Thursday, August 31, 2017


I have been busy with many things, including worrying about Ben, who lives north of Houston.  He was trapped in the house, but took no damage.  Today, however, he is out filming relief efforts, including a heartbreaking story of a woman who had four family members drown while she was out in the flood trying to help others. She will be asking for help, and his church is taking that on, apparently.  His film is part of trying to make that happen.  I think it may be mostly for his own congregation, though it may get wider play because of the need.

I actually worked all five days last week - unusual for me now - and have a lot to do around the house as well.  Preparing for two football drafts have taken up time and energy as well, especially as the league rules are sharply different. The post prior to this was sitting in draft for two days - one sentence written - after being planned a week ago.  I have another post, a book review, churning in my head, but I can't write it until well after it arrives as a birthday present. And there is another person in between my finishing the book and my mailing it off.  It goes that way with the Wymans.  If you receive a book for Christmas, it is likely that at least the giver, as well as 1-2 others, have read it before it got wrapped.

I have stopped following the news, and as CS Lewis noted, you don't miss anything, because so many people will make sure you hear it anyway.

Experts and Evidence

Experts exist, and some of them are even right. But you can't count on that.  I came upon the historian David L. Hoggan (1923-1988) at the end of a Wikipedia meander. It's nice to have that freedom, to follow rabbit-trails at will, with no need to return to the start.

Hoggan ended up among the Holocaust deniers, and additionally taught that Germany had been pushed into both World Wars by British plots.  Hitler was a man of peace, you see, and invaded Poland because they were just about to invade Germany, egged on by Great Britain's Lord Halifax. It is not only in Germany that this theory holds. South Asians, especially in India, saw Britain and France has having desires for greater expansion, while Hitler had none. China was focused primarily on Japan, and was likely to look kindly on any opponent of Russia's as well.

Still, the theory is ultimately nuts, as even an amateur like me can see. Yet were I to have attempted to argue with Hoggan, I would have been instantly out of my depth. He would make reference to original sources I would be unaware of, he would have read a thousand things I had not, including many which he disagreed with.  His training was excellent:  Reed College and Harvard PhD 1948. Though his dissertation was on Germany and the entry into the wars, it was not an alarming document and his advisors stated years later, after he became controversial, that it bore little resemblance to his later views.  Hoggan taught at prestigious places, including Berkeley and MIT.

He was an expert, and would win any argument against 99% of the people in the country. Yet he was wrong. A hundred years ago, no one but Alfred Wegener believed in tectonic plates, and a large portion of the experts did not fully accept it for nearly forty years. And don't even get me started on psychology.

I don't say this to disparage experts in general.  It is other experts, after all, who have refuted Hoggan and vindicated Wegener. I merely note that a great deal of knowledge on a topic is no guarantee of accuracy.  Other factors come into play and even great minds can be o'erthrown.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Simmer Down Now

A young friend at work told me there was this great SNL routine about a woman in charge of an emergency room, who keeps telling people with serious injuries to "simmer down now."  She repeats this whenever they try to get attention. I get the idea how this could be funny, making fun of how irritating and perhaps stupid she is.

She sent me the video link. Perhaps the writers are basing this on an actual emergency room person they have encountered (in New York? Well, maybe). Scene up: Beehive hairdo. Woman speaks. Strong Southern accent.

And I thought This just never ends, does it?  Everything is culture war, to let you know who you are supposed to dislike.

Trump and Harvey

Ann Althouse is predicting that the news will quickly gravitate to hoping that dealing with it makes Trump look bad (as with Bush and Katrina) than worrying about the actual people affected.

Son #2 tells us the wind has started up and is now a Category 4 hurricane.  20 inches of rain are expected.  His development used to be a lake, which I had known but forgotten.  Also be aware that Texan 99 is right about at landfall.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Guns, Germs, and Steel

For those of you who have been influenced, whether opponents or fans, be aware that Greg Cochran is dicing it up at West Hunter (sidebar).  He is, at least, thoroughly destroying a particular claim of Jared Diamond's in that book.

What Terrorists Want

WRT the stabbings in Turku, Finland. Interior Minister Paula Risikko said on Twitter on 19 August: "Terrorists want to pit people against each other. We will not let this happen. Finnish society will not be defeated by fear or hatred."  Terrorists want to pit people against each other? Really? All the evidence suggests that terrorists just want to get their way. And lest anyone think I just mean Muslims, no, that would be what we are currently naming "domestic terrorists" as well. They don’t want the chaos of groups opposing each other, except as a tactic to get what they really want, which is victory

When I read government officials making statements like this, I wonder if they really believe this nonsense, or if these are calculated statements in the hopes of reducing conflict.  Did someone really convince George Bush that Islam means “peace,” or did he and his advisors decide that they could stretch the truth that far in the interests of cooling tempers? There is a Scandinavian sentiment that does really believe that "we got here by sticking together, so not sticking together is always the great danger for us." That reflexive attitude may be in play here.  One can see how that attitude could turn into fascism in the wrong hands, yet it is also quite leftist, quite communist/socialist.*

The Scandinavians are caught between the us-ness of blood and soil, opposed to the us-ness of "we're all in this together" once you have moved here and are called Danes or Finns. They are trying to come down on the side of welcome and absorption.  The problem is, the arrivees don't want to assimilate, be absorbed, and just contribute a few dishes to the national cuisine.  They want to first be able to do things their own way now, and later, for everyone else to do things their way too.  In the meantime, they want stuff.

Pretty clearly, they have no interest in pitting people against each other.  Scandinavians, and many Europeans, and even many Americans seem to want to defeat an ideology that does not actually exist.

*WRT that Liberal Fascism idea of Jonah Goldberg's, it is relatively difficult for Europeans to see, because since the 1930's they have seen the fascists and communists as warring with each other, openly or quietly, so the disconnect is too large, regardless of the ideologies behind them.  In North America, it is similarly difficult to see, mainly because the symbols and culture of the right and left have become separated around that issue of universalism versus nationalism.  But if you are a North American looking at Europe in the 20th C, it is actually quite easy to see how fascism, socialism, and communism are very much the same thing. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Take A Chance

It's overdone.  Oh, I'm sorry, is that a problem for you?  Too bad.

Maybe I'll repost some Luv' next.  That'll fix ya.

Friday, August 18, 2017


Though people got the general idea very well, I'm not sure they picked up that the "mittens" post was about gun control.

Have You Forgotten?

An email correspondent - and a bright up-to-the-minute one - mentioned in response to a comment of mine that he "had forgotten about Scalise." (Which bothered him. Don't misread that.)

I'm sure he's not the only one.  This is where the enormous, ocean-liner inertia of the MSM media bias is at its best. They can undermention something when it is fresh, leave out important details, interpret it in a non-threatening way, and seldom mention it again. The alternative press may put out great energy to keep a story alive, but they can only keep a limited number of plates spinning. Most of the time, liberals don't even have to roll their eyes and say "move on." The event has gone down the memory hole. The Washington Post and NYT reported briefly in April 2017 on NSA surveillance of private citizens, without fanfare and without mentioning that this had occurred on Obama's watch. The ACLU called it "unprecedented and unlawful." They seem to have stopped mentioning that, BTW. One article since then. Oh, take a guess what they have been writing about since April 28. The NYT did run an article 2 weeks later indicating that under Trump, this had been halted. Good for them. Nothing since.  What is a much easier story to find is that Fox News, acting on an article in Circa, reported that major media was boycotting the issue in order to protect Obama. Whoa, baby, did Fox ever have to retract and apologise for that, eh?

Have you heard anything about this since? So the Fox story, following the Circa story, was not fully accurate, but turned out to be spot on.

Perhaps I should devote a serious amount of blog space to this, because I am rather cut out for it.  I remember things by association, especially if they contain annoyance. I see articles all the time that may me think "wait, when the shoe was on the other foot..." It is a cousin to James's idea about a news organisation which dedicated itself to the rest of the story, days or weeks later after the dust has settled and more information has trickled in.

Consider the case of Sir Timothy Hunt, an eminent (friggin' Nobel Prize!) British scientist who was accused of sexist remarks at a science conference in Korea. To put the Wikipedia article in perspective, you need to know that his accuser, Connie St Louis, seems to be nearly 100% fraud.  They don't mention this - one of the small ways that Wikipedia puts its thumb on the scale over and over.  She is described as an award-winning science journalist. Not only do I not see the awards, I don't see the science journalism.  Here is her website - not very up-to-date, I guess; here is her twitter account, which seems to consist of occasional tweets of black grievance. Not much science before, or after the controversy. She doesn't seem to do much of anything. She is an instructor of some sort at City College in London, for which she presumably receives some money.  She received a fellowship of £50,000 ($65,000) to write a book, which she never wrote.

Hunt claimed his remarks were taken out of context, and subsequent investigation revealed this to be entirely so.  People who criticised him had not heard his entire speech - they had in fact were not aware of more than 37 words of his speech. This includes female colleagues who went out of their way to say that they liked him and owed a great deal to him.  They still threw him under the bus. Those who had heard the speech or read the whole of it later waved off the remarks as misunderstood.

His career was destroyed. He retreated into hiding and despair.  It looks like she's still working and no one is challenging her anymore. Down the memory hole.

You do remember where the memory hole image comes from?


I have wondered about how much of the commentary from the responsible right about neo-nazis was boilerplate, a stating of the obvious in a rather weary manner of "Do I really even have to say this?  Oh well then, if I'm to be routinely accused of being a secret supporter if I don't mention my abhorrence every time I put pen to paper, then here it goes again: their ideology is vile."

But I have detected in the Althouses and Powerlines and PJ Media and NRO's, and perhaps even more strongly in some of the wilder sites, an undertone of "This time we can really do it!  We can discredit this movement forever now that it has dared raise its head! One last push against all this nonsense and it will topple!"

Am I catching this undertone of right writers correctly? 

It doesn't work that way. Trump rose to power with very few wholehearted supporters, but a whole lot of people who thought his opposition (specific and general) must be stopped, who became even more certain they would vote for him every time he was attacked unfairly. Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and their related groups have grown out of the previously moribund romanticism of the old revolutionaries of Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, and farther back to the noble old lefties who were (wink, wink) really commies in the 30's-50's. They draw power from the growth of the nazis, which is why they seek them out.  They need to show that the alt-right is very big and very dangerous, which is what makes them necessary.  Admittedly, stunts like Obama having his picture taken in front of a Che memorial in Havana haven't helped that.*

Wait.  Have those groups grown up in that soil, or nursery? I just realised that is an assumption of mine for which I have only a narrative, not data.  Maybe they have sprung from somewhere and something else.

*Forgotten that one, hadn't you? How is that not much worse, much more inflammatory than anything Trump is doing?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Cortisol And Punishment

Every time I read Dalrymple, I kick myself for not remembering to read him more. 


I had occasion to use an old line of mine in an email today: "Statistics don't lie after you force them up against the wall and make them tell you who their friends are."

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

SJW's and Some Math

The math giveaway: if A is really likely to be true (say, 90%) and B is very likely to follow from that (say, 80% likely), we feel very confident that B is true.  Thus, when we learn that C is a very probable outcome of B (say, 70% likely to follow), we feel pretty secure in stating that C is very likely to be true.  Wrong.  It's only 50-50 at that point.

bsking's younger brother, Tim ("okay, I'm not that liberal") King brought an interesting observation to beer night tonight: liberals and conservatives mean different things when using the same terms.  Yes, that may not seem surprising, but bear with me. Or with him.  Conservatives tend to use political terms in a more narrow, specific way; liberals understand a term to include its downstream and related effects. Example: Conservatives understand racist to mean a somewhat measurable refusal to grant a person of another race their obvious rights and due.  That is, to deny a person a job, or apartment, or award, or opportunity based on their race.  This is also why conservatives believe that reverse racism can and does exist. Conservatives hear the word "racist"and hear only a single note.

Liberals hear the term racist to include the way we designed our schools, and elections, and rules of commerce, and cultural norms, and a hundred other structures a century ago and more.  Not all liberals go very far down those roads - in fact, the JFK's and Hubert Humphreys and Jimmy Carters and even Bill Clintons didn't go very far down those roads at all.  But they went farther than conservatives did then.  About as far as conservatives go now, in fact.  Ignore for the moment that Carter and Clinton, being deep partisans, have gone further down those roads since first being elected president.  Conservatives like to notice, and even sneer, that Kennedy would be closer to the conservative platforms now. The flip side of that is that Kennedy or Johnson or Humphrey would be candidates conservatives would vote for now. (But not McGovern.  Let's not get crazy here.)

Those liberals, when a note like "racist" was played, would hear a harmony note, or even a chord. There was considerable acknowledgement among them that merely looking at what had happened to Kaitlyn versus Keisha was inadequate. Notes have harmonics; notes strongly played fit into only a few chords, so those chords are likely; chords occur in sequences, so the elements of some song are bubbling up. The story of why Kaitlyn got the job but Keisha didn't was not written just this afternoon.  That story started before they were born, and the first sentences need adjusting even now.

The people we call Social Justice Warriors go very, very far down those roads. They hear an entire song, and some hear a symphony. I was going to post a few weeks ago on the expansion of the phrase "white supremacist," but I figured that was rather a niche item and a passing fashion.  Tim specifically brought that phrase up tonight as one that is being greatly expanded by liberals but remains very narrow and specific to conservatives.  So much for my ability to read the culture and predict its fashions.

Let me state at the outset that I have a lot of sympathy for the early stages of this argument.  When I hear a note, the accompanying thirds are not far out of my hearing, even though no one suggests them to me.  Yet no song occurs to me from a single note, and certainly not any symphony.

I think it is ridiculous when conservatives try to maintain that nothing flows from individual racism.  I get it that they are using this as a tactic, trying to get liberals to prove  each step along the way, because accusation is easy but proof is hard. Yet still, I think the racism of my ancestors (I'm thinking of my grandmother here) likely did have an effect on how our systems were designed, and those favor folks like me. Probably true.

Yet not definitely true. There's some doubt here. Some cultural choices might be obviously Swedish or Scots-Irish, yet not actually favor those groups more than a percent or so. They might actually very fair and neutral standards.  That is one of the claims of the defenders of Western Civilisation, actually, that we chose those standards but they are actually pretty neutral and fair.  If your group thinks they aren't maybe you're just projecting what you'd do in our shoes.  One of our cultural things is bend-over-backward neutrality, in fact. We don't fully succeed at it, but we come darn close.

But let's grant that downstream effect arguendo. What next?

Well, we think that C pretty obviously follows from B.  And D is pretty darn likely once we get to C. 

And let me guess:  L is really, really likely to be true if K is true.

Well, yeah.

This is why I think the earlier liberals - the Humphreys and O'Neil's and early Bill Clinton - were sometimes wrong but not always crazy. The chords were actually possible, though not definite, from the notes given. I do think that conservatives, and especially libertarians are wrong when they calim that nothing flows from any note but the note itself.  But not everything that has a C# in it is Mahler's Symphony in C# Minor. It might not even be "Mary Had A Little Lamb."  It might just be an F# chord.  It might just be that one note.  I can go down that road a little, but not much. 70% times 70% is less than 50%.

I really think this is a problem of the Arts and Humanities, especially Journalism, stereotype.  They don't do math.  They only dimly understand such things.  They are comfortable moving from island B to C and D and on to H and I, each looking likely, not seeing that they are now hopelessly off course.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Story

The stories I tell myself change over time.  My Christian conversion story (the word "journey" has become a cliche) has been a bit different depending on what year I told it.  It's not wildly different, but my understanding of myself and what has happened to me over the years has changed.  So too with my narrative of how I left liberalism. In this year, in fact, I read some old material of my own and saw that I had not gradually dropped liberalism from 1967-1991, but had become apolitical for much of that time, making most of those changes fairly rapidly in a few years when I signed on again.

I have regarded this story as one of the pivotal ones, and I still think that today. But I no longer describe what was going through my mind over those years, because the effect may have more sudden, due to an accumulation of incidents, rather than a gradual awakening.

I have worked at the state involuntary psychiatric hospital since the Carter administration.  Every such hospital in the country must have its collection of people who have threatened to kill a political figure, especially the president.  NH may get a greater concentration of these because of the presidential primary.  We do get people coming from other places about this.

