In a post from earlier this year, The Domestication of City Dwellers, Heather Heying expresses many of my doubts about the crazy new "15-minute cities" concept, along with some I hadn't thought of.

Fifteen minute cities are intended to reduce sprawl and traffic, facilitate social interactions with your neighbors, and give you your time back. If it took fifteen minutes or less to get to all the places that you need and want to go, imagine how much more possibility there could be in life.

You might well wonder how such remarkable results will be achieved. The answer is: through restricting automobile travel between neighborhoods, fining people who break the new travel restrictions, and keeping a tech-eye wide open, with surveillance cameras everywhere.

Apparently, say the promoters of fifteen minute cities, we need to promote access over mobility. In their world, the definitions are these: “Mobility is how far you can go in a given amount of time. Accessibility is how much you can get to in that time.” The same post further argues that “Mobility - speed - is merely a means to an end. The purpose of mobility is to get somewhere, to points B, C, D, and E, wherever they may be. It’s the 'getting somewhere' — the access to services and jobs — that matters.”

This is not just confusing, it’s a bait-and-switch. Speed is not the same thing as mobility. Being able to “get somewhere” is mobility. Mobility means freedom to move. This freedom has been undermined for the last three years, in many countries, under the guise of protecting public health.

Fifteen-minute cities would further restrict your freedom to move. Your ability to get anywhere will be restricted under the pretense of making it easier and faster to get everywhere that you really need or want to go.

Dr. Heying goes on to explain several of the problems with this reasoning, and the whole article is worth reading. Including the footnotes. But few of her points were the ones that immediately jumped out at me.

First of all, who decides what exactly it is that comprises "everywhere that I really need or want to go"? One dentist is just as good as any another, right? Once upon a time, one church (Catholic) was all that any town needed; who really needs churches of different Christian denominations, not to mention mosques and Hindu temples?

If there's a public school within 15 minutes of my house, certainly I don't need to send my kids to a private school that may be located outside my neighborhood? In fact, this 15-minute city idea has a strong odor of our American public school system—in which children must attend the nearest school, and parental choice in education is strongly opposed—writ large.

And how will these convenient services for "everything we need and want" be set up? Who gets to open a grocery store in which neighborhood? What if no one wants to open a store there? Will some neighborhoods have only government-run facilities? Will we have mega-stores with every variety of foodstuffs instead of family-run ethnic markets? Or maybe no stores at all, just Amazon Prime? Do we really want thousands of tiny libraries, art museums, and concert venues, each offering a tiny fraction of what is now available? Or will we be told that we should get all our culture and information online?

And worst of all: Granted, it would be wonderful if all our loved ones lived within 15 minutes of our homes. Imagine having all our friends so close, and grandchildren just down the street! But how will that be accomplished? Our friends and family are spread all over the globe. Of course I'd like them to be closer—but not at the cost of imprisoning them! Even if they were all forced to move into the same 15-minute neighborhood, how long could such a situation be sustainable? Population control on a massive and tyrannical scale?

Besides, anyone who has grown up in a small town knows not only how wonderful they are, but also how insular, parochial, and restrictive they can be. If our COVID lockdowns produced a massive increase in suicide and other mental health problems, just wait till we've lived in 15-minute cities for a generation.

And if in that one generation people have come to believe that living under such tyranny is normal and good—the only word for that is tragedy.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 29, 2023 at 3:28 am | Edit
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I couldn't resist that subject title, because it certainly grabbed my attention as the lead-in to an excerpt from a conversation between Mary Harrington and Bret Weinstein. As I've often said before, the whole conversation (1.5 hours) is worthwhile.

In this one, you can see chapter divisions if you hover your mouse over the progress bar. (approximate starting times in parentheses)

  • Feminism against progress - history (2:45)
  • Disagreement over progress and liberation (9:00)
  • Digital and sexual revolution (25:50)
  • Sexual marketplace (43:10)
  • Traditional gender roles and hypernovelty (50:10)
  • Internet and silos (57:20)
  • Libertarian approach to sex industry (1:00:00)
  • Sex is not recreational (1:09:00)
  • The patriarchy (1:17:00)
  • Porn and sexual violence (1:26:45)

If I were to recommend an excerpt, I'd go from Libertarian approach to sex industry through the end.

Just two quotes for this; it's far to annoying to extract them from the audio.

At one time, children would have played a sport, and they would have been very passionate about it, and what has happened is that has been transmuted into an act of consumerism, where what you do is you support a team, or you are very avid about a particular sport that you watch on your television, and so instead of playing baseball you are consuming baseball...."

