Tag Archives: John Campbell

corona marginalia: a lucky break?

John Campbell presents the latest available data from South Africa relating to the spread and virulence of the omicron variant. Based on the most recent studies, he says it appears extremely likely that hospitalisations will remain remarkably low with very few patients requiring oxygen and far less again requiring ventilation.

His conclusion from these admittedly early findings is that we may have been incredibly lucky with the emergence of this new omicron strain, since although it is highly transmissible, it appears to be comparatively benign. Making a cautious but optimistic assessment, he forecasts that with the rapid spread of the omicron variant – something he believes is now unstoppable across Europe and America – we may soon achieve herd immunity but with greatly diminished loss of life or further suffering compared to earlier variants.

Let’s hope he is correct:

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Updates:

In contrast to the UK government’s elevated concern, John Campbell remains extremely optimistic about prospects arising from the inevitable spread of the omicron variant.

This is his report from Monday 13th:

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In a later report on Friday 17th, with the spread of omicron in the UK escalating, John Campbell continues to be optimistic although he wonders why the UK government has closed its service that provides Vit-D free to people with an elevated risk of disease (also includes updated reports from South Africa):

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Filed under analysis & opinion, South Africa

the pandemic & the ‘state of exception’: either you’re with us, or you’re with the terrorists…

I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” at the beginning of the pandemic if had had predicted that countries in the heart of Europe like Austria would apply a lockdown purely for those who have not taken the vaccine… If I’d said that any of that would have taken place I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” but now that I express criticism of it, I’m called “a conspiracy theorist”.

— Max Blumenthal

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The quote above is taken from a very recent interview [premiered on Sat 20th] with independent journalist Max Blumenthal when he joined host RJ Eskow on his show The Zero Hour – the full show is embedded below along with annotated segments of the conversation that I have transcribed beneath including relevant links, video uploads (with descriptions in Italics) and occasional disagreements:

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“Since we’ve been having these conversations for a few years, you can see that I’ve been branded “an antisemite” for my work on Israel-Palestine, and trying to understand and interrogate how the Israel lobby influences US politics. I’ve been called “an Assadist” for my critical reporting on the dirty war on Syria, which was largely kept from the US public by legacy and corporate media. I’ve been called “a Kremlin shill” or “Russian spy” or “asset” for challenging the narrative of Russiagate, which has just been exploded in broad daylight in recent weeks with the indictment of several key players in the construction and dissemination of the Steele Dossier.

“And so now, for using the same kind of techniques and applying the kind of critical thinking that I do to every major issue – and having you know been inspied to get into journalism because of the way 9/11 was exploited to consolidate this massive security state and carry out regime change across the Middle East – for just applying that same kind of thinking to the pandemic, yes, I’m branded “an anti-vaxxer” and large segments of the organised left, or the establishment left, are angry with my analysis, and according to them, you’re not really supposed to have an analysis: we just are supposed to  go along with the proclamations of public health officials which are constantly shifting.

“Just through my conversations with colleagues and people on the left; they all know something’s wrong, but many of them self-censor because they’re afraid of having this label applied to them which does have implications; disturbing implications when you consider that in September, around the anniversary of 9/11, the DHS issued a terror threat warning that there was no specific terror plot, but that people who are critical of vaccine policy in the US were “a terror threat”. In other words, the concept of being “an anti-vaxxer” – which according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary means anyone who even opposes mandates – is now being criminalised.” [from 3:05 mins]

Drawing upon Cold War comparisons, RJ Eskow broadens the conversation raising the point that the West has once again entered a period of Manichean ‘bi-polar’ thinking, to which Blumenthal responds:

“These terms are never fully explained. It’s just a way of, first of all, appealing to establishment prejudice against the dissenter, and applying a pejorative or label in order to shut down debate.

“And you’ll find that on this, even more than Russiagate, it is impossible to have a rational or reasoned kind of calm and measured debate on the issues, with particularly people who are to the left of Tucker Carlson. I mean it goes through the Democratic Party, all the way to the radical left. You have the almost, near blanket support, or silence in the face of so many violations of human rights, and obliteration of legal strictures, and concepts that we took for granted in an already weak liberal democratic system; that’s probably an understatement.

“The purpose of 9/11 – not the attack but the response to it – was to create a state of exception where international law and conventions around torture could be wiped away, because the public provided consent to the Bush administration and the Blair administration to do so because it was gripped with fear.

“You remember the days after 9/11: I remember people were concerned that Bin Laden was going to wage a dirty bomb attack; there was the anthrax – the very mysterious anthrax attacks – to keep the fear going. And the public gave full consent for the Bush administration to create what Carl Schmitt called the ‘state of exception’ where the laws of the past no longer apply, and you had to, in the words of Dick Cheney, ‘take the gloves off’; begin torturing people; establish the unitary executive, where congressional approval of wars was no longer of interest; the AUMF [2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force] “Emergency Authorisation” – we hear that word so much around the Vaccines, well it reminds me of the AUMF, which has never been sunsetted since 9/11.

“So now we have another ‘emergency situation’: the threat of the virus, which is real, has absolutely been exaggerated, and we’ve moved from ‘responsibility to protect’ – the R2P Doctrine where the US has to come in and save some civilian population after we’ve witnessed so much death – to witnessing death all around us, and the government has to simply do something, and the public has give their consent for the government to do something. It’s gone from R2P to R2V: Responsibility to vaccinate – and that means mandating vaccines – something that Anthony Fauci said the government would never do. Something Joe Biden and Jen Psaki said [here  and here] they would never do, because it seemed usually draconian to voters back in 2002. Now they’re doing it, Democrats have overwhelmingly supported it – even a slice of Republicans have – and we’re seeing restrictions and human rights violations take place that we never could have imagined.

“I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” at the beginning of the pandemic if had had predicted that countries in the heart of Europe like Austria would apply a lockdown purely for those who have not taken the vaccine. I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” if I’d said another country Slovenia is now refusing to allow the unvaccinated to buy gasoline – you have to present your health card there in order to buy gasoline.

BBC news finally reported on the full extent of protests across Europe including Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands last Sunday evening [Nov 21st]:

On Thursday [Nov 18th] British comedian Russell Brand uploaded his own report on developments in Australia where thousands of protestors are also gathering to demonstrate against legislation granting new government powers:

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“Germany will soon apply a lockdown of the unvaccinated, and lockdowns themselves, and the way we’ve seen them applied, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, where if there’s one or two cases an entire region or country locks down; and all the health effects that that has on the public are completely ignored in order to eradicate an airborne respiratory virus that’s simply impossible to eradicate and is endemic.

“If I’d said that any of that would have taken place I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” but now that I express criticism of it, I’m called “a conspiracy theorist”. So there’s almost no way to win, but I think a large part of the public is starting to come to its senses and realising that the response to the pandemic is not necessarily about public health.

“It’s about private wealth, monetising the response, and militarising the response. The military-intelligence apparatus has been involved in this from the beginning… in a different way than it was involved in 9/11, and in some ways a more intimate way: in the way that censorship and surveillance are creeping into our lives on the grounds of a public health response.” [from 7:50 mins]

Responding to this last point, RJ Eskow says that he also recognises how governments can and do usefully regulate for public safety and worker protection and that as someone who suffers with health problems that have left his own immune system suppressed, he too desires freedom of movement. He feels that it is therefore understandable that a responsible government would encourage citizens to get a vaccine, adding however, that “a little alarm goes off” once he sees the state exercising its powers to impose enforced inoculation.

Eskow then references an article co-authored by Max Blumenthal and published by The Grayzone [Oct 19th] about the vaccine passport and who’s behind it, continuing:

“This to me is vitally interesting and you know I did a project for a think tank in Palo Alto fifteen years ago where I modelled future possible pandemics – and I found out, and very few people have written about it – back then that the federal government had already put plans in place to impose internal passports and internal restrictions on travel, military takeover of transportation hubs and things like that, and you know I thought ‘wow, that sounds dystopian’.

That’s a lot of what you’re describing and it and it seems to me we should be able to hold more than one thought in our head, which is that we want to reduce loss of life from this pandemic, but we also want to be concerned about not strengthening the mix of state and private forces that already have too much control over our lives. Do you get where I’m coming from?” [from 15:10 mins]

Blumenthal answers:

“Yes I do. I think that if there had never been mandates in the US where hundreds and hundreds of thousands of workers had a pink slip dangled in front of their face, if they did not want to take a vaccine – and we should talk about what they’re being asked to take – then there wouldn’t be this hysteria about “anti-vaxxers”.

“I mean you have people around the world – not just masses of people in Italy, in France, protesting vaccine passports: what’s called ‘the Green Pass’ in Italy where millions of workers are being told that they have to present this in order to get into their very jobs.

On Saturday [Nov 20th] thousands of protesters attended a demonstration to oppose the Green Pass in Rome. The certificate is mandatory in order to work and attend all public places and events, including public transport between cities. The protesters gathered in Rome’s Circus Maximus, after Italian authorities banned demonstrations against the Green Pass in historic or tourist sites. One protester says, “Between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Are we all equal? We are equal human beings. We are equal.” Another tells the reporter, “Everyone makes their choice. I am not against the vaccine, I am here for freedom of choice”:

On the same day thousands also took to the streets in the Croatian capital Zagreb in the biggest demonstration the country has seen against Covid-19 measures since the beginning of the pandemic:

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“You have protests in the West Bank in Palestine. You have protests in Tehran. You have protests in Martinique. You have protests in Morocco – massive protests against their vaccine passport system. Now you have protests in Costa Rica and Colombia; all across the Global South protests are cropping up, as well as in New York City: there’s a massive protest this Saturday in Central Park, and all across the West.

“You wouldn’t have this if there hadn’t been mandates. If people hadn’t been forced and coerced: if they had simply been encouraged. And many people who were immuno-suppressed or who were in risk groups have mostly gone out and gotten the vaccine.

“And then we have another problem and it’s the intersection of these two problems that caused me to start raising issues about the pandemic response. First, the coercion and the attacks on workers, obliterating worker rights as [economist] Richard Wolff said: one of the core foundations of the labour struggle is that the boss should never have the power to decide what life decisions the workers make. It’s up to the workers. That’s why workers organise, and so that’s why they’re opposing these mandates.

“But the other issue is the vaccine itself. They were rolled out under emergency usage. The trials were shoddy at best.* They were approved then by the FDA under very suspect conditions – in one case, the Pfizer vaccine had the control group eliminated. I mean these aren’t real trials, so people are naturally suspicious of it. It is using a novel technology called mRNA, which is essentially a gene therapy…

[Warning: Before continuing I need to insert a few words of caution: a lot here hangs on the Max Blumenthal’s use of the word ‘essentially’. More assertive claims that the vaccines are gene therapy are widely discredited. Of course, this point is highly technical and well beyond my own scientific training, but here is an article that attempts to clear up the matter.

