Like many people, I'm keeping an eye on the Wu Flu news.  It's not a nice bug, but so far it's not looking like a truly horrible one.  Here is a fairly dispassionate report.  The spread has been showing an extremely stable pattern of doubling the reported cases every 48 hours like clockwork.  The mortality rate looks close to 2%, scary but not utterly shocking, especially when you consider that it's a rate applicable only to cases severe enough to warrant going to a doctor.  There is good reason to think that's the tip of the iceberg, with most cases appearing in such a mild form that people simply experience cold symptoms or perhaps no symptoms at all.  Nor is the transmission rate particularly amazing:  far less than measles, for instance.  We're not, in other words, looking at an epidemic that will kill 2% of the world's population.

Still, it's a nasty bug, particularly for people with pre-existing conditions and those in countries with inadequate heroic medical intervention in case of respiratory collapse.

"The Attraction of Thor"- on Why the Catholic Church is Losing Men.

Fr. Brad Sweet has penned a rather interesting article on his thoughts on why we see some men drawn to neo-paganism and away from the Catholic church, and how that might be related to the feminization of both our societies and the church itself.  It's an interesting read, and as a chaplain to the Royal Canadian Navy, he has a rather interesting perspective on this.
"And there we have the attraction of Thor.  These and many other men are not going to identify with Catholic "lite".  Their lives are hard, and full of risk.  They are fathers and soldiers or sailors or aviators.  They seek not comfort but fortitude and a priest and Church that can be of help to maintain this duty and purpose in life as fathers and warriors."
Men need to be challenged, need to prove themselves worthy.  The church used to make that more present.

It was also interesting to find out that the Canadian military has allowed beards in all branches of service.

Fr. Sweet is also on twitter as @BradBradSweet 

“The Western” in Saudi Arabia

Good gracious.

It reminds me of this old post, except the Saudis are less obvious about using us as fertility gods. Less obvious: note all the women are unveiled.

UPDATE: Per Douglas in the comments, this event was actually held in Bahrain.

“A Thousand Ways to Get Sold Out”

Wretchard on the Chinese virus as a threat to the elite.

Too woke to date

I sure enjoyed this article about mating dynamics and politics.


Project Gutenberg, where I spend so much time online, is apolitical except on one designated "Political" forum.  The politics there have a marked leftist tinge, which shouldn't be surprising given the academic focus and the fact that members come from many countries.

Today one of the few conservatives posted a cheerful note of congratulations for Brexit Day, which naturally drew a number of cheerless responses.  I posted brief responses to the first few, adopting what I consider the moderate view:  without presuming to dictate to my British brethren what they should want for themselves, I merely observe that this is what they in fact chose.

That got a handful of sour notes about how difficult it is to divine what the "people really want."  I suppose so, but I'd rather go with the popular vote as a reasonable barometer than indulge in mindreading or the imposition of what's best for them by someone else's lights.  What then surprised me most was a series of posts arguing that Brexit was unfair because of its impact on British expats.  Expats in France, for instance, no longer can expect to be eligible to run for local office in the French villages they have chosen for themselves.  So Brexit's anti-choice, see?  One fellow is unhappy that he let his British passport expire so his kids could never drag him back to Britain "except in a box," but now he expects his free EU health benefits to be discontinued.

Maybe I'm hard-hearted, but I'd say the right solution in both cases would be to apply for citizenship in the countries these people have chosen to live in.  Why blame Great Britain or Brexit?  They can perfectly well go on as EU citizens if they like.

Ride On

Corb covers AC/DC:

Ian Tyson was a Canadian Country musician from the '50s on. Neil Young, Johnny Cash, and Bob Dylan all recorded songs he wrote. Here's his most famous song:

Corb's new album is Cover Your Tracks.

Anyone going to see him in Dallas?

It’s a Mystery

Crazy Politics? Check Out France

How's this for a headline? "French firefighters set themselves alight and start fighting against police."

The pictures are kind of amazing. Even among the impeachment spectacle and Brexit marching out of the European Parliament, France has managed to top us all.

