Henri Matisse Sorrow of the King 1952
“Now he speaks for almost no one. He is making his own decisions, which is what we pay him to do.”
“In the end, political decision-making has to rest on personal judgment – there is no scientific manual to tell leaders what to do.”
What happened to following the science? In the spring, when Boris Johnson and his scientific advisers were proceeding in lockstep, there was no disagreement about the necessity of shutting the country down. Now the government is coming to its own conclusions about what is needed, and the scientists on the Sage advisory group have started distancing themselves from No 10’s decisions. Critics complain that the politicians are chancing it rather than being led by the evidence. But as the German sociologist Max Weber argued a century ago, politics can never really follow the science. Pretending that it can is where the trouble starts. Weber believed that politics and science do not mix. In the end, political decision-making has to rest on personal judgment – there is no scientific manual to tell leaders what to do.
More to the point, scientists are not well suited to making those decisions. They want the facts to speak for themselves. That is wishful thinking: facts alone cannot tell us what to do. In politics, expecting the evidence to point the way does not reduce the arbitrariness of the outcome. All political choices are arbitrary to a degree. Using statistics to justify difficult decisions just makes them appear more arbitrary for anyone who happens to disagree. The widespread consensus in March that a national lockdown was needed – shared not just by national politicians and their expert advisers, but by the public too – was not primarily driven by the science. It came from a joint conviction that things were getting out of control. Something had to be done. Most people began social distancing well before the government mandated it, and many stopped before the government told them it was safe.
In the spring, Johnson could plausibly claim to speak for the country as a whole when he took drastic action. Now he speaks for almost no one. He is making his own decisions, which is what we pay him to do. His problem is that he can’t admit it. He has to pretend that nakedly political judgments – about who gets what, and who pays the price – are being calibrated to a more nuanced understanding of the evidence. He is weighing up a virus whose health impacts are concentrated locally against economic consequences where the effects are national. Manchester v London is not a problem that can be solved by an algorithm or better stats.
What happens when politics does follow science. The last thing you want is for the cost to keep people from being tested.
A saliva PCR test kit alone costs $129.99, but the kit with a video observation costs $139.99 It turns out, you really can get everything at Costco. The wholesale retailer is now selling at-home coronavirus test kits on its website. The saliva PCR tests are administered by telemedicine platform AZOVA and cost $129.99 for just the test kit or $139.99 for the test kit with a “video observation,” according to the product descriptions. People who buy the $129.99 test kit are expected to get their results within 24-72 hours after the lab receives their kit. Those who buy the more expensive test can expect their results within 24-48 hours from when the kit gets to the lab.
A PCR test, according to the AZOVA website, is “a type of ‘molecular diagnostic test’” that is “much more sensitive than most antigen tests.” On the Costco website, the PCR tests are described as “the gold standard testing method with the most accurate sensitivity and specificity currently on the market.” And unlike many other coronavirus tests, the AZOVA saliva test doesn’t involve “a painful nasal swab,” the product description says. According to the product pages, the tests are FSA eligible and have been authorized by the FDA under the Emergency Use Act. The tests are “highly accurate, with a sensitivity of 98% (meaning 98% of positive tests are correct) and a specificity of 99% (meaning 99% of negative tests are correct),” the description says.
What we know so far.
In response to [our 2018 book]“Secret Empires,” one of Joe Biden’s aides said “we aren’t going to engage on a politically motivated hit pieces …” Team Biden did not bother to respond to specific allegations that the Biden family vacuumed up millions, in the exact locales where Biden was Obama’s policy “point man.” When the issue reemerged during the campaign, Team Biden continued to call it a “conspiracy theory” but this time, Joe Biden firmly put himself on record. “I have never discussed with my son or my brother or anyone else anything having to do with their businesses — period,” he told reporters in August 2019. “I never talk with my son or my brother or anyone else in the distant family about their business interests, period.” He repeated similar blanket denials on numerous occasions. These denials all proved to be untruthful. Period.
We now know that Joe Biden met directly with his son’s Chinese business partner, Jonathan Li, in a Chinese hotel lobby on a fateful trip in 2013 (a trip that allowed Hunter to spend hours with his father, the vice president, on a transoceanic flight to Beijing aboard Air Force Two). Ten days later, Hunter landed an unprecedented $1 billion private equity deal, bankrolled by the Chinese government. But this was not the only meeting Joe Biden had with Biden family business partners. As the New York Post reported, e-mails on Hunter Biden’s hard drive reveal that on April 16, 2015, Joe Biden met with a high-level official of a controversial Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, which had put Hunter on its board. And a recently unearthed photo shows that Vice President Biden met with Hunter’s Kazakh business associate in Washington D.C.
After first dismissing the gathering scandal as a “conspiracy theory,” the Biden team shifted to the position that Joe had never talked with his family about their business dealings, then shifted again to the position that he’d never met with his family’s business partners. Now, with the latest document revelations, Joe Biden unveiled his latest defense in the recent debate: “I have not taken a single penny from any country whatsoever, ever.” Team Biden points to Joe and Jill Biden’s tax returns as evidence that Joe did nothing improper. It is worth noting that the family members upon whom foreign entities showered money are not required to disclose their finances.
We now know the Biden paydays were anything but conspiracy theories. Hunter was getting roughly $1 million per year from Burisma. Treasury Department alerts reveal that Russian oligarch Elena Baturina wired $3.5 million to Biden’s interests. New text messages reveal that China Energy Company Ltd (CEFC) apparently paid $5 million to the Biden family. Another e-mail indicates Hunter demanded a $10 million per year “fee” from one of his Chinese business partners. There is no more doubt.
Where did this guy come from? Where did he get the material?
The Chinese billionaire behind the website where explicit photographs and videos of Hunter Biden were leaked on Saturday night has warned that “there will be more than 10,000 pictures” and “more and more videos.” Lude (Wang DingGang), founder of Lude Media and part of the Whistle-Blower Movement that is aimed at exposing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), was banned on Twitter soon after the leaks started. Undeterred, Lude began posting about the leaks on Parler, a freer speech alternative to Twitter, where he quickly gained thousands of followers. “There will more and more than 10000 pictures coming,” Lude wrote on the social network. “There will be more and more videos coming!” The explicit leaks are riddled with drugs and what appear to be prostitutes. They have called into question whether or not a Biden presidency would be a national security threat with the amount of blackmail material on his son.
CNN commentator Van Jones on Friday gave unexpected praise of President Trump during a roundtable, arguing that the president should be recognized more for what Jones said are the beneficial things his administration has done for black Americans. “… I get beat up by liberals every time I say it but I keep saying it, he has done good stuff for the Black community,” Jones, who is black himself, said during the panel discussion. “Opportunity Zone stuff, black college stuff, I worked with him on criminal stuff, I saw Donald Trump have African-American people, [formerly] incarcerated, in the White House, embraced them, treated them well.”
“There is a side to Donald Trump that I think he does not get enough credit for,” added Jones, who once served as an adviser for Barack Obama. The commentator during his remarks did express disappointment at Trump’s recent comparison of himself to Abraham Lincoln. He also said that Trump’s alleged “playing footsie on Twitter with … white nationalists organizations” turns off many black voters to Trump’s overall message. “[T]hat’s the tragedy of these mixed messages from the Trump White House,” he argued.
“Self-evident truths” were back with a bang. One can’t make this stuff up.”
The whole planet has every reason to be terminally puzzled at how all those lofty Enlightenment ideals Thomas Jefferson embedded in the 1776 Declaration of Independence ended up with… Trump vs. Biden. Jefferson borrowed freely from Locke, Rousseau, Hume to come up with an eminently quotable Greatest Hits, featuring “self-evident” truths such as “all men are created equal”, “unalienable rights”, and that searing “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Well, Baudrillard would have dubbed the exercise a mere simulacrum, because in real life none of this uplifting rhetoric applied to Native Americans and enslaved Africans. Still, there’s something endlessly fascinating about these “self-evident truths”.
