, they only mentioned remdesivir and were silent on hydroxychloroquine.

In numerous studies released since the COVID-19 outbreak, researchers have observed the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine when used early in the treatment process. Conversely, the studies most often cited against the use of hydroxychloroquine have been debunked (a paper from the prestigious medical journal Lancet was retracted within two weeks of publication), used dubious methods (researchers administered lethal rather than standard doses of hydroxychloroquine), or gave hydroxychloroquine exclusively to patients already hospitalized and near death.

Dozens of studies indicate that if a person with COVID-19 symptoms begins a regimen of hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and azithromycin, they have a better chance of surviving the disease.

You may say, “Oh, you’re just a congressman. What do you know?” That’s fair. But I have seen indications that hydroxychloroquine may be effective, and I know that it is both safe and FDA-approved.

At the same time, public health officials are fighting against a patient’s right to try hydroxychloroquine. In some states, such as Arizona, edicts by public officials have effectively criminalized the opportunity for a doctor to prescribe hydroxychloroquine for anything other than rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or malaria prevention. In other states, doctors who have defied these officials and written prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine in cases of COVID-19 have been turned in by pharmacists and threatened with losing their licenses to practice medicine.

One must ask why we have to fight for the right to try yet again? With drugs that are safe and approved, doctors and patients must be allowed to make the decision about what is best. The choice should not be made by healthcare bureaucrats.

And if hydroxychloroquine is effective when used early, as so many studies indicate, then lives will be saved.

Once again, the people must fight the medical establishment so we can have the right to try.




David Dorn's widow eviscerates the Black Lives Matter narrative (PJ Media)

Alice Johnson praises Trump for First Step Act, urges compassion for "forgotten faces" (The Hill)

After watching three days of the RNC, Pelosi says Joe Biden should stay in his basement (The Federalist)

White supremacist who organized Charlottesville race riots endorses Biden (The Federalist)

New York Times sympathizes with adults who pursue sex with 13-year-old girls (The Federalist)

Boneheaded Virginia Senate approves bill to downgrade penalty for assaulting a police officer (National Review)

U.S. Marshals recover 39 missing children in Georgia operation (FOX 5 Atlanta)

After correction, study that claimed mutilating trans people helps them now finds the opposite (The Federalist)

Policy: Why does the Post Office forbid private competition? (Foundation for Economic Education)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


28 August, 2020

Australian COVID-19 vaccine produces ZERO side effects in human trials and provides protection against the virus in animals while reducing symptoms

A coronavirus vaccine being developed by Australian researchers has produced zero side effects in human trials so far and has shown promise with mammals.

The University of Queensland and Australian biotech giant CSL last month began injecting 120 Brisbane volunteers with a trial vaccine.

Hamsters in the Netherlands were also administered the drug.

Project co-leader Associate Professor Keith Chappell said the European animal trials, conducted by Dutch diagnostic testing firm Viroclinics-DDL, had proven to be a success.

'The neutralising immune response created by our molecular clamp vaccine in animal models was better than the average level of antibodies found in patients who have recovered from COVID-19,' Dr Chappell said.

He said the hamsters given the vaccine and Seqirus MF59® adjuvant had reduced lung inflammation after exposure to the virus.

No side effects have been reported so far on the human trial element taking place in Brisbane, although more clinical results are needed from the volunteers in suburban Herston.

UQ's Brisbane project is one of just 17 human trials for a potential vaccine happening worldwide, including in the US, UK and China.

Globally, more than 130 coronavirus vaccines are being developed but UQ's work has demonstrated great success in the pre-clinical development stage.

The good news from clinical trials has been revealed a week after Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government signed an in-principal deal with UK pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to receive early supplies of a potentially successful vaccine being developed with Oxford University.

Should UQ successfully develop a vaccine in Australia, Dr Chappell said the biggest challenge would be in tasking CSL, formerly known as Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, with manufacturing sufficient quantities of the drug.

'One of the big challenges in the development of vaccines is the ability to produce them at sufficient scale for widespread use,' he said.

'We are working with CSL to ensure the production yield is as efficient as possible, and have every confidence they will be able to manufacture the millions of doses required to protect the Australian public.'

UQ is running clinical trials until mid-2021 - but, if successful, a potential vaccine could be rolled out at the start of next year for emergency use among the broader Australian population.

The Queensland vaccine has the advantage of being worked on in partnership with a manufacturer, CSL, meaning it could be mass produced quickly if successful.

The global Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness announced a partnership with CSL in June to fast-track clinical testing and potentially begin manufacturing should the trials prove successful.

CEPI gave UQ $15.16million to develop a molecular clamp vaccine platform that enables rapid vaccine design and production.

Another $10million came from the Queensland government, with the commonwealth chipping in another $5million in addition to the $10million that has come from philanthropic donors.



Could MOUTHWASH cut the spread of Covid-19? Scientists to study whether gargling Dentyl will destroy the virus after promising results

Researchers will test whether or not gargling with Dentyl mouthwash can help prevent the spread of Covid-19 amid claims it could fight the virus.

Covid-19 patients at Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales will take part in the research to find out if it has the potential to reduce the levels of the virus in saliva.

SARS-CoV-2 — the coronavirus behind the pandemic which has killed 800,000 people — is an enveloped virus with an outer fatty (lipid) membrane.

Studies have suggested agents found in mouthwash – such as low amounts of ethanol – could disrupt the membranes of other lipid viruses.

For instance, researchers say iodine mouthwashes have proved very effective against SARS and MERS, two diseases caused by similar coronaviruses.

Dentyl — which contains the anti-microbial cetylpyridinium chloride — is the only UK mouthwash brand to take part in the 12-week study.

Professor David Thomas is the lead author of the study, titled: 'The measurement of mouthwash anti-viral activity against Covid-19'.

He said: 'We are very keen to start this much-needed clinical trial as our review of the literature indicated that we need to look deeper into the possible positive impact that mouthwashes may play on the transmission of Covid-19.

'We believe this is an exciting opportunity to determine whether a compound that can inactivate an enveloped virus in a test tube may work in humans, actively shedding the virus in the mouth and throat.'


Coronaviruses belong to the class of 'enveloped viruses', meaning they are covered by a fatty layer that is vulnerable to certain chemicals.

Studies have suggested agents found in mouthwash – such as low amounts of ethanol – could disrupt the membranes of other lipid viruses, in the same way as UV rays.

For instance, researchers say iodine mouthwashes have proved effective against SARS and MERS, two diseases caused by similar coronaviruses.

Scientists in May called for urgent research into the use of readily available mouthwash to reduce the spread of the virus.

Jerry Randall, chief executive of Venture Life, Dentyl's parent company, said: 'We are excited at the prospect that this long-standing, well-known mouthwash product could help in the fight against Covid-19.'

The launch of the study comes after a group of scientists in May called for urgent research into the use of readily available mouthwash to reduce the spread of the virus.

Publishing their review in the Function journal, the authors wrote: 'We highlight that already published research on other enveloped viruses, including coronaviruses, directly supports the idea that further research is needed on whether oral rinsing could be considered as a potential way to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2.'

Lead author Professor Valerie O'Donnell, co-director of Cardiff University's Systems Immunity Research Institute, said at the time: 'Safe use of mouthwash – as in gargling – has so far not been considered by public health bodies in the UK.'

She added: 'This is an under-researched area of major clinical need – and we hope that research projects will be quickly mobilised to further evaluate this.'

The completed research will be peer reviewed before it is published in around six months' time.

It comes after experts last month claimed iodine mouthwash could destroy Covid-19 and prevent or reduce its effects if someone is already sick.

Researchers at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain said the specific type of mouthwash can have 'significant virucidal activity'.

Testing on a small group of patients with Covid-19, they found using the mouthwash reduced the number of viruses that were in their saliva.

Lower viral loads — the number of viruses circulating through the body — have been linked to milder symptoms and faster recovery.

Iodine mouthwash is stronger than popular shop-bought products such as Listerine or Colgate, which typically don't contain the antiseptic chemical.

Instead, they are more commonly used by dentists. One brand that contains iodine is Betadine.



The Republican Convention Is Proof: The Party of Bush, McCain and Romney Is Dead

The Democratic Party propaganda machine, more commonly known as the mainstream media, has been gushing over the establishment Republicans who appeared at the Democratic National Convention to denounce President Trump and endorse Joe Biden, but as last night’s Republican National Convention showed, the days of the Republican Party being a pale shadow of the Democrats are over. In 2020, as in 2016 but not for a considerable period before that, we actually have a choice, not an echo, as Barry Goldwater offered America way back in 1964.

As Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster demonstrates, the United States has been under the control of what is essentially a one-party system in two factions since at least the early 1950s. One of the most damaging aspects of the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first Republican president since the onset of the Great Depression, was his refusal to challenge the basic premises of the New Deal. That’s how we got into this fix.

The Eisenhower administration was generally a period of great prosperity. However, after twenty years of New Deal expansion of the government, it was widely expected by observers from both parties that Eisenhower would at least attempt to fight the leviathan and diminish the gargantuan and ever-growing federal government. Instead, he did little to halt the expansion of federal power. He resisted numerous measures that would have repealed or rolled back New Deal programs. He was determinedly bipartisan, going along with numerous Democratic initiatives, even when they involved the centralization that he warned against. In 1954, he stated his guiding philosophy: “I have just one purpose, outside of the job of keeping this world in peace…and that is to build up a strong progressive Republican Party in this country. If the right wing wants a fight, they are going to get it. If they want to leave the Republican Party and form a third party, that’s their business, but before I end up, either this Republican Party will reflect progressivism or I won’t be with them anymore.”

George W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Paul Ryan couldn’t have said it better.

With the Republicans implementing large government programs, and the Democrats remaining the standard-bearers for an expanded federal government, voters had no choice but to accept it.

Even Eisenhower realized this. In 1964, three years out of office and a popular and respected elder statesman, he wrote an article for the Saturday Evening Post entitled “Why I Am a Republican.” In it, he declared:

I am increasingly disturbed by the steady, obvious drift of our nation toward a centralization of power of the Federal Government. And in this fact is found the primary reason why I sincerely urge all voters, no matter their present political affiliations, to take a fresh, thoughtful look at the basic Republican philosophy and Republican performance as compared to that of the Democrats. For the hard fact is that under many years of Democratic Party leadership our country has been lured into the ‘easy way,’ a path of federal expediency which, like a narcotic, may give us a false sense of well-being, but in the long run is dangerous to our future, our basic rights, our moral fiber and our individual freedom.

That meant that both parties endorsed a rapidly expanding federal government, higher taxes, and more state interference in the daily lives of Americans. His 1964 article suggests that, by then, he had seen the error of his ways. But by then, it was too late.

Eisenhower’s “Modern Republicanism” reduced the Republican Party to a faint echo of the Democrats. Democrats would formulate grand proposals that generally involved a massive expansion of government spending and control, and instead of challenging these proposals at their foundations and arguing against them on principle, Republicans would merely quibble that they could be implemented more cheaply and efficiently. Eisenhower ensured that even when Republicans were in the majority, they continued to have a minority mentality: the Democrats were setting the agenda for the country.

There would be pushback against this assumption within the Republican Party, but the dominant mainstream of Republicanism ever since Ike has been to say “Me too” to the Democrats, rather than “I object.” Eisenhower didn’t originate the idea of making the Republican Party a pale copy of the Democratic Party, rather than a genuine principled opposition: FDR’s opponents Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie, and Thomas E. Dewey would likely have done much the same thing, but they lost and he won, so Eisenhower must be credited as the primary architect of what is essentially a single party in two factions that has, for the most part, governed America since the 1950s.

Rating America’s Presidents shows that while Ronald Reagan gave some pushback to this one-party rule, it has not been until the presidency of Donald J. Trump that it has been seriously challenged. The two-party system is back, or more precisely, the one-party system is facing off against one determined individual who is attracting an increasingly large following. This November will be decisive for the question of whether the one-party elites will in the future exert their hegemony unchallenged, as they did for so long.




Secretary of State Mike Pompeo breaks with tradition, speaks from Jerusalem (Washington Examiner)

Republicans push hard against abortion (Washington Examiner)

Joe Biden gets no convention bounce (Reuters)

Two shot dead, one injured in Kenosha during "protests"

Wisconsin governor declares state of emergency after Kenosha riots

Ex-NSA chief: "I haven't seen any lessening of [the Russian] commitment to achieving that goal of weakening our institutions. You're seeing a consistency over time. And in fact, it predates the 2016 election." (NPR)

UN Security Council rejects U.S. demand to "snap back" Iran sanctions (AP)

World Health Organization declares Africa polio-free (Time)

Irony: Houston's anti-gun police chief looking to hire officers who have been "defunded" (The Truth About Guns)

Jerry Falwell Jr. will get $10.5 million in compensation after resignation (The Washington Post)

Policy: Until cities end riots, federal authorities stand ready (The Heritage Foundation)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


26 August, 2020

Belarus ("White Russia") may be better than you think

Belarus and Poland

Some Russian friends of mine who still have relatives throughout the former Soviet Empire and who live well there speak favorably of Belrarus.  And I have myself noted some desirable aspects of Belarus in previous postings. That all becomes of particular interest at the moment as the world is noting protests in Belarus against dubious elections maintaining despot Alexander Lukashenko in power

So it is interesting that Economic historian Martin Hutchinson (below) says Belarus is much more capitalistic than either California or China.

Matin makes two points that many would jib at. He likes it that  Belarus has no lockdowns against the coronavirus.  That however is pretty close to becoming the informed medical opinion now

He likes that Belarus has much higher interest rates than Western countries.  That may seem perverse but history is on the side of Belarus.  Past great capitalistic flourishings worldwide have been accompanied by similar rates.  And present historically low rates in the West have mainly sufficed to create the punishingy high real estate prices we see in the USA and elsewhere.

Something he does not note that many people might like is that the roads are good but traffic jams are few. Belarus has an extremely good and comprehensive public transport system. So people get more exercise by walking and can do so without wading through vehicular pollution. It's a Greenie dream in action. Greenies would also like that over 40% of its 207,600 square kilometres (80,200 sq mi) is forested.

Many conservatives would like that Belarus is also the only country in Europe officially using the death penalty.  It is a Christian country.

Climate skeptics would like that most of its electricity is thermal generated and that they have a nuclear power station under construction.

The population of Belarus is almost wholly white so there is no disgruntled black minority to go on city-wrecking sprees, something of interest in the current American context.

See my previous comments on Belarus here

The world economy has come a very long way from the small-government, unregulated free-market model so celebrated by Adam Smith and other classical economists. Today, even in countries that claim to be committed to capitalism, taxes, monetary policy, regulations and state spending have produced huge distortions. To illustrate how huge, I thought I would compare the economic models of three jurisdictions: California, the high-tech Mecca supposedly a beacon of freedom, China, the state-controlled behemoth that claims to have a new and better economic model, and the universally despised “Communist” dictatorship of Belarus.

It must be very difficult to be a true capitalist in California. Yes, you have a support system of a myriad of other capitalists around you, and if you start with a remotely plausible business plan venture capitalists will throw money at you, but actually running a business, as distinct from merely financing losses, is extremely difficult. Real estate costs, both corporate and personal are extremely high if you are in the San Francisco Bay area, so you begin with a huge cost disadvantage against those of your competitors who are located somewhere else. The most important cost disadvantage, of course, is that you must pay people far more money than they may be worth so they can live in the Bay area.

High accommodation and staff costs are a natural economic disadvantage, but California also abounds in unnatural ones, entirely contrary to free market principles. For a start, the state has the highest tax rates in the United States, with a top income tax rate of 13% on top of the Federal 37% plus a Medicare tax of a maximum 3.8%, for a total of 53.8% marginal income tax rate. The state is in the process of voting to increasing the state income tax further to 16%, which would give a top marginal tax rate of 56.8%, a level at which it becomes barely worth working at all (I speak from experience of the high British marginal rates in the 1970s and 1980s). With the state keeping more than half its richest citizens’ marginal earnings, California’s claim to be a capitalist economy is already quite weak.

It becomes weaker still, when you realize that the state is also likely to introduce a wealth tax at 0.4% per annum, payable on all wealth above $30 million. Now you may think that $30 million is “riches beyond the dreams of avarice” but you are out of date, at least if you live around San Francisco. $30 million just about buys you an upper-middle-class house in that area, and then you must pay the state property taxes on the damn thing. In any normal jurisdiction, $30 million would be enough to retire on in considerable luxury, but not around San Francisco. Moreover, 0.4% per annum may not sound like much, but I would remind you that today 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield only 0.67%. That leaves you only 0.39% after Federal income tax (oh bliss, no state income tax) so your California wealth tax is robbing you of 105% of your remaining income – even before you account for inflation’s effect on your capital. Yes, you could put your money in riskier, higher-yielding assets, but those Argentine bonds and Neiman Marcus private equity investments did not turn out so well, did they?

Then there is regulation. Depending on your business, you will have already found out that U.S. regulation, when combined with that of an “activist” state like California, is among the most user-unfriendly in the world. German, British or Japanese regulators are well-organized pussycats by comparison. The recent Uber decision means you cannot employ contractors, they have to be full-time employees, with all the costs involved. And heaven forfend you should be in any business with global warming implications – if you’re an offshore oil driller you’re out of luck, and have been since 1969 in terms of getting new leases on state-controlled waters. And it’s not just the environmental regulations imposed on you, but the effect on you of those imposed on others; California regulations on electric utilities are so severe that the main utility has filed for bankruptcy, and many areas have been subject to brownouts in a recent heat-wave, because the heat-wave happened on a calm night, thus putting all the state’s solar and wind electric capacity out of action. Now I grant you, the early industrialists did not have electricity at all, but if you think California will let you set up a good healthy coal-powered steam engine to solve your energy problem, you’re dreaming!

Then there are the social restrictions. In California, you no longer have free speech, at least not if anyone records you; you will lose your job for even the mildest hate speech – and if you’re self-employed, the Twitterati will still find a way to make your life a misery. You may stay out of prison, but will still destroy years of your life and millions of your dollars in court cases.

Like California, China has restrictions on free speech – you cannot criticize the government, if you want to stay out of jail (in California, you can criticize the government, but there are innumerable other things you cannot say, and it is not always clear in advance what they are). China also has fairly high taxes – a top marginal rate of 45% — though not as high as California.

The main difference is that in China, you must include a committee of Party members in your company, who have the right to second-guess all your business decisions. In California, you do not yet have to do this, but the mandatory “diversity officers” and such are getting ever closer to this level of intrusiveness. Still, there are advantages to China – for one thing, you don’t need to worry about environmental regulation – it’s pretty clear most Chinese companies don’t, as they emit vast quantities of CFCs, for example, a pollutant removed from Western supply chains two decades ago.

In Belarus, you don’t have to employ Party members within your company, though you certainly have to clear management decisions with your local Party boss – who may come expensive. As in China or California, you have no rights of free speech, so there is only a modest differential between the three locations in that respect. Of course, Belarus and China are notoriously not democracies (Belarus has rigged elections, China doesn’t bother having them at all) but then if you’re a Republican living round San Francisco you might as well not have democracy either – none of your local legislators will be dedicated to the things you believe in.

On Covid-19, China has almost certainly falsified its statistics, and given it the opportunity to spread to humanity in the first place, while California has imposed all kinds of niggling restrictions on individual freedoms. On the other hand, Belarus’ president Alexander Lukashenko has suffered from the virus, played ice hockey throughout its prevalence, and recommends sauna baths and vodka as a cure. Advantage: Belarus, I fancy.

Tax-wise Belarus (like its neighbor Russia) is a truly capitalist state; the country has a flat income tax rate of 12%, and even offers a discount to 9% for workers in the tech sector. This is much more important than people think. Both Belarus and Russia are dominated by a few very large companies, mostly in natural resources, with heavy state involvement and part ownership by cronies of the long-term President. They are not very attractive as investments, even where you could invest in them.

However, below the radar screen, where the state is uninvolved beyond local payoffs, there are a large number of small entrepreneurial companies that do well because of the low corporate tax rate (18%) and low individual tax rates on the entrepreneurs who created them. Belarus being deeply unfashionable, there are no Western venture capital companies crawling over the country. What’s more, monetary conditions are more favorable for the creation of truly productive small companies than in either California or China; inflation was 5.2% in the last 12 months and the National Bank of Belarus’ refinancing rate is 7.75% — healthy levels and relationships between the two that we have not seen in the U.S. since the early 1990s.

Since Belarus has a highly educated workforce, especially in technical areas, and very low costs indeed – far below those of even China, let alone California – it is potentially a highly attractive place to start a business, if you can tolerate the local political system and its corruption. Oh, and the power grid works, at least better than California’s.

Belarus is a nasty dictatorship. But so is China; on balance, rather nastier (I prefer rigged elections to none at all). Even California these days is hardly the land of the free that it used to be. However, in terms of economic climate for a local business there is really no comparison. None of the three countries is a truly attractive free-market environment, but by far the closest to that ideal is Belarus.



More evidence that shutdowns are useless

Governments around the world have responded to COVID-19 with more or less harsh (but, of course, never complete) shutdowns of economic and social activity. The costs of these shutdowns have been enormous, obvious and undeniable, while the alleged benefits have been hypothetical and speculative. As experience with the virus accumulates, there is, I think, a growing consensus that the shutdowns have been worthless, or close to worthless.

Dr. Gilbert Berdine, an associate professor of medicine at Texas Tech University’s Health Sciences Center, assembles some revealing information in the form of this chart, which compares daily COVID deaths per million of population in Sweden, New York, Illinois and Texas. First, a note of caution. I don’t know, and I am not sure whether anyone knows, whether different countries (or even states) count “COVID deaths” in the same way. If American states follow CDC guidance, a “COVID death” does not mean that COVID was the cause of death. It means that a person 1) died, and 2) had COVID. Thus, gunshot victims have been counted as COVID deaths. Do European countries follow this extremely misleading practice, and do states follow it uniformly? I don’t know. With that caveat, here is the chart.

Dr. Berdine, writing for the Mises Institute, explains:

Sweden (blue dots) has served as a control group to compare policies intended to decrease deaths from covid-19. Sweden has been unfairly criticized for its policy despite having an outcome more favorable than places with authoritarian lockdown policies. Sweden did not close its schools. Other than stopping gatherings of more than fifty people, the Swedish government left decisions of closing businesses, using masks, and social distancing to the Swedish people.

Hardly anyone has been wearing masks in the Scandinavian countries, according to news reports.

Mortality attributed to covid-19 hit a peak value of 11.38 deaths per day per million population on April 8, 2020. … For all practical purposes, the covid-19 epidemic is over in Sweden. Almost certainly herd immunity has been achieved in Sweden irrespective of any antibody test results. … Whether covid-19 will reappear this next fall or winter remains to be seen.

Sweden has been abused internationally, much as South Dakota has been abused in the U.S., but the outcome in Sweden has been good, and in South Dakota, excellent. How about the American states shown in the chart?

New York (brown dots) has been a catastrophe. On March 20, 2020, a full lockdown was implemented. Nonessential businesses were ordered to close. Workers in nonessential businesses were ordered to work only from home. Pharmacies, grocery stores, liquor stores, and wine stores were deemed to be essential and allowed to remain open. Restaurants and bars could only deliver to homes. In addition to the lockdown, nursing homes were ordered on March 25, 2020, to accept patients positive for the covid-19 virus in transfer from hospitals. … By April 7, 2020, within three weeks of the nursing home order, a daily mortality of over fifty deaths per day per million population had been reached. This daily mortality rate was almost five times the peak rate observed in Sweden, where no lockdown was implemented.

The New York data clearly show that interactions among young and healthy people have a much different risk than interactions between the young and elderly and interactions among the elderly. By facilitating the transmission of the virus from hospitals to nursing homes, the rate of spread within the elderly population was maximized, and any possible benefit from lockdown of the young and healthy population was rendered moot. … The decline of deaths from the peak levels in New York, with its harsh lockdown, has followed roughly the same time course as what has been observed in Sweden without any lockdown. It is unclear whether the lockdown interfered with herd immunity or not. This will not be known until after the economy and schools are completely reopened for at least a month.

What is the conclusion?

The data suggest that lockdowns have not prevented any deaths from covid-19. At best, lockdowns have deferred death for a short time, but they cannot possibly be continued for the long term. It seems likely that one will not have to even compare economic deprivation with loss of life, as the final death toll following authoritarian lockdowns will most likely exceed the deaths from letting people choose how to manage their own risk. After taking the unprecedented economic depression into account, history will likely judge these lockdowns to be the greatest policy error of this generation.

That is what I think, too.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


25 August, 2020

Blood pressure drug taken by millions of Britons cuts the risk of dying from coronavirus by a THIRD, research shows

Experts found that Covid-19 patients who have been prescribed the medication were 33 per cent less likely to die or be admitted to intensive care.

The drugs – Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs) – are used to treat high blood pressure, heart attacks and diabetes.

More than six million people in the UK take them regularly, and the new study shows they can boost coronavirus survival chances in patients taking them for high blood pressure.

Researchers at the University of East Anglia pooled data from previous studies looking at 28,872 patients in hospital with Covid-19.

One quarter of the patients were taking ACE inhibitors or ARBs, including one third of patients with high blood pressure.

The study showed that patients with high blood pressure were 33 per cent less likely to die or be placed on a ventilator if they were taking ACE inhibitors.

More research is needed to see if the drugs could treat coronavirus in patients who do not have high blood pressure.

Experts said the findings are hugely reassuring for millions of patients on the medication.

It follows fears that ACE inhibitors may in fact worsen Covid-19 as they reduce blood pressure by increasing levels of ACE2 receptors on the surface of a patient’s cells.

Covid-19 uses the same receptor to lock on to cells and invade the body. Lead author Dr Vassilios Vassiliou suggested the drugs may reduce the risk of dying from Covid by keeping blood pressure under control and decreasing inflammation in the body.

He said: ‘We can now very conclusively say that if you are being prescribed this medication you should keep taking it and it will not increase death or critical events, in fact it could save your life.’

He added that ACE inhibitors and ARBs may also reduce the severity of coronavirus among patients who take the medication for other conditions, such as diabetes or kidney failure.

‘For patients who were taking the medication but did not have high blood pressure we could see a trend towards them having better outcomes but it didn’t reach statistical significance. We can say it was definitely not harmful.’

He added: ‘We have shown that patients who have been prescribed the medication before they got Covid are better off.

'We do not have any evidence that if somebody got Covid-19 today and you gave them the medication they might be better off.’

The most popular versions of the drugs are Ramipril, Losartan, Lisinopril and Candesartan, according to NHS data.



Coronavirus: How fishermen landed a vital clue on Covid immunity

In May a fishing vessel headed out into Puget Sound, off Seattle, hoping for a good haul. When it returned, it brought back something far more valuable – an answer to the most important question facing the world.

On that ship, a study claims, was the first good evidence that being infected with coronavirus conferred immunity.

After setting off, one of the sailors came down with Covid-19. The vessel returned to port, where the health authorities discovered that 103 crewmates had also been infected.

Before sailing, all those on board had been screened, both for live infection and antibodies. Although this testing did not pick up the infected sailor, it picked up something else. Six tested seropositive, showing they could have had the infection. Of those, three had high levels of neutralising antibodies.

When the ship returned to dock, the authorities discovered that the three with a high level of antibodies were among the minority of 18 crew who had not been infected. It is possible that the other three, who did get infected, were false positives.

Among those who had not had it, more than 85 per cent were infected. Among those who almost certainly had, and had a strong reaction, none were.

By showing that a decent level of antibodies offers protection, the findings strongly suggest that the leading vaccine contenders will do as well.

“It would have been catastrophic for the world if we had not seen this,” said Alex Greninger, from the University of Washington, who published the research before peer review in Medrxiv.

The presence of neutralising antibodies has been one of the targets of vaccine trials. “It is a big deal to show if those antibodies are protective,” he said.



Kamala Harris Is a Fraud

Joe Biden's new running mate is neither a truth-teller nor a moderate.

If first impressions were serious ones, Kamala Harris might already be in trouble. In her first speech as Joe Biden’s running mate, she came out of the gate with a reckless disregard for the truth – which tells us that Biden’s influence must already be rubbing off. (When he was younger and far more nimble, he managed to tell four fully formed lies in the space of just 124 words.)

“The president’s mismanagement of the pandemic,” Harris railed earlier this week, “has plunged us into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

“False,” replied National Review’s Kyle Smith. “The pandemic and its associated lockdowns, not the president, are responsible for the economic contraction. … And it’s questionable to compare the current crisis to the Great Depression, which was not only deep but lasted more than a decade.” (Thanks to FDR’s policies, we’d add.)

As for those lockdowns, The Wall Street Journal editorial board saw through the Democrats’ scheme more than two months ago. “The state lockdowns are starting to ease and the U.S. economy should slowly begin to recover,” the editors wrote. “But it’s worth noting that the states opening most slowly are big states run by Democrats that represent something like a third of the U.S. economy. This means a slower recovery for those states and the U.S.”

Next, Harris blamed the Trump administration for our shuttered schools. “Just look where [Trump and Mike Pence] have gotten us,” she complained. “Millions of kids who cannot go back to school.”

Wrong again, Smith rightly said. “It is not Donald Trump’s decision whether kids go back to school, because the federal government does not run schools, but he has urged the schools to reopen. The primary reason kids cannot go back to school is opposition from teachers’ unions.”

We all know this to be true — that the teachers’ unions are adamantly against reopening — and for purely partisan political purposes. And here again, the Journal called them out: “The reopening of public schools poses an economic conundrum: If the schools aren’t open, many parents will lack child care and be unable to return to work. If parents can’t work, the economy can’t recover. Teachers unions are thus in a position to hold the economy hostage.”

Having thus attempted to hang the school closings on President Trump, Harris did further violence to her credibility with this ridiculous comparison: “Six years ago, in fact, we had a different health crisis. It was called Ebola. We all remember that pandemic.”

Huh? Since when does a handful of Ebola cases constitute a “pandemic”? According to the CDC, only 11 people in the entire U.S. were treated for Ebola during Harris’s imaginary pandemic.



Trump Considers a Cut in the Capital Gains Tax

President Donald Trump has suggested cutting the capital gains tax as part of the economic recovery from COVID-19. And indeed, cutting capital gains taxes could help spur new businesses, increase the availability of funds for existing businesses, and encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.

Reducing taxes on capital gains also could be a good thing for the recovery from the pandemic, but doing it right will be important.

Without decisive spending cuts, the threat of future tax increases will erode the benefits of near-term tax cuts and other policy options may be better suited to support the recovery.

When you sell an investment, such as a share of a company, the government charges a capital gains tax on the increased value. The top long-term capital gains rate currently is 23.8%, with lower rates for lower income levels.

Investment income is taxed twice: once when you earn it as wages, and a second time on any investment earnings. If your money is invested in a corporation, the corporate income tax takes another slice of your investment.

This system makes it more expensive to invest in the future and encourages Americans instead to spend their money today, which reduces overall levels of investment and economic growth.

Our tax code’s built-in bias against saving for the future is partially mitigated by having a lower tax rate on capital gains and dividends than the top income tax rate of 37%. The lower rate is a necessary, pro-growth feature of our tax code. A key promise of Democrats is to tax capital gains as ordinary income, raising the tax significantly. 

Because the capital gains tax is assessed at the time of realization–when the asset is sold–it creates an incentive to hold the asset to defer paying taxes. This has the side effect of encouraging investors to hold appreciated assets longer than they otherwise would for fear of having to pay tax on the gain, creating a “lock in” effect.

This “lock in” has real economic costs when investors hold assets due to fear of taxes rather than belief in a smart investment choice.

These “malinvestments” mean that Grandma still might be holding onto that $100 of Disney stock she bought in 1957 when the company went public. Her investment is now worth over $300,000 and if she cashed out, she could owe more than $70,000 in taxes.

Maybe her dollars might be invested better in her granddaughter’s small business. Or perhaps a different publicly traded company.

Lock in and double taxation mean that high capital gains taxes reduce companies’ ability to raise funds for new investments through equity offerings. They also impose higher taxes on riskier investments, such as startups that run large losses in the initial years with a small probability of successfully making a profit in the future.

Freeing up domestic capital and reducing the tax penalty for entrepreneurs have the potential to be particularly helpful as the economy retools after this current crisis.

The current high capital gains rate actually could be costing us revenue. The anti-realization incentives of the tax are so strong that under conservative estimates from Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, the revenue- maximizing tax rate is 28.5%.

When factoring in state taxes, the total capital gains tax rate in states such as California and New York is over 30%, and in 2016, the U.S. average cumulative capital gains rate was 28.9%. Investors are so sensitive that high capital gains tax rates lead to lower revenues simply through investors’ behavioral responses.

The revenue-maximizing rate should not be confused for any measure of economic efficiency. Ideally, the tax rate on capital income should be zero. Anything above zero unnecessarily reduces jobs and productivity growth. This harms not just the investors but workers and consumers too.

The capital gains tax also applies to inflationary gains. Inflation isn’t a big deal for the investor who has seen high returns. In our Disney example, less than $1,000 of the $300,000 gain is inflation. But most investments don’t have such great returns.

Poorer-performing investments can be swamped by inflation. In some cases, the effective capital gains rate can be more than 100% during times of high inflation on low return assets. The Tax Foundation estimates that about a third of unrealized household gains are inflationary.

To this aim, Trump previously has talked about the need to index capital gains to inflation so that the tax system stops taxing these phantom gains. Indexing capital gains would increase fairness and could unlock meaningful new domestic investment resources.

Indexing capital gains should be done carefully through the legislative process, since the Constitution empowers only Congress to enact new tax policy. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel agrees “that Treasury does not have legal authority to index capital gains for inflation by means of regulation.”

Leaving new legislation to Congress is not only what the Founders envisioned but also has the economic benefit of being more permanent, which is essential to gaining the full benefit of any tax policy.

Congress may want to index other parts of the tax code to avoid opportunities for gaming and ensure administrative simplicity. This requires careful deliberation.

Congress also must weigh the economic benefits of different kinds of tax cuts. Reforms such as expensing and corporate income tax cuts can provide larger economic gains per dollar of reduced revenue.

A capital gains tax cut or indexing also will have little long-run effect if Congress does not also pair the reform with significant spending cuts.

Projected annual deficits of $2 trillion over the next decade will force Congress to cut spending, increase taxes, or risk fiscal collapse. Without decisive spending cuts, any tax cut is destined to be temporary.

Reducing taxes on capital gains could be a good thing. But without spending reforms, the necessity of higher taxes in the future likely will blunt the impact of otherwise good tax policy.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


24 August, 2020

Sweden stands firm on face masks as Anders Tegnell refuses to copy other countries' strategy

With face masks mandatory on public transport in Denmark from Saturday morning, Sweden is now in the position it has been in so often during the coronavirus pandemic - alone.

The country, which chose not to close lower secondary schools, pubs, restaurants, and sports facilities at the peak in April, is again an outlier in not recommending the general public wear face masks.

Dr Anders Tegnell, the country's state epidemiologist, told the Daily Telegraph that he did not expect the Public Health Agency of Sweden to follow Norway, Finland and Denmark and drop its opposition to masks when it recommends new measures to Sweden's government at the start of next month.

"The main risk, I think, is that people will think: 'okay, I'm wearing a face mask. I don't need to take these other precautions'," he said, saying his agency believed social distancing and self-isolation of the sick were "much more important".

While he admitted there was no study showing that face masks did in fact reduce adherence to other guidelines, he pointed to the trajectory of cases in countries that have mandated them.

"There is now a continuous and even increased spread in a number of countries who implemented face masks, " he said.

"There is a belief that if you just have face masks, you can forget about everything else, you can run your subway with full trains and so on."

Norway last week recommended the use of face masks on public transport in Oslo, and Finland on public transport nationwide, putting Dr Tegnell's agency under growing public pressure to follow suit.

Scientific Forum Covid-19 Sweden, a group of 45 Swedish researchers critical of Sweden's strategy, argued last Sunday in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper that masks should be worn even by students and teachers in schools.

"The scientific data is clear at this point, with most studies  showing that face masks do limit the spread, and to my knowledge not a single study showing they increase the spread, so why are they so stubborn?" said Lena Einhorn, an author with a PhD in virology, who is part of the group.

But Jonas Ludvigsson, professor of clinical epidemiology at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, who on Monday attacked the group for cherry-picking and misrepresenting studies, said that the different approach Sweden had taken was best explained by the unusual independence of its government agencies.

