Sunday, August 15, 2021
I look on in horror. We had Iraq won but Obama pissed it away. Now it is Biden's turn, though I can't claim we were winning on this one. But this is catastrophe. Grim summarises what's completely inaccurate about the president's speech, even as he is saying it.
It will be all the news for a little while, then it will go away in the elite media. The lessons learned will be entirely backward. Except for some. I still hold hold hope that a few more will learn each time.
The vaccines are not causing worsening fetal health, but Covid itself is causing 20-70% increases in preterm delivery. British study. It is always hard to know what to do with the immediate accusations "The vaccine makes you infertile," "It's completely untested on pregnant and breastfeeding women," and the like. Such thoughts hit us at a primal level, and those of us who grew up with stories of the thalidomide babies know it is not impossible that some medicine might have catastrophic effects on fetuses. There are other chemicals that seem to have much more minor, but still deleterious effects. On the other hand, this is often the first accusation out of the gate based on no information, and has become a Cry Wolf standard.
I have some sympathy for people who catastrophise about anything chemical, whose fevered imaginations conjure frightening images of GMO foods, food additives, and new medicines. The key part of the phrase is fevered imaginations. There is a U-shaped curve for phobias according to intelligence because they have better imaginations. They can imagine all sorts of terrible things, and vividly. The number of actual incidents and problems is low, but they also have better memories. L Ron Hubbard was a sci-fi writer, a pretty good indicator for imagination (though not for judgement and balance) and birthed a thoroughly paranoid religion, Scientology. We wonder why smart people can get so much wrong and overestimate medical, environmental, and political danger. They remember more and imagine more.
So on one level I get it. A new type of medicine or vaccine comes in and our contamination fears go straight to the core: Babies. Food. Monsters. Our confirmation bias is intense even though the real incidents are few. Yet eventually we have to force our better brain to overrule the fears and look at actual known dangers. Covid: moderate danger profile for pregnant women. Vaccine: ultra low danger profile for pregnant women. Good news.
Imperial College of London study about carrying the virus indicates the vaccinated are 2/3 less likely to carry Covid than the unvaccinated, at the height of the recent Delta surge. That's pretty good given the reduced efficiency of the vaccine against Delta. It's nice to see there's still a lot of good in it.
Bsking is trying to switch us over to looking at hospitalisations as a better measure of what is going on, so I add in this, from a hospital Grand Rounds presentation.
My prediction is that we are over a 50% possibility of vaccine boosters being recommended the farther we get from their administration (Feb-Mar for me), which in turn increases the possibility that we may be going yearly.
Please note that bsking over at Graph Paper Diaries has a new post after a long hiatus. She had told me earlier in the week it was coming. It contains solid information about excess mortality by state, slightly different than I have been reporting, because states are reporting with slightly diffferent rules. Some are reporting excess deaths over their average from previous years, while others are reporting excess deaths over the upper bound of the 95% confidence level, which is a higher number (resulting in a lower number of reported excess deaths). She has found a spot where the info is available in a much easier form than what she was working with before in here correspondence with me in a small group. Therefore, she expects to be updating, as it is not as onerous.
Secondly, I have added The Orthospere to the sidebar after learning it is where JMSmith publishes his stuff. His comments here have been excellent. I should remove one site from the sidebar because it has no updates since 2017, but it is my son's so I just won't.
Saturday, August 14, 2021
I consider myself an anti-prescriptivist in English usage, but James located an essay that convinces me immediately that I am at least partly wrong in this. Formal English has an additional advantage of expression I had not considered. A Dash of Rhetoric. I continue to oppose the idea that many supposed rules of English are valid, as they are often pettifogging nonsense inserted into the language in previous centuries for artificial reasons, whatever cachet they have retained because of imperious instructors. But this makes sense to me. Avoiding ambiguity in expression that is not interactive is a worthy goal, and formal English can be a considerable aid in this.
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
More than half over, with weddings and receptions, most of the sons and all the granddaughters being together. I do have some things to post on when I get back. I just came home today to get mail, do laundry, and move a granddaughter from one locale to another. The house is still standing. My wife tells me Cuomo resigned. I expected that, as you may recall. The removal of corrupt politicians is always good, and the downfall of powerful men who take advantage of women in lesser positions of power is a blessing as well. But this was a calculated retreat by Democrats to a better position, leaving the carcass of one of their own on the field for their enemies to be distracted by.
Saturday, August 07, 2021
Friday, August 06, 2021
Missionaries have to learn that most cultures of the world are shame cultures instead of guilt cultures. Things are wrong according to the shame they bring on you or your family. People motivated instead by guilt will feel bad about having done something wrong, even if they are undiscovered and nothing shameful attaches to them or the family. The 3D Gospel explains a fair bit of this.
This concept of guilt rather than shame for sin is primarily, but not entirely Western. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks explained the difference almost a decade ago. The difference is not usually clear to either culture. People from guilt cultures believe that "everyone else is like this, really." People from shame cultures do not quite understand what those from guilt cultures are even saying. The idea of offending against the universe in some way is present in Eastern thought, but it does not tend to penetrate social and personal moral behavior. Westerners who adopt Buddhism (few actually adopt Hindu beliefs, though they may adopt practices) are not quite the same as those who grow up with it, and I think they unconsciously bring guilt culture with them. My knowledge of this is mostly limited to the many psychologists I have know who have adopted Buddhism. They attribute virtues to that understanding that they may be unconsciously bringing.
If you follow these things, this is common knowledge in the West. What is less common is the recognition that not everyone in guilt cultures is motivated in that (frankly more advanced) way. I won't hazard a guess at percentages, but I encounter Americans, Canadians, and Brits - the groups that should be the core of guilt culture thinking - who seem entirely shame focused. While these are rarer at church, I see them there as well. It is likely that none of us is 100% guilt culture. When I consider my regrets in life, an uncomfortable number are those in which I said something stupid and embarrassing rather than did something sinful. Some of the latter make the list, and when I apply intentionality, I acknowledge that the embarrassments are merely that, and it is the real selfishness, vengefulness, and entitlement that should make my Top Ten List of Regrets.
I have read nonwestern people who seem to have a more guilt culture orientation, but something of it is not quite the same. It is more theoretical, abstract. I don't see it translating into behavior or even everyday conversation. As most of the non-Westerners I know are doctors or churchgoers, one would expect the numbers to be higher. Perhaps I do not see them clearly and there are subtleties I miss.
I wonder what the numbers are really? Is the moral advance of the West merely that 10% of the people rise above shame culture 10% of the time, and smaller percentages filter back through the population?
I don't think Cuomo is that unusual, but Democrats seem to have concluded that he is likely to become an albatross about their necks. To partially mix metaphors (because I am at least sticking with ocean birds) he is the penguin that is getting pushed off the ice to feed the killers in the water.
Therefore, I am not outraged and demanding his resignation. I do have a long-simmering anger that Democrats are only outraged when it looks like they will pay a political cost. It is shame culture versus guilt culture, and they are entirely on the "shame" side of it. I think I had better post on the difference between the two. Spoiler alert: Shame culture is not better.
Thursday, August 05, 2021
Wednesday, August 04, 2021
The poop is being thrown freely about whether there is a third spike of C19 occurring. Worldwide, the answer is an unequivocal yes. In the US the answer is varied. A half-dozen states have a large increase in number of cases, another half-dozen troubling increases, and a few have mod increases in death, some dramatic: LA, MS, TN, FL, NV.
A lot of states have a new moderate increase in number of cases, including some states which have had very low rates until recently, such a HI, VT, AK. There is some trend for the warmer states to be seeing more cases, but not all, and Washington and Oregon are suddenly worse. More death anywhere is partiularly alarming, because hospitals and clinics have a lot of experience treating Covid now, and we should not be seeing much.
Bsking suggests that we should switch to hospitalisations as the metric. At-home cases are more of an inconvenience than a danger at this point, but improved treatment reduces the number of deaths over the rate that occurred in early 2020.This makes sense and I may start looking at things from that perspective instead.
