Bulletin N° 927
“Close encounters of the Third Kind”
directed by Steven Spielberg
Two parallel stories are told. In the first, a group of research scientists from a variety of backgrounds are investigating the strange appearance of items in remote locations, primarily desert regions. In continuing their investigation, one of the lead scientists, a Frenchman named Claude Lacombe, incorporates the Kodály method of music education as a means of communication in their work. The response, in turn, at first baffles the researchers, until American cartographer David Laughlin deciphers the meaning of the response.
Richard Dreyfuss , François Truffaut , Teri Garr , Melinda Dillon , Bob Balaban , J. Patrick McNamara , Warren J. Kemmerling , Roberts Blossom
Film interpreted by Daren Dochterman
Close Encounters of the Third Kind : A film review
Subject: Is Your Screen Watching You? Who programs the programmer?
“An October Haiku”
Pandemic to plague:
What’s left to live for?
Grenoble, October 2, 2020
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
I recently picked up an old discarded textbook on argumentation. As is so often the case, I found this book which was written in another ideological era - before the brief hegemony of “post-modernism” took root - to be enlightening. The Elements of Argument, a Text and Reader, was first published in 1991, by Annette T. Rottenberg and can be found at a newly modified, neo-liberal covid-19-era, price-gouging cost on Amazon.com. My old tattered copy of this book (the edition published in 2000), which I found on my shelf, last week, is a daunting 786-page textbook, replete with “sample analyses” and “exercises” at the end of each of the nineteen chapters, plus some one hundred pages of “classical arguments” excerpted from some eight samples of classic and modern literature – from Plato to Martin Luther King.
In the Preface of this book, Ms Rottenberg provides an outline for students and instructors of composition classes, for whom it is intended:
In Part One, after two introductory chapters, a chapter each is devoted to the chief elements of argument – the claims that students make in their arguments, the definitions and support they must supply for their claims, the warrants that underlie their arguments, the language that they use. Popular fallacies, as well as induction and deduction, are treated in Chapter 8; because fallacies represent errors of reasoning, a knowledge of induction and deduction can make clear how and why fallacies occur. Each chapter ends with an advertisement illustrating the element of argument treated in that chapter.
Part Two takes up the process of writing, researching, and presenting arguments. . . . .
Part Three, “Opposing Viewpoints,” exhibits arguers in action, using informal and formal language, debating head-on. . . . .
Part Four, “Classic Arguments,” reprints eight selections that have stood the tests of both time and the classroom. They are among the arguments that teachers find invaluable in any composition course. . . . .(pp. vii-viii)
The (First) Cold War era is over, of course, and history doesn’t repeat itself. For these reasons, Elements of Argument is a particularly interesting read; it serves as a sort of map of the intellectual landscape from which we emerged, familiar but not entirely contemporary. This book represents a pragmatic, neo-positivist explication of argumentation from a structural vantage point. In her “Preface for Instructors,” Ms Rottenberg writes that her work is directed to first-year college students, and it was written to encourage,
practice in close analysis, use of supporting materials, and logical organization. It encompasses all the modes of development around which composition courses are often built. It teaches students to read and to listen with more than ordinary care. Not least, argument can engage the interest of students who have been indifferent or even hostile to required writing courses. Because the subject matter of argument can be found in every human activity, from the most trivial to the most elevated, both students and teachers can choose the materials that appeal to them.”(p.v)
In my upper-level history classes, I stressed that the use of carefully built logical constructs were essential, also, for the method of dialectical materialism. I used CEIMSA Atelier No.0, article 21: 40 Types of Informal Fallacies as a teaching tool, to illustrate logical absurdities frequently found in major publications. I then suggested that my students examine the social theory of historical materialism and its related methodology, dialectical materialism, as is carefully parsed in Bertell Ollman’s major study of Karl Marx’s contribution to the social sciences, Dance of the Dialectic: Steps in Marx's. [For our discussion of Ollman’s analysis of Marxist theory and methodology (as opposed to ideology), please see the December 16, 2017 CEIMSA Bulletin N° 777, HIJACKING SOCIAL MOVEMENTS FOR A CORPORATIST AGENDA.]
The two methods – logical positivism and dialectical materialism - are compatable in that Marxist theory of historical materialism demands additional information from specific historical context - of time and place- for a deep understanding of the operations in the logical positivist method; and, likewise, and the Marxist method of dialectical materialism fills out the schema revealed by the use of positivist logic, by exposinig the importancre of what is not present, in order to better define what it is we are looking at, why it has taken the specific shape that it has, and how it is likely to develope.
