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    Who Does That?

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 23rd September 2020 (All posts by )

    I read an article a week or two ago about the non-silence of many Trump voters, with a bit of cultural disdain for people who write TRUMP in big letters on the hulls of their boats.  Who does that?  You never saw anyone do that with Obama, however much they admired him. Fair enough.  That does seem a bit much, though no harm done.

    Who puts up lists of haranguing strawman criticisms in their yard, in rainbow colors?

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 31 Comments »

    Excess Deaths Are C19 Deaths

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 21st September 2020 (All posts by )

    Note: The graphs in this post may require an administrator to be made visible, which I have requested. In the meantime, those graphs and more are at the link. (I take it back. It looks like they came up first time!)

    I wrote early on that there would be errors in both directions in the Covid count of deaths, that some might be called C19 that could be better attributable to another condition, and some ascribed to flu or pneumonia that were really coronavirus. A couple of months ago, when the drumbeat started that there were all sorts of deaths being called Covid that really should be called something else, I repeated that claim of errors in both directions, but noted that our numbers were more likely an undercount than an overcount, largely because some places require a confirmed diagnosis of C19 before it can be put down as a cause of death. This was unpopular in some corners. As reports of more suicides crept into the news, more attributable to lockdowns than to other explanations (isolation, loss of employment, anxiety) I likewise cautioned again: wait  for the data.  Do not speculate on why something has happened until you know that it has actually happened.

    Please note, this is true for other countries as well.  Everyone seems to have excess deaths, and it is difficult to measure how many at present. There are different problems in counting in rural vs urban areas.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 32 Comments »

    IQ

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 12th September 2020 (All posts by )

    I have written a lot at my own site. I don’t know how strong the interest is here. It is a topic I know a fair bit about, both the Mythbusters and the recent-thinking-and-research varieties. I can put up a couple of posts here if you like. To get the blood warm, I will tell you that it is much better to live in a place of high average IQ than to have a high IQ yourself, in terms of prosperity, lack of violent crime, freedom, and individual rights. Doubly warm, it is a real thing that measures real properties and has significant predictive value. It is usually polite to say YMMV, but I won’t because your mileage really doesn’t vary, you just want it to.

    So ignore this if you don’t want to see valuable ChicagoBoyz space taken up with the topic, or jump on it if you want to engage. If you have a common Myth, I will of course Bust it, but if you have an uncommon myth I might be set on my heels and have to think about it a bit. Much is known, but much remains dark.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 69 Comments »

    Victimhood

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 9th September 2020 (All posts by )

    I reviewed a book in 2013 about The Saint Benedict Center, a Feenyite (renegade Catholic with old-fashioned trappings) group in rural NH.  I link back to it now because they very much believe that they are victims, and victimhood is in the air more than ever at present.  I believed as I wrote it that much of what I said then had general applicability, and rereading it today, I still think that.

    Longtime readers might recognise that this last point is of particular importance to me. The more deeply pathological people are, the more they are certain that absolutely none of the fault is against their score. Ultimately, it is the perpetual victimhood of criminals and narcissists, that cannot allow there is even a 1% chance they are 1% wrong. Stalin, as an example, believed he was the victim of the starving Ukrainian peasants, who wanted so desperately to discredit him that they would even starve themselves to death rather than admit his enforcement of collectivisation was a better idea. Hitler did not see himself as a an aggressor, but as a lone defender against the worldwide Jewish conspiracy. SBC is orders of magnitude less pathological, certainly, but the tone is the same. That they did not live up to their permit agreements, that they repeatedly moved beyond what was allowed even as they promised not to, that they made insulting comments about their neighbors, these things are never mentioned. It’s all those others against them.

    It is related to paranoia, and the genesis is similar. The feeling of victimhood comes first, like the paranoid interpretation, and then goes looking for an explanation that validates it. They are first driven by the whine, not the divine. Victimhood is a pose of weakness that is actually a cover for inordinate retribution. Being thin-skinned and attuned to small sleights and being “disrespected” is a prelude for revenge. We have all heard guys who say, “I’m not looking for a fight, but if anyone messes with me…” Yeah, dude, you’re looking for a fight.

    As this was a several years ago and I had paid them no further mind I did wonder if they had mellowed, as I don’t like to kick folks unfairly. I looked them up again. I suppose they might have mellowed, but it isn’t showing in their online presence.  They are still out of communion with the Roman Catholic Church and claiming they are right and the others are all wrong.  Seldom a good sign.

