"Baby You Can Drive My Car": Copenhagen Full Limos and . Empty Buses

December 10th, 2009 No comments

Categories: global warming Tags:

Dealing with Reporters on a Regular Basis

December 10th, 2009 No comments

Via Sailer, “The Michael Jordan/Tiger Woods Model: Why It Will Never Work With The Media,” . The title has it wrong, but the article is good. The strategy is to intimidate reporters and cut off access to any reporter who ever prints anything critical. The drawback is that if the athlete’s stock ever falls (e.g. Tiger Wood’s), even the hitherto friendly reporters hate him and have repressed stories to tell. The tradeoff can be worth it, though.

Categories: game theory, media, reputation Tags:

The Precautionary Principle

December 9th, 2009 No comments

Sensibly applied, the idea behind the Precautionary Principle could be useful for global warming. The idea is that we should worry a lot about catastrophic low-probability events. The standard warmist scenario is not at all catastrophic. Adjusting to even a rise of 10 degrees Farenheit over 100 years is just not that bad. It’s the difference between Philadelphia and San Diego, and people do find the heat bearable when they move to San Diego. (Or use Boston and Atlanta if you like. But one thing I wonder about is how much of global warming will just be to make winters milder. The Highs in the Tropics are not higher than in the Midwest— they just last longer.)

But there is a possible catastrophe. It would be because of runaway effects caused by, for example, methane being released from Siberian swamps.

Correct use of the precautionary principle would say that we should forget about little things like cap-and-trade and instead (a) study possible catastrophes very hard,and (b) work on geoengineering, since mere cutbacks don’t address the problem (we could well be heading to catastrophe just with our present warming, and maybe it’s too late to go back unless we can get rid of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere).

Thus, the precautionary principle really has the opposite implication of its standard use, which is to call for expensive CO2 cuts that won’t help with the small-probability, really-bad outcomes.

In fact, we could go a step further. Suppose we are limited to spending at most one trillion dollars dealing with climate change. Suppose, too, we think that(a) there is a 99% chance that if we do nothing, the temperature will rise and cause 3 trillion dollars in harm to the global economy , (b) there is a 0% chance that the temperature won’t rise, and (c) there is a 1% chance that the temperature will rise dramatically, killing off 90% of the world’s population. The standard global warming line is that we should spend the trillion dollars on substituting other inputs for energy, to reduce CO2 output and prevent the loss of the 3 trillion dollars. The precautionary principle says that we shouldn’t waste the trillion dollars on that— we should spend it on geoengineering research and technology to deal with the 1% probability of disaster, instead.

You may be tempted to reply that both the CO2 reduction and the geoengineering projects should be undertaken. Well, suppose we have 5 trillion dollars to spend. Why shouldn’t we spend all 5 trillion on dealing with the 1% probability of disaster? The more we spend, the higher probability we avoid the disaster, so why divert any of the funds to non-disaster scenarios?

Snowballs, Not Lines

December 9th, 2009 No comments

A good thought of Prof. Ribstein: (my boldface, as usual)

The best legal scholars, like the best lawyers, are those who bring a variety of tools together in responding to a legal problem. They are creative, insightful, and broad, making connections among different fields and with their other work. Their careers end up looking like snowballs rather than lines. They can use these skills to teach both lawyers and policymakers how to solve new problems.

Categories: academia, research, thinking Tags:

Robert E. Sullivan’s Macaulay: The Tragedy of Power

December 7th, 2009 No comments

It sounds as if Harvard University Press has severely embarassed itself by publishing
Robert E. Sullivan’s Macaulay: The Tragedy of Power. See the WSJ review. It argues, quite convincingly that Prof. Sullivan of Notre Dame has no understanding whatsoever of Victorian times, seeing, for example, gushy language in letters to Macaulay’s sisters as evidence of incestuous desire rather than commonplace Victorian sentimentality. It sounds as if there must be a good story in how Harvard came to publish it.

Categories: history, publishing Tags:

How to EXTRACT & SAVE PICTURE From an Microsoft Word (MS Word) Document

December 6th, 2009 No comments

All the top googled webpages on this topic do it wrong or require special software, so this is important advice. The hard part is to save the undegraded, full-quality, image file that is entangled in the MS-Word document. I finally found that WebCoolTips does aone of its three methods right, so here it is.

MS Word, typically stupid, provides no obvious way to do this. One’s first thought for a workaround is to Save As the file as an HTML file with embedded images. MS Word does that, and even saves every single one of the images in both a big and a small size. That’s just a devious Microsoft trick. The big-sized image is still much worse than the original– 4 to 10 times as small, by my two trials. You need to do something different. (The HTML approach, by the way is what you get from the official Microsoft support site—idiots! They’d make more profit if they spent a little more and hired talented staff.)

Here is what to do.

  1. Launch Microsoft Office Picture Manager (It was provided with my version of MS Office, in a subfolder named something like “Accessories”)
  2. Open your MS Word Document.
  3. Right click and copy your image.
  4. Go to Picture Manager
  5. Browse to the folder of your choice, and do Edit-paste to save the clipboard content as an image.
  6. Go to that folder to get your image.
Categories: computers, microsoft, writing Tags:


December 5th, 2009 No comments
Categories: global warming Tags:

ClimateGate Jokes

December 5th, 2009 No comments

Q. What’s the proof that global warming is man-made?

A. The East Anglia emails— a man made up the temperatures.

Q. How many trees does it take to make a hockey stick?

A. Twelve.

Q. How many trees does it take to make a hockey stick?

A. None– just two lines of computer code.

Categories: global warming, humor Tags:

Replication in ClimateGate

December 4th, 2009 No comments

Irritatingly often I see comments on Climategate blog posts saying that economics and climatology aren’t real sciences. I don’t mind Econ not being classified as a science; rather, it is the scoffing tone that I don’t like. Econ is not a science; it’s better than science. But I won’t argue that here.

Rather, the main issues in ClimateGate are not special to science. Peer review and intimidation of editors and other scholars is not. Close linkages with supposedly unbiased blogs and newspapers is not. Violating freedom-of-information laws is not. Sloppy scholarship is not. And, finally, the refusal to allow replication is not.