That doesn't seem related to the rest of the discussion, but they go on to tie it in with sex. I picked this one to quote because it makes an important, more general point about participation versus consumerism, and I immediately added music to the list. As one church musician told me, "In worship, of course I want the music to be excellent. But I'd rather have a little old lady plunking out notes on an out-of-tune piano than sing hymns with a professional sound track."

And here's the rest of the vegan bacon comment. Agree or disagree with the statement, you have to admit it's an unforgettable image.

Contraceptive sex is like vegan bacon; it's kind of the same, but is it any wonder that people are adding a lot of hot sauce? Because the flavor just isn't quite there.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 26, 2023 at 2:01 am | Edit
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A lot has changed in 35 years, and not all for the better.

Looking through some old journal entries, I read about a time when our five-year-old daughter spiked a fever at night.

She ran a fever last night. I don't know how high, but she was delirious [her not-uncommon response to fevers]. If it weren't so serious, it would be entertaining, listening to her describe the things she sees. Normally I would wait a few days to see what would happen, but things are so busy that I took her to the doctor, since if she were going to need an antibiotic, I wanted it started right away. But: "It's a virus, $32 please."

She can go back to school tomorrow. "Why not?" they said. "That's where she got it in the first place."

Can you imagine that scenario taking place today? Yet that's the way life was, and I think those were saner times.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 22, 2023 at 3:44 am | Edit
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The 20th anniversary DarkHorse Podcast is full of apparently random interesting topics. If you have the time for the whole hour and 40 minute show, you can skip to about minute 11:30 to get past the ads. There is discussion of sea star wasting disease, then a very long section on telomeres and how both the New York Times (no surprise) and the New England Journal of Medicine (more concerning) recently managed to ignore critical information that was known 20 years ago.

I enjoyed those parts, but if you just start at 1:13:00 you'll get 26 minutes of really good stuff, I think. From finding truth in the words of people with whom you have serious disagreements, to the complex problem of moving forward without losing the good of what you've left behind, to why dishwashers that use less water might poison the environment by forcing the use of more and stronger detergents.

My favorite part, however, and the part I think some of our family members will appreciate, is the discussion of Elimination Communication at about 1:28:10, and the idea of the new mother's "babymoon" period just before that. (They don't use either of those terms, however.) Not that our famly will find anything new there—and it's been known for years among the homeschool/home birth/breastfeeding/raw milk/organic food/homesteading/etc. crowd. What's so interesting to me is that it shows up in this podcast, totally unexpectedly. In their naïveté about the subject, Bret and Heather get some things wrong (as their listeners were quick to point out) but they get a lot right, too, and at least they are aware of it, which most people are not.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 12, 2023 at 6:49 am | Edit
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"Go play outside!"

So said generations of mothers—at least once we got past the eons of history in which both work and play generally took place outdoors by default.

Partly, that motherly admonition was meant to get us out from underfoot, but there was also a high respect for the value of "fresh air and sunshine" for health and growth.

No one had to tell me twice to get outdoors, not when there were trees to climb and a forest to explore. I've been an avid bookworm ever since I learned to read, but I was happy to do much of my reading on the platform my father had built for us high in the trees.

When did the outdoors become our enemy?

Being exposed to the sun was branded a high-risk activity for children, unless they were slathered in sunscreen—not just at the beach, but in their own backyards. Even then, playing outside was not encouraged, for it provided no relief for mothers, who were told they had to keep their eyes on their children at all times, lest they get hurt, or even kidnapped. How much easier and safer it was to keep them indoors, entertained by the magic of that handy babysitter, the television set—the gateway drug of today's "screens."

However, the tide may be turning, at least a bit. Parents are once again at least thinking about trying to get their kids outdoor time. They are struggling to believe with their hearts the statistics that show kidnapping by strangers and mass shootings to be minuscule risks in most of the United States, and the discovery that children need a bit of danger and challenge to grow up both physically and mentally healthy. More and more people are realizing that the advice we were given for avoiding COVID—stay indoors, and especially avoid playgrounds, beaches, and neighborhood walks—was likely the exact opposite of what we should have been doing. Ever so slowly we are recognizing that our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers may have been right when they told us to go out and play. Fresh air and sunshine are indeed our friends.

Here's another reason why:

It is dark inside your head, but even there, the sun does shine.

This is the beginning of Heather Heying's latest substack post about the great value of Near Infrared Radiation (NIR), those wavelengths of light just longer than red.

Most people have heard of the hormone melatonin, known for its regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. This is created by the pineal gland, and is called circulating melatonin.

