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Examining The Science And The Possible Origin of The ‘New Strain’ Of Covid-19

After claiming that cancelling Christmas would be “inhuman”, Scrooge Johnson promptly cancelled Christmas. Then Hancock cancelled Boxing Day just to make sure. Why? Because of a supposedly “70% more transmissible” new strain of Covid which was spreading like wildfire in London and Kent – and now it seems, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Oxforshire. Next year it will probably be everywhere and we’ll all have to suffer the economic and social catastrophe of Tier 4 lockdowns until we beg to be vaccinated (and probably long after that too). The name given to this ‘new strain’ is VUI 202012/01 (Variant Under Investigation, year 2020, month 12, variant 01), or B.1.1.7. Firstly, as the name suggests, it’s not a ‘new strain’, it’s a new variant – and it’s not that new. It was first reported in mid October when two samples from Kent and London sent to the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Lab were genetically sequenced by COG-UK. The dates of the samples were 20th September (Kent) and 21st September (London). Nothing much seems to be known about these ‘patients’. Were they asymptomatic (tested in the community) or did they have symptoms or were they in hospital? I can find no information at present. Had they recently arrived from abroad? That would mean the origin of the new variant might not even be the UK. Who knows.

The other thing is, it’s not a ‘new strain’ as claimed by our clueless politicians and media. To qualify for that status, it would have to have conclusively demonstrated a distinct clinical difference from other dominant strains in circulation, i.e. increased transmissibility and/or enhanced or even lower virulence. So far, despite the claims by NERVTAG and the government, no such evidence has been demonstrated. The claim of ‘70% more transmissible’ is based on modelling and is not backed up by hard data. This virology Professor explains in detail why he is not too worried by the new variant and why the claims by NERVTAG and the government are scare-mongering hype not backed up by hard science and data.

It’s a pretty damning video. He forensically dismantles the claims made by NERVTAG about this being a distinct new strain which has gained an evolutionary advantage over other, less contagious strains, basically stating that you cannot infer biological properties of a virus from limited epidemiological data only and that you must perform experiments in the field. For example, the apparent rapid spread of this new variant may simply be down to super-spreader events as it is well known that 80% of transmissions are caused by 10% of infectious individuals. He also goes through all the changes in the amino acid proteins (in particular the spike amino acid proteins) which are incorrectly called ‘mutations’ – even by the experts – and points out that the ORF8 changes may actually mean that this variant is less virulent. So even if it does turn out to be more contagious and does spread through the community, it may actually be a good thing because it will mean that a greater number of people become infected at less risk and natural herd immunity is attained that much quicker.

The government doesn’t see it this way of course. Nor does the WHO. It’s just an excuse to keep us all locked up for longer, with even more restrictions upon our personal liberty until we are forced to accept vaccination for a disease which to the vast majority does not present a major threat and is about 99.96% survivable. Ferguson doesn’t see it that way either. He was supposed to have resigned from all government advisory roles after he broke the rules of the lockdown which he was instrumental in implementing back in May. But he has now popped back up in NERVTAG and suddenly he’s the darling of the media again and the government are hanging on his every word. He’s warning us about the ‘threat’ of this new variant being transmitted by schoolchildren, bringing kids further under the jackboot of the psychopaths who are intent on controlling our lives. So don’t be surprised if schools are closed in a new lockdown in January on the ‘recommendation’ of Pants Down Ferguson who, it seems, is a turd which just cannot be flushed. The very same Ferguson responsible for the unnecessary slaughter of millions of innocent farm animals in the 2001 Foot and Mouth Epidemic and who predicted 150,000 deaths from BSE, among other catastrophic failures. Being wrong is his speciality it seems, an expertise which apparently qualifies him to give advice to the government on policies which affect all our lives, including voicing his opinion on how other peoples’ kids should have their lives seriously disrupted yet again.

Something which Prof. Vincent Racaniello neglected to mention and which is pertinent is the fact that this new variant has a large number of changes and deletions in the genome (14 changes and 3 deletions) which, on the face of it, mark it out as unique. They all ‘appeared’ at once, which is ‘unprecedented’, given the estimated mutation rate of approximately 1 or 2 per month. Lots of ‘mutations’ have been tracked, but never have 17 been recorded simultaneously in a newly discovered variant. It is also notable that a total of 8 changes occur in the critical spike region of the virus, when only 44 have been recorded previously. So it is perhaps unsurprising that the appearance of this new variant and its apparent rapid spread has caused some to worry, but is that concern justified enough to further destroy people’s lives? I think not and I will attempt to explain why not.

When I say lots of mutations have been tracked I do mean lots; in fact 12,706 ‘mutations’ up until 21 September 2020. What is remarkable is that none of those mutations have proven to have had any significant effect upon transmissibility or pathogenicity of SARS-CoV-2. It’s a rather odd coincidence that this paper, published on 25th November, authored by our old friend Francois Balloux and others, only covers up to the exact date that the new variant was discovered in Kent and London. So presumably, the ‘new strain of Covid’ is not included in this analysis. But here is what the study says:

The most plausible mutations under putative natural selection are those which have emerged repeatedly and independently (homoplasies). Here, we formally test whether any homoplasies observed in SARS-CoV-2 to date are significantly associated with increased viral transmission. To do so, we develop a phylogenetic index to quantify the relative number of descendants in sister clades with and without a specific allele. We apply this index to a curated set of recurrent mutations identified within a dataset of 46,723 SARS-CoV-2 genomes isolated from patients worldwide. We do not identify a single recurrent mutation in this set convincingly associated with increased viral transmission. Instead, recurrent mutations currently in circulation appear to be evolutionary neutral and primarily induced by the human immune system via RNA editing, rather than being signatures of adaptation. 

We informally estimated the mutation rate over our alignment as 9.8 × 10−4 substitutions per site per year, which is consistent with previous rates estimated for SARS-CoV-21,2,3,4 (Figs. S1 and S2). This rate also falls in line with those observed in other coronaviruses25,26 and is fairly unremarkable relative to other positive single-stranded RNA viruses, which do not have a viral proof-reading mechanism.

Across our data set, we identified a total of 12,706 mutations, heavily enriched in C→U transitions, of which we identified 398 strongly supported recurrent mutations (Supplementary Data 3 and Supplementary Figs. 4 and 5). Employing a phylogenetic index (RoHO) to test whether these recurrent mutations contribute to a change in transmission, we found no candidate convincingly associated with a significant increase or decrease in transmissibility (Figs. 2 and 3 and Supplementary Data 4).

A much discussed mutation in the context of demographic confounding is D614G (nucleotide position 23,403), a non-synonymous change in the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein. Korber et al. suggested that D614G increases transmissibility but with no measurable effect on patient infection outcome21. Other studies have suggested associations with increased infectivity in vitro18,40 and antigenicity41. Here we conversely find that D614G does not associate with significantly increased viral transmission (median log10(RoHO) = 0, paired t test p = 0.28; Supplementary Data 4), in line with our results for all other tested recurrent mutations. 

These apparently contrasting results for D614G should be considered carefully. What is, however, indisputable is that D614G emerged early in the pandemic and is now found at high frequency globally, with 36,347 assemblies in our data set (77.8%) carrying the derived allele (Fig. 1a and Supplementary Data 3). However, D614G is also in linkage disequilibrium (LD) with three other derived mutations (nucleotide positions 241, 3037, and 14,408) that have experienced highly similar expansions, as 98.9% of accessions with D614G also carry these derived alleles (35,954/36,347). It should be noted that the D614G mutation displays only five independent emergences that qualify for inclusion in our analyses (fewer than the other three sites it is associated with). While this limits our power to detect a statistically significant association with transmissibility, the low number of independent emergences suggests to us that the abundance of D614G is more probably a demographic artefact: D614G went up in frequency as the SARS-CoV-2 population expanded, largely due to a founder effect originating from one of the deepest branches in the global phylogeny, rather than being a driver of transmission itself.

To summarise, what Balloux et al are saying is that they’ve examined thousands of changes in the genome of SARS-CoV-2 since it first emerged and they have found none that significantly alter the biology of the virus in terms of transmissibility or pathogenicity. One ‘mutation’ in the spke protein, D614G, which first appeared in February, was thought to increase transmissibility and virulence but turned out to be largely neutral and its spread around the globe was attributed largely to the Founder Effect, which Prof . Racaniello discusses in the video above.

Matt Ridley has a opinion piece in the Telegraph on the subject of this new variant and he makes much of the fact that it suddenly appeared with an unprecedented number of changes in the amino acid proteins, suggesting, he says, that those changes occurred artificially, not randomly, as occurred with the 12,706 mutated genomes which Balloux et al analysed. He tends to paint an alarming picture:

This number of changes would normally take months to emerge at the rate the virus typically evolves: it is less prone to random mutation than an influenza virus. What caused such a burst of evolution within perhaps a single body?

Here the story gets alarming. According to analysis by Andrew Rambaut at Edinburgh University and colleagues for the Covid-19 Genomics Consortium UK, such high rates of mutation have happened in people with suppressed immune systems who get a Covid infection that persists for months and are treated with “convalescent plasma” – essentially blood extracted from those who have recovered from Covid.

In a person with a deficient immune system, a large population of viruses can proliferate, mutate and diversify, and then the treatment selects a new strain from among this diversity.

Essentially, the virus has a crash course in evolution. If so, this casts doubt on the wisdom of convalescent-plasma treatment, pitting the possibility that it might save a life against the possibility that it might help the virus become more infectious or lethal.

As Matt points out, he is referring to a theory of the origin of this new variant put forward by a team of academics lead by Andrew Rambaut of the University of Edinburgh, in conjunction with the Universities of Birmingham, Oxford, Imperial College, Cambridge, Cardiff, The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research. What they say is this:

What evolutionary processes or selective pressures might have given rise to lineage B.1.1.7?
High rates of mutation accumulation over short time periods have been reported previously in studies of immunodeficient or immunosuppressed patients who are chronically infected with SARS-CoV-2 (Choi et al. 2020; Avanzato et al. 2020; Kemp et al. 2020). These infections exhibit detectable SARS-CoV-2 RNA for 2-4 months or longer (although there are also reports of long infections in some immunocompetent individuals). The patients are treated with convalescent plasma (sometimes more than once) and usually also with the drug remdesivir. Virus genome sequencing of these infections reveals unusually large numbers of nucleotide changes and deletion mutations and often high ratios of non-synonymous to synonymous changes. Convalescent plasma is often given when patient viral loads are high, and Kemp et al. (2020) report that intra-patient virus genetic diversity increased after plasma treatment was given.

Under such circumstances, the evolutionary dynamics of and selective pressures upon the intra-patient virus population are expected to be very different to those experienced in typical infection. First, selection from natural immune responses in immune-deficient/suppressed patients will be weak or absent. Second, the selection arising from antibody therapy may be strong due to high antibody concentrations. Third, if antibody therapy is administered after many weeks of chronic infection, the virus population may be unusually large and genetically diverse at the time that antibody-mediated selective pressure is applied, creating suitable circumstances for the rapid fixation of multiple virus genetic changes through direct selection and genetic hitchhiking.

These considerations lead us to hypothesise that the unusual genetic divergence of lineage B.1.1.7 may have resulted, at least in part, from virus evolution with a chronically-infected individual. Although such infections are rare, and onward transmission from them presumably even rarer, they are not improbable given the ongoing large number of new infections.

Although we speculate here that chronic infection played a role in the origins of the B.1.1.7 variant, this remains a hypothesis and we cannot yet infer the precise nature of this event.

It’s basically just a speculative hypothesis about the origin of the ‘new strain’. By their own admission, they don’t have any solid evidence it would seem and it would also appear to be the case that the two people who initially tested positive for this ‘new strain’ are not immuno-compromised patients who have suffered Covid for a long period, otherwise we would have heard about it now, I’m sure. The authors refer to several examples of enhanced viral evolution in immuno-compromised patients to back up their theory and there is an example of an immuno-compromised patient suffering recurrent bouts of Covid-19 over several months who sadly died. A series of changes in the genome of the virus were observed over the course of the treatment, but they appear to be nothing like the changes recorded for this new variant, so obviously, this particular patient was not the source of the new variant. I quote:

Phylogenetic analysis was consistent with persistent infection and accelerated viral evolution (Figures 1A and S6). Amino acid changes were predominantly in the spike gene and the receptor-binding domain, which make up 13% and 2% of the viral genome, respectively, but harbored 57% and 38% of the observed changes (Figure 1B).

Although most immunocompromised persons effectively clear SARS-CoV-2 infection, this case highlights the potential for persistent infection5 and accelerated viral evolution associated with an immunocompromised state.

So, though it is a possibility that the new variant may have arisen as a result of prolonged treatment of an immuno-compromised patient, in the absence of any patient fitting the profile, it remains just a theory. The actual origin of these synchronously appearing ‘mutations’ thus remains a mystery. It’s a possibility but we cannot definitely blame plasma convalescent therapy for the emergence of this new variant. So what else might explain where it came from?

We maybe have a clue as to the origins of this virus from the following article:

After the first official records of the virus in September, progress was slow, and it wasn’t until England’s second wave took hold in late October that cases exploded.

This, scientists say, could be because the virus strain is faster spreading and made cases rise quicker – or it could be that it was simply found more often as cases surged naturally.

At the time of the first sample the UK was averaging just 3,700 positive coronavirus tests per day. By the start of November, when samples were coming in thick and fast, the average number of positive results had skyrocketed to 23,000 per day.

Professor Loman said there was ‘no evidence’ the strain had come from any other countries, adding: ‘It’s sort of come out of nowhere.

‘We have a long gap between the first cases we saw with this variant in late September [and recent surge in cases]… It’s more likely to have evolved in the UK but we don’t know that.

‘There are very few examples of this variant in other countries at the moment – it’s really a kind of UK phenomenon.’

Well, sorry, but “It’s sort of come out of nowhere” is not adequate. We need explanations, if only tentative explanations. It’s the first time apparently, as noted above, that a virus has been discovered with so many (17) changes in the genome. These changes accumulate slowly in SARS-CoV-2 at a rate of 1-2 per month and none have so far proved to be significant in terms of transmission or virulence. So if these changes happened naturally, they might have taken several months and the question arises as to how they managed to remain unobserved until September 20th?

The first thing to note is that COG-UK first started sequencing Covid viruses back in March 2020. It should be pointed out though that until July, all sequenced positive samples were from the limited number of Pillar 1 tests in hospitals. So initially, not many samples were being sequenced. Then Pillar 2 testing got going and the number of tests rose rapidly from July onwards, as did the number of positives. In concert with the rising number of positives, more and more samples were sent for sequencing. I believe at some point, the Wellcome-Sanger Institute (who do a lot of the sequencing for COG-UK) automated their processes so they could handle a lot more samples. Also, when national and international travel restrictions were relaxed in July and August, there appeared many more SARS-CoV-2 lineages in the UK, which most likely were imported from other countries. This analysis from the Welsh Government confirms that fact:

While we have seen increases over the summer, the numbers of UK lineages remain less than in mid-March.

The graphs demonstrate the two types of lineage that are currently causing disease in Wales. 

Firstly, UK lineages such as UK5 and UK2243 have been long term causes of disease in Wales. UK5 is the largest UK lineage and was probably introduced into the UK multiple times in February/March, and became rapidly established in community transmission. As one of the largest lineages, it has continued to transmit in the community as other smaller lineages have died out. Secondly, we see a new wave of lineages arriving in Wales over the summer. Lineages such as UK389 and UK395 have never been seen before in Wales and have arrived in the August-September timescale to cause considerable numbers of cases in multiple locations, simultaneously. Examining these new arrival lineages reveals that they have arrived in many parts of the UK simultaneously, presenting a signature that is consistent with the idea that these lineages have been seeded by multiple simultaneous imports from outside Wales/the UK.

So, after the initial epidemic, which saw many different lineages, they tailed off into late spring/early summer, then genetic diversity increased once again going into late summer/early autumn, as people jetted off on their holidays and returned to the UK. Concurrent with that, we have a large increase in the number of sequencing being done from positive tests across the UK. Is it beyond the realms of possibility that the variant discovered with 17 ‘mutations’ in Kent and London in mid October, from samples donated at the end of September, could have arrived in the UK during September and have evolved naturally in another country, unnoticed, because that particular country was doing very little sequencing? Those two people carrying the virus get tested, their samples get sequenced by COG-UK and hey presto, a ‘new variant’ with an ‘unprecedented number of ‘mutations’ suddenly appears. A few months later, when it starts spreading in the community, for reasons which may have nothing whatsoever to do with the claimed ‘70% increased transmissibility’, Johnson, Hancock, Ferguson, Whitty and Vallance realise they’re onto a winner and use the new ‘mutant Covid strain’ as a perfect excuse to cancel Christmas in the UK with just a few days’ notice.

374 thoughts on “Examining The Science And The Possible Origin of The ‘New Strain’ Of Covid-19

  1. A conspiracy theory par excellence, Jaime, and fitting for Christmas evening. However, I have commented elsewhere that increasingly it appears that when Boris goes against the advice of his so-called experts (who seem to be closely following the example of their climastrological brethren who believe that the output of computer models is not just “evidence” but Holy Writ) they pin him in a corner and threaten him with scary numbers until he gets back on track.

    Hancock is a pawn in this game. Forget him!

    It is probably the parallels between the Covid Affair and Climate which makes me increasingly distrustful of anything I am being told by the government’s corps of advisors, more especially since what we are being told in terms of hard facts is close to the square root of damn all.

    We have all heard of Cassandra, the unfortunate seer fated to be always right but never believed. Some years ago I created the ‘Ardnassac Effect’ (read it backwards) which I first applied to Ehrlich, never right but always believed (even unto the present!), Ferguson is cast from the same mould but with an added touch of Mannism, dire computer code producing the desired result regardless.

    The original plan was to scare the sheeple into submission (as one scientist, I can’t remember which, admitted at the time).The crassly Orwellian slogan ‘protect the NHS’ was an integral part. What happened next depends on just how far you are willing to subscribe to conspiracy mania but there is little doubt that either by accident or design the experts and their (by this time) ‘stooges’ in government followed a course of action reminiscent of Soviet-era brainwashing.(I know! I’m turning into a fruit-loop!)

    Keep your victim permanently off-balance mentally; never allow him to settle; constantly present him with promises of the occasional treat withdrawn as soon as he gets a taste of it. Build up his hopes that he will be free — at least for a day or two — then as soon as he makes all the necessary arrangements, slam the door in his face.

    And always with the “best of intentions” — not for his benefit but to avoid killing his granny by “overwhelming” the health service. Classical mental torture. Precise purpose unknown, which is why I’m reluctant to go too far down that road but the confliction and confusion, the reluctance to make public reliable information, the insistence that this is the only way and that alternative epidemiological views are unwelcome suggests ministers no longer in control. And while I have high regard for scientists in their place I do not want them dictating how I live my life. And that applies to Covid as it does to Climate and any other sphere of human activity.

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  2. I used to enjoy reading cliscep articles – then conspiracy theorists started spouting their nonsense about Covid19. What a shame that a good blog has been ruined by them..

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  3. Pete, if you dispute any of the science, data and facts presented here, then do so, Just don’t come on here spouting baseless accusations of conspiracy theories. Or, if you’re going to stand behind your accusation that what is presented here is a ‘conspiracy theory’, then justify it. That’s a reasonable request. I expect a reasonable response.

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  4. No reply. Just an attempted drive-by shooting then. I’m still here if you want another go. The Cliscep blog is still here, not quite ruined beyond repair. Lord knows it’s been stressed way beyond its original remit this year, but science and truth will find a way, I’m sure.

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  5. Jaime,

    Thank you for taking the trouble to bring this information to our attention. Your article makes quite an interesting comparison with the BBC’s own offering on the same subject, ‘New coronavirus variant: What do we know?’:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-55388846

    As is often the case with BBC articles, the tone is variable. At first, there is the very gung ho opening:

    “All of these come together to build a case for a virus that can spread more easily. However, we do not have absolute certainty.”

    Having portrayed the uncertainties as being a gnat’s cock short of non-existent, we have:

    “‘The amount of evidence in the public domain is woefully inadequate to draw strong or firm opinions on whether the virus has truly increased transmission,’ said Prof Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham.”

    Of course, if one is in doubt, there is always the precautionary principle to invoke:

    “‘Laboratory experiments are required, but do you want to wait weeks or months [to see the results and take action to limit the spread]? Probably not in these circumstances,’ Prof Nick Loman, from the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium, told me.”

    How often do we see this? The PP is being invoked but nobody in the media or government seems that keen to admit it. It’s so much easier to foster alarm through unwarranted certainty.

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  6. What strikes me John, is that those in favour of invoking the PP do so almost always in favour of promoting the policies which they support, ‘forgetting’ that the PP could be equally applied to oppose the introduction of the policies they support, using the argument that the potential harms vastly outweigh the theoretical benefits.

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  7. Pete. Tarnished perhaps, not yet ruined. Have faith that balance will eventually be restored and warmista-bashing will regain pride of place.

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  8. It is perhaps an odd coincidence that a certain James Annan of climate fame has gone into epidemiological modelling. And surely his every conclusion is that the “experts” are either right or not as right as they should be.
    “The new variant
    The summary is, yes it’s real, yes it’s serious, and the early signs are that it could be very difficult to maintain any semblance of suppression in the next month or two.”

    It feels like the climatoids have found a new area for telling us about dangers and perils. Does Willard now play Covidball?

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  9. Due to genetic drift you’d expect a lot of changes that ‘do nothing’, as they’re just a product of chance.

    Not wishing to contribute to any conspiracy theories 0:
    …but for the sake of completeness there is a 3rd way a sudden jump of multiple changes can appear (i.e. other than long residence in immuno-deficient patient, or import from an obscure / unmeasured county). This is escapee from a lab program where the changes occurred not from the viral generations exposure to real humans, but from exposure to human cells over a long period. However, this seems incredibly unlikely as all lab variants are recorded, and it would require that some lab somewhere was staying dark or at least covered up a humungous bob-boo of letting it out.

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  10. Andy, this was to be the subject of a follow up post. I checked the full set of changes to the amino acid proteins in the mouse-adapted variant I mentioned and they were quite dissimilar to this human variant of Covid, except for the N501Y substitution, which appears to be the most significant in both the human and the mouse-adapted variant. But obviously, it’s not this particular mouse adapted variant that has escaped a lab somewhere and crossed the species barrier into humans. But who knows what scientists are brewing up in labs across the world, tinkering with the RNA of SAR-CoV-2 in the name of ‘vital research’. It’s a concern, especially now that the knee-jerk reaction from governments will be to close down society and the economy and coercively induce mass vaccination programs each and every time a novel virus emerges.

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  11. I used to enjoy reading Cliscep comments, until people started picking on Jaime.
    Quite a lot of effort has gone into writing this article, which was of interest to me because of similar claims of ‘new strains’ locally. Surely we can decide which articles we want to read, or ignore, without demanding that the content is arranged just to please our own preferences..?

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  12. Thanks Geoff. I welcome critical comments but draw the line at baseless accusations of ‘conspiracy theories’. Isn’t that the exact tactic favoured by our opponents at the Climate Konsensus? When they cannot attack the substance of our counter arguments, they simply revert to calling us conspiracy theorists or ‘ideational conspiracists’.

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  13. Geoff, oh I agree, but then I haven’t accused Jamie of being a conspiracy theorist with regard to her latest upon the new coronavirus strain. I do have a suspicion that she may have surveyed the available evidence and picked out those parts that support her own particular theories and opinions, discarding those that do not as being wrong or biased. But we all do that to some extent. Note carefully that this is my own interpretation, an unproven opinion, probably just as biased,

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  14. I trust that wasn’t aimed at me, Jaime. The “conspiracy theory” was intended to be tongue in cheek! The ‘development’ of the governmental response to “the science” has, however, provided increasingly fertile ground for those who see bogeymen lurking round every corner.

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  15. No Mike, it wasn’t aimed at you. I realised your comment was not to be taken too seriously.

    Alan,

    Your suspicions are unfounded. All I’ve done here is take a look at as much of the science and data on this new strain as I could find and summarise in a relatively short period. There’s very little which backs up NERVTAG’s alarmist interpretations, much that would suggest a ‘wait and see’ approach rather than implementing immediate drastic policies, which approach would have been more sensible, and indeed a majority of the members at NERVTAG did NOT advocate an immediate policy response. I did think that, although Prof. Racaniello’s video was a comprehensive rebuttal of the ‘70% more transmissible new strain’ claim, he did leave out mention of the fact that the new variant appeared with a hitherto unprecedented number of changes in the genome, so it was only right to investigate that particular aspect further.

    Of course, if you can find any vital information or research which would support the government’s knee-jerk response, then please be my guest.

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  16. It’s worth noting that the term ‘knee-jerk’ doesn’t anyhow point to a deliberate / conspiracy / controlling causation, but an essentially emotive / irrational one 😉 At the least, I think it would be very hard to argue that there hasn’t been much emotive reaction, as spilled from publics, the main media and governments around the world, all reinforcing each other. Which will end up polluting rationality within the covid policy space.

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  17. Andy, the overt willingness to jerk the knee at the slightest sign of any ’emergency’ may not be a full-blooded conspiracy, but it’s certainly evidence of a cockspiracy – an opportune exploitation of a cock-up. This latest hoo-hah about a new strain may be just that. It turns out that the ‘alarming’ rise in the proportion of positive test results which were from the ‘new strain’ was actually recorded only at the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Lab and only 10% of the ‘best’ samples were sent for full sequencing, meaning that the results were extrapolated on the basis of just this 10%.

    Oh dear. Christmas 2020 might have been cancelled in the UK because someone caught the Covid snuffles in the Milton Keynes Lighthouse lab.

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  18. Jaime, we can’t know it was deliberately exploited from what’s available. That would require an email or equivalent saying “let’s exploit this”, which would form actual evidence. While it remains in the running because we can’t disprove it either, everything above can simply be the result of cock-up and mass emotive reaction, with agencies so attuned to a flicker of bad the whole chain reacts before common-sense and audit catches up. If there isn’t an admission of cock-up within later press-releases regarding the new strain, then that may show a minor conspiracy to hush-up a big error. But still not to originally and knowingly exploit an error for the purpose of control.

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  19. Andy, has 9 months of deliberate exploitation of decidedly dodgy data in order to promote fear and alarm to justify the imposition of harsh restrictions taught you nothing whatsoever about this government’s preferred modus operandum?

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  20. Jaime, I think that begs the question. Notwithstanding a range of individuals and therefore a range of motivations within government and subsidiary agencies, we can no more know that, on aggregate, the 9 months is largely due to deliberate exploitation rather than emotive reaction (and cock-up), than for any single event (such as above) within the 9 month timeline. The fact that a great many governments across the world are doing very similar things, rather suggests that fear is driving governments (along with their people, and amplified by the media), rather than all these governments of every different system and regime, are deliberately driving fear. At any rate, on existing knowledge neither option can be ruled out.

    All the governments / agencies across the world are using electronic means for their communication and instruction, which leaves records. So if they’re all doing this for deliberate and nefarious (i.e. contravening all normal process) control, a process that would have to incorporate very many thousands of people ‘in the know’, one would have thought that somewhere in the world an actual instruction revealing said deliberate nefarious use of covid regulations to control their populations, would be discoverable by now. Simply to be understood and correctly acted upon by those in the know, there’d have to be heaps of such instructions which sufficiently separate that action was *not* due to the belief, however misguided it may be, that they’re (net) saving lives (and albeit also saving their reputations for doing so too), but instead for the explicit purpose of furthering control and utterly without covid benefit (and potentially with detriment).

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  21. @ Geoff Cruickshank 27 Dec 20 at 8:32 am

    I agree with your comment – seems if Jaime posts some valid points/backed up with some “expert” to back her post up she’s regarded as a nutjob !!!

    anyway getting back to climate – some may have missed my link/comment on the ttps://cliscep.com/2020/11/30/jeff-bezos-gives-big-green-to-big-green/

    “Merry Xmas to all at Cliscep.
    Just watched Mark Carney’s last Reith Lecture on the BBC –”

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  22. “…seems if Jaime posts some valid points/backed up with some “expert” to back her post up she’s regarded as a nutjob !!!”

    Well for the record, I don’t regard this to be so even in the tiniest weeniest little bit. And in general I also don’t refute the expert opinion she highly usefully posts too, and from which I have learned much. But I still disagree with her theory of (main) causation behind the governmental reactions to covid across the world. Generally speaking, the expert (say medical, or stats, or whatever) information doesn’t address underlying causation, which hence can’t be resolved one way or another from this.

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  23. thanks for your response Andy – all I can say as a reader of this blog, is I find it useful to have differing views/posts/comments aired freely & comented on.

    what I find a bit funny is the “conspiracy theory” meme has even taken hold here (Lew – did he start it?)

    ps – experts say there may be life on Venus!!!

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  24. Here’s what I think. In general, the more ‘firm’ governments have been, the more they are applauded by the press, and the more popular they are with those voters who get most of what they think they know via MSM.
    So much of the current response is dictated by being at least as ruthless as the next comparable country.
    The boffins that are giving official advice similarly are being over cautious so as not to be outside usual practice which has evolved in the last 9 months. In some cases they also appear drunk with sudden power.
    I think this explains much of what we are seeing.
    However, I have no doubt that there are many (among them the Great Reset enthusiasts) who are nudging, pushing and shoving opinion towards this outcome as hard as they can: and personally, I don’t think conspiracy is too strong a word for that behaviour.
    That’s my 2 cents worth.

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  25. I don’t know about conspiratorial thinking, but I think there is plenty of evidence that we are dealing with a government that is desperate to give the impression that it is much better prepared and organised than it actually is. It started with porkies about PPE and it has gone on ever since. For some days now the government has been boasting about how everyone is galvanised and geared up, ready to begin mass vaccination using the Oxford vaccine just as soon as it receives the thumbs up. Even today, the papers were full of headlines like ‘A Jab In Your Village Hall’.

    Of course, we are presupposing that every such building is suitable for purpose and can handle the throughput whilst enabling social distancing, e.g. by enabling suitably segregated ingress and egress. These things have to be surveyed and established in advance, so I am quite sure this was all sorted out some time ago.

    Like hell, I am! I have a niece who works in a local government department that would be expected to organise such things as soon as instructed to do so by central government. And when did she get the call to start surveying and reporting upon the suitability and availability of buildings? One hour before office closing on Christmas Eve.

    Suffice to say, she failed to complete the task before driving home for Christmas.

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  26. Re: general government approach to WuFlu.

    If I asked a smart person what would be a good way to reduce transmission of the virus, they might say “you could lock everyone in their houses.” They might append a “but”, or try to. I’d just wave my finger and tell them to shut up. Then I’d have a policy. You don’t need to be an expert to appreciate that reducing human contact reduces viral transmission.

    The problem is that there are costs to this approach as well as the obvious benefits. A wise government might tune their response so that the ratio of cost: benefit is small as possible. But if the costs are diffuse and nebulous and the benefits are no videos of corpses in corridors, it’s a slam dunk: the government will by its nature overreact. The same might be said of the climate “crisis”, where overreaction is the theme of the upcoming decade, or so it seems.

    Re: the new variant.

    A primordial soup in a moribund patient subsequently filtered by foreign antibodies or antiviral drugs seems a parsimonious solution. I await with interest to discover whether the conspiracy theory of a sneeze contaminating the workbench bears fruit. (To a casual eye the figure looks like the new variant is around too long for this to be feasible, but I stand to be corrected.)

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  27. “In general, the more ‘firm’ governments have been, the more they are applauded by the press, and the more popular they are with those voters who get most of what they think they know via MSM.”

    Agreed, this has been a big part the process. Governments are essentially participating in herd fear, rather than resisting it.

    “…I think there is plenty of evidence that we are dealing with a government that is desperate to give the impression that it is much better prepared and organised than it actually is.”

    Agreed. This would pretty much be a universal reaction of governments anywhere in the world to an unexpected crisis. Of course it should have been (more) expected, ‘preparing’ instead for climate change is a significant factor as to why it wasn’t.

    “A wise government might tune their response so that the ratio of cost: benefit is small as possible. But if the costs are diffuse and nebulous and the benefits are no videos of corpses in corridors, it’s a slam dunk: the government will by its nature overreact.”

    Agreed. Wise doesn’t figure much or at all in a herd panic, for the public or for governments. And indeed over-reaction is exactly what we’d expect for behaviours in line with the above two quotes, plus being an inseparable part of a herd panic.

    None of this excludes all sorts of opportunist individuals, orgs or indeed cultures trying to seize some advantage. But ‘nudges and shoves’ need direct evidence (advertisements of what the nudgers desire, are aspirations not evidence of execution). Plus still wouldn’t amount to cause unless they could also be shown to be, at the least, sizeable in determining government action around the world compared to the above behaviours.

    And none of this excludes that reasonable actions have taken place too. I personally think that the development of vaccines, for instance, is an eminently reasonable response. In the early days, when little was known and China was evasive, stopping flights for instance, seemed reasonable to me too. But as the first quote above implies, there is soon a bidding war as to what satisfies the emotive equation, rather than what is reasonable.

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  28. Interesting. “We’re in panic, we’re in fear, we kinda got this fight or flight response, which kinda overrides our rational capacity…” And “porn panic”, plus alarmist media (more profile, more sales), governments heavily invested in panic responses (and so can’t turn back), etc. Average American thinks disease 150 times more deadly than it is. Experts way outside their expertise pandering to panic (tyranny of experts) rise to top, while many others (including those who are specifically generalists) shut out by media and governments likewise as part of the panic problem, not resisting it.

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  29. Jit wrote: “I await with interest to discover whether the conspiracy theory of a sneeze contaminating the workbench bears fruit. (To a casual eye the figure looks like the new variant is around too long for this to be feasible, but I stand to be corrected.)”

    From a technical POV, it’s certainly possible. Contamination when you’re amplifying specific RNA which is present in tiny amounts is a real concern. The fact the strain was sitting around in the background not doing much for so long before suddenly shooting up is what you might expect to see if background contamination started to increase after technicians caught that strain of virus. It certainly doesn’t discount the possibility, but neither does it prove it. The first easy step would be to test which strain the technicians caught. If it wasn’t that one, then obviously we can discount the scenario. The second easy step would be to continue testing samples with stringent contamination precautions (and covid free technicians). If the trend reversed, that would be a good indication of contamination was the culprit.

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  30. Jit, DaveJR,

    It’s certainly not a ‘conspiracy theory’ to suggest that contamination might be responsible for the sudden rise in cases at Milton Keynes. It is a theory, a plausible one, that can be tested as Dave says. I’m not sure who might have ‘conspired’ to sneeze all over the samples to give the impression that a highly contagious ‘new mutant strain of Covid’ was on the loose, but yeah, who knows, it could be a Deep State conspiracy.

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  31. N501Y occurring in the Receptor Binding Region of the virus spike, is cited by the ‘experts’ as being the most significant of the many ‘mutations’ in the new variant genome, the majority of which it is admitted are of no obvious impact. N501Y is the main reason why the ‘Scrooge variant’ is thought to be more transmissible. But in the numerous times it’s appeared in viral lineages since April, it has had no effect whatsoever on transmission. So not only is there no robust evidence of increased transmission of this new variant, but the biological basis for ‘assuming’ it might be more transmissible is also looking very dubious too. Remember that when Hancock announces Tier 5 for London and the SE and Tier 4 for everywhere else in the New Year. I’ll be looking at the N501Y and the other supposedly ‘most significant mutations’ in a follow up post.

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  32. Andy, I’m sure you’re right, technically, that we need evidence for nudges and shoves. On the other hand, ‘you don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows’.

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  33. This is the level of stupid we have to deal with in this country. An LBC broadcaster with 87.4k followers who comes onto Twitter and has the audacity to tell restaurant owners that their businesses have got to remain closed, their livelihoods destroyed solely on the basis of her pseudoscientific ignorance and bias. I can’t tell you how angry this makes me and how desperately sad I feel for the demise of our country driven by the hysteria and ignorance of utter twats like this, given a platform in the media, which they abuse daily to spout misinformation to a gullible audience.