"In the other Nordic countries, politicians often have a stronger role than the experts at public health agencies." Frode Forland, Dr Tegnell's Norwegian counterpart, told the Telegraph he believed Dr Tegnell had "a valid argument" against face masks.

"We've been stressing that it's still much more effective to keep distance than to wear a face mask," he said. "If you keep one metre's distance, the reduction of risk of infection is about 80 per cent, but if you wear a face mask it's about 40 per cent."

He estimated that even with the rising number of cases Norway is currently experiencing, about 70,000 people would have to wear a mask for a week to prevent a single infection.

On Wednesday, Johan Carlson, the Director-General of the Public Health Agency and Dr Tegnell's boss, appeared to soften the agency's stance, telling a press conference that "the issue over face masks is not at all dead", and that the agency was working on a review of the available evidence before issuing a list of recommendations to Sweden's government on September 1st.

But Dr Tegnell said the agency was unlikely to recommend face masks to the general public across Sweden, unless the rate of infection increases dramatically.

"There might be a role for face masks if you have increased incidence in a limited geographical area and you want to do everything to stop it as quickly as possible," he said.

But he said that Sweden was seeing a downward trend in most regions of the country. "If that changes then of course we need to think about more measures, but its a bit unusual to install more measures when you are in a downgoing trend."



Lockdowns Don’t Work, Study Finds

Travel restrictions and containment measures had “no observed association” on the number of critical cases of COVID-19 or death rates for the virus, a new study has found.

Increasing caseloads were associated most with greater obesity, older populations, higher unemployment rates, low levels of national preparedness in early detection and reporting, and limited health care capacity, says the study published by The Lancet. Researchers examined data in 50 countries through May 1 for the study.

“As governments consider partially or completely lifting travel restrictions and containment measures, understanding the roles of these policies in mitigating infection is imperative to minimize the impact of second and third waves of outbreaks,” the authors write.

The study, “A Country Level Analysis Measuring the Impact of Government Actions, Country Preparedness and Socioeconomic Factors on COVID-19 Mortality and Related Health Outcomes,” was authored by Rabail Chaudhry, George Dranitsaris, Talha Mubashir, Justyna Bartoszko, and Sheila Riazi, and published in the Lancet online publication, Eclinical Medicine, July 21, 2020.



Bill Gates: America's Coronavirus Testing Is 'Garbage'

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates believes the majority of the United States' Wuhan coronavirus tests are "garbage," he told Wired.

According to the billionaire, our nation's testing system is deeply flawed because of testing reimbursement rates that are determined by the government.

"The majority of all U.S. tests are complete garbage, wasted. If you don’t care how late the date is and you reimburse at the same level, of course they’re going to take every customer. Because they are making ridiculous money, and it’s mostly rich people that are getting access to that," Gates explained. "You have to have the reimbursement system pay a little bit extra for 24 hours, pay the normal fee for 48 hours, and pay nothing [if it isn’t done by then]. And they will fix it overnight."

Gates helped fund a diagnostic testing program in Seattle. He said the results were quicker and the testing wasn't as intrusive. Instead of relying on a test that requires a swab from the turbinate – the very back of the nostrils – Gates' test utilized a cotton swab from the tip of a person's nose.

"There’s this thing where the health worker jams the deep turbinate, in the back of your nose, which actually hurts and makes you sneeze on the healthy worker. We showed that the quality of the results can be equivalent if you just put a self-test in the tip of your nose with a cotton swab," he explained. "The FDA made us jump through some hoops to prove that you didn’t need to refrigerate the result, that it could go back in a dry plastic bag, and so on. So the delay there was just normal double-checking, maybe overly careful but not based on some political angle. Because of what we have done at FDA, you can buy these cheaper swabs that are available by the billions. So anybody who’s using the deep turbinate now is just out of date. It’s a mistake, because it slows things down."

The Food and Drug Administration warned about false positives, saying approximately three percent of all tests aren't actually positive.

Since the start of the pandemic we have seen flaws in Wuhan coronavirus case numbers and deaths. Texas had to correct their fatality rate. In Orange County, California, 30,000 serology tests – used to detect whether or not a person has antibodies for the virus, suggesting they previously had an infection – were counted in the "cumulative tests to date" figures for five weeks. In Florida, Orlando's positivity rate was said to be 98 percent, when, in reality, it was only 9.4 percent. Part of the issue was the number of clinics and labs that were reporting 100 percent positivity rates.



Kudlow Says Another Lockdown Would Have 'Enormous' Human and Economic Cost

National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow says he “wouldn’t mind” seeing a return to a 15 percent capital-gains tax rate, while noting that President Donald Trump wouldn’t seek such a cut through an executive order.

“We are looking at middle-class income tax cuts and capital gains tax cuts to spur investment and jobs and liquidity,” Kudlow told reporters at the White House on Aug. 12

“In another era, we used to call them tax cuts 2.0. The president has never lost those thoughts,”  he said, while adding that Joe Biden, the president’s 2020 rival, would raise taxes if elected.

Kudlow said it’s imperative that legislators in Congress work to come up with a cut to capital gains taxes, adding that it’s “not part” of any Trump executive order or plans on future executive action.

White House officials “had the economic committee during the campaign,” Kudlow said. “We originally had a 15 percent capital gains tax rate. And I wouldn’t mind going back to that.”

“We’d like to take it back to 15 percent, where it was for quite a long time because it helps jobs, investment, productivity, and wages,” he reiterated. The capital-gains rate is currently 20 percent.

On Aug. 10, Trump stated that he’s considering a tax cut on the profit that results from the sale of a capital asset such as a stock, bond, or real estate. He didn’t specify how that could be carried out.

The president said at a press conference that he’s also looking at “an income tax cut for middle-income families.”

“We are looking at expanding the cuts that we have already done, but specifically for middle-income families, and you will be hearing about that in the upcoming few weeks,” Trump said, adding that a capital-gains cut will produce more jobs.

While remaining mired in talks with top Democrats about a pandemic relief measure, Trump took executive action to provide a federal unemployment benefit of $300 per week, with states paying another $100 per week. He also took action to suspend evictions for renters and homeowners, defer student loan payments, and suspend payroll taxes for people who make less than $104,000 per year.

Kudlow’s remarks on slashing the capital-gains tax mirror that of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who told Fox News earlier that there’s a need for “legislation to do what we want on that front.”

“That’s what we need now because of COVID. So I think for the next few years while we recover, we should reduce those capital gains,” he added.

Ian Lyngen, head of U.S. rates strategy at BMO Capital Markets, said in a note to investors that a cut to the rate “would require the support of Congress,” although a Trump executive order “allowing the indexing of capital gains to inflation might be a realizable objective.”



Why mail-in voting is a bad idea

With the COVID-19 pandemic still upending our normal routines and the 2020 presidential election looming, mail-in voting continues to be a point of fierce controversy.

Absentee voting is already available for those who cannot vote in person. People who are elderly, immuno-compromised, or otherwise worried about exposure to COVID-19 while voting may apply for an absentee ballot.

But many Democrats want to take that several steps further, by drastically expanding mail-in voting or implementing universal mail-in voting before Election Day. While allowing everyone to mail their ballots in instead of heading to the polls during a pandemic may sound like a good idea, it’s rife with potential for mistakes, complications, and fraud.

“Mail-in ballots are the ballots most vulnerable to being altered, stolen, or forged” writes Hans von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and former Federal Election Commission member.

Votes cast by mail-in ballot are more likely to be lost or rejected over minor errors, such as a name or signature not exactly matching election officials’ files. “The U.S. Election Assistance Commission says that in the last four federal elections, 2.7 million mail-in ballots were misdelivered and 1.3 million were rejected by election officials,” von Spakovsky points out.

Many have criticized President Donald Trump for overstating the threat of voter fraud that comes with mail-in voting. But even those in favor of expanding mail-in voting acknowledge that it holds more potential for fraudulent activity.

Richard L. Hasen of the University of California, Irvine, School of Law, thinks mail-in voting could be done safely with new rules. But as he acknowledged to The New York Times, “election fraud in the United States is very rare, but the most common type of such fraud in the United States involves absentee ballots.”

Douglas A. Kellner, co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, and a Democrat, told the Times, “if you analyze all the steps involved in a mail election you start to see where the weak points are for fraud.”

It’s true that five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington  — conduct their elections entirely by mail. They already have the systems and infrastructure set up to do so. Implementing the level of mail-in voting Democrats are suggesting for the whole nation before November is unrealistic.

Von Spakovsky believes it’s unnecessary to move the election date, an idea President Trump has floated on Twitter. But he doubts Congress, the only entity with the power to move an election, would do so. He notes that even during the Civil War and World War II, elections were not postponed.

“Despite the coronavirus pandemic, experience shows that we can vote safely in-person as long as election officials implement the safety protocols recommended by health experts in polling places—the same protocols we are all using when we go to the grocery store or pharmacy,” he said.

Email from Kerby Anderson: k.anderson@pointofview.net From Point of View Radio Talk Show


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


23 August, 2020

Biden’s hollow reality show an appalling performance

In four days, no one addressed the question of China or the lawlessness still roiling US cities. This was a travesty of a political convention that spoke volumes about Joe Biden

Joe Biden has made his election pitch at last: I’m a nice guy, Trump’s a beast, vote for me. In these dyspeptic, bilious times, such bland reassurance might be enough. Then again, it might not.

The Democratic National Convention was a bizarre decline in American political culture. It mixed a striking lack of coherent content with an endless series of images that circled around a few key emotional themes.

Biden’s nominating speech did the same. Biden’s verbally erratic, gaffe-prone performances have led his advisers to mostly cocoon him in his basement. With Donald Trump taking up all the attention, and coronavirus raging, and most of the media rooting for him, that has worked.

It also kept expectations helpfully low. All Biden has to do is stand up straight and read his lines and it’s a triumph.

Biden delivered his address, the most important speech of his life, with confidence and passion. That a candidate can manage to read a 25-minute speech and get the intonations right is a good thing, but surely the lowest possible bar for a presidential candidate to jump.

The substance of the speech was appalling. Really there was not much substance.

The Democratic convention nearly drowned in schmaltz, most of it concerning Biden’s life. It is indeed tragic that Biden lost his first wife and their daughter in a car accident decades ago, and then an adult son to cancer. The way Biden responded to these tragedies is genuine testimony to his character and any campaign would use it.

But these tragedies, repeated endlessly at the Democratic convention, became the main plank on which Biden seemed to be running for president. That is not how a mature democracy operates. It is reality TV, celebrity politics. Democrats lampoon Trump as the reality TV show president but they stripped all substance from their own convention and turned it into the Biden family reality TV show.

Here is a telling fact. In four days, no one addressed the question of China, either its strategic or economic challenge.

Nor did anyone mention the violent crime and lawlessness still roiling big American cities and soaring murder rates in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests.

This was a travesty of a political convention.

Biden identified four crises his presidency would address: coronavirus, the worst pandemic in a century; the economic downturn, the worst since the Depression; racial injustice, where the call for change is more urgent than at any time since the 1960s; and global warming, where he thinks millions of jobs will be created in clean energy.

Yet Biden mentioned almost no policy of consequence.

For the virus he will have a national mask mandate and follow the science. For the economy he will provide $US2 trillion ($2.7 trillion) of infrastructure. For racial injustice he will ooze empathy. And for climate change, non-sequitur alert, there will be millions of jobs.

Biden does have policies on his website. But over four days not a single policy was discussed in any detail. Is the broad public utterly uninterested in policy?

For decades, the big nominating conventions have contained a lot of hoopla and showbiz. They have been declining in substance, partly because a convention centre full of delegates can be not only passionate but unpredictable when policy is discussed.

But they have normally involved high-production video clips introducing leaders, some of whom actually spoke about policies. Not this time. Rather, this convention focused on emotion, not reason. Each day, while concentrating on the main business of abusing Trump and sanctifying Biden, had a few sub-themes.

Women and Democrats were the sub-theme on day three while God made a comeback on day four. Biden is a Catholic, and the Democrats traditionally have a problem with religious voters, so a priest and a nun got bit parts. This is full of paradox and irony. Biden opposes Catholic Church teaching on most life issues, certainly on abortion, as is his every right. But his vice-presidential running mate, Kamala Harris, has a record of anti-Catholic posturing.

In 2018, in a hearing to confirm a Trump nominee, Brian Buescher, to a district court, she attacked Buescher for his membership of the Catholic charity Knights of Columbus.

The Knights are not a political or campaigning organisation. They are a legendary charity and do immense good work. But like all Catholic organisations they are pro-life rather than pro-abortion. Harris strongly implied that this membership therefore was unacceptable in a judge. That would mean any Catholic membership is unacceptable. This so annoyed Harris’s Senate colleagues, even the woke, that the Senate passed a resolution affirming there was no religious test for judicial office in the US.

You wouldn’t expect all that to get a run at the convention, but you’d think something of substance might have been discussed. Harris herself condemned the “structural racism” that she said characterised the US. She and Barack Obama painted a bleak picture of America and its history, but a bright picture of its future so long as Biden is elected.

Harris, like Biden, seems to have no fixed political convictions. Or perhaps more precisely, like Bill Clinton, she holds intensely whatever view she is expressing at any given moment, however it contradicts her past views.

But it is a dismaying indication of what a Biden presidency might actually be like that Harris rose to national notice through prosecuting the culture wars.

And while the Democratic National Convention almost drowned in the gross sentimentality that disfigures so much American life, and that does not lead to virtue or decency in public life but more often emotionalism and self-indulgence, there was still a good degree of nastiness evident.

Obama and many other speakers blamed Trump for more than 170,000 American deaths from COVID. That is an outrageous charge. Most analysts and many Republicans agree that Trump’s leadership in response to COVID has been poor. He got some things right, such as the early travel ban on China. But his messages have been confused and at times he has publicly contradicted the official advice from his own health authorities.

It is absolutely legitimate to criticise Trump, robustly and harshly, for such failures. But to blame him directly for 170,000-plus deaths is grotesque. It is a matter of record that when Trump imposed the travel ban on China, Biden was opposed, calling the ban “xenophobic” and saying it would do no good.

In any event, the US death rate is high — and Trump is at his irrational worst when he claims it is low by international standards — but it is still lower than European nations such as Britain, Sweden, Belgium, Italy and others.

Much of the moral charge Democrats and left-liberal cultural leaders make against Trump is undercut by the way they distort facts, and often enough lie, and the wide-ranging personal abuse they engage in.

Trump has been vulgar, crude and offensive on many occasions and therefore has little to complain about when people behave that way towards him. However, you cannot sell yourself as representing a higher moral standard of pristine decency if you engage debate on those same terms.

Moreover, the Democrats are abusive and dismissive of Trump’s supporters as well. Vice-President Mike Pence has surely never been seriously rude about anybody. Yet Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who hosted the convention’s fourth night, and former Democrat candidate Andrew Yang undertook a ghastly segment where they parodied Pence’s name, a lame joke Louis-Dreyfus returned to through the night. She variously called him poonce and ponce. This seemed a response to TV commentators getting the pronunciation of Harris’s name wrong. This is an entirely trivial matter, but can you imagine the storm of outrage that would follow if a senior Republican lampooned the Democrat vice-presidential candidate’s name?

The convention did achieve a number of positives for Biden.

It presented a united Democratic Party. In truth, the party is riven by ideological and geographical divisions. It suffers the same kind of contradictions that the Australian Labor Party faces and that confront many social democratic parties, the inner-city voter versus the outer-suburban and rural voter. What plays on climate change or identity politics in Manhattan or San Francisco doesn’t go so well in West Virginia or even suburban Michigan.

But Democrats certainly are all united in their desire to defeat Trump and get jobs in a Biden administration. Obama’s two secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, are all over Biden and had honoured spots in this convention. Both are said to be quite keen to return to a Biden cabinet.

Clinton was actually a pretty good secretary of state, but that was when she thought she would face a hawkish Republican opponent, like Marco Rubio, for the presidency.

Kerry was sublimely ineffective, authored the disastrous Iran deal, was useless in the broader Middle East, neglected Asia and over-invested in almost worthless multilateralism for its own sake.

A Biden foreign policy could well be worse even than that.

The convention also featured a lot of former Republicans, such as John Kasich, the former governor of Ohio, now endorsing Biden. The Democrats have gone to the left, not the centre, but their pitch to moderates and centrists is that Trump is unfit to be president. The hope is that the presence of these Republicans will give such voters “permission” to opt for Biden.

In policy terms it is almost impossible to glean anything of substance on how Biden might govern. The TV audiences were much smaller than for the parallel event four years ago. But Biden is like a football team, up on the scoreboard with 20 minutes to go. His strategy is to play mistake-free football and hope he’s still ahead when the siren sounds.

But the party revealed some things about itself. One was the almost demented emphasis on identity politics. Pete Buttigieg was the most intellectually impressive of the Democratic presidential candidates, denied the chance to consolidate the moderate vote because his party could not count its votes properly and he was wrongly marked as coming second in a crucial primary he actually won.

He happens to be gay and married. He ran on substantial policies but was happy to answer questions about his marriage and gay rights if asked.

But at this convention he was prevailed on to make the fact of being a gay candidate the main element of his speech. That is a step backwards from where Buttigieg was in the campaign.

The Democratic Party has moved a very long way left. Bernie Sanders was right when he said his radical agenda is now the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

Biden is still favourite, but the polls are tightening and the RealClearPolitics betting odds now have Biden at a 57 per cent chance of winning and Trump at 43 per cent. That means it’s a live contest.

If Biden becomes president he might be like Lyndon Johnson. Realising he would have only one term in his own right, Johnson took on the huge task of civil rights. Biden might do the same, perhaps on healthcare or some other domestic issue.

Or he might, like Calvin Coolidge, be a political lifer whose key talent is persistence and survival, who is ultimately somewhat astonished to end up at the top and just enjoys the ride.

We are not any wiser as to what kind of president Biden might be after this infomercial trivialising of American politics, this brain-rotting cotton candy of the mind, that was the Democratic National Convention.




Democratic National Convention Circus
Viewership tumbles 24% on first night of convention (Bloomberg)

Elizabeth "Fauxcahontas" Warren speaks at Native American Caucus meeting (Bongino.com)

Linda Sarsour, who raised funds for terrorist, featured as speaker (The Federalist)

DNC rejects #MeToo "reckoning" over Bill Clinton by gifting him with speaking slot (The Federalist)

Trump takes 700% more questions than Hidin' Biden in one month (Washington Examiner)

Senate Intel Committee says FBI gave "unjustified credence" to Steele dossier, Russia "took advantage" of Trump transition team (Fox News)

Postmaster general suspends changes to Postal Service to avoid any impact on election mail (NBC News)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo publishing book on his coronavirus (mis)leadership after lambasting Trump in DNC speech (Forbes)

Judge blocks Idaho law preventing biological males from competing in women's sports (The Daily Caller)

Yet another riot is declared in Portland on 83rd night of trouble: 200-strong mob of protesters torch city's famous Multnomah Building (UK Daily Mail)

Portland police identify suspect in brutal beating of truck driver (The Daily Wire)

Six arrested after George Washington statue toppled, vandalized near Los Angeles City Hall (KTLA)

New home construction surged 23% in July (UK Daily Mail)

S&P 500 hits all-time high despite COVID-19 devastation (New York Post)

Dangerously incompetent Scott Israel defeated in bid for reelection as Broward County sheriff (The Truth About Guns)

Never-before-seen photos of Bill Clinton getting massage from Jeffrey Epstein accuser released (The Daily Wire)

What corporate media won't tell you about Trump's historic Middle East peace deal (The Federalist)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


21 August, 2020

Sweden's coronavirus expert warns that wearing masks is 'very dangerous' because it gives people the idea it is safe to be in crowded rooms or public transport

A psychologically sophisticated comment.  The psychology does matter

Sweden's top coronavirus expert is refusing to force people to wear face masks in public, arguing that donning them is 'very dangerous' because it gives the impression it is safe to be in crowded rooms or on public transport.

Anders Tegnell, chief epidemiologist at Sweden's Public Health Agency, has expressed scepticism that face masks will control Covid-19 outbreaks.

The infectious diseases expert, who refused to follow European governments in locking down in March, also noted that countries with widespread mask compliance, such as Belgium and Spain, were still experiencing rising cases of Covid.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Dr Tegnell said: 'It is very dangerous to believe face masks would change the game when it comes to Covid-19.

'Face masks can be a complement to other things when other things are safely in place. But to start with having face masks and then think you can crowd your buses or your shopping malls - that's definitely a mistake.'

Dr Tegnell previously brushed off the prospect of compelling Swedes to wear face masks, and called evidence of their effectiveness 'astonishingly weak'.

Sweden, which has stood out among European countries for its low-key approach to fighting the coronavirus pandemic, recorded its highest tally of deaths in the first half of 2020 for 150 years, the Statistics Office said on Wednesday.

Covid-19 claimed about 4,500 lives in the period to the end of June - a number which has now risen to 5,800 - a much higher percentage of the population than in other Nordic nations, though lower than in some others including Britain and Spain.

Email exchanges obtained by journalists in Sweden under freedom of information laws appear to show the country's coronavirus strategist discussing the option of keeping schools open to encourage herd immunity in mid-March.

One conversation was with Tegnell's Finnish counterpart, Mika Salminen, in what Swedish journalists say appears to be a brainstorming of methods to tackle the pandemic.

The newly-released emails which date back five months have caused a stir in Sweden and have fuelled criticism of the country's no-lockdown approach to the pandemic.

In total, 51,405 Swedes died in the January to June period, a higher number than any year since 1869 when 55,431 died, partly as a result of a famine. The population of Sweden was around 4.1 million then, compared to 10.3 million now.

Covid-19 meant that deaths were 10 percent higher than the average for the period over the last five years, the Statistics Office said. In April the number of deaths was almost 40% higher than average due to a surge in Covid-related fatalities.

Finland's economy outperformed its larger neighbour in the second quarter, despite a tougher lockdown. Finland's gross domestic product shrank around 5 per cent against an 8.6 per cent contraction in Sweden from the last three-month period.

Last month Dr Tegnell's public health agency shrugged off claims that people should wear face masks in crowded public spaces during the pandemic.



Democrats Sure Hate America

In watching the Democratic National Convention one thing strikes me over and over again – Democrats really don’t like this country and the people in it. No, this wasn’t news to me, but it was surprising to see them be so open about it; proud of it, really.

The opening night was a list of grievances, an endless stream of whiny leftists declaring how racist everything and everyone is. Honestly, if I lived in a place where I truly believed its very existence was based on oppressing me, you couldn’t keep me there. I wouldn’t stick around, and I surely wouldn’t try to take it over. I’d get the hell out of there and go someplace else.

Yet, Democrats claim to love the country while calling for “fundamental transformation” of it. Try saying that to your significant other tonight – “Honey, I love you, but I want to fundamentally transform you” – and see how well that goes over.

Bernie Sanders has always hated this country, which is why he wants to destroy everything great about it. He doesn’t care that it has made him, a man with no skills or accomplishments aside from winning elections in Vermont, a filthy rich man. Like a wealthy kid who hates their parents while taking comfort in their trust fund, Bernie refuses to acknowledge his story wouldn’t be possible anywhere else on the planet.

Michelle Obama is the same – no skills, no accomplishments, she just married the right guy – and is now one of the wealthiest, most powerful people in the country. And she spent her time trying to convince the public to vote for Joe Biden because Republicans are oppressors. She didn’t explain how the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded for minority groups is oppression and racist, but she also didn’t have to. She knew her claims wouldn’t be challenged or her hypocrisy pointed out.

There really wasn’t a speaker who didn’t, at some point, declare the country awful for any number of reasons, fixable only by Democrats. Yet Democrats, when they’ve had power nationally and everywhere they have it locally, have failed to “fix” any of these problems they insist plague the country.

If the United States is oppressive and racist, we’re really horrible at it.

Looking at income by ethnicity paints a different picture than Democrats want people to believe. Evil white people have a median income of $59,900, Hispanics are at $43,000, and blacks come in at $35,000.

Just looking at those numbers, you can see how some people are convinced to believe there is systemic discrimination in the USA. But what if I told you evil white people, the oppressors of all and creators of the systemic racism that keeps minorities down while protecting “white privilege,” were ranked 9th in ethnic group median income? Would that confuse you?

You probably haven’t heard it, it serves no political purpose for Democrats to point it out, so the media never reports it. Indian-Americans have a median income of $100,500, Filipinos are second with $83,300. You can see the list for yourself here.

It is just a coincidence that two ethnic groups Democrats have the most voter loyalty from, and spend the most time trying to convince they’re oppressed, have the lowest median income, I’m sure.

It’s also a coincidence that Michelle Obama, on tape from her mansion on Martha’s Vineyard, told the public this horrible country is a place where “a never-ending list of innocent people of color continue to be murdered” and she was not talking about Democrat-controlled cities.

It’s really no wonder Democrats think the country is an oppressive hell-hole, they live where Democrats have all the power.

What Michelle said – that police are killing unarmed black people in “a never-ending” stream – is a complete lie, but that lie is useful to Democrats, so they keep repeating it. Journalists are tools of the Democrats, so they say nothing.

Not one person on any of the broadcast networks or CNN and MSNBC bothered to correct it or any of the other lies. These people are all rich, and they derive their money and power from convincing people that what isn’t actually is. They aren’t about to rock that boat.

No speaker at the DNC contradicted this or any of the other lies told this week, nor did they condemn any of the brutal attacks by Antifa or Black Lives Matter happening simultaneously to innocent Americans across the country. The “silence equals violence” crowd is not only complicit in that violence, they are encouraging it because they benefit from it.

The virtual Democratic Convention is a literal rally in support of hate and fear. It’s an attempt to keep people angry and/or afraid, because people overwhelmed by their emotions don’t think or act rationally. And people being rational are kryptonite to the modern Democratic Party. I don’t like to use the word “evil,” though I do use it from time to time. But until a better one is invented, evil really is the perfect word.



Immunity Conferred By Infection Is Lasting,Several Studies Suggest

To the immune system, not all germs are equally memorable. But our body’s cells seem to be seriously studying up on the coronavirus.

Scientists who have been monitoring immune responses to the virus are now starting to see encouraging signs of strong, lasting immunity, even in people who developed only mild symptoms of Covid-19, a flurry of new studies suggests. Disease-fighting antibodies, as well as immune cells called B cells and T cells that are capable of recognizing the virus, appear to persist months after infections have resolved - an encouraging echo of the body’s enduring response to other viruses.

“Things are really working as they’re supposed to,” said Deepta Bhattacharya, an immunologist at the University of Arizona and an author on one of the new studies, which has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Although researchers cannot forecast how long these immune responses will last, many experts consider the data a welcome indication that the body’s most studious cells are doing their job - and will have a good chance of fending off the coronavirus, faster and more fervently than before, if exposed to it again.

“This is exactly what you would hope for,” said Marion Pepper, an immunologist at the University of Washington and an author on another of the new studies, which is currently under review at the journal Nature. “All the pieces are there to have a totally protective immune response.”




Not just Russia: Iran paid bounties for targeting U.S. troops in Afghanistan, intelligence suggests (The Hill)

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy agrees to testify amid politicized fury from election-scheming Democrats (Politico)

Trump: Susan B. Anthony to get posthumous pardon (Fox News)

"That's a negative advertising campaign in action": Evening newscasts 150 times more negative toward Trump than Biden (Fox News)

Biden would need Democrat-controlled Senate, unified party to advance sweeping economic plans (The Washington Post)

A Democratic candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives leads vulgar protest at police union president's home (The Daily Wire)

Elderly man sweeping a Chicago sidewalk is sucker punched by a thug in unprovoked attack (UK Daily Mail)

Chicago police are retiring at twice the normal rate; at least 110 police officers are retiring in August and September (Fox News)

Now Twitter is going after The Babylon Bee (PJ Media)

Former CIA officer arrested and charged with Chinese espionage (Department of Justice)

"China poses a greater national security threat to the U.S. than any other nation," Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe says (Fox News)

California heat wave leaves threat of rolling blackouts for millions thanks to boneheaded Democrat policies (Fox Business)

Minnesota governor quietly reverses course on banning hydroxychloroquine (RealClearPolitics)

Policy: It was Obama, not Trump, who failed the Constitution (Issues & Insights)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


20 August, 2020

Is herd immunity closer than scientists first thought?

Herd immunity against Covid-19 could be closer than scientists first thought and as little as 10 per cent of people may need to be infected for the virus to fizzle out, experts say.

It means pockets of London and New York and countries like India may already be immune to the life-threatening disease, should a second wave hit.

Cases may not rise so drastically as they did during the first peak of the pandemic earlier this year because the disease has run out of room to spread, or the disease may be less severe if immunity is short-lived, scientists believe.

Previously it's been speculated 60 to 70 per cent of the population would need to suffer Covid-19 or be vaccinated to gain 'herd immunity' status. But that would be devastating and cause millions of deaths, which is why Britain quickly dropped the controversial strategy in March.

And scientists still do not have any firm proof as to how long immunity actually lasts once a person has fought off Covid-19, mainly because it is still shrouded in secrecy and has only been known to exist since the start of the year.

Modelling studies have started to suggest that a far lower threshold is needed to achieve herd immunity — with researchers believing it could be between 10 and 43 per cent.

The calculations account for swathes of people who are less likely to get infected. Immunity among the most socially active people could protect those who come into contact with fewer people, scientists say.

The true size of the pandemic is a mystery because millions of infected people were not tested during the height of the crisis, either because of a lack of Covid-19 swabs or because they never had any of the tell-tale symptoms.

Counting how many people who have coronavirus antibodies through blood tests is, therefore, considered the most accurate way of calculating how much of the population has already been infected.

But antibody testing suggests just 5.7 per cent of England had antibodies at the start of August, but the figure was as high as 8 per cent in London. Other estimates have been slightly higher, saying around a fifth of people living in the capital have been infected — similar to levels in New York City.

But research has suggested that antibodies decline three months after infection — meaning only a fraction of true cases during the peak of the crisis may have been spotted and exactly how much immunity the world has developed is unknown.

And scientists say immunity in the UK is likely to be far higher than what Government antibody testing shows because it doesn't account for T-cells. Top immunologists have said the infection-fighting cells are typically more durable and long lasting than antibodies.

There is no indication that any country in the world has developed herd immunity yet, based on antibody studies. But in places severely battered by the disease, infectious disease specialists have speculated that there is some level of protection.

A strain of the coronavirus thriving in Europe, the US and parts of Asia has a specific mutation which makes the virus more infectious but less deadly, an expert believes.

The variation in the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the agent which causes Covid-19, is called D614G.

Paul Tambyah, senior consultant at the National University of Singapore and president-elect of the International Society of Infectious Diseases, said evidence suggests the proliferation of the D614G mutation in some parts of the world has coincided with a drop in death rates, suggesting it is less lethal.

'Maybe that's a good thing to have a virus that is more infectious but less deadly,' Dr Tambyah told Reuters.

Tambyah said most viruses tend to become less virulent as they mutate. 'It is in the virus' interest to infect more people but not to kill them because a virus depends on the host for food and for shelter,' he said.

Scientists discovered the mutation as early as February and it has circulated in Europe and the Americas, the World Health Organization said.

The WHO has also said there is no evidence the mutation has led to more severe disease.

Professor Paul Hunter, at the University of East Anglia, said India - with the third most infections globally - didn't look far off herd immunity.

Studies have shown up to a quarter of people living in Delhi, which is home to almost 19 million people, have antibodies.

He told MailOnline: 'They do look like they are running up until the point they are achieving herd immunity.

'Given they are running somewhere in the order of two and five times the incidence in the UK, it means we are way behind that [in terms of herd immunity].'

Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the New York Times: 'I'm quite prepared to believe that there are pockets in New York City and London which have substantial immunity.

'The reason people think it might be lower is that it's not the case that everyone is equally likely to be infected by a transmissible disease,' he told DailyMail.com.

'If you go through the naturally infectious process, you are going to generate immunity in the people most likely to be exposed, by definition.'

In other words, groups like essential workers and people living in multi-generational homes are most likely to have been outside of their homes early in the pandemic, making them most likely to have already been infected and to have developed immunity.

What remains to be seen is how much those groups - which represent a larger proportion of metropolitan areas - will provide a shield for their larger communities. 

Dr Hanage said: 'What happens this winter will reflect that. The question of what it means for the population as a whole, however, is much more fraught.'

His comments follow the research of Professor Sunetra Gupta, a theoretical epidemiologist at Oxford University, who also believes London and New York may already have reached herd immunity.

A controversial study at Oxford University led by Professor Gupta claimed that up to half of the UK population may already have had Covid-19, and therefore herd immunity.

Modelling by the group indicated that Covid-19 reached the UK by mid-January - weeks before the first case was diagnosed.

Professor Gupta said in an interview with Reaction: 'I think very few people would agree that exposure rates in London are less than 20 per cent.'

She believes herd immunity may have been reached partially because previous infection with other human coronaviruses, such as the common cold, may offer protection against the new one - SARS-CoV-2.


Herd immunity is a situation in which a population of people is protected from a disease because so many of them are unaffected by it - because they've already had it or have been vaccinated - that it cannot spread.

To cause an outbreak a disease-causing bacteria or virus must have a continuous supply of potential victims who are not immune to it.

Immunity is when your body knows exactly how to fight off a certain type of infection because it has encountered it before, either by having the illness in the past or through a vaccine.

When a virus or bacteria enters the body the immune system creates substances called antibodies, which are designed to destroy one specific type of bug.

When these have been created once, some of them remain in the body and the body also remembers how to make them again. Antibodies - alongside T cells - provide long-term protection, or immunity, against an illness.

If nobody is immune to an illness – as was the case at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak – it can spread like wildfire.

However, if, for example, half of people have developed immunity – from a past infection or a vaccine – there are only half as many people the illness can spread to.

As more and more people become immune the bug finds it harder and harder to spread until its pool of victims becomes so small it can no longer spread at all.

The threshold for herd immunity is different for various illnesses, depending on how contagious they are – for measles, around 95 per cent of people must be vaccinated to it spreading.

For polio, which is less contagious, the threshold is about 80-85 per cent, according to the Oxford Vaccine Group.

Herd immunity is considered a controversial route for getting out of the pandemic because it gives a message of encouraging the spread of the virus, rather than containing it.

When UK Government scientists discussed it in the early days of the pandemic, it was met with criticism and therein swept under the carpet.

The Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said at a press conference on March 12, designed to inform the public on the impending Covid-19 crisis: 'Our aim is not to stop everyone getting it, you can't do that. And it's not desirable, because you want to get some immunity in the population. We need to have immunity to protect ourselves from this in the future.'

Sir Patrick has since apologised for the comments and said he didn't mean that was the government's plan.

In a Channel 4 documentary aired in June, Italy's deputy health minister claimed Boris Johnson had told Italy that he wanted to pursue it.

The Cabinet Office denied the claims made in the documentary and said: 'The Government has been very clear that herd immunity has never been our policy or goal.'

But the theory of cross-protection has only been explored by a few studies and are unable to give conclusive answers.

Other scientists say immunity levels may be far higher than estimated because antibodies aren't the only type of immunity against Covid-19.

T cells are also play an important role, but currently cannot be measured in surveillance programmes.

It's hoped T cells, which target and destroy cells already infected, would offer long-term protection — possibly up to many years later.

The Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital, in Sweden, believe if there was a rapid commercial test to spot T cells circulating in the body, it may reveal that far more people have some form of immunity against the disease than antibody testing suggests — possibly double.

Professor Hunter noted 'a big caveat' with herd immunity - no one knows how long immunity to the coronavirus lasts.

He said: 'If you look at other human coronaviruses, they can infect people in subsequent years, so probably Covid-19 immunity doesn't last even year. 'And so they will achieve some degree of herd immunity but it won't last.

'It's quite plausible that most of those antibodies will fade in the Indian population but hopefully T cell immunity will be present.

'They are closer to having some sort of herd immunity that would lessen further waves. They aren't likely to be as bad as the first because the immune system of people who have had it will kick in a bit quicker.'

Previous estimates have suggested around two thirds (60 per cent) of a population would have to catch Covid-19 for herd immunity to develop.

Under this rule, it could have seen 40million people in Britain infected and hundreds of thousands more deaths than there already are. 

However, research since has suggested lower variations for herd immunity thresholds which offer promise.

Just 43 per cent need to be exposed to the virus, according to scientists from Nottingham and Stockholm, or 24 million people in Britain.

Professor Frank Ball, Professor Tom Britton and Professor Pieter Trapman — three authors of the new study — said herd immunity from the disease spreading could be 'substantially lower' than it would be from a vaccine.

