Thursday, December 31, 2020

There was good news in 2020

2020 Did Bring Some Good News | Reason - John Stossel:

December 30, 2020 - "Was 2020 the worst year ever? The media keep saying that. We did have the pandemic, a bitter election, unemployment, riots, and a soaring national debt. But wait, look at the good news, says historian Johan Norberg. His new book, Open: The Story of Human Progress, points out how life keeps getting better, even if people just don't realize it.

"2020 was 'the best year in human history to face a pandemic,' he says. Had the pandemic happened in 2005, 'You wouldn't have the technology to create mRNA vaccines.... In 1990,' he continues, "we wouldn't have a worldwide web. If we had had this pandemic in 1976, we wouldn't have been able to read the genome of the virus. And…in 1950, we wouldn't have had a single ventilator.'

"These last 20 years, adds Norberg, have been especially good. 'Mankind has attained more wealth than ever.' I push back: 'There's more to life than wealth! And lot of this money went to the top 1 percent. Ordinary people think they're doing worse.'

'If you look at specifics like global poverty, child mortality, chronic undernourishment, and illiteracy,' Norberg replies, 'they all declined faster than ever.' Those things are pretty good measures of quality of life....

Of course, there were bad trends in 2020. Murder rose in the United States. Social media algorithms divided us further. 'Suicide is up,' I tell Norberg. 'I can definitely see the problems,' he replies, 'but once upon a time, if you ended up in the wrong school or neighborhood, you had nowhere to go—no other community available to you. Now there is, and that opens up a world of opportunity. Some awful things as well, but some beautiful things.'

"That meant that even during this pandemic, people found new ways to help others. Volunteers used the internet to find better ways to donate their time. Young people brought food to the elderly. Zoom and Slack taught us that not being in the office sometimes works as well, or better. Businesses had new tools with which to adapt. Restaurants moved to takeout and delivery, aided by apps like UberEats and Grubhub. Such healthy adaptation rarely makes news, because reporters seek out problems."

Read more:

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The strawman of "Covid denial"

Let’s put the straw man of pandemic denial out of his misery | Stat - Jacob Hale Russell & Dennis Patterson:

December 23, 1980 - "Listen to the chorus and you’d come to think that our biggest problem in responding to the pandemic comes from Americans who think Covid-19 is a hoax — the so-called Covid denialists. But the claim is a straw man: there is no epidemic of pandemic denial. Polls since March have shown that Americans overwhelmingly aren’t in denial: They believe the threat of Covid-19 is real, they are reasonably good at identifying medical misinformation, and they are largely complying with public health recommendations. Compared to their peers in Europe, Americans are more willing to get vaccinated against Covid-19, similarly likely to wear masks, and no more prone to believe common conspiracy theories about the pandemic’s origins....

"The obsession with denialism isn’t just inaccurate. It’s corrosive for at least three reasons. First, it needlessly alienates the interested public with false accusations. Second, by conflating reasonable dissent with unreasonable misinformation, it stifles debate, even about issues that genuinely warrant discussion. Third, the myth of denial deflects blame from the policy failures of politicians.... 

"[L]abelling every valid disagreement as denial ... tends to censor legitimate differences of opinion. In seeking to discourage bad-faith claims, we are also damaging good-faith discussion. It is possible to rationally disagree with many policy choices that have been made throughout the pandemic, based both on scientific uncertainty, and because many of the hardest choices rely on values and tradeoffs that do not have a singular answer. 'Follow the science' just begs the question about how to balance conflicting considerations....

"Skepticism is not the same as denial.... Much of the skepticism toward lockdowns is grounded in genuine concerns about the relative costs and benefits. Many of the most strident opponents of lockdowns, such as businesses who have refused to close, have consistently acknowledged the seriousness of the pandemic. Their pushback has focused instead on the failure of politicians to provide needed economic support or to justify the logic behind inconsistent measures. How likely are skeptics to be convinced of the value of strategic lockdowns if their views are alleged to amount to a denial of the pandemic’s existence, or of science itself?...

"Those who proclaim an epidemic of pandemic denial routinely misrepresent evidence. Those who called the economy the most important issue in November exit polls were tendentiously termed 'Covid-19 deniers' by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a sentiment echoed by other public health elites. A JAMA essay on denialism last month claimed as its central evidence for the problem that most Americans refused to wear masks in public, citing an article that contained no such statistic. In fact, almost all evidence suggests that the overwhelming majority of Americans have routinely worn masks since spring.

"Another story, about patients calling the disease a hoax with their final gasps, failed to hold up to mild scrutiny — but only after it had already gone viral. Other stories on denial rest on inapt statistics about Americans who have questions about the pandemic’s origins. However poorly founded, those views hardly demonstrate a denial of the public health crisis.

"Some may say this is just an issue of semantics, or that we are being unfairly literal in interpreting the rhetorical use of 'denial.' Its usage certainly sounds literal: Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said that his biggest obstacle is the 'group of people who don’t even believe that this is a phenomenon … They think it’s fake news. They don’t believe it’s real'....

"Accuracy is essential, and we applaud those who check facts and call out inaccuracies, especially when amplified by prominent figures — be they President Donald Trump or Governor Andrew Cuomo. But the charge of denialism should not be casually levied against a wide swath of Americans, most of whom have spent this year diligently complying with confusing, changing, and occasionally irrational guidance."

Read more:

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Ottawa spent $250M on sanitizer from China, ignoring Canadians distributing it for free

Millions spent on foreign-made hand sanitizer that dozens of distillers churned out for free | CBC News - Yvette Brend:

This story is part of The Big Spend, a CBC News investigation examining the unprecedented $240 billion the federal government handed out during the first eight months of the pandemic. 

December 8, 2020 - "When the prime minister called on Canadian industry to retool to produce protective equipment in the early panic of the pandemic, dozens of distillers switched from making spirits to hand sanitizer. At the time, it was scarce on store shelves. So dozens of Canada's distillers scrambled to produce tens of thousands of litres for free. 

"At the height of the shortage, about a dozen distilleries in B.C. alone were supplying hospitals, government offices and emergency workers all over the province. As the months wore on, some distilleries began to charge to cover the cost of making the sanitizer, but many continued to donate thousands of litres to people and organizations in need, being careful not to profiteer in a time of crisis.

"CBC News has learned that, during that time period, the federal government spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars procuring sanitizer from outside Canada. In total, more than $570 million worth of hand sanitizer has flowed into Canada from outside countries since March, according to Statistics Canada data. Of that amount, Canada paid directly for at least $375 million's worth. BYD Canada Co., a China-based car maker with a few employees and offices in Canada, was paid $252 million for sanitizer manufactured in its retooled Chinese factories....

"That millions of tax dollars were paid out confounds distillers who were producing sanitizer for free. Many assumed that expedited changes to tax requirements and regulations to allow sanitizer production held promise that the government would continue to encourage at-home manufacturing. They requested compensation for supplies and in some cases consideration for longer-term contracts. But none of that materialized for the smaller players. 

"The government of B.C. did buy about 700,000 litres of sanitizer, about a million dollars worth, from Parallel 49 Brewing Co. in Vancouver. But soon after, the province began shipping in sanitizer through a federal supply source, according to provincial officials.... Canada eventually signed agreements to make millions of litres of sanitizer with large Canadian companies: Fluid Energy Group in Calgary, Hawktree Solutions in Ottawa and Irving Oil in New Brunswick.

"Meanwhile, distillers like Tyler Dyck spent nine months making and donating the disinfectant. He's the president of the Craft Distillers Guild of B.C. and helps run his family distillery in Vernon and Kelowna ... Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery. Dyck and others in the industry ... were never compensated for the effort even as the government paid foreign suppliers to meet the demand distillers say they could have handled domestically.... His company spent about $200,000 donating sanitizer....

