Please forgive the title: an oxymoron as blatant as Military Intelligence, Fun Run or “We’re from the government and we’re here to help you.” And yet the UK government really seems to be helping, at least to a significant, if transient, percentage of voters:

Definitely time to listen to some cynical comedians then.

Note the dig, not at lockdown sceptics but FBPE anti-Brexit types. And this newfangled area really does seem to have shown up the burghers of Brussels:

I can’t know the biases of all readers at this point but I am delighted by that difference. Geoff Norcott meanwhile got involved in a somewhat testy conversation with another comedian whom I follow and rather like, the ex-GP Paul Sinha. A measure of agreement emerged here though:

I too find it odd. I’m very proud that my sister is playing a role in the administration of the vaccination programme in the South West, however small a role that may be. And, despite the good news in one area, she wouldn’t I think be unsympathetic to the next tweet, on where government cronyism and incompetence has gone terribly wrong and needs to be put right.

I’ve followed Meirion Jones since the days he tried, with Liz MacKean, to expose the pedophilia of Jimmy Savile on BBC Newsnight. We don’t agree on everything but I thought he got the gambling thing exactly right here. Of course the government is gambling and quite right too.

It’s not all good news, clearly, and nobody thinks that – apart perhaps from the consultancy partners at Deloittes. But I thought I’d look at the bright side, just a little.


  1. I don’t come here to hear good news, especially where the Johnson Government is involved. Shame.


  2. More good news from Twitter. Michael Mann has blocked XR UK’s finance guru. Andrew Medhurst, who quit his job as a City banker and joined XR full-time after being scared witless by Jem Bendell’s rejected-then-self-published Deep Adaptation paper, had objected to Mann enjoying a tweet that called an XR offshoot a bunch of ‘perfomative attention whores’.


    Medhurst’s reaction to the block:


    (Deleting the [del] gives you the full URL. Trying to avoid inlining.)

    An aside: Medhurst says elsewhere that XR UK planned to give >£500k/year of its crowdfunded dosh to ‘non-XR climate activism in the Global South and outreach to racially marginalised communities in the UK’. This effort was halted by covid’s impact on XR UK’s funds (which, though much reduced, are, astonishingly, still coming in at >£40k/month), but not before ‘non-XR climate activism in the Global South’ etc had received £400k. Some of this went to London-based reparationist Kofi Mawuli Klu’s somewhat dodgy antics in Ghana.

    Please don’t sue me, Kofi. You’re a great man, the greatest ‘Jurisconsult in self-employment as an Eco-Pedagogy Global Citizenship Educationist, Researcher and Pan-Afrikan Community Advocate for Global Justice’ I have ever encountered. All I mean by ‘dodgy’ is that I can’t find anything about your ‘Miano [Nana] Asase Yaa Community Educational and Sanctuary Centre’ online. Gets money but not online? These days that counts as dodgy, innit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I forgot to mention that Kofi says he spent a decade in Moscow.


    I wouldn’t normally mention such things but Russian conspiracy theories are all the rage right now…


  4. Alan:

    I don’t come here to hear good news, especially where the Johnson Government is involved. Shame.

    Let me explain why I don’t think the good news is a party-political point or a verdict on the total UK government performance vis-a-vis the virus. Here’s a tweet from Jonathan Jones that Jaime also spotted today:

    I saw that and thought: clever but unrealistic. (And I loved Jones’s realism about Brexit in advocating an EEA/EFTA solution. We’re still in the process of learning about that.) The only way out of lockdown, given the opinion polls, is via the vaccines. So the support for the government, even if you hate it in every other way, is good news. Or you go with such stupid pessimism like this. From people who also happen to be climate sceptics.

    I say it’s stupid partly because it’s pointless to prophecy doom like this.

    You have to have hope that the British people are better than this. Which I do. Easily.

    Here’s how I still think about things, with context, from the day the first lockdown began.

    We’ll only know afterwards and that’s not now. But there will be an afterwards. And the guessing game on vaccines has turned out far better than I for one was expecting in March.


  5. Pessimism, by definition, is never stupid, it’s just pessimistic. Derek is an ex policeman, pragmatic, practical. I would not call him stupid under any circumstances.

    Thousands are dying, AGAIN, in care homes. The British public have a right to know how many of these ‘Covid deaths’ occurred within 28 days of the vaccination. Supposedly, about half of care home residents have been vaccinated now. Release the figures.


  6. Australians, by definition, are never stupid, they’re just people that come from Australia.

    I don’t want to continue that train of thought and be thought to take the piss. Argumentative, aren’t I? That doesn’t work except in the second person, of course. Don Bradman perfected the art form with Douglas Jardine:

    Of course pessimism can be stupid, just like optimism can. Depends on the situation.

    Ever heard of the book The Rational Optimist?


  7. How did anyone think that test and trace could possibly work, as if it were in any way comparable to a vaccination programme? Vaccinations we’ve been doing for decades, with a take up rate of 50-100%, depending on seriousness, compulsion etc. Test and Trace is like cold calling – selling loft insulation or doing market research by phone, with a success rate of 1-5%. Nobody likes being tested, nobody likes being quarantined, and nobody likes snitching on the people you’ve been in contact with. We’re not pieces on a board in a game of Go.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Geoff: Richard North got it right early on, in my view, in saying that to work Test & Trace had to be locally based. But successive governments had more or less destroyed the infrastructure to do so. Talking of localism, here’s today’s Western Daily Press, snapped on my early supermarket run.

    I always believe what I read in the newspaper headlines when it reflects well on my own family!


  9. Yep, MiaB, I said it was a gamble in the main post. But I thought, with Meirion Jones, it was a gamble worth taking. The Israeli experience plays into that, as does every other piece of data.


  10. “Of course pessimism can be stupid, just like optimism can. Depends on the situation.”

    Nice. Well that told me didn’t it. I’ll return to this conversation in 6 weeks to gauge the level of my stupidity. Meanwhile, as you never talk behind people’s backs Richard, I’m sure you told Derek he was stupid too, on Twitter. Oh, perhaps not.


  11. Jaime:

    Nice. Well that told me didn’t it.

    You had previously said:

    Pessimism, by definition, is never stupid

    I tried to break it gently, through a diversion into the Aussie ‘piss take’, but you did I think need to be told that this was a stupid response to what I’d said.

    Staying with Australia, when I got to Alice Springs in 1976 I was told the story of the engineer who’d first designed and supervised building the pipe to bring fresh water from Perth in Western Australia. (This is from memory and corrections will be received with gratitude.) Time came for the water to be turned on at Perth and of course there was a delay before the life-giving liquid was expected to arrive. A few days after that projected date the engineer committed suicide. A few more days and his crowning life’s achievement came good as the water emerged. He’d only got one calculation wrong and it had cost him his life.

    I was only eighteen when I heard that story and it had an impact. Stupid pessimism is a thing.

    When will the vaccination programme allow lockdown and other restrictions to be eased? It’s a similar sort of problem as the people of Alice Springs faced. But I’m sure ‘getting back to normal’ is what any sane democratic government would want, so as to avoid electoral oblivion. And this is the only path that looks in any way likely, given what opinion polls are saying.

    There’s plenty of despair – or at least depression – to be had elsewhere. Here’s one of the biggest examples for me (taking my own thread well off topic):

    Kaeley’s concerns I think are highly justified, though I wish no ill to Levine. We’re doing better in this area in the UK at the moment, as I pointed out on 3rd December. But there’s much else, like the Brexit deal, that’s bringing challenge. And first we have to hit covid/lockdown on the head.


