Some Covid Links

by Don Boudreaux on January 16, 2022

in Country Problems, Current Affairs, Education, Media, Reality Is Not Optional, Risk and Safety, Science

Wall Street Journal columnist Joseph Sternberg argues that the path out of Covid authoritarianism might be paved by Covidocrats’ relentless hypocrisy and mendacity. A slice:

The challenge of learning to live with Covid was always going to be that many ordinary people don’t want to feel the sacrifices they made—and supported at the time—were in vain. Arguing that lockdowns or school closures or masking were less effective than advertised may be correct, but to act on that recognition would require politicians and many voters to admit they were wrong.

Scapegoating is more likely and is one of the risks you sign up for when you go into politics. [British P.M.] Mr. Johnson may survive partygate, but the effect of this scandal will be to weaken permanently his ability to impose further Covid restrictions. Expect him or any successor to embrace with new enthusiasm advice from scientists suggesting we now approach Covid much as we do the common cold.

This phenomenon won’t be confined to Britain. President Biden’s job is safe, but medical adviser Anthony Fauci’s is not. Rolling revelations about the extent to which he may have been involved in funding gain-of-function research in China undermine the moral authority of America’s chief lockdown advocate without having to wade directly into the partisan bogs of lockdown policy. Such a scandal also would open an opportunity for erstwhile lockdown supporters to vent their personal frustrations with Dr. Fauci’s preferred draconian policies.

Speaking of China: Zero-Covid is failing so abjectly there now that it can’t be covered up by the sort of improbable official data that has insisted the virus was not widespread in China earlier. Can an authoritarian regime pivot from zero-Covid without democracy’s means for mediating popular frustrations with the old policies?

Oh my! What a surprise to discover yet another instance of Covidocratic hypocrisy.

K. Lloyd Billingsley finds Fauci-like creatures in film, including 2001: A Space Odessey‘s HAL. A slice:

Fauci earned a medical degree in 1966 but his bio shows no advanced degrees in molecular biology or biochemistry. Despite his many reversals, Fauci claims “I represent science,” as though his record, like HAL’s, is without error. It isn’t, but despite costly mistakes, Fauci’s power kept expanding.

As he lays down public health policy, the NIAID boss commands a budget of more than $6 billion, which gives him huge leverage. If medical scientists fail to follow the party line, say, on the origin of the COVID virus, Fauci can make their funding disappear. The NIAID boss also boasts a strategic ally.

Fauci’s wife Christine Grady is head of bioethics for the National Institutes of Health, of which NIAID is part. Whatever Fauci wants to do, from dangerous drug experiments on foster children to the torture of beagle puppies, his main squeeze Christine will tell him it’s all right. It is as though President Richard Nixon’s wife Pat headed the Federal Election Commission, and told her husband the Watergate operation was perfectly fine.

Phil Magness offers, on Facebook, this wise observation:

Faucism is antithetical to science precisely because it is primarily motivated by political objectives. Those political objectives also happen to be insane.

I’m not yet sure just what the full reach and consequences of Virginia Gov. Youngkin’s executive order will be, but I’m pleased that this order has been issued. (I was, however, emphatically not pleased to hear Youngkin, in his inaugural address, promise to defend qualified immunity for police officers.)

Economist Mikko Packalen tweets: (HT Jay Bhattacharya)

2 years without school. Rich countries’ experts devastated the world’s most vulnerable lives by their school closure advocacy. All without evidence or reason, but with unfounded fears & catastrophic one-sided misapplication of the precautionary principle.

Commenter MarkW understands the reason David Henderson posted about Australia’s decision to cancel the visa of tennis star Novak Djokovic. Here’s MarkW’s comment:

The point isn’t sympathy for Djokovic — he’s arguably the greatest tennis player of all time. He’ll be fine. The point is that Australia is excluding Djokovic not because he presents a health risk but because he represents a risk to the government’s imposition of its preferred messaging and a risk to successful suppression of opposing views. THAT is what is chilling. Even more chilling to me are the large numbers of people who appear to support his deportation for those reasons — to ‘send a message’ (the official government message, that is). We’re having quite the authoritarian moment.

