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Open mike 18/05/2020

Written By: - Date published: 6:00 am, May 18th, 2020 - 136 comments
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136 comments on “Open mike 18/05/2020 ”

  1. Dennis Frank 1

    Science validates Trump: "analysis of the coronavirus by specialist biologists suggests that all available data shows it was taken into the market by someone already carrying the disease. They say they were "surprised" to find the virus was "already pre-adapted to human transmission"… The claims come as Beijing thwarts global efforts to establish the source of the virus. The news will fuel concerns over the Communist regime's cover-up".


    "The new research is clear in its finding. "The publicly available genetic data does not point to cross-species transmission of the virus at the market," said Alina Chan, a molecular biologist, and Shing Zhan, an evolutionary biologist."

    • Nic the NZer 1.1

      Since apparently I have not been following closely enough, can you point out what the stable genious said which has been validated and what statements by the authors of the study validate it?

      It looks to me like you were clickbated by the Herald into a narrative carefully not made or excluded by the writer.

      • Dennis Frank 1.1.1

        I doubt you're really that superficial! All over the global news in recent weeks, doesn't really matter which source to quote. However, the BBC gives this context from over a month ago:

        "In a report attributed to multiple unnamed sources, Fox News said the coronavirus was a naturally occurring pathogen that leaked from a Wuhan facility because of lax safety protocols, infecting an intern, who then transmitted it to her boyfriend." https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-52305562/coronavirus-trump-says-we-ll-see-about-wuhan-lab-claims

        The US "National Institutes of Health …gave a grant totaling $3.4 million, beginning in 2014, to the U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance to study the risk of the future emergence of coronaviruses from bats. And EcoHealth distributed $600,000 of that total to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a collaborator on the project, pre-approved by NIH." https://www.factcheck.org/2020/05/trump-spreads-distorted-claim-on-wuhan-lab-funding/

        Easy to see why the US, part-funding the lab research into batshit coronaviruses, feels partially responsible for the outcome. Hence tries to muscle China into sharing responsibility. As if it were a moral stance, y'know?

        • Nic the NZer

          All the study concludes is that the virus samples from the wet market mutated less than a virus which just jumped species was understood to mutate. The implication is there was an earlier infected case who brought it into there.

          It doesn't say anything about where that case jumped species. Just it wasn't at the market according to the evidence of the study (+ its hard to exclude anything based on our understanding of virus evolution).

          • Anne

            Exactly Nic the NZer.

            It certainly doesn't validate Trumps conspiracy theories about the virus source.

            The item comes across to me as a puerile attempt to somehow cast aspersions on China and give credence to Trump’s assumption it is part of a sinister Chinese plot. Further to that, it could have happened elsewhere in the world but it happened in China. So, the big lesson for them is to ban the bloody disease ridden wet markets for starters.

            Note: this story is being touted by Fox News. That's enough to cast aspersions on the motivation.

        • weka

          Fox News reporting secondhand something Trump said doesn't count as evidence for the validation claim imo. The bit you quote isn't from Trump, it's from Fox.

          • Dennis Frank

            Anne made the same point. I'm somewhat averse to Fox myself, of course, but I feel I ought to make a point about how news orgs operate (based on my ten years working in the TVNZ newsroom cutting news & current affairs stories).

            Bias & professional standards go hand in hand: the former covert/tacit, the latter overt/explicit. So one must decode.

            The key point is that I sourced it from the BBC. Do they routinely republish stuff from Fox? Not that I've noticed. So the editorial decision to do so was made on merit. Is the BBC right-wing? Since the early '70s, I've not seen anyone claim that (in those days all state media was `fascist'). To the contrary, it's been normal in right-wing circles to call the BBC socialist since the '80s.

            So the news editor made the decision on newsworthiness. My take is that the code-word `multiple' triggered that decision. It implies more than several. So when a journo checks for confirmation from independent sources and encounters multiple, perception along the lines of `hell of a lot of smoke, must be a fire' happens.

            So the BBC editor concurred with the Fox editor on that basis. Now you & Anne may feel Fox just invented the multiple sources. Having been equally cynical a very long time I can't be critical of that – just believe it is very unlikely based on my experience of broadcast practice.

            • weka

              that's all very interesting Dennis, but all I need is the actual quote from Trump so I can weigh it up against the claim that he was right.

              If (according to the NZH link) Trump "claimed it emerged from a Wuhan laboratory working on bat-borne diseases", then where is the back up for that? Your quote says that someone carried it into a Wuhan market. That's not the same as it coming from a Chinese lab. It might be, but who knows?

              The claim that "Science validates Trump" has yet to be demonstrated on both counts 🙂

              Thus far it looks like clickbait (MSM and yourself) and politicbait (two macho countries).

              • Dennis Frank

                Okay, I see where you're coming from. I think the Herald was simply recycling the common view that had formed over recent weeks based on what Trump and others in his cabinet had said.

                I agree that I was painting with a broad brush without providing details. I had in mind the shaping of mass perceptions – along the lines of folks believing in climate change as opposed to lack of detailed proof. 😇

        • Incognito

          When you read “a report attributed to multiple unnamed sources” without any further evidence to corroborate the claims your alarm bells should go off like emergency sirens. A similar PR tool is ‘anecdotal evidence’. When the stakes are high, the burden of proof is high too. Until that time, it is all innuendo and hearsay. Didn’t think I had to lecture you on that!?

          • Dennis Frank

            There are professional disciplines around scepticism/sources which the BBC editor would have applied. That person is part of management – not just a journalist. The ethics of protecting sources come into play.

            Sure, you & I can be as sceptical as we like. Having spent a large part of my life making news stories for journos, I have ended up moderating my natural scepticism, balancing it against my informed view of how those people work.

            • Incognito

              You can bypass all that and cut it out from and avoid the clouding of your thinking if you focus on the science. Read the ‘landmark study’ and forget about the political framing by a broadcast company with strong and historical ties to political establishment. Don’t be lazy or a sheep, think for yourself.

              • Dennis Frank

                Look, political outcomes are produced by media framing. Trying to ignore that defeats the point of political commentary. What matters is what determines the decision-making in the court of public opinion. Scientists seeming to validate Trump's stance does exactly that.

                His poll ratings will not be effected by what is written in scientific papers unless media reports give it sufficient weight!

                • Incognito

                  There is so much wrong with this comment.

                  Scientists don’t validate Trump’s stance. His stance may or may not be consistent with the science.

                  I was talking about you commenting and framing, not the media or political spin doctors or others with invested interests in ‘the truth’.

                  You are the one here who is putting science into a different framework. I have pointed it out to you and yet you keep doing it!?

                  • Dennis Frank

                    I do it to alert folks to the likely effect on mass perceptions. It is that effect which is most influential in (co-)creating political reality. I assumed you would understand that. Do you not??

                    And I note how you subtly misrepresented what I wrote by deleting "seeming". Naughty!

                  • weka

                    "His stance may or may not be consistent with the science."

                    In a stopped clock being right twice a day kind of way.

          • Wensleydale

            I love anecdotal evidence. It basically amounts to "I heard from Gladys down at the Four Square that Eunice Carlyle in number seven eats cats. That's why your Fluffy's been missing for six weeks."

            Eric Trump reckons the virus is a hoax concocted by the Democrats to sabotage The Tangerine Abomination's election chances, probably because his old man told him so, so yeah, we can all rest easy.

        • Gabby

          That doesn't validate the chumpster Den, I doubt you're really that sly and disingenuous. In praxis.

          • Dennis Frank

            Not to you, Gabs. Nor to me. But it does to a politically significant slice of observers. That's my point.

            • Gabby

              Sneaky Den, sneaky. It's just what ppl will think, it's not what I think guv, no not me.

    • francesca 1.2

      Thats interesting Dennis. The western newspapers certainly took to the theory of the Wuhan market like a duck to water . Misleading videos of bat soup being drunk , and calls for the wet markets to be banned.

      Now that much earllier( mid November) cases of covid 19 are being detected by re examining samples and chest xrays from unusual pneumonia cases in France , Italy and the US, we will eventually find patient zero

      Wuhan may have been the first to identify the unknown novel virus(probably because they had the best virologists on hand)but that is not grounds for pinging it as the source. Wuhan is a large city with huge number s of annual visitors

      A visitor could easily have carried the virus from elsewhere

      Hindsight will be our teacher here

      Entertain all the theories you like, but new information is gathering every day

      • mauī 1.2.1

        If someone said yesterday that a person bought the virus into the market they would be labelled a conspiracy theorist. I find it interesting you're open to entertaining that theory now, but not the other lab source conspiracy…

        • francesca

          New information is is becoming available.Thats why the rush to point the finger is so stupid

          But really, would you not have considered that as a possibility?

          As far as the lab source goes, there's no evidence.Several western colleagues of the Wuhan virologists who have knowledge of the lab and its research also declare the unlikelihood of an escape

          I posted this link yesterday but you can lead a horse to water etc


          • mauī

            Well if it was bought into the market, then the market is not the origin of the virus. Which makes all the "scientific" finger pointing at the market just an initial guess.

            The vox article relies a lot on people who have a connection to the lab, and more so on Mr. Daszsak who I thought was leading project work there. Not a bad little PR exercise. If science/media wanted to rule out the lab, they would at least investigate the work being done there. Which is the sort of work Martenson has been doing…

            • McFlock

              There's a logic fail and a conceptual fail in your comments.

              The logic fail is simple: accepting that there were cases before the market cluster is logically different to focusing on a particular potential source for that market clust (in this case the lab). Apparently there was a possible case in France in November that has been retrospectively identified. that means that not only is the lab connection a red herring, the entire focus on Wuhan might actually be a case of "Spanish Flu" all over again – the virus started somewhere completely different, wandered around the globe, but it clocked off in China for some reason.

              The conceptual fail is the idea of the index patient. The earliest detected infection is not usually the source, it is simply the first case detected.

              for example, the known index case for AIDS was almost certainly not the person to get it first.

              • Incognito

                Well put.

                Note that the Wuhan-Hu-1 isolate was taken in early December 2019 and the market samples in January 2020, according to ‘the new landmark study’. However, the original published paper states “a single patient who was a worker at the market and who was admitted to the Central Hospital of Wuhan on 26 December 2019 while experiencing a severe respiratory syndrome that included fever, dizziness and a cough”. Confusing, but it emphasises the close links, in space and in time, between Wuhan-Hu-1 and the market samples.

              • RedLogix

                the virus started somewhere completely different, wandered around the globe, but it clocked off in China for some reason.

                Logical fail right there.

                What you selectively omit is the first known case in Wuhan is now dated on Nov 17. So we know it was present in the city on or before that date. What we don't know is in what numbers, or when the first human case really occurred, but it could easily have been sometime in October.

                What we do know is the virus has a period where cases are low and mostly asymptomatic. But at some stage inside a month they inevitably take off, and that first happened in Wuhan in early December when the local hospitals started reporting unusual pneumonia's. At least four to six weeks earlier than anywhere else.

                Logically this still places patient zero in Wuhan in the one city on planet earth where there is a BSL4 lab studying closely related virus's.

                Sure other explanations are still going to be possible, but any serious investigation is going to have to start where the first known outbreak occurred. All else is wishful thinking for obviously political ends.

                • McFlock

                  And in my link, there may have been cases in France at about the same time as the first known case in Wuhan.

                  Any serious investigation it going to start with confirming that the first known outbreak was in fact the first outbreak. A step you seem to frequently skip over in your obsession to build a case against your prime suspect.

                  • RedLogix

                    Any serious investigation it going to start with confirming that the first known outbreak was in fact the first outbreak.

                    All the evidence from multiple countries in the past five months, is that it circulates at low, mostly undiagnosed levels in a population for 2-8 weeks, and then if no containment measures are in place, without exception the serious cases start arriving in the hospitals at an exponential rate. That first happened in Wuhan.

                    But hell you could be right. Xi Xinping looks like he's going to agree to an investigation.

                    • McFlock

                      well, no, not quite all the evidence. E.g. the possible French link. E.g. lack of a comprehensive review of retrospective tests from samples around the world, just to be reasonably sure that the first few cycles of infection didn't occur somewhere completely different to your preferred prime suspect.

                      But all the evidence you're prepared to consider conveniently points to a handy case of culpable concealment by an organisation you really dislike. Lucky, that.

                • Incognito

                  The first patient was admitted on 12 December IIRC.

            • Gabby

              Well it's hardly going to have magicked itself into existence in the market now is it.

              • McFlock

                It did it somewhere.

                No reason why not in the market.

                But the earlier cases suggest that it could simply be trade-related, and the actual crossover occurred somewhere else: dude has cold, goes on trip, visits market (not even selling any animals or meat), infects a stallholder who infects their colleagues, dude goes back home and gets over the cold. Didn't infect anyone else because luck and the stallholder was their main contact (or just luck).And by the time that the dude has returned, the pig that got it from a bat and gave it to the dude has been cooked.

                Alternatively, the evil communists covered up that their lab leaks like a seive, that the half dozen people who worked there all got colds in late October, and none of their colleagues from other countries noticed.

    • lprent 1.3

      Your interpretation of the article and research is quite flawed. It has been obvious for a while that it wasn't a new species jump. The mutation rate was too low.

      All that was said was that it was unlikely that this virus did the species jump in the market. Unlike SARS this one didn't show signs of immediate adaption to another host species. And it was likely that human brought the virus, already adapted, into the market and very likely into Wuhan.

      My bet is that there is a population of humans around somewhere that has had the SARS (or something like it) virus endemic in their villages for quite a while, and trade has brought it to Wuhan.

      Trump, being a mindless fool will of course prefer your explanation. The Chinese being rather paranoid at present will deny.

      Net effect is that with all of the idiotic headline generated dick waving we're not going to get teams in to trace the actual source. Where there is one human adapted virus after a species jump there are likely to be a few.

      Welcome to the next pandemic…

      • Dennis Frank 1.3.1

        I'll keep an open mind on the source. The main point is that the scientists cite genetic evidence that the source is unlikely to be from the raw meat market, and since Trump was suggesting the lab as a likely source, they are validating his stance. That's how it will seem to most media consumers. I realise you have some kind of experiential basis for your commentary and haven't found reason to disagree with your overall view, but it would be interesting to know what that basis is…

        • Peter

          Whatever the understandings about overall view, your overall view is that Trump is right, 'science validates Trump' and that should be fed to media consumers.

          It's the great sort of things for headline writers – 'Science backs Trump Wuhan picture.'

          You know the picture, the blockbuster movie he wants us to believe, Chinese scientists beavering away trying to create some terrible disease to wipe out America and other parts of the world for their political and economic advantage.

          I can imagine if Trump doesn't win in November. He'll have it that Obama used the American scientists in their work in projects with the Wuhan Institute of Virology to help the Chinese plot and scheme to get rid of him and the coronavirus was the vehicle.



          • Dennis Frank

            Peter: "your overall view is that Trump is right". Me: wrong conclusion. No evidence that he is. So I just pointed out that the scientists have validated his stance. Directing suspicion against the lab is a valid political strategy now that science is ruling out the "cross-species transmission of the virus at the market".

            Science is a contestable discipline, so we await input from similar highly-qualified specialists. The research findings of the duo may turn out to be insufficiently robust. I do agree Trump will not scruple to use the plot scenario for re-election purposes if he feels the need.

            • Incognito

              So I just pointed out that the scientists have validated his stance.

              You forgot to include “seeming” this time. Sloppy and naughty!

          • Anne

            I can imagine if Trump doesn't win in November. He'll have it that Obama used the American scientists in their work in projects with the Wuhan Institute of Virology to help the Chinese plot and scheme to get rid of him and the coronavirus was the vehicle.

            A prescient scenario. And since Biden is just Obama's puppet (Obama is the real president) then he is equally culpable. "Lock em both up for treason" will be the rallying cry. 🙄

            • Peter

              Obama is the real president? Yes, and Helen Clark is the real prime minister of New Zealand.

              Easily sorted out though, just get Obama and Clark to drive past G5 towers and Covid-5 will leap out and get them.

              • woodart

                with bill gates driving a tesla . may as well get all the tin hatters here.

        • lprent

          Don't have time to go into it now – have some code to finish, and I'm monitoring an bot attack on the site.

          I commented on this about a month ago. There is a site that has a graph of the clades… Umm

          You can play around with that. But essentially it looks like the number of genome sites that the virus has diverged has been pretty low (even now). That speaks to a virus that didn't just jump to humans. It has been used to humans for a while. We're talking years or even decades.

          Most of the changes that are still extant worldwide were already present in Wuhan. It really doesn't seem like there are many mutations that aren't getting pruned by covid-19's own systems

          Whereas if you looked at SARS, which was definitely a species that just jumped to humans. Killed a very high percentage of its hosts. Had a lot of variations even in its brief career.

          The main point is that the scientists cite genetic evidence that the source is unlikely to be from the raw meat market, and since Trump was suggesting the lab as a likely source, they are validating his stance.

          At a political level – yes of course. And the attitude of the Chinese about getting medical survey teams in isn't helping. They should just exclude all political appointees and go with actual known active virologists and plan to have them in-country for about a year chasing the source down.

          Covid-19 will be just one of a range of human adapted viruses from whatever the original source is. Having Trump waving his dick around, apart from it being unhygenic and probably diseased, doesn't help in finding out what the next pandemic will be.

          • Dennis Frank

            I only follow the general gist. I'm a physics graduate – ignorant of genetics. So did you study genetics at university? I just want to know if your analysis emerges from some kind of formal qualification. I can already tell you grasp the reasoning involved – I just need some kind of frame to put on that.

      • RedLogix 1.3.2

        The mutation rate was too low.

        Which would be true if you assume a natural process. But routine lab procedure are exactly intended to force viral evolution, speeding up mutation rates in order to get to results within days or weeks, instead of having to wait decades.

        Our problem here is that most of us are very unfamiliar with this whole area of science and it makes evaluating competing claims very difficult. Here is another informed view:

        The flow chart for the above research is quite characteristic of the kind of work that gets done in BSL-4 labs. It may be summarized as follows:

        • Find a nasty pathogen in nature, or create one by a bit of ordinary cloning.
        • Test the pathogen’s ability to grow in vitro on various mammalian cells.
        • Test the pathogen’s ability to cause illness in or death of live mammals, like mice.
        • Try to figure out, from a number of well-established receptor proteins identified by legitimate laboratories, which human protein the pathogen might recognize.
        • Try to neutralize the pathogen with antibodies in vitro.
        • Check if the killed pathogen or a low number of the live pathogen will work as a vaccine in live mammals, like mice, and protect them in future encounters with the pathogen.

        This is the identical flow chart that is probably followed for the development of bioweapons. In particular, if a vaccine can be raised against a pathogen, then this allows its creator to vaccinate himself and safely use the pathogen as a weapon against his imagined enemies. It is a banally evil path that is well trod by a particular kind of pedestrian scientist.

        The sort of study where a scientist creates a pathogen is politely labeled gain-of-function research by biologists. It raises eyebrows in the scientific community whenever such work gets generously funded or prominently published, like the paper I just described, which appeared in the journal Nature Medicine in 2015. Gain-of-function research continues to be funded, however, with no oversight from the public that finances it and is most likely to suffer from it. For the most part, this kind of research goes unpublished.

        The whole article is quite readable and interesting. Our fundamental problem is that nothing can be ruled in or out at present. Apparently informed people are making claims that on examination that are based on circular reasoning, questionable presuppositions and selective accounts of the science.

        My favourite scifi author Vernor Vinge wrote in his The Peace Wars series (published in the 80's) of how biologists would create diseases that devastated humanity, but no-one could ever get to the truth and no-one was ever held accountable. As a result in his somewhat dystopian future world, the bio-scientists had been deemed illegal, highly despised and driven deeply underground. Because there was no effective oversight mechanism, no-one trusted them, and the potential good they could also do was lost to humanity.

        We are probably not quite there yet, but the path we are on could easily have this as a destination.

        • lprent

          Yeah, but the problem is that evolutionary biowar pattern simply isn't that useful for slow plague spread – which is what this one does. That is why virtually all of the material published on biowar weapons was orientated towards contact, short incubation, and kill rather than population spread. Natural evolution strongly tends towards getting the host to breed viruses without killing the host. Biowar patterns are more like SARS or Ebola or dispersed spread anthrax than what covid-19 is.

          So far no-one has managed to point to anything that indicates that this is engineered weapon. And the way that it operates indicates that it has had a significant evolution in bats, and quite a lot of time adapting to how to infect humans without killing too many of them.

          Which the pattern you've pointed to doesn't allow without a butt load of deaths.

          I suspect your aversion to the PRC is overcoming your common sense.

          • Dennis Frank

            Don't think he's pointing to a deliberate release. Accidental, I reckon. The Hopkins covid tracker graph shows a classic linear increase. Not exponential. If it were malignant population elimination, you'd see exponential.

            Also the daily rate stabilised weeks ago – we can see that by selecting the daily tab on that graph. So as contagions go, this looks rather moderate…

          • RedLogix

            evolutionary biowar pattern simply isn't that useful for slow plague spread – which is what this one does.

            Nowhere have I described this as a 'biowar' virus. It clearly doesn't fit the pattern of a conventional military tool. But that doesn't rule out other possible reasons why this virus could have been evolved within a lab setting.

            For a start WIV is tightly linked to the PLA and in that context there is every reason to expect at least some research programs to be secret and unpublished. Assuming that every virus they had worked on was actually published is naive in the extreme.

            Indeed the CCP has now been forced to admit they ordered the destruction of samples and work done at WIV early in January, further muddying the evidential trail.

            And since late January all Chinese research must be passed through political control before being released.

            Assuming you know anything accurate and sufficient to draw firm conclusions in this environment is optimistic at best.

            So far no-one has managed to point to anything that indicates that this is engineered weapon.

            The term 'weapon' implies malicious intent, but until we understand exactly how this virus arose we cannot determine intent. And I've been very careful not to go to that conclusion. That's twice in one comment you've pulled that straw man on me.

            What I believe is necessary here is that until we have an independent, trusted and impartial investigation … free to the extent possible of either US or CCP political interference … then we will not get to the truth.

            Oh and not only me but 62 other nations.

            I suspect your aversion to the PRC is overcoming your common sense.

            And content not with two strawmen, you pull a third. At no point have I attacked or denigrated in any fashion the people of China. As I've made it clear many times, I have close Chinese family and social connections. You may want to ask our old friend CV exactly which regular here at TS was the most generally supportive of him for many years. Bill's charges of 'idiot xenophobia' is wrong on the facts, intellectually lazy and downright irksome.

            On the other hand the CCP is a different creature altogether … yes my dislike of them is real and well founded. Then again I'm not the only one to have concluded … before COVID … that the current Chinese government under Xi Xinping’s rule are a pack of genocidal, power-mad, information-suppressing, exploitative, ultra-nationalists.

            Trump was of course for some months very supportive of the CCP effort in containing CV19; but now of course it turns out all of this was bullshit and it was already loose on the world, and Trump is now expressing considerable disappointment in what has happened … everyone is now idiotically acting as if the CCP is somehow lily-white and the innocent party.

            Trump plastering his sticky mitts over this issue, for his own political purposes, makes him no-one's hero. Nothing he has to say now in May, has any relevance to what we need to know about what may have been happening at WIV last year. This event has already caused immense grief and hardship in just a few short months, and is on track to cause a great deal more.

            Why is everyone so resistant to the idea that a full investigation, and if warranted a proper accountability, needs to happen? Hell if this was a coal mine explosion there would be no problem.

            • "that the current Chinese government under Xi Xinping’s rule are a pack of genocidal, power-mad, information-suppressing, exploitative, ultra-nationalists."

              Hear hear!
              I have Uyghur friends. Ask them what they think of the CCP.

              • Dennis Frank

                I have Uyghur friends

                That's interesting, Tony. Do they live here (immigrants)? Or have you travelled through their region?

                I presume they see their ethnicity as being a target due to muslim religion but it would be interesting to know if the regime's policy is viewed as racist too (on a similar basis to their oppression of Tibetans, I mean).

                • I taught for a bit over 3 years in Urumqi, and travelled fairly widely in the region and the 'stans.'

                  There are few Uyghurs living in NZ and most are pretty guarded in their public criticism of the regime, having relatives back in Xinjiang. Their most frequent beef is about the oppression of their religion, though they have no general love for the Han.

            • Incognito

              Nowhere have I described this as a 'biowar' virus.

              This may be correct, strictly speaking, but you did include it in your quote @ 1.3.2 and if you were simply trying to outline how forced evolution can be done in an appropriate lab and the corresponding workflow then you could have stopped the quote there and then. You didn’t and this is slightly confusing. See what I’m saying?

              As long as political games are played over and on top of this, the chances of getting to bottom of it are nil. This was the point I tried to make with Dennis but he didn’t get it. Welcome next pandemic?

              • RedLogix

                You didn’t and this is slightly confusing.

                Yes I can see the possible confusion arising from my quotation, but the full article makes it clearer. The point is that the 'gain of function' procedures for developing vaccines are for all practical purposes indistinguishable from developing a biowar virus. You really cannot conclusively determine intent just by looking at the genetic sequence (unless the developer was especially clumsy) of the resulting virus. Which is why I've been careful all along to avoid ascribing intent behind SAR-COV-2.

                As you say only an apolitical investigation will suffice to uncover the truth. Interestingly Xi Xingping last night seems to have agreed to such a thing, but then immediately undermined his bona fides by slapping an 80% tariff on Australian barley … and then has the bare faced gall to pretend it has nothing to do with Australia being the nation that lead the call for the investigation.


                • Incognito

                  The CoV closest to SARS-CoV-2 is RaTG13 and even that one is a bit of a mystery, which makes SARS-CoV-2 and even bigger mystery as to where it came from, when, and where it first jumped to human if that is what actually happened. Without finding the missing link(s), we will never know. This could leave us less or under-prepared for the next pandemic, which is such a compelling argument, in my opinion, that one wonders why anybody would resist accepting it …

                  • RedLogix


                    Sometime around 2001 I was working on a site on my own, and at dinner that night I was sat at the same table with another guy also on his own. He was a Scottish academic turned commercial, and his background was a rather unusual mix (for then) of computer science and genetics.

                    The one thing I clearly recall from the conversation that night was his description of how the work the team he was leading was going to enable genetic sequencing of full genomes within days or even hours. Keep in mind that the first full human genome project had only just been done, and had taken a huge collaborative effort to achieve. I was pretty impressed, only a few times in life do you get the chance to meet people you know will change our world.

                    Now less than 20 years later all of his predictions are come true, and we take them for granted. Our progress in this genetic biotech area is only just beginning; comparable to where the quantum mechanics era was in say the 1930's.

                    You are right, this will not be the last event of this kind to challenge us. Disease is our ancient enemy, it has deep roots in our behaviours and beliefs, and in many ways I suspect this new found power will prove more troublesome to our collective sanity than any before it.

    • Incognito 1.4

      We can only speculate why you started your framing comment with Trump.

      The original but not yet peer-reviewed paper is your best source of scientific information without the distracting framing and other unhelpful baggage.


      The paper is actually remarkably easy (!) to read, almost as if it was written with one eye on an audience of laypeople. I recommend it.

      If you do read it, you’ll note the carefully worded conclusions and the many still-unanswered questions.

      Obviously, the market was a factor in spreading the disease, through the food sold there but more likely predominantly through the people mingling there.

      As such, it does not answer the main questions.

      • Dennis Frank 1.4.1

        The media does have a habit of interpreting science, true. I guess I'm pragmatic in seeing political players using those media interpretations rather than actual scientific opinions (because they believe the public are influenced by the former way more than the latter).

        Political commentary inevitably flows from framing used by politicians and media, in consequence of that influence on the balance of public opinion. So I'm no different from any other commentator in that respect.

        I looked at the abstract & conclusion of the paper itself via your link, thanks, but see no reason for further comment on it at this stage.

        • Incognito

          You fell in the classic trap of letting the framing and interpretations by and from others influence your thinking and judgement about something that is primarily a scientific quest. Arguably, most commenters go ‘but Trump’, ‘but Putin’, ‘but her e-mails’, ‘but the CCP’, et cetera, rather than reading a scientific paper. If the horse doesn’t want to be led then it is likely a donkey, or an old goat … 😉

  2. Dennis Frank 2

    Leftist Oz greenie rationalises personal angst into public policy via a critique of racist Labour immigration dog-whistling: https://greenagenda.org.au/2020/05/was-keneallys-migration-diatribe-fair-dinkum-racist/

    "A lot of well-meaning Australians get frustrated when any attempt to start a conversation about migration immediately attracts accusations of racism. This is particularly so for many Greens, whose white fragility prevents them from recognising how sustainability arguments for limiting immigration can be inherently racist."

    "The hard truth is that in settler-colonial countries like Australia, you simply can’t talk sensibly about migration without talking about racism. The two topics are inextricably linked, and leaving race out of the conversation – like you’re some kind of ‘objective’ scientist neutrally discussing populations and carrying capacities without acknowledging past and ongoing systemic racism – just tacitly reinforces racist norms."

    Interesting because it shows how willing the left are to divide on an esoteric basis. No need for the controllers to use `divide & rule' – the proles do it to themselves. Politically-correct posturing normally seems irrelevant – but the writer appears to be conscience-driven, so I'm responding to the sincerity.

    • weka 2.1

      I would say it's better to reference racism when talking about immigration and green issues because we have a culture of racism in NZ against certain ethnicities who make up a large part of our new migrants. Listening to the voices of those people helps us, it's not a hindrance.

      Otoh, many on the left tend to reject any discussion about population and ecology/climate as classist, and any discussion of immigration and ecology/climate as racist, so the development of ideas in this area looks stalled to me.

      Both sides taking a position of outright rejection of the other leaves us in a false binary, and these don't help.

      • KJT 2.1.1

        Then we have the "right" hypocritically crying "racism" whenever their supply of underpaid labour, or wealthy land buyers, looks threatened.

      • roblogic 2.1.2

        Discussion of population is usually shut down as Malthusian anti-human oppression, or racist against Africans, who are on an unsustainable growth trajectory. There is a crazy dude on Twitter who advocates for a global one-child policy and he's got a point. At this point, human population growth means ecosystem destruction, and eventual catastrophe if we don't stop.

        • RedLogix

          At this point, human population growth means ecosystem destruction, and eventual catastrophe if we don't stop.