  12. Let’s not debate about whether my response to your comment was stupid; let’s debate about whether you can label anybody stupid for being pessimistic. Let’s debate about whether pessimism is justified or not. After 10 months of government lies and deception in which they have demonstrated a shocking disregard for science, truth and indeed human life, prosperity and happiness, I feel I am justified in being somewhat pessimistic as regards the prospect of this vicious, destructive medico-fascist tyranny ending in early March, as would be justified if the vaccines are administered to all those vulnerable by then. My pessimism derives directly from observation of this government’s appalling behaviour. How that can be called ‘stupid’ eludes me, I must say. If further evidence is needed that this government has no regard for the lives of the citizens it dictates over, I give you this:


  13. Andrew Montford is stupid as well. Do you want to tell him Richard, or shall I?


  14. Richard, Jaime,

    Pessimism is a state of mind that may be valuable or not, depending upon how well the state has been informed. The question of stupidity, however, I think matters more when pessimism plays a role in decision-making. There is a lot of fascinating stuff out there on this subject, including matters of risk aversion, loss aversion, anticipated regret, game theoretic strategies such as minimax and maximin, and a whole lot more. Also, if one is thinking in terms of decision-making, it is important not to judge too much by the outcome. There is, after all, a distinction to be made between a good decision-maker and a lucky one.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. The volume of guidelines, amended guidelines and changes to the law that Wagner highlights was something that surprised me. But he also highlights the fundamental change that these laws introduce into our legal system – the concept of negative liberty as opposed to positive liberty, in Berlin’s terms


  16. Might you have been in Kalgoorlie, Richard? That’s where C Y O’Connor ‘s pipeline runs to. He was under a lot of pressure in the press for the project. I never really believed that his suicide was the result of thinking that the water wouldn’t get there. Surely if water is still entering the line at the pump it has to be going somewhere. I believe that story to be a further perjorative by a press which hounded him to suicide, but that’s just my view.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Pessimism is my current state of mind. Tell me I’m stupid for being pessimistic. The excuses are already rolling in thick and fast. They are going to do exactly the same trick with Easter as they did with Christmas. They actually enjoy playing these mind games. There is only one way we are ever going to get our freedoms back and that is if we take them. Sadly, I can’t see that happening here in the UK. We seem to have passed the point of no return. I hope I’m wrong.


  18. Pessimism is but one thought away from optimism, but despair requires more. When it comes to climate chaos/heating and options to deal with it, we should definitely be in into despair country.

    Why were so many people wearing mittens yesterday, and those poor military musicians having to risk frostbite to the lips. Bet they weren’t thinking about climate heating.


  19. Geoff Cruikshank: Thanks. I’m sure it will have been him. I’ll look into it when I have a bit of time.

    Jaime: Thanks for all your contributions, which come across as highly respectful. But your pessimism right now contrasts for me with this from 22nd December:

    I’m with JD, for all his ‘extended definition of bedwetter’ which offends those who may actually be virtue-signalling rather than bedwetting:

    “This is why I still have faith that Donald Trump is going to win his rightful second term as president (and I mean now, not 2024). It’s not that I underestimate the vastness of the forces arrayed against him. Rather it’s that I believe there are enough people out there – from those 74million Trump voters to the Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe to the tenacious, fearless, 5-D-chess-playing President himself – who understand that this attempted election theft poses an existential threat to the Republic and, by extension, to the Free World. They will not let this crime happen because they are fully aware that the costs of nipping this globalist coup in the bud now will be as nothing to the costs of dealing with it should these evil-doers be allowed to prevail.

    My suspicion is that Trump has known this for years, that he has been preparing for it all along, and that he and his most trusted advisers are simply biding their time before they strike.

    If I’m wrong, well, my having been wrong will be the least of my worries and of your worries too. It will be game over for Western Civilisation. And I won’t draw any satisfaction from being able to say ‘I told you so.”

    Optimism can also be stupid. What’s needed is good judgment. I tend to go with those, like Steve Mcintyre, who I think regularly show it. More anon.