I don't recall having any patient who had threatened to kill Jimmy Carter, but I did have one early on who had been fired from the Bobby Kennedy campaign and vowed to kill Ted Kennedy. There were a lot of worried tones nationally about all the nutcases who wanted to make a name for themselves by killing the last Kennedy brother, but because of this patient I heard it a lot from our staff. They took him very seriously, and he was under our care for years. When John Hinkley almost killed Reagan I heard psychiatrists laugh cynically that it would have been a good idea, and both psychologists and administrators say it very seriously and angrily. I heard that repeated for years, actually, that we would have been better off if Hinckley had succeeded. Why do they think he is crazy just because he wants to kill Reagan?

Well, you know.  Dark humor.  Cynicism. Plus, as a liberal myself (non-practicing) I just thought of it as a hyperbolic response to the very real possibility that Reagan might be really, really bad for the country and get us into many wars (while persecuting gays and blacks, too). Over-the-top, and a little worrisome, but not to be credited, because these were not violent people speaking.  They didn't own guns, they didn't get drunk and get into fights, their threats were all subtle and non-physical. So, just popping off,  And again, dark humor.  Psych hospital staff are known for that. So I'm not even sure I was getting more uncomfortable as patients came and went who wanted to kill Reagan and no one seemed to much mind.  Including some high-up administrative staff.

The guy who wanted to kill Tsongas was politcially unclassifiable, as were both the man and the woman who had threatened to kill Bush 41. Though one of the latter was big into fuming about the Trilateral Commission, so probably conservative/libertarian something.  We had some special meetings about the Tsongas guy.  If people were worried about those threatening Bush they hid it pretty well.  But I confess I might be misjudging that one, as I had little to do with either of them.

I had two patients and heard of two others who had threatened to kill Clinton. It was all dark looks and hushed tones for that.  I was more politically alert again, so I was actively keeping track of whether there was any of our famous psych-hospital black humor going to happen.

None that I saw.  It's not really funny when someone wants to kill the president, you know.

It changed dramatically when Bush 43 came in.  I was really paying attention at this point, so the examples stick out strongly. One woman wanted to skin him alive.  The medical director laughed that he'd thought of doing that himself. I have to disguise the next one, but something like accidentally doing something that put Bush in danger.  I counted six professionals over the next two weeks who laughed and wished my patient had been serious, and succeeded. I knew of a few others, though not well. One had a whole list of political figures he wanted to kill, mainly focused on local ones.  Bush was probably just a throw-in.  I don't know whether anyone laughed or spouted angrily that they wished the others had pulled it off. I cannot say whether we had become more divided as a people by 2001 so violent rhetoric was increasing, or I was just more alert.

Again, these are people who put up their hands in horror at the thought of hunting. They aren't likely to go and commit violence themselves. Yet by now I was tying these comments in to other statements, excusing violence on the left - environmental vandalism (plus Ted Kaczynski), union violence, black protest violence, anti-globalist violence.  Well yeah, that's bad and people shouldn't do that, but they're legitimately upset and they don't believe the process is working for them.

We must have had people who threatened to kill Obama, just by law of averages, but I don't recall any.  Maybe just luck of the draw than none of them came to my caseload.  I did hear a couple of people assure me that there were lots of people out there who wanted to kill him.  That could be true.  The Secret Service and FBI would likely know the real numbers on that.

I know of two already who threatened to kill Trump, even though I'm only working part-time now. One no one is taking seriously.  Another, interesting, is taken quite seriously, perhaps because he is from a foreign country.

Oh. But. I have heard people laugh about both of them - that they understand that.

Small sample size, I know.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Summary Statements

I was thinking about relatives long-dead, and a strange loyalty in not doing things that would have upset them. As I was attempting to quickly explain this background to someone else, in order to make another point, I discovered that there are some people who can be summarised very easily, and others who can't. I wondered whether there was some trend to this:  male/female; good/evil; generational, cultural, or physical distance. There are tendencies, but none that created an either/or in and of themselves.

Whether we can easily summarise someone is going to be idiosyncratic.  You and I will look for different things. Also, single qualities may so overwhelm our judgment that other aspects may be obscured.

