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Friday, Jan 30, 2004
No evolution in Georgia
John sends this NY Times article saying:
A proposed set of guidelines for middle and high school science classes in Georgia has caused a furor after state education officials removed the word "evolution" and scaled back ideas about the age of Earth and the natural selection of species. ...

Georgia's schools superintendent, Kathy Cox, held a news conference ...

A handful of states already omit the word "evolution" from their teaching guidelines, and Ms. Cox called it "a buzz word that causes a lot of negative reaction." She added that people often associate it with "that monkeys-to-man sort of thing."

As an extra plus, Jimmy Carter is embarrassed!

Bob writes:

It is a sad day when people take a position where they are wrong and a bozo like Carter is right. It is bizarre to see a defense of Orwellian language. Eliminating the word evolution in order to dispel the evolution debate is like eliminating the word abortion to dispel the abortion debate.
Actually, the pro-abortion rights crowd does try to eliminate the word, and they call themselves "pro-choice". In the case of Georgia, it sounds like Ms. Cox wants to promote an evolution debate, not dispel one.
Antidepressant Makers Withhold Data on Children
The Wash Post reports:
Makers of popular antidepressants such as Paxil, Zoloft and Effexor have refused to disclose the details of most clinical trials involving depressed children, denying doctors and parents crucial evidence as they weigh fresh fears that such medicines may cause some children to become suicidal.

The companies say the studies are trade secrets. Researchers familiar with the unpublished data said the majority of secret trials show that children taking the medicines did not get any better than children taking dummy pills.

Mind altering pills like these are increasingly given to kids.
Msft kills COM
Microsoft's business strategy involves changes its API every 3 years or so, and now it is killing COM and DCOM.
Microsoft software architect Don Box said the company will not invest much more in Component Object Model (COM) and Distributed Compound Object Model (DCOM)--Microsoft's mechanisms for sharing objects between programs.

Instead, Box said, programs will use managed services based on the Extensible Markup Language to communicate with each other. Box is leading the work on the "plumbing" part of Longhorn, called "Indigo," which is effectively the successor to Microsoft .Net and as such will dictate how programs are written in future Windows platforms.

I guess the great object-orientation fad has been replaced by the great XML fad.

Thursday, Jan 29, 2004
Intel finally admits that it will ship AMD64 clones. Forget the Itanium. It is a dog. The x86 will dominate for the forseeable future.
Jury voir dire
Liza writes:
To change the subject, I recently underwent my first voir dire as a prospective juror. Not surprisingly, I wasn't selected out of a 20-person jury pool to serve on the 7-person jury for a federal civil case involving some guy suing a credit reporting company.

What really annoyed me was all the nosy questions tossed at the jurors, who are required to answer under oath. There seems to be no limit on what the lawyers can ask you, in a general, interrogatory-style way. As a practical matter, you have to answer the questions in public, in front of a lot of people. (If it's a really private matter, you can ask to speak to the judge privately, but this isn't practical most of the time; it would take too long and would irritate everybody.) Some questions are to be expected, such as whether you know the parties or their lawyers. But most should be completely irrelevant to jury selection. For example:

Have you or has any member of your family ever been involved in any litigation?
Is any member of your family a lawyer?
What civic organizations do you belong to?
Have you ever owned a business?
Have you ever looked at your own credit report? Did you dispute anything on it? If so, what? How was the matter resolved?

On the written questionnaire mailed to me in advance, I was even asked to list my hobbies!

Lawyers are nearly always thrown out, on the theory that they will use arguments in the jury room that aren't known to the other jurors.

Last time I was called, I brought the kids. I told them the kids would not be a problem at all, then cut them loose to run wild in the courthouse. I was dismissed.

Irritate everybody? That's just what you want to do!

I agree -- those questions are obnoxious and irrelevant.

John responds:

I would have no objection to these questions and don't understand the basis for Liza's complaint.

Of course prospective jurors have to disclose how they support themselves, their source of income and position in the community; their relationship to and/or prior experience with the legal system; their relationship to and/or prior experience with the parties or subject matter of the case to be tried (here, credit reports).

All that information is obviously necessary to fairly evaluate a juror's impartiality. Liza and Roger do not explain which of these questions they think is irrelevant and why.

Liza responds:
Roger is right. The answers to those questions shouldn't disqualify anybody, including a judge, so why ask them? Most of the 20-person jury pool had some experience (either personally or through relatives) with the legal system, and many had had issues involving their credit reports. So what? If such experience would be deemed a disqualification, they wouldn't have even able to assemble a jury.

Why do the lawyers need to know the name of every organization I pay dues to? Why do they need to know a juror's hobbies, or whether a juror has ever owned a business? It's none of their business.

Unlike Roger, I would have been perfectly willing to serve on the jury, because I think we all have a duty to upgrade the jury pool and I don't have pressing responsibilities that would get in the way. Roger, if you make a nuisance of yourself and never serve, you can't legitimately complain when you are stuck in front of a lousy jury.

I was willing to serve on a jury, and I do not think that it is making a nuisance to ask for privacy when responding to irrelevant and nosy questions. It is the questioner who is creating the nuisance by asking the question. You are just following their own rules when you ask for privacy.

I would be unlikely to serve anyway, because my answers to some of those voir dire questions put me in an objectionable category. But my serving on a jury is not going to get me a better jury later when I might be on trial. Maybe we'd have better juries if more people objected to the ways in which jurors are mistreated.

Andy writes:

Everyone is biased and opinionated. Frankly, I'd question the impartiality of anyone who denied that. I can ask you for a few of your opinions and then predict with 95% certainty your view on an apparently unrelated topic. And if your hobby is attending VFW gatherings, then an accused terrorist doesn't want you on his jury. That is his right to exclude you in order to attain impartiality.

In a lawsuit by someone against a credit reporting agency, Liza complained that she was asked if she ever disputed anything on her own credit report. It's a relevant question for the defense to ask.

Roger wrote, "Most of those questions have to do with cooking the jury pool, not impartiality."

Voir dire only removes jurors. No one has the power to place people on juries, but only to remove them. Impartiality can only result from inadequate voir dire.

I agree that impartiality can only result from inadequate voir dire, if that is what Andy really meant. The more people are eliminated by voir dire, the more partial the jury.

Andy still doesn't explain why having her own credit report dispute is relevant. It might be relevant if she had the dispute with the same credit reporting agency, and still harbors a grudge, but that's all. Something like half of all credit reports have errors on them, and there is nothing unusual about having a dispute. Are you saying that the jurors should be chosen from the half of the population with no reason to dispute a credit report, or from the other half that might be more knowledgeable on the process? I don't get it.

Andy writes:

Roger and Liza are arguing against basic principles of entropy. The more information and the greater the number of adversarial challenges to (removals from) a jury, the less biased the empaneled jury will be. It's the "arrow of time." Equilibrium is a jury with a net bias of zero.

But then, one has to accept basic principles of entropy first before applying them. I'm not sure anyone else here really does.

Huhh? Voir dire is all about removing info from the court. Anyone who knows anything about law, or law enforcement, or credit reports, or have any life experience that might be brought to bear on the case is excluded. Also, anyone with a brain or who shows sign of independent thought is excluded. Anyone who has a life is excluded.

Entropy means disorder. The more voir dire, and the more the jury verdict is the random result of know-nothings.

Did you read about the arguments that are being kept from the Martha Stewart? Part of the purpose of voir dire is to make sure that the jurors are dullards who won't figure out what is being withheld from them.

Andy writes:

I didn't get a commitment from Roger that he accepts basic principles of entropy. Most academics today implicitly avoid them, and some physicists even expressly argue against them. This is a waste of time for you that reject entropy truths, but here goes anyway.

The initial jury has a relatively high degree of bias or "order", towards one side or the other. The more the replacements, based on the greatest amount of information, the less the bias. The jury then tends towards a "disordered" state (in terms of bias). Its entropy increases over time, thereby serving the interests of justice. And you won't find this in any textbook.

Roger writes, "Entropy means disorder. The more voir dire, and the more the jury verdict is the random result of know-nothings."

Like Roger's other claims, this lacks logical support. One side inevitably prefers smarter jurors than the other side does. The replacements are likely to be, on average, just as smart as the excused jurors. The questions Liza objected to have nothing to do with intelligence anyway.

Roger writes, anyone with "any life experience that might be brought to bear on the case is excluded."

That may be true, but for good reason. People, like human chess players, tend to cling to the past too much in evaluating new situations. The greatest chance of bias is when someone thinks his personal experience, rather than reasoned deliberation, yields the best answer.

Then let's get some judges with no legal experience!

Liza writes:

Yes, I think the jurors who were most likely to have an intelligent, informed opinion about business and credit were excluded, including the ones who owned their own business and the ones who had worked in the lending industry (and me, a lawyer with long experience in lending issues).

As a result of these kinds of exclusions, the people who remained on the jury were the least likely to have an understanding of the role of credit reports in the economy, and the consequences of socking credit reporting companies in a big way for their mistakes. Just as more-informed people understand that when medical malpractice judgments go sky-high, a consequence is that everybody pays more for medical care and needed specialists leave the state. This understanding doesn't preclude a fair assessment of the case at bar, but it is likely to temper decisions on issues like punitive damages, which are highly discretionary with the jury.

Roger, when I questioned your willingness to serve on a jury, I was really basing my comments on the fact that you brought Milli and Neva to the courthouse. Surely you did that on purpose to make a nuisance of yourself and get excused.

About 200 people were called for jury duty for 1 trial. That is about 10x what is needed. The court kept everyone waiting for about 2 hours before anything happened. Some clerk notified us that jurors were entitled to $5 a day under the law, but tried to persuade us to waive the $5. (I didn't get the $5 -- that only applied to those who are actually seated on a jury.) I was very likely to get excused anyway.

Jurors are not respected. They are usually forbidden to ask questions, or to discuss the case before it ends. These are policies that have no purpose except to show hostility towards people who think for themselves. I wouldn't mind being a juror, but the court system does not want me.

Andy writes:

Liza's comments suggest that she has strongly held views in opposition to lawsuits against credit reporting agencies. That's precisely the sort of bias that should be identified and eliminated during voir dire. Questions about your employer, occupation of your spouse, hobbies, and personal experiences with the subject matter would properly flesh that out and lead to a challenge. Liza's strong opinions are better taken to the legislature than to a courtroom.

Liza and Roger seem to want "intelligent" jurors. Perhaps they'd like an IQ test to qualify jurors? What a disaster that would be "intelligent" jurors can be more biased and less willing to engage in jury nullification than others.

One characteristic of self-described "intelligent" people is that they are very slow in changing their fundamental beliefs. Many times, the smarter they think they are the longer it takes, as they overvalue consistency. That is not an attractive trait for a juror.

Neither Roger nor Joe had anything meaningful to offer on entropy. Instead, Joe remarked, "Here we go again. Does evolution violate the laws of thermodynamics, Andy?"

This is the evolution police at work. The discussion had nothing to do with evolution, but principles like entropy (or massive floods) undermine belief in evolution. So it becomes necessary to discourage and even censor any discussion of those principles. I doubt 1 in 100 college graduates understands entropy, or realizes that the landscape is a former sea bed.

I am not asking for an intelligence test. I think that jurors should be a random sample of the population, and that the current hostility towards intelligent jurors be eliminated. In most states, jurors are forbidden to take notes! Jurors should be allowed to take an intelligent approach to their jobs.

I agree that most people don't understand entropy. Most people don't understand any college-level science. But entropy does not undermine evolution, and Andy's application of entropy to jurors doesn't make any sense.

I don't think that Liza's comments showed any bias. People who understand the credit system are likely to make better jurors, not worse.

Liza writes:

Andy's characterization of my views is incorrect. I don't oppose lawsuits against credit reporting agencies. I have had mistakes on my own credit report and understand the irritation they can cause. But I also understand that actual monetary damages are seldom significant in these cases, some mistakes are inevitable, and if we stick a credit reporting agency with $50 million of punitive or emotional distress damages for a dumb little mistake, there will be a social cost in addition to the private cost to the defendant. That's not bias; it's an understanding of the system. If everybody with such an understanding is weeded off the jury because of fears of partiality, you are left with people who think their job is to be Santa Claus, showering vast sums of corporate money on someone just because he claims to be distressed by a mistake.

It was clear in the voir dire that the plaintiff's attorney was primarily seeking emotional distress damages, because he repeatedly asked jurors to indicate whether they had any philosophical objection to awarding such damages.

That is just cooking the jury pool to ask questions like that. The plaintiff just doesn't want anyone intelligent enough to understand the problems in awarding such damages.

Did you read about what a slimeball lawyer John Edwards was? I had assumed that he would be an effective VP candidate. But now I think that he'd lose a lot more votes than he'd gain. A lot of people will just think that he is a crook who is draining money from our economy. He got rich by suing good physicians and convincing gullible jurors of bogus theories. Most of his money was in exorbitant fees for obstetricians not doing Caesarian deliveries.

John writes:

This subject was previously exposed in an article posted Jan. 20 on a conservative news site.
I missed. I naively assumed that if he is a successful politician who brags about his courtroom wins, then they must be legitimate wins. But he has made a fortune on a quack theory that cerebral palsy is caused by obstetricians failing to do Caesarian births. Meanwhile, the medical community believes that too many Caesarians are being done, not too few. Edwards is a walking example of why we need tort reform.
Bob writes on WMD:
Here is my revised rant on Bush:

President Bush is badly mismanaging the WMD issue. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Diane Sawyer
Diane Sawyer "But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still —"
President Bush "So what’s the difference?"

Strategically Bush is correct. The ability to produce WMD can not be removed once a country has the capability. Politically Bush is full of hubris. Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, and Rice all told the American people and the world that Saddam Hussein had WMD on hand. This is almost certainly false. The alternatives for the President are:
1 keep changing the subject and dodging the question of why what the administration told the world about WMD was false
2 find some WMD in Iraq
3 produce Iraqis who explain exactly what happened to Saddam's WMD
4 fix the problem.

The fix I have in mind would culminate in a press conference with Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice, Tenant (or the current DCI), the congressional intelligence committee chairmen, and the ranking Democrats on intelligence committees who are on board. The topic of the press conference is reform of American intelligence. The primary point is that American intelligence took a wrong turn in 1977. We need to have a robust human intelligence capability and the DCI has agreed to be evaluated on progress toward this goal. I recommend that Bush's people read "Fixing Intelligence For a More Secure America" by General William E. Odom for starters.

The hand wringers who worry about the communist husband of an American leftist being killed in a foreign country by someone on the CIA payroll will scream about this. Fine. The President needs to assure us that a robust CIA would not become involved in domestic operations or used in coverups. The role of the congressional intelligence committees is to prevent exactly this sort of thing, not to enforce an overly fastidious doctrine of political correctness on our spies.

If Bush sticks with option 1 above I predict that he will lose. It is arrogant to expect the American people to not care that they have been told rubbish. Bush can not afford to have the charge of arrogance stick. If he persists in this folly he deserves to lose the election.

Send me the quotes. All Bush et al had was a suspicion that Iraq was developing WMD. Why didn't they ever tell us whether the WMD was nuclear, biological, or chemical? If they didn't know that, then they sure didn't know much about those WMD.

The 2002 Bush state of the union speech said:

First, we will shut down terrorist camps, disrupt terrorist plans and bring terrorists to justice.

Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction.

I always had the impression that we were invading Iraq in order to prevent them from developing WMD. The Iraq war has successfully done that. Where is the lie?

Bob writes:

Here are a few quotes from Bush on WMD. Please comment. Much more to follow.

The following are no longer claimed to be true by David Kay.

"U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them -- despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence."

"From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors."

"Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production."

Chris writes:
You say, “I always had the impression that we were invading Iraq in order to prevent them from developing WMD. The Iraq war has successfully done that. Where is the lie?”

What Bush said as a rational to launch a preemptive war was that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of WMD that he could us to immediately to threaten the US. Further he said that Hussein had ties to terrorist organizations to which he would supply chemical or biological weapons that would be used against the US. He explicitly said that the UN weapons inspectors were being duped and that only the invasion of Iraq would eliminate the WMD. These were the only reason Bush used to justify his taking the United States to war.

