Monday, November 30, 2009

graphical depiction of shapes in Lucky Charms

GraphMax with some breakfast cereal truth!

funny graphs and charts

religious bullying and barriers to entry

An important sermon from Kyle a week ago on religious "bullying": the use of religious legalism to damage people....

We missed most of the series, attending other churches (Sojourn three weeks ago; with family two weeks ago and this weekend). This message (and perhaps the whole series) was based on the amazing and overlooked Matthew 23. When people think of Jesus as all "meek and mild", they apparently haven't read this chapter full of staggering polemic. (More broadly, people have an attenuated view of Jesus because they fail to ascribe anger to him-- when God's name is soiled by religious folk and the rights of others are violated [justice issues].)

It's interesting that, in economics and in religion, there are natural and artificial "barriers to entry". In econ, there are natural barriers to entry, for example, in terms of the fixed costs to begin production and get product/service to market. There are often artificial (govt) barriers-- various regulatory impediments-- which diminish productive activity in that realm, often at the behest of those who benefit from restricted competition. Examples run the gamut from labor unions to govt's monopoly on elementary and secondary education, from trade protectionism to all sorts of shenanigans in farming.

In religion, there are natural barriers to Christianity. The crucifixion of Jesus was a stumbling block to Jew and Greek (I Cor 1:23). More broadly, commitment to Jesus can be a stumbling block as people want to go their own way instead (e.g., Is 8:14, Rom 9:33, I Pet 2:8). But we are not to put artificial stumbling blocks in the way of those who are not yet in the Kingdom (e.g., Mal 2:8, Rom 14:20, I Cor 8:9, 10:32, II Cor 6:3).

The most famous passage on this occurs in this passage and focuses on the concept rather than the term: Mt 23:13.

Kyle talked about how we can set up stumbling blocks within the practice of the faith-- in particular, by turned good things into duties, from "get to's" to "need to's". He cited small groups, gender-specific Bible studies, mission trips, affinity to a Christian sub-culture, and a particular political agenda. All of these (and others) are-- or at least can be-- (quite) good. But all of them can lead one, ironically, from abundant life in Christ.

Religion over relationships, minors over majors, associating rules with Lordship. That's not the way it's supposed to be!

If that has been your experience of Christianity, open your mind to finding a new church, open your Bible to the Gospels and to Paul's writing (particularly in Galatians and Colossians), and most important, open yourself to a loving God who wants you to have eternal and abundant life starting right now.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

silly and knowledgeable stuff at PageOne about "global warming" and its "denial"

Some good and not-so-good back-and-forth at PageOne about "global warming" and its "denial" in its various forms...

In particular, I wanted to bring (local) attention to this really nice observation from Mark H-- after an earlier one that provided nice detail on the debate:

It’s interesting how many on this board are the first to point out the corrupting influence money has within the university system (see: Felner et. al). However, they somehow see to insulate science researchers from the same influences. Now I not saying they are all corrupt, they’re not, but to say they have no political or financial biases, is dishonest.

What we need is a blind funding mechanism for science that takes the desire to please the grant givers out of the process.

Then, he cites this speech by Michael Crichton to the National Press Club in January 2005 and compares Crichton favorably with Gore.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

mammograms and govt vs. private-sector rationing

Mammograms are the second, visible example of the new rationing battle.

(The first is Medicare-- and the claim that the govt will root out waste while cutting spending. Left unanswered and usually even unasked is why we would trust the govt to run more health care if they've been so busy wasting money up to now!)

Under the current arrangement-- heavily subsidized and regulated insurance-- the frequency of covered mammograms is determined through a calculus determined by insurance companies and consumers through employers. This may not be the ideal (since the govt intervenes so heavily here), but given the importance of the test, the disease, etc., it's probably close to optimal despite the govt intervention.

Under the proposal for an even-heavier hand for govt in health care and health insurance, some combination of higher costs and more rationing must follow. When the govt starts making decisions, we can hope for a wise and disinterested cost/benefit analysis. But interest groups would be expected to have more pull. And in any case, more rationing is inescapable under the current efforts to extend the highly-flawed status quo coverage to more people.

In the course of one day, I came across five essays in my daily reading: a story by Laura Ungar and Darla Carter in the C-J, an interview by Ungar with Megan Schanie (whose battle with breast cancer was captured in a long C-J series), an op-ed by Eugene Robinson-- a syndicated columnist in the C-J, a WSJ editorial, and an essay from a friend.

My friend's essay starts with the provocative question: "Why do you want my wife to die?" Toward the end of his essay, he provides these details:

...the United States Preventive Services Task Force changed their recommendation for mammogram screening for 40 – 49 year old women changing it to a “C” on the scale of tests to be complete and breast self-exam teaching to a “D” on their scale. In the current Healthcare Reform legislation passed by the House of Representatives (HR3962), the only tests that will be covered are “A” and “B” tests as recommended by, you guessed it, the United States Preventive Services Task Force. Mammograms do not gain the “A” or “B” rating until women are 50 years old and then only every two years.

Ideally, these decisions would come through the market-- here, between health insurance companies and consumers. Insurance companies might want more testing to catch disease earlier. Or perhaps they'd be indifferent, given the cost/benefit. Or perhaps some consumers would want more testing-- and would willing to pay for it. The market can handle such things AND would provide flexibility from both the perspective of insurance providers and consumers. When the govt rations, there is little if any such flexibility.

The WSJ takes "liberals" to task for trying to hide the rationing components of ObamaCare:

The flap over breast cancer screening has provided a fascinating insight into the political future of ObamaCare. Specifically, the political left supports such medical rationing even as it disavows that any such thing is happening....

Even more revealing was Princeton's Uwe Reinhardt, a leading liberal health-care economist, writing on the New York Times Economix blog. Mr. Reinhardt sees the task force's handiwork as an exemplar of "rational decision-making" that had nothing to do with cost analysis, even as he claimed that rationing based on cost is inevitable....

The House bill gives the HHS task force the mandate to review "the benefits, effectiveness, appropriateness, and costs of clinical preventive services" in making its de facto insurance coverage rulings....

