Discussion thread

July 23, 2021 • 10:30 am

It’s a hot, dispiriting day, they’ve closed nearly all the places at the University where you can buy food (pandemic; though I usually bring my lunch, I wanted to treat myself today), and not much is happening in the world. Until there’s something that grabs me, then, I’ll throw the discussion to the readers, but will suggest some topics. (You don’t have to adhere to them!)

Here are a few topics:

The name of the Cleveland Indians baseball team has been changed to the “Cleveland Guardians” for obvious reasons (could they have made it the “Cleveland Native Americans”?). Here’s the announcement by Tom Hanks. The name probably needed to go, and I can see why “Guardians” was substituted for “Indians” (same number of syllables, almost the same number of letters ,and it rhymes), but surely there was a better name. Whaddya think? (Tom Hanks, according to reader Ken, was a big fan of the team.) How about the “Cleveland Fire” after the famous Cuyahoga River Fire? (Oh, I forgot, Chicago’s soccer team is named “The Chicago Fire.”)

Why didn’t the Olympics require all athletes, save those who are medically compromised, to be vaccinated against coronavirus? (Only 83% of the American athletes have been vaccinated.) Is the Olympic committee dumb or what? And what about those unvaccinated athletes? Granted, they got more jabs than Americans in general, but I thought athletes would take care of their health.

Over at the New York Times, David Brooks has a strange column, “Is America racist?“, which answers “yes” but adds that America is not “white supremacist” towards black people. This seems to me a contradiction, since racism is based on the idea that the oppressor is superior to the oppressed. Maybe I’m wrong, but what’s with Brooks, anyway?

Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan failed a key test in the Senate, with Republicans voting against advancing it. It’ll need 60 votes to pass. Does it have a chance? If it does pass, won’t Biden have to raise taxes, and not just on the wealthy?

Attorney General Merrick Garland is on a “gun tour” of five U.S. cities with gun-related homicide problems. It seems futile, since what they’re suggesting is simply preventing those who legally own guns from selling them illegally. Only an idiot would think that would accomplish anything, but is there a viable solution to the spate of gun-related homicides in America?

Or, beef about whatever you want, or extol that which you deem worth extolling.

105 thoughts on “Discussion thread

  1. I like Guardians, it’s a good name. According to many of the Native Americans I’ve read, the issue is not the word “Indians,” since many of them accept the name for their race. It’s the idea that they’re turned into a mascot, and they don’t consider that to be an honor. That was the issue with the UND (North Dakota) teams, too.

    I’m surprised it is taking Washington NFL Football such a long time to come up with a name. I’d suggest Insurrectionists, but that’s probably too soon. When they were in Boston, they were orignally the Braves, but the baseball team said “NO” and they quickly changed to the Redskins. Why does it take so long to think of a name these days? The Bullets changed to the Wizards pretty quickly.

    Speaking of the Braves, you’re next Atlanta. How about Cokers for America’s favorite soft drink? It’s based in Atlanta.

  2. I could comment on a lot of the suggested topics, but I’ll stick to David Brooks, about whom I generally have mixed feelings. What struck me about the column was that the first third or so of it made a compelling case for the existence of systemic racism, resulting at the very least from historical factors such as redlining and the persistent black/white wealth and income gaps. Indeed he goes even farther, suggesting that racist practices, for example in hiring, persist today.

    However, he leaves that point hanging, and the rest of the column argues that other minority groups – Asians, Hispanics, recent immigrants in general – have made progress, both economically and socially, suggest that “non-white” groups can succeed, and he thus concludes that the term “people of color” is too broad to be meaningful.

    So he problem I see with the piece is that the problem he initially addresses, anti-Black racism, is not addressed in the rest of the column or in its conclusion. The message I got was something like “Racism exists, but because non-black minorities can succeed, white supremacy does not.” Quite frankly, I find this logic to be less than compelling.

    1. It’s not simply anti-black racism, though, since black immigrants from Africa succeed in America too. For example, Nigerians do even better than East Asians by some metrics, and have a higher per-capita income than whites. Unless you want to posit that racists are just fine with blacks who recently immigrated from Africa, who are often blacker and more alien than descendants of black slaves in America. But in that case it wouldn’t be racism, since they’re considered to be the same race…

  3. Apparently the Guardians name comes from architectural guardians on the bridge to the stadium? Seems fine to me.

    I’m off to Alaska today, I’ve got my TSA save-spot appointment booked, so we’ll see if that actually saves me any time. I’ve got a layover in Sitka for a few hours, so not sure how to best spend that time. Recommendations welcome.

    The new feline companion (Shadow) is quite delightful. So curious, playful and friendly. He likes napping on windowsills (and on me). Kiddo is charged with walking him outside every day (with a bell and a leash, of course – I like my bird friends too!).

  4. surely there was a better name. Whaddya think?

    Well, the Lake County Captains and Lake Eerie Monsters are both no longer in use, and they actually referenced something unique or at least special about Cleveland, so why not go for a lake reference or reference to it’s history as an important port? So, my thoughts:

    Lake Eerie Monsters. Because it’s cool.
    The Cleveland Commodores, after Perry. (Con: dead white guy)


    Here’s another topic for discussion: Olympics…what sports are you gonna watch?

    1. Re: Cleveland Commodores: they could say they’re named after the singing group, which had some good songs and definitely aren’t dead white guys. I don’t know if they had anything to do with Cleveland, but are they in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? It doesn’t look like it, but surely Lionel Ritchie is?

      1. Yeah I thought about that neat double reference but, like you, couldn’t really see how to connect the singing group to Cleveland. They’re in the Alabama music hall of fame, but not the Rock n’Roll hall of fame.

      2. Ahh, the Commodores, once nicknamed The Black Beatles. An old favorite of mine. One of the regrets of my life is having the opportunity to see them live in Germany in 1976 (or was it 1977?), but not doing it. They did eventually drift away from their Funk Soul roots, but their first 6 or so albums were great.

        Nope, no connections to Cleveland. They started out as a student band at Tuskegee University in Alabama. As a touring group it seems like they considered Atlanta to be their home city. They were on the Motown label, but by the time they were recording records Motown had already moved to LA.

        1. My suggestion was the Cleveland Moondogs, named for the pioneering radio rock n roll show and Cleveland’s role as home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Better than the Cleveland Payolas, at any rate.

  5. I wonder about this trend for removing Indians from American culture. Indian head pennies, team names, the Land-o-Lakes Indian maiden. Is the mere representation of Indians wrong? Is the only symbol of Indians in America going to be casinos?

    1. Think about it this way. Most of the representations are of them as “noble savages.” If as savages they lost their continents, 90% of their population died or were slaughtered, and their children taken to civilize them, can you see why this would bother them? Indigenous people are not credited for the civilizations that they developed, but instead are patronized even in our popular culture. They are fully as civiized as anyone else in the Americas and even know how to use computers. We should drop the mascotizing.

      Indigenous people are reclaiming their cultures and traditions, but in the meantime they are modern people, too. We shouldn’t be putting Chief Wahoo on a baseball cap anymore. It lacks empathy for those whose children’s bodies were recently recovered as being dumped in mass graves.

      Speaking of the casinos, when I first moved back to Minnesota in 1993, casinos were first being built here. And, I was listening to a white guy complain that it was racist that ony Indians were able to build them. Seriously.

      1. It is probably somewhat about getting away from the clueless intent and history of abuse, yes. But it is also about normal, bog-standard changes in how terms are used. You got to Alcatraz, you’ll see huge “Indian” signs that were put up there by…native Americans. In the late 60s. Because that’s how they represented themselves and their cause, when they took over the island for a year to protest in favor of native rights. Were the same protest to happen today, with the original protestors children or grandchildren “capturing” the island, I’m sure they’d use different terms. It’s normal for some words to go in and out of fashion, in and out of taboo usage. What was a term of endearment in 1915 for one of the Cleveland Spider’s baseball players (one of the first native Americans to play major league), is offensive in 2021. The name change should not, IMO, be a reason to get angry. But neither should the Indian name be a reason to get angry at the 1915 team who adopted it.

        1. Yes, the American Indian Movement retains the original name. It’s really not considered as an offensive name, just inaccurate. It wasn’t even originated as an insult, as say “Redskins” was. It was a geographical error based on the fact that Columbus didn’t know how far he’d sailed.

      1. Miami got its expansion MLB team in 1991, a couple years after it got its expansion NBA team, “The Heat.” They had a naming contest for the new baseball team. My brother suggested “The Humidity,” so the locals could bitch, “The Heat’s bad, but not as bad as The Humidity.”

        Somehow, the owner went with “The Marlins” instead. 🙂

  6. Lots of great topics for sure. Eating is what I have next on my list. Regarding the thing they are doing with the republicans in congress, I wouldn’t worry about it. The republicans are just being their usual hard to get along with and that is nothing new. It will pass soon as they are finished writing it. The bigger and more important part is yet to come and that one will be democrats only. This is all important and lots of additional taxes will come as well. For you out there who worry about this and or might be a bit of a closet republican – don’t worry about. it. It is the most important legislation in many years and long over due. Tax the hell out of everyone if necessary and cut the military as well.

  7. Why didn’t the Olympics require all athletes, save those who are medically compromised, to be vaccinated against coronavirus?

    People have taken different stands towards requiring vaccination. Eric Clapton says that he will not play shows where proof of vaccine is required and Sean Penn says he won’t work unless everyone on his new show is vaccinated.

      1. That Guardian article mentions the ‘Amazonian water boa’. I wondered if that was the green, giant or common anaconda, as the picture looked suspiciously like one. Checked and yes, it is the same species Eunectes murinus.

    1. The senior administrators at my university will not even discuss vaccine mandates for employees (let alone for students as well). They are terrified of the reputational damage from lawsuits.

      I think they should be more terrified of the possibility that an unvaccinated professor or staff member might infect some poor student who then dies of COVID.

      It’s crazy: the only reason universities (and other institutions) can think about returning to some kind of new normal is the vaccines. The university imposed and required (and I supported) less effective mitigation efforts like masks and distancing and online teaching. But leaders won’t mandate the one thing that is highly effective at blunting the pandemic and getting us back to work.

    2. Clapton said “… I will not perform on any stage where there is a discriminated audience present.” How do these dolts equate a vaccine mandate with discrimination? Well, no one ever accused Clapton of being logical. I don’t like many of his songs, and I don’t find him to be a unique guitar virtuoso like many do, but if I did like him, I wouldn’t be attending any of his shows.

      I hope the FDA finally approves some of the Covid vaccines so it will be easier for companies to make the vaccine a mandate.

        1. Fine, but just because he had a very rare horrible reaction, why does that translate into people who can’t enter a venue w/o proof of vaccination is discrimination? No matter how bad a reaction to the vaccine, you can’t compare that to the millions who have died. The message had a paranoid tone as well (propaganda?). I never really thought much about the man, but now I consider him a fool. As Zappa said via an album title: “Shut up and play yer guitar.” Especially since Clapton needs some more learnings to match FZ’s skill.

    3. Yeah but the USOPC is a private non-profit. They could certainly have made vaccination a prerequisite of their seal of approval to compete.

      I’m not too upset. Yeah it’s asking for an outbreak to put a whole bunch of unvaccinated athletes together. But these sort of organizations change their rules and policies slooooooowly. It’s not too hard to see how vaccines becoming available in Spring 2021 don’t make it into a policy requirement of Summer 2021, not due to cowardice or animus but just due to the speed of bureaucracy. Hanlon’s razor at work!

      1. Not just Republicans and not just in red states. At a June 2021 on-line townhall event for employees at my Canadian public university, focused on the return to in-person teaching and winding down the work-from-home arrangements, one employee claimed that “nothing is known” about the effectiveness of the vaccines. Another employee wanted the university president to address the “known” effects of spike protein shedding by people who got the mRNA vaccines, because this shedding causes disruption of the reproductive cycle in unvaccinated women. It was pure Q. And a sad reflection on the state of “knowledge” among some of my co-workers 🙁

        1. Which university, Mike? Next the idiots will say that our own DNA will build spike proteins on all of us and we’ll look like hedgehogs🙀 You heard it first from me.

    4. Apparently, U.S. swimmer Michael Andrew said that he refused the vaccine prior to the Olympics for fear that a potential reaction would cost him practice time. He said he is willing to take the risk, but according to others, he is putting his teammates at risk. Why would that be? Because he is an additional vector for bringing the virus in from the outside and therefore putting at risk the other unvaccinated athletes? Apparently, those who are vaccinated can be infected as well. Vaccination reduces the symptoms but does it reduce the person’s susceptibility? In other words, are already-vaccinated people less likely to bring the virus in?

      1. “In other words, are already-vaccinated people less likely to bring the virus in?”

        Current consensus among the experts is “yes, that seems to be the case.” One key factor in passing on the virus to others is viral load, the amount of virus in a persons blood. The immune systems of people that have been vaccinated are much better at keeping the viral load low even if they become infected compared to people that have not been vaccinated.

        All of the anti Covid vaccination stuff is bullshit. People need to grow the fuck up and get vaccinated. Unless, of course, there is a medically valid reason for a particular person not to.

      2. One reason Olympic athletes may not be taking Covid-19 so seriously is the low Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) for those who are young and have no co-morbidities. The IFR is the total number of deaths divided by the total number of people that carry the infection, including those who are asymptomatic. The Case Fatality Rage (CFR) is the total number of deaths divided by the total number of people that have the disease’s symptoms. The IFR is going to be a lower number because it has a larger denominator. The numbers vary depending on different variables, but generally:

        Covid-19 IFR:
        0.003% at age 0-4
        0.001% at age 5-14
        0.003% at age 15-19
        0.006% at age 20-24
        0.013% at age 25-29
        0.024% at age 30-34
        0.040% at age 35-39
        0.075% at age 40-44
        0.121% at age 45-49
        0.207% at age 50-54
        0.323% at age 55-59
        0.595% at age 60-64

        Influenza IFR:
        1.3% at age 0-4
        0.4% at age 5-17
        1.8% at age 18-49
        9.0% at age 50-64

        However, studies have found a wide variation in Covid IFR, depending on many factors, and I have seen evidence of that from Google.

        1. Unfortunately you can’t really compare those two sets of data (from the links you provide), since the Covid one is for IFR, whereas the influenza one is for the population as a whole, and makes no reference (as far as I can see) to infection rates.
          As an example the figure given for the range 50-64 is 9 fatalities per 100,000, giving a rate of 0.009% (not 9.0%), but this is the fatality rate overall, not the Infection Fatality Rate.

          I note also that the 0.595% Covid IFR for 60-64 is for males only, whereas the other figures represent the mean for males and females.
          Also the data given do not tell us whether there is a difference in the transmission rates of the two diseases, which will of course affect the mortality as a whole.

        2. Looking in more detail at the Influenza link, the estimated number of cases is about 35.5 million; the number of medical visits about 16.5 million, and hospitalisations 490,561. The relevant death rates would be: 0.096% (per infection), 0.206% pre med visit, 6.9% per hospitalision case.

          1. Meant to include total deaths for 2018-2019: 34,000, to make sense of the percentages in that last post.

            1. Your criticisms are well-taken. The numbers for influenza are no doubt CFR, which results in a higher number, my percentages for influenza were off, and the Covid IFR for 60-64 that I supplied was for males only. It is also true, as you point out, that a disease with a higher transmission rate will present a higher risk for a population if both diseases have the same IFR.

              Apparently, IFR for influenza has rarely been calculated. However, one source concluded that the IFR for people aged lower than 70 is about the same for Covid-19 and for influenza. However the overall IFR for Covid-19 is higher, due to the higher fatality rate in elderly people. This source rebuts the assertion of another study that the IFR for influenza is six times lower than it is for Covid-19. It ends with a recommendation that scrutiny of the IFR of Covid-19 is overdue since some models that have incorporated higher IFRs have led to economically crippling lockdowns that may not be called for.

            2. Stanford researcher John Ioannidis says that for people younger than 45 the IFR of Covid-19 is almost 0%. For 45 to 70 he says it is probably about 0.05-0.3%, increasing substantially beyond that. What is the argument that people in age groups having a very low IFR should be subject to a Covid-19 lockdown, or that they should be required to accept the vaccine if they don’t want it?

              1. These sources are sceptical of the value of vaccine and lockdown for low-risk groups, I agree, but let’s note that they are from October 2020 (the BMJ letter) and June 2020 (Ioannidis). Surely we know rather more by now? A more recent one is https://ourworldindata.org/mortality-risk-covid , which has breakdowns by country as well as by age (the age breakdown is about two thirds the way down).
                However, it uses CFR (case fatality rate, i.e. the denominator is confirmed cases), which it discusses earlier in the article.

                As far as the argument of requiring younger people to accept the vaccine or lockdown:
                1) I do not think anyone should be forced to have any vaccine; to my mind it is a personal choice. But whether proprietors/managers of venues, shops etc. should have the right to refuse entry to unvaccinated people, well I don’t know about that.
                Some employers believe they have a responsibility for employees and customers. (I should mention I’m British, not American, so we have different rules about rights.)
                2) As far as I remember, at the time those articles were published, little was known about “long covid”, the possibility of people who survive having long term damage. Note that IFR is not really relevant to this; also I believe that this can apply to many younger people as well as more vulnerable groups.
                3) Should people in low-risk groups be subject to lockdown? Yes, I would say so, during spikes, anyway. I certainly agree with enforcing sanitation procedures in enclosed public spaces (masking and frequent washing).
                My argument is that lockdown (and masking when lockdown is eased) is to protect the population as a whole, and also the medical services (we know of the catastrophe in Italy in early 2020).
                It has been established that asymptomatic carriers can and do spread the virus, including to more vulnerable people, and I doubt whether isolating vulnerable people only could work.
                4) The continual spread of covid in asymptomatic carriers (if there are no restrictions) increases the likelihood of mutations.

                One final point – here is a recent article in the BMJ, discussing whether lockdowns are worse than the disease. (Its conclusion is that it is not.) Table 1 in the article considers arguments a counter-arguments. These are medical issues, though, and as far as I can see don’t consider economic issues.
                The BMJ article: https://gh.bmj.com/content/6/8/e006653

                Sorry about the length of the reply, once you start it’s difficult to stop!

              2. A good presentation of the arguments against lockdowns is COVID-19: Rethinking the Lockdown Groupthink, written by Dr. Ari Joffe is a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton. He summarized it in an interview: “Once I became more informed, I realized that lockdowns cause far more harm than they prevent. … It turned out that the costs of lockdowns are at least 10 times higher than the benefits. ” For example, he talked about ‘collateral damage’ due to lockdown such as food insecurity, infectious diseases deaths from interrupted or delayed services, increase intimate partner deaths, etc. “…framing decisions as between saving lives versus saving the economy is a false dichotomy. …I believe that we need to take an “effortful pause” and reconsider the information available to us. We need to calibrate our response to the true risk, make rational cost-benefit analyses of the trade-offs, and end the lockdown groupthink.”

                In the study you cited, “Disruption to health services” is listed as one of the arguments that the “cure is worse than the disease.” It counters by saying that some of this may be due to “other impacts of the pandemic itself rather than by lockdowns. In addition, there is evidence that people fear becoming infected by SARS-CoV-2 in healthcare settings and thus stay home rather than attend health services.” But the “other impacts” and the “fear” are induced by the lockdowns and by everybody touting the huge risk. If it is true that Covid-19 has an IFR close to that of Influenza (though having a higher infectiousness) and if that were announced, then we would not have these collateral consequences to such a degree. The same answer goes for the impact on “Global health programmes” in their table. As far as “Suicide and mental health,” they cite sources who say that this is not really a thing. The Joffe article cites sources that contradict this. We need to get to the bottom of it.

                3) Should people in low-risk groups be subject to lockdown? Yes, I would say so, during spikes, anyway. …and I doubt whether isolating vulnerable people only could work.

                Are you saying that low-risk groups should be subject to lockdown because otherwise the vulnerable people would not isolate themselves? Or are you saying that this is a way to flatten the curve so that we avoid a hospital crisis? I think that the latter would be an important objective but that these measures would not need to apply to all people everywhere. Big population centers would be the target. If we could accomplish it by imposing home quarantine on the vulnerable people then I don’t see why we would need to bring about all these collateral consequences simply because the vulnerable don’t want to be the only ones restricted and misery loves company.

  8. Can I recommend you check out what must be the original Ceiling Cat: the Hell Staircase at Burlghey House In Stamford, UK, a painted ceiling and stairway that depicts (among other things) the entrance to hell as the gaping open mouth of a cat. It really is a site to behold!

  9. My vote would be for naming the team the Cleveland Steamers (don’t google it). This is yet another reason why I’m never asked to name things.

  10. I need to comment on Thomas Jefferson at some point…I was tied up yesterday during the long discussion…but for now I will just commiserate with you on the lock out from lunch today. The one thing that I have missed terribly for the past 18 months is the simple pleasure of eating out. I do get take out once a week to bring home but it is really not the same. Since I order by phone or online, i know that the restaurant is open. To not have your lunch with you today and then not able to purchase it may well be a first world problem, but it would be personally disappointing in these times never the less.

  11. Dr Coyne;

    Do you accept gifts from readers? I have a perfect gift for you. It will remind you of your recent gastronomic trip to Texas.

  12. A few days ago you said you wanted Grania’s perspective on the South African riots. I do not pretend to be as insightful as Grania, but here are my 2 cents:
    The riots started after the incarceration of the profoundly corrupt former president Zuma (a Zulu) for contempt of court, mainly in Kwa Zulu-Natal (KZN) and in Gauteng, with a large Zulu population. In that sense it can be said it was mainly a Zulu uprising. The reason it was originally thought it was an ethnic uprising.
    However, it becomes clearer by the day that it is more a fight for power within the ANC. There is the ‘Marxistoid’ RET(radical economic transformation) faction -now deeply corrupt-, and the more socio-democratic faction (supposedly a bit less corrupted). The former had it’s origins in the ‘exiled ANC‘, which was turned heavily communist (they fused with the communists) in the fifties when the USSR was still under Stalin. The system they proposed and that was implemented is that votes are for the party, not the individual politicians. This Soviet style system resulted in the party, the ANC’s politbureau National Excecutive Committee having all the power. Voters have little say there.
    Now CR (Cyril Ramaphosa) is not part of this RET faction, he is not part of the former ‘exiles’ and never joined the SACP. He is trying to loosen the grip of the corrupted exile/RET faction on power, in fact trying to wrestle power from them. The whole thing is a power-struggle within the ANC. Several known intelligence big shots appear to have been involved in the riots. Let us not forget that Zuma used to be head of intelligence in exile. He has many links with extant intelligence operators.
    ‘Normal’ riots and looting rarely involve blocking main arteries and coming back after looting to burn a place down, as happened in KZN and Gauteng.
    The riots appear to have died down now, there has been a huge counter-riot civil reaction, yes, kind of vigilantes.
    At this moment it appears the whole riot ploy has backfired, and I hope it stays that way.
    The damage done to South Africa is immense, not just the hundred+ dead, not just the billions of dollars of damage, but the reputation of the police and intelligence caught unawares, and above all the downgrading of South Africa as an investment opportunity. A double whammy: Covid 19 hit SA hard, and the riots/power-struggle on top.
    Cry the Beloved Country!
    The only consolation is that the voice of reason, as impersonated by the CR faction appears to have gained the upper hand.

    1. Thanks much for this, Nicolaas! We in the USA are woefully underinformed about African affairs. The news media, of course, are negligent in their coverage of Africa, but I also have to blame my fellow Americans–many of whom, I imagine, think Africa is a collection of sh*thole countries–for their lack of interest and concern.
      I have a theory of what may be a contributing factor of our neglect of Africa, viz., the Mercator Projection of the world map. As you know, in this projection the northern hemisphere appears oversized and the southern hemisphere correspondingly undersized. This makes Greenland look to be about the same size as Africa, where in reality, if one looks at a globe, Greenland is small compared to the giant Africa. I believe the Mercator Projection’s literal belittling of Africa and the southern hemisphere in general causes us to belittle the importance of the countries there as well. I prefer to use Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map to show a more faithful representation of the globe in two dimensions. What are your thoughts on this?

      1. As you know, in this projection the northern hemisphere appears oversized and the southern hemisphere correspondingly undersized

        I sincerely hope this is tongue in cheek.

            1. Indeed. But look at where the equator is on some (most?) Mercator maps that don’t show the full extent of Antarctica. I’m looking now at one I received from Doctors Without Borders (Je t’aime, MSF!), and the equator runs across at almost two-thirds of the way down from the top, lending more distortion to the northern hemisphere. I think my main point stands about the continents largely or wholly in the southern hemisphere, excepting Antarctica, being shrunken in comparative size.

              1. I think my main point stands about the continents largely or wholly in the southern hemisphere, excepting Antarctica, being shrunken in comparative size.

                I would have said that further you go from the equator the more bloated the distortion becomes. It is actually more accurate nearer the equator.

                The problem is there is more land in the Northern Hemisphere.

            1. Thanks, Jez. I would prefer that the Gall-Peters projection be used in US schools. Shall I agitate for that? Maybe after we’re free and clear of the current pandemic, as US schools are in hot debates right now about whether or not to require students to wear masks.😷

            2. IIRC the Mercator projection was mainly used -and very useful- for navigation, straight lines concurring with a straight course.

              1. Hence I think that the enlargement of areas closer to the poles on Mercator maps is just incidental, not a ploy to ‘minimize’ Africa, South America and SE Asia.

        1. You betcha! 😉
          Even though John McCain saved the ACA shortly before he died, I’ll never forgive him for foisting Blunder Woman upon us.

  13. The problem with mandating the corona virus vaccination is that the vaccines have been approved using emergency use authorization, which is a significantly truncated review process from what is ordinarily required for drug approval. Because of the medical uncertainties, no one is going to mandate vaccination.

    1. Yes technically this is all true. One good counterargument is that the emergency authorization led to very widespread use of several of the vaccines, and there are now real-world observations from tens of millions of people of both vaccine effectiveness against severe disease (very high) and side effects (identifiable, but few and rare).

      It’s not true that no one is going to mandate vaccination. Hundreds of US colleges and universities have vaccine mandates for students, employees, or both. Some just require that each person affirm they have been vaccinated; others require documentation. All have medical exemptions, some also have religious or ethical exemptions. I guess in some ways that is not much of a mandate 🙂

      At least one mandate (at Indiana University) has survived its first court challenge. Unfortunately, my university is not brave enough to test those waters. Human rights laws are different in Canada, and would possibly be a basis for successfully challenging a vaccine mandate here.

  14. I’m contemplating the ‘Cleveland (New) Bezos.” They have no less a right to appropriate his name than he does those of astronauts (“New Shepard,” “New Glenn”). (And as far as “LIN” is concerned, he surely is not the only human primate named “Bezos.”)

  15. David Brooks cites some differences between white and black households: (a) the income gap, (b) the wealth gap, (c) the intergenerational poverty gap, (d) the hiring gap (callbacks or job offers). He thinks that the appropriate conclusion is this:

    The phrase “systemic racism” aptly fits the reality you see — a set of structures, like redlining, that have a devastating effect on Black wealth and opportunities. Racism is not something we are gently moving past; it’s pervasive. It seems obvious that this reality should be taught in every school.

    I agree with him that there is “a set of structures…that have a devastating effect on Black wealth and opportunities,” but he is following the Ibram Kendi “antiracist” playbook if he insists that final inequities proves that the cause is structural racism and the problem is somebody else’s to fix. Other people point to a different “set of structures…that have a devastating effect on Black wealth and opportunities.”

    According to Glenn Loury, an African-American Professor of Economics at Brown, the “empty thesis of racism” distracts us from the real problems of black Americans.

    Yes, racism is real, but as a crucial factor that enables or prevents social advancement, it has lost a lot of force in the past half century. I am sure that there are deep-seated inequality problems in America that affect everyone, and black people in particular. Some are institutional, but many have to do with the culture and behavior of black people themselves. I’m talking about lack of educational achievement, and about the higher crime rate; I’m talking about the collapse of the black family. Seven out of ten black children are born outside of marriage. It is a plausible surmise that households where a mother is present, but no father, are more likely to produce adolescent males with behavioral problems. …Summarized in one sentence: racism exists, of course, but it does not sufficiently explain what is going on here. …

    We need to focus much more on the means through which people acquire the techniques, skills, and behaviors that make them productive members of society. …it’s a common mistake to think that we are still in the middle of the twentieth century and that the decisive obstacle to the successful inclusion of blacks in society is racial prejudice. Many people insist that we debate racism, face the injustices of history, and so on. Instead, they should be looking at our children and asking: Can they do math? Can they read a text and understand it? Can they cooperatively get involved in social groups? And when I see that this is sadly not the case with many black children, I believe I am seeing not simply “racism,” but something that is more specific and that is remediable—the obviously insufficient development of their human potential.

    Brooks does not arrive at the same conclusion as Loury because he is not black and would risk being called a racist and a victim-blamer. Loury rejects the notion that blacks lack agency and must depend on whites to solve whatever social/economic problems they have. People might ask Loury specifically what’s to be done, and then sit back contentedly when he is unable to produce a social program that will affect people’s motivations in a positive direction. But when people ask Kendi what’s to be done his solution is to simply equalize outcomes. If Loury is right, that’s like the physician administering morphine for chronic pain without determining the cause of the pain. It’s worse than doing nothing. At least with nothing the person is kept aware that there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

    1. I think that Loury is attacking some strawmen here. Black people do not look to white people to solve their problems for them. They do see who is in power, however, and demand that those in power work with them to resolve some of the longstanding issues. There are black politicians, too, many of whom are elected to solve problems.

      One of the problems that he points to is education. And there is a case to be made that the educational resources in traditionally black neighborhoods are not as extensive as in traditionally white neighborhoods for the simple reason that public education is funded in most states by the property taxes of the school districts. While there is some equalization, schools in the suburbs are much better funded than schools in the cities. Thay may improve with gentrification, but, guess what? That tends to push black residents out. There are structural reasons for wealth inequality, and it has as much to do with home ownership and inherited wealth as anything else. And even though redlining is no longer legal, corporate landlords buy houses to rent out in poorer neighbhorhoods which drives pricing up and keeps home ownership out of reach for minority residents.

      And what does he mean by “Can they cooperatively get involved in social groups?” Is this guy even familiar with black people? (I know he’s black, but man, black people socialize and mobilize. He’s being ridiculous.)

      It seems to me that even though he is black, he is buying into racist and bigoted tropes as a given, just like Cosby did. Black people work hard and are productive, but they have barriers that are in place preventing them from achieving and those are invisible to people who have the privilege to not have to worry about it. We know that they are prosecuted more for drug crimes and get longer sentences than white people, that’s a fact. It’s not that they use drugs more than we do, it’s that the difference between coke and crack is 10 years. That’s it.

      Use some criticial thinking when reading people like Loury.

      1. I think that Loury is attacking some strawmen here. Black people do not look to white people to solve their problems for them.

        I think his point is that there are many in the black community who utterly reject the notion that any of the problem is cultural, and internal to the black community. For those who do, and who lay all the blame at the feet of structural racism controlled by whites, they do indeed look to white people to solve their problems for them. They are saying that there is nothing that can be done until the whites make the necessary changes.

        They do see who is in power, however, and demand that those in power work with them to resolve some of the longstanding issues.

        The problem is that the only solutions they propose are affirmative action and wealth transfers to equalize outcomes, neither of which gets at the cultural problems pointed out by Loury and the others (such as Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, Clarence Thomas, Walter Williams, Shelby Steele, John McWhorter, etc.). With respect to those who primarily blame “systemic racism,” are you aware of any other concrete thing that they have proposed to resolve systemic racism? And how would wealth transfers even resolve systemic racism?

        And there is a case to be made that the educational resources in traditionally black neighborhoods are not as extensive as in traditionally white neighborhoods for the simple reason that public education is funded in most states by the property taxes of the school districts.

        It’s true that schools in less wealthy neighborhoods are generally not as good, but the problem being pointed out is that in some poor communities African Americans do not take advantage of the resources available to them as well as other groups do. For example, John Ogbu, an anthropology professor at the University of California at Berkeley, did a study on school children in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a middle class community. He found that black kids didn’t do as well as white kids, holding constant for income and single parentage. His conclusion was that cultural factors, including an aversion to “acting white,” were part of the reason.

        Or consider the achievement differentials in the D.C. schools. They all have access to the same schools, which spent $30,115 per pupil during the 2016-2017 school year, yet only 23% of the eighth graders were proficient or better in reading or math. Clearly, all cannot be laid at the door of school funding.

        There are structural reasons for wealth inequality, and it has as much to do with home ownership and inherited wealth as anything else.

        Most people would agree that the academic differentials linked to above have a great deal to do with continuing wealth inequality. Would you call that a structural problem? Loury says that racism is a factor but that it’s time the cultural issues are addressed.

        Is this guy even familiar with black people? (I know he’s black, but man, black people socialize and mobilize. He’s being ridiculous.)

        Loury grew up in the slums of South Side, Chicago.

        but they have barriers that are in place preventing them from achieving and those are invisible to people who have the privilege to not have to worry about it. We know that they are prosecuted more for drug crimes and get longer sentences than white people, that’s a fact.

        But the vastly higher crime rate for blacks is not all the result of racist laws or selective prosecution. As Martin Luther King put it: “Do you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58% of its crimes? We’ve got to face that. And we’ve got to do something about our moral standards,” King once told a black congregation. “We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can’t keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves.”

      2. Critical thinking is always important.

        One of the reasons we have a disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine was extensive lobbying by Black leaders like Charlie Rangel. The Black Caucus pushed Reagan to establish the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the 80’s. The Black Congressional Caucus supported the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act under Clinton, as did Senator Biden, which contained the sentencing disparities.

        How does it suddenly become racist when it was pushed by the Black Leadership Class at the time as well as the White Progs? I have to assume that Charlie Rangel, rather than being a closeted Klansman, was probably concerned about the impact the distribution of crack cocaine was having on Black neighborhoods (and Black on Black homicide rates hit an all time high).

        1. A New Yorker article refers to black Representative James E. Clyburn, of South Carolina with respect to crack cocaine and the 1994 crime bill:

          At a town-hall meeting in 1994, he had voiced skepticism about an initiative for stricter sentences. “I got my head handed to me in that meeting, and everybody in that meeting was Black,” Clyburn told me recently. “Crack cocaine was a scourge in the Black communities. They wanted it out of those communities, and they had gotten very tough on drugs. And that’s why yours truly, and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, voted for that 1994 crime bill.”

          I prefer the libertarian approach: loosen restrictions enough to tank the mark price and eliminate the incentive to sell to those who may soon be dependent, as well as the need to commit crime to afford the price.

    2. Here is the issue:

      If you examine the (a) income gap, (b) wealth gap, (c) intergenerational poverty gap, (d) hiring gap between the following:

      Chinese-Americans vs. Irish-Americans
      American Jews vs. American French Canadians
      Nigerian 2nd Generation Immigrants vs. African-Americans,

      you will find similar group disparities. Is it racism?

      Is it “white supremacy” that makes Asian-Americans score higher than whites on standardized tests and commit less violent crimes? How does that “unconsciously” serve the interests of the white race? For that matter, how would it serve the interests of the white race to have a substantial Black underclass with high crime rates? I imagine you could make some kind of economic zero-sum argument for Group A being rich and Group B being poor, but violent crime is a net loss to everyone. In actuality, if there was panacea to stop people from engaging in violent crime, everyone of every race would get behind it, whether they were racist or not because violent crime is collectively bad.

      What does “racism” even mean? The “racism” you find is socially constructed from the groups you arbitrarily select and the categories you artificially impose on the data set. There is a reason that Asian-Americans are aggregated with whites in every MSM article on race and education or crime. Its not because they don’t exist or there are not statistically significant differences, its because they don’t serve an artificial agenda to “prove” white systemic racism. However, if someone wanted to foment hatred against Jews or Asians, you can play the same game. [And if whites are systematically racist and always pursue their racial interest a la Derrick Bell, why wouldn’t majority white publications and academic institutions focus the attention on Jews or Asians to take the heat off whites?] Shouldn’t it trouble people that the “explanation” of inequality is the result of the arbitrary categories selected to examine inequality? [If it turned out that Gays earned more then Lesbians, would that establish systematic gay structural bias and “gay supremacy”?]

      You can take a country like Malaysia or Ethiopia and look at the various ethnic groups and they will not be equal. I am not aware of any multi-ethnic country in the entire world where different ethnic groups are equal on any metric. Are they all systematically racist? How does that work? In Singapore, Malays are over-represented in the military and the police, and the Chinese are over-represented in business. Are the Chinese supreme, or are they different from the Malays? How do the Chinese emit the magic forcefield to oppress the Malays, and how does it interact with the magic forcefield emitted by Europeans? Why does the magic force field of systemic racism affect different minority groups differently (and why do some European ethnicities benefit from “racism” more than other groups)? The Black/white testing gap is lowest in West Virginia–is that because West Virginia is the least racist state in the Union? At what point do you look at the empirical data and say this thesis is crap?

