Streetwise Professor

May 30, 2021

Intelligent Design vs. The Missing Link (or the Virus Gnomes)

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Politics — cpirrong @ 5:50 pm

The raging debate over the covid lab leak theory reminds me of the Intelligent Design vs. Evolution debate, with the lab leak theory playing the role of ID and the natural origins theory playing that of Evolution.

There is a huge difference, however. Here we have a strong candidate for the Intelligent Designer: “Bat Woman” Shi Zhengli, and her team at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Madam Shi has both capability and opportunity. She has a long history of engaging in the genetic engineering of viruses, with the specific goal of increasing and evaluating their virulence in humans (“gain of function research”). As her monicker demonstrates, this includes a specialization in modifying viruses found in bats, which even the evolutionists acknowledge is the original source of covid. There is recent evidence that she had (almost certainly uniquely) access to the raw material (bat viruses from a cave 1000+ miles from her lab) that a modern day Dr. Frankenstein could combine with other genetic material to produce covid.

There are reputable scientists who have recently released a paper claiming that covid-19 was created in a lab. I do not have the expertise to evaluate their claims, but I think it is beyond cavil that Shi had the ability to do what they claim.

Against this we have the evolutionists, who at this stage remind me of the South Park Underpants Gnomes:

  1. Bats.
  2. ????
  3. Covid-19!

Or to use an evolutionary metaphor, they have a huge missing link problem. Despite intense efforts, they have yet to identify the intermediate species between bats deep in a cave and humans in Wuhan. They have hypothesized such a link (or links) and asserted that their hypothesis is truth. This is unscientific. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but unless and until the chain of transmission can be demonstrated, the hypothesis remains only that, and the longer we go without identifying the chain the less likely it is that it ever existed.

In stark contrast, the entire possible causal chain in the lab leak hypothesis is known, and extremely plausible, and there is circumstantial evidence that it indeed operated.

Right now, in my opinion the burden of proof is on the Evolutionists. They have far less evidence on their side than the Intelligent Designers.

I of course use the term “Intelligent Design” sarcastically, but not in the way that you might think (to cast aspersions on the lab leak hypothesis, given the low scientific standing of Intelligent Design Theory). No, the sarcasm relates to what Shi (and other scientists around the world) are designing: these are smart people, but how intelligent is it to create deadly pathogens that can escape into the human population–as even defenders of that research acknowledge is a possibility?

And of course, one of those defenders is none other than Dr. Anthony “The Dervish” Fauci. In 2012 he said thus:

In an unlikely but conceivable turn of events, what if that scientist becomes infected with the virus, which leads to an outbreak and ultimately triggers a pandemic? Many ask reasonable questions: given the possibility of such a scenario – however remote – should the initial experiments have been performed and/or published in the first place, and what were the processes involved in this decision?

Scientists working in this field might say – as indeed I have said – that the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks. It is more likely that a pandemic would occur in nature, and the need to stay ahead of such a threat is a primary reason for performing an experiment that might appear to be risky

What are these supposed benefits? Well, the Underpants Gnomes again come to mind: ???

Supposedly the idea is that we can get ahead of nature by creating deadly things that nature might produce through evolution and create cures in advance.

OK. I’ll bite. Name one cure produced by this type of research. Just one.

I have never seen a defender or advocate of this research point to a single example.

And indeed, it seems wildly implausible that this is very likely at all. What are the odds that nature would produce something so similar to what is produced in the lab by Dr. Shi or anybody else that a hypothetical vaccine for the Frankenstein creation would work on the evolved virus? Look at flu vaccines. They are frequently useless because the specific strains of virus they target happen NOT to be the one that crops up in a given year. Vaccines are not like hand grenades or horseshoes. Close is not good enough. A miss is as good as a mile.

Covid vaccines are very specifically targeted. The hysteria over covid variants is due in large part to concern that a vax that works on one variant won’t work well on other, very closely related ones.

But we are to believe that a vaccine (which again, has never been developed in reality) to treat a lab-created virus will be efficacious against another one that evolved independently?

So maybe GOF research creates the most deadly strain of pathogen, could–in theory–give us a defense against that specific or very closely related strains. But what good is that if other really deadly (if not quite so deadly) pathogens evolve, against which the unicorn vax is useless? And what are the odds that the most deadly pathogen would evolve naturally?

That is, how can (in Fauci’s words) you really “get ahead of the threat”? This is an especially valid question for evolutionists (whose ruling model is one of random variation plus natural selection): what are the odds that a threat that is created in the lab will help deal with a threat that evolves by a random process? Gain of Function seems to presume some sort of viral teleology. Which is to say, that nature acts by intelligent design that mirrors what is done in the lab. Human Intelligent Designers can “get ahead of” nature’s Intelligent Designer.

Ironic, eh?

So, GOF basically means create something really deadly that is unlikely to evolve naturally and which is also unlikely to permit developments of vaccines against what evolves naturally. This means that the odds of GOF research producing something that will protect against naturally occurring pathogens is vanishingly small.

But the risk of a lab leak is real, and non-trivial–as historical experience demonstrates and even Fauci acknowledges.

So how is this risk-reward trade-off intelligent?

This whole line of research seems to represent exactly the kind of scientific hubris that Mary Shelly wrote about two centuries ago. The “get ahead of the threat” rhetoric seems like propaganda intended to gull people into accepting Dr. Frankensteins pursuing their hubristic ambitions.

I am open to persuasion, which would have to take the following form. A rigorous calculation of the probability that a given GOF research effort will make it possible to accelerate meaningfully the development of a vaccine or therapy against a naturally evolved pathogen vs. a calculation of the probability that the pathogen created by this given effort will escape the lab.

Until I see such a demonstration, I will conclude that GOF should be banned, and its Dr. Frankenstein practitioners relegated to other, more benign tasks.

May 27, 2021

Dr. Tony Dervish

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:43 pm

I have despised and distrusted Dr. Anthony Fauci from the very onset of the Covid crisis. I was aware of his dubious–to put it mildly–role in the AIDS issue in the ’80s. But my extremely negative priors were based more on the fact that he has been at the top of the bureaucratic food chain in DC for decades, which can only mean that he is a apparatchik who cultivates power and seeks rents, rather than a man who cultivates science and seeks truth.

I think I was very early to the game. When I tweeted something critical about him in March, a couple of friends chided me for dissing “Dr. Fauci.” They are now staunch Fauci foes.

If anything, events have shown that my priors were far to generous: my posteriors are unbounded from below.

The man has pirouetted on virtually every covid-related issue. Masks. Means of transmission. Vulnerability of children. Lockdowns. He has always taken the politically expedient position of the moment. Pre-November, moreover, his words and deeds were almost invariably calculated to damage Trump. And no wonder, given the mutual antipathy between Trump and the bureaucratic establishment in DC.

But Dr. Dervish’s most disgusting spin has been from heaping scorn on the Wuhan lab leak theory to his recent acknowledgement that gee, yeah, it’s a plausible hypothesis that needs to be investigated.

Who knew? Really? Well knock me down with a feather.

Like many of the government party and ruling class (e.g., Glenn Kessler of Pravda on the Potomac), Fauci (survivalist that he is) was forced into this spin by facts. But this is little excuse. The circumstantial case for the culpability of the Wuhan Institute of Virology was always quite strong. Strong enough that it should not have been dismissed out of hand–let alone characterized as conspiratorial (and racist) lunacy as a justification for not investigating. But some recent facts of the barking dog and non-barking dog variety have only strengthened it. The illness of 3 WIV employees immediately prior to the outbreak. The connection between WIV and a bat-infested cave 1000+ miles away where (a) several individuals had contracted covid-like symptoms, and (b) the WIV had dispatched researchers to collect samples. The failure to find any animal intermediaries between the bats and people (again–who were separated by 1000+ miles).

So like a cornered cockroach, Fauci has had no choice but to admit the obvious.

