Student Evaluations

October 8th, 2013 No comments

A new analogy:
How judging the quality of medicine at a hospital by having patients evaluate the doctors? Suppose we took a group of patients that all had breast cancer. Some doctors operate, and we administer the evaluation in the recovery room. Some use chemotherapy, and we give that the patients just after they throw up. Some misdiagnose and tell the patient it’s not cancerous at all. And some give the patients sugar pills and tell them that if they come in once a week and listen to the doctor’s jokes (which are actually quite good), they’ll be cured at moderate cost.

Which doctors will look the best?

How about the hospital? Suppose the doctors are all employees. Will the hospital like the idea of patient evaluations? What strategy will lead to the highest number of patients coming to that hospital?

Categories: teaching Tags:

The Christian and Heavenly Rewards

October 6th, 2013 No comments

In small group today, Mr. Huck raised the question of whether a Christian ought to be motivated by rewards from God. It is an interesting question. Standard doctrine tells us that God saves a person not because of his own actions, but for God’s own reasons. For somebody who understands this, salvation as a reward is not a motivation for virtuous behavior. Indeed, doing an action only for fear of Hell or as the price of salvation is not going to save anybody.

Nor is doing it to attain a feeling of salvation; too many Hell-bound sinners act virtuously merely for material ends like that. This does turn into a version of Newcombe’s Paradox though. Suppose God has already decided whether I am saved or lost. I face the decision of whether to embezzle or not. God is very good at prediction, and has already decided that people who choose to embezzle are not ones he wants to save. Thus, if I embezzle, He has predicted that and I am lost. If I don’t embezzle, though, I don’t get the benefits of extra money (and let us assume that there is no downside to embezzlement from guilt or prison).

One point that came up was that parents do not rely on the gratitude of their children; they offer them material rewards too, in the hopes it will train the children to do the right thing by themselves later. Does God do this too?

Categories: theology Tags:

Writing and Department Names

October 5th, 2013 No comments

Journalism is being merged with Telecommunications, and they’re intending to call the new department “Media”.

Since they’re thinking of new names, it’s a good time to comment that all these names violate two basic rules of writing: 1. Shorter words are better than longer, and 2. Anglo-Saxon is better than Latin or Greek or French. “Telecommunications” is particularly bad in this respect. “Media” at least trips off the tongue, being reducible to two syllables.

So how about a “Newswriting Department” or “News” or “Writing”? It’s OK if it also includes the economics of news, the technology of news, email, etc. as subjects.

I’d also like to see English renamed Reading, and Mathematics renamed Rithmetic, but then I’m more unconventional than most professors.

(ps.– I admit that my own “Business Economics and Public Policy” department has a rotten name. Evolution has shortened it to “Bus Econ”, though.)

Categories: academia, words, writing Tags:


October 3rd, 2013 No comments

Mycorrhizal: living in symbiosis with trees (of mushrooms)

This is a word I should know. Amanitas are mycorrhizal. At the St. Charles cross-country meet today Benjamin and I found lots of amanita muscaria guessowii. They are a fly agaric, supposedly useful for poisoning flies when ground up in milk. This is a yellow variety though, not red. We might try it for our ant problem. We will not attempt any disgusting Siberian pagan rites, however.

Categories: mushrooms Tags:

Veterans with Trophy Won in Action against President Obama after He Barricaded the Monuments to Exaggerate the Shutdown

October 2nd, 2013 No comments

Veterans with Trophy Won in Action against President Obama after He Barricaded the Monuments to Exaggerate the Shutdown

Categories: obama, picture Tags:

A Rasmusen Doppelganger?

September 24th, 2013 No comments


Nathan Myhrvold and me.

