Sunday, January 24, 2021

Sunday Night Links

  • Covid the socially constructed virus-disease exploits the health and beauty of youth to reach the old, but to what degree this is also the strategy of Sars2, the biological virus-disease, remains wholly unclear. All those quick-to-lecture bureaucrats have demonstrated an odd yet pervasive incuriosity when it comes to this question. The high-fatality situations we know about were anything but infections via grandchildren. They were rather institutional events. Sars2 achieves its most harrowing mortality stats when it gets into nursing homes, or into the right hospital wings, where the carnage is heightened given the far higher viral load associated with infection in these environments. In the spring, it was ironically the most alarmist regions, those that imposed the strictest lockdowns nominally for the safety of the elderly, which ended up killing more elderly than anybody else, due to over-hospitalisation of Covid patients and poor management of elderly Sars2 cases. Undeniably, Sars2 – like many other viruses – exploits the social activity of humans. The Covid bureaucrats have responded by laying a taboo upon basically all human social activity that is not mediated by electronics. People who violate these restrictions are behaving irresponsibly and endangering all of society. Consider how much this stance differs from their approach to other viruses. Were gay men, at any point, ever exhorted to abstain from sex in the interests of defeating HIV? [eugyppius]
  • Cast your mind back to January, as the Chinese implemented their own lockdown of Hubei. Consider those bizarre videos that appeared on social media, showing Covid patients convulsing in streets, collapsing on stairs — succumbing, or so it seemed, to instant viral death. Some of this footage recalled scenes from Hollywood films, particularly Contagion. At the time, the framing was this: The Chinese were keeping a tight lid on the Wuhan outbreak, but here and there the magic of social media could defeat the evil communist censors and provide some glimpse of what was really going on. Clips of Chinese news coverage circulated, where the screen briefly flashed mortality figures orders of magnitude higher than the official numbers. This was the journalists trying to alert the rest of the world, or it was grim reality crying out from the ground, or something. All kinds of strange news items, about mass mobile account cancellations in China and industrial-scale cremation in Wuhan, were put about to show that the Chinese were dying in the millions. Everyone in the world watched blurry video of some Chinese guys welding a door shut. Online news outfits declared that the Chinese were literally sealing people in their apartments. That’s how bad Covid was. In the weeks before conditions deteriorated in Lombardy, a whole host of social media accounts began advocating lockdowns as a western containment measure. It has now emerged that many of these were operated by people in China. Sophisticated propaganda and disinformation campaigns involve more than Russians buying Facebook ads. One tactic, is to take the idea you want to plant, cut it up into a bunch of different pieces, and release these to the world via various proxies and intermediaries. These little bits and piece might take the form of accidental leaks or hacked data or surreptitious photos or whatever. People gather these pieces and put them together, find that they all contribute to the same, ominous picture, and believe that they have discovered a hidden truth. This gives the lie an organic, authentic feel. It becomes a personal thesis and nobody realises that they have been led down the garden path. All of that early nonsense from China has entirely this feel about it. None of it was true, nobody really knows where it came from, but it all supported the same false hysteria. [eugyppius]
  • Zinc is a known inhibitor of coronavirus replication. Clinical trials of zinc lozenges in the common cold have demonstrated modest reductions in the duration and or severity of symptoms. By extension, this readily available nontoxic therapy could be deployed at the first signs of COVID-19. Zinc lozenges can be administered 5 times a day for up to 5 days and extended if needed if symptoms persist. The amount of elemental zinc lozenges is <25% of that in a single 220-mg zinc sulfate daily tablet. This dose of zinc sulfate has been effectively used in combination with antimalarials in early treatment of high-risk outpatients with COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is an antimalarial/anti-inflammatory drug that impairs endosomal transfer of virions within human cells. HCQ is also a zinc ionophore that conveys zinc intracellularly to block the SARS-CoV-2 RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, which is the core enzyme of the virus replication. The currently completed retrospective studies and randomized trials have generally shown these findings: 1) when started late in the hospital course and for short durations of time, antimalarials appear to be ineffective, 2) when started earlier in the hospital course, for progressively longer durations and in outpatients, antimalarials may reduce the progression of disease, prevent hospitalization, and are associated with reduced mortality. [amjmed]
  • The infection caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) resulted in a pandemic with huge death toll and economic consequences. The virus attaches itself to the human epithelial cells through noncovalent bonding of its spike protein with the angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) receptor on the host cell. We hypothesized that perturbing the functionally active conformation of spike protein through reduction of its solvent accessible disulfide bond, thereby disintegrating its structural architecture, may be a feasible strategy to prevent infection. Proteomics data showed that N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), an antioxidant and mucolytic agent been widely in use in clinical medicine, forms covalent conjugates with solvent accessible cysteine residues of spike protein that were disulfide bonded in the native state. In silico analysis indicated that this covalent conjugation perturbed the stereo specific orientations of the interacting key residues of spike protein that resulted in threefold weakening in the binding affinity of spike protein with ACE2 receptor. Antiviral assay using VeroE6 cells showed that NAC caused 54.3% inhibition in SARS-CoV-2 replication. Interestingly, almost all SARS-Cov-2 variants conserved cystine residues in the spike protein. [ChemRxiv]
  • Good books are almost fractally deep: you find whole worlds wherever you look, and no matter how far in you zoom. Breaking a book into multiple meetings makes the most of this fact. It gives you space to dwell — on a page, even on a single word — without feeling like you’re wasting anyone’s time. No: that’s what a book club is for, not to sum up what you’ve read but to live inside it. [jsomers]
  • I’m reminded of how chess experts can recall legal board positions with far greater fidelity than someone who doesn’t play, but perform about equally when the pieces are arranged in ways they’d never see in a real game. The difference, of course, is that a legal board position means a lot more to the expert than to the lay person—he can consider strategic features like “pawn strength” and “control of the center,” and think of scenarios (“Sicilian opening with a queen’s gambit”) that he’s encountered before—whereas a jumble of pieces reduces them both to rote memorization. [jsomers]
  • It is notable that those candidates with a record in the military-intelligence apparatus, as well as civilian work for the State Department, Pentagon or National Security Council, do not hide their involvement, particularly in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They clearly regard working as a CIA agent in Baghdad, an Army special ops assassin in Afghanistan, or a planner for drone missile warfare in the White House or Pentagon as a star on their résumé, rather than something to conceal. One quarter of all the Democratic challengers in competitive House districts have military-intelligence, State Department or NSC backgrounds. This is by far the largest subcategory of Democratic candidates. National security operatives (57) outnumber state and local government officials (45), lawyers (35), corporate executives, businessmen and wealthy individuals (30) and other professionals (19) among the candidates for Democratic congressional nominations. [WSWS]
  • Sixty years ago, this group sought refuge and status in the suburbs, explicitly detaching themselves from the reality of dirty, dangerous cities. Now, it’s fashionable to move back downtown, detaching ourselves from the reality of gas-guzzling, chain restaurant normie suburbs. The farther you go into expensive, performative habits (Doing triathlons, eating farm-to-table) and coastal echo chambers (“I don’t know a single person who voted for Trump”; “We should ban cars”), the farther you progress up this ladder. On the way up the ladder, you earn social status by doing things that detach you from normie reality. David Brooks wrote a fabulous book on this phenomenon called Bobos In Paradise, about the peaceful merger between the Bourgeois and Bohemian classes that created this strange but durable social tier. These are people that would be mortified to show off a $10,000 watch, but excitedly tell you about their $100,000 kitchen remodel filled with 100-mile diet cookbooks and single-origin Japanese knives, or their 6-month work sabbatical they spent powerlifting. This is a group of people where a Subaru is a higher-status car than a Cadillac, but the highest status car is none. [alexandco]
  • If there’s an exponential-growth dynamic (like in a malignant cancer or an infection) where you’re trying to kill the exponentially-growing population, and if there’s a dose-response relationship where higher dose = more killing, then you have a bifurcation point in the outcome as t -> infinity, where a dose below that point means the enemy takes over and the patient dies and a dose above that point means “the enemy is killed faster than it can reproduce and so dies out in the long run.” And in principle you can calculate this cutoff if you know the dose-response relationship, as Ho did. [qualia computing]
  • I love democracy.  I think there is no greater cause on Earth today than spreading democracy to every corner of the globe by way of economic coercion, or peaceful, overwhelmingly one-sided military campaigns, so that every country resembles the USA as much as possible.  The trick with democracy is to make sure that your local variant is approved by the US State Department because if it isn't, violence occurs.  And we certainly don't want any violence now, do we? [niccolo]
  • Ships seems to be like the lottery ticket investments (negative expected value, extremely high skew) that attract morons. Ships have very high skew because the supply is inelastic enough (although not perfectly inelastic, as we'll see) that the rates an owner can charge will have huge swings. Huge swings attract speculators with borrowed money. Simply based on the barriers to exit and the remarkable consistency (over centuries!) with which shipowners over-optimistically buy ships, I suspect that ships are an objectively bad asset class. Falky has also observed that "the rich are stupid because they contain a disproportionate number of lucky morons who did not realize they were taking as much risk as there were," and this seems to match up well with famous shipowners. [CBS]
  • Every time the market crosses fair value, it’s efficient. For a few seconds every five or six or seven years, it’s efficient. The rest of the time, it is spiking up or spiking down, and is inefficient. Now, the market should equal replacement cost, which means the correlation between profit margins and P/Es should be −1. Or, putting it in simpler terms, if you had a huge profit margin for the whole economy, capitalism being what it is, you would want to multiply it by a low P/E because you know high returns will suck in competition, more capital, and bid down the returns (conversely at the low end). But what actually happens? Instead of having a correlation of −1, our research shows it has a correlation of +.32. The market can’t even get the sign right! High profit margins receive high P/Es and vice versa, and the correlation is much greater than +.32 at the peaks and the troughs. Right at the peak in 1929, we had record profit margins and record P/Es. In 1965, there were new record profit margins and record P/Es (21 times). Now, think about 2000. We had a new high in stated profit margins and decided to multiply it by 35 times earnings, a level so much higher than anything that had preceded it. In complete contrast, in 1982 we had half-normal profits times half-normal P/Es (8 times). I mean, give me a break. We were getting nearly one-third of replacement cost at the low, and almost three times replacement cost at the high in 2000. This double counting is, for me, the great driver of market volatility and, basically, it makes no sense. [CBS]


Anonymous said...

Would it be possible to make the print a little bigger?

CP said...

You can change the size of font (and/or the zoom setting) on whatever browser and device you are using, e.g.:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, I am such a dummy, now I can read your blog. Thanks again.