Wednesday, 16 September 2020

PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM COVID

Some information that’s out there but should be on the front page of every media outlet.

The top one is Vitamin D, which ‘supports the immune system through a number of pathways’

An anti-heartburn medicine

‘She had tested positive for COVID-19 and developed a fever. Her lips became dark blue from hypoxia. She took her first megadose of oral famotidine on 28 March. The next morning, her fever broke and her oxygen saturation returned to a normal range. Five sick co-workers, including three with confirmed COVID-19, also showed dramatic improvements after taking over-the-counter versions of the drug, according a spreadsheet of case histories Tuveson shared with Science. Many COVID-19 patients recover with simple symptom-relieving medications, but Tuveson credits the heartburn drug. “I would say that was a penicillin effect,” he says.’

Nicotine:

‘There are biologically plausible pathways through which nicotine may impact SARS-CoV-2, but the clinical significance of these is entirely unclear.’

‘…Early studies are underway regarding the role of nicotine replacement therapy as a therapeutic aid for COVID-19… Evidence so far is too limited to inform any decisions about use of nicotine replacement therapy in COVID-19’

- but it’s been shown in action in France.

Cannabis:

‘several cannabinoids in the cannabis plant have anti-inflammatory properties. In particular, they point to CBD as the most likely candidate for treating COVID-19 related inflammation. CBD has shown serious anti-inflammatory properties in previous studies, it doesn't create the disorienting psychotropic effects associated with cannabis’ most common chemical THC, and it has already been approved by the FDA as safe for children with intractable epilepsy. If successful at reducing inflammation for COVID-19 patients, it could be a safer alternative to other anti-inflammatory options.’ 


Other existing drugs against covid

Repurposing existing medicines focused on known drug targets is likely to offer a more rapid hope of tackling COVID-19 than developing and manufacturing a vaccine, argue an international team of scientists in the British Journal of Pharmacology today.’

'A Nature study authored by a global team of scientists and led by Sumit Chanda, Ph.D., professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, has identified 21 existing drugs that stop the replication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.'



Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Science Revealed: Part 1 of Danny Nemu's Apocalypse


https://psychedelicpress.co.uk/products/science-revealed-by-rev-nemu


I first met Danny at the original Breaking Convention conference in 2011. Some time after that I bought the second volume of his Apocalypse series - Neuro-Apocalypse, took it home and read it. Then recently my review copy of this book, Science Revealed, arrived. I read it, certain that I hadn’t read it before, and went to my bookshelves to hook out the other Nemu’s End volume and compare it. Dear reader, imagine my surprise when I discovered I did not have Neuro-Apocalypse, but another copy of Science Revealed. Almost as if the one book had transformed into the other… I have no ready explanation for this, and I’m in no hurry to find one; it’s a bit of magic that is pointing the book out, like a big neon forefinger. The reasons for this may become apparent in the course of this review. 

Science Revealed consists of essays on what seems at first like a wide range of topics - Occam’s Razor, violence and conquest, the idea of scientific progress as rationality, mainstream medicine, the nature of sin and evil, our relationship to non-human life forms that bite us, Jesus and Exu, and some pictorial sections which I think are meant to be enjoyed non-linearly. This span of discourse actually holds together very well. I shall write about some of the chapters in order, but save till the end Chapter 4’s argument about mainstream medicine, because it’s what led me to take so long to review it. (Apologies, dear Psychedelic Press!)

The first chapter opens with a drunken adventure in Bavaria, introducing Occam of Razor fame, the razor which ‘cuts away but … gives nothing back’ and concluding that the knowledge gained by its use must be left behind when we ‘cross the abyss to the infinite’ (p7). So we scrutinize all beliefs, all ‘philosophies’, leave no ‘philosophy’ in place that has ceased to move on. This is a via negativa, a bit like RAW’s agnosticism, but one that’s aware of the limits of purely negative, critical thought.     

The second chapter focuses on the violence and conquest of imperialism, and examines why Protestants seem to be ‘more skilled at genocide’ than Catholics. 

The third attacks the idea of science as a purely rational process, showing how scientific progress depends on vision, dream and altered states. 