But there is also subcellular melatonin, which, it turns out, is produced in the mitochondria of our cells, stimulated by exposure to NIR.

Subcellular melatonin is a powerful antioxidant. ... Oxidation is a ubiquitous and destructive process in organisms, a natural side-effect of metabolism. Antioxidants scavenge the free radicals formed by oxidation, thus mitigating its deleterious effects. Melatonin is a particularly strong and multi-functional antioxidant.

In the brain, melatonin’s antioxidant capacity is likely to be especially important, both because of the disproportionately high use of oxygen by the brain, and because some other antioxidant systems are not present there. Absent near infrared photons being carried deep into the brain, which then promote the synthesis of subcellular melatonin, brain function might go more than a bit haywire.

Subcellular melatonin also reduces inflammation, increases the rates of waste removal within cells, and has immunoregulatory effects. Furthermore, it improves mitochondrial function via several known mechanisms, and generally promotes health and vitality. And again, there is substantial evidence that NIR prompts its formation.

So how do we get this NIR to our mitochondria? Here's the good news:

  • The majority of photons that reach us from the sun are actually in the NIR range.
  • Unlike visible and ultraviolet light, NIR penetrates deep into our bodies, including our brains.
  • The bodies of babies and young children are perfused with NIR.
  • Cerebrospinal fluid distributes NIR photons deep into the brain.
  • NIR comes to us not only from the sun, but also reflected off objects around us, such as the moon, leaves, snow, sand—they can reach us standing in the shade, fully dressed.
  • Just after sunrise and before sunset are particularly good times to pick up NIR.
  • NIR is also produced by campfires, candlelight, and incandescent bulbs.

The bad news?

  • Because our bodies are thicker, the average adult gets less than 2/3 the NIR penetration children do. Just what we need—another good reason to lose weight.
  • Most of the lighting that we modern people experience indoors (fluorescent, LED) does not provide this vital nutrient.

You can read Dr. Heying's entire article, with a lot more, and references, here.

For those who prefer a non-print source, here's an excerpt from the latest DarkHorse Podcast episode (#170) in which she introduces the subject. (approximately minutes 25:34 to 39:32)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 25, 2023 at 10:37 am | Edit
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As most of you know, David Freiheit (Viva Frei) has been my favorite Canadian lawyer since sometime in 2020. Even though he no longer practices law and subsequently fled Canada for Florida, for the sake of his kids. I haven't posted anything from him in a while, because, frankly, his explosion of fame following his livestream coverage of the Canadian truckers' Freedom Convoy has meant that I can't possibly keep up with him.

However, we recently made time for his 1.5-hour interview with Dr. Bret Weinstein, and except for the first three minutes, every second was worthwhile. We were even happy to listen to it at normal speed (which we have to do when watching it on television instead of on the computer) because the information content is dense.

Since most of you will find the time commitment untenable, please at least take ten minutes and listen to minutes 21 through 31, and Bret's story about the incredible discovery he made in his grad school research about cancer, longevity, and the laboratory mice used in drug safety testing. If that whets your appetite for the rest of the interview, so much the better.

Bret is an excellent speaker: clear, cogent, and riveting. Viva and the other host, Robert Barnes, are normally quite interactive with their guests, sometimes to the point where I wish they would shut up and let the guest continue speaking. Not this time. As one commenter put it, "Watching Barnes and Frei blink for 10 minutes or more at a time with their lips closed is so unnatural...." Bret is that interesting.

I've been watching Bret's DarkHorse Podcasts for quite a while now, and I still learned a lot here. Skip the first three minutes—after that it's gold.  

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 21, 2023 at 6:14 am | Edit
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I have no quarrel with parents who are up in arms at Sesame Street's decision to use cute little Elmo to push the COVID-19 vaccine on children. It's horrendous, despicable, a violation of the sacred trust between a show meant for children, and their parents.

But in a way I'm grateful that Sesame  Street's writers, producers, and funders have finally come so far out of the closet. It's about time parents noticed.

There may have been a time when the show stuck with teaching basic reading and math skills, but once you decide that the purpose of your project is teaching children, it's only a small step to teaching them whatever you happen to think important—and before you know it, numbers and letters have taken a back seat to social and political activism. It reminds me of a young, idealistic teacher I heard interviewed the other day, who was in tears because she had become a teacher in order to "teach children social justice," and felt stifled under pressure to teach them academics.

Schools, and television shows aimed at children, have a widely-acknowledged—if mostly ignored—obligation to support the rights, values, and priorities of the children's families. Little by little both of these important institutions have blatantly and flagrantly violated that unwritten contract.

