Wokeness Comes To West Point

Rod Dreher:

I received the following e-mail today from an alumnus of the United States Military Academy at West Point. I am redacting the reader’s name to protect privacy:

I hate to pile on to the theme of academics at prominent universities attempting to shut down intellectual inquiry in the name of anti racism, but this is another example of the trend that needs some wider exposure.  The Left wing mob is coming for the service academies, and by extension, our nation’s very ability to defend itself from external enemies.  As a West Point graduate (class of 2017) and a longtime reader of your blog, I thought I should bring this to your attention as yet another example of the madness that is afflicting our country’s elite classes.

This letter needs some background explanation.  It’s not like the Princeton Putsch that you described.  The faculty at West Point are probably the most conservative of any public university in the country.  I can attest to the academic openness and respect for free debate during my time at the school (2013-2017).  The student body is (or was) generally conservative in an institutional sense.  They are not right-wing fire-breathers.  Cadets were pretty evenly divided about Donald Trump’s election.  From what I could observe, so were the faculty.  The Academy’s response to the unrest that has torn the United States apart in the last few months–spearheaded, I might add, by Lieutenant General Darryl Williams, the Academy’s first black Superintendent–was measured and appropriate for the amount of division in our country.  This is not an attempt by people currently in power to shut down debate by other academics.

It is quite the opposite.  It is an effort by young leaders in the United States Army to force the Academy to bow to the Woke Cult and make the Anti-Racism the central feature of the Academy’s curriculum. This policy statement was apparently drafted by a group of recent Academy graduates (classes of 2018 and 2019).   These graduates all came from the top tier of the ranks of the Academy’s cadet leaders.  Two recent valedictorians and First Captains signed this manifesto.  (Other past First Captains include Douglas MacArthur, John J. Pershing, and William C. Westmoreland.)  The other cadets all held high-ranking positions within the Corps of Cadets.  They are the cream of the crop of the Army’s future leaders, the guys and gals that will become generals one day and will be expected to lead America’s sons and daughters in combat.

Their actions are akin to those of the Red Guards in Maoist China.  They are agitating to tear the Academy apart from the ground up and reorient its mission around Anti-Racism.  The fact that our country’s future leaders believe in this nonsense is a sign that our military is in trouble, and cannot be relied upon either to defend our country or to safeguard the interests of all Americans in the performance of their duties.

I don’t expect you to read this entire document or understand completely what’s going on here, but the plain English of it is easy enough for everyone to understand.  Even so, I’ll add in a few notes for context on this document.

I knew some of these cadets personally and professionally in the performance of my duties, but not well enough to be able to speculate about their motives.  The document is filled with concrete policy proposals to address what its authors see as a major problem at West Point.  The effect of these policy proposals is to cede control of the Academy’s entire curriculum from the ground up to black cadets in the name of Anti-Racism.  It is replete with so-called ‘examples’ of racism at the Academy, but most fall apart on close inspection.  Minimally they do not substantiate the charge that West Point needs to be fundamentally reformed to address it.  I interpret most of these anecdotes as pure innuendo and hearsay, totally devoid of context, and not indicative of an institutional problem (they were nearly all sourced from an online anonymous survey).  They would not pass muster for any journalist attempting to investigate them.  It is filled with buzzwords about ‘heteronormativity’, ‘Protestants’, ‘imperialism’, ‘Christianity,’ ‘white supremacy’, ‘Black bodies,’ and the like. I doubt that the writers of this document know anything at all about any of these things, but of course that will not abate their righteousness in pursuit of their holy cause.

This document as a whole constitutes wholesale moral blackmail of the Academy, its graduates, and its present-day leadership.  It consists almost entirely of a recitation of black grievances against whites, with a few token gestures to ‘Latinx’ and ‘Asian’ minorities, but nothing more, probably because it didn’t occur to the writers of this document that there might be more to American history than their single-minded focus on racism.  I should note that the Academy is currently led by a black man (LTG Williams, himself a graduate with many years of honorable service) and that the Corps of Cadets itself has been led by black people (Simone Askew in 2018 and EJ Coleman in 2016) twice in the last five years.  Black cadets are represented at the Academy in greater numbers than their proportion of the population.  Of course, none of this is enough for the Woke Mob.

A Declaration of Independence by a Princeton Professor

Joshua T Katz:

In Congress, on July 4th, 1776, came the “unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.” Signed by 56 men, many of whom were considered national heroes just a few minutes ago, it opens with a long and elegant sentence whose first words every American child knows, or used to: “When in the Course of human events…” In Princeton, New Jersey, on July 4th, 2020, just two hours after my family and I sat around the festive table and read the Declaration aloud in celebration, a group of signatories now in the hundreds published a “Faculty Letter” to the president and other senior administrators at Princeton University.