"In Toronto, the Spirit of York Distillery was the first to distribute sanitizer. The owner says he got numerous calls from brokers looking to resell his raw alcohol and turn a profit. 'We couldn't get a contract with the [federal] government no matter how hard we tried. It's actually very disappointing,' said Gerry Guitor....

"Scot Stewart is the head distiller at True North Distillery in Grand Forks, B.C., another ad hoc hand-sanitizer maker.... His bid to get a contract to keep supplying — or compensation for the $103,000 he's spent — has been ignored." 

Read more:

Monday, December 28, 2020

TIME's odd choice for "Person of the Year"

TIME's 2020 "Person of the Year"

by George J. Dance

In one respect, TIME magazine's choice of Person of the Year was unsurprising. Back in 1932, when the title was still "Man of the Year," TIME's choice was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the first Democrat to be elected POTUS in the magazine's history. Since then the editors have automatically awarded it to every Democratic president – Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama – but one upon his election. (The exception was John Kennedy, who won the cover the following year.) 

In fairness, TIME's motives have not been merely partisan. It gave the honor and the cover to Ronald Reagan on his election as well. It gave every GOP president after Roosevelt the same honor and cover at least once in his term. And since 1999, when the title was changed to "Person of the Year," the magazine has bestowed it on every incoming president, Democrat or Republican alike. This recurring outcome (one cannot even call it a choice) reflected a widespread consensus that, come what may, the U.S. presidential election was the most important story of the year; the one that "affected the news or our lives the most, for better or worse," as the magazine puts it. 

So it was no surprise that TIME's choice for 2020 Person of the Year was Joe Biden. Biden won the presidential election, and Biden was a Democrat; to TIME, what else would matter? Still, to many readers besides myself, this year's choice must have seemed odd.

For one thing, while Biden appeared on the shortlist by himself, he ended up having to split the award with his running mate, Kamala Harris. That unprecedented decision wins points for diversity – balancing off the old white guy with a younger, racially mixed woman – but loses points for grammar. How are Biden and Harris collectively a "person"? Why not call them "People of the Year"? Or, if more specificity is required, "Persons of the Year"? 

It is not as if TIME had never heard of plural pronouns; when the editors gave George H.W. Bush a cover, after all, they dubbed him "Men of the Year ". To me, it looks most like a case of sloppy editing: TIME's editors made a last-minute decision to include Harris, for the sake of the "Movement for Racial Justice" (another candidate on TIME's "Person of the Year" shortlist), but none of them thought to change that word of the headline. 

For another thing, the U.S. presidential election was clearly not the story that affected the news or our lives most in 2020. By any margin, that belonged to the coronavirus pandemic and the worldwide human response to it. Why did the coronavirus not make the cover, or even the shortlist? Sure, a virus is not a person, but TIME has bestowed the cover on non-humans before. In 1982, it was given to "The Computer." In 1988, president-elect Bush was passed over for "The Endangered Earth," which won as "Planet of the Year." 

If "Virus of the Year" would have been too much in bad taste, there were more popular alternatives available. Why not the front-line health-care workers who have been hailed since March as the undisputed heroes of 2020? (TIME did put "Frontline Health Care Workers and Dr. Anthony Fauci" together on its shortlist.) Or the scientists and business executives who brought us vaccines in record time? Or, since we're including "for worse," the people responsible for pushing the world into lockdown: a far more newsworthy event, and one with longer-term ramifications, than the coronavirus pandemic itself?   

Finally, TIME's choice appeared odd (to me, at least) because of the expectation that the "Person of the Year" must have done something notable to deserve the honor. Yet neither half of TIME's person did anything of note in 2020. Harris's primary campaign was a disaster, which led to her withdrawal amid general speculation that her political career was finished. So was Biden's campaign in the early stages, and his eventual victory in the primaries was almost entirely due to Jim Clyburn, not to anything Biden did. 

Even after clinching the nomination, Biden hardly campaigned, hunkering down in his basement to emerge only with the odd policy pronouncement – from a nationwide lockdown in March to a nationwide facemask mandate in September – that often turned out to be unconstitutional. For the most part, Biden was simply AWOL. In his absence, the Democratic campaign was taken up by the usual media suspects – the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NBC and MSNBC, et al – who successfully framed the election as a referendum on Donald Trump. The presidential campaign became a series of exchanges between Trump and a rotating host of surrogate opposition figures, from Andrew Cuomo to Anthony Fauci. 

When Biden finally had to surface, in the election debates, Trump clearly had the best of him; but by then not many Americans cared. The only choice that mattered by that point was Trump or not-Trump; Biden himself (that is, Biden as anything but "not-Trump") was irrelevant. 

My conclusion, from this odd choice, is that TIME magazine (and with it a good portion of the American mainstream media) is sadly unaware of what really most affects the news and our lives.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

A libertarian pandemic response

Libertarianism and the Coronavirus Pandemic | Cato @ Liberty - Andy Craig:

March 25, 2020 - In recent days, there has been snark from some quarters about the current crisis somehow catching libertarians flat‐​footed. The argument goes that the need for a big government response disproves a political ideology that is often, though in somewhat oversimplified fashion, summarized as favoring 'small government." A better description would be a government limited in scope but sufficient to meet that scope.

Libertarianism, properly understood, encompasses certain core functions as the proper role of government. It is not the libertarian view that government should be ineffective at protecting individual rights or dysfunctionally paralyzed in the face of a massive threat to people’s lives. Government has a role to play in responding to the pandemic in much the same way it is the government’s job to prosecute murderers or defend the country from invasion.

At the same time, libertarian principles and insights can provide some guideposts for how to respond in this unprecedented global emergency.

One thing to keep in mind is that some limits on government power are even more crucial now. Emergency powers should be limited in duration and limited to directly addressing the present situation based on the facts as best we know them. Such policy responses shouldn’t be larded up with a pre‐​existing wish list of unrelated concerns. It is essential to preserve constitutional liberal democracy and resist excessive long‐​term concentration of power in the executive.

Social distancing measures should rely on voluntary compliance to the greatest degree possible, and most people have been voluntarily complying. Even when enforcement is necessary, simply breaking up gatherings without citation or prosecution is possible and preferable in many cases. A heavy‐​handed reliance on coercive enforcement might not only be unnecessary in some regards, it can also backfire by sparking protest non‐​compliance, and it might also be redundant to all the other measures already in place.... For that reason, some states have so far rejected compulsory "stay at home" or "shelter in place" orders. There is no need to fuel further panic or distract police from their more important duties to worry about safe and benign activities like taking the family dog for a walk.

At the same time, many jurisdictions have moved to suspend petty arrests altogether, mostly for victimless crimes, in an effort to reduce jail populations. Also under consideration are proposals to release many of those individuals currently in jail awaiting trial for minor offenses. This is a welcome shift that should prompt us to reconsider the necessity of some of these laws, many of which have long been the target of libertarian ire.

Another insight comes from Nobel laureate, libertarian icon, and Cato Distinguished Senior Fellow, the late F.A. Hayek. In works such as The Constitution of Liberty, he wrote that good laws should be general, equal, and certain. That is a principle that is relevant even in something as far removed from the libertarian ideal as the emergency economic responses currently under consideration. Rather than targeted industry bailouts and micro‐​managed interventions, policy responses should be clear, simple, system‐​wide, and with a defined end date as soon as possible. Simple universal payments to individuals are also preferable to corporate bailouts. It is not feasible for the government to abruptly order massive shutdowns of so much economic activity without some kind of compensation, in much the same way we require just compensation for eminent domain. It is proper for the government to own the consequences of its orders and to soften the shock of this sudden disruption....

