We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

ξ Who Must Not Be Named

As explained by the Wikipedia article on the official nomenclature for variants of SARS-CoV-2, the use of letters of the Greek alphabet to refer to the different variants of Covid-19 was chosen by the World Health Organization specifically to avoid referring to variants by their country of origin, as practised by certain naughty former US presidents. We have had the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, Mu and Nu variants.

I guess the WHO didn’t anticipate the list would go past thirteen.

“Omicron variant reaches Britain”, reports today’s Sunday Times.

Only the fourteenth letter of the Greek alphabet is not Omicron. It’s Xi.

Edit: In the comments TomJ says that actually two letters have been skipped. The variant all the papers were calling “Nu” the day before yesterday was hastily renamed “Omicron”. Allegedly they jumped over “Nu” because it sounds like “new” and they jumped over have “Xi” because it is a common surname, a story to which I might give an iota of credence if it came from someone other than the World Health Organisation. The excellent investigation by the Sunday Times Insight Team, China, the WHO and the power grab that fuelled a pandemic, is unfortunately behind a paywall, but here is an excerpt:

Our investigation reveals today how a concerted campaign over many years by Beijing to grab power inside the WHO appears to have fatally compromised its ability to respond to the crisis. It raises serious concerns about the extent of Beijing’s influence over the WHO and its director-general, and how this undermined the organisation’s capacity — and willingness — to take the steps necessary to avert a global pandemic. Its leadership put China’s economic interests before public health concerns. The results have been nothing short of catastrophic.

The Xi variant, indeed. Pity there isn’t a Greek letter called Pu.

One of those reviews that makes you buy the book then and there

Mark Honigsbaum reviews Viral by Alina Chan and Matt Ridley in the Guardian:

The tragedy is that in their desire to make a plausible case for a lab accident, Chan and Ridley neglect the far more urgent and compelling story of how the trade in wild animals, coupled with global heating and the destruction of natural habitats, makes the emergence of pandemic viruses increasingly likely. That is the more probable origin story and the scenario that should really concern us.

Edit: The Guardian is not allowing comments to Mr Honigsbaum’s review. But his tweet about it is open to comments and is receiving them.

Samizdata quote of the day

The most dangerous thing to do, at this point, would be to vaccinate children. The virus is not a threat to them, and if they are infected by the new forms of SARS-2 that are sure to emerge every winter, we will begin to establish – through them and the as yet unvaccinated – the layered immunity that is the only way of coming to terms with SARS-2 in the longer term. As long as the vaccinators are permitted to continue their radical and increasingly insane campaign, though, nothing will improve. Indeed, their policies threaten to bring about a semi-permanent pandemic state for generations to come.

Eugyppius

This doesn’t help

Some guys called “disclose.tv” sent this tweet:

NEW – The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will not enforce 29 CFR 1904’s recording requirements to require employers to record worker side effects from #COVID19 vaccination.

I do not know anything about disclose.tv but the link does seem to take you to the Coronavirus FAQs page of the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Scroll down the page to the heading “Vaccine Related”. The text of the answer is as described in the tweet.

Many libertarians argue that OSHA’s reporting requirements have long since ceased to be aimed at preserving public health. Most government bureaucracies become parasites eventually. Their purpose is to feed. But if it is justified to force businesses to report side effects of vaccinations in general, how can that justification suddenly stop applying now of all times? The pandemic is the very time when it is most important that all relevant information reaches the community of scientists.

I have been vaccinated against Covid-19 (both jabs AstraZeneca if you want to know). I believe that for most people the risk of side effects from being vaccinated against Covid-19 is much less than the risk of Covid itself. But my confidence that adverse effects from vaccines are rare is shaken by the thought that maybe not all of them are being reported. If that disturbs me, with my fairly high starting level of trust, you can be sure that it terrifies those who were vaccine-hesitant to start with.

This is one of the classic signs of a cult

“Dismiss anything else. We will continue to be your single source of truth.

– Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

When I first clicked on the video of Jacinda Ardern saying those words that is embedded in this tweet from “Darren of Plymouth” via Not the Bee, I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. All of us sometimes say things that “come out wrong”. By “single source of truth” I thought she might have meant no more than “convenient one-stop place you can go to get truthful information”. Apparently there is a concept in information systems design that goes by the name “Single Source of Truth (SSoT)”; perhaps she had picked up this piece of jargon somewhere.

However I only had to wait until 1:02 in the video to see Ms Ardern demonstrate that she meant it exactly the way it sounded:

“When you see those messages, remember that unless you hear it from us, it is not the truth.

