Sunday, December 28, 2008


Giving Away All One's Possessions

From an old post in He Lives:

I’ve decided (for today, at least) that the toughest verse in the Bible is Luke 12:33. In particular, the first sentence thereof.

32 "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:32-34)

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Now, how do I avoid the plain meaning? Let's fire up a couple of tried-and-true escape mechanisms:

1) Is this in a parable? No.

2) Can this be cast as figurative? Does it really mean: "Do not hold on to your possessions. Be willing to give them up at a moment’s notice, should they be of use to God or the church. Do not make idols of your possessions. Do not value your self-made kingdom more then the kingdom of God." Can it be taken that way? No.

A commentor said:

Go back to verse 32 because that is where we are told to whom verse 33 is addressed. It is plainly not Christians living in 2008 AD in Virginia. It is members of His 'little flock' in the year 33 AD or thereabouts living in and around Jerusalem. These are the people concerning whom the Father had already chosen to give them the kingdom. Note that He did not say the Church.

Please don't get me wrong, I am not at all saying that giving to those in need is not a possible application of this verse. Just that the plain meaning has to do with the specific speaker and hearers and the immediate context. Less plain interpretations are what are causing the problem of living up to this plain teaching. By the way, did most of these people have cash to give to others? Or, did they have possessions that had to be liquidated so that the proceeds could be given to others? Note, Jesus does not say sell all your possessions. Could He have meant sell enough so that they could give some funds to others in need? Oh well, it just may not be that plain.

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Nitel Night

Via He Lives I found this Haaretz article on Nitel Night-- Christmas Eve for the Hasidim, who have all kinds of commands and superstitions about it.
On Christmas Eve, known in Jewish circles as Nitel Night, the klipot (shells) are in total control. The klipot are parasitical evil forces that attach themselves to the forces of good. According to kabbala (Jewish mysticism), on the night on which "that man" - a Jewish euphemism for Jesus - was born, not even a trace of holiness is present and the klipot exploit every act of holiness for their own purposes. For this reason, Nitel Night, from nightfall to midnight, is one of the few occasions when Hasidim refrain from Torah study. ... The Knesset correspondent of the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Hamodia, Zvi Rosen, relates that celebrated Hasidic admorim (sect leaders) would cut a year's supply of toilet paper for Sabbath use (to avoid tearing toilet paper on Sabbath) on this night. Actually, this disrespectful act has profound kabbalistic significance, because kabbalistic literature extensively discusses Christianity as waste material excreted from the body of the Jewish people. Today, precut toilet paper for Sabbath use is available on the market; thus, the custom's relevance has diminished. ... ultra-Orthodox rabbi was once asked to eulogize Theodor Herzl, founder of modern Zionism and a secular Jew. After a few moments, he came up with three positive traits: Herzl had never spoken while putting on his phylacteries, had never thought about Torah matters in unclean places and had never studied Torah on Nitel. ... In contrast, Lithuanian and Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Jews do not observe Nitel at all. "The Hasidim will look for any excuse not to study Torah," quipped one Lithuanian Jewish cynic.

I found hasidic discussion forum threads on Nitel Night here and here. They aren't all that interesting, but they show that the customs are alive.

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Climate Change Models

Realclimate has a supposed FAQ post on global climate models that I find disappointing. I get the impression that these models are like the large macro forecasting models that economists build, but which have a bad reputation for accuracy and have been sneered at at least since I was a grad student in 1980, though they, like climate change models, were pushed as sophisticated science at one time. The macro models tried to put in lots of different interactions and calibrate them with data from lots of sectors of the economy, and then were fine-tuned by nudging things to make the numbers come out to be plausible. It turns out that mindless autoregressions-- basically, extrapolation without theory-- works just as well.

I'd like to see a presentation of a climate change model that laid out its assumptions.



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From Marginal Revolution:



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Today's Sermon in Cartoon Form

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Saturday, December 27, 2008


The Name "Joshua" in Hebrew

From Wikipedia:

The original Hebrew name Yehoshua יהושע often lacks a Hebrew letter Vav (ו) after the Shin (ש), allowing a misreading of the vocalization of the name, as if Yehoshea (יְהוֹשֵׁעַ), and indeed his name was Hoshea before his namechange to Yehoshua by recommendation of Moses (Numbers 13:16). Nevertheless, the use of a mater lectionis was an orthographic innovation, and although the use of two Vavs is well attested as יְהוֹשׁוּעַ (for example, Deuteronomy 3:21), traditional orthography tended to avoid the second Vav as too intrusive when spelling Yehoshua. The name Yehoshua` in Hebrew means "Yahweh is Salvation," "Yahweh delivers" or "Yahweh rescues" from the Hebrew root ישע, "to deliver," "to be liberated," or "to be victorious"[4]

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The Scientific Ignorance of Obama, McCain, and Palin

From the Independent via Drudge:

Mr Obama and John McCain blundered into the MMR vaccine row during their presidential campaigns. "We've seen just a skyrocketing autism rate," said President-elect Obama. "Some people are suspicious that it's connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it," he said.

His words were echoed by Mr McCain. "It's indisputable that [autism] is on the rise among children, the question is what's causing it," he said. "There's strong evidence that indicates it's got to do with a preservative in the vaccines."

Exhaustive research has failed to substantiate any link to vaccines or any preservatives. The rise in autism is thought to be due to an increased awareness of the condition.

Sarah Palin, Mr McCain's running mate, waded into the mire with her dismissal of some government research projects. "Sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not," Ms Palin said.

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The Dawkins-Lennox debate in Oxford

Melanie Philips reports on the Dawkins-Lennox debate in Oxford this fall. (see this BBC article too)

On Tuesday evening I attended the debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox at Oxford’s Natural History Museum. This was the second public encounter between the two men, but it turned out to be very different from the first. Lennox is the Oxford mathematics professor whose book, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? is to my mind an excoriating demolition of Dawkins’s overreach from biology into religion as expressed in his book The God Delusion -- all the more devastating because Lennox attacks him on the basis of science itself. In the first debate, which can be seen on video on this website, Dawkins was badly caught off-balance by Lennox’s argument precisely because, possibly for the first time, he was being challenged on his own chosen scientific ground.

This week’s debate, however, was different because from the off Dawkins moved it onto safer territory– and at the very beginning made a most startling admission. He said:

A serious case could be made for a deistic God.

Anthony Flew, the celebrated philosopher and former high priest of atheism, spectacularly changed his mind and concluded -- as set out in his book There Is A God -- that life had indeed been created by a governing and purposeful intelligence, a change of mind that occurred because he followed where the scientific evidence led him. The conversion of Flew, whose book contains a cutting critique of Dawkins’s thinking, has been dismissed with unbridled scorn by Dawkins – who now says there is a serious case for the position that Flew now adopts!...

Even more jaw-droppingly, Dawkins told me that, rather than believing in God, he was more receptive to the theory that life on earth had indeed been created by a governing intelligence – but one which had resided on another planet. ...

... In the debate, under pressure from Lennox Dawkins was actually forced to retract his previous claim that Jesus had probably ‘never existed’. And in a revealing aside, when Lennox remarked that the Natural History Museum in which they were debating – in front of dinosaur skeletons -- had been founded for the glory of God, Dawkins scoffed that of course this was absolutely untrue.

But it was true. Construction of the museum was instigated between 1855 and 1860 by the Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir Henry Acland. According to Keith Thomson of the Sigma XI Scientific Research Society, the funds for the project came from the surplus in the University Press’s Bible account as this was deemed only appropriate for a building dedicated to science as a glorification of God’s works. Giving his reasons for building the museum, Acland himself said that it would provide the opportunity to obtain the

... knowledge of the great material design of which the Supreme Master-Worker has made us a constituent part... By the aid of physiological illustrations he begins to understand how hard to unravel are the complex mechanisms and prescient intentions of the Maker of all; and he slowly learns to appreciate what exquisite care is needed for discovering the real action of even an apparently comprehended machine.

