The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Team Apocalypse—Revisited

I am proud to have been among the relatively small percentage of U.S. citizens who called B.S. when the first Covid lockdowns and masking policies were introduced during the Trump administration. I thought then that hysteria, coupled with a political subtext, led to bad decisions that quickly led to authoritarian dictates. I thought then (and was proven correct) that the unintended consequences of bad policies far outweighed the threat of the virus.

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, hysteria with a political subtext was amplified and promoted by what some of us derisively called "Team Apocalypse." The Team was led by Anthony Fauci, MD. His followers were a collection of mostly blue city, blue state and federal politicians and their many, many followers across our nation along other catastrophists around the world. I first wrote about the Team in April, 2020:

"Team Apocalypse" (h/t: @AlexBerenson, Twitter) has been working hard to create an environment in which hysteria, fear-mongering, bad information, lack of context, and purposely distorted advice and warnings reign. Their intent is to put as many roadblocks in the way of re-opening the country as possible, now arguing that endless amounts of testing are required before we can even think of re-opening. On its surface, the team's strategy is all about saving lives. But if that actually was the case, the ruination of 1000 times more lives (and businesses) would matter just as much. Given that reality, it's important to look just below the surface. Team Apocalypse has used fear-mongering to achieve purposeful delay, and as a result tens of millions of workers have gotten crushed. Far too many members of the team hope their results will lead to profound public anger, fear, and dismay, yielding the desired election result in November.

On the opposing team, we have rational, critical thinkers, driven by actual real-life data along with a not-so-small dose of common sense ...

I wrote those words two months after the "two weeks to stop the spread."  Sadly, the opposing team lost in 2020 and 2021.

Now that the overwhelmingly bad consequences of early Covid policies are impossible to ignore, Fauci and dozens (perhaps hundreds) of members of Team Apocalypse,* are trying to re-write history and suggest that they didn't propose policies that lead to serious societal damage. 

James Freeman comments on Fauci's attempt to re-write history:

Remember the government disease doctor who once described the Covid lockdown policies he was promoting as merely “inconvenient”? Trillions of dollars and countless shattered lives later, now the country’s most forceful advocate for shuttering U.S. society is pretending he was inconsequential.

To make his new case Dr. Anthony Fauci has chosen the friendly forum of the New York Times, which also isn’t eager to accept responsibility for panicked responses to Covid ...

Shame on President Trump for not firing the destructive doctor in 2020, and shame on Dr. Fauci for trying to rewrite this history in 2023.

In 2020, Fauci worked tirelessly to criticize and/or censor public health experts, economists and many others who opposed his views, claiming that "science" was on his side. It. Was. Not. 

He set the tone that allowed lockdown and masking scolds to criticize and/or demonize any opposing view. Glen Reynolds chastises those "scolds" and demands that they show some contrition. The scolds viciously attacked those of us who have been proven correct about virtually every aspect of the ruinous policies put in place by Trump and then reinforced and expanded by Biden. Reynolds writes:

... studies keep coming out indicating all sorts of harm from these so-called “non-pharmaceutical interventions” during COVID.

The damage ranges from the “shocking” increase in LGBTQ intimate partner violence that a Rutgers study found, to a rise in sex attacks on teen girls, to a major decline in cancer screenings, to an “unprecedented” drop in teen mental health, to a dramatic loss in kids’ school learning, which remedial attempts have been unsuccessful in reversing. Even bar exam scores suffered.

Though these interventions didn’t do much to reduce COVID death rates — Sweden, which avoided lockdowns, did better than the nations that pursued them — there’s considerable evidence they caused increased numbers of deaths from heart attacks, obesity, mental-health problems, drug overdoses and the like.

People who because of their age were at very low risk from COVID died at much higher-than-normal rates from these other causes as a result of the disruption of normal life, the cutoff of normal social-support networks and, of course, the endless miasma of fear government and media spread.