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  34. just as an aside – very little info seems to coming from Russia on this (deaths etc), seem to remember a report that Putin had gave his daughter a jab, then nothing for ages!!!

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  35. Hunter, all over the press a few hours ago that the Russian deputy prime minister ‘admitted that deaths were 3 x worse’ than previous official reports stated. One article mentioned this is linked to procedural change, deaths only previously registered if autopsy proved covid (!) But I haven’t followed this up and likely there’s a lot more involved.

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  36. Oh look.

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  37. Why an own goal? Whatever the cause, infections, hospital admissions and deaths remorselessly rise, week on week. If it isn’t due to a more infectious new strain then it must reflect our behaviours. Be interesting to see what the statistics reveal in Scotland after Hogmanay.

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  38. Jaime: I think that’s a fair comment from Freddie Sayers. I say so from darkest Tier 4 in a last minute support bubble after a much more sociable Tier 2 Christmas had been made impossible, based on what was said to be the science.

    Thanks for doing this post on mutant strains of Covid on 25th December. I’ve never felt that precious or protective about that date but Sayers’ interview with Tom Holland is I think informative for those who may be curious about both British history and how Christians arrived at the date:

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  39. Alan: “Why an own goal?” Because it is almost never right to enact heavy messaging and policy in extreme haste based upon a tenuous theory with poor data (should indeed Jaime’s info be confirmed, and indeed decisions were in haste, so likely just lucky even if it is not confirmed). Perhaps at the very start, when so little was known and China was being evasive at best, such is necessary. But if the ‘mutant much more infectious strain’ story turns out to be largely false, it will be extremely difficult to remove this misinformation from the public mind, and hence the public fear. Probably impossible, according to papers on the ‘stickiness’ of emotive misinformation. IOW it would be yet another big contribution to herd panic, and hence irrationality. “If it isn’t due to a more infectious new strain then it must reflect our behaviours.” This does not follow. It is unknown as to why respiratory diseases (such as flu, and as far as anyone knows yet, covid) are seasonal and what causes ramp-ups. But out of the list of factors proposed, which have varying degrees of evidence of which none are clinchers, only some are behavioural. Plus, at least one of those which is behavioural, posits that being trapped indoors all the time as weather deteriorates, is an amplifying factor. Hence lock-downs would possibly make this worse. Nor even if in the long future, science determines that behaviours were the main cause, implanting emotive misinformation in the public is still not justified; this leads to irrationality, which in turn will never lead to the right behaviours longer-term. And one possible longer-term issue if a new pandemic comes along in a few years, is a backlash effect, a rejection of all (reasonable) government edicts because once the fear finally subsides this time around, it dawns on the public that a lot of the prior edicts were not based on truth.

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  40. Andy. What is known about COVID-19, if nothing else, is that it is highly contagious, so that near the peak of a wave, large numbers of seriously ill patients flood hospital facilities. It is immaterial whether this is caused by new or old strains, whether by more infectious strains or by existing controls failing. The fact that seasonal flu rates are way down suggests to me that existing control methods (wash hands, social distancing and masks) are effective.

    I tend to focus on the rise in hospital admissions: figures for cases and deaths being subject to possible other effects. However all three measures tend to rise and fall in concert.

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  41. Alan: “What is known about COVID-19, if nothing else…”

    Indeed. But what is known (or has high confidence at lest) should never tempt the government or anyone else to promote what is essentially not known or highly tenuous, in service of a perceived moral aim. The above stands. If Jaime’s info is confirmed, it will indeed be a major own goal, that can only detract from rational responses based on what we do know.

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  42. P.S. nor for the sake of completeness is your list of new / old / infectious strains and controls failing, the complete list of potential culprits. As noted above it is not known why respiratory diseases rise in winter, and of the list of candidates only a subset are behavioural.

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  43. Alan,

    “What is known about COVID-19, if nothing else, is that it is highly contagious, so that near the peak of a wave, large numbers of seriously ill patients flood hospital facilities.”

    I presume we are nowhere near the peak of a 2nd (or are we now on the 3rd?) wave then, because critical care bed occupancy rates are presently below the average for the 3 years 2017-19 in all regions of England. Which is odd, you have to admit, when NHS managers are telling us that there are more ‘Covid patients’ in hospital now than there were at the peak in April. Just a guess on my part, but could it be something to do with the fact that a ‘confirmed Covid patient’ is ANY patient who tests positive for Covid via PCR within 14 days prior to admission or ANY patient who subsequently tests positive whilst IN hospital, regardless of any clinical diagnosis? No, surely not, they wouldn’t be THAT devious, would they?

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  44. Andy, thanks for that link:

    “A meeting of the NERVTAG committee – which advises the government on the threat posed by new and emerging respiratory viruses – on the new variant took place on the 18 December 2020. The minutes refer to an estimate from genomic data of a growth rate 71% higher than other variants; none of the documents that was considered by the committee contained such an estimate. It appears from the minutes of a subsequent meeting on 21 December 2020 that this was one of several undocumented estimates from NERVTAG member Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College.”

    Once again, Pantsdown Ferguson is instrumental in bringing the nation to its knees with unsubstantiated data. HOW could this have been allowed to happen again? WHY is Johnson repeating as facts claims made by this charlatan and instigating punishing lockdowns based solely on those claims?

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  45. Why is the government not making public vital data? Once again, it points to a government which is opportunistically using alarm, fear and hysteria (obligingly amplified by the press) to justify ever more punishing restrictions upon the public.

    “However, as further evidence becomes available it could strengthen, or weaken, the case that the emergence of B.1.1.7 represents a serious development. It is important that the UK authorities start to release, on a daily basis and at local authority area or finer level, all available data on cases of the new strain, as indicated by the ‘S gene negative’ proxy and any other method. At present they are keeping this information non-public, which makes it impossible for independent researchers properly to assess on a timely basis, and if necessary challenge, what may be mistaken conclusions. Moreover, it is highly desirable that no SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 related report or study should hereafter be considered by the government or its advisers unless it is accompanied by a link at which all the data used is available.”

    Our government’s behaviour in this respect is nothing short of scandalous and it leaves them wide open to accusations of malfeasance leading to extremely serious social and economic harm.

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  46. Oh shucks, I have been caught paying attention to the BBC, reading the Telegraph on Saturday and the Sunday Times, all of which gave me the distinct impression that covid admissions have surpassed those at the height of the first peak at April. How could I have been so so gullible? Also I believed it when I was informed that hospitals prioritised covid victims during the first wave, but this time are treating more patients with other conditions. This suggested to me that hospitals could be in a more precarious situation as they try to cope with the crashing covid wave. I feel such a dupe (not).

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  47. You left out Sky News Alan. They’re reporting on the ambulance paking crisis at the moment. Also, I think Allison Pearson writes for the Telegraph.

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  48. You’ve failed to provide me with the science Alan, you’ve failed to provide me with the hard data on increased hospitalisations and deaths from the ‘new strain’, you’ve failed to rationalise the destruction of kids’ educations, their futures, their mental and physical wellbeing, the economy and millions of livelihoods in the New Year, bar telling me that you’ve been paying attention to the BBC, the Times and the Telegraph. Seriously? Are you having a laugh? You’re going to have to do much better than that. Be critical by all means, but please up your game. I’m through messing around.

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  49. “The science”, by which you mean picking out tweets that support your POV Jamie? Take your latest a picture of ranks of parked ambulances being interpreted as evidence of the hospital not being overwhelmed. Where is the evidence that the person providing the evidence is giving the correct interpretation? Nowhere. Could there be other explanations? Well the geologist in me is used to employing the method of multiple hypotheses, so let’s see.
    1. Well there was a report that some hospitals had run out of bed space and patients were having to be treated within ambulances. This to me is feasible; in early November I had a scan (for a longCovid ailment). We had to wait outside in our cars, because there was no room in the hospital to wait, until contacted by a staff member and conducted to the facility where the scanner was vacant awaiting me. Could the ambulances hold waiting patients?
    2. In some areas, ambulances are divided between those that specifically carry covid patients and those specifically that do not (for obvious reasons). What type of ambulance could those parked be?
    3. What else could strand ambulances? Well a shortage of trained driver/paramedics for one. This for me is my favoured explanation. When I contracted Covid it was only diagnosed when I first reached hospital. Those ambulance staff that brought me to hospital, even though they had masks and gloves, would still have been exposed to the virus. How many ambulance staff caught corvid19? How many are catching it this time round?

    I and my granddaughter (who is starting her training to be a paramedic) have watched many, many programs on the pressures put on the ambulance services. Countless times callers with non-critical problems were warned to expect multiple hour long waits because all units were tied up. And this is before Covid. I cannot believe that the number of parked ambulances is due to a lack of demand, but like you, I do not know the reason. I just don’t use this instance as evidence to support my POV.

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  50. Big on explanations for parked ambulances Alan, which was more of a tongue-in-cheek observation, not a formally reasoned criticism, but not so hot on the science which I patently have NOT derived simply from tweets; I have taken the trouble to look into it fairly closely. Nothing I’ve looked at so far supports the alarmism of this government re. the ‘new strain’. That is what this post is really about.

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  51. Why this focus upon whether a new strain is the cause of the increased cases, hospital admissions and deaths? I care less than a tinker’s cuss whether these rises are due to a new strain or not. What is important is that these matters are increasing significantly and rapidly. Across the media, health authorities, almost without exception, are warning that hospitals face potential disaster in the near future. I prefer to believe the health experts in the eye of the storm, rather than a Cliscep maverick touting shoddy “science”.

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  52. [Please restrict comments on this thread to science-based criticism or commentary and resist the urge to air personal beliefs and/or prejudices or engage in provocation. Thanks. JJ]

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  53. That’s it. Never more will I comment upon a Jamie thread. Her action of removing my post critical of her, is akin to behaviours encountered on sites like ATTP. To prevent this post being removed, I am posting it on another thread where she may have less control.

    [Above comment unedited and intact. This is the first I have ever edited or deleted a comment on my posts – in 4 years. I don’t believe in censorship, but I’m fed up with being provoked and I’m now demanding that comments on my posts are relevant, informative, topical and not provocative or needlessly argumentative. You’re welcome to comment according to those rules Alan. JJ]

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  54. I do not wish to become too caught up in a debate that has already becoming unnecessarily heated, but I thought it might be relevant to quote the following extract from an article in the Mirror:

    “A beleaguered NHS is on the brink of disaster as overflowing A&E wards recorded the worst waiting times for a decade. Damning figures added more gloom to a dark day for the health service in England, which saw 13 hospitals declare major incidents, nine of which were states of emergencies – a status usually reserved for air crashes or terror attacks… Medical experts warned that the NHS had reached a ‘tipping point’…”

    This was published in 2015. So, whatever the state of affairs in our hospitals today, it has to be seen in the context of a service that operates at near capacity as a matter of policy and, as a result, has been claiming to be at a point of crisis for every winter for as long as I can remember. The real issue here may not be the unprecedented scale of the challenge posed by Covid-19 so much as the fragility of our health service and the extent to which long-standing funding policies have rendered the NHS inherently incapable of coping with anything out of the ordinary. Remember, we are a country that grinds to a halt after each snow flurry. We were never going to survive a pandemic.

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  55. Pingback: Examining The Science And The Possible Origin of The ‘New Strain’ Of Covid-19 | climatecontrarian

  56. John, apparently the NHS are switching to testing staff using LFT from Jan 1. Maybe they’ve finally woken up to the fact that many staff are needlessly off work because of false positive PCR tests. I suggested this was occurring over a month ago on Twitter and was roundly attacked. If there was a staffing crisis, it was a long term staffing crisis caused by lack of funding because of government, I was informed, curtly.

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  57. Against my better judgement, I took up Richard’s suggestion of doing a post on here, despite my previous avowal not to. I kept it as scientific and factual as possible, avoiding politics to a large degree, but still the trolls came and then the spiteful comments and personal attacks. Now Alan griping about me removing a comment from him, off topic for this post and clearly just a personal attack on me, one which was both unnecessarily argumentative and provocative. John ‘sharing his pain’ at such an indignity dished out upon a ‘Cliscep stalwart’ on another thread. Well tough titties. I said I’m through messing around and I meant it. Other commenters here have noted how I seem to be picked on whatever I write. I thank them for that support. I’ve tried to heal the wounds that have opened up this past year on this site and I’ve tried with this post to get back to reporting science and avoiding too much politics. But it hasn’t worked. I wish you all well for the New Year (despite what new horrors it may bring) and I now intend to follow Ben’s sensible example.

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  58. I continue to be bemused, not least by latest developments on this thread.

    Meanwhile, I think Lockdown Sceptics is worth a read today, in view of the latest national developments, and as to whether they are justified:

    https://lockdownsceptics.org/

    On this thread (unlike others recently) I have some sympathy with the thrust of Jaime’s argument. On the other hand, maybe I’m just thick-skinned, but I don’t see any posts here that could be described as trolling, and I’m disappointed to see Jaime’s reaction.

    Back to Lockdown Sceptics, I thought the extract quoted there from the Mail offers food for thought:

    “Britain has an elderly population compared with many countries and large numbers of people die every day.

    In England and Wales in 2019, for example, 530,841 people died – an average of 1,454 every day or “four jumbo jet” loads, to use the alarmist comparison favoured by much of the pro-lockdown commentariat.

    While COVID-19 is, of course, a serious disease, many of those who have died from it were close to the end of their lives in any case. If it hadn’t been COVID-19, it might well have been another infectious disease – flu or pneumonia – which dealt the final blow.

    Covid has killed some “healthy” people who did not have underlying conditions, but it has done so in relatively small numbers. Until 4pm on December 23rd, 47,750 people had died of COVID-19 in English hospitals, but fewer than 2,000 of these had no pre-existing medical condition.

    These figures, from NHS England, exclude people who have died at home or in nursing homes.

    Among those who died, 26% were already suffering from diabetes, 17% had dementia, 16% chronic pulmonary disease, 16% chronic kidney disease and 14% heart disease. Moreover, not all “Covid” deaths were really caused by the disease.

    The Government’s definition of a Covid death is someone who has died from any cause within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19.

    You could be struck by a bus three weeks after a positive test and still be reported as a Covid death.

    Of all deaths, 54% – some 27,000 – were among the over-80s. Only about 3,600 victims were under 60 and just 388 of these had no pre-existing condition.

    he Office for National Statistics says that in the week to December 11th there were 12,292 deaths registered in England and Wales – 14% above the five-year average.

    Yet the population is growing and ageing – the number of over-70s is increasing by around 2% a year – so, all things being equal, we should expect more people to die. More enlightening is the “Mortality Monitor” published by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, which adjusts the mortality rate to take account of a growing and ageing population.

    Its figures show that mortality in England and Wales in the first 50 weeks of this year was 12.3% higher than in the same period of 2019, but only 6.9% higher than the average for the past 10 years.

    It is only 3% higher than in the worst of those years – 2010 – and it is slightly lower than it was in 2008.

    In other words, we have been through a pandemic which has closed down large parts of the economy and led to us being locked down in our homes for weeks on end – and yet, after all that, it has really just returned us to the mortality rate of 12 years ago.”

    Followed by the additional Lockdown Sceptics comment:

    “The new ONS figures out yesterday show that excess mortality continued to decrease in the week ending December 18th, down to 12.5%. This is despite the number of deaths and Covid deaths increasing on the previous week, since the five-year average increased by a greater amount (this time of year often sees a surge in deaths).”

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  59. I vowed never to comment again upon a Jaime thread, but I am being accused of deliberately targeting her. Well yes I am, but for what I consider valid reasons. In yesterday’s post (9.39pm) she writes she tried to write it “as scientific and factual as possible, avoiding politics to a large degree”. But in that she failed, using unnecessary provocative language likening Ferguson to an unflushed turd, and motives to the Boris government and its advisors to deliberately deprive the population of its Christmas.

    Yes there was lots of sciency stuff in Jamie’s piece, but it was so one-sided. There must be some science behind the view that the “new strain” is more transmissible. In science, you need not only to present the evidence that supports one’s case, but also discuss counter evidence and explain why that can be dismissed. Jaime has done the first, but implies there is no evidence that needs countering. My question immediately is, if there is no evidence, why are so many organisations proceeding using the premise that there is a more transmissible strain?

    Now a sciency bit to keep this post in line with the new instructions. Much is made of the increase of cases involving the “new” variant not necessarily implying greater transmissivity. I agree, but note that increased numbers of cases still is an expected outcome if greater transmissivity were involved. What I find more difficult to explain if greater transmissivity is not involved is the greater percentages of cases attributed to the new variant. This is what you would predict if the new variant had an advantage over other, previously successful strains. It is also explained if this advantage were greater transmissivity.

    Jaime suggested I find scientific evidence to back my views, unfortunately Covid itself may have made this impossible, although it might just be a symptom of increasing age. My concentration levels are shot. Even this post is a real challenge.

    My main purpose in my posts was to suggest that the origin of the new variant matters not a jot at this precise time. What is important is that the virus is rampaging through our ranks and needs to be dealt with. If you don’t like lockdowns, what do you do instead? Let the virus rip and take the consequences? And part of the consequences will be becoming a pariah to other parts of the world. Oh, we’re already there!

    I also would entertain the possibility that the government is using the unconfirmed possibility of a more transmissible variant to justify harsher restrictive measures, because the virus is once again getting out of control. I can’t really blame them. It’s their duty to try to keep us safe. They’ve run out of other options.

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  60. It’s interesting that you state that it is a duty of government to keep its citizens safe. Presumably you are talking here about saving us from disease but even in a more general sense it is not covered in the Bill of Rights nor Magna Carta. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights there is a typically woolly section about a right to healthcare, which was taken over by WHO: “The Constitution defines the right to health as “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health,” and enumerates some principles of this right as healthy child development; equitable dissemination of medical knowledge and its benefits; and government-provided social measures to ensure adequate health.”

    If this meant that everyone is responsible for their own health and government sets out the framework of education and healthcare to achieve this, then I would have no problem. But it is the gradual increase in scope to keep everyone alive as long as technologically possible that gives me unease.

    However, it is one thing to set out a right: it is quite another to set out how we should enforce it, particularly since it is far from clear what it even means. I wonder if it even means that governments can arrogate to itself the power to curtail freedom of movement, which is one of the cornerstones of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    It is also instructive that the burgeoning stream of human rights lawyers and activists, who take such great interest in CAGW, have shied away from poking around pandemic issues. Jolyon Maugham, for example, has been confining himself to procedural/curruption issues.

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  61. Mark,

    Yes, I too was taken by surprise by Jaime’s reaction. However, it was probably incautious of me to have chosen the occasion to re-express my views on moderation, particularly by empathising with Alan’s dismay. It seems to have added to Jaime’s sense of beleaguerment . This was an unintended outcome for which I apologise. As for the trolling, as far as I can see, there was only Pete Ridley engaging in some pretty low grade stuff that Jaime seemed to be handling well enough. True, Alan’s contributions were becoming increasingly personal, but I think that has to be seen in the context of an increasingly heated exchange. The bottom line is that this has been an excellent article that contributed much to my understanding of the subject.

    Alan,

    I can’t agree that Jaime’s article is ‘touting shoddy science’ and I do not see it as Jaime’s obligation to present both sides of the argument. Scientific advisers to the government have claimed ‘high confidence’ that the new variant is 70% more transmissible (71% to be precise) and this has quickly become the mantra for most of the media. Jaime is pointing out credentialed literature that explains why increased transmissibility is a non sequitur.

    Having now carefully read the literature, I can see for myself why such confidence is unjustified. I think the official line should have been ‘significantly higher transmissibility cannot be ruled out and we are not prepared to take any chances’. What the government is not prepared to say is, ‘we think the new variant has gained ascendency in London and the South-East as a direct consequence of our insistence that it remain in tier 2 despite the figures’. Incidentally, I shared your belief that relatively higher transmission is a sure sign of relatively higher transmissibility, until I learnt of the founder effect. I got it wrong and I have no excuses because I am not struggling with long-covid fog. The only solace is to be found in the fact that so much of epidemiology is counter-intuitive, if not to say paradoxical.

    Anyway, happy New Year to everyone. Here’s hoping for a return to normality.

    Liked by 2 people

  62. Alan:

    “What I find more difficult to explain if greater transmissivity is not involved is the greater percentages of cases attributed to the new variant. This is what you would predict if the new variant had an advantage over other, previously successful strains. It is also explained if this advantage were greater transmissivity.”

    This is easily explained. Viral spread from a vector that morphs variants very fast (like flu, and this one) are never homogeneous and never would be homogeneous even if all variants have similar transmission rates (and most do, because the great majority of changes don’t impact function significantly). It’s essentially luck. A particular variant may establish itself in a region due only to a very small number of super-spreader events, for instance, and for sure some variant is going to do that because there are thousands and thousands of them. Via this luck it becomes the established variant in the region, and when conditions change to mean that *any* variant would then have prospered, this particular variant is the one that happens to benefit locally (e.g. ‘South East’ where there also happens to be a bigger and denser population, meaning the variant has good export potential too). Due to processes like this variant populations rise and fall all over the world, sometimes steeply. In fact, it’s part of why variants exist to the point of being bulk measurable anyhow. Without these lucky breaks viral variants themselves would be as numerous as the individuals they infect (so many millions, not thousands. Look up ‘founder effects’), so we know the events must occur.

    If there were a (much) more aggressive variant, it would grow in a much more stable manner and wouldn’t decline again as the next waves in the random mix come along. Of course, it’s not necessarily easy to tell one from the other at the early part of a rise, hence Jaime’s technical pointers and the Nic Lewis analysis over at Climate Etc. As to why ‘conditions change’, per above we don’t now why respiratory diseases are seasonal, and indeed often have steep rises in winter, but only a subset of the candidate explanations are behavioural. But indeed behavioural changes associated with winter (e.g. such as staying indoors a lot more), could be part of the ‘conditions changing’. In practice, because society is not homogeneous either, in fact highly structured, then random variant growth / decline can occur even without changing conditions. For instance if a particular variant gets established by luck into infra-structure (and the people) who serve the hospital system, it could easily out-produce other variants while not being any more transmissible, it’s just got far more opportunity. Plus if a variant hits a region that by luck or vigilance got away lightly or wholly during one wave, it may succumb at the next so the variant first in the door will be the lucky beneficiary.

    “My main purpose in my posts was to suggest that the origin of the new variant matters not a jot at this precise time.”

    But this misses much of the point Jaime is making, and certainly the bit that I have stressed, which is that ‘the scary much more transmissible mutant strain’ has been used as an emotive cudgel to seriously scare the public and justify the tightened lockdowns. My own view is that per various processes e.g. as noted by others also in my comment at 28th Dec 12.15, this is because the gov are participating in herd panic not resisting it. But the point is that this is utterly the wrong thing to be doing, can only increase herd panic, which in turn always leads to irrational policy. I presume the science is not yet fully in, but it’s not looking great for the mutant strain emotive message, and a) nothing should be presented in such irresponsible terms anyhow because the public will always digest the emotion not the reason and b) they should have waited until (fairly standard, after all) science was in before shooting. Just one potential outcome is that, if the public later finds that the mutant theory used as justification is a fairy story, they may never believe any further government messages anyway (backlash effect).

    “If you don’t like lockdowns, what do you do instead? ”

    I’m not arguing here for or against lockdowns, or indeed for or against Jaime’s info on the variant as such. I’m arguing that there is a valid argument to be had and that Jaime is making it, and that it *is* extremely important for governments to use proper science and proper science communication, and not promote panic based on (at the date of communication) highly tenuous theory with poor (to be kind) data support. As Mark points out, in the winter wave of 2008, about where we are now apparently, then indeed we did nothing special at all (and this presumably hit a younger demographic too, on the assumption that the bulk would be standard flu). Again, I’m not actually arguing we should do nothing, or that we should keep turning the screw on lockdowns either, I’m point out that either option and indeed the entire range in-between is a valid argument for which there is historic / other support for / against, which arguments can be made without playing the person in any way.

    “I also would entertain the possibility that the government is using the unconfirmed possibility of a more transmissible variant to justify harsher restrictive measures, because the virus is once again getting out of control. I can’t really blame them. It’s their duty to try to keep us safe. They’ve run out of other options.”

    It is *never* justified to use false / unconfirmed science to scare populations. In the long run, it will always get out of control, always produce bad policy. This ‘for the moral best’ justification is exactly how the bias in climate change came to take over the public domain with Catastrophic Climate-Change Culture, which completely contradicts mainstream science, let alone anything skeptical. Now presidents and prime ministers and practically every other authority source tell us they have to implement NearNetZero, because: “It’s their duty to try to keep us safe. They’ve run out of other options.”

    Liked by 5 people

  63. John: “Incidentally, I shared your belief that relatively higher transmission is a sure sign of relatively higher transmissibility, until I learnt of the founder effect. I got it wrong and I have no excuses because I am not struggling with long-covid fog. The only solace is to be found in the fact that so much of epidemiology is counter-intuitive, if not to say paradoxical.”

    Indeed that is solace, and you shouldn’t berate yourself anyhow! These things are hardly common knowledge. I was led to cultural evolution by a very strong interest in biological evolution. They share many similarities and so the apparent paradoxes in one can be used to understand the other. I little knew when many years ago I was reading of founder effects and the protection from disease in heterogeneous populations plus balanced polymorphism, that it would all come in jolly handy one day in ‘everyday life’.

    Liked by 1 person

  64. Whenever I take a look, via my partner’s involvement in Test and Trace, it becomes clearer that the government is oscillating randomly through policy options without any thought whatsoever.

    A rickety infrastructure has been set up for the 2 jab Pfizer vaccine, involving refrigeration, booking of follow up appointments, while continuing to work through the queue of new first jabs etc etc. It’s detailed and complicated.

    For Hancock to decide, apparently on his own authority (?), that the second jab is unnecessary, which means that all the follow up appointments have to be cancelled and replaced by new first jab appointments, must be making the bureaucracy either extremely angry or desirous of a stiff drink.

    As it was, everyone was already also exercised with building and controlling the processes for the Astra vaccine which is about to come online and now they have this additional nightmare to deal with as well. It is perhaps the most stupid thing I have ever heard. Is Tony Blair now in control of SAGE?

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  65. Andy, John, MiaB, Mark. I would really like to discuss matters that you raise but we would have to do it elsewhere. I’ll not risk having my posts excised again on the grounds of irrelevancy.
    The only thing I regret is calling the science Jaime used “shoddy”. It isn’t. It is the biased selection that I considered to be “shoddy”.

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  66. Alan,

    There are other suitable threads such as the ‘Covid/Climate Open Thread’ from some time back. Maybe we could discuss matters there.

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  67. MIAB wrote: “For Hancock to decide, apparently on his own authority (?), that the second jab is unnecessary, which means that all the follow up appointments have to be cancelled and replaced by new first jab appointments, must be making the bureaucracy either extremely angry or desirous of a stiff drink.”

    Unfair. The results of the test data were perused over on The Blackboard some weeks ago and it clearly showed that the first vaccine jab produced by far the greatest effect and the second jab had relatively little extra protection. Making sure as many people as possible have a first jab seems to me to be the most sensible thing to do. The “stick to two jabs” is the obvious bureaucratic answer because that’s simply how the trial was set up. Obviously, Pfizer couldn’t know in advance how effective just one jab would be, doesn’t mean two is necessary or ever desirable.

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  68. DaveJR, I have to say that you have a heartening belief in blog science. I have, however, now discovered that Hancock based his decision on advice from JCVI, so I withdraw my accusation that he was acting on a random impulse. However, the advice seems to have filtered down to the ranks in a “Chinese whispers” sort of way

    “The government stated that prioritising the first dose was on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and further assured that everyone would still receive their second dose within 12 weeks of their first.”

    So it is “simply” a case of delaying the second dose by a number of weeks. Possibly even more of a bureaucratic nightmare than I thought.

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  69. There was a comment from Geoff Cruickshank yesterday which mysteriously went into auto-moderation and still doesn’t seem to have appeared. Nothing to do with me, honest!

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  70. Well, look at what we have here (or should I say don’t have here because it’s been moved to another thread). One individual decides that he does not want to risk having another personal attack upon me moderated so debunks to another post (created way back in May) to comment upon the post I have written here and is followed by several other commenters, thus creating a whole new lineage of comments derived from my post here, but under another post heading. Ladies and gentleman, I give you no finer example of the Founder Effect! A concept, I might add, which the commenters on the ‘other’ thread are struggling to get to grips with in respect of its applicability as an explanation for the current spread of the ‘new mutant strain’.

    In reality, as demonstrated here, it is in fact a most egregious form of censorship of my work, being the result of one person’s cowardice in wanting to comment freely on my post (presumably reserving the right to attack me personally minus the threat of having a comment removed) by decamping to another thread in order to do so, followed obligingly by several other commenters, thus leaving my own post, which generated the original conversation, bereft of further comments.

    Perhaps people can see now why I will never write another post for Cliscep.

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  71. Jaime, you seem to have a rather one-sided view of life. In your world, people choosing to comment on another thread is “a most egregious form of censorship of my work, being the result of one person’s cowardice in wanting to comment freely on my post”.

    It’s that sort of comment that disenchants people who might otherwise support you or at least engage with you. I’m sorry that you don’t seem to be able to see it and certainly don’t seem to understand it. Labelling commenters as cowards isn’t going to win friends and influence people. Suggesting that people not commenting on your post is an egregious form of censorship of your work is misuse of language and patently untrue.

    I’m sorry, but I’ve lost patience.

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  72. “Jaime, you seem to have a rather one-sided view of life. In your world, people choosing to comment on another thread is “a most egregious form of censorship of my work, being the result of one person’s cowardice in wanting to comment freely on my post.

    Suggesting that people not commenting on your post is an egregious form of censorship of your work is misuse of language and patently untrue.”

    Do you have a screw loose or something Mark? People choosing to comment on another post is ENTIRELY their decision and why on earth would I condemn it? Choosing to comment on MY post, with personal reference to me, on a redundant thread simply because they spat their dummy out of the pram when I deleted just one comment which consisted entirely of a personal attack on me is what happened.

    You’ve lost patience have you? Well let me tell you again because you patently fail to understand. I don’t give a stuff about making friends or influencing people by ‘enchanting’ them. I only care about integrity and the truth and when I come up against people who wish to deny the truth because of their beliefs it makes me very angry indeed, as your comments here this morning make me angry. I will continue to search for the truth with or without your ‘support’ or that of others on this site.

    How dare you come on here and say you’ve lost patience with ME and suggest that I’m not ‘winning friends’ for stating the truth. I politely invited Alan to submit further comments without resorting to off-topic personal attacks but he still went off to comment on another thread, the reason stated being that he did not want to risk being censored again. That is cowardice. So how dare you.

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  73. Jaime,

    I realise now that my late night post yesterday was posted on the wrong thread, so I am reposting it here, where it should have been (What can I say? It was way past my bedtime):

    “I see that the Imperial College team are doubling down on their initial claims regarding the new variant’s transmissibility (Covid-19: New variant ‘raises R number by up to 0.7’):

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-55507012

    I was wondering whether this meant that the previous conclusions that drew upon epidemiological data had now been corroborated by lab experiments investigating the biology, but no. Apparently:

    ‘The Imperial College study suggests transmission of the new variant tripled during England’s November lockdown while the previous version was reduced by a third.’

    I’m sorry but that really isn’t getting us anywhere. It tells us what happened but it still doesn’t explain why. Epidemiology works well when it is founded upon a good understanding of the science. It doesn’t work so well when it is used on its own to presuppose the science. Still, Imperial College don’t need to worry too much about this when they have the BBC on their side.”

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  74. Jaime, I suggest an official solution. I presume as a mod you can bulk copy the comments from the other place to here. Then arrange with Richard to close the other thread; he says it’s max’d out anyhow. In practice, one can’t get to the point of making comments such as below to Alan, which I think is more helpful than not, without pursuing on the other thread. I chose to comment there so I could.

    “Sufficiently to whom? I understand the points raised and think they have weight. Do I think that means the case is proven? No. Do I think it’s a decent case? Yes. Do I think that Nic Lewis’s case is more analytical? Yes. Do I think more data and more work is required to prove the case? Absolutely. Do I think enough data will get released by orgs / governments in order to do this in the relatively near term? Pretty doubtful. Do I think Jaime has some sacred responsibility to prove the case beyond doubt by demolishing all opposition? Nonsense, of course not. We all contribute to the various cases here, the process is the exchange itself and not any one person within it. And whatever Jaime’s arguments, no response should play the person and not the arguments.” (typo corrected).

    Liked by 1 person

  75. Well if this is true, I think it’s likely to do a great deal to undermine the very high trust in vaccines within the UK, and hence work out as a significantly negative move. NY Times: ‘Britain Opts for Mix-and-Match Vaccinations, Confounding Experts; If a second dose of one vaccine isn’t available, another may be substituted, according to new U.K. guidelines.’

    “While it’s possible that swapping out one vaccine for another may still school the body to recognize the coronavirus, it is still a scientific gamble. With different ingredients in each vaccine, it’s possible people will not benefit as much from a second shot. Mixing and matching could also make it more difficult to collect clear data on vaccine safety.”

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  76. Oh dear Jaime, your ” .. how dare you .. ” sounds just like that silly little girl Greta at the UN. (Please don’t go into a hissy-fit thinking that I’m suggesting that you too are a silly little girl. You are anything but a little girl.)

    I’m with you on ” .. I don’t give a stuff about making friends or influencing people by ‘enchanting’ them .. ” but spotlighting your anger is not going to influence people in any manner that you might hope. There are plenty around who will simply poke fun in order to provoke you.

    As you advised others a couple of years ago (after posting about 30 comments on what you described as an ” .. increasingly hostile, weird, bizarre and preposterous thread .. “) ” .. grow up .. and learn how to debate rationally and calmly with those who do not share your opinions .. ” (https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2019/03/05/guest-post-on-coral-alarmism/#comment-147067).

    I’m also with your revulsion over the environmental and economic damage done by those ugly, expensive wind turbines, on and offshore. Your anger over the ones that are impacting your locality screams from ” .. They are testament to mass hysteria and delusions of imminent catastrophe; certainly not to engineering excellence or effortless efficiency. They are costing me a packet to be there in all their uselessness and offensive green posturing .. ” (https://climatecontrarian.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/climate-musings-on-a-messy-battlefield/).

    May I suggest that before posting your comments and articles, take the dogs for a walk somewhere far from the sight and sound of those monstrosities and other irritants. After the calming influence of nature, carefully re-read your composition and consider taking out any ire or vitriol that may have crept in.

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  77. Thanks for the comments here, even yours Pete.

    Andy, I’m just gobsmacked at the ‘Mix ‘n’ Match’ approach to vaccination which the government is now taking. Are they still ‘following the science’ I wonder? It’s absolutely bizarre. Whoever heard of getting one dose of one vaccine and then another dose of another vaccine as a booster? They’re not even remotely similar. One is a novel mRNA, the other is a more traditional attenuated virus vaccine. It seems to me that the government has bought enough doses of various vaccines to vaccinate the entire population several times over and their policy now is to make sure they get their money’s worth on those doses, however they distribute them across the population. They’ll be coming for the kids next.

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  78. Jaime: “It’s absolutely bizarre.”

    I have to agree. And there’s no gain to be had from this, other than saving on some administration maybe (keeping track of who had what), which is surely a trivial problem to solve compared to the scientific risk plus the potential disaster of turning everyone off from vaccines. It’s highly irrational. One can only hope that this gets squashed before it actually happens.

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  79. The government have already created an administrative nightmare by cancelling scheduled second doses. Now they’re making it worse by proposing a second dose with a different vaccine. It will be difficult to impossible to register and log adverse reactions attributable to any particular vaccine. Maybe that’s the idea. Who knows. It’s crazy all the same.