    BTW, Sgt Mom gets a good mention in the comments of the 2013 post. Solid things last, i suppose.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 6 Comments »

    Follow The Science

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 5th September 2020 (All posts by )

    Posted yesterday at AVI

    Teddy Roosevelt’s 1910 speech has been frequently quoted

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    I think of this with regards to all the complaints on a variety of topics about “following the science.” Folks are throwing that phrase around pretty blithely lately, both seriously and as a sneer. I like Glenn Reynolds and his site is one of the ones I go to first every day, but his credentials, formal and informal, do not include anything about making judgements about scientific matters that affect others. He is complaining about the experts, always in quotes, and how they have failed us recently, and he is not the only one. It has become a popular sport this year. I’m calling it out. It’s a cheap way to make points. People who have to read scientific research and try to get some sense out of it that they can pass it on safely to other people tend much more to “On the one hand, on the other hand.” People trying to score political points tend to make broader statements. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 19 Comments »

    Sullivan Act

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 1st September 2020 (All posts by )

    Readers may be interested in commenter James’s link to and brief speculation on the Sullivan Act, which tended to disarm the populace without much affecting criminals in New York over a century ago. He’s a modest lad who doesn’t put himself forward much, so sometimes I do it for him. He will also keep you up-to-date on recent discoveries in physics if you browse there.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 26 Comments »

    Excess Deaths

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 26th August 2020 (All posts by )

    I will let others speak for me on this. First, the official, but not final, numbers on excess deaths over time. The final numbers will of course be even larger.

    Next, Lyman Stone, who should have some credibility here because he is 1)from AEI, and 2)thinks lockdowns don’t work, discussing excess deaths.

    Unless you have other, better numbers, I’d rather not keep going through this.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 12 Comments »

    Apples to Apples II

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 24th August 2020 (All posts by )

    More than one person has suggested that this entire endeavor is quixotic at best, distracting from real solutions at worst. Yes, I hear you, but am ignoring you. One of my usual lines when people make pronouncements is “Compared to what? Or whom?” When the accusation goes out about the evils of American interaction with oh, South America, I like to say “Compared to who? Portugal? The USSR? More recently, China? What do you mean, exactly?” So when we are looking at whether America as a whole is doing the right things about C19, it is quite natural to me to ask “Compared to who?” Especially in an election year we tend to fall into Sweden yea vs Sweden nay, or “Look how stupid Trump/Biden/Cuomo/Abbot/lockdown/opening is.” I am first trying to get out of that and see if there are large tendencies related to population density, international contact, and primary strategies.

    You are free to find that a ridiculous approach. I still like it.

    *******

    Iceland and Switzerland are outliers, both with a lot of cases but few deaths. Switzerland’s cases are largely along its border with Italy and they have just had a resurgence, so the conclusions people were drawing two months ago are now looking premature. Iceland’s story is that they have done a level of aggressive contact tracing that likely only Scandinavians would put up with. ( Maybe Benelux as well.) While most people in all countries are happy to help with contact tracing, when it comes to doing so against their will, some will very much dislike that on principle. When Black Lives Matter or QAnon or drug dealers or pedophiles or CNN reporters refuse to give up their phones, it wouldn’t just be American libertarians who say “You can’t make them. It’s a terrible precedent. Once that seal is broken who knows what it will be used for?” There are lots of Canadians and Scots and Dutchmen who would say the same.

    Still, the tradeoff on that was that Iceland did not lock down and believes they’ve got everything normal and under control at present, so maybe I’m wrong about what folks will put up with. Privacy vs having a job? Tough call. Also, it’s an island, so even if we thought their approach was the bee’s knees we might not be able to do it. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 11 Comments »

    Additional CoVid Factors

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 23rd August 2020 (All posts by )

    I am still not seeing as much as I would like about ventilation.  One of main things we have learned about the virus is that indoor air exchange is the A-1 vector for transmission.  I think of this at work when I go down to the cafeteria and a young woman with gloves has to pick up a sugar packet, a coffee stirrer, and a coffee cover and hand it to me.  Then I go back to an isolated office for phone and online meetings while all the air in the building is pumped directly onto me.

    This is significant for nursing homes.  No everyone is there for the comorbidities we are so attentive to these days.  For some, it is dementia, or mobility and balance issues, or Parkinson’s symptoms that prevent independent living. But there they are, now stuck in close quarters with a lot of people with C-Pap machines aerosolising everything. I have an ugly suspicion that it goes less-noticed because it is not easily weaponised by either camp in the national debate. If a governor had said early on that businesses like restaurants could stay open with a few restrictions, so long as they had ventilation systems that met a certain standard – particularly in areas outside of the Northeast cities that were so heavily affected – it would be hard to gin up anger either way.  Dan from Madison raised the caution flag that a lot of these systems are now so far back-ordered that no one is getting delivery in months.  I’m betting that stuff is harder to switch production to than individual ventilators.  So who can capitalise on that one at the Conventions?

    I have also not heard much about viral load, which I suggested early on would be important.  Next-most-affected after older people are those taking care of them. It can’t be a non-factor, but whether it large or merely worth noting as a possibility would seem of some interest. If I were to guess, the importance of superspreader events would suggest that crowds indoors are an enormous risk.

    Bsking just mentioned in the Apples to Apples comments (at Assistant Village Idiot) that America’s high obesity rate as a factor is also neglected. That matters at a couple of levels. Median age has also been mentioned WRT Laos in specific and SE Asia in general.  It likely matters. 

    The advance notice for the Apples to Apples II post is that the regional approach within countries does look like the best way to look at this, and whatever lessons we might extract across countries are often going to come from this.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 51 Comments »

    Apples to Apples

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 22nd August 2020 (All posts by )

    Yes, there will be a followup. I’m just trying to get a grip on what comparisons are valid – and getting you thinking about the same thing.