By that I don’t mean to say that all these sins are common in every field. Far from it! But they are possible in every field.

Consider replication. The issue in ClimateGate is the temperature data series. The scientists started with raw data from hundreds of weather stations covering 150 years, and their end product is a monthly average temperature for every sector of the globe (and a global average too). They did not measure the temperatures themselves– they used data thousands of other people collected over 150 years, 95% of which is publicly available, much of it on the web. Their task was to process the data. They had to choose which weather stations are reliable and average different weather stations within a sector, for example. If one station only existed from 1850 to 1917 and the next one in the vicinity lasted from 1935 to 2009, they had to figure out what to do. They had to worry about the Urban Heat Island effect— what happens when a city full of hot air and concrete grows around a weather station that started out in an empty field. So there was a lot of processing.

What East Anglia would not reveal is which weather stations it used for what years, and how exactly they made the adjustments to get their sector averages. Thus, nobody can replicate their work. Indeed, they can’t do it themselves— they have admitted that they destroyed much of their input data, and the ClimateGate leak tells us that even if they had it, their computer code is too poorly written for anybody to understand, even themselves.

Now, back to the general case. This is not a failure of the scientific method, especially. It could happen in any field with sufficiently low standards for publication, if any other such field existed. Analogies:

  1. A mathematician claims to have squared the circle. He gives us the axioms and the proposition, but keeps the proof secret. “I need to use some of the techniques for future research,” he says.
  2. An economist claims to show that sales of Twinkies are a good predictor of recessions. He shows us a graph, and the results of many regressions that have high R2 and significant coefficients, but he keeps the Twinkies sales data secret. “The company that gave it to me did so on condition that I not reveal their sales to competitors,” he explains.
  3. An English professor claims that contrary to what Mencken claims in his famous essay, the American South has produced more good literature than any similarly sized region in the world. He says there are 127 great novels from the South, but he doesn’t say what they are or why they are great, or what other regions have produced. “This is the consensus of the people in my field, though I won’t say exactly who because that is too personal, and the people in my field are very smart and have studied books a lot more than amateurs,” he says.
Categories: global warming, science Tags:

Timid Scholars

December 3rd, 2009 No comments

Judith Curry in the National Journal tells how she is finding out that academics are cowardly:

Curry: Somebody who was named in those e-mails e-mailed me and was rather upset about my lack of support and my speaking about this. Out in the blogosphere, a lot of people picked up my message and seem to like it. But in terms of the people that I would see at conferences, they have not spoken out publicly and I’ve received only a few e-mails. I’m getting e-mails from people with Ph.D.s in chemistry or physics saying, “Thank you for what you’re doing, can you come give a talk at my professional society meeting?” So I’m getting favorable feedback from serious people in other branches of science who are interested in the climate issue and see too much politics in the science.

My issue is that everybody [in the climate science branch] wants to fly below the radar screen on this because it is a hot potato. Most of the scientists out there are busy in the retreat-to-the-Ivory-Tower mode, and they don’t pay much attention to the public discussion on this topic…. People don’t want to be distracted from their research by a lot of noise, and they don’t want to be put in a position where their personal or scientific integrity will be attacked.

Nobody [in the climate-science sector] wants to talk about this. When I put my essay out on climateaudit.org, I thought I would be one of 500 people out there making statements, but oops, I’m out there by myself.

Scientists want to avoid publicly criticizing other individual scientists, [and] I have my own position about who did something wrong here, but I want to give them the chance to defend themselves and let the investigation proceed.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Rabbinical Judaism vs. Karaites, Sola Scriptura

December 3rd, 2009 1 comment

Here is my modification of a story I got from economist David Friedman’s blog. (The Torah is the Bible; the Mishna and Talmud are commentaries.)

A young scholar came to the Rabbi and he said “Rabbi, I have been studying the Torah, and it is a trial and a tribulation to me. It goes into great elaboration over the heave offering, and the first tithe, and the heave offering of the first tithe, and the second tithe, and the poor man’s tithe, and gleanings, and the corners of the field, and I know not what else, and I cannot follow the tenth part of it all. What am I to do?”

And the rabbi said to him, “Do you know anyone who has a copy of the Mishnah that you might study?”

And the young scholar answered, “my uncle has a scroll of the order “seeds,” and no doubt would permit me to study it.”

“Then go,” said the rabbi, “and for the next month study the Mishnah, and then return to me.”

A month later, the young scholar appeared before the rabbi, still more distraught and unhappy.

“Rabbi,” he said, “The Mishnah is a terrible confusion. It gives one rule from one sage and another from another, and a third from a third sage, and it tells me that the school of Hillel said this and the school of Shammai said that, and I cannot tell for all it says what the law is or how I am to act. I am weary and confused and know less of the law than I did before I began to study it. Rabbi, what am I to do?”

“Do you” the Rabbi asked “know anyone who possesses scrolls of the Talmud, and would let you read in them?”

“My wife’s brother, Rabbi, possesses scrolls of one of the orders of the Talmud, and no doubt would permit me to study it.”

“Then go, and for the next month study Talmud, and when that time is done return to me.”

“Oh Rabbi, the Talmud is a terrible confusion and mess and tangle, and I can make nothing of it. For not only does it give one answer from one sage and a different from another, but those commenting on the answers offer two explanations for the first, for neither of which any rhyme or reason is presented, and three for the second, and make the two sages to agree on one rule, or agree on the other rule, but never tell me what the law is, and if there is any in the whole community who knows less of the law than I do after reading for a month in the Talmud I cannot guess who it could be. Rabbi, what am I to do?”

“Have you still the scroll of the Torah?”

“Indeed I do, Rabbi.”

“Take it down and read it, that you may learn the law.”

A week later the Rabbi met the young scholar, and he said to him “How go your studies.”

“Wonderfully well, Rabbi. I have been studying the Torah, and nothing could be clearer. For each case it gives one rule, not two or three, and it spends no words at all on explaining away the disagreements of the sages, but merely tells what the law is in plain words.”

Categories: religion thinking humor Tags:

Simple Ideas and Complicated Models

December 2nd, 2009 No comments

My comment on a VC post.

Thank you for linking to the Hakes article. It rings true.

The problem it concerns is not exactly poor writing, though. Rather, it is the problem of the brilliant but simple new idea. If you explain it simply, people say, “That’s obvious”, even if they would never have thought of it in a million years. Thus, you have to math it up, or disguise it in a convoluted hypothetical, or quote in foreign languages to get it published.

When I visited Chicago back in 1989 I was amazed at what George Stigler and Gary Becker could do in seminars. They’d ask a simple one-sentence question (“Have you thought about X?”) and entirely demolish (or expand) somebody’s paper. Unfortunately, many of us refuse to recognize that kind of Feynmannian brilliance, which, indeed, is distinct from IQ.

I was just thinking of this topic today because I have what might be a novel idea on why deposit insurance is useful. It’s so simple that I could write the paper in words, with no equations. But I wonder whether a top journal in economics would publish it then, even if the editor believed that the idea was worthy of a Nobel Prize.

What’s the solution? One is to wrap up the idea in unnecessary math modelling. Another, which is often used, is to have two parts to the paper. The first part is to explain the idea in words or with a numerical example. Everybody reads that part, and referees decide whether to accept the paper based on it. The second part is the general model, all mathed up. Referees require that part, but they don’t really read it.

I should add that I am a conventional modern economist, constantly building math models and believing that they are utterly necessary for most economic research. But not every idea needs a math model.

Categories: research, writing. mathematics Tags:

Climate Dementors

December 2nd, 2009 No comments

Marc Hendrickxs has a good post on The Climate Dementors but he doesn’t get it quite right:

Categories: global warming Tags:

The Huckabee Pardons and Methodism

December 2nd, 2009 No comments

Joe Carter has an excellent article on the Huckabee pardons at First Things. He reviewed them as a researcher for the Huckabee campaign. His article is sympathetic, but it casts serious doubt on Huckabee’s judgement.

After reviewing hundreds of cases and interviewing numerous people involved in the process, I concluded to my own satisfaction that the governor’s actions and judgment were generally defensible. Yet there remained about a half-dozen situations in which even after reviewing all of the information I was unpersuaded that justice had been served. Although I was sympathetic with some of the justifications offered for making the decisions, I found them inadequate for a number of reasons….

For instance, the politically prudent tactic would have been to simply refuse to grant any leniency—ever. Other governors with their sights set on higher offices had learned that doing nothing—even to correct obvious instances of injustice—was unlikely to cause any long-term political damage. Keeping an innocent man in prison is less harmful to an ambitious politician than freeing someone who may commit other crimes.

Huckabee would certainly discover this political reality the hard way. Initially, I chalked it up solely to extraordinary political courage. Later, I tempered this view when I realized that this courage was mixed with a large dose of cluelessness. The governor seemed genuinely surprised that he was held responsible for the criminal acts committed by those whose sentences he had commuted as governor. It was as if he believed that simply having noble intentions and a willingness to make tough decisions would provide political cover. The notion that he should be accountable for future crimes committed by these men seemed as foreign to him as the idea that he should refuse all leniency. …

Judging from the records, the governor also seemed to put a lot of weight on conversion stories—a common trait among evangelicals, who believe the gospel is sufficient for restoration and redemption of character.

Carter quotes someone else as saying

What Huckabee misjudged is his ability to judge the character of a convicted murderer and rapists, a lapse out of a character for a pastor who believes in the sinful nature of an — or a lapse in character for a pastor who believes in redemption.

Here’s my comment

Very astute. We evangelicals are suckers for redemption stories. It is good that we believe in miracles. The problem is that the dominant belief in America is no longer the Puritan Total Depravity but the Methodist Moral Perfectibility, even though (or perhaps *because*) the pastors don’t teach theology to their flocks. Thus, we have the idea that church people don’t sin— at least not most church people— reinforced by nobody wanting to admit that they sin. Just one step further, and we have the idea that somebody who has converted will stop sinning.

And of course we’re rather gullible too, easily satisfied with words. We trust someone who says he’s changed and become a slave of Jesus even if he’s living with his girlfriend, shirking on child-support payments to his ex-wife, and selling pornography at the gas station where he works. It isn’t considered polite to question whether someone else’s faith is true.

Categories: Huckabee, law, pardons, religion, thinking Tags:

Periods and Commas: Inside Quotation Marks or Outside?

November 29th, 2009 No comments

(1) At VC, commentor John Blake said,

…. a direct quote requires enclosed quotation marks: “No more of this,” he said. Said he, “No more of this.” In the second instance, a period after the last quotation mark would be redundant.

Citations or indirect quotes do NOT enclose quotation marks: Chronicles admonish, “From the fury of the Norsemen, good Lord deliver us”.

Those are good examples for the problem. Pure logic, the defense commonly used for the British rule, requires that redundant comma:

Said he, “No more of this.”.

The Norsemen quote looks funny. The period at the end is too far from the final word, because the high-up quotation marks separate it off. Also, the reader expects some punctuation at the end of a sentence, and there isn’t any at the end of the quoted sentence. If it ends there, adding a period would be fine as part of the quotation. If it doesn’t, then really there should be three dots, like this:

Chronicles admonish, “From the fury of the Norsemen, good Lord deliver us…”.

or this:

Chronicles admonish, “From the fury of the Norsemen, good Lord deliver us….”

I don’t like the look of either sentence. What should I do?

(2) The tradeoff is not really Form versus Function. The aesthetic problem here is not completely subjective, and is not distinct from clarity. The period is objectively far from the last word, under the British rule. And if something looks odd in a paragraph, it distracts the reader, reducing clarity.

Commentor Henry Schaffer said:

Several people have pointed out that the American rule alters the quoted material. A long time ago I wrote a short computer manual, and put gave an example — essentially _quodlibet_’s one — I wrote the equivalent of:

Enter the command “cp foo/bar”.

The editor changed this for the distributed version to read:

Enter the command “cp foo/bar.”

This version of the instruction didn’t work, but the defense was that it was grammatically correct and mine was not.

Another commentor says:

As to following sentence ending periods with two spaces, that is an excellent rule, even with non-fixed width fonts because it distinguishes sentence ending periods from abbreviation marks. Also, fixed width fonts are the best for any and all computer work, and even for e-mail.

Another commentor gives these examples:

Jones assured me, “You have nothing to worry about.”

Hale said, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

Still, Obama assures us, “We will be better off after this reform bill passes”!

What makes you think that your only choice is, “Give me liberty or give me death”?

He spoke of “blue skies,” “black nights,” and “green grass.”

He spoke over and over of “blue skies,” “black nights,” and “green grass”; I got bored and left.

Another gives

“Kicking the ball through the uprights is called a ‘field goal’, and is worth three points.”


Categories: writing Tags:

Godless Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations

November 28th, 2009 No comments

Here’s a comment I posted at the Baylyblog, on the subject of Obama’s godless Thanksgiving Proclamation:

I’m glad Threegirldad checked previous proclamations. He’s right that Ford 1975 and Carter 1978 omit God.

Carter 1977 and 1979 carefully talk about other people giving thanks to God without doing so directly in the Proclamation (like Obama 2009, which does quote George Washington thanking God). Carter 1980 does thank God (“As we pause on Thanksgiving to offer thanks to God…”) Maybe losing the election earlier that month chastened our born-again President.

He’s wrong on Nixon 1969, though:
“Yet Lincoln knew that the act of thanksgiving should not be limited to time of peace and serenity. He knew that it is precisely at those times of hardship when men most need to recognize that the Source of all good constantly bestows His blessings on mankind.”

Ford 1975 has quite a modern ring:
“On the eve of our 200th year, Thanksgiving Day should be a day of special reflection upon the qualities of heart, mind and character of the men and women who founded and built our great Nation. Let us join in giving thanks for our cultural pluralism. Let us celebrate our diversity and the great strengths that have come from sharing our traditions, our ideas, our resources, our hopes and our dreams.”

Ford 1974 is more traditional:
“It is a time when the differences of a diverse people are forgotten and all Americans join in giving thanks to God for the blessings we share – the blessings of freedom, opportunity and abundance that make America so unique.”

Ford 1976 is actually the most God-laden Proclamation I’ve seen. Maybe almost losing the primaries to Reagan and then losing the election to Carter improved his focus (and got him to fire some liberal speechwriters):

“Traditionally, Americans have set aside a special day to express their gratitude to the Almighty for the blessings of liberty, peace and plenty that have been bestowed upon a grateful Nation.
The early settlers of this land possessed an unconquerable spirit and a reliance on Divine Providence that remains a part of the American character. That reliance, coupled with a belief in ourselves and a love of individual freedom, has brought this nation through two centuries of progress and kept us strong.
As we cross the threshold into our third century as a sovereign and independent Nation, it is especially appropriate that we reaffirm our trust in Him and express our gratitude for the unity, freedom and renewed sense of national pride we enjoy today.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GERALD R. FORD, President of the United States of America, in accord with Section 6103 of Title 5 of the United States Code, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 25, 1976, as a day of national thanksgiving. I call upon all Americans to join on that day with their friends and families in homes and places of worship throughout the land to offer thanks for the blessings we enjoy.

Let each of us resolve this Thanksgiving Day to make the coming year one in which our every deed will reflect our constant gratitude to God. Let us set a standard of honor, justice, and charity against which all the years of our third century may be measured.

Let us make this Thanksgiving a truly special one.

Categories: religion, Thanskgiving, writing Tags:

Should Victims Be Able to Sue Corrupt Judges

November 28th, 2009 No comments

From VC:

Now comes news that the judges are immune from suit arising from any and all of their “judicial acts” in connection with the sentencing of these juveniles. [Stories are here and here; the opinion in the case conferring absolute immunity on the defendant judges (Middle District of PA, Judge Caputo) is here). Judge Caputo’s opinion conferring the immunity is thoughtful and well-reasoned…

My comment:

Very interesting problem, and you’re right that it’s not an easy one. We definitely want the judge to have criminal liability, I think (some people might want to limit it to impeachment) and we want the corrupt cases to be subject to review, so the only question is whether the victim— the losing side— should be able to sue the judge or the government for money damages besides.

What is the case with corrupt policemen? (Section 1983?) Can they be sued personally?

We also have a second-best situation. As the Court says, we’d have a huge amount of meritless litigation harassing judges. I say that is “second-best” because it is the fault of bad policy created by the judiciary itself, which for the past 50 years has encouraged nuisance suits generally. If judges would use their powers to punish lawyers who bring meritless suits, the problem would dwindle. Maybe making judges personally vulnerable to legal harassment and wacko juries would change the judiciary’s mind about whether trial lawyers should be given every freedom to sue corporations.

Categories: administrative law, judges, law, research Tags:

ClimateGate, New Zealand Fakery

November 27th, 2009 No comments

I’m really enjoying this. It’s the best things since Dan Rather’s faking of the George Bush letter. I’ll use this post to list some of the best articles.

  • The Climate Audit denier blog has had lots of good stuff.
  • Iowahawk Geographic: The Secret Life of Climate Researchers “The Alpha Grantwriter in our hive has been very successful indeed. He has earned three publications, a keynote address, and attracts the attention of a suitor from the symbiotic grant-giving predator genus Lucra Ecologica Hysterica. The suitor’s grant bags are bulging with carbon credits and tax revenues harvested using the hive’s last graphs, and the pair once again engage in their annual cross-pollination ritual”

  • REGIONAL TEMPERATURE CHANGE Vincent R. Gray. “The high Russia/Soviet figures indicate a common trend of large temperature rises in remote rural sites in severe climates. Other examples are Canada minus W Yukon (+0.96°C), North Pacific (+0.90°C) Spitzbergen (+4.06°C) and South Georgia (+1.91°C). The main reason would surely be the pressure to improve living conditions in these remote sites, involving better heating in the buildings, provision of roads, and the tendency for vegetation around the sites to be encouraged. The narrowing of the diurnal temperature range for many of these sites (Easterling et al. 1997) is further evidence for this tendency. “

“Courtillot and his colleagues were forced to turn to other sources of temperature measurements. They found 44 European weather stations that had long series of daily minimum temperatures that covered most of the 20th century, with few or no gaps. They removed annual seasonal trends for each series with a three-year running average of daily minimum temperatures. Finally they averaged all the European series for each day of the 20th century.”

Categories: global warming, science Tags:


November 25th, 2009 No comments

Thanksgiving. This webpage is for things useful in celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. For printing out to read at the table, see first-thanksgiving.pdf , more-proclamations.pdf, 2006.proclamation.pdf, and We- gather-together.pdf song lyrics. See also the page on original Thanksgiving foods via James Lindgren.

When a person is thankful, he is of course has to thanking someone—“to thank” is a transitive verb, requiring an object. Thanksgiving is a time to thank God, as the government proclamations traditionally say. These proclamations make nonsense of the claim that the American Constitution forbids a place for Christianity in public affairs, though it is noteworthy that Thomas Jefferson, unlike his two predecessors, refrained from issuing any Thanksgiving Proclamations. The 2006 Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation is here.

Below are excerpts from some Thanksgiving proclamations from across American history. Pilgrim Hall Museum has a complete list.

The Council has thought meet to appoint and set apart the 29th day of this instant June, as a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favour, many Particulars of which mercy might be Instanced, but we doubt not those who are sensible of God’s Afflictions, have been as diligent to espy him returning to us; and that the Lord may behold us as a People offering Praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the Respective Ministers, Elders and people of this Jurisdiction; Solemnly and seriously to keep the same Beseeching that being perswaded by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and soulds as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ. (1676, Connecticut)

Before going on to other proclamations, let’s look at some history. Karen Knelte writes

Most of us have been taught since childhood that Thanksgiving originated in 1621 when the Pilgrim survivors of the first winter, the following autumn had their first good harvest and celebrated for 3 days with their Indian friends who had taught them much about how to survive in this new land. This event did happen and is described by Edward Winslow, in a letter dated December 11, 1621. However, the later Thanksgivings are not commemorations of this event, as we will see. Here is an excerpt from the letter:

Our corn did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown, they came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom; our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

Edward Winslow, December 11, 1621, in: [Mourt’s Relation] A Relation or Journall of the beginning and proceeding of the English Plantation settled at Plimoth in New England, by certaine English Adventurers both Merchants and others. London, Printed for John Bellamie, 1622. p.60-61.

Back to proclamations:

“Forasmuch as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for benefits received, and to implore such further Blessings as they stand in Need of: …(1777, Continental Congress)

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requefted me “to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to eftablifh a form of government for their safety and happiness:… (1789, Washington)

Deeply penetrated with this sentiment, I, George Washington, President of the United States, do recommend to all religious societies and denominations, and to all persons whomsoever, within the United States to set apart and observe Thursday, the 19th day of February next as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, and on that day to meet together and render their sincere and hearty thanks to the Great Ruler of Nations for the manifold and signal mercies which distinguish our lot as a nation,… (1795, Washington)

As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness can not exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed; and as this duty, at all times incumbent, is so especially in seasons of difficulty or of danger, when existing or threatening calamities, the just judgments of God against prevalent iniquity, are a loud call to repentance and reformation;… (1798, Adams)

As no truth is more clearly taught in the Volume of Inspiration , nor any more fully demonstrated by the experience of all ages, than that a deep sense and a due acknowledgment of the governing providence of a Supreme Being and of the accountableness of men to Him as the searcher of hearts and righteous distributer of rewards and punishments are conducive equally to the happiness and rectitude of individuals and to the well-being of communities;.. (1799, Adams)

I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union. (Lincoln, 1863)

Let us now, this Thanksgiving Day, reawaken ourselves and our neighbors and our communities to the genius of our founders in daring to build the world’s first constitutional democracy on the foundation of trust and thanks to God. Out of our right and proper rejoicing on Thanksgiving Day, let us give our own thanks to God and reaffirm our love of family, neighbor, and community. (1996, Clinton)

Each year on Thanksgiving, we gather with family and friends to thank God for the many blessings He has given us, and we ask God to continue to guide and watch over our country. (2003, Bush)

  • 1676, Connecticut
  • 1777, Continental Congress
  • 1789, Washington. Also, here is description of the debate in 1789 over whether to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation.
  • Some other noteworthy proclamations:

  • A Pilgrim Hall Museum page has the proclamations from Clinton in 1999 to Obama in 2009. Notice how Clinton’s 1999 proclamation refers to God twice, Bush 2008 three times, but Obama 2009 not at all (except in the quote from George Washington). Very possibly that is a first in American history, and a significant one. Obama does use the phrase “in the year of our Lord two thousand nine”, but that’s probably boilerplate whose religiosity was overlooked.

  • From: Plimoth-on-Web Plimoth Plantation’s Web Site (as of 2003 a dead link)

    In 1777, the Continental Congress declared the first national American Thanksgiving following the providential victory at Saratoga. The 1777 Thanksgiving proclamation reveals its New England Puritan roots. The day was still officially a religious observance in recognition of God’s Providence, and, as on the Sabbath, both work and amusements were forbidden. It does not resemble our idea of a Thanksgiving, with its emphasis on family dinners and popular recreation. Yet beneath these stern sentiments, the old Puritan fervor had declined to the extent that Thanksgiving was beginning to be less of a religious and more of a secular celebration. The focus was shifting from the religious service to the family gathering. Communities still dutifully went to church each Thanksgiving Day but the social and culinary attractions were increasing in importance….

    National Thanksgivings were proclaimed annually by Congress from 1777 to 1783 which, except for 1782, were all celebrated in December. After a five year hiatus, the practice was revived by President Washington in 1789 and 1795. John Adams declared Thanksgivings in 1798 and 1799, while James Madison declared the holiday twice in 1815; none of these were celebrated in the autumn. After 1815, there were no further national Thanksgivings until the Civil War. … The New England states continued to declare annual Thanksgivings (usually in November, although not always on the same day), and eventually most of the other states also had independent observations of the holiday. …At mid-century even the southern states were celebrating their own Thanksgivings.

