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Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Isabel Oakeshott - Oh What A Giveaway

Just occasionally, the Europhobic fringe lets something slip which they might have been best advised keeping quiet about. More often, the conspiratorial mindset can be seen hard at work, showing why QAnon has taken hold among the paranoid tendency in US politics. Yesterday’s bonus was to have both on offer from mercenary hack Isabel Oakeshott, who thinks it’s the Government, and not her, that’s trying to scare people over Covid-19.

Her opening shot was to pretend that it wasn’t happening, because no-one is being tested. The thought that pinch points in the testing system might not be where she is looking is not allowed to enter. So it was that she told her followers “Just driven past the huge coronavirus testing centre outside Oxford. Around two dozen very bored looking staff are just hanging around in the sunshine fiddling with their phones. Where are the ‘patients’?

Tweet timed at 1354 hours, so she drove past at lunchtime. Moreover, how did she know what they were all doing if she was paying attention to the road ahead? Also, the information they needed to carry out those tests might just come to them via, er, their phones. But she was sure that this meant something. So she doubled down.

What a farce. Replies to this tweet suggest it’s the same story up and down the county. Yet the government is considering another devastating lockdown and wants to fine people £10k for breaches? It’s a big F off from me”. A word in your shell-like, Ms O: if you spent half an hour at your local station and saw no trains depart for London, would that mean there weren’t any? Would that be true if the car park was empty?

But just to show how clued up on Covid-19 she wasn’t, later we were treated to “We are not ‘fighting’ coronavirus, as [Boris Johnson] vacuously claims, but running away and hiding from it. How about we support the elderly and vulnerable to shield, and everyone else keeps calm, takes sensible precautions and carries on??” Running away? You want Richard and his pal Nige to offer it outside for a bit of afters?

But then came the giveaway, hidden among all the conspiracist rubbish. “Is it just me or is this [BBC Panorama] really boring? Banks take money from dodgy people shock”. Who would be an ideal person to put her straight? Yes, here’s Carole Cadwalladr: “Extraordinary story on Panorama about how Brexit Party took £10 million from a donor - Christopher Harborne - who has a second secret identity & appeared in #FinCENFiles - transactions logged as ‘suspicious’ by banking staff … Nigel Farage declined to answer any questions”. Harborne appeared in the Panama Papers, too. And there was more.

Tom Scott noted that “It's no accident that both Boris Johnson's Tories & Farage's Brexit Party feature in Panorama's exposure of money-laundering. Brexit is a boon for money-laundering crooks. Farage's former close personal aide is a convicted money-launderer”. Ah yes - remember “Posh George” who was nicked at O’Hare Airport in 2016?

Good of Ms Oakeshott to remind everyone - while ostensibly otherwise engaged in pushing fringe Covid-19 testing scares - that the Brexit Party and its predecessors have been involved with some seriously dodgy characters. And to think that, had she kept schtum, those past episodes might never have been extracted from the memory hole.

The Brexit Party and money. They’d rather no-one discussed it. So I will, thanks.

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Covid Clampdown And Allison Pearson

So when alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson addresses the Commons later today, he is expected to tell MPs that there will be new restrictions across England to stem the rise in Covid-19 infections. Working from home will be encouraged; social distancing will be back to 2m where possible; bars and restaurants will have to close by 2200 hours and offer only table service (which they should have been doing anyway).

The thought occurs that this is not the most draconian set of measures, and certainly not a great hardship for many. Not could it be construed as impinging on civil liberties. But for pundit Allison Pearson, still with a berth at the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, it is the very end of the world as she knows it.

So she has gone off on one, RTing every contrarian voice she can find, including some she might have been better advised avoiding. There was Matt Ridley, the man who bust Northern Rock, claiming “This well argued letter needs to be taken seriously” as he quote Tweeted Karol Sikora. There was also self-promoting right-wing nobody Emily Hewertson.

So desperate was Ms Pearson that she RTd someone called Helen Haynes. Who has a bio with the hashtag #WWG1WGA. That’s a white supremacist. One has to assume that it was haste rather than consideration that drove the inclusion. The same thought enters with her RTing someone claiming “facemasks do relatively nothing” and “This pandemic is over. Only an individual successfully terrified by MSM & Govt would say otherwise”.

It isn’t over. It really isn’t: Spain, France and even Russia are reporting surges of new infections. But on drones Ms Pearson. “Your daily reminder that life is pretty much back to normal in Austria, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Germany. Concerts, audiences, spectators! Our hysterical, deceitful response is a major national embarrassment”. That’s why Austria went on the quarantine list recently, then. But do go on.

No one on the local news understands the science. Prepared to do as they’re told, sacrifice family, businesses, even though it’s pointless”. Pub shuts at 2200 hours, table service only, end of the world is nigh. Have another go. “In the UK, tobacco kills 13 people an hour. Over 300 a day. So the Government wants to destroy the economy to prevent 200 (worst case) Covid deaths a day. Why not ban smoking?”.

An unchecked pandemic will deliver far bigger death tolls. Perhaps Madam would care to do nothing and watch it happen? But there is more. “Even [Michael Gove] failing today to make silk purses out of sows’ ears. Why are things back to nearly normal in so many other countries? Mounting dismay amongst Conservatives”. Not back to normal (see above).

And it must be someone else’s fault, so who would Ms Pearson care to nominate? Ah yes, the bloke who warned us about it earlier this year. “Neil Ferguson is responsible for one of the biggest own goals in British history. His reputation is mud. Yet still the BBC gives him a platform”. Thus Allison Pearson proceeds through the looking glass.

Ms Pearson is entitled to her own opinion. But not to her own facts. End of story.

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Covid Clampdown - Yeah But No But

Our free and fearless press can’t help itself: on the one hand, the right-leaning part of it, which means most titles, is so heavily invested in The Adoration Of The Boris that they are duty bound to tell readers whatever the Government wants them to, but on the other, they cannot break the habit of peddling a little contrarianism. For every genuine SAGE member, there has to be a place for the likes of Karol Sikora.

So it was with the Daily Mail this morning: shock readers into paying attention with the screaming front page headlines telling “PM: work from home if you can … Pubs will be hit by 10pm curfew … Police to crack down hard … UK SLAMMED INTO REVERSE” before sowing seeds of doubt with “Boris to impose new diktats among fears of soaring infections - as row breaks out over doom-laden experts’ projections”.

As with the BBC and its doomed attempts at faux “balance”, so it is now with the press - here’s a carefully argued and painstakingly researched analysis showing why the new measures will be needed, and here’s a contrarian wacko looking to score a little attention and, if possible, More And Bigger Paycheques For Themselves Personally Now.

Thus readers are toldMinister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove confirmed the U-turn this morning as he told Sky News 'there is going to be a shift in emphasis and one of the things that we are going to emphasise is if it is possible for people to work from home then we would encourage them to do so’”. But then comes an injection of doubt.

The restrictions have divided the Cabinet, with Mr Sunak and Business Secretary Alok Sharma both warning about the potential impact on the economy … The prospect of a 10pm curfew has sparked anger from the hospitality sector with the UKHospitality group describing it as 'another crushing blow’”. Followed by the contrarian stuff.

Karol Sikora - the bad penny turns up once more

First it’s “Do Whitty and Vallance's numbers add up? NEITHER France or Spain are showing cases doubling every week like they warned … Experts today poured scorn over questionable claims the UK's Covid-19 outbreak is doubling in size every seven days … Critics accused Number 10 of trying to 'scare' people … scientists today pointed out that the claim of 50,000 cases a day … is based on … cases doubling every seven days”.

And with the inevitability of night following day comes “Thirty-two academics urge Boris Johnson to think twice about plunging Britain into a second lockdown - as critics question advisors' suggestion that UK cases could DOUBLE every week without action … More than 30 health experts yesterday criticised 'harmful' plans to impose blanket lockdown measures in an open letter to Boris Johnson”. And which “experts” would those be?

