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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021 - 22:41 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Requiem For A Frame

I'm aware that it's been quite some time since the last update, but that's life getting in the way. That, and being caught between two enormous and increasingly-foreboding backlogs, on getting the blog up to speed on the coronavirus and realgeopolitik situations. Thus, I figured I'd split the difference with this post. Otherwise, things have been going much as sketched out - the third phase of inflation propaganda as laid out in August has been going full steam ahead, with recent commentaries in WaPo, Bloomberg, Reuters etc. extolling the joys of paying more, and Krugman going "nobody knows" in the NYT; concurrently, The Economist is musing whether anybody actually understands inflation, which strikes one as akin to a co-pilot poking his head out of the plane's cockpit, and asking whether anyone knows how it all works.

The effects on Main Street are getting harder to deny even as word games are being played on "transitory" versus "temporary", with the most obvious cause - excessive monetary stimulus - somehow a dirty phrase at the insider-trading Feds, or so it seems. The explanation for that is, however, probably straightforward. Never mind raising rates, merely tapering bond purchases has a fair chance of crashing the markets at this point, which may be why Powell - up for reappointment next February - is doing his darndest to hold off the worst of the medicine until then. In the meantime, then, it's Potemkin store shelves and pizza on instalments, with Transportation Secretary Mayor Pete no closer to resolving all those gridlocks after returning from his ill-timed paternity leave, it seems (granted, his bowing out of the Presidential race for the post was a sweet deal, as analyzed last year). Perhaps The Washington Post happens to be right on this state of affairs: it's time to lower expectations... by a lot.

Also spent some time going through Kaiji, oft mentioned as one of the biggest influences on Squid Game, and I have got to say that it deserves more mainstream attention (which it has, happily, been receiving). Comics are, after all, one of the most-accessible introductions to new cultures/languages, given how context is provided by the graphics. Moreover, with woke culture (which based France and Quebec have just allied against) apparently infecting the U.S. comic majors, there has been a flowering of alternative publishers, and perhaps a resurgence in interest in Eastern manga and manhua - much of which remains nakedly and unashamedly nationalistic.

The VIP baddies in Squid Game are pointedly foreigners, for example, but returning to Kaiji, it's more of one loser against the world. In the six story arcs thus far, the eponymous hero of the series has gambled his way on and off a ship, escaped from involuntary servitude in a mine, attempted to make his fortune via mahjong (itself having endured several waves of popularity in America), became an unwilling saviour (which has him back near-penniless), wagered his very life on one-card poker (and survived FAKE NEWS-like mindgames), and go on the run in the latest ongoing series. His main antagonist throughout has been Teiai Corp, who have been humanized somewhat in a gag spin-off (with social media and A.I. explored in Chapters 45 & 58 respectively). The art might not be up to say Vagabond or Sun-Ken Rock, but for raw heart-rending drama at points, it's hard to beat (yes, Squid Game included)

In which the significance of a broken stroke is discovered
(Source: mangakakalot.com)

The main course for this post will be another manga, however, since it seemed remiss to neglect just how closely one of Liar Game's contests has mirrored reality, with some imagination. Any allusions drawn here are, of course, a work of fiction in themselves, and just for entertainment's sake.

Without further ado, Chapter 85 introduces the Pandemic Game; as the masked host for the round explains, "...there are people down with the cold and are spreading the (corona)virus around. The objective is to obtain the vaccine to rid yourself of the virus". Sounds entirely logical enough.

On to the mechanics. Of the participating players in the Pandemic Game, two have initially contracted the (corona)virus; all players' health status (virus-free or virus carrier) will be recorded on their provided TraceTogether-like tracking devices. However, the recorded status will only be revealed to the players upon taking a private PCR/ART-like self-test. The individual player's objective of the Pandemic Game, then, is to be virus-free when it concludes*.

[*N.B. Actually, one would suppose that this should rightly be the objective, but for the Liar Game formulation, it's actually to stockpile a lot of vaccines, rather than just getting oneself healthy; this may be prophetic, as we shall see.]

This doesn't seem much of an issue for the vast majority of the players - who start out virus-free, after all; as for the infected virus carriers, they can be healed with a vaccine (more properly an early treatment, given that it works only after they are infected, but whatever). An issue is that the player that administers the vaccine to an infected player will become infected himself (if not already), which represents a risk to that player. However, creating vaccines in the Pandemic Game is seemingly extremely easy: all that is required is for two virus-free players to come into contact. When that happens, both players receive a single vaccine (with notably no storage limits or requirements), which can then be administered as required. This might be taken to simulate international cooperation, with the players representing different countries; if (largely) virus-free countries are honest with each other and maintain their trade routes (as in a travel bubble), the manufacture and distribution of vaccines and other health products (including cheap mitigations) becomes possible between them.

Taking stock at this juncture, this Pandemic Game appears trivially winnable by all players. If the two initially-infected players identify themselves at the beginning, all that is needed is for them to isolate, while the rest of the players merrily create vaccines amongst themselves. With ten virus-free players, that makes nine vaccine samples for each virus-free individual, clearly far more than enough to cure the two initially-infected, and then themselves as needed. Since the arc goes on for seventeen more chapters, however, it obviously didn't happen that way. Let's see what happened:

And we're off and running!
[N.B. With contact tracing theory introduced next]
(Original source: mangakakalot.com)

The easy, "foolproof" way out, as suggested by the innocent Nao, does indeed work - if the initially-infected were honest from the beginning. As happened in both the Liar Game manga and in our latest real-life pandemic (where the relevant action would be a public declaration and the prompt closing of external borders), this did not happen. The motivation for lying is easily understandable in both cases - a desire to avoid becoming a pariah and/or being responsible for compensation in the aftermath. More than that, though, is the potential to gain power through the continued misery being inflicted. But first, recall when we noted last May that there was no plausible (scientific) way that The Lancet could have ruled out a lab leak then? Well, it turns out that the NIH-linked EcoHealth had indeed been involved in creating more potent coronaviruses. The latest defence from Fauci and company seems to be word-weaseling about whether this qualifies as "gain-of-function" research, and that the viruses that they have just admitted to messing about with were too distant from SARS-CoV-2, to have evolved into it. About this, one might properly suspect that they might not have come completely clean about the matter quite yet, given the huge climbdown from their initial assertions.

That didn't take long at all
(Original source: mangakakalot.com)

Where most saw crisis or tragedy, a certain unsavoury type saw only opportunity; all the more when their business had been ill-health all along. Through back-channel conspiracies (i.e. unfounded proclamations somehow published in top medical journals) and straight-up rumour-mongering (i.e. the FAKE NEWS mainstream media), these players quickly sought to muddy the waters as much as they could (i.e. the outright assassination of HCQ and related plausible accessible early treatments). The payoff, then, was control over the cure. If these snakes succeeded (as they have, to a large extent), then they would attain a position of power where they could decide who lived or died, by choosing to whom (and at what price, both monetary and hidden) they would deign to distribute the vaccine to. Sound familiar?

Why would you even consider using "their" vaccines?
Why not commit to our bloc, I mean, partnership?

(Original source: mangakakalot.com)

In the Liar Game manga's Pandemic Game, the two major blocs would be formed by the big shots - Yokoya and Akiyama - soon enough (ahem, America, ahem China). What happens next is a fuckton of underhanded dealings, incongruous behaviour, tussling in the shadows, propaganda and mass psychological and social manipulation, secret deals and contracts, all that sort of thing. Akiyama would (correctly) identify trust as the essence of the Pandemic Game (which may not be saying much, as it is after all the major theme across many of the other contests in the series) - and as we have seen with the NIH etc. in the actual play-out, it is little wonder that such trust is in short supply.

Akiyama would have to resort to petty parlour tricks to try and corral his group into trusting him, which soon backfired as Yokoya easily demonstrated that his presentation was a sham (which may very well yet happen for early treatments). With this, Yokoya entered into profit-taking mode - with his group under his domination, he would aim to hock off their vaccines to the highest bidder. I will leave exactly how Akiyama defeated that for the interested reader, but suffice to say that sometimes, the only way to combat bad-faith propaganda is through a healthy dose of (mis)information; personally, I am not a big fan of emotional appeal in scientific matters (e.g. the puppy-killer gambit against Fauci, if coincidentally related to our previous post), but sometimes, drastic measures are required.

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Next: To Do The Right Thing By Far

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