Category Archives: Social Engineering

Evidence of foolishness

Some of the comments attached to this article are classic. mrossol

Unherd  5/11/2021  by James Carden

Mask wearing and reverence for Dr. Anthony Fauci have become the twin pillars of Washington DC’s civic religion.

Consider what happened in the District earlier this month. Our mayor, Muriel Bowser, and the city’s public health officials decided that the time had come to lift the mask mandate. As of last Friday the city would allow fully the vaccinated to gather inside without a mask.

The order was rescinded almost immediately. The new order then went further, allowing businesses to ask for proof of vaccination. Even more preposterously the city has also enacted a ban on dancing at weddings (nor are guests allowed to stand during cocktail hour).

What exactly is going on here? It seems the thought of returning to some semblance of normalcy is too much for city officials to even contemplate. In DC the civic religion reigns supreme — even of course if that means not, in this particular case, following the science.

It is emblematic of the hyper-cautious attitude of liberals to the pandemic. Born out of a dismay at the former president’s cavalier attitude towards the virus, liberals in blue states like mine have taken their reverence for Dr Fauci to new extremes.

Everywhere you look in the tonier precincts of our fair capital one sees the posters and placards and pictures: ‘Thank you Dr. Fauci!’ A house I passed by in Georgetown even had its front door covered in pictures of the good Doctor.

There is something peculiar about the way in which this new cult of personality has arisen. How have we gotten to the point where the media and many ordinary citizens have taken to treating Dr. Fauci as a kind of divine figure, as an object of veneration and awe? After all, this is a man who said that he wouldn’t travel or eat at restaurants even though he’s fully vaccinated (CDC guidance says that these activities are safe for vaccinated people who take precautions).

[These are] Washingtonians who refuse to recognise that the time to move along from the Covid crisis is upon us. Following the science is no way to order a society, and it is an even worse way to order your priorities as a human being. Science is not, has never been and never will be infallible. The unctuous worshipping of an aged public health official and wearing a mask on an empty street in the middle of the night is not evidence of morality: it is evidence of foolishness.


Professor Explains Flaw in Many Models Used for COVID-19 Lockdown Policies

The much better solution for COVID is providing good, complete (at any given point in time) information, data, etc and letting people make decisions about their own actions. mrossol

The Epoch Times, By ANDREW CHEN  May 10, 2021


Economics professor Doug Allen wanted to know why so many early models used to create COVID-19 lockdown policies turned out to be highly incorrect. What he found was that a great majority were based on false assumptions and “tended to over-estimate the benefits and under-estimate the costs.” He found it troubling that policies such as total lockdowns were based on those models.

“They were built on a set of assumptions. Those assumptions turned out to be really important, and the models are very sensitive to them, and they turn out to be false,” said Allen, the Burnaby Mountain Professor of Economics at Simon Fraser University, in an interview.

Allen says most of the early cost-benefit studies that he reviewed didn’t try to distinguish between mandated and voluntary changes in people’s behaviour in the face of a pandemic. Rather, they just assumed an exponential growth of cases of infection day after day until herd immunity is reached.

In a paper he published in April, in which he compiled his findings based on a review of over 80 papers on the effects of lockdowns around the world, Allen concluded that lockdowns may be one of “the greatest peacetime policy failures in Canada’s history.

He says many of the studies early in the pandemic assumed that human behaviour changes only as a result of state-mandated intervention, such as the closing of schools and non-essential businesses, mask and social distancing orders, and restrictions on private social gatherings.

However, they didn’t take into consideration people’s voluntary behavioural changes in response to the virus threat, which have a major impact on evaluating the merits of a lockdown policy.

“Human beings make choices, and we respond to the environment that we’re in, [but] these early models did not take this into account,” Allen said. “If there’s a virus around, I don’t go to stores often. If I go to a store, I go to a store that doesn’t have me meeting so many people. If I do meet people, I tend to still stand my distance from them. You don’t need lockdowns to induce people to behave that way.”

Allen’s own cost-benefit analysis is based on the calculation of “life-years saved,” which determines “how many years of lost life will have been caused by the various harms of lockdowns versus how many years of lost life were saved by lockdowns.”

Based on his lost-life calculation, lockdown measures have caused 282 times more harm than benefit to Canadian society over the long term, or 282 times more life years lost than saved.

Today, some 14 months into the pandemic, many jurisdictions across Canada are still following the same policy trajectory outlined at the beginning of the pandemic. Allen attributes this to politics.

He says that politicians often take credit for having achieved a reduction in case numbers through their lockdown measures.

“I think it makes perfect sense why they do exactly what they did last year,” Allen said.

“If you were a politician, would you say, ‘We’re not going to lock down because it doesn’t make a difference, and we actually did the equivalent of killing 600,000 people this last year.’”

You wouldn’t, he said, because “the alternative is they [politicians] have to admit that they made a mistake, and they caused … multiple more loss of life years than they saved.”

Allen laments that media for the most part have carried only one side of the debate on COVID-19 restrictions and haven’t examined the other side. Adding to the concern, he says, is that views contrary to the official government response are often pulled from social media platforms.

He says he has heard that even his own published study has been censored by some social media sites.

“In some sense these are private platforms. They can do what they want. But on the other hand, I feel kind of sad that we live in the kind of a world where posing opposing opinions is either dismissed, ignored, or … name-called, [and] in some ways cancelled,” Allen said.


The Report That Shook Britain’s Race Lobby

WSJ  4/10/2021

If you’re an American who worries that your country’s influence is waning, you may not be heartened to learn that it isn’t. After last year’s killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, angry demonstrators in Britain, emulating Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S., took to city streets. Some committed acts of vandalism. In the port city of Bristol, a statue of a local 17th-century philanthropist was toppled because he also traded in slaves. In London’s Parliament Square, the words “Was a Racist” were daubed on the plinth of Winston Churchill’s statue.

In July the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded by impaneling the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. “We decided to step away from the heat and all that vitriol,” says its chairman, Tony Sewell, “and just take a cold look at the data on racism.” In doing so, “we examined ideas that weren’t to be questioned,” namely “the race industry’s articles of faith.” In its March 31 report, the commission concluded that while Britain isn’t yet “a post-racial society,” neither is it any longer a place where “the system” is “deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities.”

As a result, Mr. Sewell, who is black—only one of the 10 other commissioners is white—has come under blistering attack. It ranges from the achingly predictable (a profusion of “Uncle Tom” accusations on Twitter ) to the grotesque. A Cambridge professor of postcolonial studies likened Mr. Sewell to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. A Labour member of Parliament suggested that he belonged in the Ku Klux Klan. Add in put-downs like “house Negro,” “token” and “race traitor,” and you have a picture of the liberal rage ignited by the commission’s refusal to endorse the belief that Britain is irremediably racist.

Mr. Sewell, 62, runs a charity that coaches black schoolchildren in science and math. “It’s a STEM pipeline program,” he says via Zoom from the study of his house in London. “It starts when they’re young and takes them up to university, using summer schools.” Thousands of black kids have been given a college opportunity they “didn’t have in the first place.” Yet he’s called an “Uncle Tom.”

He characterizes the abuse as “a sort of antiracism that borders on racism.” He also detects some desperation, “not only in black lobby groups but on the white left”: “they’re frightened of the report.” Since few ordinary citizens will read its 258 pages, its opponents have busied themselves spreading “distortions” in a bid to capture public opinion. He singles out the leftist Guardian newspaper, which published a sweeping condemnation by David Olusoga, a historian of slavery, who scorns the report as “poisonously patronising” and “historically illiterate.”

Born in London’s Brixton district, where his Jamaican parents settled after immigrating in 1957, Mr. Sewell says the country was harsh and racist, “harder than anything they had ever experienced.” He felt the sting of racism in his youth. But Britain has “come a very long way in the last 50 years.”

The report echoes that point, observing that “there is a salience and attention to race equality in the U.K. in policy-making, and in the media, which is seldom found in other European countries” and asserting that the success of much of Britain’s nonwhite population “should be regarded as a model for other White-majority countries.”

Mr. Sewell says his team was careful to take a “fact-based approach” to their examination of Britain’s racial questions. In an obvious reference to activists and lobbies of the left, the report bemoans the “reluctance” in Britain to acknowledge that the country has “become open and fairer,” and singles out for attention “an increasingly strident form of anti-racism thinking that seeks to explain all minority disadvantage through the prism of White discrimination.”

The report also questions the value of some cherished racial shibboleths: Do repeated assertions that the “dominant feature” of British society is institutional racism and white privilege “achieve anything beyond alienating the decent centre ground”? If every problem in society is attributed to racism, Mr. Sewell asks, “how can Britain ever be a country at peace with itself?”

The report acknowledges disparities between races in Britain. But whites aren’t uniformly at an advantage, and Mr. Sewell and his commissioners part company with the race lobby, which blames racism for all differences between ethnic groups in education, health, prosperity and crime. Instead, the report argues that many of these disparities arise from differences in economic class, geography, family patterns and culture.

Black Caribbean children perform worse in British schools than those of any other group. “For years,” Mr. Sewell says, “it has been said that this is explained in terms of teachers’ racism.” Yet black African students—“same age, same demographic, same classroom”—had academic achievement rates higher than those of whites. In fact, he says, all ethnic groups other than Caribbean blacks perform better than white British students, with the exception of Pakistanis, who are on par with whites.

Mr. Sewell says that you can’t understand ethnic differences in outcome—particularly in education and crime—without focusing on what he calls “family strain,” the effect of single-parent families. “This is the first time we’ve ever had a race report,” he says, “that looks at the family and links disparities to the family.” Race activists, he explains, “just take all questions about single-parent families off the table.”

It’s a distant echo of the U.S. in 1965, when Assistant Labor Secretary Daniel Patrick Moynihan prompted controversy with his seminal report, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” But Mr. Sewell emphasizes the differences between the American and British experiences with race. “I think it’s dangerous to compare the two places,” he says. “I do think there are very specific issues in the U.S. that come out of having a society that was based on slavery inside that country. Britain isn’t built like that, and blacks here haven’t got that same length of time that black Americans have been in their own country.” He also says that the U.S. has a “significant black middle class that Britain doesn’t really have.”

Although it deals with family structure in less detail than the Moynihan report, the Sewell report contains sobering numbers. While 14.7% of all British families are single-parent units, the share is 63% in the black Caribbean community. Britons of Indian origin have the lowest single-parent incidence—only 6%. Mr. Sewell says these numbers are like tinder in public debates on race. If he were to go on TV and observe that 6 of 10 black Caribbean children grow up with only one parent, he would “be shot down for stigmatizing the single parent and blaming the victim. The headlines would say, ‘Commissioner Blames Single Parents.’ Actually, no—they would say, ‘Commissioner Attacks Single Parents.’ ”

Mr. Sewell stresses that he has “no problems, in and of itself, with the single-parent design,” but single parents “are not getting the support they need” and that the commission recommends they receive. Absent any acknowledgment of the sociocultural strain such families face, there is no policy to provide them with “therapeutic assistance, conflict management and educational support.” When their children underperform at school and are later incarcerated, racism is the catchall explanation.

A notable recommendation of the Sewell report is that Britain abandon the ugly acronym BAME, which stands for “black, Asian and minority ethnic.” Numbers from the most recent U.K. census, conducted in 2011, indicate that 7.5% of the population is Asian (0.7% Chinese, most of the rest from the Indian subcontinent), 3.3% black (of whom one-third are of Caribbean origin), and 86% white. “We need to disaggregate the term ‘BAME.’ ” Mr. Sewell says. This ethnic portmanteau “just lumps everyone together.” He offers examples: “The category ‘Asian’ includes prosperous Gujarati consultants in London and impoverished Pakistani taxi drivers in Bradford.” Within the “black” cohort, the Caribbean school-expulsion rate is 3.5 times that of Africans. “The idea that all ethnic minority people suffer a common disadvantage is an anachronism,” Mr. Sewell says. Forty percent of Britain’s medical clinicians are Indian: “This last fact isn’t celebrated, by the way. This is hidden.”

Perhaps the report’s most striking aspect is its emphasis on class and geography as more powerful drivers than race of disadvantage in Britain. “Of course, once you start shifting the template,” he says, “you get accused of race denial. And then you become an ‘apologist’ for racism in the eyes of the critics.” Yet with a focus on class, says Mr. Sewell, “we’re able to bring everybody together, including the white poor—what we might call the British deplorables, to use Hillary Clinton’s remark.”

A race-centered narrative lumps white people together. This is a problem, he says, “especially when you talk about white privilege, and you have white people in Britain who are doing worse than everyone else in health, education and employment. . . . You can’t ignore disadvantaged whites, even if the race lobby thinks you’re watering down their issue.”

Mr. Sewell isn’t surprised by the venom that’s been directed against him. A network of charities, consultants, researchers, academic departments and political activists are “literally invested” in keeping the idea of racism alive. “People have a financial stake in this area, so there’s a sense that they’ve got to protect their own base.”

Yet Mr. Sewell acknowledges that racism can’t be wholly eliminated. “I’m not that naive,” he says. “But what I do think you can do is to build a society where those people who experience it are protected.” Fairness is the key—for blacks, whites and everybody else. He worries that Britain’s “young people are growing cynical” by internalizing the lobby groups’ insistence that “the door is closed” on the basis of race.

“Our message is that the door is open”—that Britain is, or at least aspires to be, a society “where, genuinely, everybody gets a chance, where everybody gets a fair opportunity.”

Mr. Varadarajan, a Journal contributor, is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and at New York University Law School’s Classical Liberal Institute.


Lord Sumption: civil disobedience has begun

I suggest that Lord Jonathan Sumption’s warnings should move us to action. mrossol

UnHerd 3/4/2021

On civil disobedience:

“Sometimes the most public spirited thing that you can do with despotic laws like these is to ignore them. I think that if the government persists long enough with locking people down, depending on the severity of the lockdown, civil disobedience is likely to be the result. It will be discrete civil disobedience in the classic English way — I don’t think that we are likely to go onto the streets waving banners. I think we will just calmly decide that we are not going to pay any attention to this. There are some things you have to pay attention to: you can’t go to a shop if it’s closed. On the other hand, you can invite friends round for a drink, whatever Mr Hancock says. People are doing that to some extent already.

“Everyone will have their own different threshold. But I think that in the eyes of many people who disapprove of the lockdown, and some people who approve of it, we’ve reached that point quite a long time ago.”

On the ethics of law-breaking:

“I feel sad that we have the kind of laws which public-spirited people may need to break. I have always taken a line on this, which is probably different from that of most of my former colleagues. I do not believe that there is a moral obligation to obey the law… You have to have a high degree of respect, both for the object that the law is trying to achieve, and for the way that it’s been achieved. Some laws invite breach. I think this is one of them.”

On sacrificing civil liberties:

“[Thomas] Hobbes believed in the absolute state — it didn’t have to be a monarchy, but it had to be absolute. He said that there was nothing short of the state actually killing people that the state should not be entitled to do. He was not, let us say, a believer in liberty. This is because of his experience of the anarchy which flowed from the civil war in England. Hobbes believed that we resign our freedoms unconditionally and permanently into the hands of the state, in return for security. Now, this is a model which ever since the rise of a recognisable form of modern Liberalism in the middle of the 19th century, has been almost universally rejected. But we have tended to revert to it during the current crisis. And I think that that is a very striking and very sinister development.

On the dangers of public fear:

“John Stuart Mill regarded public sentiment and public fear as the principal threat to a liberal democracy. The tendency would be for it to influence policies in a way that whittles away the island within which we are entitled to control our lives to next to nothing. That’s what he regarded as the big danger. It didn’t happen in his own lifetime; it has happened in many countries in the 20th century, and it’s happening in Britain now.”

On the fragility of democracy:

“Democracy is inherently fragile. We have an idea that it’s a very robust system. But democracies have existed for about 150 years. In this country, I think you could say that they existed from the second half of the of the 19th century — they are not the norm. Democracies were regarded in ancient times as inherently self-destructive ways of government. Because, said Aristotle, democracies naturally turn themselves into tyranny. Because the populace will always be a sucker for a demagogue who will turn himself into an absolute ruler…

“Now, it is quite remarkable that Aristotle’s gloomy predictions about the fate of democracies have been falsified by the experience of the West ever since the beginning of democracy. And I think one needs to ask why that is. In my view, the reason is this: Aristotle was basically right about the tendencies, but we have managed to avoid it by a shared political culture of restraint. And this culture of restraint, which because it depends on the collective mentality of our societies, is extremely fragile, quite easy to destroy and extremely difficult to recreate.”

On being a liberal:

“I regard myself as a liberal with a small L. Until the Covid outbreak, that was a very middle of the road position to be in. Since the outbreak, it’s become controversial, even in some people’s minds extreme. This is, I think, some indication of how far our national conversation has moved.”

On what the Government should learn:

My first proposal is that governments should not treat information as a tool for manipulating public behaviour. They should be calmer than the majority of their citizens; they should be completely objective. My second lesson would be that governments dealing with scientific issues should not allow themselves to be influenced by a single caucus of scientists. They should always test what they are being told in a way that, for instance, judges test expert opinion by producing a counter expert, and working out which set of views stacks up best.”

On his critics:

“I would very much have preferred the kind of points that I have been consistently making for the last year to have been made by just about anybody else. Those colleagues or former colleagues who disapprove of what I’ve been doing have got a perfectly good point. But there are some issues which are so central to the dilemmas of our time, which are so important, where I think that you have to be prepared to stand up and be counted.