Nobody Cares if Nobody Likes You

A study on likeability, especially in politics but with ramifications for the workplace and in general.
According to a study published in The Economic Journal, likability matters among women and among mixed-gender groups but not among men alone. In other words, women want both sexes to be likable, and men want women to be likable, but they don’t care so much about other men.... In short, women always need to be likable, and men only have to worry about it half the time....

For men, it can even pay to be unlikable. The fact that Trump is a pompous blowhard has somehow become a point in his favor. Sanders actually benefits from having the unlikable Clinton say, as she did last week, “Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him.” (Cleverly, Sanders shot back, “My wife likes me.”)
What he said was actually much better than that: he said, "On a good day, my wife likes me."

I don't know if this is true or not, but maybe it is. It's hard for me to decide if my own experience is telling. Certainly I like Tulsi Gabbard, in many respects; I'm still not going to vote for her, because her opinions frequently suggest to me that she's dangerously disqualified for the position. Certainly I did not like Hillary Clinton, but I also didn't think she was qualified -- chiefly disqualified on ethics!

Perhaps it doesn't matter as much as the report suggests, since we often find ways to like people who are useful to us. Kamala Harris is well-liked by those who would vote for her, in spite of some very unlikable ethical lapses as a prosecutor and a Senator. If you were opposed to her anyway, it's easy to find something not to like; if you were inclined to support her anyway, maybe that means you'll find a way to like her.

I think perhaps the experience of Sarah Palin points that up. When she stood on the stage and winked, the shockwave of her likability ran through the nation. But by the end of the campaign, she was one of the most disliked people in the nation. People decided to dislike her, I infer, because they were afraid she would otherwise win. And so, even as she palled around with the Saturday Night Live crew that was mocking her, even as she offered them free babysitting (even as she said "there is much to admire about our opponent," a sentiment that it is hard to imagine hearing expressed today), they decided to despise her and worked hard at it.

It still may be unfair that women depend so much more on being liked, but if the results are right it is also women who are bringing the biggest weight on liking you (or not). Men at least give each other a break; women could do the same. Maybe men could learn to give women a break, but would women learn to give one to men? Equality is parity, is it not? (No; sometimes, but not always.)

World Ending, Women and Children Hardest Hit

The Guardian may have set a record for closeness of approximation to that famous satirical headline.

Farage Rides Again

One last time at the EU Parliament, Nigel Farage makes his point about why the EU project is bad.

Then, just at the end, the chairwoman makes his point for him. Loud and clear.

Corrupt research

Too much "research" is tax-funded resume-buffing and policy-bolstering.

This dilemma reminds me of the "government is the word for the things we do together" thinking.  Government is also the word for ways to break all sensible links between the source of money and the reasonableness of the uses to which the money will be put.  You think it's bad when tobacco manufacturers crank out research on lung cancer, or fossil fuel companies produce research on climate change?  Just get unelected federal bureaucrats into the mix.  There are no real brakes on that car. Nothing we've ever tried works better than decentralizing the decisions and leaving each contributor as much as possible in charge of his own decision whether to keep pointing his own resources at a particular goal.

As Richard Feynman said, "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled."

Related:  with interesting tie-ins to Wuhan medical research and what appears to be the standard-issue $50K/month corrupt international gig, available only to those with appropriate access to the tax-and-influence machine.

That’s Gonna Sting

A political ad that is more effective than most.

Scots Wha Hae

A genetic map of the Scottish population, superimposed upon a set of maps of Dark Age kingdoms, shows that the population has changed little in a millennium and a half.

Warning Order: Þorrablót

If you want an experience less Scottish and more Icelandic, enjoy this video.

Be sure to watch the parts about the cuisine. I don't want to hear any more complaints about the haggis.

Progress in Indonesia

Women are overcoming their shyness and taking up positions of power in Aceh province:
Here, public whipping remains a common punishment for scores of offenders for a range of charges including gambling, adultery, drinking alcohol, and having gay or pre-marital sex. But the job has always been done by men. Until now....

But convincing women to participate has been no easy task, and it's taken years to assemble the first female squad, according to Safriadi, who heads provincial capital Banda Aceh's Sharia Implementation Unit.

