I went to Grinnell College in Iowa. It is a small liberal-arts college (I'd say that it is also a liberal arts college, but the school isn't really arts focused,) and these days it seems the administration there spends probably half its time crowing about how progressive they are.

That is probably why the school rarely mentions one of its most important alumni: the late John Garang. John Garang is know to his people as the father of South Sudan. He was a revolutionary fighter, leading an army into battle against the Sudanese government. In the end, he won, and South Sudan was born. Sadly, he died before independence was fully established; but on that first day of independence, the people of South Sudan unveiled a massive statue of Garang in their capitol. He's their founding father.

I'm sure Grinnell doesn't like to extol the virtues of a military hero--not kumbaya-ish enough for them--so, I've only seen one article about him in the alumni magazine, and that was long before South Sudan came into being. I am on Facebook with a 20-something fellow alum, and she had never even heard of him--and she was at Grinnell when he was still alive and winning his people's independence, and she was there when he died in 2005.

I see the same thing happening after Nelson Mandela's death; though, instead of ignoring the militant revolutionary, they are simply scrubbing that part of his life out of existence. He wasn't a man of peace, he was a fighter who had thousands of grenades with him at the time of his arrest. He wasn't going around putting daisies in rifle barrels; he was blowing things up. He had tried non-violence and decided it didn't work and couldn't work against Pretoria. He then turned to bombs and blood. He wasn't leading peaceful marches (when he tried that, the government shot at the crown and killed dozens) or penning editorials, or giving speeches; he was a fighter. That's what I admire most about him. He saw an intolerable situation and decided it was worth fighting against--with blood if necessary.

But the modern left; and, therefore, the modern media; is violence-adverse. They can't image actually celebrating a militant hero as a militant hero. That part of his life is scrubbed away. He is just another neutered black man, only acceptable when he's been made a milquetoast.

He wasn't Gandhi. He was Mandela. Honor the man for who he actually was, not a distorted, cleansed, mythologized facsimile of him.

Fumbles and putting points on the board

So, the Packers are losing at the moment--what a shock. (Update: They won in the end!)

Here are my thoughts on the Democrats' misteps and what the Republicans need to do about it:

One team may fumble, but unless the other team scores during their possession, it's meaningless. Conservatives need to press the advantage, but I see the usual Republican/conservative ineptness.

It's not enough for people to see that Obamacare is failing, they need to see that any Obamacare-like plan will fail; that the failure is baked into the very idea of a big government solution.

We need to press home the point that hope for growth and prosperity is misdirected when placed in the hands of the government. If you want growth and prosperity, then you better hope for private enterprise and individuals to provide it, and for the government to stand back and let them do it.

If you want good schools and for the next generation to be educated and able, then you need to rethink how the government is providing free-but-abysmal education for all. The solution is not a top-down, regimented and regulated government solution; but a bottom-up percolation of ideas and experiments devised by individuals and individuals schools and districts.

If you want good-quality, affordable health insurance; then you shouldn't look for the government to write thousands of pages of regulations in an attempt to wish such insurance into being. People need to understand that it is the free choices of 300 million Americans that will build a strong insurance system--with each American looking for the best coverage for the best price, each choosing to enter freely into a contract with an insurance provider that meets their needs. Before Obamacare, government regulations were preventing free choice and free markets from working in the insurance market. Obamacare made it worse.

The choice the Democrats present is a false one: either you have government, or you have chaos and viciousness--it is only the government that can help, only the government that can create peace. Conservatives need to press home the point that the American people are fundamentally charitable and kind. That we seek to help those who are truly unable to help themselves; that we do want to help those who have fallen and need to rebuild their lives; but that we do not want a blank check for every whim a Congressman can dream up.

Not every problem can be solved.
Not every problem with a solution can be solved by group action.
Not every group action should be done by the government.
Not every government action should be done at the federal level.

Some things should be left to individuals, to private enterprise and charity, and to local and state governments.

