Preview - Life Under Obama

Making the rounds of the blogosphere today, this creepy video, "Sing For Change Obama:"

As I said before, "Oh Fearless Leader! Guide us on the path of hope and change to a glorious future as first among equals!"

Let's start at the beginning...

Is there a liquidity crisis? Everyone says there is one, so it must be so, right?

Not so fast. At least as of September 17, banks were still lending:

To consumers:

(From Carpe Diem.)

Apparently, what they are not lending to is each other, but, since the Fed is throwing money at them as fast as they can, is that really a problem?

And, more importantly, is it a problem worth the kind of bail out that has been proposed. Remember that there should be these down-sides to the current proposal:

1) By subsidizing risk, you get more risk. Why wouldn't someone give a big loan to someone on welfare or an illegal immigrant? (WaMu was famous for recruiting illegal aliens for their loans--a little bit of federal law enforcement and a slowing economy, the aliens decide to go home--leaving WaMu high and dry and a subsidiary of JP Morgan.) If the loan pays, they get the money. If the loan doesn't pay, they still get the money--from the taxpayers. It's a win/win for them, and a lose/lose for the rest of us.

2) By preventing bankrupt banks from going bankrupt, you keep stupid bankers in office and diminish the standing of the well-run companies. Why run a company well, if it doesn't matter in the end?

3) By not removing the fundamental problem of Fannie and Freddie's pushing hard for highly risky loans, you do nothing to stop the same loans going forward. The cycle is poised to begin right up again.

As a side note, I don't see anyone worried about inflation. Econ textbooks would tell you that when the Fed throws money into the economy, you get inflation. Will that happen? and if not, why not?

This is an ad running here in Massachusetts:

Pretty lame. In the 24 years since John Kerry took office in the Senate, gas has gone up from $1 to$4/gallon. That's 6% per year. Wow.

Republican Jeff Beatty is going to have to do better than that.

NO!

Pretty shocking.

I still don't know if I support this monstrosity.

The way I understand it is the main problem is that the Treasury is lending money to banks like crazy. Just throwing money out there.

But, the banks are just holding on to the cash and not loaning it out.

Couldn't there be an easier way to get the money flowing than this? Something that directly addresses that fundamental problem, instead of doing this end-run?

Furthermore, anything which allows either the people who got or the people who gave the bad loans to get out of trouble free--at the expense of more prudential people, who didn't get in over their head--is a long-term awful thing.

Capitalism depends on profits and losses--if you remove the losses, you get more risk, more stupidity, and more trouble down the line.

Perhaps we would be better off with a short-term recession than we would with this long-term precedent.

Deal Almost reached?

Powerline has a an interesting layout of what appears to be the final deal on the financial bailout. I still don't like it, but it's better than the proposal of Barney Frank and Chris Dodd.

Statment of the Governor of Missouri

Appropriately strong words:
What Senator Obama and his helpers are doing is scandalous beyond words, the party that claims to be the party of Thomas Jefferson is abusing the justice system and offices of public trust to silence political criticism with threats of prosecution and criminal punishment.

... I can think of nothing more offensive to Jefferson’s thinking than using the power of the state to deprive Americans of their civil rights. The only conceivable purpose of Messrs. McCulloch, Obama and the others is to frighten people away from expressing themselves, to chill free and open debate..
He's right. Much more here.

Devastating

Well done video. Watch for the surprise guest at the end.

Found at Gateway Pundit.

O'Reilly Gone Nuts

Watching O'Reilly just now, he put blame on President Bush for "not warning the public. He didn't go out there and say don't buy AIG, don't buy Lehman Brothers." O'Reilly has lost it on this financial mess. Does he really think the President should review the nation's financial markets and then go out and "warn" the people about investments he thinks are bad? The idea is preposterous.

I've seen O'Reilly in this mode before, amid the Enron fiasco. My guess is then, as now, O'Reilly personally lost money and is upset about it. His anger at having lost money in the markets is driving his commentary.

On the other hand, he had Newt Gingrich on. I agree with much of what he said. He says more here. He also agrees with my dad about the mark-to-market rule.

Sarbanes/Oxley.....Some Reflections

An interesting message from my Dad:

The Sarbanes/Oxley legislation came about as a result of the Enron scandal. According to Sarbanes/Oxley, companies no longer carry their assets on the books on the basis of purchase price less depreciation. Instead they have to continually mark their assets on the basis of what they can be sold for at the time.

Some years ago I was negotiating an insurance program for Republic Airlines (now merged with another airline). In looking at their financial statement, I realized that Braniff Airlines had recently gone broke and had a lot of planes they couldn't sell. If Republic had to mark their assets down to their sale price at that time, they would have had to report that they were bankrupt. At first glance, you might say that they were bankrupt but there was no reason why they had to sell their planes in that down market. If they were going to sell planes, they could do so in a better market or over time in all kinds of markets.

Sarbanes/Oxley has resulted in mortgage guarantee companies having to mark down the mortgage assets at "fire sale" prices. That is ridiculous but it is the law. The organizations lending money to mortgage guarantee companies normally have codicils in the lending contracts that say the borrowers have to come up with additional cash when their net worth falls below a certain level. Just as was the case with Republic Airlines, no mortgage company has to cancel all of their mortgages today in this down market, but that is the requirement of today's accounting principles.

Reversing Sarbanes/Oxley would go a long way toward solving today's crisis because it would more realistically portray the financial status of the mortgage guarantee companies.

Mark My Words

[Update2:
[Update: Here it begins. Check the comments though. A lot of folks there apparently agree with me.]

I just heard Barack Obama on NPR saying that as part of the general financial bailout we should have some sort of relief for people who can't pay their mortgages. This distinguishes him from John McCain.

Mark my words. If Obama wins and the Democrats dominate Congress, they will use their newly granted power over Fannie, Freddie and the Financial sector to force an enormous housing giveaway. There is no way the Democrats will demand that people meet their financial obligations. Instead, we will get sob stories about "hurting families." The temptation for the Democrats to buy an entire generation of voters by waiving mortgage obligations will be too much to resist.

People who acted responsibly and didn't buy into the housing speculation bubble will be forced by their own government to help pay the mortgages of those who irresponsibly gambled and lost.