Edit: I assume the “Not the Bee” link got Darren’s tweet enough engagement to alert Twitter’s censorship team. When I first made this post two and a half hours ago the link to the tweet worked, but commenter ‘Dyspeptic Curmudgeon’ has pointed out that it has now disappeared. Here is a YouTube clip of the same speech filmed from a different angle and here is another YouTube clip that seems to be the same one I saw.

A couple of points to note:

– The speech is older than I thought, from May 2020.

– The silence of the press. This all takes place at a press conference. The room is full of cameras and microphones wielded by journalists, news providers. Yet not one of them protests when the prime minister of their country says that they should not be trusted as a source of news. Have they no pride in their profession?

The Welsh Senedd just voted for Covid passports because of a Zoom glitch

“Covid pass plans agreed in knife-edge Senedd vote”, the BBC reports:

Mandatory Covid passes in nightclubs and large events will be introduced in Wales as planned on 11 October after Welsh ministers won a knife-edge Senedd vote.

The measures were agreed with 28 politicians voting for and 27 voting against.

It came despite politicians in the opposition uniting against the plans.

The public will be expected to show evidence of being fully vaccinated or having a recent negative Covid test.

Conservative Vale of Clwyd Member of the Senedd (MS) Gareth Davies did not take part in the vote, with the Tories citing “technical difficulties” for what happened.

[…]

Ahead of the vote, Conservative MS Darren Millar could be heard telling Presiding Officer Elin Jones: “I’m sorry we still have a member who is desperately trying to get into Zoom.”

Ms Jones replied that she would still hold the vote: “We have made every opportunity possible for that named member to get in, including sharing my personal phone.”

I was not without sympathy for Elin Jones, the presiding officer. It has happened many times in many assemblies that a vote passed or failed because a member could not physically reach the chamber in time. One cannot spin things out forever. There has to be a cut-off point.

I can also see the reasoning behind the Labour-controlled Senedd’s refusal to re-run the vote.

Asked about holding a re-run of the vote, Eluned Morgan [Baroness Morgan of Ely, Minister for Health and Social Services in the Welsh Government] told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast with Claire Summers that that is “not how democratic processes work”.

“You don’t keep on having a vote until you get the answer that you want,” she said.

I do see her point, though I also note that both Elin Jones and Eluned Morgan were entirely in favour of re-running a vote until they got the answer they wanted when it came to the popular vote to leave the European Union.

I digress. Though this vote imposing Covid passports on Wales will stand, a bad smell hangs over the manner of its passing. Enough people have shared the experience of struggling to log into Zoom meetings since this pandemic began to ensure that sympathy with Gareth Davies will be widespread. Another thing… I tried to think of a way of saying “some people will think this looks suspicious” without sounding like a conspiracist myself but there isn’t one. All I can do is state for the record that I think this incident was a cock-up, not a conspiracy. But the trouble with every combination of voting and technology is that the process is opaque. If Gareth Davies had failed to reach the chamber in time because his car had got stuck in traffic, he and we could all be reasonably sure that was all that had happened. There is no such instinctive assurance that no one’s thumb was on the scale with Zoom. The Senedd should dump this “hybrid model” or whatever they call it where some members meet in person and others clock in, or fail to clock in, via Zoom. Stop mucking around, earn your pay, go back to meeting in person.

Astonishingly, Broness Morgan actually boasted of Welsh Labour’s mandate to pass this law:

“What we know is that the people of Wales want to be protected.”

“We had a huge mandate as a result of the election because of our cautious approach.”

Baroness, your mandate for this is about one electron thick.

—————————

Ian Birrell in the Mail on Sunday asks,

What are they hiding? At the start of Covid many scientists believed it likely leaked from Wuhan lab – until a conference call with Patrick Vallance changed their minds. We asked for his emails about the call. This is what we got . . .

Redacted letters

Legal immunity – the vaccine twist on an old debate

In the rarified circles of classical liberal/libertarian debate, I come across debates about whether companies could or should enjoy statutory limited liability (protecting beneficial owners of said from being sued for their wealth if there is an issue.) Like intellectual property rights (patents, copyrights, trademarks, etc) this is a fraught area creating fierce debate among people who normally agree on a great deal.

LL laws protect people who have beneficial ownership from losing everything short of the clothes they stand in. Another, perhaps related limitation of exposure, however, stems from emergency situations, such as the pandemic. I think this is an issue that eventually is going to bite.

Consider the way that the drug manufacturers who developed and sold COVID-19 vaccines, such as Pfizer and Astra-Zeneca, were last year granted exemption from liabilities by the governments of various countries, such as the UK.

The companies, perhaps understandably given the relative speed with which they were approved to distribute the vaccines, and the urgency of the situation, wanted an assurance they wouldn’t be sued. So they got those protections. The attitude at the time seemed to be that we were in a sort of war. Consider this WW2 example: Rolls Royce did not want to be sued by people if its Merlin engines in the Spitfire, Mosquito and other aircraft went wrong. Makers of radar equipment and all the rest of it did not want to be sued. So possibly the thinking last year was the same about vaccines. The threats of class-action lawsuits would kill innovation stone dead.

As the months, and now years, go by, the balance I think is going to shift, particularly if the severity of the virus in terms of its lethality is shown to have declined not just because of vaccines but down to development of immunity in populations, and other factors. In that case, is it really credible that makers of vaccines, and distributors of said, can escape the constraints of normal commercial/criminal liability?

After all, we have seen how, in the US, the Sackler family – owners of the Purdue Pharma business – have been hit by mass lawsuits over opioids. Although it won immunity to further lawsuits, as reported here.

Forgive me, gentle readers, if these comments appear disjointed. I was chatting to an investment banker about all this, and he agreed that the immunity these manufacturers have carved out should not be open-ended. At the very least, lawmakers, if they are doing their job, and want to build trust in vaccines and so on, ought to consider how to address this issue. For some people, the immunity of these firms might be a reason why they refuse to take the vaccine. The Law of Unintended Consequences.

On a perhaps more positive tack, the fact that vaccines were rolled out and approved with such speed does suggest that when the heat is on, bureaucracy can be removed as much as possible. And this begs the question about how much regulatory protection and how much bureaucracy to oversee it is really necessary.

The treason trials of 2021

The Mirror‘s columnist Susie Boniface*, who writes under the name “Fleet Street Fox”, would like to see them happen. She writes,

If you abandon your country to join ISIS, you can be stripped of citizenship. If you join a proscribed terror organisation, you face 10 years in jail. And if you talk about staging a coup, encourage birth defects, or lie about a lifesaving vaccine, you’re committing something terrifyingly close to murder, insurrection, and child abuse, yet go unpunished.

Spreading lies that damage the NHS, downgrade democracy, or cause child deformities is a crime against all that Britain is supposed to stand for, but it’s difficult to proscribe a loose affiliation of lunatics. Updating our laws to make the spreading of harmful conspiracy theories an act of treason, though, would mean that not only could the ringleaders be shut down, they also could be deradicalised, medicated and educated. They are terrorists, and should be treated as such.

Take out the co-ordinators, and their converts could be deprogrammed. Which would leave the rest of us able to continue the important business of moving as far away as possible from the 14th century, and all its terrifying ignorance.

*In the early days of her “Fleet Street Fox” identity, Ms Boniface wanted to write anonymously. If that were still the case, I would not have said her real name even if I knew it. But since she outed herself in the pages of the Times back in 2013 and is quite happy to identify herself as being “Fleet Street Fox” on her personal website, her pseudonym is clearly now part of her brand rather than actually intended to keep her name secret.

The carers

I am not usually one for issuing trigger warnings, but this video of an unhappy two year old child is genuinely disturbing:

New York, where two-year-olds are forced to wear masks all day in nursery.

I have a single memory – a three second “video clip” of my brother’s fourth birthday – that I can confidently date as having happened before I was three. Humans do not seem to lay down recoverable memories of most of what happens to them before the age of four or so. Yet a child’s experiences in those early years have a profound effect on their later personality. That little boy will probably never remember that he tried again and again to push away the damp thing that made it hard to breathe but that his carers, with pitiless good cheer, always forced it back on. But he will have learned the lesson of the powerless. You are weak, they are strong. Crying and protesting do not help.

I am told that in Muslim societies where women must go fully veiled it is difficult to get the little girls into their coverings at first. But even they wait until the girls are at least five.

The healing power of media lies

I’ve been in hospital over the last few days for a long-planned operation. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to the Los Angeles Times for its part in my recovery. After my op, for a while my blood pressure was worryingly low. The doctors and nurses, bless ’em, think that it was a blood transfusion that got my blood pressure back up again. Nope. It was all down to fact that America’s fifth largest newspaper, founded in 1881, is but the skin of its former self inhabited by creatures reminiscent of the ichneumon wasp, a parasite that devours its host from the inside.

As Megan Fox writes at P J Media:

Under the headline “LAPD is investigating altercation involving Larry Elder at Venice Homeless Encampment,” the Times ran a photo (seen below) that makes it look like Elder is slapping a woman. This is a complete fabrication and not at all what really happened. Instead, it was a white woman in a gorilla mask hurling an egg at Elder. This photo that the Times used is of Elder greeting a woman in the crowd. The woman actually commented on the Times tweet to hold the paper accountable for this hideous lie. “Are you kidding me?” wrote Soledad Ursua. “You use this picture to make it look like [Larry Elder] is slapping me? He was attacked by a white female wearing a Gorilla Mask. Are you covering for racists? Disgusting.”

“They’re not coming. You’re on your own.”

Even people who habitually decry the uselessness of the State often have a soft spot for the emergency services. When catastrophe strikes, they say, enlightened self interest will not make men run forward into danger. For that you need an ethos of service. For that you need a flag, a uniform, a loyalty, a government.

“Manchester Arena bombing: New rules delay paramedics at terror attacks”, the Times reports.

The only paramedic to reach the scene of the Manchester Arena bombing in the first 40 minutes after the attack would not have been allowed to attend under new rules.

The inquiry into the attack at an Ariane Grande concert was told that paramedics are unlikely to be at the scene of a terrorist attack for at least half an hour as a result of rules that require detailed risk assessments to be made first.

Patrick Ennis “self-deployed” to the arena within ten minutes when he heard there had been an explosion.

You can judge how that turned out by the fact that the original Times headline was “Manchester bomb paramedics ‘banned from helping’ for 40 minutes”.

However, neither he nor two colleagues who eventually joined him in the City Room foyer treated patients immediately. Ennis has previously said to do so “would have been to the detriment of the overall management of the greater number of casualties”.

Sir John Saunders, the chairman of the inquiry, which began in September last year at Manchester magistrates’ court, said: “I have been told for the first half an hour after an incident, you can’t expect the staff to be there, paramedics are unlikely to be there.”

Here’s a vote winner for Boris: we start a specialised public service staffed by people specially trained and ready to be there – even without a risk assessment. You know, like the Ambulance service used to be.

Although most of the responses to the Times story were hostile to the North West Ambulance Service, some did point out that terrorists have been known to set a second bomb timed to kill early responders to the first. The IRA were particularly fond of that trick. It is a fair point. But that risk must be balanced against the certainty that at the Manchester Arena people were dying for lack of help. And, I have to ask, if the Ambulance Service only goes in when it is safe, why have a service at all? Privatise it.

The following particularly riled the Times commenters:

Gerard Blezard, director of operations at NWAS, became the most senior officer to give evidence to the inquiry.

Sophie Cartwright QC, for the inquiry, asked Blezard why there should not be any “self-deployment”.

“Several reasons, you need to have business continuity. Who does the day-to-day business the next day, how do we know who is at the scene?” he said.

A new system called Cascade means that paramedics can contact a central number and their details are then passed to the tactical commander. It has been tested several times, but “not in a live environment”, Blezard said.

Guy Gozem QC, for the victims’ families, asked: “A lot of those who self-deployed actually performed a valuable service, didn’t they? Had it not been for their self-deployment, there would have been an even greater wait for assistance?” Blezard agreed but said the new system meant paramedics were deployed in a “controlled way”.

Emphasis added. Business continuity? Private sector organisations sometimes are saved from the osteomalacia that is characteristic of our time by the prospect of bankruptcy. Government bodies are not so fortunate. But never let it be said that the North West Ambulance Service learned nothing from the private sector. They were bang up to date with their buzzwords.

On the Times website, one of the most highly recommended comments was by William Croom-Johnson who said,

Death certificate: “Cause of death: business continuity”

But the most recommended comment of all came from “Mr N D”. It said,

Prior to London Bridge and Manchester Arena some people in this country may have lived under the entirely false impression that the emergency services would come to help them if they were ever caught up in any kind of serious incident.

Now we know with absolute certainty: they won’t. Forget it. They’re not coming. You’re on your own. Whether you live or die is far down their list of priorities.

Related old posts: Loss of nerve: “just standing there watching”

Loss of nerve: the Strathclyde Fire Brigade preferred not to rescue Alison Hume and Loss of nerve: the Sheriff’s judgement on the death of Alison Hume

“We have to wait for the fire brigade because of health and safety”

And the post back in 2007 that started the series, called simply Loss of nerve.