The Democrats have fumbled, but the ball is still on their side of the 50-yard-line--and the referees are all in their pocket; unless we drive the ball back over to the other side of the field and really change the way Americans think about what the government should and can do, we're wasting our chance.


So the insurance companies, which are so evil that we should abolish them entirely and bring in single-payer, are actually so completely trustworthy that we can run Obamacare solely on the honor system.
Health plans will estimate how much they are owed, and submit that estimate to the government. Once the system is built, the government and insurers can reconcile the payments made with the plan data to "true up" payments, he said.
In addition, was that paragraph simply in serious need of editing, or was the phraseology actually intentional? I don't think my health plan, or any health plan, is capable of independent thought. A health plan is a contract, a series of agreed-upon words which bind the insurer and insured in a money-for-services exchange. You can print off your health plan and read it. If it suddenly came to life in my hands and engaged me in a conversation about my premiums and government subsidies, I would be more than a little freaked. On the other hand, the phrasing might have been intentional; after all, most Americans like their health plan, they'd like to keep their health plan; but those nasty, money-grubbing, insurance companies are another matter entirely. Sock it to them, I say!

An editor should have rephrased it:
Insurance companies will estimate how much they are owed, and submit that estimate to the government....
 But I think people's negative reactions to that sentence would be much stronger than the original.So, why was one phrase chosen over the other? Inadvertently?  or intentionally?

Shhhh...everything's fine...go back to sleep...

Give me my gluten!

Continuing the flour/food theme:
The great gluten-free scam 

Once, pasta and bread were store cupboard staples. Now, many of us are replacing them with ‘healthier’ gluten-free foods. But are they really better for us?

... [Nutritionist Ian] Marber predicts that these voices will only grow louder. “Our attention will turn to other diet trends, but the gluten-free craze will grow and grow.” Following a gluten-free diet isn’t actively harmful, he adds. “If it makes you happy, do it!” he laughs. “By buying that expensive stuff, you’ll certainly be making someone else very happy.”
I always laugh when I see something like a box of rice or a package of deli meat labeled "gluten-free"; it's an obvious marketing appeal to idiots. The article points out that really only about 1/100 have a true gluten disease, the rest are just wishfully thinking that gluten-free will make them thinner and give them more energy.

And the idea of labeling such obviously gluten-free foods such as rice and meat is just laughable. I swear our kids already know that gluten comes from wheat, while apparently much of the buying public is clueless--despite jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon.

Marketers are just surfing the tide of the latest craze.

Semolina vs. Farina, aka Sooji

We eat a lot of Indian food at home, and often look up recipes online. Common ingredients include semolina and farina. Indian words for farina include sooji and rava, and it is also commonly referred to as Cream of Wheat, though this is a brand name and not exactly the same thing. Strange then that many expert Indian cooks don't seem to recognize the difference between these ingredients! I see the ingredients referred to incorrectly everywhere on the web.

 What most American cooks call semolina is not sooji. Semolina is yellow, is made from hard durum wheat, and is the primary ingredient of Italian pasta. The American word for sooji is farina. Farina is white, is made from soft wheat, and is the primary ingredient of Cream of Wheat. If you make a semolina cake with farina, the result will be mushy. And what you want for upma is not semolina, it's farina, i.e. sooji or rava. It is a difference that matters. Indian stores tend to sell both products. That's another reason why it is strange that so many experts don't seem to know the difference!

Hypothetical Statistics Question

Let \(\phi(x,\mu,\sigma)\) denote the normal distribution with mean \(\mu\) and standard deviation \(\sigma\) evaluated at \(x.\) Consider the model distribution $$p(x,\mu)=(1-t)\cdot \phi(x,\mu-3t,1)+t\cdot \phi(x,\mu+3\cdot(1-t),t^2),$$ for some known, fixed, but very small \(t>0.\) Since \(t\) is small, \(p\) looks very much like a normal distribution with variance \(1\) and mean \(\mu,\) except for a tall spike around \(\mu+3.\) See the picture below. The mean of \(p\) is \(\mu.\) Note in the last term, the variance is \(t^4.\) The total mass of the spike is \(t,\) thus small, and so the cumulative distribution for \(p\) will look very much like the standard cumulative distribution for \(\phi(x,\mu,1).\)

Suppose we have a sample \(x_0,\) assumed to be from a distribution \(p\) of the form above, but of unknown mean. To repeat, \(t\) is known. Consider the hypothesis: $$H_0: \mu=x_0-3\cdot(1-t)$$ Do we reject \(H_0\)?