Libertarian criticisms of bad regulations have proven especially prescient. A crucial government failure has been the FDA’s [Food and Drug Administration's] inflexible and heavy‐​handed bureaucracy, which has held up tests and prevented thousands of private and academic labs from quickly increasing testing capacity. For most of February, the FDA required everybody to rely solely on tests produced by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and refused to grant permission to other labs. This proved to be catastrophically flawed when the first round of tests produced by the CDC didn’t work and had to be replaced. This failure is a large part of why America’s coronavirus testing response to date compares so unfavorably with South Korea’s.

Another example of a libertarian response to the pandemic has been the quick need to suspend many occupational licensing restrictions, such as by letting doctors practice interstate and upgrading the permissions of nurse practitioners and doctors’ assistants. Even mundane and trivial regulations of the sort that only libertarians would have worried about before have suddenly been cast aside. Two months ago, who would have thought it an urgent concern to suspend alcohol regulations so that restaurants can serve beverages to go for home delivery by rideshare drivers?

While we can welcome these wins, there is no doubt that we have also seen extreme impositions on personal freedom. Libertarians can find that loss especially painful. Even when these new rules are sadly necessary and justified by the facts, it is a cost we should carefully weigh as we eventually move to unwind restrictions and return to some kind of normalcy. In the name of saving lives from the immediate threat, governments around the world have suspended most international travel and heavily curtailed consumer freedoms and freedom of association. The acute loss of freedoms we’ve long taken for granted underscores how valuable they truly are. And some freedoms, like freedom of speech and the right to privacy, should remain sacrosanct and defended tenaciously even in the face of an emergency.

While much of the policy response so far has been in good faith (if often inept), the propensity for power grabs by authoritarian populists should not be discounted. Preserving the rule of law, checks and balances, and constitutional liberal democracy is essential. Elections should proceed on time and with whatever accommodations prove necessary. Legislatures and courts should be kept open for essential business, including by remote participation if necessary, and foundational constitutional structures should remain in place. We have no need of a dictator in the United States nor in other countries around the world.

And perhaps most importantly: emergency rules and powers should extend only for the duration of the emergency, and be repealed at the earliest feasible opportunity. We should be wary of the ratchet effect, where governments tend to retain powers and keep open programs long after their original justification has disappeared.

Freedom is precious, and in the grand sweep of human history it has often been fleeting and tenuous. Right now we are facing the greatest threat to a free and open society that most of us have ever witnessed, at least in the United States, if not in many other nations that have been through worse scourges of totalitarianism and major wars. So libertarians will continue as they always have, ready to defend the principles of human freedom at every turn."

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Saturday, December 26, 2020

Holiday lockdowns in Quebec and Ontario

Quebec reports 2,349 more COVID-19 cases in another record-breaking 24 hours | CTV News - Daniel J. Rowe:

December 24, 2020  "As the province prepares for another lockdown, Quebec reported Thursday that 2,349 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the province, a new daily record that brings the total number of positive cases to 185,872 since the start of the pandemic. It is the fifth time the daily record has been broken in six days....

"On Christmas Day, all businesses deemed 'non-essential' by the government will be forced to close across the province in an effort to reduce transmission and alleviate pressure on the health-care system. Schools closed on Dec. 17 and won't reopen until at least Monday, Jan. 11. For most of the province, in-person dining, bars, gyms and entertainment venues have been closed since October."

Read more:

Ontario-wide lockdown for COVID-19 now in effect |  CTV News - Joshua Freeman, CP24:

December 25, 2020 - "There won’t be any in-person bargain-hunting taking place in Ontario this Boxing Day. When resident[s] across the province wake up Saturday morning, they will find themselves under a provincially-ordered lockdown brought in to try curb the runaway spread of COVID-19.... While Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, and other areas are already under lockdown, the province-wide order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 26.

"The lockdown means the closure of all but a handful of businesses. Those deemed essential such as grocery stores and pharmacies will be allowed to stay open with capacity restrictions, but gyms, movie theatres and just about every other type of indoor business will have to close. Stores and restaurants will still be allowed to offer curbside pickup and delivery. Capacity restrictions will be tightened to 25 per cent per room at discount and big box retailers that sell food and are allowed to be open.

"Health officials have warned that serious surgeries and treatments – such as those for cancer, heart problems and other conditions – could be delayed if hospital ICU’s are overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. Despite pleas from elected officials and public health professionals, data have shown that people have not been staying home as much as they did during the restrictions in the spring....

"Despite promises that an 'iron ring' would be extended around long-term care homes following the first wave in the spring, the virus has returned to long-term care homes with devastating effect in recent months. As of Thursday, there were outbreaks at 162 long-term care homes in Ontario, meaning more than 25 per cent of all homes in the province are currently experiencing an outbreak.

"The number of cases in schools was also climbing rapidly prior to winter break, forcing the province to implement a lengthened break from in-person learning. Elementary students in the province will learn virtually from Jan 4-8, while secondary students will learn virtually until returning to in-person instruction on Jan. 25.

"Outbreaks among essential workers such as firefighters have also caused concern about a possible strain on essential services."

Read more:

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Corona Christmas

Merry Corona Christmas from GD's Political Animal.

"Do They Know It's Covid Time?" - Boris Johnson and the Superspreaders
video by PoliticsJOE

"Now That's What I Call a Corona Christmas" - Video by The Ulster Fry

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Calgary AB youth arrested for playing hockey

Unsettling video shows cops assaulting, pulling taser on young man for playing ice hockey outside | The Blaze - Paul Sacca: 

December 19, 2020 - "Disturbing video is coming out of Canada showing police officers assaulting and aiming a taser at a young man for playing ice hockey at an outside rink in Alberta. A viral video shows Calgary police shutting down a pickup ice hockey game at an outside rink. The cops claim that the game was violating public health orders. There were reports of 40 people at the Southwood community rink and skatepark. According to the Alberta government website: 'Outdoor team sports must also be limited to 10 people or fewer and 2 metre distancing must be maintained at all times.'

"Two female officers attempt to apprehend the man, who refuses to abide by the cops' orders to get on the ground. One officer is caught on video kneeing the hockey player, but he continues to stand on the ice. During the tussle, one of the police officers falls to the ground. 

"When someone asks why the officer has their hand on a gun, the cop replies, 'It's not a gun, it's a taser, and he's under arrest, and I have the authority to use force to effect an arrest.' While pointing her taser squarely aimed at the man, the cop screams, "Get on the ground! Get on the f***ing ground! Get on the ground before I f***ing taser you!'

"Onlookers urge the man to come off the ice and surrender to the police. One female officer appears to try to put a chokehold on the man, but fails. The police officers attempt to bring the man to the ground, but he continues to stand in one place and asks, 'Why do I have to go to the ground?' One of the officers kicks the man several times in the groin area.

"The officers finally have the man's hands behind his back, and he says, 'I just asked you what you were doing to that little kid.' The 'little kid' could be in reference to ... 12-year-old Rayan Sanoubar, who was instructed by police to stop skateboarding at the same park. 'A peace officer came sat in this car and got out and… told skateboarders we have to go and [were] not allowed to be there and we all refused and he called for backup for other police to come,' Sanoubar told the Global News.

"'They had him on the ground for six minutes, just frozen, cutting his skates off with a knife,' Sanoubar said. 'They arrested him and threatened us saying: "We are going to give you tickets if you don't walk away."'

