The Great Covid Panic: now out!

It’s here, the booklet I am sure you have all been waiting for. The one which Gigi Foster and Michael Baker slaved over for 10 months. It is dedicated to all the victims of the Panic, in poor countries and rich countries. They include our children, the lonely, and the poor.

The short publisher blurb: How to make sense of the astonishing upheaval of Spring 2020 and following? Normal life – in which expected rights and freedoms were taken for granted – came to be replaced by a new society as managed by a medical/ruling elite that promised but failed to deliver virus mitigation, all in the name of public health. Meanwhile, we’ve lost so much of what we once had: travel freedoms, privacy, a democratic presumption of equality, commercial freedoms, and even the access to information portals. Something has gone very wrong.

The longer blurb that our publisher chose for it is over the fold! There is also a website that will tell you where book launches will take place, which bookstores sell it, and who has liked it sofar. Continue reading

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Two summary pieces of HART and SWPR on masks

Guy Fawkes Mask ? V for Vendetta Mask purchase | horror-shop.comSince I learned in April 2020 that transmission of covid was mainly via extremely small aerosols, I have regarded face masks as a placebo: they are to aerosols what garden gates are to mosquitoes. Yet, placebos have a role so I wasn’t too against them and willing to have my assessment overturned by new insights. After all, face masks might not stop aerosols, but they made many people feel better and might unexpectedly work in some other way against covid, such as by changing behaviour or changing the way the air flows into noses, or whatever. 16 months later, I am more against them because a multi-billion dollar industry has arisen that thrives on creating a mask-waste mountain and is thus heavily invested in their continued use, just as the industry of hand sanitizers, tests, and others. I personally found masks a nuisance to wear and an overt sign of submission. I have a like-minded friend in Sydney going around Sydney shops with a guy fawkes mask as a quiet symbol of defiance against compulsory masks.

I want to share two external reviews on masks of two different groups I have been following. One is a group of largely retired UK doctors who assembled in 2020: the HART group that looks at all the medical science around covid. The people involved in that group write on personal title, so one knows who the advice is from, which is a big plus. The second is a pre-existing’ Swiss policy research’ group formed in 2016. It is a bit like the research version of wikileaks and seems to have found its origin largely in concerns for press freedom and suspicion of the CIA, which is why its contributors are anonymous (which I understand, but dont like, particularly not as a sole source of information). SWPR took it upon itself early on to wade through the science of covid so as to come to its own assessment.

I have found the combination of them useful. SWPR is not so good in understanding the models or being consistent about what explains covid-outcomes, but is good at classic medical stuff (treatments, trials) and media manipulation. The HART group is good on covid measurement issues, medical organizational matters, and has better modelers on their team, but it largely stays away from political economy and is less prepared to venture guesses about origins and such. Yet, both have taken reasonable lines on things for which there is little doubt. Both those sources for instance say vaccines reduce covid severity. These sources have not always agreed the last 18 months and I have noted technical issues in areas I have particular expertise where they didn’t quite understand what some sophisticated empirical studies were saying, but I have learned to lean on them for useful summary takes. I haven’t detected an obvious bias. Here is what the HART people say about masks (https://www.hartgroup.org/masks/):

Contrary to the Government message that it ‘follows the science’, the sudden change in advice by the WHO was not based on any new, high-quality scientific studies. By summer 2020, there was substantial evidence that non-medical masks for the general public did not reduce the transmission of respiratory viruses. A review of 14 controlled studies had concluded that masks did not significantly lessen the spread of seasonal ‘flu in the community.[] A Norwegian Institute for Public Health review found that non-medical masks achieve no benefit for healthy individuals, particularly when viral prevalence is low.[] From a common sense angle, scientists had argued that cloth masks contain perforations that are far too big to act as a viral barrier and therefore ‘offer zero protection against COVID-19’.[]

Inevitably, the public often wear masks incorrectly, or improperly handle them when putting them on, or removing them, constituting an additional infection hazard. There has been recognition of this contamination risk in the scientific literature[] and other researchers have cautioned against the use of cloth face coverings.[] Potential harms to the wearer include exhaustion, headaches, fatigue and dehydration.[] Some doctors have suggested an increased risk of pneumonia.[] Furthermore, the widely varying physical characteristics of the face coverings used by people in the community, that are not standardised for material, fit, length of wearing, changes after washing and drying, and disposal, means that laboratory research on mask efficacy cannot be generalised to real-world situations.

With particular reference to COVID-19, the only large randomised controlled trial exploring the benefits of adopting face coverings in the community found that masks (even the surgical variety) did not result in a significant reduction in infection risk for the wearer.[] A detailed analysis[] of all research investigations, including those purported to suggest that masks might achieve some benefits, led to the view that there is ‘little to no evidence’ that cloth masks in the general population are effective.

Masks impair verbal communication, render lip-reading impossible for the deaf, and stymie emotional expression, the latter effect potentially constituting a gross impediment to children’s social development. Acting as a crude, highly visible reminder that danger is all around, face coverings are fuelling widespread, irrational fear.

Wearing a mask will heighten the distress of many people with existing mental health problems and may trigger ‘flashbacks’ for those historically traumatised by physical and/or sexual abuse. Sadly, going without a mask (even as a means of avoiding psychological distress) can often attract harassment and further victimisation. In response to this, ‘exemption lanyards’ have been developed, which further stigmatise those who cannot wear face coverings due to health conditions or previous trauma.

Note that this is their summary conclusion, which did not go over the more positive studies that one would like to see discussed. Continue reading

Posted in Coronavirus crisis, Death and taxes, Health, IT and Internet, Science | 29 Comments

Midnight’s Library

The graphic from the nifty NYT review.

On the strength of nothing more than the fact that it’s Audible’s free book of the month, I’ve started listening to Midnight’s library. It’s fun and engaging. I’ll copy and paste a review with which I broadly agree and then copy and paste the most enjoyable scene so far. I hope you enjoy it.

It is no secret that Matt Haig has mental health issues, dogged by the darkness of depression that has taken its toll on his life. His acute observations and experience of his condition informs this exquisite, inspiring, compassionate and empathetic novel where he creates the concept of the midnight library, to be found in the spaces between life and death, to explore life, the issues that afflict our world, through philosophy and more, endeavouring to tease out what might make life worth living and a joy and what gives it meaning. The device used to implement his goal is the ordinary Nora Seed, who has lived her life trying to please others, who has hit rock bottom, suffering the loss of her cat, her job, overwhelmed by the burden of a lifetime of regrets, seeing no light in her life whatsoever. She is tempted by thoughts of suicide that has her ending up at the midnight library.

The midnight library is magical, for a start, the library has a limitless number of books, and these books are far from ordinary, Haig sprinkles gold dust in each book, offering Nora the opportunity to see how her life would have turned out if each and every decision at every point in her life had been different. The books illustrate the endless possibilities that life holds for Nora and all of us. Nora explores each book, with inquisitiveness and curiosity, the widely disparate lives that could have been hers, no easy task as she has to slip into each new life with the complications of being unfamiliar with it and do so without alerting the other people present. It soon becomes clear that there are pros and cons to each book/life, to each decision and choice made, each life containing its own mix of despair, pain and regrets that must be accommodated and handled. Continue reading

Posted in Humour, Philosophy | 2 Comments

On censorship in Australia and elsewhere

What do you do as an Australian parliament when a foreign company censors mainstream media content in Australia, undermining free speech? Do you organise an inquiry to hold those foreign companies to account and to see how you might prevent foreign meddling? Or do you fall into line and organise McCarthy-like hearings to intimidate those whose opinions have fallen into (foreign) disfavour?

We now know the answer: Labour and the Greens have fallen into line with foreign internet companies censoring Alan Jones and Sky news. It is not the foreign companies that are asked to defend themselves but Alan Jones. And the BBC article linked to above very nicely says that a big reason for the censorship was that Alan Jones was “questioning public health orders”. Might I quietly say ‘Wow’? Questioning policy, how dare he! Where is our democracy going to when people can question policies in the media?

It is a pity that things are taking this turn in Australia. Up till now, free speech on the covid issue has been one of the positives in Australia. It has often been acrimonious but at least open airing of different views has occurred. Among the newspapers, the Australian has been lockdown-sceptic from day one, with the Financial Review increasingly sceptical too. Several other newspapers have been pro-lockdown but still frequently running sceptical pieces. This diversity of views was also present on television, with Sky News running a sceptical line from the beginning. On radio too, there has been diversity of views, with Gigi Foster co-hosting the sceptical ‘Economists’ program on the ABC.

Whilst state governments have spared no expense in propaganda and the vast majority of the media is fully in line with covid-mania, there hence has been a sceptical mainstream media presence in Australia since the very beginning. It is something to be proud of, certainly compared to most of Europe, the UK, or the US!

Yet, the censorship that the internet giants have engaged in from early on (Amazon for instance censored Jeffrey Tucker’s early book on covid madness in mid 2020, and of course there was the saga around the attempt of Google and others to hide the Great Barrington Declaration) is a new factor in the media landscape. Several friends and co-authors of mine have personally been censored by internet giants the last 18 months (facebook, google, microsoft, linkedin, twitter, youtube). Continue reading

Posted in Coronavirus crisis, Cultural Critique, Democracy, Films and TV, IT and Internet, Journalism, Media, Politics - international, Politics - national, Print media, Society | 12 Comments

Lockdowns and liberty

This short post grew out of a response to Paul Frijters on another thread. Naturally enough, those who don’t want to lockdown are telling us about our precious liberties. You know those we fought for at Gallipoli, and Iraq and Afghanistan.

In any event, I strongly agree with the anti-lockdown folks that liberties are being trampled on. I’m not sure when we cared about them much, but it’s pretty obvious we don’t now. We’ve been knocking down our civil liberties in government since at least the time Howard understood that he could wedge his opposition by making especially outrageous ambit claims which would then place the Opposition in a dilemma of whether to waive them through (so the electorate won’t be distracted from what it really cares about which is electricity prices) or try to introduce better safeguards to them — in which case pretty obviously they’re soft on terror.

In any event, I think of civil liberties as a two stage business.

Continue reading

Posted in Coronavirus crisis, Cultural Critique, Democracy, Philosophy, Political theory, Politics - national | 21 Comments

Introducing! The podcast reader

I thought you’d like to know of a venture I’m on the board of which is a global monthly magazine being published out of Melbourne dedicated to publishing the best podcast interviews of the month as a printed magazine for sitting back and enjoying though it’s also being distributed as a digital magazine.

You can download our first edition from?this link.

Please enjoy and feel free to let others know of its existence! The website is here.

If you’re particularly keen and think there’s a fair chance you might subscribe and/or you’d like to show the magazine to others, please email me your physical address and I’ll see what I can get you.

Posted in Innovation, Media | 3 Comments

Guest post from John Burnheim

John sent me the text below in response to reading my essay on John Macmurray. As you may know he trained as a priest and after many decades lost his faith. He is now in his nineties and must have things read to him. I presume he dictates his correspondence. I have enjoyed corresponding with him over the last few years and asked if I could reproduce his email on Troppo which I found both moving and characteristically powerful in its analysis.

Hi Nicholas
Macmurray belongs to my clerical days, from 1940 to 1968, in which he figured as a great ally in my squandering every strand of my life to reformulating and defending the validity and supreme importance of Catholic orthodoxy.
I have always rejected suggestions that I should attempt to set out the reasons for my long service to the Church and my disillusion with it. I have always seen that to do that is inevitably to give support to the atheist contrary with its reductionism. What is needed is to get beyond theism etc and the assumptions it shares with atheism. Continue reading
Posted in Philosophy, Religion | Leave a comment