  20. Richard,

    JD was indeed unjustifiably optimistic. Not stupid, but not rational, like Matt. I never was, but allowed myself the luxury of being partially sucked into thinking that there was hope of something ‘big’ happening to reverse the outcome. I still find it hard to believe how America has just rolled over and allowed this coup to take place. Trump could have fought harder. He must have known the courts were a lost cause right from the start but he threw everything at them. In the end, he just faded away. Now we are all left feeling pessimistic about the future of America and indeed Western civilisation with social justice warrior and climate change fanatic fake President Bidet in charge. I’m guessing even you might be feeling somewhat pessimistic now:


  21. Prof Balloux has slapped down a stupid optimist on Twitter and is realistically pessimistic.

    But Amy thinks even Balloux isn’t the rational pessimist:


  22. Corvid strains are clearly now causing hysteria on social media and predictions a trois are multiplying with an R number of 1.7


  23. Here we go again:

    The government’s frightening and unproven claim that the new variant of the Covid-19 virus is 30 per cent more lethal is challenged by a leading member of the key body monitoring the disease. He says it is wrong to “exploit it to increase public fear.”

    Professor Robert Dingwall, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, told Reaction:

    “The 30 per cent more lethal claim about the virus rests on a very fragile and uncertain base of evidence. NERVTAG has expressed limited confidence in this figure, which should not be the basis for public alarm.”


  24. We seem to have a direct line of communication on official government policy and public announcements involving Peston, Ferguson, SAGE and the PM himself. This is absolutely bizarre.


  25. Jaime,

    What isn’t based upon ‘fragile and uncertain evidence’ is the fact that the government has for some time now been expressing concern over the extent to which the public has complied with restrictions and the extent to which certain demographics have expressed an unwillingness to take the vaccine. Anything that might crank up the fear would be useful in that regard. When asked by the press yesterday, ‘Surely this means we need even more stringent restrictions’, the PM replied, ‘No, just follow the ones in place”. Can anyone be surprised by that response?

    On the same topic, I note that Vallance yesterday cited the increase in transmissibility of the new variant as being “30 to 70%”. The actual statement from PHE reads:

    “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%.”

    Spot the difference? Sometimes good news just doesn’t cut the mustard.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. John,

    The SGTF proxy just doesn’t cut the mustard for me. It’s not quite bristlepine cones or upside down sediments, but it is only a proxy and is now being widely used to infer the presence of the new variant. They used it to estimate the supposed increased mortality too. Why did the government spend millions setting up gene sequencing labs and then rely upon a simple proxy in the PCR tests?


  27. The considered opinion of, Philip Thomas, Professor of Risk Management at the University of Bristol, as per his Spectator article:

    “The chart shows that the ONS numbers, the REACT figures and the PCCF curve all tell pretty much the same story: active cases plateaued in early November; then they fell in the second half of the month, but picked up strongly in December as England came out of its second lockdown and the effects of the B.117 strain kicked in. Cases peaked in early January – and then started a long fall during our third lockdown. All of the data – even the REACT study – appears to support this conclusion. A peak in infections around the time of the new year and a steady fall thereafter. Covid levels are high: there is nothing in these figures to give anyone reason to drop their guard. But the real story is the opposite of that in the Imperial/React headline: Coronavirus infections are falling in England. Let us hope that this trend continues.”

    He doesn’t get into claims of increased mortality. But he is pretty scathing about the REACT survey from Imperial. He says:

    “Prof Riley’s words were quite clear. The notion that the new mutation is so potent that it has made lockdown pointless is frightening and depressing in equal measure. But does it stand up to scrutiny? No. The opposite, in fact, is the case: there is good evidence that the current lockdown is working better than the second lockdown in November.”

    He clearly believes in the efficacy of lockdowns, yet nevertheless is agin folks inappropriately letting loose rampant fear based only upon numberwang.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Cases, graphs, stats; it seems they can be used to argue anything you want. I remain sceptical that lockdowns have had any real impact on the transmission of Covid-19, much of which takes place in hospitals and care homes and actually inside domestic homes, not in supermarkets, not in pubs, gyms, swimming pools or on the street.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. The main point is that infections have been declining steeply since Jan 1st (just before lockdown) which doesn’t exactly square with the idea of a more contagious variant having taken over throughout the country. Nor does it indisputably prove that lockdown is the main cause of this decline.


  30. Hello, my old thread. I’ve been dealing with two impending deaths and some other gut-wrenching stuff. Not a time I wanted to read Cliscep, let alone argue. The first acts of the Biden administration have been depressing and I’ve wanted to process that, again without needless conflict or hollow laughter:

    ‘Bidet’ comes into that category for me. Less funny than Titania and no more helpful.

    So what is worth highlighting? This I did retweet:

    That’s the way to do lockdown. Jobsworth not. We must all follow suit.


  31. Further good news that I picked up on Twitter this week from Matt Ridley, despite having retired as a twitterer myself at the end of January:

    Here’s one key moment that we should all emphasize I think – how the World Health Organisation got so off-piste as to declare that climate change was the biggest threat to world health, just prior to Covid-19 hitting:

    And here’s another moment to ponder. What if the vaccines hadn’t worked out? A pretty dark place, indeed.

    The whole thing is well worth watching.


  32. OMG, Ridley has gone all starry-eyed about the mRNA ‘vaccine’ revolution, even before it’s proved itself to be a technological ‘revolution’ with demonstrable benefits and few harms. What happened to Ridley? What happened to ‘rational’ optimism? What happened to scepticism?


  33. Good old Biden, it didn’t take him long to start attacking Iran-backed militias while restarting the efforts to provide Iran with nuclear weapons. Back to the days of Obama-style incoherence in foreign policy. The military-industrial complex must be living this


  34. Jaime:

    OMG, Ridley has gone all starry-eyed about the mRNA ‘vaccine’ revolution…

    I think ‘gone’ is a bit much by March 2021. Matt’s been arguing this way since his piece in The Spectator on 19th December: Why mRNA vaccines could revolutionise medicine – republished without paywall here. I quoted from this article the next day on Cliscep. If you were unaware of this strand of Matt’s thinking, perhaps it speaks of a filter bubble problem? (Or echo chamber, in old money.) And I’m not trying to be highly pejorative – we all have the same problem, we tend to find the arguments that back up our preconceived notions.


  35. MiaB:

    Good old Biden, it didn’t take him long to start attacking Iran-backed militias while restarting the efforts to provide Iran with nuclear weapons. Back to the days of Obama-style incoherence in foreign policy. The military-industrial complex must be living this

    Or even loving it 🙂

    I totally agree. Deeply depressing.


  36. Coming up are two pieces of BBC audio I highly recommend, the first of which expires in less than a week. It concerns this guy:

    Geoff Beston is a 62-year-old foster carer from Nuneaton.

    He has an underlying lung condition that makes him even more vulnerable to COVID-19 but has continued to take children in for short-term emergency care throughout the pandemic.

    Since April he’s taken on 43 children and estimates that’s brought him into contact with 150 extra people because, due to the needs of the children, he has also had visits to his home from other professionals including police and social workers.

    “You can’t stop doing it because children need places,” he said.

    But he accepts he is putting himself at risk.

    “You don’t know where the children have been, you don’t know whether they’ve been exposed to COVID.

    “They’re routinely not tested because they’re obviously children and so that has changed the whole dynamics of what it is we do,” he said.

    But even better is what Beston said to Eleanor Oldroyd on the Sunday Breakfast on 7th Feb. Go to minute 41 and be blessed by both the love and self-deprecation.


  37. I also recommend Nick Robinson’s interview with Kate Bingham on 8th Jan. Boris persuaded Bingham to head up the Vaccines Taskforce from 16th May 2020. Such a positive story – or at least an important opportunity to know your enemy. But I do already find that viewpoint ridiculous. This has saved us from the death march of covid lockdown. And it’s a brilliant example of how policy should be developed on the back of the best science – as we discover it. Lots of great lessons for climate.


  38. For those concerned with history and the bad precedents set by the UK government in its execution of lockdown I was highly amused by the following.

    Four years on from 1842 the first operation was carried out with modern anesthesia. I have that in mind as I look forward to another eye operation at the Bristol Eye Hospital. And I wonder if the ‘unprecedented’ steps of many goverments to try and tame covid-19 might most positively be seen in the same light. Modernity seeking to make things far, far easier for the ordinary person.

    But I fully expect a massive public inquiry after all this.

    All the same, Boris is looking less like losing the next election than many thought he would be. Including myself. Philip Collins, sacked by Rupert Murdoch for being too left-wing:

    made the case for opposition humility in the New Statesman last week:

    It is highly disconcerting, for those of us who don’t like him, that the political victor of the pandemic will be Boris Johnson. Though the political class regards the pandemic as a political event, the public disagrees. A one-way road to freedom, even if it is a little bumpy, will leave the government in a strong position. And that strength derives, almost entirely, from the oddly formidable, consistently underrated Prime Minister.

    And that might well I think need to apply to those of us concerned by the Net Zero rhetoric from the same source. Ah well.


  39. Richard, yes it’s now March and you will note that in December I was saying exactly the same thing about Ridley’s ‘rational’ optimism as I am saying now:

    “Optimism is great, but it has to be rational optimism. I’m not so sure that Matt’s is.”

    He’s just become a little more starry-eyed since then and a little more certain that mRNA ‘vaccines’ are the future. Unfortunately, there’s just the small problem of how the messenger RNA gets into the body. The only practical way is via cationic lipids and these have proven to be extremely toxic. This is probably the single biggest problem with the mRNA ‘vaccines’ at the moment and it is not going to go away any time soon, so yes, Ridley’s optimism about the mRNA revolution in medicine is probably premature.


  40. A fuller quote from a long paragraph is:

    This violates the Nuremberg Code. That does not inspire trust in politics or the wonders of science to be frank. Optimism is great, but it has to be rational optimism. I’m not so sure that Matt’s is.

    But trust in politics and the wonders of science seems to me to be on a high. “Covid vaccines cut risk of serious illness by 80% in over-80s” That as I’m sure you know is the lead story on the BBC website.

    Elisabeth II isn’t as good at physics as you but this was quite something:

    I don’t expect that our reaction to seeing that at the local supermarket would be the same but I was both surprised and delighted. In fact I had an icecream on the Weston promenade to celebrate:

    Note my new haircut, carried out within my support bubble by someone it isn’t fair to name.

    I’m not expecting to write more on Cliscep till 21st June. Never fear. A bientot.


  41. The mRNA revolution comes at a high price seemingly: 48 times the death rate of ‘flu vaccines, deaths as a proportion of all adverse reactions more than 6 times what is reported with ‘flu vaccines. Enjoy your ice cream and not being selfish and let’s hope that the Queen’s husband doesn’t die after he allegedly was vaccinated, which would make Her Majesty look just a little foolish for promoting the jab to others.

    “At the same time as Fiona Godlee refers to “the phenomenal success of the vaccine programme” [1] deaths on the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) for the two Covid vaccines currently in use in the US, manufactured by Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna, are off the scale. As of 4 February there were 653 reported deaths [2]. This was at a time when approximately 35.2 million doses had been administered [3]. It compares with 75 reported deaths associated with influenza vaccine for the current season [4] from 193.6 million doses: this is approximately 48 times the rate. Deaths are also a much higher proportion of total reports for Covid vaccines as compared with Influenza vaccines [6,7]: approximately 5% as compared with about 0.8%. Although none of these cases is confirmed VAERS is a passive reporting system which was said in 2010 to pick up less than 1% of cases [8].”


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