Categories: picture Tags:

Gas Warfare against Civilians

September 18th, 2013 No comments

Kenneth Anderson has an excellent article on modern gas warfare at Lawfare. He explains why it is especially useful against civilians, something I’d be wondering about. It’s rather like the effect of randomly distributed land mines or IED’s:

Having taken testimony from civilians in civil wars ranging from Central America to central Asia, I can say simply that the panic described by survivors in the interviews I conducted in Kurdistan were qualitatively different from that induced by ordinary weapons. This is partly because – from the victims’ and survivors’ standpoint, as they expressed it to me – poison gas free-floating in the air, blowing wherever it blew, invisible and deadly, was “indiscriminate” in some way beyond that term’s usual meaning in the law of armed conflict.

Read more…

Categories: war Tags:

Matthew Shepard and Media Lying as a Deliberate Strategy

September 16th, 2013 No comments

The story that Matthew Shepard was murdered for being homosexual turns out to be totally false. He was killed by two other homosexuals he already knew, one of whom was crazy on meth. Read more…

An Agapao Concordance (Love, Esteem)

September 15th, 2013 No comments

I am at work for a paper to present at the February 2014 Agape and Law conference at Pepperdine. A first step is that I’ve put together an Agape concordance for the New Testament—a list of all the verses that contain some form of “agapao”.
The file is at: agape-concordance.original

Categories: a.research, Bible Tags:

Computer Paranoia

September 14th, 2013 No comments

From Instapundit:

“HOW DO I SET UP MY WI-FI NETWORK TO EXCLUDE ANDROID DEVICES? If an Android device (phone or tablet) has ever logged on to a particular Wi-Fi network, then Google probably knows the Wi-Fi password. Considering how many Android devices there are, it is likely that Google can access most Wi-Fi passwords worldwide.”

Read more…

Categories: civil rights, computers, Uncategorized Tags:

Unexpected Things in Home Schooling, Particularly in Math

September 13th, 2013 No comments

Homeschooling Ben and Lily this year, I’ve been teaching math, programming,and business so far, and helping my wife with the other subjects. One thing that strikes me is how much incidental material I have to teach— and that this might be the most important part of the teaching. We have Word Books where the children write down hard-to-understand or hard-to-spell words that come up, for example. Read more…

Categories: children, education, math Tags:

Notes on Books for American Literature for High School

September 12th, 2013 No comments

I have starred what is most important.

*A Eugene O’Neill play. O’Neill is the best American playwright; really he’s the best English-language playwright since Shakespeare. Long Day’s Journey into Night: A one-day play, somewhat autobiographical, about a retired actor, his two grown sons (both failures in their own ways), and his morphine-addicted wife, who relapses after a cure they thought might finally work. Read more…

Categories: books, education, writing Tags:

Self Defense and Cybercrime

September 10th, 2013 No comments

I was just reading a good post of his upcoming Congressional testimony by Stewart Baker over at Volokh Conspiracy. One thing he talks about is the importance of making it legal for private corporations to fight cybercrime. They’re now hindered by unreasonable privacy laws. As he puts it, it’s like being worried about a theft conviction if you see a thief with your bicycle and take it back. Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

The U.N. Charter Forbids a Country to Defend Itself

September 9th, 2013 No comments

The UN Charter is very poorly written. Article 2 of the UN forbids the US to fight Syria in self-defense, but it does allow us to fight Syria for humanitarian reasons. On the other hand, it forbids the UN itself from intervening anywhere for humanitarian reasons. Read more…

Categories: international law, United Nations Tags:

Points of Writing Style in the Internet Age

September 8th, 2013 No comments

I was just downloading a copy of The Merchant of Venice and noticed that it had no line numbers, which would make it harder to cite when I excerpted it for students. But then I realized that most people looking up my cite wouldn’t use the Act-Scene-Line numbers anyway— they’d do a computer search on the file using the first three words of my quote. Thus, really what needs to be in the cite is just the author, work, and hyperlink, and the author speaking—-the character so that the reader can know that about the quotation without having to look it up.

The same idea goes for page numbers of quotes to books that are in the public domain. In fact, those books will be *better* cited than modern ones, since page numbers differ between editions. It is often useful, too, to put the chapter or section name.