"Authorities said a 21-year-old was charged with obstructing an officer, resisting arrest, and violating the public health act.... The young man being arrested is allegedly 21-year-old Ocean Wiesblatt, according to Rebel News founder Ezra Levant. Ocean Wiesblatt plays for the Portage Terriers, a Canadian junior "A" ice hockey team. Wiesblatt comes from a family of hockey players; his three brothers, including Orca Wiesblatt, play junior hockey. Another brother, Ozzy Wiesblatt, is an NHL prospect who was drafted in the first round of the 2020 draft by the San Jose Sharks in October. The Wiesblatt brothers and their mother, who is deaf, were featured in a SportsNet video last December, where the family from Calgary talked about how hockey helped them to overcome adversity.

Read more:

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

2 Libertarians elected to Hanford CA city council

Morrow’s First Action as City Councilwoman is to Make All Businesses in Hanford, California “Essential Businesses” | EIN Presswire (press release):  

December 18, 2020 - "This week on Tuesday evening, the City of Hanford, California swore in two newly elected council members. One of them, Libertarian Kalish Morrow, won the November 3rd election with over 42% of the vote in District B, unseating the incumbent, with the promise of making the city business friendly. She and her supporters ran a positive and unique campaign including park clean ups, charity activities including Habitat for Humanity™ and neighborhood by neighborhood canvassing. She was sworn in by another elected Libertarian, Jeff Hewitt, Riverside County Supervisor District 5.

"In her first action as a councilwoman, Morrow moved to agendize naming all businesses of Hanford essential, not just those that state and county governments deem essential. Morrow said, 'As a result of the pandemic the US economy is in a tailspin due to lockdowns. We cannot continue like this. Families need to put food on their tables and heads of households need to be able to provide that food. Stimulus checks are not the solution, they are not substantial and we will pay for them for decades.'

"Mimi Robson, Chair of the Libertarian Party of California stated, 'Since March politicians have decided which businesses were and weren’t essential, without recognizing that every business is essential to those business owners and their customers. A mom and pop store is more likely to put in place protections for their staff and clients than a big box store, but yet the large corporations that line the pockets of the old parties’ elected representatives are the only ones that have been able to continue doing business. Immediately after taking office Kalish has started the process to change that in her home town and recognize that everyone is essential. This is what Libertarians do!'...

"Hanford City Councilman, Francisco Ramirez, was elected Mayor of Hanford that same night.... Ramirez recently changed his party affiliation to Libertarian from Democrat. Ramirez explains, 'Having been both a registered Republican and Democrat in the past, I became disenchanted in how those two parties limit or remove many of our freedoms. I became a Libertarian because it is the only party that truly fights for our freedoms and it fits my own political and social beliefs best.'

Read more:

Monday, December 21, 2020

Big business got bigger in US during pandemic

America’s biggest companies are flourishing during the pandemic and putting thousands of people out of work | Washington Post - Douglas MacMillan, Peter Whoriskey & Jonathan O'Connell:

December 16, 2020 - "As the coronavirus pandemic devastated small businesses and plunged millions of Americans into poverty this summer and fall, executives at some of the country’s largest corporations sounded surprisingly upbeat.... With few exceptions, big businesses are having a very different year from most of the country. Between April and September, one of the most tumultuous economic stretches in modern history, 45 of the 50 most valuable publicly traded U.S. companies turned a profit, a Washington Post analysis found.

"Despite their success, at least 27 of the 50 largest firms held layoffs this year, collectively cutting more than 100,000 workers, The Post found.... On one side, corporate leaders are touting their success and casting themselves as leaders on the road to economic recovery. On the other, many of their firms have put Americans out of work and used their profits to increase the wealth of shareholders.

"When the coronavirus struck, big companies promised to help battle the crisis. Dozens of prominent chief executives, who last year signed a public pledge to focus less on shareholders and more on the well-being of their employees and broader communities, appeared eager to make good on that promise. Many suspended payments to investors and vowed not to hold layoffs.

"Then, 21 big firms that were profitable during the pandemic laid off workers anyway. Berkshire Hathaway raked in profits of $56 billion during the first six months of the pandemic while one of its subsidiary companies laid off more than 13,000 workers. Salesforce, Cisco Systems and PayPal cut staff even after their chief executives vowed not to do so.... Walmart, whose CEO spent the past year championing the idea that businesses 'should not just serve shareholders,' nonetheless distributed more than $10 billion to its investors during the pandemic while laying off 1,200 corporate office employees....

"The Post contacted all 27 large firms that held layoffs this year. Many said the cuts were not related to the pandemic, but instead a necessary part of broader 'restructuring' plans, where companies shift spending from declining lines of business to growing ones.... Several emphasized that they hired more people this year than they let go.... Others pointed to the work they have done to help ease the pain in their communities, such as expanding health and family benefits to employees and distributing personal protective equipment to front-line workers. Cisco gave $53 million in cash and PPE to vulnerable populations and PayPal pledged $530 million in investments in minority-owned small businesses....

"The majority of the largest American corporations have prospered in the coronavirus economy. Millions of consumers spent more time and money online during government-mandated lockdowns, watching Netflix, viewing ads on Google and Facebook pages, filling Amazon shopping carts and turning the video game business into a bonanza for Nvidia, Microsoft and others. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)... 

"Shoppers began splurging on cleaning supplies, hobbies, home cooking and home improvements, driving record growth at big-box stores including Home Depot and Walmart. Even in the hardest-hit sectors, such as restaurants, travel and hospitality, the biggest companies were largely insulated from the worst of the virus’s reckoning. While independent restaurants struggled to survive, McDonald’s ramped up its takeout and drive-through operations, rolling out new apps and technology catering to on-the-go orders.... In many industries, the giants devoured market share ceded by small businesses, who lacked the resources to keep stores open during unpredictable swings in customer demand,

"While the 50 largest companies averaged 2 percent revenue growth over the first nine months of 2020, small business revenue shrank 12 percent over the same period, according to data collected by software provider Womply from thousands of small firms."

Read more:

Sunday, December 20, 2020

ICU MD pleads for review of Covid 'wonder drug'

Doctor pleads for review of data on ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment during Senate hearing | Fox 6 - Kelly Hayes:

December 8, 2020 - "As researchers around the world search to find existing drugs that can be repurposed to treat COVID-19, the potential effectiveness of one drug was highlighted in a Senate hearing on early treatment for the virus. Ivermectin is an approved anti-parasitic drug known to be effective against a variety of viruses like influenza, dengue, and Zika. Dr. Pierre Kory, a pulmonary and critical care specialist, passionately testified Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs during a hearing on 'Early Outpatient Treatment: An Essential Part of a COVID-19 Solution.' 

"In his testimony, Kory said data shows the ability of ivermectin to prevent COVID-19, as well as its ability to keep those with early symptoms from progressing to the hyper-inflammatory phase of the disease, and to help critically ill patients recover. 'People are dying at unacceptable and untold rates,' Kory told the Senate panel. 'I am a lung and ICU specialist, and all I do right now is take care of COVID-19 patients dying of breathlessness in ICUs. By the time they get to the ICU, it is nearly impossible to save most patients. They simply cannot breathe.'

"Kory is also president of the Frontline COVID-19 Critical Care (FLCCC) Alliance, a nonprofit made up of critical care experts and researchers from around the world. The organization was formed in March at the onset of the pandemic and has been 'working tirelessly reviewing the world’s literature on almost every aspect of this disease,' Kory said. He called upon the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review the latest medical research on the drug as a COVID-19 treatment....

