The almost total transformation of society

“As a historian, the almost total transformation of society scares me”

The Rabbi Hillel Goldberg is on the right track, although he has far too much faith in the people in charge and has failed to grasp the key point that the “current transformation” is not “meant for our good” and has nothing to do with a microbe. Nevertheless, his historical comparison is apt. Most people will find it ridiculous or even offensive, because they will take it literally and ignore the deeper point that the Rabbi is making, which involves mass psychology. The speed and scale of the societal change that has occurred worldwide is truly frightening and without precedent in all of human history. The fact that the supine people of the West have accepted it with barely a question or complaint really makes me wonder what further surprises may be in store for us over the coming weeks or months. If you are not disturbed by where this is trending, you are simply not paying attention.

The manufacture of consent

Clap Because We Care NYCWhat is the purpose of “Clap Because We Care,” the nightly ritualized clapping and cheering for medical personnel and other essential workers* in New York City?

As far as I can tell, the function of this ritual is threefold:

1) To heighten the impression of total and permanent crisis, reinforcing the need for indefinite lockdowns;

2) To evoke traditional celebrations of military personnel and first responders, creating the impression that the viral outbreak is similar to a war or terrorist attack;

3) To generate a (fake) sense of community with strangers who are similarly confined to their homes (this being the only large-scale social activity still permitted), and therefore conditioning New Yorkers to accept, embrace and even enjoy their isolation and confinement as the “new normal.”

In summary, the purpose of these orchestrated clapping sessions – like the terrifying stories being spewed by the media and social media – is to manufacture consent for ongoing, massive political and societal changes that would otherwise be unacceptable.

Creepy stuff.

*(The category of “essential workers” is quite broad; based on the city’s definition of “essential businesses or entities,” it seems to include bankers and journalists as well as healthcare workers treating WuFlu patients. By some accounts, the clapping is primarily directed at medical personnel, but other reports mention truck drivers, grocery store workers, etc. The vagueness of what categories of workers are being celebrated is another creepy aspect of the ritual. At least in Airstrip One, the clapping is specifically for the NHS.)

New Jersey police use Chinese drones to harass Americans

Remember when we laughed at China for using drones equipped with loudspeakers to enforce lockdown orders? Back in the good old days of… early February? Yep, those were the days.

Well, it didn’t take long for that dystopian innovation to reach America’s shores:

Police departments across the country are resorting to the use of drone surveillance to enforce social distancing in both public and private spaces during statewide shelter-in-place orders.

New footage shot by MSNBC shows police in Elizabeth, New Jersey using drones to look for people not social distancing in areas their patrol cars cannot access.

“The drones make it easier for people to see into certain areas where access by patrol car is more difficult,” Rehema Ellis, an NBC news correspondent said. “That includes tight spaces between buildings, behind schools, and in backyards.”

Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage told MSNBC that cities need to get creative, and defended the intrusive tactic as potentially saving lives.

“If these drones save one life, it is clearly worth the activity and the information the drones are sending,” the mayor said.

Of course. That is going to be the justification for every outrage in the future. “If it saves ONE LIFE, it’s worth [… suspending your civil liberties, trashing the economy, dissolving society… forever].” One life. I wonder what the founding fathers would have made of this argument?

When a drone identifies a group of people collected together, such as individuals quarantined in their backyard, it says, “you should not be congregating in groups.” Consequences for refusing to abide by the drones in Elizabeth, NJ include a court summons or a $1,000 fine.

Here’s the kicker:

A Chinese company known as Da Jiang Innovations (DJI) donated these types of drones to 43 law enforcement agencies in 23 states. Last May, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo warning that Chinese drones are possible security risks, ripe for the “potential use for terrorism, mass casualty incidents, interference with air traffic, as well as corporate espionage and invasions of privacy.”

Donated, seriously? And the police departments thought this was a good idea?

Stop calling it a “quarantine”!