They actually radiated like Spinoza axioms, spawning abstract truths that can be extrapolated at will. Jefferson’s “self-evident truths” ended up creating the whole, massive structure of what we define as “Western liberal democracy”. So it’s no wonder that America – perennially self-described as “leader of the free world” – consider these “self-evident truths” as the basis of an ideal society. And it’s this messianic river of fervent truth flowing out of a Himalaya of Morality that leads Americans to dismiss as “malign actors” every nation or society that is judged to be “deviating” from such obvious evidence. Cut to a mini-remix of the last Trump-Biden presidential debate. In foreign policy terms, it went something like this.
The moderator is desperate to move on as she’s very much aware of time constraints and looming, incandescent clashes: “Now I want to move on to Defense. It’s established Russia and China are interfering in our election process…” Here’s classic “self-evident truth” material, delivered according to strict Council on Foreign Relations guidelines. Cut to Biden: any country that interferes with the American elections “will pay a price”. Russia’s “been involved, China has been involved to some degree, and Iran’s been involved.” They are interfering with “American sovereignty”. Rudy Giuliani was used “as a Russian pawn”. Trump is “unwilling” to confront Putin. Russia has “destabilized NATO” and is “paying bounties to kill Americans in Afghanistan.” And China “has to play by the rules” – or else.
Cut to Trump: “You mean the laptop from hell is another Russia, Russia, Russia hoax?” For the record: Joe Biden did blame the contents of son Hunter’s laptop from hell on Russia. And discussing North Korea, when Trump said he got along fine with Kim Jong-Un, Biden stated, “We had a good relationship with Hitler before he invaded Europe.” Incidentally, Germany is and remains in Europe. And it’s quite something to see Biden acknowledging in public proven US industrial and political support to Nazism. So, inevitably, the laptop from hell had to show up. The FBI had Hunter Biden’s laptop since December 2019 – as it had issued a subpoena for it in the first place. And yet the FBI sat on the laptop for 11 months doing nothing.
That must have given plenty of time for those pesky Russians to steal the laptop and plant incriminating evidence. Well, not really. The FBI was busy mulling how to conduct an investigation on “money laundering”. And not on child porn – which, according to Giuliani, is the piece de resistance in the laptop. No one knows if these alleged “investigations” are ongoing. Now, the FBI and the Department of Justice have finally “concurred”: Hunter Biden’s laptop and emails were not part of a Russian disinformation campaign – directly contradicting what Joe Biden said in the debate. But then, right before the debate, a bombshell presser – including the FBI and Homeland Security – had announced those pesky Russians and Iranians were in fact “trying to influence opinion” on the US elections. “Self-evident truths” were back with a bang. One can’t make this stuff up.
‘Jurors have no idea what a normal sentence is..’
Virginia juries have been allowed to decide punishments for criminals for more than 200 years, but a new state bill could put that sentencing power in the hands of judges. Defense attorneys call it ‘the jury penalty’ – a centuries-old sentencing system in Virginia that calls for juries to decide punishment for criminal defendants, which often leads to stiffer sentences than what judges give or prosecutors offer in plea deals. This sentencing structure has been in place for 224 years, but under a bill recently approved by the state legislature, Virginia is expected to turn sentencing over to judges, joining the vast majority of states around the country. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, a strong supporter of criminal justice reform, is expected to sign the bill into law.
The proposal sparked fierce debate during a special legislative session focused on criminal justice and police reform. Supporters of the change said giving judges the sentencing responsibility will result in fairer sentences, but prosecutors predicted it will result in more jury trials and therefore require additional judges, court clerks and public defenders. The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Joe Morrissey from Richmond, said that under the current system, many people charged with crimes in Virginia are so fearful of getting a severe sentence from a jury that they often accept a plea deal from prosecutors that includes a longer sentence than they would typically get from a judge. Unlike judges, juries in Virginia are not given state sentencing guidelines that would tell them what a typical sentence would be for a particular crime, and they tend to hand out stiffer sentences.
