Another remarkable Trump speech

Here.

I don’t agree that Trump is defeating The Virus, as he claims. I think it is fizzling out of its own accord. I therefore think that he overdoes the criticism of China, on this particular score. But otherwise, amazing.

I was particularly interested in the bit near the end, where he said:

As President I am proudly putting America first, just as you should be putting your countries first. That’s okay, That’s what you should be doing.

This is something people have always got wrong about Trump. He does admire people like Putin. But this is not because he is a Putin agent of influence, as some anti-Trumpists have absurdly claimed. It is because he admires Putin for fighting Russia’s corner. But Trump isn’t be fighting Russia’s corner. He’s fighting America’s corner.

The manner of the speech’s delivery was also interesting. He just read it out, with no gaps during which anyone might try to heckle. He didn’t seek rapport with his audience, like at one of his rallies. There was a distinct undercurrent of “I don’t give a fuck what you evil bastards think about this, and I’m taking no questions, I’m just telling you how it now is” about the whole thing. I’ve been waiting all my life for an American President willing to talk in this manner to the assembly of (mostly) pompous and tyrannical scumbags that is the “United Nations”. It’s a different world, I tell you. As Patrick Crozier and I talked about in this conversation, Trump is conferring respect upon millions of Americans who have been denied it by their self-appointed betters. Crucially, he is also withdrawing respect from the over-respected “global elite”, and never more so than in this speech. And his voters will be loving it.

Roll on the thermonuclear landslide.

Tom Harwood on the party politics of Covid

Tom Harwood, tweeting in response to a Guido tweet reporting that Starmer will support all government Covid restrictions:

On the areas it might be useful to have an opposition, we have no opposition.

I agree.

Where are the voices asking at what point do lockdown measures cost more than Covid?

No, that’s rather wrong. Lockdown is not only harming everything else; it is also doing no good on the Covid front at all. The only good thing you can say about these measures is that they are failing to accomplish their purpose. They are not stopping the spread of Covid, which is good, because the sooner Covid has done its spreading, the sooner this nonsense will be over with.

The cost of Covid itself will be what it will be. Whether the frenetic failure to control Covid will cost more than Covid itself is a way to dramatise the costs of this failure, so good in that way, but not the basic point. Which is that these restrictions are doing no good whatsoever, and costing us all a fortune, and should accordingly end. Whether Covid is nasty (I think it is quite nasty and very nasty indeed for those clobbered by it), or in particular is nasty compared to the cost of the restrictions, is only being vehemently argued about by people who don’t understand the essence of this argument.

But the essence of Harwood’s argument is that there ought to be some political opposition happening, and that’s right.

Harwood’s tweet then adds, and ends with, another potent party political point:

You’d think if there ever were a niche for the Lib Dems this would be it but they dropped liberalism long ago.

Just what I had not been thinking. When did I stop despising the LibDems and start ignoring them?

I think I just fisked a tweet.

I just googled “casedemic”

A significant slice of my most recent traffic has been coming to these two postings, both of them involving that word. Casedemic. So, I’m giving the public what it wants and doing another such posting. You cannot now switch on a news channel without being told about a surge in “cases” of The Plague, but you are liable to wait in vain to learn how many people are actually dying of it, or even if any great number of people are even seriously ill. I don’t doubt that both numbers are now somewhat more than zero, but there’s a lot of difference between not zero and a lot. I am not the only one to have been noticing this. I’m not the only one who can interrogate the Internet about such matters.

Today, I did what I have been doing each morning for a while now. I googled “casedemic”. And there seems to have been surge in that statistic as well. It has suddenly jumped from around 30,000 to around 170,000. I know extremely little about what a search result statistic like that means in any detail, just as I know very little about what it really means to “test positive” for The Plague itself. But it feels like this could mean something.

Bottom line: When this Plague first became a public Thing, everyone I know was genuinely scared and genuinely anxious to do all the right things, both to protect themselves and to avoid making things worse for others. Now, people are more scared of being set upon by officials, and by people who enjoy tormenting strangers, for failing to go through the correct motions – not muzzling themselves or not staying apart from each other. They aren’t scared of the actual Plague any more.

