Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Covid in Belarus

Data for deaths from all causes suggest that Covid related deaths in Belarus are about three times higher than the 690, out of a population of 9.5 million, to which the government admits. 

Covid deaths are probably often classed as deaths from pneumonia.

Still the number is comparable with the number of deaths from a bad flu season. This is despite a complete lack of social distancing or other restrictions, which make Sweden seem positively paranoid. 

Life expectancy, especially for men, is not long in Belarus anyway because of smoking and heavy drinking. This means Belarussians usually die before they reach the ages at which most people in Western Europe die of Covid.

I have seen a young Belarusian academic in the West and a Belarusian on Twitter say the government's cavalier attitude towards the virus is one reason for the demonstrations each weekend. 

It may be so, but I wonder if they are influenced by opinion among their peers in the West. The Western media repeat this line.


Certainly so far Belarus is doing much better than her neighbours Russia and the Ukraine.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

R.I.P. George Alberts

I just learnt yesterday with very great sadness that my friend, George Alberts, died last night a week after being admitted to hospital suffering from Covid. 

In hospital he was put on a ventilator and under sedation and received good care, but the disease had progressed too far. His lungs deteriorated very badly and he died of a heart attack.

He was a very good friend to Romania and a well known Bucharest figure with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the criminology of banking and very much else.  He gave good parties, had many friends, was very emotional and soft-hearted beneath his crusty surface and a lover of good wine and travel.

I know he would have agreed with at least most of what I have said in the article I posted yesterday, just before I heard the dreadful news, about the way the media suppress discussion of how the authorities are dealing with Covid. We agreed about most things, apart from Brexit. He was an ardent admirer of Donald Trump, a lot more than me.

He had a lot of good stories, including ones about being present in Tbilisi as the Soviet Union fell apart and being asked to set up the National Bank of Georgia. Or have I misremembered?

Rest in peace, George.

'From quiet homes and first beginning,
Out to the undiscovered ends,
There's nothing worth the wear of winning,
But laughter and the love of friends.'
Hilaire Belloc - he later disowned this verse because he said it wasn't true and it isn't, but it is not so far off the truth.

From an otherwise silly Nick Cohen article in the Guardian last year

'When Tony Blair was elected in 1997, 60% of the English population was white and had left school without A-levels. When Theresa May lost her majority in 2017, that proportion had fallen to 40%. Over the same period, the share of the English population who were university graduates, members of an ethnic minority group or both went from 17 to 40%. In Britain, as in the US, progressive politics will be drawn to appeal to minorities and the educated, while rightwing politics will be drawn to appealing to “the whites”.'

Apart from that paragraph, the article is not worth reading, just malign nonsense. Mr Cohen's sympathies are firmly enlisted with graduates and ethnic minorities, not "the whites". 


The British Conservatives are not pretending to be PC. They are true believers.

“I’ve been told off in the tea room for referring to ‘my wife’ because that’s ‘possessive’. By a Conservative MP, actually. But that’s the state of the world.” 
Ben Bradley, Conservative MP for the formerly safe Labour seat of Mansfield

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Fratelli Tutti

A highly intelligent Catholic friend who unlike me has read the new encyclical sent me this email.

One hallmark of leftist publications is making assertions that upon examination are revealed as false or, at best, half-truths kitted out in the livery of obvious popular wisdom (vox populi). One such example in Frutti Tutti, there are many, is Francis' assertion that the Church has never considered ownership of property to be an inviolable right. This is from paragraph 15 of Rerum Novarum by Leo XIII: "Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property. This being established, we proceed to show where the remedy sought for must be found."


Of course, Francis prefers to cite his earlier writings more than the writings of his predecessors and Scripture - one supposes he places greater faith in the former than the latter two.


Another hallmark of leftist authors is to pull out of context phrases that support their expressed point of view (aka Cherry Picking) but that turn out not to do so when examined in context. See Francis' use of Aquinas on private property or John Paul II on capital punishment.


The third and most common technique in leftist composition is projection, that is, ascribing to others the very thinking that they do themselves. See Francis' reference to the manipulation of words - democracy, liberty, freedom, etc. - to impose ideological conformity and delegitimize contrary points of view.


And, Frutti Tutti is verbose, unstructured, lacks any discernible stylistic quality and if it has a voice, it is a whining garble mixed with a mumble punctuated by hectoring shouting.


In my not so humble opinion. Yours Ed

Friday, 9 October 2020

Churchill on rule by experts



"Nothing would be more fatal than for the Government of States to get in the hands of experts. Expert knowledge is limited knowledge, and the unlimited ignorance of the plain man who knows where it hurts is a safer guide than any rigorous direction of a specialized character.
Sir Winston Churchill

This reminds me of the words I quoted not long ago from Lord Salisbury:

"No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe."

Ray Bradbury saw it all coming

"They passed a law. Oh, it started very small. In 1950 and '60 it was a grain of sand. They began by controlling books of cartoons and then detective books and, of course, films, one way or another, one group or another, political bias, religious prejudice, union pressures; there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past, afraid of the present, afraid of themselves and shadows of themselves.”
The Martian Chronicles; 1950. Acknowledgements, Chris Carter

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

What authority does Pope Francis's new encyclical have?

'This was the week Pope Francis chose to issue a left wing pamphlet, which being pope he was able to dignify with the status of papal encyclical.' 
Damian Thompson, until this year editor of the Catholic Herald, on Fratelli Tutti.
The new encyclical "Fratelli Tutti" is basically an ode to Fraternity, in the French revolutionary concept of the word

He doesn't mention the word "abortion" but defends the lives of the unborn in the context of a "throwaway society".


'Neoliberalism is, in fact, a very Catholic set of beliefs....The Pope says that he fears that the world is becoming deaf, incapable or unwilling to listen to the complexities of others. But that’s nothing to do with liberal economics. Indeed, it is the market that allows us to listen, see, hear, and reach out. Its flourishing has been the most incredible force for good that humanity has ever seen.'  
Matt Kilcoyne in the really excellent Unherd (it's free, by the way). 

Personally, I associate Catholicism rather with feudalism than neoliberalism or social democracy, but I know this is out of date and not in line with modern European values.

Do Catholics have to accept what the Pope teaches about economics, politics and climatology? 

The first Vatican Council, the one conservatives like, said in Pastor Aeternus, chapter 4, n.7.
This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this see so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all.
That does not mean Catholics always have to agree with the Pope. They certainly don't, as the great Mgr Alfred Gilbey told me, but Pope Pius XII's encyclical Humani Generis says:
Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: "He who heareth you, heareth me"; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.

But what exact authority do these words in Humani Generis have? It's something of a circular argument.

The Syllabus of Errors was an annex to the encyclical Quanta cura and condemns socialism and modern civilisation. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannia,


As the errors listed had already been condemned in allocutions, encyclicals, and other apostolic letters, the Syllabus said nothing new and so could not be contested. Its importance lay in the fact that it published to the world what had previously been preached in the main only to the bishops, and that it made general what had been previously specific denunciations concerned with particular events. Thus perhaps the most famous article, the 80th, stigmatizing as an error the view that “the Roman Pontiff can and should reconcile himself to and agree with progress, liberalism, and modern civilization,” sought its authority in the pope’s refusal, in Jamdudum Cernimus, to have any dealings with the new Italian kingdom.

The Pope's latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, was greeted with very much less deference than encyclicals by previous popes, but then when Pope Pius IX promulgated the Syllabus of Errors Twitter had not been invented.

Catholic Twitter made much of these words of the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, who is quoted several times and praised by the Pope as his inspiration in the encyclical.
 
"The four schools of law all concur that apostasy is a crime, that an apostate should be asked to repent, and that if he does not, he should be killed." 

The Imam does not share the Pope's view on the death penalty, nor can a Muslim, but criticism of him for approving of it for apostasy is unfair. The Imam has to believe in his religion or convert, just as popes are supposed to believe in theirs.
By the way, did you know the Chief Rabbi of Italy converted to Catholicism in February 1945, partly because of his admiration for Pope Pius XII? 
Let us hope the Imam follows this excellent example.
A liberal theologian very active on Twitter called Massimo Faggioli says that the Church is changing and changed in the past, over for example her teaching on war and usury. I thought the teaching on usury had not changed but been politely ignored. 

Now the Pope admits to changing teaching on capital punishment and seems to make other changes. It is confusing for us laymen with busy lives and disquieting. 
But it sounds like Professor Faggioli, who seems to think liking Donald Trump incompatible with Catholicism, is saying what many others think: that the Church since the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s is not the same Church as the one before.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

In my lifetime has there been any politician who has achieved something?

He made no difference to my life but Rudy Guiliani, for making New York City safe, is the one who comes to mind. I wanted him to be President until someone told me to google "Rudy Guiliani ferrets". I did and changed my mind.


Gorbachev brought about the end of Communism in Eastern Europe - a great thing, but the opposite of what he intended to achieve, which was to revitalise Leninism and the Soviet Union. Does this count as an achievement?

The politicians who changed my life for the better are Conservatives: Rab Butler for inventing grammar schools and the Conservative councillors on Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, who withstood the pressure from Labour governments, Labour and Liberal councillors and civil servants to turn Southend's grammar schools into comprehensives, as happened almost everywhere in England. Never forgive the post-war Liberal Party for the many bad things they wanted to do, had they ever been allowed to get into power.

In the Chinese Communist Bible, Jesus Stones the Woman

In a new Chinese Communist translation of the Bible, Jesus stones the woman taken in adultery.

Monday, 5 October 2020

Give Peace a Chance

The older I get the worse I think war is and the more obvious it is that very, very few wars are necessary evils or better than the alternative. 

I am reluctant to disagree with Robert Tombs, who is a genius and who supervised me at Cambridge, but  the two World Wars and possibly the wars against Napoleon (I haven't studied the Napoleonic wars) in hindsight may well fall into the category of unnecessary. The Crimean War, the English and US Civil Wars and the two Boer Wars obviously do.

I am most pacifist about revolutions and especially the American, French, Russian and Iranian ones.

But I am not a pacifist. There are just wars and war is a necessary evil. America was right to bomb Hiroshima (not Nagasaki). 

In my time, the Falklands War and the first (contra Edward Heath and Denis Healey) but not the second Iraq War were just. 

I doubt now if the Kosovan War was. I supported it at the time. I wanted what used to be called 'the Powers' to intervene in the Bosnian War, while Simon Heffer and his mentor Enoch Powell were opposed to interventions in the former Yugoslavia. At the time I was very opposed to that point of view, but now am no longer quite so sure. 

The Pope's new encyclical Tutti Frutti Fratelli Tutti, which was promulgated or published or whatever happens to encyclicals yesterday, says

It is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a ‘just war'.
Yet Pope Francis is an admirer of Abraham Lincoln, whose war against the South cost 700,000 lives all told, including people who died of disease, and he wanted Hillary Clinton to become President even though she had promised that regime change in Syria would be her top priority.

Here are some other opinions about pacifism.


Talk of world peace is heard today only among the white peoples, and not among the much more numerous coloured races. This is a perilous state of affairs. When individual thinkers and idealists talk of peace, as they have done since time immemorial, the effect is negligible. But when whole peoples become pacifistic it is a symptom of senility. Strong and unspent races are not pacifistic. To adopt such a position is to abandon the future, for the pacifist ideal is a terminal condition that is contrary to the basic facts of existence. As long as man continues to evolve, there will be wars...
Oswald Spengler

 



That Europe was still Christian except for its Jews, privileged survivors when the pagans were exterminated, but its very un-Christian central ideology was the Iliad’s: men love war, women love warriors. European wars over the centuries were fought by volunteers, whose urge to fight was far more widely admired than deplored, not least by women desirous of virile mates.

...As for the post-heroic ideas that have largely displaced the Iliad’s elemental prescriptions, they are varied and changeable and drifting right-ward of late, but among the better-educated anti-racism, feminism, post-colonial guilt, and a pacifist presumption remain the dominant mix, perhaps best exemplified by the Norwegian politician Karsten Nordal Hauken. In both a TV appearance and an April 6, 2016 article, Hauken proclaimed his own strong feelings of guilt and responsibility, because a male Somali asylum-seeker was being deported after serving four-and-a-half years in prison for rape: “I was the reason that he would not be in Norway anymore but rather sent to a dark, uncertain future in Somalia. … I see him mostly as a product of an unfair world, a product of an upbringing marked by war and despair.”


Hauken’s guilty plea may seem strange because he did not capture, prosecute, or judge the Somali. Yet there can be no doubt about his personal connection to the case: Karsten Nordal Hauken, self-described as “male, heterosexual, young Socialist Left Party member, feminist and anti-racist” was himself the object of the rape.”
Edward Luttwak in a fine essay in the Tablet, the American Jewish magazine, not the British (supposedly) Catholic one.

Biden looks likely to win

Today a democrat of the old school would demand, not freedom for the press, but freedom from the press.
Oswald Spengler 
Civilized debate has been ruled out by the D.C. smart set which considers the Trump agenda, endorsed by 60 million Americans in 2016, subversive and treasonous.
Ilana Mercer
My abiding impression of the debate five nights ago, between Messrs Trump and Biden? 

I am left angry at the way the moderator talked over his condemnation of white supremacists, whatever they are, and heckled him to condemn the Proud Boys, who are extreme, according to the BBC World Service last night, because they want to stop immigration, revert to traditional female and male roles in marriage and are proud 'Western chauvinists' who say they believe in the superiority of Western civilisation.

This is my abiding impression, because it is the failure to condemn the Proud Boys is what the media want our abiding impression to be.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll shows Joe Biden leads by 10 points after President Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. A majority of Americans think the President could have avoided the infection if he had taken the virus more seriously. They are probably right and he has shown a characteristic lack of concern for other people.

George W Bush was one of the worst presidents in history (only Lincoln, Wilson and LBJ are comparably bad) but he was a gentleman and had impeccable manners. Not so Donald Trump.

I think Joe Biden is going to win next month, even though he is  a cipher, and this will mean the pre Trump structures of power will consider themselves justified in America and Europe, which on the whole is a thoroughly bad thing. 

The Democrats will return to power like the Bourbons, having learnt nothing and forgotten nothing.

My powers of prediction are not good. At the start of the year I said Bernie Sanders was bound to lose to Donald Trump. I was persuaded out of my hunch that Trump would win in 2016 by a clever American Democrat I was friends with on Facebook and the Brexit result came as a big surprise. I never imagined either that there would be a Pope like the present one.

Quotations

Prince Metternich is reputed to have said:

"The Balkans begin at the Rennweg",

a street that led southwest out of the  Vienna, but no-one seems certain that he did.

Another version is, 

"Asia begins at the Landstrasse".

Sir Lewis Namier:

"...Nor can he [Metternich] be blamed for Austria's intellectual backwardness; with him or without him Vienna has never produced anything truly great or creative, only a fine blend of a peculiar internationalism with an intensely local colouring - somewhat like Metternich himself."


Listener: Is it possible to predict the future?

Radio Yerevan: Yes, the future can be predicted with complete accuracy. It is only the past that keeps changing.


Queen Margaret in Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 3, Act 1, Scene 4:
I prithee grieve to make me merry, York. Stamp, rave and fret, that I may sing and dance.

She was good, quiet, dull, and amiable, and young only because she was twenty-three. E.M Forster

Begging the question

This is from an article about 'begging the question', from a fascinating site or blog called Words at Play, the run by Webster's Dictionary, and the people who hate its 'misuse'. 

(I am with the haters, though I had to check I remembered the correct meaning. Although I am so passionate a believer in freedom that I have been accused of being a libertarian, it clearly shows my basically authoritarian tendencies. I believe in freedom but I want society to police itself somewhat rigorously, and very rigorously when it comes to grammar.)
There is a segment of the population that would be enormously relieved if phrases like a question that begs an answer replaced the usual begs the question uses. These are people who think using beg the question to mean "to cause someone to ask a specified question as a reaction or response" is completely and thoroughly wrong. There are probably more of these people than you think, and they are judging the rest of us.
For these people, the only "correct" way to use the phrase beg the question is with the meaning "to ignore a question or issue by assuming it has been answered or settled."...

Saturday, 3 October 2020

It seems Pope Francis did give money to Hillary Clinton's campaign - but it's only interference by Russia that's important

From Damian Thompson's latest philippic against the Pope, in the US Spectator. 

"Pompeo is beside himself with rage that the leader of a Church that condemns voluntary abortions chooses to say nothing about the the forced variety to which Uighur women are subjected.... 
"Francis is desperate to see the back of Trump. The Vatican spent a lot of money back in 2016 trying to secure the election of Hillary Clinton. Now it is effectively bankrupt, which is why it’s so keen to refresh its relationship with a dictatorship with money to burn. Refusing to meet Pompeo at least deprives the Trump administration of photo opportunity."

At least indirectly, money contributed by Mass goers in the annual Peter's Pence collection (it's this Sunday, by the way) went to Hillary four years ago. Will the Vatican subsidise Joe Biden this time?

Damian Thompson strongly suspects that the Vatican secretly receives large subventions from Communist China, but he has no evidence. 

What an interesting theory, that money from a Communist tyranny, that forces women to have abortions, is accepted by the Pope and passed on to a candidate who backs single-sex marriage and abortion and will appoint judges in the mould of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

'Is the Pope a Catholic?' used to be sarcasm. I think, if the phrase is ever used nowadays, it's often a genuine enquiry. 


Friday, 2 October 2020

Deaths in nursing homes make up between 40% (Germany) and 80% (Canada) of Covid deaths, but people in nursing homes make up 0.6% of population

(From Swiss Policy Research.)

"..the UN expects that the political reaction to the pandemic may put the livelihood of up to 1.6 billion people at immediate risk and may, by the end of 2020, push an additional 130 million people “to the brink of starvation” and an additional 150 million children into poverty."

"In most Western countries, nursing homes account for about 40% (Germany) to 80% (Canada and some US states) of all covid deaths, but they encompass only about 0.6% of the population."


Who will save us from the WHO?

Knut Wittkowski, Ph.D., said yesterday:
'Just as a comparison [with Covid-19): In 2018, 10 million people became cases (in the usual sense, meaning: fell ill) and 1.5 million people worldwide died of tuberculosis. TB is endemic, rather than an epidemic, so a lockdown to prevent the spread of TB could save many of these deaths.'


He was commenting on LinkedIn on a comment by Arlyne Beeche, Ph.D., on a BBC news story under the headline:

Coronavirus: Two million deaths 'very likely' even with vaccine, WHO warns


This headline is misleading. What Dr Ryan of the WHO said, in answer to a question, was that two million dead was 'not impossible' and he went on to say it was 'very likely' if testing and tracing, quarantines and measures to impose social distancing were not implemented. He just does not know. How can he?

The two million deaths would be two million who died with not of the virus, I think. The Hong Kong flu in 1968 killed a million around the world and the 1957–1958 Asian flu killed1.1 million.


Arlyne Beeche wrote this comment on the story, on LinkedIn.

The scientific support behind these claims is extremely weak. First, it is safe to assume based on the early introduction of SARS2 that it is far more widespread than has been detected, simply based on its transmission dynamics, and asymptomatic and mild profile. Second, there is no discussion on the protective T cell immune response. Third, deaths WITH COvID-19 and DUE TO COVID-19 are mixed and overinflate numbers deaths. Finally, fourth, total deaths “with/due to” COVID are falling. So, what is the basis for this irresponsible claim that is creating unprecedented harm to the masses due to the lack of long term vision? Look at the data. These irresponsible (WHO et al) approaches are harming our young (and old) generations. Who is considering the long term, not yet visible negative ramifications of this short sighted line of thinking? One examples: Kids need exposure to each other and their environment to strengthen their immune systems, and this is actively being removed. This is “public health” today? This will certainly increase preventable diseases.