Tag Archive for: CDCCovidFailures

It Was Politics that Drove the Science

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

Most academic scientists spend a lot of time writing grants that have very little chance of being funded. Because the funding environment is so competitive, many scientists feel pressure to emphasize the most positive, sensational results they can produce. Some academic scientists take this too far, by ignoring conflicting results or even fabricating data. Research fraud that goes unreported can upset decades of research, which happened recently in the field of Alzheimer’s research.

What happens if you take away scientific competition? There is indeed a way to do this, and that’s by working in a government agency. Being a government scientist is not a bad deal for a lot of people. The pay is good, the job is secure, and the expectations aren’t high. Securing funding is pretty easy and completely backward from academia—you often get the funding first and justify it with a “grant” later.

The perceived impact of your publications doesn’t matter, any journal is sufficient. In the case of my position at CDC-NIOSH, mechanistic science wasn’t encouraged. Instead, there was a lot of emphasis on toxicology, which simply involves exposing an animal or tissue to a compound or microbe and determining if there is an adverse effect. If there was, taking further steps to determine why there was an adverse effect wasn’t necessary. It was a simple exposure, assess, report, rinse and repeat process.

I wasn’t in my government post-doc position long before I realized that government work wasn’t my calling. It’s not that it wasn’t challenging, it was just challenging in the wrong way. Government scientists often spend more of their time fighting government bureaucracy than scientific problems. In such a red tape-clogged system, self-motivated people eventually get discouraged, while unmotivated people get to coast.

There were many examples of bureaucratic dysfunction and waste. In one department, staff members came across a storage room filled with brand new boxes of obsolete computers that had never been opened. No one seemed to know how they got there. Similarly, it wasn’t a rare occurrence to encounter large stores of expensive reagents in a freezer or storage room that had expired without being opened. These examples were simply a function of shifting funding and priorities. Congress would periodically throw money at the agency so everyone could claim they were doing something about a highly visible health problem. If you didn’t spend it, it went away.

In another instance, government officials decided they needed an online travel booking program for employees similar to Orbitz for Business. The result was underwhelming–millions of dollars and years later, there were still serious problems with it that resulted in travel delays. Everyone complained about having to use it. They could’ve just used Orbitz for Business, if only it had been allowed.

At one point, traveling to a foreign country to give a research seminar required giving notice one year in advance. This included the title of the talk. Who knows what they are going to talk about one year in advance?

One of my favorite horror stories about government bureaucracy was about a CDC employee who got fired accidentally by an unnamed bureaucrat. He didn’t even realize he had been fired until one day his paycheck wasn’t deposited and his security badge stopped working. It took months to get him rehired. The great irony of that story is that it’s nearly impossible to fire someone intentionally. I’m not sure how anyone could do it accidentally. But apparently, it happened.

At the CDC branch where I worked, we had a histology core run by a technician who didn’t like his job, and knew he couldn’t get fired. I would send tissue samples and they’d take months to get processed and stained. When I did get them back, there were some curious things about the slides I would notice. Some of the different samples would appear identical on the cut slides.

The histology tech was just cutting the same block over and over to make slides and labeling them differently. When I brought up this behavior to my boss, it didn’t surprise him. He told me that the guy was bitter and intended to metaphorically give us all a big middle finger, and there was no way we could stop him. We ended up contracting the nearby university core to do the same work. Meanwhile, worthless histology tech continued to get paid for doing even less.

Once, a CDC pathologist tried to report him for “destruction of government property.” She was one of those self-motivated people who took her job seriously and could be relied upon by others, and at the same time was naïve enough to expect the same. What happened when she raised a stink about lazy histology tech guy? She was reprimanded and labeled a “troublemaker.” Probably because the bureaucrats recognized that her attempt at whistleblowing would just create work for them, and would not actually result in any meaningful change.

Once I got reprimanded by my boss for a reason that I cannot clearly recall. Much like the honorable yet naive pathologist, I was calling BS on something and thus not endearing myself to the front office. Although I can’t recall much of the dressing down I received, one thing he said stuck with me: “You can’t change the system from outside the system,” He meant it was pointless for someone in my lowly contract position to fight anything, it would do nothing and only hurt me and annoy everyone else.

Later, I realized that something he didn’t mention was also true–it’s impossible to advance within the system by promising to change it. If you wanted to advance within the CDC or another government agency, you have to demonstrate your dedication to the status quo. That powerful incentive ensures the system is preserved, with perverse incentives fully intact.

This dynamic was painfully obvious as I watched the government pandemic response unfold. In the beginning, when uncertainty was the greatest, many leaders seemed reasonable and cautioned against panic, because they knew there was a potential for severe collateral damage. Once more particulars about the virus were known, especially the steep age-stratified risk of severe disease, competing political interests emerged, and as a result messaging and decision-making became distorted. 

In normal times, large bureaucratic health agencies driven by political interests do not directly affect the daily lives of most Americans. During a natural disaster, however, these agencies will continue to be driven by politics, not public health, because they are not capable of adapting to a crisis. That’s when the cracks begin to show, and everyone is affected.

A prime example is the CDC’s flagship journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). According to the CDC, MMWR exists “…to report events of public health interest and importance to CDC’s major constituents—state and local health departments—and as quickly as possible”, and to distribute “… objective scientific information, albeit often preliminary, to the public at large”.

The key word here is “objective”, which is apparently used unironically. Here are MMWR editors describing how they determine what content is suitable for publication:

Several other differences [between the MMWR and medical journals] exist. A major one is that, unlike medical journals (with a few exceptions, i.e., certain special supplements such as this one), the content published in MMWR constitutes the official voice of its parent, CDC. One sign of this is the absence in MMWR of any official disclaimers. Although most articles that appear in MMWR are not “peer-reviewed” in the way that submissions to medical journals are, to ensure that the content of MMWR comports with CDC policy, every submission to MMWR undergoes a rigorous multilevel clearance process before publication. This includes review by the CDC Director or designate, top scientific directors at all CDC organizational levels, and an exacting review by MMWR editors. Articles submitted to MMWR from non-CDC authors undergo the same kind of review by subject-matter experts within CDC. By the time a report appears in MMWR, it reflects, or is consistent with, CDC policy.

Did you catch all that? There is nothing “objective” about how the CDC determines what is published in their flagship journal. They choose to publish only results that support their policy and are completely open about it.

This is backward from how health policy should be determined. Science should drive policy recommendations, yet at the CDC, the policy recommendations drive the science. 

Once this fact is acknowledged, much of the more controversial “studies” published in MMWR begin to make complete sense. For example, many mask studies claiming significant universal or school masking efficacy published by the CDC (some that I have previously discussed) were poorly designed and executed and easily debunked by outside observers. That’s because the “rigorous multilevel clearance process” involved no concern with the actual methodology of those studies. There was simply a set of predetermined conclusions from CDC directors in search of supporting data. Nothing objective about it.

Politically driven science at the CDC and other government health agencies was not limited to mask studies. Risks of severe or long COVID and benefits of COVID vaccines in children and healthy adults were also greatly exaggerated. Worst of all, basic tenets of immunology (e.g. infection-acquired immunity) were denied. Immunologists were expected to go along with it. Many did.

Science is a perfect process complicated by flawed human practitioners. Wherever there are people, there will be politics, and wherever there are government health agencies, their political interests will trample any conflicting science. As with any big problem, the first step is admitting there is a problem. After accepting the fact that health agencies are political organizations, the next steps should explore ways to ensure bipartisan administration and remove perverse incentives. Separating research and policy arms of each agency, term limits for administrative positions, and approval of directors by Congress might be a good start. 

Obviously, no meaningful change in government health agencies is going to happen without overcoming massive bureaucratic opposition. But a meaningful change is the only outcome we should accept, or we can expect more of the same when the next pandemic comes.

*****

This article was published by The Brownstone Institute and is reproduced with permission.

There Was No Pandemic Mastermind

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart.” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn

 

There is a lot of celebratory football-spiking going on in COVID response-skeptic social media circles.

When two groups of people are diametrically opposed to one another on a singular issue, and the beliefs of one of those groups is validated by events, the other group may just wish to slink away and “put everything behind them.”

I think this is happening with the COVID-19 pandemic. After years of misleading, politically-driven information campaigns designed to increase vaccine uptake, the CDC has finally admitted something that everyone knew, but most couldn’t say: that SARS-CoV-2 infection-acquired immunity protects against severe disease upon reinfection just as well or even better than vaccination.

The problem wasn’t just the messaging on protective immunity. From pushing damaging and unsustainable lockdowns to contriving a false consensus on masks to massively inflating risks of COVID-19 in children and schools, the CDC’s record has been utterly dismal.

After the reality-mugging of the last two and a half years, I’m sure many people in the CDC and other government agencies would like to quietly move on, much as the rest of the world already has.

But that can’t happen just yet. Some very tough and pointed questions need to be asked about the decisions that led to shutdowns and mandates and who made, influenced, and benefited from those decisions. The pandemic exposed a dysfunctional, politicized and risk-averse health bureaucracy with little incentive to act beyond its own naked self-interests. A bright and continuous spotlight on the systemic failures of government agencies is only the first step to meaningful reform. But it has to happen.

The temptation to place the blame for these failures on a single person or a small, yet powerful group of people will be irresistible. The concept of an evil mastermind or a sinister cabal of deep-state Illuminati pulling all the strings to shut down the world, hurt working-class people, and keep poor children out of school has been a reflexive way for many people to make sense of the messy world we’ve lived in since March 2020.

There are some problems with this way of thinking. The fact that most Western governments acted in a very similar manner—initially trying to reassure the public, then panicking and issuing lockdowns and other damaging policies and blaming the people when they didn’t work—raises an important question. How could a single person or group of people orchestrate all that so quickly?

When people are angry about so much needless destruction and waste, they want to put a face to that anger, to identify a target. They need someone to blame, someone to put on trial, condemn and cancel. It’s much more difficult to put institutions, systems, or culture on trial, and much less satisfying.

There were certainly many people who took advantage of pandemic chaos in rather dubious ways. They stockpiled masks or drugs to resell at huge profits, were compromised by ties to pharmaceutical companies, or gained notoriety by feeding the media’s insatiable appetite for sensationalized predictions of doom. Those representing special interests lined up to use the crisis to their advantage, and when they were successful, lobbied for more. This misbehavior should certainly not be ignored.

Yet if all the blame for the disastrous pandemic response is successfully put on one person or a group of people, it ensures there will be a scapegoat and only that. They might be put on trial, demonized, and canceled, a process that many of us would enjoy watching. But the systems and culture that incentivized them to behave badly will remain in place.

The CDC has already started the process of rebranding itself in light of its admitted failures. Predictably, it involves some cosmetic reorganization yet otherwise increases institutional power and reach. With these superficial changes, the ossified, dysfunctional culture will continue to balloon and lumber on, consuming more and more resources with an ever-decreasing net benefit, waiting to be exposed again by another crisis. Rinse and repeat.

Accepting the CDC’s faux contrition and bogus pledge of reform would be a mistake. The organization is in need of a serious overhaul. The conflict of interest that results when government organizations make policy recommendations and fund research to support those recommendations needs to be removed by separating both functions. Positions should not be guaranteed for life, but subject to periodic renewal, and easier to terminate. The power of permanent bureaucrats to micromanage national health policy should be minimized as much as possible.

Most skeptical readers will read the above and say, “Yeah, right. Not gonna happen,” and I would tend to agree with that. In fact, I think the problem is even more intractable than just institutional reform. After all, as many people in the CDC and other government agencies liked to remind us during the pandemic, they only make recommendations. They didn’t force the federal government, states, and cities to implement and enforce mandates. All of those places did so on their own, unfortunately with great energy and enthusiasm. For many aspiring totalitarians, CDC recommendations were merely a convenient foil for increasing their own power and influence.

Perhaps the most important question is, where would leaders get the idea that all of this behavior was, not only acceptable but commendable?

The answer is—they got the idea from us. The public long ago accepted that government organizations like the CDC have assumed responsibility for their well-being, during normal times and in times of crisis. If the CDC can’t protect us and provide the absolute certainty we demand during times of crisis, then what are they good for? An excellent question.

The pandemic has shown that government agencies cannot, in fact, do those things very well at all. Even if they could protect people and provide them with absolute certainty, they wouldn’t be incentivized to do so. Instead, in a crisis government agencies will follow the path of least resistance, in this case providing an illusion of safety, security, and control for politicians and the public. All one had to do was believe the illusion. Because of the absolute terror of the unknown and complete ignorance of the risks of severe disease and death, most people were more than willing to take comfort in CDC recommendations and subsequent government mandates without the slightest hint of skepticism or protest. A pervasive safety-at-all costs culture enabled all of it.

By all means, we need to take a very long and hard look at the leaders and bureaucrats that took the easiest, yet the most damaging path of lockdowns and mandates. We need to expose all of their corruption, incompetence, and hypocrisy. It’s going to be a huge task that will take a considerable amount of time, and it has to happen.

Yet ultimately, when looking for someone to blame for the disastrous pandemic response, the most important place we need to look is in the mirror.

 

Steve Templeton is Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Indiana University School of Medicine – Terre Haute. Formerly CDC/NIOSH. Immunology of Infectious Disease.

*****

This article was published by the Brownstone Institute and is reproduced with permission.

Mandatory Mis-Remembering on Natural Immunity

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

“The past was alterable. The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.” ― George Orwell, 1984

 

Releasing new pandemic guidelines last week, the CDC epidemiologist Greta Massetti divulged to reporters what many experts have long been saying: there is no difference between a COVID-19 vaccine and prior infection.

“Both prior infection and vaccination confer some protection against severe illness,” Massetti told reporters. “And so it really makes the most sense to not differentiate with our guidance or our recommendations based on vaccination status at this time.”

Major media outlets such as NPR, CNN, Washington Post, and the New York Times, dutifully repeated back new statements from CDC officials, without noting they had reported the complete opposite last year: COVID-19 vaccines provided much better protection than prior infection. See this CNN interview last August, for example, where Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy allegedly shot down an “antivaxxer’s claim” about natural immunity.

“We are seeing more and more data that tells us, that while you get some protection from natural protection, it’s not nearly as strong as what you get from the vaccine,” Dr. Murthy told CNN at the time.

CNN Murthy

While the natural immunity versus vaccination debate has been controversial over the last year, what is not debatable is that midterm elections are coming this November. And with a majority of Americans unhappy with the President’s pandemic policies, perhaps the CDC is relying on “midterm science” to guide their new appreciation for natural immunity.

The media’s forgetfulness of what they reported just last year on vaccines and prior infection is part of the pandemic’s Great Misremembering, collective amnesia where we march in step with government messaging while failing to recall prior statements and moments of glaring contradiction. For example when the media reported that the NIH’s Anthony Fauci was fully vaccinated and still got COVID-19, and then they misremembered to report his prior statement, “When people are vaccinated, they can feel safe that they are not going to get infected.”

“CDC’s COVID-19 prevention recommendations no longer differentiate based on a person’s vaccination status because breakthrough infections occur, though they are generally mild,” the agency now says in new guidelines. To help everyone join the Great Misremembering, here are some incidents you must fail to recall.

Mother Jones early out the gate

In the first few confusing months of the pandemic, when and researchers were still trying to understand the outbreak, Mother Jones crack reporter Kiera Butler already figured out the greatest threat to pandemic science: the ubiquitous “antivaxxers” pushing a dangerous “theory” called natural immunity. Note the scare quotes in the title around natural immunity.

dangerous natural immunity

According to Butler, this “dangerous theory” just might go mainstream. She ended her article quoting an expert who warned that if the natural immunity idea takes hold, it could persist even after the coronavirus pandemic dies down. “Those of us in this field will be cleaning up these messes for years to come,” Butler’s expert told her.

This “mess” now includes the CDC’s latest guidance.

John Snow Memorandum

Late in the pandemic’s first year, a group of researchers released a statement called the “John Snow Memorandum” that helped to shape American policy, as many of the signers had large social media followings. Among the signatories was Rochelle Walensky, then a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and now the Director of the CDC. “Any pandemic management strategy relying upon immunity from natural infections for COVID-19 is flawed,” reads the statement signed by the current CDC Director.

You know nothing Jon Snow

Yes, the very same person who runs the CDC that now tells us to not differentiate between the vaccine and natural infection warned us early in the pandemic that any pandemic policy that relies on natural infection is flawed.

As you read the CDC’s new guidance, please remember to misremember the memorandum previously signed by the current CDC Director.

CNN’s Maggie Fox: reliable press release journalism

Few reporters worked harder on behalf of vaccine manufacturers and the federal government to give full-throated support to vaccines than CNN’s Maggie Fox. As I previously reported, CDC Director Walensky divulged earlier this year that she had been overly optimistic about the efficacy of Pfizer’s vaccine after she saw a report on CNN. When I tracked down CNN’s article, I found that it had been written by Maggie Fox and was little more than a regurgitation of Pfizer’s own press release that had gone out earlier on the same day of her story.

In short, Pfizer’s press release became CNN headline, eventually becoming the CDC’s optimistic vaccine pandemic policy.

Shortly after the COVID-19 vaccines became available, Science Magazine published a study that found lasting immunity after recovery from infection. “Several months ago, our studies showed that natural infection induced a strong response, and this study now shows that the responses last,” the study’s lead author told the National Institutes of Health. “We are hopeful that a similar pattern of responses lasting over time will also emerge for the vaccine-induced responses.”

Further evidence accumulated in May when researchers published a study in Nature that concluded, “Overall, our results indicate that mild infection with SARS-CoV-2 induces robust antigen-specific, long-lived humoral immune memory in humans.”

Proceeding with little caution, CNN’s Maggie Fox tweeted the following July, “No valid scientific study has found that natural immunity protects better than vaccination does.” She then went on to write several stories throughout 2021 that continued to promote the notion that vaccination was superior to natural immunity.

Meg Fox

Fox left CNN sometime around the end of the year, and wrote this January on her personal website:

But vaccinated people have more protection against severe disease than people who are unvaccinated – including those who have been infected once or more already. That’s because vaccines boost the immune system better than natural infection does.

With CDC guidelines that “no longer differentiate based on a person’s vaccination status” I tweeted to Fox asking if she wanted to update her previous opinion that seemed to ignore relevant science on natural immunity.

Finding some disparity in the meaning between “difference” and “differentiate”—the first is a noun, the second a verb—Fox tweeted back that I was trolling and attacking her, and that the CDC did not state what it stated.

Meg Fox 2

COVID fact checks, of course

No aspect of the Great Misremembering would be complete without being careful to forget all the amazing fact checks out there. They function, of course, by carefully choosing the most extreme statement to carefully pick apart, and then implying that anyone even remotely associated with such thinking is a complete nutter.

So it’s not surprising to find some nitpicking at both LeadStories and Health Feedback.

LeadStories is funded by both Facebook and a Chinese company cited by the U.S. government for national security concerns. Writers at the website recently falsely attacked researchers for using a database on vaccine safety that they didn’t actually use.

Last August, LeadStories posted one of their typical fact checks that is difficult to follow and cherry picks information to come out in support of vaccines.

fact check, oh no!

Since the CDC now says to not differentiate between prior infections and vaccination, one wonders if LeadStories is going to now fact-checking the federal government.

Health Feedback is a Facebook fact-checking service run by Emmanuel Vincent, who has been hiding throughout Paris to avoid appearing in court for possibly colluding with the U.S. federal government to ban people from social media and deny them their First Amendment rights. This fact check appeared just a few months ago, in April, and one wonders if they are going to update it to reflect the CDC’s new guidance.

freedom works

Don’t hold your breath!

How will we forget the Twitter experts?

Ryan Marino is a medical toxicologist and assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University, who has been making a name for himself as a “pro science” communicator when reporters need an expert to quote in some pointless, nutty story like Lyme Disease is not an “intergalactic substance.”

Ry Marino

And here

Ry Marino Two

After making a name for himself debunking Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop, Canada-famous law professor Timothy Caulfield pivoted to position himself as a COVID-19 expert, and quickly dismissed as a “conspiracy” the idea that the pandemic could have started from a lab. Caulfield almost never upsets powerful corporations in biomedicine, and managed to do so again by promoting vaccines.

Timmy Caulfield

And of course, Twitter’s very online resident gynecologist, Jen Gunter, who rarely misses an opportunity to jump into the middle of a controversy—any controversy. With a typical lack of self-restraint, Gunter slapped down a critic who pointed to the importance to natural immunity some months back.

“Vaccine induced immunity is superior,” the gynecologist tweeted. “So yeah, maybe come at me with a different argument.”

JenJen Gunter

That different argument would be the new CDC guidelines, of course. But let us all forget.

*****

This article was published by The Brownstone Institute and is reproduced with permission.

Documents Reveal Collusion Between CDC, Big Tech During Pandemic

Estimated Reading Time: 14 minutes

Documents newly obtained by America First Legal Foundation reveal deep collusion between public officials and allies in Big Tech to silence dissenting voices.

The documents lay bare efforts by officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to push social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to censor so-called medical misinformation.

John Zadrozny, deputy director of investigations at America First Legal Foundation, joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss how deep the collusion goes and what it all means.

Listen to the [second] podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:

Doug Blair: My guest today is John Zadrozny, deputy director of investigations at America First Legal Foundation. John, welcome to the show.

John Zadrozny: Hey, Doug, thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it.

Blair: Of course. Well, we have to talk about this massive thing that you guys have found out, which is this trove of documents detailing the super cozy relationship between Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] officials and Big Tech over their efforts to censor what is called misinformation surrounding COVID-19.

So just to start out with, could you give our listeners a broad overview of some of the revelations that these documents revealed?

Zadrozny: Absolutely, Doug.

So basically, you may recall last year that when she was still White House press secretary, from the White House podium in mid-July, Jen Psaki basically admitted to the public that they were working, colluding, I guess you could say, with Big Tech to make sure that “misinformation” was not spread on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

And we were immediately piqued by this, so I think we sent a [Freedom of Information Act] request literally the next day to several agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC. Not surprisingly, they were not tripping over themselves to release those documents because they were damning.

We filed a lawsuit this year and we have since been able to get documents as a result of being in court with the agency. They released a batch to us in July and we were able to roll out about 286 pages of initial production from the agency last week.

And what they show, Doug, it is pretty damning. It basically shows exactly what we thought—file this under horrifying but not surprising. They were in very close coordination with Google, Twitter, and Facebook. For emphasis, we don’t know if other Big Tech companies were involved yet. This is just what we were able to get our hands on to date.

Examples of what the communications showed were very close, frequent coordination between the government and officials at Google, Twitter, and Facebook. Very excited willingness on the part of officials at those three Big Tech companies to work with them.

In other words, it wasn’t a government strong-arming companies and them reluctantly going along. It was them saying, “We’re eager to work with you and help you.”

There were instances of basically the government told these agencies what to say in terms of vaccine safety. They basically told them what to say and concealed the origins as federal.

The CDC reached out to … Twitter, saying, “Hey, we found these posts. These are misinformation.” And then Twitter immediately proceeded to not only pull them down, but then suspend the accounts of some of those users.

The interaction, the degree of interaction and the type of interaction, Doug, is pretty gross. And it’s a reminder that we’re in a very dangerous time. It’s not just a question of an abusive government, but it’s an abusive government in cahoots with a large, monopolistic tech industry that has no interest in free speech for the public.

Blair: That sounds incredibly dangerous. And I think the fact is that it sounds like the government is skirting around First Amendment protections for speech by kind of nudge, nudge, wink, winking to these Big Tech companies and having them do the dirty work for them. So it’s not the government doing the censorship, it’s Twitter doing the censorship or YouTube doing the censorship.

Zadrozny: Yeah. Doug, that’s a great point. But I would counter that and say the following: There’s obviously a debate on the right about the private sector’s discretion to do what it chooses as the private industry, as nongovernmental. Remember, the First Amendment, the Bill of Rights, all those amendments are designed to curtail government conduct.

However, two things, one of which is, take the government out of it, in a vacuum these companies have reached a size and dimension, and reality in our modern digital age, where they are essentially the digital town square. There is no real public media forum absent these social media platforms.

