Thursday, November 29, 2018

Imagine There's No...

Until I read PJ Media's worst Christmas songs, I never noticed that John Lennon's Happy Xmas (War Is Over) is to the tune of "Stewball."  Well, PPM's tune, anyway. There are others.

I don't know if that makes it better or worse.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Least Racist Nation

As with many topics, I don't go looking to beat the drum how many people are wrong, but I do rather lie in wait around the accusation that America is a particularly racist, or even most-racist nation in the world. They are stunned, angered, shocked to have the idea even challenged.  Their claim is ludicrous, among the least-reflective things a person might say, yet I do have clear understanding how people might get to that idea.  The key is in that word reflective. If one simply follows the prevailing news and conversation, I don't see how one could come to any other conclusion. America leads the world in news stories about racism. We are probably well up there in incidents of racism as well, partly because there are 330M of us. The Chinese may rack up bigger numbers, which we seldom hear about, of racist incidents against the Uighurs, but in most of their territory there aren't any incidents of clear racism at all. Because there's only one race there.  Stay tuned.

But why so many stories of racism? Real stories, not made up.

It is a relatively simple exercise to stand back and say "compared to whom?" but it is difficult because it is not natural to most of us. Just because something is simple does not mean it is easy. Prayer for one's personal enemies, for example. Dieting and exercising would be another. Once one can get to the second half of that sentence and say "America is a racist country...compared to whom?" the ground suddenly changes.  In one simple sense, America is a racist country.  We have racist comments, racist incidents, and racist attitudes all over the place, all the time. Yet there is a simple reason for that, and it's not just because we have horrible white people here.

If we are going to measure countries in terms of how racist they are, I propose we start by asking "Do they actually have different races there?" Okay, that just changed the whole discussion completely, didn't it? Before looking at my examples, consider your own.  Take your time.

Consider less-racist country X.  What is in their population?  Are they homogeneous?  If they have different groups, do their Walloons or Frisians, those radically-different races, believe everything is nice and equal?

Finland. They keep everyone out except Swedes. Even those they have friction with.  They don't have any of the same riots and troubles, and right-wing racist incidents that the rest of Europe has - because they haven't accepted immigrants in. (Update:  Comments say they have accepted a bunch of Somalis. I looked this up and it is still not a huge group by American standards.  And, as the commenter notes, they don't seem to be acting like Finns. Not so far, anyway.) So, no problems.  OK, fine. (Look, I like the Finns very much.  But I like not pretending even more.)

Let's look at Japan and ask "Why are there only Japanese people here?" Even Koreans have been regarded as less-human, and don't even mention Filipinos. The Japanese kept everyone out. So internally, if you are just walking down the street in Osaka, the whole place doesn't look racist at all. What lovely, unprejudiced people! Or China.  Ask them what the word gweilo means and see if you can get anyone to expound at length on the topic. Don't bother to even ask about the Uighurs, BTW. The Chinese people know nothing about this. How do the Chinese regard other races?

Or hey, Latin America. They have more of blended populations, without sharp lines between the native, slave, and colonising-descended populations, so it's all much more equal than here. Think of Pele! Except the lighter-skinned people pretty much rule the darker ones.  Here's the Supreme Court of Brazil:
And Mexico: just for comparison. (Link is to a page with separate photos of each.  I couldn't find a group shot.)

They look whiter than this photo of the Supreme Court of New Mexico, below, never mind the SCOTUS:

Europe? Without even looking at the intemperate statements some are making about the new immigrants...I don't even need to mention Jews, and a minor unpleasantness in the 1930's.  I will only say "Gypsies."  Tsigani, Cigan, Gitano, Zigeuner.  Class dismissed. Oh, and no comments over your shoulder about how racist America is on the way out, okay?

The Middle East, of course, has done a wonderful job with its guest workers in Saudi Arabia.  Or the treatment of Jews in general throughout. As with most places, they don't even like each other very much, never mind people of a different color from somewhere else.

The Canadians may do better.  Oh wait, the Norman French, The East Anglians, and the Scots still haven't fully worked things out yet.  Still, people seem to like Toronto.  Or maybe the Australians and New Zealanders.  Take up the discussion with the First Nations, Aborigines, and Maoris and get back to me. I will cede credit with their permission.