First Rule of Cross Examinations

Greg Mankiw points out that James Taranto points out this exchange between Paul Krugman, ABC's John Donvan, and a live audience. The topic is healthcare:
Krugman: --and I wanted to ask, actually two questions, to the audience. First, how many Canadians, would Canadians in the room please raise your hands. [One person applauds, laughter]

Donvan: We have about seven hands going up—

Krugman: OK, not as many as I thought. OK, of those of you who are not on the panel who are Canadians, how many of you think you have a terrible health care system. [pause] One, two--

Donvan: We see—almost all of the same hands going up. [laughter]

Krugman: Bad move on my part [applause]. I've got a selected--all right, I won't try it. But I will say, that--

Pretty amusing. Krugman seems to violate the Lawyer's First Rule of Cross Examinations: never ask a question if you are not sure what the answer would be. However, Mr. Krugman probably was sure about what the answer would be. He just got served a dose of cold reality.

So the talk of the nation is the proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street. I don't know enough about the specifics to have a strong opinion (does anyone?), but from what I've read I would vote against it. Besides, the idea of giving a handful of bureaucrats the corresponding power makes me very nervous. Newt has some good questions. This is very good too, (hat tip Mankiw). This might also be interesting, from Harvard's president: I hope that you will join fellow students, faculty, and staff colleagues for a special panel discussion on this Thursday, September 25, entitled "Understanding the Crisis in the Markets: A Panel of Harvard Experts." We are fortunate to have on campus some of the nation's leading scholars and practitioners in finance, policy, law, and other fields relevant to the current situation, and several of them have generously agreed to participate in a special session for the Harvard community to help us understand and interpret recent developments in the U.S. and world markets. The panel will begin at 4:00 p.m. in Sanders Theatre and will include the following faculty members: Robert Kaplan, Professor of Management Practice Jay Light, Dwight P. Robinson, Jr. Professor of Business Admin Gregory Mankiw, Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics Robert Merton, John and Natty McArthur University Professor Kenneth Rogoff, Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy Elizabeth Warren, Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law You can watch online, Thursday at 4pm eastern, here. Happy Birthday Dad! My wife Jui, baby Shivani and I headed home to Milwaukee last weekend to help my dad celebrate his 80th birthday. AuntieAnn was able to attend as well. A good time was had by all! Leopards and Tigers A week or two ago, I mentioned tigers and leopards and their fur patterns. Today, this was in the New York Times: The first and most obvious trick is to fade into the background, as a leopard’s spots enable it to do while it’s patiently waiting to ambush a prey. The spots aren’t shaped like leaves or branches, but they form an overall “micropattern” matching the colors and overall texture of the woodland background. That trick, though, won’t work for a predator on the move, which is why a tiger doesn’t have spots. It has a “macropattern” of stripes that break up the shape of its body as it’s stalking or running. “The prey can detect the tiger’s movement,” Dr. Neitz says, “but if the shape isn’t recognized as the outline of a tiger, nothing registers in the higher center of the prey’s brain.” So there you go. Leopards don't move apparently. NY Times in Need of Lithium New York Times Editorial: Meanwhile, the Bush administration keeps raiding factories and farms, terrorizing immigrant families while exposing horrific accounts of workplace abuses. Children toil in slaughterhouses; detainees languish in federal lockups, dying without decent medical care. Day laborers are harassed and robbed of wages. An ineffective border fence is behind schedule and millions over budget. Local enforcers drag citizens and legal residents into their nets, to the cheers of the Minutemen. Huh? Terrorizing people is bad. But isn't raiding factories to expose horrific abuses, like child labor, good? Who's getting robbed by whom? Laborers by employers? Laborers by George Bush? Who's dying in the lockup? So we should hurry up with that border fence? Citizens are being dragged off in nets? My head hurts... Time Stamp Problem Bizarre. I just made this post, but it appears dated yesterday! More news from Stadium Village The Oak Street Cinema, just off the U of MN campus, will shut down in May, eventually to be torn down. I-35W Pretty darn amazing. On August 1, 2007 an important interstate highway bridge that I drove over daily for years collapsed in Minneapolis. On November 1, 2007 construction of the replacement bridge began. At 4AM on September 18, 2008 the new bridge opened to traffic, and Minneapolis has one of its major arteries back. Just 414 days from collapse to renewed traffic flow. Well done MNDOT! Steve Says: Yes, I thought the same after seeing a report on the Lehrer News Hour. Very impressive, and under budget! By the way, a researcher I know back in Minnesota had his lab right under that bridge. I remember him complaining long ago about how annoying it was that paint and debris would rain down on his building from the bridge. Fortunately, he and his team weren't hurt in the collapse. I'm not sure what he's done about his lab. Fox News is Too Liberal Here, at Fox News, is an interesting review of McCain's and Obama's position on some technology issues. Who wrote this thing? I thought Fox was supposed to be more conservative. All of the background is absurdly loaded: Broadband Adoption The U.S. lags behind Canada, South Korea and most of northern Europe in per-capita broadband “penetration,” the number of people who have access to high-speed Internet. Many Democrats have called for better and faster Internet access to make up for this gap... Many Democrats? Five? Who? Only two Republicans? Cancer Research Both McCain and Obama have pledged to increase cancer funding for research and improve patient access to screening and clinical trials. (The National Cancer Institute’s total budget has been reduced under the Bush administration from$4.83 billion in 2005 to $4.75 billion in 2007.) President Bush has been in office since 2005? No, but we would rather not mention the fact that the NCI budget was$4.1 billion in 2001, and the overall NIH budget has grown as well.

Climate Change

President Bush has called for halting the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, a stance that environmental groups consider insufficient...

A stance that level-headed, non-fanatical people find ambitious.

Space Exploration

The Bush administration has long favored manned missions, which are risky, expensive and often scientifically unnecessary, over cheaper and safer robotic missions...

I agree with the bias here. It's bias nonetheless.

Stem-Cell Research

Proponents of embryonic stem cell research believe it holds the key to finding cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes. President Bush has opposed federal funding for stem cells extracted from embryos that were created for the purpose of research...

Proponents of armadillo pee feel it holds the key to finding a cure for arthritis. Ok, I admit I'm stretching here.

In any case, much of this science platform is little more than a demand for funding from scientists and engineers. Note that it is never, ever enough. I've seen other queries of the candidate's positions on these and similar issues. The responses from candidates are always the same, an attempt to outbid each other on how much they are going to spend. "I see your $40 billion and raise you$20 billion!" There is never any estimation of what those dollars will bring us, in terms of actual "results," nor an estimation or description of how the money Science is already getting is being spent. Are we getting a good return on our investment?

Generally, I agree with treating funding of science as an investment. But that requires an analysis of science research, not just the problems that are being worked on, but an estimation of the payoff from additional research money. This doesn't preclude spending on a few research "longshots" (see DARPA for an idea of that sort of funding), but generally we should invest our dollars in science as wisely as we invest our dollars in stocks and bonds. I have never heard a government approach to science funding that was more than throwing money at a problem.

Hacking Sarah Palin

Some morons have broken into Sarah Palin's Yahoo email account. They took screen shots of some of the emails and posted them to the notorious /b/ bulletin board. Gawker.com got a copy and has put them up on its web site. Governor Palin's account has since been shut down. Some thoughts:

1) I hope whoever did the hacking is caught and severely punished. I hope they throw the book at them. This is not a harmless prank.

2) Bill O'Reilly was about to pop a blood vessel in his forehead last night, over this issue and the finance meltdown. He wants the Gawker people thrown in jail. His resident internet 'expert' was there to parrot his outrage. The fact that Gawker has probably not violated any laws doesn't seem to matter to Bill or his 'expert'. Bill doesn't like what Gawker has done (who does? it is no doubt slimy) and that's enough for him to demand jail time. It's important to remember that Gawker didn't do any hacking. They only re-posted the pics after the actual hackers posted them to /b/. Newspapers print evidence of criminal activity all the time. Gawker's action is likely covered by the 1st amendment.

3) As of early this morning, the FBI hasn't contacted ctunnel.com. Ctunnel is the web proxy that the hackers used while accessing Palin's account. They hoped this would give them some cover. Why the FBI didn't contact ctunnel within about 10 minutes of the breaking of this news is unfathomable. I know that yesterday, within about 5 minutes of seeing one of those screen shots, I was Googling and looking at information on ctunnel. And I'm no internet cop. Is the FBI really that incompetent? It's pretty disturbing.

"We are aware of the allegations and we are coordinating with Secret Service as far as the allegation that someone has hacked into Governor Palin's personal e-mail account," he said. "We are going to be working a joint investigation with Secret Service on this."

I'm not holding my breath while I wait.

4) Fortunately, again looking at one of those screen shots, I see that Sarah Palin has only 84 or so messages in her inbox. The list of subjects for the messages makes it seem like there is little there to embarrass her. My guess is that she rarely used this account. This shouldn't matter in the prosecution of those hackers though. "Fullest Extent of the Law," says I.

This could have been much worse.

Update: Buzz says this is the guy. Son of a Democratic State congressman from Tennessee. Yeesh.

The Ka

a Ford ka. I've been known to pahk it near Hahvahd yahd. So I'm not sure what the big deal is here.

That's My Congressman

From 2003 in the NY Times:
”These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis,” said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee.
That's Brookline's representative in 2003, opposing President Bush's proposal to create a new agency...
"within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that are the two largest players in the mortgage lending industry."
Good call Congressman.

From Massbackwards. Read the whole thing, especially the bit on Barack Obama. More here.

UK and Sharia Law

The UK has begun to allow Islamic Sharia courts to act as arbiters in civil family matters/disputes:

The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence.
Similar courts have been in existence in the UK within its Jewish community:

Jewish Beth Din courts operate under the same provision in the Arbitration Act and resolve civil cases, ranging from divorce to business disputes. They have existed in Britain for more than 100 years, and previously operated under a precursor to the act.
Unfortunately, the journalism here is a bit mushy, so it is difficult to know exactly what is going on. First, I think there needs to be a distinction between civil and criminal cases here. The first quote above mentions domestic violence. Is that a civil matter? Isn't it a criminal one? Elsewhere in the article it states
Siddiqi said he expected the courts to handle a greater number of “smaller” criminal cases in coming years as more Muslim clients approach them. “All we are doing is regulating community affairs in these cases,” said Siddiqi, chairman of the governing council of the tribunal.
So it does seem that the intention is to have these religious courts cover certain criminal cases as well, if not now then in the near future. If indeed the UK is ceding criminal authority to these courts, then this is a stunning development. Can the UK continue to exist if there is a state within a state, with a separate legal system and separate criminal codes?

Even if the system in question is for civil matters alone, I would have serious reservations. Is arbitration legitimate if the arbiter has a pre-existing bias against one of the parties? Is it legitimate if the parties do not have equal rights before in the court? It's no secret that Islamic law treats men and women differently, their rights in Sharia courts are not equal.

Ideally, parties entering arbitration do so willingly and voluntarily. But I suspect that many women who are the victims of abuse would not be in a position to demand a hearing within the existing UK court system, due to family and social pressures.

No comment needed

[ Pajamas ] According to a recent poll of Berlin youth, only one-third of the city’s 15- to 17-year-old students know who built the Berlin Wall. Almost 14 percent think it was built by the Allies; two percent believe it was built by the United States.
Or in the German:
[ Die Welt ] „Die Berliner Mauer wurde errichtet von ...“ Von allen Berliner Schülern gingen 13,6 Prozent (12,4 Prozent West und 14,3 Prozent Ost) davon aus, dass es die Alliierten waren; 1,9 Prozent (1,6 Prozent West und 2,2 Prozent Ost) nannten die USA; 46 Prozent kreuzten die Sowjetunion an (47,2 Prozent West und 44,8 Prozent Ost); 4,5 Prozent meinten, dass es die Bundesrepublik war (3,9 Prozent West und 5,3 Prozent Ost). Nur 34,9 Prozent gaben die richtige Antwort DDR (34,9 Prozent West und 33,4 Prozent Ost).

Steve Says: Well, at least 80% attribute the wall to the USSR or its puppet state the DDR. Hard to believe these kids were born after the wall was gone!

Financial Shakeup

Bear Stears went belly up in May. Now it looks like Lehman Brothers is about to go bankrupt.

But don't let these events deter you from putting your money in the markets. Remember, the key to financial success is long term investing.

Bear Stearns, by the way, was founded in 1923, Lehman Brothers in 1850.

Update: Yipe!

Best Buddies

Ann says: I see you two still have the same haircut!

