Well-meaning reports create uncertainty about our containment of COVID with vaccines, and this reaches back to concerns about personal liberty (as, well, this weekend!)

shopping center in Herndon VA where I got the second Pfizer shot in 2021-3

Given the new attention to individual rights (privacy) in the past days with the Supreme Court situation, I wanted us to focus back on the idea that external events do have a major impact on our individual rights, particularly public health and war.  Measures to control climate change, ironically supported by enthusiastic protesters, could indeed affect individual agency in the relatively near future. 

The COVID vaccines and previous infections have, by and large, allowed most people in western countries to go back to more or less normal activities with much less disruption, although there are supply chain disruptions and inflation dues also to war in Ukraine as well as the pandemic.

New infections at the moment seem to be fairly stable, as one can see from this Google search of “coronavirus infections in New York City” (link).   This result may exclude many home positive rapid tests, however.

But there are also warnings that newer strains of Omicron (especially BA5) will explode and may be more serious clinically than earlier variants of Omicron (may have more lung tropism).  John Campbell has this video on “international B5 wave”.

Furthermore, there are articles appearing that seem to show less confidence that most members of the public can, with existing vaccines and milder breakthrough infections, keep building up resistance to the SARS_CoV2 family of coronaviruses.  The trendy concern seems to be “original antigenic sin”, as explained by Malaysian researcher Shie Jie Yong on Medium (“Evidence of Covid-related Original Antigenic Sin Has Finally Surfaced; Prior immunity — especially from natural infection — may backfire instead when it comes to Omicron.”) , June 20, 2022.

The Drbeen Medical Lectures develops the topic in the 35-minute video “Original Antigenic Sin From Previous Colds May Lead to Severe COVID”.

In the past, it has been thought that younger people were less susceptible to severe COVID because of indirect cellular immunity built up with repeated coronavirus common colds.  Maybe so, even for many adults, especially in the early days of 2020, as many adults sailed through this time with no problems. But the video shows that in some people, the non-neutralizing antibody population from previously more distantly related infections may actually cause more disease. (This is not the same as antibody dependent enhancement, ADE, as with dengue but the effect might be similar.)  The video goes on to suggest that vaccines could cause this rebound in some people unless they are modified more quickly to match the new variants (which Pfizer and Moderna are doing but the FDA has not yet moved on).  But most of us are counting on the vaccines plus “subclinical” breakthroughs with the newer variants to keep us protected.

I was wanted to share one of Bret Weinstein’s recent “Darkhorse podcast clips”, “Covid evolution and the emergence of Omicron” (there is also another one).  He interviews Robert Malone, whose reputation, according to Wikipedia, is tainted with right-wing views.  (I personally agree that Ivermectin, itself a protease inhibitor, might turn out to be an effective medication that would pass FDA muster if properly re-engineered biochemically into proper doses and run through properly designed trials.)  

Weinstein et al believe, with some convincing evidence, that the bizarre and unpredictable behavior of the SARS_CoV2 family derive from the virus instances being run through so many different animals, likely in the Wuhan Virology Lab.  This is seen as more likely than tampering directly with the spike proteins or receptor binding domains (which Chris Martenson had talked about on Peak Prosperity, especially May 4, 2020).  I know there is controversy over an original bat virus (Laos, or Majoing copper mines in SW China in 2012).   Weinstein believes that an virus that is passed among so many different mammals will learn to mutate more rapidly and unpredictably than most other even RNA viruses. I would add that the circumstantial evidence of China’s (and the CCP’s) misbehavior in 2019 and early 2020 is so overwhelming that the American people (and the peoples of the world) are presented with essentially a wartime challenge (considering the fatalities worldwide, vs. the low fatalities in China which can “conscript” and militarize its people in conducting its own zero-COVID lockdowns) and wartime sacrifices and personal losses (of individual mobility and agency) are to be expected. (Epoch Times calls the SARS_CoV2 family of viruses the “CCPvirus”.)

This is why Weinstein (and generally many “conservatives”) believe it is risky to believe we can vaccinate our way out of the personal hardships of a pandemic like this.  But so do the more obvious “liberals” such as Dr. Denise Dewald on Twitter. 

So my question, for both liberals and conservatives, is, well, duh, what do we do about this? Now?

Maybe some of the answer isn’t so bad.  Just emphasize masks more.  Make sure all Americans use N95’s or KN95’s and enforce the proper ruling everywhere in public indoors.  A more moderate solution might include much higher standards on indoor ventilation, even to be retrofitted into some apartment buildings.

At home testing could be a required norm, with mandatory smartphone transmission to health departments when necessary.  Policies would need to be developed for cancellations of trips and event attendance necessitated by sudden positive tests.

All of this, of course, is predicated on the idea that even allowing infection is dangerous, because such a substantial percentage of even “mild” infections are likely to lead to some permanent disability.

That is unusual for contagious viruses, and might well be explained, as Weinstein says, by the unusual history of the virus in passing among many animals. It also makes the quickly developed vaccines seem risky, because never before have we mass vaccinated so many people this quickly with no experience for the possible long term consequences.  For me, at 78, with no lineage and four Pfizer shots, it worked out. So I am unduly, as the Left says, unduly privileged.

Of course, there is hope that we can fine tune the mRNA vaccines (Malone questions the term) or develop nasal vaccines that might offer sterilizing immunity.

I could also mention the idea that a major resurgence of a virulent variant could lead back to lockdowns and this time the permanent destruction of many businesses (like bars and clubs).  That’s part of the “what now?” question I would ask.  Look at what happened, of course, recently in China with Zero Covid.  Do we want that?  Remember “Dictator Dan” in Melbourne, Victoria.

It could also lead, for someone like me, the risk of mandatory “podification”, loss of independence (guardianship) as a senior and forced connections with an assigned collection of people.  More about that idea in a future post.

As we refocus on our individual rights, and with the threat that SCOTUS (especially Clarence Thomas’s concurrence) may pose, it’s well to remain alert to the other lingering threats.  Ponder the past history of the military draft, and Selective Service Registration (which is not very kind to trans people, whose rules are defined by assigned sex at birth).  Look at what happened in Ukraine, where males 18-60, many with no experience with self-defense or weapons, were conscripted to stay behind when Russia started its apparently genocidal invasion. Ponder also the idea that in the US and many other western countries (but not all, like Israel, Switzerland, Finland) the lack of a current active (male) military draft has allowed some college-age and teens to flourish in spectacular ways, not just in sports but especially in social media or Internet startups. (You could say Avi Schiffmann performed “service” by developing his comprehensive COVID statistics website and then another site to place Ukrainian refugees with personal home hosts — and it is something one can do essentially alone or with few other people, unlike what we normally think of as organized “service”.)

Also consider the dilemma when the United States (as well as other EU countries) are asked to put their citizens at more personal risk (of not just nuclear but also perhaps EMP strikes) to provide more assistance to Ukraine and possibly other post-Soviet republics or even existing or prospective EU NATO states (I won’t rehearse the detail here). That certainly has an existential bearing on individual rights just as SCOTUS’s recent behavior has.

(Update): I wanted to add that the idea of a communicable “slow virus” destroying liberal civilization and comes up in horror and science fiction. My own novel manuscript “Angel’s Brother” has a subplot where a novel virus often (with some transmission modes) leads to permanent sterility in men and gradual loss of mechanical motor skills (the latter does happen with some known diseases), predicating future social upheaval. I expect to get back to the novel later this summer after my own web conversion and some more screenwriting is done. The plans for the novel have been disrupted by Covid and by the war in Ukraine (because Finland is in the plot), and in the past couple of years I learned a lot more from screenwriting class how even good novels need to give protagonist(s) more agency than I had given them. The fictitious virus (imagined maybe around 2002 or so) does resemble the new coronaviruses a lot; the spike proteins are proposed to be able to host “micro black holes” to transfer new identities to the infected. (And should we call Omicron “COVID21”?)

I like to mention movies I had reviewed before (my restructuring) when they are relevant to new blog posts. The 2006 film “Children of Men“, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, with Clive Owen and Julianne Moore, supposes that women have lost the ability to have children, until finally there is a pregnancy, with a cost.

(Posted: Sunday, June 26, 2022 at 11 AM EDT)

“Cold Civil War” by Jim Belcher (book review)

From pro-abortion protesters after SCOTUS leak, 2022-5-16, pretty graphic language on some posters, particularly about the prospect of another Trump presidency term

Review of book “The Cold Civil War: Overcoming Polarization, Discovering Unity and Healing the Nation”. (Amazon Sitestripes link).

Author: Jim Belcher, formerly president of Providence Christian College in Pasadena CA and founding lead pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach CA. Ph.D from Georgetown University.

Foreword by John D. Wilsey.

Details: 2022, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. 340 pages hardcover, 274 of main text, with three parts, thirteen chapters, and a conclusion.  Endnotes.

Interview of author Belcher

The author tackles the “cold civil war” between animus-bearing portions of US society, and certainly would agree that democracy as we know it is in danger.  His conclusion (spoiler) is that religion, both as an interfaith effort and in his purview a Christian priority, needs to stand with the political order in bringing about reforms.  However, he does not go into the legal details of the reforms (such as how to shore up election integrity and the loopholes and imbalances in our democracy, which seem to favor rural and smaller places).

Interview of author Belcher

He presents the core of his argument pictorially on p. 37 with a kind of Nolan chart (remember “the world’s smallest political quiz”).  It is bounded by a square with Left and Right, and with Order and Freedom as the other two edges. There are three concentric circles that pass through each quadrant.  3 is the most extreme, 2 is closer to the ruling establishment, and 1 is presented at the end as his proposed center, which will comprise four souls: Freedom Left becomes the constitutional soul, Order Left becomes the republican soul, Freedom Right becomes the middle class soul, and Order Right becomes the statesman soul.

Again, very graphic language on posters about women’s body integrity

 Chapter 12 is “Patriotic Citizenship” and Chapter 13 is called “Christianity: The Second Constitution”.  He argues that Christianity provides a “soft” but stable, appropriately flexible (and non-denominational but essentially western derivation from what Christianity added to Judaism in his view) set of moral principles to evolve constitutional principles as technology overwrites older ways of doing things.  That claim in interesting to me personally because Chapter 6 of my first DADT book had proposed specific constitutional amendments to add to the Bill of Rights, as a Bill of Rights 2.  Admittedly, since this dates to about 1997 (when my own mainframe I.T. career was in its full maturity according to the world then) some of the proposals are outrun by history.  And that’s the problem with my trying to make such specific prescriptions and why some sort of systemic approach is needed.  (Ironically I talked about the first amendment and about bodily privacy a lot, and even the beginnings of “freedom of reach”, but not about the second amendment).

Belcher is most graphic in describing extremism on all sides.  He winds up forcing to conclude that the far Left, with the doctrine of anti-racism interpreted as required indoctrination (and now it seems that “critical gender theory” has sometimes joined the indoctrination when SEL is implemented in some school systems), becomes as authoritarian as the far Right.  They have both evolved into anti-individualism and hyper tribalism.   In fact, I think we need a book, or at least an essay, on “individualism v. tribalism”.  Probably Dave Rubin would be a good starting point for that effort (book “Don’t Burn this Book” Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason”, 2020, Sentinel, Amazon stripes link).  Belcher points out that the extreme Order Right is willing to use violent or illegal means to get what it wants (January 6, and all the “stop the steal” business) but doesn’t get into the specific weaknesses (like the Electoral Count Act of 1887 which definitely needs revision).  The far Left, however, is at least willing to disrupt individuals and small businesses with violence and vandalism in demands for tribute (well, Marxist revolution).

The moral common denominator seems to be how individuals see themselves, how they balance their own utility with greater common good.  As one of the videos below shows, this comes up with some social issues in rather obvious ways:  abortion, vaccination, and end-of-life (as in the Catholic video below), but in some other ways to.  Think about the loss of freedom and implicit sacrifice in the coronavirus lockdowns, and in conscription (just of men?).  Public health particularly pits individual autonomy against the good of the larger community as a whole (and this could have been said about the AIDS crisis in the 80s, which was very different from COVID). 

Authoritarian systems limit the individual by requiring “em” to personally identify with tribal priorities. Marxist systems pretend that everyone should start out equal and that belonging to a victimized class is a legitimate source of personal identity. Far right (“alt-right”) authoritarianism assumes that a ruling class comprises inherently “superior” people entitled to rule, and follows survival of the fittest (except inside the nuclear or extended family or inner tribe). However often a far-right “order” mentality appeals to the notion that its tribe had one time been abused.  This is certainly true in the Old Testament with the Israelites.

My Body My Choice, Very Flawed Logic

(Posted Monday, May 16, 2022 at 1 PM EDT by John W Boushka)

“Pray Away” (Netflix film, review); notes from a day trip on SEL and metaphysical rights

Lake Tahoe, CA-NV 2018-9

Pray Away” (2021, an abbreviation of “pray away the gay”), directed by Kristine Stolakis and streamed on Netflix (101 minutes) traces the history of the ex-gay movement through the eyes of its practitioners. At the beginning and end the film warns that “conversion therapy” has been discredited by medicine and is often outlawed.

The film focuses particularly on Exodus International (which started in 1978 and dissolved in 2013), along with groups like Love won Out, Living Hope, and Focus on the Family.  There is particular attention to the career of John Paulk. The early scenes in the film feature 1980s meetings in Reno and at nearby Lake Tahoe, a curious location.

The movements tended to be characterized by aggressive behavior or the ex-gay proponents “ministering” to others about “God’s law” and finding salvation through ‘Him”.  There seem to be a particular attention in certain evangelical communities to religion as the center of life, without much other explanation.  I’ve always thought it was a bit of a paradox that the Savior is presented as an attractive young and athletic white male, when hero-worship or idolization (particularly) is sinful (or violates one of the Commandments ). 

I was familiar in the late 1980s with another group called “Love in Action” which was said to emphasized “giving up the gay lifestyle” while at the time offered services to AIDS patients.

Of course many societies (such as radical Islam) have condemned homosexuality on supposed theological grounds and gone out of their way to persecute it. 

Many societies are heavily tribal and are concerned about their collective survival in future generations. Particularly today (as in Russia), homosexuality would be seen as a threat to a group’s maintaining enough fertility (and it gets into ethno-racism with ideas like replacement theory). 

On the other hand, some indigenous societies have recognized non “reproductive” individuals as a kind of separate priesthood but sometimes do not allow them full personal freedom but expect them to take care of others (such as with eldercare). 

Much of our moral code has to do with prohibiting activities which are harmful.  But some of our code demands participation in activities seen as essential to survival of the group (start with conscription).  This is another side of moral thinking.  

The film did not particularly focus on AIDS and gay men in the 1980s, and the right wing did.  I talked about this a lot in Section 7 of Chapter 3 of my first DADT book.

This would be a good place to present a video “Born This Way: The Science Behind Being Gay” from Real Pride, June 2021, 46 minutes.  (It had been linked on a site now taken down, but now linked here in the non-WP portion of the new site.) The video presents the theory of epigenetics (later born sons) and the idea that the X chromosome could carry a gene that makes women more fertile if they have two copies but that could interfere with heterosexual desire in males, possibly increase fertility for the whole tribe.

I do want to share a couple short videos from a day trip.

In this one I briefly discuss what I have found about SEL, or Social and Emotional Leaning programs getting put in by school systems in lower grades.

SEL Programs in schools

In this one I talk about “metaversal rights” and whey you have to be prepared to “fight”.

Metaphysical human rights and the need to fight sometimes

(Posted: Friday, May 13, 2022 at 3 PM by John W. Boushka)