Incurable Illness

Do you know what the dirtiest, most disgusting place on the Internet is? I accidentally stumbled upon it today, and it’s rancid in its stomach-churning putrefaction. The utter degradation I witnessed there is not something I want to see again.

That place is in the comment section to the announcement that Ron DeSantis’s wife has breast cancer. What needed to have happened to people, how much they needed to be abandoned by anything human to gloat, finger-wag and preen over a mother of little children getting cancer – her illness might be cured but theirs won’t.

It’s truly a great punishment to live with a soul that is such a cesspit. People wash their hands several times a day but allow their inner lives to rot and stink to high heaven.

I’m not going to link to this ugliness and filth. I’m going to take a long shower and hope to forget what I saw.

Magic Touch

For Russian speakers, here’s a beautiful post about my native city or, rather, its Jewish version. It brings me to tears to think how all of this was destroyed to turn the city into the vulgar, ugly mess it was by the time I was born.

USSR was amazingly good at turning everything into the same shade of shit.

Racial Disparities in Language Learning

In my higher-level seminars, the lowest grades for every assignment are always those of Hispanic students. These courses are taught 100% in Spanish, and you’d think that a lack of a language barrier would help but nope. Never.

Another very low-performing group are African Americans. However! I have noticed that if I provide a free language tutor, black students are massively more likely to use the tutor’s services and they begin to close the gap extremely fast. I had 3 black students who were flunking out at the beginning of the semester. I deployed the tutor, and now all three are at low to mid Bs. And that’s in only 6 weeks. At this rate, they’ll be at an A by December. This tells me that their problem was bad language instruction in high school. In the 12 years that I’ve worked here, I’ve had exactly one black student who came to us without being handicapped at the level of the basic language skills. And in 12 years, we have graduated 4 black students total. Take into account that 15% of our students are black, and you’ll see that this is disturbing.

According to my observations, absolutely nothing helps advance African American graduation rates like free tutors. I’m so happy I came up with the plan to assign a GA to be a free tutor full time. (She’s free for the students but we pay her a salary and cover 100% of her tuition. I’m not exploiting anyone.)

All of the money that’s wasted on an endless procession of Vice Provosts for diversity, when instead we could hire an army of tutors and help these students. It’s a crying shame to have so many black students who take on debt to go to college and then have to drop out while we blab endlessly about our commitment to diversity.

What Causes Polarization

What we call “political polarization” is also a feature of the demise of the nation-state. “We Americans (or Peruvians, Ukrainians, etc)” is a historically new idea that needs to be cultivated and maintained. It was created to make the nation-state possible. Once this form of state withers away, all of its attributes disappear.

Instead of the “imagined community” of a nation, people swear allegiance to an imagined community of a political group. Instead of a flag, they have a mask. Instead of an anthem, they have a collection of slogans. Instead of national identity, they have a political or a tribal one.

In short, the people who kept saying that the end of nationalism would put an end to the animosities it unavoidably creates are not too smart.

New Study on COVID and Vaccines

New paper in European Journal of Epidemiology by researchers from Harvard and Canada:

“๐—œ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—ถ๐—ป ๐—–๐—ข๐—ฉ๐—œ๐——๐Ÿญ๐Ÿต ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐˜‚๐—ป๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—น๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—น๐—ฒ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—น๐˜€ ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐˜ƒ๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐—ฐ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป across 68 countries and 2947 counties in the United States”

At the country-level, there appears to be no discernable relationship between percentage ofย population fully vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases in the last 7ย days (Fig.ย 1). In fact, the trend line suggests a marginally positive association such that countries with higher percentage ofย population fully vaccinated have higher COVID-19 cases per 1 million people. Notably, Israel with over 60% of their population fully vaccinated had the highest COVID-19 cases per 1 million people in the last 7ย days. The lack of a meaningful association between percentage population fully vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases is further exemplified, for instance, by comparison of Iceland and Portugal. Both countries have over 75% of their population fully vaccinated and have more COVID-19 cases per 1 million people than countries such as Vietnam and South Africa that have around 10% of their population fully vaccinated.


Book Notes: Welcome, Frau Merkel!

There’s a famous Spanish movie by director Luis Garcรญa Berlanga titled “Welcome Mr Marshall” (1953). In the movie, a bunch of Castilian villagers prepare for a visit by US dignitaries in hopes of securing aid under the Marshall Plan. They dress up in the stereotypically “Spanish” clothes of Andalusia and pretend to be Andalusian to please the Americans who, of course, never show up. It’s hilarious and sad at the same time.

Luis Garcรญa Jambrina, a writer and a college professor, rewrote the movie in his novel Welcome, Frau Merkel (2015). In the novel, the villagers decide to dress up as Germans and pretend to be fully Germanized in hopes that Angela Merkel would like them and stop inflicting austerity on them. They make such an impact on Merkel that she decides to withdraw Germany from the EU and seek national sovereignty for her country.

It’s a really good novel, although I don’t think you can enjoy it without knowing Spanish literature all the way from Cervantes and Spanish film since Berlanga. If you do, the novel is irresistible. Really funny.

Spanish literature rules.