The fifth starts with some of the evils of that absurd narrative the ‘War On Drugs’ and proceeds into how wrong the State can be. This includes the infamous uses of the War on (Some) Drugs as a tool of racist governance, as an example of the uses of ‘science’ for suppressing the poor and championing racist narratives. He quotes Nixon’s sidekick Ehrlichmann (p 77):  ‘’… we could disrupt these communities… arrest their leaders, raid their homes… Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.’ 

This is familiar anarchist territory, but then Danny digs deeper and examines the history of written laws, which appear in 8th C BCE Israel and 7th C BCE in Athens. This is law as something bad: ’These coded-up cultures hybridized and developed into the litigious civilization that is still shitting out morons to govern us 3 millennia later.’ 

This leads us into the nature of sin and evil. This is very interesting, he digs deeper still, asking What is evil? It seems that it’s just what keeps us in the world; he quotes the Talmud: ‘Were it not for the evil inclination, a person would not build, would not marry, would not have children, would not engage in business.’

This chapter’s full-on argument for anarchy is particularly relevant now; with the BLM protests happening in the USA people ask: What would it be like without laws and police? Well, what’s it like now? People roam the streets maiming and murdering, and most of them are paid for out of taxes.

The chapter titled The Monk, the Mystic and the Mosquito opens with the morality and spiritual dimensions of killing mosquitoes while meditating. This leads into the role of mosquitos in keeping us out of the jungle places which we are messing up so badly. 

Well it certainly works for me. One of my fantasy superpowers is a field around myself which would fry biting insects. I can’t imagine a climate worse than one which encourages the bastards. 

This though is a good point, and it ties into the core idea in Swamp Thing, which I’ve been enjoying the Netflix version of lately. The rogue scientist becomes fused with the Green, the vast, collective intelligence of the plant world, so that he can help it fight back against human depredations. 

The last of the linear, verbal chapters is Exu’s Journey, a very nice theological discourse which shows that Exu the Trickster and Jesus are not so very far apart. I like this (p138):

‘…Exu has boundary issues. He disturbs the peace and questions assumptions. His truths are half-lies, his manners are dreadful, and he can’t be trusted any more than you can.’

I’ve saved till last what took me so long to think about: Danny’s blistering rejection of  mainstream medicine in Chapter 4, The Politics of Truth. He traces some of the evidence trails in modern medicine then (p53) tells us about what seems very much like a heresy persecution against scientist Jacques Benveniste, who not only produced evidence for the effects of very dilute medicines which back up the claims of homeopathy, but whose results were replicated in three other labs. The ‘trial’ included a ridiculously high-pressure bit of lab theatre overseen by the editor of Nature, a heavily-biased ‘study’ which also involved the notorious fraud ‘Randi’. The notion that someone’s work is not worth properly investigating because it would require a new explanatory framework is a disgrace to science, but is altogether too common. Science columnist Ben Goldacre a few years ago railed against experiments on ‘psi powers’ because ‘we know there aren’t any’, or words to that effect. Science here is replaced by its insane bastard sister, Scientism.   

What took me aback was Danny’s argument on vaccines (p64). He presents a small sample of approximate numbers and uses it to dismiss pretty much all modern medicine, especially vaccination. There’s a touch of the contamination-by-association style of argument in his stats on iatrogenic illness in the USA as if to slyly hint that it’s all caused by vaccines.

He then talks about how healthy his family are, even though they never see doctors, and shows us how this is part and parcel of where he’s coming from by telling us he’s been a shampoo-dodger since the age of 14. 

Then his big health story: this is a man who got a horrible flesh-eating parasite called leishmaniasis when he was in the jungles of S. America, and, refusing Western type medicine, cured himself completely with the help of traditional plant medicines. So he does know whereof he speaks.

Or at least, he knows for himself; Danny has found his own way of staying healthy. I’m not sure everyone would fare so well if we all had to do without mainstream medicine for all our complaints. My own approach is both, not either: I left the queue for a hip transplant nearly 10 years ago as a result of discovering how much difference a supplement (GLME) made to my then-crippling osteoarthritis. Soon, I was back walking a few miles a day, kept up the exercise and the supplementation and broke the worst of it. But I still happily use prescription painkillers when the pain is too much for the weed and meditation Danny restricts himself to to handle it. 

Don’t get me wrong, self-care is great. Kids should be taught it in primary school. But to valorize such successes is for some people a way of dismissing universal healthcare. Gordon White has recently turned an argument for including all forms of healing in healthcare into an argument against universal healthcare. 

I get the point: in an ideal world we’d all have access to all kinds of healthcare. But to oppose universal healthcare on that basis is just saying ‘Your life got destroyed? Ah, tough shit mate, you were downstream. Shoulda got some ideological purity inside you.’ Anyone who thinks that opposing tax-funded universal healthcare will land us anywhere better than the shameful and absurd US system needs a serious reality check.

But all this has made me think about vaccines again; I never seriously doubted them before this, and all the anti-vaxxer stuff I’d read had been pathetic - the lies of has-been scientists with bad records and worse attitudes, mostly written for the psychopath wing of the tinfoil hat brigade So I went and dug out a few histories, making sure they weren’t all written by drug companies and their allies. 


To sum up, many vaccines are a massive boon and have been for more than a few years. With some, we’ve developed true herd immunity and basically eliminated some nasty pathogens from large areas of the world. Others, such as flu only work (and then not that well) for a year; flu is a class of viruses that mutate very rapidly, which is why they’re always a step ahead of our vaccination programmes, and no true herd immunity is possible. In those cases, it could be argued that the main beneficiaries of such vaccines are the pharma companies. Covid is similar; a vaccine will buy us only a brief respite. The best public health approach would surely be to pool data on drugs and treatments that mitigate or cure this type of disease, using existing, already licensed drugs, natural and synthetic; but that of course wouldn’t generate as much cash for the drug barons.

This is a very good book with an enviably vivid style of writing; I aspire to that level of user-friendliness! Danny manages to give Scientism a right good kicking, which is always OK in my book; this toxic religion should have had its day. A psychedelicist I corresponded with on and off eventually damaged himself with some extreme magico-psychedelic experiments and seems to be suffering from some kind of dark flip-over in his thinking, the main symptom being a fanatical Scientism, the most passionate of that flock I have ever come across. I wish all such people would give this book a go (though I’m not sure how much difference it would make in his case). 

Yes, buy this book. Danny is a trickster, who kicks things in order to wake you up, but like Exu, he can’t be trusted any more than you can. And that’s just fine.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Covid-19 thoughts from July Newsletter

COVID THOUGHTS

Above - examples of what happens when your government is too brutal or stupid to care. Or both. 

Meanwhile in the UK, we now have stealth-eugenics: 'Unlawful do not resuscitate orders imposed on people with learning disabilities.'
This takes the policy of encouraging disabled people to kill themselves by stopping their benefits a step further. I mean, when I was a youth we were as bad as Rick in 'The Young Ones' for calling everything we didn’t like ‘fascist’. It’s no longer an exaggeration. Only those with their eyes squeezed tight shut can fail to see that we've already stumbled into fascism. Arm yourselves with magic my friends!!!

Monday, 29 June 2020

COVID-19 events from May Newsletter


For my Rune-Magic online workshop on 8th May I did a divination on the progress of the pandemic in the British Isles. It was a 3-rune reading, and the staves I got were Isa, Eihwaz and Kenaz.

I found this to be very clear: death and lockdown, and the timescale suggested is till next Winter. In other words, it will be the end of next winter, early next year, before this pandemic has run its course. 
WHAT'S WORKING?
So, what is best practice now we've some evidence in?

Sweden's no-lockdown approach is proving a complete disaster.  


The country that's done best so far is Vietnam. 'Despite a long border with China and a population of 97 million people, Vietnam has recorded only just over 300 cases of Covid-19 on its soil and not a single death.' Their method included a rigorous lockdown early on, and then tracing contacts for those who turn up with symptoms. 

The UK's late lockdown is a dismal failure. We had the third-highest daily death rate internationally – 4.49 deaths per million people per day. Only Sweden, with a rate of 4.68, and Brazil at 4.49, came out worse. Sweden didn't do anything and Brazil is run by a government that is openly boasting about getting pension costs down.
Britain has failed badly. The herd immunity people were wrong. The people that took their cue from healthcare workers were right.
Looking at methods for containing viral spread, the French have got a great scheme: dogs that can sniff out infected people, and this training is being worked on in England.  


