“He’s My Brother”: In Denmark, a young woman has grown up caring for an older brother both blind and deaf

Oakwood Apts, Minneapolis, where I worked for the MN Orch 2002

Monday, August 1, many PBS stations presented a 52-minute version of the (originally 75-minute) documentary “He’s My Brother”, directed by Cille Hannibal and Christine Hanberg, about Christine’s life role as primary caregiver for her severely disabled older brother Peter, in Denmark.

PBS POV gives a link for the film, and there is a longer description on American Documentary.

He’s My Brother, trailer

Peter was born prematurely and lost his senses of hearing and sight in an incubator.  He has to navigate the world by touch, taste and smell.  He was 30 years old at the time of filming (2021).  The film starts as Christine takes Peter on a harrowing rollercoaster ride.  (Yup, there is a disaster movie based on that concept, a review another time.) 

Much of the film concerns the issue of finding some sort of permanent care home for Peter, which is very difficult even in Scandinavia. At one point they visit a family in Norway with a similarly disabled male child.

Christine, of course, did not get to “choose” this life in the way we usually think about things. Christine has conversations with mom on whether Mom should appoint her as legal guardian of Peter, and write it into her will or trust, a practice which is common and an important matter in some trusts (in the rights of beneficiaries).

The abridged film was followed by brief statements from both Cille and Christine.

When I worked for the Minnesota Orchestra in 2002-2003, there was a female coworker who had considerable sight impairment from having been left in an incubator too long after a premature birth, probably in the early 1950s. Something goes wrong with the premature baby’s oxygen supply in such instances.

I also want to share a 15 minute video, July 22, from “The Why Files”, “Visitor from a Parallel Universe | Who Was The Man from Taured? “.  The latter place turns out to be Andorra (in the Pyrenees, between France and Spain).  Maybe that tall tale sounds like one of Max Reisinger’s gap year travel videos (I’ll get to that some day). 

“Visitor from a Parallel Universe” video

The substance of the story, a “quantum superposition” from a parallel universe, reminds me of the NBC series “Manifest”, here, moved to Netflix to finish.

(Posted: Tuesday, August 2, 2022 at 10:30 AM by John W Boushka)

“Silent Invasion”: Dr. Birx (Trump administration) gives an account of facing COVID19

The Mall in DC in January 2017, shortly after Trump took office

The book “Silent Invasion: The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, COVID-19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It’s too Late”, by Deborah Birx, gets a formal review from me. The publication data is Harper, hardcover ISBN 978-0-06-320423-2, with Preface (to Roman 12), Prologue, 20 chapters, Epilogue, to p. 474, followed by appendix, acknowledgements, and Index, to p. 506.  Part II starts after Chapter 10, in the summer “reopenings” of 2020. Amazon has a SiteStripes link.

Dr. Birx gives an interview to the Washington Post

Dr. Deborah Birx was the lead advisor to the Trump administration from early in 2020 until the end. She has decades of public health experience, including time as a colonel in the US Army.

She would often appear with the president at public announcement forums at the White House.  Her manner of speaking is soft and somewhat matter-of-fact.

The book is very long and expansive, but from the opening she makes it clear she perceived the potential gravity of the pandemic very early in 2020, before she was hired on to the Trump administration. The essential difference between this virus and the earlier forms of SARS or MERS was that it could be spread from nose and throat through aerosols even before there were symptoms, and often there never were symptoms in many healthier young people.  She does not go much into challenging the theories as to how the virus got started in Wuhan, China.   As an aside, I would mention that the very recent stories about finding more evidence of an origin in the wet market still have not identified specific animals of origin, and it seems logical that the virus could have been brough there (two strains) by individuals already infected, creating superspreader events that created the appearance of origin at the market.  With a natural animal origin, why weren’t there outbreaks in other cities in China at the same time? 

The president and others were always trying to play down the threat.  Remember when Trump “promised” we would be back to normal Easter Sunday 2020?  In the summer Birx would travel around, trying to advise each state on how to manage the restrictions.  It is true, that our federal system makes it difficult to impose national lockdowns (or even martial law) everywhere, as most of this is up to governors of states. 

Some of the red states were stricter at first than the public realizes.  Texas closed most indoor bars and restaurants for a time.  That would included my favorite spots on Cedar Springs in Dallas, which were alive and well during my most recent visit in May 2022.

For individuals, there was a moral dilemma as she states on p. 182, at least one partial fraction of it with regard to masks: “I don’t have any symptoms. I’m not going to infect anyone else so why do I need to wear a mask if it isn’t going to keep me from getting infected?” My impression is that maybe 50% of cases in younger adults had brief or no symptoms. even before vaccines.

She spends some space on the ideas of Dr. Charles Atlas (who “shrugged” according to a chapter title) who wanted to let the virus burn out in a younger healthy population, while segregating older and more vulnerable people from society.  There is some problem with that in that natural infection with the SARS_CoV2 virus doesn’t produce “sterilizing immunity” and reinfections, although often milder, are inevitable. But moreover how would you segregate the more vulnerable persons?  I turned 77 in July 2020 so this question would affect me.  The answer could have been forced podification and complete destruction of my own agency as a person. I certainly could have been separated from the infrastructure to maintain my sites (which frankly could have been viewed as “inessential work”).  My own experience in 2020 was to take one or two day trips to a rural area alone by car a month for “outdoor recreation” alone, which was permissible even with the first stay-at-home order in Virginia on March 30, 2020.  I found some spots within 100 miles of home I had never visited.

She gives interesting coverage to the pandemic for indigenous tribes.  Tribal members have lost income due to casino closures, but moreover have been susceptible because of higher rates of diabetes and possibly genetic susceptibilities.

Avi Schiffmann explains the R0 number for an infectious disease

She covers Trump’s own Covid infection in early October 2020 relatively briefly, as it seems that he recovered miraculously from having been seriously ill.

(Posted: Monday, August 1, 2022 at 3 PM EDT by John W Boushka)

“Aftershock”: Sundance documentary hits the subpar maternity care for non-white women

NYC from Freedom Tower 2015-11-7

On July 19, Hulu started aired the 88 minute documentary “Aftershock”, directed by Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee, from Onyx and ABC News and shown at Sundance 2022, depicting the inferior health care to pregnant women of color.

trailer for “Aftershock”

The documentary traces the tragedy of two families in particular, where mothers died of childbirth complications.  The tagline for the film is, “when a black mother dies there is a ripple effect.”  The film focuses mostly in New York City, (a new women’s center is built in the Bronx), Tulsa OK, and Massachusetts.

The film maintains that sometimes doctors are quick to do cesarians rather than natural delivery. It is also critical of the way the practice of delivering babies has evolved.  In the past, the deep south had black midwives who also delivered babies for the owners on the plantations.  The field of delivery gradually became professionalized, but not always with good results.

Toward the end the film shows a natural delivery, up close and very graphically.   The moment where the baby sees the outside world is very sharply delineated and he does breathe right away.

The film predates the overturning of Roe.  But it is well to note that it is very dangerous to expect some women to carry pregnancies with major problems, and ectopic pregnancies can be treated only what is technically abortion (whether by medication or surgery).  The sudden crackdowns in several red states have made it very difficult for some women to get medically necessary care, forcing them to become very ill before an ectopic is terminated. 

I’ve met a male Air Force doctor whose specialty is to deliver babies (of female personnel or of spouses).

Back in 2008, Morgan Spurlock (who had thrown up in public in “Supersize Me” after eating at McDonald’s without the supervision of Johnny Harris) made a film “Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?” where he interviewed people randomly (in various places in the Middle East) on the villain and guessed right about Abbottabad.  At the same time his own life was late in pregnancy and the film ends with him as an attentive husband when his wife gives natural birth to his son. A very nice Baxian epilogue indeed.

trailer for “Where in the World …”

(Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2022 at 10 PM EDT by John W Boushka)

“Deep in the Pockets of Texas”: where Christian nationalist billionaires control Texas policy, especially on issues like abortion and LGBTQ (CNN)

Amarillo, TX 2022-5

On July 24, CNN aired a one-hour special report “Deep in the Pockets of Texas” with Ed Lavandera reporting.  CNN Pressroom reports on the special here (originally June 24).  CNN also offers the commentary on Texas far right politics, link here, by Casey Tolan, Matthew Reynard, Will Simon and Ed Lavandera.

The documentary covered the influence of two west Texas billionaire families, Dunn and Wills, on state elections.  Both families believe in “Christian nationalism”, and believe that the church should direct the policies from the government (but not the other way around).

Pakman

The family has influenced the legislature to pass some of the nation’s strictest laws on abortion, and on some aspects of LGBTQ issues (especially gender identity).

Texas had passed a law allowing private citizens to sue people connected with abortions, as a form of enforcement.  Recently, it has passed laws legislating the presentation of sex and gender in public schools, and has aggressively promoted parents’ using private schools.  It has also apparently passed a law banning any sexual reassignment interventions before age 18 even if medically recommended (it’s unclear if there would be an exception for a known biological disorder). 

While there are many reports around the country of “wokeness” in education and the apparent encouragement of young children to question their gender identity, it’s unclear how far this has gone.  The best information I can find suggests that about 1 in 400 kids is medically transgender or has diagnosable gender dysphoria.   These ought to be treated properly and discretely and handled with school system policy.  More than that is woke gratuitousness.

I lived in Dallas from 1979-1988. At the time, Texas had a homosexual-only sodomy law, 21.06.  In those days conventional sexual orientation, as opposed to gender identity, was a much bigger issue. Around 1980 there was a problem with a particular police officer coming into Dallas gay bars (like the TMC) and making false arrests for public lewdness.  A few men were convicted, and this could have happened to me. Finally one man stood up and was acquitted at a bench trial and the problem stopped.  Shortly thereafter, the AIDS crisis became more public and by early 1983 was causing deaths among gay men in Texas, about a year later than on the coasts. In the spring of 1983, a particular state assemblyman Bill Ceverha (from Amarillo) introduced a draconian bill 21.38 which strengthened the law to make it a felony and bar gays from most occupations.  The bill was supported by a right wing group “Dallas Doctors against AIDS” and was supported by language stating that (even private) male homosexuality was a public health menace because it could unpredictably “amplify” STD’s which, if they mutated, could threaten the general public at large. For example, HIV (the virus wasn’t identified until 1984) might become an arbovirus (like the putative ASFV speculated about in Charles Ortleb’s “New York Native” – statistically that’s unlikely).  Or an immunocompromised population might incubate new strains, something we have heard speculated recently with COVID.  That was never really reported with HIV patients.  And indeed, some other bloodborne diseases like HTLV-I (a leukemia) and Hepatitis C, and Zika (and arbovirus) never took root in the gay community.  Ceverha’s bill was defeated 7-2 in committee.

2106 and Lawrence v Texas

But the accusations have come back with monkeypox (which WHO has just intensified by declaring a global emergency, with recommendations).  According to an Axios story by Shawna Chen, Rochelle Walensky, two cases of monkeypox in children had “adjacency” (maybe household?) to men who had sex with men.  This is covered more in my Twitter thread July 23.  This would seem to add fuel to the fire to bring sodomy laws back, following on Clarence Thomas’s SCOTUS tirade on June 24 that could lead to the unraveling of Lawrence v. Texas (2003) next term.

Of course, moneypox could get accelerated on its own in day care centers, high school contact sports, and even heterosexual raves  and lapdances (they exist, and not just in weekday soap operas). 

Furthermore, gay men, probably because of small households and vaccine levels, have fared very well during COVID itself compared to more conventionally socialized populations in larger families.

Celine Gounder and data scientist Michael Donnelly have an article in StatNews on how dating apps could help control STD’s.

P.S. On July 25, Apple News tweeted a major op-ed by John Blake (CNN) explaining Christian Nationalism. It is rather chilling.

I’ve lived in NYC, NJ, Texas (9 yrs), MN, and even MD, as well as VA (actually born in DC in 1943), so I keep up with politics in numerous places outside the DMV. Texas is #2 on the list. I had considered moving back there in 2017 when I sold the house, good thing I didn’t.

(Posted: Sunday, July 24, 2022 at 10:30 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

“Wuhan Wuhan”, life for ‘proles’ in China a few weeks after the coronavirus pandemic had started in 2020

Wuhan central business district and tunnel; see Wikipedia attribution at end of post, CCSA 4.0

On Monday, July 11, 2022, PBS POV aired the documentary film “Wuhan Wuhan”, directed by Yung Chang.  It is also available for rent on Amazon Prime (Stripes).  At 90 minutes, it seemed slightly abridged by PBS.  It also has a theatrical release from Gravitas Ventures.

Trailer for “Wuhan Wuhan” from Gravitas

The film shows the progress of daily life of several citizens in the City (11 million people, called China’s “Chicago”) starting in mid- February 2020, a month or more into the SARS_CoV2 COVID19 pandemic.  It does not show (as do a few other similar films) the controversy over the first few weeks, as we know China delayed somewhat in reacting publicly to the danger until after the Chinese New Year, and the whole world paid. “a heavy price”. Bad choices, others pay the consequences as well as you.  At about this time, Italy was going through its shocking crisis and lockdowns, and New York City would soon follow.

The most visible characters are Chuning Yin, a factory worker (“prole”) and volunteer medical driver (during the emergency), with his very pregnant wife Xingli Xu.  In an early scene, she chides him about his convenient inattentiveness.  Much of the film later will portray the discomfort of her delivery hospitalization in March, and the haggard looking baby is shown taking his first breaths. 

Other characters include Xiannian Zheng (ER chief), Susu Wang (a psychologist), and Gioqing Zhang, a nurse. 

Films set in large Chinese cities always impress us with the Times-Square-like colors at night and modernity.  China seems like an alien civilization with somewhat different social and political values on this planet.  Right now, the biggest controversy is the Zero Covid policy which can trap anyone in a large city in a long and dangerous lockdown.  What does China know, that they aren’t telling us?  Is the West about to find out over the years that most of its adult citizens slowly become disabled?  That sounds like science fiction (and a premise in my 15-year-old novel document ‘Angel’s Brother”, held for now because it too closely predicted the pandemic (I even have the idea of a spike protein, which I knew about in 2003 after the first outbreak of SARS1, contains mini black holes to carry personal life memories on the BH surface from one person to another infected person).

If you want to see a detailed writeup from a private citizen (a data scientist) about the future of COVOD as of March 11, 2020 (the day the world changed), look at Mike Donnelly’s Medium piece. I do recommend following his Twitter threads about monkeypox and getting vaccinated (especially active gay men).

Attribution for Picture at head of article: “By Brian19891003 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=93164421”.

(Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2022 at 10 AM EDT by John W. Boushka)

Oregon case on “who can call themselves journalists”; more debate on using equal protection arguments to protect LGBTQ individual rights

NYC from MTA Manhattan Bridge 2022-4

Steve Lehto reports on a case in an Oregon state supreme court ruling against a defendant in a libel suit against an online reviewer of a piano store from a possible rival.

Lehto discusses Oregon case concerning libel in a consumer review, as “journalism”

At issue was a provision in state law that defamation claims against an established media entity must meet a higher standard than a claim against a private citizen, especially claiming to be an “journalist”.

This contradicts apparently with federal practice.  The case also invokes the idea of the “opinion rule” in defamation law. 

But the case could have implications if tech companies in the future did not want to allow individuals to express opinions with the same services allowed to established professional journalists.  That idea has also been relevant in the EU over their copyright directive.

Suits against individuals posting to review sites (like Yelp!) have been a recurring issue in the past, but this one had a different twist.  Right now Section 230 would protect the sites that host the reviews.

There is another story today of concern.  Vox runs a story June 21, 2022, “new Supreme Court decision has ominous implications for LGBTQ discrimination” by Ian Millhiser.  The case is Marietta Memorial Hospital v. DaVita.   The question is whether a private insurer can refuse to cover dialysis when it is a “conduct marker” for having end stage renal disease (a issue which arose in my own life indirectly in the 1970s, but that’s a long story).  By analogy, a private entity could discriminate against people who engage in anal intercourse (likely male homosexuals) when now sexual orientation is a protected class under federal law. 

animated reenactment of SCOTUS DaVita oral arguments

In fact, National Law Review, in an article June 16, 2020 “Supreme Court Holds that Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Are Protected by Title VII”, as it describes the SCOTUS case “Bostock, Zarda v. Altitude Express, and Stephens v. Harris Funeral Homes.”   Gorsuch, with his textualism, actually wrote a favorable opinion from the LGBTQ viewpoint. That is, “sex” is included in the definitions of sexual orientation and gender identity, even if those two categories are different from one another (they are) because they make use of the existence of “assigned biological sex at birth.” 

Bostok equal protection case explained, 2020

Now, it may well be my personal feeling that some school systems or educators have gone off the rails with an “anything goes” attitude toward gender identity in lower grades (you know, the “LibsofTikTok” stories on Twitter, and the scowl expressed in red state “don’t say gay” laws for lower grades), but the basic recognition that people may have separate gender identities and sexual orientations that are in a minority with respect to sex at birth and that these identities seem immutable (with hidden biology, like maternal epigenetics) is now recognized under federal law.  (Non-binary may be acceptable under this notion as a gender identity, I presume.)    

There is a problem, or danger, I think, if we depend on the idea of protected class to reign in on criminal law.  The recent SCOTUS opinion on abortion has been called into question in its criticism of the previous presumption of the “right to privacy” as a fundamental right when stopping sodomy laws (Lawrence v Texas) and laws against recognizing same-sex marriage (Obergefell), under substantive due process.  It is possible to use protected class theory instead.  But the DaVita opinion might block using that, too.

Personally, I don’t like depending on the idea of “protected class” to justify behavior (because it will have its obvious limits if public safety is sufficiently endangered – psychopathy might be immutable too – we get into what John Fish specialized in with undergrad studies at Harvard, which he says is “mind, brain and behavior”).  The speculative downstream public health complications lurk in the background if you try to involve public health concerns if sodomy comes up again.  Even more relevant is my distaste the idea of building personal identity (and demanding that others bond with you on the basis of such identity) on the notion of shared (intersectional group) oppression rather than something positive (the whole problem with Leftist identity politics these days).  But “there you have it”.

It’s noteworthy that, while “don’t ask don’t tell” was repealed in 2011, the UCMJ a “sodomy law”, article 125, remains on the books.  But it seems to apply only to “forcible” sodomy (without legal consent).  .

(Posted: Saturday, July 9, 2022 at 2:30 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

Recent Omicron variants seem more dangerous to the lungs; more on vaccines

Washington DC

There seems to be increasing evidence that the latest Omicron variants (namely BA.5) may be capable of invading the lungs more than previous Omicron variants and might cause more serious illness if it continues to spread.

John Campbell reports in a video today.  There is some disturbing data on hospitalization from Portugal.  In general, in many countries, hospitalization is more with Covid than because of it.  Campbell also compares the efficacy of various vaccines, with or without previous actual infection.  People who have had a real infection and all the boosters still seem to have reasonable protection from serious lung disease from BA.5.   Other variants are appearing, like 2.75. 

John Campbell video

The variants, with immune escape, are developing quickly as vaccines and previous infections make infection with earlier strains unlikely, giving the new variants competitive advantages.

But this problem, while we also encounter it with influenza strains, may be particularly pronounced with SARS_CoV2 because the virus strains seem to have passed quickly among various animal hosts as well as man.

Despite the immune escape (somewhat offset by cellular immune components activated by previous variants or vaccines) it appears that infection rates in NYC and DC are decreasing slightly or stable and fairly low. You can check it in Google as “Coronavirus cases in xxx” as a search argument.

Gerry Tan, MD

Later (after I first wrote this post), CNN, in an article by Brenda Goodman, “Covid-19 reinfections may increase the likelihood of new health problems”. The article surveyed studies of people with more than two infections, and in some cases reinfections did cause more lasting health damage (as with internal blot clots and the like). I believe I may have had as many as three small infections (some brief smell loss in March 2021 around the time of first vaccination, complete recovery after the second shot; an unusual and annoying sore throat and nasal connection in July 2021, lasted 3-4 days, maybe Delta greatly attenuated by vaccination, and maybe one day in January 2022, maybe Omicron 1). Some young adults on YT are reporting disruptive discomfort and fatigue for up to a few weeks even with vaccination. Many more infections are likely to be very trivial with symptoms (that is what I am hearing personally and anecdotally).

The European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, in an article by Y.-W. Fu, H.-S. Xu, S.-J. Liu (mainland China) reports that increasing percentages of people with previous SARS_CoV2 disease, any variant, are showing up with gradual neurological damage, and that the virus has a tropism for some CNS cells.  Perhaps this is a reason for China’s Zero COVID/

Meredith Wadman has a detailed story in Science  (“The Long Shot”) about the Novavax vaccine, which may turn out to handle variants better, using nanotechnology to express spike proteins. 

In the meantime, the FDA may need to consider whether it needs to consider approval and getting vaccines that are more specific to the new Omicron strains to market sooner. 

Short film from Washington Post on Novavax vaccine development history

For detailed updates on what is happening with Monkeyvox vaccines, especially for gay men, follow Michael Donnelly’s Twitter account for very detailed threads on progress with CDC and NYC.

(Posted: Tuesday, July 5, 2022 at 4 PM EDT)

Moore v. Harper: the case on ISL theory that could overturn “democracy”?

Brown mountains in NC, 2016-7

OK, get ready for Moore v. Harper.  And “Harper” is not the baseball slugger surrendered by the Washington Nationals to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Here is the link for the Supreme Court docket.    The case arises from a redistricting issue in North Carolina.

It is well to list all the major controversial cases which come up in 2022-2023, as from Axios (written up by Arianna Gonzalez) at this link.

The basic issue seems to be this.  There is a doctrine called “Independent State Legislature Doctrine” theory, (ISLD). That would maintain that a state legislature alone, even without any supervision of the state’s courts, have a freehand in making all election policy for the state, most specifically for redistricting or gerrymandering, but also in the conduct of elections in general (like absentee voting and the like) as became “controversial” in 2020.  A good legal writeup exists on a site called Verdict, by Vikram David Amar (read both parts).

Most of this has to do with the early articles of the Constitution using the word “legislature” by itself referring to state’s actions with respect to various powers including running elections.  A strictly textualist (not even originalist) interpretation might mean that state courts cannot intervene.  However, a more reasonable (even originalist) idea is that a state, as a semi-autonomous entity, must have a court system in place to enforce its own police powers and guarantee “rule of law” (and even equal protection).  Therefore it makes no sense to say that state courts could have no say in election-related matters. 

A secondary risk could exist.  Under the most extreme interpretations, a state legislature could overturn the popular vote for electors for that state (by refusing to certify the result) and simply choose the electors of the party it wanted.  In fact, if you read Article 2, nowhere does it say that a state must have a popular election for presidential electors. We thought they all wanted to!

A twitter user,  who says he is 82 and progressive, offered the 31-part thread scenario as to how the United States could wind up a Putin-style dictatorship after the 2024 election. 

I then looked up some mainstream analysis of the ISL problem.  The two most important seem to be these:

On June 30, an analysis in the New York Times by Adam Liptak and Nick Corasanti, link (paywall).

On June 30, Hansi Lo Wang offers a similar analysis for NPR, link.  

I also wanted to mention, the Texas attorney general has already signaled that he wants to challenge the overturning of the Texas sodomy law (21.06) next term, following Clarence Thomas’s invite, or at least will do so if the court rules his way next year (Washington Post story by Timothy Bella, June 29, paywall). The AG asserts he must enforce “state laws”.  Presumably he would need to get a conviction, very difficult under normal law enforcement except as an add-on to another offense.  The conviction would get appealed and might get to SCOTUS which could then revisit the concept of whether “privacy” is a fundamental right, or whether, if not, the state has a rational basis (not strict scrutiny) for the law.  Remember in the Georgia case Hardwick v. Bowers 1986 opinion (which also applied to heterosexuals) where affirming justice Berger wrote angrily “there is no such thing as a fundamental right to homosexual sodomy” – and his concurrence was largely ignored.  Today, the recent public health controversies over “monkeypox” (and the medical facts are still developing) along with lingering speculative theories from the “religious Right” during the 1980s over HIV (the failed “2138” law attempt), could create a rational basis argument if such a case really got heard before SCOTUS.  In New York City, private citizen and data science activist Michael Donnelly has been successfully pressuring the stare and CDC both to get the vaccines out more quickly.  (Donnelly broke the news on the Provincetown breakthrough outbreak of mild cases in vaccinated people in the summer or 2021).  We should note (with historical irony) that the male gay community as a whole had much less COVID than the public as a whole, partly because of solitary lifestyles, education levels, high vaccination rates, and possibly even the idea that some medications taken in the community may actually have (unproven) effects against the virus, a possibility worth exploring more seriously. 

Dallas Cedar Springs strip 2018-5

The case 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis case may generate secondary controversy.  This concerns a web design company that refused to create special sites for same-sex weddings.  On the surface this sounds like Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado (again in Jared Polis’s state), which SCOTUS ruled (for the business) on very narrow grounds in 2018.  The new case might provide an entry into revisiting Obergefell, although that sounds like a stretch right now.  What catches my eye is that the plaintiff is a web designer (maybe comparable to a blogger like me).  What if a service said that, to have an account with us, you have to show willingness to contribute to organized social justice activism, like actively participate in anti-racism (as the Left defines it)?  In 2021 or so, the far Left was talking like it wanted to so stuff like this.  Both the far Left and far Right demand fealty, which leaves the moderates wondering why they have to fight now for free speech.  At some point, ideological zealots on both sides are stuck with the idea they need to attract enough loyal followers, by force or intimidation if necessary.

(Posted: Monday, July 4, 2022 at 11:30 AM by John W. Boushka)

“Hiding in Plain Sight”: Ken Burns film about teen mental illness on PBS

NIH Bethesda MD 2015-3

PBS has been airing the four hour miniseries “Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness”.  The PBS link is this.

The two part (so far) series has two episodes titled “The Storm”  and “Resilience”.  The film is directed by Erik and Christopher Loren Ewers and is (executive) produced by Ken Burns, for Florentine Films.

PBS Trailer for film

The film presents a rotation of teenagers, who generally seem very much into their own worlds (as was and still am I) but also unable to process or deal with what others expect of them as they grow up.

analysis

One of them (maybe more) is trans or non-binary but the film is not excessively focused on just that.  There is some extra attention in the second half, suggesting that for some, the problem is simply not being allowed to be who they are.

analysis

The film pretty early notes that the prompting of algorithmic social media seems to harm many kids, and make them, especially teen girls, excessively preoccupied with what their peers think of them.  I had some of that as a teen, but within a smaller universe of peers.  I was concerned about personal standing in a world that even then took on the look of “survival of the fittest” (think about the draft). One woman and probably one man on the unit wanted to turn transgender, not acceptable in 1962,   

But the film also focuses on physical causes of mental illness, with some material about the development of the DSM Manual.  Many of the teens do have to take medications.  Some of them can have severe side effects, including obesity and diabetes (which I had not heard before).  Teens who do need meds (for delusions) lose about fifteen years of life expectancy from the need for treatment.

The film, of course, invokes memories of my own time at NIH Clinical Center, Building 10, Unit 3West, from July 1962 to January 1963.  It seemed to be a good idea at the time.  There was supposed to be a project to examine college students who had not adapted to living away from home – in a time when we needed brains over brawn as the Cold War heated up.  That was somewhat true of some of the men, but not the women, who tended to be less intact.  Generally, people were concerned about my unwillingness to bond with contemporaries whom I saw as “unworthy”.  But I remember the pressure to “let go”, especially of the fantasies, and the expectation that there would be some miraculous passage back to health.  That didn’t happen.  This is covered in Chapter 1 of my first DADT book and Chapter 2 of the third.

I can recall an article in the 1950 World Book Encyclopedia, claiming that half of all the world’s hospital beds were filled with the mentally ill. At the time it seemed like hyperbole.

There is a sequence late in the film about mandatory outdoor wilderness therapy.

Much of the film deals with substance abuse. One girl says that “addiction is not under your control, it is in your genes”. 

The last half-hour of the film deals a lot with a suicide of a 15 year old male student at Portsmouth NH high school (in 2018) after being socially canceled following some teen behavior. 

That leads to a meditation.  One girl says, “what you do affects the next seven generations”.  Not more than that?  About two centuries.  We have a lot to get through (like climate change).

The final hip-hop song during the closing credits is rather challenging, mentioning suicide in the lyrics. But the music score also contains a familiar theme by Arvo Part.

(Posted: Tuesday, June 28, 2022 at 11 PM EDT b John W. Boushka) 

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)