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:// 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, 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:// (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:

    Medicare Administrative Costs and Fraud

    October 25th, 2009 No comments

    An Philip Klein American Spectator article is relevant to thinking about health care policy.

    Coburn based his figures on an estimate from health care fraud expert Malcolm Sparrow of Harvard University, who has said — at the low end — 10 percent of the roughly $1 trillion in spending on government health care programs may be lost to fraud.

    “By taking the fraud and abuse problem seriously this administration might be able to save 10 percent or even 20 percent from Medicare and Medicaid budgets,” Sparrow said in May testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But to accomplish this, Sparrow explained, the government would have to boost anti-fraud spending to as high as 2 percent of the cost of the programs from the roughly 0.1 percent now dedicated to the task.

    See also
    “Medicare’s Hidden Administrative Costs:
    A Comparison of Medicare and the Private Sector”

    (Based in Part on a Technical Paper by Mark Litow of Milliman, Inc.)
    Merrill Matthews,
    January 10, 2006. I read the intro, which makes a lot of sense. It notes that Medicare costs exclude management, research, the cost of collecting government funds (much less the distortionary costs of taxation), and the administrative costs to employers of collecting premiums from employees. Also, costs of buildings and much fraud pursuit is not included in the usual administrative costs of Medicare. And Medicare does not have to pay the 1-2% state taxes on premiums that private insurance companies must pay. Medicare’s costs are also lower because Medicare does not scrutinize claims as private companies do— the report claims that Medicare does not try to pursue fraud unless it is massive, which is plausible.

    Categories: health care Tags:

    Valedictions: Yours Truly

    October 25th, 2009 No comments

    Wikipedia’s article Valedictions is good. It talks about differences between England and America, and about French, German, and Hebrew valedictions. I don’t like “Yours sincerely”, because though I suppose I am always sincere, it seems inappropriate for describing the contents of a typical letter. “Yours truly” is always apt, nicely conventional, and sufficiently uncool. Cheers, Best Wishes, and Best Regards have their places too.

    Categories: email, words, writing Tags:

    What Does "Cool" Mean?

    October 25th, 2009 No comments

    “John Scalzi Answers the Burning Question – Can SciFI Movies Be Cool?”, via Instapundit, is a good short literary essay.

    For example, there’s “cool,” as in “the studied indifference to cultural judgment regarding what you like,” which means that you like what you like and you don’t care if other people like it. Science fiction fails this definition utterly, because science fiction fans are monumentally uncool — not because they are geeks and nerds, or at least, not directly because of that, but because generally speaking they really really really want you to love what they love, too, and that sort of insensible urge to share is the opposite of cool. Mind you, scifi fans understand other people don’t love what they love, but rather than not caring, they feel a little sorry for those people. Which is a different dynamic altogether.

    He then notes that 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Matrix were cool movies.

    Categories: movies, words Tags:

    Mushroom Photography

    October 22nd, 2009 No comments

    “Top Ten Mistakes in Mushroom Photography” is an interesting long webpage. It has lots of photos, with the species identified, illustrating various mistakes. The photo tips are useful even if it is not mushrooms you are photographing.

    Categories: mushrooms Tags:

    The Word "Autochthonal"

    October 20th, 2009 No comments

    autochthonal: originating where it is found; “the autochthonal fauna of Australia includes the kangaroo”; “autochthonous rocks and people and folktales”; “endemic folkways”; “the Ainu are indigenous to the northernmost islands of Japan” (

    Categories: words Tags:

    Flower Dutch Auction Clocks

    October 14th, 2009 No comments
    A Clock
    The Room

    I found these pictures of a Dutch auction at, which tells how you can go and visit such an auction in Aalsmeer. The best YouTube video of it I found is here.

    Categories: auctions, game theory Tags:

    A Bolete Turning Blue

    October 12th, 2009 No comments

    I found a good, short, You-Tube video of a broken bolete turning blue.

    Browsing the web, it looks to me as if boletes are pretty safe. None are deadly poisonous. Some cause severe stomach-ache, but it looks as if you’re safe if you avoid bad-tasting, blue-staining, or orange or red boletes.

    Categories: mushrooms Tags:

    The Meadow Mushroom, Agaricus Campestris

    October 8th, 2009 No comments

    Lillie and Faith and Benjamin and I went jogging (Ben on his bicycle) and brought home a white lawn mushroom with red-black gills. It seems to be an Agaricus Campestris, prettily named, a Meadow Mushroom. It had a brown spore print, free gills, and soaked up water readily. We looked at the spores under the microscope, and they did look like the spores above, though I don’t remember seeing the green interiors under our smaller 900x magnification. That photo is from an amateur’s good webpage at

    We had a coprinus for breakfast this morning— two actually, probably shaggy manes, though I didn’t check. Amelia and Mom collected them from near the church. They didn’t liquefy overnight.

    Categories: mushrooms, science Tags:

    IV as a Solution to Omitted Variables

    October 3rd, 2009 No comments

    We think of instrumental variables as a solution to Y causing X, but it also can help when there is an omitted variable. In that case, X ends up being correlated with the error term, because the omitted variable X2 is correlated with both Y and X. So what we can do is find a Z which is correlated with X but not with X2 or Y. We can do a first-stage regression of X on Z, and then use the fitted value Xhat in our main regression, Y on Xhat.

