Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bayesian Statistics

I have been reading in Kindle the recent book on Bayes' theory about how to figure statistics:  The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes' Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy
The author is Sharon Bertsch McGrayne.  

Here's the link.

This book is hugely interesting as an intellectual history.  Much of the work using these statistics is classified, and substantial parts are missing.

I never really understood what Bayesian meant before.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Modern means Digital, for sure.

Statistics: The Art and Science of Learning from Data, by Alan Agresti and Christine Franklin.

Statistics is a "central science in modern life," this book here.  Why are these books so expensive?

Here is the link to the Times article on a data science company.  From the Times:
"Kaggle, a start-up, has figured out a way to connect these companies with the mathematicians and scientists who crunch numbers for a living or a hobby. On Thursday, it announced it had raised $11 million from investors including Khosla Ventures, Index Ventures and Hal Varian, Google‘s chief economist."

Amazon's 2011 "Best" list

Amazon picked its 10 best list, and Gleick's The Information is on the list.

Hadron Collider

The Republican candidates seem to want to diminish education, not enhance it.  The Republican answer to prosperity appears to be, "Let's lay off more teachers."  Rick Perry says one of the departments he would like to end is Education.  There is an alternative answer.

Harvard's Lisa Randall -- @lirarandall -- wrote about modern physics in a book that the Times reviewed here. Education and religion keep showing up in public debate as incompatible.  The review says that Randall writes that a deity that intervenes in human affairs is not compatible with scientific explanations.  This book won't be showing up in public schools in Kansas or Texas, it appears.


How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World
By Lisa Randall. Illustrated. 442 pp. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. $29.99.

Here is a link to the Brain Pickings list of seven books on the subject of "time."  Very interesting.  Lisa Randall's book is not on the list. 

The End of WW2 in Germany

Nazi Germany expert Ian Kershaw wrote about the last months of the war in Germany. So much suffering and needless loss.

The Guardian reviewed this book here:
"...if German society remained basically Nazified, was there so little resistance to foreign occupation after "liberation"? These two riddles continue to preoccupy historians, and now Ian Kershaw, the doyen of English scholars of the Third Reich, seeks the answers."

Here is the NY Times review.


The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944-45
By Ian Kershaw. Illustrated. 564 pp. The Penguin Press. $35.


HL Mencken respected Clarence Darrow for his work in the Scopes Trial.  Today's pervasive media atmosphere does not see to foster iconoclasts.  Look at Gloria Allred, the Chicago lawyer who has taken criticism for hyping one of Herman Cain's accusers.  In light of what we've remembered about Darrow, she looks pale.  There was a broader spectrum of active political involvement 100 years ago, despite what Tea Partiers want us to think.  The Twitter post by @farnamstreet says Walter Lippmann said, "Where all think alike, no one thinks very much."

Here is the link to Amazon for the new Clarence Darrow biography I noticed.

Here is a link to a blog by the author Andrew Kersten at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay.  His official web site has not been updated lately.  The NY Times reviewed the book favorably. 

Here is another recent biography of Darrow.  Here is another recent book on Darrow.  Here a link to a collection of Darrow's writings.  Pulitzer-winner Ed Larson is the editor.  Larson came to Darrow through Darrow's work on the Scopes trial. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

US Political Eras

Fred Siegel of Cooper Union really liked this book that proposes that we analyze US political history in three eras.  The current era is one in which political affairs are defined by voices outside the parties.

Here is what the Oxford University Press wrote about this book:
"Hailed in The New York Times Book Review as "the single best book written in recent years on the sweep of American political history," this groundbreaking work divides our nation's history into three "regimes," each of which lasts many, many decades, allowing us to appreciate as never before the slow steady evolution of American politics, government, and law."

Here is the book:

America's Three Regimes

A New Political History

John Brown

Today's historical lens makes John Brown a terrorist.  He did plenty of violent things.  Here is the Wikileaks entry for him.  As an abolitionist, John Brown may be forgiven today in a way that he was not in 1859.

Tony Horwitz is the author of a new book about John Brown, a man who was committed to violence as necessary to end the sin of slavery.  We are familiar with people who feel that way about sin.

Here is the link to the Times Book Review for this book:


John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War
By Tony Horwitz.Illustrated. 365 pp. Henry Holt & Company. $29

This is a recurring theme and topic that relates to today as much as America's past.  In 2009, I noted the book JOHN BROWN'S WAR AGAINST SLAVERY, by Robert E. McGlone.


