20 August 2019

Impressions From Modern Greece

So, to celebrate our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, my wife and I took a two week trip to Greece, specifically Athens, Mykonos, Santorini and Crete, this August.

Some of my impressions and reactions, more or less at random, follow:

* In thirteen days, it was cloudy for all of about three daytime hours on our second to last day while we were in Athen during which it very lightly sprinkled rain for five or ten minutes. It was sunny and moderately humid (but not like the American Southeast or the American Midwest in the summer) the rest of the time (except the Lasithi plateau at higher elevations in Crete). Winds were mild everywhere but Mykonos where they were strong and gusty. Highs were highest and lows were lowest in Athens, then Crete. In the small Cycladic islands of Mykonos and Santorini temperatures were mild (70s to 80s Fahrenheit) with as little as seven or eight degrees Fahrenheit between the high and the low for the day. The only moment we were cool was in a deep underground cave shrine in a mountain on the Lasithi plateau where temperatures got down to 14 degrees Celsius (about 57 degrees Fahrenheit) for the twenty or thirty minutes we were there on an otherwise warm afternoon even in the mountain valley. Water temperatures swimming in the Aegean Sea were about 77 degrees Fahrenheit except for some volcanically heated water at the center of the active volcanic Caldera on Santorini where it got up to about 86 degrees Fahrenheit in patchy spots in an area about the size of one or two soccer fields. Water temperatures in the Aegean Sea near swimming beaches get down to about 16 degrees Celsius (about 60 degrees Fahrenheit) in the winter - wet suit temperatures but swimmable.

* This reflects the Mediterranean climate. Summers are desert dry and hot. Winters are cool (but without snow outside the mountains) and relatively very wet (like the rainiest months of spring) although total annual precipitation wasn't very high anywhere we went. Winters can also have fiercely windy storms.

* One consequence of this situation is that most kinds of traditional Greek salads have no leafy green vegetables (which are water hungry and susceptible to evaporation due to their large surface area) or use them only sparingly, more as a garnish.

* Another consequence of this is that none of the islands, even Crete in the capitol city of Heraklion, have drinkable tap water. It is sanitary, but is obtained in part by desalinization of sea water which is economically possible to lower the salt content enough to make drinkable. So, everyone, locals and tourists alike, at five star hotels and homeless camps drink bottled water. You have to pay to get water at a restaurant, although it isn't very expensive, 1.5-2 Euros for a one liter bottle with little markup, and 0.80 Euros to 1 Euro per liter for a six pack of liter bottles.

* Toilets generally have a small flush, big flush system to conserve water and many public facilities have unisex bathrooms with closable stalls and shared sinks.

* Public restrooms are free and nasty and often lack TP and soap, but there are a fare amount of them.

* Many Greek cookies and baked goods are dry like biscotti so they won't rot, or if they are moist are in air and water tight packages.

* Surprisingly, pita bread, while present, was rare relative to French or Italian style breads and no more common than other kinds of loaf leavened breads.

* Hummus and falafel were sold only at Middle Eastern restaurants, although fava, which is like hummus but made with split peas rather than chick peas and with less oil, was ubiquitous. 

* At restaurants no one will give you a check for your meal, or imply you should move along until you ask for a check. Some places (e.g. in hotels) don't accept tips, many don't accept tips by credit card by accept them in cash, and where tips are suggested on a credit card machine the percentages offered are typically 5%, 10% and 15% with 10% being normative.

* Lunch time is roughly 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and dinner time is roughly 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Work starts around 7:30 to 8:30 for manual work and 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. for office work. Many businesses that don't serve food or the retail tourists (and even some tourist oriented shops) close for an hour or two each afternoon for lunch. Manual laborers quit at lunch time which is 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. for them and don't return. Office workers return after lunch and work until about 6:00 p.m. Long slow meals are the norm although there are grab and eat places and delivery places.

* CBD products (i.e. marijuana products optimized for the medical cannabis component rather than the THC active ingredient that gets you high) are available at many convenience store counters and drink/snack/tobacco stands, most of which also sell wine and beer. There were a few stand alone CBD stores with a wider variety of options.

