Category Archives: Social issues ( be civil ! )

Time for a funny

Members of the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators are calling for additional steps to combat sexual harassment on Beacon Hill  — including mandatory training.  For those from other states, Beacon Hill is the site of the Massachusetts legislature in Boston.

One irate lawmaker complained that mandatory training was a waste of hard-earned taxpayer dollars as he was already quite adept at it.

The current composition of the legislature is 123 Democratic 34 Republican 1 Independent 2 Vacancies.


Collusion !


With apologies to West Side Story (and Maria)


I’ve just found a thing called collusion

And suddenly that game

will never be the same

To me

Collusion !

I’ve just found the source of collusion

And suddenly I’ve found

How wonderful a source can be

Collusion !

Say it loud and there’s Hillary running

Say it soft to the media, it’s stunning


I’ll never stop saying collusion


The most beautiful sound I ever heard

WASHINGTON — The presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee paid for research that was included in a dossier made public in January that contained salacious claims about connections between Donald J. Trump, his associates and Russia.

A spokesperson for a law firm said on Tuesday that it had hired Washington-based researchers last year to gather damaging information about Mr. Trump on numerous subjects — including possible ties to Russia — on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the D.N.C.

The revelation, which emerged from a letter filed in court on Tuesday, is likely to fuel new partisan attacks over federal and congressional investigations into Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s election and whether any of Mr. Trump’s associates assisted in the effort.

Here’s a link to the whole article —

A possibly useful computer tip and two social notes

Since the computer was down last week, no science to report, but here’s a possibly useful computer tip and two social notes.

If you’ve been using computers as long as we have (30+ years), you were probably told that it was better to leave the computer on all the time rather than turning the power off and on.   Not so any more — the Apple tech who fixed it told me it should be shut down then rebooted once a week.

Two narratives beloved by the mainstream press since the loss by their candidate  suffered major body blows the past week.

Narrative #1. Trump is a Nazi.  Surely you remember the way a far-Right rally was reported shortly after the election.  Read all about it as reported in the Atlantic —  It got a lot of press, here and elsewhere.  There may have been all of 300 people there.  Then there were his unfortunate comments after Charlottesville.

Unfortunately for the meme — the following appeared this week in the New York Times  —

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would withdraw from Unesco, the United Nations cultural organization, after years of the United States distancing itself because of what it called the group’s “anti-Israel bias.”

Here’s the link —

Narrative #2:  The Russians did everything they could to swing the election to Trump.  Well we finally are finding out just what the Russians actually did — this from Facebook and Cheryl Sandberg (hardly friends of Trump).

The following is from a Wall Street Journal article appearing 13 October 2017.  Here is the link —

“Two accounts that Facebook Inc. FB 0.69% said appear to have ties to Russian operatives amassed more than half a million followers in the past couple of years with posts, ads and events that stoked strong emotions over issues including race and immigration.

Most followers never suspected that people with possible Russian ties were behind the accounts—except for a few users who interacted in real life with the people running the sites.

Some users said the content from these accounts seemed like something their peers would share. “Blacktivist,” an account that supported causes in the black community and used hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter, frequently posted videos of police allegedly shooting unarmed black men. ”

If the Russians were trying to elect Trump, do you think they would have thought inflaming a group that votes overwhelmingly Democratic was a good idea?.

Basically they were trying to inflame the body politic with divisive material.

The Voice of America had a similar effect behind the Iron Curtain.  The difference, of course, is that our source was quite undisguised.

The Russian government is not our friend.  I’m glad my grandparents got out of the Baltics and Poland in the late 19th century.

How fast is your biological clock ticking — latest results

Our family breeds like sequoias.  Medicine has improved, but biology hasn’t changed, and problems with fertility and miscarriages have emerged in the generation behind me.   A cousin had a child at 46 who is now in grad school.  My brother had a child at 48, also doing OK. One son, who is north of 50 has an infant and a 3 year old.  That’s why the following paper from Iceland is so relevant.  I’ve posted on this subject before, but the new paper has 10 times the data of the old [ Nature vol. 549 pp. 519 – 522 ’17 ].

The paper is from Iceland, and whether the data can be extrapolated to other populations isn’t clear — but the biology in question is so basic that I think it can. Some 1,548 mother father child trios had their entire genomes (to 35 fold coverage).  In addition, 225 of the children had reproduced, providing a few 2 generation families.  If any position in the 3,200,000,000 bases of the genome differs from that of the mother and the father, than a mutation has taken place.  It isn’t clear how old the children were when sequenced, so possibly some of the mutations arose since birth.

Some 108,778 de novo mutations were found in over 1548 + 225 (at least) individuals — so each individual carried an average of 61 de novo mutations.  When the number of mutations were plotted against the ages of both parents, it was found that each year a father waited to reproduce added 1.51 mutations.  Previous work (with much less data) stated that the age of the mother didn’t matter.  No so, although the mutational burden of an additional year before reproduction in a woman increased the mutations 4 times less (.37 extra mutations/year of maternal life).

The previous paper reported on was somewhat suspect, because the 78 parent child trios had a child with autism.  Not so in this population study.

The numbers were large enough, that the type of mutation could be studied.  Mothers and fathers had different types of mutations in different frequencies.   They found one 20 megaBase region on chromosome #8 with a mutation rate of cytosine to guanosine (C to G) 50 times higher than the rest of the genome.

People use ‘molecular clocks’ to time evolution of species, based on the assumption that the mutation rate is constant.  But it isn’t with age, and a shift in the average age for reproduction could seriously screw up the molecular clock predictions.

An average of 61 de novo mutations per individual sounds pretty horrible, but it isn’t when you consider that 3,200,000,000 – 61 positions were copied faithfully (an error rate of 1 in 50 million).


Puerto Rico

Reporting on the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico seems to be more about scoring political points than helping out.   The mainstream press (NYT, CNN, Washington Post) is attempting to paint this as another Katrina, while the conservative side (WSJ, the White House) says that everything is just wonderful.

I don’t like to get into politics, but the following is worth reading.  It is from a good friend who had a long career at Chase Manhattan Bank rising high enough to go on yearly dog and pony shows with the head (David Rockefeller).  It actually has some data.  Unsurprisingly, it has a rather conservative take on things, but it is still interesting.

“The abject irresponsibility of Puerto Rican politicians has been evident for 25+ years. Back some 15 years ago, a  former colleague at Chase Manhattan , Alfredo Salazar,  was for a short period in the Puerto Rican government responsible for finance. He went very publically and very loudly with the  warning to the political establishment that the ongoing fiscal irresponsibility of the PR government was unsustainable. He was purged quickly.

The buying of votes continued to escalate the debt –  reaching a climax of the territorial bankruptcy this year. As usual the politicians get off from, in effect, a crime spree lasting decades without being held accountable. It is one of the weaknesses of our governmental system. There should be no forgiving of debt without a charter change inhibiting the politicians from going back to “business as usual”. Incidentally since 1965 Puerto Rico has only had Democrat Governors.”


–       xxxxx

Here’s a link to Wkipedia about Salazar —,_Jr. — it doesn’t mention any falling out of Salazar with the government — but these things are edited and re-edited by partisans.

Oct 4, 2017 | 14:29 GMT

Puerto Rico: U.S. President Says Territory’s Massive Debt Will Have To Be Forgiven


While on a visit to Puerto Rico to observe recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria, U.S. President Donald Trump said the island’s massive debt will have to be wiped out, Reuters reported Oct. 4. Facing massive debt, Puerto Rico filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and is struggling to regain economic stability.

Jerry Lewis R. I. P.

Jerry Lewis died while I was at band camp for adults.  Although regarded in this country as a bozo, he did a lot of good.  The muscular dystrophy association wouldn’t be what it was without all the work he did for it.  I ran one of their clinics in the 70s and 80s.  Back then, they were so flush that they didn’t even submit claims to insurance companies for visits to the clinics (initially at least, but they wised up eventually).

 I went to two directors’ meetings, one in LA the other in Tucson.  They were purely scientific.  Jerry would have received quite a round of applause, but he didn’t show.  A major topic of conversation between directors was why and how Jerry became interested in muscular dystrophy.  No one knew, and I don’t think anyone does to this day.  The New York Times obit said he raised 2 billion for the MDA.

We will never understand the French.  They thought Jerry was a comic genius and took his work very seriously.  At first I thought it was a form of condescension, but it wasn’t.

The French will never understand us.  At the band camp I was fortunate enough to play a Poulenc sonata with a marvelous flutist.  Years ago I heard an interview with the great French pianist Pascal Roget, when here to play some of Poulenc’s music.  He noted that Poulenc wasn’t highly thought of in France being regarded as somewhat of clown.  He is greatly admired here in the states.

Band camp had the usual collection of amateur musicians — out of 115 or so, there were (at least) two full professors of mathematics, a physicist, a programmer, a PhD in mathematics education, and numerous MDs.  And those were just the ones I met and talked to. This always seems to be the species of people interested in playing music not professionally (but not unprofessionally).

Happy Fourth of July

Only immigrants truly appreciate this country.  So it’s worth repeating an earlier post about them. Happy fourth of July.

Hitler’s gifts (and Russia’s gift)

In the summer of 1984 Barack Obama was at Harvard Law, his future wife was a Princeton undergraduate, and Edward Frenkel a 16 year old mathematical prodigy was being examined for admission to Moscow State University. He didn’t get in because he was Jewish. His blow by blow description of the 5 hour exam on pp. 28 – 38 of his book “Love & Math” is as painful to read as it must have been for him to write.

A year earlier the left in Europe had mobilized against the placement of Pershing missiles in Europe by president Reagan, already known there as a crude and witless former actor, but, unfortunately possessed of nuclear weapons. Tens of thousands marched. He had even called the Soviet Union an Evil Empire that year. Leftists the world over were outraged. How unsophisticated to even admit the possibility of evil. Articles such as “Reagan’s image in Europe does not help Allies in deploying American missiles” appeared in the liberal press.

The hatred of America is nothing new for the left.

Reset the clock to ’60 – ’62 when I was a grad student in the Harvard Chemistry department. The best place to meet women was the International house. It had a piano, and a Polish guy who played Chopin better than I did. It had a ping pong table, and another Polish guy who beat me regularly. The zeitgeist at Harvard back then, was that America was rather crude (the Ugly American was quite popular), boorish and unappreciative of the arts, culture etc. etc.

One woman I met was going on and on about this, particularly the condition of the artist in America, and how much better things were in Europe. I brought up Solzhenitzen, and the imprisonment of dissidents over there. Without missing a beat, she replied that this just showed how important the Russian government thought writers and artists were. This was long before Vietnam.

It was definitely a Saul on the road to Damascus moment for me. When the left began spelling America, Amerika in the 60s and 70s, I just ignored it.

Fast forward to this fall, and the Nobels. The 7th Chemistry Nobel bestowed on a department member when I was there went to Marty Karplus. The others were Woodward, Corey, Lipscomb, Gilbert, Hoffman, Bloch. While Bill Lipscomb was a Kentucky gentleman to a T (and a great guy), Hoffman spent World War II hiding out in an attic, his father being in a concentration camp (guess why). Konrad Bloch (who looked as teutonic as they come) also got out of Europe due to his birth. Lastly Karplus got out of Euruope as a child for the same reason. Don Voet, a fellow grad student, whose parents got out of Europe for (I’ll make you guess), used to say that the Universal Scientific Language was — broken English.

So 3/7 of the Harvard Chemistry Nobels are Hitler and Europe’s gifts to America.

