Dark Buzz

Natura non facit saltus
Debunking the Paradigm Shifters


Dark Buzz
RSS feed
Singular Values

About these blogs

Schlafly net

Powered by RogBlog


Tuesday, Mar 30, 2004
Effect of music piracy
A Wash Post story says:
Internet music piracy has no negative effect on legitimate music sales, according to a study released today by two university researchers that contradicts the music industry's assertion that the illegal downloading of music online is taking a big bite out of its bottom line.
If this is correct, then the whole theory about irreparable harm that underlies the RIAA lawsuits evaporates.

Meanwhile, a Canadian judge has ruled in favor of P2P networks and against the record industry plaintiffs.

Bush will win
InstaPundit wonders why the Iowa Electronic Markets show Bush gaining over Kerry, when it hasn't been a good month for Bush.

Dick Morris has an explanation. All the publicity from the 9-11 Commission and Richard Clarke has drawn attention to Bush's anti-terrorism efforts. Even tho much of it has been critical, nearly everone believes that Bush will be much stronger on anti-terrorism than Kerry. The more terrorism is in the news, the more it benefits Bush. Kerry's only hope is to talk about domestic economic issues like jobs.

I think that Bush will win easily in November. Bush will have to make a lot of mistakes to lose. Not letting C. Rice testify was a mistake, but just a minor one, and one that has apparently now been corrected.

George writes:

You don't think that Clarke is credible? Kerry is a war hero, and if he seizes the terrorism issue, then Bush is cooked.
No, I don't think that Clarke is credible. He is just a disgruntled ex-official like Paul O'Neill who has been talked into being a partisan attack dog for the election.

Yes, Kerry served in Vietnam for 4 months. He got 3 Purple Hearts for 3 injuries, but nobody seems to be able to say what those injuries were. Maybe he scratched himself shaving and needed a band-aid.

Kerry is much more famous as an anti-war hero. In the 1970s he attacked the whole US military, and in the 1980s he led support for the nuclear freeze movement. Yes, Bill Clinton got elected even tho he had a history of loathing the military, but Kerry is worse and those views are more unpopular now.

Chris writes:

Why are ad-hominum attacks against those you oppose acceptable while the same on those you support unacceptable. You dismiss any political argument you hear that does not agree with your politics as "Bush hating" and thus unnecessary of thought or rebuttal.

It is hard to dismiss a thirty year veteran of government service with Republican leanings as a ‘partisan attack dog.’ It is particularly hard to dismiss Clarke’s critiques because of the inability of the administration to counter the substance of his arguments.

Have you served in the Armed Forces? Do you have any Purple Hearts? Are you really suggesting that during Kerry’s tour in Vietnam he was not seriously involved in fighting the Viet Cong? You think that Bush’s service in the National Guard where he was removed from flight service is a better preparation for being Commander in Chief that Kerry’s experience? Are you saying that leading opposition to a war that the vast majority of Americans now recognize was a huge mistake was wrong or inappropriate?

It is easy to dismiss Clarke's arguments because they have no substance, because they contradict his earlier statements, and because he has joined the anti-Bush campaign. He complains about how Bush let the 9-11 attack happen, but when Clarke was in a position to do something, he never recommended anything that would have prevented the 9-11 attack.

Clarke complains that we should not have gone to war against Iraq a year and half after 9-11 because that distracted from the hunt for bin Laden. I do not agree. Our military cannot be paralyzed for years just because one bad guy is hiding in a cave somewhere.

No, I didn't serve. Yes, Kerry served in dangerous combat for a couple of months. No, I do not think that Kerry's service prepared him well to be Commander in Chief. What did he learn from it? He became very anti-military. No, I don't think that most Americans agree with the things that he said about the Vietnam war. And I hope that they don't agree with what he said about the nuclear freeze. Kerry was opposing the very successful Reagan Doctrine that won the Cold War.

My main problem with Kerry is that his foreign policy positions are so incoherent. I've tried to listen to his various explanations of his votes on the wars in Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc, and I don't even see the pattern. He makes no sense.

Chris responds to my comments about Clarke, saying:

Try this link .
That blog makes 2 points: (1) That Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist made stronger anti-Clarke statements on the Senate floor than he was willing to say elsewhere, and (2) White House spokesmen reversed themselves about whether Bush met with Clarke and asked him to investigate Iraq.