If \(H_0\) is true, then \( p(x_0,\mu)\approx t \cdot \phi(x_0,x_0,t^2) = 1/(t \sqrt{2\pi}),\) and this is very large, about \(1/t\) times larger than \(p(\mu,\mu).\) Indeed, \(x_0-3\cdot(1-t)\) is very close to the maximum likelihood estimate for \(\mu.\) These seem to be reasons not to reject \(H_0.\)

On the other hand, the overall mass of the spike is small, and the entire spike is well out on the tail of \(p.\) Thus it is in some sense unlikely to get an \(x_0\) out there, assuming \(H_0\) is true. Since the cumulative distribution looks very much like the normal cumulative distribution for \(\phi(x,\mu,1),\) it makes sense to apply the usual test and reject \(H_0.\)

I find that not rejecting in this case is the right thing to do, but I am not sure what others might think. I also wonder how often such a question is relevant.



Our kid's school has a "Smart Lab", which is a place where kids, generally in 6th-8th grade, can play with technology.

Here is a transcript-by-memory of a conversation I had with the instructor:
Me: Do any of the kids do any actual programming?

Instructor: Oh, yeah. Have you heard of Scratch?

Me: Yes. That's basically like MindStorms; you tell it to move the figure three steps this way, two steps that way. I mean actual coding.

Ins: Sure! Some kids even make webpages.

Me (trying very hard not to laugh in his face): No, I mean actual programming, like goto subroutine, if this then that.

Ins: Oh, no, not really.
Me: (Beating my head against the wall)...

What's amazing is that the technology teacher didn't even know what I meant when I said either "programming" or "coding".

Meanwhile, I asked the other kid's 8th grade computer programming teacher whether they taught any other languages than Java, and if students were taught to document their code. Answers: Other languages are offered later, in high school (the AP test is only Java, so that's the emphasis), and documenting is not stressed in the level 1 class, but in the second class they do.

What is an Unusual Event?

My random thoughts on random events posted as a blog comment:

Suppose we have disjoint events \( (E_1,E_2,\dots,E_N),\) and corresponding probabilities for these events \( (p_1,p_2,\dots,p_N),\) where \( p_n=\mbox{Prob}(E_n)\) and \(\sum_{n=1}^N p_n=1.\) If a particular event \(E_k\) occurs, what would make us think this was in some sense "unusual" or perhaps "suspicious"? It's not enough that \(p_k\) be small, since for large \(N\), even a uniform distribution on the \(E_n\) will have \(p_k=1/N\) small. Nor is it enough that \(p_k\) be much less than \( \max_n p_n,\) since it is possible that all \(p_n\) are equal except for one event having many times larger yet still tiny probability. It's not enough if \(p_k\) is less than nearly all the other \(p_n\), because all the \(p_n\) could be very nearly equal.

What does seem to work in the cases I can think of is to choose some factor \(R \gt 1\), calculate \(\sum\{p_n: p_n \gt R p_k\}\), and see if this is close to \(1.\) To work this into a hypothesis test, we could reject the null hypothesis \(H_0\) if $$\sum\{p_n: p_n\gt R p_k\} \gt (1-1/R),$$ though the expression on the right-hand side is rather arbitrary. With this setup, what value should \(R\) be? Let \(x_0\) be a sample we have collected, and consider the standard normal and the \(p=.05\) rule, where \(\mbox{Prob}(|x_0|\gt 1.96)=0.05.\) Then \(R=3.71,\) since \(3.71\cdot \phi(1.96) = \phi(1.1),\) and \(\mbox{Prob}(|x_0|\gt 1.1)=1/3.71.\) If we wanted \(R=20,\) we would need to use a cutoff \( |x_0|\gt 3.135749,\) which corresponds to a very small standard \(p\)-value of \(0.001714.\)

Clearly, given any \(p\) cutoff, a.k.a \(\alpha\), we can find a corresponding factor \(R,\) and vice-versa. Since the \(p=.05\) rule is arbitrary, I don't see what difference it makes for the most common cases. Thus, \(p\)-value analysis seems generally ok to me in practice. My concern here is with its justification.


This must be one of the most sexist paragraphs I've read in a while (FYI, it was written by a woman):
As for education, it won’t do much good for people who aren’t motivated or disciplined enough to acquire it. These people are mainly men. We all know that low-skilled men will be our world’s biggest losers, but it’s often not lack of skills that holds them back. It’s lack of the aptitudes and attitudes required for success. These are the men who can’t stay in school, can’t apply themselves, can’t take direction or defer rewards, can’t be reliable and can’t function well in teams. “Young male hotheads who just can’t follow orders are pretty well doomed,” economist Tyler Cowen says in Average is Over, a sharp and sobering book on who will get ahead, and why.
 Let's flip the wording shall we.
As for education, it won’t do much good for people who lack the mental capacity to acquire it, or will leave the workforce to raise children, or who will take jobs away from hard-working men. These people are, of course, women. We all know that women will be our world’s biggest losers, sucking on the teat of others--whether husbands or public assistance, but it’s often not lack of skills that holds them back. It’s lack of the aptitudes and attitudes required for success. These are the women who get pregnant early, are more irrational than men, can’t apply themselves, can’t take direction or defer rewards, can’t be reliable and can’t function well in teams except when they go en masse to the bathroom. (Why did we ever give them the vote?!) “Young women who just can’t follow orders or lack a man's intelligence are pretty well doomed,” economist Wylma Bullen says in Average is XY, a sharp and sobering book on who will get ahead, and why.
When girls were falling behind in schools and weren't choosing difficult educational or career paths, at least some of the blame was placed on the society which sent them messages, discouraged them, and treated them like second class people.

Here, society is blameless. The constant denigrating of men, the constant focus on pushing girls ahead without ever telling boys that they can succeed too, the assumption that men are violent, shiftless slackers, has no culpability in this woman's eyes for the diminishing of men's prospects.

If women are behind, it's not their fault, but society's. If men are behind, it's because they're slackers.

Simple answer, tough problem

Why are most rampage shooters male?

Simple answer: because they are more likely to have antisocial mental illness and to project it out into the world:

[ American Psychological Association ] When it comes to mental illness, the sexes are different: Women are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression, while men tend toward substance abuse or antisocial disorders, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association. Published online in APA’s Journal of Abnormal Psychology, the study looked at the prevalence by gender of different types of common mental illnesses. The researchers also found that women with anxiety disorders are more likely to internalize emotions, which typically results in withdrawal, loneliness and depression.

Men, on the other hand, are more likely to externalize emotions, which leads to aggressive, impulsive, coercive and noncompliant behavior, according to the study.  The researchers demonstrated that it was differences in these liabilities to internalize and to externalize that accounted for gender differences in prevalence rates of many mental disorders.

Health insurance

I just looked at the California health insurance exchange.

Last year, I didn't make much money, and ended up spending about 40% of my income on health insurance. If I had shopped around for a different plan, I probably could have dropped that slightly.

I had been assuming that, because I made much less than $20,000 last year, and expected to make less than that this year as well, that I would receive subsidies.


I'm not eligible.

At all.

For anything.

Even if I made $10,000 a year, I would still not be eligible.

Why? Because I am an hourly contract worker making over $40/hour. Because my hourly income is high, I'm not eligible for any subsidies, despite not make much money overall.

Guess who that screws? Who is the most-likely group of individuals who work part time for large hourly sums? High-skilled women who work part time while raising their kids. That's not quite my position, but it's close.