We now know, unequivocally, that these rationales were false. Further we know that the intelligence did not in any way shape or form support these suppositions except in the most extreme interpretations that ignored the main body of information and latched onto some small outliers in the data to make the case of an immediate threat.

Now, when there are no WMD or connections to terrorist groups, the administration is making the argument 1. Saddam Hussein was a really bad person and 2 the Iraqi people are now free to enter a new and democratic era and that is sufficient justification for the war. Saddam Hussein was a really bad person. We all hope that the Iraqi people do indeed enter into a prosperous and democratic future. These are not sufficient reasons to go to war. Where do we stop? What country do we invade next because their dictator is a really bad person and the countries people are not free and democratic? Would the American people have agreed to invade Iraq at the cost of many lives and much treasure to overthrow Hussein and to bring the blessings of democracy and liberty?

Was it the right thing to do? The answer is clearly no. And this answer will become increasingly apparent when we hand over sovereignty in July and the first act the sovereign government does is ask us to leave. What happens then?

Bob responds to Chris:
David Kay, who had access to the intelligence, directly contradicts this. If Bush deceived the American people about Iraqi WMD, then so did Clinton. Yes, I know that it is tiresome to point out Clinton deceptions.

Yes it was the right thing to do. For 3/4 of a century despicable Arab leaders have been making the case that we couldn't touch them because if we did militant fundamentalists would take over, or ethnic strife would cause social disintegration, or their would go communist, or other bad consequences would occur. Bush cut the Gordian knot and now despicable Arab leaders are cleaning up their acts.

The fact that it was the right thing to do does not excuse the bogus reasons Bush gave for doing it.

Chris responds to Bob:
The problem here is that you are using the 'ends justify the means' argument without addressing what the consequences of the current administration argument are.

Are you seriously suggesting that it is in our national interest to remake the political map of the Middle East through the force of arms? Further it is by no means clear that the current Iraq policy will have the desired outcome.

What happens when the Iraq government asks us to leave this summer? They will not have the ability to prevent the creation of a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq that the Turks will attack. What happens when the Shite majority declares a Shirai and proceeds to implement it?

Are we going to invade Iran, Saudia Arabia, Syria, Egypt or any number of other non-democratic arab states to provide them with the blessings of liberty?

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2004
Howard Dean, anti-privacy candidate
Howard Dean gave a speech in 2002 about upgrading state drivers licenses to a sort of national ID card. You can read criticism on other blogs here. The source of these ideas appears to be his campaign manager, Joe Trippi, who is closely allied with Wave Systems. Wave System was a big cult stock during the big internet bubble, and still promotes technology to regulate how people use PCs.

Update: The news just reported that Dean demoted or fired Trippi.

Update: Don't feel sorry for Trippi. The NY Times says:

Mr. Trippi forfeited a salary as a campaign manager but collected commissions — said to be as high as 15 percent in some cases — based on advertising buys.
I wouldn't mind getting 15% of $40M.

John sends this NY Times op-ed, Will We Remember 2004 as the Year of the Dean Bubble? Dean's crash has some analogies to the internet bubble.

Bush's illiteracy
I am surprised that this error is still on WhiteHouse.gov:
Then you wake up at the high school level and find out that the illiteracy level of our children are appalling.
Leatherman tool
The feds have now released info that at least a couple of the 9-11 hijackers had Leatherman tools, not box-cutters. That explains why the airport security personnel got so agitated when I flew with a Leatherman tool in 2002. They spotted it with the x-ray right away, as if they had been trained to look for it. The supervisor told me that they confiscate Leathermans, but let me fly with it anyway. I guess I didn't meet the profile.
Fahrenheit 451
A San Jose Mercury News editorial praises Fahrenheit 451, a trashy sci-fi novel from 50 years ago:
In ``Fahrenheit 451,'' people have surrendered privacy, freedom and individual responsibility to a repressive government that plies them with fast cars, mind-numbing drugs and wall-to-wall wide-screen TVs. Books are condemned as subversive; firefighters burn them and the homes of those caught possessing them; hence the title of the book, which is the temperature at which paper catches fire.

``Fahrenheit 451'' follows the tormented transformation of Montag, a firefighter ...

But today's readers may see inklings of Bradbury's narcissistic, sub-literate society in the Patriot Act, surveillance technology, designer drugs and even PlayStation 2.

Fahrenheit 451 was a really stupid book that is only popular because its politically correct and overdone message about censorship. So why does the SJMN change the "fireman" to a "firefighter"? The heroes in the book don't make those kinds of changes when they memorize the books that are being burned. And Montag sets fires, rather than fight fires.

And what does the book have to do with the Patriot Act?

Elsewhere the newspaper slams the Republican governor with an editorial and a news story saying:

Governor broke campaign law, judge rules

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger broke state law last year when he used a loophole to loan his campaign committee $4 million, a move that prevented voters from knowing before Election Day who would end up paying the governor's campaign bills, a judge ruled late Monday.

No, he didn't break the law. He borrowed $4M from a bank to help finance his campaign, and personally guaranteed repayment. There is nothing illegal about that. The California Fair Political Practices Commission ruled in a similar case that the candidate could repay the loan with campaign funds. All this judge did was to rule that the CFPPC was wrong, and that Schwarzenegger has to repay the bank himself. There was never any violation of anything.

There are just some typical examples this week of the goofy and biased left-wing politics of the SJMN.

Patriot Act
I found this on another blog:
I always find it interesting that the PATRIOT Act’s harshest critics, those who claim to be champions of civil liberties, kept their mouths shut when Congress passed child support collection legislation that enables the government to search all the records of banks and utilities for so-called deadbeat dads, suspend the driver and professional licenses of those so identified, take their passports, place liens on their property, and impose draconian levies on their incomes for life. While this is arguably a good cause, these measures are clearly encroachments on civil liberties that have much more immediate and wide-spread effects than the PATRIOT Act.
I don't even think that it is a good cause. I find it very annoying when people are more concerned about maintaining the privacy of the public library records of foreign terrorists, than they are of American citizens who are just trying to earn an honest living.
Copyright extension debate
I thought that the copyright extension debate would die with the Eldred decision, but it continues. The NY Times has a long article on The Tyranny of Copyright? that describe efforts by the Copy Left to put more works into the public domain.

At the other extreme, Landes and Posner published an article saying:

In this paper we raise questions concerning the widely accepted proposition that economic efficiency requires that copyright protection be limited in its duration (often shorter than the current term). We show that just as an absence of property rights in tangible property would lead to inefficiencies, so intangible works that fall into the public domain may be inefficiently used because of congestion externalities and impaired incentives to invest in maintaining and exploiting these works. ... A further benefit of indefinite renewal is that it would largely eliminate the rent-seeking problem that is created by the fact that owners (and users) of valuable copyrights that are soon to expire will expend real resources on trying to persuade (dissuade) Congress to extend the term.
That last sentence seems really silly. The same reasoning would say to give everyone subsidies, so that they don't have to lobby for them.

A bunch of economists filed an Eldred amicus brief saying that copyright extension would not be a significant incentive for new works. Milton Friedman said that it was a no-brainer. A couple of other profs wrote a critical article. While I think that these arguments for indefinite copyright are profoundly wrong, it is good that people are bringing them out into the open.

The economist criticism is quite silly. The main argument is that there is sometimes a snob effect, in which a property might be more valuable if it is somewhat scarce. Eg, someone might rather have a house design that has not been copied by all the neighbors.

It argues that copyrights do not interfere with the production of new works very much, but its examples are weird. One example is someone who copied a plot device from the movie It's A Wonderful Life. But the paper authors don't even realize that the movie copyright had expired, and the movie was in the public domain. The other example was a parody of Gone With The Wind. Yes, the parody was published, but only after a costly and risky legal fight that would have scared away most publishers.

Then it creates a wildly implausible scenario in which a very tiny increase in incentives would result in many new books being written.

There is the notion that some people have that if a property could produce income, and someone should own it and exploit it. Economists make this argument about cattle grazing land, because an owner would keep it from being overgrazed. But it is hard to see how a copyright could be overgrazed. This paper does not prove that it is possible.

Tuesday, Jan 27, 2004
Martha Stewart's trial
Andy writes:
The ridiculous prosecution of Martha Stewart proceeds, with the government's main claim that she lied in stating her innocence.

However, the jury selection suggests that the defense is going for a hung jury at best, and may not even get that. Eight moderate women dominate the jury, rendering the four men irrelevant. The defense is banking on the female majority disagreeing with each other. They included jurors with a track record of personal litigation for that apparent purpose.

If the prosecution is smart, then it will emphasize a conspiracy between Stewart and her stockbroker to lie. Most people now see conspiracies everywhere, even where they do not exist.

IMHO, the defense would have been better off seating so-called "Bush haters" as jurors, and seeking a verdict that repudiated the Bush Administration. It should have given up on gender-based selection, and picked Village Voice readers instead.

Description of jurors from the AP [is here], though it is pathetically inadequate.

She might be better off going without a lawyer, because her lawyer's hands will be tied. From the news:
In a defeat for Stewart, a judge has ruled defense lawyers can't argue she's being prosecuted for asserting her innocence and exercising her right to free speech. The judge also ruled the defense may not ask jurors to speculate about why Stewart hasn't been charged with insider trading.
And no doubt Stewart's lawyer is forbidden from telling the jury that he is forbidden from arguing that she is being prosecuted for exercising her free speech. If she were her own lawyer, she'd be able to get that message to the jury.

How else is Stewart going to rebut federal prosecutor Karen Patton Seymour's opening trial statement, which said:

``The reason that Martha Stewart dumped her shares is because she was told a secret,'' Seymour said. ``A secret tip that no other investors in ImClone had.''
John sends this LA Times story about how vital evidence is excluded from other big cases.
Consider the murder trial of actor Robert Blake. The problem for the government in this case was never figuring out who would have wanted to kill Blake's wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, but who didn't want to kill her. Even the prosecutors acknowledged that Bakley "might be considered by some to be what is commonly referred to as a 'grifter' or 'con artist.' " That raises an obvious problem for the prosecution, which admits that it has no forensic or eyewitness testimony linking Blake to the murder.

In a circumstantial case, the existence of possible alternative murderers can be devastating, so the prosecutors have asked the court to keep Bakley's past from the jurors, including evidence of potentially hundreds of men scammed by her in lonely-hearts cons, as well as disgruntled customers of her past pornography business.

One of the most cited potential suspects is Christian Brando, the son of Marlon Brando who pleaded guilty in 1991 to killing his sister's boyfriend. Brando had an affair with Bakley and was reportedly outraged by her initially convincing him that her baby was his and trying to "game" him over the pregnancy. In a taped conversation, a clearly upset Brando tells Bakley, "You're lucky somebody ain't out there to put a bullet in your head." A former friend of Brando's came forward recently to say that she heard Brando say, "Somebody needs to put a bullet into that girl's head." He allegedly said this to stuntman Ronald "Duffy" Hambleton, who allegedly responded with, "Yeah, that's right."


In the case of basketball star Kobe Bryant, the prosecutors are seeking to exclude evidence that could be highly damaging to the alleged victim and to their case. The defense wants to introduce evidence that it says will show that the woman had sex with another man soon after the alleged rape — conduct that presumably would be in sharp conflict with the normal reaction of a rape victim. The defense also wants to introduce evidence that the woman allegedly has taken anti-psychotic medication and twice attempted suicide in an attempt, they say, to attract her boyfriend's attention.

I hope the jurors get on the net and find some of the info that is being hidden from them.
John comments on this watch that doubles as a wireless debit card:
Who would want a card that is accepted by only one brand of gas station, one chain of grocery stores, and one fast-food chain? That's not money, but a glorified affinity program.

Like a gift certificate that can only be redeemed at one merchant, it is not real money. Money, by definition, is a medium of exchange that is generally accepted in payment.

Who said I was looking for a smart card? A smart card gives merchants, providers, and other third parties access to a database of every transaction made with the card. If the card is further tied to a bank account (as a debit card), then the bank has that database, which it can share with others.

What I'm looking for is a way to spend electronic cash that preserves the key attribute of cash - anonymity.

Since it is wireless, I wonder what prevents you from accidentally spending all your money -- to some crook who happens to be walking past you on the street.

The website says that Speedpass protects your information in a confidential and secure database. It also touts the advantages of having your personal info distributed to retailers and financial institutions, so that you can benefit from marketing programs.

Monday, Jan 26, 2004
UK scared of pistols
John sends this UK story about how the Brits are all excited about finding one pistol.

The first fully automatic handgun to surface in the UK - capable of firing 1,100 rounds a minute - has been seized in a police raid. It is a Glock 18 ...

"If it was fired on the streets of London by someone unused to its immense firing capability, there could be a massacre. ...

The report said the Glock can fire "armour-piercing ammunition". It has a compensation device to keep it straight during firing.

The gun is just a 9mm pistol. The average USA cop carries a more powerful gun.

When it says "capable of firing 1,100 rounds a minute", it just means that it can fire at that rate, not that it will actually fire 1,000 rounds in a minute. With a 19-round magazine, it can fire all of the rounds in about a second, but then you have an empty gun that has to be reloaded. Most people (police or criminals or citizens) prefer a semi-auto pistol that lets you fire individual shots. If the gun empties in one second, then you better aim the gun correctly on the first shot, and you better hope that you don't have to shoot anyone else.

9mm ammo is probably the most popular ammo in the world. I guess you could get 9mm armor-piercing ammo, whatever that means, and put it in the Glock, but you could also put that ammo in any other 9mm gun.

The hysterical tone of the article would only be possible in a society that is disarmed, ignorant of guns, and afraid of guns.

John sends this NY Times article saying:
Although many scientists think Neanderthals were a subspecies, which could have interbred with Homo sapiens, new research appears to confirm the more widely held view that Neanderthals and modern humans were significantly different, enough to qualify as separate species.
Then is it just a coincidence that Neanderthals had big noses, and so do European humans?

Sunday, Jan 25, 2004
Bush vetoes
John sends this AP article on presidential vetoes:
President Bush is on track to become the first chief executive since John Quincy Adams in the 1820s to complete a full term without vetoing one bill.
It refers to the official US stats.

It is also an example of a chart that is written by people who do not understand the zero. It shows 4 dots where it should show 0. It is funny how otherwise-educated people have difficulty with the concept.

Saturday, Jan 24, 2004
American Govt exam
Andy has been teaching an American Govt history class to homeschoolers, and has posted an exam on his web site.

Friday, Jan 23, 2004
Rush on trial?
I had assumed that Rush Limbaugh had already made his deal with prosecutors, but John sends this story saying that prosecutors are asking for a guilty plea to a felony for "doctor shopping". Until this case, I didn't even know that doctor shopping was a crime. If I were he, I'd demand a jury trial. (Of course he hasn't been indicted or charged, yet.)

Thursday, Jan 22, 2004
Mail-order sperm
Lesbians can now just order sperm on the internet from ManNotIncluded.com. One happy lesbian just gave birth.
Stephen Hawking
Prof. Hawking's 2nd wife is beating him up again. The famous mathematical physicist is wheelchair-bound.

John writes that "contrary to rumor posted on your blog", Hawking denies the abuse.

Yes, that's what the other story (above) says also. I'm glad to see someone is fact-checking me. But just imagine if the sexes were reversed. Police are now trained to ignore a wife's denial that there is any abuse. She could be suffering from some spousal abuse syndrome that causes her to value the marriage more highly than a possible abuse claim. So sometimes the husband is prosecuted anyway, over the wife's objections, on a theory that the wife has no right to live in an abusive relationship.

Politics of choice
A NY Times op-ed by Barry Sschwartz says:
The value of choice has been a consistent theme for the president and his administration. Problems in education, health care and a host of other issues, Mr. Bush has repeatedly argued, can be addressed in large measure by expanding the options available to people. ...

Though this logic may seem compelling, there is growing evidence that the emotional logic (the psycho-logic) is deeply flawed. Indeed, for many people, increased choice can lead to a decrease in satisfaction. Too many options can result in paralysis, not liberation.

... it appears not to be true that more choice inevitably leads to more freedom and greater happiness. Indeed, there may be a point when choice tyrannizes people more than it liberates them. The implication of this news, both for individuals and for government officials, is that sound social policy simply cannot consist of throwing an ever-greater menu of options at the American people.

By "choice", she is not referring to abortion, but to many other ways in which Republicans advocate letting people choose what to do with their own money. Her evidence includes:
Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper, psychologists at Columbia and Stanford respectively, have shown that as the number of flavors of jam or varieties of chocolate available to shoppers is increased, the likelihood that they will leave the store without buying either jam or chocolate goes up. According to their 2000 study, Ms. Iyengar and Mr. Lepper found that shoppers are 10 times more likely to buy jam when six varieties are on display as when 24 are on the shelf.
There is something to this. If a store has 24 varieties of jam on the shelf, the consumer is overwhelmed by the choice. When I am faced with that, then I am less likely to buy jam. But the problem is not really the choice. I want the choice to buy my favorite brand of jam.

The problem is that the store is not being discriminatory about his jam buying. I will infer that the store just carries whatever jams that his distributor is peddling, without any attempt to figure out what is good. Furthermore, the store gives no way to make an intelligent choice. It does not let customers sample the jam to see what is best. And no one wants to try out 24 jars of jam before settling on one.

I choose to shop at a food store (Costco) that deliberately limits selection. Last time I was there, it only had only one brand of jam. It is not my favorite brand, but it is a pretty good one, and I could buy it with confidence that it must be good or the management would not have selected it. Furthermore, the store was offering free samples to taste.

For my favorite jam, I have to goto Trader Joe's. Again, I probably would not have even tried the jam, unless I had confidence in store management in selecting good jams.

So I guess that I am a prime example of the consumer that enjoys limited choice. But Schwartz seems to want the government to limit my choices. Somehow, I don't think that govt regulation of the jam market would help me any. The existence of choice in the market is crucial to me getting the jam I like, even if I cannot cope with a shelf full of 24 unfamiliar brands.

Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004
Trashing Bush
Bob trashes George W. Bush:
He is the anti-libertarian president who has brought us larger, more intrusive government, enlarged deficits, increased agricultural subsidies, pushed for socialist corporate welfare programs like an oil give-away in ANWR, pandered to busybody prigs, failed to roll back anti-gun legislation, failed to simplify the tax code, and made numerous attempts to reduce our freedom. Details available on request.

The really bad news is that there are no alternatives. The Democrats are worse and the Libertarians are avowed losers.

Most of the Bush-haters are left-wing kooks. There is no relief on the horizon.

Monday, Jan 19, 2004
John send this story about how Msft took a domain name from some kid named Mike Rowe.

There are a couple of lessons here. First, you need to start worrying when you are up against the world's richest company, and it hires a law firm named Smart & Biggar.

Second, in just about any legal dispute, an offer to settle the case is considered to be prudent, and the fact that you made a settlement offer cannot be evidence of guilt. But in domain name disputes, a standard practice of big companies who want domain names is to bait the name-holder into making an offer to sell. Once that happens, the big company can almost always win the dispute by using the settlement offer as proof that the name-holder is guilty of domain name speculation. So if you own a domain name, you have to let the potential buyer name a price first.

Google IPO
Google is about to go public amid fanatical excitement, but investors have discovered a fatal flaw in Google's business strategy -- it has no customer lock-in.

So now Reuters reports that Google has bought some email companies in order to have an email service like Hotmail, and serve up ads in email messages. I guess this makes sense for Google, but there are a zillion other portals offering free email, and I think that Google will still be grossly overvalued.

Abestos fraud
Andy sends this article:
In a 137-page study, Brickman calculates that almost a half-million meritless claims have resulted in payments to plaintiffs and their attorneys totaling $28.5 billion. He estimates the suits have driven 67 companies into bankruptcy and eliminated 50,000 jobs.
It is more evidence that lawyers are a big drain on the economy. The courts cannot cope with technical issues.

Friday, Jan 16, 2004
Mrs. Howard Dean
I think that it is very strange that Howard Dean's wife is sticking to her medical practice and staying away from the public. He obviously needs her support, and she would presumably be a big asset to his campaign.

Bob says:

I think she is doing the responsible thing. Her patients need her. If she abandoned them for a year, then they might get inferior care from someone else.
That would be even stranger than I thought, if that is her reasoning. She would have to have a giant ego to think that she is so much better than all the other Vermont physicians, and some misplaced priorities to think that some routine medical care is more important than electing the next president of the USA.

Update: Mrs. Dean just made a surprise trip to Iowa.

Dean has said she is too busy to leave her patients and their teen-age son in high school and join him on the trail, and he did not want to force her into the typical role of a political wife.
She also kept her Jewish name and religion.

Chris writes:

You are saying that it wouldn’t bother you that a doctor to whom you have gone to for years to abandon you and all her other patients? Is it not really a reflection of the role that society forces on woman that they need to abandon their life whenever their husband requires it of them?

I think that Ms. Dean is doing absolutely the right thing in providing continuity of care for her patients. If Howard is elected president she will be able to transition her patients to another doctor in a thoughtful and organized manner, though I would certainly support her if she decides to continue to care for her patients. Ego has nothing to do with it. In most case people find the changing of doctors a difficult and stressful process. Over time Ms. Dean has learned her patients and earned their trust, it would be callous of her to simple leave them without helping them transition to new care. Further, if Howard is not elected she would have disrupted her patients as well as her practice for no useful purpose.

As Howard gets closer to being elected I am certain she will be forced to spend more time campaigning to help dispel the almost certain character attacks the Republicans and their running dogs on the concept of a woman who exists in her own right and not as an appendage of her husband. It is sad that even in this day and age that there is even any discussion of the appropriateness of a woman following her own career and life separately from her husband.

No, it would not bother me in the slightest if my regular doctor abandoned me. There are plenty of others who can serve an equivalent function. And even if some people were bothered for some reason I don't understand, I certainly think that affecting the election of the President is a good excuse.

I don't know why Mrs. Dean is avoiding politics. Maybe she is devoted to her medical patients. Maybe she is publicity shy. Maybe she is a poor public speaker, or does poorly on interviews. Maybe she is a right-winger who does not support Howard Dean's campaign positions. Maybe she just hates politics. Maybe Howard Dean doesn't want her involved for some reason. Maybe she hates to travel. But regardless, any of these reasons beg for more explanation. If she becomes the First Lady, will she remain in Vermont diddling with her patients?

Physicians often present an illusion of having established a patient relationship. A physician might look at a patients file for 30 seconds before an office visit, and say, "Hi Bill. How are you? Is that back still bothering you?" He can say this even tho he has completely forgotten the patient, and the patient feels good about it. But it's no big trick; just about any other physician can do the same thing with the same file.

Update: Dean just got blown out in Iowa, and his wife is now apparently willing to use the name "Judy Dean" for campaign purposes. I just found this quote on InstaPundit (from a book review):

Our culture is quick to point out the responsibilities husbands have to wives—they should help out with the housework, be better listeners, understand that a woman wants to be more than somebody's mother and somebody's wife—but very reluctant to suggest that a wife has responsibilities to her husband. The only people willing to say so are right-wing conservatives, and they end up preaching to the choir; ...
It sounds like hyperbole, but the Dean story proves it. Here Howard Dean is in the midst of the most important ordeal of his life, and has a chance to become the most important man in the world, and some people think that his wife has greater obligations to maintaining some minor and insignificant business relationships. The opinion is bizarre. I don't see how any woman can have a happy marriage unless her first obligations are to her husband.

Bob writes:

I ran out of time trying to find the number of doctors in Vermont, but it is well known that doctors are scarce in rural areas. Last time I checked, Vermont was mostly rural. Dean's wife faced with the problem of finding a temporary replacement which would be nearly impossible in a rural area, giving up her practice, or limiting the time she spent campaigning. She made the right choice.
Bob is assuming that Mrs. Dean is staying in order to address some alleged physician shortage in rural Vermont. I very much doubt that there is a shortage, and that such a shortage had any bearing on his decision. But even if such reasoning made it the "right choice", similar reasoning would say that she should stay in Vermont if Howard Dean is elected president, and that Dean should never have run for political office in the first place.

Update: Slate reports on Jan. 22:

Dr. Judith Steinberg, M.D., explained that she stays at home because she has her own private practice
and my patients are my patients and they really depend on me and I really love it. It's not something I can say "Oh, you can take over for a month." It just doesn't work like that.
She can't let someone take over for a month, or she won't? Physicians do commonly take vacations. It is not a big deal. This just fuels speculation about what her real reasons are.

Thursday, Jan 15, 2004
The pro-ritalin groups are citing another new study that supposedly shows the wonders of ritalin. The title is:
Rapid improvement in academic grades following methylphenidate treatment in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Sounds good, right? Read on, and find that it only studied 19 kids, and used no controls. For controls, it might have been interesting to have some ADHD kids on placebos, some non-ADHD kids on MPH (ritalin), and some non-ADHD kids on placebos. But it didn't do that.

Then the study concludes:

The MPH treatment ... showed minimal change on neuropsychological functioning in Taiwanese ADHD children.
The main reason that millions of US kids are on ritalin is that it supposedly improves neuropsychological functioning. If it is not doing that, then what good is it? The title should have been, "No measurable benefit found for ritalin to ADHD kids". (The article explains that there might be other explanations for the apparent academic gains. Such spurious gains are common in uncontrolled studies.)
I just heard Charlie Rose interview Michael Moore and Al Franken.

Moore went into one of the usual anti-Bush tirades:

He [Bush] took us into war based on a lie ... Saddam Hussein helped plan 9/11 with Osama bin Laden.
When Rose pointed out that Bush never said that, Moore responded:
What did all the polls show? That the majority of Americans believe that Saddam helped to plan 9/11 with Osama bin Laden.
IOW, Bush is a liar because the Bush-haters have successfully convinced millions of people that Bush is a liar.

Moore also recited the distorted story about some Saudis leaving the USA after Sept. 11.

Franken plays a similar game. Half the time he pretends to be making a serious charge that all the right-wingers are liars. The other half of the time he is making jokes with various stories, smears, and half-truths. When Rose asks about his accountability, he hides behind the label satirist. Apparently a satirist is allowed to lie, but a right-winger is not.

John sends this NRO epistemology alert. It quotes Rumsfield as saying that truth will win out, and attacks academic postmodernists:

The names most often associated with this worldview — i.e., that reality is socially constructed, and that objective truth cannot be had — constitutes a glittering who's who of late 20th-century thinkers in France and America ...

It would be difficult to overstate the influence of epistemological pessimism on European and American campuses, each replete with its own postmodern fiefdom in which Einstein's objectively verifiable theory of general relativity morphs into the absurd, self-negating notion of the general relativity of truth, and in which Heisenberg's rigorously reasoned uncertainty principle is bastardized into the idea that nothing is certain.

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2004
Stressed out in Santa Cruz
KGO-TV reports:
While many think of it as laid back, the Santa Cruz County region ranked 13th on a list of 114 mid-size metro areas considered the most stressed out communities in the nation.
More details in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

The survey was a study of several indicators. We score well in weather, as we have some of the best weather in the world, but we have a high concentration of crazy people here.

Iraq, Bush, and 9-11
Some Bush-haters are claiming that Bush lied during the 2000 election because Bush never told the American people that he wanted regime change in Iraq. They act like it is some sort of big revelation that Bush actually considered military action against Iraq before 9/11/2001.

Here is what he said in one of the 2000 campaign debates.

BUSH: The coalition against Saddam has fallen apart or it’s unraveling, let’s put it that way. The sanctions are being violated. We don’t know whether he’s developing weapons of mass destruction. He better not be or there’s going to be a consequence, should I be the president. Q: You could get him out of there? BUSH: I’d like to, of course. But it’s going to be important to rebuild that coalition to keep the pressure on him.
So everyone surely expected Bush to give Iraq ultimatums, and to follow up with military action, if necessary. That is what Bush I did in 1990, and what Clinton did.

No one ever said that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attack. What 9/11 changed was Bush's foreign policy. Bush declared war on terrorism, and against those entities who fail to cooperate with the USA in the war on terrorism. Iraq was given an ultimatum, and failed to cooperate.

John writes:

Roger provides an excellent, concise refutation of Democratic attacks on Bush's Iraq policy. One could also point out the hypocrisy of most of these same Democrats who supported Clinton's 1998 war against Iraq and his 1999 war against Yugoslavia.

Today's USA Today publishes a 1995 letter by Howard Dean urging Clinton to take "unilateral action" against Yugoslavia over Bosnia, i.e. to attack Yugoslavia with U.S. air power without UN authorization.

Yes. A lot of people have conveniently forgotten that Clinton bombed Iraq in 1998, so it is fair to say that we were at war with Iraq. They've also forgotten that we invaded Bosnia and Kosovo with UN approval.

Tuesday, Jan 13, 2004
Is Hamdi a citizen?
John wrote:
Today the Supreme Court agreed to review the detention of Yaser Hamdi, an enemy combatant captured by U.S. forces on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

Hamdi claims U.S. citizenship by reason of the fact that he was born in Louisiana, where his parents were working in the oil industry. His parents, who were Saudi citizens, took him back to Saudi Arabia when he was still a small child and he never returned to the United States.

The decision below, a 3-0 decision by a panel of the 4th Circuit, said that "Hamdi is apparently an American citizen" and assumed that fact without deciding it.

One organization following this case has prepared a memorandum showing why Hamdi should not be considered a U.S. citizen.

It is critical that these arguments be presented to the Supreme Court.

No doubt the Supreme Court, like the 4th Circuit, would like to decide this case on the assumption that Hamdi is a citizen. (If it was clear he was not a citizen, they would not have bothered to take the case.)

Our goal would be to get the court to state clearly that it is assuming, not deciding, the question of Hamdi's citizenship. Better still if we could achieve a footnote giving reasons why he may not be a citizen.

The argument is based on parsing and analyzing the 14A:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
The question is what "subject to" means. If it means nothing, then why is it there? The argument says that Hamdi was a Saudi subject, and not a US subject. There are some cases to support this reasoning.
Intel random numbers
I just noticed that Intel killed its Pentium random number generator. Last year it said:
"To the best of our best knowledge, no one is using it today," said a spokeswoman for Intel. Intel has no plans to redesign or improve on it, she added.
And now it says:
End of Interactive Support Announcement: These products and tools are no longer being manufactured by Intel.
I'm not surprised that Intel killed it. The feature was so poorly designed that it was almost unusable. It didn't catch on.

One problem was that there was no reliable way to detect the presence of the function. Another problem was that apps could not use it if there was the possibility that another app was using it. Another problem was that it was unpredictably slow. Another problem is that it did not give access to the raw random numbers, but only numbers that had been processed by a pseudo-random number algorithm.

Illegal alien amnesty
We don't know the details yet on G. W. Bush's plan. Giving amnesty to all the illegal aliens would be a disaster, and trying to deport them all would require building concentration camps. Here are some positive things that can be done to help solve the problem.
  • Register all illegal aliens, and give them temporary visas. Fingerprint them and maybe even take DNA samples.
  • Empower local law enforcement to help deport those who do not register. They would not be allowed
  • If parents claim that they shouldn't be deported because their child is an American citizen (by virtue of being illegally born here), then deport the parents anyway. They can either take the kid, or put him in an orphanage.
  • Pass new laws like Calif. Prop. 187 to cut off welfare to illegal aliens. (Prop. 187 was partially in conflict with some US SC rulings, but 90% of it could be reinstated without legal problems.)
  • Impose a new alien payroll tax on companies employing foreign workers in the US. The tax would support some of the social costs of the immigration influx, such as schools and prisons. Those who don't pay the tax would face stiff penalties, just as they face for evading other taxes.
  • Avoid giving amnesty to illegal aliens. INS should give preference to those who follow channels legally.
  • Seal the border with Mexico.
  • Abolish the H-1B program, or reduce it by 90%.

