Tag Archives: politics

Case Counts and Lockdowns

In the UK, France, Ontario and various other jurisdictions COVID case counts have risen at an alarming rate in the past few weeks. Unfortunately, mandatory masking and strict lockdowns seem to be the only tools governments feel they have in the face of case count surges.

It can be argued that the increasing case counts may be an artifact of more testing. Or a product of the sensitivity of the tests themselves; but the actual case numbers keep going up.

Our media, God bless them, at a national level seem to be entirely focused on case counts to the point where, in this CBC story on Ontario’s numbers, there is simply no mention of the “death count”.

Why could this be? Well, take a look at these two graphs from Ontario:

If you look at the top graph the sky is falling and masks, social distance, lockdowns, school closures and “stay at home” all make a lot of sense. If you look at the bottom graph, COVID is over.

In Montreal over this last weekend up to 100,000 people marched against mandatory masks. The mainstream media downplayed the turnout and suggested that there were all sorts of conspiracy theorists, Qanon believers, far right and Trump supporters marching. There probably were. But I suspect the vast majority of the marchers were responding to the disproportionate response of the Quebec government to graphs which look very much like Ontario’s.

People are more than willing to go along with governmental measures they can see the point of. “14 days to flatten the curve and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed” made sense back in April. And the measures taken then may well have worked. But it is mid-September and the hospitals and their ICUs are not even slightly overtaxed.

So what is going on? Let’s simply dismiss the loonier conspiracy theories about Gates wanting to inject everyone with micro chips and Soros wanting to impose unlimited lefty control and the UN pushing Agenda-21 under the guise of the virus and a host of other wingnut positions. The more reasonable position is that the media reports “newsworthy” stories and low or no deaths does not make the grade and, politicians and public health people were completely overwhelmed at the start of COVID. With the best will in the world they relied on models which, it turns out, wildly over-estimated the spread and the severity of the virus. Now they are like cats up a tree. Easy to get up, not so easy to get down.

Here’s the problem: politically, opening up too soon and seeing a rise in actual deaths, is seen as fatal. All the more so when case numbers are rising. The precautionary principle has taken hold and politicians see a huge downside to anything but the most draconian measures. After all, what happens if the death count goes up?

Add to that political calculation the fact about half the population is heavily invested in the idea that COVID is very dangerous for everyone and that there is no precaution too stringent to protect us. That part of the population wears their masks, stays home and hopes there will be a vaccine before Christmas. In terms of the graphs above, these people remain in the last week of April. These are the people who look at case rates and demand everyone mask up.

The rest of us have moved on, taking sensible precautions for the locations in which we find ourselves, but trying to resume a normal life. We tend to look at “case fatality rates” and try to get statistics broken out by locality and demographics. Vigilant but optimistic.

For the moment, case counts and masks seem to be winning the day. Lockdowns are being re-imposed. Halloween looks to be cancelled and Thanksgiving may be limited to immediate family. Christmas, whatever happens, will be muted. “Out of an abundance of caution,” seems to be the prevalent sentiment. The fact that the hospitalization rate and death count curves have flattened and, in fact, fallen is not cutting through yet.

I suspect it will be the New Year before the tide turns. People have been scared witless and it will take a while for them to calm down. Even as the general population begins to gain perspective, the economic damage will only be starting. Everything from supply chains to commercial real estate to personal debt will have to re-calibrate to a world which has, effectively, lost a year economically.

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The problem of monoculture

I used to live in one of the most productive forestry areas in Canada. It was the perfect growing environment for trees, especially conifers. And it was, as the expression goes, a “tree farm”. Every forty years the forest owner would come in and cut down hundreds of acres of trees and then, assiduously, replant them. All the trees were of the same species and all were, depending on where they were in the cycle, exactly the same height. Miles and miles and mile of Douglas Firs. The monotony was only broken in the small areas which were set aside either as old growth or as stream allowances. There you’d find cedars, broadleaf maple, arbutus and many other species. But that was only a tiny, less than 1%, of the land. It was a monoculture and very efficient if you were trying to maximize the growth of what the companies call “fiber”.

A political landscape can become a monoculture. Essentially only a limited range of ideas are allowed to flourish, ideas outside that range are suppressed or, more often, ignored. Within a political monoculture you may have a variety of parties but each is limited to the ideas within the range. Preferment – as it was called in a gentler time – is limited to people who accept the limits of the landscape.

This sort of political monoculture can persist for several generations and produce statesmen of varying talents all of whom want to accomplish one or another of the central tenets of the monoculture in preference to the others; but all of whom are in agreement as to the limits of acceptable political discourse. In a stable society this sort of acceptance of the limits of debate can make a lot of sense and create a political world in which the essential stability is preserved. A concept which is philosophically attractive to a certain sort of conservative in the small “c” sense of that term.

There are three threats to the monocultural forests where I lived: fire, blight and economics. Fire is obvious and would be a threat to any forest no matter how diverse. (We’ll leave questions of regeneration to ecologists and foresters.) Blight, whether mold or insect, is a huge threat because of the complete lack of diversity. Economics are a threat because what you planted forty years before may not be in demand forty years on. Fire is a rapid threat, blight a medium term threat and economics a constant threat.

A political monoculture has its own forms of threat but they all come down to a challenge to the stability of the society in which the political monoculture has been operating. The problem for the political monoculture is that, pretty much by definition, the assumption of stability is axiomatic. Asking questions going to the assumption of stability is outside the terms of the monoculture. So those questions and the policy prescriptions which flow from them will either be suppressed or ignored.

What can challenge the assumption of societal stability? A wide variety of things. Demographic decline, the erosion of the society’s economic foundation, runaway economic inequality, external threats or the internal inability to manage problems as they arise all can challenge the stability assumption. So can technology, communications and failures to adapt to changing conditions. If a large fraction of the society is rendered powerless or redundant, stability can be challenged.

The problem a political monoculture has is that it lacks even the vocabulary to address such systemic challenges.

Of which, more, later.



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2.65 Billion: It’s Harper’s Fault

Assorted rightie bloggers are expressing their outrage that Trudeau has committed Canada to spending 2.65 billion dollars helping 3rd world kleptocracies “fight climate change”.

As I said at Kate’s and repeated at BCF,


However, the real problem lies with Harper and the Cons not digging in and discrediting the global warming farce while they had a majority. 20 million tossed at sceptical researchers – ideally led by Steve MacIntyre – and the whole scam could have been buried forever.

Instead, Harper and the Cons pretended that global warming was a thing. They didn’t actually do anything about it; but they did not use their time in government to demolish the Green Blob.

20 million versus 2.65 billion simply because the Conservatives were chickenshits.

Harper might have had an excuse with the minorities. He had no excuse with a majority. He knew the science was bogus and the economics laughable. But he wanted to avoid offending the climate true believers. So he punted the file and we are stuck with 2.65 billion now and carbon taxes and, Lord knows, what else.

A twenty million dollar Commission looking at the science and the economics could have torpedoed the crazier claims of the warmists and built a solid wall of science preventing Trudeau and Dion and the other dimwits from fashionably screwing the economy.

Harper lacked the courage of his convictions on this file and many others. Good riddance.

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SCOTUS ends debate before it bored us to death

Legal scholars are having a little bit of trouble with the “reasoning” in the US Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage. It was not, frankly, the Supreme Court’s finest jurisprudential hour and the precedent of reading into the constitution rights which were well outside the Founder’s intention is unlikely to end well. No matter.

I have long thought gay marriage should be legal. Canada has had it for a decade and has, so far, not collapsed like Rome before the Visigoths. Once legalized gay marriage is mercifully no longer much discussed. Base appealing GOP candidate seem to think one badly reasoned Supreme Court decision should lead to the election of Supreme Court Justices, or a Constitutional Amendment or, possibly, just a general hissy fit. They are thereby denying that base, and the rest of America, a break from hearing about the overarching importance of gay marriage to the well being of America. Believe me, not having to hear about it is blissful.

Of course there are always going to be people deciding that this is the starting gate for the slippery slope to, well, it is not clear what lies beneath but it is pretty sure to be awful like little old ladies marrying their cats or people marrying more than one person at once rather than serially like decent people do. And what about the children?

Call me crazy but it is really no one’s business but their own.

Of course, for some of my socon friends this really is the hill to die for. Family! Religion! What’s in the Bible! Children!

Unfortunately for the socons the gay marriage ship has sailed. Politically intelligent people will wish it Bon Voyage and get on with the things which matter like ISIS, climate change bullshit, building smaller government. Really smart political people will be talking about robots and AI and autonomous cars and the materials revolution and the culture of abundance. Those are real political issues. Gay marriage, like the Confederate Flag and trans everything are distractions.

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A cunning plan

Whenever I want to get a sense of how the left is going to spin something I pop over to sites like Dr. Dawg’s. There you can see the left’s talking points being test driven.

On the Paris atrocity the first round was that the atrocity was horrible but only to be expected given how rude to Islam Charlie Hebdo was. Collateral to that was the idea that reprinting the cartoons would cause needless offence.