Categories: writing Tags:

How Much of S-Corp Income is Labor Income and Hence Subject to Medicare Taxes?

September 7th, 2013 No comments

Here are a couple of comments I posted at Taxprof:

T.C. Summary Opinion 2013-62 (McAlary, is amazing. Professor Schwidetzky has it absolutely right. Suppose Dr. Roe earns high labor income some years, low in others. He becomes an S-corporation, with zero capital. That’s not supposed to change his tax situation, right? But in deciding his S-corporation labor income for tax purposes, the court didn’t use that tax principle, even though it’s Tax Court. Instead, it used the corporation law principle of something like the business judgement rule— how low a salary wouldn’t be ridiculous for that industry? So it calls for expert witnesses to tell the court how much other doctors make in labor income, even though it knows exactly how much *this* doctor made.
If Dr. Roe puts in some capital for office expenses, that only makes things a little harder. It’s actually far far easier for an expert witness to accurately estimate a cost of capital than someone’s market wage. But we can put in a simple safe harbor for tax purposes. Just require the taxpayer to keep track of how much capital he puts in and give it a return of 5% over the IRS late-payment rate each year.
For a safe harbor, we need a notice-and-comment regulation or an IRS declaration of enforcement policy. Otherwise, even just a court ruling would be OK. This decision is a S(mall) one though, so it can’t be appealed. Even if it could be, the taxpayer would be well advised not to appeal it, because the IRS was extremely modest in its tax demand, and amici following the ideas here would ask the court to more than double it. (Can a court do that in a tax case?)

I found a history of this tax issue at
which shows, I think, that an old IRS revenue ruling is the source of the problem, by saying that “reasonable compensation” had to be paid by the corporation rather than trying to define which part of a corporation’s profit was return to labor rather than return to capital. Another way to put this is that the IRS didn’t require that *capital* was limited to a “reasonable return”. Of course, using words like “reasonable” gives wiggle room so that a taxpayer could say that of his corporation’s $500,000 profit, $100,000 was a reasonable salary, $50,000 was a reasonable return to capital, and the rest was a gift from heaven and shouldn’t be taxed at all.
I didn’t look at the Glass Blocks case at , but it seems the IRS has accomplished the Immigration feat of being both incredibly lax with most people and incredibly picky with a few. The poor taxpayer’s labor income was clearly negative, but the IRS “reasonable compensation” method doesn’t let people have negative labor income. The simple method of saying everything is labor income except for an estimated return to capital would have avoided making him pay.
(One caveat is that this involves Medicare and Social Security. It seems to me that a negative-income taxpayer should be treated as making no dollar contributions to the funds for purposes of his later eligibility, but as having put in those quarters of work,which was the way charitable work was treated, It hink, back when my mother kept track of her hours as secretary of the civic symphony).

Categories: a.research, taxes Tags:

Anti-Injunction Act and Obamacare

September 5th, 2013 No comments

For future reference on the latest Anti-Injunction Act caselaw: Agreeing on one thing: The Anti-Injunction Act does not apply
The following contribution to our post-decision symposium on the health care cases is written by Alan Morrison, Associate Dean for Public Interest, George Washington Law School. There’s been a lot of action in the appeals courts too— see Mersino and Hobby Lobby.

Categories: taxes Tags:

Math in Economics

September 5th, 2013 No comments

I just posted this over at Volokh Conspiracy as a comment on Professor Coase’s dismay at the road economics has taken:

Coase could be nonmathematical because he was a genius. Ordinary economists aren’t smart enough; they need calculus. Ordinary people are still less intelligent, and they can’t do economic research at all. It’s like building a bridge. A genius can wing it; ordinary engineers need to use some physics; ordinary people will end up swimming.