When I got my hair cut recently, I realised, after the guy had finished, that I hadn’t muzzled myself. I said I hoped this had not been a worry. Oh no, do as you please, was the answer. I cannot even remember if the guy himself was muzzled or not.

Perhaps equally tellingly, I am now suffering in a very mild form a few of what could conceivably be symptoms of The Plague, as one does from time to time. Cough, mild headache, slight aversion to morning coffee, that kind of thing. But, if I were to get tested for The Plague, and if I “tested positive”, then I would perhaps be interrogated about all my social contacts during the last fortnight and obliged to cause trouble for all of my closest friends, friends who have lives they are already struggling to keep on track or to get back on track. Also, I might be put under house arrest. Probably none of that would happen, because the people whose job it might or might not be to inflict such processes don’t have their hearts in this stuff either, not any more. But why take the risk? So, I’m just waiting to get better.

It’s not – repeat not – that people are merely “tired”, as in tired of the actual Plague. Most of Britain’s civilian population were tired of World War II by 1941 at the latest. But, horrible and dispiriting though it was, that was a war that made sense to almost all of the Brits, all the way through, from the day it started in 1939 until the day it ended in 1945, and for that matter ever since. It is – repeat is – that nobody any longer believes that this Plague has been what they first said it might be, and we are tired of being mucked about by people who seem more concerned to retro-justify their earlier panic than to be doing the appropriate thing now. Which would be to say, okay everyone panic over.

By the way, I do think they panicked. I don’t think there’s been much in the way of conspiracy, and certainly not to begin with. Sean Gabb has done a good piece about his, which I noticed because it was Quotulated. Read, as we bloggers say, the whole thing.

LATER: Now (1pm in Britain) the number has gone down from 170,000 to 48,000. So maybe what I caught was what had piled up in one day. Nevertheless, there does seem to be a big uptick, from 30,000 to 48,000.

Nico Metten describes the “casedemic”

Facebook friend and actual friend Nico Metten, on Facebook, puts the case against “cases”:

One very simple thing for everyone to understand. Cases mean nothing. Deaths is what counts. There is no uptick in deaths. There isn’t even an uptick in cases. They are simply testing more. If I sample 1000 random people and count how many are female I might get something like 502. Now I sample 2000 people and I get something like 998. Headline reading “NUMBER OF WOMEN IN SOCIETY DOUBLED ON MONDAY”. No it did not. And that is what is going on with COVID cases. They have increased the number of tests. It is not rocket science, so why are so many people missing this? NUMBER OF CASES ARE MEANINGLESS.

Nico wrote that only for his Facebook friends. Hope he doesn’t mind me copying and pasting it here.

I am not hearing the British government answering this sort of objection, and the longer they seem to be ignoring it, the more I will suspect that they can’t answer it. If they have responded, good, and please tell me about it.

A couple of recommendations for understanding The Plague

I am no doubt biased, by my libertarian politics to start with, and by the guesses I have already expressed in (what passes for me as) public. Nevertheless, for whatever it may be worth, I found this article, and, unusually, also its quite numerous comments, about why the world became so bent out of shape by this Plague, to be very intelligent. It’s more a panic than a conspiracy, he says. Which fits what I’ve been thinking.

And now I am listening to a man whose nickname is the Vaccine Pope, speaking with Ivor Cummins, whom I have been following on Twitter.

Getting old but also getting better

About a fortnight ago now, I suddenly started feeling pains in my lower back and stomach. They kind of meandered around, but centred on a spot just above my right buttock. After a few days of this not getting any better, I rang my GP – well, my “Medical Centre” – and described my symptoms to a receptionist. She promised that a doctor would ring back around midday, and when a doctor duly rang back and I again described my symptoms, he said, can you come in and see me in half a hour? Bending down to pick things up was very painful, but standing upright and merely walking I could do. So, I walked over to the Medical Centre, and within a few hours of my first call, I got the verdict. (There are lots of complaints doing the rounds now about how the NHS has been bent out of shape by the Plague, but for me, when it came to the NHS at least paying attention to me and my discomforts rather than just telling me to come back in a couple of months time, it seemed to be working pretty well. Maybe it was the hint of a possible emergency about my symptoms that got their interest.)

