The death of Mikhail Gorbachev this week unleashed a wave of nostalgia for simpler and better times. That’s odd, isn’t it?
Not so much. The freedom revolution that followed his reforms in the old Soviet Union did not turn out as planned. The world never became normal and peaceful as promised. And today, we can only look back on the 1980s with affection for better times.
Back in the day, in the midst of the Cold War, we had an overwhelming sense of the world being held hostage and on the verge of a global nuclear war that could wipe out humanity as we knew it. One wrong move, one bad piece of intelligence, one emotional outburst by a frustrated commander-in-chief, and boom, the world would go up in fire and smoke.
The stakes were so high! It was not just about stopping the end of life on the planet. It was about an epic struggle between freedom (the U.S.) and tyrannical communism (the Soviet Union). That’s what we were told in any case. In our political landscape, much of American politics turned on whether it was wise to risk peace alongside a Soviet victory or go for a full vanquishing of evil from the planet.
The battle over communism defined the lives of many generations. Everything seemed so clear in those days. This was really about systems and ideology: whether society would consist of individuals and communities making their own choices or whether an elite class of intellectuals would override individual plans with some centralized vision of utopia.
In those days, there was no question that we were the good guys and they were the bad guys. We had to spy, fight, build up the military, fund the freedom fighters, and generally be strong in the face of godless evil.
Ronald Reagan was just the champion that freedom needed in those days. He called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” It drove the left nuts and cheered the base. He also attempted to shore up the American system: limited government (at least in some areas), lower taxes, sounder money, freer trade, and more rule of law rather than rule by administrative bureaucrats.
Then one odd day in 1987, late in Reagan’s second term, he and Gorbachev met and decided that they would together rid the world of nuclear weapons. They were giddy about the idea and the whole world went into shock and amazement, especially their respective advisors who rather liked the status quo. As a result, Gorbachev gained a victory at home – he ruled a poor and restless population sick of the nonsense – that encouraged him to seek more reforms, which only fed the appetite for more reform.
Reagan served his two terms and left office. Then dramatic change hit the world from 1989-90. The Soviet Empire fell apart, gradually at first and then all at once. Gorbachev became the country’s last leader as Soviet communism became plain-old Russian autocracy over time. The world could now be free! And the US could go back to normal.
About ten years later, I met Israeli historian Martin van Creveld. He was a scholar on war and terrorism. He held a unusual view. He believed that the end of the Cold War was a disaster and that the evidence was all around us. He said the world would never be as peaceful as it was when two superpowers faced off with nuclear arsenals. He described it as the perfect game for peace and prosperity. Neither would ever risk using the weapons but the prospect alone made states more cautious than they otherwise would be.
In fact, in his view, this nuclear standoff made the world as good as it could be given the circumstances. He admitted that he dreaded what might happen once one of the two powers disappeared. He believed that he was proven right: the world was headed toward chaos and disaster.
This was before 9-11 unleashed US imperial ambitions as never before. So even ten years later, I simply could not accept van Creveld’s position. That’s because I bought the line that the end of the Cold War was really about a victory for peace and freedom. Russia was free. And with the Soviet Union gone, the US could now safely return to its natural and constitutional status as a peaceful commercial republic, friendship with all and entangling alliances with none.
I was all in on the idea that we had finally reached the end of history: we would have freedom and democracy forever now that we knew that those systems were the best systems. And history would adapt to the evidence.
In those days, many on the left and right in American politics were screaming for normalcy. But there was a huge problem. The US had built up a massive intelligence/military/industrial machinery that had no intention of just closing up shop. It needed a new rationale. It needed a new enemy. It needed some new scary thing.
If the US could not find an enemy, it needed to make one.
China in those days wasn’t quite right for enemization, so the US looked to old allies that could be betrayed and demonized. Early in 1990, George H.W. Bush decided that Manuel Noriega was a bad money launderer and drug dealer and had to go. The US military made it happen.
Good show! What else? In the Middle East, Iraq was becoming annoying. So in 1990, Bush seized on a border dispute between Iraq and Kuwait, portraying the tiny country as a victim of the big oppressor next door. He would have to intervene militarily. The US won that one too.
Now, to be sure, this was not about the US going on some wild new imperial crusade. No no. It was really about punishing aggression just this one time so that the entire world would learn forevermore never to disturb borders again. It was a brief war for peace. It was two weeks to flatten the curve…wait, wrong war. It was two weeks to make the world safe for democracy.
Thus began what became a 25-year occupation. Also wrecked in the meantime were Libya and Syria. Just this week, the palace in Baghdad was ransacked yet again. This once civilized country that attracted the best and brightest students and artists from the whole region is in utter shambles. This is what the US did.
And that was just the start. The US, incredibly, replicated Soviet-style occupation in Afghanistan and ended up staying even longer. This was following the 9/11 attacks carried out as a retaliation against US actions in Iraq in the disputed borders in the Middle East. The Department of Homeland Security came into being and Americans lost vast freedoms though the vast expanse of the security state.
As for NATO itself, it never went away following the end of the Cold War but rather became another tool of provocation that the US could use to poke its enemies. It was too much for Russia, which decided to settle scores in Ukraine, thus provoking US and European sanctions that are driving the price of energy up for everyone but Russia.
All the while, China was on the rise with its new system of communism with Chinese characteristics, which really means a one-party state with no competition and complete control of industry and private life. China showed the world how to lock down to control a virus, and the US copied the idea, unleashing forms of despotism that the US as a whole had never known. Today we suffer the consequences of this fateful choice for control over freedom.
Looking back, the US victory in the Cold War was massively and tragically misspent. Instead of doing a victory lap for freedom and constitutional government — that’s what we believe was the whole damn point — the US used its monopoly on power to go on a global crusade. Whole peoples suffered but for decades we hardly felt it at all here at home. Life was good. The carnage abroad was all abstract.
The pandemic did for state power what not even the Cold War or the War on Terror could accomplish: terrified the population into a level of compliance that meant giving up even the right to educate, buy and sell, associate, worship, and even speak. Not even private homes were safe from the virus police. Not even weddings, funerals, and visits to the hospital were untouched. The Bill of Rights became a dead letter nearly overnight.
With lockdowns and the current political and economic chaos, the global empire has come home to oppress us all in the most personal possible way. We now read tales of life in the Soviet Union and we recognize it all too well. We read 1984 by George Orwell and recognize it in our own experience. This is not what winning the Cold War was supposed to mean.
From 1948 through 1989, the US and Russia were locked in a nuclear standoff. Children were trained to duck and cover should a nuclear bomb go off. People built shelters in their backyards. The enemy was always over there. It was a fight for freedom of tyranny. And yet today, we can only look back with nostalgia for a simpler time.
I’m not nostalgic for the Cold War and I would never want it back. Its end gave rise to a new hope, albeit one that came to be dashed over time.
I am nostalgic for a normal life with a primacy put on freedom, rights, and thriving. A transnational ruling class in government, media, medicine, and technology seem determined to forestall that world from ever coming about again. So yes, I long for the days of a smiling Reagan and Gorby! Together they decided to end the mutually assured destruction of the Cold War. We had no idea just how good we had it.
How the Dutch Failed their Children – A Cautionary Tale
One of the best places to raise children is The Netherlands. In several consecutive UNICEF reports the Netherlands ranked first for raising the happiest children among wealthy countries (2008, 2013, 2020). However, in the spring of 2020, The Netherlands became a harsh place for children and young people. The Dutch government adopted a one-size-fits-all policy handling the covid-19 pandemic, which did not spare the youngest and took a great toll on Dutch children. The Nobel Laureate Michael Levitt remarked that the Dutch policies would ‘set the record for worst covid-response ever.’
Unable to withstand the rising global panic, the Dutch government on March 16th 2020 announced an “intelligent” lockdown, a phrase coined by Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
Dutch society came to a halt. Offices, shops, restaurants and bars, libraries, sport facilities, as well as daycare centers, schools and universities were closed. The closure of schools was unexpected since the government’s official advisory group, the medics-dominated Outbreak Management Team (OMT), advised against it, for a school closure would have a minimal effect on the spread of the coronavirus.
A reconstruction of events showed that the main reason the Dutch government closed schools was that the educational field started to panic about keeping schools open. Closing schools was a political decision to follow the panic, not a medical decision. Schools supposedly closed for three weeks. Three weeks became three months. Research by The University of Oxford (Engzell, et al. 2021) shows that during the first wave the average Dutch student learned next to nothing during homeschooling. Moreover, students whose parents were not well-educated suffered up to 60% more learning losses.
School Closure ‘No Effect’
According to the Dutch equivalent of Fauci – Jaap van Dissel, chief scientist of the Dutch Health Agency (RIVM) and chairman of the Dutch OMT – the closure of schools in the spring of 2020 had “no effect.” Media, experts and politicians paid no attention to evidence though. Children were portrayed as ‘virus factories’ and schools were depicted as ’unsafe’ environments. Fear had a strong grip on the field of education and teaching unions exaggerated the risks of teachers in schools resulting in a drastic increase in safety demands.
The data was clear that not only did children not run any significant risk, but also that there was ‘no evidence that children play an important role in SARS-CoV-2 transmission.’ Still, a second lockdown would hit children. That second lockdown – now called a ‘hard lockdown’ – was announced on December 15th 2020. Schools closed again, this time advised by the OMT who had increased the number of areas it deemed itself expert on, on the basis of models, of course, proving Martin Kulldorff’s point that lab scientists are no public health scientists.
Dutch minister of Health Hugo de Jonge caused a stir by explaining this intervention was meant to coerce parents to stay at home. The international children’s rights organization KidsRights harshly criticized this policy: “The Netherlands has set a bad example internationally by closing schools during the corona pandemic to keep parents at home.” This children’s rights organization concluded that children were not a priority in Dutch corona policy and warned for the possible consequences.
As new insights on the negative impact of closing schools on children’s lives emerged, governments from countries all over the world decided not to close them again in the future. Undeterred, the Dutch government closed schools again on December 18 2021, just long enough to deny children their traditional Christmas dinner at school with their classmates, a big event in the childhood of Dutch children.
The deteriorating mental health of Dutch children was striking. The Dutch Health Authorities (RIVM) published a disturbing report which stated that more than one in five (22%) teenagers and young adults between the ages of 12 and 25 seriously considered taking their own life between December 2021 and February 2022 during the third lockdown. From happiest in the world to suicidal in a matter of three lockdowns.
Record Low in Sports Participation
Not only were schools closed by diktat. For two years, sports facilities were also repeatedly forced to close. The restrictions were constantly changing, with as a low point banning parents from watching their child play sports outdoors. Once again, there was no scientific evidence that this would help minimize the spread of the virus. The result is a record low in sports participation nationwide. The Dutch Olympic Committee and the Dutch Sports Federation (NOC*NSF) were ‘particularly’ worried by the negative effect on young people’s sports participation.
The Corona Pass
So no school and no sports. Another low point with regard to children was the corona pass (Coronatoegangsbewijs) that was mandatory from September 25th, 2021 for every Dutch citizen above 12. The corona pass was required for most social activities, such as going to the movies, attending a sports game with parents, or entering the canteen at sports club with teammates to drink tea or lemonade after the match.
Unsurprisingly, there was no scientific evidence that this intervention would reduce the spread of covid-19, but the Dutch government enforced it anyway. Crucially, the corona pass required vaccination, recovery from covid-19 or a negative result from a coronavirus test taken less than 24 hours before entry. So essentially, access to social life was used by the government to blackmail Dutch children into invasive medical procedures.
The madness continued, unsupported by evidence. At one point in time, outside playgrounds for children were closed. Parents were not allowed to enter swimming pools to dress their preschoolers before and after swimming lessons. In the winter of 2020-2021 the Dutch government even went as far as trying to regulate snowball fights, by dictating that only those from the same household were allowed to participate, and that their group could not exceed a certain number.
Neither sex nor the sea were exempt from the regulators. Young adults were advised which forms of sex were recommended, bearing the 1.5 m distance rule in mind. Drones were used to prevent people from gathering on the beach. To restrict the movements of young people even further, an evening curfew was introduced. It was not supported by any scientific explanation, just “boerenverstand” (common sense) as the advisory group OMT called it.
Restricting the lives of children and young people during the pandemic should require a great deal of evidence, as well as a risk-benefit evaluation. The Swedish government decided early in January 2020 that the measures in Sweden should be evidence-based. So it kept schools open, a decision supported by the evaluation of the Swedish Corona Commission in 2022. In Norway – where schools only closed briefly – the corona commission concluded in April 2022 that the Norwegian government had not done enough to protect children and that the measures regarding children had been excessive. The Norwegians essentially took the unethical initial decision to harm children without evidence and its authorities recognized that afterwards.
Sweden’s approach to the pandemic contains inconvenient truths for the Dutch, which is why Dutch authorities ignored the evidence from Sweden (and from Norway). As the Swedish journalist and author Johan Anderberg states in the epilogue of his book The Herd:
“From a human perspective, it was easy to understand why so many were reluctant to face the numbers from Sweden. For the inevitable conclusion must be that millions of people had been denied their freedom, and millions of children had had their education disrupted, all for nothing. Who would want to be complicit in that?”
This year, my wife and I decided to spend our summer holidays in Sweden and after two years of often doubtful restrictions in our home country, the Swedish summer and the beaches of Skåne were a breath of fresh air. As a parent and a Special Needs Education Generalist (and former teacher of Physical Education) I am greatly impressed by the path chosen by The Swedish Public Health Agency and the Swedish Government as they remained focused on the health, well-being, and education of children in the process of policy-making. Anders Tegnell and his predecessor Johan Giesecke have tirelessly advocated for not disturbing the lives of children, and they have been proven right.
A very outspoken Giesecke gave his frank opinion on Swedish television: “I am a father and grandfather myself, and I feel if children are given the opportunity to receive a good education and that the risk for me to become infected with covid-19 would increase slightly, it is worth it. Their future is worth more than my future, and it’s not just about my grandchildren, it’s about all the children.”
The successful Swedish approach shows that in many countries government policies met the criteria of child abuse. A key lesson for the future is that schools should not close again in similar circumstances. The Dutch government and the OMT failed the children of their country, a dark and shameful chapter in our history that future historians will surely not look favorably upon.
All expert knowledge and wisdom that has contributed to the health and well-being of Dutch children was thrown out of the window overnight in the spring of 2020. Children and young people were made to carry the burden in order to ‘supposedly’ protect adults.
As Sunetra Gupta and many others have stated, that is the precautionary principle turned upside down. The Danish-American epidemiologist Tracy Beth Høeg rightly condemned such policies, which were also pursued in the US, by calling them: Sacrificing children’s health in the name of Health.
After two years of closing down children’s lives, I firmly believe we owe it to children and their parents to make amends for the wrongs that were done to Dutch children. Above all, Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child should never be forgotten: “In all measures concerning children, the best interests of the child must come first.” It is mind-boggling how quickly children’s rights have gone out of the window worldwide. With disastrous consequences.
For children and young people a recovery plan should focus on repairing the damage done in education, recovering sports participation, and restoring the trust in the government and institutions that they can traditionally rely on for their health and their well-being. The Netherlands should be a safe haven for children, as it used to be. Pandemic preparedness also includes watching over children’s health and well-being and in this regard the Dutch failed their children and young people. We should do better in the future. Much better.
Another Flub by the Fact Checkers
Recently, Danish health authorities decided to stop making Covid vaccines and boosters available to the general population under the age of 50. Note, the general population, not absolutely everyone under 50.
This interesting development, and the fact that the rationale for this decision has not been properly explained, has clearly wrought havoc among those whose day job it is to protect the reputation of these medications.
Flora Teoh, the Science Editor of the “fact checking” website Health Feedback, has now written an article which supposedly refutes the standard summary of this decision, i.e., the Danish health authorities have banned vaccines and boosters for nearly everyone under 50. Teoh‘s article is a typical fact-checking piece. She starts by stating a claim – “Denmark banned COVID-19 vaccines for anyone under 50” – which she then proceeds to refute, but the problem is no one has made that claim.
Two sources are listed, although the “facts” being “checked” are both supposedly contained in a headline above a video and a tweet linking back to an article, not in the YouTube video and article themselves.
The first headline, which refers to a video by Clay Travis, reads: “Denmark Bans Covid Shot For People Under 50 Years Old.“ The second, which is a tweet posted on Toby Young’s account linking to a piece by me in the Daily Sceptic, reads: “Denmark has banned the use of COVID-19 vaccines for people under 50 saying the benefits are too low. What it conspicuously fails to mention (though surely knows it) is that the risks are also too high.”
Unfortunately, neither the headline or the tweet state what Teoh claims they state, namely, that Denmark has banned the covid shots for anyone under 50. The word “anyone“ is crucial here. Instead, all that’s being claimed is that the vaccines have been banned in general for people under 50 and the discussion that follows in both cases contains details on which under-50s are exempt from this ban.
And those are, in effect, headlines. Headlines routinely generalise and exaggerate the contents of the videos and articles they’re flagging up. Let‘s take some examples:
“Food crisis if we ditch Russian oil,” The Times claimed on September 19th, 2022, while the article itself details that this is in fact the opinion of one central banking institute. In other words, it is not a fact that ditching Russian oil means food crisis, it is the opinion of some.
“High-profile Dems silent when asked about housing migrants,“ Fox News said in a headline the same day. But if you read the main text it turns out this does not at apply to all high-profile Democrats, only a handful. If Fox had said “All high-profile Dems silent…” its headline would be wrong. But it doesn‘t, thus it isn’t wrong. By the same token, while Denmark’s ban on Covid shots for people under 50 applies to almost everyone, there are a few exceptions.
Headlines are headlines. Branding a video description or a tweet as “misinformation” because they contain condensed and generalised information, with a more detailed discussion in what follows, has nothing to do with checking facts. It’s just about creating strawmen, especially when the “fact-checker” even distorts the quoted headline to make it fit her narrative. This is what Flora Teoh does in her article by adding the crucial word “anyone“.
Teoh then moves on, claiming the Danish ban on vaccinations only applies to boosters. This is incorrect. The first section of the Q&A on the official website explains to whom COVID-19 vaccines should be made available in general, not just boosters:
Question: Who will be offered vaccination against COVID-19?
Answer: People aged 50 years and over will be offered vaccination. People aged under 50 who are at a higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 will also be offered vaccination against COVID-19.
Staff in the healthcare and elderly care sector as well as in selected parts of the social services sector who have close contact with patients or citizens who are at higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 will also be offered booster vaccination against COVID-19.
In addition, we recommend that relatives of persons at particularly higher risk accept the offer of vaccination to protect their relatives who are at particularly higher risk.
Before the start of the vaccination programme, the Danish Health Authority will publish guidelines for which persons aged under 50 are recommended booster vaccination.
This is the full list of the groups to whom the vaccination will be available. People under 50 who neither work in the service sectors mentioned, nor are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, are NOT eligible for vaccination. Vaccinating them is banned.
Then on to the boosters:
Question: Why are people under 50 not to be re-vaccinated?
Answer: The purpose of the vaccination programme is to prevent severe illness, hospitalisation and death. Therefore, people at the highest risk of becoming severely ill will be offered booster vaccination. The purpose of vaccination is not to prevent infection with COVID-19, and people aged under 50 are therefore currently not being offered booster vaccination.
People aged under 50 are generally not at particularly higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19. In addition, younger people aged under 50 are well protected against becoming severely ill from COVID-19, as a very large number of them have already been vaccinated and have previously been infected with COVID-19, and there is consequently good immunity among this part of the population.
It is important that the population also remembers the guidance on how to prevent the spread of infection, including staying at home in case of illness, frequent aeration or ventilation, social distancing, good coughing etiquette, hand hygiene and cleaning.
Notice the words in the first question: “not to be re-vaccinated“. This is a pretty definitive prohibition.
Flora Teoh then moves on with a number of claims which appear to be unsubstantiated or false:
She explicitly claims, referring to general vaccination, not boosters, that people “can still choose to get the vaccine if they wish”. While this may have been the message last April, it is clear from the Q&A quoted above that for the general population under 50 this is no longer the case.
She claims the “benefits” of the COVID-19 vaccine “outweigh their risks”, without providing any reference to support this statement, let alone acknowledge how research and real-life data already show how the risks in fact outweigh the benefits for younger age-groups, especially young males.
Discussing the reason the vaccination programme was halted last spring, Teoh says: “It was this level of high vaccine coverage, coupled with falling numbers of COVID-19 cases that enabled Denmark to stop broad vaccination efforts,” quoting a CNBC story. The CNBC story, however explains that the immunity rested on not only vaccination, but also on natural immunity. Teoh fails to mention this crucial fact.
Claiming the COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous is a “false narrative” Teoh says. This is wrong. As studies have already shown, there are multiple risks associated with those vaccines, and for many groups the risk of vaccination is higher than the risk of the disease. Thus, they are dangerous for people in those groups.
Flora Teoh‘s article has nothing to do with checking facts or correcting wrong statements. All it has to do with is creating and then attacking strawmen, by distorting headlines, ignoring the crucial difference between headlines and the text they refer to, and presenting a number of unsubstantiated or false statements. Her “key takeaway” does not even address the issue in question – it is simply pure propaganda for the vaccines.
Republished from the DailySceptic
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