Another day, and another tractor production is up paper from the University of AstraZeneca sitting at Oxford. The headline finding reported is that the covid vaccines do cause rare serious complications, but at a lesser rate than covid–19 itself causes the same complications. The mainstream media, including Twiddle and Tweedle on the Today programme, predictably reported the story uncritically, creating what the Chinese call a “trustworthy and glorious public opinion atmosphere“. In reality, the paper has more holes in it than a tramp’s trousers, and stinks about as much, but as is often the case these days, the methodology is wrapped in a statistical miasma, making teasing out what was actually done a challenge. Undeterred, Dr No will take you on a journey that weaves through worm holes, and show why this paper isn’t even fit to make a contribution to a tramp’s bedding, let alone appear in a peer reviewed medical journal.
For some, the odious new normal is yet another malign child of the pandemic. It is the dustpan where the armies of the new normal faithful are swept into obedience, each faithful soldier but a speck of dust swirling in the maelstrom, carried along by the madness of crowds. Each one wears the badge of compliance, a mask: some gaily embroidered and tightly fitted, like a wired brassiere, others black, as if to signal ask not for whom the bell tolls, and yet more the ragged remains of a soiled and stained surgical mask, left dangling from ear or wrist. At the other end of town, covid marshals scan smart phones as visitors to the exhibition centre show their digital covid papers to confirm a recent negative lateral flow test. Never mind the negative test result is meaningless and pointless, because the test has too low a sensitivity to be useful as an enabling test, the exhibition visitors comply, because it is part of the new normal, as is the hand sanitizer semaphore as they go in and out of the store next door. The new normal is a never ending stream of badges, totems, rituals and voodoo that rolls past day in day out, with never an end in sight.
Muppetry, n. the fanatical desire to promote and implement minimum unit pricing for alcohol as the solution to the world’s alcohol problems.
There has been a rise in muppetry in the UK in recent years. Two of our nations have introduced minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol, first Scotland, in 2018, and then Wales, in 2020. All eyes are on the data, to see whether muppetry works. The muppets of course want to show that it does, while the more sceptical, including Dr No, are inclined to be, well, more sceptical. Almost a decade ago, when muppetry was all the rage, but had yet to be introduced, Dr No published a number of posts pointing out that the underlying dogma and predictions — chiefly a dodgy marriage between Geoffrey Rose’s sick individuals and sick populations theory and some elastic economics, all veiled in a dense web of creative numerology — were about as robust as a wet paper bag. And so it seems: alcohol related deaths have been on an upward trend over the last few years in Scotland, with 2020 having the highest age standardised morality since 2011. Yet in the face of this hard evidence of a worsening position, we have muppets publishing a paper telling us that muppetry works.
At long last, Dr No has found a way of estimating official covid death inflation. By official covid death inflation, he means the extent to which the authorities have deliberately inflated the number of covid deaths to increase, in SPI-B’s infamous words, “the perceived level of personal threat…among those who are complacent”. Let us be absolutely clear: this is the government, and its agencies, deliberately massaging official statistics, to scare the population witless, into submission and compliance. In SPI-B’s own words, this needs “hard-hitting emotional messaging” to be effective, and what could be more hard-hitting and emotional than official accounts of tens of thousands of deaths from the novel coronavirus? It is classical propaganda, “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view”, a shocking and lamentable abuse of power that has no place in a modern democracy. Yet, for the last eighteen months, this tissue of partial truths, lies and deceits has been relentlessly streamed day after day by the government, via a complicit mainstream media, to the British public. The vast majority of other countries have also fared no better.
Dr No’s last post showed there were substantial humps in non-covid–19 mortality in care homes and private homes in the first wave of the pandemic, and that these humps cannot by fully explained by a displacement of what would have been hospital deaths to care and private home deaths. Something else must be at work, which Dr No rather loosely suggested might be ‘neglect, or worse’, in the absence of other obvious explanations. The ‘or worse’ is to cover the ‘midazolam thing’ — the excess use of midazolam last year, and by implication, excessive, and inappropriate, use of end-of-life care to ‘help the old folk on their way’. Dr No used ‘or worse’ because he is not fully persuaded this did (or for that matter did not) happen. There was a rise in aggregate midazolam prescribing — for example, see the striking April 2020 spike here — but there was also a rise in the numbers of deaths, so it becomes a chicken and the egg problem: did more deaths cause more midazolam prescriptions, or did more midazolam prescriptions cause more deaths? We don’t know. Perhaps it was a bit of both.
For a while, Dr No has bumbled on about having to wait a while to get data on non-covid–19 deaths caused by the panicdemic, that is, the collateral damage done not by the virus, but by our response to the virus. It now turns out that the data has been hiding in plain sight all along, in one of ONS’s cryptically named data files. The trail starts with referencetable10052021114704.xlsx, which was recently uncovered and dissected by the excellent John Dee, and which can still be downloaded from ONS’s own website here. But referencetable10052021114704.xlsx only covers part of the picture, specifically deaths in care homes, and furthermore, it has, as John Dee points out, been deliberately obfuckstrated by ONS, who have chosen to report cumulative totals rather than weekly numbers of deaths, which has the effect of disguising what John Dee rightly calls a “shocker of a hump” for non-covid deaths in the spring of 2020. Dr No’s chart for the de-obfuckstrated version of the data is shown above. The “shocker of a hump” is clearly visible in the red line representing non-covid care home deaths in April and May 2020.