Sunday, July 12, 2020


This is not where we are going. If I ever get time travel, though, this place would make the list. Someone will do it in VR eventually.

CoVid19 Projections

Bsking 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.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

A New Fear

When Roosevelt ran in 1944, many people knew he would not live out the term.  They hid it from the electorate - because they were dishonest bastards - but there was some suspicion anyway.  They knew that the Vice President had to be someone who could be trusted as president, which is why they sloughed off the serious communist sympathiser Wallace and went for Truman.

Biden has disappeared, and the worry is that he has growing dementia.  That is not necessarily true.  He has always put his foot in his mouth and made vague, stupid statements with an engaging smile and wonderful tones of voice.  If you recall the Electric Monk from the Douglas Adams books, who could be programmed to believe anything with unswerving devotion, Biden is something of an Electric Politician, able to say whatever is required enthusiastically.  So this might not be dementia at all, just Joe being Joe. He might get elected and finish his term.

Yet if it is, and he is going downhill, then those around him know it and are setting up Plan B, of who would be president after him.  I don't mind parties having a Plan B.  That's what a VP is at all times anyway. But unless Biden has a dramatic occurrence like a stroke, it won't be smooth and obvious.  As he deterioriates, there will be those who don't want the Veep coming in, preferring their ability to move Joe from spot to spot.  They will fight for him to remain with all the Washington tricks they have perfected over a lifetime, and some of them are very good.  Yet the pro-Veep folks are also good and will do the same.  Polls and counter-polls.  Network plants putting forward the acceptable line, while another gives a different hint or rumor in the following hour.

It would be catastrophic for the country.  Bad actors, domestic and foreign, would feast on the uncertainty, both in showy obvious ways and in invisible ones. Sometimes all it takes to keep a country going is to have someone who will make decisions, even bad ones.  Edward II of England was so ineffectual that the government could not function. Feckless, to bring back a favorite old word. The people would live in uncertainty, and in such situations are likely to follow the Strong Horse, as bin Laden accurately (though infuriatingly) noted.  The fantasy that people might have that Kamala Harris or Amy Klobuchar or whoever would make a good president will not play out cleanly, as it has with assassination. We won't move quickly from Point A to Point B.

We have had similar situations at least twice, at the end off Wilson's and Harding's terms, when they were in a bad way and others covered for them.  But that was at least toward the end, where we might hope to hide the truth and outrun the demons before the new president came in. I don't know how much could be hidden now.  Conservatives are irritated because they think covering up Biden's failings might cost them the election, and much of the media plays along.  The real consequences could be far worse.


We will be gone Sun-Fri at a lakeside cottage, with granddaughters for half the time. Canoeing. Walking. Covered bridges. Restaurants. Tracy gets to network with her peeps from the East Coast Conference of the Covenant. I will catch up on Wednesday, and may or may not post then. I have podcasts loaded up and a couple of books.

Lockdown Vs Shutdown

Update: A rebuttal from a Swede over what he feels were unfair statements from the NYT.  He does a pretty good job of it. Pertinent to this post, he notes that Swedes are considerably shut down, but are doing this voluntarily, according to their own decisions, rather than by government mandate.  This has been pointed out before, but I recall Swedes didn't think other countries, including America and the UK in specific, could do it. Interesting reading.(Note: The beach photo is taken to make everyone look closer together than they probably are, and this is likely intentional.)

"Unknown" commented under the recent Suicide on the Sidebar post and had an interesting run at the possible suicide numbers.  In my own online reading, sometimes I don't read comments, sometimes I read them and may comment once, sometimes I go back to the comments to stay in a conversation.  I am sure that is true for you as well, so you might not have seen what he wrote.  It's speculation, but still recommended.

It reminded me of the difference between the natural shutdowns that have occurred because of businesses and individuals self-protecting against a novel virus and the government lockdowns over and above that, imposed on us by elected officials.  If no government at any level had ever even offered guidelines, let only issued mandates resulting in businesses not being open, every country would still have taken a severe economic hit. Lest we lose focus on the fact that it is China, not our fellow Americans, which is the primary culprit here.

Conservatives make this error more frequently, because in our current climate they are more usually (though not always) trying to make the point that the government lockdowns were in no way worth it, and they pad the economic damage numbers by running these two together. We need to keep these things clear or our thinking will not be clear.  There is also the running tendency to treat the current number of deaths from C19 as somehow the "natural" amount for comparison to the annual influenza or even exceptional events like the Hong Kong Flu, as if it could not have been far, far worse had we done nothing. I am getting away from my original point here, but it does flow from the previous thought.

It is common to sneer at the initial estimate from a single (though important) source of up to 2M dead as an example of why we should not listen to experts, always put in quotes.  But if Trump had not shut down international flights into the US in what seemed a premature move at the time but now looks a little late, had not shut down many federal offices later, and had governors also simply taken an attitude of "Okay kids!  You're on your own," maybe that number wouldn't look so crazy.  Well, individuals would be shutting down on their own at that point, but even so, the number of deaths would be worse. Yes, I have seen the arguments that it's going to be the same number of cases, and thus approximately deaths, no matter what we do, because it will catch up with us anyway.  I am not convinced of this by a long shot. Deaths would be worse, though we have little idea how much.

Which is still not to say that we didn't put in unnecessary restrictions. Different post.  I don't want to muddy the waters here.  I just want to note that people who are ordinarily on my side of things are being lazy with the data and their references to it.

The Racial Wealth Gap

There is a new article by Matt Bruenig over at the People's Policy Project, The Racial Wealth Gap Is About the Upper Classes. 3P, as they call it, looks to be a considerably left-of-center economics think tank, far enough left that it expends energy explaining how the Democrats have things wrong on particular policy issues. Its goal is "an economic system that serves the many, not the few." Bruenig comes to very different conclusions than I would about possible remedies, but the data is quite interesting. I will note that in some of his other articles he makes choices that might mislead people - he uses "disposable income" of the poor, rather than including Medicaid, housing subsidies, food stamps, and other benefits in his calculations of whether the EITC is valuable, for example.  That is a valid choice, and perhaps his readers are immediately aware that there are other choices, but I suspect it is (frequently) chosen to give the impression that the poor are worse off than they are.

Still his basic point is an excellent one.  The numbers traditionally quoted for the racial gap in wealth obscure important realities. For the bottom 50% each of white and black incomes, there is a racial wealth (no income) gap, but it is fairly small, about $23,000. (If that seems not small, remember that wealth includes things like home equity and value of a business.) His point is that the top decile of blacks own an enormous percentage of black wealth, and the top decile of whites own an even greater percentage of wealth than both other whites and the top 10% of blacks. Therefore, using the money from the few white ultrarich and distributing it to the bottom 90% multiracially is the solution. (He thinks the top decile of blacks don't need it.)

There's a lot wrong with that solution.  Just for openers, it relies on the Scrooge McDuck view of wealth, regarding it as essentially non-contextual and quickly made liquid. As an example of why that is wrong, consider that sports franchises just lost an enormous amount of value over the last few months.  They still have their stadiums, their merchandise, their players and infrastructure, but without games they do not generate revenue, and even worse, their projected revenue is reduced because no one knows how many games can be played going forward.  We just know that it will be less than it was.  That lost wealth didn't go anywhere. It just vanished.  It no longer exists.  Wealth is made in much the same way.  If those ultra-wealthy people did not make that money, much (not all) of it would not exist. I find that many conservatives, especially off the populist sort, don't get this either. It's not just liberals.