  16. Why is the observed out-of-proportion-to-population dominance of Negroid (official taxonomic sub-category of race) individuals in professional sports not called out for systemic racism?

    1. According to dictionary.com, that term is no longer in technical use and can be counted on to be offensive. You might have gotten some interesting responses to your post if you had not unnecessarily gone out of your way to be obnoxious.

      1. Well, the same could be said about Mongoloid and Caucasoid. Since “everything is racist” these days, what terms are the “correct” terms for the races deployed by scientists? Sean Wood, What term would you use?

        Try calling out the names of the races without being offensive. Yet … everything is racist, right?

        My intention was not to be obnoxious. It was to provoke a discussion of hypocrisy intrinsic to group-think.

        1. I believe that in the early 70s African Americans still preferred the term “negro” to “black” but the switchover occurred in that decade I think (perhaps as the older people died out). I agree that in some circumstances it is hard to keep up with what is the slur du jour but very few people would not realize that “negroid” is likely to come across as offensive and that the terms “African American” or “black” are the safe choices.

          Well, the same could be said about Mongoloid and Caucasoid.

          Yes, indeed.

          It was to provoke a discussion of hypocrisy intrinsic to group-think.

          One view of the situation that I have seen is that professional athletics is a way of enslaving blacks to be the entertainers of whites. The basic problem is in finding a world view that is not declared by the other side to have assumed what it needed to prove. The very term “systemic racism” means that they are saying that Western culture pre-supposes white supremacy. And from the other side we have the accusation that Critical Race Theory assumes that societal interactions can only be understood through the lens of racial dominance.

          1. Why is “black” safe?

            Also, it can’t be “African-American.” Negroid runners from Africa dominate long distance running. Is that evidence of systemic racism?

            I’m sure Criticals can name ten sports that are Caucasoid or Mongoloid dominated, and would hesitate for not a milli-second to condemn it as hideous racism.

            Do any other of the science minded readers here have better names for the races?

            1. I dunno, I just note that ‘negro’ just means ‘black’ in Spanish and Portuguese, from Latin niger, with the same meaning.

              1. Though some people object to that when they see it as requiring them to affirm or acknowledge as true a falsehood.

  17. And ninthly…

    A “sheep-eating” plant, Puya chilensis, has just bloomed at the RHS gardens in Surrey. Animals get caught in its thorns, die, then their nutrients feed the soil around the plant. Allegedly. Cool story, though.

    1. I would not classify (as yet) Puya chilensis as a carnivorous plant. There is no indication it has mechanisms, such as smell, particularly targeting sheep and other victims, nor has it enzymes (or symbionts with enzymes) digesting the sheep (and co). We do not even know whether plants that regularly entangle and kill sheep do better than those that don’t. I also note that sheep are only recently introduced in Chile, so there has been but little time to evolve such a ‘carnivirous’ style, although vicuña roam these areas for much longer.
      I’d say para-carnivorous at best. More probably the thorns and hooks are a defense against predators, with the entanglement of sheep with their excessive woolly pelt is incidental.

      1. Some news of the mysterious Antikythera mechanism, it is thought to date from 89 to 205 BC, during the Hellenistic period. I have this feeling it derives from Alexandria, but that is just because the Museon of Alexandria was a hub of ancient science and technology.

  18. Anyone short of reading today might take a glance at this article in Aeon: https://aeon.co/essays/five-reasons-why-moral-philosophy-is-distracting-and-harmful

    The author says: “Morality, I now believe, is a shadow of religion, serving to comfort those who no longer accept divine guidance but still hope for an ‘objective’ source of certainty about right and wrong”; and “When making choices, I suggest, we should consider our reasons without asking what is ‘morally right'”. I think he makes an interesting – and to some, maybe, a disconcerting – case.

    1. As a critique of moral philosophy it has a lot to it. But de Sousa seems to equate moral philosophy with morality, which in my view is a mistake. Morality is best thought of, not as a theory, but as an institution like the common law, or a technology like vaccination or sewage treatment plants. And like vaccination and sewage treatment plants, morality prevents enormous amounts of needless death and suffering. That makes it a good technology in my book.

  19. A propos not a lot, I wonder when people think the fourth wave (not a typo – third plus one) of coronavirus will peak – Jan-March 2022, Nov-Dec 2021, Sept – Oct 2021, or August 2021.
    Actually, the August class is pretty much redundant. But the rest of the question stands.
    Also, is anyone taking bets on the death toll from the Olympics?

  20. Regarding only 83% of olympians being vaccinated… It seems we’re supposed to respect the rights of the non-vaccinated to keep their vaccination status private as if it’s a very personal matter or something. I asked at a Great Clips if there were any vaccinated stylist who could cut my hair and my rude question was answered with “we can’t very well invade our employees’ privacy by asking that.” And I said “Bye.”

    Of course they can (it is not a HIPPA violation), and it is not a matter of individual privacy but public health. It’s asinine.

  21. “This seems to me a contradiction, since racism is based on the idea that the oppressor is superior to the oppressed.” You do not have to be in a majority to believe you are better than someone else nor do have to be the oppressor to be racist.

  22. I watched the opening ceremonies on TV today. It was bizarre, with the representatives waving to a silent and empty stadium. Many of the athletes just looked dazed.

    Also- “Cleveland People’s Socialist Baseball Collective #273”

  23. Cleveland Aboriginals (“the Abs”). Well, it may beat Cleveland Cleavers, or Cleveland Tomahawks. Kidding, if that’s allowed in 2021.

Leave a Reply