Russia, not to be outdone, gave us Frenkel. Harvard recognized his talent, and made him a visiting professorship at age 21, later enrolling him in grad school so he could get a PhD. He’s now a Stanford prof.

So the next time, someone touts the “European model” of anything, ask them about Kosovo, or any of this.


Those of you in training should consider the following. You really won’t know how good what you are getting really is until 50 years or so have passed. That’s not to say Harvard Chemistry’s reputation wasn’t very good back then. Schleyer said ‘now you’re going to Mecca’ when he heard I’d gotten in.

Also to be noted, is that all 7 future Nobelists in the early 60s weren’t resting on their laurels, but actively creating them. The Nobels all came later

Correctly taken to task by two readers and some breaking news

I should have amended the previous post to say I mistrust unverified models.  Here are two comments

#1 Andyextance

  • “Leaving aside the questions of the reliability of models in different subjects, and whether all of your six reasons truly relate to models, I have one core question: Without models, how can we have any idea about what the future might hold? Models may not always be right – but as long as they have some level of predictive skill they can often at least be a guide.”

    Absolutely correct — it’s all about prediction, not plausibility.

#2 Former Bell Labs denizen

“And yet you board a commercial airliner without hesitation, freely trusting your life to the models of aerodynamics, materials science, control system theory, electronics, etc. that were used in designing the aircraft. Similar comments apply to entering a modern skyscraper, or even pushing the brake pedal on your automobile.
Perhaps what you are really saying is that you don’t trust models until their correctness is demonstrated by experience; after that, you trust them. Hey, nothing to disagree with there.”
Correct again
Breaking news
This just in — too late for yesterday’s post — the climate models have overestimated the amount of warming to be expected this century — the source  is an article  in
Nature Geoscience (2017) doi:10.1038/ngeo2973 — behind a paywall — but here’s the abstract
In the early twenty-first century, satellite-derived tropospheric warming trends were generally smaller than trends estimated from a large multi-model ensemble. Because observations and coupled model simulations do not have the same phasing of natural internal variability, such decadal differences in simulated and observed warming rates invariably occur. Here we analyse global-mean tropospheric temperatures from satellites and climate model simulations to examine whether warming rate differences over the satellite era can be explained by internal climate variability alone. We find that in the last two decades of the twentieth century, differences between modelled and observed tropospheric temperature trends are broadly consistent with internal variability. Over most of the early twenty-first century, however, model tropospheric warming is substantially larger than observed; warming rate differences are generally outside the range of trends arising from internal variability. The probability that multi-decadal internal variability fully explains the asymmetry between the late twentieth and early twenty-first century results is low (between zero and about 9%). It is also unlikely that this asymmetry is due to the combined effects of internal variability and a model error in climate sensitivity. We conclude that model overestimation of tropospheric warming in the early twenty-first century is partly due to systematic deficiencies in some of the post-2000 external forcings used in the model simulations.
Unfortunately the abstract doesn’t quantify generally smaller.
Models whose predictions are falsified by data are not to be trusted.
Yet another reason Trump was correct to get the US out of the Paris accords— in addition to the reasons he used — no method of verification, no penalties for failure to reduce CO2 etc. etc.  The US would tie itself in economic knots trying to live up to it, while other countries would emit pious goals for reduction and do very little. 
In addition, \ I find it rather intriguing that the article was not published in Nature Climate Change   –, — which would seem to be the appropriate place.  Perhaps it’s just too painful for them.

I mistrust models.

I have no special mistrust of climate models, I mistrust all models of complex systems.  Here are six reasons why.

Reason #1:  My cousin runs an advisory service for institutional investors (hedge funds, retirement funds, stock market funds etc. etc.)  Here is the beginning of his latest post 16 June ’17

There were 3 great reads yesterday. First was Neil Irwin’s article in the NY Times “Janet Yellen, the Fed and the Case of the Missing Inflation.”  He points out that Yellen is a labor market scholar who anticipated the sharp decline in the unemployment rate. However the models on which the Fed has relied anticipate higher levels of inflation. Yet every inflation measure that the Fed uses has fallen well short of the Fed’s 2% stability rate. If they continue raising short-term rates in the face of low inflation, then “real” rates could restrain future economic growth.

Second was Greg Ip’s article “Lousy Raise? It Might Not Get Better.” Greg makes the point that tight labor markets are a global phenomenon in many industrialized countries, yet wage inflation remains muted. Writes Greg “If a labor market this tight can’t generate better pay, quite possibly it never will in Germany & Japan.”

Third was an article by Glenn Hubbard (Dean of Columbia Business School & former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under George W. Bush). His Wall Street Journal op-ed was titled “How to Keep the Fed from Following its Models off a Cliff.”  Hubbard suggests that Fed officials should interact more with market participants and business people. And Fed governors should be selected because of their varied life experiences, and they should encourage a healthy skepticism of prevailing economic models.

Serious money was spent developing these models.  Do you think that climate is in some way simpler than the US economy, so that they are more likely to be accurate?  I do not.

Reason #2: Americans are getting fatter yet living longer, contradicting the model that being mildly overweight is bad for you.  It is far too long to go into so here’s the link —

The first part is particularly fascinating, in that data showed that overweight (not obese) people tended to live longer.  The article describes how people who had spent their research careers telling the public that being overweight was bad, tried to discount the data. The best quote in the article is the following ““We’re scientists. We pay attention to data, we don’t try to un-explain them.”,

Reason #3: The economic predictions of the Congressional Budget Office on just about anything –inflation, gross national product, economic growth, the deficit — are consistently wrong —

Addendum 28 June “White house economists overestimated annual economic growth by about 80 percent on average for a six year stretch during Barack Obama’s presidency, according to Freedom Works economic consultant Stephen Moore.

Economists predicted growth between 3.2 to 4.6 percent for the years 2010 through 2015. Actual economic growth never hit above 2.6 percent.”

Reason #4:  Animal models of stroke:  There were at least 60, in which some therapy or other was of benefit.  None of them worked in people. It got so bad I stopped reading the literature about it.  We still have no useful treatment for garden variety strokes

Reason #5:  The Club of Rome,  — dire prediction based on a computer model which got a lot of play in the 70s.  For details see —  The post also has a lot about “The Population Bomb” and its failed predictions and also a review of a book about “The Bet” between Paul Ehrlich and Simon

Reason #6: Live by the model, die by the model. A fascinating book “Shattered” about the Hillary Clinton campaign, explains why the campaign did no polling in the final 3 weeks of the campaign. The man running the ‘data analytics’ (translation: model) Robby Mook, thought the analytics were better and more accurate (p. 367).


They want to be left alone with their own kind

From the statement of Hon. Thomas G. Abernethy, First District of Mississippi House of Representatitves on H. R. 140 before the House Committee of the Judiciary 1957 concerning HR 140 and other Civil Rights Legislation.

“Negroes naturally prefer the association and society of their own kind. .. They know the purpose of this legislation is not just to give them the vote, nor to give them better schools. They know that the ultimate and longtime objective of its sponsors is to force the Negroes and white people to mix in all the affairs of life. . . This the respectable negroes do not want. They want to be left alone with their own kind. . . Even in the small towns and villages they segretate themselves because they like it that way. It is the natural way of life; everything after its own kind.. . ”

Well, silly me. In 1960, there I was as a Princeton undergraduate picketing the local Woolworth’s on Nassau street because of their segregated southern lunch counters

Little did I know that advanced sociological thinking by blacks 57 years later would confirm Abernethy’s thoughts —

Rumor has it that the appropriately named Harvard Board of Overseers — — will further accommodate them by planting cotton and watermelons in Harvard yard so they can feel more at home ‘among their own kind’.

If you are concerned that I’m a bigot or anti-black in any way I suggest that you look at the following earlier post —