Grandpa's Publications

I'd never heard of two of these.

Snow Today

It's cold here in Tennessee, and we've got a bit of snow on the ground. Our daughter really enjoyed playing in it.

Math inequality

This is about twice as long as it needed to be, but it's worth watching:

From Mark Perry at Carpe Diem, why do boys outscore girls on the math SAT?

Frisking Diplomats

Indian diplomats have gotten their saris in a bunch over having been frisked by the TSA.
"On December 4, Indian ambassador to the United States Meera Shankar was selected by security officials at a Mississippi airport for a pat-down search, despite reportedly notifying officials of her diplomatic status."


"We have taken it up with the U.S. authorities and the matter is at that stage," External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said on Monday, referring to Puri, a Sikh.

Sikh men keep their hair covered at all times with a turban, which is not allowed to be touched in public.

Boo freakin' hoo.

You think that because you are a diplomat, or a US Senator, or a member of some other self-proclaimed elite, that you should not have to go through the TSA process the rest of us have to? I call bullsh*t. If I have to go through it, then everyone else should have to as well. It's called "equality under the law."

Ann says: But diplomatic immunity is as helpful to us overseas as it is to visitors here. Do we want to do away with it, knowing that if we do, we will lose it for ourselves in other countries? What percentage of our necessary spying takes place under the cover of diplomatic immunity? The world is a safer place when we know what is going on in other countries. I'm not ready to throw all that away, just so that everyone has to go through the same foolish security-theater at airports.

Steve: Yes, I think diplomatic immunity should be abandoned. I would bet our gains from it overseas are greatly exceeded by our losses due to it at home.

Obama the Mythbuster

President Obama will be on Mythbusters this evening. He will be asking the show's hosts to once again investigate the possibility of "Archimedes' Death Ray." This is the legend that Archimedes was able to destroy ships at sea by having soldiers reflect enough sunlight off their shields to set the ships on fire. The Mythbusters have investigated this twice before, and each time it was "busted."

Really, it's preposterous, unless by "ships at sea" you mean ships a hundred feet from shore, sitting motionless in absolutely still water, and if by "shields" you mean parabolic mirrors. I found the whole process of testing this myth pretty boring. Both times. The myths that I think work best for testing are the ones that have some degree of believability from the start. I wasn't buying this one.

On the other hand, part of me thinks that they must have come up with some contrived way to make this work, or they wouldn't bother testing it a third time. I doubt President Obama came to them with this problem. They probably already had a plan to retest it and suggested it to him.

I think having the President on the show is a fun idea. It might get kids interested in science. I just wish they would have chosen a better myth.

Archimedes was a genius. I am awestruck by some of the mathematics he was able to do over two thousand years ago. With his towering achievements, it would be a shame to associate him mainly with this mythical "Death Ray."

Update: Busted again.


George Will:

Has the U.S. Supreme Court construed the commerce clause so permissively that Congress has seized, by increments, a sweeping police power that enables it to do virtually anything it wants?

Yes. Duh! How hard is this to understand?? How many more such essays are conservative and libertarian pundits going to write? Blah blah blah "10th Amendment!!" blah blah blah "Founders' Intent!!" blah blah blah "Federalism!!" It's like a bunch of people sitting around a burnt-out light bulb endlessly talking about how illuminating and warm it was. It's burnt out!

Perhaps I'm being too harsh. Go on quoting Marbury vs Madison, George. I'll go on living 200 years later, in what is often referred to as "the real world."

Politicians and the debt

Everyone always comments that the debt rose sharply under Republican presidents and declined under Democrats...basically just Clinton. And, it's true. Here's the graph.

But no one points out that in Washington, it takes three to tango. Here's the same data, matched to control of the Senate:

And here it is matched to the House of Representatives:

One note on how I colored the bars. I figured if a politician gets elected in 2010, he takes office at the start of 2011, but the first budget that he can pass is for the 2012 year. So that's how I colored the bars, and that's why it might look a little off. I didn't just go by election year. Otherwise, Republicans would get assigned our current year, even when all of Washington was firmly in the hands of Democrats, and I figured there was also a lag between taking office and actually starting to change things. For example, with this method, Bush gets blamed for Tarp I. Otherwise, it would have all fallen under Obama.

Warren Buffet's Interest

It's well-known that Warren Buffet is in favor of the estate tax. He is a favorite of the pro-tax pundits out there. They paint him as a humanitarian, willing to give up more of his wealth for the good of the people. However, he has another interest in the matter. A comment posted here:

I used to work IT in the Hartford Insurance arena. One day an agent sold a Life insurance policy worth 50 million dollars to a 75 year old man. The client paid a single premium of about 53 million and his son was the sole benficiary.

Why would anyone do this? because Insurance benefits are not taxed like a ‘death tax’

Warren Buffet owns six life insurance comapanies. Yeesh. Like I wasn't cynical enough already.

You can read a pdf report of the life insurance lobby's efforts to re-institute high estate taxes here.