Maybe that's the best lesson Elmo can teach us.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, March 25, 2023 at 5:15 pm | Edit
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Here's another treat for you from Heather Heying's substack, Natural SelectionsStark and Exposed: It's the Modern Way.  I'll include a small excerpt, but first, I'll quote a passage from Chapter 8 of C. S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength, the third book of his Space Trilogy, because that is what immediately came to mind when I was reading her essay.

The Italian was in good spirits and talkative. He had just given orders for the cutting down of some fine beech trees in the grounds.

“Why have you done that, Professor?” said a Mr. Winter who sat opposite. “I shouldn’t have thought they did much harm at that distance from the house. I’m rather fond of trees myself.”

“Oh, yes, yes,” replied Filostrato. “The pretty trees, the garden trees. But not the savages. I put the rose in my garden, but not the brier. The forest tree is a weed. But I tell you I have seen the civilized tree in Persia. It was a French attaché who had it because he was in a place where trees do not grow. It was made of metal. A poor, crude thing. But how if it were perfected? Light, made of aluminum. So natural, it would even deceive.”

“It would hardly be the same as a real tree,” said Winter.

“But consider the advantages! You get tired of him in one place: two workmen carry him somewhere else: wherever you please. It never dies. No leaves to fall, no twigs, no birds building nests, no muck and mess.”

“I suppose one or two, as curiosities, might be rather amusing.”

“Why one or two? At present, I allow, we must have forests, for the atmosphere. Presently we find a chemical substitute. And then, why any natural trees? I foresee nothing but the art tree all over the earth. In fact, we clean the planet.”

“Do you mean,” put in a man called Gould, “that we are to have no vegetation at all?”

“Exactly. You shave your face: even, in the English fashion, you shave him every day. One day we shave the planet.”

“I wonder what the birds will make of it?”

“I would not have any birds either. On the art tree I would have the art birds all singing when you press a switch inside the house. When you are tired of the singing you switch them off. Consider again the improvement. No feathers dropped about, no nests, no eggs, no dirt.”

“It sounds,” said Mark, “like abolishing pretty well all organic life.”

“And why not? It is simple hygiene. Listen, my friends. If you pick up some rotten thing and find this organic life crawling over it, do you not say, ‘Oh, the horrid thing. It is alive,’ and then drop it?”

“Go on,” said Winter.

“And you, especially you English, are you not hostile to any organic life except your own on your own body? Rather than permit it you have invented the daily bath.”

“That’s true.”

“And what do you call dirty dirt? Is it not precisely the organic? Minerals are clean dirt. But the real filth is what comes from organisms—sweat, spittles, excretions. Is not your whole idea of purity one huge example? The impure and the organic are interchangeable conceptions.”

“What are you driving at, Professor?” said Gould. “After all we are organisms ourselves.”

“I grant it. That is the point. In us organic life has produced Mind. It has done its work. After that we want no more of it. We do not want the world any longer furred over with organic life, like what you call the blue mold—all sprouting and budding and breeding and decaying. We must get rid of it. By little and little, of course. Slowly we learn how.

That Hideous Strength was written in 1945, but this doesn't sound nearly as ridiculous as it did when I first read it in college.  "By little and little" we have come closer to this attitude than I could ever have believed.

From Dr. Heying's essay I will leave out the depressing part that brought Lewis's book to mind—but I urge you to read it for yourself.  Instead, I'll quote the more uplifting end of the story.

Go outside barefoot. Stand there, toes moving in the bare earth, or grass, or moss, or sand. Touch the Earth with your bare skin. Stand on one foot for a while. Then the other. Jump. Stand with your arms wide and gaze upwards at the sun. Welcome it. Do not cover your skin and keep the sun’s rays at bay.

Learn to craft and to make and to grow and to build.  Work in clay or wood or metal, in ink or wool or seeds. Build dry stacked stone walls. Mold forms with your hands and your tools. Add color to walls, to fabric, to food. Throw. Weave. Carve. Cure. Ferment. Fire. Braze. Weld. Create that which is both functional and beautiful.

Get cold every day. Go outside under-dressed or open your windows wide for a spell even sometimes in Winter or take a cold shower or immerse yourself in cold, cold water. You will be shocked. And you will be awake. And you will know that you are alive.

Also enjoy being warm. Be grateful for it. Come inside and find a cozy corner. Wrap yourself in a soft woolen blanket. Have a familiar by your side. Run your hands through his fur. Drink warm elixir from a handmade mug. Be present. Consider the past. Build the future.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at 4:02 pm | Edit
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It's no secret that I love hearing from Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein. I don't listen to half of what I want to of their videos, though I do try to keep sort of current with their DarkHorse podcasts. Theirs is a joyful, intelligent, informed, open-minded repartee that represents what I miss the most from the days when we lived in a university community. They would be such awesome people to have over for dinner! I couldn't keep up with them on the puns, but there are those in our family who could.

As much fun as they are to listen to, I still find the video format frustrating: slow, even at 1.5 speed, and without the convenient search and copy functions available in print. For that, I enjoy reading Heather's substack, Natural Selections. Here's one from December that I highly recommend: The New Newspeak. The primary topic is Stanford University's Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative. If you have the stomach for more than the examples Dr. Heying gives, you can find the source at that link.

As maddening what Stanford has done is, here is something else that caught my eye:

When I was a professor, creating and leading study abroad courses to remote places, I was told an amazing thing by a Title IX compliance officer. Thankfully, she did not work at my school, so I easily evaded her injunctions. She informed me that if, after I had spent years creating a program to go to the Amazon (as I had), someone in a wheelchair wanted to take my program, I would either need to figure out how to make that happen, or cancel the trip for everyone.

“The Amazon is not ADA compliant,” I told the confused young authoritarian. “If it were, it wouldn’t be the Amazon.”

“Then,” she announced with some relish, “you would have to cancel the class.”

That is the endpoint of this ideology. Life has to be made equally awful for everyone. Anything else would be unfair.

To which a commenter replied,

I can give a current example at a major West Coast medical school. We have an impressive series of locally created educational videos. Some are close captioned, and some cannot be for a variety of reasons. We now have a student (1 of 150) in the class that has trouble hearing. Because we cannot close caption it all, we have been instructed, in the name of "equity" to make sure that 149 students are deprived of seeing these videos and thus being forever less able to care for their patients so that this one person "does not feel bad". This is idiocy of the nth degree. And permutations of this happen continuously. The whole point is to make sure that graduating doctors know the minimum amount possible so that they are all equally stupid...I wish I were exaggerating.

If I were you, I would not see any doctor under 40. Heed my words.

Having two newly-minted doctors in the family, both well under 40, I can't quite agree with his conclusion. They are among the best and the brightest and most compassionate I know—I only hope their non-West Coast medical schools and residencies are not quite so far gone.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 12, 2023 at 9:30 pm | Edit
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Back in the 1970's, I worked at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York. One of my favorite things to do on my lunch break was to wander over to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the associated Strong Memorial Hospital, and watch in admiration as the tiny children fought for their lives. Actually, there were some pretty big infants, too—babies born to diabetic mothers, weighing in at 14 or 15 pounds at birth, but with dangerous complications. My favorites were always the twins, which were commonly born early, and extra small. Not every family had a happy ending, but the best days were when our small "charges" disappeared from view because they had graduated out of the NICU.

I was thinking about this recently because of this story, out of Canada: Doctor Said Mom's Efforts to Save Her Babies Were a "Waste of Time," Now they're 3 and Thriving.

A mom from Canada who went into labor with twins at just shy of 22 weeks gestation was told by her doctor that they would die the day they were born. However, she refused to give up on her babies, and against the odds, her baby girls pulled through, heading home after 115 days in the NICU.

“When I went into labor, the doctor told me, 'The twins will be born today and they will die,'" she said. "I said, 'Excuse me?' and she said, 'Babies this gestation simply do not survive. It’s impossible.' ... She told me she wouldn’t let me see the twins, or hear their heartbeats, because it was a 'waste of time.'"

After four painful days of abysmal care at the unnamed Canadian hospital,

A new doctor entered the room and informed the couple that they could transfer to a London, Ontario, hospital to deliver the twins. ... Luna and Ema were born in London at 9:12 and 9:29 p.m., respectively. Luna weighed just over 14 ounces (approx. 0.39 kg) and measured 11 inches long; Ema weighed 1 pound (0.45 kg) and measured 12 inches long.

The twins were in the NICU for a total of 115 days and were discharged even before their due date. ... Today, the twins are thriving at 3 years old [and] are developmentally caught up to their full-term peers.

Forty years ago, the staff at "our" NICU had told us that they had saved babies born as early as 20 weeks and weighing less than a pound, and expected to continue to improve outcomes and to push the boundaries back. Forty years! I know there has been a lot of progress made in the care of preterm babies since then, primarily from the story of friends-of-friends quintuplets born ten years ago in Dallas.