I don't think I'm going to be easy to sum up after I'm gone, nor will my wife. Though sometimes people can work a lot into a poetic statement.  My second son was asked in 6th grade to sum himself up in a sentence. "I'm a pessimist with bad eyesight." While there is much more to him than that, the very fact that he put things that way tells you a great deal about the type of boy he was. Maybe some clever descendant will hit upon some equally telling description for me.

However, even things we believe begin to capture our essence may vanish in smoke.  I have sometimes wondered - wincingly, as it bespeaks a lack of Christian virtue - whether the phrase "he didn't suffer fools gladly" would be a sort of epitaph.  Eddie Izzard showed pretty quickly that such a description doesn't narrow things down too much.

Teaching As A Trade

I wonder whether we all would have been better served if teaching the young - or anyone, actually - had been regarded as a trade rather than a profession? It would never have happened, so perhaps it's not that fruitful to think about, but I will have a bit of a go.

Teachers who were tradesmen or tradeswomen, who worked out of a trade union that was more like a guild than a pressure group would know more about the craft of teaching.  Those who were skilled at the craft would be viewed with respect.  As it stands now, the people in education who get the respect are precisely those who have driven the field into being regarded as a profession.  Too often, those are people of theory or administration who no longer have any craft duties to judge them on. No one actually knows whether they can wire a house or decide which type of joint is best for a drawer anymore - if they ever could.

People who go into teaching are usually those who were good at books, and so respected others who were good at books, and things that they knew.  Going into college they just naturally fell into the idea that these college instructors were the people who really knew something.  But the college instructors were often mostly good at writing long essays that pleased others of their kind.  As it goes up, it narrows into an entirely academic discipline.

Yet if there is any craft to be learned about cramming knowledge into young brains, it is much more likely to be found at the front-line level. Something similar happens in the clergy, where the care of souls is not likely to be improved by studying the influence of Czech esotericists on early Calvinism. The prestige in the profession is just about exactly where we don't want it to be.

Ah well.  It was never going to happen, so it may be best to consider in a sci-fi way what will occur in other worlds when we colonise them instead.


Note:  At least four interesting things, none quite what is usual in the popular media, have come in by email or FB about Charlottesville.  I will be turning these around a bit in my mind before posting. If at all.

I recommend, for your edification, The Ben Franklin Effect. I first ran across it in Tavris and Aronson's book Mistakes Were Made, though it did seem dimly familiar, and I may have run across it before.  In my cynical way, I have usually thought of it in the negative: the more you give someone, the less grateful they are.  This includes things they don't officially know you have given, but could easily deduce if they dared think about it. Not referring to painful or embarrassing events from the past, for example, is certainly a gift. Yet when we give that gift we find that it is not appreciated as it should be.  Hmm.

This comes up in a humorous way because I am reading PG Wodehouse,* where barons and financiers and vicars all have some past embarrassment they wish to keep secret, and are willing to give large sums of money to keep everything hush-hush.  They are always fawningly grateful to the young man or woman who they believe knows the story but whose lips are sealed. Because it is fiction, that's the way it works.  In reality, the favor is either forgotten or eventually resented.  Odd, that.

Parents know this, but also know it is the way of the world.  What we give to children occurs largely before they are able to process and categorise, or perhaps even understand it.  What we give them later, when they have minds of their own, is more ambiguous anyway. Spouses come to know it as well, for even in happy marriages we are likely to be grateful for easy and even untrue things, while quickly forgetting the great sacrifices the other has made for us.

I tread carefully here, because some of my children, plus others who know them, read this blog.  But I notice this among them as well.  The sons who have received favors from their brothers are the least grateful about it. They are more than a bit oblivious about how much others put up with. There's something like an emotional Dunning-Kruger Effect.

I wonder if it is true that ungrateful people receive more favors. That would be a kick in the teeth, wouldn't it? Those who love them keep giving, thinking, like Bullwinkle trying to pull another rabbit out of a hat "This time for sure!"

But it doesn't happen.  The recipients go on, being insulting and irritable, certain in their righteousness.

One step deeper, and we get into sermon territory here.  If this is true, then it is true of us before God as well. We are not even aware of what we should be ashamed of and confessing.  It is in fact one of the quick tricks of pastoral counseling that if a person is obsessed about Sin A and is unable to get off confessing it and worrying about it, it's because there is another sin beneath the surface that they wish to avoid thinking about.  It's easier to remain focused on Sin A and gin up great sorrow for it.

*It's pronounced "Woodhouse," BTW.  I got that wrong for decades.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Selection Bias

Psychiatrist Scott Alexander over at Slate Star Codex, in plugging Frederick DeBoer's essay on the subject, makes the following important observation:
If an educational program shows amazing results, and there’s any possible way it’s selection bias – then it’s selection bias.
I recommend both articles. 

Google Fires Kaepernick

Google and the NFL are both big private companies that are trying to establish a brand and make a buck.  They are not federal agencies or public utilities, though we treat them as some sort of common property. They fire people who are bad for business, even if they're right. They can do that. There are limitations on why they can fire people, but "doing distracting stuff that makes us look bad" is actually a fairly well-established reason, so long as you can show it's not just an excuse.

There are differences.  Kaepernick repeated his action even when told it was bad for business; the politics are reversed; Kaepernick had a contract, which means both sides had given up some freedom to operate in exchange for some guarantees; the Google memo is not a whistle-blower case, but it has some elements of that, and some lawyer may try to pry that open; Kaepernick was complaining about something outside his industry.

Yet there is a core similarity.  Don't be bad for business, or you will be on the defensive.

Saturday, August 05, 2017


People who live in cold places are more likely to wear mittens.  This does not mean that mittens cause winter.

Friday, August 04, 2017


Lots of folks who voted for Trump weren't looking for him to build things so much as tear them down.  They believe the times call for a Samson.

Interestingly, I hear liberals where I work express similar sentiments because of Trump. This comes in especially with believing that the ordinary rules of journalism, checks and balances, and government employees staying within traditional ethical bounds must now be relaxed - or even ignored.  A couple of more radical ones mutter that they fear a revolution is coming, because "people won't stand for it."  I sometimes ask with a wry smile what "it" is. I know the answer beneath the answer, I think.  In both cases it is the idea that "my tribe does not have the power it deserves."

In an email discussion someone we know has seen something similar about both Trumpsters and anti-Trumpsters.  Not all of them, nor I think a majority of either.  Yet more than I recall hearing in previous years. 

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Ask A Manager

This is a good site, and we discussed this particular letter last night at beer night. It is from a manager so mistaken, so non-insightful, that the hostess at first suspected it was a hoax.  As did I.
My team found her quietness and her ability to develop sales presentations and connect with each client was very show-off-like. When she asked for help, we didn’t take it seriously because we thought she acted like she knew everything and she was making us look bad by always going above and beyond for no reason. My team and I had worked together for 5-6 years so I knew them, their work and their personalities better than anyone else so I took what they said with more seriousness. I also thought that her years of experience were irrelevant; she didn’t have anything beyond a bachelor’s degree (most of us were smart and dedicated enough to get a masters) and her experience was in a different subset of insurance.
His defense of the actions that led to her quitting, and trashing him and his team of pals in her exit interview, goes on in similar fashion for a long while, including a Q&A with the site hostess trying to clarify that she really is hearing what she is hearing.


Wednesday, August 02, 2017


Reprinted from April 2012

My friend Milan at work, a Serb, was correcting one of the other people in his lunch group. I believe it was Jelena, an Albanian, but it was one of the many folks from the Balkans we have working in environmental services at the hospital. She had talked a bit wistfully about how her village was close when she was young, and there were always people to go talk to and be with, but now she does not have friends close, and her family farther away than she would like. Milan's brow darkened.
We are close together because was for safety. You go out of village alone, maybe someone kill you, rape you. We are together, always together like animals to hunt. You come here you see this one French,* that one from somewhere Africa, friend for you but not close. But not kill you.

An important point, that. But memory does soften the edges of even terrible events. And even more in Jelena's defense, friendship and support soften the edge of terrible events too. She would likely choose again to come here. But the loss is real.

*Milan lives in Suncook, I think, so French-Canadian is likely