    By the 1840s when the Puritan holy day had largely given way to the Yankee holiday, Thanksgiving was usually depicted in a family setting with dinner as the central event. The archetypal tradition of harvest celebration had weathered Puritan disapproval and quietly reasserted its influence. Newspapers and magazines helped popularize the holiday in its new guise as a secular autumn celebration featuring feasting, family reunions and charity to the poor. …

    It is interesting that the same person who was a leading figure in the domesticity movement, Sarah Josepha Hale, also labored for decades to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. A New England author and editor of the influential Godey’s Ladies Book, Hale lobbied for a return to the morality and simplicity of days gone by. Each November from 1846 until 1863 Mrs. Hale printed an editorial urging the federal government to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. She was finally gratified when Abraham Lincoln declared the first of our modern series of annual Thanksgiving holidays for the last Thursday in November, 1863. Lincoln had previously declared national Thanksgivings for April, 1862, and again for August 6, 1863, after the northern victory at Gettysburg. …

    Lincoln went on to declare a similar Thanksgiving observance in 1864, establishing a precedent that was followed by Andrew Johnson in 1865 and by every subsequent president. …In 1939 Franklin D. Roosevelt departed from tradition by declaring November 23, the next to the last Thursday that year, as Thanksgiving. Considerable controversy (mostly following political lines) arose around this outrage to custom, so that some Americans celebrated Thanksgiving on the 23rd and others on the 30th (including Plymouth, MA). In 1940, the country was once again divided over “Franksgiving” as the Thanksgiving declared for November 21st was called. Thanksgiving was declared for the earlier Thursday again in 1941, but Roosevelt admitted that the earlier date (which had not proven useful to the commercial interests) was a mistake. On November 26, 1941, he signed a bill that established the fourth Thursday in November as the national Thanksgiving holiday, which it has been ever since.

    And here is Psalm 100 ( KJV)

    “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

    I found a page of Thanksgiving song lyrics, including this one:

    We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing;
    He chastens and hastens his will to make known;
    The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing,
    Sing praises to his name: He forgets not his own.
    Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
    Ordaining, maintaining his kingdom divine;
    So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
    Thou, Lord, wast at our side, All glory be thine!
    We all do extol thee, thou leader triumphant,
    And pray that thou still our defender wilt be.
    Let thy congregation escape tribulation;
    Thy name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free! Amen

    For some well-researched facts on Thanksgiving (but undue hostility to the Colonial side in King Philip’s War), see Karen Knelte’s “History of the Modern American Thanksgiving”, August 9, 2001.

  • Categories: holidays Tags:

    Principal Components Analysis

    November 24th, 2009 No comments

    From Wikipedia, Principal Components Analysis:

    PCA is theoretically the optimal linear scheme, in terms of least mean square error, for compressing a set of high dimensional vectors into a set of lower dimensional vectors and then reconstructing the original set. It is a non-parametric analysis and the answer is unique and independent of any hypothesis about data probability distribution.

    Categories: global warming, math, statistics Tags:

    Spelling Out Numbers vs. Writing Them Using Digits

    November 23rd, 2009 No comments

    Professor Eugene Volokh has a good idea:

    Any thoughts on what the rule should be here? My sense is that numbers written using digits are much easier to quickly absorb, so I tend to write them that way whenever they refer to something that people might want to use in calculations or comparisons. I’d say, for instance, that “These books tend to sell for 20% below their list price of $8 to $10,” rather than “These books tend to sell for twenty percent below their list price of eight to ten dollars.” But when counting people or things in contexts where the count likely doesn’t need to be grasped as a number suitable for calculation or comparison, I spell out the number, for instance in “There are eight reasons why this law is a bad idea.”

    Categories: writing Tags:

    Two Degree Below Winter Ale

    November 23rd, 2009 No comments

    This is a pretty good beer, and I like the bottle shape a lot.

    Categories: beauty, drink Tags:

    The Climate Change Email Leak

    November 23rd, 2009 1 comment

    From an op-ed at the London Times:

    Moreover, the scientific basis for global warming projections is now under scrutiny as never before. The principal source of these projections is produced by a small group of scientists at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), affiliated to the University of East Anglia.

    Last week an apparent hacker obtained access to their computers and published in the blogosphere part of their internal e-mail traffic. …

    Astonishingly, what appears, at least at first blush, to have emerged is that (a) the scientists have been manipulating the raw temperature figures to show a relentlessly rising global warming trend; (b) they have consistently refused outsiders access to the raw data; (c) the scientists have been trying to avoid freedom of information requests; and (d) they have been discussing ways to prevent papers by dissenting scientists being published in learned journals.

    There may be a perfectly innocent explanation. But what is clear is that the integrity of the scientific evidence on which not merely the British Government, but other countries, too, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, claim to base far-reaching and hugely expensive policy decisions, has been called into question.

    From the New York Times, which as I recall published the top-secret Pentagon Papers:

    The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.

    Below is a comment I posted on Marginal Revolution:

    My reaction is like that of physicist David Wright: it is appalling that the scientists in the emails are concealing data and trying to suppress their rivals’ research. I haven’t heard of that in economics. (I am not surprised at this in climate science, but I would be in almost any other area of science.) Indeed, there are a number of episodes in which mistakes have been found in famous economics papers because of close scrutiny of data voluntarily supplied by the writers to scholars they know will search for every flaw. Examples are the Feldstein social security programming error, Lott’s work on gun control, and Levitt and Donohue on abortion and crime.

    Of course, all work has some mistakes, and a sophist could use trivial mistakes to try to discredit a paper, but in the profession trivial mistakes are expected and do not discredit, and we are all aware that big mistakes are very possible too, even from top researchers. Moreover, the custom of revealing one’s data and methods is a deterrent to deliberate fraud. I haven’t heard of deliberate fraud in econ published papers, but if climate science does not have the custom of making data and methods publicly available, we should predict that fraud will occur.

    Categories: global warming, media, science Tags:

    The Singular "They"

    November 21st, 2009 No comments

    I just posted something like the following at VC as a comment on a post on grammar.

    Prof. Volokh, I’d value your opinion on what is a much harder question than whether “Everyone thought they were right” is valid, which is the singular “they” as applied to organizations. Here’s an excerpt from a student paper:

    “The US Navy took the lead in this research. They saw an opportunity…”

    This is common in educated speech, but it is against the rules of style. It is contrary to parallelism, but in accord with the good realization that organizations are not real persons. What should we do?

    Categories: writing Tags:

    Teaching Sheriffs the Bible

    November 21st, 2009 No comments

    From the Baylyblog comes a story about demonstrators at the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Bloomington:

    For the past year or so Ginger and I have been reading Scripture in an orderly fashion down at Planned Parenthood. Due to various constraints we end up reading Scripture mostly to the escorts and the pro-abortion sheriff who are there every week.

    We always read Romans 1 & John 3, alternately. In addition, Ginger had the idea to start reading a different chapter each week so as to finish whole books. Our goal, of course, is to ensure that these people hear God’s Special Revelation each week but we hardly dared hope that our goal of forcing them to know Scripture would really work.

    I wasn’t there today but as Ginger was reading Romans 1, she had to cough and during her pause the sheriff, Todd, finished her sentence with mockery, “and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” Then he realized what he did and looked annoyed with himself. Ginger smiled and thanked him for “hiding Scripture in his heart.”

    Here’s Romans 1:

    1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) 3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: 5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: 6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with F3 my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; 10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. 14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. 15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

    16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

    19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

    Categories: abortion, Bible, religion Tags:

    Obama’s Double Backwards Flip on Health Care

    November 20th, 2009 No comments

    Romesh Ponnuru sums it up succinctly:

    In the primaries, Obama distinguished himself from Clinton on health care by opposing an individual mandate. In the general election, he distinguished himself from McCain by opposing taxes on health benefits. So now he is trying to pass bills with both an individual mandate and taxes on health benefits — and his supporters are saying that Congress should go along because he won the election.

    Categories: health care, obama Tags:

    Medicare Fraud

    November 20th, 2009 No comments

    I found a Washington Examiner article that says the government’s estimate of medicare fraud is an astounding 12% of payouts. If true, that pretty much kills the administrative costs argument (unless private insurance companies have a 12% rate too). See


    Categories: health care Tags:

    A Good Sentence

    November 20th, 2009 No comments

    A good sentence from Jonah Goldberg:

    Indeed, some of us will always be sympathetic to Mrs. Palin if for nothing else than her enemies. The bile she extracts from her critics is almost like a dye marker, illuminating deep pockets of asininity that heretofore were either unnoticed or underappreciated.

    Categories: liberals, writing Tags:

    Major Hasan’s Treasonous Powerpoints

    November 18th, 2009 No comments

    The Washington Post has posted Major Hasan’s powerpoint presentation on why Moslems should not fight Moslems, why the US army cannot reasonably expect loyalty from Moslem soldiers and so should let them resign, and how Islam requres Moslem states with non-Moslems as second-class citizens. It’s amazing.

    Categories: army, Islam, liberals, Major Hasan Tags:

    Leibniz versus Newton on God’s Intervention in Nature (and Leibniz on Locke too)

    November 17th, 2009 No comments

    Professor O’Connor pointed me to two interesting passages from the famous correspondence of Leibniz with Samuel Clarke, a philosopher and follower of Newton. See
    number 192-193.

    IT appears that even natural religion is growing very much
    weaker. Many hold that souls are corporeal ; others hold that
    God Himself is corporeal. Mr. Locke and his followers are
    at any rate doubtful whether souls are not material and
    naturally perishable….

    Mr. Newton and his followers have also
    an extremely odd opinion of the work of God. According
    to them God has to wind up His watch from time to time.
    Otherwise it would cease to go. He lacked sufficient fore-
    sight to make it a perpetual motion. This machine of God’s
    is even, on their view, so imperfect that He is obliged from
    time to time to come to its assistance especially out of the ordinary course, and clean it, and even to mend it, as a clock-
    maker might his handiwork; and the less skilful the workman
    is, the more often is he obliged to rehandle and correct his
    work. According to my view, the same force and vigour
    goes on existing in the world always, and simply passes from
    one matter to another, according to the laws of nature and to
    the beautiful pre-established order. And I hold that, when
    God performs miracles, it is not to uphold the needs of nature,
    but for those of grace. To think otherwise would be to
    have a very low opinion of the wisdom and power of God.

    The web source says:

    Clarke thinks that the passage to which Leibniz is referring
    is the following, from Newton’s Optics: ‘ Whilst the comets move
    in orbs very eccentrical, with all variety of directions towards
    every part of the heavens; ’tis not possible it should have been
    caused by blind fate, that the planets all move with one similar
    direction in concentrick orbs; excepting only some very small
    irregularities, which may have arisen from the mutual actions of
    the planets and comets upon one another; and which ’tis
    probably will in length of time increase more and more, till the
    present system of nature shall want to be anew put in order by
    its Author.’ (The translation from Newton’s Latin is Clarke’s.)

    Categories: intelligent design, religion, science Tags:

    Major Hasan and the Media Parody

    November 11th, 2009 No comments
    Categories: humor, media Tags:

    Government Harming People

    November 10th, 2009 No comments

    Via Jay Nordlinger, from Frederick Douglass’s “What Shall Be Done with the Slaves If Emancipated?”

    Our answer is, do nothing with them; mind your business, and let them mind theirs. Your doing with them is their greatest misfortune. They have been undone by your doings, and all they now ask, and really have need of at your hands, is just to let them alone.

    Categories: conservatism, race Tags:

    Major Hasan and Nuttiness

    November 9th, 2009 No comments

    First-rate Mark Steyn from The Corner:

    For the purposes of argument, let’s accept the media’s insistence that Major Hasan is a lone crazy.

    So who’s nuttier?

    The guy who gives a lecture to other military doctors in which he says non-Muslims should be beheaded and have boiling oil poured down their throats?

    Or the guys who say “Hey, let’s have this fellow counsel our traumatized veterans and then promote him to major and put him on a Homeland Security panel?

    Or the Army Chief of Staff who thinks the priority should be to celebrate diversity, even unto death?

    Or the Secretary of Homeland Security who warns that the principal threat we face now is an outbreak of Islamophobia?

    Or the president who says we cannot “fully know” why Major Hasan did what he did, so why trouble ourselves any further?