Frist's behavior is easily explained by the (overlooked) fact that comments on the Senate floor are privileged, and not subject to libel suits. If Frist repeated them outside the Senate, then he could find himself the target of a publicity-seeking lawsuit, and be unable to get it dismissed because the relevant documents are classified.

I don't know why anyone would be surprised if Bush asked Clarke to investigate Iraq. I am sure Bush had dozens of meetings in which he asked dozens of officials to investigate Iraq. Whether one of those was with Clarke, I don't know, and I don't see why it would have any particular significance.

Bob writes:

I find Clarke credible on the facts, but disagree with his opinions. I hear Republican attack dogs claim that Clarke has contradicted himself and they cite opinions or squishy facts which are subject to interpretation. Meanwhile, members of the Bush administration are contradicting each other on matters of fact such as whether we had a military plan and capability to execute such a plan against the Taliban before 9/11. We will see whether Frist can nail Clarke with perjury. I bet that there will be no indictment and will give odds against a conviction.

Clarke's factual claims against the Bush administration are weak and tepid. Bush didn't give top priority to al Quida before 9/11, but who did? Liberals make a big deal of Clarke's claim that the invasion of Iraq weakened the war on al Quida. This is not a matter of fact, but an opinion which is easily refuted. Bin Laden and many of his top al Quida henchmen have been hiding out in Waziristan under the protection of the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, who created the Taliban. Tenet claims that uncovering Kahn's nuclear weapon development shop was a CIA triumph. Perhaps, but it would have been meaningless without the smoking gun evidence against Pakistan provided by Libya and Iran. It is difficult to argue that Iran and Libya would have cooperated as much as they have on nuclear proliferation without the example of Iraq to encourage them. The result of the smoking gun evidence on Pakistan's nuclear proliferation is at least some cooperation from Pakistan in cleaning the Taliban and al Quida goons out of Waziristan. This would never have happened without the invasion of Iraq. Clarke claims that the special operation forces which were redeployed from Afghanistan to Iraq would have been able to hunt down al Quida. Nonsense. Pakistan has been off limits to US military operations.

It is as though Clarke has thrown a dummy hand grenade into a Bush cabinet meeting. The only harm has been done by Bush administration people behaving in an unseemly manner and not getting their stories straight. Clarke should have been ignored. Attacking Clarke's credibility was a huge blunder. I haven't yet heard any claims against Clarke's credibility which amount to 1/10th the Bush administration's credibility problems with their statements on WMD.

The claim that Bush did not make counterterrorism efforts a top priority is old news. Bob Woodward's book, Bush At War, quoted Bush himself as saying that he had no "sense of urgency" in catching bin Laden before 9-11. That was 2 years ago.

The Bush poll numbers are up. I think that Bush has been helped by counterattacking Clarke.

Even the anti-Bush leftist lawyer Larry Lessig finds Clarke to be not credible because of his various contradictions.

Saturday, Mar 27, 2004
Abel Prize
The Abel Prize (ie, Nobel Prize for Mathematics) was just award to M. Atiyah and I. Singer for their Index Theorem. The first prize went to J.-P. Serre last year. Good choices.

Thursday, Mar 25, 2004
Computer science in decline
The Si Valley paper reports that university computer science enrollments are sharply down.

No surprise. It is the law of supply and demand. 10% of info tech jobs are being outsourced offshore, according to this estimate. That is enough to send many thousands of workers scrambling for new careers, and leaves no room for new workers.

The search for the missing link
For 100 years, evolutionists have been searching for the missing link that connects humans to apes. Several fossils have been proposed.

Now, new researchers claim that the missing link is a gene, not a fossil! The claim is that 2.5 Myrs ago, a human ancestor had a gene mutation causing all his kids to have weak jaws. With weak jaws, they had to talk their way out of trouble instead of biting their way out, and this was the crucial breakthrough that led to them evolving into humans (after a couple of million years).

Monday, Mar 22, 2004
Silly quote
Today's Si Valley paper has a story on same-sex couples that says:
More than half of same-sex couples own their own home. And though they can't legally marry, as many as a third have tied the knot before.
So apparently they can legally marry -- a third of them have done it before!

I suppose that it is possible that some of them never got a divorce, and hence cannot legally marry because of bigamy laws.

Sunday, Mar 21, 2004
Tom Sell, held without trial
Andy sends this St. Louis story about the continuing saga of Tom Sell. He is a dentist who has been held in prison without trial since 1998, on various implausible charges. The case is very strange. It does appear that various federal judges and agents were out to get him for various reasons.

Wednesday, Mar 17, 2004
Martha's Stewart's bad advice
John writes:
This article names the high-priced lawyer whose bad advice led to Martha's downfall: John Savarese of Wachtell, Lipton.
The Martha Stewart case will surely go down in history as one of terrible legal advice. Stewart only went to trial because of terrible (and probably criminal) advice from Savarese, and she had very bad lawyering at trial as well. She spent a lot of money on lawyers, but probably would have been better off with a public defender.

Liza writes:

I read this article and I don't think Martha's lawyers should be faulted for the outcome. She was extremely difficult to "manage."
John responds:
Liza, do you also think Bob Bennett should not be faulted for Clinton's impeachment? In 1998 Alan Dershowitz said it was legal malpractice for Bennett to permit Clinton to be deposed in the Paula Jones case, knowing full well he could be questioned about other women. Bennett should have insisted that Clinton default the Jones case to avoid testifying.

The parallels between Martha Stewart and Bill Clinton seem stronger than ever. It was inexcusable for the Wachtell lawyer to permit Martha to tell and retell her unbelievable, unprovable story to U.S. government investigators.

Martha hired that lawyer to keep her out of jail. Instead, following his bad advice is what is sending her to jail, just as surely as if the lawyer had testified against her.

And then there was the lawyer who approved Martha's written statement to her own shareholders, retelling the same bogus story. (That's what led to the additional securities fraud charge, which the judge dismissed just before the jury deliberated.) Despite the length of the New Yorker article by the usually insufferable, Clinton-defending Jeffrey Toobin, he doesn't even mention that additional statement so I don't know if it was advised by the same Wachtell lawyer, John Savarese.

I agree with John. Bob Bennett and John Savarese are two of the worst lawyers imaginable. If they had been bribed to sabotage the interests of their clients, it is hard to see how they could have done a better job of ruining their clients' lives. Just about any other course of action would have been better.

Bennett was litigating the case with a strategy that had everything to lose and nothing to gain. Clinton would have been better off defaulting the case than winning, both in terms of money paid and adverse publicity.

Bennett's and Savarese's behavior was not only foolish and incompetent, but it was very likely criminal as well. Their careers have been saved only by the attorney-client privilege.

Liza writes:

Roger and John do not have the experience of representing many clients that I, and to a lesser extent Andy, have. I have news for you Clients who hire expensive lawyers are usually not sheep, i.e., they don't necessarily follow their lawyer's advice or tell them everything. We know Martha Stewart was a pain in the neck for anyone to deal with - abusive, stubborn, demanding, very busy, hard to reach, with a terrible temper. She evidently considered her travel schedule, including a quick trip to Germany, more important than preparing for the federal questioning with Savarese. We also know that, like Bill Clinton, she was a liar. Both may well have lied to or concealed facts from their own attorneys. The article below indicates that Martha's lawyers presented her with a plea bargain deal and she rejected it. She also did things without consulting her lawyers which they would surely have objected to, like attempting to doctor an e-mail, doing the pre-trial interview with the New Yorker writer, and proclaiming her innocence on her web site right after the guilty verdict.

We have no reason to blame the lawyers in either Martha's or Clinton's case.

No sympathy here. You want to represent crooks and liars, and then complain that they are difficult to deal with?!

Of course Clinton and Stewart are not sheep. They shouldn't just blindly follow lawyer advice. I would have also rejected that plea deal. It was a lousy deal. I might have also withheld facts from my attorney. But Clinton and Stewart ended up with legal strategies that they would have been very unlikely to adopt on their own. Those strategies have bad lawyering written all over them.

John writes:

Liza misses the point. Obviously, the lawyers can't be blamed for whatever the client did before the lawyer was hired, or against the lawyer's advice. I do blame the lawyers for the advice they gave their clients, the course of action the lawyers chose, and the statements the lawyers approved.

Both Clinton's and Stewart's reputations preceded them when they walked into their lawyer's office. Both lawyers had every reason to know what kind of people they were dealing with. High priced lawyers are expected to have the strength of character and personality to effectively control such difficult clients.

Before Bill Clinton sat for that deposition, his lawyer knew or should have known that his client was a world-class womanizer and prevaricator; that the Paula Jones case was being supported by Clinton's political enemies; and that a change in the Federal Rules of Evidence (which Clinton himself signed as part of VAWA) permitted discovery of other women.

Those facts were more than enough for a competent legal counselor to forbid him to depose in that case and Bob Bennett's failure to do so was clearly malpractice.