Categories: Economics, thinking Tags:

U. of Virginia Got Rid of Two Nobel Laureates Because They Were Conservative

September 4th, 2013 No comments

.UVA expat: How Nobel winner Coase got pushed from Charlottesville has a hugely important example of a university getting rid of professors because of their conservatism:

In 1994, Coase told this reporter how one of his UVA colleagues accidentally received a copy of a secret dossier compiled by then Dean of the Faculty Robert Harris in which Harris outlined a plan to change the economics faculty. Under then President Edgar Shannon, Harris allegedly used non-promotion and non-offer-matching to force Jefferson Center scholars to disperse. Coase left UVA for Chicago in 1964; Buchanan departed four years later.

Form versus Outcome in the Polis

September 3rd, 2013 No comments

It would be useful for everyone, liberal, libertarian, and conservative, to confront the issue of which they’d prefer:
1. A dictator with the right policies (welfare state, free market, or promotion of virtue) or
2. A democracy with the wrong policies (free market and traditional values for the liberal, welfare state and traditional values for the libertarian, welfare state for the conservative). Read more…

How Denominations See Each Other

September 2nd, 2013 No comments

I forget where I found this, but it’s pretty accurate.

How denominations see each other

Categories: humor, religion Tags:

Natural-Born Citizens

August 28th, 2013 1 comment

Is Ted Cruz, born abroad to an American mother and a non-American father, eligible to be President?

In nontechnical discourse people both now and in 1789 would no doubt divide citizens up into the two categories of natural-born and naturalized— so that natural-born would include anybody who was born a citizen, and if you weren’t naturalized, you must be natural-born.

The word “natural” is needed because to say “born citizen” doesn’t sound right—- it sounds as if it’s in distinction to citizens who came out of test tubes. The word “born” is needed because to say “natural citizen” makes it sound like someone who is just a natural American because he’s loves apple pie and football even though he’s Slovakian, or that I’m alluding to some sort of natural law concept of citizenship.

Categories: Constitution, elections, Uncategorized Tags:

Boring Predictions Are the Important Ones

August 27th, 2013 No comments

Steve Sailer in “The world’s most boring insight, again,” on complaints that economics doesn’t make useful predictions (my boldface):

On August 15, 1971, President Richard Nixon announced a freeze on all wages and prices in America for three months. From the perspective of 2013, this sounds like I’m making it up. But it really happened and was popular at the time. Milton Friedman was the loudest voice predicting it would turn out to be a bad idea (which it did).

Read more…

Categories: Economics, Sailer, thinking Tags:

Millikan Experiments and Selection Error

August 25th, 2013 No comments

From Richard Feynman, “Cargo Cult Science,”:

We have learned a lot from experience about how to handle some of
the ways we fool ourselves. One example: Millikan measured the
charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and
got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It’s a
little bit off, because he had the incorrect value for the
viscosity of air. It’s interesting to look at the history of
measurements of the charge of the electron, after Millikan. If you
plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little
bigger than Millikan’s, and the next one’s a little bit bigger than
that, and the next one’s a little bit bigger than that, until
finally they settle down to a number which is higher.

Why didn’t they discover that the new number was higher right away?
It’s a thing that scientists are ashamed of–this history–because
it’s apparent that people did things like this: When they got a
number that was too high above Millikan’s, they thought something
must be wrong–and they would look for and find a reason why
something might be wrong. When they got a number closer to
Millikan’s value they didn’t look so hard. And so they eliminated
the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that.
We’ve learned those tricks nowadays, and now we don’t have that
kind of a disease.

Categories: science, statistics Tags:

Are 17% of Singaporean Households Millionaires?

August 25th, 2013 No comments

This table from The Money Illusion blog is astonishing. I still can’t believe it really. But I’ll ask about it:

Categories: Countries, Economics, elitism Tags:

Has NSA Spying Led to Any Abuses?

