Antipodean Covid Craziness

I have heard and read suggestions that having sex with someone outside of one’s own household would be safer if both parties refrained from kissing or, to take it a step further, even wore masks throughout the encounter. I suppose it could be made to work. I simply don’t want to speculate on bizarre sexual practices. Instead I will stick to the more mundane matter of federalism in the age of Covid-19, with reference to the Australian experience. That’s bizarre enough for anyone.

All governments in Australia, the federal government and state and territory governments have responded to the pandemic in exactly the same way as have most governments around the world. Though I’d say, together with New Zealand, Australian governments take the cake for overreaction. I say that because the Covid death rate in Australia (and New Zealand’s is much lower still) is a figure to die for, so to speak, if you are European or North American.

When I last looked (19 September) the death rate in Australia was 33 per million population. Compare that with the UK’s 614, the USA’s 615, Sweden’s 580 and, even, Canada’s 244. Incidentally, this relatively benign outcome is due to geography and fortuitous circumstances; dumb luck not brilliant management.

Nonetheless, it was commonplace some months ago to be presented with a comparison of Australia’s death rate with that of Sweden, with an accompanying admonishment that there but for lockdowns goes Australia. That canard no longer plays, as Sweden’s daily death rate has since plummeted. But for a time, the Swedish model, once so admired by the Left back in the day, was held up in the Australian media as a blight on mankind.

In fact, as we now know, or should know, this virus runs a course of causing a significant number of deaths among the aged and sick before running out of steam as it comes up against those who are less susceptible. That pattern is evident across all northern hemisphere countries – even the United States once you adjust for a later ramping-up phase in some states. The degree and extent of lockdowns would not confound the null hypothesis that they make no difference.

I know, the null hypothesis way of approaching science is yet another example of white privilege having its a wicked way. But there it is. I probable suffer from unconscious bias in favouring the scientific method and, perforce, can’t do much about it because, well, its unconscious.

South Dakota is my favourite point of comparison. No lockdown. Death rate 226 per million. New York, locked down, death rate 1680 per million. Of course, these kinds of state-by-state comparisons, which take no account of circumstances, don’t mean much. And yet, on their face, they provide no comfort at all to those who favour the absurd strategy of locking-up healthy people, destroying their businesses and livelihoods, in a largely forlorn attempt (witness aged-care deaths) to prevent ailing people getting sicker. And, to boot, they provide a segue into the benefits and costs of federalism.

The benefits of federalism are that political decisions are more attuned to the needs of those they affect and, potentially, that competition between states to retain and attract businesses and workers tends to keep them honest. Covid has made one particularly large cost evident: state sovereignty can make it impossible to pursue a consistent national strategy to deal with pandemics.

Unlike America’s, Australia’s federalism doesn’t have the advantage of being competitive. In fact, it is anti-competitive. States ceded the power to levy income taxes many decades ago. Their general income comes largely via the federal government through GST collections. But these are distributed not on the basis of where they are collected but in accordance with the relative economic performances of the respective states. The more poorly a state performs, the more GST revenue it receives. Work that one out. California could only dream about it, I suppose.

Unfortunately, while there are no competitive benefits of federalism in Australia, the costs of handling the pandemic have been huge. Early in the piece, prime minister Scott Morrison set up a so-called ‘national cabinet’ of himself, the six state premiers and two territory leaders, with the laudable objective of coordinating national strategy. What a complete and utter fiasco it has been.

Basically, they have been able to agree that things should open up when it is “safe” to do so. Beyond that it is every man and woman for themselves. The federal government pays all the bills, or most of them, while being effectively powerless. To wit, it can't let people into the country if the states won't have them. Therefore, we have a North Korean policy of restricting citizens from leaving the country, because, usually, they will want to come back. It can't get cafes open and kids back to school if the states don't agree. It can't get state borders opened despite the Constitution guaranteeing (ostensibly?) free interstate movement. In all of this, there is a standout recalcitrant state.

Dan Andrews, the Covid King of Oceania.

The Labor premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, has conducted himself and his state in exactly the way you would expect of a hard-left despot. Incompetence on the one hand; authoritarianism on the other. And, to emphasise, the Prime Minister can do nothing about it.

In Victoria, everyone is locked inside their homes for most of the day with a curfew from 8 p.m., now graciously moved to 9 p.m. as daylight saving time approaches Down Under. A curfew! Meanwhile, the federal government feeds money to the unemployed. As the world has seen, pregnant women and grannies are handcuffed and marched off for daring to breach any of the myriad confining rules. One heavily pregnant lady was harangued by two policemen and an accompanying soldier (who had the good grace to look shamefaced) for daring to rest on a park bench while engaging in ‘allowable’ exercise. Evidently some cops are getting in touch with their inner Stasi -- inevitable, when socialists are loosed from constitutional constraints. Hmm, didn’t I mention, c.10,000 BLM feeble-minded stooges went unpunished when ‘protesting’ back in June, while cops knelt.

Victorians attempting to escape Melbourne to regional areas within Victoria are fined $4,957. Why not $5,000? Well, I suppose they've picked up pricing tips from used-car salesmen. Police operate around-the-clock checkpoints (Checkpoint Charlie springs to mind). If mum and dad are in the car, each will be fined; apparently kids and dogs will get off scot-free. Did this new offence of daring to drive beyond 5 kilometers from home go through the Victorian parliament? Of course not. It is all done by diktat under an emergency powers law.

"Dear Leader" Dan, let me aptly call him, has recently succeeded in having these emergency powers extended by six months. And who gave him the casting vote in the upper state house? Samantha Ratnam, of the Greens Party, hurried back from maternity leave. Whenever villainy is afoot, spot complicit Greens.

And don’t think enough is enough. Legislation has been introduced that will, if passed, create thought crime. Under this legislation officers will be appointed (no qualifications required) to assess whether those ordered to isolate will really do so. If an authorised officer “reasonably believes that a person is likely to refuse or fail to comply with a direction made the by the Chief Health Officer,” then the culprits will be locked up tout de suite for what they intend to do. Shades of Minority Report in Dan’s socialist state of Victoria.

You should note that the onerous lockdown in Victoria follows an outbreak of cases in June stemming almost wholly from one hotel quarantine misadventure. Poorly controlled, the infection spread inside and outside the hotel. Among other failings, apparently some security guards, appointed for their claimed indigenous identity rather than their expertise, fraternised a little too intimately with hotel guests. It was not reported whether they wore masks. But I assume not.

The upshot has meant that deaths in Victoria (80 percent inside aged-care homes. What’s new?) have dwarfed those in other states. Nevertheless, the death toll per million in Victoria, at 113, is half the rate in South Dakota. The different approach to tackling the pandemic isn’t to do with the virulence or otherwise of the virus. It is to do with politics.

Speak to conservatives and almost to a man and woman they believe that the reaction to Covid-19 has been grossly overblown; that the costs of lockdowns have not nearly been properly taken into account. Yet almost all governments have overreacted. By implication, this sadly shows how little conservatism now influences public policy. And why should it. The latest Newspoll (16-19 September) shows 62 per cent of Victorians supporting their Dear Leader.

When I look across the Australian political landscape, I see governments whether of the left or ostensible centre-right buying into the global warming agenda. And differing only in their degree of panic in responding to Covid. Federalism makes it worse by allowing the nation state as a whole to be hijacked by its least enlightened constituent parts.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

At this point in the global hysteria -- increasingly mixed with petty bureaucratic malevolence -- over Covid-19, we have seamlessly passed from tragedy to farce, as a Marxist might say. As far back as April, it was already clear that the international Left was being forced to choose between its twin apocalyptic wet dreams of global destruction via "climate change" and global destruction via the second coming of the Black Death, aka, the Dreaded Coronavirus. If we didn't all drown from the rising oceans or fry under a burning sun, we would fall like tenpins to a virus of such deadliness that it has a kill rate of .04% and most victims don't even know they have it.