Dishonest or ignorant?

Wow. Even today, several days after Charles Gibson's interview with Sarah Palin, the Washington Post editorialists write this:

She claimed, implausibly, that she was merely channeling Abraham Lincoln when she described the war in Iraq as "a task from God,"

The question is whether it is possible that the editorial writers at the Post could still believe that this is an accurate quotation. They put it in quotes, so they certainly are claiming it is accurate. But it's been established that she never claimed that the war was a task from God. Rather, she said we should pray that it is a task from God, i.e. we should pray that we are doing the right thing:

Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God,” she exhorted the congregants. “That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.

So the Post is either being dishonest, or it is shockingly ignorant.

I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and call them ignorant. I can see that if you are surrounded only by like-minded people, insulated from any other views or input, you could still believe in the accuracy of that quote. But think of the implications of that. This group in charge of one of the USA's leading newspapers is so blind to any other views that they have not read or heard from any right-leaning pundit, newspaper, or blogger on the subject. Astounding.

Yawn.

I really couldn't care less about the LHC and the Higgs Boson. Let's face it, this is a multi-billion euro project to get someone a Nobel Prize. The Higgs Boson is predicted by the Standard Model. If the LHC disproved its existence, that would be interesting, and surprising. But nobody is going to be surprised if it is found. And only a relative handful of people are going to be interested in the mass of the Higgs.

I did get a kick out of Michio Kaku's article in the Wall Street Journal. He claims the LHC does not pose a danger to humanity through the creation of mini black holes:
Third, these mini black holes are unstable and decay much too quickly to do any damage. These subatomic black holes simply evaporate away (via something called Hawking radiation) faster than the blink of an eye.
So how does he know that? Has he observed Hawking radiation? No. Has anyone? No. He knows because that's what the laws of physics we understand tell us. Those laws of physics also tell us the Higgs boson exists. So what are those billions of euros being spent on again?

He also writes some nonsense about the Superconducting Supercollider (SSC):

But why, some ask, is this machine being built in Europe, and not the U.S.? President Ronald Reagan originally wanted to build a much larger machine, called the Super Conducting Super Collider, outside Dallas, Texas, to maintain U.S. leadership in advanced physics. Congress allotted $1 billion to dig a huge circular hole for the machine. But Congress got cold feet and cancelled it in 1993. Then Congress gave physicists another$1 billion to fill up the hole! As a consequence, Congress guaranteed that leadership in advanced physics would pass from the U.S. to Europe.
In fact, the SSC had already cost $2 billion when it was killed. Further, the original cost estimate had ballooned from$4.4 billion in 1987 to over $12 billion in 1993. I've never heard that bit about$1 billion to fill in the hole. If true, it says a lot about the eagerness of physicists to squander taxpayer money.

I don't buy that bit about American vs. European science either. Does he really think that the location of these devices is so important? What percent of the SSC research would be conducted by Americans? Has he looked around the Physics department at his university lately?

The way I see it, if Europe want to spend billions on these physics experiments, I wish them well. As far as I can tell, I will reap any reward (what exactly? scientific knowledge?) as much as any European, and it won't cost me a dime.

Vinyl

An e-mailer Glenn Reynolds posted over on Instapundit:
A thought occurred to me regarding the McCain-can't-email ad: doesn't the Obama campaign realize that 80's-retro fashion and music have been very trendy now for the past few years with a lot of people under 30? Those big clunky glasses McCain is wearing in that footage are back in style again among some hipsters. The ad also shows a record on a turntable, as an example of outdated technology. Surely the candidate who is going to make government cool again is aware of the resurgent vinyl craze this year? Tell me again which campaign is square and out of touch?
I can verify the return of vinyl: there was a stack of vinyl disks on sale at Costco last weekend. It must be a pretty big trend if Costco is on to it.

SIDS

I find much of the discussion surrounding SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) to be BS.

Take this case for example.
Though she [Melissa] felt anguished about leaving her baby for the first time, she also felt certain Jake was in good hands, and she resisted the impulse to check in. Rudy [Melissa's husband], also a physical therapist, didn't. He called the sitter three times, reporting to Melissa each time that the baby was just fine. He planned to pick up Jake at 3:30 p.m. Melissa hadn't heard from Rudy by 4 p.m., so she called his cell.

The instant she heard Rudy's voice, she knew something was wrong. "
So on the first day with this babysitter, an apparently healthy kid dies in an inexplicable way. What a coincidence! I can't imagine any explanation other than SIDS. Can you? But wait, there is more! It seems this medical phenomenon is not uncommon:
about 20 percent of all SIDS deaths occurred while the baby was in the care of someone other than a parent. One third of the infants died during the first week of childcare, and half those deaths occurred on the very first day.
The mystery deepens! Whatever could be the explanation? Science to the rescue:
"It may be that starting a new routine interrupts the baby's sleep cycle, so that when he finally does fall asleep, he sleeps too deeply,"
But of course! That must be it. Changing care disrupts the sleep cycle, and the kids literally sleep themselves to death! It all makes perfect sense, when you see it from a scientific perspective.
Spotting SIDS would seem fairly straightforward, but the truth is quite the opposite. ... The condition can be diagnosed only when a death has been carefully investigated -- including an autopsy, a study of the scene and circumstances of death, and an examination of the baby's medical history -- so that all other possibilities can be ruled out.
To whom, exactly, would spotting SIDS seem straightforward? SIDS is essentially medical jargon for "Beats Me!" SIDS has no positive identifying characteristics. It is merely the absence of observable cause.

An unexplained death of an infant would be a devastating blow to any parent. Most parents would do anything to try to avoid it. But presenting parents with a grab-bag of possible risk factors makes little sense to me. For example, how is "sleeping with a stuffed animal" going to cause SIDS? I can conceive of the remote possibility that a kid could suffocate under a stuffed animal, or could choke on it. But then that would be a suffocation or choking death, not a SIDS death. Is this just a modern version of the old wives' tale that cats steal babies' breath?

I am skeptical of the whole "back to sleep" movement too. The theory is that if you put a kid on his stomach, carbon dioxide can build up around the kid and suffocate it. When I was a kid, mothers were told not to put babies to sleep on their backs, for fear that they would choke if they happened to vomit. Which theory is a parent to believe? I've looked up the scientific studies for some of these claims, and was not very impressed.

