Saturday, March 20, 2021

Plot Twist: It Was Seasonality All Along

With the latest hand-wringing over the March surge of COVID in some European countries, there seems to be a lot of head-scratching and finger-pointing as to why.  And the usual suspects (lifting restrictions, people letting their guard down, new variants, etc.) don't really seem to hold water this time, if they ever really did.  Turns out, it is most likely due to seasonality, and its interaction with the level of herd immunity in the population, and has been all along.  See the following tweets below:

Apparently, a study from a year ago found that the virus has an ideal temperature range of 41-52 F, and an ideal low absolute humidity that translates to roughly 47-79% relative humidity in that temperature range.  So in Europe and the northern USA, regardless of what restrictions were in place, the virus logically surged in the fall and early winter when passing through the ideal range on the way down, then dropped like a stone from mid-January to mid-February, then is either plateauing or rising again in late February and March when passing through that range on the way up.  And after about three weeks or so, it will most likely plummet monotonically to a low baseline through the spring and summer.  The Sunbelt of course has a different seasonality, so the virus is still dropping there even with restrictions generally being lifted faster there.  Last year, their surge occurred in June and July, when they had a relatively COVID-naive population.  But given the combination of herd immunity and seasonality overall, the virus should continue to plummet to a low baseline there as well.  Regardless of restrictions.

Of course, there are other factors as well.  In the winter, people are indoors more, where the virus spreads much more easily (especially with closed windows and thus poor ventilation), and it is also "broken immune system season" (which stretches roughly from November through April) due to low Vitamin D levels from relative lack of sunlight.  But this latest nuance about the ideal temperature and humidity range for the virus explains even more still.

As for vaccines, it is notable that cases began plummeting even well before a significant chunk of the population was vaccinated, and by the time it began falling at a slower rate or even rising again, a good chunk had already received the shots.  So seasonality is an even stronger factor that vaccines, apparently.  And bringing together a large number of people at a time, including many vulnerable people, at mass vaccination sites is ironically a very efficient way to spike the curve in the short term before the immunity from the vaccines fully kicks in (which takes at least two weeks if not longer).  Gibraltar apparently learned that lesson the hard way.

(Furthermore, the ever-insightful Bill Sardi has a theory that there may be a darker reason why many places with the highest vaccination rates are seeing spikes now, but only time will tell if that theory pans out.  Or perhaps it briefly increases susceptibility before it fully kicks in.  Either way, we should know one way or the other by April or May at the latest.)

So far, as of March 20th, the USA has largely dodged the European surge in March, with only Michigan and New Jersey seeing significant (but modest) recent increases.  But many other northern states above the 37th parallel, where it is still chilly and in season for the virus, progress has temporarily stalled.  But make no mistake, this stalling and/or reversal of progress is temporary, fairly brief, basically inevitable, and NOT related to the lifting of restrictions too soon or quickly, lack of masks or mask mandates, new variants, Spring Break, or vaccine hesitancy.  None of these "usual suspects" jibe well with the statistics.

UPDATE:  When looking on Worldometer at the data for three countries/territories that were first out the gate for mass vaccination and had the largest vaccination rates in January--UK, Israel, and especially Gibraltar--we can clearly see a massive super spike in COVID cases (and then deaths shortly after) for a few weeks, followed by a sharp and massive drop to a low baseline upon finally achieving herd immunity (by both infection and vaccination in a two-for-one special, ironically).  And no March surge there either.  So it looks like these post-vaccination surges are fortunately brief (albeit tragically very deadly, especially in Gibraltar), and may partially explain the March spikes in later-vaccinating and slower-vaccinating countries, including some out-of-season tropical countries like Brazil, Peru, and even India as well.  Meanwhile, some of the least-vaccinated and slowest-vaccinated areas (such as Texas) and populations (such as Palestinians) have been interestingly seeing better trends than their highly-vaccinated counterparts.  Makes you wonder.

(Correction:  Palestinians were seeing better trends than Israeli Jews from December through February, but by March the reverse clearly became true.)

But seasonality seems to predominate overall right now in the non-tropics.  And we see that in countries like Italy and Germany, the March mini-waves are already slowing down and curling over before their new lockdowns would have had any effect--kinda like their first waves last spring did too.  Which we have also repeatedly seen elsewhere as well, of course.

(Exactly how much of such spontaneous curling over and decline of these epidemic waves is due to seasonality, herd immunity to one degree or another, attrition of the biggest superspreaders from the population early on, voluntary behavior changes in response to rising case numbers, reversion to the mean, or some combination of the above is not entirely clear, but any correlation with lockdowns and related restrictions is clearly spurious.)

Another possible explanation for the apparent seasonality of this and other respiratory viruses is the hypothesis that it has more to do with changes in temperature than absolute temperature per se, and that some strains are more temperature-sensitive than others.  This also explains a lot as well. 

Also, it seems that HCoV-NL63, one of the four endemic common cold coronaviruses, is currently surging in the Midwest.  Perhaps that little pest is being picked up as false positives for COVID-19 by the notoriously inaccurate PCR tests in some places?

And speaking of the Midwest, once again, we see that lifting vs. keeping restrictions (of any kind) seems to be at best quite irrelevant to the COVID-19 virus:

So, remind me again why our "leaders" decided a year ago in March 2020 to throw the hard-won wisdom of the ages out the window like so much garbage, in favor of emulating a brutal totalitarian dictatorship halfway around the world? And then when their voodoo clearly didn't work, they not only persisted in their defection in the face of hard counter-evidence, but actually doubled and tripled down on it?

So call it whatever you want, just don't call it science.


See also here, here, here, here, and here as well.

And finally, as of the end of April, we can see:

Stop Asian Hate Now!

The True Spirit of America Party has a strong message to anyone who engages in, supports, fuels, or condones any acts of hate or discrimination against Asian and Pacific Islander Americans.  KNOCK IT OFF, YESTERDAY!  Period.  We at the TSAP have absolutely zero tolerance for any racism, discrimination, or hate crimes of any kind, and these recent anti-Asian incidents are absolutely unacceptable.

The fact that anyone in this day and age would actually vilify and blame Asians as a group for COVID-19 is absolutely despicable, and is no different than centuries ago when medieval Europeans would vilify and blame Jews for the Black Death and attack them as a result.  Yes, we know the national origin of this particular virus, but the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its leader Xi Jinping are NOT representative of an entire race, ethnicity, or nationality, no more than the GOP and Trump are somehow representative of all Americans or all white people for that matter.  And lest we forget, the notorious 1918 "Spanish" flu pandemic (which was many, many times worse than this one) actually originated in the USA (Fort Riley, Kansas to be precise), but of course you didn't see anyone blaming or vilifying Americans for that.  These sorts of toxic fallacies have very tragic and deadly consequences, as we have recently seen.

And to all of you cowardly bystanders out there during all of this, the time to step up to the plate is also yesterday as well.  If racists know you won't do anything about it, they will just keep on doing it.

We extend our greatest condolences and sympathy to the victims of this horrific and deplorable rash of hate crimes along with their friends and families as well.  

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Time To End "Endless War", Yesterday!

As the True Spirit of America Party has long said time and again, "endless war" is NOT a sustainable strategy.  In fact, it is not even a strategy at all, but a concept.  And now we're in the 20th year (!) of the war in Afghanistan, the 18th year of the Iraq War in some capacity, and several years into smaller ones like Yemen, Syria, and so on.  And the first two are now presided over by their FOURTH President of the United States, and these wars have continued to be waged as usual even during a global pandemic.

Quagmire Accomplished, basically.  And what have we as a nation actually accomplished during this relentless decades-long quagmire? Certainly nothing good on balance.  Any strategic victories that did occur were exclusively at the very beginning, followed only by losses at the margin going forward.  And a massive stack of dead bodies, of course.  ISIL was ultimately routed for the most part, but lest we forget, they would not have even existed had we not invaded and destabilized Iraq in the first place.  Thus the "cure" was much worse by than the disease.

As for Afghanistan, al-Qaeda was also routed and largely reduced to a nuisance, but then mission creep quickly set in.  We almost had Bin Laden then "lost" him in Pakistan, then finally got him in 2011.  Then we decided to stay there for some reason.  Then ISIL went to Afghanistan to take advantage of the destabilization (even with American troops still there), and so on. And in the meantime, we managed to create terrorists faster than we could kill them.

The only winners here are the oligarchs who profit from this whole racket, quite literally making a killing, as noted by Major General Smedley Butler all the way back in his insightful 1935 book, War Is A Racket.

Thus, it is LONG past time to withdraw our troops from all of these wars quickly and responsibly.  As Win Without War advocates, we need to combine our withdrawal with a commensurate humanitarian and diplomatic surge as well.  We will likely need to implement some sort of Marshall Plan for the affected nations, financed by Monetary Sovereignty and of course the massive savings from cutting war spending.  But withdraw we must, sooner or later.  And yesterday is NOT soon enough!

The open-ended AUMFs both need to be repealed, and the authority for making war needs to be rightfully restored to Congress as per the US Constitution (hey, remember that thingy?).  The War Powers Resolution needs to be greatly tightened in terms of its limits on the President to use military force, 1) only in true emergencies, 2) with an absolute hard limit of 90 days in the absence of Congressional authorization, and 3) strict liability for any consequences if the action turns out to be illegitimate.  And all Congressional authorizations for military force must be either 1) a formal declaration of war, generally done against nation-states, or 2) a much more limited "Letter of Marque and Reprisal" against, and only against, members of specific terrorist and criminal organizations and syndicates named in the letter, which may also be acted upon by private entities as well.  Both are explicitly authorized by the Constitution.  No more vague and open-ended AUMFs, no more unilateral "policing the world", and no more prolonged military occupations either.

All wars must follow Just War Theory criteria:  1) Just cause, 2) Right intention, 3) Proportionality of means, 4) Reasonable prospects of success, and 5) Last resort, among other criteria (but these are the core criteria).  The war in question must also be in America's national interest (not merely business interests!) as well.  And the moment any one of these criteria is no longer met, the war must end, period.   Spoiler alert:  very few wars in our nation's history have actually met all of these criteria. 

For the record, the TSAP is 100% against bringing back the draft.  One of the very few things that hippies, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan could all agree on was that the draft is a bad idea, period.  We believe that the all-volunteer military is superior in every way, and conscription is a Machiavellian form of slavery, violating both the 13th Amendment as well as Kant's categorical imperative.  And while we should certainly eradicate poverty, thus eliminating the "poverty draft" (i.e. economic coercion), we should at the same time also pay our (smaller number of) troops what they are actually worth (which is a LOT more than what they are paid now!) so we should never run short of volunteers.  Besides, as cynical as it sounds, a country that actually needs a draft to defend itself deserves to lose.

That said, if we really wanna smash this war racket for good, we would nonetheless support a form of "consensual conscription" in which any future war must be approved by a limited plebiscite (with a non-secret ballot!) of men and women of military age (which we define as 18-64) who are at least reasonably fit to serve and not obviously 4-F.  Those who vote "yes" would be eligible to be drafted as necessary should we run short of volunteers, those who vote "no" would be exempt, and those who abstain from voting would be drafted next after all the "yes" voters are picked.  Those who voted "yes" or abstained but then conveniently become "conscientious objectors" after being chosen will (if approved) then be assigned to do civilian service or perhaps join a "Human Shield Brigade" to protect civilians.  In other words, if you don't wanna be drafted, simply exercise your right and duty to vote "NO" to any military action that you personally find to be questionable, foolish, reckless, and/or immoral.  And the incentive to go to war will thus evaporate when enough people with "skin in the game" vote "NO", and we also ban war profiteering as well.

Thus, the Selective Service System should be placed back into "deep standby" with the registration requirement suspended indefinitely (like it was in 1975-1980) until it actually becomes necessary to reactivate registration in the event of a legitimately declared war.  That is quick and easy to do with today's technology, and in the meantime we have the Reserves and the National Guard as a temporary "bridge" in case God forbid an actual draft is needed.  Thus, such registration is superfluous nowadays.

In a nutshell, when we finally take the profit out of war, then unsurprisingly the odds of actually going to war will surely approach zero going forward.

As Major General Smedley Butler famously said, 


And let the planetary healing begin!

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Is The Overton Window Finally Shifting?

A year ago in March 2020, the Overton window of what is considered socially and politically acceptable had abruptly shifted in a highly authoritarian and even totalitarian direction due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the response of our "leaders" to it.  What was once unthinkable had become unquestionable (and vice-versa) within a matter of days to weeks, almost overnight.  And once in place, the new restrictions (lockdowns, quarantines, business restrictions, school closures, gathering bans/limits, mask mandates, travel restrictions, etc.) have proven VERY difficult to undo in the climate of incessant and exaggerated fear that the authorities just kept on stoking, regardless of effectiveness or lack thereof and regardless of the very real collateral damage as well.  It felt like the ruling Pharisees had slammed the proverbial gates of heaven in everyone's faces and sent everyone a one-way ticket to hell, never to return again.  Or so it seemed, at least.

(Diagram courtesy of Wikipedia)

But it now appears to be finally shifting back in the direction of liberty and civil/human rights.  Little by little, and then eventually all at once at some point in the hopefully not too distant future.  As of March 6, 2021, several states (17 already, and growing) are now abandoning this whole ship of fools and doing what Florida already did back in September and South Dakota already did last May--going cold turkey (or nearly so) later this month if not already.  Once the first cracks and fissures in the facade appeared several months ago, it was only a matter of time before the proverbial dam would inevitably burst.

The last straw was most likely when they moved the goalposts for the gazillionth time recently when the establishment had the GALL to claim that we will still not going back to the true normal anytime soon even though we have all of the following now:  1) not one, not two, but THREE authorized vaccines now, 2) massively scaled-up virus testing since a year ago, 3) we KNOW how to effectively treat and prevent COVID now and have for a while, and 4) the virus has been in rapid retreat since January 2021, and even earlier in some places.  And President Biden went back on his word and extended his famous "100 days of masks" to all of 2021 and perhaps even beyond (who was whispering in his ear this time?).  So one can see how this would cause millions of people to say, "Enough already!", thus marking the "social end" of the pandemic now or in the very near future.  The establishment clearly overplayed their hand this time, and bit off far more than they could ever chew. 

The lockdown and mask zealots and technocrats, now clearly on the defensive, are probably having a collective heart attack right now, or at least soiling their trousers, but tough noodles for them!  They've already had their proverbial day in the sun for a whole year now (that was only supposed to be two or three weeks to "flatten the curve", remember?) and now it's long past time to start actually living again as humans qua humans.  To the wretched New Abnormal we say, "Good riddance!"  And God willing, may a century of liberty follow after we all say, "Never Again!" and really mean it.

UPDATE:  See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for good additional links on the topic.  And while it should clearly go without saying, we will say it louder for the people in the back:  THERE IS NO "PANDEMIC EXCEPTION" TO THE CONSTITUTION!  Ditto for the written and unwritten constitutions of many other countries which just so happen to be at least partly based on--guess what--the US Constitution as well.  The Founding Fathers, who lived through FAR worse disease epidemics than this one, and thus clearly would have carved out such an exception if they had seen fit to do so (but clearly did not), must really be spinning in their graves right now!

Oh, and by the way:  Lockdowns and shutdowns are among the most neoliberal public policy measures one could ever possibly devise, which have succeeded in making the rich richer, the poor poorer, and further hollowed out the already-shrinking middle class.  No wonder the oligarchs love them so much.  And since they tend to hurt people of color more so than white people, these classist policies are also quite racist as well. (Remember, impact > intent.)  In fact, they strengthen the entire kyriarchy as well, and for women they have basically been "patriarchy on crack" due to their disproportionate job losses, the double and triple burden faced by mothers when schools and daycares are closed, the isolation from the support of other women, and increased domestic violence as well.  Thus, lockdowns and shutdowns are a one-stop shop for neoliberalism, and all the more reason to end these highly toxic policies yesterday.

The TSAP proposes adding the following constitutional amendment (inspired by various folks on Twitter) to both federal and state constitutions, just to be crystal clear:

  • All stay-at-home orders lasting more than 24 hours are prohibited.
  • All nighttime curfews lasting more than three consecutive nights are prohibited.
  • All forced school closures lasting more than one week are prohibited.
  • Voluntary school closures may last longer, but any public school closure lasting more than two weeks shall be subject to a forced reopening or withdrawal of state and federal funding at the governor's discretion.
  • All forced business closures shall constitute a "taking" as per the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and the owners and employees must receive just compensation for the period of closure (including retroactively).  Places of worship shall also be compensated accordingly.
  • Capacity restrictions below 100% lasting more than two weeks, or below 50% for any duration, shall be treated as partial closures, and prorated accordingly for the purposes of compensation.
  • No state of emergency declared by any executive may ever last more than 60 days, or 90 days tops, without the express and democratic authorization of the respective legislature.  If not authorized, such a state of emergency shall become null and void after the deadline.  That is, we must repeal the highly dangerous and autocratic law MSEHPA section 405(b) yesterday.
In other words, this can never happen again.