What’s the secret soy sauce?

The Spectator’s Cindy Yu hosted an interesting podcast this week; Has China really beaten coronavirus? in which she interviewed a correspondent in China who pointed out life has been back to normal since about May. Domestic flights are full, about one in ten people are wearing masks in public (which is a rational decision for anyone worried about pollution there) and nightclubs are operating as they did in 2019 with no social distancing restrictions.

That’s quite a turnaround from the situations we were seeing on the news, YouTube and social media back in January and February.

Do you remember? People were being welded shut inside their homes, others were collapsing on the street, including this man who died and whose photographed corpse made it on the Grauniad’s coverage on January 30th 2020:

Compare and contrast with practically every other country in the world and the varying levels of incursions into centuries’ old freedoms they have imposed. Going nightclubbing must see like a distant memory to New Yorkers, Londoners and Parisians.

So what’s going on? What’s the secret to China’s success?

That’s got to be the question of late 2020, surely?

As documented in the media in the early months of 2020, China enforced city-wide lockdowns, including the infamous door-welding.

But so did many other countries and cities. Why is it that, say, London is still moving in and out of lockdown on an almost weekly basis while the disco twinkies in Guangzhou can boogie the night away inside a steamy nightclub?

From the dead body in the pages of the Grauniad and the nightclubs being open was barely 4 months. How is it that New York, Paris, Milan, Barcelona and Sydney have nobody in their nightclubs?

Indeed, that famous Churchillian libertarian and free market advocate, Boris Johnson, is considering stopping Britons from going to the pub on Christmas Eve, something that wasn’t even implemented during both world wars.

So what on earth is going on?

Bill’s Opinion

I don’t know. I honestly don’t know why 1.3bn citizens in an authoritarian regime like China have, prima facie, greater personal freedom than the heirs to Magna Carta.

All I have is a blunt razor that suggests (not proves) the explanation requiring the fewest number of assumptions to be correct is likely to be the cause.

I’d love for people to offer alternate suggestions in the comments but my current view is the other countries are now dealing with a problem of fearful and incompetent leadership. They are fearful that the initial reaction was justified on the available data but, with what is known now, would be judged far too extreme. They are also incompetent at explaining the trade-offs required to be accepted for us to return to normal life.

Is it an international conspiracy of the Illuminati? Of course not.

It doesn’t really matter though; the impact is indistinguishable.

They used to hate us for our Freedom

Thousands of NSW businesses have less than two weeks to implement digital registration systems to record customers’ contact details before authorities will start issuing fines.
Businesses required to comply include hospitality venues, entertainment venues, public swimming pools, beauty salons, zoos and strip clubs.

We can perhaps have a chuckle at the consternation this announcement will have induced in the NSW Union of Stripclub Owners when considering the impact on their businesses when punters have to sign in digitally and be logged on a database every time they attend their premises.

Today is November 12th. Australia has had almost a week of no locally-acquired cases of Kung Flu. The peak of known cases of the virus in Australia was in April.

Curious minds might ask why, seven months later, we now need intrusive data collection mandated by law (and its inferred monopoly on violence)?

More curious minds might also wonder why the commentariat and public voices in the media are not asking the same question?

Bill’s Opinion

As I wrote in April, the rush to further legislate into the day to day minutiae of regular people going about their everyday lives is disproportionate and very certainly not temporary, as our “war on terror” lessons have shown.

Almost all of this legislation will never be wound back. Freedoms are rarely expanded, particularly when they were initially removed “for the public good“.

I, for one, am not OK with this, at all.

Are you?

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.
H. L. Mencken.

As the applause dies down…

A few short months ago, people all across the UK were coerced by peer pressure to stand outside their homes one evening a week and give a round of applause “for the NHS”.

For those of you unfamiliar with those three letters in that order; National Health Service, the UK’s biggest employer, the state run, centralised health service.

Everyone from the Prime Minister to babes in arms were out there every Thursday doing impressions of performing circus seals to celebrate a massive bureaucracy overseeing a clinical negligence bill that is increasing at a worrying rate (doubling over the previous four years).

And then there’s this:

What’s the likely consequence of that, do we think?

Bill’s Opinion

The Cancer Research charity estimates 350,000 urgent cancer appointments were missed or delayed. They speculate this might translate to 35,000 additional deaths.

That speculation is obviously as scientific and as credible as the original Imperial College model that got everyone into this mess, of course; can a subsequent cancer death really be proven to have been avoidable or was it just earlier than might have been reasonably predicted?

But nonetheless, the absolute number of increased deaths from cancer isn’t zero.

Repeat that for all manner of treatable diseases and conditions.

Then close your eyes and repeat the mantra, “we cannot make trade offs, one life lost to covid is one too many” until you forget all the inconvenient evidence to the contrary.

WHO could’ve known?

The World Health Organisation has amended its advice to governments over the efficacy of quarantine lockdowns.

“We in the World Health Organisation do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Dr Nabarro told The Spectator.