    Or the columnist who, when a man hands out copies of the Koran before gunning down his victims while yelling “Allahu akbar,” says you’re racist if you bring up his religion?

    Or his media colleagues who put Americans in the same position as East Germans twenty years ago of having to get hold of a foreign newspaper to find out what’s going on?

    General Casey has a point: An army that lets you check either the “home team” or “enemy” box according to taste is certainly diverse. But the logic in the remarks of Secretary Napolitano and others is that the real problem is that most Americans are knuckledragging bigots just waiting to go bananas. As Melanie Phillips wrote in her book Londonistan:

    Minority-rights doctrine has produced a moral inversion, in which those doing wrong are excused if they belong to a ‘victim’ group, while those at the receiving end of their behaviour are blamed simply because they belong to the ‘oppressive’ majority.

    To the injury of November 5, we add the insults of American officialdom and their poodle media. In a nutshell:

    The real enemy — in the sense of the most important enemy — isn’t a bunch of flea-bitten jihadis sitting in a cave somewhere. It’s Western civilization’s craziness. We are setting our hair on fire and putting it out with a hammer.

    Categories: liberals Tags:

    Loyalty Oaths

    November 9th, 2009 No comments

    There’s an easy fix to detecting traitors of the Major Hasan type: a better loyalty oath. Something specific, like this:

    “I swear to defend the United States by fighting against its enemies even when they are Moslem, and in particular I swear to oppose Al Qaeda and the Taliban until my superiors release me from that obligation. If my duty ever conflicts with my religious principles, I will inform my superiors immediately.”

    Of course, Major Hasan wanted to quit the military, so he perhaps wouldn’t mind a dishonorable discharge for disloyalty,but at least it would have removed him from an opportunity to hurt us.

    Oaths are not much use for protection against liars, but principled people such as religious and political extremists are often unwilling to betray their gods.

    Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

    Barney Frank: Drugs, Prostitution, Money

    November 8th, 2009 No comments

    Isn’t it bizarre that one of the most powerful Congressmen, from a rich Boston district, is Barney Frank, who has been staying in the same houses as intimate homosexual friends used for growing drugs and for prostitution? When we add that he is perhaps more to blame than any other single person for the 2008 banking crisis (via his pressure to have Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac encourage subprime loans), his political survival is just weird. Do liberal intellectuals really not care about any of this?

    Categories: liberals Tags:

    Citing Web References

    November 7th, 2009 No comments

    Here’s a webpage in a common citation style:

    Thumma, Scott, and Warren Bird. Changes in American Megachurches: Tracing Eight Years of Growth and Innovation in the Nation’s Largest-Attendance Congregations. Hartford Institute for Religion Research. 2008. Web. 1 Oct. 2009.

    The word “Web” and the pointed brackets are unnecessary, whereas it would be useful to give the meaning of the date, thus:

    Thumma, Scott, and Warren Bird. Changes in American Megachurches: Tracing Eight Years of Growth and Innovation in the Nation’s Largest-Attendance Congregations. Hartford Institute for Religion Research. 2008. Http://hirr.hartsem.edu/megachurch/megastoday2008_summaryreport.html. Viewed 1 Oct. 2009.

    Wikipedia has a neat link for every article in the “toolbox” in the left column that tells you how to cite the article in a large number of citation styles. See, for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Cite&page=Keynesian_economics&id=324592637. All of the citation styles are defective, failing to follow the principle of omitting useless keystrokes and of including all relevant information (a shocking number omit the date that the article is written!).

    I would also drop the “Viewed” information entirely. It is true that webpages change or disappear, but I don’t think knowing that the author viewed it on a particular day is very useful, particularly since the reader will usually know the year he viewed it from the year he wrote the text. And the location information should logically, be in one place, with the year information separate. Thus, what’s better is:

    Thumma, Scott, and Warren Bird. Changes in American Megachurches: Tracing Eight Years of Growth and Innovation in the Nation’s Largest-Attendance Congregations. Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Http://hirr.hartsem.edu/megachurch/megastoday2008_summaryreport.html (2008).

    I thought about making Wikipedia an exception since it changes so often, but I looked and saw that Wikipedia always has a date of last change, which should be cited as the publication date. That date is at the bottom of an article, like this:

    This page was last modified on 8 November 2009 at 05:09.

    Categories: internet, writing Tags:

    Blair and Cameron’s Fear of Hitchens

    November 7th, 2009 No comments

    A funny story from Peter Hitchens on November 5, 2009 (my boldface):

    Mr Cameron is in many ways the ‘heir to Blair’ that he said he would be, and I was amused to find that he is also copying his exemplar in his treatment of me at press conferences. Even though he acknowledged me with a three-star Etonian manly glance and nod, and even though there was no huge hurry nor contest to ask questions, he paid me the immense compliment of not taking a question from me. Mr Blair used to do the same, even if mine was the only hand up in the whole vast room. My fellow journalists, amused by the performance, often used to let this happen deliberately. As a result, reporters from immensely obscure foreign media outlets learned that they could question the Labour leader if they put their hands up at the same time as me. The Beekeeper’s Gazette could have got a question if they had turned up. When, after many weeks, Mr Blair eventually relented (which led to a scene, in which I was told to sit down and stop being ‘bad’) I had almost forgotten what I had wanted to ask. I had begun to tell people that I didn’t want to ask a question at all, that holding my hand up for long periods was a Tantric Yoga technique for suppressing nausea.

    Categories: humor, media Tags:

    Intelligence by State

    October 31st, 2009 No comments
    Categories: IQ Tags:

    Shaggy Manes and Puffballs from Latimer Woods

    October 26th, 2009 No comments

    The whole family went on an ideal walk in Latimer Woods this afternoon. We found lots of pear-shaped puffballs at the edible, white, stage, and several black shaggy manes that we took home and cooked in butter. The flavor was not ideal—it was actually sweet. Perhaps it would have been better to cook them in milk and butter as a soup or for on toast. The puffballs were okay, but I have not found a good way to cook them.

    I did find a good 2008 blog article, “Wild Mushrooms of Mid-fall – Wine Caps, Shaggy Manes and More.”

    Categories: good days, mushrooms Tags: