28 June 2007

It's Not You, It's Me

The Secret Blog is now on hiatus, perhaps permanently.

[A partial explanation is here, five comments down.]

25 June 2007

Unclear On The Concept

"The Order of the Phoenix is the most genuine of all the films so far," said Watson. "David wanted to find the truth from within all the characters."

Is This National Sanity Day?

Apparently, the Supreme Court has ruled that a principal who punished a student for a message that can reasonably be interpreted as pro-marijuana won't be second-guessed by the courts and that Americans are allowed to sponsor political ads that actually name politicians running for office; and a court in DC (DC!) has ruled that a dry cleaner's that lost a customer's pants does not owe the customer $54 million.

Taking Bill Murray Seriously

According to Michael Yon, Al Qaeda in Iraq has been busy passing new regulations in regions of the country that it controls. Obviously, they're cutting off the fingers of smokers.
Other AQI edicts included beatings for men who refused to grow beards, and corporal punishments for obscene sexual suggestiveness, defined by such "loose" behavior as carrying tomatoes and cucumbers in the same bag.
This is, oddly enough, the second blogosphere vegetable sex scandal of the last few days. The first came when Ann Althouse suggested that, in a filmed scene staring Bill and Hillary Clinton, carrots and onion rings unavoidably take on psycho-sexual meaning.

But What About The Muslims?

Peter Burnet passes along an email he received from Ali Choudhury, linking to a Washington Post story on the rise of a new conservative Christian party in the Netherlands. "Rise" and "conservative" are something of an overstatement, as the Christian Union party has only six members of Parliament and seems to be more of a Christian Socialist party with righty social leanings. The whole thing is somewhat suspect because the Post insists on referring to the Protestant Church based party as "orthodox."
"People in high political circles are saying it can't be good to have a society so liberal that everything is allowed," said Kranendonk, editor of Reformist Daily and an increasingly influential voice that resonates in the shifting mainstream of Dutch public opinion. "People are saying we should have values; people are asking for more and more rules in society."

In cities across the Netherlands, mayors and town councils are closing down shops where marijuana is sold, rolled and smoked. Municipalities are shuttering the brothels where prostitutes have been allowed to ply their trade legally. Parliament is considering a ban on the sale of hallucinogenic "magic mushrooms." Orthodox Christian members of parliament have introduced a bill that would allow civil officials with moral objections to refuse to perform gay marriages. And Dutch authorities are trying to curtail the activities of an abortion rights group that assists women in neighboring countries where abortions are illegal.
The Christian Union is a pro-asylum party and there is no mention in the article of Islam or the Netherland's problems with Muslim immigrants. Of course, the Christian Union is exactly the sort of party that Muslims could support.

21 June 2007

Where Is Everyone?

Over at the Daily Duck discussing the clash of civilizations. The consensus seems to be that we've got to destroy the village in order to save it.

19 June 2007

Unclear On The Concept

From Reuters, comes news that Great Barrington, Mass, a nice little town just down the highway, has issued its own currency:
A walk down Main Street in this New England town calls to mind the pictures of Norman Rockwell, who lived nearby and chronicled small-town American life in the mid-20th Century.

So it is fitting that the artist's face adorns the 50 BerkShares note, one of five denominations in a currency adopted by towns in western Massachusetts to support locally owned businesses over national chains.

"I just love the feel of using a local currency," said Trice Atchison, 43, a teacher who used BerkShares to buy a snack at a cafe in Great Barrington, a town of about 7,400 people. "It keeps the profit within the community."
I don't mind that the Town of Great Barrington is unclear on the concept of "money" because money is a fairly subtle concept. I don't even mind the whiff of fraud of what amounts to "dollarizing" the Great Barrington economy. I flat out admire the indirection they use about the profit they're going to make from collectors; that is, tourists who buy the BerkShares, take them home and never redeem them. But have these people never heard of coupons?

18 June 2007

Is Science Winning One?

David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy starts a thread that simply assumes (correctly) that the vaccine/mercury/autism link is nonsense and the nuts don't come out to play. Compare this thread from a year ago or the various dust-ups we had on this topic over at BrothersJudd through the years.

Next we have to work on the faulty logic of "religion is an irrational belief; that themerisol causes autism is an irrational belief; therefore, that themerisol causes autism is a religion."

You Be The Judge

People are complaining about the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc. [pdf], that a woman who believed that she was paid less than similarly qualified men because of her sex only had 180 days from the time her pay was set to file a discrimination charge. The relevant portion of the statute is here. You be the judge.
(e) Time for filing charges; time for service of notice of charge on respondent; filing of charge by Commission with State or local agency; seniority system

(1) A charge under this section shall be filed within one hundred and eighty days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred and notice of the charge (including the date, place and circumstances of the alleged unlawful employment practice) shall be served upon the person against whom such charge is made within ten days thereafter, except that in a case of an unlawful employment practice with respect to which the person aggrieved has initially instituted proceedings with a State or local agency with authority to grant or seek relief from such practice or to institute criminal proceedings with respect thereto upon receiving notice thereof, such charge shall be filed by or on behalf of the person aggrieved within three hundred days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred, or within thirty days after receiving notice that the State or local agency has terminated the proceedings under the State or local law, whichever is earlier, and a copy of such charge shall be filed by the Commission with the State or local agency.

(2) For purposes of this section, an unlawful employment practice occurs, with respect to a seniority system that has been adopted for an intentionally discriminatory purpose in violation of this subchapter (whether or not that discriminatory purpose is apparent on the face of the seniority provision), when the seniority system is adopted, when an individual becomes subject to the seniority system, or when a person aggrieved is injured by the application of the seniority system or provision of the system.

15 June 2007

First Thing Let's Do


Over at Think of England, I pointed to this comment, but I wanted to note it here, too, because it is such a perfect example of a point of view that, had I not run up against it time after time, I would absolutely deny that any human being could hold. This is just completely foreign to me:
This interesting article misses a basic aspect of the human experience. For better or worse, we are relative creatures whose sense of identity and well-being is derived through comparing ourselves to others.

If you accept that one of the functions of civil society is to strive to maximize the happiness and well-being of its citizens(which I do), then these charts point to happier people in Europe (as is shown in clinical studies). The absolute scale, once basic safety and survial is accomplished, is almost irrelevant.

Given the comparative nature of human psychology, the bottom 10% in the US will be miserable, and the middle will feel cheated. French peasants in 1789 were presumably materially better off than Kalahari Bushmen, but relatively they were destitute. The absolute prosperity of French peasants did not deter them from revolution.

Granting outsize income to outsize effort may maximize GDP in the short run, but societies can rationally choose to balance maximal overall output with moderating inequality. From the perspective of human happinenss (the only one that actually matters in my book), Europe's model is more successful.
It would be better to make everyone poorer, because the absence of rich people makes poor people happier.

Less Gasoline At Lower Prices

Planet Gore, which is a blog at National Review, points us to a speech given recently by Harry Reid. The National Review blogger does a fine job of pointing out most of Reid's inanities, but doesn't note this familiar pair of complaints:
But as this crisis grows worse it’s nothing but business as usual from President Bush. Maybe this president thinks it’s fine that working families are busting their budgets just to pay for gasoline and heat, but we don’t....

Maybe this president thinks it’s fine to let our children and grandchildren faced the devastating consequences up our climate crisis because he didn’t have the foresight to turn the tide, but we don’t.
The most basic fact of economics, like unto the law gravity, is that supply and price are the same thing. Has the real price dropped? Supply must have increased. Has supply decreased? The real price has gone up. If you want us to use less oil, the price must rise. If you're worried that the price of gasoline is too high, supply must increase.

Only Needs A Few Tweaks

What follows was the naturalization law of the United States (other than amendments to provide that the wives of naturalized aliens were, themselves, naturalized (1855) and open naturalization to those of African descent (1870)) from 1802 through 1906.
[2 Stat. 153]Chap. XXVIII — An act to establish an uniform rule of Naturalization, and to repeal the acts heretofore passed on that subject.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in congress assembled, That any alien, being a free white person, may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States, or any of them, on the following conditions, and not otherwise:—

First, That he shall have declared, on oath or affirmation, before the supreme, superior, district or circuit Court of some one
of the states, or of the territorial districts of the United States, or a circuit or district court of the United States, three years at least, before his admission, that it was, bona fide, his intention to become a citizen of the United States, and to renounce for ever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty whatever, and particularly, by name, the prince, potentate, state or sovereignty whereof such alien may, at the time, be a citizen or subject.

Secondly, That he shall, at the time of his application to be admitted, declare on oath or affirmation, before some one of the courts aforesaid, that he will support the constitution of the United States, and that he doth absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to every foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty whatever, and particularly, by name, the prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty whereof he was before a citizen or subject; which proceedings shall be recorded by the clerk of the court.

Thirdly, That the court admitting such alien shall be satisfied that he has resided within the United States five years at least, and within the state or territory where such court is at the time held, one year at [2 Stat. 154] least; and it shall further appear to their satisfaction, that during that time, he has behaved as a man of a good moral character, attached to the principles of the constitution of the United States, and well disposed the to the good order and happiness of the same: Provided, that the oath of the applicant shall, in no case, be allowed to prove his residence.

Fourthly, That in case the alien, applying to be admitted to citizenship, shall have borne any hereditary title, or been of any of the orders he of nobility in the kingdom or state from which he came, he shall, in addition to the above requisites, make an express renunciation of his title or order of nobility in the court to which his application shall be made, which renunciation shall be recorded in the said court: Provided, that no alien who shall be a native citizen, denizen or subject of any country, state or sovereign, with whom the United States shall be at war, at the time of his application, shall be then admitted to be a Citizen of the United States: Provided also, that any alien who was residing within the limits, and under the jurisdiction of the United States, before the twenty-ninth day of January, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-five, may be admitted to become a citizen, on due proof made to some one of the courts aforesaid, that he has resided two years, at least, within and under the jurisdiction of the United States, and one year, at least, immediately preceding his application, within the state or territory where such Court is at the time held; and on his declaring on oath or affirmation, that he will support the constitution of the United States, and that he doth absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty whatever, and particularly, by name, the prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, whereof he was before a citizen or subject: and moreover, on its appearing to the satisfaction of the court, that during the said term of two years, he has behaved as a man of good moral character, attached to the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same; and where the alien, applying for admission to citizenship, shall have borne any hereditary title, or been of any of the orders of nobility in the kingdom or state from which he came, on his moreover making in the court an express renunciation of his title or order of nobility, before he shall be entitled to such admission: all of by the clerk of the court, which proceedings, required in this proviso to be performed in the court, in shall be recorded by the clerk thereof: and provided also, that any alien who was residing within the limits, and under the jurisdiction of the U. States be. at any time between the said twenty-ninth day of January, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-live, and the eighteenth of June, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-eight, may, within two years after the passing of this act, be admitted to become a citizen, without a compliance with the first condition above specified.

Sec. 2. Provided also, and be it further enacted, That in addition to the directions aforesaid, all free white persons, being aliens, who may arrive in the United States after the passing of this act, shall, in order to become citizens of the United States, make registry, and obtain certificates, in the following manner, to wit: every person desirous of being naturalized shall, if of the age of twenty-one years, make report of himself; or if under the age of twenty-one years, or held in service, shall be reported by his parent, guardian, master or mistress, to the clerk of the district court of the district where such alien or aliens shall arrive, or to some other court of record of the United States, or of either of the territorial districts of the same, or of a particular state ; and such report shall ascertain the name, birthplace, age, nation and allegiance of each alien, together with the country whence he or she migrated, and the place of his or her intended settlement: and it shall be the duty of such clerk, on receiving such report, to record the same in his office, and to grant to the person making such report, and to each individual [2 Stat. 155] concerned therein, whenever he shall be required, a certificate under his hand and seal of office of such report and registry; and for receiving and registering each report of an individual or family, he shall receive fifty cents; and for each certificate granted pursuant to this act, to an individual or family, fifty cents; and such certificate shall be exhibited to the court by every alien who may arrive in the United States, after the passing of this act, on his application to be naturalized, as evidence of the time of his arrival within the United States.

Sec. 3. And whereas, doubts have arisen whether certain courts of record in some of the states, are included within the description of district or circuit courts: Be it further enacted, that every court of record in any individual state, having common law jurisdiction, and a seal and clerk or prothonotary, shall be considered as a district court within the meaning of this act; and every alien who may have been naturalized in any such court, shall enjoy, from and after the passing of the act, the same rights and privileges, as if he had been naturalized in a district or circuit court of the United States.

Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That the children of persons duly naturalized under any of the laws of the United States, or who, previous to the passing of any law on that subject, by the government of the United States, may have become citizens of any one of the said states, under the laws thereof, being under the age of twenty-one years, at the time of their parents being so naturalized or admitted to the rights of citizenship, shall, if dwelling in the United States, be considered as citizens of the United States, and the children of persons who now are, or have been citizens of the United States, shall, though born out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, be considered as citizens of the United States: Provided, that the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never resided within the United States: Provided also, that no person heretofore proscribed by any state, or who has been legally convicted of having joined the army of Great Britain, during the late war, shall be admitted a citizen, as aforesaid, without the consent of the legislature of the state in which such person was proscribed.

Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That all acts heretofore passed respecting naturalization, be, and the same are hereby repealed.

APPROVED, April 14, 1802.
The quasi-patrilineal requirement is a little surprising.

14 June 2007

Today's Meme

Today's meme is completely contrived crises. For the American entrant, I nominate (and it's a doozy) the problem of hunger in the United States:
Hunger and Food Insecurity in the United States

One of the most disturbing and extraordinary aspects of life in this very wealthy country is the persistence of hunger. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that in 2005:

* 35.1 million people lived in households considered to be food insecure.

* Of those 35.1 million, 22.7 million are adults (10.4 percent of all adults) and 12.4 million are children (16.9 percent of all children).

* The number of people in the worst-off households (previously called “food insecure with hunger” and now called “very low food security” households) rose in 2005, from 10.7 to 10.8 million.
If you look very closely, you'll see that the most remarkable thing about hunger in the United States is that no one is actually hungry.

13 June 2007

Labor And Capital

Let's say that you work for me. You dig ditches. You use a shovel, you work 10 hours per day in all sorts of weather, and you dig 10 ft of ditch per day. I pay you $10 per hour.

One day I come to you and say, "For you, I have such a deal. I'll go buy a front loader. You'll sit on a padded seat all day, you'll do nothing more strenuous than move levers, the cabin is enclosed, heated and air conditioned and you'll dig 100 ft of ditch per day. The best news of all? I'll still pay you $10 per hour."

Is that a good deal?

I, Robot

Where's A Cocktail Napkin When You Need One

OJ points us to an AP article on the plummeting federal deficit. I was particularly struck by this passage:
For the year, revenue and spending are both at record levels. Revenue gains are up 8 percent while outlays are up at a slower pace of 2.5 percent, compared to the same period a year ago. Growth in spending has been slower this year in part because of the absence of last year's huge outlays for hurricane relief.

The increase in revenues has been supported by continued strength in corporate profits and low unemployment, which has helped to push individual income taxes higher.

For the 2007 budget year, which ends on Sept. 30, the Congressional Budget Office is projecting a federal deficit of $177 billion. That would be down 28.7 percent from last year's imbalance of $248.2 billion, which had been the lowest deficit in four years.

The federal budget was in surplus for four years from 1998 through 2001 as the long economic expansion helped push revenues higher.
What's weird about this? It completely ignores why the federal government spends money. With strong corporate profits, low unemployment and (although the article doesn't mention this) incomes increasing, not only is there more tax revenue, but there's less need for government handouts. This "float the boats" effect, and welfare reform, are a big reason that the budget has been decreasing, and the deficit has been plummeting, as a percentage of GDP. Now we just need to straighten out social security, and we'll be all set.

11 June 2007

For Those Of You Who Were Unsure

(I've kicked this up to the top, just to make sure that it doesn't roll off the front page while still active.)

I'm a preening little man who spends all my time in front of the mirror admiring my, well, I'm not sure what. Apparently, I also work for the Nazi's in the persecution of other Jews.

And, worst of all, I use invective against my opponents.

Overly Familiar Software

My weather bug now has a popup for today's weather than says, "A thunderstorm on the prowl." "On the prowl?" Unless this is a term of art with which I'm unfamiliar, I'm disappointed. I like to keep my relationship with my software formal.

10 June 2007


Yes, I did get here by looking for Coach singing "Albania." And here it is.

Sex And Class

Nothin' Could Be Finer

Hi Di Hi Di Hi Di Ho





Part II--Nationality Through Naturalization

Sec. 1424. Prohibition upon the naturalization of persons
opposed to government or law, or who favor totalitarian forms of

(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 405(b) of this Act, no
person shall hereafter be naturalized as a citizen of the United
(1) who advocates or teaches, or who is a member of or
affiliated with any organization that advocates or teaches,
opposition to all organized government; or

(2) who is a member of or affiliated with (A) the Communist
Party of the United States; (B) any other totalitarian party of the
United States; (C) the Communist Political Association; (D) the
Communist or other totalitarian party of any State of the United
States, of any foreign state, or of any political or geographical
subdivision of any foreign state; (E) any section, subsidiary,
branch, affiliate, or subdivision of any such association or party;
or (F) the direct predecessors or successors of any such association
or party, regardless of what name such group or organization may
have used, may now bear, or may hereafter adopt, unless such alien
establishes that he did not have knowledge or reason to believe at
the time he became a member of or affiliated with such an
organization (and did not thereafter and prior to the date upon
which such organization was so registered or so required to be
registered have such knowledge or reason to believe) that such
organization was a Communist-front organization; or

(3) who, although not within any of the other provisions of this
section, advocates the economic, international, and governmental
doctrines of world communism or the establishment in the United
States of a totalitarian dictatorship, or who is a member of or
affiliated with any organization that advocates the economic,
international, and governmental doctrines of world communism or the
establishment in the United States of a totalitarian dictatorship,
either through its own utterances or through any written or printed
publications issued or published by or with the permission or
consent of or under authority of such organization or paid for by
the funds of such organization; or

(4) who advocates or teaches or who is a member of or affiliated
with any organization that advocates or teaches (A) the overthrow by
force or violence or other unconstitutional means of the Government
of the United States or of all forms of law; or (B) the duty,
necessity, or propriety of the unlawful assaulting or killing of any
officer or officers (either of specific individuals or of officers
generally) of the Government of the United States or of any other
organized government because of his or their official character; or
(C) the unlawful damage, injury, or destruction of property; or (D)
sabotage; or

(5) who writes or publishes or causes to be written or
published, or who knowingly circulates, distributes, prints, or
displays, or knowingly causes to be circulated, distributed,
printed, published, or displayed, or who knowingly has in his
possession for the purpose of circulation, publication,
distribution, or display, any written or printed matter, advocating
or teaching opposition to all organized government, or advocating
(A) the overthrow by force, violence or other unconstitutional means
of the Government of the United States or of all forms of law; or
(B) the duty, necessity, or propriety of the unlawful assaulting or
killing of any officer or officers (either of specific individuals
or of officers generally) of the Government of the United States or
of any other organized government, because of his or their official
character; or (C) the unlawful damage, injury, or destruction of
property; or (D) sabotage; or (E) the economic, international, and
governmental doctrines of world communism or the establishment in
the United States of a totalitarian dictatorship; or

(6) who is a member of or affiliated with any organization that
writes, circulates, distributes, prints, publishes, or displays, or
causes to be written, circulated, distributed, printed, published,
or displayed, or that has in its possession for the purpose of
circulation, distribution, publication, issue, or display, any
written or printed matter of the character described in subparagraph
(5) of this subsection.

08 June 2007

Border Security

Passport process will get easier for Canadians (CBC News, 6/8/07)
Ottawa will make it easier for Canadians to get their passports, Foreign Affairs said Friday.

Beginning this summer, Canadians will be able to renew their passports without submitting proof of citizenship or a guarantor declaration, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said in a news release.
I'm sure the anti-Canadian backlash will start any minute.

We've Got Good News And Bad News

Rising immigration fuels 26-year fertility high (Emma Henry and agencies, Telegraph.co.uk, 6/8/07)
Figures released by the Office of National Statistics show the average number of children has risen for a fifth straight year to 1.87, the highest rate since 1980.

The last decade has seen a 77 per cent increase in births by mothers born outside of the UK, with the figure climbing to almost 150,000, or over a fifth of all babies, last year.

As Britain's demographics change, Mohammed is expected soon to replace Jack as the most popular boy's name. It has already pushed Thomas into third place.
No, that's not the bad news, you racist bigots. The bad news is that it still isn't at replacement levels. If only Britain was right next to Mexico.

Today's Meme

Bryan Appleyard points us to a series of tests meant to determine if we have unconscious preferences or dislikes for various victimized groups. Like Bryan, I only took the race (i.e., African American v. European American [sic]) test. Unlike Bryan, I am a decent human being:
Your data suggest little to no automatic preference between European American and African American.
I'm torn on the usefulness of this test. On the one hand, it seems like complete and utter social science nonsense, with the results completely dependent upon the ordering of the test and the subject's reaction speed. On the other hand, it said nice things about me that confirm my self-image and I took a similar (or perhaps the same) test a few years ago and it said the same thing.

UPDATE: Well, that was interesting. I went back and did the test on fat people v. thin people. It found that I had a slight preference for thin people. What was interesting is that, compared to the first test, I could tell while taking it that I did associate good emotions with thin and bad emotions with fat. (Yes, yes, I know, but let's leave the psychological implications of this for another day.) It was a completely different feeling and caused me to slow down and make a lot more errors. The different experiences make me take the tests much more seriously.

Raised By A Single Mother, No Brothers, Never Dated

Dear Prudence,

I am one of five women at my office. Roughly three out of five mornings, the one man we work with spends the first 10 to 15 minutes of the day in the (single, shared) bathroom. We work in a small office where we need to be available to any current or potential clients who call or drop in, so it does affect the rest of us if someone disappears mysteriously since, obviously, he doesn't announce that he's heading off to the can. I feel that if something is happening on such a regular basis, he should be able to take care of it at home before he comes to work. (He has only a half-hour commute.) My two-part question for you is: Is it worth saying something to him about it? And, presumably this would be a job for our manager, but what would be the best way of going about this? She usually hasn't arrived by that point in the morning, and so is not aware of this tendency.

—Waiting for the Can

06 June 2007

Well, I Don't Believe This

OJ links to an article in the Daily Record(?) reporting that:
Doctors at Glasgow University found that between 1974 and 2003, a total of 462,000 people died in Scotland as a result of health service failings
Now, according to some web site I found, the population of Scotland in 2001 was about 5 million, and there were about 50,000 deaths. So, in the 29 years between 1974 and 2003, there were about 1.5 million deaths in Scotland and these doctors are saying that one-third, more or less, were caused by the National Health Service.

I understand that this is all very approximate, but it's close enough for government work. I can't believe that the NHS, as incompetent as it may be, is causing nearly one-third of all Scottish deaths, or anything like it. I wouldn't believe 25%, or 20%, or 10%.

Go Here

And watch this.

I don't have any greater point to make, although it's interesting that the people are rooting for the Buffalo.

Charlie Pierce Is A Wanker

A long time ago on a website far, far away, I took sportswriter Charlie Pierce to task for attacking Michael Jordan for no reason other than the fact that Charlie Pierce wanted to make a political point.

He's done it again. This time, his excuse for attacking Jordan is that LeBron James just gave the greatest performance in a NBA playoff game ever but, in April, had refused to sign an angry letter to the Chinese government protesting Chinese involvement in Darfur. This makes James like Jordan (in a bad way). The article is dumb, it stems from Pierce's conviction that what he does for a living is trivial, and that failing to agree with him politically is a moral failing. He doesn't mention that even having LeBron James send a letter to the Chinese government, even an angry letter, will have exactly no effect.

But let's think about Darfur for a moment. What's happening is inhuman and should be stopped, but what can we do. Our Rabbi is a Darfur activist. He has traveled there, he protests, he marches and he has put up a sign on the Temple. I'm sure that he would sign an angry letter to the Chinese government. We've donated some money to refugee relief and will probably donate some more. Nothing has changed.

The one thing that would change Darfur for the better would be for us to send in the troops, enforce a no-fly zone and carve off Darfur from Sudan. We're not going to do it. It's tempting to say that the one real cost of the Iraq has been that it has made it politically impossible to invade Iran or North Korea or even stage a humanitarian invasion in Darfur. But unfortunately I don't think we would have invaded in any event. In the end of the day, international humanitarianism is a null set meant to sooth our conscience rather than saved the afflicted.

05 June 2007

Learn Something New Every Day

Senator Craig Thomas (R. Wyo) has passed away. He has always seemed like a modest, unassuming and decent man. Our thoughts are with his family.

The governor of Wyoming is a Democrat and, usually, that would mean that Senator Thomas' successor would be a Democrat. However, the linked story has this to say about the process of filling a Senate vacancy in Wyoming:
Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, will appoint a successor from one of three finalists chosen by the state Republican party....

According to Peggy Nighswonger, Wyoming's elections director, the governor has five days to appoint one of the party's three nominees once he receives the names. That person will serve until the next general election in 2008.
I've never heard that before.

04 June 2007

Nudes In The News

Today's Theme of the Day thrown up by the collective unconscious is apparently peacenik nudity. Brit notes that pictures of Tony and Cherie Blair meant to stop the war naked have won a prize in Britain. Duck then comments, "Nudity? What's up with that" and points to John Lennon getting nude for peace back in the day. AOG piles on with naked Dixie Chicks. But the Supreme Court takes away the punch bowl by deciding that the sponsor of a nude peace sign doesn't get to collect attorneys' fees from the State of Florida.

I'm with Duck in being a little befuddled by the connection between being antiwar and being nude. Apparently, though, it has something to do with the time of year.

03 June 2007

We'd Better Hold A Bake Sale

Just because it's always fun to bring up in conversation, I note that, in 2005, public school systems in the US spent $488.5 billion. The Pentagon spent $429.5 billion (pdf).

Have I Ever Told You The Chandelier Story?

Instapundit points us to a story in the Guardian rubbishing various UN and EU greenhouse gas reduction scheme. Among other things, it turns out that paying for the destruction of greenhouse gases can cause the production of more greenhouse gases:
There are doubts about the validity of some of these CERs [certified emissions reductions], on two separate grounds. First, some of them appear to breach the CDM's requirements for sustainable development - 53% of the existing CERs come from just six monster projects, in India, China and South Korea, all of which engage in the most controversial form of carbon reduction. They manufacture refrigerant which produces as a side effect a gas called HFC-23. Although carbon dioxide is the most common greenhouse gas, HFC-23 is 11,700 times more likely than carbon dioxide to encourage global warming. Refrigerant companies find it relatively cheap to install an incinerator to burn the HFC-23 and, once that is converted into certified reductions of emission, each tonne saved can be sold as 11,700 carbon credits. These companies are now earning millions of euros from these credits - more than from selling their refrigerant products.

The environmental problem is two-fold, first that HFC factories tend to pour out other pollutants which don't happen to be greenhouse gases but which are unpleasant or dangerous for local communities; and second, that the potential profits from burning HFC-23 are so great that companies are being encouraged to expand production of refrigerants so they can produce more HFC-23 to incinerate, thus increasing the net amount of pollution.
There was a story, perhaps apocryphal, about planning in the Soviet Union. One year, the authorities started to notice a spurt of reports of chandeliers falling from the ceilings of hotels and other public buildings. It turned out that the most recent five year plan had set forth the required production of chandeliers in kilograms.

This is also relevant to our discussion of bad science. One source of bad science comes when scientists measure the effect of an input by looking at the output, not of what they actually want, but of (what they think is) a good proxy of what they want.

How We Become What We Hate

In a comment below, Harry Eagar points us to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. On a quick trip to their home page, our eye is immediately drawn to a link for "Camp Inquiry", "A week of adventure, discovery and exploration for children, ages 7 to 16 years of age." If the little goddicts get bible camp, well, then, the little skepticons need to have inquiry camp. The Skeptics should take this warning from a Jew: If you try to make Hanukkah like Christmas, eventually the kids will just start celebrating Christmas.

You're Still Not Going To Believe It

Wonder Quest (April Holladay, USAToday, November 26, 2004)
Q: I know that viruses spread colds but can getting cold or wet somehow make a person more vulnerable to the cold virus? (Doug, Someplace, World)

A: Another myth bites the dust — however reasonable it seems. No. People don't become more vulnerable to catching a cold because they got cold or wet. We've looked into this one thoroughly and the myth isn't true (unless, of course, the cold is so intense that it destroys the body's defenses, such as freezing to death).

In 1958, H.F. Dowling exposed 400 volunteers to cold viruses. The volunteers experienced different temperatures and dress protection — some shivering in extreme cold of 10°F (-12°C) but wearing heavy coats, others chilly in 60°F (16°C) temperature wearing only underwear, and still others sweltering in 80°F (27°C) temperatures. They all, however, caught colds at "about the same rate."

Ten years later, R. G. Douglas, Jr. experimented in a similar fashion with inmates at a Texas prison.

Again, no difference. The men caught colds at about the same frequency and the resulting colds were about equally severe whether or not the inmates had endured cold and no matter how they were dressed.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) also has funded studies and found no correlation between getting chilled or overheated and catching a cold. NIAID has found no relationship with exercise, diet, or enlarged tonsils or adenoids either. They have found that psychological stress, allergic disorders affecting the nasal passages or the throat, and menstrual cycles can make a person susceptible to colds.

By the way, colds spread through touching infectious surfaces or inhaling viruses. Cold viruses can survive for about three hours outside the nasal passages. So, to prevent catching colds, we can:
• most effective: wash our hands
• also effective but much more difficult: don't touch our noses, mouths, or eyes.

Finally, over 200 viruses cause the common cold says NIAID. "Prospects for a cold vaccine are dim."

Further reading:

Myths of the common cold by Drs. Jack M. Gwaltney and Federick G. Hayden

Cold treatment and information by Drs. Gwaltney and Haden

NAID, National Institute of Health: The common cold fact sheet

•Dowling, H.F. 1958. Transmission of the common cold to volunteers under controlled conditions. Am J of Hygiene 68:659-65.

•Douglas RG Jr, Lindgren KM, Couch RB. 1968. Exposure to cold environment and rhinovirus common cold: Failure to demonstrate effect. N Engl J Med 279:742-7.
If a cold virus gets into your system, you're going to get sick. It doesn't matter if you're wet or dry, or whether you're cold or hot.

But I've had this conversation enough times to know that simply pointing to the uncontradicted scientific evidence [no longer uncontradicted -- see the comments] isn't going to convince anyone. (Of course, I make my kids bundle up when they go out in the cold just like anyone else.)