Yes, there in the list of “Authors” is Professor Karol Sikora, “Consultant oncologist and Professor of medicine, University of Buckingham”. At least he isn’t claiming to represent Imperial College, London. But he still gets himself into the papers, and so the seeds of doubt are sowed. Then, when the real fringe conspiracy stuff comes along, the Mail can act all shocked and outraged. At something their own reporting sparked off.

Meanwhile, infections continue to rise and hospital admissions are increasing. And no amount of dismissing SAGE as “scaremongering” will stop that. Boring but true.

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Monday, 21 September 2020

Hartley Dooda Covid Denial Shame

With Covid-19 infection numbers climbing steeply once more, and the strong possibility that something like another national lockdown may be no more than a few days away, the last thing we need is parts of the media establishment peddling less than totally safe information - or, equally bad, telling the public to doubt what health professionals tell them.

But that is what is coming out of an increasing number of newspapers, and even broadcast media outlets. In the latter category, that means Murdoch property TalkRADIO, where the all-nonsense breakfast show of self promoting host Julia Hartley Dooda has been pushing test stats denial, while telling medical professions who disagree that they are wrong.

She has become enamoured of the testimony coming from one Michael Yeadon, telling her followers “Every journalist and MP should be asking the PM & Health Secretary: why are we using a Covid-19 test that has 90% false positives? Read this by [Michael Yeadon]: Lies, Damned Lies and Health Statistics – the Deadly Danger of False Positives”.

That the article has been published by Lockdown Sceptics, the denialist outlet run by the loathsome Toby Young, does not occur to her. Nor does the scepticism of medical professionals and mathematicians, not least Dominic Pimenta, who she has dismissed with an airy “No, I wouldn't invite him on because, while I'm sure he is an excellent doctor, he clearly has no expertise in this particular area”. Did she bother to find out?

But she does know that “I'm pretty sure you don't listen to my show then. He clearly doesn't understand the false positive rate so how on earth could he provide expert analysis of it? You clearly don't understand it either. Maybe you should learn about it before insulting other people”. She now knows all about false positives. Allegedly.

Maybe that includes TalkRADIO’s audience. So let’s look at Michael Yeadon’s Twitter feed. Here he is quote-Tweeting someone who used the #KBF hashtag, which usually means Covid denial and anti-Vax: “A good prompt to anyone reading this. If the health sec won’t disclose the false positive rate by COB tomorrow, the public is entitled to draw conclusions about his candour & the reliability of the Pillar 2 test” he thunders. To no purpose.

Here’s another Yeadon RT: someone approvingly quoting David Icke. DAVID SODDING ICKE. And there’s Julia Hartley Dooda lionising him. Meanwhile, she’s said this earlier today: “Yes, but we have very low prevalence of the virus in the community (1 in 1,000) and many of those getting tested have no symptoms (at least 25%) with most others having mild symptoms of other seasonal viruses. That means the [False Positive Rate] is close to the actual prevalence for these tests”. Over to Dominic Pimenta.

Where does this information about symptoms come from? I can't find it anywhere, and is the basis of all of this supposition. Also, once more with feeling, you CAN'T have MORE false positives than TOTAL positives”. It’s becoming clear why Ms Hartley Dooda won’t invite him on her show: he has the patience of a saint, his arguments are well-founded and factually sound, and he would make her look even more stupid than she does already.

Discussion and even dissent are not a problem. Wilful misinformation certainly is.

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Bozo In Italy

In the midst of two serious crises, one of his own making, with his leadership under fire, and more questions being asked about his relationship with Russian émigrés, what would be the least sensible thing for alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson to do? How about nipping off to Italy to see, er, a Russian émigré?

That is exactly what Italian newspaper la Republicca has reported. “An official statement of the local airport dated September 17th claims that Mr Johnson was in Perugia ‘over the past few days’. Local airport sources exclusively told la Repubblica and Umbria publication Umbria24 that Johnson ‘travelled to Perugia’. A source reported that Johnson landed in Perugia ‘on Friday 11 September at 2 pm’. Asked by ‘Repubblica’, a No10 spokesman replied: ‘This claim is wrong.’” That’s a strangely phrased denial.

There was more. “Asked about the September 17th press release mentioning Johnson on the same day, a Perugia airport spokesman confirmed it, adding that both ‘Johnson and [Tony] Blair were here in Perugia last week’. An airport worker confirmed Johnson’s presence ‘on Friday Sept 11th or Thursday Sept 10th, I don't remember well’. Another airport source assured that the British Prime Minister arrived ‘on Friday September 11th at 2 pm and left on Monday September 14th at 7.45’”. Then there was the Zoom call.

And this is where it becomes difficult for Downing Street to wriggle out. “Later that day [September 11], the PM also had a Zoom call with 256 Tory MPs on Brexit: Johnson’s Internet line was remarkably poor that evening and broke down for about 20 minutes. ‘When Johnson came back on the line he joked that he should probably invest in gigabit broadband’, an MP told ‘Politics Home’”. The Politics Home piece can be read HERE.

Don't mention the Kompromat

It was John Sweeney, who has previously covered Bozo’s trips to that part of Italy, who provided the clincher. “[Johnson’s] big pal, Lordski Evgeny Lebedev, owns a palazzo … this is the place Boris goes for his Bunga Bunga parties. Remember Lebedev’s father was a Colonel in the KGB. While he was there, he made a Zoom call to Tory MPs”.

There was more. “Dealing with the virus, dealing with questions about Britain breaking international law over Brexit. The whole thing was a disaster, and for 20 minutes the internet conked out … Now that was weird, because when the British Prime Minister’s in Britain, his comms work … it’s great stuff. But this story smacks of the Italian internet, and I know how that works [laughs] and I know how it can fail”.

Also, Lebedev’s palazzo is out in the sticks, which will make coverage that bit more difficult. But back to Sweeney. “What No 10 have said is that ‘the claim is wrong’. which smacks of a non-denial denial … if Boris Johnson, in the middle of one of the greatest crises in modern British political history - a double crisis - was actually palling around with the son of a KGB Colonel in Italy, and No 10 is pretending he wasn’t, then Boris is in serious trouble”. And he’s given his enemies another reason to oust him.

The timing of the Zoom call, and the sightings of Bozo at Perugia Airport, would mean it was made when the PM was allegedly in Italy. Bozo has a fall-back excuse - that he was at his new son’s christening that weekend. But there will be no pictures of the happy event.

This is a story which may acquire its own momentum. If it does, Bozo is toast.

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Sunday, 20 September 2020

Covid Denial And Mail Misinformation

With another lockdown a distinct possibility, the last thing we need is for the Covid-19 denial brigade to cross over into the mainstream press. There are enough wacko conspiracy theories out there without our free and fearless press pushing more of them under the pretext of FREEZE PEACH. But that is exactly what the increasingly wayward Mail on Sunday has done today. The headline tells you all you need to know.

The only 'circuit break' in the pandemic we need now is from the government’s doom-mongering scientific advisers who specialise in causing panic and little else, say PROF CARL HENEGHAN and DR TOM JEFFERSON”. And who are Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson? Well, they’re from the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford.

They tell MoS readers “Now we look set to repeat the pattern of what happened six months ago when they first panicked the country into shutting down, except that this time it has been given a fancy title – operation ‘circuit break’ … Whatever the name, it may be a grave error with terrible consequences for the health of the British people and for the health of the country. How can we possibly be making the same mistake - again?

There is more. “Why is it that the Government is once again in the grip of doom-mongering scientific modellers who specialise in causing panic and little else? This nonsensical term ‘circuit breaker’ is not the only aspect of the Government’s rhetoric that needs closer scrutiny. Because it is the irrational, unscientific use of language that is partly to blame for driving Ministers into these mistakes”. This has triggered some of the usual suspects.

Denise Welch has Tweeted out a link to the article, and this has gone down well with those who don’t want to believe that it’s really happening. No doubt Claire Fox, Laurence Fox, Toby Young and the rest will not be far behind. But what the MoS is not telling you is that Tom Jefferson, half of that writing partnership, has significant previous. Here’s Wikipedia.

