tag:quandyfactory.com,2021-12-16:/20211216 2021-12-16T12:00:00Z Quandy Factory Newsfeed - Blog Quandy Factory is the personal website of Ryan McGreal in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.. http://quandyfactory.com/blog/253/doug_fords_cute_health_care_privatization_game 2023-01-18T12:00:00Z Doug Ford's Cute Health Care Privatization Game <p>Doug Ford is playing a cute game to muddy the water around health care privatization, but it helps to understand how the structure of Canadian health care helps him.</p> <p>When we talk about public health care in Canada, what we mean is that the state <em>pays</em> for insured health care services, not that the state <em>provides</em> them. Canadian health care is a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopsony">monopsony</a> - one payer, many providers - rather than a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly">monopoly</a>.</p> <p>In Canada, family doctor's offices, clinics, specialists and so on are private businesses that provide care to people and then bill the government. Even 'public' hospitals are independent corporations with boards of directors.</p> <p>Contrast the UK National Health Service, which is almost entirely directly state-run. British doctors are employees of the NHS, not independent contractors or private business owners who bill the government.</p> <p>So, Ontario already has a private model of health care delivery, albeit with a public payer. In addition, doctors and clinics are already allowed to charge their patients money for non-insured services, which further muddies the waters.</p> <p>Ford is exploiting this hybrid model by <a href="https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ford-jones-health-surgeries-private-clinics-1.6715117">allowing private clinics that operate for profit</a> to take on more surgeries that are normally performed in hospitals. This is not inherently a bad idea, but as with everything Doug-related, the devil is in the details.</p> <p>For one thing, the decision happens in the context of <a href="https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/bills/parliament-42/session-1/bill-124">Bill 124</a>, which the Ontario Superior Court has already <a href="https://gowlingwlg.com/en/insights-resources/articles/2022/ontario-s-bill-124-declared-unconstitutional/#:~:text=Act%2C%202019%2C%20known%20as%20Bill,Freedoms%20(the%20%22Charter%22)">ruled as unconstitutional</a> and which is making it impossible for hospitals to <a href="https://www.ona.org/about-bill-124/">attract and retain nurses</a>.</p> <p>The government <a href="https://globalnews.ca/news/9404111/internal-ford-government-docs-bill-124/">knew that bill 124 is damaging</a> the ability of hospitals to provide care, as their own internal analysis demonstrates. Yet they passed it anyway and are still <a href="https://globalnews.ca/news/9377591/ontario-bill-124-appeal-lodged/">appealing the court decision</a> that ruled it unconstitutional.</p> <p>So the decision to shift more procedures - and particularly the easier, more profitable ones - from hospitals to private clinics needs to be understood in the context that the government's own policy knowingly manufactured the hospital crisis this move is intended to alleviate.</p> <p>When it comes to health care, profit must be understood as <em>pure waste</em> - that is, money that goes into the health care system but is not used to provide health care. Profit means there is less money to provide care - and especially, care that is more complicated or expensive.</p> <p>When private clinics are able to peel off the easy surgeries, that actually raises the average complexity and cost of the surgeries that must remain in hospitals. To the extent that public funding is diverted from hospitals to private clinics, this will have the effect of making the hospital crisis even worse.</p> <p>If Canada had a fully public system - public funding <em>and</em> public delivery - then it would be easier to make these allocative decisions for the benefit of the system as a whole without cannibalizing one part of the system to feed another part.</p> <p>It is <strong>entirely</strong> reasonable to suspect that the Ford government is manufacturing this crisis in health care - and it absolutely is a manufactured crisis - in order to soften the public for further privatization to enrich their well-connected friends.</p> <p>We know how things turned out after Doug Ford's mentor, Mike Harris, turned long-term care over to private, for-profit businesses: seniors suffered worse quality of life and worse health outcomes while the investors (including Harris himself) benefited.</p> <p>When seniors in for-profit LTC facilities died at appallingly high rates during COVID, Doug Ford responded not by investigating what went wrong but by rushing to pass a new law to <a href="https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/bill218-liability-ontario-long-term-care-1.5798256">shield the owners from liability</a> for their negligence!</p> <p>Meanwhile, he <em>just</em> broke his election promise not to touch the Greenbelt so that he could force the rezoning of protected land in order to give a windfall profit to his property speculator friends - many of whom <a href="https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-sales-of-greenbelt-land-raise-questions-for-ford/">conveniently bought properties</a> right before he changed the rules.</p> <p>He absolutely does not deserve any benefit of the doubt regarding his intentions toward the broader health care system, and anyone who is telling you not to worry is gaslighting you. </p> Ryan McGreal 2 http://quandyfactory.com/blog/252/hospitals_are_overflowing_with_sick_children_and_we_still_wont_mask 2022-11-17T12:00:00Z Hospitals are Overflowing with Sick Children and We Still Won't Mask <p>I thought I was a fairly astute observer of the society I live in. I thought I was sufficiently cynical about our leaders and the limits of what I could expect from them.</p> <p>I realize now I was hopelessly naive.</p> <p>Early this year, governments and public health agencies across the developed world executed an orchestrated pivot from protecting public health to letting people get sick en masse. This sudden change in policy was not based on any new information.</p> <p>Every single layer of protection was systematically stripped away: isolation rules, mask mandates, vaccination policy, capacity limits, air quality monitoring, even testing - all shut down in a matter of weeks.</p> <p>What followed was a policy of deliberate mass infection, based on a manifestly false premise: the idea that widespread vaccination + infection would result in "herd immunity".</p> <p>Not gonna lie: I was hopeful about herd immunity. But it turns out herd immunity is just not possible in the case of a highly infectious virus that mutates rapidly and is under constant selective pressure to adopt mutations that evade our immune defences.</p> <p>So we have adopted a situation in which we do absolutely nothing at the population level to try and reduce transmission, and people are just expected to get infected and reinfected again and again.</p> <p>Almost never discussed is the chilling fact that every single COVID infection comes with a non-trivial risk of long-term damage: chronic fatigue, neurological damage, blood clots, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, and damage to the immune system.</p> <p>Each time you get infected with COVID, you are rolling the dice that you may end up with one or more new chronic illnesses. And each repeat infection also repeats the same dice roll.</p> <p>Getting vaccinated and boosted modestly reduces the risk of infection, but it significantly reduces the risk of severe infection and of getting long COVID. Reduces, but does not eliminate.</p> <p>There is good reason to believe that immune damage from COVID infection may be responsible for the extraordinarily high rate of severe illness in children from other viruses, particularly adenovirus, RSV, and influenza. </p> <p>As epidemiologist Colin Furness <a href="https://globalnews.ca/news/9272293/immunity-debt-covid-19-misinformation/">recently put it</a>: </p> <blockquote> <p>The leading hypothesis now is that COVID is harming the immune system. To what extent and how permanently, these are things we don’t know. But that's what the data seem to be telling us and it’s something we should be really concerned about. </p> </blockquote> <p>Pediatric ICUs are so staggeringly overwhelmed with very sick children that surgeries are being postponed and older children are being sent to adult hospitals for necessary surgeries.</p> <p>Of course, the cottage industry of cranks and contrarians and fossil fuel industry grifters who have been minimizing COVID from the beginning have a different explanation: something they call "immunity debt".</p> <p>The dumber version of "immunity debt" is that children's immune systems got weak because emergency pandemic measures shielded them from exposure to common viruses. </p> <p>But this is just a fundamentally false understanding of how the immune system works.</p> <p>The less ridiculous version of "immunity debt" is the idea that a 'double cohort' of young children are getting their first exposure to these viruses at once, leading to higher numbers of sick children at the same time.</p> <p>There is likely some truth to the second theory, but it still does not explain why such a high proportion of infected children are <em>so</em> sick that they need to be hospitalized.</p> <p>Where they are available, the <a href="https://613covid.ca/wastewater/">wastewater signals</a> for community circulation of RSV are no higher now than they were last winter, when the number of seriously ill children was much lower. </p> <p>But between last winter and now, our governments and public health agencies decided to allow COVID to circulate freely and infect millions of people.</p> <p>We have known since early in the pandemic that COVID infection can damage the immune system. </p> <p>So it is entirely plausible that we have so many very sick children today because the adults in charge allowed their immune systems to be damaged.</p> <p>Let that sit with you for a minute.</p> <p>And yet even today, with pediatric hospitals overwhelmed and teetering on the edge of collapse, the Ontario Premier and the Chief Medical Officer of Health absolutely refuse to bring back any of the multiple layers of community-level protection we could adopt.</p> <p>There is no policy requiring vaccine boosters, even though immunity wanes over time. No policy requiring the kind of high-quality masks that we know are highly effective at preventing transmission between people, no matter what some random person's YouTube video claims.</p> <p>No upgraded air quality requirement. No monitoring of air quality in high-risk mixed spaces - like schools. Certainly no isolation mandate for people infected, or, God forbid, a guarantee of paid sick leave for at-risk workers.</p> <p>And in the absence of leadership from our leaders, there are far too many adults who see the crisis we are in and continue to rail against the idea of mask-wearing, let alone a mask policy, on the basis that some kind of freedom is being violated.</p> <p>And so it kind of snuck up on me, but I realize that I'm just not emotionally prepared for the knowledge that we live in a society in which our leaders and huge numbers of fellow citizens simply refuse to take even the most <em>minimal</em> steps to protect children from harm.</p> <p>I'm aware that my privilege is showing right now. As an economically comfortable, cisgender, heterosexual white man, I am accustomed to the conceit that the system is designed to keep us safe - because it has generally kept <em>me</em> safe.</p> <p>For women, for Black and Indigenous and racialized folks, for people in Two Spirit and LGBTQIA+ communities, for people with disabilities, our society has never been particularly safe or inclusive. </p> <p>I knew this, but I told myself things were (slowly, begrudgingly) getting better.</p> <p>And then we find ourselves in a situation in which children's hospitals are overflowing and the adults are screaming at each other over whether wearing a face mask constitutes some kind of infringement of our liberties.</p> <p>And I don't really have a solution to offer, except: in the absence of direction, we each need to model the behaviour we want to see. </p> <p>Wear a mask, even if you're the only one doing it. Someone might see you and feel safe to join you.</p> <p>If two or more people are wearing a mask, others who may be afraid to stand out will also be encouraged to stand in.</p> <p>Also, keep talking about how important it is for us to add back in the layers of protection that we know work.</p> <p>After all, the people claiming that two years of pandemic measures kept us too protected from viruses are also trying to tell us that those measures don't actually protect us from viruses so we shouldn't keep doing them. </p> <p>It's nonsense and they know it. Call them out.</p> <p>If you stopped wearing a mask, you're not alone. A couple of months ago, I even found myself getting a bit sloppy, despite being generally obsessed with the pandemic.</p> <p>But you can start again. You can start today. You can start right now. It's okay to change your mind.</p> <p>One of the great strengths and survival traits of humanity is our ability to learn and adapt. It has never in history been easier to figure out the right things to do to keep everyone safe from a highly infectious and often deadly disease. </p> <p>What on earth are we waiting for?</p> <p class="image"> <img src="/static/images/calvin_hobbes_live_and_dont_learn.jpg" alt="Caption from a Calvin and Hobbes comic. Calvin says, 'OK, so we didn't learn any big lesson. Sue me.' Hobbes replies, 'Live and don't learn, that's us.'" title="Caption from a Calvin and Hobbes comic. Calvin says, 'OK, so we didn't learn any big lesson. Sue me.' Hobbes replies, 'Live and don't learn, that's us.'"><br> Caption from a Calvin and Hobbes comic. Calvin says, 'OK, so we didn't learn any big lesson. Sue me.' Hobbes replies, 'Live and don't learn, that's us.' </p> Ryan McGreal 2 http://quandyfactory.com/blog/251/no_penalty_for_incitements_to_violence 2022-10-31T12:00:00Z No Penalty for Incitements to Violence <p>The go-to defence of rhetorical incitement to violence is that no reasonable person would take the incitement literally. But we know there are plenty of unreasonable people who have already been radicalized to extremism, and they do take such incitements literally.</p> <p>Years of prominent Republicans shamelessly calling Nancy Pelosi a traitor who deserves to be put to death have <em>predictably</em> resulted in a radicalized man attempting to assassinate her and violently assaulting her husband in the attempt.</p> <p>As Republicans continue to normalize the use of political violence, so the public is becoming used to the idea. A recent large-scale survey by UC Davis found <a href="https://amp.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jul/19/one-in-five-us-adults-condone-political-violence-survey">1 in 5 Americans now support political violence</a> in at least some circumstances.</p> <p>Between 2017 and 2021, the number of threats against members of Congress <a href="https://www.reuters.com/world/us/threats-attacks-members-congress-2022-10-28/">increased from 3,939 to 9,625</a>, an increase of 244 percent in just five years.</p> <p>And it should not be a surprise to anyone to learn that women and especially racialized women are <a href="https://isdglobal.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Public-Figures-Public-Rage-4.pdf">disproportionately the targets</a> [PDF] of online abuse, hate speech and threats of violence. </p> <p>Before anyone tries to bothsides this, political violence is <a href="https://www.adl.org/murder-and-extremism-2021">overwhelmingly committed by right-wing white supremacist extremists</a>.</p> <p>And to tie this together, <a href="https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/10/30/yes-political-rhetoric-can-incite-violence-222019/">the research does show</a> that incitements to violence by political leaders increase the likelihood that people who hear the messages will commit violence in response.</p> <p>Finally, don't expect Republicans to stop. Fear and instability tend to make people more likely to support authoritarian strongman leaders - so their violent, dystopian, anti-democratic rhetoric may actually be making them more popular.</p> <p>This anti-democratic death spiral shows up in a variety of ways. For example, in most countries following a mass shooting, the government responds with meaningful gun control legislation to reduce the risk of further mass shootings. Not in America.</p> <p>In America following each mass shooting, Republicans block all efforts to regulate gun ownership and people react to the fear of gun violence by buying and stockpiling even more guns, which makes the next mass shooting even more likely.</p> <p>(Note: the 2nd Amendment is nothing more than an excuse for gun policy negligence. It explicitly defines gun rights in the context of "a well regulated militia", a key clause in the one-sentence amendment that Republican lawmakers and judges conveniently ignore.)</p> <p>So instead of a negative feedback loop in which functional civic institutions respond to a public policy hazard by reducing the source of the hazard, you end up with a positive feedback loop in which dysfunctional civic institutions acting on perverse incentives respond to the hazard by <em>increasing</em> the source of the hazard.</p> <p>So why am I, a Canadian, writing about American politics?</p> <p>Because Canadian Conservatives are paying attention to what their American counterparts are doing and are <a href="/article/3621/right-wing_politicians_are_encouraging_stochastic_terrorism">already starting to apply the same strategies</a> here.</p> Ryan McGreal 2 http://quandyfactory.com/blog/249/the_grift_paradox 2022-10-28T12:00:00Z The Grift Paradox <p>Modern movement conservatism is just obviously a blatant, shameless grift, but it has such a stranglehold on the emotional levers of its acolytes that even when they get grifted, their response is to become even <em>more</em> devout.</p> <p>In Canada, Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre told his army of dudebros to <a href="*https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/poilievre-personally-holds-investment-in-bitcoin-as-he-promotes-crypto-to-canadians-1.5907615">move their money into cryptocurrencies</a> to <a href="https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/poilievre-bitcoin-policy-1.6399986">hedge against inflation</a> - or as Poilievre insists on calling it, <a href="https://globalnews.ca/news/9167348/justinflation-justin-trudeau-pierre-poilievre/">"Justinflation"</a> (as if nearly every other developed country on earth doesn't have a similar or worse inflation problem). </p> <p>But responsible financial observers had already noted that <a href="https://www.imf.org/en/Blogs/Articles/2022/01/11/crypto-prices-move-more-in-sync-with-stocks-posing-new-risks">cryptocurrencies move in sync with the rest of the economy</a> rather than hedging against it, and sure enough, when the market swooned, crypto swooned in lockstep.</p> <p>Yet Poilievre appears to have paid no penalty whatsoever in the devotion and fidelity of his followers, who certainly lost hard-earned money to the extent that they listened to his reckless financial advice. If anything, getting fleeced has made them even more fervent supporters.</p> <p>Counterintuitively, getting grifted seems to strengthen the emotional attachment of the griftee to the grifter by <em>raising the cost of admitting that it was a grift</em>. No one wants to feel like a sucker, and the sunk cost fallacy keeps us investing more and more into obviously bad ideas long after the rational choice would have been to cut our losses and walk away.</p> <p>(Similarly, by the time you are presented with the idea of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenu">Lord Xenu</a>, you're already ten years and a hundred grand in and everything you've heard to that point has primed you to accept the most absurd claims - and, more important, to regard any contrary voices with deep hostility.)</p> <p>This is where conspiratorial thinking comes in - and why fascists and authoritarians and right-wing false populist grifters consistently rely on conspiracy theories to prime and motivate their base: it's the best way to shield the dupes against the kinds of contrary messaging that might force them to confront the grift itself.</p> <p>If you can radicalize your base into believing that every source of knowledge you don't control is similarly corrupted by <a href="/blog/204/the_j6_committee_and_conspiracy_theories_vs_real_conspiracies">some vast, all-encompassing shadowy cabal</a>, then you can train your base to <em>pre-emptively</em> discredit and dismiss the entire suite of arguments that might undercut your control.</p> <p><strong>Arguments and evidence only work if the people debating have a shared sense of what is real.</strong> Conspiracy ideology creates a new parallel 'reality' in which the trusted populist leader gets to decide unilaterally what is real and what is not.</p> <p>We tend to assume that false beliefs are self-correcting when they collide with real events. After all, theories make predictions and predictions can be tested. But conspiracy ideologies are designed to reframe and subsume any and all real events into the terms of the ideology itself. Evidence that contradicts the narrative becomes "fake news" designed to trick you.</p> <p>And perhaps most ingeniously, conspiracy ideology specifically projects its own tactics onto the world of real evidence. So according to the ideology, it is the mainstream media, the scientific literature, the courts - choose your institution - that are twisting facts to fit a nefarious "globalist" narrative.</p> <p>Is there a reliable, repeatable combination of logical or rhetorical or interpersonal moves that have the ability to break through and reach radicalized people from the outside? I honestly don't know. </p> <p>But this is one of the most important questions of our age: we can't meaningfully address the big challenges when we can't even agree on what is real. And we can't trust bad-faith actors to voluntarily give up rhetorical strategies that have been so successful at indoctrinating and radicalizing their followers.</p> Ryan McGreal 2 http://quandyfactory.com/blog/247/canadians_are_ignoring_the_rising_threat_of_fascism 2022-09-07T12:00:00Z Canadians Are Ignoring the Rising Threat of Fascism <p>There are some difficult, dangerous truths that Canadians need to come to terms with and figure out how to confront:</p> <p><strong><em>We need to acknowledge clearly, explicitly and publicly that there is a serious organized violent, fascist, white supremacist movement in Canada.</em></strong></p> <p>This movement is highly effective at propaganda and has been steadily radicalizing and indoctrinating people from all areas of the country and all walks of life for several years. They have succeeded in turning social media platforms into recruitment funnels.</p> <p>This movement is being normalized, amplified and promoted by a broad spectrum of right-wing media organizations, including major print media, which systematically launder extremist ideology into the general public discourse.</p> <p>This movement is also being normalized, amplified and promoted by prominent right-wing politicians and political parties that are all too willing and even eager to engage the energy and funding of this increasingly radical base to further their own political aims.</p> <p>The <a href="/blog/143/freedom_convoy_built_on_racist_right_wing_ideology">anti-vaccine, anti-science</a> "freedom convoy" that emerged this year out of the "yellow vest" phenomenon is <a href="https://theconversation.com/amp/white-supremacist-and-far-right-ideology-underpin-anti-vax-movements-172289">absolutely part</a> of this violent, extremist, white supremacist movement. </p> <p>This is <a href="https://www.antihate.ca/the_freedom_convoy_is_nothing_but_a_vehicle_for_the_far_right">particularly true</a> of its leaders, organizers and loudest promoters, who have been quite open about their fascist, white supremacist beliefs and goals.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.thestar.com/news/investigations/2022/09/04/death-threats-racist-taunts-vows-of-violence-inside-the-increasingly-personal-attacks-targeting-canadian-female-journalists.html">steadily-escalating pattern</a> of harassment, threats and abuse targeting politicians and journalists and especially those who are women, Black, Indigenous, racialized and queer is a core component of this movement's fascist strategy.</p> <p>The mainstream media's struggle to report the incidents of this movement's escalating violence in the context of the larger strategy also serves to downplay, minimize and normalize fascism precisely as it grows bolder and more dangerous.</p> <p>Violent white supremacist fascists don't need to be that popular. They can seize power by forming a core faction of a right-wing party, desensitizing more moderate factions to their ideas, and suppressing voting rates generally.</p> <p>Canada's first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system can give near-absolute political power to a party that wins a shockingly small plurality of support. (For example, in Ontario, Doug Ford recently won a majority with just 18 percent of eligible voters choosing his party.)</p> <p>Fascist ideology is calibrated to maximize its influence in a system like FPTP: attacking the idea of common solidarity, pitting identity groups against each other, and provoking cynicism toward politics in general to suppress voter turnout.</p> <p>Right-wing politicians keep thinking they can pander to the extremist fringe for votes with impunity. Their pandering grants the fascists a claim to legitimacy that they use to shelter within conservatism.</p> <p>That emboldens the far-right fringe while incrementally desensitizing more moderate conservatives to their extremist ideology. So mainstream conservatives accommodate virulent anti-vaxxers while piling on with outrageous attacks against public health agencies.</p> <p>The extremists, in turn, get to claim that criticism of their violent ideology amounts to an attack on conservatives as a whole. This mutual framing is a core part of the right-wing media strategy to normalize fascism.</p> <p>The mainstream media do a generally poor job of <a href="https://datasociety.net/library/media-manipulation-and-disinfo-online/">explaining and framing</a> these fascist tactics for what they are. Instead, we get the same false "balance" and bothesidesing that <a href="https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2022/07/false-balance-reporting-climate-change-crisis/">legitimized bad-faith climate science denialism</a> for decades.</p> <p>So you see bizarre normalizing like a recent debate over whether a white supremacist screaming racist conspiracy theories at Chrystia Freeland was "an expression of a healthy democracy".</p> <p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The verbal ambush of Chrystia Freeland: Is yelling vulgarities at a politician a dangerous act or an expression of a healthy democracy? Q+A w/ <a href="https://twitter.com/AaronWherry?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AaronWherry</a> by <a href="https://twitter.com/jayme_poisson?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@jayme_poisson</a> <a href="https://t.co/38oeHzfwPR">https://t.co/38oeHzfwPR</a> via <a href="https://twitter.com/FrontBurnerCBC?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@FrontBurnerCBC</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cdnpoli</a></p>— André Picard (@picardonhealth) <a href="https://twitter.com/picardonhealth/status/1564986185482547201?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 31, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></p> <p>Meanwhile, on the right, the conservative press pushes forward shamelessly with carefully choreographed messaging that consistently reinforces a fascist framing that projects all malfeasance onto the so-called 'liberal establishment'.</p> <p>So fascists simultaneously manipulate the mainstream media into introducing their ideas while also slandering the media as 'enemies of the people' and fomenting abuse and violence against journalists.</p> <p>Harassment, abuse and violence are core tactics of fascists, which they use to threaten and intimidate anyone they consider an enemy - especially women, Black, Indigenous, racialized and queer folks, whom the fascists demonize and dehumanize as a threat to 'real' citizens.</p> <p>All of these things are happening in Canada today. And it's getting steadily worse as the fascists and their right-wing media promoters and political panderers grow bolder and less restrained.</p> <p>You don't have to like the Prime Minister and the governing Liberal Party to recognize that the rage-filled "F*ck Trudeau" campaign heartily endorsed by the Conservative Party is an astonishing departure from normal political messaging.</p> <p>And yet it is the right who shamelessly affect a stance of persecution and victimization over feigned violations of their sense of entitlement, combined with racist conspiracy theories about nefarious globalist agencies infiltrating and corrupting the nation.</p> <p>These extremist ideas have already penetrated far into the mainstream, as politicians and pundits with large platforms talk openly about the "replacement" of white people and "groomers" and use terms like "treason" to describe political opponents.</p> <p>It's even worse in the United States, of course, but American politics inevitably bleed across the border as our media and institutions are saturated with American propaganda.</p> <p>The organizational infrastructure of fascist and fascist-friendly operations is extensively funded by the fossil fuel industry, which has an enormous vested interest in <a href="/blog/203/fossil_fuels_and_the_threat_to_liberal_democracy_and_human_civilization">sabotaging the capacity of liberal democracies to regulate greenhouse gas emissions</a>.</p> <p>Their campaign to disrupt responsible governance is then amplified by malicious state actors, like the Russian information war apparatus, to extend its reach and sow discord and division among citizens.</p> <p>Or as Trump advisor <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/disinformation-age/flooded-zone/388DFBCC7E50B02921023B28E87DD26F">Steve Bannon infamously put it</a>, the propaganda strategy is to "flood the zone with shit" to make it impossible for people to converge on a shared sense of reality.</p> <p>To recap: we have a fascist movement, it is well funded and organized, it is growing in size and influence, it is being promoted by major media and politicians, it is being legitimized and normalized in media coverage, and it is becoming steadily more violent.</p> <p>And there is an alarming level of sympathy for the fascist movement among law enforcement agencies. During the "freedom convoy" siege of Ottawa this year, several police officers happily posed for photos with the extremist occupiers.</p> <p>The convoy organizers were able to become so entrenched in part because of the operational advice they received from <a href="https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/convoy-protesters-police-tactical-knowledge-1.6345854">supportive police and military strategy experts</a>.</p> <p>Likewise, the RCMP was genuinely worried that sympathetic Mounties would <a href="https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/rcmp-insider-threats-convoy-covid-pandemic-ottawa-1.6569502">leak operational plans</a> to the convoy organizers.</p> <p>So what do we do about it? I don't have any easy answers, but a few things seem clear:</p> <p>Fascists chip away at the legitimacy of targeted out-groups in ugly increments, eroding the idea of a shared, inclusive humanity. We need to push back against this by affirming and strengthening justice and equity for the equity-seeking communities fascists target.</p> <p>People who are women, Black, Indigenous, racialized, 2SLGBTQIA+, who are refugees or immigrants, who practice Judaism or Islam - all are targeted by fascists with demonizing and dehumanizing propaganda, harassment, abuse, threats, violent attacks, and rollbacks of legal recognition and protection.</p> <p>Martin Niemoller was right: we all need to stand together against fascism or else the fascists will peel us apart, group by group. This is what, for example, is meant by the phrase: <em>trans rights are human rights</em>.</p> <p>The anti-fascist movement needs to become much larger, broader and more comprehensive. The parties of the centre and centre-left need to become more explicitly, more assertively anti-fascist in their language and especially their policy.</p> <p>Fascists attack the basic concepts of liberal democracy: universal rights, social justice, rule of law, and agreement on observable, measurable facts. Instead of trying to split the difference or, worse, cowering from these principles, we need to assert and defend them forcefully and fearlessly.</p> <p>We need to recommit to strengthening the civic and democratic institutions that protect and empower people from marginalization, abuse and exploitation. It's much easier to argue that our systems are corrupt when they are failing the most vulnerable.</p> <p>The news media need to learn to adapt more quickly to the ever-shifting information war tactics that fascists use to normalize and promote their ideology and agenda. Incidents need to be put in context to be understood properly as the threats they are.</p> <p>Social media organizations have been profoundly negligent and even complicit in allowing and indeed encouraging extremism on their platforms. Governments need to step in with sensible regulations that balance free speech with other human rights and stop illegal hate speech.</p> <p>But above all, we need to take the threat of fascism seriously. We have been far too complacent, and people living comfortable, privileged lives have for too long ignored or downplayed the warnings and urgent calls for justice from equity-seeking communities.</p> Ryan McGreal 2 http://quandyfactory.com/blog/204/the_j6_committee_and_conspiracy_theories_vs_real_conspiracies 2022-06-29T12:00:00Z The J6 Committee and Conspiracy Theories vs Real Conspiracies <p>For all its faults, the January 6 Committee has incidentally done a fantastic job of drawing a sharp contrast between a conspiracy theory and an actual conspiracy.</p> <p>In a conspiracy theory, the nefarious agents behind it have vast and near-absolute power to silence everyone and anyone who might be able to blow the whistle. Whole industries around the globe get sucked up into the conspiracy’s absolute power.</p> <p>In a real conspiracy, even among a relatively small group of people, infighting is constant, no one can keep their mouth shut and it’s impossible to keep a lid on it. Clear evidence of the conspiracy is easy to produce, usually provided by the conspirators themselves.</p> <p>Real conspiracies that succeed don’t succeed because they maintain absolute secrecy, they succeed because they seize control of the apparatus of power and the narrative in such a way that knowing about the conspiracy has no power to stop it. </p> <p>It is publicly, blatantly, objectively clear that Trump and a group of his followers engaged in a criminal conspiracy to steal the election. The reason they are walking free is not because they managed to hide the evidence of their crimes. </p> <p>It’s because the Republican Party, by and large, either doesn’t care or actually likes that he tried to steal the election, while the Democratic Party, by and large, feels constrained by institutional norms from holding him to legal account.</p> <p>If someone is telling you about a conspiracy so vast and powerful that it can suppress all evidence of its existence, you are either being conned by a grifter or piled on by a true believer. Don’t believe the con.</p> <p>Conspiracy theorists start from a set of a priori preconceptions and then build out a framework big and elaborate enough to reconcile the discrepancy between what they believe (or want you to believe) and what the evidence actually tells us.</p> <p>The less plausible that set of initial a priori assumptions, the more vast and all-encompassing the conspiracy needs to be to account for the absence of supporting evidence. As such, the most ridiculous beliefs produce the biggest and broadest conspiracy theories.</p> <p>Again, that’s not how actual conspiracies behave. Because that’s not how <em>actual people</em> behave.</p> Ryan McGreal 2 http://quandyfactory.com/blog/203/fossil_fuels_and_the_threat_to_liberal_democracy_and_human_civilization 2022-06-13T12:00:00Z Fossil Fuels and the Threat to Liberal Democracy and Human Civilization <p>The biggest threat to liberal democracy is the destabilizing propaganda war against civic solidarity being waged by fascists and supported by global fossil fuel interests and radical libertarian oligarchs.</p> <p>The fossil fuel industry is staggeringly wealthy and powerful, representing many trillions of dollars of market capitalization and more than a century of entrenched influence across the political landscape and around the world.</p> <p>The fossil fuel industry's business is intrinsically apocalyptic. Their core product is systematically destroying the capacity of the planet earth to sustain human civilization as we understand it, and it has been doing so since the beginning of the industrial era.</p> <p>The survival of human civilization requires transitioning rapidly off fossil fuels, figuring out how to remove much of the greenhouse gases we have already pumped into the global ecosystem, and regulating the oil industry out of existence. There is simply no wiggle room here.</p> <p>Needless to say, the people whose extraordinary wealth and power are tied to those trillions of dollars in fossil fuel market value <em>really</em> don't want the fossil fuel industry to be regulated out of existence.</p> <h3>Decades of FUD</h3> <p>For decades, oil industry barons have exerted their vast influence within systems of liberal democracy (and elsewhere) to undermine, stall and delay any meaningful regulation by casting as much <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear,_uncertainty,_and_doubt">fear, uncertainty and doubt</a> (FUD) on climate science as they could.</p> <p>It worked for a long time, but by now, the FUD strategy has largely run its course. For most people, it has become impossible to continue to deny global warming (not that there aren't some diehard right-wing ideologues still trying).</p> <p>Late-stage denialist strategy is to acknowledge reluctantly that global warming is real, but either downplay its severity (warmer summers, yay!) or else claim fatalistically that it's too late to do anything.</p> <p>Downplaying its severity is increasingly implausible as the world is rocked with ever more intense and devastating extreme weather events hitting with greater frequency and variety. Floods, droughts, wildfires, insane heatwaves, 'rain bombs' - no one thinks these are mild.</p> <p>Likewise, claiming it's too late to do anything, after acknowledging everything else, is so irredeemably self-serving that it's hard to be taken seriously - especially as we see real momentum (finally) toward transitioning off oil.</p> <h3>Destabilize Liberal Democracy</h3> <p>So when denialism runs its course and liberal democracies are under irresistible public pressure to take real action, the next step of the oil industry strategy is to focus on undermining and destabilizing liberal democracies themselves.</p> <p>And that is the stage of the oil industry strategy in which we find ourselves today.·</p> <p>There is a through line that connects many of the political crises unfolding around the world today, from Brexit to MAGA to the multi-national white supremacist "freedom" convoys to the Ukraine war: they are all fronts in the fossil fuel industry's war on liberal democracy.</p> <p>The strategic interests of Vladimir Putin and the Kochs are substantially identical: to weaken the institutions of civil society to the point that it remains incapable of regulating fossil fuel power out of existence.</p> <h3>Resource Curse</h3> <p>The <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resource_curse">Resource Curse</a> is a real thing. Fossil fuel dependence produces corruption and tyranny. </p> <p>It is no coincidence that right-wing fascists are obsessed with denying the reality of climate science and the global climate crisis. Fossil fuel wealth props up many of the world's worst tyrants. The worst thing that could happen to them is for us to choose to wind down our oil dependence.</p> <p>When I say the Resource Curse is a real thing, I mean it is a real thing <em>everywhere</em>. Even liberal democracies struggle with the relentless corrupting influence of fossil fuel interests, who invest heavily in obstructing and undermining public confidence in science-based policy.</p> <p>So you have, for example, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney <a href="https://pressprogress.ca/jason-kenney-vladimir-putins-jailing-of-dissidents-is-instructive-on-how-to-deal-with-environmentalists/">praising Vladimir Putin</a> not long ago for how Putin handled environmental activists in Russia.</p> <p>And after an extraordinary coalition of western businesses made a principled decision to stop doing business in Russia, Koch Industries <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/koch-industries-russia-ukraine-business/">dragged their feet for months</a> before following suit.</p> <h3>Common Cause</h3> <p>Russian trollbot farms and Koch-funded bullshit mills alike make common cause over their shared determination to block the kind of public consensus that threatens to regulate an industry that is literally sacrificing the future of the earth as a habitable planet for humans for profits.</p> <p>And their shared campaign to destroy public confidence in broad scientific consensus does enormous collateral damage along the way - for example, the antivax antimask cult that has succeeded in deforming a coordinated public health response to the COVID pandemic.</p> <p>The ecosystem of right-wing media organs and thinktanks and legislative ghostwriters and PR firms and astroturf groups and dark money PACs work together with RT, the IRC and the various bot armies that indoctrinate, rile up and amplify extremist voices.</p> <p>When Putin's invasion of Ukraine first started in February and his bot farms were cut off from western social media, disinfo analysts observed that the supply of all kinds of propaganda - including antivax and anti-climate - collapsed overnight.</p> <h3>Fertile Political Soil</h3> <p>These parallel, mutually reinforcing movements of right-wing libertarianism and burn-it-down nihilism find fertile soil in right-wing parties, which are already ideologically predisposed to be resistant to the concept of public action in the civic interest.</p> <p>While right-leaning parties increasingly diverge from reality, moderate and left-leaning parties seem unable to muster enthusiasm for the kinds of big thinking that might reinvigorate civic engagement - in part because they too are captured by narrow private interests.</p> <p>Instead, they seem increasingly stuck choosing empty performative rhetoric over meaningful action on social justice and environmental sustainability. So, for example the Feds in Canada declare a climate emergency on the same day they buy a $4.5B oil pipeline.</p> <p>After decades of neoliberal hollowing-out of our civic institutions and social programs, our systems are tired. The left is uninspired, while the right is wired, animated by a simple, atavistic narrative of Us and Them calculated to preclude compassion and solidarity.</p> <p>The genius of conservatism as a political movement has always been its ongoing capacity to persuade people to act against their interests. The key insight is that for many people, emotional identity is more compelling than mere rationality.</p> <h3>Our System is Vulnerable</h3> <p>So our system is vulnerable, weakened by decades of bipartisan deregulation and divided by a parallel media universe of right-wing propaganda designed to protect the interests of the most destructive industries.</p> <p>Ironically, the more harmful an industry is, the more its survival depends on the capacity to capture and deflect regulatory apparatus, and so the worst industries also have the most sophisticated and well-funded propaganda apparatus.</p> <p>And thos apparatus are running flat-out, assaulting the very legitimacy of our political system, which, while disappointing in many ways, at least offers the possibility of a more humane, inclusive politics in the face of existential threats.</p> <p>We are in a struggle for the future survival of human civilization. The stakes couldn't be higher. This is it. Time is running out for liberal democracy to step up and really deliver on the promise of a more inclusive justice that can defeat right-wing extremism. </p> Ryan McGreal 2 http://quandyfactory.com/blog/186/were_sleepwalking_into_a_slow-motion_catastrophe_of_disability 2022-03-29T12:00:00Z We're Sleepwalking into a Slow-Motion Catastrophe of Disability <p>I get that everyone is sick of the pandemic and I'm sick it too but I am extremely worried that we are sleepwalking into a slow-motion catastrophe so I can't stop writing about it. Let's run some numbers: </p> <p>The population of Canada is 38 million. Let's say each new wave of COVID infects 10% of the population. That means 3.8 million Canadians infected per wave. And given the wholesale abandonment of safety measures, that is likely conservative. </p> <p>And let's further assume - also conservatively - that we can expect three major waves per year. Heck, it's still March and we're already in the second wave of 2022. That means a total of 11.4 million COVID infections per year.</p> <p>That's a lot of infections and a lot of illness in any case. But while the vaccines we got at the end of 2020 were miraculous, they do not provide 100% protection from severe illness or long COVID. </p> <ul> <li><p>What percentage of those (conservatively) 11.4 million annual COVID cases will cause severe illness? </p></li> <li><p>What percentage of those (conservatively) 11.4 million annual COVID cases will lead to chronic illness, AKA long COVID, aka newly acquired disability? </p></li> </ul> <p>Let's stick with our conservative approach and assume that only 1 percent of COVID infections will lead to long-term, chronic, serious disability - the kind of disability that prevents you from being able to work. </p> <p>Even so, with these conservative numbers, we are talking about 114,000 newly acquired disabilities in 2022. And another 114,000 newly acquired disabilities in 2023. And so on, year after year, ad nauseam as COVID continues to mutate and circulate. </p> <p>Look, this is just a thought experiment with some reasonable-sounding inputs. Maybe the real number will be half as high. Or it might be twice as high, or five or even ten times as high. </p> <p>We have never allowed COVID to circulate freely throughout our society before, so we really have no idea what the numbers will be like a year from now. Does that uncertainty comfort you? It shouldn't. </p> <p>It seems unconscionable to me to let thousands or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people become chronically disabled every year due to a virus that is more or less preventable with good policy. </p> <p>I mean, are you okay with this? Would you be okay if if was you or your loved one who could no longer work and had to live in chronic pain and illness? </p> <p>Do you know how disability support works in Canada?</p> <p>It.</p> <p>Is.</p> <p>Abysmal.</p> <p>In Ontario, once you have used up or sold off <em>all</em> of your assets and savings, you might qualify for $1,169 per month in ODSP to cover your living expenses. </p> <p>We absolutely need a national disability support standard that people with disabilities can actually live on. If nothing else, the early response to COVID - including CERB - demonstrated that a baseline living income is a human right. </p> <p>We also need to ask ourselves whether it makes sense to risk massively increasing the number of people with chronic disabilities that make it impossible to work - especially when we know how to prevent it.</p> <p>Actually, it's not hard at all to decide whether that makes sense. </p> <p>At a minimum, we can mandate that everyone has to wear N95 or equivalent masks indoors, mandate high-quality air filtration in all indoor settings, reinstate vaccine mandates and redefine "vaccinated" to mean "boosted within the past 6 months". </p> <p>Yes, we definitely need better vaccines, as I <a href="/blog/248/looking_forward_to_next_generation_vaccines">recently argued</a>.</p> <p>And it is not unreasonable to expect that, sooner or later, we will get those vaccines. They may even exceed our expectations.</p> <p><strong>But in the meantime, we need better health policy.</strong> </p> Ryan McGreal 2 http://quandyfactory.com/blog/248/looking_forward_to_next-generation_vaccines 2022-03-24T12:00:00Z Looking Forward to Next-Generation Vaccines <p>Look, anti-vaxxers are gonna anti-vax no matter what, but reasonable people need to be able to have grownup conversations about the current state of COVID vaccines.</p> <p>As I see it, there are three main areas of concern:</p> <p>The first and biggest problem is the lack of global equity in vaccine access. No matter what else we do, COVID will continue to plague the world as long as whole populations are denied equal and timely access. The global community needs to address this as an immediate priority.</p> <p>The second problem is that our approved vaccines still target the original wild variant of the virus. We need new vaccines that target newer strains or, better yet, target more highly conserved parts of the virus to provide broader protection from future variants.</p> <p>The third big problem is that vaccine-induced immunity starts to wane as little as three months after receiving it. We need vaccines that provide much longer-lasting protection if we want to get (re)infection rates down to a more acceptable level. </p> <p>The gloomy alternative is for all of us to risk getting reinfected several times a year, with each new infection carrying a nontrivial risk of cardiovascular, neurological and other inflammatory long-term damage. That's a lot of dice rolls for long-term health.</p> <p>It would be fantastic if we could get to the point where a vaccine booster in the fall provides robust immunity throughout next year, somewhat analogous to how influenza vaccines generally worked pre-COVID.</p> <p>There are also some promising new vaccine candidates that are inhaled rather than injected. This could trigger more robust protection by activating an immune response at the typical point of entry for the virus itself instead of the intramuscular upper arm.</p> <p>Shoutout to the McMaster University researchers <a href="https://brighterworld.mcmaster.ca/articles/researchers-confirm-newly-developed-inhaled-vaccine-delivers-broad-protection-against-sars-cov-2-variants-of-concern/">working on a vaccine</a> that both targets highly conserved parts of the coronavirus <em>and</em> is inhaled rather than injected. Fingers crossed that this kind of research leads to some big breakthroughs. </p> <p>Bottom line: the vaccines were an incredible accomplishment that were hugely effective against the original wild variant of COVID. Now we need the next generation of vaccines to take us into a healthier and safer future for everyone.</p> Ryan McGreal 2 http://quandyfactory.com/blog/179/the_so-called_pfizer_gotcha_is_exactly_what_you_would_expect 2022-03-19T12:00:00Z The So-Called Pfizer Gotcha is Exactly What You Would Expect <p>If you follow the antivax movement at all, you’ve probably noticed a recent commotion about a collection of Pfizer documents released by the FDA as part of a freedom of information request, and you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. </p> <p>Naturally, the antivaxxers are presenting it as validation for all their fearmongering about the Pfizer vaccine’s safety. Given the antivax movement’s reckless disregard of the most basic norms of evidence and reasoning, you are right to be skeptical. </p> <p>Their ‘smoking gun’ is a nine-page list of adverse events that were reported following vaccinations. Understanding how clinical research actually works is crucial to understand how to interpret what this list means. </p> <p>Vaccine manufacturers and public health regulators have a strong interest in knowing about any potential side effects of vaccines, so there are databases where people can submit reports of adverse events following vaccination. </p> <p>For example, in Canada the Public Health agency maintains the Canadian Adverse Events Following Immunization (CAEFI) database, to which doctors, nurses and pharmacists can submit adverse event reports from their patients. </p> <p>In the USA, the CDC maintains the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which serves a similar role. (One difference is that anyone can submit a report, not just health care professionals.) </p> <p>Likewise, the World Health Organization also maintains an Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) database, and so on. </p> <p>The important thing is that these are collections of raw, self-reported <em>anecdotes</em>. Anyone can submit an adverse event report to VAERS after receiving a vaccine. Just because an incident happens after a vaccination, that doesn’t mean the incident was <em>caused</em> by the vaccine. </p> <p>Think of it this way: 11 billion COVID vaccines have been administered worldwide, and a little over 5 billion people have received at least one dose. How many adverse incidents would you expect to happen among a group of 5 billion people over the course of a month? Answer: a lot. </p> <p>So when you vaccinate 5 billion people, there are going to be events that happen soon after vaccination - everything from fevers to heart attacks and strokes - that have nothing to do with the vaccine and would have happened anyway. </p> <p>The difference between an adverse event following a vaccine and an event <em>caused</em> by the vaccine is if the event is more frequent in a population that was recently vaccinated than in a control group that was not recently vaccinated. </p> <p>When adverse events are reported to CAEFI or VAERS, researchers look for repeated events that might indicate a pattern. From there, they do further research to determine whether these events are happening at a higher frequency following vaccination. </p> <p>This is how, for example, the risk of a rare vaccine-induced blood clot (VITT) was discovered following AstraZeneca vaccinations, which occurs in around 1 in 50,000 vaccines administered to people under age 50. </p> <p>(And of course, the risk of blood clots from COVID infection itself is orders of magnitude higher than the risk from the vaccine.) </p> <p>So, back to that nine-page list of adverse events following the Pfizer vaccine. It is an unvetted list of anecdotal adverse event reports that were submitted to Pfizer as part of its safety review process, not a controlled study of events caused by vaccines. </p> <p>But of course, the antivaxxers are ignoring this crucial distinction and presenting it as if it was a list of events caused by vaccines.</p> <p>Reuters has a <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-coronavirus-pfizer-idUSL2N2VK1G1">fact-check on the antivax fearmongering</a>.</p> <p>But there is more to this story.</p> <p>You may have heard of the placebo effect, which is the perception of benefit after receiving something you think will benefit you. Sometimes, people feel better if they think they received a treatment, even if they didn’t actually receive it. </p> <p>In a <em>controlled</em> study of a treatment, a test group receives the treatment and a demographically matched control group receives a pretend treatment that doesn’t have any medical effect. </p> <p>To account for the placebo effect, a treatment is considered effective <em>only</em> if the benefit observed in the test group is significantly higher than the ‘benefit’ observed in the control group that received the placebo. </p> <p>But the placebo effect has an opposite: the “nocebo effect”, which is a perception of harm after receiving something that you think will harm you, even when it doesn’t have any negative effect. </p> <p>Because of all the media attention given to COVID vaccines and their side effects, vaccine researchers have observed a pronounced nocebo effect among control groups that received a pretend vaccine during vaccine trials. </p> <p>A <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2788172">meta-analysis of several studies</a> that was recently published in JAMA Network Open found that most of the adverse events (AEs) reported after COVID vaccines were actually nocebo effects.</p> <p>The paper concludes: “AEs in placebo arms (“nocebo responses”) accounted for 76% of systemic AEs after the first COVID-19 vaccine dose and 52% after the second dose.”</p> <p>This is why it is so important to study adverse event reports before assuming an event was caused by a vaccine. </p> <p>If misinformation and faulty reasoning leads people to think vaccines are more risky than they really are, the choice to refuse the vaccine can lead to COVID and a high risk of serious illness and death - <em>real</em> dangers that antivaxxers routinely downplay or deny altogether. </p> Ryan McGreal 2