New parents are inundated with lists of risks to their baby. Much of what is passed off as science is shaky at best. (Don't get me started on the topic of breastfeeding!). I would suggest that parents take this advice with a grain of salt and a heap of common sense.

As for SIDS, I say any childhood death should be investigated thoroughly. By all means, let's look for common causes. There is no downside to doing so. But it is wrong to assume that every unexplained crib death is in fact due to some such common medical cause.

Update: An interesting article and book.

Ann says: Our medical doctor sister believes most SIDS deaths have always been flat-out murder. Possibly overwhelmed care-givers who do the unthinkable.

Sweet Sixteen

Happy Birthday to my beloved 1993 Ford Taurus GL! She rolled off the Ford assembly line in Chicago in September 1992.

That's 3.8 liters of piston-packing fury! I bought her used around 1996 from Hauser Ford in Minneapolis. Originally a leased fleet vehicle somewhere in South Dakota, I got her for about $7000 including taxes and fees. Now at 90,000 miles, she's got some minor squeaks and squeals, but she's still going strong. I hope she holds up for a few more years. Roomy and comfortable, I'm not sure how I would replace her. People seem to have this "thing" about American cars, but I have no complaints. There have been some repairs, but over all I've been very happy with my Ford and would consider buying another. That's assuming Ford is still around then. Besides, people are yakking it up about "plug in cars" these days. My car has a plug in. So do lots of cars in the Dakotas, Minnesota, and other places where it gets really cold in the winter. What's the big deal? Ann says: I know one problem with Ford products these days, though it might be industry-wide for all I know: they now use plastic parts in their transmissions. We had a (Ford) Volvo station wagon with terminal transmission problems. The dealer worked very hard to ignore the underlying patheticness of the thing until it was out of warranty. We ditched it about 2 years back for a (Ford) Land Rover LR3. This time, we knew better and only leased it. We figured by the time the transmission went bad, it would be someone else's problem. Now we have a Honda CRV that we love. Very well-designed interior (the only car I've ever seen with a place to put your purse!) and a dream to drive. My old 1999.5 (yes, according to the sticker it's from model year 1999.5) Jetta is still driving very well and has less than 60K on it. These days, it pretty much stays in the driveway, since I take my scooter to work (it's still cool 3 weeks later :) ). Probably Certain The National Weather Service warns: ...PERSONS NOT HEEDING EVACUATION ORDERS IN SINGLE FAMILY ONE OR TWO STORY HOMES MAY FACE CERTAIN DEATH... I'm not sure what that means. Hurricane Ike looks bad though: A relative of mine died in the great Galveston Hurricane of 1900. A colleague of mine is living there now. I wish everyone down there well. Statistics What percentage of the US population is black? 12.3% according to the 2000 US Census. So, tell me what exactly the problem is here: [ Reuters ] A dearth of black models strutting the catwalks is a persistent issue in the fashion world and while the numbers have improved, there are still too few, fashion observers say. At New York's semi-annual Fashion Week ending on Friday, many designers used two or three black models, in the more than 30 shows attended by Reuters reporters. Several only used one, and some had none. Most of the shows featured between 12 and 25 models. Two or three? So at the low end of the "many designers" you have 2 of 25 (8.0% -- low but not appalling. It's 60% of full representation.) , and at the high end you have 3 of 12 (25% -- quite high, actually, at almost double their population rate)? Horrors! Steve says: When I taught math at the UofM, it seemed to me there were very few blacks in my classes. Then I looked it up and found the black population of MN is about 4.5% of the total. So in a class of 30 one would expect one or two students to be black, and that was about what I observed. Electoral College at Real Clear Politics This must be giving Obama and his people nightmares: Those numbers showed up yesterday, and only count the solid states. It's further apart if you count the leaning-states. But even that is tightening. I'm with my brother, I think the Electoral College is a good thing, and Real Clear Politics is one of the better places to track it. Presidential Elections I was watching some news report the other day, and saw a brief clip of McCain and Palin speaking in front of a store called "The Chocolate Factory." Hey! I thought, that looks like Cedarburg! Sure enough, I looked it up and found out that McCain and Palin were in Cedarburg WI on the 5th of September. This got me to thinking about the positive aspects of the Electoral College. Despite the possibility of electing a President who gets fewer votes than his opponent, I think what "they" say about the College's up side is true. If the election were based on popular vote alone, I doubt you'd see McCain or any other candidate showing up in a small town like Cedarburg. Instead, candidates would just make a tour of large cities. I think it's great that our system forces the candidates to get out there and mix with a broader cross-section of the people. Have a corn dog at the State Fair. Check out a WalMart or two. Less arugula, more potato salad. I also like the length of our campaigns. Sure, they get tiresome near the end, but a grueling campaign helps in figuring out which candidate can take the abuse he's going to get if elected. That's why the press' treating Obama with kid gloves didn't serve anyone's interest. Lately, I've come to think that Obama has a bit of a glass jaw. Too bad it took until September for that to be revealed. (See my sister's thoughts on this and related matters below.) Just-So Stories I stumbled across this article: Superstitions evolved to help us survive. If the environment is one that favors the cautious, then the cautious have a better change to survive. If the environment favors the bold, then the bold have a better chance to survive. The idea with the article seems to be that superstition, assumed to be a kind of cautiousness, helped the human species survive. You can dress it up with all the math you like, but there doesn't seem to be much more to this message. It seems pretty obvious, frankly. The article mentions Just-So Stories, e.g. Kipling's "How the Leopard Got Its Spots." Indeed, there is a pitfall to this sort of post-facto analysis, which you see quite often in popular articles about Evolution. "Leopards have spots so they blend into the African savanna." "Lions have no spots so they blend well into the African savanna." Yada yada yada. Unfortunately, application of the ideas of Evolution to predict the future is much harder. As for the article sited above, I would point out that my baby seems to have no caution at all. She will put in her mouth whatever she gets her hands on. She has no fear of falling off the bed and would happily crawl right off the edge. Or right out a window, for that matter. She cries when she wants to, drawing attention to herself. Does this seem like it would be wise behaviour in the wild? Now if you brought this to the attention of an evolutionary biologist, he or she might well come up with an explanation, completely at odds with the conclusion of the article. Color me skeptical about the utility of these exercises. Behind closed doors A long time ago now, former big-honcho of the Republican party Dick Armey made a slip of the tongue in reference to the openly-gay Barney Frank, calling him "Barney Fag". What I found amusing about that incident was that, to me, it was obvious that this was something that Armey said many times in private--perhaps to the degree that it had become habit. His mistake was saying it in public. That strikes me as the explanation for Obama's amazing gaffe today: "You know, you can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig." I'm astounded that he would say something so crude and so demeaning. I've watched the video and have little doubt that he meant it to refer to Palin. My guess is that this was a running joke on the Obama campaign plane, and that Obama Armeyed himself. I always believed that Obama was a weak candidate. I based that on his microscopic experience and his far-leftist political philosophy and voting record, but I've been shocked by his meltdown in the last 2 weeks. I remember watching a snippet of his "press availability" around lunch time (Pacific) the last day of the Republican convention--just hours after Palin skewered him unmercilessly. (I've tried to find the video of that press sort-of-conference online, but can't find one.) That day, Obama was seriously off his game. He came across as petulant, thin-skinned, mean-spirited, and bitter. Instead of laughing off or making light of Palin's speech, he dug his hole deeper. Since then he has had that shovel in hand and has been going at that hole with the determination of a gold miner who has caught whiff of a mother lode. Obama's biggest problem is that he has never actually been vetted. For all his talk about the very act of running for president being qualification enough to run for president, he hasn't actually ever been challenged. His elections in Chicago were a push-over--remember Alan Keyes' carpetbagging?