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Letters from a Contrarian

Letters from a Contrarian

By Eugene Fernandes
Our response to COVID-19 has brought us into an era of great confusion and uncertainty, and has warped the fabric of liberal democracies.

In (season 2 of) this podcast, I interview thinkers, leaders, and planners to figure out what's going on, what went wrong, and how we should exit this pandemic.

Hosted by Eugene Fernandes (me). If you'd like to reach out, DM me at @eugenefds on twitter, or shoot me an email at ef3n9r98 [at] ymail [dot] com. Thanks for listening!
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D. Jared Brown - Revelations from Cross-Examining Manitoba's Health Experts in Court
D. Jared Brown is a litigator and Bencher of the Law Society of Ontario. References: Section 3 of Manitoba’s Public Health Act:  “If the exercise of a power under this Act restricts rights or freedoms, the restriction must be no greater than is reasonably necessary, in the circumstances, to respond to a health hazard, a communicable disease, a public health emergency or any other threat to public health.” Transcript and YouTube Video: eugenefernandes.com/letters-from-a-contrarian Show-notes 2:51 How the JCCF tapped Brown to help represent seven churches and three individuals in Manitoba, and what their case was. The churches couldn’t gather, and the individuals couldn’t protest. 6:01 The Government argued that the infringements on rights and freedoms were justified. 8:46 Brown cross-examined Dr. Jason Kindrachuk, Lanette Siracusa, Carla Lipkey, Dr. Brent Roussin, Dr. Jason Bullard, and Dr. Joel Kettner. 10:38 Three revelatory insights that came to light in the cross examination: one, the Manitoba government had exaggerated the scarcity of hospital and ICU beds in the province during the Christmas season, along with their ability to expand the hospital system. Two, a positive PCR test result does not mean that the person is infectious. 14:29 Lastly, three - the government justified their measures on the basis that everyone else was doing it. No cost benefit analyses in sight. 16:47 This bandwagon defence (“everyone else was doing it”) might’ve been understandable at the pandemic’s start, but after 14 months, not as much. 22:11 The government does not have a legal obligation to justify their infringements up until someone challenges them in court. But the expectation is that they would justify the measures publicly. They didn’t. They used fear instead. 23:29 One consequence of using fear to threaten citizens into accepting public policy: vaccine hesitancy. 27:01 Are medical officers of health legally supposed to have the power and the role that they currently have? Thoughts about accountability mechanisms and a faith in democracy. 28:39 Rights and freedoms: easy to give up, bloodily difficult to get back. That’s why you don’t give an inch. Equality jurisprudence is developing far more than negative freedoms. Lawyers don’t seem to care. 31:55 Courts and discretion: Canada vs USA. 34:13 Brown was vilified by his peers and many others on social media in March 2020. Many lawyers are now changing their minds - if an emergency has lasted 14 months, then maybe it isn’t an emergency. 37:22 How Brown stood up to the pushback: say what you think, look at the reaction, and ask if it’s creating unnecessary conflict. Try to be minimally impairing. Have skin in the game by directing your energy towards the venues where it makes the biggest impact and where you’ll be heard. Instead of being a Twitter warrior, he took the opportunity to challenge the restrictions in this court case. And know what your principles are. 41:16 As a citizen who opposes the restrictions, write letters to your (provincial) elected leaders. Let them know you want to calculate your own risk and that their paternalistic attitudes aren’t welcome. Second, step forward to the JCCF or the CCF! They need volunteers to help challenge these Charter violations. 43:01 The possible costs of stepping forward for public interest litigation (some public shaming in court by lawyers, and it’s unlikely but you may have to pay too). 45:20 Safety culture eroding liberty. Contact Contact D. Jared Brown at brownlaw.ca or on twitter at @litigationguy Contact Eugene Fernandes at eugenefernandes.com or on twitter at @eugenefds
47:04
May 29, 2021
Dr. Doug Allen - The Flawed Assumptions Beneath COVID-19 Modelling (Epidemiological and Economic)
Dr. Doug Allen is a professor of economics at Simon Fraser University. Video Link: https://youtu.be/GVsQdUa9_Ds References: Allen. “Covid Lockdown Cost/Benefits: A Critical Assessment of the Literature.” April 2021. http://www.sfu.ca/~allen/LockdownReport.pdf Atkeson, Kopecky and Zha. “Four Stylized Facts about COVID-19.” August 2020. doi = 10.3386/w27719 Timestamps: 2:15   His original thoughts on the pandemic when it first hit, and then how his thoughts changed. 6:10   What were the four false assumptions economic and epidemiological models have? 14:38   Why did governments latch onto the Imperial College London epidemiological model when it was so immediately and obviously flawed? 17:10   Based on what Allen observes, their models are epidemiological curves. This explains why health modelling goes up and up and up. 19:05   What is “endogenous” behaviour, how do epidemiological models fail to include it, and why are economic models simply superior? 21:35   Atkeson's model looked like it correctly followed the actual death rate as soon as he adds in the endogenous assumption. How do we know that lockdowns don’t actually work? Different lockdown policies but the same curves? 27:35   What should the media be reporting? 29:31   How does Atkeson distinguish between government and human action causing COVID-19 policy? 31:25   Variation in policy lets us identify whether lockdowns actually work or not. Why did Sweden have so many deaths, and is it really a “precautionary tale”? 33:38   What Dr. Allen was doing in his OLS Regression/Table 2 of his pdf. He correlated stringency and death numbers. 38:00   What are the costs of lockdowns? They are hard to identify, how to measure them (or to measure “lost value”). 41:48   How do you measure the cost of lost civil liberties? One big cost: social trust. 43:40   Bryan Caplan’s thought experiment that measures life years which gets around the issue of measuring all of the primary, secondary, and tertiary costs of lockdown. 51:24   What if it were young people were the most vulnerable to COVID? How would that change Caplan’s thought experiment? 52:22   The feedback that he’s been receiving - 99.9% positive. Politicians, health professionals, teachers, psychologists have been all reaching out. 55:11   How does Dr. Allen deal with the frustration about the incompetence up above? Quick shoutout to Ron DeSantis 56:24   Is this incompetence a result of stupidity or malevolence? Politicians’ institutional constraints. Please check out my website at eugenefernandes.com/letters-from-a-contrarian/ to read the full show notes for this episode, along with the transcript. My e-mail: lettersfromacontrarian2020@gmail.com My twitter: eugenefds
58:60
April 30, 2021
Dave Redman - Models, Mismanagement, and Emergency Planning
Please check out my website at eugenefernandes.com/letters-from-a-contrarian/ to read the full show notes for this episode, along with the transcript.  References: The World Health Organization’s 2019 guide on Non-pharmaceutical public health measures for mitigating the risk and impact of epidemic and pandemic influenza: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/329438/9789241516839-eng.pdf
01:02:58
March 31, 2021
Dr. Ari Joffe: A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Lockdowns
Please check out my website for show notes, takeaways, and transcripts, at eugenefernandes.com. Thanks! References: COVID-19: Rethinking the Lockdown Groupthink: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2021.625778/full Forecasting for COVID-19 has failed. Ioannidis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7447267/ Flying Blind. John Carpay, JCCF. https://www.jccf.ca/published_reports/flying-blind-governments-hasty-decisions-to-lock-down-canadians-while-damaging-public-health-and-the-economy/ Here’s a detailed interview with David Redman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cgm3Xjz6N7g Estimation of US Children’s Educational Attainment and Years of Life Lost Associated With Primary School Closures During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2772834 Edmonton Zone Pandemic Committee Q&A: https://edmontonjournal.com/news/insight/quashing-misconceptions-alberta-physicians-answer-the-20-most-frequently-asked-questions-about-covid-19 David Redman and Joffe’s commentary: https://edmontonjournal.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-lockdowns-are-the-wrong-response-to-covid-19 The Committee’s response to Redman and Joffe’s commentary: https://edmontonjournal.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-restrictions-and-vaccinations-will-see-us-through-covid-19-safely My e-mail: eugenefds3 [at] yahoo [dot] com My twitter: eugenefds
01:00:22
February 28, 2021
Season 2 Trailer
I'm back. Table of Contents: [0:00] The government and my fellow citizens don't seem to be responsibly balancing public health with our rights and freedoms. This makes me sad and worried.  [0:40] The curfew in Quebec is unreasonable. I don't think it would pass the Oakes test. Walkthrough of all 4 steps.  [7:54] My fellow citizens seem to be experiencing cognitive dissonance. They speak in favour of the restrictions, but break the law over and over again. More broadly, support for the curfew has increased during its duration. [9:45] A personal crisis changed my mind about lockdowns and restrictions. [12:10] A few people changed my mind: Viva Frei (David Freihert), John Carpay, Ari Joffe, Matt Strauss, Jonathan Sumption, and David Redman.  [14:49] For the second season of Letters from a Contrarian, I'll be speaking with as many people as possible to figure out what the hell has happened to the fabric of our liberal democracy, and what's going on when it comes to our response to COVID-19. The hope: make the podcast evergreen and also light-hearted. The lens: one of political philosophy.  Thanks for listening.  Links Mentioned: No proof for the efficacy of curfews The curfews are used as "communication" Approval for curfew increased from 68% to 74% during its duration Should I visit Philippe?  Connect with me: Twitter: @eugenefds Instagram: @fernandeseugene Website: eugenefernandes.com
17:22
February 27, 2021
Ryan Elson: No Humble Opinions, Dialogue, Social Connection, and Changing Minds
For our last episode of 2020, Ryan Elson, the host of No Humble Opinions, joined us. You can learn more about Tribe and No Humble Opinions by finding him on facebook. He's also pretty damn friendly, so make sure to say hi! Thanks for coming on Ryan. www.employmeet.com www.tribebelonging.com.au www.nohumbleopinions.com https://www.facebook.com/nohumbleopinions/
58:27
December 29, 2020
Matt Strauss, MD: Lockdowns, Trust, China, Philosophy, and Doctors.
0:05 Introduction, Strauss’ ostensibly contrarian opinion, media biases and framing, how lockdowns save lives, herd immunity, Great Barrington Declaration. 0:20 How we should be dealing with the COVID pandemic, masks, HIV, adults taking risks, additive vs. multiplicative risks, externalities, and seniors. 0:40 Governments, continued discussion, terror, democracy, cover-ups of Chernobyl and trust, China, Hong Kong. 0:50 Block the trolls, write well, learn your values and your arguments for them (by heart). Do you truly want a meaningful life? Soul crushing yet great payoff work EKG signoffs for $10. Soul-suffering. How to find meaning in your life. How Strauss got into journalism thanks to Jon Kay and the Monk School, taking care of a Neo-Nazi. 1:08 Russell, Mill, Frankl, Descartes, religious upbringings, Jordan Peterson. 1:16 PhD work, cognitive dissonance between doctors’ knowledge and their actions (like not biking when all-cause mortality is 50% less. Rotting institutions, over-payed doctors, professional hazing a la 36-hour-shifts. 1:32 Trudeau, Meritocracy, JWR, Philpott. Mentions: The Great Barrington Declaration Manual for Survival by Kate Brown Mr. Money Mustache Man’s Search for Meaning On Liberty, JS Mill Bertrand Russell Peterson v. Harris debate #1 His twitter page: @strauss_matt My twitter page: @eugenefds My website: eugenefernandes.com
01:43:01
November 28, 2020
Dr Eddy Lang - Overdiagnosis, Cancer, ADHD, and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Dr Lang shares his concerns about overdiagnosis in breast cancer and prostate cancer screening, among other conditions, like ADHD. We chat about the incentives behind overdiagnosis along with some solutions to it too. Lastly, we chat about how Equity, Diversity and Inclusion applies in his work. You can learn more from the following websites: canadiantaskforce.ca preventingoverdiagnosis.net You can reach Eddy on twitter at @eddylang1, and email him at eddy.lang [at] albertahealthservices [dot] ca.
01:20:33
November 2, 2020
Ford v. Pardy — The Conflict on the Right
Hey everyone! We're back! This week we have a debate between Caylan Ford, and Bruce Pardy. A debate between common good conservatism and libertarianism. The motion? "In the face of growing intolerance from the left, the state should enforce the virtues of common good conservatism rather than the freedoms of classical liberalism." Enjoy!
02:24:36
October 12, 2020
Jesse Clarke (@jesseclarke95): Ex-Muslims, Abduction, Fathers, and Fear
Hey there :) This week I spoke with Jesse Clarke, a charming ex-muslim activist from the UK. Enjoy!
01:48:10
August 12, 2020
JL (@stucatz101): From Finance to Carpentry, and Nassim Taleb.
Ciao everyone! This week I spoke with someone I met on twitter - a guy from Toronto who talked about the university system, graduating with a finance degree, going into carpentry, and more generally, his thoughts on how to become a skilled and competent person. Enjoy. 
46:59
August 3, 2020
Nadia Guo: Police Accountability, a Lawyer's Reputation, Media Deception, and Sex Work
Welcome back. This week I spoke with Ms. Nadia Guo - a criminal defence lawyer and sex worker based in Toronto. You can reach her on twitter at @ngdefence. Enjoy. 
01:59:34
July 29, 2020
Dr. Ryan Alford: 7 Absolute Rights, Canada's Unwritten Constitution, Torture, and Law Schools
Hey everyone! Dr. Ryan Alford is a tenured professor at the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law at Lakehead University. On this episode, we discussed many things, like Baldwin and LaFontaine's fight against the Tory oligarchy in Canada's 19th century, Canada's Unwritten Constitution, Blackstone, Coke, Instrumentalism, selection pressures on judges and professors, Bush v. Gore, judicial interference, how to overcome cultural, class, and racial barriers as a law graduate, what classes to take in law school, the Statement of Principles and the StopSOP movement, and Jody Wilson Raybould's chance to use one of the 7 Absolute Rights.  You can buy his book on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/2CivtuF. You can reach Dr. Alford by email or on twitter. Other than that, thanks for listening!
01:49:51
July 20, 2020
Lisa Bildy: StopSOP, Creating New Institutions, Liberalism, and Flirting
Hey everyone! We're back with another episode. Lisa Bildy is a lawyer for the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms. Reach her on twitter at @ldbildy
02:41:09
July 14, 2020
Ryan Handlarski: #metoo, Apartheid, StopSOP, and Boomers
We've made it to Episode 10! Mr. Handlarski is a Criminal Defence Lawyer in Toronto who hates golf and loves irony. We talked about the #metoo movement, the presumption of innocence, the statement of principles, his reasons for objecting to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion clerics, systemic racism, humour, Apartheid South Africa and his mother's life there, how law students can thrive off of Bay Street, responding to Hadiya Rodrerique's article Black on Bay Street, and how we can create new institutions that support freedom. You can find the episode's shownotes on my blog. Just go to eugenefernandes.com and search for Ryan's name. 
02:21:38
June 30, 2020
Candice Malcolm: Kenney, Khalistani Extremism, and Journalistic Courage
Hey everyone! On this episode, I speak with Candice Malcom. We talked about Jason Kenney and Danielle Smith (two of Alberta's political leaders), how Candice uses intimidation to drive her forward (she's antifragile!), her article on Sikh extremism in Canada and Jagmeet Singh, how she views the media, the value of taking a public position and arguing with friends, and, of course, some book recommendations. 
01:16:32
June 25, 2020
Ara Ghougassian: "hey Duolingo, i'm coming for your a**!"
That infamous and viral tweet was what launched Ara's startup "Fluent" into the public's view. I chat with him on this episode. This was an awesome episode! I loved loved loved it. Give him a follow at @araghougassian (ara - ghou - gas - sian). And here's the timestamps: 4:15 (How Ara got Fluent’s tweet to BLOW UP). 18:30 What Fluent is and its origin story. 28:59 (Odyss). 38:20 (University vs. a Startup for Education). 55:57 (A defence of interruption). 1:02.47 (The pros and cons of being an honest and funny person + Andrew Schultz). 1:17:12 (The Left-Right spectrum doesn't apply to violence). 1:52:52 (we get meta with politics and offer solutions). 2:16.06 (How to get a startup job without a degree - SELL YOURSELF). He ends with life advice.
02:28:44
June 16, 2020
Lindsay Shepherd: Yaniv, TERFs, Motherhood and Courage
Hey everyone! We're back with Lindsay Shepherd today. Enjoy.
01:03:29
June 15, 2020
Caylan Ford: Revolution, Liberalism's Failings, and Transcendent Justice
Today’s guest is Caylan Ford. Before you listen to this podcast, I would recommend you google her name. Her March 2020 podcast with Hugging the Cactus is what I’d listen to fully first. This podcast got pretty philosophical too, so I hope we didn't get too abstract.  As always, you can find the show notes, book recommendations, and links to the Hugging The Cactus podcast on my website:  https://eugenefernandes.com/2020/06/04/notes-from-6-caylan-ford/. 
02:08:03
June 4, 2020
Zach (@zachcantrad): Traditional Architecture, Objective Beauty, and The Cult of Modernism
Hey everyone! This podcast was about architecture and why architecture has become ... uglier and wackier over time. Thank you to Zach (who graduated from architecture school in 2019) for joining me and talking about his experience at architecture school. You can reach him on twitter at @cantradionalist. I would post all of the show notes here but they turned out to be three pages long. If you want to know the exact minute you should go to that touches on the subject you want to learn more about, you can read the show notes on my website at eugenefernandes.com. Thanks! Oh, and here are the links to the things we mentioned: Here's the NUMTOTS group on facebook.  Wrath of Gnon Christopher Liberatos Peterson and Paglia’s discussion  Palladio awards  Zach's thesis project - slavic inspired buildings.  Zach's example of "Frankenstein buildings" which poorly trained architects end up designing.   Adrian Vermeule 9 lane highway vs a beautiful town. Zach's book recommendation: Traditional Construction Patterns: Design and Detail - Rules of Thumb. To reach me, you can tweet me @eugenefds or email me at lettersfromacontrarian2020 [at] gmail [dot] com. This conversation was recorded on May 28, 2020.
01:39:59
May 29, 2020
Steve Paolasini (pt. 2) - Deporting Native-Born Citizens, Facebook Arguments, and Government.
Hey everyone! Steve's back by popular demand for part 2. We talk about what he learned from running for office, his dreams moving forward, his thoughts on COVID-19 government policy, and non-alcoholic beers. Hope you like it!  Here's how you can reach me: twitter, facebook, website.  Here's a show index (give or take 3 minutes).  Enjoy! 5:00 – Stephen Harper, how it feels to run, and the Christian Heritage Party. 9:00 – What he’s learned from the process – don’t get started in politics to change policy. He did it to spread a message and to get his name up. He also now has a much greater appreciation for democracy. 14:00 – Running for the Libertarian party – WHY?! Marijuana legalization, pipelines, taxes (aka punishment), drug decriminalization, “last calls” at bars. Potential run for Calgary city council?! 21:00 – Competition between provinces, blockchain, competitive citizenship, US immigration. 33:00 – Going back into politics. Steve’s dream of retiring at 35 years old. The 4 hour Workweek. 36:00 – Future plans: Make Canada the BEST! Solve problems like Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong. We could be so much richer as a country! We should deport unproductive people. 41:00 – Immigrants > native-born citizens. Freer markets make people richer. All businesses are essential… Blockchain solves so many problems! 47:00 – “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” from The Girl Next Door. 49:00 – Change yourself first. 53:00 – Whether it’s worth it to get into Facebook Arguments. Guns. It’s wrong to say that “Americans are gun killers.” Time wasting, being a contrarian. 1:03:00 – Free expression. HustleCo's libertarian press release. 1:09:00 The Government has taken away our freedoms! Or has it? Fears of freedoms being taken away. The Runnymede Society. Our justice system and how it’s pretty good. 1:22:00 – Control is worse than privacy violations! AB tracing app. Blockchain is perfect for this! 1:27:00 – Is it worth it to be a contrarian? 1:30:00 – What would you tell your old self? Find the other contrarians, try not to get emotional, don’t let it affect you. “Facebook is a mental asylum.” Try not to drink your problems away. Have some humour! 1:38:00 – Trump.
01:42:44
May 27, 2020
Michael Kudla: 7th Day Adventists, Atheism, Reason, and Thought
Thanks to Michael Kudla for joining me for the 3rd episode of the podcast. Here are the show notes (where you can find what subjects are spoken about, and when). You can also reach him on Facebook and on Instagram.  To reach me, you can tweet me @eugenefds or email me at lettersfromacontrarian2020 [at] gmail [dot] com. This conversation was recorded on May 22, 2020. 
01:17:38
May 24, 2020
Steve Paolasini: Libertarians, Immigration and Starting a Marketing Company
We've made it to episode 2! Hurrah!  Today I have Steve Paolasini with me. Steve's an immigration consultant based in Calgary, AB. I know him from my time at HustleCo, a co-working firm and marketing agency. He and his business partner Husam Rammini created the company and ran internships too.  Steve told me a bunch of really interesting stories in this podcast (like how he was about to ask HARPER for his ID when he was voting!!), so I hope you enjoy it! Link to the shownotes. Link to Steve's facebook page.  Thanks!
01:06:46
May 21, 2020
The First Episode! A Chat with my good friend Nikola Kuzmanovic
For the first episode of Letters from a Contrarian, we have the one and only Nikola Kuzmanovic!  Nikola and I met around two years ago at SciencesPo in Reims, France. I was there for a semester abroad, he was a full student; we've remained in touch ever since. Both of us caused a lot of controversy on campus.  In this podcast, we talked about persuasion, dialogue, social change, public art, and architecture, among other things.  You can find him on twitter - @thatserbianguy, and you can read the show notes for this episode on my website.
01:08:55
May 8, 2020