In Case You Missed It…

…a week of Mad Biologist posts:

Plato Lives

Some (Possible) Good(-ish) News about Long COVID and Omicron

A Question for DeSantis

Do ‘We’ All Consent to the New Normal?

Yes, SVB Was a Bailout

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Links 3/24/23

Links for you. Science:

Is Climate Change Really Making Fish Bigger? A New Study Says Yes (paper here)
What Long COVID Feels Like, According To 7 People Who Have It
Long COVID linked to higher mortality rates and long-term heart problems, new study finds
The Little-Known World of Caterpillars
How Does SARS-CoV-2 Cause Disease? A Current Report (title is a bit misleading, but this is a good explainer for non-scientists about how (some) scientists–not pundits–actually read papers)
Strife at eLife: inside a journal’s quest to upend science publishing. Editors threaten to resign over ‘no-reject’ model that others see as the future of research journals.


Were the Bank Bailouts the Result of Rising Wealth Concentration? (it was worse than most people think. Damn, nearly everyone was played)
Fire the Fed
This D.C. statehood activist just got full voting rights — in Austria
This Bank Panic Should Not Exist
To build more ‘missing middle’ housing, the devil is in the details
I Was an S.V.B. Client. I Blame the Venture Capitalists. (yes!)
Dallas Has a Problem With ‘Zombie’ Astroturf Groups
William Hanage on COVID lessons we haven’t learned
Lance Reddick Answers Every Question We Have About John Wick
Uptown Theater Neighbors Draft Plan To Turn The Shuttered Venue Into An Arts Center With Films And Food
The Stonehenge of PC design, Xerox Alto, appeared 50 years ago this month
Alligator in the Attic: Building Inspector Shocked to Find 8-ft Beast in Three-Story Home
The High and Getting Higher Cost of Renting in the US (I’m very lucky that, when I started out, these kinds of fees didn’t exist–I don’t see how I could have rented an apartment)
The Media Better Be Smart and Get Wise to DeSantis’ Bad-Faith Press Operation
The Unlearned Lessons From the War in Iraq
The Heckler’s Veto
Affordable insulin? You bet, thanks to Biden and congressional Democrats
Trump Media Got Millions in Loans from Foreign Sources with Russian Ties
Here’s How To Build Your Own Mini Metro Arrival Screen For Your Home Or Office
D.C. Auditor Report: Vision Zero Program Didn’t Have Enough Funding, Staffing To Succeed (nothing changes until we stop electing car-dependent mayors and Council members)
Somebody Explain History to Republicans
D.C.’s traffic safety strategy lacked funding, oversight, audit finds
Inside the Bro-tastic Party Mansions Upending a Historic Austin Community
Farewell to the Last Frontier: For decades, Terlingua was a rough, remote refuge for cowboys, wanderers, and weirdos. Now it’s an increasingly popular getaway for well-heeled urbanites seeking a piece of “the last best thing.”
How favoritism has now infected our state’s last branch of government, the Ohio Supreme Court
And Now Let’s Review… A.O. Scott conducts his own exit interview as he moves to a new post after more than two decades of reviewing films.

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Links 3/23/23

Links for you. Science:

Brown Widows Are Winning the Fight for Your Attic and Garage
Who Is Most at Risk for Long COVID?
‘I Didn’t Recognise My Dad’s Face’: New Concerning Long Covid Symptom
The Strongest Evidence Yet That an Animal Started the Pandemic
First Evidence of Locally Acquired Dengue Virus Infection — Maricopa County, Arizona, November 2022
New Data Links Pandemic’s Origins to Raccoon Dogs at Wuhan Market


I helped revise the D.C. Criminal Code. Biden and Bowser are wrong. (excellent, must-read)
How A D.C. Crime Bill Sparked A Political Firestorm And Ended Up Blocked By Congress (very good, but ignores the role of the Washington Post and its reflexive bashing of the ‘left’)
What Broken Windows Theory Can Teach Us Now. The discredited policing philosophy got one thing right: It isn’t crime that makes people feel unsafe. (very good, important)
In This Texas County, There’s No Such Thing as Moving on From COVID-19 (this is a useful Cletus safari)
The Boys Who Cried ‘Woke!’
What Social Media Is Doing to Finance
Elizabeth Warren: Silicon Valley Bank Is Gone. We Know Who Is Responsible.
Operators of upscale L.A. care facility charged in 14 COVID deaths
I Love You, Now Leave Me Alone: What Friendship Means to an Introvert
“I need a woman who looks like she got punched”: Republicans become more openly pro-abuse
A viral moment reinforces the hollowness of ‘woke’ as an attack
The Craddicks’ Gushers of Cash: How a Powerful Texas Lawmaker and a Key Regulator Profit From the Industry They Oversee
L.A. riders bail on Metro trains amid ‘horror’ of deadly drug overdoses, crime (disorder and crime aren’t the same thing, and people notice disorder much more)
A Replica of the Old 9:30 Club Will Open Behind the New 9:30 Club (related post here)
Effective Altruist Leaders Were Repeatedly Warned About Sam Bankman-Fried Years Before FTX Collapsed
Even Republican voters are pretty ticked over Fox News lying about 2020—once they find out
Hong Kong’s once vibrant movie industry now walks a fine China line
You Are Not a Parrot. And a chatbot is not a human. And a linguist named Emily M. Bender is very worried what will happen when we forget this.
Michael Hudson Talks to Ben Norton About SVB and Bank Failures
Shot Chaser
Arlington isn’t full
Why Is Larry Summers So Obsessed With Tech Bros?
Michigan Dems Are Reversing Right-to-Work Law, Putting Muscle Back on Unions’ Bones
No Labels Has a Genius 2024 Plan That Would Kneecap Biden
This sleeper race could wreck MAGA’s 2024 dreams

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Yes, SVB Was a Bailout

Just not of the people many people thought it was. Last week, some asshole with a blog noted this about the Silicon Valley Bank takeover:

What I can’t wrap my head around is how stupid the venture capitalists who backed these startups were. I don’t expect someone running a small startup to realize there are ways to protect cash in excess of the $250,000 cap… But I do expect the guy who gave you millions–his millions–to make damn sure the money doesn’t go missing. That they did not want to pay for (or know about) methods–pretty routine ones–to protect bank deposits over the $250,000 cap speaks to a lack of basic competency.

Yes, they might have been coders once upon a time, they have surfboards in their offices, and so on. But now they’re just investors, nothing more. And they couldn’t protect the fucking cash.

If one of their startup founders was taking home the cash each night in a giant garbage bag for safekeeping, I would like to think they would have a discussion with said founder. Leaving aside the question of whether the bailouts should have happened–which ultimately a question of who is getting bailed out (hint: it’s the investors, not the founders)–the investors were reckless and stupid. Definitely not masters of the universe.

Well, Daniel Davies, who is a professional in this area, has more (boldface mine):

First of all, on a very basic level, VC holds billions of dollars in capital. They could have just sat tight and then picked up some of SVB’s capital issues so that their bank didn’t fail. That’s not uncommon in other situations. Swiss banks get bought by their highest-net-worth clients and then sourced among their friends temporarily. From what I’ve gathered, the VCs didn’t want to do anything that would make them qualify as a bank holding company because once you do that you’re under a different set of regulations and it becomes very difficult to get out of them.

Some suggest that the cash wasn’t on hand and it would be a hassle to raise it. Here’s the thing though, those are exactly the problems equity capital people are paid billions of dollars each year to solve. If I had a career making $5 million a year organizing these funds, you should have a risk strategy or at least be able to figure it out over the course of a weekend.

If a bunch of hedge funds with $10 to $100 billion under management suddenly fell victim to a cyber attack, and it turned out that none of them had employed a CTO [chief technology officer] or used widely available firewall software, would everyone suddenly be given cybersecurity insurance provided by taxpayers? That’s hard to imagine.

Here’s another scenario we should consider: Let’s say I’m one of these venture capitalists and I’ve given all these startups millions and told them to go to SVB. If a company loses $10 million but I really believe in the company, you write another check. It’s not pleasant but that’s what it is and that’s how it could have played out when payroll came due on Monday.

The venture capitalists basically used the threat of thousands of startups shuttering as a political human shield to get a bailout.

Because let’s be clear, the vast majority of deposits came from venture capitalists and the majority of the losses were on venture capitalists. The FDIC bailout is for the venture capitalists even though that’s obfuscated because it’s split between all these many companies.

A lot of people got played here.

Posted in Bidness, Economics | 1 Comment

Links 3/22/23

Links for you. Science:

California’s ‘Zombie Forests’ Are Cheating Death—but Maybe Not for Long
Scientists have revived a ‘zombie’ virus that spent 48,500 years frozen in permafrost
The Next Stage of COVID Is Starting Now. What happens when everyone first gets immunity to the coronavirus as a very young kid?
Imprinted hybrid immunity against XBB reinfection
SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccines decouple anti-viral immunity from humoral autoimmunity (good!)
Children infected with Omicron more likely to have repeat ER visits (paper here)


Higher education is shockingly right-wing (excellent, must-read)
Pandemic stress, gangs and fear fueled rise in teen shootings
People Are Made Of People
Silicon Valley Bank Used Former McCarthy Staffers to Weaken Regulations, Lobby FDIC
Contenders Are Lining Up for the Ward 8 Council Race, As Rumors About Trayon White’s Future Heat Up
How Rod Dreher’s Blog Got a Little “Too Weird” for The American Conservative
Silicon Valley Bank wasn’t “woke”: Tech billionaires are just as bad as Wall Street bros. Ignore GOP hype about the “liberal” tech industry — reckless, entitled libertarianism is what fuels Silicon Valley
U.S. government agencies may have been double billed for projects in Wuhan, China, records indicate; probe launched
US agencies debunk Florida surgeon general’s vaccine claims
Vanishing phone customer support is driving us all insane
The Answer to the Silicon Valley Bank Bailout: Federal Reserve Banking
Silicon Valley is again in denial about its dependency on the feds
D.C. Is Giving Preschool Teachers A Pay Bump. Here’s How It’s Making A Difference To Them
How ditching America’s ‘bootstraps’ myth can open up politics
A Really Bad Tweet (wrote about this here)
Silicon Valley Was Unstoppable. Now It’s Just a House of Cards.
The Evolution Of Dumb Defenses
Patricia Schroeder, congresswoman who wielded barbed wit, dies at 82
‘Fosbury Flop’ high jumper Dick Fosbury dies at 76
All the Things We Do Not Know About SVB
Fathers Gained Family Time in the Pandemic. Many Don’t Want to Give It Back.
Local Md. officials plead for state aid as pandemic rent relief wanes
Barney Frank’s Signature Bank Compensation
Complete Scam
Matt Gaetz hires self-described ‘raging misogynist’ Andrew Kloster for obvious reasons

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Do ‘We’ All Consent to the New Normal?

Because I never received the consent form? Much of our chattering class seems to believe that getting long COVID is just something we’ll have to accept (so lie back and think of England Biden, I guess). There does seem to be good news on the long COVID front, in that Omicron might–note the wiggle word–cause long COVID in a lower percentage of people. But we don’t know if multiple infections increase or decrease the likelihood of long COVID (and Ben Affleck can afford to get infected multiple times. Not to insult my readers, but I’m guessing most of you can’t afford to miss work for several months).

That brings me to the main point. As I’ve been saying over and over again, for most people who get COVID and haven’t been hospitalized, I think the odds of long COVID are roughly one percent, give or take (slightly higher for women, somewhat lower for the under 45 set). The issue is that’s a really bad outcome. Even if in most cases, the symptoms recede after some months–and that’s not entirely clear, Slate articles masquerading as (half-assed, stupid) literature reviews notwithstanding*–unless you’re the aformentioned Ben Affleck (or Colin Farrell. Or Gwyneth Paltrow. Or…), you can’t afford to get sick for months in the U.S. in 2023, Year of Our Gritty. And there is no way that’s good for you.

At an individual level, the odds are low, at a societal level, it’s a massive health burden–in a country that treats the disabled like shit.

That said, I realize I’m yelling at clouds here, since we’re not going to do anything to lessen transmission. We’re not masking. We’re not improving ventilation. We’re not providing sick leave. We’re not providing free testing or masks. It’s not clear if we’re even going to give people the option to get boosted every six months.

Anyway, I didn’t consent to this.

*No, I don’t link to articles that have to issue a correction about a key point of biology that undercuts the theme of the article. Why would such an article be accepted from an investigative journalist specializing in… airplane disasters, anyway?

Posted in COVID-19 | 1 Comment

Links 3/21/23

Links for you. Science:

Efficacy of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and the dose–response relationship with three major antibodies: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials
Biden calls for boosts in science spending to keep US competitive
Local scientists hope to create the ultimate COVID vaccine
Mutant, Parasitic Impostor Queens Lurk in Ant Colonies
How the brain senses a flu infection — and orders the body to rest
Hungry moose fingered as possible factor in climate change


Just Pick Up The Phone And Call
Call it what it is (“If there had been no bailout… then the bill would have arrived at the VCs’ door. They are the owners of the tech startup companies, and they would have been the ones responsible for ensuring that those companies could make payroll if they had lost money in a bank failure through no fault of their own. It might not have been pleasant for the VCs to put up more funding, or to admit that their contribution of management expertise and financial acumen had been so spectacularly negative, but they would still have done it.”)
Banning Trans Athletes Is Just the Beginning
The Fed is Breaking Things (and it could get worse)
The Progressive Takeover of Nevada’s Democratic Party Is Falling Apart
But They’re All Important
How Deregulation Created a Corporate Media Nightmare
A Palantir Co-Founder Is Pushing Laws to Criminalize Homeless Encampments Nationwide
Surviving Putin
In Defense of College
Climate gentrification shows the ‘water isn’t here yet, but sharks are at the door’
At Year Three, Americans Split on Whether Pandemic Is Over (interesting data)
SVB Chief Pressed Lawmakers To Weaken Bank Risk Regs
‘The Big Lebowski’ Turns 25: “People Didn’t Get It,” Jeff Bridges Recalls
Drilling for Alaskan Oil May Be Good Politics, But It Still Ends Badly for Everyone
Whose Head At The Fed Should Roll
The Silicon Valley Bank Debacle Was Built on a Hubris We Have Seen Before
How the Cochrane Review went wrong. Report questioning COVID masks blows up, prompts apology
Republicans Would Have Us Forget the Fight for Justice
Feds Move to Rein In “Prior Authorization”, a System Private Health Insurance Use That Harms and Frustrates Patients
Inside Ron DeSantis’s Politicized Removal of an Elected Prosecutor
US Officials Make Non-Bailout Bailout of Silicon Valley and Signature Bank and Continue Class Warfare
The Issue of Curiosity
As California student housing crisis deepens, solutions face roadblocks at UC and elsewhere

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A Question for DeSantis

What happens if you win the primary?

Unless it’s a case of overwhelming annihilation, Trump is not going to concede gracefully, especially to a guy he refers to in private as “Meatball.” Add to that, primaries (and debates) always have some screwball elements, so he’ll have grounds to claim the primary was rigged. He still has a lot of loyalists–and they are far worse than even the worst of the K-Hive or Bernie stans–and he definitely will try to appeal to his followers. If the indictments continue, he can’t afford to lose.

Rooting for injuries here.

Posted in Conservatives | Leave a comment

Links 3/20/23

Links for you. Science:

The Case for Free-Range Lab Mice
Wash Your Hands and Pray You Don’t Get Sick
Adapt or die: how the pandemic made the shift from EBM to EBM+ more urgent
A cross-sectional, multicenter survey of the prevalence and risk factors for Long COVID
Bivalent booster effectiveness against severe COVID-19 outcomes in Finland, September 2022 — January 2023
SARS-CoV-2 Exposure in Norway Rats (Rattus norvegicus) from New York City


On the Right’s Call to “Eradicate Transgenderism” (It Means Exactly What You Think It Means)
Silicon Valley Bank collapses, in biggest failure since financial crisis
Noncompete clauses are everywhere, even for dancers and hair stylists
The Demise of Silicon Valley Bank: The Rapid Collapse of the 16th Largest Bank in America
Startup Bank Had a Startup Bank Run. One problem for Silicon Valley Bank is that its customers had too much cash, and now they don’t.
My mom died while I was covering covid. It changed my views on grief.
Did a 21st-century pharmacy really just cave to the threat of a 19th-century antiabortion law?
Traute Lafrenz Page, member of White Rose anti-Nazi resistance, dies at 103
A tiny street in Dorchester is a magnet for street violence. Police say one house is the source of so much trouble.
Biden makes moves foreshadowing campaign to come, angering some liberals
After T slowdown, more questions about track safety (doing worse than WMATA…)
Insurers slashed Hurricane Ian payouts far below damage estimates, documents and insiders reveal
In the ’60s, a gay couple made their Worcester home into a refuge of art and community
The Collapse Of Silicon Valley Bank Is Testing Tech’s Loudest Evangelists
Republicans are systematically destroying democracy — and replacing it with strongman authoritarianism
So You Want to Turn an Office Building Into a Home?
Consider my priors unchanged
How to Take Back Control of What You Read on the Internet
As food aid program winds down, another piece of the COVID-era safety net gets snipped away
The Ugly Elitism of the American Right
Disinformation Is Not the Real Problem With Democracy
The Topic Biden Keeps Dodging: With the exception of abortion rights, the president is working to downplay or defuse almost all cultural issues.
Biden set to appoint mass foreclosure cheerleader to the Fed
When Suburbs Go to War With Transit: A battle over building a housing development near a Baltimore light rail station illustrates why it’s so hard to make viable public transportation in the suburbs.
The Next Big I.P.O. Scramble? Fifty years ago, DLJ changed Wall Street forever by altering the conventional wisdom as the first private investment bank to go public in an I.P.O. It set off a tidal wave of followers. Now, is Big Law ready for its moment? (what could possibly go wrong?)
House Republicans plan to crush your retirement savings

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Some (Possible) Good(-ish) News about Long COVID and Omicron

Long COVID appears to be less frequent after Omicron infection, but there are a bunch of caveats. Saturday, the Washington Post, in collaboration with Epic Systems, a medical electronic records company, reported that, for those whose first COVID infection is Omicron, the probability of having a long COVID symptom attributable to COVID infection has declined. Before I get to the story and analysis, I want to put this in the context of two major themes.

First, this will likely be discussed by pundits and other self-proclaimed experts*, and there is a difference between how pundits and scientists will approach this: pundits will discuss the implications of the work without kicking the tires–they won’t dive into the methods and the data, and that’s essential (albeit hard and often beyond their ken). Second, trying to assess frequencies of rare events–and long COVID is a rare event (of severe magnitude)–is very difficult to do.

With that as prelude, let’s discuss the findings. Being scientists, not pundits, let’s start with what they did (boldface mine):

The Washington Post worked with the electronic health records company Epic Systems and with input from Kaiser Family Foundation to design a study on who is most likely to report long-covid symptoms.

The study looked at 4.88 million de-identified people of all ages in the national Epic Research Cosmos patient-record database who were diagnosed with covid-19 for the first time between March 2020 and January 2022. The patients studied were separated into categories corresponding to the major coronavirus variant circulating at the time they became ill. The original variant was from March 2020 through June 2021. The delta variant was from August 2021 through November 2021. The omicron variant was in January 2022. July and December 2021 were omitted because of transitions between major variants during those periods.

Epic used a multistep process to identify patients reporting new symptoms. Epic analyzed each patient’s electronic health record going back to 2017. Using that history, Epic identified whether each patient had sought care for the first time for at least one symptom that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has listed as a potential indication of long-term covid, including fatigue, difficulty breathing, cough, chest pain, brain fog, headache, sleep problems, dizziness, depression, muscle pain, rash and stomach pain. Only symptoms for which a person had not sought care since 2017 were classified as new symptoms.

The review established whether each patient sought care for any new symptoms from one month to six months after the coronavirus infection. A second step established whether each patient had reported any new symptoms in the six months before receiving a covid diagnosis.

The share of patients with new symptoms before experiencing coronavirus infections established a baseline rate of how often these symptoms appear even without covid. The share of patients with new symptoms in the period after infection constituted the rate after covid.

