Friday, August 12, 2022

The Corruption of Medicine by political correctness

The post-George Floyd racial reckoning has hit the field of medicine like an earthquake. Medical education, medical research, and standards of competence have been upended by two related hypotheses: that systemic racism is responsible both for racial disparities in the demographics of the medical profession and for racial disparities in health outcomes. Questioning those hypotheses is professionally suicidal. Vast sums of public and private research funding are being redirected from basic science to political projects aimed at dismantling white supremacy. The result will be declining quality of medical care and a curtailment of scientific progress.

Virtually every major medical organization-from the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) to the American Association of Pediatrics-has embraced the idea that medicine is an inequity-producing enterprise. The AMA's 2021 Organizational Strategic Plan to Embed Racial Justice and Advance Health Equity is virtually indistinguishable from a black studies department's mission statement. The plan's anonymous authors seem aware of how radically its rhetoric differs from medicine's traditional concerns. The preamble notes that "just as the general parlance of a business document varies from that of a physics document, so too is the case for an equity document." (Such shaky command of usage and grammar characterizes the entire 86-page tome, making the preamble's boast that "the field of equity has developed a parlance which conveys both [sic] authenticity, precision, and meaning" particularly ironic.)

Thus forewarned, the reader plunges into a thicket of social-justice maxims: physicians must "confront inequities and dismantle white supremacy, racism, and other forms of exclusion and structured oppression, as well as embed racial justice and advance equity within and across all aspects of health systems." The country needs to pivot "from euphemisms to explicit conversations about power, racism, gender and class oppression, forms of discrimination and exclusion." (The reader may puzzle over how much more "explicit" current "conversations" about racism can be.) We need to discard "America's stronghold of false notions of hierarchy of value based on gender, skin color, religion, ability and country of origin, as well as other forms of privilege."

A key solution to this alleged oppression is identity-based preferences throughout the medical profession. The AMA strategic plan calls for the "just representation of Black, Indigenous and Latinx people in medical school admissions as well as . . . leadership ranks." The lack of "just representation," according to the AMA, is due to deliberate "exclusion," which will end only when we have "prioritize[d] and integrate[d] the voices and ideas of people and communities experiencing great injustice and historically excluded, exploited, and deprived of needed resources such as people of color, women, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+, and those in rural and urban communities alike."

According to medical and STEM leaders, to be white is to be per se racist; apologies and reparations for that offending trait are now de rigueur. In June 2020, Nature identified itself as one of the culpably "white institutions that is responsible for bias in research and scholarship." In January 2021, the editor-in-chief of Health Affairs lamented that "our own staff and leadership are overwhelmingly white." The AMA's strategic plan blames "white male lawmakers" for America's systemic racism.

And so medical schools and medical societies are discarding traditional standards of merit in order to alter the demographic characteristics of their profession. That demolition of standards rests on an a priori truth: that there is no academic skills gap between whites and Asians, on the one hand, and blacks and Hispanics, on the other. No proof is needed for this proposition; it is the starting point for any discussion of racial disparities in medical personnel. Therefore, any test or evaluation on which blacks and Hispanics score worse than whites and Asians is biased and should be eliminated.

The U.S. Medical Licensing Exam is a prime offender. At the end of their second year of medical school, students take Step One of the USMLE, which measures knowledge of the body's anatomical parts, their functioning, and their malfunctioning; topics include biochemistry, physiology, cell biology, pharmacology, and the cardiovascular system. High scores on Step One predict success in a residency; highly sought-after residency programs, such as neurosurgery and radiology, use Step One scores to help select applicants.

Black students are not admitted into competitive residencies at the same rate as whites because their average Step One test scores are a standard deviation below those of whites. Step One has already been modified to try to shrink that gap; it now includes nonscience components such as "communication and interpersonal skills." But the standard deviation in scores has persisted. In the world of antiracism, that persistence means only one thing: the test is to blame. It is Step One that, in the language of antiracism, "disadvantages" underrepresented minorities, not any lesser degree of medical knowledge.

The Step One exam has a further mark against it. The pressure to score well inhibits minority students from what has become a core component of medical education: antiracism advocacy. A fourth-year Yale medical student describes how the specter of Step One affected his priorities. In his first two years of medical school, the student had "immersed" himself, as he describes it, in a student-led committee focused on diversity, inclusion, and social justice. The student ran a podcast about health disparities. All that political work was made possible by Yale's pass-fail grading system, which meant that he didn't feel compelled to put studying ahead of diversity concerns. Then, as he tells it, Step One "reared its ugly head." Getting an actual grade on an exam might prove to "whoever might have thought it before that I didn't deserve a seat at Yale as a Black medical student," the student worried.

The solution to such academic pressure was obvious: abolish Step One grades. Since January 2022, Step One has been graded on a pass-fail basis. The fourth-year Yale student can now go back to his diversity activism, without worrying about what a graded exam might reveal. Whether his future patients will appreciate his chosen focus is unclear.

Every other measure of academic mastery has a disparate impact on blacks and thus is in the crosshairs.

In the third year of medical school, professors grade students on their clinical knowledge in what is known as a Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE). The MSPE uses qualitative categories like Outstanding, Excellent, Very Good, and Good. White students at the University of Washington School of Medicine received higher MSPE ratings than underrepresented minority students from 2010 to 2015, according to a 2019 analysis. The disparity in MSPEs tracked the disparity in Step One scores.

The parallel between MSPE and Step One evaluations might suggest that what is being measured in both cases is real. But the a priori truth holds that no academic skills gap exists. Accordingly, the researchers proposed a national study of medical school grades to identify the actual causes of that racial disparity. The conclusion is foregone: faculty bias. As a Harvard medical student put it in Stat News: "biases are baked into the evaluations of students from marginalized backgrounds."

A 2022 study of clinical performance scores anticipated that foregone conclusion. Professors from Emory University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the University of California at San Francisco, among other institutions, analyzed faculty evaluations of internal medicine residents in such areas as medical knowledge and professionalism. On every assessment, black and Hispanic residents were rated lower than white and Asian residents. The researchers hypothesized three possible explanations: bias in faculty assessment, effects of a noninclusive learning environment, or structural inequities in assessment. University of Pennsylvania professor of medicine Stanley Goldfarb tweeted out a fourth possibility: "Could it be [that the minority students] were just less good at being residents?"

Goldfarb had violated the a priori truth. Punishment was immediate. Predictable tweets called him, inter alia, possibly "the most garbage human being I've seen with my own eyes," and Michael S. Parmacek, chair of the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Medicine, sent a schoolwide e-mail addressing Goldfarb's "racist statements." Those statements had evoked "deep pain and anger," Parmacek wrote. Accordingly, the school would be making its "entire leadership team" available to "support you," he said. Parmacek took the occasion to reaffirm that doctors must acknowledge "structural racism."

That same day, the executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and the senior vice dean for medical education at the University of Pennsylvania medical school reassured faculty, staff, and students via e-mail that Goldfarb was no longer an active faculty member but rather emeritus. The EVP and the SVD affirmed Penn's efforts to "foster an anti-racist curriculum" and to promote "inclusive excellence."

Despite the allegations of faculty racism, disparities in academic performance are the predictable outcome of admissions preferences. In 2021, the average score for white applicants on the Medical College Admission Test was in the 71st percentile, meaning that it was equal to or better than 71 percent of all average scores. The average score for black applicants was in the 35th percentile-a full standard deviation below the average white score. The MCATs have already been redesigned to try to reduce this gap; a quarter of the questions now focus on social issues and psychology.

Yet the gap persists. So medical schools use wildly different standards for admitting black and white applicants. From 2013 to 2016, only 8 percent of white college seniors with below-average undergraduate GPAs and below-average MCAT scores were offered a seat in medical school; less than 6 percent of Asian college seniors with those qualifications were offered a seat, according to an analysis by economist Mark Perry. Medical schools regarded those below-average scores as all but disqualifying-except when presented by blacks and Hispanics. Over 56 percent of black college seniors with below-average undergraduate GPAs and below-average MCATs and 31 percent of Hispanic students with those scores were admitted, making a black student in that range more than seven times as likely as a similarly situated white college senior to be admitted to medical school and more than nine times as likely to be admitted as a similarly situated Asian senior.

Such disparate rates of admission hold in every combination and range of GPA and MCAT scores. Contrary to the AMA's Organizational Strategic Plan to Embed Racial Justice and Advance Health Equity, blacks are not being "excluded" from medical training; they are being catapulted ahead of their less valued white and Asian peers.

Though mediocre MCAT scores keep out few black students, some activists seek to eliminate the MCATs entirely. Admitting less-qualified students to Ph.D. programs in the life sciences will lower the caliber of future researchers and slow scientific advances. But the stakes are higher in medical training, where insufficient knowledge can endanger a life in the here and now.

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Thursday, August 11, 2022

The authoritarian impulse

Anthony Fauci has regrets.

In an interview Monday, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said that if he could go back and change anything about the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be to press for "much, much more stringent restrictions" than the ones that were imposed in the spring of 2020.

More stringent. More than the abrupt shutdown of the US economy, which destroyed 21 million jobs in a matter of weeks and drove the unemployment rate to nearly 15 percent. More than the unprecedented closure of every public school in the country, which inflicted a staggering degree of learning loss and emotional turmoil on American children. More than the sweeping shelter-in-place limitations, which did little to reduce the spread of COVID but severely exacerbated harms ranging from domestic violence to mental health to untreated medical conditions. More than the top-down orders - issued with no chance for public or legislative input - that unilaterally prevented Americans from traveling, attending church, holding weddings, or comforting the dying.

The response to the pandemic was an extraordinary diminution of Americans' freedom to make choices for themselves and a corresponding enlargement of the power of government officials to rule by decree. And Fauci is chagrined that it didn't go far enough.

To be fair, he is hardly alone in thinking this way. When it comes to COVID or almost any other significant public concern, the authoritarian impulse - a preference for achieving policy goals through coercion rather than the untidy give-and-take of democratic negotiation - now seems to be the default.

As a candidate in 2020, Joe Biden rightly insisted that political legitimacy is acquired through compromise and patience. He rebuked progressives who wanted him to enact their wish list singlehandedly. "You can't [govern] by executive order unless you're a dictator," he said before the election. "We're a democracy; we need consensus."

Yet once in the White House, Biden began issuing edicts with record-busting frequency. He signed more executive decrees on his first day as president than Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush did on their first days - combined. Within a week of his inauguration, even The New York Times editorial board was imploring him to "Ease Up on the Executive Actions, Joe." Yet since then he has been generating such orders at a faster clip than any of his six immediate predecessors.

No longer does Biden stress the importance of working through the legislative branch. "Since Congress is not acting on the climate emergency, I will," he tweeted recently. "In the coming weeks my Administration will begin to announce executive actions to combat this emergency."

Far from bristling at the president's encroachment into the purview of the legislative branch, Democrats in Congress are encouraging it. "It's very important for the executive to act if we cannot get legislative action immediately," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in March. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, which comprises 98 House members, prepared a list of executive order recommendations, urging Biden to unilaterally lower health costs, overhaul policing, and cancel all federal student loan debt, among other actions. Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, the majority whip, noted that the Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order and pressed Biden to be more like Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln? Seriously?

There is a vast difference between orders issued by a president who is performing his role as commander-in-chief of the nation's armed forces and those issued by a president seeking an end run around Congress. The Constitution expects presidents to act decisively on matters of war, peace, and diplomacy and grants them the widest possible latitude in the conduct of foreign and military affairs. The Constitution also specifies that presidents "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed," which gives the White House considerable scope for direct action in areas where the law is clear but is not being upheld or where Congress has explicitly authorized the president to act.

A classic example is President Eisenhower's executive order to federalize the Arkansas National Guard and enforce desegregation in Little Rock. Another was President Johnson's 1965 order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating "on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." Executive orders have been appropriately issued for numerous purposes - to recognize foreign governments, to bring (or waive) criminal indictments, to deploy or withdraw troops, to grant pardons, to designate federal lands as national monuments, to proclaim national holidays, or to set tariffs.

But the Constitution does not permit presidents to unilaterally order a policy change that neither the Constitution nor Congress has sanctioned. A notorious instance was President Truman's 1952 order nationalizing the US steel industry - a dictatorial act for which there was absolutely no legal basis. Another was FDR's executive order to relocate 100,000 Japanese Americans to government-run internment camps. More recent was Biden's nationwide moratorium on evictions, an order he issued even after acknowledging that it had no legal basis.

Sometimes the courts shoot down unlawful executive orders (as with Truman's steel takeover and Biden's moratorium); sometimes they fail to do so (as with FDR's internment camps). Either way, the illiberal desire to formulate public policies through authoritarian means keeps growing stronger. More than ever, it needs resisting.

This is hardly a problem only among Democrats. The Trump White House repeatedly resorted to executive orders to bypass or undermine Capitol Hill. In 2019, for example, after Congress refused to fund a massive wall on the Mexican border, Trump declared that a national emergency empowered him to spend the money and build one regardless. "We're going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we're going to do it one way or the other," he announced.

And while many on the progressive left have embraced a by-any-means-necessary approach to getting their way on climate change, abortion, or the pandemic, a growing movement on the right is equally enamored of top-down control. Would-be authoritarians promoting what they describe as "common-good conservatism" want to use the power of government to advance their right-wing vision. In a widely noted Atlantic essay in 2020, Harvard Law professor Adrian Vermeule called for a "robust" legal approach based on the belief that government must "direct persons, associations, and society generally toward the common good, and that strong rule in the interest of attaining the common good is entirely legitimate."

The authoritarian impulse exists in every society. There are always those who would rather resort to autocratic means to accomplish desired ends. Today, fewer and fewer leaders champion the necessity of debate, persuasion, and finding common ground. More and more find coercion more appealing than cooperation. When Benjamin Franklin was asked in 1787 what the delegates in Independence Hall had concocted, he memorably replied: "A republic, if you can keep it." We have managed to keep it for two and a quarter centuries, but the prognosis isn't encouraging.


10 Percent of Americans Regret Taking COVID Vaccine, 15 Percent Have a New Medical Condition After It: Poll

Ten percent of Americans who received the COVID-19 vaccine regret having done so, according to a recent poll.

In addition, 15 percent of the 1,038 adults that took the survey said that they have been diagnosed with a new condition by a medical practitioner, weeks or months after taking the vaccine.

Children's Health Defense (CHD) commissioned the poll two years after the inception of Operation Warp Speed in order to find out about people's position on the COVID vaccines and their health.

The poll, conducted by Zogby Analytics, states that the margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points.

"The fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports more than 232 million Americans ages 18-65 have taken at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 15 percent of those surveyed report a newly diagnosed condition is concerning and needs further study," said Laura Bono, CHD's executive director.

"The mRNA vaccine technology is new and clinical trials naturally have no long-term data. CHD believes this survey points to the need for further study."

Sixty-seven percent of the respondents got one or more shots, while the rest were unvaccinated.

Among those who took the COVID vaccines, 6 percent took one dose, while the rest took 2-4 shots.

Of the newly diagnosed medical conditions, the most common ones were blood clots (21 percent), heart attack (19 percent), liver damage (18 percent), leg and lung clots (17 percent), and stroke (15 percent).

Sixty-seven percent of participants said that getting the vaccine was a good decision, while 24 percent were neutral.

Another poll conducted at the same time surveyed 829 American adults ages 18-49, and the results show that 22 percent of them reported a new condition within weeks or months after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

The top conditions were autoimmune problems, blood clots, stroke/lung clots, liver damage/leg clots/heart attack, and disrupted menstrual cycle. Ten percent of these conditions were severe.

Fourteen percent of the participants regretted taking the vaccine, while 58 percent thought it was a good decision, and the rest were neutral.

Previous Reports

In May, a cardiologist told The Epoch Times that he has seen a spike in cases of heart inflammation. Although the media has given more attention to COVID vaccine blood clot issues, there have been many more cases of myocarditis, according to his observation.

Some doctors have also observed menstrual irregularities associated with the COVID-19 vaccines, something that Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said is an issue that needs to be studied more.

Also in May, The Epoch Times reported that a pediatric cardiologist had to stop working and was punished by his board for not wanting to recommend a vaccine to a young patient who had contracted COVID previously.

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel on June 15 unanimously recommended the FDA give emergency authorization to the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months of age.

The U.S. drug regulators on March 29 announced they had granted emergency authorization allowing a fourth dose of the jabs to be given to all Americans aged 50 and above.




Wednesday, August 10, 2022

2 Years In, Science Still Shows Masks Useless

I pointed out the large holes in the Bangladesh study nearly a year ago

Masks are back in San Diego, California, where the school board has just decreed that students must cover their faces or be barred from setting foot inside a classroom. Never mind that, per CDC statistics and Census Bureau population figures, more than 99.99 percent of children in California (where governor Gavin Newsom has regularly imposed mask mandates) and more than 99.99 percent of children in Florida (where Governor Ron DeSantis has let kids live mask-free) have not died of Covid—either because they haven’t gotten it, or because they’ve gotten it and survived it. Never mind that more than 99.99 percent of kids nationally have not died of Covid, either. And never mind that, again, based on CDC statistics, those over age 85 have had more than 2,000 times the chance of dying of Covid as those under age 18; that even those in their thirties have had 25 times the chance of dying of Covid as those under 18; and that, out of every 40 school-age kids (ages 5-17) who have died during the Covid era, only one of those deaths has involved Covid. Regardless, school officials have decided that everyone must mask up.

Nor are schools alone in returning to mask mandates. The military has been one of the most mask-happy of all institutions. Right on cue, the Navy announced that everyone, whether uniformed or not, must wear masks indoors on its bases in the San Diego area. Up the coast, Bay Area Rapid Transit has reimposed a mask mandate. Meantime, many colleges across the country have announced that they will be requiring masks this fall.

Such decrees ignore the facts that masks are physically uncomfortable, make it harder to breathe, and profoundly compromise human social interaction. But none of that matters to the mask zealots, who are convinced that benefits far outweigh any potential costs. So, where is the proof?

The nature of the public-health establishment’s embrace of masks is nicely captured in an article published last spring and currently posted on the website of the National Institutes of Health. The article, by Se├ín M. Muller, speaks of “the failure of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to provide supportive evidence” that masks work to reduce viral transmission—a matter I discussed at length last summer.

Muller deserves credit for being more honest than most mask advocates. He notes that the World Health Organization said in March 2020 that “there is no evidence” that masks work, and he adds that “it was the absence of significant positive effects from RCTs prior to the pandemic that informed the WHO’s initial [anti-mask] stance.” Yet Muller laments the reliance on RCTs as opposed to “mechanism-based reasoning.” This is a fancy term for applying one’s own reasoning faculties. Muller’s reasoning leads him to be convinced that masks must work. But that, of course, is why we have RCTs: to test people’s notions about what works and what doesn’t.

Muller recognizes that people “may transfer infectious material by touching their faces with unsanitized hands to place and remove a mask,” but this important realization doesn’t seem to affect his conclusions. Instead, he writes, “Mechanism-based reasoning provides a justification for the stance ultimately advocated by the WHO and adopted by many countries.” He admits that the “logic” entailed in such reasoning “relies only on a fairly simple germ theory of disease.” Yet—incredibly—he then asserts that such reasoning “places the burden of proof on those who would argue against recommending masks.” So, even if RCTs provide no evidence for the claim that masks work, even if they continually suggest, on the contrary, that masks don’t work, then health officials should still recommend masks—and probably mandate them—because the claim that they work seems logical to some.

This is fundamentally anti-scientific. Yet it effectively captures the thinking that has animated mask mandates for more than two years now. This kind of thinking continues even though (as John Tierney has detailed) the remarkable similarity in Covid results between mask-mandate and mask-free states, and between mask-mandate and mask-free countries, strongly suggests that masks don’t work—just as RCTs have indicated they don’t.

The lone, slender scientific reed onto which mask advocates can grasp, at least in terms of RCTs, is a recent study from Bangladesh. Released well over a year after the CDC and others had already embraced masks wholeheartedly, the study claimed to find statistically significant benefits from surgical masks. The first author listed on that study, Yale economics professor Jason Abaluck, weighed in publicly on the mask debate before the study ever went into the field. In the early days of Covid, he opined that both the federal government and state governments should give out free masks and perhaps levy fines on those who refused to wear them. Unfortunately for mask advocates, the very small differences that the study found, and the questionable methodology on which those findings were based, provide little more scientific support for mask-wearing than does mechanism-based reasoning.

The Bangladesh RCT found that 1,086 people in the study’s mask group, and 1,106 people in the study’s non-mask control group, got Covid. Amazingly, these numbers did not come from the study’s authors—even though they provide the answer to the main question the study was addressing. Rather, Ben Recht, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, computed these numbers from those that the authors did release, and Abaluck subsequently confirmed Recht’s calculation of a 20-person difference between the two groups.

This 20-person difference (out of more than 300,000 participants) meant that about 1 out of 132 people got Covid in the control group, versus 1 out of 147 in the mask group. That equates to 0.76 percent of people in the control group and 0.68 percent of people in the mask group catching Covid—a difference of 0.08 percentage points—which the study’s authors prefer to describe as a 9 percent reduction. Abaluck and company also describe their study as having provided “clear evidence” that surgical masks work—even though those masks’ alleged benefit registered as statistically significant only after the researchers “adjusted” the ratio of how many people got Covid in each group by providing “baseline controls,” which they do not transparently describe. (That adjustment, however—and its necessity for achieving statistical significance—is plainly indicated.)

This reported difference of 0.08 percentage points tested as statistically significant only because of the massive sample size that the authors claimed, which allowed tiny differences to test as significant rather than being attributable to random chance. It is not at all clear, however, that this study could really produce such precision.

Imagine if researchers randomly divided 340,000 individuals, regardless of where they lived, into a mask group (170,000 people) or a non-mask control group (the other 170,000). One would assume that this random division would result in the two groups being very similar. That’s part of the essence of an RCT—that if you randomly assign enough people to one group or another, the two groups will end up being essentially alike simply by chance. It would be a very different thing, however, to assign two whole cities of 170,000 people into two groups, with each member of a given city going into the same group. In that case, it wouldn’t be clear whether any potential differences in outcomes would be due to the intervention (in this case, masks) or to the differences between the cities (in rates of virus exposure, cultural norms, and so on).

The Bangladesh study’s approach falls somewhere between these two scenarios. Its researchers randomly assigned 300 villages to its mask group (in which it encouraged mask-wearing) and 300 villages with similar characteristics to its non-mask control group (in which it didn’t encourage mask-wearing). Every member of a given village was assigned to the same group. As a result, Recht writes, “Though the sample size looked enormous (340,000 individuals), the effective number of samples was only 600 because the treatment was applied to individual villages.”

However, the researchers didn’t analyze the findings at the level of villages. Instead, they did so as if they had randomly assigned 340,000 individuals to either the mask group or the control group. Recht writes that because “the individual outcomes are not independent” and “outcomes inside a village are correlated,” analyzing the study in this manner is “certainly wrong.” Put another way, when individuals are randomly assigned to one group or another in an RCT, one person’s outcome isn’t supposed to affect another’s—but this is hardly the case when analyzing the effects of a highly contagious virus among people living in the same village, all of whom were assigned to the same group. In layman’s terms, each roll of the dice should be independent and shouldn’t affect subsequent rolls. But in the Bangladesh study, each roll of the dice did affect subsequent rolls.

Recht cites a previous RCT on masks (which I discussed in my 2021 essay) that adjusted for such correlation—that is, adjusted for the fact that one person’s outcome could influence another’s. Even though that earlier RCT randomly assigned families rather than villages to a particular group, it still assumed correlation and adjusted for it. The Bangladesh study, which had far greater correlation, assumed none. Adjusting for correlation, Recht found that the Bangladesh study showed no statistically significant benefits from masks.

The danger in pretending to have randomly assigned 340,000 individuals is that huge sample sizes—which suggest great accuracy—allow small differences to test as statistically significant, since there is less likelihood that they merely reflect random events. This is fine if a test is really that accurate, but not if it’s inflating its sample size by a factor of more than 500 (600 versus 340,000)—or even by a factor of five. Such a scenario risks producing “statistically significant” results that are really just a product of random chance. This is exactly what seems to have happened in the Bangladesh study.

The mainstream press heralded this study as confirming that surgical masks work and suggesting that cloth masks (which, overall, didn’t show a statistically significant benefit) should perhaps be shelved. But the study’s actual findings were more interesting. It found no statistically significant evidence that masks work for people under the age of 40. For people in their forties, however, it found statistically significant evidence that cloth masks work but no corresponding evidence to support the use of surgical masks. For people in their fifties (or older), it found statistically significant evidence that surgical masks work, but no corresponding evidence to support the use of cloth masks. Further complicating matters, the researchers distributed both red cloth masks and purple ones. Recht, citing data from the study that the authors didn’t include in their write-up or tables, writes that, based on the study’s method of analysis, “cloth purple masks did nothing, but the red masks ‘work.’” He adds, “Indeed, red masks were more effective than surgical masks!” When a study starts producing findings like these, its results start to look like random noise.

Moreover, since there were just 20 fewer Covid cases in the mask group than in the non-mask control group, most of the difference between the 0.68 percent Covid rate in the former and the 0.76 percent rate in the latter was because of differences in the sizes of what were supposed to be two equally sized groups. The researchers omitted from their analysis thousands of people—disproportionately from the control group—whom they didn’t successfully contact. The University of Pittsburgh’s Maria Chikina, Carnegie Mellon’s Wesley Pegden, and Recht found that the study’s “unblinded staff”—who knew which participants were assigned to which group—“approached” those in the mask group at a “significantly” higher rate than those in the control group. Indeed, Chikina, Pegden, and Recht write that the “main significant difference” that led to an “imbalance” between the two groups was “the behavior of the study staff.”

Under the “intention-to-treat” principle, everyone who was originally randomly assigned to either group should have been included in the analysis, whether or not the staff had contacted them. Eric McCoy, an M.D. at the University of California, Irvine, explains that intention-to-treat analysis “preserves the benefits of randomization, which cannot be assumed when using other methods of analysis.” Recht, agreeing with McCoy, writes, “For the medical statistics experts, the intention to treat principle says that the individuals who are unreachable or who refuse to be surveyed must be counted in the study. Omitting them invalidates the study.” Yet that’s exactly what the authors of the Bangladesh study did. When Chikina, Pegden, and Recht analyzed the study’s finding using intention-to-treat analysis, they found no statistically significant difference between the number of people who got Covid in the mask group and the number who got it in the control group.

Thus, in order to show a statistically significant benefit from masks, the Bangladesh study both had to depart from intention-to-treat analysis and treat 340,000 people who were not randomly assigned to a group on an individual basis as if they had been. Doing just one or the other would have failed to produce a statistically significant result.

In addition, the study made no real secret that it was pro-mask, launching an all-out campaign to convince people in half of the villages to wear them. The researchers found that physical distancing was 21 percent greater in the mask villages than in the control villages, muddying efforts to distinguish between the effects of masks and distancing. The study also provided monetary incentives to some people, opening up the possibility that, given that participants and staff both knew what group people were in, some participants might have desired to give responses that pleased the researchers (and only those who reported Covid-like symptoms got tested for antibodies). Finally, the study didn’t test how many people had Covid antibodies beforehand, even though its principal findings about masks were based on how many people had Covid antibodies afterward. This is like determining whether a family bought butter during their most recent grocery trip by seeing if there’s butter in the refrigerator.

To sum up, the Bangladesh study’s findings show tiny differences in how many people got Covid in the mask and (non-mask) control groups, and these tiny differences register as statistically significant only because of myriad questionable methodological choices. The study’s researchers conducted their analysis as if they had randomly divided 340,000 individuals into either the mask group or the control group, when in fact they had just randomly divided 600 villages. They also deviated from intention-to-treat analysis, without which they would not have shown statistical significance even on the basis of this inflated sample size. They adjusted the ratio of Covid cases between the mask and control groups by adding baseline controls that were not well-explained—without which surgical masks would not have tested as providing statistically significant benefits. And they based their primary findings on whether people had acquired Covid antibodies by the end of the study, without having tested whether they had already acquired them before the start of the study.

Nevertheless, the CDC favorably references this study and calls it “well-designed.” And even before the effort had been peer-reviewed or published as an official study, Abaluck proclaimed, “I think this should basically end any scientific debate about whether masks can be effective.”

Keep in mind that there are no real grounds for cherry-picking results from the Bangladesh study. If the study persuades people that masks work, then it should also persuade them that those in their forties should wear cloth masks (red ones, not purple!) and then switch to surgical masks once they turn 50. All those statistically significant findings resulted from the same abandonment of intention-to-treat analysis and the same determination to analyze 340,000 people as if they had been randomly assigned to a group on an individual basis, when instead they had been lumped in with the rest of their village. To put it in layman’s terms: garbage in, garbage out.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Deborah Birx's Guide to Destroying America

Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator under President Donald Trump, was one of the "trifecta" of three leading public officials who successfully pushed COVID lockdowns in the United States. Virtually every page of Birx's new book, Silent Invasion: The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, Covid-19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It's Too Late, reads like a how-to guide from the front lines of subverting a democratic superpower from within. It bears repeating, from the outset, that lockdowns were never part of any democratic country's pandemic preparedness plan prior to Xi Jinping's lockdown of Wuhan, China.

The lockdowns that Xi pioneered and Birx so zealously advocated for reportedly led to over 170,000 non-COVID excess deaths among young Americans while failing to meaningfully slow the spread of COVID anywhere they were tried. It would have been impossible for an enemy agent armed with anything less than nuclear weapons to have inflicted so much damage on America's economy, social fabric, and historical freedoms in such a short period of time.

Notably, though Birx's memoir has earned relatively few reviews from human readers on Amazon, it's earned rave reviews from Chinese state media, a feat not shared even by the far more popular pro-lockdown books of professional genuflectors to power like Lawrence Wright.

The glowing response from Chinese state media should come as no surprise. Nearly every sentence of Birx's book faithfully parrots the Chinese Communist Party's foreign and domestic propaganda, which helped facilitate Xi's weaponization of the COVID response to eliminate the independence of the CCP's private sector rivals.

Chapter 1 opens with what Birx claims was her first impression of the virus:

I can still see the words splashed across my computer screen in the early morning hours of January 3. Though we were barely into 2020, I was stuck in an old routine, waking well before dawn and scanning news headlines online. On the BBC's site, one caught my attention: "China Pneumonia Outbreak: Mystery Virus Probed in Wuhan."
Indeed, that BBC article, which was posted at approximately 9:00 a.m. EST on Jan. 3, 2020, was the first in a Western news organization to discuss the outbreak of a new virus in Wuhan. Apparently, Birx was scanning British news headlines just as it appeared. Birx then tells us where she got her philosophy of disease mitigation, recalling how she immediately believed Chinese citizens "knew what had worked" against SARS-1: masks and distancing:

Government officials and citizens across Asia knew both the pervasive fear and the personal response that had worked before to mitigate the loss of life and the economic damage wrought by SARS and MERS. They wore masks. They decreased the frequency and size of social gatherings. Crucially, based on their recent experience, the entire citizenry and local doctors were ringing alarm bells loudly and early. Lives were on the line-lots of them. They knew what had worked before, and they would do it again.
Birx spends several pages tut-tutting the CCP for its "cover-up" of the virus (which Chinese state media pointedly didn't mind), then tells us:

On January 3, the same day the BBC piece ran, the Chinese government officially notified the United States of the outbreak. Bob Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was contacted by his Chinese counterpart, George F. Gao.
Note that Jan. 3 was also the same day that heroic Chinese whistleblower Li Wenliang was reportedly admonished by Chinese authorities for sending a WeChat message about a "cover-up" of the outbreak. In other words, on the same day Li was "admonished," the head of China's CDC personally called U.S. CDC Director Robert Redfield to share the same information Li supposedly shared. Some cover-up.

From here, it gets worse. One page later, Birx tells us how traumatized she still is from having watched videos of Wuhan residents collapsing and falling dead in January 2020, and praises the "courageous doctor" who shared them online:

The video showed a hallway crowded with patients slumped in chairs. Some of the masked people leaned against the wall for support. The camera didn't pan so much as zigzag while the Chinese doctor maneuvered her smartphone up the narrow corridor. My eye was drawn to two bodies wrapped in sheets lying on the floor amid the cluster of patients and staff. The doctor's colleagues, their face shields and other personal protective equipment in place, barely glanced at the lens as she captured the scene. They looked past her, as if at a harrowing future they could all see and hoped to survive. I tried to increase the volume, but there was no sound. My mind seamlessly filled that void, inserting the sounds from my past, sounds from other wards, other places of great sorrow. I had been here before. I had witnessed scenes like this across the globe, in HIV ravaged communities-when hospitals were full of people dying of AIDS before we had treatment or before we ensured treatment to those who needed it. I had lived this, and it was etched permanently in my brain: the unimaginable, devastating loss of mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, brothers, sisters.

Staring at my computer screen, I was horrified by the images from Wuhan, the suffering they portrayed, but also because they confirmed what I'd suspected for the last three weeks: Not only was the Chinese government underreporting the real numbers of the infected and dying in Wuhan and elsewhere, but the situation was definitely far more dire than most people outside that city realized. Up until now, I'd been only reading or hearing about the virus. Now it had been made visible by a courageous doctor sharing this video online.
Birx's book was published in April 2022. The early videos she recounts as the source of her trauma were exposed as fake by the Associated Press and other outlets in February of 2020.

In the next paragraph, Birx tells us how she grew even more determined after seeing that the Chinese had built a hospital in 10 days to fight the virus:

Dotting it were various pieces of earth-moving equipment, enough of them in various shapes and sizes that I briefly wondered if the photograph was of a manufacturing plant where the newly assembled machines were on display. Quickly, I learned that the machines were in Wuhan and that they were handling the first phase of preparatory work for the construction of a one-thousand-bed hospital to be completed in just ten days' time . The Chinese may not have been giving accurate data about the numbers of cases and deaths, but the rapid spread of this disease could be counted in other ways-including in how many Chinese workers were being employed to build new facilities to relieve the pressure on the existing, and impressive, Wuhan health service centers. You build a thousand-bed hospital in ten days only if you are experiencing unrelenting community spread of a highly contagious virus that has eluded your containment measures and is now causing serious illness on a massive scale.
BuzzFeed had proved that images of rapid hospital construction in China were faked on Jan. 27, 2020.

To recap, Deborah Birx-the woman who did more than almost any other person in the United States to promote and prolong COVID lockdowns, and attempted, with the support of mainstream media outlets, to silence anyone who disagreed with her-tells us in 2022 that she'd been inspired in her work by images that were widely known to have been faked (as if the real images of old age homes in Italy and elsewhere weren't bad enough) before the lockdowns even started.

That's Chapter 1.

Birx then spends hundreds of pages recounting what appears to be political maneuvering to intentionally deceive as many Americans as possible into willingly locking down for as long as possible, without making it seem like a "lockdown":

At this point, I wasn't about to use the words lockdown or shutdown. If I had uttered either of those in early March, after being at the White House only one week, the political, nonmedical members of the task force would have dismissed me as too alarmist, too doom-and-gloom, too reliant on feelings and not facts. They would have campaigned to lock me down and shut me up.
Birx recalls using "flatten-the-curve guidance" to manipulate the "political, nonmedical members" of the government into consenting to lockdowns that were stricter than they realized:

On Monday and Tuesday, while sorting through the CDC data issues, we worked simultaneously to develop the flatten-the-curve guidance I hoped to present to the vice president at week's end. Getting buy-in on the simple mitigation measures every American could take was just the first step leading to longer and more aggressive interventions. We had to make these palatable to the administration by avoiding the obvious appearance of a full Italian lockdown. At the same time, we needed the measures to be effective at slowing the spread, which meant matching as closely as possible what Italy had done-a tall order. We were playing a game of chess in which the success of each move was predicated on the one before it.
She also admits that her guidance regarding the maximum allowable size of social gatherings-10 people-was arbitrary, because her real goal was zero-no social contact of any kind, anywhere:

I had settled on ten knowing that even that was too many, but I figured that ten would at least be palatable for most Americans-high enough to allow for most gatherings of immediate family but not enough for large dinner parties and, critically, large weddings, birthday parties, and other mass social events. . Similarly, if I pushed for zero (which was actually what I wanted and what was required), this would have been interpreted as a "lockdown"-the perception we were all working so hard to avoid.
Birx then divulges her strategy of using federal advisories to give cover to state governors to impose mandates and restrictions:

The White House would "encourage," but the states could "recommend" or, if needed, "mandate." In short, we were handing governors and their public health officials a template, a state-level permission slip they could use to enact a specific response that was appropriate for the people under their jurisdiction. The fact that the guidelines would be coming from a Republican White House gave political cover to any Republican governors skeptical of federal overreach.
The White House advisor recalls with relish that her strategy led states to shut down one by one, destroying the livelihoods of millions of Americans and devastating the country's elementary and high school education systems without any public health benefit to show for it:

[T]he recommendations served as the basis for governors to mandate the flattening-the-curve shutdowns. The White House had handed down guidance, and the governors took that ball and ran with it . With the White House's "this is serious" message, governors now had "permission" to mount a proportionate response and, one by one, other states followed suit. California was first, doing so on March 18. New York followed on March 20. Illinois, which had declared its own state of emergency on March 9, issued shelter-in-place orders on March 21. Louisiana did so on the twenty-second. In relatively short order by the end of March and the first week of April, there were few holdouts. The circuit-breaking, flattening-the-curve shutdown had begun.
Cue the maniacal laughter.

In what may be her most damning remark about the entire U.S. response to COVID, Birx tells us that she'd always known "two weeks to slow the spread" was a lie and knew in advance that she wanted the timeframe extended, despite having no data to support why such a step was scientifically sensible:

No sooner had we convinced the Trump administration to implement our version of a two-week shutdown than I was trying to figure out how to extend it. Fifteen Days to Slow the Spread was a start, but I knew it would be just that. I didn't have the numbers in front of me yet to make the case for extending it longer, but I had two weeks to get them. However hard it had been to get the fifteen-day shutdown approved, getting another one would be more difficult by many orders of magnitude.
This is one of several quotes in which Birx refers to "our version" of a lockdown, though she never makes it clear what the original "version" of a lockdown was (read: China's). In fact, though Birx spends hundreds of pages boasting about her crusade for lockdowns across America, she never once explains why she wanted them or why she felt they were a good idea, other than the aforementioned brief asides about China's supposed success using social distancing to combat SARS-1.

Birx then says that she had a regular system for surreptitiously revising and hiding information from her bosses (whom she calls "gatekeepers") after they reviewed her guidance to the states, in order to keep lockdown measures in place for as long as possible against the wishes of the White House:

After the heavily edited documents were returned to me, I'd reinsert what they had objected to, but place it in those different locations. I'd also reorder and restructure the bullet points so the most salient-the points the administration objected to most-no longer fell at the start of the bullet points. I shared these strategies with the three members of the data team also writing these reports. Our Saturday and Sunday report-writing routine soon became: write, submit, revise, hide, resubmit.
Fortunately, this strategic sleight-of-hand worked. That they never seemed to catch this subterfuge left me to conclude that, either they read the finished reports too quickly or they neglected to do the word search that would have revealed the language to which they objected. In slipping these changes past the gatekeepers and continuing to inform the governors of the need for the big-three mitigations-masks, sentinel testing, and limits on indoor social gatherings-I felt confident I was giving the states permission to escalate public health mitigation with the fall and winter coming.
Birx's plans seem to be going quite well for her until she meets the book's leading antagonist: Scott Atlas, the former Stanford University neuroradiology professor serving as an adviser to the Task Force. To Birx's disgust, Atlas took a strong stand against school closures, treating children as unique vectors of disease, and other heresies.

More here:




Monday, August 08, 2022

Education Is in a Shambles

The single most bizarre aspect of the pandemic policy response was the shutting of schools, public and private. One country never did that-Sweden-and the results were fabulous: zero deaths and zero educational losses. That this was the right choice should have been obvious from the beginning. COVID was never a serious threat to kids, mercifully.

In those fateful days, fully 55 million U.S. kids were suddenly sent home, and their parents' lives were massively disrupted to care for them and oversee their education. That happened for those lucky enough to be able to homeschool-a practice once nearly illegal and then suddenly mandatory-but for millions of kids, they simply slipped through the cracks, some losing as much as two years of education.

When the kids finally went back, they faced a coronaphobic environment with mandatory masking, plus a general message that they and their friends are disease vectors and they had better comply. They were hit with rolling lockdowns in the name of track-and-trace along with the pathological futility of somehow forever slowing the spread.

The result is a mental health crisis coupled with a dramatic decline in reading and math scores. We really are talking here about a lifetime trauma, far worse than a natural disaster. It was entirely man-made. It should raise fundamental doubts about the wisdom of our overlords.

So why did the shutdown happen?

So far as I can tell, such an egregious policy response has been baked into the modeling since 2006. The non-medically minded computer programmers who put together the whole idea of disease avoidance through "social distancing" developed an obsession with stopping schools, particularly ending school buses. In their view, kids are uncontrollable disease spreaders, so the only option is to put a stop to the whole enterprise.

An earlier modeling exercise for lockdowns written by Neil M. Ferguson of Imperial College London and published in Nature just assumed that school closures would reduce "attack rates" of a virus by 40 percent. This was echoed in 2006 by Robert Glass and his top two acolytes, Richard Hatchett and Carter Mecher, both of whom were pushing hard for school closures throughout February 2020 and somehow managed to get their way.

"Just watch kids with runny noses and coughing and sneezing and touching one another (especially the younger ones)," VA consultant Mecher wrote in March 2020 to public health officials all over the country. "You couldn't design a better system to spread disease. Schools and daycare centers are clearly amplifiers of disease transmission .. We can guarantee that if the US does not close schools now, they will eventually close all the schools and universities out of desperation." As for the downside, forget about it: "We don't need to exhaust ourselves searching for perfect solutions to address all these challenges associated with the 2nd and 3rd order consequences of school closure."

Strange how Dr. Mecher otherwise stayed out of the public eye for the duration of the pandemic.

In the big picture of things, the school shutdowns made absolutely no sense either epidemiologically or politically. The public school system in this country has for more than 100 years been considered the crown jewel of Progressive achievements. They began in this country in the 1880s at the state level as an effort to Americanize immigrant communities. They gradually became part of the normal function of government at all levels.

One might have supposed that the ruling class establishment would protect the schools above all else, not shut them down for fear of a virus that poses a near-zero risk to the kids. The flu pandemics of 1969 and 1958 did not cause this, and not even the polio scares of the 1940s were enough to force school closures. That it all happened in 2020 is a measure of just how bonkers the world became nearly overnight.

Now there is a real crisis at work in even finding teachers, many of whom have been massively demoralized not only from the closures but also the vaccine mandates. The Washington Post reports that "rural school districts in Texas are switching to four-day weeks this fall due to lack of staff. Florida is asking veterans with no teaching background to enter classrooms. Arizona is allowing college students to step in and instruct children. The teacher shortage in America has hit crisis levels - and school officials everywhere are scrambling to ensure that, as students return to classrooms, someone will be there to educate them."

This problem is coupled with the huge demographic upheaval of parents with young families fleeing the blue states for red ones, in search of a better place to raise the ones they love the most.

This might also be a tremendous opportunity for reform, dramatic reform. The education question should not actually be too difficult for any society that considers itself free. Parents want their kids to be educated and many institutions and people are thrilled to be part of the project. It might be heresy to say it, but consider that the entire industry would be better off without any government involvement at any level.

There is no reason why the entire sector should be treated like something uniquely requiring government intervention to make possible. We know now that government cannot be trusted in this realm. In fact, this trust may never return. Already public schooling was entering a crisis phase with curricula ever more detached from parents' wishes and kids treated inhumanely in an increasingly mechanized and bureaucratized system heavy with administrative expense.

The issue of homeschooling should at least be fully settled by now. Anyone who wishes to do so should be free to do so. But what about myriad hybrid schools that combine family, community, religious institutions, and civic associations? Most states have far too many regulations-including teacher certifications and curriculum requirements plus laws on compulsory attendance-that make the formation and development of more complex solutions too difficult.

If the Republicans are looking for solutions here, they should start with getting the federal government entirely out of the picture, starting with the immediate abolition of the Department of Education, which has done nothing to improve educational systems and much to inhibit innovative solutions at the local level.

It's also time to revisit the issue of so-called "child labor" laws (imposed only in 1938) that stop hybrid school/work solutions and end up conscripting kids into an inhumane environment for 12 years. It's pointless. Even now, kids on family farms (and also child actors!) are free to enjoy employment while also pursuing school studies. This right needs to be extended to everyone. It's preposterous that a 13-year old cannot legally serve a sandwich in a local shop and get paid to do so.

Beyond that, deregulation of the entire educational sector should be the main theme here. And the system of funding needs dramatic change too. Right now, it is tied to property taxes which in turn are linked to the system of school districts, which profoundly affects housing prices and ends up making most schools "public" in name only. A just system would link payments made to services provided, just as with private schools.

The system we have now is in the midst of an unsustainable crisis that is crying out for dramatic change. The incredible irony is that American educational institutions were massively disrupted and even wrecked by the very same crowd that built them in the first place. Even the New York Times is publishing writers who now say they never should have closed.

Indeed, but for all the catastrophic results, at least it has created a giant opportunity for massive reform that rejects the top-down, property-tax-funded, bureaucratically controlled model rooted in control, coercion, and compulsion, in favor of a system better suited to a free people. The way to prevent school lockdowns from ever happening again is to create a giant wall between government and education, and then let millions of flowers bloom.




Sunday, August 07, 2022

Hidden side-effects of Covid

The third world is full of silent victims. Impoverished nations ruled by dictators, or those left to fend for themselves beneath the smoke of proxy wars, are often targeted by drug companies looking for a lawless testing environment.

Rarely, they get caught, and when it happens the story is usually printed in some sort of World magazine as a four-page human interest piece to momentarily entertain a Westerner on their way to work – flicked over and forgotten by the next train station.

Pfizer may have a shiny halo in the Covid era, but in the 90s eleven Nigerian children died during the trial of Trovan while others were rendered blind or brain damaged sparking a court case from the Nigerian government over ‘informed consent’. Informed consent is a topic the CDC, WHO, and NIH also struggled with when the notorious AZT trials began in Zimbabwe where 1,000 children contracted HIV/AIDS despite an effective treatment existing.

Carl Elliott, author of White Coat, Black Hat: Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine said of similar controversies for small private trials in the West:

‘Many of these trials – especially Phase I clinical trials, which are early-stage studies done primarily to determine whether a drug is safe – exploit impoverished, vulnerable people, especially the mentally ill. Few people realise how little oversight the [US] federal government provides for the protection of subjects in privately sponsored studies.’

There’s a reason large drug trials aren’t done on the rich. In the third world – loose change is used as bait and the consequences for failure are limited to the mourning of a local family. Without global communication, victims cannot alert the world to their situation.

In 2020, the status quo flipped. Wealthy, highly educated Western nations found themselves as the testing ground for mRNA vaccines while the third world remained largely untouched. These trials were conducted without compensation, under duress, and often participation was mandated by governments either through coercive vaccine passport systems, direct fines, or by ‘locking citizens out of the vaccine economy’. This was called ‘an emergency rollout’ but in a strictly technical sense, it was a trial.

It doesn’t take an expert to correctly guess that there would be a range of terrible – and in some cases fatal – side effects from a new vaccine technology with 12.4 billion doses in two years.

Preparations were made by governments and pharmaceutical companies to protect themselves from the legal ramifications of angry citizens seeking a hell of a lot more than an apology and the odd human interest story. Early on in the rollout, it was this panicky level of preemptive legal work that worried the vaccine-hesitant. They were right to worry. While authorities repeated the mantra ‘safe and effective’ in the absence of long-term data, the statistical reality began to mount that Covid vaccines were returning the highest level of adverse effects seen in current use. 

The situation is likely worse than recorded, given how difficult some countries like Australia make it to record vaccine injuries. The safety profile of Covid vaccines do not compare to childhood vaccines, whose side effects look like a pebble next to Everest. Ordinarily, they would have been pulled off the shelf after the first death and sent back for further testing.

This situation is only a problem for governments and drug companies if the wider community is made aware. Hushing up the press or advising governments and their medical bureaucrats to walk the line of silence for ‘the greater good’ is not only possible – it was laid out in some of the leaked contracts. Nations like Argentina and Brazil were forced to go even further after being asked to back a pharmaceutical company’s legal protection with sovereign assets.

Social media is the weak link – the crack through which tales of adverse reactions leak.

It becomes difficult to keep chanting ‘safe and effective’ when hundreds – if not thousands – of stories make it onto social media detailing the horror that some people and their families have faced as a consequence of the vaccine trial. No matter how strong the contracts were between governments and pharmaceutical companies, there is a tipping point in public outrage where the desire for justice in the courts becomes unstoppable. Dare we call it, ‘social justice’. And it only takes one victory to set a precedent.

The natural reaction of those with something to lose (be it money or political power) is to immediately censor victims trying to share their stories. Australia is lagging a year behind the rest of the world thanks to a period in our history that will forever be known as ‘the hermit kingdom’, so we must look to the UK for a glimpse of our future.

While the BBC used public money to make a documentary attempting to shame the unvaccinated out of their decision, Mark Steyn of GB News gave those who were harmed by government vaccine directives the voice they were denied by Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

Aside from the injuries and deaths inflicted on otherwise healthy young people who had a near-zero risk from a Covid infection, the most striking part of the discussion was the behaviour of Silicon Valley, which routinely suspended and banned accounts belonging to victims.

The empty space created by their deletion sits as a scar on social media.

Many fully-vaccinated individuals in the media scoff or cheer at the censorship these people face, slurring them as ‘anti-vaxxers’ (despite the contradiction that it was their vaccination that harmed them). Others do not want to listen to first-hand evidence that a vaccine most people have taken might result in lifelong complications, especially if they have already given it to their children.

‘If you watch other TV stations, if you listen to other radio stations, if you go on social media, the people in this room with me tonight do not exist. In fact, as you can see they’re real, they’re flesh and blood, and they are your fellow citizens. They represent hundreds of thousands of other people in every corner of these islands [UK] and millions more around the globe. Yet if they post on Twitter, if they post on Facebook, they are labelled as misleading – as disinformation – and as fake news. These people are not in the least bit fake. They are victims of the Covid vaccine,’ said Mark Steyn.

It has escaped mainstream media’s notice that we live in an age where social media giants erase victims of the pharmaceutical industry and government edicts.

At what other point in modern history has it been acceptable for the personal recollections of victims to be deemed ‘misleading’ or ‘harmful’?

How can the likes of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram claim to be acting in the interest of ‘the greater good’ and ‘public health’ by hiding stories of adverse reactions, or the death of loved ones, from public view?

The truth is in the public interest, even if it is harmful to public health policy or the profits of Big Pharma. Informed consent requires an accurate assessment of risk. Would any publication turn a blind eye if Twitter deleted cancer sufferers complaining about Big Tobacco? What about if Facebook banned users who complained about mistreatment from police over concerns it would ‘erode trust in authority’?

If a new medical treatment is dangerous, even to a minority of healthy people, the public needs to know.

Silicon Valley does not only remove people who deviate from the ‘safe and effective’ narrative on vaccines. The community guidelines of some sites have expanded to cover ‘Climate Change’, gender, and sexuality in what appears to be an attempt to manipulate the direction of social ethics.

This is a system of political censorship more commonly seen in collectivist dictatorships. Perhaps this is the direction Western society is headed.

Surely, say the supporters of global gag orders, social media is a private entity. Unethical or not, it can do what it likes…

Although social media is perceived to be a public forum, that is not its legal status. However, those who claim that ‘private companies can do what they like’ are also incorrect. Setting aside the realty that all private companies are bound by various laws, Twitter, Facebook, and others are platforms. Platforms exist as a strange legal entity that arose in the early years of the internet where third parties began publishing content directly to the public via a company like Twitter.

These online sites look a bit like ‘publishers’ – who are legally responsible for every word set to print – but a publishing model is impossible to uphold in a live-post scenario where a billion people are chatting with each other. Instead, ‘platforms’ were given special legal exemption from liability toward their content. This protection came with a caveat. Because platforms are not publishers, they are not allowed to engage in editorial behaviour.

In other words, the community guidelines laid out by social media companies are being misused to censor political speech in direct violation of their legal structure.

The only ‘editorial’ behaviour platforms are permitted to engage in relates to the Good Samaritan Clause tagged onto Section 230 Immunity that essentially covers clear-cut cases of bullying, threats, intimidation, stalking, or otherwise illegal activity such as sex trafficking. It does not include scope for ‘hurt feelings’ or ‘the protection of Big Pharma from product failures’.

There is no need to tangle social media up in new legislation. The rules that were written to cover platforms were clear, simple, and sufficient. Instead, the problem sits in America’s political class who refuse to bring social media companies to court over abuses of power because they are using Silicon Valley censorship to advance their political careers, manipulate social trends, and protect their financial interests.

Where is the moral outrage from human rights lawyers about this cabal of elite entities working together to silence victims of billion-dollar corporations?

Worse, why are so many Australians occupying positions of privilege in the media happy to go along with the erasure of victims and the silencing of their suffering?

You can make the case that keeping the side effects of vaccines quiet will ‘serve the greater good’ by ensuring more people get vaccinated, but that ignores the ethical reality that human beings deserve to know the extent of true risk and make an informed decision for themselves. It is not up to strangers to judge what is ‘in the best interest’ for others.

Nor is it right to describe those who see excessive risk in Covid vaccines as ‘anti-vaxxers’. The percentage of people who reject the concept of vaccination (which is a valid position if we continue to support body autonomy) has not changed during the Covid years. What we are seeing instead is hesitation about a particular drug – a drug that has never been on the market before and was previously held back due to safety concerns that were estimated to take ‘a decade’ to resolve. Yet here they are, rolled out to the entire population of the world a year later.

Regardless of your opinion on Covid vaccination itself, deleting victims from the conversation is at best, immoral and at worst – criminal.


Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

<a href=""></a> (EDUCATION WATCH)

<a href=""></a> (GREENIE WATCH)


<a href=""></a> (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

<a href=""></a> (TONGUE-TIED)

<a href=""></a> <b>(IMMIGRATION WATCH)</b>

<a href=""></a> (THE PSYCHOLOGIST)