And children were hurt the most, suffering developmental delays and other losses.

For a 6-year-old, two years of masking and lockdowns is nearly half a lifetime, and you can’t get those years back.

Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admitted lockdowns fueled strep, flu and respiratory-syncytial-virus outbreaks.

Many lockdown measures were nonsensical or downright discriminatory.

As blogger Nate Silver observed, “It’s kind of crazy (and tells you a lot about who was writing the restrictions) that churches in some jurisdictions were subject to more restrictions than museums! Not even attempting to follow any sort of epidemiological principles.”

We saw outdoor skate parks filled with sand, ocean kayakers cited for not wearing masks while paddling alone on the ocean and, as the post Silver retweeted noted, a Santa Clara church and its congregation made the “targets of an unprecedented surveillance operation” over defiance of lockdown rules.

It was a golden age for scolds, busybodies and petty tyrants, and they made the most of it.

The result was a drastic loss of trust in the honesty and competence of public authorities, scientists and the media at every level, a loss of trust that was 100% justified. [emphasis mine]

And that may be the most serious of all the unintended consequences of "covidiocy." 

You'd think that because they were so wrong about Covid, members of the Team might rethink the apocalyptic projections and the bad policy prescriptions they have developed for climate change—but nope. True believers to the end, they continue to work "hard to create an environment in which hysteria, fear-mongering, bad information, lack of context, and purposely distorted advice and warnings reign." 

And when the many, many unintended consequences** of their new apocalyptic fantasy come home to roost, they will, like their Covid brethren, never apologize, never show contrition, and never, ever admit they were wrong.


* Just this week, Randi Weingarten, leader of the politically influential American Federation of Teachers, testified before congress that she only wanted to keep schools open. Here's a comment on that lie from the New York Post: "Weingarten is a powerful political force in the Democratic Party. She and her allies in Democratic politics used their leverage to keep school doors closed to students for more than a year, with catastrophic results for the learning and mental health of those students.' " Another harsh take on Weingarten's lies can be found here.

** Although I do NOT agree with some of the arguments proposed by Joel Klotkin, his comments on the consequences of proposed climate change policy are on target:

The fabulists at places like the New York Times have convinced themselves that climate change is the biggest threat to prosperity. But many ordinary folk are far more worried about the immediate effects of climate policy than the prospect of an overheated planet in the medium or long term. This opposition to the Net Zero agenda was first expressed by the gilet jaunes movement in France in 2018, whose weekly protests were initially sparked by green taxes. This has been followed by protests by Dutch and other European farmers in recent years, who are angry at restrictions on fertilisers that will cut their yields. The pushback has sparked the rise of populism in a host of countries, notably Italy, Sweden and France. Even in ultra-with-it Berlin, a referendum on tighter-emissions targets recently failed to win over enough voters.

This is class warfare obscured by green rhetoric. It pits elites in finance, tech and the nonprofit world against a more numerous, but less connected, group of ordinary citizens. Many of these folk make their living from producing food and basic necessities, or from hauling these things around. Factory workers, truck drivers and farmers, all slated for massive green regulatory onslaughts, see sustainability very differently than the urban corporate elites and their woke employees. As the French gilets jaunes protesters put it bluntly: ‘The elites worry about the end of the world. We worry about the end of the month.’

Hmmm. "Class warfare obscured by green rhetoric." Sorta the same as Covid hysteria obscured by public health rhetoric. In both cases, the rhetoric is not scientifically based and in many cases outright dishonest. It is the average wage earner and small businesses that take the brunt of the sacrifice and gain little if any benefit going forward.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The Puppeteers

And so, with a slick, highly edited video hitting all of the typical emotional cues, Joe Biden announces his run for the presidency in 2024. 

Already, pundits are discussing the wisdom of a Biden rerun. Even the NYT and the alphabet networks (the pinnacle of the propaganda media) are questioning the wisdom of a second term.

