Friday, August 14, 2020

Anti-Lockdown Dr. Scott Atlas Joins Coronavirus Task Force: Is Fauci Finally Out?

President Trump announced Monday that Dr. Scott Atlas is joining the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Dr. Atlas is a former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center and a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. Before joining the team, Atlas penned an op-ed in The Hill that showed his approach to the coronavirus outbreak is much different than that of Anthony “Chicken Little” Fauci, who favors draconian lockdowns and now wants people to wear goggles to avoid getting a virus that most people recover from easily.

Here are some excerpts of the piece Atlas wrote, titled “The data is in -stop the panic and end the isolation.”

The tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be entering the containment phase. Tens of thousands of Americans have died, and Americans are now desperate for sensible policymakers who have the courage to ignore the panic and rely on facts. Leaders must examine accumulated data to see what has actually happened, rather than keep emphasizing hypothetical projections; combine that empirical evidence with fundamental principles of biology established for decades; and then thoughtfully restore the country to function.

Five key facts are being ignored by those calling for continuing the near-total lockdown.

Fact 1: The overwhelming majority of people do not have any significant risk of dying from COVID-19. The recent Stanford University antibody study now estimates that the fatality rate if infected is likely 0.1 to 0.2 percent, a risk far lower than previous World Health Organization estimates that were 20 to 30 times higher and that motivated isolation policies.

Fact 2: Protecting older, at-risk people eliminates hospital overcrowding…Dr. Leora Horwitz of NYU Medical Center concluded “age is far and away the strongest risk factor for hospitalization.” Even early WHO reports noted that 80 percent of all cases were mild, and more recent studies show a far more widespread rate of infection and lower rate of serious illness. Half of all people testing positive for infection have no symptoms at all. The vast majority of younger, otherwise healthy people do not need significant medical care if they catch this infection.

Fact 3: Vital population immunity is prevented by total isolation policies, prolonging the problem…In this virus, we know that medical care is not even necessary for the vast majority of people who are infected. It is so mild that half of infected people are asymptomatic, shown in early data from the Diamond Princess ship, and then in Iceland and Italy. That has been falsely portrayed as a problem requiring mass isolation. In fact, infected people without severe illness are the immediately available vehicle for establishing widespread immunity. By transmitting the virus to others in the low-risk group who then generate antibodies, they block the network of pathways toward the most vulnerable people, ultimately ending the threat. Extending whole-population isolation would directly prevent that widespread immunity from developing.

Fact 4: People are dying because other medical care is not getting done due to hypothetical projections…An estimated 80 percent of brain surgery cases were skipped. Acute stroke and heart attack patients missed their only chances for treatment, some dying and many now facing permanent disability.

Fact 5: We have a clearly defined population at risk who can be protected with targeted measures…it is a commonsense, achievable goal to target isolation policy to that group, including strictly monitoring those who interact with them. Nursing home residents, the highest risk, should be the most straightforward to systematically protect from infected people, given that they already live in confined places with highly restricted entry.

It’s a relief that someone with common sense may be taking a bigger role in combatting the panic response to COVID-19 that has taken over the nation. Many of us, who are not even doctors, have been saying that we need to target the elderly population for protection while the rest of us go back to reality. We were totally ignored. But Atlas is now in a position of authority to tell someone who will listen to what the right thing to do is. It isn’t more lockdowns and more isolation.

Strictly protect the known vulnerable, self-isolate the mildly sick and open most workplaces and small businesses with some prudent large-group precautions. This would allow the essential socializing to generate immunity among those with minimal risk of serious consequence, while saving lives, preventing overcrowding of hospitals and limiting the enormous harms compounded by continued total isolation. Let’s stop underemphasizing empirical evidence while instead doubling down on hypothetical models. Facts matter.

This would mean that schools should be open immediately at regular capacity since children are not in the high-risk category and never have been. Not only that, but they are the ones for whom the virus is the least severe and they can help us achieve herd immunity much easier and faster than older populations.

I hope this development means that we will not see Dr. Fauci or the scarf-obsessed Dr. Birx for the foreseeable future. But could we get that lucky in 2020? Somehow, I doubt it.



The Washington Post’s ‘Fact Checker,’ Not Pence, Deserves the 4 Lying ‘Pinocchios’

Glenn Kessler, the so-called “fact checker” at The Washington Post, this week called out Vice President Mike Pence’s answer to an interview question about election fraud. But it’s Kessler, not Pence, who deserves four “Pinocchios” for many of the misleading claims he makes about it in his column.

Pence said: “Make no mistake about it. The reality of voter fraud is undeniable. We’ve seen case after case around the country where there have been prosecutions.”

Kessler concentrates on a case in Indiana that the vice president—a former governor of that state—mentioned in passing, and the dispute is over the timing and exact details.

Fraudulent voter registrations were submitted by 12 individuals working for the Indiana Voter Registration Project, which, according to Kessler, was “associated with Patriot Majority USA.”

Pence characterized the case as “falsifying ballots.” Charges were eventually dismissed against one of the defendants; two pleaded guilty to perjury, but were given probation and no jail time; and nine agreed to pretrial diversion deals, in which they admitted their wrongdoing and, according to Kessler, “the cases were dismissed without prosecution.”

Kessler tries to characterize all of this as a minor incident because no one served any jail or prison time. All that demonstrates is that all too often, defendants who commit election fraud are treated too lightly by judges and prosecutors.

He also doesn’t seem to understand what a pretrial diversion program is when he says the prosecutions were “dismissed,” as though that means prosecutors really didn’t have a case against them. 

What Kessler gets wrong is this: There was a prosecution. He acknowledges that the defendants admitted their wrongdoing.

According to the IndyStar, they were given the privilege of participating in a pretrial diversion program in which they paid court costs, completed community service, and stayed out of legal trouble in “return for having the charges dismissed.” 

There was no conviction of these nine defendants, but there certainly was a prosecution. The fact that the defendants were in a diversion program doesn’t erase the fact that they committed voter registration fraud and were prosecuted for it.

Kessler also tries to minimize this fraud by claiming it is not really voter fraud and that no fraudulent ballots were submitted as a result of these fraudulent registrations.

But that’s only because election officials caught these false registrations before they could become effective.

That doesn’t make this type of fraud any less serious, since numerous cases show that election officials don’t always initially catch false registrations.

Kessler even cites The Heritage Foundation’s Election Fraud Database, claiming we only categorize voting under a false registration as “voter fraud.” No, voter registration fraud is election fraud.

And the term “voter fraud” covers all types of election fraud, whether it is committed by a voter or committed against a voter by others resulting in the dilution or theft of that voter’s vote.

Pence might have gotten the year this occurred wrong—it was 2016, not 2012—and ballots may not have been falsified. But voter registration forms were falsified, and that could have led to falsified ballots if the improper registration forms had not been caught by election officials.

Kessler also ignores the other cases of proven election fraud listed in Heritage’s database for Indiana, where false registrations that were not initially detected did, in fact, lead to fraudulent ballots being submitted.

That includes one Jerome Kesler (who I’m sure is no relation) who was convicted in 2017 of voting in Indiana from an Indiana address, even though he was a resident of Illinois. There are more than 40 other instances of convictions in Indiana for false registrations where defendants voted in precincts where they didn’t live.

In fact, there have been almost four dozen election fraud cases in Indiana (some with multiple convictions) since 2003, including numerous prosecutions in East Chicago, Indiana, over a Democratic mayoral primary that year.

That election was overturned by the state Supreme Court due to “voluminous, widespread, and insidious” absentee ballot fraud. That case also included convictions of voters who were voting in precincts where they didn’t actually reside.

