Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

1930 and 2010

February 24th, 2010 No comments

The Democrats thought that George Bush was the new Herbert Hoover. Actually, it looks like they themselves are the new version of the 1930 Republicans, who lost 50 seats in the House and 8 in the Senate.

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Open Access Web Regulations

February 23rd, 2010 No comments

Prof. Waterman talked about proposed regulations for the Internet at the Bus Econ Brown Bag today. I’ll write up an example for one of his points: that regulation can worsen discrimination.

Suppose there is a monopoly Internet Service Provider (ISP), Comcast. Comcast also sells Comcast Movies. Netflix sells Netflix Movies. 90% of consumers want movies.

Consider two regulatory regimes. In Regime I, Comcast can charge Netflix for getting access to consumers. In Regime II, Comcast cannot. I will show, surprisingly, that Netflix should prefer Regime I.

In either regime Comcast, as a monopoly, will charge consumers as much as traffic will bear for ISP connection. Let’s suppose the value of ISP for general web access is $40 per month for each consumer.

In Regime I, $40 is what Comcast will charge. It will charge extra for Comcast Movies, and it will charge extra for Netflix Movies. Let’s suppose Comcast decides to charge $15 for Comcast Movies and $5 for Netflix movies, which makes consumers indifferent between Comcast and Netflix. It could either charge the consumer $5 to get access to Netflix, or Netflix $5 to get access to the consumer— there is no real difference. Netflix, of course, charges the consumer too– perhaps $10.

In Regime II, Comcast cannot charge consumers for using Netflix. Thus, it wants consumers to buy Comcast Movies, instead of earning equal profits from Comcast and Netflix Movies.

What it can do is to charge $55 for ISP access, $0 for Comcast Movies, and $0 for Netflix Movies. Since consumers are getting Comcast Movies bundled with their ISP service, they won’t pay anything extra for Netflix. The 10% of consumers who don’t like movies will drop their Internet service entirely, but Comcast will make enough money from the $15 surcharge on the rest to make up for them.

In Regime II, since it is illegal for Comcast to earn any profit from Netflix, Comcast will drive Netflix from the market. Netflix will do worse than under Regime I. Consumers will do worse. And even Comcast will do worse.

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Keith Obermann’s White TV Mocked

February 22nd, 2010 No comments

This is another gem of a video. Whoever put this together is a true artist. Notice the use of imagery to powerfully attack Obermann’s claim, with mixes of condemnation, insult, and, as the dominant theme, amused contempt.

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Meaning Well

February 22nd, 2010 No comments

Professor Thomas Smith exercises his genius again:

Progressives, the sincere among them anyway, really want to do great things, but they don’t know how. They yearn to accomplish wonderful change, but they just don’t have the technology. They want it so very much, so very, very much I guess we’re supposed to love them for it. Me, if I want to help but can’t because I don’t know how, I say, sorry, I would if I could but I can’t. Lack of any working theory or pragmatic if undertheorized ability to improve things, however, appears to be no impediment to the progressive desire to exercise power in the hope, I guess, to make things better. The Obama presidency seems absolutely saturated in this spirit of groundless hope, as if meaning well is what really matters. Hence my blaming Kant, the moral philosopher who, to simplify greatly, thought morality was all about meaning well.

This is related to the idea that if someone makes a great sacrifice to do something for you that you don’t value at all, or that actually harms you, you’re supposed to be grateful to them. Even if they know in advance that it’s useless. The inefficiency drives an economist crazy.

This is important for theology too.

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Why European Banks Own Greek Govt. Bonds

February 19th, 2010 No comments

From somebody else via Prof. Kling:

Today’s FT brings the news that “European financial institutions have $235 billion worth of claims on Greek debt, most of which is thought to be in government bonds.” Why do they hold so much Greek government debt? Because the only category of bank asset treated more kindly by the Basel rules than asset-backed securities is government debt, which has a zero risk weight. I.e., no bank capital need be used to buy a government bond.

Incredible! Does that just apply to EU bonds, or can a German bank really buy as many Zimbabwean bonds as it wants?

Wasn’t this Long-Term Capital Management’s downfall— heavily buying Russian govt. bonds with massive leverage? I don’t see why European banks haven’t done the same. I wonder if they’re also allowed to buy derivatives on governmetn bonds.

Before I read the post, I had another idea, perhaps relevant but much less so. If an American bank were to buy Greek bonds, it wouldn’t succeed in getting a bailout for Greece. A German bank will. Thus, the German bank is the highest-value holder.

The highest value except, perhaps, for the German government, which could ahve bought the Greek bonds, swallowed the loss, and avoided having to incur the even greater expense of bailing out Greece to protect the German banks.

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The Pattern of World Temperatures

February 18th, 2010 No comments

I just realized that it’s time I drastically revise my notion of what’s happened to global temperatures from 1970 to 2010. The 3 standard indices *all* seem to be corrupted for political reasons. See Peter Ferrara’s excellent The Disappearing Science of Global Warming in the American Spectator. Thus, there is all the more reason to abandon them for what is not quite the same thing but is undoubtedly more accurate and less subject to political manipulation: satellite measurements. That means Roy Spencer’s website.

The standard 3 indices have temperatures rising 1979 to 2000, roughly, and then staying pretty much constant 2000-2010. The satellite data has temperatures saying pretty much constant 1979 to 2000, and then rising 2000-2002 and plateauing at a new, distinctly higher, level.

Neither matches the standard carbon dioxide theory of global warming, which would have the temperature rising over the entire period, the rate of change increasing as time passes.

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Luther’s Two Kingdoms

February 18th, 2010 No comments

George Forell’s 1994 Luther’s Theology and Domestic Politics is very good, both in its own writing and in its selection of Luther quotes.

It looks as if when Luther talked about Two Kingdoms, his points were:

  1. People need to be governed by laws and punishments, not Christian love and admonition, even though law does not produce religious salvation. (his main point). Thus, the nation can’t be run like a big church.

    If anyone attempted to rule the world by the gospel and to abolish all temporal law and sword on the plea that all are baptized and Christian, and that, according to the gospel, there shall be among them no law or sword-or need for either-pray tell me, friend, what would he be doing? He would be loosing the ropes and chains of the savage wild beasts and letting them bite and mangle everyone, meanwhile insisting that they were harmless, tame, and gentle creatures.

    It is out of the question that there should be a common Christian government over the whole world, or indeed over a single country or any considerable body of people, for the wicked always outnumber the good. Hence, a man who would venture to govern an entire country or the world with the gospel would be like a shepherd who should put together in one fold wolves, lions, eagles, and sheep, and let them mingle freely with one another, saying, “Help yourselves, and be good and peaceful toward one another. The fold is open, there is plenty of food. You need have no fear of dogs and clubs.” The sheep would doubtless keep the peace and allow themselves to be fed and governed peacefully, but they would not live long, nor would one beast survive another.

    Now he who would confuse these two kingdoms-as our false fanatics do-would put wrath into God’s kingdom and mercy into the world’s kingdom; and that is the same as putting the devil in heaven and God in hell.

    where temporal government or law alone prevails, there sheer hypocrisy is in­evitable, even though the commandments be God’s very own. For without the Holy Spirit in the heart no one becomes truly righteous, no matter how fine the work he does. On the other hand, where the spiritual government alone prevails over land and people, there wickedness is given free rein and the door is open for all manner of rascality, for the world as a whole cannot receive or comprehend it.

  2. Rebellion is generally bad, producing evil consequences and far too much of a temptation to other sins (e.g. pillage) for the rebel.

    It never brings about the desired result. For insurrection lacks discernment; it generally harms the innocent more than the guilty. Hence, no insurrection is ever right, no matter how right the cause it seeks to promote. It always results in more damage than improvement, and verifies the saying, “Things go from bad to worse.”

    They cloak this terrible and horrible sin with the gospel….Thus, they become the worst blasphemers of God and slanderers of his holy name. Under the outward appearance of the gospel, they honor and serve the devil, thus deserving death in body and soul ten times over.

    The mob neither has any moderation nor even knows what moderation is. And every person in it has more than five tyrants hiding in him. Now it is better to suffer wrong from one tyrant, that is, from the ruler, than from unnumbered tyrants, that is, from the mob.

  3. It’s fine for pastors and Christians generally to condemn the government— just don’t use violence.

    But these furious, raving, senseless tyrants, who even after the battle cannot get their fill of blood, and in all their lives ask scarcely a question about Christ-these I did not undertake to instruct. It makes no difference to these bloody dogs whether they slay the guilty or the innocent, whether they please God or the devil….I had two fears. If the peasants became lords, the devil would become abbot; but if these tyrants became lords, the devil’s mother would become abbess. Therefore, I wanted to do two things: quiet the peasants, and instruct the pious lords. The peasants were unwilling to listen, and now they have their reward; the lords, too, will not hear, and they shall have their reward also. However, it would have been a shame if they had been killed by the peasants; that would have been too easy a punishment for them. Hell‑fire, trembling, and gnashing of teeth in hell will be their reward eternally, unless they repent.

  4. Christians should be active in politics, within the system.

    You are under obligation to serve and assist the sword by whatever means you can, with body, goods, honor, and soul….Therefore, if you see that there is a lack of hangmen, constables, judges, lords, or princes, and you find that you are qualified, you should offer your services and seek the position, that the essential governmental authority may not be despised and become enfeebled or perish.

    there is need in this office for abler people than are needed in the office of preaching, so it is necessary to get the best boys for this work; for in the preaching office Christ does the whole thing, by his Spirit, but in the worldly kingdom men must act on the basis of reason-wherein the laws also have their origin-for God has subjected temporal rule and all of physical life to reason (Genesis 2 [:15]). He has not sent the Holy Spirit from heaven for this purpose.

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Mr. Nobody

February 17th, 2010 No comments

Peter Hitchens says:

John Major became Prime Minister by not being Margaret Thatcher or Michael Heseltine, and then won an election by not being Neil Kinnock. In fact he has in general succeeded by being a sort of all-purpose nobody.

Then we had another nobody, Anthony Blair, who had become leader of the Labour Party by not being Michael Foot, and became Prime Minister by not being John Major. And Gordon Brown became Prime Minister by not being Anthony Blair. You can see why this sort of thing seems attractive to modern politicians. But alas, Gordon Brown is Gordon Brown, not by any means a nobody – just a somebody who is powerfully disliked by large numbers of people, and not even disliked for the right reasons.

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Lonnie Ray’s BBQ, in Harrisburg, Missouri

February 17th, 2010 No comments

Tyler Cowen writes a persuasive review:

Could it be Lonnie Ray’s BBQ, in Harrisburg, Missouri? That’s about half an hour outside of Columbia, Missori. I ate there yesterday and I am still staggered by the encounter. It is one of the two or three best barbecue experiences of my life and possibly #1. ….

The proprietor, Mike, is also a true scientist and scholar and gentleman. He studied with Mike Mills and he will engage you at length on how to render fresh lard, why Kansas City barbecue has declined, and the importance of the wood source. He has studied — and I do mean studied — Texan, Kansas City, and even North Carolina styles. The pulled pork was my favorite dish and I usually don’t like pulled pork much at all. Both the sauces and the atmosphere get an A+ as well. He is now studying how to cook tamales. If only everyone in the scientific community had his attitude.

I am serious in my claims for this place.

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Concentrating Power and Knowledge

February 17th, 2010 No comments

From Dr. Sowell’s latest book:

“It is far easier to concentrate power than to concentrate knowledge. That is why so much social engineering backfires and why so many despots have led their countries into disasters.”

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Is It Better to Kill than to Waterboard?

February 15th, 2010 No comments

Professor Smith of USD says,

Turning terrorists into hamburger is simple, but snatching them and waterboarding information out of them is complex. Politically that is. Morally, I would guess the former is at least as problematic as the latter. Not wrong, mind you. I think both are justifiable under certain circumstances. … I gather from the article that the Special Ops people want to capture and interrogate, but the orders from higher up is, just kill them. Just kill the terrorists and you can at the same time pose as being morally above the dirty business of CIA black sites, waterboarding and the rest.

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FBI Crime Statistics

February 15th, 2010 No comments

Retired Officers Raise Questions on Crime Data, via Steve Sailer,

More than a hundred retired New York Police Department captains and higher-ranking officers said in a survey that the intense pressure to produce annual crime reductions led some supervisors and precinct commanders to manipulate crime statistics, according to two criminologists studying the department….

…checking eBay, other Web sites, catalogs or other sources to find prices for items that had been reported stolen that were lower than the value provided by the crime victim. They would then use the lower values to reduce reported grand larcenies — felony thefts valued at more than $1,000, which are recorded as index crimes under CompStat — to misdemeanors, which are not…

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Torley on Intelligent Design

February 15th, 2010 No comments

First Things has a simple-minded attack on Intelligent Design that sparked a lot of good comments. Here’s one:

Vincent Torley says:

Professor Barr,

With the greatest respect, you are sadly mistaken about ID, and about design arguments in general. I have a Ph.D. in philosophy, and I’ve been following the ID movement closely for a few years now. I’m neither a young-earth nor an old-earth creationist; I’m quite happy to accept common descent, although I would not be at all perturbed if it were proved false. The way I see it, there are at least five good design arguments for the existence of God. All of them are probabilistic, all of them use abductive reasoning (appealing to the best-known explanation of an observed fact), and all of them are scientifically falsifiable. As we shall see, ID design arguments are not particularly different from the others. Let’s summarize the design arguments briefly.

1. The laws of physics, and the theory underlying them, manifest an extraordinary degree of beauty, elegance, harmony, and ingenuity, from a mathematical perspective. This elegance is an unexpected bonus, even in a life-friendly cosmos such as our own. For even if the forces of nature were finely-tuned, nothing would necessitate the laws underlying them hanging together in a mathematically elegant way, which even our best scientific minds marvel at. The underlying mathematical beauty of the cosmos is extremely improbable, on the face of it, as the ugly, unaesthetic theories that could serve to underlie Nature vastly outnumber the mathematically elegant ones. But if the cosmos is the work of a Divine Mind, mathematical elegance is precisely what we would expect to find. Moreover, Mind is the only thing we know that creates beauty. See “Universe or Multiverse? A Theistic Perspective” by Robin Collins at , especially part 6.

2. The constants of Nature in our universe appear to be fine-tuned for life to emerge. The odds of these constants having the values which would permit life to emerge are vanishingly small. Nor does it help to posit a multiverse which churns out many universes, of which ours happens to be the lucky one; for the multiverse would have to possess certain unique physical properties in order to be able to churn out anything at all. Once again, the odds of a multiverse possessing these properties are vanishingly low, on the face of it; but if the cosmos was designed for life, this is what we should expect. Moreover, Mind is the only thing we know that creates things according to a plan. See “The Fine-Tuning Design Argument” by Robin Collins at .

3. The DNA code appears to possess certain properties which make it an ideal carrier of genetic information. It is unexpectedly robust, and extremely resilient against minor copying errors, which makes it ideal from an evolutionary perspective. Additionally, the genetic coding found in DNA is unbelievably efficient and compact. DNA information is overlapping, multi-layered and multi-dimensional; it reads both backwards and forwards. Even our best computer scientists can’t write code like this. Once again, the antecedent probability that the molecule embodying the genetic code of living organisms should possess these properties is extremely low; but if a Divine Mind wrote the original program code for DNA, we would expect it to be both efficient and resilient. Moreover, Mind is the only thing we know that can write efficient codes. See “Astonishing Complexity of DNA Demolishes Neo-Darwinism” by Alex Williams at .

4. Even the simplest viable living things found on Earth contain about 250 kinds of proteins, each of which contains a large emount of highly specific information relating to their particular function. Proteins are made up of sequences of amino acids (usually at least 150); yet the vast majority of amino acid sequences that could occur are incapable of folding up properly, and hence incapable of doing anything useful. Even given billions of years, the odds of Nature generating even one amino acid sequence that can perform any kind of useful function are astronomically low, and the odds of generating a simple cell with 250 useful proteins are infinitesimal. One could hypothesize the existence of as-yet undiscovered bio-friendly laws that make life’s emergence more probable; yet there would have to be a large number of these laws, to create a “magic pathway” leading to life, and they would have to be very specific (i.e. information-rich). Once again, this is not what one would expect, unless the laws of Nature were designed for life. Moreover, Mind is the only thing we know that creates specified information. See “Intelligent Design: Required by Biological Life?” by Kalinsky, K. D. at .

5. Cells contain a large number of structures whose functionality depends on all their constituents being in place. In some cases, scientists can identify parts of these structures that still perform some useful function; yet the likelihood that these structures were built up one part at a time, on a step-by-step basis, appears to be vanishingly low, as most of the steps along the way would have conferred no evolutionary benefit whatsoever. For instance, the bacterial flagellum has about 30 vital parts; a biologically useful 10-part subcomponent of the flagellum has been identified, but getting from 10 to 30 is still a huge jump. There may be unknown “magic pathways” that take us there, for each and every one of these “irreducibly complex” structures; yet even the most careful examination of these structures has yielded no hints of such bounty from “Mother Nature.” One would not expect to find such “magic pathways,” unless the very warp and woof of the evolutionary process was designed by God to pave the way for the emergence of complex life. Moreover, Mind is the only thing we know that creates specified complexity. See “Irreducible Complexity Revisited” at by William Dembski.

Arguments 4 and 5 are ID arguments; some might say argument 3 is, as well. Note that arguments 3, 4 and 5 do not require Deus ex machina interventions. That’s a cheap anti-ID canard. ID proponents really don’t care how God made the world; what matters is that He did it.

Note too that all of these arguments are falsifiable. Consider E8, the most elegant and intricate shape in mathematics. Some physicists are trying to build a “Theory of Everything” which incorporates this structure. If the universe is the work of a Divine Mind, I’d certainly expect it to instantiate the most beautiful possible geometry. But that expectation could be dashed, which would falsify the first argument. Likewise, skeptical physicists like Victor Stenger have argued that the universe is not as finely-tuned as we imagine, and that life could emerge in universes with constants with values utterly different from those in ours. If Stenger is right, then the second design argument is falsified. Again, DNA looks pretty optimal, as a carrier of genetic information, but if scientists manage to design a better carrier, or show that alternative, less efficient carriers would have been weeded out almost immediately, then that undermines the third argument. Likewise, a demonstration that chance, coupled with the KNOWN laws of chemistry, would have been sufficient to generate the DNA, RNA and proteins that we find in simple cells, AND bring them together in the right way to make a cell, would destroy the fourth argument. Finally, the discovery of very smooth incremental pathways which could account for “irreducibly complex” structures without the need for any unusual biochemistry or odd-looking fitness functions, would dramatically undercut the fifth argument.

Science does not have to “fail” for ID to be true. All science has to do, for ID to succeed, is reveal the antecedent improbabilities of life arising and of irreducibly complex structres emerging. ID would not be threatened by the discovery that Nature contains a hidden bias toward life, so long as this built-in bias is “surprising,” from a scientific standpoint (i.e. wholly unexpected, based on a priori considerations). …

Professor Carter is terrified of another Galileo case. I’m not. We’re uncovering layer upon laye of wholly unexpected complexity in life and the cosmos, whose existence we never even suspected a generation ago. And if scoffers want to call this “God-of-the-gaps” reasoning, that’s fine by me. The gaps are GROWING, NOT shrinking. But what really terrifies me is the prospect of the next generation of children being brainwashed by the “politically correct” scientific establishment to believe that the emergence of the cosmos, life and intelligence as a result of natural processes was no big surprise, and that it was bound to happen sooner or later anyway. That’s what they’re being exposed to now, in our schools. And if you ask these children ten years from now if they believe in God, they’ll look at you with an incredulous stare and utter the words of Laplace: “I have no need of that hypothesis.” Now THAT scares me.

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The Passive Voice and ClimateGate

February 9th, 2010 No comments

From a comment of mine at Climate Audit about the President of the National Academy of Sciences:

Dr. Cicerone said,

“Clarity and transparency must be reinforced to build and maintain trust.”

That’s a classic example of why the passive voice is bad writing style (sorry, scientists, I know you’re taught to write badly on purpose). It allows the writer to avoid saying WHO does the action. What I’d like to see is:

“Someone should reinforce clarity and transparency to build and maintain trust.”

or, better,

“Authors of articles should reinforce clarity and transparency to build and maintain trust.”

or, even better,

“Journal editors should reinforce clarity and transparency to build and maintain trust.”,

or, even better,

“The National Academy of Sciences should reinforce clarity and transparency to build and maintain trust.”

or, best,

“I should have reinforced clarity and transparency to build and maintain trust.”

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Political Tactics- The House Republicans and Obama

February 9th, 2010 No comments

President Obama recently proposed bipartisan talks with Republicans. This is clearly because his previous policy of partisan Democratic legislation has backfired by generating highly unpopular bills with the Democratic label clearly on them. Now he wants to dilute that image by talking to Republicans and getting TV shots from friendly producers that implicate the Republicans too. This is a clever move, because if Republicans refuse, they look partisan, and if they agree, they still get no influence and the Democrats don’t get so much blame for the legislation.

The Republicans have responded more intelligently than usual, in an open letter that reminds everyone of Obama’s previous highly partisan legislative policy, points out that he’s still Republican-bashing, and makes some specific suggestions for how he could demonstrate his sincerity— e.g., by repeating and this time keeping his very specific promises about 72-hour notice, etc.

The President has proposed televised meetings, I think. That sounds like transparency, but it’s probably just so they can be staged Democratic events with Republican Congressmen as props. Their response should be to insist that the meetings include time for Republicans to talk too, rather than just to sit in front of Obama speeches, and, especially, some time for Republicans to ask Obama questions that he must answer on the spot, like Parliament’s “question time”. He will refuse, and blame the Republicans for obstructionism. Probably in the end, this will be a gain for Obama, but worse than if they accepted his terms. Their response should be to loudly repeat their desire for two-sided discussion and accuse Obama of cowardice. The Republicans would win overall if they did that, if the press were evenly divided; it is because only Obama’s side will be reported that I predict Obama will end up the winner. And, most likely, the Republicans will be outwitted and make the wrong moves, as they usually do in this kind of game.

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Buyer Regret

February 8th, 2010 No comments

From Instapundit:

The Obama stickers are disappearing in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago. I was shocked a few weeks ago when I realized that I was no longer seeing any Obama stickers during my walks home from the Fullerton el stop which is next to De Paul’s campus. Obviously different dynamics but until 18 months ago “Kerry/Edwards For America” stickers were commonplace as were the ever popular “Some Village Is Missing Its Idiot” stickers.

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The Audi Superbowl Commercial

February 8th, 2010 No comments

Feb. 10 update: Jonah Goldberg at NR:

… the Audi ad has a lot in common with those execrable MasterCard commercials. Targeting the same demographic, those ads depicted hapless fathers being harangued by their children to get with the environmental program. MasterCard’s tagline: “Helping Dad become a better man: Priceless.”

The difference is that MasterCard’s ads were earnest, creepy, diabetes-inducing treacle. Audi’s ad not only fails to invest the greens with moral authority, it concedes that the carbon cops are out of control and power-hungry…

I saw this Superbowl commercial live, and put a copy here. It is strange. Until the very last second, it looks like a commercial making fairly piercing fun of environmentalists, in effect calling them Nazis. The ending message, though, is to buy an Audi because it’s “green”. I wonder if Greens have a different reaction.

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Comment Moderation

February 8th, 2010 No comments

From a VC post and comments on comment moderation (my numbering and boldface):

[0] …the fallacy in’s hands-off approach to comment moderation: by failing to moderate comments, the site simply externalizes the costs of bad comments onto its readers.

Allowing bad comments in comments threads has dramatically harmed the quality of discourse on the entire blog because it forces readers to spend much more of their own time filtering out bad comments. Busy and productive readers tend not to have time for this, and thus tend not to comment. So valuable comments are lost.

In other words, it’s not that relevant whether it takes more of Somin’s or Volokh’s time to moderate. What matters is whether it is efficient for one moderator to read a bad comment once, and delete it, whether by contrast a thousand people each have to read and disregard the bad comment. Obviously the former option is more efficient and should be chosen.

[1] My point, rather, is that aggressive comment moderation is likely to defeat the purpose of allowing comments in the first place, for the reasons Megan McArdle points out. The blogger will tend to treat comments antithetical to his views more negatively than those supporting them, which in turn will undermine the objective of having a free discussion with various sides represented. Aggressive moderation also strikes me as a poor use of my blogging time relative to writing more and better posts. Thus, I will only resort to it if things get so bad that there is no alternative.

[2] On a serious note, the Glasgow Herald pulled the comment section as far as I can tell simply because the concrete information the commenters were giving consistently undermined the bias vector of the articles.

[3] is not a public forum. I pay for it. So there are no rules. There is simply an arbitrary despotism in which freedom of speech depends mainly on how cranky I’m feeling at the moment. Granted, long time readers get more slack than newbies, but nobody has a “right” to be heard in that space any more than you would in my house.

[4]… I have been involved in online communities which were NOT fairly moderated in the past though, and a little transparency would have helped everyone see what was going on much faster. I remember being silently (and without warning) being silently banned from the SQL-Ledger lists (SQL-Ledger is an open source project aimed at providing small-business financial accounting software) with no warning or message simply because the moderator thought I was a threat to his control. He wanted a captive audience and I didn’t want to see that, so I tried to work with him on opening up things….. I ended up becoming a far greater threat simply because I was shut out though….

Good governance is good governance, and online communities must be governed like tiny countries. Some are run by dictatorial juntas (as in here), some by dictators (Linux used to be, but is becoming more republican as time goes on), some are democracies (Debian), and some (like the LedgerSMB project or the PostgreSQL project) are outright republics. Many of the dictatorships can be benevolant, so this isn’t meant as a criticism of the VC bloggers.

The only difference between owner censorship and government censorship is that one can easily vote with one’s feet and avoid problems. Hence dictators must be benevolent if they want to succeed or folks will just go elsewhere. (Indeed dictatorial and republican models generally work better than democracies on this scale, where folks can so easily vote with their feet.)

A good way to think of the internet is as a bunch of tiny countries with perfectly or nearly perfectly open borders.

[5] Iya Somin said,

Posting is a vastly more productive activity than moderating (at least once moderating goes beyond more than a very minimal investment).

Don’t be too sure of that. My prediction is that some time in the future people will realize that the comments sections of blogs can be even better than the posts themselves, and bloggers will come to act more as editors than as authors. When I used to read Commentary (and perhaps still–I just got out of the habit), I found their letters to the editor section as good as the articles, because they’d print interesting (if often wrong) letters and then have the article author do a wrap-up reply to them all.

But that requires very heavy comment moderation. To have a truly good comments section, the blogger would have to throw out at least 2/3 of current comments– which would take him little time, actually– since most comments are by people with no real information or knowledge and displaying no wit or thought.

[6] A commentor said:

“The only difference between owner censorship and government censorship is that one can easily vote with one’s feet and avoid problems. Hence dictators must be benevolent if they want to succeed or folks will just go elsewhere.”

There is another, fundamental, difference. If the owner is deciding on a comment policy, he knows whether he is benevolent or unfair. If he is unfair, he’ll be unfair and it doesn’t matter what his stated policy is, because he can violate it with impunity. If he is benevolent, then he should exercise his benevolence by deleting comments as appropriate.

The Presbyterians’ Sabbath Goyim

February 7th, 2010 No comments

Pastor Bayly has a nice touch at criticizing the errors of Baptists while praising the features in which they are superior to Presbyterians/DutchReformed:

Seen a reformed man at your baby-slaughterhouse, recently, crying out to those on the highway to Hell to repent and turn? Offering to feed and clothe and pay for the medical care of the baby’s mother as she takes her first fledgling steps of faith?

No. That’s the calling of Dr. Dobson. And Clarence Thomas. Let the Southern Baptists do it–they have no theology, anyway, and serve so nicely as Presbyterians’ Sabbath goyim.

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The best short summary I’ve seen of the various ClimateGate scandals (plus some Steyn)

February 6th, 2010 1 comment

Margaret Wente,’s “The great global warming collapse” in the Globe and Mail has the best short summary I’ve seen of the various ClimateGate scandals. (I’ve tacked some Steyn excerpts at the end too, on the Glaciers.)

In 2007, the most comprehensive report to date on global warming, issued by the respected United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made a shocking claim: The Himalayan glaciers could melt away as soon as 2035….

But the claim was rubbish, and the world’s top glaciologists knew it. It was based not on rigorously peer-reviewed science but on an anecdotal report by the WWF itself. When its background came to light on the eve of Copenhagen, Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, shrugged it off. But now, even leading scientists and environmental groups admit the IPCC is facing a crisis of credibility that makes the Climategate affair look like small change….

And now, the science scandals just keep on coming. First there was the vast cache of e-mails leaked from the University of East Anglia, home of a crucial research unit responsible for collecting temperature data. Although not fatal to the science, they revealed a snakepit of scheming to keep contradictory research from being published, make imperfect data look better, and withhold information from unfriendly third parties. If science is supposed to be open and transparent, these guys acted as if they had a lot to hide.

Despite widespread efforts to play down the Climategate e-mails, they were very damaging. An investigation by the British newspaper The Guardian – among the most aggressive advocates for action on climate change – has found that a series of measurements from Chinese weather stations were seriously flawed, and that documents relating to them could not be produced.

Meantime, the IPCC – the body widely regarded, until now, as the ultimate authority on climate science – is looking worse and worse. After it was forced to retract its claim about melting glaciers, Mr. Pachauri dismissed the error as a one-off. But other IPCC claims have turned out to be just as groundless.

For example, it warned that large tracts of the Amazon rain forest might be wiped out by global warming because they are extremely susceptible to even modest decreases in rainfall. The sole source for that claim, reports The Sunday Times of London, was a magazine article written by a pair of climate activists, one of whom worked for the WWF. One scientist contacted by the Times, a specialist in tropical forest ecology, called the article “a mess.”

Worse still, the Times has discovered that Mr. Pachauri’s own Energy and Resources Unit, based in New Delhi, has collected millions in grants to study the effects of glacial melting – all on the strength of that bogus glacier claim, which happens to have been endorsed by the same scientist who now runs the unit that got the money. Even so, the IPCC chief is hanging tough. He insists the attacks on him are being orchestrated by companies facing lower profits.

Until now, anyone who questioned the credibility of the IPCC was labelled as a climate skeptic, or worse. But many climate scientists now sense a sinking ship, and they’re bailing out….

I’ll tack on excerpts from Mark Steyn’s wonderful column on the 2035 Glacier Melt (my boldface):

Take the Himalayan glaciers. They’re supposed to be entirely melted by 2035. The evidence is totally disproportionate, man. No wonder professor Orville Schell of Berkeley is so upset about it: “Lately, I’ve been studying the climate-change-induced melting of glaciers in the Greater Himalaya,” he wrote. “Understanding the cascading effects of the slow-motion downsizing of one of the planet’s most magnificent landforms has, to put it politely, left me dispirited.” I’ll say. Professor Schell continued: “If you focus on those Himalayan highlands, a deep sense of loss creeps over you—the kind that comes from contemplating the possible end of something once imagined as immovable, immutable, eternal . . .”

Poor chap. Still, you can’t blame him for being in the slough of despond. That magnificent landform is melting before his eyes like the illustration of the dripping ice cream cone that accompanied his eulogy for the fast vanishing glaciers. Everyone knows they’re gonna be gone in a generation. “The glaciers on the Himalayas are retreating,” said Lord Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank and author of the single most influential document on global warming. “We’re facing the risk of extreme runoff, with water running straight into the Bay of Bengal and taking a lot of topsoil with it. A few hundred square miles of the Himalayas are the source for all the major rivers of Asia—the Ganges, the Yellow River, the Yangtze—where three billion people live. That’s almost half the world’s population.” And NASA agrees, and so does the UN Environment Programme, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the World Wildlife Fund, and the respected magazine the New Scientist. The evidence is, like, way disproportionate.

But where did all these experts get the data from? Well, NASA’s assertion that Himalayan glaciers “may disappear altogether” by 2030 rests on one footnote, citing the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report from 2007.

… And the IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for that report, so it must be kosher, right? Well, yes, its Himalayan claims rest on a 2005 World Wildlife Fund report called “An Overview of Glaciers.”

WWF? Aren’t they something to do with pandas and the Duke of Edinburgh? True. But they wouldn’t be saying this stuff if they hadn’t got the science nailed down, would they? The WWF report relies on an article published in the New Scientist in 1999 by Fred Pearce.

That’s it? One article from 12 years ago in a pop-science mag? Oh, but don’t worry, back in 1999 Fred did a quickie telephone interview with a chap called Syed Hasnain of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. And this Syed Hasnain cove presumably knows a thing or two about glaciers.

Well, yes. But he now says he was just idly “speculating”; he didn’t do any research or anything like that.

But so what? His musings were wafted upwards through the New Scientist to the World Wildlife Fund to the IPCC to a global fait accompli: the glaciers are disappearing. Everyone knows that. You’re not a denier, are you? India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, says there was not “an iota of scientific evidence” to support the 2035 claim. Yet that proved no obstacle to its progress through the alarmist establishment. Dr. Murari Lal, the “scientist” who included the 2035 glacier apocalypse in the IPCC report, told Britain’s Mail on Sunday that he knew it wasn’t based on “peer-reviewed science” but “we thought we should put it in”—for political reasons.

… This would appear to be in breach of the IPCC’s own guidelines. The WWF is a pressure group. They’re not scientists. They’re not even numerate: one of their more startling glacier-melt claims derives entirely from an arithmetical miscalculation arising from a typing error.

… in the years since Syed Hasnain “speculated” about glacial melt, the BBC, the CBC, CNN and thousands of newspapers around the world have hired specialist Environmental Correspondents on lavish salaries. Yet not one of them gave any serious examination to the claims of the IPCC report, or the “science” on which they rested.