          In all the developed nations birth rates are now either below or close to replacement. In a number of European nations total population is already declining. Global growth rate is declining.

          Only in a relative handful of very poor and/or dysfunctional nations do we still see uncontrolled birth rates.

          Malthus had it backwards, increased incomes actually decrease birth rates.

          • roblogic

            NZ and Australia still growing at an alarming rate, addicted to that GDP juice, making things shittier all round for a lot of people, who are usually ignored or told to shut up, because the wealthy transnational prof classes are making bank and they consider themselves world citizens above the hoi polloi

            • RedLogix

              NZ and Australia still growing at an alarming rate

              Both countries have typically low birth rates similar to most other developed nations. Being well run countries they both remain attractive immigration destinations which account for the bulk of their population growth.

              New Zealand data for 2019 shows a fertility rate of 1.75 which is significantly below the replacement rate of 2.1. The only reason why our population is growing immigration and population momentum. (And for the time being NZ immigration is going to be confined to NZ ex-pats returning.)

              But globally the era of dramatic population growth is over. The data is in, education, development and GDP all strongly correlate with dramatically lowering birth rates. Most projections now show that human population will peak at 11.5b by the end of the century and then drop quite rapidly after that; the vast majority of that growth coming from Africa and partly Asia.

              • roblogic

                Auckland is about to run out of water. Our infrastructure is about 30 years behind population growth (because central govt didn't want to control it). Houses are completely unaffordable for essential workers like cops, teachers and nurses. This is not sustainable

                • RedLogix

                  The Waikato River supplies about 33% of Auckland's total supply and has consents to go further to about 36%. That's around 136 million litres per day (or 136 MLD). The current consent limit is 150 MLD.

                  Today at Mercer the total river is running at about 210 m3/sec or 18,144 MLD.

                  As you can see there is no shortage of water. It is a constraint on treatment and pumping capacity that is the problem. The system was not designed to cope with such a dry year, but fixing that has nothing to do with population, and everything to do with some capital and engineering.

                  Don't misread me here; I'm no more a fan of an overcrowded NZ than you are. I grew up in an era when it was possible to go to a valley in the South Island and tramp in the area for weeks and have the entire place to yourself. Part of me is deeply attached to that.

                  NZ and Australia have a specific problem in that we are successful and well run nations that many people like to visit and migrate to. Managing that is a privilege of a problem really.

                • weka

                  @Roblogic, yep, as soon as you start with the physical world (the environment) the whole thing looks completely different.

                  We're also exporting the remaining bank of our soil minerals etc via milk powder. And building housing on some of our best food growing land, because we're so fucking stupid that we think food is something that we can always buy (and so stupid to think that the housing crisis can be solved by having neoliberal developers build lots of houses)

        • weka

          "who are on an unsustainable growth trajectory."

          I would phrase it more like "who are joining the 'first' world on an unsustainable growth trajectory'.

          One child policy as a starting point is likely to cause problems, because in order for it to work in sustainability terms in a meaningful timeframe you'd have to enforce it, and that's going to play into the rising political authoritarianism. I also think that women would be disproportionately negatively affected. And you need lots of other legislation in place to prevent things like prioritising male foetuses.

          My preference is to centre the discussion on ecology, and what developed countries should do. We cannot expect poor nations to not aspire to our standard of living. So if NZ were to look at how we could actually be sustainable, and then what population we could sustain within that, we can then look at our standard of living/consumption and where to position it. We can also do that in the context of our refugee policy, and our immigration settings (maybe we have less babies and allow more refugees on humanitarian grounds).

          The big thing there that isn't being done is the auditing of what regenerative economy would look like in NZ. We do however know that we are well into overshoot, and are basically strip mining other ecologies and cultures to support our lifestyles. Lefties sure don't want to talk about that, not the liberals nor the class analysis crowd. For some reason that I don't understand, simple, applied physics goes out the window and people seem to think there are unlimited resources and space. Or they have this vague idea that there is still plenty available despite all the research show there isn't. I guess this is a very strong socialisation of the western mind.

          I should do a post on this 🙂

    • Gabby 2.2

      A neocon would of course attempt to divide and rule while accusing others of it.

  3. Dennis Frank 3

    Trump vs deep state, ongoing saga: ""There's a bureaucracy out there. And there's a lot of people in that bureaucracy who think that they got elected president, not Donald J. Trump," Navarro said… we've had tremendous problems with, you know, some people call it the 'deep state.' I think that's apt."" https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/china-responsible-us-economy-trump-economic-adviser/story?id=70723322

    That's Trump's director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, speaking today. So the rebel thesis remains valid.

    • Gabby 3.1

      He must be talking about Ponce, Pompedoodoo et al Den, though they appear to believe they were annointed, not elected.

      • Dennis Frank 3.1.1

        Nope, them are in Trump's cabinet. He described people in the bureaucracy as if they were actual bureaucrats, note. I know, you were just being disingenius…

        • Gabby

          He may think he was elected president Den, and so can spout any old shit that takes his fancy. He may be enraged that the virus wasn't let loose to lay waste his master's foes.

  4. Adrian Thornton 4

    Good interview here on the recent final unravelling of Russiagate, of course the hard core conspiracy theorists out there will keep spinning their, well…conspiracy theories, but to all other thinking and sane citizens, Russiagate can now be consigned to history as one of the most odious large scale public manipulations in recent history, certainly rivaling in scale and scope anything that China has managed to pull off on it's own highly repressed citizens….just shows what can be achieved when you have a willing and compliant press acting on your behalf.

    I think even Chomsky couldn't have envisioned the incredible scale along with such unquestioning and obedient buy in from the MSM and liberal intellectuals.

  5. I Feel Love 5

    Just a headline I saw on Stuff, about new beneficiary parents saying they will be sending their kids to school hungry coz the benefit ain't enough, well I say "then you shouldn't have had kids then huh?" (sarc) … I would like to think people get a bit more empathic towards beneficiaries after this, how easy it is to lose your job, how punitive it is, how low the payments are.

    I remember years ago they made it you couldn't go on benefit if you lived in places like Golden Bay, did they ever change that? Would like to see rural people, small town people able to get the benefit (just after seeing that Redneck post made me think wonder if they still can't get their benefits).

