The unceremonious turfing of Rod Phillips: more elite failure

I pity the former Finance Minister of Ontario, who was sacked for taking a Caribbean vacation and faking his presence in Canada by postings on social media. I entirely agree with Rex Murphy that nothing could show better the hypocrisy of the ruling classes than this episode.  

We are not in this together. At least the Premier of Ontario had the wit to realize what this meant for the ceredibility of the government, and canned the guilty party.

In the Z-Man’s predictions for the year, we read:

“The Covidians will not back down. There will be reports of “vaccinated people” getting Covid and that will be enough to keep the panic rolling. Covid has now replaced climate change as the left-wing religion of fear. They need to feel they are part of a holy cause to give purpose to their lives. Some politicians will try to ratchet back the fear mongering, but they have unleashed forces they cannot control. Mask wearing and other gestures are now the uniform of the enlightened…”

As I read the gleanings by Rebel Yell from medical journals on susceptibility and incidence of the disease, The Great Covid Madness – 4, I am more than ever reminded that we are experiencing the effects of an auto-immune disease: the anti-bodies are as much the problem as the disease itself. In this case the anti-bodies, to be clear, are the measures we are taking to shut down the economy.

 

 One mania substituted for another

It is apparent that CO2 madness is being replaced by COVID as the mania of choice for members of the elite. The opportunities for direct social control with COVID are so much greater and more satisfying to the control freaks, and the willingness of people to go along with the scare so much greater than is the case with CO2. Decades of panic mongering about CO2 as the master control knob for global climate change have not succeeded in making the case for turning off our oil refineries and shutting down civilization as we know it. Always go with the panic that grows government authority most readily, and that is COVID, not atmospheric carbon dioxide.

 

I wish I could illustrate 415 against a million, but a million is 10,000 (10 to the 4th) times greater than a hundred (10 to the second). I am not proposing that we need orders of magnitude more CO2 in the atmosphere. What I am saying is that a trace gas is vital to plant life. More of it is greening the planet.

It will be evident that any serious policy aimed at reducing carbon emissions will have to focus on more nuclear reactors, as our Liberal government now understands.

 

 

 

So is this truly the end of Greta Thunberg’s influence? Hardly. The damage is now institutionalized in the poilicies of governments that seek to shut down tar sands and other sources of petro-chemical energy. Fanatics like Greta are mascots for the movement. But the attention has moved on from long term abstractions like climate change to hospitalizations and actual deaths.

Elite failure, and lots of it, with more coming

Now that the Swamp has won the US election, we are presented almost daily with evidence that technological, bureaucratic, political, judicial and media elites will run rampant for the next four years, unopposed by the man in the White House.  I call it failing upward. Everyone knows a person or two who rise from one position to the next, failing in every post (by any reasonable standard of success) and yet continually rising to greater and more respnsible positions. But an entire social class of experts rising through demonstrable failure?   This is new, to me at least.

 

Two articles today on the same theme, one from Unherd, the other from American Digest, citing the brave dissenter, David Warren.

 

Jacob Siegel in Unherd says it best:

“The first important lesson from the past year is that this revolt against the experts is not a fringe phenomenon driven by QAnon loons, hysterical anti-vaxxers and other untouchables. It is widespread and its consequences are already profound. On the surface, people are simply rejecting the authority of institutions such as the CDC, which now openly advocates for racial preferences and places political calculations before the public good. But beneath that rejection, there is a cultural shift at the level of animating beliefs.

“For millions of people, a disenchantment has broken the spell which upheld their faith in rational, scientific knowledge as the best means to tame the natural chaos of reality and administer the business of society. On top of all the other disenchantments undermining America’s founding myths, this one erodes the foundation on which the entire technocratic regime of modern society rests.

“Given the rather obvious importance of public health officials in the midst of a pandemic, why not seek to replace them with a better class of expert, instead of attacking the basis of expertise? The answer to that is in the second lesson of 2020: far from losing status after the repeated errors and deceptions of the past year, America’s institutional elite is more powerful than ever….

“If you are one of the people or organisations which repeatedly got the coronavirus wrong, abetted wanton political violence and destruction, or once again misread the American electorate, odds are very good that your funding streams, political influence, institutional power and leverage over your fellow Americans are going increase over the next four years of the Biden administration.”

 

Remember to follow the science. A BLM mobor a march against white racism is outdoors and poses no health risk, whereas a religious congregation is indoors and constitutes a grave health hazard. Funny that, eh? People are treating science as a set of papal encyclicals rather than a rude, rough and bumptious struggle of ideas in actual contest. The authority being exercised over people meeting and congregating is supposedly based in “science”, but which seems to work only in one direction.

 

Thus religion must be suppressed in the name of public safety. David Warren gets it right, as usual.

“That every conceivable human evil may be advanced by methods of social isolation, has been this year’s “breakthrough” rediscovery, and points to its ultimate authorship, Below.

“In Ontario, for instance, under a simpleton premier, almost all human interaction is banned, except that of mass-market retailing. Starting on the Feast of Stephen (December 26th), familiar visitors to our households will become liable to fines of up to 100,000 Canadian dollars, and up to one year in gaol.

“While such lockdowns have been shown to have no effect whatever on the transmission of viruses already widely disseminated, wherever they have been studied, they are imposed as if they were “science,” by petty, and very sleazy, politicians. In no civilized jurisdiction had they such personal authority. But they are thrilled to discover that they can get away with it; that a public systematically misinformed, and deprived of prompt, decisive legal recourse, will obey their edicts, and thereby submit to enslavement. Throughout history, those willing to be enslaved, have been enslaved.”

 

To Jacob Siegel of Unherd once more

“Regime loyalty is the herd immunity of the ruling class, a protection against the consequences of their own failures. This is why the loss in authority that manifests in the “crisis of experts”, while real, doesn’t diminish their power. But it’s also why the regime has to become more ideological and nakedly coercive — for a kingdom of experts without reliable expertise falls back on propaganda and state power.”

 

 

The Great Covid Madness (4)



Remember what The Duke said…we are being forced to live it vicariously through our political leaders.
Here we are at the end of the worst year in memory, rendered even worse by the united folly of the political class of most Western countries, beating our lives and livelihoods into a pulp because they cannot recognize a mistake or come to grips with the fact that they may have to learn something about medicine and biology.

After a few months when it became apparent that covid-19 was not the Black Death, or the Great Plague, some common sense might have been injected into the maelstrom of doom propaganda and hysteria. But no, politicians love their new tyrannical powers. Lock everybody up, that will do it. So what if millions lose their jobs, businesses and livelihoods? –After all, we are “saving lives”!

By now, it is perfectly apparent that these lockdowns have had no effect on stopping the coronavirus (impossible anyway) but plenty of effect on destroying lives. A paper in The Lancet[here] one of the world’s leading medical journals, reports, after surveying the effects of lockdowns in a multitude of countries, that….

We accessed publicly available COVID-19 surveillance data from the top 50 countries in terms of reported cases to assess the impact of population health interventions (e.g. containment measures such as lockdowns, border closings), country-specific socioeconomic factors, and healthcare capacity on overall COVID-19 cases (recovered or critical) and deaths.

Findings include:

When COVID-19 mortality was assessed, variables significantly associated with an increased death rate per million were population prevalence of obesity and per capita GDP (Table 4). In contrast, variables that was negatively associated with increased COVID-19 mortality were reduced income dispersion within the nation, smoking prevalence, and the number of nurses per million population (Table 4). Indeed, more nurses within a given health care system was associated with reduced mortality (Fig. 1). Mortality rates were also higher in those counties with an older population upon univariate analysis, but age as a factor was not retained in multivariable analysis (Fig. 2). Lastly, government actions such as border closures, full lockdowns, and a high rate of COVID-19 testing were not associated with statistically significant reductions in the number of critical cases or overall mortality.

It is a detailed and dense paper, but worth the effort.

Another, very recent, paper in Frontiers in Public Health [here] from French researchers analyzed various effects and measures over 160 countries. [The section on Principal Component Analysis is most revealing].

Results: Higher Covid death rates are observed in the [25/65°] latitude and in the [−35/−125°] longitude ranges. The national criteria most associated with death rate are life expectancy and its slowdown, public health context (metabolic and non-communicable diseases (NCD) burden vs. infectious diseases prevalence), economy (growth national product, financial support), and environment (temperature, ultra-violet index). Stringency of the measures settled to fight pandemia, including lockdown, did not appear to be linked with death rate.
Conclusion: Countries that already experienced a stagnation or regression of life expectancy, with high income and NCD rates, had the highest price to pay. This burden was not alleviated by more stringent public decisions. Inherent factors have predetermined the Covid-19 mortality: understanding them may improve prevention strategies by increasing population resilience through better physical fitness and immunity.

An article in Spiked in the UK [here] highlights the little-mentioned side effects of lockdowns, namely, the increase in deaths caused by the interruption of normal medical practice…

The effect on broader health has been similarly catastrophic. Hospital appointments, operations and screenings have been cancelled, often in cases where capacity was nowhere close to being reached. Patients took ‘stay at home’ messages far too much to heart and didn’t get serious illnesses checked out, including cancers which could have been detected and stopped. The number of Brits waiting for routine hospital treatment has risen from 1,613 to over 160,000 this year – a hundredfold increase.
In the developing world, where Covid itself has had a much lesser impact than in the West, lockdowns have disrupted an estimated 80 per cent of programmes aimed at treating tuberculosis. In 2019, TB killed 1.4million people worldwide. But this year, thanks to a 25 per cent reduction in case detections, 1.7million deaths have been projected.

In Canada, in the great province of Ontario, another lockdown is in place until January 23rd. What is the status of the pandemic of this “terrifying disease” [aka bad ‘flu]….

Ontario population: 14.7 million.
Total hospitalized patients: 823 [or 1 in 17 861]; in ICU 285; on ventilator 194.
Total beds: ~34 700 [here]

Acute care beds: 22 400.
ICU: 2012.

In the city of Ottawa (population ~950 000), capital of the Frozen North, total hospitalized patients 13, in ICU 1. 89% of acute beds are occupied, 83% of ICU beds occupied out of a total of 1224 beds. So just over 1% are COVID-19 patients. Since acute beds are usually 90–95% occupied, only a small increase would lead to big problems. This is not a product of a mass pandemic, but a feature of health systems always working at near capacity.

Even worse, these lockdowns lead to massive cancellations of general procedures and surgeries. As the Toronto Sun [here] reports…

To free up beds, Ontario’s hospitals have cancelled 52,700 surgeries since March 15, and are delaying 12,200 additional surgeries each week that operation rooms remain idle…

Further…
“As of April 23, there were 910 hospitalized COVID-19 patients leaving over 9,000 unoccupied acute care hospital beds including over 2,000 critical care beds,” an FAO statement says. “As a result, the province has a significant amount of remaining available capacity to accommodate COVID-19 hospitalizations.”

So if there are 823 patients now (December 27), why is it likely that hospital capacity will be overwhelmed?

That never happened in the spring and it will not happen now. More critical and rational thinking is required by political leaders, and less attention paid to hysterical and fear mongering journalists. It is time to end this foolishness of lockdowns and let the young and productive get back to work and play. Locking people up is absurd. And worse than useless.

Politicians need to understand that scientific thinking requires open inquiry and debate, not rote chanting from a government script. It is time to get back to rationality.

Rebel Yell




Why the abandonment of standardized testing is the key to enthroning privilege

Razib Khan gets to the point in a wonderful way. Every time standard intelligence testing comes under attack, the people most benefitted are not the poor, the disfavoured or the outsiders, but the classes that are already privileged. No competition is allowed to come from the capable but unconnected, the poor who have talent, or the outsiders with sharp brains. It is a clsoing of opportunities in the name of equality of outcomes.

Razib writes:

“Tests are imperfect. But what is the alternative? Over the past few years graduate schools have been removing the GRE as a requirement for admission. What will the consequence be? If the history of China is any guide, those with connections and pedigree will benefit. Without a hard-to-fake entrance exam, recommendations from those you trust will loom large again. The abolition of the GRE will be a back door through which the “letter of introduction” returns. Who will be hurt by this? Who will benefit? There are many answers here, but one thing seems obvious: those without connections will suffer. International students. Those from working-class backgrounds. Non-traditional older students trying to turn their life around with the benefit of hindsight. When academics rely on networks of those they already know, the circle of inclusion will begin to narrow. Ironically, attempts to “foster inclusion” by removing standardized testing will inevitably constrict the space of those included.”

 

Read the whole article here, and support Razib Khan with a subscription, if you agree.

The Great Covid Madness (3)




Since Charles Mackay wrote his classic book “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” [here] in 1841, detailing such absurdities as the South Sea Bubble and the Tulip mania, nothing has come close until the Great Covid Madness of 2020. Charles Mackay should be around now. It truly is one for the history books.

When it started in early 2020, it just might have been the Big One judging by the response of the Chinese in February. But when its nature as a coronavirus became known, a cause of respiratory infections, the first line of defense should have been known—was known, but ignored. Protect the elderly and infirm in retirement homes and care facilities, as they are always the population group affected every year by influenzas, pneumonia and like maladies. Of course, this policy was not followed anywhere; in fact, in Britain and New York state, and doubtless many other places, the exact opposite: sending back to care homes old folks who had picked up the virus in hospital thereby turning them into infectious agents for thousands of others. Brilliant, Governor Cuomo and PM Johnson!

After the spring wave passed and wrought havoc on the elderly (about 90% of deaths are of old people and 90% of those have two or more co-morbidities), governments should have had some time to prepare for testing and quarantining if necessary later. Rising numbers of “cases” were reported every day. Hospitals would be overwhelmed. The dead would be piled high.

Of course, none of this happened. All of the fatuous computer models were proved wrong time and time again, but the politicians, as smart as a sack of hammers, screamed for more lockdowns (which have had no effect on the transmission of the virus), more social distancing (again shown to be useless) and business closures (of course, destroying the livelihoods of millions will stop people getting sick!).

Much of this hysteria stems from the obsession with “cases”. What is a “case”? It seems, though this is never clearly stated, that a “case” is a positive test result. All positive test results are the sum of the true positives and the false positives, the true positives (TP) being a positive test result for a person who actually does have the virus, and a false positive (FP) being a positive test result for a person who does not have the virus. Other parameters that are never made clear in official statistics are:


What is the accuracy (sensitivity) of the test?
What is the prevalence of the virus in the general population?

It turns out that these two parameters have a huge effect on the credibility of any testing regime. This is very clearly explained in an article by D. Mackie in Lockdown Sceptics [here].  

Consider a test with an accuracy of 95%. This means testing a population group that is virus-free, no-one is infected, will result in 5% of the tests showing up positive; these are the false positives. Many people assume that this means that if they take a test, they can be 95% sure that the result is correct for them.
Not so. Here’s why.

Suppose that an oracle has informed us that 5% of the general population has the virus. Test a set of 100,000 people.
5,000 people will have the virus and 95,000 will not. The 5,000 infected people show up positive—the true positives. But 5% of the uninfected subgroup will show up as positive, and 5% of 95,000 is 4,750. So, the total number of positive test results (“cases”, remember) will be the true positives plus the false positives–TP + FP = 9,750.

You go to the clinic and take a test which comes back positive. Your question, understandably, is what is the likelihood that your positive test result is a true positive and not a false positive? That likelihood is the ratio of the true positives to the total positives, that is, TP/(TP + FP), in this case, 5,000/9,750 or ~0.52, or about 52%. That is, about evens. Nothing like 95%.

It gets worse. If the prevalence is much lower, say 1%, then our set of 100,000 people will give 1,000 people infected and 1,000 true positives. But the uninfected will number 99,000 and 5% of these will give a positive test result giving 4,950 false positives for a total positive test result number of 5,950 (TP + FP).

Then, in that case, the likelihood of your positive test result being a true positive and not a false positive is 1,000/5,950 = 0.168 or about 16%. So it’s overwhelmingly likely that it’s a false positive.

Note that this change is dependent on the prevalence of the virus and not on the accuracy of the test! Assessing the reliability of testing is hugely dependent on these prior probabilities, both of which are very uncertain.

Based on a recent article in the British Medical Journal [here] it seems that the 95% accuracy may be way too optimistic. Here, the authors say…

Pooled analysis of 16 studies (3818 patients) estimated a sensitivity of 87.8%
(95% CI 81.5% to 92.2%) for an initial reverse-transcriptase PCR test.

…which, if true, makes the test statistics much less credible in terms of true positives. However, politicians are basing their house arrest measures on such figures. And no “journalists” are asking any serious questions.

More on testing credibility and the folly of lockdowns in an upcoming issue of the “Great Covid Madness”. Stay tuned.



Rebel Yell