Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Archive for March 2022

What is a woman? (In partial defense of Ketanji Brown Jackson)

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Disclaimer: This defense notwithstanding, I am highly skeptical to her suitability, and I suspect that the true reason for her answer is an attempt to dodge any gender-controversy.

Apparently, during confirmation hearings, SCOTUS-nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson was given the question whether she could define what a woman was. She is now being criticized for answering in the negative—even ridiculed by some (e.g. in [1]).

But is this wrong? My immediate own reaction was that I, too, would be hard pressed to give a good off-the-top-of-my-head definition. (How do you define a sandheap?) Let us say that we go by the general idea that a woman is a human biological female (more on that assumption below). Without controversy, we could then say that a human biological female who is forty years old is a woman. But what about the same female when she was four? Was she already a woman by dint of being a human biological female—or do we have to consider her youth and physical immaturity and call her “girl”? If we conclude “girl”, which seems more reasonable to me, when and where do we draw the line? At first menstruation? When she turned eighteen? When she first had sex? …?

Next, what makes a biological female? Double X chromosomes?* If so, do we only consider XX or do we include combinations with more than two sex chromosomes (as happens on occasion)? Do we require a female phenotype for such combinations? (I am under the impression that XXY presents as male.) What if we have a pure XX who, for some reason, maybe some variation of estrogen insensitivity, has a male phenotype? (Vice version, should we exclude an XY who appears female due to androgen insensitivity?) What about a male/female genetic chimera, which could have XX and XY in different cells within the same body?

*Even discounting that sexual differentiation is not universally based on X and Y chromosomes. This is safe, as human differentiation is (approximately; cf. above) based on this system and as we could go back and replace “biological female” with “has two X chromosomes” or something similar.

Even a biologist might need to tread carefully—which brings me to the next point:

Apparently, she based her inability to answer on not being a biologist. This is interesting, as it implies that being a woman is a matter of biology. She could have said that she was not an expert on e.g. gender-studies or anthropology, but did not—she spoke of not being a biologist. (A very positive surprise.)

Then we have the issue of what questions are appropriate/valuable/whatnot in proceedings like these (also see excursion). Under somewhat normal circumstances, asking a nominee whether she can define “woman” would be absurd, and she might have been justified in outright refusing to answer. In the current climate, of course, we have the problem of various “gender issues” that would have been near unthinkable just a few years ago, e.g. whether young children should be encouraged to begin sex-change programs, whether biological males (i.e. men) should be allowed to compete with (real) women on the grounds that they would have preferred to be women (or claim so, to win in a weaker field), etc. This does give the question some justification, but a more direct question, e.g. regarding the importance of biological sex vs self-perceived gender or who should be allowed to compete against whom, would have been better.*

*Disclaimer: I have not followed the hearings in detail. Such questions might have been asked without my being aware of it. If so, however, the wish for a definition, in addition to other answers, seems misplaced, except to the degree that it might have been needed to clarify some detail of another answer. (Then with a more reasonable question being “How would you define [this-or-that]?”.)

Excursion on what to ask:
If I were a participant in the confirmation hearings, my central question would be a check for the right general attitude, through something along the lines of* “Do you swear to forego all judicial activism, to rule according to law and constitution as they are, not as you wish them to be, and to work to fulfill the Supreme Court’s role within the established division of powers, serving as a check-and-balance without attempting to usurp the authority granted to the other branches?”. Any candidate unwilling to do so, I would deem unsuitable. Among those willing, I would likely have no objections unless there were major problems with e.g. qualifications or personal character. Of course, an analogous question should apply to lower courts too. Indeed, I would favor making it an official oath as prerequisite for the respective office, not merely my own personal question. (The formulation is not accidental.)

*Chances are that something better around the same general idea can be found.

Excursion on the need for a differentiation in terminology, etc.:
I stand strongly by the idea that (with reservations for special cases, as mentioned above), we should use “woman” to refer to biological women and “man” to refer to biological men. This is what these words have meant since time immemorial. If e.g. the PC crowd wants to have a word that implies “biological woman or biological man who wants to be a woman”, this is fine—but they must then find another word. It is not acceptable to take a word with an established meaning and one-sidedly give it a new meaning, let alone condemn those who use the correct meaning. For instance, even if the infamous Lia Thomas should be allowed to compete in (what hitherto was) the women’s category, he* still is and remains a man—and, notably, a transgender man, not a transgender woman. He might also be something else covered by this new word, but that does not remove him from the category of men or add him to the category of women. Of course, his hypothetical right to compete should not be forced on the rest of the world by the right of women to compete, but, then, be achieved by a change of classification that replaces a women’s category with a whatnot category that explicitly (!) covers both women and wannabes.

*The same applies, obviously, to pronouns.