So the take-home: Early lockdown and tracing contacts? Best practice. Lockdown later? Almost useless, small positive effect. No action? Disastrous.

SELF-HELP (which is all we've got when we're led by donkeys): Irish researchers have found that having
 high levels of Vitamin D pro
tect against Covid; it “support the immune system through a number of immune pathways”

Lionel Snell's Thoughts on lockdown.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

COVID AND WORLD EVENTS from April Newsletter


As you may have noticed, there's some pretty strange stuff happening.  For a start, check this out, a self-reorganisation of the US states: 

‘Speaking on MSNBC, Governor Gavin Newsom said that he would use the bulk purchasing power of California “as a nation-state” to acquire the hospital supplies that the federal government has failed to provide. If all goes according to plan, Newsom said, California might even “export some of those supplies to states in need.” 
He said 'nation state'; that's maybe a sign of things to come. Other regional coalitions are forming too. 
UBIGuy Standing writing for The Idler:
'A modest basic income is definitely affordable. Think of the billions being poured into the financial markets. Think of the fact that every year the Treasury operates over 1,100 forms of tax reliefs that favour higher-income groups to the tune of over £400 billion, according to the government’s own figures. As shown elsewhere, there is no need to raise the standard rate of income tax in order to pay everyone at least £100 a week. That is not enough to cover people’s needs, but it would make a substantial difference to those on low incomes and facing those debts.'
Ramsey Dukes speaks on Technology versus Coronavirus  - how solutions might be found in the most despised technologies.

Some older technologies may be paying off. The idea of testing already-approved drugs against Covid in order to find a cure rather than a vaccine is getting results in some unlikely places - such as an anti-heartburn medicine.   

And nicotine...  

Thursday, 21 May 2020

My Mumufication

My passport to the afterlife in the People's Pyramid arrived a couple of weeks ago.


When I die, (which I’m not planning to do in the near future) a sample of my ashes will be placed in the hole in the middle of the brick, the brick re-fired and then used in the building of a People’s Pyramid in Toxteth, Liverpool.

I considered getting a berth for my ashes in a modern longbarrow such as this one. But as much as I love the long barrows, having done a few nights of exceptional magick in West Kennett, it feels as though that boat sailed about 4,000 years ago. At that time, my bones would have been buried under the floor of a chamber in which my kin would have danced and sung through the night of Midwinter, inhaling psychoactive herbs off of hot rocks. They would have emerged at dawn, renewed, ecstatic, their covenant with our ancestors renewed and completed for one more year.  

No such option exists today, so instead my remains will become part of an art project, in an urban environment, in the company of other weird, dead people. Cauty and Drummond’s pyramid is grounded in the reality of funeral experience by Green Funerals’ Ru and Claire Callender . My remains will be in good (dramatic) hands.

Here’s a picture from last year’s Toxteth Day of the Dead. For various reasons, I wasn’t able to get to 2018 or 2019’s pyramid building ritual there. Hopefully this year, lockdown permitting, I shall walk the streets of Toxteth with a fine selection of weird people, contemplating death and immortality.


This decision came about because I decided it was about time I made a proper will. This was nothing to do with the plague; my intuition tells me I’ll get through at least this phase of it OK, but the pandemic had freed up some spare time, so that I no longer felt I could go on making excuses to postpone getting this stuff together.

The will was signed during lockdown, immediately following on from one of those Thursday evening ‘clap for the NHS’ street events. I signed the will, witnessed by my two Discordian neighbours, on top of their wheelie bin, in the street, preserving social distancing. A proper Discordian will-signing ceremony, Hail Eris!

Once I’d written my will, I decided this was the perfect time to consider my other end-of-life provisions, top of which are of course the arrangements for my funferall, as Joyce called it. It was an interesting couple of weeks, arranging to donate my body to the local medical school where, as it happens, a friend of mine is currently studying, and then arranging for the remains to be cremated and sent to Messrs. Cauty and Drummond to perform their ceramic alchemy with. A couple of weeks in which I thought about my death daily, in fairly concrete terms. It did me no harm at all. I’d recommend it, especially if you can get excited by your posthumous involvement in a public work of magical art.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Covid Special 2 from Chaotopia Newsletter

This is the Covid part of my last newsletter. You can sign up at https://bit.ly/2DXLAMA

COVID-19 THOUGHTS AND NEWS

.

No two days are the same. I brought forward the date of this newsletter because it's all shifting so fast, so there's no shortage of necessary new thoughts to fill these pages. I don't think I ever truly expected to see times like these, when the irreversability of the flow of human life is so obvious, when there is no turning back to what went before.

None of what follows pretends to completeness.

SPRING HOME BREW
An old family recipe for the Spring: how to make Dire drink. 

SOCIAL DISTANCING
Be Like Odin, by Matthew Frederick (@putmyspellonyou)


SCIENCE
Last newsletter I featured a tune composed from the DNA sequence of the coronavirus. Now people are doing something similar with the virus's protein structure, and for a different purpose. Audio sequences are helping scientists get their heads round the complexities of the virus's spike protein, which is how it attaches to human cells. 'This, the researchers say, is faster and more intuitive than conventional methods used to study proteins, such as molecular modeling.'

TECHNOLOGY
A book called The Knowledge: How to rebuild our world from scratch came out a few years ago, but of course is having a popularity surge. I have it but haven't had time to read it yet, but it looks interesting. Even if you're not planning to build a toaster from raw materials, you may still be curious about what it takes for such a thing to exist at all.



SOCIETY

Now for the good news: Spain is introducing Universal Basic Income. Better still, 'the government’s broader ambition is that basic income becomes an instrument “that stays forever, that becomes a structural instrument, a permanent instrument”'.

In November 2019 David Graeber in Against Economics was wondering what it would take for the political world to come to its senses:
'Breaking through neoclassical economics’ lock on major institutions, and its near-theological hold over the media—not to mention all the subtle ways it has come to define our conceptions of human motivations and the horizons of human possibility—is a daunting prospect. Presumably, some kind of shock would be required. What might it take? Another 2008-style collapse? Some radical political shift in a major world government? A global youth rebellion? However it will come about, books like this—and quite possibly this book—will play a crucial part.'

That was just five months ago. Obviously, no-one in their right mind would have chosen the covid-19 pandemic as an ideal means to a better society, but now it's here, it'd be criminal not to make use of the opportunities it presents for change. Now we are seeing even the Bank of England admitting that 'money is just an IOU', and therefore the economic theory that has supported decades of neoliberalism is a fraud.

The bad news: some governments are of course enjoying the new powers that they are taking to themselves to 'flatten the curve' of infection. Emergency powers acquired by those in charge are seldom relinquished willingly when the emergency is 'over'.

Following up thoughts on the theft of the commons, and why we need and deserve UBI, here's an excerpt from Prof. Guy Standing's The Idler article.



THE MAGICK

Bear in mind that authoritarian script when you are enchanting for the next stage of the world. We have to be careful about how we define an emergency and how we judge when it's over. What is an emergency? How bad does it have to get to qualify?

To answer that question, we need to keep in perspective the whole covid-19 pandemic, and the high probability of similar pandemics in the future. We need to understand pandemics as just a part, albeit a very big one at the moment, of the business of life and death.

I'm definitely not suggesting as some are that 'the economy' is more important than people's lives. If you need to sacrifice people who' ve become vulnerable because of a broken social contract, then you've got a broken society and some kind of mantra of economic growth is a symptom of that dysfunction.

Rather, we need to keep in mind how big a demon coronavirus is compared to other diseases, or, say, to road accidents. Or to bad government. After all, we've been sold a crock of crap with the 'War on Terror'; off the top of my head, the figures go something like this: you are seventeen times more likely to be killed by your own furniture than by acts of terrorism. In lipservice to that tiny extra risk we spend extra hours on pointless security theatre every time we catch a plane, and that's a pretty minor inconvenience when laid aside what some deranged authoritarians would like to do to us using covid as an excuse.

So when you cast your next spell for a better world, remember to consider carefully the freedoms we have now and which we stand to lose.

The Reverend Danny Nemu writes: 'And here we are again, with front row seats as the curtain draws back on the biggest #apocalypse since the Early Modern period!
'Keep your hands sanitised and your sanity handy as you dig into that panic-purchased apoca-poca-popcorn and enjoy the show.'
Danny is well worth reading. Follow him on Twitter.