Saturday, March 13, 2021



Halting AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine rollout in EU an 'overreaction', according to experts

European authorities pausing the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after a small number of people developed blood clots is an "overreaction", according to one leading Australian scientist.

More than 11 million people have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca drug in the UK without evidence of an increase in blood clots

"You can't ignore these events, but I think it's an overreaction," Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases expert from ANU, said.

He said generally there were around 100 cases per 100,000 of blood clots in the general population and that the rate of blood clots from people who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine did not appear to be higher than that.

Professor Collignon said in any mass vaccination program, some people were going to have health issues that were not necessarily a consequence of receiving the vaccine.

"So we are going to see everything from heart attacks, to strokes, to pulmonary embolism, and we need to keep an eye on it but generally, this doesn't seem to be above what you would expect given that millions of doses have been given out," he said.

Professor Collignon said there was no evidence of increased blood clots in the phase 3 trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the AstraZeneca vaccine's benefits continue to outweigh its risk.

"There is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine," the EMA said. "The vaccine can continue to be administered while investigation of cases of thromboembolic events is ongoing," it added.

The EMA said there had been 30 cases of clot-related events among the 5 million Europeans who have received the jab.

One person in Austria died from blood clots and another was hospitalised with a blockage in the lung after receiving doses from a particular batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Denmark suspended the shots for two weeks after a 60-year-old woman, given an AstraZeneca shot from a batch used in Austria, formed a blood clot and died, health authorities said.

Some EU countries subsequently suspended this batch as a precautionary measure, while a full investigation by the EMA was ongoing.

Italy also suspended the use of AstraZeneca when two men died in Sicily, however, those shots were not from the Austrian batch.

Norway, Iceland, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Latvia have also stopped inoculations with the vaccine while investigations continue.

RMIT vaccine expert Kylie Quinn said increased clotting had not come up as a potential issue in the UK rollout of the vaccine.

"Biologically, I don't know why there would be a link between clots and this specific vaccine," she said.

Professor Collignon said it was important to monitor the vaccine rollout for any serious side effects, to see if it was above what you would expect to see in the general population.

"Tens of millions of doses of [the AstraZeneca] vaccine have been given around the world, so if there is an association with blood clots, which is doubtful, it is a pretty rare side effect compared to the consequences of getting COVID-19 itself," he said.

Experts said any apparent cluster of side effects needed to be investigated, but it did not mean the cause was the vaccine itself.

Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the sensible approach was to make sure the "benefit and risk balance is in favour of the vaccine".

"This is a super-cautious approach based on some isolated reports in Europe," he said. "The problem with spontaneous reports of suspected adverse reactions to a vaccine are the enormous difficulty of distinguishing a causal effect from a coincidence.

"This is especially true when we know that COVID-19 disease is very strongly associated with blood clotting and there have been hundreds if not many thousands of deaths caused by blood clotting as a result of COVID-19 disease.

"The first thing to do is to be absolutely certain that the clots did not have some other cause, including COVID-19."

Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said there was "no evidence" the AstraZeneca jab caused blood clots.

"The Australian government is aware of reports some European countries have suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to some reports of blood clots in people who have been vaccinated," he said.

"Safety is our first priority and in a large vaccine rollout like this, we need to monitor carefully for any unusual events so we will find them.

"This does not mean that every event following a vaccination is caused by the vaccine.

"But we do take them seriously and investigate and that's what Denmark is currently doing."

Professor Kelly noted there had been more than 11 million people vaccinated in the UK without evidence of an increase in blood clots.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said any overseas developments in vaccine rollouts were monitored by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

"The batches we distribute here in Australia are tested here by the TGA and we have robust processes," he said.

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Serious allergic reactions do occur with COVID vaccines

The journal article below. It was rare (2%) and nobody died of it but the immediate availability of healthcare was important

Methods

We prospectively studied Mass General Brigham (MGB) employees who received their first dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (12/16/2020-2/12/2021, with follow-up through 2/18/2021) (eMethods in the Supplement). For 3 days after vaccination, employees completed symptom surveys through a multipronged approach including email, text message, phone, and smartphone application links. Acute allergic reaction symptoms solicited included itching, rash, hives, swelling, and/or respiratory symptoms (eAppendix in the Supplement).

To identify anaphylaxis, allergists/immunologists reviewed the electronic health records of employees (1) reporting 2 or more allergy symptoms, (2) described as having an allergic reaction in MGB safety reports, (3) logged by the on-call MGB allergy/immunology team supporting employee vaccination, and (4) referred to MGB allergy/immunology. Episodes were scored using the Brighton Criteria2 and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (NIAID/FAAN) criteria.3 Confirmed anaphylaxis required meeting at least 1 of these 2 sets of criteria.

We described characteristics and outcomes of anaphylaxis cases. We calculated incidence rates and 95% CIs of self-reported acute allergic reactions and confirmed anaphylaxis, using vaccine administrations as the denominator. We compared frequencies using χ2 tests, considering a 2-sided P value of .05 statistically significant. Analyses were conducted in SAS version 9.4. This study was approved by the MGB Human Research Committee with a waiver of informed consent.

Results

Of 64 900 employees who received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 25 929 (40%) received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 38 971 (60%) received the Moderna vaccine. At least 1 symptom survey was completed by 52 805 (81%).

Acute allergic reactions were reported by 1365 employees overall (2.10% [95% CI, 1.99%-2.22%]), more frequently with the Moderna vaccine compared with Pfizer-BioNTech (2.20% [95% CI, 2.06%-2.35%] vs 1.95% [95% CI, 1.79%-2.13%]; P = .03, Table 1). Anaphylaxis was confirmed in 16 employees (0.025% [95% CI, 0.014%-0.040%]): 7 cases from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (0.027% [95% CI, 0.011%-0.056%]) and 9 cases from the Moderna vaccine (0.023% [95% CI, 0.011%-0.044%]) (P = .76).

Individuals with anaphylaxis were a mean (SD) age of 41 (13) years, and 15 (94%) were female (Table 2); 10 (63%) had a prior allergy history and 5 (31%) had an anaphylaxis history. Mean time to anaphylaxis onset was 17 minutes (SD, 28; range, 1-120). One patient was admitted to intensive care, 9 (56%) received intramuscular epinephrine, and all recovered. Three employees, with prior anaphylaxis history, did not seek care.

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As the Insurrection Narrative Crumbles, Democrats Cling to it More Desperately Than Ever

Twice in the last six weeks, warnings were issued about imminent, grave threats to public safety posed by the same type of right-wing extremists who rioted at the Capitol on January 6. And both times, these warnings ushered in severe security measures only to prove utterly baseless.

First we had the hysteria over the violence we were told was likely to occur at numerous state capitols on Inauguration Day. “Law enforcement and state officials are on high alert for potentially violent protests in the lead-up to Inauguration Day, with some state capitols boarded up and others temporarily closed ahead of Wednesday's ceremony,” announced CNN. In an even scarier formulation, NPR intoned that “the FBI is warning of protests and potential violence in all 50 state capitals ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.”

The resulting clampdowns were as extreme as the dire warnings. Washington, D.C. was militarized more than at any point since the 9/11 attack. The military was highly visible on the streets. And, described The Washington Post, “state capitols nationwide locked down, with windows boarded up, National Guard troops deployed and states of emergency preemptively declared as authorities braced for potential violence Sunday mimicking the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of pro-Trump rioters.” All of this, said the paper, “reflected the anxious state of the country ahead of planned demonstrations.”

But none of that happened — not even close. The Washington Post acknowledged three weeks later:

Despite warnings of violent plots around Inauguration Day, only a smattering of right-wing protesters appeared at the nation’s statehouses. In Tallahassee, just five armed men wearing the garb of the boogaloo movement — a loose collection of anti-government groups that say the country is heading for civil war — showed up. Police and National Guard personnel mostly ignored them.

All over the country it was the same story. “But at the moment that Biden was taking the oath of office in Washington, the total number of protesters on the Capitol grounds in Topeka stood at five — two men supporting Trump and two men and a boy ridin’ with Biden,” reported The Wichita Eagle (“With Kansas Capitol in lockdown mode, Inauguration Day protest fizzles). “The protests fizzled out after not many people showed up,” reported the local Florida affiliate in Tallahassee. “The large security efforts dwarfed the protests that materialized by Wednesday evening,” said CNN, as “state capitols and other cities remained largely calm.”

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IN BRIEF

CDC lets child migrant shelters fill to 100% despite COVID concern (Axios)

South Korea and the U.S. reach accord on troop cost sharing (Korea Herald)

New York lawmakers vote to strip Cuomo of pandemic emergency powers (Axios)

2021 sees a record number of bills targeting trans youth defending the dignity of girls and sports (Axios)

T-Mobile is forcing employees to complete a "White Privilege Checklist" (Not the Bee)

Biden to formally establish new Gender Policy Council (The Hill)

Democrats grease the budget wheels for writing off student debt by Biden decree (WSJ)

Twitter silent as Louis Farrakhan's misleading COVID vaccine claims go unchecked (Fox)

New York State Assembly Republicans launch impeachment effort against Governor Andrew Cuomo (NY Post)

Biden administration signals openness to adding "third gender" option for federal IDs (Examiner)

Policy: Time for Congress to reform civil asset forfeiture (National Review)

Free speech-suppressing Apple denies Parler's request to be reinstated in App Store (Post Millennial)

Mexican officials worried that Biden's immigration policy is incentivizing human smuggling and gang activity (Examiner)

Biden administration to resume undeserved taxpayer aid to Palestinians (Disrn)

Fewer than 1 in 5 support "defund the police" movement (USA Today)

In 70-30 vote, Senate confirms Merrick Garland as attorney general (CNBC)

In 66-34 vote, Senate confirms Michael Regan as EPA chief (Examiner)

Left-leaning poll shows 53-32 favor banning biological males from women's sports (Daily Wire)

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Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://snorphty.blogspot.com (TONGUE-TIED)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://awesternheart.blogspot.com.au/ (THE PSYCHOLOGIST)

https://heofen.blogspot.com/ (MY OTHER BLOGS)

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Friday, March 12, 2021


An anti-virus drug for OLDIES

This is tremendous news. Antibody drug cuts Covid ‘hospital admissions and deaths by 85%’

A new drug has reduced Covid-19 hospital admissions and deaths among high-risk patients by 85 per cent, the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) said this morning.

The monoclonal antibody treatment, called VIR-7831, is for people with mild to moderate illness. An independent panel recommended stopping further enrolment in a late-stage trial after evidence emerged of “profound efficacy”, GSK said.

The drug was developed in partnership with Vir Biotechnology, which is based in California. The two companies said that they would immediately seek an emergency use authorisation in the United States. It is possible that they will also apply for regulatory approval in the UK.

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced molecules that mimic the antibodies naturally produced by the body when people are infected by the coronavirus.

The evidence included interim analysis of data from 583 patients enrolled in the COMET-ICE trial, which demonstrated an 85% reduction in the hospitalisation or death in high-risk COVID-19 patients treated early with VIR-7831 monotherapy compared to placebo.

The trial, that will continue as a blinded trial with the existing patients, with the patients will be followed for 24 weeks, will also yield additional results when completed – this data will be ‘forthcoming’, according to GSK and Vir.

GSK and Vir will use these results to form the EUA application, and for additional authorisations in other countries.

In addition to the positive phase 3 results, GSK and Vir announced results from a new study – submitted and pending online publication on the pre-print server bioRxiv – demonstrating that VIR-7831 maintains activity against currently circulating ‘variants of concern’.

This includes the variants discovered in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.

The results are based on in vitro data from pseudotyped virus assays – according to GSK/Vir, their mAb binds to a highly conserved epitope of the spike protein, which could make it more difficult for resistance to develop.

“The dual-action design of VIR-7831 to both block viral entry into healthy cells and clear infected cells, as well as its high barrier to resistance, are key distinguishing characteristics,” said George Scangos, chief executive officer of Vir.

“These findings, paired with our pending publication of resistance data, demonstrate the potential of VIR-7831 to prevent the most severe consequences of COVID-19 and highlight its potential ability to protect against the current circulating strains of the virus,” he added.

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Why Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is probably the best shot

Americans have had two extremely similar authorized COVID-19 vaccines since December: one mRNA vaccine from Pfizer, and another mRNA vaccine from Moderna.

But now, there is another coronavirus shot authorized for use across the US: Johnson & Johnson’s adenovirus jab, which got a green light from the US Food and Drug Administration on Saturday after an expert committee unanimously recommended on Friday evening that it should receive emergency-use authorization.

In trials around the world, J&J’s shot was shown to be 66% effective at preventing coronavirus infections altogether, and 85% effective at preventing severe COVID-19 cases, when given four weeks to take effect.

Taken at face value, that may not appear as good as Moderna’s or Pfizer’s two-shot vaccines, both of which had efficacy better than 94% in their 2020 trials.

But don’t be fooled by the buffet of incomplete vaccine data we have. Comparing efficacy rates among different vaccine trials conducted at different times is like comparing apples to oranges. That’s why Dr. Anthony Fauci and other experts have said they would just take whichever shot they could get.

And for some people, getting the J&J vaccine may be ideal.

Young, healthy people, and those who can’t necessarily afford to come back for a second jab, may prefer it, and others who don’t tolerate vaccine side effects well might like it better too. Plus, you have to consider that J&J’s shot was tested out at the height of the pandemic, which may have had an effect on the numbers in the trial.

While it may not eliminate disease, J&J’s jab holds its own in preventing the worst outcomes of COVID-19 – hospitalization and death. What’s more, it’s cheap to make, simple to give and get, and you’ll gain some good viral protection in just a matter of weeks, without ever having to return for a second shot. As a bonus, you just might be better protected than anyone else against some new variants that are spreading fast.

In short, this vaccine could be the pandemic escape hatch we’ve been waiting for – helping vaccinate millions more Americans at a breakneck clip.

The most obvious benefit of the J&J vaccine is it’s just one shot. “It’s nice to have a single-dose vaccine,” FDA committee member Eric Rubin, editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, said Friday evening after the vote. “The demand is so large that it clearly has a place.”

The rest of the FDA committee agreed.

“What we have to keep in mind is we are still in the midst of this deadly pandemic,” committee member Archana Chatterjee, dean of the Chicago Medical School, said. “There is a shortage of vaccines that are currently authorized, and I think authorization of this vaccine will help meet the needs of the moment.”

Adding millions more shots to the US’s vaccine arsenal will help drive up the collective immunity of the country. And one shot can do that quicker than two. Not only is the J&J vaccine simpler to give out, requiring no second appointments, it’s also significantly cheaper to produce than mRNA shots – making it a great tool to fight the pandemic worldwide. (All the authorized COVID-19 vaccines are, under federal law, free to everyone in the US.)

It works particularly well in young people

For younger, healthier people the convenience factor of a one-shot vaccine is not trivial.

People under 60 are generally not at great risk of major COVID-19 complications in the first place, and are more likely to struggle taking time off work, but it’s still imperative that they get vaccinated.

They can do their part to combat the pandemic without having to schedule two vaccine appointments (or accidentally skip the second). With J&J’s shot, immune protection will become robust within a month, without having to go back in for a second booster.

Fortunately, this new vaccine works particularly well in the under-60 group too. In J&J’s trial, people under the age of 60 were well protected from serious infections: Only 58 out of more than 8,200 who were fully vaccinated got moderate to severe illness after their shot had time to take effect. In the similarly sized control group, 180 got moderate to severe COVID-19 infections.

J&J’s shot is also the only one that the FDA has reviewed, so far, that provides evidence that it helps stop people from spreading the virus asymptomatically. That is particularly useful for young people, as well as essential workers and people experiencing homelessness who may not be able to social distance, and already face more barriers getting access to vaccine or testing sites.

Though more research is needed to know for sure, J&J’s data suggests that their vaccine may be about 74% effective against asymptomatic infections. That means it could be a great tool to help achieve herd immunity nationwide, by stopping the silent, undetected spread of the virus.

It’s safe and likely doesn’t require a day of rest
Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s two-dose mRNA shots come with some more serious side effects than J&J’s. Though temporary, the fever, chills, and general malaise people may feel the day after getting their second shot (called the booster) can be severe enough to affect their daily plans.

Lots of people who’ve had strong reactions to their second shot of Pfizer’s or Moderna’s vaccine are recommending others take a day off work after shot No. 2, or they schedule their appointment over the weekend. But not everyone can afford to do that.

J&J’s vaccine is also more convenient for providers. It is less fragile, so it can sit in a regular fridge for three months, without requiring any of the hypercold storage mRNA vaccines do. This could make it an indispensable tool in rural areas. The vaccine may also be a better choice for some people who have polyethylene glycol allergies.

It’s the only vaccine we know that works against variants in the real world

“We have a vaccine now that has good efficacy that everyone is going to compare to the existing vaccines and say it doesn’t look quite as good,” Rubin said.

But there’s more to J&J’s result than that single number.

“What’s really important to remember about this vaccine is that when we conducted our clinical trials, in October of 2020 to about January of 2021, this was during the time when the incidence rate of the virus was really about at its peak,” J&J CEO Alex Gorsky told NBC’s “Today” show on Monday.

J&J’s shot is also the only vaccine to have rigorous clinical data showing success in numerous countries where variants of the virus are rapidly spreading. In particular, J&J’s shot was 64% effective in South Africa, where virtually all the local illnesses during the study were caused by the B.1.351 variant.

Mathai Mammen, J&J’s research and development head, told Insider that the company’s shot has been “co-optimized” for both antibody and T-cell responses to the virus, while both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s have not.

“That makes our vaccine potentially really good versus a virus that is changing on us,” he said. “We’re worried about the mRNA vaccines not having that T-cell net and actually taking a much bigger hit by the South African variant.”

Mutations seen in the B.1.351 variant have concerned vaccine developers to the point that Moderna and Pfizer are now developing new booster shots of their vaccine, tailored to neutralize that concerning variant.

Moderna and Pfizer are confident that their shots will still provide protection, at least partially, against these concerning variants. J&J’s shot, in contrast, brings certainty that it is.

“We’re in a race between the virus mutating, new variants coming out that can cause further disease, and stopping it,” Dr. Jay Portnoy, the FDA committee’s consumer representative said. “We need to get this vaccine out.”

You might get a little sick

Even though J&J’s vaccination may not eliminate disease entirely, it makes getting COVID-19 tolerable.

People who were vaccinated with J&J’s shot in the trial but got sick – in what are called “breakthrough” infections – had much milder symptoms.

Dr. James Hildreth, also on the FDA expert advisory committee, said it was an “important point” about the shot.

It’s similar to what happens with annual flu shots: They tend to make flu symptoms milder and illnesses shorter, when and if vaccinated people do get infected. That’ll be an important feature of any good coronavirus vaccine, as COVID-19 becomes endemic.

Starting four weeks after immunization, no one receiving J&J’s vaccine was hospitalized. There were also no deaths among vaccinated participants (seven people who got the useless placebo jab died during the vaccine study in South Africa).

“The efficacy at preventing relatively mild or even moderate disease may be different,” Dr. Cody Meissner, an infectious-disease expert at Tufts School of Medicine, said during the FDA meeting on Friday, speaking of the differences between Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J.

“Yet all of the vaccines seem to be equally effective at preventing very severe disease, intensive-care needs, and deaths.”

And isn’t that what all the best vaccines are designed to do? Keep us alive and free of serious diseases. As the virologist Angela Rasmussen said Wednesday on Twitter, “I’ll take it.”

She added: “I’d recommend it to my parents and older relatives too.”

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Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://snorphty.blogspot.com (TONGUE-TIED)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://awesternheart.blogspot.com.au/ (THE PSYCHOLOGIST)

https://heofen.blogspot.com/ (MY OTHER BLOGS)

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Thursday, March 11, 2021



Is Trump a populist?

Leftist intellectuals are firmly convinced that Trump is a populist. And that accusation does make some sense. But a lot depends on what you think populism is. The general idea is that a populist adopts popular stances that in the end don't work or are destructive. That strikes me as a useful summary of Leftism.

So the term is usually narrowed down to refer to politicians who claim to represent "the people" in opposition to a ruling elite. Trump's attack on "the swamp" is clearly of that ilk. So which is it? Is populism inherently Leftist or is it just one approach to politics?

A useful approach to defining populism has been made by Joe Forgas, a distinguished Australian psychologist who escaped Communist Hungary as a child. Given that origin, his sympathey for the Left is rather limited, unusually for a social science academic.

He equates populism with tribalism and notes that Trump appealed to Americans as a tribe: "Make America great". Forgas also sees the Left as hugely tribal, obsessed with all sorts of tribal identities: Homosexuals, feminists, blacks etc. The Left, too, create tribes with their propaganda.

So Forgas does create a coherent story about populism.

But I think he misses the wood for the trees. He overlooks what British conservative philosopher Roger Scruton devoted his life to pointing out: That patriotism and conservatism are two branches of the same tree. So it was not some sort of narrow tribalism that lay behind Trump's appeal but his conservatism generally.

Trump certainly was patriotic and wanted the best for his country but he also had a whole range of conservative ideas -- he was critical of abortion, he disliked feminism, he sidelined global warming, he was pro-Christian etc. And he most clearly saw the status quo as having some virtue and thought it should be changed only gradually.

Where most thinkers saw the transfer of American industrial jobs to China as desirable on cost grounds, Trump looked to the effect that was having on American industrial workers and tried to halt it. He taught us that money was not everything. Stability had value too

And another change that Trump vehemently opposed was the mass illegal immigration into America by people with very different traditions to Americans. He liked America as it was and wanted population change to be carefully controlled and limited

So "make America great" was only a general rubric for a whole range of conservative policies. He was a thoroughgoing conservative, the first such that Americans had seen in public life for a long time. And that is why he is widely loved by conservatives and widely loathed by non-conservatives. The Left could put up with wishy-washy conservative like George Bush but a real conservative shook them to the core. They had never before been confronted by a real conservative and that generated huge rage

So Trump was a populist in only an incidental sense. The breadth of his appeal was the voice he gave to conservatism across the board. The Left thought that their own limited view of the world was the only one. Trump showed them otherwise

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Biden, like Trump, embraces the 'Buy American' folly

What Jeff Jacoby says below was for a long time conventional wisdom on both sides of American politics. And it is still largely true. Buying local tends to prop up inefficient producers who really need to find something better to spend their time and efforts on.

Jacoby is however wrong to see Trump as the simplistic "buy American" advocate we have seen in the past. Trump does after all have an economics degree from a prestigious economics school (Wharton) so would obviously be well aware of the problems with a buy American agenda.

So while his rhetoric was at times sweeping, what Trump actually did was finely calibrated. He protected American industries only when the social impact of foreign trade was grievous. The headline example of that is that coal and steel towns got help from Trump when they were suddenly hard-hit by foreign trade. Trump endeavoured to revive coal mining in particular. He recognized, in other words, that there were some cases where buying overseas rather from American producers could be socially disruptive and should therefore be deplored.

Tariffs have long been seen as a legitimate instrument of government and it was simply conservative of Trump to use them to give a breathing space to disrupted communities

But the very distinctive thing about Trump's tariffs was that he actually used them to FREE UP trade. He put tariffs on other countries in order to pressure them into removing their tariffs on American goods. And he did have considerable success at that. So at the end of the day trade was freed up overall, not reduced. He actually used tariffs to promote free trade

Whether Biden will use trade restrictions in a similar intelligent way remains to be seen but it seems unlikely


IN HIS first weeks as president, Joe Biden has been busily undoing much of his predecessor's legacy. On issues ranging from climate to abortion to immigration, Biden has signed executive orders and proposed new regulations aimed at reversing Donald Trump's policies. But when it comes to one of Trump's most damaging economic obsessions — his "Buy American" agenda — Biden is following in Trump's footsteps.

Trump was the most protectionist president of modern times. Hostility to free trade was a key theme of his 2016 campaign and of his inaugural address. "We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs," he declared. "Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.... We will follow two simple rules: buy American, and hire American."

He was wrong. His protectionist policies failed. Yet now comes Biden, and vows to go even further.

On Jan. 25, the president issued a series of directives toughening Trump's policy of requiring the federal government to buy US-made products. Biden's orders, as summarized by the White House, impose higher hurdles for imported components used in US manufacturing and direct government agencies to "crack down on unnecessary waivers" — i.e., to allow fewer federal agencies to procure foreign-made goods in cases when they determine that a preference for American products would not be in the public interest.

But "buy American" mandates, though popular with the general public, are never in the public interest.

The idea that the federal government should be compelled to buy its products and supplies from US producers and suppliers — or, to put it differently, that the government should be barred from spending taxpayer dollars on goods made abroad — dates back to the Great Depression. On his last full day as president in 1933, Herbert Hoover signed the protectionist Buy American Act, which for the first time required government agencies to give preference to domestic goods for all contracts above a $10,000 threshold. Supporters of the law argued that it would strengthen American industry, fuel job-creation, and boost the fortunes of American workers.

The same argument is still being made by advocates of "buy American" policies. Biden's new executive orders, said the White House, "will ensure that the federal government is investing taxpayer dollars in American businesses—both small and large. These investments will help create well-paid, union jobs, and build our economy back better so that everybody has a fair shot at the middle class."

That may sound patriotic and reasonable. But the effect of Hoover's law, and myriad subsequent domestic-preference statutes and regulations, has been to drive up the cost of goods and services bought with public funds and to prevent jobs from being created. According to one scholarly estimate, scrapping "buy American" restrictions would add $22 billion to the US economy and generate an estimated 363,000 new jobs. Another analysis, by Gary Hufbauer and Euijin Jung of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, calculates that "the annual taxpayer cost for each US job arguably 'saved' by made-in-America [requirements] probably exceeds $250,000."

"Buy American" laws and regulations have driven up the cost of goods and services bought with public funds and prevented jobs from being created.

There is a superficial appeal to the notion that US procurement dollars should be reserved whenever possible for US producers. But like a lot of superficially appealing notions, it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. No one would ever insist that officials in Cambridge or Worcester be compelled to buy equipment and materials only from vendors and producers located within their municipal borders. After all, there are so many more options — often less expensive options, higher-quality options, or more reliable options — to be found in other towns. It would be equally absurd to insist that Massachusetts agencies be barred from contracting with firms in Ohio or California. Economic well-being doesn't come from locking up trade behind local or state boundaries, but from expanding it beyond those boundaries. What is true of neighborhoods, cities, and states is equally true of countries.

Protectionist mandates deprive American taxpayers of the benefits that come from access to worldwide supply chains and the broadest possible competition. By sheltering domestic producers from competitors abroad, "buy American" rules reduce the pressure on those producers to innovate, improve quality, and become more efficient. Rare is the American business that is capable of achieving sustained excellence, or of remaining at the cutting edge of its industry, if it never has to face challengers.

Those entrusted with taxpayer dollars should be required not to "buy American," but to buy wisely — to get the highest quality at the most reasonable cost. When American-made products meet that standard, by all means buy them. When imports are available at higher quality and lower cost, that is where taxpayer dollars should go. Surely Biden would agree that Herbert Hoover's policies have done enough harm. This is no time to double down on them.

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COVID: UK variant up to 100 percent more deadly, study finds

Research reveals the B.1.1.7 strain of the novel coronavirus is significantly more lethal than earlier variants.

A highly infectious variant of COVID-19 first discovered in the United Kingdom is between 30 to 100 percent more deadly than previous strains, researchers have said.

In a study that compared death rates among people in the UK infected with the variant known as B.1.1.7 with those infected with other strains, scientists said the new strain had “significantly higher” mortality.

Published in the British Medical Journal on Wednesday, the UK study revealed infection with what is commonly known as the “UK variant” led to 227 deaths in a sample of 54,906 COVID-19 patients, compared with 141 among the same number of patients infected with other variants.

“Coupled with its ability to spread rapidly, this makes B.1.1.7 a threat that should be taken seriously,” said Robert Challen, a researcher at Exeter University who co-led the research.

B.1.1.7 was first detected in the English county of Kent in September 2020 and has since become the dominant strain in the UK. It fanned outwards rapidly, and more than 100 other countries have reported cases since.

The variant has 23 mutations in its genetic code – a relatively high number of changes – and some of these have made it far more able to spread.

UK scientists say it is about 40-70 percent more transmissible than the first-wave coronavirus.

Its rapid spread in the UK late last year fuelled a surge in cases and deaths and, on January 4, forced a new national lockdown – the country’s third since the pandemic began.

To date, the UK has recorded more than 4.3 million cases of COVID-19. The virus has killed nearly 125,000 people nationwide – one of the world’s worst death tolls.

In a bid to curb the crisis, officials have rolled out a mass inoculation drive which has seen more than 22.5 million people – about a third of the UK’s adult population – receive at least one dose of a vaccine to date.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month said he was confident the vaccines currently being used in the UK – produced by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNtech – were “effective in protecting against death and serious illness”.

His comments came amid fears over the emergence of two other highly infectious virus strains – the so-called Brazilian and South African variants, known by scientists as 20I/501Y.V2 or B.1.351 and P.1 respectively.

According to the World Health Organization, the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in development or have been approved in various parts of the world are expected to provide at least some protection against the new variants.

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Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://snorphty.blogspot.com (TONGUE-TIED)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://awesternheart.blogspot.com.au/ (THE PSYCHOLOGIST)

https://heofen.blogspot.com/ (MY OTHER BLOGS)

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Tuesday, March 09, 2021



Science, Politics, and COVID: Will Truth Prevail?

By Scott W. Atlas

The COVID pandemic has been a tragedy, no doubt. But it has exposed profound issues in America that threaten the principles of freedom and order that we Americans often take for granted.

First, I have been shocked at the unprecedented exertion of power by the government since last March — issuing unilateral decrees, ordering the closure of businesses, churches, and schools, restricting personal movement, mandating behavior, and suspending indefinitely basic freedoms. Second, I was and remain stunned — almost frightened — at the acquiescence of the American people to such destructive, arbitrary, and wholly unscientific rules, restrictions, and mandates.

The pandemic also brought to the forefront things we have known existed and have tolerated for years: media bias, the decline of academic freedom on campuses, the heavy hand of Big Tech, and — now more obviously than ever — the politicization of science. Ultimately, the freedom of Americans to seek and state what they believe to be the truth is at risk.

Let me say at the outset that I, like all of us, acknowledge that the consequences of the COVID pandemic and its management have been enormous. Over 500,000 American deaths have been attributed to the virus; more will follow. Even after almost a year, the pandemic still paralyzes our country. And despite all efforts, there has been an undeniable failure to stop cases from escalating and to prevent hospitalizations and deaths.

But there is also an unacknowledged reality: almost every state and major city in the U.S., with a handful of exceptions, have implemented severe restrictions for many months, including closures of businesses and in-person schools, mobility restrictions and curfews, quarantines, limits on group gatherings, and mask mandates dating back to at least last summer. And despite any myths to the contrary, social mobility tracking of Americans and data from Gallup, YouGov, the COVID-19 Consortium, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have all shown significant reductions of movement as well as a consistently high percentage of mask-wearing since the late summer, similar to the extent seen in Western Europe and approaching the extent seen in Asia.

With what results?

All legitimate policy scholars today should be reexamining the policies that have severely harmed America’s children and families, while failing to save the elderly. Numerous studies, including one from Stanford University’s infectious disease scientists and epidemiologists Benavid, Oh, Bhattacharya, and Ioannides have shown that the mitigating impact of the extraordinary measures used in almost every state was small at best — and usually harmful. President Biden himself openly admitted the lack of efficacy of these measures in his January 22 speech to the nation: “There is nothing we can do,” he said, “to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.”

Bizarrely, though, many want to blame those who opposed lockdowns and mandates for the failure of the very lockdowns and mandates that were widely implemented.

Besides their limited value in containing the virus, lockdown policies have been extraordinarily harmful. The harms to children of suspending in-person schooling are dramatic, including poor learning, school dropouts, social isolation, and suicidal ideation, most of which are far worse for lower income groups. A recent study confirms that up to 78 percent of cancers were never detected due to missed screening over a three-month period. If one extrapolates to the entire country, 750,000 to over a million new cancer cases over a nine-month period will have gone undetected. That health disaster adds to missed critical surgeries, delayed presentations of pediatric illnesses, heart attack and stroke patients too afraid to go to the hospital, and others — all well documented.

Beyond hospital care, the CDC reported four-fold increases in depression, three-fold increases in anxiety symptoms, and a doubling of suicidal ideation, particularly among young adults after the first few months of lockdowns, echoing American Medical Association reports of drug overdoses and suicides. Domestic and child abuse have been skyrocketing due to the isolation and loss of jobs. Given that many schools have been closed, hundreds of thousands of abuse cases have gone unreported, since schools are commonly where abuse is noticed. Finally, the unemployment shock from lockdowns, according to a recent National Bureau of Economic Research study, will generate a three percent increase in the mortality rate and a 0.5 percent drop in life expectancy over the next 15 years, disproportionately affecting African-Americans and women. That translates into what the study refers to as a “staggering” 890,000 additional U.S. deaths.

We know we have not yet seen the full extent of the damage from the lockdowns, because the effects will continue to be felt for decades. Perhaps that is why lockdowns were not recommended in previous pandemic response analyses, even for diseases with far higher death rates.

To determine the best path forward, shouldn’t policymakers objectively consider the impact both of the virus and of anti-virus policies to date? This points to the importance of health policy, my own particular field, which requires a broader scope than that of epidemiologists and basic scientists. In the case of COVID, it requires taking into account the fact that lockdowns and other significant restrictions on individuals have been extraordinarily harmful — even deadly — especially for the working class and the poor.

***
Optimistically, we should be seeing the light at the end of the long tunnel with the rollout of vaccines, now being administered at a rate of one million to 1.5 million per day. On the other hand, using logic that would appeal to Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter, in many states the vaccines were initially administered more frequently to healthier and younger people than to those at greatest risk from the virus. The argument was made that children should be among the first to be vaccinated, although children are at extremely low risk from the virus and are proven not to be significant spreaders to adults. Likewise, we heard the Kafka-esque idea promoted that teachers must be vaccinated before teaching in person, when schools are one of the lowest risk environments and the vast majority of teachers are not high risk.

Worse, we hear so-called experts on TV warning that social distancing, masks, and other restrictions will still be necessary after people are vaccinated! All indications are that those in power have no intention of allowing Americans to live normally — which for Americans means to live freely — again.

And sadly, just as in Galileo’s time, the root of our problem lies in “the experts” and vested academic interests. At many universities — which are supposed to be America’s centers for critical thinking — those with views contrary to those of “the experts” currently in power find themselves intimidated. Many have become afraid to speak up.

But the suppression of academic freedom is not the extent of the problem on America’s campuses.

To take Stanford, where I work, as an example, some professors have resorted to toxic smears in opinion pieces and organized rebukes aimed at those of us who criticized the failed health policies of the past year and who dared to serve our country under a president they despised — the latter apparently being the ultimate transgression.

Defamatory attacks with malicious intent based on straw-man arguments and out-of-context distortions are not acceptable in American society, let alone in our universities. There has been an attempt to intimidate and discredit me using falsifications and misrepresentations. This violates Stanford’s Code of Conduct, damages the Stanford name, and abuses the trust that parents and society place in educators.

It is understandable that most Stanford professors are not experts in the field of health policy and are ignorant of the data about the COVID pandemic. But that does not excuse the fact that some called recommendations that I made “falsehoods and misrepresentations of science.” That was a lie, and no matter how often lies are repeated by politically-driven accusers, and regardless of how often those lies are echoed in biased media, lies will never be true.

We all must pray to God that the infamous claim attributed to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels — "A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth" — never becomes operative in the United States of America.

All of the policies I recommended to President Trump were designed to reduce both the spread of the virus to the most vulnerable and the economic, health, and social harms of anti-COVID policies for those impacted the most — small businesses, the working class, and the poor. I was one of the first to push for increasing protections for those most at risk, particularly the elderly. At the same time, almost a year ago, I recognized that we must also consider the enormous harms to physical and mental health, as well as the deaths attributable to the draconian policies implemented to contain the infection. That is the goal of public health policy — to minimize all harms, not simply to stop a virus at all costs.

The claim in a recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) opinion piece by three Stanford professors that “nearly all public health experts were concerned that [Scott Atlas’s] recommendations could lead to tens of thousands (or more) of unnecessary deaths in the U.S. alone” is patently false and absurd on its face. As pointed out by Dr. Joel Zinberg in National Review, the Great Barrington Declaration — a proposal co-authored by medical scientists and epidemiologists from Stanford, Harvard, and Oxford — "is closer to the one condemned in the JAMA article than anything Atlas said.“ Yet the Great Barrington Declaration has already been signed by over 50,000 medical and public health practitioners.

When critics display such ignorance about the scope of views held by experts, it exposes their bias and disqualifies their authority on these issues. Indeed, it is almost beyond parody that these same critics wrote that "professionalism demands honesty about what [experts] know and do not know.”

I have explained the fact that younger people have little risk from this infection, and I have explained the biological fact of herd immunity — just like Harvard epidemiologist Katherine Yih did. That is very different from proposing that people be deliberately exposed and infected — which I have never suggested, although I have been accused of doing so.

I have also been accused of “argu[ing] that many public health orders aimed at increasing social distancing could be forgone without ill effects.” To the contrary, I have repeatedly called for mitigation measures, including extra sanitization, social distancing, masks, group limits, testing, and other increased protections to limit the spread and damage from the coronavirus. I explicitly called for augmenting protection of those at risk — in dozens of on-the-record presentations, interviews, and written pieces.

My accusers have ignored my explicit, emphatic public denials about supporting the spread of the infection unchecked to achieve herd immunity — denials quoted widely in the media. Perhaps this is because my views are not the real object of their criticism. Perhaps it is because their true motive is to “cancel” anyone who accepted the call to serve America in the Trump administration.

For many months, I have been vilified after calling for opening in-person schools — in line with Harvard Professors Martin Kulldorf and Katherine Yih and Stanford Professor Jay Bhattacharya — but my policy recommendation has been corroborated repeatedly by the literature. The compelling case to open schools is now admitted even in publications like The Atlantic, which has noted: “Research from around the world has, since the beginning of the pandemic, indicated that people under 18, and especially younger kids, are less susceptible to infection, less likely to experience severe symptoms, and far less likely to be hospitalized or die.” The subhead of the article was even clearer: “We’ve known for months that young children are less susceptible to serious infection and less likely to transmit the coronavirus.”

When the JAMA accusers wrote that I “disputed the need for masks,” they misrepresented my words. My advice on mask usage has been consistent: “Wear a mask when you cannot socially distance.” At the time, this matched the published recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). This past December, the WHO modified its recommendation: “In areas where the virus is circulating, masks should be worn when you’re in crowded settings, where you can’t be at least one meter [roughly three feet] from others, and in rooms with poor or unknown ventilation” — in other words, not at all times by everyone. This also matches the recommendation of the National Institutes of Health document Prevention and Prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 Infection: “When consistent distancing is not possible, face coverings may further reduce the spread of infectious droplets from individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection to others.”

Regarding universal masks, 38 states have implemented mask mandates, most of them since at least the summer, with almost all the rest having mandates in their major cities. Widespread, general population mask usage has shown little empirical utility in terms of preventing cases, even though citing or describing evidence against their utility has been censored. Denmark also performed a randomized controlled study that showed that widespread mask usage had only minimal impact.

This is the reality: those who insist that universal mask usage has absolutely proven effective at controlling the spread of the COVID virus and is universally recommended according to “the science” are deliberately ignoring the evidence to the contrary. It is they who are propagating false and misleading information.

Those who say it is unethical, even dangerous, to question broad population mask mandates must also explain why many top infectious disease scientists and public health organizations question the efficacy of general population masking. Tom Jefferson and Carl Heneghan of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, for instance, wrote that “despite two decades of pandemic preparedness, there is considerable uncertainty as to the value of wearing masks.” Oxford epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta says there is no need for masks unless one is elderly or high risk. Stanford’s Jay Bhattacharya has said that “mask mandates are not supported by the scientific data… . There is no scientific evidence that mask mandates work to slow the spread of the disease.”

Throughout this pandemic, the WHO’s “Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19” has included the following statement: “At present, there is no direct evidence (from studies on COVID-19 and in healthy people in the community) on the effectiveness of universal masking of healthy people in the community to prevent infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.” The CDC, in a review of influenza pandemics in May 2020, “did not find evidence that surgical-type face masks are effective in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza transmission, either when worn by infected persons (source control) or by persons in the general community to reduce their susceptibility.” And until the WHO removed it on October 21, 2020 — soon after Twitter censored a tweet of mine highlighting the quote — the WHO had published the fact that “the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence and there are potential benefits and harms to consider.”

My advice on masks all along has been based on scientific data and matched the advice of many of the top scientists and public health organizations throughout the world.

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Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://snorphty.blogspot.com (TONGUE-TIED)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://awesternheart.blogspot.com.au/ (THE PSYCHOLOGIST)

https://heofen.blogspot.com/ (MY OTHER BLOGS)

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Monday, March 08, 2021



U.S. Accuses Russia of Launching a Disinformation Campaign Against Pfizer Vaccine

U.S. officials believe that Russia is carrying out a disinformation campaign to discredit the Pfizer COVID vaccine. Russian intelligence has been trying to cast doubt on the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine in an effort to boost their own Sputnik V vaccine.

Four publications acting as fronts for Russian intel agencies have been publishing disinformation, trying to convince Americans that the approval of the Pfizer vaccine was rushed and shortcuts were taken.

“We can say these outlets are directly linked to Russian intelligence services,” an official at the State Department’s Global Engagement Center told the newspaper. “They’re all foreign-owned, based outside of the United States. They vary a lot in their reach, their tone, their audience, but they’re all part of the Russian propaganda and disinformation ecosystem.”

Insider:

Russia announced a successful coronavirus vaccine in August, but Sputnik V was approved under questionable circumstances. It was released before it went through phase 3 trials. In the United States, phase 3 is a requirement before a drug or vaccine can be vetted and approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The rushed timeline led health officials to speculate whether the Kremlin coerced vaccine makers into putting out Sputnik V quickly to gain a leg up in the global race for a cure to the novel coronavirus.

China is still in the game as well, inking vaccine deals with several countries. But it goes without saying that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the gold standard and are in the most demand around the world.

The problem for other countries is getting their hands on some. The U.S. is “vaccine hoarding” according to the WHO because we are choosing to vaccinate our own citizens before giving it away to others. Here’s where Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine can make inroads in this massive market, and Russian intelligence is doing all they can to help.

Wall Street Journal:

“The emphasis on denigrating Pfizer is likely due to its status as the first vaccine besides Sputnik V to see mass use, resulting in a greater potential threat to Sputnik’s market dominance,” says a forthcoming report by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a nongovernmental organization that focuses on the danger that authoritarian governments pose to democracies and that is part of the German Marshall Fund, a U.S. think tank.

The foreign efforts to sow doubts about the vaccine exploit deep-seated anxieties about the efficacy and side effects of vaccines that were already prevalent in some communities in the U.S. and internationally. Concern about side effects is a major reason for vaccine hesitancy, according to U.S. Census Bureau data made public last month.

In addition, Russian state media and Russian government Twitter accounts have made an effort to openly disparage and sow doubts about the cost and safety of the Pfizer vaccine.

The Russians have dismissed any idea that the FSB or GRU are engaged in disinformation against the COVID vaccines but the publications mentioned by the State Department have deep ties to Russian intelligence and it’s not likely that they would be conducting this kind of campaign without the approval of top intelligence officials.

Russia can do its worst but its credibility on the vaccine issue leaves much to be desired.

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As an Industry Faces Destruction, It Grows a Voting Coalition

Imagine if you had a job. A good job, one that required skill and critical thinking and had a broad impact in the community where you lived. A job you didn’t just show up to do. It was a job you were good at, and because of it, you were able to provide a roof over your family’s head, put your children through college or help pay for their wedding, and once a year, it gave you the ability to carve out a week or two to take the family on vacation.

Now imagine that job becomes the center of political debate, one far removed from the Laurel Mountains, where this town sits. Within two decades, your profession goes from being championed by the Democratic Party and labor officials to one that they want to destroy.

John Fisher and Harvey Charles were standing outside of the Acosta Mine mechanic station here in Somerset County. Both still had traces of coal dust on their hands and faces. Both had just finished their shifts and were cleaning up themselves and their equipment. Fisher works in the mine; Charles transports the coal.

Fisher has been doing this job since 1989, when he returned home after serving four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. The 52-year-old says he travels 67 miles one way every day from his home in Cherry Tree in Clearfield County to do his job at the mine.

He describes his day, which begins not with walking into the mine, but crawling.

“I get here, what? 4:30 a.m. Make sure everything’s running. Then, I go underground and fix what’s broken. All over, in the pots, in the slop, in the bad roof, in the good roof.” He explains all the vulnerabilities that exist in a mine that require monitoring and daily repairs.

Here, metallurgical coal gets mined. It is used exclusively for the steel production that supports the construction of bridges, roads, highways, homes, factories, distribution centers, churches and other businesses supporting the country’s infrastructure and economy.

Fisher explains the core business here is producing and selling metallurgical coal to domestic and international steel and coke (a porous fuel) producers: “It’s a good living. I like what I do, or I would not be doing it.”
So does Charles, who says he’s been in the industry since 1987. “Right out of high school, I followed in the footsteps of my father and grandfather.”

“I used to be the maintenance foreman. Now I’m just a truck mechanic,” he said of his job to make sure all of the massive dump trucks used to haul the coal out of the hollow are in working order.

They acknowledge their industry is in the center of a political storm and their fate does not rely on how many improvements the industry does to make it clean. “Politicians and the press need a good guy and a bad guy to either win a race or tell a story. We used to be the good guys that everyone stood up for,” Fisher says and then shrugs.

“Now we are the bad guys.”

Pick up the daily newspaper and you will find mining will get blamed for everything from the growth of the deer tick population to last year’s mild winter (this winter has not been mild).

Several things bother Fisher and Charles regarding how others look upon those in the mining industry. One is the stereotype of anyone in their business as either anti-intellectual or anti-clean environment. The former they consider insulting, the latter ridiculous.

“Not only do we drink the water and breathe the air here, but we also hunt, fish and swim here. We are the first people who want whatever we do here to be safe,” Fisher said. It is a common refrain from energy workers across the country.

The other thing that gets under their skin is when politicians flippantly suggest they can quickly get another job. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently said people who lost their job to climate justice might find a climate-conscious job.

And President Joe Biden suggested coal miners should just learn to code. Last year in New Hampshire, in the middle of a brag of how former President Barack Obama had placed him in charge of judging what the jobs of the future would be, he said, “Anybody who can go down 3,000 feet in a mine can sure as hell learn to program as well.”

It is still astounding to witness the contempt and disdain politicians and the press have toward the lives and livelihoods of people who aren’t like them, people who don’t live in their ZIP codes or attend the same universities they did.

People who work with their hands don’t start a conversation by asking you where you work. It is rare to find anyone here who would say your profession is irredeemable and that you need to do something they find worthy. Traditionally, when a job or an industry has a problem, they work on fixing it or correcting it rather than destroying it.

People often asked after the 2020 election what will happen with the Trump voters (Fisher and Charles voted for him twice). The thing is this complex conservative populist coalition existed long before it helped catapult Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016.

His win was, in part, the result of a culture that became detached from the people they served in various institutions, whether it was the government, the entertainment industry or the college campus. Many people ultimately rejected all of them.

But if you never understood that, if you always thought it was about Trump, you never understood who they were and why they vote the way they do.

And you never understood how someone who lives in the suburbs of Arizona or Kenosha, Wisconsin, or Miami could have anything in common with someone who works the mines in Appalachia. And you didn’t understand that because you didn’t care to, because you hoped for its destruction.

There will be two endings to this story. The first is industries such as coal or shale, or the creation of pipelines, will continue to get attacked and dismantled, costing people their jobs. As Fisher said, politicians and the press always need a bad guy.

And the other ending is this coalition will grow — despite the press incorrectly believing one person caused it and having the audacity to think they have the power to dismantle it.

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Blue collar workers going Republican

An NBC News poll released last week reflects one of the most significant political trends of the past 30 years – the realignment of blue-collar workers who’ve left the party of Planned Parenthood and Drag Queen Story Hour for the party of energy-independence, fair-trade deals and border security.

The poll shows that between 2010 and 2020, the Republican share of blue- collar votes rose from 45% to 57%. Within the same demographic, its Hispanic vote went from 23% to 36%, while its black working-class vote went from 5% to 12%.

In 1992, Bill Clinton carried 49% of counties where at least 25% of the workforce was employed in manufacturing. In 2016, Donald Trump took 95%. What used to be one of the left’s most reliable constituencies is now going the way of evangelicals in their flight from a party that’s lost both its mind and its soul.

Writing in The Detroit News on April 10, 2019, Terry Bowman (a 22- year UAW/Ford worker) charges: “While Democrats fight for policies that crush working-class communities, Republicans and our president are fighting for blue-collar jobs and traditional American values.”

The geezer in the White House is becoming a job-killing machine. On Day One, the Keystone XL-Pipeline was axed. And that’s just a down-payment on Biden’s debt to the Greenies. But, not to worry. As John Forbes Kerry assured us, unemployed pipeline workers can get good-paying jobs manufacturing solar panels – in China.

It’s infuriating the way Democrats can speak so nonchalantly about sacrificing the opportunities of others. Campaigning in 2016, the warm and lovable Hillary Clinton boasted, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business!” This from someone who probably never lifted anything heavier than a nail file.

Under Biden’s welcome-mat policy, the Border Patrol has been ordered not to arrest illegals unless they commit multiple homicides within eyesight. He’s starting to admit the first of 25,000 “asylum” seekers, and blue-collar workers will get to pay for a process that will lead to the loss of more of their jobs.

But jobs isn’t the whole picture.

Most of the white working-class is solidly middle-American: church-going, socially conservative (pro-life, pro-marriage and pro- traditional morality). Many are gun-owners, veterans and reservists, patriotic and not embarrassed to show it and mystified by those who are. And, are you sitting down Nancy, they refuse to apologize for being white.

If a guy drives a pick-up truck with a gun-rack and a tool box in back, and an American flag decal, chances are he isn’t a community organizer who votes Democratic.

In short, workers are everything liberals have come to loathe – an animosity that’s reflected in Obama’s bitter-clingers comment, Hillary’s basket of deplorables and Biden’s dregs of society.

The Democrats have become the party of Alice-in-Wonderland social policy – the party that refuses to criticize Antifa and Black Lives Matter even as they turn our cities into barbecue pits, the party that turns a blind eye to urban riots but sees white supremacy everywhere, the party of defund the police and sanctuary cities, the party of climate-change cultists, the party of “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15,” the party that tried to take an innocuous reference God out of its 2012 platform, the party of abortion up to the moment of birth, the party of LGBTQ, and now, the party of transgenderism.

Bowman writes: “My father, a retired UAW/Ford worker, was a life-long Democrat” who voted for Trump in 2016 and now says “I don’t know the damn Democrat party anymore.” Ronald Reagan used to say he didn’t leave the Democrats; they left him.

Unlike their white-collar counterparts, blue-collar workers didn’t have an opportunity to be indoctrinated by their college professors – but Biden wants them to pay the debts of those who were. They are less likely to heed the so-called experts. They don’t get their news from The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN. They’re not afraid to voice views that get conservatives banned by Facebook and Twitter.

While the GOP is becoming the party of labor, the Democrats are firmly in the hands of coastal elitists.

Business Insider listed the billionaires who bankrolled Biden’s 2020 campaign. It reads like the Fortune 500 and includes the CEOs -- or their wives -- of Microsoft, Google, Lucasfilm, Estee Lauder, Dream Works, Hyatt, J.P. Morgan Chase, Linkedin and Comcast/Universal. Remember when the media used to whine about Republicans as the party of the super-rich?

You think they care about the guy who worries about making this month’s mortgage payment or if he’ll still have a pension when he retires? In a pig’s eye.

Since Jimmy Carter, blue-collar workers have been worked over by the Democrats. Now, they’re returning the favor. With the Republicans, they’ve found their real home.

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Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://snorphty.blogspot.com (TONGUE-TIED)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://awesternheart.blogspot.com.au/ (THE PSYCHOLOGIST)

https://heofen.blogspot.com/ (MY OTHER BLOGS)

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Sunday, March 07, 2021


UK: 35 people deaf and 25 blind after taking mRNA vaccine shots

Among people in the U.K., 35 cases of deafness and 25 cases of blindness have been reported by people who have taken the experimental mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. The numbers are derived from the U.K. Yellow Card vaccine reporting scheme, which is the British equivalent to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca mRNA COVID vaccines were given temporary authorization in the U.K. by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the former in mid-December 2020, and the latter at the beginning of January 2021. Since then, the Yellow Card scheme has flagged a combined 191,832 individual adverse events, or side effects, of varying degrees of injury. Of the injuries recorded, AstraZeneca’s vaccine consistently performed the worst, accounting for 60% of all adverse events, and 58% of deaf and blind reports. Additionally, of the 402 fatalities, 197 were reported following use of the Pfizer formula, and 205 after taking AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

The latest data, which runs up to February 19 and was published on February 22, reveals a plethora of debilitating side-effects, but this has not alarmed officials at the MHRA who maintain that “no other new safety concerns have been identified from reports received to date.” They conclude from this that the “overall safety experience with both vaccines is so far as expected from the clinical trials.”

The regulator doubled down on supporting the jabs, stating that the “expected benefits of the vaccines in preventing COVID-19 and serious complications associated with COVID-19 far outweigh any currently known side effects,” including deafness, blindness, and death.

The MHRA justified this position by citing the passively analytical nature of recordings on the Yellow Card scheme: It is a self-reporting system. This means that none of the serious injuries, or even the deaths, are confirmed by a licensed doctor, giving the MHRA some leeway to declare that “the available evidence does not currently suggest that the vaccine caused the event.”

Rather, the MHRA favors use of the term “temporally-related” to describe the succession of adverse events from injection with the vaccine, which they describe as “events occurring following vaccination but may or may not be caused by the vaccine.”

John Stone of Children’s Health Defense noted that, despite the passive reporting system used by the MHRA, “[n]evertheless, the very distinct event profiles of two products [COVID-19 vaccines] filtered through the same system after 15 million vaccine administrations [in the U.K.] would suggest that there is something to be investigated and explained.”

A pattern of adverse results has been established regarding use of the Pfizer vaccine, which can be seen by examining its use in the U.S., following the award of “Emergency Use Authorization” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December. In both the U.K. and the U.S., use of the Pfizer vaccine has brought about similar results, accounting for the majority of post-vaccination injuries in America. VAERS has recorded 19,907 cases of adverse events arising after taking a COVID-19 vaccine, 64% of which are linked to Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine, and 36% attributable to Moderna’s equivalent jab.

In the U.S., VAERS reported 23 cases of complete deafness and 27 of unilateral deafness, with Pfizer’s jab making up 76% of complaints. Additionally there have been 29 cases of partial or complete blindness, over half of which followed the Pfizer vaccine.

Experimental mRNA vaccination programs in Israel, too, are returning grim results, with a new analysis of vaccine-related deaths demonstrating a dramatic rise in both young and elderly people dying after taking the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine over those who have died after encountering the pathogen naturally.

Upon investigating the Israeli Health Ministry’s own data on the nation’s vaccine rollout, Dr. Hervé Seligmann, a member of the faculty of Medicine at Aix-Marseille University, and engineer Haim Yativ revealed that Pfizer’s mRNA experimental vaccine killed “about 40 times more [elderly] people than the disease itself would have killed” during a recent five-week vaccination period.

Among the younger class, the researchers discovered that these numbers are compounded to death rates at 260 times what the COVID-19 virus would have claimed in the given time frame.

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Would the Real Fascists Please Stand Up?

One of the Left's favorite pejoratives for the Right is completely backwards.

“I do think that [there are] fascistic tendencies” in the Republican Party, pontificates Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who thinks “we certainly saw a lot of fascist sympathizing” at the Conservative Political Action Conference this past weekend, especially from the man she loves to hate, Donald Trump. Worse, AOC added, “There are legitimate white supremacist sympathizers that sit at the heart and at the core of the Republican Caucus in the House of Representatives,” and “American white supremacy” is the driving force of this supposed fascism overtaking the GOP.

This sounds serious.

Or it would if anything AOC said ever made a lick of sense. As usual, however, her historical ignorance is a feature, not a bug, in service to the radical Left’s political agenda. And she’s far from the only leftist spouting such nonsense. It’s coming from other elected Democrats, from their lickspittles in the Leftmedia, and from their intelligentsia in education. Whether it’s offhand comments on cable news shows, “think” pieces littering the Internet, or academic papers and classes, leftists yelling “fascism!” as an inaccurate pejorative for conservatives has a long and storied history in America.

But what is fascism anyway? For all the public school-educated “progressives” out there, perhaps a history lesson is in order, and who better to give it than the esteemed Thomas Sowell. In a 2008 column, he explained it quite simply:

Real Fascism [was] introduced into Italy after the First World War by Benito Mussolini.

The Fascists were completely against individualism in general and especially against individualism in a free market economy. Their agenda included minimum wage laws, government restrictions on profit-making, progressive taxation of capital, and “rigidly secular” schools.

Unlike the Communists, the Fascists did not seek government ownership of the means of production. They just wanted the government to call the shots as to how businesses would be run.

That sure does sound an awful lot like today’s Democrat agenda. Who are the real fascists? The alleged “racists” who want an American melting pot and Rule of Law for everyone, or the ones pushing government takeover of healthcare, energy, finance, education, etc., as well as race-based policies and an aggressive and totalitarian cancel culture?

The Nazis, by the way, were really only adding a racialist and nationalist variation to fascism, which is why American leftists today deliberately distort the meaning of those words and project upon their Republican opponents what they themselves are guilty of doing and perpetuating. It’s why they laughably call their rioting fascist goons “antifa,” which is short for “anti-fascist.”

In fact, conservatives might do better to trade in the word “socialism” for “fascism” to describe Democrat proposals. Few Democrats want the government to literally own the means of production. Instead, as Sowell said in a 2012 column on the subject, “[They want] government control of the economy, while leaving ownership in private hands. That way, politicians get to call the shots but, when their bright ideas lead to disaster, they can always blame those who own businesses in the private sector.” That’s the textbook definition of fascism.

The truth is fascism, Nazism, socialism, and communism are all variations on a leftist theme of control and power. Don’t let them tell you that your rejection of that totalitarianism makes you the fascist when reality is quite the opposite.

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The Conservative Identity Crisis

When a movement’s flagship publication features a “This We Believe” statement on its cover, as National Review recently did, you know there’s a problem. But the problem itself is not new.

Last summer, The American Conservative published a special edition devoted to the question, “What Is American Conservatism?” The issue drew on essays by dozens of self-identified conservatives, each attempting to define the movement. Reading through them, one might get the impression that conservatism is not one point of view but a whole slew of them. Yet in truth, there is only one important intellectual schism on the right worthy of attention: that between those who embrace the legacy of the European Enlightenment and those who reject it.

The Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, was the revolution against the institutions of statism and superstition that freed human minds and human relationships in the 16th and 17th centuries. As Steven Pinker has aptly noted, the free minds and free markets that resulted from this revolution are the reason for the relative prosperity and security we enjoy today.

I can only imagine how liberating and exciting it must have been to have lived through that time when David Hume, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and America’s Founding Fathers were overthrowing an old intellectual and political orders and creating new ones. I like to think it must have felt similar to the 1980s of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, when ideas such as the flat tax, school vouchers, private Social Security accounts, deregulation, and privatization were sweeping the globe, promoted with palpable energy and enthusiasm by a raft of newly created conservative think tanks.

A decade later, as the 20th century came to a close, Communism and big government were in retreat, and free-market reforms remained ascendant everywhere. But alas, the 21st century has seen considerable backsliding, which has fueled the rise of those on the other side of the conservative schism: the folks who reject the legacy of the Enlightenment.

This school of thought is aptly represented in What Is Conservatism?, the classic essay collection edited by Frank Meyer and published a little over 55 years ago. I recently reread the book, seeking to find anything in it that might engage a politically agnostic college student, making him eager to be part of the conservative movement. Sadly, I came up empty.

The kind of conservatism pushed by What Is Conservatism? doesn’t just fail to win converts; it also isn’t prepared to solve real-world problems. About the same time that Meyer’s book was published, Milton Friedman published Capitalism and Freedom. The two books are as different as night and day. Whereas the essays Meyer edited are backward-looking, Friedman’s book is forward-looking. Whereas the former lamented change, the latter called for the kind of change that liberates people and makes their lives better.

Friedman was well aware that his approach to public policy was very different from that of conventional conservatives. He even avoided calling himself a “conservative,” preferring to identify with the tradition of classical liberalism. But his ideas came to dominate American conservatism anyway, at least until the development of the movement’s present schism. And for those of us who still believe in them, there is much work to be done going forward.

In every large city in the country, large numbers of low-income minority families are forced to live in substandard housing and send their children to failing schools. They benefit the least from almost every public service, from transportation to health care to public safety. They are also denied job opportunities by medieval-style occupational-licensing laws. These cities are almost always run by Democrats, usually liberal Democrats. A reformist conservative agenda would advocate school choice, the liberation of the housing and job markets, and private alternatives to essential city services.

Likewise, too many American seniors are trapped in antiquated social-insurance schemes that should be an embarrassment to a civilized society such as ours. They are misled on a daily basis by Social Security bureaucrats who encourage them to take early retirement, giving up benefits that are growing at a 3 percent, no-risk, real rate of return every year. Then when they do take a part-time job, they face the highest marginal-tax rates in the nation—as high as 95 percent in some cases. Seniors on Medicare are the only people in the country who cannot have a health-savings account or direct, 24/7 access to a primary-care physician as an alternative to the emergency room. As I argue in my book New Way to Care, we desperately need to reform Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the disability system, and other forms of social insurance that were designed in a different century to meet different needs.

These are only a few of the ways in which an activist conservative agenda could liberate people and markets, reform institutions, and make the world better for the most vulnerable among us. But for that to happen, the conservative movement will first have to decide whether it wants to embrace its Enlightenment roots or reject them.

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IN BRIEF

Conservative comic strip "Mallard Fillmore" dropped (Washington Times)

A dose of common sense: New York Public Library will keep all of its Dr. Seuss books circulating (Examiner)

Children as young as five forced to have "diversity and inclusion" lessons in New Jersey schools (Daily Wire)

Number of illegal border crossings now six times what Obama considered a "crisis" (Daily Wire)

DOD took hours to approve National Guard request during Capitol riot, commander testifies (NPR)

Damages from February winter storms could be as high as $155 billion (UPI)

Evangelical adoption agency Bethany dangerously opens doors to LGBT families (Disrn)

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who should resign over nursing home scandal, refuses to resign over sexual harassment scandal (Post Millennial)

Hyatt Hotels backtracks, slams CPAC — which it hosted — for "hate" and "hostility" (Disrn)

Arkansas lawmakers send governor near-total abortion ban (Fox News)

Policy: We already have an alternative to massive student-loan cancelation (National Review)

Advisers of Governor Andrew Cuomo altered report on nursing home deaths (Fox News)

Number of child migrants crossing the border is overwhelming HHS (Axios)

Second SUV filled with illegal immigrants catches fire near U.S. border (Disrn)

Senators from both aisles introduce bill to repeal Biden's war powers following Syria strike (Fox News)

The United States is now averaging two million vaccine doses administered per day (NY Times)

Connecticut lifting all capacity restrictions on restaurants, gyms, offices, and houses of worship (Forbes)

Mississippi legislature wisely approves bill banning males from competing against women (Daily Wire)

Supreme Court drops "sanctuary city" cases following Biden DOJ request (Fox News)

Swing and a miss: California high school stupidly gives baseball team two-week suspension for taking a picture without masks (Disrn)

Policy: Biden could overstimulate the economy into a crisis (National Interest)

Policy: Job creation, not a $15 minimum wage, will reduce poverty (Daily Signal)

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Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://snorphty.blogspot.com (TONGUE-TIED)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://awesternheart.blogspot.com.au/ (THE PSYCHOLOGIST)

https://heofen.blogspot.com/ (MY OTHER BLOGS)

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