    • RedBaronCV 5.1

      Not sure if they ever changed it but it was a group of very small places IIRC Blackball was also one where there were zero jobs and zero likely hood of jobs and there was no zeal to fund "lifestylers" to depart the job market forever. On the other hand the consumption footprint would also have been very low.

    • Kay 5.2

      "I would like to think people get a bit more empathic towards beneficiaries after this, how easy it is to lose your job, how punitive it is, how low the payments are.

      Until they find employment again and move back up the food chain and all will be forgotten. Hell, some of them will no doubt keep on voting National.

  6. Pat 6

    Read the proposal and if you agree sign (and share) the petition


  7. weka 7

    Anyone who outright rejects a UBI needs to sit in a room with the benefit calculation formulas and process entitlements for five beneficiaries from different situations. Best conversion tool for UBI support ever.

    (I still favour a welfare/UBI hybrid that mends WINZ, including the complexity of rate calculation).

    • RedLogix 7.1

      I still favour a welfare/UBI hybrid that mends WINZ.

      And without any quibble on that general approach … which I broadly agree with … merely doing the dollar value comparison omits the big social value contribution that a UBI brings. All the research so far clearly shows the real positives come from an increased sense of personal worth and agency. From no longer being stigmatised (even when it's self imposed) or looked down on.

      Everyone who has had to deal with WINZ long-term tends to reach for the phrase 'soul-destroying'. Well what is the worth of people with 'un-destroyed souls'? Quite a lot I'd imagine.

  8. Tricledrown 8

    Where is Simon Bridges now on Australias Covid response 18 new cases .

  9. Tricledrown 9

    Hooton reckons we should be grovelling to China.After their failure to contain Covid 19 China needs a check on its totalitarian power.

    • bill 9.1

      After their failure to contain Covid 19

      Yeah. Because it would have gone down a treat had they refused permission for the German, French, US, Canadian, British, Australian and other government's repatriation flights from Wuhan as the province went into lock-down…

      I'm surprised they missed that opportunity to become the darlings of western propaganda. /sarc

    • Barfly 9.2

      "after their failure to contain Covid 19 China needs a check on its totalitarian power."


      • RedLogix 9.2.1

        When you are living with a senior Chinese academic (I can't be more specific for safety reasons) who is telling you first hand about the totalitarian power he is experiencing in his own life … you'd not be quite so quick to blurt out 'bollocks'.

        • Barfly

          Yeah nah…China, Russia, USA, UK etc etc there are no bloody saints in that lot but you (among many others) want to paint the Chinese government as the black hats..there are no white hats(in reality IMO) if it wasn't for their totalitarian inclinations Wuhan would still be a total clusterfuck rather than a success story.

          • Peter

            China is good for entertainment. Not China itself but the entertainment provided by the multi-faceted ever-changing bizarre notions in New Zealanders.

            We want to deal with China big time and to sell our goods to them but we don't want to deal with China. We want China to invest in New Zealand but we don't want them coming in here taking us over. We want New Zealand to take a strong position on China's human rights record but we don't want to say anything to upset them. We want to be independent and staunch and principled and stand for what's right but we should be totally deferential and not say anything to piss the Chinese off.

            Today I see banner headlines on the Herald site that Matthew Hooton thinks Winston Peters should be sacked over 'Chinese controversy.' I think Peters should immediately take Hooton onto his staff. Hooton could sit in Peters' pocket and tell him what to do and travel all over the world advising on what's right for New Zealand.

            Peters could take him out on all appropriate occasions to lick boots or to give Peters a clip around the ear if he dares say anything more than, "Yes Sir (or Ma'am.)

  10. RedBaronCV 10

    Item on RNZ about the dairy industry needing workers


    I wondered if it was time to reconsider land aggregation and break down some of these big farming operations into family sized units.

    As to not being able to get staff – are they their own worse enemy- and are providing conditions so poor that the lure of residency is the only way they can get staff? This looks like a 10 hour day for how many days of the week? Time for overtime and penal rates again? How many of these jobs mean the worker is also dependent on other taxpayer supports like working for family's while the owners pocket the dough

    "You might get up a bit earlier at around 5am, but on the other hand my staff go home for an hour at breakfast, an hour at lunch and they're home by 5pm.

    • Tricledrown 10.1

      In reality the time off very rarely happens especially at calving time.

      • RedBaronCV 10.1.1

        Yeh be good to hear from the corporate farming sector about how they intend to correct these wider systemic flaws.
        But no particular challenge from the news media to the farming lobby in that particular report – just the farming sob story largely verbatim. And the media wonder why they get poor “pass marks”

        • AB

          Farmers have long been given the right to set wage rates at a level that guarantees their profitability. If workers are not available at these rates, they want governments to admit foreign 'gastarbeiter' who will work at these rates. i.e. as capitalists, they seem to have an addiction to violating their own ideological commitment to free markets by enthusiastically intervening in the operation of the labour market. However, this only looks like a violation if you make the mistake of seeing capitalism and markets as the same thing. They aren't. As a locus of exchange, markets long pre-date capitalism – which is more about wealth extraction through ownership of all the 'plumbing' that facilitates production, exchange etc.

          COVID potentially disrupts this by turning off the gastarbeiter tap. However in this environment no government is going to be seen jeopardising agriculture, food production, exporting, job creation and economic growth generally. Some other temporary solution will be found – probably via government subsidy to farmers to top up wages.

          • RedBaronCV

            Yeah I figured Labour wouldn't do anything about farm wages. As far as I can see this problem has got steadily worse over the years since we repealed the land aggregation & settlement act 1920. Most of the family farms still seem to rely on limited labour it's this factory farming crowd doing it. Be interested to know how many of these have come in with an OIO exemption because they were going to create well paying jobs you know! Maybe some of these farms need to invest in robiotic milking so that they can provide well paying jobs.

    • Gabby 10.2

      You can't just confiscate a local's visa if s/he gets uppity.

    • millsy 10.3

      Some I know was worked as a milker for a variety of farm owners, and they all were ratbags. For one, the house he got was literally full of mould. It was even growing the carpet. The next one, he could hardly do any thing right for him, always carrying on about how useless he was (though the house was a bit better). The next one let him go before the 90-day trial was up.

