Chicago Boyz

                 
 
 
What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading?
 

 
  •   Enter your email to be notified of new posts:
    Loading
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Authors:

  • CB Twitter Feed
  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Author Archive

    Radioactive Words

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 16th November 2020 (All posts by )

    There are always radioactive words in any society.  Some are mostly forbidden, some are completely forbidden, some are conditionally forbidden, and some are secretly encouraged, so that people can show what brave rebels they are. At the moment the n-word is both conditionally forbidden, in that black people can say it, but otherwise absolutely forbidden, in that no others can say it under any circumstances.  There is protest over this, that the rules have gone entirely outside any sense of reason, in that it cannot be quoted in a context and cannot be uttered even to condemn it.  This is why I use the word radioactive, rather than sticking with the more usual term forbidden. One cannot even approach the word or handle it in any way unless one has the proper protections. If this seems unreasonable, remember that it was ever thus.  Of course it’s unreasonable.  So what? Live with the unreasonableness, because that is what language does, everywhere, at all times.

    Those whose objections are unreasonable, who declare we cannot even quote from Huckleberry Finn, however important the book was in improving the way the culture thought about black people, might have bad reasons for the insistence.  It may indicate an imbalance in them that suggests they will always be miserable unless they have a change of attitude. Yet this is not new. They are responding emotively that if we do not follow the rule, it is evidence that we just don’t understand how serious this is.  If we protest that we indeed do, they will shake their heads.  If you really understood, you would not do this. They are always among us, and keeping some words radioactive might be good for us, however ridiculous each individual case might be.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 11 Comments »

    Pecans and Aunts

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 15th November 2020 (All posts by )

    Words are pronounced differently throughout the country – just about anything with an “a” in it, for example – but very few words are sometimes pronounced differently by the same person.  Two of the most prominent, the two above, work from the same set of sounds.  People generally say ant or aunt the same way in every context, but sometimes, individual aunts will be referred to by the other pronunciation because well, that’s their name. This happens more often when two sides of a family have a different preference.  The children grow up with a preferred pronunciation for the generic, but some of both pronunciations for individuals. There is also the even more regional Aint or even Ayunt in the south, such as Andy of Mayberry’s Aint Bee. Both sides of my family used the traditional Boston-area aunt-with-a-“u” version, but my mother’s second husband came from North Haven and used Ant. I found it jarring when he would refer to my mother’s aunt as Ant Sal, because…because that wasn’t her name. Of course Aunt Sal wasn’t her name either.  Her name was Selma, and Aunt was a title. And yet, when you are an aunt or an uncle it is your name to some people, and that might even start extending to friends and neighbors as well.

    Pecan is even more complicated, because not only the vowel sound can vary, but also which syllable is accented.  Most people have a single pronunciation for every use of the word, puh-CAHN, or pee-CAHN, or PEE-can, or pee-CAN. Others vary it depending on whether they are talking about the pie, the tree, or the plural of them in the bag at the store. Even people who use one of the “can” variants in every other setting might shop for pecahns at the store, and so buy pecahns to make a pecan pie. The pie is particularly tricky, because for some it is one of those phrases in which none of the syllables is accented: Pee Can Pie or Pee Cahn Pie. Even those who accent one syllable or another in the phrase tend to do so in an underplayed manner. Others will change their pronunciation if there is a modifier in the front, especially “Georgia.” Because that’s their name, don’t you know, regardless of what the nut is called in general.

    The other most common word with variable pronunciation in the same mouth is “route.” One grows up with a preferred pronunciation, but might visit a place for vacation a few times as a child and adopt the other for a specific road.  Rout 17 is the best root to go.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 14 Comments »

    Dead White Males

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 15th November 2020 (All posts by )

    It’s the “dead” part that is the most problem. The goal is not to increase the number of voices the student hears, but to reduce them, so that only the present exists. The illusion of multiculturalism is not hard to overcome, as what they mostly mean is different foods, music, ways of dress. Fun stuff. Not too intellectually demanding. One can indeed learn something about other cultures by reading Zora Neal Hurston and Ida B Wells, and should. But they aren’t very dead, not even a hundred years, and the cultures the write about still not so very far from ours. And even they, if I can tell aright from this distance, are not read for what is different about their lives but for what the student can pretend is “just the same,” as illustrations that prejudice America now is really not that far from what they wrote about.  Those two women would say otherwise, I have no doubt. They sang more than one note.

    Female writers are few as one goes back in history, as are writers of color. Yet this is a feature, not a bug, as it becomes difficult to find anyone from the past who might whisper to the student that people thought otherwise than they do today. Let us talk about the prejudices they faced, children – just like today! Pay no attention to how their values and motivations were not quite the same as ours, because then we might learn something from them. We therefore have only moderns to draw from, people who drive cars, watch TV, go to restaurants, and get everything from markets. The amount of diversity is going to of necessity be quite limited.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 2 Comments »

    You Knew This

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 2nd November 2020 (All posts by )

    I like Bing because of the photos, and I think they are marginally better on privacy than Google. I use DuckDuckGo most of the time.  Yet i have been annoyed at the bias of the Bing newsfeed, those clickable stories along the bottom of the page.  At the moment it is a refutation of the video claiming that Biden misidentified the state he was talking to.  I’m on conservative media pretty regularly, and I hadn’t seen that one.  I’ve seen links to lots of other videos with Biden gaffes but not that.  You see the effect?  By telling you the one that is discredited, without reference to how commonly viewed it is, it casts doubts on all those other, accurate Biden videos. 

    Next is that Lady Gaga “hits back” at Trump, with headlines that the Trump campaign has “chosen a celebrity target,” as if the poor girl was hunted down and selected out of nowhere to be criticised by the Trump campaign.  She chose herself.  Maybe it’s terrible optics for Trump to even acknowledge it, but now a whole slew of folks claim Trump is drowning who have thrown themselves into the deep end quite on their own.

    And the GOP “can’t stop count” in Nevada county, as if the Republicans didn’t want votes from that county from being counted, rather than an objection to the way this is proceeding.

    Multiply this by a thousand days and ten thousand stories, creating an impression based on selective reporting.  I think I read something somewhere recently about the indoctrinated believing they have come up with their opinions entirely on their own.  That is not only ironic, it is part of getting them to believe their misapprehensions forever. They consider arguments carefully.  They weigh pros and cons.  They check on alternate opinions (or more usually, what their usual sources tell them are the opinions of those stupid people over there). And then, with furrowed brow and a quiet nod of the head, they conclude that their tribe is the most intelligent, the arguments of the people who control their social destiny are superior, and none of their authorities need Air Wick.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 8 Comments »

    De Tocqueville on Cancel Culture

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 31st October 2020 (All posts by )

     Rather prophetic.

    Princes had, so to speak, materialized violence; the democratic republics of today have made violence as entirely intellectual as the human will that it wants to constrain. Under the absolute government of one man, despotism, to reach the soul, crudely struck the body; and the soul, escaping from these blows, rose gloriously above it; but in democratic republics, tyranny does not proceed in this way; it leaves the body alone and goes right to the soul. The master no longer says: You will think like me or die; he says: You are free not to think as I do; your life, your goods, everything remains with you; but from this day on you are a stranger among us. You will keep your privileges as a citizen, but they will become useless to you. If you aspire to be the choice of your fellow citizens, they will not choose you, and if you ask only for their esteem, they will still pretend to refuse it to you. You will remain among men, but you will lose your rights to humanity. When you approach your fellows, they will flee from you like an impure being. And those who believe in your innocence, even they will [419] abandon you, for people would flee from them in turn. Go in peace; I spare your life, but I leave you a life worse than death. (Democracy In America Volume 2, Part 2, Chapter 7, “Of the Omnipotence of the Majority in the United States and Its Effects,)

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 3 Comments »

    Political violence

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

    I am caught up with my reposts with this one.

     I observed decades ago, and reported in the first years of my own blog, that there is a fundamental difference between conservative violence and liberal political violence.  This is more apparent when one gets to look at the psychiatric cases, where the usual filters are off. The left goes on offense. The paranoid leftist fantasizes about going out and assassinating someone, or going and destroying some stronghold of what they think is oppressing the people. I have heard them say “I think about skinning George Bush alive,” or being caught in a plan to blow up a federal courthouse.  As things progress, they may have developed a grudge against Ted Kennedy, who they used to work for but the campaign fired them, or against Hillary Clinton, who they just don’t believe is responding properly to the 100 letters they have written her appealing for help. The press uses such dodges to pretend the person who showed up with a bomb-vest at Clinton headquarters was actually some sort of conservative, but this is just a dodge. Yet even those are exceptions.  Most stay true to form and want to set a housing development on fire because it harms the environment or break windows at a drive-by of Republican headquarters or a military recruitment center.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 23 Comments »

    Fundamental Fairness, and Voting For Trump

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 25th October 2020 (All posts by )

    There is a joke which is actually semi-serious advice among lawyers: 

    “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell”

    It is first attributed in this form to the poet Carl Sandburg, but likely long predates him.

    I have heard something similar argued about “fundamental fairness,” that it is a doctrine that is argued by an attorney when she has nothing better to put forward for her client; a pleading that “Your honor, don’t you think that this just seems more just?” That is an exaggeration, certainly.  Such appeals, in aggregate more than individually, are persuasive as culture changes, and have likely improved justice in the long run.  Just because it is often abused does not mean that there is nothing to it.  Wolves don’t hide in wolves’ clothing, I used to say.  What would be the point of that?  They hide in sheep’s clothing because there is actual innocence in the world.

    So it is a suspect approach, but not wholly without merit.  I have at least four attorneys who are regular readers, and they are free to correct me on the point. I will leapfrog in this discussion a bit, so if I seem to be suddenly veering off course, please understand. 

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 12 Comments »

    Transition to Farming in Europe

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

    Just a conceptual framework here. 

    Just so you know going in, whenever reading up on the topic.  There are ritual incantations by all the sources that depend entirely on PC money – National Geographic, Smithsonian – that must be made whenever discussing European genetics.  They must recite that there are no pure European races dating back endlessly with continuous presence until the present day.  Nay, nay.  Nazis, thought that, and you don’t want to be like them.  Lots of other people thought so, too, and they were also racist.  All of your recent European ancestors were likely racist, and good people don’t even come close to thinking like that anymore. Once you understand that this is part of their common religion and they have to say this at the opening of every academic exercise (sort of like everyone saying the Pledge of Allegiance at town meeting, or singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at sporting events) it becomes more endurable.  It is comforting to them, making the appropriate obeisance before proceeding.  Because it’s a new religion, they are still working things out. They see heretics everywhere.

    Then they go on to explain to you that until very recently, the major sources for European genetics do come from three waves which stabilised thousands of years ago.  But don’t get any idea that this means anything.  Those were really, really different groups, you know, and there were groups within groups, like Celtic and Slavic tribes both being Indo-European, and groups within those groups. So no one is pure. Got that, you potentially fascist reader?

    The first group in were hunter-gatherers 45,000 years ago. Unsurprising, as there was nothing but h-g’s at that point, no farmers anywhere. They outcompeted but did interbreed some with Neandertals, possibly because they were meaner, or maybe smarter. Glaciers came and went and areas were depopulated and repopulated. Who they were has been murky, but we are starting to get some initial narrative. It’s complicated, but a group we call European Hunter-Gatherers, especially West Hunter Gatherers (WHG) became the temporary Indigenous Peoples of their day. Europeans still have lots of that ancestry, as you can note from the Distribution maps of European Admixture I linked to a couple of days ago. 

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »

    Sadd Colors

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

    History Friday- yes, bring it back! I had forgotten. I only have a side dish for this potluck, but here it is.

    *****

    The orangey-brown you see on the leaves now is a puritan color.  We call it russet. It was then called “Philly Mort,” a corruption of the French feuille morte.* They preferred the restrained, subdued hues called sadd colors, which those who have read Albion’s Seed may remember. Puritan hats were black. Black was otherwise considered a bit pretentious, or at least over-formal.  Clerics adopted it as time went on, reflecting their increased self-regard. But for everyday, the colors which occurred in nature were considered acceptable, though even a few of those were suspect.

    Consider, for example, the dull magenta which Harvard calls “crimson,” and the dull blue and gray of Yale, or the dark Dartmouth green.  And of course Brown has the color…brown. The colleges and universities in other parts of the country have more exciting colors. Here, it is rust, puce, tawny, forest green, and other somber shades.

    Those are the old New England colors you could still find until after WWII.  Immediately afterwards, all those gaudy golf/Bar Harbor/LL Bean colors suddenly became the mark of the moneyed, salt-water elite. I don’t know why, but I suspect that the universality of the dull colors even among the poor here created a counter-reaction of adoption of shades that had heretofore been favored by the gaudy urban and ethnic poor.  Just a guess on my part.  But you will remember the preppy look of the 70s and 80s which tended toward pink and bright green. Or lemony yellows, Nantucket Red, and all the rest. 

    *There is a minority opinion that philly mort was an even duller, gray-brown color, but I am following the decisions of Plimoth Plantation on this.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 3 Comments »

    Where Your Treasure Goes – Obverse

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

    I have not done much cross-posting here in the last month. I will do a bunch over the next week, of things I should have put in here. But not more than one per day. That seems excessive.

     Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Even those of us who know the verse still respond as if only the inverse were true, that we give our treasure to where our heart inclines.  That latter is certainly true, but Jesus is teaching the interesting principle that if we give something, or commit something, our heart is much more likely to follow.  This is why salespeople or charities or organisations try to get you to commit any small thing – even a smile or a nod can be a down payment. 

    Churches want to make sure that all is grace and no one is left out for inability to pay – but teachers of adult Sunday School notice that people are more likely to do the homework and participate if they have paid for the book than if you give it for free.  We grow more attached to something if we have bought it rather than received it. There are all sorts of applications – if college students male and female are set across a table from each other and included in their chitchat, are required to confess one secret or slight embarrassment, the find they like each other and have a higher probability for going on a date after than if that requirement is left out.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »

    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 | 34 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 | 36 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 »