Saturday, January 22, 2022

The Keef Report...Bonding With Ron Obvious.


I've been giving the good Mr. Baldrey a pass during COVID, mostly because I view all that that encompasses to be (mostly) a public health matter rather than a political one.

But now that the Keef has turned his attention back to the pols...

Now, of course, a journalist suggesting that a political party should choose their 'new' leader from the non-candidate pool because of things he likes what he sees is bad enough on its own.

But when you add in the 'call to the herd' factor it's almost as if our local Lotuslandian media version of the Glimmer Twins is back in the saddle again...

Previous Keef Reports can be found....Here.
Ron Obvious?....This.


Friday, January 21, 2022

Three Groups Report That Boosters Are Very Effective Against Omicron Hospitalization.


As he so often is, Eric Topol of the Scripps Institute, is all over this.

Here is his summary:

The reports of the three groups can be found here (United Kingdom) (Kaiser Permanente of SoCal).... and here (United States CDC).


Here, especially for Lulymay and her other half, is what the NY Times had to say about the US CDC findings:
...On Thursday night, the C.D.C. published additional data showing that in December, unvaccinated Americans 50 years and older were about 45 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who were vaccinated and got a third shot...


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

How Paxlovid Works.


You are likely hearing, or will hear, a lot of news about Pfizer's anti-viral drug 'paxlovid' (nirmatrelvir or PF-07321332) given that it was approved for use in Canada as reported yesterday by the CBC's John Paul Tasker:
Health Canada has approved Pfizer's COVID-19 therapeutic for use in adults 18 and older, paving the way for the distribution of a potentially lifesaving drug at a time when the country's hospitals are overwhelmed.

Pfizer's Paxlovid is an oral antiviral treatment prescribed by a doctor and administered in pill form. It is designed to help the body fight off the SARS-CoV-2 virus, reduce symptoms from an infection and shorten the period of illness...

Paxlovid does not act by boosting the immune system against the virus, which is a good thing because that means that 'immune evasion' is not an issue. 

Instead, the drug, which Pfizer has gone to great lengths to modify so that it can be taken orally rather than intravenously, blocks the ability of the virus to make more of itself once it gets into the cells, including the cells that line the inside of our airways.

More specficially,  in Step 3 of the viral life cycle (see diagram, above, from Science magazine), paxlovid/PF-07321332 inhibits the ability of the 'main protease' (MPro) of the virus to chop up long strings of proteins that have been read out (or 'translated') from the viral RNA (Step 2) inside our own cells. 

The activity of the 'MPro' is essential for the viral life cycle to continue (Steps 4 and 5) because the chopped up chunks of protein from the original long string are the functional bits of the virus that allow it to make more of itself (i.e. to 'replicate') so that it can be released from your own cells (Step 6) such that it can then infect more of your own cells or be released from your airways as aerosols which can infect other people. 

The take home message.... When you whack 'MPro' with paxlovid/PF-07321332 you make less virus, which means you have less viral load in your body. As a result, you don't get as sick and, it appears, you are also less infectious.

Thus, there are real benefits here that include:
1) you can take it easily by mouth.

2) you don't have to worry about immune escape (or, in most cases, the state of your own immune system) for it to work.

3) According to the clinical trial data released by Pfizer so far, it will work for at least five days after a virally infected person becomes symptomatic which is a decent window of time to get the drug into people in real world settings.

But could the virus mutate so that paxlovid stops working?

Well, that's possible, although, unlike the spike protein (which forms the little red bits sticking out of the virus that the virus uses attach to and enter into cells, Step 1 above) where there are many mutations, there is only one mutational change in MPro in the omicron variant. However, that could change/accelerate when paxlovid treatment causes selection pressure for variants that could escape drug effectiveness. 

Ultimately, issues about protease inhibitor/paxlovid resistance due to mutation could be overcome by developing additional drugs that attack other molecular choke points in the viral cycle. This is a strategy that has been used successfully in HIV treatment, although there things are different in that the treatments are chronic/go on for long periods of time which, at least so far, is not the goal of acute paxlovid treatment against SARS-CoV-2 (i.e. you take it twice a day for five days). Regardless, there are other drugs in the pipeline, including Merck's 'molnupiravir' which works by blocking a different  enzyme called RNA dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP) that is critical for making new copies of the viral genome (see Step 4 in the diagram above).

There is actually a second drug that you take with PF-07321332 in Pfizer's treatment called 'ritonavir' which acts by decreasing the activity of a molecule in your own body (including in the intestines and the liver) called cytochrome 3A4. Normally, cytochrome 3A4 acts to break down/metabolize drugs/foreign agents, so here ritonavir decreases the breakdown of paxlovid. As a result, paxlovid levels remain higher for a longer in our bodies which makes it more effective against the virus. 
Regarding Merck's 'molnupiravir'...It doesn't appear to be as effective in clinical trials as Pfizer's treatment, at least on its own. There are also some concerns that it might speed viral mutation rates because of the way it works (i.e. it mucks up the ability of the virus to copy its own RNA which is where everything, including mutations, are coded).


Monday, January 17, 2022

It's The Housing Shortage, Stupid.


Last week I wrote a post about how ridiculous housing prices have become, not just in Lotusland central but in its more far-flung regions as well. 

To be clear right at the start, I am an old guy who, by virtue of date of birth, is lucky enough to have a house of my own in the city of Vancouver.

So when I think about housing costs it's usually in the context of what my kids and the young folks I work with are up against.

But then I read a UK-focussed piece in today's Guardian from Sam Bowman that got me thinking about something else.

Which is that housing shortages are actually bad for the economy:
"...The UK is not alone in suffering from a housing shortage. The US has the same problem in places such as New York City and the San Francisco Bay area. One study suggested that, if it tackled these shortages, the country could be 8.9% richer; in another the boost to incomes was calculated at 25%.

Applied to the UK, these estimates imply that fixing our housing shortage could add somewhere between £3,000 and £8,500 to the UK’s annual output per person. That would be a huge improvement to living standards..."

In fact, some sharp folks, folks like Matthew Rognlie at MIT, are actually starting to argue that skyrocketing property values are a major driver of the post-war rise in wealth inequality, writ large:
"...Over- all, the net capital share has increased since 1948, but once disaggregated this increase turns out to come entirely from the housing sector: the contribution to net capital income from all other sectors has been zero or slightly negative..."

All of which begs the bigger question, which is, without being crude about it like James Carville once was (see header), how many of our economic and societal woes could be greatly improved if we really dealt with housing inequality?

And, lest you thought I'd forgotten... The irony of opportunists like MarkyMark jumping on this issue to gain short term ballot box traction while simultaneously wooing big dollar developer donors is not lost on me...Not to mention a sudden interest in 'progressive' signaling.


Friday, January 14, 2022

Poor Poor Pitiful He.


Last Saturday morning, the man who once left Harpertown to run the good ship Clarklandia, Mr. Ken Boessenkool, woke up, fell out of bed, pulled a comb across his head and took to the Twittmachine to play to the crowd:

When it became apparent, by Saturday evening, that not all of the crowd would play along, the good Mr. B cried foul:


Is it possible that the putative public square is not quite so ready to follow the neandercon playbook as blindly as, say, those who pack the Line's zoom room?

Header got your inner earworm working?....This.


Thursday, January 13, 2022

Acknowledging The Remembering.


Mr. Mark Marissen,  the former political advisor to former provincial premier Christy Clark, is running to be the next mayor of Vancouver. 

Writing as a guest columnist in the Georgia Straight Mr. Marissen has a lot of ideas about how to 'fix this Vancouver housing crisis with open hearts and open minds'.

Before he gets to his prescription, Mr. Marissen has this to say:
"...Before we talk about solutions, it’s important for all of us to acknowledge the fact that single-detached houses in Vancouver will most likely never be available again for middle-class families who don’t have access to a large inheritance..."

Personally, I had to pause there, mouth agape, while recalling how the past practices of the previous provincial government of this province helped get us to where we are today.

If you get my open-minded, non-forgetting drift.

As for my heart?

Well, I'd rather not say.


Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Algorithm On My Back.


Last weekend I stumbled upon a GStraight piece by Charlie Smith on a group of anti-vaccination folks who are protesting the local media's role in suppressing the rights of them and theirs.

Here's Charlie's lede:
A fairly large crowd, perhaps 250 people, gathered on Saturday (January 8) outside the Global News B.C. building in Burnaby to protest how the media is covering COVID-19 and vaccine mandates...

Anyway, after reading that little bit I bookmarked the thing so that I could come back to read it all later, on Sunday night after the football was done.

And when I did that I learned that leader of the pack appears to have gone off multiple deep-ends at once:
...The host of the event, James Davison, delivered a fiery speech and plenty of commentary between the other speakers...


...“Our best bet to avoid them taking it to the next level is to hold them accountable," Davison declared. "That’s our best weapon right now. Because if we can’t succeed legally—if we can’t succeed now, legally—then we are going to be in a civil-war situation. That is a fact.

"That’s where this is leading to because they will round us up," he warned the crowd. "They will put us in an institution, call us whatever they want, demonize us however they want to through these organizations like Global News, CTV, CityNews, News 1130. It’s programming."...

But here's the weird thing...

Upon my return to the site it was impossible to ignore the adverts embedded by the Googleplex for one of those 'edgy' T-shirt companies that make products like this:


Subheader, two degrees removed from the header?....This!


Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Two Peas In A Racist Authoritarian Pod.


"We must state that we do not want to be diverse and do not want to be mixed: we do not want our own colour, traditions and national culture to be mixed with those of others. We do not want this. We do not want that at all. We do not want to be a diverse country."

"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?"


That was then.

This is now...

Former (United States) President Donald J. Trump endorsed Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, on Monday, formally pledging his “complete support” to a far-right foreign leader who has touted turning his country into an “illiberal state.”

Mr. Orban and his party have steadily consolidated power in Hungary by weakening the country’s independent and democratic institutions — rewriting election laws to favor his Fidesz party, changing school textbooks, curbing press freedoms, overhauling the Constitution and changing the composition of the judiciary...
And, in case you missed it, the former bow-tie boy and self-described trust fund baby also has quite the thing for what the good Mr. Orban has wrought.
For those who want to get to the heart of the matter, Daniel Bear's recent Foreign Policy piece called "The Dangerous Farce Of Late-Stage Orbanism" is excellent.


Monday, January 10, 2022

(Way More Than Just) One Boomer's Cash-Out Dilemna.


Before we get started, I'm pretty sure just about anyone under fifty, and that includes my own kids, are going to roll their eyes at this one.

With that said, here goes...

We bought our bungalow in the near Eastern Townships of Lotusland in 2005.

And what we paid then, $440,000, gave me the willies at the time.

Since then, the ridiculous explosion in real estate prices means that the little pile of dirt that our littler house sits on not far from Mountain View Cemetary is worth somewhere between three and four times what we paid for it. 

Not surprisingly this ridiculous inflation means that, one-by-one, our neighbours are cashing out and moving to places like Lake Cowichan and Sooke.

Now, let me tell you, it's hard to ignore that siren's song as retirement starts to loom out there just a few years over the horizon.

But then I saw the following from the chart maker, Justin McElroy, buried in the latest version of his local MoCo 'Metro Matters' newsletter:

After humming and hawing and thinking that maybe we could make a decent return if we cashed out and moved to, say, Dease Lake, I smacked myself up the side of the head, and mumbled something like:

"What does 43% matter if you're starting from dirt cheap in the first place?"

Then my eyes wandered down to the following passage in the text under Mr. McElroy's chart:
“...It puts the emphasis on how important it is that we need different housing models even here locally in a small town,” said Mayco Noel, the mayor of Ucluelet, where the typical assessed value went from $494,000 to $705,000 in the last year...


$700,000 to buy a 'typical' house in Ucuelet?

What is our world coming too?


All snark aside, I always thought that, even if they could never buy a place in the Lower Mainland, our kids could move a ways away and be able to get into the market.

Now I'm not so sure.

Which is a real problem that we all need to deal with - not because boomers like me might not get to make out like bandits due to an historical fluke, but rather because everybody else, the rabble that does most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community, needs a decent shot at having a place to call their own.



Sunday, January 09, 2022

Your Evening Audio...A Little Bob And A Little Neil.


This time out it's a little bit from Mr. Dylan backed with a bit from Mr. Young followed by a wee bit of babble about what the Whackadoodle II and I saw when we went down to where the river meets the sea after the big king tide...

Of course, the real musician in the family, the other C., will not appreciate the key change in tune two, but so be it...