Saturday, January 31, 2009


A Metaphor to Derail the Stimulus?

Where Nations Go to Die is Mark Steyn at his finest. Read the whole thing, but here is the most exquisite part:

The more interviews Speaker Pelosi gives explaining how vital the STD industry is to restarting the U.S. economy, the more I find myself hearing “syphilis” every time she says “stimulus.” In late September, America was showing the first signs of “primary stimulus”—a few billion lesions popping up on the rarely glimpsed naughty bits of the economy: the subprime mortgage racket, the leverage kings. Now, the condition has metastasized in a mere four months into the advanced stages of “tertiary stimulus,” with trillions of hideous, ever more inflamed pustules sprouting in every nook and cranny as the central nervous system of the body politic crumbles into total insanity—until it seems entirely normal for the second-in-line of presidential succession to be on TV gibbering away about how vital the federalization of condom distribution is to economic recovery.

The Nietzschean Democratic Party!

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Friday, January 30, 2009


Keynesian Stimulus Grand Links Accumulator

I think a link page for the stimulus would be useful, so here it is. I'll update this as links accumulate. What I'd like to pin down here is economists of at least some name for research--- which for me, practically here, just means that I've heard of them--- who I conclude would prefer no stimulus bill at all to the stimulus bill that Congress has passed. I have not included the many economists who have written ambiguously that stimulus might well be appropriate, or that if we are going to have a stimulus it ought to be tax cuts rather than spending, or that a properly designed stimulus is just what we need, since that is not at all the same as saying that they support a bill similar to what Congress has come up with. Government failure is half the applicable theory here, and a lot of economists seem to go out of their way to avoid talking about the real world stimulus bills.

Please excuse me, anyone, if I've mischaracterized you here. I'd be happy to have a definite statement putting you as PRO, CON, or Undecided. Just email me at Also, please excuse my not including you if you are a Cato signer I left off. I'm including only a few people on the lists below whom I've not heard of via academia and scholarship. Thus, for example, Bruce Bartlett and Megan McCardle don't count. And of course Administration officials don't count, so I haven't bothered to look for the views of Christina Romer or Lawrence Summers.

In an earlier posting of this webpage, I remarked on how few pro-stimulus economists I had found. Then I found the January 27 CAPAF letter, which evens things up considerably. It's still true that I haven't found much web or journalism presence of economists saying they support the stimulus. Link suggestions for them are welcomed.

Economists on the Stimulus:

  • For the stimulus:
    1. Menzie Chinn, Wisconsin
    2. A collection of lots of Brad DeLong posts, mostly reacting to other economists (January 2009)
    3. Robert Frank, Cornell
    4. Paul Krugman: January 19, 2009, Getting fiscal, Nobel laureate in international trade.
    5. Jeff Sachs, Columbia University, in the Huffington Post.
    6. Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in information economics.
    7. Janet Yellen, Berkeley.
    8. Many people signed a January 27 2009 CAPAF letter in favor of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Here I list only those I've heard of via academic channels whom I don't list elsewhere on this webpage. There are dozens of others on the list.
      1. Kenneth Arrow, Nobel; Lawrence Klein, Nobel; Eric Maskin, Nobel; Daniel McFadden, Nobel; Paul Samuelson, Nobel MIT; Robert Solow, Nobel MIT; Franklin Fisher, MIT; Laura Tyson; Sandeep Baldiga, Northwestern; William Baumol, Princeton; Peter Berck, Berkeley; Michael Bernstein, Tulane; Rebecca Blank; Guillermo Calvo; Paul Davidson; Hadi Esfahani, Illinois; Marianne Ferber, Illinois; Michael Intriligator, UCLA; Lawrence Katz, Harvard; David I. Levine, Berkeley (not the Wash. U. one who is anti-) ; Richard Murnane, Harvard; John Roemer, Yale; T. Paul Schultz, Yale; Sherrill Shaffer, Wyoming; Mark Thoma, Oregon;
    9. A November 19, 2008 open letter supporting a particular kind of stimulus bill was signed by many economists, including George Akerlof, Paul David, Sanford Jacoby, Gavin Wright, Gary Burtless, Peter Diamond, Laurence Kotlikoff, Julie Nelson, Peter Temin, Ann Markusen, and Susan Helper. It advocated a quick $400 billion bill with 4 specific kinds of spending. Quite possibly those people favor the actual bill that passed, but there are lots of people who would support ideal bills but oppose the actual bill, so I'm not listing them.

  • Against:
    1. Gary Professor Becker (Chicago, Nobel Laureate, labor economics, Jan. 11).
    2. Professor Robert Barro, Harvard. Also this interview.
    3. Willem Buiter, with close attention to who would buy US debt.
    4. John Cochrane (Chicago, Jan. 29)
    5. Tyler Cowen on lack of empirical support(December).
    6. Professor Eugene Fama (Chicago, January 29)
    7. Professor Martin Feldstein (Harvard,January 30). Keynesian, but against.
    8. David Friedman, blog post.
    9. Kevin Hassett (AEI)
    10. Robert Higgs, newspaper op-ed.
    11. David Henderson
    12. Robert A. Lucas (Chicago, Nobel laureate in macro)
    13. Kevin Murphy, Chicago, WSJ with Becker.
    14. Eric Rasmusen, Keynesianism and
    15. Russell Roberts, Wash. U. , blog.
    16. A Cato Ad against stimulus was signed by me and lots of people. Here I list only those I've heard of via academic channels whom I don't list elsewhere on this webpage. There are dozens of others on the list.
      1. Mark Bils, Univ. of Rochester;
      2. Bruce Benson, Florida State University; Michele Boldrin, Washington University in St. Louis; Donald Boudreaux, George Mason University; James Buchanan, Nobel laureate; Bryan Caplan, George Mason University; Barry Chiswick, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago; Lloyd Cohen, George Mason University, email; Daniel Feenberg, National Bureau of Economic Research; Kenneth Elzinga, Univ. of Virginia; Paul Evans, Ohio State University; John Garen, Univ. of Kentucky (pdf essay); Michael Gibbs, Univ. of Chicago; Earl Grinols, Baylor University; Ronald Heiner, George Mason University; Jason Johnston, Univ. of Pennsylvania; Boyan Jovanovic, New York University; Jonathan Karpoff, Univ. of Washington; Nicholas Kiefer, Cornell University; Daniel Klein, George Mason University; Deepak Lal, UCLA; David Levine, Washington University in St. Louis; Stan Liebowitz, Univ. of Texas at Dallas; John Lott, Jr., Univ. of Maryland ($8,700 cost per taxpayer); Henry Manne, George Mason University; John Matsusaka, Univ. of Southern California; Tim Muris, George Mason University; David Mustard, Univ. of Georgia; Deirdre McCloskey, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago; Allan Meltzer, Carnegie Mellon University; James Miller III, George Mason University; Michael Munger, Duke University; Kevin Murphy, Univ. of Southern California (not the Chicago one); Richard Muth, Emory University; William Niskanen, Cato; Sam Peltzman, Univ. of Chicago; William Poole, Univ. of Delaware; Edward Prescott, Nobel laureate; Timothy Perri, Appalachian State University; Mario Rizzo, New York University; Richard Roll, Univ. of California, Los Angeles; Charles Rowley, George Mason University; Ronald Schmidt, Univ. of Rochester; Thomas Saving, Texas A&M University; Eric Schansberg, Indiana University Southeast; Avanidhar Subrahmanyam, UCLA; William Shughart II, Univ. of Mississippi (op-ed); James Smith, Western Carolina University; Vernon Smith, Nobel laureate; Richard Wagner, George Mason University; Lawrence White, Univ. of Missouri at St. Louis; Walter Williams, George Mason University;
    17. From the Boehner list: or blog page:
      1. James Kahn, New York University
      2. John Seater NC State Univ.
      3. Alan Stockman Rochester
      4. Jeff Miron, Harvard (CNN comments)
      5. David Laband, Auburn.
    18. The September 2008 letter on the Paulsen bank bailout doesn't count, because it's about a different issue. Whether someone supports spending billions on the banking system is quite different from whether they support spending billions for a fiscal stimulus.

  • I can't figure out whether they're for or against:
    1. Edward Glaeser. Seems to be for some kind of stimulus, but criticizes the kind actually passed.
    2. N. Gregory Mankiw, (New York Times, Jan 10). But see at Prof. DeLong's weblog. I should email him.
    3. Alan Viard, AEI. But see here too.
Note that TARP I, TARP II, and the stimulus bill are three separate policies, and a given economist may have any combination of views on them and be consistent in his economic outlook. I supported TARP I and oppose TARP II and the stimulus bill, for example. The list above is just about the stimulus bill.

  • World War 2: Professor Cowen: Did World War II end the Great Depression?; Professor Paul Krugman,January 23, 2009, Spending in wartime, Professor Cowen on Barro and Krugman and Rasmusen on World War II as a test of Keynesian stimulus and Professor Robert Barro, Harvard (WW 2; and "Lessons from the Great Depression for Economic Recovery in 2009," Christina D. Romer, Brookings Institution presentation, (March 9, 2009).; Thomas Sowell's end-of-New-Deal theory. Other:

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    Obaman Hypocrisy

    From Best of the Web:
    He's So Hot, He's Cool

    "White House Unbuttons Formal Dress Code" reads a headline in today's New York Times. President Obama was photographed without a jacket in the Oval Office the other day, "only the first of many signs that a more informal culture is growing up in the White House under new management. Mr. Obama promised to bring change to Washington and he has--not just in substance, but in presidential style."

    It turns out, though, that the interesting part of the story is not the contrast between the president and his stick-in-the-mud predecessor. Rather, it is why Obama doffed his jacket:

    Mr. Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat.

    "He's from Hawaii, O.K.?" said Mr. Obama's senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. "He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there."

    This is hardly in keeping with candidate Obama's declaration last May: "We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times . . . and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK," Obama said. It's good to be king.

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    Wednesday, January 28, 2009


    The Crack Babies Scare

    Around 1990, people were afraid of "crack babies": that babies born to mothers smoking crack would be seriously damaged. This might be worth looking at now because it might (I'm not sure) be another case, like Y2K, of a scare caused by experts who supposedly were a scientific consensus-- like global warming.

    This 1995 MOther Jones article talks a bit about it.

    Seizing on early studies that raised alarm over fetal damage from cocaine, scientists cited the same inconclusive data again and again. Local news organs spun their own versions of the crack-baby story, taking for granted the accuracy of its premise. Social workers, foster parents, doctors, teachers, and journalists put forward unsettling anecdotes about the "crack babies" they had seen, all participating in a sleight of hand so elegant in its simplicity that they fooled even themselves.

    "It really got out of control," says Donald E. Hutchings, a research psychologist and editor of the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology, "because these jerks who didn't know what they were talking about were giving press conferences. I'd be sitting at home watching TV, and suddenly there'd be the intensive care unit in Miami or San Francisco, and what you see is this really sick kid who looks like he's about to die and the staff is saying, 'Here's a crack baby.'" But what a few cautious scientists had to say did little to weaken the momentum of the crack-baby myth. In fact, researchers who found no or minimal effects from cocaine had a hard time getting their results before the public. In a 1989 study published in the Lancet, Canadian researcher Gideon Koren showed that papers reporting a cocaine effect in child behavior were likely to be accepted over those showing no effect, for presentation at an annual meeting of the Society for Pediatric Research--even when the no-effect studies were of sounder design. "I'd never experienced anything like this," says Emory's Claire Coles. "I've never had people accuse me of making up data or being an incompetent scientist or believing in drug abuse. When that started happening, I started thinking, This is crazy."

    The earliest and most influential reports of cocaine damage in babies came from the Chicago drug treatment clinic of pediatrician Ira Chasnoff. His first study, published in 1985 in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that the newborns of 23 cocaine-using women were less interactive and moodier than non-cocaine-exposed babies. In the years that followed, Chasnoff was widely quoted and fawned over in the press ("positively zenlike," according to Rolling Stone) and became known as the rather pessimistic authority on what happens to babies whose mothers use cocaine.

    Of course, Chasnoff wasn't the only researcher to report serious effects. They were legion, some publishing simple case reports that took a few cocaine-exposed kids and racked up their problems. Judy Howard, a pediatrician at the University of California, Los Angeles, piped up regularly, once telling Newsweek that in crack babies, the part of their brains that "makes us human beings, capable of discussion or reflection" had been "wiped out."

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    Keynesian Stimulus and World War II

    Professor Barro had a good WSJ op-ed recently on the historical evidence for the USA for fiscal policy. WW2 is the big example-- maybe the only example of where people say it had an effect. He doesn't think much of that as evidence. If WW2 is not a good example, then maybe there aren't *any* good examples of the Keynesian effect.

    Data from the Ec. Rep. of the President is at . The Deficit/GDP ratio rose to 5.9% in 1934 (first year of the data there), to 30.3% in 1943, to 4.2% in 1976, to 6% in 1983, to 4.7% in 1992, to 3.6% in 2004, and was estimated at 2.7% for 2008 (I suppose this estimate is from January 2008).

    A stimulus extra of $400 billion per year would add about 2.9% to the budget deficit for 2009. That would take it up to 2.7+2.9= 5.6% if we use the pre-recession estimate of tax intake and GDP for 2009. We'd reach the 1934 and 1983 levels of budget deficit. Is that enough to take us out of a recession? I'd always heard that the New Deal spending was *not* enough to have much of a Keynesian effect. In that case, the best the stimulus package could hope for would be to mildly helpful-- it's not big enough to get us out of a recession.

    But was the WW2 spending helpful? It was certainly big enough--30% of GDP in 1943. I thought I'd look at the WW2 experience in a very simple way. The first diagram shows the unemployment rate from 1923 to 1940. What would you expect to happen in the 1940s?

    Here's what it looks like to me. The normal unemployment rate is around 4%. If the 1938 recession (was that the "Capital Strike"?) hadn't hit, it would have been reached in 1939. WIthout WW2 it would have been reached in 1944.

    Here's what actually happened:

    It is worth mentioning that there was a massive government jobs program in the 1930's, which affected unemployment. Below I graph both the civilian unemployment rate that I used above and an adjusted, higher, rate which is (Unemployed people + people in emergency govt. jobs)/(labor force). The picture is similar.

    Mark Wieczorek has a graph of the Deficit/GDP ratio 1940-2007: References:

  • Cowen: Did World War II end the Great Depression?
  • Paul Krugman,January 23, 2009, Spending in wartime
  • Cowen on Barro and Krugman
  • Rasmusen on World War II as a test of Keynesian stimulus and Robert Barro.
  • Mark Wieczorek, The National Budget, Debt & Deficit . Graphs and numbers.

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    Bush's Religion

    The Last Methodist President by Mark Tooley:

    More evenhandedly was an analysis of Bush's political theology delivered in 2007 at a Methodist symposium at Oxford, England by SMU theologian Billy Abraham, an Irish Methodist and theologian in residence at Bush's home church in Dallas. Amid the denunciations by other Methodists of Bush's supposed fundamentalism and imperialism, Abraham described Bush as a "moderate, even liberal, evangelical shaped by the spiritual warmth, the ad hoc social activism, the reserved moralism, the friendly fellowship, the wariness of alcohol, and the theological fuzziness of United Methodism in Texas."

    According to Abraham, Bush theologically "knows and believes the internal soteriological logic of creation, fall and redemption as parsed by contemporary evangelicalism" in America. As a conventional and pragmatic proponent of American civil religion, Bush believed that "life in American fits God's design for humanity better than its rivals." The Iraq War and democracy promotion, according to Abraham, allowed Bush to "take American civil religion to the Middle East and then onward into the Muslim world."

    Bush's autobiography is titled after Methodist hymn writer Charles Wesley's song' "A Charge to Keep I Have," which is also the title of a painting that Bush kept in the Oval Office of an early Methodist circuit riding preacher. "Bush's compassionate conservatism draws heavily on the kind of revivalism that was common in Methodism in North America in the late 19th century," Abraham noted. And Bush's brand of American civil religion "harks back to a longstanding embrace of a similar vision" by many Methodist leaders in the 19th century. Abraham did not cite the Methodist delegation that listened to McKinley's Philippines confession, but no doubt they fit the type.

    Supposedly, when President McKinley was pressed to describe his political philosophy, he insisted he was "just" a Methodist. Bush potentially could similarly respond.

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    Illegal Immigration to Europe

    This post of mine gets the most interesting comments. The latest:

    hello, i m men from lithuania EU. I can help peoples to get invitaciot to EU Legaly . if need i can find girl for married. please write me

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    Style in Bible Translation

    From the Baylyblog obituary of author John Updike:

    In 1967, when no evangelically-acceptable translation had yet arisen against the KJV, Dad wrote a column in Eternity Magazine suggested that a new translation be undertaken with a first draft written not by biblical scholars, but by fine English writers based on the King James and American Standard versions. Only after this initial English draft was complete would Greek and Hebrew scholars take up a second draft where revisions for accuracy would be made. As first draft authors, Dad suggested Frank Gaebelein, Betty Elliott, W.H. Auden and John Updike.

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    Tuesday, January 27, 2009


    Church Budget

    From the Bloomington HT:

    ““Sure we’re concerned,” said the Rev. George Purnell, senior minister at First United Methodist Church. ...

    Purnell said the church’s projected income in 2009, based on congregants’ estimates of their giving that year, will closely parallel the church’s 2008 income — about $1.6 million — but that would be $150,000 short of the church’s expenses in 2009.

    I wonder how big the budgets are of other churches in town?

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    Charitable Giving of Obama, BIden, McCain, Palin

    From Taxprof, it seems Biden is even stingier than Obama in his charitable giving.

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    Monday, January 26, 2009


    The Result of Freeing Prisoners of War

    From the NYT:

    The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.

    The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.

    Maybe we should conclude that Al Qaeda wants to scare Obama into not closing down Guantanamo.

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    Sunday, January 25, 2009


    The Bombay Attacks

    Mark Steyn, Dec. 2008. Silence=Acceptance: Rabbi Holtzberg was not murdered because of a territorial dispute over Kashmir or because of Bush’s foreign policy.

    Shortly after the London Tube bombings in 2005, a reader of Tim Blair, the Sydney Daily Telegraph’s columnar wag, sent him a note-perfect parody of a typical newspaper headline: “British Muslims Fear Repercussions Over Tomorrow’s Train Bombing.”
    [Y]ou’d be hard pressed from most news reports to figure out the bloodshed was “linked” to any religion, least of all one beginning with “I-“ and ending in “-slam.” In the three years since those British bombings, the media have more or less entirely abandoned the offending formulations — “Islamic terrorists,” “Muslim extremists” — and by the time of the assault on Bombay found it easier just to call the alleged perpetrators “militants” or “gunmen” or “teenage gunmen,” as in the opening line of this report in the Australian: “An Adelaide woman in India for her wedding is lucky to be alive after teenage gunmen ran amok…”

    Kids today, eh? Always running amok in an aimless fashion.

    The discovery that, for the first time in an Indian terrorist atrocity, Jews had been attacked, tortured, and killed produced from the New York Times a serene befuddlement: “It is not known if the Jewish center was strategically chosen, or if it was an accidental hostage scene.”

    Hmm. Greater Bombay forms one of the world’s five biggest cities. It has a population of nearly 20 million. But only one Jewish center, located in a building that gives no external clue as to the bounty waiting therein. An “accidental hostage scene” that one of the “practitioners” just happened to stumble upon? “I must be the luckiest jihadist in town. What are the odds?”

    [T]he murdered Jews were described in almost all the Western media as “ultra-Orthodox,” “ultra-” in this instance being less a term of theological precision than a generalized code for “strange, weird people, nothing against them personally, but they probably shouldn’t have been over there in the first place.” Are they stranger or weirder than their killers? Two “inflamed moderates” entered the Chabad House, shouted “Allahu Akbar!,” tortured the Jews and murdered them, including the young Rabbi’s pregnant wife. Their two-year-old child escaped because of a quick-witted (non-Jewish) nanny who hid in a closet and then, risking being mown down by machine-gun fire, ran with him to safety.
    In a well-planned attack on iconic Bombay landmarks symbolizing great power and wealth, the “militants” nevertheless found time to divert 20 percent of their manpower to torturing and killing a handful of obscure Jews helping the city’s poor in a nondescript building. If they were just “teenage gunmen” or “militants” in the cause of Kashmir, engaged in a more or less conventional territorial dispute with India, why kill the only rabbi in Bombay? Dennis Prager got to the absurdity of it when he invited his readers to imagine Basque separatists attacking Madrid: “Would the terrorists take time out to murder all those in the Madrid Chabad House? The idea is ludicrous.”
    A Minnesotan suicide bomber (now there’s a phrase) originally from Somalia returned to the old country and blew up himself and 29 other people last October. His family prevailed upon your government to have his parts (or as many of them as could be sifted from the debris) returned to the United States at taxpayer expense and buried in Burnsville Cemetery. Well, hey, in the current climate, what’s the big deal about a federal bailout of jihad operational expenses? If that’s not “too big to fail,” what is?
    I wrote in my book, America Alone, that “reforming” Islam is something only Muslims can do. But they show very little sign of being interested in doing it, and the rest of us are inclined to accept that. Spread a rumor that a Koran got flushed down the can at Gitmo, and there’ll be rioting throughout the Muslim world. Publish some dull cartoons in a minor Danish newspaper, and there’ll be protests around the planet. But slaughter the young pregnant wife of a rabbi in Bombay in the name of Allah, and that’s just business as usual. And, if it is somehow “understandable” that for the first time in history it’s no longer safe for a Jew to live in India, then we are greasing the skids for a very slippery slope. Muslims, the AP headline informs us, “worry about image.” Not enough.

    Flushing a Koran down the toilet is blasphemy. But shouldn't murdering people in the name of Allah count as blasphemy too?

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    Friday, January 23, 2009


    Game Theory and Blackmail of Politicians

    The FBI had highly incriminating tapes of Martin Luther King indulging in adultery, dirty jokes, etc. This was illegal, I think, since it was not taped at his office but at home or sleeping place, so it has been suppressed by court order till 2027.

    Why, though, didn't the FBI leak this information back in 1964? I can think of two reasons:

    1. The FBI really wasn't trying to snoop on King's personal life. The FBI was just doing its job, checking out his communist connections, and having found that though he did consort with communists, he wasn't one, they figured their job was done.

    2. The FBI (i.e., J. Edgar Hoover) blackmailed King, somehow changing his behavior.

    I don't know why the FBI would like to blackmail King, but if you think J. Edgar Hoover was anti-King, reason 2 is your only explanation. If he was anti-King, why didn't he leak the adultery info-- or somehow set up King to be exposed by a third party?

    Reason 2 might be verifiable. After the dates when the FBI adultery tapes were made, did King somehow change his behavior?

    The idea of blackmail is important in other contexts too.

    1. I had the impression that Dole was going easy on Clinton in the 1996 campaign. Was this because Clinton had info on Dole?

    2. Rep. Rangel has gotten away with tax evasion for years, it seems. Did presidents use his vulnerability to prosecution to get him to be cooperative on tax policy?

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    Thursday, January 22, 2009


    Was Obama Ever Baptized?

    It's unclear. He was a church member, to be sure, but he was Moslem as a child and probably not baptized as an infant. Adult baptism is noticeable enough that one might expect it to be mentioned. It isn't important enough to him to rate mention in his autobiography, which does talk about his joining the UCC church of Pastor Wright in Chicago.

    A blog post looks at some evidence. A newspaper said he was baptized, without offering any evidence, but that was probably just speculation by the reporter.

    I wonder if Obama is the first unbaptized President? No- actually not. I don't think Quakers get baptized, though I might be wrong, and that would cut out Hoover and Nixon. January 22: As the weblog post I linked to above says, it's hard to find a credible statement that Obama was baptized. There are statements by reporters, but it looks as if they are just making that up, thinking that if he joined the church he must have been baptized, or confusing answering an altar call with baptism. It would be useful to actually look at his autobiography, though. Here's some more info:


    Obama has long been an active member of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ and frequently attends services there. His pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, officiated at his wedding, baptized both his daughters, and dedicated his house.

    He is now a Christian, having been baptized in the early 1990s at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. But rumors about Obama's religion persist. In the new NEWSWEEK Poll, 12 percent of voters incorrectly believe he's Muslim; more than a quarter believe he was raised in a Muslim home.

    His baptism presents its own problems. The senior pastor at Trinity at the time of Obama's baptism was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., the preacher who was seen damning America on cable TV for weeks last spring—and will doubtless be seen again this fall. In the NEWSWEEK Poll, almost half of the respondents say Obama shares at least some of Wright's views; nearly a third say Wright might prevent them from voting for the presumptive Democratic nominee.


    During his years in Indonesia, Obama went first to a Catholic school—and then to a public elementary school with a weekly class of religious education that reflected the dominant Muslim culture. He was raised, in part, by his stepfather, a man named Lolo, who "like many Indonesians … followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths," Obama wrote in "Dreams From My Father." "He explained that a man took on the powers of whatever he ate." Lolo introduced young Obama to the taste of dog meat, snake meat and roasted grasshopper. In Indonesia, Obama has said, he saw women with and without head coverings and Muslims living comfortably next to Christians. He has said that his life among Muslims in Indonesia showed him that "Islam can be compatible with the modern world."
    He didn't officially join Trinity until several years later, when he returned to Chicago as a promising young lawyer intent on becoming a husband, a father and a professional success. Around the time Obama was baptized, he says he studied the Bible with gifted teachers who would "gently poke me about my faith."
    Freerepublic says, without citation:
    Nobody, except Obama knows if his conversion to Christianity is real or not. Although some reports and even Obama have referred to a "baptism", there doesn't appear to be any record of a baptism.

    Chicago-based journalist, broadcaster and critic Andy Martin, when asked about Obama's baptism, wrote, "I have never been able to obtain any evidence that he was baptized, although I asked for those records."

    It seems that Obama's conversion occurred when he answered one of Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright's altar calls by walking down the aisle of Trinity Church to make a formal commitment of his faith.

    I also found:
    Mr. Obama was baptized that year, and joining Trinity helped him ''embrace the African-American community in a way that was whole and profound,'' said Ms. Soetoro, his half sister. (April 30, 2007 Monday A Candidate, His Minister and the Search for Faith BYLINE: By JODI KANTOR)
    A few years later, Obama returned to Chicago from Harvard Law School to be baptized at Trinity United Church of Christ, with a predominantly black congregation on the South Side led by Wright. Obama had come to realize, he wrote in his 2006 book, "The Audacity of Hope," that the church "had to serve as the center of the community's political, economic, and social as well as spiritual life." He described his baptism not as an epiphany but as a conscious choice. (The Washington Post January 18, 2009 Sunday Obama 's Path to Faith Was Eclectic; President-Elect Will Reach Out to Diverse Set of Religious Leaders for Advice BYLINE: Eli Saslow;)

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    Movies: Doubt and W

    I found favorable and interesting-in-themselves reviews of Doubt and W. by Steve Sailer.

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    Geithner's Tax Cheating

    I just retired from the IRS this past summer. I can verily state we would have been fired on the spot if unreported income was discovered on our tax return. It is shocking that Timothy Geithner would head the IRS, the same organization that would have fired me for ANY unreported income. I am sure shock waves are rippling through my former IRS office right now to think that the new head of the IRS failed to pay $30,000 in taxes. (a comment here)

    Tim Geithner really is a man in the spirit of Bill and Hillary Clinton: rules are for little people, but they don't apply to me.

    Oh, those hapless Republicans! They don't realize that what they have here-- a knowing (that is, known since before the nomination was made public), deliberate, attempt to put a tax cheat in charge of tax enforcement-- is the ticket to victory in 2010.

    I know everybody says good things about Geithner, but keep in mind two other things:

    1. He was at the New York Fed while it totally botched oversight of the financial system.

    2. Cheaters never cheat just once.

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    Wednesday, January 21, 2009


    Inserting PDF into HTML

    Does anybody know how to do this?

    The following method didn't really work for me-- the width wouldn't work. But here it is:

    Brad DeLong did it at : .

    His HTML is a mess, but it looks as if he used some application or add-on called SCRIBD, maybe using Java.

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    I see that James Heckman has run into the problem of rascally, incompetent, Third World typesetters. I had endless problems with the 4th edition of Games and Information, and I think I would have spent less energy on it if I'd typeset it myself.

    According to Heckman, there are literally hundreds of errors in the document and the mathematical symbols are, he says, a colossal mess, even with subscripts on the line following the symbol to which they pertain. Authors can't be held responsible for incompetence by typesetters. Michael Sobel has similar problems with his paper. You say this is "hard for me to imagine," but you don't have to imagine anything: We will send you the copy-edited paper and the type-set article.

    In short, this is a problem that has occurred in the past when typesetting has been shipped to 3rd world countries; it is a problem that occurred at the AJS some years ago, and it is ia problem that occurred with Blackwell some years ago.

    Another email:
    I received your letter Wednesday announcing that you would not honor what Blackwell and Stolzenberg promised me-a fresh look at the galley proofs for my paper I have an email from Blackwell promising me this and my lawyer said that my case is strong based on that email Jennifer will send you the email

    The timing was intended to disarm me Your letter contained a mass of misinformation I did not change my paper in any way that would affcet Sobel's comments What did happen was that sobel and i were given galley proofs with numerous careless errors and we were promised that we could see the new proofs I assume Stolzenberg has lied to you as he has to me I insist on withdrawing my paper from this Journal under these circumstances If this is not done I will sue Blackwell,Stolzenberg and your organization Withdraw the paper or I sue

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    A List of Prominent Democrats in Trouble

    1. Senator Dodd, Chairman of Senate Finance Committee, (preferential mortgage treatment)
    2. Tom Daschle, nominee for Secy. of HHS, tax evasion.
    3. Rep. Rangel, Chairman of House Ways and Means Committee, Taxes.
    4. Blagojevich,Governor of Illinois, selling a Senate seat.
    5. Richardson, Governor of New Mexico, Obama Cabinet pick, grand jury investigation.
    6. Spitzer, Mayor of New York, hiring a prostitute.
    7. Larry Langford, Mayor of Birmingham (2008). Indicted for bribery.
    8. Marion Barry, former Mayor of Washington (2009)(current City Councilor). Failure to file income taxes (his cocaine conviction was a long time ago).
    9. Sam Adams, Mayor of Portland, Oregon (2009). Homosexual relations with a teenager.
    10. Kwame Kilpatrick, Detroit Mayor (2008). Charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and official misconduct stemming from a sex scandal and a whistle-blower lawsuit
    11. Sheila Dixon, Mayor of Baltimore (2009) indicted for perjury, theft, misconduct in office.
    12. Bernie Madoff (2008).
    13. William Jefferson (D-La). Racketeering, soliciting bribes, money laundering
    14. Attorney-General nominee Eric Holder (2008). (Marc Rich pardon, Puerto 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)
    15. Treasury nominee: Geithner (2008). Cheating on taxes.

    An earlier post said this:

    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!

    We might include the Acorn, Minnesota recount, and Ohio plumber-disclosure small-fry Democratss.

    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).

    There are some Reublicans too, but fewer and less prominent (Senator Stevens being the exception):

    1. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) 2008 False statements on Senate disclosure forms
    2. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) 2008 Extortion, wire fraud, money laundering
    3. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) 2007 Bathroom homosexual solicitation
    4. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) 2007. Trading political favors for gifts. Convicted, sentenced to 2.5 years in prison
    5. Don Young (R-Alaska) 2008. "Under investigation". Four separate federal investigations: a $10 million earmark for a road in Florida, assistance to convicted VECO executive Bill Allen, ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, financial relationship with indicted businessman Dennis Troha.
    6. Vito J. Fossella (R-NY) (2008). Drunk driving, adultery.
    7. Joseph L. Bruno former New York Senate Majority Leader for New York: indicted for mail fraud, January 2009.
    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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    I've started reading Professor DeLong's "The Modern Revival of the “Treasury View”,January 18, 2009 draft. He certainly does write well.

    [T]he silliest and stupidest arguments made against Keynes's policy proposals were made by the bureaucrats of H.M. Treasury, with their so-called "Treasury View"1 of Britain's economic problems: that each extra pound sterling of British government spending had to be financed by borrowing an extra pound from Britain's savers, which meant a pound less for Britain's firms to invest. Hence investment plus government spending was constant. So fiscal policy could never boost employment or production no matter what.

    [I]t is as obvious a fallacy as you ever find in economics. If no government bureaucrat can boost employment and production even in the shortest run by deciding to borrow and spend more—as the "Treasury View" maintains—than an immediate corollary is that no private entrepreneur can boost employment and production by deciding to borrow and invest more in his firm's capital stock. If the "Treasury View" is correct, then homebuilders' and financial intermediaries' decisions to build more homes were not the cause of high employment in the mid-2000s. If the "Treasury View" is correct, then venture capitalists' decisions to finance internet startups and telecom companies' decisions to invest in fiber optics were not the cause of high employment in the late 1990s. Similarly, the huge unemployment of the 1930s was not due to any unwillingness of businesses to invest produced by the panic of the stock market crash and the waves of bank runs and failures in the early 1930s. And the high employment and output in the 1920s was not driven by private business enthusiasm for investing in the "new era" technologies of radio, electricity, and internal combustion after World War I.

    We can immediately recognize that Fama’s argument must be wrong. First, it proves too much: not just that government spending cannot boost employment and output, but also that private enthusiasm like the enthusiasm for housing construction in the mid-2000s or high-tech investment in the late-1990s cannot boost employment and output either.

    Later in the post, Prof. DeLong mentions that if Fama is willing to use a classical full employment model, his conclusion might hold, but that Fama didn't in his original post. Let's try going through the story now, though.

    Case 1a. Suppose that everybody in the economy is working and there is perfect information. When the entrepreneur borrows money from the bank and hires a new worker, he must hire the worker away from an existing firm. Thus, employment does not change. Output does rise, however, because the entrepreneur wouldn't be doing this unless he had a higher-return project than the existing firms and hence can bid away the worker with a higher wage. Or, what happens is that he bids away the capital by offering to pay a higher interest rate to the bank, which calls in its loan from some other firm, which therefore cannot afford to hire the worker any more.

    The example uses labor, but what the entrepreneur hires away might be machines, real estate, or iron ore instead.

    This story is one I use in teaching my students about opportunity cost. For Silicon Valley to grow, Detroit must shrink. It is Schumpeter's idea of Creative Destruction from The Theory of Economic Development. There is a Circular Flow of production in the stable economy, and The Entrepreneur breaks it by diverting resources to an innovation. Brahma can't create without Shiva destroying.

    Case 1b. Now let there be full employment, but imperfect information. The entrepreneur and the public generally think that the new project is better, but it's actually worse. The bank knows this, but also the entrepreneur has enough capital in his firm to repay the loan even if the project goes sour.

    The bank will make the loan. At first, the price of the entrepreneur's company will rise, as will the apparent wealth of the economy. (Will the price of the existing company fall when it loses the worker? I don't know.) Later, the failure of the project will be apparent, and it will be clear that the true wealth of the economy has fallen. The bank, however, will make a profit.

    GDP's course is interesting. Suppose the entrepreneur uses the loan to hire workers to build houses. Those houses have high market prices, and GDP rises that year because it is measured using the price of those houses (or, perhaps, what has previously been the price of houses of that size-- this works either way). Then, it becomes apparent that nobody wants to buy those houses. They have little value. The entrepreneur (or whoever bought the houses at first, if they're not still in his inventory) gets a lot poorer. Notice, though, that GDP does not fall because of this. GDP is a flow value, and doesn't change when the value of stocks change. Also, we don't go back and change GDP figures just because the output turns out to be less valuable than we thought. Nonetheless, we shouldn't think that in that mistaken year the economy was doing wonderfully. It's as if the houses that had been built turned out to be magical castles that turn into mist when someone tries to live there.

    Something like that is what happened in the Telecom Bubble and the Housing Bubble. If the government did the borrowing for a stimulus package instead of the entrepreneur, then it too would have to take the worker from some existing job. Employment wouldn't change. Output would fall, though, because projects in a stimulus package are by definition those that the government doesn't think pass a cost-benefit test in normal times. (I'm distinguishing here between stimulus spending and normal spending.)

    We have to do these first two cases of analysis of the Treasury View to get to the more relevant cases:

    Case 2. Some of the workers the entrepreneur hires come from existing jobs, and some were not employed before. (This is the real Telecom and Housing Bubbles case, I expect.)

    Case 3. None of the workers the entrepreneur hires come from existing jobs. This is the case to understand when we come to analyze the Obama stimulus package. And, of course, we need to figure out if it is a possible case.

    I'll need to return to thinking about Cases 2 and 3 later. I should mention, though, that I have no firm opinion on them. I do oppose the Obama stimulus, but mainly because I think the government would botch it even if it's true that a Keynesian stimulus would be helpful now. I'm a microeconomist, so that's what I pay most attention to. Also, though I'm a fan of Schumpeter, don't think that I am an "Austrian School" economist. I'm not sure what that means, actually, but I associate it with a distaste for equilibrium analysis, mathematical modelling, and price theory. I am a firm believer in all those things, and proud to be part of the MIT-Chicago Synthesis which is standard among modern economists. (I'd put both DeLong and Fama in that category too, despite their disagreements about Keynesian stimulus. Their methodology isn't all that different, just their conclusions. Though maybe I should put Fama in the old Straight-Chicago School; I'm not sure.)

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    Unemployment Insurance

    Why don't we have unemployment loans instead of unemployment insurance? Right now, the government gives money to people who are unemployed, for some period of time. As I recall, the economic reason is that we don't want people to take jobs too soon-- we want them to search. But why not just loan them the money, then? That solves the liquidity problem.

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    Tuesday, January 20, 2009


    President Obama's Inaugural Address

    Thoughts on President Obama's Inaugural Address.

    I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
    A good start. He says "our ancestors", and that is correct to do, even if his father was an immigrant, and would be correct to say even if both his parents were. And he is gracious to President Bush.
    We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
    A gesture of respect to God, which is good.
    For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.
    "Khe Sahn": very good. That won't make the Clintons happy.
    We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost.
    "Its rightful place"? That's an odd thing to say.
    The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.
    This sentence says a lot. Obama thinks that the purpose of government is to help you find a job and cheap health care and make you be dignified in your retirement (what he means, of course by, "a retirement that is dignified" is not a dignified retirement, free of internet porn, pant suits, and trips to Las Vegas, but a wealthy retirement). In the past, Americans would have thought that government was for things like crime prevention and national defense, and that a government worked if it just managed not to *prevent* your from finding a job or cheap health care. Of course, modern government makes it illegal for you to find a job if it would pay less than minimum wage, and it says you aren't allowed to get health care from anybody cheaper than a graduate of a medical school.

    Contrast with Jefferson's First Inaugural:

    [A] wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

    It's such a parallel, and that Jefferson speech is such a famous Inaugural Address, that I wonder if the opposition to it in Obama's speech is intentional. Jefferson also said:

    Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

    Back to the present-day:

    With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense,...
    I hope he means that we won't apologize for emitting lots of carbon dioxide or waver in defending our way of life, but I think this was probably just a mistake in editing.
    We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers.
    Interesting. Will Jews mind being demoted to third place? Hindus will like being included.
    As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.
    Again a gracious gesture. Did Bill Clinton say things like this? It's hard to image him doing so, but maybe I'm just forgetful.
    But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true.
    I dislike the word "values" as implying lack of intrinsic worth, but the word is pervasive, and we can imagine Bush saying the same thing. I like "These things are true", though. It doesn't exactly make sense, but I think he means that these good things are truly good, not just his personal preference.
    They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task. This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
    That's the best sentence of the speech. The second "the" is the key.
    This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
    Another good phrase. It's nice, too, because it reminds us subtly that he's biracial.
    So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people: "Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."
    A good section for a cold day, even if it's not as effective in print.
    America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.
    A good ending.

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    Reparations for Slavery

    Suppose your ancestor was a slaveholder, or a corrupt politician. Ought you to do anything in compensation? What should you do with wealth inherited from that person?

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    Monday, January 19, 2009


    Martin Luther King

    Theologica has a good post on Martin Luther King's plagiarism, adultery, and non-Christian religious beliefs. Samuel Francis has an even more negative essay that I haven't read all the way through. In a quick look I couldn't find a good listing of MLK's accomplishments. He did some good things, I seem to remember, but Google gives me trivial lists and general praise.

    Here is an excerpt from a paper that King wrote in 1949 while he was an assistant pastor and taking seminary classes. He contrasts the liberal with the "fundamentalist", to the disadvantage of the "fundamentalist". It's interesting that he acknowledges that what he means by "fundamentalist" is the Christian doctrine of Luther, Calvin, and the pre-1900 church in general.

    These men argued that there could be no compromise on the unchanging fundamentals of the Christian faith. To gain support for their stand, the fundamentalist claimed that they were reaffirming the faith as Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Wesley held it. Of course, in that claim they were undoubtedly correct. It was the Protestant Reformation which enunciated the doctrines which are now called "fundamentalist."...

    Others doctrines such as a supernatural plan of salvation, the Trinity, the substitutionary theory of the atonement, and the second coming of Christ are all quite prominant in fundamentalist thinking. Such are the views of the fundamentalist and they reveal that he is oppose to theological adaptation to social and cultural change. He sees a progressive scientific age as a retrogressive spiritual age. Amid change all around he was {is} willing to preserve certain ancient ideas even though they are contrary to science.

    Accomplishments: One King accomplishment is the "I Have a Dream" speech, which is certainly a bigger deal in itself than anything I have done in my life.

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    "Your Bible"

    Christian Book Distributors sent me some spam which illustrates modern gnosticism:






















    Actually, it's not "your Bible". It's God's Word. The last four verses of the Bible are relevant:
    22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
    22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
    22:20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
    22:21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

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    Sunday, January 18, 2009


    Cold Weather

    Peter Hitchens has it right and writes well:

    I like sitting round a hearth as much as anybody, or walking into a warm kitchen. But these things are not half so pleasant unless you have come in from the cold outside.

    Proper British cold weather is exhilarating, stimulating and good for you. ... I still recall experiencing as a small child the sharper frosts of Scotland, on the Fife coast of the Firth of Forth, and finding the milk solid in the bottles on the doorstep, with the cream thrust up out of the bottle and he foil cap perched on top.

    Sometimes it brings glorious clear air, so that you can see further than at any other time of year. Sometimes it comes with mysterious fogs. I am still sad that I shall never see again the overpowering sight of an express steam engine coming into a station one foggy winter dusk in a small Dartmoor town, entirely surrounded by its own cloud of steam glowing pink, red and gold.

    When it freezes lakes and ponds, and hardens the earth, it makes sound travel quite differently, so that church bells across a long distance have a special hollow echo to them that (like the bells themselves, only more so) is uniquely English.

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    An Afghanistan Report

    From James Dunnigan:

    The information based tactics concentrate on capturing or killing the enemy leadership and specialists (mostly technical, but religious leaders and media experts are often valuable targets as well). The Australian commandos have specialized in this approach, and made themselves much feared by the Taliban (who will make an extra effort to avoid dealing with the Australians). The U.S. and NATO commanders know that the Taliban leadership is in trouble, with a new generation of leaders only recently shoving the older guys (veterans of the 1980s war with Russia) out of the way, and introducing more vicious tactics (more terrorism against reluctant civilians). This is backfiring, as it did in Iraq, and the Taliban leadership is not having an easy time trying to come up with a new strategy. One strategy that is working is making a big deal whenever foreign troops kill Afghan civilians (about 80 percent of civilian deaths are caused by the Taliban, but that has successfully been played down, a real spin victory for the Islamic radicals). This has caused NATO commanders to issue increasingly restrictive rules of engagement to their troops, which the Taliban eagerly exploit ...
    Also this:
    British medics tried to apply the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan, but found that they were often targets of enemy fire, even though their red cross symbols were plainly visible. The enemy attitude was particularly disheartening because British medics often treated enemy wounded as well, in addition to Afghan civilians. Didn't matter. For the Taliban and al Qaeda, anyone who wasn't working for them was considered a target. So now British medics are under orders to go into action armed, and to use their weapons to defend themselves, and their patients, when necessary.

    Of course, one can't blame the Taliban for not obeying the Geneva Conventions, since they never signed them. It is our folly to think that those conventions apply in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If we really paid attention to international law, we'd recall that just because countries X and Y make a treaty doesn't mean that it binds country Z too-- or protects country Z either.

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    Saturday, January 17, 2009


    Genetic Immunity or Susceptibility to AIDS

    From a comment at Steve Sailer's blog:

    Researchers with the VA found last summer a gene in most blacks linked to a protective mutation against malaria (the same one that can lead to sickle-cell anemia) that makes HIV infection following exposure significantly more likely. Europeans also had the Black Death and a host of other pandemics fostered by our history as pastoral, agricultural and urban peoples. (The "germs" in Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel") Immunities arising from those are a part of our genetic heritage. 10-15% of whites in Europe and North America have been found to have a gene that confers a strong resistance to HIV infection, for example.

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    Uses for WD-40

    From (the donation page for which is here)

    The manufacturer-recommended uses for WD-40 spray that remained after their emendations were as follows:
    3. Protects silver from tarnishing.
    4. Removes road tar and grime from cars.
    10. Loosens stubborn zippers.
    11. Untangles jewelry chains.
    14. Keeps ceramic/terra cotta garden pots from oxidizing.
    18. Keeps scissors working smoothly.
    19. Lubricates noisy door hinges on vehicles and doors in homes.
    21. Lubricates gear shift and mower deck lever for ease of handling on riding mowers.
    22. Rids kids rocking chairs and swings of squeaky noises.
    23. Lubricates tracks in sticking home windows and makes them easier to open.
    24. Spraying an umbrella stem makes it easier to open and close.
    26. Restores and cleans roof racks on vehicles.
    27. Lubricates and stops squeaks in electric fans.
    28. Lubricates wheel sprockets on tricycles, wagons, and bicycles for easy handling.
    30. Keeps rust from forming on saws and saw blades, and other tools.
    33. Lubricates prosthetic limbs.
    34. Keeps pigeons off the balcony (they hate the smell).
    35. Removes all traces of duct tape.
    37. Florida's favorite use is: "cleans and removes love bugs from grills and bumpers."
    43. If you sprayed WD-40 on the distributor cap, it would displace the moisture and allow the car to start.
    44. It removes black scuff marks from the kitchen floor! Use WD-40 for those nasty tar and scuff marks on flooring. It doesn't seem to harm the finish and you won't have to scrub nearly as hard to get them off. Just remember to open some windows if you have a lot of marks. Wash off after use.
    45. Bug guts will eat away the finish on your car if not removed quickly! Use WD-40!

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    Friday, January 16, 2009


    "I and you": Correct or Not?

    Eugene Volokh wrote:

    1. I was recently reminded about the claim that "I and you" or "me and you" are grammatically incorrect -- not because "I" is being used instead of "me" or vice versa, but because it's wrong for "I" and "me" to go first. (Here's one sample I just found online, but I've seen others.) But that, it seems to me, is a principle of politeness -- let the other person go first -- and not of grammar.
    Item 1 in the post is worth thinking about. I think it *is* a point of grammar, because I think grammar refers to the rules of speech that sound natural ("syntax", perhaps, if we're going to be precise).

    "I and you know" grates on the ear as much as "I doesn't know". Since it distracts the reader or listener, it shouldn't be used except for a special purpose. An example of proper use might be:

    "I learned that a long time ago. I have always believed it. I and you know that it's correct."

    Even better, though, might be:

    "I learned that a long time ago. I have always believed it. I-- and you-- know that it's correct."

    What do you think?

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    "Music Make You Lose Control"


    LD passed this along to me.

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    The BFC's Proposed Resolution Criticizing the Business School's Invitation of General Pace

    The Bloomington Faculty Council has been having some discussions of interest to those concerned about homosexuality and free speech. All boldfacings below are by me.

    Here are excerpts from the resolution ( November 18 text):

    WHEREAS in a March 12, 2007 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Gen. Pace said, "I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral... I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is okay to be immoral in any way... As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy."

    WHEREAS on March 13, 2007, Pace released a statement reading, "In expressing my support for the current policy, I also offered some personal opinions about moral conduct. I should have focused more on my support of the policy and less on my personal moral views." He declined to apologize or to retract his statement equating homosexuality with immorality....

    NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that although we fully endorse the concept that speakers representing all viewpoints should be invited to campus, when speakers representing controversial viewpoints are invited, effort must be made to facilitate open discussion and the exchange of ideas. We therefore believe that during General Peter Pace’s visits to campus this year, the Kelley School should facilitate opportunities for Gen. Pace to be interviewed by the press and to appear at forums in which members of the community are welcome and may ask questions, and to invite a speaker of equivalent stature who holds contrary views concerning homosexuality. Efforts to date are not sufficient.

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that it was inappropriate to award Gen. Pace a university honor, the Poling Chair in Business and Government, when his views on homosexuality are so offensive to university policy and many members of the university community, without any advance guarantee that he would participate in an open and meaningful dialogue about his views.

    From the November 18 Bloomington Faculty Council Minutes:

    Brian Horne, Music:

    HORNE: Personally I’m bothered by this. I mean there are many details, you know, with which I sympathize but at the heart of the matter it seems to me what trying to punish somebody for something they believe.

    To me at the heart of the matter, I understand why people would be offended, but what we’re saying is ‘you have to believe what we believe or we’re going to make it hard on you.’ That’s not what we should be doing, and we certainly shouldn’t be saying ‘we’re a university, we’re open to all, we’re open to diversity, but if you don’t believe what we believe we’re going to make it hard on you to come here or to get an honor from us or to do anything else.’

    James Biles, Geography:

    BILES: ... Yes, you know a diversity of views is appreciated, but I think morally and ethically, you know, there’s no requirement to tolerate intolerance and these views are intolerant. Personally, I’d like to see him dishonorably discharged from his, you know, appointment, but I guess that’s not going to happen.

    Bryan McCormick, HPER:
    MCCORMICK: Well, I’m just curious that this strikes me that we’re making as a campus body a dictate to that unit without inclusion, discussion, you know. I would be concerned in my school if I learned from the BFC something that we are being told we had to do without even knowing it was coming.
    Brian Horne, Music, and Alex Tanford, Law:
    HORNE: I’m sorry, one other question and I recognize this is stretching it quite a bit. Certainly in the School of Music we have people that are just world renowned musicians all the time some of which are given titles and some of whom just come and give masters classes, things like that. We don’t know their views on this issue or any other, because they were never in such a prominent, you know, position, but why is it different that it just happens that we know this issue. This issue is not what drove his appointment or what gave him this honor. It just happened that his previous appointment called upon him to answer questions regarding this. If Leonard Slatkin, you know, the world famous conductor is coming to join our faculty, we don’t know what he thinks about anything, and we don’t need to know. ...

    TANFORD: I don’t really have a response to your point, but certainly there are people who are highly distinguished in the music field, now many of them very elderly, if they’re still alive at all, who had an active association at one point with Nazi Germany, where their views would be clearly known. And I guess we saw this as the equivalent of giving one of them a distinguished honor which would be hugely offensive to the Jewish community or that was the way we saw this.
    Lucas Fields, IUSA President, student, and Alex Tanford, Law:
    FIELDS: I actually had a chance to speak with the general, and one of the things I asked him about was his recommendation to authorize force in Iraq, which he also did as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and I guess what I’m perhaps concerned about with this body is there a line that’s being drawn, that there are certain things that the faculty are willing to be concerned about but not others? Is his view on that war, which is controversial in a different light, something that should also be addressed? And are we singling something out versus a whole host of things I think could be found to be controversial on this campus?

    TANFORD: We are singling this out. We are the Diversity and Affirmative Action Committee, concerned about protecting the rights of minorities who are historically and currently, presently discriminated against and the gay and lesbian community is number one on that list. And that’s the reason. This is like race a generation ago.
    Patrick Harbison, Music, and Alex Tanford, Law:
    HARBISON: Will the School of Music have to stop programming Wagner?
    TANFORD: Only if – no. (laughter)
    HARBISON: I mean you see what I’m saying!
    TANFORD: Are you planning on giving Wagner a distinguished university honor?
    HARBISON: No, but I would say that a performance at the MAC is a fairly distinguished honor.
    TANFORD: But that’s the essence of the distinction. A performance at the MAC is an ordinary participation in the university process. If it is accompanied by Gwyn Richards coming out and giving the person a distinguished award, then it moves into a different level of symbolism and it is that second level that we are concerned about, not the first.
    Daniel Sloat, IUSA Vice President, student:
    SLOAT: I just wanted to say first as a Kelley student I felt that the school did a very good job in distancing themselves. I felt that they were in no way in the wrong. They made very clear that they did not support his personal beliefs, and most importantly to keep in mind he was invited to and subsequently awarded for his leadership experience. He was not brought as a controversial speaker, not as someone who has a certain view. If that had been the case, then it would certainly be encouraged and, I think, appropriate to bring someone with an alternative view. So being someone extensive leadership experience, I don’t think it’s fair to put him in the same kind of light that calls for ‘where’s the other viewpoint?’ because being brought as a person with leadership experience the other viewpoint would be someone without leadership experience.
    Padraic Kenney, History, and Alex Tanford, Law:
    ...KENNEY: …Yeah, I know, but I feel like some of your responses have really come down, you know, to his personal views…
    TANFORD: No, no.
    KENNEY: … some rest more on professional and maybe clarifying the difference between the two…
    TANFORD: There is no…
    KENNEY: …and taking a stand based on one or the other.
    TANFORD: He was the one who attempts to characterize these as merely personal views, and that’s why to try to put in his version of it and put some balance is why those statements are in there.
    KENNEY: Well then let me draw attention to the last line in the fourth paragraph on the first page, “General Pace’s beliefs regarding homosexuality, which are grounded in his religious faith, reveal an inherent bias against homosexuality.” Why are we bringing in his religious faith? I’m looking at the quotes that are above there and while I don’t doubt that elsewhere in that interview he talks about his religious faith, he doesn’t in what has been quoted here. And so now we’re saying ‘well, actually this has to do with religious faith,’ but maybe they’re excusing, that, you know, you have to understand this is religious faith or it maybe a complicating or whatever factor, but I’m not quite sure, you know, how do you put that in there. That’s essentially saying ‘we are interested in his beliefs.’
    TANFORD: I would say the committee was persuaded by an argument made by some members of the committee that one could make a case that holding fairly extreme antihomosexual views based on a particularly narrow interpretation of religion is itself a minority viewpoint…
    KENNEY: But how is that relevant here?
    TANFORD: …and therefore needed to be mentioned in terms of the balance since we’re the Diversity and Affirmative Action Committee and that we are concerned about religious discrimination as much as we are about discrimination against homosexuality.
    Nick Clark, GPSO - Political Science, graduate student:

    CLARK:... it’s a discussion I’ve been a part of in several different committees on how to best recruit minorities to come here and increase the diversity of the campus and I have to think that this is relevant to that, in that if we include minorities that we want to recruit as gay and lesbian students, the fact that we bestow honors on someone that makes these statements, whether they’re right, whether they’re wrong, whether it’s the place of the Faculty Council or the university to take positions on it, but that we’re bestowing honors on it from a very pragmatic point of view I would think that that could deter certain gay and lesbian students from attending this university which is the exact opposite of what the campus seems to want to do in its recruiting initiatives. And I think that’s got to be at least, you know, minimally relevant to an issue like this.
    Herbert Terry, BFC President, Telecommunications:
    TERRY: Okay, I wasn’t on the (inaudible) subcommittee, but I hope you will consult with the faculty governance body of the School of Business. When we take this up again I would like to know what role they played in it, if any, and what their recommendations to the Dean were, what they think of it. The second thing is borrowing from my own experience in telecommunications, the Federal Communications Commission for a long time tried to enforce a kind of a fairness doctrine requiring that opposing views on controversial issues be presented by broadcasters. It eventually concluded that that backfired.
    The BFC membership list is here in case you'd like to check which professors and students vote on this. A footnote:
    Americans interviewed in Gallup's 2008 Values and Beliefs poll are evenly divided over the morality of homosexual relations, with 48% considering them morally acceptable and 48% saying they are morally wrong.

    The BFC will not be voting on the resolution on January 20, since the committee is trying to redraft it. Presumably it will come up in the February meeting.

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    A New Technology Weblog

    I've set up a new weblog for Indiana University people who have useful things to say about computers, gadgets, and suchlike. I imagine much of it will be about STATA, Latex, and new gadgets my colleagues and I have bought. I'll put my future technology posts there instead of here, probably, or maybe I'll cross-post. It's at:

    I wonder, by the way, if we will get spammed. You need a signon and password to make a blog post there, but I've posted both of those things at the top of the blog, so no registration is needed. Can a robot figure that out?

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    From the WSJ:

    That Explains It

    • "Here in Qatar, . . . we have a Starbucks, which serves coffee. They used to hang a sign on the doors of their shops: 'We benefit our most important partner, which is Israel, we help in the education of students in Israel, we help build up the Israeli defense arsenal,' and so on. . . . This Starbucks is Zionist."--Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi on Al-Jazeera, Jan. 9 (via Middle East Media Research Institute)
    • "Seven Cups of Coffee a Day May Lead to Hallucinations"--headline, Bloomberg, Jan. 14

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    I don't like Mitch Daniels's attitude. From a 2009 speech:

    We must never miss a chance to move, to make improvements, to modernize. Doing so while others are paralyzed will demonstrate yet again that ours is a state where change is much more than a slogan. A state that faces forward, fearlessly. A state to whom the future belongs.

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    Thursday, January 15, 2009


    Singing at Age 95

    From National Review:

    Finally, a colleague sent me a YouTube video of Licia Albanese, the famed soprano. Apparently, the video was shot last summer, when she was 95 (not 100, as the text says). Watch her nail (pretty much) an A flat. It starts to sag a little, but it is awfully good. And she releases it like a true pro. Go here. Enjoy.

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    Wednesday, January 14, 2009


    Bush's Average Approval Ratings Compared to Previous Presidents

    I just discovered something remarkable about George Bush's approval ratings. The conventional wisdom is that in his second term he has been about the most unpopular president ever (less often mentioned is that in his first term he was about the most popular president ever!). That's true. The usual implications are that he's been a failure and would not be re-elected. Neither implication follows. The key is to realize that approval ratings are based on the opinions of not only the President's own party, but on the opposition. Thus, a president who gets 51% of the vote could be completely successful in getting all his policies carried out and enjoy high support from his supporters, but end up with a very low approval rating by having extremely low popularity with the 49% who voted against him. In fact, it isn't even voters-- the best informed and smartest citizens-- who are polled about presidential approval. Thus, years of disparaging remarks by TV people, who are those 49%, will especially hurt approval ratings.

    How does this apply to George Bush? Gallup has the George Bush data in useful form, with comparisons of overall ratings to other presidents. His December 12-14, 2008 approval ratings is 29%, worse even than Truman's December 1952 32% and much worse than the 51% average for the 31st quarter of two-term president's since FDR.

    But now look at his approval ratings with Republicans and Democrats separately. In December 12-14 2008 Bush had an approval ratings of 67% from his own party, 25% from unaffiliated citizens, and just 7% from the opposition party. Hence the average of 29%. (Numbers are from here.) His lowest ratings from Republicans were in October 3-5 2008, when the ratings were 55-19-5. His lowest ratings from Democrats were in three other polls in September and October 2008, when he fell to amazing 3%.

    If we look just at approval from the president's own party, how does Bush stack up against previous presidents? Jeffrey M. Jones has a good Gallup article on the subject. It turns out that Bush does worse than Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Reagan; about the same as Clinton, George HW Bush, and Ford; and better than Johnson, Carter, and Nixon. Carter did the worst, with only a 34% approval rating from his own party in 1979. Carter, however, did much better among Republicans than Bush does with Democrats.

    While discouraging for Bush, his 60% approval rating among his natural political base is similar to the low points for several recent presidents, including Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Gerald Ford. Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy never had very low overall approval ratings, so even their lowest ratings among their own party were still quite high (above 70%). While Ronald Reagan's job approval rating among all Americans did fall as low as 35% overall, Republicans' approval of him never fell below 67%.

    Carter is the president with the dubious distinction of having the lowest job approval rating from his own party since 1953, when Gallup began to compile presidential approval ratings by party affiliation.[1] Only 34% of Democrats approved of Carter in a pair of 1979 Gallup Polls. Carter's overall ratings at that time were similar to Bush's current overall ratings, but his ratings were not nearly as polarized along party lines as Bush's are: He did much better among Republicans than Bush is doing now among Democrats, while doing slightly better among independents than Bush is currently doing.

    Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon also had troubled presidencies and are the only other presidents whose approval among their party's supporters fell below 50%.

    One possible conclusion is that Bush's overall popularity rating is so low precisely because he has been so effective that he has enraged the opposition more than any president in living memory. Nobody really believes that, though. Rather, he has had moderate success, but his personality and style have generated Bush Hating that has an almost psychotic quality to it, and that hatred's strength among even the influential opposition leaders have carried their followers along with it.

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    Wealth and Power

    Walter Williams writes on power:

    Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, with about $60 billion in assets each, are America's richest men. With all that money, what can they force us to do? Can they take our house to make room so that another person can build an auto dealership or a casino parking lot? Can they force us to pay money into the government-run retirement Ponzi scheme called Social Security? Can Buffett and Gates force us to bus our children to schools out of our neighborhood in the name of diversity? Unless they are granted power by politicians, rich people have little power to force us to do anything.

    A GS-9, or a lowly municipal clerk, has far more life-and-death power over us. It's they to whom we must turn to for permission to build a house, ply a trade, open a restaurant and myriad other activities. It's government people, not rich people, who have the power to coerce and make our lives miserable.

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