If you had asked me before reading the article where the wealth gap comes from, I don't think I would have broken it into deciles.  Most people would immediately attribute it to incomes, and thus ability to save. That must be part of it, but I would have guessed that the value of real estate factors into it, because people are less likely to want to live in black neighborhoods. That is also true of African-Americans, because of the crime rates.  From a Boston perspective, an identical house and lot in Randolph is not going to be worth as much as one in Canton. I would also wonder aloud whether there was more entrepreneurial reluctance among African-Americans.  I might actually be backwards on that.  I would have wished to have seen the numbers for Asians and Hispanics as well.

In any case, now you know.  When you read the numbers on the wealth gap, that is what is hidden behind them. It is real at all levels, but much more moderate than advertised, because what is occurring among the richest of both groups completely dominates the median.  Another example where the median is not the best choice in looking for the average.

Friday, July 10, 2020


In my day, the problem with capitalism was the soul-destroying conformity it created. Now its problem is that it creates soul-destroying individualism. It seems we are hard to please.  Ann Althouse has been on this topic the last few days.  It will shock you to learn that she is pro-individualism.

In the ancient days of the 1950s-80s Corporate America turned out indistinguishable automatons, company men who had to dress alike and parrot the approved line.  They had Donna Reed wives and 2.3 children, and all the cool kids shuddered because they didn't want to be like that, so they all wore blue jeans and let their hair grow. Myself included.  The schools were no better, we were told, only there to produce obedient slaves who would become part of The Machine.

It was ludicrous, of course.  By the time Pink Floyd came out with this teachers in the UK had been celebrating the rebellion against the old guard for more than a decade.  But Waters and the boys soldiered bravely on anyway, fighting a culture war already won. No one was going to make them conform.  In the US, the remarkable innovations in industry and the enormous restless migration about the country, remaking the nation also counted for naught.  They were horrible suburban conformists, all of them.

So, people remain unhappy and they are still just sure that capitalism is the cause. If it can't be conformity that is the problem, it must therefore be individualism.  It couldn't possibly be their own decisions, it must be the decisions of those in The System, against which they and all right-thinking folks are nearly helpless, except held at bay by constant vigilance. I admit I am not sure what they mean by "individualism."  Perhaps they are unsure themselves. It may just be a word to conjure with, stripped of denotative meaning while retaining all connotation.

There is no System.  There are forces. Until that thought is clear in your mind, you will change nothing except by accident. This evil old society doesn't value the right people as it should, Ms. Tolentino thinks.  Yes, many people have said so before, as long as I can remember.  It used to be that America was terrible because we  didn't value cancer researchers but paid professional athletes instead. These days the professional athletes are valued as spokespeople for woke causes, while cancer researchers work for Big Pharma, so that is reversed.

Allow me to explain this to you.  There is a thread that runs through all these contradictions, across the generations. Those complaining think the wrong people have made money and have prestige. The wrong sort of people. Those bad people wear the wrong clothes, have the wrong hair, work for the wrong industries, and it's all just so unfair. They want this for themselves and their friends instead. Then all will be right with the world. "We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us. Sneaky little hobbitses! Wicked, tricksy, false!"

A Hope and a Prayer

I listened to a pretty good podcast about the difference between hope and prayer yesterday. I will be stealing some of their info, but am mostly posting to put in the ideas I had while they are talking.

They spoke of the various meanings of hope without clear differentiation, as in "I hope Burger King is still open when I finish" versus "Our hope which is in Christ Jesus" and wondered if we should even consider using separate words for such a great divide. They approached but did not quite get to the idea that the disparity should be a spur and an inspiration.  Yes, what we hope for is rather timid, a milk-and-water version of hope.  It is self-centered and can barely get out of itself.  Yet we should aspire, they thought, to bring our hope into line with our true hope.  We should resist dividing them into separate words and concepts, but accept that our shallow hopes are a beginning.

It occurred to me that the same thing is true of the word prayer. We start with a child's prayer for blessing, and requests for stuff. This is not to be despised, for it is where we are supposed to begin.  If we get too far ahead of ourselves and overspirtiualise our requests we are likely to deceive ourselves that we are in better shape than we are.  Still, prayer, in the descriptions of those who we are pretty sure are well ahead of us in spiritual growth, seems closer to the idea of aligning ourselves with God. At those stages - and sometimes by wild grace even well before we have become like that - God allows us to change His mind in a way that we can only barely understand, for the thing should be logically impossible.  Yet there it is, He say says "Go ahead and say it, we'll do it your way, then." But mostly, prayer at that point is us understanding "Yes, I see why Your way is better."

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Suicide on the Sidebar

City Journal usually has good quality people who are smart and pay attention to the numbers and no what a source is, so I thought there might be good info in the Death By Policy post that looks at how many have died as a result of the lockdown rather than CoVid. I went first to the hyperlink about suicide, as it has come up here before.  A month ago and more there were predictions about how many more suicides there would be based on the spike in unemployment and economic issues. The centerpiece was an ER doc from Walnut Creek CA shaking his head and saying "I've never seen anything like this."  No numbers, not even from his hospital, let alone the country as a whole.  It was all based on previous economic turndowns and what researchers thought might happen now.  For conservatives who have been railing about not listening to experts, this seemed an unhealthy reliance on "experts" who happened to be saying what they wanted to hear.

Still, it's plausible, so I was excited to find that there is new data, that I might sift through and try to understand. But the "increased suicide" link just goes to that same story from May 21 and the doctor at a hospital in Walnut Creek shaking his head. That's pretty shoddy, and I didn't even bother to read the rest of Zinberg's article because I already know it.  There might be more deaths because of the lockdown.  Here are the reasons why that could happen, so we're pretty sure that's what's going to happen.  We don't happen to have any actual data on that. 

We'll see what shows up.  It certainly can't be a good thing when people with chronic conditions are interrupted in their medical care. But right now, I don't see actual numbers supported by research.  Zinberg does, BTW, give a good description of how cause of death is confusing and how CoVid might be overcounted or actually be undercounted. Basically, in most places you can't write it on the certificate unless you have a positive test, regardless of how good a match the symptoms are.

NH's numbers continue to drop, BTW, but I see that other parts of the country are having increased problems, both in deaths and ICU admissions.

Goose Self-Defense

Somehow I don't think it works this way.

Attention Span

Speaking of short attention span, it was always a difficulty for me at school, listening to people speak who weren't that interesting, even if they knew a lot.  I have always been able to focus on my own stuff for long periods, even endlessly.  I once drove to a conference in Bangor, five hours each way, without playing the radio or any tapes.  I like the radio in my own head just fine.  I could always read for hours as a child, but there needed to be a certain interest level. Even if I told myself This is really important. Focus! Focus! I would wander off into daydream world, or start up interesting conversations with my neighbor.  The first grade teacher conference for my family is consistent over generations: S/he reads very well and is polite and happy. But s/he talks to her/his neighbor too much. For males, there would also be a poor penmanship comment.

I felt bad about it then.  I knew it was the center of me never "working up to my potential" as they used to say.  They also used to say about folks like me "well he's not being challenged," but we tested that theory too.  When I went to an advanced studies program after my junior year of high school I took Concepts of Mathematics.  They pushed us. 20 hours of class and an estimated 20 hours of homework every week.  There were three grades: Superior, Satisfactory, and Unsatisfactory.  At the halfway point I still clung to a Superior ranking but was dropping. I then had one more Satisfactory week and two Unsatisfactories, the last week bad enough that I was in danger of not passing.  I had gotten distracted into writing a computer program that wrote poetry, playing Cinesias in Aristophanes' "Lysistrata," (great role, BTW.  Comic lead), mapping out new plays for the intramural flag football team, and spending every other moment with my new girlfriend. So much for the "not challenged" theory. Partly true. The "wants to be entertained" theory is a closer fit.

Update:  Yeah, and I had frequent requests for "Alice's Restaurant" that summer, tried to work out music with other folksingers. It was a busy six weeks at St Paul's.

My high school yearbook lists more extracurriculars for me than anyone else.  In college I was everyone's study break.  I played in a band and was in a lot of plays, graduated near the bottom of the class. It is in no way accidental that I married a librarian.  Even with her, I sometimes think "Get on with it" when she is downloading information.  It's a disease. Feed me, feed me.

This is still true.  I pace the back of the sanctuary during church even during singing, and when the pastor is no longer that interesting, I start saying to myself  You're done!  Done! Wrap it up! You're just muddying the waters now!  Done! even with people I like very much.  It is not surprising that I ended up in a denomination with a very strong tradition of good preaching. At work I get the morning assignments done in 1-2 hours, including conversation and entertainment on the way, then wander and entertain the troops or drain information from whatever experts are nearby.  Afternoon the same. If no one will have me, I surf the net, and sometimes waste taxpayer dollars by writing drafts for the blog.  I get more done anyway, and we have a lot of fun besides.

But that's why you come here.  This is a conversation, ranging widely, and I try to keep the troops entertained as well as plunking down information that interests me and opinions you should agree with.  If you could take the archives of one blogsite with you to a desert island, it would be mind, wouldn't it?  Even though you can find better people for each individual subject I've carried here. It's a regular Ted Mack's Amateur Hour.

Granite Dad, the first Snookette looks like Sarah. She'll love them.

The Genetics of Educational Attainment - More Pieces

As Educational Attainment can be influenced by factors other than intelligence, such as ability to pay attention and personality traits, so too can IQ, though much less so.  Psychologists can only allow so much flexibility with you on time before it begins to affect your score, and the proxies for IQ such as the SAT require sitting still and following directions. Even prior to sitting for a test, everything you have been learning in life, in school or out up to that point also depends on your attention skills. One would think this would have a massive effect, but that does not seem to be the case.  Those with poor attention learn to jump to conclusions, to guess.  Brighter children do that better.  Still, it does not have zero effect.

Side note on standardised tests as proxies for IQ.  One of the reasons we believe there is a g-factor in intelligence is because the cognitive subtests are so different. Logical sequencing is different from vocabulary is different from digit-span retention is different from social reasoning, yet people who do well on one tend to do well on all of them. The tests are often given, in fact, looking to see if there are specific areas that are impaired and dragging overall performance down. How then, can standardised tests of vocabulary analogies and mathematical reasoning, administered in a specific and unusual format, capture g, even if the types of questions vary somewhat in the subtests?  The easiest answer is that they do correlate to IQ tests.  You can chart the scores of people who have taken both and they give consistent results. There are exceptions to this.  While the correlations are high, they are not exact.  In all tests, they not only have ceilings, but each subtest also has a ceiling. If you get a maximum score on any subtest, you are in a high percentile. Yet the test will not pick up if you are even better than that.  In mass testing there is simply no need for it. The number of people who can repeat backward a digit span of 12 is small.  No one much cares if you could actually do 20 or are a rare savant who can do 100.  In specific fields of endeavor such rare unmeasured abilities might be important.

Back to the Gene Discovery paper referenced two posts ago. They did uncover about 1200 SNPs associated with EA, some positively, some negatively.
For example, they strongly implicate genes involved in almost all aspects of neuron-to-neuron communication.We found that a polygenic score derived from our results explains around 11% of the variance in educational attainment. We also report additional GWAS (Genome-Wide Association Studies) of three phenotypes that are highly genetically correlated with educational attainment: cognitive (test) performance (n = 257,841), self-reported math ability (n = 564,698) and hardest math class completed (n = 430,445). We identify 225, 618 and 365 lead SNPs, respectively. When we jointly analyze all four phenotypes using a recently developed method11, we found that the explanatory power of polygenic scores based on the resulting summary statistics increases, to 12% for educational attainment and 7–10% for cognitive performance.
Those may seem to be small numbers, but when one considers that these are hard genetic markers for the traits, no longer very debatable in a nature-nurture context, it's a big deal.  There aren't single Education genes, but there seem to be collections of genes near each other on the chromosome that slightly improve (or damage) processing, memory, or reaction time.

In the interview I was listening to they gave further links if you want to dig even more deeply: Boyle et al., An Expanded View of Complex Traits: From Polygenic to Omnigenic. and Camille Benbow Life Paths and Accomplishments of Mathematically Precocious Males and Females Four Decades Later. I have browsed the articles but not read them entirely, so don't ask. The second one is especially accessible.  I'm just a talented amateur here, who can point you to better places.

The Three (Now Four) Laws of Behavioral Genetics

Erik Turkheimer put forward the first three in 2000, based on work he had been doing for a over a decade before that.

1. All human behavioral traits are heritable. [That is, they are affected to some degree by genetic variation.]
2. The effect of being raised in the same family is smaller than the effect of genes.
3. A substantial portion of the variation in complex human behavioral traits is not accounted for by the effects of genes or families.

A fourth has been added more recently, which I hear Turkheimer has agreed with.
4.    A typical human behavioral trait is associated with very many genetic variants, each of which accounts for a very small percentage of the behavioral variability. That is, in the same way that height is polygenic, founded on thousands of SNPs, each of which only contributes a very small increase in height, so too are behavioral traits, like aggressiveness, IQ, or Educational Attainment. While their are individual Mendelian traits that cause cause things to go all broken and make your impulsiveness extreme or cut your intelligence severely, there aren't any Smart Genes or Athletic Genes that make you much better all by themselves.

Regarding #3, there is a good deal of talk about what that substantial portion consists of. If it is not shared in families, and doesn't seem to be measurable in a neighborhood, or a town, or a school system, then what is it? Is it hidden genetics?  Epigenetics?  Current thinking is that it is about half prenatal, and half a large collection of experiences that differ child to child that call out different responses from the genes. Both of those could be called epigenetic depending on definition. Pregnancies are different in the same woman, and the fetus itself may be calling out for different responses from Mom. Brothers will have different friends, different teachers and coaches, read different books, see different movies and a thousand other things that have unpredictable effects.

I think a good deal of it is going to be more formally genetic myself.  But we shall see.

The Genetics of Educational Attainment

There is a paper from almost two years ago in Nature which identifies SNPs associated with educational attainment. This is becoming more possible as genetic information from commercial DNA firms such as 23andMe or become available for researchers, giving them a huge number of samples to work from.  In this case an original N of 1.1million was whittled down to about 300K to look at Educational Attainment. If you want to see the information explained in their FAQs, click the second left-sidebar link in the FAQ section here.

Some of you will be more interested in what they have to say there than anything I will put in, and that's fine.

Researchers like things that are easier to define and measure.  When studying humans physical scientists, especially geneticists like track-and-field numbers rather than fuzzier concepts of athletic ability. They like height, because it is a number that stands still, and IQ because it is one number that is stable over time that is at least closely related to intelligence. Other body measurements can also be used.  IQ subtests can also be used.  You can make things more complicated as you go along.  But starting from something solid is nice.

