Where finance and media intersect with reality

Why Canada is cultivating an M-pesa moment for bitcoin

canada

As mentioned the other day, I am on the go this week due to it being half term.

Nonetheless, I wanted to quickly draw readers’ attention to the following Globe and Mail piece by Tim Kiladze, mostly because it quotes me. For those who don’t know, the Globe and Mail is one of Canada’s most widely read daily/weekend newspapers. So it was very nice to be contacted for comment (even tho my husband immediately joked that it’s a red flag when journalists interview other journalists. Fair comment to a degree, I guess. But I think drawing on another journo’s specific expertise is fair.)

I was supposed to talk to Tim in person, but our schedules couldn’t quite make it work. So I sent him an email clarifying my view on some of the points he raised with me. Most of these were focused on his concerns about the rise of an uncontrollable parallel crypto economy.

I think he did a relatively good job of representing my thoughts, so Tim if you’re reading this, this is not intended to be a dig at you at all. I just thought I would add my broader perspective, for the sake of contextualising my comments. As a journalist, I know the constraints that word count have on what’s published.

Below you will find the email that I finally dispatched to Tim (on the third go because of connection issues). Tim replied to the below with the very good counterpoint that Trudeau was only re-elected to power September, 2021, having run on a vaccine mandate ticket, which means as far as he is concerned he has a mandate from the people to do what he is doing.

I agree with Tim to a degree. I think this fact definitely undermines accusations of Trudeau being a dictator. And for what it’s worth, I do think claims that “democracy” is at risk are a little far fetched. This is hardly a Caesar dictator for life situation. It’s more like a precursor – the moment when Pompey/Caesar tried to score domestic popularity by ridding the Romans of the pirate threat.

That said, the Covid situation today (i.e. February 2022) is very different to the situation voters were presented with in September. In the interim, there have been a number of developments that could have changed popular opinion significantly. The biggest of these is obviously the Omicron variant, which has led to rampant transmission and re-infection rates among the vaccinated. The other is the award-winning journalism from Paul Thacker, which came out in November, 2021, regarding data intergity issues with the Pfizer trials. Last of all, there’s the fact there are now a number of jurisdictions (England among them) that prove that mandate/health-passport policy does little to influence overall infection rates or mortality. Indeed, look to the UK in general as an example of a country that has seen support for Covid measures collapse in a very short space of time (aided in large part by revelations that core leadership had a compliance issue from day one).

In a democracy, when the facts change, it’s important to be open to the prospect of policy revision. This is especially the case if the policy in question is as unprecedented and far reaching as Covid mandates. Doubling down, slamming emergency powers on the situation and treating everyone questioning the policies as a potential insurrectionist who follows Qanon is incredibly bad optics for a democratic state. The latest speech from Chrystia Not-so-Freeland, meanwhile, seems nothing more than free advertising for cryptocurrencies. (It’s almost like they want to prove the bitcoiners right — which is bizarre in itself.)

Gamestopping Canada

Concerns about capital flight and deposit runs are no doubt overdone. The Canadian banking system is one of the most resilient and best capitalised in the world. It would take more than a deposit run to undermine it. The banking outage statistics which are doing the rounds, meanwhile, are hardly indicative of anything. I wouldn’t pay much attention to them. They may be a valid “stress indicator” for deposit flight in the crypto world, but they’re entirely meaningless in a system underpinned by a central bank that has no qualms about dishing out liquidity. (This is also why now is different to 2008. Back then dishing out liquidity in response to any stress point was not normalised to the degree it is now.)

This reality, of course, is unlikely to stop the Gamestop generation from having a go regardless. They might even look to Soros’ 1992 move on the Bank of England as an example of what can be achieved with the right coordination and motivation. The breaking of the Bank of England is a relevant historical marker, for sure, but it’s also silly to imply a total equivalence. There is clearly no exchange rate mechanism to break Canada away from.

There is, however, a much more destabilising scenario on the horizon if the government continues to poke the crypto dragon. And frankly, I’m surprised Trudeau (True dough? True cash? Not-so-true dough – can I go there?) and Chrystia Not-so-Freeland have not figured this out.

This pertains mostly to the risk their actions trigger an M-pesa moment for bitcoin.

M-pesa, the hugely popular privately-managed parallel currency (in the Tether sense) of Kenya, didn’t gain the popular ground it now holds because of a simple launch campaign by Safaricom. What cemented its mass adoption was the practical utility it offered the population in the aftermath of the post-election chaos of 2008. As the following extract from a report about customer usage and impact from M-pesa by the World-Bank hosted CGAP group explains, it really began to flourish when conventional capital flows (from rural to urban hands) reversed because of system-wide disruptions in the country. My emphasis throughout:

4. M-PESA flows reversed during Kenya’s post-election crisis, with rural users sending money and airtime to urban contacts. Money transfers typically flow from urban centers to rural areas in Kenya. However, flows were reversed during the country’s 2008 post-election crises. During this period, money and airtime cards could not be physically transported across the country. Many of the roads were blocked by rioting youth, and the railway was dismantled. Many urban migrants needed money to escape the threat of ethnic violence and airtime to communicate about their situation. Some migrants received help from friends and relatives in the village, who transferred both money and airtime via M-PESA. Others withdrew cash from M-PESA if they had a balance in their account. Most banks remained closed during the crisis, which made it difficult to access money. Some agents in urban areas affected by violence confirm that demand for services was high during this period and that urban customers were making withdrawals rather than deposits.

