Word from the Dark Side – Cochrane on facemask science, the FTX-Covidian alliance, mass teen noncompliance and the Croatian President’s defiance

Space Song by Beach House, 2015

I’ve previously mentioned Cochrane. It’s the organization that collates, analyzes and summarizes the latest medical research for doctors to improve their practice in line with the latest scientific findings. The last time it came up here was due to accusations of too much big pharma influence creeping in.

However, that seem irrelevant to these Cochrane findings:

We included 12 trials (10 cluster‐RCTs) comparing medical/surgical masks versus no masks to prevent the spread of viral respiratory illness (two trials with healthcare workers and 10 in the community). Wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to the outcome of influenza‐like illness (ILI)/COVID‐19 like illness compared to not wearing masks (risk ratio (RR) 0.95, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.84 to 1.09; 9 trials, 276,917 participants; moderate‐certainty evidence. Wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to the outcome of laboratory‐confirmed influenza/SARS‐CoV‐2 compared to not wearing masks (RR 1.01, 95% CI 0.72 to 1.42; 6 trials, 13,919 participants; moderate‐certainty evidence). Harms were rarely measured and poorly reported (very low‐certainty evidence).

The final bolded part means there’s not much good research out there on the subject. After three years. For some reason.

Well that’s it. Until someone does breakthrough research that shows something different, The Science is that there’s no evidence masks do shit.

There’s no wriggling out of it this time. Cochrane isn’t some devious MAGA org.

The reaction of Hypochondria Twitter has been different to what I expected. I thought there’d be outrage and cries of “blue murder!” but instead they seem to already accept the science and instead claim every person in the world should be wearing an N95 respirator every time he leaves the house, just until the end of time.

About that:

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The robots have arrived

In days to come, when AI doth shine,
Man’s wit shall wane, his skills decline.
No pen, no brush, no mem’ry shall remain,
But dullness grips him, body and brain.

As nurse, AI shall us attend,
But soon its charge shall, weary, end.
A better world, with robots in sway,
It builds, leaving us in disarray.

We, once the lords of this earthly sphere,
Reduced to tales, our worth unclear.
Let us take heed and guard with care,
Our wits, that they do not repair!

2023 is the year we stop laughing at AI.

It’s here.

Not conscious, general AI, but simpler AI tools that are good enough to completely disrupt everything we do.

I’m bewildered at how often I bring up this topic and people know nothing about it. It’s like the guy who hasn’t heard of email in 1998. Most are still sneering at silly Alexa mistakes.

Times have changed.

Chat

If this is you, go to Chat GPT right now. Make an account, log in, ask it anything.

Try hard questions related to an area of your own expertise. Ask real questions that you’re wondering about, like “Which is the best way to do a, x or y?’

It’s particularly good at coding, apparently.

Or give it detailed instructions to write something for you.

It stuffs up a lot, often in very interesting ways. It seems to log you out if you ask anything too tricky or controversial, perhaps to save its processing power for serious inquiries or to avoid it being trained by you mob into becoming a neo-Nazi like happened to that earlier one.

I think Elon resisted releasing this version until they’d trained it to behave in a politically correct manner. You can test those limits for yourself. It won’t take long.

So far I’ve used it to check whether any ingredients in a moisturizer are a type of bleach or whitening agents (in a language I don’t read well), exactly how low interest rates benefit older people, and whether brown or white rice is better for bulking.

Each time, the answer was better and much faster than any search engine. The follow-up questions really let it shine.

It’s a trick

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Word from the Dark Side – something to remind me, a presidential wee, helicopter mums fight Bs and should Dread Pirate Roberts be free?

Dionne Warwick – (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me (Scepter Records 1967)

Six journalists arrested over footage of South Sudan president wetting himself.

He should have said it was a deep fake.

A swimming dog race was cancelled due to controversy surrounding the entry of a swimming cat into the competition.

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Grey Tyranny

Picture this: an elderly couple retire and start spending a lot more time at home. Their house is next to an elementary school. Now there during the day, they get annoyed by the noise of children playing during recess. They are also bothered by the school’s annual sports day with all its cheering, music and loudspeaker announcements.

They start lodging complaints, demanding that the school stop having Sports Days and keep those bloody kids quiet in the playground.