* There were very few police in public, other than people issuing parking tickets, outside the airports and sea ferry ports. Those that were around were mostly responding to traffic accidents or investigating what seemed to be theft crimes. I saw no paramilitary police (apart from two military policemen patrolling within the boundaries of an ordinarily military base away from the public). I don't think I saw a single traffic stop in progress (admittedly, we were mostly on small tourist islands and a crowded big central city (central Athens and a mostly toll road route to and from the airport), although Crete is pretty big and less totally tourist oriented and got us out of a big urban central city). We did see TV news reports of a major corruption/organized crime bust by police of a wealth kingpin of some sort that took place in Mykonos after we left, maybe a combination of smuggling and tax evasion and human trafficking, it was hard to discern the exact nature of the crime in the Greek language broadcast.

* Roads are extremely narrow, people drive very fast, cars are mostly small and narrow, and margins of safety between vehicles are tiny. It wasn't uncommon to see two trucks or buses facing each other fold back their respective side mirrors so that they could drive past each other. But, apart from one serious motorcycle accident, I saw very few accidents. Most two way roads outside of Crete (but including small streets in Athens) would have been limited to one way traffic in the U.S.

* The cars are mostly small and narrow, with the exception of tour buses and shuttle buses. There were a handful of pickup trucks, but all were being used to actually car construction or landscaping stuff around in. There were some SUVs and full sized cars, but they were fairy scarce. There were lots of Smart Cars. There were lots of French cars and some Skodas and lots of Toyotas and Nissans as well. Many of the models were unfamiliar. There were a few Fords but not many (and none of the pickup trucks or SUVs I saw were Fords). 

* City bus service was comparable to that of similar U.S. cities, which is far below par for Europe or Israel. Athens has a subway system, but we didn't have an occasion in our fairly short and structured stay there to use it.

* Greek islands all have one or more sea ports and one or more commercial airports, with the airports being surprising large. Crete has three airports with the largest serving commercial airliners at least as big as Boeing 757s.

* Ferries aren't particularly timely, but getting on and off them is organized chaos. A ramp lands on the dock and people are rushed in ten or twenty across with their luggage on foot, they load their own luggage onto the carts where they are stored on the trip, and then they have their tickets examined once the boat is underway, with no security checks or customs checks of any kind. Then the process is reversed on the way out with everyone told to go to the luggage/car hold while approaching the dock, lined up 100 meters long and fifteen meters across holding luggage and urged out the ramp as fast as possible on foot into disorganized crowds of people holding signs. Getting on and off involved really only nominal queuing. The process takes ten or fifteen minutes tops each way for many hundreds of passengers plus motorcycles and scooters that intermingle with people, and cars and trucks driven on and off. There are bus station like holding areas before you board that are ill organized chaos and confusion and bored waiting with no one sure when their boat will arrive or which boat has just come in. On board the ferry is slow but much more comfortable than an airplane with better quality food for sale including fresh squeezed orange juice and the prices are very reasonable.

* I saw exactly one electric car (parked in a store parking lot with a company livery and no charging station nearby) on the entire trip, although there were a handful of hybrid taxis in Crete. This is a shame because every single one of these islands is a perfect place for electric cars because almost all drivers almost always drive on short trips at fairly low speeds most of the time with lots of stop and go traffic. Regular unleaded gasoline costs about $8 per gallon in Greece and the Cycladic islands have only about one to five gas stations each, but every house and shop is wired for electricity and the standard voltage for household electrical outlets is higher in Europe than in the U.S.

* The Cyclades islands we saw had a single coal fired power plant each. This is a shame as these islands (and Crete and many places in mainland Greece) are perfect places to generate electricity from large modern wind turbines and photovoltaic systems on either a centralized or decentralized basis.

* Electricity is scarce. Two of the four five star hotels we stayed at, and one three star hotel, had a system where electricity can only be used in your room while you are in the room and your key is in a slot that opens up the electrical circuit to the room. Big flashy brightly lit signs Las Vegas style are absent.

* Greece has no nuclear power plants or utility scale solar power generation and wind power makes up about 0.1% of the total electrical power generation in Greece. Nationwide 20% of electricity is from natural gas, 12% is from large hydroelectric facilities, about 8% from burning renewable biomass, and about 60% from coal.

* Aside from defunct grain grinding windmills from the early modern period that look like stone silos and were used as landmarks or hotel rooms or studios or residences, and some late 19th century, early 20th century, still working primitive irrigation water pumping windmills on the Lasithi plateau we didn't see a single windmill. There were many solar water heating units, but there were only very few photovoltaic units (on a handful of houses and on some park benches in central Heraklion in Crete).

