Saturday, September 03, 2022

Amazing retreat by Biden

He must have changed speechwriters

President Joe Biden walked back his attacks on Donald Trump's MAGA supporters, saying on Friday he doesn't consider 'any Trump supporter a threat to the country.' 'I don't consider any Trump supporter a threat to the country,' the president said at the White House.

It was a contrast to his remarks on Thursday night when, in a primetime address on the threat to democracy, he said Trump and his supporters were a threat to the republic.

Republicans slammed Biden's speech as divisive while Trump said Biden was 'insane.'

Biden toned down his tough talk on Friday, defending supporters of the former president. In response to a question after an event on federal manufacturing grants, Biden said Trump supporters weren't voting for violence.

He said the 74 million people who voted for Trump weren't voting for an insurrection. 'When people voted for Donald Trump - and support him now - they weren't voting for attacking the capital. They weren't voting for overruling the election. They were going for a philosophy he put forward.'

He did condemn the Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol in the January 6th insurrection and those who attempted to overturn the 2020 election results. He insisted his speech was directed at those who attacked democracy.

'I do think anyone who calls for the use of violence, fails to condemn violence when it's used, refuses to acknowledge an election has been won, insists upon changing the way in which the rules and we count votes, that is a threat to democracy. Democracy. And everything we stand for, everything we stand for, rests on the platform of democracy,' he said.

'So I am not talking about anything other than it is inappropriate. And it's not only happening here, but other parts of the world with failure to recognize and condemn violence whenever it's used for those purposes, failure to condemn the attempt to manipulate an electrical outcome, failure to acknowledge when elections were won or lost.'

In his speech on Thursday night, Biden gave a notably different message. He said Trump is a 'threat to the country' in remarks that contained his harshest rhetoric to date about his predecessor in the Oval Office and the MAGA movement.

'Equality and democracy are under assault. We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise,' Biden declared at the top of his remarks before Philadelphia's Independence Hall.

He called out Trump by name, slamming the former president for his false claim the 2020 election was stolen and berating those who support Trump.

Trump, meanwhile, gave a blistering response to Biden's remarks. The former president called Biden 'insane' and asked if he was 'suffering from late stage dementia' after the president claimed he was a 'threat to democracy'.

Trump took to his Truth Social account on Thursday night to slam the 'awkward and angry' speech outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia - and called on someone to explain to his successor what MAGA means, 'slowly but passionately'.

'Someone should explain to Joe Biden, slowly but passionately, that MAGA means, as powerfully as mere words can get, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!,' he wrote.

'If he doesn't want to Make America Great Again, which through words, action, and thought, he doesn't, then he certainly should not be representing the United States of America!


California Lawmakers Pass Bill to Punish Dissenting Doctors for ‘Misinformation’

Legislation that would punish doctors who dissent from the California government’s messaging on COVID-19 has passed the state Legislature. Gov. Gavin Newsom has until Sept. 30 to either veto the bill or sign it into law.

The final amendments to Assembly Bill 2098 (AB 2098), introduced by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), were passed by a 56-20 vote on Aug. 30 in the Assembly.

The bill would amend the state’s Business and Professions Code to give the Medical Board of California (MBC) the discretionary power to discipline physicians or surgeons who spread “misinformation or disinformation” related to COVID-19. The MBC currently has the power to punish doctors charged with unprofessional conduct under the Medical Practice Act for violations including gross negligence, incompetence, dishonesty, or corruption.

“Misinformation,” according to the Aug. 23 Senate Floor analysis, means “false or misleading information about the nature and risks of the virus; COVID-19 prevention and treatment; and the development, safety, and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.”

In response, Sen. Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) told The Epoch Times, “Doctors should be neither controlled nor prohibited by government from giving relevant health information to their patients.”

“Californians deserve to make informed decisions about their health without their doctors being threatened with disciplinary actions over what some state board deems ‘misinformation,’” Melendez said in a text message on Aug. 31.

Dr. Michael Huang of Roseville, Calif., who is in jeopardy of losing his medical license for allegedly issuing invalid mask and vaccine medical exemptions to his patients—many of them firefighters and school-age children—told The Epoch Times the state government has overstepped its bounds.

“It’s horrible. We’re back into the days of the Inquisition when Galileo was found guilty for saying that the Earth revolves around the sun,” he said. “The state is acting well beyond what it’s designed to do.”

The bill, Huang contends, will make it impossible to practice honest medicine.

Politicians shouldn’t meddle in medicine by “looking for fault and trying to punish physicians” for their medical opinions, because knowledge is always evolving, he said. “What we knew about COVID two years ago is completely different than what we know now.”

Huang has been under investigation by the medical board since at least December 2021 for “unprofessional conduct,” and the decision regarding the fate of his medical license is still pending.

The investigation followed an announcement issued by the medical board on Aug. 18, 2021 that physicians could be subject to disciplinary action for granting mask or other exemptions inappropriately.

If his license to practice medicine is suspended, Huang will likely leave the state, and may even stop practicing medicine altogether, because, he said, doctors everywhere are facing political pressure to comply.

“It’s not just in California,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Aug. 22 Assembly Floor analysis accused former President Donald Trump of advising people to inject themselves with disinfectant in its discussion on misinformation.

“If, for example, a physician were to advise patients to inject disinfectant as a way of treating COVID-19—as former President Trump once did, resulting in a sharp rise in reported incidents of misusing bleach and other cleaning products—disseminating that ‘misinformation’ would almost certainly be considered negligent care subject to discipline,” the analysis states.

However, the transcript of Trump’s comments at a press briefing on April 23, 2020, referenced by the California Assembly analysis, shows he did not say people should inject themselves with disinfectants to treat COVID-19. In fact, he was asking officials on the White House coronavirus task force whether they could be used in potential cures, according to PolitiFact.

Trump later clarified his comments after a reporter asked whether disinfectants could actually be injected into COVID-19 patients.

“It wouldn’t be through injections, almost a cleaning and sterilization of an area. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work, but it certainly has a big effect if it’s on a stationary object,” Trump said at the time.

The analysis also targeted America’s Frontline Doctors founder Dr. Simone Gold.

“Dr. Gold has engaged in multiple campaigns to stoke public distrust in COVID-19 vaccines, characterizing them as ‘experimental’ despite numerous safety and efficacy trials successfully confirming their safety and efficacy. Dr. Gold spoke at a rally held in conjunction with the attempted insurrection on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021; she was arrested and subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor relating to that event,” the analysis states.


Biden Admin Regularly Coordinated With Facebook, Twitter To Censor Users, Records Show

Dozens of federal officials across multiple agencies within the Biden administration communicated extensively with social media companies to coordinate censorship of information, according to internal documents released by Republican Attorneys General Eric Schmitt of Missouri and Jeff Landry of Louisiana.

Officials within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent emails to employees at Facebook and Twitter to flag instances of alleged misinformation and provide talking points to counter allegedly false narratives spreading on the platforms. Government officials would occasionally initiate this activity, with one message from a CDC official requesting monthly meetings with Facebook to plan “debunking” strategies, and a White House official requesting the removal of a parody Anthony Fauci account.

One collection of emails shows Facebook staff collaborating closely with staff at the HHS to remove Facebook groups, with one message describing the collaboration as “critical.” Staff from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discussed setting up “regular chats” with Twitter, and Twitter invited White House staff to be briefed on their efforts relating to vaccine misinformation. (RELATED: Court Orders Biden White House To Cough Up Top Officials’ Communications With Big Tech)

“I know our teams met today to better understand the scope of what the White House expects from us on misinformation going forward,” one email from Facebook staff to HHS staff states. “In our previous conversations I’ve appreciated the way you and your team have approached our engagement, and we have worked hard to meet the moment — we’ve dedicated enormous time and resources to fighting this pandemic and consider ourselves partners in fighting the same battle.”

Documents produced by the Department of Justice allegedly reveal a connection between 45 federal officials at the DHS and HHS and social media giants, with the social media companies disclosing connections to officials at the White House and U.S. Election Assistance Commision, among others, according to Schmitt’s press release. The administration has allegedly refused to disclose the connections of the highest-ranking members, citing executive privilege, according to the press release.

“The limited discovery produced so far provides a tantalizing snapshot into a massive, sprawling federal “Censorship Enterprise,” which includes dozens of federal officials across at least eleven federal agencies and components identified so far,” Schmitt and Landry write in a Wednesday petition for additional documents. “[These officials] communicate with social-media platforms about misinformation, disinformation, and the suppression of private speech on social media—all with the intent and effect of pressuring social-media platforms to censor and suppress private speech that federal officials disfavor.”

The DHS this spring launched a short-lived initiative known as the Government Disinformation Board, which was supposed to study misinformation online and provide the DHS with tools to combat propaganda that posed a national security threat, according to The Washington Post. The program disbanded after just three weeks due to significant backlash, according to The Washington Post.

“We’re going to need another [Nina Jankowicz] down the road,” an anonymous DHS staffer to The Washington Post, referring to the board’s erstwhile executive director. “And anyone who takes that position is going to be vulnerable to a disinformation campaign or attack.”




Friday, September 02, 2022

Pandemic profits: Winners and losers in the Covid casino

This week, John Ratcliffe, former Director of National Intelligence under former President Trump, told CBS News that throughout 2020 he ‘had a high degree of confidence that the origins of Covid-19 were in the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV)’ and said there was zero intelligence that points to a natural origin noting, ‘It’s been now almost three years since Covid-19 was first identified and there has never been an intermediary host identified’.

He’s not the only highly placed insider who believes Covid may have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. In February, Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, told Maria Bartiromo on Fox News that, as he’d said before, ‘the hypothesis of an escape from a lab by an accident is possible. Human makes mistakes. So it is possible that the Wuhan lab in China was working on virus enhancement or gene modification, and then there’s an accident where somebody was infected in a lab and then infected family and friends’.

When Bancel says that a lab leak is possible it should carry considerable weight because he was instrumental in bringing the WIV into existence. His first job was at BioMérieux, a company which sponsored his MBA at Harvard and to which he returned as CEO in 2007 aged only 34. The founder of BioMérieux, Alain Mérieux – and his father-in-law Paul Berliet before him – had a deep relationship with the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, at the highest levels, including Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping and ultimately Xi Jinping.

Mérieux as co-president of the Franco-Chinese Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases lobbied the French government repeatedly to support the construction of the WIV and in 2007, French president Nicolas Sarkozy signed an agreement in China to ‘ensure that all necessary measures are taken as soon as possible to implement… the Wuhan P4 laboratory’. This coincided with Bancel taking over as CEO and supporting Mérieux who worked personally as a consultant in the WIV construction. The company’s relationship with China was so strong that in October 2012, before being officially appointed president, Xi Jinping received Mérieux in private audience.

In 2011, Bancel took over as CEO of Moderna. Could the scientists at the WIV have been using a sequence patented by Moderna to enhance a virus? It certainly looks like it. One of the closest relatives of Sars-CoV-2 is RATG13, a bat coronavirus discovered by researchers at the WIV in 2013. The only significant difference between RATG13 and Sars-CoV-2 is the furin cleavage site in the spike protein which makes the virus infectious in humans. It is this furin cleavage site which contains the 19 nucleotide sequence patented by Moderna five times between 2013 and 2015 and it shares some similarities with the furin cleavage site in the Mers coronavirus which was first identified in 2012 and might have served as a model for researchers at the WIV looking to enhance RATG13. When Bartiromo asked Bancel in February whether part of the DNA of the Sars-CoV-2 virus had been patented by Moderna, he said, ‘It is possible’.

In addition to his relationship with WIV, in 2015, Bancel partnered with the Vaccine Research Centre, part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), headed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, to collaborate on vaccines, including mRNA vaccines, and studying coronaviruses. Meanwhile, Fauci’s NIAID was funding gain-of-function research on coronaviruses at WIV via grants to the EcoHealth Alliance headed by Peter Daszak. Indeed, NIAID only terminated the funding last week, after the WIV repeatedly refused to hand over key information about the coronavirus research it conducted with US taxpayer dollars.

Bancel says that it was while he was in Davos for the World Economic Forum in January 2020 that he understood the extent of the impact that the Sars CoV-2 virus would have on the world and started work on his vaccine. Yet Moderna and NIAID had already signed an agreement to transfer their jointly-owned mRNA coronavirus vaccine candidates to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on 12 December 2019 for Ralph Baric to test on animals.

This has taken on fresh relevance with Fauci announcing that he will step down as director of NIAID in December. Republicans say that Fauci might be gone but they will bring him back to testify about what he knew and what he funded at the WIV.

Meanwhile, Moderna has announced that it is suing Pfizer for breach of its patents. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for those who have suffered vaccine injuries and aren’t allowed to sue either company. Unlike Australia with its loss of $144 billion, both companies have profited handsomely from the pandemic. But while Pfizer was already an established titan of the pharmaceutical industry, Moderna was a heavily loss-making biotech with unproven technology, wrote the Sunday Times. As one of Bancel’s peers observed, ‘The pandemic came almost as a blessing to prove the technology’. The question is, what, if anything, did NIAID or Moderna or the WIV do to hasten that blessing?


‘More than 400,000 people’ have had long Covid for over two years

A total of two million people across the country are estimated to be suffering from long Covid, according to a new survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Some 429,000 – the equivalent of around one in five (22%) – first had Covid-19, or suspected they had the virus, at least 24 months previously.

The number of people with long Covid who first had the virus at least one year ago is estimated to be 892,000, or 45% of the total.

The figures are based on self-reported long Covid from a representative sample of people in private households in the four weeks to July 31.

They show that long Covid is likely to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 1.5 million people – nearly three-quarters of those with self-reported long Covid – with 384,000 saying their ability to undertake day-to-day activities has been “limited a lot”.

Fatigue is the most common symptom (experienced by 62% of those with self-reported long Covid), followed by shortness of breath (37%), difficulty concentrating (33%) and muscle ache (31%).

The estimates cannot be compared directly with previous long Covid surveys published by the ONS, due to a change in the way the data has been collected.

Prevalence of long Covid is currently highest among 35 to 69-year-olds, at 4.4%, followed by 25 to 34-year-olds, at 3.0%.

People working in social care reported the highest prevalence of long Covid among employment groups (5.6%), followed by teachers and educators (4.4%) and arts and entertainment workers (4.3%).

There is no standard measure for long Covid, with the ONS using a definition based on symptoms that have persisted for more than four weeks after a first suspected coronavirus infection, where the symptoms could not be explained by something else


Australia: Business hails five-day Covid isolation ‘a game changer’

Business has hailed national cabinet’s decision to reduce mandatory Covid isolation requirements from seven days to five for people with no symptoms, declaring it a “game changer” that will help ­alleviate labour shortages.

Anthony Albanese, who labelling the move a “proportionate response at this point in the pan­demic”, also said masks would no longer be mandatory on domestic flights from September 9 – the same day the isolation changes take effect.

However, all workers in high-risk settings, including aged care and disability care, must still self-isolate for seven days.

Government sources confirmed if a person not in those settings has symptoms on day six and onwards, they should follow their state’s health advice.

“There aren’t mandated requirements for the flu or for a range of other illnesses that people suffer from,” the Prime Minister said. “What we want to do is to make sure that government responds to the changed circumstances. Covid is likely going to be around for a considerable period of time. And we need to respond appropriately to it based upon the weight of evidence.

“We had a discussion about people looking after each other, people looking after their own health,” he added.

Mr Albanese did not rule out extending pandemic leave payments worth up to $750, which are now jointly funded by the commonwealth and states. National cabinet is due to make a decision on the payments when it next meets in a fortnight.

The payments will reflect the five-day isolation rule from September 9, meaning they should be worth about $536.

Restaurant and Catering chief executive Belinda Clarke said that with the current staffing crisis, a reduction in isolation days would be a “game changer”.

“As we’ve continued to learn to live with Covid-19, we have to start becoming more flexible,” she told The Australian. “Other countries have had a five-day isolation period for months now, and this goes a long way to helping staff who are asymptomatic return to work and resume their lives.”

