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Monday, Feb 28, 2005
Buchanan opposes LOST
Pat Buchanan says:
``Sovereignty. The issue is huge. The mere mention of Kofi Annan in the U.N. caused the crowd to go into a veritable fit. The coalition wants America strong and wants the American flag flying overseas, not the pale blue of the U.N.''

So George W. Bush confided to friend Doug Wead before he declared his candidacy. And, twice, President Bush has acted to defend U.S. sovereignty against the encroachments of global government.

He rejected both the International Criminal Court, which would have ceded power to prosecute U.S. soldiers, and a Kyoto treaty that would have subjected our economy to the dictates of a global EPA. ...

In her confirmation hearings, Condoleezza Rice was asked by Lugar if the administration supported LOST. The president ``certainly would like to see it passed as soon as possible,'' said Rice. If George W. Bush authorized that statement, writes Phyllis Schlafly, he ``can no longer claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan's conservative legacy.''

Mike writes that Buchanan must have meant "to whom we would have ceded power". If the court didn't have that power to being with, it couldn't "cede it." Good point.

Sunday, Feb 27, 2005
It is amazing how the critics and Oscar fans can drool over a couple of box-office disappointments. Million Dollar Baby has only grossed $65M, and The Aviator only $94M.

Meanwhile, Shrek 2, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Spider-Man 2, The Incredibles, and The Passion of the Christ all grossed over $600M worldwide last year.

Bush backs out of another silly UN treaty
Trudy writes:
Here's the key sentence: "Late yesterday, in quiet negotiations out of the public eye, the Bush administration signaled to other nations that it would not unequivocally reaffirm the commitments made by the United States to the world's women a decade ago."
There is more info on her Desert Light Journal blog. The blog also has good articles on domestic violence and other topics.

Saturday, Feb 26, 2005
Holding Larry Tribe accountable
A readers sends this NRO Ponnuru article about the annoying Harvard law prof Larry Tribe.

Update: Another reader suggests the How Appealing and Volokh blog for more info on this dispute. I having followed the details, but I consider Tribe a very annoying and overrated character, so I watch with amusement.

Thursday, Feb 24, 2005
Barry Bonds may not be lying
The press is blasting baseball star Barry Bonds for being a liar. As I understand it, their main complaint is that he testified before the Balco grand jury that he used a substance called "the clear" (and now called THG) without knowing that it was a steroid.

I don't see how Bonds could have known. THG was completely unknown to modern science, and no publication had classified it as a steroid. It was only afterwards that biochemists decided that it was appropriate to classify it as a steroid.

Bonds took a variety of nutritional supplements, medications, and ointments. Bonds is not a biochemist. Baseball players are known for being superstitious. It is possible that Bonds knew that "the clear" was a secretly engineered synthetic steroid that would have been banned if the authorities knew about it, but it is also possible that he thought that it was an ointment prepared from legally-available ingredients. Somebody must have persuaded him that it was good stuff, but I don't expect him to have had any biochemical insights on it.

Tuesday, Feb 22, 2005

A leftist-evolutionist-atheist-Kerry-voter named Mike sends this evolutionist NY Times article and writes:
Eternal vigilance is required if we are to deny the hoards of ignorant religious rightists even the smallest victory.

Intelligent design is complete bulls**t! A "scientific theory" must be testable. You might as well say g-d is out there bending light rays and do away with general relativity altogether! Certainly fits observation and goes a long way toward simplifying physics, no? Is your intelligent designer also pulling down all those apples? If so, we don't need Newton's laws either. Clearly, if you pursue this far enough, we don't need to teach science at all. Just extend Sunday school to the rest of the week.

I had to obscure the profanity in his message, but the word "g-d" is just as he wrote it! Apparently he thinks that the word "God" is more offensive than the word bulls**t.

To answer his question, Newton's laws are useful whether or not you think that God has anything to will pulling the apple off of the tree. Intelligent design is not a theory about what God can do; it is a theory about the limitations of Darwinian evolution.

Update: Mike sends an "off the record" explanation for his spelling and his own peculiar style of self-censorship. Hmmm. Maybe you can figure out.

Monday, Feb 21, 2005
Right-wing conspiracy
Bob asks why there aren't any right-wing pro-abortion talk radio hosts, and suggests that there must be a vast right-wing conspiracy to stop them.

I think that his question is a bit like asking for people with Rush Limbaugh's views except that they want to raise taxes. For some reason, right-wingers would rather listen to anti-abortion rhetoric, and left-wingers would rather listen to pro-abortion rhetoric. The situation seems fairly symmetrical to me, so I don't know why he thinks it is a right-wing conspiracy.

Now Bob writes that it is really an anti-abortion conspiracy, which he insists on calling an "anti-choice" conspiracy, and he suggested Barry Goldwater as a pro-abortion conservative. When I told him that Goldwater is dead, he complained about "Stalinist double talk"!

Blake murder trial
The Robert Blake trial gets wackier all the time. The latest story is that Crack-Smoking Monkeys Hit Blake Case.
Terry Gross on NPR
If you want to see how biased NPR is, listen to Terry Gross. She has a radio interview program. Last week, she had a rare interview with a right-winger, Boyden Gray, to balance an interview with a left-winger (Ralph Neas) the previous day on the same subject -- judicial appointments.

Gross tried her best to hammer Gray with hostile questions the entire time. She only tossed easy softballs balls to Neas, even as he repeatedly made false statements.

Neas talked about the "founding parents", and rambled on various paranoid conspiracy theories about the Federalist Society and our "constitution in exile". He said "we could lose ... the constitutional basis for progressive government." He said that Bush would not be President, but for a 5-4 Supreme Court majority. Actually Bush would have also been elected president under most of the scenarios involving possibilities of different actions from the Court.

When asked for specifics, all Neas could do was to misquote Priscilla Owen being criticized by Alberto Gonzalez. What Gonzalez actually said was:

The dissenting opinions suggest that the exceptions to the general rule of notification should be very rare and require a high standard of proof…. Thus, to construe the [statute] so narrowly as to eliminate bypasses, or to create hurdles that simplyare not to be found in the words of the statute, would be an unconscionable act of judicial activism.”50He concluded his concurrence by responding to Justice Hecht’s additional criticism in the present case: “JusticeHecht charges that our decision demonstrates the Court’s determination to construe the [statute] as the Courtbelieves [it] should be construed and not as the Legislature intended….I respectfully disagree.
The phrase "unconscionable act of judicial activism" referred to some hypothetical position that was not taken by Owen or anyone else.

Saturday, Feb 19, 2005
Summers transcript
Harvard Pres. L. Summers finally released the transcript of his controversial remarks. I don't anything that ought to be controversial. It looks like conventional wisdom to me. It will be interesting to see if anyone tries to refute any of it.

Friday, Feb 18, 2005
Teaching gun safety
A NY Times letter says:
For those who still can't grasp how irresponsible abstinence-only programs are, consider an analogy of a general safety class: A teacher informs students that shooting guns is dangerous, so they should not do that. A student says: "I have a gun, I have a right to shoot it, and I'm going to shoot it. Are there any safety measures I can take to reduce the chances that I hurt myself or someone else?" The teacher (being prohibited from discussing gun use safety) says, "Just don't shoot your gun."
Bob thinks that this is a good analogy, and that gun safety classes should start in 4th grade.

I think that the letter writer is being sarcastic. The local schools are not teaching kids how to shoot guns, as far as I know. They seem to have some sort of weird phobia about guns, and do not allow toy guns. They just tell the kids not to touch or shoot guns.

Bob writes:

I too am opposed to toy guns. Toy guns lead to poor gun safety and poor marksmanship. Kids should be taught with real guns. Kids should also be taught to hunt so they can see what guns do when you shoot something other than tin cans or paper. It also gives a good perspective on economics by putting food on the table.
Bob probably thinks that the best way to impress a kid with the power of guns is to let him pull the trigger and watch the bullet kill an animal. And then eat the animal.

Thursday, Feb 17, 2005
Teacher gripes
The Time magazine cover story is on What Teachers Hate About Parents. It has a long list of petty gripes, such as parents who don't show up at school, parents who do show up at school, parents who ask questions, parents who expect teachers to teach, etc.

I hope that they will have a follow-up story on what parents hate about the schools.

Wednesday, Feb 16, 2005
Lucky we had global warming
Bob writes:
The cover story in the March 2005 issue of Scientific American is entitled "How Did Humans First Alter Global Climate?". The blurb on the cover is "Did Humans Stop an Ice Age? 8,000 Years of Global Warming". It appears that human agriculture and animal husbandry may have prevented an ice age through global warming. This is a blow both to the climate change fanatics and the PETA wackos. The March issue is not yet on the sciam.com site.

Tuesday, Feb 15, 2005
Darwin Day
Here is the latest from the leftist-secular-pseudoscientist-atheist-humanists:
A group of scientists started the non-profit Darwin Day Celebration seeking to make February 12th, the birthday of Charles Darwin, an international celebration of science, verifiable knowledge, reason and humanity. They are working on to organize massive celebrations during the "big year" of 2009, when the Darwin legacy will be 200 years old, but in the meantime they have a directory of events you can attend on or around February 12th every year, and they can register your own event, too. Considering the recent intelligent design trends, will you celebrate Darwin and Evolution?
it sounds like these folks have some unfulfilled cravings for religious beliefs, ceremonies, and traditions.