I would submit that discussing "Biden's second term" is the wrong way to look at this. Because he is cognitively disabled, there is an anonymous, unelected 'committee' of leftist ideologues—"the puppeteers"— who are setting policy and loading Biden's teleprompter. Like all political people, the puppeteers are now in power and will do everything possible to remain in power.

If the puppeteers had been competent, honest, and even-handed in the policy positions, a Biden second term might be fathomable. Instead, they have failed in every possible way: (1) Rampant inflation driven by profligate and unnecessary federal spending; (2) Lockdowns, school closures and masking, driven by a desire for authoritarian control ruined lives and livelihood with effects that continue to this day and beyond, (3) the catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan that was the start of a disastrous foreign policy that exudes indecision and weakness; (4) an energy policy that is both unworkable and damaging to the country; (5) a domestic policy that amplifies divisions within the country ... and on and on.

So when we hear talk of a Biden candidacy—think instead a "puppeteer candidacy." When Biden asks for your vote, know that it's really the puppeteers who want your vote. And when Biden tells you that he's a uniter, a moderate, and that he really, really cares about each and every one of you, know that the words he reads are not his.

The puppeteers need your vote, and that's all they care about. And you don't even know their names.


It's worth noting that actuarial tables indicate that there is a non-trivial possibility that Joe Biden will not finish his second term. That would elevate his VP to the presidency. Kamala Harris as POTUS gives new meaning to the Peter Principle.


Monday, April 17, 2023


When our nation was founded, the intent of the founders was that each state would control many of the aspects of life that are now relegated to the Federal government. And for two centuries, the size and cost of the federal government remained relatively small. But over the past 50 years, both the size and cost of the federal level have risen exponentially—and that's a VERY bad thing.

The reason for concern is that as the size and centralization (not to mention cost) of any government grows, it's tendency toward authoritarian control also grows at just about the same rate. Maybe that's why, over the past decade, we have seen evidence of government censorship of the media (think: the Twitter files) that is both unconstitutional and dangerous. We've seen rogue attempts by government agencies (think: IRS and FBI) to intimidate political opponents. We've seen prosecutorial misconduct leveled at political opposition on a scale that is unprecedented. And we've witnessed attempts at the highest levels of government to demonize and ostracize those who disagree with the approved narrative.

In communist China, the large, centralized government has instituted a social credit score, allowing the government to control its citizens based on arbitrary criteria. That control includes restricting travel, controlling access to bank accounts, limiting the ability to obtain housing, and other more subtle intimidation. Of course, the argument of far too many in the USA is, "It can't happen here!" And yet, there were millions of people in blue states who were perfectly okay with the idea of censorship (e.g., of supposed Covid "misinformation") or social credit (e.g., vaccine passports) as Covid hysteria (promulgated by the federal government and their propaganda media) took hold.  

Now, it appears there's a move afoot to add yet another level of authoritarian control—the CBDC. Gadfly Tulsi Gabbard tweets:

Yet, many people favor a cashless society for its convenience—already apps like Venmo or Zelle are used by millions to transfer money between individuals and businesses. Most of us go the the ATM far less often, and many of us rarely make a cash transaction.

Other people object to a cashless society because they're concerned about privacy, but sadly, in our digital age, privacy is largely an illusion. Unless you live off the grid, everything you do is tracked in some manner. All of your non-cash purchases are recorded, your financial transactions can be easily determined, your travels across the Internet are known and analyzed. A cashless society would accelerate the government's ability to look into our lives and our wallets, but that isn't the main danger. 

If a cashless society occurs organically, so be it. Sure, it might be possible to stitch together onerous invasions of privacy and intimidation, and that should be prohibited. But once the government establishes a system of centralized control like the proposed CBDC, all bets are off. Recent history indicates that our overly large and centralized government has an authoritarian bent. It cannot be trusted to tell us the truth, to act in the best interests of the citizenry, or to make decisions that are not harmful. The 3-year Covid debacle is evidence of that.

