Archive for the Random Category

Ego-Boosting Anti-Semitism

Posted in Random on 20111021 by Avenging Sword

A recent David Samuels interview with Edward Luttwak (HT Tyler Cowen) includes this hilarious excerpt:

[Samuels:]  There have been many different explanations given over the past 10 years for the strength of the American-Israeli relationship, ranging from the idea that Israel has the best and most immediately deployable army in the Middle East, to the idea that a small cabal of wealthy and influential Jews has hijacked American foreign policy.

[Luttwak:] You mean the Z.O.G.? The Zionist Occupied Government?


Personally, from an emotional point of view, myself, as me, I prefer the Z.O.G. explanation above all others. I love the idea that the Zionists have sufficient power to actually occupy America, and through America to basically run the world. I love the idea of being a member of a secretive and powerful cabal. If you put my name Luttwak together with Perle and Wolfowitz and you search the Internet, you will get this little list of people who run the American government and the world, and I’m on it. I love that.

Anytime you need an added jolt of ego gratification, you open your laptop and confirm the fact that you rule the world.

In Pakistan, there are millions of people who go to schools where they are taught that I am the ruler of the universe. So, emotionally speaking, I would explain everything that happens by referring to the Z.O.G., the Zionist Occupied Government, which is run by a small cabal of people, and that I am one of them.[1]

This reminded me of a line by Jack Ryan in Tom Clancy’s “Clear and Present Danger”:

Some old guy on the shtetl in Czarist Russia . . . was reading the hate rag of the antisemites – you know, the Jews are doing this, the Jews are doing that.  So a neighbor asked him why he got it, and the old guy answered that it was nice to see how powerful he was.[2]

I’m not sure if the latter story is actually true, but I find it funny nevertheless.

[1] Luttwak’s more serious explanation for the US-Israel relationship is a “solid mass of foreign-aware Americans, who also happen to be Bible-believers—we’re talking 50 million people—to [whom], the only foreign policy that counts is America’s support for Israel. Period.”  I find this response significantly less entertaining.

[2] Tom Clancy, Clear and Present Danger, in Three Complete Novels 371, 672 (1994)


Random Links

Posted in Random on 20110915 by Avenging Sword

Service with honor


How Europe Sees Itself

Possible failure mode for the Eurozone (Related)

McArdle re. HPV vaccination

Cowen re. the “NASA space pen” myth

Orin Kerr at VC pens a WSJ op-ed about pending CFAA amendments . . . and promptly discovers an “imitator.”  Not the first time I’ve seen this happen . . . .

Readability & Obama’s IQ

Posted in Poli-ticks, Random on 20110525 by Avenging Sword

The subject matter of this post is well outside my usual areas of interest, so I feel somewhat uncomfortable writing it.  Nevertheless, at the risk of making myself look (even more) foolish, I’ll go ahead & proceed anyway.  Feel free to view this post as my attempt at A) statistical analysis, or B) comic relief.

The recent colloquy between Lynn Gazis-Sax & Hyphenated American in the combox of this post (see here, here, here, here, and here) got me wondering about the intelligence of our current chief executive.  I don’t know whether you can reliably guestimate IQ based on standardized test scores (e.g., SAT, LSAT); but even if you could, that approach wouldn’t work for Obama, since his SAT & LSAT scores don’t seem to be publicly available.  However, since Obama is a published author, I found myself wondering if I could guestimate his IQ by analyzing something he wrote.  Since I’m allergic to bookstores’ politics sections, I don’t own any of Obama’s books.  However, I do have access to HeinOnline & Lexis-Nexis.  So I decided to use Obama’s unsigned Harvard Law Review case comment[1] for my analysis.  Basically, my methodology was as follows:

1.       Dump Obama-authored text into an MS Word file.

2.       Use MS Word’s grammar checker to generate Flesch Reading Ease & Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level readability scores for the text in question.

3.       Use scores from #2 to guestimate Obama’s IQ.  To do this, I relied on Table A1[2] in a 2004 medical journal article by A. Harwood & J.E. Harrison.  This table gives the minimum IQ required for comprehend documents with a given range of readability scores; it was derived from a 1996 medical journal article[3] by Laurence Coey.  An excerpt from Table A1 follows:

Step #2 gives an FRE score of 26, and an FKGL of 15.2.  Per the sources cited in Step #3, those scores correspond to a minimum IQ of 126.  Assuming a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15 for US IQ scores, a 126 IQ would put Obama in the 96th percentile (at least according to this online calculator).

Of course, the above analysis makes a number of assumptions, including:

1.       That Obama actually wrote the text in question.  AFAIK, he did, but I suppose it’s possible that, even back in 1990, he was sufficiently far-sighted that he decided to a) get some genius to ghostwrite an obscure, unsigned case comment almost twenty years before the 2008 campaign; b) leave records in the Harvard Law Review claiming that he (Obama) wrote the comment; c) somehow manage to keep that ghostwriter quiet for the next two decades; d) say nothing about the comment prior to his campaign; and e) claim authorship only after some independent source brought the comment to the attention of his campaign.  (Apparently, Rush Limbaugh did accuse Obama of “ghost-writing” this case comment; but if neither David Frum (on the right) nor Think Progress (on the left) puts any stock in that charge, I don’t think I will either.)

2.       That the editing process didn’t render his case comment less readable.  I have no way of knowing whether or not this is true, absent access to the draft he submitted.  ISTM, however, that if an editor was going to alter the readability of a piece, he’d try to make it more readable, not less.

3.       That Obama was able to read & understand what he wrote.  I suppose it’s possible that he couldn’t, but I’m not sure how likely that is.

4.       That Obama didn’t “dumb down” his writing.  Even if he did, however, this simply means 126 is a floor for his IQ, but not a ceiling.

5.       That authorial IQ can be reliably derived from the readability scores of that author’s writings.  This, IMHO, is the big one, and the main source of my anxiety.  I’m assuming that Coey, Harwood, & Harrison actually knew what they were doing when they matched minimum IQ scores with various levels of readability.  I’m also assuming that their peer-reviewers approved of this association.  But it’s possible that all of these people were hoodwinked (along with Yours Truly).

You may all giggle/applaud at once….

[1] Case Comment, Tort Law – Prenatal Injuries – Supreme Court of Illinois Refuses to Recognize Cause of Action Brought by Fetus Against its Mother for Unintentional Infliction of Prenatal Injuries, 103 Harv. L. Rev. 823 (1990).

[2] A. Harwood and J. E. Harrison, How readable are orthodontic patient information leaflets?, 31 J. Orthodontics 210, 218 tbl. A1 (2004).

[3] Laurence Coey, Readability of printed educational materials used to inform potential and actual ostomates, 5 J. Clinical Nursing 359, 361 tbl. 2 (1996).

Sympathy For the Devil

Posted in Random on 20101124 by Avenging Sword

Since TSA appears to have become lots of people’s New Favorite Villain lately….

  • Kevin Drum actually defends the TSA (here and here).
  • Orin Kerr briefly explains why the new TSA procedures may well be constitutional under existing precedent
  • Benjamin Wittes on why “Israelification” of TSA is unlikely.
  • Jack Goldsmith blames the TSA’s risk-aversion on the American people’s risk-aversion.

In case anyone’s wondering…I don’t really have any strong opinions regarding the TSA generally and its new screening procedures in particular.  The posting of these links is primarily a manifestation of my contrarian streak.

Afghan Mineral Estimates

Posted in Random on 20100616 by Avenging Sword

So after reading that New York Times story about the Afghan mineral finds Steve mentioned, I got curious about just how large that stockpile of “treasure” really was.  Unfortunately, the Times story was only moderately helpful in that regard, focusing mostly on “money quotes” with little mention of actual quantities.  OTOH, it did include this somewhat-helpful table, which gave a breakdown of what minerals accounted for what portions of that eye-catching $1 trillion figure.  Using those numbers, along with price & resource information from USGS’s 2010 Mineral Commodities Summaries, I was able to generate the following table, containing my guestimates of what Afghan mineral resources actually amount to, and how they compare with US & world resources of the same.

Table 1

Mineral value ($ bn) 2009 price ($)
Iron 420.9 70.00 / metric ton
Copper 274.0 2.30 / lb
Niobium 81.2 39,000.00 / metric ton
Cobalt 50.8 18.00 / lb
Gold 25.0 950.00 / troy oz
Molybdenum 23.9 25.80 / kg
Rare earths 7.4 12,137.82 / metric ton of RE oxides
Asbestos 6.3 613.00 / metric ton
Silver 5.3 13.37 / troy oz
Potash 5.1 820.00 / metric ton of K2O
Aluminum 4.4 0.78 / lb

Table 2

Afghan (implied) US World 2008 US consumption (apparent)
6,012,857,143 110,000,000,000 800,000,000,000 49,700,000
54,036,656 550,000,000 3,000,000,000 2,020,000
2,082,051 150,000 2,900,000* 8,450
1,280,138 1,000,000 15,000,000 10,100
819 33,000 330,000 176
926,357 5,400,000 14,000,000 36,100
609,665 13,000,000* 99,000,000* 7,410
10,277,325 200,000,000 1,460
12,330 25,000* 400,000* 5,310
6,219,512 7,000,000,000 250,000,000,000 6,800,000
2,558,726 3,790,000


* = reserve # cited in lieu of resource #.

1.  I used a non-USGS estimate for world gold resources; see here.  For asbestos, USGS didn’t give US resource #’s; ditto US & world resource #’s for aluminum.

2.  These probably overestimate Afghan resources somewhat, since I was using USGS’s 2009 mineral prices instead of current ones (for which I couldn’t find a complete set).

Laptop Bleg

Posted in Random on 20100503 by Avenging Sword

So a little over a month ago, my USMCR enlistment contract (finally!) expired (*).  By way of celebration, I’ve decided to replace my bare-bones, 2005-vintage laptop with something a bit more up-to-snuff.  Alas, having not followed tech stuff for many years now, I’m not entirely sure what I ought to be looking for in a laptop.  Here’s what I do know:

  • Functions/Usage:  I mainly use my current laptop for ‘Net surfing, word processing, Excel calculations, and occasionally CAD.  Historically, it’s also doubled as my audio (CD/MP3) & video (mainly DVD) player.  Generally, it’s also ended up being a desktop replacement, such that it sits at home for months at a time; however, occasionally I do take it with me for travel, etc.
  • Screen Size:  I’m thinking 15″-17″.  I’m not that picky about this, since I’ll probably be getting a flat-panel monitor along with this thing.
  • Manufacturer:  I’ll probably be sticking with Dell here, but I’m willing to be convinced to try someone else.  I’m most concerned with reliability & quality.

As for the other specs, however, I confess I’m rather clueless.  E.g.,

  • Operating System:  For better or worse, I’m inclined to stick with Windows, since it’s what I’ve used for years, and I’m a creature of habit in that regard.  Still, while I know to avoid Vista, I’m not sure if I should stick with XP, or go for Windows 7.  If the latter, should I choose 32 or 64 bit?
  • Processor:  Intel alone seems to have about a zillion varieties, and I’m not sure which to choose.  Or should I go with AMD?
  • Cache:  I’m assuming more is better, but how much is good enough?
  • Memory/RAM:  Ditto.
  • Hard drive:  Ditto.
  • Video Card & sound card:  For each of these, is there a particular brand I should be going for (or avoid), or will pretty much anything do?
  • Ports/interfaces:  Besides USB, are there any other types of interfaces I ought to have?  E.g., Firewire, Mini Card?
  • Service plan:  are these any good, or are they basically a waste of money?  If the former, how long should I get it for?
  • Wild card:  anything else that I missed, that I shouldn’t have?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

(*) No, I’m not reenlisting.  I went in pretty sure I wasn’t going to make a career of the Corps, and I saw nothing over the following 8 yrs to make me change my mind.  The patriot in my figures I’ve already served my time.  Plus, my girlfriend would be none too pleased.

Gollum: A Psychiatric Diagnosis

Posted in Random on 20100220 by Avenging Sword

The first & last paragraphs of a recent article in The British Medical Journal: 

Sméagol (Gollum) is a single, 587 year old, hobbit-like male of no fixed abode. He has presented with antisocial behaviour, increasing aggression, and preoccupation with the “one ring.”


Gollum displays pervasive maladaptive behaviour that has been present since childhood with a persistent disease course. His odd interests and spiteful behaviour have led to difficulty in forming friendships and have caused distress to others. He fulfils seven of the nine criteria for schizoid personality disorder (ICD F60.1), and, if we must label Gollum’s problems, we believe that this is the most likely diagnosis.

(HT Discoblog via Volokh Conspiracy)