All posts by Number9

12 Days Till Inauguration, a Very Dangerous Time, Lacking Statutory Authority

Leadership in this interval  leading up to inauguration is an informal collective of very competent people, who unfortunately lack the statutory authority on which all notions of deterrence rest.

The situation persists because  the risk of domestic unrest is more real to the politically astute than the risk of hostile foreign powers.

A hostile foreign power might be emboldened to shortly take a risk we would normally call a miscalculation.  Their numbers might actually add up.

The remedy to risk from hostile foreign powers is to reestablish the statutory authority that is the basis all forms deterrence, as provided for by the Constitution.

It’s much cheaper than fighting a war.

 

 

(CNN) Top White House national security officials are considering resigning; Please Don’t

(CNN) Top White House national security officials are considering resigning.  Quoting,

Several of President Trump’s top aides, including national security adviser Robert O’Brien, are considering resigning in the wake of his response to a pro-Trump mob breaching the US Capitol today.

This is addressed to those officials. Please don’t resign. We need you more than ever.

This is a day which will live in infamy, but not yours. The  minor shame of serving to the end is erased by the service you have rendered. The numbers of experienced professionals like yourselves, who stepped up for the most difficult jobs of their lives, is the most impressive fact of this administration.  You have together borne the shield of decency and preserved the Constitution.

On 12/21, I began to wonder: Coup in the United States? In May of 1964, this almost happenedIt may yet emerge as more real than mere ambition, prevented by one insuperable obstacle, YOU.

You, as interlocutors with the rest of  government, were the barrier to illegalities of usurpation. You defended the Constitution and preserved the Republic.  This remains your obligation  and reward until Inauguration Day, unless the 25th Amendment is invoked.

Even if history does not shower you with the praise of the victorious, if you stay the course of the Republic, this will be your finest hour.

Half Doses of Moderna, Pfizer Vaccines, a Good Idea; Mexican Encephalitis

So there’s no misunderstanding, I would drive three hours to get either shot. But there is a strong argument for a half dose.

(Reuters) Mexican doctor hospitalized after receiving COVID-19 vaccine is concerning. Quoting,

“The initial diagnosis is encephalomyelitis,” the Health Ministry said in a statement released on Friday night. Encephalomyelitis is an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

Encephalomyelitis does not result from atopy. It is a result of a cell-mediated autoimmune reaction. In the few 3rd World countries that still use the Semple rabies vaccine, it is a regular and frequently lethal side effect. Brain damage is frequent in survivors.

The Semple vaccine is made of animal nerve tissue with no purification. When encephalomyelitis results from this vaccine, it is the result of introducing into the body proteins which are both similar and different. The foreignness of the protein induces an immune response that also attacks native proteins. But this mechanism gives no hint as to why it would occur with an RNA vaccine.

A clue is offered by (Nature, 12/20/2020) The S1 protein of SARS-CoV-2 crosses the blood–brain barrier in mice. For a neat summary, see (ScienceDaily) COVID-19 virus enters the brain, research strongly suggests.

The Mexican physician has a history of severe allergic reactions. How could this tie in with encephalomyelitis? A possible mechanism:

  • The patient had a “standard” anaphylactic reaction, which involves a huge histamine release.
  • The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines cause cells at the injection site to produce a flood of spike protein, which, unbound to an adjuvant, is highly mobile.
  • Since it is now known that the brain contains mast cells, the blood-brain barrier suddenly became porous. Even with prompt treatment, a substantial quantity of spike protein passed the barrier.
  • With no previous exposure to spike protein, the nature of the immune response within the brain is a mystery. Encephalomyelitis could be the visible result of a massively apoptotic event.
  • Had the patient  received epinephrine prophylaxis with the vaccine, this might have been avoided. Something to consider?

In traditional vaccines, adjuvants have been combined with antigen to increase the potency of the shot. Various theories explain why adjuvants work:

  • The immune system requires insult to react. As a minor irritant, an adjuvant causes the immune system to respond more strongly to the antigen.
  • When an antigen is attached to a poorly soluble adjuvant, such as alum, the half life of the antigen in circulation is greatly increased. This also reduces the mobility of the antigen.

As potentially toxic substances, adjuvants went out of fashion for a while, with preference for highly potent antigens synthesized by recombinant techniques. Now adjuvants are back in favor in new flavors.

RNA vaccines produce a sudden flood of unbound s-protein antigen. More traditional vaccines present antigens bound to larger structures, either adjuvants, or virus-like-particles. This reduces the mobility of the antigen, in this case s-protein, lessening the chance it can pass the blood-brain barrier. This “safety feature” cannot be incorporated into RNA vaccines.

Since this is unlikely to have a large lay readership, we could finish with Paracelsus. You know what he said. Even a handful of cases of encephalomyelitis could frustrate mass immunization.

So cut the dose in half. Yes, I’m still driving three hours for the shot. I’ll take mine with a side of epinephrine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now is the Winter of Our Discontent; a Painting for Today

(click to enlarge)

I’m too much of a realist to revel in a single day, and wish you a happy new year. From (Shakespeare) Richard III,

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:

The oil-on-canvas painting is inspired by a  shack in southern New Mexico, where I saw orange desert lighting, bolts spanning the entire sky.  It was made in an unusual way.  Mars Black mixed with heavy medium was applied in heavy impasto. The line drawing was inscribed with a stick. It was set aside to dry for a month.  All of the colors and shades are the result of thin glazes. Lit straight on, the canvas appears inscrutably dark. The photo was taken with side lighting.

Look!  In the window of the shack! Is that glow the lamp of a solitary dweller, a beacon of hope, or just the reflection of lightning?

Your choice, the freedom of imagination.

 

(Reuters) AstraZeneca vaccine not ready for quick European approval, watchdog official says

(Reuters) AstraZeneca vaccine not ready for quick European approval, watchdog official says.

I agree. I said as much on August 24, before the first neurological complications were reported, in Why I Would Not Take the Russian or Oxford – AstraZeneca Vaccines – Part 2.

A plausible mechanism is given in (CNN) NIH ‘very concerned’ about serious side effect in AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine trial.

 

Nashville Explosion; Bomb Forensics; Related to Antifa?

(CNN) ‘This vehicle will explode in 15 minutes.’ Witnesses describe surviving the Nashville explosion.

The forensics so far released permits some comments about the device, followed with attempted profile of the perpetrator(s).

DEVICE

The damage is much less than expected,  inconsistent with the size and effect of a typical vehicle IED. The lack of total wall collapse of adjacent buildings is indicative of a much smaller device than a camper could  carry. It was either intentionally under-powered, or a fizzle. Since  there is no mention of nails or ball bearings as lethality enhancers,  lethality was not maximized. This fits well with an intentionally small device.

Since ANFO, ammonium nitrate/fuel oil, is the almost universal choice for car bombs, as well as the leading industrial explosive, a bomber’s illegal contacts would have to be very unusual to choose something else.

The color of the smoke is usually a clue to the type of explosive. In this case, the black smoke is likely an indication of a bomb maker’s error, or intentional sloppiness. Gross simplification: Almost all explosives, with the notable exception of TATP, contain all four of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen.

  • Nitrogen oxides tend to make orange smoke.
  • Water, from hydrogen and oxygen, white smoke.
  • Carbon, black smoke.

Which color you see depends upon which of the above is dominant. An optimal ANFO bomb produces orange smoke.

  • An excess of fuel oil,  more than the optimal 6%, results in black smoke from the carbon in the oil.
  • An attempt  to “boost” the IED by surrounding it with fuel oil in some dispersal scheme, perhaps for a fuel-air effect, could result in black smoke.
  • If the bomb maker was environmentally minded, he might have mixed in PPC (Pittsburgh Pulverized Coal), to suppress toxic nitrogen oxides, with black smoke resulting.

PERPETRATOR PROFILE

An AT&T switching center is adjacent to the blast site. The choice of targets have been suggested as police, infrastructure, or a combination, where police would be drawn to respond by risk to infrastructure.

Goals of maximum loss of life or widespread emotional impact are not supported. The 15 minute countdown recording suggests a conscience more conditional than we have come to associate with Islamic terror. Since impact was actually minimized by the recorded warning,  it is unlikely to have links to Islamic terrorism.

  • The absence of a social media footprint suggests higher intelligence than typical of recent right-wing extremism.
  • The possible human remains are consistent with a suicide attack.
  • There has been no claim of responsibility.  A lone wolf is possible. 

If the perpetrator has ideological motivation, it may derive from

  • Anarchism of the late 19th and early 20th century.
  • Anti-fascism, as typified by the Weather Underground of 1969-1977, and the first and second wave Red Brigades of 1970-1988.
  • The nascent potential for similar terror in the current Antifa movement.

Neo-naziism and Antifa are not simply polar opposites. The extreme right wing in the U.S., and probably elsewhere, is intellectually challenged. The further right we go, the dumber they get, eventually aligning with significant mental impairment.  This broad grouping is almost incapable of ideating  anything more sophisticated than the use of violence to incite more of the same. Notorious acts, such as the Oklahoma City bombing,  have caused unselective loss of life.

We don’t have to love left-wing or anarchic radicals more than the right to acknowledge that the radical left, and the classical anarchists, think because they can. The intelligence of the modern Antifa  grouping encourages elaborate ideations, typically actions of surgical scope.  The Nashville bombing has, by design, noticeably limited scope.

The likely political sympathy is left.  Whether it converts to political group association depends upon investigation. At best, this is a lone-wolf suicide. At worst, another Unabomber,  difficult  because of the intelligence of the perpetrator.

If Antifa is involved, publicity is key to the goal, and key also to the investigation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New COVID Strain VOC 202012/01, More Lethal? Argument #1

This is a dangerous question. If this blog were mass media, I’d skip it. But readers  are a pretty intelligent bunch, so they can handle it. Several plausibility arguments  suggest that VOC 202012/01 will be found to be more lethal. This is not the same as proof. But it will be seen that spin is a powerful influence on how the public would view this.

Spin is in the paternal tradition of  public health and medicine. Manage the truth, because the public are largely incapable of responding to the unspun version. If they were, they would be wearing masks.

The first step is an assumption, that VOC 202012/01 really spreads more easily.  The Dice of the Universe, statistics, have great fake-out moves. We have to assume that  “increased infectivity” is not a simply the result of an improbable superspreader event, or chain of events. We have to make this assumption, because statistical fact takes  months to emerge.

This is discussed in For Pros Only: (CNN) Fauci says task force seriously considering new testing strategy; Vilfredo Pareto. The crux of that article is that the concept of R_o, the basic reproduction ratio, is not close enough to reality for good models.

But when statisticians report that VOC 202012/01 spreads 70% more easily, they are relying on R_o as a useful simplification. They are stating that R_o of VOC 202012/01 is 1.7 X  R_o of the dominant COVID strain. That’s OK, provided we understand that R_o is useful in conversation,  not for sophisticated modeling. Now we’re ready for our first argument.

Argument #1. Suppose the dominant strain of COVID  arrives at a sleepy mountain village in the mountains of southern of Italy, or an isolated native American settlement in the far north.

  • Each settlement has a population of 1000, with typical distributions of young and old.
  • Everybody in the village gets COVID, but only symptomatic cases are tested and detected.
  • 40% never have symptoms, so they aren’t tested. This reflects testing in the real world.
  • 60% of each population develop symptomatic COVID.
  • 6% of the infected die, 3.6% of the population of each village, 36 people.

Now repeat this with VOC 202012/01.

  • R_o appears to be higher, because 100% of the inhabitants develop symptomatic COVID.
  • Purists may object that this is a misuse of the concept of R_o, but the concept is fatally flawed anyway.  It is a useful proxy.
  • 6% of the infected die, 6% of the population of each village, 60 people.
  • Yet the sick were no sicker, nor more likely to die than from “standard COVID”.

We find ourselves in public health spin-land.

  • More village inhabitants people die when VOC 202012/01 comes to town, so it’s more lethal.
  • If VOC 202012/01 is the dominant strain, you are more likely to die from COVID.
  • If you have VOC 202012/01, you are no more likely to die than from standard COVID.

Why is this so hard to understand? Because it’s more than a single question can hold. A lot of things in life are that way. And it’s spinnable. In spinning a public health statement, which of the below concerns have more weight?

  • Avoid panic, though, so far, panic has not been a problem.
  • Puncture the egotism of the mask and vaccine deniers. This could offer them  a second chance, without even the private admission they were wrong in the first place.

Argument #1 is unique.  It does not come out of experimental science, logic, or statistics. It’s interpretation o f consequences. Yet it is real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coup in the United States? In May of 1964, this almost happened…

It happened in fiction, in the movie (YouTube) Seven Days in May.

In case something happens to the link, Wikipedia synopsis here.   Buy it or rent it.

L. Fletcher Prouty, Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President John F. Kennedy thought an event closely paralleling Seven Days conjoined the Kennedy assassination.  His book, JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy, cannot simply be dismissed (or believed). His later descent into the sinkhole of conspiracy theory robs it of an author’s stature. Yet it lingers, at least as counterfactual history, with tantalizing possibilities to touch reality.

To those of you who swore your allegiance, not to a person or party, but to the Constitution of the United States, the words of Thomas Paine beckon:

December 23, 1776

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value…

 

(CNN) Researchers reject Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s misuse of their studies to support mask denialism.

(CNN) Researchers reject Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s misuse of their studies to support mask denialism.

Upfront: Laura Ingraham may be stupid, evil, or both, but this is a missed opportunity for CNN to explain the science in an accessible way. It could be done in three sentences with schoolyard vocabulary. Comments for CNN at the end.

The study in question: (Annals of Internal Medicine) Effectiveness of Adding a Mask Recommendation to Other Public Health Measures to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Danish Mask Wearers. The study authors present conclusions valid to professional statisticians, yet fail to inform public health policy. The  implication that masks fail to protect the wearer is unjustified. How can this be?

Imagine you are a scientist investigating coin tosses. You use your funding to buy a single penny. You toss it six times; you get five heads.  The chance of this happening is 5%. The chance of five tails  is 5%.  Is 5% sheer random chance definitive? This is a demo of the Central Limit Theorem. Maybe you should drop your plan to write, “Random Variation of Coin Tosses With Implications for Gang Warfare”. The study is weak, lacking statistical power. 

Instead of a binary outcome, the study observes:

  • 5% chance mask use reduced any degree of COVID  infection, including asymptomatic by 46%. This is statistically weak. A study that measured reduction of severe infection could be much stronger.
  • 5% chance mask use increased infection by 23%, which is absurd. This connects with weak statistical power.
  • In case you haven’t noticed, the above is contradictory, a red flag.
  • Severity of infection was not measured, only immune reaction, likely a limitation of sample size limited by budget.

Reduction of severe infection is crucial and unmeasured, which the authors acknowledge:

“Masks have been hypothesized to reduce inoculum size (34) and could increase the likelihood that infected mask users are asymptomatic, but this hypothesis has been challenged (35).”

There is a 5% chance of absurdity, that masks increase infection. The study authors are completely honest, acknowledging this with stated limitations:

“Inconclusive results, missing data, variable adherence, patient-reported findings on home tests, no blinding, and no assessment of whether masks could decrease disease transmission from mask wearers to others.”

Now for the journalism. Laura Ingraham is untouched by CNN as long as CNN’s scathing criticism is confined to the political domain. “Follow the leader” is a strong political meme that can’t be countered with “believe us not them”. Some significant minority of our society is amenable to reasoning with facts. Any political piece that goes beyond sheer tactics deserves a few nibbles of reason from the natural world, with companion schoolyard logic.

 

 

(CNN) George Bush’s Greeting Card; Complement to the Image

(click to enlarge)

(CNN) George W. Bush sends holiday card with pointed message as Trump denies election loss. My  secular complement appears above. The painting previously appeared  in COVID-19 and Augury; A Painting for Today, a dismissal of blind hope.

But as with poetry, a painting contains its diametric opposite. This is the season for hope, not blind hope, but firm hope that turns into resolution.

If we pull hard enough on those bootstraps, maybe we can do it.