I will be able to buy a cheaper plan than what I have now on the exchange, but I could have probably found a lower price policy before too.

How much is the penalty for not getting insurance again? That's looking nice about now.

This is science!

This one's too good not to share. 

This is science!

From Watts Up With That:
Claim: simulated satellite data back to 1860 proves global warming caused by humans

This is just nuts, sorry, I just don’t have any other words for it. 
The study took three decades of satellite data and used that to fake data going back to 1860, then used the fake data to show the alarming increase in temperature today when compared to their old, made-up data.

Maybe...stop treating men like predators

Via Meadia

Colleges are facing a problem they haven’t faced in nearly a decade: declining enrollment. New Census Bureau data reports that college enrollment dropped by about a half-million last year for the first time since 2006. Some of this may simply be a result of students who went to school in the late 2000s to avoid the recession finally graduating.
But college administrators are clearly worried that this may be the sign of a long-term trend. A recent survey of industry leaders found that over one-third are now concerned that they won’t be able to keep enrollments steady with tuition prices where they are now...
Mead didn't run the numbers, I did. The entire decline in enrollment can be attributed--almost perfectly--by the change in the number of men and women attending college.

Male enrollment 2011 = 9,123,000
Male enrollment 2012 = 8,602,000
Change = -521,000 / -5.7%

Female enrollment 2011 = 11,256,000
Female enrollment 2012 = 11,327,000
Change = +71,000 / +0.6%

Since overall college enrollment declined by 449,000; all but 1,000 of it can be attributed to the decline in men's enrollment.

(links for data from this page: )

A decline of over 5% of male enrollment should set off alarm bells, and would if the genders were reversed. The stories of schools treating men like predators abound, with men treated as guilty and needing to prove their innocence instead of the other way around. Perhaps men are getting the message that college is enemy territory and not for them.

Colleges should wake up and not turn away this cohort with their discriminatory anti-male policies.

Drop Undocumented Immigrants Into Detroit

Why do I get the feeling Snake Plisskin will be showing up any day now.

A Modest Proposal: Drop Undocumented Immigrants Into Detroit -

Fruit of Our Labor

There were a couple of cherry tomatoes too, but Shivani ate them before I could take a picture. We got our first cucumbers about the same time last year.


Farm Report

Again, for Mom, a garden report. We had some damage from wind last night and this morning. Several branches of tomatoes fell over. I tied them up better, but am not sure if the ones that fell will survive. There is an ongoing problem with a fungal infection on the tomatoes as well, probably due to the wet weather we have had. This has affected some a lot more than others. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes have come out in force now as well, and it is making garden work most unpleasant. Still, you can see progress since the previous set of pictures.

Deen v Baldwin

Because she's a commoner, and he's part of the aristocracy.

Why Has Paula Deen Been Vilified, While Alec Baldwin’s Been Given a Pass? - The Daily Beast

Garden 2013

For mom. Click to embiggen:

Instapundit and Senior Prom

It is very strange to see your senior prom date from high school mentioned repeatedly on Instapundit and to think that the instapundit himself must have spent weeks thinking and writing about Greg:

SECOND AMENDMENT UPDATE: My Texas Law Review piece, How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Second Amendment: a Reply to Professor Magarian, is now up to #1 on SSRN.


55% are happy with their taxes

According to Gallup 55% of people are comfortable with their tax rate...

...of course, close to 50% don't pay income taxes anyway. So, this is basically saying: 5% of people who pay income tax are comfortable with their tax rate.

Escape From Spending Hell

Henninger: Escape From Spending Hell -

Key Democrats Turn on Obamacare

Key Democrats Turn on Obamacare | Via Meadia

Unfortunately, even if Democrats realize that the actual implementation of Obamacare is turning into a nightmare, they won't generalize this into the idea that any major social program which aims to fit the needs of 320,000,000 individual people is doomed to fail; and to fail either because the bureaucracy can't hold that many balls in the air at one time, or because the laws and regulations which run it are written by fallible human beings.