The overall is that yes, we have a third spike in the US, but it is mitigated by vaccinations, low base rate in some states, improved treatment, and the avoidance distancing we do automatically now, even when we say there are no precautions. The southeast and south central states worry me, as do the previously closed states now open for tourism. The rest, including even NYC and other northern cities, do not seem to be exploding. The international spike worries me because it will affect things here.
International update out of Israel. The graph shows the rate of infecting others is much higher for the unvaccinated, while the vaccinated are mostly spreading to household members only. One of the comments did immediately ask how much age is a factor in that, as the children, with wider outside contacts are mostly unvaccinated, and the elderly, with mostly in-home contacts are vaccinated. It's a good question and probably bends the numbers a bit, but the trend is still very strong.
Tuesday, August 03, 2021
Also Karsten Warholm out of Norway, who did get a WR in the hurdles. He was pushed - semi-unexpectedly - and thus pushed the record way down. All three medalists broke the previous world record, in fact.
Both are young and may yet do better. Track & Field is about the only Olympic sport I care about.
I comment from time to time on language changes that are occurring in the background even as we live through them. It is fun to contemplate when reading about language changes in the past, wondering if the older people even much noticed. In literate societies these changes are slower, as written material conserves older forms. Those of us who were church-raised, and especially those in liturgical churches (or Baptists who insist on KJV), see how forms long out of use can nonetheless be preserved.
The same thing happens with culture, which affords thinkers and writers ample material for comment. You can make a career noticing how things were different in the old days and telling the tale artfully. I occasionally do that with some skill, but more often simply get the job done in plain fashion, pointing things out.
Personal genomics has transformed the culture and will transform it further. Books have been written by people wrestling with the information that their proudly Irish grandfather was actually baby-switched with a Jewish boy, or discovering that their father had serial affairs, or that their mother had a child before she was married or such. I was listening to Linda Avey, one of the founders of 23 and me describe that they had not initially anticipated such things. One of their engineers reported he could discern relatives from the samples just before the product came to market. Even as the kits were coming out, their own staff was discovering for the first time the occasional alarming piece of information - that mom had been sleeping with stepdad before the divorce from dad, for example. Only as this was emerging it occurred to them that many adopted children would be willing to pay a lot to find out who their relatives were, on the way to finding out who their parents are.
We have some in our family. My grandmother, the one that died in 1952 whose maiden name is my much-disliked middle name, had a son before she married my grandfather. My father never knew about this half-brother, and I suspect my grandfather did not even know this. Our Son #5, a nephew, has a close match that must be his grandmother's (or less likely his grandfather's) sister. His mother was a closed adoption, but the pieces can be partly assembled. This connection denies that any woman in her family in California had a baby in Cambridge, MA in 1967. Look, some girl was sent to Boarding School or Summer Camp then. From our POV, he just wants to know who his grandparents were. Yet I can sympathise with her view as well. The family moved heaven and earth to keep this secret, and it's not this woman's fault that her sister decided to have her DNA run.
When I had mine run, I spoke to my brothers beforehand that this might uncover uncomfortable info, as our father was not a sexually responsible person. It might even produce a Japanese sibling from 1946-7, when he was in the army of occupation in Hokkaido.
Eventually an Obama descendant will have DNA done, and no one will bother to ask about birth certificates.
We are only in the foothills of this, enough that it is still scandalous and amazing. But the information will soon be automatic - everyone will have a full genome done at birth because it will be cheap - and such secrets will no longer exist. We will all be in the fishbowl. How far can this go? In fifty years what information will they be able to extract from your skin or your hair, which are things you are going to have a very hard time preventing from other people getting ahold of? Not to mention what your devices can download from nearby devices as you walk past. It is not just the security breaches of hackers, or Zoom selling info to Facebook that will do this. The shear volume of interconnection will make privacy impossible.
Maybe some types of privacy will still be possible. I imagine someone worked this out in a Sci-Fi story in the fifties. There was one about suppressing time travel, not because of what remote events would be revealed, but because The Past starts one minute ago, which is essentially the present. (It was a Science Fiction HOF story. I imagine I could find it.)
These days Connie could scrape it off and find out who she was.
Monday, August 02, 2021
We have a predisposition toward thinking of people in an era as being very similar to each other and different from us. Yet stratification and difference was even more intense in previous centuries. Urban merchants and rural woodcutters were not alike.
When I mentioned the TBIs of Henry VIII and their possible effect on his personality, there was mention of tournament injuries, as these did often involve the head. Hence helmets, but those only help so much. The knightly class over time had ceased to be a group heading out to dispense justice and defend the right. Most likely never were anyway, but even the pretense was vanishing. They were a warrior class trained to bash others over the head and otherwise remove them from this world. By the beginning of the age of exploration they were largely concerned with defending their "honor," which increasingly meant the status they felt they were do. For someone not to doff a cap or defer to them was an insult that needed redressing. Nothing Arthurian about it anymore. AS Europe did not have much other than cloth in trade goods - and warm cloth was not a prized item in the Mediterranean, Africa, or beyond - they increasingly just took things by force of arms. The Portuguese were reportedly very effective in this.
If you are going to live like this, a large percentage of that class is going to have been head injured, with the natural loss of emotional control and good judgement that follows. A pathological behavior would seem normal.
There is also strong evidence that overall violence was decreasing in society from at least 1200 to the present, and possibly earlier. How can these things be? Different classes of people. The majority of people were not going to war, as professional armies were growing up. They were learning to trade, cooperate, get along. I don't want to oversell this, because it was still a more violent time than our own, and there are plenty of other ways to get concussions and other compromises to the skull. But comparatively there was a difference between the nobility with their head-injured idea of their "honor," and the folks just trying to make a living. Literally.
Had there not been new trade routes to exploit - for the knightly class married with the merchant class throughout Europe - I don't know what would have come of it.
For those who have read Albion's Seed, the stratification is still visible well into the founding. the Scots Borderers did not have standing armies so much as clan groupings still involved with raiding. Armed violence was part of the lives of most. This was not so in Puritan East Anglia or the partly- Quaker Midlands. Those were traders, craftsmen, yeomen, fishermen. In Virginia and Coastal Carolina there was an elite that bore arms for military purposes, while the lower classes had arms only for hunting and perhaps some skirmishes.
Merritt Ruhlen was my guy. He not only claimed that all languages sprang eventually from a single initial source, he provided evidence that he said made that the mostly likely reality. He was almost universally reviled a generation ago, and is still disdained, though younger historical linguists are giving him some grudging acknowledgement. A PhD linguist who was a student of Joseph Greenberg of Stanford, likewise dismissed as terrible. Ruhlen recently died, and I think missed the new tidbit of DNA evidence that speaks in his favor. It is not the first. Research from other field, increasingly including archaeology and genetics, have vindicated them. Plus other linguists had always sulkily agreed that both were excellent at classification.
I have written about the controversy many times before, if you are interested. About half of these don't pertain, though. You will have to skim.
For the moment, the interesting piece is his claim that the Kusunda language was related to Juwoi in the Andaman Islands. They are a thousand miles apart, with lots of mountains and oceans creating barriers. Worse, there are no languages in between them that would suggest a connection, and at the time of the claim, it was believed that these peoples had not been in any contact for 80,000 years. Linguists believe that language relationships cannot be detected beyond 10,000 years, so this was hooted at. (When I was in school anything more than 5000 was considered suspect. So things change.) Things got a bit better over the years and the time distance dropped to 60,000 years, but still excessive. But new DNA evidence suggests that because one population pushed out another on the way to the islands, the real number is now only 25,000 years. Even that would be a lot, but because one of the main similarities is a pronoun ("He, she, or it" gita versus kiteh), it is looking like less of a stretch, as pronouns are some of the most stable words in families of languages. Ich in German and ego in Greek are separated by a few thousand years, for example.
Genetics and language relationship are not proofs of each other. One only needs look at America to see that a lot of genetically diverse people are all speaking English. But it happens often enough that it is the first line of inquiry when there is any question.
Two months ago Massachusetts was just under 11,500 and it's currently at 11,362, so it has added nothing.. TN is now almost 7k deaths up (18,103) and AZ is 11k ahead at 22,235. Vax rates (for 1st dose) stand at 72% for MA, 53% for AZ and 44% for TN.
Sunday, August 01, 2021
I am frankly tired of repeating myself at a half-dozen sites. I will let this excellent Quillette article out of the UK speak for me this time. I think it is stronger for paralleling our own situation so closely, but with different personalities, culture, and details. So it's not about Trump, or Biden, or Cuomo, or DeSantis. It's about human nature, and therefore, about us.
I am tired of reading about how "they," usually meaning Fauci and a lot of handwaving, lied to us about Covid, which is why "they" haven't any credibility now and we won't listen to what they say or do what they say anymore. Because they are just controlling bastards, and the people still masking are timid and cowardly - not brave true Americans like us, who value liberty.
Because that's what our Founding Fathers fought for, sure, to not have to follow safety precautions unless they felt like it (and they weren't going to feel like it if it was physically uncomfortable or didn't look daring). It's so easy to accuse others of bad motives, isn't it, and so hard to even consider that theirs might not be all that good.
Glenn Reynolds has spent the last year putting "experts" in quotes and complaining how they "haven't exactly covered themselves with glory over the past year." Well compared to the skeptics, they absolutely have covered themselves with glory. The deniers have been repeatedly and spectacularly wrong.
I was there for all of it. I remember when as far back as March of 2020 people were saying this was exaggerated and no big deal. We kept hearing that this was "just the flu," and then "only like a bad flu season," and then still some mutters like that, but most people abandoned that line of argument. That was when we had just passed 100,000 deaths and I, also thinking that there was only going to be the one peak, and a long slow decline in deaths rather than a sharp one by June, predicted we would hit 150,000 deaths by September, maybe even August 1st, and was cautioned to check my statistics and estimates, and not to believe data that lead to such predictions.
Now we hav 4.5-5 times as many deaths as that, and the same people are still finding excuses. Sometimes the same excuses. I've got a guy over at Chicago Boyz, a retired physician, saying he thinks these deaths weren't really covid, they are influenza, and you just wait, eventually it will show. Sure Dr. Mike. The 2020 flu inexplicably struck twice instead of once, and worse the second time, killed 30 times more people than average, and just happened to occur in the year when there was all this covid rumor going on. Oh, and it petered out just as the new vaccines came on line.
Residents of states that had not yet been hit hard spoke contemptuously. Texas, Georgia, Florida - "We're not seeing any problem down here. You people are all panicking. You must be doing something wrong. You just like telling other people what to do, but we won't have it. We're freedom-loving Americans. Why I know a guy who works at an ER and he says it's empty these days." Again so easy to accuse others of bad motives, so hard to even consider the possibility that they are just being sulky teenagers who don't like being told what to do.
Not all of them are that. Some of them are exactly that.
When the second wave hit all those states harder than New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, I do not recall a single statement on any of the blogs I frequent or their commenters that admitted the slightest bit of inaccuracy, or any apology for being insulting. As the numbers rose the excuses went with them. These aren't deaths from covid. These are deaths with covid. What? What the hell does that mean? Tom Bridgelend the ICU nurse from Chicago who comments here sums it up well: If someone comes in with covid symptoms but we don't do a test, and he dies in his own fluids, I don't really mind if the doctor writes coronavirus on the death certificate." Right. Seeing that C19 is the overwhelmingly likely cause of death. What would you call it instead?
Then the focus on covid deaths occurring primarily among people who had other factors, like age, obesity, diabetes. So you are saying that's okay then? There is the constant denial that this is what is being said, but when it gets highlighted repeatedly, with no on-the-other-hands or cautions, I have to conclude that is what is being said. The little polite nods that of-course-those-deaths-are-all-tragic-but... no longer cut it. Minimising is convenient for you for some reason. A year ago I suspected that. Now I'm sure.
Relatedly, there are stories about relatives that died from lack of medical care because of all the focus going to covid. I imagine there were some, but interestingly, those aren't showing up in the statistics. There is no increase in deaths from other causes, except a bit in things that have similar symptoms to Coronavirus - heart disease and respiratory failure. And drug OD's, which did legitimately go up - and account for 3% of the excess mortality. The story may be working backwards from the data, from "Maybe Aunt Jessie might have survived if she had seen the doctor earlier" to "The focus on covid killed her."
The hospitals are calling things covid because they get extra money for those cases. And governors get reelected by making it look like the state's numbers are low, so that's a competing incentive. And so when you look at other clues to see what the real number is, you find we have undercounted, not overcounted.
But by all means, lets get exercised all over again that they said "flatten the curve" and it didn't work out that way. Because they were supposed to know. And refer only to the studies that tell us what we want about masks, ignoring the ones that tell us differently. Because that's brave. Now the cry goes up that the lockdowns were worse - sometimes it is even said there may have been more deaths (again Instapundit, repeatedly) - than from SARS-2 itself. Okay then - by what metric? I know there were lost jobs and diminished business, I know there was a general economic hit, but put that in numbers. Put it out there and weigh x number of jobs versus y number of deaths. Make the assertion that "We should have stayed open even if it meant a million more deaths. Because that's not crazy now that we are up to 750,000 even with precautions. Convince me with numbers, plus your years-of-life versus quality of life equation.
And then factor in all the other effects of Covid that are gradually emerging. Those are part of the equation, too.
Of course it is irritating that politicians and other powerful figures, especially Democrats, were hypocrites and traveled, and didn't mask or distance themselves, but really, so what? It doesn't change a thing about the disease itself. Get over it. It's irritating if kids have to wear masks at school when that isn't likely a big danger of spreading, but we are comparing that to what level of difficulty and oppression children have gone to school with before? Masks? Quelle Horreur. I think they'll get over it. Talk to people from Romania about oppression at school. People talk now about how traumatic it was for American children to be told to get under their desks in the fifties, fearing nuclear attack. I think we got over it. I'm not seeing any downstream effects of that, even though there has been occasional hyperventilating about it. We regard it as funny now. Masks are a bad thing for a small number of people, with speech or hearing difficulties. That's legit. It's an irritation for the rest of us, unless you assign great symbolic value to having to wear one.
Yes, maybe they assigned symbolic value to not wearing a mask first, but that doesn't really change things, except it's irritating.
An anecdote of irony: the guys in charge of security in churches because of the very occasional horrendous events that occur - they clearly understand the principle of being prepared for a low-chance but devastating event. But they don't see the point of wearing masks because...why, exactly? The evidence would suggest that picking and choosing like that suggests some personal motive rather than a risk assessment. Not such a good thing from a professional security firm. You might even guess at their motives.
And the claim that we really don't know what works, and maybe this many people would have died despite whatever we did anyway. Evidence? Because people are making the opposite claim with lots of evidence. Please include in your calculations the countries with low rates of infection and death, some of which don't have anywhere near the hospital care we do. I think the evidence is those selectively-chosen studies about masks. Not a devastating case.
I think the deaths don't seem real because people don't see them, but they do see masks and signs about distancing, and closed businesses. That is understandable, but is still illogical. The numbers are what they are. If you have different numbers, bring 'em. For the record, I am not currently masking except at the places that require them, which is mostly medical facilities at this point. The Delta variant is worse, but not worse enough to respond to. That could change. If we have to mask again, I shrug. I am hugging children at church. That too could change, if the data changes.
Worldwide there is a third spike in both cases and deaths. In America...maybe. There has been a small recent upturn in cases, driven by Texas, California, Arizona, and especially Florida. Maybe a rise starting in deaths, from the same places. But clinics and hospitals know what they are doing at this point, which will likely keep the deaths moderate unless something catastrophic happens.
It was almost a week ago that I published my CRT post, so few of you will be going back to check on the comments. Resident geographer JMSmith (that always catches me up short because I have a cousin who is JM Smith) has a new comment worth going back and reading. It includes the radical statement "The connection to your post is that public education is not possible in a truly multicultural society." He makes a brief case, with examples, for the premise. And that isn't even his only point.
Update: And it's still going. Great stuff.