A CBDC might be the first step toward establishing a social credit score system. Can't happen? Think Canada just over a year ago. Truckers protested draconian and totally unnecessary Covid restrictions imposed by Canada's socialist leadership. In response, the government of Canada froze the bank accounts of the protestors' leadership in a successful attempt to intimidate them into silence. I suspect more than a few politicians in the U.S. were taking notes. BTW, like blue leaders in the U.S., Trudeau's authoritarian decisions vis a vis Covid have been proven to be catastrophically bad ones.

Now extrapolate to a CBDC. It would be possible to freeze the ability to access one's bank or use one's credit card—not for just a few people, but potentially for millions. It won't happen, you say? Hmmm. Who wouldn't have though that the geniuses in DC would recommend that  schools be shut down for over a year in 2020-2021?

Before any CBDC is put into place, laws MUST be passed to limit its scope, restrict its actions, and absolutely prohibit its use again those who question the nation's leadership or their narratives. Better yet, allow a cashless society to evolve organically, without any centralized CBDC. Less control, fewer authoritarian tendencies, and a much better outcome for us all.

UPDATE (04-18-2023):


As I mentioned in the body of this post, communist China has already implemented a suffocating social credit scoring system that I'm certain many authoritarians in the west are drooling over. Here's a quick tweet describing one use case:

What if a person questioned the prevailing apocalyptic climate change narrative? Use the CBDC to punish the "denier." Or maybe people who believe that reparations for slavery are logically inconsistent and functionally unworkable should be labeled as "racist" and have their access to a digital wallet restricted?

Based on both rhetoric and recent history, I suspect that more that a few blue state leaders would have jumped at the chance to humilate/punish people who chose not to get vaccinated during the Covid hysteria. Note: The vaccine did NOT stop the spread, did not protect the vaccinated for any meaningful length of time, and did have statistically significant side effects among cohorts that were least threatened by the virus.

If a CBDC was in place, I further suspect that those same catastrophists would have been more than happy to use a billboard system a la China and deduct or freeze a person's digital wallet based on their vaccine status. Beware!

Monday, April 10, 2023

Too Bad to be True

In a recent op-ed in the WSJ, entitled "You Can't Throw the Bums Out if You Voted with your Feet," Allysia Finley derides the out-migration from blue cities with particular emphasis on Chicago and its recently elected hard-left Mayor Brandon Johnson.  She writes:

Chicago is functionally bankrupt. Its high crime and taxes are driving away businesses like Citadel, Boeing and Tyson Foods. Despite some of the highest property taxes in the country, its pension funds are in a death spiral. Scads of people are moving out. A net 175,000 people left Cook County between 2020 and 2022.

Mr. Johnson’s margin of victory was about 20,000 votes. How many of the city’s expats would have voted for moderate reformer Paul Vallas? Therein lies an enormous problem for Chicago and other big cities: Left-wing policies are driving away the types of voters and businesses needed for a course correction.

Between 2020 and 2022, about 71,000 people on net left San Francisco—nearly 10% of its population. During the same period some 503,000 moved out of New York City—about four times the population of Topeka, Kan. High levels of out-migration amount to a political as well as economic brain drain. Cities are losing the voters who keep their leaders from going off the rails.

All of that is true, but any suggestion that there's a way to "throw the bums out" is wishful thinking. In the comments section, I wrote:

In blue cities across the country, the Democrats have ruled for decades. [Chicago hasn't had a GOP mayor in 70 years!] Sure, there might be an occasional GOP mayor in some cities, but the city council, along with public sector unions and (today) NGOs insist on more taxes and greater spending. Ironically, as spending goes up, the quality of public services along with the quality of life, goes down. Hundreds of millions are spent on programs that don't work, except to enrich the parasitic class that acts as middle men in big cities.

"Throwing the bums out" is a reasonable abstraction, but it can no longer work. The political infrastructure in big cities has skewed so far left that a return to moderation is unlikely. Even worse, urban leftists who now run things know that there is no longer moral hazard for poor governance—Washington will bail them out when things get really bad.

Sadly, voting with our feet is the ONLY solution for those us us who see our tax money squandered by incompetent ideologues who do absolutely nothing to make the lives of city dwellers better.


Sunday, April 02, 2023


If you were to ask the average non-technical person to define the word "acceleration" you'd get a lot of answers that really aren't accurate. Some would say "It's how fast something goes." Wrong. "Others would say it has to do with speed." True, but not good enough.

Stated in non-mathematical form, acceleration is the change in velocity over time. When we say something is accelerating, what we mean is that its velocity in increasing (or decreasing) from second to second. The change in velocity can be so small it's almost imperceptible or it can be joltingly large.

Up until very recently, the acceleration of advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been relatively small, but over the past year that acceleration has changed, to the extent that it has now become joltingly large. The public is largely unaware of this, accept at the very edges, but the tech community has watched it happen, and because of the ramifications of it, has become alarmed.

Over the past few months—here and more importantly, here—I posted on the increasingly rapid acceleration of advancements in AI and their inexorable march toward AGI—artificial general intelligence—a technology that will have a historically profound impact on human beings—greater that the printing press, the Internet or just about anything else.

The BIG question is whether that impact will be mostly good or mostly bad.

John Stokes reports on a recent conversation between Lex Friedman and Sam Altman, the founder of OpenAI (the creator of ChapGPT and its variants), along with an analysis of ChapGPT Technical Report, and draws some conclusions that are worth noting. He writes:

The recent rollout of OpenAI’s GPT-4 model had a number of peculiar qualities to it, and having stared at this odd fact pattern for a while now, I’ve come to the conclusion that Altman is carefully, deliberately trying to engineer what X-risk nerds call a “slow take-off” scenario — AI’s capabilities increase gradually and more or less linearly, so that humanity can progressively absorb the novelty and reconfigure itself to fit the unfolding, science-fiction reality.

Here’s my thesis: The performance numbers published in the GPT-4 technical report aren’t really like normal benchmarks of a new, leading-edge technical product, where a company builds the highest-performing version it can and then releases benchmarks as an indicator of success and market dominance. Rather, these numbers were selected in advance by the OpenAI team as numbers the public could handle, and that wouldn’t be too disruptive for society. They said, in essence, “for GPT-4, we will release a model with these specific scores and no higher. That way, everyone can get used to this level of performance before we dial it up another notch with the next version.”

Providing a simplistic translation to this comment, Stokes thinks that the underlying "deep learning stack" (the underlying large language model (LLM) functionality of ChatGPT) allows it to do far more than it currently does, but it is being purposely constrained so that its acceleration toward an AGI can be managed in a way that will not be disruptive or filled with unacceptable risk. The goal is to have the LLM scale predictably.

At the risk of being overly simplistic, it's like feeding only a small amount of plant food to a plant that can grow to gargantuan heights , so it grows more slowly and predictably. In this AI metaphor, the "plant food" is the number of parameters that allow the LLM to grow and 'learn'. By limiting the parameters, acceleration is controllable.

But what if the metaphorical plant is allowed as much plant food as is available—hundreds of billions or trillions of parameters. Does it grow out of control with vines and roots spreading to places we don't want overwhelming our world in ways we can't even imagine, or does it grow straight up in the air while we watch in amazement? No one knows.

There's another word that many people have trouble understanding—exponential. Humans are good at linear growth—it's part of our world. We understand it and accept it without question. But exponential growth is a different matter. Mathematically, exponential growth is represented like this:

Things begin happening faster and faster and the change that results is unsettling at best and downright frightening to many. It appears that AI has entered the exponential growth phase where the velocity of change keeps accelerating until ... what?