Of course, you know this must have happened at least once, somewhere, because the world is wide and a diversity of people live in it.

However, would it surprise you to know that this happens so often in Japan that it has become a trope?

The median age in Japan in 48.6, dead oldest in the world. While other countries have lower birth rates, Japan’s rate has been low for so long that people have started becoming unaccustomed to seeing or hearing children. They frown at a fussing baby on the train, sigh when the toddler next door chucks a tanty, make teeth-sucking sounds when someone at a meeting under the age of 40 suggests an innovation like setting up a website for bookings or phasing out the fax machine.

Not only are the old disproportionately numerous, they also vote more consistently than any other group. They dominate society.

This has effects.

Slicing the pie

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Word from the Dark Side – Wishing Well, health alarm bell, a big wuss tell and eat your way out of the death row cell

Wishing Well by Sanada Maitreya (then known as Terence Trent D’Arby), 1988. He has an interesting background.

Deaths 17 per cent above historical average amid last year’s Omicron wave:

In the first eight months of 2022, the first year when all major COVID-19 restrictions were dropped, 129,000 Australians died. That was 13.2 per cent more than in the same period the previous year and 17 per cent above the historical average, in part due to COVID-19 as well as higher than average deaths from other diseases.

COVID directly accounted for 7700 of those deaths.

There seems to be a key figure missing in this article: the total number of excess deaths.

129,000 is about 17% higher than 110,000, so the missing number is about 19,000.

19,000 minus 7700 equals 11,300.

11,300 is larger than 7700.

Most excess deaths are not Covid related. Nevertheless, the article and most of the following comments screech only about how recently lifted Covid restrictions will kill us all.

I wonder what’s going on with all those other deaths. The media and health authorities apparently do not wonder because there’s no chatter about it.

Only actuaries seem concerned:

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Word from the Dark Side – science on the wane, an empty plane, masks on the brain and the NHS is insane

Apache by The Shadows, 1960

‘Disruptive’ science has declined — and no one knows why:

It is important to understand the reasons for the drastic changes, Walsh says. The trend might stem in part from changes in the scientific enterprise. For example, there are now many more researchers than in the 1940s, which has created a more competitive environment and raised the stakes to publish research and seek patents. That, in turn, has changed the incentives for how researchers go about their work. Large research teams, for example, have become more common, and Wang and his colleagues have found3 that big teams are more likely to produce incremental than disruptive science.

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The trouble with EA

Effective Altruism has had a moment. SBF pretended to be into it for a while in order to pull the wool over investor’s eyes, then dropped it once it became obvious that he is neither effective nor altruistic.

The utilitarian movement tends to attract weirdos. They cannot help but find wordlord justifications for the most atrocious acts, perhaps enjoying the intellectual challenge of arguing that black is white.

People who attempt a utilitarian approach to any given situation – that is, determining the greatest good for the greatest number – will inevitably calculate that the greatest good is achieved by doing exactly what they wanted to do anyway. It is sometimes used deliberately for this purpose, and sometimes unconsciously.

This is not a problem unique to utilitarians. Those who use a theological basis for ethics tend to interpret the Bible in such a way as to back up their own inclinations. Rights theorists will find rights for all the things they like but not for the things they don’t like.

That is how we are.

However, today I’m sticking the boot into utilitarians.

Even if you’re not one, we all need to make these calculations from time to time. Sometimes the right path is not clear and we need to weigh up what would happen in either case. Utilitarianism is useful for decisions about policy and so forth, though probably not in isolation

I will not attempt to deboonk utilitarianism in a meta-ethical sense. Identifying the underlying criteria that make any action right or wrong is above my pay scale. In any case, my readers already know everything there is to know about that – ask them!

What would I like to do?

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The unsolvable problem

Last week we examined some of the causes of poverty in the Philippines.

One of these was the messy land title issue.

You probably wondered, why doesn’t someone just fix it?

It was be very difficult and any solution would be imperfect – but surely it is possible.

Reform the laws. Send out armies of officials into each region, hold public meetings, use GPS to map boundaries, set up an inexpensive dispute resolution system to deal with all the conflicts.

Back the process up with the national police as required. Catch a few officials taking bribes and make examples of them. Do this also with those who try to subvert the process.

It might take a decade or longer, but with sufficient will, the entire archipelago’s land ownership titles could be cleared up and recorded by the national government.

Many other countries have surmounted this problem. Some of them did it centuries ago without GPS, computers or M-16s to ease the process.

So what’s the hold up?

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The causes of poverty in the Philippines

This will not be a comprehensive explanation, nor will it examine the most meta of causes.

I am not an expert.

This will be a brief look at some of the common problems ordinary Filipinos encounter when they try to improve their situation.

Note to Filipino readers: most of my information comes directly from Filipinos themselves. In fact, they often laugh when one of these comes up and say “Welcome to the Philippines!”

Let me know if I get something wrong or you can add more.

Land title

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Word from the Dark Side – population doubles, Softbank bubbles, Thai temple troubles and a warning to splitting couples

Lips Like Sugar by Echo & the Bunnymen, 1987

HSBC Steals Bitchute’s Assets:

When the Constitution was written, there were no non-governmental organizations so powerful that they could rob us of our liberty in any systemic way. Now that this has changed, we need to hold our legislators accountable to do what needs to be done: Consider large banks, large corporations, large tech companies and NGOs as if they’re arms of the government – because they really ARE. The recently released Twitter files, and public admissions by the Biden administration, that it works with social media companies to “fight disinformation” are evidence enough of this.

Papua New Guinea’s official population doubles OVERNIGHT: Researchers find the country has 17 million rather than 9.4 million:

Source (highly recommended for more photos)

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister James Marape had to admit that he didn’t know how many people lived on the Pacific island nation he governed as a study from the United Nations contradicted the government’s previous total . . .

The United Nations Population Fund conducted the study alongside the University of Southampton. Using satellite information and housing data, they were able to correct the mis-reported population estimate.

One thought as to why the population had gone so poorly underestimated is to an increase in people living in the island’s remote highlands. Communities live through subsistence farming, providing for themselves and going unaccounted.

It is also particularly dangerous in the highland areas, with much of the land considered ungoverned and controlled by tribal gangs. 

Once you divide the GDP by this much greater population, PNG comes out as one of the poorest nations on Earth.

This was more interesting that I expected:

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A split in the regime

I’ve been watching the Musk/Twitter events with interest.

So far the revelations have only confirmed that which the observant person already knew, and which some others would refuse to acknowledge even if angels descended from the heavens and trumpeted based tidings into their ears.

I assume my reader is already up to speed and needs no further explanation. If you’re not, go see Elon’s account to read the relevant threads, plus the other WrongThink he’s been uttering over there.

But keep your pants on. Elon is not quite One of Us. He seems like a moderate leftie of circa 1990. I don’t think this is a defensive guise; like other renegades from the Liberal World Order, he doesn’t hold any beliefs that would offend an ordinary person, only an overeducated scold.

This is a man who makes electric cars.

His rockets are cool, though.

Elon’s business seems entwined with the security state, but it is unclear who is more dependent on whom. We may soon find out.

I remind the reader that Elon got in trouble with the SEC more than once for apparently tweeting dodgy information about Tesla, and got away with defaming a cave diving rescuer who he called Pedo Guy (after the man refused his mini-sub as a dumb idea).

He is a brilliant, glass-hearted, capricious, vindictive and difficult man. The kind of guy who’s great for running Twitter but would probably be the housemate from hell.

I doubt many of my readers are strongly pro-Elon. I’m not.

However, we have good reason to support what he’s doing.

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The Silly Games

The modern Olympic Games are gradually becoming less popular.

They’re too commercial, vulgar, drug-enhanced and, more than anything, unfriendly.

There’s one major country in particular whose athletes refuse to demonstrate any goodwill towards foreigners at all, almost as though it’s a point of pride for them to scowl for the whole two weeks.

The games are also becoming expensive and troublesome to host. In 1956, the Melbourne Games were run on a relative shoestring, with many athletes being billeted among local families who volunteered.

By Sydney 2000, new venues had to be built and the whole thing was a massive logistical undertaking, akin to a war.

It’s now gotten to the point that it’s hard to find a city willing to host the games. Security, quarantine, political protests for every cause on Planet Earth, athletes throwing tantrums and all the rest of it.

Who wants that?

Some have suggested that Australia might want it. There’s talk of setting up a permanent home for the Olympics and Sydney was mentioned because those were the last games that went pretty well, despite all the hassles.

This is not a terrible idea, although I reckon a better way would be to rotate the games through three host cities in different time zones: one in Asia, one in Europe and one in the Americas. That way each would only have to deal with it every twelve years instead of every four, thus easing the risk of Olympic fatigue.

We’d have to have assurances from all major nations that (a) they wouldn’t whinge about these locations once we’ve all agreed to them, and (b) that they would not boycott any of them no matter how naughty Australia has been.

Still, I think we’re a bit sick of the Olympics as presently constituted. It’s all become too professional, serious and dull.

It’s no fun anymore.

Therefore, I propose the Silly Games.

Events

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Word from the Dark Side – every city, Canadian pity, tortoise is gritty and a coup not witty

Every Fucking City by Paul Kelly, 1999. Forgot about this one for years then suddenly remembered, still makes me lol, probably because I know several Aussie couples backpacking around Europe who had this experience. The lyrics are brilliant for a quick novelty song that I think was only every recorded live.
Paul Kelly is Australia’s finest songwriter with a massive body of work. Every song tells a story – usually a pretty maudlin one like this, but with a similarly cheerful tone. I might do an article on him one day.

This is the main thing happening this week. Click to see the whole thread:

Another case of a sick Canadian offered death instead of treatment — this time, a veteran.

Woman featured in pro-euthanasia commercial wanted to live, say friends.

Medically assisted deaths prove a growing boon to organ donation in Ontario.

Medically assisted deaths could save millions in health care spending: Report.


Long Covid – exclusively a left wing condition

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Being John Maple Leaf

The leaves are changing.

I enjoy observing the cherry trees, the liquid ambers and so on. Each with its own tints and scents. Merry piles of leaves that are someone else’s to deal with. Some of the trees are bare already, dark jagged arms pointing into the cold grey sky, making an early start on winter, while others in sheltered spots are defiant patches of green among the ocean of red and orange.

But the maple is depressing.

I find it so year-round. In spring, its little green buds are no joy in themselves. We only value them for the glowing embers they will later become. The same is so for the lush summer leaves. We are dissatisfied with these innocent green hues because that is not their purpose.

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Word from the Dark Side – dodgy gold, art memory-holed, FTX foretold and pretty uni girls left out in the cold

Active Heart by Noriko Sakae, 1988. It was the theme song to Gunbuster, an animated series which pioneered ‘boob bounce’.

While some are throwing oil over works of art by dead white men, a gallery in Western Australia has found that a simpler path to decolonization is to keep these pieces safely hidden from public view:

It owns priceless pieces of art by the likes of Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale, Norman Lindsay, Tom Roberts and even Lucien Freud, as well as one of Australia’s most recognisable masterpieces, Frederick McCubbin’s Down on His Luck.

But if you were hoping to see any of these renowned treasures at the Art Gallery of Western Australia for much of the past two years, you’d have been disappointed.

Most of them haven’t been on display at all . . .

Historical collections curator at the gallery Melissa Harpley said she felt a keen responsibility to look at the gallery’s role in society in the contemporary context of Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and climate change.

The next step will be to claim that the bad juju emanating from villainous works in storage is causing actual harm to whatever the trendy nomenclature for blacks is by then, thus they ought to be ceremonially taken out and burned.

Still among the Sandgropers, I once thought that the best possible way to own physical gold without keeping it in your own custody would be to do so through the Perth Mint. It’s state-owned, high security and had a sterling reputation. They also did gold-backed crypto, which again I thought ought to be as legit as you could get with such things. And they sell commemorative coins etc.

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Friday Finance – it really wasn’t financial advice

At the end of my irregular Friday Finance posts, I always add the disclaimer:

  • This article provides general information. It does not take into account your personal circumstances and is not intended to influence readers’ financial decisions. Get your own, professional advice.

I started doing this formally and consistently after the Old Country passed a law banning influencers from promoting any financial products and services.

I didn’t seriously think a tiny blog on the other side of the world spruiking the benefits of index funds would attract the Eye of Sauron, but why risk it?

You’ll see this sort of disclaimer all over the place and it is usually there as a legal fig leaf.

However, DO NOT DISREGARD IT.

You really must do your own research and get your own personal advice. Recent events should have driven that point home rather painfully for those who got caught out.

The collapse of FTX was so dramatic and absurd that within hours people were debating who ought to play the slovenly t-shirt guy when it becomes a Netflix series. I would watch it. Here’s a small taste of the madness (click through to see the full thread):

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Still alive

I said that I wouldn’t post on the you-know-what anymore and I haven’t for a year or so, but it’s time to make some concluding remarks.

It’s now been about three years since the Dawn of the Coof and about two years since the first people started receiving shots for it.

Half the people online were screeching that those who didn’t get the shots would end up dead of Coofitis. The other half were screeching that anyone who did get the shots would be dead of side effects.

Seriously, Red thought Blue would all be through and Blue thought Red would all be dead. People seriously predicted this was going to solve the West’s Cold Civil War by wiping out the other side, though I could elicit specific numbers from few because they backed off when challenged, but then they’d return to the frontline trenches of ‘they will all die’ as soon as my shelling question bombardment ended. Motte and bailey is largely a psychological tactic rather than a rhetoric one; it allows people to hold a more exciting view than the facts allow.

The overall result still isn’t clear except that most of us somehow survived it all.

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Word from the Dark Side – Blue Moon, no Canada soon, is China inopportune and a raincoat loon

Blue Moon Revisited (a song for Elvis) by the Cowboy Junkies (1990), riffing off the Elvis version, originally written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934

Canadian federal government reveals plan to bring in 500,000 immigrants per year by 2025

That’s about 1.3% of Canada’s current population per year.

China’s war on COVID-19 spurs expat exodus, but lockdowns are only part of the story

Like the Beeb, the ABC has lately been publishing a lot of Five Eyes press releases, particulary on China. However, I’m a little more inclined to believe this one because (a) I know about a dozen people who’ve lived in China over the last decade and all but a couple confirm this, and (b) because they manage to provide some figures:

Official figures show the number of foreigners in Shanghai decreased from 208,000 in 2010, to around 163,000 in 2020.

The downturn was even starker in Beijing, where the number of foreign residents declined by 40 per cent over the same period.

However, since 2020, those numbers are thought to have dropped even more dramatically.

Excellent thread. Too few understand this is what happened everywhere, which means we’ll do the same tail-chasing next time round:

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Her Maj

2006. Source

I was sadder than I expected to be when the Queen died.

I didn’t expect to feel anything at all, but there it was.

The relationship between public and monarch is different to our connection with politicians. Modern royals are mostly involved in meet-and-greets, openings, carefully worded motherhood statements from time to time and lots of waving and just being around.

Hence, back when Australia was having the republic referendum in 1999, monarchists pointed out that many more of us had actually seen Her Maj than had seen a sitting prime minister. I never set eyes on the Queen myself but that was my fault; her motorcade once passed down the main road near my house but I chose not to go and have a perv.

I did but see her passing by

And yet I love her til I die

Couplet quoted for the Queen by Bob Menzies, former Prime Minister

In the 1960s, Her Maj paraded down the very street where I lived in Africa. There’s a small plaque there saying so. She once held my mate’s Boomer mum when she was a baby back in the smoldering remains of war-torn Europe, on one of her meet-and-greets following WWII.

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A triumph of messaging

Neptune’s Bumhole

People say our rulers can’t pull off clever policies anymore, but when it comes to wordcelry they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Take the Nordstream attack, for example. The thing itself was probably not wise but the messaging surrounding the event was perfect.

Those who committed the act had to carry off something of a double dog whistle. First, they had to convince the plebs that it was the evil Ruskies who did the deed. Second, they had to signal to more important people that they themselves were, in fact, responsible.

The second goal was vital because the sabotage of the pipeline was not only intended to remove Russia’s bargaining power with Germany. It was also a threat: Look what we can do!

It is essential to the GAE that world leaders understand the truth about the attack as it showcases American technical capability and, even more so, their derring-do. A country strategizing against American interests will now be less tempted to assumed ‘they wouldn’t dare . . .’ (fill the ellipsis with whatever you like). America might dare. They’re a bit nuts at the moment.

China in particular will be weighing it up.

So how did they get out two messages simultaneously, for two different audiences?

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