  • Monday, Jan 12, 2004
    Michael writes:
    You mentioned that you don´t consider private secondary schools to be economically sustainable, but you don´t explain why. Could it be because public education creates an artificially subsidized market and also steals money from those who send their kids to private schools through a coercive system of taxation?
    Yes, it is hard to compete with a free product.

    Thursday, Jan 08, 2004
    Bad contracts
    Lawyers like to argue that only a lawyer should draft contracts. This one says that you can edit one down from a standard form, but advises against it because:
    Your time is not free. And when you are done, your contract will be too short. Because business people have some strange belief that all contracts should be short, and that clauses dealing with unlikely events are less important than brevity.
    Brevity has its advantages. Such contracts are usually easier to understand and enforce. Often the parties cannot predict what they want in the case of those unlikely events anyway.

    Read this story about a contract dispute between Novell and SCO. Novell sold the Unix business to SCO in 1994, and probably spent $100k on lawyers drafting the contracts. But the contracts are ambiguous about the most important part of the whole deal: Who owns the Unix copyrights? A simple and amateurish one-page agreement would have been more effective.

    Counselors doing harm
    Bob writes about harmful marriage counselors:
    If a marriage counselor has been trained by those who practice the techniques used in memory recovery, they can indeed do harm. I believe that recovered memories are generated by techniques called thought reform or brainwashing. Margaret Thaler Singer worked with American POWs who were victims of Chinese brainwashing during the Korean war and describes the techniques used in "Cults in Our Midst The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace". Singer describes brainwashing techniques and documents their use by cults. Then read "Abduction Human Encounters With Aliens" by John E. Mack, M.D.. Mack is a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and founder of the Center for Psychology & Social Change. In this book he describes how he treats victims of UFO abduction. My conclusion is that his techniques are variants of the thought reform techniques described by Singer. From what I have read and heard from victims of psychologists who have practiced memory recovery I conclude that their techniques are also examples of thought reform or brainwashing. In both cases, memories of far fetched sexual molestation are generated by techniques such as hypnosis and group self criticism.

    Techniques available to trained psychologists are sufficiently powerful to convince people to believe that they have been abducted by space aliens or sexually molested by innocent parents. These techniques may be appropriate to help sick patients, but are also capable of doing harm.

    The recovery memory method is based on Freudian quackery. Freudian psychoanalysis is based on the hypothesis that very early childhood memories are retained and repressed, and cause adult neuroses. Freud's ideas never had any scientific basis, all all attempts to verify Freud's ideas have failed.

    Andy writes:

    Roger, I see you're attacking marriage counselors on your blog.

    Marriage counselors are simply mediators, and mediators are far preferable to litigation. This is no different from any other dispute. Do the parties want to resolve it with assistance by a mediator, or turn the matter over to a pure stranger (judge) to make arbitrary decisions?

    As to marriage disputes themselves, I'm convinced that most are simply due to lack of attention by one (or both) spouses to the other. We are creatures of attention, and women probably need it more than men. Without attention, we're lonely and unhappy.

    I don't think many marriage counselors would be happy calling themselves simple mediators -- they give advice. Nor do I think that they are substitutes for judicial decision-making. I'd like to see some empirical evidence that they do some good.

    Wednesday, Jan 07, 2004
    Yelling at kids
    John sends this story on yelling at kids:
    Dr. Murray A. Straus of the Family Research Laboratory in Durham, New Hampshire, surveyed 991 parents, and found that "98 percent had used some form of psychological aggression, such as yelling, threats of spanking, and name-calling, to discipline their children by the time they were five years old."

    ("Only 98 percent?" my wife asked. "Some lied," I answered.)

    It explains how parents need to nag kids like: "Don't run on the ice".

    I yell at kids too, but I think that there are more effective methods than telling a kid not to run on ice. It is much better to the kid on ice, and let her slip and fall in a controlled and safe manner. I figure that the kid will eventually slip on ice no matter what I tell her, so I as might as well make sure she does it safely. That way she learns much better.

    Intel makes chips, not innovations
    The NY Times quotes Intel spokesman John H. F. Miner:
    "At Intel, we rely on external innovation," Mr. Miner said. "We just build the chips."
    Wow. Intel is one of the biggest and most profitable high-tech companies in the world, and admits that it cannot invent anything new.

    Tuesday, Jan 06, 2004
    The Butterfly Effect
    The butterfly effect is idea that very small causes can produce dramatically out-of-proportion effects. A mathematician named Edward Lorenz showed in the 1960s that the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil might set off a tornado in Texas. There is also a movie about to be released with that name. (The trailer is here.)

    There needs to be another name for the notion that we can prevent tornadoes by killing all the butterflies. I'll call it the butterfly fallacy, unless I think of something better. Often someone will claim that A causes B, where A is anything and B is some bad thing, and then people will try to ban A in order to prevent B. When they find that the ban on A causes other bad things, they blame the law of unintended consequences. When they find that B is not even diminished, they get real confused.

    G W Bush thinks that his reelection will be helped by offering registration and amnesty for illegal aliens from Mexico. He should talk to Gray Davis, who thought the same thing. As it turned out, his plan to give drivers licenses to illegal aliens only clinched his ouster.

    Monday, Jan 05, 2004
    Martha Stewart jurors
    Andy writes:
    Jury selection is tomorrow for Martha Stewart. Some court observers feel that most trials are effectively over upon jury selection and opening statements. Alger Hiss' first attorney understood that. His second attorney may not have.

    Martha Stewart should seek to seat jurors who are:
    (a) the wealthy and the Martha Stewart wannabees
    (b) the upper East Siders who voted for Bill Clinton
    (c) the alienated, outraged or downtrodden who dislike US Govt
    (d) people who trade frequently in stocks
    (e) business owners

    John was kind enough to circulate a NY Post article on this topic. I have my pick but will await the opinions of others.

    Bad headlines
    The San Jose Mercury Newspaper has terrible headline writers. Today's paper has a page 1 story with the headine: Incredulous scientists pore over photos sent back by Mars craft. But nothing in the story indicates that any scientists were incredulous, as the Mars craft did just exactly what it was supposed to do. It would be incredulous if it were sending back pictures of little green men.

    The story was just a copy of the Wash Post article with the headline: A Triumphant Landing on Mars.

    Sunday, Jan 04, 2004
    Alleged molesters are innocent until proven guilty
    When an convicted murderer on death row gets off of death row somehow, the liberal newspapers celebrate him as some sort of mistreated innocent. But when some alleged child molesters go free because they were wrongfully prosecuted, the San Jose Mercury News Top Story is Victims of molesters relive pain after ruling.

    The ruling was that accused molesters could not be prosecuted after the 6-year statute of limitations has expired. Some of those people were serving life sentences based on flimsy evidence from 20 years earlier. They were not lawfully convicted, according to the US Supreme Court, so they should just be called alleged victims and alleged molesters.

    The SJMN has been on the warpath against sex offenders, and has had a series of articles urging an expansion of Megan's laws.

    George writes:

    Some of those molesters confessed to their crimes. You would not be so forgiving if it happened to you.
    If it happened to me, I wouldn't wait 6 years to complain about it. I am not forgiving them, but I do think that it is nearly always impossible to get to the truth behind an alleged sex crime when the first complaint comes in 6+ years later. The confessions may have been part of plea bargains that got them reduced sentences.

    Chris writes:

    “If it happened to me, I wouldn't wait 6 years to complain about it.”

    I can appreciate you would feel this way about molestation and often the most difficult thing to understand about molestation is the reaction of the victims. It is very common for those molested to either suppress the molestation or to be in such thrall to their molesters that they find it difficult if not impossible to admit the molestation even to themselves.

    This does not go as far as the ‘suppressed memory’ movement would suggest but it is not at all uncommon for victims to be in denial for even years after the event. In fact when discussing the molestation of young children, particularly by their parents or a close family member it is important to remember that this can prevent the complete integration of their personalities. It is such a deep and fundamental betrayal of trust that many victims never recover and the molestation destroys any opportunity for a normal life.

