Monday, November 30, 2009
The Thanksgiving holidays. Finishing up grading papers for my State & Local Government class. Preparing to teach Introduction to Personal Computers next term.
And then: A weird type of flu, I was suffering severe muscle pain, chills, and exhaustion--and it was gone almost as fast as it came. Strange.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
You may recall that back in August at a town hall meeting in St. Louis, a guy named Gladney, a black guy protesting the health care "reform" bill, was attacked and beaten by some labor union activists. Well, what do you know? It only took four months for an attack witnessed by police officers and reporters to turn into charges against the union thugs. From the November 25, 2009 St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
ST. LOUIS COUNTY • Six people arrested in August outside a raucous town hall meeting in south St. Louis County have been charged with misdemeanor ordinance violations.Odd. I would have thought with this many witnesses and video of the incident, this would have made it easier to figure out if there was a crime, and who to charge. But St. Louis has a history of unique justice when it comes to Democratic mobs and black victims.
The six, including a Post-Dispatch reporter, had attended a demonstration outside an Aug. 6 forum called by U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, at Bernard Middle School in Mehlville to discuss health care reform.
Some bloggers have been writing for months about the lag between the arrests at the politically-charged event and the filing of charges.
County Counselor Patricia Redington insisted it had nothing to do with politics, influence or pressure from any official.
Elston McCowan, 47, of St. Louis, and Perry Molens, 50, of De Soto, each were charged with assaulting a person and interfering with police. They are accused of scuffling with and injuring Kenneth Gladney in a clash of opinions over the Democrats’ universal health care proposals.
Ordinance violation charges are usually filed within four to six weeks of an incident, Reddington said, but this case involved interviews with dozens of witnesses and review of many videos posted on the Internet.
Over the last couple of decades, I have heard all sorts of claims made about the first Thanksgiving--including the claim that it was a celebration of a massacre of the Indians.
First of all, they didn't call it Thanksgiving. It was a traditional English harvest feast--especially important since so few had survived that first very hard winter of starvation and disease. Some of my ancestors survived that winter, and were part of that feast.
It was not a celebration of victory over the Indians. There is a detailed account in Winslow's December 11, 1621 letter to a friend in England, describing what happened, and the circumstances:
Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king, Massasoyt, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted ; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation, and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.
We have found the Indians very faithful in their covenant of peace with us, very loving, and ready to pleasure us. We often go to them, and they come to us. Some of us have been fifty miles by land in the country with them, the occasions and relations whereof you shall understand by our general and more full declaration of such things as are worth the noting. Yea, it hath pleased God so to possess the Indians with a fear of us and love unto us, that not only the greatest king amongst them, called Massasoyt, but also all the princes and peoples round about us, have either made suit unto us, or been glad of any occasion to make peace with us; so that seven of them at once have sent their messengers to us to that end.
A reader reminded of what must be history's first affirmative action program for "gingers": Arthur Conan Doyle's account of Sherlock Holmes and "The Red-Headed League."
"Blaming Sex Talk 'Squeamishness' for Rise in STDs"
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I didn't blog about it when it was first reported, because while it looked bad to find a U.S. Census worker dead with antigovernment slogans on it, there could be other explanations. And now The Other McCain is reporting that it has been ruled a suicide.
I mentioned a couple of days ago the hatred of "gingers"--those redheaded, freckled sorts. A couple of interesting points.
1. If you rearrange the letters in "gingers," it turns into an offensive term for black people. You might wonder if the original South Park episode was making fun of racism against black people.
2. I'm told that the hostility to gingers predates South Park and comes out of Britain. Might this have been a proxy for anti-Irish sentiment? I remember a British co-worker telling me once that the wheelbarrow was invented to get Irish up on two legs.
UPDATE: Here's a clip from a British comedy show about the problem:
Monday, November 23, 2009
but it's still fun to watch the smoke coming out of California gun control ears. From the November 23, 2009 San Francisco Chronicle:
Now, gun advocates are challenging Chicago's handgun ban, asking the Supreme Court to rule that the Second Amendment equally applies to the states. And there was no shortage of states - 34 in all - jumping on the bandwagon in support of the court hearing the case.
In July, before the court agreed to take the case, Brown went so far as to file his own friend-of-the-court brief asking that Chicago's gun ban be overturned - arguing that if the court doesn't act, "California citizens could be deprived of the constitutional right to possess handguns in their homes."
His stance has angered a number of gun control proponents.
Julie Leftwich, legal director of Legal Community Against Violence, said this isn't simply about Brown defending the Second Amendment - it also marks a dramatic turnabout from the administration of his Democratic predecessor, Bill Lockyer, a staunch gun control advocate.
"Jerry Brown hasn't shown leadership in the legislative arena related to the issue of gun violence prevention ... and he hasn't sponsored or weighed in on any significant gun bills," Leftwich told The Chronicle's Carla Marinucci.
I have some mutual acquaintances with Jerry Brown. As I understand it, Brown really isn't really pro-gun--it is just that he is smart enough to recognize that gun control is a distraction from solving the real sources of the violence problem that is destroying black inner cities.
The Little Ice Age is generally considered to take place between 1250 and 1850 AD. The AGW believers generally deny that the Little Ice Age was global, arguing that it was European. I've long thought it curious that non-European civilizations suddenly decline or even collapse at about the same time. For example, from reading works such as this, it appears that the Mississippian Moundbuilder civilization went into decline between 1200 and 1500--and thus before European contact can explain it. I also notice that this decline seems to be associated with substantial nutritional problems in the skeletons that have been recovered from the decline period. Population decline was already well under way when Columbus arrived, giving smallpox and measles to the Indians, who returned the favor with what now appears to have been an especially virulent strain of syphilis.
There seems to be considerable debate about whether droughts in the 1100s caused the decline of the Anasazi culture, or whether the decline is in the 1200s. This article argues for the second half of the 1200s as drought periods that ended the Anasazi culture--and seems to argue that the Mississippian Moundbuilder culture was impacted by these same weather pattern changes. At about this same time, in the mid-1200s, the Aztecs arrive from the Southwest into the Valley of Mexico (to the severe disadvantage of the locals).
While not everyone experienced the climate change in the same way, that North America was suffering a dramatic transformation in the same half century seems to argue that the Little Ice Age was global--not specific to Europe.
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Apparently, some years ago, there was an episode of South Park where Cartman declares November 20 "Kick a Ginger Day." Gingers are redheads with freckles. As a way of making fun of racism and other forms of prejudice, this sounds kind of funny. But apparently someone created a "Kick a Ginger Day" group on Facebook--and now there are multiple incidents of attacks on gingers.
In British Columbia, according to Ski Channel Television Network:
In the outskirts of Los Angeles, according to this November 23, 2009 Los Angeles Times report:
Red-haired students at as many as three separate British Columbia schools were victimized last November for allegedly having "no souls," and being inherently evil people.
While the original South Park episode "Ginger Kids" aired over three years ago, this was the first reported acts of targeted violence against gingers.
Nanaimo high school student Aaron Mishkin figures he was kicked or hit about 80 times, all because of a created Facebook group inspired by the episode.
At another school in Sooke, west of Victoria, BC, more than 20 students at Journey Middle School were suspended after shocked teachers received complaints they were kicking redheads.
From the November 21, 2009 Welland (Canada) Tribune:
Authorities said today that an assault on a 12-year-old Calabasas boy who was allegedly targeted by his fellow middle school students because of his red hair is not being investigated as a hate crime.
The attack on the boy occurred at A.E. Wright Middle School by as many as 14 classmates, police said. The incident may have been motivated by a Facebook message on Friday saying it was "Kick a Ginger Day."
However, the incident does not meet the criteria of a hate crime, said Lt. Scott Chew of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
"This doesn't apply," he said."Ginger" is a label given to people with red hair, freckles and fair skin. It gained notoriety from a 2005 episode of "South Park," an animated comedy show with adult humor, in which "gingers" were picked on.
The boy, whose name was not released because he is a juvenile, was kicked and hit with fists in various areas of the body, police said. His injuries were not severe.
Pretty clearly, what kids watch influences them in ways that are truly irrational. Hatred of "gingers" isn't something that they learned from their parents. It isn't something that the government has encouraged. This is something completely absurd, created as a joke--and yet it leads to violence. Anyone convicted of crimes against "gingers" obviously lacks the sense to be driving a car for many years.
NIAGARA FALLS — They represent a small part of the population, but kids with red hair had to be on guard Friday — it was "national kick a ginger day."
Most parents have never heard of it. But ask a teenager and chances are they know all about the episode from the satirical cartoon South Park, where one of the characters delivers a class presentation that targets red-haired people.
The episode resulted in the formation of a Facebook group that urged nearly 5,000 members from across Canada and around the world to "kick a ginger" on Nov. 20.
One Niagara Falls woman called Sun Media on Friday to say she was keeping her kids at home because they have red hair and she feared they might be kicked or beaten up.
"It's on Facebook and all the kids are texting it," said the exasperated mother of three high school-aged students. "So these poor kids are going to get beat up over this.
"What's a parent supposed to do?"
A big part of what caused the current economic mess was that the federal government, through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, encouraged risky lending, by a combination of cajoling big lenders, and their willingness to buy the high risk mortgages.
I have seen no evidence that they have fixed this mess--leaving us open to another disaster, once the economy recovers. Of course, this may be the goal--another disaster upon which the Democrats can ride the rescue. If the Democrats had an opposition party, they would fix this after gaining control of Congress. But the Democrats don't have an opposition party, so....
This November 22, 2009 New York Times article on CNBC isn't precisely the same disaster, but again, the federal government may get stuck holding the bag:
Investment funds are buying billions of dollars’ worth of home loans, discounted from the loans’ original value. Then, in what might seem an act of charity, the funds are helping homeowners by reducing the size of the loans.If the government agencies buying these mortgages had some adult supervision, this probably wouldn't be so worrisome.
But as part of these deals, the mortgages are being refinanced through lenders that work with government agencies like the Federal Housing Administration. This enables the funds to pocket sizable profits by reselling new, government-insured loans to other federal agencies, which then bundle the mortgages into securities for sale to investors.
While homeowners save money, the arrangement shifts nearly all the risk for the loans to the federal government — and, ultimately, taxpayers — at a time when Americans are falling behind on their mortgage payments in record numbers.
For instance, a fund might offer to pay $40 million for a $100 million block of mortgages from a bank in distress. Then the fund could arrange to have some of those loans refinanced into mortgages backed by an agency like the F.H.A. and then sold to an agency like Ginnie Mae. The trick is to persuade the homeowners to refinance those mortgages, by offering to reduce the amounts the homeowners owe.
The profit comes when the refinancings reach more than the $40 million that the fund paid for the block of loans.
The strategy has created an unusual alliance between Wall Street funds that specialize in troubled investments — the industry calls them “vulture” funds — and American homeowners.
But the transactions also add to the potential burden on government agencies, particularly the F.H.A., which has lately taken on an outsize role in the housing market and, some fear, may eventually need to be bailed out at taxpayer expense.
If you have clicked over to the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog recently, you will notice that you now go to http://www.TheArmedCitizen.com, which is much easier to remember--and the blog is much fancier looking, using WordPress. This is entirely the doing of my co-blogger, who has aspirations that it will become so popular that the advertising revenue will let us buy Congresscritters by the gross (or something like that).
From the November 22, 2009 Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
The comments are quite revealing. One commenter tells us:
Do you believe in the American dream -- the idea that in this country, hardworking people of every race, color and creed can get ahead on their own merits? If so, that belief may soon bar you from getting a license to teach in Minnesota public schools -- at least if you plan to get your teaching degree at the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus.
In a report compiled last summer, the Race, Culture, Class and Gender Task Group at the U's College of Education and Human Development recommended that aspiring teachers there must repudiate the notion of "the American Dream" in order to obtain the recommendation for licensure required by the Minnesota Board of Teaching. Instead, teacher candidates must embrace -- and be prepared to teach our state's kids -- the task force's own vision of America as an oppressive hellhole: racist, sexist and homophobic.
There are some facts that hard to argue with. Our US society is diverse. You can dislike the idea of "multiculturalism," but the fact remains that we are not a homogenous society. Also, not everyone does as well in school, and the stats show racial and ethnic minorities, and anyone anyone from poverty stricken zip codes, are the ones falling behind. We disagree about the "why" and "how to fix it."We are indeed not a homogenous society. But as this table from the August 26, 2009 Inside Higher Education shows, some of the "diverse" groups actually do better than whites on the Math section.
|Group||Critical Reading Score||1-Year Change, Reading||Math Score||1-Year Change, Math||Writing Score||1-Year Change, Writing||Total 1-Year Change|
Now, you might be able to make the case that the Reading and Writing sections could reflect cultural biases--but Mathematics is about as pure from culture as you can imagine--and Asian Americans outperform whites pretty impressively--and blacks are far below whites. This isn't cultural bias. Remember that Asian Americans are often immigrants or the children of immigrants. Even those whose families have been here for several generations (as is typical for Japanese-Americans) can't have any special cultural advantage over blacks, whose families have been here for centuries.
Here's a horrifying reality for the left: the teachers--and even the schools--aren't the biggest problem. It's the values of the homes in which children are raised that matters most.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I'm not suggesting that she shouldn't be held responsible for her actions--but this description from November 19, 2009 Fox News is chillingly reminiscent of other teenage girls that were sexually abused as children, and turned that rage outward:
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — On an Internet site, 15-year-old Alyssa Bustamante listed her hobbies as "killing people" and "cutting." It may have sounded like a teenage exaggeration, but authorities say she fulfilled her words.
Even as new details emerge about the teenager charged with killing 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten, many facts about the crime continued to be kept secret Thursday — and may never be released by authorities unless Bustamante goes to trial for murder.
Bustamante, who had been in juvenile custody since leading police to Elizabeth's body Oct. 23, was certified Wednesday as an adult and indicted on charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action. She is accused of strangling Elizabeth, cutting her throat and stabbing her.
Online court records showed Thursday that a public defender assigned to represent Bustamante filed a motion seeking to have her placed in a state hospital for immediate mental health treatment.
On a YouTube profile viewed by The Associated Press, which has since been taken down, Bustamante listed her hobbies as "killing people" and "cutting." A year ago, Bustamante posted a video to the site in which she appears to intentionally shock herself on an electric fence near her home, then goads her two younger brothers into doing the same.
In court Wednesday, juvenile justice officials testified that Bustamante attempted to commit suicide in 2007 and had been receiving mental health treatment for depression and cutting herself.
A police officer testified that Bustamante confessed to digging two holes to be used as a grave, then killing Elizabeth five days later without provocation because she wanted to know what it felt like.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
An interesting set of articles from the November 21, 2009 and November 22, 2009 Australian Herald Sun. It includes a number of emails from Professor Phil Jones who heads Britain's Climate Research Unit that demonstrate that he was intentionally fiddling with data to get the "right" results:
From: Phil Jones
To: ray bradley ,mann@XXXX, mhughes@XXXX
Subject: Diagram for WMO Statement
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 13:31:15 +0000
Dear Ray, Mike and Malcolm,
Once Tim’s got a diagram here we’ll send that either later today or first thing tomorrow.
I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline. Mike’s series got the annual land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999 for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with data through Oct is +0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998.
Thanks for the comments, Ray.
And from the November 21, 2009 article:
Mike, I presume congratulations are in order - so congrats etc !
Just sent loads of station data to Scott. Make sure he documents everything better this time ! And don’t leave stuff lying around on ftp sites - you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days? - our does ! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it.We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind. Tom Wigley has sent me a worried email when he heard about it - thought people could ask him for his model code. He has retired officially from UEA so he can hide behind that. IPR should be relevant here, but I can see me getting into an argument with someone at UEA who’ll say we must adhere to it !
From: Phil Jones
Subject: Re: A quick question
Date: Wed Dec 10 10:14:10 2008
Haven’t got a reply from the FOI person here at UEA. So I’m not entirely confident the numbers are correct. One way of checking would be to look on CA, but I’m not doing that. I did get an email from the FOI person here early yesterday to tell me I shouldn’t be deleting emails - unless this was ‘normal’ deleting to keep emails manageable! McIntyre hasn’t paid his £10, so nothing looks likely to happen re his Data Protection Act email.
Anyway requests have been of three types - observational data, paleo data and who made IPCC changes and why. Keith has got all the latter - and there have been at least 4. We made Susan aware of these - all came from David Holland. According to the FOI Commissioner’s Office, IPCC is an international organization, so is above any national FOI. Even if UEA holds anything about IPCC, we are not obliged to pass it on, unless it has anything to do with our core business - and it doesn’t! I’m sounding like Sir Humphrey here!
From: Phil Jones
To: “Michael E. Mann”
Subject: IPCC & FOI
Date: Thu May 29 11:04:11 2008
Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4?
Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment - minor family crisis.
Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t have his new email address.
We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.
I see that CA claim they discovered the 1945 problem in the Nature paper!!
Options appear to be:
Send them the data
Send them a subset removing station data from some of the countries who made us pay in the normals papers of Hulme et al. (1990s) and also any number that David can remember. This should also omit some other countries like (Australia, NZ, Canada, Antarctica). Also could extract some of the sources that Anders added in (31-38 source codes in J&M 2003). Also should remove many of the early stations that we coded up in the 1980s.
Send them the raw data as is, by reconstructing it from GHCN. How could this be done? Replace all stations where the WMO ID agrees with what is in GHCN. This would be the raw data, but it would annoy them.
These are not the actions of someone who believes that the data demonstrates global warming. These are the actions of someone who is engaged in a criminal enterprise.
Fraud is widespread in the academic community. Michael Bellesiles and Ward Churchill are the tip of the iceberg.
UPDATE: This November 22, 2009 article pretty conclusively demonstrates the type of intellectual fraud going on in the global warming community, with this set of emails:
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. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board…What do others think?
I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor…
It results from this journal having a number of editors. The responsible one for this is a well-known skeptic in NZ. He has let a few papers through by Michaels and Gray in the past. I’ve had words with Hans von Storch about this, but got nowhere. Another thing to discuss in Nice !
This second case gets to the crux of the matter. I suspect that deFreitas deliberately chose other referees who are members of the skeptics camp. I also suspect that he has done this on other occasions. How to deal with this is unclear, since there are a number of individuals with bona fide scientific credentials who could be used by an unscrupulous editor to ensure that ‘anti-greenhouse’ science can get through the peer review process (Legates, Balling, Lindzen, Baliunas, Soon, and so on)….
GRL is Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union--and not a trivial journal in any way. Yes, it was very important to get people fired there.
Example three is the driving out of Professor James Saiers as editor of the Geophysical Research Letters journal, which under him had published a sceptical paper by sceptics Sallie Baliunas and Wille Soon.
Here’s Tom Wigley to Michael “Hockey Stick” Mann:
Proving bad behavior here is very difficult. If you think that Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU channels to get him ousted.
I’m not sure that GRL can be seen as an honest broker in these debates anymore, and it is probably best to do an end run around GRL now where possible. They have published far too many deeply flawed contrarian papers in the past year or so. There is no possible excuse for them publishing all 3 Douglass papers and the Soon et al paper. These were all pure crap.
There appears to be a more fundamental problem w/ GRL now, unfortunately…
Yeah, basically this is just a heads up to people that something might be up here. What a shame that would be. It’s one thing to lose “Climate Research”. We can’t afford to lose GRL. I think it would be useful if people begin to record their experiences w/ both Saiers and potentially Mackwell (I don’t know him–he would seem to be complicit w/what is going on here).
If there is a clear body of evidence that something is amiss, it could be taken through the proper channels. I don’t that the entire AGU hierarchy has yet been compromised!
Friday, November 20, 2009
It didn't go so well this time for the pirates; the victims returned fire. From the November 18, 2009 New York Times:
Yes, it is rather amazing how turning a low-risk activity (piracy) into a high-risk activity seems to help, doesn't it? Into the 19th century, American merchant ships were generally armed--and not just with small arms--to deal with the problem of piracy. But the prevailing sentiment elsewhere seems to be to pay ransom instead.
In a separate episode, the captain of a hijacked chemical tanker was reported to have died of gunshot wounds inflicted when pirates seized the MV Theresa with 28 North Korean crew members northwest of the Seychelles on Monday. The spate of attacks reflected the increasing boldness of pirates roaming far from their bases in Somalia to seize vessels and sailors to hold for ransom.
The United States Navy Central Command said four suspected pirates in a skiff came within 300 yards of the Maersk Alabama at 6.30 a.m. Wednesday about 600 miles off the northeast coast of Somalia as it headed for the Kenyan port of Mombasa.
But a security team on board the Maersk Alabama responded with small-arms fire, long-range acoustical devices painful to the human ear and evasive maneuvers to thwart the attack, the Navy said in a statement.
“Due to Maersk Alabama following maritime industry’s best practices such as embarking security teams, the ship was able to prevent being successfully attacked by pirates,” said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, the commander of the Central Command. “This is a great example of how merchant mariners can take pro-active action to prevent being attacked.”
It is, of course, complementary to the briefs filed by other parties, so it's a bit of a struggle to make sure that it stands on its own--but doesn't unnecessarily duplicate what the other parties in McDonald v. Chicago are doing.
In any case, Academics for the Second Amendment has exhausted its treasure chest (in the loosest, smallest definition of "treasure") so if you want to assist with this effort--even just a couple of bucks--go to their blog, and hit the PayPal button on the right side of the screen. Or send a check to:
Academics for the Second Amendment
Post Office Box 131254
St. Paul, MN 55113
Thursday, November 19, 2009
The claim about the nature of the states that voted for Obama in 2008 ascribed to Professor Joe Olson: he didn't write it after the 2000 election, after the 2004 election, or the 2008 election. The data contained therein might be true, but the fact that it keeps coming around with a new election year, new Democratic candidate for president, and attributed to someone who didn't write it, should make you very skeptical.
The claim that Dr. David E. Cole of the Center for Automotive Research met with Obama appointees to the car task force, and when he told them that certain automobile designs would require repeal of the laws of physics, they said that they would have Congress repeal those laws? Nope. Cole does say that some years ago, he did talk with members of Congress that thought they could repeal laws of physics ("2 + 2 = whatever the Party says it does," to paraphrase Orwell). But Cole hasn't meant with the Obama car task force.
Last night was something of a rarity: a crisp clear night. And let me emphasize how crisp it was.
I rolled Big Bertha 2.0 out a bit late--around 8:30 PM--and by then, the target that I had originally planned to go after, M101 had dipped too low in the sky for a decent view. After spending some time collimating the mirror, I decided, "It is just too cold out here!" and went back inside.
I am pleased to report that the diagonal mirror holder and mirror cell that I made for Big Bertha 2.0 are very easy to adjust for perfect collimation.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
A friend pointed me to this interesting article in the November 17, 2009 Daily Mail about a new exhibit in Germany:
Nazi Germany celebrated Christmas without Christ with the help of swastika tree baubles, 'Germanic' cookies and a host of manufactured traditions, a new exhibition has shown.
The way the celebration was gradually taken over and exploited for propaganda purposes by Hitler's Nazis is detailed in a new exhibition.
Rita Breuer has spent years scouring flea markets for old German Christmas ornaments.
She and her daughter Judith developed a fascination with the way Christmas was used by the atheist Nazis, who tried to turn it into a pagan winter solstice celebration.
Selected objects from the family's enormous collection have gone on show at the National Socialism Documentation Centre in Cologne.
'Christmas was a provocation for the Nazis - after all, the baby Jesus was a Jewish child,' Judith Breuer told the German newspaper Spiegel. 'The most important celebration in the year didn't fit with their racist beliefs so they had to react, by trying to make it less Christian.'
The exhibition includes swastika-shaped cookie-cutters and Christmas tree baubles shaped like Iron Cross medals.
The Nazis attempted to persuade housewives to bake cookies in the shape of swastikas, and they replaced the Christian figure of Saint Nicholas, who traditionally brings German children treats on December 6, with the Norse god Odin.
This doesn't surprise me particularly. I recently finished reading Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism. He makes the claim that the Nazis removed prayer from German public schools in 1935, for a similar reason. I have not had a chance to spot check Goldberg's claims, but I this does generally fit. National Socialism was derived from progressivism, and shared many of its most obnoxious traits: hostility towards religion, and especially Judeo-Christian beliefs; support for eugenics; government control over the economy; hostility towards free market capitalism.
UPDATE: It does appear that Goldberg was largely right, although perhaps a little oversimplified. Richard Grunberger's The 12-Year Reich: A Social History of Nazi Germany, 1933-1945 pp. 289-290 indicates that in 1935, religion was removed from the school leaving exams, and religion classes were made optional. The time when religion classes were offered was moved to encourage students to miss classes, religious instruction was reduced to one day a week in the over-12 age group, and completely stopped for the over-14 age group once the war started. In Bavaria, parents were strongly encouraged to take their kids out of Catholic schools. What remained of what we might call chapel was replaced with entirely patriotic activities.
(While not relevant to religion, not surprisingly, the Nazis also encouraged students to think of themselves as smarter than their teachers and other educated people, since most of these in many villages were clergy.)
A friend pointed me to this depressing prediction, based on how the price of gold has burst through the $1,100 per ounce ceiling:
For 18 months, the gold price had been in a trading range topping out around $1,000. It has now broken out decisively from that range. The opportunity for the world's central banks to change policy and affect the economic outcome has been lost. The world economy is now locked on to an undeviating track towards another train wreck.And then it gets really bad. I have held off on buying bonds. Some friends are buying commodities--which really aren't an investment, but they can be a good hedge against inflation--and especially hyperinflation.
With current Fed policy, gold is headed rapidly toward $2,000 per ounce, probably within six months. The forecasters who see such a price, but suggest it would take four to five years to get there, are ignoring history. Since gold was able to get from $185 to $850 in 18 months in 1978-80, there is no reason why it cannot get from $1,100 to $2,000 in six months now. What's more, although 1980's peak seemed madness at the time, and was equivalent to nearly $2,400 today, there is no reason why gold cannot go much higher if it is given another year or so to get there. The supply of gold from new mining is around 1 million ounces per year LESS than in 1980 and the supply of speculative capital that could flow into gold is many times greater. Hence, a $5,000 gold price is possible though not certain, if present monetary policy is continued or only modestly modified – and that price could be reached by the end of 2010.
As was demonstrated by the housing bubble of 2004-06, modest rises in interest rates are not sufficient to stop a bubble once it is well under way. Given the Fed's recent track record, it is most unlikely that we will get any more than modest and very reluctant interest-rate rises. Even if inflation is moving at a brisk pace by the latter part of next year, the price rises will be explained away, or possibly massaged out of the figures as happened in the early part of 2008. Hence the bubble will inexorably move to its denouement, at which point gold will probably be north of $3,000 an ounce and oil well north of $150 per barrel. Even though there will be no supply/demand reason why oil should get to those levels, and gold has almost no genuine demand at all, the weight of money behind those commodities in a speculative situation will push their prices inexorably upwards, beyond all reason until something intervenes to stop it.
At some point, probably before the end of 2010, the bubble will burst. The deflationary effect on the U.S. economy of $150 plus oil will overwhelm the modest forces of genuine economic expansion. The Treasury bond market will collapse, overwhelmed by the weight of deficit financing. Once again, the banking system will be in deep trouble. The industrial sector, beyond the largest and most liquid companies and the extractive industries, will in any case have remained in recession – it is notable that, in spite of the Fed's frenzy of activity, bank lending has fallen $600 billion in the last year. Unemployment, which will probably enter the second downturn at around current levels, will spike further upwards. The dollar will probably not collapse, but only because it will have been declining inexorably in the intervening year, to give a euro value of $2 and a yen value of 60 to 65 yen to the dollar.
If the Democrats had an opposition party, there could be a very good opportunity for that opposition party to win decisive control of Congress next year. But there is no opposition party anymore. And even getting in control of Congress, isn't going to be able to clean up this mess as long as the Democrats control the White House. And that's assuming that this mythical opposition political party actually had the courage to do something.
Maybe it's time to stockpile canned food and ammunition.
UPDATE: A reader tells me that the $850 peak around 1980 didn't last very long--a day or two, before falling back. My recollection is that when my wife and I went out to buy wedding rings in early 1980, gold was at about $1000 an ounce, and our wedding rings are proportionately skinny as a direct result. I also notice that the "buy gold now!" advertising seems to be getting more intense--almost like someone wants to dump their inventory while the price is high. This is not at all what you would expect if there was a realistic chance of gold going a lot higher. On the other hand, the deficit is going to definitely cause inflation at some point.
Idaho Freedom Foundation reports that along with all the other states that have acquired a bunch of new House districts because of the stimulus, so has Idaho! When I asked Recovery.org for a list of Idaho Congressional districts that were benefiting from the creation of new jobs, it showed details about jobs created in Idaho Congresional districts (in order of number of jobs created or saved): 2, 1, 5, 4, 8, 9, 35, 3, 0, 16, 19, and 28! And all this time I thought there were only two Idaho Congressional Districts! (And who represents the 0th district?)
What is this? Did Chicago voting "vote early, vote often" suddenly get applied to stimulus spending? No wonder it was so expensive--they had to spend money in Congressional districts we didn't even know existed!
This is very odd. The dateline says that this is a Reuters report of November 16, 2009, but the opening sentence doesn't describe the United States anytime in the last 30 years or so:
"American squeamishness about talking about sex"? This must have fallen through a wormhole from the 1950s or 1960s. Maybe, maybe, in some parts of America, the 1970s. If there is anything that Americans are squeamish about, it is talking about sex--and more importantly, having sex. Otherwise, we wouldn't be having these problems. We live in a society about as open and insistent about talking about sex as any society in history. Even Roman society could not have been much more willing to talk about sex than ours is.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American squeamishness about talking about sex has helped keep common sexually transmitted infections far too common, especially among vulnerable teens, U.S. researchers reported Monday.
Latest statistics on chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis show the three highly treatable infections continue to spread in the United States.
"Chlamydia and gonorrhea are stable at unacceptably high levels and syphilis is resurgent after almost being eliminated," said John Douglas, director of the division of sexually transmitted diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"We have among the highest rates of STDs of any developed country in the world," Douglas added in a telephone interview.
Oh yes: the distribution isn't particularly normal:
Yes, that's right, rap music never talks about sex, because of "squeamishness": hence the extraordinary rates of STDs.
* Blacks, who represent 12 percent of the U.S. population, accounted for about 71 percent of reported gonorrhea cases and almost half of all chlamydia and syphilis cases in 2008.
* Black women 15 to 19 had the highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea.
So 63% of syphilis cases are in a group that constitutes no more than 2% of the U.S. population? Is it because gay men are especially "squeamish" about talking about sex?
* 63 percent of syphilis cases were among men who have sex with men.
"If you are a man who has sex with men you ought to be getting a battery of STD tests every year," Douglas added.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
This was more than just a dusting of snow. I fear it is time to wash and cover the Corvette for the winter, and turn off collision insurance until spring. It is also very cold--21 degrees when my wife and I returned home this evening from watching our granddaughter. It is probably below 20 degrees by now.
Friday, November 13, 2009
And "tale" is the right word. I saw this yesterday while using the treadmill--and while I have learned not to expect much historical accuracy from films, I was still disappointed at how "creative" this one was. Squanto was indeed kidnapped on the New England coast by Englishmen. But he was sold into slavery in Spain, not in England. The battle with the bear for a paying audience? Completely invented. He did not escape his tormentors, and fall by accident into an English monastery. after an heroic escape by boat. Squanto was rescued from slavery in Spain by monks, who arranged for his travel to England, where he was treated quite well, and eventually returned home to New England.
What's sad about this is the movie falls into the absurd trap that turns every historical event involving race into some sort of heroic struggle by the oppressed to overcome his oppressors. Squanto's sale in slavery was definitely oppression--but his rescue from it was an act of decency by Christian monks who saw the evil of slavery. His decent treatment in England is doubtless part of why Squanto was so helpful to the Pilgrims when they arrived on the Massachusetts shore--a certainly more plausible response to good treatment than what this movie portrays.
It just drives me crazy to see so many films falsify history--and not even because the real history is boring, or complicated. It is almost like someone, somewhere, is terrified that an accurate portrayal of history wouldn't fit into the mindless ideological framework that seems to drive those idiots in Hollywood.
Before they go under water! But there is a little problem with the "rising sea levels will drown sea level countries." From the March 28, 2009 London Telegraph:
But if there is one scientist who knows more about sea levels than anyone else in the world it is the Swedish geologist and physicist Nils-Axel Mörner, formerly chairman of the INQUA International Commission on Sea Level Change. And the uncompromising verdict of Dr Mörner, who for 35 years has been using every known scientific method to study sea levels all over the globe, is that all this talk about the sea rising is nothing but a colossal scare story.
Despite fluctuations down as well as up, "the sea is not rising," he says. "It hasn't risen in 50 years." If there is any rise this century it will "not be more than 10cm (four inches), with an uncertainty of plus or minus 10cm". And quite apart from examining the hard evidence, he says, the elementary laws of physics (latent heat needed to melt ice) tell us that the apocalypse conjured up by Al Gore and Co could not possibly come about.
The reason why Dr Mörner, formerly a Stockholm professor, is so certain that these claims about sea level rise are 100 per cent wrong is that they are all based on computer model predictions, whereas his findings are based on "going into the field to observe what is actually happening in the real world".
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I mentioned the line in Dr. Hasan's Power Point presentation about how Muslims love death more than we love life--a statement that I have seen Muslims make in other contexts. A reader points to this account in Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire of the rise of Islam. (Why is this in a book about the decline and fall of the Roman Empire? Think Eastern Roman Empire, which persisted for a thousand years after the fall of Rome.)
The son of Abu Sophian was sent with five thousand Arabs to try the first experiment of surprise or treaty ; but on the eleventh day, the town was invested by the whole force of Abu Obeidah. He addressed the customary summons to the chief commanders and people of Aelia:This notion that Muslims love death more than non-Muslims love life is apparently not a modern construct. The solution, of course, is not to become like our enemies, and love death, but to love life enough to persuade those who wish the Islamic martyrs' death of the error of their ways, or alternatively to assist them towards what they love so much.
"Health and happiness to every one that follows the right way ! We require of you to testify that there is but one God, and that Mahomet is his apostle. If you refuse this, consent to pay tribute, and be under us forthwith. Otherwise I shall bring men against you who love death better than you do the drinking of wine or eating hog's flesh."
I have another job interview on Monday with a Boise company.
At this point, I am pleased to report that even if a full-time job doesn't open up, the three classes that I have for certain (perhaps four), and the four classes that my wife is teaching in the spring, is sufficient to cover all of our bills.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I've seen several times where Palestinians have claimed that they will win because, "We love death more than the Jews love life." Now I see a similar statement attributed to Dr. Hasan's Power Point presentation made to fellow Army psychiatrists in 2007. You can actually see the entire presentation here. And indeed, on one of the later slides, he does write:
We love death more then [sic] you love life!It is possible, read in context, that he was articulating the view of Islamic extremists, and not necessarily his own view. But what I find really worrisome is that he was supposed to be discussing a medical topic in his presentation--and the rough equivalent would be if an evangelical Christian put together a presentation about the religious conflicts that a Christian soldier might experience--and then spent at dozens of slides explaining fine details of Christian belief in a way that seems intended to proselytize. In a private company, a presentation like this would have made a lot of people very uncomfortable--if someone in charge didn't just say, "Just a moment, Dr. Hasan, I think you have gotten off topic here."
I mentioned the problem that I had with the air conditioning display on the Corvette requiring "percussive maintenance." It turns out that this is a sufficiently common problem that there is a detailed description of how to fix it at Corvette Forum. It involves removing several parts, and then resoldering the contacts on the printed circuit board. It doesn't look all that hard, but I suppose until tapping the display doesn't fix the problem anymore, I'm not going to put this much effort into it.
Passed the House also. H.R. 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 is 1427 pages long. There is some rather upset email going around about sections 202 and 204 imposing mandatory retrofit of existing houses for energy efficiency. I don't see anything mandatory in those sections. I do see an enormous amount of bureaucracy being created that serves no good purpose. If the cost of energy increase that this pig creates isn't enough to make you upgrade your insulation, then you are probably a Democrat with more money than you know what to do with, anyway.
Just the health care reform bill: there may well be some mildly good, or at least incredibly destructive stuff contained in H.R. 2454 that wouldn't be controversial. So why do we have to throw it all into a single incomprehensible bill, along with stuff that really is controversial? I'm sure that at least some of this bill is stuff to further enrich those who are already obscenely rich.
NOAA is reporting that October was nationally the 3rd coldest October since national records start in 1895:
Temperature Highlights - OctoberNow, Alaska was warmer than average, with the 10th highest temperature since records there start in 1918. But it turns out that you can plot national temperature averages for year to date here. There's definitely a warming trend from 1895 to the 1930s, then cooling until 1970, then warming until 1998--and now cooling again. If greenhouse gases were the major determinant of global temperatures, it is a bit odd that they fell for forty years--at a time when industrialization was dramatic, and have started to fall again--in spite of no successful effort to control greenhouse gases.
The average October temperature of 50.8°F was 4.0°F below the 20th Century average and ranked as the 3rd coolest based on preliminary data. For the nation as a whole, it was the third coolest October on record.
It could well be that manmade greenhouse gases are contributing to warming, but that other phenomena are playing a larger role. Those other phenomena would seem to be considerably more powerful than manmade greenhouse gases, if they successfully overwhelmed manmade greenhouse gases 1930-70, and 2000-09. That doesn't mean that manmade greenhouse gases aren't a factor, and perhaps even a serious concern. But the popular attempts to overstate the criticality of manmade greenhouse gases smell more like an attempt at justifying control and enriching the already obscenely rich (like Al Gore) than something that requires immediate action.
The Department of Justice is using authority under the PATRIOT Act to gather information about visitors to a hard left "news" organization. From November 10, 2009 CBS News:
In a case that raises questions about online journalism and privacy rights, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a formal request to an independent news site ordering it to provide details of all reader visits on a certain day.I am quite prepared to believe that Holder's Department of Justice has a legitimate terrorism case that it is pursuing. I just find it amusing that the same crowd that thought "Bushitler" was clever aren't making this news story a 24/7 event. But I guess as long as this is being done by the Zero, it's not a problem.
The grand jury subpoena also required the Philadelphia-based Indymedia.us Web site "not to disclose the existence of this request" unless authorized by the Justice Department, a gag order that presents an unusual quandary for any news organization.
Kristina Clair, a 34-year old Linux administrator living in Philadelphia who provides free server space for Indymedia.us, said she was shocked to receive the Justice Department's subpoena. (The Independent Media Center is a left-of-center amalgamation of journalists and advocates that – according to their principles of unity and mission statement – work toward "promoting social and economic justice" and "social change.")
Monday, November 9, 2009
I received this happy piece of news from SSRN (Social Science Research Network) today:
Dear Clayton E. Cramer:
Your paper entitled, "'This Right is Not Allowed by Governments that are Afraid of the People': The Public Meaning of the Second Amendment When the Fourteenth Amendment was Ratified" was recently listed on SSRN's Top Ten download list for Constitutional Law, Jurisprudence & Legal Philosophy Journals, LSN Subject Matter eJournals, LSN: Rights & Liberties (Topic), LSN: Structure of Government & Political Theory (Topic), LSN: Structure of Government & Political Theory (Topic), Law & Culture, Law & Positive Political Theory, Law & Society Journals, Legal History and Legal Scholarship Network. To view the top ten list for the journal click on its name Constitutional Law, Jurisprudence & Legal Philosophy Journals Top Ten, LSN Subject Matter eJournals Top Ten, LSN: Rights & Liberties (Topic) Top Ten, LSN: Structure of Government & Political Theory (Topic) Top Ten, LSN: Structure of Government & Political Theory (Topic) Top Ten, Law & Culture Top Ten, Law & Positive Political Theory Top Ten, Law & Society Journals Top Ten, Legal History Top Ten and Legal Scholarship Network Top Ten and to view all the papers in the journals click on these links link(s) Constitutional Law, Jurisprudence & Legal Philosophy Journals All Papers, LSN Subject Matter eJournals All Papers, LSN: Rights & Liberties (Topic) All Papers, LSN: Structure of Government & Political Theory (Topic) All Papers, LSN: Structure of Government & Political Theory (Topic) All Papers, Law & Culture All Papers, Law & Positive Political Theory All Papers, Law & Society Journals All Papers, Legal History All Papers and Legal Scholarship Network All Papers.As of 11/09/2009 your paper has been downloaded 417 times. You may view the abstract and download statistics at the URL: http://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=1491365.
Actually a pretty good match for my skill set--except that they were looking for someone with 1-5 years of experience. Still, I made the case that I was willing to work cheap, and be happy about it.
The interviewer admitted it was a bit intimidating to ask the "Microsoft punk technical questions" of someone who has been a software engineer longer than the interviewer has been alive. I think it overall went pretty well; it is just that I am competing with stacks of people with comparable amounts of experience, also willing to work cheap--because the alternative is not working at all.
The other good news is that tentatively I have two history classes to teach in the spring semester at a college in the area. I was hoping for something that would get me benefits, but who knows? If I do this for several years, I might eventually get a full-time teaching job that pays the equivalent of what I earned in 1982!
Sunday, November 8, 2009
From the November 7, 2009 Telegraph:
Hasan, the sole suspect in the massacre of 13 fellow US soldiers in Texas, attended the controversial Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Great Falls, Virginia, in 2001 at the same time as two of the September 11 terrorists, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt. His mother's funeral was held there in May that year.
The preacher at the time was Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Yemeni scholar who was banned from addressing a meeting in London by video link in August because he is accused of supporting attacks on British troops and backing terrorist organisations.
Hasan's eyes "lit up" when he mentioned his deep respect for al-Awlaki's teachings, according to a fellow Muslim officer at the Fort Hood base in Texas, the scene of Thursday's horrific shooting spree.But we shouldn't jump to any hasty conclusions about Dr. Hasan's motivations in shooting dozens of soldiers after shouting "Allahu Akhbar." No, not at all.
MArooned reports that molesting children is a less serious crime in Massachusetts than possession of an unlicensed high capacity magazine. He quotes from an article in the November 3, 2009 Boston Herald:
SALEM — A Beverly man has been sentenced to up to 3½ years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a Peabody boy numerous times when he was between the ages of 6 and 8.Just to verify that, I found the applicable Massachusetts law:
Section 131M. No person shall sell, offer for sale, transfer or possess an assault weapon or a large capacity feeding device that was not otherwise lawfully possessed on September 13, 1994. Whoever not being licensed under the provisions of section 122 violates the provisions of this section shall be punished, for a first offense, by a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $10,000 or by imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than ten years, or by both such fine and imprisonment, and for a second offense, by a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $15,000 or by imprisonment for not less than five years nor more than 15 years, or by both such fine and imprisonment.So it has to be second offense possession of a "large capacity feeding device" before you get a longer sentence than you get for molesting children. Priorities, guys?
Saturday, November 7, 2009
From the November 6, 2009 Sacramento Bee:
Count on RINO Schwarzenegger to help the Democrats with their campaign of deception.
Up to one-fourth of the 110,000 jobs reported as saved by federal stimulus money in California probably never were in danger, a Bee review has found.
In a required state report to the federal government, the university system said the $268.5 million it received in stimulus funding through October allowed it to retain 26,156 employees.
That total represents more than half of CSU's statewide work force. However, university officials confirmed Thursday that half their workers were not going to be laid off without the stimulus dollars.
That certainly was not the way Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger described it at a news event with Vice President Joe Biden late last week, where he focused on people, not budgets.
"Anyone that criticizes the stimulus money should talk to those 100,000 people that have retained their jobs or gotten jobs because of the stimulus money, especially the 62,000 teachers that have kept their jobs or gotten jobs," Schwarzenegger said.
There's no question in my mind that properly done, a governmental spending package could be a stimulus to the economy. But so would a tax cut, especially if it was targeted to American-made goods or industries. But the porkulus that Congress passed seems to have been neither an honest Keynesian stimulus, nor particularly effective as a Laffer Curve tax cut.
From the November 6, 2009 Politico:
Two-hundred-and-thirty-seven members of Congress are millionaires. That’s 44 percent of the body – compared to about 1 percent of Americans overall.I suppose that it is a bit easier to understand why they don't much care about the illegal immigration concerns that most Americans have. For many working Americans, illegal immigrants are competitors driving down wages; for a big chunk of Congress, a shortage of illegal immigrants would mean having to hire Americans as maids and gardeners.
CRP says California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa is the richest lawmaker on Capitol Hill, with a net worth estimated at about $251 million. Next in line: Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), worth about $244.7 million; Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), worth about $214.5 million; Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), worth about $209.7 million; and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), worth about $208.8 million.
Watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Frank Capra's fable about American government some time. It's a fable. It was a fable when Capra made it. But I would love to see the day when ordinary Americans--not multimillionaires and friends of multimillionaires--were making our laws.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Okay, not a very important part of it, but still interesting, none the less. World Net Daily found that Dr. Hasan was part of the THINKING ANEW—SECURITY PRIORITIES FOR THE NEXT ADMINISTRATION project. Go to page 29 of the document.
UPDATE: More accurately, he was one part of a team of academics promoting a new strategy for homeland security. It appears to be the usually progressive approaches (p. 4):
The President should:
• employ a strategy that amplifies voices within the Muslim world that seek to counter radicalization and recruitment, and that exercises care regarding the use of lexicon;
• foster respect for and adherence to international law in the form of longstanding, fundamental and widely accepted norms; and
• engage productively with international organizations and institutions to build security abroad
Thursday, November 5, 2009
According to the first reports, there were at least two shooters, and perhaps a third. This is not typical of the psychiatric mass murder incidents that we have grown accustomed to over the last thirty years. I would be very, very surprised if this doesn't turn out to be a terrorist attack--and if so, you can be sure that the mainstream media will do their best to downplay any connections to Islam.
UPDATE: From ABC News:
With that name, obviously part of Aryan Nations.
The suspected gunman was identified by ABC News as Major Malik Nadal Hasan.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, told Fox News that military sources informed her that the gunman was about to be deployed to Iraq.
UPDATE 2: Curiously enough, not a psychiatric mass murder--a psychiatrist mass murder. Dr. Hasan was a psychiatrist, a Muslim, born in Virginia, who became increasingly upset after 9/11 about the prospect of being shipped overseas, at least according to Nader Hasan, a cousin of his interviewed on Fox News.
If he was upset about the prospect of being in danger, I could at least ascribe a non-political motive to his taking such an action. There are people who joined the military in peacetime, and were a bit surprised to learn that the job might be dangerous. But psychiatrists aren't front-line soldiers. It makes more sense to think that he was upset about being part of the war against fellow Muslims.
Dr. Hasan claimed that he was being harassed by fellow officers because of his Middle Eastern heritage. When the Fox News anchor asked Nader Hasan about that, Nader suddenly had to get off the phone because a family emergency. (Sounds suspicious, but can you think of anything more likely to provoke a family emergency than having a relative commit a crime like this?)
I would like to think that Dr. Hasan's fellow officers would know better than to harass him because of his ancestry. (Suspicious, especially in light of his anger about having to deploy to Iraq, I can understand, but harassment is utterly not okay.) I would like to think that they would know better, but I used to go to church with a woman of Lebanese Christian ancestry, who grew up on a military base in the South, where she and the other Arab-Americans were commonly called "sand niggers." It is also possible that Dr. Hasan's problems with his co-workers had more to do with Dr. Hasan; it is very easy to imagine other motivations when the alternative is to look within yourself.
One odd aspect: Dr. Hasan was apparently not married (maybe never married). That seems a bit odd for a 39 year old Muslim man.
Fox News also reported that AP had just reported based on anonymous sources that the other two soldiers taken in for questioning had been released, and that Dr. Hasan was the only shooter. That makes it double hearsay (triple, by the time you repeat this to someone else) from anonymous sources. If this fact were currency, it would have been depreciated down from one dollar to two cents by that much indirection.
UPDATE 3: From Associated Press:
Definitely not in any way related to Islamofascist terrorism. No question about it.
FORT HOOD, Texas – Soldiers who witnessed the shooting rampage at Fort Hood that left 13 people dead reported that the gunman shouted "Allahu Akbar!" — an Arabic phrase for "God is great!" — before opening fire, the base commander said Friday.
Lt. Gen. Robert Cone said officials had not yet confirmed that the suspected shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, made the comment before the rampage Thursday. Hasan was among 30 people wounded in theand remained hospitalized on a ventilator.
UPDATE 4: From the November 6, 2009 Kileen Daily Herald:
Neighbors described Hasan as a quiet man who began wearing "Arabic clothing" in recent weeks.Dr. Hasan isn't an immigrant. He was born in America. Is this clear enough?
I have an interview for an adjunct history position Friday afternoon, and a phone interview for a software engineering position Thursday afternoon. If it works out, I might end up as a gypsy professor like my wife, who ends up teaching full-time--but of course, it is never all at once school, where one might be eligible for benefits.
Talk about weird: the history position interview almost didn't happen. For some reason, the department chair kept calling my home number, never got an answer, never got our answering machine, and his emails to me didn't get to me, didn't bounce, and didn't end up in my junk folder. I could get paranoid from such technological failures, I suppose.
UPDATE: The engineering job interview didn't go so well. It was one of those questions about finding two or three adjacent values in an array of longs that are not sorted, and returning true or false depending on whether those numbers sum to zero or not. I suggested that sorting the array by using a binary tree might be wise, so that you can rebalance the tree with zero (or as close as you can get to it) at the base. Then it is a matter of working left and right sides of the tree, seeing if you can find the two or three values that sum to zero.
For some reason, I was thinking that a binary sort would be faster than qsort (it isn't), and I couldn't remember the formula used for calculating the number of operations required to produce a binary tree for an array of k values. I knew that natural log k was part of it; I guessed it might be 2 ln k, but that's actually the worst case number of steps required to find a particular number in a list of k values.