Nominate those non-racist nations we can learn so much from.

Anti-Semitism In Europe

CNN released a survey of antisemitism in Europe, which I have chosen to link in the context of this essay in Tablet (a Jewish publication, if you hadn't guessed from the title.) I am letting the article speak for itself, save for a few things: I have not dug into the survey enough to get a feel for how much of this antisemitism is from newer Muslim immigrants and how much descended from the longstanding suspicion and hatred of Jews more associated with right-wing parties. Related, I don't get a sense of how much of the antisemitism is passive, a sullen resentment, and how much is active, including a desire to hurt or remove Jews.

I was not surprised to see such high numbers for Sweden, as Malmo is now quite Muslim (over 50% of schoolchildren) and Stockholm is seeing the increase now. However, that will not be the whole picture as well, as it used to be said "scratch a Swede and find a fascist" long before they encouraged significant immigration. "Fascist" is too strong a word, but the reality is on that road.  Like many northern European nations, Swedes have prized all pulling together, being one people. This is not unrelated to their strong social safety net. However, this fondness for at least a mild "socialism for the nation" is not that far from "national socialism."  They are not the same, and I am not claiming it.  They are decent people trying to do well and be kind.  Yet the two are related - hence their WWII neutrality and complete penetration of intelligence services by Nazis and communists both.

Thinking of Malmo and Stockholm led me to the fourth observation.  Jews in Europe have long lived in the cities, and recent immigrants come to cities as well.  I wonder what the numbers are like in the countryside.  Perhaps it doesn't matter.


In the recent discussions in our little section of the blogosphere, driven largely by people we all know well, there has been interest in the word "Yankee." The quote from EB White ending with the idea that a Yankee is someone who has pie for breakfast includes the claim that New Englanders regard a "Yankee" as someone from Vermont.  Well of course EB White would say that.  He came from New York whose expatriates wen to Vermont and coastal Maine.  We in New Hampshire would never say such a thing, especially now as the once-proud Green Mountain State is bursting with damfool newyorkers. Not that we have much ground to complain anymore, being overrun with Massachusetts folk. (And even Massachusetts was a respectable place until about 100 years ago. Parts of it still are.)

But reflecting on the word and its usage as one remembers it is sometimes more useful than reading even very knowledgeable people.  I grew up in NH, and Yankee was more often an adjective than a noun.  Occasionally someone would referee to "an old Yankee," always meaning a rural or small-town person whose ancestors had come from nearby, and was likely taciturn/cheap/stubborn/worked with his hands.  But usually the word was a reference to those characteristics. Yankee thrift, yankee skepticism, etc. It came up when you had to do business with a marina or hotel owner, or local character out-of-town. That general store wasn't going to change its product line much.  It would still have those frightening hard-boiled eggs in a jar on the counter, and coffee that was like black ammonia after rendering down to goo all day.

I think we regarded it as core americanism, that even a lot of rural Southerners and westerners might approve of, except that the name would put them off. Hard-working, stingy, skeptical, hard to move.  We regarded ourselves as Yankees, but watered-down versions of the Ideal.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Restaurant Geography

Following Bethany's new link to The Pudding about repetitive songs, I clicked on a sidebar link about what types of restaurants are googled in every region. Fascinating stuff, fun to play with.  Most things are predictable - seafood restaurants along the coasts (though what is up with Wyoming?) - while some take a moment to figure out.  Coffee shops are bigger as you go west, especially on the coast, but there is also a North Coast prominence. And then there's Massachusetts and Rhode Island, denser in color than even the states around them. I'm betting Dunkins, though Mass also seems denser in Starbucks than NH when I'm there. I suppose once Dunkins has got you addicted you might go to any coffee place that shows in front of your eyes.

I looked at the map for Mexican and saw a surprising dark spot around St Johnsbury and chuckled to myself "Well, someone must have opened a Mexican restaurant since I was last there."  Checking my work, I found that no, there's none listed.  You have to go clear across the state to find a Mexican restaurant. Except... there is one just over the border in Littleton, NH, plus above and below in Lancaster and Lincoln. Martha, where's that Mexican restaurant over across the river again? I also think I know the popularity of BBQ in the southern part.  It's Curtis's in Putney.  He comes up from Mississippi every summer to do outdoor BBQ and people come a long way for it.  A little hard to find. With that little BBQ in the region and low population density, individual oddities can skew the data.

The popularity of pizza in Coos County NH?  There's almost nothing else.  And there is nothing else on the North Slope of Alaska. During the winter the delivery guy never shuts his car off, for fear it won't start well again. Also, seafood isn't listed for lots of Alaska because outside of Anchorage and maybe a few other places, people cook it themselves from what they or their friends have caught.

What is it with Virginia?  There's restauranting around DC, which is no surprise, and maybe a stripe from Williamsburg to Virginia Beach that likes Italian, but it seems the whole state doesn't go out to restaurants much at all.

Dancing Queen

Ach, those Lut'rans.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Home, Away From Home

There is a comfortable feeling one gets coming home, yet a different one coming to a familiar temporary home. A vacation home, campground, or resort have a special sweetness as one approaches through familiar territory one has not seen for months, crossing threshold after threshold of arrival until one is finally at The Place. There is sometimes still a lot of work to do, loading in and setting up, and one is impatient - the children especially are impatient - to have done with all that and finally be settled, able to refresh acquaintance with objects, people, and views. If boats are involved there is a whole second level of arrival.

My wife's family lived in Scituate, a South-Shore coastal town, so some of vacation was always in place.  They would travel by car to other places, sometimes to visit friends on Lake Sebago, but more often on sightseeing trips. My family went always to lakes, only rarely to NYC or Washington DC. My stepfather's family had gone to Lake George and to a family cottage in NW Connecticut, my mother's family was Rte 28 all the way, mostly Winnipesaukee.  I don't know how she won that one, but we rented cottages all around The Lake until finally buying one on Cow Island as the last child was finishing high school. After a near-fatal boating accident, they moved back onshore to Melvin Village, eventually retiring to Wolfeboro.

Cow Island was our last experience of that going-away-to-a-homecoming of cottage experience for a long time. It was family camping after that, with tents, then popups - first at the Lutheran camp.  That was my children's childhood and stamped in family culture.  Even now I will say "Camp Calumet" when I mean to say "Pilgrim Pines." Coming to a familiar campground has much the same feeling on arrival, but not quite. The people you will see are much more the point at a campground. At a cottage you see the people on either side and refresh relationships with storekeepers and marina owners, but not much more.  Resorts are somewhere in between, I imagine.

We had a brief return to a vacation cottage for about five years between church camps, and it is now tiny lakeside cottage for us at a camp where many others tent or have RV's. We get some of that feeling coming to the same cottage every year, but never with the intensity of having to boat out to Cow Island and that peculiar magic of unlocking a place.  If it is hard to get there, going slowly on dirt roads for the final miles, so much the better. Visiting any of these places in the offseason is jarring, even when feeding the nostalgia somewhat. That same-but-not experience deserves its own reflections, perhaps. 

Going home from such places can be a bit of a wrench, the children moping about friends they will not see and things they will not be able to do for another year. Yet home is still home, and a relief.  This is even more so when you have had to be away from home for reason of obligation or even unpleasantness - family gatherings or business travel.  It is all quite different whether the family is all returning home together or if some are already in place while some are returning to them. But in neither case is it magical, as the summer (or winter) place is.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Forgetting Tragedies

The New Neo posted on the Great Fires and the Forgetting. We do forget very quickly after most tragedies unless there is some political or cultural reason to hold on. Texas is still recovering from Hurricane whats-its-name, but even most of them have moved on except for the broken things right near them that need to be fixed.

The comment section made reference to Tom Lehrer implying that a disaster isn't remembered unless a song is written about it. Or a movie made or a book written, I suppose. I had never heard of the Edmund Fitzgerald until the song came out. Stories don't live on their own, someone must build them from the scraps lying around.

We are likely programmed to move on. Those who respond by taking in the full weight of a tragedy, the death and suffering, become unable to function. Those who can go on are those who can forget in the service of getting the tasks of survival done.  We had friends at Camp Calumet years ago, the husband and daughter killed in a motor vehicle accident in Maine. Speaking to the wife the next summer she said the only thing keeping her alive and functioning was having to get up to make breakfast for the son. After he left fro school every day she had at least started moving, started do, was able to push through the rest of the day.