Why the Left has such a burning psychological need to constantly fantasize about destruction is no secret: in effect, they are a monomaniacal suicide cult with the added fillip of wanting to take the rest of the world down with them. They exist fearfully in a crabbed, constricted self-prison, in which anything -- a breath, a fart, a sneeze, the flick of a light switch -- can unleash cataclysmic events. What the arbitrary and capricious lockdowns have taught us -- in addition to the fact that the American constitution is now clinically dead, and that the Bill of Rights no longer is absolute -- is to fear our fellow man and thus turn ourselves into a nation of snitches and scolds.

A rising tide sinks all boats.

And so we are lectured to by children, and harried by agents of the state for the most trivial of offenses, most of which seem to be violating laws passed yesterday by thug governments criminalizing dissent from state orthodoxy. This story, concerning a pregnant woman arrested in front of her husband and children is bad enough:

“Arresting a pregnant female, it's never going to look good. The optics of arresting someone who is pregnant is terrible,” Mr Cornelius said. “We were very keen to understand the circumstances and consider whether or not in all the circumstances that action was appropriate. And I can say to you, based on the briefings that have been provided to me and my colleague, Assistant Commissioner Cindy Millen, we're satisfied in those circumstances the members behaved appropriately and in accordance with our policy.”

Mr Cornelius said the handcuffing of Ms Buhler was standard procedure when officers are executing a search warrant at a home but the handcuffs were removed as soon as police rendered the situation safe. “I've seen the footage, and you know, in my assessment, the members have conducted themselves entirely reasonably,” Mr Cornelius said.

Watch the video at the link just above and you be the judge of its "reasonableness." And then watch this:

Once a penal colony, always a penal colony.

Still, on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend pro tempore, it's been amusing to watch the two imaginary bugbears of "climate change" and the "Dreaded Corona" turn on each other. Not only has the virus spared us further manifestations of Greta Thunberg, last seen going sheepishly back to school in wintry Sweden, it's also seriously damaged the "green energy" quasi-industry:

Before the coronavirus pandemic arrived this year, clean energy was one of fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. economy. But since moderate stages of recovery began, experts say the industry has struggled to find footing. Just 3,200 jobs returned to the clean energy sector in July, Labor Department data shows.

That 0.1% employment growth has left more than 500,000 workers in fields including energy efficiency, solar and wind energy and clean vehicles without a job, an industry-sponsored analysis by the BW Research Partnership shows.

Before you can say, gee, that's too damn bad, there's more:

The last few months have seen a major reversal of fortune for a sector that grew 70% faster than the entire economy between 2015 and 2019 and had been employing three times as many workers as real estate, banking or agriculture. At July's growth rate, industry leaders say, it will take 15 years to replace the jobs that were wiped away by the pandemic.

The slow rebound can be blamed, they add, on a slate of pandemic-related restrictions and consequences that have combined to affect the industry.

Well... who decreed the "pandemic-related restrictions" in the first place? Which political party signifies its acquiescence to the whims of the state by wearing face masks on all possible occasions? How do the Karens of the world vote?

This is the path madness takes, once you go crazy. A central tenet of Leftist "woke" practice is 1) posit a counter-factual and, 2) act upon it as if it were real. The problem comes when the gulf between what you believe (imminent annihilation caused by driving to the supermarket to load up on groceries) and reality (the sun comes up tomorrow on pretty much the same planet it came up on when Caesar walked the earth).

Accordingly, the Left has spent -- and demanded that we spend as well -- billions of dollars to indulge their "climate change" fantasy: money now circling the drain in order to indulge their "Black Death" fantasy. That both fantasies are devoted to the destruction of the capitalism system in general and the U.S.A. in particular accounts for their passionate devotion to both, even though that were both true, their own destruction is equally guaranteed.

Some of the job losses have come in the energy-efficiency industry which -- as long as it makes economic sense -- is regrettable. Everybody wants to pass less for energy, not more, so it the more we can make our appliances better and more efficient, the more insulated our homes are, the better it is for "the planet" (if the planet cares, which it doesn't) and our pocketbooks.

"Out of the 3.2 million people who work in the clean energy field -- or did up until this year -- the vast majority are in the energy efficiency field," Bob Keefe, executive director of the non-partisan advocacy group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), told UPI. "Those are people who go into buildings and do everything from installing insulation in the walls and ceilings to swapping out incandescent lighting for LED lighting."

The sudden idling in the industry has brought into focus impressive growth it has experienced in recent years. By late 2018, more than 2.3 million Americans were working the field, and the growth rate was more than 5%, according to last year's U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

Only a sheep could love them.

Another element in the slowdown are the declining sales of such talismans as solar panels, sold to a gullible public as helping to power your own home when the sun shines but in reality simply making the sucker pay to contribute to the electric grid for others.

One theory is that homeowners are wary of strange workmen coming to their homes while the Black Death runs wild in the streets, but a more likely answer is that the customer has finally wised up to the scam.

As for the unsightly goliaths slowing spinning their alien turbines above the water line, or disfiguring the landscape from sea shore to mountain ranges, the nearly prohibitive cost of making, maintaining, and disposing of them, the less said the better.

But it's an article of faith among the regressive Left that the way forward is backward, to the days of windmills and waterwheels. Lacking a belief in God, the feminized Left increasingly lacks a belief in Man as well, especially in his ability to adapt to changing conditions with inventions and common sense. As Camille Paglia wrote in her seminal treatise on sex and culture, Sexual Personae, "If civilization had been left in female hands we would still be living in grass huts."

This is the end result of a Safety First philosophy, under which any outcome that could possibly be bad is to be avoided by simply refusing to engage. No ships should cross the ocean, no wagons rolling westward ho, no rockets to infinity and beyond. Progress cannot come without death, the thinking goes, so if death cannot be tolerated, then neither can progress. Which means, in the end, that the end stage of "progressive" liberalism can only be totalitarianism: that which is not expressly allowed is forbidden, unless we whimsically decree otherwise.

Why, just this week, another embarrassing Antipodean country, New Zealand, ha suspended the shipments of one of the few things anybody wants to buy from it -- cattle -- after a boat bearing 6,000 moo cows capsized and sank, with a horrifying bovine death toll. Instead of finding out why the vessel sank off the coast of Japan (which doesn't have a lot of grazing land), the reaction was... well, let the New York Times tell it:

New Zealand has suspended the export of live cattle after a ship that left its shores with 43 crew members and nearly 6,000 cows capsized off Japan this week, raising fresh questions about the safety and ethics of transporting livestock by sea.

Animals rights activists say the move did not go far enough because the transnational livestock trade is rife with abuses. “Ultimately, this is a trade that has to be banned,” said Will Appelbe, a spokesman for SAFE, an animal welfare group in New Zealand.

Of course it does, along with everything and anybody else that could go wrong. And if -- like Pennywise the Clown from It, you have to live the rest of your life in a sunless subterranean lair, comrade, remember: it's for your own safety.

Down Under, What Price Virtue?

The drive to turn the world -- particularly, the Anglosphere -- Green is international, much like Communism. And the desire to virtue-signal seems equally strong, no matter what the cost. As Australia is now learning:

On average, Australia is spending $13 billion trying to get rid of coal and trying to interject renewable energy in the electricity market, according to economist Alan Moran. The Australian Energy Market Commission puts the cost of environmental policies on the consumer at around $90 per year, or 6.5 per cent of the household electricity bill.

But wait -- it gets worse.

However, Dr Moran said this estimate only covers around one sixth of the potential cost. The effect renewables have on the market, as well as the government loans and subsidies, among other costs brings the actual cost to the consumer to around $536 per year, or 39 per cent of the electricity bill. He said the total cost to the economy coming just from the consumer – which he said amounts to just under 50 per cent of the costs – would climb to $6.5 billion.

"Every year we’re spending $13 billion in trying to get rid of coal and trying to inject renewable energy in a system which is actually inherently making it much more expensive. Thirteen billion dollars is a huge albatross around the neck of the Australian public and Australian economy.”

Ah, but that's a small price to pay to Save the Planet and feel good about yourself at the same time. Even -- perhaps especially -- when it hardly makes a damn bit of difference.