Baseline rates and post-infection rates were calculated separately for the overall group and for each wave, as well as for demographic groupings by sex, age and race, and for groups of patients with various preexisting conditions (comorbidities), and with different severities of covid infection. The baseline rate was subtracted from the post-infection rate to establish the change, expressed in percentage points.

Data shared with The Post was aggregated at the national level in accordance with the Epic Research standards to protect patient privacy.

Patients who had been hospitalized in intensive care units were excluded from most of the long-covid analyses because the severity of their illness as well as post-ICU syndrome could cause symptoms that are indistinguishable from those of long covid.

Patients may have been constrained from seeking care for new symptoms during the pandemic, especially in its early phases. That may have affected patients’ reported rates of new symptoms before they had coronavirus infections. The duration of symptoms or how many symptoms each patient had — or their severity — were not measured in this study.

This is a clever idea, and the scale of the data are massive–we don’t have to worry about large confidence intervals**. That said, we’ll return to these methods. So what did they find? Here’s a figure!

Note that severity or number of symptoms isn’t presented, so we’re using the gain of one or more symptoms as a proxy for ‘long COVID’, which can be a problem. Also, this is a lower bound–people as it ignores whose symptoms get worse (e.g., someone with asthma and thus shortness of breath who then has worse/longer bouts of it due to COVID).

Anyway, you’ll notice, as some asshole with a blog has been writing for quite some time, that one to two percent of people develop long COVID. You’ll also notice that Omicron infections have a lower rate, around 0.3% overall. To me, this appears to be an underestimate, and it should likely be 0.4-0.6% higher. That’s still better than the initial wave or the Delta period–which is a good thing!

The reason I think the Omicron long COVID rate is too low has to do with the baseline rates–they’re higher for the Omicron wave, as this breakdown of baseline rates by age cohort and COVID wave shows (the colors don’t mean anything, they’re just there to make the age cohorts clearer):

You’ll see that the baseline rates for the Omicron era increase by 0.37% to 0.66% compared to the original era. That doesn’t seem like much, but, remember, the stated Omicron long COVID effect is 0.3%. And these are large (YOOGE!) samples. So why would the baseline be higher for the Omicron era across all ages?

One possible reason is many of the people who are assumed, based on their Epic medical records, to have not had COVID previously, did have COVID. If many people either were asymptomatic, had minor symptoms they didn’t think were COVID (‘allergies’), didn’t get tested, or didn’t have this information incorporated into their medical records (given the patchwork that is the U.S. medical system, that’s not trivial), then these data are incorporating previously infected people. Importantly, some of these ‘unidentified’ previously infected people might have long COVID symptoms, but would not be considered to have long COVID for purposes of the analysis.

The baseline surges in the group that had the largest increase in infections during the Delta period. According to national seroprevalence data, kids had the largest surge in prevalence during the Delta period; older groups had smaller increases, but are more likely to develop long COVID in the first two periods. In absolute terms, it would be a small effect, but, unfortunately, we’re looking for a small effect.

So, my hunch is that, if we use the Original baseline, we’re probably seeing a more realistic effect of Omicron. The good news is that it’s less around 0.5% for those under 45 (1-2% for older people), but that is higher than the Washington Post is reporting. Mind you, this doesn’t mean the work is bad (it’s impressive!), but the interpretation of their results needs to be more nuanced than is reported–and, as mentioned above, we need a much better deep dive into the particulars of the data. To be blunt, this is not peer-review**** ready. Nonetheless, this might be still good(-ish) news, especially for younger age cohorts.

Anyway, I eagerly await lazy pundits fucking the interpretation of these results up too.

*It takes five to six years to finish a Ph.D., at which point one hopefully is an expert in a sub-(sub-, sub-)discipline. The idea that, after three years of the pandemic, anyone believes they’re an expert is silly.

**Large confidence intervals are bad; we want small ones!

***It’s also interesting to note, that two age cohorts, 30-44 (parents who were busy), and the elderly (who were avoiding unnecessary medical appointments), had a ‘Delta dip’, while the other cohorts did not.

****All the recent drama regarding eLife notwithstanding…

Posted in COVID-19 | 1 Comment