Chesterton’s Precautionary Principle

There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.” G. K. Chesterton.

To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a single instance in medical history where we’ve vaccinated one demographic with the sole purpose of protecting another group.

Children are at no significant risk of COVID19. It seems repetitive to have to state this, but we seem to have collectively lost the ability to think critically when it comes to this damn virus.

Yet, here we are talking hopefully of stars aligning in time for an extra special Christmas present for the wee bairns:

Why?

No, why would a parent of an otherwise healthy five year old agree to this?

As a parent, I would balance the risks as follows:

Reasons to vaccinate my five year old against COVID19:

  • To protect the five year old against the disease.
  • To protect others from the risk of the five year old spreading the disease.

Reasons to not vaccinate my five year old against COVID19:

  • Natural immunity has been proven to have better outcomes than vaccine immunity for this virus.
  • No long term data exists regarding the safety of the vaccines.

Where one lands on this question is very much determined by where you get your news.

If you have outsourced your thinking to a group of professionals with qualifications in using the English language rather than medical or statistical subjects, you are likely to be booking GP appointments for little Johnny and Janey and not reading this.

If, however, you’ve bothered to look for primary sources of data, you might be applying the precautionary principle and becoming somewhat anxious about a zeitgeist that’s championing this latest vaccine push.

Bill’s Opinion

I’ll resist the temptation to post lots of links to studies and reports to make my case. If you’ve not read these already, it’s unlikely these will persuade you of my view.

We are a year into rolling out vaccines for COVID19, which is, let’s remember, a novel coronavirus. That is, it’s new.

The vaccines are even newer.

We have unanswered questions about the long term impacts on health of both the virus AND the vaccines.

What impact do either have on fertility in young people, for example? Is there a decadal carcinogenic risk, perhaps?

It’s too soon to know the answers for either situation; catching the virus as a child or taking the vaccines.

What’s a good trade off of risks for your 80 year old granny may not be quite the same calculation for your fit and healthy five year old child.

If you are happy to accept the government’s advice (let’s hope it remains advice and not a mandate) on this, perhaps recall how much of the previous 20 months they looked like startled rabbits in the headlights as they so obviously had as much idea about this stuff as anyone else:

Three weeks to flatten the curve”

Masks don’t work”

“It didn’t originate in a lab”

“Zero covid”

Vaccinating five year olds against this disease seems like a typical bureaucratic response; we’ve found a solution to a problem, now we must find more problems for this solution.

You can vaccinate your five year old children, embryos in utero, long dead childhood pets, fictional characters and inanimate objects, but I think I’ll pass this time, thanks.

First among First Nations equals

We just keep racking up the wins. In the same year we had our first Aboriginal Neurologist, now we have our first First Nations candidate for Mayor of Sydney.

It is 179 years this month since the City of Sydney was established by an Act of the NSW Parliament. In all that time, an Aboriginal Australian has never been nominated for Lord Mayor of Sydney – until Wiradjuri woman Yvonne Weldon.

Seems like a missed opportunity by all sides of politics. Still, we’re making progress as the incumbent is also running with a First Nations candidate too. Or is she?

Emelda Davis is on her {Mayor Moore’s} current ticket, and is talking up her “diverse Indigenous ancestry as as second-generation Australian South Sea Islander of First Nations and Caribbean descent” – but when I point this out to Weldon’s campaign manager, she’s definitive: “Concerning Emelda Davis, she is a South Sea Islander. South Sea Islanders are not First Nations.”

I wonder what the definition is of “First Nations” and how Weldon’s campaign manager can be sure Davis doesn’t qualify?

Melbourne doesn’t fare much better. Wiradjuri man Professor Mark McMillan was the first Indigenous person to run for council, unsuccessfully, late last year on Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp’s ticket. Whilst she won a definitive second term, she didn’t win enough votes to select him on her team.

More on McMillan later. Back to Yvonne Weldon, what relevant experience will she bring to the role?

She’s drawing upon her experience as elected Chair of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, Deputy Chair of the NSW Australia Day Council, Board member of Domestic Violence NSW and Board member of Redfern Jarjum College to bring leadership experience to her campaign.

Perhaps the kindest thing one can say about that CV is at least she will feel comfortable sitting in public sector committee meetings every day.

So, to recap; of the three candidates mentioned above (Weldon, McMillan and Davis), two are “First Nations”, one is not.

Ok.

Bill’s Opinion

Ethnicity really should be the least interesting human characteristic when assessing someone’s suitability for a job.

Over the last three decades, it seems we have lived through a cultural version of the Brunhes–Matuyama Reversal, where the Right stopped being concerned about race and the Left took on that pointless angst instead.

We now have the unedifying situation of two mayoral campaigns competing over who qualifies as more “First Nations”. What next, DNA tests?

Jenna Hates…. women leaders

We’ve not had one of these for a while. Jenna Hates has penned another masterpiece. This time it’s on the Liberal Party’s problem with women leaders.

For those outside the bubble of mediocrity that is Australian politics, the “Liberal” party is nominally the right of centre party here. Of course, like all political parties claiming to be champions of the free market, they are no such thing. They’re as bad as the left but the cronyism and corruption has a different face and flavour.

Anyway, Jenna Hates is deeply concerned about the electability of the Liberal Party in New South Wales. Deeply concerned as, under normal circumstances, she’d be a natural voter for them, you understand.

She’s particularly disappointed about Gladys, as she’d definitely have voted for her this election.

Not one single woman’s name has been mentioned as a possible successor in the aftermath of Gladys Berejiklian’s resignation. Not the premier, not the deputy, not the treasurer. Instead, it’s blokes akimbo: Dominic Perrottet, Rob Stokes, Stuart Ayres, Matt Kean. In 2021, how is that possible?

Well, given the current themes this month about “people who are pregnant” and “bodies with a cervix”, maybe the Liberal Party didn’t think it mattered so much? I dunno.

The Liberals resist quotas with the force of a thousand kelvins. The market will make women if that’s what the market needs. Women, they would say, don’t need a hand out, but the Labor experience shows quotas work.

Kristina Keneally was the only Premier the Labor (sic) Party produced and she was an unmitigated disaster. She came to power in a backroom coup and left after a massive loss at the polling booth.

Without quotas, the remaining solution is the sisterhood, for women to pull other women up behind them.

Without quotas, the only solution is female solidarity and (therefore) favouritism?

Imagine being so convinced men hate women so much they are all actively conspiring against their success and the response is for women to actively conspire to do the opposite.

In Berejiklian’s time, that never happened. There never was a hand up. It is true she invested time as patron of the Women’s Council and there are indeed lovely photos of her, girlboss moments, surrounded by women aspiring to get elected.

Girlboss. Really?

Faced with another all-male revue, NSW Liberal women are not pleased. For the past three days, phones have run hot – how to get more women members, how to get more women in the ministry, how to get more women in cabinet. They are lobbying furiously, but it’s a pipeline problem, a timeline problem. They’ve been working away, some for years, and this latest upheaval has come earlier than anyone expected.

How likely is it this paragraph is factually correct, do we think? Compared to, say, party members ringing round trying to promote candidates for office who most closely reflect their views on the economy, the response to the Kung Flu, transport, education, the environment?

Last year, the NSW Liberal Party’s state executive decided to bite the bullet, believe in women. After all, NSW had a female premier and the party had survived, even thrived. Until last Friday, the sky had not fallen in. In a surprise move for the Liberals, the NSW state executive then confirmed gender targets for the upcoming local government elections and reaffirmed those targets in 2021 – 40 per cent women for winnable positions on council and 40 per cent in unwinnable positions, which at least gives those women some experience at running as candidates.

Hang on, you just said Berejiklian did nothing for women candidates? Do you even read this stuff before pressing “send”?

In the Liberal Party, men don’t respond to boundaries, particularly when it comes to improving gender equality, carrots not sticks, more a process of “negotiation and persuasion”, says Mary-Lou Jarvis, the female vice-president of NSW state executive. Jarvis genuinely believes the men in the party are finally on board.

Men don’t respond to boundaries”? What, like rapists?

It was helpful of Jenna Hates to let us know Mary-Lou was female too, otherwise we’d be left awkwardly guessing her pronouns. Who knows what offence may have been taken.

Isn’t it terrible that we require women to fix the man problem? Sure – but what are the options when the organisation itself is teeming with men who believe merit exists objectively?

Perhaps, unwittingly, Jenna Hates has hit upon the real problem in that last sentence.

Bill’s Opinion

Despite what Jenna Hates might believe or wish for, competence in politics is highly rewarded, regardless of sex, sexuality, religion or ethnicity.

The nuance is, the competence that’s rewarded is the skill to navigate one’s way up the greasy pole within the political party, not the ability to deliver good outcomes for the voters.

Presumably Jenna Hates is comforted that Gladys had to resign due to a corruption investigation, thus slightly redressing the gender balance of that particular category of Premier?

Anyway, what a trivial and pathetic thing to be concerned about at this time.

Australians can’t/won’t read data

The Australian government has published data about mortality in 2020.

It’s barely got a mention in any of the media outlets. That’s fair enough, there’s probably nothing of interest to most people anyway.

Despite this, let’s have a quick look, shall we?

Cherry-picking their own words:

Key statistics


In 2020 there was a decrease in mortality in Australia.

COVID-19 was the 38th leading cause of death (898 deaths).


The five leading causes decreased, with a significant reduction in respiratory diseases.


Rates from suicide, drug overdoses and car crashes decreased.


Alcohol-induced death rates increased by 8.3%.

Some other nuggets from the summary:

(The) median age at death (from/with covid) was 86 years. (The usual median age of death in Australia is 79).

Dementia was the most common pre-existing condition (of Covid deaths).


Chronic cardiac conditions, hypertension and diabetes were also commonly reported comorbidities (with Covid).

Influenza and pneumonia mortality had the highest proportional rate decrease of all respiratory diseases with a drop of 45.8% from 2019.


There were 55 people who died from influenza. This compares to 1,080 in 2019.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s a modern medical miracle; we’ve cured the ‘flu.

Also, we’ve locked up all the kids for two years to save grandma and grandad from a disease that has a median age of death (86) that’s 7 years older than the national median age of death.

Well done everyone, seriously well done.

Farewell vaccine passports – thank you CDC

Australian politicians and media (for they are in agreement on all things) have engaged the Nudge Department to convince us to get vaccinated.

One of the pieces of rhetoric is a future where so-called vaccine passports will enable a bio-security state of Apartheid. “Get doubled jabbed and you can go to the pub, otherwise it’s drinking alone with home delivery beer for you people on the naughty step”.

It’s highly likely this will be challenged through the courts soon. What might the government defence be, do we think?

There’s possibly two lines of defence here:

Firstly, that the unvaccinated are risking others’ health by spreading the virus.

Secondly, that the unvaccinated are at too great a risk of the virus so must be excluded for their own health.

I can’t think of a third defence, but if you can, please add it in the comments.

Point two is the weaker reason, protecting people who are personally at risk of injury by a virus has no legal precedent, otherwise we would have laws banning dangerous sports, excessive drinking, consuming sugar, or preventing people with heart conditions from jogging. People take their own risks in life, or at least that’s how it worked in 2019.

The first defence seems to be the key reason for the segregation by vaccine status. How might our plaintiff counter this?

Perhaps by printing a copy of this CDC report from August 26th (highlight, mine):

Fully vaccinated people with Delta variant breakthrough infections can spread the virus to others. However, vaccinated people appear to spread the virus for a shorter time: For prior variants, lower amounts of viral genetic material were found in samples taken from fully vaccinated people who had breakthrough infections than from unvaccinated people with COVID-19. For people infected with the Delta variant, similar amounts of viral genetic material have been found among both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people. However, like prior variants, the amount of viral genetic material may go down faster in fully vaccinated people when compared to unvaccinated people. This means fully vaccinated people will likely spread the virus for less time than unvaccinated people.

In plain English; Vaccinated people are as likely to transmit the Delta variant as unvaccinated people.

What about the suggestion they remain infectious for longer? The report has several sources linked at the bottom of the article. I challenge you to find any information in those studies supporting the that statement. I couldn’t.

Bill’s Opinion

I’m certain the minor talents and over promoted bureaucrats who are State Premiers and Chief Health Officers will push ahead with the next upgrade of the phone app to include vaccine status. The sunk cost fallacy applies in both money and political capital expenditure.

There will also be several legal challenges as soon as it is launched.

The case should be straightforward to decide; does not having the vaccine offer the general public any greater risk of transmission? The CDC says no.

Of course, in this “late stage democracy” world, trust in institutions has collapsed. We know we can’t trust politicians, we know we can’t trust the media, we will soon learn whether we should still trust the legal system.

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?