--and he has sailed through this election with the strong breeze provided by the media gasbags. None of the Democratic debates laid a hand on him. None of his opponents and none of the press have even taken a decent whack at the Obama-pinata. No serious question or problem has been placed before him. It is becoming clear that he has a glass jaw. He can dance around the ring, he can turn a phrase like Mohammad Ali, he can jab at the air and occasionally land a glove on his opponent, but he can't take a hit. And he can't take a hit, in large part, because he has never had to take a hit. In addition, the left is notorious for being particularly insular. That's why the reaction to Bristol Palin's pregnancy was so over-the-top; with no actual knowledge of religious Republicans to go on, all the media and the Obama campaign had to go by was their distorted stereotypes. Thus they milked the story in the belief that the Hezbullah wing of the Republican party would tie Bristol to a stake outside the Xcel center and burn her to a crisp--a premature celebration of the Minnesota State Fair's most famous element: everything on a stick! With no one around him who has the slightest clue about middle-America, there is no one to give him solid advice about his predicament. He's living in an echo chamber populated by like-thinkers; but, what he needs is someone who can tell him that he actually has real weaknesses, and that playing to those weaknesses is not the way to win a national election. I told people this evening that today is the day that Obama lost the election. That is how big I see his gaffe as being. It's the main story on Drudge, and Drudge doesn't pull his punch. He doesn't engage the question of whether Obama meant the insult to Palin or not. He clearly takes the side that Obama meant it. His headline is straight-forward and devastating, under a smiling picture of Palin: Drudge has a handy-dandy counter on his page, which says that 28.6 million people viewed his page in the last 24 hours. Now, those aren't unique hits, but that's one hit for every 10 people in this country. I'd guess at least 10 million Americans will see this headline on Drudge tomorrow. And a large number of those who don't see it will hear about it from their friends or other news sources. This is simply devastating to Obama (and remember, the crowd laughed, just as they did when he made his "clinging to guns and religion" comment. This is a man who is so used to preaching to the choir, that he has forgotten that the choir is standing before a very large congregation of people who don't sing the same tune they do.) Perhaps a new saying is in order, instead of ones about pigs and old fish. Something like: "You can give a man an Ivy League education, but that don't make him smart!' Update (1:42PT): Can I say "I told you so" now? Well, this is interesting. From the official website of the Democratic party, dated August 30--even before Palin's speech: "McCain's Selection of Palin is Lipstick on a Pig" Which actually suggests that Palin's line was in response to the post on the Dem's website. Fannie and Freddie Eric at Classical Values telling it like it is, as usual: Harsanyi goes on to make the case for privatization, and while I agree, the powers that be seem to be in near-unanimous agreement that privatization is a dirty word. That privatization is what caused the problem. Common sense would suggest it's the government guarantees; that when these large private sector entities know that the taxpayers will bail them out, they have no incentive to be responsible. Yet the only people who seem to be able to grasp this common sense notion are the ordinary middle class taxpayers who have to balance a checkbook and pay their bills -- precisely the ones whose money supplies the guarantee. In what adds insult to injury, the tax-eaters don't even seem to understand that the money they are eating comes from the tax payers. It's as if they think "the government" is another gigantic unaccountable entity with an unlimited supply of money. One of the problems I have with McCain is that I doubt he sees it this way. I think he sees the role of the Feds as being there to ride to the rescue when an industry "to big to fail" takes a blow. If there is evidence to the contrary, I would surely like to see it. Yay! Packers: 24 Viqueens: 19 Climate Cryptography II This post reminded me of this post, which upon second reading seems to be in need of more detail. Again, suppose you have temperature data T(x,t) over space x and time t, say the range of t is the period [1860,2000] . Suppose you have come up with a correction component g(x)=1/30*∫T(x,t)dt, where the integral is over the sub-period [1960,1990]. You create "anomaly data" T1(x,t)=T(x,t)-g(x), so that ∫T1(x,t)dt=0 for all x, again where the integral is over [1960,1990]. Finally, you perform a regression analysis to estimate the trend in the spatial average Tavg,1(t)=∫T1(x,t)dx, where this integral is over the surface of the Earth, which we assume has total area 1.0 in some system of units. Suppose the slope of your regression line indicates an average rate of increase of 0.6 degrees per 100 years. This, I believe, is a simplified version of what climatologists have done. Now Tavg,1(t)=∫T1(x,t)dx = ∫(T(x,t)-g(x))dx = Tavg(t)-gavg. So correcting with g(x) just subtracts a constant gavg (independent of time and space) from the spatial average of your original data. Clearly, this will not affect the slope of your regression line. Apparently, the "corrections" you have done do nothing at all. So what's the point? Big Fig Newton Statistics I've looked for this in the past, without luck. The Big Fig Newton Today stumbled across it, posted in a blog's comments. You should read that blog post too. I've thought for a long time that the smoothing of data by climatologists make the significance of their results look much stronger than they really are. Now it looks like a statistician is pointing that out. Why in the world did it take so long for an expert to speak up? If it was obvious to a non-expert like me, it should have been obvious to them. If the climatologist results are significant, then it shouldn't be necessary to smooth the data. The fact they the do smooth makes me skeptical about their results. Now if only someone would explain the need to correct the data for "anomalies." Google Makes Me Lazy John Derbyshire serves up a math problem in his August Diary: Math Corner. A reader sent this in: You can flip coins until the number of heads and tails are equal. The payoff is the number of flips. So, half of all games end after two flips and pay two dollars … I'm not sure how you make a betting game out of this, but I'm certainly willing to tackle the question: What proportion of games, on average, end after exactly T coin tosses? Pretty obviously T has to be an even number. The chance that a game will end after two tosses is of course, as my reader says, 0.5. A couple of minutes' doodling should convince you that for four tosses the answer is 0.125. That is, one-eighth of games on average will end on the fourth toss. And then …? Now once upon a time I might have been tempted to try to work this out for myself. Maybe I would have figured it out. Maybe not. However, with Google around, I often find myself just looking up the answer to such problems. You just have to know the right question to ask! Googling "random walk return time" gives as the first item a pdf article with the answer near the bottom of page 2: Prob(game ends on 2k flips)=C(2k,k)(1/4)^(k)/(2k-1) where C(n,k) is the well-known function "n choose k." The mathematical answer to the guy who wrote Mr. Derbyshire is that the expected payoff is infinite. This is stated at the end of section 1.1. In theory you should be willing to bet all your money on this game (*). It seems counter-intuitive; that's probably the point of the question. I give myself credit for Googling skills, but subtract for general laziness. I wonder to what extent school kids today get their homework done via Google. (*) On second thought, this isn't necessarily so. You'd have to take into account your risk aversion. Loose Change We took our loose change to one of those Coinstar machines at the supermarket today. Coinstar used to charge you about 8% as a "coin counting fee," but now you can get gift certificates with nothing off the top. A couple years worth of accumulated change ended up being about$300, which we put on an Amazon gift card.

Pretty cool! It's a nice service. I recommend it.

Three Threats to Iran

The US, Jews and Women:

... Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thinks he has the United States and the Jews in hand - and is moving on the third "enemy."

Women were the first to demonstrate against Khomeini's regime with a mass rally in Tehran on March 8, 1979 - less than a month after the mullahs had seized power. Over the next decade, the authorities imprisoned hundreds of thousands of women for varying lengths of time, and executed thousands.

But women continued to fight a regime that deemed them subhuman.

Focus on Warming Bad for the Environment

I agree with this post at Climate-Skeptic:

...years from now, folks who would like to see meaningful reductions in man's negative impacts on the environment are going to look back on the global warming charade as a disaster for their movement -- not just in terms of credibility, but in terms of lost focus on real, meaningful improvements.
He's right. In particular he points to the emphasis on China's carbon emissions, rather than on its pollution and other environmental hazards, that latter being more readily solvable.

The argument is similar to Bjørn Lomborg's and his Copenhagen Consensus, that, that we should be focusing on solving problems in a way that gives us the most "bang for the buck." This general approach to addressing global health problems seems sensible to me.

I'm not sure what's driving the obsession with Global Warming; i.e. why it has become such a high priority. But I suspect that if the USA and Western European nations were still polluting to the extent that China is, we wouldn't be hearing about Global Warming at all.

Stupid guy

From Drudge:

"EU wants to ban 'sexist' TV commercials"

I don't know about commercials in Europe, but here in the US I'd be in favor of a ban on the "stupid guy"-type of commercials. The ones where the all-wise, all-knowing, beautiful, spectacular woman has to put up with the idiot doofus guy she married, the guy who can barely put food in his own mouth or string more than two grunts together to make a sentence.

Yep, I could ban those commercials.

Town and gown

I have a theory about the Democratic and Republican parties these days. First, some history...

I went to college in a small farming town in Iowa (Grinnell). The people I associated with were the epitome of the current Democratic party: liberal, college grads, mostly wealthy enough to afford college, many from cities, upwardly mobile, etc.

Then there were the other kids the same age as those at the college who lived in the same town, but who seemed to most of us like an alien species: the town kids. Our perception of them was that they got married right out of high school, never went to college, the men went to work on a farm and the women at the local Walmart. We considered them to have dead-end lives even before their lives had really begun.

The gulf between town and gown was huge--at least in our minds.

Seems to me that the same perception and divide describes the two political parties.

SHUT UP!!!!

Just a reminder:

From this point forward in this election cycle "independent expenditures", meaning everything from buying lawn signs in bulk and giving them away to friends, to taking out your own ad in a newspaper to advocate for your preferred candidate, to standing on a street corner handing out too many hand-made fliers, is BANNED. Heck, if this were London, standing in Speakers' Corner expounding on politics would, literally, be a federal offense.

From this point forward, the politicians, led by the two politicians whose names are on the blasted bill--Russ Feingold and JOHN McCAIN, want you to shut the F up!

I watched the first half or so of John McCain's speech tonight under less-than-ideal circumstances: after bedtime, during its repeat airing, with 2 margaritas in me (or maybe those are ideal circumstances?), so my thinking was a bit fuzzy...but,

When he came onto the stage, all the hype and excitement of the previous Palin-day withered away. I was left with the man himself, the man standing on that stage and standing for election to the highest and most important post in this country and the world. I was left with the man whose politics and political instincts I generally despise and deplore.

Liberals love to blather about the Bush administration's gutting of our Rights, but there, standing on the stage at the RNC is the man most responsible for their biggest real-world; not liberal, fantasy-world; infringement: the McCain/Feingold Speech Suppression Act. I really, really can't stand that man, and though I had forgotten it for a long time--willful memory loss--seeing him standing there made it all come back to me.

I'll vote for him, just because the alternative is worse.

I'll vote for him, just because his judicial appointments will be a hair's-breadth better than Obama's.

I'll vote for him, just because the Federal government won't grow quite so big under his stewardship as Obama's.

I'll vote for him, just because he at least pays lip-service to controlling our borders before offering amnesty to illegal immigrants.

I'll vote for him, just because the big clothespin I'll be wearing on my nose on November 4 will be serving its function.