    For an individual who has not experienced the deeply destructive effects of this type of event on their life can never really comprehend the behavior of the victim. It is similar to the relationship that one has with a psychotic individual. As a ‘normal’ person it is impossible to understand the disturbed individual’s behavior because the behavior is viewed through a prism of rationality that does not exist in the disturbed individual.

    The same is true of the victims of molestation which makes it difficult to relate to their behavior after the fact.

    I think that the statute of limitations should be reduced for most crimes and civil complaints. When an Anita Hill or Paula Jones brings some complaint about some incident years into the past, and it is nothing but her word against his word, then it just isn't possible for the courts to find the truth.

    I am skeptical that there is any such thing as permanent psychological damage. Many people have horrible things happen to them, and yet go on to live normal and well-adjusted lives.

    Even assuming that the damage is so severe, and that the courts can determine guilt, I still question whether the judicial system can do anything constructive. More likely, it will just make a bad situation worse. And what about the damage done to the innocent, even if they are acquitted?

    There was a recent case in Santa Cruz of a man who was tried and convicted of raping his wife. She wasn't really his wife, but they lived together for several years, had at least one child together, and continued to have some sort of strange love-hate relationship even after they separated. At the trial, the woman testified that no rape ever occurred. She never made any complaint at the time of the alleged rape, either, and there were no eye-witnesses or physical evidence. All the cops had was a comment she made later in a fit of anger.

    The jury was persuaded by 2 witnesses, neither of which even knew the facts of the case:

  • The defendant's previous ex-wife was flown in from Oregon to badmouth him.
  • A prosecution expert witness testified that the defendant matched the profile of a wife-raper.

    The jury decided that the alleged victim was lying to protect the defendant, because she thought that he was a good father to their kid, and she wanted to keep him out of jail so he could continue to see the kid. The conviction was likely to get him a 10-year sentence. (I got all this info from one of the jurors.)

    Chris writes:

    “I am skeptical that there is any such thing as permanent psychological damage. Many people have horrible things happen to them, and yet go on to live normal and well-adjusted lives.”

    I think you need to say ‘appear’ to lead normal and well-adjusted lives. The reality is far different and far sadder than we want to admit. You have many cases where the best that the individual accomplishes is the appearance of normalcy to the outside world while the sense of well-being and happiness that we all take for granted does not exist.

    Do individuals overcome horrible events in their lives? Absolutely. Do many individuals that have terrible, on-going abuse, physical, emotional or sexual, fail to overcome them or become a fraction of what they might have been? Absolutely. By and large the issue is the length of the events, there frequency and their severity as well as any access to help and emotional support from some other players in their life.

    The events that you relate as a rebuttal to my remarks are an excellent example. In the case you mention the woman is unable to conceive of any solution to here life that excludes a man, whom testimony showed, physically and emotionally abused her and her son on a consistent basis. She was the victim of earlier abuse that taught here that the environment she lived in was normal. Her son will almost certainly grow up to abuse others. The courts, however imperfectly are attempting to stop this cycle of abuse and violence that stems from our earliest history.

    Generation after generation of children raised in chaotic and abusive family circumstances (at all levels of the socio-economic ladder) grow up and perpetuate the life that they were raised to. They become sociopaths, predators in the case of men, and the willing victims in the case of woman.

    Denying this unpleasant truth by trying to force our courts to stop being involved is a sad response and ultimately will only increase the number of victims.

    Another view comes from a New York judge:
    A village judge has resigned after he was accused of saying most women enjoy abuse and ask to get "smacked around" and that domestic violence cases are a waste of the court's time.
    Help Save California
    The California state govt is in a fiscal mess, but there is a simple thing that California parents can do to help: Keep your kid home from school more often. Every day your kid stays home from school, either for medical, personal, or other reasons, California saves about $35.

    With flu bugs prevalent, the schools are easily accommodating the absences. The student's education would probably even benefit if he played hooky every Friday and read a book instead. If every kid was absent every Friday, then the state would save billions of dollars.

    Pete Rose
    I am sure that everyone will say it is now a proven fact that Pete Rose bet on baseball, when his new book admits it. But I don't buy it.

    Rose has apparently been told that such an admission is the only way that he'll get what he really wants -- reinstatement by MLB and eligibility for the Baseball Hall Of Fame. The admission is also probably the only way his book will be a best-seller. So whereas people usually assume that an admission of guilt is true, I think that it is just another piece of self-serving self-promotion that should be viewed with skepticism.

    Saturday, Jan 03, 2004
    Posner censors speech again
    Andy writes:
    Judge Posner just upheld censorship of a teacher who merely published school test questions to criticize them. The decision spells trouble for accountability in testing, not to mention free speech.

    Meanwhile, Judge Posner is getting goofier in his language, probably with the hubris that he can change grammatical rules. Here is one example: The teacher "did this because he thought them bad tests ..." (Slip op. at 4).

    Posner criticized the teacher for not citing Posner's Aimster decision, where Posner said that it was clearly a copyright infringement to fast-forward thru a recorded commercial. He also says:
    He insists that he had to copy six tests out of the 22 to 44 tests given in January 1999 (it is unclear from the record which number is correct, so we will give Schmidt the benefit of the doubt and assume that it is the higher number) in order to drive his criticisms home. But he does not explain why, or indicate witnesses or documents that might support such an argument. Granted that he had to quote some of the test questions in order to substantiate his criticisms, why entire tests? Does he think all the questions in all six tests bad? He does not say. What purpose is served by quoting the good questions? Again, no answer.
    But later Posner mentions that Schmidt did give the obvious explanation for why an entire test has to be copied:
    The memorandum argues that if Schmidt quoted only a few of the questions, the school board would respond that he was cherry-picking the worst.
    So Posner is really just complaining that Schmidt made the argument in a memorandum cited by his appellate brief, instead of in the appellate brief itself!

    Part of the problem here is that Posner subscribes to a theory of copyright law that says that unpublished works should have stronger copyright protection than published works. This turns copyright theory on its head, since the whole point of copyright law is to promote the availability of publications.

    Posner also says:

    If ever a “floodgates” argument had persuasive force, therefore, it is in this case. ... If Schmidt wins this case, it is goodbye to standardized tests in the Chicago public school system; Schmidt, his allies, and the federal courts will have wrested control of educational policy from the Chicago public school authorities.
    US copyright protection on unpublished works has only been available for about 25 years. Obviously, the schools have been using standardized tests a lot longer than that. The testmakers can use trade secret laws and other laws to protect their confidentiality if they wish.

    Similar arguments used to be given for why the ETS SAT exam must be kept secret. And yet the old exams are now published, no ill effect (except that ETS is exposed to more public scrutiny.

    Friday, Jan 02, 2004
    Marriage counselors
    People commonly believe that (1) the purpose to marriage counselors is to save marriages, and (2) marriage counseling works. I doubt both. I think that most marriage counselors would say that their purpose is more to help people understand themselves and their partners, and to help making decisions about their lives. If the marriage counselor thinks that the marriage is doomed, then she will push divorce and try to alleviate guilt about it.

    It is easy to find people who claim that they have been helped by marriage counselors, but it is just as easy to find people who say they've been helped by vitamin C or dubious food supplements. The apparent benefit can be explained like the placebo effect. Marriages have their ups and downs, and people are most likely to see a counselor at the bottom of a trough. Maybe they would have improved faster without the counselor.

    Also, successful counselors are good at convincing clients that their services are worthwhile. Astrologers, acupuncturists, and other quacks do the same thing. But I don't think that there is any scientific evidence that their services are worthwhile.

    If you want to get an idea about how shrinks are supposed to be diagnosing people, see this summary of the DSM IV.

    George writes:

    Maybe counseling doesn't help some people. But it can't do any harm, and it surely helps others, so it surely has an overall positive effect.
    Counselors, shrinks, and other therapists can certainly do a lot of harm. They can give very bad advice, either because they don't have all the facts, or they have different value, or whatever, and people can foolishly follow that bad advice because it has an air of authority. Bad advice and bad diagnoses do a lot of harm.

    Even when therapists give good advice, they can harm people because they don't learn to solve their own problems.