* All of Greece is littered with half finished abandoned buildings, mostly with cement frames but little else that lost construction loan funding during the sovereign debt crisis from 2009 that persisted in having big effects through about 2015. Some were going to be residences, some were going to be hotels, some are apartment buildings, some were doing to be office buildings or shops. Most were covered with graffiti. 

* In Athens, almost all of the graffiti consisted of left wing political messages. In Mykonos and Santorini, the graffiti was predominantly tagging similar in content (but with a less elaborate style) than U.S. graffiti. Crete had roughly an even mix of the two types.

* The construction projects that the loans had finances were reputed to have involved lot of featherbedding with employees paid far more than market rates for their services. As of the summer of 2019 things were just starting to return to a pre-crisis economic state of affairs.

* As one index of how bad the economic crisis was, prostitutes who would have charged 150 Euros before the crisis, were charging 3 Euros at the peak of the crisis with far more women on the streets who normally didn't do sex work, and those prices have reputedly returned to pre-crisis levels. Prostitution is legal in Greece although not everyone follows the laws related to it.

* Souvlaki (gyro pork) largely fills the place of fast food burgers in the U.S. (although burgers are available too).

* French fries and fish and chips are sold in many places, but nobody even knows what malt vinegar is, although they will happily provide you with balsamic vinegar upon request.

* The Greeks are still very aware of the Persian invasions of the 400s BCE and wary of Iranians because of them.

* The Marshall Plan filled Athens with huge numbers of "international style" "brutalist" architecture, including endless four to seven story apartment buildings where most people live, that while ugly are engineered to withstand the frequent earthquakes in the region. Heraklion in Crete was similar. But, the islands in the Cyclades were spared for whatever reason.

* There are numerous visible signs in the form of abandoned military installations or remains of destruction from World War II, especially due to Axis occupation of Greece. There is still some wariness towards Germans and Germans are quite scarce relative to the French and Italians and Chinese, although they were somewhat more common that Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders, South Koreans, Romanians, Spaniards, and people from Portugal. The number of Germans was roughly comparable to the number of people from Russia or Arab countries or India or Britain. I saw almost no one from Latin America or Ireland. Most people we saw who were black were from the United States or France. There were many more people from the United States than from Commonwealth countries.

* Santorini is wine country in addition to being a tourism mecca, and that requires immigrant labor for harvests. The main countries for immigrant farm labor were Albania and Bulgaria.

* The best Greek wines are dry whites and reds. Neither my wife nor I were impressed with the sweet wines. We had some from Santorini and Crete. They have a very "clean" taste. Not a strong mineral taste. Not oaky. Not excessively fruity, but definitely wine tasting. Very little of its gets exported to the U.S. which is a shame as these rival Italian and French and Spanish wines in quality. I presume that the problem is lack of supply rather than lack of demand. In Santorini, wine vines are grown in tubs on the ground rather than on elevated vines to prevent evaporation from fierce winds much of the year. The 2019 vintage is expected to be worse than the 2018 vintage was because it was an unusually wet winter last year.

* I believe that the drinking age is 16 for wine and beer and 17 for hard liquor in Greece. Wine is for sale at every corner kiosk and minimart and no one ever asked us for ID, nor did we see anyone else get carded. This caused no visible problems and reduced the need for criminal justice system interaction with young people.

* Millennials from Europe all over sport tattoos frequently and also, for men, short hair with a full but thin beard. Some man buns were in evidence. There were more dresses and skirts proportionately than at the same time in the U.S. (even more so among actual Greek people) but there was still the full range of clothing and footwear seen in the U.S. including jeans, shorts for men and women, athletic wear and sports bras, swim suits under see through coverups, etc. Muslims wore what Muslims in more liberal Muslim countries do for the most part. Chinese tourists cover up more and often use parasols. Footwear was similar to the U.S. or Europe but with more sandals and fewer boots at least in the summer.

* Tourism peaks in August when many countries have vacations and ends in late October or early November for the most part. After that, it is mostly Americans and people from China coming for destination weddings.

* In Crete, apparently, almost everybody harvests their own olives which together with tourism is the main economic driver of the economy for most people. The olive harvest is pretty much immediately following the tourism season. Maybe 90% of the vegetation on the island outside the Lasithi Plateau (where they get snow annually and have some mountains above the tree line) consists of olive trees. A young family of four needs about 50 olive trees to provide a personal supply of olives, about 500 kg, which is used to produce about 100 liters of olive oil, which is what a family of four consumes in a year. Many people harvest olives as a season, family wealth cash crop with families owning as many as 1000 olive trees.

* The Lasithi Plateau has fruit orchards, and garden/farmer's market scale fruit and vegetable and corn production, and appears to be food self-sufficient. It also has lots of ornamental flowers.

* Throughout Greece there are artificial beehives visible.

* Fishing is still economically viable and seafood options include sea bass, salmon, octopus, mussels, and other smaller sea water fish and invertebrates. In our experience, the Greek sushi was pretty awful and to be avoided (although we didn't get sick from eating food of any kind there ever).

* Crete is much less foreign tourism dominated than the Cyclades. There is plenty of tourism, but much more of it consists of Greek families on beach vacations or visiting family who are coming from the mainland. Greek speakers were a small minority on the ferry from Mykonos to Santorini and on the flight from Athens to Mykonos, but were predominant on the ferry from Santorini (and other places) to Crete and on the flight from Crete to Athens. The ratio of tourists to residents in Crete was also much lower than in the Cyclades.

* Crete is much more sexist than Athens or the Cyclades in the sense that if a man and a woman are present together all outsiders (e.g. waiters, hotel personnel, cab drivers, cashiers) communicate almost exclusively with the man and don't even consider that a woman could have anything to say. Greek women in public in Crete all over the island wore fairly "dressed up" makeup that few Americans would use except for interviews or business meetings or dates. Fashion expectations for women where much higher, more conservative, and more traditionally feminine and conservative in Crete than in the Cyclades or Athens.

* Women entering Greek Orthodox Churches are expected to wear a dress that extends below the knee, and ideally although not mandatorily, a dress that is black and a head scarf that covers her hair. Expectations for men and children are much lower with shorts and t-shirts being acceptable.

* Greek Orthodox clergy are all civil servants receiving government salaries. The official line is that 98% of Greeks identify as Greek Orthodox, although I expect that the percentage who are non-religious or atheist is greatly underreported in that figure. The World Almanac says 81%-90% Greek Orthodox, 4%-15% none, 2% Muslim. The balance is mostly split between Roman Catholics and Muslims. There was very little evidence of any other kind of religious organizations. I saw no one who was visibly an observant Orthodox Jew, although I saw many Hindu tourists. There were one or two Roman Catholic churches on each of the smaller islands, just a handful in Athens, and just one tucked away in an alley in Heraklion (the capital city of Crete which has the equivalent of U.S. state level autonomous government, while most other places in Greece had only municipal and national level government offices in evidence). The Roman Catholic Churches don't appear to get heavy traffic either. Crete has a higher percentage of non-Christians than most of the rest of Greece.

* There are countless Greek Orthodox churches, for example, Santorini, which has a permanent population of about 25,000 and a tourist season population of perhaps another 100,000 people the vast majority of whom are not Orthodox Christians, had a monastery with eight mostly elderly monks (dedicated to St. Elias and originally home to about 80 monks), perhaps twenty larger Greek Orthodox churches or Cathedrals at which regular weekly services would be held, and perhaps two or three hundred smaller churches about the size of a detached garage that are mostly (but not entirely) "private churches".

* Private Greek Orthodox churches are incredibly numerous and everywhere. They are typically built by and at the expense of an individual or family and are dedicated to a Saint, often a Saint to whom someone has appealed in prayer and had their prayer granted with one or more icons of the Saint and others, and a physical object representing literally what was prayed for (e.g. a partial statute of a woman's breast if someone prayers that breast cancer would go into remission to a saint and this was granted, or a statute of a child or young man if the person had prayed for their safe return after being missing or going to a war zone) used as a meditation or prayer space except on the Saint's day when a more elaborate service would be held. In some ways, it is helpful to think of these little churches as an "optional" part of the homestead of a middle class or more affluent family in much the same way that someone might have a home art gallery or pottery studio or yoga room or home theater or home office or wine cellar or granny flat. The small churches are typically locked most of the time but can be accessed with a key kept in the car of a nearby responsible person such as a homeowner, or in any urban area, a nearby cafe manger, and can be accessed by strangers for the purpose of praying in and venerating the icons in the small church. Lots of these small churches are new, a reflection of periods of post-WWII affluence. But, there was also considerable continuity from pagan Greece (up to around the end of the Roman period ca. 300 CE) to the Orthodox Christian era in terms of modes of prayer with veneration of icons of saints (often identifiable with a pagan analog in some way) replacing appeals at a pagan shrine to a major or minor pagan deity, with the older Orthodox churches often located at the sites of previous pagan shrines.

* There were lots of blond white people from Eastern Europe working in low level janitorial and other similar low status, low paying jobs.

* The predominant secondary language after Greek was English. Next most common were Mandarin Chinese signs. Then French. Other secondary language signs and writing (e.g. on menus) was very rare. American English is much more common among second language learners than British English. In part, this is because other Europeans often know English as a second language while Americans do not. 

* Music almost everywhere has lots of English language songs. There are Greek songs on the radio on some stations, but there are lots of English language songs on Greek broadcast radio stations even in Athens and Crete. There are a smattering of songs in other non-Greek languages (especially French and Spanish) but maybe 5%-10% of the English language content and rarely exclusive. I can't judge how much true native Greeks listen to English language songs however due to bias in what I was exposed to no doubt. The mix of English language songs ranged from week old pop to 1960s rock and bassa nova. EDM was particular popular everywhere including a little non-English EDM and Euro-rap.

* Overall, Greece shows signs of a weak government and weak systems in all endeavors despite individual people who are fairly competent. Where there are well organized disciplined systems they are often in precisely the areas where thinly regulated chaos works well (like getting people into cabs). Greeks are good at working out disputed with each other face to face, however, without official involvement and maintain well run private spaces. Public space, in general was fairly scarce, everything has been owned by someone for thousands of years.

* The population of Greece today (12 million) is about the same as it was in classical times (10-11 million) although it is now much more urban with 50% of the population in the three largest cities (Athens has 4 million), and most people of the 12% who live on Greek islands in urbanized areas of towns. There are plenty of rural areas even on the islands, but it is all fenced off and demarcated with stone walls that in some cases are many centuries old.

* Athens and a few other major cities have an industrial base and shipping industry, other places are more focused on primary agriculture, fishing and mining activities and our service industries.

* Urban planning wasn't much in evidence with crazy twisted roads and little separation of uses with one exception. Every single city we visited had a substantial pedestrians only outdoor district mostly for shopping and dining and tourist oriented businesses. In Athens and Heraklion these were a lot like the 16th Street mall in Denver, but without a free shuttle bus. Beach areas had beach fronts closed to vehicles. In Mykonos and Santorini, there were labyrinthine mazes of narrow pedestrian alleys designed that way in the Middle Ages in order to make it easier to confuse, isolate and narrow the ranks of invading pirates. Most of the park areas in Athens appear to have been dedicated by the Royal family or religious orders in the 19th century at a time when Greece was a Kingdom.

* Lime brand electric app shareable scooters were ominpresent, widely used and treated well by the users.

* Many vendors do not accept American Express in Greece (although some do).

19 August 2019

Two Chlamydia Vaccines Pass First Stage Of Human Clinical Trials

We are just a few years away from a safe and effective chlamydia vaccineChlamydia is the most common STI and also responds to antibiotics, although antibiotic resistant strains are developing.

It adds HPV for which there is also a vaccine that is having a big impact, which is also a very common sexually transmitted infections (STIs), in part, because it is often not symptomatic for long periods of time, but can cause genital warts and cervical cancer. And, there is a vaccination against Hepatitis B, a less common viral STI that affects the liver. 

There is no vaccine or antibiotic treatments for the common viral STI genital herpes. There is also no vaccine for the common STI gonorrhea, but since it is bacteria it can be treated with antibiotics.

Two other, less common, STIs are syphilis and HIV/AIDs, both of which are viral. Syphilis is serious and hard to treat, HIV is deadly if untreated and there are only two cases of cures in history (both recently, however) and serious progress has been made on HIV vaccines although none of been truly reliably preventative although they do reduce the risk of infection. Also, while HIV PrEP is not a vaccine, taken in advance on a regular basis, it can prevent infection. 

02 August 2019

Choosing A Venetian Political Leader In The Middle Ages And Early Modern Period

There is something to be said for electing a leader from a random jury. Not sure what the theory was by injecting four rounds of reputational choice of electors into the process.
For more than five centuries (from 1268 to 1797) the procedure to elect the doge (chief of state) did not change. 
  1. Choose 30 members of the Great Council by lot.
  2. These 30 people are reduced by lot to 9.
  3. These 9 people choose 40 other people.
  4. These 40 are reduced by lot to 12.
  5. These 12 people choose 25 other people.
  6. These 25 people are reduced by lot to 9.
  7. These 9 people choose 45 other people.
  8. These 45 people are reduced by lot to 11.
  9. These 11 people choose 41 other people.
  10. These 41 people elect the doge. 
Funny that many Americans blame their electoral system for being complicated. You may think what you want about the Venetian system but it guaranteed what was probably the most stable government in the history of mankind.
Via Marginal Revolution.

A comment to the post suggests this logic behind the system:
Typically one had to be 35 and have succeeded in an embassy mission abroad or in trade, business or manufacture to join the Grand Council. Then only senior members with 10 years good standing could sit on certain select committees. Then only emeritus members of those committees were part of permanent advisory councils. Venice was essentially a gerontocracy which made it stubborn and inflexible at certain key points in history, but also meant that it was generally immune to populist waves and wild, political swings. 
The use of random drawings of lots for many political committees prevented factions from hardening. If no one fixer or slim majority could ever count on their team controlling a key committee, embassy or position there was much less incentive to form hard, permanent, bitter factions in the first place. Instead it was better for Council members to network broadly and steer towards consensus or compromise candidates. Venice never had its version of the Guelphs of Florence or the factional strife of other proto-democratic states of the Italian Renaissance and Finer attributed this to the unique political selection methods.
Another comment notes that (in addition to the fact that the "Grand Council" is another translation of the "Great Council") that:
Participation in the Great Council was established on hereditary right, exclusive to the patrician families enrolled in the Golden Book of the Venetian nobility.
Another reader hypotheses that:
-- The initial random seeding from the population gives an impression of universal participation and impartiality.
-- The selection of the next group means that people will think about qualities they want in a leader, such as popularity, leadership and gravitas, ability to execute, political philosophy, connection to an important trade or business, and so on.
-- The subsequent iterative rounds mean that people who are progressively even more well connected and with better judgment or support from the people will be choosing the next group from their rolodexes.
-- The random member reductions ensure that the selection committees are not too big to function efficiently, while still leaving the people pruned out with an impression that they participated.
-- Ironically, by the time that you go through this many steps, you probably end up with the same basic group, simply on the basis of Kevin Bacon six degrees theory and the Friendship Paradox social network/assortative mixing phenomenon.
-- This final group thus picks from a small usual-suspects circle of local bigwigs. But the illusion of some sort of roundabout democracy is maintained by the 180 or so people who had a part in the process.

Support For Democratic Presidential Candidates In A Nutshell

The New York Times summarizes the amount of support each leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic Presidential race has and in the linked article maps that geographically.

Who Do I Like And Why?

I would note that Trump is the only President in U.S. history who was not previous a Vice President, U.S. Senator, Governor, cabinet member in the federal government, or highest ranking military officer in the United States, and I think it would be wise to revert to the tradition of imposing those informal qualification for a Presidential nominee. The twelve leading candidates who have that experience are: Sanders, Warren, Harris, Biden, Castro, Booker, Klobuchar, Inslee, Gillibrand, Bennet, Bullock and Hickenlooper.

Many of them are doubtful because their support is almost entirely concentrated in a single state. This is true, at least, of Klobuchar, Inslee, Gillibrand, and Hickenlooper.

This leaves Sanders, Warren, Harris, Biden, Castro, Booker, Bennet, and Bullock.

Sanders and Warren are the leading progressives. Biden, Bennet and Bullock are positioned a centrist moderates. I don't know enough about Harris, Castro or Booker to characterize them on the progressive to centrist spectrum, and that isn't irrelevant. None of those three individuals are really national figures, even though each of them has strong support on his or her home turf. The background Harris has as a prosecutor strikes many as conservative even though she is not positioned strongly in the moderate wing of the Democratic Party like Biden, Bennet, Bullock and Hickenlooper.