Fantasy Football

I won both leagues last year but am last in one league (by far) and middle-of-the-pack in the other.  I am tempted every year to just drop the whole thing, for a variety of reasons.  Yet one league has been running since 1979, making it one of the oldest leagues in the country. It will hold its 40th anniversary draft, and first live one, next August in an Ohio state park resort near the Football Hall of Fame in Canton. I believe that when you get the opportunity to do something that few other people get to, you should take it, so I am in for at least one more year in that league. The other league is mostly family, with the few who aren't being almost family.  The banter has finally reached high quality this year, as we switched to text rather than email and commenting in the league bulletin boards online.

Have to go.  We are arguing about ridiculous ideas for next year's draft order just now.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Racial Slur

Am I getting this wrong, but when a news story mentions that someone used a "racial slur," is there more than one anymore?  Does anyone say "darkies" - or is there still some old Jewish guy speaking offhandedly about "schvartzes?" I did hear, once in the last decade, someone use the word "colored," and remember wondering how long it had been since I'd heard it.  There used to be many words, now there is one.

I'm not looking for a list of offensive terms, I'm just wondering if there is a meaning to that.  I have to think it's a positive, but I haven't made much study of taboo words, so perhaps one single term with intensity is a worse sign.

I have written about the word nigger a few times over the years.  I don't know that my observations have made people any wiser.

Flying Sheep

" not so much fly, as ploomet," is one of my all-time favorite lines.

Jury Duty

Texan99 commented below how difficult it is to get some potential jurors to understand that the trial is going to be about whether the accused actually committed the crime, not whether the act is a crime serious enough for punishment.  My wife recently finished jury duty, and noted that other jurors were distracted by how difficult it was going to be for the young woman who caused the accident to pay the damages. In my own experience over twenty years ago, I felt the jury had come to the correct conclusion but was uneasy about how they had arrived there.  The prosecution had to prove three things about him, and all had to be in place to convict.  I felt the first two were adequately proven but the third one was doubtful.  I also felt the man was guilty but the prosecution hadn't done its job proving it.  One bit of physical evidence hinged on whether he had given a false ID (an expired Maryland driver's license) to the officer who stopped him at a club. It had a different first name than his - he said it was his middle name.

So lets get to the bottom of that Mr. prosecutor.  Do the birthdates match up?  Is there a birth certificate to check this?  I was pretty certain he had borrowed an older brother's or cousin's ID in order to get into clubs.  But the prosecutor hadn't followed up on this.

My co-jurors believed the prosecutor had not proven any of the three pieces and that the policeman was just trying to hassle the boy, so all subsequent accusations should be disregarded. It was disquieting, but I felt the correct overall verdict had been reached.

My second case was going along uneventfully until the information came out - who from I don't recall - that the defendant had moved to a town in Florida several years before and had gotten in trouble for stealing a car.  The town and the incident rang in my head, and I realised he had been my patient at the hospital just after that time. Because he had been cleaned up for court and his name was unremarkable I hadn't recognised him.  I passed a note to the bailiff, everything came to a halt, the jury was taken to another room and I was separated from them. I told the judge my story and that I could no longer be objective, because I knew the man had lied frequently while with us.  The judge told me I had done the right thing and I was asked to exit out a back door.

Juries in the very old days in England were locals who knew the events and could present them to the king as he went on rounds passing judgement.  We have come far from that.  Is this really as good a system as we were raised to believe?

You can comment on the question or tell your jury stories.  Both are fine here.

Holding Parts of Ideas Separate

When I don't have enough downloaded podcasts and don't want to run down my device's battery I turn on the radio in the truck.  It doesn't work very well to begin with, which elevates my frustration level right out of the parking lot. But that's not why I turn it off within a minute nearly every time. It's the callers on sports radio - and the hosts aren't much better.  This is why I switched to podcasts in the first place, after my son convinced me that all the talent had gone there, leaving only the less-capable behind for the radio. (Yes I could listen to Howie Carr, who comes in clearly enough, but even when I agree with him he gets me boiling.)

Sometimes I will get lucky enough that the caller will be so spectacularly stupid that it's worth cringing through in order to keep the story, such as the guy who thought it would be helpful for the New England Patriots to improve their line play by having the offensive linemen play defense for one week, and vice versa. It would help the to understand what their opponents were trying to do, you see. Or the guy who reasoned that because baseball is a superstitious game, his ideas of superstitions to try would work, as if the sport were some separate world where the ordinary rules of cause and effect were suspended.  WP Kinsella (Field of Dreams, The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, and others) might agree, at least for artistic purposes, but I think we can safely put that aside.

Yesterday's caller suggested that the Celtics' problem was that they no longer had veteran players like Shane Larkin and Amir Johnson to show the younger players how to prepare and behave. This is an idea that actually does make sense for some teams and some circumstances, but is ridiculous in this case. First, they have Al Horford, who is perhaps the one player in the whole league you might pick for that task.  Second, Shane Larkin and Amir Johnson...oh, never mind.  It's not worth even looking for more reasons.

I wondered what it is that prevents people from looking at their own ideas objectively. It seems straightforward and automatic to me to be holding my idea separate in my head after I've developed it, interrogating it to see if it can defend itself.  Is there a counterexample that everyone who knows anything is going to immediately think of? If I am going to make a generalisation about presidents, does it emphatically not fit Obama? Either of the Bushes?  George Washington? Let's hold the idea aloft in the brain and plug various presidents into it. Is this a theory that used to be popular but got exploded twenty years ago after the Great Hamster Massacre of '98? How hard is this to do just a little?

It suddenly occurred to me that something similar happens when doing math in your head.  You calculate something and put it aside into some little compartment for immediate retrieval. Seventeen months. Hold that. Everyone has limits of how many things they can do that with, and how complicated each thing can be. Being able to do lots of it allows you to think about more complicated things.  It is an indicator of intelligence. Which reminded me that I learned years ago that some people cannot do this, not at all.  Interestingly, some of them are quite intelligent, they just don't think that way. Those people, though intelligent, also don't evaluate their own ideas very well.  They just have them.  They can follow a chain of what could happen, like a pachinko ball dropping to the bottom, but can't freeze it and back it up in their heads to imagine the pachinko ball dropping somewhere else.  They can do it if cued, mentally starting from the top again, but they can't do both things at once.  They are linear. Uncle Fred really liked The Nutcracker. We could get him tickets to the other ballet that's coming in February.  Uncle Fred only liked The Nutcracker because his daughter was in it. He liked the costumes, too.  Neither of those is true of "Swan Lake" in February. Oh, that's right.

I have heard it described as a RAM vs ROM phenomenon, but I don't think we talk like that anymore.

Called Into Being

In my Jesus People shared house days, I came home from work late one evening in 1976 to a morbidly obese baby-faced man of about 40 sitting at our kitchen table. Housemates and a few recognized frequent visitors were seated around him.  I seem to recall he had a bad hairpiece, but at this distance I may have confused him with someone else.  “Don’t worry about the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” he was saying. “That cult is dead in this town.” No one quite seemed to know what to say. “I claimed it,” he explained.  “I claimed it last week in prayer.” That seemed my cue to nod to the troops and head up to my room.

Nor was he the only one. “Positive Confession” was a phrase, declaring that you were not sick. That would make it so.  Saying that “I think I’m coming down with something” was chastised, because your very act of saying it was going to make it so. There were many flavors of this, from a relatively mild “Power of Positive Thinking” to full on “Name It and Claim It” theology. The Kenneth Hagin, RHEMA Bible Institute was particularly popular at the far edge of my crowd.

It was a derivative of New Thought, a 19th C mind-cure and mind-over-matter theology. It was related to Christian Science, Religious Science, Unity Church and had considerable penetration into not only fundamentalist but mainstream denominations. I knew lots of them, dropping their snuffly kids off at church nursery saying they weren’t sick: “Positive Confession!”

Ideas don’t descend automatically from one belief to the next. They are pushed about by the weather of the culture they are in.  One can sense some Bishop Berkeley, who believed material substance existed only as ideas in the mind in the history, yet not everyone influenced by Berkeley came to believe that whatever they uttered in a particular fashion was bound to happen.

Today we are awash in people insisting that things are so simply because they have said them.  An accusation of racism or sexism is sufficient evidence for conviction. Even more interesting is people declaring they are not male but female, solely on the basis of their internal impressions. My friend Dale Kuehne in his book Sex andthe iWorld  shows that the idea of defining oneself without reference to the larger community is new, and alarming. The story of the 69 y/o man who wants a court to declare him 49 because he thinks that would be better for him (Australian, I think) is humorous, but how is that different from declaring oneself to be a different gender? What arguments would one advance that do not apply to both? Is the experience of gender different for different people?  So too are age and time. Are there hard physical facts that ground one’s age to being born in a particular year?  How is that different from the grounding of birth genitalia?

We have attributed these modern redefinitions of self to narcissism or immersion in one’s own fleeting needs and impressions, but that might have only been possible atop a philosophical foundation of immaterialism, and ultimately of New Thought.  The ideas of Pirandello’s Right You Are (If You Think You are) and absurdist works like it (Stoppard’s “After Magritte” may be my favorite) have been in the air for a long time, even among the many who don’t know their origin. Can we declare things into being?

98% of 100,000,000

Or 90% of 25,000,000 - it's still a big number.

The number went up to 98%, the highest I have ever heard, of the percentage of the New World population killed by European diseases. That seems impossibly high, even to me, who has claimed a number of over 90% for over a decade myself. The estimates of original population have been rising over the years as well, up as high as 100,000,000 between North and South America together. Thirty million used to be scoffed at, but is now becoming a common estimate. The two estimated increases go together. Most of the people making estimates until recently have been Americans and Canadians, and the population density of the previous natives was low. It was indeed lower than in Mexico and points south, with perhaps only 5M over the whole expanse.  But it had also be greatly reduced by disease prior to the arrival of the Puritans, due to diseases picked up from traders, combined with opportunistic attacks on weakened tribes by other tribes.

The diseases went on before, wiping out natives before Europeans had come within a hundred miles of them in person.

It didn’t all stem from Columbus’s discovery. The English would have found land off the Grand Banks soon enough, and the Portuguese discovery of Brazil was also a foregone conclusion given their experimental forays off the coast of Africa. Whether it happened in 1000, 1500, or 1700 AD, there was going to be contact between peoples, one of which had far less resistance to the other’s diseases than the other.  Something similar happened in reverse in Africa, where it was the Europeans who died off of the local diseases, and we unable to penetrate for generations. The native susceptibility to alcohol also has inevitability written all over it.  That population was last sundered from Asia thousands of years before fermentation was discovered (possible Ukraine, possibly eastern Mediterranean).

Is there any plausible alt-history where contact was not a catastrophe for New World Natives? Germ theory was unknown, but even with strict sequestering, don’t the diseases have to get through?  Even the noblest and best possible behavior by the colonisers might have made little difference. I can’t even construct a plausible fantasy of how it could have turned out well.


Whenever a tragedy with a mental health angle occurs, there are predictable responses. These vary in awareness of the realities. As I have made my living working with psychiatric emergencies for forty years, I know enough to be at least moderately helpful, and from time to time I reiterate some points that get consistently missed.

After the fact, and working from scraps of information, many people conclude that it was patently obvious that the bomber or shooter or pact suicide was dangerous and ill.  Therefore, they believe that the emergency room, or clinic, or hospital messed up by not picking up on the obvious and moving to treat that person. Well, we could always do better, as in everything else, and sometimes it’s true, but that conclusion is often spectacularly wrong.  No, that’s just making excuses. The guy told them he was thinking about killing people and was also suicidal. We admit over 2,000 people a year to our 150-bed involuntary facility, and every single one of them reaches some threshold of dangerousness, enough that it has to hold up at minimum, at a probable cause hearing.  The suicide and homicide rates of our discharges is not that much higher than the general population. (The self-harming rate is much higher.)

Yet they have said and done dangerous things, which is how they got to our hospital. When I read the news stories of what the killer said when he was brought in for evaluation two months or two years before, I am seldom impressed with how alarmingly dangerous the statements are. I have known thousands of people who have said or done similar things. Sometimes the quotes or actions do sound more alarming to me, but not reliably. Most usually, the person is acting more rationally after a little treatment and is no longer actively suicidal or homicidal.  We have to decide what is the safe amount of time after to hold them to reduce the risk.