This letter begins with the following blunt sentence: “Anti-Blackness is foundational to America.” One important difference between the two documents might wrongly be dismissed as merely cosmetic. In 1776 there were “united States” but there was not yet the “United States”; in these past two months, by contrast, at a time when we are increasingly un-united, “black” has become “Black” while “white” remains “white.”

I am friends with many people who signed the Princeton letter, which requests and in some places demands a dizzying array of changes, and I support their right to speak as they see fit. But I am embarrassed for them. To judge from conversations with friends and all too much online scouting, there are two camps: those cheering them on and those who wouldn’t dream of being associated with such a document. No one is in the middle. If you haven’t yet read it, do so now. Be warned: it is long.

A Princeton faculty letter calls for eliminating academic freedom via a committee that would review all publications for racist thought (racist defined by the committee). It was issued on….July 4th. https://t.co/VeU9LICqbR

— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) July 6, 2020

There are four reasons why colleagues might have signed the letter.

Michele Flournoy: Queen Of The Blob

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos:

Jonathan Guyer, managing editor of The American Prospect, has an unbelievably well-reported piece on the making of a Washington national security consultancy, starring two high placed Obama-era officials and one of the Imperial City’s more successful denizens—Michele Flournoy.

Flournoy may not be a household name anywhere but the Beltway, but when she met Sergio Aguirre and Nitin Chadda (Chiefs of staff to UN Ambassador Samantha Power and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter respectively) she was already trading lucratively on her stints in two Democratic administrations. In fact, according to Guyer, by 2017 she was pulling nearly a half a million dollars a year a year wearing a number of hats: senior advisor for Boston Consulting Group (where she helped increase their defense contracts to $32 million by 2016), founder and CEO of the Democratic leaning Center for a New American Security, senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center, and a member of various corporate boards.  

Hungry to get their own consulting business going after Hillary Clinton’s stunning loss in 2016, according to Guyer, Aguirre and Chadda approached Flournoy for her starpower inside the Blob. Flournoy did not want “to have a firm with her name on it alone,” so they sought and added Tony Blinken, former Under Secretary of State and “right hand man” to Joe Biden for 20 years. WestExec Advisors, named after the street alongside the West Wing of the White House, was born. “The name WestExec Advisors trades on its founders’ recent knowledge of the highest echelons of decision-making,” writes Guyer. “It also suggests they’ll be walking down WestExec toward 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue someday soon.”

Soon the firm was raking in corporate contracts and the high sums that go with it. They weren’t lobbying per se (wink, wink) but their names and connections provided the grease on the skids their clients needed to make things happen in Washington. They shrewdly partnered with a private equity group and a Google affiliate. Before long, Guyer says, they did not need to market: CEO’s were telling other CEO’s to give them a call. More:

The founders told executives they would share their “passion” for helping new companies navigate the complex bureaucracy of winning Pentagon contracts. They told giant defense contractors how to explain cutting-edge technologies to visitors from Congress. Their approach worked, and clients began to sign up.

One was an airline, another a global transportation company, a third a company that makes drones that can almost instantly scan an entire building’s interior. WestExec would only divulge that it began working with “Fortune 100 types,” including large U.S. tech; financial services, including global-asset managers; aerospace and defense; emerging U.S. tech; and nonprofits.

The Prospect can confirm that one of those clients is the Israeli artificial-intelligence company Windward. 

To say that the Flournoy helped WestExec establish itself as one of the most successful of the Beltway’s defense and national security consultancies is an understatement. For sure, Flournoy has often been underestimated—she is not flamboyant, nor glamorous, and is absolutely unrecognizable outside of the Washington market because she doesn’t do media (though she is popular on the think tank conference circuit). She’s a technocrat—smart and efficient and highly bred for Washington’s finely tuned managerial class. She is a courtier for sure, but she is no sop. She has staying power, quietly forging relationships with the right people and not trying too hard to make a name or express ideas that might conflict with doctrine. She no doubt learned much in two stints in the Pentagon, which typically chews up the less capable, greedier, more narcissistic neophytes (not to mention idealists). She’s not exactly known as a visionary, however, and one has to wonder which hat she is wearing when she expounds on current defense threats, like this piece about beefing up the Pentagon budget to confront China.

Only 9% of visitors give GDPR consent to be tracked

Marko Saric:

Privacy regulations such as the GDPR say that you need to seek permission from your website visitors before tracking them.

Most GDPR consent banner implementations are deliberately engineered to be difficult to use and are full of dark patterns that are illegal according to the law.

I wanted to find out how many visitors would engage with a GDPR banner if it were implemented properly and how many would grant consent to their information being collected and shared.

There was no study done on this from what I could find out so I did my experiment. Let’s look at my findings.

The inventor of N95 masks had retired. But he now works 20 hours a day, mostly for free, to fight covid-19.

Washington Post:

Peter Tsai retired two years ago, but the materials scientist says he’s never been busier.

When the novel coronavirus began gripping the globe in March, Tsai was summoned from his short-lived retirement. He was in urgent demand because he is the inventor who, in 1995, patented the filtration material used in disposable N95 respirators.

OpenStreetMap, a global map for worldwide insight

Mikel Maron:

OpenStreetMap improves every day. Its unparalleled global coverage — from roads and rivers to pharmacies, forests, and much more — makes OpenStreetMap a vital resource for building high-quality visual maps and navigation services for every part of the world. And OpenStreetMap data is unlocking details at a scale previously impossible, examining block by block what street networks say about every city in the world. Three recent research projects are stand-out examples of how OpenStreetMap data enables global-scale analysis to inform how we plan and experience urban environments.

Judge Branick writes letter to citizens explaining mask order

Judge Branick?:

Eighty years ago, the greatest generation planted victory gardens, collected tin, rubber and steel, had food ration books and endured black outs, all to support the war effort. Their sacrifices were significantly more weighty than the inconvenience the present order requires. I want to thank a fellow county judge for reminding me of this. Today, a small minority is screaming that this is some kind of communist plot to overthrow the nation. When did it happen that we all became so focused on our rights and not our obligations to our fellow man and woman? Jesus said “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”. I’m not directing anyone to lay down their life. Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ”. I love you, because that is what Christ teaches us to do.

I wear a mask not because I am afraid but because it is one way of showing that I care about my neighbors. There is a lot we don’t know about COVID-19 but all the evidence suggests that wearing a mask helps to prevent the spread of the virus. If wearing a mask prevents one person from dying, then isn’t it worth the minor inconvenience? If wearing a mask helps us get our country and economy back to normal, then isn’t it our patriotic duty to do so?” I received this in an email from an Orange County resident. It is a note he keeps in his pocket which he gives to people who make snide remarks about his wearing a mask in stores.

Thankful for a Perfect Father’s Day

Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

Posted in Uncategorized.

Genes, Blood Type Tied to Risk of Severe COVID-19

Dr. Francis Collins:

Many people who contract COVID-19 have only a mild illness, or sometimes no symptoms at all. But others develop respiratory failure that requires oxygen support or even a ventilator to help them recover [1]. It’s clear that this happens more often in men than in women, as well as in people who are older or who have chronic health conditions. But why does respiratory failure also sometimes occur in people who are young and seemingly healthy?

A new study suggests that part of the answer to this question may be found in the genes that each one of us carries [2]. While more research is needed to pinpoint the precise underlying genes and mechanisms responsible, a recent genome-wide association (GWAS) study, published on a preprint server, finds that gene variants in two regions of the human genome are associated with severe COVID-19 and correspondingly carry a greater risk of COVID-19-related death.

The two stretches of DNA implicated as harboring risks for severe COVID-19 are known to carry some intriguing genes, including one that determines blood type and others that play various roles in the immune system. In fact, the findings suggest that people with blood type A face a 50 percent greater risk of needing oxygen support or a ventilator should they become infected with the novel coronavirus. In contrast, people with blood type O appear to have about a 50 percent reduced risk of severe COVID-19.

These new findings—the first to identify statistically significant susceptibility genes for the severity of COVID-19—come from a large research effort led by Andre Franke, a scientist at Christian-Albrecht-University, Kiel, Germany, along with Tom Karlsen, Oslo University Hospital Rikshospitalet, Norway. Their study included 1,980 people undergoing treatment for severe COVID-19 and respiratory failure at seven medical centers in Italy and Spain.

In search of gene variants that might play a role in the severe illness, the team analyzed patient genome data for more than 8.5 million so-called single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs. The vast majority of these single “letter” nucleotide substitutions found all across the genome are of no health significance, but they can help to pinpoint the locations of gene variants that turn up more often in association with particular traits or conditions—in this case, COVID-19-related respiratory failure. To find them, the researchers compared SNPs in people with severe COVID-19 to those in more than 1,200 healthy blood donors from the same population groups.

COVID-19: The T Cell Story

berthub.eu:

When COVID-19 burst on to the scene, tests quickly showed that the everyone was susceptible – no pre-existing antibodies were found that bound to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This led to dire predictions that over 80% of the population might eventually fall ill.

Now more than six months in, this has not happened, and it does not appear to be close to happening. A few months ago, noted virologist Christian Drosten mused in his (German) podcast that some people might have a level of immunity after all, but he wasn’t yet sure. Turns out he may have been right.

In this post, I hope to cast some light on:

  • The slightly mysterious slowing down of the COVID-19 epidemic

  • The several layers of our immune system

  • Cell Mediated Immunity / T cells

  • How around 50% of us appear to have (some?) Cell Mediated Immunity against COVID-19

  • What this might mean (spoiler: not sure)