      Not all farmers are like that, I will admit, but workers should really do a little due diligence before taking up farming.

  11. Adrian 11

    It came from Alien Reptile Species Shifters, fuck, everybody knows that!.

  12. observer 12

    TV3 (Newshub) has a poll out at 6 pm. They're already talking it up bigly but that's happened before, something "sensational" turns out to be a couple of percentage points.

    We'll see.

    • Craig H 12.1

      Saw a Facebook post with "some random numbers", 42, 32, 12, 4, 4, 2, 1, 1…

    • millsy 12.2

      Oh crap.

      If National are in the lead I will be disappointed, but not suprised.

      • observer 12.2.1

        Surprised? Flabbergasted more like.

        A series of surveys during lockdown showed 80+% support for what the gov't has done. They weren't TV polls, so were largely overlooked. But they were consistent.

        Of course National were not going to be in the lead, that would be pessimism way beyond reason.

    • Muttonbird 12.3

      Farrar watch:

      Special post at 4:07pm so outside his regular posting slots. He highlights the bump in positive polling for leaders during a crisis, whether they have done a good job or not.

      This preempts the Newshub poll tonight either to:

      a) attempt to dampen any positive polling for Ardern and the government parties by saying all leaders get a bump or,

      b) to set the scene for subsequent crowing if Ardern and the government parties don't poll better than other leaders who have mismanaged Covid-19 response resulting in horrific loss of life.

      Farrar has been careful to put the numbers of recent poll bumps for Trump, Boris and Morrison more than once, and even Andrew Cuomo. If JA doesn't reach these numbers or only achieves modestly well against them he will go to town.

      The post is so specific one wonders if he has been leaked the poll (highly likely given it is by Mediaworks), and is running his attack lines before it comes out. Incredibly dishonest if that is the case and he hasn't disclosed it.

      Watch this space.

      • observer 12.3.1

        He is always "leaked" the poll. The reason we see party leaders on the news is that they have given those interviews earlier in the day. Naturally the leaders talk to their advisers.

        Nothing to do with Mediaworks, it happens every time there's a poll.

        • Muttonbird

          Are you saying David Farrar is an advisor to Simon Bridges?

          I hope that interest is declared in the proper fashion.

  13. Adrian 13

    The above should have turned up in the conspiracy thread.

    But seriously, evidence that bat viruses are anywhere, just look at the case of Steve Gurney the great Coast-to Coast athlete. On an event in SE Asia , Borneo I think) part of the run went through a cave filled with bats and Steve came very close to dying, was in a coma for quite a time and took a few years to recover. It was ascertained that his problem was contacted from a bat virus or suchlike.,

    I would have thought our useless parroting media may have tried to get his view on our current situation.

  14. Gabby 14

    Anybody asked Luxie what he rickns on the Air NZ refund issue? Has he asked not to be asked?

  15. Gabby 15

    Hey checkpoint, aren't ppl in church in close proximity to other ppl for much longer than ppl in malls?

  16. Gabby 16

    Slick's down to 4.5 and I feel no sympathy. What is wrong with me?

  17. millsy 17

    Labour: 56

    National: 30

    Greens 5

    Yeah baby, one party state.

    • roblogic 17.1

      Great in one sense (i.e. a hope for a more economically equitable future), but the Left is just as capable of being arseholes as the Right. So it's not particularly awesome for democracy.

      Police are making threatening posts about "hate crimes", a concept which has no legal basis in NZ. Churches still can't hold Sunday services, but shopping malls and schools are a free-for-all.

      This is a potentially chilling moment

      • observer 17.1.1

        Nobody with an ounce of sense thinks Labour will get 56% on election day. I wouldn't have been surprised if they were 60+ in this poll, and yet I won't be surprised if they need a support party to govern after the election. Let's hope it's the Greens.

        Again, National never had the numbers in Parliament to govern alone. But in polls between elections, they had it dozens of times.

      • Gabby 17.1.2

        A free for all? Really?

  18. Reality 19

    Congratulations Jacinda. Your extraordinary hard work and superb leadership has been recognised and rewarded.

  19. observer 20

    Green support still holding up, as previously discussed. Labour's numbers aren't unprecedented. National hit 60 under Key – but crucially, they got there by cannibalising.

    Staying above 5% is a remarkable result for a near invisible party in a crisis, with their supporters making a clear Ardern/Labour distinction. Good on them.

    • Gabby 20.1

      Pompous Prince Shane may have to present Surpydur Tally with a trawler complete with undocumented crew on national tv if this keeps up.

  20. Ad 21

    If there's any enterprising medicinal cannabis operation who wants to go all in for expansion, here's the country's very last tobacco factory up for sale in Petone:


    • Stunned mullet 21.1

      I think think the requirements for a medicinal cannabis manufacturing plant and a tobacco factory would be quite different.

  21. joe90 22

    Private contractors strike.


    A shocking report suggesting that the coronavirus was “release[d from] the Wuhan Institute of Virology” in China is now circulating in U.S. military and intelligence circles and on Capitol Hill. But there’s a critical flaw in the report, a Daily Beast analysis reveals: Some of its most seemingly persuasive evidence is false—provably false.


    • Anne 22.1

      I'm reminded of the extremely amateurish attempt by Trump to alter a weather map to make it look like a cat. 5 cyclone was going to hit Alabama because he had previously claimed Alabama was going to be hit (can't read a weather map) and couldn't bear to be proved wrong.

  22. sumsuch 23

    This blog is beautiful foot-notery. Why Parliament is often distressing points of order. Semantics matter.

    In my lifelong arguments with my brothers I expect in later years we put aside getting it over one another and self-govern enough to go to the essential. What matters most. Lest ye be captured in pig muck up to your neck.

    Climate change and the neediest in my book matter most.

    • Incognito 23.1

      Climate change and the neediest in my book matter most.

      Climate Change does not vote and the neediest tend to stay at home and not vote either.

      One option is to vote for avoiding CC disaster and economic and social upheaval and against inequality and social injustice, for example.

      Another option is to vote for growth, gains, increases in GDP and wages, possible Tax cuts, open borders with Free Trade and mass tourism, for example.

      Which one do you think is the more likely vote winner?

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