There will also be accusations that “they said he wasn’t dangerous.” Read more closely.  No one says that. What happens is that people need to do or say things that we can bring before a judge and make a case that they are dangerous enough to lock up and/or force into treatment. Because this is America, and you can’t just think someone’s dangerous, lock the door for as long as you like, and not have to answer to anyone.  You can have that world if you want it, I suppose, but you are going to need to raise the number of expensive hospitals about tenfold, filled with people who could be working and caring for families.

Outpatient treatment has variations on this. The ER and clinic people can say “You need treatment” all they want, but it’s usually entirely voluntary. Even if there is court-ordered treatment, it’s usually limited and rounding up people who don’t show for appointments can be tricky. 

You learn early in this business that if the mental health system has ever touched someone, there is lots of the general public which believes we are still responsible for making sure they don’t do anything bad ever again.  I’ve had many family members complain to me in anger over an admission “You let him out too soon three years ago, and I told you he would be back.”  To us, three years is a long time of a person somehow surviving in the community.  That’s a successful discharge.  Hell, sometimes we will call a week a successful discharge, of a person having a volatile six months.  They might be in six times.  We used to keep them for those six months instead.  They got worse. Being out and dealing with everyday problems is good for you.

Xavier Amador is particularly good at explaining mental illness. Longer talks specifically for affected families and treating professionals will show up in your sidebar if you switch over to Youtube, and are also good.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


What did the moon give to the new-fallen snow?

Monday, November 19, 2018

A Brief Discussion of the Ibo

The Ibo, or Igbo , are one of the Big Three major tribes in Nigeria, the other two being the Yoruba and Hausa. Small tribes tend to associate themselves with one of the Big Three. The relationship among the three has been fractious and violent. Yet as that is the case everywhere, it does not much come into this discussion.  One of the key bits to remember is that the Ibo were from the Bight of Benin in West Africa, and were among the most common slaves brought to the New World.  Different slavers had different preferences, and the Ibo were very common in Jamaica, Cuba, and Trinidad and Tobago.  In America, they were brought to Virginia and Maryland.  Perhaps 30% of the slaves in those colonies were Ibo. A large percentage of Nigerian immigrants to America now are Ibo as well.
You have heard about them more than you realize. Whenever you read an article about a black hisghschooler accepted at seven Ivy League colleges, or an ultra-exclusive program for gifted students, or winning a state science fair, burrow a little into the background, and you will nearly always find that the person is Ibo.  Though Africans in general score well below world averages on IQ tests, including far below American blacks, this is not true of the Ibo. That immigrants to the UK and the US might be among the brightest from their homelands is true of many nations, so the measurements may give an inflated view, but it seems that the Ibo average is equal to or above the American general population. They are known as "The Jews of West Africa" because of their trade networks between regions and diverse peoples, and like the Jews, they are resented by groups not as adept and prosperous. They are of great interest to the HBD crowd, that much-maligned group that sees genetic underpinning for many traits.

There are articles around purporting to show that the Ibo IQ scores are evidence that genetics are not so determinate of group ability.  Most of these include an essay by Chanda Chisela and commentary on it.  Many conclude that Chisela has it exactly backwards.  Far from undermining hereditarianism, the existence of the Ibo is strong evidence for it. 

Thus when Malcolm Gladwell and Bill Simmons were laughingly discussing the Nigerian basketball team, and the related topic of world-class athletes marrying each other and having children, they were still on safe ground.  When the topic of mating a highest-talent person with a scrappy and determined one of slightly less ability came up they both instinctively shied away, as this was no longer about purely athletic ability, but personality traits.  Danger, Will Robinson! Gladwell also told the anecdote about his childhood and his father, a mathematics professor, inviting foreign graduate students over for dinner. Having fun with this, Malcolm noted that they were all Indian and Nigerian, so he grew up thinking there must be something a bit slow about white people.  A fun tweak of Caucasians on his part and I don't fault it. But he again veered into dangerous ground.  He is not aware of it, but all those hated Charles Murrays and Greg Cochrans and James Thompsons and Nicholas Wades and Steve Sailers are looking carefully for new information about the Ibo, and not just how well their descendants play basketball. Discussion of them is already frowned upon in some academic circles, and data explained away very unconvincingly. They may soon become a name which cannot be spoken of, and people will retroactively go after Gladwell for wrongthink.  I am pleased that at present he seems ready not to care.