I may be too old to do software engineering anymore.
I saw on Fox News last night that the Republicans in Congress finally put out a health care reform proposal. Why did it take them this long? It is apparently only about 200 pages long (and only in comparison to the continually growing Democratic bill could this be considered a virtue), and the Congressional Budget Office's "scoring" suggests that it might be the right starting point. From the November 5, 2009 Washington Examiner:
The Congressional Budget Office Wednesday night released its cost analysis of the Republican health care plan and found that it would reduce health care premiums and cut the deficit by $68 billion over ten years.The Republican argument is that by cutting costs, there is some possibility of expanding coverage in the future.
The Republican plan does not call for a government insurance plan but rather attempts to reform the system by creating high-risk insurance pools, allowing people to purchase health insurance policies across state lines and instituting medical malpractice reforms.
"Not only does the GOP plan lower health care costs, but it also increases access to quality care, including for those with pre-existing conditions, at a price our country can afford," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.
According to CBO, the GOP bill would indeed lower costs, particularly for small businesses that have trouble finding affordable health care policies for their employees. The report found rates would drop by seven to 10 percent for this group, and by five to eight percent for the individual market, where it can also be difficult to find affordable policies.
The GOP plan would have the smallest economic impact on the large group market that serves people working for large businesses that have access to the cheapest coverage. Those premiums would decline by zero to 3 percent, the CBO said.
I have made something of the same argument with respect to the Democratic proposal, which is full of items that are supposed to cut costs, and that could have been passed separately months ago. So why wasn't it? And why didn't Republicans pass something like their proposal when they controlled Congress? They could have made real progress on a real issue, perhaps made it harder for the Democrats to get control of Congress in 2006 (and the White House last year)--but pretty clearly, the Republican Party was too busy chatting up teenage boys about sex, having trouble with their "wide stance" in public restrooms, and spending money like drunken sailors. This may be too little, too late to save the Republican Party.
I wish there were a serious opposition party to the Democrats.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Darby Penney and Peter Stastny, The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases From a State Hospital Attic (New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2008). The premise of the book is quite interesting. When Willard State Hospital, a New York State mental hospital closed some years ago, a team looking through the buildings found a number of suitcases in the attic of one building that had belonged to various patients who had died while hospitalized. For whatever reason, these suitcases were not sent to next of kin (perhaps because there were no next of kin). The authors picked several suitcases where the contents seemed quite intriguing, or where it was possible to find information in the hospital records about the owners.
There's plenty of sorrow in each story. Any time you have someone hospitalized against his or her will because of mental illness, it is a tragedy. When they are hospitalized for life, it is even more of a tragedy. If they spend their whole lives inside because they have such severe mental illness that they needed to be there, you want to cry. If they spend their whole lives inside for no good reason, you want to scream in rage.
This book tries very hard to persuade you that at least some of these people were hospitalized for life for no good reason. There have doubtless been such cases. Some persons were hospitalized for no good reason, and held against their will because the bureaucracy refused to admit that someone made a mistake. There are persons who were hospitalized with good cause, but who recovered (either because of treatment, or spontaneously), and yet someone failed to recognize that it was time for such a person to be released.
There is absolutely no question in my mind that both of these situations must have happened, simply because human beings make mistakes. They fail to recognize errors in classification; they become insistent on covering up their own mistakes (or those of predecessors); persons get lost in a large institution. Yet when I have looked into the legal cases associated with such improper commitments, and the work published by lawyers making this claim, I have been struck at how few such examples are clearly in this category. I've mentioned some of these claims made by Bruce J. Ennis, an ACLU attorney, in his book Prisoners of Psychiatry, and the reasons why his presumably strongest examples turn out not so strong upon examining other evidence. I've mentioned that as late as 1963, the ACLU's representative in Congressional hearings about mental illness commitment couldn't give a single example of improper commitment in the D.C. system. I'm sure if there were a lot of examples from outside D.C.'s system, she would have cited them as examples.
The Lives They Left Behind gives examples clearly intended to persuade that such persons were improperly hospitalized at Willard, or who were left in well past the point that they needed to be there. Yet the examples that the authors are hardly confidence inspiring. One of those hospitalized back in September 1917 was a young Filipino man they call Rodrigo Lagon (last names have been altered to protect the privacy of those long dead) who was hearing voices. While they acknowledge that hearing voices is a "first-rank symptom of the disorder called schizophrenia" (p. 52), the authors then spend several pages explaining that auditory hallucinations are actually quite common, and "not a symptom of an illness." (p. 53)
You can make a case that in the bad old days, there was perhaps a bit too much willingness to hospitalize people for odd behavior, or symptoms of mental illness, in the absence of any imminent danger to self or others. Inevitably, our legal system has to draw lines. We may have drawn them too far one direction before; we draw them too far the other direction today. But the authors' decision to imply that Rodrigo Lagon's symptoms were an inappropriate basis for hospitalization seems a bit odd.
Therese Lehner's story similarly leaves me cold. She was a Catholic nun, and at some point, started to have problems that caused her to be removed from one nunnery, and put in some poorly defined state of not being considered a nun--but not released from her vows. Her hospitalization and commitment was apparently the outgrowth of "excited, noisy and destructive" behavior and running around in the nude. She was apparently unable to provide sensible answers to questions. (p. 63) The authors, who have to this point at least acknowledged that there is such a disease as schizophrenia, now refer to it as "so-called schizophrenia," and appear to reject the biological model of schizophrenia that now has a very clear genetic basis to it. (p. 64)
Once hospitalized at Willard, Lehner's behavior conforms to the apparent schizophrenic symptoms she exhibited that led to her commitment: violence against attendants--and the authors tell us, "Such attacks are rarely unprovoked." (p. 66) Based on what? I've talked to people who work in mental hospitals, and they will tell you otherwise. Lehner also started to claim that she had children, including a dachshund. (p. 68) Yet the authors would have us believe that her odd behavior in the hospital and that led to her commitment (both consistent with schizophrenia), were really caused by being in a hospital. (p. 66) You know: sane people get sent to mental hospitals, and become crazy as a result. It isn't that people in mental hospitals end up there because they have mental illness problems.
While there is a Works Consulted section, there are no footnotes, so tracking down the origins of many of the factual claims that might be of real value to someone studying the problem of involuntary commitment is going to be a bit of work. I also notice a few obvious factual mistakes that suggest a certain lack of scholarly care. Lehner was born in Germany, and her father was still there. "In the spring of 1918, with the war over, she once again tried to get in touch with her father, but the letter was never sent." (p. 62) The war wasn't actually over until November of 1918. This is something that almost anyone familiar with the period should know--and it makes me disinclined to trust that the authors put more energy into verifying the more controversial claims.
I then looked at the author bio on the dust jacket, and I began to understand why this book has such a strong bias against the mental health system: "Darby Penney is a national leader in the human rights movement for people with psychiatric disabilities and a former state mental health official who has experienced the mental health system inside and out."
Now, just because she has been inside the system doesn't immediately discredit her opinions. But when someone discounts the biological model of schizophrenia with the quite overwhelming evidence of a biochemical origin we now have (such as I mentioned here), it is rather difficult to take a book like this seriously.