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Stark on Science as Evidence for Christianity’s Predictive Success

May 19th, 2010 No comments

Crusades for Christ

Without the religious background, there wouldn’t be any science, because the fundamental notion that separated the West from everybody else was the notion that God is rational and created a rational universe, so there were rules out there to be discovered.

Nobody else looked for the rules, because they didn’t believe they were there to be found. They didn’t believe that the world had been created in the same rational way. The marvelous thing is that these early Christian scientists, including Newton, believed God had created a rational world, went ahead and looked for the rules of that rational world — and darned if they didn’t find them. In an interesting sense, it was a scientific confirmation of the Christian religion.

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Rodney Stark on the Crusaders

May 19th, 2010 No comments

Crusades for Christ

Cultures change. What is overlooked about the Crusaders, and the knights and nobility of the 10th century and thereabouts, is that they were very bloody-minded. They had been raised since infancy to devote themselves to fighting. They were very sinful. They particularly were into coveting wives. And they were very religious.

The fact that these things can be combined strikes the modern mind as bizarre. But you have to deal with it if you’re going to understand these people. They would commit a horrid crime, and their confessor would say, “I don’t know if you can ever get over that one. I don’t know if atonement is in the books for you. But you better walk barefoot to the Holy Land and hope that that works.”

And they’d go. And then come back and sin some more.

 

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The Kind of Thing the Bishops Ought to be Saying

May 19th, 2010 No comments

Article | First Things

the directors of the Legion issued a statement on March 26, which read, “We ask all those who accused him in the past to forgive us, those whom we did not believe or were incapable of giving a hearing to, since at the time we could not imagine that such behavior took place.” On April 25, Fr. Owen Kearns, publisher of the Legion’s newspaper, the National Catholic Register, added, “To Father Maciel’s victims, I pray you can accept these words: I’m sorry for what our founder did to you. I’m sorry for adding to your burden with my own defense of him and my accusations against you. I’m sorry for being unable to believe you earlier. I’m sorry this apology has taken so long.”

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Birds of a Feather

May 19th, 2010 No comments

Dick Blumenthal, Reporting for Duty – WSJ.com

SAT Analogy Practice Test

* “Woody Allen Comes Out in Support of Polanski”–headline, Associated Press, May 16
* “Dodd Defends Blumenthal”–headline, The Weekly Standard website, May 18

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Great Cochrane 2008 Letter on the Milton Friedman Institute Objection Letter

May 19th, 2010 No comments

Comments on the Milton Friedman Institute Protest letter

John Cochrane

July 12 2008

(A group of University of Chicago faculty wrote a petition to our President opposing the foundation of a Milton Friedman Institute to support economic research. The full letter is here. These are my personal comments on that letter. I do not speak for or represent the Institute, the faculty committee, the University, or anyone else.)…

 

“Many colleagues are distressed by the notoriety of the Chicago School of Economics, especially throughout much of the global south, where they have often to defend the University’s reputation in the face of its negative image.”

If you’re wondering “what’s their objection?”, “how does a MFI hurt them?” you now have the answer. Translated, “when we go to fashionable lefty cocktail parties in Venezuela, it’s embarrassing to admit who signs our paychecks.” Interestingly, the hundred people who signed this didn’t have the guts even to say “we,” referring to some nebulous “they” as the subject of the sentence. Let’s read this literally: “We don’t really mind at all if there’s a MFI on campus, but some of our other colleagues, who are too shy to sign this letter, find it all too embarrassing to admit where they work.” If this is the reason for organizing a big protest perhaps someone has too much time on their hands.

“Global south”

I’ll just pick on this one as a stand-in for all the jargon in this letter. What does this oxymoron mean, and why do the letter writers use it? We used to say what we meant, “poor countries. ” That became unfashionable, in part because poverty is sometimes a bit of your own doing and not a state of pure victimhood. So, it became polite to call dysfunctional backwaters “developing.” That was already a lie (or at best highly wishful thinking) since the whole point is that they aren’t developing. But now bien-pensant circles don’t want to endorse “development” as a worthwhile goal anymore. “South” – well, nice places like Australia, New Zealand and Chile are there too (at least from a curiously North-American and European-centric perspective). So now it’s called “global south,” which though rather poor as directions for actually getting anywhere, identifies the speaker as the caring sort of person who always uses the politically correct word.

“The effects of the neoliberal global order that has been put in place in recent decades….”

Notice the interesting voice of the verb. Let’s call it the “accusatory passive.” “Has been put in place…” By who, I (or any decent writer) would want to know? Unnamed dark forces are at work.

“Many would argue that they have been negative for much of the world’s population… weakening … struggling local economies”

I can think of lots of words to describe what’s going on in, say, China and India, as well as what happened previously to countries that adopted the “neoliberal global order” like Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea. Billions of people are leading dramatically freer, healthier, longer and more prosperous lives than they were a generation ago. “Weakening…struggling local economies” is just factually wrong about events on this planet….

This is just the big lie theory at work. Say something often enough and people will start to believe it. It helps especially if what you say is vague and meaningless. Ok, I’ll try to be polite; a lie is deliberate and this is more like a willful disregard for the facts. Still, if you start with the premise that the last 40 or so years, including the fall of communism, and the opening of China and India are “negative for much of the world’s population,” you just don’t have any business being a social scientist. You don’t stand a chance of contributing something serious to the problems that we actually do face.

