Monthly Archives: November 2020

Getting COVID Wrong

From the very outset of the COVID debacle for a variety of reasons politicians, public servants and public health have been making mistakes. Which is perfectly natural given what was initially thought about the virus.

The imagery out of Wuhan and later Italy were horrific. People falling (apparently dead) in the streets, ICU’s overwhelmed. This was not the flu even if it was not quite Ebola or even SARS. Those images, in the absence of very accurate death rate reporting, meant that the lethality of COVID was vastly over rated. Worse the demographics and condition of the dying were initially hard to discern.

The second misperception was the means of transmission of COVID and just how contagious it was. In the early stages the view seemed to be that COVID was only transmitted by physical contact. The dark joke about licking doorknobs circulated. This was in pre-mask mandate days. Social distance and handwashing were the orders of the day. Then it occurred to researchers that, perhaps, person to person transmission was possible without direct contact. The case rates were climbing and now it became time to “stay home” to flatten the curve to avoid overwhelming the hospitals. (Remember Italy!) We duely stayed at home and the curve flattened out significantly in many jurisdictions. (Cynics suggested that this might have had a lot to do with the coming of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.)

The good news was that, astonishingly, for Americans and some Europeans, there was a vaccine just around the corner. As I write we are within a few days of the first Americans receiving this treatment. (We Canadians, being led by an imbecile, first backed a Chinese vaccine which did not deliver and then failed to place orders for the vaccines which did. UPDATE: Canada may get some vaccine early in the New Year.)

My friend John from comments will point out that Australia got lockdowns right so they can work. However, Australia seems to the only jurisdiction which has been willing to go hard with lockdowns. (And, well, they were locking down into the warm Spring weather Oz enjoys this time of year.) In England, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and many US states lockdowns have not really flattened the curve much. Nor has the adoption of “mask mandates” done much for the case rate.

The fact seems to be that COVID is very contagious. However, we now know a lot more about its lethality and it turns out to be relatively benign if you are under 80 and don’t have significant co-morbidities, are not significantly overweight and do not live in an extended care facility. Not a nice thing to catch but very unlikely to kill you.

None of this is a secret. But the general reporting on COVID tends to focus on case rates which are then used to power policy. Two things which are not mentioned much are the significant progress which has been made in treating COVID and some of the steps people can take to improve their own immune systems.

Mask mandates and lockdowns notwithstanding, case rates are or have hit alarming levels all over the Northern hemisphere. However, case fatality rates have not been quite so alarming. (Probably because treatment protocols have improved and the dumber Premiers and State Governors have been persuaded not to send COVID patients into extended care facilities.)

Paying exaggerated attention to case rates leads to politicians feeling pressured to up the ante with masking and lockdowns. Their constituents are only aware of the rising case rate and so want “action”, ideally backed by force of law. The costs and marginal efficacy of such actions does not reduce the public clamour.

As COVID has dragged on there have been very real economic, social and psychological costs. A two week “flatten the curve” exercise is very different from a four month “no non-essentials, mandatory stay at home” program. And those costs continue to rise.

There are plenty of optimists who see the whole thing wrapping up over the next few months (slightly longer in Canada) as the vaccines begin to be widely distributed. 90% efficacy and all. Which would be wonderful to see. However, at this stage that is several months off.

The current plan in most Western jurisdictions seems to be to hunker down, lock down, shut down and wait for the silver bullet of the vaccine. The costs of hunkering down for another three or four, or until September according to the imbecile, will be tremendous. Economic, social and psychological costs are cumulative rather than discrete. Once a business closes it has a lower chance of re-opening, once a family is evicted it has a higher chance of being homeless, a closed church or social club or pub is forgotten after a few months. In fact, the patterns of every day life may become irrecoverable after COVID’s long disruption.

The imbecile – along with a lot of other dimwits – want to take this “opportunity” to “build back better”. Another few months of masks and lockdowns and the will to build back at all may very well leave the building.

Societies, economic systems, science and technology are all built on the acceptance of a degree of risk. At the outset of COVID we had a very limited capacity to calibrate the risks the disease posed. We did not know that it was rarely lethal to people under 60 or to people under 80 with no co-morbidities. Now we do. We also had a very limited idea of what the costs of various social measures to marginally reduce risk would be. Now we are beginning to understand those costs.