For Kenya this was a pivotal economic moment, as it represented the point when the core banking system became beholden to a private telecoms group. Via these dynamics Safaricom soon became a de facto monopoly agent of digital money in the country. Indeed, one of the reasons it’s been hard for other nations to replicate the M-pesa phenomenon to the same degree is because governments have got wise to the power transfer that occurred in Kenya. They aren’t going to sit back and allow a similar monopoly take hold of their systems. As a result, most of the digital money efforts coming to market since then have been cultivated in the framework of “competition”. All well and good, but the competition in itself — and the fragmentation that comes with it — has proven a major friction point for wider adoption. If everyone’s not on the same page, there is no network effect, and thus not the same scale of utility.

My position on crypto has evolved over time to appreciate this factor. Crypto may not be an optimal system. It’s clunky. It’s energy intensive. It’s confusing. But as a back-up system for when the shit really hits the fan, it’s an incredibly worthwhile system to have in place and I increasingly think we should be grateful that some deep-pocketed individuals with concerns for freedom and privacy took the risks they did to make it become a thing.

I have in the past compared crypto to a monetary equivalent of the right to bear arms, whose main purpose, many argue, is to act as a deterrent to rising authoritarianism. Its optimal deployment is as a right that it is never actually exercised.

Crypto should be treated the same way. On a day to day basis, it’s much better for us all to trust in a centralised and properly supervised system. But having crypto there as a challenger or backup system is no bad thing. It should in theory enhance the core system by helping to keep it honest and working in our interests.

Those, anyhow, are a few points to keep in mind for now.

Here’s the full email I dispatched to Tim (and apologies for typos, rubbish turns of phrase, etc, it was drafted while trying to supervise a four year old):

Basically just to reply to your points I am still very sceptical of crypto. It is a suboptimal money management system in a functional economy. Indeed, in a functional economy, It is always better IMHO to have a trust based centralised system with good supervision. But my extremely cynical view for many years was supported by my trust in democracy and a functional government. I thought it was absurd when bitcoiners would suggest the government would one day confiscate your assets. The concession I have made in recent post Covid years is that I can’t be sure any more that western governments are immune to that sort of authoritarian overreach anymore. For me the implementation of vaccine mandates and health passports in an executive manner without democratic confirmation is an extremely concerning sign of that. Not so much because of Covid, but because once they are installed they will be very hard to wind back.

Underground economies are a function of free societies sadly -but the underground economy is held in check via broader social inclusion and wealth distribution so there doesn’t need to be an underclass that feels disenfranchised, pissed off and thus desperate enough to engage in illegal activities. The perfect free society gives you the right to err, but that right is rarely exercised because trust is high. If shadow economies get large that’s not a failing of the people as much as the low trust authorities.

Trust seems to be being lost because concerns are rarely addressed by authority figures. Stigma has been weaponised and concerns laughed off as crazy regardless of how much evidence or contrarian expert opinion is out there to support them.

Mandates for emergency approved experimental vaccines that rely on gene therapy (and don’ prevent transmission) feels to me like an extremely heavy handed ruling.

The fact you can’t even say these vaccines are gene therapy (which they are) is a sign of the problem.

The ruling is particularly unfair for younger demographics. I don’t think questioning this policy is an absurd or illogical view. It is not comparable to questioning a mandate for a vaccine with 10 years worth of clinical data, or a delivery technology that is proven.

You may or may not agree with the truckers, and I’m obviously not on the ground so I can only comment on things from the perspective of a foreign observer, but it seems incredibly poor politics to resort to heavy handed measures like emergency acts rather than to engage with the truckers and their key concerns.

I think much of this could have been avoided if politicians had treated those raising concerns as equals rather than as demented nutters. I’m sure some portion of the truckers are extremist. But this is true of any broad protest movement and is an easy tactic to deploy to derail any legitimate questioning of authority these days from BLM to Extinction Rebellion.

Finally, as someone who has investigated the lab leak theory for the FT first hand, I am aware of how much pressure there is on top tier scientists to not speak out against authority. I am aware of how easy it is to bury bad news too. I am not confident that the usual whistleblower channels that are supposed to keep bad practice in check in democracies are fully functioning.

I am pro vaccine, but I am also pro choice, and I am pro empathy with those who have lost trust in authority. You can’t win that trust back by deploying heavy handed measures. You need to listen. Not necessarily act. But listen at the very least.

Also, while civil disobedience is annoying and disruptive, it is not equivalent to terrorism. And preemptively judging everyone as guilty and subject to potential financial defunding or clawbacks is against the spirit of habeas corpus.

Crypto is a terrible system. And I would seriously rather not operate via its channels. But with great centralisation comes great authority, and having a pesky challenger in the mix is probably a good thing. It keeps the core system honest. It’s the reason we have a shadow government in politics too. A challenger system keeps things in balance, and prevents the forces of corruption taking root in the core system. The best scenario is one where bitcoin is there as an option but very rarely used.

The fiat world should compete with bitcoin etc and win because it is more honourable and more efficient, not because it is mandated.

 

 

 

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32 Responses

  1. Dear Iza, firstly as a fellow Balham Pole I wish you well with this venture, and have been reading your stuff for years with interest in he FT.

    I work closely with the people who developed the vaccine here in Oxford and have spent a great deal of time fighting the antivaxxers in the Polish community (not very successfully, I might add), so I have dug deeply into their arguments.

    I struggle to recognise how using a bit of nucleic acid to elicit an immune response can be classed as gene therapy. Gene therapy is when you introduce a gene into the DNA to change the genome.

    1. Hello there,
      And thanks for the note. Do see the rest of my comments in this stream. I think I’ve addressed the answer already. I don’t disagree with your conclusion – my main point is that I don’t think it’s incorrect phrasing even if it should really not be used as a fly away term and be properly contextualised. I certainly don’t think it’s irrational for people to have concerns – and I am baffled why people think talking down to those who are concerned or calling them idiots in a disparaging way is going to somehow help. Engagement and being sincere with some of the points they do make which are correct even if not contextually relevant is a much better strategy.

      I’m not a scientist so I can only go by what informed individuals tell me. And I am getting mixed messages from informed people on many levels.

      1. Having been up to my eyeballs in this since the vaccines came out, I am still waiting to hear serious concerns that are not in the flat earth-creationist category. Yes there are side effects, and some deaths (< 1 in a million), but the vaccine has saved millions of lives, and the risk benefit ratio is overwhelming. None of the vaccines affect the genome and none are gene therapy.
        There is only so much tolerance one can or should have for people who are offering advice to others that will result in their unnecessary deaths. Sorry if I sound a bit Taliban about this, but it has been a distressing experience watching young people succumb to covid because they have listened to all this nonsense.

        1. Sorry disagree regarding the tolerance point. And the statistics simply do not justify what you are saying about young people. It is always distressing to see young people succumb to any disease. Covid is a bad disease. I had it before vaccines. Wasn’t pleasant. But it wasn’t awful either. And it’s obviously more dangerous for some people than others. Vaccines have reduced the deadliness, which is great, but they’re far from perfect and not devoid of their own risk — and arguably have now been outmatched by Omicron (Bill Gates’ words not mine).

          1. Sorry, but statement “Omicron being better than vaccines” is bonkers. Not sure who said that and when, and what exactly “outmatched” means, but it’s bonkers in any imaginable meaning of that statement. Couple of weeks ago we had over 3 thousand Americans dying of Covid every day, many/most from Omicron.

          2. Bill Gates did not say Omicron is better than the vaxing for Gods sake. He said that sadly Omicron got to untold millions first before we were able to vaccinate them. And millions died as a result. You are still trying to weigh vanishingly minuscule risks of vaccines with deadly risks of Covid. Sorry, I am out of here, this is not serious.

          3. The quote is literally:
            “Sadly the virus itself, the variant called Omicron, is a type of vaccine in that it creates both B cell and T cell immunity. And it’s done a better job of getting out to the world population than we have with vaccines.”
            You’re really going to very extreme lengths to quibble with basic semantics. This is obviously not a critique of vaccines, but in part rhetorical reflection about the luck of the omicron variant being less deadly. But the reality of the situation stands.

            https://www.government.is/news/article/2022/02/23/COVID-19-Lifting-of-all-domestic-restrictions-and-restrictions-at-the-border/

        2. I enclose the comment of Dr Ramasamy, the clinician in the Oxford Vaccine Group to your post from George Church.

          Hi Adam,
          Overall the gene therapy and translation dependent vaccines are similar in that they trick host cells into producing a specific protein.
          However, in gene therapy, the gene target is a self gene and not a foreign gene (eg spike) and so doesn’t generate an immune response. Secondly, in gene therapy, genetic inserts are designed to stick around for a while – at least the life time of the cell or, for example, when using a retrovirus vector which integrates target gene into host genome, for subsequent cell divisions too.
          Hope that helps,

          The conclusion is that some vaccines are inserted into cells as gene therapy is. They then promote the production by the host cell of spike proteins. The key is that they are not incorporated into the genome, and do not alter in the long term the nature of the genome after subsequent cell divisions.
          Gene therapy is to make the cell change in the long term the proteins the cells produce. Vaccines do not do this, as their effect is brief.

          Vaccines resemble gene therapy in their mode of delivery and in their brief mode of action. I think George Church has phrased it badly.
          Vaccines are not gene therapy.

          1. “Overall the gene therapy and translation dependent vaccines are similar” – I think that echoes what George Church said, personally.

  2. I would not characterize my response as knee-jerk. No credible health source (say eg FDA, CDC) characterizes Covid-19 vaccines as gene-therapy. In fact many have postings expressly refuting this labeling. Most credible media sources (Reuters and Forbes come up first on google search) have prominent pieces on why these are NOT gene therapies.

    No health regulatory agencies have approved them under the gene-therapy label. Many, like FDA, has a specific category for gene therapy products, so this is crystal-clear demonstration of their understanding of this issue.

    Many scientists have spoken against mis-labeling Covid-19 vaccines as gene-therapies. You have found ONE (yes, a prominent one) that vaguely (he seems to focus on modes of delivery) agrees to.

    You have yourself brought-up the gene-therapy in your response to Tim and alluded to some vague efforts of silencing these who purport to think otherwise. I am not aware of any such efforts: what I hear against gene-therapy labeling is based on current scientific understanding, in fact I would argue, a consensus. I would not be the one to make a big deal out of this particular issue- but it seems like it something you regard as important. I am sure, however, the issue for you here is not how scientists finally classify the gene-therapy genre on an ontology of all medical therapies, though currently almost all of the community comes down on rather narrower definition than the one Dr Church seems to have proposed.

    The issue seems -like you mention – to “get to the truth” for the broader public. The truth is that vaccines are safe: much safer than most products FDA understands as gene therapies (which are approved for treatment of rare and fatal diseases and can tolerate a much lower threshold for safety due to inherent risk-benefit analysis), and not burdened by prior disasters of gene therapies (like that of Jesse Gelsinger) even if they have come a long way since then.

    But for broader public the label gene therapy is something synonymous with “experimental”, “high-risk”, “lethal”, “huge potential adverse effects”. If you want to go against scientific and clinical consensus and write a piece about why Covid-19 vaccines should be called gene-therapies – fine (I think it would bore most people, but that is not my call). But the main issue would be to explain how they are still fully approved, extremely safe and effective (to varying degree, based on outcome and variant) preventive therapies that have saved millions of lives so far.

    As for an earlier point: there are a number of publications that characterize vaccine effectiveness (VE) against specifically Omicron infection. There was a large drop, but not to zero. Like you I am not in a business of making unsupported claims. (below is one pre-print from my colleagues using province-wide data on 14.7 million people that show lowered two-dose efficacy against Omicron which increased back to delta-levels after booster).

    https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.12.30.21268565v2

    A more subtle issue is that of VE against onward transmission. Do vaccines cut the risk of infecting others even you have a breakthrough infection? For Omicron, the answer seems be yes but these are early days. And this would be expected: in general in most other Infectious disease situations, even if the vaccinated person ends up with infection, his/her chance of infecting others is often lower.

    There is more evidence of that with delta variant – where we faced similar conundrum: lowered VE (infection) – especially with single dose, but also with double. But the VE against transmission was still significant. Eg:

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0033350622000063

    The data is still coming in Omicron, and my understanding from talking with colleagues is that we will see proportionate numbers. Sorry, I don’t have a link of any omicron specific publication on that topic in hand, but am definitely not aware of any that (as you mention) contradict that expectation.

    Regards,

    1. I think the gene therapy labelling became so politicised that authorities couldnt’ be seen to label it such even if by all other definitions of gene therapy it qualifies. The point at hand is that there is a difference in using genetically modified mechanisms to treat disease and genetically modifying human cells to make people’s eyes blue or whatever. And yes I agree that a lot of people on the internet are mistaking these two things and jumping to the wrong conclusions. But that doesn’t mean the language should be policed or banned, especially when it is deployed with the correct meaning. What i object to is the blanket knee jerk assumption that anyone who calls the vaccines gene therapy is a conspiracy theorist. CLearly George Church is not. This is the point i was alluding to in my email to Tim. When we talk about gene therapy for cancer, this distinction doesn’t seem to pop up. And yet the mechanisms are very similar.

      I think a really good analogy is with money printing. Anyone who understands central banking, would shudder at the term being deployed in reference to QE throughout most of 2009-2019 because QE was an asset swap, and a sterlised form of money creation etc etc. So the money printer goes brrr meme felt crudely simplistic and like disinformation. But many years on I think i can appreciate why base instincts (however wrong about the core facts) were still worthwhile, and tuned into a bigger phenomenon. It feeds into the midwit meme.

      The second point relates to an under appreciation of reflexivity. That the act of censoring the terms outright or stigmatising them, generates even more suspicion among those who are already distrustful of authority, thus magnifying the “little knowledge is a dangerous thing” rather than correcting it.

      Far better to enter into counter arguments that spell out why – even though this is a gene therapy – it doesn’t necessarily (at least theoretically) do what you think it does.
      That is my point.

      Same applied to money printing. Even though QE was money printing, it didn’t necessarily (at least theoretically) do what people thought it did. But the long term consequences, in that case, might be that actually when combined with mega loose fiscal policy you get the mother of all money printing messes. (i.e. it’s not until a secondary variable is applied that the base concerns become valid).

      More broadly I think the whole thing has now polluted the critical environment and distracted from actually fair criticism.
      As far as I see it there are three key criticisms of the vaccines out there, and the censoring attitude is conflating all three of these.

      1) This is an experimental gene therapy which is messing with genes and phenotypes and will turn you into a fish or a 5G receptor (obviously bollocks).
      2) That this is an experimental gene therapy which we haven’t got long term data for and we can’t be sure if our bodies will process it as expected — the side-effect being that the therapies (while they do no harm) might simply not be as effective as first thought. (This critique i think is entirely fair and evidence is growing by the day for it, in terms of how short-term the effects are, and the continuous need for boosters.)
      3) That this is an experimental gene therapy, but it’s not the genetic stuff that’s the issue. That there may be unknown side-effects associated with other parts of the process (like the lipid delivery). While this is not down to the genetic therapy issue per se, it is still related because the gene therapy depends on these supporting functions. Again, the fact numerous governmental bans and restrictions on these vaccines speak to this concern. If a lay person was to go by mere regulation their conclusion would be fairly interpreted as, there is an issue here..
      Belgium does not allow Moderna for the under 30s, Japan recommends against AstraZeneca for the under 40s, Taiwan has halted Pfizer for the under 17s.. etc etc.
      Are we really that surprised that people are anxious about these vaccines or hesitant (specifically the young!).

      1. I am eager to leave the gene-therapy label discussion behind. “Covid-19 vaccines are gene-therapies” is obviously not what is currently an accepted nomenclature, as I indicated, not just by authorities, but by most/all medical/health agencies and professionals. And by media, say Reuters (https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-covid-mrna-gene-idUSL1N2PH16N) and many others. Here is one from Bloomberg, which I thought had a well written paragraph explaining this issue succinctly:

        “Critics have taken to labeling mRNA vaccines a form of gene therapy, insinuating that the shots might somehow alter your DNA: They don’t. While the messenger RNA they employ is a type of genetic material, the vaccines differ from what is typically thought of as gene therapy in that they do not change the DNA inside cells. “They do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains. In fact, mRNA molecules in the vaccines, which are short-lived, don’t enter the nucleus of cells, where DNA is stored, the CDC notes.”

        (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-22/are-mrna-covid-vaccines-risky-what-the-experts-say-quicktake)

        I think there is a larger point that you make which to my mind has a lot of merit and should be discussed. The point of communicating how we establish safety, efficacy of pharmaceutical interventions to broader public. And then how we make public health decisions based on these in a democratic society. And how we do it without arrogance and acknowledging fears and hesitations that non-experts may have which may sound irrational to us.

        But I think the answer cannot be pandering to irrational fears. I use that term in non-pejorative way: fear not based on current, accepted knowledge and unsupported by evidence.

        There is no scientific basis, and no evidence, for fearing any significant long-term effects of these vaccines. Be it turning into a fish or any other widespread and calamitous result. There is a difference in saying there is zero chance something bad will happen and saying we have no basis to expect something really bad to happen. Like suddenly discovering that in 10 years no recipient of the vaccine (and their descendants) can reproduce anymore (as my friend proposed).

        It is not that the science is never wrong (of course!) it is that the some things are much, much more likely than the others. And some are so unlikely that the fear of them cannot be called rational anymore.

        It is a responsibility of us to communicate that such fears are irrational. But to the extent that these fears are real we need to communicate that in way that is non-prejudicial, trustworthy and inclusive. And we (in science and medicine) are not good at that it seems, and need help.

        As to some of your specific points. There is nothing unexpected about the fact that we need boosters, that the virus mutations end up diminishing the vaccine effectiveness, that efficacy against infections ended up much lower with variants (even as it stayed quite robust against serious disease). Part of it was that the vaccines (especially mRNA ones) ended up being surprising effective against infections with original strain, much more so than expected (clinical trials were not testing that part of efficacy so we only discovered it in vaccine deployments). It was always feared that if pandemic kept going (as it did) then new mutations will evolve and they may escape vaccines. In a sense it is a bit of a miracle (and testament to how amazing these vaccines are) that so far the effectiveness has held up and what was gone could be restored by a booster with the same product. This is much better than with our flu vaccines which we try to tailor to dominant strain every year and yet end with with much lower effectiveness anyways.

        Many of our vaccines need boosting/multi shot regiments. Tetanus, varicella, Hep A and Hep B shots are some examples, and of course so is flu vax.

        The changing/unequal regimens (the need for boosters, different age thresholds say) are not unexpected in a new pandemic with new vaccine, but again, I think the communication has failed and (as a health scientist: biostatistics and epidemiology with substantial genetic component being my expertise) I take part of the blame for that. The scientific evidence is of course always changing and evolving but this is not the same as saying the prior science was wrong: we are sometimes too timid to communicate where and how big uncertainties are. Part of this is how hard it is to properly quantify uncertainty to public, and how easy it seems to be for some of these uncertainties to be lumped (by some people) with completely irrational outcomes. As someone who has trained in quantifying uncertainties my whole career, I have trouble understanding sometimes how hard that is for non-experts. We just must try harder.

        1. Citing Bloomberg articles doesn’t really qualify as evidence to the contrary, since Bloomberg, the FT or whoever are not medical experts in their own right. The stories they write are dependent on the sources they speak to, which are often institutionally placed and representative of the status quo or authority. If the system is captured in any way — and that is the assertion some make — then a media report doesn’t counter the claim by definition.

          You say there’s no long-term risk to the vaccines. I don’t think that claim holds up to scrutiny. Up until August 2020 it was perfectly common in pharma focused articles about covid (in titles like the FT) to see the assertion that a vaccine would never be developed quickly because of the historical ADE risk associated with most SARS/MERS vaccines.

          ADE can be tested for in the short term to some degree, but – as far as I understand – is entirely dependent on interaction with variants for results to really hold true in the long term.

          In that regard, I recommend this text by Christine Grady which clearly recounts the trade-offs that authorities knew they would have to risk with bringing a vaccine to market quickly.

          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7418641/#__ffn_sectitle

          As well as being a top tier NIH bioethicist, she is also Fauci’s wife. Now, it is true that she is not talking about the post-Phase 3 period, but rather 1-3, and obvs the vaccines did go through Phase 3. But even so, I think this paragraph speaks clearly about the trade offs at hand which are and were fully understood by all involved in Warp Speed.

          “Widespread distribution of vaccine candidates via EUA based on preliminary data has the potential to expose large numbers of people to unknown and possibly serious risks not observed in early trials, including the possibility of antibody dependent disease enhancement. Even with mandated safety monitoring after EUA distribution, it would be difficult or impossible to ascertain vaccine-induced adverse events, the extent to which host factors like age, underlying illness, or use of medications intensified the chance of adverse events, how safe the vaccine candidate was across different groups, or the effects of possibly increased risky behaviors after vaccination. Many people might be harmed before a widely distributed vaccine candidate could be pulled.”

          The simple point I am making, is that being hesitant of a drug that uses a new type of tech (whether gene therapy or not is irrelevant) and which has also been brought to market by way of an unprecedented new phasing system… is possibly not irrational. Especially for younger categories of the population. Everything is a balancing act relative to one’s own potential risks from Covid, which I agree are significant. Covid is a nasty disease even for the healthy. But it’s also not Ebola.

          I am pro vaccine and I am pro educated messaging about the vaccines, but I am not pro demonising people who are hesitant, especially given the entirely negligible impact their resistance has on the broader health of the collective given the dire transmission data, which has only got worse with Omicron.

          As for the boosters, as far as I understand continuous boosting on a 2/3 times a year basis as is happening now is not considered optimal by any health practitioner. Even for the yearly flu vaccines, many health authorities have operated a focused protection plan for precisely that reason. I never had a flu vaccine until I was pregnant, because in the UK it was simply never offered to anyone other than the elderly, the pregnant or the vulnerable. When I spoke to Sunetra Gupta (who i appreciate is also a demonised character by many, but she did literally consult on the UK’s flu vaccine strategy), she highlighted that this was the logic behind why we don’t immunise the entire population. She, btw, is a big believer in the covid vaccines – though I can’t actually remember (don’t have my notes) how she feels about the mandates.

          Now of course it’s understandable why this might be disputed as policy during a pandemic. But even Bill Gates has recently gone on the record noting that Omicron turned out to be a better vaccine than the vaccines.

          It has also been entirely illogical to me why we would prefer to distribute the vaccines to not-at-risk westerners by force and mandate, instead of distributing to the actually vulnerable in Africa and emerging states.

          More widely, I am very concerned about what dissenting scientists of high-ranking authority have been telling me about how their dissent has been treated in this crisis. And given that, I am currently not at all reassured that “the science” is functioning as it should be.

          The science evolves as you yourself agree. And i’m sorry, as it evolves it does sometimes prove the old science wrong. And there are plenty of cases where great harm has befallen people because of these evolutions. In the context of Theranos, The Sacklers and even the use of fake vaccine rollouts to lure and trap terrorists, dismissing the suspcious or concerned as stupid is really hard to justify, and seems like deflective smearing.

          (That’s not to suggest, of course, that the positives of medical science don’t massively outweigh the scandals or failures. But this is how trust works. As they say it takes a life time to build up trust, but one instant to break it forever.)

  3. Why Canada is cultivating an M-pesa moment for bitcoin.
    Your opinion that “The Canadian banking system is one of the most resilient and best capitalized in the world.” is probably quite correct. And well it should be with the most crucial of the “COMMONS” of the people having been assigned to the private banks.
    The right to create money is solely that of the Government. As the Prime Minister of Canada, in establishing the publicly owned Bank of Canada stated, “ Once a nation parts with the control of its currency and credit, it matters not who makes the nation’s laws. … Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognized as its most sacred responsibility, all talk of the sovereignty of parliament and of democracy is idle and futile.’
    Canada lost that control by allowing the private banks to create money by the creation of debt. Money, as the sole legal tender, should be created equally for each Canadian. The majority of money is now created by the private banks for the use of unequally selected Canadian debtors, without the banks paying for value for the use of that money.
    To aggravate the payment free use of money by the banks is the practice of the banks to create the money to purchase Government bonds and other debt. Money for Government expenditures, which are presumably for the equal benefit of all Canadians, should be paid with money created equally for all Canadians.
    This concept applies to most countries that create fiat currency. I would like to see an article, or several, debating this concept.
    Edd Twohig, Kentville, NS, Canada [email protected] 902 691 2866

    1. The parallel is that it is a privately issued currency that was originally not controlled by the state. Also that it grew dominant because of being a challenger system. The fact that it is centralised is incidental. It’s like Tether.

    2. Bitcoin is not so useful in Canada because we don’t have a Bitcoin economy like El Salvador. Govt can always catch you at the point you need to convert to fiat. These protesters were just inconvenienced by mandates so I don’t see them willing to go to the lengths to create a parallel Bitcoin economy.
      This protest started with good intent but got subverted into an occupation of residential neighborhoods away from the Parliament funded in half by foreign interests. Subjecting the residents to round the clock noise can be classified as torture, never mind the diesel fumes polluting the area and the harassment of anyone not of their camp. One team even tried to set a building on fire and taped the doors shut to tap the residents inside (luckily it was caught in time). They’re were also reports that they were using children as shields. We have only seen the most heinous terrorists (ISIS) doing this so that says quite a lot about this group of “protesters”. Maybe we should refer to them as paid agitators.

      1. I don’t disagree that this is incredibly awful for local residents. But again, the same applies to extinction rebellion. And they throw themselves under cars and are partial to the use of children as human shields (one child in particular) too.

        1. The other thing I would say about children is that people sometimes bring children with them precisely because they don’t expect any violence. I’d love to see the video footage of children being used as shields. I find this assertion kind of far fetched stand alone, but obviously open to being proven wrong. The footage some claimed involved protestors abusing horses seemed entirely spun into something it wasn’t. If anything it was the other way. But I am conscious that everything is selective framing at the moment so I do recommend people actually provide links to contradicting angles or videos, as we all need to be pulled out of our echo chambers.

  4. Izabella, you make some good points, as always. But I wish you left Thucker’s sloppy and tendetious piece out of this. You do not need it to make your point and it undermines the credibility of that piece. See, for example,

    https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/what-the-heck-happened-to-the-bmj/

    I also note that when you say that Omicron caused a lots of re-infections in vaccinated, while this is true, it plays into the antivax quack-crowd when you leave out the fact that vaccines (even without boosters) were still very effective in protecting people from Omicron-induced serious disease (hospitalizations/ICUs/deaths) and that boosters do restore a lot of protection against infection itself.
    Pozdrawiam

    1. Whether they were effective against death or not is irrelevant IMHO with respect to the vaccine mandate and health pass policy. It only becomes relevant in an environment where you also forcefully deprive people with a questionable BMI from entering restaurants too.

      1. Thank you for your reply, Izabella. If understand your point, you argue that only prevention against transmission can be a valid justification for mandates. First, even without boosters there was a good residual reduction in risk of Omicron infection. Second, even when infected the risk of forward transmission is further reduced with vaccines. Third, at least in a country with a fully public health system (but to a large extent also in countries with mixed systems), there is a public imperative in protecting these from being overwhelmed and collapsing. I think the BMI arguments are moot: even if you just concentrate on individual risk only (ie assuming incorrectly that vaccines offer zero reduction of trasmissibility) the exponential nature of infection rates makes it a real risk to public health (and other) infrastructure. There is nothing exponential in BMI-related risks.

        Also: I am bit dismayed by your sentences about “gene therapy” and vaccines in the email to Tim Kiladze, e.g..
        “The fact you can’t even say these vaccines are gene therapy (which they are) is a sign of the problem.”

        First mRNA Covid-19 vaccines are definitely NOT a gene therapy. There is no plausible biological mechanism for the vaccines to modify your DNA – nothing related to vaccination enters cell nucleus. Second, who is preventing whom from repeating that piece of misinformation? And thirdly, while the vaccines were operating under EUA, calling them “experimental” is a bit of a stretch. In any case both mRNA vaccines are now fully FDA approved.

        There was a lot of good points in your post – including that in functioning democracy there needs to be a basis of trust and respect going both ways and this may be at fault here (look, for example this in your favourite Canadian newspaper:

        https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-trudeau-must-bear-the-blame-for-his-divisive-words-and-actions/

        )

        I just think these are undermined by some of your mistaken takes that seem to veer into anti-vax oft-repeated disinfo.

        Best regards.

        1. I’m afraid I disagree with your assessment. Don’t have time to revert with data from high level credible sources which at worst introduces a discussion about your transmission assertions and at best contradicts them. As for gene therapy, I actually interviewed George Church two weeks ago. I will be publishing this interview in full eventually. I specifically asked him about this gene therapy controversy. And his answer sided with the notion they are gene therapy. And if he is not an authority on genetic treatments I don’t know who is. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Church_(geneticist)

        2. Actually here’s the bit from my convo with him. My question follows him organically referring to the vaccines as gene therapy.

          Izzy: “Can I ask, sorry to interrupt, See, I was quite intrigued to hear that you described the vaccines as gene therapy, because I feel like there’s been a bit of confusion in the public space about that, because there’s been a lot of … I guess, I’ve personally seen people who are calling it gene therapy be sort of dismissed as conspiracy theorists. So I was just wondering, is it fair to call it gene therapy or not?”

          George Church:
          “ the four top vaccines… AstraZeneca, Sputnik, Pfizer, and Moderna are single genes, typically synthetic, that are encapsulated in the same way you encapsulate a gene therapy, all four of those. And the methods are exactly the methods you would use for curing a genetic disease. The subtle differences that the gene is expressed in, say, an intramuscular injection that is expressed into a spike protein, and you have an immune response that amplifies it slightly, most of your classical gene therapies for say, curing rare diseases don’t get that amplification. But I think there’s more similarities than there are differences so it’s not a conspiracy theory. I mean, gene therapies are good for you. And vaccines are good for you. And so I don’t see how it’s, it’s a negative. Either way,”

          1. Thank you for posting part of Dr Church’s response. Obviously a giant in the gene therapy field. Before you posted it I was afraid this may end up a bit of semantic discussion. I think a more widely (in medical community) understood definition of gene therapy is a treatment designed to modify a target’s DNA: see for example lay person explanation from Mayo clinic:
            https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/gene-therapy/about/pac-20384619

            Covid vaccines definitely do not fall under this umbrella.

            FDA has a bit more expanded definition but again not the one that includes anything like Covid (or other ID) vaccines. Here is the list of all Gene Therapy products approved by FDA:
            https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/cellular-gene-therapy-products/approved-cellular-and-gene-therapy-products

            These are most (as far as I can tell) related to actual modification of “faulty” DNA in the subject. Of course, no Spikevax, no Comirnaty vaccines here.

            Here is a broader, but I think more important point. The gene therapy controversy you yourself alluded to in your interview is not based on technical/semantic minutia. People screaming about Covid-vaccine gene therapy are not arguing about modes of delivery or immune response amplification.The underlying premise in those pushing this narrative is that this is something experimental (this word again, which definitely applies to most gene therapies in the Mayo clinic/FDA sense of the word, but not to Covid vaccines) and unknown, and can have huge population-wide effects (one of my vac-hesitant friends asked me to run a simulation on what happens if covid vaccines make most people unable to reproduce in 10 years – guess where he came up with this scenario). This is the conspiracy theory we are addressing here. And I am afraid that combined with other aspects of your post it may, yes, amplify these disinformation tactics that have been so harmful in our ability to protect the members of the public and health care systems.

          2. It is ridiculous in my opinion to dodge correct ways of saying things because of fears the truth (for that is what it is) might be twisted by people who can’t grasp the subtleties or might freak out because of the scary terms. It is, to put it bluntly, political correctness gone mad. Also there is good reason why the gene therapy classification triggers fears in people. George Church himself noted that to me too. He struck me as someone deeply concerned about the lack of ethical supervision of the whole sector.

            And whatever the semantics the situation is true enough for these concerns to be valid. At a minimum it is not wrong. Indeed, I would argue, the extent you have to labour the interpretation to justify the conclusion it qualifies as disinfo speaks to the point. Sometimes the simplistic view (if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck) is superior to the hyper complex one. I’ve certainly seen this be the case time and time and time again in central banking. Sometimes experts are so caught up in the weeds of their specialist areas, that any simplification – however true – offends them, when actually it does the job well.

            The fact the nudge unit or whoever decided we had to dumb the language down or obfuscate the truth in order to better sell the vaccine to the public for the greater good, is I think the bigger story here . That they (or whoever else decided to police language in this way) did this in good faith – which they may have done – is irrelevant. As a journalist, my job is to cut through the PR to get to the truth. I don’t serve the government I serve my readers. I serve those who want to know more about the complex situations they find themselves in.

            Whether the obfuscation was done in good faith or not doesn’t change the fact of the matter. In this case that it was highly questionable to smear and demonize people who were pointing out this basic fact (among them btw was Mark Zuckerberg).
            I try not to make controversial assertions I haven’t researched or stood up. If I don’t know something I am transparent about it. Getting comment from a leading player in genetic research, however, was me doing my homework before making the statement. I wouldn’t have made the statement otherwise. The fact your knee jerk assumption was that I must have asserted this on baseless grounds is actually far more telling.
            For me, the controversy over the gene therapy labeling is an important story in its own right. And that story I think relates to a discussion about whether govt/elite paternalism has gone too far. If it’s right that we the people are not consulted in these decisions and/or talked down to, because it’s presumed we don’t have the mental capacity to be able to determine what’s good for us by ourselves.

            The whole thing stinks of “you can’t handle the truth” type rationalisation.

            That may or may not be the case. I’m willing to concede that experts and elites often do know better what’s good for us than we do. What I object to is the theatre of pretending we live in some sort of democracy. I would rather if the elites were simply up front about the oligarchic situation we find ourselves in.

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