Critical Thinking Vs. Trusting “The Science”

Brandon Smith writes at his blog Why Don’t People “Trust The Science?” Because Scientists Are Often Caught Lying.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

There has been an unfortunate shift in Western educational practices in the past few decades away from what we used to call “critical thinking.” In fact, critical thinking was once a fundamental staple of US colleges and now it seems as though the concept doesn’t exist anymore; at least not in the way it used to. Instead, another brand of learning has arisen which promotes “right thinking”; a form of indoctrination which encourages and rewards a particular response from students that falls in line with ideology and not necessarily in line with reality.

It’s not that schools directly enforce a collectivist or corporatist ideology (sometimes they do), it’s more that they filter out alternative viewpoints as well as facts and evidence they do not like until all that is left is a single path and a single conclusion to any given problem.

They teach students how to NOT think by presenting thought experiments and then controlling the acceptable outcomes.

For example, a common and manipulative thought experiment used in schools is to ask students to write an “analysis” on why people do not trust science or scientists these days. The trick is that the question is always presented with a built-in conclusion – That scientists should be trusted, and some people are refusing to listen, so let’s figure out why these people are so stupid.

I have seen this experiment numerous times, always presented in the same way. Not once have I ever seen a college professor or public school teacher ask students: “Should scientists today be trusted?”   Not once.

This is NOT analysis, this is controlled hypothesis. If you already have a conclusion in mind before you enter into a thought experiment, then you will naturally try to adjust the outcome of the experiment to fit your preconceived notions. Schools today present this foolishness as a form of thinking game when it is actually propaganda.

Students are being taught to think inside the box, not outside the box.
This is not science, it is anti-science.

Educational programming like this is now a mainstay while actual science has taken a backseat. Millions of kids are exiting public schools and universities with no understanding of actual scientific method or science in general. Ask them what the equations for Density or Acceleration are, and they’ll have no clue what you are talking about. Ask them about issues surrounding vaccination or “climate change”, and they will regurgitate a litany of pre-programmed responses as to why the science cannot be questioned in any way.

In the alternative media we often refer to this as being “trapped in the Matrix,” and it’s hard to think of a better analogy. People have been rewarded for so long for accepting the mainstream narrative and blindly dismissing any other information that when they are presented with reality they either laugh at it arrogantly or recoil in horror. The Matrix is so much more comfortable and safe, and look at all the good grades you get when you say the right things and avoid the hard questions and agree with the teacher.

Given the sad state of science in the West these days surrounding the response to covid as well as the insane and unscientific push for forced vaccinations, I thought it would be interesting to try out this thought exercise, but from an angle that is never allowed in today’s schools:

Why don’t people trust the science and scientists anymore?

This is simple: Because many scientists have been caught lying and misrepresenting their data to fit the conclusions they want rather than the facts at hand. Science is often politicized to serve an agenda. This is not conspiracy theory, this is provable fact.

That’s not to say that all science is to be mistrusted. The point is, no science should be blindly accepted without independent examination of ALL the available facts. This is the whole point of science, after all. Yes, there are idiotic conspiracy theories out there when it comes to scientific analysis, but there are a number of scams in the world of science as well.

Most people have the capacity to sift through scientific data as long as it’s transparent. When the facts are obscured or spun or omitted this causes confusion, and of course only the establishment scientists can untangle the mess because they are the ones that created it.

There are clear and openly admitted ideological agendas surrounding covid science which have nothing to do with public health safety and everything to do with political control.

When you have the head of the World Economic Forum applauding the covid pandemic as a perfect “opportunity” to push forward global socialist centralization and erase the last vestiges of free markets and individual liberty, any rational person would have to question if the covid science is also being rigged to support special interests.

Luckily, the covid issue is so massive that it is impossible for them to control every study. Instead, the establishment ignores the studies and data they don’t like.

Science is quickly becoming a political religion rather than a bastion of critical thought. Conflicting data is ignored as “non-science” or even censored as “dangerous.” Government and corporate paid studies are treated as sacrosanct. Is it any wonder that so many people now distrust the science?

Any reasonable person would have questions and suspicions. Those who do not have been indoctrinated into a cult they don’t even know they are a part of.

Footnote:

Connor Harris connects this subservient attitude to the prevailing progressive post-modern mindset;
See Why the Leftist Backlash Against Ivermectin

Liberals have no monopoly on gullibility or lazy journalism, but the biased coverage of ivermectin springs from one of the worst pathologies of liberal discourse in particular: conflation of respect for science with fealty to established scientific institutions. A “pro-science” disposition has long been integral to American liberals’ self-conception (a ubiquitous yard sign reads, in part, “In this house, we believe science is real”); it grew especially strong during the George W. Bush years as a reaction to the administration’s stance on global warming and alliance with the religious Right.

But most Americans are scientists neither by training nor by temperament, and “pro-science” politics usually calcifies into blind trust in a few politically congenial authorities—such as universities and government health agencies, which have enjoyed high levels of liberal confidence throughout the pandemic despite such actions as reversing longstanding advice on face masks based on a dubious judgment call.

Conflating science with the scientific establishment not only corrodes the capacity for skepticism but also helps questionable or corrupt actions by authorities escape scrutiny. The hullabaloo over ivermectin poisoning, for example, far exceeds the attention given to another questionable treatment pushed not by right-wing hucksters but by the FDA itself: remdesivir, an antiviral produced by the pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences that is still the only Covid-19 treatment with full FDA approval.

 

 

Facebook Censors BMJ Under Guise of “Fact-checking”

BMJ (British Medical Journal) publishes more than 70 medical and allied journals.  They report unwarranted censorship by Facebook in an article Facebook urged to act over incompetent “fact check” of BMJ investigation.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

Editors ask Mark Zuckerberg to correct errors relating to The BMJ’s Pfizer vaccine trial investigation

Editors at The BMJ are urging Facebook to correct a “fact check” of a recent investigation that they say is “inaccurate, incompetent and irresponsible.”

In an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Fiona Godlee, outgoing editor in chief, and Kamran Abbasi, incoming editor in chief, say this matter “should be of concern to anyone who values and relies on sources such as The BMJ for reliable medical information.”

They also urge parent company Meta to reconsider its investment in and approach to fact checking overall following other examples of incompetence.

On 2 November, The BMJ published an investigation into poor clinical trial research practices at Ventavia, a contract research company helping carry out the main Pfizer covid-19 vaccine trial.

It was based on dozens of internal company documents, photos, audio recordings, and emails provided to The BMJ by a former employee of Ventavia, and it raised serious concerns about data integrity and patient safety.

The article went through The BMJ’s usual high level legal and editorial oversight and peer review.

But beginning on November 10, readers began reporting a variety of problems when trying to share the article and were directed to a “fact check” performed by a Facebook contractor named Lead Stories.

Godlee and Abbasi say they find the “fact check” performed by Lead Stories to be “inaccurate, incompetent and irresponsible.”

For example, it fails to provide any assertions of fact that The BMJ article got wrong, it contains a screenshot of the article with a stamp over it stating “Flaws Reviewed,” despite the Lead Stories article not identifying anything false or untrue in The BMJ article, and it published the story on its website under a URL that contains the phrase “hoax-alert.”

Cochrane, the international provider of high quality systematic reviews of the medical evidence, has experienced similar treatment by Instagram (also owned by Meta).

The BMJ complained to Lead Stories, “but they refused to change anything about their article or actions that have led to Facebook flagging our article.”

The BMJ has also complained to Facebook, requesting that Facebook immediately remove the “fact checking” label and any link to the Lead Stories article, “thereby allowing our readers to freely share the article on your platform.”

The editors say they hope Facebook will “act swiftly” to correct the error relating to The BMJ’s article and to review the processes that led to the error. They added a general call for parent company Meta to reconsider its investment in and approach to fact checking overall.

“Rather than investing a proportion of Meta’s substantial profits to help ensure the accuracy of medical information shared through social media, you have apparently delegated responsibility to people incompetent in carrying out this crucial task.”

