Why I Support Dr. Anthony Fauci

In the U.S., government is the activity of the political establishment Politics is not the only establishment.  Dr. Fauci is a member of the scientific establishment.

The start of The  Enlightenment is marked by some as the year 1637 with René Descartes’ Discourse on the Method. Thus begins the genesis of modern thought, and the growth of these establishments towards the forms they have today. Descartes wrote Cogito, ergo sum, I think, therefore I am.  With this single sentence, he freed the human mind from the bondage of belief.

If you value freedom of thought, if you are engaged with the scientific method, you are a spiritual heir of René Descartes. If you prefer to follow or believe, your roots are elsewhere. Dr. Fauci, as a research physician in the modern mold, is one of Descartes’ heirs.

  • In politics, people are the problems and also the solutions, more so than even ideas. People are the currency of politics. Organizational charts take on the illusion of fundamental reality.
  • In science,  personalities hardly count. What counts is a kind of naked truth  never found in politics, which would be a lie if it did. Such were the lies of fascism and communism.
  • The two establishments  tolerate each other from mutual need. Science values truth and needs money. Politics can’t sell truth to voters; it needs deliverables.
  • Politics tends to look at science as a label for job programs.
  • When “technocrats”, meaning scientific types, have attempted to apply science to problems of government, the results have been mediocre or worse.

Since the U.S. response to COVID-19 became a mess, it is natural for politicians to think of it as a people problem.  It would be a mistake to think of  it this way.  Everybody who has said anything about COVID has been wrong. This does not imply universal incompetence.

Blame the virus. In all their years of planning, nobody in the whole wide world planned for a pathogen with  the COVID characteristics of:

  • Contagiousness
  • Severity
  • Stealth

Never was it imagined that one bug could combine the three. There are sound scientific reasons for this, which we will explore with the Astrodome experiments: COVID Resurgent: Of Hares and Foxes; Primer for Policy Makers, Part 3.  Had COVID been Ebola, a different combination of contagious and deadly, the public health systems would have been less stressed. Shortcomings in response would have been noted as glitches, not catastrophes.

Blame epidemiology the subject, long on retrospection and short on predictions for novel pathogens. It lacks the mathematical tools for modeling all but the most simple scenarios. If it is possible to develop better models, it will require individuals who have looked at a lot of data for a very long time. Besides impersonal data, clinical experience is key.

COVID has  outrun the competencies of epidemiology. To advance the competencies requires the best and most prepared minds.  Louis Pasteur,  one of the fathers of  epidemiology,  said, “In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind.

Dr. Fauci has been working at NIH for 52 years, with many achievements of distinction. He is a rightful heir toCogito, ergo sum “. That’s preparation.

Cogito, ergo sum .” Try it, you’ll like it.

COVID Resurgent: Of Hares and Foxes; Primer for Policy Makers, Part 3

We continue from COVID Resurgent: Of Hares and Foxes; Primer for Policy Makers, Part 2.

The Houston Astrodome is ideal for what scientists call a controlled experiment. With the entrances sealed, it becomes a world unto itself.  We can study a situation analogous to the relationship between communicable disease, and the people, or animals, that are infected.  This experiment will help us explore five questions:

  • How can a virus appear to have an intelligent strategy, when it isn’t even alive? Does Darwin’s theory of natural selection play a role?
  • What drives virulence, and what holds it back?
  • Public health policies can influence a pandemic. Can we also influence the evolution of the virus itself?
  • Why has most of the early advice and predictions been so wrong?
  • (NY Times) Europe Said It Was Pandemic-Ready. Pride Was Its Undoing describes the failure of models that predict the course of a pandemic. Are better models possible?

Our Astrodome experiment is arranged like this:

  • Underbrush and hay cover the floor, which is also stocked with rabbit feed.
  • A few hundred hares are let loose, and allowed to make themselves at home.  Then the dozen foxes are let loose.
  • The keepers return each night to tidy up and restock the rabbit feed.