On the other hand

So far, this blog hasn't been blessed with much in the way of comments, but we got a doozy this afternoon.

Check out the first (and at the time of this posting) only comment on this post.

Just go ahead and read as much of it as you can before getting bored. The start of the final paragraph, though, I think is illuminating:
A word for those who respond with the usual 'I know more than you. Look how smart, knowledgable, and articulate I am' crap. Let me say this in advance. I don't claim to be an expert in this field.
In other words: "I know how things really are, don't confuse me with the facts!"

Employment

The next employment report comes out on Friday, and I'm going to make a prediction: for the first time since December of 2006, the Household survey will begin to rise--and won't continue to bounce in the 145-146 million jobs range that it has been in for going on two years.

Of course, the counterargument would be all the reports of illegal laborers returning home. They count in this survey, and the fewer jobs they are around to fill, the fewer jobs there are.

We'll see.

Palin

It's pretty clear to me that the media are hyping Palin's family situation out of a complete misunderstanding and complete lack of knowledge of what they sneer as the "religious right". They want, they are salivating, they are thrilled with the idea that the "religious right"--of which they know nothing--will throw out Palin because of her daughter's indiscretion. "Unmarried sex!" cry the media, while giddy over their belief that the "religious right" won't tolerate such a thing.

Clueless, absolutely clueless.

I doubt many of the heavy hitters in the media know any, and certainly aren't close to, anyone who would consider themselves "religious right". In that complete ignorance, they make a fundamental miscalculation:

Assumption: The religious right is intolerant--a girl who gets pregnant as an unmarried teen would be run out of town on a rail by the Jesus freaks, shunned by her family and community forever!!! The more we hype Palin's daughter's pregnancy, they think, the more sure it will be that Palin will be forced by the Hezbullah wing of the Republican party to drop out--thus discrediting McCain and striking a mighty blow for Obama! Obama! Obama!

Truth: The religious right are religious people who try to walk in the footsteps of Jesus--a guy who put forgiveness and acceptance of sinners awfully high on his priority list. The Sermon on the Mount for starters: "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven...And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" Or how about a little John: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."

If they actually weren't creatures of the metropolitan coasts, and actually got out more, the media might have a clue.

As it is, while they think they are trashing the Republicans, they are actually helping them. That's how clueless they really are.

Wealth Transfer

T. Boone Pickens has an ad or two in which he calls our purchasing of foreign oil "the largest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind." If I buy a car for $20k, is that a$20k transfer of my wealth to the car dealer? Is the car dealer $20k richer? Am I$20k poorer? Don't I have the car?

But what do I know. I'm not a billionaire.

Ann says: You are correct in that if I pay what I consider a reasonable price (or an unreasonable one that I must make out of necessity) for your product, and in return I get the use of that product, then it's true it is a 1:1 trade.

However, if I pull a commodity out of the ground for a few dollars a unit, but because of a real or perceived scarcity of that product, I can charge more than ten times the production cost, then I'm getting an awfully good deal out of it. And, if I then use my capital gains for nefarious things...such as funding a world-wide religious cult bent on world domination, which also just happens to engage in widespread war and terrorism against the very people who paid me for my commodity--people who themselves have vast quantities of this same commodity that they refuse to exploit, then all I have to say to the people who bought my stuff is this: SUCKERS!!!!

Sarah Palin

I don't know much about Sarah Palin, McCain's choice for his VP running mate. Her name was certainly floating around out there as a potential candidate, so it wasn't a complete surprise. Still, it seems like a bold choice on McCain's part.

The question that first comes up is her experience. Some Republicans worry that her lack thereof means they can no longer criticise Obama's lack thereof. I don't think that is much of a point; if Obama's lack of experience were going to hurt him it would have done so already, during the Democratic primaries. On the other hand, the Democrats will find it difficult to criticize her lack of experience without drawing more attention to Obama's thin resume. And I think their claim that running for president counts as presidential experience is laughable.

What is certain is that the Republicans have been energized by this pick. There is a buzz around the right-wing blogosphere that the campaign outlook has changed, and changed for the better. I have no doubt that Palin will bring in more votes for McCain than Biden will bring in for Obama.

It should be an interesting couple of months ahead.

Obama's Speech

I watched a little of Obama's convention speech, and read some more of it. I can't say that I was very impressed. It seemed mostly to be a list of goodies that he promises to deliver: free health care, affordable college, high-quality jobs, re-vitalized Detroit, and end to the outsourcing of jobs overseas, plentiful cheap and clean energy, etc. Of course, he also promises to make "the other guy" pay for it all. This is change? It sounded like every other Democratic presidential campaign speech since the New Deal.

A.I. Hype

The great breakthrough in Artificial Intelligence has been just around the corner for the past 50 years or so. From Instapundit I found this link:

I hope Intel warned the Luddites and pessimists away at the door, because the chipmaker had a lot of bullish statements Thursday [August 21] about its belief that computers will become smarter than humans.
At the Intel Developer Forum here, Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner showed off a number of technologies in computing, robotics, and communication that he cited as evidence that Ray Kurzweil’s concept of “singularity,” when machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence, is impending.

Demonstrations spotlighted the wireless transmission of electrical power, dextrous robots with new sensory abilities, a direct interface to the brain, programmable materials that can be used for shape-shifting devices such as resizable cell phones, and silicon photonics that enables chips to communicate with photons rather than electrons.
“We’re making steady progress toward Ray Kurzweil’s singularity,” Rattner said.

Do you notice anything in common about the "demonstrations" mentioned above? None of them have much, if anything to do with A.I. Whether computers are powered wirelessly or through a cord is not relevant to how they process information. Nor does a more dexterous robotic hand make a computer more intelligent. Interfacing to the human brain may link human intelligence to computers, but that's not really A.I. Programmable materials sound interesting, but as far as AI goes, the question is the programming, not the materials. And photon-based computing may yield faster computers, but speed alone is not what makes for machine intelligence.

Count me among the Luddites and pessimists.

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day everyone! We had my wife's sister and husband over for the weekend, and a good time was had by all. It's the unofficial end of Summer, and you can feel a bit of Fall in the air here in the Northeast. There is something exciting about the coming of Fall. Maybe it's the kids heading back to school or the dramatic change in seasons that is about to come. Soon we will be putting on jackets and picking apples! I'm looking forward to it.