Eight women -- all Sharia officers -- agreed to be floggers and were trained in the appropriate technique and advised how to limit injury.
Aceh is interesting because it's intensely Islamic, but has proven highly resistant to terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda. Aceh's particular take on Islam is so deeply held that these foreign groups find their different orthodoxies around Islam aren't acceptable there. They're more successful in the urbane regions of Indonesia, where people are persuadable about what Islam is supposed to mean. Non-Muslims who happen to be there have the option of not being tried under the religious law, too, so to some degree this is inside baseball from a culture that is policing itself. Those standards aren't ours (in particular we object to rape victims being punished for the extramarital sex!), but they are theirs, and they enforce them in a way that holds down on extremism that threatens us. If we were to go and try to interfere with their practices, they'd become enemies rather than somewhat queer and very distant 'neighbors.'

Whether and how to address our objections with them is a difficult question.

Masks Selling Out

There's a news story that surgical masks are selling out across the US as people prepare for a feared incursion by the Chinese coronavirus.  I'm not sure how helpful a mask really is in preventing transmission -- perhaps it does more to prevent you from infecting someone else than otherwise.

Still, surgical masks aren't your only option. You can also hit the hardware store. N-type masks are supposedly good against at least some biologicals, I don't know how well it works against this particular virus, of course, but if you're concerned and you can't get a surgical mask, try one that's made for particle filtration.

Endorsement: Bernie Sanders for Democratic Nominee

As longtime readers know, I am a life-long Democrat.  The part of the party to which I was attached was the oldest part, but it has largely ceased to exist in the current generation.  It was Jefferson's part, in other words, and Jackson's; lately it was Sam Nunn's and Zell Miller's.  Jim Webb (war hero Marine, former Senator, former Secretary of the Navy, former Assistant Secretary of Defense, diplomat, scholar, author) made a run at the nomination in 2016 and failed, to the sorrow of the nation whether it knows it or not. His departure from the field led us into the contest in which our options were Clinton and, well, you know the rest.

At this time the Democratic contest has narrowed to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, with the other candidates seeming to be also-rans.  I could hardly agree less with Bernie Sanders on public policy or political philosophy.  Nevertheless, he is the better man.

He is the better man because he is a man of his convictions; Biden, as far as I can tell, has no lasting ones.  Bernie was arrested with the Civil Rights marchers in the 1960s, visited with the Soviets on his honeymoon, and has been a self-declared Socialist since the era when most Americans viewed that as a synonym for both "Communist" and "Satanist."  Bernie really believes what he claims to believe.

You may not be impressed by his convictions insofar as you think that the convictions are bad, since it will reliably mean that he will attempt bad things.  That is a strategic error.  Even if you are unalterably opposed to his convictions, an enemy of conviction is to be preferred.  A man of conviction can be predicted; on the principle of 'know thy enemy as thyself,' per Sun Tzu, he is the better choice of an opponent.

But also, he is the better man because he does not seem to despise anyone.  Jim Webb and he became friends, and supported each other at the first debate in 2016.  Bernie took fire in that debate and elsewhere for being willing to avoid gun control; he said, rightly, that coming from Vermont he had to respect the wishes of the rural population.  That sentiment will serve him and the nation well should he happen to be elected.

Finally, he is the right man to lead the Democratic field in 2020 because he is the purest advocate for their animating vision.  They need to know now whether or not that vision can in fact take root in America; we all need to know it.  The answer to that question will determine a very great deal of future history.

For all of these reasons, then, I endorse Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Johnny Cash

Arkansas decides to update its statuary.

Last Train From Wuhan

A reporter gets aboard. But isn’t that where the story is?

Sorting out the front-runners

People are beginning to suggest this week that it's a race between Sanders and Biden to oppose Trump.  There are signs the D establishment will pull out all the stops to kneecap Sanders in favor of Biden, the theory being that they're comfortable with Biden's crony capitalism but terrified of Sanders heartfelt (though reckless) anti-capitalism.

Here's how I frame the approach of the three candidates:  Biden is a true-blue crony capitalist.  Sanders despises the "capitalist" part of that equation, while Trump is at least skeptical of the "crony" part.

To adopt a different spectrum of organization:  on a scale of enthusiasm for centralized command-and-control economies, Bernie is all in for control by an enlightened socialist elite, Biden favors control by cronies, and Trump genuinely prefers a more free market with distributed control in the hands of as many ordinary Americans as possible.