Saturday, Feb 12, 2005
Voting for Boxer
Rich Wingerter writes in the Si Valley paper:
Sen. Barbara Boxer's style is so refreshing that I'm going to start voting for her.
She has already been elected 3 times, and will not be on the ballot again for 6 years, if ever. I think that she is an embarrassment to California.

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005
Attacking anti-evolutionists
Bob writes this letter to the NY Times:
Professor Behe disingenuously tells us that intelligent design is not religion. Behe then claims, "we are justified in thinking that real intelligent design was involved in life." Lawyers and creationists concocted the doctrine of intelligent design to circumvent the US Supreme Court decision that creationism can not be taught in government supported schools. The lawyerly weasel words "involved in life" illustrate the point.

Behe mentions William Paley, but omits the fact that Paley based his argument for design on the problem of explaining how the complexity of the eye could evolve. The evolution of the eye is now well understood, but this evidence has not disposed of the design argument. No evidence can dispose of the design argument, even in principle, because intelligent design is religion. Knowledge of biology is on the threshold of explaining the details of speciation. It is tragic that when speciation is worked out, creationists will not allow it to be taught in high schools. Behe ends his argument by pointing out that this is a political argument. The creationists have the advantage that the public has not been properly educated in evolution. Science has the advantage of actually delivering the goods and providing undeniable evidence to any objective student. In the end, science will leave Behe and his fellow believers behind. Unfortunately the students who are deprived of an understanding of evolution, which is the organizing principle of biology, will also be left behind.

The NY Times published this letter already:
Re "Afraid to Discuss Evolution" (editorial, Feb. 4):

Not teaching evolution affects more than just the biological sciences. Paleontology, a joint science of biology and geology, cannot be properly understood without evolution, nor can pure geology, or carbon 14 dating, a technique used by geology, anthropology, and archaeology. Any student interested in any affected disciplines and not exposed to evolution would arrive at the next-level class educationally crippled.

But an even worse casualty would be the conceptual understanding of the scientific method, a procedure whose goal is to completely explain all of a discipline's phenomena. Creationism requires a creator and intelligent design requires an intelligent designer, both of whom intervene at any time to make an otherwise complete explanation moot.

Richard G. Buchanan
New York, Feb. 4, 2005
The writer is a former professor of psychology.

and this review.

Monday, Feb 07, 2005
Right to a jury trial
John sends this article about prosecutors griping about the 6A right for a criminal defendant "to be confronted with the witnesses against him".
In the past, courts allowed statements from witnesses who don't attend trial if the defendant had a previous opportunity to cross-examine the person, if other courts have historically allowed similar statements or if the statement is deemed reliable by a judge.

"Dispensing with confrontation because testimony is obviously reliable is akin to dispensing with jury trial because a defendant is obviously guilty," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the opinion. "This is not what the Sixth Amendment prescribes."

Most of the prosecutorial abuses occur in domestic violence cases, where feminists have demanded that husbands be prosecuted even if the wife does not make a criminal complaint. Such prosecutions commonly have the effect of destroying marriages against the wishes of both spouses.
Crazy application of copyright law
Chicago paid $270M to create its new Millennium Park but you need permission from a private party to photograph it. I thought that 17 USC 120 was supposed to prevent this sort of nonsense.
Things professors cannot say
Academic freedom has been in the news. There is a big difference between an fraud like Ward Churchill and profs who are punished for telling the truth. Here is a UNLV prof who may have his pay docked because he said that very young, very old, and homosexual people tend to plan less for the future, and that couples with children tend to plan more than couples without.

Here is more info about the student who was kicked out of college for his spanking views. His rejection letter said:

"I have grave concerns regarding the mismatch between your personal beliefs regarding teaching and learning and the Le Moyne College program goals," leading to the decision not to admit him, Leogrande wrote.
Thanks to the Volokh blog, which some other interesting tidbits about academic freedom.

Friday, Feb 04, 2005
John writes:
The widely-known overlawyered web site, hosted by the excellent writer Walter Olson, reports a "stunning" item posted on Alexander's blog about "My aunt, Anne Schlafly"!

Reforming this kind of abusive class action is a top priority of the Republican Congress. Yesterday the Class Action Fairness Act (S. 5) was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. See Wash Times, NY Times, Houston Chronicle, SF paper. In the last Congress this was one of many bills that passed the House but died in a Senate filibuster.

Anne confirms the story:
Just remember that I had to settle a frivolous lawsuit on silver dragees. A fishing lawyer named me in a class-action suit. The case never went to trial as all defendants settled. The settlement was not to sell to residents of California. The result: no one in California is able to buy dragrees, even though the California Food and Drug Agency has deemed them safe. And I have lost sales.
There are many examples of these abuses, and I never hear any good things coming from such lawsuits.

Wednesday, Feb 02, 2005
Judge throws law to the wolves
A supremacist federal judge has ruled against regulations that let ranchers defend their livestock from attacking wild wolves.

Tuesday, Feb 01, 2005
No academic freedom to discuss spanking
Here is another story about narrow-minded college deans:
LeMoyne expels man over paper

While students are guaranteed the freedom of speech, LeMoyne College's recent actions against a student have raised questions of whether or not academic papers are the place to exercise this right.

LeMoyne College expelled Scott McConnell, a student from its Masters of Education program, for writing a paper in which he advocated the use of corporal punishment in schools, he said.

The paper, written for a class on classroom management, originally earned McConnell an A-. However, when he attempted to enroll in classes for the spring semester, he found he couldn't.

"LeMoyne doesn't believe students should be able to express their own views," McConnell said. "If you differ from our philosophical ideal you will be expelled from our college."

McConnell, who hopes to become an elementary school teacher, was informed last Tuesday that he couldn't continue at the school.

"LeMoyne has handled the situation poorly," he said.

McConnell was raised in Oklahoma, where corporal punishment was used when he was a student, he said. In the fourth grade he was paddled by a teacher for being unruly.

"It worked. I never talked out of turn again," he said.

The issues that this case raises are very complicated, said Joseph Shedd, chair of the teaching and leadership programs in Syracuse University's School of Education.

It is about more than just a student's right to express their own opinions, he said.

"There is no clean dividing line between a person's opinions and his or her ability to make responsible professional judgments," Shedd said in an e-mail.

He pointed to change in socially acceptable behavior over time to illustrate that standards change. America has evolved from a society in which different genders and different races have been viewed as having different academic ability, Shedd said.

That last paragraph is puzzling. Apparently college officials believe that America is evolving into a place where certain truths and opinions can no longer be expressed or debated, even in an academic context that encourages the free flow of ideas.

The student's view are not even that unusual. Most schools had corporal punishment a couple of generations ago, and I believe that it is still legal in 23 states.

In other news today:

The survey found that 36 percent of the students believe that newspapers should not be allowed to publish without government approval of stories, and 17 percent of the students believe that the public is prohibited from expressing unpopular opinions.

Overall, the survey found that high school students express little appreciation for the First Amendment's tenets: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble and the right to petition the government.

Nearly three-quarters of student respondents said they either don't know how they feel about First Amendment freedoms or take them for granted.

If a student can get expelled from school for expressing a common opinion in a term paper, then it is no wonder that some students think that they are "prohibited from expressing unpopular opinions".

I found these notes for a U.Minn. course on "What Does Research Say About the Effects of Physical Punishment on Children?". The notes have a lot of anti-spanking propaganda, but if you scroll down to the bottom you can find this:

G. Arguments that have been given in support of physical punishment of children

Note to Trainers: this material is provided for your own background in case anyone should ask about the recent media coverage that especially Diana Baumrind (to a lesser degree Bob Larzelere) has received. This is not intended to be presented.

  1. It stops the misbehavior (especially critical in dangerous situations).
  2. It shows the children who's boss.
  3. Is "part of the parent's cultural and/or religious heritage."
  4. Is a necessary "last resort" when children are "willfully defiant" (Dobson; Trumbull; Larzelere).
  5. Baumrind: "Spanking is not a generative cause of aggression or pathology in children when used appropriately.". . .
    • is controlled
    • is contingent on the child's behavior
    • the child is forewarned
    • parent uses more positive than negative incentives
    • is immediate
    • parent is calm
    • is used privately
    • is carried out in conjunction with reasoning
    • the intention is to correct, not to retaliate
    • is mild; does not escalate to abuse
    • children are not under 18 months or past puberty
      (Source: Pediatrics 98: 830, 857, Oct. 1996)
  6. Larzelere: "The evidence to date suggests that nonabusive spanking has generally beneficial effects* on children under the following limited conditions." . . .
    • with children aged 2 to 6 years
    • used less than weekly
    • used at nonabusive levels of severity, preferably two open-handed swats to the buttocks
    • leaving no bruise
    • used privately
    • used with reasoning
    • used primarily as back-up for less aversive discipline responses (such as reasoning and time-out)
    • resulting in an intermediate level of child distress
    • by loving parents
      (Sources: Pediatrics 98:827, Oct. 1996; FAMSCI post, Aug. 1997)
Note especially that this point of view and the supporting research are "not intended to be presented". They do want want people to know about research that supports spanking.

Here is a survey of research on nonabusive spanking.

George writes:

The overwhelming majority of academic child psychologists are opposed to spanking. Why shouldn't colleges insist on teaching what is correct?
They oppose spanking for ideological reasons. Some of them naively think that war and other violence will be abolished if we would only raise a generation of unspanked children. They have no scientific research to show that spanking is harmful.