September 22, 2003

Hoping to learn a little physics from Chad Orzel's website, Uncertain Principles, I find myself distracted by a claim that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary does not mean that Mary's conception was immaculate. Chasing down links, I find references to Origen's truly marvelous doctrine of apokatastasis--that eventually even the Devil will be saved--and to the self-denying anathema pronounced against Origen by the Fifth Ecumenical Council, which did not like Origen's ideas at all: If anyone confesses that the union took place out of two natures or speaks of the one incarnate nature of God the Word and does not understand those expressions as the holy Fathers have taught, that out of the divine and human natures, when union by hypostasis took place, one Christ was formed; but from these expressions tries to introduce one nature or essence of the Godhead and manhood of Christ; let him be anathema. For in saying that the only-begotten Word was united by hypostasis personally we do not mean that there was a mutual confusion of natures, but rather we understand that the Word was united to the flesh, each nature remaining what it was. Therefore there is one Christ, God and...

Posted by DeLong at 09:10 PM

May 22, 2003
Ron Rosenbaum Shakes His Fist at YHWH

Ron Rosenbaum, "Explaining Pharoah": What does it mean, why was it necessary, for God to "harden" Pharaoh's heart? That's the disturbing aspect of this week's Torah portion, which takes us into the final negotiating strategy of God and Moses as they try to force Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. This is toward the end of the plagues: after the hail and before the locusts. And after the locusts and the darkness, of course, is the slaughter of the firstborn of the Egyptians and the Exodus. In this last series of plagues, God has been upping the ante, heightening the contradictions, however you want to put it. Pharaoh seems ready to deal after the hail, but God "hardens his heart," and Pharaoh suddenly sets conditions. Then come the locusts and darkness, and each time Pharaoh seems ready, but God hardens Pharaoh's heart. Then God sets out to shatter his heart with the slaughter of tens of thousands of Egyptian children--the firstborn, children who couldn't be held responsible for Pharaoh's hard heart. The way it's depicted Pharaoh starts off a bad guy, enslaver, tyrant, and all that, but God turns his ordinary wickedness into adamantine evil, makes it hard for him...

Posted by DeLong at 11:34 AM

May 06, 2003
Kevin Drum Needs to Be Told What to Think

Kevin Drum needs to be told what to think about Mitch Daniels's resignation from the post of Director of the Office of Management and Budget. I will oblige. These are the party-line talking points: The principal task of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget is to tell people "no": he or she needs to tell agencies "no" when they want to expand their programs beyond reason; he or she needs to tell White House political operatives "no" when they want to offer tax cuts beyond reason. A successful OMB Director makes current and projected future federal budget deficits shrink (or current and projected future surpluses expand). Given what has happened to the current and projected future federal budget balances under his tenure, Mitch Daniels may well be the least successful OMB Director in American history. (He may be the second least successful--David Stockman may beat him out for the "worst" title: it's a matter of opinion. You may argue that Mitch Daniels faced a uniquely bad situation when he became OMB Director: a president too lazy to grasp the issues, a senior White House staff that did not understand that, like, bad, like, economic policy could, like,...

Posted by DeLong at 01:19 PM

Elementary Statistics

Eugene Volokh writes: Volokh Conspiracy: People are condemning Bill Bennett, who has taken on the role of a spokesman for virtue and morality, for what seems to be a gambling habit that has lost him $8 million over the last ten years.... Nonetheless, Bennett suggests that he's "come out pretty close to even," though others doubt this... Suppose you play the $500 slots 20,000 times--thus betting ten million dollars in total--on slot machines that are programmed to keep 10% of the take (which is a quite low house percentage for slot machines), and suppose that the standard deviation of payoffs is $1350 (a large number, but then slots do give some very large payoffs). How likely is it that you have come out "pretty close to even"? Anyone a third of the way through their first course in statistics will know that 20,000 times is enough to safely apply the central limit theorem, and thus will be able to quickly and easily figure out that: Your expected loss is $1 million even. There are only five chances in a hundred that you will have lost more than $1.3 million. There are only five chances in a hundred that you will...

Posted by DeLong at 12:27 PM

April 23, 2003
ABC's The Note Misses the Point

ABC's "The Note" gets up on its high horse and opines about Senator Santorum: One thing is relatively clear: if you're inclined to accept homosexuality as normal, you'll probably muster outrage at Senator Santorum's remarks. If you believe homosexuality is immoral and abnormal, you'll probably find words to defend him. This is one of the salient features of the Culture War that divides Red from Blue, and slices the nation into two parts, leading very different lives. Some of us can watch "Friends" and hear the potty-mouthed language and not think twice; some of us hear the same thing and can't believe what kind of country we have become. Crucial issues boil down to their essence, which, in this case, is a gut-check feeling about homosexuality. (Or, for a few, the tension between liberty and order). For example: Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council, two conservative social policy groups with the ear of the White House, have denounced the denunciations, and are calling on Santorum to repeat and extend his remarks. Defending Santorum is, to many, akin to defending traditional values. The Human Rights Campaign, by contrast, sees a traditional value in tolerance and respect for gay,...

Posted by DeLong at 08:32 PM

August 15, 2002

At what level of material wealth does one become, completely, totally, utterly sated? How much stuff--how many things--how much power to buy and control does one have to have before one can say "enough is enough," stop playing the game for increased wealth, and start playing some other, different game? Here is discouraging psychological evidence from publishing magnate and Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner. It turns out that--at least as far as he is concerned--wealth in nine figures isn't enough yet to make him not care... Premium Blend: A group weblog from the editors of Corante: What's your number? How much is enough? It may be more than you think: ''I had a fascinating conversation recently with Jann Wenner, the founder of Rolling Stone. Here's a guy who's probably got three or four hundred million dollars--he's got a Gulfstream II and a house here and a house there, and you can't imagine what trappings he could want from the next level. But he's got this gleam in his eye because he's telling me about how he spent the weekend with Paul Allen. He said that Paul Allen didn't have a GII, he had two 757s. They flew over to, like,...

Posted by DeLong at 08:10 PM