    Categories: st Tags:

    Verbs in Writing

    October 1st, 2009 No comments

    Via Marginal Revolution, here are some rules for good writing from Michael Nielsen.

    Use the strongest appropriate verb: Identify the verb in every sentence, and ask if you can improve it, perhaps eliminating adjectives and adverbs in the process. This is simple and mechanical, but often yields great improvements with little effort.

    Beware of nominalization: A common way we weaken verbs is by turning them into nouns, and then combining them with weaker verbs. This bad habit is called nominalization. Contrast the wishy-washy “I conducted an investigation of rules for rewriting” with the more direct “I investigated rules for rewriting”. In the first sentence I have nominalized the strong verb “investigated” so that it becomes the noun “investigation”, and then combined it with the weaker verb “conducted”.

    Categories: writing Tags:

    Game Theory Notes on Subgame Perfectness and the Centipede Game

    September 30th, 2009 No comments

    I’ve just written up notes for my game theory class on a paradox of
    sequential rationality
    and on

    the Centipede Game

    Categories: game theory Tags:

    Most-Used Bible Verses

    September 27th, 2009 No comments has a list of Bible verses that they somehow calculate are most-used. It’s interesting to see what’s on it, and a good list of important verses. They don’t give actual counts, though, so it’s just ordinal.

    Categories: religion Tags:

    Ranges and Codomains

    September 26th, 2009 No comments

    I just learned a useful math term: CODOMAIN. Consider the function f(x) = 3 +5x as defined over the intervals of x in [0, 10] and f(x) in [0, \infinity). The DOMAIN is [0,10]. The RANGE is [3, 50]. The CODOMAIN is [0, \infinity). This mapping is one-to-one, but not onto, so the range and codomain are not identical.

    Categories: math Tags:

    Phelps on Capitalism and Innovation

    September 25th, 2009 No comments

    Nobel laureate Edmund Phelps has an interesting essay, “Economic Justice and the Spirit of Innovation,” in the October 2009 First Things.

    The issue of morality in economics is neither the fairness of income distribution nor the stability of financial systems. It is how human institutions can be shaped to correspond to human nature—to man’s nature as an innovator….

    Prosperity and the development of the human spirit are linked in the dynamism of the economy. The dynamism of the American economy over the past two hundred years was strong, and that helps to explain why prosperity was high both in the sense of high employment and the sense of a high degree of personal satisfaction compared to that in other countries….

    That is the positive moral content of economics—to realize an anthropology that starts with innovative human nature: homo innovaticus, not homo economicus. Existing economics has a negative moral content in that it treats economic factors as though they were pieces on a game board rather than human beings who learn, discover, and innovate. Politicians play the same game, channeling resources from one activity or social group to another without considering the effect on the creativity and judgment exercised within the economy and thus the deep rewards the economy imparts or fails to impart….

    Even now, in the midst of an economic downturn, there are signs of vitality that weren’t present in the 1950s. There is exuberance, however irrational, in the banking system, and some originality here and there in hedge funds and private equity, and still some inventiveness in Silicon Valley. Although they may have caused more problems than they were worth, the exotic, new financial instruments showed that America is still the world’s leader in invention. They reflect America’s capacity to create. Unfortunately, the markets were unsophisticated and set mistaken asset prices.

    Categories: Economics, research Tags:

    Constructing a Risky Density Function

    September 25th, 2009 No comments

    My colleague Haizhen Lin found a neat trick from someone in the math department. Suppose you have a density f(x) and you want to construct a pointwise less risky function, as in my paper cited below. You can use this:

    f(a, x) = (1/a) f( .5 – .5/a +x/a)

    If a=1, f(a,x) = f(x).

    If a is small, f(a,x) tends to get big because of the 1/a portion, and it gets very big for x=0, but for x far from 0, the f becomes small because the argument becomes very big, distant from 0.

    “When Does Extra Risk Strictly Increase the Value of Options?” The Review of Financial Studies, 20(5): 1647-1667 (September 2007). It is well known that risk increases the value of options. This paper makes that precise in a new way. The conventional theorem says that the value of an option does not fall if the underlying option becomes riskier in the conventional sense of the mean-preserving spread. This paper uses two new definitions of “riskier” to show that the value of an option strictly increases (a) if the underlying asset becomes “pointwise riskier,” and (b) only if the underlying asset becomes “extremum riskier.” Paper in tex or pdf (

    Categories: math, research Tags:

    Leo Strauss Audio File of Him Teaching Meno

    September 24th, 2009 No comments

    The University of Chicago has posted an audio file of Leo Strauss lecturing on Meno as the first session of his political philosophy class. I should listen through it sometime. Will I? There are so many wonderful opportunities that we let slide by. We professors ought to be sitting in on each others’ classes, for example, but that is rare.

    Categories: to-do Tags:

    Occupations over the Decades

    September 23rd, 2009 No comments

    DD refers me to a good site like the baby name site I once blogged but showing over decades the most common occupations: . This site also tells you how to set up your own graphics of this kind.

    Categories: Uncategorized Tags: