Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Morals of Derek Chauvin's Prosecutors

Today's rant is about the morality of baseless prosecutions.  Some prosecutors are, I believe, just lower than dirt.  I don't have any problem with defense attorneys doing their best to keep scumbags out of prison.  Everybody deserves a good defense against the government bureaucracy.  But when a government prosecutor knows the defendant is not guilty, and still tries to put them in jail, that I just cannot stomach.

Here's the facts that I am aware of.  George Floyd was about 233 lbs and 6' 3".  Derek Chauvin was the largest of the police officers at 5' 9" and 140 lbs.  George Floyd resisted arrest.  He took an overdose of fentanyl and methamphetamines, reportedly to hide them from the police.  He bloodied his nose on the car's window while resisting arrest.  He complained about trouble breathing before he was put on the ground.  The police officers called an ambulance at least 9 minutes before it arrived.  The knee on the neck was approved police procedure to subdue unruly prisoners.  It was in the police manual and they received training on it.  Finally, the autopsy found no evidence of trauma to the neck and reportedly indicated that George Floyd died from an overdose of fentanyl and methamphetamines.

Unless any of the reports are wrong, or there is some evidence of which I am not aware (possible), there is no other conclusion but that George Floyd died from a drug overdose and not from Derek Chauvin putting his knee on his neck.

I am not sure why the judge did not grant a motion from the defense for summary judgment.  Maybe it's not allowed in Minnesota law for the charged crime.  More likely, the judge would have been afraid of mob justice.  After all, his identity is not kept secret.

Now I turn to the government prosecutors' team of 12 or so lawyers.  They clearly must know about the above facts, more intimately than I do.  But in their opening statements they either left out key parts or lied about some of the facts (like the knee being approved procedure).  So they too must know Derek Chauvin is innocent of the charges.  Yet they are trying to get 12 jurors to send him to jail for 20 years or more.

Who would do such a thing?  Why would someone do such a thing?  Let's consider the alternatives.

First, might the prosecutors have a different take on the evidence?  Since the autopsy indicated no trauma and death from a drug overdose, I cannot understand manslaughter or murder charges.  Doesn't matter what took place before death if that autopsy is correct.  That alternative is out.  Maybe they could claim delay in calling an ambulance, I don't have those facts.  But with five officers at the site and charged, I suspect they called the ambulance as soon as they heard the claims about having trouble breathing.  So this alternative is not realistic.

Secondly, maybe they are just trying to prevent a riot.  That I could understand.  Give him a fair trial and present the evidence.  Except that they don't need 12+ prosecutors for a fair trail.  And the jury selection definitely showed that they did not want anyone with an open mind.  Further, their opening statements were false and misleading.  Maybe preventing a riot is part of the rationale that lets them sleep at night.  But it apparently is not associated with giving the defendant a fair trial.

Third, maybe they were not given a choice by their bosses about whether to accept the prosecution or give it a pass.  That could very well be true for the government employees that are part of the prosecuting team (not the outside attorneys assisting).  I can definitely understand wanting to keep your job and wanting to get promoted.  But here is the crux of my blog.  How far would you go to keep a job and a chance of promotion?  Would you be willing to put an innocent man (or five) in jail for 20 years to life?  Would you respect someone that would?  I would not.

The last alternative would be that the prosecutors want to stir up racial enmity and justify BLM/Antifa actions and positions.  I do not understand such a position.  Hence, I cannot say whether this is the situation and explanation for the continued prosecution.  Continuing a prosecution of an innocent man for such a reason is just despicable.

Bottom line, I have no respect for the prosecuting team, and not much for the judge.  If I were a Minnesota police officer, I would be finding another line of work or move out of state.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Death Statistics and COVID-19 Vaccines

A week or so ago, my wife sent me a link to an article on COVID-19 vaccine deaths and side effects.  The article was mostly a light touch on statistics with a bit of anti-vaxxer opinion thrown in, but no analysis.  My wife is very leery of the vaccine, and to some extent I think she is right.  But the numbers don't really show that.  Let me explain.

At the time of the article, there were over 1,500 deaths reported following COVID vaccination.  According to the reports, there is no data on the causal relationship, and no statistical data was provided on time-frames after vaccination.  There were also indicators (though numbers weren't provided) of significant numbers of emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

Further, the reports indicated 100 million vaccines had been given to people by that date.  And I'm assuming for this analysis that the time frame was December 21st to March 21st for both vaccinations and deaths.  Since most vaccines required two doses, one can assume somewhere between 50 million and 100 million people were vaccinated--out of a population of 330 million.  Let's say on the conservative side, 1 in 6 people had been vaccinated.

Reports on general deaths indicate that about 7,000 or more people die each day in the US (before the COVID pandemic).  So over the 90 day vaccination period, 630 thousand people in the US would have died from any variety of causes.  I would presume quite a number of those people either visited the emergency room or the hospital before their deaths.  Now assume 1 in 6 of those people had taken the vaccine (a purely random assumption).  You would have expected 105 thousand vaccinated people to have died.

The question I would have is how many of those theoretical 105,000 vaccinated people that died did so shortly after their vaccination and without other obvious causes of death?  I don't have a clue.  But a report that says 1,500 deaths after vaccination does not seem to me to be unexpected, worrisome, or even any indication that vaccination was the cause of death.  If anything, the number seems lower than I would expect.

On the other hand.  I do not trust government or our health agencies to tell us the truth.  They have strong motivation to brush bad press under the rug and try to get as many people vaccinated as possible.  If a small risk exists, I would not expect them to reveal the truth to us, but instead to rationalize the statement that "there is no indication of causal relationship between vaccinations and reported deaths."

Let me diverge from the statistical analysis to some thought on adverse reactions to vaccines.  One assumes most start with no immunity.  But they say exposure to other flu/coronavirus types can provide some level of immunity.  Let's see what my first line of thinking leads to (note:  I am not a doctor and have no experience with immunology); what follows is pure conjecture.  Either your body already has some immunity and quickly overcomes the invader (vaccine), thus no noticeable symptoms.  Or your body is ineffective and has to put up an extended fight; hence, you are going to get adverse reactions.  Or your body's immune system is good, but is fighting something new, so you are likely to get mild adverse reactions.  That would explain why I never get the flu, but always get the flu vaccine and have no noticeable reactions.

But what would explain worse reactions on a second (booster) shot of the COVID vaccine?  And there are lots of stories about worse adverse reactions.  At least enough so you can assume this circumstance happens more than occasionally.  One would assume the body's response to the vaccine would be more effective on the second shot.  And adverse reactions would be less severe than the response on the first shot.  Either my line of thinking is wrong (very possible), or something else is happening.

They say the messenger RNA (mRNA) Pfizer and Moderna vaccines program your body's response to the virus rather than just presenting a similar viral-like threat as in standard vaccines.  In this case, the vaccine will 1) create a first order invader response like a standard vaccine (however, to the mRNA vaccine itself rather than the virus), and 2) create a second order response by the body that enhances your normal immune response to an actual live virus.

The second order response seems to be the unknown in my line of logic.  It could explain the occasionally more severe reaction to the second vaccine dose.  Everybody is unique physically (our bodies are really complex), and so will be their reactions to newly introduced catalysts (in this case the mRNA vaccine).  If your body did not respond well to the catalyst the first time, it might fight harder the second time.  Thus, the more severe adverse reactions.  That would not necessarily indicate that the catalyst's intended response is not seen (immunity).  And vaccine tests indicate that even with adverse reactions, the immunity occurs.

Okay, that was a long side-bar.  But I wanted to get my own thinking in order.  Once again, the above was all conjecture.

What I really wanted to point out was that 1,500 deaths associated in some way (maybe only in time?) with vaccination is not an unexpected number due to the much larger number of 'normal' deaths expected in the vaccinated population in the US.  In fact, that relatively small number reassures me that the vaccine is relatively safe.

But, I would like to leave you with my reservations.  As I mentioned earlier, I don't trust the government (or most companies/organizations).  They have agendas they are working on; and this one is to get the country vaccinated and back to work.  Small 'losses' probably won't matter to them unless the media hypes the issue.  And the media in this case is pro-vaccination.

