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2022-05-18 07:00 by Karl Denninger
in Other Voices , 503 references
[Comments enabled]  

Those fish keep hitting me in the face.... they must like the idea of coming in the boat! -- Ed

Check out the price of gas and diesel!  Anyone who took a vow of poverty is really happy right now.  And it’s not too late to join them, there is still plenty of time before the inflation train leaves the station.

None of us knows what the future holds, and it’s better that way.  Imagine how much more you would have dreaded 2022 if you knew about five dollar a gallon gasoline and empty shelves.  America has a genuine baby formula shortage right now.  This is a serious problem, and I will not make light of it.  Likewise, we will have serious shortages of other staples in the future.  I do not state this for doom and gloom, but to prepare you. Part One of How to be Poor discussed making a personal prep list.  Now is a good time to reevaluate it and see if there are any staples missing.  Do not panic while doing this, fear drives poor decisions.

As supply chains continue to degrade, gasoline and diesel remain high, more and more people check out of clown world.  Sometimes this is by choice, and sometimes their job becomes an unemployment statistic.  Service industry and fast food jobs will collapse as people go broke. Further ahead, the government must cut CMS spending.  This will impact every pharmacy and hospital in the nation.  Things are not looking up anytime soon.  What can each of us do about it?

There is a valuable resource that people either have too much or not enough of.  When someone has too much, they are often despondent and bored.  They want to get rid of it as soon as possible, yet the harder they try the more they are aware of its excess.

When there is not enough, a huge burden rests upon shoulders, and a frantic feeling overwhelms them. The more they try to gain, the faster it retreats.  

It’s time, not money.  When it comes down to it, no one cares about money. Money only counts when it buys something.  People exchange money for necessary things, or for a good time.  When you die your time on earth is over.  And no one’s last thought is of money, it is of time.  More time to do activities they enjoyed, and spend it with loved ones.

No one works for free because time has value.  The universal medium of exchange is time.  What is a job?  You work for a certain number of hours (your time) so you can spend days off doing what you want.  Purchasing food, clothing, housing, and power are all you trading your time for someone else’s.  Because time only runs one way, humans invented money as a convenient medium to keep track of it.

Money saved is security for the future.  Security means less stress.  In this way, money buys you enjoyable time down the road.

Money is a crude approximation for time, but it’s what we have.  Even if you do not work for cash, every task you do is at the expense of another.  While you clean the house, you cannot work in the garden.  As you drive to work, the next meal is unprepared in the fridge. Even two enjoyable activities cannot be done at the same time. While you are exercising, you cannot play video games.

I won’t tell you how to maximize your time, for I don’t know what you value.  Much has been written on the subject, and I have nothing to add.

Enough philosophy.  That’s either dank or boring depending on your perspective.  And you are not reading, nor am I writing this, to bring you down.  We all have clown world for that.

In no way, shape, or form am I encouraging anybody to give up all their money voluntarily and accept a crappy standard of living.  Everyone is free to use their money and time the way they see fit.  What I hope is to give you some options in an uncertain future.  If your financial life is turned upside down, perhaps your prep work now will provide a small measure of stability in the future.  In other words, current you helps future you gain time.

Why have I written That Word about a million…so far?  Because at the rate the economy is tanking, many of us will have a ton of time.  And now for Part Two of How to be Poor:  Too Much Time on my Hands.

We must begin with money since it is the approximation of time’s value.

How much money is spent on true necessities versus pleasant distractions?  This isn’t a judgment of how anybody spends their money or their hobbies.  It’s a question each of us must ask ourselves if we are facing an uncertain financial future.  And unless you have a jillion dollars in a mattress, you probably are. Even if you are secure, how will your children and grandchildren fare as clown world gets kookier and kookier?

Any budget discussion includes one question that sends chills down the spines:  What can I cut out and not miss too much? 

Did you feel it?  Was it a pang of nostalgia, of something enjoyable missed?  Or did fear loom as you wondered what you would do to fill your time instead?

No one but you can decide or execute a budget.  There are enough resources out there that explain how to do that.  This guest Ticker concentrates on what to do with all the extra time without draining away your future security.

If you are unemployed, housework will fill it all.  There is no end to it.  Throwing stuff away, picking up after others, laundry, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, dusting.  Oh, and cooking.  And putting away leftovers, loading the dishwasher, and cleaning the kitchen.  Housework all day, every day is no way to live. There is a line between a clean enough house and obsessive-compulsive disorder.  However, these daily activities are important.  If you don’t believe me, try not cleaning the house or cooking for a few days.  Unless you are a hoarder, you will clean it up before a pile collapses on you.

Any time budget boils down to two questions: what do you have to do to survive, and what do you want to do that makes life worth living?  Answer these and you have created your own time scape.

We are acutely aware of the tasks we need to do so I will concentrate on the second question.

Start with daydreaming.  If you weren’t doing whatever it is you were doing before you read this (vacationing in place at work?), what would you rather be doing instead?  No matter how far-fetched, make a list.

Many things on that list cost money:  Family vacations, shopping, eating out, fine alcohol, hobbies.

Look at your list again through the lens of, “How can I spend equivalent time for less money?”

What is a family vacation but spending time with loved ones?  Eating dinner together or having a family game night creates memories for less.  Day trips cost less than staying overnight.  Driving with the family might be the best part.  How many important discussions have you had in the car?  There is something about watching an open road that generates conversations and memories.

Making a story by asking each family member to add to it creates something better than the crap that’s on TV.  And you will learn something from each of them.  Storytelling entertains the audience, but the audience sees into the storyteller’s soul.

Some people shop for a dopamine hit.  They don’t need much of what’s in their carts.  If this describes you, what can you do that gives you the same hit?  Is it the discovery of something new?  Getting out of the house?  Once you know the answer, you can replace it with an activity that doesn’t cost as much.

Learning to cook is an exciting challenge.  If you rope the family into helping, creating gourmet meals will generate some of the happiest memories.  If the meal doesn’t live up to your expectations, so what?  It’s not a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or mac & cheese.

Some people have piles of unfinished projects.  The ones that you explain by, “When I have time… Someday when I retire… Maybe over spring break…” Those projects.  Now it’s time to revisit the Room of Shame where they await and prioritize.  Which ones do you want to finish?  Which ones are closest to completion?  How much will it cost to finish each one?  How much time will it take? Pick a few projects and buy any supplies needed as you can afford them and they are available.

Exercise is another way to keep busy and relieve stress.   Sometimes going for a short walk in fresh air will radically change your outlook on things.  Do not listen to the government, the outdoors is safe.

These are some examples, everybody has their own list.

Time is our most precious resource until we have too much of it.  Plan ways to fill it enjoyably and productively now and may your future be as stress-free as possible.

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2022-05-12 07:00 by Karl Denninger
in Other Voices , 4143 references
[Comments enabled]  

Damn those fish flying over the transom on their own..... -- Ed

How many TV shows started out really good and by the fourth season are trash?  How many movie sequels, threequels, fourpeats, penta-hopes, hexa-Hail Marys, and hepta-reallys are as good as the original?

There are some.  The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit were all solid for what they set out to do.

And that’s the last series I’m mentioning by name so this whole guest Ticker doesn’t get derailed into “but I loved that movie!” style objections.  Everyone has their own tastes and criteria for what makes good entertainment.  Besides, you don’t come here for entertainment reviews.

But we’re all familiar with the fourth season nosedive.  The first few episodes of any new series are uneven.  The actors and writers need time to get into the groove of their characters.  They learn what works and what doesn’t.  What the audience wants, which actors have genuine chemistry with each other on screen, and which ones should never be alone together again.  The first season is typically a bunch of “safe” plots, the second season hits its stride, and the third season is amazing.  Now these season numbers can vary, but the pattern holds.

Then the fourth season happens.  Despite all the good writing, the set ups, and the potential of the first three seasons, it sucks.  Either the characters behave contrary to established patterns, or the plot takes a bafflingly stupid turn. 

The same thing applies to movies.  Only rarely is the third in a series as good as the first.  I’m not talking about the threequel released directly to streaming services.  (Originally I had written “direct to TV,” but I don’t know if they do those anymore; it all goes to Netflix or Hulu.)  I’ll revisit streaming in a bit. I’m talking about the general distinct decline in quality as movie series progress.  

Some problems don't make a show terrible. Not every TV episode or plot arc will be amazing. When actors or writers leave, it can wreak tornado level havoc for a few episodes until things settle down, but they do and it’s still fun to watch. Sloppy world building is a wrecking ball for the plot and character, but skilled writers and actors can salvage this and keep doing their jobs, which is entertaining the audience. The show might be bad, but it’s still fun to watch.

Neither of the previous two examples necessarily ruin shows, because they do not make them BAD.  With capital letters.  BAD is something so awful you need a shower after watching it.  You just feel dirty.  Maybe you can’t put your finger on exactly why, but something is seriously off.  

Which brings us to streaming services. Any streaming show that is BAD is deliberately so.  There are zero excuses for it.  

There are no episode time constraints.  There are limited advertisement requirements. Sexy Female Lead drinking a Coke or getting into her new Kia while dumping exposition is easy enough and doesn’t disrupt flow.  There should be no outside political constraints.  If one service doesn’t like the content, another will broadcast it.  

What makes a BAD show?  Wokeness. As a rule, once they go woke, they’re broke.  Woke corrupts storytelling.  Woke adds nothing and only subtracts from world building, plot, and character.  Woke is a magnet.  Once one precept arrives others aren’t far behind.  Over time it becomes an unwatchable mess.  Here are a few examples: 

  • A masculine character who overshadows the GRRRRRLLLLLL POWA gets neutered in the most insulting way possible.  

  • The 80 lb girl bests 200 lb trained men in hand to hand combat with no magical abilities or other explanation.

  • When “gay” is someone’s sole character trait and they are never wrong nor face consequences. 

  • The Magic Black Man explains things to whitey.

  • Men are always wrong and women are always right, no matter how much the plot suffers.

  • All couples are mixed race or gay.  Or both.

  • The white Christian man always did it.  

  • The more inappropriate any relationship is, the more it is celebrated.  

Remember, all of these are deliberate choices.  Woke and good can’t coexist.  The two clash and woke always wins.  

Ok, why woke?  After all, most people don’t want the bullet points above, they want fun escapism.  There is no way anyone involved with entertainment production doesn’t know this.  As Tickerguy has pointed out numerous times, talent is hired for what they know and how well they do their job. If they don’t entertain people, they should be fired.  

But we live in clown world, so we get never ending BAD.

Woke is a deliberate choice, why is it made?  How do these hacks have jobs?

God gave Satan the world.  I will not ponder why He did so, it’s above my paygrade.  Satan recruits humans and some of them are in the entertainment industry:  actors, writers, directors, camera operators, producers.  It’s a losing proposition for the human who is always treated like used toilet paper.  

If they stay in Satan’s influence, over time they become more corrupt: they slip farther and farther away from whatever gifts God gave them. 

God holds the power of creation.  He created the universe and everything in it.  He’s pretty bad ass and not Someone you want to******off.

God granted every living creature on this planet a touch of creation.  Humans and every other animal reproduces.  Insects, fish, plants, and even bacteria can.  This was part of God’s gift to us all.  He also blessed humans with creativity.  

Viruses can’t reproduce without a host cell.  They invade and trick the cell into making copies of itself.  They’re not really alive and have no touch of creation.

Satan and other demons can’t create, only copy and destroy by corruption.  

People who throw in with Satan are lower than bacteria.  Over time these evil adjacent people become like viruses: helpless without a host to infect and hijack. Eventually, they can’t create.  

They can only copy or corrupt shows with woke, eventually destroying them.

That explains the endless reboots and BAD coming out of Hollyweird.

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2021-01-31 09:15 by Karl Denninger
in Other Voices , 481 references
[Comments enabled]  

Note -- this is a guest post thus the "Other Voices" category; the author(s) have asked to remain unattributed.   There have been no edits other than spacing and formatting necessary to post, and make sure the links to references display.

Many questions remain unanswered about the origin of SARS-CoV-2, and we are certainly not the only scientists that have them. There are likely benign convincing explanations to everything, but to date we have not seen them. 

Some will say: why does knowing the origin matter? It matters for several reasons. First of all, it will help us plan for the future. If this indeed was a virus that arose from close contact with wildlife and humans, this contact in the future will have to be managed. Secondly, if in the unlikely event this was perhaps escape from a lab, then lab procedures will have to be evaluated, and lab experiments with infectious possibly pandemic viruses will have to be additionally regulated. Finally, if this again was an unlikely escape from a lab, then knowing the exact type of virus we are dealing with would help us manage the current pandemic.

The story starts, we believe, with a noble goal: to prevent the world from ever having the type of pandemic we are currently experiencing, through production of a vaccine effective against all coronaviruses past and future.

Coronavirus vaccines can be difficult to make. In animals, while vaccines are sometimes successful, toxicity of the vaccine as well as incomplete immunity can happen. .

SARS-CoV-2 (COVID19) is a lot like SARS-CoV (SARS). SARS initially hit China and East Asia in 2003, killed 774 people, infected over 8000, and scared everyone. For the past 17 years there has been an enormous effort worldwide to develop a vaccine not only against SARS but also against all coronavirus strains. As we have detailed in another post, scientists knew in 2006 that recombinant spike protein RBD vaccines to SARS didn’t protect all animals from a re-challenge from a slightly different mutated coronavirus ( ). Young animals can gain immunity, but it can be harder to get protective immunity in older animals ( ). 

Killed whole coronavirus vaccines in animal models of SARS infection demonstrated that in some animals such as ferrets, killed whole virus vaccines gave a predominant Th2 response (you want Th1) and that there was an antibody dependent enhancement (ADE) of lung toxicity in mice ( ). This led to the idea of a live attenuated coronavirus vaccine ( ) ( ) ( ), which is a vaccine that infects and reproduces in a human, results in immunity, but does not cause severe disease.

This has been an important issue since the SARS pandemic in 2003 and was reinforced by MERS epidemic in 2012. Enormous amounts of resources and human effort have been thrown at this problem, and these resources have come from just about everyone: governments, industry, NGOs, and philanthropy. 

Various live virus attenuated recombinant vaccines have two issues among many. First, these vaccines have to be able to be grown in culture in great quantity for testing and for mass production. Second, the vaccines can mutate and revert back to severe pathogenicity once administered, especially in those with weaker innate immune systems. These dual problems have confronted vaccine developers. 

To make a recombinant attenuated live coronavirus vaccine that you can grow in culture, it should be pretty obvious that (a) you have to have it gain function to make it more viable in culture; and (b) while at the same time make it less pathogenic and less able to recombine. These are somewhat contradictory goals and can be hard to do.

Live attenuated vaccines can be hard to make without them mutating a lot in culture in ways you do not expect, not being able to grow them in culture to make lots of virus to work with, and without them reverting back to a dangerous live virus once someone (animal or human) is vaccinated, as happened in 1998 with a live attenuated poliovirus vaccination on the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) ( ).

Virologists have been making recombinant man-made coronaviruses to try to find one that is safe and will work as an attenuated vaccine for over 15 years. To do this they use “reverse genetic systems” to make the virus they want in bacteria or yeast ( )( ). In these reverse genetic systems, to make man-made viruses with specific functions, mutations are inserted into the DNA copies of the virus. Bacteria or yeast make lots of these DNA copies, which are added mammalian cells in culture to provide live RNA viruses in the fluid surrounding them. These fluids containing the man-made viruses can then be used to infect animals or people ( ). The goals of these experiments were likely twofold: (1) to find out how viruses like SARS can jump from bats to humans, to develop countermeasures; and (2) to develop universal vaccines to protect the world in the case of a coronavirus pandemic.

Scientists have used several man-made strategies to make viruses weaker to use as possible coronavirus vaccines. These strategies included increasing the number of attenuating mutations in the virus through alteration of a necessary viral RNA proofreading enzyme called ExoN ( ), but these types of viruses were found to revert to a more aggressive phenotype with long term culture of 250 passages ( ). Viruses also were mutated to not recombine with each other (possibly increasing virulence through recombination) by changing a viral RNA “leader” sequence (ACGAAC to UGGUCGC) possibly responsible for this recombination ( ).  Additionally, there has been consideration to mutate viruses in a way, called “codon de-optimization” in which the RNA of the virus is changed to make the same viral proteins, but make them slower, and thus have slower virus growth ( ). This has been done for multiple viruses including influenza ( ). 

As noted above, a major issue with experiments like these is that to fully examine the ways viruses jump from bats to people, and to fully develop man-made recombinant vaccines sometimes viruses are unexpectedly made that have the potential to become much more transmissible in animals and possibly in humans. These are called “gain-of-function” experiments. This appeared to happen in at least one experiment in mice published in 2015 ( ). The danger of these experiments needs to be carefully weighed against the possible costs, since leaks from laboratories of viruses are not uncommon ( ), and if a gain of function strain were to escape, we could have a pandemic similar to the one we are currently experiencing.

The US scientific community held a symposium in 2014, which led to the banning of funding of these “gain of function” experiments . This ban was rescinded in 2016 . Minutes of the meetings of the advisory body (the National Scientific Advisory Board for Biosecurity, or NSABB) to help the NIH and Secretary of Health (at the time, Sylvia Burwell) to decide to rescind the ban were heated ( ). The NSABB members asked for multiple safety “guardrails” for this research to proceed.

In 2013, six miners in Yunnan Province, 550 miles south of Wuhan, were cleaning out a copper mine of bat droppings. They all developed a severe pneumonia with symptoms very similar to SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia, and three died. During the workup of these miners it was determined that several of the miners developed antibodies to a SARS-like coronavirus ( ).

The WIV (Wuhan Institute of Virology) became involved, and in 2013-2014 isolated viruses from fecal swabs of 276 bats in the cave and found novel SARS-like coronaviruses in 138 of them. These samples were brought to Wuhan for further study. Manuscripts describing these viruses were published in 2016, but for some reason the publication left out the deaths of the miners from the cave ( ) ( ).

Investigators then determined that about 9% of residents of villages around the Yunnan cave had developed antibodies to a SARS-like coronavirus, yet none of them appeared to have severe symptoms. All of these villagers described bats flying around, and none of them visited the cities where SARS was endemic in 2003, so they likely developed an asymptomatic infection ( ). 

This experiment of nature likely became a matter of intense interest. How could these humans around the cave be exposed to bats carrying a supposedly lethal SARS-like coronavirus yet have no or minimal symptoms? The implications of the answers to this question were obvious: (a) bat to human transmission could be probed in depth, and (b) a live attenuated vaccine to coronavirus could be developed by mimicking the natural process that led to an attenuated virus that caused antibody production to a SARS-like coronavirus without symptoms.

It is entirely possible that investigators at the WIV could have been performing such experiments in coronavirus gain-of-function manipulation, trying to obtain a live attenuated virus for an attenuated vaccine, based on coronaviruses isolated from Yunnan province or elsewhere, when there was a laboratory accident/leak of virus sometime in the fall of 2019.

Prominent virologists argued in a letter to Nature Medicine in early March ( ) that lab escape, while not being entirely ruled out, was unlikely. Yet there are a number of unusual features of SARS-CoV-2, as well as some unusual scientific behavior of Chinese and US investigators, that requires explanation. Hopefully there are simple and trivial explanations, and that SARS-CoV-2 can be explained as a natural experiment that mimicked very closely a series of laboratory experiments performed in the exact place (Wuhan) where the virus was initially found in humans.

These questions point to a manipulated virus, which may have escaped from a WIV lab. These questions can be answered by an independent audit of the WIV P4 laboratories where the novel coronaviruses were being studied, which would have been one of the first steps international authorities usually take. Such an independent audit has not taken place, which is highly unusual scientific behavior.

Hopefully there are simple and trivial explanations, and that SARS-CoV-2 can be explained as a natural experiment that mimicked very closely a series of experiments performed in the exact place (Wuhan) where the virus was initially found in humans.

These questions, in no particular order, are as follows:

  • Why didn’t the investigators mention the 2013 deaths of the miners from a likely novel coronavirus in their 2016 paper describing the sequence of novel Yunnan coronaviruses ( )? This would have been a matter of intense interest worldwide.

  • SARS-CoV-2, from its earliest isolates, appears to have optimal spike protein binding to ACE2, with very few new receptor binding domain (RBD) mutations in SARS-CoV-2 ( ). Usually viruses like coronavirus adapt their spike protein over time to bind human ACE2 more tightly. Can this be explained naturally?

  • A pangolin coronavirus isolated in 2019 under study at the WIV and elsewhere appears to have an RBD of its spike protein is very close to SARS-CoV-2 (97.4% amino acid homology) where the rest of this pangolin coronavirus has less homology (85-92%) ( ). RaTG13 has a lot less homology in the RBD with SARS-CoV-2, yet is more than 96% identical to SARS-CoV-2 over the entire virus ( ). Recombination to make SARS-CoV-2 from an ancestor of these two viruses would be an extremely rare one-time event. Is there a natural explanation for this?

  • In 2018, experiments with a novel recombinant SARS coronavirus substituted the typical TRS transcription leader and body sequences with a novel sequence (UGGUCGC) in an attempt to further reduce recombination in animal models as a live vaccine candidate ( ). This TRS leader sequence, supposedly novel, is found starting at nucleotide 1465 in SARS-CoV-2 and could result, if utilized, in a novel viral RNA transcript that deletes part of the nsp2 protein of the ORF 1ab polyprotein. It is also found at nucleotide 1446 in RaTG13, one of the viruses found in the Yunnan cave in 2013, which has been proposed as a precursor to SARS-CoV-2. It is found in that area in no other coronavirus. This novel TRS sequence is also found in the 3’ ends of viral spike RNA transcripts of SARS-CoV. Why was this not mentioned in the 2018 paper describing the novel TRS sequence recombinant viruses? Is there an explanation for this? 

  • A recombinant SARS-like coronavirus (SHC015-MA15) containing a human SARS Urbani spike protein sequence inserted into a mouse adapted SARS-like coronavirus was found to develop increased pathogenicity during infection of aged but not young mice compared to the parent MA15 strain in a 2015 publication ( ). The RNA sequence of this recombinant manipulated coronavirus was not deposited in Genbank until May 2020, five years later ( ). This is highly unusual behavior. Is there an explanation for this?

  • In the publication of SHC015-MA15 above in November 2015, the attribution of funding of Shi Zheng Li by the US NIAID was initially left out ( ).  It was reinstated in the publication in 2016 in a corrigendum, perhaps after the meeting in January 2016 to possibly reinstate NIH funding for gain of function virus research. This is also unusual scientific behavior. Is there an explanation for this?

  • After amino acid 604 of the spike protein of RaTG13, there is no difference between the spike of RaTG13 and SARS-CoV-2, yet other coronaviruses have multiple differences in this area ( ).  The only difference between these two viruses is in the PRRA furin cleavage site, and there are novel nucleotide changes apparently inserted into SARS-CoV-2 that allow insertion of this furin cleavage site into RaTG13 ( ).  Is there a natural explanation for this?

There are quite possibly very simple and very benign explanations for all of these questions as well as others. They likely can be answered by a simple independent audit of the WIV P4 laboratories where the novel coronaviruses were being studied. This is one of the first steps international authorities usually take. Such an independent audit has not taken place, which is highly unusual scientific behavior.

The origin of the virus is extremely important in helping us determine what is going to happen going forward in the pandemic, as well as to suggest what possible therapies could have activity. 

It is therefore critical that we determine a precisely as we can the origin of the virus.

We are not the only scientists considering this. 

We do not want in any way to cast aspersions on individual scientists or countries. All we want to do, as we have done from the beginning, is ask questions of the data.  We hope that there is international cooperation to put this issue to rest, hopefully with a benign conclusion. We also hope there is again widespread honest discussion about the risks and the benefits of gain of function viral research.

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