Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Biden and Pelosi call for federal mask mandate

Biden says he would make wearing face masks mandatory for Americans amid coronavirus pandemic | CNN - Veronica Stracqualursi & Sarah Mucha:
June 26, 2020 - "Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden said if elected president, he would make wearing a face covering in public compulsory.... 'The one thing we do know is these masks make a gigantic difference. I would insist that everybody out in public be wearing that mask. Anyone to reopen would have to make sure that they walked into a business that had masks,' Biden told CNN's affiliate in Pittsburgh, KDKA, while wearing a black mask.

"Pressed if he'd use federal power to mandate wearing a mask in public, Biden responded, 'Yes, I would. From an executive standpoint, yes I would.' Asked again if that meant he would 'in effect' mandate mask wearing, Biden said, 'I would do everything possible to make it required that people had to wear masks in public'....

"At least 16 states and the District of Columbia have mandates on wearing cloth face masks in public, but masks have become a political flash point as some argue the requirement infringes upon their civil liberties."
Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/26/politics/joe-biden-masks-mandatory-coronavirus/index.html

Nancy Pelosi Calls Trump 'Cowardly' For Not Wearing Mask, Supports Federal Mandate | NPR - Alana Wise:
June 26, 2020 - "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday told NPR she agreed with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden's assessment that mask usage should be mandated on the federal level amid a surge of coronavirus cases across the United States....

"'I totally agree with Joe Biden. As long as we're faced with this crisis, masks should be mandatory,' Pelosi told NPR's Ari Shapiro and Susan Davis on All Things Considered. 'In fact, the reason the CDC hasn't made it mandatory is because they don't want to embarrass the president, or insult the president, whatever it is,' Pelosi said, calling Trump 'cowardly' for not wearing a face mask....

"Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the House GOP Conference chair, who rarely agrees with Pelosi, tweeted a picture of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, on Friday with the message: 'Dick Cheney says WEAR A MASK.'"
Read more: https://www.npr.org/2020/06/26/884039346/house-speaker-nancy-pelosi-talks-about-the-coronavirus-police-reform-and-health-

Monday, June 29, 2020

Lockdowns and libertarianism (2):
Crisis and ideology

by George J. Dance

As regular blog readers have no doubt noticed, since April I have given increasing space to the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented government interventions (the lockdowns and business shutdowns) that accompanied it. I hope readers have enjoyed that because, whether you have or not, I expect it to continue. As I see it, we are living through another one of those pivotal crises  – like the two World Wars, the Depression, and the War on Terrorism  – that have defined modern history.

As a libertarian, I bring my ideological bias to the table. In this case, I have been informed by the work of economist Robert Higgs, whose masterwork Crisis and Leviathan documented well how governments (1) have a systemic bias towards increasing power; (2) use crises to vastly expand their power; and (3) retain much of their new power after a crisis is past. (Dr. Higgs explains his thesis at greater length in the accompanying video.) My bias obviously affects what material I forward, and I cannot pretend that it is non-existent. What I can and will do is admit that my bias can be wrong, and let it be challenged by empirical evidence.

At the same time, I can evaluate others' ideological biases the same way. In the mainstream media, I continually encounter a statist or pro-government bias: that "When public safety is threatened, whether by war or disease, our dependence on government becomes immediately and viscerally obvious"; that ""government has the power and resources to internalize the externalities of contagion and coordinate a rational response;" and that in March "a large and activist government was all that stood between us and mass privation and suffering on a mind-boggling scale" (as a Niskanen Center article recently summed up).

In early March, when no one knew much about the novel coronavirus, it was easy to believe that millions of us were going to die, and that only unprecedented, massive government intervention could save us from untold death and suffering. It was a mass panic reaction, but panic in a crisis is understandable and excusable. However, governance should not be informed by panic alone. Not only libertarian ideological biases, but the prevailing statist ones as well, should be challengeable by the evidence.

How dangerous the virus is, is an empirical question, one that depends on objective facts about the attack rate (how many people in a population are at risk) and the infection fatality rate (how many people who catch it will die). We had no way of knowing either in March, but there has been a surfeit of data in the succeeding three months. There is good reason to think that the "millions of deaths" claim was hyperbole. Nor can we rely on models that simply assume that lethality: we need at least a reasonable, fact-based estimate of the worst possible case, of how many people could possibly have been in danger.

Whether government interventions averted this mass death, or any death (on net), is also an empirical claim. It requires accurate death counts, and comparing them to the policies in place. It also requires causally linking specific deaths to specific interventions. (For instance, did stay-at-home orders increase infections within households more or less than they lowered them in the workplace?)

Finally, we need to measure the effects of voluntary social distancing. Hitherto, government's scientific advisers have often assumed the effect of voluntary social distancing to be zero. However, some of those advisers have begun noticing the phenomenon, if only to blame it for the recession that followed the lockdown.

I would like to discover that voluntary social distancing (combined with a use of government's police power consistent with libertarian principles) would have been enough to reduce most of the disease's harm, while avoiding the long-term harms that the government interventions have caused. That is my null hypothesis, which I think is supportable iff it cannot be overthrown. Hence my preoccupation with the subject in future months. While conclusions reached may be too late for this pandemic, I cling to the hope that what we learn this time will inform our response to the next one.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

3 problems with Imperial's 3 million deaths model

Comment on Flaxman et al. (2020, Nature, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2405-7):
The illusory effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 in Europe

Authors: Stefan Homburg, Leibniz University Hannover, Department of Public Finance, Germany
Christof Kuhbandner, University of Regensburg, Department of Human Sciences, Germany
Correspondence to: christof.kuhbandner@ur.de

June 17, 2020 - In a recent article, Flaxman et al.[1] allege that non-pharmaceutical interventions imposed by 11 European countries saved millions of lives. We show that their methods involve circular reasoning. The purported effects are pure artefacts, which contradict the data. Moreover, we demonstrate that the United Kingdom’s lockdown was both superfluous and ineffective.

A key concept in epidemiology is the effective reproduction number, R(t), where t denotes time. This function represents the expected number of infections generated by one infected individual. Ceteris paribus, the effective reproduction number starts at R(0), referred to as the basic reproduction number, and decreases monotonically. The monotonic decrease is due to the fact that the number of individuals susceptible to the infection but not yet infected declines as the virus spreads. Of course, the function R(t) can be influenced by non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) as well as by voluntary behavioral changes. However, in case of a finite population, the effective reproduction number falls automatically and necessarily over time since the number of infections would otherwise diverge.

The model of Flaxman et al.1 contradicts this elementary insight. They estimate R(t) from daily deaths associated with SARS-CoV-2 using as an a priori restriction that R(t) may only change at those dates where interventions become effective. Such an approach does not prove that NPIs were effective but rather begs the result, i.e., involves circular logic. The true effective reproduction number declines continuously, and when its estimates are allowed to change only at intervention points, it is clear that profound discontinuities, which attribute strong effects to the interventions, will emerge. Flaxman et al. (p. 2) conclude that while most NPIs had unidentifiable effects, lockdowns reduced the reproduction numbers instantaneously by 82%.

Taking the United Kingdom as an example, Fig. 1 illustrates the ineffectiveness of social distancing etc. in the analysis of Flaxman et al. as well as the enormous effect of the lockdown from 23 March.

Figure 1: Estimate of the effective reproduction number by Flaxman et al. (Fig. 1). The authors assumed R(t) constant before 14 March and after 23 March. Changes were allowed only on the four dates [when] NPIs became effective.
Flaxman et al. (p. 2) infer their estimate of the basic reproduction number from the initial growth of reported daily deaths. Our Fig. 2 shows the actual growth of reported daily deaths. 3

Following the presumption of Flaxman et al. that deaths are more reliable than cases, we see growth of reported daily deaths as a good empirical proxy that mirrors the development of the effective reproduction rate. Of course, deaths follow infections after a long delay – a fact which is taken into account below.

Figure 2: Growth factor of daily deaths (Fig. 2). Source: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/891710/2020-06-11_COVID-19_UK_deaths_time_series.csv. Moving averages, 7 days. Retrieved 14 June 2020. Given daily deaths dt, growth factors were computed as dt/dt–1. Note that if daily deaths show exponential growth, any 52 moving average will also show exponential growth.
Disregarding noise in the data, the growth in daily deaths associated with the coronavirus declined steadily during March and April. Moreover, reported daily deaths follow infections with a median delay of 23 days, consisting of a 5 days incubation period[2] and a median delay of about 18 days from symptom onset to death[3]. Note that this delay also underlies the estimations by Flaxman et al. (p. 22 of their supplementary information).