And here’s another good comment on David’s post, this one from my student Jon Murphy:

He [Djokovic] did comply with the rules. He got a valid exemption and was issued a visa. The visa was revoked not because he violated any rule, but because this one minister believed he threatened the narrative.

Eastern Michigan University historian Jesse Kauffman writes insightfully about humanity’s calamitous overreaction to Covid-19. Three slices:

While many historical analogies have been offered for our present moment, from the campaign to combat polio to the National Socialist dictatorship of Germany, it is perhaps this wholly unnecessary self-destruction of a civilization that our own era most readily resembles. The campaign by our government to prevent every possible infection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus regardless of the cost has unleashed a hollowing of once trusted institutions and ideas.

…..

Our medical and scientific institutions have also undermined their credibility over the past two years. Few authority figures were once as trusted as physicians. But our collective view of them will never be the same.

This is due in part to the emergence of the phenomenon known as “medtwitter.” The pandemic created a class of doctors who spent a great deal of time on that social media platform, amassing huge followings to whom they dispensed advice and insights. Many seem to enjoy spreading panic and fear. A representative example of the medtwiter world is Tatiana Prowell, an oncologist with over 50,000 Twitter followers, who claimed that it was “guaranteed” that every New Year’s Eve party would result in at least one person dying from COVID.

Medtwitter doctors relentlessly exaggerate bad news and dismiss any grounds for hope, while simultaneously heaping abuse and scorn on anyone, including other doctors, whose views do not align with theirs. Even the best-intentioned evince a strangely shallow conception of the human condition and an inability to balance benefits and harms in their policy thinking.

…..

Finally, our mainstream media has self-immolated on a pyre of Trump derangement syndrome and an attempt to chase ratings and clicks by sowing fear. For two years, CNN has relentlessly broadcast an unhinged message of terror and despair, noting every “grim milestone” when deaths or cases passed a certain point. Like the doctors of MedTwitter, it has amplified bad news and rare complications.

In the world of CNN, every human interaction brings the risk of a miserable death from Covid, with Republicans in general, and the Trump administration, in particular, to blame. The Washington Post and the New York Times (and especially the latter) were just as bad, deliberately stirring up fear and breathlessly chasing poorly-sourced stories of overflowing emergency rooms. Few Americans would say that the media has done a good job during these times of making sense of what was happening in the world.

(DBx: Just FYI, unlike Prof. Kauffman I regard the disrespect that the government K-12 ‘education’ establishment has brought upon itself over the past two years to be a positive development – to be a revelation of this establishment’s long-festering corruption and incompetence.)

In support of this essay by Joy Pullmann, Scott Atlas tweets:

Again, it’s not newly learned, just finally admitted. We knew it and said it in spring-summer 2020. The lockdowns destroyed families and kids and have a sinful legacy of harm to our children.

A new Heartland Institute – Rasmussen Reports poll reveals just how thin is the veneer of liberal civilization – a veneer too-easily dissolved by mass hysteria of the sort stirred up since early 2020. (HT Todd Zywicki)

– Fifty-eight percent (58%) of voters would oppose a proposal for federal or state governments to fine Americans who choose not to get a COVID-19 vaccine. However, 55% of Democratic voters would support such a proposal, compared to just 19% of Republicans and 25% of unaffiliated voters.

– Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democratic voters would favor a government policy requiring that citizens remain confined to their homes at all times, except for emergencies, if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a proposal is opposed by 61% of all likely voters, including 79% of Republicans and 71% of unaffiliated voters.

– Nearly half (48%) of Democratic voters think federal and state governments should be able to fine or imprison individuals who publicly question the efficacy of the existing COVID-19 vaccines on social media, television, radio, or in online or digital publications. Only 27% of all voters – including just 14% of Republicans and 18% of unaffiliated voters – favor criminal punishment of vaccine critics.

– Forty-five percent (45%) of Democrats would favor governments requiring citizens to temporarily live in designated facilities or locations if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a policy would be opposed by a strong majority (71%) of all voters, with 78% of Republicans and 64% of unaffiliated voters saying they would Strongly Oppose putting the unvaccinated in “designated facilities.”

– While about two-thirds (66%) of likely voters would be against governments using digital devices to track unvaccinated people to ensure that they are quarantined or socially distancing from others, 47% of Democrats favor a government tracking program for those who won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Telegraph‘s Science Editor, Sarah Knapton, details the unimpressive track record of Neil Ferguson and other Covid “modellers” – “modellers” who nevertheless gulled lots of smart and powerful people. Two slices:

The data was used to justify a second national lockdown on November 5, but Oxford University quickly pointed out that the numbers were crunched before new tier restrictions had come into effect and were vastly wide of the mark.

Under the model, daily deaths should have reached 1,000 by the day of the press conference, but the rolling seven-day average was 265. The projections used an R rate of 1.3 to 1.5m, when it had fallen to between 1.1 and 1.3.

Bob Seely, the MP for the Isle of Wight, described the estimates as “hysterical” while Penny Mordaunt, the former paymaster general, warned the data were “in need of improvement”.

Within days, Sir Patrick and Sir Chris Whitty, the Government’s chief medical adviser, were forced to admit that the 4,000-a-day figure was unlikely, and the episode was later criticised by the official statistics watchdog.

Even at the height of the winter wave, the daily death count had only peaked at 1,359, far lower than the 4,000 projection. In fact, by the beginning of December 2020, many of the major modelling groups were a little more optimistic about the pandemic.

…..

Modellers argue it is better to know something about a situation than nothing, even if the whole picture is unclear. Whitty has previously said: “An 80 per cent right paper before a policy decision is made is worth ten 95 per cent right papers afterwards.”

But, given the experience of the pandemic, other experts now think models too unreliable to be driving public health policy.

Hunter says: “I think we have put too much emphasis on modelling, and that has failed us, to a certain extent. The way omicron is panning out is nowhere near as grim as many were predicting.”

Certainly, it is time for the models to come with a health warning, with some calling for a move to interactive graphs that could be updated in real-time.

Telegraph columnist Janet Daley is correct: “Our acceptance of a mass lock-in is more dangerous than any party” of the sort that PM Boris Johnson attended in violation of his own lockdown diktats. Three slices:

We need to ask the question that must, given what has prevailed in our lives for the past two years, be most serious. How on earth did we get to a point where events and decisions which would once have been regarded as commonplace, even virtuous – an employer expressing good wishes to staff at a party, a child embracing elderly grandparents, a relative making regular visits to a dying hospital patient – became illegal?

In fact, worse than illegal – immoral and irresponsible. How did the most natural, admirable and generous behaviour come to be not only technically criminal but anathematised as selfish and anti-social? And, further, how did this extraordinary transformation of traditional values occur so swiftly and with so little examination of its ramifications? Why was the public acceptance of it so crushingly unanimous that even raising doubts about its soundness or logic was seen as a kind of sedition?

…..

At the beginning of this story, the scientific experts (and the government authorities who were so religiously following their advice) were telling us explicitly that most people who contracted Covid-19 would not become seriously ill. That, in fact, they would very possibly not even know they had the virus. (I recall Sir Chris Whitty among others, stating this clearly at one of the early Downing Street briefings.) And this was being said before the arrival of the vaccines or even any reliable treatments.

Yet somehow, this virus which had been described as a threat largely limited (as it was then, and still is) to those with other comorbidities, transmogrified into a national emergency justifying measures that were, in the literal sense of the word, inhuman: restrictions that, if rigorously followed, would dismantle many of the most fundamental, instinctive forms of social and emotional life. Yes there was some resistance. But the general assent to all of this in principle was overwhelming.

…..

The public discourse was dominated by the dissemination of constantly escalating terror. The broadcast news became a relentless succession of the most pessimistic possible analysis and statistical prediction, much of which we now know to have been mistaken and which, even at the time, was more contentious than the official messaging (relayed unchallenged by the broadcast coverage) acknowledged. But what was worse – much worse – was what happened when government and NHS authorities discovered that instead of legally prohibiting the behaviour they wished to suppress, they could use psychologically coercive techniques to manipulate public attitudes.

Did the events of the last century teach us nothing about the terrible consequences of using fear to control a population, and about the peculiarly sinister force of a fear that cannot be questioned or debated? Whatever disquiet there may have been in governing circles about this flight into totalitarian technique, it was clearly outweighed by the appalling consequences that NHS leaders, and their unions, predicted were imminent.

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