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Friday, December 26, 2008


Obama and Illegal Campaign Contributions

Obama didn't use federal matching funds. This meant not only that he did not have to limit his spending; he also did not have to be automatically audited. Auditing Obama Will the FEC examine the president-elect's campaign finances? by Hans A. von Spakovsky. It seems likely he received many millions in illegal contributions-- probably the greatest amount in American history. I wonder what the remedy should be? We don't want to overturn the election, since its result would not have changed even with $200 million in illegal contributions.

The public funding program automatically requires an audit of any candidate that receives public funds, so John McCain's campaign will be audited without question. Since Obama is the first candidate to refuse public funding in the general election since the program started, it would be very odd if Obama avoided an audit because of his ability to raise extraordinary funds from untraceable sources.

The federal campaign finance law requires campaigns to report the name, address, occupation and employer of every contributor who gives more than $200. Yet according to the Washington Post, National Journal and Newsmax, the Obama campaign took (or failed to take) steps to ensure it was not alerted to problem donations.

Some of the acts and omissions are so cavalier, it's hard to believe they weren't intentional. For example, the Post reported that the Obama campaign accepted prepaid credit cards that are untraceable, and National Journal reported that the campaign didn't implement a verification procedure to even match the names of contributors using regular credit cards with the names and addresses of the credit card holders.

When asked about it, the Obama campaign said such matching wasn't "available in the credit card processing industry." That is completely untrue--such verification procedures are offered by companies that service credit-card transactions, as well as by banks and telecommunications companies (and was standard procedure for the McCain campaign).

In contrast to the McCain campaign, the Obama campaign also refused to divulge the names of the millions of small-time donors who contributed (many repeatedly) under $200 to the campaign (totaling $218 million), saying it was "too difficult." However, as Neil Munro of National Journal reported, there are "few technical obstacles to sorting and identifying small-scale donors."...

...In contrast, the Obama campaign had no controls whatsoever to prevent illegal foreign contributions by noncitizens. An investigation by Newsmax estimated that anywhere from $13 million to $63 million may have been received by the Obama campaign from overseas credit cards or foreign currency purchases (a red flag for possibly illegal contributions). The FEC itself has flagged 16,639 potential foreign donations to Obama's campaign. When confronted with this, the campaign started collecting passport numbers from foreign donors, a completely useless procedure since no effort was made to verify those numbers with the State Department to see if they were even valid.

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Bible Verses Relevant to Abortion

Here is a list of Bible verses relevant to abortion. br>
Genesis 2:7, And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Exodus 21:22-25. If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 21:23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, 21:24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 21:25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Leviticus 17:11. For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

Psalm 22: 10. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.

Psalm 51:5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Psalm 139:13-16. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. 14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. 15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

Psalms 147:13. For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee.

Job 31:15. Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?

Isaiah 44:2. Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.

Isaiah 46:3. Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb:

Isaiah 49:5. And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength.

Jeremiah 1:5. Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Luke 1: 41. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

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A Spell Checker Story

I forget where I saw this, but it's a good story.

I once worked at a company run by a Canadian guy who would go ballistic every time a document with misspellings or grammatical errors hit his desk. The offending author was subject to excoriating humiliation during international webcasts, conference calls and meetings.

The President's 2nd-in-command was a man (weasel, actually) best described as "a man Will Rogers never met". One afternoon The Weasel went on vacation, but left his unguarded laptop logged-in and unsecured on a conference table. I spent over an hour adding all sorts of common spelling mistakes to his computer's spell-checker dictionary. A cat could have tap danced its way across the keyboard and the spell checker would not have flagged any errors.

I really enjoyed watching The Weasel get berated over the next few months for his error-prone reports. Why he continued to trust the spell checker even after it consistently let him down is beyond me.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008


The WOrst Models of Cars Sold

TTAC’s Ten Worst Autos 2008 tells something about why GM and Chrysler are in trouble. Michael Barone is good too, on historical reasons.



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Happy Holidays

Good sense and holiday cheer from Professor E. Volokh:

So if you tell me "Merry Christmas," good for you. If you tell me "Happy Holidays," I confess I'll get a bit annoyed because of its generic air, but I'll just assume that you're trying to play it safe -- often a very good strategy in social relations. Plus why be churlish about someone wishing you a happy anything? If you tell me "Happy Hanukkah," I'll start racking my brains about when Hanukkah actually is this year; I never have any idea. If you tell me "Happy Diwali," I'll assume that this is a good thing in your life, and I'll appreciate the good wishes. (If neither you nor I are Hindu, then I might wonder what you mean by that.) If you tell me "Happy New Year," my favorite greeting, I'll be extra pleased, but that's just a matter of taste.

Dec. 27. A comment I posted at Volokh Conspiracy on an Eric Posner follow up post:

Nobody has addressed Prof. Posner's empirical claim, which is that more people are likely to be offended by "Merry Christmas" than "Happy Holidays". I could well be wrong, but my guess is the opposite of his. Who besides some fraction of the already tiny fraction of the population that is secular Jewish or intellectual atheist would be offended by Merry Christmas? On the other side are religious and secular Christians who believe that Happy Holidays is an attempt to eliminate Christmas or, like Prof. Volokh, feel insulted by it as a patronizing attempt to be multicultural.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008


New Software

I've come across a few useful webpages dealing with software:



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Tuesday, December 23, 2008



Megan McCardle educates men on makeup and makeup as a gift in The Atlantic.



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Professor Heriot's annual "On the First Day of Kwanzaa My True Love Tortured Me ..." from The Right Coast is enlightening. I recently notice that the Indiana U. student union had four banners, for Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and I forget what. I noticed that the Christmas banner had a Christmas tree on it, and wondered if Christians could demand a separate, Christian-symbolled banner. Anyway, I knew Kwanzaa was a silly fraud, but not how evil its origins are.

If you visit a card shop at your local shopping mall these days, chances are you will see Kwanzaa cards. It's big business. (Well, maybe it's just medium-sized business, but it is evidently lucrative enough for card companies to bother with.) And if you go to swanky private schools like the one attended by the children of my colleague Chris Wonnell, you may well receive instruction on this traditional African-American holiday. Taking Kwanzaa seriously is all part of the spirit of multiculturalism.

Except, of course, Kwanzaa isn't traditional at all. It was invented in the late 1960s by convicted felon Ron Everett, leader of a so-called black nationalist group called United Slaves. I use the word "so-called" because United Slaves' veneer of black nationalism was very thin; most of its members had been members of a South Central Los Angeles street gang called the Gladiators,...

In the early 1960s, these gangs were mostly concerned with petty and not-so-petty crime in the Los Angeles area, including the ever-popular practice of hitting up local merchants for protection money. By the late 1960s, however, they discovered that if they cloaked their activities in rhetoric of black nationalism, they could hit up not just the local pizza parlor, but great institutions of higher learning as well, most notably UCLA. Everett re-named himself Maulana Ron Karenga ("Maulana" we are told is Swahili for "master teacher"), donned an African dashiki, and invented Kwanzaa. And the radical chic folks at UCLA went into paroxysms of appreciation.

In theory, Kwanzaa is a Pan-African harvest holiday, except that it is not set at harvest time. And in theory, it celebrates the ties of African Americans to African culture, except that it purports to celebrate those ties using the East African language of Swahili when nearly all African Americans are descended from West African peoples.

But those are just details. Many of the best-loved holidays in the Christian calendar have traditions connected to them that don't quite fit if you examine them too closely. But those rough edges have now been smoothed over by the long passage of time. No one really cares if the Christmas tree was once used to celebrate pagan holidays; many generations of credible Christians have earned the right to claim it as their own.

Kwanzaa is different. It has connections to still-living violent criminals. It is an insult to the African American community, very few of whom celebrate Kwanzaa and even fewer of whom would celebrate it if they knew the full story of its recent history, to suggest that it is an "African American holiday." ...

The beginning of the end for United Slaves as an organization came with a gun battle fought on the UCLA campus against the Black Panthers over which group would control the new Afro-American Studies Center (and its generous budget). In the end, two Black Panther leaders--Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter and John Jerome Huggins--were dead. Two members of United Slaves were convicted of their murder. ...

No, Maulana Ron Karenga was not among them. But not long after the incident, Karenga proved himself to be every bit as brutal as his followers when he was charged and convicted of two counts of felonious assault and one count of false imprisonment.

The details of the crime as reported in the Los Angeles Times (and quoted recently by Paul Mulshine in an article for FrontPage magazine) are horrific. The paranoid Karenga began to suspect that the members of his organization were trying to poison him by placing "crystals" in his food and around the house. According to the Los Angeles Times:

"Deborah Jones, who once was given the Swahili title of an African queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vise. Karenga, head of US, also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said."

...Karenga spent time in prison for the act. But if you are worried are what has become of him, you needn't be. He served only a few years. When he got out, he somehow convinced Cal State Long Beach to make him head of the African Studies Department. Happy Kwanzaa.

Indeed, Dr. Karenga does have a professorial website at Cal State Long Beach. It doesn't mention his prison time that I could see, but the period 1970-75, when he was writing his dissertation, is empty of event. In those days prison terms for things like torture were brief, and of course many people (e.g. Hitler) have used their jail experience to write things they otherwise wouldn't have gotten round to.

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Jews in Hollywood

Via Steve Sailer comes this LA Times article. It would be interesting to look into this further. The open letter mentioned is discussed here, and it does seem that 8 execs signed and all were Jewish.

I have never been so upset by a poll in my life. Only 22% of Americans now believe "the movie and television industries are pretty much run by Jews," down from nearly 50% in 1964. The Anti-Defamation League, which released the poll results last month, sees in these numbers a victory against stereotyping. Actually, it just shows how dumb America has gotten. Jews totally run Hollywood.

How deeply Jewish is Hollywood? When the studio chiefs took out a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times a few weeks ago to demand that the Screen Actors Guild settle its contract, the open letter was signed by: News Corp. President Peter Chernin (Jewish), Paramount Pictures Chairman Brad Grey (Jewish), Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger (Jewish), Sony Pictures Chairman Michael Lynton (surprise, Dutch Jew), Warner Bros. Chairman Barry Meyer (Jewish), CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves (so Jewish his great uncle was the first prime minister of Israel), MGM Chairman Harry Sloan (Jewish) and NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker (mega-Jewish). If either of the Weinstein brothers had signed, this group would have not only the power to shut down all film production but to form a minyan with enough Fiji water on hand to fill a mikvah.

The person they were yelling at in that ad was SAG President Alan Rosenberg (take a guess). The scathing rebuttal to the ad was written by entertainment super-agent Ari Emanuel (Jew with Israeli parents) on the Huffington Post, which is owned by Arianna Huffington (not Jewish and has never worked in Hollywood.)

The Jews are so dominant, I had to scour the trades to come up with six Gentiles in high positions at entertainment companies. When I called them to talk about their incredible advancement, five of them refused to talk to me, apparently out of fear of insulting Jews. The sixth, AMC President Charlie Collier, turned out to be Jewish.

As a proud Jew, I want America to know about our accomplishment.

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Monday, December 22, 2008


Rick Warren's Invocation for the Obama Inauguration

Pastor Bayly writes very strongly on Rick Warren and why he should not have agreed to lead the invocation prayer at Obama's presidential inauguration:

So everyone's talking about Rick Warren's payoff. He gets to pray in front of millions during Senator Obama's inauguration, calling down God's presence and blessing on a ceremony centered around the national politician most committed to the slaughter of his nation's children taking God's Name in vain as he falsely promises to uphold the Constitution of these United States.

Pastor Warren has more famously offended the Left by being against homosexual marriage and abortion. His invitation by Obama is clearly a conciliatory gesture by Obama to conservative Christians. As such, I think it is right for Warren to accept it. Neither Obama nor Warren are saying that they agree with the other's views, though each does show a certain amount of respect for the other by agreeing to be thus involved. The question is whether Obama's strong support for abortion-- even for infanticide-- should disqualify him from association with gentlemen. It seems to me that expressing abhorrent views is different from actually performing evil deeds. Perhaps even evil deeds should not be a disqualifier. Jesus did eat with open sinners. Participating in a government ceremony is much less intimate, and no more public than what Jesus did. Obama has been legitimately elected our President; should we now boycott government?

But that is all about whether Warren-- or Bayly, or any minister-- should do the invocation or not. Rick Warren does have a problem, though: he panders to The World. I'll discuss various quotes from this AP story:

The 54-year-old pastor and founder of Saddleback Church in Southern California told the crowd of 500 that it's unrealistic to expect everyone to agree on everything all the time.

"You don't have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand," said Warren.

There is a difference between agreeing on 1 out of 100 things and agreeing on 99 out of 100 things. Warren is suggesting that he and Obama are in the second category, agreeing on everything important. It *is* wrong for Warren to walk hand in hand with Obama. That indicates agreement. I could imagine myself working in the Obama Administration as an economist, but I can't imagine myself saying that I worked hand in hand with him. Some distance should be kept, even if Obama weren't so wrong on abortion.

Warren said he prays for the same things for Obama that he prays for himself integrity, humility and generosity.

This is an extreme form of a bad habit of preachers: confessing to congregations that they sin just as badly as their listeners do. Humility is not bad, but that isn't humility. Instead, it just results in the preacher only talking about publicly acceptable sins such as pride or selfishness. I've never heard a preacher preach against child porn or crack cocaine and admitting that he'd just sinned that way himself last Wednesday.

In the present case, the humility is even thinner. Do we really think that Warren would agree with what he's just implied-- that Barack Obama lacks integrity, is proud, and is stingy to the poor? (otherwise, why pray for those things for him?)

Of course, if Pastor Warren really thinks abortion is wrong, then he should pray that God will forgiven Obama and change his mind about it.

... Warren also talked about singer Melissa Ethridge, who performed earlier in the evening. Warren said the two had a "wonderful conversation" and that he is a huge fan who has all her albums.

The openly lesbian gay rights activist even agreed to sign her Christmas album for him, he said.

This amounts to support for homosexuality. Warren can't help liking her music, if he really does, but he should keep quiet about it. I like Wagner, but imagine this 1880s scene:

Warren also talked about composer Richard Wagner, whose works was performed earlier in the evening. Warren said the two had a "wonderful conversation" and that he is a huge fan who goes to all his operas.

The openly adulterous anti-semite even agreed to sign his program for him, he said.

I think Warren's problem is that he wants everyone to like him. He wants his evangelical congregation to like him, so he has to oppose abortion. But he wants The World to like him, so he has to pretend it's not a big deal. That way, too, he might even get feminists to like him because they'll say, "For a fundamentalist he's a pretty hip guy. I bet he just pretends to oppose abortion so he can keep his job." That is the way that mainline church pastors used to be like around 1930, perhaps-- officially opposing sin, but unofficially winking at the same time. Perhaps they even did oppose sin-- just not enough to take a real stand against it in front of The World.

Warren has won kudos from some liberal quarters by focusing less on traditional conservative issues such as abortion and gay rights, and instead calling on evangelical leaders to devote more attention to eradicating poverty, fighting AIDS in Africa, expanding educational opportunity for the marginalized, and global warming.

The end of the article says:

Although Warren has said that he has nothing personally against gays, he has condemned same-sex marriage.

"I have many gay friends. I've eaten dinner in gay homes. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church," he said in a recent interview with BeliefNet.

This doesn't sound bad by itself, but, again, let's change it a bit:

Although Warren has said that he has nothing personally against drug dealers, he has condemned heroin legalization.

"I have many drug-peddling friends. I've eaten dinner in the homes they bought with their drug money. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church," he said in a recent interview with BeliefNet.

There's something wrong with this (what exactly? -it's interesting to consider) and the same thing is wrong with his actual statement. I'd think better of him, actually, if he'd made the statement about drug dealers instead, because socializing with that kind of sinner is not the way to media popularity and he probably *would* be doing it from Christian love.

December 23: The LA Times has an op-ed that says Warren is openly orthodox on many key issues. For example:

...on the signal issues of the religious right he is, as he himself has said, as orthodox as James Dobson.

And as inflammatory. Warren doesn't just oppose gay marriage, he's compared it to incest and pedophilia. He doesn't just want to ban abortion, he's compared women who terminate pregnancies to Nazis and the pro-choice position to Holocaust denial...

Speaking of Jews, Warren has publicly stated his belief that they will burn in hell, presumably along with everyone else who hasn't accepted his particular brand of Christianity (i.e., the vast majority of people in the world)...