 Considering a total delay of 23 days between infection and death, possible effects of the 23 March lockdown should only become visible in the data around April 15. However, the series does not show the slightest break in mid-April. Hitherto, the growth factor had already declined from 1.54 to 0.97, and thereafter it continued its slowdown. Contrary to the findings of Flaxman et al., Fig. 2 strongly suggests that the UK lockdown was both superfluous (it did not prevent an otherwise explosive behavior of the spread of the coronavirus) and ineffective (it did not slow down the death growth rate visibly).

The argument of a delay of 23 days between infection and death can also be used in the opposite direction. With the growth rate of daily corona deaths falling since mid March, the underlying growth rate of daily infections must have started receding in the second half of February, long before the problem was recognized and any measures were taken. The continuous decrease in the growth factor shown in Fig. 2, even at dates before any NPI could have become effective, corroborates the theoretical insight that R(t) falls automatically over time. We have checked that the growth factors in the remaining 10 countries considered by Flaxman et al. show a similar pattern.

Our final remark regards Sweden, the only country in the dataset that refrained from strong measures, but has lower corona deaths per capita than Belgium, Italy, Spain, or the United Kingdom. In the absence of a lockdown, but with an effective reproduction number that declined in the usual fashion, Flaxman et al. (Extended Data Fig. 1) attribute the sudden decline in Sweden’s R(t) on March 27 almost entirely to banning of public events, i.e., to a NPI that they found ineffective in all other countries. This inconsistency underlines our contention that the results of Flaxman et al. are artefacts of an inappropriate model.

1. Flaxmann et al. Estimating the effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 in Europe. Nature in press, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2405-7.
2. Lauer, S. A. et al. The Incubation Period of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) from Publicly Reported Confirmed Cases: Estimation and Application. Ann Intern Med in press, (2020). https://doi.org/10.7326/M20-0504.
3. Verity, R. et al. Estimates of the severity of COVID-19 disease. Lancet Infect Dis in press, (2020). https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30243-7.

Author Information
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest. Correspondence should be addressed to C.K. (christof.kuhbandner@ur.de).

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) License.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

More deaths from opioids than COVID-19 in B.C.

Making people suffer this long under lockdown is something we may someday regret | National Post - Chris Selley:

June 16, 202 - "Last week, the British Columbia coroner’s office reported that 170 people had died in that province from street-drug overdoses in May. It’s the most ever recorded in a single month, and the fourth consecutive month of increase — up from 68 in December. In the first five months of this year, 20-per-cent more people died in B.C. from overdoses than in all of 2019. At time of writing, the official death toll from COVID-19 in British Columbia was 168.

"Advocates for drug law reforms hope that might put things in some perspective. To fight COVID-19 our governments hurled us into a recession and wrote endless blank cheques. For a tiny fraction of that cost, they would say, we could prevent a huge percentage of overdose deaths: By allowing properly run safe-injection sites to open where they’re needed, and by allowing doctors to prescribe pharmaceutical-grade opioids.

"Both remain very controversial — the latter more so than the former. But it’s not an unreasonable hope. Many traditional law-and-order voters will draw a clear line between the two phenomena: COVID-19 sufferers are blameless and incurable, whereas addicts shouldn’t have touched the stuff in the first place, and having gotten themselves addicted should seek treatment. But law-and-order narratives can change rapidly: just ask many conservatives about policing. The opioid addiction epidemic cuts mercilessly across class lines, forcing comfortable and affluent families and their peer groups to confront both the devastating effects and the ignorant facileness of the 'go to treatment' approach: Unless someone is truly ready to kick the habit, and often even then, it simply won’t last.

"B.C.’s grisly overdose toll ought to put the COVID-19 lockdown in stark perspective as well. Experts accurately predicted way back in March that there would be a rise in overdoses, owing to several factors. Border closures were likely to interrupt supply chains and thus alter the composition of street opioids, making them more unpredictable and potentially far more dangerous. Even if safe-injection sites remained open — not all did; others curtailed their hours — the virus safety measures put in place were likely to put off some clients. And the stresses of the lockdown were likely to cause more people to use opioids. And alcohol. And everything else.

"In the coming months and years, we will get an idea of the other tolls the lockdown took on society in the name of saving lives from one specific cause of death. People will almost certainly be found to have died prematurely thanks to delayed or foregone hospital care. Almost from Day One, we had reports from all over the world about spikes in domestic violence. There’s a large, pre-existing body of research linking social isolation with everything from cognitive decline to weakened immune systems and heart disease. 'We’ve seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks,' a California hospital doctor told ABC News in May. American doctors have reported a spike in anti-anxiety and sleep-aid prescriptions, some of which come with addiction concerns.

"Economic deprivation is also associated with all these negative outcomes, and government intervention certainly won’t save all Canadians from it — not in the short term, and not in the long term when the government of the day decides it’s time to repay our loans. In the long run, most kids will get over losing a few months of school, sports, music, summer camps and everyday social interaction. But that is no small chunk of time in a child’s development. Knowing now (in hindsight, admittedly) that COVID-19 generally treats kids with kid gloves, that needs to be included in the cost-benefit calculation....

"Many bien-pensant Canadians — disproportionately those with backyards, according to my non-peer-reviewed research — are clearly very proud of these extreme lockdown procedures. As the United States reopens and various jurisdictions there endure very significant second waves, their chests seem to swell even more dangerously. They should devote some of their bien-pensing to the collateral damage. In the final analysis, I fear it will not be at all pretty."

Read more: https://nationalpost.com/opinion/chris-selley-making-people-suffer-this-long-under-lockdown-is-something-we-may-someday-regret

Friday, June 26, 2020

Lockdown wiped out 20 years of economic growth in UK

U.K. economy nosedives 20.4% in one month due to COVID-19 lockdown measures | Global TV - Pan Pylas, Associated Press:

June 12, 2020 - "The British economy has seen nearly two decades worth of growth wiped out as a result of the lockdown measures put in place during the coronavirus pandemic. The Office for National Statistics said Friday that the economy shrank by a colossal 20.4% in April, the first full month that the country was under lockdown to contain the spread of the virus. All areas of the economy were hit during the month, in particular pubs, education, health and car sales.

"The monthly decline was unprecedented in scale and, adding the more modest — but still substantial — 5.8% decline in March, means the U.K. economy is around 25% smaller than it was in February. 'This startling fall in activity takes output in April back to around its level in July 2002,' said James Smith, research director at the Resolution Foundation.

"With much of the economy still mothballed in May and June, the U.K. is heading for one of its deepest recessions ever — the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has warned that the country is set to be the hardest-hit developed economy this year.

"Lockdown restrictions are slowly being eased, which should see the economy to start to pick up. On Monday, for example, nonessential shops, such as department stores and electronic retailers, can reopen if they can abide by social distancing requirements. But hopes that the bounceback in the economy will be as strong as the slide have receded given that many restrictions, such as on social contact, are set to remain in place.... People currently have to remain 2 metres (6-1/2 feet) apart, which is more than required in most countries and above the World Health Organaization’s minimum recommendation of staying one meter apart....

"The recovery is also set to be held back by the fact that many businesses just aren’t going to make it out of the slump and millions of workers face unemployment. People are also set to remain wary about going to shops or to commute so long as the virus remains a threat. Uncertainty over the U.K.’s trading relationship with the European Union at the start of 2021 is another factor that could keep a lid on ... the recovery....

"Companies have largely held off from cutting jobs during the lockdown as a result of the Job Retention Scheme, under which the government pays up to 80% of the salaries of workers retained, up to 2,500 pounds ($3,125) a month. Treasury chief Rishi Sunak has said that the scheme will close [in October]. That’s raised concerns that Britain will see a spike in unemployment then. In total, 8.9 million jobs have been furloughed under the scheme by 1.1 million employers at a cost to the government of 19.6 billion pounds ($25 billion). Even if 10% of those lose their jobs, it would increase unemployment substantially. In March, there were around 1.35 million people unemployed."