In fiscal year 2019, sentences handed down by juries went above sentencing guidelines 37 per cent of the time, and in 2018, juries exceeded sentencing guidelines nearly 50 per cent of the time, according to annual reports by the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission. ‘Jurors have no idea what a normal sentence is,’ Morrissey said. ‘That’s why it is important to have a judge sentencing who has the guidelines and can put it into context.’
Unparalelled wealth transfer.
Despite the pandemic plunging economies worldwide into their deepest slumps on record and tens of millions being made unemployed, global wealth has risen to its highest level ever. Since the start of the year, total household wealth has grown by $1 trillion, or 0.25%, to top $400 trillion for the first time, according to Credit Suisse’s annual global wealth report. Most of this increase has been due to the rapid rebound of stock markets from their March lows. This was driven by governments pumping billions into their economies to stave off collapse as the pandemic gathered pace. On the face of it, the average global household’s wealth is little changed in 2020, despite the economic turmoil. But drilling deeper into the numbers reveals huge disparities, with the headline figures masking a vast gulf between the economic winners and losers this year.
Average household wealth rose by 0.25% between the start of the year and the end of June. However, average wealth per adult actually fell slightly, by 0.4% to $76,984 because the number of adults rose quicker during the six months. Anthony Shorrocks, Credit Suisse’s economist and the report author, said: “Given the damage inflicted by Covid-19 on the global economy, it seems remarkable that household wealth has emerged relatively unscathed.”The volatility this year has been a marked contrast to the upward trajectory of wealth growth seen in 2019. Last year, total global wealth rose by $36.3 trillion, or 8.5%, a record pace as global stock markets surged. In the first three months of this year, $17.5 trillion was wiped off household wealth worldwide as the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic sparked a savage equity crash. The subsequent recovery meant that total household wealth is slightly up on the year.
“..externalities – and capitalism – are inherently violent…”
Here is a word that risks deterring you from reading on much further, even though it may hold the key to understanding why we are in such a terrible political, economic and social mess. That word is “externalities”. It sounds like a piece of economic jargon. It is a piece of economic jargon. But it is also the foundation stone on which the west’s current economic and ideological system has been built. Focusing on how externalities work and how they have come to dominate every sphere of our lives is to understand how we are destroying our planet – and offer at the same time the waypost to a better future. In economics, “externalities” are usually defined indifferently as the effects of a commercial or industrial process on a third party that are not costed into that process.
Here is what should be a familiar example. For decades, cigarette manufacturers made enormous profits by concealing scientific evidence that over time their product could prove lethal to customers. The firms profited by externalising the costs associated with cigarettes – of death and disease – on to those buying their cigarettes and wider society. People gave Philip Morris and British American Tobacco their money as these companies made those smoking Marlboros and Lucky Strikes progressively unhealthier. The externalised cost was paid – is still paid – by the customers themselves, by grieving families, by local and national health services, and by the taxpayer. Had the firms been required to pick up these various tabs, it would have proved entirely unprofitable to manufacture cigarettes.
Externalities are not incidental to the way capitalist economies run. They are integral to them. After all, it is a legal obligation on private companies to maximise profits for their shareholders – in addition, of course, to the personal incentive bosses have to enrich themselves, and each company’s need to avoid making themselves vulnerable to more profitable and predatory competitors in the marketplace. Companies are therefore motivated to offload as many costs as possible on to others. As we shall see, externalities mean someone other than the company itself pays the true cost behind its profits, either because those others are too weak or ignorant to fight back or because the bill comes due further down the line. And for that reason, externalities – and capitalism – are inherently violent.
The lira plunged again this week. Everytime that happens, Erdogan plays more to his hardcore supporters to blame outsiders.
France has recalled its ambassador to Turkey for consultations after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insulted his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. He said Mr Macron needed a mental health check for pledging to defend secular values and fight radical Islam. Mr Macron has spoken out forcefully on these issues after a French teacher was murdered for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in class. France “will not give up our cartoons”, he said earlier this week. Depictions of the Prophet Muhammad can cause serious offence to Muslims because Islamic tradition explicitly forbids images of Muhammad and Allah (God). But state secularism – or laïcité – is central to France’s national identity.
Curbing freedom of expression to protect the feelings of one particular community, the state says, undermines the country’s unity. Responding to Mr Macron’s campaign to defend such values – which began before the teacher was murdered – Mr Erdogan asked in a speech: “What’s the problem of the individual called Macron with Islam and with the Muslims?” He added: “Macron needs treatment on a mental level. “What else can be said to a head of state who does not understand freedom of belief and who behaves in this way to millions of people living in his country who are members of a different faith?” In the wake of the remarks, a French presidential official told AFP news agency that France’s ambassador to Turkey was being recalled for consultations, and would be meeting Mr Macron.
The UK gov’t needs this, to maintain the Skripal and Navalny narratives.
The BBC is preparing an attack against journalists, former diplomats, academics and scientists who challenge the dominant pro-war narratives against Syria underpinned by the pseudo-humanitarian White Helmets. The British public broadcaster has sent out requests for comments to those who have dared to expose the role the UK government and its intelligence agencies have played in the destabilization of Syria, which look more like neo-McCarthyist charge sheets. The producer of an upcoming Radio 4 documentary series had been in email and telephone conversation with the author of this article, as well as Peter Ford, former UK ambassador to Syria, and members of the Working Group on Syria, Media and Propaganda (WGSMP) since June 2020. The result of those conversations, during which the evidence emanating from serious scientific research and on-the-ground testimony was presented to the producer, was a familiar list of accusations of “conspiracy theorism” and suggestions of “incentivized” Russian or Syrian bias.
Fellow independent journalist Eva Bartlett has spent long periods of time inside Syria, reporting from many of the most high-risk areas during the Syrian Arab Army allied campaigns to liberate swathes of Syrian territory from the US coalition-proxy occupation. She had this to say about the email she received a few days ago: “The questions emailed to me by the BBC evidence a predetermined intent to character assassination. This approach shows an utter lack of journalistic integrity on the part of the BBC. The BBC’s hostile insinuations against me arrogantly infer that neither I nor the Syrians I interview think for ourselves, but are puppets of the Syrian and Russian governments. My journalism dates back to 2007 and is quite extensive, with 13 years of on the ground experience, from Palestine and Syria, to Venezuela and eastern Ukraine, and elsewhere.
[..] The former UK ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, also received the BBC bill of indictment and he issued this statement in response: “The BBC have systematically tried to suppress views on Syria which run counter to the standard one-sided narrative. This programme’s efforts to smear dissenters takes BBC conduct to a new low. By alleging conspiracy theorising where there is only evidence-based reporting and analysis, the BBC is showing its frustration at being unable to stifle truth-telling. The only conspiracy here is whatever coordination has taken place between the BBC and British authorities responsible for failing to achieve regime change in Syria despite throwing many millions of taxpayer money at the effort. Why is the BBC not drawing attention to the biggest failure of British foreign policy since Suez, as judged by its self-proclaimed objective of removing Assad, rather than busying itself with trying to take down unsupported individual dissenters who have ranged against them the vast wealth and resources of the establishment?
“He has also renounced his old ways and paid back a Ukrainian gas company fourfold.”
According to sources, Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has adopted her 8th child, a troubled local youngster named Hunter. In a touching story of love triumphing over all odds, the Barrett family fought for custody of Hunter and welcomed him into their family for the first time this week. “This family has love to spare,” said Judge Barrett. “We just knew we had another child out there somewhere. We were told by the agency that young Hunter had his fair share of issues, but we knew we would be up to the challenge.” According to friends of the family, Hunter is slowly adjusting to his new home and family. He has kicked an old drug habit and is now attending church with the rest of the family.
He has also renounced his old ways and paid back a Ukrainian gas company fourfold. “We love having Hunter with us!” said the leader of the small church group Hunter attends every week. “Whenever we share testimonies, he puts our testimonies to shame with stories of drugs, corruption, and horrific scandal, unlike anything we’ve heard. Awesome!” Judge Barrett is still struggling to teach Hunter the value of hard work. He is being paid a few dollars to do chores around the house when he’s used to being paid $50,000 per month for nothing. “We’re still working on it,” she said.
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