02 June 2007

Bad Science

Has anyone ever done a study on the persistence of bad science in the population? How long after a bad study is debunked do people still believe in it? What are the factors that affect the half-life of a misunderstanding? How many people are still trying to avoid all salt in their diet in order to live longer, but are actually killing themselves? How many people are gobbling down antioxidants for no particular purpose?

I sometimes try to run my own experiment in this area by trying to convince people that the germ theory of disease is pretty well-established and that getting rained on, or getting cold, or getting cold while getting rained on won't actually make you catch your death of pneumonia. I rarely succeed and, sometimes, people violently reject the very idea. (No, being wet and cold doesn't lower your resistance or affect your immune system.)

01 June 2007

Economics In Action

It is a violation of the antitrust laws for a manufacturer to force a distributor to sell the manufacturer's product for a set price. That's why we see suggested retail prices advertised, rather than mandated retail prices. Economists tend to believe that this is a bad law. If the mandated retail price were too high, a competitor could undercut it. More to the point, there's a good pro-consumer reason to allow mandatory retail prices: it allows the manufacturer to make sure that the distributor is repaid for investing in the sale. In other words, for products that must be explained to consumers, or where training is important, a hefty margin ensures that Mr. Joseph's Widget Emporium, with helpful salesmen and informative displays, isn't then undercut by Joe's House of Cheap Prices.

I want a TI-89 graphing calculator. Do I need a TI-89 graphing calculator? Does anyone? Since no one actually knows how to work one? Because these are expensive and daunting machines, I did a good amount of research. Among the research I did was going to Staples, where I could see one and play with it a little bit. I waffled around for a few days and then came across a new factor that tipped the balance in favor of purchasing the calculator: my wife said it was OK.

Having decided to buy, I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. I can get the calculator from Amazon for $142, no tax and no shipping charge. I can get the calculator from Staples for $153, plus 5% sales tax. Of course, from Staples I get the calculator immediately; Amazon will take a few days. I decide that, because of the service Staples provided by having the calculator available to play with, because I can get the calculator now rather than in a few days and because I'm aware of the economic/antitrust issue, I'm willing to pay the nearly $20 premium Staples will cost me.

So I go to my neighborhood Staples. I go over the calculator and look at the TI-89. I play with it a little. I look at the less expensive calculators around it and decide that I really do need those matrix algebra functions. I'm ready to buy.

I look around. The calculator's on display, but there's no rack space for it. It's a relatively small (well, actually it's honking huge, but for a calculator) and relatively expensive, so they probably keep them locked up. There's no sales clerk to be found so I walk to the front of the store. The only clerks to be found are ringing up other customers but there's a manager doing some managing. I interrupt him and tell him that I need help with the TI-89. He says he'll have someone meet me over there right away. I say I just need someone to get the calculator, because I've already decided that I want it. He tells me I can just go to the register.

I go to the register.

The clerk is a young man, probably in his early 20s. He's on the phone with someone. I glance at my watch and start the timer. The customer on the phone has a product that she either wants to have upgraded or repaired. In all the time I was there, he never quite got that clear. He knows that it can't be repaired there -- just send it back to the manufacturer -- but doesn't know about upgrading it. In the next ten minutes, he has her on hold twice, pages a manager three or four times, manages to find out what I want but not to do anything about it and then is back on the phone with his customer. Two more people are behind me. He starts to ring them up while waiting for someone with a key to get me my calculator. He calls over a manager and asks if she can help with the locked room. She sees the blinking telephone line, asks what's up, and picks up the phone.

I leave and order the calculator from Amazon.

Happy AGW Day

This interesting chart is from the European Environment Agency. As you will see, the only non-former communist countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions at all were Denmark, Sweden and the UK, and only the UK has made any substantial progress. ("Germany" includes the former East Germany.) By way of comparison, the US ghg emissions have increased by about 16% since 1990 and only 1.6% since 2000.

So, all Greens are anti-communist, right?

Et Tu, Captain Ed?

Over at Captain's Quarters, Captain Ed takes the media to task for misrepresenting the history of the Kyoto Protocol. Just to prove, though, that a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth, the Captain, in the course of correcting NPR, states that "Bush formally withdrew from Kyoto." In fact, as long-time readers of the secret blog know, we've never withdrawn from Kyoto. For that matter, we're even making decent progress towards our goal: since 2000, US greenhouse gas emissions have risen by less than the G8 average.