Secondly, the FDA has only given an emergency use authorization; the vaccines have not been approved for general use (ha!).  That is, they are still experimental.  The testing has been short term, and there has not been enough time for long term effects to have been observed.  Taking the vaccine is thus a risk.  But it is similar to a risk with any drug.  You could always be in the small percentage of users that have a bad reaction.

Third, there are stories out there that talk about unintended consequences of the mRNA vaccination on your immune system.  If I remember correctly, they claim to reduce immunity to certain other pathogens for a period of about 3 months.  I do not know the details, and had no means to evaluate the likelihood of the claims I've read about.  But those reports definitely add to the perceived risk of the vaccine.

Finally, I am not an anti-vaxxer.  I take the flu vaccine and will take any other vaccines my doctor recommends for me.  On the other hand, if I had a child with a degraded immune system or a significant medical condition, I would talk long and hard with my pediatrician or family doctor about whether the child should get certain vaccines.

I do plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as I can.  I know it's a risk, and a significant one; but I think it is worth taking for some peace of mind.

Masks and Airlines

Yesterday I read an article in Power Line by John Hinderaker titled Mask Theater In the Senate.  Most of it was about the spat between Rand Paul and Dr. Fauci in a Senate hearing, and I liked John Hinderaker's take.  But he ended by touching on John Kerry's maskless flight on American Airlines.  He states "I don’t join in those who condemn Kerry for hypocrisy. In my opinion, not wearing a mask on an airplane is perhaps the first sensible thing Kerry has done in his last four decades in public life."  Let me tell you why I felt John Hinderaker's take was just plain wrong.

First, I want to assure you my position on masks is middle of the road.  I wrote early on that Fauci was wrong when he said masks do not help.  On the other hand, I think politicians and much of the public took mask wearing too far.  Yesterday, I was hiking in a state park with the wind blowing about 20 miles per hour.  There has not been a mask mandate for outdoors in our state.  But a couple with their child came from the other direction, and put on their masks.  The closest we would come was about 4 feet for maybe 5 seconds.  We were on a jeep trail.  I thought that was ridiculous.

Let's also consider the recent CDC recommendations for schools where they reduced the distance rule from 6 feet to 3 feet (while wearing masks).  I've read that 3 feet and a mask reduces droplet exposure by 80%.  So the old 6 feet requirement would have reduced droplet exposure by 96%.  But there were no statistics on airborne pathogens (that are so small they do not drop to the ground like droplets).

Next, take the situation on an aircraft.  People are crammed in about 18" face to face on each side of a person.  If someone reclines their seat, they may only be 10" in front of you (or behind you).  If an aircraft is flying at 30,000 feet, the external atmosphere does not have enough oxygen to support life for more than a few minutes.  Yet on most flights (other than to a hub), you are at that altitude for 3 hours or more.  Obviously, the plane does not pull in external air in any quantities at that altitude.

Yet the airlines say they have increased circulation and fresh air on their planes to reduce the chance of COVID transmission.  Sure, they could easily have increased the number or power of fans.  And while on take-off or landing or at the terminal, they could increase the amount of fresh air they pull in.  But at flight altitude?  The only way to get more air would be to mix fresh with tanked oxygen.  My strong suspicion is that that is uneconomical due to storage tank size, weight and increased fuel costs.

So during most of a flight, maybe you get some air circulating, but it is most certainly not fresh, pathogen free air.

And I used to fly quite a bit.  Almost always, you heard one or more people on the flight hacking their lungs out.  Way too often, they were only a row or two away.  Every once in a while, I got sick after flights.  I almost never got sick the rest of the year.

In my opinion, planes are still probably one of the most dangerous places to pick up a pathogen.  Too many people, too close, and ineffective air circulation.  Masks can only help.  In fact, I wish they would require masks on planes even when there is not a COVID pandemic raging.

Finally, I can understand John Hinderaker's position on masks in general.  I don't like government mandates, and most places have reasonable spacing between people and decent air circulation.  Masks shouldn't be required.  Those few places where those conditions don't hold, people can opt out of visiting.  But traveling long distances without using numerous travel days requires airline flights.  For those situations, you don't have a viable alternative, and yet the conditions for pathogen transmission are horrendous.  John should have picked a different example.  Masks are good policy on airlines.