 

CV19 Lockdowns: High Pain/Gain Ratio

Douglas W. Allen published a study Covid-19 Lockdown Cost/Benefits: A Critical Assessment of the Literature in the International Journal of the Economics of Business. September 29, 2021. H/T Raymond  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and some added images

Abstract

An examination of over 100 Covid-19 studies reveals that many relied on false assumptions that over-estimated the benefits and under-estimated the costs of lockdown. The most recent research has shown that lockdowns have had, at best, a marginal effect on the number of Covid-19 deaths. Generally speaking, the ineffectiveness stemmed from individual changes in behavior: either non-compliance or behavior that mimicked lockdowns. The limited effectiveness of lockdowns explains why, after more than one year, the unconditional cumulative Covid-19 deaths per million is not negatively correlated with the stringency of lockdown across countries. Using a method proposed by Professor Bryan Caplan along with estimates of lockdown benefits based on the econometric evidence, I calculate a number of cost/benefit ratios of lockdowns in terms of life-years saved. Using a mid-point estimate for costs and benefits, the reasonable estimate for Canada is a cost/benefit ratio of 141. It is possible that lockdown will go down as one of the greatest peacetime policy failures in modern history.

Overview

The term ‘lockdown’ is used to generically refer to state actions that imposed various forms of non-pharmaceutical interventions. That is, it is used to include mandatory state-enforced closing of non-essential business, education, recreation, and spiritual facilities; mask and social distancing orders; stay-in-place orders; and restrictions on private social gatherings.

‘Lockdown’ does not refer to cases of ‘isolation,’ where a country was able to engage in an early and sufficient border closure that prevented trans-border transmission, followed by a mandated lockdown that eliminated the virus in the domestic population, which was then followed by perpetual isolation until the population is fully vaccinated. This strategy was adopted by a number of island countries like New Zealand.1 Here I will only consider lockdown as it took place in most of the world; that is, within a country where the virus became established.

The report begins with an examination of four critical assumptions often made within the context of estimating benefits and costs. Understanding these assumptions explains why early studies claimed that the benefits of lockdown were so high, and also explains why the predictions of those studies turned out to be false. Then I examine the major cost/benefit studies in roughly chronological order, and focus on the critical factor in these studies: distinguishing between mandated and voluntary changes in behavior. Preliminary work on the costs of lockdown is reviewed, and finally a simple cost/benefit methodology is used to generate several cost/benefit ratios of lockdown for my home country of Canada.

In no scenario does lockdown pass a cost/benefit test; indeed, the most reasonable estimates suggest that lockdown is a great policy disaster.

Discussion

Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been no public evidence that governments around the world have considered both the benefit and cost sides of their policy decisions. To my knowledge, no government has provided any formal cost/benefit analysis of their actions. Indeed, the steady press conferences and news releases almost entirely focus on one single feature of the disease. Although the focus of government announcements has changed over the year, from ‘flattening the curve’, number of Covid-19 deaths, number of Covid19 cases, hospital capacity, and variant transmissions (especially the delta variant), there has seldom been any official mention of the costs of the actions taken to address these concerns.

The counterfactual number of cases/deaths

If lockdown reduces the transmission of the virus, the natural question to ask is ‘by how much?’ In other words, ‘but for the lockdown’ what would the level of infection/transmission/deaths be? What is the counterfactual to lockdowns?

Early in the pandemic the Neil Ferguson et al. (2020) model appeared to drive many lockdown decisions and was widely covered in the media. Figure 1 reproduces a key figure of that paper (Table 2, p. 8), and shows the results of various types of lockdown on occupied ICU beds. The symmetry, smoothness, and orderly appearance of the functions is a result of the mechanical nature of the model. This type of figure is found, in one form or another, in most papers based on a SIR model.

Figure 1 ICU projections from ICL model.

In Figure 1 the black ‘do nothing’ line is the counterfactual, while the other lines are various types of lockdowns. The harsher the lockdown, the ‘flatter’ the case load, with the blue line being the strongest lockdown. The difference between the black line and another line is the benefit of that particular lockdown in terms of cases delayed. Clearly the exponential growth of the ‘do nothing’ counterfactual leads to enormous differences, and makes lockdown look better.

Given the prediction that lockdowns would lower deaths by one-half, the authors made a dramatic recommendation: ‘We therefore conclude that epidemic suppression is the only viable strategy at the current time. The social and economic effects of the measures which are needed to achieve this policy goal will be profound.’ (Ferguson et al. 2020, p. 16). In retrospect it is remarkable that such a conclusion was drawn. The authors recognized that the ‘social and economic effects’ would be ‘profound,’ and that the predictions were based on the ‘unlikely’ behavioral assumption that there would be no change to individual reactions to the virus. However, given the large counterfactual numbers, presumably they felt no lockdown cost could justify remaining open.

Problems with the ICL model were pointed out immediately:

i) the reproduction number (Rt) of 2.4 was too high;
ii) the assumed infection fatality rate (IFR) of 0.9% was too high and not age dependent;
iii) hospital capacity was assumed fixed and unchangeable; and
iv) individuals in the model were assumed to not change behavior in the face of a new virus.

All of these assumptions have the effect of over-estimating the counterfactual number of cases, transmissions, and deaths.

The exogenous behavior assumption

A major reason for the failure of SIR models to predict actual cases and deaths is because they assume no individual in the model ever changes behavior.9 The implication of ignoring individual responses to a viral threat are dramatic. Atkeson (2021) used a standard SIR model (with exogenous behavior) that included seasonal effects and the introduction of a more contagious variant in December 2020 to forecast daily U.S. deaths out to July 2023. The results of this standard model were typical: the model made apocalyptic predictions on deaths that were off by a factor of twelve by the summer of 2020. However, he then used the same model with a simple behavioral adjustment that allowed individuals to change behavior in light of the value of Rt. The new forecast of daily deaths based on this single addition completely changed the model’s predictive power. The model now tracked the actual progression of the daily deaths very closely.

The fact that individuals privately and voluntarily respond to risks has two important implications. First, it influences how any counterfactual outcome is understood with respect to the lockdown. When no voluntary response is assumed, models predict exponential caseloads and deaths without lockdowns. If lockdowns are imposed and cases coincidently fall, the actual number of cases is then compared to a counterfactual that never would have happened.11 Therefore, not accounting for rational, voluntary individual responses within a SIR model drastically over-states any benefit from lockdown.12

Second, any empirical work that considers only the total change in outcomes and does not attempt to separate the mandated effect from the voluntary effect, will necessarily attribute all of the change in outcome to the mandated lockdown. Once again, this will over-estimate the effect, and quite likely by an order of magnitude.

The assumed value of life

Economic value is based on the idea of maximum sacrifice. Thus, when it comes to the value of an individual’s life, this value is determined by the actual individual. In practice, what is measured is the marginal value to extend one’s life a little bit by reducing some type of harm, and then use this to determine a total value of life.

One problem with using the VSL for estimating the benefits of saving lives through lockdown is that it measures the total value of life based on a marginal value. Thus, using a VSL (which is based on observing ordinary people not at the point of death) as a measure of the value of a life of someone about to die, is likely to provide an over-estimate of the value of the life.

In many Covid-19 cost/benefit studies, however, there is another more serious problem with how the VSL is used. Namely, it is often assumed that

i) the VSL is independent of age, and
ii) that the VSL is equal to around $10,000,000.

Both of these claims are not true.

Figure 2. Age related estimates of VSL

To assume that the VSL is constant implies that individuals are indifferent between living one more day or eighty more years. Figure 2 shows more reasonable estimates, with the value of a child being seven times the value of an 85 year old. The VSL of $2,000,000 for an 85 year old is based on the assumption that life expectancy is still ten years. For someone who is 85, in poor health with multiple serious illnesses, the VSL would be much lower.

An issue with lockdown costs

It is common in cost/benefit studies to only use lost GDP as the measure for the cost of lockdown. That is, the reduced value of goods and services caused by lockdown is the only cost of the lockdown considered. For example, US GDP over 2020 fell by 3.5%. If 100% of the fall in GDP (approximately $770 billion) is attributed to the lockdown (that is, the virus directly had no effect on production), then compared to the presumed ‘22 trillion’ dollar savings in lives, lockdown seems like an excellent policy.

This type of comparison, however, is entirely inappropriate.

The VSL is based on the utility of life, and therefore, the costs of lockdown must also be based on the lost utility of lockdown. It has been understood from the very beginning of the pandemic that lockdown caused a broad range of costs through lost civil liberty, lost social contact, lost educational opportunities, lost medical preventions and procedures, increased domestic violence, increased anxiety and mental suffering, and increased deaths due to despair and inability to receive medical attention. If the value of lockdown is measured in utility, then the costs of lockdown must be measured in the same fashion. Excluding the value of lost non-market goods (goods not measured by GDP) grossly under-estimates the cost of lockdown.

Other Costs

Lost educational opportunities. Lost, delayed, or poor education leads to reduced human capital that has life long negative consequences.

Additional effects of school closures. Closing schools creates isolation for children, which is known to increase the risk of mental health conditions.

Increased deaths expected from unemployment. Life expectancy depends on wealth levels. McIntyre and Lee (2020) predict between 418–2114 excess suicides in Canada based on increased unemployment over the pandemic year. 

Increased deaths from overdoses and other deaths of despair. Lockdowns disrupt illegal drug channels, often resulting in a more contaminated drug supply. Lockdowns also increase human isolation, leading to increased depression and suicides.

Increased domestic violence. Chalfin et al. (2021) found that much of the increased domestic violence is related to increased alcohol which increased during lockdown.

Lost non-Covid-19 medical service. In the spring lockdown hospitals cancelled scheduled appointments for screenings and treatments (e.g. London et al. 2020; Garcia et al. 2020), this created fear among individuals who required emergency treatments. Woolf et al. (2020) estimate that in the U.S. about 1/3 of the excess deaths over 2020 are not Covid-19 deaths. 

The opportunity costs of lockdown are widespread across societies, and everyone has faced some type of lockdown consequence. These costs are often non-market and in the future, making them difficult for third parties to measure. They are also unevenly distributed onto the young and the poor who have been unable to mitigate the consequences of lockdown.

These characteristics contribute to the lack of attention given to them, and stand in sharp contrast to Covid-19 case loads and deaths that are measured, highly concentrated, and widely reported.

In light of the nature and measurement problems associated with the costs of lockdown, as of July 2021 no true, standard, cost benefit study has been conducted. All efforts have rested on assumptions and guesses of things not yet known. It will still take time for a systematic, ground-up, attempt to determine the total lost quality of life brought about by lockdown. Even though such studies do not exist, there is still weight to the economic logic that, with negligible benefits and obvious high costs, lockdown is an inefficient policy.

Four stylized facts about covid-19

Atkeson et al.’s (2020) paper ‘Four Stylized Facts About Covid-19’ was a watershed result that appeared six months into the pandemic. Using data from 23 countries and all U.S. states that had experienced at least 1000 cumulative deaths up to July 2020, it discovered important features of the progression of the virus across countries that cast serious doubt that any forms of lockdown had a significant large impact on transmission and death rates.

In particular, they found that across all of the jurisdictions there was an initial high variance in the daily death and transmission rates, but that this ended very rapidly. After 20–30 days of the 25th death the growth rate in deaths fell to close to zero, and the transmission rate hovered around one. Not only did Atkeson et al. find a dramatic drop and stability of the death and transmission rates, but the spread in these rates across jurisdictions was very narrow. That is, across all jurisdictions, after 20–30 days the virus reached a steady state where each infected person transmitted the virus to one other person, and the number of daily deaths from the virus became constant over time.

Atkeson et al. speculated on three reasons for their findings. First, unlike the assumptions made in the SIR models, individuals do not ignore risks, and when a virus enters a population people take mitigating or risky actions based on their own assessments of that risk. Second, again in contrast to the classic SIR model where individuals uniformly interact with each other, actual human networks are limited and this can limit the spread of the virus after a short period. Finally, like other pandemics, there may be natural forces associated with Covid-19 that explain the rapid move to a steady state death and transmission rate.

Voluntary versus mandated lockdown channels

There are, by my count, over twenty studies that distinguish between voluntary and mandated lockdown effects. Although they vary in terms of data, locations, methods, and authors, all of them find that mandated lockdowns have only marginal effects and that voluntary changes in behavior explain large parts of the changes in cases, transmissions, and deaths.

A reasonable conclusion to draw from the sum of lockdown findings on mortality is that a small reduction (benefit) cannot be ruled out for early and light levels of lockdown restrictions. There is almost no consistent evidence that strong levels of lockdown have a beneficial effect, and given the large levels of statistical noise in most studies, a zero (or even negative) effect cannot be ruled out. Maybe lockdowns have a marginal effect, but maybe they do not; a reasonable range of the decline in Covid-19 mortality is 0–20%.

An alternative cost/benefit methodology

Professor Caplan (2020) has suggested a thought experiment that provides a solution for the cost measurement issue. Rather than attempt to measure a long list of costs and add them up, Caplan proposes a method that exploits our willingness to pay to avoid the harms of lockdown. If lockdown imposed net costs of $1000 on a person, then that person would be willing to pay up to $1000 to avoid lockdown. Caplan, however, poses the matter in terms of time rather than dollars.

Professor Caplan’s thought experiment addresses the total costs of all covid prevention as perceived by each person living under it, and therefore is an appropriate utility based cost measure to hold up against the value of lives saved through lockdown: X is the number of months a person is willing to pay to avoid lockdowns, other things equal.

For any random individual, X could take on a wide range of values. For some this past year has been horrific, and perhaps they would have preferred it never happened. Perhaps they suffered violence or abuse that was fueled by frustration and alcohol while locked down during a long stay-at-home order. Or perhaps they lost a business, a major career opportunity, or struggled over a long period of unemployment and induced depression. For these people, X equals 12 — they would have paid 12 months of their life to have avoided this past year. Others might have been willing to pay even more.

For the vast majority of populations, Covid-19 was not a serious health risk. Lockdowns provided no benefits and only costs. Thus, for the vast majority, X likely takes on a value in the order of a few months.

As of March 2021 the pandemic had lasted one year, and by assumption the average Canadian had lost two months of normal life due to lockdown. The population of Canada is 37.7 million people, which means that 6,283,333 years of life were lost due to Canada’s lockdown policy. This number of years can be converted into ‘lives’ using average life expectancy.

The average age of reported Covid-19 deaths in Canada over the first year of the pandemic was 80. In Canada an average 80 year old has a life expectancy of 9.79 years. This means that the 6,283,333 million years of lost life is equivalent to the deaths of 643,513 80 year olds. As of March 22, 2021 Canada had a total of 22,716 deaths due to Covid-19 (or 222,389 lost years of life).

Conclusion

After more than a year of gathering aggregate data, a puzzle has emerged. Lockdowns were brought on with claims that they were effective and the only means of dealing with the pandemic. However, across many different jurisdictions this relationship does not hold when looking at the raw data.

A casual examination of lockdown intensity and the number of cumulative deaths attributed to Covid-19 across jurisdictions shows no obvious relationship. Indeed, often the least intensive locations had equal or better performance. For example, using the OurWorldInData stringency index (SI) as a measure of lockdown, Pakistan (SI: 50), Finland (SI: 52), and Bulgaria (SI: 50) had similar degrees of lockdown, but the cumulative deaths per million were 61, 141, and 1023. Peru (SI: 83) and the U.K. (SI: 78) had some of the most stringent lockdowns, but also experienced some of the largest cumulative deaths per million: 1475 and 1868.

These unconditional observation puzzles are resolved by the research done over the past year. The preconceived success of lockdowns was driven by theoretical models that were based on assumptions that were unrealistic and often false.

The lack of any clear and large lockdown effect is because there isn’t one to be found.

 

No US Legal Precedent for CV19 Vaccine Mandates

Harvey Risch and Gerard Bradley write at Brownstone Institute Covid-19 Vaccine Mandates Fail the Jacobson Test.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

We are facing, in other words, questions about how best to integrate our perennial commitment to freedom with our equally long-standing concern for public health, in this time of crisis.

Americans are a freedom-loving lot. It is our founding ethos and we have defended it across the world on numerous occasions. At the same time, we have a strong tradition of social altruism and dedication to the common good, especially in times of crisis.

Now that the Covid-19 pandemic has been with us for close to two years and vaccines for almost one, we have learned that the vaccines work to a degree and that they have both known serious risks and theorized potential risks.

Over the last few months, Americans have been increasingly facing demands that they be vaccinated or revaccinated—from governments, schools, employers, shopkeepers, even relatives.

During the pandemic, the courts have rightly relied upon a century-old precedent of the Supreme Court in mandate cases, but they have gravely misunderstood and misapplied that precedent to uphold draconian and unjustified Covid-19 vaccine mandates.

At times of national emergency, government’s overriding goal must be to protect the population while removing the cause of the state of emergency. This means that certain laws, regulations, and policies may be temporarily suspended to accomplish these tasks. For example, if the army needs your car to transport soldiers to the front line, so be it. In particular, during the 1902 smallpox epidemic, the U.S. Supreme Court in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905) ruled that the State of Massachusetts could compel residents to obtain free vaccination or revaccination against the infection, or suffer a penalty of $5 (about $150 today) for noncompliance.

In authoring the majority opinion in Jacobson, Justice John Marshall Harlan argued:

(1) that individual liberty does not allow people to act regardless of harm that could be caused to others;
(2) that the vaccination mandate was not shown to be arbitrary or oppressive;
(3) that vaccination was reasonably required for public safety; and
(4) that the defendant’s view that the smallpox vaccine was not safe or effective constituted a tiny minority medical opinion.

The Supreme Court in Jacobson repeatedly invoked the “common good” of the polity as the principle of sound constitutional thinking about the public health emergency of the day. Just so—then and now. The Court did not, however, equate the “common good” with a reflexive preference for some collective interest over each person’s rights, or with automatic deference to the latest asserted findings of “the science.”

In this context, for the government to assert that its constitutional obligations (as described in Jacobson, for example) are satisfied only “because a government agency says so” would be self-serving and wholly inadequate. Such reasoning would not satisfy the burden of proof; rather, the government would need to demonstrate the relevant, full, non-cherry-picked scientific evidence to make the case.

Now let’s consider the four criteria upon which Jacobson relied in deciding that the smallpox vaccine mandate in 1905 passed constitutional muster, and use them to evaluate today’s Covid-19 vaccine mandates.

(1) Individual liberty does not allow people to act regardless of harm that could be caused to others.

What seems apparent is that this criterion is addressing the compelling interest in limiting people from acting to spread the infection. In Constitutional law a “compelling interest” is a necessary or crucial action rather than a preferential one; for example, saving the lives of large numbers of people at risk.

In fact, the federal government has already set a de facto threshold for this level. Annually, approximately 500,000 Americans die from tobacco-related diseases. Yet, the federal government has never acted to curtail tobacco use in any meaningful way. This implies that 500,000 deaths per year is not large enough to trigger a compelling government interest.

Thus, it seems that any truly “compelling” interest can only apply to high-risk individuals, who are definable and comprise a small minority of the general population. Furthermore, the lives of such individuals can often be protected by known existing and available pharmacologic and monoclonal antibody interventions (see criterion (3) below), which means that there may be a less-than-compelling interest for universal vaccination even among them.

Additionally, we know now, and both Drs. Anthony Fauci and Rochelle Walensky have stated publicly, that fully vaccinated individuals can become infected and transmit the virus to others. A number of such outbreaks have occurred in diverse locales. Thus, there is no apparent compelling interest in mandating vaccination for low-risk individuals specifically in an attempt to reduce infection transmission to high-risk people—just as there is no compelling interest in mandating vaccination to reduce infection transmission to low-risk people.

Just to be clear, government compelling interest inheres in prevention of serious outcomes such as hospitalization and mortality. But we assert that that there is no such compelling interest in Covid-19 case occurrence. The overwhelming majority of cases recover.

Prevention of Covid-19 cases is at most a desirable policy goal and not a compelling interest.

As has become increasingly apparent, natural immunity following Covid-19 infection is stronger in repelling subsequent viral outbreaks than vaccine-based immunity. (Thus, prevention of Covid-19 case occurrence per se is actually counterproductive in ending the pandemic.)

(2) The vaccination mandate is not shown to be arbitrary or oppressive.

Covid-19 vaccine mandates imposed by the federal government and some state governments require vaccination by all adults except those requesting medical exemptions or religious exemptions. Criteria promulgated by the CDC for medical exemptions however are extremely limited, essentially involving only severe life-threatening allergic reactions as demonstrated from taking the first vaccination of the two-dose mRNA series. Religious exemption requests appear to have met variously capricious responses by vaccine mandate reviewers, and some states have prohibited religious exemptions altogether, in violation of (as Justices Gorsuch, Thomas, and Alito argued and as we would maintain) constitutional guarantees of religious liberty.

The one quite irrational consideration of all vaccination mandates to date is that the mandates ignore people who have had Covid-19 and thus have natural immunity. There are now more than 130 studies demonstrating the strength, durability and wide spectrum of natural immunity particularly versus vaccine immunity.

Some arguments have been put forward asserting that antibody levels may be higher in vaccinated people than people recovered from Covid-19, but antibody levels per se do not translate into degree of immunity. Antibody levels in vaccinated people decline appreciably starting at four months post-vaccination, whereas antibody levels in Covid-19 recovered stay roughly constant during those months. Other assertions have been that asymptomatic or mild Covid-19 infections may not produce strong natural immunity; however, these claims have been shown to be scientifically unfounded. Empirical population studies on reinfection/breakthrough infection demonstrate that natural immunity is as strong or stronger than vaccine immunity.

Finally, natural immunity can be documented by having ever had a positive Covid-19 PCR, antibody or T cell test, regardless of current status of those tests.

Similarly, Covid-19 vaccine mandates for children are unwarranted because children almost entirely get infected from their parents or other adults in the household, and infrequently transmit the infection to their classmates, teachers or uninfected household adults.

Normal healthy children do not die from Covid-19, and the 33 children aged 5-11 years estimated by the CDC to have died from Covid-19 between October 3, 2020 and October 2, 2021 all had chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity, being immunocompromised (e.g., after cancer treatment) that put them at high risk, and even these numbers are much lower than childhood deaths from traffic and pedestrian accidents, or even being hit by lightning. Covid-19 in children is almost entirely an asymptomatic or mild disease typified by fever and tiredness and resolves on its own in 2-3 days of rest. Thus, vaccine mandates for children are unwarranted.

In sum, a policy requiring vaccination of people who are either already immune or of no consequence either for their own health or for spreading the infection is arbitrary. It is oppressive in inflicting a medical procedure on people who do not need it for themselves or for others. Such a policy would even fail the “rational basis” test which so many courts have applied perfunctorily.

(3) Vaccination is reasonably required for public safety.

Vaccination in theory prevents personal infection and disease, as well as transmission of infection to others. The government’s interest is almost entirely in the latter. We now know that the Covid-19 vaccines in the real world don’t prevent transmission all that well.

Further, public safety is enhanced by use of medications for early outpatient treatment that safely allow increase in population natural immunity. An extensive body of studies has accumulated over the last 18 months showing that various approved but off-label medications dramatically reduce risks of Covid-19 hospitalization and mortality when started in ambulatory patients within the first five days or so of symptom onset.

Meta-analyses of hospitalization and mortality risks calculated by the first author are shown in the figures on the next page for two drugs, hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. Additional thorough discussion of standards of evidence of randomized and nonrandomized drug trials, as well as on a number of small trials that failed in the adequacy of their study designs and executions, is posted here. These analyses show that numerous drugs and monoclonal antibodies are available to treat ambulatory patients with Covid-19 successfully, making vaccination a choice for dealing with the pandemic, but not a necessity.

(4) The vaccine has a long popular, medical, and legal history of being regarded as safe and effective.

This criterion decisively distinguishes Jacobson and the smallpox vaccine mandate from what is happening today. Jacobson did not accept dissenting testimony about vaccine safety or efficacy because the vaccine at that time had been a staple in society for almost 100 years.

The genetic Covid-19 vaccines have no such information, have every indication that they are orders of magnitude more harmful, and even the FDA still classifies all three in use in the US as experimental, which means that their EUA designations have only required showing that they may convey some benefit and need not be harm-free, i.e., have not been established as safe and effective, let alone known as such for decades or longer.

According to the VAERS database, to date some 19,000 deaths have been associated with the Covid-19 vaccines, of which more than one-third occurred within three days of vaccination. In this one year of Covid-19 vaccination, this number is more than double the number of deaths from all other vaccines over more than 30 years combined in the VAERS data. It is also more than 150 times the mortality risk of smallpox vaccination, 0.8 per million vaccines (Aragón et al., 2003).

The VAERS database also identifies more than 200,000 serious or life-threatening non-death events to date, and this number is almost certainly at least 10-fold undercounted because of the work, difficulty, impediments and lack of general knowledge involved in filing adverse event reports in the VAERS system. Many of these adverse events portend lifelong serious disabilities. But two million serious or life-threatening events is well more than the damage that would have been caused by even untreated Covid-19 occurrence in the same 200 million vaccinated Americans, especially given that two-thirds of them have strong natural immunity from having had asymptomatic or symptomatic Covid-19.

These numbers indicate that these severe events caused by the vaccines very likely outnumber serious Covid-19 outcomes that would have occurred in the same individuals had they not been vaccinated. As well, those numbers would be dramatically lower with general availability of the suppressed but effective treatment medications for early ambulatory patient use.

With regard to efficacy, the three US Covid-19 vaccines showed great promise in their original randomized trials results. However, as these vaccines have been rolled out in hundreds of millions of doses to the general public in the “real world,” their performance has differed from what was originally described.

Thus, if vaccination were to be the only method of combating the pandemic, it appears that vaccinations repeated indefinitely at 6-month intervals would be required, and even that may not be all that successful in reducing spread substantially. There are no vaccination programs for other general diseases in the US that require such a high frequency of compliance. Even influenza, which has a substantial annual mortality, has an annual revaccination frequency, is only perhaps 50% effective over the flu season, is not mandated.

A careful reading of Jacobson shows that it is not just an automatic consideration allowing the government to do what it wants when a pandemic emergency has been officially declared. In a pandemic, courts look to Jacobson for precedent as an apparent direct fit, but even so must evaluate the evidence for satisfying all of the Jacobson criteria.

As we have shown, Covid-19 vaccine mandates do not satisfy any of the required criteria in Jacobson, let alone all of them.

The question to be addressed then is why a pandemic infection with approximately 1/20th the natural mortality risk of the previous smallpox pandemic would be subject to the grievous penalties of loss of employment, loss of medical care, loss of necessary activities of daily life, and mandate of vaccines that unlike in the previous pandemic have no long-term safety data. Given that none of the Jacobson criteria have been met, the infringements and demands of the government and its public health agencies have not been justified according to law. This is the argument that must be made as to why the proposed vaccine mandate is an unwarranted overreach inconsistent with established public health policy and law.

 

 

Covid The New State Religion

Tim O’Brien explains the rites and rituals in his American Thinker article COVID: A New State Religion?  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

What started as a virus quickly became epidemic and then a global pandemic. The spread of a contagion laid the groundwork for what has become an industry, and it’s now morphing into a religious ideology with all of the familiar trappings.

That’s a total of $55.5 billion in vaccine sales for 2021 just from the three biggest providers of vaccine in the U.S. And this does not include a wide range of products, services, and industries that have cropped up to service the nation’s and the world’s COVID needs.

From makers of masks, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and ventilators, to major pharmacy companies paid millions to distribute vaccines, COVID has become a major industry.

Politicians and bureaucrats at the local, state, and federal level have seized on the COVID crisis to achieve unprecedented levels of power through vaccine mandates, lockdowns, restrictions, and of course, overnight changes to election procedures.

Then, there is the public health sector. These are its glory days. . .COVID is a new field of study, complete with federal grant moneys to analyze every aspect of COVID, so long as the research does not detract from the approved narrative.

COVID is an industry. It’s here and it’s not budging. But it’s more than that. It’s also an ideology with all of the accoutrements of an established religion.

The Baptism of Vaccination

The COVID vaccines are widely understood to be ineffective at preventing the spread of the virus. So, why the relentless emphasis on turning society on its head over flawed vaccines?

Like Christian baptism, the vaccine is the baptism into this new faith. The waters of baptism don’t physically clean one’s soul of sin any more than the vaccine can completely prevent contraction of COVID. In the ideological context, it’s a symbolic rite of passage into the faith.

Once injected, you can count yourself among the faithful, unlike the “unvaccinated” who are the COVID ideology’s equivalent to atheists circa 1400 A.D. It’s okay to shun them, demonize them, discriminate against them, even deny them life-saving healthcare. In fact, you have an obligation to do so, so they learn their lessons and step in line. Otherwise, they will be made an example.

It doesn’t matter that they may have their own religious objections, they may have personal medical histories, or they may even have natural immunity from the virus which is much more effective at preventing spread. What matters is that they can be dubbed “anti-vax,” a term that coincidentally or not sounds uncomfortably similar to “anti-Christ.”

To the faithful, if you’re unvaccinated for any reason, you’re selfish, you don’t care about others. You’re putting yourself before the majority, before the faith.

The Rites of COVID Ideology

Just as Catholicism has its rites in the form of seven sacraments, the COVID ideology does, too. One is the booster shot. If you were vaccinated a year ago, but have not yet gotten your booster shot, you are at risk of being labeled “unvaccinated” once again. Do you want to risk that?

Of course, once boosted, you have the privilege of knowing you are ‘born again.’

This new ideology even has the rite of confession. Were you asked by your employer, or the front office at the football stadium or basketball arena to disclose your vaccination status? How much different is that from the Catholic rite of reconciliation?

The practice of faith often involves sacrifice. The COVID ideology is not without sacrifice. Since adverse effects of the “safe and effective” vaccine are “extremely rare,” the burden is on you to take the risk. If you are one of those who contract chronic heart problems, permanent neurological disorders, or some other life-altering condition, that’s the sacrifice you must be willing to take for the good of the ideology.

COVID’s High Priests

Of course, no faith would be complete without its high priests, the most visible one being Dr. Anthony Fauci. He is routinely asked by leaders and journalists to bless one activity, behavior, or medical treatment over another. A legion of people seeks his final approval or disapproval on behaviors that until now were considered un-sinful. Some may even regard the pontifical bureaucrat as infallible.

He’s not alone. There is an army of COVID clergy with titles like “public health director,” “governor,” “mayor,” “human resources director,” “Silicon Valley billionaire,” “editor,” “producer” and “reporter” all of whom are the keepers of The Word when it comes to COVID. Each has front-line authority to make decisions on enforcement of COVID ideology.

To counter The Word or the narrative of this new faith is to be guilty of the sin of “misinformation,” punishable by banning, censorship, and denial of “communion” in the word’s most literal sense. The only way to regain access to the congregation is to recant.

If you belong to an established faith that holds dear the original Ten Commandments as handed down to Moses from God, you may recall the first one, which says, “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me.”

Keep that in mind, because you may be asked to choose. The God of our fathers, or the god of COVID? Just know that the god of COVID is a jealous god.

 

Ivermectin is safe and effective, Merck’s New Pill is Dangerous

A previous post discussed how Merck debunked its own drug Ivermectin as a Covid fighter to clear the way for a new Merck patent pill costing 40 times the generic Ivermectin.  Now comes a revelation that the PR about the new drug Molnupiravir’s trial being cut short, was not because it was so successful, but because it didn’t work on moderate Covid cases, and is capable of dangerous long-term side effects (which won’t appear for months or years, long after the trial period). See Why Merck Dissed Its Own Invention Ivermectin

Leo Goldstein provides the analytics in his essay Merck Ignores Molnupiravir’s Cytotoxicity,  His report was also referenced at Trial Site News Is Molnupiravir a Global Catastrophic Threat? Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Overview from Trial Site News:

Merck’s Molnupiravir (also known as EIDD-2801 and MK-4482) is a mutagenic nucleotide analogue [1]. It introduces errors in the SARS-COV-2 RNA at the time of replication after proofreading, and causes lethal mutagenesis [2]. This threatens to accelerate the evolution of the coronavirus.

Any major variant of the coronavirus represents local optimum (in mutations space), maximizing coronavirus’ fitness. One- or two-point mutations cannot accomplish this. A new variant can only rise through the change of the virus-host-conditions systems, or through larger mutations set. Even a moderate increase in the point mutations frequency causes a big increase in the frequency of multi-point mutations and dangerous recombinations. Such events are too rare to be caught in small trials, but inevitable in large populations, and might lead to catastrophic consequences.

The authorization and broad use of Molnupiravir is likely to breed very dangerous SARS-COV-2 variants.

Leo Goldstein:

Merck has just applied to the FDA for an emergency use authorization of Molnupiravir for early treatment of COVID-19. Molnupiravir is a mutagenic nucleotide analogue. It increases the rate of mutations in the coronavirus’ RNA and in human DNA.

The application is based on alleged interim results of an unfinished trial, where this drug was given to 385 patients in 173 sites all over the world, and the patients were then observed for 29 days since recruitment and randomization.

Molnupiravir is mutagenic and toxic for human cells. Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics have flatly denied this and proceeded with human trials. The consequences of Molnupiravir’s DNA mutagenesis, such as cancer or birth defects, take months or years to develop. The 24 days of patient observation after 5 days treatment is obviously not enough to detect anything.

The broad use of Molnupiravir is a global catastrophic risk because the increased rate of coronavirus mutations is likely to create more dangerous variants.

All Molnupiravir trials were conducted by Merck or its partners. No results have been published in peer reviewed journals. Nevertheless, Dr. Fauci gave it a nod of approval. The US government has already purchased 1.7 million “treatment courses” from Merck, and it is on the course to manufacture and ship 10 million of them by the end of 2021. The relevant parties act as if the EUA approval is just a formality and are proceeding as if it were already granted.

Cytotoxicity

Molnupiravir is a mutagenic [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] nucleotide analogue, and its potential cytotoxicity and genotoxicity are not in doubt [7]. Its use for some categories of patients could be justified if benefits were exceeding harm and risk. Instead, Merck elected to deny existence of these risks. Molnupiravir’s metabolites cause mutations in human DNA [4], just like they do in viral RNA. This is not in question. If the rate of mutations at therapeutic doses were sufficiently low, Merck should have shown that. Merck’s researchers dismissed this danger by alleging that they had conducted tests showing an absence of cytotoxicity [8], without showing any data. Their response was rebutted [7 [9] and laughed at by other scientists [9]
.
The therapeutic dosage — 800 mg, twice daily, for 5 days — is at the upper limit of the investigated range 50 – 800 mg [10], suggesting it is higher than what was initially expected.  Molnupiravir was initially developed to treat Equine Encephalitis virus diseases, and its most valuable property was its ability to cross brain-body barrier and achieve high concentration in the brain and very high concentrations in spleen [11] . Its concentration in the spleen is higher than in lungs [3]
.
[3]showed that meaningful inhibition of SARS-COV-2 without cytotoxicity is impossible in Vero cells (Fig.1B) . The data for human epithelial cells is inconsistent but does suggest cytotoxicity (Supplementary Materials, the data for Fig. S1).

More Mercky Business

[9] Merck researchers admitted to the necessity of in-vivo mutagenicity studies for this drug before proceeding to human trials. They therefore claimed that such studies (Pig-a and the Big Blue® (cII Locus)) have been conducted and that no danger of mutagenicity was found even at higher doses [12]. This is highly unlikely. Moreover, other scientists argued that these studies had significant limitations and do not allow Merck to make such claims [9]. To make matters worse, Merck failed to publish any data from these studies, making it impossible to peer review or replicate them.

This raises suspicions not only about the toxicity of Molnupiravir, but also about Merck’s conduct before and during clinical trials.

No data about concentrations and effects of Molnupiravir’s metabolites in the most vulnerable tissues, such as bone marrow, can be found.

Dubious Results from Animal Trials

Animal trials also failed to provide evidence of Molnupiravir’s effectiveness, at the manufacturer’s recommended dose – 800 mg (equivalent of 10 mg/kg or 370 mg/m2) twice daily. The mass of the drug per body area of the human or animal is the preferred quick approximation for comparison between human and animal doses [13].

The “Phase 3” Trial

In this trial, Merck gave patients in the treatment group 800 mg x 2/day x 5 days. After observing 775 participants (including 385 in the treatment group) for 24 (= 29-5) days after that, Merck published a press release [17] claiming that the trial was successful.

It is not true. A formally registered clinical trial should be conducted according to the plan until the end to provide statistically valid results. It was registered to enroll, randomize, and observe 1550 participants, and Merck had to spend another month to do that. Its October 1 press-release stated that the recruitment was more than 90% complete at the time it was stopped, between September 5 and September 30.

After 20 months of the pandemic, making decisions one month before completion of the single Phase 3 trial looks fishy.

If we combine this trial with a few dozen patients who received the same dose of Molnupiravir in other trials, there are less than 500 patients in total, who were treated with this drug and observed for 29 days. Should a drug be authorized for tens of millions of people, based on a trial involving less than 500 patients?

This trial was conducted in 173 sites all over the world. Such a wide range of sites cannot be properly controlled. This trial looks like a reality show, in which the organizers control the outcome. Gilead used a similar methodology to push Remdesivir, with deadly results. Merck’s Molnupiravir gambit is even more dangerous, because it can be administered to millions, with catastrophic global risks [18]
.
Finally, no study plan or protocol of the trial has been published and of course, no results. The only morsels of information to be found on this trial comes from Merck’s press release and ClinicalTrials.gov [16], which does not contain even the protocol ID.

Two Indian companies also started clinical trials for Molnupiravir but decided to stop, apparently because of futility [19], but another Indian company Hetero applied for an EUA in India.  See Aurobindo Pharma, MSN Seek CDSCO Panel Nod To Cease Molnupiravir Trial On Moderate COVID Patients

Conflicts of Interest and Hidden Motives

The conflict of interest is unusually high. Merck has been manufacturing Molnupiravir at risk [17] Payment is conditional on EUA:

“In anticipation of the results from MOVe-OUT, Merck has been producing molnupiravir at risk. Merck expects to produce 10 million courses of treatment by the end of 2021, with more doses expected to be produced in 2022.”

The US and other governments, who ordered Molnupiravir [20], carry an even bigger risk. They have created expectations that would go unfulfilled if Molnupiravir is properly rejected. Such an evident alignment of interests between government bureaucracies and Merck is very dangerous and requires extreme scrutiny.

Conclusion

With the current limited information about Molnupiravir, one might compare its effects, at the “therapeutic dosage”, to a medium dose of radiation. There might be acute sickness, temporary immune-suppression, and long-term consequences including cancer and birth defects. The specific dosage may have been selected to be just below the threshold of acute sickness. We will not know until the results are published.

Footnote: In a separate article, another researcher drew this analogy.  Suppose that your body has four doors by which SARS-CV2 can enter.  Molnupiravir can close one door, while Ivermectin closes them all. There is no reason for this new Merck pill except for obscene profits to be gained.

For Ivermectin Background, see Ivermectin Invictus: The Unsung Covid Victor

 

 

Vaccine Cult Strikes Again: No Pills Allowed

Matt Taibbi reports at substack The Cult of the Vaccine NeuroticExcerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

Yesterday, I ran a story that had nothing to do with vaccines, about the seeming delay of the development of a drug called molnupiravir (see the above segment with the gracious hosts of The Hill: Rising for more). In the time it took to report and write that piece, conventional wisdom turned against the drug, which is now suspected of ivermectinism and other deviationist, anti-vax tendencies, in the latest iteration of our most recent collective national mania — the Cult of the Vaccine.

The speed of the change was incredible. Just a week ago, on October 1st, the pharmaceutical giant Merck issued a terse announcement that quickly became big news. Molnupiravir, an experimental antiviral drug, “reduced the risk of hospitalization or death” of Covid-19 patients by as much as 50%, according to a study.

[For Background see Why Merck Dissed Its Own Invention Ivermectin]

The stories that rushed out in the ensuing minutes and hours were almost uniformly positive. AP called the news a “potentially major advance in efforts to fight the pandemic,” while National Geographic quoted a Yale specialist saying, “Having a pill that would be easy for people to take at home would be terrific.” 

This is what news looks like before propagandists get their hands on it. Time writer Alice Park’s lede was sensible and clear. If molnupiravir works — a big if, incidentally — it’s good news for everyone, since not everyone is immunized, and the vaccines aren’t 100% effective anyway. As even Vox put it initially, molnupiravir could “help compensate for persistent gaps in Covid-19 vaccination coverage.”

Within a day, though, the tone of coverage turned. Writers began stressing a Yeah, but approach, as in, “Any new treatment is of course good, but get your fucking shot.” A CNN lede read, “A pill that could potentially treat Covid-19 is a ‘game-changer,’ but experts are emphasizing that it’s not an alternative to vaccinations.” The New York Times went with, “Health officials said the drug could provide an effective way to treat Covid-19, but stressed that vaccines remained the best tool.”

If you’re thinking it was only a matter of time before the mere fact of molnupiravir’s existence would be pitched in headlines as actual bad news, you’re not wrong: Marketwatch came out with “‘It’s not a magic pill’: What Merck’s antiviral pill could mean for vaccine hesitancy” the same day Merck issued its release. The piece came out before we knew much of anything concrete about the drug’s effectiveness, let alone whether it was “magic.”

Bloomberg’s morose “No, the Merck pill won’t end the pandemic” was released on October 2nd, i.e. one whole day after the first encouraging news of a possible auxiliary treatment whose most ardent supporters never claimed would end the pandemic. This article said the pill might be cause to celebrate, but warned its emergence “shouldn’t be cause for complacency when it comes to the most effective tool to end this pandemic: vaccines.” Bloomberg randomly went on to remind readers that the unrelated drug ivermectin is a “horse de-worming agent,” before adding that if molnupiravir ends up “being viewed as a solution for those who refuse to vaccinate,” the “Covid virus will continue to persist.”

In other words, it took less than 24 hours for the drug — barely tested, let alone released yet — to be accused of prolonging the pandemic.

By the third day, mentions of molnupiravir in news reports nearly all came affixed to stern reminders of its place beneath vaccines in the medical hierarchy, as in the New York Times explaining that Dr. Anthony Fauci, who initially told reporters the new drug was “impressive,” now “warned that Americans should not wait to be vaccinated because they believe they can take the pill.”

[Comment:  Pills are not second to vaccines in some medical hierarchy; they are equally essential and paramount for those who get sick, vaccinated or not.]

Since the start of the Trump years, we’ve been introduced to a new kind of news story, which assumes adults can’t handle multiple ideas at once, and has reporters frantically wrapping facts deemed dangerous, unorthodox, or even just insufficiently obvious in layers of disclaimers. The fear of uncontrolled audience brain-drift is now so great that even offhand references must come swaddled in these journalistic Surgeon General’s warnings, which is why whenever we read anything now, we almost always end up fighting through nests of phrases like “the debunked conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was created in a lab” in order to get to whatever the author’s main point might be.

As a student in the Soviet Union I noticed subscribers to what Russians called the sovok mindset talked in interminable strings of pogovorki, i.e goofball proverbs or aphorisms you’d heard a million times before (“He who takes no risk, drinks no champagne,” or “Work isn’t a wolf, it won’t run off into the woods,” etc). This was a learned defense mechanism, adopted by a people who’d found out the hard way that anyone caught not speaking nonstop nonsense could be suspected of harboring original thoughts. Voluble stupidity is a great disguise in a society where silence is suspect.

We’re similarly becoming a nation of totalitarian nitwits, speaking in a borrowed lexicon of mandatory phrases and smelling heresy in anyone who doesn’t.

This cult reflex was bad during the Russiagate years, but it’s gone into overdrive since the arrival of COVID. The CNN writer who thinks it’s necessary to put a disclaimer in the lede of a story about molnupiravir, of all things, is basically claiming he or she is afraid a theoretical unvaccinated person might otherwise read the story and be encouraged to not take the vaccine.

Except, if that theoretical unvaccinated person could be convinced by anything CNN said or did, they’d have already gotten the shot, because the network runs ten million stories a day directly imploring people to get vaccinated or die. News flash: the instinct to armor-plate even unrelated news subjects with layer after layer of insistent vaccine dogma is not for the non-immunized, who mostly don’t watch outlets like CNN or read the New York Times.

Outlets apply that neurotic messaging for their own target audiences, who’ve been trained to live in terror of un-contextualized content, which everyone knows leads to Trump, fascism, and death.

I’d be the last person to claim there aren’t dumb people out there in America, but at least the audiences of channels like Fox and OAN know that content has been designed for them. The people gobbling down these pieces by Bloomberg and the Times that have the journalistic equivalent of child-proof caps on every paragraph that even parenthetically mentions COVID really believe that content has been dumbed down for some other person. They think it’s someone else who can’t handle news that vaccines work and that there also might be a pill that treats the disease, without freaking out or coming to politically unsafe conclusions. So they put up with being talked to like children — demand it, even. Which is nuts. Right? It is nuts, isn’t it?

 

Covid Absurdies Madebyjimbob

This post was triggered by an article by Mike Solana at American Thinker Aborting reason. Some excerpts in italics with my bolds before jimbob takes over.

This month, as fate would have it, a controversial Texas abortion ban, shouted down from coast to coast with cries of “my body, my choice,” coursed a horrified media landscape just days before Biden introduced the concept of a national vaccine mandate. This is a very polite way of saying “forced medical procedures for almost everyone.” Across the ideological spectrum roles and rhetoric were promptly reversed.

Demands that a person’s right to their own body be honored were ridiculed and rebuffed by many of the same people who had in some cases just hours prior made impassioned arguments on behalf of a person’s right to their own body. It was an almost perfect cognitive dissonance, and it should have been enough, once illustrated, to jar even the most ardent partisan hack from their bullshit.Long story short, approximately zero partisan hacks were jarred from their bullshit. My body, my choice? Depends on who’s asking, and for what reason. But setting aside the committed idiocy of our loudest talking heads, the question at the heart of Biden’s mandatory vaccination is as old as the concepts of society and liberty: when personal freedom and social good enter conflict, what the hell do we do?

A subversion of liberty so significant as forcing someone to undergo a medical procedure they don’t want can potentially—if regrettably, and rarely—be justified. . . In addition, Americans are reluctant to trust what our institutional leaders have to say about the vaccine because Americans no longer trust our institutions. We especially don’t trust our political leaders or media. After the last few years, why would we?

Provided the vaccine hesitant aren’t literally crazy (they mostly aren’t), and the rest of us are pretty much safe (we are), there is no ethical justification for forcing anyone to undergo a medical procedure they don’t want. And until there is?

My body, my choice.

Forced vaccination at the scale of our entire country is presently an unjustifiable grab for power, and the thing about power? Sure, once a man gets a taste of it there’s never enough, and we should all expect more authoritarianism from this administration.

 

 

 

Wokeness Worms Eating Science Academies

J. Scott Turner writes at American Mind The Brainworms Come For Big Science.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

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The parasite leucochloridium paradoxum, shown here infecting a snail, is a flatworm that takes over the brains of gastropods and forces them into self-destructive behaviors. As this essay demonstrates, woke social teaching has been known to do the same with academic departments.

Woke grievance is eating expert inquiry from the inside out.

A large gathering of scientists and engineers was brought together by the National Science Foundation (NSF). We were there to compete for a very large sum of money.

At stake was funding for a “research center,” something akin to national laboratories like Brookhaven Labs or Livermore Labs. Research centers are built around a strategic theme, like nuclear physics, and are intended to provide a venue for scientists nationwide to come together to explore that theme. Research centers are high-stakes competitions, involving tens of millions of dollars doled out over a term of ten years or so. The prizes are big, and the prestige immense. They are intended to go to the best of the best.

If a team is awarded a planning grant, the next step is a “planning meeting,” where the NSF gathers the successful teams together to provide detailed guidance on what might make for a successful proposal. I was on one of those teams, and that is how I came to be in that hotel ballroom.

At the opening session, we were told that proposals would be judged on four “foundational components,” or “pillars,” as they were styled in the PowerPoints. A successful proposal would be strong on all four: weakness in one would cast the proposal into the abyss, we were told, no matter how strong the other pillars might be. At the planning meeting, each pillar was to have a dedicated panel discussion, just to make clear to us what the NSF’s expectations were. Three of the four pillars were conventionally scientific and academic: innovation, training, etc. The remaining pillar was “Diversity and Culture of Inclusion” (DCI).

That was where things took a bizarre turn.

The DCI panel consisted of bureaucrats from the NSF’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI). Naturally, there were many questions from the floor about what the criteria for a strong DCI pillar would be. We are talking about engineers, remember, whose culture is: “give us ‘the specs’ and we will solve any problem.” The assembled engineers were looking for “the specs” they needed to build that DCI pillar.

I remember the scene. Each team was seated at its own round table on the ballroom floor. The DCI panel was seated on a raised platform, looking down on us, as from thrones on high. 

One engineer at a neighboring table kept trying to pin the DCI panel down on those DCI specs. They kept deflecting the question. We’ll know it when we see it, was the blithe answer, issued with the monotonous imperiousness of the entitled ruler indulging inconvenient questioning from the proles. Engineering is too white and too male, was one panelist’s message to us, and that needed to be corrected. Irony alert: the engineer pressing the point was not white, but an Indian immigrant.

It became clearer with every question that the specs not only would not be laid out: they would in any event change according to inscrutable whim of the ODI bureaucrats. Foolish engineers, one might imagine Jabba chortling, the “specs” are not to help you solve a problem: they are there to keep you off-balance, uncertain, and in my power. It is enough for you to know you depend upon my mercy for funding.

How the Parasite Takes Over

All are familiar with the Left’s “long march” through the institutions. What might not be so well known is just how thorough the conquest has been. Evidence of this sometimes pops up into prominent public view, as in the recent exposure of “critical race theory” training in federal agencies (including places like Sandia National Labs, where one would expect such hokum to be laughed out the door). Such incidents, though quite frequent, are only the tips of a very large iceberg.

In the academic sciences, where I have spent my career, “diversity, inclusion, and equity” (DIE) has become as pervasive as one might expect it to be in any grievance studies department.

How did this happen? More to the point, how could it happen to the supposedly sensible people that scientists are generally thought to be?

The concept of “zombie parasites” provides an apt metaphor for how things got to this point. These are parasites that colonize the brains and nervous systems of their hosts, taking the controls, so to speak, over the host’s behavior. One striking example of a zombie parasite is a worm that infects the brains of snails, which normally crawl around stealthily at night. A snail infected with the parasite crawls out onto a grass stalk during the day, where it is now visible to birds that gobble them up. The parasite then breeds in the bird’s digestive tract and deposits its eggs in the bird’s feces. When uninfected snails eat the feces, the parasite’s life cycle is completed.

DIE has spread into the academic sciences as a kind of zombie parasite. It is not a real worm at work, of course, but a metaphorical “brainworm”—three of them, in fact, that together spread a kind of altered cognitive reality through any institution that is infected by them.

The route of infection usually starts with a “study” that identifies a “problem” that no one knew existed: the overwhelming whiteness of, say, fishery science. Once an unwitting host takes the bait, the next phase of the infection kicks in: all are invited to contemplate with horror the dark future that awaits should fishery scientists not take immediate steps to correct the “problem.” In the final stage of the infection, the brainworm plants its “diversity is our strength” meme in the host’s nervous system. The infected now babble about solving the impending crisis through a crash outreach program to “under-represented” or “marginalized” groups, who, by virtue of their class membership, think differently about fisheries, and so can save the field from stultifying white maleness.

As in those parasitized snails, the DIE brainworm induces a cognitive disconnect in the infected. None of the assertions planted by the DIE zombie parasite have a sound basis in fact or reason. The accusation of too much whiteness usually is based upon a simple observation that the ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation mix in, say, fishery science, departs from the statistical distributions found in the general population. Why this should be, where it is considered at all, is usually buried under a panoply of repetitive charts and diagrams of dubious critical value.

What makes the DIE brainworm a zombie parasite is how it hijacks the host’s behavior to facilitate its spread, to the host’s ultimate detriment. Universities, where future scientists are trained, are a common target. Incubating a future scientist has traditionally involved a very close relationship between a professor and a student (“mentor” and “mentee,” in today’s clumsy parlance).

Fishery scientists, to trot them out again, become fishery scientists because, well, they love fish. They want to devote their lives to getting to know fish better. The same may be said of nearly every scientific endeavor in academia: at the vital core is a love that can verge into obsession. The genius of the academy is that it provides a place where that love can give value to the society that supports it. Disrupt that elemental drive, and you degrade the real social value of the sciences.

This almost primitive love provides a kind of immunity to the DIE brainworm, which makes it a particular target. To spread, the parasite must plant the idea that the familial network of relationships cloaks a hostile and dangerous climate, propped up by cronyism, privilege, racism, sexism, and hostility to the non-binary. The only way to make science “safe” for the marginalized, or excluded, or under-represented, is to disrupt the traditional mentoring family. Students and new faculty who are members of “under-represented” or “marginalized” groups are drawn from their intellectual families into self-referential bubbles of grievance: support groups, safe spaces, counseling services, etc., where the normal stresses of academic life can be transformed into evidence of the hostile climate without.

At some point, earnest administrators, who know nothing about science and understand even less how it works, are brought in to “listen” to the newly aggrieved. At that point, discontent is turned into actionable grievance: committees and study groups are appointed, action plans formulated. Excluded from all this, of course, are the keepers of the academic traditions which, inconveniently for them, have already been condemned in absentia as the problem.

Pressure is brought on these erstwhile traditionalists to conform, to “listen” to other voices, to “check your privilege,” to be “open” to different “perspectives.” If the brainworm has spread far enough to implant a DIE bureaucracy on campus, penalties for non-conformity will be quietly placed in a corner of the room, a visible reminder of the consequences of resistance to the brainworm. Once that happens, the path is open for the entire academic institution to become infected, triggering the next, and most dangerous, stage of the infection.

Follow the Money

Parasites do not simply invade a host: they require fertile ground and food. For the DIE brainworm, the mother’s milk is money. And it is the academic sciences, not the humanities, where the ground is lushest. Compare two sources of federal funds that are often tied to woke ideology on campuses: the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). These are NSF-style agencies that fund academic work in the arts and humanities, and in similar ways. Artists and scholars submit proposals, these are scrutinized by peers, and funds are doled out to the successful proposals.

How much money? The NEA presently enjoys an annual appropriation of about $150 million. For the NEH, it is about $160 million. In contrast, the federal money directed to academic science in 2017 stood at around $40 billion: 250 times more. Over the course of the 50 years of its existence, the NEH has funded a cumulative total of roughly $4.7 billion dollars in grants. The cumulative tally of federal support of academic research over the same time span has been nearly $900 billion: about 200 times more.

It is to the sciences, then, that the DIE brainworm has gone to feed, and there it has spread as if it were an epidemic. Evidence for this can be ferreted out from the NSF’s searchable databases of its grant awards, by searching for keywords such as “under-represented,” “minority,” or “marginalized” in the grant documents. Prior to 2010, no award carried these keywords. The first to do so was in 2010, when the NSF awarded a large research center grant to MIT, which contained within it a significant program of outreach to marginalized groups.

Since that year, NSF expenditures on research grants containing the “woke” keywords have risen exponentially, doubling at a rate of about 50% each year, just as a novel virus would when spreading through a new population. In 2018, the last year for which a complete picture can be discerned, the NSF funded nearly a thousand research grants devoted in whole or part to DIE aims, to the tune of more than $1.3 billion. From 2010 to 2018, a total of more than $4 billion have been awarded to more than 2,200 DIE-oriented grants.

Which is how we get to that scene in the Arlington hotel ballroom, where DIE now holds the trump card in deciding what science is worthy of funding. No matter how stellar the science, the message is clear: gobble up the DIE brainworm, or your funding will dry up, and your career along with it.

Footnote:  The DIE acronym reminded me of this poem by e.e. cummings
nobody loses all the time

i had an uncle named
Sol who was a born failure and
nearly everybody said he should have gone
into vaudeville perhaps because my Uncle Sol could
sing McCann He Was A Diver on Xmas Eve like Hell Itself which
may or may not account for the fact that my Uncle

Sol indulged in that possibly most inexcusable
of all to use a highfalootin phrase
luxuries that is or to
wit farming and be
it needlessly
added

my Uncle Sol’s farm
failed because the chickens
ate the vegetables so
my Uncle Sol had a
chicken farm till the
skunks ate the chickens when

my Uncle Sol
had a skunk farm but
the skunks caught cold and
died and so
my Uncle Sol imitated the
skunks in a subtle manner

or by drowning himself in the watertank
but somebody who’d given my Uncle Sol a Victor
Victrola and records while he lived presented to
him upon the auspicious occasion of his decease a
scruptious not to mention splendiferous funeral with
tall boys in black gloves and flowers and everything and
i remember we all cried like the Missouri
when my Uncle Sol’s coffin lurched because
somebody pressed a button
(and down went
my Uncle
Sol

and started a worm farm)