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March 2020

WTMWD Episode 4: A View of the Covid-19 Crisis From South Korea

 

 

 

 

I interview Stefan Raymond, a Canadian who has lived in South Korea for nine years. We chat about some of the differences between how the Covid-19 outbreak has been handled in the US vs. in South Korea, as well as how people living in both places have reacted to it all.

You can read Stefan's blog here, and the blog post I mention in this podcast is here.

And you can listen to the podcast here. It is also available on Spotify, on Apple Podcasts, and soon on some other places. The RSS feed is here.

After recording this podcast, I was struck by something that I had kind of forgotten about in all the years since moving back to the US from Asia. I remember coming back, not the last time, in 2000, but the time before that, in 1996, from two plus years in Japan. 

It was probably the worst culture shock I have ever experienced. Because I was coming from a place where I never had to think about politics. I could focus just on work, and writing, and friends, and appreciating the beauty around me. It was such a beautiful time. 

Even my time in Hong Kong, where I was a journalist and was focused on politics, was so different from being here. I never feared the government while I lived there. I worried about what the Chinese government might do after 1997, but I wasn't really afraid, and I certainly didn't fear the government (pre- or post- handover) while I was there.

Coming to the US from that was a huge shock, and not only because of the government. The things that stand out for me the most are: Being inundated with loud, violent, scary images all the time. In entertainment and on the news, which a lot of people seemed to be tuned in to ALL the time. There were the constant car pursuits, where police chased citizens in cars for god only knows what reasons; there were the reality TV shows following police around as they broke into people's homes and threw them down on their lawns; there was the constant, constant fear porn masquerading as news, with furrowed-browed newscasters issuing dire warnings about all the things we were supposed to be afraid of today.

I was in Tokyo when the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack took place - on a subway train I sometimes rode on. It was a huge shock, but people's lives got back to normal pretty quickly. Probably there were some additional security measures put in place after that - but if there were, I never heard about them. And the event wasn't used as an excuse to clamp down on the free movement of peaceful people, as every crisis in this country is.

My interview today reminded me of all of this - of what it is like to live in a country where you don't fear your own government. And I don't mean that the governments of Japan or Hong Kong were completely libertarian (although HK came very close), or perfect by any means. But, speaking as a foreigner living there for many years, those governments were in the background. I never worried about them doing the things I worry about the US government doing to the people living under it.

I want so badly to get back to that kind of place. A place where I don't have to be obsessed with politics, where I don't feel like the biggest issue outside of my own personal ones is an out-of-control state rampaging over our society.

It is possible to live in a peaceful, civilized, culture. I know, because I have lived in some. I just don't know if it is possible here.

 

 


WTMWD Episode 3: Government Covid-19 Response Will Dwarf Economic Damage Done by FDR - Tom Mullen

 

I talk with long-time libertarian writer, Tom Mullen, about the US government's never-ending war on prices, and how it hurts all of us.

Tom wrote a piece recently, titled "The State and Federal Governments' Coronavirus Response Will Dwarf Economic Damage Done by FDR." You can read that here.

And if you didn't know that FDR's actions actually harmed the economy rather than helped it, then listen to this episode to find out!

 

 

 

 

 

My podcast, "What Then Must We Do?", is also available on Spotify, on Apple Podcasts, and soon on some other places. The RSS feed is here.

 

 


A Young Girl Learns the Value of Questioning Authority

 

Sword-fight-hd

 

Annabel (and also me) is featured on Kirkus Reviews today. Check it out here.

Bretigne Shaffer, a journalist who has turned to full-time fiction writing, considers themes of betrayal in Annabel Pickering. The middle-grade adventure book follows Annabel’s steam-powered adventures, which transport her from an elite girls’ school to the rule-breaking world of buccaneers. Set in an alternate 19th-century England—illustrated via Florian Garbay’s black-and-white images—Shaffer explores Annabel’s psychological changes as she sees loved ones’ darker sides. Shaffer explains that she wanted to show children the “nature of empire and war, freedom of speech and thought, [and] how prohibition affects society.” She also, she admits, is interested in pirates, having briefly written about piracy in the South China Sea in her past life as a journalist.

 

 


We Have a Choice to Make

 

What kind of world

 

My latest, on LewRockwell.com:

There has been plenty of debate as to whether these draconian measures are necessaryto halt the spread of Covid-19; about what the socioeconomic costs will be(devastating); and about whether the virus is even as deadly as was originally projected.

But lost in all of this is a much bigger question: The question as to the kind of world we want to live in.

 

Read the rest here.

 

 

 


I Know You Mean Well, Trader Joe's...

 

TJs means well

 

...I do. But this is not helping people.

Here's the problem: You are artificially restricting (in a soft way, I know) what people buy. So at least some of them aren't going to be buying the full quantity that they want to. What that means is that you, the vendor, have NO IDEA what their actual demand is. You have shut off that signal.

If people were able to buy as much as they wanted to (or better yet, if prices could rise to reflect the scarcity), then you would know how much more to order, and the producers would know how much to produce, in order to meet the ACTUAL DEMAND of your customers.

But that is not happening now, because you have artificially curtailed how much they can buy, and therefore masked any demand signal you might have gotten from them. THERE IS NO SUPPLY PROBLEM right now - there is simply a sudden surge in demand. A surge that most producers are perfectly capable of handling - IF they have that information. If they know how much is actually being demanded.

There is no supply problem. But YOU have created one. You have imposed a (soft, I know) limit on what your customers can buy at any one time, thereby preventing both yourselves and the producers of these goods, from knowing how much is actually demanded. You have created a problem where there was none.

I hope you guys will re-think this.

 

 


WTMWD Episode 2: Censorship of Vitamin C for Covid-19 Info., As Hospitals in NY Begin to Use it. Why?

 

A few days ago, I spoke with Larry Cook, founder of the Stop Mandatory Vaccination Facebook group. We talked about how high-dose Vitamin C has been part of the official protocol for treating Covid-19 in China, and how at least one of his posts about that has been "fact checked" by Facebook (see here for what that looks like.)

Larry also has some pretty dismal predictions for what is coming next. It would be easy to dismiss some of these predictions as "crazy conspiracy theories", or whatever terms people now use to not have to think about uncomfortable possibilities. But one thing I know about Larry is that his predictions thus far have been pretty accurate, especially re: Beach-Ball mandates in CA and in the US broadly.

He has also been right about Vitamin C, and thankfully, some doctors in the US are starting to recognize that. Tune in to hear what Larry thinks is coming next for those who oppose official narratives on vaccines and medical treatment.

You can listen here. There is also a rough transcript available here.

My podcast, "What Then Must We Do?", is also available on Spotify, on Apple Podcasts, and soon on some other places. The RSS feed is here.

 

 

 


Happy Things for the Crisis #1

 

Someone Tweeted yesterday that they know two people who had died of heart attacks in the previous five days. Of course this may have been completely unrelated to the current situation, and may have happened anyway. But we do know that nearly everyone is under a lot more stress than they were even a few weeks ago.

With that in mind, I am going to try to post something every day aimed at giving people tools to help them to deal with their stress in these times. Today, I have two:

1. Alternate-nostril breathing. It really helps. Try it.

2. This movie. 

You'll have to find it for yourself - I have it on DVD, but it may also be availble on Amazon Prime Video or iTunes or someplace. Maybe someone can let me know if they find it?

Anyway, this is one of the very best films ever made. And one of the funniest. It will make you laugh, and it might even help to restore some of your faith in humanity, and in our own power to overcome the things that seem impossible.

Please enjoy: Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald!

 

 

 

 


Be Like Cowboy Bob

 

Cowboy Bob is having a tough time.

It's an economic crisis, and he's trying to explain to people why laws against "price gouging" are not a good idea, how they don't help people but actually make things worse.

And it's not easy.

Cowboy Bob is one of the characters from my book, Urban Yogini: The Christmas Episode. He roams the country, educating people about basic principles of economics. Kind of like Johnny Appleseed, but for thinking.

I wrote the first Urban Yogini book back in 2014/2015, and I wrote this one in 2017. They both seem remarkably relevant to events happening now, if I do say so myself.

Please join me tomorrow (Wednesday, March 25th) when I'll be talking about ALL of my children's and teens' books, on the Freedom Hub Working Group webinar, at 4:00pm Eastern Time. You can sign up to listen and ask me questions about teaching liberty through literature, right here

 

 

P7 copy small

P8 copy small

 

 

 


To Understand Why the US Govt's Response to Covid-19 Will Be Devastating, Please Watch This:

 

 

 

From the American Institute for Economic Research, which is putting out some of the best analysis of how Covid-19 is being handled.

"In a shockingly short period of time, life in the US went from normal and happy to uncertain and essentially terrifying. The economic impact of both the virus and the policy response to the virus is without precedent. This video explores the unfolding of events, the response, the alternative ways to understand and respond to the virus, and the place of fundamental concerns such as freedom and human rights. Written by Taleed Brown and researched by the team at the American Institute for Economic Research."

 

 


Preview of Episode 2: How the Chinese Are Treating Covid-19, and What Could Be Next for Us

 

I'll be posting the second episode of my podcast soon (hopefully by Monday) - an interview with Larry Cook, who talks about how Vitamin C is being used with success against Covid-19 in China.

Larry also has some pretty dismal predictions for what is coming next. It would be easy to dismiss some of these predictions as "crazy conspiracy theories", or whatever terms people now use to not have to think about uncomfortable possibilities. But one thing I know about Larry is that his predictions thus far have been pretty accurate, especially re: Beach-Ball mandates in CA and in the US broadly.

One of the things Larry talks about, that sounds like it belongs more in a dystopian film than in our upcoming future, is that the authorities plan to control us, and to force Beach Balls on us by microchiping everyone with chips containing infection status and BeachBall status. I know, it sounds completely crazy, right?

Here's what Bill Gates has to say about that:

 

I’m_Bill_Gates__co-chair_of_the_Bill___Melinda_Gates_Foundation__AMA_about_COVID-19____Coronavirus

 

 


What Then Must We Do? Episode 1: Jeff Tucker of AIER, Talking About Covid-19 and Liberty

 

My first podcast episode, in which I talk with Jeff Tucker about how governments around the world have responded to the threat of the Covid-19 virus, whether the response of the US government has been warranted, how that response will impact our society and the people living in it, and whether there is any hope for liberty in these times.

You can listen here. It's also available on Spotify, on Apple Podcasts, and soon on some other places. There is a very rough transcript here. And the RSS feed is here.

Jeff is editorial director for the American Institute for Economic Research, where you can find analysis about the economic impact of all of this that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. You can also find Jeff on Twitter.

Some of the articles that he mentions here include:

An Epistemic Crisis

Good Reasons to Doubt the Estimate of Covid-19 Deaths

South Korea Preserved Open Society & Now Infection Rates Are Falling

CoronaVirus Isn't a Pandemic

 

 


It Doesn't Have to Be Like This - Part 1

 

Outdoor hair wash
Wuhan, China, 1990

 

I was just talking with a friend who has a close friend who will likely go out of business because of all of the event closures. This person has a company that re-sells tickets for events. My sister and her husband run a bed and breakfast. This–not the virus, but the response to it, including the president's unilateral ban on incoming flights from Europe–could very well destroy their business. And there are thousands more stories like that.

In Taiwan, or in Hong Kong, people who lose their jobs, or whose businesses fold, are able to quickly start up a new business - even street-selling, which is mostly illegal here. There ought to be a booming business on the streets EVERYWHERE in the US, of people with little stands selling masks and hand sanitizers. Among other things.

But there's not. Ask yourself why. I bet a whole box of latex-free gloves that that's exactly what's happening in Taiwan right now, and in many Chinese cities. HK too, I hope, although they were starting to crack down on street vendors even 20 years ago.

Meanwhile, here in the US, I get a notice from Nextdoor.com that they won't be allowing any posts about items for sale that might be useful in avoiding/combatting Covid-19.

That's American "community-spiritedness" for you - doing everything it possibly can to make things worse, and patting itself on the back for being socially responsible.

This ignorance, and the regulatory state we live under, is going to hurt a lot more people than the virus will.

 

 

 


"The Nearly"–My Podcast Manifesto

 

Best-7-w-words---Scan-2_purple

 

 

 

People should be free.

People should be free to live their own lives. To decorate their homes as they choose, to plant their gardens, to run their own businesses. They should be free to read the books they want to and laugh at the jokes they want to. To grow their own food, to follow the recipes their grandmothers gave them, to eat and drink and smoke what they like. To choose for themselves what goes into their own bodies and those of their children–and what does not. To buy and sell what they like, and to trade with whomever they choose. They should be able to raise their children as they see fit, to wear the clothes that make them happy, and enjoy the quirky jokes and references that only they and their spouse, or their sister, or their best friend, get.

Every little bit of that is put in peril by the institution of the state.

Maybe not for your family, maybe not even in your neighborhood. But somewhere in the world, the government you think of as "yours" is terrorizing someone else's family. And somewhere, the state that rules over that family (if they don't live where you do) is terrorizing someone else's. Through war, or through economic sanctions, through laws that criminalize non-criminal actions, or just through brute force when they get in the way.

It's what states do.

This battle for civilization–to restore it, to preserve it, to try to make it so that our children and grandchildren get to live in peace–it is for the most part a battle between human beings and the institution of the state.

Words and ideas are some of the state's most powerful weapons, and it uses them against all of us. In the country where I live, it has done a phenomenal job of teaching nearly everyone from a very young age that the state is good and necessary. That policemen are your friends, that democratically elected politicians are your representatives, that sometimes markets "fail" and must be replaced by the state. Above all, it instills the belief that the state–some form of people ruling over other people–is necessary. That civilization could not flourish without it.

I almost wrote "teaching everyone." I had to go back and correct it. Because it's not "everyone." It's nearly everyone, but it is not everyone. And that is critical, because not only did not "everyone" go to their schools, even many of those who did go to their schools and take in their lessons, didn't properly assimilate all of the beliefs they were supposed to. 

It's the "nearly" that I'm interested in.

That–possibly very small, possibly not so small–number of people who can see and think for themselves. Who understand for themselves the difference between right and wrong, who don't need to have anyone else tell them that it is wrong to make another person your slave, or to lock another person in a cell when they have harmed no-one.

That's who I think of as the audience for my podcast ("What Then Must We Do?") You might call what I'm doing "preaching to the choir", but that's not it. I'm looking to reach the people who already recognize the problem, and who want to do something about it.

These are also the people I'll have on as guests. I'll be asking them about the things they are doing in the service of peaceful, civilized coexistence. We won't always agree on the solutions, and we probably won't even always see the problem in exactly the same way. But we all have a commitment to creating a world where people can just live in peace and freedom.

Maybe none of us is powerful enough to defeat the violence that is the state. Maybe even together we are not enough. But I am certain that if there is any hope for us at all, it lies entirely with this group of people.

Oh, and if I sound a little elitist, as if I think the "Non-Nearlys" are somehow inferior to the "Nearlys"… well, yes, I do. I do think that thinking for oneself is superior to not thinking for oneself. I also think that great masses of people who don't do much thinking for themselves, who don't have their own moral compasses, are one of the most deadly threats to all of humanity, and always have been. 

But here's the thing about being among the "Nearly" (or, as Albert Jay Nock called them, the Remnant): it is a choice. Anyone can choose to start questioning what they have been taught their whole life. Anyone can choose to listen to their own conscience over the values and opinions that are fed to them by the people and institutions around them. Anyone can do this. 

"What then must we do?" I honestly don't know. The forces arrayed against individual human beings just living their own lives as they choose seem more powerful and more entrenched than ever before. So, do I know how to change that? To defeat the people and institutions that wish to (and do) rule over us? No, I don't. But I do believe that between us–between all of the "Nearly"–we can figure this out.

 

 


ICAN Calls on CDC to Remove Misinformation About Vaccines and Autism from Website

 

 

Here's the brief summary of what happened:

Last summer, the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the CDC to provide all of the studies supporting its claim that "vaccines do not cause autism." Specifically, ICAN asked the CDC to produce all of the studies that demonstrated that the vaccines given in the first six months of life did not cause autism.

These vaccines are: DTap, HIB, HepB, Prevnar (PCV13), and the Polio vaccine (IPV).

ICAN also requested that the CDC "provide studies to support the cumulative exposure to these vaccines during the first six months of life do not cause autism."

According to ICAN, the CDC failed to produce a single study after months of follow-up requests. ICAN then sued the CDC in federal court, and the CDC finally produced its studies. All 20 of them. 

Here's how they break down:

One of the studies looked only at the MMR vaccine. The MMR vaccine was not on the list of vaccines about which ICAN had requested studies.

Thirteen of the studies looked at Thimerosal. According to ICAN, Thimerosal is not included in ANY of the vaccines about which they requested studies.

Four of the studies looked at the MMR vaccine AND Thimerosal. Again, neither of which had anything to do with the vaccines ICAN was asking about.

Only two of the studies even addressed any of the vaccines ICAN had asked about. 

The first of these two was actually a review, produced by the Institute of Medicine, titled "Adverse Effects of Vaccines, Evidence and Causality." It looked at the DTaP vaccine, among others, and concluded:

"The evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship between diptheria toxoid-, tetanus toxoid-, or acellular pertussis-containing vaccine and autism."

The second of these two studies looked only at the antigen load of vaccines, looking to see whether exposure to more antigens was associated with a higher rate of autism. It did not look at adjuvants, for example (something that–unlike antigens–critics of vaccine safety claims are actually worried about), or the receipt of vaccines themselves, but only at the receipt of antigens. The study found no increase in autism associated with an increase in antigens received. 

The study concludes that: 

"It can be argued that ASD with regression, in which children usually lose developmental skills during the second year of life, could be related to exposures in infancy, including vaccines; however, we found no association between exposure to antigens from vaccines during infancy and the development of ASD with regression."

In summary, NONE of the studies the CDC provided in response to ICAN's question were able to demonstrate that any of the vaccines in question do not cause autism.

ICAN's Del Bigtree sums it up:

"So when the CDC was tasked with providing all of the science that proves that the vaccines in the first six months of life do not cause autism, they were able to provide ZERO studies that actually addressed our question. That means that this statement, on the CDC website, 'vaccines do not cause autism', is not a statement of science. Rather, it's an advertising slogan.

"So here at the Informed Consent Action Network, we are speaking to you Alex Azar, and the heads of the CDC, and saying: It is time for you now to remove this, voluntarily, from your website."

 

 

 


Covid-19: Why Health Emergencies Are Too Important to be Left to Government Agencies

 

PD-Allosaurus_eating

Image: Public domain

 

We often hear that a centralized state is needed for situations like what we may (or may not) be facing now: An outbreak of a serious disease that is very contagious and could affect thousands or even millions of people across a nation or even the globe. The argument goes something like this: A fast, coordinated, response is needed in emergencies like this, the private sector is ill-equipped to muster such a response on short notice in response to a crisis, so we need to call in the state, and give it whatever power it asks for. 

As is so often the case in response to such arguments, it is precisely the opposite that is true. The CDC's response to Covid-19 provides a good illustration of this. 

As ProPublica reports:

"The CDC designed a flawed test for COVID-19, then took weeks to figure out a fix so state and local labs could use it. New York still doesn’t trust the test’s accuracy."

