Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Pseudoscience informing public policy

Much of what passes for science is in fact pseudoscience. As the editor of the Lancet said:

The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant put it, “poor methods get results”.

This is a serious problem. Whole areas of “science” are currently little more than pseudoscience. Computer model outcomes are presented as though they are evidence about the world. Epidemiological studies are touted as proving X or Y when even a cursory reading of the actual research shows that no causal agent has been identified. Social science is filled with political activists who merely dress up their biases and prejudices in impenetrable jargon to hide its vacuity. None of this would matter very much if it all stayed within the ivory tower of academia. Unfortunately, all too often, such pseudoscience is used to inform public policy. This can be seen, not just in the current panic around a virus, but in such areas as global warming.

The use of pseudoscience to inform public policy inevitably results in policies that cause serious harm. An obvious defence against such harm would be a scientifically literate political elite. Unfortunately that is exactly what we do not have. The politically successful have virtually all been educated to hold the “correct” opinions rather than to understand the scientific method. This was laughably illustrated recently by Dawn Butler (then the Shadow Equalities Minister) when she asserted that 99% of giraffes are gay (meaning homosexual). She said this to exhibit her solidarity with the trans activists. As long as holding the right opinion is considered to be more important than anything else, we will have nothing but public policies that do more harm than good.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Coronavirus hypocrisy

The "lockdown" measures that have been introduced across the world in response to the coronavirus have resulted in a wave of hypocrisy. The ruling elites have flaunted at every opportunity their undoubted abilities for virtue signalling, and their equal lack of ability to observe their own rules.

Professor Neil Ferguson, whose computer model fuelled the fear-mongering, had no compunction about breaking the "lockdown" rules in order to meet his own desire to consort with his married lover. Scotland's Chief Medical Officer, Catherine Calderwood, after repeatedly exhorting everyone to follow the stay at home rules in order to save lives, happily ignored the rule to visit her holiday home. Chris Cuomo, the CNN journalist, broadcast to the world that he was self isolating in order to protect everyone from the deadly virus, whilst breaking the quarantine. He even continued to play this game of pretend after he had been publicly exposed.

Politicians have also joined in the hypocrisy. Stephen Kinnock ignored the rules and decided to visit his parents for his father's birthday. Barry Gardiner, another Labour politician, decided he could ignore the rules because a man had died in America. Apparently, the virus ignores social justice motivated protests. Of course, the violation of the "lockdown" isn't confined to just Labour politicians. Robert Jenrick, a Conservative government minister, got in on the act with a visit to his holiday home.

These are just the tip of a very large iceberg: politicians and experts and journalists have pushed for draconian "lockdowns" and then ignored the rules for their own convenience.

This hypocrisy was ramped up when George Floyd died at police hands (well a police knee). The virtue signallers, who had up until that point being denouncing anyone who violated the rules as idiots who were literally killing people, suddenly switched positions and supported protests and riots, completely forgetting (or hoping everyone else would) all about the necessity for social distancing.

All the apparent hypocrisy surrounding the "lockdown" rules shows that the supporters of these measures do not really believe their own propaganda. Everyday on broadcast television one can see news readers, demanding strict enforcement of "lockdown" measures, who have clearly not been deprived of the services of a hair stylist. A US governor, who imposed measures that ruled hairdressing unlawful, had no problem with having her own hair styled: she claimed she needed it, as she is in the public eye.

This claim to being exceptional is routine. Dominic Cummings, the prime minister's senior advisor, used the excuse when he was revealed to have travelled hundreds of miles to a second home. Many have used the excuse to justify mass gatherings they approve of, even though under the same rules, for the same rationale, the majority are denied the ability to spend time with dying relatives or attend funerals. Children are being denied their right to an education because of the virus, but protesters are being lauded for gathering together en masse, with no social distancing. If the carriers of the virus is the Black Death narrative believed their own propaganda, there would not be all these examples of hypocrisy. The hypocrisy reveals they know the virus is no more dangerous than any of the many other viruses that cause some of us to get ill.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Planning for the coronavirus pandemic

The government of the United Kingdom decided on 19 March 2020 on the basis of a review of the evidence that the coronavirus did not constitute a high consequence infectious diseaseOn 20 March 2020 Boris Johnson announced the start of the "lockdown" and rolled it out completely on 23 March 2020, even though the Coronavirus Act was not passed (without parliamentary scrutiny or division) until 25 March 2020. The Act (and the associated regulations) were the result of drafting that had been done in the light of the Cygnus Exercise in 2016, an NHS exercise which was designed to test our ability to deal with a pandemic. The conclusion of that exercise had been that the NHS would be overwhelmed; so rather than increase NHS capacity, the government decided to draft emergency legislation that would deny us our rights and liberties and give the government to power to do anything, forever, ie, they prepared, not to protect the people, but to exploit a potential pandemic to install an authoritarian regime.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Coronavirus and the violation of rights

The "lockdown" measures introduced to deal with the alleged risk posed by the coronavirus have violated rights on an unprecedented scale. The measures have resulted in:

the suspension of juries,
the cancellation of elections,
the suppression of the right to freedom of expression,
the denial of the right to assembly,
the suspension of the right to protest,
the limitation of the right to engage in legitimate economic transactions,
the removal of the right to receive or refuse medical attention,
the limitation of the right to freedom of movement within the country,
the limitation of the right to practise religion,
the suspension of the right to an education,
the violation of the right to family life,
the denial of the right to a livelihood,
the institution of a police state by giving the police and others the right to detain indefinitely on mere suspicion,
the removal of the right to privacy,
the undermining of the rule of law;
and, if all that were not enough, the Coronavirus Act 2020 Part 2 Section 90 gives a minister of the Crown the power to extend these powers indefinitely and to change any power by mere fiat.
None of this was subjected to parliamentary scrutiny; indeed parliament passed the act and associated regulations without scrutiny or division, sent itself on holiday and decided to reconvene on a digital basis, ie, turned itself into a pretend parliament. The Coronavirus Act 2020 is our Enabling Act 1933. Fascism has been implemented without even a hint of organised opposition.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Coronavirus legislation is unlawful

Last week the Supreme Court ruled that the detention of Gerry Adams in the 1970s had been unlawful. Mr Adams had been detained in Long Kesh on the basis that the authorities had suspected him of belonging to an unlawful organisation. The court found his detention had been unlawful on the ground that he had been detained on the basis of the authorities' suspicion. Whilst Mr Adams' case dates back to the 1970s, it is of much wider contemporary significance.

The coronavirus measures (The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020) introduced without parliamentary scrutiny or division provide the authorities with the power to detain people indefinitely on the basis of mere suspicion. This power is clearly incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998, and equally clearly violates the European Convention on Human Rights. Last week's ruling by the Supreme Court reinforces that judgement and provides an obvious precedent for action to be taken against the government.

The violation of human rights enshrined in this legislation was obvious. Yet parliament made no protest. And the corporate media are deafeningly silent on this abuse of state power; indeed, they support it. The usual army of human rights lawyers, who only months ago we busily warning of Boris Johnson's totalitarianism, are only noticeable by their silent acquiescence.

It seems fear of the coronavirus, which has been whipped up by an hysterical corporate media campaign, has driven many to the point where they are prepared to sacrifice any right or liberty in the hope that it will provide security from the virus. There do not appear to be any limits to this willingness to trade rights for a specious sense of security. The coronavirus measures violate right after right. In the name of combatting a virus, elections have been cancelled, juries have been suspended, the right to assembly has been violated, the right to protest has been removed, the right to a family life has been limited, the right to an education has been suspended, the right to practise one's religion has been limited, the right to earn a livelihood has been removed, the right to freedom of movement in the country has been violated, the rule of law has been undermined, a police state has been instituted, the right to receive or refuse medical attention has been abandoned, and parliament has been turned into a digital pretence. Public policy is being made by a select group of ministers in conjunction with hand picked experts. Taken as a whole, these measures constitute fascism. And yet this was achieved without any organised opposition. The only dissent has come from unorganised, isolated voices, who have been easy to ignore or suppress, as the corporations have enthusiastically colluded with the censorship of dissident voices.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Coronavirus: a case of collective madness

It was predictable that the government's "lockdown" measures would cause more harm than the virus. Predictable that is to anyone adopting a rational approach to this issue. However, it was not predictable to the government. Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, admitted on 10 April 2020 at the Coronavirus Daily Update that the government had not made any attempt to assess the number of people who would die as a result of the government's "lockdown" measures. This was an admission that the government had adopted an irrational, irresponsible and incompetent approach to policy-making on this issue.

This irrationality is also revealed in the constantly reiterated assertion that the government is simply following the "science". There is no way that science can determine policy. Science cannot tell you what your values should be; nor can it tell you what your priorities should be; nor can it tell you how to weigh competing demands and needs. If science could do these things, we would have a government of scientists. We don't, and we don't because policy-making is always about values, preferences, choices: ie, policy-making is always and inevitably a political process. The claim that the policy is just a matter of science is an obvious, blatant falsehood. A falsehood that is designed to rhetorically hide a set of value judgements and to protect those value judgements from political, democratic accountability.

You weren't asked if you wanted the "lockdown" measures. You weren't told that if implemented they would save X amount of lives but cost Y amount of lives. You weren't told which lives were to be prioritised and which were to be sacrificed. You weren't offered a chance to express your preference. What you were told was: Stay Home [in order to] Protect the NHS [in order to] Save Lives. But this was so simplistic as to be not just misleading, but essentially wrong, as it leaves out of the equation many very important variables.

I have no idea what motivated the government to introduce its "lockdown" measures. But I do know that the policy is not rational when judged on the criterion the government provides: ie, to save lives. There is also the government's track record, which to say the least, casts doubt on the claim that the government values lives above the economy - I am thinking here of the fact that the government's austerity policies have (perfectly predictably) resulted in hundreds of thousands of premature deaths. That track record has led many to claim that the government has a secret plan. Variations on this theme suggest the measures were introduced to protect and promote the interests of finance and corporate capitalists; to promote the interests of Big Pharma; to impose compulsory vaccination; to make all economic transactions electronic; to introduce a global police state, etc. These arguments are all based on a search for a rational explanation for a set of measures that are plainly irrational, inconsistent and clearly not going to achieve their stated objective. This search is, in my opinion, a fool's errand. The response to the coronavirus is nothing more than just another case of collective madness.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Corporate media spin "lockdown" deaths, blame public

The Office for National Statistics weekly death figures are both valid and reliable. For this year, they have shown there were fewer deaths than the five yearly average for the corresponding period, until the week ending 3 April 2020. That week and the following week both showed more deaths than the five yearly average for the corresponding weeks. These two weeks are the first weeks covering the government's "lockdown" measures. Looking at the figures in detail, even taking the (inflated) coronavirus related death figures at face value, it is clear that thousands of these above average deaths were the result of the government's anti-coronavirus measures.

The corporate media would, of course, have liked to have presented the increase in these death figures as being the result of the virus. However, as this was impossible, they were forced to seek an alternative narrative. They could hardly be expected, after all, to have attributed the above average non-coronavirus deaths to their own hysterical fear-mongering, which had bounced the government into implementing its draconian "lockdown" measures. They have, therefore, settled on the narrative that these above average deaths have been caused by members of the public failing to seek medical attention when needed (which even if that were the sole cause would anyway lead immediately back to their fear-mongering).

This narrative, not only absolves the corporate media, it maintains their representation of health care workers as heroes, and deflects attention away from the entirely predictable harmful effects of the "lockdown." These are significant propaganda benefits. They enable the corporate media to continue to push for the maintenance of the "lockdown" measures (which are killing people), and enable them to continue with their wall to wall sensationalist fear-mongering (which even according to their own position has stopped people from seeking medical attention and is killing people); the narrative also enables them blame an actor (the general public) who has no platform from which to reply, particularly as the "lockdown" measures have removed the right to assembly and protest and parliament is reduced to a digital pretence, where MPs have effectively formed a one party state that merely confers a specious aura of democratic legitimacy.

However, in pushing this new narrative, the corporate media have had to acknowledge that many health care facilities are virtually empty and some are even completely empty. These facts, of course, run completely counter to the earlier claims of the health service being over-stretched, with its heroic staff having to work ridiculously long (and obviously dangerously long) shifts to cope with the alleged crisis.

To say that the coronavirus propaganda narrative is creaking at the seams would be a gross understatement. The corporate media's narrative is hardly a narrative at all; it is a series of makeshift ad hoc rationalisations, which are barely coherent and lack any consistency. The corporate media are attempting to hide the falling apart of the narrative by resort to mere emoting and the hope that the public cannot remember what it is told from one day to the next, and if they can, then the hope that they will be fooled by the claim that "the science" is constantly changing.

The meme that the policy is the result of "the science" and that as the science changes so must the policy has been pushed from the outset. However, it was never more than specious and the longer this continues the less plausible it becomes. First, no policy is ever simply the result of science. Any policy is a value judgement. Any policy decision has to weigh risks and potential benefits; it has be based on a consideration of its effects across all aspects of policy-making. In terms of the decision to introduce the "lockdown" measures: a rational policy-maker would have considered how many lives the measures might save and weigh this against (at least) how many deaths the measures might cause. Yet, as Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, admitted at the Coronavirus Daily Update (10 April 2020) the government made no attempt to estimate the number of deaths the measures would cause.

The second way in which the notion that the policy is the result of the science is shown to be a sham is the way in which the assertions and exhortations change. The propaganda claim is that this is because the science has changed. Yet the science is never presented. Take the social distancing claims for instance. The scientific basis for this claim is computer modelling. However, any scientifically literate person knows that the results of computer models are not evidence. They are simply the Mathematically inevitable result of the assumptions. Another example of this - the science has changed nonsense - can be seen on the issue of the public wearing masks. For months the government and the corporate media were in lock step in asserting that there was no scientific evidence to suggest that wearing masks would be beneficial. Now the corporate media are trying to force the government into adopting a wearing masks position (because in order to maintain the fear, they have to constantly demand that something be done). So they are rolling out "experts" to say that there is scientific evidence that wearing masks works. Yet they never presented any evidence for their initial claim and so they are not even in a position to show research that over turns that position.

Indeed, in all the rhetoric around the coronavirus, "the science" has never been anything more than a rhetorical device designed to prevent criticism of the narrative. There is nothing scientific about the "lockdown" measures. Indeed, the measures are the result of an irrational, irresponsible and incompetent approach to policy-making, as Matt Hancock's admission revealed.