Read more: https://globalnews.ca/news/7058451/coronavirus-lockdown-britain-economy/

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Maine's party membership law unconstitutional, federal judge rules

Federal judge calls Maine unenrollment law unconstitutional in Libertarian lawsuit | Bangor Daily News - Caitlin Andrews:

June 11, 2020 - "The state’s process for keeping political party members enrolled is unconstitutional, a federal judge in Bangor ruled Thursday. But he declined to immediately re-enroll more than 6,000 previous members of Maine’s Libertarian party.... The party’s numbers are not immediately restored, but U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker found the plaintiffs would be likely to succeed if they continued the case on its constitutional merits.

"The Libertarians sued Secretary of State Matt Dunlap late last year, arguing the state’s enrollment thresholds were impossible to maintain for small parties. State law requires new parties to enroll at least 5,000 members the year before a general election and to have at least 10,000 by the next general election.... Party members are unenrolled if that enrollment threshold isn’t met.

"The Libertarians argued the requirements ... 'severely burden the constitutional rights' of voters and prevent new political parties from gaining a foothold in the state, pointing to the financial and time commitment needed to enroll members. Walker agreed that the un-enrollment process was unconstitutional, writing that it 'penalizes minor parties' by repeatedly setting them back 'when they are just getting going.' But he denied the party’s request to immediately re-enroll the more than 6,000 previous Libertarians....

"Walker factored the timing of the suit into his decision. By waiting almost a year to challenge their most recent loss of status, he said previously enrolled members may have since enrolled in other parties, or may prefer their unenrolled status. Further, the Libertarian party has not proved that those previous members wish to be enrolled. Automatically re-enrolling them 'would completely disrupt the state’s orderly process of election administration and would be manifestly unfair to other candidates – both those enrolled in other parties and unenrolled ‒ who are competing for those same elective offices and remain obligated to comply with all applicable statutory requirements,' Walker wrote."

Read more: https://bangordailynews.com/2020/06/11/politics/federal-judge-calls-maine-unenrollment-law-unconstitutional-in-libertarian-lawsuit/

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Thomas Massie wins primary in landslide

Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie wins primary despite Trump's call to boot him from GOP | Fox News - Caitlin McFall:

June 23, 2020 - "Rep. Thomas Massie was declared the winner in Kentucky’s fourth district GOP primary Tuesday, despite President Trump's past calls to 'throw' Massie out of the Republican Party.

"Tonight’s victory sends a strong message that Republican voters in the 4th District of Kentucky want someone to represent them in Washington who will consistently stand up on principle, defend life, and support the Constitution,' Massie wrote in a statement Tuesday night. Massie beat his challenger, Todd McMurtry with an 88 percent [to 12 percent] lead with 73 percent of the precinct votes in when The Associated Press called the race.

"Earlier this year, Trump called Massie 'a disaster for America' and a 'third-rate grandstander' after he held up a $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill in March. Massie was against the large bill and demanded a roll-call vote that forced his colleagues to come back to the House floor despite the recommendations from health experts to stay home.

"'I came here to make sure our republic doesn’t die by unanimous consent in an empty chamber,' Massie said in March, demanding a recorded vote. Republicans and Democrats rejected Massie’s request as a quorum was present, and passed the bill by voice vote.

"The majority of Massie’s votes Tuesday, were cast by mail-in and drop-off absentee voting because of coronavirus restrictions according to Roll Call.

"Massie has reportedly become known as 'Mr. No' because of his track record for voting against bipartisan and conservative bills. Trump, who won in Massie’s district in 2016, appears to have not deterred Massie supporters despite tweeting 'Throw Massie out of Republican Party!' in March.

"Massie won a fourth term in 2018 by winning nearly two thirds the vote, and will face Democrat Matthew Best, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary Tuesday, in November."

Read more: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/kentucky-rep-thomas-massie-wins-primary-despite-trumps-call-to-boot-him-from-gop

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

How Britain stumbled into lockdown

These people have no idea what they're doing: Ex-Supreme Court judge LORD JONATHAN SUMPTION gives a devastating verdict on our political leaders' handling of the crisis | The Mail on Sunday - Jonathan Sumption

June 21, 2020 - "Does the Government have a policy for coronavirus? Indeed it does. In fact, it has several ... all mutually inconsistent and none of them properly thought through.... [T]his crisis has exposed .. a dysfunctional Government with a deep-seated incoherence at the heart of its decision-making processes.

"The Government has repeatedly claimed to be ‘guided by the science’. This has in practice been a shameless attempt to evade responsibility by passing the buck to scientists for what are ultimately political, and not scientific, decisions. Scientists can advise what measures are likely to reduce infections and deaths. Only politicians can decide whether those measures make sense in economic and social terms too.

"Sage {Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies], the committee of scientists advising the Government, has been very clear about this, as the minutes of its meetings show.... Ministers press them for the kind of unequivocal answers that will protect them from criticism. Scientists cover themselves by giving equivocal answers, which reflect the uncertainty of the science. The Government responds by avoiding any decision for which it would have to take political responsibility, until the pressure of events becomes irresistible, when it lurches off in a new direction.

"Plan A was published on March 3. It concentrated on ensuring the provision of medical and other essential services. It relied on advice and guidance to the public, not coercion. The Government stood out against the authoritarian and indiscriminate measures which were being applied in Italy, and later in other European countries.

"Plan B was an abrupt U-turn. On March 18, the Government announced the closure of schools. On March 20, pubs, cafes and restaurants were added. Finally, it announced the full lockdown on the evening of March 23. That was a last-minute decision made that afternoon, for which the Government had made no preparations at all. It had not included a lockdown power in the Coronavirus Bill which was then going through Parliament. Instead, it was forced to make legally questionable use of public health legislation designed to control the movements of infected people, not healthy ones. Even then, it took another three days to prepare the regulations, and meanwhile pretended that they were in force when they were not.

"Judging by its minutes, Sage was unenthusiastic about closing down the hospitality industry, forbidding large gatherings or closing schools. From an early stage, it had pointed out that the real threat was to people over 70 and those with serious underlying medical conditions. Since March 5 they had been advising the Government to ‘cocoon’ those people, and others who either had the disease or lived in the same household.... ‘Citizens’, the behavioural scientists advised, ‘should be treated as rational actors, capable of taking decisions for themselves and managing personal risk.’ If this advice had been followed, it would have left almost all the economically active members of the population free to earn their livings and sustain the economy.

"Indiscriminate lockdown was a panic response to the now-notorious statistical model produced on March 16 by Professor Neil Ferguson’s team at Imperial College. Panic responses leave little room for reflection. No serious consideration appears to have been given to the potentially catastrophic side effects. In fact, the Imperial team did identify the main problem about a lockdown. In an earlier report to Sage, they had pointed out that once a disease had taken hold in a population, ‘measures which are too effective merely push all transmission to the period after they are lifted, giving a delay but no substantial reduction in either peak incidence or overall attack rate’. They repeated this view when they recommended a lockdown on March 16 and said that to be effective, it would need to be maintained until a vaccine was available, ‘potentially 18 months or more’....

"The Government justified its Plan B as a temporary measure designed only to delay the peak until the NHS’s intensive care capacity had caught up. But when it came to Plan C, which was unveiled on May 10, they forgot all about that. By then the NHS had caught up, mainly as a result of the Government’s one undoubted achievement, namely the rapid increase in the country’s critical care capacity.... But instead of lifting the lockdown, it merely nibbled at its edges, announcing that its essential features would remain in place for weeks or months....

"[T]hree weeks later on June 2 ...[w]e were heading for an economic catastrophe: gross domestic product down by more than a fifth and falling; 3.5 million jobs set to be lost in the hospitality industry alone; unemployment already up to two million; several million businesses snuffed out; job openings for a generation of young people extinguished. Why was the PM ... surprised? What did he expect to happen if he closed down the economy for several months and conducted a scorched-earth campaign against the rest of our national life? The only plausible explanation was that he had never properly thought about it...

"So we moved to Plan D, announced on June 10, which involved a general return to work. But in many areas the return was stymied by the Government’s two-metre physical distancing rule. The rule never had any rational basis.... Experiments by the Department of Health (reviewed by Sage) indicate that the risk of airborne transmission is low outside a healthcare setting. It is being maintained because the Government wants scientific cover and Sage cannot rule out some risk that prolonged face-to-face contact at less than two metres might cause some infection. No one in government was grown-up enough to confront the real issue: does a low risk justify a huge economic cost?...

"Finally, there is the ultimate absurdity of the quarantine recently imposed on incoming travellers, which the Government has admitted was not based on any scientific advice, but simply (it seems) on the mistaken belief that the public would applaud it. The Government is now trying to backtrack by negotiating ‘air bridges’ with other countries. But it does not need to negotiate anything. This is a problem of our creation. We can simply lift the restriction at our end. Like so many of the Government’s measures, it is being maintained simply in order to avoid admitting that it was a mistake....

"You have to go back to the early 1930s to find a British Cabinet as devoid of talent as this one. The Prime Minister, who in practice makes most of the decisions, ... is incapable of studying a complex problem in depth. He thinks as he speaks – in slogans. These people have no idea what they are doing, because they are unable to think about more than one thing at a time or to look further ahead than the end of their noses. Yet they wield awesome power. They are destroying our economy, our cultural life and our children’s education in a fit of absent-mindedness."

Read more: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-8443747/LORD-JONATHAN-SUMPTION-people-no-idea-theyre-doing.html

Monday, June 22, 2020

8th Circuit puts Libertarians on ballot in Arkansas

Eighth Circuit Sides With Arkansas Libertarians in Ballot-Access Suit | Courthouse News - Joe Harris:

June 18, 2020 = "Arkansas’ stringent election requirements to get on the ballot as a third party are likely unconstitutional, the Eighth Circuit ruled Thursday.

"Recent amendments to the law at issue nearly tripled the number of signatures needed for a new political party to appear on a ballot. State law previously dictated that a new party needed 10,000 voter signatures to get on the ballot. Now, parties seeking whole-ballot access need an amount that equals or is greater than 3% of the total votes cast in the state’s last gubernatorial election — which amounts to nearly 27,000.

"The Libertarian Party of Arkansas filed the lawsuit challenging the requirements in the Eastern District of Arkansas in March 2019. Arkansas appealed to the Eighth Circuit after U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker, a President Barack Obama appointee, granted preliminary injunctive relief, finding that the law was likely unconstitutional.

"Attorney James C. Linger, who represented the Libertarian Party, lauded the unanimous decision by the three-judge panel. 'It ends the thing for this election,' Linger said in an interview. 'The Libertarian Party will be on the ballot; all their candidates will be on the ballot. If it would have been reversed, they would have lost their candidates and everything for this election'....

"'We harbor serious doubt that the generalized desire to maintain the integrity of elections and prevent ballot overcrowding can be viewed as a compelling state interest when the prior version of the statute undisputedly succeeded at preventing ballot overcrowding,' Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Michael J. Melloy, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote in the 21-page opinion. 'The evidence at the hearing showed that no party previously achieved access during the years in which Arkansas had a 3% requirement, and even during the many years in which Arkansas had a 10,000 signature requirement coupled with a more forgiving deadline, there was no crowding of the ballot.' Melloy continued, 'The state’s own expert witness acknowledged that only one or two new parties had ever qualified by petition under the 10,000 signature requirement. In fact, he opined that a ballot with two major parties and two additional parties appearing on a whole-ballot basis would not be crowded'....

"Arkansas passed similar laws in 1996 and 2006, only to have them both found to be unconstitutional. Linger said the state has been attempting to impose similar restrictions on third parties off and on for decades.... Linger plans on following up with motions for summary judgment to officially end the matter."

Read more: https://www.courthousenews.com/eight-circuit-sides-with-arkansas-libertarians-in-ballot-access-suit/

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Voluntary social distancing needs to continue

When It Comes To Social Distancing And Keeping My Family Safe, I’m Not Afraid To Be Rude | Scary Mommy - Katie Cloyd:

June 18, 2020 - "Living in total lockdown for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic was hard.... Staying home literally all the time and not seeing the people we loved was heartbreaking. I cried watching my kids interact with their grandparents through a window screen from 10 feet away. I was living for the day the world could safely reopen. We settled in for the long haul, assuming something drastic would need to change before we could resume normal activities.

"But then the world (at least my area of it) just kind of … opened back up. COVID-19 cases are still rising, we don’t have a concrete treatment or vaccine, and yet, we have been legally permitted to return to almost normal.

"With legal restrictions lifted, voluntary social distancing is pretty much the only thing I can do to keep my family safe from the novel coronavirus now. And that is exactly what I will do, regardless of anyone else’s opinion. Until all major health organizations tell us to return to normal, my family is treating this COVID-19 pandemic like a pandemic.... I’m not joining ladies’ nights, playdates or group outings yet. No restaurant dinners, no hugs, and no big group barbecues. No shopping trips just to browse, and no crowded public places....

"My husband’s work has returned to a full crew working in the office full-time.... and I know that our COVID-19 risk is increased because of that one factor. We have no choice but to allow that risk into our lives because he has to work. But I can’t be bothered to assume any other risk I’m not one hundred percent comfortable with, and I don’t care who judges me, calls me paranoid or thinks I’m rude.

"I happen to live in an area where it’s pretty common to hear someone say that the entire pandemic is a hoax... People even roll their eyes at my family when we wear our masks in public. And my kids think I’m the meanest mom ever. They hate the masks. You know what? I hate them, too. My oldest son says his mask is hot and bothers his ears, and I wholeheartedly agree..... I am making my kids wear a mask and keep appropriate physical distance because I care about the people around me. I’m not paranoid. I’m courteous. If my husband brings the virus home from work, we could be pre-symptomatic and contagious at any time. So, we wear our masks for everyone else’s protection, and we steer very clear of anyone who won’t wear one for our protection....

"There are so many issues to weigh. A mom in New York City might make different decisions for her family than a parent in rural Montana. Families with someone in a high-risk category will likely do things differently than families who don’t have any of the most common risk factors. And people have to work.... But all of us should still be navigating this planet with the pandemic in mind.... COVID-19 is still a threat, and cases are still climbing in a lot of states. It’s important to remain vigilant, make good choices, and keep your distance from non-household-members whenever possible.

"If you’re like me, and you are trying to maintain social distance to keep your family safe in an area where that’s not the norm anymore, you might face some resistance from people who think the threat has passed. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself. It’s not rude to protect your boundaries, and anyone who can’t respect your desire to protect your family needs to work that out in their own brain. Nobody has the right to breach your boundaries or pressure you into moving the line. Nobody gets to tell you that you have to take risks you aren’t comfortable with in the name of politeness. I’m not even considering it."

Read more: https://www.scarymommy.com/social-distancing-keeping-my-family-safe-not-afraid-to-be-rude/

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Americans voting with their feet to end lockdowns

Lockdown Is Ending, Whether Governments Approve or Not | Reason - Eric Boehm:

May 4, 2020 - "Some states have lifted their COVID-19 lockdowns or announced plans to let more businesses reopen soon; others have extended stay-at-home orders into late May or even early June. But regardless of what officials dictate, data from Apple and Foursquare suggest the lockdowns are gradually coming to an end on their own anyway, as more people venture out of their homes and resume various levels of economic activity.

"'As officials begin the process of relaxing some business restrictions, we're starting to see upticks in foot traffic to various places,' Foursquare reported in an April 30 blog post. 'This is true across regions, regardless of state-specific policies.' Visits to fast food restaurants and gas stations have already returned to their pre-coronavirus baselines in rural regions, Foursquare reported. While suburban and urban areas are still below normal, those areas have seen 15 percent growth since the end of March.

"Gas stations have seen a rebound too. According to Foursquare, gas station visits were down as much as 11 percent from their national averages in the early weeks of April but down only 6 percent for the week of April 24. In some parts of the country — mostly in the Midwest, where the COVID-19 outbreak has been less severe — the visits had returned to pre-coronavirus levels. Apple's Mobility Trends, which is aggregated from Apple Maps users, shows a similar uptick.... While travel in the United States was still down 16 percent from 'normal' by the end of last week, there is an undeniable upward trend, one moving faster than in other countries hit hard by COVID-19....

"Needless to say, a great deal of economic activity is not back to normal. Bars, casual dining restaurants, gyms, and retail shops continue to be hammered by mandatory shutdowns in many states — and by consumer reluctance too....

"But the Foursquare and Apple data provide policymakers with some critical insights, if they are willing to look. Clearly, individuals have been weighing the risks of the coronavirus against the difficulties of the ongoing lockdowns and deciding to venture out a bit more often. That's good news for businesses that are still open, but it does nothing for those that the government has ordered to close. Those closures should be reversed as much as possible — though obviously with an eye toward social distancing and with limited capacity.

"The data also show something about the nature of the shutdowns. They might have been encouraged by executive orders, but they were always ultimately driven by voluntary behavior. Well before states started issuing stay-at-home orders in the final week of March, many Americans were voluntarily self-quarantining.

"Since officials had only limited influence over the beginning of the lockdown, they were always going to have limited influence over its ending. This was always unsustainable over the long term, and coronavirus policies need to be reconsidered in light of that. On the other hand, declaring states to be 'open' will be meaningless unless residents feel it is safe to venture out again.

"Nor is this proof that anti-lockdown protests have worked. Dozens of Americans have descended on state capitals in displays of politicized rage, but the lockdowns are coming undone mostly because millions of other people have simply started going about their lives again, at least as much as they can. They're voting with their feet — and their cars."

Read more: https://reason.com/2020/05/04/lockdown-is-ending-whether-governments-approve-or-not/

Friday, June 19, 2020

COVID-19 patients sent to nursing homes in NY

Was Governor Cuomo Responsible for the Death of Thousands of Nursing Home Inhabitants? American Institute for Economic Research - Ethan Yang:

June 19, 2020 - "The 56th Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo,... has enjoyed a sky-high approval rating due to his leadership during the ongoing [COVID-19] crisis. However, his record is far from stellar. He may have easily committed one of the greatest atrocities of the crisis: Mandating the transfer of over 4,500 COVID-19 patients to nursing homes full of vulnerable and elderly individuals which eventually saw over 6,000 deaths....

"On March 25th, Governor Cuomo issued an executive order forcing nursing homes to receive patients from overflowing hospitals. The order mandates that 'During this global health emergency, all NHs must comply with the expedited receipt of residents returning from hospitals to NHs'.  As a result over 4,500 COVID-19 patients were forcibly transferred from hospitals to nursing homes regardless of their capacity to accept them.

"According to the Associated Press, 'New York has not mandated testing in its more than 1,150 nursing homes and long-term care facilities'. In fact, the executive order went further to forbid the required testing of COVID-19 within the facilities. The language was as follows: 'No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission'....

"Cuomo himself had said protecting nursing home residents was the state’s top priority, once calling the threat “fire through dry grass. Cuomo was correct about the vulnerability of nursing homes, as the weeks following the executive order saw 6,000 deaths out of the 100,000 New York citizens inhabiting nursing homes.... Nationwide, more than 45,500 residents and staff have died from coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to a running count by The Associated Press. That’s about 40% of more than 115,000 total deaths. Nursing home residents are less than 1% of the U.S. population....

"On May 10, 2020, the executive order was thankfully rescinded, but the Governor and his officials have certainly mounted a defense of their decision. Pro Publica writes that the state Health Department was lax if not completely uninvolved in monitoring what happened after patients were sent to nursing homes. There are also disputed claims on whether or not the state was even recording deaths in nursing homes until late April....

"Pro Publica states that 'The Cuomo administration would not say who conceived of the order or answer the question of whether it believed the order had led to additional deaths. The administration said the Health Department was conducting 'a thorough review' of COVID-19’s impact on nursing homes....

"During a press conference on May 20 Governor Cuomo ... stated that 'anyone who wants to ask, why did the state do that with COVID patients in nursing homes? It’s because the state followed President Trump’s CDC guidance'.... Politifact determined this statement to be 'mostly false'.... CDC guidance did not call for the mandatory transfer of patients to nursing homes nor did it prohibit further testing for COVID-19. An official at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services cited a March 13 document that clarifies 'A nursing home can accept a resident diagnosed with COVID-19 and still under Transmission Based Precautions for COVID-19 as long as the facility can follow CDC guidance for Transmission-Based Precautions.'"

Read more: https://www.aier.org/article/was-governor-cuomo-responsible-for-the-death-of-thousands-of-nursing-home-inhabitants/

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Panic as Beijing reimposes Level II lockdown

Flights canceled, communities fenced off as coronavirus' return plunges Beijing into "soft lockdown" | CBS News - Grace Qi:

June 17, 2020 - "The new outbreak of coronavirus in the Chinese capital prompted authorities to raise their official emergency response back to Level II on Tuesday night, as they race to stem what one called an 'extremely severe' situation. The adjustment to Beijing's response level came just 10 days after it was downgraded to Level III.

"Beijing has bolstered measures to stop the virus spreading as the cluster of new infections, centered on the Xinfadi wholesale food market, grew by another 31 cases over the course of Tuesday. China's government has now officially tallied 137 cases in the capital city since the first patient in this new wave of infections was diagnosed last week.

"Now flights are being canceled, schools have been told to shut back down, and entire communities near the market, or with known COVID-19 cases, have been closed off and their residents barred from leaving. So far 29 neighborhoods have been completely fenced off. Across much of the capital, residents have found themselves under what many are calling a 'soft lockdown.'

"More than 1,200 inbound and outbound flights from Beijing's two airports were canceled on Wednesday, accounting for almost 70% of scheduled trips, according to aviation tracking website Variflight. The national railway operator is allowing passengers to and from Beijing to refund their tickets without fees. All outbound taxi and car-hailing services and most long-distance bus routes from Beijing were canceled. City officials have limited public places such as libraries, museums, art galleries, and parks to 30% capacity.

"The rest of Beijing's ... residents have been told to avoid 'non-essential' travel outside city. If it is deemed 'absolutely necessary' to travel, residents have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result from within the past seven days, but appointments for testing aren't to be had quickly or easily right now, and other parts of China aren't eagerly welcoming arrivals from Beijing.

"The return of strict control measures in the capital, even if only in some parts, has sparked panic and anxiety among some Beijingers. Social media is flooded with residents' concerns, including some complaining that the government is trying to soften the perception of the new lockdown by simply not using the word in news conferences, even as it brings back the restrictions."

Read more: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-china-beijing-soft-lockdown-limited-outbreak/

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

GOP libertarians: Another one bites the dust

Libertarians Need Not Apply | Bacon's Rebellion - Peter Galuszka:

June 14, 2020 - "The Virginia Republican Party had a big shock Saturday. Far-right candidate Bob Good snatched the party’s nomination in the fifth congressional district from incumbent Denver Riggleman, who was backed by President Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell Jr., the head of Liberty University.

"The remarkable twist could presage an arch-conservative backlash against Trump’s populism in the run up to elections this November. University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato tweeted early Sunday morning that 'the Virginia GOP has gone so far to the right that a congressman backed by (Trump and Falwell) isn’t conservative enough to renominate.'

"The 5th District includes the cities of Lynchburg and Charlottesville and covers broad swaths of highly socially conservative rural areas. Riggleman’s problem was that he had Libertarian tendencies and had officiated at a gay wedding. Good hit Riggleman hard on the wedding and pushed a platform that included considerable xenophobia. For example, in his campaign, he stated that he wants to make English the official national language and 'stop accommodating immigrants and their native tongues, because it’s our unity that’s our strength,' according to the Roanoke Times....

"The drive-in convention that decided the candidate also is extremely odd. Riggleman wanted a primary but the local GOP opted for a convention instead.Because of the COVID 19 pandemic, the GOP decided that the Tree of Life Ministries Church would be a polling place for the convention in which people would drive by in their cars. It just happens that the church is where Good worships.

“'This is the most perverse way to choose a candidate,' Riggleman said Saturday before the results came in. Good claimed he got 58 percent of the vote....

"The Virginia GOP has been in disarray for years. Republicans haven’t won statewide races in a decade. The three top state posts are held by Democrats which made big inroads in the 2018 congressional elections and the 2019 General Assembly races."

Read more: https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/libertarians-need-not-apply/

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

First life-saving drug for COVID-19 discovered

Coronavirus: Dexamethasone proves first life-saving drug | BBC News - Michelle Roberts, Health Editor:

June 16, 2020 - "The low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone is a major breakthrough in the fight against the deadly virus, UK experts say. The drug is part of the world's biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for coronavirus. It cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth.

"Had the drug had been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved, researchers say. And it could be of huge benefit in poorer countries with high numbers of Covid-19 patients. The UK government has 200,000 courses of the drug in its stockpile and says the NHS will make dexamethasone available to patients.

"About 19 out of 20 patients with coronavirus recover without being admitted to hospital. Of those who are admitted, most also recover but some may need oxygen or mechanical ventilation. And these are the high-risk patients dexamethasone appears to help.... [I]t appears to help stop some of the damage that can happen when the body's immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight off coronavirus. This over-reaction, a cytokine storm, can be deadly.

"In the trial, led by a team from Oxford University, about 2,000 hospital patients were given dexamethasone and compared with more than 4,000 who were not. For patients on ventilators, it cut the risk of death from 40% to 28%. For patients needing oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25% to 20%....  The treatment is up to 10 days of dexamethasone and ... essentially it costs £35 to save a life."

Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-53061281

Monday, June 15, 2020

Alaska Libertarians file ballot access suit

Alaska Libertarian Party files lawsuit to get on presidential ballot - Andrew Kitchenman, Alaska Public Media & KTOO Juneau:

June 11, 2020 - "The Alaska Libertarian Party has filed a federal lawsuit against state elections officials....  The party wants its presidential candidate to appear on the general election ballot. The party and its chair, Jon Watts of North Pole, sued state Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer in the U.S. District Court for Alaska....

"Watts said it is unconstitutional to require the party to meet the state’s legal requirements for gathering signatures, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 'When you’re out sitting in front of a grocery store and everybody’s wearing masks — I mean, having a smile to greet people and they’ll sit there and talk with you for a minute, was really strictly prohibited with the social distancing initially,' he said.

"State law allows parties ballot access if they get 3% of the vote in the most recent statewide general election, if 3% of the state’s voters are in their party or if they gather signatures equal to 1% of the votes cast in the most recent presidential election. Since the party didn’t clear the first two bars, they ... need 3,212 signatures. And they’ve hired a signature gatherer, Scott Kohlhaas. The lawsuit said the party would usually get 1,000 signatures per week, but recently gathered only 149 in roughly two weeks....

"Watts said the ballot access should be a constitutional right. He said the state’s response is an example in favor of his party’s limited-government approach. 'It’s interesting that government at all levels can suspend actual constitutional rights — the freedom to assemble and do various other things relative to our Bill of Rights,' he said. 'However, when it comes to some slack allowance for ballot presence relative to this COVID: "Oh, we can’t change the rules for that"'

"The state did allow the party to gather signatures online, but Watts said the courts should allow the Libertarians and other third parties to have their candidates go directly onto the ballot....

"Libertarians have a history of receiving more votes in Alaska than in most other states. Four years ago, Libertarian Gary Johnson received nearly 6% of the vote in Alaska, his third-highest share in the country, after New Mexico and North Dakota. The same year, Joe Miller received 29% of the vote in the U.S. Senate election. But the party’s candidate for governor, Billy Toien, received less than 2% of the vote in 2018.

"Green Party of Alaska secretary Robert Shields said his party also is concerned it won’t be able to get enough signatures for its candidate to be on the ballot. The party hasn’t picked a candidate."

Read more: https://www.alaskapublic.org/2020/06/11/alaska-libertarian-party-files-lawsuit-to-get-on-presidential-ballot/

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Voluntary social distancing working in Wisconsin

The lessons from Wisconsin’s lockdown lifting | Spectator USA - Ross Clark:

June 11, 2020 - "Has the end of lockdown caused a large second spike in COVID-19 infections? We have a possible answer to this question because the experiment was carried out in Wisconsin on May 15 when the US state’s Supreme Court overthrew the governor’s ‘stay at home’ order. Gov. Tony Evers ... declared his state to be the ‘Wild West’ and predicted a surge of deaths.

"What happened in the two weeks following the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision has now been studied by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Its conclusion? There was no discernible effect on the infection rate. This was not necessarily much to do with the virus itself, however. Wisconsin’s 5.8 million residents simply refused to exercise their new found freedoms....

"Five of the state’s 72 counties imposed their own local stay at home orders, but the vast majority did not. People were suddenly free to resume ordinary life. The researchers studied what happened next via smartphone data. Taken across the state as a whole, prior to the lifting of the lockdown just under 40 percent of residents were staying at home all day. In the two days immediately following the lifting of the order this briefly fell to just over 30 percent. Yet two days after that it shot up to 45 percent — higher than it had been throughout the first half of May. From that peak, there then followed a slow decline in the proportion of people staying at home all day.

"There was a similar pattern when the researchers looked at the median number of hours people were spending at home. In the first two days it fell, then it spiked, and then it fell away steadily. It was as if a few people reacted to the lifting of the order by rushing out to enjoy themselves — or maybe to check on relatives — and then voluntarily retreated back indoors.

"We have learned a lot about the virus in recent weeks but we have also learned a lot about human behavior. Either through a sense of public duty, or simply through fear for their own safety, people have taken it upon themselves to impose their own personal lockdowns even when the law does not demand that they do so."

Read more: https://spectator.us/lessons-from-wisconsin-lockdown-lifting/

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Jorgensen on lockdowns, crypto, and the Fed

2020 Libertarian Presidential Candidate Jo Jorgensen Talks Bitcoin, Endless Wars, Covid-19 Response | News.Bitcoin.com - Jamie Redman:

June 9, 2020 - "On June 8, news.Bitcoin.com ... discussed a number of issues with the Libertarian 2020 presidential candidate Joanne Jorgensen, otherwise known as 'Jo.' The Libertarian nominee is a well known political activist and academic researcher during the last few decades.... 

"BC: What are your thoughts on how the US government handled the coronavirus outbreak —  specifically the business shutdowns and lockdown orders?...
JJ: It was tragic, they put us all under house arrest and tens of millions of people lost their jobs. Many of those jobs are not coming back. One of my grandfathers immigrated from Sweden and his family came to America for freedom. You know the land of the free and home of the brave. And while we are all under lockdown, the old country that he left they were all out walking about, going to school, going to restaurants, and having a general freedom that you would expect Americans to have.

"BC: Since the coronavirus and even months prior, the US Federal Reserve has created trillions of dollars and it has been distributed to private dealers and interests. What are your thoughts on the Fed and how would you address this private bank as President?
JJ: First all the Federal Reserve should have never been created to begin with. Unfortunately, they are teaching history a little wrong in the textbooks these days. Because a lot of people say that if it wasn’t for the Fed stepping in, the Great Depression would have been so much worse. But actually the Federal Reserve caused the problems....

"[T]he first thing I would do if I was President of the United States would be to audit the Federal Reserve.... Eventually, I’d like to see the Fed abolished. Because through the Federal Reserve we get money created out of thin air, which is basically the equivalent of counterfeit money....

"BC: A great number of Libertarians like money such as gold and silver. However, in recent years many free-market advocates support bitcoin. What is your stance on Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency economy?
JJ: A message from the Libertarian Party platform says: 'We favor free-market banking with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types — Individuals engaged in voluntary exchange should be free to use as money any mutually agreeable commodity or item. We support a halt to inflationary monetary policies and unconstitutional legal tender laws.'

"So a number of people say that they want to back USD with gold. That would be a step in the right direction, but that is not enough. We have competition in cars, competition with computers, and competitive grocery stores. Why not have competition with money? So the people have access to something that is more planned and a monetary system they can better predict. Right now what we have is money that’s created under the whims of Congress and the Federal Reserve Chair.

"I would act in support of a free market in currencies. Some people say that the constitution authorizes the federal government to create currency, just like it authorizes the creation of the post office. But in neither case, does the constitution give the federal government a monopoly on currency or the delivery of mail. Businesses should be able to trade and accept whatever they want and that would mean bitcoin and all the other cryptocurrencies....

"I would enact Ron Paul’s Free Competition in Currency Act. This would repeal legal tender laws and taxes on coins and monetary metals. And it would repeal the prohibition on coining money. Also, I would repeal the Bank Secrecy Act, Know-Your-Customer (KYC), and other laws that violate our right to financial privacy. Many people go to bitcoin because they do want privacy so I would work to repeal those unjust laws.

"I would also appoint commissioners to the CFTC and the SEC who would then seek to deregulate Bitcoin and other crypto-assets. I would appoint leaders at the Treasury Department, who would be told to leave bitcoin and crypto operations alone. Lastly, I would pardon Ross Ulbricht, the individual who operated the Silk Road (SR) marketplace. Ulbricht is serving more than one life sentence in prison for nonviolent offenses, partly because some of the SR members were selling drugs for bitcoin."

Read more: https://news.bitcoin.com/2020-libertarian-presidential-candidate-jo-jorgensen-talks-bitcoin-endless-wars-covid-19-response/

Friday, June 12, 2020

"Lockdowns saved 3 million lives" claim not proven

Professor Lockdown Now Claims to Have Saved 3.1 Million Lives | American Institute for Economic Research - Phillip W. Magness:

June 9, 2020 - "The problem of causal inference presents one of the great challenges of empirical analysis. While it is relatively easy to find patterns in data that appear to move over time in response to overlapping events, it is much harder to show that those events specifically caused the data to move as expected. Think about how presidents often cite positive economic data such as GDP growth or the stock market as vindication of their own economic policies. Prior to early March 2020 this was a favorite tweeting topic of Donald Trump, although his predecessors almost all made similar claims....

"[C]onsider the ongoing question about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 lockdown policies employed in several U.S. states as well as other countries. A causal inference test of the lockdowns would require clear evidence of different outcomes between states that adopted shelter-in-place rules and states that did not. Given the complex multitude of confounding variables affecting COVID-19 transmission and mortality rates, isolating causality from the lockdown policies is no easy task.

"That brings us to a new report published in the journal Nature by the epidemiology team at Imperial College-London (ICL).... This is the same epidemiology research center whose agent-based simulation model convinced the American and British governments to switch to a lockdown strategy.... The paper [in Nature] and an accompanying press release from the university put numbers to this claim, asserting that the lockdowns saved an estimated 3.1 million lives in Europe.

"Although this headline-grabbing claim will likely be treated as a vindication of the lockdown approach by its political supporters, a closer look at the analysis suggests the Imperial College team reached this conclusion without offering a viable causal inference strategy. As they describe in the paper, 'By comparing the deaths predicted under the model with no interventions to the deaths predicted in our intervention model, we calculated the total deaths averted in our study period' [stress added - gd]....

"Put differently, the epidemiologists reached their estimates by taking the difference between observed deaths and their own agent-based simulation.... They then depict the difference as if it demonstrates the validity of their own simulation model, despite providing no evidence that their original simulation was correct....

"If that line of argument sounds familiar, it’s because Donald Trump beat the Imperial College team to the punch. Citing the now-infamous March 16th ICL report by Imperial’s Neil Ferguson, the American president now regularly claims vindication for his own support of the lockdowns on account of the difference between its 2 million-plus projected death toll and the actual count of just over 100,000 as of this writing. As Trump tweeted on May 26, 'For all of the political hacks out there, if I hadn’t done my job well, & early, we would have lost 1 1/2 to 2 Million People, as opposed to the 100,000 plus that looks like will be the number.'

"Whether used by Imperial College or Trump, this line of argument falters as social science because it assumes the validity of the very same forecast it purports to demonstrate. Rather than testing the causal inference that lockdowns reduced the COVID death rate, it takes [its] own forecasted death rate as a given and then purports to calculate the number of lives saved by simple subtraction from its own model....

"The new paper essentially acknowledges as much in noting that 'the counterfactual model without interventions is illustrative only and reflects our model assumptions.' Rather than investigating this seemingly-crucial assertion further, let alone subjecting it to empirical testing, the authors indulge in a handwaving exercise that simply declares: '[all scenarios broadly show the same trends]. Given this agreement in differing scenarios we believe our estimates for the counterfactual deaths averted to be plausible'....

"The result is not a valid exercise in social scientific analysis, nor is it even an empirically robust test of the ICL model’s performance. Like Trump’s tweeting about both the economy before March 2020 and his own claimed role in reducing COVID deaths after the lockdowns, it is an exercise in statistical astrology. Sadly, unlike Trump’s tweets, however, the ICL managed to convince Nature, a top journal in the profession, to publish these unfounded claims."

Read more: https://www.aier.org/article/professor-lockdown-now-claims-to-have-saved-3-1-million-lives/

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

New Hampshire Libertarians sue for ballot access

NH Libertarians sue over ballot access rules amid pandemic | Keene Sentinel - N.H. Public Radio:
June 10, 2020 - "The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire is suing the governor and the state’s top election official for not adjusting ballot access requirements amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Under existing election laws, Libertarian candidates running for president, governor or U.S. senator in New Hampshire need to collect signatures from 3,000 registered voters to get on the ballot for the 2020 elections. In a complaint filed in federal court Monday, the Libertarian Party argues this threshold is unreasonable, as signatures are typically collected door-to-door, and it is less safe to do that now, due to the ongoing pandemic.

"Instead, the party is asking the state to lower the signature requirement or suspend it altogether for the upcoming elections. Similar lawsuits have been filed on behalf of Libertarians in other states, including Georgia, Illinois and Pennsylvania."
Read more: https://www.sentinelsource.com/news/local/nh-libertarians-sue-over-ballot-access-rules-amid-pandemic/article_f441d432-e2f4-50d7-a729-ba83053656ce.html

NH Primary Source: Libertarian presidential candidate Jorgensen urges end of police ‘militarization’ | WMUR - John DiStasio:
June 4. 2020 - "Libertarian Party nominee Dr. Jo Jorgensen ... was in the state Wednesday to file her declaration of intent to appear on the New Hampshire ballot. Jorgensen turned down a telephone interview, but did answer our question on the issues of the day in writing....

"Dr. Jorgensen: 'Governor Sununu’s refusal to work with the party places an undue risk on thousands of voters who know they deserve a real choice on their ballots in November. The state clearly agrees that collecting petitions is dangerous, as it recommends against everything involved with gathering petitions. From large gatherings, to close personal contact with strangers, signing a petition creates a risk to public safety.

"'Refusing to grant relief puts health and pursuit at odds with an open democracy. With stay-at-home orders in effect, the governor is violating the right to free speech, constitutionally-guaranteed equal rights to be elected to office, and effectively outlaws the gathering of petitions as required by law.'"

Read more: https://www.wmur.com/article/nh-primary-source-libertarian-presidential-candidate-jorgensen-urges-end-of-police-militarization/32761826

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

French health council advises: no more lockdowns

No return to lockdown in France, even if there is a second wave, says head of Scientific Council | The Local.fr:

June 5, 2020 - "France will not impose another general lockdown of the country, even if there is a second wave of Covid-19 cases in autumn, says the head of the Scientific Council....

"Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the Scientific Council convened by the French government to advise on coronavirus-related measures, has laid out a strategy for the months ahead. The Scientific Council's role is advisory, but throughout the crisis they have been closely consulted by the government on health measures to contain and control the spread of the virus, including the strict nationwide lockdown brought in on March 17th.

"Delfraissy, 72, a doctor and immunology specialist, gave an interview to French newspaper Le Parisien in which he laid out the four possible scenarios that the government faces over the rest of 2020. He was speaking as on Thursday the Council published its seventh consultation paper.

"The four scenarios are; the virus goes away or stays at very low levels, a second critical cluster appears like the one in Mulhouse at the start of the epidemic, a slow deterioration of the general situation in autumn with more hospitalisations and finally the worst case scenario - the return to a critical situation of infections and hospital pressure. But even in the worst scenario, the country would not return to a generalised nationwide lockdown, he said.

"He told Le Parisien: 'The Scientific Council, what we are saying is: whatever happens, we will not be able to redo a generalised lockdown in France. The first time, it was essential, we had no choice, but the price we have to pay is too high. The population would certainly not accept it, the economic consequences would be major and, even from a health point of view, this is not desirable - do not forget that, apart from Covid, there were all the other patients who had delays in diagnosis during this period'.

"He added, however, that some areas could see the return of lockdown measures if they show a 'cluster' of cases,.... He cautioned that the virus has not gone away, and that people need to remain cautious and follow health precautions, but he said it is for the present under control.... He said: 'Today, there are between 1,000 and 3,000 new infections per day in France, compared to 70,000 to 100,000 at the beginning of March.... Barring exceptional events, the situation is under control for the next few weeks and even the summer months.'"

Read more: https://www.thelocal.fr/20200605/no-return-to-lockdown-in-france-even-if-there-is-a-second-wave-says-head-of-scientific-council

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Amash introduces bill to end qualified immunity

Rep. Justin Amash Wants To End Qualified Immunity. Where Are the Republicans? | Reason - Billy Binton:

June 6, 2020 - "Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.) wants to end qualified immunity. The insidious legal doctrine allows police officers to violate your civil rights with absolute impunity if those rights have not been spelled out with near-identical precision in preexisting case law. Theoretically, it protects public officials from bogus civil suits, but practically it often allows egregious misconduct.

"George Floyd's death at the hands of former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin forced new life into the debate, shining light on a doctrine that many people say has contributed to an environment of police abuse. Amash announced late Sunday that he would introduce the End Qualified Immunity Act, with Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D–Mass.) signing on as a cosponsor Thursday.

"'It is the sense of the Congress that we must correct the erroneous interpretation of section 1983 which provides for qualified immunity,' the bill reads, 'and reiterate the standard found on the face of the statute, which does not limit liability on the basis of the defendant's good faith beliefs or on the basis that the right was not "clearly established" at the time of the violation.'

"That 'clearly established' bit is what's most important, as the standard has become increasingly impossible to meet. Two cops in Fresno, California, were afforded qualified immunity after allegedly stealing $225,000 while executing a search warrant because it had not been 'clearly established' in case law that stealing is wrong. An officer with the Los Angeles Police Department was given qualified immunity after shooting, without warning, an unarmed 15-year-old boy who was on his way to school, because the boy's friend was holding a plastic airsoft gun replica. A sheriff's deputy in Coffee County, Georgia, received qualified immunity after shooting a 10-year-old boy while aiming at a nonthreatening dog.... The courts' decisions in those cases mean that each appellant had no legal recourse to seek compensation for lost assets or medical bills.

"As of Friday, 16 additional legislators had signed on to Amash's proposal. Not a single one of them is a Republican. The dissonance is mind-boggling.... Republicans rightly criticize public sector monopolies that inevitably hurt the people the government is supposed to serve. Take teachers unions, for instance, which the GOP has historically railed against for propping up teachers at the expense of students. They're not wrong: Unions wield enormous political power that can be weaponized to skirt responsibility and accountability.

"But why, then, are they so slow to apply that very same logic to the institutions emboldening the police? 'In case after case, police unions have defended deadly misdeeds committed by law enforcement," writes Reason's Peter Suderman. Consider the case of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in a chokehold for selling loose cigarettes. 'I can't breathe' were his last words, captured on video.

"Pantaleo was fired after a police administrative judge ruled that he had violated official NYPD protocol. Although the officer broke those rules with fatal consequences, the union ... chose to continue defending him. As Suderman notes, 'Patrick Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, Pantaleo's union, criticized the city for giving in to "anti-police extremists" and warned that such decisions threatened the ability of city police to do their jobs'.... That police unions have taken that road shouldn't be surprising. But it also reminds us why it's time for them to go, since they enable behavior that threatens the very people they are supposedly protecting and serving.

"So, too, is the story with qualified immunity — a doctrine that has allowed a collection of rogue cops to throw civil rights to the wind without any fear of comeuppance. Shielding the police from accountability at all costs does not advance freedom."

Read more: https://reason.com/2020/06/06/justin-amash-ayanna-pressley-end-police-qualified-immunity-where-are-the-republicans/

Monday, June 8, 2020

Lockdowns enforced with brutality in Africa

COVID-19: Security forces in Africa brutalizing civilians under lockdown | Deutsche Welle:

April 20, 2020 - "Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Kenya are some of the countries that security agencies have used brutal means to keep people off the streets. The brutality contradicts some of the measures put in place that allow people to go out only for essential purposes, such as buying food and medication....

"According to Nigeria's Human Rights Commission, security operatives have killed at least eighteen civilians while trying to enforce the state-imposed lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19. The rights group added that those killed by security forces so far outnumber patients who have died from the coronavirus in the country....

"Nigerian police denied any wrongdoing and directed all complaints to its communications department.... 'We ensure that the police we deploy adheres strictly to the police code of conduct and respect for the rights of Nigerian citizens,' Mohammed Adamu, Nigeria's Inspector General of Police (IGP), said....

"But Ryan Cummings, a security analyst at Signal Risk, a political and security risk management consultancy, disputes the IGP's defense line.... According to Cummings, the brutality of police and security forces against civilians in the northeast has also been documented by rights groups like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch. He says security forces often mistreat civilians with impunity under the pretext of fighting Boko Haram and authorities turn a blind eye....

"In South Africa, videos of police brutality against violators of the lockdown that was imposed on March 26 went viral on social media platforms. Several reports of torture and murder of citizens accused of breaching the lockdown regulations are now under investigation. Some of the videos show soldiers kicking people and forcing them to roll on the ground. Others were forced to frog-march until they reach their homes.

"But perhaps the death of Collins Koza, a resident of Alexandra Township, [most] angered many South Africans. DW correspondent in Johannesburg Thuso Khumalo reports that soldiers entered his house and beat him for drinking beer and having some bottles in his fridge.... [Koza] died three hours later after the beating.... In a separate incident, an entire family was assaulted for having a get-together outside their house.... So far, eight people have been killed as a result, and at least 200 cases of police brutality recorded....

"Cummings partly blames the police minister Bheki Cele's recent comments that urged his force to use highhandedness while enforcing the lockdown. 'Do not be nice to suspects' he urged on his men and women and gave the green light to destroy private property if they were selling alcohol, according to local reports.

"Cummings also believes that there's a deep mistrust between South Africans and the security organs that stems back in the apartheid era. 'There are indicators that the brutal enforcement might keep the people off the streets but further dent the relationship and social contract between the security organs and the people they are meant to serve.'"

Read more: https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-security-forces-in-africa-brutalizing-civilians-under-lockdown/a-53192163

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The ethics of social distancing

The Ethics of Social Distancing: A Libertarian Perspective | UNZ Review - Ilana Mercer:

April 23, 2020 - 'Having lived in both the developed and underdeveloped world, I have always associated social distancing with civility and civilization. Cultures that honor personal boundaries have always seemed better than cultures which don’t — more genteel, refined and respectful. Ditto people who keep a respectful distance: They have more merit than those who get in your face....

"In the absence of clinical therapies or a vaccine for coronavirus, the successful return to work rests, very plainly, on the willingness of the citizenry to cover up, keep clean and keep a distance. Why would anyone wish to infringe on another’s personal space, when the stakes are clearly so high? Insisting on unfettered freedom to come and go as one pleases, sans protection, comes at a grave cost to others — it could constitute aggression against innocent others.

"[T]he shuttering of private property by the State is an incontrovertible violation of private property rights. 'Without property rights,' wrote Ayn Rand, 'no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life.'

"Even more fundamental, however, is that without dominion over one’s self — self-ownership — there can be no property rights. Rights to the avails of your labor originate in the right of self-ownership. If you don’t own yourself, you cannot own anything else, or produce anything, the avails of your labor and the products of your mind included. And if you are DEAD, DYING or INCAPACITATED — you own nothing....

"In libertarian theory, private property rights originate in that most important of all titles: The title in one’s own body. That body, that fount of life whence all rights originate, is the legitimate object of government protection in a pandemic. For, as I noted years ago, 'Whether they are armed with bombs or bacteria, stopping weaponized individuals from harming others — intentionally or unintentionally — falls perfectly within the purview of the night-watchman state of classical-liberal theory'....

"Against this background, the natural rights of economically stricken individuals to reopen their businesses are righteous; they stem not from a state-created right or regulation. Rather, the right of ownership is the very extension of the right to life. In order to survive, man must — and it is in his nature to — transform the resources around him by mixing his labor with them and making them his own. Man’s labor and property are extensions of himself. So, my countrymen are correct to protest the shuttering of their privately owned property, also their sole means of sustaining their lives.

"All the same, there is another, equally compelling side to the ethics of this emergency situation.... Each and every individual is or could be, inadvertently, harboring a weapon of mass destruction. Yes, a WMD — for how many men and women have died and will still die because of the inadvertent actions of the coronavirus-carrying Index Patients, during the 'seeding events'? Each one of us could be firing off deadly virus into a defenseless population, bereft of immunity. Each one of us could become armed and dangerous, or be felled by someone who is. In this case, individuals who willfully violate social distancing strictures can be viewed as willful aggressors against innocent others."

Read more: https://www.unz.com/imercer/the-ethics-of-social-distancing-a-libertarian-perspective/