To return to Ms Rottenberg’s textbook, she emphasizes at the start of her tome that her classroom instruction in composition is based on the work of the British-American philosopher, Stephen Toulmin, The Uses of Argument (1958), a model widely adopted by teachers of rhetoric and speech after the Second World War, during the cold-war period of this era.
Toulmin was interested in producing a description of the real process of argumentation. His model was the law. ‘Arguments, he said, ‘can be compared with lawsuits, and the claims we make and argue for in extra-legal contexts with claims made in the courts.’ Toullin’s model of argument was based on three principal elements; claim, evidence, and warrant. These elements answered the questions, ‘What are you trying to prove?’ ‘What have you got to go on?’ ‘How did you get from evidence to claim?’
In this text I have adapted – and greatly
simplified – some of Toulmin’s concepts and terminology for first-year
students. I have also introduced two elements of argument with which Toulmin is
not directly concerned. Most rhetoricians consider them indispensible, however,
to discussion of what actually happens in the defense or rejection of a claim.
One is motivational appeals – warrants based on appeals to the needs and values
of an audience, designed to evoke emotional responses. A distinction between
logic and emotion may be useful as an analytical tool, but in producing or
attacking arguments human beings find it difficult, if not impossible , to make
such a separation. In this text, therefore, persuasion though appeals to needs
and values is treated as a legitimate element in the argumentative process.
I have also stressed the significance of audience as a practical matter. In the rhetorical or audience-centered approach to argument, to which I subscribe in this text, success is defined as acceptance of the claim by an audience. Arguers in the real world recognize intuitively that their primary goal is not to demonstrate the purity of their logic, but to win the adherence of their audiences. To gain this adherence, students need to be reminded of the necessity for establishing themselves as credible sources for their readers.
I hope Elements of Arguments will lead students to discover not only the practical and intellectual rewards of learning how to argue but the real excitement of engaging in civilized debate.(p.vi)
The first element of argument that the author discusses concerns "Claims". She writes,
Claims, or propositions, represent answers to the question: “What are you trying to prove?” Although they are the conclusions of your arguments, they often appear as thesis statements. Claims can be classified as claims of fact, claims of value, and claims of policy.
Claims of fact assert that a condition has existed, exists, or will exist and that their support consists of factual information – information such as statistics, examples, and testimony that most responsible observers assume can be verifies.(p.51). . .
Unlike claims of fact, which attempt to prove that something is true and which can be validated by reference to the data, claims of value make a judgment. They express approval or disapproval. They attempt to prove that some action, belief, or condition is right or wrong, good or bad, beautiful or ugly, worthwhile or undesirable.
. . .
Many claims of value . . . can be defended or attacked on the basis of standards that measure the worth of an action, a belief, or an object. As far as possible, our personal likes and dislikes should be supported by reference to these standards. Value judgments occur in any area of human experience, but whatever the area, the analysis will be the same. We ask the arguer who is defending a claim of value: What are the standards or criteria for deciding that this action, this belief, or this object is good or bad, beautiful or ugly, desirable or undesirable? Does the thing you are defending fulfill these criteria?
There are two general areas in which people often disagree about matters of value: aesthetics and morality.(pp.60-61)
. . .
Claims of policy argue that certain conditions should exist. As the name suggests, they advocate adoption of policies or courses of action because problems have arisen that call for solution . Almost always, “should” or “ought to” or “must” is expressed or implied in the claim.
. . .
In defending such claims of policy you may find that you must first convince your audience that a problem exists. This will require that, as part of your longer argument, you make a factual claim, offering data to prove that present conditions are unsatisfactory. You may also find it necessary to refer to the values that support your claim. Then you will be ready to introduce your policy, to persuade your audience that the solution you propose will solve the problem.(p.71)
Ms Rottenberg takes up a discussion of “Definition” in the fourth chapter of her book.
Before we examine the other elements of argument, we need to consider definition, a component you may have to deal with early in writing an essay. Definition may be used in two ways: to clarify the meaning of vague or ambiguous terms or as a method of development for the whole essay. In some arguments your claims will contain words that need explanation before you can proceed with any discussion. But you may also want to devote an entire essay to the elaboration of a broad concept or experience that cannot be adequately defined a shorter space.
The Roman statesman, Cicero
said, “Every rational discussion of anything whatsoever should begin with a
definition in order to make clear what is the subject of
In Chapter 5, “Support” is described as an essential element of argumentation. Two types of support are “evidence” and “appeals to needs and values”.