August 24th, 2013 No comments

Via Drudge, The Times reports that there indeed have been NSA abuses. I’ve been looking for even a single example of someone hurt by the NSA, and here is an example— though personal, not political. Read more…

Categories: army, government Tags:

Hoax at Oberlin: The Complicity of the Oberlin Administration and the Mainstream Media’s

August 23rd, 2013 No comments

Legal Insurrection’s “The Great Oberlin College Racism Hoax of 2013” tells us all about how two students, one of them a leftwing activist, generated nationwide furor over racism at Oberlin. Of course, it’s amazing how every single one of these furors turns out to be by a leftwing agent provocateur. In this case, the Oberlin Administration— which, alas, means Yalie President Marvin Krislov— kept quiet about the students’ motivations, and thus were complicit in the hoax. They even called in the FBI, despite knowing who the culprits were.

When liberals claim racism is rampant in American society, I’m skeptical. There have been too many of them trying to create false evidence.

August 25: From Legal Insurrection:

“While Jack Marshall at Ethics Alarms directs this praise towards me, it applies equally to the other skeptics who smelled a rat at Oberlin (emphasis in original):

‘William Jacobson, who is a Cornell law school professor, notes in his report that he “smelled a rat” with the Oberlin story, and investigated. Why was this story only investigated by a blogging law professor? Where were the journalists? Why weren’t they—the Times, the Post, CNN, CBS, FOX, NBC—checking the facts? That it took this long for the truth to come out is an indictment of how lazy, inept and biased our journalistic establishment has become.’

`Prof. Jacobson is an Ethics Hero. This was important work, and he set out to find the truth while smug reporters slept, and gleeful pundits on the left used a false account to implicate Republicans and conservatives.’ ”

Also, it seems the Oberlin Administration has shamefully doubled down on its deception. Its web announcement says

A report issued by the Oberlin Police Department regarding racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic incidents which occurred on the Oberlin College campus this past February and March has generated speculation on some web sites regarding the motives of the alleged perpetrators.

These actions were real. The fear and disruption they caused in our community were real. …Some commentators have suggested that the perpetrators engaged in these actions merely to provoke a reaction from our community.

As we have stated, these incidents occurred on a virtually daily basis over a period of weeks. The acts in question included racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic graffiti, flyers, and Internet postings, as well as written harassment of targeted individuals including threats of bodily harm and rape.

We take all such threats seriously and recognize that our obligation is to assure the safety of all members of our community. Many students, faculty and staff raised reasonable concerns about their security on our campus, based on these incidents and threats. Oberlin College will not tolerate an atmosphere in which people feel threatened on the basis of their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, under any circumstances.”

The Administration, of course, nurtured the threatening atmosphere by its statements, actions, and silence about the liberal identity of the threateners.

Categories: academia, liberals, race Tags:

During Depositions, a Lawyer Cannot Tell His Client How to Answer

August 22nd, 2013 No comments

From Max Kennerly’s “Be A Potted Plant: Sanctions For Deposition Coaching and Witness Conferences”:

The defending attorney is indeed a “potted plant” with only two exceptions: they can raise objections in a concise, nonargumentative and nonsuggestive manner, and they can instruct a deponent not to answer a question when necessary to preserve a privilege or enforce a court order.

No attorney would, in the middle of their client’s cross-examination at trial, loudly clear their throat and say “if you know” or “don’t speculate” before the client answers. You don’t have to be a lawyer to see that as little more than an attempt to coach the witness into claiming they don’t know something that they actually do know.

Categories: Civil Procedure Tags:

Just 1/3 of 1% of Social Psychology Scholars Are Conservatives

August 22nd, 2013 No comments

From “Jonathan Haidt Decodes the Tribal Psychology of Politics,” January 29, 2012:

Haidt works in a field so left-wing that, when he once polled roughly 1,000 colleagues at a social-psychology conference, 80 to 90 percent classified themselves as liberal. Only three people identified as conservative.

Categories: academia, conservatives, liberals Tags:

Conservatives typically define their groups concentrically

August 21st, 2013 No comments
Categories: conservatives, liberals, Sailer, thinking, writing Tags:

Obviously Wrong Judicial Opinions

August 20th, 2013 No comments

Somebody put together a list of 7 or so judicial opinions he thought everybody would believe were dead wrong. All were old cases that offend modern pieties.

What would be much more interesting would be a set of cases which immediately led expert lawyers in the field to say, “That court has made a fool of itself again.” Read more…

Categories: judges, jurisprudence Tags:

“Preliminary Injunctions in the Obamacare Religious-Objection Lawsuits II: An Amicus Brief for Mersino v. Sebelius”

August 18th, 2013 No comments

I’ve just filed and SSRN’d another preliminary injunction amicus brief, this one for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati: “Preliminary Injunctions in the Obamacare Religious-Objection Lawsuits II: An Amicus Brief for Mersino v. Sebelius”. The abstract is below. Read more…

Steve Russell on Bright Line Laws and Executive Discretion

August 16th, 2013 No comments

I got the passage below by Steve Russell from a listserv we’re both on,and I liked it so much that I asked his permission to post it here. In Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), a policeman saw two men near a store Read more…

Categories: Constitution, crime, law Tags:

“Exclusive Dealing: Before Bork, and Beyond”

August 15th, 2013 No comments

Mark Ramseyer and I have just posted a draft of a paper on monopoly law: “Exclusive Dealing: Before Bork, and Beyond”. Comments are welcomed. Here’s the abstract: Read more…

Categories: a.research, Antitrust, game theory, monopoly Tags:

The Meaning of “Value” for Gift and Estate Tax Donee Limitation in Tax Code 26 U.S.C. § 6324(B): An Amicus Brief for Marshall v. Commissioner

August 14th, 2013 No comments

I’ve posted a new draft of The Meaning of “Value” for Gift and Estate Tax Donee Limitation in Tax Code 26 U.S.C. § 6324(B): An Amicus Brief for Marshall v. Commissioner and submitted the brief. I wonder if I should try to make a law review article out of this? The topic would be how “value” is used in law. Here’s the abstract: Read more…

Categories: a.research, discounting, taxes Tags:

Homeschooling Lessons and “Does God Use Sound When He Speaks to Prophets?”

August 13th, 2013 1 comment

Homeschooling children sure does educate the teacher. Already I’ve learned:
1. How to define “median” accurately.
2. What “firmament” means. Read more…

Categories: Bible, theology Tags:

Defining “Median”

August 13th, 2013 No comments

The median of a set of numbers is the middle value. In the set (1,2,3), the median is 2. But how about the set (1,2,3,4)? Most commonly, people define the median as 2.5. That is a good measure of central tendency, I guess, but it isn’t satisfactory because it mixes the ideas of mean and median. Also, then the median isn’t a member of the set.

Perhaps the best definition is that the median is X, where X is the lowest value such that 50% of the values are less than or equal to X. Read more…

Categories: math, statistics Tags:

Translating Matthew 11: Violence and the Windshaken Reed

August 12th, 2013 No comments

Pastor Bayly gave a good sermon yesterday. He showed how Matthew 11 is a unified argument, its points linked. One thing he did was to note that Matthew 11 says that John the Baptist and others like him seize the kingdom of God violently (though not with physical violence, as many Jews expected). In the King James Version, Matthew 11:12 says:

“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.”

Read more…

Categories: Bible, translation Tags:

New Jaworski Documents: The Watergate Trials Were Invalid

August 10th, 2013 No comments

Geoff Shepherd has a new Atlantic article, “The Watergate Cover-Up Trial: Justice Denied?” He has found hitherto unrevealed documents that show that the Watergate defendants were right when they charged that their judge, Judge Sirica, was holding illegal secret meetings with the prosecutors to plan legal strategy against them. In new trials they probably would have been convicted anyway, but if this had come out at the time, all of their convictions would have been voided and Prosecutor Jaworski and Judge Sirica disbarred. They would have had new trials, and probably would have been convicted anyway, but the Nixon stance that “The Democrats do illegal stuff too” would have been mightily supported. My comments to the author: Read more…

Categories: Comments, history, law. politics, Watergate Tags: