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Thu, Oct 1, 2015

Assault Death Rates 1960-2013

Another week, another mass shooting in the United States. I’ve linked before to my posts America is a Violent Country, and Assault Deaths Within the United States. I thought I would update the figures with the latest data from the OECD. The method and scope are the same as before. Here is the main figure, showing assault death rates for the US and 23 other OECD countries. There’s a PDF available.
Thu, Dec 20, 2012

The New York Times and the OECD

Update: See the addendum at the end of this post for the response I got from the Times. Yesterday I got an email from an editorial assistant at the Times: Hi Professor Healy, We are publishing a column today that may reference the data you use here in your post here: http://www.kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/2012/12/18/assault-death-rates-in-america-some-follow-up/ You mention that the OECD stats are gated — any chance you could share them with us, for fact checking purposes?
Tue, Dec 18, 2012

Assault Death Rates in America: Some Follow-Up

The Newtown elementary school shooting led people to link to and share my graphs of OECD and CDC data on assault deaths in the United States. I made them last July, in the wake of the Aurora movie theater shooting. What a depressing reason to be in the newspapers. Here are the original posts: America is a Violent Country, and Assault Deaths Within the United States. The original posts clearly explain what the data show and what the sources are.
Sat, Jul 21, 2012

Assault Deaths within the United States

Trends in the Death Rate from Assault, 1999–2009, by Region. Click for a larger PNG or PDF. Update: You can click here for some further followup to this post, answering some common questions. The chart in “America is a Violent Country” has been getting a lot of circulation. Time to follow up with some more data. As several commentators at CT noted, the death rate from assault in the U.S. is not uniform within the country.
Fri, Jul 20, 2012

America is a Violent Country

Update (October 2015). For an update including more recent data, see this post: Assault Death Rates, 1960-2013 Update (December 2012). For answers to some frequently-asked questions about this post, see this follow-up discussion. You can also read more about patterns of assault deaths within the United States. The terrible events in Colorado this morning prompted me to update an old post about comparative death rates from assault across different societies. The following figures are from the OECD for deaths due to assault per 100,000 population from 1960 to the present.
Thu, Apr 28, 2011

Durkheim goes to the Royal Wedding

By way of Stewart Lee in the Guardian: Once upon a time, royal marriages were political acts that forged links between different nations. Instead, William and Kate’s wedding will bind this nation to itself, and in marrying so very far beneath himself, I believe the young prince has made a heroic and deliberate sacrifice to achieve this end. … The Fisher King must search the devastated terrain for the Holy Grail, and drink from it to heal the land.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011

I Predict the Gifted will Foresee the Punchline

Here is a very old joke. A soldier is captured during a long-running war and thrown into the most stereotypical prison cell imaginable. Inside the cell is another solider. He has an enormous, disgusting-smelling beard and has clearly been there a long time. The young soldier immediately sets about trying to escape. He is resourceful and possessed of great willpower. He bribes a guard with his emergency supply of cash. The guard gets him into a supply truck and he makes it to the prison garage, but is found during a routine vehicle search while exiting the compound.
Wed, Mar 30, 2011

Speaking of unlikely budgets

Via John Gruber, Philip Greenspun asks how on earth the New York Times spent $40 million on its new paywall: … my biggest question right now is how the NY Times spent a reported $40-50 million writing the code (Bloomberg; other sources are consistent). Google was financed with $25 million. The New York Times already had a credit card processing system for selling home delivery. It already had a database management system for keeping track of Web site registrants.
Wed, May 5, 2010

Presumed Consent in Theory and Practice

Nurse & Lawyer have a dialog on the Room for Debate roundtable on presumed consent. During the conversation, they say the following about my contribution: Nurse: One of the panelists, Kieran Healy from Duke, makes what amounts to a ridiculous argument that this law will rekindle fears that surgeons are standing over sick people with hack saws, waiting to harvest their organs, and that they might just take them even if you’re not truly gone.
Mon, May 3, 2010

Room for Debate on Presumed Consent

I have a short contribution up about presumed consent and organ donation over at the New York Times’s Room for Debate Section. If you are interested in following up some of the ideas, see this blog post or this law review article.
Wed, Nov 25, 2009

The Visual Display of Stupid

I’d almost be happier if this turned out to be some kind of fake. But in the meantime, while you may think of it as a badly flawed and unfair pie chart, I prefer to see it as actually just an extreme version of a genuine pie chart.
Sun, Sep 27, 2009

Roman Polanski

What happened is part of the public record, so there’s no reason to be unclear or misinformed about the nature of the crime and subsequent events. This includes the victim’s stated wish — repeatedly, later — that legal action not be continued, but also the actual facts of the crime, which was a one hundred percent real rape of a drugged 13 year-old. So, now. Who’s going to cover themselves in glory?
Tue, May 26, 2009


I’ve only seen the headlines, but I expect all the clowns put on their clown suits this morning and are presently climbing out of their clown car at the studio. I’m thinking liberal, activist, Puerto Rico isn’t even a state and the Bronx isn’t either, law-into-her-own-hands, affirmative action, closeted lesbian, the guy in front of me at Dunkin D’s said she wasn’t too bright. On that last point, it’s well known amongst alums that whereas the Princeton Sam Alito graduated from in 1972 was a bastion of civilized learning, the Princeton Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from four or five years later was a hippie “learning cooperative” where minorities got a coupon book of “A” grades upon admission to use up as needed, were all given the Pyne Prize automatically, and the concept of truth was rigorously suppressed by the leftist faculty.
Mon, Mar 16, 2009

Aigamemnon (A Fragment)

CLYTAEMNESTRA Citizens of Argos, you Elders present here, I shall not be ashamed to confess in your presence my fondness for my CEO, billions of dollars of losses notwithstanding. First and foremost, it is a terrible evil for a wife to sit forlorn at one of her several homes, severed from her husband, always hearing many malignant rumors, and for one messenger after another to come bearing tidings of disaster, each worse than the last, and cry them to the household.
Thu, Jan 29, 2009

All You Zombies

To be honest, watching the anchors and reporters draaaaaaag out the joke and gnaw it to death makes it clear that the real zombies are holding down well-paying jobs presenting local news. I especially liked the vox pop with the caption “Jane Shin / Drove by sign”.
Wed, Jan 7, 2009

Presume not on thy heart when mine's coerced; Thou gav'st me thine, but then we got divorced

Donated Kidney is Center of Divorce Dispute: A Long Island doctor is demanding that his estranged wife give him back the kidney he donated to her seven years ago. Dr. Richard Batista’s lawyer Dominic Barbara says his client would also be satisfied with the value of the kidney: $1.5 million. Newsday reports that Batista married wife Dawnell in 1990 and that he donated the kidney in 2001. According to Batista, their marriage was on the rocks then, but “My first priority was to save her life.
Wed, Jan 7, 2009

R in The New York Times

Funny to see the virtues of R extolled in The New York Times. Although I did wonder whether Professor Ripley spilled his tea when he read this effort at introducing Times readers to it: Some people familiar with R describe it as a supercharged version of Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet software that can help illuminate data trends more clearly than is possible by entering information into rows and columns. On second thoughts, though, I imagine no tea was spilled.
Tue, Jul 1, 2008

Travelling Matt

Via Teresa. I have to say that I was skeptical for the first fifty seconds or so, what with the new-agey soundtrack and the apparently solo globetrotting, but what comes after is just absurdly sweet in a nerd-brings-the-world-together sort of a way. Enjoy.
Wed, Nov 28, 2007

A Switch in Time

This is awesome. For a year from September 2005, under the nose of the Panthéon’s unsuspecting security officials, a group of intrepid “illegal restorers” set up a secret workshop and lounge in a cavity under the building’s famous dome. Under the supervision of group member Jean-Baptiste Viot, a professional clockmaker, they pieced apart and repaired the antique clock that had been left to rust in the building since the 1960s. Only when their clandestine revamp of the elaborate timepiece had been completed did they reveal themselves.
Sat, Oct 27, 2007

Dept of Truthiness

Your clown show dollars at work: The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s No. 2 official apologized Friday for leading a staged news conference Tuesday in which FEMA employees posed as reporters while real reporters listened on a telephone conference line and were barred from asking questions. … FEMA announced the news conference at its headquarters here about 15 minutes before it was to begin Tuesday afternoon, making it unlikely that reporters could attend.
Fri, Feb 2, 2007

They Have Landed, and Want Extra Cheese

Sign seen on the way home, outside a pizza joint on Broadway: Mooninites Eat Free. Insidious. Someone call the mayor of Boston. But—what they don’t know is that I ate there once and the pizza is terrible. Ha! Who’s laughing now, you little bastards.
Mon, Jan 22, 2007

You Know, Like Squirrels

Back during the Katrina Disaster, we learned that whereas black people loot things from grocery stores, white people find things in grocery stores. Now that a container ship has foundered off the English coast we can see what it is the English do under similar circumstances. Not looting, obviously (perish the thought). But not passive “finding,” either. Truer to the Spirit of the Blitz, the Brits make the best of it and forage.
Mon, Oct 2, 2006

First as Tragedy, etc

ABC news runs a story under the headline “Warning Signs about Foley Ignored for at least Five Years.” “No one in the Republican leadership, nor Congressman Shimkus, saw those messages until last Friday when ABC News released them to the public,” said Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL). But there were lots of warning signs. In 2001, pages were warned to be careful with Foley. In 2005, one page complained to his congressman about “sick” e-mails from Foley, a complaint passed on to the Speaker’s staff.” You can see how the story is taking shape.
Tue, Sep 26, 2006

Cover Stories

Via Unfogged and ThinkProgress, Newsweek’s current cover as it varies by geographical region: I commend them for sparing the world from Annie Leibowitz. The funny thing is that the graphic is right there on Newsweek’s own site. I went back and looked for others. Here are the covers from the week before last.
Mon, Sep 18, 2006

CT Radio

I’ve been on the road for the last week or so, gradually making my way by tramp steamer to Australia. By coincidence, I was on ABC radio’s Background Briefing programme on Sunday, talking about gift and market exchange in the world of human organ and tissue procurement. There’s a podcast of the show available if you want to listen. The topic is easy to treat in a glib or sensationalistic way, but I thought Ian Walker (who wrote and presented the show) did a really good job with it.
Sun, Aug 27, 2006

Death Rates Again

It’s depressing to see a professor of demography pull this sort of stunt in the Washington Post: Between March 21, 2003, when the first military death was recorded in Iraq, and March 31, 2006, there were 2,321 deaths among American troops in Iraq. Seventy-nine percent were a result of action by hostile forces. Troops spent a total of 592,002 “person-years” in Iraq during this period. The ratio of deaths to person-years, .00392, or 3.92 deaths per 1,000 person-years, is the death rate of military personnel in Iraq.
Tue, Aug 22, 2006

Free Lunch and Irish Breakfast

A couple of chancers in Dublin calling themselves Steorn claim to have developed “a technology that produces free, clean and constant energy”—in other words, they say they have a perpetual motion machine. As they helpfully point out, this “appears to violate the ‘Principle of the Conservation of Energy’, considered by many to be the most fundamental principle in our current understanding of the universe.” On the other hand, Steorn’s actions thus far confirm some more sociological principles, including the first of the seven warning signs of bogus science, viz, “The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.” Steorn have published a “challenge” in the Economist seeking a “jury of twelve qualified experimental physicists.” All of this – and the media attention these guys are getting – makes me feel bad for some friends of mine at Science Foundation Ireland, who have worked very hard to build up Ireland’s scientific research infrastructure over the past few years.
Sun, Jul 2, 2006

Count 'em

Is this some kind of record? France began this tournament saddled with worries about the ageing legs at the heart of their team, but they have changed their tune. We’re just missing a fascist octopus singing its swan-song.
Fri, Jun 30, 2006

Gender Trouble

Just before lunch, I had the following conversation on the phone: [Phone rings] KH: Kieran Healy. Woman: Oh, so you are a man. KH: Uh, yes, I am. Woman: This is [someone] at the editorial desk of the New York Times. We referred to you as a woman yesterday in a post on our Opinionator blog. We’ll change it now. KH: Oh, OK. Woman: Thank you. Goodbye. KH: Goodbye. The Opinionator is behind the Times Select Paywall, so I haven’t seen the original reference or the corrected one.
Thu, Jun 29, 2006

Social Isolation Again

Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin and Matt Brashears’ ASR Paper on changes in core discussion networks has been getting a lot of play in the blogs and media. As is often the case with research like this, the commentary doesn’t really do justice to the paper. The summaries tend to be superficial and a lot of the commentary raises questions that the paper addresses, or proposes explanations it controls for. But I liked this piece from CBS’s Dick Meyer.
Sat, Jun 24, 2006

A Confederacy of Dunces?

Listening to the reports about the Miami “Seas of David” alleged terrorist cell, I couldn’t help returning to the thought: what did these jackasses really think they were doing? The fact that they were seeking to establish contact with Al Qaeda (rather than being part of that organization from the beginning) was one red flag. The rather mixed bag of plans was another. The odd cultish overtones yet another. Jim Henley’s reading of the indictment suggests further grounds for suspecting that these guys were less evil terrorist geniuses and more greedy idiots.
Sat, May 27, 2006

Throw-Away Scene Opportunity

Seeing as Pirates of the Caribbean II is coming out soon, I wonder whether it’s too late to get Johnny Depp back into the studio for a gratuitous falling-out-of-a-palm-tree scene, as a hat-tip to his character’s inspiration. Seems like an obvious option (I mean, I thought of it). Though seeing as Richards had post-accident brain surgery recently, maybe the studio doesn’t want to risk it.
Thu, Mar 9, 2006

Credible Sources

This article in the Times is about the dangers to children, real and imagined, of social networking websites. The usual ping-pong back-and-forth about MySpace, etc. I liked the tag-line, though: “Parents fear Web predators. Some Internet experts, and some kids, call that fear overblown.” Other parental fears that “some kids” strenuously call overblown: the fear that the kid will spend some huge amount of money if given the chance, the fear that the kid will take the car and crash it at the first opportunity, the fear that the kid will have a big old party in your house while you’re away, etc, etc.
Thu, Mar 2, 2006

The Right Words at the Right Time

Listening to the radio on an airport shuttle last night—some CBS news station, I think—I heard the presenter interview a correspondent about the new videos and transcripts of the White House’s response to Hurricane Katrina. At one point she asked whether this would make any difference to President Bush, or whether it was all “just water under the bridge.” To be fair, she realized just before she said this that it might not sound quite right, but was trapped by the need to maintain the flow of talk.
Tue, Feb 14, 2006

Turnabout is Fair Play II

Accidents happen. But the various responses (official and unofficial) being put forth on Cheney’s behalf get ever more weird. They include: (1) Whittington didn’t get a shotgun blast in the face, he was merely peppered with a pellet gun. (2) Cheney has paid his seven bucks. (This seems to be the only official response from the Vice President’s office so far.) (3) No need for a statement from Cheney saying he feels terrible about what happened, because Whittington has already accepted responsibility for the accident.
Sun, Feb 12, 2006

Veep Fiction

CNN reports: Cheney accidentally shoots fellow hunter. Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a companion [Harry Whittington, a millionaire attorney from Austin] during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, spraying the fellow hunter in the face and chest with shotgun pellets. I have an image in my mind of what the standoff was like. Cheney is grimacing. Whittington is staring down the barrel of a pellet-loaded shotgun. Cheney: Wanna know what I’m buyin’ Ringo?
Mon, Jan 9, 2006


A few years ago, way back in the days before Crooked Timber, I wrote a post about Princeton’s old library-borrowing cards. A snippet: When I was a grad student at Princeton, someone told me that (just like most libraries before computers) the books in Firestone library used to have a pocket inside the cover where the book’s borrowing record was kept on a card. When someone wanted the book from the library, the card would be removed and stamped with the date.
Tue, Dec 13, 2005

Knock Knock, Bang Bang

Jim Henley points us to Radley Balko’s extensive coverage of the astonishing case of Cory Maye. Here is Radley’s initial post on the case; and here are a series of posts of his updating and clarifying the details—1 2 3 4 5 6 7 and 8 (the first and last will tell you a lot). He’s been talking to a lot of people involved in the case. Here’s a link to a lot of commentary by others.
Fri, Nov 25, 2005

The Golden Boy

George Best has died in hospital, aged 59. It’s no surprise, of course: he drank himself to death over a long period. The Guardian has a nice obituary and some photos. For those who don’t know, Best was born in Belfast and was one of the most gifted players ever to play football. He was also an archetypal wastrel genius, spending just four or five years at the peak of his form in the late 1960s and then careening downhill.
Wed, Nov 9, 2005


The Kansas Board of Education has approved new standards that mandate the teaching of “Intelligent Design” (which I’ve always thought should be called Paleyontology) in science classrooms. According to CNN, in addition to mandating that students be told that some basic Darwinian ideas “have been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology,” the board also decided to help themselves to a bit more, too: In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.
Mon, Oct 24, 2005

My Kind of Gamble

I’ll leave it to John Q to comment on the upcoming Bernanke era at the Fed. But the New York Times article about his appointment is funny: White House Gamble Pays for a Princeton Professor Even before President Bush named Ben S. Bernanke as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers this spring, Mr. Bernanke decided to gamble. He sold his home in New Jersey last year and told friends that, instead of returning to a tenured professorship at Princeton University, he was taking a chance that President Bush would elevate him from obscurity as a Federal Reserve governor to a top political appointment.
Sat, Oct 8, 2005

Drive, Stanley, Drive

The DARPA grand challenge is a 175-mile race for autonomous vehicles—cars or trucks that drive themselves. It’s currently underway out in the Mojave desert in Nevada. The teams in charge of the vehicles were told the route early this morning, and the vehicles set off a few hours later. The course is tough, with obstacles and sections (like tunnels) where it’s impossible to use GPS devices. Last year, the challenge was a bit of a disaster, with no team managing more than a few miles, and many vehicles failing completely.
Mon, Sep 19, 2005

Moondoggle Returns

In passing the other day, I mentioned the Moondoggle. This is the idea floated early last year that NASA might return to the moon and build a base there, for no particular reason. At the time I thought it was just a failed trial balloon that rose out of Karl Rove’s head. But several commenters said that in fact it was alive and well, and now I see the BBC reports that 2020 has been set as the date NASA will triumphantly return to 1969—er, I mean, the moon.
Mon, Sep 5, 2005

Love Story

Go read this L.A. Times report about seven children—mostly toddlers, the eldest, six years old—who were lost and found in New Orleans these last few days. In the chaos that was Causeway Boulevard, this group of refugees stood out: a 6-year-old boy walking down the road, holding a 5-month-old, surrounded by five toddlers who followed him around as if he were their leader. They were holding hands. Three of the children were about 2 years old, and one was wearing only diapers.
Sat, Sep 3, 2005

"This is all the perspective you need!"

Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera resist Sean Hannity’s efforts to spin the scale of the disaster and, in particular, the suffering caused by clear, continuing failures of organization. Smith, especially, was working hard to stay calm and focused on relaying the conditions in front of him—he seemed like he wanted to reach through his camera, throttle Hannity and shout “Can’t you see what’s happening here?”
Sat, Sep 3, 2005

DHS selling Bullshit; CNN not Buying

CNN reports, in uncharacteristically blunt terms on Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff’s efforts to exonerate his agency. Defending the U.S. government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff argued Saturday that government planners did not predict such a disaster ever could occur. But in fact, government officials, scientists and journalists have warned of such a scenario for years. … He called the disaster “breathtaking in its surprise.” But engineers say the levees preventing this below-sea-level city from being turned into a swamp were built to withstand only Category 3 hurricanes.
Thu, Sep 1, 2005

Social Disasters II

According to AP, this photo shows a man covering the body of a man who died—apparently in a chair—on Thursday outside the convention center in New Orleans. The baby in his arms looks to be about three or four months old. I wonder whether she has any milk to drink. Plenty of people are saying this already, but the situation in New Orleans and the surrounding areas is just unbelievable, and the official response thus far is pretty appalling.
Fri, Jun 3, 2005

Women Drivers

The suggestion that women in Saudi Arabia might, conceivably, be allowed to drive cars provokes squeals of outrage: Consultative Council member Mohammad al-Zulfa’s proposal has unleashed a storm in this conservative country where the subject of women drivers remains taboo. Al-Zulfa’s cell phone now constantly rings with furious Saudis accusing him of encouraging women to commit the double sins of discarding their veils and mixing with men. … [Opponents], who believe women should be shielded from strange men, say driving will allow a woman to leave home whenever she pleases and go wherever she wishes.
Fri, May 27, 2005

Lessig and the Choir

A long article in New York magazine about Lawrence Lessig’s participation in a lawsuit against the American Boychoir School. A teacher at the school molested boys during the 1970s and Lessig, a former head boy at the school, was one of the victims. He’s now arguing the case in front of the New Jersey Supreme Court. The crux of the lawsuit is whether the school can be held responsible for the actions of its abusive employees.
Sun, Apr 24, 2005

Transatlantic Chancers

A sad story in the Times today about a woman from Limerick who died following a facelift at the hands of a self-promoting New York surgeon: Mrs. Cregan had left her home in rural Ireland two days before, telling her husband, a farmer and part-time plumber, that she would be attending a business course in Dublin. In fact she had flown to the United States to have a face-lift performed by Dr.
Sat, Mar 26, 2005


Based on a letter I wrote this morning and plan to send this afternoon (once I look up the right address), from now on I’d like to be known as ‘Nobel Prize-nominated blogger, Kieran Healy.’ I’m up for consideration in Physics. I nominated everyone here at CT as well, except Montagu because prizes aren’t awarded posthumously. There aren’t enough categories for us all to win in the same year (even counting Economics), but I’m sure everyone’s turn will come.
Tue, Aug 31, 2004

"The man says he is Irish, he is also drunk."

Ireland won a gold medal at the Olympics this year, but after the appalling intervention of ex-priest and arch-gobshite Neil Horan in the marathon, Cian O’Connor’s performance in the showjumping competition wont’ be remembered as Ireland’s main contribution to the games. Dressed in a kilt and green hat with a handwritten sign on his chest reading “The Second Coming is Near,” Horan attacked the leader of the race, Brazil’s Vanderlei de Lima, at around the 21-mile mark.
Wed, Jun 23, 2004


There’s an interesting article in the New York Times today about Elizabeth Willott’s work on mosquitos and the environmental ethics of wetland restoration. Elizabeth’s in the Entomology department at Arizona. Her other half is the philosopher Dave Schmidtz, and when Arizona were recruiting Laurie and me, we stayed with them. It was the middle of December. The first morning we were there, we picked a grapefruit from one of the trees in their yard and ate it for breakfast.
Fri, Feb 6, 2004

Hell is Other Pupils

I love America. Across its vast, extraordinarily diverse area, weird or stupid stuff happens all the time. And the media are usually there to make it into a national story: A second-grade girl from Pittsburgh was suspended this week from her public elementary school for saying the word “hell” to a boy in her class. But 7-year-old Brandy McKenith says she was only warning the boy about the eternal comeuppance he could face for saying: “I swear to God.” “I said, ‘You’re going to go to hell for swearing to God,’” Brandy was quoted as saying in an article that appeared on the Web site of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review on Wednesday.
Fri, Sep 19, 2003

This just in from CNN

The funny thing is, it’s kind of true about the robot ship death crash, though I wouldn’t have put it that way myself. Or maybe the skateboard generation is also gaining influence over CNN’s subeditors.
Fri, Jul 4, 2003

100% Confident

From a BBC Story about the alleged recording of Saddam Hussein broadcast on Al-Jazeera comes the following quote: “We don’t know the source, or where the call came from. We have no reason to doubt its authenticity,” [Al-Jazeera’s chief editor Ibrahim Hilal] said.
Fri, Jul 4, 2003

Is that a Good or Bad sign?

A church in Ohio was hit by lightning just after a visiting preacher asked God for a sign, says the BBC: [T]he preacher had been emphasising the importance of penance when, in the course of his prayers, he called on the heavens above. The lightning struck the steeple, then hit the preacher himself when it travelled through electrical wiring to his microphone. … “It was awesome, just awesome,” said church member Ronnie Cheney … “He was asking for a sign and he got one.” The story does mention that “You could hear the storm building outside” and that the preacher (perhaps playing the odds) “just kept asking God what else he needed to say.” Then comes the kicker: Afterwards services resumed, however churchgoers realised after 20 minutes that the building was on fire and evacuated.
Sun, Jun 29, 2003

Katharine Hepburn

If you’re one of those people who thinks there are two kinds of people in the world, you might say there are the ones who go in for Audrey Hepburn and the ones who go in for Katharine Hepburn. I’ve always been solidly of the second type, myself.
Sun, Jun 22, 2003

The Aspen Fire

Just got back into town to find the Aspen Fire has destroyed most of Summerhaven, a town on top of Mt Lemmon, outside of Tucson. The U of A Webcam has a bunch of images of the plume in the distance (that big building in the right foreground is the social sciences building, by the way, where my office is). The fire has destroyed about 9,000 acres so far. One of the earliest entries in this blog was about a similar, larger fire in the same area last year.
Mon, Jun 16, 2003

Drones Club

In the news down here right now is a proposal to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border using unmanned aerial drones. Which gives rise to this quote: Robert Bonner, commissioner of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, told the House Select Committee on Homeland Security on Monday that it makes sense to conduct a pilot program using unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. A pilot program for drones. I love dead metaphors.
Sun, Jun 8, 2003

Light in the Sky

Just now—around 9:55pm—Laurie and I were sitting watching a DVD when we both saw a large white ball of light (with a greenish-blue tinge) flash across the sky, burning like mad. It seemed to be heading roughly south to north and had a long tail. I suppose it was a meteor of some variety, but certainly not your common-or-garden shooting star. It was enormous by comparison, even bigger, I think, than a burning airplane would have been, and travelling much, much faster and clearly higher up.
Thu, May 22, 2003

All the News that's...

Kevin Drum complains that the best his local Fox news affiliate can do is run a story headlined How safe are gorgeous women from dangerous predators? John Beard reports. The answer, of course, is that they are perfectly safe, as long as they stay away from the deadly chemical contained in many ordinary household items. I’ll tell you what this silent killer is at 10.
Tue, Apr 29, 2003

Brainstorm in a Teacup

There is a genre of stupid, very nearly content-free stories that get far more attention than they deserve. Here’s a prime example from The Telegraph: Talk of brainstorming ‘may offend epileptics’. The first two paragraphs feed the PC “anti-PC” impulse in us all. They say that the word “brainstorming” has “become the latest target of political correctness, according to a charity. Trainee teachers are being told to avoid the word for fear of offending pupils with epilepsy.
Thu, Apr 17, 2003

State-sponsored terror

Where did I put my list of countries known to give aid and comfort to terrorists? Sir John Stevens has submitted his report on collusion between security forces and loyalist terrorists in Northern Ireland. As the BBC reports, he finds that members of the RUC (the police) and the British Army snuggled up with the UDA and arranged the murder of a number of Catholics. (To pre-empt tedious accusations, I should add that I am of course no friend of the IRA, either.) In particular, the assistance of agents of the British Crown allowed the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane to be shot to death in front of his wife and three children while he ate his Sunday dinner.
Sun, Mar 16, 2003

Media Coverage

Here’s a St Patrick’s day weekend/ blogging/ media convergence. Stephen McKinley’s this story in the Irish Echo is all about blogging. I get quoted, along with MIck Fealty of Slugger O’Toole. They didn’t spell my name properly, alas, but I suppose that’s the price of fame.
Thu, Feb 27, 2003

This is your brain on drugs

When you’re cruising around the suburbs on a Saturday night, make sure you don’t crash the wrong kind of party. What with all the depressing nonsense that surrounds the war on drugs, it’s good to find some entertaining nonsense every now and again. (Via Czelticgirl.)
Sat, Feb 1, 2003


Just heard about the shuttle. Terrible news. I remember we got a half day from school to go home and watch the launch of Columbia’s maiden flight, in 1981 I think. Such a beautiful thing.
Sat, Feb 1, 2003

Lott Again

If you’ve been following the John Lott saga, you’ll know that its embarrassing sideshow is Lott’s use of the pseudonym “Mary Rosh” to defend (and praise) himself online. Amongst other things, “Mary” wrote an effusive Amazon review of Lott’s book. Now that it’s all become public, John Lott has done the honorable thing and pointed the finger of blame for the review at his thirteen-year-old son. Mark A. R. Kleiman comments, and hits the right tone of grit-your-teeth-in-disgust better than I can.
Sat, Feb 1, 2003

The high untrespassed sanctity of space

High Flight John Gillespie Magee, Jr Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth Of sun-split clouds and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of—- wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there, I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Sat, Feb 1, 2003


It irritates me that, in the wake of the loss of the Shuttle, Glenn Reynolds can say in one breath, This won’t traumatize people the way Challenger did because (1) it’s not the first time; and (2) we’re at war now, and people’s calculations of such things—especially post-WTC—are different. and then a few paragraphs later in the same post complain that French television isn’t giving it enough coverage because, you know, they’re French and hate us and all.
Mon, Jan 13, 2003

Blood Suckers

Eugene Volokh posts this item, titled “Vampires of Malawi”. It’s a link to a short Reuters news item about a politician who was stoned by a crowd . They accused him of “harboring vampires” and the man was said to be “the latest victim of a bizarre rumor that the country’s government is colluding with vampires to collect human blood for international aid agencies.” Eugene posts this without comment, so I’m not sure what he wants us to make of it.
Sat, Dec 28, 2002

Great Headline

There’s been plenty of coverage of the claims by Clonaid to have produced a human clone. Clonaid are tied to the Raelians, who the BBC says “believe humans are the result of a genetic engineering project run by super intelligent extra-terrestrials.” Ha! A genetic engineering high-school project by the somewhat dull offspring of super intelligent extra-terrestrials, maybe. Look at my lower back, for Christ’s sake. Does that look like good design to you?
Thu, Dec 19, 2002


I’d been hoping that the release of The Two Towers wouldn’t trigger a wave of comparisons between the War of the Ring and the War on Terrorism, but that’s probably too much to wish for. Warbloggers seem likely to emerge from cinemas dazed but excited, ready to recite their favorite stirring bit—- “War is upon you whether you wish it or not!”, “Those who do not take up swords can still die upon them!“—- in defence of the lands of the West.
Wed, Nov 27, 2002

Keats and Chapman

David Adesnik at OxBlog gives us Webster’s definition of a “canard”—- he argues that “the belief that war will destabilize the Middle East [is] a canard.” This reminds me of a sublimely awful mixed metaphor thrown out by historian Mark Kishlansky in his A Monarchy Transformed: Britain 1603-1714. Writing about the charlatan Titus Oates he says “He testified to meetings that never took place between people who couldn’t have been there, and he was eventually hoist on his own canard.” Natural opportunities to use a line like that don’t come along very often.
Mon, Nov 25, 2002

Creative Excuse

The U of A student paper, the Daily Wildcat, reports today about some nasty incidents in the library. Library access is unrestricted, and recently there’s been an uptick in incidents where women get various kinds of unwanted sexual attention—- ranging from someone persistently hitting on female students to several altogether grosser violations of civility. Anyway, my favorite quote from the article comes from Noelle Stillman, a business junior who had a guy pester her for her email address over the summer: “He came up to me and made some comment about my dress, or whatever I was wearing, and then he was like, ‘Could I get your e-mail address?’ I said no, but he kept coming back and talking to me,” said Noelle Stillman, a business junior.
Tue, Nov 12, 2002

Attack of the Clones, Indeed

According to this morning’s Irish Times (subscription required—- sorry), Trinity College Dublin is considering legal action against Lucasfilm because the Jedi Temple Archive (left, top) looks suspiciously like the Long Room of Trinity’s Old Library Building (left, bottom). The images here don’t look just the same because they’re shot at different angles—- the top floor of books is more visible in the real library, together with the vaulted ceiling, whereas in the Jedi library the bottom floor of books and main nave is more visible.
Fri, Nov 8, 2002

And on Balance

My last post was about the IRA, so now I need to let you know about some equal opportunity barbarism from the Loyalists.
Mon, Oct 28, 2002

Shooting at the University of Arizona

There’s been a shooting at the U of A’s College of Nursing, a few blocks from where I live and work. CNN has a headline but few details. The local radio here says that the shooting happened this morning, during an exam; that two instructors at the Nursing School were shot dead; and that the gunman then killed himself. From what I can gather, it happened in a classroom around 8:45 or 9:00am.
Sun, Oct 27, 2002

Causal and Moral Responsibility

It now appears as though all of the hostages killed in the Palace of Culture theatre died from the effects of the gas the Russians used rather than from gunfire or the direct action of the terrorists. The question is, how much blood is on the hands of the Russian Special Forces? At OxBlog, David Adesnik thinks the Russians were brutal and incompetent in their “reckless use of poison gas”. His co-blogger Josh Chafetz disagrees, arguing that the choice for the Russians was between killing all the terrorists together with 1⁄8 of the hostages versus having the hostages blow up the theatre killing everyone.
Sun, Oct 27, 2002

Unanticipated Solution

An unexpected Option 4 in the Jim and the Indians problem in the previous post: have Sonny do it for you. This effective out is not much discussed in the literature, as far as I know.
Wed, Oct 23, 2002

All sniper, All the time

Here’s what wall-to-wall sniper blather looks like from outside the bubble. Why is it that no situation is so awful that 24 hour news channels can’t make it worse?
Wed, Oct 23, 2002


Conservatives are up in, um, arms about the possibility of ballistic fingerprinting. The idea is that gun barrels make unique, consistent patterns on bullets they fire, and so bullets found at crime scenes could be compared to a database of factory-fired rifles. Conservative, pro-gun bloggers like Glenn Reynolds and the Volokhs hate the idea have been regularly linking to critiques of it. I have no view on ballistic fingerprinting because I haven’t read the research.
Fri, Oct 11, 2002

Oh Dear

According to a BBC report, an Israeli man on a business trip ordered a call-girl to his hotel room and got a nasty surprise. Upadate: First Israel and now Japan. Twice in one day, too. Maybe it’s a trend.
Thu, Oct 10, 2002

Economics Nobel, Part II

Mark Kleiman suggests two names to my list of interestin geconomists deserving of a Nobel. Thomas Schelling is a very good choice: The Strategy of Conflict is a staple of Political Science, and Micromotives and Macrobehavior is a superb book. It’s instructive that one of the few negative reviews of hte book on Amazon says both “Is this really economics?” and “this book’s content will be old-hat to anyone who has been trained to think like an economist.” Mark’s other suggestion is Tibor Scitovsky, who did revolutionary work in welfare economics, but who I’m not so familiar with.
Tue, Oct 1, 2002

Round Up the Usual Suspects

Via Sciatica, here’s a photo of life in John Ashcroft’s America that’s relevant to what MaxSpeak had to say the other day. (The original Reuters photo is here.) Like Sam the American Eagle used to say, with a shudder, on the Muppets—- “You are all… Weirdos!”
Mon, Sep 30, 2002

Jaw, Jaw; War, War

I go away for the weekend and return to find war-talk in the blog world has ratcheted up another couple of notches. MaxSpeak goes up against The Volokh Conspiracy. Max comes out ahead. Also some good stuff from him on the recent demonstrations in D.C.. Meanwhile, Mark Kleiman links to the NYT Op-Ad by thirty-three scholars in international relations who think war with Iraq is a bad idea. Note to self: If Thomas Schelling is telling you that your next move is a bad one, you should be paying attention.
Fri, Sep 27, 2002

Insert Monkey Joke Here

According to CNN, the Cobb County School District in Georgia has OKed teaching creationism in High School science classes. The reason is the usual need for “balance” in the curriculum, and the claim that the theory of evolution is disputed by scientists: “Evolution has not been proven,” said [parent Larry] Taylor, who joined the debate over what should be taught in Cobb schools after reading about the ACLU lawsuit. “There are a growing number of scientists who are skeptical about Darwinism.” Of course, there are all kinds of disagreements about how evolution happened.
Wed, Sep 11, 2002

Mast-hemm'd Manhattan

Others will enter the gates of the ferry, and cross from shore to shore; Others will watch the run of the flood-tide; Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east; Others will see the islands large and small; Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high; A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them, Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring in of the flood-tide, the falling back to the sea of the ebb-tide.
Sun, Aug 25, 2002

A Bird in the Hand

Here’s a story from Monday’s Irish Times. The Times is a subscription service, so I can’t link directly to it. 4,500-mile wild goose chase leads trackers to a chilling end By Paul Kelso Researchers conducting the most elaborate wild goose chase in history are digesting the news that a bird they have tracked for over 4,500 miles is about to be cooked. Kerry, an Irish light-bellied Brent goose, was one of six birds tagged in Northern Ireland in May by researchers monitoring the species’ remarkable migration.
Tue, Jul 23, 2002

More Sellers than Buyers?

A comment from Slate’s Today’s Papers caught my eye this morning: While it is self-evident that when the stock market goes down, people are selling more than they are buying, all of the papers today zero in on the fact that it is mutual-fund shareholders who are bailing… Well, in fact it’s not self-evident at all. It’s false. You can’t sell something unless someone else buys it from you, which means that while individual people can sell more than they buy, the market as a whole—- “people” in general—- can’t do that.
Wed, Jun 19, 2002

Catholic Church Abuse Policy One-Liner

I just read this on Slate’s ‘Breakfast Table’: * Returning to Sutton’s after a couple of weeks away in Washington, I settle into a vacant counter seat and inquire what people have been talking about in my absence. “Top three” I’m told, are “the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church.” From the end of the counter Mike Walker cheerfully scorns the bishops’ newly minted sex policy as “three tykes and you’re out.”* Who says there’s no wit in America?