The East Chicago case demonstrates one of the unfortunate aspects of absentee ballot fraud; namely, the voters who are often preyed upon and whose votes are stolen, altered, forged, and forced.

Those targeted in East Chicago in “a predatory pattern” were “first-time voters or others less informed or lacking in knowledge of the voting process, the infirm, the poor, and those with limited skills in the English language.”

That’s an important fact to keep in mind, given the current unwise push for all-mail elections.

Kessler even tries to minimize the perjury charges that two of the defendants pleaded guilty to for lying on the state-required affidavit, in which they affirmed under oath that they accepted the completed voter registration form from an applicant.

He says there would “have been no basis for a perjury charge” if the defendants had used the federal voter registration form instead of the state form because the federal form “does not have the same affidavit.”

Really? Kessler seems to be unaware that it is a felony under federal law, 52 U.S.C. § 20511, for individuals like the staff of the Indiana Voter Registration Project to procure or submit “voter registration applications that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent.” There is a similar provision in the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. § 10307.

Whether they were using the state or federal voter registration form, they were breaking the law. These two defendants are lucky that local prosecutors went after them, not federal prosecutors, because it’s highly likely they would not have gotten away with only probation, no jail time, or pretrial diversion programs.

The vice president is correct when he said that “the reality of voter fraud is undeniable” and that “we’ve seen case after case around the country where there have been prosecutions.”

In fact, Heritage’s database is up to almost 1,300 proven cases of election fraud. And the database is by no means comprehensive; it is just a sampling of cases.

There are many vulnerabilities in our system that too many people ignore. If you don’t look for something, you are not likely to find it, and that is the case with respect to too many officials pursuing election fraud cases.

As the U.S. Supreme Court said in 2008 when it upheld Indiana’s voter ID law, “Indiana’s own experience with fraudulent voting in the 2003 Democratic primary for East Chicago Mayor … demonstrate[s] that not only is the risk of voter fraud real, but that it could affect the outcome of a close election.”

I guess, according to The Washington Post’s standards, the Supreme Court would get four “Pinocchios” for that recognition of reality.




Trump signs executive actions after Congress stalls on COVID relief (Washington Examiner)

Ethics Committee orders Rep. Rashida Tlaib to return campaign funds she paid herself (The Washington Free Beacon)

Following Joe Biden's mea culpa, CNN and MSNBC defend former VP after virtually ignoring latest gaffes (Fox News)

Postal Service leader sets substantial reorganization amid scrutiny over mail ballots (The New York Times)

Chicago rocked by widespread looting after police-involved shooting (Fox News)

Riot declared after Portland "protesters" set police union building on fire (Washington Examiner)

New York City bloodshed: Shootings this year nearly double those during same time period in 2019 (Washington Examiner)

Trump administration penalizes 11 Hong Kong ChiCom officials for crackdown on protesters (The New York Times)

Germany pushes to end 2% GDP commitment to NATO (The Washington Free Beacon)

Agents discover "most sophisticated tunnel in U.S. history" connecting Mexico and Arizona (Washington Examiner)

New study finds Sweden's refusal to lock down saved the economy without sacrificing lives (The Federalist)

Economy added 1.8 million jobs in July, adding to record gains in wake of pandemic destruction (Washington Examiner)

Trump payroll tax executive order likely worth $1,200 per worker, says Larry Kudlow (Fox Business)

Unemployment fraud is rising thanks to $600 bonus (Washington Examiner)

Unemployment claims plummet after Arizona retools process to deter fraud (Washington Examiner)

Jerry Falwell Jr. taking indefinite leave of absence from Liberty University after uploading racy picture to Instagram (National Review)

NRA fights back, files its own suit against New York attorney general unlawfully seeking to disband organization (Fox News)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Thursday, August 13, 2020

Australian doctor may have breakthrough coronavirus cure

Imagine if a renowned Australian gastroenterologist invented an effective, cheap, readily available treatment for COVID-19 and his own country ignored him.

That’s what has happened to Professor Thomas Borody, who is famous for inventing a cure for the bacterial infection which causes peptic ulcers, saving millions of lives around the world.

This time Dr Borody, of Sydney’s Centre for Digestive Diseases, has found a promising treatment for COVID-19 using Ivermectin, a drug that has been used safely to treat parasitic infections for half a century. He combines it in a “triple therapy” with zinc and the antibiotic Doxycycline to attack the virus from multiple angles.

Clinical trials on his Ivermectin ­triple therapy are underway in 32 countries and are about to start in California. Dr Borody says the trick is “treating patients very early”, within seven days of onset, before the virus spreads through their organs and makes them sick.

Already results using the drug off-label have been promising.

In Bangladesh, 400 patients with mild to moderate symptoms were treated and 98 per cent cleared the virus within four to 14 days.

In the Dominican Republic, in 1300 patients the average duration of infection fell from 21 days to 10 days.

Mortality in already sick patients at Broward County Medical Centre in Florida dropped by 48 per cent. The results have been so remarkable that the government of the most populous Indian state, Uttar Pradesh, last week approved the use of Ivermectin for COVID-19 patients and also as a prophylactic for health workers.

Dr Borody calls Ivermectin a “wonder drug”. But ever since he ­received the positive preliminary ­results of the overseas trials, he has been banging his head against a brick wall trying to get someone in Australia to take notice.

He has sent letters to the Morrison government and the Victorian government, urging them at least to make Ivermectin available to high-risk patients and as a preventive dose for frontline workers. “I wrote to the federal and state governments,” he said on the weekend.

“I wasn’t even responded to … It got to a certain level of the fortress, but I don’t think it got to the decision- makers. You can see how frustrating it is, whereas a big state of India says let’s use it. If nothing else, make it available in aged care homes immediately. Our elderly are at the highest risk and this is a very safe option, ­especially when we have nothing else except ventilators.”

He points out Ivermectin is on the on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines, and has been safely used since 1975 to treat parasitic infections such as river blindness and head lice.

In fact, US President Donald Trump uses Ivermectin in cream form to treat the skin condition rosacea, ­according to his White House health records.

Dr Borody says he may absorb enough through his skin to protect him, despite people around him at the White House becoming ill.

But despite the drug’s proven ­safety record and promising results on COVID-19, “the government in Australia — and the US — does not have a curative plan”. It’s all about lockdowns and vaccines.

And because no “no large company is pushing it,” says Borody, the government won’t listen.

“Not only is it too good to be true, it’s cheap” he says. An Ivermectin tablet can cost as little as $2. “This isn’t going to make money for anyone. It just needs a doctor to write a script,” he said.

And therein lies the problem. The pharmaceutical industry doesn’t like cheap off-patent drugs such as Ivermectin because they don’t reap huge profits in the way that new drugs and vaccines do.

The demonisation of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is a case in point.

After President Donald Trump ­described it as a promising treatment, “maybe a game-changer” for COVID-19 at a March 19 press conference at the White House, the media derided him as a quack and discredited the drug.

The negative publicity played into the hands of Big Pharma, who stand to make tens of billions from vaccines and new drugs. Hydroxychloroquine’s main competitor is the new antiviral Remdesivir, developed by pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences, which charges $US3120 per ­treatment.

Trump also praised Remdesivir at that press conference. Yet all the ­attacks afterwards were against ­hydroxychloroquine, while Remdesevir got a free pass. And, of course, the drug companies had the financial ­incentive to discredit hydroxychloroquine and the lobbyists to advance their interests.

Dr James Todaro, one of a group of rebel physicians calling themselves America’s Frontline Doctors, points out that Gilead’s stock plummeted after Trump’s press conference, wiping $21 billion off its market cap. The share price only recovered six weeks later after a promising clinical trial.