Regarding the claim that “the trials were shoddy at best”, this is a strong statement and I have found little evidence to directly support it. However, it is important to keep in mind that the Pfizer vaccine alone has yet to receive full FDA approval (restricted to people aged 16 and above and granted as recently as August) while the alternative vaccines remain under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) which means that clinical trials are ongoing. Moreover, The Lancet has acknowledged that “long-term safety issues might arise” due to the accelerated development under the Operation Warp Speed – see the footnote for further details.]

 “… and while it has been shown to reduce severe illness or death when people have antibodies, it does not prevent infection. And that’s something that everyone from Anthony Fauci to CDC Director, Rochelle Walensky, admitted; there’s a new study in The Lancet out this week: it’s called “Community transmission and viral-load kinetics of the SARS-Cov-2 delta variant in vaccinated and unvaccinated Individuals in the UK” [click here] and it clearly shows that the vaccines do not prevent viral transmission.

“So what does this mean? It means that the mandates are essentially unscientific. Because if the vaccines had prevented infection and transmission, then it would mean you are protecting others around you by taking it. And it would mean that there was a logic behind requiring people to take it to go into a workplace, or a logic behind vaccine passports requiring people to take it in order to mingle with others at a bar. But there is no logic there. So what is the point of the mandates and the passports? It feels like simply control. And people feel abused by this.

One of the inventors of mRNA vaccine technologies, Robert Malone, warned of the risks of the accelerated vaccine rollout and has subsequently been accused of misinforming the public on a few specific technical points. As a non-specialist it is difficult to gauge whether or not his expertise is fully reliable or we should just trust in government agencies and the powerful pharmaceutical lobby. In this interview he talks at length about many related topics, but I have cued the video to begin where he discusses the covid vaccine response:

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“Now the people who are ratioing Richard Wolff; that’s you know the laptop-left. They don’t have a whole lot of connection with workers. But if you go out and talk to workers, including those who have willingly taken the jab under threat of losing their job, they feel like there’s been no informed consent – that’s been violated. Their bodily autonomy has been violated. And their right as a worker has been violated.

“And all to take a vaccine that doesn’t prevent them from giving the virus to others. That’s why in Ireland right now, which has over 90% vaccination uptake, you’re seeing cases rise massively …

“The same thing is happening in Singapore which ended its long lockdown and is now being swamped with cases. They have about 85% of people over [the age of] twelve vaccinated. The most vaccinated place on earth, Gibraltar – close to 100% – is going to cancel Christmas; has announced plans to cancel public celebrations of Christmas because of the massive rise in cases.  [from 16:10 mins]

John Campbell [Nov 24th] confirms the recent surge in cases in Gibraltar but also finds dramatically lowered rates of death that supports the case that vaccines do provide protection against serious disease:

RJ Eskow then picks up on the points Max Blumenthal raised and summarises, pointing out that there are actually ‘two logics’ operating: one aims to reduce transmission, while the other and sounder reason aims to reduce cases of severe illness, hospitalisation and death. Following on, he says, this means there are correspondingly two moral arguments to consider: first, that it is your duty to your fellow citizens to be vaccinated so that you don’t infect them; and, separately, that you take the jab for your own personal good:

“We don’t want you to be hospitalised or die or get long covid, which is terrible. So we will mandate you take this vaccine so that doesn’t happen. Now, I would argue that the left has not sufficiently analysed the fact that there are two principles here… So when it becomes an issue of ‘for your own good I want to mandate that you take this’, if that is the only principle, then we need to have a debate about whether that is a valid reason for mandating.” […]

“Now, if the goal is to help other people, it’s interesting to ponder whether the mandate has in fact backfired because more people are resisting because of the mandate than would have taken the shot if it had been presented to them in a clear way why they should take it. So that’s my map of the moral landscape. Do you agree with it, disagree with it?” [from 22:40 mins]

Max Blumenthal replies:

“Well, the federal court has ruled that Biden’s mandate as applied to companies of one hundred workers or more that would be enforced by OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] is extraordinarily overbroad – in their words – and a point that the judges makes, which I think is salient, is that not all workers are the same.

“If you have a long-haul trucker who’s in the truck all day by his or herself, it’s very different from someone who’s working in a crowded office or a workplace where people are indoors together for long periods.

“Beyond that they raised the issue of natural immunity, which I think is another blow to the Achilles’ heel of the mandates and this biomedical security regime that’s being erected before our eyes.

“As we know from an August 2021 study by Tel Aviv University – the largest of its kind – comparing those who are vaccinated but have not been previously infected versus those who had been previously infected and not vaccinated, they found that immunity is something like twenty times stronger in those who had been previously infected, and much more durable.

As this report explains, the true figure is closer to thirteen times, but still significantly higher:

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“We’re seeing that bear our right before our eyes. I mean just look at the number of cases. Now who is most likely to have been previously infected? It’s the frontline workers. It’s the people who were out there while the laptop class was at home during the lockdowns that they seemed to enjoy. Those are the people who now face the mandates.

“I mean the mandates are coming down on the backs of frontline workers who were celebrated with pots and pans being banged out windows, and they’ve gone from heroes to zeroes. That’s who you’re seeing at the protests in New York City is EMS [emergency medical services] workers, firefighters, restaurant workers, healthcare workers; people who sacrificed throughout 2020 and are now facing the pink slip.

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“So natural immunity has to be recognised here and it’s a hard thing to demonstrate. So that’s another major issue.

“And then we have the issue of boosters. In lockstep, leaders across the West began making the case for boosters including Anthony Fauci, who said in an interview that the mRNA vaccines wane in efficacy over the course of six months. […]

“If you were vaccinated more than six months ago then you are considered unvaccinated in Israel. And not only that, you are not able to go to restaurants or the gym or a spa with your Green Pass anymore, even if you did your part and got vaccinated, because they’re already on their third jab and they’re making space for the fourth one.

Bloomberg has a piece out – you know citing various public health officials and supposed experts – on how no-one knows how many booster shots you will have to take. And so when you combine this fact with the mandates, and the vaccine passports, which are coming in in more and more draconian fashion around the world, you have to consider that for the rest of your life, every six months you will have to take a vaccine – [one] that in my view is still experimental because it usually takes around four to seven years to adequately test a vaccine and run it through trials and this one has just been rushed out. You will have to do that for the rest of your life in order to continue participating in society, or working.

“So that to me is unacceptable, and I think to many more people it’s unacceptable. And I wonder if boosters haven’t been rolled out so aggressively here and mandated is just to avoid the social catastrophe that’s inevitable if they are.” [from 24:25 mins]

Lastly, RJ Eskow brought the conversation around to concerns surrounding the organisations behind the vaccine passports. Max Blumenthal has already ready written extensively on this subject in the article already linked above and entitled “Public health or private wealth? How digital vaccine passports pave the way for unprecedented surveillance capitalism” that was published on October 19th by The Grayzone.

Back in October, Max Blumenthal carefully detailed a variety of initiatives spearheaded by such groups as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [BMGF], Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization [GAVI] which is 25% funded by Gates, Microsoft, Accenture, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Omidyar Network, along with Australian Aid and UK Aid, concluding his piece with a statement made by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, who is best known for his work investigating Carl Schmitt’s concept of the state of exception:

Two days before anti-Green Pass protests exploded across Italy, the renowned philosopher Giorgio Agamben appeared before the Italian Senate’s Constitutional Affairs Commission to issue a dramatic statement of opposition to the Green Pass.

Agamben is most famous for his concept of Homo Sacer, or bare life, in which an individual is stripped of rights and reduced to their biological essence in an extra-legal regime justified by war or other emergencies. When Italian authorities declared the first lockdown in March 2020, the philosopher applied the theory to his own country’s heavy-handed restrictions.

“The defining feature…of this great transformation that they are attempting to impose is that the mechanism which renders it formally possible is not a new body of laws, but a state of exception – in other words, not an affirmation of, but the suspension of constitutional guarantees,” the philosopher explained in the foreword to his collection of 2020 writings on Covid-19, “Where Are We Now: The Epidemic As Politics,”

In his remarks before the Italian Senate, Agamben pointed to a sinister agenda behind the official rationale for vaccine passports: “It has been said by scientists and doctors that the Green Pass has no medical significance in itself but serves to force people to get vaccinated. Instead, I think we must say the opposite: that the vaccine is a means of forcing people to have the Green Pass. That is, a device that allows individuals to be monitored and tracked, an unprecedented measure.”

The philosopher concluded his address by taking aim at the supra-national forces – Bill Gates, the World Economic Forum, and Rockefeller Foundation, among others – determined to impose a system of digital identification and high-tech social credit as much of the human population as possible.

“I believe that in this perspective,” Agamben warned, “it is more urgent than ever for parliamentarians to consider the political transformation underway, which in the long run is destined to empty parliament of its powers, reducing it to simply approving – in the name of bio-security – decrees emanating from organizations and people who have very little to do with parliament.”

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To close their discussion, Max Blumenthal once again summarised his findings including the underreported consequences of the rollout of a biometric digital ID system called Aadhaar that led to a spate of deaths in rural India in 2017 as a direct result of starvation due to denial of access to basic food rations – systems of a kind that tech billionaires including Bill Gates are keen to install across the globe (and I direct readers again to read his article in full). In brief he reminded us that:

“Vaccine passports are now in the US essentially handwritten CDC cards, and I assume that they will eventually be digitised. And in fact, there is a long-standing agenda to produce a digital ID and link it to a central bank digital currency, which will be administered through your digital wallet, and it will also be connected to now, as we see, your biomedical history.

“So your ID is connected to your finance, your medical history, and it’s all required to participate in society under the current biomedical security regime, which has come into play through a state of legal exception.” [from 29:40 mins]

Finally, they talk about how society is being fractured over these issues. Max Blumenthal delineates as follows:

“The group that is not just resisting the vaccine, but resisting what I call ‘the new normal’, which is this entire biomedical security regime and propaganda apparatus that’s grown up against the backdrop of 9/11 and Russiagate in this ‘state of exception’ through the pandemic is more heterogeneous than the group that angrily and aggressively supports ‘the new normal’. That group is mostly uniform.

“And then you have another group that has decided ‘to go along to get along’, because generally they’re in an economically precarious situation and they can’t afford conflict. Or they just simply aren’t heavily politicised and don’t want to get involved in the ugliness and toxicity – especially in the US where everything has been framed through the lens of fears of populism and nationalism and you know in the course of a culture war.

“So that group that’s more heterogeneous is impossible to stereotype and you do have right-wingers in there who are there because they just see anything the government does is evil. You have a number of left-wingers who are concerned about monopoly capital gaining unprecedented control over everything including people’s biology. They don’t trust the government. Strangely, I thought there would be more. I’m kind of baffled by the reflexive obedience of large sectors of the left here.

“But it isn’t anymore just about unvaccinated versus vaccinated. I know many people who are fully vaccinated who now see the booster regimen coming in and see these bizarre and exotic restrictions like lockdowns exclusively for the unvaccinated, and they’re just disgusted on civil liberties grounds.

“Of course, the entire resistance to this programme is legitimate, but the idea that every single person in the entire world needs to take one of these vaccines – that has failed on so many of their promises – is to me unacceptable. And to many other people.

“It’s going to require so much coercion and we haven’t even talked about adverse effects. They do have adverse effects. And if you believe the CDC’s VAER’s system – the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting system – it’s harming people and injuring people every week. And that’s a concern people have. It’s a legitimate concern.

“I went to a press conference of American’s from all walks of life, many of them had testified in the Senate earlier that day – this was two weeks ago – and hearing their stories about being injured by the vaccines was shocking. Most people are not going to be injured by them – this appears to be uncommon – but it’s a concern that we have to recognise.

“But on a population level, the idea that we can vaccinate our way out of the pandemic has, in my view, been totally discredited. And that’s why we’re going to see in 2022, a focus on therapeutics, on pills people can take. The public health officials will finally accept early treatment after demonising Ivermectin – like your Youtube video could be taken down because I just said the word Ivermectin – it’s been called “horse paste”.

“And now we’re seeing what amounts to Pfizer-mectin and all these other pills – 2022 will be the year of therapeutics. So it’s a tacit admission that the vaccines failed to end the pandemic.

“So why keep pushing people into a corner and creating this kind of new, very heterogeneous resistance? When the vaccine uptake, in my view, has been pretty high across the board, and will continue to go up if people are simply encouraged through positive means, and if public health officials now finally accept the reality that it’s an individual’s choice to protect yourself against illness or death in some cases.

“And I want to make another point that I think is controversial, but I’ve made it before and it’s true [read my note below], which is that the death toll is being inflated – and that doesn’t mean covid is not a threat – but it’s being inflated and accounted in unusual ways to make us think that we’re living through some kind of genocide and to cut off our critical faculties. [from 39:00 mins]

Unfortunately, this is where my own views radically depart from Max Blumenthal’s. In the UK, where I have studied the excess death figures very carefully I have found zero evidence supporting this contention and have in fact presented contrary evidence that shows the British government did everything within its power to reduce the apparent death toll during the early months – for reasons that are blindingly obvious.

Although the system of accounting in many countries, including Britain, undoubtedly is misleading, since it does falsely include some number who have died from other causes, it also inevitably misses other cases that were not diagnosed and thus where cause of death was wrongly attributed for a counterbalancing reason. The only figures that I believe are wholly reliable are these two: the number of hospitalisations and of excess deaths. Considering the case for Britain again, excess deaths counted over the full period beginning from March 2020 approximately correlates with official covid deaths (within a margin of around 10%). Given the difference in methods a small discrepancy is to be expected.

For these and other reasons, I remain entirely suspicious of claims of this sort. Indeed, I view this whole argument about false accounting as a canard and an unnecessary distraction, although as a firm advocate of free speech I do accept that others like Max Blumenthal have the right to make contrary assertions even while I believe it weakens their otherwise sound case. I include this digression at the risk of interrupting the flow merely to stress that I do not agree with Max Blumenthal on all points.

However, Max Blumenthal does finish on a point that I’m in full agreement with:

“We’ve gone from the left advocating for ‘Medicare for All’, and calling for public healthcare, to at least quietly acquiescing as public health officials and pundits call for denying healthcare to the unvaccinated. We’ve even seen a Colorado hospital deny an organ transplant to a woman simply because she and her donor were unvaccinated. She had to go to Texas to save her own life. And that’s something that we are now accepting as triage.

“There’s so many lives that could be saved here by not cutting ICU beds – Andrew Cuomo, how many ICU beds did that guy cut throughout his tenure as governor? Thousands and thousands and thousands…

“And now we’re looking at the symptoms instead of the cause. The symptoms: there’s not enough beds and the unvaccinated are filling everything up. No, this is about neoliberalism; there should just be more beds.

“And then finally, so many people, because of the lockdowns and the fear, delayed routine treatments and many of them died because of that – I mean including chemotherapy. And now they’re coming in and they’re flooding hospitals – look at the reporting right now – the hospitals are full of people who have now decided that they can’t wait any longer to have their routine procedures done, but they waited because of the pandemic.

“So all the hospitals are flooding with people and they’re going to be even more full because of the flu this winter. So covid isn’t the only issue here. It’s the response to it that has been absolutely inhuman, and there needs to be some debate about it – and the critics who have criticised and critiqued every other response by the powerful; every other undemocratic overreaction to a crisis – many of them are absent.” [from 46:35 mins]

Please note: Although the transcript is mine, the views expressed above are not necessarily shared by Wall of Controversy. (My own views are expressed across a range of posts on the subject.)

Importantly, I have not been trained as a medical professional and do not claim to have expert knowledge of this subject. This article is in no way intended to provide medical advice of any kind.

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* From a report by The Lancet Commission on COVID-19 Vaccines and Therapeutics Task Force published in The Lancet (Vol 9, Issue 7, E1017–E1021), released March 26, 2021 entitled “Operation Warp Speed: implications for global vaccine security”:

OWS has accelerated the development of COVID-19 vaccine without compromising efficacy, safety, or quality.1 There are, however, long-term safety issues that might arise. For example, three Ad5-vectored vaccine trials for HIV showed excess HIV infections in vaccine recipients; could Ad5-based vaccines for COVID-19 enhance HIV infections? Similarly, the use of the AS03 adjuvant was thought by some to be associated with the development of narcolepsy.20 Rare events, such as intussusception after the use of oral rotavirus vaccines, might not be apparent, even in trials of 30 000–60 000 people.21 Vaccine-associated enhanced respiratory disease and antibody-dependent enhancement were reported in animals given vaccines against SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV;22 fortunately, these effects have not been reported in small animal, non-human primate, or human studies of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.23 However, a long-term effect, similar to the enhancement that was observed for the Sanofi dengue virus vaccine, cannot be ruled out.24 Disregarding safety can undermine public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and decrease vaccination uptake.25 Strengthening of systems in LMICs to monitor, record, and report adverse events after immunisation will be important given the multiple vaccines in use.26

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(21)00140-6/fulltext

Interpretation of the study (quoted directly from the paper):

Vaccination reduces the risk of delta variant infection and accelerates viral clearance. Nonetheless, fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts. Host–virus interactions early in infection may shape the entire viral trajectory.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Austria, India, Ireland, Italy, police state, September 11th, USA

corona marginalia: Kyle’s story

Kyle Warner is a 29-year-old professional mountain biker from Idaho. His unfortunate story was first brought to my attention by John Campbell who has since recorded a follow-up interview with Kyle uploaded on Wednesday [Nov 10th] and embedded directly below:

Before continuing with Kyle’s story, it is vitally important to stress that John Campbell, who has a doctorate in nursing and is a retired teacher of nurses, has always been and remains pro-vaccine. He has stated repeatedly that covid vaccine injuries may have arisen from not administering the vaccines correctly and has used his online platform to advocate for better practise – here is John Campbell discussing being ‘fact-checked’ a few weeks ago.

Moreover, and in spite of his recent misfortune, Kyle Warner also encourages the take up of vaccines, although like many millions, he is opposed to mandatory vaccination. However, it seems that the language itself is now being modified and so I draw attention to the current definition of “anti-vaxxer” according to Merriam-Webster (screenshot below):

Merriam-Webster definition of anti-vaxxer

To quote directly from horribly contorted and dangerous definition, an anti-vaxxer is “a person who opposes the use of vaccines or regulations mandating vaccination”. (The emphasis is mine.)

This Orwellian redefinition that deliberately lumps together anyone who opposes mandatory vaccination with those who are fundamentally opposed to vaccination under all circumstances thereby vilifies millions who are justifiably concerned about civil liberties, government overreach and basic human rights. It is important to keep this in mind as we return to the story of Kyle (and others who present their own cases below).

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It was mid-May when Kyle received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Besides a sore arm he did not experience any apparent complications. A month later on June 10th, Kyle received the second dose. Again, he experienced no immediate complications. A fortnight later, however, Kyle (a professional athlete) began to notice that his normal resting heart rate had risen from around fifty beats per min up to sixty. Of more concern, he felt abrupt leaps when his heart rate would suddenly shoot up to ninety and hundred even while resting. Alarmed by this, he immediately decided to cut out all stimulants from his diet and then took two weeks off in order just to rest and recuperate.

When Kyle returned to cycling, however, he found that his condition had actually become more serious. During a climb on his first ride, he noticed that his heart rate had risen to 160 and was shocked to see that it didn’t return to normal again. He struggled home and visited his local hospital.

On admission Kyle explained how he thought he may have been having a reaction to the vaccine but the doctor in charge of his case told him he was more likely having an anxiety attack. In response, Kyle said that he knew his body and repeated that the side-effects he was experiencing corresponded to ones he had read about. Finally, the same doctor told him he may be in the midst of a psychotic episode and promptly sent him home.

In reality Kyle was suffering from pericarditis (inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart) along with POTS and reactive arthritis. These conditions left Kyle bedridden and unable to exercise during the months that have followed. Understandably, he fears that his career as a mountain biker may be finished.

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On November 2nd, Kyle Walker joined other covid vaccine injury claimants. Supported by doctors and medical experts they went to Washington DC to testify at the US Senate calling for transparency and accountability.

Senator Ron Johnson who convened the roundtable panel personally invited NIAID Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci; CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky; FDA Acting Commissioner, Janet Woodcock; NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins; HHS Secretary, Xavier Becerra; the CEOs of Pfizer, Moderna, BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson, Albert Bourla, Stéphane Bancel, Uğur Şahin and Alex Gorsky respectively; as well as state representatives for each of the vaccine injured who were speaking out, but none of the above accepted his invitation and no journalists from any mainstream media outlets attended the proceedings.

Kyle Warner opened his statement as follows (from 53 mins):

Before I start my speech I just want to say thanks to Dr Fauci, the FDA, heads of the CDC and NIH, for not showing up to this meeting and not listening to us. I really appreciate it and I’m glad that you have our interests at heart. This message is kind of for you. It’s a message on how this has broke my heart literally and figuratively.

He continued:

Listening to these stories today and looking at the [Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System] VAERS database, it is easy to see that we have a serious problem arising, but you guys already know this. The real question is whether or not you’ll stand up to your favourite pharmaceutical lobbyist in defence of the American people you are supposed to serve. We were told we were fighting a war against the pandemic and the question in the air is: will you leave your troops behind yet again?

I’m not asking you to end the vaccine programme by any means. All I’m asking is for some transparency and acknowledgement of what is happening, so that we as a country can have an honest discussion of the risks.

I believe that where there is risk there must be choice, and without acknowledging that people are being seriously injured and dying, we are doing a great disservice to the American people.

It is estimated that Moderna and Pfizer will make around 60 billion dollars in revenue this year from covid-19 vaccines. And with the rollout of boosters and mandates, it seems like much of that is destined to be recurring revenue.

We need to set up a fund with a portion of vaccine proceeds to help heal and study injured Americans and compensate the families who have lost loved ones due to complications of the vaccine.

This is the first ever mass administration of mRNA vaccines and the drug companies need to compensate us if they’re going to be testing on us.

Do you know why we stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school? It’s because the new one: ‘One nation under siege, completely divisible, with liberty and justice for all corporations’ doesn’t sound quite as good. I’m asking you human to human, please do the right thing and help us.

Although the video is cued to the start of Kyle Warner’s statement, I encourage readers to listen to other contributions too – in particular the powerful testimony of injured healthcare professionals, Joel Wallskog, an orthopaedic surgeon from Wisconsin, and Shaun Barcavage, a research nurse/practitioner from Pennsylvania (starting from 2:20:45).

This is an abridged version of Shaun’s testimony (a fuller version is provided below):

“Politics has zero impact on me being here today. I’m pro-patient, pro-science and I’ve been fiercely pro-vaccine my entire life – often having fights with family members to get vaccinated.

However, like many, I was a bit hesitant about the vaccine. We all had our concerns. I was scared about the new platform. The new spike protein vector. The fact that we relied on more long-term in vitro studies without long-term safety data in humans. But as a researcher and a scientist I also understood the need to control a pandemic. So I got vaccinated.

As a researcher I fully understand reactions occur and they are real. No medication or vaccine is reaction free. I get this, but so should everyone else. But in this rollout there were many things that came to light quickly, once I fell into that adverse reaction world.

Prior to December 29th 2020, the day my life fundamentally changed, I was a vibrant, funny, compassionate, healthy person. No medical conditions. No medicines. Never a vaccine reaction. Let me briefly share my [vaccine] reaction story.

I went to the hospital where I work. I stood in line. Immediately after dose one I developed paraesthesias in my right arm – got injected in my right deltoid. Within hours to days, the numbness and tingling travelled to the right side of my face, my eye and my ear.

I saw a neurologist – one of the top neurologists in New York City – he said ‘Oh, if it subsides get the second shot – we just don’t know it’s all new.’ So it subsided. Against my better judgement, I went back and I got in line.

Dose two literally sent me into a tailspin. […]

I’m a science-driven nurse/practitioner and I remain pro-vaccine. I dedicated my life to helping people and medicine. Heartbreakingly I ended up in the realm of the injured. But the real tragedy is not only the lack of adequate medical support, but the active and coordinated denial of our situations. Even by my own colleagues.

Finally, I want you to know that I was never the activist type. I never pictured myself being here. But fear and despair have changed me. This experience has shattered my life.”

All participants on the panel were speaking on their own behalf and no-one appeared as a representation of any organisation or institution. None on the panellists has ever been an anti-vaccine campaigner, but all are opposed to mandatory vaccination (as am I):

As you can see, the original upload has already been taken down by Youtube (and Senator Ron Johnson’s channel was suspended for a week over alleged misinformation) but an edited version is now available and again I have cued it beginning with Kyle Warner’s statement. The bowdlerised testimony of Joel Wallskog and Shaun Barcavage now begins at 24:55 mins:

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Please note: The views expressed by Sen. Ron Johnson and other participants are not necessarily shared by Wall of Controversy. (My own views are expressed across a range of posts on the subject.)

Importantly, I have not been trained as a medical professional and do not claim to have expert knowledge of this subject. This article is in no way intended to provide medical advice of any kind.

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Additional: A longer version of Shaun Barcavage’s testimony

“Politics has zero impact on me being here today. I’m pro-patient, pro-science and I’ve been fiercely pro-vaccine my entire life – often having fights with family members to get vaccinated.

However, like many, I was a bit hesitant about the vaccine. We all had our concerns. I was scared about the new platform. The new spike protein vector. The fact that we relied on more long-term in vitro studies without long-term safety data in humans. But as a researcher and a scientist I also understood the need to control a pandemic. So I got vaccinated.

As a researcher I fully understand reactions occur and they are real. No medication or vaccine is reaction free. I get this, but so should everyone else. But in this rollout there were many things that came to light quickly, once I fell into that adverse reaction world.

Prior to December 29th 2020, the day my life fundamentally changed, I was a vibrant, funny, compassionate, healthy person. No medical conditions. No medicines. Never a vaccine reaction. Let me briefly share my [vaccine] reaction story.

I went to the hospital where I work. I stood in line. Immediately after dose one I developed paraesthesias in my right arm – got injected in my right deltoid. Within hours to days, the numbness and tingling travelled to the right side of my face, my eye and my ear.

I saw a neurologist – one of the top neurologists in New York City – he said ‘Oh, if it subsides get the second shot – we just don’t know it’s all new.’ So it subsided. Against my better judgement, I went back and I got in line.

Dose two literally sent me into a tailspin. Within four days I developed debilitating tinnitus. What I recall from that is the month of February, curled up in a foetal position on the bathroom floor, wondering how would I ever live with this. It was so severe. Couldn’t hear TV. Couldn’t listen to music, or read a book, or hear what other people were saying. Thought my life was over.

It continued. I got right facial tingling, back numbness, throat tightness, tachycardia, wildly fluctuating blood pressures, severe right-sided headaches and brain fog. I went back to the neurologist. I told all that was going on. He said, ‘Oh, wait it out, it might likely subside again.’ I said, ‘I don’t think so, this is pretty bad.’ I ended up in the emergency department on January 30th.

Despite all my years of nursing experience, [and] having been familiar with the vaccine trials, I offered up quickly, ‘I think I’m having a reaction to the vaccine.’ I was quickly dismissed by a physician who had no knowledge about these vaccine reactions and he sent me away with ibuprofen – so many missed opportunities to treat me.

Things continued to progress. I developed POTS syndrome – never even heard of it before as a nurse – where you can’t stand for more than five minutes without your heart rate zooming, getting faint and nauseous. Severe intractable insomnia. I never had a problem sleeping before, suddenly I’m taking five meds to try to get to sleep. Muscle twinges, tremors, adrenal dumps – adrenal dumps that would burn my muscles and my stomach. […]

I pursued everywhere across the country from New York to California, looking for answers, pestering top researchers, scientists, doctors. Getting nowhere. Getting no recognition. Getting dismissed.

By August I’d literally exploded in generalised body neuropathies – imagine, waking up in the middle of the night stinging in my hands and feet, burning in the soles of my feet, prickling all over like I fell in a bush of nettles. […]

I pushed for objective data. I insisted: let’s do a tilt-table test. [It] showed my dysautonomia. Pushed for a skin biopsy. Showed I developed small fibre neuropathy. Still, I couldn’t get anybody to take an interest in me. I’m a researcher, I found that curious. Here I am, presenting, unusual case, study me, I’m a perfect candidate. I give you objective data. If I tell you my pain’s a seven out of ten, it’s a seven out of ten – I don’t minimise or maximise.

Feeling so alone and so scared I turned to social media because I couldn’t find anybody like me for support. In mere months I had thousands of people. I set up a tinnitus group: 3,500 members joining in months. Later I found six other groups focussed on neurological symptoms. I started to help them – as a nurse it was the best way I could help: use my resources. I started researching. Reading journals. Hearing what they were hearing. Reading as much as I can. Sharing with them. Helping the people who had no insurance understand what their labs were. People who had no money. Guiding them. What tests they should get. How best they should use their money.

Crazy thing is social media – you’re there, you’re looking for support, you find support – they suddenly tag you: ‘misinformation’. You’re not real. You’re an ‘anti-vaxxer’. You devolve into more despair. […]

My goal here today is to speak as a researcher. A lot’s been said already. I’ll just emphasise: if we mandate vaccines, it’s clear we need to mandate manufacturers and government institutions to step up and investigate us. It’s not right. It’s immoral.

Reactions are real; they’re a part of science. I got unlucky. But it’s unethical to hide them even if it’s for some greater motive. […]

We know NIH did a study. I’d love to know what was in it. It’s unethical to hide research if there’s information in there to help people. I know this, I’m a researcher.

We also must return science into the hands of scientists and get it out of money; donor money and politics. We deserve safe and effective vaccines, but we also deserve effective and safe government. I don’t think we have that right now.

I’m a science-driven nurse/practitioner and I remain pro-vaccine. I dedicated my life to helping people and medicine. Heartbreakingly I ended up in the realm of the injured. But the real tragedy is not only the lack of adequate medical support, but the active and coordinated denial of our situations. Even by my own colleagues.

Finally, I want you to know that I was never the activist type. I never pictured myself being here. But fear and despair have changed me. This experience has shattered my life. Like all of you: I know where you are. […]

I will continue to fight. I will continue to research. I will find an answer, people, or I will die trying.”

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corona marginalia: ivermectin disinfo

Earlier this week, BBC News put out a “reality check” report entitled “Ivermectin: How false science created a Covid ‘miracle’ drug”. Authors of the piece, Rachel Schraer and Jack Goodman, aim to convince us that although, as they quietly concede, ivermectin has been “recommended by health authorities in some countries”, including “in India, South Africa, Peru and much of the rest of Latin America, as well as in Slovakia”, claims to the drug’s efficacy in the treatment of covid are actually misplaced. In establishing this claim they turn to the work of a single group of scientists – Dr Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, Dr James Heathers, Dr Nick Brown and Dr Kyle Sheldrick – who “formed a group looking deeper into ivermectin studies after biomedical student Jack Lawrence spotted problems with an influential study from Egypt.”

In common with journalists Rachel Schraer and Jack Goodman, I have no specialist training in medicine. Unlike them, however, I was trained in a scientific discipline, and do have a fairly good eye when it comes to spotting bad science and sloppy scientific reporting. So I am immediately alerted whenever I read any media report that casts doubt on a wide range of earlier research studies, and especially when it relies on a single new study; still more so when the study in question is unreferenced and strangely peripheral.

Of course, had the new work represented the largest or latest meta-study of its kind, close attention to it would be perfectly understandable, but in this case again the new study is neither the largest nor the most recent (more on this below). Moreover, the group behind the study – a group that formed over Twitter and whose lead author, Jack Lawrence, remains a student – have not yet published even a research paper together, but just a letter; one that advocates for changes in clinical trial methodology.

Without providing clear references, the authors of the study claim to “reveal that more than a third of 26 major trials of the drug [ivermectin] for use on Covid have serious errors or signs of potential fraud.” Yet, even if verifiable, this represents fewer than ten trials, which is a comparatively small fraction (less than 15%) once all major trials are taken into consideration rather than this apparently arbitrary sample – again, more on this below. Importantly, the entire BBC article is framed as if the scientific debate over ivermectin is all just a fight between “anti-vaccine activists” who “hype” the use of a “miracle” drug, versus this dispassionate “group of independent scientists”. This again is gross distortion.

Like me, Dr John Campbell is not an “anti-vaccine activist”. Unlike me and BBC journalists Rachel Schraer and Jack Goodman, he is a highly trained medical professional who holds a PhD in nursing and has decades of experience both as a medical practitioner and as a teacher. Throughout the last two years, John Campbell has tirelessly sifted through volumes of medical research papers in order to present the latest findings about covid on his Youtube channel. By virtue of the clarity and integrity of his almost daily content so assiduously collected and analysed, his small channel has grown rapidly and now enjoys over a million subscribers.

One of the treatments John Campbell has regularly discussed is ivermectin, and in his latest upload (embedded above) he tries to understand why the BBC has bothered to produce this article, which is devoid of references to any of the allegedly discredited studies (making it hard to check the veracity of these claims), while failing to reference a far larger real-time meta-analysis [click here] based on 64 fully referenced studies (as opposed to the mysterious 26 – and with the flawed Egyptian study already excluded) that indicate clear benefits of using the drug to treat covid patients:

[Quoted directly from the study linked above.]

Another reason why John Campbell has over a million subscribers is that he takes a fully detached and thus scientifically-informed position and is only very seldom sidetracked by politics, preferring to stick to what published research shows. However, the determination of the effectiveness of any drug relies on large-scale trials and these are generally overseen by the pharmaceutical manufacturers themselves. Unfortunately, no such large-scale trials have yet been conducted to test the efficacy of ivermectin in the treatment of covid.

As the BBC piece mentions in passing: “In February, Merck – one of the companies that makes the drug – said there was ‘no scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect against Covid-19’.”

But of course, this puts the cart before the horse. So John Campbell is understandably dismayed to learn that Merck & Co., the company given the original approval for the manufacture and sale of ivermectin, has said that it has absolutely no intention of conducting clinical trials. Could it be, as he tentatively suggests, that ivermectin is so cheap and easily available that there is just a lack of profit motive to carry out such further trials? Without genuine investigation journalism this will likely remain a rhetorical question.

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Additional:

Last month, John Campbell also looked into and deconstructed the Australian Government’s frankly bizarre excuses for imposing restrictions on the prescription of ivermectin for the treatment of covid-19:

And last week he provided a very in-depth comparison of the cost, safety and efficacy of ivermectin to the new antiviral drug, molnupiravir:

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Update:

In a presentation uploaded on November 9th, John Campbell provided details of how ivermectin could act as an effective treatment against covid-19. Specifically, he explains the mechanism in which ivermectin appears to work as a SARS-CoV‑2 3CL Protease Inhibitor, and draws attention to a range of published studies that support this conclusion:

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Please note: I have not been trained as a medical professional and do not claim to have expert knowledge of this subject. This article is in no way intended to provide medical advice of any kind.

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lions led by donkeys: heroes and villains in our war against Covid-19

Heroes

Heroic is a word that tends to be thrown around rather casually these days, with the unfortunate and inevitable consequence that it has become somewhat cheapened and degraded. There are times, however, when ‘heroic’, overworked as it is, becomes appropriate again. When searching for ways to describe acts of wholehearted self-sacrifice, it remains perhaps the only word that conveys this meaning with sufficient gravity.

The staff on the frontline in our hospitals, especially those working in intensive care, daily tending to the essential needs of critically ill patients, under extreme pressure because the wards they serve are already understaffed, are worthy of such a title even during ordinary times but it is during exceptional times of crisis when they truly earn the respect (if not the wage) that they fully deserve. Today’s sympathetic applause in countries and regions all throughout Europe is a spontaneous outpouring of gratitude and deep public support; even here in Britain, where a weekly ritual has been somewhat stage-managed, the applause is no less heartfelt.

Because even the everyday heroic commitment of our hospital workers, seldom remembered by most of us in ordinary times, is now exceeded each and every day, as those same doctors and nurses who continue to tend to the sick patients, do so at serious risk to their own lives.

The consequence of a long-term lack of investment and mismanagement of the NHS has become very apparent resulting in inadequate supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that leaves staff highly vulnerable to infection. In response nurses and doctors are posting photographs of the sorts of makeshift alternatives they have been forced to rely on. In response to this, some have even received official gagging notices for reporting such vital information:

For example, A&E staff at Southend hospital in Essex have been warned that they could face disciplinary action if they raise the issue of PPE publicly.

In a memo on 26th March they were told: “The posting of inappropriate social media commentary or the posting of photographs of staff in uniform who are not complying with IPC [infection prevention and control] standards and social distancing requirements is unacceptable. Such behaviour will be considered under the disciplinary policy.

“Now, perhaps more than ever, NHS staff are in the public eye and we have a responsibility to convey a professional image and to role model positive messages about social distancing. It would be very sad for moments of inappropriate or unprofessional behaviour to undermine the respect that we and our colleagues have from the public.”

Others who speak out are being bullied with threatening emails or more formally threatened with disciplinary action:

  • An intensive care doctor who voiced unease about facemasks was told by their hospital that “if we hear of these concerns going outside these four walls your career and your position here will be untenable”.
  • Another intensive care specialist was called into a meeting with their bosses and disciplined after raising concerns.
  • A GP working at Chase Farm hospital in London was sent home for voicing unease.
  • A consultant paediatrician in Yorkshire was told in an email from their hospital that their social media output was being monitored and they should be careful.
  • A GP who appealed to her community on social media for more supplies of PPE was then barred by her local NHS clinical commissioning group from speaking out. “I was being warned I wasn’t toeing the party line,” she said. 1

Consecutive governments abandoned them, failing to supply essential equipment, or to even run systematic screening today, but in spite of this they have not abandoned us, carrying out their duties irrespective of the additional risks, and this again is why we pay tribute to their heroism.

On April 8th, RT’s ‘Going Underground’ featured an extended interview with journalist and film-maker John Pilger, who began by reminding us of the suppressed finding of Exercise Cygnus, a pandemic simulation run by the British government as recently as October 2016, which revealed the country’s health system to collapse from a lack of resources including “inadequate ventilation”. Pilger also speaks to the damage done to the NHS caused by underfunding and stealth privatisation of services and the shifting of blame for current government failures on to the Chinese:

Healthcare workers in America have also been left exposed to the risk of infection due to lack of essential equipment. Last Thursday [April 2nd], nurses and doctors at Montefiore medical center in the Bronx protested over the lack of PPE. “Every day when I go to work, I feel like a sheep going to slaughter,” said Dr Laura Ucik, a third-year resident at the centre:

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In homage, I could now embed a whole sequence of video clips featuring medical professionals working on the frontline in Italy, Spain, America, and Britain’s NHS. They would all tell you how desperate the situation has already become; how unprepared their own health service is; and how fearful they are for the wellbeing of the patients and themselves. But there is little point in doing this, since the stories they tell are widely available across most media platforms. So I shall include just a single example: Dr David Hepburn, a Critical Care Consultant, who had been infected with Covid-19, but soon after recovering from the illness at home, returned to work – as countless other healthcare professionals have selflessly done.

Last week, Hepburn had told C4 News about how the intensive care wards at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport where he works had run out of space, so patients were moved into operating theatres. And, on April 3rd, Channel 4 News interviewed him again at length:

Asked to paint a picture of the current situation inside the critical care unit, Hepburn told us:

“It’s controlled chaos at the moment… the difference at the moment is that everybody is desperately unwell, everybody is on a ventilator, so the acuity or the severity of illness is very high”

Whilst regarding the demographics of the patient population, he says:

“There are a lot of people who are in work, there are a lot of people who are younger, the pattern of illness that we’ve seen in Gwent, and I can’t speak for anywhere else, is much younger patients that we were expecting; you know when the reports were coming out of Wuhan we were led to believe that this was something that was particularly dangerous for the more elderly patients, but I would say that all of the patients we have got on intensive care are in their 50s or younger at the moment.”

Hepburn’s account is now the repeated one. Please keep his testimony in mind as we come to the villains of the story in the next part, and not because it is extraordinary or exceptional, but because it is so very ordinary and fact-based. He has no reason to distort the truth and nor do any of the other healthcare professionals courageously struggling behind the scenes to save people like us.

On April 7th, John Campbell provided a summary of 4th April audit by Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre 9 (ICNARC) based on data collected from 210 ITUs in the U. The report shows that the median age for admission for critically ill patients is just 61 years old, and that the first quartile is 52 years old (coincidentally my own age), which means a quarter of those admitted are younger than I am. Three-quarters were men and 62.9 percent of all patients required mechanical ventilation in the first 24 hours:

Meanwhile, if the heroes of this pandemic are easy to see, they are also easy to support.

Founded by Cardiology Registrar, Dr Dominic Pimenta, you can offer support at HelpThemHelpUs, which is a independent forum for volunteering.

Novara Media welcomed Dominic Pimenta on to their March 31st broadcast to talk about the government’s plan and to outline the ideas behind his own HelpThemHelpUs initiative:

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Villains

Whereas the heroes are few, the villains abound. Let’s begin with the idiots because these are the lesser villains, even though the media often likes to portray them as a more tremendous threat to our lives.

We have the daft ones who are hoarding all the toilet rolls (fighting off competitors in a raw Darwinian struggle for survival as they grab their stash), presumably in order to pile them high as a monument to their own craven stupidity. The still more selfish are those who bought so much perishable food that they have already discarded most of it in rubbish bins. If we want a law against stupidity then I would begin by charging these people first of all.

A special dishonourable mention must also go to those hiding behind online aliases and spreading a different kind of rubbish whether on social media platforms or within comment sections. Incendiary drivel to the effect that ‘China’s day of reckoning must come’; as if they committed a crime or an act of war, when we still don’t know for certain the origins of this virus – despite the repeated though wholly unsubstantiated claims that its origins must have been that Wuhan wet market. The underlying message is an old one: beware the yellow peril!

And I wonder how much of this dog-whistle warmongering might actually be the product of our own military or intelligence units; the output of Brigade 77 for instance, or other more clandestine psychological operations such as GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) with its remit that includes “posting negative information on internet forums” all paid for with British taxpayer money. (Obviously, if these were foreign agents we would call them ‘troll farms’ but those are all spewing out bad Russian disinformation, not the good dishonest British stuff!)

From this array of lesser fools, however, we must turn upwards to consider those above. And according to the original government strategy, based solidly on ‘the science’ (lots more on that as we continue), the nation required around 60% infection of the population, in accordance with Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty’s assessment, to ensure ‘herd immunity’. Herd immunity, which meant letting the spread of the virus continue unchecked, was now the answer to tackling Covid-19. Taking his hands off the wheel entirely being Johnson’s first big plan!

If this approach still sounds like it might have been scientifically informed (as it was obviously meant to), then unfortunately you are mistaken. Herd immunity certainly helps to protect a population from the spread of infectious disease, however, ordinarily, this is acquired through programmes of vaccination, which are presumed to be safe. By encouraging ‘herd immunity’ to tackle the spread of a novel pathogen on the other hand, requires the infection of millions with a disease of unknown severity – what are the lasting health effects; what is the lethality? Such a policy is clearly reckless in the extreme. In fact, we still do not even know for sure that immunity to Covid-19 will be lasting, so there is a chance that herd immunity cannot be achieved at all.

But we are slowly learning how the lights had been blinking red for months and Boris Johnson’s inability to lead a coordinated response was unravelling before it had even started:

In the medical and scientific world, there was growing concern about the threat of the virus to the UK. A report from Exeter University, published on February 12th, warned a UK outbreak could peak within four months and, without mitigation, infect 45 million people.

That worried Rahuldeb Sarkar, a consultant physician in respiratory medicine and critical care in the county of Kent, who foresaw that intensive care beds could be swamped. Even if disease transmission was reduced by half, he wrote in a report aimed at clinicians and actuaries in mid-February, a coronavirus outbreak in the UK would “have a chance of overwhelming the system.”

With Whitty stating in a BBC interview on February 13th that a UK outbreak was still an “if, not a when,” Richard Horton, a medical doctor and editor of the Lancet, said the government and public health service wasted an opportunity that month to prepare quarantine restriction measures and a programme of mass tests, and procure resources like ventilators and personal protective equipment for expanded intensive care.

Calling the lost chance a “national scandal” in a later editorial, he would testify to parliament about a mismatch between “the urgent warning that was coming from the frontline in China” and the “somewhat pedestrian evaluation” of the threat from the scientific advice to the government.

This same ‘special report’ from Reuters published on April 7th, also discloses why there was so little preparedness:

According to emails and more than a dozen scientists interviewed by Reuters, the government issued no requests to labs for assistance with staff or testing equipment until the middle of March, when many abruptly received requests to hand over nucleic acid extraction instruments, used in testing. An executive at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Oxford said he could have carried out up to 1,000 tests per day from February. But the call never came.

“You would have thought that they would be bashing down the door,” said the executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity. By April 5th, Britain had carried out 195,524 tests, in contrast to at least 918,000 completed a week earlier in Germany.

Nor was there an effective effort to expand the supply of ventilators. The Department of Health told Reuters in a statement that the government started talking to manufacturers of ventilators about procuring extra supplies in February. But it was not until March 16th, after it was clear supplies could run out, that Johnson launched an appeal to industry to help ramp up production.

Charles Bellm, managing director of Intersurgical, a global supplier of medical ventilation products based outside London, said he has been contacted by more than a dozen governments around the world, including France, New Zealand and Indonesia. But there had been no contact from the British government. “I find it somewhat surprising, I have spoken to a lot of other governments,” he said. 2

Click here to read the full article published by Reuters, which is apologetically entitled “Johnson listened to his scientists about coronavirus – but they were slow to sound the alarm”. (Pushing the blame from the government onto its scientific advisors won’t wash, however the report contains some valuable insights nonetheless.)

Notable by its absence from this Reuters’ account of events is the advice and guidance of the World Health Organisation (WHO). This is important because for a while Britain had stood entirely alone, having taken its decision to act in brazen defiance to the directives of WHO, whose chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued his starkest warning on March 13th: “do not just let this fire burn”.

One day earlier Prime Minister Johnson was still solemnly reminding us “many more families are going to lose loved ones” – my own father saying to me afterwards, I suddenly realised “that means me”. But then, at the eleventh hour, Johnson and his government embarked on an astonishing U-turn. And hallelujah for that!

The reason was the maths: 60% of 66 million is very nearly 40 million, and, assuming a case-fatality rate of 0.7% (the best estimate we had – based on S Korean figures), that makes 280,000 deaths. No need for sophisticated epidemiological modelling or a supercomputer, the back of any old envelope will do.

As the sheer scale of the predicted death toll began to dawn on Johnson and his advisors, out of the blue came a highly convenient “leak”. Seemingly it fell upon Dominic Cummings to assume the role of scapegoat as fresh justifications were sought for a swift and sudden change of policy, purportedly based on the findings of ‘new modelling’ – reading between the lines, someone had to take the bullet and quite frankly Cummings was already the most detested of the principle actors.

Here’s how that “leak” was reported by The Sunday Times:

Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s senior aide, became convinced that Britain would be better able to resist a lethal second wave of the disease next winter if Whitty’s prediction that 60% to 80% of the population became infected was right and the UK developed “herd immunity”.

At a private engagement at the end of February, Cummings outlined the government’s strategy. Those present say it was “herd immunity, protect the economy and if it means some pensioners die, too bad”.

At the Sage meeting on March 12th, a moment now dubbed the “Domoscene conversion”, Cummings changed his mind. In this “penny-drop moment”, he realised he had helped to set a course for catastrophe. Until this point, the rise in British infections had been below the European average. Now they were above it and on course to emulate Italy, where the picture was bleak. A minister said: “Seeing what was happening in Italy was the galvanising force across government.” 3

Click here to read the full article published by The Sunday Times on March 22nd.

(Or perhaps he really did have that “Domoscene conversion”! In which case, we must conclude that government policy was actually concocted more on the basis of Cummings’ whims, which is not exactly “following the science” either, is it?)

Incidentally, anyone who continues to deny the government’s rapid and complete U-turn (including Julia Hartley-Brewer, who I’ll come back to later), I direct to an article featured on Buzzfeed News from March 31st, which reads:

BuzzFeed News has spoken to health experts in the UK and across Europe to find out why [Britain has done comparatively little testing for coronavirus]. The answer, they said, stemmed from Britain’s controversial initial strategy of mitigation of the virus (rather than suppression), rendering testing a secondary concern — an approach which has also contributed to a lack of preparedness and the capacity to carry out tests at scale.

The UK’s mitigation approach was devised by England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty, and chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance. According to a person who has spoken to Whitty and [Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Patrick] Vallance, they took the view that the UK should not attempt to suppress the outbreak entirely but rather prioritise protecting the elderly and vulnerable, and ensuring the NHS did not become overwhelmed, while allowing the rest of population to build up “herd immunity”.

This strategy meant that widespread testing of every coronavirus case was not a priority for the UK, the person said, since the government’s scientists were assuming that between 60% and 80% of the population would become infected.

Accordingly, no preparations were made to increase manufacturing or imports of testing kits, nor to expand the UK’s laboratory capacity. Imports of testing kits are now extremely difficult as other nations seek more than ever to keep them for their own use. 4

[Bold emphasis added]

Click here to read the full article entitled “Even The US Is Doing More Coronavirus Tests Than The UK. Here Are The Reasons Why.”

However, the government and its advisors, although nominally in charge of matters, and accordingly as reprehensible as they are, should not be too isolated once it comes to attributing responsibility. The media must take a considerable share of any blame too.

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From the outset, the whole story surrounding coronavirus was completely politicised. For months it was all about Chinese mismanagement and repression, following which, after China slowly regained control of the situation in Wuhan, press attention and opprobrium switched to Iran.

Oh, how we all chortled when the Iranian Deputy Health Minister, Iraj Harirchi, was seen sweating out a fever as he tried to deliver a speech – in what sort of a tinpot regime does a Health Minister end up contracting the infection he is supposed to be fighting, hey? But shoe, other foot, media reframing… you get the picture:

Indeed, when Johnson himself was admitted to hospital and shortly afterwards moved to intensive care, a newspaper-led campaign encouraged people to gather outside again for a standing ovation to keep his spirits up. Of course, along with thousands of unfortunate victims still struggling for breath beside him, we wish him a full and speedy recovery, but this isn’t North Korea, and so, besides a handful of the party faithful, most of the country respectfully declined this nationwide call to lavish praise on the glorious leader.

On Good Friday, when another 980 deaths in hospitals alone were recorded – surpassing Spain and Italy’s worst recorded daily totals (figures for care homes are harder to establish), this was the headline in The Sun:

Only when Covid-19 gained a foothold in Europe was the tone adjusted, so that rather than peddling rumours about incompetence, due sensitivity was given instead to the suffering of the people – in this case, the Italian people.

Prior to the first European cases, there was also a lack of key information, and so it wasn’t until March that we first began to learn the full facts about the disease itself: how extremely virulent it is and not like flu at all, but SARS; how it doesn’t only attack the old and the vulnerable; how it is easily transmitted by asymptomatic spreaders and has a comparatively long incubation period; how between 5–10 percent of the victims require oxygen or mechanical ventilation, and many are left with irreparable lung damage. Suddenly China’s urgent need to construct new hospital facilities overnight became totally understandable.

Why were we left in the dark so long? Up until March Covid-19 still remained a blunt tool to beat the old enemies with, so presumably delving into cause of the crisis distracted too much from this propagandistic exercise. Yet this failure to fact-find – a routine matter for proper journalism – soon came back to haunt us.

Finally, a lack of widely available information accounts, at least in part, for why, three months on, Britain is desperately converting conference centres into thousand-bed hospitals: an impressive feat but one that also speaks to prior failures and a total lack of preparedness. China was our warning but the media was too sidetracked to stress this.

On April 5th, Sky News Australia released a “SPECIAL REPORT: China’s deadly coronavirus cover-up”, except that it isn’t and scarcely presents any evidence at all from China. Instead, it offers a montage of coverage from around the world, political talking heads, that are interspersed with images from a wet market (somewhere, presumably in South East Asia), overlaid with a breathless commentary and an ominous soundtrack. Today this passes for journalism apparently:

If the press instead had focussed more on the virulence of the disease, rather than always seeking a political angle, the public and governments of the West might have had greater cause to introduce tighter measures from the beginning, recognising the urgency of taking appropriate action to avoid suffering the same fate as the inhabitants of Wuhan. We could have closed our borders in time (yet they remain open even today) and made preparations for testing and contact tracing as they did in South Korea. But why take such drastic precautions if the problem is mostly one with the Chinese politburo and Iranian mullahs?

Indeed, as Rachel Shabi astutely reminds us in a more recent Guardian article, Britain is already blessed with teams of environmental health officers employed by local government who “have wide experience in contact tracing, a process used to prevent infections spreading and routinely carried out in outbreaks such as of norovirus, salmonella or legionnaires’ disease.”

As one of the environmental health workers she spoke to said, he was “struggling to figure out” why they hadn’t been given the go-ahead from the start. Another told her: “We are pretty good at infection control and contact tracing, it’s part of the job. We thought we’d be asked and were shelving other work.” In response, a spokesperson for Public Health England (PHE), said “the organisation did not call upon environmental health workers to carry out contact tracing for coronavirus, instead using its own local health protection teams.” 5

Hats off to Rachel Shabi for doing the legwork to expose this vital ‘missed opportunity’ by PHE and the government – examining the reasons behind this decision is now on the table for a public inquiry.

Unfortunately, much that passes for journalism today relies on scant research and little to no investigation at all. Instead it is informed by a diet of press conferences, press releases and press packs – all more or less pre-digested, all PR, and all oven-ready (as Johnson would say). Many reporters are the embedded and approved members of a press corps who grant their sources ‘quote approval’. Compounding this there is the groupthink and the self-censorship that has always existed.

In a well-known BBC interview with Noam Chomsky in 1996, Andrew Marr – who afterwards went on to become the BBC’s Political Editor – famously rebutted Chomsky’s accusation of a ubiquitous lack of media impartiality and journalistic integrity, demanding:

“How can you know that I’m self-censoring? How can you know that journalists are…”

Chomsky’s reply clearly rocks him: “I don’t say you’re self-censoring. I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is, if you believed something different you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.” 6

It is understandable therefore (although not excusable) that those in the press and media have fallen into the easier habit of propagating and sanctioning accepted narratives, advocating official policy and being apologists for government mistakes and state crimes – after all, if you hold your nose, much of the job is done for you – readymade copy to cut and paste. And a climate of crisis furthers these temptations, cultivating this already indifferent attitude towards truth, and fostering journalistic practice that is non-confrontational on grounds of “national interest”.

By contrast, true journalism shares a lot in common with real science, which is similarly fact-based and objective. But to be fact-based and objective requires research and investigation, and this is tiresome and time consuming, so it’s easier not to bother.

Today, we see another consequence of this as the government shields itself behind ‘the science’, and the media once again provides it with cover. For instance, here is Sky News‘ Thomas Moore informing his audience as recently as March 27th that: “one of the government’s key advisors hazarded a guess this week that between half and two-thirds of those dying would probably have done so soon anyway.” [from 0:45 mins]:

How very Malthusian of him, you may think. How very: “herd immunity, protect the economy and if it means some pensioners die, too bad.”

It would be nice to stop right there. This kind of pseudoscientific validation for ideologically-informed policy is hardly worthy of closer examination. In this instance it is simply insulting, not only to the vulnerable and elderly whose existence Moore is quite literally attempting to delete but to anyone with an ear for propaganda. (And so for this secondary reason, let us parse his words just a little.)

Key advisor…? CMO for England, Chris Whitty; or former President of R&D of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) recently appointed government CSA, Sir Patrick Vallance; or Chief Executive of NHS England and former senior executive of UnitedHealth Group, Sir Simon Stevens, or some otherwise anonymous, faceless, quite possibly, non-existent advisor: who knows? Perhaps it was Matt Hancock…? Or was this again, Dominic Cummings?

Hazarded a guess… Really, can you get any vaguer than this? On what distant planet could Moore’s statement be considered remotely journalistic?

Not to be outdone on April 2nd, the BBC issued a Twitter stream along very similar lines:

 

 

Such Malthusian talking points are also echoed throughout a wide range of publications but found most especially on the shelves reserved for opinions of the libertarian right. As an outstanding example of this, I refer readers to a column written by Dr John Lee that was published in The Spectator as recently as March 28th: the day after the Sky News broadcast above, and just a fortnight ago.

Dr Lee is one of those pundits who love to cherry pick statistics; a talent so honed that upon first reading anyone could be forgiven for thinking that not only have we all been dreadfully deceived by our lying eyes but also by all the hysterical staff working in our NHS hospitals who incessantly talk nonsense about a crisis.

“The moral debate is not lives vs money,” Lee decides on the basis of the numbers, adding emphatically, “It is lives vs lives.” In fact, boiling Dr Lee’s argument down more literally, he is balancing risk to the economy against number of deaths, although doubtless it sounds more reasonable and more dramatic too, when you say “lives vs lives”. Not that the economy doesn’t matter, but that evidently from Lee’s viewpoint it sits high above mere lives and behind a huge ‘greater than or equal to’ sign. That said, his main proposal is a fittingly modest one:

Unless we tighten criteria for recording death due only to the virus (as opposed to it being present in those who died from other conditions), the official figures may show a lot more deaths apparently caused by the virus than is actually the case. What then? How do we measure the health consequences of taking people’s lives, jobs, leisure and purpose away from them to protect them from an anticipated threat? Which causes least harm?

Incidentally, the ultimate question here – “Which causes the least harm?” – sheds interesting light on Dr Lee’s own personal morality, or at least the ideas that underpin and inform it. Those who have studied philosophy will indeed recognise his stance, and place it under the technical heading ‘Consequentialism’: that the ultimate basis for a moral judgment should be founded on whether any action (or inaction) will produce a good or bad outcome, or consequence. Another way of saying this is “the ends justify the means”.

Consequentialism is essentially a rerun and a quite fashionable version of Utilitarianism, where Utilitarianism, in turn, values human behaviour according to some measure of usefulness. Once you understand this, it becomes a lot easier to comprehend why someone with Dr Lee’s outlook might share Cummings’ preference to “protect the economy and if it means some pensioners die, too bad”. The sacrifice of a few “useless eaters” (a phrase rightly or wrongly attributed to Kissinger) for the sake of the greater good. If I am being unkind to Dr Lee, then forgive me, but his words turn my own thoughts to Thomas Malthus again, who so eloquently justified the economic need for poor people to starve.

But I have digressed. The vital point to understand and remember here, as the establishment gatekeepers and government stenographers all insist, is that Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock, Michael Gove, Iain Duncan-Smith and the rest of the Conservative crew have always acted in strict accordance with the best scientific advice available. And that never at any stage were decisions taken with callous indifference even when it came to their original decision to pursue a quasi-scientific policy of ‘herd immunity’ by letting a few of our loved ones die:

Governments everywhere say they are responding to the science. The policies in the UK are not the government’s fault. They are trying to act responsibly based on the scientific advice given. But governments must remember that rushed science is almost always bad science.

That’s also Dr John Lee’s opinion by the way, as he reaches for a conclusion to his piece. The case he makes fails throughout to acknowledge any government accountability whatsoever; not even when it comes to deciding which advice to listen to. A case that he set out as follows:

In announcing the most far-reaching restrictions on personal freedom in the history of our nation, Boris Johnson resolutely followed the scientific advice that he had been given. The advisers to the government seem calm and collected, with a solid consensus among them. In the face of a new viral threat, with numbers of cases surging daily, I’m not sure that any prime minister would have acted very differently. 7

It’s the science, stupid – just so you know.

By the way, I call Dr John Lee, Dr Lee because this is how his article is attributed. And I think he wants you to recognise his expertise because he describes himself as “a recently retired professor of pathology and a former NHS consultant pathologist”. There is nothing wrong, of course, in highlighting your own professional credentials. That said, the entire emphasis of his piece is that the government places trust in expertise as should you too. Thus, signing off in this fashion is a very effective way to pull rank on his readership. (Trust me on this, I’m a doctor too – I just don’t make a point of flaunting my PhD at every opportunity.)

If Dr John Lee wants you to get the message because he knows better, then for those who prefer to be browbeaten rather than condescended to, and as a quite different alternative, I offer the latest outpourings of small-‘c’ conservative rent-a-mouth Julia Hartley-Brewer.

Brewer is in fact the daughter of a GP, although happily she is otherwise as unqualified to proffer expert analysis on any subjects at all basically – unhappily, this doesn’t stop her and thanks to a public platform called Talkradio those unqualified and largely unsought opinions are broadcast across the nation on a weekly basis.

Recently she’s been doing a lot of Tweeting too, fulfilling her other obligation as a leading light amongst the commentariat. Here is one of her more recent efforts:

Yes, that’s right: the only thing that matters is whether Boris Johnson is following scientific advice. And he is – can’t you understand that? Now just shut up. I paraphrase, just a little; hardly at all really.

This brings me to reflect, finally and once again, on the dismal state of so much of today’s journalism and media more broadly, characterised, as it is, by wilful ignorance and woeful submissiveness to authority. Rigidly confined within an ever-tightening Overton Window, it speaks up for almost no-one, whether on the pressing question of how to fight coronavirus, or on most other vital issues of the day.

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1 From a report entitled “NHS staff ‘gagged’ over coronavirus shortages” written by Denis Campbell, published in the Guardian on March 31, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/mar/31/nhs-staff-gagged-over-coronavirus-protective-equipment-shortages

2 From a ‘Special Report’ entitled “Johnson listened to his scientists about coronavirus – but they were slow to sound the alarm” written by Stephen Grey and Andrew MacAskill, published in Reurters on April 7, 2020. https://uk.mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idUKKBN21P1X8

3 From an article entitled “Coronavirus: ten days that shook Britain – and changed the nation forever” written by Tim Shipman and Caroline Wheeler, published in The Sunday Times on March 22, 2020. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/coronavirus-ten-days-that-shook-britain-and-changed-the-nation-for-ever-spz6sc9vb

4 From an article entitled “Even The US Is Doing More Coronavirus Tests Than The UK. Here Are The Reasons Why”, written by Alex Wickham, Alberto Nardelli, Katie J. M. Baker & Richard Holmes, published in Buzzfeed News on March 31, 2020. https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexwickham/uk-coronavirus-testing-explainer

5 From an article entitled “UK missed coronavirus contact tracing opportunity, experts say” written by Rachel Shabi, published in the Guardian on April 6, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/apr/06/uk-missed-coronavirus-contact-tracing-opportunity-experts-say

6 Interviewed for The Big Idea, BBC2, February 14, 1996. A complete transcript is available here: http://scratchindog.blogspot.com/2015/07/transcript-of-interview-between-noam.html

The broadcast has also been uploaded on Youtube in full and is embedded below:

7 From an article entitled “How deadly is the coronavirus? It’s still far from clear?” written by Dr John Lee, published in The Spectator on March 28, 2020. https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/The-evidence-on-Covid-19-is-not-as-clear-as-we-think

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let’s get serious: John Campbell updates on the spread of Covid-19 infection and measures implemented/required

There is no real need for any introduction to this video, so I shall simply add that Dr John Campbell (a nurse and a teacher) has now been putting out straightforward, no nonsense updates of this kind as matter of a public service for many months. Please support his work if you can and if only by forwarding links to others:

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Important update:

Based on the latest research recently published in a scientific paper entitled Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1 (NEJM, 17 March), John Campbell finds information for helping to limit the spread of the new virus and also explains why the rate of infection is so much higher than for the original SARS virus, SAR-Cov-1.

Here is my own brief summary of the findings:

1) The virus can be semi-aerosolised (i.e., partially airborne) and is able to remain suspended in comparatively small droplets for a few hours, so try to keep out of enclosed spaces where there are crowds or large groups of people

2) These droplets stick to surfaces and the virus can survive for up to about 3 days depending on the type of surface (plastic is especially bad) – John gives precise details. My additional advice is that you should try to quarantine your supplies.

3) Like the SARS virus, this new virus can survive in higher temps although both prefer cooler ones like other coronaviruses – the upshot is that the appearance and spread of these viruses cannot be said to be due to global warming. Looking forward, we can expect that summer will bring some respite.

Click here to find the paper in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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coping with corona: assessing the NHS, the UK govt and Eurogroup responses

Last night’s episode of Novara Media’s Tyskie Sour, with hosts Michael Walker and Aaron Bastani, who were joined by NHS doctor Rita Issa, was such an excellent broadcast that I have decided to post it without further description other than to say it covers all the relevant questions about the coming crisis, focussing on the NHS, but also considering the economic implications in the medium and longer term. Near the end of the show they compare the West’s inadequate response to what has been done in South Korea.

[Warning: strong language]

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To complement the analysis above, which very much centres around the situation facing Britain, I have decided to republish below the latest piece by Yanis Varoufakis (published today) in which he criticises the failures of the Eurogroup and offers his own solutions.

[All highlights are preserved as in the original.]

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The Eurogroup fails Europe once again. Brace for a hideous EU recession | Yanis Varoufakis

The Eurogroup met yesterday, Monday 16th March, to hammer out its coordinated fiscal response to the massive recession already in progress following the lockdown of much of Europe’s society. The task they faced is enormous: If sales, tourism, services etc. fall by 50% for just one month (which is certain), and then by 25% for only two more months (i.e. the best-case scenario), then annual growth will be -10%. Across Europe!

So, what was the Eurogroup’s duty to announce? An immediate massive fiscal boost, its purpose being to reassure people that they will not be poorer. E.g. the government of Hong Kong that ploughed $10 billion immediately into the economy by ordering the tax office to credit every household’s bank account with $1250 immediately.

Not expecting such swift action from the Eurogroup, the fact remains that nothing short of a 5% fiscal injection was needed to reduce the calamity from -10% of GDP to, say, -3% (assuming a very large multiplier effect).

So, what did the Eurogroup decide?

Here is their official communique, announcing some impressive numbers. Commentators spoke of a bazooka aimed at the recession. In reality, the bazooka was a pathetic water pistol. Once again, the Eurogroup proved itself to be, not just dysfunctional, but a clear and present danger for Europeans.

The first thing to note is what they did not do. As everyone knows, eurozone governments live in the straitjacket of the so-called fiscal compact that allows next to zero room for fiscal expansion. This fiscal compact does, however, contain a clause that can be activated in times of emergency that released, temporarily, governments and allows them to throw money at an unexpected crisis. Before yesterday’s meeting, almost everyone expected the Eurogroup to announce the triggering of this clause. THEY DID NOT!

What they did do was to announce two things:  First, a bevy of loans for the private sector. Secondly, they referred to the utilisation of the so-called automatic stabilisers and also on unspecified measures of 1% of GDP. Let’s take these two separately:

LOANS

  • The European Investment Bank will offer €8 billion of working capital lending for 100,000 European firms, promising to try to this sum to €20bn
  • The Eurogroup toyed with the idea of calling upon the bailout fund (the European Stability Mechanism) to use its unused lending capacity of €410 billion

Before losing ourselves in the detail of this €430 billions of potential loans, it is crucial that we stick to the important point: Loans are useless when the problem is, not illiquidity but, insolvency. It is a pointless gift to lend money to a firm whose customers have disappeared and which know that, when the customers return, it will be next to impossible to repay the new and old debts. What companies need now is either the government to act as a buyer of last resort or a haircut of their liabilitiesnot new loans.

Looking now at the particulars, the EIB loans are a drop in the ocean. Moreover, they fail the speed test, as anyone who has had to apply to the EIB loan knows. As for the ESM, this would be a joke if the situation were not so serious. Why a joke? Because any loan by the ESM comes with so-called ‘conditionalities’. What are these? The government receiving it will need to sign an MoU (like Greece did in 2010) that involves massive future austerity and, thus, become even more of a vasal state of Brussels. Can anyone seriously see the Italian government signing up to its own decapitation by signing such an MoU?

TAX DEFERMENTS plus a 1% of GDP FISCAL ADJUSTMENT

The headline number that newspapers today lead with is a 1% of EU GDP fiscal measures. But when we look at these measures, we find that they lack any detail. The only tangible thing they mention is tax deferments: letting businesses and households not pay VAT and other taxes until the end of the year. But this is also, like the loans to business, a failed policy. Even when the lockdown ends, and business-as-almost-usual returns, Europeans will not earn enough to pay belatedly the deferred taxes plus the new ones. Especially given that many businesses and jobs will have disappeared by then.

In short, Europeans needed a tax haircut. Instead they got a deferment, a kind of state loan by which to repay their taxes later. Yet more spectacular proof that the Eurogroup has not learned its lesson from the 2010 euro crisis: Loans to the bankrupt do not help!

DiEM25’s answer to: What should they have done?

At the very least, the Eurogroup should have recommended to the European Council that the European Investment Bank is given the green light to issue EIB bonds worth €600 billion with the stipulation that, as part of its ongoing and recently enhanced quantitative easing program, the European Central Bank will support the value of these bonds in the bond markets. That €600 billion should be spent directly to support national health services and also be invested in sectors of the economy badly hit by the lockdown – while also nudging our economy toward greener forms of transport, energy generation etc. Additionally, the fiscal compact should be immediately side-lined and governments should effect a tax haircut for small and medium sized firms, households etc.

The above would probably be enough not to avert but to contain the recession to something like between -1% and -2% of GDP. To avert it completely, the Eurogroup should have decided to mimic Hong Kong and have the European Central Bank mint an emergency fund from which every European household is given between €1000 and €2000.

SUMMARY

Those of us who know how the Eurogroup works were not holding much hope yesterday. Nevertheless, Europe’s finance ministers managed to do even less than what we feared: They failed to use the fiscal compact’s proviso for loosening up fiscal policy across the euro area. They continued with the tragic error of treating a crisis of insolvency as a crisis of liquidity. And they failed to recognise that some countries, in particular those savaged by the never-ending euro crisis, need a great deal more support than others.

In short, the Eurogroup’s bazooka is no more than a pathetic waterpistol. It is time that Europeans pushed for something better than this. It is time that we organise at a transnational, paneuropean level to replace this instrument of austerity-driven recession, the Eurogroup, with an institution that can work for a majority of Europeans everywhere.

APPENDIX: The Eurogroup’s telling reference to “automatic stabilisers”

The Eurogroup communique referred to the “full use of automatic stabilisers”. What did they mean?

Here is an example of an ‘automatic stabiliser’: When people lose their job, they go on unemployment benefit. This means a transfer of money from the better off to the worse off. As the worse off, who are now unemployed, save nothing and, therefore, more of the money of the better off enters the markets. That’s what economists refer to as an ‘automatic stabiliser’ (‘automatic’ because no government decision was needed to activate it – the loss of jobs does it automatically | and ‘stabiliser’ because the higher portion of spending relative to savings boosts GDP ).

Can you see dear reader what the Eurogroup are really saying when confessing to relying to the ‘automatic stabilisers’ in the absence of concerted fiscal expansion? They are saying: Don’t worry folks. While it is true we, the finance ministers, are doing almost nothing to avert the disaster, when the disaster comes your job losses and poverty will trigger some automatic mechanism that will break the economy’s fall. A little like consoling the victims of the plague with their thought that their death will, through shrinking the labour supply, boost future wages…

Click here to read the same piece on Yanis Varoufakis’ official website.

Note that: Not all of the views expressed above are ones necessarily shared by Wall of Controversy.

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Update:

If you would like regular information on the spread of Covid-19 and the measures being taken in countries across the world, then I very much recommend the down-to-earth daily updates provided by Dr John Campbell. Today he begins by reading one of the most heart-rending letters imaginable from a nurse working on the frontline in Italy:

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On March 15th, George Galloway invited NHS Consultant, Dr Ranjeet Brar, to speak about the threat posed by a rapidly accelerating number of coronavirus cases and difficulties now facing the health service. He also talks at length about the Malthusian ethos informing the government initial decision to sacrifice numbers of our elderly and infirm for the sake of developing ‘herd immunity’ (something that may not even be achievable for a coronavirus outbreak):

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On March 18th, Going Underground invited Professor Rupert Read, Associate Professor of Philosophy and spokesman for Extinction Rebellion (an organisation I do not have a great deal of time for – for the record) to discuss the British government’s lamentable response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Read also expresses his dismay at Boris Johnson’s decision to adopt a ‘herd immunity’ response knowing it would inevitably result in hundreds of thousands of Britons dying. They also talked about how the UK government response is completely at odds with the rest of the world and how the British population is actually leading the government in terms of its own response to tackling the spread of coronavirus infection:

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On March 18th, Novara Media invited Steve Turner, Assistant General Secretary (AGS) of Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union, Unite the Union, to join them in an extended discussion about the potential economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, how it impacts working class people, and how organised labour needs to respond:

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On April 8th, Yanis Varoufakis joined Aaron Bastani and Michael Walker on Novara Media’s Tysky Sour to discuss what he calls “the tragedy of errors”:

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