Prevailing political trends suggest that small-town white Protestants feel besieged.  It appears that has been true for quite a while.  Here  is a link to a new New York Times story about how the tax system favors those who don't live in New York City or Palo Alto.  From the article:
"The debate over regional differences is nothing new, Dr. Thorndike said. When the modern tax code went into effect in 1913, “it was viewed as a way to tax those rich Northerners, and to be fair, that’s what it was,” he said."

It's clear that the political system favors those of us citizens who live in the central part of the country.  My conservative friend who talks with me about such things has an attitude that published accounts victimize conservatives.  Sarah Palin and Rick Perry carry that chip on their shoulders, too.  Why those fortunate, rich, white people should think of themselves as victims continues to puzzle me, but that's an honestly held point of view, regardless of the irony.  It comes out in the integration cases and other public points of conflict when those fortunate, rich, white people think somebody is getting away with something, and so we shouldn't help our neighbors in an organized way. Think of the Bush Administration in New Orleans after Katrina.  Think of the current Congress talking about Amtrak.  Think of Florida governor Scott turning down the money for the high speed rail line.

When PBS showed Ken Burns' excellent program on Prohibition recently, the historical link to small-town, white America came to my attention.  Of course, it's true.  I know that from my own upbringing, but I hadn't really previously articulated in that way.  Now, we have a book that elucidates the idea.

The author is Daniel Okrent, who has an interesting Wikipedia entry.   I hadn't realized that Okrent invented fantasy or "rotisserie" baseball.   Apparently he and Ken Burns both are interested in baseball and the Prohibition era. 

Here is a review of a book about the Prohibition amendment to the US Constitution that reviewer David Oshinsky describes as "remarkably original."  Here is the book:


The Rise and Fall of Prohibition
By Daniel Okrent. Illustrated. 468 pp. Scribner. $30

Online Crime Knows No Bounds

Here is a link to a book review about crimes that take place on line and across national boundaries.  The internet affords challenges to national boundaries.  We see that in the Wikileaks & Julian Assange situation.  We see that with online gambling, such as online poker.  The Pentagon is promoting the idea of cyberwarfare that will take place across national boundaries.  In fact, the US flies drones over Pakistan from workstations located at airbases in the US.  EBay and Yahoo and Google have all encountered that in the Middle East and China, which have different ideas from those in the US about what it is appropriate for individual citizens to see.

It isn't surprising that crimes take place across national boundaries, too.  Here are the two books from the review:

Worm: The First Digital World War. By Mark Bowden. Atlantic Monthly Press, 245 pages, $27.50

DarkMarket: Cyberthieves, Cybercops and You. By Misha Glenny. House of Anansi, 296 pages, $29.95

Supreme Court Scorpions

Between the giant egos and the intense intellectual engagement, the Supreme Court can be a forum for "scorpions in a bottle."  Here  is a link to a book about the Supreme Court with the subtitle:
The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices
 Noah Feldman is the author.  Noah Feldman used to teach at NYU and now teaches at Harvard.  He is the author of several books about constitutional impacts of the involvement of the US in Middle Eastern conflicts.
This of course has nothing to do with Feldman generally, but I bring it up in the context of the Supreme Court from the 1930's.  Because Social Security is a current transfer system, I've been wondering how people talked about it when it was adopted.  Some conservatives have told me what a fraud the system is.  These people have said to me that people ought to be treated as entitled to the earnings on the amounts people have paid over the years.  We have seen how well that works with 401(k) plans, but there's no getting away from the fact that 401(k) plans are the modern way.  We are not going back to defined benefit plans.  Anyway, I'd like to know a reference to a book that reliably describes what people were saying about how FICA would work, when Congress adopted FICA and the Social Security Administration was established.
     Speaking of Harvard....
Here is a link to Martha Minow's new book called In Brown's Wake.   It's a book about the impact of the Brown v Board of Education decision in 1954.   Daughter of  Newton "TV is a vast wasteland" Minow, she is the Dean of Harvard Law School.  I heard her speak this past week about her book.  She views the decision's ongoing impact more enthusiastically than I do.  I fear that it has not had enough impact.  She emphasized that one of the impacts of the decision was benefits for women and other minorities, not just for segregation based on identity of some citizens as negroes.  Minow says that the decision has been used to assist mainstreaming of all public school pupils, regardless of race.