What's really going on here is that the left knows its designs will require political rationing of care, but it doesn't want the public to figure this out until ObamaCare passes....

Then, there's this from Mr. Robinson-- on the inherent politics of the rationing games:

The uproar over the on-again, off-again guidelines on when women should have mammograms is proof of the blindingly obvious: Health care reform that actually controls costs — rather than just pretending to do so — would be virtually impossible to achieve.

I say “would be” because none of the voluminous reform bills being shuttled around the Capitol on hand trucks even tries to address a central factor that sends costs spiraling out of control, which is that each of us wants the best shot at a long, healthy life that medical science can offer. Just as all politics is local, all health care is personal. Skimping on somebody else's tests and procedures may be worth debating, but don't mess with mine.

Intellectually, it's simple to understand why it might make sense for women — those who have no special risk factors for breast cancer — to wait until they're 50, rather than 40, to start getting mammograms. The analysis by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which made the recommendation, looks sound. According to the panel, a whopping 10 percent of mammograms result in false-positive readings that lead to unjustified worry and unneeded procedures, such as biopsies. In a small number of cases, women are subjected to cancer treatment or even a mastectomy they didn't need.

This harm, the task force reasoned, outweighs the benefits of discovering a relatively few cases of fast-growing, life-threatening breast cancer in women in their 40s through annual mammography. It is also true that waiting to begin regular mammograms until a woman reaches 50 — and reducing the frequency to once every two years, as the task force recommended — would save a portion of the more than $5 billion spent on mammography in the United States each year.

The problem lies in those relatively few instances when a mammogram does find that a woman in her 40s has a life-threatening tumor, and when early detection saves her life. This scenario may be fairly rare, but it happens. Given the option, many women would rather be safe than sorry — and safe costs money....

continuing the dialogue with "Dialogic"

Perhaps it's a matter of technical difficulties, but the discussion with Dialogic has reached what seems to be an abrupt and unfortunate conclusion...

For those who want to read my second attempt to continue things...

OK, I'll re-try with a shorter version:

1.) OK, maybe we'll chat about econ down the road.

2.) You're into dialogue, right?

3.) You prefer to conflate the two? Why?

4a.) Neither of us is an evolutionary biologist. But it should be easy enough to provide a bunch of explanations from that field-- about the development of reproductive and vital organs-- if they existed.

4b.) You seem to be focused on young-earth creationism. Why are you conflating that with old-earth creationism? Are you (equally) unimpressed by both?

5.) Both the theist and the atheist rely largely on narrative rather than explanation. All forms of Creationism say, in essence, that "God did it". All forms of Evolutionism say, in essence, "Evolution did it". (So far, you've said Evolution did it and I have faith in the evolutionary biologists who tell the story.) Neither can explain or document exactly how this happened. The Creationist more or less owns up to this and recognizes the faith he places in that story. The Evolutionist is more prone to illusion about what he knows and is strangely allergic to his inescapable faith.

Sparkman's suicide: wingnuts relieved; moonbats disappointed

For those of you not familiar with the jargon: wingnut refers to right-wing "extremists" and moonbat refers to left-wing "extremists"...

You may have heard something about the sad story of Bill Sparkman and the decision yesterday to rule his death as suicide rather than murder (presumably by wingnuts). Apparently, he hoped to have his beneficiaries collect on life insurance policies worth $600K.

There has been a combination of consternation and glee among moonbats at the possibility of laying Sparkman's death at the feet of wingnuts. (The word "Fed" was written on his chest.)

Then this from Barefoot and Progressive (although they are neither all that progressive nor barefoot)-- declaring that wingnuts are "relieved".

Of course, the flip side of that coin is that moonbats are disappointed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

spare the ears; spoil the child?

That's the clever editor-chosen sub-title in the article by Hilary Stout of the NY Times as reprinted in the C-J...

Many in today's soccer-cheering, organic-snack-proffering generation of parents would never spank their children. We congratulate our toddlers for blowing their nose (“Good job!”), we befriend our teenagers (literally and virtually), we spend hours teaching our elementary-schoolers how to understand their feelings. But, incongruously and with regularity, this is a generation that yells.

“I've worked with thousands of parents and I can tell you, without question, that screaming is the new spanking,” said Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions..."As parents understand that it's not socially acceptable to spank children, they are at a loss for what they can do. They resort to reminding, nagging, timeout, counting 1-2-3 and quickly realize that those strategies don't work to change behavior. In the absence of tools that really work, they feel frustrated and angry and raise their voice. They feel guilty afterward, and the whole cycle begins again.”

Numerous studies exist on the effect of corporal punishment on children....But there is far less data on the more common habit of shouting and screaming in families.

One study that did take a look at the topic — a paper on the “psychological aggression by American parents” published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in 2003 — found that parental yelling was a near-universal occurrence. Of 991 families interviewed, in 88 percent of them a parent acknowledged shouting, screaming or yelling at the kids at least once (though it didn't specify how many did it more often) in the previous year....

Psychologists and psychiatrists generally say yelling should be avoided. It's at best ineffective (the more you do it the more the child tunes it out) and at worse damaging to a child's sense of well-being and self-esteem.

“It isn't the yelling per se that's going to make a difference, it's how the yelling is interpreted,” said Ronald P. Rohner, director of the Ronald and Nancy Rohner Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut. If a parent is simply loud, he says, the effect is minimal. But if the tone connotes anger, insult or sarcasm, it can be perceived as a sign of rejection....

Rohner gets to the key point at the end: how the discipline is taken by the child. As with other forms of communication, both parties-- but here, especially the adult-- bears responsibility for how well the communication works.

In producer theory, we talk about scale and substitution effects from a change in the price of an input into production. For example, if the price of labor increases, then the scale effect is that production becomes more expensive, leading to some combination of higher prices for consumers and reduced output (and input use) by the producer. The substitution effect is that other inputs become relatively attractive-- and so, here, firms will substitute as possible from labor toward capital and other input options.

In this context, one could consider spanking and shouting as two inputs to the production of higher-quality children. One might easily assume that both can have positive input on that output-- but that too much would face diminishing and eventually negative returns. If spanking becomes more "expensive"-- here, because it is socially and sometimes legally more costly-- then we can predict that parents will substitute toward other inputs and that they will find it more difficult to produce higher-quality children.