Similarly, Martha Stewart's character - in particular her abusive treatment of servants and underlings - was widely known when she consulted lawyer Savarese. The story she told to explain her Imclone stock trade was simply not believable. Savarese had to know that the story lacked any documentation and depended on the corroboration of servants who could not be relied upon.

And of course he had to know it's a felony to deceive or mislead federal investigators even if you are not under oath. Hence, it was clearly malpractice for him to permit Martha to tell and retell that story.

Liza points out that the lawyer could only recommend a plea bargain but could not force Martha to accept it. Of course, that was long after she had made the false statements which I maintain her lawyer should have prevented. But even at the point where the plea bargain was available, I doubt that her lawyers advised her just how dire her situation was. I doubt they told her frankly that she had no case and was certain to be convicted. Instead, they allowed her to think she might actually win at

John, I think that you are a little mixed up here. The lawyer works for the client, not vice versa. Clinton and Stewart do not take orders from lawyers, even if they do charge million-dollar fees.

Andy writes:

Toobin's article is what one would expect from a liberal interesting at first glance, but lacking in substance.

Its most obvious flaw is that he omits any real discussion of the jury. That would be like writing about a presidential administration without analyzing the president. A waste of time at best.

Toobin is right that great prosecutors can be lousy defense attorneys. No kidding. How about this one people trained as attorneys often make poor analysts.

There was never any chance that Martha would plead guilty, because her injury would have been nearly as bad as being convicted at trial. Plea bargains only happen when there is a big delta between the two.

John responds:
No, I disagree. Once hired, the lawyer's job is to act in the client's best interest, using his best judgment. Contrary to Roger, a good lawyer is far more likely to give orders to the client than take them.

A lawyer's job will frequently involve giving strict orders to the client about what the client may or may not say or do. The Clinton and Stewart cases illustrate how a lawyer's failure to control the client can be legal malpractice.

A client who doesn't like taking the lawyer's orders can fire the lawyer and get another one. Unless and until that happens, the lawyer is in charge.

The idea that a good lawyer had to let Clinton decide whether to give that deposition, or let Martha Stewart decide whether to give that stock story to federal investigators, is just preposterous. In both cases, the lawyer's job was to prevent that calamity, to rescue the client from the client's folly and recklessness.

Tuesday, Mar 16, 2004
Same-sex marriage
John sends this good NRO analysis on how the courts may say that the constitution requires same-sex marriage, even without invoking the full-faith-and-credit clause. It cites the Warren court anti-miscegenation reasoning in the appropriately-named Loving v. Virginia (1967).

If Matthew Franck is right, then HR 3313 may be misguided and ineffective. That is the bill to withdraw jurisdiction from DOMA.

The obvious solution, as I see it, is to add a section to HR 3313 withdrawing federal court jurisdiction from state DOMA laws.

Also, now that I look at it, HR 3313 seems to have another loophole in that it allows federal court jurisdiction over the definition of marriage (but not over full faith and credit). Why? this seems to be an open invitation for judges to create same-sex marriage havens.

John responds:

Hostettler's H.R.3313 removes federal court jurisdiction over both parts of DOMA. H.R. 3313 has two substantive sentences, which track the two parts of DOMA.

The first sentence removes federal court jurisdiction over any claim that state DOMA laws passed by 38 states (as authorized by 28 U.S.C. 1738c) violate the Full Faith and Credit clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The second sentence removes jurisdiction over any claim that the federal definition of marriage (1 U.S.C. 7) violates the Constitution.

It is true that H.R. 3313 does not withdraw federal jurisdiction over a claim that a state's own definition of marriage (as opposed to a state's refusal to recognize marriages from other states) violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That's because the federal DOMA does not address that question.

The philosophy behind the federal DOMA, passed in 1996, was that the federal government has no power to prevent a state from enacting same-sex marriage within its own state, but that such marriages should not be recognized by other states or the federal government. H.R. 3313 is designed to protect the federal DOMA law (and state DOMA laws enacted pursuant thereto) from review by the federal courts.

When DOMA was drafted, the judicial imposition of marriage came only from Hawaii - a state court interpreting state law. That's still the most important theory with Massachusetts and similar cases pending in NJ, California and several other states.

If one of these state supreme courts rules against gay marriage, it's possible the losing party would try to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that state marriage law violates the 14th Amendment.

That goes beyond DOMA, so it would be very tricky to add another section to H.R. 3313 to cover that "loophole." Presumably one would want to cover only same-sex marriage without disturbing previous Supreme Court decisions outlawing interracial and plural marriages.

No. Hostettler's H.R.3313 says:
No court created by Act of Congress shall have any jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court shall have no appellate jurisdiction, to hear or determine any question pertaining to the interpretation of section 1738c of this title or of this section.

Neither the Supreme Court nor any court created by Act of Congress shall have any appellate jurisdiction to hear or determine any question pertaining to the interpretation of section 7 of title 1.

Note that the 2nd sentence only removes appellate jurisdiction. It does not use the same language as the 1st sentence.

There are 2 loopholes.

1. A district court judge in SF could order SF to issue same-sex marriage licenses, and require the feds to honor them. The ruling would not be appealable, and not binding on other states.

2. A federal appellate court could say that the 14A requires same-sex marriages, thereby mandating them nationwide.

I suggest:

1. Changing the 2nd sentence of HR 3313 to remove all federal court jurisdiction, just like the 1st sentence.
2. Adding a 3rd sentence saying:

No court created by Act of Congress shall have any jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court shall have no appellate jurisdiction, to hear or determine any question pertaining to the constitutionality of any state law limiting marriage benefits to opposite-sex couples.
The idea is prohibit the federal courts from challenging state DOMAs. A state court could still invalidate a state DOMA, but that would have no effect on other states.

John responds:

I cannot explain why the second sentence is limited to appellate jurisdiction (even though it applies to all federal courts, not just the Supreme Court). I can't explain why the two sentences are worded differently. There's no legislative history, so we'll just have to ask Hostettler what he had in mind.

First of all, you're talking about the states' own marriage laws, not the DOMAs. (State DOMAs are the laws passed in 38 states since 1996 which limit the recognition of marriages from other states. H.R. 3313 as it stands does prohibit federal courts from challenging state DOMAs.)

Second, you're making a substantive change which will make the bill politically harder to pass, for two reasons (1) it raises tricky legal questions that have never been confronted before, and (2) it goes beyond the federal DOMA that Congress already passed.

A major selling point of H.R. 3313 is that it merely protects the DOMA that Congress already passed by huge margins (342-67 and 85-14). It doesn't ask people to do anything new, just to stand by what they have already done.

A considerable number of Senators and Reps have said they think DOMA takes care of the issue at the federal level and they see no need to do anything further unless DOMA is declared unconstitutional. Hostettler caters to that attitude by insuring that DOMA can't be declared unconstitutional.

Those Congressmen are wrong, as the NRO article explains. I thought that John agreed to that. Furthermore, I've demonstrated that Hostettler's bill has 2 major loopholes.

Yes, of course I am making 2 substantive changes, because Hostettler's bill is fatally flawed.

The purpose of DOMA was to say that federal law should not be used to promote same-sex marriage. Withdrawing jurisdiction, as I've proposed, is intended to keep the federal courts from circumventing DOMA, so that neither federal law nor federal courts will promote same-sex marriage. Hostettler's bill just doesn't do it.

Chris writes:

Without understanding your fixation of preventing same-sex marriages I think there is a deeper problem with this approach.

What is to prevent Congress, or the states, from passing further laws that are immune from judicial oversight. Couldn’t Congress pass a law, say declaring that woman are the property of their husband and not free to institute divorce proceedings and declare that law free from judicial review? When does this process end?

The entire point of judicial review is to make sure that all of our laws adhere to the principles laid out in our constitution. Since this understanding changes and morphs over time there is progress from an earlier views which allowed slavery, the denial of the franchise to woman, the ability of the police to torture suspects and other behaviors which we would find aberrant to the current world view in which we find ourselves now. Certainly, in the future, we will find that policies and laws currently considered appropriate and proper will no longer be tolerated.

Trying to cast our prejudices beyond the reach of the Federal Courts seems an approach doomed to failure.

Congress only controls the federal courts, and the laws for property and marriage are almost entirely matters for the states. So Congress cannot ban divorce or anything like that.

The USA law on slavery and women's vote was not changed by enlightened judges, but by the 13th and 19th amendments to the Constitution. When activist judges were asked to rule on slavery, the Supreme Court gave us the aggressively pro-slavery and prejudiced Dred Scott decision of 1857.

If the judges were really sticking to the Constitution, then I'd have no problem with it. But we now have judges who think that the whole point of judicial review is pursue their own agendas, rather than adhering to the principles laid out in our constitution.

I don't care that much about same-sex marriage, but I do care that we have a government that has been taken over by crooked judges.

Chris responds:

I understood this entire discussion to be about Congress's attempts to override the states' controls over marriage and to prevent the federal courts from ruling on the issue altogehter.

In a further discussion on the entire subject I offer the following Slate Article.

No, the idea behind keeping the federal courts from ruling on marriage is to let the states do what they want. The federal Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) allows states to pass same-sex marriage laws, if they wish. Removing federal court jurisdiction from DOMA would only reinforce that.

I happen to have a low opinion of Dahlia Lithwick, that Slate columnist. This column is about a proposal for Congress to override a Supreme Court decision, "to the extent that judgment concerns the constitutionality of an Act of Congress". It would be somewhat analogous to overriding a presidential veto. The sponsor, Ron Lewis, proposed it as a regular law or as a constitutional amendment. He said:

America's judicial branch has become increasingly overreaching and disconnected from the values of everyday Americans ...

Our Founding Fathers created three separate branches of government, each with equal checks and balances on the other. Our founders also ensured that each branch, including Congress, play a role in constitutional interpretation, requiring officials in each branch to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution. ...

In his first Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln warned, ``The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.''

I agree with these points. I am dubious about the effectiveness of his plan, because Canada has a similar law and it doesn't do much good. But Lewis makes a lot more sense than Lithwick.

Lithwick misstates the bill, and complains that it does not cover the Pledge of Allegiance case because that was a 9th Circuit ruling. But that Pledge case is currently being reviewed by the US Supreme Court, and could possibly resulted in a ruling that the Congress acted unconstitutionally when it added "under God" to the Pledge about 50 years ago. If that happens, then I certainly think that Congress should do something about it.

Here is a summary of Ten Bills to Battle Judicial Activism.

Sunday, Mar 14, 2004
Da Vinci ripoff
John sends a NY Post story (no longer online) about evidence that the best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code plagiarized a plot from a 1983 novel, The Da Vinci Legacy.

Mike writes:

This was discussed -- with no accusation of "plagiarism" (so that definitely overstates it!) -- in a NYT Book Review editorial (inside back page, I think) a week or two ago.

Only claim I see here is that Brown's book (alone with others) is a spin-off of "Plantard's hoax." Claiming it's plagiarism, is like claiming all vampire books plagiarisms. I don't think embellishment of a (well-known) fictional plot is the same thing as plagiarism!

Yes, but the NY Times story does not mention the books by Lewis Perdue with extremely similar plots.

Bram Stoker might be suing the various Dracula vampire ripoffs, except that the copyright expired a long time ago.

Update: Lewis Purdue sends this page outlining the similarities.

Bernie Ebbers
John sends this article about MCI WorldCom writing down $74B in losses, and writes, "Did somebody say Bernie Ebbers was a 'genius'?"

Andy responds:

Yes, I did. And the article supports what I said, showing how WorldCom has enormous revenues and $6B in cash, all while transforming the entire telecom industry. AT&T, in contrast, could ultimately be headed for the real trash heap. Of course the current management of WorldCom has every incentive in Chapter 11 to redo its accounting and write down every asset that it can. It will make that powerful company look as broke as possible. But nothing in the article demonstrates that Ebbers did anything wrong. The only corruption here is between the current management of WorldCom and Oklahoma, which is dropping its criminal indictment in exchange for the promise of 1600 jobs for the state! Worse, it will continue its witchhunt against Ebbers, the man who created the jobs enjoyed by WorldCom's current management. That illustrates how utilitarian, demented criminal "justice" has become.

Thursday, Mar 11, 2004
School science project
My kid's school had a science fair, and I got to see what she is learning for science. Her project was on answering, "How do octopuses glide at the bottom of the sea?" She was supposed to develop a hypothesis, test it, and come to a conclusion.

Unfortunately, she didn't have any access to any real octopuses, and she was in over her head anyway, so all she could do was to look it up in an encyclopedia. Nevertheless, she had a nice looking exhibit that made it look like some experiments were done, and it had the conclusion:

To swim, octopuses squirt water from a special siphon in their bodies. A siphon is a tube shaped organ of a clam, oyster, or certain other shellfish for drawing in and expelling water.
I read this in her classroom, and said, "so the octopus swims by just sucking in water and spitting it out?"

She then adopted a look and tone of embarrassment, and said, "Oh Daddy ... I don't know what 'expelling' means, but I am sure the octopus doesn't do any spitting!"

I wonder if there was any scientific learning in this exercise at all.

Martha's Stewart's guilt
John sends this NRO column by Andrew C. McCarthy complaining that some of his fellow conservatives think that Martha Stewart was wrongfully prosecuted. His main premise is that Stewart was guilty of the crime of insider trading, but the prosecutor waived that charge out of beneficence. He says Steward deserved what she got because she could have been convicted of insider trading. He says:
Under settled legal standards, a person such as Stewart, who trades after being tipped off to material, non-public information, may be found guilty of insider trading under the misappropriation theory if she knows the tip came from a violation of someone else's fiduciary duty.
No, I don't think that is well settled. Very few people have been prosecuted under such a theory, and it is my understanding that most of them have gotten off. But even if you accept that standard, Martha probably didn't know whether Waksal was lawfully selling, or whether Peter Bacanovic was lawfully transmitting the info.

I think that it was almost surely the case that Stewart was not prosecuted criminally for insider trading because she would likely be acquitted. As it turned out, by dropping the charge, she was effectively acquitted on the charge.

McCarthy also complains about Stewart being guilty of defrauding her investors, but she was also acquitted on that charge.

McCarthy makes a comparision to Bill Clinton's perjury, but I don't buy it. When Clinton lied in the Paula Jones case, he was doing so to defraud Jones out of some money. No one lost money or was harmed by what Stewart did.

Wednesday, Mar 10, 2004
Medical privacy
John sends this NY Times Safire column on medical privacy:
"Congress created a zone of privacy relating to medical information," says Chicago Congressman Rahm Emanuel. "Who would have thought the first one to violate it would be the federal government?"
Who would have thought?! Is this clown kidding? About 3 years ago, Eagle Forum recommended that every write public comments to HHS saying:
The proposed regulations maintain current practices that permit public health officials an open door to accessing personal health information without patient consent. However, the proposed regulations expand the definition of a public health official to include government officials from agencies such as the EPA, NTSB, OSHA, FDA, and others. This broad definition is quite troubling and entirely unacceptable. Public health official access should be more limited, and patient consent should still be required.
SF news, as reported in Chicago
This Chicago Sun-Times story about Rosie O'Donnell is no longer online, but you can still see the headline on Google:
Rosie weds longtime girlfriend, slams Bush

Monday, Mar 08, 2004
NPR Bias
I just listened to NPR news, and was reminded about its leftist bias. It said that 2 men were married in New Jersey, without mentioning that the alleged marriage is unlikely to be recognized by most govt entities.

NPR had a long segment on how, 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, many minority kids have to attend schools that are mostly minority, and are consequently receiving an inferior education. It quoted Latinos with extremely anti-American views.

It failed to mention that:

  • California schoolkids are only about 30% white, so the "majority minority" is expected from the demographics.
  • All California schools get the same per-capita funding.
  • California schools are in a fiscal mess caused by Democrat overspending and illegal aliens.

    It is absurd to blame low Mexican-American literacy on white segregationists. I am annoyed that my tax money supports such kooky propaganda.

  • Sunday, Mar 07, 2004
    The Passion
    Mel Gibson's The Passion is already among the top 50 money grossing movies of all time. I cannot think of another movie that has been so stunningly successful in the face of so many people who disapprove of it. Or one that defied conventional wisdom so much.
    Judge Breyer's ABA speech
    In researching In looking at the history of US judicial supremacy, I am amazed at how the same wrong stories get told over and over again, even tho the facts are so easily obtained. Everyone misrepresents Marbury v Madison, the Cherokee cases, Cooper v. Aaron, etc.

    Judge Breyer's 2001 ABA speech is a good example. He says:

    The lawyer's third, and perhaps most important public service role is that of teacher -- a teacher of our most basic legal and constitutional values. Three cases will help illustrate the importance of that role to our Nation.

    The first case brings us back to the Indian Nations. In 1832 the Cherokee Indian tribe lived on land guaranteed them by treaty. They found gold on that land. Georgia tried to seize the land. The Cherokees sued. And eventually the Supreme Court, in Worcester v. Georgia, held in favor of the Cherokees. Georgia then refused to obey the Court. President Andrew Jackson reportedly said, "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it." And Jackson sent troops to evict the Cherokees, who traveled the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma, thousands dying along the way.

    The Court decided the second case, Cooper v. Aaron, more than a century later. Nine Justices signed an order making clear that the Southern States had to follow Brown v. Board of Education and desegregate their schools. This time the President, President Eisenhower, sent troops to enforce the Court's order, not to defy it. And the Governor of Arkansas backed down, opening the doors of the segregated white school to the black children who wished to enter.

