Thursday, September 16, 2021

Dixon Osburn's "“Mission Possible: The Story of the Repealing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’”


Signing the bill on Dec 10, 2010 at the Capitol

C. Dixon Osburn, a cofounder of the Servicemember’s Legal Defense Network (SLDN) shortly after Bill Clinton announced his “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” policy for gays in the military, has authored a book “Mission Possible: The Story of the Repealing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’”, which became official in September 2011, just about ten years ago today.  The bill setting it up had been signed Dec. 10, 2010;  I was there at the Capitol (outside) on the last day before my mother went into hospice for her own passing.

The book is self-published under an imprint of his own name, in hardback, paper and ebook, ISBN 978-1-7372824-1-3 paper, 43 short chapters, 511 pages, 932 endnotes, no index.

I will review the book in detail on my Wordpress media commentary site after reading.

The issue is separate from the more recent partial ban by Trump of transgender in the military, which Biden has largely repealed.

The Washington Blade has a history of those who fought the policy, by Michael Bedwell, “Remember their names”. 

My own experience, as summarized in my first DADT book (1997), was to be thrown out of William and Mary in my first semester because of the same ideas used to justify the ban – intimacy of young men in a confined space (in my case, the dorm); but in 1968 I would volunteer for the draft and enter and complete Basic Training at Fort Jackson, SC.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

"Peril", by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, will note that the JCS had to "override" Trump after January 6 and reassure China that the US would not attack with nukes (as "retaliation" for the coronavirus)


Air Force Memorial, Arlington VA, 2007

Peril”, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, from Simon and Schuster, 512 pages, to be released Tuesday September 21, 2021, makes a revelation that seems alarming today.

On January 7, one day after the Insurrection, Gen Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, called his counterpart in China to reassure the latter that the United States would not be attacking China (with nuclear or anything else) despite Trump’s bluster, referring especially to the coronavirus and accusations of its connection to a Chinese virology lab in Wuhan (now considered credible).

The book reportedly has other materials regarding the dangers posed by possible conflict with North Korea (with all the controversial ICBM test North Korea made early in the Trump days). 

David Pakman read from the book in a video, and notes that Trump could have fired Milley and appointed a yes-man.  Would we be alive today?

Friday, September 10, 2021

"Solar Superstorms: Planning for an Internet Apocalypse" from coronal mass ejections


air travel 2018-9

Today, September 10, 2021, Smart News offered an article pointing to a serious paper at the University of California, Irvine by Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi, “Solar Superstorms: Planning for an Internet Apocalypse”, 13 pages, PDF link here.

The paper considers the idea that a solar superstorm with a corona mass ejection arrival at Earth (13-hours-72 hours) could leave much of the power grid intact (more or less), but still destroy a lot of Internet connectivity, especially among countries, and especially affecting oceanic cables.  It would take months to repair.

It also notes that the most serious such incidents in the world occurred in 1859 (Carringon), 1921 (before much of the world was electrified), 1989 (in Quebec, a smaller event), and a narrow miss in July 2012.  CME damage normally happens only after pretty much a direct hit on Earth in its orbit around the Sun, considering the Sun in three dimensions.

The probability of a significant event in any decade can be as high as maybe 12%. We'll see sunspot activity increase from a min this decade. 

Here is an introductory article in Livescience.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Washington Post runs sound-and-photo-essay on Navajo health during pandemic

Navajo Reservation Painted Desert


Here is an sound-illustrated op-ed from the “Voices Across America” series in The Washington Post, “For Navajo, crowded homes have always been a lifeline; the pandemic threatens that”.

This problem for indigenous populations got a lot of attention in 2020.

Now the remedy is to build tiny houses for sick family members, but the question remains of how quick the vaccinations are.

Wikipedia embed: Navajo nation aerial, Arizona, click for attribution 

Friday, September 03, 2021

The Atlantic has two big articles on coronavirus/Delta and vaccines/long haulers


second vaccination site 2021-3

Ed Yong’s long article in the Atlantic Sept. 1 “Long Haulers Are Fighting for their Future” needs a careful read.

Main takeaway, some vaccinated people are getting it, even after only mild symptoms from breakthrough infections.  That’s one reason to keep on masking.  On the other hand, some people with long hauler from pre-vaccine infections got better.  After my second Pfizer shot in March 2021, I noticed my sense of smell got much stronger, as I noticed odors in other people's apartments from the hall I had not noticed recently, as apparently I had some smell loss without noticing it -- which implies I had probably had very mild COVID with few symptoms or noticeable illness. 

Another is that there is no certainty as to whether the virus is hidden away somewhere, to be reactivated (that’s unusual for RNA viruses) or if it is an autoimmune disease.  It seems anecdotally to be more common in young women than young men, but college and pro football players have been stopped by it. 

Katherine Wu also brings us up to date on “What we know about waning immunity”.  Yes, Delta may hit faster than the memory cells left from an older vaccination can respond, and is a less perfect fit anyway.  Still, vaccinated people are staying away from ventilators and oxygen, although they may not be free of long COVID in some cases.

But the vaccines are going to need to keep up, just as they do with flu.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Anne Applebaum looks at how social media has create today's "Scarlet Letter"


Take a look at Anne Applebaum’s long article in “The Atlantic”, to be available in print Oct. 1, 2021, “The New Puritans”, illustrations by Nicholas Ortega. The byline, “Social codes are changing, in many ways for the better. But for those whose behavior doesn’t adapt fast enough to the new norms, judgment can be swift – and merciless.”   She starts her article with a discussion of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter", which we all read in high school junior English (and took tests on). 

The focus of her article is due process – and mob justice (and demands, like boycott threats) denies that.  The “social justice” mobs on social media impose a metastasizing fear on those who could question them – because of the power of organizing enough people.  But the same thinks have happened in Communist societies in the real world – no one could go against their comrades. 

She gives one particular example that really seems egregious, at Princeton, where a faculty member Joshua Katz criticized the university’s identarian-letter focused on blackness and whiteness, in a Quilette article, and was “relitigated.”  

Thursday, August 26, 2021

"A Science in Shadows": Washington Post piece on gain-of-function research and relevance to COVID19


Cafe at NIH Bethesda MD 2015-3

David Willman and Madison Muller discuss the whole issue of “Gain of Function” research in a long Washington Post pieceA Science in the Shadows”, Aug. 26, 2010.   The tagline, “Controls on ‘gain of function’ experiments with supercharged pathogens have been undercut despite concerns about lab leaks”.

The basic takeaway is that these dangerous experiments have been going on in several labs around the world, including two in the U.S., and at one time the US supported Wuhan on experiments with coronaviruses (if it really stopped is a little unclear).

The article links to another story by Ellen Nakashima, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Joel Achenbach on Biden’s receiving the intelligence review, which is not yet available, awaiting redaction of classified materials.  Some of the motivation for this comes from reports of workers from the Wuhan lab being hospitalized in the fall of 2019, but in China people go to the hospital more quickly than in the IS.

But the report seems to be inconclusive.  I tried to explain the big picture with a comment of my own:

“I've read comments by experts that "furin cleavage" and "receptor binding domain" changes do happen naturally with coronaviruses. But I've also read expert comments that this particular virus's change is still unusual in nature from the viewpoint of the details of the biochemistry. Unfortunately, we need a trace of the virus's evolution back to an animal (whether or not humans intervened with GoF, which sounds plausible -- as does accidental US co-culpability extending back for years even if it did happen in a Wuhan lab).  From a practical viewpoint, Americans (and those everywhere) face a severe curtailment of their freedoms for a common good due to an unpredicted "force majeur" event, and we need to think that idea through as to how we view our freedoms. (Look at what is going on in Australia with lockdowns and "zero Covid", v. counting on vaccines.)”

Update 8/27:  ABC News reports in some detail on the intelligence report, article by Sasha Pezenik,Sony Salzman, andKaitlyn Folmer.  Four intelligence elements said with low confidence that the pandemic came from natural zoonotic spillover, one said with moderate confidence that it was a lab leak.  No one believes it was intentional or weapons development, and does not believe the Chinese realized the seriousness of the epidemic until toward the end of 2019, although there are events (Military olympics, communications shutdown in early Oct., database closure in Sept 2019, and even hospital parking lot use, as well as some specific information about a virus in one cave in southern China) that suggest they could have been aware of a potential problem.  (Reports of wastewater near Spain in March 2019 are interesting.)  It seems as though that near Wuhan the virus started to exponentiate maybe in early December 2019, maybe with scattered cases before. But some private American citizens seem to have become aware of something going on, at least by mid December.  There is an unclassified summary, linked by Fox News's story (similar to AP and ABC), here