Of course, if one assumes that spanking or shouting is always a bad input, then one would conclude that eliminating the input might even improve quality. The social and political question, then, is whether one would enshrine those assumptions in a paternalistic public policy which tries to dictate how a parent can discipline their own children.

Monday, November 23, 2009

NFL overtime: here's how to fix it

There was a lot of stink this weekend about the NFL's overtime policy.

It's "sudden-death"-- and often results in a win for the team which wins the coin flip to determine who gets the ball first.

Here are some ideas for fixing it:

-The first team to score 6 points in the overtime would win-- or after 15 minutes, the team with the lead would win.

-Or you could insist on playing an entire 15 minute period and see who's leading then-- with two 7.5-minute "periods". As a variation on this, you could have a rule that after the first touchdown in the OT, subsequent touchdowns would require a two-point conversion attempt.

How's that sound?

OK, next week, I'll fix the BCS.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

markets and morality in China OR China as a future "city on a hill"?

From Les Sillars in World...

Zhao Xiao, one of China's top economists, started reading the Bible in 2002 while traveling in the United States and researching a paper on American business culture....

Zhao, who lives in Beijing with his wife and two daughters, professed Christ in 2004 but remains a member of China's Communist Party...still a professor of economics at Beijing Polytechnic University and a commentator on government-run China Central Television.

...Zhao can be such an outspoken Christian in a communist country in part because he has worked at the highest levels of government and shown that he is no threat to the authorities: A dissident with the same views would not have so much freedom...Because Zhao is not challenging the Party, officials allow him to show that Christian ideas will benefit Chinese society.

The paper Zhao wrote in 2002, "Market Economies With Churches and Market Economies Without Churches," boosted his reputation....

Zhao argues that Chinese people already have strong traditions that value hard work, education, and a willingness to learn from outside sources; the need now is for a culture that honors covenants....

[He believes that] It is the blessings of the 'transformation with the Cross' that will bring China sustainable society and economic development." If this happens, he believes China could enter another Golden Age of world prominence with its success based on Christianity instead of Confucianism or Taoism. He likens this possibility to a Chinese "Great Awakening," with China itself the new "city on a hill."

The Blind Side

Has anyone seen the movie yet? It's based on the Michael Lewis book by the same name. I enjoyed Lewis' work in Moneyball.

From Amy Henry in World...

The article summary: "All-American Michael Oher went from the streets as a 15-year-old son of a crack addict to potential NFL Rookie of the Year on the love and dedication of an adoptive family that wouldn’t let him fail."

Michael Oher needed help with the basics. Semi-raised by a crack addict a block from the Mississippi River in west Memphis, he and his 12 siblings survived by begging food from neighbors and hiding from social services....

Just before Thanksgiving that year, the Tuohys were headed home when their daughter Collins, 16, and then Sean Jr., 9, recognized the African-American boy walking along the street as a newcomer at their school, Briarcrest Christian....wearing shorts and shirtsleeves on a chilly night...

It turns out that Oher (pronounced "oar") had a friend whose grandmother's dying wish was that he attend a Christian school....

Within the year the Tuohys adopted Oher....

More important than all the new socioeconomic status, Oher knew for the first time in his life that he was loved....Members of Grace Evangelical Church in Memphis, the Tuohys said that Oher, who came to Christ in high school, feels actions trump words when it comes to living as a Christian....more comfortable showing the love of God by being a caring and loving person than by talking about his faith....

The article details the work required to get his academics in line. Then this from the Dad:

Sean Tuohy hopes the film can lead to discussion of how inner-city public schools pass kids through classes and grade levels when they are failing...Tuohy points out that many who are athletically gifted cannot qualify to play sports in high school because of poor grades, much less graduate with a required 2.5 G.P.A. Often foster care officials will not sign liability forms for children to participate in after-school sports, depriving them of opportunities to develop and excel athletically, and leaving them with huge blocks of free time in which to get in trouble. Often adoptions take up to four years to complete, even though large numbers of children, especially older ones like Oher, languish in foster care. The Tuohys have started the Memphis-based Michael Oher Foundation with home for just those kinds of kids....

As Henry notes at the end of her article, it's interesting and providential that the movie debuts on the weekend of National Adoption Day. Sounds like a good idea to support the movie and celebrate the day!

economies of scale and $2,000 heart surgeries (without insurance)

From Geeta Anand in the WSJ...

Hair tucked into a surgical cap, eyes hidden behind thick-framed magnifying glasses, Devi Shetty leans over the sawed open chest of an 11-year-old boy, using bright blue thread to sew an artificial aorta onto his stopped heart.

As Dr. Shetty pulls the thread tight with scissors, an assistant reads aloud a proposed agreement for him to build a new hospital in the Cayman Islands that would primarily serve Americans in search of lower-cost medical care. The agreement is inked a few days later, pending approval of the Cayman parliament....

Dr. Shetty...offers cutting-edge medical care in India at a fraction of what it costs elsewhere in the world. His flagship heart hospital charges $2,000, on average, for open-heart surgery, compared with hospitals in the U.S. that are paid between $20,000 and $100,000, depending on the complexity of the surgery.

The approach has transformed health care in India through a simple premise that works in other industries: economies of scale. By driving huge volumes, even of procedures as sophisticated, delicate and dangerous as heart surgery, Dr. Shetty has managed to drive down the cost of health care...

At his flagship, 1,000-bed Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital, surgeons operate at a capacity virtually unheard of in the U.S., where the average hospital has 160 beds...

Narayana's 42 cardiac surgeons performed 3,174 cardiac bypass surgeries in 2008, more than double the 1,367 the Cleveland Clinic, a U.S. leader, did in the same year. His surgeons operated on 2,777 pediatric patients, more than double the 1,026 surgeries performed at Children's Hospital Boston....

His family-owned business group, Narayana Hrudayalaya Private Ltd., reports a 7.7% profit after taxes, or slightly above the 6.9% average for a U.S. hospital, according to American Hospital Association data....

Then there are the Cayman Islands, where he plans to build and run a 2,000-bed general hospital an hour's plane ride from Miami. Procedures, both elective and necessary, will be priced at least 50% lower than what they cost in the U.S., says Dr. Shetty, who hopes to draw Americans who are uninsured or need surgery their plans don't cover.

By next year, six million Americans are expected to travel to other countries in search of affordable medical care, up from the 750,000 who did so in 2007...A handful of U.S. insurance plans now give people the choice to be treated in other countries....

Dr. Shetty's success rates appear to be as good as those of many hospitals abroad. Narayana Hrudayalaya reports a 1.4% mortality rate within 30 days of coronary artery bypass graft surgery, one of the most common procedures, compared with an average of 1.9% in the U.S. in 2008...

It isn't possible truly to compare the mortality rates, says Dr. Shetty, because he doesn't adjust his mortality rate to reflect patients' ages and other illnesses, in what is known as a risk-adjusted mortality rate....

Cardiac surgeons at Dr. Shetty's hospitals are paid the going rate in India, between $110,000 and $240,000 annually, depending on experience...Dr. Shetty was paid almost $500,000 last year, according to the group's audited financial statements.

Here, too, Dr. Shetty finds additional savings on the per-patient cost. His surgeons perform two or three procedures a day, six days a week. They typically work 60 to 70 hours a week, they say. Residents work the same number of hours. In comparison, surgeons in the U.S. typically perform one or two surgeries a day, five days a week, operating fewer than 60 hours....

why are the Senate Dems attacking HSA's?

Even if you want to implement health care for those who don't currently have it, what's the point of sacking HSA's?

Often, I can put myself in the shoes of those with whom I disagree. But when I'm dealing with statists, it's difficult to deal with their blind, anti-progressive, fundamentalist, and destructive faith.

Unless I'm missing something, this is one of those occasions.

From the WSJ editorialists...

About the best that can be said about the Senate health-care bill that Harry Reid revealed this week is that it's marginally less destructive than the House monster....We'll dissect the damage in the days to come. But for today let's focus on the damage the bill would do to consumer-driven health plans—the kind that give individuals more control over their health dollars and insurance choices. The 2,074-page bill crushes them with malice-aforethought....

The Reid bill also assaults health savings accounts, or HSAs, which allow individuals to accumulate tax-free funds for future medical expenses when coupled with low-premium, high-deductible insurance. The Reid bill changes tax provisions to make HSAs less attractive, but the real threat comes via increased regulation.

These insurance products will likely be barred from the insurance "exchanges".

...about 40% of tax filers with HSAs earn under $60,000, according to the IRS. The Employee Benefit Research Institute reports that 4% of adults with private insurance have an HSA this year—up from 1% in 2006—and about 9% are enrolled in some form of consumer-directed health plan. It also found that beneficiaries are evenly split between those with health problems and those without....

Jesse Jackson, the racist-- the undying sequel

From the WSJ editorialists...

When Alabama Congressman Artur Davis voted against the health-care bill that passed the House earlier this month, he probably expected some grief from fellow Democrats. But he couldn't have anticipated being accused of selling out his race.

Mr. Davis was the only black Member to oppose the legislation, and his vote earned him a rebuke from Jesse Jackson at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation reception Wednesday night. "We even have blacks voting against the health-care bill," said Mr. Jackson. "You can't vote against health care and call yourself a black man."

...The Congressmen, to his credit, took the high ground in response to Mr. Jackson's low blow. "One of the reasons that I like and admire Rev. Jesse Jackson is that 21 years ago he inspired the idea that a black politician would not be judged simply as a black leader," he said in a statement referencing Mr. Jackson's 1988 Presidential bid. "The best way to honor Rev. Jackson's legacy is to decline to engage in an argument with him that begins and ends with race."

And then this devastating critique:

...Even in the age of a black President, too many liberals still believe they have more to gain from identity politics than from a post-racial America.

more on the continuing underwear crisis

From Speed Bump with some providential timing, given my recent posting on this rap video!

Big East teams win their first 41 games this season

A weird, cool statistic (hat tip: Lachlan McLean)...

The Big East started with 41 wins in a row, before Providence lost to Alabama last night.

South Florida followed that with a loss to South Carolina. So they're on a two-game losing streak now-- and both against the SEC!

They beat up a variety of lesser teams, but had a few impressive wins, including last night's beat-down by Syracuse over North Carolina.

the latest on global warming: lying and cheating vs. theft

Does it matter if the stealing reveals the lying and cheating? Do the ends justify the means (here)? What a weird ethical dilemma!

My friends who are fans of science are fond of saying that science corrects itself. But that's not exactly what we have here. This is not Science in academic journals and rigorous debate, but science-flavored hacks vs. emailed hackers. In any case, Science corrects itself; science doesn't necessarily.

Anyway, (some of) it is out. And it relates to the missing data scandal I posted on earlier this week.

Hat tip to Chris Lang and Randy Baker for pointing to the NY Times article by Andrew Revkin this morning.

Hundreds of private e-mail messages and documents hacked from a computer server at a British university are causing a stir among global warming skeptics, who say they show that climate scientists conspired to overstate the case for a human influence on climate change.

The e-mail messages, attributed to prominent American and British climate researchers, include discussions of scientific data and whether it should be released, exchanges about how best to combat the arguments of skeptics, and casual comments — in some cases derisive — about specific people known for their skeptical views....

In one e-mail exchange, a scientist writes of using a statistical “trick” in a chart illustrating a recent sharp warming trend. In another, a scientist refers to climate skeptics as “idiots.”

Some skeptics asserted Friday that the correspondence revealed an effort to withhold scientific information....

Some of the correspondence portrays the scientists as feeling under siege by the skeptics’ camp and worried that any stray comment or data glitch could be turned against them.

...the documents will undoubtedly raise questions about the quality of research on some specific questions and the actions of some scientists....

And here's another from James Delingpole in The (London) Telegraph and posted at

If you own any shares in alternative energy companies I should start dumping them NOW. The conspiracy behind the Anthropogenic Global Warming myth (aka AGW) has been suddenly, brutally and quite deliciously exposed after a hacker broke into the computers at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (aka Hadley CRU) and released 61 megabites of confidential files onto the internet. (Hat tip: Watts Up With That)

When you read some of those files – including 1079 emails and 72 documents – you realise just why the boffins at Hadley CRU might have preferred to keep them confidential.... As Andrew Bolt puts it, this scandal could well be “the greatest in modern science”. These alleged emails – supposedly exchanged by some of the most prominent scientists pushing AGW theory – suggest:

Conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more....

Here are a few tasters. (So far, we can only refer to them as alleged emails because – though Hadley CRU’s director Phil Jones has confirmed the break-in to Ian Wishart at the Briefing Room – he has yet to fess up to any specific contents.) But if genuine, they suggest dubious practices such as:


And, perhaps most reprehensibly, a long series of communications discussing how best to squeeze dissenting scientists out of the peer review process. How, in other words, to create a scientific climate in which anyone who disagrees with AGW can be written off as a crank, whose views do not have a scrap of authority.

“This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the “peer-reviewed literature”. Obviously, they found a solution to that–take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering “Climate Research” as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal....

UPDATE: This controversy was later nicknamed "ClimateGate".

Friday, November 20, 2009

how to eat a chicken wing-- the difficult half

From (hat tip: Susan Astroff)...

I remember people in Texas having a technique that involved pushing down on the two bones when they were vertical-- and the meat would peel off nicely. (They needed something quicker, albeit less precise, for those wings-eating contests!)

Puritanical advice for the unemployed at Thanksiving?

From Amy Henry of with an essay in the WSJ (hat tip: Linda Christiansen)...

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, encouragement [for the unemployed] may come from an unexpected source: the Puritans.

Often misunderstood and perennially maligned, the Puritans—tested first by religious persecution and later by the elements in their primitive surroundings—grew not into the fuddy-duddy party-poopers of modern history books, but into a tenacious and stalwart people. They developed by sheer necessity one of the most highly defined and well-honed work ethics in history....

Living according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which states that "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever," the Puritans believed that all of life, including their work, was God's, and, as such, infused with purpose and meaning. They saw hardship not as a sign of failure, but as a path to growth and maturity, a mind-set that kept them from the kind of work-related despair seen in today's news....

Long before the days of therapists and career coaches, the Puritans learned how to cope with depression. They scorned idleness, believing it was indeed the devil's workshop, bogging down the body in inertia, and leading to brooding....Long before endorphins were discovered, the Puritans knew that moving and tiring the body in manual labor (even if that labor is the unpaid kind that paints the house and organizes the garage) proved a talisman against a host of mental ills....

The Puritans pursued joy, the very antithesis of depression, even in the midst of hardship, believing they were firmly in God's hand, not forgotten and never forsaken....

Feds decide that Minnesotans should not pay for a new Jeffersonville convention center


Why should we take money from people in Michigan and New Jersey to pay for our convention center? If we want it, we should pay for it ourselves. Or if we're going to extract money from others, why not at least from fellow Hoosiers? Maybe Terre Haute should ante up for us?

Here's Ben Zion Hershberg in the C-J...

The Treasury Department has rejected Jeffersonville’s request for up to $25 million in tax credits intended to jump-start redevelopment of the city’s aging downtown with a convention center and hotel just across the Ohio River from downtown Louisville.

The so-called New Market credits were to be the financial linchpin for construction of a 225-room hotel, 700-space garage and 125,000-square-foot convention center near Maple and Mulberry Streets....

“It’s a setback,” Mayor Tom Galligan conceded Thursday. “We’ll reapply next year.”

That's too bad...

In the meantime, Galligan said, the city is focusing on another plan: a 1.3-mile canal through downtown that would be up to 40-feet wide in places. It would help drain storm water from flood-prone areas while providing a scenic setting for restaurants, shops and other development.

Based on preliminary estimates, the mayor said, the canal could cost $50 million but might be funded with state and federal money for drainage and environmental projects.

What's his obsession with using other people's money to pay for his stuff?

“It will be a bigger challenge” without the credits.

If it's worth it, then hopefully, he'll be up to the challenge. If it's not worth it, then it should fail of its own accord.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

the travails of winter babies AND a really weird correlation between birth month and income

Excerpts from a long article by Justin Lahart in the WSJ on some amazing research...

[New Light on the Plight of Winter Babies]

Children born in the winter months already have a few strikes against them. Study after study has shown that they test poorly, don't get as far in school, earn less, are less healthy, and don't live as long as children born at other times of year. Researchers have spent years documenting the effect and trying to understand it.

But economists Kasey Buckles and Daniel Hungerman at the University of Notre Dame may have uncovered an overlooked explanation for why season of birth matters.

Their discovery challenges the validity of past research and highlights how seemingly safe assumptions economists make may overlook key causes of curious effects. And they came across it by accident.

In 2007, Mr. Hungerman was doing research on sibling behavior when he noticed that children in the same families tend to be born at the same time of year. Meanwhile, Ms. Buckles was examining the economic factors that lead to multiple births, and coming across what looked like a relationship between mothers' education levels and when children were born.

"I was just playing around with the data and getting an unexpected result," Ms. Buckles recalls of the tendency that less educated mothers were having children in winter....

In a celebrated 1991 paper, economists Joshua Angrist of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Alan Krueger of Princeton University argued that season-of-birth differences in how far children go in school is due to how school-attendance laws affect children born at different times of the year. Children born in the winter reach their 16th birthdays earlier in the year than other children, which means they can legally drop out of school sooner in the school year -- which some do, leading to lower education levels in the group....

Other researchers have suggested other reasons for season-of-birth differences. Maybe vitamin D was playing a role, for example, because children born in the winter were getting less sunshine in early life. Or maybe being put in the same school year with children who are mostly younger makes children born in the winter less socially mature. A study published in the medical journal Acta Pædriatica in April found that children born in the winter have higher birth-defect rates and suggested it was due to a higher concentration of pesticides in surface water in the spring and summer, when the children were conceived.

There may be validity to all of that research. But...the pattern that Ms. Buckles and Mr. Hungerman discovered, it would question the weightiness of other factors from past research....

The two economists examined birth-certificate data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 52 million children born between 1989 and 2001, which represents virtually all of the births in the U.S. during those years. The same pattern kept turning up: The percentage of children born to unwed mothers, teenage mothers and mothers who hadn't completed high school kept peaking in January every year. Over the 13-year period, for example, 13.2% of January births were to teen mothers, compared with 12% in May -- a small but statistically significant difference...

He and Ms. Buckles estimate that family background accounts for up to 50% of the differences in education and earnings....

The question now is what drives women from different socioeconomic backgrounds to tend to have children at different times of the year....

Ms. Buckles and Mr. Hungerman aren't entirely sure yet. Perhaps it has to do with fluctuations in employment; married women tend to conceive when unemployment is higher, research has shown. They also speculate it might be due to cooler temperatures in springtime, which don't adversely affect the fertility of poor parents, who may not have air conditioning, like hot temperatures do. Or they wonder if there might even be a "prom" effect at work. January is, after all, about nine months after many of those soirees.

"the Govt touch": most everything they touch turns to doo-doo

From an apocryphal cynic about past government failures and current government promises (hat tip: Paul Pittman-- from an email he forwarded)...

The U.S. Postal Service was established in 1775 - you have had 234 years to get it right; it is broke.

Social Security was established in 1935 - you have had 74 years to get it right; it is broke.

Fannie Mae was established in 1938 - you have had 71 years to get it right; it is broke.

The "War on Poverty" started in 1964 - you have had 45 years to get it right; more than $1 trillion of our money has been transferred to "the poor"; it hasn't worked and our entire country is broke.

Medicare and Medicaid were established in 1965 - you've had 44 years to get it right; they are broke.

Freddie Mac was established in 1970 - you have had 39 years to get it right; it is broke.

Trillions of dollars were spent in the massive political payoffs called TARP, the "Stimulus", the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009... none show any signs of working...

So with a perfect 100% failure rate and a record that proves that "services" you shove down our throats are failing faster and faster, you want Americans to believe you can be trusted with a government-run health care system?

Obama's regressive and economy-harming protectionism; at least the unions like it

From the editorialists of the WSJ (hat tip: Linda)...

Remember that 35% tariff President Obama imposed on tires imported from China this month?...Since the tariff announcement on September 11, U.S. tire wholesalers have been warning that their sales prices to retailers will increase by about 15% on average. In some cases, the hikes are as high as 28%, according to industry sources....

Low-income Americans will bear the brunt of the pain because Chinese tiremakers sell the cheapest tires...

Mr. Obama's political sop to the United Steelworkers union that requested this tire protectionism will be expensive for the economy overall, too. Rutgers economist Thomas J. Prusa, who had estimated the potential impacts of tariffs at the request of tire importers, calculates that the 35% tariff will cost the economy about 20,000 jobs in the tire distribution and retail sector while "saving" only 1,000 jobs at domestic manufacturing plants. U.S. consumers will pay $330,000 in higher tire prices for each of those 1,000 jobs....

stimulus funds for road repairs-- "broken down" by county

From USA Today, an amazing data set-- with a map and graphics-- on stimulus funding for road repairs, broken down (no pun intended) by county (hat tip: Linda)...

The punchline: The 74 counties with half of the nation's bad roads will split $1.9 billion, records show; counties with no major roads in bad shape will split about $1.5 billion.

Kentucky received none (at least through August 28th).

if we're measuring outcomes in health care, why not government-run education?!

Why didn't I think of this before?!

Coulter, in the same column on infant mortality, makes this astute observation:

But I think it's terrific that liberals are finally willing to start looking at outcomes to judge a system. I say we start right away with the public schools!

In international comparisons, American 12th-graders rank in the 14th percentile in math and the 29th percentile in science. The U.S. outperformed only Cyprus and South Africa in general math and science knowledge....

As long as American liberals are going to keep announcing that they're embarrassed for their country, how about being embarrassed by our public schools or by our ridiculous trial lawyer culture that other countries find laughable?

infant mortality rates and stupid inferences about the quality of American health care

From Ann Coulter at, continuing her series on health care...

(17) America's low ranking on international comparisons of infant mortality proves other countries' socialist health care systems are better than ours.

America has had a comparatively high infant mortality rate since we've been measuring these things, going back to at least the '20s...long before European countries adopted their cradle-to-grave welfare schemes and all while the U.S. was the wealthiest country on Earth.

One factor contributing to the U.S.'s infant mortality rate is that blacks have intractably high infant mortality rates -- irrespective of age, education, socioeconomic status and so on. No one knows why.

Neither medical care nor discrimination can explain it: Hispanics in the U.S. have lower infant mortality rates than either blacks or whites. Give Switzerland or Japan our ethnically diverse population and see how they stack up on infant mortality rates....

We also count every baby who shows any sign of life, irrespective of size or weight at birth. By contrast, in much of Europe, babies born before 26 weeks' gestation are not considered "live births." Switzerland only counts babies who are at least 30 centimeters long (11.8 inches) as being born alive. In Canada, Austria and Germany, only babies weighing at least a pound are considered live births...By excluding the little guys, these countries have simply redefined about one-third of what we call "infant deaths" in America as "miscarriages."

Moreover, many industrialized nations, such as France, Hong Kong and Japan -- the infant mortality champion -- don't count infant deaths that occur in the 24 hours after birth. Almost half of infant deaths in the U.S. occur in the first day....

Apart from the fact that we count -- and try to save -- all our babies, infant mortality is among the worst measures of a nation's medical care because so much of it is tied to lifestyle choices, such as the choice to have children out of wedlock, as teenagers or while addicted to crack....

Although we have a lot more low birth-weight and premature babies for both demographic and lifestyle reasons, at-risk newborns are more likely to survive in America than anywhere else in the world....

global warming predictions (and James Hansen) gone wild

I love to see Malthusians gettin' a beatin' (with hat tip to and analysis by Sevens)...

In his article on "Flawed Climate Data," Ross McKitrick tears apart the last remaining Climate Hockey Stick analysis, stripping all the Global Warming hype to nothing.

I have been probing the arguments for global warming for well over a decade. In collaboration with a lot of excellent coauthors I have consistently found that when the layers get peeled back, what lies at the core is either flawed, misleading or simply non-existent. The surface temperature data is a contaminated mess with a significant warm bias...Climate models are in gross disagreement with observations, and the discrepancy is growing with each passing year....The IPCC review process, of which I was a member last time, is nothing at all like what the public has been told: Conflicts of interest are endemic, critical evidence is systematically ignored and there are no effective checks and balances against bias or distortion.

All you really need to know is that many of our representatives still listen to what James Hansen has to say even though his 1988 prediction, in the graph at the top, tells what his analysis is worth. Actual temperature levels entering 2010 are trending completely opposite of his predictions and temperatures are lower today than if we had actually crippled our economy and taken his drastic recommendations back in 1988.

the piano staircase


They have two other "experiments" at their website too. Check it out!

tighty-whities OR pull up your pants dude!


Part of me wants to walk up to Mr. Low-Pants and tell him to get radical like some did back in the day. You know, in the 1970s, it was common for people to take off their pants and run around. Now, these "rebels" pull down their pants a few inches and think they're something special. C'mon, if you're serious, pull them down around your ankles or just take them off!

the government's inability to count billboards in a state, days in a week, and houses in a community

Hey, if they can't take care of this, why would one expect them to be great at Cash for Clunkers, economic "stimulus", or health care/insurance?

Two words: blind faith!

From Debbie Harbeson in the Jeff/NA News-Tribune...

...worried about the government’s ability to count....How bad is it? Let me count the ways.

Actually, I will only count a few ways because there are far too many, one could even say countless, examples to fit within my limited word count. Besides, if any government officials are reading this, I wouldn’t want to confuse them with too high a number. So I’m going to share three, one example from each layer of government: federal, state and local.

The first example concerns the recent news that Indiana is in trouble with the feds because the state has somehow grossly miscounted the number of billboards lining the highways. This is a problem because the federal government bureaucrats have the authority to withhold money based on a provision in the Highway Beautification Act....

Anyway, now the state is trying to correct their failure to maintain an accurate inventory of these billboards so they don’t lose any federal money. But guess what? Yep, they need money to correct this problem. Two million dollars has been suggested....

OK, let’s move down to a state level counting requirement. Did you know that for a long time Indiana’s government schools claimed that one-half is equal to one? In the past, when school was in session for a half-day, it was counted as a whole day.

But then, the new Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, decided they better use the same math most of us use in the real world so he changed the rule. I’m not sure it really makes much difference though. The number of days of compulsory attendance required tells us nothing about whether a child is actually learning anything, besides counting down the days to the end of the year.

Finally, thanks to local citizen and soon-to-be forced Jeffersonville resident Bruce Herdt, we have a local example. He discovered the possibility of a huge mistake in the count of homes involved in Jeffersonville’s annexation.

The mistake could number in the thousands, which I find amazing. After all, a house is a pretty hard object to miss when counting. Most preschoolers with just a few hours of Sesame Street under their elastic waist should be able to count something as big as houses without messing up too bad.

I don’t know, maybe someone can do something to help these people get better at performing such elementary tasks. But I’m not counting on it.

"not evil, just wrong"?

From Chuck Colson at

An eye-opening documentary called Not Evil Just Wrong: The True Cost of Global Warming Hysteria is being released this week by the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation—an outfit I endorse.

I dare say the film will be controversial because it tackles head on the sacred cows of the man-made global warming crowd.

The film points out that the British High Court ruled in a lawsuit that Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, “is scientifically flawed and has nine significant exaggerations and factual errors.” Among those exaggerations are the claims that sea levels could rise 20 feet by the end of the century, and that polar bears are disappearing because of global warming (in fact, they are not).

Not Evil Just Wrong also presents a number of scientists and a founding member of the radical environmental organization Greenpeace, who are unafraid to challenge the chief scientific claims behind global warming....

So why should we care about all the global warming hubbub? If the so-called “solutions” to global warming being bandied about by the U.N. and Congress are put into effect, they could severely damage the U.S. economy and absolutely devastate the economies of the world’s poorest nations—potentially endangering the lives and livelihoods of millions. All in response to a faulty premise.

Now that is a truly alarming claim. But I believe the film—half of which is devoted to the human and economic consequences of buying into global warming—makes the case persuasively.

Actually, the title is too kind in that some things that occur in the name of global warming are clearly evil-- in terms of intent and outcome.

"the dog that ate global warming"

From Patrick Michaels at National Review (hat tip: Jefferson Review), something that sounds like it came out of a Michael Crichton novel...

Imagine if there were no reliable records of global surface temperature. Raucous policy debates such as cap-and-trade would have no scientific basis, Al Gore would at this point be little more than a historical footnote...

Steel yourself for the new reality, because the data needed to verify the gloom-and-doom warming forecasts have disappeared.

Or so it seems. Apparently, they were either lost or purged from some discarded computer. Only a very few people know what really happened, and they aren’t talking much. And what little they are saying makes no sense.

In the early 1980s, with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, scientists at the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia established the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) to produce the world’s first comprehensive history of surface temperature. It’s known in the trade as the “Jones and Wigley” record for its authors, Phil Jones and Tom Wigley, and it served as the primary reference standard for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) until 2007. It was this record that prompted the IPCC to claim a “discernible human influence on global climate.”

Putting together such a record isn’t at all easy....the weather data that go into the historical climate records that are required to verify models of global warming aren’t the original records at all. Jones and Wigley, however, weren’t specific about what was done to which station in order to produce their record, which, according to the IPCC, showed a warming of 0.6° +/– 0.2°C in the 20th century.

Now begins the fun. Warwick Hughes, an Australian scientist, wondered where that “+/–” came from, so he politely wrote Phil Jones in early 2005, asking for the original data. Jones’s response to a fellow scientist attempting to replicate his work was, “We have 25 years or so invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”

Reread that statement, for it is breathtaking in its anti-scientific thrust. In fact, the entire purpose of replication is to “try and find something wrong.” The ultimate objective of science is to do things so well that, indeed, nothing is wrong....