So how is it that doctors and hospitals are condemning little ones like this to death, and consider 22 weeks' gestation a minimum for survival—and even then only at a few, specialized hospitals. What has hindered the progress Strong Hospital's doctors had so eagerly anticipated?

I can think of a few roadblocks. Number one, perhaps, is that we like to think that progress is inevitable. But there's no little hubris in that. Progress is not guaranteed over time, nor is it consistent.

Then there are funding priorities. Adequate financing may not be a sufficient condition for making progress, but it's a necessary one. Has improvement in preterm baby care been a funding priority over the last 40 years?

And of course there's the most difficult problem of all. Do we, as a society, as a country, as the medical profession in general—do we really want to save these babies? They cost a lot of money: for research, for facilities, for high-tech care, for months in the hospital, and often for special education and care throughout their lives, since babies on the leading edge of the survival curve are at higher risk for lifelong difficulties.

Most of all, does the idea of saving the lives of earlier and earlier preterm babies force us to consider the elephant in the room? How long can a society endure in which we try desperately to save the life of one child of a certain age, while casually snuffing out the life of another child of the same age, based solely on personal choice?

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, January 15, 2023 at 3:06 pm | Edit
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The supporting documentation is long and complex and I don't expect anyone to read it all. But I include the link anyway.

Some professors from the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise did a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of "compulsory, non-pharmaceutical interventions" (e.g. lockdowns) on COVID-19 mortality.

The short version:

Lockdowns have had little to no effect on COVID-19 mortality.

The longer, but more detailed, policy implications:

In the early stages of a pandemic, before the arrival of vaccines and new treatments, a society can respond in two ways: mandated behavioral changes or voluntary behavioral changes. Our study fails to demonstrate significant positive effects of mandated behavioral changes (lockdowns). This should draw our focus to the role of voluntary behavioral changes. Here, more research is needed to determine how voluntary behavioral changes can be supported. But it should be clear that one important role for government authorities is to provide information so that citizens can voluntarily respond to the pandemic in a way that mitigates their exposure.

Finally, allow us to broaden our perspective after presenting our meta-analysis that focuses on the following question: “What does the evidence tell us about the effects of lockdowns on mortality?” We provide a firm answer to this question: The evidence fails to confirm that lockdowns have a significant effect in reducing COVID-19 mortality. The effect is little to none.

The use of lockdowns is a unique feature of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns have not been used to such a large extent during any of the pandemics of the past century. However, lockdowns during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic have had devastating effects. They have contributed to reducing economic activity, raising unemployment, reducing schooling, causing political unrest, contributing to domestic violence, and undermining liberal democracy. These costs to society must be compared to the benefits of lockdowns, which our meta-analysis has shown are marginal at best. Such a standard benefit-cost calculation leads to a strong conclusion: lockdowns should be rejected out of hand as a pandemic policy instrument.

I agree wholeheartedly that "one important role for government authorities is to provide information so that citizens can voluntarily respond to the pandemic in a way that mitigates their exposure." I would add that this must include clear, non-alarmist information based on the truth, not on "what we think the public deserves to know"; it must include sufficient information for citizens to make intelligent risk-benefit analyses; and it must not include the stifling of public information-sharing and debate, even at the risk of some of the information being wrong.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 6, 2023 at 5:35 am | Edit
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Maybe you smoked some pot when you were young. Or know that your parents did. I did not, except second-hand and co-mingled with tobacco smoke, back in the days when our college movie theater—along with nearly everywhere else—put no restrictions on polluting the indoor air. I saw no reason to foul my lungs and risk fouling my brain. Maybe you think you survived your experiences unscathed. Maybe you did—though you will never know.

So maybe you think marijuana is harmless, remembering the fuss and scare-mongering from your youth. Maybe you are thrilled that in many places marijuana has "gone legit." But this is not your father's weed. Perhaps you thought that legalizing marijuana would take it out of the hands of the drug dealers, that it would be purer and safer.

Apparently not.

Truly, the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil. It seems we have not supplanted the illegal drug dealers and dishonest suppliers, but rather supplemented them with equally greedy mega-businesses, and replaced the lone marijuana plant or two growing in someone's apartment with chemical factories producing ultra-high-potency products that can maim and kill.

Here are two links to one family's story, the tragedy that alerted me to the problem.

Mila's Story, on Heather Heying's Natural Selections substack, and What Happened to Our Daughter; the latter is from the family's Slowdown Farmstead substack and tells the same story slightly differently, with more details about the drug problem (and lots of references). Be sure to notice how quickly Mila's mind disintegrated after her first encounter with the drug.

It wasn't just the marijuana that killed Mila. Suicide is always a complex event, with more than one contributing factor.

When you read Mila's story, you'll see that there's no shortage of guilty parties: the school drug counsellor to whom Mila went for help against the addiction that she knew was destroying her, whose response was merely to advise her to "moderate her use"; the First Nations reservation that supplied the dangerous drug "pens" to children, against which the Canadian government was apparently powerless; and most of all, the Canadian governments (federal and provincial) whose draconian COVID-19 restrictions left vulnerable high school students with literally nothing to do and no place to go. The Devil had a field day with those idle hands and minds.

We are just beginning to recognize what is certain eventually to be acknowledged as the truth: that the COVID closures, lockdowns, and travel restrictions, along with masking, social distancing, and vaccine mandates, have destroyed more individuals, families, and relationships than the COVID virus ever did.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, December 8, 2022 at 4:56 pm | Edit
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Inheritance: How Our Genes Change Our Lives—and Our Lives Change Our Genes by Sharon Moalem (Grand Central Publishing, 2014)

I've read 75 books so far in 2022, but my "to read" list just keeps getting longer. Not that I'm complaining. This one was a gift from my sister-in-law, who despite our literary tastes being very different, is very good at recognizing a book I'll probably enjoy. In this case, it helps that we are both genealogists.

Is this a critically important book to read? Probably not—at least not immediately. But it's fascinating to learn that while our inherited genes may be fixed, the expression of those genes is not, and what happens to us in life can indeed affect the genetic inheritance we pass on to our children. And with personal genome sequencing (far beyond what 23andMe has to offer) becoming more common and less expensive, I look forward—despite some privacy concerns—to the day when doctors will be able to be much more accurate in drug and dosage prescriptions, based on a patient's specific genes. It turns out that prescribed dosages tend to be based on averages, and thus sort of work, most of the time, for most people—while ranging from useless to fatal for others. Knowing a patient's specific DNA can turn that from a flashlight beam to a laser.

Inheritance will also give you even more appreciation for how "fearfully and wonderfully made" we are, how remarkable the human body is put together—and how the tiniest genetic changes can have effects ranging from unnoticeable to the hurricane that arises because of the flapping of a butterfly's wings.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, December 2, 2022 at 9:50 pm | Edit
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I'll admit I'm astonished that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s shocking book, The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health has not generated more interest, especially since at the time I first wrote about it, the Kindle version was only $3. It's $15 now, and the hardcover close to $20, but I'd say it's still worth it at that price, especially if you can't get it from your local library. Or you can do what I do: put it on a watch list at eReaderIQ; for a brief time yesterday it was only 99 cents. At that price I would have bought copies for a few friends—if I hadn't been away from home for the whole day. I find the eReaderIQ service worth supporting, by the way: it really helps with playing Amazon's little games.

I understand that people might be skeptical, whether, as in my case, from distrust of the Kennedys in general, or from a reluctance to question authority—especially when questioning authority can get you shoved into a "right-wing extremist conspiracy theorist" bucket. If you have the courage to look around outside of your comfort zone, however, I predict you will find this book worth your while.

Here are two short (about 5 minute) videos from my current favorite Left Coast liberal academic scientists, whose genuinely liberal credentials I don't doubt, albeit they also sometimes find themselves flung into the above-mentioned bucket when their search for truth leads them in certain directions. Both videos contain Bret's and Heather's evaluations of the book, and more importantly, their evaluation of its documentation. The videos do well at double speed if you want to save time. Spoiler alert: Bret and Heather are even more concerned than I am, with better reason and authority.

This one is just over five and a half minutes long.

And this one four minutes.

As I said in my review of the book, if what Kennedy claims, with such extensive documentation, is true, why are Dr. Fauci and a whole lot of other people not in jail? If it's not true, why isn't Fauci suing Kennedy for libel? I expected outrage on all sides, refutation, corroboration, investigation.

I did not expect ... silence. That silence on the part of investigative journalists, academic researchers, and medical professionals almost scares me more than the book.

I understand that people's lives are too busy for them to want to tackle a long, dense non-fiction book, so I don't urge you lightly to read The Real Anthony Fauci. But for your own health, and especially for your children, if you can make time to read this book, or listen to it in audiobook format, it has my strongest recommendation. The story is as riveting as it is frightening, and I was surprised at how quickly I finished it. I do recommend the Kindle version; the primary reason I also bought the hardcover was the knowledge that Amazon can make a Kindle book "disappear" at any moment, even from my physical e-reader. Most of the time I'm more comfortable with physical books, but in this case I actually find the digital version friendlier to the eyes. Don't be put off by the fact that the e-book format appears to double the page count (934 vs. 480).

Those who know me know that I do not like horror stories. Even during my Girl Scout days I was not a fan of ghost stories around the campfire. The Real Anthony Fauci is a horror story par excellence, because most of the others are about situations we are very unlikely to experience, and this one has already happened to us—we just didn't recognize it. Nonetheless, I am, as Bret suggests, hopeful: Information is power, and this book has answered questions that have troubled me for decades.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, November 21, 2022 at 11:28 am | Edit
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There are a number of people—I certainly am one of them—who strenuously object to being unwilling medical guinea pigs in the matter of the COVID-19 vaccines.

I'm all for medical research, worked as part of a medical research team, and have been a willing human guinea pig in a few experiments myself. This work, when done carefully, knowledgeably, and ethically, is an essential part of scientific and medical advancement. But the ethically part is essential, and I don't think it's ethical to "enroll" masses of people in experiments for which there cannot possibly be adequate knowledge of the risks, and thus they cannot possibly give "informed consent." Plus, when there is no documented, adequate control group, not to mention that the experimenters have done their best to make sure there cannot be an adequate control group—well, then you've lost good science as well as ethics.

You're thinking I'm talking about the COVID-19 vaccines here, and I am—but that's not all. I don't know how many times we've been unknowingly subjected to these unethical experiments, but I do know that it has happened at least two other times in my lifetime.

Aspirin used to be the standard, go-to medication for children, even babies, with fevers or discomfort. I vividly remember the doctor recommending alternating doses of aspirin and acetaminophen when my infant daughter had a stubborn high fever. This was in the early 1980's, and for most people it worked just great. However, there appeared to be a possible correlation between aspirin use in children and young teens, in combination with a viral illness (often chicken pox), and a rare but sometimes fatal condition called Reye Syndrome. We had many doctors among our coworkers, and had no reason not to believe what they told us at the time: The decision to tell doctors and parents to avoid giving aspirin to children was a deliberate, national experiment: They thought aspirin caused Reye's Syndrome in children, but they couldn't prove it, so they hoped that if aspirin use went down dramatically, and so did the incidence of Reye, their point would be made. The disorder did, indeed, retreat significantly, whether through causation or merely correlation is still unknown. The cynic in me insists on pointing out that, whatever the stated reasons for this massive non-laboratory experiment, and whatever good might or might not come of it, one clear result was that a cheap, readily-available, and highly effective drug was massively replaced by one still under patent. The patent for acetaminophen (Tylenol) did not expire until 2007, and Tylenol was still reeling from the 1982 poisoned-Tylenol-capsules scare. Practically overnight, and with timing highly favorable to the pharmaceutical industry, Tylenol became the drug of choice for a large segment of the population.

The next example I remember of such a huge, non-controlled experiment happened in the early 1990's, and was not a drug but a parenting practice: the insistence by the medical profession that all babies never be allowed to sleep on their stomachs. Sleep position recommendations have flip-flopped several times over the years. The professionals never think it safe to leave that decision up to the babies and their parents, they just keep changing what it is that is "the only safe way for a baby to sleep." Personally, I think "whatever helps the baby sleep best" is almost always the right choice. (But I am not a doctor, nor any other medical professional, so make your own choices and don't sue me.)

Early in the 1990's the thought was that back-sleeping might reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Indeed, there was a decline after the "Back to Sleep" push went into effect, though once again the experiment was unscientific with no significant control group. Certainly there were still parents who put their babies to sleep on their stomachs, but if there was any widespread study of them I never heard of it, and indeed the data was necessarily corrupted because the pressure was so great not to do so that few parents talked openly about it. And doctors, even if they were well aware of the advantages of stomach-sleeping, could not risk mentioning them to their patients. I remember vividly the one young mother who, months later, confessed to the pediatrician that her son had always slept on his stomach. The doctor laughed, saying, "Of course I knew that! Look at how advanced he is, and look at the perfect shape of his head!" But stomach-sleeping is still very much a "don't ask, don't tell" situation.

These massive, uncontrolled, and to my mind unethical experiments on the human population are justified in the minds of many because, after all, they "did their job." Deaths from Reye Syndrome, SIDS, and COVID-19 have all fallen, so who cares how we got there?

Well, I care—and so should anyone who believes in the scientific method, the Hippocratic Oath, and open, honest, and ethical research.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 29, 2022 at 6:09 am | Edit
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