At his Saddleback Church, wifely submission is official doctrine: The church website tells women to defer to their husband's "leadership" even when he's wrong on important issues, such as finances....

On "Hannity & Colmes," he agreed that the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, should be killed because "the Bible says God puts government on Earth to punish evildoers."

What are we to make of Pastor Warren? He's written a best-selling book, so I don't suppose it's just that he has trouble expressing himself. Perhaps he just likes to agree with whoever he's last talked to, and he talks to a great variety of people. Or perhaps he's as I suggested in the post above, basically sound, but timid.

Yet more on Rick Warren. I looked at the Baylyblog's 2005 post on Rick Warren. It's downright embarassing how he boasts and name-drops. Some excerpts:

I read a book a day and I read tons of magazines, tons of articles, and I just devour enormous quantities of material, and thank God for the Internet.....

You know, when you speak to 23,000, 24,000 people every weekend, crowds don't impress you anymore. ... Last night, I was in Miami speaking to this huge international convention of all of the Spanish-language publishers and they gave me the city key to Miami, but really I would have more fun with you here today....

Bono called me the other day and said why don't you come up to the U2 concert at the Staples Center because we're both active in AIDS prevention. My wife and I have given millions to the prevention of AIDS....

Ten percent of the churches in America have now done 40 Days of Purpose and that's just now. We will take another 10 to 15 thousand through it this year, and on and on and on. And there's a little story of how that got started in churches and then it spread to corporations like Coca-Cola and Ford and Wal-Mart, and they started doing 40 Days of Purpose. And then it spread to all the sports teams. I spoke at the NBA All-Stars this year because all of the teams were doing 40 Days of Purpose. LPGA, NASCAR, most of the baseball teams - when the Red Sox were winning the World Series, they were going through 40 Days of Purpose during the Series. So the story of the 40 Days of Purpose is more than the story of the book. And maybe we can get back to why that touched such a nerve around the world, because The Purpose Driven Life is not just the best-selling book in American history; it's the best-selling book in about a dozen languages. It's in about 30 languages right now and that's why I was at this meeting last night with the Spanish...

The three largest churches in America are Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, outside of Chicago; the Lakewood Church in Houston, which is on television, so you might have seen that one (the pastor is Joel Osteen); and then Saddleback is the largest church in America. We had our 25th anniversary on Easter this year. I did 12 services. We had 45,000 in attendance and I preached 12 services in a row.

...every pastor in America knew who I was because I put all of my sermons on an Internet site and it gets 400,000 hits a day from pastors.

I've spent the last 20 years training about 400,000 pastors in 162 countries. ...Now, I've got three advanced degrees. I've had four years in Greek and Hebrew and I've got doctorates. ...I was teaching this Purpose-Driven church seminar, and we simulcast it to 400 sites across the continent, and I trained in that time just about 90,000 pastors, in that one week. ...Last week I spoke to 4,000 pastors at my church who came from over 100 denominations in over 50 countries. ...I have an email newsletter called Rick's Toolbox that goes out every Monday to almost 147,000 pastors. And I write a little note every Monday. I sit in my pajamas, hit the button, it goes to 147,000 pastors....

Last night I signed a book for Viktor Yuschenko, who asked for a copy of The Purpose Driven Life. A few months ago, I signed a Purpose Driven Life for Fidel Castro, who asked for one.

He doesn't seem to ever think, just talk. That same blog post excerpts a Larry King interview in which King presses Warren on whether God caused Hurricane Katrina and Warren evades the repeated question clumsily, as if he really has no idea how to answer it and never heard of the Question of Evil. And what Warren says about his reception from audiences that should be hostile is revealing:

I've had two state dinners in China in Tienanmen Square and People's Hall with their government, with the bureaucrats there, with the Cabinet members. I've actually had them in our home and had them in our church, and they've given me pretty much carte blanche in China for some reason.

When I went to Harvard a month ago, I honestly expected a pretty hostile audience - I'm an evangelical pastor and I'm going into Harvard. And I went in and I spoke four times and they gave me a standing ovation...

... when the book hit 15 million, I called up Rupert Murdoch and I said, "What are you going to do to celebrate my book?" And he goes, "Well, what do you want to do?" I go, "I want you to throw a party and I want you to invite all your secular elite friends from Manhattan and let me talk to them." And he goes, "Okay." (Chuckles.) So he sends out a list, he invited 350 people, who's who in Manhattan to the top of the Rainbow Room, and I went up there and you know, I just started talking to them - again, standing ovation.

He just doesn't realize what he's saying. Here's a bit of logic. Major Premise: Audience X is hostile to Christians. Minor Premise: Audience X was not hostile to Rick Warren. Conclusion---you draw it.

I was wondering whether the problem was that Warren had perhaps never gone to seminary and studied the Bible and theology in classes. But the interview quoted above says otherwise. I guess he illustrates that "discernment" really is a spiritual gift. He has a pathological lack of it.

Something else. From a comment on the Baylyblog post cited above:

John Aravosis of Americablog noticed on Friday that Rick Warren's church website explicitly bans gay people "unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle" from membership at Saddleback. (They are allowed, however, to attend services.)

Now Warren has removed the anti-gay language from the church website.

That's bad. But I found something else that shows that Warren is actually much worse than I'd thought, though-- that he knowingly perverts Christianity, and, more shocking to an academic like me even though it shouldn't be, he intentionally misquotes the Bible. T The Gospel: A Method or a Message? How the Purpose Driven Life Obscures the Gospel by Bob DeWaay is a very good essay on Warren's misuse of the Bible and his hazy, bad, theology.

Rick Warren begins the first day of his journey by saying, “It’s not about you” (Warren: 17). Yet the entire book “feels” like it is about you and reads like self-help literature. He dedicates the book to “you” on the first page after the copyright information and uses the pronoun “you” continually throughout the book. Consider the following from day eight:

You were planned for God’s pleasure. The moment you were born into the world God was there as an unseen witness, smiling at your birth. He wanted you alive, and your arrival gave him great pleasure. God did not need to create you, but he chose to create you for his own enjoyment. . . . Bringing enjoyment to God, living for his pleasure, is the first purpose of your life. When you fully understand this truth, you will never again have a problem with feeling insignificant. It proves your worth. If you are that important to God, and he considers you valuable enough to keep with him for eternity, what greater significance could you have? (Warren: 63).

His statement that this is not about “you” is disingenuous (insincere). His style, word usage, Man-centeredness, distorted Bible translations, and many overt statements show that the book is about you!


Earlier I mentioned that reading The Purpose Driven Life and checking it out with the Bible is a tedious task. Let me illustrate this using one of Warren’s Bible references. Here is Warren’s quote, “The Bible says, ‘Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self’” (Warren: 19). There is an endnote that takes us to the back of the book. Once there, looking for endnote 3, we have to figure out which of the forty days we are in. So with one finger in the endnote section, we go back to where we started to find out we were in day one. Now we go back to the end note section for day one and find out the reference is to Matthew 16:25 Msg. Assuming that msg is not the food additive, we proceed to the section in the back of the book that tells us the meaning of the abbreviations, and we find out that it is from a Bible called The Message. Now, having determined what passage is under consideration, we get out a real Bible (not a paraphrase) and find out what Matthew 16:25 says. Here it is: “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25).

Now we need to compare Matthew 16:25 with The Message perversion of it. In the context, Jesus was speaking of dying to self by taking up one’s cross (Matthew 16:24). The cross was not a burden to bear, but an executioner’s device. A person seen carrying his cross had literally been sentenced to death and was on the way to the place where he would be executed. So the person who “loses his life” is the one who has died to all hopes and dreams that the “self” ever had in this life. He is willing to suffer the loss of everything, even life itself if need be, for the sake of the gospel. His reward is eternal life. ...

Having established the meaning of Matthew 16:25 in context, now we must return to the verse as cited by Warren: “Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.” Matthew 16:25 is not discussing self-help, it is discussing life and death. Matthew 16:25 is not discussing “finding your true self.” The idea of a “true self” is a term of psychology and is not found in the Bible. Matthew 16:25 is not talking about self-sacrifice, it is talking about dying to self.... Warren’s version of the passage suggests that by self-sacrifice we find our “true selves.” All false religions teach self-sacrifice, and finding one’s true self is a New Age lie. The truth of the gospel is that we must die to self through the cross and put all of our hope in Christ by faith in His finished work.

Now, having established that The Message does not even have the same concepts as the Biblical passage it claims to be a paraphrase of, let’s return to Warren’s book and see how Warren uses it. He uses it to show that we need to find out the purposes God created us for. He says, “It is about becoming what God created you to be” (Warren: 19). Now we have been Bereans, searched the Scriptures, and found that Warren is abusing them. He has obscured the clear gospel message in Matthew 16:24, 25 and replaced it with a spiritual journey to find the “true self.” So Warren ostensibly is telling us we do not need self-help and then sends us on a self-sacrificing journey to find our true self (which is self-help). ...

The essay ends like this:
In 1982 Robert Schuller announced his plans for a new reformation based on self_esteem.3 His stated purpose was to make theology less God-centered and more man-centered. Now that Rick Warren has sold eleven million copies of the Purpose Driven Life, he too wants a new reformation. He is promoting a PEACE plan to solve the world’s five biggest problems.4 Apparently, the church needs a new reformation every twenty years. What happened to Schuller’s reformation? Thinking about this and carefully studying Warren’s book, I have come to the conclusion that Rick Warren is completely in step with Schuller’s reformation, and is carrying it forward in a way that is more appealing to evangelicals (whether or not he is consciously following Schuller). Warren’s man-centered theology comes with more evangelical ideas than does Schuller’s. Warren includes many more Biblical truths than Schuller ever did. In my opinion this makes Warren more deceptive than Schuller. Schuller ignored the Bible and depended on psychological concepts. Warren uses perverted Bible translations that change God-centered passages to man-centered passages. By carefully selecting the right mistranslation for each of his teaching points he has made the man-centered theology touted by Schuller seem Biblical. Now Warren wants to reform the church to focus on social action rather than gospel preaching. Wow! Look how far we have come. One of these times this man-centered reformation will succeed. When it does the modern evangelical church will be the latest incarnation of liberalism.5

Each of us must choose between a man-centered, man-made method loosely derived from parts of the Bible and the clear message of the gospel. Rick Warren promotes the former, a broad path with millions of fellow travelers; John MacArthur promotes the latter, a narrow path that few follow.

The gospel is based on a crucified Jewish Messiah, a concept offensive to all sinners. However, to those who embrace the scandal of the cross and by faith escape the just wrath of God, that gospel is the power of God for salvation. Dear reader, you have a choice between a spiritual journey to discover your purpose and the message of the gospel that declares God’s purposes. The one will make you think you are on the path to heaven when you may not be, the other will put you on the path to heaven by God’s sovereign power. I urge you to embrace the gospel on God’s terms.

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Children's Books

Children’s Books, Lost and Found by Joseph Bottum is in the December 2008 First Things.

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GRE Scores in Various Disciplines

From Mark Perry:

Physicists are clearly the smartest, at a combined GRE score of 1899, then math at 1877, and then computer science and econ at 1862 and 1855. Chemistry and biology are down quite a ways. Philosophy is in the top league, with 1803. I'm surprised economists are so smart. It actually seems like a waste of talent.

January 3. I just realized an implication of these numbers. Graduate students in pretty much any science are better with words than graduate students in English. Even engineering grad students are-- though industrial and civil engineers are slightly worse. My chemistry/German double major roommate AJ would like to hear this. Also: going back to the original source, it seems these are Means, and that source has more info, including the actual number of students in the top 3% of each test score category in each discipline (which matters because some fields have many more students than others).

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Saturday, December 20, 2008


Comment Numbering

I see that RealClimate has blogging software that puts a number on each comment, an obviously useful feature that Blogger lacks.



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Friday, December 19, 2008


A List of Prominent Democrats in Trouble

January 21: Let's start a list.
  1. Dodd
  2. Rangel
  3. Blagojevich
  4. Richardson
  5. Spitzer
  6. Jefferson
  7. Madoff
  8. Gutierrez
  9. Chief of Staff Emmanuel (talks with Blagojevich)
  10. Attorney-General nominee: Holder (Marc Rich pardon, Porto Rican terrorist pardon, testimony under oath that he'd not heard of Rich when in fact his office had litigated against a Rich company in 1995, while Rich was on the 10 Most Wanted list)
  11. Treasury nominee: Geithner

A WSJ op-ed made me realize that the list of post-election scandals has gotten amazingingly long. What good timing luck the Democrats have had!

Here's a list of just the biggest names in trouble:

Dodd, Rangel, Blagojevich, Richardson, Spitzer, Jefferson, Madoff, Gutierrez, Emmanuel, Holder I think there's mayors of Birmingham and Detroit too, and maybe some more Congressmen. And we might include the Acorn, Minnesota recount, and Ohio plumber-disclosure small-fry Dems.

Of course, the Republicans have their scandals too: Ted Stevens and Don Young. We seem to have localized the problem to Alaska, though.

January 1, 2009: Name That Party is a website that looks at new stories about politicians in trouble with attention to whether their party affiliation is mentioned (yes, if Republican) or not (if Democratic).

Looking at just what has been revealed about Rep. Rangel so far, he seems to have done far worse than Senator Stevens.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008



From a Pew Forum, via Parish the Thought:

An interesting factoid about Catholics that I’ll throw in just for your titillation is that about a third of all people born into Catholicism no longer consider themselves to be Catholic. That is fully 10 percent of the adult population. Ten percent of the adult population. Ex-Catholics outnumber every Protestant denomination except Baptists.



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Blame for the Financial Crisis

It's time to think about assigning blame for the financial crisis. I can think of two things that ought to be done:

1. Any financial assistance should be conditioned on the CEO or other leaders of an institution being fired. To be sure, this tends to disrupt an organization, but these people have demonstrated that they make such big and stupid mistakes that their talents in everyday management aren't important enough to outweigh them. And we need to set an example for the future.

2. The government should decertify the major rating agencies. Their AAA certifications should no longer have any weight in deciding whether, for example, a government pension fund is investing prudently.

This would kill the present rating agencies, but that's okay. Replacement companies would arise instantly.



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Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Steve Saile:: Con man executed for $416 million ant-breeding scam

Steve Sailer's iSteve Blog: Con man executed for $416 million ant-breeding scam

Via Mr. Sailer from the IHT:

China has executed a businessman convicted of bilking thousands of investors out of $416 million in a bogus ant-breeding scheme, state media reported Thursday. The official Xinhua news agency said Wang Zhendong, who had been found guilty of fraud and sentenced to death in February 2007, was executed in Liaoning Province on Wednesday.



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A Hammerstein Rhyme

Mark Steyn writes:

For a driving rhythm number in the show Sunny (1925), Hammerstein wrote:

Who stole my heart away?
Who makes me dream all day?
Dreams I know can never be true
Seems as though I’ll ever be blue.

Can’t see why I’m so impressed by the rhymes? Here—let me hit the italics key:

Dreams I know can never be true
Seems as though I’ll ever be blue.

That’s quite a rhyme scheme.

The entire Steyn article in The New Criterion on Hammerstein is good.

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New Blog Address

I am going to try out the Blogger hosting service, since it allows much faster publshing. The new address of this blog will be:



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Single-Click Double Click Stuck Problem

On my Dell computer, running XP, the mouse single-click was stuck acting like a double click and opening files. Redoing the setting in Control Panel didn't help. I checked Geeks to Go and it suggested trying a different mouse, which did work. I was using a Dell mouse.



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Monday, December 15, 2008


Bailout Political Pressure

It seems we already have an example of a bank that felt pressured to make bad loans from fear of losing government support. From the American Spectator:

Bank of America was the victim of a concerted shake-down operation that could be replicated around the country. Banks apparently now are expected to give money away to failed borrowers. This could become federal policy when Barack Obama, who supported this new example of Chicago blackmail, becomes president.

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Theft by Princeton

Princeton seems to have been stealing from the Robertson Foundation on a large scale. The Robertson heirs sued, and in a settlement they have been given 40 million dollars in legal fees and 50 million has been put into a new foundation. The complaint is worth recording. Of interest too is this statement about other abuses by Princeton, from page 16:

In 2002 and 2003, a Princeton employee named Jessie Washington conducted an investigation of donations to the University's Office of Religious Life and concluded:...

During my review of endowment accounts for the office of religious life, I discovered many problems with the management of the university's endowed funds. ... (T)hese problems affect every unit in the University that relies on endowment income.

2/20/03 Washington memo to Kalmbach and McDonough. Her Summary of Findings states:

I believe: 1) funding allocations are not in alignment with their intended purpose, i.e. the donors wishes have been ignored; 2) money intended for religious life -17- 925226.1 11/11/04 has been knowingly withheld;...

As one example, a $5,000 gift to maintain a chapel organ was used instead, according to a handwritten note, "to relieve general funds." Id. at Example 2. Another handwritten note states: "Dept. is not to know."

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Sunday, December 14, 2008


Questions for Theorists

From Econjobrumors, on a thread on the worst econ fields to be a candidate in:
From the hiring side: The problem I see with many pure theorists (i.e. those who do not use any data) is the lack of connection between the research and any real-world issues. A lot of job applicants to my department and graduate students in my department have a difficult time answering (a) why is this relevant/important?, and (b) how would I know if you were wrong? If you are a theorist, you'll do yourself a favor if you can answer those questions.

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Friday, December 12, 2008


Senate Vote on the General Motors Bailout

From a place I forgot to link:

Voting "yes" were 40 Democrats, 10 Republicans and 2 independents.

Voting "no" were 4 Democrats and 31 Republicans.

Democrats No

Baucus, Mont.; Lincoln, Ark.; Reid, Nev.; Tester, Mont.

... Republicans Yes

Bond, Mo.; Brownback, Kan.; Collins, Maine; Dole, N.C.; Domenici, N.M.; Lugar, Ind.; Snowe, Maine; Specter, Pa.; Voinovich, Ohio; Warner, Va.

... Others Yes

Lieberman, Conn.; Sanders, Vt.

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Commas and Adjectives

Which version is best?

1. Both results involve markets where consumers have heterogeneous tastes and some, “small”, consumers buy just one good while other, “large”, consumers buy two.
2. Both results involve markets where consumers have heterogeneous tastes and some, “small” consumers buy just one good while other, “large” consumers buy two.
3. Both results involve markets where consumers have heterogeneous tastes and some “small” consumers buy just one good while other “large” consumers buy two.

I like version 1, because it replicates the pauses I would make when speaking. I don't know which the grammarians would choose.



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Thursday, December 11, 2008


A Good Photo

What a good photo of Ian Jewitt this is!



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Web Rudeness

A post at Baylyblog inspired me to commment thusly:

'm glad Baylyblog is doing its bit to try to bring civility to the Web. Anonymity isn't the only reason the Web has so much rudeness. The other reason is that we tolerate rudeness. We don't have to. If someone sends me a web comment that would cause me to punch him, admonish him, or walk away from him if it were said to me in person, why should I tolerate it any more just because it is on a computer? The blogger at least has the ability to delete the comment. It is like painting over grafitti. And as with graffiti, it not only reduces the amount of ugliness in the world; it reduces the temptation for the sinner.

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"Torture" in Germany

In October 2002 (from the WSJ):

"Deputy Police Chief Daschner fears that Jakob's life may be in danger. In a memorandum, he writes: "We need to ascertain without delay where the boy is being held. While respecting the principle of proportionality, the police have an obligation to take all measures in their power to save the child's life."...

n the interrogation room, Ennigkeit tells Gäfgen that a "special officer" is on his way. If Gäfgen does not tell Ennigkeit where the boy is, the "special officer" will "make him feel pain that he will not forget." On Gäfgen's own account, the formula is still more menacing: the officer "will make you feel pain like you have never felt before." "Nobody can help you here," Ennigkeit tells him, according to Gäfgen's testimony. "We can do whatever we want with you." On Gäfgen's account, moreover, Ennigkeit already begins to rough him up: shaking him so violently that his head bangs against the wall and hitting him in the chest hard enough to leave a bruise over his collarbone....

In June 2005, the child-murderer and law student Magnus Gäfgen lodged a complaint against Germany with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In his complaint, Gäfgen accused Germany of having violated his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights and, more specifically, of having violated the prohibition on torture contained in Article 3 of the Convention.

On June 30, 2008, the European Court of Human Rights rejected Gäfgen's complaint and cleared Germany of the charge of tolerating torture."

Also in October 2002, interrogators at Guantanamo Bay asked for permission to use similar methods on al Qaeda terrorist Mohammed al-Qahtani. The Pentagon said no.

Now that Barack Obama has won the presidency, perhaps it is time for American interrogators to revise their practices to bring them into line with European ones.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Can Pornographers Be Prosecuted for Paying for Sex?

Prof. Volokh has a good weblog entry on Can Pornographers Be Prosecuted for Paying for Sex?.

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Will There be Lawyers in Heaven?

A few weeks ago, I was struck by a line in Abraham Kuyper's "Lectures on Calvinism" (1898), one of the great (and accessible!) modern Protestant works on politics and law. In a world without sin, Kuyper wrote, "every rule and ordinance and law would drop away, even as all control and assertion of the power of the magistrate would disappear." Heaven, he suggests, is no place for law or lawyers.

We lawyers come in for a lot of abuse, much of it justified, but I'm not so sure our work will disappear in heaven. The conclusion that law and thus lawyers will be unnecessary seems to assume that in heaven we will be all seeing and all knowing, and all complexity will simply disappear. I'm not sure where that assumption comes from; it doesn't seem especially consistent with the hints of heaven, with all its richness and diversity, that we get in the Bible. The absence of sin doesn't necessarily mean the absence of complexity, and where there is complexity law and lawyers seem to have a role to play. (Professor Skeel)

Can we think of examples of situations where people of good will would find lawyers useful? Here's one. Suppose two people are making an agreement about who will do which tasks before they meet again. A lawyer is useful for making sure they've covered all contingencies and that they really understand each other. "Contracts" are useful even if nobody expects a court to have to enforce them, just to clarify meaning, and ordinary people aren't all that good at making clear agreements.

Any other examples?

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Blagojevich Bribes the Tribune with State Money

The charges against Illinois Gov. Blagojevich show why we have to worry about government bailouts resulting in political interference. He conditioned aid to the Chicago Tribune on the support of its editorial page.

...Intercepted calls allegedly show that Blagojevich directed Harris to inform Tribune Owner and an associate, identified as Tribune Financial Advisor, that state financial assistance would be withheld unless members of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board were fired, primarily because Blagojevich viewed them as driving discussion of his possible impeachment. In a November 4 phone call, Blagojevich allegedly told Harris that he should say to Tribune Financial Advisor, Cubs Chairman and Tribune Owner, "our recommendation is fire all those [expletive] people, get 'em the [expletive] out of there and get us some editorial support."

On November 6, the day of a Tribune editorial critical of Blagojevich , Harris told Blagojevich that he told Tribune Financial Advisor the previous day that things "look like they could move ahead fine but, you know, there is a risk that all of this is going to get derailed by your own editorial page." Harris also told Blagojevich that he was meeting with Tribune Financial Advisor on November 10.

In a November 11 intercepted call, Harris allegedly told Blagojevich that Tribune Financial Advisor talked to Tribune Owner and Tribune Owner "got the message and is very sensitive to the issue." Harris told Blagojevich that according to Tribune Financial Advisor, there would be "certain corporate reorganizations and budget cuts coming and, reading between the lines, he's going after that section." Blagojevich allegedly responded. "Oh. That's fantastic." After further discussion, Blagojevich said, "Wow. Okay, keep our fingers crossed. You're the man. Good job, John."

In a further conversation on November 21, Harris told Blagojevich that he had singled out to Tribune Financial Advisor the Tribune's deputy editorial page editor, John McCormick, "as somebody who was the most biased and unfair." After hearing that Tribune Financial Advisor had assured Harris that the Tribune would be making changes affecting the editorial board, Blagojevich allegedly had a series of conversations with Chicago Cubs representatives regarding efforts to provide state financing for Wrigley Field. ...

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Trackback in Blogger

Blogger does not support Trackbacks. To fix that, click on first Greasemonkey and then Stephen Weber. Andrew Beard pointed me to this, and the Singpolyma site.



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Child Services, the Prosecutor, and the Bloomington Planned Parenthood Case

From the IDS:

The Indiana Department of Child Services will take no legal action against the employee who was suspended from Bloomington’s Planned Parenthood on Wednesday.

The employee was suspended without pay after an online video was released of her advising a woman posing as a 13-year-old girl to cross state lines to get an abortion without parental consent. When the woman posing as a 13-year-old girl said the man who got her pregnant was 31 years old, she agreed not to report what would, if it were true, be statutory rape.

Steve Vaughn, director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, said child services does not plan to do anything to the employee because there was not an actual minor involved in the incident.

...The county prosecutor’s office could also file charges, but no one from the office could be reached for comment by press time.

Maybe this is just jurisdictional. I am wondering whether this case is different from, say, a pedophile who is caught by someone posing to be a 13-year-old on the Internet.

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Monday, December 8, 2008


David Frum on Christmas

David Frum writes on how Jews should deal with Christmas.



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Vice in the Netherlands

"Amsterdam to close many brothels, marijuana cafes"

Amsterdam unveiled plans Saturday to close brothels, sex shops and marijuana cafes in its ancient city center as part of a major effort to drive organized crime out of the tourist haven.

The city is targeting businesses that "generate criminality," including gambling parlors, and the so-called "coffee shops" where marijuana is sold openly. Also targeted are peep shows, massage parlors and souvenir shops used by drug dealers for money-laundering.

"I think that the new reality will be more in line with our image as a tolerant and crazy place, rather than a free zone for criminals" said Lodewijk Asscher, a city council member and one of the main proponents of the plan.

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Wide Tires Are Bad on Snow

From Clayton Cramer:

The source of the C5's problems with traction on snow and ice is the combination of rear wheel drive and very, very wide tires. As the tires get wider, the amount of force per square inch declines. There's roughly 700-750 pounds of force per rear tire--and with the standard tires of the Corvette, this spread over an enormously wide piece of rubber. My measurements suggest that the contact patch is about 30-40 square inches--so roughly 19 psi of pressure. At a certain point, the down force is so little that the tires simply have no hope of getting any grip on either snow or ice.

The way that chains work, and studded tires, is by concentrating the roughly 750 pounds of force per tire into a relatively tiny area--perhaps as little as three square inches for chains--so 250 psi, or a square inch for studs (so 750 psi). That's enough to break a hole in the surface of the ice, and allow you to move forward. Ditto for brakes.



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Saturday, December 6, 2008


"Beyond the planet of the crazygirls"

Tom Smith's "Beyond the planet of the crazygirls" has an odd beauty to it.

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A Colorful Hilbert Something or Other

A nice image from the Ogre's Gallery.

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A Global Warming Graph

Sometime I've got to get round to understanding global warming. This is a good graph of the time trend. What we need is not just a theory to explain the recent warming (which has now leveled off, it seems) but the cooling periods, e.g. 1880-1910. Otherwise, whatever causes the earlier cooling-- and it was not carbon dioxide-- might be causing the recent warming.



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Thursday, December 4, 2008


"The Mom Song Sung to William Tell Overture"

My wife showed me the good YouTube video, "The Mom Song Sung to William Tell Overture".

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Roman-Protestant Conversions

From First Things:
That “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey” issued by the Pew Research Center last February continues to be sliced and diced by various analysts, including Robert Benne, who writes in The Cresset, a magazine published by Valparaiso University. “Continuing the list of surprises about Catholicism,” Benne writes, “ten percent of all Protestants are former Catholics but eight percent of Catholics are former Protestants. ... “The big difference,” he says, “is that they aim at the weakest Catholics while we aim at the strongest evangelicals.” The claim is that evangelicals who are more theologically versed and religiously committed are more open to Catholicism, while Catholics who become evangelicals were, for whatever reason, alienated from Christianity. Put differently, religiously serious evangelicals are more likely to become Catholic, while religiously lapsed Catholics are more likely to become evangelicals. ... Some while back, I spoke at an Episcopal parish in the Northeast and afterward had dinner with the members of the vestry. Ten of the fourteen members present were former Catholics, and seven of them said they would be Catholics today if it were not for their divorces that prevented them from receiving Holy Communion. The pastor of an evangelical megachurch who says more than half his members are former Catholics tells me, with a smile, “I hope you guys don’t change your rules on divorce and remarriage.”



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The Miktex Tex Processing Freeware Program

This is a post from 2005 that I'll copy here, with the old comments as part of the post.

The free Miktex ( looks to be an excellent latex and tex Windows processor program. I’ve been using SWP, and putting figures in looks to work better in Miktex. Miktex gets PDF’s right, which my version of SWP does not always do, and it processes straight from myfile.tex to myfile.pdf. On the other hand, it has some problems, noted below, which make it unhandier to use.

(1) I have a suggestion for the standard installation instructions: say more about the Windows command prompt. I haven’t used it for years, though I happened to remember it was in Accessories. Also, the user should know that he can change the default directory in teh command prompt to wherever he keeps his tex input files– say, d:/smith/latex-input, using the Properties (reachable by right clicking the command prompt).

(2) The command prompt requires you to type in all your commands, which is burdensome if they are long, e.g.,

pdflatex D:\_home\_HomeWD\INCOMING\FIGURECOPY/myfilewithalongname.tex

You can’t copy and paste in the usual way with CTRL-C and CTRL-V. What you can do, though is to copy to the clipboard with CTRL-C and then paste by rightclicking on the Command Prompt program and choosing PASTE.

I will put a comment line like this at the start of my tex files:

% pdflatex chap07_MoralHazard.tex

then I can copy all but the % part and paste it into the command prompt, and it will process chap07_MoralHazard.tex and write to chap07_MoralHazard.pdf

(3) Something better would be a graphic interface to replace the command prompt. I don’t know how to write such an interface, but here is what it would be: It would be simple: just a window in which the user could do two things:

1. Browse and choose a tex file to process, e.g., myfilewithalongname.tex, instead of having to type in the full name in the command prompt, and instead of having to have it in the command prompt’s directory.

2. Issue the processing command— most simply “latex myfilewithalongname.tex”, or “pdflatex”, or others that might be useful. There should be two to five choices, and the user would check the box of the command he wants to use.

The command would take the file from (1) and put the output in the same directory as the input.

The interface could be fancier, but that covers what the user needs every single time he uses Miktex, and it would save a lot of tricky typing.

(4) Miktex is fouled up by carriage returns, even ones that are not hard breaks. Thus, before I tex my files using it I need to strip off all the carriage returns, thus making all my equations, nicely separated into separate lines for visibility, into unreadable paragraphs. The solution, from Alan, the commentor below, is to make sure my input file is in UTF-8 Ascii, not ANSI. What I do in Textpad is (a) make sure it is set to UTF-8 as the standard encoding, (b) copy the entire file, and then close the file, (c) open a new file and paste what I copied, (d) save the new file with the old file’s name, on top of it. That converts from the ANSI coding I initially had to the UTF-8.

(5) The command which takes us straight from myfile.tex to the output myfile.pdf produces pdf files which are not crystal clear on the screen. The commands

latex -job-name=chap07_MoralHazard temp.tex dvips -Ppdf chap07_MoralHazard.dvi

do better, but then I can’t use JPG files in my input.

(7) Will I switch from SWP to Miktex? Money is not really a concern for me, but usability is. I’ll try it for a while and see.

13 Responses to “The Miktex Tex Processing Freeware Program”

  1. Alan Says:


    I am not a user of SWP myself, but I do believe there are a number of ways in which SWP deviates from “standard” LaTeX (I’ve had these cause problems when sharing files with SWP users). MiKTeX, along with TeXLive, teTeX, and most other TeX distributions will have the same issues you describe here with respect to SWP. That said, allow me to attempt to address a few of your points:

    (2) and (3): I have rarely invoked LaTeX from the command line, whether using MiKTeX or another LaTeX distribution. Many, if not most, LaTeX users use an editor that handles the direct interaction with the LaTeX executable and friends. SWP is really nothing more than a very fancy LaTeX front-end. While the editors that most folks use are not as fancy, they do handle all of the command line work and make invoking LaTeX transparent to the user. Some popular Windows-friendly text editors than can be configured in this way are WinEdt (shareware), TeXnicCenter (freeware), and Emacs with appropriate plug- ins (open source), though there are a number of others.

    (4): Not sure why you’re experiencing problems with hard carriage returns. My files are chock full of them and MiKTeX handles them without complaint, so I suspect SWP is to blame here. Perhaps it is using an odd end-of-line character? Open one of your SWP files in a plain text editor (Notepad — but not Wordpad — will do) and see if it is read correctly, or if garbage appears at the end of the line. Alternatively, write a dummy LaTeX file with hard carriage returns using Notepad and see how it goes. Finally, I understand there’s a way to export files from SWP in a way that is supposed to make them more compatible with “standard” LaTeX systems — if true, you might try exporting your files in this manner before running them through MiKTeX.

    (5): The problem here is that pdfLaTeX is using Type 3 Postscript fonts instead of the more desirable Type 1 fonts. Since I don’t use pdfLaTeX myself, I can’t tell you for sure how to change it (though installing the cm-super package via the MiKTeX package manager might do the trick). A search of the usenet newsgroup comp.text.tex (via should get you an answer pretty quickly, though.

    (6): MiKTeX does not recognize \tag because it is not part of standard LaTeX. To use it, you must call \usepackage{amsmath} in your preamble. Apparently, SWP does this for you whether you like it or not. Fortunately, amsmath is distributed with MiKTeX and virtually every other LaTeX distribution, so it should already be installed.

    (7): SWP insulates you from some of the low-level LaTeX drudgery at the cost of making your .tex files a little less portable. Another side-effect of this insulation is that you don’t always know what’s going on “behind the scenes,” as you saw when you tried to use the \tag command without \usepackage{amsmath}.


  2. Administrator Says:


    Adding \usepackage{amsmath} makes the tag command work again for equation special labelling.

    I still have the problem with line returns. It isn’t SWP– I actually write my latex files in Textpad, a text editor, and then used SWP only as a front-end— hence its inferiority to Miktex for me, since I don’t use most of SWP’s special features anyway. Also, the line return problem occurs when there are line returns in equations.

  3. Administrator Says:

    I updated the original post in light of Alan’s comments, so his comments won’t apply well any more.

  4. Stefan Moebius Says:

    On (3): Maybe a tool modelled after OggDrop ( would be what you need? You just grab the .tex or .mp or .dvi file and drag it to a floating icon. Dropping it would invoke the correct program based on file type and configuration (e.g., pdflatex or latex).

  5. Administrator Says:

    Yes, Stefan. Oggdrop is just for sound files, it seems. What would be a nice utility is a program that lets you say that any file dropped into an icon gets sent to the command line and processed using a particular command, with the output returned to the directory of the original file. I tries looking in the freeware site but couldn’t find such a thing.

  6. Harald Oehlmann Says:

    I use Textpad too (but pdftex to generate postscript directly). You can invoke the pdftex processor from the editor by assigning for example Cntrl-1 to invoke latex. I use: Menue: Config->Settings:Extras -> Add Program and edit properties: Parameter: $File

  7. Stefan Grosse Says:

    I also must say that using command prompt is a very unusual way for working with miktex. The perfect editor for me is winedt where you just have to push a button for texifying and pdf-texifying.

    With the carriage return- I noticed that there is a problem by opening a book chapter from your page. Winedt corrected it but I did not try to compile since there was a lot of scientific word stuff inside.

    If you like to use scientific workplace with miktex as LaTeX distro see the notes of Prof. Söderlind:

    By the way the game trees do not look that great there is a package of Martin Osborn using pstricks to improve that:

  8. Misha Says:

    Actually, I have another suggestion on how to improve MiKTeX. It takes relatively long to load all the definitions and packages every time TeX starts. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a running instance of TeX, that would remember all those .sty files. In this case, LaTeX would just invoke that process rather than loading the definitions again.

  9. Administrator Says:

    Thanks, everyone, for these very useful comments. Harald Oehlmann’s suggestion seems to work perfectly, though I had to set it up a bit differently than he suggested, perhaps because of my version of Textpad. Here is what I’ve just added to my latex notes in


    Harald Oehlmann told me how to do this. Here are precise instructions for running miktex from Textpad 4.7.3. Maybe other text editors have similar features.

    1. Click on Configure, then Preferences, then Tools.

    2. In Tools, click ADD, then choose DOS Command. A box will appear, and write “pdflatex a file” as a title for the tool. Then click APPLY.

    3. Click on the + sign next to Tools. Several tool titles will appear, including your new “pdflatex a file”. Click on it, and a Properties box will appear with various things for you to type in.

    4. Under Parameters, type in “pdflatex $File”. Make sure that under Initial Folder,there is $FileDir. Make sure none of the options boxes are checked, including CAPTURE OUTPUT. Click OK when you’re done.

    5. Load a tex file into Textpad. To process it, click on Tools from the front set of headings (File, Edit, Search, View, Tools, … ) Then click on “pdflatex a file”, which you will have added.

    6. The Command Prompt window will appear, and the tex file in textpad will be processed. The PDF file will be generated as output.

    I hope I didn’t miss any steps.

  10. Bob Says:

    First, hello Eric, from the distant past. We knew each other at MIT.

    Here’s another simple way to compile a .tex file using the MikTeX texify command. (I have to admit I live at the command prompt. Just a matter of preference. I also live in Emacs!) I turn .tex into .pdf using this batch file:

    texify %1.tex dvips -tletter -Ppdf -G0 %1 call ps2pdf13 %1.pdf

    You put these commands in a file called “makepdf.bat”, and place the file somewhere in your path. Then if you have a .tex file called “foo.tex”, at the command prompt you type

    makepdf foo

    and you will end up with a pdf version of your document.

  11. bob wolfe Says:


    I used to be an avid fan of SWP. I now use Miktex.

    1) I used to run into problems with carriage returns. They all arose when I shared files with colleagues who used UNIX. They have now all switched away from UNIX (despite them calling me all kinds of nasty names a decade ago for using Windows) so the problem is now fixed.

    2) SWP is not standard. I use a lot of math. \mbox does not work right in SWP. That prevented me from sharing with lots of colleagues who use standard latex. I think there are other things that are not standard in SWP. That makes it a pain to collaborate.

    3) SWP consultants used to have an attitude. Maybe the attitude is now fixed, so I apologize for any aspersions suggested by these comments. When I asked for work arounds on how to solve the problem of working with colleagues who use standard latex, the SWP consultants were extremely defensive in their responses. Not vulgar, but close to it. Almost as bad as the Apple community used to be towards Windows users.

    4) The real raison d’etre for SWP is its integration with Maple. Beautiful. Wonderful. I love the concept. Maple does simple math very well, up to algebra and closed form calculus. It does not do hard problems well at all, such as infinite sums. So, you have to do the math to see if it is right anyway, and then it is about as easy to type it in yourself in latex as to use the simplify verbs available in maple. If you are teaching calc 101 or high school algebra, then SWP is great. If you are teaching quantitative graduate courses, then be careful with SWP.

  12. Maciej Radziejewski Says:

    Your idea of having a simple IDE (point (3) of your original post) is already implemented in Windows! Well, almost.

    You can browse your files using Windows Explorer. Then you can compile (texify) by right-clicking a TeX file and selecting an appropriate command from the context menu. You just have to define a context menu action for .tex files. I usually define “Latex”, but you may prefer to use pdfLatex or to call some batch file for more complex processing.

    Defining actions takes some knwoledge and it may be a good idea to suggest it to Christian Schenk to do it in the installer as an option (if it is not already there). You can define actions using the “file types” tab (in WinXP accessible from the explorer window - Tools - Options) or using regedit (dangerous if you misuse it).

  13. Eric Wilson Says:

    Maybe I’m missing something here. Why not use WinEdt? It’s a great editor, designed particularly for LaTeX. TexShop is ok for macs.

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