His views about the effectiveness of influenza vaccines and his outspokenness about them are controversial … He has said that the studies claiming large reductions in mortality rates as a result of the influenza vaccine are ‘rubbish’, and that ‘influenza vaccines are about marketing and not science’”. Then we come to Covid-19.

On 5 July 2020, Jefferson claimed in an interview with The Telegraph that the COVID-19 coronavirus may not have originated in China. His theory was that a virus may simply lie dormant for years before suddenly emerging. As an example of this possibility, he pointed to the isolation of Western Samoa, which lost 22% of its population to Spanish Flu in 1918, and claimed the islands had no contact with the outside world. However, it is well documented that Spanish Flu arrived on board the SS Talune on 7 November, 1918, when six infected passengers from New Zealand were allowed ashore”.

When much of the MoS article tries to suggest Covid-19 is “not so bad”, with comparisons to flu, heart attacks, road accidents and even dementia, complains about the form of words used by Government ministers in broadcast interviews, and otherwise indulges in sneers and insults, you realise this is not peer-reviewed research you’re reading.

It’s just another attempt to sow doubt, make the easily led disbelieve. And who will end up becoming seriously ill, or worse? Clue: it won’t be those pushing the misinformation.

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Teaboy Tom’s Twitter Trouncing

Another day, another glaring example of how confident braggadocio can get rather a long way ahead of actual ability, and another Twitter own goal by Thomas Hedley Fairfax Harwood, replacement teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog. Teaboy Tom’s opinion of his ability has raced ahead of reality. Again.

What time is it Eccles?

Harwood has been reading Left Out, a work whose veracity is disputed, and not just by those on the left. But as it chimed with the talking point he wanted to deploy, that was not a problem. “Just Keir Starmer gently nodding at the idea people who voted Leave in the north are racist … As someone who voted leave in the north, this baseless sneering smearing makes me sick to the stomach”. Faux identity politics, much?

The pushback was not long in arriving. "Tom you are literally the least working class person whoever lived … But you’re not a Northerner. You know diddly squat about the lives of ordinary folks in the North. In fact, you know diddly squat about anything, if we’re being honest … Am having a quiet smile to myself at Tom from Cambridge who went to Durham University, where he registered to vote, attempting to try identity politics”.

Once again, he overreached himself. And once again, he failed to learn from the experience. So back he came to pontificate on Combover Crybaby Donald Trump wanting to nominate a Supreme Court justice before the Presidential Election. Jessica Simor QC was not impressed. “Do you know the date of the constitution? Watch the [Ruth Bader Ginsburg] documentary on Netflix then we can talk”. Tom wasn’t having any of that.

Think my degree merits a little more than a Netflix doc … Yes my degree is in politics, a lot of it about the US. My dissertation was a critique of how un-conservative the Trump movement was … Weird of you to reply to a tweet of mine professing an all seeing eye on US politics and constitutional affairs off the back of watching one documentary. Maybe try doing a degree in it and working there for four months. Helped my understanding is all”.

Harwood clearly did not know, as he inflated his soufflé way beyond the point of viability, whom he was lecturing on constitutional law. Ms Simor did not need to expend much intellectual energy to do the deflating. “I’m a constitutional lawyer Tom”. BOOM! OUCH!! Benjamin Janaway, who you can tell as he’s a doctor, declared “This wins twitter today”.

But even then, Harwood attempted a comeback. “In the US? Wild. Thought you tweeted for a living!” Jordan Toulson was almost impressed: “kudos for even being able to reply after that mic drop, but I think you should learn when to give up a fight”. Jane Heybroek, on the other hand, was not. “Sit down, child”. Alan Stedman, meanwhile, got the popcorn in.

This is Twitter Nirvana. Tom Harwood, leading light of Tufton Street, often put up on TV as [a] right wing commentator shows complete and total ignorance and is beautifully owned by a lawyer. Tom doesn't know what QC means”. Let that sink in, TV bookers.

And Martin Poler compared and contrasted between Harwood and Ms Simor: “One of these people has carved out a career from reading, studying and understanding the law. The other is employed by a donkey porn enthusiast and is called Tom”. Double OUCH!

Tom Harwood, here’s your arse on a plate. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

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