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the decision was “overdue and welcome”, stressing it was important for people to get back to work in a more timely manner as the pandemic passes its peak.




Thursday, September 01, 2022

Britain’s COVID rules rethink holds lessons for others

London: When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ended the legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive COVID-19 test seven months ago, about 3.3 million people – almost one in 19 – in the United Kingdom were infected with the virus.

In early February, some cynics, with the memory of Johnson’s shambolic early handling of the crisis fresh in their minds, described the move as an attempted distraction from his own political scandals.

Downing Street stressed the decision was not a recommendation that people should go to work if they had coronavirus, adding that “guidance” on appropriate behaviour would remain in place.

“Obviously in the same way that someone with flu, we wouldn’t recommend they go to work; we would never recommend anyone goes to work when they have an infectious disease,” it said, wary of a backlash from an anxious public.

It was, at the time, considered somewhat of a gamble and Johnson was condemned in some quarters as reckless and, as one union leader said, “going too far, way too soon”. Life, however, slowly returned to normal in London and major cities throughout the country.

As Australia and other nations emerge from a third long, cold COVID winter, Johnson’s bold move is being examined closely to determine if it was brave or indeed premature.

In Britain, some are warning that cases will most likely increase in autumn and winter as people spend less time in the open air, that disruption to school and university life will continue, and young people will once again be a vector of transmission to older generations.

Experts, such as Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, said scrapping the legal requirement was “pragmatic” as self-isolation rules were, essentially, self-policed anyway.

“No longer mandating isolation periods isn’t going to make a big difference,” he said then. But he stressed the need to continue with “strong public health messaging”, adding that the government “must not pretend it’s over”.

Authorities held their nerves as a new variant appeared and, by the end of March, infection numbers hit a record 4.9 million at the peak of the Omicron BA.2 wave before falling again. Infections jumped again by a fifth in early June after Jubilee celebrations amid increased socialising, waning immunity and a drop-off in preventative measures helped spread the virus.

In the months since, case numbers have largely stabilised, not only because of a long, hot summer where windows are open and people have spent hours outside, but because of a dramatic fall in testing after the government scrapped free kits in April. Many people now have COVID without even knowing it.

The government took a calculated risk in lifting restrictions before all the data was in, and, most now agree the decision was justified. Politicians have to lead, after all, and the Band-Aid needed to be ripped off.

While more than 200,000 Britons have now died with COVID mentioned on their death certificates, the virus is not the killer it once was. At the start of the pandemic, one in 100 people who caught it died. Now, that figure is as low as one in 3000.

On Thursday, the last coronavirus requirements in England will be scrapped when even hospital patients and care home residents will no longer be tested for COVID-19 unless they have symptoms.

In the latest estimates of infections, released last week, cases fell by 16 per cent from the previous week. One in every 45 people were believed to be infected – about 2.2 per cent of the population.

The government said it expected prevalence to remain low following the most recent wave, caused by the BA.4 and BA.5 variants of Omicron. The authorities now intend to protect individuals through vaccination and antiviral treatments, instead of isolation and testing.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said last week that pausing routine asymptomatic testing in most high-risk settings was possible because of a strong vaccine rollout.

“This reflects the fact case rates have fallen and the risk of transmission has reduced, though we will continue to closely monitor the situation and work with sectors to resume testing should it be needed,” he said.

Barclay said the upcoming autumn booster program would offer jabs to protect those at greatest risk from severe COVID-19.

In an editorial last month, The Times declared: “Draconian restrictions on the model of 2020 are not necessary or desirable but modest measures to arrest the spread of infection, including a return to mask-wearing on public transport and encouraging social distancing, would be prudent.”

Ending mandatory isolation for positive cases relegated COVID from the front pages of newspapers and TV news bulletins, but the move did not result in a massive uptick in economic activity.

Gross domestic product, the measure of the quantity of goods and services produced, fell 0.1 per cent in the second quarter this year after rising 0.7 per cent in the previous quarter, as households cut spending when the cost of living crisis began to bite and health sector output fell as cases and testing declined.

Warning that a new wave could put added pressure on the stretched public hospital system, a think tank headed by former prime minister Tony Blair has called for the government to adapt to the changing circumstance and make face masks compulsory on trains and buses.

The National Health Service (NHS) is struggling, though not directly because of the virus. Of the 92,000 general acute beds that are open in England, fewer than 5000 are occupied by patients who are there because of COVID.

The proportion of people being treated for very severe infections and needing intensive care remains lower than earlier in the pandemic, as vaccinations continue to protect people from severe disease.

But the system is facing a record backlog of patients waiting for treatment following more than two years of disruption.

The number of people waiting more than 12 hours in emergency departments rose 33 per cent in July from the previous month, according to data from NHS England, a record high that underscores the intense pressure facing the health system.

Face coverings have not been in force since July last year, but Blair’s institute said, “the strategic implementation of mask mandates should be considered for this autumn and winter” on public transport.

It also suggested masks should be brought back for indoor events if a new variant emerges that causes a surge in hospitalisations. Blair has also called for the COVID booster vaccination campaign to be expanded to include all adults.

Current guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation says that over-50s, the clinically vulnerable and frontline health and social care workers can get a booster, with all expected to get an upgraded, Omicron-specific jab.

“This winter will bring a perfect storm, resulting in unprecedented demand and reduced capacity, which will combine to create the worst winter crisis in the NHS’s history,” the report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change warned.

“The government must do whatever it takes to support the NHS through this period and act immediately to avert an unmitigated disaster.”

While official health guidance in the UK remains “try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days” after they start feeling unwell, a new study by Imperial College London, released last week, now suggests this five-day period is not long enough to cut transmission.

In the first real-world study of its kind, experts monitored 57 people at home after they were exposed to the coronavirus to test how long they remained infectious. The participants completed questionnaires about their symptoms and had daily tests looking at how much virus they were shedding each day.

Only one in five was infectious before their symptoms developed, but two-thirds of cases were still infectious five days after first reporting symptoms.

Professor Ajit Lalvani, the lead author, said that, under a crude five-day self-isolation period, two-thirds of cases released into the community would still be infectious – though their level of infectiousness would have reduced substantially.

He said that people should isolate for five days and not leave isolation until they had tested negative twice on rapid tests.

“We recommend that anyone who has been exposed to the virus and has symptoms isolates for five days, then uses daily lateral flow tests to safely leave isolation when two consecutive daily tests are negative.”

Pandemic leave payments ‘can’t continue forever’: treasurer
Adam Finn, a professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said the fact that the booster program was now focused entirely on people at enhanced risk of serious illness might help this winter. Eight out of 10 of those aged 75 and over had the spring booster.

He stressed the need for clear communication over the booster program.

“We’ve got a tool that is really good at stopping the old folks from dying,” he said. “We’ve more or less given up on the idea of mass immunisation to control the spread of infection. Vaccinating everyone every three months is just not feasible.”


FDA authorizes updated COVID-19 boosters

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized two newly updated COVID-19 booster shots: one made by Moderna and one made by Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech, according to a statement(opens in new tab) released Wednesday (Aug. 31).

Both boosters guard against the original SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus variant targeted by the original vaccines as well as two omicron subvariants, known as the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages. These two versions of omicron are "currently causing most cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and are predicted to circulate this fall and winter," the FDA statement notes. BA.5 accounts for nearly 90% of current cases in the U.S., and BA.4 accounts for most of the remaining cases, STAT reported(opens in new tab).

Through an "emergency use authorization," the updated Moderna booster can be used in people ages 18 and older, while the Pfizer-BioNTech booster is authorized for people as young as 12. The single-dose shots can be given to people who are at least two months out from the final dose of their initial COVID-19 vaccine series or at least two months out from their last booster shot, if they've received one.

"As we head into fall and begin to spend more time indoors, we strongly encourage anyone who is eligible to consider receiving a booster dose with a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine to provide better protection against currently circulating variants," FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf said in Wednesday's statement. (The term "bivalent" means the boosters target two coronavirus components: one from the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and one that's shared by BA.4 and BA.5.)




Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Taking Mask Off Science Driving COVID-19 Responses as Schools Reopen

Despite the evidence, back to school means back to masks again for some children this year, and parents and educators still don't have evidence that mask policies keep students or teachers safe.

Rather, the experience of the past two years has taught us that teacher unions and other education interest groups, not science, are driving school responses to COVID-19.

That means political power is a bigger concern than health and student achievement.

The primary concern for parents, teachers, and policymakers today must be student learning.

Commentators and analysts on both sides of the ideological divide have called prolonged school closures "disastrous," "catastrophic," and "severe," among other epithets.

Research has uncovered significant learning losses among K-12 students over the past two years, with greater academic setbacks for children who were forced to stay out of the classroom for longer periods compared with those who returned earlier to in-person learning.

Some project that the learning losses will be greater for those students who were already falling behind before the pandemic, a forecast that should surprise no one. The learning losses do not point directly to mask mandates, but those requirements are part of a litany of policies that divert attention away from student success.

Still, school officials in Jefferson County, Kentucky, the state's largest school district, along with educators in Philadelphia are among those continuing mask mandates to start the school year. Other school administrators in Fairfax County, Virginia, and some school districts in California either started the year with a mask mandate or are considering a mandate now.

As of Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified more than one-third of counties in the U.S. as areas with high transmission, including some of the largest school districts in the country, such as Miami's.

The CDC continues to recommend school mask mandates in those counties. Americans have reason to doubt the scientific basis for those decisions, however.

Politics have become inseparable from school health policies. In March, Republicans in Congress released a report confirming what many had long suspected: Teachers unions colluded with the White House and CDC officials to write federal guidance that kept schools closed, despite evidence demonstrating that children were the least affected by the virus.

Agency officials recently pledged to reform the CDC, saying what all Americans have recognized by now: The agency "lost its focus" and had "manifold failures" over the pandemic.

For those reasons, along with a lack of reliable evidence for certain pandemic responses, the CDC has damaged its credibility on school mask mandates. School officials are far less likely today than they were last fall to adopt the agency's recommendations.

That's a good thing for parents who will have more latitude to make their own decisions concerning their children's well-being.

Many school officials are appropriately making decisions on their own. According to Burbio, a data service that aggregates school and community data, only 1.8% of the 500 largest school districts it tracks have such mandates in place. Last fall, nearly three-quarters of those districts required students to wear masks.

School districts across the U.S. are ignoring the CDC's school masking guidance. Some of that's due to lower levels of public anxiety about COVID-19. But it also is related to the agency's failure to establish a sound basis for its recommendations.

Consider: A widely cited study published last September in the CDC's flagship journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found that "school masking requirements [were] associated with lower daily case rates of pediatric COVID-19."

But a preprint accepted for publication by The Lancet, a prestigious British medical journal, replicated and extended the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report study's methodology and reached the opposite conclusion.

The Lancet study's authors looked at schools in the 565 counties included in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report study. They found that, while schools that mandated masks had lower instances of pediatric COVID-19 after three weeks, that difference disappeared after six weeks.

Extending the sample to 1,832 counties, they found no difference in pediatric case rates between schools with mask mandates and those without them.

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report declined to publish the study, although it used the same methods as the study that the journal published last September.

Americans should remember that if school officials do not require masks, educators and students can still choose to wear face coverings. But public officials do not have the research evidence to require everyone to wear masks.

Educators do have enough research, however, to prioritize student success. So far, that's been one of sad casualties of the pandemic -- but one we can still remedy if we put children ahead of politics.


DC Delays School Vaccine Mandate After Daily Signal Report

Fewer than 24 hours after The Daily Signal reported that the District of Columbia would not offer remote learning and planned to bar unvaccinated students, many of whom are black, from attending school in person 20 days after school started on Monday, the city abruptly announced it was delaying the policy until next year.

DCist reported that Washington, D.C., Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn announced that enforcement of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate would not begin until Jan. 3, 2023.

Students 12 and up who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 will receive a notice of noncompliance on Nov. 21. If they do not comply by Jan. 3, 2023, they will no longer be able to attend school in person.

Citing “the challenges of tracking enforcement for COVID-19 vaccinations,” in a Friday letter to city education officials, Kihn wrote:

We have heard from many of you about the challenges of tracking enforcement for COVID-19 vaccinations … We hope that the Jan. 3, 2023 date for first exclusions of non-compliant students will give schools and [local education agencies] additional time to prepare and for students to get their COVID-19 vaccinations.

On Thursday, The Daily Signal questioned D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, on what unvaccinated students could expect when public school started on Monday.

“They can go to school on Monday,” Bowser said, “But they need to get their vaccinations … and their families will be alerted as to the dates.”

The Daily Signal then asked whether unvaccinated children would have the option to learn virtually if they didn’t get vaccinated. As of Thursday, students were told they had 20 days from the start of school to show proof of vaccination.

Bowser replied, “We’re not offering remote learning for children, and families will need to comply with what is necessary to come to school.”

The Daily Signal’s article was shared widely on Twitter, including by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

The D.C. government’s vaccine numbers website shows 47% of the black children in the District ages 12-15 had not completed their primary vaccination series necessary to go back to school in person.

Among black teens aged 16-17, 42% are unvaccinated.

The announcement comes on the heels of D.C. Superior Court Judge Maurice A. Ross’ decision Thursday that the city’s vaccination mandate for city employees was unlawful.

Just Washington, D.C., and New Orleans currently require students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to attend school in person, according to The Washington Post.




Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Judge Rules COVID Vaccine Mandate for DC Government Workers Is Unconstitutional

A Washington D.C. superior court judge ruled Thursday that the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate that was imposed on city employees is unlawful.

An order that was handed down by Judge Maurice A. Ross was a response to a lawsuit filed by the Washington D.C. Police Union and other groups that opposed Mayor Muriel Bowser's mandate. Bowser in August of last year ordered city government employees to provide proof of vaccination although some workers could seek a medical or religious exemption to the shot.

"A vaccine mandate is not an everyday exercise of power," Ross wrote in his 17-page ruling (pdf). "It is instead a significant encroachment into the life"”and health"”of an employee. It is strikingly unlike any other workplace regulations typically imposed, as it "˜cannot be undone at the end of the workday.' Thus, there is an expectation that a vaccine mandate must come from a legislative body."

Ross also argued that the legal "system does not permit the Mayor to act unlawfully even in the pursuit of desirable ends," including curbing COVID-19, adding that "the Mayor lacks legal authority to impose a vaccine mandate on Plaintiffs."

The judge rejected city lawyers' arguments that Bowser could impose a vaccine mandate in her capacity to regulate occupational and workplace hazards. The Biden administration made a similar claim to the U.S. Supreme Court last year on its vaccine mandate for private businesses before the court struck the rule down in January.

"Although COVID-19 is a risk that can occur in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most," Ross wrote in his order.


It means the city can't enforce the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Meanwhile, disciplinary actions that were taken to enforce compliance can be reversed, according to Ross's ruling.

The DC Police Union praised the decision and said it will ensure that its officers won't be terminated or forced to take the vaccine.

"Had the Mayor just engaged the Union in good faith bargaining, we would have reached a reasonable compromise that protected everyone's interests," Gregg Pemberton, the chairman of the union, said in a statement. "Now, all of our members can go back to do the necessary work of trying to protect our communities from crime and violence without unlawful threats of discipline and termination."

The office of Bowser, a Democrat, issued a statement Friday to WUSA9 in response to the ruling.

"We are reviewing the Court's ruling, and believe that the judge misunderstood the strength and diversity of the authorities we relied upon in issuing the employee vaccination mandate," the statement said, adding that "going forward, we will comply with the Court's orders as we continue encouraging our community to access life-saving vaccines."

Bowser's statement further claimed that her office believes that "COVID-19 vaccines work" and "save lives." Some recent studies, however, have suggested the opposite may be true.


Thailand study of young adults post jab showed nearly 30% with cardiovascular injuries

A new study on cardiovascular impacts of the COVID vaccines done in Thailand is particularly troubling: 29% of the young adults experience non-trivial changes in their cardiac biomarkers.

It is amazing what you find when scientists doing a study are honest and want to know the truth.

“Why isn’t a study like this being done in the US?” asks UCSF Professor Vinay Prasad.

Heck, we don’t even know the d-dimer of people before vs. after the vax.

This is just more evidence of corruption of the medical community that nobody was calling for any of this data.

These vaccines are a disaster. Every day, the evidence gets worse and worse.

Will this new study stop the vaccines for kids? Of course not!

Look, even if the shots killed every child under 20 who takes it, they’d write off the death to something else and recommend that kids get the shot. The brainwashing is that bad. It’s stunning. Facts do not matter.

Consider this Thailand study:

18% of kids had an abnormal EKG post-vaccine?!? That has to be extremely troubling. A vaccine is not supposed to do that. Are doctors telling parents the vaccine causes serious heart issues in 18% of kids? At least let them know.

The paper noted that “Cardiovascular effects were found in 29.24% of patients, ranging from tachycardia, palpitation, and myo/pericarditis.” Wow.

Almost 30% of the cases?!?! That’s not “rare.”

Finally a 3.5% rate of myo/pericarditis (including subclinical) among males 13-18 is not rare either. We were lied to by the CDC. Big time.

Interestingly, this is consistent with the number of myocarditis rates at Monte Vista Christian School in Watsonville, CA which was in excess of 1% but they wouldn’t reveal any of the details beyond that publicly; gotta keep the school safe from lawsuits. Major credit there goes to Head of School Nikki Daniels for making sure that nobody found out that the shots they gave at the school were hurting kids. When adverse reactions started showing up, they did the right thing: they kept their mouths shut.


The Republican Party is moving toward a true opposition party, and Biden fears it

By Bill Wilson

The time-worn tactic of the establishment Left is to always blame their opponents of their own crimes. While it may appear childish – Mom, I didn’t break the window, the other kid did it! – it works or at least it eases the minds of some of the worst human rights, anti-liberty fiends in history. Proving once again that every other day or so, Joe Biden can read from a teleprompter, he did it last week, labeling his opponents “semi-fascists.”

Last week, the “President” made a speech at a political rally where he set out the narrative of the Left for the coming mid-term elections. There are, according to Biden, good traditional Republicans and then there are MAGA Republicans. The good Republicans of course are the slithering quislings that have handed the Democrats and the radical left everything they ever wanted, playing the role of loyal opposition in order to divert patriotic citizens from anything approaching real, organized opposition. MAGA Republicans, you see, according to Biden don’t want to play that weak, pathetic treasonous role. They actually want to advance ideas!

And advancing ideas is, according to the regime, fascist. The Washington Post paid hack Dana Milbank echoed Biden and tried to add some flourish to the words of the babbler-in-chief. And of course he would. Milbank, after all, is nothing more than a corporate paid shill for the Democrat Party. He is a loyal member in good standing of leftist politics since his days at Yale, (of course). He is married to the daughter of a Democrat-operative royalty Stan Greenberg and the step daughter of one of the most radical and destructive Members of Congress, Rosa DeLauro. So, to be frank, anything this two-bit hack pens is by definition propaganda.

So, what is the crime, what have MAGA Republicans done that reducing them to mere caricatures to the regime? Well, they “encourage violence”, says Milbank. No mention of the three months of riots in 2020 that killed people and destroyed billions of dollars of property. And no mention of the use of criminals to terrorize American cities by communist District Attorneys. The use of criminal terror to cow the citizenry was a tactic of who? Oh yeah, we are not allowed to draw that comparison.

Well, what else makes half the country “semi-fascist”? According to Milbank and Biden, MAGA Republicans “reject the legitimate outcome of the last election — and are making it easier to reject the will of the voters in the next.” Oh, I see. So, when leftists rejected the Bush re-election in 2004 and attempted to undercut it, that was ok. And when people like Biden and Milbank and all of their comrades rejected the election of Trump in 2016, that was just right and fair. But, when citizens look at the mountain of evidence that the 2020 election was stolen, when they see that the FBI on purpose manipulated the news about the crimes of Hunter Biden, when they learn that the entire intelligence structure was employed to divert attention from the real national security threat that Hunter Biden poses, they should just ignore it and fall in line.

Anything else? You bet! According to Milbank, “A systemic campaign of disinformation makes their supporters feel victimized by shadowy “elites.” These are hallmarks of authoritarianism.” So, the “elites” are the victims here, right? Shadowy? You mean like conspiring with some flunky association to have parents labeled domestic terrorists for asking questions? Do they mean denying children lunches unless the local school system embraces and celebrates “transgenderism”? Maybe they mean disinformation like the lies being spread about the disaster of the sanctions on Russia, how Europeans will freeze and see food stock plumet this winter because of such mindless “empire building”?

No, I guess all of these facts are just too much for little Dana to consider. We know that Biden doesn’t have the cognitive ability to do so. At the end of the day, the cynical and disgusting ploy by Biden as echoed by his propagandist is just the latest rancid, rotting move by a dying and incompetent regime.

So, for the record Dana, the quisling Republicans your boss loves so much are gone, they are dead. The few squealing members exist only to serve the Deep State’s desire to have control of both parties. But, as Liz Cheney proved, there is no base for that putrid lie. The Republican Party is moving toward a true opposition party, a party that embraces an America First agenda. And isn’t that what you and your ilk really hate and fear? The Agenda, not the man Donald Trump or any group of advocates, right?

And what is that agenda that you fear and hate so much?

It is secure borders, saying to everyone who came to the U.S. legally and did what was asked in order to become citizens that they are valued and that respect for law means you respect the laws on entry into our country. It is trade deals that do not kill American industries and jobs. It means that globalist organizations like the WTO or the UN have no say in how we conduct our business and that working people and communities rule. It is an agenda that rejects the insanity of energy dependence. It is an agenda that does not accept the lie of man-made climate change and embraces real science as the solution to our challenges.

And, most importantly, it is an agenda that rejects the global role of the U.S. as policeman to the world. It rejects the idea that our sons and daughters should be put in harm’s way to make the world safer for Goldman Sachs. It is an agenda that values our defense forces but not the military industrial complex getting rich off their blood. It is an agenda that refuses to play the role of empire and rejects the physical and financial oppression that empire requires to be imposed on other peoples and our own citizens.

To all MAGA supporters and allies, when Biden and his kind start to hurl slurs at you, do not fall for their bait. Make them define what they want. Demand that they debate the issues that make up the MAGA agenda. Force these mindless trolls of the Deep State to defend their insults. And then continue to spread the word, organize and act like these toads do not exist. They are not real. They are in fact mere projections of a dead and rotting regime looking at itself and wanting to find someone to blame.




Monday, August 29, 2022

A once distinguished academic journal announces its transition to a propaganda sheet

It has always been true that nearly all academic journals have a Leftist bias. This latest move is just making that bias more sweeping and more overt. I had a lot of problems getting past that bias when my research findings ran counter to a Leftist consensus and I never did get anything published that attacked Leftist theories outright. I was allowed to nibble at the margins only.

I did often try to push at the limits but without success. My list of unpublished papers includes some such efforts. You can see there that some attempts really challenged Leftist assumptions. Until the internet, those challenges remained unknown

Although the modern prestige bestowed upon science is laudable, it is not without peril. For as the ideological value of science increases, so too does the threat to its objectivity. Slogans and hashtags can quickly politicize science, and scientists can be tempted to subordinate the pursuit of the truth to moral or political ends as they become aware of their own prodigious social importance. Inconvenient data can be suppressed or hidden and inconvenient research can be quashed. This is especially true when one political tribe or faction enjoys disproportionate influence in academia—its members can disfigure science (often unconsciously) to support their own ideological preferences. This is how science becomes more like propaganda than empiricism, and academia becomes more like a partisan media organization than an impartial institution.

An editorial in Nature Human Behavior provides the most recent indication of just how bad things are becoming. It begins, like so many essays of its kind, by announcing that, “Although academic freedom is fundamental, it is not unbounded.” When the invocation of a fundamental freedom in one clause is immediately undermined in the next, we should be skeptical of whatever follows. But in this case, the authors are taking issue with a view very few people actually hold. At minimum, most academics will readily accept that scientific curiosity should be constrained by ethical concerns about research participants.

Unfortunately, the authors then announce that they also wish to apply these “well-established ethics frameworks” to “humans who do not participate directly in the research.” They are especially concerned that “people can be harmed indirectly” by research that “inadvertently … stigmatizes individuals or human groups.” Such research “may be discriminatory, racist, sexist, ableist, or homophobic” and “may provide justification for undermining the rights of specific groups, simply because of their social characteristics.” Because of these concerns, the Springer Nature community has worked up a new set of research guidelines intended to “address these potential harms,” explicitly applying ethics frameworks for research with human participations to “any academic publication.”

In plain language, this means that from now on, the journal will reject articles that might potentially harm (even “inadvertently”) those individuals or groups most vulnerable to “racism, sexism, ableism, or homophobia.” Since it is already standard practice to reject false or poorly argued work, it is safe to assume that these new guidelines have been designed to reject any article deemed to pose a threat to disadvantaged groups, irrespective of whether or not its central claims are true, or at least well-supported. Within a few sentences, we have moved from a banal statement of the obvious to draconian and censorious editorial discretion. Editors will now enjoy unprecedented power to reject articles on the basis of nebulous moral concerns and anticipated harms.

Imagine for a moment that this editorial were written, not by political progressives, but by conservative Catholics, who announced that any research promoting (even “inadvertently”) promiscuous sex, the breakdown of the nuclear family, agnosticism and atheism, or the decline of the nation state would be suppressed or rejected lest it inflict unspecified “harm” on vaguely defined groups or individuals. Many of those presently nodding along with Nature’s editors would have no difficulty identifying the subordination of science to a political agenda. One need not argue that opposing racism or promoting the nuclear family are dubious goals in order to also worry about elevating them over free inquiry and the dispassionate pursuit of understanding.

Suppose someone discovers that men are more likely than women to be represented at the tail end of the mathematical ability distribution and therefore more likely to be engineers or physics professors. Does such a finding constitute sexism, if only by implication? Does it stigmatize or help to negatively stereotype women? Are the authors of the editorial contending that journals should not publish an article that contains these data or makes such an argument? The very vagueness of these new guidelines allows—or rather requires—the political biases of editors and reviewers to intrude into the publishing process.

As the editorial proceeds, it becomes steadily more alarming and more explicitly political. “Advancing knowledge and understanding,” the authors declare, is also “a fundamental public good. In some cases, however, potential harms to the populations studied may outweigh the benefit of publication.” Such as? Any material that “undermines” the “dignity or rights of specific groups” or “assumes that a human group is superior or inferior over another simply because of a social characteristic” will be sufficient to “raise ethics concerns that may require revisions or supersede the value of publication.”

But no serious scientist or scholar contends that some groups are superior or inferior to others. Those who write candidly about sex and population differences, such as David Geary or Charles Murray, routinely preface discussion of their findings with the unambiguous declaration that empirical differences do not justify claims of superiority or inferiority. Nevertheless, the editorial is a warrant to attack, silence, and suppress research that finds differences of any social significance between sexes or populations, regardless of whether or not such differences do in fact exist. The empirical claim that “men are overrepresented vis-à-vis women at the extreme right tail of the distribution of mathematical ability” can therefore be rejected on the basis that it may be understood to imply a claim of male superiority even if no such claim is made, and even if it is explicitly disavowed.

Sensing the dangerous and censorious path they are walking, the authors pause to offer a sop to those of us who still believe in the importance of academic freedom:

"There is a fine balance between academic freedom and the protection of the dignity and rights of individuals and human groups. We commit to using this guidance cautiously and judiciously, consulting with ethics experts and advocacy groups where needed. Ensuring that ethically conducted research on individual differences and differences among human groups flourishes, and no research is discouraged simply because it may be socially or academically controversial, is as important as preventing harm"

This is not at all reassuring. Asking ethicists to assess the wisdom of publishing a journal article is as antithetical to the spirit of science as soliciting publication advice from a religious scholar. Who are these “ethics experts” and “advocacy groups” anyway? I am skeptical of ethical expertise. I am especially skeptical of ethical expertise from an academy more inclined to reward conclusions that support progressive preferences than those that emerge from empirical study and rational thought. I am more skeptical still of advocacy groups, which exist to pursue a political agenda, and are therefore, by their very nature, a good deal more interested in what is useful than what is true.

Imagine the outcry on the Left if a journal announced it would be consulting pro-life advocates before publishing an article about the effects of abortion on wellbeing. Or if it decided to consult conservative evangelicals when evaluating an article about the effects of adoption by homosexual couples. The journal is effectively announcing the employment of sensitivity readers, who it can safely be assumed, will invariably recommend the risk-averse option of suppression whenever the possibility of controversy arises.

Before they set out their new guidelines, the authors take a moment to self-flagellate, with a cookie cutter denunciation of science for its dismal history of inequality and discrimination. Still, “with this guidance, we take a step toward countering this,” they say as if it were an act of atonement. I find that I am more positive about the science of the past than the editorial’s authors, and more gloomy about the social-justice-oriented science of the future they are proposing. Yes, humans are flawed and fallible and always will be, so we must accept that science will forever be an imperfect endeavor. But the best way to correct its imperfections is not to demand the capitulation of science to ideology, but to remain alive to our biases and devise mechanisms that can compensate for them. Trying to counter past bias by replacing it with a new kind of bias is self-evidently nonsensical—like trying to conquer alcohol consumption by replacing beer with hard liquor.

Predictably, the proposed editorial guidelines focus on the needs and sensitivities of groups perceived to be marginalized and identified by race, ethnicity, class, sex, and sexual orientation, religious and political beliefs, age and disability. And naturally, the guidelines themselves are as vague and troubling as the rest of the editorial. The authors reiterate that they want to extend protections for research participants across the entire publishing process. “Harms,” they note, “can also arise indirectly, as a result of the publication of a research project or a piece of scholarly communication—for instance, stigmatization of a vulnerable human group or potential use of the results of research for unintended purposes (e.g., public policies that undermine human rights or misuse of information to threaten public health).”

Like almost everything else in the editorial, this claim is unhelpfully ambiguous and politically contentious. Furthermore, possible real-world harms (or benefits) that result from the publication of academic papers are incredibly, perhaps prohibitively, difficult to anticipate and measure. Would a paper that finds homosexual men to be more promiscuous on average than heterosexual men result in the “stigmatization of” or “harm to” a “vulnerable human group”? The answer would depend in no small part upon the respondent’s view of homosexuality and how capacious or otherwise their definitions of “stigmatization” and “harm” are.

The notion that homosexual men are more promiscuous than straight men might produce some negative stereotypes about the former. But it could also raise awareness of the disproportionate dangers posed to homosexual men’s sexual health by unprotected promiscuity, which might in turn lead to a reduction in the rate of sexually transmitted infections. We simply do not know. This is precisely why peer review should only consider the plausibility and theoretical importance of articles, not their unknowable political and moral effects.

The new guidelines state that even if a project were to be reviewed and approved by appropriate committees, editors “reserve the right to request modifications” or even “refuse publication … or retract post-publication” if it contains content that:

Is premised upon the assumption of inherent biological, social, or cultural superiority or inferiority of one human group over another based on race, ethnicity, national or social origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, political or other beliefs, age, disease, (dis)ability, or other socially constructed or socially relevant groupings (hereafter referred to as socially constructed or socially relevant human groupings).


Undermines—or could reasonably be perceived to undermine—the rights and dignities of an individual or human group on the basis of socially constructed or socially relevant human groupings.


Embod[ies] singular, privileged perspectives, which are exclusionary of a diversity of voices in relation to socially constructed or socially relevant human groupings, and which purport such perspectives to be generalisable and/or assumed.
No examples are adduced, of course, so it is difficult to know what kind of content would commit these retractable iniquities. Could a discussion of group differences in cognitive ability “reasonably” be perceived to undermine the “rights and dignities of an individual or human group”? Would an exploration of sex differences in homicide rates? Would an analysis of political differences in cognitive rigidity? Would a test of the association between religiosity and pro-sociality? And who is to be the judge of what is and is not “reasonable”? And what does or does not constitute “undermining”?

Ambiguity is piled upon ambiguity to expand the capricious purview of the censor. It does not require clairvoyance to predict that these criteria will not be consistently applied. It may be considered racist to point out that a disproportionate number of crimes are committed by black Americans, but it will surely not be considered misandrist to point out that a disproportionate number of crimes are committed by American males. Even those who work ardently for the triumph of progressive ideas and values should shudder. Not only will these guidelines further degrade the already embattled prestige of science, but they offer remarkable deference to the idiosyncratic moral concerns of editors and reviewers which are subject to change at short notice. As radical feminists have recently discovered, those who sit within the progressive Overton window today may find themselves thrust outside of it tomorrow—victims of a censorious system they thought they were erecting in their own interests.

The guidelines intended to combat racism begin by announcing that race and ethnicity are sociopolitical constructs. This is a contentious claim (even if we could agree on what is meant by “sociopolitical construct”), and it is one that I happen to think is unsupported by either the data or by sound philosophical argument. Even so, the section goes on to assert that:

Biomedical studies should not conflate genetic ancestry (a biological construct) and race/ethnicity (sociopolitical constructs): although race/ethnicity are important constructs for the study of disparities in health outcomes and health care, empirically established genetic ancestry is the appropriate construct for the study of the biological aetiology of diseases or differences in treatment response.
This convoluted reasoning will surely only aggravate existing double standards in discussions of race and ethnicity—those who contend that society is teeming with racism can point to disadvantages experienced by racial groups, but those who contend that disparities are caused by behavioral differences are flatly told that race does not exist. Would these standards be consistently applied to a paper that examined racial disparities in police shootings and a paper that examined racial differences in crime rates?

“Racism,” we are told, “is scientifically unfounded and ethically untenable. Editors reserve the right to request modifications to (or correct or otherwise amend post-publication), and in severe cases refuse publication of (or retract post-publication), racist content.” But since “scientifically unfounded” material can be rejected on that basis alone, there is no need to invoke potential harms to vulnerable groups as an additional justification. The authors’ implication seems to be that “racism” should be understood (unlike the “reverse” variety) to apply to some groups and not others, and that what the authors wish to oppose is research that might discredit the efficacy or justness of, say, affirmative action. But since the editorial and its guidelines provide no examples of supposedly racist content, it is difficult to know.

The section on sex, gender, and sexual orientation is similarly vague and tendentious. The authors claim, for example, that, “there is a spectrum of gender identities and expression defining how individuals identify themselves and express their gender.” Well, maybe. But this is an ideologically provocative claim—and certainly one with which many people across the political spectrum will strongly disagree. Brazenly avoiding any pretense of objectivity, the authors then itemize the usual laundry list of putative gender identities, “including, but not limited to, transgender, gender-queer, gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, genderless, agender, nongender, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine and cisgender.” Gender norms, we are told, are “not fixed but evolve across time and space. As such, definitions will require frequent revisiting…” It is hard to imagine that more than five percent of conservatives would agree to this, but that is evidently of no concern to the authors. The chief purpose of this section seems to be to signal to other progressives, “We are on your side,” and to send a corresponding signal to conservatives: “You are not our people.”

The editorial closes by declaring that, “Researchers are encouraged to promote equality in their academic research,” and that editors reserve the right to retract articles that are “sexist, misogynistic, and/or anti-LGBTQ+.” Again, no examples of these retraction-worthy crimes are offered, and so familiar objections resurface. Is a paper that contends that men are physically stronger than women “misogynistic”? Is a paper that examines the correlation between trans-identity and other mental illnesses “anti-LGBTQ+”?

Science is a human activity, and like all human activities, it is influenced by human values, human biases, and human imperfections. Those will never be eliminated. The banner of science has undoubtedly been waved to justify, excuse, or otherwise rationalize appalling crimes and atrocities, from the racial pseudoscience of the Nazis to the blank slatism (and Lysenkoism) of the communists. But the correct response to these distortions is not to endorse a highly partisan vision of science that promotes a progressive worldview, alienating all those who disagree and further encouraging doubt about the objectivity of scientific endeavor. The correct response is to preserve an adversarial vision of science that promotes debate, disagreement, and free inquiry as the best way to reach the truth.




Sunday, August 28, 2022

Republicans are falling out of love with America Inc

To american executives, Rob Portman is the ideal politician. Clever, reasonable and experienced, he served as the top trade representative and budget director for George W. Bush, the Republican president from 2001 to 2009, before becoming a senator for Ohio more than a decade ago. Mr Portman has just one shortcoming: he is retiring. The party’s nominee to replace him is J.D. Vance, backed by Donald Trump, the most recent Republican commander-­in­-chief. Mr Vance calls big technology firms “enemies of Western civilisation” and casts elite managers as part of “the regime”, with interests anathema to those of America’s heartland.

The Democratic Party, with its leftier lean, remains companies’ most persistent headache—firms were caught off­-guard this month when Senate Democrats approved a rise in corporate­tax rates and new restrictions on the pricing of drugs.

But, in the words of an executive at a big financial firm, “We expect Democrats to hate us.” What is new is disdain from those on the right. There used to be a time, one lobbyist recalls with nostalgia, when “you would walk into a Republican office with a company and the question would be, ‘How can I help you?’” Those days are over. The prospect of Republicans sweeping the mid­term elections in November and recapturing the White House in 2024 no longer sends waves of relief through American boardrooms.

Executives and lobbyists interviewed by The Economist, speaking on condition of anonymity, described Republicans as becoming more hostile in both tone and, increasingly, substance. Public brawls, such as Disney’s feud with Ron Desantis, Florida’s Republican governor, over discussion of sexual orientation in classrooms, or Republicans blasting Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, for “woke” investments, are only its most obvious manifestations. “It used to be the axis was left to right,” says an executive at one of America’s biggest firms. “Now it is an axis from insiders to outsiders; everyone seems intent on proving they are not part of the superstructure, and that includes business.”

Long­held right-­of­-centre orthodoxies—in favour of free trade and competition, against industrial policy—are in flux. As Republicans’ stance towards big business changes, so may the contours of American commerce.

The close partnership between Republicans and business has helped shape American capitalism for decades. Companies’ profit­-seeking pursuit of free trade abroad and free enterprise at home dovetailed with Republicans’ credo of individual freedom and anti­communism. By the 1990s even Bill Clinton and other Democrats embraced new trade deals, giving American multinational firms access to new markets and cheaper labour.

As Glenn Hubbard, former dean of Columbia Business School and an economic adviser to Mr Bush, puts it, “Social support for the system was a given and you could argue over the parameters.” The 2012 presidential battle between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney “felt like a big deal at the time”, says Rawi Abdelal of Harvard Business School. “But in terms of the business stakes, it wouldn’t have mattered at all.”

Four years later Republicans were still attracting about two­-thirds of spending by corporate political­-action committees (pacs), which give money to candidates in federal elections, and a big corporate-­tax cut in 2017 went on to be the main legislative achievement of Mr Trump’s term. Yet Mr Trump had campaigned on the feeling of ordinary Americans that they were being left behind. Executives hoping that his fiery campaign rhetoric would be doused by presidential restraint had to contend in­ stead with his trade war with China, curbs on immigration and contentious positions on climate change and race. Bosses felt compelled to speak out against his policies, which appalled many of their employees and customers. In the eyes of Trump supporters, such pronouncements cast the ceos as members of the progressive elite bent on undermining their champion.

After Mr Trump’s defeat by Mr Biden, companies wondered if their old alliance with Republicans might be restored. In July 17 Republican senators voted in favour of a bill that provides, among other things, $52bn in subsidies to compete with China by manufacturing more semiconductors in America—which chipmakers such as Intel naturally applauded. This month nearly all Republicans opposed the Democrats’ $700bn climate and health­care bill, known as the Inflation Reduction Act (ira), which raises taxes on large companies and enables the government to haggle with drugmakers over the price of some prescription medicines.

This apparent business-­friendliness-­as-­usual conceals a deeper shift, however. The Republican Party has attracted more working-­class voters—an evolution accelerated by Mr Trump’s willingness, on paper if not always in practice, to put the interests of the American worker ahead of those of the American multinational.

For most of the past 50 years more Republicans had a lot of confidence in big business than had little or no confidence in it, often by double­-digit margins, according to Gallup polls. Last year the mistrustful outnumbered the trusting by a record 17 percentage points, worse than at the height of the global financial crisis of 2007­09 (see chart 1). Republican election war­chests are increasingly filled either by small donors or the extremely rich. Both these groups are likelier to favour ideologues over pragmatists, notes Sarah Bryner of Open-secrets, an ngo which tracks campaign finance and lobbying.

The result of all this is growing Republican support for policies that are hostile to America Inc. Josh Hawley, a senator from Missouri, wants companies with more than $1bn in annual revenue to pay their staff at least $15 an hour. His colleague from Florida, Marco Rubio, has backed the formation of workers’ councils at companies, an alternative to unions. In March Tom Cotton of Arkansas called for Americans to “reject the ideology of globalism” by curbing immigration, banning some American investments in China and suggesting Congress should “punish offshoring to China”. Republicans in Congress have co­sponsored several bills with Democrats to rein in big tech. Mr Vance, who has a good shot at joining them after the mid­terms, has proposed raising taxes on companies that move jobs abroad. Mr Trump himself repeatedly promised to lower drug prices.

The fact that Republicans opposed the ira—and other business­-wary Democratic initiatives—may mean simply that they loathe Democrats more than they dislike big business. Many bosses fret that the Republican Party will enact punitive policies once it is back in power. “There is no person who says, ‘Don’t worry’,” sighs one pharmaceutical executive. “You ignore what a politician says publicly at your peril,” warns another business bigwig.

That is already evident at the state level, where Republicans often control all levers of government and are therefore free to enact their agenda in a way that is impossible in gridlocked Washington. After Disney spoke out against a law in Florida that restricts discussion of gender and sexual orientation in schools, Mr Desantis revoked the company’s special tax status. Texas has a new law that restricts the state’s business with firms that “discriminate against firearm and ammunition industries”. Kentucky, Texas and West Virginia have passed similar laws barring business with banks and other firms that boycott fossil­-fuel producers; about a dozen other Republi­can­-controlled states are considering doing the same.

Such laws present a problem for companies. In July West Virginia’s treasurer said that the anti-fossil­-fuel policies of some of America’s biggest financial firms—Blackrock, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo—made them ineligible for state contracts. The definition of what counts as discriminating or boycotting is hazy. JPMorgan Chase, which does not lend to firms that sell military­-style weapons to consumers, first said that the Texan law prevented it from underwriting municipal-bond deals in that state, then bid for a contract (unsuccessfully). In Texas, Republican lawmakers are threatening to prosecute firms that pay for staff to travel out of state for abortions, which the Texan legislature has severely restricted.

Right­wing culture­-warriors have always been part of the Republican Party, but the line between them and their pro-­busi­ness country­-club colleagues has collapsed. These days, worries a business grandee, both parties see it as “acceptable to use state power to get private entities to conform to their viewpoints”. “esg is a four­-letter word in some Republican offices,” says Heather Podesta of Invariant, a lobbying firm, referring to the practice, championed by Blackrock among others, of considering environmental, social and governance factors, not just returns, in investment decisions. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has blamed Larry Fink, Blackrock’s boss, for high petrol prices. “Every time you fill up your tank,” he growled in May, “you can thank Larry for the massive and inappropriate esg pressure.”

Companies are adjusting to this new, more volatile political reality. Some are creating formal processes for reviewing the risks of speaking out on social issues that may provoke a political backlash, including from Republicans. The way firms describe their strategies to politicians is changing, too. Lobbying is no longer confined to the parties’ leaders in the two houses of Congress. Because politicians in both parties are increasingly willing to defy the leadership, says an executive, “you have to go member by member”. Neil Bradley, policy chief of the us Chamber of Commerce, which represents American big business, says that his organisation has had to redouble efforts to “find people who have interest in governing”.

Sometimes that means supporting more Democrats. In 2020 the chamber endorsed more vulnerable freshman Democratic incumbents, who were mostly moderates, than in previous years. That prompted Kevin Mccarthy, the leading Republican in the House of Representatives, to say he didn’t want the organisation’s endorsement “because they have sold out”. So far this year corporate pacs have funnelled 54% of their campaign donations to Republicans, down from 63% in 2012. Firms’ employees have beaten an even hastier retreat, with just 46% donating to Republican candid-ates, compared with 58% ten years ago, according to Opensecrets (see chart 2 on previous page).

If the upshot is divided government, that would suit American business just fine. As one executive remarks, “We might not have improvements, but we won’t get more cataclysmic policies.”


Covid skepticism on the rise

James Allan

The tide has turned. Finally. Recently that organ of pro-lockdown orthodoxy, the New York Times, ran an editorial to the effect that during the Covid pandemic no schools should ever have been closed. And that it would take decades to recover from this public policy fiasco. Sure, the NYT buried this editorial in a Saturday edition. But it’s a start. Especially for those of us who doubted the imposition of lockdowns from day one, publicly and in print, and were faced with a barrage of unhinged abuse about being ‘grandmother killers’ or ‘denying the science’ or having some talking head suffering from a toxic overdose of his own supposed virtue ramble on about ‘not on my watch’ as regards adopting the Swedish approach.

Last week the front page of the London Telegraph (far more sane through the pandemic, by the way, than the Australian) published a front page piece with a headline ‘lockdown effects feared to be killing more people than Covid’. In fact, the article by the paper’s science editor Sarah Knapton cites excess deaths data from Britain’s Office for National Statistics that make it plain this will happen. Knapton says that ‘over the past two months, the number of excess deaths not from Covid dwarfs the number linked to the virus’. Even some doctors’ organisations, who were all too willing to try to suppress and cancel lockdown dissenters for over two years, are doing about faces – not least the British Heart Foundation. Others, like the man who goes by the moniker ‘The Naked Emperor’ (for obvious reasons) on Substack, have taken this data and drilled down further. For instance, for the week ending 5 August there were 1,350 excess deaths in England and Wales.

Guess what? That is 14.4 per cent higher than the 5-year average. And you’re seeing those noticeably higher excess deaths in Australia too. But the Naked Emperor makes a point the science editor of the London Telegraph still shies away from, a point related to wide-open, honest debate: ‘There is no doubt that lockdowns are one of the major causes [of these really high excess deaths numbers] but it would be stupid to not even consider vaccines. Investigate whether they have contributed to these excess deaths in any way, present the evidence and then say no they haven’t. But don’t just dogmatically say they are safe and not look into it.’

That sums up the view of this twice-vaccinated, no-boosters, writer. I have so little trust in the expert class (including the medicos) after the last two years I am taking nada, nothing, zero on trust from these people. Many of them spent the last two-plus years stifling dissent; or keeping their heads down and being too cowardly to voice honestly held doubts; or revelling in a heavy-handed ‘we are the incarnation of science and we’re not prepared to brook any dissent’ form of modern-day aristocracy. And this in the context of Anders Tegnell’s Swedish approach (the same as the one recommended by the Great Barrington Declaration) looking better and better with each passing day – on every axis of concern and on every criterion. Not just as regards kids’ schooling outcomes. Not just all the economic outcomes from debt to small business closures to ruined CBDs to incredible asset inflation. Not just the invidious massive transfers of wealth from the young to the old and from the poor to the rich that lockdowns (and the money printing and massive spending needed to support those lockdowns, triggering the above-mentioned asset inflation, now price inflation and a hammered private sector) brought about.

No, even on straight-up ‘which policy choice will have the fewest excess deaths’ criterion, lockdowns were a mistake. The right choice, the one that was WHO and British policy in October of 2019 based on a century of data, was to protect the vulnerable and leave everyone else alone to make their own calls while definitely not locking down, not closing schools, not weaponising the police as the enforcement arm of two-bit public health bureaucrats. It was right even if the only axis you cared about, the only one, was how many deaths your response to Covid would lead to.