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  80. “Do you have a screw loose or something Mark? People choosing to comment on another post is ENTIRELY their decision and why on earth would I condemn it? ”

    Perhaps you should re-read what you wrote. It was this:

    “One individual decides that he does not want to risk having another personal attack upon me moderated so debunks to another post (created way back in May) to comment upon the post I have written here and is followed by several other commenters, thus creating a whole new lineage of comments derived from my post here, but under another post heading….”.

    Referring DIRECTLY to that, you then said:

    “In reality, as demonstrated here, it is in fact a most egregious form of censorship of my work, being the result of one person’s cowardice in wanting to comment freely on my post (presumably reserving the right to attack me personally minus the threat of having a comment removed) by decamping to another thread in order to do so, followed obligingly by several other commenters, thus leaving my own post, which generated the original conversation, bereft of further comments.”

    In other words, you were directly condemning people choosing to comment on another post, the very thing you accuse me of having a screw loose for noticing you saying and criticising you for it (in rather gentler terms than your criticism of me).

    At least this bit made me laugh, rather than become angry:

    “…when I come up against people who wish to deny the truth because of their beliefs it makes me very angry indeed…”.

    Try looking in the mirror.

    More constructively, Jaime, I don’t know what’s going on in your head just now, but all I want for new year is a return of the old Jaime Jessop, the person who was capable of constructing pieces like this:

    https://cliscep.com/2020/02/21/atmospheric-scientist-labels-critics-of-his-work-as-haters/

    It’ a little ironic, though, that it included this:

    “What that basically says is don’t engage with me if you have any criticism of my studies because I will block you if you do. Which is odd for a winner of the Royal Meteorological Society’s Michael Hunt Award who “has a sustained and extensive record of engagement with the public and their concerns over weather and climate” and “is just the sort of person worthy of recognition and encouragement from the Society in the area of increasing the understanding of meteorology among members of the general public”. But then again, maybe it’s not that surprising: Mann and Hayhoe have both won awards for science communication. In climate science, the more censorious you are of critics it seems, the greater your chance of picking up an award for engaging with the public.”

    Seriously, though, the Jaime Jessop who wrote this (and many other wonderful pieces like it):

    https://cliscep.com/2019/01/24/january-2019-update-the-science-still-isnt-settled/

    is the Jaime Jessop I want to see in action. The Jaime Jessop who used facts, logic and intelligence, rather than emotion, when writing and commenting here, the Jaime Jessop who wrote beautifully after detailed, painstaking and valuable research, the Jaime Jessop who had a sense of humour and wasn’t abysmally rude to anyone who dared to murmur the slightest or gentlest of criticisms. Please come back to us, that Jaime Jessop – I’ve missed you.

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  81. Some pieces are out criticising the New York Times ‘mix-and-match’ article as a gross exaggeration. E.g. from The Spectator: “Department of Health officials have also been keen to emphasise this precautionary step is for exceptional circumstances only. Barely the ‘mix-and-match’ programme the Times seems to suggest the UK has adopted.” Much more hopeful.

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  82. Mark, maybe I have changed over this last year, but not so much that I don’t still use facts, logic and intelligence to try to argue my case. You disagree obviously, because you have witnessed me become less patient and considerably more irascible and thus more prone to emotional outbursts. Imprisonment and psychological torture does that. I would argue that commenters here have also changed, Alan most noticeably and I have been alarmed and disappointed to witness the often uncritical acceptance of the official Covid narrative here at the very heart of the climate sceptical blog community. I have also been disappointed by personal attacks which I do not believe are ever justified. I have always tried very hard not to attack the person, but the argument and in this respect I believe I have been very consistent, more so than other commenters.

    I suggested very early on that there were close similarities between Covid science and Climate science but this was not generally accepted by the majority of commenters here. I now think the similarities are even more striking and increasingly alarming.

    Who knows, if ever this horrific nightmare ends, normal service might resume at Cliscep, but I seriously doubt it. We are all changed and the UK is a veydifferent country from that which existed at the start of last year. Not because of a virus, but because of a bizarre, crazy, unscientific, unprecedented, hugely damaging governmental response to a virus.

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  83. Jaime,

    Thank you for responding to the olive branch I (sincerely) held out at the end of my last comment.

    FWIW I agree with your suggestion that there are close similarities between Covid science and climate science – I would even go further, and suggest that as (with the possible exception of Islam) the old, traditional, religions decline in the developed world, they are being replaced by a new quasi-religion, which relies on a combination of instilling fear and of instilling guilt, and insists on centralised control of our lives, by an elite priesthood (very much like old-style Catholicism). It is to be witnessed in the debates in the UK over Brexit, climate change and covid, and there are disturbing similarities in the official narrative in all three examples, IMO.

    I also agree that the last 10 months or so have been horrendous, with a marked lack of logic on display by those in charge, and much damage to, inter alia, mental health. You and I are broadly singing off the same hymn sheet, and it is disappointing that the differences of detail, emphasis and nuance between us have led to such friction here.

    I make a pledge here and now to try to ensure that my comments remain as directly on point, and as polite and respectful as possible, and would ask that you do the same. Let’s try to put recent unpleasantness behind us. Pax?

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  84. The theory that the recent surge in covid-19 cases must be down to the emergence of a new variant with greater transmissibility wouldn’t seem so problematic to me if it were not for the fact that the scientific team (UCL) pushing the idea had the greatest professional stake in the alternative theory being debunked, i.e. the theory that the UCL models hitherto used to predict the impact of behavioural interventions may have been wrong all along and that this has been cruelly exposed by the changing factors of the winter season. This may seem overly cynical but the fact remains that new epidemiological data is being used to formulate a new causal model when the correct approach should be to propose a new causal model based upon new science and then see how this model stands up to the new epidemiological data.

    This seems like a good moment to put in another plug for Judea Pearl’s ‘The Book of Why’ and my own ‘Brief Primer on Causation’ Cliscep article.

    Liked by 1 person

  85. Mark, I made a plea just before Christmas that, though we may disagree vehemently with one another, we should at least try not to resent one another. The best way to avoid resentment is to avoid personal attacks and to substantiate our reasons for disagreeing with one another. That didn’t happen on this thread. The fearmongers, who are the enemies of us all, are not going to let this rest. The BBC lied about wards full of kids with Covid and were slapped down, but the schools will still be closed and the ‘new variant’, suposedly ‘overwhelmed hospitals’ and blatantly faked ‘Covid deaths’ will all continue to be used as excuses to lock down harder, harder, harder, until we all fall down.

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  86. Hi Mark, Your closing comments reminded me of my initial involvement in 2007 in what was then the CAGW debate (now CACC due to the long hiatus). I was shocked by the lack of respect and insulting behaviour of many of the contributors, but then realised that it was very similar to the rabble involved in Prime Mininster’s question time. Considering that CAGW/CACC is founded on poliiticised science it is not so surprising that the ensuing debates take on a politicised style.

    As for your closing ” .. Pax? .. “, that reminded me of the illusory pronouncement by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlaine in 1938 on his return from meeting Hitler – ” .. peace in our time”. That pax didn’t last long.

    Jaime, you say ” .. I suggested very early on that there were close similarities between Covid science and Climate science .. “. I’d appreciate a link to where you made that suggestion so that I can check out what similarities you had spotted. Apart from serious gaps in our knowledge (particularly wrt CACC) the only other similarity that I recognise are that both Covid and CACC are having significant political impact, but it is hardly the science doing that.

    BTW, our beloved propaganda bureau advised this morning (on its Radio 2) that today is the birthday of that brilliant climate scientist Greta Thunburg, bless her.

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  87. “…the correct approach should be to propose a new causal model based upon new science…”

    I think I’d settle for using the old science first. For instance highly heterogenous human populations (not in the original UCL model and for all I know still not in), which indeed comes from evolution producing polymorphism in part due to protection against disease (!) and e.g. as used in agricultural research for years regarding protection of crops from being wiped out, viral fitness, genetic drift, founder effects, and probably much more in evolutionary biology I’ve forgotten, but down to rather subtler things like whether balanced polymorphism is playing a part here or whatever. And basic social behaviour mapping too. But I agree modellers seem to be working backwards, as it were.

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  88. Mark: “I would even go further, and suggest that as (with the possible exception of Islam) the old, traditional, religions decline in the developed world, they are being replaced by a new quasi-religion…”

    Mark, not only are you right, we have hard social data that demonstrates this. See a basic summary chart below. However, because old religious faith and new catastrophic climate-change culture (CCCC) are interacting with each other across the globe, the resulting change in attitudes across nations (according to their national religiosity, on the X-axis below), are not intuitive, albeit they satisfy the cultural mechanics in play.

    “…and insists on centralised control of our lives, by an elite priesthood…”

    Kind of. But as the phenomenon is emergent, it is driven at all levels in society simultaneously, meaning the priesthood is in essence a structural symptom not a cause as such, and their motives are in service to the cultural mechanics.

    The problem with similarities to covid, is that they only go so far. The generic similarity springs from the fact that both the cultural mechanics of CCCC, and the drive within the covid case, are both emotive. However, beyond that they part company. Because cultural fears are ‘not real’ and the brain hence reacts to them quite differently than the (originally) real fears of covid. Notwithstanding that the real fears can become highly exaggerated, and indeed can trigger secondary cultural reactions (e.g. the Trump and HCQ saga), they are not so entrenched, not so contradictory as cultural attitudes, and unless they morph to a more standard cultural framework (I don’t know how possible that is, I’d guess very unlikely), they are going to just fade away again at some point of their own accord. While global society is much more highly sensitised to this particular fear (after much of it being ‘spoiled’ by being used to good health and relative control of health issues compared to society even a couple of generations ago), it would still fade at some point when the virus itself loses purchase, even without a vaccine, as has occurred for every other pandemic.

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  89. Andy,

    I agree entirely. You have listed some of the considerations that may be undermining the reliability of the UCL model. I’m sure there are more.

    The ‘new science’ I had in mind was a better understanding of the biology relating to the new variant that may arise from genetic, virological and immunological assessments. The message coming from UCL seems to be, “We don’t understand how the new variant achieves its greater transmissibility but the evidence says it does.”

    That’s not science, it’s voodoo.

    Liked by 1 person

  90. P.S. the table below shows the Climate Survey questions each labelled series in the chart above came from (there’s more series in there too).

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  91. Mark: P.P.S. Islam shows no exception on the charts above. All the main faiths including Christianity (all brands), Islam (all brands), Hindu, Buddhism, whatever, all conform. And indeed this is still so whether a nation has a mix of faiths. The only thing that matters is national religiosity, i.e. how much the national population believe in whatever faith / faiths are established there.

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  92. Bill, that is a very enightening article and is indeed a very bitter pill to have to swallow:

    “We have to face facts: most people simply accept the mainstream narrative, and with the prospect of the magic spell of a vaccine in the offing, there is little incentive for them to change their minds. The thinking of the great majority of our fellow citizens can be summarised as: a few more months of this and then it will be spring, things will be back to normal, and we can forget about all of this.

    Why is it that so few of our fellow citizens seem willing to even listen to arguments which we find so convincing? There are undoubtedly lots of reasons, but I think it is at least in part due simply to a failure of strategy on the part of sceptics. That is, we have made arguments that are either factual or which appeal to our love of liberty. Neither of them has had much traction amongst the populace at all.

    First, the problem of making the factual case. I am an academic, somebody who discusses ideas and encourages students to investigate and debate facts for a living. So this has been a very bitter pill for me to swallow indeed, but the reality is that most people are just not actually interested in finding out the truth for themselves. They are much more interested in conforming with what they perceive to be what one could call the ‘moral truth’ – the prevailing moral norm. The prevailing moral norm of 2020 is: lockdowns are the ethically right thing to do because they keep vulnerable safe from dying. To argue against that moral norm is, by definition, both immoral and abnormal. This is the most salient factor in governing behaviour in our society right now.”

    We live in a post normal, post factual, post rational, post Enlightenment era. Hence policy can be made up and implemented on the basis of virtually no real evidence. This is a tragedy for us all. If it becomes the new normal, it will be the downfall of us all.

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  93. The above will come back to haunt us all when we re-engage in the climate wars. Facts, science, data and evidence are not going to be enough to counter climate change alarmism. Somehow, we have to craft a new moral truth of our own which will counter the pernicious concept of ‘climate justice’.

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  94. Bill,

    Well, yes and no. You are right in pointing out that, in order to influence people, an emotional argument is often more effective than a plea to rationality. However, that does not invalidate my own point, which was simply to indicate the technically correct way of formulating a causal narrative.

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  95. John,

    It really doesn’t matter how rational your facts are, if you can’t persuade people of the moral truth of your arguments, you are just another voice in the wilderness.

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  96. Bill,

    As I have said, I am not disputing your point regarding the importance of a moral truth, I am simply pointing out that the statement you claimed to be incorrect is, in fact, correct when taken within its original context, i.e. “…the correct approach [towards determining a correct causal narrative] should be to propose a new causal model based upon new science and then see how this model stands up to the new epidemiological data.” The rhetorical value of having the correct causal narrative is quite a different question.

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  97. Re the article. It is not wrong to accept the powerful utility of a vaccine, which seems to be somewhat implied.

    Jaime: “Somehow, we have to craft a new moral truth of our own…”
    Article: “What we need to emphasise, in other words, is not reason, or not reason alone, but emotion.”

    A huge danger with this is that it will almost certainly become as disconnected from reality as any other emotive / cultural motivation. They develop an inertia of their own that cannot possibly be controlled.

    Despite reason does not work when pitted against (systemic / herd) emotion, the answer will not lie in swapping reason for a similar phenomenon to that which is being fought. I don’t believe it’s possible to ride those tigers, though many have tried. The answer is to stop the emotive / cultural wave becoming dominant in the first place. Which doesn’t mean I know how to do that.

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  98. Yes Andy. I think I have said before now on this site, if saving the world must entail the abandonment of rationality, then we will only end up with a world not worth saving.

    As for stopping the emotive / cultural wave from becoming dominant in the first place, part of the difficulty there is the astonishing rapidity with which such a dominance can sometimes establish itself. For example, the ‘new variant transmissibility’ meme achieved dominance a lot quicker than the genetic variance to which it refers. All it needed, it seems, was a single superspreading event in the right quarter of influence and the very next morning it was already unassailable!

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  99. Andy, a new moral truth need not necessarily be disconnected from reality. All you need are facts which people can emotionally connect with as opposed to facts which they find hard to emotionally connect with, e.g. ‘lockdowns deprive parents of contact with their disabled children’ vs. ‘there is no statistical evidence that lockdowns work’. What is concerning of course is that even stressing the social and psychological harms of lockdowns appears not to have provoked an emotional response in the brainwashed and fear-driven majority. Maybe lockdown sceptics just didn’t try hard enough, I don’t know.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9069447/Disabled-childrens-families-devastated-Xmas-visiting-ban.html

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  100. Hi Jaime, thanks for the links to your two 2020 articles that you say ” .. suggested very early on that there were close similarities between Covid science and Climate science .. “.

    Your April article acknowledged the fundamental difference between the CACC fantasy and the genuine Covid19 pandemic and drew comparisons between the reactions of politicians, computer modellers and others to the two scares. I found nothing in either article that addressed any science, but maybe I read too quickly. What they did was address the models used in both cases as a (very inferior?) substitute for proper science.

    You acknowledged that in a comment following your July article ” .. I’m pointing out the real parallels between epidemiological modelling and climate modelling .. ” (https://cliscep.com/2020/07/02/covid-climate-contrarianism-two-sides-of-the-same-coin/#comment-55155).

    Although the Covid19 pandemic has temporarily pushed CACC scaremongering out of the media limelight I have no doubt that those who use the CACC hypothesis as a means to unrelated ends (such as the principals behind the Extinction Rebellion organisation) will be keeping a keen eye on the control techniques being tried out under the guise of Covid19.

    Conspiracy reigns..

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  101. Jaime: I disagree. You speak as though it’s possible to control the ratio of emotive and factual content. But above a certain threshold, which is variable per situation and no-one knows where it lies in any situation anyhow, the emotive content will control itself. That’s why it’s so powerful, why it’s so hard to fight, and why attempting to harness it is so dangerous. Even the ancient Greeks were well aware of emotive bias and warned of its dangers. I am absolutely with John (just above) on this one. And also too his second point that it’s hard to combat any single incident, let alone a systemic wave of them. But the way to go may also come from the medical analogy; vaccimes are vaccinations against memes, and a wide spectrum one is necessary. This would pre-empt events. The whole area is fraught with other problems, because administering vaccimes can itself seem like propaganda to a suspicious public even when they are perfectly legit. In any case, it seems likely that one day society will have to be as much invested in vaccimes as vaccines, though I doubt I’ll ever see this.

    Re the social harms of lockdown not provoking enough emotive reaction; if they had done so, enough to overcome the rampant fear, l think by definition one has have lost control of the narrative, as this is not so much putting the fire out but replying with an even bigger fire. Plus, in attempting to play this game (emotive equivalences and fire-power, and indeed the notion that we could control same), we are attempting to outmatch probably about 100 million years of evolved reactions, and I think we’re a very long way indeed from having a clue how to do that. The reactions will do what they want if we encourage them in any way, and frequently, even if we do everything (rational) to stop them.

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  102. Jaime, Andy

    I agree that we should attempt to counteract the focussing effect, in which decisions are taken based upon a somewhat narrow consideration of the pros and cons. To that extent, all moral dimensions should be explored. However, I also agree with Andy, insofar as I would hate to get drawn into a battle of the fear-mongers. I also recoil instinctively at the idea of ‘vaccimes’. Let’s please agree to leave that to the John Cooks of this world. I’m prepared to be a lone voice as long as it is a voice of reason.

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  103. Interesting exchange re rationality and morality. Reminds of Jordan Peterson’s book Maps of Meaning. Some pertinent excerpts:

    “The world can be validly construed as a forum for action, as well as a place of things. We describe the world as a place of things, using the formal methods of science. The techniques of narrative, however—myth, literature and drama—portray the world as a forum for action. The two forms of representation have been unnecessarily set at odds, because we have not yet formed a clear picture of their respective domains. The domain of the former is the objective world—what is, from the perspective of intersubjective perception. The domain of the latter is the world of value—what is and what should be, from the perspective of emotion and action.”

    “No complete world-picture can be generated without use of both modes of construal. The fact that one mode is generally set at odds with the other means only that the nature of their respective domains remains insufficiently discriminated. Adherents of the mythological worldview tend to regard the statements of their creeds as indistinguishable from empirical “fact,” even though such statements were generally formulated long before the notion of objective reality emerged. Those who, by contrast, accept the scientific perspective—who assume that it is, or might become, complete—forget that an impassable gulf currently divides what is from what should be.”

    “The “natural,” pre-experimental, or mythical mind is in fact primarily concerned with meaning—which is essentially implication for action—and not with “objective” nature. . .And, in truth—in real life—to know what something is still means to know two things about it: its motivational relevance, and the specific nature of its sensory qualities. The two forms of knowing are not identical; furthermore, experience and registration of the former necessarily precedes development of the latter. Something must have emotional impact before it will attract enough attention to be explored and mapped in accordance with its sensory properties.”

    “We have lost the mythic universe of the pre-experimental mind, or have at least ceased to further its development. That loss has left our increased technological power ever more dangerously at the mercy of our still unconscious systems of valuation.”

    Prior to the time of Descartes, Bacon and Newton, man lived in an animated, spiritual world, saturated with meaning, imbued with moral purpose. The nature of this purpose was revealed in the stories people told each other—stories about the structure of the cosmos and the place of man. But now we think empirically (at least we think we think empirically), and the spirits that once inhabited the universe have vanished.”

    “Our systems of post-experimental thought and our systems of motivation and action therefore co-exist in paradoxical union. One is “up-to-date”; the other, archaic. One is scientific; the other, traditional, even superstitious. We have become atheistic in our description, but remain evidently religious—that is, moral—in our disposition.”

    “We have become trapped by our own capacity for abstraction: it provides us with accurate descriptive information but also undermines our belief in the utility and meaning of existence. This problem has frequently been regarded as tragic (it seems to me, at least, ridiculous)—and has been thoroughly explored in existential philosophy and literature.”

    “Our constant cross-cultural interchanges and our capacity for critical reasoning have undermined our faith in the traditions of our forebears, perhaps for good reason. However, the individual cannot live without belief—without action and valuation—and science cannot provide that belief. We must nonetheless put our faith into something. Are the myths we have turned to since the rise of science more sophisticated, less dangerous, and more complete than those we rejected?”

    “The ideological structures that dominated social relations in the twentieth century appear no less absurd, on the face of it, than the older belief systems they supplanted; they lacked, in addition, any of the incomprehensible mystery that necessarily remains part of genuinely artistic and creative production. The fundamental propositions of fascism and communism were rational, logical, statable, comprehensible—and terribly wrong.”

    Way too much I fear. For those interested, I did a synopsis in a series of posts, these excerpts coming from the first one:

    https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2019/02/20/cosmic-dichotomy-petersons-pearls-1/

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  104. John: “I also recoil instinctively at the idea of ‘vaccimes’. ”

    Indeed they have their (great) dangers, and in fact cultures regularly deploy them against competitors too (although this shows they can be very worthwhile). Cook isn’t using them at all, but promoting cultural narrative under the cloak of their name. In any case, I think you’d likely be okay with, for instance, “take nobody’s word for it”, which is the simple vaccime very usefully employed for centuries by the Royal Society. The fact that they don’t anymore, is evidence that indeed it’s a constant war, just like the medical analogy, and vaccimes can be overcome / bypassed too.

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  105. John: “I agree that we should attempt to counteract the focussing effect, in which decisions are taken based upon a somewhat narrow consideration of the pros and cons.”

    I agree with this. And indeed it seems that cons may sometimes be ignored altogether. However, the great part about this approach, is that it provides a platform whereby morals / emotions can be largely bypassed. Pros and Cons can be measured or at least estimated against each other, and the very action of doing so tends to reduce emotive factors, whereas consideration of one side alone tends to allow the emotive factors to grow / dominate. A vaccime may therefore be: take NO action without consideration of the full range of pros and cons. The traditional emotive attack on this is that Rome is burning while you do it. Might even be hard to argue against in a situation like the start of covid, but not 10 months in…

    There was essentially no consideration of cons at all in the NearNetZero parliamentary approval, whereas even the most basic consideration would have revealed that it’s infeasible on the timescale, and possibly at all. Had such a basic consideration taken place, it would have needed no fear or moral panic on the con side to establish this, and indeed the true advantage is that any such consideration would suck a lot of the emotion out of all sides, coming down to comparative costs etc. And that’s even if the main justification of dangerous climate change is maintained.

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  106. John. Yes, I read it at the time. It’s a sham. Climate change skepticism (generally) isn’t a culture; that’s why it’s all over the place and doesn’t have a policed cultural narrative. Hence you can’t inoculate against it. Bulk skepticsim in non-US publics comes from Innate Skeptcism (see my Climate Etc post), so isn’t rational either, but is a defence mechanism against over-culturalisation, and so can only occur in reaction to culture. In the US public, most bulk skepticism comes from Rep/Con cultural loyalty (although there’s some of the above effect as well), hence you *can* inoculate against this, but most effectively using the normal Dem/Lib armoury. Cook is essentially just smearing sources and pre-pushing the consensus and such,, all of which will for sure have an effect, but they are standard cultural actions he’s merely justified as being inoculation. His efforts, and similar misappropriation, are maybe what has given you the heebee-jeebies about vaccimes. But it’s nonsense. The example of the Royal Society motto is the right sort of thing to think about.

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  107. Ron: “Adherents of the mythological worldview tend to regard the statements of their creeds as indistinguishable from empirical “fact,” even though such statements were generally formulated long before the notion of objective reality emerged.”

    Unfortunately, presenting cultural narrative as fact is also true of the more modern and often secular mythologies, which formed long after the notion of objective reality emerged, and which can even hi-jack the tools we use to best see objective reality. He appears to acknowledge this further down, e.g. wrt communism and fascism.

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  108. Given that this discussion has moved a little, including onto the question of how do climate sceptic deal with climate alarmism that won’t look at facts, but relies instead on emotion and morality, there are moral and emotive arguments against the effects of the policies espoused by climate alarmists to “save the planet” – namely that they cause huge ecological (and sometimes other) harms. Some of us have been banging on about that for years, and it may be a constructive route to take. Why, even the Guardian has, albeit very belatedly, woken up to this inconvenient truth:

    “Child labour, toxic leaks: the price we could pay for a greener future”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/03/child-labour-toxic-leaks-the-price-we-could-pay-for-a-greener-future

    “Our mission to create cleaner living using natural resources could itself cause widespread environmental harm, scientists now warn

    The battle to stave off Earth’s looming climate crisis is driving engineers to develop hosts of new green technologies. Wind and solar plants are set to replace coal and gas power stations, while electric cars oust petrol and diesel vehicles from our roads. Slowly our dependance on fossil fuels is set to diminish and so ease global heating.

    But scientists warn there will be an environmental price to pay for this drive to create a world powered by green technology. Prospecting for the materials to construct these devices, then mining them, could have very serious ecological consequences and major impacts on biodiversity, they say.

    “The move towards net zero carbon emissions is going to create new stresses on our planet, at least in the short term,” said Prof Richard Herrington, head of earth sciences at the Natural History Museum, London. “We are going to have to learn how to consider profit and loss with regard to ecosystems just as we do now when we are considering economic issues.”

    Metals such as lithium and cobalt provide examples of the awkward issues that lie ahead, said Herrington. Both elements are needed to make lightweight rechargeable batteries for electric cars and for storing power from wind and solar plants. Their production is likely to increase significantly over the next decade – and that could cause serious ecological problems.

    In the case of cobalt, 60% of the world’s supply comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo where large numbers of unregulated mines use children as young as seven as miners. There they breathe in cobalt-laden dust that can cause fatal lung ailments while working tunnels that are liable to collapse.

    “Men, women and children are working without even the most basic protective equipment such as gloves and face masks,” said Mark Dummett of Amnesty International, which has investigated the cobalt-mining crisis in DRC. “In one village we visited, people showed us how the water in the local stream that they drank was contaminated by the discharge of waste from a mineral processing plant.”

    Then there is the issue of lithium mining. World production is set to soar over the next decade. Yet mining is linked to all sorts of environmental headaches. In the so-called Lithium Triangle of South America – made up of Chile, Argentina and Bolivia – vast quantities of water are pumped from underground sources to help extract lithium from ores, and this has been linked to the lowering of ground water levels and the spread of deserts. Similarly in Tibet, a toxic chemical leak from the Ganzizhou Rongda Lithium mine poisoned the local Lichu river in 2016 and triggered widespread protests in the region.

    Nor will these ecological problems be confined to specialist metals, analysts have pointed out. They say that rising demands for traditional materials such as cement – for building hydro-electric dams – or for copper, to provide cables to link wind and solar farms to cities and to build electric cars, could also cause widespread environmental damage unless care is taken.

    Our growing appetite for copper provides a striking illustration of the issues. Thousands of tonnes are needed to create wind or solar power devices while electric vehicles use two or three times more copper than those powered by a diesel or petrol engine. As a result, the world’s appetite for copper is likely to jump by more than 300% by 2050, according to one recent report.

    “You need tens of kilograms more copper for an electric car compared with one with a petrol engine,” said Herrington. “That means, if you want to turn all the UK’s 31m cars into electric vehicles you would require about 12% of the world’s entire copper output – just for Britain. That is an unrealistic demand, given that we are hoping to be making electric cars only within a decade.”

    Harrington said it was inevitable that there would an expansion in mining and in providing energy for refining ores which, combined, would have real environmental impacts. “We are going to have to do that in a way that creates profits but also serves people and the planet.”…

    …One solution put forward to these green technology problems would be to limit the exploitation of resources on land and turn instead to the sea to gather the materials we need. Several promising marine sources have been pinpointed, with the most attention focusing on metal nodules which litter some parts of the ocean floor. These potato-sized globs of mineral are rich in copper, cobalt, manganese and other metals. According to the International Seabed Authority, some deposits contain millions of tonnes of cobalt, copper and manganese.

    As a result, several organisations are now surveying the most promising of these deposits, in particular the Clarion-Clipperton Zone in international waters in the Pacific Ocean. These could be hoovered up using robot submersibles that would criss-cross the 4.5m sq km that make up the zone.

    However, recent research by marine scientists have also revealed that despite the Clarion-Clipperton Zone’s depth – it lies between 4,000 and 5,500 metres below the surface – the ocean floor there is also rich is sea-life. One survey, in 2017, found more than 30 species new to science living on the zone’s abysmal plain, most of them xenophyophores – considered the world’s largest living single-celled organisms.

    Hoovering up the nodules could devastate these life forms, marine scientists have warned. “At present, we still don’t have enough data about the sea floor to be sure what the impact would be of mining there,” said Adrian Glover, a deep-sea ecology researcher at the Natural History Museum.

    “However, when we do, it’s going to be a big question for society. If these are environments rich in biodiversity that could be easily damaged, will it be better or worse to exploit them compared with exploiting our rainforests on land? That could be a very difficult issue to resolve.”

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  109. Mark’s post above on the environmental and human costs of electric cars and other ‘Green’ measures to ensure a ‘habitable climate’ for future generations and even to mitigate the ‘climate change that is here and now’ in the form of extreme weather (allegedly) illustrates what I was saying about the need to forge a moral dimension to scepticism, one which people can connect emotionally to. Andy disagrees and argues that the emotive response will inevitably get out of control and create more problems than it solves. But what’s the alternative? Such a strategy will probably be more successful in the case of climate mitigation as the moral case for climate action has not been so strongly impregnated into the populace as the moral case for Covid action (lockdowns) so obviously has, to the point that lockdowns have now been elevated to the status of a sacred value:

    “We hypothesized that because Covid-19 (C19) remains an urgent and visible threat, efforts to combat its negative health consequences have become moralized. This moralization of health-based efforts may generate asymmetries in judgement, whereby harmful by-products of those efforts (i.e., instrumental harm) are perceived as more acceptable than harm resulting from non-C19 efforts, such as prioritizing the economy or non-C19 issues.

    This finding suggests questioning elimination approaches is morally condemned, a similar response to that found when sacred values are questioned. In both studies, condition effects were mediated by lowered moral outrage in response to costs resulting from pursuing health-minded C19 efforts. Follow-up analyses revealed that both heightened personal concern over contracting C19 and liberal ideology were associated with greater asymmetries in human cost evaluation. Altogether, results suggest reducing or eliminating C19 have become moralized, generating asymmetries in evaluations of human suffering.”

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103120304248#bb0295

    To prevent a similar asymmetry developing in the evaluation of climate mitigation costs vs. climate mitigation harms, it is vital to establish the harms of climate mitigations, not only quantitatively, but qualitatively, so that people can establish some sort of moral and emotional connection to the arguments against climate mitigation. Net Zero will be achieved only at a huge human cost, quite apart from the financial cost. That argument needs to be made urgently as Boris the Red prepares to plunge us all into climate lockdowns once he’s finished dismantling society and the economy via the Covid lockdowns. First up he plans to socially distance us from our gas boilers, woodburning stoves, and our petrol and diesel cars.

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  110. Jaime: “Such a strategy will probably be more successful in the case of climate mitigation as the moral case for climate action has not been so strongly impregnated into the populace as the moral case for Covid action (lockdowns) so obviously has, to the point that lockdowns have now been elevated to the status of a sacred value:”

    I disagree. Saving the planet has been inculcated into the populace as sacred over decades. Unlike the covid case, where the fear should subside when a real (albeit exaggerated) physical threat subsides, no-one has really been seriously threatened by CC yet, no one is likely to be in the forseeable future (there is nothing that couldn’t be avoided with mild mitigations), and so the cultural fear can’t subside with some physical phenomenon, because there isn’t one to subside. It’s a *cultural* fear, and it’ll remain entrenched. For how long, who knows? There are 180 examples of catastrophe narrative that demonstrate its propagation by prime ministers, presidents, UN elite and practically every other authority source across the globe, as the ultimate existential and moral issue, here: https://curryja.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/footnotes.pdf

    “To prevent a similar asymmetry developing in the evaluation of climate mitigation costs vs. climate mitigation harms…”

    Unfortunately, too late I think!

    “Net Zero will be achieved only at a huge human cost, quite apart from the financial cost. That argument needs to be made urgently as Boris the Red prepares to plunge us all into climate lockdowns once he’s finished dismantling society and the economy via the Covid lockdowns. First up he plans to socially distance us from our gas boilers, woodburning stoves, and our petrol and diesel cars.”

    I agree with this. I only disagree that attempting to make this a scare factor, a primarily emotive and not factual argument, is advisable, nor indeed optimal anyhow. When one scare factor slugs it out with another, there’s even less reason in play, and polarisation often occurs. it also makes it far easier for those who, unfortunately, have already hi-jacked science to be on their side, to say – ‘this is scare tactics, not science’. The ultimate irony, I know, but from their current platform, this is likely the reality.

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  111. Andy,

    “Saving the planet has been inculcated into the populace as sacred over decades.”

    How can something so sacred come at the bottom of a list of priorities? You suggest it’s a sacred value which nobody’s too concerned about because it isn’t affecting them.

    I say you can’t simultaneously have a high moral value assigned by the public to climate change mitigation, yet have climate change mitigation right at the bottom of a list of the public’s priorities!

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  112. @ Jaime climate change is at the bottom of the priority list where people don’t already have all the things above it in the list, at least to a tolerable degree. It has risen to the top of our priorities because we have enough of those things (for the time being).

    @ Mark I think they meant “abyssal” plain not “abysmal”, tho’ it might well be abysmal too.

    Re: emotions and pros and cons, I am with those who wish to bring emotion into the “fight”. Use of reason seems hopeless. Eventually the emotion brought by the pain of climate mitigation will bubble over. Just yesterday the secretary of state approved Hornsea 3 (while acknowledging that “73” kittiwakes will be killed by it every year). (I have not had time to inspect the model used to calculate “73”, but based on experience it is likely to be entirely false precision based on near-nonsensical assumptions: if they’re still using the model I’m familiar with, it’s called the Band model, if anyone wants to look it up.)

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  113. Jaime: “I say you can’t simultaneously have a high moral value assigned by the public to climate change mitigation, yet have climate change mitigation right at the bottom of a list of the public’s priorities!”

    You exactly can! That’s exactly how the sacred works!

    This same UN survey is the very one that is the trend ‘WC’ in the chart I included in the comment at 12:29pm today, above (where it is plotted by [48] nations, against religiosity). This chart demonstrates that Catastrophic Climate-Change Culture (CCCC) interacts with *all* the main Faiths in the exactly same manner, and on the same footing as them, to give the systemic set of trends shown. If you want to understand a lot more about these trends and why they show various contradictions, read this file here:
    https://curryja.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/summary-religiosity-predicts-cc-beliefs-2.docx

    In very brief, cultural entities, of which Religions are the most familiar example to most people, have gross contradictions at their very heart, not least because our brains *subconsciously* know that the moral / emotive / existential issues they raise are *not* true! Hence the reality-constrained responses (orange), seriously diverge from unconstrained responses (blue), the latter of which are ‘pure’ as it were, virtue signalling, but the former of which are forced into some compromise by consideration of some reality (increasingly as the ‘strength’ of constraint grows). Strength for the blue trends, represents the amount of emotional bias to CCCC. What you see in the chart is the interaction of *two* such cultures, i.e. trad religion and CCCC, are allied (for the unconstrained responses), but compete (for the reality-constrained). Look at the ultimate contradiction in highly religious countries (RHS), where the greatest concern in the world for climate change in response to unconstrained questions (e.g. how much will it impact me and mine?) happens in the very same countries that have the *least* support for action when ranked against other policies (i.e. a reality constraint), on any of the orange trends, of which the weakest is the UN survey, and by the time you get to the strongest constraint, shows less than 10% support in any country.

    It is exactly because, just like for real religion, these contradictions are easily measurable, that we know CCCC *is* behaving just like a religion, with a ‘sacred’ / emotive / existential narrative at its heart. If folks (I refer not to you but to anyone thinking to have a serious article on the subject) are going to compare things with formal religions running on sacred narrative, it’s a great idea to know how these work in the first place, and what to expect from belief in them, prior to the comparison.

    We can’t make such measurements for covid, and I’m not saying it hasn’t temporarily achieved some kind of similar status. But being ultimately from raw fear, not from the ‘artificial’ fears of culture, it will not likely have the same complete contradictions at its heart, and furthermore, what effects it has managed to achieve will fade again, *unless* they have enough time to latch into a formal culture. If they do, then indeed just like for CCCC, you would see *more* virtue signalling, but much *less* drive for action which perforce must compete with other policies / issues, and hence is reality-constrained. This is simply what happens when people believe in ‘sacred’ narratives, it’s a fundamentally contradictory system hard-wired into us (from group selection) and bypassing rationality. At the moment, it seems to me that covid does not act dominantly like that, because there still seems to be much less contradiction between the virtue signalling and the real (bad though it may seem), and hence it’s still quite some distance to go, and is not ultimately cultural yet but fear-driven, albeit a herd panic.

    For clarity, I don’t think we should at any point skirt moral issues. We are none of us Vulcans, the public aren’t Vulcans, we do not work on flat fact alone, clearly. But we should take a bounded approach to this, more in line with John’s leanings I think. Indeed Ridley and Lomborg and others have done exactly this on fronts like bio-fuels / fuel poverty / eco-colonialism. And I think they have developed strong positions over the years in doing so. But I’m pretty certain I’ve already read about them being bashed by the consensus for ‘fear-mongering’ (inappropriately bashed, of course), and any serious attempt to inflate these issues as something that would run mainly on emotion, not reason, in order to ‘outgun’ CCCC, will likely be a disaster, and in any case is an open door for the consensus to fire broadside after broadside about scaremongering, which could not be refuted if, essentially, they *were* doing that to try and super-power their argument. At the moment, the consensus hold the platform that claims to be science and reason, not the skeptics. Nor even the lukewarmers or more neutral / reasonable figures.

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  114. “Nor even the lukewarmers or more neutral / reasonable figures”

    I don’t in any way mean these folks are more reasonable than skeptics, but for sure would be perceived as more reasonable by the consensus.

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  115. “For clarity, I don’t think we should at any point skirt moral issues.”

    i.e. in the CC case or the covid case; I example the former here.

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  116. Jit, I spotted the typo in the article, but you have to make allowances. It was in the Grauniad.

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  117. Jit,

    It’s all very well drawing attention to the 73 kittiwakes to be killed each year by the wind farm, but you are forgetting that the developers will be building extra breeding towers for the colony at Bempton Cliffs, and they have a computer model to predict how many extra kittiwakes this will produce. Give me a minute and I’ll just work it out for you.

    Yes, it’s just as I thought. According to the model, exactly 73 extra kittiwakes.

    So that’s alright then. It’s just like plant-a-tree. In fact, I can’t understand why Bob Geldoff was getting so upset. It’s not as though the Ethiopians were not going to replace the dead children.

    It’s fun, this moral argument stuff. I think I am getting quite good at it.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-55509225

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  118. OK, thanks Andy. Staying on morality and the subject of the ‘new strain’, here is the former President of the NEU suggesting that teachers are prioritised as key workers for the vaccine and so get to jump the queue ahead of more vulnerable members of society, because she ‘believes’ that the ‘new strain’ is somehow a greater threat in schools – yet NO evidence as far as I am aware has been published to suggest that this is the case.

    I actually queried those in the know whether there was any new evidence for this variant being actually more transmissible, especially among children and was met by silence, so I’m presuming there isn’t for the time being. ‘New mutant strain’ as far as I can see was just a ploy to get the ball rolling on harder lockdowns and it’s worked a treat, with the splendid cooperation of the media, politicians and witless c’lebs mouthing off their sadistic CCP-inspired fantasies on social media.

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  119. Sir John Bell spouting evidence-free, pseudoscientific bullshit on the ‘new variants’ for the benefit of scare-mongerer-in-chief and child abuse supporter Piers Morgan:

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  120. Rest assured, when the virus is disappearing in the rear view mirror, these same people will more likely than not be on your side of the argument, Jaime, bemoaning the state of the economy and shedding tears over the social suffering stemming from it, without a single shred of remorse or apology that they demanded much worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  121. Jaime: “Even barristers are conspiracy theorists nowadays.”

    I’m not sure that barristers would be particularly different or immune in this respect. However, in his personal case, I suspect he might just want to make it look like his prediction made before the 2019 election, was prescient: “If the Tories get a majority, before long we will no longer have a democracy.” But of course, he did not mean via any kind of process that is happening now because of covid, which wasn’t either known or guessed of at that time. By the tone of some of his tweets about Brexit catastrophe and the ‘far right’ (in which perhaps he may consider some Tories) and indeed it seems his moral opposition to a raft of Tory policies from immigration to keeping Scotland in the Union and much more, it seems unlikely his tweet you paste above is coming from a position of objective balance. These views are his absolute right, but it may not stop me from guessing he might sell his granny if this would give him a way to get at Boris, let alone take a controversial stance on covid.

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  122. Andy, you don’t think perhaps that this might now go beyond partisan politics?

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  123. “Andy, you don’t think perhaps that this might now go beyond partisan politics?”

    Of course it does. It’s a herd panic. Do I think that means it necessarily eliminates all strong motives of partisan politics too, especially where they’ve been so emotively and consistently stated? No way.

    Binder is a beep-beep fail. Holocaust project was enacted to deliberately exterminate people. If there is a single shred of evidence of any kind that this is the deliberate and nefarious motivation here, no one appears to have yet provided this. While one might comment he was only using that event to size the ‘dimensions’, which are wrong anyhow as so far about 4 times more died in the Holocaust yet Binder nevertheless says covid is ‘orders of magnitude’ worse, the metaphor is chosen to *emotively* convince people of nefarious intent, which hence will avoid all science and reason.

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  124. Andy,

    100 million people in the Third World pushed into extreme poverty by lockdowns in rich Western nations – so far. Famines will follow. Mass unemployment in the developed world, millions of small businesses destroyed, suicides increasing, depression, anxiety, lack of access to vital health care. Tot up the quality of life years lost so far and those that will be lost. This is just the beginning. Call it intentional or call it collateral damage conveniently ignored – the distinction is merely technical. It’s a slaughter. Binder is right to call it out.

    But back to the ‘mutant new strain’ farce. How does it explain this (thread)? Why are ‘cases’ shooting up simultaneously in all areas of the UK? It’s just not plausible. Why are excess deaths from Covid mirroring lack of excess deaths from all other causes?

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  125. Andy, here’s a fun tweet by Fawcett, who seems to be a bit of a bargain basement Lew when it comes to Brexit:

    twitter.com/BarristerNF/status/1337840449193652230

    @guyverhofstadt I think it is a dangerous mistake to compare this [the Royal Navy patrolling the Channel] to 70s/80s jingoism. It has superficial similarities, but it is far, far worse. It is a far-right coup that has been long in the making, with support from Russia.

    He’s better value than Lew because he’s less careful with his language. For Fawcett, it’s all about actual fascists, not fascist-enablers and the other circumlocutions used by Lew. Plus he’s more open about his conspiracy theories.

    Same old crap, though.

    This search should dig up other fun stuff by the esteemed barrister:

    https://twitter.com/search?q=fascist%20OR%20coup%20OR%20collapse%20OR%20authoritarian%20from%3ABarristerNF&src=typed_query&f=live

    There was also a bit of quantum crankery in there for a while but someone told him it was unscientific, so he ditched it. Good man!

    Also in his favour: like Lew, he thinks XR’s antics are silly and counterproductive.

    Liked by 1 person

  126. Jaime: “…the distinction is merely technical. It’s a slaughter. Binder is right to call it out”

    Then he should call out what he feels is the heavy downside *appropriately*. I.e. only using reason, *without* implying a motive of deliberate and nefarious intent to mass slaughter unless he can fully back that up, again with direct reason and evidence of the specifically revealed-to-be-nefarious actions, and absolutely not via the most heinous metaphor we can pretty much deploy in modern times, which will do nothing but flood his line of argument with emotion at the expense of all science and reason. This is anything but a technical distinction, it’s about as far from such as one can get.

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  127. “Then he should call out what he feels is the heavy downside *appropriately*. I.e. only using reason, *without* implying a motive of deliberate and nefarious intent to mass slaughter unless he can fully back that up.”

    I agree Andy, but that’s not what Binder did. You read that in what he said. Not the same.

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  128. Jaime: “You read that in what he said. Not the same.”

    That’s the whole point of a wildly emotive argument. This is how it will be interpreted. With slaughter, already implying intent, and then the Holocaust deployed as egregious metaphor. Nothing with such content is an argument, it’s an emotive device, words that think for us. It emotively morphs the focus away from the downsides that need to be communicated (properly), to nefarious intent, which makes it an utter fail too. Every bit as bad as those deployed in the name of global warming apocalypse, the holocaust implication in deniers, and indeed latterly a few more-lockdown-or-die narratives.

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  129. Andy, we disagree most profoundly on this. You think there is a danger in overplaying the emotional response by using an inappropriate rhetorical device. I think the rhetoric is entirely appropriate and the danger is that people do not perceive the enormity of what is actually happening and connect with it emotionally. Millions of lives are at stake due to lockdowns, an order of magnitude more than were murdered during the Holocaust. The only difference is that there is no proven intent to murder people, BUT there is proof that lockdowns do NOT work, that they are far more harmful than potentially beneficial and that they are being implemented on the basis of extremely dubious or even fraudulent data. It is beyond all doubt that governments are aware of these facts, yet they still implement lockdowns. This makes lockdowns a global crime against humanity, as Dr Binder rightly points out. They also appear to be highly coordinated, which implies the existence of an over-arching plan.

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  130. Jaime. We do indeed disagree. I think reason and objectivity make the best arguments, and lurid emotion not only make the very worst, they will ultimately betray whatever cause you set them to.

    “I think the rhetoric is entirely appropriate and the danger is that people do not perceive the enormity of what is actually happening and connect with it emotionally”

    Heavy rhetoric is never appropriate, and this is drenched it it. Slaughter (intent to kill), Holocaust (worst intent within modern history), orders of magnitude (plural, so a minimum of two, meaning more than 600,000,000 slaughtered). Nothing with this kind of content is an argument, it’s an emotive device. And in this case pitched at establishing intent to kill, rather than objectively highlighting the downsides of strict anti-covid policies. So it even misses the target, and people on *both* sides of the lock-down argument will perceive this emotively and be diverted into fights about whether all the governments of the world deliberately and nefariously set out to slaughter their own populations. Plus very many who share your aims will reject this exactly because it is emotively beyond Mars, and heavily undermining their efforts.

    When you are called a ‘denier’ for raising a perfectly legit question about orthodox climate science, and object, pointing out the entirely inappropriate Holocaust and so horrible anti-reason implication, what is your reply when they say “you are just reading that into it”? While both they and you know full-well that very many in the galleries will now indeed perceive you to be as bad as a Holocaust denier, an anti-reason and cruel loon of the first order, via an *emotive* power to convince that circumvents all logic and reason in said folks. When you object further, and perhaps push a couple of your interlocuters to admit that indeed the term was deployed as an emotive device, they justify this by saying “the rhetoric is entirely appropriate and the danger is that people do not perceive the enormity of what is actually happening and connect with it emotionally. Millions of lives are at stake .” The exact argument that indeed has been made in the Consensus camp, in their more lucid moments. Heavy emotive devices are wrong in all arguments, not just those one might object to.

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  131. aaaagggghhh, I used angle brackets and some disappeared. Again with square ones:

    “the rhetoric is entirely appropriate and the danger is that people do not perceive the enormity of what is actually happening [with attacks on climate science] and connect with it emotionally. Millions of lives are at stake [and you are risking those lives by attacking the science].” The exact argument that indeed has been made in the Consensus camp, in their more lucid moments. Heavy emotive devices are wrong in all arguments, not just those one might object to.

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  132. “They also appear to be highly coordinated, which implies the existence of an over-arching plan”

    It implies nothing of the sort. Covid plus hemisphere winters are the global phenomena that provides time synchronisation, and the herd panic of populations, recorded throughout the ages, provides the similarity of responses across every different system and regime of government, very many of whom would not co-operate in their worst dreams. Albeit aeroplanes and trains and other interconnectedness factors have made it somewhat swifter and more universal (few countries remain backwaters now). Ridley and others have noted lockdowns and mask usage in prior pandemics a century and more back, especially in the US which was advanced in such techniques compared to some other countries. And from recall, judged to be effective too. A number of species have strong social distancing instincts during times of pandemic and change their behaviours; I don’t think they have governments motivated to control them for nefarious reasons. Only some direct evidence of an over-arching deliberate plan would distinguish these entirely normal (which doesn’t necessarily mean all good and scientific, but regular; historically / evolutionarily expected) reactions from the nefarious.

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  133. Jaime, at 10.10pm yesterday: “… there is proof that lockdowns do NOT work, that they are far more harmful than potentially beneficial and that they are being implemented on the basis of extremely dubious or even fraudulent data.”

    I wouldn’t put it so strongly as that, but I’m starting to suspect that lockdowns don’t work IN THEIR OWN TERMS, and in those terms might even be counter-productive. That’s quite apart from the collateral damage they cause.

    IF (and in my mind, it’s still an “if”, a suspicion only) lockdowns don’t work, then the idea that because they’re not working, we need to double-down on them, is definitely entirely counter-productive. However, it’s one of those things that’s difficult to prove either way. If you point out that we’ve been increasingly locked-down for weeks, and the number of positive tests, hospitalisations and deaths from (or with) Covid have continued to rise, ergo locking-down isn’t working, you’re met with the response that it would have been so much worse without the restrictions.

    My suspicion (albeit one I can’t prove), given the timing of events, is that the rise and fall of Covid in this country is driven far more by the weather/time of year than by measures the authorities take to control it. Last spring it looked as if lockdown had brought the numbers under control, but what if the falling numbers were in fact riven by the glorious weather last spring? Last summer the numbers didn’t rise, despite freedoms being largely (though not entirely) restored, and despite millions flying here, there and everywhere on holiday. Then, in the autumn, cases started to rise, so we started to impose increasing restrictions through the tiers. That didn’t work, numbers continued to rise as we went into winter, so now we’re locking down. My suspicion is that this lockdown won’t work, and if numbers do start to decline it will be a combination of the success (I hope) of the vaccination programme and of the arrival of spring/end of winter. But the lockdown zealots will no doubt claim that it was the lockdown that worked.

    What if lockdowns actually make things worse? Forced to stay at home, with little or no ventilation (it’s winter, it’s cold, why would you open windows?) if one person in the house has it, the whole household will probably catch it. If we’re not allowed out for pretty much anything other than food shopping, then those shops will be full of people (unless numbers are tightly controlled, and this time round I suspect they won’t be) and shopping trips could turn into super-spreader events.

    I’d like more data and reason, and less emotion-driven policy-making by the authorities.

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  134. The Denier analogy is not appropriate Andy. That was a device used by climate alarmists to conflate denial of historical facts (the Nazi Holocaust; they picked on one of the most emotive historical facts that they could find) with the supposed denial of the ‘facts’ of climate change. Stating as fact that the Covid democide is an order of magnitude greater than the Nazi genocide doesn’t provide opponents of climate sceptics or lockdown sceptics with a legitimate weapon to use against you; it just means that they are further using a rhetorical emotive device slightly more sophisticated and evolved than the first.

    There’s much talk of ‘conpiracy theorists’ who are wont to embrace wild theories on the basis of little or no solid evidence. It happens, it’s real, it’s a danger we should be on our guard against. But there is another side to the coin which few bother to consider; the fact that the perenennially incredulous can be similarly inclined to DISBELIEVE the evidence before their eyes on the basis that it is too fantastical to be true.

    Evil did not go to sleep after the atrocities of WW2; it didn’t just disappear, it went quiet, but evil is as fundamental an aspect of human nature as is generosity, kindness, love. We are loathe to admit it naturally. I’ll say it again. Lockdowns are evil; they are a triumph of the human spirit against itself. There is no age old archetypal battle of Good vs. Evil; it is simply humanity at war with its own essential nature. This is not an emotive device; it is simply the truth.

    “Pleased to meet you, guess you know my name; but what’s puzzling you is the nature of my game.”

    Liked by 1 person

  135. Stop denying the truth. We are in the midst of something truly evil and it is killing people and killing the positive human spirit and it will do literally anything to suffocate the opposition. Tell me how this is fundamentally different from Nazi Germany:

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  136. Andy West:
    “I’d like more data and reason, and less emotion-driven policy-making by the authorities.”

    But isn’t that just another version of the cry of the Lesser Spotted Extinction Rebel and the Greater Pol Pot? – “Why can’t everybody be like me, then the world would be at peace?”

    Our little world does and must contain Jaime & Andy & Mark. Isn’t the fact that people react differently to new circumstances an evolutionary plus?

    Mark’s suspicion might be making things worse has been expanded by William Briggs, who makes the same point that lockdown merely concentrates us in less available places to go. If Tesco’s is the only place you’re allowed to go to, then it stands to reason that 100% of transmission is happening in Tesco’s. It really is the Xhosa suicide cult all over again.

    Are your politicians still calling this a war? Macron is. The point of a war is NOT to save as many lives as possible.

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  137. And I’m with Konstantin Kisin:

    And Matt RIdley:

    Demonising disagreement is totally what we don’t need – for clarity of thought.

    You’re totally out of order Jaime. I have no idea why Geoff defends you.

    I also agree with Kisin here:

    Avoiding demonisation leads to clarity of thought.

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  138. Jaime: “The Denier analogy is not appropriate Andy. That was a device used by climate alarmists to conflate denial of historical facts (the Nazi Holocaust; they picked on one of the most emotive historical facts that they could find) with the supposed denial of the ‘facts’ of climate change.”

    It exactly is appropriate. All strongly emotive narratives do something similar, because they are not using facts to start with; powerful emotion is not facts. And in the case of Binder’s vehicle, this conflates heavily the legitimate downsides of strict lockdowns, with a completely unsupported theory of *deliberate intent* by governments all around the world to slaughter 600,000,000 of their own peoples, per the ‘orders of magnitude’ more than the Holocaust (and so exactly per above the most emotive historical event that could be found). In fact this is almost the entire focus of the emotive persuasion here, which will hence largely bypass those legit downsides; remember these vehicles do *not* work via reason, they work by *avoiding* reason.

    “Stating as fact that the Covid democide is an order of magnitude greater than the Nazi genocide doesn’t provide opponents of climate sceptics or lockdown sceptics with a legitimate weapon to use against you; it just means that they are further using a rhetorical emotive device slightly more sophisticated and evolved than the first.”

    This vehicle hasn’t stated any fact. It has presented emotion. If there are researched facts listing the deaths and damage from lockdown (I hope so), then they should be quoted as such, not as the intentional and deliberate ‘slaughter’ of 600,000,000 people, which taken literally (that is how emotion injects!) is as flat wrong as it is possible to be. And indeed it provides opponents with the biggest gift they could have prayed for, a huge red light they can use to say anti-lockdown folks are swivel-eyed loons who genuinely believe that their own governments from whatever country have set out to deliberately slaughter 600,000,000 of them. All such devices discussed so far are about as unsophisticated as it gets.

    “There’s much talk of ‘conpiracy theorists’ who are wont to embrace wild theories on the basis of little or no solid evidence. It happens, it’s real, it’s a danger we should be on our guard against. But there is another side to the coin which few bother to consider; the fact that the perenennially incredulous can be similarly inclined to DISBELIEVE the evidence before their eyes on the basis that it is too fantastical to be true.”

    If the evidence is powerful, you don’t need to substitute an emotive device instead, which device focus is in any case on the *deliberate intent* and not the damage, along the way misrepresenting all the damage as ‘slaughter’. Just present the powerful evidence instead. And what’s happening, however obvious its effects, does not mean obvious cause; and further there is to date no evidence at all of the cause that this emotive vehicle aims at.

    “Lockdowns are evil; they are a triumph of the human spirit against itself.”

    They are age-old instincts; even animals do them. Because, net, over massive numbers of generations, they have provided a survival advantage. That doesn’t mean they always will, or that the instinct is acting (net) appropriately in this case; after all instincts are gambling algorithms that *bypass* rationality. Nor does it rule out rafts of opportunist individuals / orgs / cultures attempting to take advantage. But whether the (net) effects are horrible or not, there’s no evidence to suggest that they are motivated by evil / deliberate intent to ‘slaughter’ huge numbers of people. You seem to be working backwards from the assumption that this is indeed the avowed intent of (co-ordinated) world governments. But unless you or anyone else can present evidence of same, it is highly reasonable to assume that the events are occurring for exactly the same reasons as all the other times. Right through the picture above, and going back to before we were even human.

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  139. “Demonising disagreement is totally what we don’t need – for clarity of thought.

    You’re totally out of order Jaime. I have no idea why Geoff defends you.”

    Here comes Richard again, with the renewal of personal attacks. Nobody is ever ‘totally out of order’ for expressing an opinion backed up with a logical and coherent argument, facts and data. You say demonising disagreement is totally what we don’t need and then in the very next sentence you demonise my disagreement – AND Geoff’s alleged defence of me! You just can’t make this shit up! Get out of here.

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  140. Geoff: Welcome back to comment!! I was beginning to worry about you 0:

    The authorities are reflecting the public herd panic, albeit (with probably the media even more so), amplifying it simply by virtue of their authority. I don’t realistically think you can stop that panic by simply calling for it. However, I’m pointing out that we need to understand what’s happening, and that in turn adding petrol to the fire can only make the fire worse, not better. For sure, one day, it would be great if institutions and society generally were much more insulated against emotive drives, whether cultural or straight fear. But understanding must come first for that to ever happen anyhow.

    “But isn’t that just another version of the cry of the Lesser Spotted Extinction Rebel and the Greater Pol Pot? – “Why can’t everybody be like me, then the world would be at peace?””

    These people don’t typically say, “why can’t everyone be like me”. They say, “why doesn’t everyone believe my culture”. Which *does not come* from any individual in the first place, but is *emergent*. I am not calling for any cultural (or straight emotive) narrative to be supported.

    And, goodness gracious, I wouldn’t want anyone to be like me. The whole point of objectivity, is that it works by *not* being like anyone.

    “Our little world does and must contain Jaime & Andy & Mark. Isn’t the fact that people react differently to new circumstances an evolutionary plus?”

    Of course!! We wouldn’t be having this great discussion without all of them. And you can’t find the optimum centre without every single edge being tested and tried and simulated, which is what we’re doing here.

    “Are your politicians still calling this a war? Macron is. The point of a war is NOT to save as many lives as possible.”

    Yes, it is wrong to call it a war for the exact same reasons as I exercise above; this is essentially an emotive argument that will result in bad action (as well as good, who can know what the net will be).

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  141. Richard Drake:

    You’re totally out of order Jaime. I have no idea why Geoff defends you.

    Because I too agree with Kisin that we should stop demonising disagreement?

    An article at Lockdown Sceptics linked by someone on this thread recognises that sceptics are losing the argument because they employ reason against emotion, and suggests that they should adopt their opponents’ methods, apparently approaching hesitantly the kind of position Andy West develops here about the way cultures develop. I don’t agree with Jaime’s use of the Holocaust image, because it has the wrong effect on the discussion, but if that’s the way she sees it…

    George Steiner wrote a play in which (if I remember correctly) he had Hitler in Another Place exulting that his racist dreams had come true in Israel. If his name had been Jessop he’d have gort a jail sentence for that.

    A better comparison might be the King of Belgium’s massacre of possibly 10 million Africans in the Congo, which was subject to an efficient lockdown. The truth got out because of an English accountant (another one!) who looked at the import /export data and saw nothing but diamonds coming out and nothing but chains and whips going in. But data and rational argument only goes so far (the whistleblower got a prison sentence for sabotaging the war effort) and moral anger (Quaker, Catholic, Socialist – and Conrad) had to take over.

    And of course King Leopold didn’t mean to kill millions.

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  142. Mark: Great questions. And what if they both work and don’t work? i.e. they *don’t* stop the steep rise caused by ‘winter’ as enabling the virus, but they *do* convert that rise to a decadal event from a century event. How could we know this is / isn’t the effect?

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  143. Jaime: “the authorities CREATED the public herd panic. They are not ‘responding’ to it”

    You would need evidence of that. Covid is a real thing. Publics saw folks dying in hospitals in China and Italy before any governmental responses had got going at all. Throughout the ages, and indeed before the ages, i.e. before we were even human, such visions cause herd panic. This does not mean that both governments and indeed even more so the media, are not caught up in it, hence helping to amplify and sustain the wave. But this is largely participation in the emotive group process, and not as you suggest some deliberate attempt to control their populations at the expense of damage and death. And indeed polls here have typically shown pressure for more action, not less, upon the government; not to mention that Labour et all are likewise for more, not less, strict action. If you have direct evidence of deliberate governmental intent to cause death and damage via maintaining public panic or other means, rather than a motivation, however misplaced, to save net lives, of course that would be different.

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  144. Hi Andy,

    I agree with you that ” .. reason and objectivity make the best arguments .. ” but winning an argument is not the same as winning the hearts an minds of the sheople – witness the success achieved by the anarchists behind the Extinction Rebellion movement (http://globalpoliticalshenanigans.blogspot.com/2019/04/spotlighton-extinction-rebellion.html).

    XR have enjoyed global support for their cause hrough their clever use of the CACC scare (itself powered by lurid emotion with just a sprinkling of reason and objectivity to make it plausible). Along came a real catastrophe, the Covid19 pandemic, pushing XR onto the back-burner. Once Covid19 is behind us XR will come bouncing back atop the CACC bandwagon.

    Although lurid emotions may ” .. ultimately betray whatever cause you set them .. “, in the mean time the cause can flourish. History shows that the effects can be catastrophic, often for others than the perpetrators.

    PS: Wow, comments flying thick and fast its hard to keep up. We even have bossy-boots demanding that Richard should ” .. Get out of here .. “. Who is in charge of this blog??

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  145. Andy,

    ‘You would need evidence of that’. I’ve posted evidence of that on numerous occasions over the last nine months. Did you miss them all? There is, furthermore masses of evidence of that elsewhere for anyone to discover if they go looking. I’ve also posted lots of documented evidence of the harms of lockdowns, including a study which estimated the quality of life years lost due to lockdowns, which turned out to be an order of magnitude greater than the life years theoretcially saved due to lockdowns. That was months ago. I guess you missed that too.

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  146. Pete. Me. I’m in charge of moderating comments on my own thread and I won’t tolerate personal attacks – like ‘Bossy Boots’ for instance. So drop it – or get out of here.

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  147. Jaime: “I’ve posted evidence of that on numerous occasions over the last nine months. Did you miss them all?”

    I didn’t miss any of it. Hence I know that indeed all of your many excellent contributions in this domain represent a list of harms and issues and cock-ups and bad science and so on and so forth. But none of which is in any way evidence of deliberate governmental intent to cause death and damage, and indeed it does not speak to cause at all. So it cannot distinguish between your theory and mine in any way. As noted before, if all the world’s governments, and indeed per your above in deliberate co-ordination, had set out this year to intentionally spread death and damage across their respective populations, there would be direct evidence somewhere. Emails sending out instruction to this end, would be great.

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  148. Oh, and, as we are harvesting comments from Kisin’s twitter account, how about this one:

    OMG, he’s not is he? He’s . . . . . using the Niemoller Nazi analogy! Yes, exactly the same one I was censured for using here a while back. Even more ironically, he uses it in the context of censorship. This is a glass house. We should stop throwing stones.

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  149. ANDY WEST

    All strongly emotive narratives do something similar, because they are not using facts to start with; powerful emotion is not facts.

    Oh yes it is. Jaime’s anger is an observable fact with as much supporting evidence for its existence as you could ever wish for. To deny emotion the status of a fact is to win the argument in favour of reason by default.

    What is in question is 1) whether her anger is well directed and appropriate to its target and 2) whether its expression is well adapted to winning an argument. It’s surely clear to everyone that there will never be real actuarial “facts” to back up the Holocaust comparison. Two quite probable “facts” that justify the analogy are 1) the almost certain existence of a large number of hidden eventual deaths due to policy and 2) the overwhelming evidence for unconscious psychological processes at work. Both facts are a bit too vague to justify annoying Richard and millions of others, but suspicions and hunches are facts too.

    I don’t think this is nit-picking. If you want to persuade people you need to hang your factual argument on something they can relate to – emotionally. Because social media have changed radically the way we interact (why does nobody mention Marshall McLuhan now that his prophetic hunches have become relevant?) we try different things – humour, sarcasm, marshalling of facts (aka Gish Galloping) common sense (aka Dunning Kruger) and nothing works the way it used to, because of culture…

    There seems to be a positive correlation in Jaime’s case between emotionality and ability to put in the hard work of conducting sophisticated factual analysis at speed. In my case there’s a correlation between even-toned reasonableness and intellectual laziness. Make of it what you will.

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  150. Pete: Re the catastrophic climate change and XR. They haven’t won yet, despite their influence, for instance renewable energy world-wide is only about 1% of total. But for the sake of argument, let’s say they do ‘win’. But this depends upon what you really mean by ‘win’. ‘They’ didn’t win, their culture won, and likely as individuals most of them have no clue what ‘winning’ means and are likely (if they live long enough) to severely regret the kind of world that a Crash Net Zero program will produce. In other words, the cultural entity betrayed them. While neither sentient nor agential and only working via selection, it nevertheless works to *its* interests, not theirs (long-term).

    This is the same deal as above with emotive arguments. Back around the late eighties, one small group of people could have stopped the whole CC bandwagon from ever having taken off. But they weakened to using emotive arguments because they thought ‘that was the right thing’ to do in light of their worries at the time about CO2. Fast forward decades, those emotive arguments developed into monsters that have been completely outside their control since very soon after those early years, and they now dominate the world in complete contradiction to mainstream science let alone anything skeptical. Plus indeed, also in defiance of even the scientific method and all (policy) reason too. Many of those scientists are no doubt retired, but I think quite a few will have realised that the emotive approach has not only betrayed them, it threatens to crush science itself. Few will speak out though, and many will continue to believe, because realising that one has caused the wrong thing on a gargantuan scale, is too hard to accept.

    While humans are not Vulcans and we can’t work with only flat fact, and indeed we need some moral dimension, all arguments that rely mainly on strong emotion above reason (cultural or fear or whatever), will, sooner or later, betray also. So whatever cause, or indeed anti-cause, you think you are putting them into service for, this will get betrayed, sooner or later. Nor can you predict how, and how badly.

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  151. Geoff:

    I’m in no way whatsoever denying the fact of / existence of anyone’s emotion (of whatever type), and have never said anything to this effect. And indeed even emotions such as anger may inspire (among other possibilities); anger has some +ve social dimension. This completely misses my point. I said that strongly *emotive narratives* are not fact, because they eclipse any factual content that may be therein regarding the public understanding. And in some cases, such as the Binder one above, they essentially don’t even make a stab at a factual component to start with.

    “What is in question is 1) whether her anger is well directed and appropriate to its target…”

    Well I wasn’t talking about any anger that may have come from Jaime or indeed anyone else anyhow. I was talking about emotive narratives, and in this case the specific one by Binder. But indeed appropriate / inappropriate deployment of emotive content is at issue, and so note I’ve always specified ‘strong’, or equivalent, to indicate that this is the end of the spectrum, which Binder easily qualifies for, which is indeed inappropriate.

    “Two quite probable “facts” that justify the analogy are 1) the almost certain existence of a large number of hidden eventual deaths due to policy”

    No. Absolutely not. Because the chief emotive invocation that comes from a Holocaust comparison is certainly *not* the concept of *unintentional* deaths behind the scenes, but absolutely and utterly and in the worse planned cruel cold conscious way possible, the plan to *intentionally* kill. You can’t invoke this unless you have evidence of same. And there is not evidence of this causation.

    “and 2) the overwhelming evidence for unconscious psychological processes at work. Both facts are a bit too vague to justify annoying Richard and millions of others, but suspicions and hunches are facts too.”

    There are unconscious processes at work. All over the place. And being culturally or even fear-driven is no excuse whatsoever to either a) break the law or b) *aim* to kill people [which obviously is also big-time against the law]. Governments all across the world are largely not doing a) in respect of covid, insomuch as some governments break the law all the time anyway, and there is no evidence whatsoever that they are doing b) in respect of any new law or policy. Unless you have direct evidence that they are not motivated (albeit within herd panic) by a desire to save (net) lives, the analogy is still entirely wrong. Yet it will emotively spread a falsity. To match the Holocaust analogy, the evidence must show that world governments have *intentionally planned* to net kill in a very big way, their own peoples, for some higher non-covid related cause (e.g. ‘undemocratic control’ or whatever).

    I don’t agree that social media has taken us to a new place. If anything, it has returned us to the more direct interactions that always used to exist in smaller societies. And not deploying egregious emotive metaphors and the like, in no way rules out a moral dimension to the actual factual evidence one should present.

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  152. Another fact here that some people are overlooking in their haste to criticise me and become indignant to the point of attacking me personally (again!) is that it was not me who used the Nazi analogy, it was Dr. Thomas Binder. I merely tacitly endorsed his comparison based as it was on the fact that the global Coronavirus crime against humanity exceeds by an order of magnitude the Nazi crimes against humanity, in terms of number of victims. Here is what he said:

    I guess it is about time to bravely state the seemingly unbelievable, that the GLOBAL CORONA CRIME against the human family, committed against Jews, Christians, Muslims, Agnostics and Atheists, exceeds the seemingly unbelievable dimensions of the HOLOCAUST by orders of magnitude. https://t.co/LYczOcvNr9

    — Dr. Thomas Binder, MD (@Thomas_Binder) January 4, 2021

    It was clearly a quantitaive comparison, not a qualitative one and yes, indeed, it may have been presented to provoke an emotional response, but who are you to criticise him for that? He obviously is extremely concerned at the collateral damage from lockdowns which are being ignored by governments who are fully aware of the amount of damage which they are causing, yet persist with their alleged campaign to ‘save lives. So I suggest if you have a beef with the comparison, you take it up with Dr Binder himself on Twitter and not me.

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  153. Jaime: “…it was not me who used the Nazi analogy, it was Dr. Thomas Binder….”

    Agreed. So indeed the discussion is about the narrative, not you.

    “it may have been presented to provoke an emotional response, but who are you to criticise him for that?”

    I think we’re allowed to criticise anyone, actually. As long as we can back up that critique. Even… the government!

    “So I suggest if you have a beef with the comparison, you take it up with Dr Binder himself on Twitter and not me”

    Twitter is a massive universe and whatever one’s position on any topic, there’ll be many millions whom one might take issue with. Nor for most have we much clue where they’re really coming from. And as narrative clips spread independently of the many people who reflect them anyhow, it is indeed best as you indicate above, to discuss them independently of any personalities, including Binder (who for all we know may have got the template from somewhere else anyhow). The purpose of this forum is surely to explore issues within the community here, and you chose to introduce this narrative; hence it’s a valid subject for debate right here, without any need of a return to source and indeed wherever it ultimately originated.

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  154. Hi Andy,
    Your ” .. catastrophic climate change and XR. They haven’t won yet, despite their influence. .. ” suggests that you didn’t read my article “SpotlightON: XR … “. (http://globalpoliticalshenanigans.blogspot.com/2019/04/spotlighton-extinction-rebellion.html).
    XR has nothing to do with replacing those wonderful fossil fuels with economy-destroying “renewable” energy sources like wind turbines and solar panels.

    As I point out in the introductory quotes of the article, its founding members acknowledge that ” .. Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the climate .. never say we’re a climate movement .. we’re not, We’re a Rebellion .. mass political action that breaks the law. It’s the most effective way .. to actually create a crisis in society .. to create a new global regime .. a separate, true, fundamental democracy .. Extinction Rebellion is .. just about democracy .. a fundamental change of the political and economic system .. through mass civil disobedience .. “.

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  155. But Andy, you have specifically criticised Binder’s narrative, stating that it is purely emotive and devoid of facts. That is not true. It is a factual narrative which provokes an emotional response by virtue of the comparison it uses. Lockdowns are crimes against humanity. This is now beyond dispute. They are globally happening crimes against humanity. The measures introduced clearly contravene several international human rights laws, which are absolute and do NOT allow for ‘yes, but we’re saving lives’ arguments. The number of victims of global lockdowns will almost certainly exceed the number of victims of the Holocaust, if it has not already done so. Motive we cannot discern, but we can infer intent and it is malign, given that (a) lockdowns kill, (b) lockdowns demonstrably do not work, (c) governments know that lockdowns kill, (d) the basis for imposing lockdowns is either extremely dubious, resting on poor data and/or modelling and in many cases is downright fraudulent. These are facts. They cannot be denied.

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  156. Jaime: “But Andy, you have specifically criticised Binder’s narrative, stating that it is purely emotive and devoid of facts. That is not true. It is a factual narrative which provokes an emotional response by virtue of the comparison it uses.”

    It is not factual. Per above as already noted, the brief narrative claims a crime against humanity (from lockdown) that exceeds the Holocaust as executed by the Nazis, by ‘orders of magnitude’. The ‘core Holocaust’ crime against the Jews, is over 6 million killed. Which means at minimum, being plural, two orders of mag more, so 600,000,000 killed. In fact the wider Holocaust crime, so including against all the Russian / Polish prisoners and other categories, is I think from memory easily over 10 million. Which means Binder is saying that the crime that governments across the world have deliberately enacted against their own peoples, is over 1000,000,000 killed at least. Over a billion deliberately executed for some nefarious purpose (‘crime’). Even if he said this without the words Holocaust or Nazi referenced anywhere therein, it is still about as far from a fact as you can get. Or… whatever the existing and potential deaths from lockdown yet to come, show me any rational calculation that leads to wiping out 1/7th of humanity by lockdown. In the absence of same, I think this is nonsense even without the overwhelming emotion.

    Human rights laws, generally speaking, are based on morals and have to and indeed do acknowledge relative morals, albeit this can be hard / clumsy to formally do in law because one doesn’t know ahead of time what moral challenges may crop up. I should imagine that’s why they receive many challenges, there’s likely all sorts of cases where one moral interest is pitted against another. If there is any serious challengers from the anti-lockdown perspective to date that would be interesting to follow. But it would highly likely still not demonstrate that governments were *intentionally* setting out to bulk (net) kill their people, only that this was an eventual unintended consequence (which doesn’t necessarily mean no punishments if law or even due process was bulldozed due to panic).

    “Motive and we cannot discern, but we can infer intent and it is malign…”

    But inferring malign intent is to a very large extent bounding motive. So for instance, one may not know quite what the nefarious and deliberate agenda that all the world’s governments have embarked upon which requires them to go out and execute 1/7th of all their peoples, but to satisfy that intent pretty much says there must be one. And indeed, malignity completely rules out the causation that in fact has been common to all these sorts of events all throughout history, plus also to instinctive animal behaviours long before history, despite this entirely commonplace explanation is thus far more likely. You need evidence that separates the one sort of causation from the other, because the outputs would be the same, and hence on their own cannot rule out either cause. Shonky science, crap data, confusion, cockup and over-inflated (to say the least) model reliance, are indeed a fact in terms of their clear existence, if not in terms of their overall impact (hard to measure). But this is not included within Binder’s narrative clip anyhow, so doesn’t form a factual component thereof.

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  157. “As I point out in the introductory quotes of the article, its founding members acknowledge that ” .. Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the climate…”

    Noted. Although pretty much all the foot-soldiers in all such movements don’t grasp the real goals at the top, and hence will still get shafted. Similarly to BLM, for instance. And *some* of the top upper layer too. I’ve read a fair chunk of their material in the past, including GailB articles, and it seemed clear to me that a sort of stewardship of the planet, in some form or another, which they think capitalism is raping or whatever, is still a prime motivator for the anti-everything-else factors. Rising Up quote the ‘miracle planet’ in this respect. To some extent, this about where you sit in the debate of the Father the Son and the Holy ghost; what will happen if NearNetZero comes to pass is squalor and collapse not just of capitalism, but the well-being of most of their members, ranking or not. Added to which a likely decline in environment because of poverty and abandonment of standards. Which I think we could still regard as betrayal. If they were already in squalor, as for instance the Russian peasantry was, then there’s no loss, and indeed a net gain at some point in the future. If the planet was genuinely on the edge, likewise a net gain even with their sacrifice (though they might see this differently when they get there!) perhaps, but the edge is likely a pure artefact of culture.

    And I believe it’s still the case anyhow, that employing something which will ultimately turn into another such movement, is a bad plan. Per above it’s also the case, I think, that not flooding arguments with emotion, in no way rules out some reasonable moral dimension.

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  158. The Spectator claims this: “There are tangible biological differences which make the new strain more likely to be more infectious. We know that one of the mutations carried by the new strain renders the spike protein more adhesive to its target on our cells — a process which is essential for the establishment of an infection. We know that this mutation, on its own, also makes the virus more infectious in mice. And we must not overlook the growing body of evidence demonstrating that people infected with the strain produce greater quantities of virus particles and presumably, therefore, infect more people. That is why the government felt there was no other option than to enforce another lockdown to minimise our contact with one another.” There is a ‘presumably’ thrown in there. It’s not clear where this info comes from, or what the other ‘growing body of evidence’ is either. There’s more about chasing variant numbers via ONS etc.
    https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-new-variant-a-note-on-the-evidence

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  159. PETER RIDLEY
    Who is in charge of this blog??

    No-one. It’s a typical anarchist collective, though in the true sense, not in the sense that you use it of XR. True anarchists don’t pay their rent-a-crowd demonstrators with money from millionaire backers.

    Like all such anarchist collectives, it’s almost certain to dissolve in a mess of incoherent bickering within a few years. In the meantime it’s doing I think what fundamentalist Christians call “bearing witness.” In this it’s more like the 17th century Ranters or the Dada anti-art movement than anything you’ll meet in polite society.

    ANDY WEST (05 Jan 2021 1.55 pm)

    Can’t see anything wrong with your demolition of my argument, so I must be wrong, probably in sneaking in a definition of “fact” that attempts to pull the rug from under you, without affecting your criticism of Jaime. Since Godwinism is the most boring subject on earth after racism and transgenderism I’ll leave it at that.

    I do disagree most strongly though when you say: “ …social media has … if anything … returned us to the more direct interactions that always used to exist in smaller societies.”

    See tweet quoted above about Facebook censoring Talk Radio. So social media has returned us to the more direct interactions that we used to have down the pub, right? Like when you goes: “Johnson should’ve done the full lockdown weeks ago” and I goes: “The government’s gone too far, in my opinion..”

    And God goes: “Right then..” and strikes me dead with a thunderbolt.

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  160. Oh gosh Andy, this is becoming tedious, but here goes.

    When we talk of ‘orders of magnitude’ we mean ‘raised to the power of’. This means that, for example 30 (=3×10 to the power of 1) is 1 order of magnitude greater than say 8 (=8x 10 to the power of 0). It doesn’t mean that, for a number to be an order of magnitude greater than another number that number must necessarily be a multiple of 10 times the smaller number. It means that 6 million does not necessarily have to be multiplied by 100 to get 600 million in order to claim ‘orders of magnitude’ greater.

    So, when at least 100 million are at risk of starvation in Africa alone, due to lockdowns disrupting supply chains and damging the global economy in 2020, this means that if they die of starvation, the victims of lockdown in Africa alone will exceed by two orders of magnitude the victims of the Holocaust. Then we have the ongoing lockdowns of 2021, which will propel even more people into extreme poverty. This does not include the victims of lockdowns in the developed world and it takes no account of quality of life years lost, which is a more representative measure when talking about lockdown harms. If you save 10,000 people of dying from Covid who had maybe 1 or 2 years of life before they died of other causes but in so doing shorten the life spans of 10 million people by an average of 10 years because of poverty, ill health, depression, suicide, disruption of education etc., that’s 20 thousand life years saved vs. 100 million life years squandered in order to basically virtue signal ‘good intent’. That’s two orders of magnitude greater.

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  161. Pete: I hope God or no-one else strikes you down dead!

    “So social media has returned us to the more direct interactions that we used to have down the pub, right?”

    I was thinking more of the whole community, the extended family communities that we lived in for thousands of years, which included censorships and taboos too. A never-ending battle…

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  162. Re Steiner :”his controversial novella, The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. (1981). Portage to San Cristobal, in which Jewish Nazi hunters find Adolf Hitler (the “A.H.” of the novella’s title) alive in the Amazon jungle thirty years after the end of World War II, explored ideas about the origins of European anti-semitism first expounded by Steiner in his critical work In Bluebeard’s Castle (1971). Steiner has suggested that Nazism was Europe’s revenge on the Jews for inventing conscience.”

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  163. Jaime. Yes, rather tedious. First definition that came up at the top of page in google: “a class in a system of classification determined by size, typically in powers of ten.” And because of defs like this the x10 is what sticks in the public mind, and for sure is understood in this way in the vernacular, whatever further options actual mathematics provides.

    “So, when at least 100 million are at risk of starvation in Africa alone…”

    At risk is not dead (and there’s always risk of starvation in Africa, so you need a figure for the likely *increase* in eventual actual deaths, with bounds). An increase in poverty is not death. At the bottom end, it should produce some, much smaller, number. So again you need a figure for a likely increase in actual deaths, with bounds. But the point is that these appear to be guesses, and so are *not* fact, unless you back them. If you have a validated estimate from the appropriate institutions (re cancer, medical health, poverty), across nations, this is fact, albeit all such are subject to scrutiny / change. If you have a reasonably informed estimate with *some* institutional / professional input, with bounds, this approximates to fact, even if it is challengeable, because if the bounds are done well it is honest about the uncertainty (which is part of the fact). If you worked one up yourself and showed all the workings, even without domain help but with diligence, this can claw its way to fact too because it can survive challenge or indeed be improved. No doubt there is much better somewhere, but your above seems to me no better supported than some of the terrible tales of death due to climate-change. And in no way helps Binder out of his emotive bind. If there is decent data, showing it is a fantastic plan (I saw some on life-years lost for US cancer, sadly didn’t save a link). This would be a far more useful argument than plunging head first into the Holocaust, handing anyone who wants to bring down the anti-lockdown argument an unbelievable gift.

    The very fact of trying to defend this narrative which such incredibly tenuous calculations, when people will absorb it and believe / reject it *emotively* anyhow, within about their reading time, is a clue to how completely divorced from any fact it actually is. But whatever fact is in any case claimed, will anyhow be overwhelmed by the message that this is a deliberate planned crime by all world governments enacted against all those who read the message, with as much studied and malicious intent, as the Holocaust.

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  164. “But whatever fact is in any case claimed, will anyhow be overwhelmed by the message that this is a deliberate planned crime by all world governments enacted against all those who read the message, with as much studied and malicious intent, as the Holocaust.” …for which I suggest neither Binder nor anyone else has any evidence. If the incriminating emails exist, now would be a great time to show them.

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  165. P.S. I thought I was actually pretty kind about orders of magnitude. Because of plural it had to be at least 2, and I left it there. But using the full Holocaust not just Jews, and moving only to 3, means more deaths than actual people on the planet at this time 😉

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  166. Andy,

    “At risk is not dead (and there’s always risk of starvation in Africa, so you need a figure for the likely *increase* in eventual actual deaths, with bounds). An increase in poverty is not death”.

    Andy, it must be comforting to make such confident pronouncements from your academic ivory tower.

    In the real world, poverty MEANS death; earlier death, lessened quality of life, depression, anxiety, illness, suicide, lack of access to quality healthcare, poor nutrition etc. The link between poverty and death is real and unequivocal. Poverty guarantees death, even in the world’s richest country. It sure as hell does mean an expedited appointment with one’s maker in the Third World too.

    “Research funded by the National Institutes of Health has been looking at the part social ills play in causing, and or contributing to death. Science Daily reports that recent analysis of these studies found that about 4.5 per cent of all deaths in the United States are caused by poverty related deficiencies, and that poverty is a contributing factor in still more deaths. Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health concurs with these findings.

    Deaths of all causes surpassed 2.5 million in 2011, the most recent period for which some statistics are available. That means more than 874,000 people died from poverty related issues in that year (Columbia University). That same year just fewer than 598,000 deaths were attributed to all types of heart disease. Cancer deaths for 2011 came to fewer than 575,000. Clearly poverty kills more than either of these top killers (cancer and heart disease).”

    https://soapboxie.com/social-issues/Poverty-Kills-More-People-than-either-cancer-or-heart-disease

    “So today, with COVID-19, I want to stress that we are not only facing a global health pandemic but also a global humanitarian catastrophe. Millions of civilians living in conflict-scarred nations, including many women and children, face being pushed to the brink of starvation, with the spectre of famine a very real and dangerous possibility.

    This sounds truly shocking but let me give you the numbers: 821 million people go to bed hungry every night all over the world, chronically hungry, and as the new Global Report on Food Crisis published today shows, there are a further 135 million people facing crisis levels of hunger or worse. That means 135 million people on earth are marching towards the brink of starvation. But now the World Food Programme analysis shows that, due to the Coronavirus, an additional 130 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020. That’s a total of 265 million people.

    Lockdowns and economic recession are expected to lead to a major loss of income among the working poor. Overseas remittances will also drop sharply – this will hurt countries such as Haiti, Nepal, and Somalia just a name a couple. The loss of tourism receipts will damage countries such as Ethiopia, where it accounts for 47% of total exports. The collapsing oil prices in lower-income countries like South Sudan will have an impact significantly, where oil accounts for 98.8% of total exports. And, of course, when donor countries’ revenues are down, how much impact will this have on life saving foreign aid

    The economic and health impacts of COVID-19 are most worrisome for communities in countries across Africa as well as the Middle East, because the virus threatens further damage to the lives and livelihoods of people already put at risk by conflict.

    There are no famines yet. But I must warn you that if we don’t prepare and act now – to secure access, avoid funding shortfalls and disruptions to trade – we could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months.”

    https://www.wfp.org/news/wfp-chief-warns-hunger-pandemic-covid-19-spreads-statement-un-security-council

    So yeah, many more millions are only ‘at risk’ of starving to death as a direct result of Covid policies in the rich nations so let’s continue with the lockdowns because we all *know* that they save lives – Pantsdown Ferguson told us so. Gotta stop that ‘new mutant strain’ at ALL costs – literally.

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  167. Jaime: “Andy, it must be comforting to make such confident pronouncements from your academic ivory tower.”

    I’m not an academic.

    “In the real world, poverty MEANS death…etc.”

    Of course it does. But this does not mean that they are actually numerically equivalent, clearly. And I did not pronounce anything other than this.

    Hurrah for some figures on poverty and death that occur across the world, but… Nowhere in your excerpt does it give any indication of what the expected extra death toll due to covid lockdowns will be, compared to the ‘normal’ levels. It warns there is risk, well that can’t be otherwise, but nothing is quantified. I’ll follow the link.

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  168. Hi Andy,

    You opine ” .. that a sort of stewardship of the planet, in some form or another, which they think capitalism is raping or whatever, is still a prime motivator for the anti-everything-else factors .. ” within Extinction Rebellion. That is not too far off, in the sense of stewardship of the Earth on behalf of imagined creators/omnipotent superpowers.

    As I say in my article at Footnote 1 of Section 3.0 “RisingUp/CompassionateRevolution .. There certainly is a plethora of evidence presented in this article to support the claim that “service to a higher authority” is a major motivator for XR founding members and supporters, with their mix of Evangelical Christians, Sun Goddess worshipers, Pagans, Buddhists, Jews, etc. .. “.

    I say in sub-section 3.1.3 on XR co-founder ” .. George Barda .. Maybe when Extinction Rebellion is just an unpleasant distant memory Goerge Barda, Roger Hallam, Gale Bradbrook and Stuart Basden will try to inspire a “religion rebellion” with the prime objective of  replacing the well-established different global religions with “Goddess” worship (see sub-section 3.1.21). They appear to be prepared to try anything in order to destroy our established economic and political systems .. ”

    Several significant XR members appear to be active Moon-Goddess worshipers within The Glastonbury Goddess Temple, e.g. Avena Rawnsley (sub-section 3.1.21), Katinka Soetens (3.1.23), Tiana Jacout (3.1.28).

    Mother of XR, Gail Bradbrook is (was?) a Quaker who was inspired:
    – first, by a mysterious voice during an iboga trip in Costa Rica, then,
    – on returning home, by Roger Hallam, a failed organic farmer and student of rabble rousing.
    Together they set about founding XR (the Daily Mail claimed that Hallam said that the XR’s prime objective is to ” .. ‘bring down all the regimes in the world and replace them .. ” (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6919597/Middle-class-zealots-wholl-make-Monday-misery-millions.html).

    Anyone lurking here who needs a break from reading all of this Covid19 conspiracy nonsense may prefer reading about XR (http://globalpoliticalshenanigans.blogspot.com/2019/04/spotlighton-extinction-rebellion.html).

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  169. Andy West:

    “Mark: Great questions. And what if they both work and don’t work? i.e. they *don’t* stop the steep rise caused by ‘winter’ as enabling the virus, but they *do* convert that rise to a decadal event from a century event. How could we know this is / isn’t the effect?”

    Also good questions – the problem is that I don’t know the answer, but I fear neither does anyone else. In the absence of a meaningful “control”, where we could observe what would happen if we didn’t lockdown, we just can’t tell. Lockdown zealots will probably claim, even if numbers surge ahead, that things would have been so much worse without the lockdown; sceptics will probably say “look at these terrible numbers – lockdowns obviously don’t work.”

    How to separate facts, science, emotion and beliefs?

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  170. Hi Andy, ref. your ” .. Pete: I hope God or no-one else strikes you down dead! .. “. I have no concerns about the former and should be safe from the latter as long as I continue keeping myself in lockdown, as I have since March. I prefer using common sense to paying heed to politicians.

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  171. Jaime, I followed the link, and the latest food report etc.

    I don’t think there’s anything that rescues Binder’s emotive bind, even sucked free of its huge emotive misdirection regarding deliberate intent to murder. However, I don’t think that is what’s important here. I think this is a strong line of argument, which has a clear moral dimension that can be deployed *without* in any way pouring petrol everywhere plus exposing anti-lockdown argument to justified broadsides regarding such misdirection. Risks are real things too, even if they can’t be fully bounded, but do have some justifiable support. Directly promoting this angle, would be a strong, positive argument, *with* an emotive dimension, for sure, yet bounded, steel not a forest fire, and is imo only wasted, ruined even, by the kind of narrative of which the Binder clip is an example.

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  172. Pete:

    “Mother of XR, Gail Bradbrook is (was?) a Quaker who was inspired:
    – first, by a mysterious voice during an iboga trip in Costa Rica, then,
    – on returning home, by Roger Hallam, a failed organic farmer and student of rabble rousing.”

    I followed these two up a while back and am familiar with this tale. Hallam I find particularly hard to get my head around. He comes across so reasonable in some interviews, but I can’t tell if it’s a some kind of mask because he then has completely bonkers views that seem to defy all reason. Or maybe he’s just extremely conflicted! Apart from coming across him in connection with Bradbook, I never followed up on Barda, though I knew he was public school. Perhaps I should. I see you have bios on them all.

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  173. Just caught up with the last 50 posts or so.
    Nazi analogies clearly trigger some. Emotive arguments are not pure enough for others, even if they contain fact. Nothing seems to have been resolved, except that there is no Great Blogmeister, and appeals to it will be in vain.
    And gosh! Andy is not an academic! I’ve been making allowances for him for ages under the misapprehension that he must have been. 🙂

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  174. “What’s more, according to ZOE data new symptomatic cases have been falling in London since the end of last month.

    How can this be when London is dominated by the new variant, said to be 70% more transmissible and said to be uncontainable by lockdown without closing schools by researchers at Imperial College?

    It might have something to do with the fact that the new variant has been declining in London and the South East since around Christmas, according to the Government’s own data presented at the press conference yesterday – despite Whitty claiming that the new variant is “taking off” in every part of the country.

    https://lockdownsceptics.org/2021/01/06/latest-news-246/

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  175. Quite, Jaime. The London drop is at odds with the ‘out of control’ narrative. But it is the relative performance of the new variant that is animating people. In that regard, it is perhaps significant that the spectacular rises in the new variant are restricted to those areas that had initially very low levels of the other variants. Even there, the South West bucks the trend. Meanwhile, in the North East and Yorkshire, the other variants are starting to outperform the new one. Hardly a straightforward tale of a rampant new variant sweeping the nation.

    I froze the slide so that I could examine it carefully before Whitty said his piece. I then turned to my wife and, before unfreezing the TV, I predicted that Whitty would invite everyone to observe that the new variant is on the increase throughout the country. My prediction was almost word perfect.

    That’s Numberwang!

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  176. I couldn’t watch all this because Layla McCay actually makes me feel physically sick with her repulsive attempts to try and twist the truth, but this is what I’ve been saying for MONTHS. ‘Covid patients’ are ANY patient who has tested positive for Covid up to 14 days prior to admission or whilst IN hospital, REGARDLESS of clinical diagnosis. What more evidence of fraud do people require? It’s as bad as the US election fiasco!

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  177. I promised not to comment on this thread, but I suspect that if John hasn’t seen what I see in those graphs then perhaps no one will. The graphs display the changes in the percentages of the population for different regions of England over a 41 day period affected by the new variant and by all other variants. These curves are interesting of themselves but not as interesting as a curve that would show the percentage of the population affected by the new variant compared to the total percentage of the infected population. For most regions the new variant is increasing relative to all other types. Only London and the South East (and perhaps the East of England) does the new variant show a relative decline in the last few days after steep rises). Could this be the effect of the Boxing Day imposition of Tier 4 restrictions and possibly the virus running out of easily infected people (given that at its peak more than 3.6% of Londoners were infected)? This figure of 3.6% is alone worthy of comment but so far has been ignored.

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  178. Even Balloux has gone over to the ‘Dark Side’ now. I’m so disappointed. Exhausted. Dismayed. But not surprised. He always was a ‘Covid crisis’ hedge fund manager in addition to being a very decent scientist.

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  179. Another biological feature that may be relevant here, is that notwithstanding (if similar to flu, at any rate), the great majority of variants are functionally neutral or maybe have a very modest fitness improvement, just being different may sometimes be enough for a temporary new lease. Two variants that to an uninitiated population would appear to have exactly the same infectivity and other characteristics, may not turn out the same to a population that’s been exposed for some time. Because the immune system learning will be different. A newer variant may escape some of the response derived from the older one. And further, because the host population genome is highly heterogeneous (giving a spectrum from highly vulnerable to completely immune) rotation from one variant to another may shift the best fuel from one subset to another (albeit likely very overlapping) within the population. Which wouldn’t be noticed for an uninitiated population, but could be if one fuel set was more used than the other. This is not effectively a competition between strains, but competition between the genome and the immune system of the host species, with all the virus. Anyhow, the question of how infectious then becomes, to whom? A ‘new lease’ would not mean the whole population is suddenly at greater threat, especially as immune system catch-up will be quick for such close timescales, and those picking up a second time will likely not be ill even if they spread. But it nevertheless means a modest wave based on new fuel / partial evasion, which at the least is perhaps not incompatible with the above charts from John. But… I’m way over the edge into speculation here, based on much less than half remembered principles. So feel free to blast this out of the sky if you think it’s a flight of fancy!

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  180. Alan,

    It’s not that I failed to notice what you had seen, it’s more a case of choosing not to draw attention to it. If it were my purpose to disprove the ‘inherent transmissibility of the virus’ theory, then it would be disingenuous of me to ignore the evidence that supports it. However, I have a much lower ambition, and that is merely to raise the possibility that alternative theories have been prematurely discounted. For that purpose, I think I only need to draw attention to any evidence that doesn’t quite fit the theory. That is why I made just the two observations:

    a) The extent to which the new virus has become dominant seems to be negatively correlated to the pre-existent levels of other variants. This seems to me suggestive of a founder effect.

    b) There are areas where the other variants have started to outperform the new variant, suggestive of other factors at play.

    The important thing is to retain an open mind, though this seems now academic as far as the government and its scientific advisors are concerned.

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  181. I forget whether I have read what they are doing exactly with regard to those numbers. Are they testing every sample for variant? From the PCR amplified material? Or a subset?

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  182. “But… I’m way over the edge into speculation here…”

    Albeit digging a bit more, this does seem to be consistent with some flu info. In the above simple model, neither variant has heritability that helps the virus long-term. It’s just a pattern filter dance. In that longer term, the very small minority of variants that do produce useful advance, appear to be related to immune system workings. Maybe they can spawn more patterns that better subvert the system. While these must come through trivial pattern variants too, they actually have heritable advantage; whereas most variants just keep the family ticking over. It is the family as an entity, so to speak, that advances. This also means as noted previously, that some changes which might have contributed significantly to improved fitness (including but not limited to *generic* immune system attack), will nevertheless be unlucky enough to end up in a pattern variant that is more easily being hoovered by the host immune system at the time, hence increasing the role of chance for adoption, and pushing out the timescale on which main advantages will appear.

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  183. The following article is on RT, so comes with the usual caveats, but it seems to me to be reasonably argued, well-written, and thought-provoking:

    “As a doctor, I’ve studied the data swirling around this perplexing Covid virus. One stark truth stands out: lockdowns don’t work”

    https://www.rt.com/op-ed/511467-covid-confusion-deaths-lockdown/

    It builds up to this conclusion:

    “…So, again, what have I learned about Covid-19? I have learned that all governments are floundering about, all claiming to have exerted some sort of control over this disease and ignoring all evidence to the contrary. In truth, they have achieved nothing. As restrictions and lockdowns have become more severe, in many cases the number of infections has simply risen and risen, completely unaffected by anything that has been done.

    The official solution is, of course, more restrictions, as the British prime minister suggested again yesterday. Essentially, ‘We just haven’t restricted people enough!’ Sigh. When something doesn’t work, the answer is not to keep doing it with even greater fervour. The real answer is to stop doing it and try something else.

    I would recommend that we stop testing – unless someone is admitted to hospital and is seriously ill. Mass testing is simply causing mass panic and achieves absolutely nothing. At great cost. We should also just get on with our lives as before. We should just vaccinate those at greatest risk of dying, the elderly and vulnerable, and put this rather embarrassing episode of mad banner-waving behind us.

    Hopefully, in time, we will learn something. Which is that we should not, ever, run about panicking, following the madly waved banners… ever again. However, I suspect that we will. This pandemic is going to be a model for all mass panicking stupidity in the future. Because to do otherwise would be to admit that we made a pig’s ear of it this time. There are far too many powerful reputations at stake to allow that.”

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  184. Pete, Vinny, this post is about the ‘new Covid variant’ and issues arising around it. If you want to talk about XR, because you find it ‘a lot more interesting’, then please go elsewhere. I will remove posts which are totally off topic.

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  185. …so continuing the gobbledegook above and you’re forgiven for not reading, the scenario that would follow is (for ‘old variant’, read ‘old variant[s]’):

    In all charts per John’s post, ‘Winter’ should cause a rise for any variant *that is able to benefit*, starting from around the centre of all charts. In London, the SE and East, immune system response has already largely cornered the old variant, so it’s only benefit from Winter is to limp on, maybe a little bit better, while the new variant is able to profit to the maximum. In the NW, NE and Yorkshire, the old variant has not yet been cornered, so both it and the new variant profit similarly from Winter. The East and West Midlands are intermediate between these two cases. My only explanation for the SW though, is that it appears to barely have discovered winter yet! Anyhow, in this scenario, the ‘turning down’ of London and the SE (and maybe the East following) around Christmas, prior to new lockdown, would be due to catch-up of immune response to the new variant. Per above this scenario is *not* variant competition, there is no heritable long-term advantage of one variant over another; their performance here is just the phasing of winter plus pattern matching by the immune system.

    Yes, it’s speculation 0:

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  186. The Nazi analogies just won’t go away. In fact they’re coming in thick and fast, trending all over the internet now and 1930s Germany, fascism and Communism is what everyone’s talking about, as Big Tech go into censorship overdrive, banning major US Trump-supporting government officials, censoring even POTUS himself, Apple and Google threatening to remove the Parler app because there has been another mass exodus to that free speech platform, governments all over the world crushing civil liberties and our very own ‘conservative’ Home Sec encouraging police to kick in people’s doors and stop them sitting on park benches. Toxic scum media continually whipping people into a frenzy over ‘Covid deaths’ no doubt so the government can lock down even harder. My emotive language in July did not encourage this apparent global coup against free speech, democracy and liberty, I would say it more likely anticipated it. But I would say that wouldn’t I. I would also say we are now officially at war. 2020 was just the warm up.

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  187. There are comparisons with other totalitarian states. Back in the 1970s and 80s, we could see the differences between the official propaganda about life in the USSR and the reality, and we wondered how the people could accept it. Now we know! The ONS stats for UK deaths show that last year was about 5% above the recent average – about 561k – with a large spike early in the year. Some pandemic! However, before people start throwing stuff at me, can anyone explain what was going on in 1993, when there were 578k deaths? 1995 and 1996 also had more deaths. And yet, now we are confined to our homes and subjected to a barrage of fear – mongering from the government and mass media

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  188. More conspiracy theories have been proven correct this year than there have been deaths in healthy people due directly to infection with SARS-CoV-2. A fascist tyranny always seeks to dehumanise people. The Covid fascist tyranny now dehumanises us by muzzling us, by silencing us, even by attempting to tell us what we may legitimately think. It dehumanises us further by telling us that we should all act as if we have Covid, that we are in fact not free human beings, but reservoirs of infection who must be strictly controlled, that if we leave our houses, we will infect others and will be personally responsible for the deaths of innocent people.

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  189. More conspiracy theories biting the dust this morning.

    It seems the ‘new variant’ crap failed to scare enough of us into submission, so the government is considering even harsher restrictions. What happened with the miracle vaccines? I’ve seen more people out walking these past few days than I normally see in weeks, even in fine weather. So, when fear doesn’t work, all they have left is brutish, naked authoritarianism. I said it previously, they won’t be happy until they literally weld us into our homes. Expect the going to get very rough and a lot more use of the ‘f’ word.

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  190. Et voila, we now have a third ‘mutant strain’ from Brazil which may reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines, so expect the new excuse for keeping lockdown in place once the vulnerable have been immunised to be ‘we can’t lift lockdown until we’ve developed a new vaccine to protect against the new mutant Covid strain from Brazil’. And on it will go. And on. And on.

    https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/13740024/fears-covid-vaccine-less-effective-new-brazilian-strain/

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  191. Jaime, given you just mentioned lockdown, this was the kind of thing that I was getting at in my ‘Despair’ post a while back. (Plus Trump-related despair, plus Cliscep-related despair. Quite a despair cocktail.)

    This expresses my view. With all our strengths the English-speaking world wasn’t I think well equipped for this one and that’s bad news. Just like the 1755 Lisbon earthquake this could have quite an impact.

    Moaning about mutant strains doesn’t get near the big picture, for me. I’m closer to Matt, the Enlightenment champion. As I say, it may be time to read up on the Lisbon earthquake.

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  192. It looks like the science is beginning to come in regarding the transmissibility of VOC_202012/01 and a clearer picture is beginning to emerge. The following study looked at Secondary Attack Rates (SAR) gleaned from test and trace data to see how much more often a secondary infection occurred when the index case was the new variant.

    *ttps://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/950823/Variant_of_Concern_VOC_202012_01_Technical_Briefing_3_-_England.pdf

    Note that this is the sort of data that Professor Racaniello was calling for before one could start drawing conclusions regarding the transmissibility of the new variant. The secondary attack rate is defined as the probability that an infection occurs among susceptible people within a specific group (i.e. household or close contacts). It can provide an indication of how social interactions relate to transmission risk.

    The report’s conclusion reads as follows:

    “Both when using genomic sequence data directly and SGTF as a proxy, the secondary attack rates estimated from contact tracing data are observed to be higher if the index case has the variant strain, from around 11% to 15% of named contacts. This increase is around 10% to 70% across most age groups and regions where sufficient sequencing data is available. Using the SGTF proxy to give a more comprehensive overview the increase is consistently around 30% to 50%.”

    If I read that correctly, it seems we are looking at 30-50% increased transmissibility according to scenario, with 70% applying in only the most extreme situations. And yet 70% is the figure we are basing national policy upon. That said, 30-50% looks bad enough.

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  193. John:

    And yet 70% is the figure we are basing national policy upon.

    I’ve never believed that. It was a guesstimate – but now looking not far off. (Once again, there are times the Cliscep default of doubting the government can be a bad heuristic.) Other numbers seemed to speak of an increase in transmissibility as well. A second wave that was never expected to happen is happening, as Nic Lewis has admitted on Judy Curry’s, as has Toby Young on Newsnight and Alistair Haimes in The Spectator. I’ll leave others to provide links.

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  194. John, well I haven’t read the pdf, but from your extract this doesn’t appear to distinguish between what might indeed be inherently more biological transmissibility due to the viral functionality alone, or what instead might be a difference presented to each variant of immune system training, or indeed a rotated subset of host genome main susceptibility (as the human hosts are highly heterogeneous). Or some mixture thereof regarding all these factors and maybe others. It would be interesting to see the difference in each region of this data (if any). If that shows a pattern similar to the charts you put up above, this would cast doubt upon whether it is inherent transmissibility at all, but rather other effects, whatever they may be. If inherent transmissibility of the virus due to increased function is the only cause, I can’t think of any reason why the secondary contact infection increase, would show any regional variation at all.

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  195. Richard, there’s plenty of scope for a second wave to occur without any increased transmissibility at all. In fact, a second wave was at least partly expected before new variants ever took hold in the popular imagination, simply due to our experience re respiratory diseases. Because indeed we get an endless ‘second wave’ of flu every single year, without any inherent increased transmissibility in most cases (the bigger waves, e.g. the Spanish flue, likely do have some kind of main functional advantage). Excepting, curiously, for the first time on record, this year. This endless second wave is due to ‘winter’, but no-one knows how it works, and there’s about 8 or 10 potential explanations I think (of which only a subset are behavioural). That partial expectation should perhaps have been close to certainty 0:

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  196. Andy: I said ‘Other numbers seemed to speak of an increase in transmissibility’ but I didn’t say which numbers and to whom they seemed to speak! I could well have meant the man in the street – albeit no longer in the street so much under lockdown! It doesn’t bother me that lockdown was based on something a bit imprecise in the common mind. Because the total picture, with three vaccines now approved, is both highly complex and our actions as a loving community (of the whole UK) have to be understandable and bought into by as many as possible. Telling people they’re bedwetters or as moronic as to volunteer for the Holocaust isn’t the way to create that loving community. Nor is needless scaremongering about the vaccines as a tool of some of the worst evil in human history. And none of that is basic science. As you’ve been pointing out on this thread.

    Lockdown sceptics should support this lockdown was Alistair Haimes in The Spectator eight days ago. One of the links I said I’d let other people provide. Said slightly ironically. I don’t think Cliscep has been quite so good at drawing attention to that kind of change in heart. I was busy complying with self-isolation on 6th in a very inconvenient place. I didn’t think a massive row about such things was going to be best for my mental health or my renowned sense of Christian charity! But things have moved on, as Jaime has pointed out with Balloux. It all fits with my gut-feel that Dunning-Kruger has applied. I applaud those who’ve admitted as much. If they have.

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  197. I will respond to posts here tomorrow. I’m not aware of any evidence for the ‘new strain’ causing a second wave of infections across the country and I am still not at all convinced that the ‘second wave’ is anything other than a rise in deaths and hospitalisations associated with winter. There is no signal at all of a second wave in NI, Scotland and Wales and in England the excess deaths are comparable with the spike in winter 2018.

    Bear in mind that the government is invested very heavily now in keeping the fear going about Covid and they have been proven to peddle lies and misinformation – with the assistance of the media – in order to do that. There is no reason at all why we should trust anything they say. The BBC, for instance, peddled the lie that 2020 saw the most excess deaths since WW2, obligingly echoing the government narrative that the ‘Covid crisis’ is the worst crisis Britain has faced since the war. But the thing is, the BBC didn’t bother to adjust their data for population. Thus it turns out that 8 of even just the last 20 years had higher mortality rates than 2020.

    Many ‘Covid deaths’ are highly suspect, some outright fraudulent. People are dying from heart attacks, Alzheimers, cancer etc. and having Covid entered on their death certificates. Complaining relatives are actually being labelled ‘Covid deniers’ for having the temerity to question ‘expert opinion’ on the cause of death of their loved ones. Under cover of the furore raised about the government encouraging the persecution of exempt non-maskers (so much for the “loving community” nonsense), the government sneakily changed the criteria for a Covid death from 28 days to 60 days after a positive test.

    Meanwhile, 80+ year olds are dying in worryingly large numbers after having received the vaccines, but to point this out I guess would be “needless scaremongering”, as I imagine would pointing out the huge number of non-Covid related excess deaths occurring at home in 2020, or pointing out the dramatic rise in suicide attempts, or indeed pointing out the FACT that exposure to SARS-CoV-2 confers natural immunity at least as good as vaccination, a fact hitherto denied by lockdown fanatics and politicians. Dorries even denied that herd immunity existed but ‘doubting the government by default’, despite hundreds of examples over 10 months of them distorting data, faking data, lying, deliberately stirring up fear and division in our “loving community” is apparently the wrong ‘heuristic’. Would this be the same “loving community” which is desperately trying to censor lockdown sceptics permanently?

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  198. Richard “Lockdown sceptics should support this lockdown was Alistair Haimes in The Spectator eight days ago”

    I read on the day it came out, The Spectator is the only media I pay for. Pretty balanced, I thought, and indeed I agree there’s a need for balance on all sides. I didn’t provide a link though because it’s a pay thing.

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  199. Jaime: “…the government sneakily changed the criteria for a Covid death from 28 days to 60 days after a positive test”

    What?? When did that happen? (I see no mention anywhere). That’s highly inappropriate; if anything it needed sharpening to cases where covid actually was the main cause

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  200. Andy:

    I read on the day it came out, The Spectator is the only media I pay for. Pretty balanced, I thought, and indeed I agree there’s a need for balance on all sides. I didn’t provide a link though because it’s a pay thing.

    I don’t subscribe to The Spectator but I made that my one of two freebies in the month. The point I was making is that nobody on Cliscep (afaik) has drawn attention to the phenomenon of many lockdown sceptics changing their tune in the last month. And a link can do no harm.

    If we don’t at least register this change, with some commentary, we’re in danger of preferring bikeshedding to proper big picture thinking. Of which I think Ridley’s is the best, at least in tweet form. Albeit a tad depressing.

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  201. Jaime: Just to come back to the last point, what you need to grapple with to achieve anything like real dialogue here is what *I* meant by loving community. Not use the most rabid hater using a pseudonym on Twitter demanding you be locked up for questioning lockdown as an excuse to ridicule the term. Or any real or perceived government failures. You have to achieve empathy with *me* for us to get anywhere. That may be a hard one for you. But calling it ‘the “loving community” nonsense’ is an thoughtless insult to me – unless and until you have bothered to work out what I meant by it.

    Earlier in this thread when I said you were totally out of order I was including in my mind:

    1. The way you treated Alan Kendall
    2. The way you treated Pete Ridley
    3. The way you seemed to expect all climate sceptics to have the same view of Covid, lockdown, vaccine etc. (Can’t find the place right now so am willing to be corrected. But by now you should know that this is a ridiculous hope. And false hope, including yours only a few weeks ago about Trump, can I think be a killer for any of us.)
    4. Your use of the tweet by Dr Binder.

    Now I may have got you wrong on the last point but I took it that you were using Dr Mengele, I’m sorry Dr Binder (just to show that top-class medical qualifications don’t make a saint in all areas), as support for your earlier use of Holocaust analogy in your horrible ‘cattle truck’ comment. The two comments – yours and his – are of course quite different. But I don’t think you’ve ever apologised for your cattle truck quip. Am I right that you haven’t? So I took what seemed like a rejoicing attitude to Dr Binder’s disgraceful tweet to include self-justification and that seemed extremely ugly to me. Totally out of order seemed mild.

    (I accept Geoff’s clarification that “I don’t agree with Jaime’s use of the Holocaust image, because it has the wrong effect on the discussion” by the way. It also has the wrong effect on the public debate more widely and that really matters too.)

    I didn’t say more than that two sentence paragraph, because I’d been well screwed by the various government changes, then I got a notification from the Covid app that I needed to self-isolate for ten days till 9th Jan – meaning extension of a stay in a top new mutant strain area far longer than planned! It’s actually quite funny now. Now I’m back. Let’s see if we can do the empathy thing, shall we?

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  202. Jaime: last comment and question for you. You seem to have committed a strange oversight on 5th Jan at 12:55pm by embedding the very same tweet by Kisin I’d just embedded with approval but not mentioning this fact. We were in violent agreement with the Russian comic about censorship it seems. Then you said:

    OMG, he’s not is he? He’s . . . . . using the Niemoller Nazi analogy! Yes, exactly the same one I was censured for using here a while back. Even more ironically, he uses it in the context of censorship.

    There was a echo of Niemoller’s poem, I agree. But where and by whom were you censured on Cliscep for using the Niemoller?

    We’re in strong agreement on censorship generally and the dangers of Big Tech I’m sure. So that’s good. And, if I may, your embed of Francis Hoar quoting Andrew Roberts on the lamentable record of The Times at the time of the Night of the Long Knives is terrific.

    So it’s not just The Nazis, A Warning From History (as the BBC series rightly had it) but The Times, A Warning From History. Heard of the Round Table Groups and Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times at that juncture, who was a big part thereof? It’s an area I’ve looked into, let’s put it that way.

    It’s all a matter of how we apply such warnings. In case you haven’t noticed, I care deeply that we don’t overplay our hand in drawing analogies, leading to unjustified smears that turn potential allies into enemies, as well as trivialising the suffering of those, including infants, sent off to die. We’ve been the subjects of such smears as climate sceptics, haven’t we?

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  203. Richard,

    >”Once again, there are times the Cliscep default of doubting the government can be a bad heuristic.”

    For me it has not been a case of doubting the government so much as keeping an open mind. The initial case for 70% increased transmissibility was incomplete and yet the government acted upon it as if it were settled science. Cliscep has always been about challenging the supposedly settled science, not because this is a good heuristic, but because it keeps alive an important principle.

    In the case of the new variant, the determination of transmissibility required a causal analysis that conditioned on various behavioural factors. The best case would be to perform experiments in which individuals were placed in a room with people who are infected with the different variants, just to see which one was caught the most. Obviously, this could not be done, so the next best thing would be to look at what the test and trace data was telling you about secondary attack rates. Was it right for the government to act before the results of such an analysis were known? I suppose so, as long as it is made clear that that is what was happening and they had a plan for the possibility that they might ultimately be proven wrong. It seems the sceptic’s lot to be ever at odds with the precautionary principle, but it’s a job and someone has to do it.

    Even now, it is important not to blame everything that happens on virus transmissibility. Take the recent Wengen outbreak, for example, which has been attributed to the new variant’s transmissibility. It was caused by a UK super-spreader on holiday, who happened to have the new variant. Wengen had very little covid beforehand, so, as a result of this event, the new variant has quickly taken over Wengen. However, before putting this all down to increased transmissibility, a key counterfactual question has to be asked: would a super-spreading event have happened anyway, given the behaviour of the individual concerned and the nature of his/her contacts?

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  204. Jesus, I feel a bit like Trump at the moment, facing impeachment for trumped up charges every time I dare to come on here and make a comment. At least he only got impeached twice by Pelosi. How many times now is this that I’ve been impeached for bringing up the Holocaust by Richard? I’ve lost count. Now he’s taken up the role of special prosecutor on behalf of Pete Ridley, Alan Kendall and ‘all climate sceptics everywhere’. I shall though have to respectfully decline to turn this thread into my impeachment hearing and instead concentrate on the main substance of the post.

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  205. John: “Obviously, this could not be done, so the next best thing would be to look at what the test and trace data was telling you about secondary attack rates.”

    Indeed it’s far better to collect data than not, and all data adds to the picture. But for this approach, it would only be an equal race between the two variants if the population under attack had no previous exposure to either variant. It’s possible that they’re measuring immune system learning and not transmissibility. The regional data might be able to determine which is which, do they have this?

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  206. Re: scepticism

    A few days ago on PM Evan Davis asked a guest (can’t remember who), something along the lines of: “Isn’t the problem too much certainty? The government has expressed great certainty about a particular course of action, only to change its mind a week later and express equal certainty about the new position.”

    Perhaps he was thinking here of school closures, I can’t remember. Or perhaps it was in defining what is meant by “local.” We have certainly seen flip-floppery in recommendations re: face coverings. Indeed the regulations seem to have mutated more frequently than the virus. I couldn’t help thinking that too much certainty is a criticism that could be levelled at plans for Net Zero.

    Re: lockdown

    My problem with the lockdown is not that it will not decrease R (it will). My problem is that our lords and masters have banned activities that can have no possible consequence for transmission, seemingly to make activities that *might* actually cause damage horrifyingly unacceptable. As an example: we cannot now leave our local area to begin a walk somewhere that is actually nice, e.g. by driving to a lake and walking around it. Yet the act of getting in the car and driving 5 miles or 10 or 20 has no effect on viral transmission. None. The actual walking is still permitted. We are however forbidden from rendezvousing with our families for an outdoor walk, even though this can have no effect on transmission at all. Why are these things banned? To make *actually* harmful things seem unacceptable.

    In this we are treated not as humans with our own sense and agency but as uncontrollable drones whose parameters have to be set to such high safety margins that even our errors cannot constitute a mistake. They believe that if they let us meet our family in the open air for a walk, we will inevitably hug and kiss and transmit the virus we may have. In short they don’t trust us to assess the risk.

    “The bullsh1t is coming thick and fast, and we are lapping it up.” The public at large has exhibited no scepticism at all. Indeed obeying lockdown, and toughening it, has become not an issue of reason but one of good vs evil. Meantime the lockdown sceptics have become stuck in their own mud, it seems. There is definitely a grey area, room for nuance. Just like in climate change.

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  207. Andy,

    It could very well be the case that the relative SARs of the variants exhibited a geographical influence that spoke of immune system learning. I suspect, however, that the interesting comparisons that you suggest would not be possible due to lack of data regarding the new variant in some areas. The report certainly seemed to indicate that such was the case.

    In the meantime, all I wish to observe is that this SAR analysis seems to be a fruitful line of enquiry, even though the data at present still seem to exhibit some significant variability.

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  208. So, back to the main substance of the post, away from Richard’s carping about Holocaust comparisons and me allegedly mistreating my fellow sceptics whilst doing scepticism in general a grave injustice (apparently). Away from accusations of Dunning Kruger also, a tactic much favoured by climate alarmists to attack their supposedly ‘unqualified and inexpert’ opponents which oddly, I never got accused of by fellow sceptics when engaged in debunking the exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims of say, the ‘expert’ extreme weather attributors. But I digress.

    John, thanks for the link. It’s not exactly the latest, up to date science on the ‘new strain’, coming about a week after the hysteria generated by our government, the media and Professor Pantsdown on the supposed ‘70% more transmissible’ variant. It’s odd, but I’m having trouble finding any new science on the new variant beyond the end of last year. I haven’t read it all yet, but you’ll notice it’s a UK government publication and my default position is not to trust a word the lying buggers say – which is probably not an unbiased way to approach such a publication admittedly!

    Having said that, the first thing that strikes me is that the study is based on a proxy for the presence of the new variant, not on actual whole genome sequencing results.

    “Only a small fraction of all new cases of VOC 202012/01 are identified by whole-genome
    sequencing, and this data typically lags test date by approximately 2 weeks, therefore a proxy S
    gene target failure (SGTF) is used to indicate carriage of the VOC.”

    This involves assuming the presence of the new variant on the basis that the S gene is missing. Now, this COULD be a reason, but there are other reasons too why the S spike gene might be missing and they do not involve the presence of the new variant.

    It could simply be as a result of a lower viral load and when you are mass testing asymptomatic people using PCR, it’s not inconceivable that many positive tests will be from people with non-infectious viral loads.

    I shall continue to search for any really new science and data on the ‘new variant’ which killed Christmas in the UK but the focus already seems to have moved on to the new ‘new variant’ from Brazil which possibly renders the vaccine ineffective, meaning that the transport secretary has now banned all passengers coming from Latin America and Portugal in case they unleash upon the nation a vaccine resistant strain meaning that we all have to be imprisoned until Big Pharma comes up with another whizzo ‘Brazil busting’ vaccine.

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  209. @ Jaime last night

    “But the thing is, the BBC didn’t bother to adjust their data for population. Thus it turns out that 8 of even just the last 20 years had higher mortality rates than 2020.”

    This seems extraordinary. Are you absolutely completely sure about these numbers?

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  210. Jaime,

    Thanks for drawing my attention to the antiquity of the report. It is a 5th January update to a 28th December Briefing, and was referred to by the BBC as ‘the latest research by Public Health England’.

    I note that the statement regarding transmissibility, which I quoted yesterday, appears in the January 5th update but does not appear in the 28th December briefing. If I get any time I will trawl back through the succession of briefings to see how the picture emerged. This may tell me a bit more about who knew what at any given time. It occurs to be that the secondary attack rate research may have been already known to Ferguson when he made his 70% proclamation. If so, I would give him more credit for the scientific background to his statement, but less credit because he picked on the worst case (but least likely) scenario and pushed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  211. Jit, in order to compare different years historically, you need to allow for Age Standardised Mortality. When you do this, 2020 does not stand out as a particularly bad year, even over the last twenty years:

    “But for the best comparisons, we really need to look at age-standardised mortality rates.

    Age-standardised mortality rates

    The population has changed and grown over time, so in many respects you’d expect the number of deaths to have increased which is why it’s important to consider Age-Standardised Mortality Rates (ASMRs)

    ASMRs takes into consideration both the population size and age-structure allowing us compare over time. You would expect more deaths in a population with more old people and ASMRs even out the population differences so that you compare like with like. Looking recently, we’ve experienced fluctuating but historically low mortality rates. But the provisional age-standardised mortality rate in 2020 was 1043.5 deaths per 100,000 population around 8% higher than the five year average. This is the highest it has been in more than a decade (since 2008).”

    https://blog.ons.gov.uk/2021/01/12/counting-deaths-involving-coronavirus-a-year-in-review/

    The BBC deliberately and calculatedly set out to mislead people about the real impact of coronavirus deaths in 2020 and in so doing, reinforced the government’s own earlier absurd narrative.

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  212. Jaime,

    When you posted this…

    The BBC, for instance, peddled the lie that 2020 saw the most excess deaths since WW2, obligingly echoing the government narrative that the ‘Covid crisis’ is the worst crisis Britain has faced since the war. But the thing is, the BBC didn’t bother to adjust their data for population. Thus it turns out that 8 of even just the last 20 years had higher mortality rates than 2020.

    …were you talking about a Beeb report on excess deaths that was on the radio or the telly or was it this article on the Beeb’s website?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-55631693

    If you were talking about the online article, you overstated things. The factually correct headline was certainly somewhat clickbaity but here’s the article’s fourth sentence:

    When the age and size of the population is taken into account, 2020 saw the worst death rates since the 2000s.

    So the Beeb article did acknowledge that populations change.

    If it didn’t provide a population-adjusted historical comparison for current excess deaths that might be because that’d be hard to do and would possibly be a bit meaningless. (Retrospective comparisons of rolling five-year averages adjusted for this and that… perhaps it *is* possible but my brain is starting to hurt just thinking about it.)

    Changes made to the Beeb article:

    http://www.newssniffer.co.uk/articles/2057318/diff/0/1

    A paywalled (but prolly available elsewhere) ‘fact check’:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/01/12/fact-check-has-covid-caused-excess-deaths-rise-highest-level/

    (The Telegraph’s ‘fact check’ is worth a read. Far more informative than the Beeb’s article. But it doesn’t show that the Beeb was wrong.)

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  213. Vinny, the BBC headline screams:

    Covid: 2020 saw most excess deaths since World War Two

    Then below that screeching headline we are told:

    The Covid pandemic has caused excess deaths to rise to their highest level in the UK since World War Two.

    There were close to 697,000 deaths in 2020 – nearly 85,000 more than would be expected based on the average in the previous five years.

    This represents an increase of 14% – making it the largest rise in excess deaths for more than 75 years.

    Only after this do they bother with the caveat, and even then, they present a misleading graph which supposedly ‘proves’ the headline.

    There is a clear intention to mislead, to alarm the public unnecessarily, whilst ensuring that they can’t be technically accused of peddling outright lies. The TRUTH is that, comparing apples to apples, 2020 was not an especially remarkable year for mortality and given the huge body of pier-reviewed studies suggesting that lockdowns do NOT reduce overall mortality, the conclusion is inescapable: the ‘Covid crisis’ has been absurdly and deliberately hyped by government and the media.

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  214. Jaime:

    I feel a bit like Trump at the moment, facing impeachment for trumped up charges every time I dare to come on here and make a comment. At least he only got impeached twice by Pelosi. How many times now is this that I’ve been impeached for bringing up the Holocaust by Richard? I’ve lost count. Now he’s taken up the role of special prosecutor on behalf of Pete Ridley, Alan Kendall and ‘all climate sceptics everywhere’. I shall though have to respectfully decline to turn this thread into my impeachment hearing and instead concentrate on the main substance of the post.

    Oh come on. I’m fine with you concentrating mainly – indeed entirely – on the “main substance of the post”. The problem, as Alan pointed out much better than Pete, is that from the beginning you injected needless emotive language about wider issues with which he and others deeply disagreed. I agree with a lot of what Andy said on this too. But Andy wasn’t deleted by you. That was an extremely bad move by you in Alan’s case, in my view. (Did you consult with anyone on how to do the deletion of comments by the way? Always move the entire thing to Spam is my preferred method. That way others in the editorial team can check exactly what’s been done. We should have an email chat about that – you, John, Geoff, Mike and myself, at the least.)

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  215. Richard,

    “(Did you consult with anyone on how to do the deletion of comments by the way? Always move the entire thing to Spam is my preferred method. That way others in the editorial team can check exactly what’s been done.”

    I edited Alan’s comment, so effectively deleted it without trace. An error on my part, but it was the first comment I have EVER removed from my posts. Anticipating just such a response from you, I made sure that all other comments were moved to trash and not permanently deleted, just so you can ‘check’ them. They are still there. Go ahead.

    I maintain the right to use emotive language on my own posts, even ones that are primarily technical/scientific/factual. If people don’t like that. Tough. If they engage in personal attacks, rather than attacking my factually or emotively expressed arguments, I am likely to remove their comments. That’s tough too.

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  216. Jaime: Thanks for the clarification on the comment deletion. I’m interested that you didn’t answer whether you had consulted with anyone though. There was another question of mine along those lines you didn’t answer in December: whether you had ever talked about me behind my back. As I have never done with you. Trump’s impeachment is at least being done in the open 🙂

    I maintain the right to use emotive language on my own posts, even ones that are primarily technical/scientific/factual. If people don’t like that. Tough. If they engage in personal attacks, rather than attacking my factually or emotively expressed arguments, I am likely to remove their comments. That’s tough too.

    What you interpret as a personal attack is a bit all over the place for me though. And that could be tough for Cliscep as a whole.

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  217. Richard,

    ” I’m interested that you didn’t answer whether you had consulted with anyone though.”

    Say what? Why is that interesting? I told you I moved all comments to trash after deleting Alan’s first comment. I managed to work that out all on my own! Why on earth would I need to ‘consult’ with anyone on how to delete comments?

    You asked me in December whether I had ever talked behind your back? I don’t recall you doing that. Isn’t this all getting a bit soap-opera-ish? Yes, I have mentioned you once or twice in emails, nothing conspiratorial or back-stabbing, I can assure you. I guess you might have mentioned me once or twice in emails, but that’s not really my concern, to be honest, even if you’ve been secretly plotting my impeachment!

    Take a break Richard. You are not the self-appointed Guardian of all that is good and true on Cliscep. Besides, I’ve told you that I no longer intend to contribute posts here. That really should be enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  218. There were two points here Jaime and you’ve made it three.

    1. I want to know that Cliscep is in good hands technically if I wander off this year. It sounds like you got some good advice about how to delete comments. I wanted to know details for that reason.

    2. I believe you that you didn’t notice the wider question and am grateful for your answer now.

    3. I in turn didn’t remember you having said you no longer intended to contribute posts here.

    That has never been my aim. I argued for you to be included in the ‘core team’ and I’d prefer you felt able to post. But, as Isaiah Berlin talked a lot about, people’s values are incommensurate sometimes (or was it incommensurable?) Hmm.

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  219. To recap

    I was busy complying with self-isolation on 6th in a very inconvenient place. I didn’t think a massive row about such things was going to be best for my mental health …

    What do you think? Did I leave it long enough or too long? I don’t think that has been anything like the massive row I expected.

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  220. This was also an unsubstantiated rumour: the UK government adopting the Great Barrington Declaration. It was denied pretty soon but I’m sure it’s what many insiders do in fact want.

    So we’re stuck. That could well be a tragedy but it’s not the same as Hans Litten being sent to Dachau within four weeks of Hitler becoming Chancellor of Germany. (Another concentration camp first in fact – but Dachau is where he ended up.) In my picture, in the UK in 2021 we have to build consensus by an injection of compassion. The three vaccines can help a lot.

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  221. On which, this.

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  222. The whole idea of ‘the vaccines’ was supposed to be to protect those elderly and vulnerable. That’s why they’ve been prioritised for vaccination. But what’s the bloody point of vaccinating the frail, the sick and the elderly if it kills them? And pray, tell me, what is the essential difference between a vaccine hastening the death of the frail and the elderly (many in care homes) and SARS-CoV-2 infection doing exactly the same? We’ve locked down the whole of healthy society to protect the vulnerable because supposedly shielding just the vulnerable was not viable, only to then vaccinate the vulnerable, killing a substantial proportion of them in the process! Then there are those who insist that the vaccines are our saviours, even though the government has pointedly refused to commit to lifting lockdowns when enough people have been vaccinated. There are those who say that we must ALL be vaccinated in order to achieve the herd immunity which cannot be achieved naturally. These people refer to we sceptics of lockdowns and sceptics of mass vaccination as ‘Covid Deniers’ and ‘antivaxxers’. I, in response, call them Vaccine Creationists: people who harbour the bizarre belief that God Scientists created Covid Immunity in just 6 months via the miraculous mRNA vaccines. They deny that mammalian evolution taking place over hundreds of millions of years could ever result in natural Covid herd immunity. PHE are Vaccine Creationists. Boris is a Communist. We are in a dark place.

    “The reports suggest that common adverse reactions to mRNA vaccines, such as fever and nausea, may have contributed to a fatal outcome in some frail patients, says Sigurd Hortemo, chief physician at the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

    The large studies on Comirnaty (BioNTec/Pfizer) did not include patients with unstable or acute illness – and included few participants over 85 years of age. In Norway we are now vaccinating the elderly and people in nursing homes with serious underlying diseases, therefore it is expected that deaths close to the time vaccination may occur. In Norway, an average of 400 people die each week in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

    All deaths that occur within the first few days of vaccination are carefully assessed. We cannot rule out that adverse reactions to the vaccine occurring within the first days following vaccination (such as fever and nausea) may contribute to more serious course and fatal outcome in patients with severe underlying disease.”

    https://legemiddelverket.no/nyheter/covid-19-vaccination-associated-with-deaths-in-elderly-people-who-are-frail

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  223. hmmm… PHE: “It is false to claim that PHE supports herd immunity from COVID-19 infection as a way out the pandemic.”

    Vaccines work by artificially invoking herd immunity. Even in the case where they may not shut down transmission, the immune systems of the vaccinated react swiftly to the virus, considerably reducing the time available for re-transmission, and heavily cutting down symptoms, which considerably reduces such viral shedding as may occur in most of the infected. The virus can in principle still do damage, but as long as enough people are vaccinated it never really gets the chance to prosper. This is the whole point. Natural immunity doesn’t shut it down entirely either, but if enough of the herd have developed immunity, this is still sufficient. This has nothing to do with whether or not PHE, or some official therein, accepted or didn’t that a GB type strategy was / wasn’t acceptable somewhere along the route to ‘full’ vaccination. But just to say that PHE following the WHO’s sudden redefinition of ‘herd immunity’, which now only includes the natural route to this solution and not the vaccination route, creates yet more misunderstanding, and falls outside of what remains the scientific definition.

    Liked by 1 person

  224. Richard. Oh I think my pearls of wisdom being trashed as spam was so much more preferable than being consigned as trash, and to think I was first made it so worth while.

    Liked by 1 person

  225. Welcome back to the fray Alan! I’m feeling particularly generous tonight so won’t be trashing comments unless they’re really, REALLY offensive. Do you have any pearls of wisdom to offer us, or is it just the same old same old? Maybe you could comment on the trusty BBC where you get your Covid infro from, or maybe the CW article above? Or maybe you have some exciting new science which confirms Pantsdown’s claim of 70% more transmissibility?

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  226. Jaime: “But what’s the bloody point of vaccinating the frail, the sick and the elderly if it kills them?”

    We don’t know it’s killed anyone, yet, do we? There’s maybe about a couple of thousand ‘normal’ deaths in UK nursing homes every week. If you vaccinate them all there will still be a couple of thousand dying every week but now within recent timescale of a vaccination. So you have to check them, or at least a large enough number for a statistical sample. But the 23 cases put forward in Norway (where 400 a week die in care homes) are according to the link ‘suspected’ at this time. And the number of elderly dying of covid has been very high (even diluting the figures), especially in nursing homes (due mainly to the bad policy of shunting patients there from hospital, it would seem, which policy was rumoured to still happen a few days back, I saw). Given we’re up to around 3.2M jabs at this point in the UK, administered across about 5 weeks and the vast majority into the arms of the most elderly plus vulnerable for other reasons, there’d be a tsunami of cases by now if there was some significant difficulty. Anecdotally, I know several elderly now who’ve taken the jab, including my 90 year old mother, and all have reported not feeling the slightest change of any kind.

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  227. Jaime: “Maybe someone can explain why our beloved (clap for me) NHS has ‘retired’ the web page they had on harms from the swine ‘flu vaccine?”

    Almost certainly because they’re trying to stifle negative publicity about vaccines. Very bad decision. As taking it down could well backfire big-time. If they stopped panicking and simply left it up, folks would know that implementation of this particular vaccine will kill (if the study was confirmed) 1 person in every 10 million of the population vaccinated, or about 6 people for the entire UK. However, rumours could well now circulate that it might be thousands and thousands of deaths 0:

    “The researchers found evidence of a ‘statistically significant’ increase in cases of the disease (ie it was not likely to be due to chance). However, the increase was small. The researchers estimated that for every 500,000 people vaccinated against swine flu, there would be approximately one additional case of Guillain-Barré syndrome diagnosed in the province. In addition, while Guillain-Barré syndrome can be fatal, this only occurs in around one in 20 cases. Most people with the condition make a full recovery within six to 12 months.”

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  228. Andy, 23 deaths occurred out of 25k vaccinations. That’s about 1 in a 1000 and these are just the ADRs they’ve studied so far. What’s the kill rate of Covid in people over 85? As high as 80 in a thousand maybe? What happens when the kill rate of the vaccine in 80+ approaches the fatality rate associated with infection? Your mum and others may be OK for now and I hope to God it stays that way, but this is an experimental vaccine and only the next few years will determine how safe it really is.

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  229. o/t – @Richard – re deleting/moving comments – do you remember steve @ climateaudit doing the same?
    as steve would say “bring in the Zamboni” for this site/

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  230. Jaime: “Andy, 23 deaths occurred out of 25k vaccinations. That’s about 1 in a 1000…”

    No. We don’t know that the 23 deaths are anything to do with the vaccine yet; they are ‘suspect’. Let’s say they all *do* turn out to be (mainly) due to the vaccine. For a UK equivalence this would mean 3,200 ‘extra’ unexpected (and non-covid) deaths, in the elderly population vaccinated so far. Given that effects are likely being watched pretty closely, or bloody well ought to be, this represents a tsunami that couldn’t be missed. Is there any indication whatsoever that it has happened?

    “…but this is an experimental vaccine and only the next few years will determine how safe it really is.”

    I agree. But it is always *relative* safety, not an absolute. Whatever government bungulation of figures and actions (and indeed, in part because of them), Covid has clearly killed the elderly in droves.

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  231. Well it looks like inews still knows what herd immunity means…

    “In a major indication that the vaccines will help to provide widespread protection of the general population through herd immunity, Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said…”

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  232. I’m not sure if this is the right thread but a lot of it seems to rhyme today. It was about the swine flu of 2009. By the way, the Spanish flu seems to have created waves as far as 1959. Andy was right to remind us on the other thread about Yeadon being inaccurate about waves of infection. I urge you to watch and think… We were warned about a flu pandemic 10 years ago.. And we did not do much, I think. And we do not know much about the Spanish flu

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  233. Alan: Never the Trash for you in future my friend. I spam spam spammed corrected.

    DFHunter: The Zamboni. I still remember the pain as it ran over my great thoughts and all that was left afterwards was glistening, pristine ice.

    Talking of the ruthless man driving, I thought this was a fine response to Richard Betts earlier:

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  234. That tweet by Betts links to an article by Zeke Hausfather which is bang on message – the world is going to Hell on a hsndcart. I particularly enjoyed this sentence, which seems to be an excellent example of the non sequitur

    “It is rather remarkable that a La Niña year could match the warmth of one of the strongest El Niños on record just a few years ago – illustrating the powerful impact that human greenhouse gas emissions are having on global temperatures.”

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  235. MIAB,

    “It is rather remarkable that a La Niña year could match the warmth of one of the strongest El Niños on record just a few years ago – illustrating the powerful impact that human greenhouse gas emissions are having on global temperatures.”

    There’s a logical inconsistency lurking within that statement. The argument by climate scientists at the time was that 2016 was so hot mainly on account of the cumulative effects of GHGs, with just “a little bit on top” due to the super El Nino of that year. This implies that ENSO has a minimal effect upon annual global temperatures in relation to GHGs. So, by that logic, this year is unremarkable; it’s just about as warm as 2016 and La Nina is neither here nor there because ENSO contributes either only ‘a little bit on top’ or ‘takes a little bit away’. So, as GWPF rightly point out, global temperature has been flat for the last 5 years, when it’s supposed to be racing away due to climate change.

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  236. I wonder if death certificates are going to say ‘Died with vaccine’ in future 🙂

    More seriously, the subject of vaccine-related risk is a topic for the safety analyst and so one can expect that safety management principles will be applied. In particular, in the world of safety engineering there are a number of principles that are used to develop safety policies. The most germane here would appear to be that of Minimum Endogenous Mortality (MEM). It was an idea first developed in Germany for transport systems, and it works like this:

    Technological systems, such as transport, are developed for the benefit of society but they can kill people when they fail. To determine the acceptable failure mode lethality of a given system, one judges against the overall, endogenous mortality (R) that populations live with as a result of technology and technology-related activities. In developed countries, this mortality is at its minimum amongst the 5-15 years age group and so that is taken as the baseline, i.e. the MEM. Currently, the MEM is deemed to be 0.0002 fatalities per person per year, and the maximum increase that is allowed for a given system is 0.00001 fatalities per person per year. If this limit is applied to the vaccine roll-out in the UK, that would equate to approximately 500 vaccine related deaths in the first year.

    I’m not suggesting that anyone is using that as the acceptable safety level threshold, but you can be sure that someone, somewhere has set a threshold – and it won’t be zero.

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  237. As a further point, the anticipated safety of the covid-19 vaccines will actually be very high, notwithstanding the accelerated development. However, this is set against a general distrust amongst the public, fuelled by misinterpretation of historic vaccine-related mortalities. The following epidemiological study provides an interesting insight into vaccine related death:

    https://jkms.org/search.php?where=aview&id=10.3346/jkms.2020.35.e378&code=0063JKMS&vmode=PUBREADER

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  238. John, I presume this article talks of the Korean public’s distrust regarding misinterpretation / media etc, as the paper is all about vaccination plus incident in Korea. In the West trust is typically high, with the US being a pretty low data-point but still at about 63%, whereas the UK was at 80% (both surveys a week or two before Christmas as far as I recall). Even in S Korea, between Jan 8-10: “On the conditions that the vaccines are available for free and their safety is guaranteed, 80.3 percent replied that they will certainly (27.1 percent) or probably (53.2 percent) take COVID-19 vaccinations in the future. Only 1.8 percent said they will never get the shots.” However, asked whether they would take it ASAP (so I guess, sight unseen as it were), only about 3 in 10 said yes. But on what criteria will they decide it is ‘guaranteed’!

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  239. Andy,

    The study implies that levels of trust in South Korea were considered to be currently higher than in the West, but not to be taken for granted, since it says:

    “Distrust in the [Korean] national vaccine program can cause a fundamental problem in public health, and concerns are growing as it can lead to campaigns against vaccines as in the United States and Europe.”

    And whilst we are talking about the West, it seems the picture is not at all straightforward:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/16/covid-vaccine-black-people-unlikely-covid-jab-uk

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  240. John, interesting. It’ll have virtually no impact on the UK national figure, but for sure that’s a stand-out statistic which should light warning bells.

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  241. In my comment at 2:19pm I should have written ‘widespread distrust’ rather than ‘general distrust’. The figures point to a majority satisfied with vaccine safety, but with a significant minority that expresses concern. The level of concern varies according to demographic, but no demographic is exempt.

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  242. Norway is now reporting 29 ‘mRNA vaccine related’ deaths in the over 75s. I’m not aware of the criteria they are using to define ‘vaccine-related’ but it would appear that it is not simply a matter of somebody coincidentally dying soon after having been vaccinated. If these turn out to be genuinely related to administration of the vaccine, then this means that the Covid vaccine (thus far) is 10 thousand times more lethal than the ‘flu vaccine, bearing in mind that the ‘flu vaccine also is generally targeted at older people and those with existing health conditions, so it’s like for like. This could prove to be highly significant and may even mean that the vaccines are withdrawn from use in the very demographic they are supposed to protect.

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  243. Jaime:

    This could prove to be highly significant and may even mean that the vaccines are withdrawn from use in the very demographic they are supposed to protect.

    I see you’re using the climate scientist’s trademarked ‘could prove to be’ and ‘may even mean’. That’s not as snarky a comment as it might seem. You’re surely right not to be certain (or to appear certain) about either part.

    What’s interesting to me is that if the highly significant thing about the mRNA vaccine or vaccines is proved to be true (whatever it is) the vaccines being “withdrawn from use in the very demographic they are supposed to protect” would show that the system as a whole is working as it should. Something that really never happens in climate prognostication, because of the extreme maybeism combined with much greater timescales. The virus and all related ‘science’ is a far more immediate thing and that makes it totally different. Which brings me to this:

    Away from accusations of Dunning Kruger also, a tactic much favoured by climate alarmists to attack their supposedly ‘unqualified and inexpert’ opponents which oddly, I never got accused of by fellow sceptics when engaged in debunking the exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims of say, the ‘expert’ extreme weather attributors.

    But it is perfectly possible for someone to be prone to Dunning-Kruger in one area and not in another. I really don’t get your argument here at all. Here’s a practical on the vaccines. On 3rd December I did my Provocation post in which I contrasted the reaction to the latest vaccine news from James Delingpole, Douglas Carswell and Steve McIntyre. Dr Barrel said I was speaking nonsense and the following night Matt Ridley was also in the fray

    Now I’d like to ask those looking at the latest data, from Norway and elsewhere, including John, Andy and Jaime, whether they think Steve McIntyre was guilty of Dunning-Kruger in what he said, as a non-expert, the same day as my post:

    I’m not simply asking whether you agree now with what Steve wrote over six weeks ago. But did he not have enough evidence and (even more important) was he being irresponsible in what he was saying on 3rd December?

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  244. Jaime:
    ‘This followed an analysis of all 23 deaths in the country that occurred shortly after receiving the first dose of the vaccine, of which 13 had been autopsied. “The reports suggest that common adverse reactions to mRNA vaccines, such as fever and nausea, *may* have contributed to a fatal outcome in some frail patients,” Norwegian Medicines Agency chief physician Sigurd Hortemo said in a statement yesterday…’

    ‘In Norway, we are now vaccinating the elderly and people in nursing homes with serious underlying diseases; therefore, it is expected that deaths close to the time vaccination may occur”… …”In Norway, an average of 400 people die each week in nursing homes and long-term care facilities,” the agency added.’

    ‘…“Doctors must now carefully consider who should be vaccinated. Those who are very frail and at the *very end of life* *can* be vaccinated after an individual assessment,” he [medical director Steinar Madsen] added.’

    All the emphasis marks mine. Nevertheless, highly relevant, indeed. Let’s convert ‘may have contributed’ into ‘definitely caused’. If we’ve likewise been jabbing anyone, i.e. even if the poor souls are ‘at the very end of life’ anyhow, it’s likely impossible to tell even with autopsy whether it was the vaccine or not. But I guess what we’re really interested in, is those who were *not* at the very end of life. I think the UK should be closing on 4 million jabs (maybe 3.5M people?) with today’s tranche added in. So by now there ought be thousands of unexpected / vaccination-caused deaths in those elderly and frail / ill people who are nevertheless *not* terminal, *if* it is the case that the vaccine can kill the above kind of numbers in such people. Even if panicked authorities and shoddy monitoring and poor records all contributed to obscuring such an enormous death toll, it’s hard to see how this could stay in the shadows for long.

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  245. Richard: Incidentally, I have travelled very widely internationally, and had to take shots a couple of times for same. I never gave it a second thought at the time.

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  246. Sadly, Toby Young now seems to have made the decision to abandon robust and consistent secpticism in order to align himself with the ‘moderates’, thus tacitly endorsing the latest lockdown based on controlling the allegedly more transmissible new strain. Huge disappointment. I questioned him about whether there was any new evidence for the transmissibility of the new strain, but no response and all those who’ve tried to ‘prove’ that the new variant is more transmissible have not come up with any robust up to date supporting evidence either.

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  247. Andy,

    Think about what you’re saying:

    ‘In Norway, we are now vaccinating the elderly and people in nursing homes with serious underlying diseases; therefore, it is expected that deaths close to the time vaccination may occur”… …”In Norway, an average of 400 people die each week in nursing homes and long-term care facilities,” the agency added.’

    “All the emphasis marks mine. Nevertheless, highly relevant, indeed. Let’s convert ‘may have contributed’ into ‘definitely caused’. If we’ve likewise been jabbing anyone, i.e. even if the poor souls are ‘at the very end of life’ anyhow, it’s likely impossible to tell even with autopsy whether it was the vaccine or not.”

    You’re questioning vaccine deaths in the elderly within days of vaccination on the basis of the fact that they might have coincidentally died of co-morbidities. The reason they’re being vaccinated is that many deaths have occurred in the elderly with co-morbidities within 28 or 60 days of a positive test for Covid and been assigned to Covid (or even by a GP who never even visited the patient but nonetheless diagnosed the death as Covid related). The elderly are thus being vaccinated en masse on the basis of this extremely loose definition of a Covid death. But you are now arguing that much more stringent conditions should apply to positively diagnosing deaths subsequent to these people being vaccinated! i.e. we should give the vaccine for Covid the benefit of the doubt, but we should not similarly give the SARS-CoV-2 virus the same benefit of the doubt. If it was there, even 60 days before death, or if the person dying appeared to have symptoms consistent with Covid, even if the primary cause of death was Alzheimers or cancer, Covid is guilty too and it must be entered on the death certificate. That is bizarre, quite frankly.

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  248. Jaime:

    Sadly, Toby Young now seems to have made the decision to abandon robust and consistent secpticism in order to align himself with the ‘moderates’, thus tacitly endorsing the latest lockdown based on controlling the allegedly more transmissible new strain. Huge disappointment.

    Hmm.

    And hmm again.

    “Robust and consistent secpticism”

    Somehow that merited the typo. Real scepticism deserves better.

    Forgive some of us for being neither sad nor hugely disappointed.

    Not until having looked more deeply into what Snowdon has written for Quillette.

    I’d just begun, before reading your comment here, because of this guy:

    I noticed the bit about transmissibility, just as Jaime did. We’ve got our finger on the pulse on Cliscep. Whether it’s the right pulse or the right finger taking the reading remains to be seen.

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  249. Richard, please don’t encourage Andy. One vaccine creationist on this thread is quite enough thankyou.

    So, Steve and Matt are all for the vaccine. Fine by me. Just don’t expect me to be coerced into taking a highly experimental vaccine for a disease against which my immune system (the product of many millions of years of evolution) is probably better equipped to deal with than an mRNA ‘vaccine’ (which is actually a medical treatment if we want to get the terms correct).

    Sure, people got vaccination cards in their passports in days gone by, but did plumbing firms also insist that all employees get vaccinated against Polio, TB or whatever before they could be offered a job? Did big entertainment venues threaten to ban people from entry if they hadn’t been vaccinated against measles? This is a whole new ballgame with Covid. It’s not the same at all. Will we be able to buy food in a supermarket next year if we haven’t got proof of Covid vaccination? No, if Blair gets his wicked way. You’ll just have to starve.

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  250. Richard, I guessed you would side with Young, Of course I guessed that.

    ” ‘lockdown scepticism’ (a worthwhile, useful intuition, up to a point) has been overtaken by denial about the pandemic, gibberish about statistics, and many conspiracy theories from the crankish fringe.”

    The only problem with that statement is that it hasn’t and it uses emotive language to describe a tiny minority of people who genuinely are cranks and conspiracy theorists. The vast majority of lockdown sceptics I’ve come across are rational, down to earth people who, in common with us all, don’t always get it right. The race is on to deligitimise lockdown scepticism per se as the abode of cranks and conspiracy theorists and it’s not difficult to see why such a move would be politically very convenient. So if lockdown sceptics are mostly now conspiracy theory whackos, where are people like Young and Snowdon and Haimes going to go? Will they set up some new camp on the middle ground which argues that lockdowns are OK in some circumstances but not in others? That hitherto untested, untried, extremely socially and economically damaging mass quarantines of the healthy can now sometime be justified? That possibly killing 270 million people to save maybe a few hundred thousand very frail 83 year olds and preventing ‘Covid toe’ in others is worth it? That mass wearing of masks not proven to be effective in controlling transmission but demonstrated to have no significant protective effect are now also OK in certain circumstances? Ridiculous. They’re just shifting the pendulum towards acceptance of pseudoscience – and lockdowns, masks and social distancing ARE pseudoscience; they have no robust scientific data and research to back them up. Young is watering down genuine scepticism by supporting Snowdon’s article.

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  251. Jaime:
    I quoted the Norwegian medical authorities directly, and I have not made any of the suggestions that you claim on my behalf. I observed that if your assumption of a vaccination causation of death based on Norway information was correct, which causation is nevertheless not at this time acknowledged by said medical authorities beyond something that *may* have *contributed* (and indeed said authorities still maintain that even for people ‘at the very end of their lives’, which one assumes to be an estimate of only weeks or maybe even days, vaccinations will still be allowed if they pass assessment), then this must show as a huge number of deaths in the UK correspondent to the ~4M jabs here. I am not arguing for more stringent conditions regarding diagnosis of deaths; indeed I have made no argument for anything in that comment. I merely observe the practicality that an autopsy of those ‘at the very end of their lives’ is unlikely ever to be able to distinguish. And the the comment overall is a straight observation that the one thing must lead, *if* true, to another, regarding folks who are not ‘at the very end of their lives’. Do you *not* agree that your assumption should mean thousands of ‘deaths by vaccination’ already within the huge population of UK jabbed?

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  252. JAMIE

    “This could prove to be highly significant and may even mean that the vaccines are withdrawn from use in the very demographic they are supposed to protect.”

    The problem is that none of the current vaccines have really been tested on elderly people with only around 5% of the participants in the trials being over 70.

    There is s good write up of the three current vaccines here.

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  253. “The only problem with that statement is that it hasn’t and it uses emotive language to describe…”

    Yes, emotive language is never good 😉 It is ‘words that think for us’, bypassing our centre of reason and so convincing emotively, not rationally.

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  254. Oh look, there’s me rattling on about the decidedly dodgy attribution of Covid deaths in the elderly and then I come across this:

    So you’ve got a virus which at best only ‘contributes’ to the majority of deaths in the elderly (but still ends up on the Covid death figures) but when it comes to vaccinating the elderly against this virus, when they die within days, weeks or months of having the jab, I very much doubt whether there will be a similar rush to say that vaccination likewise ‘contributed’ to the death. At least Norway seem to be taking the issue seriously. I very much doubt the same will apply in this country.

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  255. Jaime:

    Richard, I guessed you would side with Young, Of course I guessed that.

    But I haven’t. I haven’t read Young on this at all so I have nothing to side with or otherwise.

    I have now read Snowdon in full. And I’m thinking about it. I assume he’s more right than Ivor Cummins, let’s start with that. I’m really grateful to him for laying out the case for this lockdown in the UK (which is the practical point right now). And he fingers despair as the cause of irrational lockdown scepticism. I think somebody did a thread on that subject on Cliscep recently. Anyway, whoever it was, I very strongly agree with Snowdon on that point.

    And that’s it for now.

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  256. And on this, Jaime, on what Sunder Katwala tweeted:

    The only problem with that statement is that it hasn’t and it uses emotive language to describe a tiny minority of people who genuinely are cranks and conspiracy theorists.

    For the avoidance of doubt, I didn’t subscribe to Katwala’s view, and still don’t, but his tweet did make me read the Snowdon. I’m not sure of the percentage of “people who genuinely are cranks and conspiracy theorists” among a group you respect. You say there are some. I’ll bear it in mind. I’m interested in Snowdon’s arguments.

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  257. I’m keenly watching for evidence regarding the safety or otherwise of covid-19 vaccinations before I take mine, but I’m not an anti-vaxxer, and my inclination is to be vaccinated, assuming I haven’t seen evidence that suggests that by doing so I’m putting myself at greater risk than by not taking the vaccine. I do take the point that the authorities are likely to seek to downplay any problems with the job, so am grateful to Jaime bringing any information about this to our attention.

    I do also take Jaime’s point that reporting on this issue is likely to be inconsistent. If (as is the case) very old people, many of whom have comorbidities, die within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 (whatever the cause of death) count in the Covid-19 death statistics, then logically anyone dying within 28 days of a Covid-19 vaccination (whatever the cause of death) should be included in a new category of vaccination-caused deaths, but I think I can guarantee that they won’t be.

    It’s time the Covid death statistics were calculated properly. They would almost certainly still be cause for considerable concern, but I really would like to know exactly what we’re talking about, rather than have us basing all our decisions on statistics which aren’t entirely reliable.

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  258. Andy,

    “Yes, emotive language is never good 😉 It is ‘words that think for us’, bypassing our centre of reason and so convincing emotively, not rationally.”

    We disagree, again. Emotive language can sometimes be appropriate. Of course it can, Why would languages across the globe have developed emotive words and phrases if they served no purpose whatsoever, or if they functioned only negatively? Emotive language has its place, in context. It can be net positive. However, if an argument is being made which lacks factual content, then it is NEVER a good substitute for those missing facts. Snowdon has no real factual basis to conclude that lockdown scepticism has been ‘taken over’ by the type of people he then goes on to describe as cranks and conspiracy theorists. He crafts his own truth and uses emotive language to stamp it with an air of false authenticity. Young fell for it by the looks.

    Liked by 1 person

  259. I am so lucky. . Last Monday I went for my first jab. They were so well organised, like a well oiled machine, pumping thst life-saving vaccine into queues of us elderly citizens like there was to be no tomorrow. Well done our wonderful NHS!

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  260. This article in The Times should surely carry the headline “Lawson Denounces Scepticism”

    I get the impression Ben doesn’t go along with it. And I’m not going to pay to read it, sorry.

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  261. Dominic Lawson’s at it now, claiming the ‘second wave’ has destroyed lockdown scepticism. It hasn’t. When deaths started to increase during winter (something which happens every winter), they just moved the goalposts and moved to redefine their terminology. Ben understands this. So many others don’t.

    This is the type of deception being employed now to rebadge lockdown critics as cranks:

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  262. Here you go. Haven’t read it yet. Must get on. Back later:

    “There’s an old joke concerning someone sceptical about the effect of gravity. He throws himself off a tall building, and as he falls past each floor, he says, with undiminished confidence: “So far, so good.” I am reminded of this by the Covid-19 sceptics (or lockdown sceptics, as some call themselves).

    When the reported infection rates began soaring at the beginning of winter, their go-to expert, a former Pfizer executive with a PhD in respiratory pharmacology, Michael Yeadon, declared this was a “casedemic” rather than a pandemic: these were almost all “false positives”. Then, as the ICUs began filling up at an alarming rate, he asserted that the increased numbers were people with other conditions: Covid-19 was not really the cause of their hospital admission. Yes, any increase must be happening because so many more old people have been falling over and suffering broken hips this winter. Whatever.

    And this month, as the Covid deaths escalated, Yeadon — who has denounced as unsafe and unnecessary the vaccine made by his erstwhile employer — took to Twitter to assert,“We do NOT have EXCESS DEATHS”. To put it most politely, his opinion does not tally with the findings of the Office for National Statistics, which released figures last week showing that in 2020 the number of “excess deaths”, as a proportion of the population, amounted to a 12.1% rise over the average of the previous five years. As Sky’s outstanding data analyst, Ed Conway, wrote: “That’s the biggest leap in any year since 1940 … the only other years that came close — save for 1940 — are 1929, in which there was a global flu pandemic on top of an economic crash; 1918, year of the Spanish flu; and 1915, during the First World War.”

    But was Yeadon referring only to the winter deaths? Well, the official England and Wales figure for mortality over the last five weeks of 2020 was 59,195, compared with an average of 48,901 over the past five years. Which might explain the inability of some hospital mortuaries to meet demand, and the opening of emergency facilities for storing the bodies.

    But, confident in the wisdom of Yeadon, Toby Young, the creator of the Lockdown Sceptics website, declared this month: “If you compare mortality in December of 2020 with average December mortality over the last five years, there doesn’t appear to be any increase at all.” The Conservative MP Neil O’Brien, citing the actual figures, accused Young of lying. This might be to overestimate Young’s intellectual grasp of the matter: to lie — as opposed to being merely ignorant — means you understand what the truth is, and choose to deny it.

    Funnily enough, I had a (courteous) email from Young last week, critical of some of my columns, which had supported the government’s policies of mandatory social restrictions and attacked the so-called lockdown sceptics, not least for their dismissing so many victims as old or vulnerable folk who were due to meet their maker soon anyway. Young told me, “I’m not sure you’ve fully grasped the case [of lockdown sceptics], but I think the case you make is often against a caricature of our position.”

    Well, Toby, you did write, in March: “Spending £350bn to prolong the lives of a few hundred thousand mostly elderly people is an irresponsible use of taxpayers’ money.” Leave aside the moral issues, he, in common with others of this opinion, never attempts to calculate the counterfactual: what would be the economic consequences, not least for the hospitality industry, of adopting a so-called herd immunity strategy and letting the virus rip. A number of serious economists — free-market ones, not lovers of big government — have done so. I’m thinking of Sam Bowman of the Adam Smith Institute, Julian Jessop of the Institute of Economic Affairs, and Ryan Bourne of the Cato Institute. They have all supported the policy of government-mandated social distancing.

    Of course such calculations involve considerations of the cost of preserving lives. One of the most familiar critiques of the government has been that it “sacrificed the lives of cancer sufferers”. It is true that during the first wave of the virus, the NHS, to a much greater extent than was necessary, cancelled thousands of procedures to clear the decks for Covid-19 cases — and the ejection of the elderly from hospitals back into care homes without checking if they were infected was, as I wrote at the time, “protecting the NHS but writing off the most vulnerable”. However, we are now seeing exactly what the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, warned about in September: the extent of the second wave — a second wave that Young, along with the rest of the “lockdown sceptics”, adamantly insisted would never happen — has led to thousands of cancer procedures being postponed, as hospitals are inundated with those at risk of immediate death from Covid-19.

    I am interested to know what Sunetra Gupta thinks of this. She is the professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford, regarded as some sort of goddess by the “sceptics”. In March she published a paper with a model purporting to show half the population of the UK had already had the virus, and so we were near herd immunity. In May she said Covid-19 was “on its way out” — later adding that it would not resurge in London — and that the infection mortality rate was “definitely less than one in 1,000 and probably closer to 1 in 10,000”. When she said this, we had already seen 36,000 Covid deaths. So, even if 100% of our citizens had been infected, we would have to have had a population of 360 million for her low-end estimate to be right.

    Yet Gupta, the principal academic critic of lockdowns, has never retracted anything and was consulted by Boris Johnson when the PM rejected the advice of Whitty (an epidemiologist himself) to reintroduce a lockdown in October.

    The point is that journalists such as Young, and others in my trade who take the same line, rely almost entirely on the spurious authority of Gupta and Yeadon for the unshakeable confidence they have in their own opinion. Their now ridiculous articles confidently dismissing the dangers of Covid-19 stemmed not from any original thought but from blindly trusting what they took to be experts. This is quite funny, as it’s the same accusation they make about those of us who trusted Whitty.

    But there are consequences. On the day I heard from Young, I also got an email from a hospital doctor: “Not just me but every doctor I work with in acute care has treated people sick or even dying with Covid-19 who point-blank refused to believe it was real or that they had it, because of what they read or heard on social media or from certain commentators.” And there are no jokes to be made about that.”

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  263. Mark,

    If this debate regarding vaccine related mortality reminds you of the discussion we recently had regarding causation and extreme weather event attribution, then it is because it should. The underlying issues are exactly the same. When making judgements regarding cause of death one needs to consider both the probability of necessity and the probability of sufficiency, and only compare like with like. Beyond that I do not wish to say any more. Despite respecting the role of emotive language in a debate, experience has shown me it is best to keep out of such debates here on Cliscep.

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  264. Jaime, “Emotive language can sometimes be appropriate. Of course it can…”

    Granted. I was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. However, very strong emotive analogies for instance, still bypass our reason.

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  265. The lockdown debate will soon (hopefully) be academic, because this will all be over (said he confidently). What seems like long ago I agreed with Steve’s position in the tweet above, that far from needing to vaccinate the entire population, the virus ought to fizzle when we reach 20% ish. I’ve revised my estimate to 40%, a SWAG based on the fact that we are vaccinating the wrong people if we wanted to greatly reduce transmission with 20% vaccinated. Of course there are pros and cons here. But the target groups could have “shielded”, Barrington style, while vaccinations went to the people who have the most contacts. In fact students could have been lined up and jabbed on their first day back at school, rather than cancelling school.

    Of course lockdown sceptics are being caricatured as wanting no measures at all. Rather like those of us who oppose Net Zero are caricatured as believing that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas. There is somewhere a balance, where costs and benefits of proposed actions are equal. There is a moral dimension to lockdown that has no rational basis and it can be used to outweigh sensible objections.

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  266. There is more than a whiff of orthodoxy about the Times article, I think. The kind of ‘our science is better than your science’ and ‘your scientists are irresponsible’, and ‘we have far more scientists anyhow’ type of stuff that albeit diluted, is reminiscent of climate orthodoxy. I think this taints rather, the discussion of valid issues. With this motivation being visible, it tells us the info is not likely to be unbiased. But then it seems to me that biases have developed that aren’t just in orthodoxy. How else could it be that some of the lockdown sceptics manged to convince themselves that there wouldn’t be a sharp rise in cases (however measured) in winter? When in this country (and many other temperate countries) there is *always* a steep rise in respiratory diseases in winter, and for that *not* to happen for a new respiratory disease in the same year as its pandemic arrival, would surely be a miracle. Whether one calls this rise a second wave or a winter wave is semantics, and on the orthodox side there seems likewise to be a forgetfulness of winter, as the narrative concentrates on a wild mutant strain (in a disease that like flu, is essentially an army of strains in the first place, most of which don’t compete in virulence but rise and fall nevertheless). Science and reasoned policy seem to be rather trampled underfoot in a battle of (often emotive!) narratives. I guess unlike the climate case, more objectivity will return once ‘the issue’ goes away. But despite that generally I think deploying vaccines is likely to be a good thing in its own right, it’s also the case that from the perspective of rampant public fear, the vaccine is viewed more like the St George of science slaying the dragon of covid, and hence any issues that vaccination may bring, which potential candidates Jaime rightly highlights, are unlikely to be treated objectively. Yet without that St George, my guess is that the fear couldn’t be conquered anyhow, it’s just grown too big, hence has to be slain if things are to stand any chance of returning to normal.

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  267. Jit:

    What seems like long ago I agreed with Steve’s position in the tweet above, that far from needing to vaccinate the entire population, the virus ought to fizzle when we reach 20% ish.

    Long time ago in that Steve tweeted that stuff as early as 3rd December or in that I drew attention to it at 9:36 pm last night? Even the second does now seem an age past. Does emotive language have some strange effect on perceived time? I think Einstein should be told.

    Of course lockdown sceptics are being caricatured as wanting no measures at all. Rather like those of us who oppose Net Zero are caricatured as believing that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas. There is somewhere a balance, where costs and benefits of proposed actions are equal. There is a moral dimension to lockdown that has no rational basis and it can be used to outweigh sensible objections.

    I’m sure there are some caricatures flying around. And bad feeling. For example, I follow Roland Smith on Twitter:

    And Nick Cohen (and Julia HB):

    But I also think Christopher Snowdon has nailed some problems in the lockdown sceptic scene in his Quillette piece, at least as it has evolved since September. I’m going to give an example of that. I know, you can’t wait. Groan.

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  268. This I think is a key passage from Snowdon. The italics are his. Unless you’re on an iPhone. Sigh.

    Doubt is at the heart of this phenomenon, and it is being unscrupulously exploited. Can we prove that every death attributed to COVID-19 was caused by COVID-19? No. Some of them almost certainly weren’t. How many deaths were caused by lockdown? No one knows. Has the government ever specified precisely what the false positive rate is? No. Can we prove beyond doubt that the decline in case numbers seen around the world shortly after lockdowns were introduced would not have taken place anyway? No. How could we?

    Some data simply don’t exist. Definite proof is only to be found in mathematics. In life, as in court, you can only exclude reasonable doubt. Those who cling to unreasonable doubts cannot be persuaded by facts or logic. The smiley crowd are persistent in asking questions about trivial issues for which there are no definitive answers, but have no answer to the most fundamental questions asked of them in return. Smileys generally won’t spell out the conclusion that their “scepticism” leads them to because they know how contemptibly stupid it would sound, but the scenario must go something like this:

    A virus that has killed millions of people, including 50,000 in Britain last spring, suddenly disappeared, and so the government approved a highly inaccurate diagnostic test to keep the panic going because Boris Johnson has always wanted the public to wear face masks or something. Very few people actually have SARS-CoV-2 and even according to the official figures only two per cent have it at the moment. As luck would have it, a hugely disproportionate number of them happen to be admitted to hospital and die from something else, thereby producing scary death counts which are corroborated by corrupt doctors.

    Another stroke of luck for the government is that last year happened to have the largest number of excess deaths since 1940. This could be due to lockdown deaths, whatever they are, or some other epidemic unrelated to the coronavirus. Have you noticed how few flu deaths there are this year? Bit suspicious, isn’t it? One possibility is that despite a drastic reduction in air travel and an unprecedented amount of social distancing, hand-washing, mask-wearing, and self-isolation, Britain is suffering from an exceptionally severe flu season, with flu deaths being wrongly classified as COVID-19 deaths by corrupt and/or incompetent doctors.

    Pretty far-fetched, isn’t it? And that’s before we get to the theories about Bill Gates and the Chinese Communist Party that are on the lunatic fringes even in the smiley universe.

    I’m not quoting this because I believe every word. Take the thirteenth for example: unscrupulously. Not sure about that one. But I think there’s an important point about lockdown sceptics always coming back to things of which none of us can be sure. And that reminded me of an interaction I had with Jaime no more than six days ago. Strictly, this was about the vaccines, not lockdowns. And I also revealed myself to be an ‘Enlightenment era sceptic’. But watch for the key move from my opponent. I wrote in response to something by Jaime (starting here):

    We have some real challenges right now but, for me, that conclusion rests on some dubious assumptions. Post Enlightenment era is the worst. When and how did the Enlightenment help with the rise of Stalin, Hitler and Mao? Or are those dates and places excluded from the era? For me there’s never been an Enlightenment era. It’s a narrative that comforts some but on no solid basis. The reality is far more complex. Good science has produced real miracles, like the eradication of smallpox and the latest mRNA work to counter Covid-19. Ah, but you might not agree on that last bit, just as you might find fault with the history in Smallpox Vaccine: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I don’t know.

    My use of the word miracles was unlikely to go down well. But it’s how I see the history. Jaime replied:

    We are developing blind faith in science. Science itself has become the New Religion of the masses and thus the Enlightenment is rolling back, because science is not belief and can never be belief. To remain health and vigour, it must be constantly challenged and criticised. That is no longer happening. You provide an example yourself:

    “Good science has produced real miracles, like the eradication of smallpox and the latest mRNA work to counter Covid-19”.

    How do you KNOW it is ‘good’ science? There are no miracles in science and your faith in the Pfizer mRNA vaccine to protect against Covid-19 may be dangerously misplaced:

    https://sciencewithdrdoug.com/2020/08/01/is-a-coronavirus-vaccine-a-ticking-time-bomb/amp/

    Of course I didn’t KNOW that the Pfizer mRNA vaccine protected all and sundry against Covid-19 with no negative side-effects. And I didn’t claim that I did know. Jaime in making this point about what good science was had ignored a much more important wider one, as I then tried to point out:

    Jaime: You quoted one sentence but what followed showed I knew my onions. The mRNA work is I think good science. The two vaccines based on it may prove to have some negative side-effects, just as the smallpox vaccine did. But the eradication of smallpox is an awesome thing in human history achieved by good science, good public health policies and the social bonding that has to go with them to make the science and the policies effective.

    That’s why I pointed you to one person’s history of smallpox and how it was overcome, against much scepticism about the vaccine(s) in earlier days, and wondered if you agreed with that piece. You didn’t grapple with that at all. Because you’re not an expert, perhaps? I know I’m not.

    To that there was no reply. Because (I assume) one narrow point of uncertainty was enough to dismiss the whole. From my interactions with other lockdown sceptics I think Snowdon is onto something here.

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  269. JIT, you hope this will all end soon. I seriously doubt it will. Others agree. I warned this ‘new variant’ nonsense was going to be the new way to justify continuing lockdowns and severe restrictions. Prior to September 2020, thousands of mutations occurred in the genome of SARS-CoV-2 and not ONE of them conferred any biological/evolutionary advantage on the virus in terms of transmissibility. But now suddenly we have three new ‘mutant strains’ – one of them killed Christmas in the UK and is still being used as the reason for continued hard lockdown and one of them now supposedly threatens to make the vaccines redundant and thus it appears from now now onwards, the appearance of any new variant means that we must all be locked up again until the God Scientists check whether it will affect the vaccine efficacy and/or they develop a new vaccine. They do not intend for this to end.

    We are being crushed in order to try to completely eliminate a mutating virus on the basis that any mutations arising are necessarily ‘dangerous’.

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  270. Michael then goes on to explain all about natural immunity, the existence of which our government appears to deny. The whole point of this exercise was supposedly to protect the tiny minority of vulnerable. Once they have been ‘protected’ (by vaccination, which also might kill them in the process), there is NO justification for continuing with this extremely destructive s**tshow of masks, social distancing, travel restrictions, business closures etc. What is the REAL intention for keeping the nation in lockdown? It is not to save lives, that is for damned sure, because thousands are dying as a RESULT of lockdowns.

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  271. Richard, you could try reading Michael’s thread fully, then get back to me on the points you raise above, to check if you still think your arguments are entirely valid.

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  272. Rather than read Yeadon right away, Jaime, a thought came to me in Persian. You just wrote:

    JIT, you hope this will all end soon. I seriously doubt it will.

    And I thought:

    This too will pass.

    I’ve always thought this about Covid, though the Iranian way of saying it only just came to me. I don’t believe science can help us with this. It’s a matter of judgment. I’m with Snowdon on this, as with a number of things, as I think over what’s he written. But this has been my settled view from the beginning. And it has a lot to do with my judgment that the medical-NHS estabishment has not been corrupted to anything like the extent that the climate-crony-capitalist one has.

    I’m saying this not to persuade but to explain a key difference between us that goes back to March. I may do a post about these foundational differences.

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  273. @ Richard my estimate of 20% vaccination rate to knock this thing on the head was another SWAG made a long time ago in WuFlu time, but I can’t remember exactly when. It was in response to a talking head on the TV stating a figure of (I think) 80% required vaccinations to achieve herd immunity. I based the 20% SWAG on a poor knowledge of population dynamics in ecology. At their most basic, single-species population growth models ignore space and the net reproductive rate is a function of the present population and the maximum population. 80% seemed to me to be ludicrously high and to be treating the population as a homogenous whole, like a culture on a Petri dish. Instead it is a complex network with links between people representing potential infection pathways. We are now breaking those pathways by all the lockdown measures, by individuals having had the virus, and by vaccines. I put the figure in my head as low as 20% because of the compound effect of breaking these links. (It’s still a SWAG.)

    @ Jaime but I don’t see the why. What would be the motivation for the groundhog day eternal lockdown?

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  274. I recommend seriously that you do read that entire thread Richard, because it is very illuminating science from a man who knows his stuff and is not the ‘crank’ lockdown scpetic which Snowdon and others are atempting to portray him as. You bring up the smallpox vaccine as the only example of the complete eradication of a disease in human history as an example of the ‘miracle’ of vaccines, but I’m not really sur why. For one thing, smallpox is a very different kettle of fish from a respiratory coronavirus and it has no known reservoir outside of humans, so eradication was feasible. You may or may not know, but D.A Henderson is the man credited with the eradication of smallpox:

    Donald Ainslie Henderson (September 7, 1928 – August 19, 2016) was an American medical doctor, educator, and epidemiologist who directed a 10-year international effort (1967–1977) that eradicated smallpox throughout the world and launched international childhood vaccination programs.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Henderson

    You’re seemingly endorsing Snowdon’s views on lockdown sceptics, thereby tacitly accepting that lockdowns may in certain circumstances be justifiable. But this is what the man who eradicated smallpox had to say about the tactic of large scale quarantine measures to control an influenza pandemic in 2006:

    There are no historical observations or scientific studies that support the confinement by quarantine of groups of possibly infected people for extended periods in order to slow the spread of influenza. A World Health Organization (WHO) Writing Group, after reviewing the literature and considering contemporary international experience, concluded that “forced isolation and quarantine are ineffective and impractical.”2 Despite this recommendation by experts, mandatory large-scale quarantine continues to be considered as an option by some authorities and government officials.35,43

    The interest in quarantine reflects the views and conditions prevalent more than 50 years ago, when much less was known about the epidemiology of infectious diseases and when there was far less international and domestic travel in a less densely populated world. It is difficult to identify circumstances in the past half-century when large-scale quarantine has been effectively used in the control of any disease. The negative consequences of large-scale quarantine are so extreme (forced confinement of sick people with the well; complete restriction of movement of large populations; difficulty in getting critical supplies, medicines, and food to people inside the quarantine zone) that this mitigation measure should be eliminated from serious consideration.

    [my emphasis]

    http://www.upmc-biosecurity.org/website/resources/publications/2006/2006-09-15-diseasemitigationcontrolpandemicflu.html

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  275. JIT,

    Simply because neither you nor I can identify positively a motivation for such an extreme exercise, does not alter the fact that your government is signalling to us that they intend to carry out such an extreme exercise. By refusing to set any limit on lockdown and by floating to the public possible reasons for not ending lockdown, they are effectively telling us that it’s highly unlikely restrictions will end in the foreseeable future. This is not bloody acceptable. We are not (or should not be) prisoners of government policy. Our lives are ours – this government is assuming that it can take our lives indefinitely. Try to get your head around that.

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  276. It may be fair to state that a second wave within a community is proof that it had never achieved herd immunity threshold (HIT). However, that oversimplifies the situation. Social homogeneity within a population may have been the assumption for much of the modelling that has informed government policy to date, but it is an unsafe assumption. And in a socially heterogeneous population it is quite possible to achieve what is known as a Transient Collective Immunity (TCI) with levels of infection that are far below that required for herd immunity of a homogenous population. The problem is that such immunity is fragile and likely to break down, exhibiting a re-infection of the population that looks very much like a second wave. Whilst claims for herd immunity may have been premature, the possibility still exists that the first wave ebbed because TCI had been achieved, rather than because lockdown was effective. For more information, reference:

    https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.07.26.20162420v3

    “It is shown that the suppression of the early waves of the COVID-19 epidemic has been facilitated in some locations by Transient Collective Immunity (TCI). This is a fragile state that could be achieved below HIT, but would wane over time due to changing levels of individual social activity.”

    Liked by 3 people

  277. Ecuador is no longer a banana republic – the UK is. Just think about that. Other central and South American countries are likewise starting to get tough on lockdown pseudoscience, preferring instead to enforce the rights and civil liberties of their populations over ‘disease control’. Europe, the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada appear to be dying and the flame of empirical evidence-based science, liberty and democracy appears to have been passed on to South America. Good for them, but if this is a permanent thing, it’s going to be catastrophic.

    Still think Michael Yeadon is a crank and a conspiracy theorist?

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  278. Thanks for the link John. The ‘second wave’ nonsense promoted by SAGE and the government is based on the idea that the population is homogeneous and that only 6% have so far been infected, leaving 94% susceptible to infection – a new ‘let it rip’ epidemic of a disease scything its way through an immunologically naive population. It’s just not like that. Firstly, we have seasonal effects coming into play, then we have the effects of population heterogeneity, then behavioural effects, then the artificial effects on the spread of the virus introduced by lockdowns themselves, maybe making matters worse, rather than better. Look again at the ‘second wave’ in Sweden. Then of course we have to consider how many deaths during this ‘second wave’ are actual Covid deaths. Then lastly we have to ask ourselves why the government is delaying the second dose of the vaccine which may in fact give rise to vaccine-resistant strains developing, causing only partial antibody neutralisation of the virus in those who are vaccinated just once, then left to wander around for months.

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  279. “…the possibility still exists that the first wave ebbed because TCI had been achieved…”

    Or indeed because TCI and ‘summer’, which ‘winter’ would then reverse, or because TCI and ‘summer’ and differential in both immune system learning and genetic vulnerability as seen by different variants even without these having otherwise greater transmissibility, and and.

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  280. This pandemic has gone on so long and so much has been written that maybe it’s time to return to what we were thinking when the world was younger and we still had hope. Last April, the Stanford economist John Cochrane wrote a piece that I found really interesting about the impact of super-spreader events and how opening up after lockdown should focus on avoiding such situations and trying to maximise economic impact.
    https://johnhcochrane.blogspot.com/2020/04/ban-parties-not-business.html

    One paragraph really resonated with me

    “It’s worth scanning all the myriad forms of common human activity that aren’t represented among these listed SSEs: watching movies in a theater, being on a train or bus, attending theater, opera, or symphony…These are activities where people often find themselves surrounded by strangers in densely packed rooms—as with all those above-described SSEs—but, crucially, where attendees also are expected to sit still and talk in hushed tones.
    The world’s untold thousands of white-collar cubicle farms don’t seem to be generating abundant COVID-19 SSEs
    There is a lot of GDP there!”

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  281. Jaime:

    You bring up the smallpox vaccine as the only example of the complete eradication of a disease in human history as an example of the ‘miracle’ of vaccines, but I’m not really sur why.

    No and no.

    Not the only example of the complete eradication of a disease. I didn’t say that.

    And not as an example of the ‘miracle’ of vaccines. I didn’t say that either.

    I sometimes feel you don’t read so well.

    I gave it as a example of a miracle produced by good science, a short form I expanded the second time around into good science, good public policies and “the social bonding that has to go with them to make the science and the policies effective”.

    And I gave it as an example of where the vaccine, though finally proved by history to be ‘good science’, was highly criticised for its negative side-effects, leading to public campaigns against it. To give substance to this I pointed you to a history of Smallpox.

    I never said that Covid-19 is exactly like Smallpox. I also don’t think Covid is exactly like the flu, so I don’t think Donald Henderson’s view of a lockdown for a flu epidemic in 2006 gets us very far. I was talking about the vaccines.

    I was, if you like, arguing from analogy. Especially the fierceness of the opposition to the Smallpox vaccine. With the benefit of hindsight those people were wrong. (Though I asked for your opinion on that.)

    I was also suggesting that neither you nor I are experts. Does that matter? Well, it certainly could matter.

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  282. “Ecuador is no longer a banana republic – the UK is. Just think about that.”

    Because Yeadon says so? Why should we believe that above the overwhelming evidence of global similarities re covid responses? It has been the case in this country since last Autumn, I don’t recall the exact date, that the government must justify to parliament its covid policies and pass votes upon same for them to happen. Why does Yeadon think that the quality / subset of science used to do that from now on in Ecuador, will turn out to be any better than it is here? Or indeed that the official political opposition there will be any more rational about such science than the various oppositions elsewhere? A big complication in Ecuador is that covid dropped on top of the worst civil unrest for many years, to the extent that the government had to move out of Quito in October 19. Hardly a sign of national stability. This makes events more unpredictable and so I guess pretty much anything could happen there. But what’s happening overall with covid is by and large (albeit via different routes due to the different systems in different countries), not a national issue and hasn’t been all the way through so far. Many governments have done and are doing largely the same things. [irrelevant note: I’ve been to Quito, briefly, on the way to the Galapagos; great indoor market].

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  283. John’s link explains well the ‘apparent’ herd immunity threshold of about 15-20% achieved in places like London and New York. People like Nic Lewis and other sceptics (myself included) were arguing that this was in fact the actual HIT for Covid-19, far lower than the SAGE and Ferguson estimated HIT of 60-70% in their epidemiological models assuming population homogeneity. The truth may be somewhere in between. The Transient Community Immunity threshold was achieved early on, mainly via superspreader events, which effectively suppressed the epidemic. Then winter comes along and we have another “wave” of infections which is nowhere near as serious as predicted by the homogeneous models, but significant in its own right and very dependent upon the nature of the biological and social population heterogeneity of the population in question, plus of course by how much the TCI was exceeded (or indeed if it was attained) in the first wave. For SARS-CoV-2, with R0 between 2.0 and 3.5, the TCI varies between 15 and 25%, whereas the actual HIT is somewhere between 30 and 44%. Meanwhile, the homogeneous models are telling us that HIT is between 50 and 70% and the government and lockdown enthusiasts insist that this can only be achieved via mass vaccination.

    “After calibrating the model by using the data streams on ICU occupancy, hospitalization and daily deaths up to the end of May, we explore a hypothetical worst-case scenario in which any mitigation is completely relaxed as of June 1, in both Chicago and NYC. In other words, the basic reproduction number R0 is set back to its value at the initial stage of the epidemic, and the only factor limiting the second wave is the partial or full TCI, Re = R0Sλ. The projected daily deaths for each of the two cities under this (unrealistically harsh) scenario are presented in Fig. 4 for various values of λ. For
    both cities, the homogeneous model (λ = 1, blue lines) predicts a second wave which is larger than the first one with an additional death toll of around 35,000 in NYC and 12, 800 in Chicago. The magnitude of the second wave is greatly reduced by heterogeneity, resulting in no second wave in either of the two cities for λ = 5 (black lines). Even for a modest value λ = 3 (red lines), which is less than our estimate, the second wave is dramatically reduced in both NYC and Chicago (by about 90% and 70%, respectively).”

    Does this model explain why the ‘second wave’ in Sweden, where TCI was undoubtedly reached in major urban areas like Stockholm, has been essentially non existent? Have ongoing restrictions, lockdowns and masks actually made matters worse by reducing infections during the summer which was an ideal time to safely establish at least the TCI threshold?

    Liked by 1 person

  284. Jaime:

    You’re seemingly endorsing Snowdon’s views on lockdown sceptics, thereby tacitly accepting that lockdowns may in certain circumstances be justifiable.

    Please slow down and take in what I’ve actually written. In the early hours I said this:

    I have now read Snowdon in full. And I’m thinking about it … I’m really grateful to him for laying out the case for this lockdown in the UK (which is the practical point right now). And he fingers despair as the cause of irrational lockdown scepticism.

    On 30th December, in Despair (so to speak), you wrote “lockdowns are evil”. I replied:

    I also don’t agree with “lockdowns are evil” though. It’s not that black and white for me. I think it’s possible that the one begun in March was justifiable. More broadly I think the Covid challenge needed experts who were truly inspired, in a way the greatest entrepreneurs sometimes are – like Norman Borlaugh. I doubt many of them were. I always doubted they would be. (This is the flip-side of the Dunning-Kruger problem, which I also think is real.)

    From that I think you have plenty to go on. I am a climate sceptic. I’ve never called myself a lockdown sceptic. Just as David Rose, despite being like us in so many ways, was never a Eurosceptic and voted for Remain. People are complicated because the world is. The only thing that matters practically right now is our view of this UK lockdown (sorry, foreign readers) and the three approved vaccines. I repeat that I’m very grateful to Christopher Snowdon for laying out the case for the current lockdown. The deeper point is what I called the “social bonding that has to go with [good science and good policies] to make the science and the policies effective”. That we are struggling to achieve. The Germans are said to be considering detention camps for dissenters. But that’s not the UK. I’m interested in the UK, out of a deep desire for simplicity.

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  285. Richard,

    “Especially the fierceness of the opposition to the Smallpox vaccine. With the benefit of hindsight those people were wrong. (Though I asked for your opinion on that.)”.

    No, they were not wrong. The smallpox vaccine is considerably dangerous, but weighed against how dangerous the disease is, it was justified. Where smallpox is absent, it is not justified. Covid-19 is a very mild disease by comparison, but if the reported deaths and adverse side effects turn out to be real and attributable to vaccination, then getting vaccinated against Covid is going to prove to be an insane decision for the vast majority.

    “Widespread vaccination of Americans against smallpox is too dangerous to justify unless the likelihood of a major biological attack on the United States is substantial, but it is prudent to vaccinate health care workers now against the deadly disease, according to a new study by the RAND Center for Domestic and International Health Security.

    The study, published on the Web site of the New England Journal of Medicine, estimates that if 60 percent of the U.S. population were immunized, there would be about 500 deaths — a price too high to pay if there is little chance of a widespread attack against America with the smallpox virus, researchers said.

    The researchers found that if nearly all 10 million health care workers in the United States were vaccinated against smallpox, an estimated 25 people would die.”

    https://www.rand.org/news/pox.html

    “In the past, about 1,000 people for every 1 million people vaccinated with the smallpox vaccine for the first time experienced reactions that, while not life-threatening, were serious. These reactions may require medical attention.”

    https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/smallpox-vaccination-effects#1

    If there was a biological weapon attack with smallpox, I would have no hesitation at all about being administered the smallpox vaccine because currently nobody in the world has any existing immunity to this exceptionally lethal and deeply unpleasant disease. The situation with Covid is not similar in any respect. It is a mostly mild disease, harmless to the vast majority, but the vaccines look at the moment like they may be even more dangerous than the smallpox vaccine.

    Here’s what you said Richard:

    “But the eradication of smallpox is an awesome thing in human history achieved by good science, good public health policies and the social bonding that has to go with them to make the science and the policies effective.

    That’s why I pointed you to one person’s history of smallpox and how it was overcome, against much scepticism about the vaccine(s) in earlier days . . . ”

    On another thread you said:

    “Good science has produced real miracles, like the eradication of smallpox and the latest mRNA work to counter Covid-19.”

    I said:

    “You bring up the smallpox vaccine as the only example of the complete eradication of a disease in human history as an example of the ‘miracle’ of vaccines, but I’m not really sure why. For one thing, smallpox is a very different kettle of fish from a respiratory coronavirus and it has no known reservoir outside of humans, so eradication was feasible.”

    You replied:

    “Not the only example of the complete eradication of a disease. I didn’t say that.

    And not as an example of the ‘miracle’ of vaccines. I didn’t say that either.

    I sometimes feel you don’t read so well.

    I gave it as a example of a miracle produced by good science . . . . ”

    Stop playing games Richard. The fact is that the eradication of smallpox IS the ONLY example of the complete eradication of a disease known to man and you clearly implied that the vaccine which achieved that was a ‘miracle of science’, comparing it directly to the alleged miracle of the mRNA vaccines. You’re just splitting hairs. It would be a genuine miracle if we managed to eradicate an endemic coronavirus without first eradicating the human race. Some folks appear to want to do that.

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  286. OK Richard,

    You say,

    “I have now read Snowdon in full. And I’m thinking about it … I’m very grateful to Christopher Snowdon for laying out the case for the current lockdown.”

    I’m not because there isn’t a case to be made. I’m not grateful to him either for trashing lockdown scepticism in general as the domain of cranks and conspiracy theorists whilst allegedly laying out the case for the current lockdown. Perhaps when you’ve finished thinking about what he wrote, then you could let us know whether or not you do agree with him.

    BTW, David Rose seems to have gone AWOL from the climate sceptic club. He’s now supporting CCS.

    Like

  287. Stop playing games Richard.

    I’m not. The work on mRNA is good science, in my view. I didn’t say it would lead to an effective vaccine for Covid that was worth taking by all age groups. Don’t read things into what I say that I haven’t said.

    Like Pete Ridley and Matt Ridley (interesting), I would take any of the three approved vaccines I was offered without hesitation. I actually ran into a confused gent in his 80s yesterday who was struggling to find the local centre for vaccinations. (He wasn’t offended by me asking on what basis he was being offered a jab right now and I wished him the very best – without being able to help him with the location!)

    But I’ve also said, like the government has, that there should be no coercion. On that we surely agree.

    I’m not [very grateful to Christopher Snowdon for laying out the case for the current lockdown] because there isn’t a case to be made.

    That’s the wonderful thing about you Jaime. You don’t presumably even have to read what those who disagree with you say, because you know there isn’t a case to be made.

    Its a small example but you simply didn’t need to write that. Most people could have guessed how grateful you felt towards Christopher Snowdon right now. What’s interesting is that we differ on it. You could simply have acknowledged that. Or said nothing. There is a way to greater empathy in all this.

    I’m not grateful to him either for trashing lockdown scepticism in general as the domain of cranks and conspiracy theorists whilst allegedly laying out the case for the current lockdown.

    Can you show me where Snowdon called Mike Yeadon a crank? I don’t think he did. One such counterexample is enough to allow for reasoned debate with as much empathy as possible. Always debate with the best is my motto – Richard Lindzen, not Marc Morano, in the climate scepticism case, for example. That would be my view of Yeadon among lockdown sceptics, albeit from limited knowledge. I will read his response to the latest, pretty soon.

    Perhaps when you’ve finished thinking about what he wrote, then you could let us know whether or not you do agree with him.

    I have a problem with this simple request and that is that the UK government has already given its verdict on the subject. What is my opinion worth compared to that? That is a REALLY serious question for me. I don’t think anyone else has expressed this point of view on Cliscep. I will go into this more if I do the post I threatened earlier. And it won’t just be about Covid.

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  288. From the Snowdon piece:

    “…As Sky’s outstanding data analyst, Ed Conway, wrote: “That’s the biggest leap in any year since 1940 the only other years that came close — save for 1940 — are 1929, in which there was a global flu pandemic on top of an economic crash; 1918, year of the Spanish flu; and 1915, during the First World War.”

    While these figures are true as far as they go, they take no account of the increase in population nor the increase in life expectancy. A much more honest version would be:

    2020 saw the highest number of deaths as a proportion of the population since 2010.

    The whole Snowdon piece was like that – just enough true data to make it seem right but actually just another polemic. Joseph Goebbels would have been proud…

    Liked by 1 person

  289. Richard, I’m afraid you’re wrong again.

    “That’s the wonderful thing about you Jaime. You don’t presumably even have to read what those who disagree with you say.”

    I did read it.

    “Can you show me where Snowdon called Mike Yeadon a crank?”

    The clue is is the title: “Rise of the Coronavirus Cranks” and in the supporting text where he specifically attacks Cummins and Yeadon:

    “The claims made by Cummins, Yeadon, and other supposed authorities are demonstrably nonsensical.”

    I think from that it is fairly safe to conclude that Snowdon calls Yeadon a crank.

    Even Yeadon thinks so:

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  290. And we are still quoting the immaculate coronavirus guru Yeadon as a source of “truths” are we? He of truth 1 (viral infections don’t come in waves), truth 2 (the British public gained herd immunity last summer) and truth 3 (the post-summer rise in cases, hospital admissions and deaths cannot be due to Covid so is caused by faulty testing). And so now, reject vaccines, they are unsafe, the virus will not cause harm to 99.9% of us. Gosh I must have been so, so unlucky! As are the hoards of patients filling up more and more of our hospital wards and causing real concern about their supplies of oxygen. But fear not Yeadon’s here to dispense his opinions.

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  291. There’s a study been released in the past few days which examines the attack rate of the virus in private homes and concludes that it is *30% more transmissible* and not, as claimed by Ferguson, more likely to spread among children, which was cited as the reason for closing schools. It also finds that the transmissibility enhancement is not as a result of increased viral load. Again though, it is based on the proxy PCR missing S gene test, not on acual genome sequencing. If you have a sophisticated tool for diagnosing the actual presence of a variant, why not use it? But anyway, 30% is not 70% and similar studies were published on the D614G substitution which in the end turned out not to be more transmissible.

    https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.01.13.21249721v1

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  292. The Immaculate Coronavirus Guru, in response to Ben’s critical tweet about Lawson’s Times article (reproduced above):

    Like

  293. Finally, the Telegraph prints some facts. Here’s your ‘second wave’:

    First graph: black is all deaths, red is Covid deaths, light brown line is 5 year average.
    Second graph: Mortality rates for deaths due to Covid-19 per 100,000 people, England and Wales, March-December 2020 (Age-standardised). Black is Wales Red is England.

    “On January 13, Dr Yvonne Doyle, the medical director at Public Health England (PHE) issued an alarming statement claiming that Britain had reported the highest number of coronavirus deaths on a single day since the pandemic began.

    She also alleged that there have now been more deaths in the second wave than the first.

    Both these statements were “technically” true. On that day, 1,564 people were added to official mortality figures, the highest number ever, while the 44,198 “second wave” coronavirus deaths passed the 40,563 recorded up to August 31.

    Yet dig a little deeper and the narrative that the second wave is more deadly than the first begins to unravel.

    I make an early caveat here that I firmly believe we are having a deadly second wave, and thousands more people are dying than would be expected ordinarily at this time of year. But it is not the tens of thousands more PHE would have you believe.

    According to some figures, the second wave is five times less deadly than the first wave. This is in spite of the fact we have a new variant which is between 50 and 74 per cent more infectious.

    To get a real feel for how the waves compare, it is necessary to look at excess deaths rather than crude reported deaths.

    According to the Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI), set up by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, there have been 72,900 excess deaths from the start of the pandemic in March to the end of December.

    Some 60,800 of those occurred in the first wave, but just 12,100 in the second. It means that, unlike the first wave, huge numbers of people included in the coronavirus death figures would have been expected to die of other causes in the past few months.

    Look at Office for National Statistics (ONS) graphs showing deaths over time and this becomes startlingly clear. While there is a mountainous peak in April as deaths soared over the average, now we are trending a little above the five-year average line. On some days towards the end of December, we were actually below it.

    Dr Jason Oke, of the Centre of Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM) at the University of Oxford, said it was difficult to understand the pandemic from the graphs published on the Government’s daily coronavirus dashboard.

    While the “deaths within 28 days” graph appears to show that the second wave is as bad as the first, the “weekly deaths by date registered” shows no such correlation.

    “If you look at the 28-day graph and the hospital data you could well believe it is as bad as the first wave,” Dr Oke said. “The first graph suggests we are now at the same place as the first wave (and due for worse) whereas the second graph tells a different story – half the first wave currently and no increase in December.”

    The CMI also reported that during week 53, from December 28 to January 3, there were 19 per cent fewer deaths registered in England and Wales than would have been expected if Standardised Mortality Rates had been the same as in week one of 2020.

    These December figures will undoubtedly rise as more deaths are registered, and have suffered from the Christmas and New Year holidays when fewer deaths than normal were recorded. But they are not likely to rise so significantly as to take us back to the extraordinary excess deaths of April.

    This week’s Monthly Mortality Analysis from the ONS also makes this point very well. The report states: “Although mortality rates due to Covid-19 have increased between October and December 2020, these remain significantly lower than in April 2020.”

    In fact, in England, age-standardised mortality rates (ASMR) were 62.5 per cent lower in December than April. They have fallen from 623.2 per 100,000 people in April to 233.6 per 100,000 in December.

    The same is true in Wales, although to a lesser extent. In April the ASMR was 495.1 deaths per 100,000 people, and it was 374.4 per 100,000 in December, a 24.4 per cent decrease.

    Dr Doyle’s claim that daily deaths are now running higher than the peak of the first wave in April is also not helpful to understanding how the waves compare.

    The UK has yet to hit the daily death levels seen in the first wave, when 1,072 people died on April 8. The worst day in the second wave was on January 11 when 1,041 people died. Yesterday there were just 599 reported deaths although there will be a weekend lag.

    Although 1,564 deaths were indeed “reported” on January 13, those people died on many different days, with some deaths going back to November

    That is not to say that daily deaths will not pass the April peak. Case rates have only just started falling, so we could still see the peak of the second wave passing the first, but we would expect that at this time of year because of usual winter pressures.

    As Professor David Spiegelhalter pointed out in a recent BBC interview, non-Covid deaths are running very low, and it is important “not to make so much of the announcements of reports of daily cases”.

    “These fluctuate enormously depending on the reporting even just the day of the week we’ve known that since March, said Prof Spiegelhalter, who is Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk, at the University of Cambridge

    “It’s quite possible that once the vaccine starts working that our overall death rate might come down to very reasonable levels, partly because non-Covid deaths are running at a very low rate, at the moment, and a number of reasons for that.

    “First of all there’s almost no flu circulating, which is very big and due to the measures that have been taken largely and, and also that very sadly, a number of elderly vulnerable people lost their lives that are there in the spring.”

    The most recent ONS figures also show that while December was undoubtedly a deadly month, 2010 was worse, and the mortality rate is “significantly lower” than December 2003.

    The mortality rate in December 2020 was 1,339.8 deaths per 100,000 males, compared with 1,674.7 in December 2003, and 950.4 deaths per 100,000 females, compared with 1,217.4 in December 2003.

    The ONS estimates that there were 50,882 more deaths in England in 2020, and 71,110 were due to coronavirus.

    This means that at least 20,000 people who died from coronavirus last year would likely have died from something else. The figure is likely to be higher because many more people have died from the impact of lockdown and cuts to NHS services which will also be caught in the excess figures.

    It may well be that lives were shortened by many months and so the fact their death was expected in 2020 shouldn’t be trivialized. But it does show that the numbers cannot be taken at face value when you are dealing with a disease that disproportionately impacts the elderly and vulnerable.

    Looking at crude death figures also fails to take into account the changing population. In recent years, the population of England and Wales has grown and its average age has increased.

    This would have led to deaths in England and Wales rising by around 1.5 per cent between 2019 and 2020 anyway, even if mortality rates did not change – an increase of nearly 8,000.

    Some commentators have also pointed out that 2019 had lower levels of death than normal (two per cent lower than 2018) so we entered 2020 with a more vulnerable population than usual.

    This analysis should not be used by lockdown skeptics to justify why severe restrictions were unnecessary. It was clearly essential to control the growing pandemic, particularly at a time when we were not sure how deadly the new variant would be.

    And it is vital we keep cases and hospital admissions down, not only to protect the health service, but to prevent large numbers of people ending up with debilitating long Covid.

    However to maintain trust, public health officials must avoid needlessly alarmist pronouncements. The pandemic death figures are bad enough already. They do not need any help.”

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  294. Re Telegraph: “However to maintain trust, public health officials must avoid needlessly alarmist pronouncements.”

    A lick of sense in the mainstream at last. Probably won’t catch on.

    Re Norway: Because they don’t have evidence for same. And it is indeed a great wrong that evidence doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to establishing covid deaths.

    Liked by 1 person

  295. MiaB: it’s still a significant steep rise, but a) that was highly likely to happen in winter, and surely should have been expected by all sides, and b) the reason it doesn’t much exceed the all cause deaths average, is in large part because flu is missing in action. The latter is the aspect I still find somewhat puzzling. While covid in spring reaped some who flu would likely have taken later, normal flu has a more even demographic and hence one would have thought we’d still see more. The Telegraph article says this deficit is: ‘due to the measures that have been taken largely’. But this raises the question, if they worked so well for flu, why not for covid too? Maybe the question has a perfectly reasonable answer, I just don’t know what it is.

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  296. Maybe, Barrel. Yet note Nic Lewis at Judy Curry’s eight days ago:

    Many people, myself included, thought that in the many regions where COVID-19 infections were consistently reducing during the summer, indicating that the applicable herd immunity threshold had apparently been crossed, it was unlikely that a major second wave would occur. This thinking has been proved wrong. In this article I give an explanation of why I think major second waves have happened.

    As I quoted four days ago on Geoff’s old thread, having given a key excerpt from Yeadon’s 30th November article on Lockdown Sceptics on this very theme. Perhaps it’s only a terminology difference. But I like Nic’s candour.

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  297. Richard:

    You don’t presumably even have to read what those who disagree with you say.

    Jaime:

    Richard, I’m afraid you’re wrong again. … I did read it.

    But I said “You don’t presumably even have to read…”.

    I knew you’d read it.

    I no doubt am often wrong but this wasn’t one of those times.

    You clearly didn’t read what I said too carefully.

    And I’m not convinced Snowdon called Yeadon a crank, from the quotes you provided.

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  298. Richard,

    LOL. And LOL.

    I have the greatest of respect for Nic Lewis, but on this occasion he has stated something has happened without actually providing the definitive evidence for it happening. As per John’s link above, it is possible that Transient Community Immunity had been achieved in areas presumed to have achieved herd immunity and this is a reasonable conjecture, however:

    For the Euromomo countries and for England, it can be clearly seen that the ‘second wave’ is no more or less than a rise in deaths associated with winter which does not significantly exceed previous winters when SARS-CoV-2 was not around. I don’t trust the attribution of ‘Covid deaths’ but even those deaths in England are nothing like as severe as they were during the first spring wave of the epidemic. This is the point. Snowdon was wrong. Yeadon has been proved correct to date, and Snowdon did call Yeadon a crank.

    Andy, the alleged disappearance of winter ‘flu is indeed puzzling, but note that we do not test for ‘flu, whereas we test (exhaustively) for Covid.

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  299. Climate change sceptic: the ‘anti-Greta’:

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  300. Do you see how this works now? First, the appearance of a ‘new mutant strain’ was the excuse to suddenly cancel Christmas and then re-impose a national lockdown in the New Year, closing schools in the process and further depriving kids of their right to an education, their sanity and their future. It’s served it’s purpose and they’ve moved on now to a new new variant. Now Wancock tells us that lifing restrictions is contingent upon no ‘new variant’ appearing. How convenient. They never meant for this to end. The ‘new normal’ is here to stay as far as the government is concerned. Surely, nobody can doubt this now.

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  301. I haven’t been following any of Nic Lewis’s work in this area but I note that his latest paper cites that of Tkachenko et al. Even so, Nic doesn’t appear to be following the Tkachenko logic, since there is no mention in Nic’s paper of Transient Collective Immunity achieved below the HIT level. Instead, Nic appears to be arguing for a concept of a flexible HIT that varies according to the R factor, i.e. the HIT had been met but the HIT has now risen, causing a second wave.

    I’m not sure if this amounts to the same thing but, if I understood the Tkachenko paper correctly, the point about heterogeneity is that it makes second waves inevitable, courtesy of TCI and its fragility, but it also means that they are not as high as one might have expected with a homogenous model. Is that not what we are seeing? That’s why the data analysis quoted above by Jaime is so interesting. And is it not fair to say that the second wave was destined to be a relatively modest phenomenon (in line with winter outbreaks) until the transmissibility changed (at least in the South East)? Finally, should we not be seeing this essentially as a crisis for the NHS and recognise that it was never going to take too much to place our NHS in crisis this year? Talking up the scale of the challenge would certainly take attention away from this uncomfortable fact. As is often the case, most natural disasters are man-made. You only need a ripple to breach an inadequate flood defence that is under constant stress.

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  302. There is also the point to be made that even if transmissibility of the new variant is modestly greater than the ‘old strain’ (not “extraordinarily more transmissible”), why should this per se be ‘dangerous’? Viruses evolve all the time, most often haphazardly. Those mutations which serve to enhance survival tend to become dominant. The ‘happy state’ of a virus is to become endemic, not killing too many of its hosts. Increased transmissibility would mean that endemic status occurs sooner. Also, I don’t hear any talk about the possible decreased lethality of the Kent variant via the mutations in the ORF-8 region, which Racaniello pointed out in his video. Perhaps BBC Radio 4 could do a program on that? LOL. Just joking.

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  303. It’s an interesting point about the flu. This season, the NHS seemed to make an effort to offer flu jabs to a broader range of people, eg I was offered it for the first time ever and I am not in the usual age range for eligibility. The difficulty is that the media are so damned useless that we would never find out from them if influenza was around unless it threatened to be more shocking than their pet topics – Brexit, Trump, climate change and, for now, covid19. “Flu in the air, not as bad as usual” is a headline not even someone as dull as Rusbridger would print

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  304. After reading back my last comment, I feel I should stress that I do not wish to downplay the human tragedy that has unfolded. I shall resist saying that behind every statistic is a grieving family — I’ll leave that sort of rhetoric to the politicians. However, it would be wrong of me to suggest that the capacity of the NHS is the only issue here, although it does seem to be driving government strategy.

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  305. My view of Public Health England is that it is inordinately interested in the consumption of cream cakes to the exclusion of most other health matters. Looking at their website for stuff about flu is a bit soul-destroying. They seem to have diverted all their resources from cream cakes to Covid-19. But in their covid report, there are a couple of pages with anecdata about flu. Page 30 of this doc suggests that the disease is running well below normal levels

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/twqjzjg4ad04ott/Weekly_Flu_and_COVID-19_report_w2_V2%20%281%29.pdf?dl=0

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  306. MIAB,

    Yes, the NHS kept pestering me with texts and letters to get a ‘flu jab this winter. Normally, I just get one phone call offering me the jab on account of the fact that I was admitted to hospital a few years ago because of high blood pressure. Very persistent and annoying this year. They told me I had to accept or decline, so I just ignored them.

    In 2018, the ‘flu jab was only 10% effective (presumably because the ‘new mutant strain’ evaded the vaccine that year) and the NHS was at serious risk of being overwhelmed. I don’t remember the government imprisoning us all in our homes then. What they are doing now is totally insane.

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  307. JJ’s unimpeachable logic:

    So, PHE’s Flu Detector consists of an analysis of internet searches? No wonder ‘flu has ‘disappeared’! Clinical diagnosis? Nah, don’t need that.

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  308. JJ, you bring up an interesting point. The official flu stats are the result of a retrospective exercise by medics and actuaries combing through death certificates and clinical records. They don’t come from a PHE database. I suppose that is because there will not be a clinical record for a lot of flu cases. The question is, whether they will be able to extract any meaningful figures from the complex mess of the covid pandemic. The same applies to the CDC in the USA :

    “The flu virus is so common that the number of people infected each influenza season can only be estimated, not determined for certain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) annually estimates the impact of the flu on the U.S. population, and preliminarily for the 2019-2020 flu season they’ve estimated there were 38 million cases, 18 million sought care from their healthcare provider, 400,000 were hospitalized, and 22,000 died with influenza. “

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  309. “It is hard to think of any other political constituency in recent times who have been as thoroughly demonised as lockdown sceptics. Climate-change sceptics are up there, of course. Deniers of the cult of genderfluidity have had a severe hammering, too. But that all pales, if not into insignificance then at least into the background, in comparison with the war of barbs and defamation against anyone who questions whether lockdown is the right response to Covid-19.”

    https://www.spiked-online.com/2021/01/19/the-witch-hunting-of-lockdown-sceptics/

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  310. Here is Cummins’ rebuttal of Snowdon’s article:

    [ttps://thefatemperor.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Snowdon-Quillette-Response-RevA2.pdf]

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  311. A big spike in infections around Christmas and the Government panics. And no one has made the connection with the weather. Those weeks were cold, snow in the North and hard frosts in the South, so of course more people became infected and died, they always do.

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  312. I wonder how many Brits actually begging for the vaccine realise they will be enlisting in a mass human trial which does not have proper authorisation? Ironic no, that this should come to our attention via the Jewish Business News and involve the Israeli government actually performing unauthrorised medical trials upon its own Jewish population, in contravention of the Nuremberg Code.

    Reading the contract signed between the Israeli government and Pfizer shows clearly and unequivocally that this is a clinical study for all intents and purposes, and thus, it had to be approved by the Helsinki Committee,” a senior official told Calcalist.

    “There is nothing wrong with clinical trials,” the official said, “but clinical trials (human trials) must get the committee’s approval, and of course, from the people on whom the trial is being conducted while giving them the right to refuse to be part of a trial. These are fundamental things.”

    The Supreme Helsinki Commission is expected to submit its opinion to the Ministry of Health stating that the immunization process led by the Israeli government together with Pfizer is fundamentally clinical research – the code name for human trials – and thus, had to receive explicit and detailed approval of the committee, according to Calcalist.

    https://jewishbusinessnews.com/2021/01/18/helsinki-committee-israel-government-pfizer-lead-illegal-experiment-on-humans-report/

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  313. I wonder what Snowdon has to say now after he trashed Yeadon’s and Cummins’ arguments re. a casedemic and false positives. After 10 months of being scammed by inappropriate use of PCR testing, on the day Bidet is inaugurated, the WHO finally climbs down and admits that a ‘case’ should be diagnosed the way it used to be before all this Covid nonsense.

    “WHO guidance Diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2 states that careful interpretation of weak positive results is needed (1). The cycle threshold (Ct) needed to detect virus is inversely proportional to the patient’s viral load. Where test results do not correspond with the clinical presentation, a new specimen should be taken and retested using the same or different NAT technology.

    WHO reminds IVD users that disease prevalence alters the predictive value of test results; as disease prevalence decreases, the risk of false positive increases (2). This means that the probability that a person who has a positive result (SARS-CoV-2 detected) is truly infected with SARS-CoV-2 decreases as prevalence decreases, irrespective of the claimed specificity.

    Most PCR assays are indicated as an aid for diagnosis, therefore, health care providers must consider any result in combination with timing of sampling, specimen type, assay specifics, clinical observations, patient history, confirmed status of any contacts, and epidemiological information.”

    https://www.who.int/news/item/20-01-2021-who-information-notice-for-ivd-users-2020-05

    All those regional and local lockdowns throughout summer based on ‘cases’ and the two winter national lockdowns based on mass testing, hospital admissions and Covid deaths derived via positive PCR tests were likely unjustified. But this will not stop our government from keeping the country closed down and destroying countless more lives. My guess is they will completely ignore it.

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  314. UEA study finds that we’ve all got to be locked down at least until May because the highly transmissible new variant effectively means we can’t ever attain herd immunity. People believe this bollox.

    “Currently, 4.6 million people in the UK have had at least one of their jabs, according to official NHS figures, and one in eight people have been infected already.

    This leaves at least 39 million people who need to get the jab to reach the 70 per cent mark touted by Sir Patrick, the government’s Chief Scientific Advisor.

    But the UEA study found this may only be true for the original strain of coronavirus, which has now been displaced by the more infectious Kent variant.”

    Completely ignores pre-existing and acquired natural T-cell immunity. Also, when did the ‘new strain’ replace the old strain across the entire UK? I must have missed this.

    Take home message: they are telling you lockdown is not going to end until summer, just like last year. You’ll get two or three months of relative freedom, then you’ll be locked up again in autumn and winter 2021/22. To protect the NHS.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-9171483/Herd-immunity-not-achievable-UK-vaccinated.html

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  315. Skipped through this ‘analysis’. They are basically saying that a vaccine with even higher efficacy than Moderna/Pfizer/Oxford will be needed to achieve herd immunity and they are saying that even then kids will have to be vaccinated too! Until then, the small number of vulnerable people who refuse the vaccine will still have to be protected from serious disease, so in addition to widespread vaccination we’ll still have to keep NPIs in place. All because of the ‘new strain’. These people are stark raving bonkers. Only to be expected coming from the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA (are they doing epidemiology now, as well as climate change?). But so is Johnson, so he’ll probably take them very seriously.

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  316. Jaime. One of the authors is Professor Alastair Grant, a marine ecologist in the School of Environmental Sciences, who according to his website has recently taken to analysing publicly available COVID-19 data. I must admit I don’t understand how they can conclude the R number can remain above 1 even if 100% of the population is vaccinated and presumably immunised. I’m sure he would appreciate your critical analysis, but I suggest you tone it down a tad. His email is A.grant@uea.ac.U.K.

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  317. I’m inclined to think he wouldn’t appreciate my critical analysis, even toned down but thanks Alan, I might give it a try. The thought of marine ecologists now possibly influencing Covid policy in the UK is somewhat concerning.

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  318. @ Alan/Jaime

    This study does not seem to pass the sniff test. With a quick spreadsheet and the following parameters I get R = 0.98 when 100% of the population are 70% likely to be immune.

    Take base R as 4.5, calculate Poisson distribution of numbers of people an infectious individual is likely to pass on the virus to (e.g. 13% of the time, 6 others are infected by this individual). But if 100% of those have a 70% chance of being immune then (now using a binomial distribution) 30% of the time only 1 of the 6 will be infected. If you multiply all the probabilities through you get each infectious individual infecting 0.98 others on the average.

    This is for a homogenous case, & if the population is spatially structured, it must be lower. In any case my toy model must be generous, and still comes out below 1. And we cannot ignore prior immunity (even if partial), and recovered immunes. (Of course that does not affect the 100% vaccinated case, but should pull the R down into a concave curve.)

    I took Alistair Grant’s aquatic ecology course in about 1990.

    @ Webmaster, this page is taking a long time to load, mebbe a new thread on same topic?

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  319. JIT, I think it would be a good idea for someone to start up a new open Covid/Climate thread. There are a lot of fascinating issues being thrown up now which go way beyond politics.

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