Thursday, February 4, 2021

Pasta Fazool

Is a Neapolitan[1] soup or stew based on pasta and beans. In standard Italian it is called: “pasta e fagioli”; In Neapolitan it is “pasta e fasule”. The later was Americanized as pasta fazool by a pop song: “That’s Amore” sung by Dean Martin, the lyrics of which begin: “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore” and include: "When the stars make you drool, just like pasta fazool, that's amore".

The dish is made of 3 basic parts: beans, pasta, and a seasoned base (soffritto).

Beans: The most common varieties are borlotti (called cranberry beans in the US), cannellini, and Great Northerns. You may be able to substitute pinto beans for the borlottis. I used dried beans which I soaked in broth overnight before cooking.

Pasta: In Neapolitan tradition pasta e fasule is made with whatever miscellaneous pastas are lying around the pantry (munuzzaglia). Some recipes recommend breaking spaghetti into small pieces. One variety frequently recommended is ditalini (a/k/a tubettini). Elbows would seem to fit the bill. I used penne that I chopped up after cooking but before adding it to the final combination.

Soffritto: The basic soffritto is an onion, a couple of carrots and a stalk of celery that are minced and sautéed. For pasta fazool, the base is amended with garlic, added at the outset, and herbs. Most recipes add tomatoes to the base. Different forms are recommended including fresh tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and canned tomatoes. I used canned diced tomatoes.

Herbs: The herbs that most recipes call for are oregano, parsley, and bay. I used oregano because it seems more typically Italian. When the recipes call for parsley, I assume they mean flat leaf Italian parsley instead of the curly leaf decorative parsley, which has almost no flavor.

Liquid: The dish of course needs a liquid to bind the parts together. Most recipes recommend broth. You could use any broth, or even water. Some recipes call Pasta Fazool a soup and some call it a stew. I prefer creamy and thick.

The liquids in which the beans and the pasta cook absorb starches from them, which will help give the dish body. Therefore I cooked the pasta in broth, then soaked the beans in the broth that was used to cook the pasta, and cooked the beans in the broth in which they were soaked. I needed to add some more broth in the process because volume was lost by evaporation during the cooking process.

Meat. Many recipes call for meat, especially pancetta, Italian bacon. and for using the grease from the meat for the soffritto. This seems to be optional. I had a cup of cooked Italian Sausage, that I added at the end.

Other: I added a cup of cooked mushrooms.


1.   8 oz. dried Borlotti beans

2.   8 oz. dried pasta

3.   2 quarts broth

4.   1 medium onion diced

5.   8 oz. grated carrots

6.   4 oz. diced celery

7.   4 cloves of garlic

8.   1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes

9.   1 Tbs. dried oregano

10.   Olive oil

11.  1 cup sliced sautéed mushrooms (optional)

12.   1 cup cooked Italian Sausage cut up in small pieces (optional)


Day 1

1.   Cook Pasta in broth to al dente. Drain and reserve broth.

2.   Rinse beans. Soak beans in broth overnight in the refrigerator.

Day 2:

1.   In separate pot cook the beans in a quart of the soaking liquid at a soft boil. They will need to cook for about an hour.

2.   Sauté onions in large pot until they are clear. Add garlic, carrots, celery, and oregano, to the pot and continue the sauté.

3.   Drain tomatoes reserving the liquid, add them to the pot, and continue the sauté.

4.   Add remaining soaking liquid and liquid drained from tomatoes to the pot and bring to a soft boil.

5.   Once the beans have cooked, add them and the cooking liquid to the large pot and bring back to a soft boil.

6.   Add the pasta, and cook for 15 minutes.

7.   (Optional) add mushrooms and sausage.

Allow the finished product to cool off,  and store it in the refrigerator overnight, if you can. This is one of those dishes that improves as it rests and the flavors can meld. You may have to add more liquid to reheat it for serving.

Makes about 4 quarts

[1] I claim no Italian heritage nor Neapolitan. This recipe is based solely on my research and experiments.

Monday, August 24, 2020

My Political Fantasy Pence & Haley 2020

In the election for President this November I will vote for the Republican candidate. I have made this decision because I believe that the Democrat party has become a nihilistic, anarchist, racial grievance party. Putting it into power would be extraordinarily dangerous.

Beyond that I have hated Biden since his attacks on Bork and Thomas in the early 80s.

I will vote for Trump, not out of any admiration or belief in him or the job that he has done, but just because the Democrat party and their candidates are such an incredible threat to the constitution and the health of the republic.

I am absolutely convinced that if they have a majority in the Senate, they will enact measures that will permanently alter the balance of American politics in their favor, such as packing the Supreme Court with young ultra liberals, making Washington DC and Puerto Rico States to give them 4 extra senators, and enacting procedural changes to election conduct to make it impossible to control their frauds*.

I also fear that they will revert to the Obama foreign policy of sucking up to China, Russia, and Iran, that they will sacrifice the national defense budget for social welfare programs, and that they will undermine Israel’s position in the Middle East.

I also want to make it clear, that I do not have any real quarrels with the substance of actions taken by this administration. In particular, I think that the whole China virus epidemic has raised serious questions that are not properly debated and are so far from clarity that it will take years to evaluate what was the right thing to do**. Although, I will not give Trump any style points.

I only know what I see in the media. I don’t want to argue about the validity or meaning of polls. Nor, do I have any useful things to say about election strategy. But … the conventional wisdom is that if this election is a referendum on Donald Trump, he will lose. And, that possibility has me worried sick.

What follows is my fantasy. If you don’t like it, go have your own fantasy.

If Trump is seeing what the vast majority of pundits think is reality, maybe, just maybe, he will decide that he does not want to be humiliated by losing to a moron like Joe Biden and being responsible for the reign of terror that will be inflicted on the Country.

Therefore, on Thursday night, he will begin his acceptance speech by thanking the party for its trust and confidence. He will then say that after much soul searching and discussion with his family, he decided that he must decline the nomination. He feels that he has accomplished most of what he set out to do, but that for the sake of his health and the incredible burden that has been placed upon his family, he has decided that he should step aside. He would be the oldest man to ever begin a term as President and it is just not fair to the Country to have even the slim possibility of a health problem that might interfere with steering the ship of state in very turbulent waters.

He therefor is requesting the unanimous consent of the party to the nomination of Mike Pence as its candidate for President. Mike and he have agreed that the party and the country would best be served by having Ambassador Nikki Haley be the party’s nominee for vice president.

Doing this would entirely reset the election. The media would have a melt down because their obsession with Trump would no longer be the issue. Pence is 17 years younger than Biden. Haley is more experienced than Harris, and she is also the child of Indian immigrants. She is also smarter, younger, and prettier than Harris.

I really doubt that this will happen. I don’t think Trump believes that he can lose. Nor do I think he is willing to sacrifice personal advantage for the well being of the Republican party, of which he was not a member before he ran for President, or to protect the republic. But, it is nice to have a fantasy.

*The Democrat party has lived off of fraud for centuries.

**It will take a long time before we understand the social and economic damage that has been inflicted by lockdowns (e.g. people who died from heart attacks because they afraid to go the hospital, people who slipped into drug addiction because they were lonely and bored) and what the real cost of the virus infection was. As I wrote before, any disease that kills mostly very old people and very few children is probably not that much of a problem.

"Biden’s Lockdown Mistake: A President’s job is to consider the national interest, not to default to experts who often disagree." By The Editorial Board | Aug. 23, 2020 |

"The truth is that the experts have been wrong numerous times in this pandemic, and they often disagree. They first said masks don’t help but now say they do. They said ventilators were vital but soon learned other clinical methods worked better. Most of all, they counseled strict lockdowns, but we’ve learned the hard way that shutting down the country can be more costly than the virus. ...

"A study this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that newly identified cancers fell 46.4% from March 1 to April 18, which will likely lead to cancers detected at more advanced stages with worse clinical outcomes.

"Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic last month reported the incidence of stress-induced cardiomyopathy from March 1 to April 30 increased four-fold. Doctors at Tufts Medical Center last month warned that psychological distress, fear and emotional stress, “coupled with worse clinical outcomes when patients avoid seeking effective care, creates a double hit from this pandemic in which morbidity and mortality associated with cardiac disease might well overtake the risks directly linked to the virus itself.”

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week reported that 13.3% of Americans in June said they had increased substance use to cope with pandemic-related stress. About half of those ages 18 to 24 reported severe anxiety and depression, and a quarter said they had seriously considered suicide in the last 30 days.

"People being cooped up at home for long periods amid enormous stress has also led to an increase in domestic violence. A new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston reports a spike in injuries indicative of domestic abuse, especially severe injuries from strangulation and use of weapons, from March 11 to May 3."

Just a note here for those of you who feel that you don’t want to vote for Trump: Please believe me when I tell you that electing the Democrats will harm this country. If you can’t vote for Trump and you live in a swing state, please have the decency to stay home. Those of you who live in NY or CA, your vote does not count, and I do not care what you do with it.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Baseball Is Back. Don't Boo the Astros. Laugh at Them.

One of the more discouraging things about modern life is the tendency of the media to take every little thing to DEFCON 1* without investigation or thought. That is certainly true of things connected to politics, but the tendency has flowed far beyond that realm. Take for example the revelation that the Houston Astros had engaged in "sign stealing" using "technological means" during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. The MLB head office investigated the situation, issued a report, fined the Astros $5 million, and suspended the General Manager and Field Manager for the 2020 season. That would seem to put an end to the matter and we could go back to worrying about our favorite teams pitching staff.

But, no. The media constantly echoes with more and more furious denunciations and demands for acts of contrition. here is perhaps the most over the top reaction I have seen:

"It's anger. I feel like every single guy over there needs a beating. It's wrong. They're messing with people's careers." -- Braves outfielder Nick Markakis on his reaction to the Astros' scandal and the ensuing response.

And now, asks: "What we lose when we can't boo the Astros on Opening Day".

My quick answer is yet another chance to engage in ritual displays of anger. A habit that does not exhaust the emotion, but instead stokes it. Anger is something people in this country need a lot less of.

I would like to argue on several grounds that the incident is less worthy of attention than the amount of electrons, the media has spent on it. I believe that there is a lot less here than meets the eye and that we can drop the matter and go back to worrying about coronavirus and the stock market.

First, there is the matter of terminology. Sign stealing is a bit of a misnomer. The signs are not traffic signs stolen by undergraduates to decorate their living rooms. They are gestures made by players and coaches to communicate plans for the next play to their teammates. A coach may touch his chin or rub his scalp to tell a base runner to try to steal a base on the next pitch. Catchers put fingers down between their legs when squatting for the next delivery to tell the pitcher what type of pitch he should throw.

Signs cannot be stolen because they are displayed in public for all to see. The only thing that is not public is the exact system of meaning assigned to each sign by each team each game. But, the signs are not that obscure. There are a limited number of signs and most teams have a few coaches or players who know what the signs of other teams are and what they mean.

Sign stealing is not like handbag stealing. The latter is mallum in se [violation fundamental morality]. The former is sort of mallum prohibtium [violation of published rules]. In fact, the signs are displayed in public. The signers hope that the opponents will not decode them, but, we are not talking about the NSA and AES 1024.

A very important system of signs is the ones used by catchers to ask the pitcher for a certain type of pitch on the next offering from the mound. Of all signs, these are least accessible by the opponents because they are usually displayed by the catcher while holding his hand between his thighs while he is in his crouch behind the plate awaiting the pitch.

The catcher's signs are not, by any means, invisible to the public. The fans at home watching the view from the centerfield camera can see them clearly. Occasionally the announcers will decode the signs for the fans. Further, opposing players standing on second base often have a good view ot the catcher's signals.
What, the Astros did was having a team employees watch the feed on a television monitor near the team’s dugout, decode the signs, and bang loudly on trash cans to warn batters of upcoming curveballs or changeups. The idea was that the information would allow Astros hitters to more accurately gauge the next pitch and have a better chance of hitting it. Some sports media people call that technology. I guess it is prohibited. To me this on the level of bat corking and Vaseline on the pitchers cap.

Second, the scheme was not innovative. The ESPN story above relates:
In 1961, the Reds won the National League pennant. That offseason, one of their pitchers, Jay Hook, admitted that the Reds had put a scout in the scoreboard with a set of binoculars. The scout peered to see what the catcher was signaling, then phoned the signs to the dugout. It was one of a number of bombshells about sign stealing published that winter: Rogers Hornsby wrote in a memoir that the league was awash with these schemes, and the Associated Press quoted insider revelations that Bobby Thomson's famous Shot Heard 'Round The World in 1951 was assisted by the same type of sign stealing. NL owners gave the league president power to declare forfeits if teams were caught in the act.
Another ESPN story says that:
It's nearly certain the 2017 World Series wasn't the only one marred by players stealing signs using illegal technology or personnel. If you had to pick another team to go nuts over, it might be the 1948 Cleveland club. According to Paul Dickson's "The Hidden Language of Baseball," Cleveland that year "employed a telescope that Bob Feller had used as a gunnery officer during World War II. The telescope was mounted on a tripod, placed in the Cleveland scoreboard, and operated alternately by Feller or Bob Lemon, who remembered that he could 'see the dirt under the catcher's fingernails.' They would call out the next pitch to a groundskeeper, who would then use another opening in the scoreboard to relay the signs to Cleveland hitters."
Both Feller and Lemon are in the Hall of Fame.

Third, violating the rules of baseball has seldom been seen as very serious. The ESPN Booing Story goes on:
Cheating was incredibly common in baseball up to that point [1961]. It has been incredibly common since. People in the Hall of Fame have done what the Astros did, and they've done worse, and many of those stories of cheating are now told as charming pieces of baseball arcana. Baseball has an approving proverb about cheating -- if you're not cheating, you're not trying -- and it has a loose moral code, in which it's up to your opponent to catch you and not up to you to not do it. What the Astros did might have been immoral, but were they immoral? They assumed that their opponents were probably cheating, too. They didn't seem to feel shame among themselves.
On the point of opponents acting, ESPN published an article: "Catcher Jonathan Lucroy says he was changing signs every pitch vs. Astros"
"I knew about that two years ago, that it was going on," Lucroy said Thursday. "I know it just recently came out. Everyone in baseball [knew], especially in that division that played against them. But we were all aware of the Astros doing those things and it was up to us to outsmart them, I guess you could say.
"... We actively changed signs. Every single pitch, we were changing signs. You had to because they would relay them to second, stealing them from first, too -- from between your legs. They had a very intricate system going on. We were well aware of it, and it was a challenge. It was a mental challenge to really overcome that. It's easier said than done. But it's a shame, and I'm glad it came out and it came to light."
Lucroy added that he never heard the banging of a trash can, but he would not have been listening for it in the first place.
Lucroy said that Mike Fiers informed him of Houston's tactics once they became teammates in Oakland in 2018. The revelation led Lucroy, who signed a minor league deal with Boston earlier this week, to create more and more intricate sign-calling patterns to preemptively fight any tactics used by the Astros. Working with different pitchers called for different tactics as well.
The ESPN writer of the Booing story, wallowing in the same moral dudgeon as everyone else alive in this God forsaken year, goes on: "If I were an Astros fan, I wouldn't have booed the Astros for being bad people. I would have booed them because I'm against even good people acting corruptly."

This is a classic example of the fallacy known as begging the question but better named as assuming the consequent (even better in Latin: Petitio Principii). He has assumed that the Astros scheme was mallum in se. But, he has just established that they were only mallum prohibtium.

The English sometimes say that an something contrary to traditional standards of fairness or rectitude is not cricket. It is phrase familiar to Americans. But, nobody says something contrary to traditional standards of fairness or rectitude is not baseball.
Note: I was amused to read a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about the impact of the epidemic on cricket: "Virus Threatens a Revered Tradition in Cricket—Spit on the Ball: Players have long sought to tilt the flight of the ball, using substances from resin to sandpaper to hair oil. A legal one, saliva, now faces potential doom because of the pandemic." Baseball has explicit rules going back a century, against doing any of those things. But cricket views it as part oif the game. I think it shows that there are few things in sport that are mallum in se.
Fourth, the Astros simply did not achieve a competitive advantage from the efforts. It is easy to see. Using, I assembled a 20 year chart of the Astros offensive output on the road and at home. The chart starts in 2000 when the Astros left the Astrodome to play in what is now known as Minute Maid park. It shows the runs the Astros scored at home and on the road in each of the years 2000 through 2019. This comparison is immune to park effects. The home and road stadiums are a constant. It also does not depend on any artificial calculation of runs created [Bill James formula OBP × (TB + BB)].
    Runs scored at Home   Runs scored Away   Home Minus Away
2019   489   431   58
2018   373   424   -51
2017   395   501   -106
2016   334   390   -56
2015   367   362   5
2014   318   311   7
2013   298   312   -14
2012   311   272   39
2011   325   290   35
2010   297   314   -17
2009   334   309   25
2008   367   345   22
2007   361   362   -1
2006   372   363   9
2005   360   333   27
2004   405   398   7
2003   425   380   45
2002   405   344   61
2001   440   407   33
2000   505   433   72
Avg.           10
Std. Dv.         43
Std. Dv. Excluding 2017-2018     31

I show the average and the standard deviation, which is a simple statistic that allows us to calculate the likelyhood of the result being random fluctuation. A measure that is within one standard deviation of the mean has a 1 in 3 chance of being random. In the above chart the Astros in 2017 (the year they won the World Series) had a home deficit of 106 runs, which was 116 runs less than the average. That was 2.7 sd less than the mean using all of the sample and 3.7 sd excluding the years they schemed. The first one has a 0.6% chance of being random, the second is less than 0.01%.

I think the Astros sign "stealing" scheme harmed the Astros more than it harmed their competitors. I think it is quite understandable. A hitter facing a major league pitcher must command every resource of concentration available to him in order to avoid being injured by the ball and in order to have a chance of hitting it into fair territory. Trying to communicate the pitch information by banging on a trash can could easily be imagined to break the concentration necessary to face down a major league fastball and hit it successfully.

Conclusion: Yes, the Astros violated a rule. No, they did not obtain a competitive advantage by their violation. Indeed they hurt their ability to compete. They violated a rule, albeit a poorly defined and sporadically enforced rule, for which they were punished. Case close. But, don't boo the Astros. Laugh at them.

*The DEFCON warning system prescribes five graduated levels of readiness (or states of alert) for the U.S. military. It increases in severity from DEFCON 5 (least severe) to DEFCON 1 (most severe). DEFCON 1 has never been issued. DEFCON 2 was only reached during the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962.

Note: The Dodgers real problem is that Kershaw sucks in the post-season, and not just against the Astros. Clayton Kershaw: Regular Season W 169 L 74 ERA 2.44 Postseason W 9 L 11 ERA 4.43. He sucked against the Nationals in 2019.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Maybe the Kids Will Listen to the Music

I really liked a couple of lines out of Quinn Hillyer's scream of despair over the attraction of young people to the candidacy of socialist fossil Bernie Sanders. I have quoted them below. But I think some Classic Rock anthems that warn against the delusions of revolutions might get through to them. They are linked below. Share them with any Bernie Bros you meet.

The dangerous delusions of Bernie’s brigades
Upon seeing the way young voters flock to Bernie Sanders, the temptation is to grab them all by the shoulders, shake them until they think they’ve been in an earthquake, and demand proof that they actually have brains.

To support an avowed socialist like the Vermont senator is to be historically illiterate — indeed, willfully ignorant on that front — and arithmetically inept to boot. Sanders and his agenda are a spasm of self-deluding fantasy, a phantasmagorical utopia utterly unmoored from reality. It’s a bad political acid trip, a daft dream descending into a nihilistic nightmare.

At some point, adults should be expected to think and act like adults. Adults exercising citizenship rights should do the basic five minutes of research necessary to discover that socialism hasn’t, doesn’t, and cannot work. Plus, basic common sense and simple math expose Sanders’s promises as nonsense of the 2+2=95 variety.

* * *

All the evidence suggests that a Sanders presidency would be not just deluded, but dangerous to American prosperity and freedom. Yet here he is, leading the Democratic pack on a wave of support from voters aged 44 and younger. Even in a multicandidate field in New Hampshire, for example, he received more than half of the votes from those between 18 and 29, and a field-leading 36% of those aged 30 to 44. 
One would ask what these young voters are thinking, but the obvious answer is that they are not thinking at all. Their electoral emanations are inexcusably irresponsible. Sanders’s supporters need to get real and abandon his “revolution” to the same pathetic fate as Leonid Brezhnev’s late, unlamented Soviet prison state.
Street Fighting Man · The Rolling Stones

Revolution · The Beatles

Won't Get Fooled Again · The Who

Only A Fool Would Say That · Steely Dan

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Mars Needs Women

was the title of a campy sci-fi/horror film of the the 1960s. Of course, Mars is a frozen, airless rock spinning in infinity and needs nothing.

China, on the other hand is a nation on Earth. In 1979, the Chinese Government adopted a policy of allowing, subject to certain exemptions, each family to have only one child. Wikipedia has a couple of relevant articles. Chinese people, have for various, social and cultural reasons, a strong preference for having boys. So it is not surprising to learn that: "According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, there will be 24 million more men than women of marriageable age by 2020."

This is a problem. Marriage civilizes men. Unmarried men are constant source of disorder and violence. It has been hypothesized that in societies where polygyny is the norm, there is a problem with large groups of unmarried young men. They are often directed to military occupations where they have hope of booty and perhaps a woman to bring home. Even more than the rest of the world, the Chinese regime must worry about this phenomenon in modern China, as a potential source of political disorder in a state without democratic institutions.

Solving the problem is tough, especially when it is due to manipulation of the circumstances of birth. Start to birth more girls today, and the Chinese might have an adequate supply in 2035.  Military raids to steal women are another traditional method, but the risks of triggering a larger war are probably unacceptable. The slave trade was another path, but slavery has a bad name in the modern world.

It is therefore unsurprising to read that the Chinese have taken to buying brides from Pakistan.
"Pakistani Christian girls trafficked to China as brides" By Kathy Gannon and Dake Kang on May 7, 2019 at

GUJRANWALA, Pakistan (AP) — ... hundreds of poor Christian girls ... have been trafficked to China in a market for brides that has swiftly grown in Pakistan since late last year, activists say. Brokers are aggressively seeking out girls for Chinese men, sometimes even cruising outside churches to ask for potential brides. They are being helped by Christian clerics paid to target impoverished parents in their congregation with promises of wealth in exchange for their daughters.
* * *

In China, demand for foreign brides has mounted, a legacy of the one-child policy that skewed the country’s gender balance toward males. Brides initially came largely from Vietnam, Laos and North Korea. ... “It’s purely supply and demand,” she said. “It used to be, ‘Is she light-skinned?’ Now it’s like, ‘Is she female?’”

Pakistan seems to have come onto marriage brokers’ radar late last year. ... Since then, an estimated 750 to 1,000 girls have been married off ... Pakistan’s small Christian community, centered in Punjab province, makes a vulnerable target. Numbering some 2.5 million in the country’s overwhelmingly Muslim population of 200 million, Christians are among Pakistan’s most deeply impoverished. They also have little political or social support.

Among all faiths in Pakistan, parents often decide a daughter’s marriage partner. The deeply patriarchal society sees girls as less desirable than boys and as a burden because the bride’s family must pay a dowry and the cost of the wedding when they marry. ... By contrast, potential Chinese grooms offer parents money and pay all wedding expenses. ... They pay on average $3,500 to $5,000, including payments to parents, pastors and a broker ...

We are, of course, expected to be horrified by this gross violation of human rights. The article goes to the source: "Human Rights Watch called on China and Pakistan to take action to end bride trafficking, warning in an April 26 statement of 'increasing evidence that Pakistani women and girls are at risk of sexual slavery in China'."

I have expected to see all along. In that, it is sort of like the College Admissions Scandal, I commented on previously. China has too many men and not enough women. The Muslim countries of MENA and SEA have too many people and not enough capital. The logical thing for both sides is to trade women for money. This will cause white liberals in the EU/USA to have conniption fits, but their disapproval caries no weight in other parts of the world. I do not think that either Islam or Chinese philosophies have any deep seated objection to the idea.

Is there a glimmer of light at the Southern Border?

I have over many years come to despise Tom Friedman, who is the NYTimes lead op-ed columnist, unfailing fountain of pious liberal conventional wisdom, and pompous windbag. Early in his career, he was a reporter on the foreign desk, and as such spent several years in the Middle East. He wrote a book about the experience "From Beirut to Jerusalem", which I thought at the time was pretty good. After he took up residence in the Washington office he started writing bilge like "The World Is Flat". I stopped reading his stuff and I have been calmer, if not happier, since then.

Usually when his columns are linked on the websites that I attend to, it is to ridicule them. Typically with good reason as they are pious liberal conventional wisdom, expressed by a pompous windbag. I was prepared for the usual when I followed a link to: "Trump Is Wasting Our Immigration Crisis: The system needs to be fixed, but “the wall” is only part of the solution." by Thomas L. Friedman on April 23, 2019.

But, when I read this:

SAN DIEGO — On April 12, I toured the busiest border crossing between America and Mexico — the San Ysidro Port of Entry, in San Diego — and the walls being built around it. Guided by a U.S. Border Patrol team, I also traveled along the border right down to where the newest 18-foot-high slatted steel barrier ends and the wide-open hills and craggy valleys beckoning drug smugglers, asylum seekers and illegal immigrants begin.
* * *
The whole day left me more certain than ever that we have a real immigration crisis and that the solution is a high wall with a big gate — but a smart gate.

I said to myself, wow, isn't that almost exactly what Trump has been saying for the last six months? Who let Tom of off the ranch? Last time the subject of a wall came up Nancy Pelosi declared it to be immoral. so, I read on. Tom said that:

Without a high wall, too many Americans will lack confidence that we can control our borders, and they therefore will oppose the steady immigration we need. But for this wall to have a big gate, it has to be a smart and compassionate one, one that says, “Besides legitimate asylum seekers, we’ll accept immigrants at a rate at which they can be properly absorbed into our society and work force, and we’ll favor visa seekers with energies and talents that enrich and advance our society.” That’s the opposite of the unstrategic, far-too random, chaotic immigration “system” we have now.
That’s been a “system” in which millions of people could cross into our country illegally or overstay their visas. Or cross over and claim asylum and then melt into society while awaiting their hearings. Or bring in their family members through family reunification programs. And that’s no matter their possible impact on communities and social welfare resources or their ability to assimilate and contribute to society.

* * *
And in an era when more and more countries will fracture under environmental, population, criminal and technological stresses, we simply cannot take everyone who shows up at our border.

End chain migration. Accept legal immigrants on a rational basis. Revise the asylum system to only admit genuine cases of persecution. Limit the number of legal immigrants to the rate at which they can be absorbed. These are all propositions that Trump and most Republicans can accept.

Of course, Tom is writing for the NYTimes and he must sound the "Orange Man Bad" gong:
Instead, we’re stuck with a man who just exploits the border crisis and uses his “wall” to divide the nation and energize his base.
Or, as Frum put it: “The gratuitous brutalities of the Trump administration shock the conscience, and fail even on their own terms. Intended as deterrents, they are not deterring. They are succeeding only in counter-radicalizing liberal opinion to stigmatize almost all immigration enforcement against nonfelons as cruel, racist and unacceptable.”

I am not a huge Trump fan, but guys like Tom and Frum have spent the last few years criticizing Trump's rhetoric, not on the basis of what Trump said, but of what his Democrat and Media opponents have said that he said. Or, even worse, on the basis of what some drunk in the last row said. Further, Trump's rhetoric is off the cuff, and full of bombast and rodomontade, often humorous, and simply will not bear careful parsing.

But, Tom's exit is graceful:

In sum: we need new walls; we need a serious strategy for mitigating climate change and offering economic and governance assistance to countries to our south that are being destabilized by poverty and extreme weather; we need to rethink who is entitled to asylum, so people fleeing economic dislocation don’t overwhelm our borders and harden our hearts to people truly fleeing tyranny; we need to encourage legal immigration of people who can help our country thrive in the 21st century; and we need to partner with Mexico on a Mexican-American plan to manage the flow of migrants through Mexico to our border. 
None of these alone will work. Anyone who tells you otherwise has not been to the border.

If there were any Democrats in Congress who could bear the slings and arrows of their outraged base, Tom's column could provide the basis for legislation that would go a long way to resolving the crisis on the border. I think that they would be surprised to find that Republicans would work with them.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The College Admissions Scandal, Such As It Is.

They caught a bunch of parents using a “consultant” to bribe various college people, like soccer coaches, to get their little Olivias into “elite” colleges. (USC? are you kidding?).

I won’t wax moralistic. I don’t care. The world has real problems. Whether one one rich white kid goes to Ivy U and another one has to go to Cal State Northridge is of no concern to me.

I will say I told you so. For years I have said that there must be a way to payoff admissions people. It must be happening because there is too much demand, the system is too opaque, and the people who run it are low status (among their peers on college campuses) and not well paid.

Why didn’t those people go through the door of legal bribery via a donation to the colleges endowment? Easy. They are, for the most part, HENRYs (High Earnings Not Rich Yet). It takes a lot of capital to be able to peel off a 7 figure donation, which is what it takes. Five or six figures they can handle.

I think it is all about status anxiety. It is not enough to obtain high status for yourself, you must be able to pass it on to your children. You see, 300 years ago in Europe, status was conferred by inheriting lands and titles. That kind of status is easily given to your children.

In modern America status is conferred by things like having a role in a movie, being an elected official, being a partner in a big law firm. Those are very hard to give to children. And that makes parents very anxious.

The odds are that if you are in the right tail of talent, your kids will be closer to the mean (regression to the mean). Finding out that this is true is quite blow to the aspirations of the blessed.

One status thing that parents can give kids is children is a tuition at an “elite” college. All the kid needs to do is gut it out for 4 years. The evidence is that everyone who is willing to make a minimal effort to play the part, gets a sheepskin in 4 years no matter what.

So, yes the whole thing is upper class parents plagued by status anxiety trying to drag their children over the finish line. And the fight is entirely inside the upper class.

Elite Colleges — What do they do?

Many commenters, seem to be under the illusion that the highly rated colleges in this country have very smart students and who learn lots of really important stuff from the world famous professors at those schools. I think that is wrong.

In all but a few cases (Cal Tech), the “elite” colleges are where the bright, but not necessarily extraordinary children of the upper classes go to get indoctrinated into mores and crotchets of the ruling class. What is important is not reading any particular text or solving any particular mathematical equation. What is important is learning to be like the others, and not to be a bitter clinger, one of the deplorables, or what is even worse, some kind of a religious fanatic.

Why are the colleges failing to be what they want us to think they are?

First, the students are a very mixed bag.

A. Athletes. The schools, even the Ivy League, recruit a lot of athletes. They need to field a lot of teams, not just football and basketball, but soccer, lacrosse, track, and rowing, I have been told by reliable sources that upwards of 40% of the incoming class at some ivy league schools are recruited athletes. Now, those kids are not dummies, but most of them are ordinarily bright kids with decent grades and board scores. The real secret here is that like the colleges, the high schools have been inflating grades like Macy’s inflates balloons for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. It is very common to hear about ordinary suburban high schools where 15% of the kids are “valedictorians”. And the College Board has been dumbing down the SAT to fit the crappy educations the high schools are giving the kids for years.

B. Legacies. The schools know that Alumni whose children are rejected don’t donate. So they follow the golden rule: “money talks”. Again, the legacies are not dummies, but, see above about what their grades and board scores mean.

C. Affirmative action. Ideally the schools would like one eighth of the incoming class to be black and one eighth Mexican. They can’t do that even when they count the basketball players and football players. So they need some ringers, like African immigrant kids who work like Asian immigrant kids, and the children of white upper class Mexicans from Mexico.

D. Miscellaneous gets. Children of powerful politicians. Kids who have starred in Hollywood motion pictures. Children of really rich people who are not alums, but who will fork over now.

The bottom line is that about a quarter of the class is left for kids who will raise the average SAT score. Just make sure that less than half of them are Asian. So that is about ten percent of the class for smart white kids — just make sure they don’t need scholarship money. That goes to the A categories.

Second. The teaching is, if anything, even less to write home about. Ivy League professors are hired because of their research production. Teaching is, as far as they are concerned, a distraction. The really famous ones only teach a couple of graduate classes, which are focused on their research interests. The classroom experience for undergraduates is no better at Ivy U than it is at Kent State. Which is just fine as far as the students are concerned because class is just a distraction from their real interests which are binge drinking and fornicating.

What the kids graduate with is status. That is what their parents want to give them. The only fix is to pull the ‘elite” colleges down to earth.. It shouldn’t make any difference if you went to Harvard or 2 years at Plano CC followed by 2 more at UT-Arlington.

Admissions System

What makes the situation even worse is that the admissions system for elite colleges is not objective, not transparent, and not fair.

Admissions committees have neither the expertise nor the ability to conduct the kind of scrutiny that would expose cheating, nor the kinds that they claim to do and claim to want to do. It is all a charade. The problem is acute because of the increasing grip that elite colleges have on entry into the ruling class and media and financial elites.

The only possible way out of this bind is to remove control of the process from the colleges. Many educated people believe that admissions should be controlled by a third party testing authority as it is in many other countries. Their intuition is that such a system would be acceptable to everyone.

There are objective systems in Europe and East Asia, the kids take examinations such as the French Baccalauréat or the German Abitur. The tests are written essay type exams, and some of them are even oral. They are far harder to cheat on than the multiple choice parodies of examinations used in the US such as the SAT.

Testing wont work

A testing system would make many large and powerful political groups very unhappy. It is clear to me that a sufficient portion of the public, no doubt concentrated in certain groups, has rejected the very idea that testing can be fair or efficient. Check out the reaction created by the latest round of admissions to NYC public magnet schools. Stuyvesant High School admitted 895 students for fall 2019. Only 7 of them are black. But only 22% are white. Two thirds are Asian. The Mayor is very unhappy.

American parents are not prepared to find out that their precious snowflakes have skated through their inferior high schools without learning anything. And certain classes have not inculcated a love of learning among their children, nor have they called out the politicians and teachers unions who conspire against them.

None of these people will accept the verdict of a test or system of tests. They will fall for the siren song of demagogues who claim that the system is based on sexism, intolerance, xenophobia, homophobia, islamophobia, racism, and bigotry.

The only admission system I can think of that is objective, transparent, and fair is a random draw.
A lottery would be fair to everyone. No one could claim that they were handicapped by their race or the fact that they were limited by circumstance to poorly run and financed public schools. No one would be advantaged by being able to afford exam tutors, admissions consultants, social justice expeditions to third world countries, alumni donations, or participation in private school only sports like rowing.

People I have proposed this idea to have objected that the quality of those being educated would drop drastically.

Compared to the social justice warriors they are graduating now? The joke is that the so-called elite selective schools provide for most students (especially, the legacies, athletes, and affirmative actions) no better education that most second string State Us (e.g. Kent State, Western Kentucky. Eastern Michigan, etc.).

The engineering schools provide rigorous educations, but so do the engineering schools of the state universities. Besides, those programs are always self selective. Organic Chemistry has ended more medical careers than cocaine.

So what would the impact of an admissions lottery be on this system. The biggest one I can see is on the rowing teams. Do you have any idea how few rowers there are outside of New England prep schools.

As for the general intellectual level of the colleges. Meh. Yes, there would be a few non A category kids who were too stupid to get by. They can be pushed out pretty quickly, if the schools care, and I am not sure they do.

BTW, another thing that we will need to do is impose wage and price controls on colleges, so that they do not use pricing to scare away non-rich children.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Clearly, They Have Shot All of the Copy Editors

"A London Rental Reaches for the Stars: An observatory built for King George III to view a 1769 celestial event has been fully renovated and now seeks a renter at $41,600 a month."
By Ruth Bloomfield on Sept. 5, 2018 at
He was particularly enthused at the prospect of viewing the passage of the planet Venus across the face of the sun—a phenomenon that occurs less than once in a century—and commissioned an observatory from which to view this rare astrological event.

Astrology is the superstitious belief that the course of human events is determined by the locations of the  Sun, the Moon, the planets, and the stars in the sky as observed from the surface of the Earth. Astrologers tell fortunes by means of  charts they create using astronomical theories invented by the ancient Greeks and Romans which are geocentric and not based on modern physics. An "astrological event" is a manifestation of superstition.

 Astronomers are scientists who observe extraterrestrial bodies like the Sun, the planets, and the Stars and use mathematics and physics to deduce the nature of those bodies, Astronomy has existed since ancient times. In the eight century B.C.E., Babylonian astronomers determined when and where the planets would appear in the sky. In the 17th Century, Newton used observations made with newly invented instruments such as the telescope and new forms of mathematics such as the infinitesimal calculus he invented to explain universal gravitation and calculate the orbits of the Moon and the planets with new understanding and accuracy.

The "passage of the planet Venus across the face of the sun", is known among astronomers as a "transit of Venus". One of Newton's contemporaries, Edmund Halley (the comet guy)  proposed that telescopic observations of a transit of Venus could be used to measure the distance between the Earth and the Sun, which would provide a yardstick for measuring the distances and sizes of the Sun and the planets. Haley did that in 1716, but the next transits were not predicted to occur until 1761 and 1769.

Astronomers made careful observations of those astronomical events and determined that the earth lay ~95 million miles from the Sun (the correct figure is ~93 million miles). For the first time, men knew with certainty that the Sun and the planets were very far away, and that they could have no effect on the lives of men. Astrology was shown to be superstitious nonsense.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Not Completely Insane

 Two major points of my previous speculations are confirmed.

1. Pompeo is carrying the deal.

2. Denuclearization is a core tenet of the deal.

"Trump says Pompeo meeting with Kim Jong Un went 'very smoothly'" By Louis Nelson on 04/18/2018 at

“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed,” the president wrote online. “Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

More Dots to Connect

Here is one that I knew about but failed to mention in my post of April 7: A train purportedly carrying Kim Jong Un visited Beijing during the last week of March. I would conjecture that the Chinese took Kim to the top of a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and made him an offer he could not refuse.

Then, on April 8 it was reported that: "North Korea has told the U.S. that Kim Jong Un is prepared to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, clearing the way for a summit meeting between the North Korean leader and President Donald Trump ..."

Very interesting.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Rank Speculation About Recent Devlopments

Here is a rumor of a foreign policy development that could have a dramatic domestic political impact.

A couple of weeks ago, I had lunch with a neighbor. He is in the military and has just returned from a tour of duty in Korea. His rumor is that the meeting between Trump and NORK dictator Kim will produce a peace treaty between the parties to the Korean War.

The terms of the treaty will include the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the withdrawal of American forces from South Korea.

Yes, it is contrary to established policy, but Trump has no commitment to established policy. Further, it would fit Chinese policy.

I am sure that Kim does not want to give up his nukes, but, he will do as the Chinese say. Kim has absolutely no leverage in dealing with China. His guns point south and China is to his north. They can turn off the spigot and Kim’s army will have neither food nor fuel. Against us Kim has the population of Seoul as his hostages.

My concern is that China should pay a price for what would a very big win for them. The price should be backing down on several other issues:

1. China must give up claims that the South China Sea is its territorial waters. It must confirm the judgment of the court in its case with the Philippines.

2. China must agree that it will not use force or the threat of force to alter the political status of Taiwan.

3. China must accept changes in the terms of its trade with the US. Most especially, it must abandon the policy of requiring US companies to give intellectual property rights to Chinese joint venturers as a condition for access to Chinese markets. Other restrictive practices must be stopped as well.

Here is a reading of some not obviously connected recent events that may be pieces of the puzzle.

1. Trump fires McMaster and Tillerson. Pompeo is made SoS. The connection? The departed opposed the deal. Pompeo and Mattis have pushed the deal. They may have set the term sheet.

2. Trump imposes tariffs on US China trade. He may be pushing item 3 of the deal where China had been balky or foot dragging.

3. Trump makes nice to Putin, invites him to White House. The Korean War which will be ended by the deal was fought by the US, but the US was authorized and directed in the matter by the UN. The treaty must be approved by the Security council and Russia has a veto. Putin must be on board.

I am not enamored of Trump. He is not a naive genius at international affairs. He is very ADD. He never studies issues. And, I doubt that he thought this whole thing up. My guess is that the deal was first floated by Xi Jinping. Then, Pompeo and Mattis carried the ball over the objections of Tillerson and McMaster.

This is all rank speculation based on very little. But, if it comes to pass it will be a spectacular development in international affairs, and it will force a reset of the political atmosphere in the US. Large numbers of Americans on the isolationist right, and the pro-communist left would be thrilled. The narrative of an unstable sabre rattling Trump would be destroyed. It would boost Trump’s popularity ratings dramatically, and perhaps reverse the anti-Trump electoral trend of the past few months.

If it does happen, you read it here first.