It's interesting that some of my global warming friends are chief among those who insist on the practical efficacy of the scientific process!

Then the story changed. In June 2009, Georgia Tech’s Peter Webster told Canadian researcher Stephen McIntyre that he had requested raw data, and Jones freely gave it to him....McIntyre was told that he couldn’t have the data because he wasn’t an “academic.” So his colleague Ross McKitrick, an economist at the University of Guelph, asked for the data. He was turned down, too.

Faced with a growing number of such requests, Jones refused them all, saying that there were “confidentiality” agreements regarding the data between CRU and nations that supplied the data. McIntyre’s blog readers then requested those agreements, country by country, but only a handful turned out to exist, mainly from Third World countries and written in very vague language....

Enter the dog that ate global warming....

Click here to read the rest of the story...

religion and natural selection; why are Darwinists bothered by religion?

We hear a lot from atheists and militant scientists about religious folk fearing science. But a far more bizarro thing is the converse: scientific folk fearing religion-- and not seeking to explain and embrace it within an evolutionary worldview

A wonderful piece from Doug Wead (hat tip; Eric H from a posting on Doug Masson's blog)...

On this 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, I am amazed that there is still the ongoing conflict between science and religion. A couple of years ago the president of Harvard wrote an editorial for USA Today saying that religion and science should go their separate ways.

Politicians used to talk like that too. Not anymore. Gandhi once observed that “he who says religion and politics don’t mix, understands neither one.” Science ignoring religion is like a biologist ignoring the ocean. Thank God, religion didn’t feel that way or science and yes, even Harvard, which was born in the midst of a religious revival, would not exist.

What is especially intriguing to me is the hostility towards religion. I can understand the reverse. Most scientists are telling us that the person we know and regularly interact with does not exist. But why should science be so personally involved in this? Why so angry? They say it is a waste of time but we waste time on sports on dogs on art on love, which is after all, only an emotional reflection of the biological urge to reproduce. What is the big deal about wasting time on God? Why should they care? And there is no real proof that religious government leaders are any more maniacal than atheists, most famously Stalin, or Darwinians, most famously Hitler....

If God and religion are the products of evolution, as in a necessary social invention to keep us from the despair of knowing that life ends with death, or as in keeping us from murdering each other, so the species survives, then why would scientists get so angry about people being religious? They might as well be upset that we have hands and fingers instead of wings....There is very little curiosity about this. No courses on modern sermons and how they fit with evolution and survival....No analysis and comparisons of ancient sacred script, the Bible and others and how what was written to fit the evolutionary needs of mankind...working toward survival of the species....

Scientists often ask for physical discernable proof of the spiritual world and actually, something physical does happen when people believe they encounter God. The brain chemistry changes, there is the release of endorphins and an adrenalin rush, there is often an emotional response.

Now assume for a moment that it is only physical, that there is no God.
Still, there is something happening in the brain that is as real as if someone touched you on the shoulder, only more so, because I am touched many times on the shoulder without weeping or feeling high for hours afterward, or seeing a radical change in my lifestyle or overcoming drugs or alcohol....There is something very profound going on, something akin to the swarm dynamic that ants and bees, with their little brains, have working for them, something that should make a scientist curious.And yet, after such experiences, religious people will encounter scientists who not only have no explanation or interest, they sometimes tell them that their experiences didn’t even happen...

Let us assume for a moment that this brain chemistry, which affirms the beliefs of a person, is all physical and developed out of some evolutionary, societal need. Then this too, is wonderfully complex. It means that man evolved to the point that he developed a belief in God and furthermore, knowing that God did not really exist, and was an invention for evolutionary purposes, has hidden that fact from himself. That is, man had to lie to himself about God and it had to be so good, so convincing, so deep, so personally affirmed by internal evidence, that even a Harvard science professor couldn’t kill it. So, if this is so, why should science reject what evolution itself has done? Does it not have a purpose?

Hmmm, it is so exhausting.
It is so much easier to believe in God.

why fiscal policy does/did not work

First, Bush; then, Obama.

Although I appreciate the fresh "textbook" examples of why government spending is ineffective for restoring economic health, it's been a disaster for the macroeconomy as well the millions of lives drastically impacted by the stupidity.

Now, Obama wants to reduce the stimulus-- so he can, what? Increase it later or pass health care or who knows...What a joke!

From Deborah Solomon and Jonathan Weisman in the WSJ...

The Obama administration, under pressure to show it is serious about tackling the budget deficit, is seizing on an unusual target to showcase fiscal responsibility: the $700 billion financial rescue.

The administration wants to keep some of the unspent funds available for emergencies, but is considering setting aside a chunk for debt reduction, according to people familiar with the matter....

The White House is in the early stages of considering what bigger moves it might make for next year's budget. The Office of Management and Budget has asked all cabinet agencies, except defense and veterans affairs, to prepare two budget proposals for fiscal 2011, which begins Oct 1, 2010. One would freeze spending at current levels. The other would cut spending by 5%.

Not sure we'll ever see that. But politically, that'd be a lot smarter than what the GOP did in the 1990s-- fighting for reduction in spending (from, e.g., +8% to +7%) and getting hammered for "spending cuts"!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

more nuggets from Hendricks' Footprints

It's not a great book, but this slim volume co-authored with his wife has some little gems in it.

"God does not approve ruts; He does sanction tradition. It is a cohesive glue to hold us together, to help provide security in a fragmented world."

The intro to counsel he provided to a man who was struggling: "I could be wrong, but my evaluation of you is this: You are a ten-cylinder man operating on about three and comparing yourself with others who have only two."

On counseling: "Counselors can often be cowards, not caring enough to confront....A former pastor told me about his experience of sinking into an illicit sexual relationship. He said he felt like an exhausted swimmer battling a pounding surf, unable to escape the strong undertow, about to go down for the last time. On shore he could see all the people of his church. Some were shaking their heads in weeping and despair; others were shouting and shaking their fists in anger and frustration. There were words of encouragement and gestures of good will...[But] only one man stepped forward and risked everything to plunge into the water and help the victim to safety. Am I willing to be that man?"