They wrote in the journal Science: 'Our application to Covid-19 indicates a reduction of herd immunity from 60 per cent... immunization down to 43 per cent in a structured population, but this should be interpreted as an illustration, rather than an exact value or even a best estimate.'

Antibody testing in New York City suggest that as many as one in five (or about 20 per cent) of people there have some level of immunity to coronavirus.

And the new mathematical modeling study from the University of Sussex suggests that as much as 40 per cent of the state has immunity.

But Dr Hanage cautions that the virus may be spreading much more slowly in New York, and especially in New York City, but it is still spreading.

He also says that the resulting herd immunity would not be enough to prevent the deaths of large swathes of the population there.

'It's quite sobering if you imagine that what had actually happened in New York City was not the result of social distancing, but the natural epidemic curve,' he said.

'That came at the cost of nearly 300 deaths per 100,000 in the population. 'Imagine that per capita mortality rate over the entirety of the US getting [around] 900,000 deaths.'

But he added: 'The more immunity there is in the population, the more benefit you're going to get from non-pharmacological interventions (like social distancing) - it's better bang for your buck.'

Other researchers say just 10 per cent of the population need to catch the disease to gain herd immunity.

The study by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the University of Strathclyd, found that Belgium, England, Portugal and Spain have herd immunity thresholds in the range of 10 to 20 per cent.

The study lead Dr Gabriela Gomes told the New York Times: 'At least in countries we applied it to, we could never get any signal that herd immunity thresholds are higher.

'I think it's good to have this horizon that it may be just a few more months of pandemic.'

Carl Bergstrom, an infectious disease expert at the University of Washington in Seattle, said: 'Mathematically, it's certainly possible to have herd immunity at these very, very low levels.

'Those are just our best guesses for what the numbers should look like. But they're just exactly that, guesses.'

The variation in estimates exist because modelling studies all take different approaches. But they are producing lower herd immunity thresholds because they take into account that not everyone is susceptible to catching the disease.

An initial calculation for herd immunity assumes that everyone is at the same risk of Covid-19, which scientists know in real life is not the case.

Catching Covid-19 has shown to be more likely when people live in crowded conditions, live in poorer areas or work in essential roles, from nurses to bus drivers.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


19 August, 2020

The myth of America's unique COVID-19 failure

If you follow the news these days, you are likely inundated with stories about how the United States, under Donald Trump, has uniquely mishandled the COVID-19 outbreak. Much of the rest of the world, we are assured, has managed the pandemic surprisingly well. But the United States? An unparalleled “catastrophe,” says the Atlantic. “A unique failure,” intones the New York Times.

But what if these judgments are wrong? What if they are so focused on absolute numbers of cases and deaths, that they miss the most important apples-to-apples nuances necessary to make a proper assessment?

It appears this is exactly what has happened with the reporting on America’s COVID-19 response. In fact, when you compare the United States with other countries with similar political and economic systems (the fairest comparison), the United States is more middle-of-the-pack than unrivaled outlier.

Surprised? So were we.

Like many Americans, we found the Trump administration’s initial response to the novel coronavirus to be lackluster, dismissive, and (typical of Trump) politically overwrought. And while there were significant successes, like enacting massive economic stimulus packages with Congress, and an impressive ramp-up in ventilator production, the dire numbers were hard to miss: COVID-19 deaths in the United States have consistently accounted for more than 20 percent of all COVID-related deaths worldwide. Unique disaster, right?

Actually, no.

If you dig a little deeper into the top-line numbers, you’ll find two important mitigating factors at play. First, the United States, with a population of 330 million, was always going to have a higher absolute death count compared with nearly every other country in the world. Hearing that the United States had 1,000 deaths on a given day while Costa Rica had only 15 might make for good copy at CNN — but those numbers are about equal, in relative terms, because Costa Rica has a population of only 5 million.

Second, and more important, the list of countries most negatively impacted by the pandemic, as measured by per-capita deaths per 100,000, is dominated by Western capitalist democracies: seven of the top 10 (and nine of the top 14 — not counting the microstates of San Marino and Andorra) are liberal democracies ranging from Belgium to the Netherlands. The United States, at number 8, is roughly equal to France, and significantly below Belgium, Britain, Italy, Spain, and Sweden.

Yes, some of these countries had terrible early outbreaks that have skewed their overall mortality numbers. But so did the United States — the hard-hit Northeast still accounts for roughly half of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths. And while several countries like Spain, Britain, and the United States (and Australia) are suffering second wave infections, mortality rates have dropped significantly, none more so than in the United States.

In other words, the media-driven narrative that Trump’s America is suffering through a unique COVID-19 failure is wildly misleading. It would be far more accurate to say that American-style liberal democracy has, on balance, faced a much tougher time containing and controlling the worst effects of the virus on its societies.

This should actually not come as much of a surprise when considering that liberal democracies embody greater openness and exposure to international trade and travel than most other countries. They also contain private-sector-based free market economies that are not genetically suited to government-directed “shutdowns” or “lockdowns”; indeed, their natural instinct — none more so than the United States — is to be open and flowing.

So, while media talking heads like to point out that the United States is faring worse than “nearly all other countries” in its handling of the Coronavirus, this is actually an irrelevant point. Does anyone believe that Rwanda, Uganda, and Sri Lanka — the countries least impacted by the virus — should be models for running advanced industrial economies? Of course not. And while some democracies — like Germany and Denmark — have done a better job than others with their response, even they can’t escape being in the top 40 hardest hit countries.

Instead of being caught up with irrelevant global numbers, the United States and other liberal democracies must navigate recovery on their own terms. Indeed, we believe the same capitalist democracies that are having a relatively tougher time managing the Coronavirus will have relatively greater success moving past it. That’s because the same social and economic openness that creates Coronavirus vulnerabilities will also provide the ingenuity and resourcefulness to effectively balance public health and economic vitality, and a return to full strength.



UK: Tony Blair warns another national lockdown is 'impossible' and blasts 14 day quarantine rules as too long - as he claims ministers have been over relying on experts during coronavirus crisis

Tony Blair today warned it will not be possible to impose another UK-wide coronavirus lockdown as he claimed ministers had got the Government's travel quarantine policy 'wrong'.

The former prime minister said it was 'not credible' for the Government to repeat the sweeping draconian measures put in place back in March because of the economic damage another shut down would cause.

He said Britons must learn to 'live with' the deadly disease until there is a vaccine and that a mass testing programme is the only way to keep the country moving.

He took aim at the Government's 14 day quarantine rules for people returning to the UK from countries where coronavirus is on the rise as he said the self-isolation period could be cut 'substantially'.

He called for ministers to take a more 'sensible' approach to calculating risk amid rising speculation that Croatia and Greece could soon join Spain and France on the UK's 'red list'.

Meanwhile, Mr Blair also suggested ministers had been over reliant on officials during the crisis and that they needed to recognise 'where the science ends and judgements begin'.

Boris Johnson has not ruled out imposing a second national lockdown should there be a major spike in coronavirus cases.

But Mr Blair told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that another lockdown was 'not possible'.

He said: ‘I just don’t think you are going to be able to do that and I think it was hard enough to do the first lockdown.

‘The economic consequences of that are obviously devastating but if you think about doing that in the winter months I just think it is not credible, it is not possible to do.

‘If you track what is happening around the world today I think countries are moving in the direction of this mass testing.'

Mr Blair has long advocated the introduction of a mass routine testing programme in order to stop the spread of coronavirus in the community.

He said that such a programme is necessary because as many as 70 per cent of cases are asymptomatic.

He said the Government 'has got to change the way it calculates risk' as he called for quarantine rules to be relaxed.

Ministers announced last week that travellers returning from France must now self-isolate for two weeks.

The Government has faced sustained pressure from the travel sector and Tory MPs to ease the rules.

Mr Blair said: 'In every single aspect of this, once you realise you are not going to eradicate the disease, you are going to have to contain it and live with it at least until a vaccine comes, then you have just got to have a sensible risk calculus in every area.

‘So for example now we are telling people to go back into pubs, we are incentivising them, quite rightly for the purposes of getting the economy moving, to go and eat out.

‘All of those things are risk. I think the way we are doing the quarantine rules is wrong actually, I think you could cut that 14 day quarantine substantially.

‘If you recognise that whatever you do there is going to be a risk, you just have to minimise it.’

Mr Blair also called for more political leadership during the crisis as he suggested ministers had tried to shift responsibility for key decisions to the Government's science and health experts.

Ministers have said throughout the pandemic that all of their decisions have been based on the latest official advice.

Mr Blair said: ‘In the end the important thing when you are in government and officials are giving you advice, is the hard thing is sometimes not finding the answers but finding the right questions.

‘You have just got to interrogate the officials properly and I think what has happened is that too much of this has just been, as it were, accepted without really trying to get underneath and into the detail of what people are suggesting so you understand where the science ends and judgements begin.’



Johannes Leak cartoon shows that the left just can’t handle the truth

Jacinta Nampijinpa Price

Cue the pigeons of confected outrage and send in the cat. What has the left flock all fluttering and squawking is Johannes Leak’s cartoon lampooning Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s words about “brown and black girls”. But there was not a single feather ruffled about the terms when Biden originally used them.

It’s another example of the imputation that everybody on the right is racist and nobody on the left could possibly be.

Those on the left are so blinkered ideologically that they cannot see, or cannot admit, that their condescending identity politics and tokenism are rooted in racism.

In their stampede to push Biden’s campaign, they are prepared to ignore his racist remarks about “brown and black girls” and (disturbingly) his repeated assertion to the African-American community: “If you have a problem figuring out if you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”

But instead of being offended by this blatant playing of the identity politics card, which stereotypes people with racial tropes, the left takes to the barricades over a cartoon that uses Biden’s own words against him. The cartoon incisively skewers Biden — a former vice-president — for choosing a running mate not on the weight of her career and achievements but because of the identity politics appeal of her skin colour and her gender.

Imagine the left’s reaction had US President Donald Trump announced the appointments of Small Business Administrator Jovina Carranza as “bringing hope to Mexican girls” or Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao as “bringing hope to Asian girls” — let alone referring to them as perhaps “brown” or “yellow”.

It is assumed by those on the left that they know better than we do, that they know how we think and feel — or how we should think and feel.

It is assumed by the left that to overcome racism we must follow the principles of identity politics and appoint individuals to positions of power because of the colour of their skin and/or their gender.

We are then reduced to the colour of our skin and our gender, not recognised as human and not recognised on the basis of merit.

Those on the left also obviously believe that we brown and black girls can’t cope with subtlety and complexity when it comes to discussing race and gender issues in the way that Leak so obviously can.

He has used Biden’s words to highlight the divisive, insidious and offensive use of identity politics as a means of self-promotion.

But the left, while giving Biden a pass on using the terms, then presumes to speak on behalf of “black and brown girls” and attacks Leak for doing what every good cartoonist should. Why do those on the outraged left feel they have every right to speak on behalf of “brown and black women and girls” around the world, such as me? We little brown and black girls can speak for ourselves.




NYPD union endorses Trump: "We need your strong voice across the country" (New York Post)

Nevada sent more than 200,000 mail-in primary ballots to wrong addresses (The Washington Free Beacon)

Twenty-eight million mail-in ballots went missing in last four elections (RealClearPolitics)

For the record: Six myths about the USPS and the election debunked (The Federalist)

Biden-Harris ticket aims to spark enthusiasm at convention after low-key campaign (Fox News)

Trump "failure" on COVID-19 will be central message of Biden convention (The Hill)

Black Lives Matter movement to play elevated role at convention (The Hill)

Kamala Harris brings gun confiscation support to presidential ticket (The Washington Free Beacon)

Federal appeals court rules law-evading Hillary Clinton does not have to testify in lawsuit over her emails (National Review)

GAO rules DHS secretary and deputy are not valid officeholders (The Resurgent)

More than sixty 911 calls go unanswered during Portland riot (PJ Media)

Trump threatens to intervene in the Big Apple after another violent weekend saw 50 people shot and seven killed (UK Daily Mail)

Costs from weeks of "protests" take financial toll on cash-strapped cities (Fox News)

The 2020 San Francisco exodus is real, and historic (SFGate)

Iowa requests nearly $4 billion in disaster aid after derecho; the storm damaged or destroyed 13 million acres of corn (Fox Business)

Japan was hit by its biggest economic slump on record in the second quarter (Reuters)

Head-turner: Notorious Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down California's ban on high-capacity magazines, says restrictions violate Second Amendment (Fox News)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo inks deal to support more U.S. troops in Poland (AP)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


18 August, 2020

Chinese vaccine looking good

Effect of an Inactivated Vaccine Against SARS-CoV-2 on Safety and Immunogenicity Outcomes: Interim Analysis of 2 Randomized Clinical Trials

Shengli Xia et al.


Importance:  A vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is urgently needed.

Objective:  To evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of an investigational inactivated whole-virus COVID-19 vaccine in China.

Interventions:  In the phase 1 trial, 96 participants were assigned to 1 of the 3 dose groups (2.5, 5, and 10 ?g/dose) and an aluminum hydroxide (alum) adjuvant–only group (n?=?24 in each group), and received 3 intramuscular injections at days 0, 28, and 56. In the phase 2 trial, 224 adults were randomized to 5 ?g/dose in 2 schedule groups (injections on days 0 and 14 [n?=?84] vs alum only [n?=?28], and days 0 and 21 [n?=?84] vs alum only [n?=?28]).

Design, Setting, and Participants:  Interim analysis of ongoing randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 1 and 2 clinical trials to assess an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine. The trials were conducted in Henan Province, China, among 96 (phase 1) and 224 (phase 2) healthy adults aged between 18 and 59 years. Study enrollment began on April 12, 2020. The interim analysis was conducted on June 16, 2020, and updated on July 27, 2020.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  The primary safety outcome was the combined adverse reactions 7 days after each injection, and the primary immunogenicity outcome was neutralizing antibody response 14 days after the whole-course vaccination, which was measured by a 50% plaque reduction neutralization test against live severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Results"  Among 320 patients who were randomized (mean age, 42.8 years; 200 women [62.5%]), all completed the trial up to 28 days after the whole-course vaccination. The 7-day adverse reactions occurred in 3 (12.5%), 5 (20.8%), 4 (16.7%), and 6 (25.0%) patients in the alum only, low-dose, medium-dose, and high-dose groups, respectively, in the phase 1 trial; and in 5 (6.0%) and 4 (14.3%) patients who received injections on days 0 and 14 for vaccine and alum only, and 16 (19.0%) and 5 (17.9%) patients who received injections on days 0 and 21 for vaccine and alum only, respectively, in the phase 2 trial. The most common adverse reaction was injection site pain, followed by fever, which were mild and self-limiting; no serious adverse reactions were noted. The geometric mean titers of neutralizing antibodies in the low-, medium-, and high-dose groups at day 14 after 3 injections were 316 (95% CI, 218-457), 206 (95% CI, 123-343), and 297 (95% CI, 208-424), respectively, in the phase 1 trial, and were 121 (95% CI, 95-154) and 247 (95% CI, 176-345) at day 14 after 2 injections in participants receiving vaccine on days 0 and 14 and on days 0 and 21, respectively, in the phase 2 trial. There were no detectable antibody responses in all alum-only groups.

Conclusions and Relevance:  In this interim report of the phase 1 and phase 2 trials of an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine, patients had a low rate of adverse reactions and demonstrated immunogenicity; the study is ongoing. Efficacy and longer-term adverse event assessment will require phase 3 trials.



She's 'Unbeatable?': WSJ Columnist Shreds the Liberal Media's New Kamala Harris Narrative With One Tweet

This is a case of identity poliics redounding in favour of conservatives. Because of identity politics, Biden had to choose a female, even if it was a real one.  Had he been free to choose the most helpful Veep he would have chosen Bernie Sanders and romped in.  Sanders has a huge personal following among the clueless so adding that to the effect of being on the Donk ticket would have probably wiped out Trump

Actually, it’s a series of tweets, but one particular observation from The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel sticks out— and it’s a brutal one. I mean, do these liberal media types don’t know that we can harness the power of Google. These publications have archives like the rest of us. And there is a trove of articles about the collapse of Kamala Harris’ 2020 run.

It wasn’t a little car crash either. It was a thermonuclear explosion. She was wiped out before the California primary. She had no message, no plan, and an organization that was rudderless. It was a s**t show. Yet, now that Joe Biden has decided to pick her, though she was not his first choice, Harris has undergone this rebirth as some master tactician and campaign ace who will inject steroids into the Democrats’ 2020 hopes. Really?

Here’s the observation Strassel noted that’s both true and damning:

Everyone from Julian Castro to Cory Booker to Deval Patrick to Tulsi Gabbard to Elizabeth Warren to Pete Buttigieg, to Amy Klobuchar to Andrew Yang to Tom Steyer to Michael Bennet had more appeal and staying power than Harris. But now we are told she is unbeatable?


Yet, while Strassel notes how Harris is an unremarkable VP pick, could that be also to her advantage. Just playing devil’s advocate here, when you can’t pin down your opponent and define her in an election—isn’t that a problem? Maybe. Though I would say her opening speech when she was first introduced shows a person who cannot go off-script. The speech was terrible to start, loaded with inaccuracies and lies about the Trump White House, and was entirely predictable. It was as if the entire production staff of MSNBC jotted down the annotations.

Strassel added that now more than ever, Harris will be put under the microscope due to Biden’s apparent mental degradation and her “do no harm” checkbox that she supposedly filled when the Biden camp was forced to pick her could open up the Democratic ticket to what engulfed her first campaign: total disaster (via WSJ):

If commentators are now struggling to define Ms. Harris, it’s because she offers little that is truly defining. The party establishment quickly closed ranks around her 2016 Senate race, allowing her to run a standard liberal campaign that the Los Angeles Times described as “carefully orchestrated” and “overly cautious and scripted.” In her 3½ Senate years, she’s done little by way of legislation, preferring to showboat at hearings. The lack of an animating agenda helps a explain a presidential campaign in which she bounced from left to far-left position, whatever she thought most helpful at the moment. She twice called to eliminate private health insurance—and twice reversed herself the next day after backlash. As Vox noted, the “combination of policy reversals and botched rollout . . . undermined faith in her ability to govern on the issue Democrats rate as most important.”

The campaign was a mess, rocked by infighting, leaks, restarts and financial problems. After the campaign announced layoffs in early November, its veteran Iowa operations manager wrote a scathing resignation letter in which she said she’d “never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly” and expressed dismay at its ability to make “the same unforced errors over and over.” Ms. Harris didn’t even make it to the first contest, dropping out—broke and with embarrassing poll numbers—two months before the Iowa caucuses. The only other “top tier” candidate to implode as quickly or spectacularly was Beto O’Rourke. The Washington Post campaign obituary bluntly called Ms. Harris an “uneven campaigner” who was “engulfed by low polling numbers, internal turmoil and a sense that she was unable to provide a clear message.” The Post this week lauded Ms. Harris as “vibrant and energetic” and a “vessel for Democratic hopes.”

Biden watchers insist the nominee fulfilled the cardinal rule of veep picks: First, do no harm. Possibly, but it’s pretty clear it did no good either. Mr. Biden’s biggest concern remains his lagging enthusiasm numbers. Polls consistently show the majority of Democratic voters notably unexcited about his candidacy. One fix would have been a running mate hailed as a fresh and rising Democratic star. Ms. Harris has alienated key elements of her party, in particular progressives who despise her as a “top cop” from her six years as California’s attorney general. In a poll this week by the Economist/YouGov, Ms. Harris was viewed favorably by only half of African-Americans and very favorably by only 26% of liberals. Will that keep people from pulling a Biden-Harris lever? Maybe not, but she won’t likely be a poll driver.

And there’s still a possibility she’ll do harm. Mr. Biden’s age and questions about his mental acuity guarantee an outsize focus on his running mate, who could end up president. Ms. Harris’s own presidential run proves she has a propensity to make mistakes—potentially big ones. The Trump campaign is eager to define her as a Bernie Sanders liberal, and she’s got a track record that helps—having endorsed Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and gun bans. Many Americans will also remember her leading role in the character assassination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, matched only in political theater by Cory “Spartacus” Booker. This has the potential to turn off some suburban and independent voters. Even if they don’t rush into Mr. Trump’s arms; they may simply not vote.

There’s a lot of hype here—no doubt. But I don’t think “top cop” Kamala brings much to the ticket. She’s being buoyed by a lot of media-manufactured hot air, flanked by her friends in the Senate. Let’s see how things go in a few weeks. Maybe she’ll hide in the bunker with Joe to avoid making errors because they’re both two peas in a pod when it comes to that.



Depression and anxiety are skyrocketing in young adults amid pandemic

Anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts are skyrocketing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study suggests. The study, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that young adults were particularly prone to these increases.

The study researchers analyzed information from more than 5,400 U.S. adults ages 18 and older who completed an online survey in late June.

The percentage of Americans reporting symptoms of anxiety disorder increased about threefold and the percentage reporting symptoms of depressive disorder increased about fourfold, compared with levels seen in a survey conducted around the same period in 2019, the study found.

Overall, in the 2020 survey, about 41% of participants reported symptoms of at least one mental health condition; with 31% experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, 13% initiating or increasing use of substances (including alcohol or marijuana) to cope wtih stress tied to the pandemic, and nearly 11% reporting that they had seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days.

The toll was particularly striking among adults ages 18 to 24. In this group, about 63% reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, 25% reported starting or increasing use of substances, and 25% reported seriously considering suicide in the past 30 days. For comaprision, in a national survey conducted in 2018, about 14% of young adults reported an episode of major depression and 11% reported serious thoughts of suicide in the past year.

The new findings "highlight the broad impact of the pandemic and the need to prevent and treat these conditions," the authors wrote in their study, published Thursday (Aug. 13) in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The study could not determine the reason for the rise in mental health conditions, but factors relating to the pandemic, such as social isolation, school and university closures, unemployment and other financial worries, as well as the threat of the disease itself, may play a role, the authors said. Future studies will be needed to determine the specific drivers poor mental health in the pandemic.

Why young adults seem particularly affected by the pandemic is not known. After all, studies have found that young people are less likely to experience serious illness from COVID-19 compared with old adults. But older adults in the study had the lowest prevalence of mental health symptoms: Among those ages 65 and older, 8% reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, 3% reported starting or increasing use of substances and 2% reported seriously considering suicide in the past 30 days.

One idea is that people's ability to accept uncertainty may be tied to their mental health response, according to The New York Times. "Now there are so many questions, especially for young people, about relative risk, duration of the pandemic and what their futures will look like," study lead author Mark Czeisler, a psychology researcher at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, told the Times. A longer life experienced may help older adults better tolerate these uncertain times.

There is an urgent need to address the mental health consequences of the pandmeic, such as through increased access to resources for diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions and expanded use of telehealth, the authors said.



Rapid economic recovery Trump predicted continues as unemployment claims drop

Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning today issued the following statement on the latest unemployment insurance claims published by the Department of Labor:

“President Donald Trump predicted a fast recovery from the COVID-19, and now it is continuing at a rapid clip with fewer than 1 million new jobless claims for the first time since March, and another 624,000 came off continued claims the week of Aug. 1.

“As a reminder, in Feb. 2020, unemployment was at a 50-year low with fewer than 6 million Americans unemployed and it was the unleashing of the Chinese coronavirus that drove those numbers through the roof. Now, the President’s balanced approach to reopening America while continuing to battle the virus has led to an unprecedented recovery, with 9 million to 10 million jobs recovered in the past three months.

“No President has been as focused on private sector job creation in generations, and it stands in stark contrast to the Obama-Biden so-called shovel-ready jobs promise that paid off public employee unions but did little for Americans who were actually out of work.”



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


17 August, 2020

Paying for an epidemic of stupidity

Some wisdom from Australia: Steve Waterson points out that  daily No. of "cases" tells us little and creates a false sense of urgency

Back in the good old days, the average person used to take pride in having a robust grasp of basic maths: enough mental arithmetic not to be overcharged at the shops, enough skill with pen and paper to make more complex calculations.

Not any more, it seems. Many of our finest minds are infected with a new innumeracy that, in today’s fevered environment, distorts our understanding of, and response to, the coronavirus threat.

In early April, as the disease was just beginning to bite, the team manning the ABC’s coronavirus news website promised to answer questions about the pandemic.

When a reader asked for help in interpreting some infection-rate statistics, it provoked a cheerful response, broadcast to the world: “This just sparked a heated newsroom discussion in which we all outed ourselves as being terrible at maths.” You don’t say.

They’re only — some might say barely — journalists, however. They don’t need the mastery of figures that our leaders display so magnificently. So for a moment of light relief, let’s examine the numbers that currently unnerve them. If we cancelled Victoria’s lockdown immediately, and its cases were permitted to grow at 1000 a day, the whole state would be infected in no time. By “no time”, of course, I mean 18 years.

No wonder they’re frightened: at that rate it could sweep through the entire country in little more than 70 years. Luckily, in recent times we have been adding 1000 people to our population every day. Phew. Dodged a bullet there.

Worldwide, excess deaths from COVID-19 (generously assuming every victim died from, rather than just with, the virus) are around 700,000. Given the roughly 60 million deaths the world records each year, it’s as though 2020 had 369 days in it, rather than 366.

If that thought chills you, congratulations! A lavishly pensioned, undemanding and unaccountable career in politics beckons.

The ultimate showcase of political innumeracy is the quasi-religious ritual of The Reading of the Cases. Witnessed and recorded by the faithful in the media (who love to have their work handed to them on a plate), it has become a farce within this bigger farce.

The sombre, priestly arch-buffoon blesses reporters with fodder for their blog updates, sprinkling them with numbers that look like information but withstand no scrutiny.

Cases, as a moment’s reflection reveals, do not equal sickness, much less hospitalisations. Until we are entrusted with the knowledge of how many are the results of tests on people who show no symptoms, they serve only to strike terror into the innumerate.

Indeed, why do we need to hear these figures at all? We don’t get daily updates for any other diseases. They serve no useful purpose, as we are not given sufficient detail to make our own assessment of their significance, decide on the level of risk they represent and tailor our activities accordingly.

Their primary purpose seems to be to post-rationalise our leaders’ devastating, simple-minded lockdowns and border closures, and to panic people into sporting their masks of obedience should they be sufficiently reckless as to leave their homes.

Perhaps the announcements, if they must continue, could give us real information: “There have been 637 new cases today, but happily 480 were young people who had no symptoms and didn’t know they’d been infected. Oh, and only two of today’s cases were serious enough to need to go to hospital.”

Maybe for context they could dilute their irresponsible scaremongering by including details of the other 450 people who die in Australia each day, including the victims of lockdown: the suicides and those who, too frightened to visit a doctor or hospital, are dying avoidable deaths through lack of screening and treatment (Britain anticipates as many as 35,000 extra deaths in the next year from cancer sufferers presenting late with correspondingly advanced tumours); and the people tumbling into despair, depression and other mental and physical illnesses.

Perhaps the premier could hand over to the state’s treasurer, who would read out the number added daily to the jobless lists, the businesses forced into bankruptcy, the mortgages foreclosed.

Then someone from social services could talk about the growth in homelessness, the “huge increase” in domestic violence reported by victim support groups, the marriage breakdowns.

But they won’t because of a mathematical and behavioural curiosity we’re all familiar with, if not by name: the sunk costs fallacy.

Imagine that last month you bought a ticket for a concert tonight. You’re tired, it’s pouring with rain, and you dread dragging yourself into town. The money’s gone whatever you decide, so logic says you should cut your losses and stay in, but instead you pull on your raincoat and call a taxi. The urge is irrational, but almost irresistible. The whole vile pokies industry is built on it.

Now imagine how much harder to alter course if your investment was enormous and everyone was watching, poised to ridicule you for changing your mind.

Here’s where our politicians find themselves, unable to admit their response to the virus — the ultimate blunt instrument of lockdown, brutally enforced — hasn’t worked, and will never work.

They can’t do so because it would mean all they have done up to this point has been in vain. How could anyone who had wreaked damage on this cataclysmic scale ever admit to themselves, let alone to the nation, that it was all for nothing? Instead, like the pokie addict, they have doubled down to unleash a runaway epidemic of stupidity. They’ve destroyed our economy and put thousands out of work; they’ve refashioned many of our famously easygoing population into masked informers; and we’ve handed control of our lives to a clown car packed with idiots.

If there is a clearer demonstration of the insidious overreach of the nanny state, infantilising and sinister, and the shameful acquiescence of its legions of time-serving bureaucrats, I’m not aware of it.

What’s more insulting, each day we are chastised for “disappointing” our leaders, as though they are our superiors and it is the citizens’ duty to please them. The infected are singled out, vilified and shamed as sinners, their scandalous movements — three pubs on a Saturday night! — tracked and condemned. It recalls the attitude towards AIDS victims in the 1980s, a divine judgment visited on wicked libertines.

But attempt to argue that the cost of our response has in any way outweighed the impact of the virus and expect to be labelled a virus denier. Then expect to be asked, accusingly, how many deaths you would find acceptable. No matter how often or how emphatically you declare “We should protect the vulnerable”, some will hear those words as “Let’s throw the old people to the wolves”.

On April 4 in these pages I wondered when life moved from being precious to priceless. An exaggeration, but more than four months on we’ve set the opening bid pretty high. Turn the question around and ask what we are prepared to pay to protect the elderly with comorbidities. Let’s assume we’d let the disease run its course, as Sweden did, and had suffered the same death rate. We might have lost 10,000 of the old and sick earlier than in a normal year. We’ve kept that figure down, but at what cost?

On this week’s numbers our governments have spent more than $220bn and put 750,000 people out of work; some of that burden would have been incurred whatever path we had followed, but most of it is self-imposed.

Is it callous to suggest that’s too high a price to prolong what in some cases were lives of no great joy? What good might we have done with just a fraction of that $220bn, artfully applied? Would it not have been far better to spend a smaller, but still significant, sum on protecting and caring for the vulnerable and elderly to the very best of our abilities, and then, crucially, offering them the choice whether to accept that care?

We could allow them, like sentient adults, to make a simple calculation: do I live a little longer in safe but miserable isolation, or do I spend my remaining days at some risk but embraced by the warmth of family and friends?

That’s not a decision for any politician, even a wise one, to make. It’s a matter of choice for the individual, or, if incapacitated, for those responsible for them.

Governments don’t exist to tell us how or when we can die; but if life is measured only by length, not quality, this is where we end up: imprisoned, supposedly for our own good, on the basis of flawed statistical modelling and even worse interpretations of that modelling.

Undismayed by the models’ failure to predict the future when the virus first appeared, self-styled experts have now contorted their fears into absurd, illogical predictions of a parallel present: if we hadn’t acted as we did, they say, then tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands more would have died. How can anyone possibly know?

As the statistics, and yes, bodies, pile up around the world, we are getting a clearer picture of the virus’s course and virulence, and the more data we have, the more similar the curves appear. If we accept Australians are not exceptional in their resistance to disease, then it appears we have some heartbreak ahead of us, no matter how hard we try to avoid it.

New Zealand is lauded as the perfect example of how to crush the virus, but would anyone be surprised if it too has to pay the price somewhere down the line? Four new cases locked down the 1.6 million inhabitants of Auckland this week in a monstrously excessive overreaction that would be comical were it not so destructive.

Meanwhile, the rest of New Zealand has shut down so completely it has effectively removed itself as a nation from the international community. It’s as though the country had never existed. Soon it will be reduced to a fading Cheshire Cat image of its Prime Minister’s saintly sad face.

Let’s hope for the Kiwis’, and everyone else’s, sake a vaccine is found soon, although the World Health Organisation now warns we may never have one. It’s a tired line to repeat, but even after 40-odd years of searching we don’t have one for HIV-AIDS.

Which, if anyone needs reminding, still kills 2600 people a day.



That COVID-19 vaccine Russia approved? It's only cleared for use in a small group of people

This week, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced that the country had approved a coronavirus vaccine, seemingly for widespread use. But the vaccine has actually been approved only for use in "a small number of citizens from vulnerable groups," according to Science Magazine.

Although Putin announced that the vaccine had been approved, presumably for widespread use, the registration certificate issued by Russia's Ministry of Health actually covers only a small group including health care workers, according to Science Magazine. The certificate also states that the vaccine cannot be approved for widespread use until Jan. 1, 2021.

Russian minister of health Mikhail Murashko said that the country will soon begin a mass campaign to distribute the vaccine, and that medical workers and teachers will be prioritized to receive it first, according to The New York Times.

A phase 3 clinical trial of the vaccine, which will assess safety and efficacy more thoroughly, is scheduled to begin this week, Dmitriev told reporters, according to The Associated Press.




"Things are moving along at the proper pace": Attorney General William Barr says John Durham "development" coming Friday (Washington Examiner)

Major breakthrough: Israel and United Arab Emirates agree to full normalization of relations (NBC News)

Nancy Pelosi says no coronavirus relief talks until Republicans agree to a massive $2 trillion price tag (Fox News)

Mitch McConnell announces Senate will adjourn until September 8 unless a stimulus deal is struck (Axios)

Trump plans to deliver Republican National Convention speech on White House lawn (New York Post)

Joe Biden calls for a spurious nationwide mask mandate: "Every single American should be wearing a mask when they are outside" (The Daily Wire)

Dr. Anthony Fauci: No reason why we shouldn't be able to vote in person (The Washington Times)

Oregon State Police pull out of protecting Portland courthouse after city refuses to "prosecute this criminal behavior" (The Daily Wire)

UC-Berkeley study: At least 15,800 essential workers would not have contracted COVID if California had stockpiled enough masks and PPE (UK Daily Mail)

Thirteen states make contact tracing data public. Here's what they're learning. (NPR)

More than a quarter aged 18-24 have "seriously considered suicide" in past 30 days, according to the CDC (The Daily Wire)

Temporary layoffs becoming permanent job losses, as 62% of employers don't plan to hire (Washington Examiner)

American Airlines prepares to drop some service to smaller cities as expiration of federal aid nears (CNBC)

"Only the Supreme Court may revise its precedent": 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds male-only military draft (American Military News)

NSA and FBI expose Russian intelligence hacking tool (Reuters)

Non compos mentis: 9/11 "Tribute in Light" memorial in NYC canceled supposedly over COVID-19 concerns (New York Post)

Georgia governor to drop lawsuit over Atlanta mask mandate (AP)

Policy: Why the war on nuclear threatens us all: America's energy policies are pushing its allies into the embrace of undemocratic rivals (City Journal)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


16 August, 2020

UK: Sweden’s success shows the true cost of Britain's arrogant, failed establishment

So now we know: Sweden got it largely right, and the British establishment catastrophically wrong. Anders Tegnell, Stockholm’s epidemiologist-king, has pulled off a remarkable triple whammy: far fewer deaths per capita than Britain, a maintenance of basic freedoms and opportunities, including schooling, and, most strikingly, a recession less than half as severe as our own.

Our arrogant quangocrats and state “experts” should hang their heads in shame: their reaction to coronavirus was one of the greatest public policy blunders in modern history, more severe even than Iraq, Afghanistan, the financial crisis, Suez or the ERM fiasco.

Millions will lose their jobs when furlough ends; tens of thousands of small businesses are failing; schooling is in chaos, with A-level grades all over the place; vast numbers are likely to die from untreated or undetected illnesses; and we have seen the first exodus of foreigners in years, with the labour market survey suggesting a decline in non-UK born adults.



Sweden: Still some doubters

It’s the country that was heavily criticised for deciding to do things differently when it came to coronavirus – to ignore lockdown and keep bars and schools open.

And it paid a price with at least 5700 deaths putting it in the top 10 of nations in terms of coronavirus deaths per million.

But, as time goes on, Sweden’s controversial approach to tackling COVID-19 is winning over some sceptics.

The Swedish economy has shrunk less than other nations and cases have fallen dramatically, deaths have essentially dried up and no significant second wave has occurred. In fact, right now, Sweden looks better than Australia.

However, some virus watchers have warned that Sweden’s success could be a mirage. That a Scandinavian trait could be behind the low current numbers and the real test could come in as little as one month’s time.

When the world was locking down, Sweden, conspicuously, did not. Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, Dr Anders Tegnell, created and drove a unique national COVID-19 strategy.

Pubs, most schools and other workplaces remained open. When people in Sydney were banned from supping a beer in a bar, residents of Stockholm were enjoying sundowners with their mates.

That’s not to say there were no restrictions on the nation’s 10 million citizens. People were barred from going to aged care homes, joining large gatherings and Swedes were encouraged to social distance – which it seems they did almost as much as everyone else.

“As a society, we are more into nudging: continuously reminding people to use measures, improving measures where we see day by day the that they need to be adjusted,” Dr Tegnell told the journal Nature in May.

Initially, the plan seemed to backfire. At one point Sweden had more deaths per population than any other country.

So far, Sweden has suffered around 5800 deaths – far smaller than the US’ 167,000 deaths or the UK’s almost 50,000 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource centre

But compared to its Scandinavian neighbours, Sweden’s experience is grim. It has recorded 10 times the deaths of Denmark and 20 times that of Norway, both of which locked down harder.

Yet, since a peak of 115 deaths a day in early April, Sweden’s numbers have tracked consistently downwards.

It’s now seeing a seven day average of 226 cases, lower than Victoria in Australia. Deaths are around one per day. There has been no detectable second wave, unlike in many other countries including in Scandinavia

The BBC reported that while Sweden’s economy shrank a dire 8.6 per cent between April and June, that’s lower than the European Union average of 11.9 per cent. However, its economy is only a touch better off then Denmark.

Dr Tegnell has consistently said Sweden’s pre-vaccine approach to dealing with COVID-19 is more sustainable and preferable to rolling lockdowns and re-openings which he has labelled “disastrous in many ways”.

Sweden’s consistency in its restrictions has led it to be in the now bizarre position of having more in place than many other countries which dropped lockdowns as soon as cases started falling.

Last month, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven threw his weight behind Dr Tegnell’s strategy. “We can see (coronavirus) is clearly going down. The number of seriously ill people in need of intensive care is declining, the number of fatalities is declining,” he told newspaper Aftonbladet. “But of course, over 5000 people have died. I wish it had never happened.”

Mr Lofven said the strategy was about protecting health but also mitigating consequence for employees and companies. “That strategy is right; I am completely convinced of that.”

Misha Gajewski, a contributor to Forbes magazine, said Mr Lofven’s faith in Sweden’s plan “could be right”. But, she warned, it was still too early to tell pointing to a recent report by the Royal Society of Medicine. “The authors note it likely won’t be until as many as two years after the pandemic that we will be objectively able to say which method was the most effective.”

The potential by-product of Sweden’s lack of lockdown – herd immunity – is also taking longer to achieve. It had been thought that by now as many as 60 per cent of Stockholm’s residents might have virus antibodies. In all likelihood, perhaps only one-in-five residents actually do. And even that may not lead to total resistance.

One of the main factors in the current Swedish success however could be simply because it’s August. That’s the month when much of the country comes to a halt. It’s a time when Swedes desert the cities and head to their secluded summer homes to spend the day diving in lakes, sweating in saunas and drinking copious amounts of schnapps. That’s a worry because the second wave could be an unwanted welcome back to work gift.

It could be some way into September before Sweden knows if lower numbers of new cases and deaths is a long-term trend. Prof Collignon said the nervous wait could be even longer.

“A big factor in how this transmits is how much you are indoors. In northern Europe, it’s likely this was being spread in crowded indoor spaces and no one knew it,” said Prof Collignon. “The big test will be the next winter in northern Europe when it may tick up.”

Dr Tegnell is positive on Sweden’s strategy, but cautious.  “It will be very difficult to achieve any kind of really clear-cut answer as to what was right and what was wrong,” he told UK newspaper The Observer.

“I think we’re talking years into the future before we can get any kind of consensus on how to deal with this in the best possible way.”



Janice Fiamengo calls out Kamala Harris for sexual exploitation

Canadian men’s rights activist Janice Fiamengo has just released a brilliant video exposing Joe Biden’s newly announced Vice-President running mate, Kamala Harris, as an identity politics ideologue, the perfect match for Biden.

Fiamengo points out Biden was architect of the Violence Against Women Act, and is a man who has done more than any other politician to destroy due process protections for accused men.

But Kamala Harris has also been in the thick of all the recent identity politics issues, a proud feminist who proclaimed she’s never met a #MeToo survivor she didn’t believe, including those women who claimed to have been inappropriately touched by Jo Biden!

Fiamengo also reveals an intriguing aspect of Harris’ personal history. At age 29 the newly graduated litigator had an affair with the then 60-year-old Democrat House Speaker for the Californian State Assembly, Willie Brown. During the two years the two were in a relationship, Brown appointed Harris to two high-profile, well-paid government positions – jobs she was unlikely to have achieved on her own merits.

That's Harris with Brown above.  She is clearly as white as can be there. You can't just spray that on.  It looks like her present brown skin is some sort of spray tan.  See here.  What a crook she is!

Fiamengo calls this out as “sexual exploitation,” describing as the “female side of sexual harassment” this process of a woman using her sexual power to extort political or other favours from a man.

“The question is if men are to be condemned for exploiting their power for sexual access supposedly because it hurts all women and warps workplace cultures, then why are women held guiltless when they exploit their sexual power for political and other access? Do their actions not also corrupt workplace cultures breeding favouritism, resentment, mistrust, apathy and rancour?”

It’s an excellent point but don’t expect it to get much play in a culture where any deviation from the feminist narrative is firmly suppressed by our captured mainstream media. 

Email from Bettina Arndt -- bettina@bettinaarndt.com.au



Budget deficit hits $2.81 trillion in just 10 months and is on track to be far more than double the $1.4 trillion all-time record set in 2009 (UK Daily Mail)

"I'm the boss," eh? Far Left melts down after Democrats severely limit AOC's speaking role at convention (The Daily Wire)

"Not a great fit out here": Republicans say Harris harms Biden in crucial Rust Belt (Washington Examiner)

Facebook's CCP-linked "fact-checker" is censoring articles about CCP influence in the U.S. elections (The National Pulse)

Murder rate spikes in 20 major American cities (The Daily Caller)

More homicides than COVID deaths in Kansas City (KCTV)

Chicago looters smash the doors to Ronald McDonald House while 30 frightened families huddled inside the children's charity

Georgia clothing store called racist for waiving fee for non-white customers (Fox News)

"We're going to have huge problems": U.S. general warns of long-term ISIS resurgence (The Washington Times)

Wrong kind of war: Federally funded nuclear weapons lab made white male employees participate in racial reeducation training (The Washington Free Beacon)

NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN show zero results for reports on the five-year-old white child allegedly executed by black 25-year-old neighbor (Washington Examiner)

DC mayor orders "defund the police" mural removed, the timing of which coincides with the veep selection of former top cop Kamala Harris (The Post Millennial)

Nevada governor fines banned church for holding service in opened casino (The Federalist)

Paul Howard ousted after serving more than two decades as Fulton County DA (Fox 5 Atlanta)

Workers file under a million jobless claims for first time since March (New York Post)

After losing both her in-laws to COVID-19, Janice Dean is calling for an investigation of New York (The Daily Signal)

Policy: In a second term, Trump could build on his foreign policy successes (Hudson Institute)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


14 August, 2020

Anti-Lockdown Dr. Scott Atlas Joins Coronavirus Task Force: Is Fauci Finally Out?

President Trump announced Monday that Dr. Scott Atlas is joining the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Dr. Atlas is a former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center and a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. Before joining the team, Atlas penned an op-ed in The Hill that showed his approach to the coronavirus outbreak is much different than that of Anthony “Chicken Little” Fauci, who favors draconian lockdowns and now wants people to wear goggles to avoid getting a virus that most people recover from easily.

Here are some excerpts of the piece Atlas wrote, titled “The data is in -stop the panic and end the isolation.”

The tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be entering the containment phase. Tens of thousands of Americans have died, and Americans are now desperate for sensible policymakers who have the courage to ignore the panic and rely on facts. Leaders must examine accumulated data to see what has actually happened, rather than keep emphasizing hypothetical projections; combine that empirical evidence with fundamental principles of biology established for decades; and then thoughtfully restore the country to function.

Five key facts are being ignored by those calling for continuing the near-total lockdown.

Fact 1: The overwhelming majority of people do not have any significant risk of dying from COVID-19. The recent Stanford University antibody study now estimates that the fatality rate if infected is likely 0.1 to 0.2 percent, a risk far lower than previous World Health Organization estimates that were 20 to 30 times higher and that motivated isolation policies.

Fact 2: Protecting older, at-risk people eliminates hospital overcrowding…Dr. Leora Horwitz of NYU Medical Center concluded “age is far and away the strongest risk factor for hospitalization.” Even early WHO reports noted that 80 percent of all cases were mild, and more recent studies show a far more widespread rate of infection and lower rate of serious illness. Half of all people testing positive for infection have no symptoms at all. The vast majority of younger, otherwise healthy people do not need significant medical care if they catch this infection.

Fact 3: Vital population immunity is prevented by total isolation policies, prolonging the problem…In this virus, we know that medical care is not even necessary for the vast majority of people who are infected. It is so mild that half of infected people are asymptomatic, shown in early data from the Diamond Princess ship, and then in Iceland and Italy. That has been falsely portrayed as a problem requiring mass isolation. In fact, infected people without severe illness are the immediately available vehicle for establishing widespread immunity. By transmitting the virus to others in the low-risk group who then generate antibodies, they block the network of pathways toward the most vulnerable people, ultimately ending the threat. Extending whole-population isolation would directly prevent that widespread immunity from developing.

Fact 4: People are dying because other medical care is not getting done due to hypothetical projections…An estimated 80 percent of brain surgery cases were skipped. Acute stroke and heart attack patients missed their only chances for treatment, some dying and many now facing permanent disability.

Fact 5: We have a clearly defined population at risk who can be protected with targeted measures…it is a commonsense, achievable goal to target isolation policy to that group, including strictly monitoring those who interact with them. Nursing home residents, the highest risk, should be the most straightforward to systematically protect from infected people, given that they already live in confined places with highly restricted entry.

It’s a relief that someone with common sense may be taking a bigger role in combatting the panic response to COVID-19 that has taken over the nation. Many of us, who are not even doctors, have been saying that we need to target the elderly population for protection while the rest of us go back to reality. We were totally ignored. But Atlas is now in a position of authority to tell someone who will listen to what the right thing to do is. It isn’t more lockdowns and more isolation.

Strictly protect the known vulnerable, self-isolate the mildly sick and open most workplaces and small businesses with some prudent large-group precautions. This would allow the essential socializing to generate immunity among those with minimal risk of serious consequence, while saving lives, preventing overcrowding of hospitals and limiting the enormous harms compounded by continued total isolation. Let’s stop underemphasizing empirical evidence while instead doubling down on hypothetical models. Facts matter.

This would mean that schools should be open immediately at regular capacity since children are not in the high-risk category and never have been. Not only that, but they are the ones for whom the virus is the least severe and they can help us achieve herd immunity much easier and faster than older populations.

I hope this development means that we will not see Dr. Fauci or the scarf-obsessed Dr. Birx for the foreseeable future. But could we get that lucky in 2020? Somehow, I doubt it.



The Washington Post’s ‘Fact Checker,’ Not Pence, Deserves the 4 Lying ‘Pinocchios’

Glenn Kessler, the so-called “fact checker” at The Washington Post, this week called out Vice President Mike Pence’s answer to an interview question about election fraud. But it’s Kessler, not Pence, who deserves four “Pinocchios” for many of the misleading claims he makes about it in his column.

Pence said: “Make no mistake about it. The reality of voter fraud is undeniable. We’ve seen case after case around the country where there have been prosecutions.”

Kessler concentrates on a case in Indiana that the vice president—a former governor of that state—mentioned in passing, and the dispute is over the timing and exact details.

Fraudulent voter registrations were submitted by 12 individuals working for the Indiana Voter Registration Project, which, according to Kessler, was “associated with Patriot Majority USA.”

Pence characterized the case as “falsifying ballots.” Charges were eventually dismissed against one of the defendants; two pleaded guilty to perjury, but were given probation and no jail time; and nine agreed to pretrial diversion deals, in which they admitted their wrongdoing and, according to Kessler, “the cases were dismissed without prosecution.”

Kessler tries to characterize all of this as a minor incident because no one served any jail or prison time. All that demonstrates is that all too often, defendants who commit election fraud are treated too lightly by judges and prosecutors.

He also doesn’t seem to understand what a pretrial diversion program is when he says the prosecutions were “dismissed,” as though that means prosecutors really didn’t have a case against them.

What Kessler gets wrong is this: There was a prosecution. He acknowledges that the defendants admitted their wrongdoing.

According to the IndyStar, they were given the privilege of participating in a pretrial diversion program in which they paid court costs, completed community service, and stayed out of legal trouble in “return for having the charges dismissed.”

There was no conviction of these nine defendants, but there certainly was a prosecution. The fact that the defendants were in a diversion program doesn’t erase the fact that they committed voter registration fraud and were prosecuted for it.

Kessler also tries to minimize this fraud by claiming it is not really voter fraud and that no fraudulent ballots were submitted as a result of these fraudulent registrations.

But that’s only because election officials caught these false registrations before they could become effective.

That doesn’t make this type of fraud any less serious, since numerous cases show that election officials don’t always initially catch false registrations.

Kessler even cites The Heritage Foundation’s Election Fraud Database, claiming we only categorize voting under a false registration as “voter fraud.” No, voter registration fraud is election fraud.

And the term “voter fraud” covers all types of election fraud, whether it is committed by a voter or committed against a voter by others resulting in the dilution or theft of that voter’s vote.

Pence might have gotten the year this occurred wrong—it was 2016, not 2012—and ballots may not have been falsified. But voter registration forms were falsified, and that could have led to falsified ballots if the improper registration forms had not been caught by election officials.

Kessler also ignores the other cases of proven election fraud listed in Heritage’s database for Indiana, where false registrations that were not initially detected did, in fact, lead to fraudulent ballots being submitted.

That includes one Jerome Kesler (who I’m sure is no relation) who was convicted in 2017 of voting in Indiana from an Indiana address, even though he was a resident of Illinois. There are more than 40 other instances of convictions in Indiana for false registrations where defendants voted in precincts where they didn’t live.

In fact, there have been almost four dozen election fraud cases in Indiana (some with multiple convictions) since 2003, including numerous prosecutions in East Chicago, Indiana, over a Democratic mayoral primary that year.

That election was overturned by the state Supreme Court due to “voluminous, widespread, and insidious” absentee ballot fraud. That case also included convictions of voters who were voting in precincts where they didn’t actually reside.

The East Chicago case demonstrates one of the unfortunate aspects of absentee ballot fraud; namely, the voters who are often preyed upon and whose votes are stolen, altered, forged, and forced.

Those targeted in East Chicago in “a predatory pattern” were “first-time voters or others less informed or lacking in knowledge of the voting process, the infirm, the poor, and those with limited skills in the English language.”

That’s an important fact to keep in mind, given the current unwise push for all-mail elections.

Kessler even tries to minimize the perjury charges that two of the defendants pleaded guilty to for lying on the state-required affidavit, in which they affirmed under oath that they accepted the completed voter registration form from an applicant.

He says there would “have been no basis for a perjury charge” if the defendants had used the federal voter registration form instead of the state form because the federal form “does not have the same affidavit.”

Really? Kessler seems to be unaware that it is a felony under federal law, 52 U.S.C. § 20511, for individuals like the staff of the Indiana Voter Registration Project to procure or submit “voter registration applications that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent.” There is a similar provision in the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. § 10307.

Whether they were using the state or federal voter registration form, they were breaking the law. These two defendants are lucky that local prosecutors went after them, not federal prosecutors, because it’s highly likely they would not have gotten away with only probation, no jail time, or pretrial diversion programs.

The vice president is correct when he said that “the reality of voter fraud is undeniable” and that “we’ve seen case after case around the country where there have been prosecutions.”

In fact, Heritage’s database is up to almost 1,300 proven cases of election fraud. And the database is by no means comprehensive; it is just a sampling of cases.

There are many vulnerabilities in our system that too many people ignore. If you don’t look for something, you are not likely to find it, and that is the case with respect to too many officials pursuing election fraud cases.

As the U.S. Supreme Court said in 2008 when it upheld Indiana’s voter ID law, “Indiana’s own experience with fraudulent voting in the 2003 Democratic primary for East Chicago Mayor … demonstrate[s] that not only is the risk of voter fraud real, but that it could affect the outcome of a close election.”

I guess, according to The Washington Post’s standards, the Supreme Court would get four “Pinocchios” for that recognition of reality.




Trump signs executive actions after Congress stalls on COVID relief (Washington Examiner)

Ethics Committee orders Rep. Rashida Tlaib to return campaign funds she paid herself (The Washington Free Beacon)

Following Joe Biden's mea culpa, CNN and MSNBC defend former VP after virtually ignoring latest gaffes (Fox News)

Postal Service leader sets substantial reorganization amid scrutiny over mail ballots (The New York Times)

Chicago rocked by widespread looting after police-involved shooting (Fox News)

Riot declared after Portland "protesters" set police union building on fire (Washington Examiner)

New York City bloodshed: Shootings this year nearly double those during same time period in 2019 (Washington Examiner)

Trump administration penalizes 11 Hong Kong ChiCom officials for crackdown on protesters (The New York Times)

Germany pushes to end 2% GDP commitment to NATO (The Washington Free Beacon)

Agents discover "most sophisticated tunnel in U.S. history" connecting Mexico and Arizona (Washington Examiner)

New study finds Sweden's refusal to lock down saved the economy without sacrificing lives (The Federalist)

Economy added 1.8 million jobs in July, adding to record gains in wake of pandemic destruction (Washington Examiner)

Trump payroll tax executive order likely worth $1,200 per worker, says Larry Kudlow (Fox Business)

Unemployment fraud is rising thanks to $600 bonus (Washington Examiner)

Unemployment claims plummet after Arizona retools process to deter fraud (Washington Examiner)

Jerry Falwell Jr. taking indefinite leave of absence from Liberty University after uploading racy picture to Instagram (National Review)

NRA fights back, files its own suit against New York attorney general unlawfully seeking to disband organization (Fox News)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


13 August, 2020

Australian doctor may have breakthrough coronavirus cure

Imagine if a renowned Australian gastroenterologist invented an effective, cheap, readily available treatment for COVID-19 and his own country ignored him.

That’s what has happened to Professor Thomas Borody, who is famous for inventing a cure for the bacterial infection which causes peptic ulcers, saving millions of lives around the world.

This time Dr Borody, of Sydney’s Centre for Digestive Diseases, has found a promising treatment for COVID-19 using Ivermectin, a drug that has been used safely to treat parasitic infections for half a century. He combines it in a “triple therapy” with zinc and the antibiotic Doxycycline to attack the virus from multiple angles.

Clinical trials on his Ivermectin ­triple therapy are underway in 32 countries and are about to start in California. Dr Borody says the trick is “treating patients very early”, within seven days of onset, before the virus spreads through their organs and makes them sick.

Already results using the drug off-label have been promising.

In Bangladesh, 400 patients with mild to moderate symptoms were treated and 98 per cent cleared the virus within four to 14 days.

In the Dominican Republic, in 1300 patients the average duration of infection fell from 21 days to 10 days.

Mortality in already sick patients at Broward County Medical Centre in Florida dropped by 48 per cent. The results have been so remarkable that the government of the most populous Indian state, Uttar Pradesh, last week approved the use of Ivermectin for COVID-19 patients and also as a prophylactic for health workers.

Dr Borody calls Ivermectin a “wonder drug”. But ever since he ­received the positive preliminary ­results of the overseas trials, he has been banging his head against a brick wall trying to get someone in Australia to take notice.

He has sent letters to the Morrison government and the Victorian government, urging them at least to make Ivermectin available to high-risk patients and as a preventive dose for frontline workers. “I wrote to the federal and state governments,” he said on the weekend.

“I wasn’t even responded to … It got to a certain level of the fortress, but I don’t think it got to the decision- makers. You can see how frustrating it is, whereas a big state of India says let’s use it. If nothing else, make it available in aged care homes immediately. Our elderly are at the highest risk and this is a very safe option, ­especially when we have nothing else except ventilators.”

He points out Ivermectin is on the on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines, and has been safely used since 1975 to treat parasitic infections such as river blindness and head lice.

In fact, US President Donald Trump uses Ivermectin in cream form to treat the skin condition rosacea, ­according to his White House health records.

Dr Borody says he may absorb enough through his skin to protect him, despite people around him at the White House becoming ill.

But despite the drug’s proven ­safety record and promising results on COVID-19, “the government in Australia — and the US — does not have a curative plan”. It’s all about lockdowns and vaccines.

And because no “no large company is pushing it,” says Borody, the government won’t listen.

“Not only is it too good to be true, it’s cheap” he says. An Ivermectin tablet can cost as little as $2. “This isn’t going to make money for anyone. It just needs a doctor to write a script,” he said.

And therein lies the problem. The pharmaceutical industry doesn’t like cheap off-patent drugs such as Ivermectin because they don’t reap huge profits in the way that new drugs and vaccines do.

The demonisation of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is a case in point.

After President Donald Trump ­described it as a promising treatment, “maybe a game-changer” for COVID-19 at a March 19 press conference at the White House, the media derided him as a quack and discredited the drug.

The negative publicity played into the hands of Big Pharma, who stand to make tens of billions from vaccines and new drugs. Hydroxychloroquine’s main competitor is the new antiviral Remdesivir, developed by pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences, which charges $US3120 per ­treatment.

Trump also praised Remdesivir at that press conference. Yet all the ­attacks afterwards were against ­hydroxychloroquine, while Remdesevir got a free pass. And, of course, the drug companies had the financial ­incentive to discredit hydroxychloroquine and the lobbyists to advance their interests.

Dr James Todaro, one of a group of rebel physicians calling themselves America’s Frontline Doctors, points out that Gilead’s stock plummeted after Trump’s press conference, wiping $21 billion off its market cap. The share price only recovered six weeks later after a promising clinical trial.

The jury is still out on hydroxychloroquine. But the campaign against it has been ferocious. Doctors can’t get results of studies published, and social media censors mention of the drug.

A flawed study on a small sample of very sick US Veterans ­Affairs patients received enormous publicity before it was debunked. Positive studies were buried. Two prestigious medical journals, The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, had to retract a paper which used bogus data supplied by a shadowy company to discredit the drug.

The damage was done. Clinical trials stopped. WHO temporarily withdrew support for the drug.

In New York, hydroxychloroquine is banned for COVID use.

In Switzerland, where it was banned from May 27 until June 11, ­Politico reports this week that daily COVID fatalities jumped markedly during that period.

Dr Borody is anxious that Ivermectin doesn’t meet the same fate.

Without any institutional backing, he has joined forces with California researcher Dr Sabine Hazan, founder of Ventura Clinical Trials, to fund trials themselves, at around $3500 per patient.

Dr Hazan said on Sunday that she is “hopeful this is going to be a gamechanger for COVID-19”. But she is at pains to point out there is no “one pill solution” for everyone.

If the trials go well, with expedited FDA approval, the Ivermectin triple therapy could be on the market in blister packs before Christmas. That’s for patients in America. Australia will have to wait.



Kamala Harris got ‘destroyed’ by Tulsi Gabbard in Democrat debates, dropped out before primaries – and now might be president

California Senator Kamala Harris crashed and burned early in the Democrat primary process, never recovering from the debate drubbing she took from Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. She became Joe Biden’s running mate anyway.

“Tulsi” was trending on social networks shortly after the announcement that Harris would be Biden’s choice for vice president should Democrats win in November. That’s not surprising, since their famous clash from July 2019 was one of the most memorable moments of Harris’ short-lived presidential bid, widely credited with sinking her candidacy.

That day, Gabbard calmly took Harris to task over her prosecutorial past, pointing out that she was responsible for getting thousands of African-Americans locked up on draconian drug sentences, even as Democrats clamored for criminal justice reform and racial justice.

Harris tried to brush that off, insisting she was a top-tier candidate while Gabbard was a nobody polling in single digits. Yet her ratings never recovered, and she called her campaign off by early December – long before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary – citing lack of funds.

With polls showing Democrats favored to win the White House – though they also showed that in 2016, and things turned out differently – the identity of Biden’s running mate was a hot topic. Biden himself is 77 and even Democrat operatives have been content to keep him hidden“in the basement” and speak as little as possible. He is on the record as saying he would not seek a second term, if elected – and is considered unlikely to serve out the first.

Given all that, it was widely understood that Biden’s running mate would be the Democrats’ actual candidate for the top job. Though Biden had already said it would be a woman, advocates of racial identity politics absolutely insisted that it be a person “of color” as well.

As part-Jamaican and part-Indian, Harris checks off those boxes – although her claim to be African-American failed to sway black voters during the Democrat primaries.

The viral video of the August 2019 takedown of “Kamala the cop” appeared to be the perfect balm for progressives frustrated by her elevation, coming at a time when Democrats have widely embraced the calls to “defund the police.”

That radical idea arose from the weeks of protests and violent riots following the May death of George Floyd, an African-American man, in Minneapolis. Soon Democrat-led cities across the US were declaring that police were irreparably and systemically racist, and needed to be replaced by social workers or something yet to be “reimagined.”

With Harris’ entire political career as a prosecutor, it was clear on Tuesday that the mainstream media machine would have to work overtime to make her fit into that narrative. Denouncing any criticism of Harris as “racist” or “sexist” will be just the start.




New evidence from nearly three dozen Somalis reveals a probable spree of felonies by Ilhan Omar (The Blaze)

Half of Democrats don't think Joe Biden will serve all four years of his term if elected (UK Daily Mail)

FEC commissioner: "Substantial chance" 2020 results won't be known on election night due to pandemic-induced changes (Washington Examiner)

"That is reparations": Black Lives Matter holds rally in Chicago to support those arrested after looting and unrest (Fox News)

Seattle City Council votes to scale back police department funding; police chief resigns (Washington Examiner)

Russia's approval of virus vaccine greeted with alarm (AP)

New U.S. cases drop to the lowest in a month as spread slows in Sunbelt states (UK Daily Mail)

Scientists discover fleece neck gaiters multiply infectious droplets while N95s and cotton masks work best (UK Daily Mail)

Three great pieces of coronavirus news we should be talking about (The Resurgent)

Without proper context, leaked COVID-19 data is worse than misleading (The Daily Signal)

Proving Pelosi right: DNI report shows China and Iran trying to sabotage the Trump campaign (The Washington Free Beacon)

China sanctions 11 Americans in retaliation for U.S. action against Hong Kong officials (Bloomberg)

Gig-economy earthquake: California judge orders Uber and Lyft to consider all drivers employees (NPR)

Scramble to save college football season from COVID (Washington Examiner)

"Corruption is bigger than the state": Lebanese PM and his cabinet resign over explosion that killed 160, saying he has faced a brick wall trying to bring in reforms (UK Daily Mail)

Hong Kong arrests pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai (The New York Times)

Protests in Belarus turn deadly following sham election (Axios)

Half a million incorrect absentee ballot applications sent across Virginia, including to dead people (JusttheNews.com)

Policy: Why Trump's WeChat ban is much more important than his TikTok ban (The Federalist)

Policy: China's emerging Middle Eastern kingdom (Hudson Institute)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


12 August, 2020

‘Dangerous’ to think masks will stop virus: Swedish epidemiologist

The epidemiologist in charge of Sweden’s coronavirus response has dismissed the scientific evidence for mask-wearing as “astonishingly weak”.

Anders Tegnell said it was “very dangerous” to believe that masks alone could control the spread of the disease.

He has steered a different course from those plotted by most European countries, leaving bars, restaurants and most schools open throughout the pandemic. His public health agency has maintained that there is no need for Swedes to wear masks even in crowded spaces, although they are recommended in most large airport terminals.

This contrasts with nations such as the UK and Germany, which slowly came to the conclusion that masks helped to limit transmission, and Spain and Poland, which for a time made them compulsory outside the home.

Dr Tegnell said these decisions were not grounded in solid science. “The findings that have been produced through [the use of] face masks are astonishingly weak,” he told the newspaper Bild. “I’m surprised that we don’t have more or better studies showing what effect masks actually have. Countries such as Spain and Belgium have made their populations wear masks but their infection numbers have still risen. The belief that masks can solve our problem is in any case very dangerous.”

The Swedish strategy follows two central principles: that the pandemic will last longer than any lockdown and that the only answer is to trust people to make sensible decisions.

As of Monday Sweden had recorded 5,763 COVID-19 deaths, but the number of new infections is declining.



Progressivism restricts freedom; conservatism seeks to expand freedom, which can be expanded only if a society is virtuous

During these tumultuous times, as practically every American institution comes under attack from the far left and its allies, two of our most essential values seem to be especially targeted in an effort to “transform America.”

Those values are faith and family, the two essential pillars that serve as true stabilizing factors in any society.

The attacks on faith and family seem to be relentless.

In Nevada, amid the COVID-19 crisis, casinos are open, but churches are told they must remain closed. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom told churches that their congregants no longer could sing worship songs, even though they are wearing protective masks while doing so. In Portland, Oregon, radicals not only are burning the flag but Bibles as well. And tragically, in the same vein, vandals are targeting churches.

So, how did we get to this point? It didn’t happen overnight.

It is not a coincidence that our current cultural condition, and the turn to hard-left progressivism, began in the late 1950s and into the 1960s, as these values started to erode and lose influence in American society.

Those on the far left actively were launching attacks—sometimes stealthily—through seizing all the major corridors of cultural and political influence.

When these pillars of faith and family—both of which are key components of the Judeo-Christian principles upon which our nation was founded—started to come under attack, all other principles such as fiscal restraint, freedom of conscience, and limited government came under assault as well.

Regarding the family, several factors led our nation down the progressive path and away from conservatism. The social engineering of President Lyndon Johnson’s liberal Great Society of the mid-1960s devastated the family, as fathers no longer had to accept fiscal responsibility for the children they bore.

Legalized abortion greatly devalued human life and further enabled personal irresponsibility and selfish, rather than selfless, behavior. No-fault divorce made it easy for either spouse to walk away from the commitment of “until death do us part,” leaving a trail of broken children behind.

And attacks on the fundamental beliefs of the faithful created a culture where those beliefs not only were mocked but increasingly criminalized. One example: the persecution of those who do not wish to use their skills to participate in facilitating abortions.

On the faith front, many mainline denominations swapped out the Gospel for social justice and the abandonment of absolute truth. This left a spiritual vacuum for progressive thought—which sought governmental, rather than faith-based, solutions—to fill. Lost were the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance—all of which are needed for society to thrive.

Thus, once the pillars of faith and the family were weakened, the rest of the house started to collapse, just as Abraham Lincoln warned the nation in 1858 that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

With the gap that was left by the removal of these two pillars of faith and family, progressives were able to introduce policies that destabilized rather than stabilized society. One such policy: encouraging single parenting, which has led to the tragic loss of fathers—an essential individual in every child’s life—in ever-increasing numbers.

Progressives attacked religious freedom and the role churches play in creating a “safety net” that government never could—by feeding both the body and the soul.

Much of the current out-of-control government spending is tied to government takeover and destruction of both these institutions, which taught self-reliance and personal responsibility.

We wrote at length about this in our book “American Restoration: How Faith, Family, and Personal Sacrifice Can Heal Our Nation,” which provides a conservative, faith-based response to our nation’s various ailments.

The breakdown of the family has been a primary factor in the societal chaos we are experiencing. It has led to massive government spending that enables the very behaviors that continue a cycle of despair and destabilization.

The decreased role of faith has led to the breakdown of community, neighbors helping neighbors, and the other societal supports that government cannot recreate but tries to—again through more massive spending, which only perpetuates problems instead of solving them.

The disregard for—and eventual mocking of—religious faith and the values of selflessness and personal responsibility it instills have led to a nation that values its privileges over its principles.

And the result of that, as President Dwight Eisenhower warned us in his 1953 inaugural address, is that a nation “soon loses both.”

Why? Because both family and faith go to the essence of what makes a healthy society. A functional, healthy family provides for and equips the next generation to be self-reliant citizens, not dependent upon government programs for their sustenance. It provides the next generation with the tools and the confidence to succeed in life.

In addition, a young boy who grows up with a strong father as a role model—a father who leads by example of how to love his wife, shepherd his children, and make sacrifices that benefit both—likely will follow in his father’s footsteps. A young boy without that model will try to figure it out on his own—often with disastrous results.

In the same way, a young girl who knows what it is to be valued and loved by a man will make good decisions regarding future relationships. Those good decisions will result in less need for government intrusion and taxpayer support.

In many ways, the church does this as well. It provides a moral framework that teaches that all people are worthy of dignity and respect as they have been created Imago Dei—in the image of God.

For the principles of limited government and a republican government to succeed, morality must be part of the equation. John Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence and the second president of the United States, recognized this fact when he wrote to the Massachusetts Militia in 1798: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Or as Benjamin Franklin wrote: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”

Progressivism is a master that restricts freedom; conservatism seeks to expand freedom, which can be expanded only if a society is virtuous.

Thus, with a moral framework in place, people are more self-reliant, more likely to make healthy decisions that benefit society rather than poor ones that result in dependence on government. With healthy families, children will thrive and make positive contributions to society. With a strong faith, and the virtues it instills, society will flourish.

And, sadly, when those values are attacked and weakened, society suffers and descends into personal and corporate chaos. The result is the antithesis of what the left professes it seeks to advance, which is unity (on its terms) and progress. Instead, all we are left with is the bitter fruit of division and descension into cultural darkness.

The battle to overcome this darkness is daunting, but it can be won if we stand up to these attacks on faith, family, and conscience rather than slink away in retreat. As our Founding Fathers wrote, only a moral, righteous, and virtuous people can be free.

If future generations are going to enjoy the freedoms we have cherished, we must return to the moral framework that made these freedoms possible in the first place. Once that moral foundation is rebuilt, America’s house once again can stand strong, united against any storm it may face.



Nightmare. More Than 200,000 Nevada Ballots Found to Be 'Undeliverable'

A report by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, an election integrity group, found that more than 200,000 ballots mailed to voters in Clark County, Nevada, were designated by the post office as “undeliverable.”

Clark is the most populous county in Nevada, containing the Las Vegas metro area. It has nearly 75 percent of the state’s population.

The county sent 1.3 million ballots to voters.  The undeliverable ballots accounted for 17 percent of all ballots mailed to registered voters. Since Nevada has gone to all mail-in ballot elections, that means that 17 percent of the county’s 1.3 million registered voters are effectively disenfranchised.

J. Christian Adams, a longtime PJ Media columnist, recently wrote about the perils of mail-in voting and why the argument that it works in other states doesn’t pass muster.

Washington Free Beacon:

“These numbers show how vote by mail fails,” said J. Christian Adams, PILF’s president and general counsel. “New proponents of mail balloting don’t often understand how it actually works. States like Oregon and Washington spent many years building their mail voting systems and are notably aggressive with voter list maintenance efforts. Pride in their own systems does not somehow transfer across state lines. Nevada, New York, and others are not and will not be ready for November.”

“The addresses that we used were provided by the voters when they registered,” Dan Kulin, a spokesman for Clark County, told the Washington Free Beacon. “If they no longer reside at the address they provided to us, then we would expect that mail to be returned to us, which is what happened.”

The Trump campaign is suing Nevada for their mail-in voting procedures. Most states that are urging mail-in voting are sending applications for absentee ballots. But Nevada was sending actual, legal ballots to every registered voter. The Trump campaign wants it to stop.

The new figures come as Nevada takes center stage in a debate over mail-in voting. President Donald Trump’s campaign sued the state over its plans to mail ballots to every registered voter for the November election. As Democrats across the country push for mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic, critics have said the practice can lead to a number of problems such as lost ballots. Recent reports also showed that 84,000 mail-in Democratic primary ballots cast in New York City were disqualified.

PILF communications director Logan Churchwell said the Clark County elections department asked the county commission not to send ballots to every registrant on file, cautioning that it would be “a costly exercise of sending mail to addresses that were sure to bounce any parcel.” The county sent out the ballots despite the election department’s warning.

“Nevada’s voter rolls aren’t maintained to the standard required for an all-mail experience like Oregon or Washington,” Churchwell said. “The Nevada governor is foolish to think he can replicate his regional neighbors’ years of development and practices with mail voting in a matter of months with a weekend emergency bill.”

Left-wing groups have been challenging “purging” dead, moved, duplicate, and inactive voters from registration rolls for years. Now they want an election based on mail-in ballots for every registered voter?

No one is ready for this. This is why mail-in voting will be an epic failure.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


11 August, 2020

World’s Top Epidemiologists – Masks Don’t Work!

Denmark boasts one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the world. As of August 4, the Danes have suffered 616 COVID-19 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

That’s less than one-third of the number of Danes who die from pneumonia or influenza in a given year.