And an argument could be made, it’s not uniform, there’s definitely disagreement on the right about this, but an argument could be made that they’re essentially, at this point, quasi-utilities.

Imagine a scenario where a phone company was cutting off phone calls of people when they didn’t like what they were saying. We would be aghast at that, and yet somehow this is considered OK.

But it’s even worse than that, Doug, because basically, I think the argument here is that the federal government, by interacting with these companies, whether voluntarily or not, has deputized them as an extension of the government. And so, I think the First Amendment argument is very much in play here.

They can’t say, “Well, we’re private.” Maybe, maybe they could have gotten away with that if they were doing this of their own volition. But it’s pretty clear they were working hand-in-glove with federal officials telling them what to say and not say.

Blair: How long and how extensive do these ties go back? And are there going to be any sort of implications between people like Dr. [Anthony] Fauci and other government officials that were directly responsible for this?

Zadrozny: Well, that’s a great question, Doug. We have other, for clarity, we have other letters out to other agencies to find out the degree to which they were involved in manipulating these Big Tech companies and their speech.

Troublingly, if you go look at the documents that we’ve produced, remember it’s only 286 pages, I suspect we’ve only scratched the surface. Some of those communications do go back to 2020, and so I think some of the people might say, “Well, gosh, doesn’t that mean the Trump administration was doing this?”

I think the answer is, if, based on all we saw during the Trump administration, and I was part of it, there are a lot of secretive nefarious actors who were not working in conjunction with the political leadership of the administration and doing what they wanted.

I suspect these ties existed between these officials and the employees of these companies for years. … Gosh only knows what else they were doing behind the scenes, Doug, to undercut the administration while the administration was happening. But it picked up another few notches in speed once we were gone, in order to facilitate the Biden administration’s rollout of the vaccine.

The horrible part about all this, Doug, is that the Biden administration and the Big Tech companies, they wouldn’t need to do any of this if they had anything resembling credibility on any issue, including the vaccine issue. But the reality is, when you’re in a position where nobody believes anything you’re saying, you have to censor—at least if you think like the left does.

And that’s exactly why they’re doing what they’re doing. Instead of having a full and open public debate, saying, “Look, these people who are critical of the safety of the vaccines, they’re completely wrong. Here are the data. We’re in the right. Trust us,” they can’t do that because the data don’t support them. And so, they’ve had to engage in this conduct.

And again, I really think we’ve only scratched the surface. Again, it’s only the first 286 pages and that’s just from the CDC, so there’s a lot more going on.

And Doug, I can break some news for you. We are issuing a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general, [Christi] Grimm, asking her to conduct an investigation of this. We think this is clearly illegal, clearly inappropriate. And with any luck, we’ll get a serious response from the IG. We’re really hoping that we do.

Blair: Well, John, that’s incredible news. And I guess, if you could go a little bit more in depth about what you’re hoping to find with that letter, what you’re hoping to find with these sort of revelations here?

Zadrozny: Yeah. So, I think what we’re hoping is that the inspector general’s investigation is not only able to bring to light some of the other components of HHS that were involved in this—again, we only were talking about CDC, which is technically under HHS. We sent letters to the National Institutes of Health. We sent letters to HHS headquarters and other federal officials and federal agencies.

She may be able to pull it all together in her investigation. But also, she’ll have access to documents that we don’t. And with any luck, she’ll actually bring to light the full scope of this.

We had to use what’s called the Freedom of Information Act to get the documents that we’ve got, and even then we had to take this all the way to a federal judge. She doesn’t have those constraints. With any luck, she’ll actually do her job. We’ll see.

Blair: Now, it sounds like she’s obviously not likely to do that, unless she’s forced to do so. What does it say about this administration that it seems like these revelations have to come out through the work of citizen journalists and organizations like yours, instead of them just saying, “Look, we have a vested interest in this policy going this one way”? What does that say about how this administration is viewing this topic?

Zadrozny: What it says to me, Doug, is that they view themselves as on the wrong side of the issue where they need to hide from the truth. And they can’t have an open conversation and win a credibility-based conversation with the American public.

And I think you could, unfortunately, I think you can apply this to almost every issue area in their purview right now—energy production to national security and so on. They’re too busy throwing, I guess, American parents who attend school board meetings in jail as domestic terrorists to focus on actual medical safety and integrity.

I think another lesson, too, Doug, if I may, is I think we’re probably seeing what happens when we have a federal government that’s just way too large.

People on the right for years—and to their credit, it’s a good argument, it just hasn’t really fallen on ears and it hasn’t resonated—the small government argument has always been a fiscal one. The argument has always been, “We spend too much money. We spend too much money.” Well, that’s all true.

And we may actually be seeing, we may have finally hit the point in the United States where we are starting to see those proverbial chickens come home to roost with high inflation, etc. But it doesn’t resonate.

And I think it’s partly, without getting too much into it, I think it’s because most Americans don’t deal with anything near those numbers of that type of money. Those numbers just kind of glaze over—a trillion here or a trillion there.

But I think the argument that really does resonate with Americans across the country at home in small communities is this is what happens when you have a government that’s too large, and has too much money, and has too many employees, it becomes too radical. And you need to rein it in.

And the only way to really rein it in, it’s not a bunch of old white guys wagging fingers at oversight hearings. It’s shrinking federal agency budgets, saying, “Look, you’re being punished for not doing your jobs. In fact, you’re being punished for using money for things that are dangerous, unconstitutional, and suppressing rights.”

I think it’s one of the most serious conversations we need to have over the next 10 years, Doug, is have we reached the point where we’ve seen too much? We’ve seen what a big federal government really means for the republic, it’s not good and it needs to be shrunk.

Blair: Right. Now, John, that raises an interesting point. We have this information, it sounds like you are taking action, specifically with this letter to the IG, but what can conservatives do? We have the proof now, we have the evidence to show that there was collusion between these massive government bodies and Big Tech. What do we do with that information?

Zadrozny: That’s a great question. That’s the million-dollar question, right? I think for now, because Republicans, conservatives don’t run the executive branch, there’s nothing that can be done there.

In theory, Republicans, if they are to win control of Congress and take it seriously, and actually push back against the corruption of this administration, they could cut budgets. There could be some oversight. Maybe they could recommend potential civil or criminal action against people who have potentially violated federal law.