And Fauci comes to this with very dirty hands indeed. He has bobbed and weaved for weeks about his role in funding WIV. He almost certainly lied about it in Congressional testimony. When forced to tell the truth slowly, he acknowledged the funding but claimed it was impossible to know whether it had gone to “Bat Woman’s” “gain of function research.” His latest spin is that it would have been a “dereliction of duty” not to cooperate with WIV on coronavirus research–all the while expressing ignorance as to whether this institution was engaged in GOF research.

WELL WHY THE HELL DON’T YOU KNOW? This is your excuse, Sergeant Schultz? “I KNOW NUTHINK?” Really? For this you are the highest paid employee in the U.S. government?

Very few in Washington have been willing to challenge this superannuated elf. Only Rand Paul has had the stones to shirtfront Fauci time and again. Other Senate Republicans (and most in the House), you ask? Surely you jest. Worthless and craven governing uniparty POS almost without exception.

As a result, there is little doubt that, like Blattella germanica, this bureaucratic cockroach will survive, and even thrive. Rand Paul, on the other hand, should rightly fear assassination.

This is where we are.

After terminating a Pompeo-initiated effort to investigate the lab leak theory, whoever has his/her hand up the back of Joe Biden’s/Charlie McCarthy’s shirt has ordered the intelligence community to investigate.

Yeah, that inspires confidence, don’t it?

Can you say “whitewash” these days? If you can, I guarantee that’s what this “investigation” will be.

May 21, 2021

Media Delenda Est

Filed under: Energy,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:13 pm

Last week CNN ran a story on the Colonial Pipeline shutdown that claimed that Colonial had not paid a ransom to the ransomware attackers. According to CNN, based on four anonymous sources, the hackers had exfiltrated data from Colonial’s billing system, but that the cyber response team had located the data on a server in the US, and prevented the data being sent outside the US, thereby eliminating the need to pay ransom.

I called bullshit immediately after reading the story:

There’s a thread if you’re interested, but I will summarize it. First, the incident was described as a ransomware attack from the first. But ransomware does not involve exfiltration of data. Instead, the attacker encrypts the target’s computers, and demands ransom in exchange for the decryption key or tool. Exfiltration of data is more commonly described as a “leakware” attack. But leakware wouldn’t explain all the facts. Notably, just exfiltrating data would not have prevented Colonial from operating its system: thus, leakware can’t explain the shutdown, though ransomware could.

And lo and behold, the very next day:

And yes, it was ransomware:

Once they received the payment, the hackers provided the operator with a decrypting tool to restore its disabled computer network. The tool was so slow that the company continued using its own backups to help restore the system, one of the people familiar with the company’s efforts said.

Ransomware would explain a shutdown. Colonial couldn’t use its computers. (Supposedly the computers in question related to billing rather than pipeline operations. But a pipeline ain’t going to operate if it can’t bill properly for tens of millions of dollars of product.)

You’ll note I have not quoted from the 12 May CNN article. That’s because after the revelation that the original story was bullshit, CNN replaced it with this drivel (which is where you are directed if you click the link in my first tweet).

Although CNN admits its original story that no ransom was paid was wrong, the schmucks still can’t fully admit how wrong they were:

CNN was previously told by multiple sources that Colonial Pipeline had not yet paid the ransom, but two sources said on Thursday that the company did pay as it sought to retrieve the stolen information. It is not clear when the payment was made.

The information was NOT STOLEN, losers.

CNN was lied to. Obviously. Which raises two questions.

First, given that the story was obviously fishy, why didn’t CNN figure that out? I saw through it immediately. Meaning that CNN reporters are either complete morons, or they deliberately went with a story that they knew was bilge.

Second, and more importantly, why hasn’t CNN named the liars? The four liars.

Oh, but journalists can’t burn their sources dontcha know. Well, if your sources screw you, screw them back. If you don’t, then you have revealed an ugly reality: journalists would rather maintain access to liars in powerful places, and be accessories in spreading their lies, than to call out the liars and lose access to them. Access to lying liars trumps truth. Every time.

This perpetuates the cycle of lies. There is NO accountability for lying. None. Zero. Zip. Nada.

Or maybe CNN doesn’t think its sources screwed them. Maybe they were in on it all along.

So the lying goes on and on and on and journalists at CNN and every other major media outlet knowingly spread the lies day after day after day.

Word to the wise: do not believe a single word in a story that relies on anonymous sources. Not. A. Single. Word. Anonymous sources can lie with impunity. And given that, you know that they will, and do.

The media is just one American institution that needs to be torn up, root and branch. It is too corrupt, and its relationship with political (and bureaucratic) power too incestuous, to be reformed. CNN’s Colonial Pipeline story glaringly reveals that truth, and the truth that the modern media is built on lies.

May 9, 2021

Combat Is Not Gender Normed, or Died of a Theory. Literally.

Filed under: Military,Politics — cpirrong @ 5:58 pm

One of the developments that has distressed me most over the past years is the descent of the US military into what is now called wokism. The descent began long before the term “woke” gained currency, but it has accelerated since it has, and especially post-20 January.

One of the primary stress points has been over the role of women in combat, especially in the infantry. Clearly here a decisive–and arguably the decisive–issue is physical capacity, notably strength and body mass.

Combat is extraordinarily difficult physically (and mentally as well). It taxes every muscle and sinew. Even movement to combat is physically punishing, especially given the increasing weight of material (including body armor) that the modern soldier must hump before firing a shot.

After WWII, the US Army surveyed veterans. One question they asked was what needed to change in basic training. The overwhelming answer was more physical fitness training. A lot more. Soldiers who had served in the ETO and the jungles of Asia responded that extended combat was far more physically demanding than they had been trained to handle.

In its efforts to integrate women, including into combat billets, the military has had to try to overcome what should be immediately obvious to any sentient being: men are stronger than women. (If this statement offends you, so be it: I am not going to bend to your denial of reality.)

The flash point here has been physical fitness testing. Recently the military adopted a new “Army Combat Fitness Test” (note the word “combat” in the title, as opposed to the old “Army Physical Fitness Test”). The intention was that the test standards would apply equally to women and men, to make sure all had the physical strength required for combat.

The only way this could happen if the test was no test at all. To the extent that the test does impose physical challenges even remotely similar to those required in combat, it was inevitable that women would fail at a far higher rate than men.

And lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened.

But rather than questioning whether this undermined entirely the case for even thinking about letting women serve in infantry units (or other MOS demanding physical strength), the Army is consider gender norming the tests.

Combat is not gender normed. Period.

I say again: combat is not gender normed. A gender normed “combat fitness test” is an oxymoron that makes “military intelligence” look like the epitome of consistency.

I often use Jeff Davis’s phrase “died of a theory.” Here, that will be literally true. People will die. Wars will be lost. The nation’s survival may be at stake.

There are few things more serious–existential even. Serious people–including bad ass women in the military who can hack it physically (there are exceptions to every rule)–understand this. But the US military is currently in the hands of very, very unserious people–and has been for a long time. These are people in thrall to a theory, and are willing to send service men and women to their deaths (and jeopardize the security of the nation) rather than choose reality over theory.

The incoherence of the theorists is also striking. The feminist left argues that men are predisposed to violence and aggression, and are certainly more violent and aggressive than women: indeed, they direct much of their violence and aggression towards women, who are incapable of defense because of their lesser physical strength and aggression. Well, a comparative advantage in violence is an attribute in the military, and this comparative advantage recommends–compels!–that men specialize in socially sanctioned violence–notably in combat arms in the military–and that women specialize in other things.

This is not an assertion of superiority, dominance, or hierarchy. It is a basic point about comparative advantage and specialization. A basic point that is grasped by few, and basically by none on the left, whose obsession with simplistic notions of equality leads them to shrink with horror from the ideas of comparative advantage and specialization.

Yet the same leftist feminists–whose theories have captured the US defense establishment–argue that men and women should not so specialize, but that women and men should both close with enemies in violent combat. In the name of equity. Or something. Like I say, the theorists and the theory are incoherent, so explaining this patent contradiction is beyond the powers of mere mortals.

Various strains of Critical Theories predicated on perverted concepts of equality and delusional views of reality have attacked the brains of those at the pinnacle of the uniformed and civilian hierarchies. I am reminded of this line from Patton’s legendary speech to the Third Army:

The bilious bastards who write that stuff for the Saturday Evening Post don’t know any more about real battle than they do about fucking

Alas, the bilious bastards who want to gender norm “combat fitness tests” are no longer merely editors and writers for newsweeklies.* They run the US military. God save us.

*There are obviously many in the Pentagon, including those holding flag ranks, who know battle. That actually makes it worse. Most likely out of the intersection of careerism and a political class in thrall to the theory, they are willingly collaborating with–nay, directing–policies that they know are are in conflict with basic reality and which jeopardize lives and the nation’s security.

The Real Reasons For Ruling Class (and Corporate Class) Sinophilia

Filed under: China,Economics,Politics — cpirrong @ 3:54 pm

Niall Ferguson rightly worries about the ruling class’s infatuation with the Chinese system, and their clear desire to imitate it. Astoundingly, he fails to grasp the reason for this fanboy attraction.

Ferguson draws an analogy with Cold War I, during which he argues a process of “osmosis” threatened to make the US and the West generally more and more like the Soviet Union. But what is going on now is completely different. It is not an unthinking imitation driven by a need to compete, as in 1945-1991. It is a mixture of admiration (among the political class) and venality (among the corporate class). Yet Ferguson ignores these facts–which are far more disturbing than “osmosis”, which is an unconscious process. The ruling class’s affinity for the CCP model is anything but unconscious.

The West’s political class clearly envies the CCP’s autocratic powers, and strives to imitate them. This is most noticeable with respect to Covid policy, but it is not limited to that. Indeed, the political class fantasizes about using the extraordinary powers it seized based on the Covid pretext to reshape society generally.

The most forthright of the fanboyz is Canada’s effete Justin Trudeau–a perfect useful idiot for the CCP. He openly admires the Chinese dictatorship because, you know, it allows them to dragoon people into going green (amongst other things).

I could come up with other Trudeau examples, but I will spare you the torture of watching more of the twerp’s (cleaned that up) power worship/envy.

Although Trudeau is the most open in his admiration, it is clear that in the EU and the US the political class is itching to embrace China-like policies, whether it is massive “infrastructure” spending, draconian restrictions on liberty in the name of public health, or a social credit system (disguised, perhaps, in the form of vaccine passports or government cryptocurrencies which (a) China is racing to introduce in order to expand its social control, and (b) would almost certainly be non-anonymous to the government and linked with vast amounts of other personal information).

The Rosetta Stone to all ruling class policy initiatives is quite simple, people: you can make sense of any policy by asking what most enhances the ruling class’s power most, and deprives you of the most liberty and personal sovereignty. The ruling class envies the party/state power in the Chinese system, and hence is anxious to ape it at every opportunity.

That basic fact is missing in Ferguson’s article. Maybe it’s because he’s so embedded in the ruling class, although he from time to time takes contrarian positions.

Insofar as the corporate class is concerned, they are the 21st century version of Lenin’s 20th century aphorism about the capitalists who will sell communists the rope with which the latter will hang the former. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Slavering over the Chinese market, Western corporatists (I won’t say capitalists) are perfectly willing to countenance the enslavement of billions.

The ruling class and the corporate class crave power–the ability to control you, to coerce you. They see the power the CCP wields, and they want the same. Is not about emulating China to compete with China. It is about emulating China to emulate the domineering power of China’s political class. And to reprise Lenin again: “Who? Whom?” You are the whom.

This should be an obvious point, but Ferguson fails to make it.

The appropriate historical analogy here is not Cold War I, but the 1930s, when many in the Western ruling class openly admired the Italian Fascists, the Nazis, and the Bolsheviks because of the untrammeled power to reshape society that these malign movements possessed. The power to reshape society free from the resistance of the unenlightened proles is what the Western progressive political class desired, and desires, above all else. So they admired Mussolini then, and admire Xi now. Sinophilia (or more precisely, CCP-o-philia) is just the latest symptom of a very old disease.

These people are the enemies of freedom. They are your enemies. Respond accordingly.

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