Enough. Really, enough now

The modellers have been modelling.

Some idiot gave a laptop with Microsoft Excel installed to researchers at the University of Melbourne with, sadly, the predictable result that we now have yet another bunch of unprovable predictions and what/if scenarios to scare our politicians with.

They even got a WordPress website registered and set up, bless ‘em.

The website allows one to plug in whatever assumptions you’d like and spits out a result demanding MOAR lockdowns, masks and mandatory 17th booster shots of whatever vaccine the government procurement department managed to buy on eBay this week.

The Melbourne University report addresses some of the gaps in the Doherty modelling but it also points out the uncertainty around several factors that could make a big difference to results.

Here we go again. Repeat after me, children; multi-variable situations are almost impossible to predict. It’s an incredibly idiotic mental feat to convince yourself otherwise. Some of our worst human decisions are made as a consequence of thinking we can calculate complex probabilities.

This includes the proportion of people who get Delta that are asymptomatic and can spread the disease without knowing, and how effective the vaccines are at stopping vaccinated people from spreading the virus.

Oh, do continue…..

For example, the Doherty report assumed vaccination reduces the infection rate by 65 per cent but Melbourne University researchers believes this is too “optimistic” and they used a figure of 25 per cent on average.

And that’s it, right there. It’s over, folks. Go back to the office, open the schools, book your overseas holidays; the vaccines only reduce transmission by one quarter.

We are stuck with this thing forever. get vaccinated if you want, take your chances if you don’t, but stop pretending this virus is not going to be around if only we could convince everyone on the planet to get the jab.

As for the fucking modellers:

“It is best practice for Governments and decision-makers to take a ‘many models’ approach to decision-making support,” the report says.

Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they. Remind me again, how do they get paid?

Bill’s Opinion

This is a mind virus now. Perhaps it always has been.

As commentator Liberator pointed out, Charles Mackay’s book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds has the perfect quotation for where we are, “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.

Happily, some of my friends are slowly recovering their senses. I suspect we will never speak openly of what happened to them.

Jessica Irvine, single mum battler

Life comes at you fast when you’ve got a brain the size of a planet. Content generator and Mumsnet poster Sydney Morning Herald economics writer, Jess Irvine is dipping a Rubenesque toe into the property market again.

She starts today’s masterclass in gonzo economics writing with a flashback to the halcyon days when she first set out on her real estate journey:

….A few days after my unsuccessful bid, I bit the bullet and inspected a few properties in a suburb one out from my preferred location. I found a unit I liked, of similar size and age to my unsuccessful bid. I made an offer the same day of $870,000. It was accepted. I found my forever home.

Forever” is doing a lot of work in that paragraph; she bought an entry level tiny apartment 10km from the Sydney CBD, not some grand estate in the Home Counties or a bijou apartment in the Eighth Arrondissement. It shows a lack of life ambition or understanding of the English language if that’s where she thinks she’ll retire.

Flush with the success of that canny investment, she’s quietly abandoned her previous public decision to show everyone how to make a fortune in the stock market, and has now decided to stick with just a single asset class, real estate.

Amongst the Dear Diary teenage girl writing style, she makes a serious point; the financial incentives are weighed against true investment and rewards property speculation.

T’was ever thus in Australia though. The amazing thing is that it’s taken an “economics journalist” 41 years to notice.

What’s more interesting through is how we are quietly informed she’s now a single Mum. This is a bit of a shock, frankly, particularly after all those Instagram posts and column inches dedicated to telling us how awesome she is at life. This one, for example, where she explains she can lose weight because she’s clever and you’re not.

But then there’s this fiction. My bullshit radar is flashing red:

“Fixed income sources”, for example. Most of us would call that line “salary”. It’s uncharacteristic of our Jess to not overshare, what’s being hidden in that number do we think? Cough, child support, cough.

“Mortgage interest” suggests a little less financial canniness too. So, she’s renting from the bank, in effect. Interesting that the “mortgage principle” line item is classed as “savings” and counts to her smug 31% of income saved each month.

Someone less kind than me might suggest the “food” line item seems a little short too. Good to see she’s teetotal though.

Bill’s Opinion

Don’t take financial or life advice from someone who pays union fees, has a love/hate relationship with their weight and has been rejected by every single man in the Greater Sydney area.

Harsh? Maybe.

True? Of course it is, that’s just unconscious knowledge.

Because

Because of a few songs wherein I spoke of their mystery, women have been exceptionally kind to my old age. Leonard Cohen.

That quote has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of this post, I just like it and it commences with “because”.

Conspiracy theorists always look for the “because”. It’s human nature to try to make sense of situations, particularly if they are causing you pain, suffering and anxiety.

It’s a fool’s errand though. The chances of someone affected by an externality to correctly guess the sequence of events leading to it are extremely unlikely.

What probably matters more is correctly observing all the pertinent facts about the present and drawing reasonable conclusions about how they might change in the future.

Some observable facts, then.

Using public health as the justification, despite 18 months of data showing it was, at a population level, a mid-severity flu and is now (with vaccines, regardless of what you may think about their safety), a very mild flu, the following changes have occurred:

  • International and domestic border closures,
  • Legislation and heavy-handed policing restricting freedom of movement, freedom of trade, freedom of association,
  • Curfews and military presence in suburban areas,
  • Legislation mandating quarantine of healthy individuals on the suspicion of infection,
  • Legislation mandating vaccinations for certain professions,
  • Closures of schools, replaced by very sub-optimal online lessons,
  • Vaccination of children against a virus that poses little threat to them,
  • Restriction of travel on several major airlines to those with proof of vaccination,
  • International airfares, for those allowed to travel, outside the budget of most people,
  • Unprecedented (there’s a word for our time!) government borrowing and economic stimulus, in the form of direct payments to business and individuals. In many cases, the government cheque is greater than the wage it replaced,
  • In those countries that have lifted some of the legislated restrictions above, the powers to re-impose them have been retained (the UK, for example).

That’s Australia today.

How might these situations change, do we think?

Borders will reopen and flights resume, but not for the plebeians for a very long time. The competition in international air travel drove prices down to a level where a middle class family could leave Australia once every second or third year. That’s not going to happen again for perhaps a decade. You’ll need a vaccination passport too.

Legislation restricting freedom of movement, trade and association will remain on the books, the powers to arbitrarily invoke the laws will be retained and used based on “cases” or new variants. Look at the decades old laws against terrorism for precedent.

Governments will not be tempted in the slightest to turn off the stimulus fire hoses. The creative destruction of free markets will be seen as a sign of policy failure. Universal Basic Income by another name will be here to stay.

Schools will re-open and close again several times based on “cases”. Masks for school kids, perhaps mandatory vaccinations too. Teachers’ unions will make demands for “safety” usually resulting in pay rises. The quality of the outcomes for pupils will be a distant footnote printed in tiny font.

Court cases will be brought by employees fired over vaccinations. They might win, they might not.

Bill’s Opinion

Don’t look for the because. You’ll drive yourself mad.

On the news every night, some idiot financial journalist will tell you “markets rose 17 points today because of new employment data”, or “fell because of new inflation data”.

Unprovable. All we can prove is markets rose or fell.

Similarly, we can’t be certain about the because of the situation we are living in now.

We can make reasonable extrapolations such as those I’ve offered above, though.

What to do then?

Here’s some suggestions:

  • Find a doctor who will give you a vaccine exemption. It might be accepted by employers, airlines, restaurants and governments for a while,
  • If you are eligible for a passport from another country, apply. Having options is wise. Ask any American male with a Canadian passport during the Vietnam draft era.
  • Consider alternative education models for your children. Take control of their curriculum and hire tutors. If you stay within the current system, focus them on what matters only. STEM.
  • Spread your assets across jurisdictions. Be nimble.
  • Perhaps move away from major population centres, if these are where all the police and army presence is focused.
  • Learn to sail. If you one day find it necessary to steal a yacht from the harbour and sail away, having the skills learned in the Day Skipper qualification would be important.

It’s all a bit tin foil hat, isn’t it?

But then, imagine a conversation between your 2019 self and your present day self.

Of course, once we’ve moved to Central Bank Digital Currencies, there will be nowhere left to hide anyway.

So enjoy your current freedoms.

It’s 2021 ok, there’s a war across the USA

Another year for me and you, another year with nuthin to do. (Apologies to The Stooges).

The previous post here attracted some interesting and thought provoking comments. One in particular (thanks Tom) prompted a journey to this Wikipedia page.

The “10 stages of genocide” were developed by Gregory Stanton of the US State Department in the late 1980s as a conceptual model for analyzing the processes of genocide, and for determining preventive measures that might be taken to combat or stop each process.

Of course, it could be used as a roadmap too, if you were that way inclined:

Stage One. Classification. People are divided into “them and us”.

Those who choose to take a vaccine. Those who decline it.

Stage Two. Symbolization “When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups…”

Vaccine passports.

Stage Three. Discrimination “Law or cultural power excludes groups from full civil rights: segregation or apartheid laws, denial of voting rights”.

Commencing this month, residents of New South Wales who have not received two doses of vaccine will be unable to dine in restaurants, have a haircut, meet other people or leave their homes while those with the vaccine will be allowed these “freedoms”.

Stage Four. Dehumanization “One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects, or diseases.”

Consider the language used by the President of the United States, directed at the approximately 41% of the population who have so far declined a vaccine. It’s a stretch to describe frustrated and run out of patience as dehumanising but it is unusual language for an elected official to be using to describe the people who voted for him (there may be a clue here, more on this later).

Stage Five. Organisation “Genocide is always organized… Special army units or militias are often trained and armed…”.

The army is on the streets of Western Sydney. Sure, they’re not rounding people up but let’s remember the context; we now have to accept a military presence ostensibly to protect us from a respiratory virus with a less than 1% infection fatality rate.

Stage Six. Polarization “Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda…”

Consider this comedy sketch parodying a TV advert for the major DIY retailer in Australia. This was created and broadcast by the state broadcaster, The ABC. It conflates those who are hesitant about their personal risks with a new vaccine with those who believe the earth is flat.

Stage Seven. Preparation “Mass killing is planned. Victims are identified and separated because of their ethnic or religious identity…”

Presumably this is a stage one doesn’t get to learn about until after the fact.

The remaining stages are when the real fun starts.

Bill’s Opinion

I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t believe there’s a secret cabal of Illuminati planning genocide or a new world order.

I do believe there’s a direction events are travelling, however.

A population who have been made fearful can be easily persuaded to accept otherwise not credible positions. “The unvaccinated are putting me at risk”, for example. It is unclear how this statement can be correct.

Once that position has been accepted, mandated vaccinations, exclusion from services and society, and a range of extremely distasteful and frightening subsequent laws can be justified.

Biden’s vaccine mandate announcement is, in my view, a declaration of civil war.

It’s clear that there is a massive correlation across the groups who are hesitant about the vaccines, those who most enthusiastically supported Trump, those who enjoy their Second Amendment rights and those who would never vote Democrat.

The polarisation of the population is undeniable. It’s deliberate and has been undertaken consciously.

Australia is at different stages of the Ten Steps and, as Stanton stated, these steps are not linear.

I don’t believe a quick reversal of this direction is likely. Fear is a very powerful motivator at a population level.

If you concur with this assessment, the next question to answer is, what will you do about it?

I don’t want to give them any more ideas, but….

Imagine you were the supreme leader of a dictatorial superpower country, currently engaged in a de facto but undeclared cold, sometimes warm, war with another superpower and its allies.

One day, a trusted deputy brings you a plan which would result in massive disruption to the society of your enemy, dividing its population, driving a wedge between friends and families, weakening societal trust and inducing huge levels of fear in day to day interactions.

An added bonus of this fiendish plan is it would utterly ruin their economy, sending them into a series of recessions and economic slowdowns.

One assumes, as it’s highly unlikely a moral actor would have ever made it to the top job in a dictatorship, you are a sociopath or at least have sociopathic tendencies. Therefore, this awful plan would be given some consideration, you’d want to hear more about it, you may be very tempted by it.

Completely unrelated to this hypothetical scenario:

Last year, in the early days of the pandemic, pictures and video footage were broadcast around the world, showing people dropping dead in the streets of Wuhan. This one for example:

Footage emerged of authorities welding people inside their houses and of massive amounts of bleach sprayed around the streets of the city.

New hospitals were built in days, to both the shock and awe of international observers.

Stories emerged of mass cremations, perhaps up to 50,000 dead within the first two months of the outbreak.

The rest of the world took notice and, understandably, geared up for something similar to happen in their countries. Emergency field hospitals were built, temporary morgues were set up.

They were never needed. The UK’s “Nightingale” hospitals treated just 54 patients before being closed down and converted into vaccination hubs.

What if there was an element of deliberate misdirection and mendacity in the initial reports coming out of China in early 2020?

With the luxury of hindsight, many of those photos and videos seem a lot less believable than they did when we were all shitting our pants in fear in February last year. Several of those “man falls down dead in Wuhan” stories and footage look somewhat suspicious today. Do an internet search and have a look for yourself, ask yourself how credible they look now?

We have also since learned this was not a naturally-mutated virus, but likely to have had its evolution helped along in a laboratory in Wuhan.

So, what just happened?

What happened to us, what did we just put ourselves through to protect ourselves from a disease we now know has a infection fatality rate well below 1%, making it less deadly than several recent iterations of the seasonal influenza?

Bill’s Opinion

My nascent hypothesis is this; once the Chinese authorities realised they had a leak from the Wuhan laboratory, they made a decision to not let a good crisis go to waste.

It didn’t require the virus to be deliberately created or leaked but, once it was out there, a little elaborate kayfabe was all that was required to send their enemies into a hugely damaging state of national panic.

Of course, this is just another conspiracy theory written on a minuscule blog in a brackish internet backwater.

However, even if there’s not a shred of truth in this theory, everyone in the world, good faith actors and bad, have just learned it is possible in the future. A bad virus, correctly publicised, will result in most nations’ governments destroying economies and freedoms previously thought to be ancient and sacrosanct.

With that fact now known, what can we in what we still laughingly call the free world do to prevent this provoked self-harm happening again in the future?

Some possible solutions I can think of are listed below, perhaps you can think of others:

  • When a new deadly virus emerges, call a referendum to put the solution to the populace, “do you want an enforced lockdown or would you prefer support to take your own personal risk mitigation?
  • Call a general election, assuming there’s a difference of policy between the major parties (sadly, generally there wasn’t; we have unaparties in most countries).
  • In advance, publish a national policy based on differing infection fatality rates. For example, “we will never close our borders and prevent people going about their lives for a disease that kills no more than, say, 0.5% of those it infects and certainly not if the average age of fatality from the disease is greater than the average age of death in a normal year”.
  • Stop electing career politicians with no courage, imagination or real world experience.
  • Pass legislation requiring all journalists to have achieved a high school level of competency in mathematics and statistical analysis.

Regardless, well played President Xi. Well played sir.

(Hat tip, Ezra Levant’s recent podcast on “feelings”)