V. K. Raina, of the Geological Survey of India, produced a special report demonstrating that the run-for-your-life-the-glaciers-are-melting IPCC scenario was utterly false. For his pains, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the self-aggrandizing old bruiser and former railroad engineer who serves as head honcho of the IPCC jet set, dismissed Mr. Raina’s research as “voodoo science.” He’s now been obliged to admit the voodoo was all on his side. But don’t worry. By 2008, Syed Hasnain’s decade-old casual chit-chat over the phone to a London journalist had become “settled science,” so Dr. Pachauri’s company TERI (The Energy & Resources Institute) approached the Carnegie Corporation for a grant to research “challenges to South Asia posed by melting Himalayan glaciers,” and was rewarded with half a million bucks. Which they promptly used to hire Syed Hasnain. In other words, professor Hasnain has landed a cushy gig researching solutions to an entirely non-existent global crisis he accidentally invented over a 15-minute phone call 10 years earlier. As they say in the glacier business, ice work if you can get it.

… I can see what’s in it for Dr. Pachauri and professor Hasnain, and even for the lowly Environmental Correspondent enjoying a cozy sinecure at a time of newspaper cutbacks in everything from foreign bureaus to arts coverage.

But it’s hard to see what’s in it for Dan Gajewski of Ottawa and the millions of kindred spirits who’ve signed on to this racket and are determined to stick with it. Don’t be the last off a collapsing bandwagon. The scientific “consensus” is melting way faster than the glaciers.

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An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming

February 6th, 2010 16 comments

Yesterday I received a group email on global warming and Christianity and two worthwhile replies to that email. It looked like an interesting debate with more than two sides might start, so I’m posting it here, as a more suitable place than emails for such a discussion. Later I’ll add the links. I’ve also put my old post on ClimateGate and Economists below. The topic is distinct, but the same people may be interested.

Dear colleague:

A few weeks ago, I added my signature to what I’m convinced is a truly important policy document, An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming (the full text of which can be found below). Along with fellow Christian economists Dr. Bill Anderson, Dr. Ken Chilton, Dr. Tracy Miller, and Dr. Shawn Ritenour, I am writing to invite you to join us in signing this document, which is the product of years of research by evangelical theologians, scientists, economists, and other scholars dedicated to bringing Biblical world view, theology, and ethics together with excellent science and economics to address simultaneously economic development for the world’s poorest and wise, godly creation stewardship.

Supporting the Declaration is an outstanding 76-page, scholarly document, A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science, and Economics of Global Warming, the product of months of work by 30 outstanding theologians, scientists, and economists, all with expertise in the implications of our own fields for understanding climate change and climate policy. (I was the lead author for the economics chapter.) If you have any doubts about whether the Declaration really represents state-of-the-art scholarship, I urge you to read the Renewed Call to Truth. You’ll see clear explanations, convincing data, and thorough documentation to scholarly sources. Most of what we learn about climate change from the mass media fails to reflect the best science and economics, and of course it completely ignores the crucial contribution of Biblical world view, theology, and ethics. That means Christians must carefully “test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), and the Renewed Call to Truth will stand up to the test.

By endorsing An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, you’ll be joining over 150 education and ministry leaders, pastors, theologians, ethicists, scientists, economists, and other scholars, plus over 350 grass-roots evangelicals, who have already done so in less than two months since its release. You’ll also be expressing publicly your conviction that climate and energy policy, indeed all environmental policy, must be based on sound science and economics that are in turn rooted in a solidly Biblical world view, and must keep the needs of the world’s most vulnerable – the poor – front and center. And you’ll be expressing support for solid climate science research that is not manipulated in support of ideological positions.

So please, read the Declaration and then sign it online. We’ll be honored to have you join us!


G Cornelis van Kooten, Professor of Economics and Research Chair in Environmental Studies and Climate, University of Victoria, BC

Dr. William L. Anderson, Associate Professor of Economics, Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD

Dr. Kenneth W. Chilton, Emeritus Professor of Economics and Emeritus Director of the Institute for the Study of Economics and the Environment, Lindenwood University, St Charles, MO

Dr. Tracy Miller, Associate Professor of Economics, Grove City College, Grove City, PA

Dr. Shawn Ritenour, Associate Professor of Economics, Grove City College, Grove City, PA

An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming

Add your name–click here!


As governments consider policies to fight alleged man-made global warming, evangelical leaders have a responsibility to be well informed, and then to speak out. A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science, and Economics of Global Warming demonstrates that many of these proposed policies would destroy jobs and impose trillions of dollars in costs to achieve no net benefits. They could be implemented only by enormous and dangerous expansion of government control over private life. Worst of all, by raising energy prices and hindering economic development, they would slow or stop the rise of the world’s poor out of poverty and so condemn millions to premature death.


1. We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history.

2. We believe abundant, affordable energy is indispensable to human flourishing, particularly to societies which are rising out of abject poverty and the high rates of disease and premature death that accompany it. With present technologies, fossil and nuclear fuels are indispensable if energy is to be abundant and affordable.

3. We believe mandatory reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, achievable mainly by greatly reduced use of fossil fuels, will greatly increase the price of energy and harm economies.

4. We believe such policies will harm the poor more than others because the poor spend a higher percentage of their income on energy and desperately need economic growth to rise out of poverty and overcome its miseries.


1. We deny that Earth and its ecosystems are the fragile and unstable products of chance, and particularly that Earth’s climate system is vulnerable to dangerous alteration because of minuscule changes in atmospheric chemistry. Recent warming was neither abnormally large nor abnormally rapid. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.

2. We deny that alternative, renewable fuels can, with present or near-term technology, replace fossil and nuclear fuels, either wholly or in significant part, to provide the abundant, affordable energy necessary to sustain prosperous economies or overcome poverty.

3. We deny that carbon dioxide—essential to all plant growth—is a pollutant. Reducing greenhouse gases cannot achieve significant reductions in future global temperatures, and the costs of the policies would far exceed the benefits.

4. We deny that such policies, which amount to a regressive tax, comply with the Biblical requirement of protecting the poor from harm and oppression.


In light of these facts,

1. We call on our fellow Christians to practice creation stewardship out of Biblical conviction, adoration for our Creator, and love for our fellow man—especially the poor.

2. We call on Christian leaders to understand the truth about climate change and embrace Biblical thinking, sound science, and careful economic analysis in creation stewardship.

3. We call on political leaders to adopt policies that protect human liberty, make energy more affordable, and free the poor to rise out of poverty, while abandoning fruitless, indeed harmful policies to control global temperature.


While our signatures express our endorsement only of this Declaration and do not imply agreement with every point in A Renewed Call to Truth, we believe that document provides ample justification for it. We call on scholars and experts to join us in signing this Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming.

* Organization and title are listed for identification only, and do not imply organizational endorsement.

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ClimateGate Misconduct and Economists

February 6th, 2010 No comments

Below is a repeat of an old post. By now, I did contact a number of AEA people and economists interested in global warming. They were all sympathetic (of the 80% or so who replied to my email), but not enthusiastic. I fell into that class myself in January, seeing that ClimateGate was yesterday’s news and had become too distant from economics for a statement to be worth pushing, though I think it still very appropriate for fields closer to those implicated in the scandal. Still, I think this worth posting on an individual’s weblog, and it’s useful as focussing on the scholarly misconduct and how in economics, unlike climatology, it would not be tolerated, rather than on global warming per se.

I’m not sure how to get this going, but I’d like to have lots of economists sign a petition on ClimateGate. We scholars are in danger of losing a lot of our moral capital because of our tolerance of bad behavior, and I think we’d end up with the public thinking we’re much less scholarly than we really are— at least we in economics, and, I hope, every field but climatology.

I’m not going to the American Economic Association meeting in Atlanta in January, but maybe I’ll find somebody who is who is willing to sit in a hotel lobby with a petition for people to sign. Volunteers, and comments on the draft below, are welcome, especially comments from anyone who is a strong believer in both global warming and good scholarly practices.

In the November 2009 “ClimateGate” emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia certain climatologists casually discuss suppressing other people’s research and thwarting efforts to obtain the data and computer code used in published articles. This has hurt the reputation not only of those scholars but of climatology, science, and peer-reviewed scholarship generally. Unless scholars speak out, there is a danger that the public will believe bad behavior is routine in every field of research. The danger is all the greater because even some scholars not implicated have defended the emails as routine behavior or as unimportant.

We, the undersigned Ph.D. economists, wish to inform the public that we condemn those practices. Any economist writing the ClimateGate emails that we quote below would immediately lose the respect of his colleagues, regardless of their political views. We are making no statement about climate change science or policy when we say this. Few if any of we who sign have expertise in the science of global warming. Economists do have much to say about the costs and benefits of various climate policies, and our debates can be found elsewhere. What matters here is that in economics, requests for one’s data and computer code are considered compliments to the importance of one’s work and are routinely satisfied, whether the other scholar is trying to extend the results or refute them.

Authors are expected to make replication convenient even on controversial topics. John Lott’s work on gun control and John Donohue and Steven Levitt’s on abortion provide good examples of authors providing data to people they knew were seeking to find flaws in their work. The
American Economic Review requires data to be made conveniently available unless special circumstances require confidentiality. The policy at, says:

“All data used in analysis must be clearly and precisely documented.
All data used in analysis must be made available to any researcher for purposes of replication. See Data Availability Policy.
Any requests for an exemption from the data availability policy must be made in the cover letter when the paper is first submitted. “

We are making a statement about economics, not climatology. We do not know whether the ClimateGate practices are common in that field or not, or even whether some extenuating circumstances exist. Rather, we wish to say that we find the specific emails listed on the attached page appalling and shameful.

Signatures in alphabetical order (with affiliations for identification only)

Jane Doe (Ministry of Governmental Affairs, Wherisitstan)
John Doe (Big Research Institute)
John Smith (Random University)

[put signatures in two or three columns]


The ClimateGate emails, available in searchable form at, include the following statements. Boldfacing is added to aid the reader in skimming them.

  1. [January 20, 2005] Proving bad behavior here is very difficult. If you think that Saiers [the editor of Geophysical Research Letters] is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU [American Geophysical Union] channels to get him ousted. Even this would be difficult.
  2. [January 21, 2005] Yeah, basically this is just a heads up to people that something might be up here. What a shame that would be. It’s one thing to lose “Climate Research”. We can’t afford to lose GRL [Geophysical Research Letters]. I think it would be useful if people begin to record their experiences w/ both Saiers [the GRL biogeosciences editor] and potentially Mackwell (I don’t know him–he would seem to be complicit w/ what is going on here).

    If there is a clear body of evidence that something is amiss, it could be taken through the proper channels. I don’t that the entire AGU [American Geophysical Union] hierarchy has yet been compromised!

  3. [November 15, 2005] I suspect that this is the first in a line of attacks (I’m sure Tom C is next in line) that will ultimately get “published” one way or another. The GRL leak may have been plugged up now w/ new editorial leadership there, [Prof. Saiers was removed from handling sumbissions responding to the MM paper, and one response he’d rejected was unrejected] but these guys always have “Climate Research” and “Energy and Environment”, and will go there if necessary.


    Prof. Saiers says

    “This paper caused a bit of a stir and because I oversaw the peer review of this paper, I assume that Wigley inferred (incorrectly) that I was a climate-change skeptic. I stepped down as GRL editor at the end of my three-year term, long after the excitement over the McIntyre and McKitrick paper had passed. My departure had nothing to do with attempts by Wigley or anyone else to have me sacked.” His vitae says: “2004 – 2006 Hydrology/Biogeosciences Editor, Geophysical Research Letters“.

    Saiers indeed remained as Hydrology/Biogeosciences Editor but:

    “It was announced that the editor in chief of Geophysical Research Letters, Jay Famiglietti, had taken over the file for the McIntyre paper and its responses. This was justified he claimed, because of the high number of responses – four – that the McIntyre paper had received. That two of those responses had been rejected and were no longer in play was not mentioned. The reason for the change quickly became apparent though when, at the end of September, the rejected response from David Ritson turned out not only to have been re-submitted but had also been accepted for publication. This was another clear breach of the journal’s rules, which required that an article’s author should be able to comment on responses before they were accepted. Famiglietti however refused to make any on-the-record comments about why he behaved as he did.”


  4. This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the
    “peer-reviewed literature”. Obviously, they found a solution to that–take over a journal!

    So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering “Climate Research” as a
    legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate
    research community to no longer
    submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also
    need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently
    sit on the editorial board…

  5. I think the skeptics will use this paper to their own ends and it will set paleo back a number of years if it goes unchallenged. I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor. A CRU person is on the editorial board, but papers get dealt with by the editor assigned by Hans von Storch.

  6. Tim Osborn has just come across this. Best to ignore probably, so don’t let it spoil your day. I’ve not looked at it yet. It results from this journal having a number of editors. The responsible one for this is a well-known skeptic in NZ. He has let a few papers through by Michaels and Gray in the past. I’ve had words with Hans von Storch about this, but got nowhere. Another thing to discuss in Nice!

    I have learned one thing. This is that the reviewer who said they were too busy was Ray. I have been saying this to loads of papers recently (something Tom(w) can vouch for). It is clear from the differences between CR and the ERE piece that the other 4 reviewers did not say much, so a negative review was likely to be partly ignored, and the article would still have come out. I say this as this might come out if things get nasty. De Freitas will not say to Hans von Storch or to Clare Goodess who the 4 reviewers were. I believe his paleoclimatologist is likely to be Anthony Fowler, who does dendro at Auckland.

  7. Anyway, I wanted you guys to know that you’re free to use RC [the website] any way you think would be helpful. Gavin and I are going to be careful about what comments we screen through, and we’ll be very careful to answer any questions that come up to any extent we can. On the other hand, you might want to visit the thread and post replies yourself. We can hold comments up in the queue and contact you about whether or not you think they should be screened through or not, and if so, any comments you’d like us to include.
  8. Just sent loads of station data to Scott. Make sure he documents everything better this time ! And don’t leave stuff lying around on ftp sites – you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days? – our does ! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it. We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind. Tom Wigley has sent me a worried email when he heard about it – thought people could ask him for his model code. He has retired officially from UEA so he can hide behind that. IPR should be relevant here, but I can see me getting into an argument with someone at UEA who’ll say we must adhere to it!
  9. I’ve attached a cleaned-up and commented version of the matlab code that I wrote for doing the Mann and Jones (2003) composites. I did this knowing that Phil and I are likely to have to respond to more crap criticisms from the idiots in the near future, so best to clean up the code and provide to some of my close colleagues in case they want to test it, etc. Please feel free to use this code for your own internal purposes, but don’t pass it along where it may get into the hands of the wrong people.
  10. I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act!
  11. Options appear to be:
    1. Send them the data.

    2. Send them a subset removing station data from some of the countries who made us pay in the normals papers of Hulme et al. (1990s) and also any number that David can remember. This should also omit some other countries like (Australia, NZ, Canada, Antarctica). Also could extract some of the sources that Anders added in (31-38 source codes in J&M 2003). Also should remove many of the early stations that we coded up in the 1980s.
    3. Send them the raw data as is, by reconstructing it from GHCN. How could this be done? Replace all stations where the WMO ID agrees with what is in GHCN. This would be the raw data, but it would annoy them.

  12. The next puzzle is why Wei-Chyung didn’t make the hard copy information
    available. Either it does not exist, or he thought it was too much trouble to access and copy. My guess is that it does not exist
    — if it did then why was it not in the DOE report? In support of this, it seems that there are other papers from 1991 and 1997 that show that the data do not exist. What are these papers? Do they really show this?

    Now my views. (1) I have always thought W-C W was a rather sloppy
    scientist. I therefore would not be surprised if he screwed up here.
    But ITEM X is in both the W-C W and Jones et al. papers — so where does it come from first? Were you taking W-C W on trust?

    (2) It also seems to me that the University at Albany has screwed up. To accept a complaint from Keenan and not refer directly to the complaint and the complainant in its report really is asking for trouble.

    (3) At the very start it seems this could have been easily dispatched. ITEM X really should have been …

    “Where possible, stations were chosen on the basis of station histories and/or local knowledge: selected stations have relatively few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location, or observation times”


    I realise that Keenan is just a trouble maker and out to waste time, so
    I apologize for continuing to waste your time on this, Phil.
    However, I *am* concerned because all this happened under my watch as Director of CRU and, although this is unlikely, the buck eventually should stop with me.

  13. PS to Gavin – been following (sporadically) the CA stuff about the GISS data and release of the code etc by Jim. May take some of the pressure of you soon, by releasing a list of the stations we use – just a list, no code and no data. Have agreed to under the FOIA here in the UK.

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The Keynes-Hayek Rap

February 6th, 2010 No comments

Prof. Roberts and co-producer have done well both artistically and in representing Keynes and Hayek in this famous video. Even the music is good. Hayek gets the final word, but that’s fair enough given the views of the producers and the ample time they give the other side.

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Is the Left Anti-Semitic?

February 3rd, 2010 No comments

Gore Vidal’s “The Empire Lovers Strike Back” in The Nation’s 120th anniversary issue is interesting. He is being anti-semitic, but is that because he really is anti-semitic, or just because he knows it drives Norman Podhoretz crazy? Mr. Podhoretz, who is his main target in the article, has just written a book on why Jews are liberals and has two chapters contrasting the approval the Left gave Vidal’s article with the condemnation the Right gave Joseph Sobran’s milder and more obscure articles at about the same time.

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Specific Performance for Prostitution Contracts

February 3rd, 2010 No comments

A New Zealand girl has sold her virginity on the Internet. Prostitution is legal in New Zealand. The contract is not yet performed. Traditionally, such contracts were not enforceable on grounds of public policy. I wonder if they are now? What is particularly appalling is that unlike most contracts, contracts for personal services are enforced by specific performance. If that applies here, she can’t back out and just pay back the money— she’s got to perform.

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Antarctic Cooling

February 3rd, 2010 No comments

From Watt:

Warming and Cooling in Antarctica

NASA themselves appear very confused about Antarctic temperature trends. As you can see in the two images below, sometimes they think Antarctica is warming and other times they think it is cooling.

NASA's other map

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February 3rd, 2010 No comments

From Instapundit:


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The Five Worst (and Five Best) American Criminal Codes

February 3rd, 2010 No comments

I looked at the first few pages of Paul H. Robinson
Michael T. Cahill
Usman Mohammad,
The Five Worst (and Five Best) American Criminal Codes
Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 95, pp. 1-89, 2000, where it talks about what a code should do. A few ideas:

1. Common law crimes *do* provide notice, if they are in accord with natural law and everyday morality, as they should be in the spirit of the common law. The idea of the common law, originally, was that the judge should look to the established customs of the locality in making his decisions. He was not creating law; he was finding it. If he is really doing that, then the citizens are on notice that an action is Bad, and he is merely telling the executive to impose the expected penalty.

Of course, it’s hard to trust judges, especially nowadays, so for that reason maybe we should not allow them to sentence people for common-law crimes.

2. Parallel to the criminal codes we have enormous bodies of regulation, both civil and criminal. All the arguments applied to a good criminal code apply to these, to the extent that the impose fines and imprisonment. I bet iif we looked at regulations, every state and the the federal government too would come in well below the worst state criminal code, and the defects in the state criminal codes are trivial by comparison.

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Incompetence in Government

February 3rd, 2010 No comments

The American Spectator has a good article on incompetence in the Obama Administration and lack of accountability. It succinctly tells why Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair should all have resigned because of the underwear bomber’s handling.

Napolitano: “The system worked…”

Brennan: “Though all of that information was available to all-source analysts at the CIA and the [National Counterterrorism Center] prior to the attempted attack, the dots were never connected, and as a result, the problem appears to be more about a component failure to “connect the dots,” rather than a lack of information sharing.” That means its *his* fault.

Holder: “The first FBI agents on the scene interrogated Abdulmutallab for about fifty minutes before the Holder Justice Department intervened from Washington and instructed a team of new agents to read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights….”

Blair: He said the HIG should have been helping deal with the bombing, but “…not only is the HIG, as Blair himself later clarified, not yet operational, but it had not been operational since President Obama mandated its creation in August of 2009 — information that one would hope the Director of National Intelligence can keep straight in assessing what went wrong.”

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Philip Lawler’s The Faithful Departed

February 2nd, 2010 No comments

Philip Lawler’s The Faithful Departed is a very good book. It is about the decline of the Roman Catholic Church in America, using Boston as the focus. I hope he writes a similar book about evangelicalism. I’ll perhaps write more review here later. His book is really about church discipline. First, the bishops didn’t discipline the pastors. They let heresy flourish, and, in the last 1/4 of the book, homosexual pedophilia. Second, the bishops and pastors didn’t discipline the members. They let members— notably, the ones who were politicians— flout the birth control, abortion, and divorce rules. Third, the bishops, pastors, and members didn’t discipline nonmembers. They let evil prosper and grow with little criticism and less action. Many members at least tried to stop abortion, but the leadership was lukewarm in its support for them, and in Boston, at least, frequently criticized anti-abortion people and a few times actually forbade demonstrations.

Philosophy Songs

February 2nd, 2010 No comments

Philosophy songs from Professor Alan White and Physics Songs from Prof. Walter Smith (Haverford) via
Prof. Tom Smith.

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The Dollar Bill on the Pavement

January 31st, 2010 No comments

From Prof. Cowen:

I was walking in New York near Wall Street and I saw a green folded up note that looked to be money. I too paused and thought of the old joke that if it was money someone would have picked it up already, but I picked it up anyway and took a closer look…..alas, it was a cleverly folded piece of paper designed to look like money when dropped on the sidewalk, although it was actually an advertisement.

These stories make for a good game theory problem. The applicable model also explains imperfect efficiency coexisting with lack of profit opportunity in the real stock market.

I am the first player. My choice is to pick up the piece of paper or not. Picking it up is costly.

The advertiser is the second player. His choice is how many ads disguised as dollars to distribute. Putting out more ads is costlier.

Exogenously, there are a fixed number of real dollars bills floating around sidewalks.

The unique equilibrium is in mixed strategies. My strategy is to pick up the paper with probability X. The advertiser’s strategy is to distribute Y ads. Y is big enough that I am indifferent between picking up the paepr or not. X is big enough that the advertiser is indifferent between advertising and not.

It’s a bit trickier to make it work than I thougth in this setting, but I think it’ll fly.

Corrupt U.S. Attorneys

January 31st, 2010 No comments

This Harper’s article has very serious and credible charges against Bush US Attorney for Alabama Leura Canary and against one of the highest career civil service lawyers in the Justice Dept, Mr. Margolis. It shows how a US Attorney can make trouble for someone even without being able to convict him of anything, or, indeed, bring him to trial, by doing tricky things like initiating proceedings which disqualify his lawyers by raising conflicts of interest.

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Pride and Liking Movies

January 31st, 2010 No comments

(Rasmusen) Insight from Steve Sailer in Taki’s Magazine:

Saying “I like John Ford Westerns” sounds more sophisticated than saying “I like John Wayne Westerns,” even though they are more or less the same movies.”

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Submitting Official Comments to Government Officials

January 30th, 2010 No comments

I posted something like what is below at Climate Audit, in connection with submissions to a UK Parliamentary Committee. The same thing applies to comments on proposed regulations to US or any other administrative agencies.

Think about how your readers will react, those being (a) pro-warming MPs, (b) anti-warming MPs (maybe— I don’t know if there are any), (c) unsure MPs, and (d) staffers. Imagine yours is the 800th submission a young staffer is reading, and he is skipping going out with his girlfriend to read it. What he wants is NEW information. So don’t write unless you have something NEW to say.

One kind of new thing is “I, a very important person, believe X”. Probably most us are not important enough for that, but if you’re a senator or an emperor, go ahead and say, “I think the CRU people are evil”.

More likely is report of a fact they might not notice otherwise.

Also possible is report of a reform or action they might not think of. That is what my own submission is about.

A submission is much more useful if it only says one thing than if it says many things, and if it is short rather than long. If the committee wants to follow up, they can do it themselves. But they are skimming submission as fast as they can, and they will appreciate brevity.

All these things, by the way, are what effective lobbying is all about: helping out the government officials by providing useful information (including political effect info they may not know about). Professional lobbyists know that the official’s time and attention is like gold: hard to get, and too precious to waste.

3000 words is plenty– more than necessary for this kind of thing. I used about 800.

Don’t do this in the hopes of being published in a report. I am sure every submission will be properly filed away in a basement somewhere, and probably even have its first paragraph read (if that paragraph isn’t good, they can be excused for not wasting their time by going further), but this is not the way to immortalize yourself.

I have posted a poorly formatted version of my own submission to the committee at the bottom of my blog post at

Chris Matthews skewered: “I forgot he was black”

January 29th, 2010 No comments

I don’t know anything about Chris Matthews except he’s a TV pundit, but this is hilarious. Don’t get bored in the middle— the boring part is a set-up for what comes after, and the last line is the best one. Beautifully crafted.

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Obama’s Amazing Ignorance and Rudeness in Attacking the Supreme Court

January 28th, 2010 No comments

From here:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Professor Barnett says:

In the history of the State of the Union has any President ever called out the Supreme Court by name, and egged on the Congress to jeer a Supreme Court decision, while the Justices were seated politely before him surrounded by hundreds Congressmen? To call upon the Congress to countermand (somehow) by statute a constitutional decision, indeed a decision applying the First Amendment? What can this possibly accomplish besides alienating Justice Kennedy who wrote the opinion being attacked. Contrary to what we heard during the last administration, the Court may certainly be the object of presidential criticism without posing any threat to its independence. But this was a truly shocking lack of decorum and disrespect towards the Supreme Court for which an apology is in order. A new tone indeed.

I actually approve of Presidents vigorously condemning the Supreme Court and its opinions. That isn’t the problem here. There are two problems here:

1. It’s rude and unfair to do it when the Justices are sitting in the front rows right near you, and can’t fight back.

2. Obama revealed amazing ignorance, especially for someone who taught con law at Chicago. Chicago must be shuddering at this. Obama was wrong when he said this reversed a century of law. This kind of corporate spending was legal till McCain-Feingold– corporations just didn’t choose to do it. Obama was also wrong when he said Congress could reverse the Supreme Court. Their decision wasn’t statutory interpretation— it said that a statute passed by Congress was unconstitutional. Thus, reversing it requires a constitutional amendment, which isn’t what Obama was talking about. What Obama said was seriously stupid. Does he know *nothing* about con law?

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If this dude were a normal person…

January 28th, 2010 2 comments

VC’s Professor Kerr has a good post on comment moderation in connection with a certain rude commentor to which Andy Bolen comments:

Haha if this dude were a normal person, he’d be really embarrassed right now. But he’s not, he’s the sort of person whose comments need moderation…

An Interesting Ex Post Facto Law Case

January 28th, 2010 No comments

It seems the climatologists at East Anglia violated the F.of Info law but cannot be prosecuted under it because it has a 6-month statute of limitations which tolls *from the time of the offence*, rather than from the time of discovery of the offence, as all other statutes of limitations do. This, of course, completely nullifies it for almost all purposes,since you don’t discover this kind of offence for quite some time. As many have noted, this statute, like all statutes, was largely drafted by bureaucrats, its chief target, and Sir Humphrey is a clever guy. He even piled on extra protection: I read somewhere that another provision says that a complaint cannot be initiated till after the organization’s internal investigation process has been completed— which would usually take more than 6 months and which would be run by the guilty organization. Amazing!

Fortunately, all is not lost. They are talking about revising the British law, and they are inviting public comment on that. I really should comment, but someone else ought to make this same point in case I’m too busy.

It is perfectly possible in Britain to revise the law to punish actions that have already taken place. It’s not like in the US where the Constitutions prohibits ex post facto laws. From Wikipedia:

In the United Kingdom, Ex Post Facto laws are strictly frowned upon, but are permitted by virtue of the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. Historically, all acts of Parliament before 1793 were Ex Post Facto legislation, inasmuch as their date of effect was the first day of the session in which they were passed. This situation was rectified by the Acts of Parliament (Commencement) Act 1793.[citation needed]

Ex Post Facto criminal laws are prohibited by Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which the United Kingdom is a signatory, but parliamentary sovereignty, in theory, takes priority even over this.[citation needed]

Thus, if we agree that this is a bad loophole and that these perpetrators and others in unrelated crimes ought to be punished, Britain can do it, by passing a retroactive law. If the Government doesn’t, it doesn’t mean they *can’t* prosecute, it means they *don’t want to* prosecute (which is likely). They need the screws put on them by people pointing this out.

Addition at 9:36 am: Actually, reading a little more at the CA comments, I see that the UK government people might be lying when they say the statute of limitations is 6 months. A comment says (my fonts):

We do not have a statute of limitations as such. But no indictable offences at summary trial are subject to the following:-
The 6 month limit is enshrined in law. Namely, The Magistrates Court Act 1980 :
section 127 Limitation of Time

(1) Except as otherwise expressly provided by any enactment and subject to subsection (2) below, a magistrates’ court shall not try an information or hear a complaint unless the information was laid, or the complaint made, within 6 months from the time when the offence was committed, or the matter of complaint arose.

(2) Nothing in–
(a) subsection (1) above; or
( B) subject to subsection (4) below, any other enactment (however framed or worded) which, as regards any offence to which it applies, would but for this section impose a time-limit on the power of a magistrates’ court to try an information summarily or impose a limitation on the time for taking summary proceedings,
shall apply in relation to any indictable offence.

(3) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph ( B) of subsection (2) above, that paragraph includes enactments which impose a time-limit that applies only in certain circumstances (for example, where the proceedings are not instituted by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions or some other specified authority).

(4) Where, as regards any indictable offence, there is imposed by any enactment (however framed or worded, and whether falling within subsection (2)( B) above or not) a limitation on the time for taking proceedings on indictment for that offence no summary proceedings for that offence shall be taken after the latest time for taking proceedings on indictment.

If that’s all there is, with no speciall statute of limitations for this particular offence, there’s no way it applies. I’m sure in the UK that if someone is murdered by poison, and the fact that he was poisoned is only discovered 7 months later, the murdered doesn’t get off.

See too this 2007 statute of limitations English decision:

9:48: Yet another CA comment that indicates the 6-months may be just for minor offences, not murder (which is usually specfically exempted anyway, so my example was a bad one):

There is no general period of limitation which applies to criminal proceedings in the UK but there has been a statutory limit of 6 months on very minor offences for centuries.

It’s still the case that a generic SOL law would undoubtedly be interpreted to toll from time of discovery of the crime.

9:58. Is private prosecution still possible in England? If so, this is the perfect case. Easy facts, but the government says it is blocked by law. So a private prosecutor could bring it, the court would say it is legal as the first step in the case, and the government’s duplicity would be revealed. In fact, it would be really cheap, because a full development of the facts would not be needed to get to that stage.

January 30. Here is my submission to Parliament, sent today.

The Clerk
Science and Technology Committee
House of Commons
7 Millbank
London SW1P 3JA
“Climatic Research Unit”

30 January 2010

Dear Sirs,

(1) I am a well-known economist, specializing in law-and-economics, game theory, and the economic theory of politics. Very likely any economist you ask in the UK will have heard my name, though I am nowhere near Nobel caliber. My vitae is up at I have no financial or other relevant connection to the issue on which I am commenting.

(2) I am writing now with a comment on dealing with Climategate. I write not on what happened at East Anglia, but on a narrow point of law, politics, and procedure that may have escaped your notice. My comment is on your question:

“— What are the implications of the disclosures for the integrity of scientific research?
— Are the terms of reference and scope of the Independent Review announced on 3 December 2009 by UEA adequate (see below)?”

The implications of this case are that criminal concealment of scientific research data in the UK is currently nonpunishable by the government, something which no Independent Review will solve. You need a new bill to punish nondisclosure. This bill could be special to scientific data, and so would, I imagine, be within your remit.

(3) It is said that a statute of limitations prevents prosecution of people undoubtedly guilty of concealing information. I take that as given for points (4) and (5). I am deeply skeptical, however. I have seen The Magistrates Court Act 1980 :section 127, which I do NOT think would apply. This looks more like the kind of excuse that would fool the public but nobody who actually looked into the law. Maybe not— but do ask the lawyers to cite chapter and verse and explain the legal concept of “tolling”.

(4) You can change the statute and prosecute the guilty parties. The US Constitution has a provision banning “ex post facto” laws, which might prevent that in the US (though not obviously— here, the change would merely involve extending the statute of limitations, rather than making an action illegal that used to be legal). You have no such constraint in the U.K. You could even use a mild form of a bill of attainder— a statute to punish one person who is morally culpable but whom the courts for reason of technicalities or favoritism won’t prosecute. So go ahead and change the law, and make it retroactive.

(5) It may well be the case that some people— I do not know who exactly, but I raise this as a possibility— would like to hide behind the statute of limitations to avoid doing their duty and prosecuting this crime. If so, their dereliction should be vigorously publicized. Here is the general idea:

(6) “Mr. X admits that Mr. Y has committed a crime, and ought to be punished, but he says that unfortunately the law was drafted poorly and so punishment is not possible. I have good news for Mr. X. Parliament can change the law, and punish Mr. Y for doing what was already illegal and what Mr. Y knew was illegal but which could not be prosecuted because of a draftsman’s carelessness. I trust I have Mr X’s enthusiastic support for this bill, because I would not like to believe that he is merely hiding behind the technicality to avoid punishing a man he admits is guilty.”

(7) I am, as I said, an economist rather than lawyer, but I have written extensively on law, bureaucracy, politics, and the mathematics of strategy, and that is what I am writing about today.

(8) I will mention one other point which might be useful. The economists at the University of East Anglia are very well regarded in the economics profession. I know a number of them personally from my visit to Oxford a couple of years ago. If you need a reliable, honest, person within the University you could do worse than to search among them.