“The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganise, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.”

This is the WHO’s latest volte face (a better term than “back flip”, surely; back flips result in you facing the same direction). Some of us are old enough to remember that “the situation in Wuhan is contained”, there was “no community transmission” and that “masks aren’t effective”.

Let’s add those to the list of statements not to be believed, along with, “the cheque is in the post”, “of course I love you” and, “no, I definitely promise to pull out before it’s too late”.

Anyway, this is not exactly helping the various leaders around the globe who score high on the “authoritarian” end of this quiz, which, until the start of this year, we wouldn’t have thought included people like that Churchillian libertarian, Boris Johnson.

Some awkward press conferences await Jacinda and Dan, for example. Well, there would if we had the remnants of a functioning press.

Bill’s Opinion

Just stop pretending. We all overestimated the risk back in March.

Just admit it and we can all get on with our lives and doing the things that make our short time on the planet tolerable; visiting family, playing sport, taking holidays.

Enough. Enough.

England, for all thy faults I love thee still

“I said at Calais, and have not forgot it”

But, bloody hell:

One front page, two moments of utter disconnect with the country I thought I had left versus what it seems to have become.

The first point of astonishment is with the fact that a Conservative government is instructing citizens to inform the police if their neighbours are meeting with more than 5 people.

Is that what the English have become, a nation of cowering dibber dobbers hiding behind their curtains furtively whispering down the phone to Plod because some people are freely associating with each other?

Then we look at the picture to the right of that news item and see a rugby club kneeling á la BLM to commemorate a murdered police officer. Fuck me, there’s a lot going on in that photo, none of it having any semblance of internal logical consistency however.

Bill’s Opinion

The UK is suffering terribly with Covid19 in all ways except medically.

As for bidding farewell to a murdered team mate by assuming the symbolism of a self-declared Marxist racist American organisation; perhaps the most charitable thing we can say about East Grinstead RFC is they are poorly-informed utter twats.

“If”, as the Spartans would say

You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.

Can anyone see the significant assumption being made by the UK government in their justification for an even further destruction of freedom, democracy, the economy and national credibility?

“If doubling occurred every seven days”.

Ok, but doubling what? Confirmed cases?

Well, that depends on how many you test, surely?

Given that a massive proportion of people who catch it have either no symptoms or very mild symptoms, wouldn’t a better measure be how many people present at hospital?

Where’s the data showing the capacity versus occupancy rates of the hospitals?

Where’s the data showing recovery rates of the cases?

Bill’s Opinion

This is simply confirming lesson 2 and 3 from our 2020 Hindsight.

And that’s Numberwang!

Having 2020 hindsight

There, I’ve got that headline in before all the wanky retrospectives start to land in the media around early December.

Seriously though, we’re three quarters of the way through, what have we learned (or perhaps had reinforced) this year?

Here’s my personal list, in no particular order:

  1. All data is shit. All of it. It took a global pandemic to show us that multi-national organisations like the WHO have been collecting unrelated data across countries yet making decisions as if there was even an iota of credibility when comparing, say, China’s medical statistics with France’s and New York’s.
  2. No politician or journalist can read a chart or has any comprehension of statistics. Understanding the relationship between testing volume, testing results, ICU admissions and fatalities is critical to making informed evidence-based decisions, yet not a single politician or journalist has been able to articulate this properly. The consequence is an epidemic of panicked headlines about rising case numbers without any reference to the possibility this might be a function of increased testing.
  3. The only models we should trust are made by Hornby and go round a Double O gauge rail track. Seriously, just fuck off with your models predicting the outcome of a situation with an almost infinite number of inputs. “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy” an’ all that. Keep that shitty model you created using Lotus 123 with a Commodore 64 in your parents spare bedroom where it belongs.
  4. Experts. If ever there was a devalued noun, expert would be it. Sure, you might be the foremost authority on a coronavirus, or you may know more than any other human about the spread of infectious diseases, but you probably know less than my pet goldfish on how a complicated modern supply chain functions, the impact of reduced social contact on mental health, the long term impacts of a year’s loss of primary school education or the consequences of the removal of economic progress on life expectancy in the third world. An expertise that is twenty fathoms deep but only one inch wide is not what we need to make national level decisions.
  5. Our neighbours are more bovine than lionlike. They’re happy to take government largesse for months despite the very awkward silence about an obvious change of strategy (“flatten the curve” became “zero cases” without anyone being told, let alone being asked). They’re also really quick to post accusatory pictures and comments on social media damning each other’s behaviour.

Bill’s Opinion

The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect should be at the front of mind from now on for the rest of our lives:

  • “Masks don’t work”
  • “Flatten the curve”
  • “Get tested”
  • “Don’t waste tests”
  • “Stay indoors”
  • “Vitamin D is best”
  • “We trust the carbon emissions data from China”
  • “Look at and trust our computer model predicting climate change”

As for all our virtue signalling hashtagging fellow citizens….. Jordan Peterson has been proven correct; we all think we’d be Schindler, but statistically, the evidence is we’d be the unquestioning camp guard.

Going postal

This story is messily complicated, there are many moving parts and, depending on your prior personal views, you can find positives, negatives or justification within it.

My summary follows;

  • A public housing block in Melbourne, mainly populated by immigrants, is under lockdown following a large cluster of the virus.
  • Controversial politician, Pauline Hanson, made anti-immigrant comments as a consequence.
  • She then posted branded cheap items to the residents.
  • Australia Post is relying on her vote to pass a bill in the organisation’s favour.
  • The City of Melbourne prevented the post from being delivered.
  • Australia Post CEO threatened police action as a consequence.

Depending on your view, you might think Hanson is despicable, Australia Post’s CEO is conflicted or The City of Melbourne have over-reached their authority.

Then there’s this; the curfew wasn’t a medical recommendation and wasn’t requested by the police.

At what point do people in Melbourne decide they’ve had enough and what would that look like? Not for a while; Dan the man is doing well in the polls.

Bill’s Opinion

The slippery slope fallacy should be avoided; situations always change and it doesn’t follow that a negative direction will continue forever. However, situations can become very much worse until they correct.

How many more civil liberties will be removed by arbitrary governmental decisions before the push back gains traction?

I don’t know, but it doesn’t look like people have reached the limit of what they will tolerate yet.

Depressing beyond tablets.

Things to do in Stoke Newington

Today’s title refers to an Alexi Sayle line from his 1980s era (when he was funny and radical, rather than boring and radical):

I write for a newspaper called ‘Things to do in Stoke Newington’. You may have seen it; it’s a big sheet of paper with ‘FUCK ALL’ written on it.

Stoke Newington in the 1980s was an utter shithole, replete with slums, gangs, drugs and corrupt police.

The corrupt police are the focus of our interest today. A culture of planting evidence, re-selling seized drugs, racism and heavy-handed policing was exposed by Operation Jackpot in the mid-90s.

Obviously, a healthy distrust of the police by almost everyone in the area was the result of this failure. It remained a limiting feature of Stoke Newington for years.

Perhaps a similar situation is developing before our eyes in Melbourne. Maybe not so much corruption but certainly a frightening willingness of the police to leverage their monopoly on the use of violence to enforce nascent laws, yet to be tested in the law courts or, indeed, the court of public opinion.

The increasing number of videos circulating on social media showing Melbourne police arresting citizens for social media transgressions, standing in their neighbours’ gardens or breaking curfews are redolent of South American juntas, not a democracy with the long precedents of Common Law.

The most worrying aspect is the enthusiasm of the police force for these brand new laws. I may be mistaken, but no senior member of the force has felt it necessary to speak up on the subject of the risk to the relationship between the public and the police by criminalising much of what was considered everyday life 6 months ago.

What can we infer from this silence?

Bill’s Opinion

It’s very subjective but, to me, it seems like the high tide of personal freedoms is far behind us on the rear view mirror.

In fact, the trend that became evident during those halcyon days of The War on Terror, has intensified in 2020.

The Peelian tradition of policing by consent must feel a very ancient and lost concept to my friends in Melbourne.

How do the Victorian Police recover their respect and credibility after this phase? Worse; do they even want to?

The Sydney Morning Herald meme maker

Much outrage abounds today as the Australian left’s chief bogeyman, Tony Abbott, spoke overnight to a UK Parliament Select Committee.

The headline could almost write itself. In fact, it’s not beyond the imagination to see this screenshot being used as a generic meme template.

For example;

Abbott says water is wet

Or

Abbott claims night is dark

The actual headline was, “Abbott criticises Victoria’s lockdown“. Actually, better still, it had the qualifier, “Former PM“, presumably to remind us all that there have been two more Prime Ministers since he was fired (the office of Australian Prime Minister being a very temporary appointment, rather similar to jury service).

Anyway, after sifting through what Abbott said, the activists at the SMH decided the most egregious thing was something along the lines of, after we’ve experienced 6 months of economic destruction and the concomitant social and human cost that incurs, perhaps we might consider the possibility that the old and seriously ill should be allowed to take their chances against viruses while the rest of us get back to being productive, educating children, having lives with rich experiences and continuing the economic progress and global trade that has lifted billions out of extreme poverty in the last 50 years?

Or, as the SMH translates it; “let granny die“.

Let’s have a moment’s silence for the death of nuance and reasonable good faith debate, shall we?

Bill’s Opinion

Aaaand we’re back.

In the meantime, the news you won’t find on the pages of the SMH is this report from the USA’s Center for Disease Control (I’ve linked to the “fact check” version, to “steelman” what I’m about to claim).

The report confirms 94% of the deaths attributed to Kung Flu in the USA had at least one co-morbidity.

So, millions of otherwise healthy people are being subject to draconian restrictions to their life to avoid a disease that would be extremely unlikely to kill them. Shouldn’t they be given the choice?