In the natural world, hares eat plants. If the plants are overgrazed, the hares destroy their food supply, and starve to  death.  To better mimic the natural world, we add this twist:

  • If the keepers discover that the hares have eaten all the feed, they do not replace it. The replacement feed is proportionate to the amount that remains.

The mortal combat between foxes and hares has these constraints:

  • Hares can eat only rabbit feed. If the hares run out of feed, they all die.
  • Foxes can only eat hares. If there are no more hares, the foxes all die.
  • The more numerous the hares, the harder it is for them to hide, and the easier for foxes to catch.
  • When there is more food for foxes, the foxes produce more baby foxes. The population of foxes skyrockets.
  • All those foxes eat more rabbits, until fox food become scarce and lots of foxes starve to death.
  • If all the foxes die, the hares overpopulate, eat up all their feed, which is then not replaced, and directly starve to death, or die of disease from starvation.

If we run this experiment for a few years, we find that:

  • The populations of foxes and hares see-saws back and forth. This situation was first described in math by the predator-prey equations of Lotka-Volterra  in 1925, and have been verified as reasonably representative of real situations involving wild animals.
  • If either hares or foxes dies out completely, the food supply of the surviving species dies out too.  So neither foxes nor hares can exist without the other.
  • Usually, neither the foxes or rabbits die out completely. This is the balance of nature.

The predator-prey equations are ancestral to epidemic modeling. They are not used directly, but inspire the present. There is a correspondence:

  • COVID is the fox, and you are the hare. Rather than eaten, you are infected.
  • You could die,  but you most likely become immune, which still means you are not available to the “fox” as food.
  • If your immunity wears off, you again become an edible “hare.”
  • Unlike the hare, you are not dependent on COVID for survival.

If you are a decision maker, the above could replace:

  • A blank feeling about how things work.
  • Emotionalizing as if we’re fighting an opponent:”We beat back the virus.” The equations and the virus don’t care.
  • Hoping “This too will pass.” The Lotka–Volterra equations say the pendulum will swing, until science makes it stop.

This describes the basic situation. With elaboration, we will use this framework to address the five initial questions.

How should we think about COVID-19 ?

Let Kingsfield be your guide.

 

COVID Resurgent: Of Hares and Foxes; Primer for Policy Makers, Part 2

We continue from COVID Resurgent: Of Hares and Foxes; Primer for Policy Makers, Part 1. Of relevance,

(CNN) Kazakhstan denies Chinese government report that country has ‘unknown pneumonia’ outbreak more deadly than Covid-19

(The Diplomat) China Missteps With Wild Allegation of a ‘New’ Deadly Pneumonia in Kazakhstan, Certain of total falsification, the article blames aggressive diplomacy.

So is  “unknown…more deadly pneumonia” reliably false? Quoting CNN,

In a statement later on Friday, the Kazakhstan health ministry acknowledged the presence of “viral pneumonias of unspecified etiology,” but denied that the outbreak was new or unknown.

Condensed and paraphrased, this is “We don’t know what they/it are but they/it aren’t new.”   But if they don’t know what it/they are, how can “authorities” authoritatively know it/they aren’t new? The political penalties of admitting or denying anything related to COVID-19 are huge. When we stir it all together, a disquieting soup emerges:

  • The existence of a  more deadly pneumonia in Kazakhstan cannot be completely discounted. China’s loudmouth ambassador may have actually noticed something. Anecdotal evidence is one of the doors to the scientific method.

Companion thoughts:

  • Whoever writes an article will focus on what they know. For The Diplomat, it’s diplomacy.
  • As  Dr. Fauci has remarked, we are still in the first wave of a pandemic.  (CNN) US is still ‘knee-deep’ in the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Fauci says.
  • A second wave, which has not yet occurred,  has a very specific character: an initial geographic focus, spread along travel routes, with some change in symptoms and outcome.
  • Pandemics of the past had second waves of increasing virulence.
  • Kazakhstan has all the characteristics of a place where a second, more deadly wave wound start.

While the medical community has learned a lot about COVID, there are still places in the halls of power where knowledge is scarce. So I’ve come up with a dramatic demonstration. We’ll need to rent the Houston Astrodome. It should be cheap, because it’s practically falling down. There is a phone number on the web. Also, pick up a few hundred hares or rabbits, a dozen foxes, lots of hay and loose underbrush, and a year’s supply of rabbit feed.

When you’ve got it all set up, with the lease signed, preferably by later today, get back to me and we’ll continue.

It should be most enlightening.

 

 

 

 

Russian Bounty on U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan; Unit 29155, Part 3

We continue from Russian Bounty on U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan; Unit 29155, Part 2.

In deference to readers in the Russian government, this is not a judgment of  their domestic policies. But Russian foreign policies are malign to the West, with no better justification than Richelieu. In the West there seems to be increasing understanding that Putin is not a potentate; he is the designer of a nation. He has the kind of power that like money, is diluted by use, and concentrated by conciliation.

Future historians may analogize Putin  to Lycurgus, author of the constitution of Sparta. Both were scientific endeavors. Both fall short.  See Putin, Balance of Power, Richelieu, Lycurgus, the Ruble, and War, and Putin,…, Lycurgus, the Ruble, and War, Part 2. 

Lycurgus created an obsessively military state. Russia  is very loose-jointed with violence. The old Soviet Union was  held together by stolid, phlegmatic old men. The new Russian foreign policy is alive with the metaphor of switchblades, box cutters, guns, poisons, and all sorts of improvised weapons, deployed with casual abandon. Salisbury was not an accident. It is an institution.

Since Putin is not a potentate, there is the intriguing possibility that as with Special Tasks, the Kremlin is fearful of  processes they cannot completely control, yet addicted to their use. The Skripals were poisoned in March of 2018. In the kind of bungle that Unit 29155 has become renowned for, the targets survived, multiple areas of Salisbury were contaminated, and an innocent person died.

In November 2018, Igor Korobov, head of the GRU, in charge of Unit 29155, died of undisclosed cause.  There are open source notes to the effect that Korobov was severely reprimanded by Putin some months before his demise. Pick your own reason for his liquidation:

  • To neutralize an insubordinate power center.
  • As punishment for failure.
  • As defector Viktor “Suvorov” thinks, at risk for defection. Possible, though “Suvorov” does not bat 1000.
  • Victim of his own poisonous garden.

The abandonment of glasnost is a factual tragedy of Russia. In consequence  there exists no way to

  • Adjudicate Korobov’s offenses.
  • Punish him openly without admissions Russia is too small to make.
  • Develop, by precedent, the myth of the most advanced countries, that justice will prevail.

Russia seems stuck on Stalin’s solution, described by Anatoly Rybakov as “Death solves all problems,. No man, no problem.” Hence, poison is likely. Yet Korobov’s probable liquidation did not stop the bounty killings which occurred in 2019. “Suvorov” scores a point. This is the backstory of the Afghanistan bounties.

Did Putin know or approve of the bounties? Open source has nothing to say. If clandestine know more, they aren’t tipping their hand.

Were the bounties intended to hurry U.S. withdrawal? This is the mainstream analysis, probably correct.  It is  possible to imagine the opposite. The U.S. neutralized the Taliban as a threat to Russia. As precedent, I refer to a former U.S. secretary of state, who is reputed by some to have said about the 8-year Iran-Iraq War, “It would have been great if it had gone on forever.”

It is also possible that the bounties had no reasoned purpose other than someone’s good idea.

Will U.S. punishment of Russia deter this kind of behavior? It does not appear to bother Russia in the least that it has become a pariah in the West.  It is more significant to Russian strategists that harrying the enemy is producing results. That is what they think.

Quasi academician-apparatchik hybrids  exercise think-tank creative freedom to prove that the decline of the West is all their work. They have been shaking the tree pretty hard, and we provide the evidence with our own behavior. Our response also falls short in technical comparison:

  • Apart from the violence of units like 29155, the Russian art is psychological  manipulation. We call it subversion, but the art has outraced the term.
  • U.S. sanctions, which emphasize material damage, have little or no psychological effect.

The counters to manipulation and violence:

  • Convince the Russians of our great faith in ourselves, which we will do by acting on that faith.
  • Meld  sanctions, and other forms of material policy, with applied psychology. A visible scoreboard is required to translate from the numerical purity of sanctions to psychological impact, manipulation  in kind.

 If  within the Kremlin there are voices opposed to subversion of the West, a sophisticated U.S. strategy could empower them. There are established techniques. See Advice for a New Secretary of State, Part 6; How to Use a Skinner Box.

With our persuasion, perhaps they can finally bury Stalin’s words.

 

Russian Bounty on U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan; Unit 29155, Part 2

We continue from Russian Bounty on U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan; Unit 29155, Part 1.

The Stasi  archives that pertain to the 1986 West Berlin discotheque bombing reveal that the participants were known to the Stasi, and one, Musbah Abdulghasem Eter, was a Stasi agent. The most provocative open source comes from (AP) Report: East Germany Allowed Libyan Attack On Discotheque. Quoting,

WEST BERLIN (AP) _ Ousted East German leader Erich Honecker and his secret police chief allowed Libyan terrorists to carry out the 1986 discotheque bombing that killed two American soldiers, a leading newspaper reported today…The report in the West Germany paper Die Welt was the latest in a string of disclosures on relations between international terrorists and Honecker’s Communist regime.

Multiple sources state that while the Stasi provided no active assistance, it  was instructed not to interfere. Still other discountable sources, remnants of the Communist propaganda machines, describe an outraged Stasi on discovery of the involvement of their agent.

Surviving KGB veterans  claim that terrorism was forbidden by KGB policy, though it had many relationships with groups that did use terror. When specifically asked about the Berlin disco bombing, they uniformly deny. Yet Soviet compartmentalization was so extreme, few had complete understanding of their own times. The opacity allows for rogues and cliques.

The  Stasi, though an independent intelligence and security agency, was not ocean-going-with a world view. Their native concerns were restricted to Eastern Bloc security, and external espionage in West Germany. Libya meant nothing to them. It would have been a remarkable exception in their society of ultimate control, to allow foreign conspirators to commit a terror act in West Berlin, which at that time was a West German enclave, completely surrounded by East Germany.

So  the plot was allowed to proceed at the behest of a power with a world view. The choice most compatible with Occam’s Razor is a person or power center within the Soviet Union, but not the Kremlin  itself.  This was early in the tenure of Mikhail Gorbachev as General Secretary. He had no sympathies with terror or grudges with the West.

The order probably came through a backdoor channel, as simple as personal acquaintance of the resident KGB, or as elaborate as the Gavrilov Channel, a backdoor phone line between the CIA and the KGB, who proposed it in 1983. But who was at the Soviet end of the channel? Vladimir Putin doubtless knows. I’ll trade him a Starbucks gift card for the answer.

In his absence, the only hint is in the rapid change that came with the assent of Gorbachev to General Secretary. Early in his tenure as General Secretary, his challenge was to gain dominance over an elderly and conservative Politburo, which he did by shuffling and forced retirements. During this period, someone on his way out, or some clique with personal losses in Afghanistan, may have had a need for revenge against the U.S. The Soviet-Afghan war  began in 1978. U.S. arms deliveries to the Mujahedin began in 1980, though deliveries of the Stinger MANPAD did not begin until after the Berlin disco bombing.

This rogue or clique-based authorization of terror without approval of the Party is an early marker of breakdown of the Soviet system. In 1991, the breakdown became almost total. Russia’s short experiment with democracy was aborted by those who sought to reconstruct a country more related to traditional Russia.

To build a country out of the wreckage, they grabbed  all the myths they thought serviceable, which included paternal government, Slavic nationalism, Orthodox Christianity, militarism, and a “great power” myth. Unit 29155 is simply reassignment of the mythic role of the Yasha Group.

If the bounties are a fact, (change to my highest class of real world certainty, the almost-fact) the builders grabbed the wrong myths, and repurposed them in the wrong way. The error is above and beyond a clique or single individual who may have authorized. This is Russia today.

Next: Towards an understanding; techniques to counter; balms for our souls.