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Nevilledog's Journal
Nevilledog's Journal
April 17, 2023

COVID-19 lockdown revisionism


The term “lockdown” has become a powerful and perverted word in the infodemic about democracies’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdown, as used in public discourse, has expanded to include any public health measure, even if it places little to no restriction on social mobility or interaction. For example, a working literature review and meta-analysis on the effects of lockdowns on COVID-19 mortality misleadingly defined lockdowns as “the imposition of at least 1 compulsory non-pharmaceutical intervention.”1 This working paper therefore conflated mandatory isolation for people with confirmed infections and masking policies with heavy-handed limitations on freedom of movement, and since it gained viral fame, it has helped fuel calls for “no more lockdowns.” This working paper has been highly critiqued and is less convincing than comparative assessments of health measures, like the Oxford Stringency Index.2,3

Here, we discuss the spread of misinformation on lockdowns and other public health measures, which we refer to as “lock-down revisionism,” and how this phenomenon has damaged trust in public health initiatives designed to keep people safer.


Anti-lockdown discourse is common on social media, in political rhetoric and in news articles.4–6 Lockdowns are often framed as a false binary of full lockdown versus no measures. However, democratic governments around the world attempted to strike a complex balance in their implementation of a blend of public health measures to address the threat of COVID-19, which varied as the pandemic and scientific evidence evolved. In some popular discourse, lockdowns have been framed as reckless and unscientific, as junk science, as an excuse to permanently oppress populations, as gaslighting with ever-shifting goalposts and as elements of various outlandish conspiracies.4,7,8 The notion that lockdowns did not work has been internalized by some as a truism. Both paid advertisements about lockdowns and posts on social media have gained widespread engagement.9 In news media, proponents of the Great Barrington Declaration — an open letter from 2020 that has been scientifically discredited — have vocally disputed public health measures.10

Some dissatisfaction with public health measures could relate to communication errors made by governments and others, and to the messy way in which scientific evidence accrued during the pandemic. Not every measure was implemented ideally in terms of its costs versus benefits. Competing priorities, such as child development versus risk of infection in relation to school closures, created spaces for reasonable disagreement, and also generated fertile ground for doubt and misinformation to develop. Careful audit of missteps and successes could usefully inform more targeted public health measures, if and when they are needed in the future. However, other powerful forces bear great responsibility for fostering lockdown revisionism. The capacity for social media to allow misinformation to be disproportionately amplified;11 the creation in popular media of platforms for and consequent legitimization of individuals who spread misinformation or disinformation, through false balance or otherwise;12 and the manner in which some politicians have generated or associated themselves with misleading rhetoric — famously, the convoy that occupied Ottawa in part of 2022 received prominent political support for its anti-lockdown messaging — are examples of such forces.

March 31, 2023

Breaking down Trump's 'Soros' attack on the Manhattan DA



In the wake of a Manhattan grand jury’s historic decision to indict Donald Trump, the former president and some other prominent Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have invoked liberal billionaire George Soros in their attacks on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Trump claimed in a statement that Bragg was “hand-picked and funded by George Soros.”

Here are the facts.

Soros, a longtime supporter of Democratic campaigns, various liberal causes and prosecutors who favor criminal justice reform, has been a frequent target of antisemitic conspiracy theories painting the Jewish philanthropist as a puppetmaster behind various US and international events. Soros did not make any direct contributions to Bragg’s 2021 election campaign, and a Soros spokesperson, Michael Vachon, told CNN last week that the two men have never once communicated in any way.

Rather, Soros’s connection to Bragg is indirect: he has been a major donor to a liberal political action committee that supported Bragg’s candidacy. A spokesperson for the PAC denounced the Soros-related attacks on Bragg in an interview with CNN last week, calling them “antisemitic,” “anti-Black” and an overstatement of both Soros’s role in the PAC’s decision-making and the PAC’s role in Bragg’s election victory.

Donations to a PAC that supported Bragg

Bragg is a graduate of Harvard Law School, a former federal prosecutor and a former chief deputy attorney general for New York state. He won a competitive Democratic primary for Manhattan district attorney in 2021, against an opponent who had millions more to spend, and then trounced a Republican in the general election.


March 28, 2023

Transgender Texans and doctors say Republican lawmakers are lying about the science


Several Republican Texas lawmakers are clashing with medical groups over whether puberty blockers and hormone therapies help or hurt transgender kids. Those conflicting positions come as some legislators push bills that would limit — or completely block — queer youth from accessing transition-related treatments that many medical associations support.

Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, is championing a bill that would bar doctors from providing such treatments — but only if they’re used to help a child gender transition. During a debate last week on her Senate Bill 14, Campbell and opponents of transition-related care portrayed doctors who provide such care as opportunists capitalizing on a “social contagion” with treatments that lack sufficient scientific data that could determine whether the care is safe and effective.

“I got into the Senate, or government, because I wanted government out of our lives,” Campbell said during the Senate State Affairs Committee hearing. “But if there comes a time when a profession, such as the medical profession, cannot regulate itself to protect patients, protect children, then the government needs to step in.”

Yet medical groups, doctors and transgender Texans say the scores of lawmakers backing such bans are either missing the point of how transition-related health care helps trans people — or are deliberately misconstruing information to target an already marginalized group of people.

March 22, 2023

Trump allies misrepresent crime in NYC


According to reports, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) is close to indicting former President Donald Trump for falsifying business records and violating campaign finance laws in relation to a $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, a former adult film star who says that she had an affair with Trump. On Saturday, Trump announced on Truth Social that he was anticipating being arrested Tuesday, although that did not happen.

Trump has responded to the reports by calling Bragg a "Racist in Reverse," and said it was implausible that he had an affair with Daniels because she has a "horse face." These claims have not gained much traction with his Republican supporters.

But at the CPAC Conference earlier this month, Trump claimed that Bragg “is presiding over one of the most dangerous and violent cities in the United States… where killings are taking place at a number like nobody’s ever seen, right in Manhattan.” Trump told the crowd that Bragg should focus on stemming the alleged increase in violent crime instead of the “now ancient” story of Stormy Daniels “where there is no crime anyway.”

Trump’s top allies have coalesced around that narrative, arguing that Bragg should forget about Trump and focus on the “skyrocketing” crime in New York City.

In an interview on ABC News, former Vice President Mike Pence said he was “taken aback” at the reports of a potential indictment. “At a time when there’s a crime wave in New York City, the fact that the Manhattan DA thinks that indicting President Trump is his top priority just tells you everything you need to know about the radical left,” Pence said.


March 3, 2023

Jim Jordan is such a dumbfuck. His "whistleblowers" discredited



Three of Jordan’s witnesses have come in for private interviews with committee staff so far. None of them appear to have had their claims validated by government entities that grant federal whistleblower protection, sources familiar with their testimony said. One who alleged there was FBI wrongdoing had their claims rejected. Another is retired and it’s unclear whether he has first-hand knowledge of the violations he alleges. The third has not revealed his direct disclosures or FBI suspension notice to House Democrats, according to transcripts reviewed by CNN.

Separately, several other supposed whistleblowers who have not come in for interviews were suspended from the FBI for being at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, according to multiple sources familiar with the committee’s work. This is a point Jordan has not shied away from, using the accounts of “several whistleblowers” in a May 2022 letter to accuse the FBI of “retaliating against employees” for engaging in “protected First Amendment activity on January 6.”

For more than a year, Jordan has made whistleblower allegations a central part of his campaign to uncover what he claims is political bias inside the federal government, including drafting a 1,000-page report last year that leans heavily on claims by government employees alleging political interference by both the Justice Department and the FBI.