“the service of globalized capital..”

I was wondering who the subject of all these passive sentences is. Now I’m beginning to get the idea. This view has a particularly dark history. A hint: “Globalized capital” has names like Goldman and Sachs. …

The letter starts with two paragraphs of meaningless throat-clearing. (“This is a question of the meaning of the University’s investments, in all senses.” What in the world does that sentence actually mean?) I learned to delete throat-clearing in the first day of Writing 101. It’s all written in the passive, or with vague subjects. “Many” should not be the subject of any sentence. You should never write “has been put in place,” you should say who put something in place. You should take responsibility in your writing. Write “we,” not “many colleagues.” The final paragraphs wander around without saying much of anything.

The content of course is worse. There isn’t even an idea here, a concrete proposition about the human condition that one can disagree with, buttress or question with facts. It just slings a bunch of jargon, most of which has a real meaning opposite to the literal. “Global South,” “neoliberal global order,” “the service of globalized capital,” “substitution of monetization for democratization.” George Orwell would be proud.

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Maybe Economics Is Not as Pure as I Thought

May 19th, 2010 No comments

No comment, please – Politik – Ökonomie – Ökonomie-Nachrichten – Handelsblatt.com

Ignoring Liebowitz was not possible any more, however, after he submitted his counter-study officially as a comment to the JPE in September 2007. Levitt started by asking one of the authors, Koleman Strumpf, for his opinion. Strumpf handed in his reply in November. He defends the study and retaliates by pointing to alleged mistakes in Liebowitz? comment.

In addition, Levitt asked for a report from an impartial referee. The referee recommends publishing the comment in order to “save subsequent researchers from building on a flawed research foundation.” While he advises Liebowitz to rephrase his comment such that it would not contain any overt assertions of data manipulation he sides with him on almost all the critical points and comes to a damming conclusion regarding the file-sharing article: “I would suggest that the authors? conclusions are not warranted given the analysis and evidence that they provide.”

However, Levitt is not inclined to publish the comment. He anonymizes the reply by Strumpf and uses it as a second referee-report on which he bases his rejection of Liebowitz? comment.

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Requirements for Elective Office

May 18th, 2010 No comments

The Volokh Conspiracy » Connecticut Secretary of State Legally Barred from Running for Connecticut Attorney General

The New Haven Independent reports:

[Susan] Bysiewicz …, a popular Democrat who’s secretary of the state … ran for attorney general instead …. [But] it turned out she might not legally qualify for the job, because she hasn’t been practicing law for the past 10 years.

The matter went to court. Bysiewicz convinced the lower court that even though she hasn’t been appearing before judges or doing technical legal work, her job as secretary of the state could still meet the legal definition of being a lawyer…. [But today the Connecticut Supreme Court] has in fact not been working as a lawyer, and is therefore ineligible to run for attorney general.

The relevant statute reads, “The Attorney General shall be an elector of this state and an attorney at law of at least ten years’ active practice at the bar of this state.”

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New Punctuation Marks

May 18th, 2010 No comments

Marginal Revolution

If you could create a punctuation mark, what would its function be and what would it look like?

That’s from Hudson Collins, loyal MR reader. I’ve always liked the chess marks “!?” and “?!” and wondered why they weren’t used in standard English. The former refers to a startling move which is uncertain in merit and the latter refers to a dubious move which creates difficult to handle complications. Plus “N” could be used to mark sentences with novel ideas.

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Less than 10 Years in Prison for a Deranged Murderer in England

May 18th, 2010 No comments

Woman charged over stabbing of Labour MP Stephen Timms | Mail Online

In January 2000, deranged Robert Ashman attacked Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones with a samurai sword as he conducted a surgery in his Cheltenham constituency.

Ashman seriously injured Mr Jones and stabbed to death his aide Andrew Pennington as he tried to protect the MP.

Mr Jones required 57 stiches to his hand.

Ashman later claimed he had carried out the attack because his MP was not doing enough to help him after he lost his job, got divorced and was declared bankrupt.

The former engineer was found guilty of manslaughter and attempted murder.

Sentencing the father of two at the time, a High Court judge said Ashman was so disturbed she could not foresee a time when he would be safely released.

But Ashman has since been allowed back on the streets after psychiatrists deemed him fit to be let out.

He is now living in a ‘halfway house’ in Bristol, just 35 miles away from the scene of the killing in Cheltenham.

Although he is supervised by police and has to obey a curfew, he is free to go out alone during the day.

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Stephen Fry on MS Windows as an Ugly Office

May 18th, 2010 No comments

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Ted Turner on Disasters as God’s Wrath against Our Sins

May 18th, 2010 No comments

Ted Turner: Is God speaking in Gulf Coast spill? – Religion – CNN.com Blogs

“I’m not a real religious person, but I’m somewhat religious. And I’m just wondering if God is telling us he doesn’t want us to drill offshore,” he said. “And right before that we had that coal mine disaster in West Virginia where we lost 29 miners,” as well as repeated mining disasters – “seems like there’s one over there every week” – in China.

“Maybe the Lord’s tired of having the mountains of West Virginia, the tops knocked off of them so they can get more coal. I think maybe we ought to just leave the coal in the ground and go with solar and wind power and geo-thermals where it’s applicable.”

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The Obama Administration Embarassing Us Abroad: Condemning Arizona to Foreigners

May 17th, 2010 No comments

Power Line – Apologizing For Arizona

QUESTION: Did the recently passed Arizona immigration law come up? And, if so, did they bring it up or did you bring it up?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: We brought it up early and often. It was mentioned in the first session, and as a troubling trend in our society and an indication that we have to deal with issues of discrimination or potential discrimination, and that these are issues very much being debated in our own society.

You’ve Got to Be Kidding . . . – Jay Nordlinger – The Corner on National Review Online

I hope I have read that incorrectly, or am interpreting it incorrectly. Did we, the United States, talking to a government that maintains a gulag, that denies people their basic rights, that in all probability harvests organs, apologize for the new immigration law in Arizona? Really, really?

A month ago, President Obama told the leader of Kazakhstan that we were still — you know: working on our democracy. An Obama national-security aide, Mike McFaul, said, “[Obama has] taken, I think, rather historic steps to improve our own democracy since coming to office here in the United States.” (For a write-up, go here.) “Historic steps”? I suppose he meant national health care, socialized medicine. I suppose, by “democracy,” he meant social democracy. Hard to tell. I don’t think he meant that the Justice Department was going to make the New Black Panthers stop intimidating voters.

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The Arizona Immigration Law

May 14th, 2010 No comments

We were talking about the Arizona law a week ago at lunch. AG Holder hasn’t read the statute, but you can! I found the text at:

http://www.keytlaw.com/blog/2010/04/anti-illegal-immigration-law-part-1/

The law indeed does not allow police to stop just anyone and ask for their papers, even if there is “reasonable suspicion”, unless the policeman has already stopped them for something else, a “stop, detention or arrest made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of this state or a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state”

Also noteworthy is that a person cannot be detained if he has an Arizona driver license, a “tribal enrollment card”, or any government ID that requires proof of legal presence in the United States before issuance.

There is private enforcement to prevent city nullification of the law. We wondered how it would work. The trick is that it doesn’t allow suits based on decisions not to prosecute or detain in individual cases, only to city “policy or practice” not to prosecute or detain. That sounds workable.

“H. A person who is a legal resident of this state may bring an action in superior court to challenge any official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state that adopts or implements a policy or practice that limits or restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws including 8 United States Code sections 1373 and 1644, to less than the full extent permitted by federal law. If there is a judicial finding that an entity has violated this section, the court shall order that the entity pay a civil penalty of not less than one thousand five hundred dollars and not more than five thousand dollars for each day that the policy has remained in effect after the filing of an action pursuant to this subsection.

I. A court shall collect the civil penalty prescribed in subsection H of this section and remit the civil penalty to the state treasurer for deposit in the gang and immigration intelligence team enforcement mission fund established by section 41‑1724….”

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Cheap Adoptees

May 14th, 2010 No comments

Marginal Revolution

The paper finds the cost of adopting a black baby needs to be $38,000 lower than the cost of a white baby, in order to make parents indifferent to race. Boys will need to cost $16,000 less than girls.

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Arizona, New Mexico, and Immigration

May 14th, 2010 No comments

Steve Sailer’s iSteve Blog

In other words, there is much more illegal immigration into Arizona than into New Mexico, which is why there is much more concern about it in Arizona.

And that raises a fundamentally important question: Why don’t illegal immigrants want to go to New Mexico when it’s full of Hispanics and nice white people? Why do illegal immigrants prefer to go to Arizona, with its relative shortage of vibrancy and its Not Nice White People? Why, indeed, have illegals preferred states like Georgia in recent years over New Mexico?

Because New Mexico is economically stagnant and backward.

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Federal Immigration Enforcement

May 11th, 2010 No comments

Deported illegal immigrant gets $145,000 after New York City jails him for too long at Rikers Island – NYPOST.com

Federal immigration agents have office space on Rikers Island, and the city allows them to interview roughly 4,000 inmates each year. They put a hold, or “detainer,” on 3,200 of those inmates who they discover are illegals.

But ICE often fails to transfer those detainees within the required 48 hours of their criminal cases being resolved, multiple jail sources said.

“We just release them now,” one high-ranking jail supervisor said. “It’s ICE’s problem to go find these guys.”

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Immigrant Crime—100% of Crime in One Category

May 11th, 2010 No comments

» Media Take Note: In Arizona County, Of 64 Highway Chases Last Month, Not One Perp a U.S. Citizen – Big Journalism

This weekend on Phoenix’ KFYI, radio host Terry Gilberg interviewed Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. The Sheriff’s message to Contessa, Katie and all the rest? Come ride along side me in the patrol car. You’ll see the real story.

During the interview, he conveyed a remarkable statistic:

Last month alone, just in one patrol region, we had sixty-four pursuits. That means people who were driving a vehicle, failed to yield, took off like a bat out of hell, running red lights, creating traffic wrecks, numerous people were killed in these wrecks over the last several months, and who are these people? Not one of them was a U.S. citizen.

