Natura non facit saltus
Debunking the Paradigm Shifters
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Sunday, Aug 31, 2003
The Great Revolutions
The science historian and popularizer Stephen Jay Gould used to love to quote Freud, and his favorite was this:
Sigmund Freud often remarked that great revolutions in the history of science have but one common, and ironic, feature: they knock human arrogance off one pedestal after another of our previous conviction about our own self-importance. In Freud's three examples, Copernicus moved our home from center to periphery, Darwin then relegated us to ‘descent from an animal world’; and, finally (in one of the least modest statements of intellectual history), Freud himself discovered the unconscious and exploded the myth of a fully rational mind.Gould cited this Freudian argument many times in his life, in books, articles, lectures, and interviews. It is idiotic on several levels.
Gould frequently praised Freud, but showed no recognition of the fact that Freud was a scientific fraud. Gould was a Marxist, and had a Marxist view of history that exaggerates the importance of revolutions. The Copernican revolution was just the revolution of the Earth around the Sun, and not an intellectual revolution. Most scientific revolutions have nothing to do with man on a pedestal. Freud's theory of the unconscious is all nonsense.
Now I started James D. Watson's new DNA book. Watson starts by giving his version of the 3 great revolutions. He says that they were the Copernican revolution, Darwin showing that man is a modified monkey, and the Watson-Crick discovery of the molecular structure of DNA!
I thought that only a phony like Freud could be so full of himself to make such an egotistical and silly argument, and only a kook like Gould would say it today. The Watson-Crick discovery was not a revolution, but merely a minor technical advance. Watson-Crick managed to publish first because they had some stolen unpublished results from a competing lab. Watson even admits that others would have gotten the molecular structure of DNA within months.
Saturday, Aug 30, 2003
In a NY Times article complaining about school finances, a prof says that school spend is up by 4X!
Public school spending has risen constantly over recent decades, Professor Guthrie said, from a national yearly average of about $1,000 per pupil in 1970 to an average of about $4,000 today, expressed in 1970 dollars. "This is just a slowdown," Professor Guthrie said. "School spending has reached a plateau, but in a year or two the trajectory will continue upward."Kids were getting decent educations in 1970. Now the schools are getting 4 times as much. That is even after adjusting for inflation. I say that we should cut spending to 1970 levels, and tell the schools to teach in the way they taught in 1970. Then we ought to have better schools.
Arnold for president?
I just watched the 1993 movie Demolition Man, which is set in the year 2026. As Sandra Bullock attempts to bring Sylvester Stallone up to speed on what has happened in the world in the last 30 years, she refers to the Schwarzenegger Presidential Library, and this dialog follows:
Stallone: "Hold it! The Schwarzenegger Library?"
Friday, Aug 29, 2003
If MacDonalds doesn't give you free bbq sauce with your order, then call 911!
The conservatives I know are disgusted with Bush. Nevada Eagle Forum is protesting the Patriot Act. AAPS members disagree with most of what Bush has done.Human Events has had a couple of issues trashing Arnold. He some ideological litmus test, I guess. The HE arguments are idiotic. Arnold can win and win big. Simon is a proven loser, and cannot win. McClintock would have a chance if no other Repubs were in the race. As it is, he and Ueberroth are just spoilers.
The Patriot Act has become a left-wing propaganda campaign that consistently misleads the public. Eg, the current Newsweek says:
The Bush administration is playing fast and loose with our rights. We are only beginning to understand the full impact of the Patriot Actwhich was shoved through Congress in the aftermath of September 11on our civil liberties. Federal agents can now search your home and office without your knowledge, and force your bank, your doctor and even your library to turn over their records about you.Yeah, the author is just beginning to understand the Patriot Act. When he studies it a little more, he will learn that the search has to be part of a foreign intelligence or terrorism investigation, and a court order is required. The paragraph is deceptive.
I am waiting for Dean to praise Scalia and Thomas.
I hope the unemployed vote against the politicians who put them out of work. We have maybe 100k such people in Si Valley. I don't think that they are politically mobilized yet.
Thursday, Aug 28, 2003
Wednesday, Aug 27, 2003
Teachers are well-paid
Arianna Huffington complains that California prison guards get paid more than teachers, as a result of sleazy deals between Gov. Gray Davis and the govt unions.
But California teachers are still pretty well paid. According to an AFT survey, California teachers average $54,348 a year, and have the highest teacher salaries in the nation. But that understates the case, because:
In California, teachers can get discounted mortgages and car loans, and tuition reimbursement. In Missouri, they can retire at age 55 with a pension paying 84 percent of the last year's income, plus benefits and cost-of-living adjustments.Add that up, and it means that average California teachers are making about the same hourly rate as someone making $100k per year. (See Richard Vedder's article.)
Zoloft for kids
A new medical study says:
Zoloft is effective way to treat depression in kidsAntidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft are increasingly given to kids, even without studies to back up the practice. This supposedly supplies the study. But study, financed by the Zoloft drug company Pfizer, really only found a marginal benefit. Improvement was reported in 69% of the subjects on Zoloft, compared to 59% of those on placebos. The benefit was actually negligible. Here is the JAMA article.
People say these drugs are miracles, but the scientific evidence for them is marginal, at best.
Judge Ginsburg v. the Lone Ranger
I had some interesting and favorable email about my column describing Ruth Bader Ginsburg's triple entendre in her reference to the Lone Ranger (attack on Bush's Texas Rangers and fundraising Rangers, attack on Bush's "cowboy" foreign policy, and attack on masculine men). But the most interesting email was from a guy who said there is a fourth subtext a backhanded criticism of Rehnquist because the Chief Justice keeps a small figurine of the Lone Ranger on the mantle in his office. Most regard it as a throwback to his earlier years on the court when he often cast the lone dissenting vote. Ginsburg could have intended her remark as a subtle criticism of Rehnquist 's viewpoints. The guy didn't explain how he knows what is in Rehnquist's office, but his message sure sounds authentic. What do you think of this?Andy confirms that Rehnquist has a Lone Ranger doll on his mantelpiece with this CNN link.
Public school denial of access to homeschoolers in activities is another great issue. School board elections can be swung by a hundred families, and homeschoolers can reach that many in a school district. In NJ (and presumably many states), the school boards are excluding homeschoolers from activities despite the fact they pay the same taxes. Logically, the exclusion is indefensible.John responds:
"Logically"! There Andy goes again, using what he calls "logic" to predict the solution to questions that are better resolved by empirical research in the real world.
Monday, Aug 25, 2003
DeCSS not free speech
The Calif Supreme Court ruled against posting DeCSS. I don't see how DeCSS could be a trade secret if it was lawfully reverse engineered and distributed throughout the world.
Andy sends this news link and says:
I think the author of this opinion is the allegedly conservative candidate for the US Sup. Ct.
Bustamante is a hateful racist bigot
Michelle explains Cruz Bustamante's ties to the racist group MEChA. Bustamante also got heat a year or so ago when he called black people "niggers" in a speech.
John sends this story about dubious Bustamante fundraising and says "Cruz is worse than Davis."
I had earlier assumed that Davis could resign between now and election day, and void the recall. But actually, the acting gov. Bustamante would be recalled, and arguably he would not be able to be the replacement governor either, because the law says that the governor cannot even be on the ballot.
Sunday, Aug 24, 2003
L. Summers quote
The Harvard president once said:
'I've always thought that underpopulated countries in Africa are vastly underpolluted.He is a famous economist.
The SOBIG.F virus has clogged my email server. Most of my email is not getting thru.
USA Patriot Act
John sends this Wash Post defense of the USA Patriot Act. The ACLU has a propaganda campaign against section 215 because it lets the FBI spy on people based on the library books they read, and turns the USA into a police state.
John questions whether the column is correct about the FBI needed a court order.
The ACLU's alarmism focuses on libraries as its best argument. But section 215 has resulted in greater privacy for me, because it has encouraged my local Santa Cruz libraries to destroy obsolete records about books I have checked out.
The column does seem to be correct in that section 215 just codified existing case, and did not give the FBI any broad new powers (as the ACLU says). See Orin Kerr's blog for explanation and cases. (He also has an article on the implications for surveillence here. An ACLU letter acknowledges these court precedents. A copy is also here.) The FBI is supposed to get a court order, but it can also do a "sneak-and-peak" before it gets the order. The USA Patriot Act did not change that.
I think that the ACLU is trying to co-opt the privacy movement, and use it for anti-Bush and anti-Ashcroft propaganda purposes. If it were really concerned about privacy, it would try to get the govt libraries to delete the obsolete computer records.
The current Newsweek says:
The anxiety at Justice is intensified by the fact that the anti Patriot Act campaign is being driven by a coalition that includes such diverse groups as the ACLU and Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum.Eagle Forum needs to get off that bus. If there were bad court precedents, they were probably made by activist liberal judges. Congress passed the Patriot Act. Local govt libraries are the ones who are spying on citizens. The DoJ is just following the law.
Robert Bork gives a history of the legality of some of these surveillance laws.
Roger pointed me to Bork's WSJ editorial, but a quick perusal of it disappointed me. Amazing, he said Poindexter was convicted without noting it was overturned on appeal. He also avoided the most promising Administration initiative, the terrorism market.The WSJ should publish a correction. Other news media have made the same mistake, but it is inexcusable. Poindexter has no conviction on his record.
My sources say the translation is: For this is my body. Also, allegedly, it is the origin of the phrase hocus pocus.
Here is another wacky NT TImes opinion article saying that the Republicans are taking a big risk with the recall. But, as the article also explains, the Republicans have very little power in California, and have poor prospects of winning any elections, except for the recall. The new governor will face some tough challenges, but that is all the more reason why we need a great leader to fix the problems.
Saturday, Aug 23, 2003
SCO Unix lawsuit
SCO has finally disclosed some examples where Linux copied Unix code, and one is simple code fragment copied out of Kernighan and Richie C, a popular 1980s textbook! Links here.
I just realized that Niger and Nigeria are two different countries! They are both in sub-saharan Africa, right next to each other. Niger has been in the news, and I thought that it was just a politically correct way of saying Nigeria, just as PC announcers now say "cutter" when pronouncing the name of the country Qatar. (To me, the former pronunciation sounds closer to the arab pronunciation than cutter.)
Friday, Aug 22, 2003
If you think that depleted uranium has ruined the environment of Iraq or Kosovo, then you've been reading leftist propaganda. See this blog. I would use DU bullets myself, if I could buy them. They are safer than lead bullets.
Feinstein is now against muscles
The Si Valley paper reports:
[US Senator Dianne ]Feinstein launched her attack on Schwarzenegger in response to reporters' questions.Does she want him to renounce his muscles, also? Does she think that action movie heroes should be 98-pound weaklings?
Only an idiot would renounce those military weapons (like ordinary battle rifles) absolutely. Those guns are essential for maintaining world peace. And for making action movies and other worthwhile purposes.
It sounds like Feinstein is attacking Arnold's candidacy for governor, but the same article said that she was going abstain, and not vote for Bustamante either. Good.
Meanwhile, actress Cybill Shepherd says that the recall is worst tragedy in the history of California, and that Arnold has a scandalous past. As for Gray Davis's past, she says that he molested her when he was 24 years old and she was 16. Davis has admitted it.
The betting line currently favors Arnold.
Censored phone calls
A telephone company calls Vonage sells ordinary phone service over internet connections, but customers have to agree not to say or listen to anything offensive! No dirty jokes, racist comments, etc. The contract says:
You agree to use the Service and Device only for lawful purposes. This means that you agree not to use them for transmitting or receiving any illegal, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, obscene, sexually explicit, profane, racially or ethnically disparaging remarks or otherwise objectionable material of any kind, including but not limited to any material that encourages conduct that would constitute a criminal offense, give rise to a civil liability, or otherwise violate any applicable local, state, national or international law.
Thursday, Aug 21, 2003
Here is a new blog using my blogging software. It is a free download. I wrote it because of BlogSpot bugs, and because most blogging software places unusual configuration demands on the server. Mine just uses static web pages, and will work on any ISP.
Silencing the courts
Right-wingers are outraged over aggressively atheistic court decisions over the Pledge of Allegiance, the Ten Commandments, and other matters. I say that the simplest way to stop these rulings would be for Congress to pass the following law:
Congress hereby withdraws the federal courts from jurisdiction over the issue of whether an acknowledgement of God violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
Wednesday, Aug 20, 2003
Msft is spying on you
John sends this BBC article about Msft Word documents you put online could reveal more about you than you think.
Wednesday, Aug 13, 2003
There are free software advocates who claim that legal way to make open-source software available to the public is to use a GPL or BSD type license, and that there is no legal way for an author to put a work into the public domain. Eg, lawyer Lawrence Rosen on his web site. (But Rosen is just completely wrong about being able to revoke a gift, and wrong about some of his copyright opinions.)
The first thing to understand is that much of the free software movement is ideologically opposed to both proprietary software and public domain software. They want copylefted software, and explain that "free" in free software is more like free speech, not free beer. The explanation is subtle -- see R. Stallman's rants for details.
The author who wants to give his source code away has this choice:
It seems obvious to me that the first alternative is safer for everyone involved. It is not clear that someone can even irrevocably grant a license, because the author can revoke the license after 35 years.
It may well be that BSD unix is in the public domain. It has a State of California copyright notice, but the state didn't write it and has never enforced the copyright.
Tuesday, Aug 12, 2003
Gray Davis insult
Gov. Gray Davis says that his recall is "an insult to the 8 million people who went to the polls last November and decided I should be governor." He only got 3.5M of those votes, and many of them now realize that they made a mistake. It is perfectly reasonable for those voters to acknowledge that they made a mistake, and seek to mitigate the damages. People who say it is undemocratic must also think that it is undemocratic every time a European parliament has a vote of no confidence.
John sends this HE story about why Californians want to recall Davis.
The arguments against the recall are getting nuttier and nuttier. Even the Democrats concede that Davis has done a terrible job. But they'll say things like claiming that this is yet another attempt by the vast right-wing conspiracy to undo an election, like the Clinton impeachment and the 2000 Florida recounts.
Here is another:
If Republicans are truly the uniters that they often say they are, why can't they work with the current governor?They've worked with Davis for 5 years, and he has bankrupted the state.
Two new books are sympathetic to the Roman Church's inquisition of Galileo. The review says:
Faced with conflicting theories that both account for the facts, scientists lean toward the one that is the more elegant and economical. But here, Koestler showed, Galileo was on thin ice. To preserve the illusion that the planets move in perfect circles, Copernicus also had to resort to a convoluted arrangement of epicycles.
One thing to keep in mind is that there was not sufficient scientific evidence to abandon the established Ptolemaic theory. There was not a better heliocentric model until Kepler. By comparison to modern physics, this Scientific American article argues for a supersymmetric string theory to replace the Standard Model of elementary particle physics, based on the following arguments:
Other reasons for extending the Standard Model arise from phenomena it cannot explain or cannot even accommodate:Maybe some day, the public will think that the supersymmetric string theory is so obviously correct that anyone who clung to the Standard Model in the year 2003 should be ridiculed like a backward medieval cleric. I think that anyone today who says that the supersymmetric string model has been proven correct based on the above arguments is as wrong as Galileo was when he said that the heliocentric model was proven correct.
Bogus physics paper published
A crackpot physics paper got published in a reputable journal, and it is getting publicity in the popular press. This says:
A bold paper which has highly impressed some of the world's top physicists and been published in the August issue of Foundations of Physics Letters, seems set to change the way we think about the nature of time and its relationship to motion and classical and quantum mechanics. Much to the science world's astonishment, the work also appears to provide solutions to Zeno of Elea's famous motion paradoxes, almost 2500 years after they were originally conceived by the ancient Greek philosopher.Physics journals commonly get crackpot submissions like this, but editors don't usually publish them. In the 2nd sentence, he writes "1.99999..." as that is some number different from 2.0.
Sunday, Aug 10, 2003
I'm discovering that many Catholic homeschoolers actually insist on putting their kids in high school. Perhaps it's the pro-institution bias of the religion. St. Thomas Aquinas brags about having a high percentage of homeschooled Catholics, but I wonder how many were really homeschooled through high school.Joe writes:
Well, sure, you can hire a teacher. And there are advantages to one-on-one tutoring. There are also disadvantages. I learned a lot from fellow students. The Internet is a fine tool, but, again, there are disadvantages to screen time over traditinal classroom give and take.Andy writes:
The biggest difference I see that is that homeschoolers don't form narrow cliches the way most formal schoolers do. Homeschoolers welcome others better. I'd expect Maria to find it easier to form friendships with the homeschoolers.Gumma writes:
I'm not expressing myself about homeschooling, but I'm intrigued by Joe's statement that he learned a lot from fellow students. As I look back over grade school, high school, college, and grad school, I can't think of one single thing of any significance that I ever learned from any fellow student. As far as I was concerned, they were just pieces of furniture filling up the room.
Fat Cat Democrats
A Republican writes in the SJ Mercury News:
Celebrity, like personal wealth, gets you to the starting gate, but it is surely no guarantee of success. If it were, you'd be writing letters to California Sen. Michael Huffington rather than Barbara Boxer or Dianne Feinstein.What does he mean? The 5 richest US Senators are all Democrats, and Feinstein is one of them. Her continued political success is directly related to her husband's $40M net worth. It is true that she won reelection against Huffington and Huffington was rich, but Feinstein is just as rich.
No free speech at Cal Poly
A student at Cal Poly Univ. was posting a notice about a campus lecture on a bulletin board in an open campus lounge, and some other students complained that they were offended by the notice. (The lecture involved some racially sensitive matters.) The student was charged and disciplined for violating campus policy! The lecture and the notice seemed to conform to all the rules, but the student was held responsible for the fact that a couple of students who happened to be sitting in the lounge were offended. Details at theFire.org.
Friday, Aug 08, 2003
This article defends DARPA's Terrorism Information Awareness system.
The fact is that TIA data was supposed to focus on foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information gathered--not whether you rented "Debbie Does Dallas" on your last trip to Blockbuster. It's not hard to build in safeguards that protect against potential abuses of the system. The Defense Department set up internal and external oversight boards to make sure that constitutional rights and privacy protection are not compromised.
John sends this funny story to illustrate the little known fact that it is perfectly legal for the police to use lies, deception and trickery to catch criminals.
Bob says he found an error in Coulter's book, Treason. On page 151, she says that MacArthur crossed the Yalu River in the Korean War. He says that MacArthur's forces went up to the river, but never crossed it. A map is here. Ok, but what about her larger point that Truman was soft on commies? Here is Bob's message:
I hoped, despite the poor reviews, that "Treason" by Ann Coulter would be a useful compilation of information about the history of communist subversion in the US. Unfortunately, Coulter is laughably unreliable. For example, on p 151 she repeatedly states that MacArthur crossed the Yalu river during the Korean war. I wonder whether she knows that the Yalu river forms the border between North Korea and China.Jayson Blair's offense was that he claimed to be doing on-the-scene interviews when he was actually sitting at home. Coulter did not claim that she was on the Yalu River.
Coulter does exaggerate a bit in this column where she accuses the critics of AG John Ashcroft of being traitors. But look at all the press given to Ashcroft in just today's papers. The NY Times says:
... a move that critics see as an effort to limit judicial independence by creating a ``blacklist'' of jurists. ...And what was the evil act triggering this? Ashcroft wants to tabulate some statistics on when judges deviate from the federal sentencing guidelines. Of couse the DoJ should keep such statistics. This ought to be one of the least controversial things the DoJ could possibly do. I guess Kennedy wants judges to let terrorists off easy without anyone knowing about it. Maybe Kennedy is not a traitor, but as Coulter says, what else do you call him?
Wednesday, Aug 06, 2003
Arnie for governor
Arnold is running. Good news. He has my vote. The Republicans who ran for governor last year, Riordan and Simon, were such wimps that I don't want to vote for them again. They were pathetic in response to vicious campaign attacks from Gray Davis. Also, Arnold has a nice long name so it should be easy to find him on a list of 30 or so candidates.
The California situation is desperate, and someone needs to shake things up. John sends this LA Times story that for the first time, the Census Bureau finds that more people have moved to other states from here than the other way around.
US SC judge Ginsburg has given a speech justifying looking to other countries to support a more global view of judicial decision making. John writes:
For proof that Ginsburg's comments have "angered some conservatives," see comments posted here (for 48 hours) and here and of course here (next week).
Bad court ruling
A Florida judge has banned release of a movie called The Profit, because the movie is about a fictional religious cult similar to the Church of Scientology, and it might influence a future juror in a Scientology court case. This is an amazing abridgement of free speech.
Tuesday, Aug 05, 2003
Calif. Gov. Gray Davis is busy making deals to line up support to fight his recall. He agreed to give drivers licenses to illegal aliens, without verifying Social Security numbers. The Calif DMV won't give a license to an American citizen unless the Social Security number is verified. So Davis is giving more rights to illegal aliens than to citizens in order to try to win Mexican-American and pro-immigrant support.
He has also annoyed some consumer advocates with a pro-insurance company law. I am not sure why it is unfair for an insurance company to give a price break to a repeat customer, but apparently it violates Prop. 103.
Davis is also filing some very silly and obstructionist lawsuits. These attempts to use the courts to change election law should be reason enough to recall him. He is apparently taking a page from the Al Gore playbook, and trying to throw the election into chaos by persuading judges to change the election rules.
The blog Alex's Outlook has a funny "Governmentium" satire, and some interesting political analysis, but he seems to think that Davis can win the recall by having the opposition split between 3 Republicans. Not so (unless Davis wins one of his unlikely lawsuits). There will be one ballot question to recall Davis, and Davis needs 50% on that or he is out. His replacement might well win with only 20% of the ballot.
Andy's feeble attempt to compare Bush to Gray Davis shows that he fails to grasp the deep political crisis in California, which is unlike anywhere else in the country.
Monday, Aug 04, 2003
Weird pediatric recommendations
I don't trust advice from pediatricians. This study claims that pediatricians should be showing parents how to put a bike helmet on a kid, because 0% of parents can do it and 100% of pediatricians can. I say it is more likely that the average parent can put on a helmet better than the average pediatrician.
Here in California, the hospitals do stomach-shrinking surgery on fat kids. Sometimes even "irreversible stomach stapling".
CD sales decline
This BBC article lists several reasons for the recent decline in CD sales. The labels are producing fewer titles, people are no longer replacing vinyl LP record collections with CDs, economic recession, etc. Also, the great rock music fad has peaked, and rock music is no longer even the most popular music.
Another change is that the technology is record and distribute music is now cheap, and musicians are no longer dependent on big music labels.
Friday, Aug 01, 2003
An AP story on a new poll from the Pew Internet Project says:
A survey finds two-thirds of Internet users who download music don't care whether they're violating copyright laws.But the actual poll question was:
Do you care whether or not the music you download onto your computer is copyrighted, or isn’t that something you care much about?That is entirely different question. If I were polled, I would certainly say that I don't care whether the downloaded music is copyrighted. That is because all recorded music is copyrighted. Even the music that is authorized for free distribution is still copyrighted. I once downloaded some patriotic songs from the US Air Force marching band thinking that it would be in the public domain, but it even had a copyright notice.
But if you ask me whether I care about violating copyright laws, I would say that I certainly do. I care enough that I have taken measures to avoid detection, to stay within legal safe harbors, to prepare arguments for the legality of my activities, and to lobby for changes in the copyright laws. See the message below for tips on avoiding lawsuits.
At least the Pew poll had the honesty to post its poll questions. The polls at the Pew Charitable Trusts does not post its questions.