That report and the groundswell of support among House Republicans helped lead to the creation of an entire subcommittee Jordan now leads, the “Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government,” which is helming the whistleblower interviews.


March 1, 2023

Republicans keep forgetting who the U.S. president was in 2020


For much of Joe Biden’s presidency, a variety of Republicans have pointed to fentanyl seizures at the U.S./Mexico border as proof of lax security measures. That’s never made any sense — the claims are inherently self-defeating — but an amazing number of GOP officials have spent the last couple of years pushing the line.

This came up again yesterday during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing, when Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene pointed to the Biden administration successfully seizing fentanyl before it reaches American soil as evidence of the Biden administration failing to stop fentanyl before it reaches American soil.

That was, to be sure, quite weird, but it wasn’t the Georgia congresswoman’s only misstep. Greene also published this missive to Twitter:

“Listen to this mother, who lost two children to fentanyl poisoning, tell the truth about both of her son’s murders because of the Biden administrations [sic] refusal to secure our border and stop the Cartel’s [sic] from murdering Americans everyday [sic] by Chinese fentanyl.”
The tweet came with a video of Rebecca Kiessling, a Michigan woman who told lawmakers about losing two sons to accidental fentanyl overdoses.

But while Greene saw Kiessling’s tragic story as proof of the Biden administration’s policies, there was a fairly obvious problem with this attempt at blame: Kiessling’s sons died in 2020, when Biden was a private citizen.

And while I don’t imagine anyone was especially surprised to see that the right-wing Georgian hadn't done her homework, it was part of a curious recent pattern in GOP politics: Republicans keep forgetting who was president in 2020.


March 1, 2023

What does the science say about the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic?


Since the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic began three years ago, its origin has been a topic of much scientific — and political — debate. Two main theories exist: The virus spilled over from an animal into people, most likely in a market in Wuhan, China, or the virus came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and spread due to some type of laboratory accident.

The Wall Street Journal added to that debate this week when they reported that the U.S. Department of Energy has shifted its stance on the origin of COVID. It now concludes, with "low confidence," that the pandemic most likely arose from a laboratory leak in Wuhan, China.

The agency based their conclusion on classified evidence that isn't available to the public. According to the federal government, "low confidence" means "the information used in the analysis is scant, questionable, fragmented, or that solid analytical conclusions cannot be inferred from the information."

And at this point, the U.S. intelligence community still has no consensus about the origin of SARS-CoV-2. Four of the eight intelligence agencies lean toward a natural origin for the virus, with "low confidence," while two of them – the DOE and the Federal Bureau of Investigation – support a lab origin, with the latter having "moderate confidence" about their conclusion.

But at the end of the day, the origin of the pandemic is also a scientific question. Virologists, who study pandemic origins, are much less divided than the U.S. intelligence community. They say there is "very convincing" data and "overwhelming evidence" pointing to an animal origin.


February 27, 2023

The Sunshine Imperium: The militarism of Ron DeSantis


FOUR YEARS into his unjustified imprisonment at Guantánamo Bay, Mansoor Adayfi met a young member of the Navy’s Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps who claimed to be his ally. “I saw a fucking handsome person,” Adayfi recently recalled in an interview with Mike Prysner, an Iraq War veteran turned peace activist. The dashing military lawyer had piercing blue eyes, white teeth, and dimples. He was armed only with a notebook, and his name was Ron DeSantis. “I’m here to ensure that you are treated humanely,” he pledged, according to Adayfi. Desperate and with few other options, Adayfi confided in DeSantis. He later regretted it. “When he turned his face—his true face,” he explained, “it was a shock to us all.”

The Republican Party’s great post-Trump hope for 2024 first touched down at America’s torture palace in March 2006. He was just twenty-seven. At the time, the prison’s sordid tactics were facing unprecedented scrutiny: the month DeSantis arrived in Cuba, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. In that case, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former bodyguard and chauffeur to Osama bin Laden, argued that the military commissions set up to try him and other Gitmo detainees violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions. In a momentous five-to-three decision, the court took his side.

In response, military brass rushed to defend and improve their practices. Ultimately, however, they focused more on rhetoric than redesign. DeSantis was then a junior prosecutor, meaning he was probably assigned boring clerical duties like processing security badges and drafting legal memos. But his main mission was ensuring that detainees were treated in line with applicable laws and regulations. “[He] would have been more in damage control mode than anything else,” estimated Moe Davis, the former chief prosecutor of the Guantánamo military commissions. Tom Fleener, a former defense lawyer at Gitmo, told me that “Ron knew where the bodies were buried, so to speak.” But “all the people around [him] were pitching the party line.” Fleener then ticked off this doctrine’s key claims. “It was, ‘We never grabbed innocent people. These are dangerous people who’ve committed unspeakable acts. These are enemy combatants. They can’t be released. We didn’t torture anybody. All our interrogation tactics worked. The information gleaned was true.’”

Fleener paused to take a breath. “Those were the standard mantras back then,” he explained. “All of it was false.” The facts were that many innocent people were being shackled, screamed at, beaten, and sexually assaulted at Guantánamo. Some died. Others were coerced into making false confessions.


February 24, 2023

ACE & PEN America Release Defending Academic Freedom Resource Guide


Over the past several years, higher education leaders and free speech advocates have grown increasingly alarmed at the rise of what PEN America calls educational gag orders: legislative restrictions on discussions of race, gender, American history, and LGBTQ+ identities in K-12 classrooms and on college campuses. PEN America has tracked nearly 300 bills, introduced in 44 state legislatures, have sought to restrict the teaching of such topics. Since 2021, nearly 100 such measures have specifically targeted college and university campuses.

These measures are a direct threat to the culture of open inquiry that underpins colleges and universities as a pillar of our democracy. Academic freedom is under siege, and college leaders have an important role to play in defending free speech for all on their campuses. That’s why today, PEN America and the American Council on Education, the major coordinating body for the nation’s colleges and universities, have released a new resource guide that gives college and university leaders the tools and resources they need to defend campus free expression from legislative attack.

The new resource guide, Making the Case for Academic Freedom in a Challenging Political Environment: A Resource Guide for Campus Leaders, provides an overview of the trends that are unfolding and the forces that shape them. It offers specific guidance to presidents, chancellors, and other campus leaders, explaining how they can address these issues with a range of audiences, including lawmakers, trustees, and community members. A brief, downloadable overview provides easy-to-use guidance for faculty and other university stakeholders.

The resource guide includes insights drawn from public opinion research ACE commissioned last year. The survey findings demonstrate broad bipartisan agreement that elected officials should not restrict what is taught on campus, and that it is important to preserve academic freedom and free expression in higher education.


February 24, 2023

COVID deniers claim a new study says mask mandates don't work. They should try reading it


No paywall


The mask critics are now touting what they seem to think is evidence for their claim that mask mandates don’t work. It’s a meta-study — that is, a compilation — of studies on physical interventions against the spread of respiratory viruses. That includes chiefly masks of various types and hand-washing.

The anti-maskers jumped right on the study soon after its publication on Jan. 30 by the usually trusted Cochrane Library, asserting that it proved that masking didn’t work against COVID-19. Leading the triumphal parade was Bret Stephens, a New York Times columnist and certified member of the “don’t confuse me with the facts” crowd.

Stephens surfaced the other day with a column purportedly based on the Cochrane study and headlined, “The Mask Mandates Did Nothing. Will Any Lessons Be Learned?”

He wrote, “Those skeptics who were furiously mocked as cranks and occasionally censored as ‘misinformers’ for opposing mandates were right. The mainstream experts and pundits who supported mandates were wrong.”

A few things about this.

First, one lesson about Stephens that many people learned long ago was that he doesn’t do his homework.


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