Then the lefty spin, faced with hundreds of thousands of people in the street in support of free speech and the right to cartoon without being murdered, became “this can’t have anything to do with Islam and if you make it about Islam the terrorists will have won”. A sub-theme to this is that only an Islamophobic racist bigot could think that Islam was in any way connected to the atrocity. The left loves to be able to “play the man” rather than actually thinking outside its comfort zone.

In this narrative the terrorists had rough lives which left them vulnerable to people who, themselves had a preverted understanding of Islam, and who recruited them to commit acts which real Muslims cannot condone. This narrative is very much in line with the political spin of both the political class and their media enablers who solemnly pronounce on what is and is not “Islam”.

The unenlightened ordinary people seem a bit resistant to the “nothing to do with Islam” line. Stupidly they have fallen for the literal meaning of phrases like “we have avenged Allah”. And, not unnaturally, they are flocking to support people like Le Pen and Farage who are openly skeptical of the “nothing to do with Islam” line being touted by serious politicians of both the right and the left.

The media chorus sings from the “come together in the wake of tragedy” hymn book as if the murders in Paris were some unforeseeable, unpreventable act of Nature. Of course, commentators and politicians are as one in urging restraint and the avoidance of even a hint of Islamophobia. (And the elites are working very hard to ignore the celebrations the murders were greeted with in Algeria. (And possibly other parts of the Muslim world.))

For the bien pensant ignoring the possibility that the Paris murders are part of a bigger problem, namely Islam itself, is the essence of political respectability. Averting one’s gaze, being deeply civil, searching for clues and root causes, ignoring pretty much the entire sweep of Islamic history and pretending that the wars in Syria and Iraq and the allure of IS are irrelevant is a full time intellectual occupation. Mental busy work to avoid thinking about less attractive possibilities.

Keeping the lid on is what the lazy, distracted, denialists of the political and media classes do best. Not for them to notice the complete absence of headscarves at the Je Suis Charlie rallies. The fact the Jews are fleeing France to emigrate to “that shitty little country” and North America is easily dismissed. No go areas where the law of France does not run? Only a racist bigot would suggest this has anything to do with Islam – it is poverty and prejudice all the way down. In lefty land there are only a few acceptable root causes and Islam is not one of them.

The more the politicos and media tout this “nothing to do with Islam” line the more divorced from reality and public opinion they become. You can gauge the pushback be reading the comment streams when this sort of silliness is being peddled. And, tellingly, in many instances comments are not being allowed at all on Charlie Hebdo stories.

Twenty years ago political elites and their media enablers could largely control this sort of political story. They could demonize dissent by referring to dissenters as “racists” or “bigots” knowing that this label would be echoed in the monopoly media. The internet has smashed that monopoly. The mobile phone records the ineptness of the cops and the Islamic battle cries of the terrorists:the people draw their own conclusions.

Hollande, Cameron and Meikle look feckless in the face of militant Islam. They make their impotence, their lack of creative solutions, their irresolution painfully clear. If they remain in denial of the essentially Islamic nature of this week’s barbarism they will be rejected by their more clear eyed publics.

Denial is not a long term strategy. Pretending that terrorism is not deeply rooted in Islam is a poor idea. Ignoring the support in Muslim communities for sharia law and cultural repression of women and girls is precisely the sort of anti-progressive hypocrisy which makes the media and political classes so easy to mock.

Faced with the political problems created by badly thought through massive Muslim immigration, the political classes are desperately trying to change the subject. It won’t work.

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Good Guys

News of an impending chem weapons “deal” in Syria is a reminder of how surreal Middle Eastern politics can be. There is next to no chance the terms of the deal will have any reality but that does not seem to matter much.

Assorted rebel factions are shooting at each other while Assad, not quite believing his luck, keeps up the pressure. It’s a mess.

The only bright spot I can see is the quiet emergence of a Kurdish enclave in Syria just across the largely imaginary border from the semi autonomus Kurdish region of Iraq.

There are very few good reasons to support any of the facrions in Syria, Iraq, Iran or Turkey. In most cases the choice is between the bad and the awful. However, the Kurds – though Muslim – seem to avoid the fanaticism which infects so much od the Middle East. They would like their own country carved out of various other countries – and they have pursued low level wars to attain that; but they are more slaughtered than slaughtering.

From the West’s perspective, supporting Kurdish independence would weaken any number of bad actors in the ME and might establish a second, pro-Western nation in the region. At the moment the West, and paticularily the US, is playing a directionless, losing game. Changing that game by supporting Kurdish nationalist ambitions might establish a course toward a more stable Middle East.

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The crunch and clangs you are hearing is the sound of the car wreck which passes for American foreign policy at the moment.

Russia is not keen at this stage for a binding U.N. Security Council resolution that would provide a framework to control Syria’s chemical weapons’ stocks, France’s foreign minister said after talks with his Russian counterpart on Tuesday. reuters

There was never much chance that Syria and Russia would actually act to sequester the chemical weapons. In the middle of a civil war it is not all that terrifically easy to deal with the logistics leave aside the politics.

However, faced with certain defeat in the House and a good chance of defeat in the Senate and the American people 3 or 4 to 1 against the idy, biddy, no really, really small, attack on Syria, Obama needed a way out. Putin threw a lead life buoy and the very dim Obama and the even dumber Kerry grabbed it. (The laughter echoing through the halls of the Kremlin can be heard in Damascus.)

Hitting Syria, or, more accurately blowing a raspberry in its general direction, was not the credibility piece here. Everyone knows that the US has awesome raspberry blowing capacity. The credibility was all about the President’s ability to deal with a complicated international situation. While the Court Press will hail the Russian “deal” as proof Obama can wield the power of his office for a peaceful outcome, anyone paying attention will know just how badly he and his team have done.

The audience here is not the Washington tounge bathing media nor, in fact, the American people: rather it is the Iranian, North Korean, Syrian, Russian, Israeli, Egyptian and world strategic elite. People whose job it is to assess the resolve of the American President.

I rather suspect that, no matter what the Big Zero and his spinners say tonight, the universal verdict will be:


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A Serious America

Mr. Putin is making fun of Obama at the G-20. Which is pretty rich for the leader of a has been superpower but, hey, it is a target rich environment.

The problem America faces goes well beyond the Big Zero and the clowns in his Cabinet and on his National Security Council; it is that America does not understand the Machiavellian view that a Prince is better feared than loved.

Most of the time there is no particular reason for the US to become embroiled in minor overseas disputes no matter how morally repellent the participants. So long as no critical American interest is at stake, and there almost never is, America can sit on the sidelines. However, when intervention is in the American interest, there is little point in pussyfooting around.

A limited, invariably “surgical”, no boots on the ground, no collateral damage, shot across the bow is as useless as it is cliched. Nuance and proportionality are the legacy of losers. Worse, they are a strategically boneheaded waste of time.

If America is going to engage its enemies need to know that the force will be overwhelming and utterly disproportionate. The head of the offending state needs to know that he will be hunted down and killed. The leading generals and regime supporters should know that they will suffer the same fate unless they immediately disavow the regime. Outside forces need to know that they will be accountable for their actions and that interference will be regime lethal.

There should be no question of international legitimacy. No UN sanctimony. Just raw, deadly power applied for as long as it takes to accomplish the American objective.

The point being that the use of American power should shock and awe and appall – and the American President and Congress should accept the consequences of its use.

As long as America is unwilling to “go Roman” in defence of its interests it is actually encouraging the rest of the world to believe that America is an overarmed push over.

No nation, particularly America, should ever go to war lightly. War is, and should be, terrible. But no leader should ever ask his nation to go to war half heartedly. No leader should ever ask his people to fight for vague purpose. And no leader should ever go to war unless the full range of his nations’ power can and will be concentrated on securing clear war objectives.

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Er, American Spring II

As Sir Nigel Sheinwald, our former ambassador to the US, told me: “Globalisation makes governments look small because they are incapable of controlling huge global processes. And the vast amounts of online information mean that people are sceptical of what governments tell them and check up on it instantly. Social media allows campaigns to be mounted at the drop of a hat. Traditional means of political organisation and mobilisation of opinion have been overtaken.” telegraph

If this blog has a theme it is a profound scepticism about government and politicians. At the moment, the Big Zero is being embarrassed at the G-20. Soon he will fly back to the US and, apparently, address a sceptical nation on why they should follow him into a “not a war” about “not a red line” for which neither he nor the dimwits in his administration can make a convincing case. His leadership is of so little consequence that there is a good chance a Syria resolution will not be brought in the House of Representatives because it would almost certainly lose.

And that is because Congressmen are hearing from their electors and those electors are not in favour of this “not a war” over this “not a red line” lead by this dismal failure of a President.

While this is being spun as a repudiation of Bush, the fact is he was able to gain the support of Congress for both Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama can’t.

This inability to lead now matters. Massive, instant, electronic response from individual citizens changes how politicians can do business. Gone are the days where agreements could be stitched up before the citizens had time to find out what was going on.

If Obama is defeated on his bully little war there is every chance that an empowered citizenry will begin to look sceptically at the other cozy deals the “leadership” in Washington is hatching.

The political class (in every country) should be afraid, very afraid.

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Best Name ever for a Banker

Sir David Money-Coutts has died.

Lent money to the Queen, did not fix LIBOR rates.

That is all.

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