While Educational Attainment is not absolutely solid (What do you call two years of trade school?  What about a GED plus some college courses? Shouldn't dropping out of an Ivy count for more than from a community college?) it's pretty darn close. You count up the years and put them in the blank. You might think that EA is a bit fuzzy, because it is dependent on things other than your abilities.  There is a strong cultural aspect of what your family expects.  There are international differences, and differences of opportunity. Everyone recognises that even more than IQ, the number can mislead. In the discussion of the study, the wry comment was made that EA correlates with intelligence, but also measures your ability to sit and look interested while a professor drones on and on, and perhaps we should study people's butt phenotypes as well. More seriously, the lead researcher noted in an interview that the ability to pay attention for long periods is also being measured, and those who can't do that as well score lower on EA.

Educational Attainment does correlate with several important life outcomes, sometimes better than IQ, so it's a useful thing to know about groups, even if it can be misleading about any particular individual.  But it's biggest advantage is that you can get that EA number about so many people.  We fill out years of schooling on forms all the time, including places that it makes no difference. So also with height and weight. So when DNA companies ask you that along with a dozen other things, researchers can now get a million people to study, which is otherwise impossible. The Chinese collect lots of data on their people, and will in the near future be able to field studies with N's in the hundreds of millions. In contrast, very few people have been given a formal IQ test, and even though the SAT and ACT are good proxies for that number and millions of people have taken those, no one routinely asks you to put your SAT numbers on a form you are filling out.

This is going long, and I have a long way to go.  Consider it Part I.

Japan's Scandalous Penguins

Aquarium penguins engage in social behaviors that would be shocking among humans. The staff chart all these matings, enmities, and friendships.  I can see why it's fun, and once you get going following the lines you might lose a lot of time there.  I just got sent it by a reader a few minutes ago and I'm already putting it up. I won't reveal who without permission, but she can claim it in the comments if she likes. She tweaked me that she thought they need a clinical social worker.  I don't see how that would improve matters myself.

Let's step back from this just a bit, however.  They're penguins. We think they are more like us than they are because they walk upright and look like they are wearing tuxedos. Almost human, really. Except no, they are birds.  I noted years ago that the humanising of animals in children's books has likely contributed to vegetarianism and much environmentalist thought.  We imagine that Billy Bass has a rich family life, and that all the woodland creatures speak to each other.  Not to mention singing and dancing. Penguins likely don't know how old they are or how old other penguins are once they get out of childhood stages. They likely don't keep track of who their sister's children are and certainly not their grandchildren.  Heck, they may not even remember who their sister is.

Next, they are in an artificial situation. This is not penguins in the wild. Human beings act differently when you lock them up, too, not just in prison but at boarding school and summer camp.

Let's let penguins be penguins.

Online Abuse

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.

Interesting research that college students became more narcissistic 1979-2006.  Note that this is largely before social media, though the end of that period does include increases in anonymous online commentary.  I can't imagine things have gotten better since then, though I have no clue how much worse it has gotten.  It may be a self-limiting phenomenon that is only going to strongly affect 15-20% of the population very much and that was already reached, with only slight increases since then because of cultural changes in the rest of the population. Or it may have spun wildly out of control by now. It seems to feel that way to others.  To me, human beings have always been this bad.

So, Dark Triad and online bullying, false victimisation, and virtue signaling. Seems about right.  A few decades ago some of us learned that bullies are not poor saps with low self-esteem who are trying to make up for it, but have inflated self-esteem that reality does not sustain.  They believe they are more attractive, have more friends, and are nearer to the top of the class than they really are, and so seek to punish others when reality bites them. That would certainly fit with virtue signaling. We've all done virtue signaling, dropping hints that we are better people than our behavior would warrant.  It is common.  But most of us also feel uncomfortable with the hypocrisy and know we had better pretty quickly cut that stuff out. If you do too much of it, you get worried about being found out and exposed as a fraud.  And sometime later in the day you are going to be talking to God anyway, and you know that's not going to be a good moment.

Referring back to the original link, it is interesting that the researchers connected the traits of claiming victimhood and virtue signaling right from the start, which is why they studied it.  That's exactly the sort of wrongthink that may get them in trouble someday, but we should be grateful they are giving it a run now.

Update: I neglected to mention that reading about the Dark Triad just naturally brings you into discussions of Big Five Personality traits.  These are well-studied for decades and interesting, but came under some criticism when it became clear that they didn't fit non-Western subjects quite as well.  Not badly, just not as well.  The Big Five are Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.  There is a newer model, HEXACO, that uses six factors, the new one being Honesty/Humility. It also slices the pie differently on two of the previous five. How this range of factors interacts with the Dark Triad is rather interesting.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Billy Mills in 1964

I had just started following track and field for some reason, especially distance running. I think I read a long piece about Gerry Lindgren in a sports magazine lying around, and recall Junior Scholastic articles about Bob Hayes, the "World's Fastest Human," and Jim Ryun, first highschooler to run the mile under four minutes.  I didn't recall anything about the 1962 dual meet with the USSR, so it must not have risen to consciousness by then. But I was all in for the 1964 Olympics and can still hear the announcer saying "Schul is going to win it! Schul is winning the 5000 and he's the first American to do it!" Mills in the 10,000 was something I tried to talk about with my friends at camp, but no one was interested.

Also of interest, Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia won the Marathon again, this time wearing shoes.  He was the first of the East African runners from the Great African Rift, who now dominate distance running. People still try to sell the idea that it is that high altitude training, rather than genetics. I don't know how much data it takes for people to give up an idea.

Go There

When you travel in Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, you encounter gypsies, now called Roma. (unless you live there, in which case you use some variant of Tsigane.) They are an oppressed people.  They are treated badly.  They have been treated badly historically as well, and if you come in with your American ideas you will attribute all their difficult actions to that background.  When you are there, however, you will see that not all Roma act alike.  We went to jolly, welcoming villages and we went to thieving, threatening ones, and were not allowed to go to the violent ones.  So their behavior makes some difference in their lives.  They are not prisoners of their history.  It is more complicated than that.

The various Eskimos have certainly had a hard time in life since contact with the Europeans.  However, they had a hard time before Europeans, and according to Lawrence Keeley were violent toward nearby tribes. Incest rates are high. It would be easy to blame them or not blame them, depending on which end of the telescope you are looking through.  I have no objection to seeing them as an oppressed people who are unfortunately easily addicted to the alcohol that Europeans introduced into their midst uninvited, and brought with them a world of desirable goods that they are having a hard time fitting into.  You might hesitate to adopt that view, however, because there are lots of Yupik and Inupiat who disagree with it.  The village elders often forbid alcohol, but some tribe members smuggle it in. It's complicated.

The European treatment of Native Americans contains horrible chapters that their descendants cannot defend. They died of our diseases in what is certainly the farthest reaching tragedy in the known history of humankind - killing 90% of the population of two continents - even before we get to actual sins committed against them. Yet at nearly every time and place, if you asked them who their enemies were they would more likely have identified another tribe rather than any of the European tribes.  Only very late in the day did they begin to see themselves as a group which was collectively being forced out by white men collectively.  In fact, that is still not a universal sentiment among Native Americans, who still have resentments against various violent tribes.  The Comanches commanded an empire of the surrounding tribes, raiding and exacting tribute through much of the 19th C. A growing Native American Women's movement is identifying their own men as a greater problem than white society. It's complicated, not simple.

I have friends with mental illnesses, and still maintain that no group has it harder, even though they are seldom the first group that comes to mind when we think of the oppressed.  It is the illness that is their primary oppressor, but other human beings contribute to that. I look at some and think it is a wonder they are able to get up and function every morning. Yet there are also decisions before them, as there are before any of us.  They are not all homeless.  They are not all violent or criminal. They don't all abuse substances. (And even among those who do those things, it is not a permanent state. They do better, they do worse.) Some with great effort and discipline set up good lives. I will readmit patients I have not seeing for five or fifteen, or twenty-five years who are having an episode, but have carved out a place in this world against great odds.  It's not simple.  It's complicated.

You have to Go There to even get a feel for it, or you end up going down the road of blaming someone for everything or absolving them of everything.  Real life doesn't work like that.  I mean "Go There" first in the physical sense, as knowing actual people is the closest understanding.  Being acquainted with actual people is next.  Reading about them is more distant, but is still valuable.  We cannot visit every one of the world's many categories of people after all. I am not sure that movies or other works are quite the same.  In some ways they can be better, as a skilled artist can distill complicated contradictions into well-designed expression.  Yet just as often, fiction or music can be used to oversimplify situations, causing us to root for one sort of person and against another, not often fairly.

We all have groups that we identify with and resist hearing them blamed for things they have done. I haven't read White Fragility but I get the concept, and it isn't entirely untrue. We seldom fall for complete untruths unless we are psychotic.  Much more likely, we become convinced of minor truths swollen out of all proportion. If you wished, you could make the argument that nearly everything important for your comfort and well-being was brought to you by some white male, probably now dead.  Because of their powerful reach in the world, you could alternatively make a list of all the evil that has been done to you and trace that back to some white male as well.  For personal events, females might be as likely as males both for good or for evil:  a spouse, a parent.  For cultural events, only recently have females become as influential.

I didn't invent the telephone, and as far as I can tell, neither did any of my family invent or create anything of general value.  I think that more of them contributed in a small way than destroyed or undermined society, simply because I live in a good time and place.  Someone who came before built that, or it wouldn't be very nice.  Building things is hard. I don't think much in terms of credit until I am suddenly being blamed. I have never gone through my days thinking "How wonderful we white guys are!  Everyone should love us and be more grateful!" It's only when someone accuses and says that "we," which all of a sudden is including me, "have ruined everything and everyone" that I go. But wait.  You're driving a car. You get to vote for your government. Oh, hang it all, I'm not going to engage in even borrowed glory here because it's not true and it's bad for me.  But you're just being a crazy person.  It's not simple.  It's complicated.  You have to Go There.

Mostly Peaceful Protests

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? As in my previous post about conscience, it just feels different, and we just know it's right.

Post 7100 - Don't Let Conscience Be Your Guide

This is not a new debate, and I certainly don't have any new insights on the topic. But recently I have heard a few Christians make appeals to conscience on items where I think they can be shown to be at least partly wrong.  In fact, I think they are entirely wrong, but am trying to be generous. This has made me more alert to secular folks, and those whose religion I don't know, referring to decisions made that are conscience decisions, even if they don't use those words.  It turns out there is a lot of that.  I had ceased noticing it very precisely.

It is even worse when Christians claim it is a conviction of the Holy Spirit, but we do that. It comes close to violating the Second Commandment, or the Third, depending on your numbering.  (I had very good commenters on both those posts, BTW.)

I am having a hard time separating all these appeals to conscience from using "I just feel that..." as a reason. There may be some heritable component to conscience, but I believe it is largely formed, and fairly temporary.  My evidence is that my own conscience has changed over time, sometimes for the better, but in other ways I am less sure.  I have observed this in people I have known over time, and it is a product of who they have read and who they have associated themselves with.  It is a little too malleable for my taste.  Who you choose to associate with will change you.  In fact, if you are trying to make personal changes, changing your associations in both 2-D and 3-D space is likely the best way to proceed. (I am including reading, music, movies, and other arts here.)  You will become like them, all parents know in the back of their minds.  While that is not always true - you may be the person who influences the others, and you may have multiple groups of association with varying degrees of influence over you, it is true most of the time, and it is one of the most common ways of deceiving ourselves.  When you move to new digs, your neighbors aren't going to tell you it's in Snobtown, and even if that idea sneaks into your mind, they will be quick to reassure you that it's not so.

On the other hand, we think it is a terrible thing if someone has no conscience.  Also, the point of virtue ethics is to train a conscience, not eliminate it. Do we endure the widespread abuse of conscience as a source of morality because it is the only garden that a good conscience can grow in?  God seems to have taken that approach with humanity and free will. Paul also speaks approvingly of the consciences of non-believers - or pre-believers - in his letter to the Romans, that they already know some things are right, even though the Holy Spirit has not come to them.

I suspect some very smart people over the last 2000 years have weighed in on the matter, but it hasn't come up in my reading that I recall.

We're Number One!

Goffstown now has the most current CoVid cases in the state, by a fair margin over the next three, Manchester, Nashua, and Bedford. Cases are not deaths, however, and it is actually good news for the sate as a whole.  We have increased slightly, and everyone else has gone steadily down.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Different Metric

WRT C19, I have been focusing on deaths, while continually raising the flag that there are going to be follow-on effects of those who have sustained lung, heart, kidney, or even neurological damage, which we can't yet measure, so we say little about.  I predict it's going to be important, year over year.  But i get why things that aren't easily measured get shoved to the back.  I do it myself.

I have tended to dismiss number of cases as much of an indicator, because that is deeply related to how many tests we do.  However, ICU census is not dependent on number of tests, and may be something worth noting at this point. We are better at treating this illness at present, so fewer people are dying, and that's a good thing.  But ICU admissions are not a good thing, even if people are surviving who might not have a couple of months ago.  We don't have a good apples-to-apples way of comparing that to Hong Kong Flu in 1957 or 1969, or at least, I don't know anything sensible about that.

I think deaths are still the key number.  How many deaths we would have had if we hadn't done x, or y, or z is unknown. A few more?  A lot more? We tend to follow our prejudices on such things. Yet I think we should at least keep in the back of our minds the idea that some of these ICU cases would have been deaths not long ago. The overall news continues to be generally good, though there are locations where things are bad right now.

Tom Bridgeland, I know you come by occasionally.  Please weigh in.

Pro Tip

I am reroofing the shed at the property I just bought.  I have never done roofing of any kind.  There are lots of videos about starter strips and drip edges and other good things.  I recommend those.  But none of them mentioned the importance of the box that holds the roofing nails.

With standard three-tab shingles, each row is supposed to be 5" above the previous one. When you are up on a hot roof, you want to get that right, but you also want to limit the amount of equipment you bring  and you don't want to keep bringing out a tape measure and reaching way out at arm's length and trying to get it right.

The box of roofing nails is exactly 5" long.  That's a nice little touch that shows someone was thinking ahead.

Sunday, July 05, 2020



Interesting that McLean believed in 1973 that the next two or three years were going to be a turning point, and an ugly one, with ugly events, and we would want to hearken back to earlier times of knowing God.  Barry McGuire also thought so in 1964. Each election, we are told this is the most important in our lifetime, and as I always say, well, it's certainly the most important election in their lifetime. Because to the recent riots, and cancel culture, and philosophical fads that are becoming mainstream, I read folks on conservative sites saying that we are at a critical juncture, in this election and over the next few years.  Environmentalists have been saying such things for decades.

We have an impression of being at the edge of the abyss, or at least at an inflection point in history. Perhaps we are.  I don't feel a need to play up or play down the importance, because it is largely immaterial.  This is the time we are living in.  We have no other.  Therefore it is up to us to do what we can now, whether it is an important time or an unimportant one.

As Gandalf said “It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”

*There is a version played as the background music in Mad Men you can find on YouTube.  I can't tell what is happening - perhaps a planned affair that is being reconsidered?  But the camera work is wonderful, and the mood of reflectiveness and sorrow captured well.

Systemic Homelessness

I heard a Christian woman remark on needing to work on the systemic homelessness, but within the context of dealing with real human beings who come across your path.  She is correct about the latter. She may be correct about the former as well, though almost certainly not in the way she imagines.  When people think about systemic homelessness, they are likely thinking something about landlords, and apartment prices, and low-income housing, and perhaps livable wage legislation and the like.  This is because many of the stories they read or see about homelessness are stories about single moms who maybe have made some bad decisions, but are well-meaning people in a tough situation, and some bad luck things happened to them that weren't their fault, such as an employer going out of business, a mother who got sick, an irresponsible boyfriend - and now she's up against it.

Those stories are real.  I don't want to suggest otherwise.  But the bulk of homelessness is driven by mental illness and drug addiction.  There are programs that give people rent support and agencies that promise to come in and help, so that landlords don't have to hesitate about taking in difficult tenants. Many landlords are in fact decent people who are willing to rent to people with mental health issues.  they will mention a brother, a nephew, a high school friend who has some illness and their understanding how hard it can be.  But after a few years of this they get more picky, because they have had the experience of property destroyed, the police being called, and/or the rent not being paid too many times. They just can't afford it.  It's just not worth it.

So maybe more forced treatment was the systemic change she was thinking of, d'ya think?  No, once this underlying nature of homelessness is raised, the ground shifts.  There is this idea of more...outreach.  More...programs.  Things like that. Community workers put a lot of energy into having people just come in for treatment.  They are nice people, and make their living by persuasion and trying to help people identify a couple of things which might make their lives better.  By and large, they are pretty good at that, at least in NH. There are certainly ways they could improve what they do, but their skill is not actually the main problem.  Do I want more forced treatment?  Probably a bit more.  Such things come with costs of their own, though, setting up adversarial relationships. Still, our current system is that you can only be forced for reasons of danger, not just because every person who ever knew you and loved you agrees that it would be good for you.  Mental health law is fairly libertarian.

Rents are high in the cities - the people who want systemic changes seldom ask themselves why that is.  They just know it's a bad thing and someone must be being abusive or greedy, and an increase in the minimum wage would fix all that.  But not a lot of employers are willing to put up with someone who only comes in three days out of five, or at least, not at prevailing wages. The minimum wage prevents the existence of a lot of sucky jobs that would actually do impaired people some good, as they could bring in something to go with their meager entitlement checks. Many can't do regular jobs, and irregular jobs would be a boon. Employment security usually has some sort of day labor attached to it, which works well for some people. Some need even more flexibility than that.

Yet I don't think Reducing the minimum wage is one of the systemic changes she had in mind.  Somehow racism and other prejudices must be in there too.  Those are systemic, aren't they?  I think if we fixed those everything else would start to fall into place.

I'm going to hazard a guess that other "systemic" things are actually individual in large part, but people wish they weren't. Feeling that electing the right people would fix things is an easy, comforting thing to think.

Out of Stock

Nearly everything is back in stock at the supermarket.  I can't quite get my preferred types of toilet paper, and meats are inconsistently available, but most things are there.  Yet I can't for the life of me figure out why graham crackers have been unavailable for almost a month. Are people hoarding them?

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Deaths Per Million

Worldometers is a site that is pretty strict about its data.  Click on the "deaths per million" column and track down the states and their numbers.  There are large dropoffs every few states. I follow this one consistently, so I have had plenty of opportunity to reflect on the initial politics, then voting patterns at the margin of these states. Therefore, I think it will be informative to my readers from many places to look at the individual states and what has been their attitudes so far, then compare it to the more recent numbers, where the high-death states are now appearing less dangerous, while the safe, warm, dispersed states are now seeing rapid increases in cases, ICU fill-up, and even deaths - and these deaths in the context of medical staff now having a much better idea of what to do with patients who show up with serious CoVid problems.

I'm not telling you anything, not about masks, or distancing, or opening up, or reporting irregularities. At this site we don't have expertise or (I hope) bias toward "We have to open up now, now, now" or "Put the hammer down on those reckless bastards who are endangering us all."  I really hope that if everyone else goes Rhinoceros (2006 link, with great irony at this point) in one direction or the other, you can come here and just look at data without anyone kicking you.

From that launching point in the link in the first paragraph, you can also see countries and what is happening.  But today, humor me by looking at the states' death-per-million and click also on the "Yesterday, Two days ago" data and just look at it, without comment.  We want to settle on an opinion and hold it through March, April, and into July. But everything keeps changing, sometimes in ways we expected, sometimes in puzzling ways. I am not sure what I would advise my excellent governor Chris Sununu to do, even if I had time travel at this point.  I thin I would want to wait until December and time travel then.

There is a quote attributed to John Maynard Keynes, Paul Samuelson, Winston Churchill, or Joan Robinson.  It seems that none of them said it, but each said something vaguely like it.  It is a great quote nonetheless, and one that we should flagellate ourselves with repeatedly. "When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?"

Hong Kong

The UK has offered blanket citizenship to the people of Hong Kong. Sound move.  I don't want to undermine that effort, because they really should have first dibs, but I would be happy for America to take those who can't fit into England. Sight unseen.  Yes, I know that the PRC will try to insert many of its own people into whatever we take, but I still think we are net positive.

I'd be glad to trade them some American communists back, but you and I both know that none will go.  Being a Marxist in America is a sweet gig.

Venn Diagram of Career Choice

Patriotic Songs That Didn't Quite Make it

I am thinking about The Fourth as I try and reroof the shed today, and as always, I am burdened by scraps of patriotic songs I was taught in school. They weren't always very good, yet here I am humming them sixty years later.
Waving, waving, see the flag waving
Waving, waving, red, white, and blue.

The sentiment is admirable, but some were rather insipid.

This one, I Like The United States of America  has a single YouTube version, but the woman gets the melody wrong and the camera work is old-phone.  I linked to one that has the lyrics and has a MIDI file that plunks out the melody. It's the best I could do.

There was a poem "Hats off! The Flag Goes By" that used to be popular in the first half of the 20th C, so it is unsurprising that my elderly fifth-grade teacher (she also taught my mother) was still teaching it in the early 60's.

One of them sort of did make it.  To YouTube, anyway.  And the US Army Band plays it, or used to
I knew the lyrics at "Land of my birth," and "Grandest on Earth," which I will bet are original , and these "corrected" later.

Yet one more incident of me sharing the small creatures who live in forest holes in the depths of my brain, which come out and sing unexpectedly.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Yohn Yohnson's Wedding

I knew a slightly different version with a pause after the last name in each chorus, then slowly "He vas dere tooo." Chuck Anderson used to sing it.

I know most of those foods and drinks, but I don't have them myself.

Responsibility and The System

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.

400 Years of Oppression

No one is 400 years old.

Zoom Wedding

Our niece Meg scheduled her wedding a year ago for this May.  In the last few months she postponed it to July in hopes she could have it then. But she is a nurse in Massachusetts, and has no intention of putting friends and family in  danger.  We will be attending the wedding in about an hour, via Zoom.

"The important thing is to get married and start having a family" she said.  Good attitude.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

The Bible Project: Jonah

It's a great series.  A couple of family members tell me this is their favorite.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Advance Australia Fair

It seems like it would be a good thing to be an Australian.  I'm not in the market for switching, but I think they'd be my second choice.

Yes, ahead of the Canadians, even though my grandfather was Nova Scotian. Everyone likes Australians.

Another Academic Firing

I corresponded with Dr. Hsu twice when he was still at Oregon teaching physics, because he was associated with research through BGI where I was a participant. He is about as intelligent a person as you could hope to encounter.  But Michigan State has fired him for quoting research on IQ and ethnicity. He was defended by some big names, but in the end President Samuel Stanley used the same cowardly line they are all using these days
I believe this is what is best for our university to continue our progress forward...
Very little intellectual justification was even offered.  Here's the problem: reality itself, in the form of human biology, is racist and sexist by current definitions. It puts researchers in a bind, doesn't it? Thus it puts universities in a bind, because they dare not allow reality to be spoken, yet their job is to teach young people to think, and do accurate research.

Giving in to the mob is not their only choice, not by a long shot.  But they don't have that many students in these subjects, so if they have to let someone be fed to the sharks, it's not going to be Education, is it?

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Things We Have Gotten Better Since March

It's important to look at what we have been learning as we have been going.


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.

Redefining Words

I have mentioned many times that if you have to redefine common terms - patriot, racist, supremacist - in order to prove your point it is an admission you can't win on the merits. Cults do this with words like atonement, and especially love. I had thought of a humorous example about a year ago, but couldn't remember it this morning after waking too early, and eventually just got up. I finally brought it back to mind after two hours.  It's not as funny as I remembered, but it's not a bad example.  And even if it's terrible, I'm posting it anyway, in honor of this morning's frustration.

"So when I tell my patient she has outstanding charges, she should be happy about that?"

Monday, June 29, 2020

American Genetic Clusters

You have likely seen the upper map in the last couple of years.  It is based on all those genetic samples that people send in.  The full paper was published in Nature in 2017. They looked for clusters, and what they found corresponds greatly to what we know from American history.  Especially if you have read and remember David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed. I haven't mentioned it in a while, but let me note again that it is the one essential book of American history. Enormous amounts of American settlement and regional culture will just click, and it will provide you with a framework for understanding it.

I draw your attention to the second map, which you may not have seen.  It shows smaller sample clusters they identified, and is also fascinating.  Mormons show up as part of the Northeast cluster because their founding population was largely from New York and New England, and their first areas of foreign missions were the British Isles and Scandinavia. Founding populations have an outsize genetic influence, which you can also see in how their effect dissipates East to West in the above maps.

There are other maps and much discussion at the link.  You could lose a whole morning there.  It is interesting that they were able to discern two Appalachian groups, which we usually just combine as Scots-Irish/English Borderers. There is also an interesting map of which states are genetically most eastern, western, northern, southern.  It's not shocking that New Hampshire's deeper genetics (3-9 generations) is the most northern, but it is surprising that Louisiana is the most eastern - until you remember the Arcadians getting kicked out of Nova Scotia and becoming Cajuns. Fun stuff.

Sunday, June 28, 2020


We had an envelope Fedexed to us Friday, to arrive Monday.  It went out from Lynn, MA, leaving the Peabody office in the evening. That is about 60 miles from here.  It went next to Memphis, TN, about 1300 miles from here, and then came back the 1300 miles, to Londonderry, about 20 miles from here.  So it has come about two-thirds of the way here so far, with a 2600-mile detour.

Presumably, it is all about the airport.  Peabody is 15 miles from Logan in Boston, and everything that is not supposed to get delivered from their office presumably just goes on a plane to Memphis, where it gets sorted and put on other planes. It's hard to accept that this is the most efficient way of doing things.

Tallis Canon

We become especial fans after reading the Madeline L'Engle books.


It's not my imagination.

With all the fun things weather sites can do, I have had a new source of frustration over the past few years: watching the radar tell me that rain is coming in 30-90 minutes, only to have it somehow pass us by.  This is IMPOSSIBLE! How can it rain in Bedford and rain in Dunbarton, but the clouds scatter and drop nothing on us AGAIN? Because I work in Concord, and note that it sometimes misses there as well, going above and below, I have suspected, and grudgingly conceded, that they might have it almost as bad.

The clouds generally come from W or WSW, so what is happening in Keene is often a moderately good indicator of what will be happening in Goffstown in an hour.  Albany, NY is about two hours ahead. (Funny how it is much more than twice as far as Keene culturally, with two state borders in between.) We are currently in a drought, so I am watching the weather anxiously and a bit obsessively the last few days.  We had 20 minutes of light rain yesterday, but the "heavy thunderstorms" that have been expected have consistently parted about fifty miles to the west and gone to the north of us and south of us. AGAIN!  Just like every year, it seems.

In the more rational parts of my brain I recognise that this is just my impression.  It can't really be the case that Nashua and Laconia get significantly more rain than Manchester and Concord.  It's just my bitter cynicism, aided by the confirmation bias of remembering those times when we had no rain, forgetting the downpours that drenched us and missed our neighbors.  Yet in my frustration, today I went looking for average precipitation of places in NH.

I was right.  Goffstown is in a narrow band of diminished precipitation. Twenty miles south and twenty miles north both get significantly more precipitation.  Also, because of the increased rainfall near the coast, that dry band I live in gradually moistens starting about 20 miles east as well. There is an even drier band Above The Notch (Usually Franconia, but also Pinkham) extending up into Quebec, but from Mount Washington to Nashua, there is a 30-mile swath of lower moisture, and I both live and work in it. Mount Washington has twice the precipitation everywhere else, but starting from the north, this is the yearly precipitation

Plymouth 44.68 in
Laconia 44.15 in
Concord 40.61 in
                  Goffstown is between the two, more on the Manchester side
Manchester 42.05in
Nashua 47.97 in
Just across the border in Mass, it's similar to Nashua - which is pretty much part of Massachusetts these days anyway. Worcester 47, Lowell 48.

As I was writing this, another storm dissipated around us, not a drop, and the projected storm for the evening has already disappeared. AGAIN.

Additional note:  Different sites give different numbers for annual rainfall - I don't know why, just different methods, I suppose - but all of them track comparably.

Reporting II

Such a takedown of the Atlantic's reporting should be devastating to its reputation.  But not these days, not anymore. To be devastating it would have to be widespread, and these things are just buried.


I was interested in how things were playing out with the Swedish Somali community, which is less than 1% of the population but had 5% of the coronavirus cases as of May.  The reports I read then indicated that Somalis paid much less attention to quarantining, even after showing symptoms. They would go out and visit among each other and be out in public areas as well.  This seemed partly due to false beliefs about the virus, especially that Muslims could not get it, but also because many just seemed not to care very much.  If they wanted to go out, they went out.

I am not easily finding updates.  The reporting in Europe, when it mentions this at all, frames it that the increased rate of illness is a product of economic inequality and segregation, rather than risky behavior on the part of the Somalis.  There were a couple of articles that mentioned only "immigrant populations," so I have to wonder if there are other groups which are less cautious as well.  Even if so, likely not as bad, or it would have been mentioned by someone, somewhere.

I have to wonder what is going on in the newsrooms.  Do they slant things this way because they don't want to "hurt" the Somalis and the cause of immigration in general by encouraging others to think bad things about them? Do they really think such things are the result of poverty and segregation rather than stemming from similar causes? Are the few deaths regarded as unimportant because it provides an opportunity to "talk about larger issues," as if there were an abundance of issues that are larger than death?  I have to wonder if it goes so far as to mean "It would be better if this were true, so this is what shall go in the official record. We will force it to be true by erasing the counterevidence."

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Missing People

As far as I can tell, two people were found and there was information about two more. What they got was a lot of was people wanting to join them.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Khazar Hypothesis: Full Post

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.


Enough of my audience has some contact with fundamentalists that they may encounter folks who believe the Khazar Hypothesis, that is, the belief that Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern and Central Europe are not genetically descended from the Middle Eastern Jews of the Bible, but from a North Caucasus group called the Khazars, a Turkic people who came out of Central Asia and conquered many peoples in the regions of what are now Georgia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Russia up as far as Volgograd, forming a Khaganate in the 7th-9th C AD.  They converted to Judaism, or at least the ruling elite did.
With the fundamentalists of this sort that I have known or have read, the conversation can quickly go to assertions that the Jews of Israel (and New York) are therefore not the ”real” Jews, not the Chosen People, and we are therefore free to believe that they are deeply involved in the conspiracies of world domination and no friend to Christians. Old-line Christian fundamentalism did not have the pro-Israel stance that Evangelicals have today, but had deep suspicion or even hatred of Jews. This was strong among southern Baptists, and can be seen in the early comments from Jimmy Carter, talking about how Israel only prospers when it has turned itself over to God and should not be attempting to defend itself outside that context. (As a side note, I think that anti-Semitism is different in different parts of the country.  I should probably think about that and write it up.)

I am only giving an overview here, because I am no expert.  I am only able to give you such information as will reassure you that this is nonsense.  If you get into a protracted discussion with such people, you will need to be better armed with more detailed information.  I can put you in touch with that information quickly, BTW. With graphs and pictures!

It is fair to note that while most people who believe that those Jewish converts are the actual ancestors of modern Western Jews are anti-Semites and cranks, not all of them are.  The idea has a long, complicated history that has been embraced by some Jews and those sympathetic to their protection, and a few of the strongest voices in favor of the idea are legitimate scientists.  Now that the discussion has moved to genetic/genomic evidence rather than the hodge-podge of historical, linguistic, and speculative sources that kept the idea alive for centuries, however, the main researcher with any credentials and credibility who believes in the Khazar Hypothesis is Dr. Eran Elhaik of Johns Hopkins and those associated with him. Even he has modified his view to a more Turkic-Anatolian Hypothesis, though still related to the Khazars. In history, the Khazar Hypothesis has attracted some interesting thinkers.  But today, it is Elhaik and the linguist Wexler* versus everyone else in science.
The prevailing theory is the Rhineland Hypothesis, that Jewish traders in the Western Mediterranean intermarried with Southern European women, perhaps as specifically as Lombards in Northern Italy, and moved to the Rhineland in the 9-10th C to expand trading there.  There may have been some who came even earlier.  An initial population of about 500 eventually expanded to the millions in Eastern and Central Europe in the 20th C, concentrating at first in Lithuania and Poland. They did not tend to intermarry with any of the local populations; those who did left Judaism and joined the surrounding culture.  The Jews who later came to Western Europe and the Americas were drawn almost entirely from this group.

We now have the numbers, and subject to some variation, modern Ashkenazi are about 55% Middle Eastern, 35% Southern European, 10% Northern European, especially Slavic.  That is just about exactly what we would expect to support the Rhineland Hypothesis.  It gets more interesting.  The Y-chromosome haplotype groups are strongly Middle Eastern, while the female uniparental lines have strong elements of Southern European mtDNA.  Those also have lines common to Middle Eastern and Slavic lines.  This is not a picture of some Jewish guys who set out from the Levant, pick up some wives in Lombardy and head across the Alps.  Jewish traders had been in the Western Mediterranean for centuries, and might not have thought of themselves as “belonging to” a physical Israel that no longer existed.  But their DNA would still have been from Palestine.

It gets stranger still.  The priestly line of Cohens (Kahn, Cohn, Cohane) is inherited father to son, as is the Levitical line. (Levy, Levine). These lines are preserved not only through the last thousand years, but 2-3 times that long, as the priestly classes in Jews in Persia, Yemen, and Southern Africa have a strong concentration of the same Y-chromosomes - an R1a1 variant for the Levites, and a J1 variant that is even called the Cohen Modal Haplotype. Among the people who call themselves Cohens or Levites today, 50-70% have those lines.  Very few paternal irregularities there, even over thousands of years.  Pretty impressive. They did protect the role tightly. The R1a1 is relatively common over a wide area, but the J1-538 is not.  No Khazars.

There are other lines common among the Ashkenazi, such as E1b1b1, which are spread among many peoples. You might find some Khazars there, but there’s no specific indication of it. When they founded their kingdom in the North Caucasus they ruled over, and probably absorbed, Georgians, Armenians, Circassians, and other groups. Not all R1a1 lines are Levites, either, not by a long shot, and those lines today could come from any of a number of places in the region. Also, the Khazars must have gone somewhere, so why not Eastern Europe and Russia?  It’s an easier trip in many ways.  That has always been plausible, even though there is no record of it.  But now we have the data, and they do not seem to have done this.

Genetics and genomics are better for disproving hypotheses than for proving them.

Remembering our history that the Sephardic Jews came from those who were expelled from Spain and Portugal 500 years later, who mostly went to Morocco and the rest of Northern Africa, we would expect them to be genetically similar to Jews from the Western Mediterranean who married local women. In fact, they are. The Ashkenazi and Sephardi are more strongly related to the Druze and Palestinian lineages of today, less strongly to Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, and not at all to Central Asia. No one has ever suggested the Sephardis are connected to the Khazars. 
A note on Eran Elhaik’s choices in his research, which most others think is where he started to go wrong.  We can test the DNA of modern groups, but not historical ones.  Jews were settled all over the Roman Empire (and more), and those numbers increased after the fall of the Second Temple, but we don’t have their DNA. Nor do we know what the DNA of the Khazars was.  In both cases we have to use proxies, of populations now living who show some continuity back to those areas.  In the case of the Khazars, Dr Elhaik chose Armenians and Azerbaijanis as his proxies, largely because they are from that area.  As he also included the Jews from those areas as part of his typicals, that would artificially tilt the sample toward the Palestinian Jewish lines, but calling them Khazars to buttress the similarity with modern Ashkenazis. Yet we have already seen that even though the Khaganate was in the North Caucasus, the Khazars themselves were from Central Asia. Not a good match.  To try and match for Palestinian Jews of 2000 years ago he chose Bedouins and Hashemites, which are not terrible choices, but leave out others such as the Druze. 

*Wexler believes that Yiddish has a foundation that is closer to some Caucasian languages than to Germanic ones, though the German later became dominant.  He bases this on some verb structures.  It is beyond my knowledge, but I read that those differences also exist in Slavic, which is already known to have influenced Yiddish.  So Wexler's idea remains possible - it is not disproven - but it is also not compelling.