"The FLCCC Alliance has compiled a manuscript detailing results from more than 20 studies on the subject, with more than 10 of them being randomized controlled trials. One study published on Dec. 2 in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases found that a five-day course of ivermectin was found to be safe and effective in treating mild COVID-19 adult patients. The trial involved 72 hospitalized patients in Bangladesh, and researchers said larger trials are needed to confirm the preliminary findings. Another large study, published in November as a preprint, found the addition of ivermectin to standard care to be a 'very effective drug for treatment of COVID-19 patients with significant reduction in mortality compared to hydroxychloroquine plus standard treatment only.'

"While many medications continue to be studied and tested, the FDA has approved only one antiviral drug called remdesivir to treat COVID-19 in adults and children ages 12 and older."

Read more:

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Canada's Liberals double national debt in 5 years

Mind-blowing Liberal spending spree a massive rip-off of future generations | National Post - John Ivison:

December 4, 2020 - "This week’s fiscal update has already passed from the news cycle. The sums we are talking about are so mind-blowing — $621 billion in government spending this year — that shaken citizens have ignored the barking fiscal watchdogs and the caravan has moved on. Maybe we should call it the banality of spending – a minister buying a $16 orange juice induces thrombosis but a government that doubles net federal debt in five years would be re-elected with a majority were an election held tomorrow.

"The Liberals could be excused their mistakes in the early fog of the pandemic. As one veteran policy-maker noted, Ottawa realized it could be fast or accurate, but not both. Benefits were so absurdly generous that household income rose 11 per cent, even as GDP tumbled. Yet given the chance to re-align benefits closer to lost income, the Liberals doubled-down, increasing the money available under the wage subsidy and disbursing an extra $1,200 in Canada Child Benefit to 1.6 million families. 

"Mistakes are presented as virtues – a 'pre-loading' of stimulus into bank accounts across the land. That pent-up demand has not removed the need to inject a further $100 billion in stimulus in 'smart, time-limited investments' over the next three fiscal years.

"Stimulus spending, by its very nature, is temporary. Yet elsewhere in the fiscal update, the government committed itself to 'historic investments' in a national daycare system and the implementation of universal pharmacare.... Permanent social programs are not stimulus.

"The undefined temporary spending package envisaged in the fiscal update would see deficits average $115 billion for three fiscal years and the debt to GDP ratio average 57 per cent, BEFORE any additional spending on childcare, pharmacare or health. There is no mention of how any of this spending would be paid for – it would simply be added to a national federal debt that has risen from $615 billion when the Trudeau government took power to $1.2 trillion this year....

"[T]axpayers befuddled by millions, billions and trillions should understand that what is taking place is a massive rip-off of future generations, who will be handed the bill for today’s consumption. The cost of servicing that debt is as low as it has ever been and the government touts a management strategy that locks into low rates by issuing more long-term debt. But that doesn’t mean taxpayers aren’t obliged to pay it off; it just means they will never stop paying it off.

"As Paul Boothe, a former senior public servant at Finance Canada, put it, we need to have a discussion about taxes.... 'Giving away money is the easiest thing to do in government. Collecting it is less easy. And the hardest thing is to deliver services efficiently,' said Boothe. 'With permanent programs, you need to talk about how you are going to fund them. We need to know the costs as well as the benefits.'

"The only tax increases in the fiscal update were applied on corporations – in this case, GST and HST on digital products and goods held in fulfillment warehouses. Inevitably, they will be passed on to consumers but that’s not the government’s concern.... 

"It will probably be no comfort to be reminded that in times like these, there have always been times like these. They come along when governments forget that budget constraints are a fundamental principle of economics. And they tend not to end well."

Read more:

Friday, December 18, 2020

Lockdown resistance building in USA

Americans Are in Full Revolt Against Pandemic Lockdowns | Reason - J.D. Tuccille:

December 16, 2020 - "Echoing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned city residents this week to prepare for a 'full shutdown' as part of ongoing efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. The two elected officials better not hold their breath waiting for compliance. Evidence from around the country shows that many Americans are thoroughly sick of impoverishing, socially isolating lockdown orders, and are revolting against the often-hypocritical politicians who issue them....

"The mayor commented following Cuomo's ban on indoor dining at New York City restaurants. That was issued a week after Staten Island residents cheered bar owner Daniel Presti, who was arrested for defying pandemic restrictions. Days later, Presti ran his car into a sheriff's deputy who sought to rearrest him for continuing to serve patrons. Both of the deputy's legs were broken. While Presti's level of violent resistance against lockdowns is much too extreme, he's not alone in his opposition. From coast to coast, businesses and individuals are ignoring restrictive rules that threaten their livelihoods, stifle social contact, and threaten to strangle the necessary interactions of everyday life.

"'Another shutdown just isn't an option for us,' the Seven Sirens Brewing Company of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, announced last week on its Facebook page. 'We, and thousands of other small businesses throughout the country simply will not survive'... The brewery is only one of many businesses listed by Pennsylvania Opening Businesses/Defying the Governor, which has over 43,000 members on Facebook as I write. The group encourages the public [to] patronize anybody who bucks state rules to continue offering goods and services to willing customers....

"The ReOpen Minnesota Coalition similarly represents hundreds of businesses defying closure orders and raises money for legal defense against state enforcement actions.... It calls for stripping Gov. Tim Walz of his emergency powers and for ignoring restrictions so that people can decide for themselves when and how to interact.

"On the West Coast, many restaurants also open their doors to customers despite state orders to the contrary. 'While some of the larger chains and corporations are following the orders, many of the mom and pop shops say going to takeout only would put them out of business,' ABC News reported last week.

"The city council in Solvang, a tourism-fueled community in Santa Barbara County, recently voted to ignore shutdown orders that threaten locals' livelihoods. Officials 'directed that the City of Solvang will not actively enforce these latest State shutdown orders, and that the City request the County and State regulators to prioritize education and that they also not enforce the orders within the City limits,' according to a letter from Mayor Ryan Toussaint....

"None of this should be a surprise.... Americans 'are far less willing to comply with shelter-in-place advice today than they were in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic this spring,' Gallup reported last month. Forty-nine percent 'say they would be very likely to stay home for a month if public health officials recommended it due to a serious outbreak of the virus in their community. This contrasts with solid majorities in the spring who said they were likely to comply with such shelter-in-place advice, including a high of 67% in late March/early April.'

"Politicians actively fanned the flames of resistance with their 'rules are only for the little people' flouting of their own orders. Amidst a flurry of high-profile examples, California Gov. Gavin Newsom's expensive gathering with other officials at The French Laundry stands out for its arrogance. Why should regular people driven to the brink of poverty and despair pay any attention to the dictates of such creatures?

"In distress and after due consideration, many Americans have decided that they shouldn't comply. Individually and in organized groups, often with the support of their communities, people are pushing back against lockdown orders that they find more threatening than COVID-19."

Read more:

Thursday, December 17, 2020

2nd lockdown in Netherlands, 3rd in Czechia

Netherlands and Czech Republic to enforce strict Christmas lockdowns | The Guardian

December 14, 2020 - "The Netherlands and the Czech Republic have said they will follow Germany into strict second lockdowns over the holiday period, with Italy weighing similar measures to avoid a fresh surge in coronavirus infections over Christmas and new year.

"In a rare television address, the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said non-essential shops and businesses, gyms, museums, cinemas and theatres would close for five weeks.... Bars and restaurants in the Netherlands have been closed since mid-October but the partial lockdown has not slowed the spread of the virus enough, Rutte said, as anti-lockdown protesters booed and whistled outside his office. 

"'The Netherlands will close for five weeks,' Rutte said... People were advised to stay at home and could have only a maximum of two guests a day, Rutte said, except for 24-26 December when the limit would be raised to three, excluding children under 13. Schools will close from Wednesday, he added, and the measures would last until 19 January.

"Restaurants, hotels and indoor sports venues in the Czech Republic, which reopened barely a fortnight ago, will also close again from Friday, said the prime minister, Andrej Babiš, as cases began to rise again after dipping earlier this month. Public gatherings will be limited to six people indoors and out, instead of the current 10 and 50, with a nationwide curfew from 11pm until 5am and an early start to Christmas school holidays, although shops will remain open....

"Italian media reported the government was considering placing the whole country under 'red-zone' lockdown from Christmas Eve until at least 2 January amid mounting fears of infections over the festive period. The measures could include extending night curfews, banning non-essential movement, shutting all except for non-essential shops and closing all bars and restaurants on weekends and holidays.... Earlier this month the government banned travel during the holiday period except for work, health or emergency reasons, barring Italians from leaving their home towns on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day....

"Italy’s expected move follows a similar step by Germany, which on Sunday said it would close all except essential shops such as supermarkets and pharmacies, as well as hair and beauty salons, from Wednesday until at least 10 January as it battles “exponential growth” in infections.... German president] Merkel had hoped a 'lockdown lite' imposed in November would bring infection levels down so Germans could celebrate Christmas and new year almost normally, but the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases reported more than 16,000 new cases on Monday, 4,000 more than seven days ago.

"Britain is expected to maintain its rules around Christmas despite scientists and government advisers urging people to rethink their plans and ignore the easing of Covid rules amid fears over rising cases and hospitalisations in parts of the UK. 'Christmas bubbles' allow three households to mix between 23 and 27 December." 

Read more: 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Jo Jorgensen on lockdowns

Jo Jorgensen was the 2000 Libertarian Party candidate for VPOTUS, and the 2020 Libertarian Party candidate for POTUS. The following is from her 2020 campaign website:

Dr. Jo Jorgensen pledges to sue states for unconstitutional lockdowns that harm low and middle-income families |

"Democrats like Joe Biden constantly promise to harm the wealthy for the benefit of low and middle-income families. But so-called income inequality was actually falling between 2016 and 2019, according to a report by the Federal Reserve. In fact, low-income families gained the most, and high-income families gained the least. But now this progress has stalled. Why? Because of the COVID-19 shutdowns, most of which were illegal.

"As President, I would use the Attorney General’s office to sue state and local officials who impose COVID-19 mandates. Such mandates violate the 14th Amendment, which says 'nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”'The shutdowns were dictated by governors without due process. That makes them unconstitutional acts of aggression. Some court rulings have already confirmed those, others have disagreed, and some are still pending. I would add the weight of the federal Executive Branch to these cases."

UPDATE, January 3 - I have expanded the page by adding part of an interview NPR did with Jorgensen in May.

Libertarians Name 2020 Candidate: Meet Jo Jorgensen | NPR

May 30, 2020 - "After four days of online campaigning and speechmaking, the Libertarian Party has selected its nominee. NPR's Scott Simon speaks to Jorgensen, an activist who teaches psychology at Clemson University....

SCOTT SIMON, HOST: The Libertarian Party has nominated their candidates for president and vice president online. Jo Jorgensen, a party activist who teaches psychology at Clemson University, is the 2020 Libertarian candidate for president. She joins us now from Greenville, S.C. Dr. Jorgensen, thanks so much for being with us.... You've been critical of the federal government's response to the coronavirus crisis. What would a Libertarian administration do?

JORGENSEN: Well, the Libertarian administration first wouldn't have put everybody under house arrest. We believe in individual freedom and that people should be able to go about their lives as they choose. And I'd like to point out that part of the problem that we had is that people weren't tested to know if they were contagious or not, if they had the virus or not. If people who had the virus knew they had the virus, then they would have been able to know to stay home or not go about their daily lives. But the people who are healthy or who have already had the flu let the economy go on and don't destroy the economy in the process.

SIMON: I want to follow up on your use of the phrase house arrest. I doubt any governor or mayor who declared that people should stay at home would consider that to be house arrest.

JORGENSEN: People who want to go out and go about their daily business felt like it. And in fact, I know here in South Carolina, I was told I could only leave the house to go to work, medical emergencies and other things. And within my city, if there were more than three people outside, then there was a possibility that we would either be fined $100 or that we would go to jail.

SIMON: But isn't - in the middle of a pandemic, isn't that just wise?

JORGENSEN: Of course, it's wise to stay at home during a pandemic, especially if you've got other conditions. My problem, though, is that the government is the one who decided it and not the individual person. And in fact, when they did a survey - what? - maybe about a month ago and they asked people, should we be opening up the economy, something like 60 to 80% of the people said no, it's too soon. We should still stay at home. OK, so that just shows that people have enough common sense to stay at home without the government telling them to.

SIMON: There are now more than 40 million unemployed people in the United States. You have opposed, I gather, the stimulus bills that have been passed to provide unemployment benefits and other forms of relief. Why?

JORGENSEN: Because what we're doing is we're letting the bureaucrats spend the money how they want to. And it's going to the large corporations and not often to the people who need it. So I say that private charity always works best. What happens when you give money to the government, and let's say they don't spend it wisely? Nothing happens. Taxes get raised, but it's not like people get fired. There is absolutely no accountability. And one of the things that brought me into the Libertarian Party is the idea of voluntary cooperation, of how people working together can do a better job.

SIMON: But when 40 million people are unemployed virtually at once, I mean, how can you begin to raise the amount of charitable capital? Particularly, by the way, I believe one of the stories we keep doing is that individual donations are way down because 40 million people are out of work.

JORGENSEN: Right. Well, don't forget, if the government hadn't shut down the economy, people wouldn't have lost their jobs in the first place. So this is typical where the government breaks your leg and then thinks that you should be grateful that you're getting a crutch from them. If the government doesn't break your leg to begin with, you don't need the crutch.

Read more:

Also read: Libertarians oppose all the mandates

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Maine state legislator Andrews joins Libertarians

Oxford County representative leaves GOP, is 1st Libertarian to serve in Maine Legislature | Bangor Daily News - Caitlin Andrews:

December 14, 2020 - "A representative from Oxford County left the Republican Party on Monday to become only one of two Libertarian state legislators in the country after expressing dissatisfaction with his former party’s leadership in the chamber. 

"While the departure of Rep. John Andrews of Paris is unlikely to change the State House calculus — he is an arch-conservative member — it is a boon to Libertarians as the third party makes yet another attempt to organize here after fits and starts in recent years.... It first tried to gain recognition in 2015 and won official status in 2016. But it then lost it in 2018 after not having enough registered voters. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap certified the party to begin pursuing party status on Friday, meaning interested residents — including Andrews — can register.

"Andrews, a second-term lawmaker who represents his hometown plus Hebron and Buckfield, confirmed he unenrolled Monday after he learned he would not be returning to the committee overseeing voting, gambling and liquor laws, which he served on during his first term. Andrews said the placement 'just didn’t make sense' and that he had enjoyed the work. He is set to instead serve on the innovation and economic development committee. In a Saturday post on Facebook, he targeted House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, over his placement, saying it was 'obviously punishment for something' and said she was unfit to lead. 

"'It’s a new day and a new party, and I’m just hoping to get some good work done,' Andrews said.

"His decision erodes the Republican minority to 66 seats after a largely unexpected strong showing for the party in the 2020 election. There are four independents in the chamber plus Passamaquoddy Tribal representative Rena Newell, who can vote only in committees.... There have only been two third-party legislators in Maine history, both from the Green Party.... 

"The Libertarian Party in Maine has sued Dunlap’s office over the state’s process of delisting parties, parts of which a federal judge have deemed unconstitutional. A trial in that case is set for early next year."

"Andrews will be the first Libertarian to serve in the Maine Legislature and is one of only two in the entire country. The other is Marshall Burt of Wyoming, who beat a sitting Democrat in the 2020 election and is one of only five Libertarians state legislators ever elected. Outgoing U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, a former Republican, joined the party in April to become the first Libertarian member of Congress."

Read more:

Monday, December 14, 2020

German lockdown fails so govt locks down harder

December 13, 2020 - "Germany will close most shops from Wednesday until 10 January and ban the sale of fireworks for New Year’s Eve, after Angela Merkel and state leaders agreed to impose a national lockdown in order to regain control of rising coronavirus infection rates before a 'very difficult Christmas'.

"Non-essential shops, excluding food retailers, pharmacies and banks but including hairdressing salons and beauty parlours, will have to close their doors from 16 December. Schools and nurseries will also be required to offer only emergency care for essential workers for the last three days before the start of the scheduled Christmas holidays, with parents asked to look after their children at home 'whenever possible.

"Under the terms of the national lockdown, which Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states agreed in under an hour in an emergency summit on Sunday morning, employers are urged to either release workers for early holidays or allow for more generous remote working arrangements. 

"Restrictions on social gatherings will now be relaxed for a shorter period than previously announced, from 24-26 December, allowing each household to be visited by four family members above the age of 14....Tighter rules will come into force for New Year’s Eve, banning the customary firework displays in large public squares, the sale of pyrotechnics for personal use and the outdoor consumption of alcoholic drinks....

"Germany has been in a 'soft lockdown' mode since 4 November, with bars and restaurants closed, while stores and schools have remained open. But the compromise arrangement has failed to make a significant dent in the daily coronavirus rates, with the number of new infections reported by country’s disease control agency holding at about 20,000 cases.

"Germany is the only major country in Europe in which the number of people dying of or with Covid-19 has been steadily climbing since November, surpassing the peak seen in the spring."

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Clapton & Morrison team for anti-lockdown song

Music Legends Eric Clapton, Van Morrison Team for Anti-Lockdown Single ‘Stand and Deliver’ | Variety - Naman Ramachandran:

November 27, 2020 - "Music legends Van Morrison and Eric Clapton have announced a new single, 'Stand and Deliver,' in support of Morrison’s Save Live Music campaign. The blues track was written by Morrison and is performed by Clapton. Morrison, best known for songs like 'Brown Eyed Girl,' 'Domino' and 'Wild Night,' as well as seminal albums Moondance and Astral Weeks,released three songs protesting the U.K. lockdown over September and October, titled 'Born To Be Free,' 'As I Walked Out' and 'No More Lockdown.'

"Proceeds from 'Stand and Deliver' will go to the Morrison’s Lockdown Financial Hardship Fund, which helps musicians facing difficulties as a result of the coronavirus and resulting lockdown measures.

"Clapton — the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — called the dearth of live events due to lockdown restrictions 'deeply upsetting.' 'There are many of us who support Van and his endeavors to save live music; he is an inspiration,' Clapton said. 'We must stand up and be counted because we need to find a way out of this mess. The alternative is not worth thinking about. Live music might never recover.'

"'Eric’s recording is fantastic and will clearly resonate with the many who share our frustrations,' said Morrison. 'It is heart-breaking to see so many talented musicians lack any meaningful support from the government, but we want to reassure them that we are working hard every day to lobby for the return of live music, and to save our industry'....

"'Stand and Deliver' will be available for download and streaming from iTunes, Amazon Music, Deezer and all other outlets from Dec. 4."

Read more:

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Britain's and Sweden's Covid responses compared

Original title: "Lawson's vaccine jab at lockdown sceptics"

by George J. Dance

Early in the month this blog announced the world's first government permission of a Covid-19 vaccine, the UK's emergency authorization to Pfizer/BioNTech, by quoting an article from the Lockdown Sceptics site. The Sceptics author quite rightly applauded the vaccine as "a medical breakthrough and, on the face of it, good news." However, like a sceptic should, he mentioned reasons for doubting that it is the deus ex machina deliverance from the plague that so many are anticipating. 

First, many Britons are themselves sceptical about the vaccine. According to the Mail Online, 20% of Britons are 'not confident' or 'not very confident' that the jab is safe, while 43% are still only 'somewhat confident'. The 27% who were 'very confident' in its safety would probably all be vaccinated by Christmas (if that were possible), but they would be nowhere near enough to end the pandemic.

Second, those 63% have grounds for scepticism. Health authorities do not normally approve new vaccines in less than eight years, much less eight months. Nor are they approving these vaccines, but merely allowing their emergency use. Until the new vaccines are generally used in the population, there is only so much we can know for sure about them. The article quoted a former Pfizer CEO, Mike Yeadon, who highlighted a number of risks that need study; one that bothered me was Dr. Yeadon's claim that the Pfizer antibodies may respond to "syncytin-homologous proteins, which are essential for the formation of the placenta in mammals" – which sounded to me as if women with the antibodies possibly might be unable to bear children. 

Searching the web later for more information on that topic, I found a mention of both lockdown sceptics and Dr. Yeadon in a Sunday Times article by Dominic Lawson, "This vaccine needles the lockdown sceptics." Eagerly I clicked, scrolled down, and found that, yes, Lawson had dealt with my concern: 

Yeadon added that “in particular” the vaccine developed by his ex-employer, Pfizer, could cause “infertility of indefinite duration ... in vaccinated women”. Any argument will do. 

I did not find that rebuttal reassuring, or even particularly logical; but I then read the whole article and understood it better. In Mr. Lawson's mind, no rebuttal was needed, because the only argument that counts, the one over lockdowns is, now over. Lockdown sceptics have lost it; the coming of a vaccine proves that "they were wrong" to have opposed them. Furthermore, lockdown sceptics know they have lost the argument, and they are simply reacting to their loss "with churlishness, even outright hostility" like the sore losers they are.

As Lawson sees it, in March Britain faced a choice between two competing strategies of epidemic control. The first was to copy "what [was perceived] to be Sweden's approach: to go for 'herd immunity' via naturally acquired infections (whatever the cost in lives)." It would be more correct to call Sweden's approach the normal 'mitigation' strategy used in flu epidemics – I suspect that, like Tomas Pueyo, Lawson calls it a 'herd immunity' strategy because that sounds nastier. The second was to "clamp down with legislative force now when infections threaten to proliferate exponentially, in the belief that a saving vaccine was likely to arrive by the year’s end." That is often called a 'lockdown' strategy; but, as a Clash fan, I would like to use Lawson's term and call it a 'clampdown' strategy here. 

Sweden and Britain took different paths. The former stayed with mitigation, not knowing how soon a vaccine would arrive and, therefore, how long the epidemic would last. In Lawson's view, that has led to a clear disaster: "They’re worried now. More than worried. Over the past two weeks Sweden has recorded way more deaths from Covid-19 than Norway or Finland have had in the whole year: more than half the patients in Sweden’s intensive care beds are coronavirus victims [sic]." 

In contrast, after a brief experiment with mitigation, Britain's government opted for a clampdown, a "strategy of (intermittently) strict enforcement of social distancing until the arrival of a vaccine." The government's hope was that the right mix of interventions would keep deaths low until the vaccine showed up, which they gambled would be soon. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Lawson that gamble was "a judgement based on facts;" and an early vaccine was in fact forecast by some scientists. For example, Lawson reminds us that Sarah Gilbert, 

the head of the Oxford University vaccine project (partnered with AstraZeneca) declared in April that it was “possible” their product might be ready as soon as the autumn. 

Dr. Gilbert's "prediction" (as Lawson calls it) has not yet come true, but she still has more than a week of autumn left to make it good. Meanwhile, another vaccine has arrived, with others on the way. That last is enough for Lawson to call the pandemic over, and declare victory for the clampdown camp. All those deaths in Sweden are for him enough to show that mitigation was the wrong strategy. "But rather than admit that Gilbert (and Hancock) had proved their no-alternative-to-herd-immunity-through-naturally-acquired-infection strategy wrong, prominent 'lockdown sceptics' have instead cast doubt on the vaccine approved by the MHRA."

Certainly there is some truth in all this. Sweden's chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, did reject a clampdown in favor of mitigation, in part because he did not believe society could be locked down until a vaccine arrived; he opted for less stringent measures that could be maintained over a longer time period. It is theoretically possible that Sweden could have clamped down for eight months; that latter option might have saved lives (resulted in less deaths), and would have been the better option if it had. Since that is what the British government did opt for, gambling on a quick vaccine, then its gamble can  be seen as a success – if and only if it had resulted in less deaths than the Swedish strategy. It is at this point that Lawson's narrative falls apart; for Britain's clampdown has not resulted in less deaths than Sweden.  

As of December 11 (per Worldometer's coronavirus dashboard), Sweden had suffered 7,514 deaths from or with Covid, while the United Kingdom had 63,507. The UK had suffered more than 8 times as many dead as Sweden. Of course those raw figures alone can be misleading, as the UK has more than 6 times Sweden's population. Adjusting for population size gives the UK 933 deaths per million (933/M) versus Sweden's 742/M. Per capita, the UK has had roughly 25% more Covid-related deaths than Sweden. 

But what of Lawson's "past two weeks"? In the two weeks ending December 5 (the day before the publication of Lawson's article), Sweden had 705 deaths, or 70/M. In the same time, the UK had 6,388 deaths, or 94/M – 34% more than Sweden. Not only has clampdown Britain consistently had more Covid deaths than "go for 'herd immunity' via naturally acquired infections (whatever the cost in lives)" Sweden, but the gap is widening.  

Does this prove that clampdowns or lockdowns cost lives? Not by itself; it is only one comparison, and there are other factors that may explain the difference. What would be needed to make such a judgement is a comparison of all clampdown vs. non-clampdown countries, and a look not only at their death tolls but at all the possible reasons for the difference. This comparison is only enough to show that the two countries' experiences, the subject of Lawson's article, provide no support at all for his belief that Britain's clampdown strategy saved any lives.  

Again, there may be other reasons why Britain had so many more Covid deaths than Sweden; Lawson lists a few possibilities, which may or may not be significant. (He provides no evidence that any of them are.) And he does point to other examples to support his belief. To show that Sweden lost more lives through mitigation, he ironically cherry-picks Norway and Finland (both of which, like Sweden, have rejected a clampdown or lockdown strategy this fall). And to show that Britain saved lives through its clampdown, he compares it to an imaginary Britain: 

Try to imagine what would have been the outcome if the UK, much less advantageously placed [than Sweden] in all these respects, had adopted the same approach. 

Britain’s lockdown sceptics never attempted that act of imagination 

I doubt that lockdown sceptics are unable to imagine possible outcomes. Perhaps, like me, they were just sceptical that acts of imagination produced anything other than imaginary evidence or proof – which is all we have seen from Lawson and his ilk to date.  

Friday, December 11, 2020

Hundreds in UK given wrong Covid test results

Hundreds get wrong results due to Covid test error | BBC News:

November 27, 2020 - "Hundreds of people have been wrongly told they have coronavirus by NHS Test and Trace after a laboratory error. More than 1,300 people who gave samples between 19 and 23 November received positive results, when the tests were actually void. All of those affected will be told to take another test, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

"Duncan Larcombe, whose daughter received the wrong result, said it was 'more than an inconvenient mistake'. The PR company director, from Maidstone, Kent, said his two children, aged 14 and nine, were both sent home from school to self-isolate and he was unable to work. He said his 14-year-old daughter had not left her bedroom for four days, with meals being left outside her door, until the family learned the result was void on Thursday.... 

"Mr Larcombe, a former royal editor at the Sun newspaper, said the mistake 'brings into question for me whether or not this testing system is competent. 'The entire economy is relying on the competence of the testing laboratories and if they are not doing their job they need to be held to account,' he said.

"DHSC said it was an 'isolated incident' caused by an 'issue with a batch of testing chemicals' which had affected tests taken across the UK. It is 'being fully investigated to ensure this does not happen again,' the department said....

"Asked if the 1,311 incorrect results would affect regional figures for infection rates, which are represented as the number of cases per 100,000 people, DHSC issued a statement saying: 'Any impact on regional figures would be minimal, but in any event this incident was taken into account when the tiering discussions took place.'"

Read more:

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Americans are wearing facemasks, but ...

 Americans have exceeded universal masking benchmarks, but it has not slowed or stopped the spread of COVID-19 | Medium - Jordan Schachtel, The Dossier: 

December 7, 2020 - One of the most common pro-mask arguments I’ve heard over the course of the past year, both from “public health experts” and your average citizen, sounds similar to the following statement: 'If only everyone would just wear a mask, we would be able to crush the virus and end the pandemic.'

"This line of reasoning is frequently espoused by lockdown governors and 'public health experts.' You see, the problem isn’t them, it’s you, the citizen, we’re told.... You’re the reason why the pandemic is still a problem in this country. Deaths up? Why aren’t you wearing a mask. Cases up? Wear a mask. Hospitals crowded? The problem is that not enough people are wearing masks, they claim....

"The Delphi group at Carnegie Mellon University [CMU] has developed a very informative, consistently updated mask compliance tracker. It shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans across the nation are wearing masks. And in virtually every major population center in the United States, especially in areas where COVID-19 cases are rising, mask compliance levels are off the charts high, with most major metro areas registering well over 90 percent compliance. "Early on in the pandemic, when the 'new science' told us that masks could stop the virus in its tracks (after the science of early 2020, espoused by the likes of Fauci and many others, rightly pointed to the reality that masks are useless outside of a controlled setting), the CDC and other 'public health agencies' claimed that we could essentially eliminate transmission if a large percentage of the population adopted universal masking.

"When lockdowns failed to 'stop the spread,' masking up at over 80% was hyped as a way to 'do more to reduce COVID-19 spread than a strict lockdown.'

"'Universal masking at 80 [percent] adoption flattens the curve significantly more than maintaining a strict lockdown,' a much-hyped, highly publicized study, which was treated by many in the scientific community as the gospel, proclaimed. 'We will not only be able to flatten the curve, we will be able to significantly reduce the spread of the virus and return to life as normal sooner rather than later,' De Kai [aka Dekai Wu - gd], a research scholar at Berkeley who helped develop the COVID-19 universal masking model, proclaimed.

"With the help of the CMU mask compliance tracker, let’s take a look at the current COVID-19 hotspots in the United States and the level of mask compliance within these areas.

  • San Francisco metro area: 97% mask compliance
  • New York City metro area: 97% mask compliance
  • DC metro: 97%
  • Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington: 94%
  • Philly area: 96%
  • Chicago: 95%
  • Miami-Ft Lauderdale: 96%
  • Seattle: 96%....

"Americans have overwhelmingly exceeded the masking compliance percentages needed to supposedly 'flatten the curve' and reduce transmission of the virus. The problem, of course, is that the models have not matched reality. Americans are wearing masks, but the hypothesis behind universal masking has not worked to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"Americans have adopted the recommendations of the 'public health experts,' but the 'public health experts' have failed to follow the science, which now shows that masks are useless when it comes to stopping the spread of COVID-19. Now we’re left with an overwhelming majority of Americans wearing masks for no science-based reason whatsoever."

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