Because the CDC and the FDA control who may create and distribute tests, independent labs were prevented from producing tests to fill the void created by CDC incompetence:

"There are other ways to expand the country’s testing capacity. Beyond the CDC and state labs, hospitals are also able to develop their own tests for diseases like COVID-19 and internally validate their effectiveness, with some oversight from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. But because the CDC declared the virus a public health emergency, it triggered a set of federal rules that raises the bar for all tests, including those devised by local hospitals.

"So now, hospitals must validate their tests with the FDA — even if they copied the CDC protocol exactly. Hospital lab directors say the FDA validation process is onerous and is wasting precious time when they could be testing in their local communities."

To clarify: Because Covid-19 was declared to be a public health emergency, more restrictive rules were put in place making creating tests even more difficult.

This has led to a real shortage of needed testing kits, and as a consequence, wildly inaccurate estimates of the number of people who have been infected in the US. According to ProPublica:

"Doctors at the University of California, Davis Medical Center, where (a patient who may have been the first known to have been infected inside of the US) is being treated, said testing was delayed for nearly a week because the patient didn’t fit restrictive federal criteria, which limits tests only to symptomatic patients who recently traveled to China."

And individuals have posted accounts online of having severe symptoms, seeking testing for Covid-19, and being turned away because they don't meet the stringent criteria. 

So, because of the CDC's inability to produce a sufficient quantity of functioning tests, and because it and the FDA forcibly prevent others from doing so, we now cannot have even a decent estimate of the number of cases in the US, and therefore can have no idea what the case-fatality rate is. It is not unusual to underestimate the number of infected people in a new outbreak, but the CDC's centralized control of testing has made this problem much worse.

Last Saturday, according to ProPublica, the FDA "announced an 'accelerated policy … to achieve more rapid testing capacity in the United States...'" Academic hospital labs will now have more freedom to use their own diagnostics. However it is unclear as to whether these labs will be able to distribute their tests to others. 

Back in early February, UC San Francisco's Dr. Charles Chiu, and the biotech company Mamoth Biosciences, were working on a CRISPR-based test–but were stalled by CDC roadblocks. From The Mercury News:

"For the San Francisco team, the next step is to demonstrate that CRISPR diagnostic kit is effective in living coronavirus-infected cells. They’re waiting to acquire cells from the CDC or state. Thus far, they’ve only been able to study the virus by analyzing the genetic code published by Chinese scientists. Research, thus far, has been conducted in synthetic cells designed in the lab.

"Competitive tests are also in development by other companies, such as the Cambridge-based biotech company Sherlock Biosciences. It uses CRISPR-based technology developed by Feng Zhang and his colleagues at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

"Currently all potential coronavirus specimens are sent to U.S. CDC labs in Atlanta.

"The government’s test uses a large, expensive and sophisticated tool called Reverse Transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR), which measures the amount of viral RNA, a chain of cells that carry genetic information, in a patient’s sputum, serum or blood.

"It takes time to ship a patient’s sample to Atlanta, then process it and release results.To help expedite detection, the government is improving and standardizing its test and plans to release it to a limited number of state health departments. But still that test will take time.

"That’s one reason why news about suspected cases has been slow to confirm."

 

Another group–the Seattle Flu Study (an initiative by the Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine)–was able to develop their own test for Covid-19, but the only reason they were able to get around the govt. prohibition on non-state entities working to solve this problem is that they did it under the guise of "research." Their test uncovered one of the first cases of community transmission in Washington State.

From StatNews:


"Frustrated by the lack of testing resulting from the problem with the CDC-developed kit, the Seattle Flu Study began using an in-house developed test to look for Covid-19 in samples from people who had flu-like symptoms but who had tested negative for flu. That work — permissible because it was research — uncovered the Snohomish County teenager."


Whatever the severity of COVID-19 turns out to be (without accurate infection numbers, we can't possibly know), it is abundantly clear that centralized government power cannot be part of any sensible response to it. The CDC's stranglehold on testing has only served to stifle efforts to get more and better tests out to the people who need them, and to prevent us from finding out vital information about this virus in a timely way. The best thing the CDC and FDA could do now would be to get out of the way.