At least for now, the debate strategies seem clear. On one side, let’s troll Trump with fake news and then pretend he is a clown when he objects. On the other side, let’s bait Biden and see if he loses control and goes off the script beamed into his ears.
Biden came in for some rough treatment in the first presidential debate
One of the most interesting and telling exchanges came about an hour into the debate. In some ways each man showed himself in his purest form. Joe Biden delivered what was very obviously a well-rehearsed, set-piece attack on President Trump. You could see the windup, like a boxer pulling his arm way back, fist clenched, preparing to deliver the knockout blow. Biden started by repeating the accusation that Trump disrespectfully criticises the military, calling them losers and suckers. The story has been debunked repeatedly by multiple sources including those hostile to the president like John Bolton. But it’s part of the Biden campaign’s strategy. So he levels the accusations and then begins to eulogise his son, Beau Biden, who served in Iraq, and later died of brain cancer. This makes it all personal to Joe, you see. He’s defending his dead son against a mythical slander from the bad orange man. Biden even points a finger at Trump, “My son is not a loser!”
Trauma mining to score points in a debate is a desperately cynical piece of political theatre. But, I suppose they calculate that if it works you get to be president. (I’ll pass, thanks.) It was pure Biden: scripted, saccharine, playing by the rules of a game that has long since ended. In case you think I’m too cynical, that surely this couldn’t have been orchestrated, Joe Biden’s official Twitter account posted a photo of Joe and Beau with the caption, “Beau was not a loser” just as the debate ended.
And just so, Trump. He looked at his podium and quietly, respectfully, asked, which son Biden was talking about. Of course, he knew, but he played the game forcing Biden to respond, Beau. “Oh, I don’t know him. I know Hunter.”
And then listed the accusations against Hunter: he took a $1.5 billion investment from China into the fledgling investment company he ran with John Kerry’s son while his father was Vice President and en route to China. He received $3.5 million from the mayor of Moscow. He had a sinecure from a Ukranian energy company while his father was Obama’s pointman on Ukraine policy. (NB: Hunter had no experience in business let along the energy business.) It was as sweet a move as I’ve ever seen. The knockout punch was coming with all the force Joe Biden could muster and Trump simply sidestepped it and counterpunched.
It was an impressive display of natural animal cunning. And it could make the difference in the election. Trump was agile, aggressive, and vigorous, taking what he wanted when he wanted it. This offends some people’s sensibilities. He’s transgressive.
He doesn’t play according to the rules. But for others, that’s part of the appeal.
It’s no secret that the ruling class in America despises the country class. If you’re one of those people who don’t live in coastal cities and subscribe to the same worldview as the elite aspirants hoping for a job at a billionaire-backed NGO or an internship that might lead to a job at McKinsey then you’re a deplorable, a CHUD, and definitely racist and whatever bad things are happening to you, your family, and your inland town are your just deserts.
One of Trump’s main functions and biggest appeals is that he exposes the occupational elites that are credentialed but not expert in much of anything.
Everyone knows it. Imposter syndrome is rampant. And Trump preys on their insecurities which is what provokes such outrageous reactions from his enemies. But a lot of Americans who live in interior America and get unglamorous jobs at slowly declining wages, raise their families want nothing more than to be left alone by the credentialed but unaccomplished strivers who hate them.
For those people, Trump is their champion.
They probably don’t aspire to be like Trump, but they like the fact that he exposes the bankruptcy of the undeserving ruling class. And for them, Trump’s debate tonight was a tour de force. It was aggressive, it was funny, he said the quiet part out loud, he broke the rules in public that are normally only broken in private. That won him the election in 2016. It won him the debate last night. And it might just get him re-elected in November.
Note: The debate began with Trump and Biden each making one uninterrupted comment. Biden then talked over Trump’s second comment without intervention by the moderator. And so the game was on.
The DOJ is joining the Securities and Exchange Commission’s probe into claims that Nikola misled investors with overblown claims about its own tech.
The U.S. Department of Justice has now initiated a probe into the allegations that electric and hydrogen truck startup Nikola made misleading claims about its technology to investors, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Justice Department is working with the Securities and Exchange Commission on the probe, who already started examining these allegations.
Federal prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office are looking into reports that Nikola misrepresented its progress in developing technology that was key to its upcoming models.
Nikola came out swinging with big promises, including a hydrogen fuel cell semi-truck capable of going 750 miles per fill-up and a 600-mile-range electric pickup that would beat even the recently unveiled EV range queen, the 517-mile Lucid Air.
The company’s initial public offering was in June, which went so well that the company rocketed up to a $26.3 billion market valuation, which made its CEO Trevor Milton the 188th richest person in the world.
Nikola has been in a back-and-forth fight this month with self-proclaimed short seller Hindenberg Research, who published a detailed report claiming that Nikola engaged in “intricate fraud” to inflate its company valuation to incredible heights for a truck company that hasn’t actually sold any trucks yet.
Hindenburg alleged that Nikola used rolling models in promoting the company instead of functional prototypes without defining them as such, made exaggerated claims about its battery technology, and that Milton engaged in nepotism to hire his brother to build out the company’s hydrogen network.
In response, Nikola threatened legal action against Hindenburg and hired an attorney, who contacted the SEC about the report on Friday, according to the Wall Street Journal. (I guess they got what they wanted—sort of?) The company admitted to using non-running but rolling trucks in a 2018 Nikola One advertisement and at the 2016 unveiling of the Nikola One, but notes that the company was privately held at the time, and that it had the necessary components to make the trucks run—albeit still in development.
Nikola lost over 20% of its valuation since Hindenburg’s report dropped last Thursday, the WSJ reports. Securities filings from Monday show that Milton increased his investment in the company to over 41,000 shares for $1.2 million, meaning that Milton now owns a quarter of the company. The company has also hired a crisis management firm, Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher.
That wasn’t the first allegation that the once-success story wasn’t what it seemed. A Bloomberg report in June claimed that Nikola led the public to believe that a show model of the Nikola One semi-truck was driveable when it was not. Milton also responded with legal threats against Bloomberg.
Even though none of these allegations directly involve any behavior on the part of Nikola partner General Motors, it’s still rather damning, as it insinuates that GM wasn’t able to see through Nikola’s allegedly overblown claims. GM agreed to take an 11% stake in Nikola in exchange for GM building the Badger pickup in one of its factories and GM supplying Nikola with batteries and fuel-cell tech in the near future.
Thus far, GM CEO Mary Barra has defended the company’s decision to partner with Nikola, telling the Wall Street Journal, “Our company has worked with a lot of different partners. We’re a very capable team that has done the appropriate diligence.”
According to the WSJ, Nikola announced Monday that it delayed the delivery of its first prototype truck from later this year to early 2021. That truck is destined to go to Anheuser-Busch, which Nikola says ordered 800 trucks in 2018. The company also claimed to receive an order for 2,500 trucks from waste company Republic Services in August.
At least for now, the debate strategies seem clear. On one side, let’s troll Trump with fake news and then pretend he is a clown when he objects. On the other side, let’s bait Biden and see if he loses control and goes off the script beamed into his ears.
The federal government is raising legal and practical questions about a recent California executive order attempting to end sales of gas-powered cars in the state by 2035. Source Microsoft News:Excerpts in italics with my bolds.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler wrote to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday, saying he believes California would need to request a waiver from his agency for the order to be implemented and implying that the state’s electricity infrastructure is insufficient for a shift toward electric vehicles.
“While the [executive order] seems to be mostly aspirational and on its own would accomplish very little, any attempt by the California Air Resources Board to implement sections of it may require California to request a waiver to U.S. EPA,” Wheeler wrote.
The EPA last year revoked a waiver that allowed California to set its own vehicle tailpipe emissions standards, so it appears unlikely that the agency would grant one on car sales under the current administration.
California, alongside 22 other states, has sued the agency over that decision, arguing that its standards were achievable and that the EPA’s decision is bad for climate change.
The executive order also comes as California has recently faced rolling blackouts, Wheeler noted.
“California’s record of rolling blackouts – unprecedented in size and scope – coupled with recent requests to neighboring states for power begs the question of how you expect to run an electric car fleet that will come with significant increases in electricity demand, when you can’t even keep the lights on today,” the country’s top environmental official wrote.
“The truth is that if the state were driving 100 percent electric vehicles today, the state would be dealing with even worse power shortages than the ones that have already caused a series of otherwise preventable environmental and public health consequences,” he added.
Update September 29, 2020 No, Covid19 is not Heart Disease
Government officials and journalists stoked fears of heart disease following SARS-CV2 infection, even when asymptomatic or with only mild discomfort. Two flawed studies were exploited and are now challenged by experts objecting to the exaggerations favoring restrictive policies.
Some scientists say recent research on heart inflammation, even in asymptomatic Covid-19 patients, is being overblown
But over the course of roughly a dozen Undark interviews with physicians and researchers specializing in cardiac radiology, cardiac pathology, and sports cardiology, several expressed concerns over the limitations of the German research, and with a more recent heart imaging study published by a team at The Ohio State University. Some also shared deep misgivings about how the findings of these small studies are being interpreted, reported, and used in the wider world. September’s media coverage has been more circumspect, but these preliminary findings are already being used to guide treatment of virus-positive athletes.
While the experts agreed that Covid-19 can harm the heart, the severity and frequency of the outcomes, as well as how to test for myocarditis, is under fierce debate.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 have since reversed course, with plans to resume their seasons this fall, but the implications of this new research go beyond football. Many experts worry about broader, graver consequences, including the overuse of the pricey heart scans — known as cardiac MRI — and unduly frightening Americans, both of which, they say, could jeopardize public trust in science.
A summary published by The American College of Cardiology made similar points, concluding: “While this study adds to emerging data, it does not imply that CMR should be performed in all Covid-19 positive patients to screen for myocardial inflammation.” A few days later, an open letter appeared online. It had been initiated by Murthy and was cosigned by roughly 50 medical professionals. Addressed to 18 medical societies, the letter asked them to discourage the use of cardiac MRIs on asymptomatic people who test positive for Covid-19.
Michael Ackerman, a genetic cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic who has no professional ties to any of the college sports conferences, took issue with the “spookiness” that was being assigned to myocarditis. “If this is the reason why a conference is shutting down a sport,” he said, “I call nonsense on that.”
Continuing Pattern of Media Fear-Mongering over Covid
Previous Post: Alex Berenson explains the pattern of media abuse in a twitter thread (here). Text in italics with my bolds
1/ This panic is likely to prove even more embarrassing than previous panics. Here’s why: the media is both confused and conflating several different data points in an effort to stir hysteria. (Stop me if you’ve heard this before.)
What do I mean? 2/ So: you’ve heard positive testsare up in several states. True. The media refers to these as “cases,” as if positive tests have clinical significance by themselves. They do not. The vast majority of people with positive tests do not become ill enough to need hospitalization…
3/ Much less intensive care or ventilator support. For people under 50, this is true in the extreme. But the daily age distribution of positive tests is rarely if ever supported…
4/ Second: you’ve heard overall hospitalizations are up in some states. This is also true. THIS IS A FEATURE, NOT A BUG. Overall hospitalizations are rising because people are returning to hospitalsfor elective (and in some cases very necessary) surgeries that were postponed…
5/ Now, in some of these states COVID-related hospitalizations have also risen (though they make up a tiny fraction of overall hospitalizations). Scary, right?
No. When people go to the hospital for elective surgeries they are now routinely tested for COVID...
6/ Whether or not they are symptomatic. Hospitals have financial and legal as well as medical incentives to do this. IF THEY ARE POSITIVE, hospitals will report them as COVID patients (since, technically, they are), EVEN IF THEY HAVE NO COVID SYMPTOMS.
7/ This fact accounts for the bizarre disconnect between the fact the number of people going to emergency rooms with influenza-like or COVID-like symptoms is NOT rising (and remains in the low single digits) even in states reporting more hospitalizations…
8/ As well as the fact that fewer hospitalized cases are now progressing to ventilators (I can’t swear to this in every state, but it appears to be a trend)…
9/ And the fact that deaths no longer seem to have any relationship to case counts in many states (true even accounting for the fact that deaths lag).
The question you should be asking yourself: why aren’t Europe and Asia seeing post-lockdown spikes if this trend is real?
10/ And don’t say masks. Masks are not routine in Europe. So either COVID is somehow different post-lockdown in Europe (and different in different states, too)… or this is just one last gasp of panic porn.
And if you want confirmation from epidemiologists, here Facts about Covid-19 from Swiss Policy Research.
Fully referenced facts about Covid-19, provided by experts in the field, to help our readers make a realistic risk assessment. (Regular updates below)
“The only means to fight the plague is honesty.” (Albert Camus, 1947)
1.According to the latest immunological and serological studies, the overall lethality of Covid-19 (IFR) is about 0.1% and thus in the range of a strong seasonal influenza (flu).
2. Even in global “hotspots”, the risk of death for the general population of school and working age is typically in the range of a daily car ride to work. The risk was initially overestimated because many people with only mild or no symptoms were not taken into account.
3. Up to 80% of all test-positive persons remain symptom-free. Even among 70-79 year olds, about 60% remain symptom-free. Over 95% of all persons develop at most moderate symptoms.
4. Up to 60% of all persons may already have a certain cellular background immunity to Covid19 due to contact with previous coronaviruses (i.e. common cold viruses).
5. The median or average age of the deceased in most countries (including Italy) is over 80 years and only about 4% of the deceased had no serious preconditions. The age and risk profile of deaths thus essentially corresponds to normal mortality.
6. In many countries, up to two thirds of all extra deaths occurred in nursing homes, which do not benefit from a general lockdown. Moreover, in many cases it is not clear whether these people really died from Covid19 or from weeks of extreme stress and isolation.
7. Up to 30% of all additional deaths may have been caused not by Covid19, but by the effects of the lockdown, panic and fear. For example, the treatment of heart attacks and strokes decreased by up to 60% because many patients no longer dared to go to hospital.
8. Even in so-called “Covid19 deaths” it is often not clear whether they died from or with coronavirus (i.e. from underlying diseases) or if they were counted as “presumed cases” and not tested at all. However, official figures usually do not reflect this distinction.
9. Many media reports of young and healthy people dying from Covid19 turned out to be false: many of these young people either did not die from Covid19, they had already been seriously ill (e.g. from undiagnosed leukaemia), or they were in fact 109 instead of 9 years old. The claimed increase in Kawasaki disease in children also turned out to be false.
10. The normal overall mortality per day is about 8000 people in the US, about 2600 in Germany and about 1800 in Italy. Influenza mortality per season is up to 80,000 in the US and up to 25,000 in Germany and Italy. In several countries Covid19 deaths remained below strong flu seasons.
11. Regional increases in mortality can occur if there is a collapse in the care of the elderly and sick as a result of infection or panic, or if there are additional risk factors such as severe air pollution. Special regulations for dealing with the deceased sometimes led to additional bottlenecks in funeral or cremation services.
12. In countries such as Italy and Spain, and to some extent the UK and the US, hospital overloads due to strong flu waves are not unusual. In addition, up to 15% of doctors and health workers are now being put into quarantine, even if they develop no symptoms.
13. The often shown exponential curves of “corona cases” are misleading, as the number of tests also increased exponentially. In most countries, the ratio of positive tests to tests overall (i.e. the positive rate) remained constant at 5% to 25% or increased only slightly. In many countries, the peak of the spread was already reached well before the lockdown.
14. Countries without curfews and contact bans, such as Japan, South Korea or Sweden, have not experienced a more negative course of events than other countries. Sweden was even praised by the WHO and now benefits from higher immunity compared to lockdown countries.
15. The fear of a shortage of ventilators was unjustified. According to lung specialists, the invasive ventilation (intubation) of Covid19 patients, which is partly done out of fear of spreading the virus, is in fact often counterproductive and damaging to the lungs.
16. Contrary to original assumptions, various studies have shown that there is no evidence of the virus spreading through aerosols (i.e. tiny particles floating in the air) or through smear infections (e.g. on door handles or smartphones). The main modes of transmission are direct contact and droplets produced when coughing or sneezing.
17. There is also no scientific evidence for the effectiveness of face masks in healthy or asymptomatic individuals. On the contrary, experts warn that such masks interfere with normal breathing and may become “germ carriers”. Leading doctors called them a “media hype” and “ridiculous”.
18. Many clinics in Europe and the US remained strongly underutilized or almost empty during the Covid19 peak and in some cases had to send staff home. Numerous operations and therapies were cancelled, including many cancer screenings and organ transplants.
19. Several media were caught trying to dramatize the situation in hospitals, sometimes even with manipulative images and videos. In general, the unprofessional reporting of many media maximized fear and panic in the population.
20. The virus test kits used internationally are prone to errors and can produce false positive and false negative results. Moreover, the official virus test was not clinically validated due to time pressure and may sometimes react positive to other coronaviruses.
21. Numerous internationally renowned experts in the fields of virology, immunology and epidemiology consider the measures taken to be counterproductive and recommend rapid natural immunisation of the general population and protection of risk groups.
22. At no time was there a medical reason for the closure of schools, as children hardly ever transmit the virus or fall ill with it themselves. There is also no medical reason for small classes, masks or ‘social distancing’ rules in schools.
23. The claim that only severe Covid-19 but not influenza may cause venous thrombosis and pulmonary (lung) embolism is not true, as it has been known for 50 years that severe influenza greatly increases the risk of thrombosis and embolism, too.
24. Several medical experts described vaccines against coronaviruses as unnecessary or even dangerous. Indeed, the vaccine against the so-called swine flu of 2009, for example, led to sometimes severe neurological damage and lawsuits in the millions.
25. The number of people suffering from unemployment, depressions and domestic violence as a result of the measures has reached historic record values. Several experts predict that the measures will claim more lives than the virus itself. According to the UN millions of people around the world may fall into absolute poverty and famine.
26. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden warned that the “corona crisis” will be used for the massive and permanent expansion of global surveillance. The renowned virologist Pablo Goldschmidt spoke of a “global media terror” and “totalitarian measures”. Leading British virologist professor John Oxford spoke of a “media epidemic”.
27. More than 500 scientists have warned of an “unprecedented surveillance of society” through problematic apps for “contact tracing”. In some countries, such “contact tracing” is already carried out directly by the secret service. In several parts of the world, the population is already being monitored by drones and facing serious police overreach.
28. A 2019 WHO study on public health measures against pandemic influenza found that from a medical perspective, “contact tracing” is “not recommended in any circumstances.
I just happened upon the video above, which explains so clearly the Left and Right orientations of people in society. Transcript below in italics with my bolds.
Jordan Peterson Responds to Question about Social Issues like Climate
Q: So what is your advice to young people, when you talk about you need to be individually responsible, but when they’re things that are so far out of our control, like climate catastrophe, like the precarious job economy, like, what is your answer?
JP: Things are not so far out of control as you think. Do you think that you’re worse off than your grandparents? (I think they’re a different challenge.) Do you think you’re worse off than your grandparents?
Q: The argument, I think, is that individual responsibility does not fix some things. The climate problem needs global collective responsibility. So I think that’s the core of the question. Do you have a theory about that?
JP: Well, fundamentally, I’m a psychologist. And my experience has been that people can do a tremendous amount of good for themselves, and for the people who are immediately around them, by looking to their own inadequacies and their own flaws and the things that they’re not doing in their lives. By starting to build themselves up as more powerful individuals, and if they’re capable of doing that, then they’re capable of expanding their career.
JP: And if they’re capable of expanding their career and their competence, then they’re capable of taking their place in the community as effective leaders. And then they’re capable of making wise decisions instead of unwise decisions when it comes to making collective political decisions. I’m not suggesting in the least, and have never suggested that there’s no domain for social action.
I’m suggesting that people who don’t have their own houses in order should be very careful before they go about reorganizing the world, which happens in many ways.
Q: If a young person believes that the climate the global warming problem on the climate is something that needs to be tackled quickly, and they can’t wait until they grow up and become prime ministers to do it, do you think collective responsibility overrides individual responsibility in a huge issue like that?
JP: No. I don’t think that is generally the case. I think generally people have things that are more within their personal purview that are more difficult to deal with and that they’re avoiding. And generally, the way they avoid them is by adopting pseudo moralistic stances on large scale social issues so that they look good to their friends and their neighbors.
Commentary by Dennis Prager
That’s a major difference between the right and the left, concerning the way each seeks to improve society. Conservatives believe that the way to a better society is almost always through the moral improvement of the individual by each person doing battle with his or her own weaknesses, and flaws. It is true that in violent and evil society such as fascist Communist or Islam is tyrannies, the individual must be preoccupied with battling outside forces. Almost everywhere else, though, certainly in a free and decent country such as America, the greatest Battle of the individual must be with inner forces, that is with his or her moral failings.
The left on the other hand, believes that the way to a better society is almost always through doing battle with society’s moral failings. Thus, in America, the left concentrates its efforts on combating sexism, racism, intolerance, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, and the many other evils that the left believes permeate American society.
One important consequence of this left right distinction is that those on the left are far more preoccupied with politics than those on the Right. Since the left is so much more interested in fixing society than in fixing the individual, politics inevitably becomes the vehicle for societal improvement. That’s why whenever the term activist is used, we almost always assume that the term refers to someone on the left.
Another consequence of this left right difference is that since conservatives believe society has changed one person at a time, they accept that change happens gradually. This isn’t fast enough for the left, which is always in everywhere focused on social revolution. An excellent example of this was a statement by the then presidential candidate Barack Obama, just days before his first election in 2008. To our rapturous audience, he declared, we are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.
Conservatives not only have no interest in fundamentally transforming the United States of America, they are strongly opposed to doing so. Conservatives understand that fundamentally transforming any society that isn’t fundamentally bad, not to mention transforming what is one of the most decent societies in history can only make the society worse. Conservatives believe that America can be improved, but should not be transformed, let alone fundamentally transformed.
The founders of the United States recognized that the transformation that every generation must work on is the moral transformation of each citizen. Thus, character development was at the core of both child rearing and of young people’s education from elementary school through college. As John Adams, the second president said, our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people, it is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. And in the words of Benjamin Franklin, only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. Why is that? Because freedom requires self control, the free or the society, the more self control is necessary. If the majority of people don’t control themselves, the state, meaning an ever more powerful government, will have to control them.
From the founding of the United States until the 1960s, schools and parents concentrated on character education. But with the ascent of left wing ideas, character education has all but disappeared from American schools. Instead, children are taught not to focus on their flaws, but on America’s social issues have replaced character education. An example is a new K through 12science curriculum, the next generation of science standards, which will teach young Americans starting in kindergarten about global warming. And when they get to college, American young people will be taught about the need to fight economic inequality, white privilege, and the alleged rape culture on their campuses.
Ironically, if there really is a rape culture that permeates American college campuses, the only reason would have to be that there was so little character education in our schools, or for that matter at home. Fathers and religion, historically the two primary conveyors of self control, are non existent in the lives of millions of American children. We are now producing vast numbers of Americans who are passionate about fixing America while doing next to nothing about fixing their own character.
The problem, however, is that you can’t make society better unless you first make its people better.
Rod Dreher writes at American Conservative about the chasm opening and dividing the previous United States. His article is titled Joe Rogan World Vs. NPR World, but those words don’t reveal the importance or depth of his insights. He starts with a familiar experience of hearing newscasting perverted by an agenda. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.
Yesterday when I drove up to the country to visit my mother, I listened to NPR until I couldn’t take it anymore. There was a story about black Mormons. Normally I would have found that compelling, given my interest in religion. The Mormon religion used to be formally racist, but changed its teaching. What is it like to live as a black Mormon? That’s a story that interests me. Or normally would, but I swear, I turned off the radio. Why?
It had nothing to do with the black Mormons. It had to do with NPR. I thought: they’re only interested in Mormons so they can find some new way to talk about American racism.
It feels like every time I get in the car and turn on the radio, I don’t have to wait long before I hear a story that highlights in some new way what a racist country America is, or how hard illegal immigrants have it in America, or how put-upon sexual minorities are, and so forth. I don’t know if NPR’s liberalism has always been like this, or if it has gotten worse — or if I have simply become thin-skinned about these issues. I have always known NPR was liberal, but that didn’t stop me from being a big fan, and even a contributing member. I feel that my NPR — the NPR that I cherished, even though it was liberal and I am conservative — has gone away, and I don’t know why. I used to love listening to it in the car, and not conservative talk radio, because I don’t want to have a voice on the radio rubbing my nose into some political narrative. NPR used to stand out because it proposed new ways of seeing the world, or at least ways that seemed new to me as a conservative. Now listening to NPR is giving oneself over to hosts who seek to impose a worldview that constantly says, about people who don’t fit the progressive narrative, that you aren’t worthy of our consideration or attention. That you are what’s wrong with America.
I don’t mean to beat up NPR alone. I have the same experience reading The New York Times. Most conservatives I know don’t listen to NPR or read the Times, and could not care less about them. They assume that NPR and the NYT hate them, so they have no agony over failed expectations. But I have been listening to NPR and reading the NYT long enough to know that something has changed with those two institutions — again, institutions that I’ve always known were liberal, but loved anyway. If I had never learned to care about them, I wouldn’t get so wound up about it now.
That, and the fact that those institutions are such important bellwethers of elite opinion. You may not care what’s in the Times or on NPR, but the people who do are those who ultimately control a lot of things in your life. Never, ever forget the lessons in these two passages from Live Not By Lies:
It’s possible to missthe onslaught of totalitarianism, precisely because we have a misunderstanding of how its power works. In 1951, poet and literary critic Czesław Miłosz, exiled to the West from his native Poland as an anti-communist dissident, wrote that Western people misunderstand the nature of communism because they think of it only in terms of “might and coercion.”
“That is wrong,” he wrote. “There is an internal longing for harmony and happiness that lies deeper than ordinary fear or the desire to escape misery or physical destruction.”
In The Captive Mind, Miłosz said that communist ideology filled a void that had opened in the lives of early twentieth-century intellectuals, most of whom had ceased to believe in religion.
This is why NPR sounds like Vatican Radio from the Church of Secular Progressivism, and this is why The New York Times reads like L’Osservatore Romano of the same pseudo-religion. More from Live Not By Lies:
In our populist era, politicians and talk-radio polemicists can rile up a crowd by denouncing elites. Nevertheless, in most societies, intellectual and cultural elites determine its long-term direction. “[T]he key actor in history is not individual genius but rather the network and the new institutions that are created out of those networks,” writes sociologist James Davison Hunter.
Though a revolutionary idea might emerge from the masses, says Hunter, “it does not gain traction until it is embraced and propagated by elites” working through their “well-developed networks and powerful institutions.”
This is why it is critically important to keep an eye on intellectual discourse. Those who do not will leave the gates unguarded. As the Polish dissident and émigré Czesław Miłosz put it, “It was only toward the middle of the twentieth century that the inhabitants of many European countries came, in general unpleasantly, to the realization that their fate could be influenced directly by intricate and abstruse books of philosophy.”
This is how Your Working Boy gets from, “Black Mormons — hey, that’s interesting. I’d like to know more about what they went through” — which would be my stance in normal times — to “Black Mormons? Just one more NPR story about what a racist, oppressive, worthless country this is” to
“NPR continues to tell the elites a narrative that they will use to tear this country down and rebuild it according to their ideological values.”
All of that is prelude to Douglas Murray’s recent piece in Unherd, in which he observes that America really does look like a country that is coming apart, because it lacks a shared story. Excerpts:
But while it’s certainly arguable that Trump has aggravated America’s problems and divisions, he certainly didn’t create them. The divide long pre-dates him and has grown and grown in recent years, to the point where the different parties look increasingly irreconcilable. That is because these divisions go right to the core of what it means to be American.
When Eric Kaufmann recently carried out opinion polls on self-described “liberals” in the US, the results were startling but not surprising. For instance, around 80% of respondents said that they would approve of the writing of a new American constitution “that better reflects our diversity as a people”. A similar number said that they would approve of a new national anthem and flag, for the same reason.
And over the last few months, some of the more activist section of the American “liberal” tribe have taken matters into their own hands, with statues pulled down across the country, not just of Confederate generals or people associated with the divisive elements of American history, but men who once united the American public. Who once represented and defined their shared history as a great nation.
When statues of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington are pulled down, this no longer looks like a critique of certain aspects of American culture: it looks like an attack on the American Founding story. When senior Democrats like Tammy Duckworth — who has served in her country’s military — refuse to condemn attacks on statues of the Founding Fathers it becomes clear that this attitude is not confined to some street-protest fringes.
It is becoming harder to communicate across the gulf, as, increasingly, the two Americas cannot consort or discuss with each other. And if there is one reason above all why that should be the case it is because they no longer have a shared story.
A portion of the American people still revere their history, the Founding Fathers, the constitution, flag, anthem and much more. They see it as symbols of a glorious past, a country which has fought for its own and others’ liberty, and the once-admired idea of American exceptionalism.
Another portion believe that America is exceptional only in being exceptionally bad. Rather than thinking well of their country or their forebears they see the whole American experiment as unusually unfair and uncommonly unequal.
What’s more, I am associated, via my writing here and in The Benedict Option, with a pessimistic view of our liberal democracy’s sustainability. I think that Patrick Deneen is basically correct in his Why Liberalism Failed: it failed because it succeeded so very well in creating a hyper-individualist society.
Liberal democracy cannot work without a metastory to set its boundaries.
We had that story when America was more or less Christian, but we are now moving out of the secularized Christianity of the Enlightenment, and into Nietzsche’s dark prophecy of what would happen once we realized that we have killed God. There will be no clinging to Christian morality, with its claims of human rights, without the Christian god.
What we have, with the woke, is a pseudo-religion that tries to ape Christianity without Christianity’s sense of mercy, and without its tragic awareness that, in Solzhenitsyn’s memorable phrase, the line between good and evil passes not between peoples, classes, and nations, but down the middle of every human heart.
The most basic thing one needs to know about a democratic regime, then, is this: You need to have at least two legitimate political parties for democracy to work. By a legitimate political party, I mean one that is recognized by its rivals as having a right to rule if it wins an election. For example, a liberal party may grant legitimacy to a conservative party (even though they don’t like them much), and in return this conservative party may grant legitimacy to a liberal party (even though they don’t like them much). Indeed, this is the way most modern democratic nations have been governed.
But legitimacy is one of those traditional political concepts that Marxist criticism is now on the verge of destroying.
From the Marxist point of view, our inherited concept of legitimacy is nothing more than an instrument the ruling classes use to perpetuate injustice and oppression. The word legitimacy takes on its true meaning only with reference to the oppressed classes or groups that the Marxist sees as the sole legitimate rulers of the nation. In other words, Marxist political theory confers legitimacy on only one political party—the party of the oppressed, whose aim is the revolutionary reconstitution of society. And this means that the Marxist political framework cannot co-exist with democratic government. Indeed, the entire purpose of democratic government, with its plurality of legitimate parties, is to avoid the violent reconstitution of society that Marxist political theory regards as the only reasonable aim of politics.
Simply put, the Marxist framework and democratic political theory are opposed to one another in principle.
Background from a previous post, American Soviet Mentality
Izabella Tabarovsky draws on her experience of Soviet Russia to expose the cultural revolution currently attacking the roots of American civil society. Her article at the Tablet is The American Soviet Mentality. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.
Collective demonization invades our culture
Russians are fond of quoting Sergei Dovlatov, a dissident Soviet writer who emigrated to the United States in 1979: “We continuously curse Comrade Stalin, and, naturally, with good reason. And yet I want to ask: who wrote four million denunciations?” It wasn’t the fearsome heads of Soviet secret police who did that, he said. It was ordinary people.
Collective demonizations of prominent cultural figures were an integral part of the Soviet culture of denunciation that pervaded every workplace and apartment building. Perhaps the most famous such episode began on Oct. 23, 1958, when the Nobel committee informed Soviet writer Boris Pasternak that he had been selected for the Nobel Prize in literature—and plunged the writer’s life into hell. Ever since Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago had been first published the previous year (in Italy, since the writer could not publish it at home) the Communist Party and the Soviet literary establishment had their knives out for him. To the establishment, the Nobel Prize added insult to grave injury.
None of those who joined the chorus of condemnation, naturally, had read the novel—it would not be formally published in the USSR until 30 years later. But that did not stop them from mouthing the made-up charges leveled against the writer. It was during that campaign that the Soviet catchphrase “ne chital, no osuzhdayu”—“didn’t read, but disapprove”—was born: Pasternak’s accusers had coined it to protect themselves against suspicions of having come in contact with the seditious material. Days after accepting the Nobel Prize, Pasternak was forced to decline it. Yet demonization continued unabated.
Some of the greatest names in Soviet culture became targets of collective condemnations—composers Dmitry Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev; writers Anna Akhmatova and Iosif Brodsky; and many others. Bouts of hounding could go on for months and years, destroying people’s lives, health and, undoubtedly, ability to create. (The brutal onslaught undermined Pasternak’s health. He died from lung cancer a year and a half later.) But the practice wasn’t reserved for the greats alone. Factories, universities, schools, and research institutes were all suitable venues for collectively raking over the coals a hapless, ideologically ungrounded colleague who, say, failed to show up for the “voluntary-obligatory,” as a Soviet cliché went, Saturday cleanups at a local park, or a scientist who wanted to emigrate. The system also demanded expressions of collective condemnations with regards to various political matters: machinations of imperialism and reactionary forces, Israeli aggression against peaceful Arab states, the anti-Soviet international Zionist conspiracy. It was simply part of life.
Twitter has been used as a platform for exercises in unanimous condemnation for as long as it has existed.
Countless careers and lives have been ruined as outraged mobs have descended on people whose social media gaffes or old teenage behavior were held up to public scorn and judged to be deplorable and unforgivable. But it wasn’t until the past couple of weeks that the similarity of our current culture with the Soviet practice of collective hounding presented itself to me with such stark clarity. Perhaps it was the specific professions and the cultural institutions involved—and the specific acts of writers banding together to abuse and cancel their colleagues—that brought that sordid history back.
On June 3, The New York Times published an opinion piece that much of its progressive staff found offensive and dangerous. (The author, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, had called to send in the military to curb the violence and looting that accompanied the nationwide protests against the killing of George Floyd.) The targets of their unanimous condemnation, which was gleefully joined by the Twitter proletariat, which took pleasure in helping the once-august newspaper shred itself to pieces in public, were New York Times’ opinion section editor James Bennet, who had ultimate authority for publishing the piece, though he hadn’t supervised its editing, and op-ed staff editor and writer Bari Weiss (a former Tablet staffer).
Weiss had nothing to do with editing or publishing the piece. On June 4, however, she posted a Twitter thread characterizing the internal turmoil at the Times as a “civil war” between the “(mostly young) wokes” who “call themselves liberals and progressives” and the “(mostly 40+) liberals” who adhere to “the principles of civil libertarianism.” She attributed the behavior of the “wokes” to their “safetyism” worldview, in which “the right of people to feel emotionally and psychologically safe trumps what were previously considered core liberal values, like free speech.” See Update: Stories vs. Facts
It was just one journalist’s opinion, but to Weiss’ colleagues her semi-unflattering description of the split felt like an intolerable attack against the collective. Although Weiss did not name anyone in either the “woke” or the older “liberal” camp, her younger colleagues felt collectively attacked and slandered. They lashed out. Pretty soon, Weiss was trending on Twitter.
As the mob’s fury kicked into high gear, the language of collective outrage grew increasingly strident, even violent.
Goldie Taylor, writer and editor-at-large at The Daily Beast, queried in a since-deleted tweet why Weiss “still got her teeth.” With heads rolling at the Times—James Bennet resigned, and deputy editorial page editor James Dao was reassigned to the newsroom—one member of the staff asked for Weiss to be fired for having bad-mouthed “her younger newsroom colleagues” and insulted “all of our foreign correspondents who have actually reported from civil wars.” (It was unclear how she did that, other than having used the phrase “civil war” as a metaphor.)
Mehdi Hasan, a columnist with the Intercept, opined to his 880,000 Twitter followers that it would be strange if Weiss retained her job now that Bennet had been removed. He suggested that her thread had “mocked” her nonwhite colleagues. (It did not.) In a follow-up tweet Hasan went further, suggesting that to defend Weiss would make one a bad anti-racist—a threat based on a deeply manipulated interpretation of Weiss’ post, yet powerful enough to stop his followers from making the mistake.
All of us who came out of the Soviet system bear scars of the practice of unanimous condemnation, whether we ourselves had been targets or participants in it or not. It is partly why Soviet immigrants are often so averse to any expressions of collectivism: We have seen its ugliest expressions in our own lives and our friends’ and families’ lives. It is impossible to read the chastising remarks of Soviet writers, for whom Pasternak had been a friend and a mentor, without a sense of deep shame. Shame over the perfidy and lack of decency on display. Shame at the misrepresentations and perversions of truth. Shame at the virtue signaling and the closing of rank. Shame over the momentary and, we now know, fleeting triumph of mediocrity over talent.
In a collectivist culture, one hoped-for result of group condemnations is control—both over the target of abuse and the broader society. When sufficiently broad levels of society realize that the price of nonconformity is being publicly humiliated, expelled from the community of “people of goodwill” (another Soviet cliché) and cut off from sources of income, the powers that be need to work less hard to enforce the rules.
For the regular people—those outside prestigious cultural institutions—participation in local versions of collective hounding was not without its benefits, either. It could be an opportunity to eliminate a personal enemy or someone who was more successful and, perhaps, occupied a position you craved. You could join in condemning a neighbor at your cramped communal flat, calculating that once she was gone, you could add some precious extra square meters to your living space.
The mobs that perform the unanimous condemnation rituals of today do not follow orders from above. But that does not diminish their power to exert pressure on those under their influence.
Those of us who came out of the collectivist Soviet culture understand these dynamics instinctively. You invoked the “didn’t read, but disapprove” mantra not only to protect yourself from suspicions about your reading choices but also to communicate an eagerness to be part of the kollektiv—no matter what destructive action was next on the kollektiv’s agenda. You preemptively surrendered your personal agency in order to be in unison with the group. And this is understandable in a way: Merging with the crowd feels much better than standing alone.
Americans have discovered the way in which fear of collective disapproval breeds self-censorship and silence, which impoverish public life and creative work. The double life one ends up leading—one where there is a growing gap between one’s public and private selves—eventually begins to feel oppressive. For a significant portion of Soviet intelligentsia (artists, doctors, scientists), the burden of leading this double life played an important role in their deciding to emigrate.
Those who join in the hounding face their own hazards. The more loyalty you pledge to a group that expects you to participate in rituals of collective demonization, the more it will ask of you and the more you, too, will feel controlled. How much of your own autonomy as a thinking, feeling person are you willing to sacrifice to the collective? What inner compromises are you willing to make for the sake of being part of the group? Which personal relationships are you willing to give up?
From my vantage point, this cultural moment in these United States feels incredibly precarious.
The practice of collective condemnation feels like an assertion of a culture that ultimately tramples on the individual and creates an oppressive society. Whether that society looks like Soviet Russia, or Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, or Castro’s Cuba, or today’s China, or something uniquely 21st-century American, the failure of institutions and individuals to stand up to mob rule is no longer an option we can afford.
Hot, Hot, Hot. You will have noticed that the term “climate change” is now synonymous with “summer”. Since the northern hemisphere is where most of the world’s land, people and media are located, two typical summer months (June was not so hot) have been depicted as the fires of hell awaiting any and all who benefit from fossil fuels. If you were wondering what the media would do, apart from obsessing over the many small storms this year, you are getting the answer.