Not. A. Quarantine. (Source)

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. –George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”

We need to get something straight amid the current global insanity. A “quarantine” is when you separate people who are infected, or likely to be infected, from the healthy population. Here’s the Google-promoted definition from Lexico.com:

NOUN

A state, period, or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are placed.
‘many animals die in quarantine’

Here’s the definition from WebMD:

What does it mean to be quarantined? People who have been exposed to an infectious disease and may be infected but are not yet ill may be quarantined. That is, they may be asked to remain at home or another location to prevent further spread of illness to others and to carefully monitor for the disease.

During quarantine people are able to do most things they can do indoors within the constraints of the location they are at. For example, if people are asked to stay at home then they would usually be asked to take their own temperature and report daily to health authorities on how they are feeling. They are given instructions on what they can do and not do around family members and are informed of other disease precautions.

The word comes from the Black Death-era Venetian practice of requiring ships from infected ports to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing (quaranta giorni is Italian for “40 days”).

It’s perfectly clear, then, that the mass “lockdowns” and stay-at-home orders affecting billions of people around the world are not quarantines! Ordering healthy people, who have no known exposure to the virus, to stay indoors is not a quarantine. Banning all forms of real-life social activity is not a quarantine.

What should we call it, then? Personally, I prefer the term “mass house arrest” – because, stripped of its legal connotations, that is what it is!

Let’s check the Wikipedia entry for “house arrest”:

In justice and law, house arrest (also called home confinement, home detention, or, in modern times, electronic monitoring) is a measure by which a person is confined by the authorities to their residence. Travel is usually restricted, if allowed at all. House arrest is an alternative to being in a prison while awaiting trial or after sentencing. […]

The terms of house arrest can differ, but most programs allow employed offenders to continue to work, and confine them to their residence only during non-working hours. Offenders are commonly allowed to leave their home for specific purposes; examples can include visits to the probation officer or police station, religious services, education, attorney visits, court appearances, and medical appointments.[3][4] Many programs also allow the convict to leave their residence during regular, pre-approved times in order to carry out general household errands, such as food shopping and laundry. Offenders may have to respond to communications from a higher authority to verify that they are at home when required to be. Exceptions are often made to allow visitors to visit the offender.[5]

It’s fascinating to note that prisoners under house arrest often have more freedom of action that the average American/European/Indian/etc. under the current regimes of medical house arrest. For example, Americans are not allowed to attend religious services – whereas prisoners under house arrest are.

You may think this is a trivial issue, but in reality, it’s of the utmost importance that we call things by their correct names. If we don’t, we won’t understand the true nature of what is happening, and we will tolerate the intolerable and defend the indefensible. False language is the handmaiden of evil. Pseudo-scientific babble is being invoked to justify vast and possibly irrevocable political and societal changes. Calling mass house arrest a “quarantine,” as many people are doing, makes it more palatable. Quarantines are good; who doesn’t support quarantining the infected? Forget that most of us are not infected, or that if we are, we don’t need to quarantine everyone because it’s already too late.

If you care about language, if you care about science, if you care about logic and clarity of thought, please… stop calling it a quarantine!!!

“A realm of sinister fantasy”: Lord Sumption nails it

The esteemed Jonathan Sumption, former Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, has written what is perhaps the single best and most concise takedown of corona-hysteria and the insane, totalitarian political reaction to the trivial threat posed by the virus. It’s behind a paywall but the whole text is reproduced on Reddit. This is how it starts:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” The words are Franklin D Roosevelt’s. His challenge was recession, not disease, but his words have a wider resonance.

Fear is dangerous. It is the enemy of reason. It suppresses balance and judgment. And it is infectious. Roosevelt thought government was doing too little. But today fear is more likely to push governments into doing too much, as democratic politicians run for cover in the face of public panic. Is the coronavirus the latest and most damaging example?

Epidemics are not new. Bubonic plague, smallpox, cholera, typhoid, meningitis, Spanish flu all took a heavy toll in their time. […]

Another epidemiologist speaks

New Zealand is under a harsh lockdown, with prime minister Ardern promising more of the same in view of the terrible plague that has so far killed 11 people in the country. But this policy of universal house arrest has attracted some prominent dissenters:

A group of academics say we can – and should – come out of lockdown and is proposing a ‘Plan B’.

The plan suggests ending the lockdown after four week period and immediately shift to a risk-based management plan, similar to the Government’s alert level two.

Auckland University senior lecturer of epidemiology Dr Simon Thornley told Mike Hosking the situation here shows the risk is generally low for working age and young people.

“We don’t think the lockdown is justified, we think we can safely head back to work and school.”

Dr Simon Thornley says there’s compelling evidence the threat posed by Covid-19 is not much more severe than seasonal flu.

“We need to pay particular attention to rest homes and hospitals, but to the rest of us, the threat is very low.”

Here is full “Plan B” statement.

The protests begin

(Video source)

Operation Gridlock reveals the growing discontent of Americans with the new Sanitary Dictatorship that has installed itself over them:

Wednesday’s protests in Michigan show that draconian state lockdown orders – if allowed to continue too long – threaten the voluntary law-abiding character of the American people.

State governors, who truly control whether the economy stays open or shut, must better explain their reasons for their trade-offs between slowing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic versus throwing millions out of work and destroying billions in economic activity.

If their people disagree, these leaders risk sparking civil disobedience that will undermine their political and legal systems.

Michigan’s Conservative Coalition organized what was called “Operation Gridlock” Wednesday, in which members drove their cars throughout the state capital city, Lansing, to protest the lockdown ordered by governor Gretchen Whitmer.

According to Fox News, “demonstrators blasted their horns, waved Americans flags and hoisted placards deriding Whitmer’s orders and demanding that she reopen the state’s economy.”

Whitmer has ordered one of the most aggressive lockdown orders in the nation by banning all gatherings regardless of size or family ties, and even individual visits between family or friends (unless they are providing care).

Michigan’s governor has lost the consent of the governed:

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the COVID-19 lockdown has stood out as one of the most severe and arbitrary in the US. Michiganders are unable to purchase gardening supplies but lottery tickets are fine. They can travel to Walmart but not to their cabins in the countryside. They can paddle a canoe but can’t ride a jet ski.

Many officials and citizens have had enough. A group of county sheriffs announced Wednesday that they will not enforce some of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lockdown orders. At the same time, thousands of Michiganders gathered at the state capitol to protest her actions in a rally they dubbed “Operation Gridlock.”

Sheriffs from four contiguous counties in the northwest corner of the lower peninsula are placing their constitutional duties above the governor’s mandates.

A military blogger weighs in: “I’m just here to tell you that we need a better explanation than we’re getting.” (Hint: there isn’t going to be one.)

In other microbe news, Taiwan reported a sign of human-to-human transmission of the virus to the WHO in December 31. The warning was not shared with other countries. From FT:

China’s health ministry only confirmed human-to-human transmission on January 20, after the WHO said in mid-January there might be “limited” human-to-human transmission but stepped back from this view on the same day.

Interesting bit from the story:

Dr Aylward [the Canadian epidemiologist who led the WHO team that visited China] said Chinese health officials did not want to refer to the pathogen as “dangerous” as they regarded such terminology as reserved for diseases with higher mortality rates.

Not dangerous? Maybe they have a point. Globally, WuFlu has so far killed 0.24% of the number of people who were projected to die in 2020.

Despotic India

On March 24, when Modi ordered a complete lockdown of India’s population of 1.3 billion (“there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes”), the country had 536 reported coronavirus cases and 10 deaths.

As of Sunday, with Modi having decided to extend the lockdown indefinitely, India had 9,204 total cases and 331 deaths.

India’s death rate in 2018 was 7.3/1000, meaning 9.9 million people died that year, or roughly 27,000 people per day.

Thus, the pandemic so far has (officially) killed about 1% of the number of people who die every day in India. Somehow, I find it hard to believe that this warrants the chaos that has been visited upon the population:

Mr. Modi announced the lockdown, which includes a ban on interstate travel, with just four hours’ notice on Tuesday, leaving the enormous migrant population stranded in big cities. Jobs lure at least 45 million people to cities from the countryside every year, according to government estimates.

Many of those migrants are fed and housed at the shops and construction sites where they work, and as businesses closed, hundreds of thousands — if not millions — were suddenly without their homes and a regular source of food. […]

Soup kitchens across Delhi are unable to cope with the demand, which aid workers estimate has tripled. Fights have been breaking out. The government has given the police no explicit policy for dealing with stranded migrants, and many officers have lashed out.

“In the absence of a clear policy, the migrants have been left to the whims of police. And there are instances where the police treat them inhumanely,” said Ashwin Parulkar, a senior researcher for the Center for Policy Research in Delhi who studies India’s homeless population.

Usually, the homeless are fed by India’s array of religious institutions: Hindu temples, Sikh gurdwaras and mosques. But now, everything is closed, and shelters are feeling the strain. […]

Mr. Kumar said most homeless people he encountered had known nothing about the coronavirus, and had awakened one day to find the police shooing them off the streets, ordering them to practice social distancing — a new catchword in India, as in most of the world.

“But where do the homeless go?” he asked.

The country’s entire train system has been shut down:

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 25, Indian Railways took the unprecedented move of suspending passenger trains across the country until April 14.

It was the first time in 167 years that Asia’s oldest rail network had been suspended.

Now the railway network has decided to convert as many as 20,000 old train carriages into isolation wards for patients as the virus spreads. […]

Normally, Indian Railways runs more than 20,000 passenger trains a day, on long-distance and suburban routes, from 7,349 stations across India.

The lockdown has put nearly 67,368 kilometers of track out of use — enough to circle the equator 1.5 times — and left thousands of passenger trains sitting idle. Freight trains, or goods trains as they are called in India, remain operational.

The global mass hysteria has triggered a panicked response from India’s politicians:

Just across the river from me in the hamlet of Penha de França, the Harvard Medical School professor Vikram Patel was caught up in the melee. Along with his neighbours, he was assaulted by the police while queueing to buy provisions. He spoke of “the constantly changing announcements on social restrictions, the abandonment of government responsibility to secure supply chains, the threatening of desperate people with military-style responses, and the crushing of small businesses which define rural life in Goa”. These were the decisions of panicked politicians. Planned and phased reactions, he told me, would have been much less disruptive and damaging.

The tumult in Goa was only a microcosm of the rest of the country. Just over 4,900 Covid-19 infections (and 137 deaths) have been registered since India’s first case on 30 January, but numbers pale in comparison to tuberculosis, which has killed hundreds of thousands of Indians every year for decades, without triggering any draconian curfews. Patel pointed out that this astonishing death toll had never occasioned any panic. In his view, the abrupt actions in this case “suggests that those advising our government have omitted the first lesson of public health, which is that context matters”.

Those singular circumstances look increasingly daunting, with no obvious solutions in sight. The majority of India’s workers, 85%, are in the informal economy. Their livelihoods have been ruinously disrupted, and prospects look increasingly bleak in the global recession the IMF has already called “a crisis like no other”.

To quote Paul Johnson’s Modern Times, it appears that Modi has rediscovered the 20th century’s “most radical vice: social engineering – the notion that human beings can be shoveled around like concrete.”

He’s not going anywhere

It’s hardly surprising that Sisci would offer a ringing endorsement of China’s “effective” response to the virus – although it is puzzling that he would describe democratic Taiwan and Korea’s own effective responses as “incidents or adaptations of the Chinese way.” Putting that aside, this is a useful reminder that the Emperor for Life probably ain’t going anywhere anytime soon, despite the inane delusions of certain foreign observers with “sources” telling them that “Xi is in trouble”:

This is a recurring story. Over a year ago I wrote:

«Certainly, there is mounting opposition to Xi Jinping’s administration. This opposition considers the issue of getting rid of the top leader according to the rules of the system: you can’t peacefully vote him out of power, you must use force – you have to stage a coup and take him out. So, the attempts on his life were most likely real, and communist China has a history of attempted coups. But did they succeed in their goals? And how were they staged?».[1]

And the only successful coup in the history of the People’s Republic was staged in 1976 against the Gang of Four. Here «the three main plotters controlled all the crucial elements: the party organization, the army, and the personal security of the people arrested».[2] That is, the main plotters were already in control of the party and the military and got rid of the challenge from the opposition. That was quite a different situation from the present one where Xi holds all the cards.

In the Party

Moreover, the CPC has rules limiting and strictly regulating meetings of senior officials outside of the appointed occasions. This was imposed a long time ago by Mao to thwart possible plots and as far as we know the rule is still in place.

In past years, Xi not only arrested a lot of people but deconstructed the party apparatus and the PLA (People’s Liberation Army), moving people around to break their chains of loyalties. Everybody now works in environments where they can’t be sure of where other people stand, and thus they are all wary about expressing themselves let alone organizing a coup against Xi.

A coup needs first and foremost a secretive, efficient, and quite pervasive organization. Without it a coup turns into civil war or the putschists are all arrested and killed by a firing squad (or die in a plane crash, as happened to Lin Biao in 1971).

How can there be any organization against Xi in these circumstances?

What some people register, confusing the signals, is that there is widespread, pervasive opposition to Xi among officials and their extended families (all formerly benefitting from the old pre-anticorruption life). But this opposition is scattered, with no glue or mortar to hold it. This sand-like opposition vanishes anytime and anywhere Xi puts his foot down.

Hua Guofeng arranged the coup against the Gang of Four, which included Mao’s last wife Jiang Qing.

Actual tyranny

Inessential items (Source)

It’s here, and it’s intensifying, as the politicians grow accustomed to pushing Americans around in ever more pointless and humiliating ways.

If you don’t see it by now, I really can’t help you.

After Friday, Michigan residents will no longer be able to jump in the car — or cross the street — to visit friends and relatives inside the state, or to go to the cottage Up North, with limited exceptions.

That is one of the major changes in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “stay home” order, issued Thursday, which also extends the expiration of the order to May 1.

Until now, travel between two Michigan residences has been permitted.

Beginning Saturday morning, that will end, except for purposes such as caring for a relative, an elderly friend, or a pet, visiting a nursing home or similar facility, attending a funeral with no more than 10 people, or complying with a court order related to child custody.

“All public and private gatherings of any size are prohibited,” Whitmer said at a news conference. “People can still leave the house for outdoor activities,” and outdoor “recreational activities are still permitted as long as they’re taking place outside of six feet from anyone else.”

People will still be able to travel to other residences outside the state, but not to cottages or vacation rentals inside the state, the order says.

Exhibit B: Kentucky has found an imaginative way to harass churchgoers. Of course, Catholics won’t face this problem because their Church preemptively caved on “social distancing” guidelines without needing to be forced:

The state of Kentucky is taking new action to discourage individuals from participating in mass gatherings, such as church services, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Friday.

The state will be recording the license plates of those who show up to any mass gatherings and provide that information to the local health departments, who will in turn order those individuals to be quarantined for 14 days, according to Beshear.

Beshear said the state is down to less than seven churches state-wide that are still “thinking about” having an in-person service this weekend.

“Folks, we shouldn’t have to do this,” Beshear said. “I think it’s not a test of faith whether you’re going to an in-person service, it’s a test of faith that you’re willing to sacrifice to protect your fellow man, your fellow woman, your fellow Kentuckian, and your fellow American.”