Despite this success, Danish leaders recently found themselves on the defensive. The reason is that Danes aren’t wearing face masks, and local authorities for the most part aren’t even recommending them.

This prompted Berlingske, the country’s oldest newspaper, to complain that Danes had positioned themselves “to the right of Trump.”

“The whole world is wearing face masks, even Donald Trump,” Berlingske pointed out.

This apparently did not sit well with Danish health officials.  They responded by noting there is little conclusive evidence that face masks are an effective way to limit the spread of respiratory viruses.

“All these countries recommending face masks haven’t made their decisions based on new studies,” said Henning Bundgaard, chief physician at Denmark’s Rigshospitale, according to Bloomberg News.

Denmark is not alone. Despite a global stampede of mask-wearing, data show that 80-90 percent of people in Finland and Holland say they “never” wear masks when they go out, a sharp contrast to the 80-90 percent of people in Spain and Italy who say they “always” wear masks when they go out.

Dutch public health officials recently explained why they’re not recommending masks. “From a medical point of view, there is no evidence of a medical effect of wearing face masks, so we decided not to impose a national obligation,” said Medical Care Minister Tamara van Ark.

Others, echoing statements similar to the US Surgeon General from early March, said masks could make individuals sicker and exacerbate the spread of the virus.

“Face masks in public places are not necessary, based on all the current evidence,” said Coen Berends, spokesman for the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. “There is no benefit and there may even be negative impact.”

In Sweden, where COVID-19 deaths have slowed to a crawl, public health officials say they see “no point” in requiring individuals to wear masks.

“With numbers diminishing very quickly in Sweden, we see no point in wearing a face mask in Sweden, not even on public transport,” said Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s top infectious disease expert.

For the average person, it’s confusing and frustrating. It’s also a bit frightening, considering that we’ve seen people denounced in public for not wearing a mask while picking up a bag of groceries.

The truth is masks have become the new wedge issue, the latest phase of the culture war. Mask opponents tend to see mask wearers as “fraidy cats” or virtue-signalling “sheeple” who willfully ignore basic science. Mask supporters, on the other hand, often see people who refuse to wear masks as selfish Trumpkins … who willfully ignore basic science.

There’s not a lot of middle ground to be found and there’s no easy way to sit this one out. We all have to go outside, so at some we all are required to don the mask or not.

It’s clear from the data that despite the impression of Americans as selfish rebel cowboys who won’t wear a mask to protect others, Americans are wearing masks far more than many people in European countries.

Polls show Americans are wearing masks at record levels, though a political divide remains: 98 percent of Democrats report wearing masks in public compared to 66 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Independents. (These numbers, no doubt, are to some extent the product of mask requirements in cities and states.)

Whether one is pro-mask or anti-mask, the fact of the matter is that face coverings have become politicized to an unhealthy degree, which stands to only further pollute the science.

Last month, for example, researchers at Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy responded to demands they remove an article that found mask requirements were “not based on sound data.”

The school, to its credit, did not remove the article, but instead opted to address the objections critics of their research had raised.



Common colds train the immune system to recognize COVID-19

This existing immune system "memory" may explain why some people have milder COVID-19 infections.

Previous infections with common cold viruses can train the immune system to recognize SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a new study.

The study, published Aug. 4 in the journal Science, found that immune cells known as T cells that recognize common cold coronaviruses also recognize specific sites on SARS-CoV-2 — including parts of the infamous "spike" protein it uses to bind to and invade human cells.

This existing immune system "memory" may explain why some people have milder COVID-19 infections compared with others; however, the authors stress that this hypothesis is "highly speculative" and requires more research to confirm. That's because it's unknown exactly how big a role T cells play in fighting COVID-19 — T cells are just one part of a complex menagerie of molecules and cells that makes up our immune system.

"We have now proven that, in some people, preexisting T-cell memory against common cold coronaviruses can cross-recognize SARS-CoV-2, down to the exact molecular structures," study co-lead author Daniela Weiskopf, assistant professor at La Jolla Institute for Immunology in La Jolla, California, said in a statement.

It's possible that this "immune reactivity may translate to different degrees of protection" against COVID-19, study co-lead author Alessandro Sette, a professor at La Jolla Institute for Immunology, said in the statement. "Having a strong T-cell response, or a better T-cell response may give you the opportunity to mount a much quicker and stronger response."

Previous studies have shown that upwards of 50% of people never exposed to COVID-19 have T cells that recognize SARS-CoV-2. This ability has been seen in people around the world, in the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom and Singapore. Scientists hypothesized that this existing immunity could be due to previous infections with other coronaviruses, specifically those that cause common cold infections.

In the new study, the researchers analyzed blood samples collected from people between 2015 and 2018, well before COVID-19 first emerged in Wuhan, China.

These blood samples contained T cells that reacted to more than 100 specific sites on SARS-CoV-2. The researchers showed that these T cells also reacted to similar sites on four different coronaviruses that cause common cold infections.

"This study provides very strong direct molecular evidence that memory T cells can 'see' sequences that are very similar between common cold coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2," Sette said.

In addition to binding to the spike protein, the T cells  also recognized other viral proteins beyond the spike.

Currently, most COVID-19 vaccine candidates target the spike protein, but the new findings suggest that including other proteins in a vaccine, besides the spike, might harness this T cell cross reactivity and potentially enhance the vaccine's potency, the researchers said, although much more research would be needed to show this.

The authors note that their findings of cross-reactivity with T cells are different from what has been seen with neutralizing antibodies — another weapon of the immune system that blocks a pathogen from infecting cells. Neutralizing antibodies against common cold viruses are specific to those viruses and don't show cross-reactivity with SARS-CoV-2, according to previous studies, the authors said.



Kudlow Says Another Lockdown Would Have ‘Enormous’ Human and Economic Cost

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow firmly opposes the idea of a hard lockdown to suppress another COVID-19 surge, telling Fox Business in an Aug. 4 interview that the health and economic toll on Americans would be “enormous.”

Kudlow said he doesn’t think any form of lockdown is a good idea, and people should instead rely on precautions such as social distancing, mask-wearing, and sanitizing to stem the outbreak, while allowing businesses and schools to stay open.

“This idea of more lockdowns, people just throw this out willy-nilly, forgetting the enormous human cost as well as the enormous economic cost,” Kudlow said. “The country can’t take that.”

He argued that the risk to Americans comes not just from the direct threat of infection but from the impact of heavy-handed mitigation.

“It’s also our well-being, it’s also our psychological well-being, it’s our personal well-being,” Kudlow said. “I think we should do everything we can, everything humanly possible, with safety and security, to keep the stores open, to keep the schools open, to keep the economy open.”

Arguing that the current COVID-19 mitigation efforts appear to be working, Kudlow said: “Let’s get America moving again. You’ll get your 20 percent; the V-shaped recovery, I think, is still in place.”

Kudlow’s reference to “20 percent” relates to an earlier comment he made about the Atlanta Fed’s latest estimate of U.S. economic activity for the third quarter of this year. The Atlanta Fed’s third-quarter-growth prediction stands at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 19.6 percent, updated on Aug. 3, according to a so-called nowcast statistical model that uses high-frequency economic data-points to estimate the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Prompting Kudlow’s remarks was a request by the interviewer for comment on a statement made by a top Federal Reserve official on Aug. 2, who argued that the U.S. economy could benefit if the nation were to “lock down really hard” for 4 to 6 weeks.

“I hate to even suggest it,” said Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari, in remarks on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“People will be frustrated by it. But if we were to lock down hard for a month or six weeks, we could get the case count down so that our testing and our contact tracing was actually enough to control it the way that it’s happening in the Northeast right now,” Kashkari said.

He said the economy, which in the second quarter suffered its biggest blow since the Great Depression, would be able to mount a robust recovery, but only if the virus were brought under control.

“If we don’t do that, and we just have this raging virus spreading throughout the country with flare-ups and local lockdowns for the next year or two, which is entirely possible, we’re going to see many, many more business bankruptcies,” Kashkari said.

“That’s going to be a much slower recovery for all of us.”

Reinforcing Kudlow’s perspective, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters at a briefing on Aug. 4 that the administration wasn’t considering a lockdown.

“The president is not considering a national lockdown,” she said. “What he is encouraging is mitigation efforts like wearing a mask, which is patriotic; like social distancing; and engaging in these really commonsense, safe measures to safely reopen and avoid the health consequences of a lockdown.”

McEnany cited a series of negative outcomes that she linked to lockdowns, including a surge in drug overdoses and suicides.

“Overdoses do go up, suicides do go up, cancer cases are missed, as Dr. Scott Atlas has pointed out that, ‘In the U.S. alone, there are 150,000 new cancer cases that arise every month among patients … most have not been seen.’ And that was referring to the lockdown,” she said.



Trump's Covid boast is nearer to the truth than his opponents would like to admit

Given that enlightened opinion now pretty well defines itself against whatever Donald Trump says, it is hardly surprising to hear the US president being excoriated for saying in a television interview that the US figures for deaths per cases of Covid were “lower than the world, lower than Europe”.  

That people laugh at him whenever he opens his mouth on Covid-19 – or anything else for that matter – doesn’t change the fact that technically he is correct. He was clear that he was referring to the ratio of deaths to recorded cases of Covid 19 – a metric technically known as the Case Fatality Ratio (CFR).

Sure enough, the US currently has a CFR of 0.033 – which is lower than the world as a whole (0.037) and lower than in the larger European countries. Britain’s CFR is currently 0.15, Italy’s 0.14 and Germany’s 0.043.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


10 August, 2020

Why Sweden, pilloried by the whole world for refusing to lock down - with schools staying open and no face mask laws - may be having the last laugh as experts say Stockholm is close to achieving herd immunity

I mentioned probable herd immunity in Sweden last Friday

Tegnell’s refusal to impose lockdown on his fellow citizens is held up by critics around the world as a warning against adopting a laissez-faire attitude to this deadly disease.

Yet as infections spike again in places that locked down their populations, where schools struggle to reopen and the economic carnage from this crisis grows clearer, is it possible this Scandinavian nation might have made the right long-term call?

After all, as Swedish public health experts kept telling me last week, the struggle against this horrible pandemic ‘is a marathon not a sprint’.

The World Health Organisation warns the impact may be felt for decades. ‘Many countries that believed they were past the worst are grappling with new outbreaks,’ said director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. ‘Some that were less affected in the earliest weeks are now seeing escalating numbers of cases and deaths.’

Yet Sweden is seeing a sustained drop in cases, with some experts even suggesting it may be close to herd immunity in the capital Stockholm.

The number of deaths, new cases and patients in intensive care has fallen dramatically.

On one key measure – percentage change in new confirmed cases over the past fortnight relative to the previous 14 days – Sweden is down more than a third.

This contrasts with sharp rises in neighbouring Denmark, Finland and Norway, along with countries such as Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

Meanwhile, the latest data suggests Sweden is suffering less severe economic trauma than most major European nations, while it has, almost uniquely among Western countries, kept schools open.

So what is the truth about the bold but controversial Swedish stance that sets it apart from most other developed nations?

Tegnell openly told me that, like all global experts, he was ‘shooting in the dark’ when this new disease erupted, and he admitted that he expected to see spikes, especially when people return indoors as it gets colder in the autumn.

But he said they sought from the start a sustainable approach that could retain public support – and that they saw their remit as going beyond simply fighting the virus to include keeping the country functioning as much as possible.

‘We have knowledge of the negative effects of closing schools so that was definitely in our thinking,’ he said.

‘Also to keep society open, keep unemployment down, make it possible for people to meet each other. We know that social contacts are a little bit dangerous in these times but they are very important for your wider health. ‘It is necessary to keep a balance between stopping the epidemic and keeping people healthy.’

The Swedish approach relies on trust rather than enforcement, going to the heart of how Swedes see their society.  ‘To live in a democracy you need trust,’ said Morgan Olofsson, spokesman for Sweden’s Civil Contingency Agency, which is responsible for public safety, emergency management and civil defence. ‘The government must trust the people and the people must trust their government.’

Tegnell, who runs the response in keeping with the country’s political tradition of consensus and reliance on independent experts, urged people to socially distance, work from home where possible, and isolate if at risk or showing symptoms.

Public gatherings of more than 50 people were prohibited – but barbers, cafes, gyms, restaurants, shops and schools for children under 16 were allowed to stay open. The compulsory imposition of face masks has been ruled out so far.

There was, however, catastrophe in care homes, as there was in several other nations such as Britain, Canada and Spain, which reflects years of neglect for a fragmented sector staffed by underpaid workers often flitting between different places to make ends meet.

An official inquiry found almost half of Sweden’s Covid-19 deaths by end of June took place in elderly care homes concentrated in 40 of the country’s 290 municipalities.

Tegnell accepted the state should have done more to protect them. Horrifically, it seems many old people were simply given morphine and left to die rather than taken to hospital for fear of overloading intensive care wards.

‘Most people still do not realise that dying from Covid is a terrible death, so it is awful that many people died in this way who could have lived longer and had more peaceful deaths,’ said Paul Franks, a professor in epidemiology at Lund University.

Yet despite this failure, Prof Franks sees lockdown as ‘a very blunt instrument’. So when I asked this thoughtful British expert if his host nation’s strategy was a success, he paused before replying carefully: ‘Sweden accidentally did not get a lot wrong.’

This sounds a strange response when the country’s fatality rate is so many times higher than all three of its Scandinavian neighbours (although lower than Britain).

But Prof Franks pointed out that, according to the Imperial College model that sparked Britain’s sudden lockdown, Sweden should have seen between 42,000 and 85,000 deaths.

So far, this country of 10.1 million people has seen 5,763 fatalities, despite the care home carnage and initial high infection rates in some migrant communities.

Anna Mia Ekstrom, a clinical doctor and professor of global infectious disease epidemiology at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet, said the key was to look at trends showing Sweden’s steady decline in cases and deaths since their peak in mid-April.

She argued it may not be possible nor even desirable to restrict infection rates to zero for a sustainable period of time, especially when most people are unaffected by the virus and as long as those most at risk such as the elderly are protected.

Prof Ekstrom believes Stockholm, currently down to ‘two or three’ patients in intensive care in its infectious disease hospitals, may be coming close to herd immunity as shown by the sustained fall in critically ill patients and fatalities – and that this is a consequence of avoiding lockdown.

The capital, home to a million people, was the worst-hit region because of families bringing back infections from half-term winter breaks in Italy and Spain.

A fifth of residents have antibodies, while a larger proportion may be protected through the response of T-cells, which ‘remember’ infections and kill pathogens that reappear.

‘It is not yet herd immunity but immunity levels have so far been growing steadily,’ said Prof Ekstrom. (Although even Tegnell admitted to me that he was left confused by the ‘mystery of immunity’ with this disease).

Prof Ekstrom added that evidence from elsewhere indicated that lockdowns were unsustainable. ‘You go crazy after a while,’ she said.

‘We have a more acceptable approach that can last a long time since it lets people move around, so their mental and physical health suffer less – though they must stick to social distancing.

'We are in a better situation compared to other countries now, though smaller cluster outbreaks will emerge.

'Lockdown is a blunt, unsustainable and harmful instrument over any prolonged period, especially damaging for younger populations, wider healthcare and the economy, with poorer people hit hardest. Closing down primary schools especially is a huge mistake.’

Perhaps the most popular part of Sweden’s strategy has been the decision to keep most schools open. One joint study with public health authorities in Finland, where almost all pupils were kept out of school for two months, found their differing approaches made no measurable difference to contagion rates.

‘This has strong benefits for parents of small children while avoiding disruption to children’s learning and preventing long-term scarring for the labour market,’ said Karolina Ekholm, former deputy governor of Sweden’s central bank.

We spoke after the release of data showing that Sweden’s economy, which grew marginally in the first quarter of this year, shrunk more than at any point since the Second World War during the pandemic’s three-month peak.

Yet it outperformed most key rivals. It fell 8.6 per cent over the second quarter compared with a 12 per cent fall across the Eurozone. Analysts fear the UK economy may shrink 20 per cent over this period.

‘It’s grim by any normal standards but compared with other parts of Europe they have done well,’ said David Oxley, senior Europe analyst at Capital Economics. Sweden’s big exporters are seeing profits decline smaller than anticipated while there are fewer bankruptcies than feared.

‘If a business can stay open, it’s clearly better than closing,’ said Esbjorn Lundevall, an analyst at Scandinavian bank SEB.

He added that keeping schools open provided a significant economic boost. ‘I worked from home for nine weeks and my children went to school every day, which meant I had higher productivity than if they had remained at home.’

Yet the pandemic is still devastating many small firms as people work from home, stop socialising, lose jobs and rein in spending. Public health modelling indicates Swedes have cut social interactions by more than two-thirds.

I picked five retailers at random while walking through Stockholm’s bohemian Sodermalm district. The outlets sold diverse products: bread, clothes, ice cream and shoes. Trade at all five had crashed, with four owners contemplating closure.

There are, of course, vociferous Swedish critics of this strategy designed to slow rather than stop the spread of coronavirus, including 25 academics who wrote to an American newspaper saying it led to ‘death, grief and suffering’.

There has been fury from people whose relatives died in the care home fiasco. And I came across eight noisy protesters outside a Tegnell press conference demanding the imposition of face masks.

Nicholas Aylott, a political scientist at Sodertorn University, said the approach adopted under a centre-Left coalition government confused the opposition. ‘The Right has been discomforted by the Left’s discovery of libertarianism,’ he said.

One recent survey found eight in ten Swedes still claim to be following official guidelines, while the proportion of people fearing they risk being felled by the virus plunged from 50 per cent in March to just 29 per cent in July.

Certainly every citizen I met on the streets seemed to support the strategy. ‘If we look back in a couple of years I think we will be seen to have handled the situation well,’ said Hans Isoz, an investor in digital companies.

Only time will tell if he is right – and whether more countries should have followed the Swedish path through this cruel pandemic.



Trump's Covid boast is nearer to the truth than his opponents would like to admit

Given that enlightened opinion now pretty well defines itself against whatever Donald Trump says, it is hardly surprising to hear the US president being excoriated for saying in a television interview that the US figures for deaths per cases of Covid were “lower than the world, lower than Europe”.  

That people laugh at him whenever he opens his mouth on Covid-19 – or anything else for that matter – doesn’t change the fact that technically he is correct. He was clear that he was referring to the ratio of deaths to recorded cases of Covid 19 – a metric technically known as the Case Fatality Ratio (CFR).

Sure enough, the US currently has a CFR of 0.033 – which is lower than the world as a whole (0.037) and lower than in the larger European countries. Britain’s CFR is currently 0.15, Italy’s 0.14 and Germany’s 0.043.



Lockdown 'killed two people for every three who died of coronavirus' at peak of outbreak

The UK lockdown killed two people for every three whose deaths had been caused by coronavirus by the beginning of May, new Government figures suggest.

The estimates show that 16,000 people had died through missed medical care by May 1, while coronavirus killed 25,000 in the same period.

The figures include 6,000 people who did not attend A&E at the height of lockdown because of fears they might catch the virus and the feeling they should remain at home because of the "Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives" message.

Likewise, 10,000 people are thought to have died in care homes due to early discharge from hospital and not being able to access critical care.

The report also found that 2,500 lives may have been saved during lockdown because of healthier lifestyles, fewer infectious diseases in children, falls in air pollution and a decrease in road deaths.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


9 August, 2020

The Myth That Lockdowns Stop Pandemics

From the beginning of time, humans have used mythology to make sense of a chaotic natural world. Sir G.L. Gomme dubbed myths “the science of a pre-scientific age.” Folklore provided pre-scientific people a comforting sense of control over nature. To address dry spells, they deployed rain dances. Sunless stretches hindering crops prompted offerings to Helios. Then, our ancestors sat back and waited. The rains always came. The sun always reappeared, validating their “wisdom,” the illusion of control reinforced.

Thanks to science, we know this was pure superstition. Though the same outcomes would have occurred had the tribe taken no action, the tribe leader would still have received credit or blame from his constituents. Similarly, today’s politicians race to take credit -- or place blame -- for COVID-19 “results.” Do politicians really control these outcomes, or are they simply exploiting our ingrained tendencies?

When China first deployed lockdown in January to “defeat COVID-19,” The Washington Post approvingly quoted a Georgetown University professor as saying, “The truth is those kinds of lockdowns are very rare and never effective…”

In March, Imperial College London's dire projections influenced the White House, but a careful reading of the advice contained in the Imperial College report reveals that its authors knew lockdown alone could not eliminate any infections, only delay them: “The more successful a strategy is at temporary suppression,” it stated, “the larger the later epidemic is predicted to be in the absence of vaccination, due to lesser build-up of herd immunity.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pandemic planning documents state non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing are ineffective once a disease infects 1% of a region's population. Literature on this subject is unanimous worldwide. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control:

“There are no historical observations or scientific studies that support the confinement by quarantine of groups of possibly infected people for extended periods in order to slow the spread. It is hard to imagine that measures like those within the category of social distancing would not have some positive impact by reducing transmission of a human respiratory infection . . . However, the evidence base supporting each individual measure is often weak.”

Decades of evidence corroborates this. In 1969, a group of men overwintering in Antarctica experienced a spontaneous respiratory virus outbreak during their 17th week of isolation. Similarly, COVID-19 appeared on an Argentinian naval ship on the 35th day of its voyage, following a 14-day isolation of captain and crew.

Nature always finds a way. No respiratory virus ever needed a “lockdown” to dissipate. What it needs is herd immunity, preferably sooner than later, preferably developed by the young and healthy to minimize mortality. Politicians know the disease will eventually leave, yet they strive to convince a critical mass that their actions -- modern-day versions of the rain dance -- brought about that result. They count on us behaving like renowned psychologist B.F. Skinner’s superstitious pigeons.

“A pigeon is … put into a cage. A food hopper may be swung into place … so that the pigeon can eat from it … If a clock is [set] to present the hopper at regular intervals with no reference whatsoever to the bird’s behavior, operant conditioning usually takes place. The bird tends to learn whatever response it is making when the hopper appears. The experiment might be said to demonstrate a sort of superstition. The bird behaves as if there were a causal relation between its behavior and the presentation of food, although such a relation is lacking.”

Publicly available data shows no causal relationship between government orders and COVID-19 mortality outcomes. Sweden's all-cause, per-capita mortality for 2020 is approximately 290 per million above the prior five-year average, while lockdown-loving New Jersey's is almost 1,900 per million above the prior five-year average, and Michigan's is over 700 per million. (In case you suspect Sweden “naturally” locked down on its own, mobility data reveals it didn’t.) The mainstream media does not report this. Instead, its energetic smearing of Sweden, coupled with its pseudo-scientific insistence that lockdowns do anything more than delay the inevitable, helps politicians exploit the human tendency to mythologize.

We are faced with a virus with a 997-out-of-1,000 survival rate. We have vanquished fiercer adversaries. We can rid ourselves of this plague less painfully by remembering one simple truth: neither we, nor our politicians, have control over death.



TV commentator, Andrew Bolt, leads lockdown dissent in Australia

Andrew Bolt has doubled down on his argument that Covid-19 restrictions should be lifted because they are destroying the economy “to save aged-care residents from dying a few months earlier”.

Writing in the Herald Sun this week, Bolt noted that most people dying of the virus were over 80.

“We don’t crash this economy just to stop the young getting a stuffy nose,” he said. “Note: 40 per cent of aged-care home residents die within nine months. The average stay is just under three years.

“So Victoria’s bans are doing huge damage to – essentially – save aged-care residents from dying a few months earlier.”

Attacked by ABC presenter Michael Rowland for his “disgraceful” suggestion, Bolt defended himself on his Sky program on Tuesday night, saying the breakfast host was indulging in “woolly thinking” and “fake sentimentality”. His critics were typically leftwing and did not have a good heart, Bolt said, but a “weak head”.

The chief executive of the Council on the Ageing, Ian Yates, said Bolt’s argument was totally unacceptable.

“It’s an attitude that certain kinds of lives are disposable,” Yates told Weekly Beast. “Logically the next step would be to ask, ‘Why do we have nursing homes at all, why don’t we just bang them on the head?’”

As the pandemic has worsened, Bolt’s rhetoric has sometimes been overtaken. “Not a single person under 40 has died,” he said on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, announced a man in his 30s had died.

“A lot of people are very upset with me,” Bolt said in an editorial on Sky News. “What I wrote was confronting, some thought it was brutal, but it was also absolutely true.”

Bolt’s rhetoric is echoed by Sky News Australia’s Alan Jones and the Australian’s economics editor, Adam Creighton. They all rail against Victoria’s stay-at-home orders, and the premier, Daniel Andrews.

Bolt’s stablemate at the Herald Sun and Sky News, columnist Rita Panahi, has said the health measures are “draconian” and people who back Andrews are “in the thralls of Stockholm syndrome”.

Jones says mask-wearing is “alarmism” and “ineffectual” and Australia’s death rate does not warrant it. “Only a mad person would believe a lockdown will wipe out the virus,” he said when masks were made compulsory.

Now in his fifth week of broadcasting a new show on Sky News, Jones is averaging around 70,000 viewers each night, which for comparison is one-tenth of the audience for ABC News at 7pm. Nine and Seven news bulletins at 6pm sit above 1.1 million.

But his somewhat strident takes are getting a wider audience through follow-up news stories on news.com.au and posts on social media.



There's a Mountain of Evidence That Hydroxychloroquine Is an Effective Treatment for COVID-19

I’m convinced that if a rabid leftist was dying of thirst and President Trump offered him water, he’d refuse to drink it.

This is perhaps the best analogy for what’s happening right now with hydroxychloroquine, a decades-old malaria drug that has repeatedly shown to be an effective treatment for COVID-19, but that Democrats and the media have relentlessly dismissed ever since President Trump first touted it back in March as a possible game-changer. The media accused Trump of “practicing medicine without a license” simply for pointing out that the drug showed promise in some small studies. A Democratic state lawmaker in Ohio said that Trump should be tried for “crimes against humanity” for touting the drug’s potential. The New York Times even alleged that Trump’s motivation for touting it was self-serving because he holds “a small personal financial interest” in Sanofi, even though the drug is out of patent, and he only owned $29 – $435 in the stock as part of a mutual fund.

The media largely ignored success stories from coronavirus patients who recovered after being treated with the drug. In April, Democrat State Rep. Karen Whitsett from Detroit, Mich., credited the drug and President Trump with saving her life. Other coronavirus patients have reported dramatic recoveries after taking the drug.

But none of this mattered.

Studies showing the drug as ineffective were covered excessively, such as the Veterans Affairs study in April, which found a higher mortality rate with patients given the drug. The study was deeply flawed, as the sickest patients were disproportionately administered the drug. It was a deeply flawed, non-peer-reviewed study that had no business being reported on. Two other studies followed linking hydroxychloroquine to higher mortality, but those studies were based on faulty data, and two well-respected medical journals had to retract one of them.

Steven Hatfill, a veteran virologist, noted at RealClearPolitics that “There are now 53 studies that show positive results of hydroxychloroquine in COVID infections. There are 14 global studies that show neutral or negative results — and 10 of them were of patients in very late stages of COVID-19, where no antiviral drug can be expected to have much effect.”

Hatfill continued, “Of the remaining four studies, two come from the same University of Minnesota author. The other two are from the faulty Brazil paper, which should be retracted, and the fake Lancet paper, which was.”

“Two recent, large, early-use clinical trials have been conducted by the Henry Ford Health System and at Mount Sinai showing a 51% and 47% lower mortality, respectively, in hospitalized patients given hydroxychloroquine. A recent study from Spain published on July 29, two days before Margaret Sullivan’s strafing of ‘fringe doctors,’ shows a 66% reduction in COVID mortality in patients taking hydroxychloroquine. No serious side effects were reported in these studies and no epidemic of heartbeat abnormalities.”

One example Hatfill cited that shows the drug has been effective in Switzerland, which briefly banned hydroxychloroquine after the bogus studies linking the drug to higher mortality rates came out.

What happened? Just look at the graph.

“Looking at the evolution curve of this index for Switzerland,” explain Michel Jullian and Xavier Azalbert for FranceSoir, “we note a ‘wave of excess lethality’ of two weeks from June 9th to 22nd, with a lag of a dozen days compared to the period of suspension of the use of hydroxychloroquine by WHO. This demonstrates, without possible rebuttal, the effect of stopping the delivery and use of this drug in Switzerland (country which follows the recommendations of the WHO, based in Geneva). During the weeks preceding the ban, the nrCFR index fluctuated between 3% and 5%. Some 13 days after the start of the prohibition, the nrCFR index increases considerably to be between 10 and 15% for 2 weeks. Some 12 days after the end of the prohibition, the lethality falls back to a lower level.”

Switzerland is hardly the only country that has shown the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine. “Millions of people are taking or have taken hydroxychloroquine in nations that have managed to get their national pandemic under some degree of control,” explains Hatfill.

The best way to show this is to compare deaths per capita in countries that are widely using hydroxychloroquine and those that aren’t.

How much more proof is needed that Trump Derangement Syndrome from the media has resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths? Most studies show hydroxychloroquine can be an effective treatment for COVID-19. Countries that are widely using it early in the progression of the disease have had significantly better outcomes in mortality.

How many lives were lost because the Democrats and the media claimed that taking hydroxychloroquine would kill you? They want the public to blame Trump for the 160,000 deaths that have resulted from the virus, but in reality, the death count would be much, much lower had they put their rabid Trump Derangement Syndrome on hold for the greater good and had an open mind about hydroxychloroquine.

President Trump needs to be pointing this out daily.



July Jobs Report Smashes Expectations Despite COVID-19

The July jobs report shows the economy beating expectations yet again, even as the country navigates COVID-19. The U.S. economy added 1.8 million jobs in the month of July, and unemployment fell to 10.2 percent from the previous 11.1 percent. Payrolls rose 1.76 million in July, beating a projection of 1.48; wages rose a slight .02 percent.

President Trump continues to fight to bring the American economy back, and alleviate the damage caused by COVID-19. Since the massive job loss began at the beginning of COVID-19, 9 million jobs have been recovered. July's positive report comes as Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are in the midst of negotiations over a second Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) stimulus package.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


7 August, 2020

Sweden suffers record economic plunge despite lighter lockdown

What is not mentioned below is that Sweden probably had both its stage 1 and stage 2 infection episodes all at once -- leaving very few people for the virus to infect.

Another way of saying that is that Sweden is probably pretty close to herd immunity -- meaning that almost all those who were significantly susceptible to the virus have had contact with it but not been infected.  And because they were not infected they will not pass it on.  So even the living remainder of those people who are seriously susceptible will not get it.

That puts them miles ahead of any other nation..  There is at the moment an element of speculation in that because many of the uninfected probably have a a strong natural immunity that leaves no trace of contact with the virus -- even though there was contact.  Time will tell

Sweden’s light-touch lockdown failed to spare its economy from a historic plunge in GDP as Covid-19 triggered a collapse in exports and spending.

Output contracted by a record 8.6pc in the second quarter compared with the previous three months, but the Nordic nation suffered a much smaller hit than many other European economies.

Despite some of the most relaxed Covid-19 restrictions in the world, its exporters were hit by tumbling global demand and household spending slumped as the virus struck.

“The economic crunch over the first half of the year is in a different league entirely to the horror shows elsewhere in Europe,” said David Oxley at Capital Economics.

It is “still likely to be among the best of a bad bunch this year”, he said, pointing to signs of a rebound at the start of the third quarter.

While the hit to GDP was lower than the 12pc slump in the eurozone in the second quarter, Sweden's Nordic neighbours have managed to avoid both a health and economic crisis.

The figures come amid declining support in Sweden for the strategy not to use a mandatory strict lockdown to contain the virus. The controversial approach relied on voluntary social distancing, bans on large gatherings, care home restrictions and table service in bars and restaurants.

Sweden has recorded almost 6,000 Covid deaths compared with about 250 in Norway and just over 600 in Denmark, giving it one of the world's highest death rates.

Prime minister Stefan Löfven has launched an inquiry into the handling of the pandemic. “We have thousands of dead. Now the question is how Sweden should change, not if,” he admitted when announcing the probe in late June.

Torbjörn Isaksson, chief analyst at Nordea Markets, warned that it was “too early to evaluate how different strategies to deal with Covid-19 have affected the economies”.

“Swedish GDP contracted much less in the first half of the year than for instance in the euro area, while some of our Nordic neighbours probably fared better than Sweden,” he said.

The OECD has predicted that Sweden will suffer a 6.7pc plunge in GDP this year if there is only one significant Covid wave. Norway and Denmark expect a smaller 6pc and 5.8pc hit while also containing the virus.

There is also growing evidence that stemming the health crisis is the key to strong recoveries, with life returning to relative normality in countries that successfully stemmed outbreaks.

Households could slam the brakes on consumption if they fear the virus is surging. Worried consumers in the US, for example, have curbed spending as cases surge, while some states have been forced to roll back reopenings. The same could happen in Europe if fears of a second wave on the Continent are realised.

For now, however, the recovery in Sweden is taking shape. Neal Kilbane at Oxford Economics said the Swedish economy had bottomed out and was starting to recover.

“Private sector production ended four consecutive months of decline by expanding by 0.7pc month-on-month in June, while July’s composite PMI increased above 50 and into expansionary territory for the first time since February,” he said.

Sweden will avoid the collapse in output seen in much of Europe, but its Nordic neighbours have shown that containing the virus does not necessarily trigger economic collapse.



What We Know Now About Hydroxychloroquine to Treat COVID-19

Early in health officials’ response to the pandemic, one drug offered hope of a safe, widely available, and cheap therapeutic that would break the death grip that COVID-19 held on the world.

However, after its promised efficacy didn’t materialize in large, statistically significant numbers, enthusiasm for the drug, hydroxychloroquine, quickly waned. Why, then, has it made its way back into the headlines?

When it was first suggested that hydroxychloroquine may be an effective antiviral against the new coronavirus, which scientists call SARS-CoV-2, the U.S. government purchased and delivered the drug by the millions of doses even before research could prove its efficacy.

At the time, what scarce data was available suggested it would work, and waiting much longer would’ve been unethical. After all, the drug has a decadeslong history of use to treat malaria.

But with those millions of doses being administered, clinicians found only mixed results. Some, as in the early French trial, found tremendous success, while many others found no clinical benefit.

Thus, the buzz surrounding hydroxychloroquine began to die down and it nearly was forgotten in the news cycle, until early July when the results of 2,500-person study were published by the Henry Ford COVID-19 Task Force.

That study found that among those who received hydroxychloroquine, the mortality was 13.5%. This compares to those who received none of the studied drugs, among whom the mortality was 26.4%.

The group of patients who received hydroxychloroquine alone suffered about half the mortality of the baseline group. Note that this is different from saying hydroxychloroquine “was responsible for reducing mortality by half.”

The Ford study is a retrospective observational study, which means it looks back on cases that already have happened. These studies often can gather a large amount of data, but they tell only correlation rather than causation. Although it’s a positive study for the drug, it adds to a growing body of mixed results.

To tell definitively whether hydroxychloroquine is responsible for the reduction in mortality, what’s required is a randomized controlled trial. That is, a prospective study designed to test the direct effect of a drug or intervention.

One such randomized controlled trial was published in July in the New England Journal of Medicine, which also put hydroxychloroquine back in the news. The study, of 507 patients with confirmed COVID-19, found there was no significant difference in clinical outcome with the addition of hydroxychloroquine, either with or without azithromycin.

Patients included in this study were hospitalized but did not require more than four liters of supplemental oxygen. This means that the condition of the patients studied was of relatively low severity, and that treatment with hydroxychloroquine began earlier on in the course of the disease.

Therefore, this study was intended to test the conditions for which hydroxychloroquine has been proposed to be used and found it to have no clinical benefit over the “standard of care.”

But the researchers noted several limitations to their study. For instance, the study was not blinded, which could have skewed the results, and there was difficulty with adherence to the treatment regimen, which could have affected the outcomes.

Furthermore, hydroxychloroquine with or without azithromycin was compared to the “standard of care,” which at the time of the study, in March, was not very standard. Physicians were free to use other drugs such as steroids, immunomodulators, or other antibiotics.

So hydroxychloroquine in this study did no better than other drugs, but it is difficult to say that hydroxychloroquine had zero effect when its effect may have been matched or covered up by other drugs considered “standard of care” at the time.

As if it weren’t already confusing enough, few studies have included zinc as part of the treatment regimen along with hydroxychloroquine. Zinc is an essential mineral that is important for immune function, and may have some direct antiviral properties that some researchers propose would be amplified when used in conjunction with hydroxychloroquine.

Researchers at New York University Langone Health, a medical center, began adding zinc to their treatment plans for COVID-19 patients. In a study of 932 patient cases, the medical center found that the addition of zinc to hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin was associated with a decrease in mortality in patients who were not admitted to the intensive care unit.

Because this also was a retrospective study, it can tell only correlation and not causation.

That said, it’s a promising result that suggests hydroxychloroquine might need supplemental zinc to be fully effective. This warrants further investigation.

Few published results exist from studies that include zinc, and fewer if any results exist from a clinical trial of zinc with hydroxychloroquine. But several studies of this drug combination are in progress, some of which are expected to conclude as late as next year.

All of this is to say that the science is not yet settled. It is an open question as to whether hydroxychloroquine in combination with any number of other drugs may have a beneficial effect on the disease course of COVID-19.

A great deal of evidence says it doesn’t work, but enough evidence says hydroxychloroquine does work that it would be irresponsible to write it off completely at this time, especially in combination with other drugs. In fact, researchers around the world are conducting hundreds of trials with hydroxychloroquine.

Hydroxychloroquine is dominating the news again for many reasons, not the least of which is that results from several important studies recently have been released. But the angst, the controversy, and cynical politicking around the drug is completely unwarranted.

We don’t know for certain if, and in what manner, hydroxychloroquine works. We should trust clinicians to review the data for themselves, and it would behoove the media, the politicians, and the public to let the science play out.



Here's What Happened When a Reporter Experimented with Mail-In Ballots

Because of the Wuhan coronavirus, many states are opting to vote by mail. The goal is to keep people from flocking to the polls and creating large crowds. Conservatives have frequently talked about the issue of voter fraud and the potential for votes to become lost or stolen.

A reporter from WRDW in Pennsylvania decided to conduct an experiment. The reporter's team set up a PO Box and mailed numerous sets of fake ballots all across Philadelphia. The idea was to simulate people returning ballots to the local election office. They initially mailed 100 mock ballots. Two days later, they mailed another 100 ballots. The PO box was checked a week later.

When the reporter opened up the PO box, there was a slip saying the box owner had to pick up the mail from behind the counter. When the reporter went to retrieve the mail, the postmaster told him there was nothing back there.

"I don't see anything there for you," the woman behind the counter said.

The reporter eventually talked to a manager, explained what they were doing and suddenly she found a box of mock ballots that were "somewhere else."

As the reporter went through the mail, it was discovered they obtained two pieces of someone else's mail, including a birthday card.

The worst part: 21 percent of all the mock ballots hadn't materialized after four days. The first batch, which had been sent out a week prior, also had some ballots missing.

"So out of our 100 ballots, 97 arrived, which sounds pretty good, unless you consider the fact that means that three people that tried to vote by mail in our mock election were, in fact, disenfranchised by mail," the reporter stated.

Three percent may not sound like a lot, but it can be pivotal, especially when elections are close.

The other issue: 24 states allow voters to request ballots less than a week before the election, meaning they're not going to make it back in time to be counted.

And when the reporter talked with people in the community, quite a few shared concerns about their ballots "getting lost in the mail."

This is proof that in-person voting must happen and the integrity of the election is at stake. Democrats say they want proof, here it is. There's not much more solid evidence than this experiment. If it's happening in one city, it's almost guaranteed to be happening in places across the nation.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


6 August, 2020

Did lockdowns work? evidence says no

With talk of ordering more widespread shutdowns to fight the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, it is worth taking note of a paper released over the weekend on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) by Prof. Christian Bjørnskov of Aarhus University in Denmark. The paper is “Did Lockdown Work? An Economist’s Cross-Country Comparison.”

The abstract is both direct and concise (a rarity in academic writing):

I explore the association between the severity of lockdown policies in the first half of 2020 and mortality rates. Using two indices from the Blavatnik Centre’s Covid 19 policy measures and comparing weekly mortality rates from 24 European countries in the first halves of 2017-2020, and addressing policy endogeneity in two different ways, I find no clear association between lockdown policies and mortality development.

The main text of the paper reviews a couple other recent studies that reach the same conclusion, but some of Prof. Bjørnskov’s language in his conclusion leads me to think not all Danes are as far gone as the cliches might lead us to suggest:

The lockdowns in most Western countries have thrown the world into the most severe recession since World War II and the most rapidly developing recession ever seen in mature market economies. They have also caused an erosion of fundamental rights and the separation of powers in large part of the world as both democratic and autocratic regimes have misused their emergency powers and ignored constitutional limits to policy-making. It is therefore important to evaluate whether and to which extent the lockdowns have worked as officially intended: to suppress the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and prevent deaths associated with it. Comparing weekly mortality in 24 European countries, the findings in this paper suggest that more severe lockdown policies have not been associated with lower mortality. In other words, the lockdowns have not worked as intended. . .

Although much has been claimed about Sweden’s relatively high mortality rate, compared to the other Nordic countries, the present data show that the country experienced 161 fewer deaths per million in the first ten weeks, and 464 more deaths in weeks 11-22. In total, Swedish mortality rates are 14 percent higher than in the preceding three years, which is slightly more than France, but considerably fewer than Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom that all implemented much stricter policies.

The problem at hand is therefore that evidence from Sweden as well as the evidence presented here does not suggest that lockdowns have significantly affected the development of mortality in Europe. It has nevertheless wreaked economic havoc in most societies and may lead to a substantial number of additional deaths for other reasons. A British government report from April for example assessed that a limited lockdown could cause 185,000 excess deaths over the next years (DHSC, 2020). Evaluated as a whole, at a first glance, the lockdown policies of the Spring of 2020 therefore appear to be substantial long-run government failures.

Like I say, I think I like this guy.



Why the coronavirus nightmare may soon be over

Matt Ridley writes from Britain

Like the ancient mariner, the virus refuses to leave us alone. Resurging in Blackburn, Spain, and America, it is still going to be around here when the winter comes. As we head indoors, it will be back for a dreaded second wave, disguised among a host of colds and flus. Yet I am now optimistic that the nightmare will end this year or at least by the spring. Here are five reasons.

First, vaccine trials were promising. Having proved safe and capable of raising both a T-cell response and an antibody response, Oxford University’s vaccine, developed in collaboration with Astrazeneca, is now more likely to succeed than to fail, so long as its side effects are manageable in the elderly. And behind it comes a stream of other vaccines, some of which will surely work.

The second reason for hope is that, as Oxford University’s epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta has argued, herd immunity may be achieved more easily than we first thought. Indeed, from the way that infections have continued to dwindle despite lessening social distancing it seems probable that herd immunity has already been achieved in London at least. Half the population could be immune already because of recent exposure to coronavirus colds, while children seem to resist catching Covid-19, let alone passing it on. As the chief medical officer Chris Whitty has conceded, the epidemic was already in retreat before lockdown began. That is because the virus depends heavily on a few superspreaders, and pre-lockdown measures we were taking in March are remarkably effective: no handshakes, frequent hand washing, no large gatherings and so on.

So the third reason for optimism is that as long as we continue with these measures then this virus will struggle to keep spreading in the community. The one place where the virus did spread with horrible ease was in care homes and hospitals. Why was this? T-cell senescence is an issue, so old people’s immune systems are just not as good at coping with this kind of infection, and there were dreadful policy mistakes made, like stopping testing people, clearing patients out of hospitals to care homes without tests, and assuming no asymptomatic transmission. Healthcare and care home staff were not properly protected and were allowed to go from site to site. Many were infected and became carriers.

The fourth cause for cheer is therefore that now we know about asymptomatic transmission, we have more protective equipment and we have a better, if still imperfect, capacity to test, track and isolate cases, it is likely that the hospital-acquired epidemic of the spring will not be repeated.

My fifth excuse for being hopeful is that we now know better how to treat people who get seriously ill. Ventilation is not necessarily the answer, blood clotting is a real threat, making patients lie face down is helpful, dexamethasone can save lives and some antiviral drugs are showing promise.

These are reasons that even if a lot of people catch the virus this winter, fewer will die. Colds and flu viruses usually peak in mid winter when we are indoors. Viruses survive longer in colder and drier conditions, and centrally heated air dries out our protective mucus membranes. Covid-19 will certainly be hoping to peak then. But Australia offers a glimmer of reassurance. It’s winter there now, and this is proving to be the country’s weakest flu season on record. From January to the end of June, 21,000 Australians were diagnosed with flu. Last year more than 132,000 people were diagnosed in the same period. Social distancing is presumably the main reason. If that is repeated here, then not only will Covid have fewer flus and colds to hide behind, but it too will struggle to mount a seasonal peak. And fewer people will die from flu.

If we can beat this virus, then we can beat most respiratory ones. The ridiculous way in which we tolerate cold-spreaders, mocking them for taking a day off and praising them for trudging into work while feeling miserable, has to stop. It should be socially unacceptable to go to a party with a cold, let alone kiss the host on the cheek when you get there. Our children’s permanently runny noses need not be inevitable.

Ten years from now, I predict that we will not only have defeated Covid-19, but made colds rarer too.

Our bigger challenge this winter will be to tackle the backlog of treating cancer and other medical problems delayed by Covid. And to unleash economic growth to help those who lost their jobs.



What's the risk of catching COVID-19 on public transportation?

The chances of catching COVID-19 on public transportation depend a lot on where you sit, with those closest to an infected person at the highest risk and those farther away at a relatively low risk, a new study suggests.

The study, which included thousands of passengers who traveled on China's high-speed trains, known as G trains, found that the rate of transmission to nearby passengers varied from near 0% to about 10%, with those who sat closest to infected passengers for the longest periods at the highest risk.

"Our study shows that although there is an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission on trains, a person's seat location and travel time in relation to an infectious person can make a big difference as to whether it is passed on," study lead author Dr. Shengjie Lai, a research fellow at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. "The findings suggest that during the COVID-19 epidemic it is important to reduce the density of passengers and promote personal hygiene measures, the use of face coverings and possibly carry out temperature checks before boarding."

Indeed, other recent studies from around the world suggest that when passengers wear masks and adhere to social-distancing guidelines, public transportation may pose a relatively low risk of infection.

For example, in Paris, public health officials found that of the 386 recent clusters of COVID-19 in the city between May and mid-July, none were linked with public transportation, according to The New York TImes. Similar findings were seen in both Tokyo and parts of Austria, the Times reported.

In the new study, published July 29 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, researchers analyzed information from passengers who traveled on G trains between mid-December 2019 and late February 2020, which covers the period from before COVID-19 was identified to the peak of the outbreak in China.

The researchers identified more than 2,300 passengers known as "index patients" who developed COVID-19 within 14 days of their train trip, and more than 72,000 passengers who sat near these cases — within three rows (widthwise) and five columns (lengthwise) of the index patients.

Overall, 234 of the 72,000 nearby passengers developed a COVID-19 infection linked to their train ride. That means the average "attack rate" — or percent who tested positive out of the overall group — was about 0.32%.

Those who sat directly next to an infected person had the highest risk of contracting the infection, with an average attack rate of 3.5%.

For those sitting in the same row, but not necessarily adjacent to the infected person, the average attack rate was 1.5%. That's about 10 times higher than the attack rate for people sitting just one or two rows back from the infected person, the study found.

The amount of time a person traveled also affected their risk — on average, the attack rate increased 0.15% for every hour a person traveled with an infected passenger; and for those sitting next to an infected person, the attack rate increased 1.3% every hour.

But after an infected person disembarked the train, those who sat in the same seat seemed to be at a low risk of infection. Among the 1,342 people who sat in a seat previously occupied by an infected person, just one person later contracted the disease, an attack rate of just 0.075%, according to CTV News.

The researchers concluded that to prevent COVID-19 spread, passengers should be seated at least two seats apart within the same row, and limit travel time to 3 hours.

"We hope it can help to inform authorities globally about measures needed to guard against the virus and in turn help to reduce its spread," said study co-author Andy Tatem, a professor of spatial demography and epidemiology at the University of Southampton and director of WorldPop, a collaboration of scientists that works to provide data on human population distributions.

The authors noted that their study had limitations. For example, the researchers could not prove that the 234 passengers definitely contracted the virus on the train, although public health officials had determined that this was the most likely source of their infection, CTV News reported. In addition, the study did not have information on whether the passengers were wearing protective gear such as masks, the authors said.



President Trump Signs Executive Order Instructing Federal Agencies to 'Hire American'

President Trump signed an executive order that aims to prioritize American workers on Monday, hoping to promote “hiring American,” by barring federal agencies from replacing domestic workers with foreign contractors. The order targets job outsourcing within federal agencies that replaces American jobs with inexpensive foreign labor via H-1B visas.

“We believe jobs must be offered to American workers first,” the president said.

This executive order mirrors President Trump’s commitment to putting American workers first, especially given the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 that is felt by Americans in all job sectors.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


5 August, 2020

Top WHO disease detective warns against return to national lockdowns

The World Health Organisation has urged countries not to reimpose national lockdowns in an attempt to stem the spread of Covid-19 due to the health, social and economic repercussions.

In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, who helps lead the WHO’s pandemic response team as the head of the emerging diseases unit, said that countries should instead adopt localised strategies.

By the end of March, as the coronavirus outbreak spiralled out of control across the globe, well over 100 countries had imposed a full or partial lockdown – affecting billions of people.

Dr Van Kerkhove described these measures as a “blunt, sheer force instrument” that bought countries time to build the public health infrastructure needed to tackle Covid-19.

But reflecting on events since the WHO declared a global health emergency six months ago – when fewer than 8,000 cases and 170 deaths had been reported – she added that the economic, health and social costs of lockdown have been “massive”.

“Lockdowns are not something that WHO recommended, but they needed to be used in a number of countries because the outbreaks were growing so quickly,” Dr Van Kerkhove said. “But we're hopeful that countries will not need to implement national lockdowns again.”

The 43-year-old, who has become a familiar face having appeared alongside WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at press briefings for months, added that countries should not rely on a jab as a silver bullet to bring the raging pandemic to a close.

“In the next six months we will not have a vaccine,” she said frankly. “I know there's a lot of work that's being accelerated in terms of having a safe and effective vaccine, but we cannot wait until next year for one to come around.”

Instead Dr Van Kerkhove urged countries to make use of the tools currently available to adopt a “tailored, specific, localised” approach to contain new clusters of infections.

“The speed of the science on this has been extraordinary… we have tools right now that can prevent transmission and save lives,” Dr Van Kerkhove said, referencing measures including contacting tracing, widespread testing, equipping health facilities, physical distancing and wearing face masks.

“It isn't one measure alone, all of the existing measures need to be used together. And it works. The reason we keep saying that it works is because we've seen this happen, we have seen countries bring these outbreaks under control,” she said.

It is now seven months since Dr Van Kerkhove – who has spent decades training as an epidemiologist, including stints at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Imperial College – received an email alert that a ‘pneumonia of unknown origin’ had been detected in Wuhan, China.

“I was on holiday for Christmas with my family in the US,” the mother of two told the Telegraph from her office at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. “I immediately sent a note back asking some questions, which I always do… we always push countries for more information, China is not unique to that.

“My initial feeling was that this could be localised, that this would be localised. But I’m trained to think that this is an emerging infectious disease… so I definitely knew it could get bigger, and planned for that.”

Since then the scenarios Dr Van Kerhove’s team prepared for but dreaded have been realised. The pandemic has spiralled out of control internationally, with infections surpassing 17.6 million and deaths 680,000, not to mention the devastating social and economic reverberations.

And the epidemiologist, used to working behind the scenes, has instead been thrown into the limelight, having fielded hundreds of questions from journalists and the public at regular virtual briefings. At points this role as the public face of the WHO, which was not one Dr Van Kerkhove “ever expected” to have, has landed her in hot water.

Though praised in January when she was one of the first WHO officials to raise the alarm about potential human-to-human transmission publicly, comments that appeared to suggest asymptomatic spread is rare provoked fierce criticism in June – though Dr Van Kerkhove maintains that much of the reporting misunderstood her words.

“I watched videos of myself making a statement, and then some newscaster saying, ‘WHO says asymptomatic transmission doesn't happen’, which I've never said, which WHO has never said,” she said. “It was a challenge – I had never been the brunt of such criticism.”

Dr Van Kerkhove added that her colleagues, husband and two children – aged nine and one – kept her going. “My nine year old drew rainbows for everybody at the office because he wanted everyone to know that we were doing a good job,” she said. “I’m inspired by acts of kindness.”

The epidemiologist is not the only member of the team to attract criticism during the pandemic. Most markedly, Donald Trump has consistently accused the WHO, particularly Dr Tedros, of being “China-centric” – a claim most public health experts have dismissed as “scapegoating”.

The fallout, which began in early April when the US President announced he was temporarily suspending funding to the UN health agency because it “failed in its basic duty” to respond to Covid-19, came to a head earlier this month when Trump’s administration formally withdrew from the WHO.

As a “proud American” Dr Van Kerkhove said she was “disappointed” by the decision, but insisted that the worsening situation in the US, where more than 66,000 new cases have been reported every day in the last fortnight, could still be rectified.

“I think even countries that haven't done as well still can turn it around, and I believe that the United States can and the United States will,” she said.

But her biggest fear is complacency, which could undermine efforts to control this pandemic – and the next one.

“This is a wake up call about pandemics and we must do more to be ready,” Dr Van Kerkhove warned. “It isn't a matter of if, it's a matter of when something like this will happen again.

“It’s quite traumatic what everyone is going through at the moment – we need to use this as a way to accelerate the change that is necessary.”



These ‘Inconvenient’ Data Patterns Destroy the Established Coronavirus Narrative

If I’m being told I shouldn’t or can’t go out and that I’m not allowed to breathe free air when I do, the evidence on the ground should damn-well comport with the “logic” they are giving us to justify their extreme measures. But they aren’t, not in any observable, logical way.

Let’s start with Sweden, that quasi-socialist winter wonderland of woke snowflakes that somehow decided to go against the grain on COVID and consequently went seemingly overnight from the world’s darling to the world’s next Khmer Rouge. Not only did Sweden NOT implement draconian lockdowns when this whole thing started, they never even mandated mask-wearing (oh, the horror!). According to nearly all the “experts,” Sweden was supposed to be something like a scene out of the Book of Revelation by now, complete with rivers of blood and bodies piled up to horses’ bridles. Hospitals were going to be overrun. People were going to be dying in the streets. There was going to be carnage unlike nothing anyone had ever seen...

Except, none of that happened. Not even close. Absent an early Cuomo-style failure to adequately protect nursing homes that hurt their numbers early on, that country’s strategy was a tremendous success. Sweden implemented a few sustainable, common-sense measures, bent toward the storm, and rode it through. And now, they are reaping the rewards. Last week, Bloomberg reported on the country’s “‘Promising’ Covid-19 Data as New Cases Plunge.” State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell and the Health Agency of Sweden report declining cases since a late June peak and a death rate that has plunged right along with it. “That Sweden has come down to these levels is very promising,” said Tegnell. “The curves are going down and the curves for the seriously ill are beginning to approach zero.”

Everyone from the lamestream media to President Trump himself disparaged Sweden’s approach, and they were all ridiculously, cartoonishly wrong. Now that Sweden has obtained some degree of herd immunity and is back to some sense of relative normalcy, where do they go to get their apology?

Other inconvenient patterns exist closer to home. Consider South Dakota, where its courageous leader and (hopefully) future presidential candidate, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, steadfastly refused to shut down her state nor require masks. Aside from a bad outbreak in a meat-packing plant early on, the infection and death rate in that admittedly less population-dense state has remained consistently low.

Want a more populous state? How about Georgia, where Brian Kemp was supposedly conducting an “experiment in human sacrifice” by reopening his state too soon and not mandating masks at the state level. Cases did rise (but haven’t spiked) nearly TWO MONTHS after their lockdown ended, but deaths are still below 4,000 statewide and are nowhere near any sort of drastic spike. Now, it even looks like hospitalizations have peaked and are trending down.

For those who insisted we needed New York-style lockdowns in the Sunbelt states of Arizona, Texas, and Florida to fight those surges, consider this data pattern from former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson: “AZ/FL/TX: 60 million people, no lockdowns (now), 23,000 peak hospitalizations, 500ish (hopefully) peak daily deaths. New York: 20 million people, hard lockdown, 18,000 peak hospitalizations, 1000 peak daily deaths. Let’s lockdown forever!” Indeed.

Other narrative-inconvenient data patterns exist in the places that supposedly did things “right.” Japan and even Hong Kong are seeing small case spikes - but big trend changes - despite militaresque adherence to universal masking the entire duration of the pandemic. And then there’s California, land of fruits and nuts, whose governor implemented a statewide mask mandate on June 18. Two weeks later, cases were three times what they were before the mandate and have continued to roll along at around the 10,000 mark every day since. (Have you noticed that leftists who criticize surging red states for not doing “enough” mysteriously leave California out?) Globally, Brazil, India, and Mexico have all experienced significant spikes in cases case and death rates lately despite early masking requirements on significant portions of their populations. So apparently, those who told us coronavirus would be pretty much eliminated if we would just wear masks for a few weeks were either ignorant or lying or both.

All of the above, along with plenty of other data patterns I didn’t have room to mention, raise the following questions: If lockdowns are the answer, why did Georgia cases rise two months after theirs ended? Why did Sweden never get overwhelmed? If they just work while they’re being implemented, what is to stop the virus when people do come out? If masks work, why is the virus surging in places that implement and strictly enforce their use? Why are places that never masked doing fine?

These data patterns don’t suggest that COVID-19 isn’t dangerous or deadly to some people, but they do suggest that viruses are pretty good at doing what they do and there’s not a lot that humans can do – especially through lockdowns or face coverings – to stop them. Like it or not, the likely only way out is going to be some form of herd immunity. Fortunately, especially with T cells and the fact that many more have had it than the actual case count, we could be much farther along than we think.



Doctors Are Getting Better at Treating Covid-19

When the new coronavirus swept into northern Italy in late February, doctors were so in the dark about how to treat the disease ravaging their patients they asked friends in China to translate clinical guidelines from Mandarin they had found online. “There was everything in there, including traditional Chinese medicine,” recalls Marco Rizzi, the head of the infectious-diseases ward at Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital in Bergamo, a city at the center of Italy’s outbreak. “Now we have more cards to play.” Doctors in Europe say progress in treating people with Covid-19 is helping to reduce fatalities among the sickest patients, a hopeful sign as the region grapples with sporadic flare-ups as it heads through the tourist season and into fall and winter.

Daily clinical experience in hard-hit areas such as Italy and the U.K. as well as rapid scientific research have combined to produce the outline of a treatment strategy—which includes a mix of anti-inflammatory drugs and blood thinners—that doctors in Europe say is saving lives among those hospitalized and the smaller number who need intensive care. “We are doing better,” said Tim Cook, an anesthesiology consultant and honorary professor at the University of Bristol. “But it’s a horrible disease.”

Most cases of Covid-19 are mild and can be treated at home with rest, fluids and common painkillers. But in Europe, around a third of known cases end up in a hospital, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control estimates.

An analysis of multiple studies world-wide by Mr. Cook and colleagues found the proportion of those dying from Covid-19 in intensive care declined to 42% by late May from around 60% in March. Mortality rates are similar for Europe, Asia and North America. Better treatment is important but not the only factor driving that improvement, doctors say. Far fewer people are getting infected than at the peak of the crisis, and more of those who are infected are younger. Health systems are also better prepared and less stressed. Recent days have seen fresh bursts of infection in parts of Spain and Eastern Europe. Should a second wave sweep through the continent, doctors say they are better prepared to treat patients who will need hospital care. Crucially, doctors now know that Covid-19 isn’t just a respiratory disease but can potentially affect the cardiovascular and nervous systems.

The emerging approach focuses on treating a handful of frequently observed symptoms of severe Covid-19. First is delivering enough oxygen. Second is reducing the risk of blood clots. Third is tackling inflammation of the organs and tissues caused by a runaway immune response. Doctors say some patients also need treatment for kidney failure. The range of symptoms in severe cases, and the lingering damage suffered by many who recover, distinguishes Covid-19 from comparable respiratory illnesses, said Daniele Bryden, a senior intensive-care physician in the U.K. and vice dean of Britain’s Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine. “It’s very strange, this disease,” she said. While mechanical ventilation was standard practice among severely sick patients early on, doctors say they have learned to avoid it unless absolutely necessary.

Instead, many patients are given oxygen at high pressure using sophisticated plastic hoods. They are also laid on their stomachs, a technique that boosts lung function. “We learned to make the most of the tools we had,” said Camillo Rossi, who oversees the medical staff at Spedali Civili, a hospital in Lombardy’s city of Brescia that has treated some 3,000 Covid-19 patients. Doctors at European hospitals learned early on about the benefits of dexamethasone, a cheap steroid now widely used on Covid-19 patients with serious respiratory problems.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


4 August, 2020

Sociology professor calls for a ‘sense of proportion’ as he brands Covid-19 a ‘nasty infection’ that ‘simply brought deaths forward by a few weeks’

A leading sociology professor has today called for calm over Covid-19, as he branded the virus a 'nasty infection' that 'simply brought deaths forward be a few weeks'.

Robert Dingwall, professor of sociology at Nottingham Trent University, says there needs to be a 'sense of proportion' over coronavirus.

The killer respiratory virus is thought to contributed to the deaths of more than 45,000 people in the UK and 685,000 worldwide.

But Professor Dingwall says figures show around 80 per cent of victims in the UK already had life-limiting medical condition.

Writing a column in the Daily Express today, he said: 'Covid-19 has been linked to about 50,000 deaths in the first 16 weeks of the UK pandemic - but about 1,000 people normally die every week.

'In the past five weeks, fewer than usual have died. Covid-19 simply bought deaths forward by a few weeks or months.'

He added: 'Six months into this pandemic, we have learnt that it will not wipe out human life on this planet. It is a nasty infection and every death represents a person loved by someone. But it is time for a sense of proportion.

'While some people become seriously ill, and a few die, most shrug it off.'

Professor Dingwall, who previously accused the government of 'terrorising' the UK population with its coronavirus message, also took aim at government scientists in his column. 

Describing them as a 'narrow minded scientific elite', he hit out at the government's lockdown laws, saying they risked 'eradicating' the country's industry, as well as liberty and privacy.

Professor Dingwall was one of the scientists who called for the government to change its two metre-social distancing rules earlier this year in a bid to get the economy moving again.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph in May he was also heavily critical about the government's coronavirus message.

He said: 'We have this very strong message which has effectively terrorised the population into believing that this is a disease that is going to kill you. And mostly it isn't...

'....We have completely lost sight of that in the obsession with deaths.'

It comes as it has today been reported that millions of over 50s could be given orders to stay at home as part of Boris Johnson's 'nuclear plans' to avoid another national lockdown.

The Prime Minister was forced to announce a slow down of the lockdown easing on Friday, with planned relaxations for the leisure and beauty sectors delayed after a rise in Covid-19 cases.

It comes just days after around 4.5million people in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire were hit with fresh lockdown restrictions last week.

The PM is thought to have held a 'war game' session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday to run through possible options for averting another nationwide lockdown that could put the brakes on a potential economic recovery.

Under the proposals, a greater number of people would be asked to take part in the shielding programme, based on their age or particular risk factors that have been identified since March, said the Telegraph.

It could even see those aged between 50 and 70 given 'personalised risk ratings', said the Times, in a move that would add to the 2.2 million who were deemed most vulnerable and asked to shield themselves from society during the spring peak.

The plans could prove controversial as the factors under which the elderly could be asked to self-isolate might be more heavily influenced by age than clinical vulnerabilities.

Also being considered under the proposals is a city-wide lockdown in London which would include restricting travel beyond the M25, as reported by The Sunday Times.

Any 'close contact' services, such as going to the hairdresser, would also be stopped if the capital sees a sudden surge in cases.

The advice for shielding was only lifted on Saturday for those in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and remains in place until August 16 for those shielding in Wales.



Are Lockdowns Necessary? What Data From 10 Countries Show

A new Heritage Foundation special report analyzes the COVID-19 responses of 10 countries, with varying levels of economic freedom, to better understand which policies might have been more effective than others.

Here’s what the report found.

The 10 countries we studied have taken vastly different approaches to handling COVID-19 with varying degrees of success.

The evidence suggests that full lockdowns, such as those implemented in Italy and Norway, are not as effective as the more targeted approaches taken in other countries, such as in South Korea and Iceland.

In fact, as we discuss, those two countries have fared considerably better than the United States has in handling COVID-19 without shutting down their economies.

Another key finding is that Australia and New Zealand, two neighboring countries with similar climates, have had similar outcomes regarding COVID-19, even though they took very different approaches to dealing with the virus.

In particular, New Zealand virtually locked down the entire country in the spring, while Australia took a less restrictive approach.

Yet, both countries have contained the virus at similar levels.

Specifically, Australia had 13,595 COVID-19 cases (0.0534% of its population) and 139 deaths (0.000546% of its population), while New Zealand had 1,556 cases (0.0323% of its population) and 22 deaths (0.000457% of its population). However, New Zealand’s unemployment level is forecast to increase to 9.2% by December, while Australia’s is expected to increase to 7.6% over this same time period.

From a public health perspective, strict lockdowns can cause additional problems.

As 80% of COVID cases do not require hospitalization, when people isolate at home upon contracting COVID-19, they may infect their family members, including those who are at risk.

In fact, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Broward County, Florida, Mayor Dale Holness have both noticed this phenomenon. Cuomo was, in fact, quite surprised, noting: “If you notice, 18% of the people came from nursing homes, less than 1% came from jail or prison, 2% came from the homeless population, 2% from other congregate facilities, but 66% of the people were at home, which is shocking to us.”

Two additional countries that took very different approaches to dealing with COVID-19—and experienced very different outcomes—are South Korea and Italy.

South Korea permitted much of its economy to remain open, choosing instead to engage in aggressive testing and isolating the infected, either via hospitals or isolation centers. South Korea also engages in extensive digital contact tracing to notify people when they have come in contact with others having COVID-19.

As of July 22, South Korea (population of more than 51 million) has had 13,979 cases and 298 deaths (0.0272% and 0.000579% of its population, respectively.)

Italy, on the other hand, pursued a strict lockdown policy when the virus was spreading heavily in the spring. The country has a population of 60 million, comparable to South Korea. As of July 22, however, Italy has had 245,590 cases and 35,097 deaths (0.406% and 0.058% of its population, respectively), orders of magnitude higher than South Korea.

Maintaining a strong economy and protecting public health are not mutually exclusive. And although many states here in the U.S. have pursued strict stay-at-home orders, our country has not done well from either perspective, currently having more than 4 million cases (1.26% of the population) and 148,490 COVID-19-related deaths (0.0449% of the population).

Thus, although it is impossible to control for all of the differences between countries, these figures rank the United States—despite having instituted stay-at-home orders—behind many of the other developed nations we examined.

Moreover, as of July 27, with a first quarter gross domestic product loss of 5%, and a June unemployment rate of 11%, the U.S. should develop a better approach.

For instance, maximum effort here in the U.S. should be concentrated on protecting those at risk, as well as the livelihoods of American families. Among the many countries we examined, our study notes that there are aspects of the South Korean approach that lawmakers can learn from.

When recently asked about the status of the battle with COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “We are certainly not at the end of the game, I’m not even sure we’re halfway through.”

As Heritage Foundation research has discussed, focusing on hot spots, protecting the elderly and most vulnerable, utilizing isolation centers to prevent the virus from spreading, taking advantage of contact tracing, and engaging in appropriate testing are policies lawmakers should consider in the coming months.

With these and other recommendations also suggested by The Heritage Foundation’s National Coronavirus Recovery Commission, we can be well-equipped to win the fight against this very dangerous enemy.



CDC Chief Agrees There’s ‘Perverse’ Economic ‘Incentive’ for Hospitals to Inflate Coronavirus Deaths

United States hospitals have a “perverse” monetary “incentive” to increase their count of coronavirus fatalities, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s director Robert Redfield indicated under questioning from a Republican lawmaker during a House panel hearing on Friday.

Asked to comment on what Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) described as the “perverse incentive” during a hearing by the House Oversight and Reform Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Dr. Redfield responded:

"I think you’re correct in that we’ve seen this in other disease processes too, really in the HIV epidemic, somebody may have a heart attack, but also have HIV — the hospital would prefer the [classification] for HIV because there’s greater reimbursement.

So I do think there’s some reality to that. When it comes to death reporting, though, ultimately, it’s how the physician defines it in the death certificate and … we review all of those death certificates.

So I think, probably it is less operable in the cause of death, although I won’t say there are not some cases. I do think though [that] when it comes to hospital reimbursement issues or individuals that get discharged, there could be some play in that for sure."

According to Congressman Luetkemeyer, Adm. Brett Giroir from the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Department has conceded that there is an economic incentive for hospitals to inflate their coronavirus fatalities.

Giroir “acknowledged that the statistics he is getting from the states are over-inflated,” the Republican lawmakers said.

The admiral testified earlier during Friday’s hearing but was no longer present during Luetkemeyer’s questions about coronavirus deaths.

Across the United States, the seven-day average number of new infections had plateaued as of Thursday evening and even begun to come down in recent days. Meanwhile, new fatalities reported daily, and their seven-day average, continue to go up, but remain below peak levels.

There is a lag of about three weeks or more between infection and death.

As of mid-day Friday, COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) had infected nearly 4.5 million people and killed over 150,000, the Johns Hopkins University tracker revealed.




Commerce Department moves towards curtailing online giants' liability carveout — and not a moment too soon (The Federalist)

Chief of Staff Mark Meadows "not optimistic" on stimulus deal, as lawmakers debate unemployment boost (USA Today)

11,900 U.S. troops leaving Germany; 6,400 returning home (American Military News)

Beyond Russia: FBI director warns of China election interference (Axios)

FDA opens the door to rapid, at-home testing (USA Today)

Not the guinea pig: Majority of people say they won't take a vaccine within first year (New York Post)

Fed holds rates steady, says economic growth is "well below" pre-pandemic level (CNBC)

Seattle residents slam "defund the police" as "radical experiment" during city budget meeting (Fox News)

Policy: Trump administration shouldn't extend DACA amnesty (The Daily Signal)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


3 August, 2020

The land with no face masks: Holland's top scientists say there's no solid evidence coverings work and warn they could even damage the fight against Covid-19

As I walked around the sun-dappled streets of Amsterdam, something felt strange in this world swept by fear and pandemic. There was laughter coming from barges sliding along the famous canals, clusters of cyclists clogged the streets, shoppers dipped into chic boutiques, the barber shops seemed busy and cafes served couples chatting over coffee.

I heard many voices of tourists in bars and restaurants, while even the seedier sides of this celebrated Dutch city had people strolling through them. It took me a moment to realise what was so weird. Then it struck me. It felt like I had stepped back in time, returning to the pre-pandemic normality of a bustling city filled with human beings whose faces were not covered by cloth.

For while 120 countries in the world, including much of Europe, have ordered citizens to wear masks in public places to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the Dutch are doing things differently.

The nation's top scientists, having examined key data and research, have declared there is no firm evidence to back the use of face coverings. Indeed, they argue that wearing the wretched things may actually hamper the fight against disease.

'Face masks in public places are not necessary, based on all the current evidence,' said Coen Berends, spokesman for the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. 'There is no benefit and there may even be negative impact.'

This is a bold but highly controversial stance – especially as fears grow of a second wave sweeping through Europe. Last week, Downing Street joined the global stampede to enforce face masks in public spaces such as shops, supermarkets and stations, following Scotland, Spain and France, along with Holland's neighbouring nations of Belgium and Germany.

'We think masks have a great deal of value,' said Boris Johnson. 'Scientific evaluation of face coverings and their importance in stopping aerosol droplets has been growing. People should wear them in shops.'

But the Dutch disagree – to the delight of all the citizens I spoke with in Amsterdam. 'I hate wearing them,' said Aicha Meziati, 29, in the hip fashion store Das Werk Haus. 'They are horrible. People look like they have nappies on their faces.'

Margriet, a 24-year-old sales assistant in a pop-up drink shop, said it was hard to read people's facial expressions when they wore masks. 'You make contact with people better without them and it is easier to talk to them in the store.'

Holland's position is based on assessments by the Outbreak Management Team, a group of experts advising the government. It first ruled against masks in May and has re-evaluated the evidence several times, including again last week.

It believes they detract from a clear three-pronged message that has kept deaths from coronavirus down to less than half the rate in Britain: wash hands regularly, maintain social distancing of 1.5 metres and stay at home if suffering any symptoms.

The one exception outside of the medical frontline has been on public transport, where masks are mandatory on the basis it is difficult to stay apart on crowded buses, ferries and trains. 'We have seen this approach works,' said Christian Hoebe, a professor of infectious diseases in Maastricht and member of the advisory team. 'Face masks should not be seen as a magic bullet that halts the spread.

'The evidence for them is contradictory. In general, we think you must be careful with face masks because they can give a false sense of security. People think they're immune from disease or stop social distancing. That is very negative.'

Hoebe, head of infectious disease control in Zuid-Limburg, the region hit hardest when the pandemic struck Holland, pointed to a Norwegian study showing 200,000 people must wear surgical masks for one week to stop a single Covid-19 case.

Yet few people have medical masks – in Britain they are rightly preserved for the NHS – while wearers routinely misuse or contaminate their coverings by fitting them incorrectly, failing to change them and touching their faces.

'I was in Belgium recently and saw many people putting them beneath their noses, upside down or under chins', says Hoebe. 'Others stuffed them in their pockets. The effectiveness also depends on the right fabric and the mask being worn very close to the nose.'

Studies by one membrane specialist at Eindhoven University found that while the coronavirus particles are caught by an electrostatic layer in medical masks, they can penetrate bigger pores found in cotton and even vacuum cleaner bags.

The World Health Organisation has also been sceptical, warning that 'widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high-quality or direct scientific evidence'.

Although changing its advice in June to back the encouragement of mask wearing in some settings, the WHO lists 11 'potential harms' that range from discomfort through to self-contamination and lower compliance with more critical preventative measures.

As in some other European countries, Holland has seen an alarming recent rise in reported infections, which have almost doubled to 1,329 cases over the past two weeks, combined with marginally higher rates of hospitalisation and fatality.

Yet the cabinet's advisory team says this was driven by clusters of people infecting each other at family gatherings and parties, where they would not have worn masks regardless of any changes to rules about public spaces.

Another outbreak came from a bar in Hillegom, near Amsterdam, where the owners told customers they could sit close together, shake hands and hug since the virus was dormant. 'We know what we are doing,' they wrote on Facebook. They were quickly proved wrong, however, after 39 cases were traced to the bar. It has since been closed and the social media post removed.

Holland, a country of 17 million people, has seen 6,147 pandemic deaths after adopting what it called 'intelligent lockdown', which imposed significantly fewer restrictions than Britain and relied more on trusting citizens to behave sensibly.

Although two recent polls claim a majority backing use of face masks for indoor public spaces, I found people on Amsterdam's busy shopping streets supported their government's stand and seemed very aware of the simple rules.

'I like it when people can decide for themselves,' said Jesus Garcia, wielding the clippers in Barbershop Jordaan filled with mask-free staff and customers. 'You would have to really educate people how to use them properly for safety.'

He said he had worn masks during a trip to Spain. 'I did not feel it was really helping since people were wearing them all wrong, putting them in their pockets, placing them under their noses. It defeats the purpose.' One customer having a trim agreed. 'I find face masks absolutely awful. They're claustrophobic and don't work,' said Mark Casey, corporate finance partner at a major accountancy firm.

Coriem Warmenhoven, serving in a flower shop, said she was glad they did not have to wear masks. 'I'm afraid it will become necessary,' she said. 'We must deal with the virus but it is best to be intelligent and give people responsibility.'

She is right to be nervous. The mayors of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, the nation's two biggest cities, have been pressing for more power to impose mask-wearing in crowded areas, which was granted last week. Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema, alarmed by throngs of tourists and young people making parts of her city too crowded, is insisting on compulsory masks for anyone aged over 13 in the Red Light District and two popular shopping streets.

Warmenhoven told me she was going to holiday in Holland after discussing with her husband where to go. 'He said he didn't want to go anywhere abroad that you have to wear masks,' she said. This bears out the hunch of the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions, which has commissioned research to find out if freedom from face masks gives their country an edge in the struggle to entice dwindling numbers of tourists.

Ben Coates, the author of Why The Dutch Are Different, who lives in central Holland, said the speed with which normal life had returned in the country was remarkable.

'When you walk around, you are hard-pressed to see much difference now,' he said. He added that while Dutch citizens tended to trust their governments, they also had strong libertarian instincts. 'People don't like being told what to do, so they will cycle without helmets and sleep with whom they want.'

The one family I found wandering along the canals clad in face masks turned out to be holidaying Italians from near Milan. 'We have been wearing them all the time for five months, so they don't feel uncomfortable any more,' said Michaele Muller. He added that they had been astonished when they arrived in Holland. 'We drove through Switzerland, where everyone has a mask, then in Germany, where it is also mandatory. Then we crossed the border and suddenly no one was wearing them.'

Later, I came across a British accent belonging to a scientist who had just moved from Milton Keynes to a new job in the city. 'It feels very different from the UK,' said Jenny White. 'It feels much more normal here. You can almost forget about the disease.'



2020's Swedish Surprise: Pandemic Fascism Isn't The Answer

2020 has been a year of firsts: the world faced its first (modern) pandemic, killing hundreds of thousands and shuttering vast swathes of the global economy. Along the way, the political world was turned upside down: for the first time in living memory, leftists found themselves castigating, rather than idolizing, socialist Sweden.

The reason? The Swedes, hard-headed contrarians that they are, had the temerity to buck the global fad for strict lockdowns and obsessive masking. They reasoned that such measures would be unsustainable, economically and socially, so instead of shutting businesses and schools, and harassing or fining anyone caught in public without a mask, they advised people to practice sensible social distancing and to avoid unnecessary outings and exposure.

At first, the mainstream media throughout the Western world gleefully reported the high death rate that Sweden's mild model of pandemic control produced, especially among the elderly and nursing home residents. Sweden's “experiment” with liberty (never a concept beloved of left-wingers) had failed, or so it seemed.

Now, though, Sweden's light touch with respect to coronavirus countermeasures is looking sounder and sounder. Sweden's numbers of new infections are low and trending lower. Daily deaths are approaching the vanishing point. There is speculation that, because the disease was allowed to spread more freely among those least vulnerable, Swedes may already benefit from a degree of herd immunity.

Sweden's successes don't end there, however. The toll of the pandemic, while it is often measured in raw numbers of "COVID deaths," stretches far beyond mortality. Among the worst aspects of the crisis has been the economic carnage it has visited on the worst affected countries. In the U.S., second-quarter GDP is down by almost 33 percent! Unemployment peaked at almost 15 percent. These are numbers generally associated with a depression, although economists expect that the downturn, sharp as it is, will be brief.

Sweden, meanwhile, was the only country in Europe in the first quarter of 2020 to see its GDP rise. Sweden's overall economic contraction in 2020 is expected to be modest, compared to the EU as a whole and to badly-hit countries like the U.K., Italy, and Spain. Swedish companies are also outperforming expectations, while Swedish unemployment is lower than ours: most recently, it stands at 9.2 percent.

Lest we forget, economic pain (and the limitation thereof) also correlates to many other factors that govern a country's degree of suffering during the pandemic. Poor economic performance can and usually does foster a rise in suicides, violent crime, drug use, alcohol abuse, domestic disputes, child abuse, as well as anxiety and depression. Moreover, long and rigid lockdowns, combined with scaremongering in the news media, can even produce more sickness and death, because many people in need of urgent medical care choose to defer it, assuming that it is too dangerous to leave their homes. We can safely assume that all of these problems are less pronounced in Sweden, given the tempered nature of its pandemic response, and the shallowness of its virus-related recession.

There are many ways to measure a country's performance in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but surely the simplest is this: has a given nation managed to minimize the “pain” (and death) afflicting its citizens while maximizing the “gain” they seek in terms of employment, economic activity, and the preservation of their freedoms and quality of life?

Sweden, it would appear, has struck this balance remarkably well. After a rocky start, especially in nursing homes, Swedish authorities have managed to wrestle the virus into submission, such that it is now almost unheard of for Swedes to die of COVID-19. Simultaneously, Swedes are going to work, going to school, visiting restaurants and businesses, and enjoying normal human interactions without the constant need to wear facemasks.

That sounds, to a mere layman, like a story of success, not failure. And, if the “socialist Swedes” have found a pandemic strategy that works, we have to ask: why are their “progressive” allies around the world afraid to admit it?



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


2 August, 2020

The Democrats' Jihad Against Hydroxychloroquine

The Democrats' holy jihad against any medical professional who suggests the safe, controlled application of Hydroxychloroquine could provide therapeutic benefit to certain patients who are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus has reached a new level of insanity.

In recent days, the big tech, social media behemoths inserted their own medical opinion into the national conversation over the use of this long-approved prescription drug for COVID patients. They censored and removed a video with multiple medical professionals, including a professor at Yale's schools of medicine and epidemiology, providing a second opinion to the overwhelming media narrative that this drug is somehow dangerous despite the fact that malaria and lupus patients have safely used the drug for decades.

Democrats have lined up alongside their pals in the media to demonize the drug and any medical professional who dares to suggest it might... might prove beneficial. They've seen this drug as a political weapon to injure Donald Trump and anyone who supports him and they seem comfortable with the possibility that people could suffer and maybe even die if they are not able to take advantage of this therapy if their doctor happens to be one of the many who believe it could help.

So, what would the Democrats recommend to individuals suffering from the Chinese Wuhan pandemic crippling our economy and isolating our children, condemning them to mediocre remote classrooms with no healthy social interactions with their peers?

Apparently, they think y'all should just get high.

Friday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was asked about the various provisions set forth in her House "stimulus" bill that relate to cannabis policies and cannabis banking laws that appear to have nothing to do with the pandemic-related economic disaster the bill is supposed to address.

The speaker explained to the intrepid reporter that the cannabis laws are directly related to COVID. "I don't agree with you that cannabis is not related to this," Pelosi explained. "This is a therapy that has proven successful."

There you go.

A cursory search of various medical websites, the CDC, and even the corrupt WHO, provides no results on the medical efficacy of marijuana for patients suffering from COVID-19. In fact, one would assume that inhaling smoke into one's lungs while suffering from the devastating respiratory condition would be, at the very least, counterproductive. But Pelosi has spoken. Let them smoke pot.

Let's just be clear on where the Democrats are on the politics of COVID-19 pharmaceutical therapies (not that pharmaceutical therapies for a devastating virus should be politicized at all, but this is the world the Democrats and the media have created so let's play along).

If you are a medical professional, a doctor, an epidemiologist, or a professor of medicine at a prestigious university and you suggest some therapeutic benefit from a drug that President Trump has suggested might deserve some attention, you must be silenced and you must be condemned because Orange Man Bad.

Instead, you should just grab your bong, head down to your recently-legalized pot dispensary in a Democrat-controlled city, and get high, my friend.

These people should not be allowed to be in a position of power.



Sweden tells staff to work from home for the rest of the year to make life safer for those going into the office a day after revealing it is seeing a 'very positive' drop in new covid cases

Sweden has today told staff to work from home for the rest of the year to manage crowding on public transport after revealing it is seeing a 'very positive' drop in new covid cases yesterday.

The recommendation, which is directed at those 'who have the possibility to work from home,' will remain in place until the New Year and is designed to make things easier for those who need to physically go to work.

It comes after the country's top epidemiologist announced yesterday that Sweden was witnessing a 'very positive' downward trend, with the lockdown free country recording 318 new cases today and serious cases in need of intensive care falling.

But the country has had 80,100 total cases of coronavirus, and one of the highest per capita death tolls in the world - well above Denmark, Norway and Finland which have each seen fewer than 1,000 deaths.

Public Health Agency noted that 'if our contacts go up again there is a considerable risk of a new spread during the autumn'.

Sweden has been an outlier in its coronavirus response. It has kept schools for under-16s open and has not closed cafes, bars, restaurants and most businesses. Masks have been recommended only for healthcare personnel.

Its approach has been based on an attempt to gain herd immunity, but the World Health Organization has warned against pinning hopes on an immune response after contracting the virus.  

Nevertheless, Sweden now has a similar infection rate to the UK with a handful of people are now being admitted to intensive care per week, down from as many as 45 per day at the height of the crisis.

Deaths have also fallen, with 56 fatalities announced in the last week compared to 101 in the previous seven days.

Swedish officials have promised to launch an investigation into the country's coronavirus response.

The commission has a broad mandate to look at how the virus arrived in Sweden, how it spread, the government's response, and the effect on equality.

The commission will report on elderly care at the end of November, although its final conclusions are not due until 2022, ahead



1619 Project Founder Admits It's 'Not a History,' But a Fight to 'Control the National Narrative'

On Monday, Nikole Hannah-Jones, founder of The New York Times‘ “1619 Project,” admitted that her project is not a history and that the battle over it is about “memory” — a fight to “control the national narrative.” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has moved to defund schools that teach the project.

“The fight over the 1619 Project is not about history. It is about memory,” Hannah-Jones tweeted. “I’ve always said that the 1619 Project is not a history. It is a work of journalism that explicitly seeks to challenge the national narrative and, therefore, the national memory. The project has always been as much about the present as it is the past.”

She claimed the 1619 Project “never pretended to be a history,” but said it involves “using history and reporting to make an argument.”

“The fight here is about who gets to control the national narrative, and therefore, the nation’s shared memory of itself. One group has monopolized this for too long in order to create this myth of exceptionalism,” Hannah-Jones added. “If their version is true, what do they have to fear of 1619?”

The 1619 Project aims to redefine America’s past, claiming the country’s true founding occurred in 1619, with the arrival of the first black slaves to Jamestown, rather than in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence. Focusing on race, the project aims to deconstruct various aspects of American society as racist and oppressive.

Yet early on, the project met with criticism from real historians. Hannah-Jones had claimed that “one of the primary reasons” the colonists revolted against Britain in 1776 was to preserve the institution of slavery. Slavery was not one of the motivating factors of the revolution. In fact, the revolution disrupted slavery. The Times eventually had to post an embarrassing correction.

Not to worry, because the 1619 Project isn’t history, Hannah-Jones says. But she also encourages supplemental history curricula based on the project. She also insists that the project is true, even if it isn’t history but rather journalism and narrative.

The 1619 Project isn’t true

Yet the project is not an accurate reflection of American history. For one thing, there were black slaves, and black freedmen, in America for a century before 1619. Whoops!

The Smithsonian Magazine disputed the 1619 Project because the Spanish brought slaves to present-day South Carolina in 1526.

“In 1526, enslaved Africans were part of a Spanish expedition to establish an outpost on the North American coast in present-day South Carolina. Those Africans launched a rebellion in November of that year and effectively destroyed the Spanish settlers’ ability to sustain the settlement, which they abandoned a year later. Nearly 100 years before Jamestown, African actors enabled American colonies to survive, and they were equally able to destroy European colonial ventures,” the magazine reported.

Ignoring these and other pre-1619 slaves “effectively erases the memory of many more African peoples than it memorializes,” the Smithsonian Magazine article argued. Therefore, the New York Times project “silences the memory of the more than 500,000 African men, women, and children who had already crossed the Atlantic against their will, aided and abetted Europeans in their endeavors, provided expertise and guidance in a range of enterprises, suffered, died, and – most importantly – endured.”

Of course, the 1619 Project is also false in a much deeper sense. Its narrative delegitimizes the very real benefits of American freedom and prosperity by claiming that racist oppression is the central truth behind the country’s ideals, while in truth the country was founded in pursuit of freedom and equality but the Founders allowed slavery to persist, laying the groundwork to defeat it eventually.

The pernicious narrative of the 1619 Project also carries devastating effects. At its heart, the project aims to demonize America’s founding and heritage.

The 1619 Project uses Marxist critical theory to demonize America and inspire an unguided and destructive revolution. Portland activist Lilith Sinclair expressed a similar idea when she said, “There’s still a lot of work to undo the harm of colonized thought that has been pushed onto Black and indigenous communities.” As examples of “colonized thought,” she mentioned Christianity and the “gender binary.” She said she organizes for “the abolition of … the “United States as we know it.”

Marxist critical theory encourages people to deconstruct various aspects of society — such as capitalism, science the nuclear family, the Judeo-Christian tradition, even expectations of politeness (as the Smithsonian briefly taught) — as examples of white oppression. This inspires an aimless and destructive revolution.

When vandals toppled a statue of George Washington in Portland, they spray-painted “1619” on the statue. When Claremont’s Charles Kesler wrote in The New York Post “Call them the 1619 riots,” Hannah-Jones, responded (in a since-deleted tweet) that “it would be an honor” to claim responsibility for the destructive riots and the defamation of American Founding Fathers like George Washington.

In a November 9, 1995 op-ed, the 1619 Project founder condemned Christopher Columbus as “no different” from Adolf Hitler and demonized the “white race” as the true “savages” and “bloodsuckers.” She went on to describe “white America’s dream” as “colored America’s nightmare.” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) expressed a similar sentiment when she called for the “dismantling” of America’s “economy and political system,” in order to root out supposed racist oppression.

Yet the “1619 riots” have arguably oppressed black people far more than the U.S. supposedly does. The riots have destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments. At least 22 Americans have died in the riots, most of them black.

This narrative undermines the positive aspects of America and encourages hatred toward the very country that provides its citizens with an unprecedented degree of freedom and prosperity. It encourages violent riots in the name of racial justice, even though those riots make life concretely worse for black Americans.

The 1619 Project may bring forward the stories of black Americans who have been overlooked in the past, and that would be admirable. But Americans must reject its pernicious aim to twist the national narrative against the Founders, capitalism, and more.




Bill Clinton visited Jeffrey Epstein's private island, unsealed court documents suggest (Fox News)

ACLU sues Portland police to block them videotaping demonstrators (The Daily Wire)

"Peaceful protests": Twenty-four people have died since violence erupted following George Floyd's death (The Daily Caller)

NBA players protest the national anthem as league returns to action (Reuters)

Trader Joe's announces it will not pander to a petition calling product names "racist" (UK Daily Mail)

"Big Four" tech titans Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google add $250 billion to their combined market value (UK Daily Mail)

Grand jury indicts Tennessee Democrat state senator on theft charges (AP)

Chinese and Russian hackers are sanctioned by Europe for the first time (MIT Technology Review)

Policy: COVID eviction moratoriums are unnecessary, unfair, and economically harmful (The Daily Signal)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


1 August, 2020

A revived blog

I ceased posting to my Food and Health Skeptic blog in 2014, after 8 years of punching holes in all sorts of claims about things that do you good or harm you.  I was usually able to show that almost all the claims were "not proven", to use the old Scottish verdict.

The holes that I pointed to in the evidence offered were however very repetitious -- so much so that I felt that just reading my past posts would armour people against accepting the latest folly.

It is clear however that the follies continue so I thought I might take a small step back and post again -- not daily this time but weekly.  I will write something to appear each Saturday.

I hope past fans of the blog will return and maybe I will get some new readers too.

John Ray


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Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party. And now a "Deplorable"

That Left and Right are so hostile to one-another is most unfortunate. Broadly, the world needs Leftists to highlight problems and conservatives to solve them. But the Left get angry with conservatives when conservatives point out that there are no good solutions to some problems

Social justice is injustice. What is just about taking money off people who have earned it and giving it to people who have not earned it? You can call it many things but justice it is not

But it is the aim of all Leftist governments to take money off people who have earned it and give it to people who have not earned it

Envy was once considered to be one of the seven deadly sins before it became one of the most admired virtues under its new name, 'social justice.’ - Thomas Sowell

At the most basic (psychological) level, conservatives are the contented people and Leftists are the discontented people. Conservatives don't think the world is perfect but they can happily live with it. And both those attitudes are largely dispositional, inborn -- which is why they so rarely change

The Left Doesn't Like Christmas because Christmas is just too happy for them

As a good academic, I define my terms: A Leftist is a person who is so dissatisfied with the way things naturally are that he/she is prepared to use force to make people behave in ways that they otherwise would not.

So an essential feature of Leftism is that they think they have the right to tell other people what to do. They see things in the world that are not ideal and conclude therefore that they have the right to change those things by force. Conservative explanations of why things are not ideal -- and never can be -- fall on deaf ears

Who is this Leftist? Take his description of his political program: A "declaration of war against the order of things which exist, against the state of things which exist, in a word, against the structure of the world which presently exists". You could hardly get a more change-oriented or revolutionary programme than that. So whose programme was it? Marx? Lenin? Stalin? Trotsky? Mao? No. It was how Hitler described his programme towards the end of "Mein Kampf". And the Left pretend that Hitler was some sort of conservative! Perhaps it not labouring the point also to ask who it was that described his movement as having a 'revolutionary creative will' which had 'no fixed aim, _ no permanency, only eternal change'. It could very easily have been Trotsky or Mao but it was in fact Hitler (O'Sullivan, 1983. p. 138). Clearly, Nazism was nothing more nor less than a racist form of Leftism (rather extreme Leftism at that) and to label it as "Rightist" or anything else is to deny reality.

A rarely acknowledged aim of Leftist policy in a democracy is to deliver dismay and disruption into the lives other people -- whom they regard as "complacent" -- and they are good at achieving that.

As usual, however, it is actually they who are complacent, with a conviction of the rightness and virtue of their own beliefs that merges into arrogance. They regard anyone who disagrees with them with contempt.

Leftists are wolves in sheep's clothing

Liberals are people who don't believe in liberty

Leftist principles are as solid as foam rubber. When they say that there is no such thing as right and wrong they really mean it.

Leftists FEAR the future

There is no dealing with the Left. Their word is no good. You cannot make a deal with someone who thinks lying and stealing are mere tactics, which the Marxists actually brag about

Montesquieu knew Leftists well: "There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice."

Because they claim to have all the answers to society's ills, Communists often seem "cool" to young people

German has a word that describes most Leftists well: "Scheinheilig" - A person who appears to be very kind, soft natured, and filled with pure goodness but behind the facade, has a vile nature. He is seemingly holy but is an unscrupulous person on the inside.

The new faith is very oppressive: Leftist orthodoxy is the new dominant religion of the Western world and it is every bit as bigoted and oppressive as Christianity was at its worst

There are two varieties of authoritarian Leftism. Fascists are soft Leftists, preaching one big happy family -- "Better together" in other words. Communists are hard Leftists, preaching class war.

Equality: The nonsensical and incoherent claim that underlies so much Leftist discourse is "all men are equal". And that is the envier's gospel. It makes not a scrap of sense and shows no contact with reality but it is something that enviers resort to as a way of soothing their envious feelings. They deny the very differences that give them so much heartburn. "Denial" was long ago identified by Freud as a maladaptive psychological defence mechanism and "All men are equal" is a prize example of that. Whatever one thinks of his theories, Freud was undoubtedly an acute observer of people and very few psychologists today would doubt the maladaptive nature of denial as described by Freud.

Socialism is the most evil malady ever to afflict the human brain. The death toll in WWII alone tells you that

American conservatives have to struggle to hold their country together against Leftist attempts to destroy it. Maduro's Venezuela is a graphic example of how extremely destructive socialism in government can be

The standard response from Marxist apologists for Stalin and other Communist dictators is to say you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. To which Orwell retorted, ‘Where’s the omelette?’

You do still occasionally see some mention of the old idea that Leftist parties represent the worker. In the case of the U.S. Democrats that is long gone. Now they want to REFORM the worker. No wonder most working class Americans these days vote Republican. Democrats are the party of the minorities and the smug

"The tendency of liberals is to create bodies of men and women — of all classes — detached from tradition, alienated from religion, and susceptible to mass suggestion — mob rule. And a mob will be no less a mob if it is well fed, well clothed, well housed, and well disciplined." —T.S. Eliot

We live in a country where the people own the Government and not in a country where the Government owns the people -- Churchill

"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others" -- Cicero. See here

The Left have a lot in common with tortoises. They have a thick mental shell that protects them from the reality of the world about them

Definition of a Socialist: Someone who wants everything you have...except your job.

ABOUT: Postings here from Brisbane, Australia by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party. And now a "Deplorable"

When it comes to political incorrectness, I hit the trifecta. I talk about race, IQ and social class. I have an academic background in all three subjects but that wins me no forgiveness

Let's now have some thought-provoking graphics

Israel: A great powerhouse of the human spirit

The current Leftist mantra

The difference in practice

The United Nations: A great ideal but a sordid reality

Alfred Dreyfus, a reminder of French antisemitism still relevant today

Eugenio Pacelli, a righteous Gentile, a true man of God and a brilliant Pope

Leftism in one picture:

The "steamroller" above who got steamrollered by his own hubris. Spitzer is a warning of how self-destructive a vast ego can be -- and also of how destructive of others it can be.

R.I.P. Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet deposed a law-defying Marxist President at the express and desperate invitation of the Chilean parliament. Allende had just burnt the electoral rolls so it wasn't hard to see what was coming. Pinochet pioneered the free-market reforms which Reagan and Thatcher later unleashed to world-changing effect. That he used far-Leftist methods to suppress far-Leftist violence is reasonable if not ideal. The Leftist view that they should have a monopoly of violence and that others should follow the law is a total absurdity which shows only that their hate overcomes their reason

Leftist writers usually seem quite reasonable and persuasive at first glance. The problem is not what they say but what they don't say. Leftist beliefs are so counterfactual ("all men are equal", "all men are brothers" etc.) that to be a Leftist you have to have a talent for blotting out from your mind facts that don't suit you. And that is what you see in Leftist writing: A very selective view of reality. Facts that disrupt a Leftist story are simply ignored. Leftist writing is cherrypicking on a grand scale

So if ever you read something written by a Leftist that sounds totally reasonable, you have an urgent need to find out what other people say on that topic. The Leftist will almost certainly have told only half the story

We conservatives have the facts on our side, which is why Leftists never want to debate us and do their best to shut us up. It's very revealing the way they go to great lengths to suppress conservative speech at universities. Universities should be where the best and brightest Leftists are to be found but even they cannot stand the intellectual challenge that conservatism poses for them. It is clearly a great threat to them. If what we say were ridiculous or wrong, they would grab every opportunity to let us know it

A conservative does not hanker after the new; He hankers after the good. Leftists hanker after the untested

Just one thing is sufficient to tell all and sundry what an unamerican lamebrain Obama is. He pronounced an army corps as an army "corpse" Link here. Can you imagine any previous American president doing that? Many were men with significant personal experience in the armed forces in their youth.

'Gay Pride' parades: You know you live in a great country when "oppressed" people have big, colorful parades.

A favorite Leftist saying sums up the whole of Leftism: "To make an omelette, you've got to break eggs". They want to change some state of affairs and don't care who or what they destroy or damage in the process. They think their alleged good intentions are sufficient to absolve them from all blame for even the most evil deeds

In practical politics, the art of Leftism is to sound good while proposing something destructive

Leftists are the "we know best" people, meaning that they are intrinsically arrogant. Matthew chapter 6 would not be for them. And arrogance leads directly into authoritarianism

Leftism is fundamentally authoritarian. Whether by revolution or by legislation, Leftists aim to change what people can and must do. When in 2008 Obama said that he wanted to "fundamentally transform" America, he was not talking about America's geography or topography but rather about American people. He wanted them to stop doing things that they wanted to do and make them do things that they did not want to do. Can you get a better definition of authoritarianism than that?

And note that an American President is elected to administer the law, not make it. That seems to have escaped Mr Obama

That Leftism is intrinsically authoritarian is not a new insight. It was well understood by none other than Friedrich Engels (Yes. THAT Engels). His clever short essay On authority was written as a reproof to the dreamy Anarchist Left of his day. It concludes: "A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means"

Inside Every Liberal is a Totalitarian Screaming to Get Out

Insight: "A man's admiration for absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him." —Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)

Leftists think of themselves as the new nobility

Many people in literary and academic circles today who once supported Stalin and his heirs are generally held blameless and may even still be admired whereas anybody who gave the slightest hint of support for the similarly brutal Hitler regime is an utter polecat and pariah. Why? Because Hitler's enemies were "only" the Jews whereas Stalin's enemies were those the modern day Left still hates -- people who are doing well for themselves materially. Modern day Leftists understand and excuse Stalin and his supporters because Stalin's hates are their hates.

"Those who see hate everywhere think they're looking thru a window when actually they're looking at a mirror"

Hatred has long been a central pillar of leftist ideologies, premised as they are on trampling individual rights for the sake of a collectivist plan. Karl Marx boasted that he was “the greatest hater of the so-called positive.” In 1923, V.I. Lenin chillingly declared to the Soviet Commissars of Education, “We must teach our children to hate. Hatred is the basis of communism.” In his tract “Left-Wing Communism,” Lenin went so far as to assert that hatred was “the basis of every socialist and Communist movement.”

If you understand that Leftism is hate, everything falls into place.

The strongest way of influencing people is to convince them that you will do them some good. Leftists and con-men misuse that

Leftists believe only what they want to believe. So presenting evidence contradicting their beliefs simply enrages them. They do not learn from it

Psychological defence mechanisms such as projection play a large part in Leftist thinking and discourse. So their frantic search for evil in the words and deeds of others is easily understandable. The evil is in themselves.

Leftists who think that they can conjure up paradise out of their own limited brains are simply fools -- arrogant and dangerous fools. They essentially know nothing. Conservatives learn from the thousands of years of human brains that have preceded us -- including the Bible, the ancient Greeks and much else. The death of Socrates is, for instance, an amazing prefiguration of the intolerant 21st century. Ask any conservative stranded in academe about his freedom of speech

Thomas Sowell: “There are no solutions, only trade-offs.” Leftists don't understand that -- which is a major factor behind their simplistic thinking. They just never see the trade-offs. But implementing any Leftist idea will hit us all with the trade-offs

Chesteron's fence -- good conservative thinking

"The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley"[go oft astray] is a well known line from a famous poem by the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns. But the next line is even wiser: "And leave us nought but grief and pain for promised joy". Burns was a Leftist of sorts so he knew how often their theories fail badly.

Mostly, luck happens when opportunity meets preparation.

Most Leftist claims are simply propaganda. Those who utter such claims must know that they are not telling the whole story. Hitler described his Marxist adversaries as "lying with a virtuosity that would bend iron beams". At the risk of ad hominem shrieks, I think that image is too good to remain disused.

Conservatives adapt to the world they live in. Leftists want to change the world to suit themselves

Given their dislike of the world they live in, it would be a surprise if Leftists were patriotic and loved their own people. Prominent English Leftist politician Jack Straw probably said it best: "The English as a race are not worth saving"

In his 1888 book, The Anti-Christ Friedrich Nietzsche argues that we should treat the common man well and kindly because he is the backdrop against which the exceptional man can be seen. So Nietzsche deplores those who agitate the common man: "Whom do I hate most among the rabble of today? The socialist rabble, the chandala [outcast] apostles, who undermine the instinct, the pleasure, the worker's sense of satisfaction with his small existence—who make him envious, who teach him revenge. The source of wrong is never unequal rights but the claim of “equal” rights"

Why do conservatives respect tradition and rely on the past in many ways? Because they want to know what works and the past is the chief source of evidence on that. Leftists are more faith-based. They cling to their theories (e.g. global warming) with religious fervour, even though theories are often wrong

Thinking that you "know best" is an intrinsically precarious and foolish stance -- because nobody does. Reality is so complex and unpredictable that it can rarely be predicted far ahead. Conservatives can see that and that is why conservatives always want change to be done gradually, in a step by step way. So the Leftist often finds the things he "knows" to be out of step with reality, which challenges him and his ego. Sadly, rather than abandoning the things he "knows", he usually resorts to psychological defence mechanisms such as denial and projection. He is largely impervious to argument because he has to be. He can't afford to let reality in.

A prize example of the Leftist tendency to projection (seeing your own faults in others) is the absurd Robert "Bob" Altemeyer, an acclaimed psychologist and father of a Canadian Leftist politician. Altemeyer claims that there is no such thing as Leftist authoritarianism and that it is conservatives who are "Enemies of Freedom". That Leftists (e.g. Mrs Obama) are such enemies of freedom that they even want to dictate what people eat has apparently passed Altemeyer by. Even Stalin did not go that far. And there is the little fact that all the great authoritarian regimes of the 20th century (Stalin, Hitler and Mao) were socialist. Freud saw reliance on defence mechanisms such as projection as being maladjusted. It is difficult to dispute that. Altemeyer is too illiterate to realize it but he is actually a good Hegelian. Hegel thought that "true" freedom was marching in step with a Left-led herd.

What libertarian said this? “The bureaucracy is a parasite on the body of society, a parasite which ‘chokes’ all its vital pores…The state is a parasitic organism”. It was VI Lenin, in August 1917, before he set up his own vastly bureaucratic state. He could see the problem but had no clue about how to solve it.

It was Democrat John F Kennedy who cut taxes and declared that “a rising tide lifts all boats"

Leftist stupidity is a special class of stupidity. The people concerned are mostly not stupid in general but they have a character defect (mostly arrogance) that makes them impatient with complexity and unwilling to study it. So in their policies they repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot; They fail to attain their objectives. The world IS complex so a simplistic approach to it CANNOT work.

Seminal Leftist philosopher, G.W.F. Hegel said something that certainly applies to his fellow Leftists: "We learn from history that we do not learn from history". And he captured the Left in this saying too: "Evil resides in the very gaze which perceives Evil all around itself".

"A man who is not a socialist at age 20 has no heart; A man who is still a socialist at age 30 has no head". Who said that? Most people attribute it to Winston but as far as I can tell it was first said by Georges Clemenceau, French Premier in WWI -- whose own career approximated the transition concerned. And he in turn was probably updating an earlier saying about monarchy versus Republicanism by Guizot. Other attributions here. There is in fact a normal drift from Left to Right as people get older. Both Reagan and Churchill started out as liberals

Funny how to the Leftist intelligentsia poor blacks are 'oppressed' and poor whites are 'trash'. Racism, anyone?

MESSAGE to Leftists: Even if you killed all conservatives tomorrow, you would just end up in another Soviet Union. Conservatives are all that stand between you and that dismal fate. And you may not even survive at all. Stalin killed off all the old Bolsheviks.

A Conservative manifesto from England -- The inimitable Jacob Rees-Mogg


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)

Just the name of Hitler's political party should be sufficient to reject the claim that Hitler was "Right wing" but Leftists sometimes retort that the name "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" is not informative, in that it is the name of a dismal Stalinist tyranny. But "People's Republic" is a normal name for a Communist country whereas I know of no conservative political party that calls itself a "Socialist Worker's Party". Such parties are in fact usually of the extreme Left (Trotskyite etc.)

Most people find the viciousness of the Nazis to be incomprehensible -- for instance what they did in their concentration camps. But you just have to read a little of the vileness that pours out from modern-day "liberals" in their Twitter and blog comments to understand it all very well. Leftists haven't changed. They are still boiling with hate

Hatred as a motivating force for political strategy leads to misguided ­decisions. “Hatred is blind,” as Alexandre Dumas warned, “rage carries you away; and he who pours out vengeance runs the risk of tasting a bitter draught.”

Who said this in 1968? "I am not, and never have been, a man of the right. My position was on the Left and is now in the centre of politics". It was Sir Oswald Mosley, founder and leader of the British Union of Fascists

The term "Fascism" is mostly used by the Left as a brainless term of abuse. But when they do make a serious attempt to define it, they produce very complex and elaborate definitions -- e.g. here and here. In fact, Fascism is simply extreme socialism plus nationalism. But great gyrations are needed to avoid mentioning the first part of that recipe, of course.

Three examples of Leftist racism below (much more here and here):

Jesse Owens, the African-American hero of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, said "Hitler didn't snub me – it was our president who snubbed me. The president didn't even send me a telegram." Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt never even invited the quadruple gold medal-winner to the White House

Beatrice Webb, a founder of the London School of Economics and the Fabian Society, and married to a Labour MP, mused in 1922 on whether when English children were "dying from lack of milk", one should extend "the charitable impulse" to Russian and Chinese children who, if saved this year, might anyway die next. Besides, she continued, there was "the larger question of whether those races are desirable inhabitants" and "obviously" one wouldn't "spend one's available income" on "a Central African negro".

Hugh Dalton, offered the Colonial Office during Attlee's 1945-51 Labour government, turned it down because "I had a horrid vision of pullulating, poverty stricken, diseased nigger communities, for whom one can do nothing in the short run and who, the more one tries to help them, are querulous and ungrateful."

The Zimmerman case is an excellent proof that the Left is deep-down racist

Defensible and indefensible usages of the term "racism"

The book, The authoritarian personality, authored by T.W. Adorno et al. in 1950, has been massively popular among psychologists. It claims that a set of ideas that were popular in the "Progressive"-dominated America of the prewar era were "authoritarian". Leftist regimes always are authoritarian so that claim was not a big problem. What was quite amazing however is that Adorno et al. identified such ideas as "conservative". They were in fact simply popular ideas of the day but ones that had been most heavily promoted by the Left right up until the then-recent WWII. See here for details of prewar "Progressive" thinking.

Leftist psychologists have an amusingly simplistic conception of military organizations and military men. They seem to base it on occasions they have seen troops marching together on parade rather than any real knowledge of military men and the military life. They think that military men are "rigid" -- automatons who are unable to adjust to new challenges or think for themselves. What is incomprehensible to them is that being kadaver gehorsam (to use the extreme Prussian term for following orders) actually requires great flexibility -- enough flexibility to put your own ideas and wishes aside and do something very difficult. Ask any soldier if all commands are easy to obey.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a war criminal. Both British and American codebreakers had cracked the Japanese naval code so FDR knew what was coming at Pearl Harbor. But for his own political reasons he warned no-one there. So responsibility for the civilian and military deaths at Pearl Harbor lies with FDR as well as with the Japanese. The huge firepower available at Pearl Harbor, both aboard ship and on land, could have largely neutered the attack. Can you imagine 8 battleships and various lesser craft firing all their AA batteries as the Japanese came in? The Japanese naval airforce would have been annihilated and the war would have been over before it began.

FDR prolonged the Depression. He certainly didn't cure it.

WWII did NOT end the Great Depression. It just concealed it. It in fact made living standards worse

FDR appointed a known KKK member, Hugo Black, to the Supreme Court

Joe McCarthy was eventually proved right after the fall of the Soviet Union. To accuse anyone of McCarthyism is to accuse them of accuracy!

The KKK was intimately associated with the Democratic party. They ATTACKED Republicans!

High Level of Welfare Use by Legal and Illegal Immigrants in the USA. Low skill immigrants receive 4 to 5 dollars of benefits for every dollar in taxes paid

People who mention differences in black vs. white IQ are these days almost universally howled down and subjected to the most extreme abuse. I am a psychometrician, however, so I feel obliged to defend the scientific truth of the matter: The average African adult has about the same IQ as an average white 11-year-old and African Americans (who are partly white in ancestry) average out at a mental age of 14. The American Psychological Association is generally Left-leaning but it is the world's most prestigious body of academic psychologists. And even they (under the chairmanship of Ulric Neisser) have had to concede that sort of gap (one SD) in black vs. white average IQ. 11-year olds can do a lot of things but they also have their limits and there are times when such limits need to be allowed for.

The heritability of general cognitive ability increases linearly from childhood to young adulthood

The association between high IQ and long life is overwhelmingly genetic: "In the combined sample the genetic contribution to the covariance was 95%"

The Dark Ages were not dark

Judged by his deeds, Abraham Lincoln was one of the bloodiest villains ever to walk the Earth. See here. And: America's uncivil war was caused by trade protectionism. The slavery issue was just camouflage, as Abraham Lincoln himself admitted. See also here

At the beginning of the North/South War, Confederate general Robert E. Lee did not own any slaves. Union General Ulysses L. Grant did.

Was slavery already washed up by the tides of history before Lincoln took it on? Eric Williams in his book "Capitalism and Slavery" tells us: “The commercial capitalism of the eighteenth century developed the wealth of Europe by means of slavery and monopoly. But in so doing it helped to create the industrial capitalism of the nineteenth century, which turned round and destroyed the power of commercial capitalism, slavery, and all its works. Without a grasp of these economic changes the history of the period is meaningless.”

Revolutionary terrorists in Russia killed Tsar Alexander II in 1881 (after three prior assassination attempts). Alexander II was a great reformer who abolished serfdom one year before the US abolished slavery. If his democratic and economic reforms had continued, Russia may have been much less radical politically a couple of decades later, when Nicholas II was overthrown.

Did William Zantzinger kill poor Hattie Carroll?

Did Bismarck predict where WWI would start or was it just a "free" translation by Churchill?

Conrad Black on the Declaration of Independence

Some rare Leftist realism: "God forbid if the rich leave" NY Governor Cuomo February 04, 2019

Malcolm Gladwell: "There is more of reality and wisdom in a Chinese fortune cookie than can be found anywhere in Gladwell’s pages"

Some people are born bad -- confirmed by genetics research

The dark side of American exceptionalism: America could well be seen as the land of folly. It fought two unnecessary civil wars, would have done well to keep out of two world wars, endured the extraordinary folly of Prohibition and twice elected a traitor President -- Barack Obama. That America remains a good place to be is a tribute to the energy and hard work of individual Americans.

“From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either one or the other, but not both at the same time.” ? Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution Of Liberty


The 10 "cannots" (By William J. H. Boetcker) that Leftist politicians ignore:
*You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
* You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
* You cannot help little men by tearing down big men.
* You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
* You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
* You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
* You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
* You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
* You cannot build character and courage by destroying men's initiative and independence.
* And you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.

A good short definition of conservative: "One who wants you to keep your hand out of his pocket."

Beware of good intentions. They mostly lead to coercion

A gargantuan case of hubris, coupled with stunning level of ignorance about how the real world works, is the essence of progressivism.

The U.S. Constitution is neither "living" nor dead. It is fixed until it is amended. But amending it is the privilege of the people, not of politicians or judges

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong - Thomas Sowell

Leftists think that utopia can be coerced into existence -- so no dishonesty or brutality is beyond them in pursuit of that "noble" goal

"England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution" -- George Orwell

Was 16th century science pioneer Paracelsus a libertarian? His motto was "Alterius non sit qui suus esse potest" which means "Let no man belong to another who can belong to himself."

"When using today's model of society as a rule, most of history will be found to be full of oppression, bias, and bigotry." What today's arrogant judges of history fail to realize is that they, too, will be judged. What will Americans of 100 years from now make of, say, speech codes, political correctness, and zero tolerance - to name only three? Assuming, of course, there will still be an America that we, today, would recognize. Given the rogue Federal government spy apparatus, I am not at all sure of that. -- Paul Havemann

Economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973): "The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office."

It's the shared hatred of the rest of us that unites Islamists and the Left.

American liberals don't love America. They despise it. All they love is their own fantasy of what America could become. They are false patriots.

The Democratic Party: Con-men elected by the ignorant and the arrogant

The Democratic Party is a strange amalgam of elites, would-be elites and minorities. No wonder their policies are so confused and irrational

Why are conservatives more at ease with religion? Because it is basic to conservatism that some things are unknowable, and religious people have to accept that too. Leftists think that they know it all and feel threatened by any exceptions to that. Thinking that you know it all is however the pride that comes before a fall.

The characteristic emotion of the Leftist is not envy. It's rage

Leftists are committed to grievance, not truth

The British Left poured out a torrent of hate for Margaret Thatcher on the occasion of her death. She rescued Britain from chaos and restored Britain's prosperity. What's not to hate about that?

Something you didn't know about Margaret Thatcher

The world's dumbest investor? Without doubt it is Uncle Sam. Nobody anywhere could rival the scale of the losses on "investments" made under the Obama administration

"Behind the honeyed but patently absurd pleas for equality is a ruthless drive for placing themselves (the elites) at the top of a new hierarchy of power" -- Murray Rothbard - Egalitarianism and the Elites (1995)

A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money. -- G. Gordon Liddy

"World socialism as a whole, and all the figures associated with it, are shrouded in legend; its contradictions are forgotten or concealed; it does not respond to arguments but continually ignores them--all this stems from the mist of irrationality that surrounds socialism and from its instinctive aversion to scientific analysis... The doctrines of socialism seethe with contradictions, its theories are at constant odds with its practice, yet due to a powerful instinct these contradictions do not in the least hinder the unending propaganda of socialism. Indeed, no precise, distinct socialism even exists; instead there is only a vague, rosy notion of something noble and good, of equality, communal ownership, and justice: the advent of these things will bring instant euphoria and a social order beyond reproach." -- Solzhenitsyn

"The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left." -- Ecclesiastes 10:2 (NIV)

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government. -- Thomas Jefferson

"Much that passes as idealism is disguised hatred or disguised love of power" -- Bertrand Russell

Evan Sayet: The Left sides "...invariably with evil over good, wrong over right, and the behaviors that lead to failure over those that lead to success." (t=5:35+ on video)

The Republicans are the gracious side of American politics. It is the Democrats who are the nasty party, the haters

Wanting to stay out of the quarrels of other nations is conservative -- but conservatives will fight if attacked or seriously endangered. Anglo/Irish statesman Lord Castlereagh (1769-1822), who led the political coalition that defeated Napoleon, was an isolationist, as were traditional American conservatives.

Some wisdom from the past: "The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment." —George Washington, 1783

Some useful definitions:

If a conservative doesn't like guns, he doesn't buy one. If a liberal doesn't like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.
If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn't eat meat. If a liberal is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.
If a conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation. A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him.
If a conservative doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels. Liberals demand that those they don't like be shut down.
If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church. A liberal non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced. (Unless it's a foreign religion, of course!)
If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it. A liberal demands that the rest of us pay for his.

There is better evidence for creation than there is for the Leftist claim that “gender” is a “social construct”. Most Leftist claims seem to be faith-based rather than founded on the facts

Leftists are classic weak characters. They dish out abuse by the bucketload but cannot take it when they get it back. Witness the Loughner hysteria.

Death taxes: You would expect a conscientious person, of whatever degree of intelligence, to reflect on the strange contradiction involved in denying people the right to unearned wealth, while supporting programs that give people unearned wealth.

America is no longer the land of the free. It is now the land of the regulated -- though it is not alone in that, of course

The Leftist motto: "I love humanity. It's just people I can't stand"

Why are Leftists always talking about hate? Because it fills their own hearts

Envy is a strong and widespread human emotion so there has alway been widespread support for policies of economic "levelling". Both the USA and the modern-day State of Israel were founded by communists but reality taught both societies that respect for the individual gave much better outcomes than levelling ideas. Sadly, there are many people in both societies in whom hatred for others is so strong that they are incapable of respect for the individual. The destructiveness of what they support causes them to call themselves many names in different times and places but they are the backbone of the political Left

Gore Vidal: "Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little". Vidal was of course a Leftist

The large number of rich Leftists suggests that, for them, envy is secondary. They are directly driven by hatred and scorn for many of the other people that they see about them. Hatred of others can be rooted in many things, not only in envy. But the haters come together as the Left. Some evidence here showing that envy is not what defines the Left

Leftists hate the world around them and want to change it: the people in it most particularly. Conservatives just want to be left alone to make their own decisions and follow their own values.

The failure of the Soviet experiment has definitely made the American Left more vicious and hate-filled than they were. The plain failure of what passed for ideas among them has enraged rather than humbled them.

Ronald Reagan famously observed that the status quo is Latin for “the mess we’re in.” So much for the vacant Leftist claim that conservatives are simply defenders of the status quo. They think that conservatives are as lacking in principles as they are.

Was Confucius a conservative? The following saying would seem to reflect good conservative caution: "The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come. When in a state of security he does not forget the possibility of ruin. When all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus his person is not endangered, and his States and all their clans are preserved."

The shallow thinkers of the Left sometimes claim that conservatives want to impose their own will on others in the matter of abortion. To make that claim is however to confuse religion with politics. Conservatives are in fact divided about their response to abortion. The REAL opposition to abortion is religious rather than political. And the church which has historically tended to support the LEFT -- the Roman Catholic church -- is the most fervent in the anti-abortion cause. Conservatives are indeed the one side of politics to have moral qualms on the issue but they tend to seek a middle road in dealing with it. Taking the issue to the point of legal prohibitions is a religious doctrine rather than a conservative one -- and the religion concerned may or may not be characteristically conservative. More on that here

Some Leftist hatred arises from the fact that they blame "society" for their own personal problems and inadequacies

The Leftist hunger for change to the society that they hate leads to a hunger for control over other people. And they will do and say anything to get that control: "Power at any price". Leftist politicians are mostly self-aggrandizing crooks who gain power by deceiving the uninformed with snake-oil promises -- power which they invariably use to destroy. Destruction is all that they are good at. Destruction is what haters do.

Leftists are consistent only in their hate. They don't have principles. How can they when "there is no such thing as right and wrong"? All they have is postures, pretend-principles that can be changed as easily as one changes one's shirt

A Leftist assumption: Making money doesn't entitle you to it, but wanting money does.

"Politicians never accuse you of 'greed' for wanting other people's money -- only for wanting to keep your own money." --columnist Joe Sobran (1946-2010)

Leftist policies are candy-coated rat poison that may appear appealing at first, but inevitably do a lot of damage to everyone impacted by them.

A tribute and thanks to Mary Jo Kopechne. Her death was reprehensible but she probably did more by her death that she ever would have in life: She spared the world a President Ted Kennedy. That the heap of corruption that was Ted Kennedy died peacefully in his bed is one of the clearest demonstrations that we do not live in a just world. Even Joe Stalin seems to have been smothered to death by Nikita Khrushchev

I often wonder why Leftists refer to conservatives as "wingnuts". A wingnut is a very useful device that adds versatility wherever it is used. Clearly, Leftists are not even good at abuse. Once they have accused their opponents of racism and Nazism, their cupboard is bare. Similarly, Leftists seem to think it is a devastating critique to refer to "Worldnet Daily" as "Worldnut Daily". The poverty of their argumentation is truly pitiful

The Leftist assertion that there is no such thing as right and wrong has a distinguished history. It was Pontius Pilate who said "What is truth?" (John 18:38). From a Christian viewpoint, the assertion is undoubtedly the Devil's gospel

Even in the Old Testament they knew about "Postmodernism": "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" - Isaiah 5:20 (KJV)

Was Solomon the first conservative? "The hearts of men are full of evil and madness is in their hearts" -- Ecclesiastes: 9:3 (RSV). He could almost have been talking about Global Warming.

Leftist hatred of Christianity goes back as far as the massacre of the Carmelite nuns during the French revolution. Yancey has written a whole book tabulating modern Leftist hatred of Christians. It is a rival religion to Leftism.

"If one rejects laissez faire on account of man's fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action." - Ludwig von Mises

The naive scholar who searches for a consistent Leftist program will not find it. What there is consists only in the negation of the present.

Because of their need to be different from the mainstream, Leftists are very good at pretending that sow's ears are silk purses

Among intelligent people, Leftism is a character defect. Leftists HATE success in others -- which is why notably successful societies such as the USA and Israel are hated and failures such as the Palestinians can do no wrong.

A Leftist's beliefs are all designed to pander to his ego. So when you have an argument with a Leftist, you are not really discussing the facts. You are threatening his self esteem. Which is why the normal Leftist response to challenge is mere abuse.

Because of the fragility of a Leftist's ego, anything that threatens it is intolerable and provokes rage. So most Leftist blogs can be summarized in one sentence: "How DARE anybody question what I believe!". Rage and abuse substitute for an appeal to facts and reason.

Because their beliefs serve their ego rather than reality, Leftists just KNOW what is good for us. Conservatives need evidence.

Absolute certainty is the privilege of uneducated men and fanatics. -- C.J. Keyser

Hell is paved with good intentions" -- Boswell's Life of Johnson of 1775

"Almost all professors of the arts and sciences are egregiously conceited, and derive their happiness from their conceit" -- Erasmus


"Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him" (Proverbs 26: 12). I think that sums up Leftists pretty well.

Eminent British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington is often quoted as saying: "Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine." It was probably in fact said by his contemporary, J.B.S. Haldane. But regardless of authorship, it could well be a conservative credo not only about the cosmos but also about human beings and human society. Mankind is too complex to be summed up by simple rules and even complex rules are only approximations with many exceptions.

Politics is the only thing Leftists know about. They know nothing of economics, history or business. Their only expertise is in promoting feelings of grievance

Socialism makes the individual the slave of the state -- capitalism frees them.

Many readers here will have noticed that what I say about Leftists sometimes sounds reminiscent of what Leftists say about conservatives. There is an excellent reason for that. Leftists are great "projectors" (people who see their own faults in others). So a good first step in finding out what is true of Leftists is to look at what they say about conservatives! They even accuse conservatives of projection (of course).

The research shows clearly that one's Left/Right stance is strongly genetically inherited but nobody knows just what specifically is inherited. What is inherited that makes people Leftist or Rightist? There is any amount of evidence that personality traits are strongly genetically inherited so my proposal is that hard-core Leftists are people who tend to let their emotions (including hatred and envy) run away with them and who are much more in need of seeing themselves as better than others -- two attributes that are probably related to one another. Such Leftists may be an evolutionary leftover from a more primitive past.

Leftists seem to believe that if someone like Al Gore says it, it must be right. They obviously have a strong need for an authority figure. The fact that the two most authoritarian regimes of the 20th century (Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia) were socialist is thus no surprise. Leftists often accuse conservatives of being "authoritarian" but that is just part of their usual "projective" strategy -- seeing in others what is really true of themselves.

"With their infernal racial set-asides, racial quotas, and race norming, liberals share many of the Klan's premises. The Klan sees the world in terms of race and ethnicity. So do liberals! Indeed, liberals and white supremacists are the only people left in America who are neurotically obsessed with race. Conservatives champion a color-blind society" -- Ann Coulter

Politicians are in general only a little above average in intelligence so the idea that they can make better decisions for us that we can make ourselves is laughable

A quote from the late Dr. Adrian Rogers: "You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."

The Supreme Court of the United States is now and always has been a judicial abomination. Its guiding principles have always been political rather than judicial. It is not as political as Stalin's courts but its respect for the constitution is little better. Some recent abuses: The "equal treatment" provision of the 14th amendment was specifically written to outlaw racial discrimination yet the court has allowed various forms of "affirmative action" for decades -- when all such policies should have been completely stuck down immediately. The 2nd. amendment says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed yet gun control laws infringe it in every State in the union. The 1st amendment provides that speech shall be freely exercised yet the court has upheld various restrictions on the financing and display of political advertising. The court has found a right to abortion in the constitution when the word abortion is not even mentioned there. The court invents rights that do not exist and denies rights that do.

"Some action that is unconstitutional has much to recommend it" -- Elena Kagan, nominated to SCOTUS by Obama

Frank Sulloway, the anti-scientist

The basic aim of all bureaucrats is to maximize their funding and minimize their workload

A lesson in Australian: When an Australian calls someone a "big-noter", he is saying that the person is a chronic and rather pathetic seeker of admiration -- as in someone who often pulls out "big notes" (e.g. $100.00 bills) to pay for things, thus endeavouring to create the impression that he is rich. The term describes the mentality rather than the actual behavior with money and it aptly describes many Leftists. When they purport to show "compassion" by advocating things that cost themselves nothing (e.g. advocating more taxes on "the rich" to help "the poor"), an Australian might say that the Leftist is "big-noting himself". There is an example of the usage here. The term conveys contempt. There is a wise description of Australians generally here

Some ancient wisdom for Leftists: "Be not righteous overmuch; neither make thyself over wise: Why shouldest thou die before thy time?" -- Ecclesiastes 7:16

"Foreign aid is the process by which money is taken from poor people in rich countries and given to rich people in poor countries." -- Peter Bauer

Jesse Jackson: "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery -- then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved." There ARE important racial differences.

Some Jimmy Carter wisdom: "I think it's inevitable that there will be a lower standard of living than what everybody had always anticipated," he told advisers in 1979. "there's going to be a downward turning."

Heritage is what survives death: Very rare and hence very valuable

Big business is not your friend. As Adam Smith said: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty or justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary

How can I accept the Communist doctrine, which sets up as its bible, above and beyond criticism, an obsolete textbook which I know not only to be scientifically erroneous but without interest or application to the modern world? How can I adopt a creed which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above the bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia, who with all their faults, are the quality of life and surely carry the seeds of all human achievement? Even if we need a religion, how can we find it in the turbid rubbish of the red bookshop? It is hard for an educated, decent, intelligent son of Western Europe to find his ideals here, unless he has first suffered some strange and horrid process of conversion which has changed all his values. -- John Maynard Keynes

Some wisdom from "Bron" Waugh: "The purpose of politics is to help them [politicians] overcome these feelings of inferiority and compensate for their personal inadequacies in the pursuit of power"

"There are countless horrible things happening all over the country, and horrible people prospering, but we must never allow them to disturb our equanimity or deflect us from our sacred duty to sabotage and annoy them whenever possible"

The urge to pass new laws must be seen as an illness, not much different from the urge to bite old women. Anyone suspected of suffering from it should either be treated with the appropriate pills or, if it is too late for that, elected to Parliament [or Congress, as the case may be] and paid a huge salary with endless holidays, to do nothing whatever"

"It is my settled opinion, after some years as a political correspondent, that no one is attracted to a political career in the first place unless he is socially or emotionally crippled"

Two lines below of a famous hymn that would be incomprehensible to Leftists today ("honor"? "right"? "freedom?" Freedom to agree with them is the only freedom they believe in)

First to fight for right and freedom,
And to keep our honor clean

It is of course the hymn of the USMC -- still today the relentless warriors that they always were. Freedom needs a soldier

If any of the short observations above about Leftism seem wrong, note that they do not stand alone. The evidence for them is set out at great length in my MONOGRAPH on Leftism.

3 memoirs of "Supermac", a 20th century Disraeli (Aristocratic British Conservative Prime Minister -- 1957 to 1963 -- Harold Macmillan):

"It breaks my heart to see (I can't interfere or do anything at my age) what is happening in our country today - this terrible strike of the best men in the world, who beat the Kaiser's army and beat Hitler's army, and never gave in. Pointless, endless. We can't afford that kind of thing. And then this growing division which the noble Lord who has just spoken mentioned, of a comparatively prosperous south, and an ailing north and midlands. That can't go on." -- Mac on the British working class: "the best men in the world" (From his Maiden speech in the House of Lords, 13 November 1984)

"As a Conservative, I am naturally in favour of returning into private ownership and private management all those means of production and distribution which are now controlled by state capitalism"

During Macmillan's time as prime minister, average living standards steadily rose while numerous social reforms were carried out

"Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see." --?Arthur Schopenhauer


The Bible is an Israeli book

There is a view on both Left and Right that Jews are "too" influential. And it is true that they are more influential than their numbers would indicate. But they are exactly as influential as their IQs would indicate

To me, hostility to the Jews is a terrible tragedy. I weep for them at times. And I do literally put my money where my mouth is. I do at times send money to Israeli charities

My (Gentile) opinion of antisemitism: The Jews are the best we've got so killing them is killing us.

It’s a strange paradox when anti-Zionists argue that Jews should suffer and wander without a homeland while urging that Palestinians ought to have security and territory.

"And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" -- Genesis 12:3

"O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: They shall prosper that love thee" Psalm 122:6.

If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy -- Psalm 137 (NIV)

Israel, like the Jews throughout history, is hated not for her vices but her virtues. Israel is hated, as the United States is hated, because Israel is successful, because Israel is free, and because Israel is good. As Maxim Gorky put it: “Whatever nonsense the anti-Semites may talk, they dislike the Jew only because he is obviously better, more adroit, and more willing and capable of work than they are.” Whether driven by culture or genes—or like most behavior, an inextricable mix—the fact of Jewish genius is demonstrable." -- George Gilder

To Leftist haters, all the basic rules of liberal society — rejection of hate speech, commitment to academic freedom, rooting out racism, the absolute commitment to human dignity — go out the window when the subject is Israel.

I have always liked the story of Gideon (See Judges chapters 6 to 8) and it is surely no surprise that in the present age Israel is the Gideon of nations: Few in numbers but big in power and impact.

Is the Israel Defence Force the most effective military force per capita since Genghis Khan? They probably are but they are also the most ethically advanced military force that the world has ever seen

If I were not an atheist, I would believe that God had a sense of humour. He gave his chosen people (the Jews) enormous advantages -- high intelligence and high drive -- but to keep it fair he deprived them of something hugely important too: Political sense. So Jews to this day tend very strongly to be Leftist -- even though the chief source of antisemitism for roughly the last 200 years has been the political Left!

And the other side of the coin is that Jews tend to despise conservatives and Christians. Yet American fundamentalist Christians are the bedrock of the vital American support for Israel, the ultimate bolthole for all Jews. So Jewish political irrationality seems to be a rather good example of the saying that "The LORD giveth and the LORD taketh away". There are many other examples of such perversity (or "balance"). The sometimes severe side-effects of most pharmaceutical drugs is an obvious one but there is another ethnic example too, a rather amusing one. Chinese people are in general smart and patient people but their rate of traffic accidents in China is about 10 times higher than what prevails in Western societies. They are brilliant mathematicians and fearless business entrepreneurs but at the same time bad drivers!

Conservatives, on the other hand, could be antisemitic on entirely rational grounds: Namely, the overwhelming Leftism of the Diaspora Jewish population as a whole. Because they judge the individual, however, only a tiny minority of conservative-oriented people make such general judgments. The longer Jews continue on their "stiff-necked" course, however, the more that is in danger of changing. The children of Israel have been a stiff necked people since the days of Moses, however, so they will no doubt continue to vote with their emotions rather than their reason.

I despair of the ADL. Jews have enough problems already and yet in the ADL one has a prominent Jewish organization that does its best to make itself offensive to Christians. Their Leftism is more important to them than the welfare of Jewry -- which is the exact opposite of what they ostensibly stand for! Jewish cleverness seems to vanish when politics are involved. Fortunately, Christians are true to their saviour and have loving hearts. Jewish dissatisfaction with the myopia of the ADL is outlined here. Note that Foxy was too grand to reply to it.

Fortunately for America, though, liberal Jews there are rapidly dying out through intermarriage and failure to reproduce. And the quite poisonous liberal Jews of Israel are not much better off. Judaism is slowly returning to Orthodoxy and the Orthodox tend to be conservative.

The above is good testimony to the accuracy of the basic conservative insight that almost anything in human life is too complex to be reduced to any simple rule and too complex to be reduced to any rule at all without allowance for important exceptions to the rule concerned

Amid their many virtues, one virtue is often lacking among Jews in general and Israelis in particular: Humility. And that's an antisemitic comment only if Hashem is antisemitic. From Moses on, the Hebrew prophets repeatedy accused the Israelites of being "stiff-necked" and urged them to repent. So it's no wonder that the greatest Jewish prophet of all -- Jesus -- not only urged humility but exemplified it in his life and death

"Why should the German be interested in the liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?... We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time... In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.... Indeed, in North America, the practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world has achieved as its unambiguous and normal expression that the preaching of the Gospel itself and the Christian ministry have become articles of trade... Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist". Who said that? Hitler? No. It was Karl Marx. See also here and here and here. For roughly two centuries now, antisemitism has, throughout the Western world, been principally associated with Leftism (including the socialist Hitler) -- as it is to this day. See here.

Karl Marx hated just about everyone. Even his father, the kindly Heinrich Marx, thought Karl was not much of a human being

Leftists call their hatred of Israel "Anti-Zionism" but Zionists are only a small minority in Israel

Some of the Leftist hatred of Israel is motivated by old-fashioned antisemitism (beliefs in Jewish "control" etc.) but most of it is just the regular Leftist hatred of success in others. And because the societies they inhabit do not give them the vast amount of recognition that their large but weak egos need, some of the most virulent haters of Israel and America live in those countries. So the hatred is the product of pathologically high self-esteem.

Their threatened egos sometimes drive Leftists into quite desperate flights from reality. For instance, they often call Israel an "Apartheid state" -- when it is in fact the Arab states that practice Apartheid -- witness the severe restrictions on Christians in Saudi Arabia. There are no such restrictions in Israel.

If the Palestinians put down their weapons, there'd be peace. If the Israelis put down their weapons, there'd be genocide.

Leftists are usually just anxious little people trying to pretend that they are significant. No doubt there are some Leftists who are genuinely concerned about inequities in our society but their arrogance lies in thinking that they understand it without close enquiry


Many people hunger and thirst after righteousness. Some find it in the hatreds of the Left. Others find it in the love of Christ. I don't hunger and thirst after righteousness at all. I hunger and thirst after truth. How old-fashioned can you get?

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

I imagine that few of my readers will understand it, but I am an unabashed monarchist. And, as someone who was born and bred in a monarchy and who still lives there (i.e. Australia), that gives me no conflicts at all. In theory, one's respect for the monarchy does not depend on who wears the crown but the impeccable behaviour of the present Queen does of course help perpetuate that respect. Aside from my huge respect for the Queen, however, my favourite member of the Royal family is the redheaded Prince Harry. The Royal family is of course a military family and Prince Harry is a great example of that. As one of the world's most privileged people, he could well be an idle layabout but instead he loves his life in the army. When his girlfriend Chelsy ditched him because he was so often away, Prince Harry said: "I love Chelsy but the army comes first". A perfect military man! I doubt that many women would understand or approve of his attitude but perhaps my own small army background powers my approval of that attitude.

I imagine that most Americans might find this rather mad -- but I believe that a constitutional Monarchy is the best form of government presently available. Can a libertarian be a Monarchist? I think so -- and prominent British libertarian Sean Gabb seems to think so too! Long live the Queen! (And note that Australia ranks well above the USA on the Index of Economic freedom. Heh!)

The Australian flag with the Union Jack quartered in it

Throughout Europe there is an association between monarchism and conservatism. It is a little sad that American conservatives do not have access to that satisfaction. So even though Australia is much more distant from Europe (geographically) than the USA is, Australia is in some ways more of an outpost of Europe than America is! Mind you: Australia is not very atypical of its region. Australia lies just South of Asia -- and both Japan and Thailand have greatly respected monarchies. And the demise of the Cambodian monarchy was disastrous for Cambodia

Throughout the world today, possession of a U.S. or U.K. passport is greatly valued. I once shared that view. Developments in recent years have however made me profoundly grateful that I am a 5th generation Australian. My Australian passport is a door into a much less oppressive and much less messed-up place than either the USA or Britain

Following the Sotomayor precedent, I would hope that a wise older white man such as myself with the richness of that experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than someone who hasn’t lived that life.

"Remind me never to get this guy mad at me" -- Instapundit

It seems to be a common view that you cannot talk informatively about a country unless you have been there. I completely reject that view but it is nonetheless likely that some Leftist dimbulb will at some stage aver that any comments I make about politics and events in the USA should not be heeded because I am an Australian who has lived almost all his life in Australia. I am reluctant to pander to such ignorance in the era of the "global village" but for the sake of the argument I might mention that I have visited the USA 3 times -- spending enough time in Los Angeles and NYC to get to know a fair bit about those places at least. I did however get outside those places enough to realize that they are NOT America.

"Intellectual" = Leftist dreamer. I have more publications in the academic journals than almost all "public intellectuals" but I am never called an intellectual and nor would I want to be. Call me a scholar or an academic, however, and I will accept either as a just and earned appellation

Some personal background

My full name is Dr. John Joseph RAY. I am a former university teacher aged 65 at the time of writing in 2009. I was born of Australian pioneer stock in 1943 at Innisfail in the State of Queensland in Australia. I trace my ancestry wholly to the British Isles. After an early education at Innisfail State Rural School and Cairns State High School, I taught myself for matriculation. I took my B.A. in Psychology from the University of Queensland in Brisbane. I then moved to Sydney (in New South Wales, Australia) and took my M.A. in psychology from the University of Sydney in 1969 and my Ph.D. from the School of Behavioural Sciences at Macquarie University in 1974. I first tutored in psychology at Macquarie University and then taught sociology at the University of NSW. My doctorate is in psychology but I taught mainly sociology in my 14 years as a university teacher. In High Schools I taught economics. I have taught in both traditional and "progressive" (low discipline) High Schools. Fuller biographical notes here

I completed the work for my Ph.D. at the end of 1970 but the degree was not awarded until 1974 -- due to some academic nastiness from Seymour Martin Lipset and Fred Emery. A conservative or libertarian who makes it through the academic maze has to be at least twice as good as the average conformist Leftist. Fortunately, I am a born academic.

Despite my great sympathy and respect for Christianity, I am the most complete atheist you could find. I don't even believe that the word "God" is meaningful. I am not at all original in that view, of course. Such views are particularly associated with the noted German philosopher Rudolf Carnap. Unlike Carnap, however, none of my wives have committed suicide

In my teenage years, however, I was fortunate to be immersed (literally) in a very fundamentalist Christian religion. And the heavy Bible study I did at that time left me with lessons for life that have stood me in good stead ever since

Very occasionally in my writings I make reference to the greats of analytical philosophy such as Carnap and Wittgenstein. As philosophy is a heavily Leftist discipline however, I have long awaited an attack from some philosopher accusing me of making coat-trailing references not backed by any real philosophical erudition. I suppose it is encouraging that no such attacks have eventuated but I thought that I should perhaps forestall them anyway -- by pointing out that in my younger days I did complete three full-year courses in analytical philosophy (at 3 different universities!) and that I have had papers on mainstream analytical philosophy topics published in academic journals

IQ and ideology: Most academics are Left-leaning. Why? Because very bright people who have balls go into business, while very bright people with no balls go into academe. I did both with considerable success, which makes me a considerable rarity. Although I am a born academic, I have always been good with money too. My share portfolio even survived the GFC in good shape. The academics hate it that bright people with balls make more money than them.

I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak. Some might conclude that I must therefore be a very confused sort of atheist but I can assure everyone that I do not feel the least bit confused. The New Testament is a lighthouse that has illumined the thinking of all sorts of men and women and I am deeply grateful that it has shone on me.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age. Conservatism is in touch with reality. Leftism is not.

I imagine that the RD are still sending mailouts to my 1950s address

Most teenagers have sporting and movie posters on their bedroom walls. At age 14 I had a map of Taiwan on my wall.

A small personal note: I have always been very self-confident. I inherited it from my mother, along with my skeptical nature. So I don't need to feed my self-esteem by claiming that I am wiser than others -- which is what Leftists do.

As with conservatives generally, it bothers me not a bit to admit to large gaps in my knowledge and understanding. For instance, I don't know if the slight global warming of the 20th century will resume in the 21st, though I suspect not. And I don't know what a "healthy" diet is, if there is one. Constantly-changing official advice on the matter suggests that nobody knows

As well as being an academic, I am an army man and I am pleased and proud to say that I have worn my country's uniform. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

It would be very easy for me to say that I am too much of an individual for the army but I did in fact join the army and enjoy it greatly, as most men do. In my observation, ALL army men are individuals. It is just that they accept discipline in order to be militarily efficient -- which is the whole point of the exercise. But that's too complex for simplistic Leftist thinking, of course

A real army story here

It's amusing that my army service gives me honour among conservatives but contempt from Leftists. I don't weep at all about the latter. I am still in touch with some of the fine people I served with over 50 years ago. The army is like that

This is just a bit of romanticism but I do have permanently located by the head of my bed a genuine century-old British army cavalry sword. It is still a real weapon. I was not in the cavalry but I see that sword as a symbol of many things. I want it to be beside my bed when I die

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day and there is JUST ONE saying of Hitler's that I rather like. It may not even be original to him but it is found in chapter 2 of Mein Kampf (published in 1925): "Widerstaende sind nicht da, dass man vor ihnen kapituliert, sondern dass man sie bricht". The equivalent English saying is "Difficulties exist to be overcome" and that traces back at least to the 1920s -- with attributions to Montessori and others. Hitler's metaphor is however one of smashing barriers rather than of politely hopping over them and I am myself certainly more outspoken than polite. Hitler's colloquial Southern German is notoriously difficult to translate but I think I can manage a reasonable translation of that saying: "Resistance is there not for us to capitulate to but for us to break". I am quite sure that I don't have anything like that degree of determination in my own life but it seems to me to be a good attitude in general anyway

And something that was perceptive comes from the same chapter. Hitler said that the doctrines of the interwar Social Democrats (mainstream leftists) of Vienna were "comprised of egotism and hate". Not much has changed

I have used many sites to post my writings over the years and many have gone bad on me for various reasons. So if you click on a link here to my other writings you may get a "page not found" response if the link was put up some time before the present. All is not lost, however. All my writings have been reposted elsewhere. If you do strike a failed link, just take the filename (the last part of the link) and add it to the address of any of my current home pages and -- Voila! -- you should find the article concerned.

COMMENTS: I have gradually added comments facilities to all my blogs. The comments I get are interesting. They are mostly from Leftists and most consist either of abuse or mere assertions. Reasoned arguments backed up by references to supporting evidence are almost unheard of from Leftists. Needless to say, I just delete such useless comments.

You can email me here (Hotmail address). In emailing me, you can address me as "John", "Jon", "Dr. Ray" or "JR" and that will be fine -- but my preference is for "JR" -- and that preference has NOTHING to do with an American soap opera that featured a character who was referred to in that way


"Tongue Tied"
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To be continued ....
Coral reef compendium.
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Paralipomena (2)
AGL -- A bumbling monster
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