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Some Covid Links

John Tierney reviews Scott Atlas’s A Plague Upon Our House – calling Fauci, Birx, and Redfield “Covid’s three blind mice.” Four slices:

How could public officials vowing to “follow the science” on Covid-19 persist in promoting ineffective strategies with terrible consequences? In a memoir of his time on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Scott W. Atlas provides an answer: because the nation’s governance was hijacked by three bureaucrats with scant interest in scientific research or debate—and no concern for the calamitous effects of their edicts.

Atlas’s book, A Plague Upon Our House, is an astonishing read, even for those who have been closely following this disaster.


Vice President Mike Pence chaired the Task Force, but Atlas says that Pence and the other members were regularly cowed into submission by three doctors who dominated from the start: Deborah Birx, the Task Force’s coordinator, along with Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control.

Atlas calls them “the troika” because of their strategy for presenting a united front, never disagreeing with one another during the meetings in the White House Situation Room. (Reporting later revealed that they had made a pact to resign in unison if any of them was fired.) These veterans of the federal bureaucracy had worked closely together during the AIDS epidemic, and their track record was hardly reassuring. Their long and costly quest to develop an AIDS vaccine ultimately failed, but they did manage to persuade the public that AIDS would spread widely beyond gay men and intravenous drug users. Redfield, with some help from Fauci, was the chief prophet of a “heterosexual breakout,” a threat that terrified Americans for more than a decade but never materialized.

The troika stoked more needless fears during the Covid pandemic, continually emphasizing worst-case scenarios—the computer models, for example, that wrongly forecast millions of American deaths in the summer of 2020. Surveys showed that most Americans, especially young people, vastly overestimated their risk of serious disease. Yet Fauci still wasn’t satisfied, as Atlas discovered when Fauci complained during one meeting that Americans didn’t take the virus seriously. “I challenged him to clarify his point,” Atlas writes, “because I couldn’t believe my ears. ‘So you think people aren’t frightened enough?’ He said, ‘Yes, they need to be more afraid.’ To me, this was another moment of Kafkaesque absurdity. . . . Instilling fear in the public is absolutely counter to what a leader in public health should do. To me, it is frankly immoral, although I kept that to myself.”

Fauci got the most media attention of the troika, but Atlas thinks that Birx did the most damage.


The troika also ignored dozens of studies showing the ineffectiveness of lockdowns, and the data showing that places that avoided lockdowns, like Florida and Sweden, did as well as or better than average in preventing Covid deaths. “I never fully understood why there was no admission, even internally by the Task Force, that the Birx-Fauci strategy did not work,” Atlas writes, concluding that it wasn’t simply because the media was eager to champion anyone who questioned President Donald Trump’s desire to reopen schools and businesses. “Disagreeing with Trump, especially in this election year, ensured near idolatry on cable TV and in the New York Times or Washington Post. But I never thought politics was the main driver of those on the Task Force. Perhaps it was an unstated fear that they were in way too deep to admit their errors.”

Mainstream media were the chief weapon the troika wielded against Atlas and scientists who opposed lockdowns and instead advocated a policy of “focused protection” that would concentrate testing and related resources on the elderly or other high-risk populations. (Atlas invited Birx to a meeting in the Oval Office with some of these eminent researchers, but she refused to attend.) Journalists caricatured their proposals as a callous “let it rip” strategy, portraying Atlas as an unqualified ideologue, unconcerned about the spread of the virus. Some of the false accusations in the press came from anonymous sources on the Task Force—presumably Fauci and Birx, Atlas writes, though Fauci denied it when Atlas confronted him. On the record, Fauci dismissed Atlas as an “outlier,” an assessment that journalists reinforced by repeatedly noting that he was “not an epidemiologist,” as if that were the only relevant qualification for determining overall public-health policies.

Fauci, Birx, and Redfield were not epidemiologists, either, but they were enshrined as “the science” because they provided what mainstream journalists craved: scare stories that boosted ratings and made Trump look bad.


The politician who comes off best is Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who had, Atlas observes, “a far more detailed understanding of the pandemic than anyone I had encountered in the Task Force.” Trump comes off fairly well, too, in his conversations with Atlas, as he frets about the harms of the lockdowns and instinctively recognizes the futility of the troika’s strategies. But Atlas lays the ultimate blame for the lockdowns—“a crime against humanity”—on Trump himself, because he allowed Birx and her allies to remain in charge. “This president, widely known for his signature ‘You’re fired!’ declaration, was misled by his closest political intimates,” Atlas writes. “All for fear of what was inevitable anyway—skewering from an already hostile media.”

K. Lloyd Billingsley rightly decries the hubris-drunk, narcissistic tyrant Fauci. A slice:

When the virus that causes COVID-19 arrived on these shores, Dr. Fauci was the man most responsible for the lockdowns that cause untold suffering for millions of Americans. As confirmed, Dr. Fauci wields executive-level power but in more than 50 years in government, he has never once faced the voters.

Anthony Fauci earned a medical degree in 1966 but if he ever practiced medicine it was only for a short time. In 1968, Fauci took a job with the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Fauci’s bio shows no advanced degrees in molecular biology or biochemistry, but Fauci has headed NIAID since 1984 and is now the highest-paid bureaucrat in the federal government.

The late Angelo Codevilla pegged Fauci as a deep state fraud, and the NIAID boss is under fire for lying about funding for gain-of-function research at the WIV. Dr. Fauci has reversed himself on many aspects of the pandemic but now claims his critics are “really criticizing science because I represent science.” Embattled Americans have to wonder.

“There comes a time,” Dr. Fauci recently told a McGill University audience, “when you do have to give up what you consider your individual right of making your own decision, for the greater good of society.” Dr. Anthony Fauci represents white coat supremacy, ruled by unelected bureaucrats.

Christos Makridis reports on some interesting research on Covid and social capital.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Marc Siegal counsels, about omicron, to keep calm and carry on. Here’s his conclusion:

The media is out for ratings, and politicians use fear to gain votes. If we give them neither we will find that fear begins to fade.

Alberto Mingardi asks if compulsory vaccination works. A slice:

A specter is haunting Europe—the specter of compulsory vaccination.

In the face of the Omicron variant, European governments are escalating in their anti-Covid measures. Compulsory vaccination is on the table, but so is the idea of going back to at least partial lockdowns. It is interesting that by now shutting down at least part of social life is sort of a default option, happily embraced by governments and experts as a first resort application of the precautionary principle. “When in doubt shut down”. Who would have predicted this, say, two years ago?

One of the reasons for this is a particular belief which has been circulated since Sars-Cov-2 reached us from Wuhan: the idea that “closed societies” are better at protecting people and fighting epidemics than open societies. Interestingly enough, those holding this belief do not waste their time in producing any evidence in support of their contentions. The idea that individual liberty is a nuisance in a pandemic is sort of taken for granted. This meant and still means that the tougher things get, the less justification is apparently needed to curtail older liberties.

Reason‘s Christian Britschgi reports on NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tyrannical imposition of a vaccine mandate for all private employers – on top of other Covidocratic authoritarian measures. Two slices:

[NYC health commissioner, Dave A.] Chokshi said the city will also require those aged 5–11 to have at least one vaccine shot in order to enter restaurants and other public venues. The city will also now require people aged 12 and up to get at least two doses of the vaccine to enter these places. Previously, people aged 12 and over only needed one shot to go to restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues, and anyone younger didn’t need to be vaccinated at all.


That’s an incredibly troubling approach to COVID-19 and one that will get more coercive the fewer unvaccinated people are left. Will a 95 percent vaccination rate be enough for the city to ease off the mandates? Or will that small remaining rump of the uninoculated necessitate a general vaccine requirement to finally get to universal vaccination?

It’s not clear what the off-ramp is for de Blasio and his ilk. Increasingly, it seems like there isn’t one.

Jacob Sullum reports that the “5th Circuit Temporarily Restores Greg Abbott’s Ban on School Mask Mandates.”

Independent-No-to-Groupthink tweets: (HT Jay Bhattacharya)

Yes. sarscov2 infected, caused covid in some-but the larger scale impact of sarscov2 has been to transform a small set of humans into irrational, unscientific, dangerous tyrants who imposed their iron will on us- and still refuse to see the harm they inflicted on the world’s poor

Telegraph columnist Sherelle Jacobs rightly insists that “[p]unishing the unvaccinated would be both immoral and unjustified.” A slice:

But perhaps most importantly, measures targeted against the unvaccinated would cross several important moral lines. Compulsory jabs are dehumanising in the sense that they undermine human agency. Taking their cue from mandatory child vaccinations, they infantilise the public, endorsing the idea that the state must protect people for their own good.

Some wrly suggest that the state could nudge anti-vaxxers in a way that encourages greater self-responsibility by charging them for Covid-related hospital treatment, as in Singapore. While this is a potentially clever way to square the circle, it would be ethically repugnant to single out the unvaccinated, but continue to indulge the obese or heavy drinkers, who put strain on the NHS as well.

If we were to introduce discriminatory measures against the unjabbed, we would also surely be setting a worryingly low bar for the circumstances in which the social good is deemed to outweigh the freedom of the individual in the future. For all the worries about the omicron variant, Covid now has an estimated fatality rate of 0.085 per cent (not dramatically greater than flu, which is believed to be 0.04 per cent), and deaths have continued to fall.

Writing in National Review, Alex Story decries Austria’s Covidocratic authoritarianism. Two slices:

Indeed, this process has already begun, with a classic bureaucratic “roundtable” that will bring all the right stakeholders together. The outcome, Soviet-style, has already been determined. As constitutional-affairs minister Karoline Edtstadler said, different opinions are not required, as it would “not suggest a constructive contribution.”

The unvaccinated and partially vaccinated are already barred from participating in normal life. The Austrian government announced a lockdown for the “unvaccinated” two weeks ago before imposing one for all last week. As reported by the Salzburger Nachrichenten, the lockdown for all currently in force was extended to December 11. However, health minister Wolfgang Mückstein, a member of the Greens, added that “the lockdown for the unvaccinated will be extended.”


A vaccine mandate will mean inevitable job losses for those unwilling or unable to submit. Those who do lose their jobs won’t easily have access to unemployment aid. After all, they will be outlaws. In addition, they will be physically constrained, stopped from leading a normal life, and fined.

As people are barred from earning an honest living, many of the fines levied will go unpaid. Arrests, bankruptcies, and more incarcerations will follow. The Austrian state is set to create a new generation of martyrs.

Italy begins lockdown of the unvaccinated.

Brendan O’Neill argues, quite compellingly, that “[m]andatory vaccination spells the violent end of European liberalism.” Three slices:

Europe is on a precipice. It has marched, blindly, towards something very much resembling tyranny. Austria will shortly criminalise those who refuse the Covid vaccine. Germany looks set to follow. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, is wondering out loud if every member state should do likewise and make offenders of those who reject this form of medication. In Italy you are deprived of your livelihood rather than your liberty if you say no to vaccination: the unvaxxed are not permitted to work. Anywhere. In Greece, everyone over the age of 60 must pay the government 100 euros for every month they remain unvaxxed. As if the Greek government, in cahoots with its masters in Brussels, had not immiserated Greek pensioners enough already.


What is happening in Europe right now is nothing short of terrifying. We are not merely witnessing another round of Covid restrictions. This isn’t just the introduction of another set of emergency measures that some people believe are necessary to stave off the latest Covid wave and the Omicron threat lurking on the horizon. No, we are living through a chilling overhaul of the entire relationship between the state and the individual, with the state empowered to such an extraordinary degree that it can now instruct its citizens on what to inject into their bodies, and the individual so politically emaciated, so denuded of rights, that he no longer even enjoys sovereignty over himself, over that tiny part of the world that is his own body and mind. We are witnessing the violent death of European liberalism and the birth pangs of a new and deeply authoritarian era.


Strikingly, there is very little pushback from the so-called human-rights lobby against the proposed new regime of forced medication. Europhiles in the UK and elsewhere – the kind of people who assured us the EU was the great modern defender of the dignity of the individual – are meek as mice in the face of these state threats to strongarm citizens into medical compliance. It wasn’t meant to be like this, you see. It was Brexit Britain, they said, that would become a hotbed of deranged authoritarianism, while the EU would hold a candle for the modern principles of rights and respect. And now that the opposite has proven to be the case, they look the other way, or they subtly give their nod to what amounts to a tyranny of the state over the souls and flesh of individual human beings. European liberalism is dying, the European Union stands exposed as a seat of extreme authoritarianism, and the future of this continent looks very uncertain indeed. Covid will look like a blip in the affairs of man in comparison with the fallout from this political and moral crisis of the European continent.

(DBx: Why are so few voices protesting this hellish tyranny that is now sweeping across the globe? If – and this “if” is big – humanity recovers its senses and liberalism survives Covid hysteria, our children and grandchildren will look back on today’s goings-on with much the same mix of revulsion and “How could human beings have done that?!” with which we today look back on the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre and other brutal religious persecutions.)

Here’s the abstract of a new paper by Ari Joffe and David Redman:

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has caused tragic morbidity and mortality. In attempt to reduce this morbidity and mortality, most countries implemented population-wide lockdowns. Here we show that the lockdowns were based on several flawed assumptions, including “no one is protected until everyone is protected,” “lockdowns are highly effective to reduce transmission,” “lockdowns have a favorable cost-benefit balance,” and “lockdowns are the only effective option.” Focusing on the latter, we discuss that Emergency Management principles provide a better way forward to manage the public emergency of the pandemic. Specifically, there are three priorities including the following: first, protect those most at risk by separating them from the threat (mitigation); second, ensure critical infrastructure is ready for people who get sick (preparation and response); and third, shift the response from fear to confidence (recovery). We argue that, based on Emergency Management principles, the age-dependent risk from SARS-CoV-2, the minimal (at best) efficacy of lockdowns, and the terrible cost-benefit trade-offs of lockdowns, we need to reset the pandemic response. We can manage risk and save more lives from both COVID-19 and lockdowns, thus achieving far better outcomes in both the short- and long-term.