    In trying to find proper comps for America WRT C19, I have to conclude that there are none which are excellent, perhaps not even very good. It is fair to have industrialised nations as our starting point, and places so small that a single one-off event (or lack of them) can change the picture too quickly.  Andorra, San Marino, and Liechtenstein are not comps, whether for good or for ill.  There are Latin American countries – our own hemisphere – which have recently seen many cases, but I can’t see Peru as a serious comp.  We share a border with Mexico, and parts of that country have similarity to parts of this country in more than one way, but “industrialised” seems out of reach.  Ditto Brazil. We are narrowing to Europe and the Anglosphere pretty quickly, I think. Japan clearly qualifies as a first-world nation, though it is very much an island, and was culturally willing to isolate long before any of this. They remain solidly racist and homogeneous, resenting the Chinese and looking down on Koreans and especially Filipinos, so their degree of international contact has never been at European or American levels. Russia, China, and India are powerful economies and have industries but can’t really be regarded as industrialised.

    Which leads to the next criterion, degree of international contact. Europeans have both contact with each other, often at places of great population density, and contact with the rest of the world.  America has two long borders, mixed between population dense and sparse population areas.  We have a great deal of international contact, much of it coming in by air. Canada less so, but still considerable. Australia has a great deal of regional contact, New Zealand and South Africa not so much. Even a lot of Europe isn’t in the same league, here. Because many come in by air, the international contact is in many places, well into the heartland.  Somewhat true of Canada as well, though Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver are the main contact points. Not nearly so many as America or in Europe.  By population it’s a comp, but by area – that is, how much international contact per square kilometer, even if only measuring the southernmost parts – not quite so much.  As both population and area seem to be mattering with CoVid, that’s worth noting.

    Because the NYC metro area has so dominated the American statistics, over a third of the deaths, and other major metros have had similar problems, I think the presence or absence of such areas is an important comp. A lot of people have criticised what New York has done, but what would they have done differently?  Not sending infected persons to nursing homes is a biggie, and worth mentioning, but what else?  Close the subways?  Then Ubers upon Ubers. What about elevators?  How do NYC apartments function without elevators?  This is going to weaken a lot of possible comparisons.  France has Paris.  The UK has London, and bonus points for the Midlands cities.  Argentina may work it’s way onto the list simply because of Buenos Aires.  Japan might work it’s way back on as well.  Mexico City is huge, but I think it is usually described as “sprawling.” Amsterdam, Brussels, Stockholm, Berlin, Rome, etc – not so much high-rise, not so much density. Canada has Toronto, not quite a megacity, but plenty of skyline. Montreal a little less. Vancouver probably not.  We are into places that are populous, have skyscrapers and some density, but just not Manhattan or downtown Chicago. Half-credit? Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 15 Comments »

    What About Laos?

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 19th August 2020 (All posts by )

    Laos has had 22 cases of C19, 3 currently active, 0 deaths. Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar, are not quite so low, but very low. These are not South Korea or Taiwan, where we can point to cultural support for masks and distancing and good medical care and awareness. It is fair to note that there is little testing and there might be deaths out in the boonies that are just “Eh.  Death.  Who knows why?” that leave actual CoVid unreported, but these national numbers are ridiculously low. If there were a CoVid holocaust in these areas word would be leaking out.  Even though no one, left or right, pays much attention to what is happening in these places, if there were some serious bump in the data, someone would be twisting it around to make some political hay out of it on NPR, The Nation, or some fringe right-wing sites.  It is, of course, very cool to be walking around knowing stuff about some country that everyone has heard of but no one has been paying attention to, so some news would get out.

    If you go to Worldometers.info and look at the lower reaches of the list you see patterns.  You see islands, whether in Oceania, Indian Ocean, or the Caribbean, or essential islands like Gibraltar, Vatican City, Liechtenstein. Yes, they can keep others out, and are in fact used to keeping others out. There are also a lot of African countries, with similar poor medical care, low social cohesion for masks and distancing, but likely also poor reporting.  Yet I will note again, not that poor reporting. When there are lots of deaths, word leaks out.  The outside world may not believe those reports of death because they are uncomfortable, as the Gulag deaths, 6M Jews, or 25M Great Leap Forward deaths in China leaked out in the 20th C were ignored, but the reports were there.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 26 Comments »

    Systems Thinking

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 26th July 2020 (All posts by )

    Update Below

    I have not forgotten that I am going to write on systems-thinking and its problems in Christian theology.  I am thinking about it a lot, actually.  But in the interim, I have noticed something about how people think of good things versus bad things in their respective cultures.  PenGun  mentioned either here or at Assistant Village Idiot about a serious medical condition he had, and how grateful he was to the Canadian Health System that everything went well.  I have noticed the same thing from the Brits*, that when they recover from something it is because of the NHS. Scandinavians say such things about almost everything, actually. They perceive their system of everything to be better: policing, military, diplomacy, education, healthcare, traffic. When I went to Romania to pick up my boys for adoption, I went to the schools they had been attending to discuss how they were and what material was being covered to help integrate them to the private Christian school they would be attending in America.  None of the teachers were able to discuss what they were covering this year, and none knew anything about my two children individually.  They all wanted to talk about how the Romanian system was so superior to what we were doing in America. 

    You might think that just by law of averages alone that the Americans could have gotten something right, seeing as by objective measures…

    My cousin-in-law from Belgium would speak in similar fashion, that the system of schooling she was used to from childhood was so far superior to the schools she was sending her children to now (Concord, NH, very good.  Their boys went on to do well at MIT and UChicago).  Relatives of my sons who moved to Norway for better jobs took their girls out of Tromso abruptly and moved back to Transylvania, with part of the reason being that they felt the school system was much better. Similarly, when I speak to people from Quebec (and thus maybe all of Canada, or maybe not) it’s the same thing.  They believe that Quebecois everything is better in general. Stores, food, politeness – oh let me guarantee you that this is not so.  They have old-world gestures and customs but are solidly insulting – This attitude is so strong among Swedes that even other Scandinavians notice it, and resent it.  It is considered arrogant to put yourself forward as better at anything in any way, but there is this universal idea that their systems, their way of doing foreign policy, or religion, or serving food, or crossing the street is simply better. It is fascinating that all of these cultures consider Americans arrogant because individuals are boastful, or because we notice that we clearly have aspects of our culture that show considerable success – such as a longer life expectancy than any other country  after receiving a cancer diagnosis, regardless of what your income level is – and say so.  To most other places, you can brag about your culture in extreme fashion, but you should not give the merest hint of excelling in yourself. It’s an interesting value.  Once adopted, people outside of that will seem unconscionably rude, sure. We offend them in this way, and that we do not change even after they have pointed this out repeatedly just infuriates them more.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 39 Comments »

    Medical Genomics

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 23rd July 2020 (All posts by )

    This is an area where white privilege is real. We are increasingly able to determine risk scores for conditions that might develop later in life, and the large majority of the research subjects have been of North European ancestry. The studies have been done by Americans, Scandinavians, Dutch, etc, and a very large UK Biobank, but consider the motivations of all. Pharmaceutical and other companies have some interest in pure or general research, but mostly they want to be able to develop products for people who might buy them. Where do university labs get their subjects? Governments want to help their own people. 80% of sampling worldwide is Northern European.

    To understand why this matters, we usually take height as an example of a polygenic trait. There have been many SNP’s (smallest units) found to be “associated with” height. Even though they only have enough to account for 15% of the variance at this point, it was enough to predict that Shawn Bradley would be well above-average in height from his DNA alone. (Former NBA. 7’6″) But all of these discoveries are from Northern European samples. When you run the same tests on people of African descent, they show very few of those SNPs associated with height. They have so few, in fact that the test will predict that they are very short indeed, less than five feet, even if they are seven feet tall. Africans have different genes making them taller. A word on the side about these many genes that contribute to height. They are not so much of the form “make the shinbone a little longer,” as more general health items such as digestion and energy conversion, or when hormones activate and when they stop. A fair number may be primarily prenatal influence. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »

    Pre-Columbian Polynesian-Native American Contact

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 18th July 2020 (All posts by )

    Very exciting stuff, which I barely got started with over at my own site on Wednesday.

    I link again to the paper in Nature by Alex Ioannidis et al about Native American-Polynesian contact before the Columbian period. One commenter alertly picked up that this is the Thor Heyerdahl Kon-Tiki hypothesis from decades ago. The paper references this in the first paragraph. The Norwegian sailed a hand-made reed boat from South America to French Polynesia in the 1940’s in order to prove it could be done.  He believed that the initial settlement of Oceania came from Peru and Chile, and that these people were later in contact with and eventually displaced by people in double-hulled canoes around 1100 AD.  That the Polynesians have the sweet potato, a New World food, has always provided some support for this theory, though plants can also wash ashore from distant places as well.

    The new paper identifies 2-3% genetic similarity in the Polynesians, especially around the Marquesas Islands, with Native American tribes in Ecuador and Colombia (Zenu) from a single* contact event around 1200 AD, before the settling of Easter Island (Rapa Nui).  Because the distances are ridiculous, all theories about how this occurred seem unlikely, but there it is.  It happened somehow.  Did these two groups have contact in the Marquesas, or did the Polynesians keep on sailing until they reached Ecuador? If you pull up your map of the Pacific Ocean, both look extremely unlikely.  The later Polynesians were extreme sailors and covered vast distances.  Such peoples must not only be able to navigate using subtle signs of sky, water, and birds, they must be adapted to living on the water for long periods. To us getting in a boat is a temporary act, but for them this was much less true. Whole groups took to the open sea together, bringing with them what they needed to found colonies whenever they did reach land. There are fishing peoples who spend most of their lives on the water in SE Asia, but these stay close to land. Still, it can be done. The Austronesians were great sailors, getting all the way to settling Madagascar off the east coast of Africa to Hawaii and Easter Island in the Pacific. Plus, if you keep sailing east, South America is hard to miss.  They had a culture where people struck out onto the sea looking for new places to live, likely for cultural reasons that are now lost to us.  Notice that these are in similar latitudes, so that the taro and banana and coconut plants would be likely to grow in a new location.  North-south movement and settlement is much more precarious on both land and sea. One of the things that Jared Diamond did get right. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »

    Citizens of London

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 18th July 2020 (All posts by )

    The book Citizens of London by Lynne Olson was published in 2010 – my wife came upon it recently and recommended it to me. If you are looking for further evidence that Franklin Roosevelt was a horse’s ass and that Joe Kennedy should have stood trial for treason, this will please you.  Do not read the Introduction, as Olson merely uses it to illustrate that she is a rather cliched citizen of Washington DC, with at least some of its bubble prejudices.  This is perhaps necessary if one writes approvingly about America’s history, even WWII, in order to fit in there, but it intrudes on the narrative for those outside the Acela Corridor.  Her politics do bleed through a bit, as she is quite clear what were good progressive domestic policies of the day and which were old regressive bad ones, but even I, who am very easily irritated by such things, liked her telling of the story of America’s entry into the war well enough to overlook them.

    Olson focuses on three Americans – CBS broadcaster Edward R Murrow, business heir Averill Harriman, and especially Gil Winant, American ambassador to the UK following the execrable Kennedy. She credits them with shepherding the relationship between Roosevelt and Churchill, the military staffs, and the American and British people in general enough that they could work together well enough to fight a war. We regard such cooperation as automatic now and are aware of a “Special Relationship,” however much Barack Obama did to undermine that during his presidency. Yet our nations’ positive feeling for each other now is largely a result of that successful cooperation.  There was considerable misunderstanding and animosity on both sides leading up to the war.

    John Gilbert Winant

    A friend who was a history and business professor and is also the designer of a detailed WWII wargame once commented to me how empty our historical what-ifs are, specifically in relation to the idea that the US could have saved many Jews by bringing them to America in the 1930s. While entirely agreeing that taking as many as we could squeeze in would have been of enormous benefit to American science, arts, and business, he waved the thing off as impossible. There was no way that we were going to take in additional people when there was 25% unemployment, and Jews were considered far too different for a nation that had excluded an entire continent from any immigration only a few years before. Americans, especially outside the Eastern cities, didn’t like Slavs and Irishmen and barely tolerated Scandinavians. Citizens of London will remind you that we didn’t even like the British all that much. We believed ridiculous things about them (and they about us). Our isolationism was widespread, and intense.  If Europe and Asia wanted to tear each other to pieces, let ’em, it was no affair of ours, and even England was not an exception. Once you came here you were expected to adopt much of the same attitude yourself in order to be regarded as American at all.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 21 Comments »

    Five New England States To Change Names

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 17th July 2020 (All posts by )

    The governors of five of the six New England states announced jointly today that each would be changing its name as of January 1st, 2021. Massachusetts and Connecticut both apologized for centuries of cultural appropriation by ripping off local toponyms from native peoples, using the names for areas occupied by white colonialist settlers, while Maine and Rhode Island confessed that their names had originated from white colonialist oppressors, replacing the perfectly good Native American names that should have been kept. Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire stated that the Executive Council had considered standing pat because “the name just means new home town shire,” but ultimately decided that “new” “home,” “town” and “shire” all had oppressive or citizenist connotations anyway and should be discarded. “We will probably go with Granite State – though even “state” is problematic,” he said. “White Mountain State is clearly right out.” There is already a petition circulating in Portsmouth to switch to “Statey McStateface.”

    Massachusetts is considering changing to “Airstrip One;” Maine may simply drop the final “e” because it’s easier to spell; and Rhode Island, already annoyed at having to change the coolest state name in the country, is contemplating secession.

    Only Vermont is retaining its traditional name, though Governor Phil Scott admitted this is provisional. “We think ‘Mountain’ is inoffensive, and ‘Green’ has the advantage of also being the name of one of the few acceptable political parties this year. Still, you never know. Someone might come up to the State House tomorrow and declare themselves offended, and we’d have to honor that.” In the meantime, the state has decided to change the names of most its towns, beginning with White River Junction and St Alban’s, owing to their unbearable whiteness and the unfortunate religious origins of the latter. “Because almost everything is either cultural appropriation or cultural hegemony, we thought we would just move to identifying every place name by its current initial letter,” Governor Scott explained. “Unfortunately, in Vermont everything of any importance begins with a B, so it won’t be much help on your GPS” he added, throwing up his hands. The residents of Montpelier immediately took to the streets with hastily-lettered signs in protest upon hearing that explanation.

    Government officials from every other named place in the world declined to comment.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 16 Comments »

    CoVid19-Projections

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 12th July 2020 (All posts by )

    A statistician friend (Dana Farber Institute testing) tells me CoVid19-Projections has been much more accurate than IMHE, and yesterday they put up their state-by-state projections from May to illustrate their accuracy.  It holds with what we have seen pretty well, and I like people who are openly willing to be graded in order to get things right.

    I will be vacationing at a lakeside cottage until Friday, and so will not be commenting on all of your intelligent musings.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 15 Comments »

    Mostly Peaceful Protests

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 9th July 2020 (All posts by )

    For the record, Nazi Germany was mostly peaceful, as was the Soviet Union. Even when our Civil War was raging, and 600,000 of us died, most of the country was peaceful. Even those who were in service and/or near the fronts had long periods where there were no cannons firing at the moment. Lots of nervous waiting. Combat deployment itself can be mostly peaceful – though admittedly in the sense of “no active shooting” rather than any sense of restfulness. Much of medieval warfare was sieges, or moving from one place to another, or setting up camp. Mostly peaceful. Yet the small amounts of “not peaceful” mattered greatly then, and matter greatly now.

    The excuse of “mostly peaceful protests” is rather empty. If decent people should have refused to show up at Charlottesville because they knew there was a fair chance someone would turn violent, and to attend would give them cover and legitimacy, then how do we justify showing up in Seattle? Maybe we can.  But then we have to extend that in both directions.  We feel very, very different about protests we agree with, don’t we? It just feels different, and we just know it’s right.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 6 Comments »

    Online Abuse

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 9th July 2020 (All posts by )

    Grim linked to an article over at Reason about the pathologies of online virtue signalers, specifically that they exhibit “Dark Triad” traits of narcissism, psychopathy, and manipulativeness.  I don’t think much in terms of dark triad professionally.  It sometimes contributes to psychiatric emergencies because the patient has alienated support systems, or overreacted to difficulties that might have been managed, but those are generally add-ons.  Those traits don’t constitute emergencies.  We might note them in passing and how they complicate treatment, but we quickly agree “This is not our problem to fix.” I have noted that social media enables people with personality disorders to have much more power than they do in contact with human beings in real time and space.

    I poked around to see if there is literature on connections between Dark Triad and Personality Disorders to see if that could add something to the understanding of these people who claim victimhood but are themselves more likely the abusers online.  There’s a fair bit of soft evidence of this, but it doesn’t seem well-studied.  As I mentioned in the comment section over at Grim’s, this is third-rail stuff for researchers in the social sciences, as they are studying the very people who are most likely to destroy your career if you say the wrong thing about them.

    I always have to make an adjustment when reading the word “trolls,” because I think the meaning has become more general than my own take.  I still think of them as trolling,  as in fishing by dragging bait in the water and seeing what goes after it.  For trolls in that sense, it is irrelevant whether they actually believe the ideas they are dragging behind them, they just want to use whatever bait gets people most upset.  Because the noun form has become the more often used, I think the other meaning of troll, of a difficult humanoid who may or may not live under a bridge but is dangerous trouble, has supplanted the original meaning.  I think it is now applied to anyone being abusive online. To my eyes many of them are sincere, just difficult or infuriating.  Trolls were usually anonymous. Now they want more twitter followers.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 15 Comments »

    Responsibility and The System

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 3rd July 2020 (All posts by )

    In the full embodiment of the idea of collective and historical responsibility, you bear some responsibility for slavery and oppression even if you and your ancestors had no direct connection to the purchase and ownership of any slave, because you are part of the system and have benefited from that system.

    By that reasoning, if you peacefully protest against racial injustice, but other protestors on the other side of the crowd – or even on the other side of the country – engage in looting and violence, aren’t you guilty as well, as part of the system? That second idea would sound strange and impossible to people, but I am not seeing a distinction.

    Our church has taken up a study on racial justice, using a new book which I shall not name, but will mention that I loathe. There are plenty of difficulties right off the bat with trying to integrate Critical Race Theory, or any of the philosophical frameworks of the last two centuries which focus on group identities and  viewing human activities as systems with Christianity.

    If systems were that important, we might expect that Jesus would have mentioned them more. The Roman Empire was an interlocking system that had good things and bad about it.  Neither Jesus, nor Paul, nor James, John, Peter, or Luke pay it much mind as a system per se. There is no advocacy that Christians should spend a moment of their time trying to change the system. We might ask ourselves why this is so. Just out of curiosity.

    That systems were changed as a result of Christian belief is not at all the same thing as regarding attempts to “change the system” as Christian goals.  To bring things closer to the present day, William Wilberforce did not attempt to “change the system.” His goal was to eliminate slavery in the British Commonwealth, which he saw as a great evil. That “the system” would change as a result was not something he wasted any ink or a single speech on. The downstream effects of our actions are always unknown, and often include unforeseen problems.  We are to estimate those as best we can and take them into consideration, certainly.

    There is something about focus on the system to removes our focus from our own actions.  This happens on the credit as well as the debt side of the ledger as well.  When we take credit and think ourselves special and virtuous because of things our ancestors, countrymen, or coreligionists have done that is equally missing the point.  I have a couple of ancestors who fought for the Union to free slaves.  I don’t believe I am owed any thanks for that.

    If you are participating in an act, even in only a supportive or indirect role, I think that act does attach to you. At the end of Durrenmatt’s The Visit it is clear that the entire town has participated in the killing and the actions of a single individual do not stand out. Writing in Switzerland after WWII, it is clear that his intent was to tell Germans they all bore responsibility.  I would agree.  But were all Germans equally guilty?  Does a telephone operator or a bartender carry the same weight of guilt as a guard who executed Jews and pried gold fillings from their teeth?  Did a Jew or Gypsy who beat his wife become innocent on the day Hitler came to power?

    People who focus on changing, disrupting, or overthrowing one system lose the ability to see the faults of their own system. The system is a snare for the Christian. Well, I suppose for anyone.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 40 Comments »

    Denunciation

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 30th June 2020 (All posts by )

    I had seen sections of Taibbi’s excellent takedown of White Fragility, but only read the whole essay today. Robin DiAngelo’s only solution offered to white people is that they become less white.  I think she, and others, are pointing to a different consensus as to what must be done. You must denounce other white people, individually and collectively, in order to be saved. Notice that this doesn’t cost you a cent. Redemption without sacrifice.

    ***

    Reading my previous posts that touch on the subject, I once made the point that “fragility” is not the potential sin I would associate with white people, but it’s opposite.  What seems to be happening is the formulation “See?  You are defending yourself, therefore you must feel defensive.  People feel defensive when they are actually weak, not strong.  Therefore you prove my accusation that you are fragile.  UH! UH! See?  There you are, doing it again!”

    Rather convenient.

    However, I think there is a place where this is subtly true.  They are attempting to motivate some white people to join in by using this tactic.  For those people, it might be true.  For the others, I don’t see how they can have it both ways.

    For myself, I long ago decided that black spokespeople have little or nothing to do with the black people I actually encounter in my life.  The people I encounter are human beings, and some are darker, some are lighter.  I am now told this is an impossible formulation that denies the reality of oppression.  However, I am told this by precisely those people who have an interest in maintaining division, because their jobs, their self-esteem, or their excuses why they ain’t rich depend upon it. The black people I actually know are worried about their golf handicap, whether they have enough money to retire, whether their children are going to get a good education, whether they are going to keep this new job, whether their church will weather this CoVid storm, whether the young Christians they are teaching will actually learn the life lessons they need, whether their daughter’s teacher will be willing to be strict with her…very much the same things my white and Asian acquaintances have.  They’re just darker people saying these things.

    The world has gone mad, and I’m just trying not to get dragged in its trail.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 13 Comments »

    Khazar Hypothesis

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 26th June 2020 (All posts by )

    I’ll get you the long version tomorrow, but it occurred to me driving home from work today that I could make it all very simple.

    If the Khazar Hypothesis is true, we should see Central Asian genetic material in Ashkenazi Jews on the order of 25-50%; and among their Aaronic priestly class, we should see the Cohen Modal Haplotype at no higher than the base rate of 5-15% for the broad region of the Mediterranean, Arabian, and Caucasus regions.

    If the Rhineland Hypothesis is true, we should see very little Central Asian genetic material in Ashkenazi Jews and there should be at least some elevation in the frequency of the Cohen Modal Haplotype, maybe even a lot.

    What we actually see, now that we can measure it, is that the amount of Central Asian genetic material among Ashkenazis approaches zero, and the Aaronic priestly class is 50-70% Cohen Modal Haplotype.

    The Khazar Hypothesis is therefore not true, and it’s not close.

    The Rhineland Hypothesis might still fall to some other explanation, but Khazar ain’t it.

    I have now written up the entire argument, for those who are interested. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 2 Comments »

    National Holiday

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 19th June 2020 (All posts by )

    There is a movement afoot to make Juneteenth a National Holiday. People likely think this is free, and is just a nice way to show African-Americans that we care about them.  Who could be against that?  You wouldn’t want to be against that, would you?  That would be unkind, impolite, and racist.

    Articulate what Martin Luther King Day is for.  The first meanings of that verb are “utterance,” “putting into clear words,” and that’s what I mean.  If you want Juneteenth, you should first have to put into words what MLK/Civil Rights Day is for, not just think about them vaguely and have a feeling. Only then can you go on to describe how Juneteenth is different and brings something new to the table.

    I’ll just wait here while you scratch some things on the page and imagine delivering those words before an audience.  They have contests for that, don’t they, asking schoolchildren to write speeches about what MLK Day is about?  What do they say, do you think? 

    When you have finished that, scratch down some percentages of what a new federal holiday will cost businesses and governments which would then have to pay people to stay home, or at minimum pay them a higher wage. Describe to me where that money will come from. As a starting point, people work 5 days/week for 52 weeks, minus ten days vacation minus fifteen holidays minus sick days – about two weeks. Call it 225 days a year. Back of the envelope is fine.

    Now remember that this will feel good to do but have only psychological effects on people who really dig this stuff.  There will be no improvement in policing, or schools, or job prospects, or city infrastructure, or, well anything. Hispanics might rightfully wonder why they got left out.  At least “Civil Rights” applies to everyone, at least in theory.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 11 Comments »

    Pollution, Food, and C19

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 5th June 2020 (All posts by )

    I read a wise essay in Mother Earth News in the 1970s, which pointed out that the number of people who can live in an area without seriously polluting it is dependent on technology. With that audience, the tendency was to think much more in terms of absolute numbers. The earth has too many people! We can’t support them all! Pollution is out of control! The author noted that a solitary person living in the wild, defecating on the ground without even a trench, pollutes a sizable area. Without any food preservation or storage techniques he might need a wide area as well. Yet with technology we can build Manhattan, treating our sewage and carting it off. Transportation allows food to travel, so some can specialize in making lots of it and sending it off.

    Something similar came up in the C19 discussions that I think got missed. We should be glad that it got missed, because it would only be front-and-center in our thinking if things had gone wrong. Some rural places did have the possibility that their local health systems would be overwhelmed. As there weren’t that many of them, however, they could spread the medical response to nearby hospitals and clinics. In number of cases per thousand people, Dougherty County GA (pop 90K) got hit hard – 140 deaths, as did a couple of neighboring counties. The two counties next to it with about 8,000 people each have a death rate of over twice Dougherty’s 1500/mil. Per capita, Georgia’s rural counties are doing substantially worse than Atlanta. Over 2,000 deaths per million in that SW area. I think that’s worse than NYC.

    Rural counties do fine until they don’t, which I think informed a lot of the thinking early on. Once they stop doing fine, it was impossible to get help there when test kits and everything else was so lacking. An outbreak of 20 people in a rural county can quickly become less manageable than an outbreak of 200 in Boston if there’s no hospital nearby. Considering how to handle these counties will definitely have to be part of a response plan going forward. 25 deaths in a county of 8,000 may not make the news, but when you consider 3-4 times as many may have been seriously ill, that’s a lot for one group to handle.

    Franklin, NH has about 8,000 people but a disproportionate number of deaths because of one nursing home, with many positives among both staff and residents, who had and have contact with the rest of the community. (There may be more to the story if I were on the ground there. I only know what I read in the papers.) The city has a regional hospital which was nearly overwhelmed, but there are three other hospitals thirty minutes away, two of which were not treating many cases at the time. I didn’t even hear about it an hour away, but the news for that region was full of anxiety and apprehension for a few weeks. Nationally, a few local systems were briefly overwhelmed. How you view that largely depends on whether the word “few,” “briefly,” or “overwhelmed” jumped out at you. Such are the things which create confirmation bias, where we reinforce some ideas without much thinking about them.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »

    Types of Liberty

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 5th June 2020 (All posts by )

    I just published a flock of posts at my own site and have sought advice what to publish here. Interestingly, one of my earliest posts was suggested. I had reviewed it in December 2019, doing the countdown of my posts at Assistant Village Idiot that had received the most traffic. This was #6 all-time, but had little commentary. I think some of the themes are a propos.

    We are now into territory of posts that have 5,000 hits or more, which is darn good for me.  This is from February 2006, one of my first two hundred posts.  I think a few of you will like the topic. I don’t know who has been reading it over the years, as there haven’t been commenters.

    ************

    A post from last week over at the excellent Albion’s Seedlings reminded me of a topic I had intended to post on weeks ago: the varieties of meaning of the word “liberty” in the American Colonies from the time of founding to independence.

    We think we mean the same thing when we use a word, but this is not often so, especially with large abstracts like kindness, or community. While the concepts of liberty converged somewhat leading up to the Revolution, they sprang from at least four different concepts, associated with the four distinct areas of settlement.

    These founding folkways, and much else besides, led to quite distinct, and often diametrically opposed, ideas about liberty. David Hackett Fischer calls the New England idea “ordered liberty” (freedom to determine the course of one’s own society), at worst exemplified in the stifling, moralistic conformism that we still associate with the word “Puritan”, at best in the strong town-based democracies (and suspicion of anything but local power) still evident in parts of northern New England.

    The Virginia idea was that of “hegemonic liberty” (freedom to rule and not be ruled), at worst exemplified in the hierarchical “Slaveocracy” that valued freedom for those at the top but not for poor white trash or black slaves, at best in the aristocratic excellence of men such as George Washington.

    The Quaker idea was that of “reciprocal liberty” (freedom for me and for thou), at worst exemplified in the pacifistic pursuit of commerce without regard for nation or principle, at best in a quite modern-sounding respect for all human beings to pursue their own fulfillment.

    The frontier idea was that of “natural liberty” (a freedom without restraints of law or custom), at worst exemplified in the violent and often-emotionalistic chaos of life beyond the reach of civilized norms, at best in eternal vigilance with regard to the sovereignty of the individual.

    Frontier in the above means the Appalachian areas settled by the Scots-Irish and English Borderers throughout the middle of the 18th C. Quaker refers not only to the settling of Pennsylvania in the late 17th C, but the other mid-Atlantic states as well. The overall concept is taken from Fischer’s marvellous Albion’s Seed, which traces the founding of the American regions back to distinctive regions of Great Britain.

    New England — ordered liberty — freedom to determine the course of one’s own society. I touched on this two weeks ago. It is close to the idea of Christian Community and consensus living. A modern equivalent would be an environmentalist community which would agree to bind itself to certain principles of organic farming. The individual would not have liberty to do as he pleases in pesticides and fertilizer, but would adhere to group norms, so that all other members could have food free of taint. The European aspirations come closest to this model.

    Virginia — hegemonic liberty — freedom to rule and not be ruled. The right of the few to achieve enormous freedom — by birth, merit, or assignment — is preserved, even at the expense of the many. Americans rebel against such an equality being granted by birth into nobility — but many conservatives are fine with it occurring by merit. Whether justified or no, this is the stereotype of conservatives that liberals rail against.

    Mid-Atlantic — reciprocal liberty — freedom for me and for thee. This is some midpoint between the two above. “I will consent to give up some freedoms, but no one shall force me to give up others.”

    Appalachia — natural liberty — freedom without restraints of law or custom. This would be closer to a libertarian (or hyper-libertarian) framing. The freedom of the individual trumps even local control. Think Alaska.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »