Sunday, July 19, 2020

Covid misconceptions. Billionaires don't donate to Biden! And a letter about covid to "Dear libertarians...."

Before talking covid... you know that for years I've warned that a trumped-up "war" with Iran would serve the interests of all our nation's enemies, from the Republican Party to the Iranian mullahs, themselves, and above all Vladimir Putin, who would finally rake in all the chips. I've long praised the US Navy for calmly defusing one provocation after another, avoiding a "Tonkin Gulf" (and you all still do need to stay alert, also knowing the words "Gleiwitz" and "Reichstag Fire.")
So, why am I not beating that drum now? Because our military, intel and other officers have eyes and brains. Given that our entire 'deep state' is on red alert against efforts by Putin/Tehran/Fox/Trump to trigger an October War, what other tricks are possible?
We don't know! That's why I keep saying some zillionaire - instead of just joining the herd donating to the Biden campaign - should try some of the special things I suggested here.
Especially the "Henchman of the Year" Prize, to lure whistle-blowers and tattlers into the open. There is absolutely no better use of a million dollars, than to staunch the nefarious schemes and cheats that are right now hatching in preparation. It's the henchmen who can offer proof! And if nothing else, this would make the plotters distrust their henchmen.
Well, there is one other thing, that could do even more good. Joe Biden could start talking about pardoning the first few to step forward from among the hundreds likely now being blackmailed into treason by the KGB. Whatever they are being blackmailed for, any of them who turned the tables on their blackmailers would be salvageable 'heroes' - at least enough to find some forgiveness and a stairway out of hell. Someone in Biden's campaign should contemplate how good that would look, even if it spurred no defections. But if it did...
And yes, all this and more is in the book.
== Cautionaries about Covid/Covfefe-19 == 
As you might guess, I'm very busy these days, on often one podcast/ interview/ conference a day, sometimes two, even three. Along the way I've learned a lot. About how vaccines work, for instance, and how it's not enough just to make antibodies, or even 'neutralizing antibodies" that are effective against a viral attack. 

Look up Antibody-based Enhancement (Ab), where the victim's immune system manages to stymie one viral strain, only for the next variant to hijack those antibodies and use them as trojan horses, or spears, to attack and invade more fiercely than ever! While rare, this does happen to some promising vaccines, especially in Dengue, where the first wave can be mild and the second devastatingly lethal. Indeed, discovering such potentially dangerous quirks is one reason we have large scale trials before releasing vaccines.

Other immunological side effects happen. With the 1976 Swine Flu vaccine that Gerald Ford rushed out, the Guillame-Barré side effect was so nasty it gave birth to the current anti-vaxxer movement. Anything similar with a covid vaccine could spur vaxxers to plunge us back into the dark ages... those execrable years before the Greatest Generation saved mine from Polio and Diptheria, And yes, before Jonas Salk became the most-beloved American, terrified parents kept children indoors, away from friends and swimming pools, all summer long. 

What? You think this was our first quarantine? (Salk was the first American to approach the adoration that the Greatest Generation gave previously to Franklin... Delano... Roosevelt.)

All of which is to say that things are more complicated than reflex dogma. Not only is it dangerous to rush out the first vaccine. It's also foolish to ignore the fact that many of today's covid-asymptomatics (35%) and shruggers (the 60% who supposedly shrug it off after two weeks spent moaning in bed) are revealed to have damage afterwards in their kidneys, livers, skin, the G.I. tract and nerves. 

Those Ancillary Effects are what terrify me, since many remain hidden. even now. "Symptom relapse" is another serious problem and everyone I've met online who was infected reports having it. And there are suspected cases of "lurking" -- where the virus seems completely gone, only to spew forth later.

(Note, Spanish researchers have just put out an alert to watch out for MOUTH RASHES, which are much more dangerous than "Covid Toes," since they can make you a super-spreader. And yes I still try to scratch and sniff a lemon, daily.)

"Flattening the Curve" isn't just about making sure we have enough ICU beds, though that has saved innumerable lives. (I was involved across March-April in efforts to design DIY ventilators.)  Curve flattening is also about giving science enough time to catch up and provide situational awareness...

...something we would have had, if testing had been prioritized as a matter of national urgency, instead of sabotaged with suspicious relentlessness. And now the Trump White House is railing against a stimulus bill including money for accelerated testing and contact tracing! Consider how only Putin and his carnival barker would want to sabotage us that way.

Four months or so ago -- about the era of Gilgamesh -- back when we thought this might be just a 'bad flu' restricted to problems with lung fluid excess -- some commentators suggested "this will rock our complacency and get us taking the pandemic threat more seriously, so we'll be better prepared when something really bad hits." Well, this has proved to be worse than a 'bad flu"... 

...but that logic still holds. Some of my past sci fi has been more pertinent than I’d want! My Hugo-nominated story “The Giving Plague” deals with our complex relationships with viruses and such, including the several paths a parasite can go down, in “negotiating” with us hosts. Get it free at on my website.  

== Covid concerns that relate to... Libertarians! ==

Okay, all of that leads to the Great Swedish Experiment in going for "herd immunity," a notion much beloved of some libertarians I know, leading to the latest meme from the White House. When it didn't 'just go away,' and after a dozen other trial balloons, now it's "we're just going to have to live with it."

National Review carried an article extolling wonderful Sweden, and well.... the current condition of National Review has William F. Buckley spinning in his grave so fast that he's generating megawatts of good, clean electricity for Connecticut. (He and Barry Goldwater would have been enraged by the current right's all-out war against science and every other fact-centered profession.) 

Still, it is important to read views that dissent from the near-universal opinion I've seen expressed by sage researchers - that Sweden's experiment is a disaster. 

Consider using the standard formula for epidemics, when a disease has an R(0) replication ratio around TWO, you can make do with herd immunity if HALF of the population is fully resistant and non-contagious. 

But when R(0) gets above FIVE, as does Sars-CoV-2 when there's indoor mingling, you need 80% of the population to be fully resistant and non-contagious to get herd-immunity. And that's if every asymptomatic-infected and shrugger is fully immune and no longer spreading. It ignores the way super-spreaders appear to reach R(0) = 20+.

As for the memic aspect to this, as you know, I am an Adam Smith acolyte who believes that there should always be adult-libertarian voices at the table, questioning government over-reach. What troubles me is the reflex to assume that the major threats to liberty right now are only nanny-state bureaucrats, when human history offers a very different warning. 

Even if we include as "socialist" the murderously oppressive USSR (which in fact was Czarist+ fascist Russia using different symbols and incantations), even so, far less than 0.01% of the generations who suffered oppression had their freedoms and entrepreneurial options crushed by socialism of any kind. The vast majority of our ancestors across the last 6000 years were oppressed by one force... oligarchic-lordly inheritance cheaters of the kind who Adam Smith denounced and the U.S. Founders fought.

Seriously, how can any sincere defender of freedom and markets ignore that dismal tendency in human nature? For those who have elite wealth and influence to use it to cheat instead of letting others compete fairly? A libertarianism that ignores that absolutely central societal flaw - and Adam Smith's remedies -- is not a movement that's anywhere near as cerebral or honest as it thinks it is. 

Nor is it scientific or helpful in a crisis such as this, yammering about 'freedom to not wear a mask' while meekly obeying laws against nudity. Oy.


DRickard said...

"The vast majority of our ancestors across the last 6000 years were oppressed by one force... oligarchic-lordly inheritance cheaters of the kind who Adam Smith denounced and the U.S. Founders fought.

Seriously, how can any sincere defender of freedom and markets ignore that dismal tendency in human nature? For those who have elite wealth and influence to use it to cheat instead of letting others compete fairly?"

I suspect many libertarians follow the delusion propagated by economist Walter Williams: capitalism has magically altered human nature and removed the urge to cheat.

The rest probably assume they'll be the ones on top, cheating the anthill, and therefore don't mind.

TCB said...

Re: Joe Biden. As a Bernie Sanders fan, I found it difficult to understand why Black voters in South Carolina and elsewhere broke so strongly for Biden, when some of his old policies and positions seemed pretty problematical to me. But I saw a tweet that made it all make sense.

Laurie Goff, quoted on Twitter. To save you the click, however, here it is in full.

"Another perspective from an African American Biden voter:

"Let me explain something to you about Joe Biden and why some of the shit that he’s done in his past doesn’t matter."

"This old rich white man played second fiddle to a black man. Not just any black man, but a younger black man, a smart black man. Not just for a day. Not 1, not 2 but eight years. He took his cues from this black man who had more power than him and was virtually unknown when he took the presidency, and Joe Biden had been around forever."

"He was willing and proud to be his wing man. Not once did he try to undermine him, this black man. Instead Joe walked in lockstep with him, he respected him, he loved and trusted him. He was led by him and he learned from him. And Joe did not have a problem with it.
You tell me what 40+ year “establishment” white politician has ever done that. Joe Biden is cut from a different cloth. And black folks understand that and for good reason. He has shown it."

"This is what showing up and being an ally looks like. When black people say they know Joe, this is how we know."

~ Laurie Goff

David Brin said...

You both get post-of-the-day. Excellent stuff!

I deem most of my libertarian friends to be hypnotized by incantations about bureaucrats and "property"... and one word... "competition"... either shakes a few awake or sends the rest fleeing.

TCB that's terrific. Using it.

Larry Hart said...

Robert in the previous comments:

Your Second Amendment only applies to white folks. De facto if not de jure.

I know that, but it's useful to force the Republicans to admit that in so many words.

Ahcuah said...

David posted the Laurie Goff item on Facebook. My commment there:

I think this works in nicely with another of [David's] observations, regarding the removal of many statues these days: "Were they better than their times?" Nobody's perfect. But how did they do compared to those around them. And I think one can say Biden comes out ahead of so many in that regard. (And he sure wasn't my first choice either.)


Today, Trump on saying the coronavirus will disappear: "I'll be right eventually."

John Maynard Keynes: "In the long run we are all dead."


And finally, did you hear about The Naked Athena in Portland last night? While the Feds were doing their thing, a naked (all but a mask) woman stood them down. (And yes, David gets another prediction his for saying at the end of this post, "Nor is it scientific or helpful in a crisis such as this, yammering about 'freedom to not wear a mask' while meekly obeying laws against nudity." ;-) )

On twitter:

And then? Naked Athena appeared and the little boys didn’t know what to do.

She won.

scidata said...

Emirati Mars probe on its way.

Interesting times.

David Brin said...

Re the shooting at the federal judge overseeing the DeutscheBank/Epstein case… Watch the film "Z"! I mean it! Nothing can better prepare you. Except in the US the military is not the enemy. It's Blackwater and mafias and the KGB and confederate fanatics.

Tacitus said...

The assault on any federal judge, or for that matter any federal courthouse, is a serious matter and demands a full inquiry. But before we go all Black Helicopter it might be well to step back from the exciting DeutscheBank! Epstein! clickbait. The case is described as a civil action in which shareholders are trying to hold DB accountable for poor investment decisions.

"More recently, Salas has presided over an ongoing lawsuit brought by Deutsche Bank investors who claim the company made false and misleading statements about its anti-money laundering policies and failed to monitor “high-risk” customers including convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein."

She had also been involved in prosecution of some violent gang members.

Anything is possible. But a link to the Holy Grail of Orange Man Goes to Prison? Not likely.

I hope the case gets ongoing attention and we that hear about it again. So often we get the initial sensation and then crickets.


Darrell E said...

Some excellent stuff starting out this comments section.

Laurie Goff's perspective on Biden. Fascinating. It's one of those things that I think I should have thought of but never did. Of course my view isn't what's important here, Laurie's is.

Naked Athena, awesome. Fucking beautiful. Yes, there is plenty of awfulness but there is also no end of people doing amazing things.

David Brin said...

The civil suits against Deutsche Bank are significant because once the litigants get the documents it will be almost impossible to constrain their wider release. Federal criminal investigators have been tightly reined by their professional standards and rules.

Stockholder suits are even worse. They can lead to toppling the board.

Tacitus said...

Recall the Black Helicopters...


Catfish 'n Cod said...

@TCB/Goff: So simple. It's right in front of everyone and yet no one sees it. He had absolutely zero problem with a Black superior. What more refutation of charges of "white supremacy" do you need? Sure, he'll have some gaffes, mistakes, hang-ups. We're all human. But he's been through the acid test.

And to heck with all the patronizing leftists trying to chide them for putting that on at least an even level with Bernie's 40-year "consistency" and "advocacy". Yeah sure. Bernie's acolytes will one day no doubt populate many staff positions. But that's winning by means other than simply elections.

@Larry: Don't let up there! The next step is why the Second Amendment has a de facto racial component: to suppress Blacks when they organize. Slave revolts, economic consolidation, fusion elections, labor organization (with "agitators", "communist" and/or "anarchist" flavor), civil rights marches, War on Drugs/Crime/Whatever, Black Lives Matter. It's all one continuum.

The mark of a true defender of the Second Amendment is if they are willing to conduct gun safety training -- themselves, not just supporting it -- for inner-city Black youth in large numbers. That's the acid test. Any hesitation on this point is equivalent to a hesitation on 2A itself. To give their due, there actually are some NRA people who will endorse this notion and put money where mouth is.

They are a terribly small minority.

@Dr. Brin: I'm reading reviews and summaries; I can't take much more satirical tragedy right now. Roger Ebert's review-of-the-time is punchy enough (and props to him for mentioning Fred Hampton, whom I only learned about this year). Roger Ebert's 1969 review of Z.

Meanwhile: is this not the moment we need collaborative use of ubiquitous cameras a la "Transparent Society"?

jim said...

I find Laurie Goff’s statement about why black voters are OK with Joe Biden to be both accurate and a quite sad commentary on politicians (both democratic and republican).
Biden did not try to undermine Obama, he supported him very consistently. And the fact that black folks find this extraordinary for a white politician is a great example of how crappy our system is and the soft bigotry of low expectations.

David Brin said...

"And the fact that black folks find this extraordinary for a white politician is a great example of how crappy our system is and the soft bigotry of low expectations."

First, jim, thanks for a sane comment.

Second, that impression by black folks does not have to be fair or quantitatively accurate for it to be a valuable insight into how they feel. They know they have many white allies. And many faithfully served Obama. But knowing that and feeling it was especially deep with Biden are different matters.

I'd have liked it if Goff had mentioned that Barack also valued Biden's counsel and gave him quite a bit of authority and trust, too.

A German Nurse said...

Re: Fed Judge Shooter: The Atlantic runs a profile:

Expect a rise of similar shootings, as there will surely be additional deranged persons who will throw their and other's lifes away when their beloved Führer is defeated in November.

A German Nurse said...

Re: Deutsche Bank: I don't expect them to publish anything voluntarily. In the moment they did, Trump would sue them (there has been a major precedence of Deutsche Bank being inconfidental about a client's (Leo Kirch) liquidity, leading to a series of civilian and criminal lawsuits for a period of ten years.)

A breach of confidence on that level of magnitude would ruin the DeBa, and the German FedGov would surely object to it. Perhaps if Team Biden negotiated with them, but then again, this would be not better than the whole Burisma affair.

And then, does it still matter? Everyone knows Trump is corrupt, and his base would vote for him, no matter what.

scidata said...

I went to a David Bowie concert in 1983. The opening act was Rough Trade (a local Toronto band). Their best song was "What's the Furor About the Führer?" It totally summed up the America of 35 years later.

Alfred Differ said...

A German Nurse,

And then, does it still matter?

Yes. It matters. When we aren't truthful with ourselves, we repeat the folly.
Being truthful doesn't ensure we won't anyway, but ignorance practically ensures it.

For the record, I'm in favor of leaving smoking ruins where DeBa currently stands. Figuratively, though. Not literally.

Alfred Differ said...

Looks like SpaceX landed the booster safely and caught both halves of the faring before they hit the water. They have some short video snippets of the catches that show how it's done.

Pretty neat.

We kinda wanted to do that to catch our desert rockets coming down on chutes, but you've gotta haul @#$ and trust that the playa doesn't go soft. Wasn't really worth the risk, but we dreamed of it. 8)

A German Nurse said...

Alfred Differ:
"Yes. It matters. When we aren't truthful with ourselves, we repeat the folly.
Being truthful doesn't ensure we won't anyway, but ignorance practically ensures it.

For the record, I'm in favor of leaving smoking ruins where DeBa currently stands. Figuratively, though. Not literally."

Granted. They shouldn't get away with it. And I think, in the long run, they will pay for it. Yet, in my view, socio-economic stability is a part of national security and general welfare, and that's where it becomes difficult.

DeBa is tied to so many companies that it is an integral part of the European economy. If it goes bust, so do millions of jobs not directly related to the financial sector. Keeping them in the game is a priority for FedGov and the EU, and they know it and will rely on it. In the end, it will be taxpayers money that will help them out, as it did in the past.

The bitter irony is that we will have to and had to pay to cover up Trump, Epstein, and Russian Mafia moneylaundering, and much more ... to save the investments of Black Rock, Cerberus and the Kataris.

And even if DeBa is crushed - they win again. DeBa is an important cornerstone in Rhine Capitalism. Many small and medium sized firms would be gobbled up or ousted from the market, the power balance* between corporate interests and worker's rights be destroyed. Again: Unemployment, collapse of welfare systems, social inequality and unrest, rise of political messiah-monsters ...

*Which is already tilted to the corporate side, and it's debatable if Rhine Capitalism already has lost the uphill battle vs. American and Chinese Capitalism. And thinking about all of this, libertarianism isn't passive, defensive as it's proponents sometimes utter; it is an aggressive ideology with a cancerous potential to destroy civilizations, individual liberties, human dignity and democracies as a whole. For the creation of advancing, enlightened societies, I deem it more suited.

Darrell E said...

I completely agree with Alfred on all points. It matters and DB should, figuratively speaking, be reduced to smoking ruins.

Darrell E said...

So now the Federal government is openly engaging in "proactive arrests." Yet one more big step down the path. How exciting to be able to witness first hand the transformation of a government into a fascist regime.

Tim H. said...

An essay that takes an interesting direction to explain those that wish to be free to infect us:
Any possible solution runs up against the desire of class warfare enthusiasts to continue winning.

TCB said...

I never heard of this before: A fragmenting Halley-sized comet may have missed Earth by less than 8000 kilometers (possibly as little as 600 km) in 1883.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

For the record, I'm in favor of leaving smoking ruins where DeBa currently stands. Figuratively, though. Not literally.

Aren't we close to the timeline for the Helvetian War?

A.F. Rey said...

For anyone who likes musicals (esp. West Side Story) and needs a political laugh, Randy Rainbow fits the bill today:

(Courtesy of P.Z. Myers.)

TCB said...

Perhaps I bungled the html link above. Trying again.

Billion-Ton Comet May Have Missed Earth by a Few Hundred Kilometers in 1883

David Brin said...

Argh.Blogger has forced me back into the "new" version. Thought by now they'd have had enough customer feedback to fix obvious insanities. Like when I moderate comments, I can select-all... but then where is the F#@$#@g button to accept=all?

Sorry. I cannot count the number of times I've run into bad interfaces that'd be solved just by standing behind 20 or so naive users and watching them fumble around.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Like when I moderate comments, I can select-all... but then where is the F#@$#@g button to accept=all

I don't know what it looks like for a moderator, but if you select all and then press "accept" doesn't that accept all of the ones you have selected?

David Brin said...

There is a select-all. There is no sign anywhere of an ACCEPT button. So I must accept each one individually anyway. They... are... insane.
I'd move this to wordpress in a shot, except for the ponderous momentum.

Alfred Differ said...

I should openly declare that I used to work in the banking sector. I was employed by a sub-prime lender coming out of grad school which got bought by a big bank in Charlotte and merged with another. I get how they make themselves integral to the community. I also get how they get others to tolerate their corruption that way.

So... when dealing with a big bank, it is important for the authorities to signal their intent before they drop the nuclear weapon. Some will believe it's a bluff and remain. Some won't be able to leave. Some will flee like rats.

For what I think DeBa has done, though, I want a smoking, radioactive crater on the financial landscape. There are ALWAYS risks for legit customers of banks, but those risks have to materialize occasionally to keep most of us reasonably honest.

For the record, my former employer was the ONE US bank that got torn to shreds by regulators. My investment in it vanished like a fart in the wind. This HAS to happen occasionally or no one takes the rules against cheating seriously.

David Brin said...

A guy I know shared this from a newsletter he subscribes to. It is a bit fervid and I would not take it as gospel, but I have heard of all of these factors, separately.

"Growing numbers of scientists studying COVID-19 globally are suspecting it was man-made in Chinese labs. The UK Daily Telegraph ran a report in early June inter-viewing leading immunologists and geneticists. While COVID-19's genetic code is 96% similar to a bat-coronavirus strain, it is the other 4% that makes it so infectious to humans. This virus is able to bind with human cells 100x to 1000x more efficiently than SARS. And it binds with an ACE2 receptor in human cells far more strongly than in bats! It targets an enzyme in human cells called furin, which works to activate new proteins by cleaving them off after they are synthesized. That's not how normal bat coronaviruses work, but other highly-contagious diseases like HIV and Ebola target furin. COVID-19 was found to have other HIV-like properties too. Human cells have a molecule called MHC on their surfaces. It acts like a flag to signal the immune system, with changes alerting T cells to kill virus-infected cells. But both HIV and COVID-19 disable this system by pulling MHC molecules into infected cells and destroying them! COVID-19 is highly likely a chimeric virus created by Chinese scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. That's China's first BSL-4 lab that has long specialized in bat coronaviruses. It's almost certain key genetic sequences of human HIV were inserted into bat corona-virus for immune-system research. COVID-19's symptoms and sometimes-severe damage lingering after the infection have proven similar to HIV. HIV has killed over 35m people since 1981, with no vaccine ever developed despite vast efforts to."

Comments Mark Anderson: "Recently, there is word that pigs have a new version of H1N1 that may be spreading into the Chinese population. Ready for Stage 2 in biowars?"

A.F. Rey said...

It's almost certain key genetic sequences of human HIV were inserted into bat corona-virus for immune-system research. COVID-19's symptoms and sometimes-severe damage lingering after the infection have proven similar to HIV. HIV has killed over 35m people since 1981, with no vaccine ever developed despite vast efforts to.

I guess we can start calling Covid-19 "Captain Trips" pretty soon. :(

matthew said...

I will reiterate that I am unable to find the report in the Daily Telegraph that is mentioned in the newsletter you site here.

Can anyone point me to the link to the original document in the Telegraph?

David Brin said...

I said I was just passing along a pass-along. I don't have the original article or link. What I can say is that putting aside the fervid tone, I've seen most of those things elsewhere.

David Brin said...

That's why I'm not sharing it at the blog level or on social media, only with you folks.

Jon S. said...

David, by passing along unattributed statements like that, you come across as being, well, a little hysterical. No offense intended, but...

Larry Hart said...

If the virus really was developed in a Chinese laboratory, I think it's still obvious that they didn't release it intentionally. I mean, to what end? Unless they're channeling Thanos, of course. Otherwise, what's the point of infecting the planet, starting with their own selves?

It makes me wonder how many other similar experiments are in progress, not just in China, but in Russia and here as well. India? Pakistan? Israel? China may have simply been clumsy enough or unlucky enough to let one of their cats out of the bag.

Also--the furor over foreigners hacking into our COVID research? Ok, if they're messing with the data, I can see that as a problem. But if they're just looking at stuff, trying to know what we already know--shouldn't that information be accessible above board? Isn't that how science works? It's chilling that in the midst of an existential threat, we seem to be most concerned with protecting copyrights.

David Brin said...

Jon S... I believe there's an 80% likelihood it's natural, but that Snopes article and every other one I've seen that pooh-poohs and "of course any thought of manipulation is ridiculous..." EVERY such article has left me feeling LESS convinced and more suspecting a snow job.

Take this from the Snopes piece: "The genetic makeup or “genome” of SARS-CoV-2 has been sequenced and publicly shared thousands of times by scientists all over the world. If the virus had been genetically engineered in a lab there would be signs of manipulation in the genome data. This would include evidence of an existing viral sequence as the backbone for the new virus, and obvious, targeted inserted (or deleted) genetic elements."

What utter drivel! Notice the word "backbone" lets it be a lie without lying, since the backbone is clearly the natural bat virus.

Moreover, "capability enhancement" is a standard research aim at level 4 labs. It's questionable it should be allowed, but it is done in order to better understand disease/infection vectors. And dig it, both the US and China were collaborating in capability enhancement experiments in Wuhan. They openly said so, when this first took off.

"It is very unlikely that any techniques used to genetically engineer the virus would not leave a genetic signature, like specific identifiable pieces of DNA code."

WTF? Every genetics researcher I've spoke to says these traces can be avoided, under certain conditions.

"One of the key features that makes SARS-CoV-2 different from the other coronaviruses is a particular “spike” protein that binds well with another protein on the outside of human cells called ACE2. This enables the virus to hook into and infect a variety of human cells. However, other related coronaviruses do have similar features, providing evidence that they have evolved naturally rather than being artificially added in a lab."

Exactly. That capability was already in Sars-cov-2's cousin, the original SARS.

" Coincidentally, it evolved the ability to invade human cells and accidentally found its way into us, possibly by means of an intermediate animal host, where it then thrived."

Exactly. Which means you can emulate nature without any traces by simply amplifying exponentially the ideal conditions for transmission and trait combination in a tightly packed population of host animals of several species.

NONE of that proves the opposite and were I to bet, I'd demand 4-1 odds against it being manmade. Accidental release is another matter, though, with verified reports that on many occasions lab techs have smuggled out animals to sell to wet markets.

scidata said...

Geopolitics may be too big a lens to see this through. Getting back to SF for a sec, Frank Herbert's "The White Plague", or even Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" over two centuries ago, drew disturbing pictures about lone 'mad scientists'. It seems to me that with modern tech, AI, and the vast number of scientists alive today all greatly increase the possibility of the lone psycho scenario. Vast conspiracy theories aren't really needed to explain rogue actors.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

For centuries, humans have been accelerating natural evolution by orders of magnitude.

Since viruses reproduce rapidly in the appropriate tissue environment, humans can cause the directed evolution of viruses. No modern genetic engineering technology (deliberate insertion of particular nucleobases or specific genes) is necessary. Rapid directed evolution toward a general or specific end can be done by growing viruses in specific tissue cultures.

Viruses produced this way would look very natural since they are produced by evolution, although they could have some unusual features that appear to be very targeted. This is exactly the case with SARS-CoV-2.

Generations of horseshoe bat corona viruses grown in a laboratory tissue culture predominately consisting of human lung tissue would evolve rapidly toward being able to most easily survive and thrive in human lung tissue.

The Snopes article, and everything else I've read arguing against the lab leak hypothesis, have not addressed the rapid directed evolution techniques that can be used in modern laboratories. The Snopes article also calls the lab leak hypothesis a conspiracy theory. Lab leak accidents and conspiracies are nearly always mutually exclusive. It is possible to conceive of a conspiracy to produce a lab accident, but that would require an extreme stretch of the imagination.

The Snopes article looks more like a conspiracy theory to me.

Alfred Differ said...

Looks like the 'select all' feature is intended to clean out the trash. No one thought to rig it to accept what remained after all the filtering and cleaning.

There is probably a 'classic' requirements doc behind this and a very rigid QA group not allowed to test like real humans do.

The best app I every wrote had one QA tester... just one... who behaved as a human instead of strictly observing the requirements doc. I didn't get away with skipping any requirements, but she added a ton of her own... and then wouldn't let me slide.

There is no human API.

duncan cairncross said...

Just a heads up

A DIY Bacterial Gene Engineering CRISPR Kit - for $169

I'm tempted to take the online class - just because I could

I had no idea it was that cheap

Larry Hart said...

Other experts suggest that government failures run much deeper than communication problems. “It’s not a lack of trust. It’s a legitimacy crisis,...”

I'd say lack of trust in the Trump administration is rational and warranted. Time and again they've demonstrated how ridiculous it would be to trust them. It's the Trumpists going to COVID parties or injecting bleach who trust him too much.

Dr. Boyd cited the Trump administration’s attempts to cut the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, its ouster of the National Security Council’s top pandemic response official, Mr. Trump’s downplaying of Covid-19 and his downright lies about it (most recently on display during a Sunday Fox News interview in which the president said that the United States had “one of the lowest mortality rates in the world” from the virus) and the White House’s muzzling of the C.D.C.

Every assertion Trump makes on pretty much any subject comes to me filtered through an explanation I heard Billy Bush describe once on Bill Maher's show. When Billy and Trump were both on NBC, Trump would make ridiculous statements about "The Apprentice" being number one in the ratings when it wasn't. After Billy corrected him once on air, Trump came up with a statistic like "Well, we're number one with ages 12 through 41" or something like that. Afterwords, off camera, Trump admonished/explained to Billy,

"Billy. You just tell them. And they believe you."

That's Trump's MO. He'll assert that reality is what he wants it to be, and he's supposed to persuade you to simply take him at his word.

Caveat emptor.

A German Nurse said...

Alfred Differ: "For what I think DeBa has done, though, I want a smoking, radioactive crater on the financial landscape. There are ALWAYS risks for legit customers of banks, but those risks have to materialize occasionally to keep most of us reasonably honest."

Again, I believe that wouldn't happen. Even the worst case happens and the US courts would convict them to pay billions, they would survive, since the German government would most certainly bail them out. Sure, they would be nationalized for a few years, and those responsible persecuted by criminal law; but also would major shareholders like Black Rock technically be expropriated (which isn't something I would regret). And after those few years, being nurtured up again by taxpayer money, they are released into the wilderness again.(German financial institutes just got pardoned for the Cum Ex Trades by the lawmakers, costing us over 30 billion Euros. They don't have to repay that money. I am still angry at them.)To paraphrase Trump: They, as an institution, could shoot someone on the Kurfürstendamm, and get away with it.

And speaking of shareholders: Why should't they be held accountable, too? They are a malign influence, due to their drive to create ever-rising profits out of nowhere. Why not atomize Black Rock, Cerberus etc.?

There was a second meaning to uttering "Does it still matter?": You have larger problems than Deutsche Bank and Russian Mafia Oligarchs. They helped and enabled Trump, yes, but the current situation is growing more dire each day.

With Portland being currently invaded by the DHS, and Trump & Barr threatening to do the same with other blue-state cities, one can easily imagine what his strategy to stay in power and out of prison could be. Portland is your Sender Gleiwitz, your current Tonkin Golf. The same with the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, which will be answered in kind by Bejing.

I am genuinely worried.

It is a bitter, cynical irony that the coronavirus could be your only chance to save your democracy (or what is left of it). The worse it gets, the more people die, the more your economy falters, the more Trump is seen as a weak and ineffectual leader, and the more GOP senators and governors see him dragging them under water, the higher the chances for a GOP revolt or a landslide election result in November that can't be contested in the courts.

gregory byshenk said...

Jerry Emanuelson said...
The Snopes article, and everything else I've read arguing against the lab leak hypothesis, have not addressed the rapid directed evolution techniques that can be used in modern laboratories.

The problem is that this hypothesis is impossible to disprove. Even if one could show that there was no such work occurring in some lab, and even discover some extraordinarily similar precursors "in the wild", one could still claim that some other lab was the actual source.

And, of course, Covid-19 could have been produced intentionally in a lab - but so far as I know there has been no actual evidence presented to indicate that. And there isn't any in what David quoted from his "newsletter" either.

David Brin said...

GB one should not have to "disprove" a minority but plausibly possible possibility. Saying "we don't know and I leave it on the shelf as possible, if improbable" does not make you a conspiracy nut.

matthew said...

What worries me is that Trump, in addition to his DHS little green men, seems to be setting up to blame China / Democrats for the spread of the virus to his "Real America."

There is evidence that Trump asked China for dirt on Biden, and that *something* was delivered back to his DoJ. See:

Trump has been blaming the continued spread of COVID on the Black Lives Matter protests, even though the timing and location of our current hotspots do not match with BLM protest activity.
And compare that article to:

Even Trump's lies about virus supplies being low when he took office are aimed at getting his radical 40% base to blame the black guy for Trump's actions.

Every action Trump has taken so far has been to effectively help the spread of the virus. Either he plans on running straight to Russia after an electoral loss, or he plans on somehow winning *because* of COVID.

Little Green Men in democratic strongholds snatching protestors off the street in "proactive" unconstitutional arrest, combined with his Q-*n*n nutcase militia types (who look just like the LGM) running wild in the days leading up to the election, plus his DoJ fabricating evidence of some sort of Biden / China agreement, and his base blaming liberals for the deaths in their community? That sounds like a Rwanda-type genocide and authoritarian power grab.

All it would take would be 5 justices on SCOTUS to allow Trump whatever Federal emergency powers he would want to claim in the context of putting down an active rebellion, especially if there was a foreign power like China involved. If SCOTUS rules in Trump's favor, then our military will stay on the sidelines, I suspect.

I don't think it would work, but I do think Trump would try it to see if he could get away with it. He's in "ride the whirlwind" mode. Win bigly by purging the US of PoC / liberals, or rot in jail / Trump Tower Moscow seem to be his only chances.

David Brin said...

"All it would take would be 5 justices on SCOTUS to allow Trump whatever Federal emergency powers he would want to claim in the context of putting down an active rebellion, especially if there was a foreign power like China involved. If SCOTUS rules in Trump's favor, then our military will stay on the sidelines, I suspect."

You're right, it wouldn't work. And Roberts knows he must stop short of anything that would get masses believing the Court has been suborned and demanding investigation of all possible subornations including blackmail of relatives.

duncan cairncross said...

All Trump requires is that the actual US Military does nothing

He does not need the Military any more than Hitler needed the Heer

He has his "Brown Shirts" - the 2A fanatics and his paramilitary - the DHS and the Border Patrol and the Police Forces

He just needs the Military to sit quietly - just as the Heer did when Hitler took power

Alfred Differ said...

A German Nurse,

I get what you are saying about DeBa. I saw something similar for our banks… except one. The one that used to be my employer. They were sliced to ribbons.

As for being genuinely worried, nothing I can say is likely to persuade you. I'll say it anyway, though.

1. Trump will lose in numbers that remind us of the 2018 election. Maybe even worse. It will NOT be close because he will lose the suburbs.

2. As a result of the people Matthew refers to as LGM's, there will be a revival of States Rights. More importantly, though, those LGM's are going to impact local elections too. Trump's negative coattails.

3. Long before our democracy actually topples, we will be shooting each other and burning cities. BEFORE. We would fight about it. Viciously. The danger isn't that our democracy wouldn't survive, though. The real danger is that we will be so pissed off at those who helped bring about the violence that the violence will spill across borders. We ARE that barbaric and we won't just bring our guns.

4. Our democracy won't fall. There are some who would like that, but not enough. What we are actually fighting about is what America IS.

5. The virus is annoying. Our response to it is stupid. We will survive it and demonstrate to the world how to do it the wrong way. Along the way, though, we will also demonstrate that it takes a whole lot more than this to harm us.

Please forgive us our insanity.
We have to spend a little time knocking some heads together.
We will get back to you soon wearing the kind of smile barbarians display after enjoying a fight.

David Brin said...

Duncan I believe you are wrong. There are many other layers than the Real Military and Blackwater/ICE/Rednecks.

Still I recommend Sean Smith's TEARS OF ABRAHAM and Craig DiLouie's OUR WAR.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Anyone who is interested in the lab leak hypothesis for the origin of SARS-CoV-2 should listen to this 21 minute portion of an interview with Dr. Bret Weinstein on the Joe Rogan podcast:

Bret Weinstein is a Ph.D. biologist who specializes in bat biology and is very knowlegeable about bat viruses. He also has an amazing and critically important track record of accurately predicting how evolution can occur in different and surprising ways in a laboratory environment as compared to a wild environment.

Dr. Weinstein has put the probability of the origin of SARS-CoV-2 being from a lab leak at around 90 percent. It is known that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was doing gain-of-function research on horseshoe bat coronaviruses. I don't remember Dr. Weinstein hypothesizing exactly how it might have escaped (but there are several possibilities).

From what we know now, I believe there is a large probability that patient zero was a lab worker who became infected with an asymptomatic case of what was later called covid-19. There is no reason to believe that any conspiracy existed regarding either the creation or escape of this virus.

TCB said...

Dr. Brin's continued interest in that 20% chance that COVID was a Chinese lab accident/release reminds me of the story that some Anonymous hackers put out after the 2012 election.


"On Election Night, viewers watched in shock as Karl Rove refused to accept the call, confirmed by Fox News analysts, that Ohio had gone to Obama.

A release claiming to be from hacker collective Anonymous alleges there was more behind Rove's freak-out than first met the eye. The group says that it foiled Rove's attempt to steal the election in Florida, Virginia and Ohio by using the GOP's ORCA system."

Anonymous claimed that they had broken into ORCA, put in their own password-protected firewall (as a man-in-the-middle attack on the servers' ability to communicate between the different states, I think), and closed it at the appropriate moment to prevent whatever ORCA was meant to do to the vote totals, which most plausibly had to do with altering totals in the tabulators used in those swing states.

Anyway, I got called a nut for saying there was nothing inherently impossible about this story. "Rove was using a smartphone. There's no way he could do all that with an app!"

The sad part was that they were calling me a nut over one of the least nutty parts of the theory. Think of using Google on your smartphone. The Google app itself may be small, but it invokes the combined powers of a vast number of servers all over the planet, to find whatever text or video or map or almost anything you can imagine... and Rove was merely waiting to hear results, not controlling them from his phone; I never claimed he was doing it all. If ORCA was going to be used to steal the election, it would be handled by Rove's IT people somewhere else. You'd need to have some expertise in software, and access to ORCA, to say what it could or could not do; the naysayers had neither.

So were Anonymous telling the truth? Probably not. They threatened to release evidence and they never did. But that still doesn't reduce the hacker story to zero possibility. Rove's odd behavior? Known and repeated Republican malfeasance? The low likelihood that they'd tell the truth about any secret capabilities ORCA might have had? Even now I give the hacker story 10% confidence, and I don't mind being called a nut about it.

Tony Fisk said...

Alfred is a shrewd observer, and I hope he's right.

On the other hand, Sarah Kendzior is also a shrewd observer who's made a study of autocracies, and Trump. She's just written a book about how he got enabled. Her nutshell assessment (from a year ago, but she sees no reason to change it):

"The GOP wants a one-party state, and Trump wants to be the autocrat of that state. The idea that they are incompetent is a myth. They are very competent. They are just not interested in the process of governing. They are interested in ruling."

The 'they' does not have to include Trump btw, who I characterise as the dry rot's fruiting body.

Dr. Kendzior states that autocrats move very fast to entrench themselves and, once they're in power, it's *very* hard to remove them. This is why she has been so adamant that impeachments should have been attempted from day one. Not in any hope that they'd get past Moscow Mitch's whip hand, but because due process demanded it, and due process was the best way to present the truth to the American public.
Instead Pelosi has stone walled every attempt at accountability bar one particularly mendacious incident, and even then watered that one down.

Unsurprisingly, Kendzior's not been impressed with Pelosi:
"Congress is enabling an autocratic regime. Dems who try to take action by using inherent contempt, forcing subpoenas, impeaching Barr etc, are stopped by Pelosi. Pelosi, who shared a laugh with Barr at the idea he could ever be arrested."

I know David's held another view of Pelosi's strategy. I don't know whether he still does.

I will add another example from Australia. The 2019 election should have been a push over. Morrison was/is a vapid clot compared to Shorten, yet was re-elected with very little change in voting preference (except for a collapse of ALP in Queensland, possibly due to Clive Palmer's profligate election spending).

Don't assume anything about November: there's too much riding on it to be left to chance.

David Brin said...

I have summarized my impression of Pelosi by observing the facts of the 111th Congress. Anyone who opines about her without at least knowing those facts and then refuting or else explaining or shedding more light uponh them is proving himself a willing ignoram... well, ignorant person.

Larry Hart said...


Even now I give the hacker story 10% confidence, and I don't mind being called a nut about it.

Call you a nut? Given what we know about Rove and the present day Republican Party, I'd put the probability of Rove having had a cheat in place at close to self-evident. As the old Geico commercial would have put it, "If you're Karl Rove, you cheat. It's what you do."

Whether the group Anonymous is responsible for foiling the plan might be in question.

gregory byshenk said...

An interesting presentation of CITOKATE at Crooked Timber:

"The problem is that our individual reasoning processes are biased in ways that are really hard for us (individually) to correct. We have a strong tendency to believe our own bullshit. The upside is that if we are far better at detecting bullshit in others than in ourselves, and if we have some minimal good faith commitment to making good criticisms, and entertaining good criticisms when we get them, we can harness our individual cognitive biases through appropriate group processes to produce socially beneficial ends. Our ability to see the motes in others’ eyes while ignoring the beams in our own, can be put to good work, when we criticize others and force them to improve their arguments. There are strong benefits to collective institutions that underpin a cognitive division of labor.

This superficially looks to resemble the ‘overcoming bias’/’not wrong’ approaches to self-improvement that are popular on the Internet. But it ends up going in a very different direction: collective processes of improvement rather than individual efforts to remedy the irremediable. The ideal of the individual seeking to eliminate all sources of bias so that he (it is, usually, a he) can calmly consider everything from a neutral and dispassionate perspective is replaced by a Humean recognition that reason cannot readily be separated from the desires of the reasoner. We need negative criticisms from others, since they lead us to understand weaknesses in our arguments that we are incapable of coming at ourselves, without them being pointed out to us."

Keith Naylor said...

Has anyone noticed how close events are to Card's story "Breaking the game"? Is "someone" using it as a blueprint?

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

I just started my fourth reading of Earth. Usually, I can read a book I especially like three times and still be surprised by some things I should have remembered. I'll see if I can do so on a fourth read.

I've always had a question about the formatting of that book--the vertical chapter headings and the fonts for fictitious net excerpts and such. What sort of difficulties did it present to have someone publish the book correctly with those unusual formats, especially back in the late 1980s before modern computer rendering?

Larry Hart said...

From Malcolm Nance's Twitter feed. What I've been shouty-mc-shouting for years now:

Donald Trump is, and has always been, a lying grifter. That anyone "didn't know how bad he could be" speaks to our cultural delusion. There was never any doubt about how bad it would be.

David Brin said...

All four of you thanks. Higher level thoughts than in any other comment section on the web. And that's without one from Alfred! I get jealous of Jim Wright's numbers... then see the average quality... and those aren't MAGAs!

LH hope you enjoy it and keep finiding more. Should do a trailer for EARTH like we did for EXISTENCE.

KN. Card tries, like me, to offer methods and prescriptions for a better world. He thinks - sincerely - that democracy is hopeless and that we'd best survive if carfully led by a Marcus Aureilius kindly unhappily-ruthless-for-our-own-good demigod. And he conveys all that brilliantly. And I cannot guarantee he's wrong! I just know that I will go down fighting him and everything he stands for.

scidata said...

The choice between democracy and great leader is not the big issue. Socrates was wrong to hate democracy, and populists are wrong to love personalities. The real issue is diversity. That's the secret sauce. Most people like to think they're enlightened, brave folk who would be among the 0.01% who would risk their own life to hide Anne Frank for example (the specific example varies with background/party.)

Umm, no. Human nature sprinkles weakness and proclivity for delusion into everyone. Not evenly to be sure, but it's still there. Again, this is why BNW is more frightening than 1984. Again, either we all get to the stars, or none of us do. Again, this is not Pollyanna. This is Darwin, Fisher, Turing, and Asimov. Having said that, I am willing to admit that a very few of the most vile, most sociopathic, most unpresidential types should perhaps be left behind to fend for themselves. It would provide entertainment on the Macroscope.

A German Nurse said...

@Alfred Differ, with apology to Howard:

"Hither came Conan, the American, black-haired, sullen-eyed, AR-15 in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sneaker-shoed feet."

David Brin said...

Wow, what did you guys all have for breakfast? I love all this stuff.

scidata especially is right on. The greatest invention of the Western Enlightenment was pervasively delusion-piercing reciproccal criticism. It happens that we know no way to get that antidote-to-error other than democracy and freedom of speech, and hence, we must protect those with passion akin to sacred writ! But that oversimplification is dangerous... muslims, harredim, and others can answer "MY fiundamentals are different and who are you to impose your egalitarian fanaticism on me?"

Putting aside the irony -- that only the neo-West/Hollywood ever gave them that ammo of guilt tripping for repressing diversity -- it brings us back to pragmatic outcomes. ONLY laterally open and pervasive Reciprocal Accountability ever achieved a civilization with this level, or 0.01% as much, success at practical outcomes.

Larry Hart said...

@A German Nurse,

I wonder how intentional it was on Robert A Howard's how the words "Cimmerian" and "American" have almost all the same letters.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

muslims, harredim, and others can answer "MY fiundamentals are different and who are you to impose your egalitarian fanaticism on me?"

That's why it worked so much better back when we were unobtrusively inspiring the world's youngsters to want to be like us.

Darrell E said...

gregory byshenk said...
"An interesting presentation of CITOKATE at Crooked Timber:
. . . . .

Precisely the same inspiration that led to the evolution + design of the methods of science. It's the only way we've ever come up with to figure shit out that actually works, despite all the human cognitive and behavioral quirks that make doing that so difficult. Even then it takes time and patience to make progress.

Science, broadly construed, it works for more than just the lab.

matthew said...

LeBron James' voting rights group are paying fines for felons in Florida so they can vote.

matthew said...

ZTI patch photographed on Little Green Man in Portland.
See photo here:

If the ZTI patch is correct, then the LGM in my hometown are, at least partially, paid mercenaries and not Federal Officers. ZTI Solutions are private contractors in internet and physical security fields.

The ZTI Security website is down right now, but was located at

Mercenaries occupying an American city at the request of DHS seems like it should be a big deal.

Alfred Differ said...

...AR-15 in hand
...semi-automatic pistol strapped to one leg
...loaded, high capacity magazines clipped to the belt and in a few pockets
...cloaked in body armor

Don't neglect the fact that our wizards are just as barbaric.
...working knowledge of alchemical mixtures that go Boom
...fuses and other bits of electronic spell components to arrange for timing and locations
...books with recipes and other incantations

The analogy works well. As an example, it was a fireman who first introduced me to the Anarchist's Cookbook. He pointed to one of the boom recipes and told me not to try it. The recipe would work, but the person writing it didn't include the safety procedures. He then reached for a different book on his shelf that contained the recipe with safety procedures and showed me.

An accomplished barbarian wizard learns how not to blow himself up. It's a learning experience. Just like people who learn to fight with swords acquire scars while training, barbarian wizards loose the occasional finger or other body part. The FBI knows this from experience.

A German Nurse said...

@Larry Hart: Howard was a Texan with all the associated cliché, a amateur boxer and being born in the peroid just after the wild west era ended. What could fit is his view on civilization: "Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph."

@ Attracting young dreamers:

Five to six years ago, I met a group of young immigrants from Marocco. I asked them what they wanted to achieve in Germany - most of them dreamed of an apprenticeship in the crafts such as electric engineering, and, of course, car mechatronics. Some were from a lower social class, some were gay, some were political dissidents with a high degree of education. Most of them where adventurers. We met in that bar everyone in town has been at at least once in his life but never would admit having done so, and talked in a mixture of English, French and German (and them in Arabian and Tamazight).

I was somewhat stunned about their optimism, and even infected by it. As any industrial nation is short on skilled workers, we could have needed them. The good old-fashioned german dream: Finish school, make an apprenticeship, have a good job and a family, your own House and a car afterwards.

Then came the Years End and New Years Night of 2015/16 in Cologne. In the following weeks, the public opinion shifted, and it was terrifying to behold how fast the climate became poisoned. These youngsters became more and more aggressive, some became criminals, others just went underground. I believe both changes to be related to each other, as fears and racism on one side, and desperation and the loss of illusions on the other side increased. A self-fullfilling prophecy which costs us, to this day. We lost an opportunity there. Stupid and impractical immigration laws do the rest.

(To this day, one of my personal unproven conspiracy theories is that there was a foreign influence that planned, coordinated and faciliated the New Years Eve assaults. Guess whom I suspect the most? At the very least, I use it for an unfinished story of mine.)

matthew said...

Lots of different takes out there on the "ZTI" patch thing.
Other pictures of DHS agents show patches like "Z-26" or "ZT-1".

This may be a unit identifier rather than a corporate association.
When I look at who ZTI are hiring in LinkdIn or I just get IT hits, and not physical security jobs, although their company banner includes physical security as well as IT.

Apologies if I posted bad info. We'll wait and see what comes of it.

A German Nurse said...

@Matthew: I had a related thought- what if the "Federal Agents" are nothing more than militia men whipped up a few days before the action started. If I was Mayor Wheeler, I would let my police at least "frisk and stop" them to check if they are those who DHS said they would be. (And, to everyone's pleasure, arrest and convict those who cannot thoroughly prove that they are indeed federal agents.)

Ha! They cannot use the regular military on protesters, but his mercenaries? Is that legal?

A German Nurse said...

@ Alfred Differ: Oh, the whole concept of magic in Vance's Dying Earth series was about lost and jealously guarded knowledge, not understood anymore by the following generations of wizards ... who appeared to be inflated wind bags and buffoons if I remenber rightly ... and sometimes where not as clever as they tried to make anyone else believe. Yet, they still had the ability to atomize you, if you weren't at least as clever as them. Somehow, that fits.

But still only guns and bombs ... is there a living Spaßguerilla in the US?

An equivalent to the Center of Political Beauty?

If you need some ideas:
- Painting "Black Lives Matter" on the street leading to Mar-A-Lago (okay, painting it on 5th avenue was good enough), or buying some stretch of land in sight of his golf club there to build a KKK memorial (important is, that Trump and his Guests can see it). Perhaps Obama - and Biden-Faced Balloons would work, too. Or MLK? Angela Merkel? His first wife?
- Sending polite letters to federal and state official grounds (say, prisons, military bases and estates of Republican officials) on now Native American's ground to start packing
- Trick a GOP senator, secretary or governor into a recorded situation with a fake russian oligarch and let him be corrupted there (worked for the Austrians!)
- Move the Movement. Every day, the protests will be somewhere else ... to be loaded into busses every night to another town, playing whack-a-mole with the LGM. (Okay, would perhaps not work ... but could be coordinated with social media if enough people are participating.)
- Donating a presidential painting, with the orange man in an orange suit. Or, more somber, this Painting of Der Spiegel:

Alfred Differ said...

A German Nurse,


Yes. Many of us prefer that. We have actual custard pie throwers who show up at libertarian conventions.

I don't mean to imply we will flash to a violent state immediately. I'm pointing out that we will get there BEFORE our democracy dies.

We've been under a lot of similar stress in earlier decades.
This is far from the first time... nor will it be the last time.
Don't fear our collapse.
Fear our insanity/barbarism should this tip into large scale violence.

There is an interesting way in which all of you could limit us if we go that far. Think about how the British chose to participate in the recent second war we fought in Iraq. The events around 9/11 produced an insane response within us, but British participation in it gave them an opportunity to damp some of it. Control rods in the nuclear reactor. Doing so came at a cost to them, but few of us doubted that was part of why they helped.

We were the barbarians uncaring about the consequences. They weren't. Did it help much? Maybe. Historians will tell us in a few decades.

TCB said...

@ Alfred Differ, if you want a good laugh at a safe distance, read Derek Lowe's series of essays on Things I Won't Work With.

A good representative of the series is his essay on Things I Won’t Work With: Frisky Perchlorates.

Perhaps the most unnerving derivative I know of is fluorine perchlorate. That one was reported in 1947 (JACS 69, 677) by Rohrback and Cady. It’s easily synthesized, if you’re tired of this earthly existence, by passing fluorine gas over concentrated perchloric acid. You get a volatile liquid that boils at about -16 C and freezes at -167.3, which exact value I note because the authors nearly blew themselves up trying to determine it. The liquid detonated each time it began to crystallize, which is certainly the mark of a compound with a spirited nature.

... there's a passage like this somewhere in Stand On Zanzibar, I vaguely remember, where someone recommends that a certain product must have a lot of potential chemical energy...

TCB said...

@ A German Nurse, who says "what if the "Federal Agents" are nothing more than militia men whipped up a few days before the action started"

This is more plausible than you suspect; such things have been done before in the US. For instance, Boy Scouts were issued rifles after the 1927 Mississippi floods while Black people were forced to do unpaid work on the levees, to protect white property.

That's right, they deputized Boy Scouts. Government officials can deputize just about anybody. There's no obvious difference between DHS "police" and right wing militias except that the former probably exercise more.

Alfred Differ said...


Yah. Perchlorates. Just posting that put you in some watch list. 8)

My 'amusing' story with perchlorates involves flying commercial shortly after 9/11 after we were all back in the air. My team was scheduled to fly one of our large 'hobby' rockets in OK. Our schedule got pushed back by 9/11 because… well… we intended to drive across half the country with things that obviously looked like missiles. No one would have bothered to ask if we were carrying the fuel. We weren't, of course. You need licenses and permits for that kind of thing. Especially true for us because we weren't flying the typical perchlorate mix you can buy in a hobby store. That stuff is heavily weighted down so you can't do much damage to anyone who isn't you.

We got some looks on the trip across country, but relaxed after the flight. Some of us had planned to fly home. Guess what showed up on the chemical swabs used by the TSA? Yah.

I learned to keep my distance from the chemistry stuff after screwing up the electronic switch on one payload ejector charge. It really doesn't take a lot of black powder to rip your thumb off. The hobby folks use chalk powder in the payload chamber so they can see when it opens up at altitude. Red chalk. My package went off in my hands… covering me in that chalk. You can imagine what my friends nearby thought. I had to get my emergency underwear out of my luggage.

Safety procedures.
They matter.

Oh. Boy Scouts. Yah. I had to leave when I was 14. I couldn't stand the hypocrisy. Serve your community, but don't dare judge them. For some reason, my parents didn't seem to mind me leaving.

David Brin said...



Larry Hart said...

Forgive my bad liberalness, and I'm glad locumranch isn't here to call me on it, but this article is an example of wokeness going too far and driving away allies.

I get that I am a beneficiary of white privilege and that I don't really know what it's like to live as a non-white American. I'm willing to accept that as a criticism. But is the fact that I envision and hope for an America in which everybody is treated the way white people currently are just a cover up for my own acceptance of white supremacy?

That implication is annoying, but is not what I really find destructive in the piece. No, that is reserved for the implication that reliance on data and facts and logic is a white supremacist worldview. Which seems dangerously close to implying that fact-based Democrats are the true enemy, while (presumably) Trumpists with their illiteracy and denial of logic and facts are more to these anti-racists' liking. I realize that makes no sense, but apparently "making sense" is a white supremacist paradigm, and expecting arguments to make sense is an assertion of white supremacy.

Do I overreact?

Borrowing from feminist scholarship and critical race theory, whiteness studies challenges the very nature of knowledge, asking whether what we define as scientific research and scholarly rigor, and what we venerate as objectivity, can be ways of excluding alternate perspectives and preserving white dominance. DiAngelo likes to ask, paraphrasing the philosopher Lorraine Code: “From whose subjectivity does the ideal of objectivity come?”
According to Chislett, during a June 2018 Courageous Conversation workshop that she attended, Ruby Ababio-Fernandez, a designated co-facilitator, who is also a D.O.E. official, proclaimed, “There is white toxicity in the air, and we all breathe it in.” The trainees were instructed to work with their tablemates, list qualities of white culture on a sheet of poster-size paper and hang their paper on the wall for everyone to read. Chislett felt she knew well by then the sorts of things they were meant to be writing, values that were critiqued at previous sessions: “individualism,” “Protestant work ethic,” “worship of data,” “worship of the written word,” “perfectionism,” “ideology of whiteness,” “denial.”
Yet whatever the merits of Chislett’s lawsuit and the counteraccusations against her, she is also concerned about something larger. “It’s absurd,” she said about much of the training she’s been through. “The city has tens of millions invested in A.P. for All, so my team can give kids access to A.P. classes and help them prepare for A.P. exams that will help them get college degrees, and we’re all supposed to think that writing and data are white values? How do all these people not see how inconsistent this is?”

But of course, the positive valuation of "consistency" is itself a white supremacist paradigm. See how that works?

I feel like a terrible liberal, but this really pissed me off. Not enough to become a Trump supporter, but I see how that happens some times.

David Brin said...