The jury is still out on hydroxychloroquine. But the campaign against it has been ferocious. Doctors can’t get results of studies published, and social media censors mention of the drug.

A flawed study on a small sample of very sick US Veterans ­Affairs patients received enormous publicity before it was debunked. Positive studies were buried. Two prestigious medical journals, The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, had to retract a paper which used bogus data supplied by a shadowy company to discredit the drug.

The damage was done. Clinical trials stopped. WHO temporarily withdrew support for the drug.

In New York, hydroxychloroquine is banned for COVID use.

In Switzerland, where it was banned from May 27 until June 11, ­Politico reports this week that daily COVID fatalities jumped markedly during that period.

Dr Borody is anxious that Ivermectin doesn’t meet the same fate.

Without any institutional backing, he has joined forces with California researcher Dr Sabine Hazan, founder of Ventura Clinical Trials, to fund trials themselves, at around $3500 per patient.

Dr Hazan said on Sunday that she is “hopeful this is going to be a gamechanger for COVID-19”. But she is at pains to point out there is no “one pill solution” for everyone.

If the trials go well, with expedited FDA approval, the Ivermectin triple therapy could be on the market in blister packs before Christmas. That’s for patients in America. Australia will have to wait.



Kamala Harris got ‘destroyed’ by Tulsi Gabbard in Democrat debates, dropped out before primaries – and now might be president

California Senator Kamala Harris crashed and burned early in the Democrat primary process, never recovering from the debate drubbing she took from Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. She became Joe Biden’s running mate anyway.

“Tulsi” was trending on social networks shortly after the announcement that Harris would be Biden’s choice for vice president should Democrats win in November. That’s not surprising, since their famous clash from July 2019 was one of the most memorable moments of Harris’ short-lived presidential bid, widely credited with sinking her candidacy.

That day, Gabbard calmly took Harris to task over her prosecutorial past, pointing out that she was responsible for getting thousands of African-Americans locked up on draconian drug sentences, even as Democrats clamored for criminal justice reform and racial justice.

Harris tried to brush that off, insisting she was a top-tier candidate while Gabbard was a nobody polling in single digits. Yet her ratings never recovered, and she called her campaign off by early December – long before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary – citing lack of funds.

With polls showing Democrats favored to win the White House – though they also showed that in 2016, and things turned out differently – the identity of Biden’s running mate was a hot topic. Biden himself is 77 and even Democrat operatives have been content to keep him hidden“in the basement” and speak as little as possible. He is on the record as saying he would not seek a second term, if elected – and is considered unlikely to serve out the first.

Given all that, it was widely understood that Biden’s running mate would be the Democrats’ actual candidate for the top job. Though Biden had already said it would be a woman, advocates of racial identity politics absolutely insisted that it be a person “of color” as well.

As part-Jamaican and part-Indian, Harris checks off those boxes – although her claim to be African-American failed to sway black voters during the Democrat primaries.

The viral video of the August 2019 takedown of “Kamala the cop” appeared to be the perfect balm for progressives frustrated by her elevation, coming at a time when Democrats have widely embraced the calls to “defund the police.”

That radical idea arose from the weeks of protests and violent riots following the May death of George Floyd, an African-American man, in Minneapolis. Soon Democrat-led cities across the US were declaring that police were irreparably and systemically racist, and needed to be replaced by social workers or something yet to be “reimagined.” 

With Harris’ entire political career as a prosecutor, it was clear on Tuesday that the mainstream media machine would have to work overtime to make her fit into that narrative. Denouncing any criticism of Harris as “racist” or “sexist” will be just the start.




New evidence from nearly three dozen Somalis reveals a probable spree of felonies by Ilhan Omar (The Blaze)

Half of Democrats don't think Joe Biden will serve all four years of his term if elected (UK Daily Mail)

FEC commissioner: "Substantial chance" 2020 results won't be known on election night due to pandemic-induced changes (Washington Examiner)

"That is reparations": Black Lives Matter holds rally in Chicago to support those arrested after looting and unrest (Fox News)

Seattle City Council votes to scale back police department funding; police chief resigns (Washington Examiner)

Russia's approval of virus vaccine greeted with alarm (AP)

New U.S. cases drop to the lowest in a month as spread slows in Sunbelt states (UK Daily Mail)

Scientists discover fleece neck gaiters multiply infectious droplets while N95s and cotton masks work best (UK Daily Mail)

Three great pieces of coronavirus news we should be talking about (The Resurgent)

Without proper context, leaked COVID-19 data is worse than misleading (The Daily Signal)

Proving Pelosi right: DNI report shows China and Iran trying to sabotage the Trump campaign (The Washington Free Beacon)

China sanctions 11 Americans in retaliation for U.S. action against Hong Kong officials (Bloomberg)

Gig-economy earthquake: California judge orders Uber and Lyft to consider all drivers employees (NPR)

Scramble to save college football season from COVID (Washington Examiner)

"Corruption is bigger than the state": Lebanese PM and his cabinet resign over explosion that killed 160, saying he has faced a brick wall trying to bring in reforms (UK Daily Mail)

Hong Kong arrests pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai (The New York Times)

Protests in Belarus turn deadly following sham election (Axios)

Half a million incorrect absentee ballot applications sent across Virginia, including to dead people (

Policy: Why Trump's WeChat ban is much more important than his TikTok ban (The Federalist)

Policy: China's emerging Middle Eastern kingdom (Hudson Institute)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

‘Dangerous’ to think masks will stop virus: Swedish epidemiologist

The epidemiologist in charge of Sweden’s coronavirus response has dismissed the scientific evidence for mask-wearing as “astonishingly weak”.

Anders Tegnell said it was “very dangerous” to believe that masks alone could control the spread of the disease.

He has steered a different course from those plotted by most European countries, leaving bars, restaurants and most schools open throughout the pandemic. His public health agency has maintained that there is no need for Swedes to wear masks even in crowded spaces, although they are recommended in most large airport terminals.

This contrasts with nations such as the UK and Germany, which slowly came to the conclusion that masks helped to limit transmission, and Spain and Poland, which for a time made them compulsory outside the home.

Dr Tegnell said these decisions were not grounded in solid science. “The findings that have been produced through [the use of] face masks are astonishingly weak,” he told the newspaper Bild. “I’m surprised that we don’t have more or better studies showing what effect masks actually have. Countries such as Spain and Belgium have made their populations wear masks but their infection numbers have still risen. The belief that masks can solve our problem is in any case very dangerous.”

The Swedish strategy follows two central principles: that the pandemic will last longer than any lockdown and that the only answer is to trust people to make sensible decisions.

As of Monday Sweden had recorded 5,763 COVID-19 deaths, but the number of new infections is declining.



Progressivism restricts freedom; conservatism seeks to expand freedom, which can be expanded only if a society is virtuous

During these tumultuous times, as practically every American institution comes under attack from the far left and its allies, two of our most essential values seem to be especially targeted in an effort to “transform America.”

Those values are faith and family, the two essential pillars that serve as true stabilizing factors in any society.

The attacks on faith and family seem to be relentless.

In Nevada, amid the COVID-19 crisis, casinos are open, but churches are told they must remain closed. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom told churches that their congregants no longer could sing worship songs, even though they are wearing protective masks while doing so. In Portland, Oregon, radicals not only are burning the flag but Bibles as well. And tragically, in the same vein, vandals are targeting churches.

So, how did we get to this point? It didn’t happen overnight.

It is not a coincidence that our current cultural condition, and the turn to hard-left progressivism, began in the late 1950s and into the 1960s, as these values started to erode and lose influence in American society.

Those on the far left actively were launching attacks—sometimes stealthily—through seizing all the major corridors of cultural and political influence.

When these pillars of faith and family—both of which are key components of the Judeo-Christian principles upon which our nation was founded—started to come under attack, all other principles such as fiscal restraint, freedom of conscience, and limited government came under assault as well.

Regarding the family, several factors led our nation down the progressive path and away from conservatism. The social engineering of President Lyndon Johnson’s liberal Great Society of the mid-1960s devastated the family, as fathers no longer had to accept fiscal responsibility for the children they bore.

Legalized abortion greatly devalued human life and further enabled personal irresponsibility and selfish, rather than selfless, behavior. No-fault divorce made it easy for either spouse to walk away from the commitment of “until death do us part,” leaving a trail of broken children behind.

And attacks on the fundamental beliefs of the faithful created a culture where those beliefs not only were mocked but increasingly criminalized. One example: the persecution of those who do not wish to use their skills to participate in facilitating abortions.

On the faith front, many mainline denominations swapped out the Gospel for social justice and the abandonment of absolute truth. This left a spiritual vacuum for progressive thought—which sought governmental, rather than faith-based, solutions—to fill. Lost were the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance—all of which are needed for society to thrive.

Thus, once the pillars of faith and the family were weakened, the rest of the house started to collapse, just as Abraham Lincoln warned the nation in 1858 that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

With the gap that was left by the removal of these two pillars of faith and family, progressives were able to introduce policies that destabilized rather than stabilized society. One such policy: encouraging single parenting, which has led to the tragic loss of fathers—an essential individual in every child’s life—in ever-increasing numbers.

Progressives attacked religious freedom and the role churches play in creating a “safety net” that government never could—by feeding both the body and the soul.

Much of the current out-of-control government spending is tied to government takeover and destruction of both these institutions, which taught self-reliance and personal responsibility.

We wrote at length about this in our book “American Restoration: How Faith, Family, and Personal Sacrifice Can Heal Our Nation,” which provides a conservative, faith-based response to our nation’s various ailments.

The breakdown of the family has been a primary factor in the societal chaos we are experiencing. It has led to massive government spending that enables the very behaviors that continue a cycle of despair and destabilization.

The decreased role of faith has led to the breakdown of community, neighbors helping neighbors, and the other societal supports that government cannot recreate but tries to—again through more massive spending, which only perpetuates problems instead of solving them.

The disregard for—and eventual mocking of—religious faith and the values of selflessness and personal responsibility it instills have led to a nation that values its privileges over its principles.

And the result of that, as President Dwight Eisenhower warned us in his 1953 inaugural address, is that a nation “soon loses both.”

Why? Because both family and faith go to the essence of what makes a healthy society. A functional, healthy family provides for and equips the next generation to be self-reliant citizens, not dependent upon government programs for their sustenance. It provides the next generation with the tools and the confidence to succeed in life.

In addition, a young boy who grows up with a strong father as a role model—a father who leads by example of how to love his wife, shepherd his children, and make sacrifices that benefit both—likely will follow in his father’s footsteps. A young boy without that model will try to figure it out on his own—often with disastrous results.

In the same way, a young girl who knows what it is to be valued and loved by a man will make good decisions regarding future relationships. Those good decisions will result in less need for government intrusion and taxpayer support.

In many ways, the church does this as well. It provides a moral framework that teaches that all people are worthy of dignity and respect as they have been created Imago Dei—in the image of God.

For the principles of limited government and a republican government to succeed, morality must be part of the equation. John Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence and the second president of the United States, recognized this fact when he wrote to the Massachusetts Militia in 1798: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Or as Benjamin Franklin wrote: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”

Progressivism is a master that restricts freedom; conservatism seeks to expand freedom, which can be expanded only if a society is virtuous.

Thus, with a moral framework in place, people are more self-reliant, more likely to make healthy decisions that benefit society rather than poor ones that result in dependence on government. With healthy families, children will thrive and make positive contributions to society. With a strong faith, and the virtues it instills, society will flourish.

And, sadly, when those values are attacked and weakened, society suffers and descends into personal and corporate chaos. The result is the antithesis of what the left professes it seeks to advance, which is unity (on its terms) and progress. Instead, all we are left with is the bitter fruit of division and descension into cultural darkness.

The battle to overcome this darkness is daunting, but it can be won if we stand up to these attacks on faith, family, and conscience rather than slink away in retreat. As our Founding Fathers wrote, only a moral, righteous, and virtuous people can be free.

If future generations are going to enjoy the freedoms we have cherished, we must return to the moral framework that made these freedoms possible in the first place. Once that moral foundation is rebuilt, America’s house once again can stand strong, united against any storm it may face.



Nightmare. More Than 200,000 Nevada Ballots Found to Be 'Undeliverable'

A report by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, an election integrity group, found that more than 200,000 ballots mailed to voters in Clark County, Nevada, were designated by the post office as “undeliverable.”

Clark is the most populous county in Nevada, containing the Las Vegas metro area. It has nearly 75 percent of the state’s population.

The county sent 1.3 million ballots to voters.  The undeliverable ballots accounted for 17 percent of all ballots mailed to registered voters. Since Nevada has gone to all mail-in ballot elections, that means that 17 percent of the county’s 1.3 million registered voters are effectively disenfranchised.

J. Christian Adams, a longtime PJ Media columnist, recently wrote about the perils of mail-in voting and why the argument that it works in other states doesn’t pass muster.

Washington Free Beacon:

“These numbers show how vote by mail fails,” said J. Christian Adams, PILF’s president and general counsel. “New proponents of mail balloting don’t often understand how it actually works. States like Oregon and Washington spent many years building their mail voting systems and are notably aggressive with voter list maintenance efforts. Pride in their own systems does not somehow transfer across state lines. Nevada, New York, and others are not and will not be ready for November.”

“The addresses that we used were provided by the voters when they registered,” Dan Kulin, a spokesman for Clark County, told the Washington Free Beacon. “If they no longer reside at the address they provided to us, then we would expect that mail to be returned to us, which is what happened.”

The Trump campaign is suing Nevada for their mail-in voting procedures. Most states that are urging mail-in voting are sending applications for absentee ballots. But Nevada was sending actual, legal ballots to every registered voter. The Trump campaign wants it to stop.

The new figures come as Nevada takes center stage in a debate over mail-in voting. President Donald Trump’s campaign sued the state over its plans to mail ballots to every registered voter for the November election. As Democrats across the country push for mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic, critics have said the practice can lead to a number of problems such as lost ballots. Recent reports also showed that 84,000 mail-in Democratic primary ballots cast in New York City were disqualified.

PILF communications director Logan Churchwell said the Clark County elections department asked the county commission not to send ballots to every registrant on file, cautioning that it would be “a costly exercise of sending mail to addresses that were sure to bounce any parcel.” The county sent out the ballots despite the election department’s warning.

“Nevada’s voter rolls aren’t maintained to the standard required for an all-mail experience like Oregon or Washington,” Churchwell said. “The Nevada governor is foolish to think he can replicate his regional neighbors’ years of development and practices with mail voting in a matter of months with a weekend emergency bill.”

Left-wing groups have been challenging “purging” dead, moved, duplicate, and inactive voters from registration rolls for years. Now they want an election based on mail-in ballots for every registered voter?

No one is ready for this. This is why mail-in voting will be an epic failure.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

World’s Top Epidemiologists – Masks Don’t Work!

Denmark boasts one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the world. As of August 4, the Danes have suffered 616 COVID-19 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

That’s less than one-third of the number of Danes who die from pneumonia or influenza in a given year.

Despite this success, Danish leaders recently found themselves on the defensive. The reason is that Danes aren’t wearing face masks, and local authorities for the most part aren’t even recommending them.

This prompted Berlingske, the country’s oldest newspaper, to complain that Danes had positioned themselves “to the right of Trump.”

“The whole world is wearing face masks, even Donald Trump,” Berlingske pointed out.

This apparently did not sit well with Danish health officials.  They responded by noting there is little conclusive evidence that face masks are an effective way to limit the spread of respiratory viruses.

“All these countries recommending face masks haven’t made their decisions based on new studies,” said Henning Bundgaard, chief physician at Denmark’s Rigshospitale, according to Bloomberg News.

Denmark is not alone. Despite a global stampede of mask-wearing, data show that 80-90 percent of people in Finland and Holland say they “never” wear masks when they go out, a sharp contrast to the 80-90 percent of people in Spain and Italy who say they “always” wear masks when they go out.

Dutch public health officials recently explained why they’re not recommending masks. “From a medical point of view, there is no evidence of a medical effect of wearing face masks, so we decided not to impose a national obligation,” said Medical Care Minister Tamara van Ark.

Others, echoing statements similar to the US Surgeon General from early March, said masks could make individuals sicker and exacerbate the spread of the virus.

“Face masks in public places are not necessary, based on all the current evidence,” said Coen Berends, spokesman for the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. “There is no benefit and there may even be negative impact.”

In Sweden, where COVID-19 deaths have slowed to a crawl, public health officials say they see “no point” in requiring individuals to wear masks.

“With numbers diminishing very quickly in Sweden, we see no point in wearing a face mask in Sweden, not even on public transport,” said Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s top infectious disease expert.

For the average person, it’s confusing and frustrating. It’s also a bit frightening, considering that we’ve seen people denounced in public for not wearing a mask while picking up a bag of groceries.

The truth is masks have become the new wedge issue, the latest phase of the culture war. Mask opponents tend to see mask wearers as “fraidy cats” or virtue-signalling “sheeple” who willfully ignore basic science. Mask supporters, on the other hand, often see people who refuse to wear masks as selfish Trumpkins … who willfully ignore basic science.

There’s not a lot of middle ground to be found and there’s no easy way to sit this one out. We all have to go outside, so at some we all are required to don the mask or not.

It’s clear from the data that despite the impression of Americans as selfish rebel cowboys who won’t wear a mask to protect others, Americans are wearing masks far more than many people in European countries.

Polls show Americans are wearing masks at record levels, though a political divide remains: 98 percent of Democrats report wearing masks in public compared to 66 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Independents. (These numbers, no doubt, are to some extent the product of mask requirements in cities and states.)

Whether one is pro-mask or anti-mask, the fact of the matter is that face coverings have become politicized to an unhealthy degree, which stands to only further pollute the science.

Last month, for example, researchers at Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy responded to demands they remove an article that found mask requirements were “not based on sound data.”

The school, to its credit, did not remove the article, but instead opted to address the objections critics of their research had raised.



Common colds train the immune system to recognize COVID-19

This existing immune system "memory" may explain why some people have milder COVID-19 infections.

Previous infections with common cold viruses can train the immune system to recognize SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a new study.

The study, published Aug. 4 in the journal Science, found that immune cells known as T cells that recognize common cold coronaviruses also recognize specific sites on SARS-CoV-2 — including parts of the infamous "spike" protein it uses to bind to and invade human cells.

This existing immune system "memory" may explain why some people have milder COVID-19 infections compared with others; however, the authors stress that this hypothesis is "highly speculative" and requires more research to confirm. That's because it's unknown exactly how big a role T cells play in fighting COVID-19 — T cells are just one part of a complex menagerie of molecules and cells that makes up our immune system.

"We have now proven that, in some people, preexisting T-cell memory against common cold coronaviruses can cross-recognize SARS-CoV-2, down to the exact molecular structures," study co-lead author Daniela Weiskopf, assistant professor at La Jolla Institute for Immunology in La Jolla, California, said in a statement.

It's possible that this "immune reactivity may translate to different degrees of protection" against COVID-19, study co-lead author Alessandro Sette, a professor at La Jolla Institute for Immunology, said in the statement. "Having a strong T-cell response, or a better T-cell response may give you the opportunity to mount a much quicker and stronger response."

Previous studies have shown that upwards of 50% of people never exposed to COVID-19 have T cells that recognize SARS-CoV-2. This ability has been seen in people around the world, in the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom and Singapore. Scientists hypothesized that this existing immunity could be due to previous infections with other coronaviruses, specifically those that cause common cold infections.

In the new study, the researchers analyzed blood samples collected from people between 2015 and 2018, well before COVID-19 first emerged in Wuhan, China.

These blood samples contained T cells that reacted to more than 100 specific sites on SARS-CoV-2. The researchers showed that these T cells also reacted to similar sites on four different coronaviruses that cause common cold infections.

"This study provides very strong direct molecular evidence that memory T cells can 'see' sequences that are very similar between common cold coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2," Sette said.

In addition to binding to the spike protein, the T cells  also recognized other viral proteins beyond the spike.

Currently, most COVID-19 vaccine candidates target the spike protein, but the new findings suggest that including other proteins in a vaccine, besides the spike, might harness this T cell cross reactivity and potentially enhance the vaccine's potency, the researchers said, although much more research would be needed to show this.

The authors note that their findings of cross-reactivity with T cells are different from what has been seen with neutralizing antibodies — another weapon of the immune system that blocks a pathogen from infecting cells. Neutralizing antibodies against common cold viruses are specific to those viruses and don't show cross-reactivity with SARS-CoV-2, according to previous studies, the authors said.



Kudlow Says Another Lockdown Would Have ‘Enormous’ Human and Economic Cost

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow firmly opposes the idea of a hard lockdown to suppress another COVID-19 surge, telling Fox Business in an Aug. 4 interview that the health and economic toll on Americans would be “enormous.”

Kudlow said he doesn’t think any form of lockdown is a good idea, and people should instead rely on precautions such as social distancing, mask-wearing, and sanitizing to stem the outbreak, while allowing businesses and schools to stay open.

“This idea of more lockdowns, people just throw this out willy-nilly, forgetting the enormous human cost as well as the enormous economic cost,” Kudlow said. “The country can’t take that.”

He argued that the risk to Americans comes not just from the direct threat of infection but from the impact of heavy-handed mitigation.

“It’s also our well-being, it’s also our psychological well-being, it’s our personal well-being,” Kudlow said. “I think we should do everything we can, everything humanly possible, with safety and security, to keep the stores open, to keep the schools open, to keep the economy open.”

Arguing that the current COVID-19 mitigation efforts appear to be working, Kudlow said: “Let’s get America moving again. You’ll get your 20 percent; the V-shaped recovery, I think, is still in place.”

Kudlow’s reference to “20 percent” relates to an earlier comment he made about the Atlanta Fed’s latest estimate of U.S. economic activity for the third quarter of this year. The Atlanta Fed’s third-quarter-growth prediction stands at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 19.6 percent, updated on Aug. 3, according to a so-called nowcast statistical model that uses high-frequency economic data-points to estimate the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Prompting Kudlow’s remarks was a request by the interviewer for comment on a statement made by a top Federal Reserve official on Aug. 2, who argued that the U.S. economy could benefit if the nation were to “lock down really hard” for 4 to 6 weeks.

“I hate to even suggest it,” said Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari, in remarks on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“People will be frustrated by it. But if we were to lock down hard for a month or six weeks, we could get the case count down so that our testing and our contact tracing was actually enough to control it the way that it’s happening in the Northeast right now,” Kashkari said.

He said the economy, which in the second quarter suffered its biggest blow since the Great Depression, would be able to mount a robust recovery, but only if the virus were brought under control.

“If we don’t do that, and we just have this raging virus spreading throughout the country with flare-ups and local lockdowns for the next year or two, which is entirely possible, we’re going to see many, many more business bankruptcies,” Kashkari said.

“That’s going to be a much slower recovery for all of us.”

Reinforcing Kudlow’s perspective, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters at a briefing on Aug. 4 that the administration wasn’t considering a lockdown.

“The president is not considering a national lockdown,” she said. “What he is encouraging is mitigation efforts like wearing a mask, which is patriotic; like social distancing; and engaging in these really commonsense, safe measures to safely reopen and avoid the health consequences of a lockdown.”

McEnany cited a series of negative outcomes that she linked to lockdowns, including a surge in drug overdoses and suicides.

“Overdoses do go up, suicides do go up, cancer cases are missed, as Dr. Scott Atlas has pointed out that, ‘In the U.S. alone, there are 150,000 new cancer cases that arise every month among patients … most have not been seen.’ And that was referring to the lockdown,” she said.



Trump's Covid boast is nearer to the truth than his opponents would like to admit

Given that enlightened opinion now pretty well defines itself against whatever Donald Trump says, it is hardly surprising to hear the US president being excoriated for saying in a television interview that the US figures for deaths per cases of Covid were “lower than the world, lower than Europe”.   

That people laugh at him whenever he opens his mouth on Covid-19 – or anything else for that matter – doesn’t change the fact that technically he is correct. He was clear that he was referring to the ratio of deaths to recorded cases of Covid 19 – a metric technically known as the Case Fatality Ratio (CFR). 

Sure enough, the US currently has a CFR of 0.033 – which is lower than the world as a whole (0.037) and lower than in the larger European countries. Britain’s CFR is currently 0.15, Italy’s 0.14 and Germany’s 0.043.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Monday, August 10, 2020

Why Sweden, pilloried by the whole world for refusing to lock down - with schools staying open and no face mask laws - may be having the last laugh as experts say Stockholm is close to achieving herd immunity

I mentioned probable herd immunity in Sweden last Friday

Tegnell’s refusal to impose lockdown on his fellow citizens is held up by critics around the world as a warning against adopting a laissez-faire attitude to this deadly disease.

Yet as infections spike again in places that locked down their populations, where schools struggle to reopen and the economic carnage from this crisis grows clearer, is it possible this Scandinavian nation might have made the right long-term call?

After all, as Swedish public health experts kept telling me last week, the struggle against this horrible pandemic ‘is a marathon not a sprint’.

The World Health Organisation warns the impact may be felt for decades. ‘Many countries that believed they were past the worst are grappling with new outbreaks,’ said director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. ‘Some that were less affected in the earliest weeks are now seeing escalating numbers of cases and deaths.’

Yet Sweden is seeing a sustained drop in cases, with some experts even suggesting it may be close to herd immunity in the capital Stockholm.

The number of deaths, new cases and patients in intensive care has fallen dramatically.

On one key measure – percentage change in new confirmed cases over the past fortnight relative to the previous 14 days – Sweden is down more than a third.

This contrasts with sharp rises in neighbouring Denmark, Finland and Norway, along with countries such as Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

Meanwhile, the latest data suggests Sweden is suffering less severe economic trauma than most major European nations, while it has, almost uniquely among Western countries, kept schools open.

So what is the truth about the bold but controversial Swedish stance that sets it apart from most other developed nations?

Tegnell openly told me that, like all global experts, he was ‘shooting in the dark’ when this new disease erupted, and he admitted that he expected to see spikes, especially when people return indoors as it gets colder in the autumn.

But he said they sought from the start a sustainable approach that could retain public support – and that they saw their remit as going beyond simply fighting the virus to include keeping the country functioning as much as possible.

‘We have knowledge of the negative effects of closing schools so that was definitely in our thinking,’ he said.

‘Also to keep society open, keep unemployment down, make it possible for people to meet each other. We know that social contacts are a little bit dangerous in these times but they are very important for your wider health. ‘It is necessary to keep a balance between stopping the epidemic and keeping people healthy.’

The Swedish approach relies on trust rather than enforcement, going to the heart of how Swedes see their society.  ‘To live in a democracy you need trust,’ said Morgan Olofsson, spokesman for Sweden’s Civil Contingency Agency, which is responsible for public safety, emergency management and civil defence. ‘The government must trust the people and the people must trust their government.’

Tegnell, who runs the response in keeping with the country’s political tradition of consensus and reliance on independent experts, urged people to socially distance, work from home where possible, and isolate if at risk or showing symptoms.

Public gatherings of more than 50 people were prohibited – but barbers, cafes, gyms, restaurants, shops and schools for children under 16 were allowed to stay open. The compulsory imposition of face masks has been ruled out so far.

There was, however, catastrophe in care homes, as there was in several other nations such as Britain, Canada and Spain, which reflects years of neglect for a fragmented sector staffed by underpaid workers often flitting between different places to make ends meet.

An official inquiry found almost half of Sweden’s Covid-19 deaths by end of June took place in elderly care homes concentrated in 40 of the country’s 290 municipalities.

Tegnell accepted the state should have done more to protect them. Horrifically, it seems many old people were simply given morphine and left to die rather than taken to hospital for fear of overloading intensive care wards.

‘Most people still do not realise that dying from Covid is a terrible death, so it is awful that many people died in this way who could have lived longer and had more peaceful deaths,’ said Paul Franks, a professor in epidemiology at Lund University.

Yet despite this failure, Prof Franks sees lockdown as ‘a very blunt instrument’. So when I asked this thoughtful British expert if his host nation’s strategy was a success, he paused before replying carefully: ‘Sweden accidentally did not get a lot wrong.’

This sounds a strange response when the country’s fatality rate is so many times higher than all three of its Scandinavian neighbours (although lower than Britain).

But Prof Franks pointed out that, according to the Imperial College model that sparked Britain’s sudden lockdown, Sweden should have seen between 42,000 and 85,000 deaths.

So far, this country of 10.1 million people has seen 5,763 fatalities, despite the care home carnage and initial high infection rates in some migrant communities.

Anna Mia Ekstrom, a clinical doctor and professor of global infectious disease epidemiology at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet, said the key was to look at trends showing Sweden’s steady decline in cases and deaths since their peak in mid-April.

She argued it may not be possible nor even desirable to restrict infection rates to zero for a sustainable period of time, especially when most people are unaffected by the virus and as long as those most at risk such as the elderly are protected.

Prof Ekstrom believes Stockholm, currently down to ‘two or three’ patients in intensive care in its infectious disease hospitals, may be coming close to herd immunity as shown by the sustained fall in critically ill patients and fatalities – and that this is a consequence of avoiding lockdown.

The capital, home to a million people, was the worst-hit region because of families bringing back infections from half-term winter breaks in Italy and Spain.

A fifth of residents have antibodies, while a larger proportion may be protected through the response of T-cells, which ‘remember’ infections and kill pathogens that reappear.

‘It is not yet herd immunity but immunity levels have so far been growing steadily,’ said Prof Ekstrom. (Although even Tegnell admitted to me that he was left confused by the ‘mystery of immunity’ with this disease).

Prof Ekstrom added that evidence from elsewhere indicated that lockdowns were unsustainable. ‘You go crazy after a while,’ she said.

‘We have a more acceptable approach that can last a long time since it lets people move around, so their mental and physical health suffer less – though they must stick to social distancing.

'We are in a better situation compared to other countries now, though smaller cluster outbreaks will emerge.

'Lockdown is a blunt, unsustainable and harmful instrument over any prolonged period, especially damaging for younger populations, wider healthcare and the economy, with poorer people hit hardest. Closing down primary schools especially is a huge mistake.’