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Heroin Is Legal in Mexico

May 10th, 2010 No comments

Mexico Decriminalizes Drugs; Law May Be Example for U.S. – TIME

Quietly and with little ado, Mexico last week enacted a law to decriminalize possession of small amounts of all major narcotics, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and crystal meth. Anyone caught in Mexico with two or three joints or about four lines of cocaine can no longer be arrested, fined or imprisoned. However, police will give them the address of the nearest rehab clinic and advise them to get clean.

Most surprising was how easily and painlessly the reform slipped into Mexican law. The bill was originally filed in October by President Felipe Calderón, a social conservative who is waging a bloody military crackdown on drug cartels.

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Resistance to Media Misinformation

May 8th, 2010 No comments

Instapundit

Forget the Arizona bill itself. What this poll says is that despite weeks of national-media coverage that was unrelentingly negative, calling the bill racist, drawing Nazi analogies, etc. — only 15 percent are really against it. Sorry guys — you’re still talking, but people aren’t listening.

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Shifty Links at the NYTimes and Wash.Post

May 6th, 2010 No comments

Instapundit

GOVERNMENT REGULATORS GAVE BP A PASS: “The Interior Department exempted BP’s calamitous Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from a detailed environmental-impact analysis last year, according to government documents, after three reviews of the area concluded that a massive oil spill was unlikely.”

I had linked the original WaPo version of this below, but, strangely, that link now goes to a completely different story. So here it is again. Thanks to reader Joseph Nunke for pointing out this odd behavior at the Post, and for sending the new link. We saw similar behavior from The New York Times with a critical story about the Administration the other day. Hmm. Anybody at the WaPo or the NYT want to explain this? ‘Cause it looks pretty bad.

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Ivy Leaguers Going for High Paying Jobs

May 5th, 2010 No comments

James Kwak has an excellent post,
Why Do Harvard Kids Head to Wall Street? « The Baseline Scenario

 …
The typical Harvard undergraduate is someone who: (a) is very good at school; (b) has been very successful by conventional standards for his entire life; (c) has little or no experience of the “real world” outside of school or school-like settings; (d) feels either the ambition or the duty to have a positive impact on the world (not well defined); and (e) is driven more by fear of not being a success than by a concrete desire to do anything in particular. (Yes, I know this is a stereotype; that’s why I said “typical.”) Their (our) decisions are motivated by two main decision rules: (1) close down as few options as possible; and (2) only do things that increase the possibility of future overachievement. Money is far down the list; at this point in their lives, if you asked them, many of these people would probably say that they only need to be middle or upper-middle class, and assume that they will be.

The recruiting processes of Wall Street firms (and consulting firms, and corporate law firms) exploit these (faulty) decision rules perfectly. The primary selling point of Goldman Sachs or McKinsey is that it leaves open the possibility of future greatness. The main pitch is, “Do this for two years, and afterward you can do anything (like be treasury secretary).” The idea is that you will get some kind of generic business training that equips you to do anything (this in a society that assumes the private sector can do no wrong and the public sector can do no right), and that you will get the resume credentials and connections you need to go on and do whatever you want. And to some extent it’s true, because these names look good on your resume, and very few potential future employers will wonder why you decided to go there. (Whether the training is good for much other than being a banker or a consultant is another question.)

The second selling point is that they make it easy. Yes, there is competition for jobs at these firms. But the process is easy. They come to campus and hold receptions with open bars. They tell you when and how to apply. They provide interview coaching. They have nice people who went to your school bond with you over the recruiting period. If you get an offer, they find out what your other options are and have partners call you to explain that those are great options, but Goldman/McKinsey is better, and you can do that other thing later, anyway. For people who don’t know how to get a job in the open economy, and who have ended each phase of their lives by taking the test to do the most prestigious thing possible in the next phase, all of this comes naturally. (Graduate schools, which also have well-defined recruiting processes, are the other big path to take.) The fact that most companies don’t want new college graduates makes it easier to go to one of the few that do.

The third selling point — not the top one, but it’s there — is the money. …

The same factors are also largely true for top law school graduates, although for them the money is understandably more important. …

But the other factors are also very important. If you go to a top law school, it is simply easier to get a corporate firm job than any other job. They all come to campus at the beginning of your second year, most people can get a job simply by following the interview process, you work there for one summer, and then you get an offer to come back. Even if you don’t want to work at a firm, it makes rational sense to do it for that summer to get the offer as Plan B.

By contrast, it’s hard to get a public interest job. Most public interest organizations don’t have the money to hire a lot of people, and many don’t want people right out of law school. So the usual route is you have to apply for a competitive fellowship to work at a public interest organization, and then you have to hope they’ll hire you for good after that year. It’s hard. And that’s how Plan B becomes Plan A. And besides, many prominent corporate lawyers have gone on to important positions in Washington, so there is still the possibility of future greatness.

 
  

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The judge’s opinion in the Michigan militia bond hearing

May 4th, 2010 No comments

The judge issued a 30+page memo on the Michigan militia case. It sure looks as if the government has no evidence of any crime. The judge freed the defendants on bond because of that.

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As Dean Minow Said, if Your IQ Is Lower, You’re Inferior

May 4th, 2010 No comments

Steve Sailer’s iSteve Blog

“Harvard” stands for “intelligence,” extreme far right edge of the IQ Bell Curve smarts. America is increasingly stratified by IQ, and the resulting class war that the clever are waging upon the clueless means that having Harvard’s endorsement of your brainpower is ever more desirable. …

Yet, Harvard’s IQ elitism sharply contradicts its professed egalitarianism. The typical Harvard professor or student considers himself superior to ordinary folks for two conflicting reasons: first, he constantly proclaims his belief in human equality, but they don’t; and second, he has a high IQ, but they don’t.

Further, he believes his brains weren’t the luck of his genes. No, he earned them. Which in turn means he feels that dumb people deserve to be dumb.

Ivy League presidents aren’t much worried that the left half of the Bell Curve will get themselves well enough organized to challenge the hegemony of the IQ overclass. No, what they fear is opposition to their use of IQ sorting mechanisms, such as the politically incorrect but crucial SAT, from those identity politics pressure groups who perform below average in a pure meritocracy, such as women, blacks, and Hispanics. But, they each boast enough high IQ activists, like Nancy Hopkins, to make trouble for prestige universities.

So, Harvard, like virtually all famous universities, buys off females and minorities with “a commitment to diversity” — in other words, quotas. By boosting less competent women, blacks and Hispanics at the expense of the more marginal men, whites, and Asians, Harvard preserves most of its freedom to continue to discriminate ruthlessly on IQ.

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Getting into Harvard the Expensive Way

May 4th, 2010 No comments

Steve Sailer’s iSteve Blog

Here’s some fun gossip I heard from a fellow about the Harvard Number. He’s a reasonably well connected gentleman. On the other hand, he’s my only source for this and I don’t have the connections to check up on this, so take it for whatever it’s worth.

The Harvard Number is the amount of money Harvard would want as a donation for accepting your kid as an undergraduate. It’s not the kind of information they post on their website. You have to ask the right people in the right manner.

He said he just found out that the current Harvard Number — assuming your kid’s application was “competitive” (i.e., there’s some chance your kid would get in even if you didn’t write a check) — is $5 million.

If your kid’s “not competitive,” then it is $10 million.

If there are about 1,800 freshmen at Harvard each year, then Harvard could admit, say, 100 competitive applicants whose fathers (typically, hedge fund guys) write the Harvard Number on a check — without tangibly lowering the quality of the class. That’s, theoretically, a half billion per year in virtually free money. How could an institution resist that temptation?

Quid pro quo arrangements aren’t supposed to be tax deductible as charity, but how often does the IRS get the goods on this? In practice, a big chunk of the Harvard Number gets refunded by the taxpayers.

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Professor Smith on Thought Crime at Harvard Law

May 2nd, 2010 No comments

The Right Coast

The young woman expresses a view that X is a scientific possibility, where X is a thing on the list of things that are not allowed to be the case, and the young woman is then exposed to what must be a traumatic degree of institutional opprobrium. Surely this establishes that there is a list of things at Harvard Law School anyway of things that may not be thought, except utterly privately, and in no event expressed, not even privately, or at least not without plausible deniability, which email makes difficult. While I can see difficulties with such a policy, it would seem only fair, and consistent with the rule of law, to make this list public in advance, so students, staff and faculty know what things they should not think. Had the student in question known in advance that X was a thought crime, she could have taken steps not to think it, and if she were to, she could have at least done so in a way so that she could claim she had not. This latter especially is a good skill for a lawyer to develop.

Professor Volokh has elaborated his view (follow the links above) that a university is the sort of place where truth is the highest value and people should pursue it without fear or favor. I agree with this insofar as I think it would be an interesting experiment to set up such an institution and see how it worked. But I don’t think it’s wise to pretend this is what we have now. I confess I wonder if such a thing is even possible, though in saying this, I might just be kidding. At a minimum, before I come out as a hero of free speech and academic freedom, I would at least like to know what the costs and benefits are.

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Businessmen and Finance

May 2nd, 2010 No comments

Even in business, there is a lot of suspicion of capital markets. Here’s something a former GE vice president has written. Basically, he  thinks speculation and risk-taking is immoral,   that markets shouldn’t be allowed to make bets on whether companies or assets are overvalued, and that they should be required to have collateral even if they don’t want it. The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation » Goldman Sachs: Being “Legal” Doesn’t Make It “Right”

But, in such an era, the “it was legal” defense is inadequate because regulators and the public (and some customers) are asking “is it right?”

Two related examples.

First, Goldman is defending against the SEC complaint in the court of public opinion by saying that the synthetic CDO was a transaction between sophisticated parties (“consenting adults,”) that everyone knew there would be a long and short side of the transaction, that it did not mislead the long side of the transaction, which had every incentive to understand the CDOs packaged in the instrument.

But, the underlying question is whether a synthetic CDO transaction — which is unrelated to the “real economy,” just a bet between well-heeled parties that creates significant economic risk — is “right.” There is a strong view that these transactions are not right. Goldman needs to defend not only its actions in the particular case but also take a position on whether such transactions are appropriate and under what conditions.

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Government Not Enforcing Law:Immigration

April 30th, 2010 No comments

Instapundit

I love your blog. But I must object to your recent statement: “Shifting from border security to internal security is both an admission of failure at the borders, and a much more far-reaching and intrusive approach.”

I am a Federal Agent who works the line in Arizona. While I cannot speak officially for my agency, and risk considerable discipline for speaking out otherwise, the MAJOR failure we have regarding immigration security and control is with internal security. While we are failing at the borders, and I am there on the ground, there is no way in hell we will EVER hope to achieve border security while internal security (meaning enforcement) remains virtually nonexistent. I am not impugning ICE Agents who are focusing on criminal aliens; they are simply overwhelmed with manpower issues not to mention overloads on the docket, among other things.

Illegals know they are home free once away from the border. Achieving even a fairly shallow degree of internal enforcement will discourage border crossers from illegally entering the country if they believe their chances of being caught and returned to their native country will be high even if they successfully evade capture at the border. We must remove or at least ameliorate the magnet that draws them here.

Moreover, I believe you will find, upon examination, the Immigration and Nationality Act (particularly after the last amnesty of 1986) specifically calls for this “far reaching and intrusive approach” of internal enforcement, which was meant to “get tough” with immigration as a result of the amnesty deal. The laws have been on the books for decades; the problem, of course, is that political interests on both the right and the left have forced public officials with immigration enforcement agencies, namely Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to virtually abandon the interior enforcement of laws already on the books (policy vs. law).

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Michigan Militia: The Government’s Pitifully Weak Case

April 29th, 2010 No comments

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Michigan militia case is abuse of power by the Justice Department, a chance to grab headlines but without any evidence of the sedition they are charged with.

My Way News – Judge asks feds to show militia did more than talk

A federal judge challenged prosecutors Wednesday to show that nine members of a Michigan militia accused of plotting war against the government had done more than just talk and should remain locked up.

U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts heard nearly 10 hours of testimony and arguments over two days. She did not make a decision about whether the nine will remain in custody, saying only that a ruling would come soon.

The members of a southern Michigan group called Hutaree have been in custody for a month. An indictment accuses them of weapons violations and a rare crime: conspiring to commit sedition, or rebellion, against the government by first killing police officers….

 
An undercover agent infiltrated the group and secretly made recordings that have been played in court. While there is talk about killing police, it’s not specific. In one conversation, there are many people talking over each other and laughing.

Roberts pressed that point more than once as Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet argued in favor of keeping the nine in jail. The judge suggested she didn’t hear or read in the transcripts any indication that violence was imminent….

 

“It’s now time to strike and take our nation back so that we may be free again from tyranny. Time is up,” Waterstreet said, quoting a transcript.

Later, putting the transcript aside, the prosecutor said: “The theme is the brotherhood is the enemy – all law enforcement.”

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The Decline of Marriage

April 29th, 2010 No comments

The End of Marriage? Posner – The Becker-Posner Blog

I wonder if the biggest reason for the decline of marriage isn’t simply the substitution of the State for the Father. Nowadays, a man who fathers children without marriage can avoid paying for them while resting assured that they will be well funded, if not fathered in other ways, by the government. This “cuckoo strategy” of getting other men to pay for your offspring may be quite successful.

As the post mentioned, cohabitation and marriage have become closer substitutes because of legal changes. If divorce is easy, then marriage loses much of its usefulness. It does provide a legal default for splitting assets at divorce, but it provides almost no legal commitment value. It used to be that at least an assetless man who got married was able to thus demonstrate to his wife that he wouldn’t marry anybody else later (because of bigamy laws). Now he isn’t restricting his options by marrying now.

Note that contract hasn’t replaced marriage because the law doesn’t let it. There is no assurance that judges will enforce marriage-like contracts, or even that they will order money damages for breach. Because of the lingering idea of marriage, a contract that would be enforceable in business— e. g., money damages awarded to a party who is unfaithful— isn’t likely to be enforced between a man and a woman. Maybe it would— but it’s “equity”, not “law” and you have to get a judge who likes your contract.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | 04/29/2010 at 01:28 PM

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The Smith Article on Porn at the SEC

April 29th, 2010 No comments

The Right Coast: Towards a behavioral economic theory of porn viewing at the SEC Tom Smith

Towards a behavioral economic theory of porn viewing at the SEC
Tom Smith

     In this paper I consider whether lax enforcement of rules against viewing pornography by SEC employees may be in fact a form of executive compensation that allows the SEC to pay employees less than they otherwise would for a similar level of expertise and diligence. Porn viewing at work is usually regarded as a classic instance of agency costs, in particular, shirking behavior. Rather than carefully reading the registration statement of a new variable annuity product, for example, and carefully considering whether it has complied with all the requirements of inter alia the Investment Company Act, the SEC worker may spend two hours perusing the archives of Jenna Jameson’s greatest hits. However, in order to agree to do the former task without the opportunity to do the latter, the SEC worker would in equilibrium insist on being paid a higher salary or enjoying other perks, such as the opportunity to play wastebasket basketball for extended periods. The second part of the paper is an extended comparison between porn viewing and insider trading as unorthodox but potentially efficient forms of executive compensation. Finally, porn viewing provides SEC workers and investment bankers with a common interest, even though investment bankers prefer live sex shows, which are typically beyond the means of SEC workers, unless they want to go to the really sleazy places. This cultural commonality, I argue, actually improves the SEC regulatory function by giving them a sympathetic insight, through the activation of mirror neurons, into the investment banking culture and business.

09:36 AM | Permalink…
 
 
Comments
john knox

These insights should also be applied to other agencies. For instance, agencies producing no obvious benefit to society but that simply hinder productivity, i.e. most of them, could be perhaps be improved by said activities. Being distracted from work, shirking, could be a net economic gain. Maybe not pareto optimal but closer. Clearly more research needs to be done. This is a pathbreaking paper that will open an entirely new field for investigation. I’m preparing a grant proposal as soon as I stop typing this comment.

Posted by: john knox | April 28, 2010 at 11:30 AM…
 
 
Eric Rasmusen

Very good. It’s not behavioral economics, tho, because there’s no psychology in your write-up, merely conventional price theory. Indeed, except for the last sentence, it would probably get rejected from a journal as being too obvious.

Something else very basic that you might mention is that there is a niche for at least one organization of Wall Street financiers and lawyers that caters to workers who like the particular fringe benefit of unlimited porn-watching. Most workers do not value that perk very highly, and hence would not take the lower wage it requires. Enough do, however, to make it worthwhile for at least one organization to do that— and if there is only one, it has monopsony power, a further bonus. The SEC, it seems, fills the niche for that particular sort of sexual perversion. Similarly, we’d expect other Wall Street organizations to specialize in S+M, homosexuality, and transvestitism, the size of the niche organization depending on the popularity of the perversion. Goldman Sachs, for example, with its high number of Democratic Party donors, enslaved juniors, and execs who like to show up for Congressional hearings, is perhaps the S+M firm.

Behavioral econ would enter if we go deeper and ask whether the SEC employees who spend all day on porn are truly happy, or whether they were lured in by the apparently utility-maximizing perk of slack effort (is “slack” the right word here, though?) and then are trapped by a compulsion which makes them humiliated and unfilfilled on the one hand and unable to leave for a normal job on the other.

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Obama’s Contempt for the Press

April 28th, 2010 No comments

Why reporters are down on Obama – POLITICO.com Print View

One of the most irritating practices of the Obama White House is when aides ignore inquiries or explicitly refuse to cooperate with an unwelcome story — only to come out with both guns blazing when it takes a skeptical view of their motives or success.

“You will give them ample opportunity on a story. They will then say, ‘We don’t have anything for you on this.’ Then, when you write an analytical graph that could be interpreted as implying a political motive by the White House, or something that makes them look like anything but geniuses, you will get a flurry of off-the-record, angry e-mails after you publish,” one national reporter said. “That does no good. If you want to complain. Engage!”…

 

Asked about some of the more aggressive tactics, including complaints to editors, Gibbs said, “We have to do some of those things. … I certainly believe anyone who goes to an editor does so because it’s something they feel is very egregious. I don’t think people do it very lightly.”

Some reporters say the pushback is so aggressive that it undermines the credibility of Obama’s aides. “The willingness to argue that credible information is untrue is at its core dishonest and unfortunately calls into question everything else the press office says,” one White House reporter said.

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Is the FBI Lying about the Michigan Militia Case?

April 28th, 2010 No comments

toledoblade.com — The Blade ~ Toledo Ohio

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT – An FBI agent who led the investigation of nine Michigan militia members charged with trying to launch war against the federal government couldn’t recall many details of the two-year probe yesterday during questioning by defense lawyers.

Even the judge who must decide whether to release the nine until trial was puzzled.

“I share the frustrations of the defense team … that she doesn’t know anything,” U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said after agent Leslie Larsen confessed she hadn’t reviewed her notes recently and couldn’t remember specific details of the case.

Judge Roberts is hearing an appeal of another judge’s order that has kept members of so-called Hutaree militia in jail since their arrest in late March.

The indictment says the nine planned to kill police officers as a steppingstone to a widespread uprising against the federal government.

Defense lawyers, however, say their clients are being punished for being outspoken.

Prosecutors fought to keep Ms. Larsen off the witness stand, saying the defendants had no legal right to question her….

She said that because they were still being examined, she didn’t know if weapons seized by investigators last month were illegal.

At other times, Ms. Larsen couldn’t answer questions because she said she hadn’t reviewed investigative reports.

Defense lawyer William Swor asked if the No. 1 defendant, Hutaree leader David Stone, had ever instructed anyone to make a bomb.

“I can’t fully answer that question,” the agent replied.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel defended Ms. Larsen, telling the judge it wasn’t clear until Monday that she would testify.

Judge Roberts, however, said she told the government to be prepared last week.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet played an audiotape of what he said were several militia members talking freely about killing police.

The participants talked over each other, often laughed and made goofy noises and disparaging remarks about law enforcement.

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“Woman says former boyfriend hit her in the head with a Chihuahua”

April 27th, 2010 No comments

Woman says former boyfriend hit her in the head with a Chihuahua: HeraldTimesOnline.com

Woman says former boyfriend hit her in the head with a Chihuahua
By Laura Lane 331-4362 | llane@heraldt.com
April 27, 2010, last update: 4/27 @ 4:58 pm

Bloomington police want to question a man who reportedly struck his former girlfriend in the head with her own Chihuahua.

She told officers the man threw the 3-pound dog across the room. It struck her head, then slammed into a wall and slid to the floor, but was not injured.

The incident happened last Monday, but was not reported to police until a second incident between the woman and the alleged dog thrower about 4 a.m. Saturday.

 

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Who to Think About

April 27th, 2010 No comments

God and Mrs. Roosevelt | First Things

an inspirational message by Henry Van Dyke, enjoining one to “think seldom of your enemies, often of your friends, and every day of Christ.”

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Avoiding Paying Legal Judgments

April 26th, 2010 No comments

A good question to think about is what our laws ought to say about the penalty for not paying legal judgments. Currently, as I understand it, you are free to conceal your assets, and the creditor has to find them in order to seize them, which is a huge hurdle. Why don’t we simply require debtors to list their assets, and to reveal their tax returns and boil them in oil if they lie? Remember— they have acted unlawfully, tho not criminally, in refusing to pay their debts, so they can hardly argue that they have a right to privacy. It’s not their money any more.

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Jon Stewart on Moslem Intimidation of South Park

April 25th, 2010 No comments
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Luther on Needing Ten Hands

April 24th, 2010 No comments

SERMON FOR THE DAY OF ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST:

Then you may reply: But how if I am not called, what shall I do then?

Answer: How is it possible that you are not called? You have always been in some state or station; you have always been a husband or wife, or boy or girl, or servant. Picture before you the humblest state. Are you a husband, and you think, you have not enough to do in that sphere to govern your wife, children, domestics and property so that all may be obedient to God and you do no one any wrong? Yea, if you had five heads and ten hands, even then you would be too weak for your task, so that you would never dare to think of making a pilgrimage or doing any kind of saintly work.

8. Again: are you a son or daughter, and do you think you have not enough work with yourself, to continue chaste, pure and temperate during your youth, obey your parents, and offend no one by word or deed? Yea, since the custom of honoring such commands and callings has been abandoned, people go and pray with their rosaries and do like things, not belonging to their station in life, and no one ever thinks he is not faithful in his state or station.

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Barney’s Frank’s Sexuality

April 24th, 2010 No comments

Not Too ‘Hip’ and ‘Edgy’ for Censorship – Mark Steyn – National Review Online

Frank Rich of the New York Times attempted to diversify the tea-party racism into homophobia by arguing that Obamacare’s opponents were uncomfortable with Barney Frank’s sexuality. I yield to no one in my discomfort with Barney Frank’s sexuality, but, with the best will in the world, I find it hard to blame it for more than the first 4 or 5 trillion dollars of federal overspending….

It was time to go for broke and bring out Bill Clinton to explain why the tea parties are the new front in the war on terror. Don’t worry about Iran’s nuclear program, but if you meet a tea-party supporter waving some placard about the national debt, try not to catch his eye and back away slowly without making any sudden movements, lest he put down his placard and light up his suicide belt.

Mr. al Amrikee helpfully explained that his video incitement of the murder of Matt Stone and Trey Parker wasn’t really “a threat but just the likely outcome.” All he was doing, he added, was “raising awareness” — you know, like folks do on Earth Day. On Earth Day, lame politicians dig a hole and stick a tree in it. But aggrieved Muslims dig a hole and stick a couple of comedy writers in it. Celebrate diversity!

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How Pornography Hurts Science

April 23rd, 2010 No comments

Washington Times – : Porn surfing rampant at U.S. science foundation

The Washington Times
Originally published 04:45 a.m., September 29, 2009, updated 07:25 a.m., September 29, 2009
EXCLUSIVE: Porn surfing rampant at U.S. science foundation

Jim McElhatton

EXCLUSIVE:

Employee misconduct investigations, often involving workers accessing pornography from their government computers, grew sixfold last year inside the taxpayer-funded foundation that doles out billions of dollars of scientific research grants, according to budget documents and other records obtained by The Washington Times.

The problems at the National Science Foundation (NSF) were so pervasive they swamped the agency’s inspector general and forced the internal watchdog to cut back on its primary mission of investigating grant fraud and recovering misspent tax dollars.

“To manage this dramatic increase without an increase in staff required us to significantly reduce our efforts to investigate grant fraud,” the inspector general recently told Congress in a budget request. “We anticipate a significant decline in investigative recoveries and prosecutions in coming years as a direct result.”

The SEC has the same problem:

A senior attorney at the SEC’s Washington headquarters spent up to eight hours a day looking at and downloading pornography. When he ran out of hard drive space, he burned the files to CDs or DVDs, which he kept in boxes around his office. He agreed to resign, an earlier watchdog report said.

– An accountant was blocked more than 16,000 times in a month from visiting websites classified as “Sex” or “Pornography.” Yet he still managed to amass a collection of “very graphic” material on his hard drive by using Google images to bypass the SEC’s internal filter, according to an earlier report from the inspector general. The accountant refused to testify in his defense, and received a 14-day suspension.

– Seventeen of the employees were “at a senior level,” earning salaries of up to $222,418

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