Sunday, May 31, 2020

Lockdowns save no lives says biophysicist (video)

Nobel Prize winner: Coronavirus lockdowns cost lives instead of saving them | New York Post - Michael Levitt:

May 23, 2020 - "Coronavirus lockdowns may have cost more lives than they saved, according to a Nobel laureate.... Stanford University biophysicist Michael Levitt, a British American Israeli who won the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry, said he believed other health precautions, such as enforcing the use of masks, would have been more effective in combating the pandemic, the Telegraph reported.

"'I think lockdown saved no lives. I think it may have cost lives,' Levitt, who is not an epidemiologist, told the publication. 'There is no doubt that you can stop an epidemic with lockdown, but it’s a very blunt and very medieval weapon and the epidemic could have been stopped just as effectively with other sensible measures (such as masks and other forms of social distancing),' he added.

"Levitt attributed the additional lives lost to other dangers from the fallout of the lockdowns, such as domestic abuse and fewer people seeking health care for ailments other than the virus. 'It will have saved a few road accident lives, things like that, but social damage — domestic abuse, divorces, alcoholism — has been extreme. And then you have those who were not treated for other conditions,' Levitt told the newspaper.

"The 73-year-old has no background as an epidemiologist but has analyzed data from 78 nations with more than 50 reported cases of coronavirus, according to the Telegraph. He said his investigations proved that the virus was never going to grow 'exponentially'....  'From the very first case you see, exponential growth actually slows down very dramatically,' Levitt said. In the middle of China’s crisis, Levitt made the prediction that the country would peak with around 80,000 cases. He was close: China has reported 84,102 cases as of Tuesday, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University....

“'The problem with epidemiologists is that they feel their job is to frighten people into lockdown, social distancing,' Levitt said, singling out British epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson, who he claims overestimated the potential UK death toll by '10 or 12 times. 'So you say "There’s going to be a million deaths" and when there are only 25,000, you say, "It’s good you listened to my advice." This happened with Ebola and bird flu. It’s just part of the madness,' he said."

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

The greatest interference with liberty in our history

Former Supreme Court judge LORD SUMPTION gives a withering critique of the Government's lockdown | The Mail on Sunday - Jonathan Sumption:

May 2, 2020 - "COVID-19 is not the greatest crisis in our history. It is not even the greatest public health crisis in our history. But the lockdown is without doubt the greatest interference with personal liberty in our history.... Even in wartime, we never confined the entire population to their homes, 24/7, if they did not have some excuse acceptable to a Minister.

"States have always tried to confine people known to be carrying dangerous infections. But we live in a new world in which, if we are ill, the State will try to cure us. From this, it is said to follow that the State can take control of our lives against our will even if we are healthy, lest we fall ill and need its services too much. Suddenly, it is our duty to save the NHS, not the other way round.

"It is now pointless to object to the imposition of the lockdown in the first place.... The question is how we get out of it. It is a pity that the Government did not ask itself that question when, in the blind panic following the delivery of Imperial College London's Professor Neil Ferguson's statistical projections, it legislated the lockdown on the hoof in a late-night press conference. They now find themselves trapped by their own decisions.

"Ministers have formulated five tests to be satisfied before the lockdown is lifted. What is wrong with these tests is that they are all about health and only about health.... They think that this will allow them to avoid criticism by sheltering behind the scientists. But that is just an evasion of political responsibility.... Ending the lockdown is a political decision, not a scientific one.  It boils down to a single question. Is it worth it? That depends only partly on the science. There are also moral judgments, constitutional values and economic consequences involved.

"First, the medical issue. I am not going to argue about Professor Ferguson's projections. They have caused some discomfort among reputable professionals. They are based on some rather arbitrary assumptions. And they leave out of the account important considerations, such as the adverse health consequences of the lockdown itself or the number of people who would have died anyway from underlying clinical conditions even without Covid-19....

"Second, we need to ask how many deaths we are prepared to accept in order to preserve other things that we value.... To say that life is priceless and nothing else counts is just empty rhetoric. People say it because it is emotionally comfortable and avoids awkward dilemmas. But they don't actually believe it. We went to war in 1939 because lives were worth losing for liberty. We allow cars on the roads because lives are worth losing for convenience. We travel by air although pollution kills. We tut-tut about it, but we willingly do it.

"Third question. What sort of life do we think we are protecting? There is more to life than the avoidance of death. Life is a drink with friends ... a crowded football match or a live concert ... a family celebration with children and grandchildren ...  companionship, an arm around one's back, laughter or tears shared at less than two metres. These things are not just optional extras. They are life itself. They are fundamental to our humanity, to our existence as social beings. Of course death is permanent, whereas joy may be temporarily suspended. But the force of that point depends on how temporary it really is....

"Fourth, there is the money question. People decry attempts to measure the mortality of Covid-19 against the economic cost of reducing it. But this too is rhetoric, and hypocritical rhetoric at that.... You and I and the editor of The Guardian and the driver of the No 9 bus and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the cashier at the supermarket all value and depend on money. Not just in the sense that it pays our wages or pensions.... A thriving economy, of the kind that we are now throwing away, is the source of our security and the foundation of our children's future. We would do well not to sneer at it. Poverty kills too. And when it does not kill, it maims, mentally, physically and socially.

"Last but not least, we have to ask ourselves what are the limits to the things that the State can legitimately do to people against their will in a liberal democracy. To say that there are no limits is the stuff of tyrants.... One of the more impressive observations of the Swedish epidemiologist Professor Johann Giesecke, in the interview in which he justified Sweden's refusal to lock its people down, was ... that there are some things that may work and that a totalitarian state like China can do. But a country like Sweden with its long liberal tradition cannot do them unless it wants to become like China.

"We, too, have to ask ourselves what kind of relationship we want with the State. Do we really want to be the kind of society where basic freedoms are conditional on the decisions of politicians in thrall to scientists and statisticians? Where human beings are just tools of public policy? A society in which the Government can confine most of the population without controversy is not one in which civilised people would want to live, regardless of their answers to these questions....

"Not everyone will agree, which is fair enough. These are difficult value judgments, on which one would not expect general agreement. The fundamental point is that these questions need to be confronted and publicly discussed by politicians without the kind of emotive evasions, propagandist slogans and generalised hype that have characterised their contribution so far."

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Friday, May 29, 2020

Japan contains coronavirus without lockdown

Japan May Have Beaten Coronavirus Without Lockdowns or Mass Testing. But How? | TIME - Lisa Du & Grace Huang:

May 22, 2020 - "Japan’s state of emergency is set to end with new cases of the coronavirus dwindling to mere dozens. It got there despite largely ignoring the default playbook. No restrictions were placed on residents’ movements, and businesses from restaurants to hairdressers stayed open. No high-tech apps that tracked people’s movements were deployed. The country doesn’t have a center for disease control. And even as nations were exhorted to 'test, test, test,' Japan has tested just 0.2% of its population — one of the lowest rates among developed countries.

"Yet the curve has been flattened, with deaths well below 1,000, by far the fewest among the Group of Seven developed nations. In Tokyo, its dense center, cases have dropped to single digits on most days. While the possibility of a more severe second wave of infection is ever-present, Japan has entered and is set to leave its emergency in just weeks, with the status lifted already for most of the country and Tokyo and the remaining four other regions set to exit Monday.

"Analyzing just how Japan defied the odds and contained the virus while disregarding the playbook used by other successful countries has become a national conversation. Only one thing is agreed upon: that there was no silver bullet, no one factor that made the difference.... Experts consulted by Bloomberg News also suggested a myriad of factors that contributed to the outcome, and none could point to a singular policy package that could be replicated in other countries. Nonetheless, these measures still offer long-term lessons for countries in the middle of pandemic that may yet last for years.

"An early grassroots response to rising infections was crucial.... [E]xperts praise the role of Japan’s contact tracers, which swung into action after the first infections were found in January. The fast response was enabled by one of Japan’s inbuilt advantages — its public health centers, which in 2018 employed more than half of 50,000 public health nurses who are experienced in infection tracing. In normal times, these nurses would be tracking down more common infections such as influenza and tuberculosis. 'It’s very analog — it’s not an app-based system like Singapore,' said Kazuto Suzuki, a professor of public policy at Hokkaido University who has written about Japan’s response. 'But nevertheless, it has been very useful.'

"While countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. are just beginning to hire and train contact tracers as they attempt to reopen their economies, Japan has been tracking the movement of the disease since the first handful of cases were found. These local experts focused on tackling so-called clusters, or groups of infections from a single location such as clubs or hospitals, to contain cases before they got out of control....

"The early response was also boosted by an unlikely happening. Japan’s battle with the virus first came to mainstream international attention with its much-criticized response to the Diamond Princess cruise ship in February that led to hundreds of infections.... Still, the experience of the ship is credited with providing Japanese experts with invaluable data early in the crisis on how the virus spread, as well as catapulting it into the public consciousness....

"Experts are also credited with creating an easy-to-understand message of avoiding what are called the 'Three C’s' — closed spaces, crowded spaces and close-contact settings — rather than keeping away from others entirely.... “Social distancing may work, but it doesn’t really help to continue normal social life,' said Hokkaido University’s Suzuki. 'The "Three C’s" are a much more pragmatic approach and very effective, while having a similar effect'....

"Even with the state of emergency about to end, authorities are warning that life will not return to normal.... If a deadlier second wave does follow, the risk factor in Japan, which has the world’s oldest population, remains high. The country has speedily approved Gilead Sciences Inc.’s remdesivir and is now scrambling to allow the use of still unproven Fujifilm Holdings Corp.’s antiviral Avigan.... Officials have begun to speak of a phase in which people 'live with the virus,' with a recognition that Japan’s approach has no possibility of wiping out the pathogen."

Read more:

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Retirement homes used to free up hospital space

How shoring up hospitals for COVID-19 contributed to Canada’s long-term care crisis | Globe and Mail - Kelly Granthealth:

May 21, 2020 - "In the early days of Canada’s coronavirus response, when officials were consumed with fears of overwhelmed hospitals and rationed ventilators, a hospital in Oshawa, Ont., discharged an elderly patient named Nina Watt to a nearby nursing home.... Orchard Villa, the nursing and retirement home to which she had been transferred, went on to experience one of the worst outbreaks in the country, with 77 dead of COVID-19, including Ms. Watt.

"Ms. Watt, 86, was one of thousands of seniors discharged to nursing and retirement homes as Ontario, Quebec and other provinces rushed to clear beds for a flood of COVID-19 patients.... At the same time the acute-care sector was searching for space, some hospitals, physicians and long-term care facility administrators were discouraging families from sending infected nursing-home residents to the hospital.... As a result, it appears most of the nursing- and retirement-home residents who have succumbed to COVID-19 in Canada died inside the virus-stricken, understaffed facilities, while many of the hospital beds opened for coronavirus patients sat empty....

"An estimated 80 per cent of the Canadians who’ve died of COVID-19 have been residents of seniors’ facilities, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. No province has been hit harder than Quebec, where 2,355 long-term care residents and 653 retirement-home residents have succumbed to the coronavirus and its resulting COVID-19. Ontario has reported 1,427 deaths among nursing-home patients and 125 among residents of retirement homes, while British Columbia and Alberta have each managed to keep COVID-19 deaths at seniors’ facilities below 100 as of Wednesday.

"At the start of the coronavirus crisis, the Quebec government ... wanted to prevent ... what Premier François Legault called 'an Italian-style scenario,' in which hospitals would run out of ventilators and intensive-care beds. During the month of March, Quebec hospitals were directed to do 'load shedding,' freeing beds by postponing elective procedures and transferring patients.... 'It had to be done, taking people who could be transferred to LTC homes to free beds in hospital and eventually handle the incoming wave caused by COVID-19,' Mr. Legault later told reporters to justify the decision.

"In Ontario, hospitals transferred out nearly 2,200 alternate-level-of-care, or ALC, patients from March 2 to May 3 – 1,589 of them to long-term care homes and 605 to retirement homes, according to the province’s Ministry of Health.... Alberta hospitals discharged 901 patients into long-term care and supportive-living facilities in March and early April.... March transfers were the highest recorded in history, Alberta Health Services said.... Nursing-home patients infected with the coronavirus were never supposed to be denied hospital care if they needed it, according to Ontario’s Ministry of Health, but it’s not clear how much of that message filtered down to the independent players in the system....

"The Quebec government also tried to cut down on movements back toward hospitals. Clinical guidelines issued on March 23 said that residents in long-term care facilities who contracted the new illness should only be sent to hospitals 'on an exceptional basis and after consultation with the doctor on duty'.... Quebec’s Premier and Health Minister insisted that it was better to keep elderly residents in long-term care facilities. 'It is never good to transfer people, to move people to other facilities, including the elderly, who get settled in and then become distraught when they change locations,' Mr. Legault told reporters on April 2.

"A few days later, the Quebec government realized that, with fewer than 700 COVID-19 patients in hospital, the dire forecasts of overwhelmed emergencies and intensive-care units weren’t materializing. At the same time, the increase in deaths among elder-care-home patients was accelerating at a faster pace. By April 10, more than a month after the first COVID-19 case was identified in the province, the Quebec government ordered an end to transfers from hospitals to elder-care homes. Ontario’s Ministry of Health followed suit on April 15, asking hospitals to temporarily halt transfers to long-term care in a memo that said only 64.1 per cent of acute-care beds in the province were in use....

"Toronto Public Health, which reported on coronavirus outbreaks at individual nursing and retirement homes over two weeks in April, found that of as of April 17, only 22 of 899 residents with confirmed cases of COVID-19 were being treated in hospital. That is about 2.5 per cent. By May 1, when there were 1,691 cases in Toronto seniors’ facilities, 95 residents, or 5.6 per cent, were in hospital. In Alberta, there had been 364 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in long-term care as of May 12. Of those, 24 had been hospitalized."

Read more:

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

What a 'lockdown' is, and is not

Lockdowns Don’t Work | The Public Discourse - Lyman Stone:

April 21, 2020 - "[W]e need to define what 'lockdowns' are and, especially, what they are not. I define lockdowns as having three characteristics.
  1. First, people are ordered to stay at home or required to provide a reason for movement outside of home. ["lockdowns" proper - gd]
  2. Second, assemblies are limited to a very small (usually single-digit) threshold. 
  3. Third, many businesses and activities are forced to close, even if they do not technically constitute assemblies and would like to stay open. ["shutdowns" - gd]
"Stay-at-home orders, low assembly thresholds, and business closures together constitute a lockdown. Without those three features, it’s not a lockdown.

"School cancellations aren’t lockdowns.... Travel restrictions, like setting up interstate checkpoints with mandatory testing at state borders, are not lockdowns.... Moderate assembly limits, such as bans on assemblies over 100 people, are not lockdowns.... Centralized quarantine orders, where individuals who test positive or individuals who have had contact with COVID-infected people are forced to be quarantined ... in hotels or special-purpose spaces ... [and] Requirements that people wear masks are not lockdowns....

"These other policies — travel restrictions, large-assembly limits, centralized quarantine, mask requirements, and school cancellations — do work. Because COVID is an extremely severe disease that, if left unchecked, will kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, it is vitally important that policymakers focus their efforts on policies that do work (masks, central quarantines, travel restrictions, school cancellations, large-assembly limits), and avoid implementing draconian, unpopular policies that don’t work (lockdowns)....

"There are very few documented cases of lockdowns being used to fight epidemic diseases in the past.... Nor does the 1918 influenza pandemic provide much help.... The most severe restrictions during that pandemic, which dramatically reduced deaths, were in St. Louis. St. Louis’s measures included closures of specific assemblies like churches, closure of all “amusements,” restricted business hours, mask orders, school cancellations, and centralized quarantine procedures. St. Louis never issued a stay-at-home order, and only imposed a complete cancellation of business for about forty-eight hours....

"I’ve built a model to predict county-level deaths per 100,000 people as of April 19. My specific interest is to know if policies like stay-at-home orders reduce deaths. Luckily, the research team at Johns Hopkins University has coded up what measures are in place for every county, and when they were put in place. I have merged this with county-level data like density, metro area size, college-educated share, racial mix, population share born in Italy (a good measure of exposure to European outbreaks), transit-usage, and how long it has been since a county’s first death (a good measure of duration of exposure to a COVID outbreak), to produce a statistical regression with a similar structure as that used by other researchers.

"My findings are striking: for every eight days (including weekends) since school cancellations began, a county tends to have one less death per 100,000 people. For every nine days a ban on gatherings over 500 people has been in place, there’s one less death per 100,000 people. These policies work. But the correlation flips for bans on gatherings of fifty people or for stay-at-home orders. For every two weeks a stay-at-home order is in place, the death rate rises by one person per 100,000. For bans of gatherings of fifty people, it’s every eleven days.... All the underlying data can be downloaded publicly.

"The only US-based academic study empirically linking lockdowns to lower deaths is a recent economics paper identifying California’s lockdown as the reason for its lower death rate. The problem with this paper is that the authors find that the lockdown began to reduce California’s deaths just five days after being implemented. The effect is too early to derive from the supposed cause....

"We don’t need to have a national debate about whether the economic costs of lockdowns outweigh their public health benefits, because lockdowns do not provide public health benefits. Many policies do provide public-health benefits. Masks work.... School cancellations are hugely important.... Bans on large assemblies are an obvious policy with good support. Restrictions on long-distance travel help reduce the occurrence of new outbreaks. Centralized quarantine helps actively reduce the spread of COVID-19 to a very low level.

"But ordering people to cower in their homes, harassing people for having playdates in the park, and ordering small businesses to close up shop regardless of their hygienic procedures simply has no demonstrated effectiveness. These policies should be replaced by stringent mask requirements, large-scale centralized quarantine protocols, and renewed emphasis on empowering people to protect themselves and their neighbors by adopting social distancing during their everyday life."

Lyman Stone is Chief Information Officer at the population consulting firm Demographic Intelligence, a Research Fellow at the Institute for Family Studies, and an Adjunct Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He, his wife, and their baby daughter live in Hong Kong.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Lockdown protests break out in Europe

Clashes, arrests across Europe as anti-lockdown protests flare | CBC - Associated Press:
May 16, 2020 - "Demonstrations took place Saturday in several European cities against restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus, with tear gas used on protesters in Poland and arrests made at a gathering in London's Hyde Park. Police in several German cities enforced distancing rules as thousands of people gathered to express a mix of frustrations — at restrictions battering the economy and a perceived loss of civic freedom.....

"Police in Stuttgart said that the permitted number of 5,000 demonstrators was exceeded.... Police said they were enforcing a mask requirement under threat of a 300 euro ($458 Cdn) fine. The permitted number of 1,000 protesters was reached in Munich ... one of a number of gatherings across the southern state of Bavaria. Several dozen people protested anti-virus rules to loud music in Berlin in a taped-off demonstration area on the central Alexanderplatz square, overseen by 1,000 police....

"Dozens of people, including a senator, were detained during a protest by business owners in the Polish capital against coronavirus restrictions, while police used tear gas against protesters. The city of Warsaw said the gathering was illegal because it had not been previously approved.... Warsaw police said they faced cases of 'aggression against police officers.'
Read more;

Coronavirus: Anti-lockdown car protest draws thousands | BBC World News: 
May 23. 2020 - "The far-right Vox party urged supporters to drive through major cities without leaving their vehicles in order to maintain social distancing. Protesters in the capital, Madrid, drove in convoy and waved Spanish flags as they called for socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to resign.

"Spain imposed some of the tightest restrictions in Europe on 14 March. It has eased restrictions in recent weeks, but Madrid and Barcelona have remained under tight lockdown due to their more severe outbreaks of Covid-19. The country's two-month lockdown has seen hotels, bars and restaurants all close as well as beaches and other outdoor attractions. The government says this has allowed it to get the outbreak under control, and the daily death toll has been gradually declining.

"But, on Saturday, far-right protesters called for the lockdown to be lifted entirely owing to its impact on jobs and the economy. Almost one million jobs were lost in March alone, and forecasts suggest the Spanish economy will contract by up to 12% this year as a result of the pandemic.... The party's leader, Santiago Abascal, led the protest from an open-topped bus in Madrid. He wore a face mask and accused the government of being 'directly responsible for the worst management of this crisis on the entire planet'.... Similar protests also took place in Seville, Barcelona and other regional capitals where rows of cars and motorbikes decked in Spanish flags honked their horns. Others followed the convoys on foot and held placards. While countries such as the UK, US and Brazil have also seen anti-lockdown protests, they have rarely seen social distancing measures respected."
Read more:

Protesters take to the streets of Berlin over government's lockdown response | Euro News - Jona Kellgren & Craig Crowther
May 25, 2020 - "Berlin saw new protests against the country's coronavirus lockdown over the weekend. As well as protests in the capital, crowds also gathered in Munich and Stuttgart to demonstrate the German government's response to the COVID-19 outbreak. They claim that restrictions on civil liberties during the lockdown, which has been notably less strict in Germany than elsewhere in Europe, are undemocratic....

"In some cases, demonstrations have been started by left-wing groups or anti-vaccine campaigners, but what unites them is a lack of trust in the authorities, experts say.... The demonstrations have spread across Germany and have also started to appear in other European countries. In some cases, right-wing groups have tried to capitalize on the protests.

"In the United Kingdom, 19 people were arrested for breaking social distancing rules while attending an anti-lockdown rally at the weekend. Meanwhile, police in the Polish capital Warsaw used tear gas on protesters who were demanding the government allow businesses to reopen."
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Monday, May 25, 2020

Libertarian Party chooses Jorgensen / Cohen

Jo Jorgensen Wins Libertarian Party Presidential Nomination | Reason - Brian Doherty:

May 23, 2020 - 'In a day-long virtual meeting, after four ballots, the 1,035 delegates assembled for the Libertarian Party's online convention selected Jo Jorgensen as their presidential candidate. She won with slightly over 51 percent of the vote (not every delegate voted in every round) on that fourth ballot, with 524 votes. Jacob Hornberger came in second, with nearly 28 percent of the vote. Vermin Supreme came in third, with 20 percent of the final vote....

The party's voting procedure involved six candidates officially in nomination: Jorgensen, Jacob Hornberger, Vermin Supreme, John Monds, Judge James Gray, and Adam Kokesh. (Members could vote for other people if they wanted, or for none of the above, and many did.) Jorgensen led the vote in every round, though she was only 12 votes ahead of runner-up Jacob Hornberger on the first ballot.

"As per the party's procedure, the lowest vote getter in each round was technically eliminated for the next one. Kokesh was eliminated after round one, Gray after round two, and Monds after round three. Jorgensen's lead grew with each round, to 82 votes over Hornberger on the second ballot and a 126-vote lead on the third. Hornberger's support remained pretty steady, rising only to 285 from his first-round 236 votes.

"Jorgensen vowed to 'make this the most successful campaign we can' in a speech after the results came in." Runner-up Hornberger said in a concession speech that he 'hold[s] her in the highest respect and esteem.'"

Read more:

Libertarian Party Picks Spike Cohen as Its Vice-Presidential Candidate | Reason - Brian Doherty:

May 24, 2020 - "Spike Cohen, who runs Muddied Waters Media, won the Libertarian Party's nomination for vice-president today. On the online convention's third ballot, Cohen got 533 votes — 52 percent of the total — narrowly edging out former presidential candidate John Monds.

"Jo Jorgensen, a Clemson psychologist who served as the party's vice presidential candidate in 1996, was chosen as the Libertarian presidential nominee yesterday in a separate vote. Jorgensen had expressed a preference for Monds to be her vice president. Cohen has linked himself to political satirist Vermin Supreme, who ran this year for the party's presidential nod."

Read more:

Sunday, May 24, 2020

CDC drops the ball on COVID-19 testing again

The CDC Is Still Botching the Coronavirus Testing Process | Reason - Peter Suderman:

May 22, 2020 - "Over and over again, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have bungled the response to COVID-19. The agency is supposed to stand at the forefront of the federal government's defense against pandemics, but in the effort to track, identify, and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, it has repeatedly proven that it's not up to the task.

"The agency publishes statistics purporting to show the number of Americans tested, and the number of positive and negative results. In theory, this should provide a clear snapshot of both the spread of the virus and the number of people who have been tested. Yet as The Atlantic reported yesterday, the agency has been conflating the results of two very different tests: viral tests, which determine if an individual is sick right now, and antibody tests, which are designed to reveal whether an individual has ever been exposed to the pathogen. This makes it impossible to determine the true spread of the virus at any given moment....

'It isn't the first such error the CDC has made. At nearly every stage of the crisis, the agency has botched the job in small and large ways that continue to cripple our response....

"Early in February, the agency misreported the results from mislabeled test samples taken from a group of individuals who were being quarantined at a San Diego military base after being evacuated from Wuhan, China, where the virus originated. The CDC initially informed the group that, following testing, everyone was negative for the virus. But after the mislabeling was discovered, it turned out that one woman had tested positive....

'A far more consequential error also occurred in February, when the agency botched the development of the first batch of test kits that states were supposed to use to begin the testing process. The CDC had already declined to use a German test backed by the World Health Organization, preferring to create its own, as is typical for the agency. This cost several weeks during the time when the virus was just beginning to spread in the U.S. And when the CDC did send out test kits to states, the majority of those kits delivered faulty results....

"Only when the testing process was turned over to the private sector was it put back on track.... Eventually, an agency spokesperson admitted that the agency 'did not manufacture its test consistent with its own protocol'....

"Months later, as reporting snafus make clear, the CDC is still making easily avoidable mistakes. And they are still costing us time we do not have.

"The CDC is not alone in its errors. Several states have been blending their test results as well, rendering it difficult to determine the local impact of the virus. But the CDC's role as the officially designated first line of defense makes the agency's failure far more significant. Without clear, reliable, and accurate reporting from the CDC, it becomes nearly impossible to take stock of the pandemic's damage."

Read more:

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Fake news on Sweden from the New York Post

by George J. Dance

Sweden's decision to opt for voluntary social distancing rather than state-imposed lockdowns or business shutdowns to combat the coronavirus has led to a global debate, which has caught my interest. Looking for data on the subject, I found this story in Thursday's New York Post:   
Sweden’s voluntary coronavirus lockdown strategy is failing, study shows | New York Post - Laura Italiano:
May 21, 2020 - Sweden’s decision to go with voluntary lockdowns – instead of the mandatory measures implemented in other countries – has resulted in the highest number of COVID-19 deaths per capita in Europe but little of the hoped-for 'herd immunity' benefits. A Swedish study found that only 7.3 percent of Stockholmers had developed coronavirus-fighting antibodies by late April, Reuters reports.
The low percentage runs counter to the strategy of the country’s chief epidemiologist, who’d predicted that by keeping schools, restaurants, bars and businesses open, enough people would soon develop immunity to the infection to slow the disease from spreading catastrophically.
Read more:
The term "voluntary lockdown" is incoherent. A 'lockdown' consists of a police power ordering innocent people to stay in their homes, during an emergency, under the threat of arrest. People voluntarily staying home is voluntary social distancing, not a lockdown. I rate that description of Sweden's emergency measures Partly False. 

The claim that Sweden has "the highest number of COVID-19 deaths per capita in Europe" is clearly false as written. Sweden has more deaths per capita than Denmark or Germany, but less than Britain, France, Italy, Spain, or Belgium. That claim sources to a story in Wednesday's Post, which reported that "Sweden had the highest number of coronavirus deaths per capita in Europe over the last week" (stress added), but added that "deaths in Sweden are on the decline" (though not as fast as in Britain) – two important pieces of context that Thursday's article omitted. I rate that claim False.

I rate as True the author's claim that Sweden's chief epidemioligist, Anders Tegnall, predicted that his country's strategy would "slow the spread of the disease from spreading catastrophically,"  but as a Pants-on-Fire Lie her description of that strategy as "keeping schools, restaurants, bars, and businesses open [so that] enough people would soon develop immunity". As the following article illustrates, Tegnell's Swedish Public Health Agency has always "denied its strategy was based on the overall goal of herd immunity. A core aim was to introduce less stringent social distancing measures that could be maintained over a long period [of] time."

Sweden's strategy, like every other country's, was to 'flatten the curve' (or slow the rate of infection) to prevent its health care system from collapsing "catastrophically," the way the socialized health care sytems of Spain and Italy appeared to be collapsing at the time. It succeeded. "To a great part, we have been able to achieve what we set out to achieve," says Tegnell. "Swedish healthcare keeps on working, basically with a lot of stress, but not in a way that they turn patients away."

While the article's headline says that Sweden's coronavirus strategy is failing, it has in fact been succeeding. Sweden has achieved its goal of 'flattening the curve,' not through "herd immunity" and not through a lockdown, but through voluntary social distancing. The study did not prove that strategy failed; in fact the study said nothing about that strategy. The only thing the study did prove – that just over 7% of Swedes had caught the disease, two months into the epidemic – merely shows how successful voluntary social distancing had been in reducing infections. I rate the headline as another Pants-on-Fire Lie, and the entire article as Fake News.  

Sweden opts for voluntary social distancing

Coronavirus: Has Sweden got its science right? | BBC News -  Maddy Savage, Stockholm:

April 25, 2020 - "There is no lockdown here.... On the face of it little has shut down. But data suggests the vast majority of the population have taken to voluntary social distancing, which is the crux of Sweden's strategy to slow the spread of the virus.

"Usage of public transport has dropped significantly, large numbers are working from home, and most refrained from travelling over the Easter weekend. The government has also banned gatherings of more than 50 people and visits to elderly care homes. Around 9 in 10 Swedes say they keep at least a metre away from people at least some of the time, up from seven in 10 a month ago, according to a major survey by polling firm Novus. Viewed through the eyes of the Swedish Public Health Agency, the way people have responded is one to be celebrated, albeit cautiously.

"The scientists' approach has led to weeks of global debate over whether Sweden has adopted a sensible and sustainable plan, or unwittingly plunged its population into an experiment that is causing unnecessary fatalities, and could fail to keep the spread of Covid-19 under control.

"In Stockholm, the epicentre of the virus so far, cases have largely plateaued, although there was a spike at the end of this week, put down partly to increased testing. There is still space in intensive care units and a new field hospital at a former conference venue is yet to be used. 'To a great part, we have been able to achieve what we set out to achieve,' says state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. 'Swedish healthcare keeps on working, basically with a lot of stress, but not in a way that they turn patients away....' [T]he Swedish Public Health Agency has maintained high approval ratings throughout the pandemic.

"Sweden's decision to leave larger parts of society open than most of Europe came after Dr Tegnell's team used simulations which anticipated a more limited impact of the virus in relation to population size than those made by other scientists, including those behind a major report by Imperial College, London. That report apparently swayed the UK government to introduce a lockdown.

"In addition, the Swedish Public Health Agency pushed the idea early on that a large proportion of cases were likely to be mild. But it denied its strategy was based on the overall goal of herd immunity. A core aim was to introduce less stringent social distancing measures that could be maintained over a long period [of] time. Schools for under-16s have remained open to enable parents to keep working in key areas....

"Sweden, with a population of 10 million, remains amongst the top 20 in the world when it comes to the total number of cases.... It has higher death rates in relation to its population size than anywhere else in Scandinavia. Unlike in some countries, Sweden's statistics do include elderly care home residents, who account for around 50% of all deaths. Dr Tegnell admits that is a major concern.... Foreign residents, particularly those from Somalia who are more likely to live in multi-generational households, are also overrepresented in the figures....

"What happens next in Sweden may largely depend on people carrying on with social distancing.... On social media there has been vocal dissent from some foreign residents championing tougher measures. Meanwhile, there are signs that others living in Sweden believe the worst of the crisis is over. Mobile phone data suggests Stockholm's residents are spending more time in the city centre than a fortnight ago, and last weekend police raised concerns about overcrowding in nightlife hotspots. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has warned it is 'not the time to relax' and start spending more time with friends and family. But with spring weather arriving after Sweden's notoriously long, dark winter, that may be easier said than done."

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Friday, May 22, 2020

1st online US POTUS convention begins tonight

Opinion: Libertarians to be first to nominate a presidential candidate via virtual convention | Atlanta Journal-Constitution - Jim Galloway:

May 19, 2020 - "Over the weekend, U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan decided that he wouldn’t make a run for president under the Libertarian Party banner after all.... There is still a reason to keep an eye on Libertarians as they pick their presidential nominee this weekend. But many will consider the 'how' to be more important than the 'who.'

"The pandemic has forced the Libertarian nominating convention into cyberspace — something that Republicans and Democrats alike might find themselves mimicking.... On Friday evening and Saturday morning, 1,045 Libertarian delegates will become the first 50-state, national party to select their nominees for U.S. president and vice president via Zoom, one of several video chat services that have risen up to serve as a substitute for face-to-face contact....

"Libertarians were to gather in Austin, Texas, this Memorial Day weekend. Then the hotel they booked canceled its operations, and Texas officials imposed a 14-day mandatory quarantine on all out-of-state interlopers. They still hope to have an in-person national gathering in July.... But ... Libertarians are under deadline pressures when it comes to the presidential contest that Republicans and Democrats are not. The names of their candidate for president, along with electors, must be submitted far earlier in many states. Which is why, only two weeks ago, the Libertarian National Committee voted to take its presidential nomination process into virtual territory....

"'We’ve been running training sessions on how to run a parliamentary meeting online. We’re throwing every monkey wrench in,' said Dan Fishman, executive director of the Libertarian Party.... Fishman is a software architect – not uncommon among Libertarians, he said. 'We’ve always been a party of technologists. Among software engineers, the dominating preference is libertarianism. So we have a lot of technical people really helping out,' he said....

"Libertarians decided to use the Zoom 'webinar' feature. Delegates will be able to see the principals, but not each other. State party chairs, who as 'panelists' can see the convention/audience, will forward delegation votes and motions. Members of state delegations have set up Slack channels so they can chat among themselves throughout the process.

"The vote for president is expected Saturday. With Amash out – he will remain the first and only member of Congress to bear a Libertarian label – the race is an open one. The only Georgian in the contest is John Monds, who is something of a Libertarian legend. In 2008, in an obscure state Public Service Commission race against Republican Doug Everett, Monds became the first Libertarian in U.S. history to win more than 1 million votes....

"Fishman said he expects Republicans and Democrats alike to be paying attention. 'I know at some point in time people are going to want to talk to us about this. They don’t have quite the same issues that we do, in terms of how their conventions are run, but they are going to have to do something like this,” Fishman said....

"The Libertarian Party has a YouTube channel that will allow you to watch its proceedings, live or delayed. Do tune in, at least for a half-hour or so. You’ll get a glimpse of the skeleton of business that is actually conducted at a political convention – with all the froth and fancy removed."

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Jacob Hornberger is a toxic candidate

Principles do not make up for toxicity | Liberty Herald - Elaine Joan:

May 21, 2020 - "Early last year and through fall of 2019 I was favorable to a Jacob Hornberger candidacy. I was even excited about the prospect, though I made no secret that my first choice was a Justin Amash candidacy. Over the next few months, while preparing for state convention season and while getting to know more members of the party it started to become clear that while Jacob Hornberger had truly libertarian principles he was not a positive figure to many libertarian activists and party members for a variety of reasons....

"I learned the details regarding his falling out with Harry Browne and Hornberger’s 20 year absence from the party, his falling out with the Libertarian Party of Virginia, and his unsuccessful Senate run as an Independent barely 18 months after his Presidential nominee bid in the Libertarian Party. It points to a fact that when given the opportunity to build coalitions with others in the party and work together, he is not interested and attempts to sabotage others under the guise of purity and adherence to his principles. His toxicity and divisiveness became apparent very quickly.

"Other quotes reveal that he is aware that many consider him troublesome, 'I also acknowledge the horrible charge that some have leveled against me – that I can be quite obnoxious. I agree, and I apologize for that too but think of the big advantage of resolving this whole thing now. It would enable me to turn this talent fully against Democrats and Republicans,' he said in April of 2001.

"It is not appropriate to demand that we thank someone for their admitted obnoxiousness. Before you can weaponize that against the duopoly, you have to have enough power to be present on the debate stage to challenge them. Without that you’re shouting into the void at worst or an annoying pest they easily ignore at best. Being dismissed and ignored is not what our activists have spent countless hours of their lives working towards.

"The duty of a Presidential nominee is to represent the party well and attract more members, one of the measures we use internally to determine if a candidate was successful. Hornberger seems not to care to attract anyone new to the party, even going so far as to say, 'votes don’t matter' during the Libertarian Party of Kentucky’s 5th Presidential debate. Votes, may I remind him, secure ballot access and without that our down ballot candidates will suffer, not just this year but for the following 4 years as well. I am tired of explaining how difficult it is to be on the ballot and how much time and money it costs to accomplish. I am even more tired of explaining why the Libertarian Party runs a Presidential candidate every 4 years even when we haven’t managed to elect any Libertarian Governors, Senators, State Representatives, or Congressmen; largely because of ballot access.

"'No accord can be reached with Jacob Hornberger that doesn’t begin with his public acknowledgement, circulated far and wide, that the accusations he’s made against so many different people were untrue and that he has falsely damaged the reputations of dozens of dedicated Libertarians,' Harry Browne said of his behavior.

"There is no doubt that Jacob Hornberger is principled. It is also equally clear that he can be a toxic individual when he wants to accomplish his own goals without regard for the damage it may cause. That is a risk the delegates should not take on a Presidential nominee. The Libertarian Party can grow while maintaining our core values, any candidate who doesn’t believe that should not be running for the Presidential nomination. Principles do not make up for toxicity and our party has plenty of toxic personalities to go around. There is no need to enable more of them."

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Hornberger's narrative of wins

Hornberger's narrative of wins

by George J. Dance

May 20, 2020 - Things have certainly changed since my last post on the Libertarian Party (LP) presidential contest, back in April, just after Justin Amash had launched his exploratory committee. I concluded that post by writing: "The 2020 race for the LP nomination has not turned into a coronation of Amash. But it is now no longer a coronation of Hornberger, either. For the first time, it has become a real contest worth paying close attention to."

With Amash deciding not to run, the LP POTUS race is still worth paying attention to. However, there is a danger that it is back to being a coronation of Jacob Hornberger. Hornberger is the wrong messenger, with - not exactly the wrong message, but the wrong strategy of campaigning on that message. Despite his differing background and a belief in limited government, his is essentially the Abolitionist strategy of Murray Rothbard: the wrong strategy, out of sync with the public at large, potential libertarian voters, the majority of registered libertarians, and even (I believe) the majority of party members. Hornberger will have no easier a time getting his message across with his strategy than Vermin Supreme would; if the former gets media coverage at all, it will be only as a scary caricature.

At the same time, Hornberger could be the candidate the membership wants. After all, the LP has run three Gradualist campaigns in a row; why shouldn't the Abolitionists get a turn? Also, many vocal members, from Dave Smith to Tom Woods to the Mises Caucus to Hornberger himself, have spent the last 4 years trying to frame Gary Johnson's last campaign - the one that gave the party a record number of both voters and registrants - as a failure and even a betrayal. Finally, a different sort of framing has also been going on, with Hornberger cast as the rank-and-file members' choice opposed only by the party elite, the LP's very own Ron Paul or Bernie Sanders.

That last picture has been built through a constructed narrative that Hornberger overwhelmingly won the LP primaries. He and his supporters can be expected to puff up his record this way; but even non-Abolitionists like those at Reason have gotten in on the act. For instance, the headline of Reason's story on the Super Tuesday primaries (only one of which he won) began: "Libertarian Super Tuesday: Big Night for Jacob Hornberger...," telling those of use who might have missed it that "the trend line is unmistakable — the Libertarian front-runner at this point is longtime libertarian-movement hand and Future of Freedom Foundation founder Jacob Hornberger,"  adding for good measure at the end that, "for the moment, Jacob Hornberger is your Libertarian front-runner."

After Amash jumped into the race, Reason ran an article which told us in its second paragraph: "Hornberger, the 70-year-old founder of the Future of Freedom Foundation, has, after all, won a clear majority of the party's presidential primaries and caucuses, nonbinding though they may be."  The next day, when Amash jumped back out, Reason told us: "Jacob Hornberger has won by far the most of the party's nonbinding primaries and caucuses."

To evaluate that narrative requires examining the primary and caucus results in more detail; so let us do so. 

Hornberger won a clear majority vote in only two states, Missouri (in which he was the only person on the primary ballot) and Minnesota (after 7 rounds of instant-runoff caucus voting). He also won 47% in Iowa - a genuinely impressive win which began the narrative. He won 2 primaries - Ohio and Connecticut - with less than a third of the vote, and another - California - with less than 20%. And he won New York with no votes at all: that state's Secretary of State disqualified all the candidates but Hornberger, cancelled the LP primary, and simply declared him the winner.

Against these 7 wins we have to balance Hornberger's 4 losses, winning just under 25% in Nebraska, 9.6% in both North Carolina and Massachusetts, and no votes, again, in Maine.

Even throwing out the New York travesty, that gives the man 6 wins and 4 losses; so he definitely won a majority; possibly even a "clear majority" (of states, not of votes, or even of votes in most of the states he won). But the winner "by far'? That sounds as if the LP, in violation of all social distancing guidelines, has clutched Hornberger and Abolitionism to its bosom; which is not what the vote results look like to me at all.

Which is precisely the misleading picture this narrative of wins seems designed to convey. It sends exactly the wrong message to those who haven't chosen Hornberger: that the rest of the party has. I expect Hornberger to last until the final ballot; as other candidates drop off, and their supporters lose their own preference, they may be tempted to vote for Hornberger in the belief that they will be putting the party's interests first.

They will not. This man has trouble getting even libertarians to vote for him; and I expect him to be a disaster as a candidate. But let that wait for the morrow. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

WI Supreme Court strikes down state lockdown

Wisconsin Supreme Court Says the State's COVID-19 Lockdown Violated the Rule of Law and the Separation of Powers | Reason - Jacob Sullum:

May 14, 2020 - "'After the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned that state's COVID-19 lockdown yesterday, Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, declared that Republicans 'have thrown the state into chaos'.... But the justices were concerned about a different sort of [chaos]: the kind that happens when governments impose sweeping restrictions on individual freedom, backed by the threat of criminal penalties, without proper legal authority....

""Emergency Order 28, which acting Secretary of Health Services Andrea Palm issued on April 16, ... extended Wisconsin's original March 24 lockdown, which would have expired on April 24, until May 26.... Palm's order banned 'all forms of travel' except those she deemed essential; required 'all for-profit and non-profit businesses' she did not consider 'essential' to 'cease all activities' except for 'minimum basic operations' and work done at home; prohibited 'all public and private gatherings of any number' involving people who were 'not part of a single household'; closed all places of 'public amusement and activity,' whether 'indoors or outdoors,' except for golf courses; continued the closure of bars and restaurants (except for takeout and delivery) as well as salons, spas, K–12 schools, and libraries; imposed a 10-person limit on religious gatherings, including weddings and funerals; and required all residents of the state, except for members of the same household, to maintain a distance of at least six feet from each other. Palm said violations were punishable by a $250 fine, up to 30 days in jail, or both....

"Palm ... argued that her order was authorized by the statute that describes her department's powers. That law says the health department 'may authorize and implement all emergency measures necessary to control communicable diseases'.... The law also authorizes the department to 'promulgate and enforce rules or issue orders for guarding against the introduction of any communicable disease into the state, for the control and suppression of communicable diseases, [and] for the quarantine and disinfection of persons, localities and things infected or suspected of being infected by a communicable disease.'

"Another statute explains what the health department is supposed to do when it issues one of those rules. An 'emergency rule,' deemed necessary for 'preservation of the public peace, health, safety, or welfare,' ... has to follow certain procedures, including publication of a statement describing the scope of the rule in the Wisconsin Administrative Register, 'a preliminary public hearing and comment period' if a co-chairman of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules asks for them, approval of the proposed rule by the governor, and a 'fiscal estimate for the rule' sent to every state legislator.... Palm did not follow those procedures....

"Palm contended that her order did not qualify as a 'rule.' A four-justice majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court disagreed, noting that state law defines a 'rule' as 'a regulation, standard, statement of policy, or general order of general application that has the force of law and that is issued by an agency to implement, interpret, or make specific legislation enforced or administered by the agency or to govern the organization or procedure of the agency.'

"Even while insisting that her order should not be viewed as a rule, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack notes in the majority opinion, Palm purported to impose criminal penalties for violating it. 'It has long been the law in Wisconsin that in order for the violation of an administrative agency's directive to constitute a crime, the directive must have been properly promulgated as a rule,' Roggensack says.

"Furthermore, Palm's order defined the crime she purported to punish without referring to any statute. 'The prohibited "criminal conduct" to which Palm refers is factually defined solely by Emergency Order 28,' Roggensack notes. 'Counsel for Palm ... said that there was only one element that needed to be proved in a criminal prosecution for a violation of Emergency Order 28: that a provision of the order was violated. Such an argument is without legal foundation and ignores more than 50 years of Wisconsin law'....

"Even if Palm's order were not subject to rulemaking requirements, the majority says, it would exceed the scope of her legal powers. While the health department has the authority to 'quarantine those infected or suspected of being infected,' for example, the lockdown goes much further than that, telling 'all individuals present within the State of Wisconsin' they must 'stay at home or at their place of residence' except for Palm-approved purposes. 'She also prohibits "all public and private gatherings of any number of people that are not part of a single household or living unit,"' Roggensack notes. 'Again, this directive is not based on persons infected or suspected of being infected'....

"Justice Daniel Kelly suggests in a concurring opinion joined by Justice Rebecca Bradley.... 'In the Secretary's view, ... there are no statutory or regulatory limitations on her authority to address communicable diseases.... If we agreed with the Secretary's reading of [the law], we would have to conclude the statute violated the separation of powers by conferring on the Secretary the power to make laws without going through the rule-making process'....

"In a concurring opinion joined by Kelly, Bradley highlights the issues at stake in this case. 'However well-intentioned, the secretary-designee of the Department of Health Services exceeded her powers by ordering the people of Wisconsin to follow her commands or face imprisonment for noncompliance,' Bradley writes. 'In issuing her order, she arrogated unto herself the power to make the law and the power to execute it, excluding the people from the lawmaking process altogether'.... 'It is especially in times of emergency that we must protect the rights of the people,' Bradley writes, 'lest we establish a dangerous precedent empowering less benevolent government officials in the future to oppress the people in the name of exigency.'"

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Monday, May 18, 2020

Jacob Hornberger: Abolish Social Security now

LP Presidential Candidate Jacob Hornberger on Socialism, Freedom, and Reform vs. Repeal | The Libertarian Republic - Gary Doan:

February 4, 2020 - "The day of the Iowa Caucuses ... I had a chance to talk to Jacob Hornberger. He’s the president and founder of the Future of Freedom Foundation, and is currently running for the Libertarian presidential nomination with the backing of the Mises Caucus....

"TLR: In your presidential campaign announcement video, you called the following things socialism: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, educational grants, farm subsidies, corporate bailouts and foreign aid to dictators. What does the US government currently do that you don’t think is socialism?

"JH:  Very little, in that the primary source, the driving force in the federal government is to take care of people through the coercive apparatus of the state. It seizes money from people to whom it belongs, and it gives it to people to whom it does not belong. That is classic socialism.... And many of these socialist programs came into existence as a direct result of socialists in Germany advocating them. Social Security is a primary example. The idea originated among German socialists. It was adopted by Otto von Bismarck, the so-called Iron Chancellor of Germany. It was imported to the United States and they became part of our laws in the 1930s....

"TLR: Last year, the US federal government spent something like a trillion dollars on Social Security, which makes it the largest federal program and about a quarter of the federal budget. It recently started paying out even more than it’s taken in through FICA. You’ve talked about literally abolishing it. If the world were to heed such advice, what time frame would be appropriate to accomplish that? And how would you advise winding such a large program down in a responsible way?

"JH: The best and most responsible way would be just to repeal it immediately. And that’s all you have to do. You just enact a law that repeals the laws that set up Social Security. I mean, the government… the program came into existence through Congress. Well, Congress can easily just put the program out of business by repealing it, and that’s exactly what should be done.

"Now that scares people. Freedom scares people. I mean, now we’re talking about a free society. Now we’re talking about a society where people are free to keep their own money, and they decide what to do with it. Well, if you believe in freedom works, and I do believe freedom works, there’s nothing to worry about. I mean, I know people worried about that, 'oh my gosh, seniors will die in the street, they won’t have any more money'.

"Well, some seniors don’t need the money. They’re very wealthy [or] they’re very middle class. And the Social Security payment is like an extra little bonus for them to, to play poker with or whatever. So there’s a large sector of the society doesn’t need the money. Some seniors might have to go back to work. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I see seniors working all the time. And they’re in the mainstream of life. They’re interacting with other people and young people. I think it’s a better alternative than just sitting in your living room waiting to die.

"But there are some people that truly need help. But if you believe that freedom works, you have no doubt. And I have no doubt that if it were repealed today, that young people would come step forward to the plate. Now they’re keeping all their money now. No more FICA tax, no more money as needed to pay all the salaries of Social Security bureaucrats. They were talking about salaries, ranging 50,000, 200,000 a year, that’s just wasted money. Young people will be able to keep all that money, and then step up to the plate and help their parents and grandparents.

"I have no doubt that you can do that, that they would do that. Or in those cases where they say, 'I’m not going to help my parents or grandparents'… you’ve got church groups. You’ve got community groups, all on a voluntary basis. And this is what I’m saying that we need to recapture in this country, a belief in ourselves. A faith in others. A faith in the free market. For me, have faith in God rather than the faith of government.

"And then all of a sudden you’re talking about how a free society works, how a free people work. But Social Security is really an insult to the younger people in the society. It’s saying that 'you are a bad people. You can’t be trusted with freedom. And we need to force you to take care of seniors by taking your money and given it to them'. Well, I say nonsense to that. I think young people should rebel against the system. I think they should join up with us libertarians and say, 'we can handle this. We can handle freedom. We can take responsibility for parents, grandparents, other people in the community, who need help. And we don’t need to be forced by anyone to do this'."

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Sunday, May 17, 2020

Libertarian Party must connect with its voters

Political scientist finds disconnect in Libertarian Party platform, voters | University of Dayton - News:

May 1, 2020 - "University of Dayton political scientist Christopher Devine has written the definitive academic study of the Libertarian Party — America’s third largest political party. He documents a growing disconnect between the party’s radical platform and the more mainstream, 'fiscally conservative and socially liberal' policy preferences of its rank-and-file supporters....

'Devine examines the Libertarian Party’s history, electoral performance and prospects for growth in the future. In addition, he conducts the first-ever survey-based analysis of party voters’ and  members’ policy views for Beyond Donkeys and Elephants: Minor Political Parties in Contemporary American Politics. The book, released this spring, is the 'most comprehensive account ever written of contemporary minor political parties in the United States,' according to publisher University Press of Kansas.

"The Libertarian Party 'portrays itself as the third choice for Americans who find themselves dissatisfied with the two-party system — not a fringe group of small-government radicals but a mainstream alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties with broad electoral appeal and the potential to emerge as a major party in its own right,' Devine writes.

"Devine’s analysis shows that Libertarian Party voters and members are fiscally conservative and socially liberal — but not radically so. Essentially, they agree with Republicans on economic policy and Democrats on social policy. However, Libertarians are less likely than Democrats or Republicans to support the use of military force. 'Yet they hardly qualify as extreme in this regard — or even "noninterventionist," really,' Devine writes.

“'Libertarians, it would seem, are not nearly as radical as their party platform,' he writes. For instance, only 12% of Libertarian Party voters agree that taxes should never be increased....

"[I]n 2016, ... presidential candidate Gary Johnson appeared on all 50 state ballots and won 3.3% of the national popular vote — three times more than the nearest competitor ... and more than any other minor-party candidate since 1996. Devine also notes that in 2016, the Libertarian Party had more registered voters (approximately 500,000) than any other minor party, and won a higher percentage of the vote in U.S. Senate races than at any other point in party history.

"To succeed in 2020 and beyond, Devine argues, the Libertarian Party must focus less on ideological purity and more on appealing to the broader electorate with its 'fiscally conservative and socially liberal' message. It could do so by moderating the party’s radical platform, and by nominating a credible presidential candidate, such as Congressman [Justin] Amash -- even if doing so may upset the party’s ideological base."

Read more: 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Government incompetence unmasked

Governments Have Screwed Up Mask Purchase and Distribution. Maybe Everyone Should Be a Libertarian in a Pandemic | Reason - Brian Doherty:

May 8, 2020 - "As of mid-April, The Wall Street Journal reports, the federal government had for whatever reason dedicated millions in contracts, involving at least 80 percent of the 20 million N95 masks it was trying to procure, from 'suppliers that either had never done business with the federal government or had only taken on small prior contracts that didn't include medical supplies.' Predictably, some of those vendors 'missed delivery deadlines or have backed out because of supply problems'.... At least one would-be contractor has now been nabbed for fraud on such a mask deal.

"ProPublica tagged along with what the Journal called the 'largest N95 mask contract given out by the VA [Veterans Administration], for an initial $35.4 million ... with potential for ... a total of $64.9 million, according to federal contracting data'.... The fiasco ended with no masks delivered — ... Despite months of scrambling, the Veterans Administration was not prepared to keep its hospitals equipped with masks. As of now over 2,000 V.A. employees have tested positive....

"The feds aren't the only ones making bad mask decisions. California is currently trying to get a refund on a $456.9 million wire transfer it sent as a down payment on a $600 million contract for 110 million N95 masks .... to a firm called Blue Flame Medical, which, The Wall Street Journal informs us, was 'founded days earlier by former Republican fundraiser Mike Gula'.... Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that Gov. Gavin Newsom of California is refusing 'to reveal the contents of a $990-million contract for purchasing protective masks from a Chinese electric car manufacturer'.... Even the state's legislators are being blocked from learning details of the deal....

"The Transportation Security Agency decided to hoard more than 1.3 million N95 respirator masks (which it received from Customs and Border Protection) rather than distribute them to hospitals or agencies or people who might lack them — even, as ProPublica reported, 'as the number of people coming through U.S. airports dropped by 95% and the TSA instructed many employees to stay home to avoid being infected.'

"Other wasteful, clumsy, or even macabre stories have arisen from government attempts to help with or procure medical equipment. In Seattle, the county Public Health Department sent a Native American community health board body bags instead of requested medical supplies....

"Before COVID-19 hit, certain pundits were promoting 'state capacity libertarianism'.... The idea was, at best, an attempt to turn libertarian energies toward making government better at what it does. But these not-at-all-shocking snafus show no obvious way the concept could help, other than hand-waving calls to have better people making better decisions.

"Mask procurement is not going awry because government lacks the capacity to do anything. They have plenty of money, essentially as much as they want to have, and they have plenty of staff. It's not because they don't have professional experts and bureaucrats trying to manage things, and it's not because Republicans hate government and want it to fail.

"Even in a relatively free market, fraud and incompetence exist. The government in its mask decisions ha[s] shown a keen ability to find market actors who are very bad (deliberately or not) at what they do and offer them ungodly amounts of money. But government's unique combination of endless money and impunity for messing things up mean that the state is going to get things more wrong, more often. And that's true even, or perhaps especially, when it's urgent that the state get things right. The evidence is in the news every day, even if ideological blinders prevent non-libertarians from acknowledging it."

Read more:

Friday, May 15, 2020

3rd World lockdowns may kill more than COVID19

Unicef warns lockdown could kill more than Covid-19 as model predicts 1.2 million child deaths | The Telegraph - Sarah Newey:

May 13, 2020 - "The risk of children dying from malaria, pneumonia or diarrhoea in developing countries is spiralling due to the pandemic and 'far outweighs any threat presented by the coronavirus', Unicef has warned.... Stefan Peterson, chief of health at Unicef, cautioned that the blanket lockdowns imposed in many low and middle income [countries] are not an effective way to control Covid-19 and could have deadly repercussions.

"'Indiscriminate lockdown measures do not have an optimal effect on the virus,' he told The Telegraph. 'If you’re asking families to stay at home in one room in a slum, without food or water, that won’t limit virus transmission.... I’m concerned that lockdown measures have been copied between countries for lack of knowing what to do, rarely with any contextualisation for the local situation,' he said....

"According to a stark report published in Lancet Global Health journal on Wednesday, almost 1.2 million children could die in the next six months due to the disruption to health services and food supplies caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The modelling, by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Unicef, found that child mortality rates could rise by as much as 45 per cent ... while maternal deaths could increase by almost 39 per cent.

"Dr Peterson said these figures were in part a reflection of stringent restrictions in much of the world that prevent people leaving their homes without documentation, preventing them from accessing essential health care services.... Dr Peterson warned that these trends have resulted in a reduction in the 'effective utilisation of services' - a shift which, in some places, could be more dangerous than the virus itself.  And lockdowns have a heavy economic toll, which could trigger a rise in poverty and malnutrition.

"The research looks at the consequences of disruption in 118 low and middle income countries, based on three scenarios. Even in the most optimistic case, where access to health services dropped by 15 per cent and child wasting rose by 10 per cent, an additional 253,500 children and 12,200 mothers died. But a worst-case scenario, where services are reduced by 45 per cent and the proportion of children who are wasting grows by 50 per cent, could result in 1.16 million additional child fatalities and 57,000 maternal deaths in just six months.

"The modelling projected that India would see ... the largest number of additional deaths in children under five and [in] maternal mortality, followed by Nigeria. Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Indonesia are also likely to be hit hard.

"Such a situation has some precedent - research has shown that in 2014, during the Ebola outbreak in west Africa, more people died from indirect effects than the disease itself. But the scale of the pandemic means the consequences will be far greater....

"Dr Peterson urged countries not to impose draconian lockdowns, but to focus on identifying hotspots so that regional restrictions less damaging for public health can be introduced. He said he was concerned that the current battle against Covid-19 was turning into a 'child’s rights crisis' and robbing a generation of their health, education and economic prospects."

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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Hornberger foresees Trump / Amash "food fight"

Justin Amash, LP Interloper, Part 8: Play It Safe versus Going Bold | Jacob Hornberger Libertarian for President - Jacob Hornberger:

May 1, 2020 - "In ... the interview that Congressman Justin Amash gave on MSNBC, specifically focusing on his plan to have the federal government give every American a monthly free check ... as long as the coronavirus crisis lasts ... Amash was asked what his qualifications were to be president. He answered that he is a 'determined' person, a 'practical' person, and an 'honest' person. When pressed, he said that this is about 'democracy' — i.e., giving people more choices on who to vote for. That’s not the way I see things at all. For me, this is all about liberty, not democracy.... Democracy is not freedom. In fact, the Bill of Rights expressly protects us from democracy.

"Amash did not even describe the virtues of libertarianism or even mention the Libertarian Party. I think the reason for that is that he isn’t accustomed to doing so given that he has been running for Congress for 10 years as a Republican and, as of the last year, an Independent.

"Shifting gears, there is no doubt that Joe Biden and the Democrats are going to wage one of the nastiest campaigns in U.S. history against President Trump. It’s going to be a visceral, highly personal campaign. We have seen this during the past three years in liberal editorials, op-eds, speeches, websites, and social media. They are going to say that Trump is a rotten person, a liar, and worse. They are going to say that Joe Biden is a good person and, therefore, more qualified to be president.

"A presidential campaign between Amash and Trump will be no different. There is tremendous personal animosity between these two men. Trump has already called Amash a 'loser.' Amash, of course, joined up with Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to try to remove Trump from office through impeachment, first based on the Robert Mueller report and then later on the basis of the 'quid pro quo' with Ukraine. There is no doubt that an Amash-Trump political battle will be one great big food fight involving endless personal invectives. One thing is for sure: discussion of libertarian principles is going to be submerged and suppressed during that food fight.

"Nonetheless, as we an see from the MSNBC interview, Amash’s general position will be much the same as Biden’s — that would make a better president than Trump because he is a 'determined' person, an 'honest' person, and a 'practical' person. All my adult life, I have heard this concept — that what we need to do to extricate America from the morass in which we find ourselves is just put 'better people” in public office. It’s a pipe dream. You could put the biggest saint and the most brilliant person in the world into the presidency and it wouldn’t make one bit of difference.... When you have a bad system with good people, the bad system will always win out.

"I have nothing personal against Trump. Sure, he has been a disaster as a president, but that’s not because he’s a bad person. It’s because he’s part of a bad system.... [T]he political-economic system under which we live ... is based on both conservatism and progressivism, two of the most morally and economically bankrupt philosophies known to man. This is what Amash can’t see, because he is a conservative. Granted, a libertarian-leaning conservative but a conservative nonetheless. He can’t see that it is both conservatism and progressivism that have destroyed liberty, peace, prosperity, health, and harmony in our land. That’s what causes him to see himself as someone who, with his 'determination,' 'honesty,' and 'practicality,' is more 'qualified' to manage America’s welfare-warfare state system than Trump and Biden....

"I say: Let’s run a bold campaign, not one based not on personal attacks or on getting 'better' people into public office. Let’s run a campaign employing what we are good at — philosophy, ideology, principles, ideals, and sound ideas on liberty. I want to explain to our fellow Americans what libertarianism is all about, what we are all about, what we are fighting for, and why we gave devoted our lives to the cause of liberty.... Let’s run a presidential campaign of principle for The Party of Principle."

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Shutdown protests come to Ontario (video)

Windsor protesters call for end to COVID-19 shutdown | Windsor Star - Dalson Chen:

April 24, 2020 - "Despite a global pandemic, regular business should resume immediately, according to a small group of Windsor protesters who took to an intersection to demonstrate on Friday. Holding up signs with messages like 'End the Shutdown' and 'I Got Bills,' about six people gathered at Walker Road and Ottawa Street to show their disagreement with ongoing restrictions meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"'The devastation to the economy is worse than the problem,' said Constance Thomson, who carried a placard with the words 'All Business Essential.' 'I don’t think we should have shut down at all'.... Thomson downplayed the international health crisis as a 'so-called emergency pandemic' and compared the novel coronavirus to the flu. 'Viruses are always a threat,' Thomson said. 'We deal with viruses all the time.'

"Regarding frontline health care workers who have seen thousands of COVID-19 patients over the past seven weeks — including 763 dead in Ontario ... 'Kudos to our healthcare workers, but this is what they signed up for. This is what they’ve been doing since the day they started working,' said Thomson, adding that she used to be a registered nurse....

"Some of the demonstrators wore yellow jackets — a reference to the niche right-wing 'Yellow Vest" movement in Canada in late 2018 that criticized the Justin Trudeau government on issues ranging from immigration to the carbon tax.

"Friday’s protest in Windsor had an event page on Facebook earlier in the week, started by 'Yellow Vest' organizers. But the page was deleted on Wednesday. Facebook Inc. recently announced that the platform will remove posts and groups promoting protests that don’t follow public health directives."

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The Ontario Libertarian Party is sponsoring a shutdown protest May 16. Details are here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Amash: Problem is broken system, not President

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash on Why He’d Run for President as a Libertarian and the Culture of the GOP | TIME - Lissandra Villa:

May 7, 2020 - "Rep. Justin Amash announced April 28 that he was launching an exploratory committee to seek the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination.... Amash, who says he will not seek reelection to his current House seat, spoke with TIME via Skype from his home in Michigan on May 3.... Below is a lightly edited, condensed transcript....

"The core idea is liberty and representative government. And what we have right now in Washington is a very broken system. What happens right now too often is a few leaders in Congress negotiate with the White House, and they decide everything for everyone. And this leads to a lot of frustration and a lot of partisanship because when Congress can’t deliberate actual policies, when you have most members of Congress left out of the process, then they start to debate personalities....

"There’s a huge pool of voters who aren’t represented by either of the parties, and a lot of times, they just stay home or they settle for one of the two parties, but they would be happy to vote for someone else if they felt there was another candidate that was compelling....

"I would not vote for Biden or Trump. Getting rid of Donald Trump does not fix the problems because Donald Trump is just a symptom of the problems. The problems will still exist with Joe Biden in the White House....

"The culture of Donald Trump that has become dominant in the Republican Party is not going away anytime soon. It’s probably here for at least a decade. It’s a very different tone; it’s a very different style. There’s not much focus on principles anymore, it’s a focus on personality....

"Ultimately I decided that even though I can win reelection as an independent, I wasn’t sure it would make the same kind of difference to our system as running a presidential campaign and winning that campaign. If you win as an independent, some people might just write it off to some oddity of the third district of Michigan, saying, well in that district, an independent can win, but it won’t work anywhere else. If you win the presidency as a Libertarian, you have a chance to really upset the system in a way that can restore our constitutional process and our representative government, and to me that is the more important thing....

"It’s a different kind of campaign, but it’s one that actually may work to my benefit. If we were running a normal campaign, I obviously don’t have the name ID yet to go out and hold massive rallies or any of those kinds of things, like the President might, or maybe Joe Biden might. So we’re at a point where we can compete with the other candidates through video and through technology, and I have an advantage in that, maybe, as a younger candidate, going out there and getting my message out on social media and elsewhere."

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Monday, May 11, 2020



by George J. Dance

There are two types of Americans protesting their state governments' emergency shutdown and stay-at-home orders. In order to understand the protests, it is essential to be able to tell the difference.

The first type of Americans consists of libertarians. They support the goals of the emergency orders (to reduce human interaction by 50-75% through 'social distancing'), but believe that achieving social distancing should be done voluntarily, to prevent violating the Constitution and vandalizing the economy. Accordingly their protests obey social distancing guidelines: they mainly stay inside cars, drive past legislatures (and governors' offices and homes), and honk their horns.

The second type has to be called (with apologies to intelligent supporters of the President) trumptards. They often defy social distancing guidelines to crowd into state legislatures, looking like an armed mob trying to take over. Their position is unclear, though it appears to be that the pandemic is no threat, and the Democratic governors used it as a pretext for causing a depression in order to defeat Donald Trump.

Since trumptards have joined and (media-wise) hijacked libertarian protests, it is easy to confuse the two types. However, in order to understand the shutdown/lockdown protest phenomenon, it is vitally important to understand the differences between them.

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