Perhaps the most popular part of Sweden’s strategy has been the decision to keep most schools open. One joint study with public health authorities in Finland, where almost all pupils were kept out of school for two months, found their differing approaches made no measurable difference to contagion rates.

‘This has strong benefits for parents of small children while avoiding disruption to children’s learning and preventing long-term scarring for the labour market,’ said Karolina Ekholm, former deputy governor of Sweden’s central bank.

We spoke after the release of data showing that Sweden’s economy, which grew marginally in the first quarter of this year, shrunk more than at any point since the Second World War during the pandemic’s three-month peak.

Yet it outperformed most key rivals. It fell 8.6 per cent over the second quarter compared with a 12 per cent fall across the Eurozone. Analysts fear the UK economy may shrink 20 per cent over this period.

‘It’s grim by any normal standards but compared with other parts of Europe they have done well,’ said David Oxley, senior Europe analyst at Capital Economics. Sweden’s big exporters are seeing profits decline smaller than anticipated while there are fewer bankruptcies than feared.

‘If a business can stay open, it’s clearly better than closing,’ said Esbjorn Lundevall, an analyst at Scandinavian bank SEB.

He added that keeping schools open provided a significant economic boost. ‘I worked from home for nine weeks and my children went to school every day, which meant I had higher productivity than if they had remained at home.’

Yet the pandemic is still devastating many small firms as people work from home, stop socialising, lose jobs and rein in spending. Public health modelling indicates Swedes have cut social interactions by more than two-thirds.

I picked five retailers at random while walking through Stockholm’s bohemian Sodermalm district. The outlets sold diverse products: bread, clothes, ice cream and shoes. Trade at all five had crashed, with four owners contemplating closure.

There are, of course, vociferous Swedish critics of this strategy designed to slow rather than stop the spread of coronavirus, including 25 academics who wrote to an American newspaper saying it led to ‘death, grief and suffering’.

There has been fury from people whose relatives died in the care home fiasco. And I came across eight noisy protesters outside a Tegnell press conference demanding the imposition of face masks.

Nicholas Aylott, a political scientist at Sodertorn University, said the approach adopted under a centre-Left coalition government confused the opposition. ‘The Right has been discomforted by the Left’s discovery of libertarianism,’ he said.

One recent survey found eight in ten Swedes still claim to be following official guidelines, while the proportion of people fearing they risk being felled by the virus plunged from 50 per cent in March to just 29 per cent in July.

Certainly every citizen I met on the streets seemed to support the strategy. ‘If we look back in a couple of years I think we will be seen to have handled the situation well,’ said Hans Isoz, an investor in digital companies.

Only time will tell if he is right – and whether more countries should have followed the Swedish path through this cruel pandemic.



Trump's Covid boast is nearer to the truth than his opponents would like to admit

Given that enlightened opinion now pretty well defines itself against whatever Donald Trump says, it is hardly surprising to hear the US president being excoriated for saying in a television interview that the US figures for deaths per cases of Covid were “lower than the world, lower than Europe”.   

That people laugh at him whenever he opens his mouth on Covid-19 – or anything else for that matter – doesn’t change the fact that technically he is correct. He was clear that he was referring to the ratio of deaths to recorded cases of Covid 19 – a metric technically known as the Case Fatality Ratio (CFR). 

Sure enough, the US currently has a CFR of 0.033 – which is lower than the world as a whole (0.037) and lower than in the larger European countries. Britain’s CFR is currently 0.15, Italy’s 0.14 and Germany’s 0.043.



Lockdown 'killed two people for every three who died of coronavirus' at peak of outbreak

The UK lockdown killed two people for every three whose deaths had been caused by coronavirus by the beginning of May, new Government figures suggest.

The estimates show that 16,000 people had died through missed medical care by May 1, while coronavirus killed 25,000 in the same period.

The figures include 6,000 people who did not attend A&E at the height of lockdown because of fears they might catch the virus and the feeling they should remain at home because of the "Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives" message.

Likewise, 10,000 people are thought to have died in care homes due to early discharge from hospital and not being able to access critical care.

The report also found that 2,500 lives may have been saved during lockdown because of healthier lifestyles, fewer infectious diseases in children, falls in air pollution and a decrease in road deaths.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Sunday, August 09, 2020

The Myth That Lockdowns Stop Pandemics

From the beginning of time, humans have used mythology to make sense of a chaotic natural world. Sir G.L. Gomme dubbed myths “the science of a pre-scientific age.” Folklore provided pre-scientific people a comforting sense of control over nature. To address dry spells, they deployed rain dances. Sunless stretches hindering crops prompted offerings to Helios. Then, our ancestors sat back and waited. The rains always came. The sun always reappeared, validating their “wisdom,” the illusion of control reinforced.

Thanks to science, we know this was pure superstition. Though the same outcomes would have occurred had the tribe taken no action, the tribe leader would still have received credit or blame from his constituents. Similarly, today’s politicians race to take credit -- or place blame -- for COVID-19 “results.” Do politicians really control these outcomes, or are they simply exploiting our ingrained tendencies?

When China first deployed lockdown in January to “defeat COVID-19,” The Washington Post approvingly quoted a Georgetown University professor as saying, “The truth is those kinds of lockdowns are very rare and never effective…”

In March, Imperial College London's dire projections influenced the White House, but a careful reading of the advice contained in the Imperial College report reveals that its authors knew lockdown alone could not eliminate any infections, only delay them: “The more successful a strategy is at temporary suppression,” it stated, “the larger the later epidemic is predicted to be in the absence of vaccination, due to lesser build-up of herd immunity.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pandemic planning documents state non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing are ineffective once a disease infects 1% of a region's population. Literature on this subject is unanimous worldwide. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control:

“There are no historical observations or scientific studies that support the confinement by quarantine of groups of possibly infected people for extended periods in order to slow the spread. It is hard to imagine that measures like those within the category of social distancing would not have some positive impact by reducing transmission of a human respiratory infection . . . However, the evidence base supporting each individual measure is often weak.”

Decades of evidence corroborates this. In 1969, a group of men overwintering in Antarctica experienced a spontaneous respiratory virus outbreak during their 17th week of isolation. Similarly, COVID-19 appeared on an Argentinian naval ship on the 35th day of its voyage, following a 14-day isolation of captain and crew.

Nature always finds a way. No respiratory virus ever needed a “lockdown” to dissipate. What it needs is herd immunity, preferably sooner than later, preferably developed by the young and healthy to minimize mortality. Politicians know the disease will eventually leave, yet they strive to convince a critical mass that their actions -- modern-day versions of the rain dance -- brought about that result. They count on us behaving like renowned psychologist B.F. Skinner’s superstitious pigeons.

“A pigeon is … put into a cage. A food hopper may be swung into place … so that the pigeon can eat from it … If a clock is [set] to present the hopper at regular intervals with no reference whatsoever to the bird’s behavior, operant conditioning usually takes place. The bird tends to learn whatever response it is making when the hopper appears. The experiment might be said to demonstrate a sort of superstition. The bird behaves as if there were a causal relation between its behavior and the presentation of food, although such a relation is lacking.”

Publicly available data shows no causal relationship between government orders and COVID-19 mortality outcomes. Sweden's all-cause, per-capita mortality for 2020 is approximately 290 per million above the prior five-year average, while lockdown-loving New Jersey's is almost 1,900 per million above the prior five-year average, and Michigan's is over 700 per million. (In case you suspect Sweden “naturally” locked down on its own, mobility data reveals it didn’t.) The mainstream media does not report this. Instead, its energetic smearing of Sweden, coupled with its pseudo-scientific insistence that lockdowns do anything more than delay the inevitable, helps politicians exploit the human tendency to mythologize.

We are faced with a virus with a 997-out-of-1,000 survival rate. We have vanquished fiercer adversaries. We can rid ourselves of this plague less painfully by remembering one simple truth: neither we, nor our politicians, have control over death.



TV commentator, Andrew Bolt, leads lockdown dissent in Australia

Andrew Bolt has doubled down on his argument that Covid-19 restrictions should be lifted because they are destroying the economy “to save aged-care residents from dying a few months earlier”.

Writing in the Herald Sun this week, Bolt noted that most people dying of the virus were over 80.

“We don’t crash this economy just to stop the young getting a stuffy nose,” he said. “Note: 40 per cent of aged-care home residents die within nine months. The average stay is just under three years.

“So Victoria’s bans are doing huge damage to – essentially – save aged-care residents from dying a few months earlier.”

Attacked by ABC presenter Michael Rowland for his “disgraceful” suggestion, Bolt defended himself on his Sky program on Tuesday night, saying the breakfast host was indulging in “woolly thinking” and “fake sentimentality”. His critics were typically leftwing and did not have a good heart, Bolt said, but a “weak head”.

The chief executive of the Council on the Ageing, Ian Yates, said Bolt’s argument was totally unacceptable.

“It’s an attitude that certain kinds of lives are disposable,” Yates told Weekly Beast. “Logically the next step would be to ask, ‘Why do we have nursing homes at all, why don’t we just bang them on the head?’”

As the pandemic has worsened, Bolt’s rhetoric has sometimes been overtaken. “Not a single person under 40 has died,” he said on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, announced a man in his 30s had died.

“A lot of people are very upset with me,” Bolt said in an editorial on Sky News. “What I wrote was confronting, some thought it was brutal, but it was also absolutely true.”

Bolt’s rhetoric is echoed by Sky News Australia’s Alan Jones and the Australian’s economics editor, Adam Creighton. They all rail against Victoria’s stay-at-home orders, and the premier, Daniel Andrews.

Bolt’s stablemate at the Herald Sun and Sky News, columnist Rita Panahi, has said the health measures are “draconian” and people who back Andrews are “in the thralls of Stockholm syndrome”.

Jones says mask-wearing is “alarmism” and “ineffectual” and Australia’s death rate does not warrant it. “Only a mad person would believe a lockdown will wipe out the virus,” he said when masks were made compulsory.

Now in his fifth week of broadcasting a new show on Sky News, Jones is averaging around 70,000 viewers each night, which for comparison is one-tenth of the audience for ABC News at 7pm. Nine and Seven news bulletins at 6pm sit above 1.1 million.

But his somewhat strident takes are getting a wider audience through follow-up news stories on and posts on social media.



There's a Mountain of Evidence That Hydroxychloroquine Is an Effective Treatment for COVID-19

I’m convinced that if a rabid leftist was dying of thirst and President Trump offered him water, he’d refuse to drink it.

This is perhaps the best analogy for what’s happening right now with hydroxychloroquine, a decades-old malaria drug that has repeatedly shown to be an effective treatment for COVID-19, but that Democrats and the media have relentlessly dismissed ever since President Trump first touted it back in March as a possible game-changer. The media accused Trump of “practicing medicine without a license” simply for pointing out that the drug showed promise in some small studies. A Democratic state lawmaker in Ohio said that Trump should be tried for “crimes against humanity” for touting the drug’s potential. The New York Times even alleged that Trump’s motivation for touting it was self-serving because he holds “a small personal financial interest” in Sanofi, even though the drug is out of patent, and he only owned $29 – $435 in the stock as part of a mutual fund.

The media largely ignored success stories from coronavirus patients who recovered after being treated with the drug. In April, Democrat State Rep. Karen Whitsett from Detroit, Mich., credited the drug and President Trump with saving her life. Other coronavirus patients have reported dramatic recoveries after taking the drug.

But none of this mattered.

Studies showing the drug as ineffective were covered excessively, such as the Veterans Affairs study in April, which found a higher mortality rate with patients given the drug. The study was deeply flawed, as the sickest patients were disproportionately administered the drug. It was a deeply flawed, non-peer-reviewed study that had no business being reported on. Two other studies followed linking hydroxychloroquine to higher mortality, but those studies were based on faulty data, and two well-respected medical journals had to retract one of them.

Steven Hatfill, a veteran virologist, noted at RealClearPolitics that “There are now 53 studies that show positive results of hydroxychloroquine in COVID infections. There are 14 global studies that show neutral or negative results — and 10 of them were of patients in very late stages of COVID-19, where no antiviral drug can be expected to have much effect.”

Hatfill continued, “Of the remaining four studies, two come from the same University of Minnesota author. The other two are from the faulty Brazil paper, which should be retracted, and the fake Lancet paper, which was.”

“Two recent, large, early-use clinical trials have been conducted by the Henry Ford Health System and at Mount Sinai showing a 51% and 47% lower mortality, respectively, in hospitalized patients given hydroxychloroquine. A recent study from Spain published on July 29, two days before Margaret Sullivan’s strafing of ‘fringe doctors,’ shows a 66% reduction in COVID mortality in patients taking hydroxychloroquine. No serious side effects were reported in these studies and no epidemic of heartbeat abnormalities.”

One example Hatfill cited that shows the drug has been effective in Switzerland, which briefly banned hydroxychloroquine after the bogus studies linking the drug to higher mortality rates came out.

What happened? Just look at the graph.

“Looking at the evolution curve of this index for Switzerland,” explain Michel Jullian and Xavier Azalbert for FranceSoir, “we note a ‘wave of excess lethality’ of two weeks from June 9th to 22nd, with a lag of a dozen days compared to the period of suspension of the use of hydroxychloroquine by WHO. This demonstrates, without possible rebuttal, the effect of stopping the delivery and use of this drug in Switzerland (country which follows the recommendations of the WHO, based in Geneva). During the weeks preceding the ban, the nrCFR index fluctuated between 3% and 5%. Some 13 days after the start of the prohibition, the nrCFR index increases considerably to be between 10 and 15% for 2 weeks. Some 12 days after the end of the prohibition, the lethality falls back to a lower level.”

Switzerland is hardly the only country that has shown the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine. “Millions of people are taking or have taken hydroxychloroquine in nations that have managed to get their national pandemic under some degree of control,” explains Hatfill.

The best way to show this is to compare deaths per capita in countries that are widely using hydroxychloroquine and those that aren’t.

How much more proof is needed that Trump Derangement Syndrome from the media has resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths? Most studies show hydroxychloroquine can be an effective treatment for COVID-19. Countries that are widely using it early in the progression of the disease have had significantly better outcomes in mortality.

How many lives were lost because the Democrats and the media claimed that taking hydroxychloroquine would kill you? They want the public to blame Trump for the 160,000 deaths that have resulted from the virus, but in reality, the death count would be much, much lower had they put their rabid Trump Derangement Syndrome on hold for the greater good and had an open mind about hydroxychloroquine.

President Trump needs to be pointing this out daily.



July Jobs Report Smashes Expectations Despite COVID-19

The July jobs report shows the economy beating expectations yet again, even as the country navigates COVID-19. The U.S. economy added 1.8 million jobs in the month of July, and unemployment fell to 10.2 percent from the previous 11.1 percent. Payrolls rose 1.76 million in July, beating a projection of 1.48; wages rose a slight .02 percent.

President Trump continues to fight to bring the American economy back, and alleviate the damage caused by COVID-19. Since the massive job loss began at the beginning of COVID-19, 9 million jobs have been recovered. July's positive report comes as Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are in the midst of negotiations over a second Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) stimulus package.



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