That’s obviously not going to be acted on by this current administration, but you can put a file together and have it sit there and wait for the right time. And then say, “Look, this person should be looked at for civil violations. This person should be looked at for criminal violations.”

I think this information opens doors for states and even private litigants to possibly file their own litigation. And so I am tempted to say, I’m sure you are too, “Well, so what, John? Another lawsuit?” It does add up. And having been on the inside of an administration, every time you get sued, it takes attorneys and people away from doing X or Y because they have to deal with a lawsuit.

And if it’s not a frivolous lawsuit—and they shouldn’t be frivolous lawsuits, they should be legitimate lawsuits—you’re going to find a lot. There’s going to be a lot to talk about and there’s going to be a lot to answer for.

So for now, I think that’s the best-case scenario. But I would also say that the one thing everyone can do—public, anyone listening here, anyone who cares about this issue or any of these issues—just pay attention to all of this. And then when the time comes, make sure we remember all of this to take action inside the executive branch. An awful lot of people are going to need to be fired.

Blair: Now, as we’re having this conversation, it seems so odd to me that there’s been no, I don’t want to say justification because it doesn’t really sound like it’s justifiable, but there’s nothing coming from the administration to say, “Yeah, we own up to this.” They’re almost trying to push back. Has Big Tech even tried to justify this or are they just hoping this blows over?

Zadrozny: It’s to be determined. I haven’t really seen anyone on the government side respond to this in any meaningful way. And I suspect that private companies, the Big Tech companies are going to say exactly what you mentioned in the beginning, saying, “Well, we’re private. We can do what we want.” Although at the same time, it’s interesting because they’re in an interesting spot.

There are some Republicans, not all, it’s not a uniform opinion, but some Republicans have proposed getting rid of Section 230 of the federal Communications Act, which would strip the Big Tech platforms who operate via the internet with some of their protections.

Don’t forget the whole justification for Section 230 is immunity from content. So they got a lot of benefits by saying, “Look, we’re just kind of the Wild West forum. We don’t police.” Well, now they’re policing, and they’re policing at government direction, and it changes the equation.

And getting rid of Section 230 may or may not be a helpful thing. I actually defer to others on that. But I do think that the private sector’s going to say, “We can do what we want.” But then if you dare say, “Well, we have to change how you’re regulated,” I’m sure they’ll bristle at that.

I don’t expect the federal government to own up to any of this. But the reality is, again, this is just the tip of the iceberg. These people are very comfortable.

It’s pretty clear, too, by the way, there’s no concealment in these documents of their conduct. In other words, it’s not like we got five emails back and all of this happened by phone. They see no problem with this. And so, I don’t suspect that they are willing to say [they’ve] done anything wrong, because they probably don’t think they’ve done anything wrong.

I’m sure they had couch it as, “We’re doing this for the right reasons.” But as you know as well as I do, Doug, the road to hell is in fact paved with good intentions. And so, just because you feel like doing something and you think it’s a good thing, it … doesn’t mean it’s constitutional.

Blair: Right, right. I wonder if there was even some success to this. One of the arguments that I’ve almost heard a couple of different times from people on the right is that when you start to push censorship, it becomes much more difficult for you to justify yourself as the person in the right. To be super nerdy for a second, the quote from “Game of Thrones,” “If you rip a man’s tongue out, you’re afraid of what he has to say.”

It almost sounds like maybe there’s this sense of, “Well, we know we’re not in the right here, so we’re just going to do it anyway.” And that actually creates a backlash. What are your thoughts on that?

Zadrozny: No, I think you’re correct. Except the problem is I get the sense that the Biden administration, as the metaphor for the left writ large, is just kind of going for broke on all things right now. Because I think it’s a combination of things, at least that’s my theory.

One is, I think they see the writing on the wall for the fall elections. Now, Republicans can be weak at times, but I think at the end of the day, they’d still rather have control of Congress, and they’re not happy with the possibility of a wild card Congress asking a lot of questions, and obviously ruining their chances of winning reelection in 2024.

But I don’t think they see that they’ve done anything wrong. I think they’re just … going to double down or triple down. And they have to do a lot of this stuff, because I think to some degree on this issue and many, many others, the gig is up. And the more is exposed, the more it reveals the brokenness of federal government and the need to do things more than just wag fingers at oversight hearings.

And I’m hoping that what this does is actually get people to realize we can’t just do things the way we used to. The same old, same old is just not going to work in a future Congress, in a future administration. This federal government needs to be scrubbed and reassembled for the benefit of the American people.

Blair: And do you think that removing things like Section 230 or taking action against Big Tech companies that do this type of thing would be an acceptable solution?

Zadrozny: I think putting them in a place where they have to consider liability for removing people inappropriately or otherwise could actually be helpful. Why is it so that they get this protection that allows them to be immune from content?

In a way, you would think that if they had this immunity, this would be their way of responding to the federal government, “Look, sorry, Mr. President, we’re not going to work with you guys because we don’t want to lose our 230 status. We want this to be sort of a Wild West medium of communication.”

So yeah, I think that’s one thing that would make a difference. I think if you want to drive a point home, point at their dollars. And their ability to make money here is something that’s a big deal.

I’ve often thought, one thing, if governments—and I don’t just mean the federal government, I mean the state governments, local governments—they want to make a difference, I think one thing you could do is just get rid of your Twitter accounts, get rid of your Facebook accounts. Why are these governments that proclaim to be opposed to what these platforms are doing still on them?

Now, the devil’s advocate argument is, well, you might as well use their medium against them. But the reality is, once you start using their medium against them to an effective degree, you get pulled off. So why give them the revenue? Just get out of it.

And at some point I’d love to see the federal government deal with this when there’s an administration that is not interested in supporting these platforms anymore, and we’ll see what happens.

But yeah, follow the money. If you can make it painful for them economically, they’ll stop their behavior.

Blair: Now, as we begin to wrap-up here, I want to give you an opportunity to really focus in and highlight on what you think people should be looking at. So first off, where can people, if they want to look at these documents for themselves, where can they go? And then, what do you recommend they really pay attention to as they’re troving through these? As you mentioned, there’s quite a few of them. So what do you think they should be looking out for?

Zadrozny: Well, Doug, one thing I would strongly recommend is if people do want to see the documents—and thank you for the plug—please come to aflegal.org. That’s aflegal.org. You can see the work we’ve done on this and also many, many other things, everything from immigration to national security to education.

But in terms of this trove, again, we’re going to need some eyes, and people’s expertise and thoughts based on their conduct. So when you go look at these emails, please, please, let us know if you see anything of interest.

For example, … you’ll see names in these emails, but not all of them, because some of them are redacted. So if anyone has any information about any of the names around those FOIA exemptions the agency used to cover other people’s names, let us know.

One thing I’m curious to know is, are there any professional or economic connections between the people in the federal government and these companies? For example, it identifies by name some people who work for Twitter, Facebook, and Google, who interact with the federal government. But do they have a spouse at the CDC? Do they have a spouse at NIH? These are things that are frequently concealed.

And it’s funny because the leftist administrations always tend to have couples involved in things. And sometimes that manifests in the form of Mr. Jones works at the Department of Treasury and Mrs. Jones works on the White House counsel staff. But sometimes it’s not even all in government. So for example, maybe the federal job of Mr. Jones is dependent upon Mrs. Jones at Twitter, doing what the federal government says.

If it’s the stuff that we don’t know—in fact, the best way I could say it, Doug, is, it’s the unknown unknowns in the production. And if anyone’s got any thoughts, and also if you happen to be one of these people who are working for these Big Tech companies who are familiar with some of this, come reach out to us.

You don’t exist, we will make sure you don’t exist, but we could use your help and information, and anything you’ve got to offer. Because really, it comes down to the people behind the scenes who say, “Hey, I know I’m part of this. I’ve seen this, it’s wrong. I want to help.”

If you’re willing to come check out those documents, please give us a shout and keep your eyes out for further tranches of documents and further information from these agencies and hopefully an honest inspector general’s report regarding the content of this whole scandal across the Department of Health and Human Services.

Blair: Sounds like a wonderful opportunity for Americans to get involved. That was John Zadrozny, deputy director of investigations at the America First Legal Foundation. John, very much appreciate your time.

Zadrozny: Thank you, Doug, for your time. I appreciate it.

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This article was published by the Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.

Why Should We Have Confidence in Public Health Officials?

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Among the many casualties of government reaction to the Wuhan virus, has been the prestige of the public health establishment.  This is true in the U.S. and elsewhere as well.

They lied about the origins of the virus and continue to do so.

Those that do acknowledge that it likely came from a lab leak, most refuse to ask who funded the research that lead to the escape and who should be held responsible for damages to the world.

In the US, we were told masks were effective at stopping the virus.  And so it was said internationally. We now know, that except under hospital circumstances, that simply was not true.

To be fair, President Trump made some stupid remarks about ultraviolet light. Some suggested he said to inject bleach. But his ideas were dismissed promptly with contempt because he was not a doctor or a public health official. In fact, the press howled if he didn’t follow their expert advice. His first instinct, you might recall, was “two weeks to bend the curve”. It turned out to be two years and the curve is still there to some extent.

But in the end, who did more damage to our society: the amateurs or the professionals?

We now know, because of the self-congratulating book by Dr. Deborah Birx, that much of public health advisories were simply made up. The effectiveness of the 6-foot circle, the vaccines, and the boosters to the vaccines were all said to be vital to public health.

The Scarf lady said so. And it made such an impression on the public, that one still sees mask wearers, peddling their bicycles alone, outside in 110-degree heat. Media-induced brain damage apparently is permanent for some.

President Biden said if you get the vaccine, you won’t get Covid. He is twice vaccinated, twice boosted, and has Covid. He is a walking refutation of the BS peddled by Public Health officials and swallowed uncritically by most of the medical profession. Few seem to acknowledge that the President’s very condition destroys everything the man had said on the matter.

Here we have a 79-year-old man, fully vaccinated and boosted, living in a controlled masked-wearing environment, with an attending physician at his elbow, and he gets the virus. And at this juncture, he appears to be doing fine with it.

If that is true, is it worth shutting down society again as suggested recently by the New York Times and Dr. Fauci on his new media tour?

Their lame excuse is all the vaccines and boosters made the condition less lethal. How do we know that? The virus keeps mutating, and the vaccines and boosters may not be effective against the variants at present and the variants to be. And besides, he was taking therapeutics as he should. But if he is taking effective therapeutics, that could account for the milder symptoms. Also, it could be just a milder variant.

That the public, through fear, lost all ability to think critically. That too is a story worth telling.

But to stay on point, it is doubtful many of us can ever look at doctors, and “scientists” the same way ever again. If they can lie so easily, or more charitably, be that gullible, leap to conclusions without scientific basis; why should we believe them about anything?

They divided the American people and it has ruined relationships between relatives and friends. That rift continues today.

They may well have wrecked the global economy, which will cause great pain and likely echo for years to come.

They trampled our liberties: our freedom to assemble (unless you are rioting on behalf of BLM), to worship, and even to conduct our business. They shut down arbitrarily some businesses and left others alone. They interfered in the mortgage markets, interfered with private contracts between renters and owners, shut down schools, destroyed domestic and international supply chains, and contributed to great inflation.

Their policies may well have killed more people than the virus. Millions did not show up for checkups for their heart conditions, cancer, and other maladies. There has been a surge in suicide and drug abuse, spousal abuse, and child abuse. Why are not these issues matters of public health?

They did this in the name of lockdown. But now we have the data. There is virtually no difference in outcomes between harsh lockdown states such as California and more freedom-loving states like Florida. The same is true internationally. Soft lockdown countries such as Sweden had better outcomes than countries like New Zealand.

They said if you get the vaccine, you won’t get Covid. Then they said if you get the vaccine, you won’t spread Covid. The latter statement put responsibility that was misplaced on those who preferred not to take an experimental possibly gene-altering drug. It is you vaccine refusniks that are spreading Covid! The President said it was a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Members of the armed forces were dismissed, nurses were fired, and tennis stars were denied entry into countries and competitions.

The “logic” seemed to suggest the unvaccinated were spreading the virus to those already protected by the vaccine? How could that be if the vaccine is effective for those who took it? None of it made any sense, but non-mask-wearing individuals were subject to at a minimum the “stink eye”, but also emotional retribution, and at worst, job dismissal. No one has said they are sorry. And as suggested earlier, it hasn’t ended. Los Angeles seems to want to crank up mandatory mask wearing again and the left’s chief spiritual leader, the New York Times, wants to bring lockdown back.

It would seem evidence of failure is no deterrent to those who heard the original incorrect statements by health officials. For them it seems, it is cast in stone as the tablets delivered on Mt. Sinai.

James Agresti has an excellent service called Just Facts Daily. One of his more recent ones asked this question: In the United Kingdom during 2022, what portion of all deaths involving Covid-19 have been among people who were fully vaccinated and boosted? Was it about 25%, 50%, or 75%?  Which percentage is closer to actual results?

Yours truly pondered that we know vaccines were not effective, but likely they would not be worse than having not taken the jab at all, so I picked 50%. I was wrong.

The correct answer was 75%. Thus in the UK, public vaccinations may have made more people ill and killed more people than if they had done nothing. The other way to spin it is it was precisely those most vulnerable who took the jab, and thus it is the frailties of this group that accounts for greater deaths. That may possibly be true. But if it is true, why the push to vaccinate everyone, of every age, and of every condition?

Remember it was part of Covid policy to keep everyone at home (except made-up definitions of whose job was critical), to mask everyone, and to jab everyone, repeatedly. It was not limited to the elderly or those with co-morbidities.

Recall as well, that it was important for people to be able to go to titty bars, but not to church? Looking back, these officials look worse than silly.

The latest push is to vaccinate babies, a group that has not shown vulnerabilities. This is from the same people that disrupted schools for two years, stunted language development in formative years, and touched off a record of teenage suicides. Well, they had our interests at heart, did they not?

Getting back to the specific British study, here are supporting statements from Mr. Agresti:

An accurate measure of the vaccine status of people who die with Covid-19 is available from the United Kingdom, where government keeps detailed healthcare records on nearly all citizens. The latest data from the UK Office of National Statistics shows that 74% of all deaths involving Covid-19 from 1/1/22 to 5/31/22 were among people who were fully vaccinated and boosted. As the UK Health Security Agency has explained, “it is expected that a large proportion of cases, hospitalisations and deaths would occur in vaccinated individuals, simply because a larger proportion of the population are vaccinated than unvaccinated and no vaccine is 100% effective. This is especially true because vaccination has been prioritised in individuals who are more susceptible or more at risk of severe disease.”

Documentation of this ia at the following link: Latest UK DataData & Calculations (Excel)Not a Pandemic of the Unvaccinated.

Sadly, it would seem the reason we cannot have faith in public health officials is they destroyed their own credibility. The media spread their falsehoods and the politicians enforced them.

Stand by for the next crusade. It looks like it will be about global warming!

New Study Challenges CDC Evidence on School Masking

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, adults placed a significant burden on children. An analysis from McKinsey & Co. shows pandemic school closures and hybrid learning resulted in a significant drop in student achievement, costing students $49,000 to $61,000 in future lifetime earnings. This outcome in addition to the mental health toll reveals that school closings and various restrictions had significant consequences for students.

As the country revoked masking restrictions, schools came last. Students wore masks for months after business and citywide mandates disappeared. Now large school districts like Philadelphia’s, are reintroducing mask mandates in response to rising cases.

School districts justify these mandates by relying on observational studies produced by the CDC. The most influential of these studies is “Pediatric COVID-19 Cases in Counties With and Without School Mask Requirements — United States, July 1–September 4, 2021”, authored by Budzyn et al.

Unsurprisingly, the authors find that “Counties without school mask requirements experienced larger increases in pediatric COVID-19 case rates after the start of school compared with counties that had school mask requirements.” Yet, one must remember the now overused saying: Correlation does not equal causation. 

However, a new re-analysis of the data used in the study, produced by Ambarish Chandra and Tracy Høeg, finds that school masking is not associated with pediatric case rates. 

Chandra and Høeg’s analysis, which uses a larger population and longer time interval, is more comprehensive than the CDC’s. Their results show no relationship between mandating masks in schools and COVID case rates in students. The authors also highlight problems with the initial CDC study, including context surrounding biases in the CDC’s medical journal and related scientific publications.

Study Methods and Results

The authors maintain that their study serves two purposes: first, to replicate and extend the original study, and second, to illuminate problems with observational studies. Their second purpose is important for public health policy, as observational studies using limited data have been used by the CDC to justify numerous public health interventions.

Using the same methods and criteria as the CDC study, they expand the sample size by analyzing “data from three weeks prior to schools opening to six weeks following opening” in contrast to the two-week timeframe used in the original study. Further, the authors use data from a more recent release (October 25), to create an additional larger sample set of counties which they use to evaluate the robustness of their results.

They find that “using the same methods and sample construction criteria as Budzyn et al., but a larger sample size and expanded time frame for analysis, we fail to detect a significant association between school mask mandates and pediatric COVID-19 cases.”

The authors argue that the discrepancies between the two studies are a result of the CDC’s oversampling of schools in Southern states that start in August. In contrast, their paper includes Northern states that start school in September.

CDC Bias

The new study also highlights issues of biases within the CDC’s research. For instance, the CDC’s own journal, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) refused to publish Chandra and Høeg’s work. This is curious, given that the authors exactly replicated the CDC’s own paper with additional data and robustness. As they explain,

Certain journals may also only publish findings that fit their preference, as was the case with our analysis; our expanded version of the original Budzyn et al publication was not accepted for publication by MMWR despite using the same methods, but with an expanded population and time frame. This bias can lead to the published “science” being a self-fulfilling prophecy rather than an unbiased pursuit of truth.

Conclusion

The results of this study demonstrate, with more data and robustness than the CDC’s own paper, that masks in schools are an ineffective tool against COVID-19. The CDC’s decision not to publish this study in their journal only further discredits the agency. While unsurprising given their propensity for choosing politics over science throughout the pandemic, the CDC is only doing our children a disservice by promoting policies that may do more harm than good.

*****

This article was published by AIER, American Institute for Economic Research, and is reproduced with permission.