So anyway, yes, the doctor duly examined me and bent my legs around and checked how it felt. Doctor stuff. And his verdict was: Nothing serious. Just a strained muscle. Me: How soon will it stop hurting? A week? Doctor: A bit more than that I’m afraid.

Basically what he was saying was: It’s nothing serious. You’ll get better soon. Not as soon as you would like, but soon.

For the next few days, the pain continued, and I put up with it as best I could and as I had to, learning new skills for moving myself up and down by the use of my still fully functioning arms. Getting out of bed and into an upright position when I got up in the morning was the trickiest and most painful manoeuvre. Anything which required my stomach to exert itself, like putting on trousers or shoes, was hurtful. Getting up out of a chair meant pushing myself up with my hands and arms. I adapted.

But then, right on time and as if hypnotised by the doctor, my body checked the calendar, noted that the ordained time of somewhat more than a week had now elapsed, and I started getting better. Yesterday was painful. Today, it was just a dull and diminishing ache. This afternoon, I went out shopping in Tottenham Court Road. I did things like sit down in a tube train, get up out of a seat in the tube train, walk briskly along Tottenham Court Road. No problems. The worst thing was that it was raining, and the few photos I took were rather gloomy and blurry. Also, the tube train back was too hot, which doesn’t go well with being a bit damp when you get into it.

The relief I felt at this moderate but definite improvement in my bodily circumstances was considerable. When you are young and you get an illness or injury, the only question is: When will it stop? That it will stop and that you’ll soon be back and firing on all cylinders is not in doubt. But when I started recovering today, I realised that I had been semi-fearing that … this was it. This, the pain I had gone to see the doctor about, was what living inside my body was going to feel like from now on. The only thing that would change this would be when things took another turn for the even worse. That is what, in a dull, getting old sort of way, I had been fearing. I wasn’t caste down into utter gloom. After all, you expect this sort of thing as you age, and so far in my life I’ve been very lucky with such things. But, I had feared that this episode would go far worse than it now seems to be going, that is, that having gone rather bad it would stay rather bad from then on, until such time as it got even worse. What if the doctor had been sparing me the worst about how it could all go? What if he was simply wrong? But it now seems that not only was his speed in seeing me very speedy; he also judged my condition accurately.

And the relief I’ve been feeling today, also in a dull, getting old sort of way, has been, as I say, considerable.

A bike and a back ache

Today I photoed this guy and his bike, with his permission:

But not his face, although he didn’t seem to mind about that.

I went to the Pedal Me website, but am still none the wiser about the exact relationship between pedal power and e-power that is going on here. What I think is happening is that pedalling does happen, but it creates electricity, and the bike itself is powered by an e-motor. But what do I know? The website is for the benefit of the sort of people who already know, or who don’t care. I should have asked this guy.

A reason I failed to was that I was preoccupied at the time, with my own health or lack of it. These photos were photoed just outside the Victoria Medical Centre, a walk away from me in Wilton Road, which I had been in to find out what was wrong with my back. I’ve had a back ache for about a week, which refuses to go away. Why? Turns out I have a back ache. As in: not a hernia or an appendix misbehaving in a way that would precipitate surgery. Just a muscle strain. Give it a few weeks and it’ll get better, said the doctor. Is walk good? Necause I can still do that pretty comfortably. Yes, he said. So I will be trying, weather permitting, and I promise nothing, to be doing quite a bit of that in the next few weeks.

Because of the above, that recorded conversation between Patrick Crozier and me about The Kink has yet to be recorded. That’s happen when it happens.

Had it not been for The Kink, there’d be no medical centre like the Victoria Medical Centre, and no complicated bicycles like the one in the above photos. Also, no digital cameras such as the one I used to photo the bicycle. So, I am grateful for large mercies, despite my back aching. But, thank goodness I don’t have to ride such a bike myself.

Will you SURVIVE THE PLAGUE?

I’ve just been meandering through the photo-archives, trying to find out when was my last totally pre-Covid walkabout. Not even any vaguely threatening headlines, just life as we knew it before … it. And it would appear that the last time I was able thus to indulge was on February 5th. I went looking for just one fun photo that would celebrate this bygone age, and it was no contest:

Nothing says definitely-before-You-Know-What like an advert for a Plague-based entertainment, for tourists, on a bus, on Westminster Bridge. And not a face mask in sight. Any more than there were face masks in any other of my photos that day. (The above graphic still survives at the London Dungeon Website.)

The next time I ventured out was on the 24th of that month, to Middlesex University, to hear a talk given by Steve Davies. And I distinctly recall how mention was made of how the fear of You Know What had definitely slimmed down the size of the audience. Maybe it had, maybe it hadn’t. Maybe it was just a slim audience. But my point is, we were already talking about it by then.

Oddly enough, I’m damn near certain that at an earlier talk I heard Davies give, at the IEA, well before the Plague struck, Davies was asked in the Q&A about what the next chunk of history might consist of, and he included in his reply a reference to possible plagues. We’re due one, he said. That’s how I remember it anyway.

Matt Ridley tells how vaccination became established in England

I have started reading Matt Ridley’s book about How Innovation Works. Here (pages 50-55) is his description of how vaccinating people against smallpox went from being fiercely criticised by the medical experts of the time, to becoming standard medical practice:

In the same year that Thomas Newcomen was building his first steam engine, 1712, and not far away, a more romantic episode was in train, and one that would indirectly save even more lives. It was much higher up the social scale. Lady Mary Pierrepoint, a well-read, headstrong young woman of twenty-three, was preparing to elope in order to escape the prospect of a dull marriage. Her wealthy suitor, Edward Wortley Montagu, with whom she had carried on a voluminous correspondence characterized by furious disagreement as well as outrageous flirtation, had failed to agree a marriage settlement with her even wealthier father, the Earl (later Duke) of Kingston. But the prospect of being forced by her father to marry instead a pecunious dullard, the Honourable Clotworthy Skeffington, persuaded Mary to rekindle the romance with Wortley (as she called him). She proposed elopement, and he, despite thus missing out on her dowry, and in a fit of uncharacteristic impetuosity, agreed. The episode turned to farce: he was late, she set off for the rendezvous alone, he overtook her at an inn but did not realize she was there, but after further mishaps they found each other and married on 15 October 1712 in Salisbury.

After this romantic start the marriage was a disappointment, Wortley proving a cold and unimaginative husband. His bride – learned, eloquent and witty – cut a swathe through literary London, writing eclogues with Alexander Pope in the style of Virgil, and befriending the literary lions and social tigers of the day. Joseph Spence would later write: ‘Lady Mary is one of the most extraordinary shining characters in the world; but she shines like a comet; she is all irregular and always wandering. She is the most wise, most imprudent; loveliest, disagreeablest; best natured, cruellest woman in the world.’

Then smallpox marked her skin and made her reputation. This vicious virus, humankind’s greatest killer, was constantly a threat in early-eighteenth-century London. It had recently killed Queen Mary and her nephew, the young Duke of Gloucester, the last Stuart heir to the throne who was not Catholic; it had almost killed the Electress of Hanover, Sophia, and her son George, destined to be the next king of England instead. It killed Lady Mary’s brother in 1714 and very nearly killed her the next year, leaving her badly scarred and lacking in eyelashes, her beauty cruelly ravaged.

But it was smallpox that would bring her lasting fame, for she became one of the first, and certainly one of the most passionate, champions in the Western world of the innovative practice of inoculation. In 1716 her husband was sent as ambassador to Constantinople and Lady Mary accompanied him with her young son. She did not invent inoculation, she did not even bring the news of it for the first time, but being a woman she was able to witness in detail the practice among women cloistered in Ottoman society, and then to champion it back home among mothers terrified for their children, to the point where it caught on. She was an innovator, not an inventor.

Two reports had reached the Royal Society in London from Constantinople of the practice of ‘engrafting’ as a cure for smallpox. According to the correspondents, Emmanuel Timonius and Giacomo Pylarini, both physicians working in the Ottoman Empire, the pus from a smallpox survivor would be mixed with the blood in a scratch on the arm of a healthy person. The reports were published by the Royal Society but dismissed as dangerous superstition by all the experts in London. More likely to spark an epidemic than prevent it; an unconscionable risk to be running with people’s health; an old wives’ tale; witchcraft. Given the barbaric and unhelpful practices of doctors at the time, such as bloodletting, this was both ironic and perhaps understandable.

It seems the Royal Society had been told of the practice even earlier, in 1700, by two correspondents in China, Martin Lister and Clopton Havers. So there was nothing new about this news. But where these doctors failed to persuade the British, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu had better luck. On 1 April 1718 she wrote to her friend Sarah Chiswell from Turkey with a detailed account of inoculation:

The smallpox, so fatal and so general amongst us, is here entirely harmless by the invention of engrafting, which is the term they give it. There is a set of women who make it their business to perform the operation … When they are met (commonly fifteen or sixteen together) the old woman comes with a nutshell full of the matter of the best sort of smallpox, and asks what veins you please to have opened. She immediately rips open that you offer to her with a large needle (which gives you no more pain than a common scratch) and puts into the vein as much venom as can lie upon the head of her needle … There is no example of anyone that has died in it, and you may believe I am well satisfied of the safety of the experiment, since I intend to try it on my dear little son. I am patriot enough to take pains to bring this useful invention into fashion in England.

Lady Mary did indeed engraft her son Edward, anxiously watching his skin erupt in self-inflicted pustules before subsiding into immunized health. It was a brave moment. On her return to London she inoculated her daughter as well, and became infamous for her championing of the somewhat reckless procedure – a sort of version of the trolley problem so beloved of moral philosophers: do you divert a runaway truck from a line where it will kill five people to another line where it will kill one? Do you deliberately take one risk to avoid a greater one? By then, some doctors had joined the cause, notably Charles Maitland. His inoculation of the children of the Prince of Wales in 1722 was a significant moment in the campaign. But even afterwards there was furious denunciation of the barbaric practice. Misogyny and prejudice lay behind some of it, as when Dr William Wagstaffe pronounced: ‘Posterity will scarcely be brought to believe that an experiment practised only by a few ignorant women amongst an illiterate and unthinking people should on a sudden – and upon a slender Experience – so far obtain in one of the politest nations in the world as to be received into the Royal Palace.’

In America, the practice of inoculation arrived around the same time, through the testimony of an African slave named Onesimus, who told the Boston preacher Cotton Mather about it, possibly as early as 1706, who in turn informed the physician Zabdiel Boylston. For trying inoculation on 300 people, Boylston was subject to fierce criticism and life-threatening violence, abetted by rival physicians to the point where he had to hide for fourteen days in a secret closet lest the mob kill him. Innovation often requires courage.

In due course inoculation with smallpox itself – later known as variolation – was replaced by the safer but similar practice of vaccination, that is to say, using a related but less dangerous virus than smallpox, an innovation usually credited to Edward Jenner. In 1796 he deliberately infected an eight-year-old boy, James Phipps, with cowpox from blisters on the hands of a milkmaid called Sarah Nelmes, who had caught it from a cow called Blossom. He then tried to infect Phipps with smallpox itself and showed that he was immune to it. This demonstration proof, not the vaccination itself, was his real contribution and the reason he had such an impact. The idea of deliberately giving people cowpox to immunize them against smallpox was by then already thirty years old. It had been tried by a physician named John Fewster in 1768, and by several other doctors in Germany and England in the 1770s. It was already probably in use among farmers before that date.

So, yet again, innovation proves to be gradual and to begin with the unlettered and ordinary people, before the elite takes the credit. That is perhaps a little unfair on Jenner, who, like Lady Mary Wortley, deserves fame for persuading the world to adopt the practice. Napoleon, despite being at war with Britain, had his armies vaccinated, on the strength of Jenner’s advocacy, and awarded Jenner a medal, calling him ‘one of the greatest benefactors of mankind’.

Transparent plague mask

This actually looks like a pretty good idea:

I found it at This Is Wny I’m Broke, which I make a point of checking out from time to time.

The thing is, masks are annoying, one of the most annoying things about them being that we can’t see lips move when we are talking to each other. The Plague spreads best in confined spaces with prolonged social contact, which is also how a lot of chatting is done. So the temptation is to dump the mask just when it might make a real difference.