All the claims you make – whether of fact, of value, or of policy – must be supported. Support for a claim represents the answer to the question, “What have you got to go on?” There are two basic kinds of support in an argument: evidence and appeals to needs and values.
Evidence, as one dictionary defines it, is ‘something that tends to prove ground for belief.’ When you provide evidence, you use facts, including statistics, and opinions, or interpretations of facts – both your own and those of experts.
. . .
A writer often appeals to readers’ needs (that is, requirements for physical and psychological survival and well-being) and values (or standards for right and wrong, good and bad).
. . .
Although they use the same
kinds of support, conversations are less rigorous than arguments addressed to
larger audiences in academic or public situations. In the debates on public
policy that appear in the media and in the courts, the quality of support can
be crucial in settling urgent matters. (pp.152-153)
The author turns next to consider the evaluation of factual evidence; she suggests the following examinations:
. . .
She goes on to state that the evaluation of statistics requires even more diligence.
The questions you must ask about examples also apply to statistics. Are they recent? Are they sufficient? Are they relevant? Are they typical? Are they consistent with the experience of the audience? But here are additional questions directed specifically to evaluation of statistics.
- Do the statistics come from trustworthy spruces?
- Are the terms clearly defined?
- Are the comparisons between comparable things?
- Has any significant information been omitted?(pp.162-163)
. . .
And as for the evaluation of opinions, she warns students:
When you evaluate the reliability of opinions in subjects with which you are not familiar, you will be dealing almost exclusively with opinions of experts. Most of the following questions are directed to an evaluation of authoritative sources. But you can also ask these questions of students or others with opinions based on their own experiences and research.
- Is the source of the opinion qualified to give an opinion on the subject
- Is the source biased for or against his or her interpretation?
- Has the source bolstered the claim with sufficient and appropriate evidence?(pp.164-166)
Ms Rottenberg concludes her discussion in Chapter 5 with two additional aspects for supporting an argument : "the appeal to 'needs' and 'values'.
Good factual evidence is usually enough to convince an audience that your factual claim is sound. Using examples, statistics, and expert opinion, you can prove, for example, that women do not earn as much as men for the same work. But even good evidence may not be enough to convince your audience that unequal pay is wrong or that something should be done about it. In making value and policy claims, an appeal to the needs and values of your audience is absolutely essential to the success of your argument. If you want to persuade the audience to change their minds or adopt a course of action – in this case, to demand legalization of equal pay for equal work – you will have to show that assent to your claim will bring about what they want and care deeply about.
. . .
Needs give rise to values. If we feel the need to belong to a group, we learn to value commitment, sacrifice, and sharing. And we then respond to arguments that promise to protect our values. It is hardly surprising that values, the principles by which we judge what is good or bad, beautiful or ugly, worthwhile or undesirable, should exercise a profound influence on our behavior. Virtually all claims, even those that seem to be purely factual, contain expressed or unexpressed judgments.
. . .
Systems of values are neither so rigid nor so distinct from one another.
. . .
Some people who are traditional in their advocacy of competition and success may also accept the modernist values of self-expression and alternative family structures. Values, like needs, are arranged in a hierarchy; that is, some are clearly more important than others to the people who hold them. Moreover, the arrangement may shift over time or as a result of new experience. (168-172)
The last element of argument in this discussion is “The Warrant”. This is the topic of Chapter 6 of this book, where Ms Rottenberg defines the warrant as “an assumption, a belief we take for granted, or a general principle.
Claims and support, the other major elements we have discussed, are more familiar in ordinary discourse, but there is nothing mysterious or unusual about the warrant. All our claims, both formal and informal, are grounded in warrants or assumptions that the audience must share with us if our claims are to prove acceptable.
These warrants reflect our observations, our personal experiences, and our participation in a culture. But because these observations, experiences, and cultural associations will vary, the audience may not always agree with the warrants or assumptions of the writer. The British philosopher Stephen Toulmin, who developed the concept of warrants, dismissed more traditional forms of logical reasoning in favor of a more audience-based , courtroom-derived approach to argumentation. He refers to warrants as ‘general, hypothetical statements, which can act as bridges’ and ‘entitle one to draw conclusions or make claims.’ The word bridges to denote the action of the warrant is crucial. One dictionary defines warrant as a ‘guarantee to justification.’ We use the word warrant to emphasize that in an argument it guarantees a connection link – a bridge – between the claim and the support. This means that even if a reader agrees that the support is sound, the support cannot prove the validity of the claim unless the reader also agrees with the underlying warrant. (p.199)
The author provides the following examples to illustrate the meaning of “warrant.”
Claim: Adoption of a vegetarian diet leads to healthier and longer lives.
Support: The authors of Becoming a Vegetarian Family say so.
Warrant: The authors of Becoming a Vegetarian Family are reliable
sources of information on diet.
Notice that the reader must agree with the assumption that the testimony of experts is trustworthy before he or she arrives at the conclusion that a vegetarian diet is healthy. Simply providing evidence that the authors say so is not enough to prove the claim.
The following dialogue offers another example of the relationships between the warrant and the other elements of the argument.
“I don’t think that Larry can do the job. He’s pretty dumb.”
“Really? I thought he was smart. What makes you say he’s
“Did you know that he’s illiterate – can’t read above third-grade
level? In my book that makes him dumb.”
Claim: Larry if pretty dumb.
Support: He can’t read above third-grade level.
Warrant: Anybody who can’t read above third-grade level must be
We can also represent the argument in diagram form, which shows the warrant as a bridge between the claim and the support.
Support __________________________________ Claim
(expressed or unexpressed) (p.290)
The author goes on to discuss the types of warrants.
Arguments may be classified according to the types of warrants offered as proof. Because warrants represent the reasoning process by which we establish the relationship between support and claim, analysis of the major types of warrants enables us to see the whole argument as a sum of its parts.
Warrants may be organized into three categories: ‘authoritative , substantive, and motivational.’ . . . The authoritative warrant is based on the credibility or trustworthiness of the source. If we assume that the source of the data is authoritative, then we find that the support justifies the claim. A substantive warrant is based on beliefs about reliability of factual evidence. In the example [above] … the speaker assumes, although mistakenly, that the relationship between low reading level and stupidity is a verifiable datum, one that can be proved by objective research. A motivational warrant, on the other hand, is based, the needs and values of the audience.
. . .
Each type of warrant requires a different set of questions, for testing its soundness. The following list of questions will help you to decide whether a particular warrant is valid and can justify a particular claim.
Authoritative (based on the credibility of the sources)
- Is the authority sufficiently respected to make a credible claim?
- Do other equally reputable authorities agree with the authority
Substantive (based on beliefs about the reliability of factual evidence)
- Are sufficient examples given to convince us that a general
statement is justified? That is, are the examples given
representative of the whole community?
- If you have argued that one event or condition ca, bring about
another (a cause-and-effect argument), does the cause given
seem to account entirely for the effect? Are other possible causes
equally important as explanations for the effect?
- If you have used comparisons, are the similarities between the two
situations greater than the differences?
- If you have used analogies, does the analogy explain or merely
describe? Are there sufficient similarities between the two
elements to make the analogy appropriate?
Motivational (based on the values of the arguer and the audience)
- Are the values one that the audience will regard as important?
- Are the values relevant to the claim?(pp.206-207)
The last two chapters in Part I of this book, concern “Language and Thought,” (chapter 7) and “Induction, Deduction, and Logical Fallacies” (chapter 8).
Chapter 7 begins with a reflection on “the power of words”. In most cases, weaknesses that cause arguments to break down represent breakdowns in logic or the reasoning process. Such weaknesses are called fallacies, and sometimes these false or erroneous arguments are deliberate. The Latin word fallere means “to deceive,” but usually such arguments are either carelessly or unintentionally constructed. Ms Rottenberg’s stated purpose in this chapter is to help readers recognize them and thoughtful writers to avoid them.
The reasoning process was first given formal expression by Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, almost 2,500 years ago. In his famous treaties, he described the way we try to discover the truth – observing the world , selecting impressions, making inferences, generalizing. In this process Aristotle indentified two forms of reason: induction and deduction. Both forms, he realized , are subject to error. Our observations may be incorrect or insufficient, and our conclusions may be faulty because they have violated the rules governing the relationship between statements. The terms we’ve introduced may be unfamiliar, but the processes of reasoning, as well as the fallacies that violate these processes, are not. Induction and deduction are not reserved only for formal arguments about important problems; they also represent our everyday thinking about the most ordinary matters. As for the fallacies, they, too, unfortunately, may crop up anywhere, whenever we are careless in our use of the reason process.(p.283)
She proceeds to describe the modalities of inductive and deductive reasoning, “to make clear what happens when fallacies occur”; then examines some of the more common fallacies.
An inductive argument proceeds by examining particulars and arriving at a generalization that represents a probable truth.
. . .
While induction attempt to arrive at the truth, deduction guarantees sound relationships between statements. If each of a series of statements, called premises, is true, deductive logic tells us that the conclusion must also be true. Unlike the conclusions from induction, which are only probable, the conclusions from deduction are certain. The simplest deductive argument consists of two premises and a conclusion.
. . .
One dictionary defines syllogism as ‘a formula of argument consisting of three propositions.’ The first proposition is called the major premise and offers a generalization about a large group or class. This generalization has been arrived at through inductive reasoning or observation of particulars. The second proposition is called minor premise, and it makes a statement about the member of that group or class. The third proposition is the conclusion, which links the other two propositions, in much the same way that the warrant links the support and the claim.
. . .
[A]lthough the argument may be logical, it [can be] faulty. The deductive argument is only as strong as its premises.
. . .
An example from history shows us how such an argument may be used. In a campaign speech during the summer of 1952, Senator Joseph McCarthy, who had made a reputation as a tireless enemy of communism, said, ‘I do not tell you that Schlesinger, Stevenson’s number one man, number one braintrust, I don’t tell you he’s a Communist. I have no information on that point. But I do know that if he were a Communist he would also ridicule religion as Schlesinger has done.’ This is an argument based on a sign warrant. Clearly the sign referred to by Senator McCarthy, ridicule of religion, would not be sufficient to characterize someone as a Communist.(pp.289-292)
Ms Rottenberg then compares the syllogism with “the Toulmin Model”.
In both . . . the principal elements of the argument are expressed in three statements. You can see that the claim in the Toulmin model is the conclusion in the syllogism – that is, the proposition that you are trying to prove. The evidence (support) in the Toulmin model corresponds to the minor premise in the syllogism. And the warrant in the Toulmin model resembles the major remise of the syllogism.
But the differences are significant. One difference is the use of language. The syllogism represents an argument “in which the validity of the assumption underlying the inference ‘leap’ is uncontested.” That is, the words “major premise” seem to suggest that the assumption has been proved. They do not emphasize that an analysis of the premise . . . is necessary before we can decide that the conclusion is acceptable. Of course, a careful arguer will try to establish the truth and validity of all parts of the syllogism, but the terms in which the syllogism is framed do not encourage him or her to examine the real relationship along the three elements. Sometimes the enthymeme [e.g. “an argumentative statement that contains a conclusion and one of the premises, the other premise being implied. For example, a statement like this would be regarded as an enthymeme: 'He must be a socialist because he favors a graduated income-tax.'”],which uses only two elements in the argument and suppresses the third, makes analyzing the relationship more difficult.
In the Toulmin model, the use of the term warrant indicates that the validity of the proposition must be established to guarantee the claim or make the crossing from support to claim. . . . .
A second difference is that while the syllogism is essentially static, with all three parts logically locked into place, the Toulmin model suggests that an argument is a movement from support to claim by way of the warrant, which acts as a bridge. Toulmin introduced the concept of warrant by asking “How do you get there?” (His first two questions, introducing the claim and support, were “What are you trying to prove?” and “What have you got to go on?”)
Lastly, recall that in addition to the three basic elements, the Toulmin model offers supplementary elements of argument. The qualifier, in the form of words like ‘probably’ or ‘more likely,’ shows that the claim is not absolute. The backing offers support of the validity of the warrant. The reservation suggests that the validity of the warrant may be limited. These additional elements, which refine and expand the argument itself, reflect the real flexibility and complexity of the argumentative process. (pp.301-302)
Chapter 8 concludes with a list and brief definition of 14 “common fallacies” :
· Hasty Generalization
· Faulty Use of Authority
· Post Hoc or Doubtful Cause
· False Analogy
· Ad Hominem
· False Dilemma
· Slippery Slope
· Begging the Question
· Straw Man
· Two Wrongs Make a Right
· Ad Populum
· Appeal to Tradition
· Faulty Emotional Appeals
This schematic discussion is followed by 21 pages of “Readings for Analysis”, in which excerpts from five different articles are subjected to brief analyses.
In our own historic period of liberal capitalist debacle and emerging authoritarianism, Elements of Argument might be considered a quaint, antique relic of times past. However, we are left to consider what the future bodes if the very urge for democracy becomes extinct. Hypocritical opportunists, collaborating with neoliberal authoritarians, must share the blame for the collapse of public debate and its displacement with corporate propaganda and contradictory nonsense which the public is coerced to at least act as if they believe, under threat of punishment.
Below readers will find 14 items which reflect our concerns with democratic participation in the face of powerful hegemonic forces aligned to impose a top-down revolution. These views are, of course disputable, and should be debated publically.