    You may take as my third case any of our Court's most controversial recent decisions, ranging from abortion, to religion, to Bush v. Gore. ...

    These accounts are almost completely wrong. The 1832 case involved prosecuting some missionaries on Cherokee land under state law. No gold was involved. Jackson didn't say the quote, and there was nothing for him to enforce. The Trail of Tears was after Jackson left office.

    He says that Eisenhower sent troops to enforce Cooper v. Aaron. In reality, he sent the troops in 1957, and withdrew the troops at the end of the school year in 1958, before Cooper v. Aaron. The Arkansas schools were being desegregated. Then Cooper v. Aaron threw the Little Rock schools into such chaos that the high schools were closed for the entire 1958-59 academic year. You can read the chronology here.

    Of course Breyer likes Cooper v. Aaron because it was the first statement of judicial supremacy since Dred Scott 1857, but that is no excuse for getting the facts wrong. It appears that his whole judicial philosophy is shaped some faulty judicial supremacist propaganda.

    There is no telling what additional goofy things Breyer might have said about abortion, religion, and the 2000 presidential election. Breyer (along with Souter) had the strangest Bush v. Gore opinions. He said that Gore's proposed recount was unconstitutional, and the recount ordered by the Florida high court was also unconstitutional, but it Breyer had his way, he'd order his own peculiar recount according to his own theory about how the vote counting should be done, and then he'd declare that to be constitutional.

    Saturday, Mar 06, 2004
    Sierra Club racists
    For a long time, those wanting to preserve the environment have recognized that population growth is their biggest threat. But the Sierra Club has been taken over leftists with other concerns, and in 1998 they changed their policy, and decided to be neutral on USA population growth.

    Now 3 candidates for the Sierra Club board want to take stands on population issues, and a racist hate group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, is attacking them and claiming that there are member of other racist hate groups who are planning to vote for the 3 candidates! The president of the Sierra Club is trying to turn the whole thing into a racial issue.

    It is a standard leftist strategy to cry "racist" whenever someone wants to control immigration.

    You can read more details here.

    Friday, Mar 05, 2004
    You cannot say Pro-Life
    Reuters reports on leftist political correctness at the LA Times:
    A Los Angeles Times music critic who wrote that a Richard Strauss opera was "pro-life" -- meaning a celebration of life -- was stunned to pick up the paper and find his review changed by a literal-minded copy editor to read "anti-abortion."

    Music critic Mark Swed said the copy editor was adhering to a strict Times policy banning the phrase "pro-life" as offensive to people who support abortion, and didn't seem to realize that the epic Strauss opera "Die Frau Ohne Schatten" had nothing to do with that politically charged issue.

    Even the correction needed a correction. (The corrections are described here.)

    Wednesday, Mar 03, 2004
    Another failed smart card experiment
    Target spent $50M on a 3-year Visa smart card experiment, and is now killing it. Smart cards have been test-marketed many other times in the USA, and the outcome has always been a failure. When will they learn?
    Doctor shopping
    John sends this article:
    Parents of cranky children with ear infections be warned Antibiotics may no longer be what the doctor orders. Two leading medical groups are expected to recommend this spring that doctors stop treating most ear infections in children with antibiotics, federal health officials said Tuesday.

    The move contradicts years of pediatric practice and is expected to disappoint weary parents of whimpering, infected toddlers.

    Liza writes:
    Well, this is a difficult tradeoff. Not using antibiotics can result in hearing loss, which this article doesn't mention.

    In my experience, toddlers have lots of ear infections, which cause pain and extremely sleepless nights, and antibiotics seemed to be the only thing that solved the problem.

    This is a good example of the need for doctor shopping. Some have expressed the opinion that doctor shopping is something that only a rich junkie like Rush would do. The fact is that there are millions of Americans who see a physician for a routine problem, expect to get a routine medication, and find that the physician denies them the prescription for some obscure ideological reason. Many people just goto another physician to get what they want.

    There are also physicians who under-prescribe, because they want the patient to come back for a check-up, or they distrust the patient, or they are following some questionable guidelines, or because of some other obscure reasons. Many patients find this petty, annoying, or condescending, and simply goto another physician to get what they need.

    I don't think that the Florida doctor shopping law applies to antibiotics, but hardly anyone knows that. The point is that going to another physician to get another prescription is a common and justifiable practice, and I don't see anything wrong with it.