In a bigger picture, this is yet another example of a Leftist inability to understand that concepts matter more than words and/or of Leftist attempts to control thoughts and beliefs through abuse of words. If, e.g., a man is allowed* to live as a woman, wear women’s clothes, use make-up, etc.—why would it matter to him whether he is referred to by “he” and “man” or by incorrect labels like “she” and “woman”. I do not flip out on those occasions when German language rules cause a feminine (grammatical gender) noun or pronoun to be used about me, say, “die** Person”, nor do I insist that the rules are bent out of shape to allow e.g. a “der*** Person”. The obsession with forcing such a mislabeling points strongly to agenda pushing instead of a legitimate interest or benefit.

*Why he, even if transgender, would want to, puzzles me to some degree—just like it puzzles me why a woman would want to do quite a few things that women do.

**Female-gender article, as is always the case with female-gender nouns like “Person”.

***Male-gender article, as is never the case with female-gender nouns like “Person”.

Written by michaeleriksson

March 25, 2022 at 8:10 am

Semi-re-opening this blog

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In August 2020, I rather abruptly closed this blog. The result was a considerable drop in texts, but nowhere near the complete stop that I had intended. This for reasons like urgent and important topics, e.g. the 2020 U.S. elections, the ever recurring wish/need for an update on an old topic, the occasional “I must write something about this to relieve my annoyance load”, and similar. (And this even while foregoing a great many updates, potentially interesting new texts, etc.)

In addition, one of the ideas behind the closure was to give me incentives to actually get my website back running, which has yet to happen. (Apart from the work needed, there have been obstacles and annoyances every time that I have begun the attempt that killed my motivation. For instance, my ISP, in the year 2022, still has no SSH access to the server, insisting on FTP or rsync, while my model works by having a version-control repository from which the updates take place. This alone causes extra effort, e.g. throw needing FTP-mounts—and highly avoidable effort, had the ISP been more professional. But then we have issues like FTP-mounts not working as they used to, forcing trouble shooting, and a version drift in the repository software breaking readability, forcing a conversion to a new version/format, and this conversion failing. I have neither the time nor the energy.)

Another complication is that my use of writing as an outlet for the many irritations in life have been diminished, as I have been more limited in topics than before.

As a result, I have decided to try something new: I re-open the blog with the constraint of no more than one text a week. (Not counting occasional corrections/extensions/whatnot, e.g. of the “I forgot to mention” kind; and not counting the current text.)

Written by michaeleriksson

March 24, 2022 at 8:45 pm

Germany not free from COVID-restrictions, after all / Follow-up: More on my current situation (and complaints about politicians)

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A month ago, I wrote:

Yesterday, I read that Germany was finally caving and beginning to lift its destructive and scientifically unfounded restrictions of various kinds. This with the likely additional implication (knock on wood; there was no explicit mention) that the threatened forced vaccinations would be off the table for the time being.

Come Sunday (20th March), in a mere two days, things should have been almost back to normal, after a prolonged phase-out. This appears to not be the case anymore, as the individual states/Bundesländer have the option to use stricter guidelines—and have often chosen to do so. This includes, unfortunately, the state, NRW, in which I live. (And, as always, there is no direct information to the citizens, who have to search for information about what applies or does not apply at any given time.)

As I wrote close to a year ago:

[…] if the [German] federation does not screw something up, count on the Bundesländer to do so; if the Bundesländer do not, count on the municipalities.

To make matters worse, forced vaccinations are still on the table and currently under debate in the German parliament—this despite the current state of scientific knowledge and despite even Austria having backed off. The matter is further complicated/made the more absurd by a timeline that puts the beginning of these vaccinations (in my understanding and should they be decided) at some point in the autumn, when we might have a completely different situation in terms of COVID, vaccines, and/or knowledge of COVID and vaccines.

I am, in fact, contemplating outright leaving Germany, my home for close to 25 years—and have had this contemplation on and off for a long time. The problem? Where should I go? Too many of the obvious candidates in Western Europe and North America have proved themselves highly problematic too. Eastern Europe might be an option, but I do not know the languages and there are a great many uncertainties involved, which might require months of research. (The same applies to most of the non-Western world, while Australia and New Zealand, if anything, appear to be worse than Germany.) Back to Sweden? Maybe; however, while it has handled COVID much better, we still have the extreme dominance of PC and Feminist politics and propaganda.

Nevertheless, Germany has again and again, even before COVID, proven it self to not be a Rechtsstaat and its standing even as a democracy is extremely weak. Moreover, year by year, it has gone further and further towards the Left, forcing me to repeat my observation that today’s Germany has more in common with the DDR of the 1980s than with the BRD of that era. And to imagine that I once left Sweden partially to get away from the Left-dominated politics … Germany, at least, has the advantage that the Left is still tilted a bit more towards the “old” Left (compared to e.g. Sweden)—but how long will that last with the current trends?

(The old Left might be economically naive, entrenched in class thinking and the class-over-the-individual attitude, whatnot; however, the new Left is just insanity from beginning to end.)

The simple truth is that the world is in need of a Great Reset—in very dire need. The Great Reset actually being pushed by the likes of Klaus Schwab, however, is in many ways the exact opposite of what is needed, a taking of old misdevelopments and pushing them yet a few steps further, when a proper reset would push them back.

Written by michaeleriksson

March 18, 2022 at 7:35 pm

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Further problems with freedom of speech, etc.

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After my recent text on Odd reactions around Putin and Russia / Problems with cancellations, freedom of speech, etc. ([1]), it seems that I run into examples of issues with freedom of speech everywhere, especially of the “conform or else” type.

To give some examples:

  1. Swedish blogger Gunnar Wall writes that he and others have been condemned as “farliga” (“dangerous”) och “skadliga” (“harmful”) for questioning the very dubious and widely criitcized quasi-identification* of Stig Engström as the murderer of Olaf Palme and because they “sår tvivel” (“sow doubt[s]”), which society would not need. Should we conclude that it is more important to have an undisputed “truth” than to have a debate about what the (real) truth is? That anything claimed by officials must be taken as true and beyond discussion?

    *See [2] and a number of backlinked texts for more information on my own take.

    Commenter “Michael” (not me) has a particularly insightful comment at “12 mars 2022 kl. 19:45”. A part (and approximate translation) of this long comment:

    Det tycks som om totalitära tänkesätt nästan blivit mode även i västliga demokratier. Anklagelserna mot de som åtminstone försökt […] sakligt klarlägga vad som faktiskt hände den där mordnatten […] faller tillbaka på de som yttrat dem. Att benämna fria debattörer och journalister som både “farliga” och “skadliga” är oanständigt i en demokrati. Har man invändningar eller tycker att något inte stämmer bemöter man på ett civiliserat och sakligt sätt. Absolut tilltro till staten är minst lika farlig som dess absoluta motsats.

    Translation:

    It appears that the totalitarian way of thinking has become fashionable even in Western democracies. The accusations against those who at least have tried […] to factually clarify what actually happened during the night of the murder […] condemns* the accusers. To call independent debaters and journalists “dangerous” and “harmful” is indecent in a democracy. If one has objections, or believes that something is wrong, one meets them** in a civilized and factual manner. Absolute trust in the state is at least as dangerous as the opposite.

    *Literally, “falls back on”. Think “I’m rubber; you’re glue”.

    **The “them” is arguably an interpolation. Both “them” and “meets” are slightly speculative for “bemöter”.

  2. A U.S. source claims that the DHS will target those with non-conforming opinions, specifically those with concerns over the 2020 elections and the official COVID claims. This despite the former being very legitimate and despite the latter being highly problematic. Notably, problems with COVID claims include repeated changes* to the official line and valid scientific criticisms that have not been debated with facts and arguments but attacked with “Fake news! Fake news!”.

    *That the official position changes in light of more information is not a problem; however, such changes (a) validate prior criticism, (b) clearly imply that other claims might turn out to be in need of revision or be outright faulty—and must therefore be open to criticism.

    Based on what I have seen of the U.S. in the Biden era, and often before that, this is more likely to be a bad-faith political attack on the Conservatives than a good-faith attempt at anything. (The source, Gateway Pundit, should be taken with a grain of salt in its interpretations, as it is almost as partial, in the other direction, as most of MSM. However, I have seen enough from other sources and my own observations to not give the DHS the benefit of the doubt here. Indeed, there seems to be a strong drift to mark large areas of non-Leftist opinions (!) as “domestic terrorism”.)

    This is particularly dangerous with regard to the elections, as the result, should this approach be used permanently, is that even a clearly fraudulent election, as when a Socialist dictator gains 99 percent of the votes, could not be criticized. Effectively: We have a count from the election—and that count must be accepted, no matter what irregularities, miscounting, misreporting, ballot harvesting, whatnot, took place. Democracy, my ass!

  3. Multiple sources concern how DeSantis is pushing a bill to remove opportunities for early brainwashing of children in Florida. Firstly, this bill appears to hava been grossly misrepresented by the Left as a “don’t say gay” bill. (The more absurd, as the Left is far more likely to push for the ban of words and phrases and/or to prescribe other words and phrases than the non-Left.) Secondly, extremely childish Leftists have made a point, based on this gross misrepresentation, to get into the faces of Republicans and chant “Gay! Gay! Gay!” or to perform similarly idiotic stunts.

    That reality distortion is a core strategy of the Left is nothing new, but this is an extremely illustrative example, both of the type of “we are good and tolerant; they are evil and intolerant” distortions that are so often used (and, as here, often prove the exact opposite in the process), and what type of harassment is considered legitimate or illegitimate based on who is the perpetrator and who is the victim (instead of the act and the facts)—reverse the roles and the same act might be condemned as hate speech. Violate the increasingly far-Left teachings and you will be slandered and mocked.

  4. The Daily Sceptic discusses Roger Harbin and the BBC respectively their anti-scientific take on climate change. The problems include a 2006 unilateral decision that the science would now be settled (of course, with condemnation of gainsayers as “climate deniers” or some other derogatory term) and odd terminology changes like replacing “global warming” with “global heating”.

    The latter is not only extremely misleading in its natural connotations*, but (according to the article) was brought on by a lack of warming over a prolonged time—absent what we warn of, we must warn the harder and use the more alarming words, lest our support diminishes. (Note that this well matches my observations on the Left, e.g. in that Feminists cry the louder how disadvantaged women would be the less disadvantaged they actually are—let alone when women are actually advantaged, as in e.g. my native Sweden, where public debate might create the impression of 19th-century conditions for women.)

    *Contrast e.g. “warm day/air/water” with “hot day/air/water” with an eye at the temperatures involved. Indeed, with water as a baseline, even “teppid” might be an exaggeration.

    The former, more on topic, is a splendid example of an “Official Truth” that must not be opposed—or else. This is the more sad as my own take on global warming, climate change, whatnot, has become increasingly sceptical the more I have informed myself. While I have yet to arrive at a firm conclusion, I note that there is a disturbing tendency to just shout “Climate denier! Climate denier!” instead of rationally debating the many concerns raised by various scientists and debaters—up to and including whether a warming trend or trend towards more CO2 is automatically a bad thing. (Something, which is more assumed, as another indisputable “Official Truth”, than it is explained by factual arguments.) Of course, as with COVID, this refusal to engage in scientific debate makes it the harder for us laymen to actually develop a valid opinion.

  5. A Substack interview with Eugyppius goes into related issues with an eye (mostly) on COVID.

    To just quote a portion of the first question, as it sets the scene well (and note that “random internet denizens” are increasingly prevented from speaking their minds):

    Over the last 6 years or so I’ve seen a kind of (as of yet) unidentified sclerosis creep into widely used online infrastructure; the internet as I knew it became less responsive to my questions and interests, more prone to elevating mainstream sources to satisfy query inputs, less likely to guide me to the individuals actually concerned with whatever problems I was facing. The usual channels for learning more about niche experiences like Google and YouTube became virtually useless, and I began to spend more of my time looking to people on Twitter or rustic web forums for answers, most of whom were anonymous like yourself. But this phenomenon seemed intuitively backward—random internet denizens were somehow producing more insightful commentary on pretty much every matter than highly credentialed experts and capital-heavy institutions.

    (I recommend reading the entire text.)

Finally, I point to a long discussion of both free speech and Russia–Ukraine by a Catholic archbishop. While the free-speech part probably does not add anything new relative my own writings, the Russia–Ukraine part goes through much of what amounts to the other (non-Western) side of the story in [1], which makes it a good complement to that text.

Written by michaeleriksson

March 14, 2022 at 9:52 pm

Odd reactions around Putin and Russia / Problems with cancellations, freedom of speech, etc.

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That Putin tries to silence dissent within Russia is not unexpected, but what goes on in the West is not much better. Unfortunately, it is not very unexpected either, in light of the many demonstrations of anti-intellectualism, intolerance, pathological virtue signalling, and whatnot that I have seen in the last ten years or so—especially, during the COVID-propaganda storm and the success of far-Left hate groups during the last few years.

Today, I am met with the claim that Tchaikovsky is due a good canceling over being Russian. Let us see: He died in 1893, lived in Tsarist Russia, and never spoke in favor of Putin or his invasion. How could he? Putin was not even born when Tchaikovsky died. Indeed, no-one now living had been born by then. Considering both the replacement of the Tsar with a (nominally) democratic government and the intervening Soviet era, it can be disputed whether he even was a citizen of the same country as the current Russians. To boot, his music was sometimes criticized for being too European and not Russian enough. (Indeed, while classical music often show strong traces of its origins, it is inherently something internationally enjoyable and transcending national borders. I, e.g., greatly enjoy his music, despite being Swedish and despite Russia and/or the Soviet Union being our Great Military Threat since the days of Charles XII and Peter the Great, some three hundred years ago.)

Why then? Ethnic reasons? Pathological hatred of everything Russian? A need to stomp out everything even remotely Putin-related, in the style of “Nineteen Eighty-Four”? A sick and twisted virtue signalling to prove that “I am even more anti-Putin than you!”?

Other events include currently living Russians (or even White Russians) being fired or prevented from participating at sports events* merely for being of the “wrong” nationality. In some cases, a firing has followed because someone has not denounced Putin and/or Russia sufficiently sharply, which is highly troublesome. The step from here to someone like yours truly being banned/canceled/fired/whatnot for not condemning Sweden’s approach to COVID is not that large.**

*Not to be confused with the already existing complications around doping and mass bans of athletes who have not tested positive but happen to be Russian.

**I note that I, on the contrary, support Sweden’s take—but not because I am a Swede. Instead, I actually care about science, freedom of speech, the rights of the individual, etc., which cannot be said for a great many others, including Merkel, Biden, Trudeau, and Fauci, who deserve their own condemnation.

Companies like Netflix have canceled (or are in the processes of canceling) services in Russia. I can see the point behind various sanctions (or a “get out while we can” attitude) in some fields, but with e.g. Netflix those being hurt are the regular Russian civilians—many of whom oppose the invasion. Putin? Not so much. True, maybe such measures can increase internal dissent and make things harder for Putin domestically; however, they might equally antagonize the civilians against the West and increase Putin’s support. If in doubt, attacking civilians, even through cutting off entertainment, is highly ethically dubious, and shows an attitude that differs in quantity, not quality, from that of a WWII bomber of civilians. Then there are questions like potential breaches of contracts.

Or consider the current Chelsea debacle: In an act of cutting of their own nose to spite the enemy’s face, the Brits are punishing the club because it has a Russian oligarch as owner. Indeed, it appears that oligarchs are currently treated as outright criminals, with no court judgment or, even, a formal legal charge. Maybe, they all are close friends of Putin, standing by to pour Western money into the Russian war chest. Then, maybe they are not. What happened to due process? Take note: the U.K. is not at war with Russia. (Barring some last minute development, which would have taken place after these measures were installed.) Even if they were, would it actually be a crime? Where will the border be for other transgressions, like contradicting the government or donating to Canadian protesters?

At least Germany, maybe the EU as a whole, is trying to block Russian news, including RT, with motivations in the “prevent Putin from spreading his lies” family. But how is that better than what Putin might do with Western news sources in Russia? How would any lies by Putin be worse than the many lies told by Western media, e.g. around COVID or to spread Leftist hate and reality distortion? How can we regular persons make up our mind on what is or is not truth, when we are only allowed to hear one side of the story? Most importantly, with what bloody right do these twerps presume to dictate what news sources I visit or do not visit?!?!

To this, I note (a) that I have pushed the need to look at different takes of various issues, hear both sides of the story, etc., for more than ten years, (b) that I have to date never had any contact with RT, but am now very curious,* (c) have seen enough from other sources to know that there are two sides to this story, (d) journalistic ethics (nowadays near absent) would dictate a sufficiently balanced telling that we can make up our own minds. (The result might very well be the conclusion that “Putin is evil”. The point is not the conclusion but the opportunity to make up one’s own mind, instead of having to uncritically accept, even a correct, opinion that someone else shoves down our throats.)

*Note issues like the “Streisand effect”—chances are that such bans backfire.

All in all, recent events have told me more about Western politicians and whatnot than about Putin. Well, except that I already had a pretty fair idea after the last few years.

Written by michaeleriksson

March 10, 2022 at 9:21 pm

A few words on COVID vaccines / Addendum: Second COVID Anniversary

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In yesterday’s anniversary text ([1]), I left out a few points around vaccines that I had planned to include:

Firstly, I have made one highly incorrect prediction (but I am not certain that I ever put it in writing): If the vaccines proved problematic, then the Biden administration would immediately cease its attempts to take credit from Trump (“These are Biden’s vaccines. They have always been Biden’s vaccines.”) in order to wash its own hands and blame him (“These are Trump’s vaccines. They have always been Trump’s vaccines.”).

The vaccines did prove problematic—and, to my great surprise, Biden et al. doubled down on the lie that they were not. In retrospect, this might not be that surprising, as it fits well with the overall approach to COVID both in the U.S. and in the rest of the world. (Cf. [1] and how compliance and whatnot appears more important than truth. This likely with an element of “never admit that you were wrong”, which seems to be a politician’s motto.)

This has been taken so far that even the benefits of natural immunity have been drowned out in the propaganda and, now, when natural immunity is slowly admitted, we hear that “The virus is a vaccine! How lucky are we?!? (But not as good a vaccine as a real vaccine!!!)”. This, of course, turns the world on its head: a vaccine is an attempt to gain the immunity caused by a real infection without the disadvantages (say, the risk of death) from such an infection. To call the virus a vaccine shows such a complete lack of insight into the matter, or so horrifying an intellectual dishonesty, that a summary firing should be the consequence. It is the more absurd, as there is disagreement whether the vaccines actually are vaccines, or merely something “vaccinoid”.

Secondly, vaccines (in particular; other counter-measures in general) appear to have gone from a means to an end, i.e. a way to fight COVID, to an end in it self.* As is often the case, politicians, journalists, and their ilk, have not kept the eye on the ball and asked questions like “Why?” and “What do we want to achieve?”. Instead, vaccines, or rather a high vaccination ratio, has become the end: We must have a high vaccination ratio! (Why? Because we must have a high vaccination ratio!!!!) We must push vaccinations on school children! (Why? Because we must push vaccinations on school children!!!!)

*Note that this can be seen as an alternative and/or complementary explanation to the “enforce compliance” explanation for some odd governmental behaviors.

This, admittedly, is a somewhat common human failing, and not one that I am immune to, myself, but that makes it all the more important to be aware of it. Larger organisations, including governments, should certainly make the effort to have some type of check or repeating reminder, possibly even some type of “means or end” manager. (And even for e.g. the individual citizen, it can pay to occasionally ask “Why do I do this? Is this activity a means to an end or has it become an end in it self? What ends do I really want to reach?” and similar.)

Thirdly, the general “public policy” approach to the development of the vaccines was fundamentally flawed. (And, yes, this is a point where I would put significant blame on Trump.)

My impression of the background thinking is that “Capitalism can move mountains. Let it do so with the vaccines!”. So far, I would actually agree, but the approach in detail was deeply flawed. In particular, the point of (medical) capitalism is not to heal or prevent but to earn money—and this appears to have been forgotten. (Indisputably, the vaccines have been far more successful as money makers than as vaccines, per se. This is another example of means vs ends: To a company like Pfizer, healing is one of the means, while making money is the end. This is as it should be, but others must remember this in their dealings with such companies.)

How could this have been done better, if we did want to use capitalism effectively? By all means, waive some of the usual protocols and test requirements.* However, make sure that the vaccines are taken only on a voluntary basis,** and that the citizens are given enough information for informed consent. Moreover, do not waive e.g. the possibility of liability claims and do not promise to cover such claims on behalf of the vaccine makers. Now, let anyone qualified who wants to make a vaccine make and sell a vaccine to those who want to take one (and paid for by the user or his insurance—not the government). If e.g. the increased liability risk is a fear for the vaccine makers (understandable), it must simply have the individual give informed consent that he waives the liability (possibly, partially or merely with an upper cap) in order to buy the vaccine—which, given current data, might still be a rational decision for the 80 y.o. with multiple health issues, but not for the perfectly healthy 20 y.o.

*Under the assumption that we really want to have vaccines at “warp speed”. Considering the comparative triviality of COVID (compared e.g. to the Spanish Flu), I am not convinced that this is a good idea, but it has certainly been the “official” premise.

**A necessity due to the waivers. There might or might not be some room for truly exceptional exceptions, but e.g. a mere “works in a hospital” is well short of that standard—let alone a “works with others in an office or a factory”.

Yes, this might have given us vaccines later and/or another set of vaccines and/or more expensive vaccines (notably, to compensate for the greater risk for the vaccine makers), but this is not really a bad thing, considering the dubious record of the actual current vaccines. In the alternate reality, we have preserved the right of the citizen to choose, we have kept the responsibility for flawed products on the product maker, etc. Vaccines would be brought onto the market when the maker foresees a net win from sales profits over liability claims,* which implies a greater degree of own confidence in the product. Etc.

*As opposed to the current sales profits with no liability claims. (Here, I take sales profits to imply revenue minus more regular costs, e.g. for development, production, and distribution.)

(This is just a rough outline/illustration of principle. Going into details, there are many questions to answer, e.g. whether a vaccine maker should be allowed to move this specific operation to a limited-liability subsidiary.)

Written by michaeleriksson

March 6, 2022 at 10:14 am

Second COVID Anniversary / Follow-up: Various

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We are not quite at the second year anniversary of my first text on COVID (COVID-19 reactions doing more harm than good?), but I might as well get it out of the way, especially as it ties in with some recent texts on my personal situation.

To begin, I will simply quote a portion of last year’s anniversary text:

[…] that the risks of isolation are severe and that the damage to the economy outweighed any gains from the lock-downs. Above all, perhaps, that politicians do not act in a reasonable and reasoned manner, based on scientific evidence (and a reasonable evaluation of such) and a holistic view that takes side-effects and opportunity costs into consideration. Even were the countermeasures justified and beneficial, which seems even less plausible today than back then, they do not constitute good decision-making but, on the outside, luck with pinning the tail on the COVID-donkey.

Another year in, and with reservations for very recent developments, this holds even more strongly now than it did back then—another year of abject failure, of propaganda posing as science, of unnecessary economic damage, whatnot.

The second year has certainly been far harder on me, personally, than the first, for reasons like growing frustration with and anger at governmental malpractice and disgusting propaganda (cf. below), my reduced ability to escape construction noise, the harsher shutdowns, etc., etc. Note e.g. that it has been roughly a year-and-a-half since I last visited a restaurant or even a cafe, that a visit to my father that was planned for the summer of 2020 has been delayed by almost two years (and counting),* that the limited opportunities to do something in town have reduced my motivation to leave the house, in turn reducing both my amount of exercise and my exposure to sunshine.

*Note that we live in different countries.

A few recent articles, e.g. The Nudge: Ethically Dubious and Ineffective from the Brownstone Institute, have dealt with the topic of “nudging”—a grossly unethical and destructive attempt by various governments to impose the ‘right” opinions on the population. (And the source of many inexcusable claims, e.g. the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” bullshit.) It is not the job of the government to govern the opinions of the people—the government is to be governed by the opinions of the people.* If not, we do not have a democracy. Worse, if those in power can dictate what opinions others should have, then we risk a further cementing of opinion corridors, with the associated loss of science, progress, free debate, whatnot.

*Which is not to say that a government, even in a democracy, should flail about like a weathervane as the whims of the public change. However, there must be a clear mentality of the politicians being the servants of the people, not its masters.

Indeed, in my previous anniversary text, I also wrote:

Worse, and something that I might have failed to predict or deduce, is an amount of misinformation which goes beyond what reasonable could arise, even taking the understandable early lack of knowledge into account. This might be sheer incompetence, but I cannot deny a very strong suspicion that politicians have deliberately lied in order to get the people to do what the politicians wanted. (Remember that slowly boiling frog?) For instance, few would go to the barricades over “two weeks to flatten the curve”, but very many would have over “it will be months and months and no end in sight, even a year later”.

This, too, has been supported by the subsequent events. (And while the end might be in sight this time, “a year” has been superseded by “two years”.)

A particular sub-issue is how this type of “nudging” and other manipulation is often based on the assumption of a complete idiot at the other end—as with much of advertising and “public relations” work. Maybe, the idiots are fooled, but what about those who are intelligent, think critically and for themselves, want actual scientific evidence,* etc.?

*As opposed not just to sloganeering but also to empty claims of scientific evidence.

Chances are that they will not only remain sceptical, but that they will grow more sceptical due to the cheap and intellectually dishonest argumentation. Indeed, in many cases, they might even be infuriated (as I have often been) by some of the manipulation attempts. Shaming attempts is something that I consider particularly offensive and particularly unconvincing—I viewed them as nonsensical and insulting even as a child. That I have to endure them as an adult is inexcusable. (The more so, as the ones attempting the shaming are usually of far lesser intelligence and insight.)

Indeed, I repeat my observation that publicity work is often directed at claiming the exact opposite of the truth. (Presumably, in the belief that “fixing” public opinion is easier and/or cheaper than fixing the actual problem.) Often, the claims are the louder and the more transparent the more severe the problem. For instance, among my recent mail, I have several claims from my health insurer (HUK Coburg) that I would receive terrific service and value for my money, winning over the entire line—but, in reality, this company is a fucking travesty, rent seekers protected by governmental coercion of customers, delivering over-expensive, low-value products, sometimes crossing the border to what I would consider criminal behavior, and showing horrifying signs of incompetence, to the point that even a notification that I have moved has overtaxed them.* But what happens when I am told that I am lucky to have the honor of being a customer? Do I go from severely dissatisfied to happy? Hell no! I am insulted, I grow angry, and I become even more dissatisfied. It is the same thing with the misleading government propaganda, which ignores facts and arguments in favor of assertion, emotional manipulation, and shaming attempts—I am insulted, I grow angry, and I become even more sceptical to the next thing that the government claims.

*I am still a “health” customer only because switching health insurers is tricky. A number of other policies that I once had with the same company are long terminated.

Moreover, the reactions of various groups, notably governments, seem more directed at stomping out dissent than at achieving something real. The point is not whether lockdowns, masks, vaccines work and/or are harmless—the point is that “we said so and you have to conform”. The point is not whether someone without a mask risks his own or someone else’s health—the point is that someone without a mask defies the will of the government. (Cf. similar problems with e.g. far-Left hate-mongering in various countries. Note how far too many issues, especially involving the Left, have turned into quasi-religious crusades, where emotions, unfounded and superficial beliefs, and “personal truth” rule, while facts, arguments, and actual truth are ignored or even condemned.)

Looking back at some of my own early COVID-texts, they would often have gone even further, had I known back then what I know today. No, I am not talking about COVID-specific developments, but of more generic medical and epidemiological knowledge. For instance, I did not have a clear understanding of the difference between being infected and being a “case” resp. the “infection fatality rate” and the “case fatality rate”. (Then again, neither media nor politicians seemed to have such an understanding either.) For instance, there have been many claims made by e.g. various governments that seemed at least potentially plausible to me at the time, but are not so from a more informed point of view. The likely most notable example is the idea that COVID could be more-or-less exterminated even after a non-trivial international spread had already taken place and despite the high infectiousness. As the weeks went by, it became clear to me that this would not happen, but it should have been clear much earlier, possibly even at the time of my first text.

(Indeed, even in the early days, there were experts, e.g. immunologists, who clearly said that this or that is unlikely to work, violates prior practices, whatnot. They were ignored or condemned back then—but two years of experiences have proved them right.)

A particularly interesting case is the variations of “two weeks to flatten the curve”: I was sceptical from the beginning, because an exponential curve which is temporarily restrained would not be permanently flattened—once the flattening measures were removed, it would come roaring back. (In other words, it is less of a flattening and more of a postponement.) But let us call it “two weeks to give society and the healthcare system time to adapt”, which seemed somewhat plausible to me. Looking back, this adaption does not seem to have brought much and, if anything, it would have been better to flatten the curve when it had already grown steeper. Instead, I very strongly suspect, the “two weeks” were never about flattening or postponing anything—they were a matter of getting a foot in the door, so that two weeks could grow to four, eight, sixteen, whatnot weeks, while the frog boiled. Indeed, only after almost two years do the lockdowns and other overreaching countermeasures seem (knock on wood) to be on the way out.

Overlapping, there is one area where I am torn on whether I made a major error in prediction (most of the time, I have been right, even with the burden of some early medical naivete):

In a text from March 2020, I say:

The last (2020-03-30) data for Germany above has 57,298 cases and 455 deaths. The corresponding (yearly) numbers for influenza regularly go into the millions and the thousands, respectively—in Germany alone. It is not a given that COVID-19 will reach even that level—and it is outright unlikely that the numbers will be an order higher.

Official statistics at the moment have many millions of infections* and well above a hundred thousand dead**. At the two year mark, it is unfair to compare with a single (regular) influenza season, but it seems fair to say that the (regular) influenza numbers have been exceeded. (While still being well short of a truly severe influenza outbreak, notably the “Spanish Flu”.) When it comes to “an order higher”, things grow complicated (cf. footnotes and note that the influenza often has similar problems). For a comparison, look at German Wikipedia and the 2017/2018 flu season, which was an unusually bad year (but did not break through to Spanish-Flu levels):

*Not cases. This includes those who have tested positive but do not display enough symptoms to be considered cases. Chances are that I misused “case” in the original quote, however. Of course, the number also excludes those who were infected (or even cases) without being tested. I make great reservations for the use of the widely discredited PCR test, which is highly prone to false positives (at least, as used to test for COVID).

**But note that a poor separation between “died with” and “died from” could make this number misleading.

Das Robert Koch-Institut schätzt die Zahl der Toten durch Influenza in jener Saison in Deutschland jedoch insgesamt auf 25.100

(The Robert Koch-Institut estimates 25.100 deaths through influenza in that season in Germany)

We can see (a) that COVID is not astronomical worse than the 2017/18 flu (but might be for some lesser year), (b) that speaking of an order more in terms of deaths* might be justifiable when we look at the COVID epidemic in its entirety. We might be around a factor 5 at the moment, which is short of the roughly 10 usually used, but, logarithmically, we are closer to 10 than to 1 and COVID is still ongoing.**

*But not necessarily cases or infections. I see no good numbers on the linked-to page, but influenza is typically less deadly, which makes it likely that the difference (relative the difference in deaths) is considerably smaller.

**Order (of magnitude) is a somewhat vague concept and the focus on factors of 10 is a consequence of the number system used, with no “higher” meaning. The limits between them is similarly vague, but I often think in terms of the square-root of 10 or approx. 3.16, i.e. that the “range” of 10 is 3.16 to 31.6, the range of 100 is 31.6 to 316, etc. Above, 5 > 3.16 and therefore in the range of 10, not the range of 1 (i.e. 0.316 to 3.16). (However, chances are that I used a more simplistic 10-vs-1 thinking when writing the quoted text.)

On the other hand, if we look at comparable waves, e.g. the flu of 2017/18 against the original COVID, Delta, or Omicron, a different situation might apply—and the question arises, which comparison is the most fair. (To which I have no good answer or would answer “it depends”.) This is also where my original naivete plays in, in that I thought too much of COVID as one season or wave, which would run its course and then disappear—possibly, for the duration; possibly, until next year. This season or wave might well have been considerably longer than a flu season, but would not have lasted for years. Here I was, in part, too influenced by what I knew about the flu, in part, too influenced by the official propaganda of “if we lock down and wear masks, we can exterminate COVID”, which, of course, turned out to be complete bullshit.

Written by michaeleriksson

March 3, 2022 at 11:00 am