Introduction to contemporary articles and essays:
Nearly 12 years ago, Howard Zinn was invited to a “Talks at Google” Conference which was taped for Google-owned You Tube transmission (Please see item n° 1 below). He once again spoke for the 4th-class passengers crowded in the dark hulls of our satellite planet, traveling around the sun and through the galaxy : They want to breath fresh air, feel the sunshine, enjoy the fragrance of life.
Today, the platform from which Zinn spoke, i.e. Google, is charged with corporate censorship, with the intent to manipulate public opinion. (See item n° 2 .) Toward the end of this video (around the 41min mark), the Google whistleblower, Zach Vorhies, proposes four methods to circumnavigate Google censorship policies:
· change your search engine to a non-Google site, for example, to duckduckgo.com;
· switch Gmail addresses to a non-Google site, for example, protonMail;
· change our Crome web browser to, for example, brave browser;
· don’t use android phones, but instead iPhone or BlackBerry.
Meanwhile the American Oligarch Bill Gates and his relentless attempt to control public opinion is in the news again. In 2010, he was charged in an article published in Columbia Journalism Review with attempting to assert financial control over mainstream media outlets. (See item n° 3)
Also, we invite you to listen to this interview with Mark Crispin Miller by Bretigne Shaffer, recorded on Sunday (9/27/20), “On the clear and present danger of monopoly control (and why so many have been blind to it).” (See item n° 4)
Item n° 5 is the complete video of the first pro forma debate between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden, in Ohio on September 29, 2020.
In item n° 6, Mark Crispin Miller sends us a report that Governor of Florida and his wife both tested positive for Covid-19, which did not prevent them from issuing the order to open all public places in Florida and to outlaw local Florida governments from issuing fines to non-mask wearers and from closing any establishments on the pretext of the pandemic.
Item n° 7 concerns a new report on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its about-face on reporting covid-19 fatalities in the US, with Ron Paul.
Item n° 8, is a video of the September 26, 2020 mass protests against Lockdowns in Toronto, Canada.
Item n° 9 is an update on the human rights violations of Julian Assange, who is pleading for his life in London.
Item n° 10 is a report by Barbara Cáceres, first published on September 29 by the National Vaccine Information Center in Medicine, Public Health: “Coronavirus Cases Plummet When PCR Tests Are Adjusted”
Item n° 11 is an essay by Andrew Johnson elaborating his reasons for believing that the Covid-19 Pandemic is a “Fraud,” and producing “Evidence … of Medical Malpractice, Acts of Domestic Terrorism and Breaches of Human Rights Presented”
Item n° 12 is the video of an unintended public admission by Pennsylvania representative Wendy Ullman to governor Tom Wolf on the “political theater” of wearing masks for viral protection.
And finally, item n° 13 offers an allusion to “Dante’s fourth circle of hell: ‘the hoarders and wasters’ now awaiting the political elite of today.
And finally, item n° 14 is a cartoon taken from the French newspaper, L’Humanité, illustrating the all-too-obvious political exploitation of “the Covid-19 Pandemic.”
Professeur honoraire de l'Université Grenoble-Alpes
Ancien Directeur de Researches
Université de Paris-Nanterre
Director of The Center for the Advanced Study
of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
Links to 14 Articles and Essay:
1) “A People's History of American Empire | Howard Zinn | Talks at Google”
Published December 5, 2008
2) “GOOGLE WHISTLEBLOWER TELLS ALL: Zach Vorhies, former Google engineer turned whistleblower”
Published September 3, 2008
3) “The Web Grows Wider - Columbia Journalism Review” - by Robert Fortner.
Published October 8, 2010
4) “Propaganda does not want any argument: A conversation with NYU Professor Mark Crispin Miller”
Published on September 29, 2020
5) "First 2020 Presidential Debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden"
with commentary by Steven Colbert @ LIVE Monologue After The First Trump-Biden Presidential Debate (video, 12:41)
6) “Emancipation From Lockdown in Florida”
Published September 27, 2008
Governor Ron DeSantis has proven it: it is actually possible for a politician to wise up and do the right thing. In a sweeping order announced September 25, the governor has opened up the entire economy. He has even limited the ability of local governments to impose more restrictions and collect fines for mask violations.
Inevitably, the announcement was decried by the lockdowners, even though, as the governor pointed out:
Covid+ hospitalizations have declined by 77% since the July peak.
Covid+ ICU hospitalizations have declined 72% since the July peak.
ED visits for Covid-like illness have declined by nearly 80% since the July peak.
Daily hospital admissions for Covid have declined by 81% since the July peak.
The percentage of positive diagnostic test results for new cases was reported at 4.32%.
24% of hospital beds are empty; so are 23% of ICU beds.
Most impressively, the governor did this despite a trend in deaths that does not look particularly great. For this he is being blasted but it misses the point entirely. His actions were particularly brave, bold, and wise precisely because he didn’t wait for some magic turning point in the data to permit Floridians to exercise the rights and freedoms.
7) "CDC Comes Clean: New Fatality Rate Is A Shocker!" – with Ron Paul.
Published September 28, 2008
8)"Toronto Canada Dundas Square March for Freedom Rally Protest Lockdowns Covid-19 Coronavirus"
Published September 26, 2020
9) "Julian Assange Case: Shocking and Degrading Conditions in US Prisons According to Testimony"
From: Mark Crispin Miller
Sent: Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Subject: [MCM] Coronavirus "cases" plummet when PCR tests are adjusted
This puts that so-called "milestone" of 200,000 COVID-19 deaths, and all the shrieking about rising "cases," into question, to say the least.
Coronavirus Cases Plummet When PCR Tests Are Adjusted
by Barbara Cáceres
Health experts now say that PCR testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus associated with the illness COVID-19, is too sensitive and needs to be adjusted to rule out people who have insignificant amounts of the virus in their system.1 The test’s threshold is so high that it detects people with the live virus as well as those with a few genetic fragments left over from a past infection that no longer poses a risk. It’s like finding a hair in a room after a person left it, says Michael Mina, MD, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.2
In three sets of testing data that include cycle thresholds compiled by officials in Massachusetts, New York and Nevada, up to 90 percent of people testing positive carried barely any virus, a review by The New York Times found.3
Manufacturers and Labs Set Criteria for Positive COVID-19 Test Results
The reverse transcriptase quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) test used to identify those people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus uses a nasal swab to collect RNA from deep within the nasal cavity of the individual being tested. The RNA is reverse transcribed into DNA and amplified through 40 or more cycles, or until virus is detected.4 The result is reported as a simple “yes” or “no” answer to the question of whether someone is infected.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials state they do not specify the cycle threshold ranges used to determine who is positive, and that commercial manufacturers and laboratories set their own threshold ranges.5
PCR Test Threshold for COVID-19 Positivity Is Too Sensitive
Any test with a cycle threshold (CT) above 35 is too sensitive, says Juliet Morrison, PhD, a virologist at the University of California, Riverside. “I’m shocked that people would think that 40 [cycles] could represent a positive.” A more reasonable cutoff would be 30 to 35, she added. Dr. Mina said he would set the figure at 30, or even less. Those changes would mean the amount of genetic material in a patient’s sample would have to be 100-fold to 1,000-fold that of the current standard for the test to return a positive result worth acting on.6
The CDC’s own calculations suggest that it is extremely difficult to detect any live virus in a sample above a threshold of 33 cycles.7
“We’ve been using one type of data for everything, and that is just plus or minus—that’s all,” Dr. Mina said. “We’re using that for clinical diagnostics, for public health, for policy decision-making.” But “yes” or “no” isn’t good enough, he added. It’s the amount of virus that should dictate the infected patient’s next steps. “It’s really irresponsible, I think, to forgo the recognition that this is a quantitative issue,” Dr. Mina said.8
The number of people with positive results who aren’t infectious is particularly concerning, said Scott Becker, executive director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories. “That worries me a lot, just because it’s so high,” he said.9
SARS-CoV-2 Positive Case Numbers Drop When Cycle Threshold is Adjusted, Removing Need for Contact Tracing
Officials at the Wadsworth Center, New York’s state lab, have access to CT values from tests they have processed, and analyzed their numbers at The Times’s request. In July, the lab identified 872 positive tests, based on a threshold of 40 cycles. With a cutoff of 35 cycles, about 43 percent of those tests would no longer qualify as positive. About 63 percent would no longer be judged positive if the cycles were limited to 30.
In Massachusetts, from 85 to 90 percent of people who tested positive in July with a cycle threshold of 40 would have been deemed negative if the threshold were 30 cycles, Dr. Mina said. “I would say that none of those people should be contact-traced, not one,” he said.
“I’m really shocked that it could be that high—the proportion of people with high CT value results,” said Ashish Jha, MD, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. “Boy, does it really change the way we need to be thinking about testing.”10
“Gold Standard” PCR Tests Leave Many Unanswered Questions Due to Knowledge Gaps
A positive PCR test does not tell doctors whether the person is currently ill or will become ill in the future, whether they are infectious or will become infectious, whether they are recovered or recovering from COVID, or whether the PCR test identified a viral fragment from another coronavirus infection in the past. The CDC reports that a person who has recovered from COVID-19 may have low levels of virus in their bodies for up to three months after diagnosis and may test positive, even though they are not spreading COVID-19.11
CT Value Adds Context to PCR Results, Personalizes Care
Although the cycle threshold (CT) is not reported on PCR tests, new evidence suggests the CT value could help to better inform clinical decisions, particularly when testing in the absence of symptoms for COVID-19. When SARS-CoV-2 virus is detected after fewer amplification cycles, that indicates a higher viral load and a higher likelihood of being contagious, while virus detected after more amplifications indicates a lower viral load.
“It’s just kind of mind-blowing to me that people are not recording the CT values from all these tests—that they’re just returning a positive or a negative,” said Angela Rasmussen, PhD, a virologist at Columbia University in New York. “It would be useful information to know if somebody’s positive, whether they have a high viral load or a low viral load,” she added.12
In a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases in May, 2020,13 the authors suggested that viral load based on CT cutoff could establish whether inpatients have transmissible disease or need to be retested. This would conserve valuable testing capacity, reagents, and personal protective equipment (PPE), and determine when a patient could discontinue isolation. Taking the CT value into account may also help justify symptom-based strategies recommended by the CDC. CT values may enable contact tracers to focus only on persons most likely to be infectious, which will become increasingly important as asymptomatic screening expands.
Another study14 found that patients with positive PCR tests at a CT above 33-34 are not contagious and can be discharged from the hospital or strict confinement at home.
Evidence from both viral isolation and contact tracing studies supports a short, early period of transmissibility. By accounting for the CT value in context, RT-qPCR results can be used in a way that is personalized, highly sensitive, and more specific.15
FDA Approves Rapid, Less Sensitive Coronavirus Antigen Test
Highly sensitive PCR tests seemed like the best option for tracking the coronavirus at the start of the pandemic. But for the outbreaks raging now, Dr. Mina said, what’s needed are coronavirus tests that are fast, cheap and abundant enough to frequently test everyone who needs it—even if the tests are less sensitive. “It might not catch every last one of the transmitting people, but it sure will catch the most transmissible people, including the super spreaders.”
The FDA noted that people may have a low viral load when they are newly infected. A test with less sensitivity would miss these infections. That problem is easily solved, Dr. Mina said: “Test them again, six hours later or 15 hours later or whatever,” he said. A rapid test would find these patients quickly, even if it were less sensitive, because their viral loads would quickly rise. People infected with the virus are most infectious from a day or two before symptoms appear till about five days after. But at the current testing rates, “you’re not going to be doing it frequently enough to have any chance of really capturing somebody in that window,” Dr. Mina added.16
When a patient is tested for the coronavirus, doctors typically tell them to stay home until the results come in. If a patient tests positive and faces a two-week quarantine, that means they could spend a total of three weeks in isolation. That’s a long time for anybody who has bills to pay or kids to care for, and it’s understandable that some people will continue working until the results come in. The problem is that anybody who does this with a serious infection is putting others at risk.17 Rapid tests can be helpful in these situations.
In late August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first rapid coronavirus test that doesn’t need any special computer equipment. Made by Abbot Laboratories, the 15-minute test will sell for U.S. $5 but still requires a nasal swab to be taken by a health worker.18 The Abbot test is the fourth rapid point-of-care test that looks for the presence of antigens rather than the virus’s genetic code as the PCR molecular tests do. 19
11) “COVID-19 : Evidence of Fraud, Medical Malpractice, Acts of Domestic Terrorism and Breaches of Human Rights Presented” – by Andrew Johnson.
12) “The Fourth Circle” - by T. P. Wilkinson.
Gustave Dore — Dante’s fourth circle of hell “the hoarders and wasters”
Published September 29, 2020.
13) “Hot microphony - Pennsylvania Guv Tom Wolf and State Rep Wendy Ullman on how Masks = Political Theater” – The Alex Jones Show.
Published October 1, 2020.
From an event in Doylestown Pennsylvania, September 29, 2020. Governor Tom Wolf and PA State Rep Wendy Ullman chat about removing their masks to speak. Ullman says she is going to play “political theater” and wait to get her mask removal “on camera.” They laugh. Gov. Wolf responds “okay, that’s good.”
14) From L’Humanité – le 30septembre 2020.