Apparently, We Have Been Naughty

We have all been naughty, disobedient, ungrateful serfs – or so say the self-nominated Covidiocy experts, especially including those of nationwide media fame and of a political stripe known for their fanatical allegiance to the current ruling class. We’re supposed to get another tongue-lashing from the White House tonight, which has already promised a winter of severe illnesses and death for those holding out against getting vaccinated against the latest Covid variant. Are they going to cancel Christmas for those who won’t cooperate? Are we now all enrolled in the variant-of-the-month club, and expected to maintain a constant intravenous drip of boosters for the endless variants?

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Scott Atlas’ book, “A Plague Upon Our House.”

I read this book this week and found a good book review in “City Journal,” titled “Three Blind Mice.” Atlas began as an academic neuroradiologist and then transitioned to a 15 year career as a health policy researcher. I did something similar when I was forced to retire at age 55 with an old back injury. I spent a year at Dartmouth learning methodology and biostatistics. I don’t know enough about Atlas’ story to know if he did something similar. Quite a few academic physicians have done similar transitions, especially as they get older.

In Atlas’ case, once he was recognized by the Media, he was immediately denigrated as “a radiologist.” He was also labelled as “not an epidemiologist.” It did not matter that none of the other three MDs on the Task Force was an epidemiologist, either. Atlas was in contact with many epidemiologists who were feeding him data and statistics.

He found the “Three Blind Mice” of Birx, Fauci and Redfield were uninterested in data or the scientific publications he kept bringing to the meetings. Eventually, he gave up going to the meetings. He found Trump receptive and he agreed with Atlas’ program of protecting the high risk population, especially nursing home residents, plus others with pre-existing conditions, one of which has turned out to be obesity. He blames Trump and his team for being afraid to sack Birx who was the one telling all the Governors to lock down their states. As he says in conclusion, “It didn’t matter. They still lost the election.” They feared a firestorm in the press if she was demoted.

Atlas was in despair as they continued to emphasize testing the asymptomatic and neglect the nursing homes where almost 50% of the deaths occurred. The psychological and economic damage from the lockdowns may last for years. Masks are useless and he quotes many studies to prove it. The one study quoted by Birx all along was based on two beauty parlor employees. That was it.

In the end, he quit after the election although Trump wanted him to stay. He continued to communicate by email. He describes the insane abuse he took from the Media and may spend a little too much time on it in the book. Some professors at Stanford (not the epidemiologists) sent out an email letter attacking him for working with Trump.

He has one section about Florida Governor DeSantis who, he writes, was already familiar with the literature and who implemented most of Atlas’ policies on his own. I remember the Media attacking DeSantis when he set up treatment facilities at a large retirement community, accusing him of treating supporters first. He was following the science they ignored in their identity politics frenzy. Florida could have been as big a disaster as New York with their huge senior population. The fact that DeSantis followed the science and not the Media prevented that outcome.

Other books are beginning to come out now but this one seems authentic by an insider. Here is the book at Amazon. I read the Kindle version. The hardcover came out a few days later.

Flashpoints

Much to the horror of progressive school boards, teachers and administrators everywhere, the parents of kids in public schools are becoming increasingly irate at various flavors of poison being mainlined into their kids: the imposition of Critical Race Theory – or whatever it is being called this week in order to deflect criticism – mask mandates and inappropriate sex education which amounts to the sexual grooming of K-12 students. Or what is even worse; schools tolerating, excusing, and covering up lawless behavior committed by students of the favored minority group o’ the month. The simple fact is that normal parents are practically guaranteed to go berserker on anyone or anything which threatens harm to their child. This seems to come as a surprise to school administrators.

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To Vax or Not To Vax…

That is indeed the question, and against all urging and advice, a fair number of Americans are saying ‘not’; for valid and wholly understandable reasons, after having made a carefully considered decision. Such be the case of the Daughter Unit and I. The Daughter Unit spent most of last year being pregnant and did not want to risk anything that would possibly damage Wee Jamie in utero. Her medical team did not do anything more than make a pro forma suggestion; that they did not mention it after she declined likely hints at their own doubts about the safety. We both had to get yearly flu shots when we were on active military duty, and honestly, I would routinely get sicker from the shot than I usually did from the flu itself. Towards the end of my active-duty time there was a great push to get all active duty to be vaccinated against anthrax, and I was in two minds over having to get that vaccine, before my retirement rendered the point moot. I remembered very well how so many of those deployed for the first Gulf War later developed serious health problems, problems that it was speculated, might have been because of the array of vaccinations they were given, in combination with exposure to various environmental hazards and contaminants. (I’ve always thought that the Gulf War Syndrome was a kind of multiple chemical sensitivity/allergy, caused by exposure to a range of triggering compounds or combinations, to which some people were more vulnerable than others. Not a medical or sciency-person; just my own opinion from what I have read and knowing veterans who were affected by deployment in that war. But that’s a whole ‘nother rabbit hole.) To get to the point, it was not entirely unknown for reluctant military personnel to be ordered to take vaccines, over their own doubts and objections.

Just this week, the Daughter Unit received a form letter from the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs, addressed to Dear Veteran:

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“Follow the Science”: the Winning Political Slogan of 2020

Voting in the 2020 American presidential election raised the question posed by Johnny Carson’s game show “Who Do You Trust” (1957-1963). Candidate Biden was chosen based on trust in his half century track record as a political centrist opposed to his Party’s left wing agenda to promote racial, economic and environmental justice. “Follow the Science” on the pandemic became a campaign theme to bolster trust because scientists – unlike lifetime politicians – are perceived as purveyors of truth. The campaign worked, then centrism was abandoned.

COVID 19 brought to the fore the differences between advocates of science-driven management – the premise of not just pandemic management but the entire Biden Administration agenda – and competitive markets. How can producers and consumers stumble onto greater truths than scientists? Economist Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” explained how – almost a century before the naturalist, geologist and biologist Charles Darwin’s “origin”. Scientific investigations were historically the domain of idle rich like Smith and Darwin, because in addition to the need for peer review independent from political influence, they were expensive, time consuming and only infrequently produced interesting results.

Today almost-universal government funding either directly or indirectly has inevitably and irredeemable introduced bias (and sometimes worse)  into science, particularly the social sciences. Political narratives feed back into the data, producing more noise .

To Tell The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

Panelists grilled witnesses on “To Tell the Truth” (1956-1968) to identify the real from fictitious characters. Economist Raj Chetty notes:

“As is the case with epidemiologists, the fundamental challenge faced by economists — and a root cause of many disagreements in the field — is our limited ability to run experiments. If we could randomize policy decisions and then observe what happens to the economy and people’s lives, we would be able to get a precise understanding of how the economy works and how to improve policy. But the practical and ethical costs of such experiments preclude this sort of approach.”

Hence economists, like virologists, rely on limited models to make generalizations. Virologists study the cellular makeup of a virus to explain pandemics. Economists study discrimination to reach a generalized truth about systemic racism, or financial panics to understand contagion. Physicists search for sub-atomic Higgs Boson particles to explain the origins and workings of the universe(s).

Witnesses in American court rooms on Perry Mason (1957-1966) swore to tell “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” under penalty of law. Scientific truth is a building block. Economists can then apply their tools, e.g., cost benefit, present value, probability, value of life, etc. to various alternatives to determine the whole truth and develop policies that are in the “public interest.”

But economists and politicians don’t take that oath. 95% of social scientists and historians identified as liberal/democratic, a bias toward progressive political action. The word “policy” derives from the Greek word for politics which is generally not aligned with the public interest.

Historians are even more liberal than economists, but most object to the 1619 Project. It’s not the income inequality caused by market capitalism, but government favoritism that’s unjust. Environmentalists use limited anti-capitalist models  to produce seriously sub-optimal policy recommendations. This science isn’t “the whole truth and nothing but.”

Scientific certainties spanning decades or even centuries are often proven wrong with better methods and larger samples or metadata. The federal government has for a half century warned against animal fats in favor of margarine even though metadata disproved the theory in 2018. Just as virology models assume contagion due to irrational public behavior, economic models of “financial panic” assume uninformed individuals irrationally run on solvent banks; in actual fact depositors acted perfectly rational, queuing only at insolvent banks that were paying out at face value on a first come, first served basis. Large scale economic models that suffer from the bias of small scale models tend to over-estimate the benefits of political intervention and under-estimate the unseen “unintended” but predictable indirect costs.

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