Fortunately, Autumn is on the way and already bringing cooler evenings in Montreal where I live. Once again open windows provide fresh air for sleeping, while mornings are showing condensation, and frost sometimes. This year’s period of “climate change” is winding down. Unless of course, we get some hurricanes the next two months. Below is a repost of seasonal changes in temperature and climate for those who may have been misled by the media reports of a forever hotter future.
[Note: The text below refers to human migratory behavior now prohibited because, well Coronavirus.]
Autumnal Climate Change
Seeing a lot more of this lately, along with hearing the geese honking. And in the next month or so, we expect that trees around here will lose their leaves. It definitely is climate change of the seasonal variety.
Interestingly, the science on this is settled: It is all due to reduction of solar energy because of the shorter length of days (LOD). The trees drop their leaves and go dormant because of less sunlight, not because of lower temperatures. The latter is an effect, not the cause.
Of course, the farther north you go, the more remarkable the seasonal climate change. St. Petersburg, Russia has their balmy “White Nights” in June when twilight is as dark as it gets, followed by the cold, dark winter and a chance to see the Northern Lights.
And as we have been monitoring, the Arctic ice has been melting from sunlight in recent months, but is already building again in the twilight, to reach its maximum in March under the cover of darkness.
We can also expect in January and February for another migration of millions of Canadians (nicknamed “snowbirds”) to fly south in search of a summer-like climate to renew their memories and hopes. As was said to me by one man in Saskatchewan (part of the Canadian wheat breadbasket region): “Around here we have Triple-A farmers: April to August, and then Arizona.” Here’s what he was talking about: Quartzsite Arizona annually hosts 1.5M visitors, mostly between November and March.
Of course, this is just North America. Similar migrations occur in Europe, and in the Southern Hemisphere, the climates are changing in the opposite direction, Springtime currently. Since it is so obviously the sun causing this seasonal change, the question arises: Does the sunlight vary on longer than annual timescales?
The Solar-Climate Debate
And therein lies a great, enduring controversy between those (like the IPCC) who dismiss the sun as a driver of multi-Decadal climate change, and those who see a connection between solar cycles and Earth’s climate history. One side can be accused of ignoring the sun because of a prior commitment to CO2 as the climate “control knob”.
The other side is repeatedly denounced as “cyclomaniacs” in search of curve-fitting patterns to prove one or another thesis. It is also argued that a claim of 60-year cycles can not be validated with only 150 years or so of reliable data. That point has weight, but it is usually made by those on the CO2 bandwagon despite temperature and CO2 trends correlating for only 2 decades during the last century.
One scientist in this field is Nicola Scafetta, who presents the basic concept this way:
“The theory is very simple in words. The solar system is characterized by a set of specific gravitational oscillations due to the fact that the planets are moving around the sun. Everything in the solar system tends to synchronize to these frequencies beginning with the sun itself. The oscillating sun then causes equivalent cycles in the climate system. Also the moon acts on the climate system with its own harmonics. In conclusion we have a climate system that is mostly made of a set of complex cycles that mirror astronomical cycles. Consequently it is possible to use these harmonics to both approximately hindcast and forecast the harmonic component of the climate, at least on a global scale. This theory is supported by strong empirical evidences using the available solar and climatic data.”
He goes on to say:
“The global surface temperature record appears to be made of natural specific oscillations with a likely solar/astronomical origin plus a noncyclical anthropogenic contribution during the last decades. Indeed, because the boundary condition of the climate system is regulated also by astronomical harmonic forcings, the astronomical frequencies need to be part of the climate signal in the same way the tidal oscillations are regulated by soli-lunar harmonics.”
He has concluded that “at least 60% of the warming of the Earth observed since 1970 appears to be induced by natural cycles which are present in the solar system.” For the near future he predicts a stabilization of global temperature and cooling until 2030-2040.
A Deeper, but Accessible Presentation of Solar-Climate Theory
I have found this presentation by Ian Wilson to be persuasive while honestly considering all of the complexities involved.
The author raises the question: What if there is a third factor that not only drives the variations in solar activity that we see on the Sun but also drives the changes that we see in climate here on the Earth?
The linked article is quite readable by a general audience, and comes to a similar conclusion as Scafetta above: There is a connection, but it is not simple cause and effect. And yes, length of day (LOD) is a factor beyond the annual cycle.
It is fair to say that we are still at the theorizing stage of understanding a solar connection to earth’s climate. And at this stage, investigators look for correlations in the data and propose theories (explanations) for what mechanisms are at work. Interestingly, despite the lack of interest from the IPCC, solar and climate variability is a very active research field these days.
For example Svensmark has now a Cosmosclimatology theory supported by empirical studies described in more detail in the red link.
A transition to renewables sent energy prices soaring, pushed thousands into poverty and fueled a populist backlash.
In February 2009, Ontario passed its Green Energy Act (GEA). It was signed a week after Obama’s Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act in the US, following several months of slow and arduous negotiations. It also had grand plans to start a ‘green’ recovery following the financial crash – although on a more modest scale.
This was the plan: increased integration of wind and solar energy into Ontario’s electricity grid would shut down coal plants and create 50,000 green jobs in the first three years alone.
Additionally, First Nations communities would manage their own electricity supply and distribution – what observers would later call the ‘decolonisation’ of energy – empowering Canada’s indigenous communities who had been disenfranchised by historical trauma. Lawmakers promised that clean and sustainable energy provided by renewables would also reduce costs for poorer citizens. This won an endorsement from Ontario’s Low Income Energy Network – a group which campaigns for universal access to affordable energy.
But on 1 January, 2019, Ontario repealed the GEA, one month before its 10th anniversary. The 50,000 guaranteed jobs never materialised. The ‘decolonisation’ of energy didn’t work out, either. A third of indigenous Ontarians now live in energy poverty. Ontarians watched in dismay as their electricity bills more than doubled during the life of the GEA. Their electricity costs are now among the highest in North America.
To understand how the GEA went irreparably wrong, we must look at Ontario’s contracts with its green-energy suppliers. Today, Ontario’s contracts guarantee to electricity suppliers that they ‘will be paid for each kWh of electricity generated from the renewable energy project’, regardless of whether this electricity is consumed. As preposterous as this may seem, it’s actually an improvement on many of the original contracts the Ontario government locked itself into.
Earlier contracts guaranteed payments that benchmarked close to 100 per cent of the supplier’s capacity, rather than the electricity generated. So if a participating producer supplied only 33 per cent of its capacity in a given year, the state would still pay it as if it had produced 100 per cent.
This was especially alarming in context, as 97 per cent of the applicants to the GEA programme were using wind or solar energy. These are both intermittent forms of energy. In an hour, day or month with little wind or sun, wind and solar farms can’t supply the grid with electricity, and other sources are needed for back-up. As a result, wind and solar electricity providers can only supplement the grid but cannot replace consistently reliable power plants like gas or nuclear.
Many governments, including other Canadian provinces, have used subsidies of all hues to incentivise renewables. But Ontario put this strategy on steroids. For example, the Council for Clean and Reliable Energy found that ‘in 2015, Ontario’s wind farms operated at less than one-third capacity more than half (58 per cent) the time’. Regardless, Ontarians paid multiple contracts as if wind farms had operated at full capacity all year round. To add insult to injury, Ontario’s GEA contracts guaranteed exorbitant prices for renewable energy – often at up to 40 times the cost of conventional power for 20 years.
By 2015, Ontario’s auditor general, Bonnie Lysyk, concluded that citizens had paid ‘a total of $37 billion’ above the market rate for energy. They were even ‘expected to pay another $133 billion from 2015 to 2032’, again, ‘on top of market valuations’. (One steelmaker has taken the Ontarian government to court for these exorbitant energy costs.)
Today, this problem persists. Furthermore, electricity demand from ratepayers declined between 2011 and 2015, and has continued to fall. Ontarians were forced to pay higher prices for new electricity capacity, even as their consumption was going down.
Ontario’s auditor general in 2015 stated that: ‘The implied cost of using non-hydro renewables to reduce carbon emissions in the electricity sector was quite high: approximately $257 million [£150million] for each megatonne of emissions reduced.’ Per tonne of carbon reduced, the Ontario scheme has cost 48 per cent more than Sweden’s carbon tax – the most expensive carbon tax in the world.
Clearly, bad policy has led to exorbitant waste. This wasn’t the result of corruption or conspiracy – it was sheer incompetence. It’s a meandering story of confusion and gross policy blunders that will fuel energy poverty in Ontario for at least another decade.
As democracies across the West respond to the coronavirus crisis with hastily prepared financial packages for a ‘green recovery’, they should consider the cautionary tale of Ontario.
The GEA’s stubborn defenders refuse to recognise that poor policy, even with the best intentions, discredits future efforts at cutting emissions. ‘Green New Deals’ for the post-pandemic recovery in the US and Europe should learn from the GEA. Clean energy at any cost will be rightfully short-lived and repealed, and its supporters will be unceremoniously booted out of power.
Elevated ‘cycle thresholds’ may be detecting virus long after it is past the point of infection.
A growing body of research suggests that a significant number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in the U.S. — perhaps as many as 9 out of every 10 — may not be infectious at all, with much of the country’s testing equipment possibly picking up mere fragments of the disease rather than full-blown infections.
Yet a burgeoning line of scientific inquiry suggests that many confirmed infections of COVID-19 may actually be just residual traces of the virus itself, a contention that — if true — may suggest both that current high levels of positive viruses are clinically insignificant and that the mitigation measures used to suppress them may be excessive.
Background from previous post: New Better and Faster Covid Test
Kevin Pham reports on a breakthrough in coronavirus testing. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.
Another new test for COVID-19 was recently authorized — and this one could be a game-changer.
The Abbot Diagnostics BinaxNOW antigen test is a new point-of-care test that reportedly costs only $5 to administer, delivers results in as little as 15 minutes, and requires no laboratory equipment to perform. That means it can be used in clinics far from commercial labs or without relying on a nearby hospital lab.
That last factor is key. There are other quick COVID-19 tests on the market, but they have all required lab equipment that can be expensive to maintain and operate, and costs can be prohibitive in places that need tests most.
This kind of test is reminiscent of rapid flu tests that are ubiquitous in clinics. They’ll give providers tremendous flexibility in testing for the disease in not just clinics, but with trained and licensed medical professionals, in schools, workplaces, camps, or any other number of places.
So what’s new about this test? Most of the current tests detect viral RNA, the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2. This is a very accurate way of detecting the virus, but it requires lab equipment to break apart the virus and amplify the amount of genetic material to high enough levels for detection.
The BinaxNOW test detects antigens — proteins unique to the virus that are usually detectable whenever there is an active infection.
Abbott says it intends to produce 50 million tests per month starting in October. That’s far more than the number tested in July, when we were breaking new testing records on a daily basis with approximately 23 million tests recorded.
There’s a more important reason to be encouraged by this test coming available. The viral load is not amplified by the test, so a positive is actually a person needing isolation and treatment. As explained in a previous post below, the PCR tests used up to now clutter up the record by showing as positive people with viral loads too low to be sick or to infect others.
Background from Previous Post The Truth About CV Tests
The peoples’ instincts are right, though they have been kept in the dark about this “pandemic” that isn’t. Responsible citizens are starting to act out their outrage from being victimized by a medical-industrial complex (to update Eisenhower’s warning decades ago). The truth is, governments are not justified to take away inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There are several layers of disinformation involved in scaring the public. This post digs into the CV tests, and why the results don’t mean what the media and officials claim.
For months now, I have been updating the progress in Canada of the CV outbreak. A previous post later on goes into the details of extracting data on tests, persons testing positive (termed “cases” without regard for illness symptoms) and deaths after testing positive. Currently, the contagion looks like this.
The graph shows that deaths are less than 5 a day, compared to a daily death rate of 906 in Canada from all causes. Also significant is the positivity ratio: the % of persons testing positive out of all persons tested each day. That % has been fairly steady for months now: 1% positive means 99% of people are not infected. And this is despite more than doubling the rate of testing.
But what does testing positive actually mean? Herein lies more truth that has been hidden from the public for the sake of an agenda to control free movement and activity. Background context comes from Could Rapid Coronavirus Testing Help Life Return To Normal?, an interview at On Point with Dr. Michael Mina. Excerpts in italics with my bolds. H/T Kip Hansen
A sign displays a new rapid coronavirus test on the new Abbott ID Now machine at a ProHEALTH center in Brooklyn on August 27, 2020 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Dr. Michael Mina:
COVID tests can actually be put onto a piece of paper, very much like a pregnancy test. In fact, it’s almost exactly like a pregnancy test. But instead of looking for the hormones that tell if somebody is pregnant, it looks for the virus proteins that are part of SA’s code to virus. And it would be very simple: You’d either swab the front of your nose or you’d take some saliva from under your tongue, for example, and put it onto one of these paper strips, essentially. And if you see a line, it means you’re positive. And if you see no line, it means you are negative, at least for having a high viral load that could be transmissible to other people.
An antigen is one of the proteins in the virus. And so unlike the PCR test, which is what most people who have received a test today have generally received a PCR test. And looking those types of tests look for the genome of the virus to RNA and you could think of RNA the same way that humans have DNA. This virus has RNA. But instead of looking for RNA like the PCR test, these antigen tests look for pieces of the protein. It would be like if I wanted a test to tell me, you know, that somebody was an individual, it would actually look for features like their eyes or their nose. And in this case, it is looking for different parts of the virus. In general, the spike protein or the nuclear capsid, these are two parts of the virus.
The reason that these antigen tests are going to be a little bit less sensitive to detect the virus molecules is because there’s no step that we call an amplification step. One of the things that makes the PCR test that looks for the virus RNA so powerful is that it can take just one molecule, which the sensor on the machine might not be able to detect readily, but then it amplifies that molecule millions and millions of times so that the sensor can see it. These antigen tests, because they’re so simple and so easy to use and just happen on a piece of paper, they don’t have that amplification step right now. And so they require a larger amount of virus in order to be able to detect it. And that’s why I like to think of these types of tests having their primary advantage to detect people with enough virus that they might be transmitting or transmissible to other people.”
Similar PCR tests for other viruses nearly always offer some measure of the amount of virus. But yes/no isn’t good enough, Mina added. “It’s the amount of virus that should dictate the infected patient’s next steps. “It’s really irresponsible, I think, to [ignore this]” Dr. Mina said, of how contagious an infected patient may be.
“We’ve been using one type of data for everything,” Mina said. “for [diagnosing patients], for public health, and for policy decision-making.”
The PCR test amplifies genetic matter from the virus in cycles; the fewer cycles required, the greater the amount of virus, or viral load, in the sample. The greater the viral load, the more likely the patient is to be contagious.
This number of amplification cycles needed to find the virus, called the cycle threshold, is never included in the results sent to doctors and coronavirus patients, although if it was, it could give them an idea of how infectious the patients are.
One solution would be to adjust the cycle threshold used now to decide that a patient is infected. Most tests set the limit at 40, a few at 37. This means that you are positive for the coronavirus if the test process required up to 40 cycles, or 37, to detect the virus.
Any test with a cycle threshold above 35 is too sensitive, Juliet Morrison, a virologist at the University of California, Riverside told the New York Times. “I’m shocked that people would think that 40 could represent a positive,” she said.
A more reasonable cutoff would be 30 to 35, she added. Dr. Mina said he would set the figure at 30, or even less.
Another solution, researchers agree, is to use even more widespread use of Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) which are much less sensitive and more likely to identify only patients with high levels of virus who are a transmission risk.
Comment: In other words, when they analyzed the tests that also reported cycle threshold (CT), they found that 85 to 90 percent were above 30. According to Dr. Mina a CT of 37 is 100 times too sensitive (7 cycles too much, 2^7 = 128) and a CT of 40 is 1,000 times too sensitive (10 cycles too much, 2^10 = 1024). Based on their sample of tests that also reported CT, as few as 10 percent of people with positive PCR tests actually have an active COVID-19 infection. Which is a lot less than reported.
Here is a graph showing how this applies to Canada.
It is evident that increased testing has resulted in more positives, while the positivity rate is unchanged. Doubling the tests has doubled the positives, up from 300 a day to nearly 600 a day presently. Note these are PCR results. And the discussion above suggests that the number of persons with an active infectious viral load is likely 10% of those reported positive: IOW up from 30 a day to 60 a day. And in the graph below, the total of actual cases in Canada is likely on the order of 13,000 total from the last 7 months, an average of 62 cases a day.
WuFlu Exposes a Fundamental Flaw in US Health System
Dr. Mina goes on to explain what went wrong in US response to WuFlu:
In the U.S, we have a major focus on clinical medicine, and we have undervalued and underfunded the whole concept of public health for a very long time. We saw an example of this for, for example, when we tried to get the state laboratories across the country to be able to perform the PCR tests back in March, February and March, we very quickly realized that our public health infrastructure in this country just wasn’t up to the task. We had very few labs that were really able to do enough testing to just meet the clinical demands. And so such a reduced focus on public health for so long has led to an ecosystem where our regulatory agencies, this being primarily the FDA, has a mandate to approve clinical medical diagnostic tests. But there’s actually no regulatory pathway that is available or exists — and in many ways, we don’t even have a language for it — for a test whose primary purpose is one of public health and not personal medical health
That’s really caused a problem. And a lot of times, it’s interesting if you think about the United States, every single test that we get, with the exception maybe of a pregnancy test, has to go through a physician. And so that’s a symptom of a country that has focused, and a society really, that has focused so heavily on the medical industrial complex. And I’m part of that as a physician. But I also am part of the public health complex as an epidemiologist. And I see that sometimes these are at odds with each other, medicine and public health. And this is an example where because all of our regulatory infrastructure is so focused on medical devices… If you’re a public health person, you can actually have a huge amount of leeway in how your tests are working and still be able to get epidemics under control. And so there’s a real tension here between the regulations that would be required for these types of tests versus a medical diagnostic test.
Footnote: I don’t think the Chinese leaders were focusing on the systemic weakness Dr. MIna mentions. But you do have to bow to the inscrutable cleverness of the Chinese Communists releasing WuFlu as a means to set internal turmoil within democratic capitalist societies. On one side are profit-seeking Big Pharma, aided and abetted by Big Media using fear to attract audiences for advertising revenues. The panicked public demands protection which clueless government provides by shutting down the service and manufacturing industries, as well as throwing money around and taking on enormous debt. The world just became China’s oyster.
Background from Previous Post: Covid Burnout in Canada August 28
The map shows that in Canada 9108 deaths have been attributed to Covid19, meaning people who died having tested positive for SARS CV2 virus. This number accumulated over a period of 210 days starting January 31. The daily death rate reached a peak of 177 on May 6, 2020, and is down to 6 as of yesterday. More details on this below, but first the summary picture. (Note: 2019 is the latest demographic report)
Risk per Person
Over the epidemic months, the average Covid daily death rate amounted to 5% of the All Causes death rate. During this time a Canadian had an average risk of 1 in 5000 of dying with SARS CV2 versus a 1 in 114 chance of dying regardless of that infection. As shown later below the risk varied greatly with age, much lower for younger, healthier people.
Background Updated from Previous Post
In reporting on Covid19 pandemic, governments have provided information intended to frighten the public into compliance with orders constraining freedom of movement and activity. For example, the above map of the Canadian experience is all cumulative, and the curve will continue upward as long as cases can be found and deaths attributed. As shown below, we can work around this myopia by calculating the daily differentials, and then averaging newly reported cases and deaths by seven days to smooth out lumps in the data processing by institutions.
A second major deficiency is lack of reporting of recoveries, including people infected and not requiring hospitalization or, in many cases, without professional diagnosis or treatment. The only recoveries presently to be found are limited statistics on patients released from hospital. The only way to get at the scale of recoveries is to subtract deaths from cases, considering survivors to be in recovery or cured. Comparing such numbers involves the delay between infection, symptoms and death. Herein lies another issue of terminology: a positive test for the SARS CV2 virus is reported as a case of the disease COVID19. In fact, an unknown number of people have been infected without symptoms, and many with very mild discomfort.
August 7 in the UK it was reported (here) that around 10% of coronavirus deaths recorded in England – almost 4,200 – could be wiped from official records due to an error in counting. Last month, Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered a review into the way the daily death count was calculated in England citing a possible ‘statistical flaw’. Academics found that Public Health England’s statistics included everyone who had died after testing positive – even if the death occurred naturally or in a freak accident, and after the person had recovered from the virus. Numbers will now be reconfigured, counting deaths if a person died within 28 days of testing positive much like Scotland and Northern Ireland…
Professor Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University, who first noticed the error, told the Sun:
‘It is a sensible decision. There is no point attributing deaths to Covid-19 28 days after infection…
For this discussion let’s assume that anyone reported as dying from COVD19 tested positive for the virus at some point prior. From the reasoning above let us assume that 28 days after testing positive for the virus, survivors can be considered recoveries.
Recoveries are calculated as cases minus deaths with a lag of 28 days. Daily cases and deaths are averages of the seven days ending on the stated date. Recoveries are # of cases from 28 days earlier minus # of daily deaths on the stated date. Since both testing and reports of Covid deaths were sketchy in the beginning, this graph begins with daily deaths as of April 24, 2020 compared to cases reported on March 27, 2020.
The line shows the Positivity metric for Canada starting at nearly 8% for new cases April 24, 2020. That is, for the 7 day period ending April 24, there were a daily average of 21,772 tests and 1715 new cases reported. Since then the rate of new cases has dropped down, now holding steady at ~1% since mid-June. Yesterday, the daily average number of tests was 45,897 with 427 new cases. So despite more than doubling the testing, the positivity rate is not climbing. Another view of the data is shown below.
The scale of testing has increased and now averages over 45,000 a day, while positive tests (cases) are hovering at 1% positivity. The shape of the recovery curve resembles the case curve lagged by 28 days, since death rates are a small portion of cases. The recovery rate has grown from 83% to 99% steady over the last 2 weeks, so that recoveries exceed new positives. This approximation surely understates the number of those infected with SAR CV2 who are healthy afterwards, since antibody studies show infection rates multiples higher than confirmed positive tests (8 times higher in Canada). In absolute terms, cases are now down to 427 a day and deaths 6 a day, while estimates of recoveries are 437 a day.
The key numbers:
99% of those tested are not infected with SARS CV2.
99% of those who are infected recover without dying.
Summary of Canada Covid Epidemic
It took a lot of work, but I was able to produce something akin to the Dutch advice to their citizens.
The media and governmental reports focus on total accumulated numbers which are big enough to scare people to do as they are told. In the absence of contextual comparisons, citizens have difficulty answering the main (perhaps only) question on their minds: What are my chances of catching Covid19 and dying from it?
A previous post reported that the Netherlands parliament was provided with the type of guidance everyone wants to see.
The table presents only those cases with a full clinical documentation, which included some 2194 deaths compared to the 5842 total reported. The numbers show that under 60 years old, few adults and almost no children have anything to fear.
Update May 20, 2020
It is really quite difficult to find cases and deaths broken down by age groups. For Canadian national statistics, I resorted to a report from Ontario to get the age distributions, since that province provides 69% of the cases outside of Quebec and 87% of the deaths. Applying those proportions across Canada results in this table. For Canada as a whole nation:
Risk of Test +
Risk of Death
Population per 1 CV death
In the worst case, if you are a Canadian aged more than 80 years, you have a 1 in 400 chance of dying from Covid19. If you are 60 to 80 years old, your odds are 1 in 5000. Younger than that, it’s only slightly higher than winning (or in this case, losing the lottery).
As noted above Quebec provides the bulk of cases and deaths in Canada, and also reports age distribution more precisely, The numbers in the table below show risks for Quebecers.
Risk of Test +
Risk of Death
Population per 1 CV death
While some of the risk factors are higher in the viral hotspot of Quebec, it is still the case that under 80 years of age, your chances of dying from Covid 19 are better than 1 in 1000, and much better the younger you are.