In my humble opinion, Biden is the worst candidate for the Democratic nomination with any significant support. If Democrats choose a centrist, either to lead a ticket, or to balance more liberal candidate's ticket as Vice President, Bennet and Bullock would be better candidates, although sacrificing the electoral incumbency advantages that Bennet has in the U.S. Senate and that Bullock has in Montana, may not be worth it compared to the slight bump that a ticket splitting Vice President can provide in the 2020 general election race for President.

I am leaning towards Warren as my preferred candidate for the Democratic nomination. Sanders is too old, and is a somewhat more polarizing figure within the Democratic party. Warren is competent, a good and inspiring public speaker, she speaks to Sanders supporters in terms of policy and could easily win a wholehearted endorsement from Sanders himself, she speaks to supporters of Hillary Clinton in terms of potentially being the first woman to serve as U.S. President, and she has lots of supporters over a wide geographic area (almost everywhere but Texas, which is a lost cause, and Wisconsin) and has raised lots of money. She would do a good job of mobilizing the base while not alienating to many people in the base. 

In terms of a Vice President, the most important qualification is an ability to deliver one or more swing states for the ticket that might otherwise have been difficult for the Presidential nominee to win. 

In 2016, the red states that were close enough that a Democrat might pick up in 2020 were Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, the least urban Congressional districts in Maine, North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona (a third-party candidate might just conceivably deny Trump a win in Utah as one nearly did in 2016, but no Democrat would). The states won by Clinton in 2016 that were least secure were Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.

The most critical swing states were Florida and the Rust Belt states.

Many Democratic Presidential candidates in 2020 have little or no significant support at this point in any of those swing states. Working from the back of the pack, the following candidates aren't strong at this point in swing states: Blasio, Delany, Ryan, Moulton, Bullock, Gillibrand, and Inslee. If you assume that Colorado and Minnesota won't be a swing states in the Presidential race in 2020 (a fairly safe assumption), Hickenlooper and Klobuchar don't look attractive either.

Which candidates other than Sanders and Warren, have significant numbers of supporters in both the Rust Belt and Florida?

Buttigieg and Biden. And, Biden might do more harm in damping the support of the Democratic faithful, than he would add in swing states. Butteigieg, in contrast, has meaningful backing in key swing states, has great personal charisma, alienates mostly homophobes who were voting for Trump anyway, in significantly less progressive than Warren helping to secure support from more moderate Democrats, and knows how to communicate to Rust Belt voters. A Butterigieg candidacy also won't sacrifice any electoral incumbency advantages in key races. 

Ultimately, then, I like a Warren-Buttigieg ticket. This ticket would secure the extreme hate and ire of cultural conservatives in red states and one percenters. But, those aren't the constituencies that the Democrats need to beat Trump in 2020. Those constituencies are largely lost causes.

Sanders would have been a better choice in 2016 than Clinton. And he still is, beyond being a progressive, a populist than crosses party lines with working class support on bread and butter issues. But, I'm not sure that the hard feelings left from that race, and the fact that he isn't getting any younger, help in 2020. Warren can play the age card as well as the gender card against Trump, Sanders can't.

The Raw Data

Bernie Sanders
Senator from Vermont
746,000 Estimated donors
$36 million Total raised

Elizabeth Warren
Senator from Massachusetts
421,000 Estimated donors
$25 million Total raised

Pete Buttigieg
Mayor of South Bend, Ind.
390,000 Estimated donors
$32 million Total raised

Kamala Harris
Senator from California
277,000 Estimated donors
$24 million Total raised

Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Former vice president
256,000 Estimated donors
$22 million Total raised

Beto O’Rourke
Former congressman from Texas
188,000 Estimated donors
$13 million Total raised

Andrew Yang
133,000 Estimated donors
$5 million Total raised

Julián Castro
Former housing secretary
110,000 Estimated donors
$4 million Total raised

Cory Booker
Senator from New Jersey
100,000 Estimated donors
$10 million Total raised

Tulsi Gabbard
Congresswoman from Hawaii
88,000 Estimated donors
$4 million Total raised

Amy Klobuchar
Senator from Minnesota
79,000 Estimated donors
$9 million Total raised

Jay Inslee
Governor of Washington State
78,000 Estimated donors
$5 million Total raised

Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator from New York
77,000 Estimated donors
$5 million Total raised

Marianne Williamson
Self-help author
75,000 Estimated donors
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Global Warming Has Happened

There has never been a hotter month recorded on Earth than this July. . . . 2015-2019 looks set to be the warmest recorded 5-year period.
From CNN today.

There have been hotter months on Earth, but those pre-date contemporaneous recordings of temperatures and are a very, very long time ago, because natural drift in climate conditions is usually much slower on the upside (although ET impacts and volcanos can cause sudden cooling).

01 August 2019

Interesting Facts About Polygyny

The excerpts below are from Wikipedia:
Today, polygyny is more widespread in Africa than in any other continent. Some scholars see the slave trade's impact on the male-to-female sex ratio as a key factor in the emergence and fortification of polygynous practices in regions of Africa. Generally in rural areas with growing populations, the higher the incidence of polygyny, the greater the delay of first marriage for young men. The higher the average polygyny rate, the greater the element of gerontocracy and social stratification. 
Throughout the African polygyny belt stretching from Senegal in the west to Tanzania in the east, as many as a third to a half of married women are in polygynous unions, and polygyny is found especially in West AfricaHistorically, polygyny was partly accepted in ancient Hebrew society, in classical China, and in sporadic traditional Native American, African and Polynesian cultures. In the Indian subcontinent, it was known to have been practiced during ancient times. It was accepted in ancient Greece, until the Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church. 
In North America, polygyny is practiced by some Mormon sects, such as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church). 
. . .   
Some research that show that males living in polygynous marriages may live 12 percent longer. Polygyny may be practiced where there is a lower male:female ratio; this may result from male infants having increased mortality from infectious diseases. 
Other research shows that polygyny is widely practiced where societies are destabilized, bloodier, more likely to invade neighbors and more likely to fail. This has been attributed to the inequality factor of polygyny, where rich men can take extra wives, leaving more poor men single. A study has also shown that, after controlling for other factors, African children in polygynous families were more likely to die young. A 2019 study in the Journal of Conflict Resolution found that "young men who belong to polygynous groups feel that they are treated more unequally and are readier to use violence in comparison to those belonging to monogamous groups." 
. . . 
Most Christian theologians argue that in Matthew 19:3-9 and referring to Genesis 2:24 Jesus explicitly states a man should have only one wife: 
Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 
Jesus also tells the Parable of the Ten Virgins going to meet the bridegroom, without making any explicit criticism or other comment on the practice of polygamy. 
The Bible states in the New Testament that polygamy should not be practiced by certain church leaders. 1 Timothy states that certain Church leaders should have but one wife: "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach" (chapter 3, verse 2; see also verse 12 regarding deacons having only one wife). Similar counsel is repeated in the first chapter of the Epistle to Titus. 
Periodically, Christian reform movements that have aimed at rebuilding Christian doctrine based on the Bible alone (sola scriptura) have at least temporarily accepted polygyny as a Biblical practice. For example, during the Protestant Reformation, in a document referred to simply as "Der Beichtrat" (or "The Confessional Advice" ), Martin Luther granted the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, who, for many years, had been living "constantly in a state of adultery and fornication", a dispensation to take a second wife. The double marriage was to be done in secret, however, to avoid public scandal.Some fifteen years earlier, in a letter to the Saxon Chancellor Gregor Brück, Luther stated that he could not "forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict Scripture." ("Ego sane fateor, me non posse prohibere, si quis plures velit uxores ducere, nec repugnat sacris literis.") 
On February 14, 1650, the parliament at Nürnberg decreed that, because so many men were killed during the Thirty Years' War, the churches for the following ten years could not admit any man under the age of 60 into a monastery. Priests and ministers not bound by any monastery were allowed to marry. Lastly, the decree stated that every man was allowed to marry up to ten women. The men were admonished to behave honorably, provide for their wives properly, and prevent animosity among them.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, there has often been a tension between the Christian insistence on monogamy and traditional polygamy. In some instances in recent times there have been moves for accommodation; in other instances, churches have resisted such moves strongly. African Independent Churches have sometimes referred to those parts of the Old Testament that describe polygamy in defending the practice.