Not Healing Nature But Controlling It

Political environmentalism frequently warns about the dangers of meddling with nature,  warning against the encroachment of human settlements on wilderness areas, mining, fishing or drilling for oil. However it neglects the impact on nature by scientists and environmentalists themselves.

Nicholson Baker's article in a recent issue of New York Magazine soberly examines the pros and cons of the proposition: did the coronavirus escape from a lab? The answer of experts? Maybe.

For decades, scientists have been hot-wiring viruses in hopes of preventing a pandemic, not causing one. But what if … there were laboratory accidents. By 1960, hundreds of American scientists and technicians had been hospitalized, victims of the diseases they were trying to weaponize.

In the U.S., “more than 1,100 laboratory incidents involving bacteria, viruses and toxins that pose significant or bioterror risks to people and agriculture were reported to federal regulators during 2008 through 2012,” reported USA Today...

And then consider the cautious words of Alina Chan, a scientist who works at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. “There is a reasonable chance that what we are dealing with is the result of a lab accident,” Chan told me in July of last year...

Not only that, but they’d figured out how to perform their assembly seamlessly, without any signs of human handiwork. Nobody would know if the virus had been fabricated in a laboratory or grown in nature. Baric called this the “no-see’m method...”

What began as a high-minded effort to heal humanity also became the deadliest endeavor on earth. Scientists wanted to anticipate nature by inventing the pathogens first enabling them to create a vaccine template that could deal with most if not all threats. That effort included American funding for bug hunting and amplification in Wuhan.

It wasn’t only AIDS that changed the way the NIH funded research. The War on Terror also influenced which diseases got the most attention.... Vaccine development had to progress much faster, Fauci believed; he wanted to set up “vaccine systems” and “vaccine platforms,” which could be quickly tailored to defend against a particular emergent strain some terrorist with an advanced biochemistry degree might have thrown together in a laboratory. “Our goal within the next 20 years is ‘bug to drug’ in 24 hours.”

In fact, WHO sent a fact-finding team into the origins of the virus to China is  because nobody knows for sure what the side effects of that effort have been. At least Fauci has his vaccine platform development. "You may be surprised to learn that of the trio of long-awaited coronavirus vaccines, the most promising, Moderna’s mRNA-1273, which reported a 94.5 percent efficacy rate... had been designed by January 13 [2020]."

The Moderna vaccine design took all of one weekend. It was completed before China had even acknowledged that the disease could be transmitted from human to human, more than a week before the first confirmed coronavirus case in the United States. By the time the first American death was announced a month later, the vaccine had already been manufactured and shipped to the National Institutes of Health for the beginning of its Phase I clinical trial.

The bad news: reliance on the vaccine platforms is likely to become permanent.  Edward Holmes, one of the two scientists to first publish the genome sequence of SARS-Cov-2 said in an interview that vaccination will become a fixture of future life:

My guess is that as immunity [to Covid] rises in the population, hopefully by vaccination, you will start to see immune escape gradually. That will happen. That's an inevitable consequence of natural selection. It's been played out for millennia, and it's going to happen again. We will very likely need to update these vaccines at some point. That may take 2 years or 5 years or 1 year; I don't know.

Round and round we go.

Perhaps the most candid admission that modern environmentalism is about controlling nature rather than leaving it alone comes from discussions around the Paris climate agreement. It is becoming the foundation stone of climate engineering.

Under article 3 of the Paris Agreement, states are required to identify a range of contributions (NDCs) to address climate change. So long as these contributions are consistent with the underlying articles, there is no express restriction on including climate engineering measures as part of an NDC in order to achieve net emissions neutrality (a balance of emissions and removals) by 2050. The definition of “mitigation” includes sinks, which appears to include CDR [carbon dioxide removal] technologies as they are defined broadly under the UNFCCC to include “any process, activity or mechanism which removes a greenhouse gas.”

Two of the most prominent climate engineering proposals are now politically visible and therefore fundable. The Hill writes: "Climate change has been viewed as a national security threat multiplier. To offset its damage, scientists in the United States and other countries are working on technology to manipulate the climate. This is known as geoengineering that is divided into two types, which are carbon dioxide removal to take out carbon from the air and solar radiation management to reflect a small fraction of sunlight away from the earth."  These are gigantic engineering projects. The Oxford Geoengineering Programme has a more detailed description of what "healing nature" involves:

Solar Radiation Management (SRM)

  1. Albedo enhancement. Increasing the reflectiveness of clouds or the land surface so that more of the Sun’s heat is reflected back into space.
  2. Space reflectors. Blocking a small proportion of sunlight before it reaches the Earth.
  3. Stratospheric aerosols. Introducing small, reflective particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect some sunlight before it reaches the surface of the Earth.

Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR)

  1. Afforestation. Engaging in a global-scale tree planting effort.
  2. Biochar. 'Charring' biomass and burying it so that its carbon is locked up in the soil.
  3. Bio-energy with carbon capture and sequestration. Growing biomass, burning it to create energy and capturing and sequestering the carbon dioxide created in the process.
    Ambient Air Capture. Building large machines that can remove carbon dioxide directly from ambient air and store it elsewhere.
  4. Ocean Fertilization. Adding nutrients to the ocean in selected locations to increase primary production which draws down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  5. Enhanced Weathering. Exposing large quantities of minerals that will react with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and storing the resulting compound in the ocean or soil.
  6. Ocean Alkalinity Enhancement. Grinding up, dispersing, and dissolving rocks such as limestone, silicates, or calcium hydroxide in the ocean to increase its ability to store carbon and directly ameliorate ocean acidification.

These will potentially cost trillions. Twenty-first century environmentalism has already become the province of big pharma and gigantic engineering firms. Climate politics is not about leaving nature alone but subordinating it to the diktat of governments. The Hill glimpses the incipient danger.

If the moral and ethical frame of geoengineering should shift from one of global benevolence where all stakeholders have a voice and international law applies, to one of national security and international law is dismissed, a climate arms race becomes more likely.

At some point the idealists will be shoved aside and the power players will take over. Like the current biosecurity crisis the world is now living through,  a climate arms race is virtually certain.

The Mask of the Red (Covid) Death

Just this morning I was looking out my window at the esplanade that borders the Fraser River when a couple strolled by and paused for a moment beside the guardrail. They were, of course, fully masked, though as a couple they were exempt from the Covid distancing rules. As they turned to leave, they embraced and exchanged a long kiss, mask to mask, which would have made a charming scene were it not so grotesque, two masks glued together in surreal intimacy.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam would have felt vindicated. “Like other activities during Covid-19 that involve physical closeness,” she advised, “there are some things you can do to minimize the risk of getting infected and spreading the virus.” The safest strategy is to “skip kissing, avoid face-to-face closeness, wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose.”

Of course, Tam’s counsels were meant for casual encounters, but why stop there? Safety first—and second, third, ad infinitum, the Covid way of life. In fact, you can’t be safe enough. According to this expert, the sexual activity with the lowest risk “involves yourself alone.” Talk about self-isolation! 

Be fruitful and don't multiply.

Similarly, the provincial Center for Disease Control advises people, among the “tips and strategies [and] protective steps” sexual partners should adopt, to “wear a face covering or mask,” which cuts down on “heavy breathing,” or to “use barriers, like walls (e.g., glory holes), that allow for sexual contact but prevent close face-to-face contact.”

One should also consider that “video dates, phone chats, sexting, online chat rooms and group cam rooms are ways to engage in sexual activity” without taking risks. Most important, recognize that “you are your safest partner.” Best to go it alone and avoid close contact with others. However, “If you’re feeling fine and have no symptoms of Covid-19, you can still have sex.” Permission has been granted. 

It is obscene that unelected officials in the sublimity of their wisdom can tell us how and when to perform intimacy. The idea is not only hideous, but on a human level fundamentally alienating, an antidote to the normal expression of human passion and romantic feeling—especially when the risk for younger and asymptomatic people is vanishingly low.

As the American Institute for Economic Research reliably reports, cutting through the panic and the hype, there is “a mortality rate of 0.01 percent, assuming a two-week lag between infection and death. This is one-tenth of the flu mortality rate of 0.1 percent.” Sucharit Bkakdi, a leading microbiologist at the University of Mainz and, unlike Tam, a genuine authority on the virus, gives an estimate “of 0.1 percent-0.3 percent, which is the range of moderate flu.”

No matter. When I venture out for my afternoon walk along the esplanade, I feel as if I’m entering a carnival horror arcade or a grade-C zombie flick. Nearly everyone is masked, not only the elderly who may be in the statistical danger zone, but the middle aged, families, bicyclists, joggers, younger people, children and even toddlers, who are effectively immune.

True, very few are kissing or engaging in indecorous activity, but that is no consolation. The sense of the eerie, of something morbid and freakish this way coming, is deeply distressing, no less than the abject compliance with government mandates in the absence of common sense or intelligent reflection.

A recent IPSOS Reid poll finds that 93 percent of Canadians “say they are doing their best to abide by public health recommendations regarding Covid-19.” The poll reports that more Canadians “are wearing a protective mask than was the case just a few months ago,” and that “support for safety measures remains high.” Support for critical scrutiny and independent inquiry into the facts does not.

Home sweet home.

We are living in the Age of Covid, enjoined or compelled to stay in our “bubble,” to practice “social distancing” (six feet is the officially designated distance, the same as the typical grave depth), and to wear those ghastly medical ornaments, multi-ply masks, over half our faces.

Over time, coercion has turned into willing consensus and self-enforced mutilation of the spirit; a fearful and pliable public has surrendered its autonomy of judgment to a statistical reign of terror practiced by ignorant and power-hungry politicians and their self-serving health officials. People have suffered a mental lockdown, a form of cerebral morbidity. As Stephen Kruiser writes:

The lockdowns ruined far more lives than they’ve saved—if they’ve saved any at all. The data on wearing masks has been kind of all over the place too. Those who’ve been spreading the pandemic panic porn for political purposes treat the masks as if they have super powers. We will more than likely find out that wearing them was all just so much useless theater too.

The mask has become the major symbol of a time when human relationships, what we used to call face to face contact, are relics of a receding past. Facebook was bad enough, when personal reciprocity was replaced by digital transmissions and friendship became “friending.” Now Facebook has become Facemask, eliminating the human smile, articulate speech, normal conversation and personal expressions while transforming sexual and romantic intimacy into a lurid caricature of communion, affection, affinity and warmth—the empty husk of human presence.

In a poem delightful for its insouciant humor, Canadian poet Michael Harris wished to be “among the essential kissers of all time.” The volume, New & Selected, appeared in 1998. He would have had another think coming had he written his poem today.

What COVID and 'Climate Change' Have in Common

There’s a line in the original “Star Wars” movie where the Grand Moff Tarkin says, “Fear will keep the local systems in line.  Fear of this battle station."

Leftists use the same weapons  all totalitarians do when it comes to pushing their policies: lies and fear.  We’re used to the lies.  They happen all the time.  The past year has given the Left the greatest gift they could have ever desired: an excuse to push fear onto the population.

Less than a year ago, we could all walk around our cities normally.  Today, everything has changed. We see the same sorry sight everywhere: healthy people walking around outside wearing a mask.  They wear masks even when alone.  If they pass by someone who isn’t wearing a mask, they give them a wide berth.

Fear of Covid-19 has been seized by the Left and weaponized in a way we have never experienced before.   Fear is now celebrated, while being cloaked as merely “following the science.”  The Left has successfully brainwashed people into believing the restriction of their liberties, which they apparently didn’t value in the first place, isn’t actually fear but a rational response to the situation.

We know the fear surrounding climate change is unjustified because we know climate change is a lie.  Is the fear surrounding Covid at all justified or is there a larger lie behind it as well?

The first thing we must do is look at the latest data to make sure we are being ruthlessly honest with ourselves. The more information we have, the more we can determine our own individualized risk, and then adjust our behavior.

There is supposedly a “surge” in Covid-19 cases, yet this claim alone should tip us off that things aren’t quite right in the reporting.  All we get are case counts, yet we are never provided context for those counts.  For these numbers to be analyzed we must know all of the following:  Who is testing positive?  What are the precise demographics of those testing positive? What are their ages?  What are their ethnicities?  What exact locations, down to zip code, are they in? Do they have any co-morbidities and if so, which ones? Have they given information as to where they might have been exposed to the virus?  Just how many of these cases are asymptomatic?

We are offered none of that.  Perhaps it is sheer incompetence of the media that prevents us from getting that information.  Perhaps the reporters are intentionally obscuring it.  Or maybe both. Here is what we do know, and this is where we learn fear is not justified:

So, no, the fear isn’t justified.  That brings us to the question of why the fear is being perpetuated. I actually do not believe this is a mad power-grab by the Left.  That implies our Betters are actually intelligent.  I believe what’s generating the fear…. is fear itself.

It’s easy to forget that our vaunted elected officials are basically nobodies.  They are just crafty hacks with nothing better to do who've figured out how to work the political system instead of getting a real job.  Most don’t actually have much knowledge about anything, much less expertise in anything useful.  God knows, none of them have a lick of understanding concerning viruses.

The first rule of politics is that all politics is about getting power.  The second rule of politics is that all politics is about maintaining power.  There is no third rule.  Power is itself an end.  While ideology is driving climate policy, along with countless thousands of parasites gobbling up funding from offshore accounts to enrich themselves, Covid policy is driven entirely by the need to maintain power.

You'll take it, and like it.

Ideology does drive the desire to get and hold power, but power is the gateway to pushing policy forward, and more effort and attention is necessary to maintain power than to push policy.

So when it comes to such mediocrities as California governor Gavin “Lock It All Down” Newsom and his equally mindless counterpart, L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti, the lockdowns are all about their own fears of losing power.   Blowhards like them only see a binary choice: lock it all down or open it all up.

The latter is what they fear, because if lots of people die, they fear they will be blamed and be voted out of office.  So they reactively leap to the opposite end, and lock it all down, thinking that couldn't possibly result in a worse outcome.

The irony, of course, is that the data from Florida and other open states is nearly identical to California’s.  In fact, the data all over the world is virtually identical.  Yet because of the very fear they have instilled in the public, politicians generally cannot move off the lock-down position.

Nor do they have the vision to generate common-sense policies that quarantine and provide for those at high-risk, and let everyone else go about their business and make decisions about their own level of risk tolerance. So they rely on the “experts” who are equally fearful about being blamed, so they err on the side of insanely unnecessary caution. This is why you see Newsom and others breaking their own rules.  The rules aren’t actually based in science, but fear of losing a job.

This leaves us with a question.  How does it play out?  Sadly, it appears many Americans choose to go along with the fear-mongering and others aren’t fighting back as we’d expect.  That’s where the real danger lies.

This isn’t about a power grab.  But as more malevolent forces realize nobody is fighting back, it’s the next crisis that will become the power grab.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Celebrating

Happy New Year from Lyford Cay! I can’t imagine being anywhere else but here—away from border closures and shuttered shops. We are proving that there is life during Covid. Common sense would tell us that commercial flights and large resorts are a recipe for shutdown. Here… we wisely have none of that.

After big fireworks last night we ended up dancing on the beach, but it was mostly the guests of residents who don’t know the way of things here and stayed out late. That’s the thing with the non-residents… even if they weren’t frightfully easy to spot, one can always sense them nervously tugging at their pockets for vibrating cell phones that are a big no-no in this club and so many others that they obviously haven’t frequented.

The residents are of course mostly all lovely people, who’ve made their mark and can now focus on the things that matter. Speaking of just that sort, I had so wanted to talk to philanthropist Louis Bacon about all things environment. We’ve a strong contact in that one of my clients -- well, my former client -- is a big to-do in the Audubon Society. And Louis has received the actual Audubon Medal.

There's life after Covid.

I haven’t had the chance to talk to him owing to the fact that my hosts are on the Nygard side -- that’s Peter Nygard, who shares a property border with Mr Bacon and for whom a once-peaceful adjacency eventually led to duelling feuds and some sort of federal racketeering suit in Manhattan. I had hoped to at least bump into his wife but she’s a second wife and… well you know how those things go.

I've heard whispers that he's not really as committed to the environment as he seems to be,  and he did sue Wikimedia for publishing some bits he considered libelous, and there was even some suggestion of foul play when his estate manager was found floating naked in a hot tub, but I refuse to believe that someone who gives millions of dollars and thousands of acres for easements and wildlife could be in it for the wrong reasons.

I have to assume such a beef was bound to happen as their houses (the Bacons and the Nygards) are on the beachfront where the homes get quite close to each other, and in that area, one man’s dining room is only 200 feet from the other’s revolving acrylic discotheque.

As for Mr Nygard, my hosts maintain there is mostly nothing to the FBI raid and arrest at his fashion empire on charges of sex trafficking and racketeering. Here in Lyford he’s mostly disliked for his efforts to dredge the sea floor around his estate that eventually caused his cay to be seized by the Bahamian government. And then something caused a puddle that caused a feud between neighbours and here we are. As I’ve heard daddy say, one man’s cocktail party is another man’s sleepless night. Whatever the ruckus—he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Happy New Year to you too, Ma'am.

Which got me to thinking… I should just go and chat up Her Majesty’s newly remarried (and newly gay) cousin Lord Ivar Mountbatten. He and daddy are quite chummy, and I met him with his daughter Ella at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. Surely he’ll make the introductions—landowners tend to be big environmentalists.

This year, rather than silly resolutions I’ll be making significant intentions that support, empower, and manifest a joy-filled existence. I think it’s so important.

I made my way down to the New Year’s brunch in the pink tented dining pavilion. I was seated with some Austrians and I got excited that they might know Mr Bacon. Yes I know he’s an American but he obtained Austrian citizenship due to a special treatment for celebrities who have provided notable achievements for Austria. No one seems to know what the notable achievement was, but I hoped they were his guests. Sadly they were not, and didn’t know the least thing about him despite his celeb-status. 

Once they heard I lived in Los Angeles they wanted to talk election stuffs and rant about Trump. I wasn’t sure what he’d done to them specifically but they seemed in favour of the Paris Climate Agreement. Well, so am I! Very much so, but I wasn’t stupid enough to think anyone could slip it past the Americans and hope they wouldn’t realise they had to comply more and pay more than anyone else.

I was quiet for a bit. Where were the Austrians who stood on principle so very many times? Not to mention they were the first to say there was “no path back” when one of their stupid teens ran off to be a brood mare for ISIS. This was a puzzlement. And so I began:

“Is it Americans you dislike? Or do you simply share an all-consuming love of our planet?” I asked in the queen’s English. What followed was such nonsense I wondered how they could claim to stand for anything. I changed the subject so deftly I’d have made even Judith (mummy) proud. I just don’t get the blanket hatred for America thing… all things considered-they really are good caretakers of our earth.

Top this, Europe.

I asked them where they stood on Austria’s drastic move away from coal? They had no informed opinion. On their very own MAGA (Make Austria Great Again) rockstar Sebastian Kurz? Didn’t know. Nygard vs Bacon? (OK that was totally unfair but these two were getting on my nerves). But they somehow knew they were right to hate America for pulling out of the Agreement and didn’t have to be the informed sort of haters.

I lied about how much I’d enjoyed talking to them and excused myself. These two were such boors and were hardly going to help me manifest my higher purpose to save the planet. And no sooner had I focused on my destiny than I found a handsome hedge fund billionaire to chat up. Happy New Year Everyone!

Beware of the Mask Police

If I’m calculating this correctly, we’re about to enter our forty-second week of “Two Weeks to Stop the Spread.” I’m just a cop with no claim to medical expertise, but if I may offer a layman’s opinion, weeks three through forty-one don’t seem to have been any more effective than the first two. What would lead anyone to believe the next two, three, or forty-one will be?

And we’re still being inundated with grim news about how the worst is yet to come. Every day at the top of the Los Angeles Times website one finds a collection of stories presented with the apparent intent of arousing dread in the reader.

Here’s a sampling of recent headlines: “New, potentially more contagious coronavirus variant found in California, Newsom says,” “L.A. County mortuaries struggle with rising toll from COVID-19,” and “‘Super-spreader’ event feared in L.A. as singer defies health order for concerts.” And it’s the L.A. Times, of course, so there’s the obligatory bit of class- and race-mongering thrown in as well: “L.A. hospitals serving the poor and people of color hit hardest by COVID-19,” and “How race factors into decisions about who should get priority for vaccines.”

After such a long period of lockdowns, not to mention mask mandates, social distancing, and the ever-shifting goal posts, people are understandably getting fractious. We should expect to see many more scenes like this one from Dec. 22, in which a Texas man was arrested at a San Antonio mall while participating in an anti-mask protest.

Who is that masked man?

Which places the police in an uncomfortable dilemma. There is a growing and seemingly irreconcilable divide between those who still believe these measures can be effective and those chafing under the restrictions.

I witness this divide daily as I walk the dog or ride my bicycle through my own suburban neighborhood near (but not too near) Los Angeles. I wear a mask when required by whichever local business I visit, donning and doffing it as I cross the threshold, but I never wear one while outdoors. I’m taken aback by all the people who do, especially those who veer into or even cross the street lest they cross paths with me and inhale some deadly molecule I may have expelled.

I’m tempted to ask these people (but do not ask them) what they think they’re accomplishing by behaving this way. One reason I don’t ask is that I’m afraid they’ll call the police and accuse me of trying to infect them. Another is that I haven’t time for a lecture on the errors on my maskless ways.

Not long ago I was in a grocery store in which the aisles were designated as one-way, thereby, one supposes, facilitating the proper social distancing. I was properly masked and proceeding down an aisle when I realized I had passed a needed item. I turned around and walked back about ten steps when I was upbraided by some clucking harridan who, I must note, chose to come within six feet to harangue me on my misconduct.

Joe Biden has premised to enact a national mask mandate upon taking office, though it’s unclear how he can do so under existing law. But then, the law itself has been shown to be far more elastic than one might have imagined prior to the arrival of the Wuhan virus, so heaven knows what he might pull off with the cooperation of like-minded state and local officials.

Who is this masked man?

Beginning last March, governors, mayors, county health officials, and every brand of petty bureaucrat took it upon themselves to impose whatever measures they saw fit in the name of protecting us from the virus, and the collateral damage -- lost jobs, ruined business, increased drug and alcohol abuse, to name just a few -- be damned.

If such a mandate were to be enacted, how big a leap would it be to see supermarket one-way aisles decreed into law, thus inspiring people like the traffic monitor mentioned above to summon the police when they witness a violation? And how will the police handle such a situation?

Not long ago I assumed police officers would ignore these petty disputes, but now I wonder if I haven’t been too sanguine. The sight of the man being manhandled and arrested in San Antonio, along with stories like this one in Oregon and this one in Ohio serve to warn us that police officers are not immune to mask hysteria. Granted, the officers in these cases were technically enforcing trespassing laws when the alleged offenders failed to wear masks when required to do so by businesses and schools, but by now it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to see these confrontations become commonplace under a Biden federal mandate.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal helps to illustrate why this is so. Writing in the Dec. 24 issue, Tunku Varadarajan introduces us to John McAuliffe, who has just retired after a 38-year career with the New York Police Department. McAuliffe told of a lesson he learned as a rookie in 1983: “Never embarrass a guy in front of his kid.”

It was once commonplace for older cops to pass on such wisdom to those they are charged with training. I join McAuliffe in lamenting this is no longer so. Police work has changed a great deal since 1983, not all of it for the better. I joined the Los Angeles Police Department at about that same time, and I was taught by some wise and worldly seasoned cops, some of whom were veterans of the Vietnam War.

I was trained to seek out and where possible arrest the people who made life miserable for their law-abiding neighbors. Robbers, burglars, and violent gangsters were a priority, and there was a measure of shame attached to hauling in some average Joe who had committed some minor transgression.

Sadly, focusing one’s efforts on violent criminals only invites trouble for today’s police officers, for to do so brings the risk of violent confrontation with people whose conduct is readily ignored or excused by their sophisticated betters in government and the media. The result is as predictable as it is tragic: a rise in violent crime and more deaths by homicide among those these same sophisticated betters purport to champion.

Until the pendulum swings back, as it surely will someday, more robbers, burglars, and violent gangsters will be getting a pass, and more mask scofflaws will be brought to heel. If you thought 2021 would be an improvement over 2020, think again.

Anatomy of a Covid Panic

About 1.8 million people live in the state of South Australia (SA). Approximately thirty-eight people on average die each day. Since the start of the ‘pandemic’ in January, four elderly people have died of the virus. Not 4,000 you understand, just four. Of course, as commentators seem obliged to say these days, every death is a tragedy.  Unlike those those former days, if you can still recall them, before Covid, when ailing old people dying didn't make the headlines.

All told, SA has had only 562 reported cases of Covid. As at end November, not one Covid patient was in hospital. However, a cluster of seventeen cases (i.e., positive tests, not sicknesses) centering around one family recently arose. The source was a security guard at a hotel where the government keeps those arriving from overseas quarantined for two weeks.

As expected, the government panicked, as per the new-normal, as did the governments of surrounding states, which immediately reinstated bans on travel to and from SA. But, you ain’t seen nothing yet. All unbeknown to the powers that be, a common or garden take-away pizza box was lurking in the wings.

The security guard in question also worked in a pizza bar. And someone, a Spanish chap on a temporary working visa, who’d bought a pizza tested positive. Well, as you wouldn’t be able to imagine if you are level-headed, all hell broke loose.

Nicola Spurrier, the chief health officer in SA, who I can only guess is prone to female impetuosity, assumed that a new virulent strain of Covid was afoot; catchable in very quick time from the surface of a pizza box; and emerging uniquely in an otherwise unremarkable suburb of Adelaide. The premier Steven Marshall, whose IQ has not been made public, immediately announced that he would close down his entire state for six days. And by closing down, he meant everything.

And all this over a pizza box.

Then, lo and behold, the Spanish chap admitted that he also worked in the pizza bar alongside the security guard. Mystery solved. The same old virus after all. Premier backtracks while loudly blaming the Spaniard for not being forthcoming. But, hold on, has the mystery been solved? Evidently not. Police in SA reported that they had put thirty-six detectives on the job, were examining video footage and had seized mobile phones and laptops. I can only suspect, they suspect, the hand of Vladimir Putin at work.

Am I kidding? Sadly, no. Reason, level-headedness, objectivity, common sense, call it what you will, is out of fashion. What happened is now yesterday's news. However, best not to let it pass so easily. It speaks to a general malaise at the heart of modern-day society, which will continue to play out. I will return later to this malaise and controversially suggest one possible contributing cause. Before that, two more examples.

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison thought it was okay to besmirch Australia’s reputation by broadcasting to the world the “brutal truths” that numbers of unnamed Australian soldiers had committed war crimes in Afghanistan; and by apologising and offering compensation ahead of any due process. Of course, the untested allegations are concerning but they call for a reasoned response, not national self-flagellation and virtue signalling. Unsurprisingly, China and Russia, those paragons of human rights, have already made hay.

It is instructive that the basis for the inquiry into the behaviour of Australia’s elite special forces stemmed from a report of a female sociologist commissioned to examine their culture. I bet she found lots of toxic masculinity. As the feminisation of the defence forces moves apace, I find Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men (“You can’t handle the truth”) increasingly more appealing than Lieutenant Kaffee - though maybe I’m not supposed to.

Notice something about both examples thus far. A generalised passivity afflicts the responses of the two political leaders and those advising them. Events call the tune and they follow compliantly.  Furthermore, epidemiologists, the political class and the petticoat top-brass who head Australia’s defence forces form only a subset of those so afflicted. It is rampant across all walks of life; including, disconcertingly, the legal system.

Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal George Pell, was jailed in March 2019, spending 400 days incarcerated for crimes he could not possibly have committed. But the ABC and its Madame Defarge, Louise Milligan, said he did it and therefore it must be true. A jury and an appeal court compliantly found him guilty. Thankfully, the High Court retained its collective senses and by seven to nothing set him free. But what the heck is going on?

Let me be uncharacteristically brave. A feminine temperament has been characterised in the sociology literature as being, in part, passive and cooperative; and, correspondingly, the masculine as being aggressive and competitive. Men and women have both temperaments to varying degrees. Both are necessary. Neither one should predominate in society in normal circumstances. I suggest that within the space of one or two generations western societies have become lopsidedly feminine; more inclined to be passive and cooperative, less inclined to be aggressive and competitive. Hence the malaise to which I previously referred. Take climate change as a further example.

Equality.

Is it any accident that the public face of alarmism became a teenage girl? I think not. Think about the proposed solutions. Both are intrinsically passive, relying on external elements, the wind and sun, to solve the perceived problem. Calls are made for cooperative global action. Look at a counter example, one of the few in the west: ‘America first’. That is an aggressive and competitive (temperamentally masculine) sentiment. That’s Trump’s America. That’s not Morrison’s Australia.

Australia accounts for only 1.3 percent of world emissions of CO2. China, India and other developing nations are adding more each year to their emissions than our total. Yet where does that lead those who see Australia as being in cooperative kinship with parties to the Paris climate accord. Illogically, into blaming the government for the widespread bushfires in 2019/20. Apparently, it is not doing nearly enough to combat "climate change."

Masculine-inclined heads are prone to exploding on hearing this. And, more stressful still, so many people in the street who look normal have mentally re-gendered. After all, in the last general election, they easily voted out the archetypal manly former prime minister Tony Abbot, putting Ms Zali Steggall, a green airhead, in his place. Says it all.

Voting in a W.A.S.P. nest

I rolled out of bed before six this morning, threw on some clothes, and hopped into the car to go and vote. I was hoping to beat the lines and then get home quickly for my first cup of coffee.

Well, no such luck. Despite the near freezing weather, the line in my small New England town was around the block by the time I got there, Baby Boomers as far as the eye could see. I guess I should have waited for that coffee.

I shouldn't be surprised, of course. I hang my hat in W.A.S.P. country these days, and while the prevailing wisdom (and social science data) holds that Mainline Protestant affiliation is in steep decline, the truth of the matter is that the theological character of those once prominent sects has actually just shifted in a worldly direction, such that woke virtue signaling now occupies the space once held by creeds and confessions.

Cancelling and shame storming modern reprobates has replaced more traditional W.A.S.P. practices, but in the age of Donald Trump, voting has become the biggest virtue signal of all -- provided, of course, that you're voting that Orange Man Bad. Consequently, this line -- full of people in designer jeans, with the slightest hint of the dear old Ivy League in their accents, and air of never having a single thought that isn't preapproved by the New York Times editorial board -- had the atmosphere of a religious rite. The earliest protestants reduced the number of sacraments from seven to three, but it seems that their distant progeny have reduced them even further, to one: voting.

Game Day.

And it was livelier than a June wedding. People were taking selfies, wearing sweaters that said "Vote!" One (gray-haired) woman greeted some friends and, referring to the number of people, exclaimed, "This is the coolest thing I've ever seen!" This despite the fact that we don't live in a swing state, and the allocation of our seven electoral votes is a foregone conclusion.

As the line inched forward, I couldn't help but feel that this all reeked of privilege. Many conservatives, me included, guffawed at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's recent claim that long lines were a sign of voter suppression, even when they're "happening in a blue state." AOC's New York is, of course, just terribly governed, as the pandemic and this election season should make plain to everyone.

But there is a concern here. Before me were a bunch of affluent people who probably had no real work to do until their afternoon Zoom meeting. It costs them nothing to stand in line for hours to vote for the Wall Street candidate, more COVID hysteria, and the destruction of blue collar jobs. Then they can head home, park their electric cars in their heated driveways, and futz around until its time to watch election returns on MSNBC.

But how many regular working people -- plumbers, electricians, construction workers, even cops and firemen -- who have good reason to fear the further empowerment of the left in this country, looked at those lines and said to themselves "I don't have time for this"?

Well, hopefully they make it through in the end. If not in my neck of the woods, at least in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and everywhere else where their votes really count and their livelihoods are under assault. It'd be nice to see the smug liberals I saw this morning mugged by reality, just like four years ago.

Fear The Walking D(r)ead

Richard Feynman wrote “science is the belief in the ignorance of experts,” and nothing could demonstrate that point more readily than the public’s growing disaffection with the experts of the public health apparatus --  the WHO, the CDC, and Dr. Anthony Fauci. Their proscriptions (often conflicting) respecting the handling of Covid-19 were simply not “scientific.” They were, in fact, nothing more than guesses which did not work out. Not that that stopped them from silencing those whose experience, both medical and non-medical, contradicted their guesswork.

Ignoring cost-benefit analysis and utterly discounting the contradictory experience of thousands of medical doctors who were actually treating patients with the dreaded Covid, they’ve wreaked havoc and hardship throughout the world and doubtless contributed to many more deaths than necessary. Unfortunately, much of the media still insist that their actions were based on pure science, and many of our fellow citizens -- driven to neurosis by it all -- have been propagandized to thinking this is akin to the Black Death.

It’s hard to know where to even begin answering this.

What have I done?

Let’s start with masks -- virtue signalers and tyrants alike love them, since they broadcast submission and compliance to the world. Of course, the masked Karens of the world also enjoy hounding the noncompliant. In the beginning of the Covid spread here Dr. Fauci said masks weren’t needed. Later he said they were, and that his earlier statement was based on a fear there would be too few available to medical personnel. In fact, they are useless as presently designed and worn by the general public, as Dan Formosa explains:

A coronavirus virion (particle) is spherical, averaging around 125 nanometers in diameter. Compare that to bacteria’s 1,000-nm size. It’s a grape compared to a grapefruit. A surgical mask whose purpose is to block bacteria will do little to prevent passage of the smaller coronavirus particle. That’s why N95 masks, which block 95% of all airborne particles, are the gold standard in hospitals treating Covid-19 patients. They have a much more selective filter.

But even N95 masks are flawed. Before coronavirus, my team and I investigated whether N95 masks could be a viable alternative to standard surgical masks. Interviews with doctors and nurses at several hospitals at the time revealed that N95 masks were rarely used or supplied. The overwhelming majority of healthcare workers I spoke with had never worn one. They are more expensive than surgical masks, they’re harder to breathe in, and medical workers deemed them unnecessary for most procedures. (Keep in mind that masks protect in both directions. They protect the wearer from airborne particles or splash, and protect the patient from contamination by the surgical staff—the latter is especially important in procedures that require deep incisions.)

I have some, purchased when it was feared after 9/11 we would be hit with an anthrax attack and we were encouraged to get them. Everyone else I see wears masks virtually useless for the purpose of preventing viral infections. Recently released evidence from CDC bears this out. 

A Centers for Disease Control report released in September shows that masks and face coverings are not effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19, even for those people who consistently wear them. A study conducted in the United States in July found that when they compared 154 “case-patients,” who tested positive for COVID-19, to a control group of 160 participants from the same health care facility who were symptomatic but tested negative, over 70 percent of the case-patients were contaminated with the virus and fell ill despite “always” wearing a mask.

“In the 14 days before illness onset, 71% of case-patients and 74% of control participants reported always using cloth face coverings or other mask types when in public,” the report stated. In addition, over 14 percent of the case-patients said they “often” wore a face covering and were still infected with the virus. The study also demonstrates that under 4 percent of the case-patients became sick with the virus even though they “never” wore a mask or face covering.

With the mask requirements and much else Covid related, another Richard Feynman admonition comes to mind, "If you thought that science was certain -- well, that is just an error on your part."

We're sorry, too.

On to Lockdowns.

The most absurd move was to lock down states and countries in the belief that would stop the spread of Covid-19. 

President Trump never urged more than a temporary lockdown in order to manage scarce resources, such as ventilators, and protect health workers from an illness the experts warned would otherwise overwhelm existing health services. State governors and other countries, however, made these restrictions long term and only recently did the WHO advise against this -- long after irreparable economic was wreaked harm around the world.

WHO envoy Dr. David Nabarro said such restrictive measures should only be treated as a last resort, the British magazine the Spectator reported in a video interview. “We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Nabarro said. “The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.” Nabarro said tight restrictions cause significant harm, particularly on the global economy. “Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never, ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer,” he said.

Social Distancing.

Public health services are demanding we close non-essential businesses and keep six feet apart at all times. On what basis? None that I can see. Michael Thau cites some scientific studies that refute any basis for these commands, and maintain that there is no “solid basis for ANY social distancing measures.”

We have cases where the viruses traveled across oceans, infecting people in Antarctica while they were in their 17th week of isolation; and those aboard an Argentinian naval ship “after 35 days at sea which had been preceded by 14 days of isolation for everyone on board.” This make-believe perimeter was set at the same time most U.S. jurisdictions kept only megastores open which to my (and Thau's) mind only increased the possibility of viral transmission. In smaller neighborhood shops it would seem there would be fewer opportunities to come in contact with the virus.

And then to seal our belief that the CDC social distancing dictates were partisan-inspired bunk, they simply abandoned them for mass social protests. No social distancing there!

Not the Black Death.

Why are so little of these conflicting reports making it to public attention? Thau reminds us that Harvey Risch, a professor epidemiology at Yale University with a distinguished career in the field, has accused Dr. Fauci of lying about the effectiveness of hydroxychlorquine and influencing the suppression of its use because he, and others in the public health bureaucracy, are “in bed with other forces that are causing them to make decisions that are not based on the science and are killing Americans.”

I know you remember President Trump early on suggesting that this drug , long used safely to treat other ailments like Lupus, might be effective in combating Covid. Maybe you even remember the claim by Dr. Fauci that it was proven ineffective. Actually, it wasn't established to be so at all. Physicians (hundreds in the U.S. and thousands worldwide) were using it successfully when administered along with zinc and azithromycin. The public was led astray by Dr. Fauci who appeared to rely on trials where the HCL was not administered within the 5-7 days after symptoms first appeared (the effective window) or where it was administered alone without the rest of the drugs necessary for the cocktail.

Interesting that the media ignores not only the work of Dr. Risch and the hundreds of doctors with extensive hands-on experience, but also Nobel Prize-winning biophysicist Michael Levitt. These people describe Fauci’s lockdown advice as a “mass casualty incident.”  There is now a large-scale pushback on Fauci’s policies known as The Great Barrington Declaration. It was authored and signed earlier this month by Dr. Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard; Dr. Sunetra Gupta, Oxford epidemiologist and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford Medical school. More than 13,000 medical professionals have also signed it, along with more than 176,000 members of the public by mid-September -- and the number keeps growing. They call for an end of the lockdowns; removing quarantines from all but the sick; isolation only of the vulnerable and allowing the young and healthy to proceed with caution.

Does the quackery at the top and the suppression of empirical evidence remind you of the global warming/climate change saga? It does me.

It all makes sense now.

Meanwhile, publications like the Washington Post have started to take a sick pleasure in highlighting the Covid neuroses which they themselves have inspired with their coverage.

Because the demographics of those terrorized by the virus and fearful of re-opening the country and returning to normal would appear at first glance to be the very same people who watch CNN, MSNBC and read the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times.

There are, however, signs that this Fauci-engendered nightmare may soon be over. New York Times science reporter, Donald G. McNeil Jr., reports that treatments are improving every day, and vaccine development is moving along much faster than was previously expected, both helped along by the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed. Moreover, economists are predicting a rapid recovery.

The press will have to find something else to keep the populace in a state of full-blown hysteria when that happens. In the meantime it is probably a good idea for healthy people to do some common sense stuff, such as avoiding crowds, washing your hands more frequently, and taking dietary supplements (especially zinc and Vitamins C and D). But don't pay attention to Dr. Fauci. Listen to the president instead, specifically the phrase which drove so many leftists insane: "Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life."

And for heaven's sake, calm down.

Learning the Lessons of the Pandemic

In the last few days the World Health Organization has announced that it does not recommend lockdowns as the “primary means of control” of the coronavirus. Dr. David Nabarro, who is the WHO’s “special envoy” on the coronavirus epidemic and presumably knows something about the costs and benefits involved, went on to suggest that there was only a limited role for lockdowns in combatting the virus:

“The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to re-organize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we'd rather not do it," he told the media.

Other methods of controlling the virus are as good or better than lockdowns—there’s a long list of them on the WHO’s website—and they don’t have the catastrophic impact of lockdowns. As Nabarro explained with some feeling:

Look what's happened to smallholder farmers all over the world. … Look what's happening to poverty levels. It seems that we may well have a doubling of world poverty by next year. We may well have at least a doubling of child malnutrition.

On most occasions when we hear appeals like that, they come accompanied with a bill for the rest of us in the form of higher redistributive taxation. We sigh “well, it’s a good cause” and pay up, even if it means cutting down on some little luxuries (or, if we’re among the poor ourselves, giving up some portion of necessities too).

On this occasion, however, industries, social services, charities, and ordinary taxpayer-citizens, rich and poor alike, would all benefit economically if the lockdowns were to end. Dr. Nabarro might have said with equal force and relevance: “Look at what’s happening to steelworkers, coal-miners, secretaries, para-legals, physiotherapists, plumbers, carpenters, Anglican vicars, waiters, travel-agents, and strip-tease dancers.”

It might not have had the same emotional impact as his appeal to prevent child poverty, but it would be pointing to severe everyday economic damages experienced by the whole community. Almost everyone in the private sector is hit by lockdowns, and they will by paying the accumulated bill for their own enforced idleness for a very long time to come. And that should count for something.

Don't go away mad, just go away.

Of course, Nabarro was announcing a U-turn by the WHO. That’s usually felt to be a political disgrace and a cause for great embarrassment. Maybe sometimes it is exactly that. But it surely makes sense to change policy, however drastically, when the evidence suggests that the existing policy is producing negative or perverse results. And that seems to be the case with lockdowns.

Almost simultaneously with Dr. Nabarro’s statement, three distinguished medical experts-- Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University—wrote what amounted to a statement of skepticism about lockdowns which were, they said, inflicting irreparable damage on health.

That statement, known optimistically as the Great Barrington Declaration, became a petition that’s already been signed by 1200 health professionals. It is unsparing in its critique of the policies of many, even most, governments worldwide:

As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists, we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.

Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.

Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.

The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.

Even or especially if governments agree with the professors, however, they must be horrified  by the idea that lockdowns are a mistake, an overreaction, and a net disadvantage in cost-benefit terms. That conclusion is politically disastrous for them. They have spent much of the last year telling their voters that lockdowns were essential to prevent the spread of the virus and protect lives.

In the countries of the Anglosphere that usually pride themselves on their dedication to liberty, they have been exceptionally heavy-handed in their enforcement of lockdowns on the citizenry, imposing heavy fines on citizens for breaches of it and insisting on closing down cities with curfews and prohibitions of church services, drinking, and even singing. And they have made lockdowns a key item in a coronavirus “orthodoxy” that dismissed other policies—Dr. Gupta’s “focused protection” (focused that is on the elderly and especially vulnerable), or Sweden’s alternative policy mix that included a much more limited lockdown.

No lockdowns, please, we're Swedish.

Nor are governments alone in the dock. Scientists too have to share in the blame. Did the Imperial College and SAGE scientists in the UK, for instance, make a mistake when they recommended abandoning HMG’s original strategy ( tested and approved by the WHO only the previous year) and moving to a lockdown one? Not at the time, perhaps, when UK policy was dominated by a need to avoid the National Health Service being overwhelmed by the avalanche of cases that had overwhelmed Italy’s health services.

That decision was in line with Dr. Nabarro’s argument that a lockdown was “justified to buy you time to re-organize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, etc. Long after that threat passed, however, the scientists continued to press the politicians to tighten the lockdowns ever more firmly. And the politicians are afraid to disagree with the scientists.

Britain’s current policy is now a kind of paralysis: almost everyone, including ministers, realizes the lockdown was a mistake and is increasingly a catastrophe for the country’s economic future but the government has been so successful in inculcating a fear of the virus that far outstrips the real risks to the entire population that it carries that the public now supports tightening the lockdown rather than lifting it.

Covid headache, check.

For that outcome—which is worse in Australia and the U.S. than in Britain—the media must accept a heavy share of the blame. Their coverage has often been more driven by political considerations than by medical ones. Mainstream reports of the pandemic in the U.S. has been more concerned to damage Donald Trump than to provide a cool and fair-minded examination of how best to treat the virus—“Orange Man Bad” being its main diagnosis of any of the cures proposed.

And social coverage is worse. At the time of writing, Twitter had ruled against coverage of the Great Barrington Declaration on the grounds that it was misleading (i.e., Twitter disliked its political implications.)

The lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic will be relevant long after the virus has reached herd immunity and become one of the many illnesses dormant in the population that springs into life every Fall. They tell us that whether the threat is a global pandemic or a rise in global temperature, we must preserve a free and skeptical public debate. That means asking the experts to give us their opinions but also to tell us where they differ and why.

Some of the most prescient criticisms of the lockdown policy came from other experts like Dr. Gupta and some from intelligent non-experts like (Lord) Jonathan Sumption, a distinguished lawyer, who saw in official  policy the logical likelihood that a lockdown could do little more than redistribute Covid-19 infections and deaths over time—but at huge loss in our economic prospects and our political liberties too.

In short, the biggest global threat today is the ever-present danger of an establishment consensus that won’t allow other views to be expressed and debated. And that threat hasn’t faded even if the lockdown does.

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.