All over the West we are seeing people taking to the streets to protest the “lockdowns” but, more realistically, the destruction of their lives for relatively marginal benefits. At the moment, the protestors are no more than a small minority. However, as the destruction of those lives continues that minority will grow. And it will be joined by millions of people who are currently described as suffering from “COVID fatigue”.

While governments can certainly back up masks and lockdowns with draconian fines and penalties, ultimately they rely on the co-operation of their citizens. As COVID drags on, that co-operation will almost certainly collapse.

Though it will probably lead to higher case counts it may well be time for governments to look at opening up their economies and their societies. The plexiglass shields are in place, people have learned how to wear masks somewhat effectively, there is some data suggesting that far more people have had COVID than the case numbers suggest. Yes, extended care facilities need to be kept in their bubbles – which will make for a sad Christmas for many families – and, yes, thirty for Christmas dinner remains a bad idea. But opening up retail and restaurants and pubs is almost certainly an acceptable risk. Opening churches to limited congregations is likely fairly safe.

Most fundamentally, governments need to provide the information people need to assess their own, personal risk. If the vast majority of deaths from COVID occur in people 80 and over, explaining that to the public is important. So, frankly, is telling the public to get their vitamin D levels up and to get exercise. People over 70 with underlying conditions should be encouraged to shelter in place and government and social groups should work to ensure that our seniors have what they need without having to spend a lot of time outside their homes.

The next few months, especially in Canada, are not going to be much fun. Unlike our American friends, we will not have a vaccine. And, absent that vaccine, governments with an excess of caution, are going to be pressured to keep the lockdowns and mask mandates in place and enforced. Despite the fact that we now know that COVID is not lethal for the vast majority of people who get it.

(UPDATE: The possibility that Canada may get some vaccine early in the New Year is obviously good news. Now, if it is distributed to i) frontline workers, ii)extended care facility workers, iii) over 85’s, iv) over 75’s and people with co-morbidities the death rate should fall off a cliff. All the more reason to take easing restrictions now seriously.)

Selectively easing restrictions may increase the case count a bit, but it will reduce the economic, social and psychological toll COVID takes. Letting individuals assess their own personal risk and make decisions accordingly is a first step in building back smarter.



Well over 100 Toronto police officers and at least ten horses shut down Adamson’s BBQ today. They arrested the proprietor for “trespass” on his own property.

His sin was, of course, opening when Toronto is under “lockdown”. And then opening again and then, today, getting around the changed locks on his premises and opening again.

Now there will be plenty of people who will say, “Well, it’s the law and necessary if we are going to “stop the spread”. But I suspect there will be a strong minority who will say, “Lockdowns don’t work and Costco is in full operation a block away.” Have at it, my interest is in the show of force.

For the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario, Adamson’s was a point of rebellion which had to be crushed. At any cost. If Adamson’s was able to open the entire pandemic lockdown regime would collapse. So out came 100+ cops and the horses. (I was surprised there was not a tactical vehicle or two.)

Given that there were all of about a hundred people at the BBQ spot today this was more than sufficient force to ensure Adamson’s would not be able to open. No doubt Mayor Tory and Premier Ford are pretty sure the job is done. Adam Skelly, the owner, is cooling his heels in custody pending a bail hearing. (If that hearing goes as I expect, there will be compliance conditions attached to his bail, namely no re-opening.)

Big government relies upon the general complacency of its citizens. A couple of hundred people showing up to a BBQ joint can be handled with a large police presence. A couple of thousand? Much more difficult. 20,000, not a chance.

I keep saying to my very worried wife, “Worse before better.” Which means that before there is any chance that reason, moderation and good government is restored, things have to get a lot worse. On the left, groups like BLM and Antifa work very hard to create martyrs for their narrative. So far with limited success. Adam Skelly may have set in motion the process which will make him a living martyr for common sense and a degree of justice.

Tomorrow, when he is asked to agree to conditional bail all he needs to do is say “no”. Which will mean a few more nights as Her Majesty’s guest. But it will create a rallying point for people fed up with the two tier lock down system in Ontario.

It is not at all obvious that the Emergency Powers given to the Provincial Government of Ontario are, in fact, constitutional. (Though the Charter is riven with loopholes for extreme governmental conduct.) But the real question is whether Adam’s supporters can put people in the streets. They had a good hunch going to Doug Ford’s house after Adam was taken away today. Lots of tin pans and whistles later in the evening would be useful.

In a number of Canadian provinces and American states, COVID-19 has been used as an excuse to exercise powers which no one has consented to and which may well be unconstitutional. Pushing politicians into dialing all this back is not a public health issue (virtually none of the masking/lockdown measures has much to do with science) it is a civil society question. Where do governmental powers stop?

Here’s the Go Fund Me for Adam’s legal defence. I tossed the cost of a few ribs in:


On the way out…

I don’t think Trump is going anywhere soon. But, if the lawsuits fail and the great steal succeeds, the Donald could leave in a blaze of glory.

“More than half of the prison inmates in the United States are non-violent offenders. In 2006, for example, there were 1,331,100 people imprisoned, only 667,900 of those were convicted of violent crimes.” wisegeek 2013 (Yes, I am lazy…but you get the idea)

One of the few “plenary” powers of the President of the United States is pardons and commutations. There is literally nothing to stop Trump from pardoning or commuting the sentences of well over 600,000 currently incarcerated people. (And the US being the US, a majority of those would not be white.)

It would be a revolutionary fuck you to the author of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (1994), good old Joe Biden. It would also be real justice on a scale unknown in the history of the United States.

(My middle son, Sam, brought this up. He’s not wrong.)

Tagged , , ,

Transition This

Michigan certified – in the face of rather strong evidence of miscounting and outright fraud – Joe Biden as the Presidential winner. This triggered a minor functionary, who had the pleasure of death threats, to release transition money to Biden. (Not yet President Elect Biden, if that happens it won’t happen until mid-December.)

One of my delightfully anti-Trump children texted, “Stick a fork in it”. Not yet. On the one hand I want to see what Rudy and the “official” Trump legal team will come up in Michigan, Nevada, Georgia and so on. On the other, I’d like to see what the unofficial Trump supporters, led by the estimable Sydney Powell come up with on the broader, and more criminal, question of coordinated electronic and paper tampering with the vote. Is there the hard evidence it would take to convince a court or is it all just smoke and hand waving?

Biden is doing just what I would expect a presumptive Presidential winner to do, naming his Cabinet and senior staff picks. Nothing wrong with that although the radical left of the Democratic Party are unlikely to be happy with the very Establishment picks so far. I suspect the Biden people will have cast the Biden Adminstration down to the Assistant Deputy Secretary level by the time the Trump litigation is decided.

Of course, the Democrats and more than a few Republicans of a RINO inclination, are suggesting that Trump concede. Michael Walsh makes a very strong case for why that should be the very last thing Trump does.

“Trump similarly grasps that to stand down now, even in the face of overwhelming opposition—some of it coming from within his own ranks—would spell an ignominious end to his presidency and demoralize his voting legions. To leave an open question of whether our porous and multifarious systems of voting are easily manipulated and therefore untrustworthy would be to do the nation a great disservice.

As we’ve seen throughout the past four years, appeasement doesn’t work. No matter what the duly elected president of the United States did, there was no satisfying the rabid left and its media lackeys, short of Trump’s expulsion from office, however effected.”

If there is proof of the widespread fraud which gave the election to Biden that needs to be exposed. The Courts may be reluctant to had the election to the victim of that fraud, but it is critical that such fraud as can be proven be addressed if only to shame its perpetrators into fixing a genuinely crappy electoral system. And, on the other hand, if Biden’s election was, more or less, clean, it is important that this finding be affirmed.

The Democrats spent four years denying the legitimacy of the Trump Presidency for no particularly good reason. The legitimacy of the Presidency of the winner of the 2020 Presidential election is going to be an open question until the very real legal questions surrounding the vote and the count are determined in Court.

Tagged ,

The wrong way to mask

COVID-19, British Columbia, mask mandate

“Until now, B.C. has resisted calls for a mandatory mask order, instead making it the responsibility of businesses, transit operators and community service agencies to implement their own rules.

“The mask mandate is not something that in and of itself has made a difference in terms of transmission,” the province’s health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said as late as Wednesday.

On Thursday, she said the change in policy was due to increasing public pressure, including from businesses, expressing concerns about putting the onus of enforcing piecemeal policy onto workers.

The mask mandate isn’t being implemented by public health order, but by B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth under the extraordinary powers granted by the province’s record-breaking state of emergency. It’s not clear when it will take effect.” ctvnews

I had been under the impression that Dr. Henry had changed her mind for public health reasons. Apparently not.

Now the government’s public health policy is being dictated by “public pressure”. Whether masking works or not is a matter of scientific debate. My own reading of the literature suggests that “mask mandates” have virtually no effect. (Which is not the same as saying that masks don’t work. They may in certain circumstances.) But that literature has been tossed under the bus by “public pressure”.

To date I have been rather impressed with the BC Government’s tempered response to COVID. Through Dr. Henry it has treated British Columbians as adults. But, most of all, there was a deference to the best science Dr. Henry and her colleagues could access. That has gone out the window.

At a guess, when case numbers continue to rise, “public pressure” will mount for full, enforced, lock down regardless of the fact that the science is, at best, equivocal as to the efficacy of full lock downs. And there may well be “public pressure” to close the schools, again in the face of very little evidence that school closure helps much.

At the moment the public, goaded by an hysterical media, is terrified. Which will mean that “public pressure” can be mustered for virtually any policy which appears to have some effect on COVID. Worse, as the CTV article illustrates, if one province is doing something there is an expectation that other provinces should do the same thing. This is irrational.

If anything, the need is to be more granular. Take a look at regions and sub regions and tailor the public health response to the facts on the ground. Simply working very hard to protect out elderly may have a better public health outcome than masking, lockdowns and school closures. But if “public pressure” is all it takes to make sweeping, province wide, restrictive orders the scientific basis, medical outcome and economic consequences of such orders will be moot.

BC, through the grace of Dr. Bonnie Henry, held onto science as the basis for decisions. We have now succumbed to the Karens.

Tagged , ,

Taking On the Second Wave

mask mandate, British Columbia

Dr. Bonnie Henry looked more than a little exhausted as she stood and announced mandatory masking for British Columbia. She also asked for, but did not impose, people not to travel unless it was “essential”. BC’s case count was soaring and the pressure to “do something” was apparently overwhelming.

I am a mask skeptic but I’ll wear one if they are mandatory. I don’t think it will do a speck of good because it is becoming clear that COVID is transmitted by aerosols and masks are only partially effective in managing aerosols. But, short of an outright lock down, masking is pretty much all Dr. Henry has left.

Here’s the problem: at the outset public health people over estimated the lethality of the virus in the general population and underestimated its contagiousness. They then settled on the metric of positive tests as the headline measure of the pandemic’s progress. Cases are certainly a useful metric for spread, but they really tell us very little about the medical consequences and public health resources required to deal with COVID.

Using case counts as the headline number boxed public health officials and the politicians who rely on them into a rather nasty corner when it became apparent that COVID was seriously contagious. The great public paid attention to the headline number and has grown increasingly terrified. Which, in turn, has created a political demand for “measures”. Politically, doing “something” has become more important that doing the right thing. Thus mandatory masks and, no doubt in a couple of weeks, a circuit breaking hard lock down.

We get the hard lock down because the masks are not going to work. Even if the science said that masks, properly used, were 100% effective in preventing transmission, (which it doesn’t), the vast majority of the mask wearers I have seen do not use them properly. My favorite being the people who drop their mask to chat on their cells. With the best will in the world, people will be lax about their mask use. As we have seen with the case rates in mask mandate jurisdictions, masks barely make a dent in transmission.

I suppose the good news in BC is that we have not gone as far as Manitoba and banned the sale of “non-essential goods” nor have we done and enforceable lockdown. However, I suspect they are coming.

The better news is that our frontline doctors and nurses have been figuring out how to treat COVID patients successfully. A lot of that has come down to figuring out how to treat the symptoms of COVID early before they become deeply problematic. But it is still not something anyone wants to catch.

I am sticking with my plan made at the beginning of the COVID: stay at home and boost my own defences with Vitamin C, D and zinc. Lots of handwashing and, because it can’t hurt and might help, mouth wash. The only thing I have added to this are various strategies to limit contact while shopping. Shop when other people aren’t, use a stylus on keypads, keep hand sanitizer in the car and try to get in and out of a store as quickly as possible.

Between now and the widespread availability of a vaccine the chief danger is boredom. But I am lucky: I have a lovely wife, annoying but entertaining kids and a wonderful dog to walk and train. Plus, I have a business which has always been run from home.

Most people are not as lucky with their work as I am. But looking to build your immune system is possible even if you do have to go to work.

One thing which would be relatively easy for government to do is to provide Vitamin D to the general public. While D will not prevent people from catching COVID, there is a fair bit of evidence that having good D levels can reduce the severity of the virus. Worth a shot.

Tagged ,

Solid Singles

Trump, election fraud

North Carolina has just been declared for Trump. He is also almost certain to win Alaska whenever the Alaskans get around to counting the rest of their votes. Decision Desk puts the count at Biden 279 and Trump 229. The expected flurry of law suits has commenced.

Here are the states in play:


Not exactly a big blue wave.

In baseball there are some players who swing for the fences every time they are at bat. Great to have on your team, but usually inconsistent. For a manager, a guy who gets on base consistently is often more valuable. With the sorts of fairly small numbers which could flip states to Trump, while it is certainly entertaining to try and knock out 800,000 absentee ballots in PA, it is much more efficient to look for ways to pick off 50,000, or 5000 a few times. All the more so in Georgia and Arizona.

From a legal perspective, judges are far more likely to declare the votes of the dead invalid, than to adopt a statistics based argument that a bunch of ballots turned up at 4:00AM all marked for Joe shouldn’t count. There is room for the high concept stuff and it should certainly be argued; but there is every chance states will be decided by eliminating demonstrably illegal ballots from the count pretty much one by one.

There are four obvious categories of ballot to challenge: the dead, the non-resident, the non-citizen and the ineligible because of age. To do this requires a hand recount and an audit for eligibility. It is not a big ask and it is one which has already been granted in Georgia.

Legally, there is a big difference between asking a judge to invalidate a swath of ballots and asking that same judge to require a recount and audit. No judge wants to order the removal of hundreds, maybe thousands of ballots some of which may, in fact, be perfectly valid, on the basis that they arrived late or were counted unobserved. The burden of proof in those homerun style actions will be, rightly, enormous. But requiring that each ballot be scrutinized for eligibility will have a much lower burden of proof as the consequences will be much less broad. (And, yes it would be nice to take a look for more “glitches” in the software.)

The headline cases with Rudy and world class lawyering are great and I hope that they proceed simply because they will hold the rather nasty practices of big city Democratic machines up to scrutiny; but for Trump to win he needs 41 Electoral College votes.

Grinding out singles isn’t glamorous, but it wins ball games. Especially close ball games.

Tagged , ,

The Art of the Steal

ballot box stuffing

People much closer to the scene of the crime(s) are looking very closely at how ballots are being counted and how ballots arrived to be counted in the US Presidential election. It is going to take a while.

Rigging an election is tough. Somehow you have to get enough ballots in the count for your guy (and get rid of the other guy’s, if possible). Mail-in voting made this, in principle, easier as there are all sorts of ways to get ballots which have been mailed out ranging from simple theft to outright purchase. The trick being to avoid over egging the pudding, that is bringing in more ballots than are plausible.

But it is more complicated than that. What do you do with down ballot races – every ballot will have a congressional race and some will have a Senatorial race and other items to vote on. Moreover, because of Congressional Districts you can’t really just roll in with a couple of hundred thousand “generic” ballots. If you want to cheat in Philadelphia you need ballots which have the correct Congressional races on them.

With mail in votes there is also the added problem that the person ostensibly mailing them in a) needed to be alive, b) at a specific address at the time the ballot was sent. These are checkable facts so, if you are going to steal you need to get them right.

If you want to add a couple of thousand ballots to the count, none of these issues will be insurmountable. But the whole thing gets a lot more complicated and prone to detection if you need to add tens or hundreds of thousands of ballots to drag your man over the line.

As things get more complicated the likelihood of detectable errors increases. So does the number of people who have to be in on the “steal”. Every additional person increases the risk of detection.

Was 2020 stolen for Biden? I don’t know and neither do the Trump people; but, if it was, there is every chance that the theft will be detected in one or more states with a bit of scrutiny. At this point, the Trump lawyers are attempting to have the Courts require that scrutiny. The precedents set back in the Gore/Bush election suggest that the Supreme Court of the United States will be perfectly willing to make such orders as are required to “true the vote”.

If the steal is on the scale of hundreds of thousands of votes it will almost certainly be proven and those tainted votes could be excluded from the final count.

What then? Nothing good I am afraid. The Democratic faithful will demand that every vote be counted, the Republicans will say, except the illegal ones. Do overs in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Arizona would be one way out; but the logistics would be a nightmare.

The problem with cheating is that it ruins the game for everyone.

%d bloggers like this: