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Friday, Apr 29, 2005
Bush's Home Run
John sends this excerpt:
Q: Mr. President, recently the head of the Family Research Council said that judicial filibusters are an attack against people of faith. And I wonder whether you believe that, in fact, that is what is nominating [sic] Democrats who oppose your judicial choices. And I wonder what you think, generally, about the role that faith is playing, how it's being used in our political debates right now.

BUSH: I think people are opposing my nominees because they don't like the judicial philosophy of the people I've nominated. And some would like to see judges legislate from the bench. That's not my view of the proper role of a judge.

Speaking about judges, I certainly hope my nominees get an up-or- down vote on the floor of the Senate.

They deserve an up-or-down vote.

I think, for the sake of fairness, these good people I've nominated should get a vote. And I'm hoping that will be the case as time goes on.

Role of religion in our society? I view religion as a personal matter. I think a person ought to be judged on how he or she lives his life or lives her life.

And that's how I've tried to live my life: through example.

Faith plays an important part in my life individually. But I don't ascribe a person's opposing my nominations to an issue of faith.

Q: Do you think that's an inappropriate statement? And what I ask is ...

BUSH: No, I just don't agree with it.

Q: You don't agree with it?

BUSH: No. I think people oppose my nominees because of judicial philosophy.

Q: Sir, I asked you about what you think of ...

BUSH: No, I know what you asked me.

Q: ... the way faith is being used in our political debates, not just in society generally.

BUSH: Well, I can only speak to myself. And I am mindful that people in political office should not say to somebody, You're not equally American if you don't happen to agree with my view of religion.

As I said, I think faith is a personal issue. And I take great strength from my faith. But I don't condemn somebody in the political process because they may not agree with me on religion.

The great thing about America is that you should be allowed to worship any way you want. And if you chose not to worship, you're equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship. And if you choose to worship, you're equally American if you're a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim.

And that's the wonderful thing about our country and that's the way it should be.

I am amazed at how well the President tolerates loaded and incoherent questions. Bush was being asked about the mischaracterized opinion of some private lobbying group. He probably meant to ask about what is motivating Democrats, but said "nominating" instead. It is not clear how Bush would have any knowledge about what is motivating Democrats, or why Bush would be accountable for what some private individual says. Bush answers the question admirably, and then the questioner has the nerve to complain about it!

Note that Bush not only tries to be inclusive of all faiths, but he also goes out of his way to include people of no faith. I cannot remember any other USA president accepting nonbelievers like this.

Thursday, Apr 28, 2005
No money for eggs
Wired magazine reports:
Reproductive technologies have a long history of freedom from government regulation in the United States, but that record could now face a setback thanks to new embryonic stem-cell research guidelines released this week.

Health, not money, should be the priority of women hoping to sell their eggs to science, the National Academies concluded in a 240-page report published Tuesday. As a result, researchers should be barred from paying women for their eggs.

The recommended prohibition contrasts with the vibrant commercial market already established for human eggs in reproductive medicine. For baby-making, women are now paid handsomely -- in some cases $15,000 or more -- for selling eggs to an infertile couple. And sperm banks routinely pay men from $65 to $500 for their sperm depending on how much is donated and whether the sperm owner releases his identity.

You can buy the PDF file for $17.

This is from scientists who supposedly know better than politicians how to make the ethical stem cell guidelines. They say we must spend billions of taxpayer dollars on researchers, equipment, buildings, administrators, and everything else. It is okay to create experimental human life in a test tube, okay to clone humans for the purpose of harvesting organ tissue, okay to abort human fetuses for medical research, and okay to create human-animal chimeras. But there is one thing that is completely unethical and must be forbidden -- and that is to compensate the poor woman who donates her precious eggs! Weird.

Liza writes:

Roger, I noticed on your blog that you seem to be objecting to the new guidelines against paying women for their eggs to be harvested for embryonic stem cell work. Those guidelines are the best thing that has happened so far in the debate on embryonic stem cells. They mean that there will be an extremely limited supply of eggs. I have wondered for years where all the eggs would come from for all the promised medical cures. Now I know: they won't come in any significant numbers, if payment is barred. All the tax money in the world won't be able to create embryonic stem cells without eggs.

I do not approve of paying young women to undergo a risky and uncomfortable operation to remove their eggs, anymore than I would approve of paying people to donate their organs or blood (which is illegal). It is a form of exploitation of cash-poor people, in this case for morally dubious ends to boot. It is currently allowed for egg donations for fertility treatments, but I don't approve of that either.

John writes:
I don't think Roger expressed his own opinion about this, although he quoted someone saying that "reproductive techologies" should be "free[] from government regulation." That's the libertarian view, of course, but reproductive technologies have no more reason to be exempt from regulation than banking or any other industry.

I agree with Liza, but we already have laws that ban the buying and selling of babies and human organs, yet these laws are widely ignored. For instance, most private adoptions involve payments to (or for the benefit of) the birth mother.

I don't think that there is any law against people selling their own blood. The American Red Cross says:
Scientific data shows that people who donate blood for altruistic reasons are the safest blood donors. As an extra layer of safety to the blood supply, Red Cross accepts only volunteer blood donors.
I wouldn't count on some ethics guideline limiting the supply of stem cells. As John points out, people will bypass the rules if they can. The Red Cross seems to get plenty of blood, because we have a surplus of blood donors, but blood plasma donors have to be paid.

Liza cites this page to support her claim that selling one's own blood is illegal. I checked California law. Health and Safety Code 1626 says:

1626. (a) Except as provided in subdivisions (b) [Cytapheresis] and (c) [Hemapheresis], it shall be unlawful, in any transfusion of blood, to use any blood that was obtained from a paid donor.
(b) Subdivision (a) shall not be applicable to any transfusion of blood that was obtained from a paid donor if the physician and surgeon performing the transfusion has determined, taking into consideration the condition of the patient who is the recipient of the transfusion, that other blood of a type compatible with the blood type of the patient cannot reasonably be obtained for the transfusion.
So in California, there are some laws restricting paying blood donors. Donors can be paid indirectly by membership in a donor club or promises of free blood in the future. Or donors can be paid for blood that is later used in emergencies.

Also, donors can be paid for blood shipped out of state. I don't know whether that happens much. I believe that there are some countries, such as in the Arab world, where they import a lot of blood because their citizens do not believe in donating blood. Their religious beliefs allow receiving blood, but not donating.

My guess is that the American Red Cross and other blood vendors lobbied for this law as a way of cutting their blood collection expenses. The legislature went along with it because it presented no significant obstacles to paying blood donors.

Bob writes:

Embryonic Stem Cell (ESC) research is research. The need for human eggs will diminish as the knowledge generated by ESC research increases. There is no reason, in principle, why we can't accomplish all useful therapies without eggs. Useful therapies will be based on what is popularly called called "cloning" to avoid rejection. It may happen that valuable therapies are developed before a sufficiently complete understanding of the roll of eggs in returning a nucleus to its embryonic state so that human eggs are required to save lives. The politics of what will happen in that case are predictable. It will not be possible to stand in the way of using human eggs to save the life of someone's child, for example. This will be a short lived problem. Eventually we will be able to do "cloning" to produce embryonic stem cells without human eggs which currently required. Someone is currently working on a process for nuclear transfer (cloning) which modifies the nucleus so that nothing beyond embryonic stem cells can be produced in order to avoid ethical problems. I will not attempt to guess whether this technique will succeed or overcome the ethical objections to cloning if it succeeds.
Yes, it is possible that adult stem cells will be sufficient for medical therapies, and that embryos will not be needed.

Andy writes:

Donating blood does not harm the donor, and may help him. So buying blood donations should not offend anyone. The objection is that the quality and quantity are not as good as simply asking for donations. Libertarian economists can't explain that phenomenon well.

Paying money for adoptions would only be offensive if it induces the mother to give up a baby she would otherwise keep, or causes people to bid more for "desirable" babies. In reality paying for adoptions probably helps level the playing field amid free abortions, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Paying for eggs is on the level of prostitution, or worse. I doubt the practice is as prevalent as Ivy League-types think.

Liza wrote, "I agree that paying for blood is not as generally offensive to morals as paying for organs or eggs ...."

I don't think paying for blood is offensive at all, but it is ineffective. The harmful effects of trying to buy something better provided by charity is the real problem, though no economist can explain this.

Liza wrote, "paying for babies as such is always offensive, but paying for expenses incurred in the birth and adoption process is not."

I would include generous nine-months' wages as part of the "expense".

Look, if it is OK for society to pay for aborting a baby and sending the mother back to work or school then it is OK to pay for carrying the embryo to term and giving birth. It's arguably offensive not to balance the financial incentives.

Limbaugh's medical privacy denied
John sends this AP story:
TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Supreme Court said Thursday it will not consider an appeal from conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh over prosecutors' seizure of his medical records during an investigation into whether he illegally purchased painkillers.

The 4-3 order did not explain the court's reasoning.

I smell a rat. If the vote was 4-3, then there is clearly a legitimate controversy. Rush and the public are entitled to know the reasoning.

The whole case against Rush was based on blackmailing drug dealers who sold their story to tabloids and got prosecution immunity.

Bob writes:

One of the reasons that judicial supremacy wins is that the courts are preferable to congress. If a decision like that came out of the Senate, not only would there be no written opinion, it would have been by voice vote.
NY Times slanders judges
A NY Times editorial has the usual smears on Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown. They must be good judges to get such slanderous attacks.
The Crusades saved Europe
A Si Valley paper letter says:
Pope should reach out to Muslims

Pope Benedict XVI could not accomplish his declared goal as peacemaker more magnificently than by following Pope John Paul II's lead and issuing an official, strong, unambiguous apology to the Muslim world for the Crusades.

Almost all historians agree that the Crusades were a tragic mistake, and that responsibility for them rests squarely upon the shoulders of the Roman Catholic Church and its Western European followers. Confessing that mistake, accepting responsibility, emphasizing that America was not discovered until 200-plus years after the last Crusade and therefore is not to blame, would strike a huge blow for mutual understanding and peace.

Don McCleve
Monte Sereno

Those same historians probably agree that discovering America was a tragic mistake.

I always thought that it was a joke to ask, "Is the Pope a Catholic?". And yet, when the new Pope was elected, the news reporters seem to have gone around asking that question.

I'm not exactly sure why Mohammedan fanatics would blame the Pope any more than Pres. Bush for what happened 100s of years ago. I think that it was a wonderful thing that the Crusades kept Mohammedan invaders from destroying Europe.

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005
Janice Rogers Brown
John sends this LA Times story:
WASHINGTON — Just days after a bitterly divided Senate committee voted along party lines to approve her nomination as a federal appellate court judge, California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown told an audience Sunday that people of faith were embroiled in a "war" against secular humanists who threatened to divorce America from its religious roots, according to a newspaper account of the speech. ...

"There seems to have been no time since the Civil War that this country was so bitterly divided. It's not a shooting war, but it is a war," she said, according to a report published Monday in the Stamford Advocate.

"These are perilous times for people of faith," she said, "not in the sense that we are going to lose our lives, but in the sense that it will cost you something if you are a person of faith who stands up for what you believe in and say those things out loud." ...

"It's so shocking that in the middle of this battle she would say such extraordinarily intemperate things," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Instead of the Democrats phony filibuster, they should have a real debate on the merits of these judges. They attack Rogers, but they cannot point to any errors in any of her decisions.
FDR and the courts
Liza is a conservative lawyer who disapproves of all sorts of things that the courts have been doing, but she has been brainwashed with judicial supremacy in law school, and is nervous about limiting the courts. She writes:
It is true that dicta are not binding. I'm not conversant enough with the facts and issues of the Dred Scott case to say much more than that. But remember that the whole slavery issue took a civil war to resolve. How many issues are worth a civil war?

I just read a long article in Smithsonian Magazine on FDR's court-packing scheme. He won a landslide victory in the 1930s, both houses of Congress were overwhelmingly Democratic, and he and they were fed up with a long series of Supreme Court decisions blocking economic legislation during the Depression, on debatable Commerce Clause grounds. He hatched the idea of announcing that several new positions would be added to the Supreme Court in order to bring in younger blood. He didn't openly state that he wanted to change their voting patterns; he just complained that the justices were too old. After the plan was announced, it was hugely controversial. Before it went anywhere, one justice was persuaded to start switching his vote on economic cases, which was enough to start upholding New Deal legislation. The bill in Congress died. FDR did achieve his immediate objective of changing the court voting patterns. However, despite his crushing wins in the previous election, it was very questionable whether he would have been able to carry Congress or the country on actually packing the court.

Is packing the court legal? Yes, I would think Congress technically has the power to create new judicial slots. Is it a good idea? Hardly ever. Do you think it was an appropriate step for FDR to take? Remember that there are going to be times when the apparent majority sentiment in legislatures and public opinion is not what you think is the right legal answer. You want to rein in courts today, but you may want courts to rein in legislators or executives tomorrow. In addition to the eminent domain issue I have raised, consider that were it not for the Supreme Court's aggressive reading of the Constitution in Pierce v. Society of Sisters in the 1920s, parochial schools might have been driven out of existence by hostile state laws.

Americans want, and conservatives should want, an independent judiciary, not one that does whatever the legislature wants. Threatening legislative action such as court-packing is politically risky, although the threats may in rare cases be worth the political risk. The same goes for other ideas like limiting federal court jurisdiction and impeachment for egregious decisions. Still other ideas for curbing courts are on shakier legal ground and shouldn't be implemented at all, like passing a state law taking whole classes of constitutional cases away from state court jurisdiction.

I once had a client that tried to enforce a contract with the Mexican national electric utility, which was really an arm of the Mexican government. The utility repudiated a large purchase contract it had made with our client, with several levels of signatures and approvals. The client retained Mexican counsel and I was charged with translating all the pleadings from Spanish to English. The Mexican counsel made it very clear up front that there is no independent judiciary in Mexico. The case languished for years while the judicial system showed no interest in enforcing a contract against its own government. Finally the client got paid, but only because NAFTA was on the verge of being signed and the client threatened to complain to his Senators about the disgraceful run-around.

That's what it's like in countries without an independent judiciary.

Pres. Lincoln was opposed to judicial supremacy, and his views dominated legal thinking for 100 years. My opposition to judicial supremacy is not radical or unusual. It only seems radical to brainwashed lawyers.

You can find a good Lincoln quote in this column. (If not posted yet, find it here.)

FDR wanted to expand the power of Congress and the Executive far beyond whatever had been done before, and beyond what the Constitution allowed (according to the opinion of many at the time). People often describe FDR's court-packing scheme as a failure, but as Liza's article apparently explains, it was actually a huge success in intimidating the Supreme Court into voting the way that FDR wanted.

I think that it would have been much better for FDR to propose a New Deal Constitutional amendment. That would have avoided the debate about the legitimacy of the New Deal. The New Deal was popular, and presumably an appropriate amendment could have been passed. As it is, we have a judicial "interstate commerce" doctrine that nobody believes and which undermines our Constitution.

Liza's suggestion that abandoning judicial supremacy will turn our govt into one like Mexico is just hysterical fear-mongering. America did just fine before the judicial supremacy doctrine that was invented by the Warren Court. It is hard to point to any supremacist decisions that have done any good at all.

Perhaps Pierce v Society of Sisters (1925) is an example of an activist court decision that reached a good conclusion. I really doubt that states would have abolished parochial schools. The states don't even pay any attention to that decision, as far as I can see. The decision says that the states cannot interfere with the liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children. And yet state courts do that all the time.

Ginsburg relies on foreign law
John sends this NRO article criticizing a Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speech. She brags:
I looked to two United Nations Conventions: the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, which the United States has ratified; and the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which, sadly, the United States has not yet ratified. Both Conventions distinguish between impermissible policies of oppression or exclusion, and permissible policies of inclusion, "temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality." The Court's decision in the Michigan Law School case, I observed, "accords with the international understanding of the [purpose and propriety] of affirmative action."
The key word there is "sadly". She also likes to pretend that the proposed Equal Rights Amendment was ratified, and surely thinks that it is sad that the American political process did not give the results she wanted. So she uses her judicial power to force her views.

Monday, Apr 25, 2005
Astroengineering global warming
My local university is offering a lecture from someone who really wants to do something constructive about global warming.
Speaker: Don Korycansky Center for the Origin, Dynamics and Evolution of Planets (CODEP, IGPP), UCSC

Title: Astroengineering, or How to Save the Earth in Only One Billion Years

Abstract: The Sun's gradual brightening will seriously compromise the Earth's biosphere within a billion years. If Earth's orbit migrates outward, however, the biosphere could remain intact over the entire main-sequence lifetime of the Sun. Greg Laughlin, Fred Adams, and I have proposed a mechanism for gradually enlarging the Earth's orbit to keep pace with the Sun's brightening, using gravitational assists by Kuiper Belt Objects to (in effect) transfer orbital energy from Jupiter to the Earth. I will discuss the mechanism in detail, as well providing background on the evolution of the Sun and some possible consequences of this scheme.

Here is a 2001 news story with more details.
Jury duty
I just got called for jury duty, so I looked up what some of my responsibilities will be. I found The People v Arasheik Wesley Williams where the Calif Supreme Court discusses jury nullification. I was surprised to learn:
California judges now have the power of the law on their side when it comes to finding out about jury misconduct. Under a 1998 edict, known as the "snitch" rule, the judge orders jurors to inform the court if a juror is not applying the law during deliberations.
Jurors take this oath:
"Do you, and each of you, understand and agree that you will well and truly try the cause now pending before this court, and a true verdict render according only to the evidence presented to you and to the instructions of the court?"
So if, during deliberations, one juror thinks that another juror is not following instructions properly, he can complain and the judge may conduct an inquiry and kick off a juror. The judge cannot probe into the juror's reasoning in the case, but if a juror admits that he is not following the law, then he can be dismissed.

Here is the LA Times story.

I am still not sure how I would apply this. If I am on a jury, and I am ordered to report nullifiers to the judge during deliberations, then how could I possibly identify a nullifier? A nullifier's reasoning is almost always a blend of law and fact. Even if the juror admits to disagreeing with the law or to not following the law, he could very well be exercising his duties correctly, for all I know.

My local paper reported this today:

The debate in the jury room was about the law. But in the recent San Jose trial of two Asian-American police officers charged with assaulting a black man, the subtext was race.

When four Asian-American jurors held out from the majority and voted to acquit the Palo Alto policemen, other members of the jury wondered if they were voting along race lines. And at least one of the four jurors suspected some on the panel were voting to convict the officers because of race bias.

Apparently it is completely legal for jurors to vote along racial lines, and to disguise some of the reasons for their votes.

Sunday, Apr 24, 2005
Sugared drinks
Anne writes:
I remember Roger complaining a few years ago that he could not find soda made from sugar, only corn syrup. I read recently that Coke and Pepsi offer sugar-based sodas during Passover (this weekend), since corn syrup is not kosher for Passover. It is marked with a kosher symbol (k with a circle or pareve).
Now there is a useful tip.
Exploding toads
This sends this story:
Hundreds of toads have met an unexplained, explosive demise in Germany in recent days, it was reported on Saturday.

According to reports from animal welfare workers and veterinarians as many as a thousand of the amphibians have perished after their bodies swelled to bursting point and their entrails were propelled for up to a metre. ...

Explanations include an unknown virus, a fungus that has infected the water, or crows, which in an echo of the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds, attack the toads, literally scaring them to death.

I am waiting for what the evolutionists have to say. Crows scaring toads to death by explosion?!
Mathematical ancestry
I found my mathematical ancestry:
  • Otto Mencke, Ph.D. Universität Leipzig 1668
  • Johann Christoph Wichmannshausen, Ph.D. Universität Leipzig 1685
  • Christian August Hausen, Dr. phil. Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg 1713
  • Abraham Gotthelf Kaestner, Ph.D. Universität Leipzig 1739
  • Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Dr. phil. Georg-August-Universität Göttingen 1765
  • Johann Friedrich Pfaff, Dr. phil. Georg-August-Universität Göttingen 1786
  • Carl Friedrich Gauß, Ph.D. Universität Helmstedt 1799
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel, Ph.D. Georg-August-Universität Göttingen 1810
  • Heinrich Ferdinand Scherk, Ph.D. Universität Berlin 1823
  • Ernst Eduard Kummer, Ph.D. Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg 1831
  • Christoph Gudermann, Ph.D. Georg-August-Universität Göttingen 1841
  • Karl Theodor Wilhelm Weierstraß, Honorary Universität Königsberg 1854
  • Hermann Amandus Schwarz, Ph.D. Universität Berlin 1864
  • Leopold (Lipót) Fejér, Ph.D. Eötvös Loránd University 1902
  • Marcel Riesz, Ph.D. Eötvös Loránd University 1912
  • C. Einar (Carl) Hille, Ph.D. Stockholm University 1918
  • Irving Ezra Segal, Ph.D. Yale University 1940
  • Isadore Manual Singer, Ph.D. The University of Chicago 1950
Some of these are famous mathematicians. Gauss is the most famous of all.

Friday, Apr 22, 2005
Judicial supremacy in Bush v Gore
Right-winger Charles Krauthammer is usually skeptical about the courts, but he just cannot let go of judicial supremacy. He says:
The Supreme Court is the only institution that could have ended the Bush-Gore fiasco of 2000 with the immediacy, finality and, yes, legitimacy that it did.
This is a lousy reason for judicial supremacy. First, the whole fiasco was created by out-of-control judicial supremacists on the Florida supreme court. Without judicial supremacy, the controversy would have ended sooner. Second, our Constitution already had a mechanism for resolving electoral college disputes, and there is every reason to believe that would have happened in an orderly way (with Bush almost certainly the winner). Third, the outcome would have had greater legitimacy if the courts had not gotten involved.

Krauthammer goes on to say:

It was Ruth Bader Ginsburg who said that Roe v. Wade "halted a political process that was moving in a reform direction and thereby, I believe, prolonged divisiveness and deferred stable settlement of the issue." Whenever such an obvious sociological truth is pointed out, proponents of judicial imperialism immediately resort to their trump card: Brown v. Board of Education and the courts' role in ending Jim Crow.
No, the courts did not end Jim Crow. The net effect of Brown was greater racial strife and segregation in schools.
Praising bonobos
Evolutionists are always trying to figure out what kinds of apes that they would have rather evolved from. Now it seems that they are settling on the bonobos. They are trying to create a model human-like community of bonobos, and suggesting that bonobos may be superior to humans. Bonobos seem ideal to leftist-evolutionist-feminist-egalitarian-pacifists.
Michael Jackson's moonwalk
PBS Nature just had a TV show on evolution in the rain forest. It said:
If Michael Jackson's moonwalk can be found in the jungles of Central America, then who knows what we might find next?
I am going to need some stronger proof than this for Michael Jackson having evolved.

Thursday, Apr 21, 2005
Schlafly to head Planned Parenthood?
Ms. Mag says:
Quote of the Day: Barbara Boxer

Barbara Boxer just now on CNN’s Crossfire: “John Bolton would be great working with the president in the White House on a political agenda but for this job as UN ambassador, I just can’t imagine. I mean, it’s like making Phyllis Schlafly the head of the Planned Parenthood Federation. It doesn’t fit, you know? It just doesn’t fit."

Wednesday, Apr 20, 2005
Research on the internet
AP reports:
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay intensified his criticism of the federal courts ...

"Absolutely. We've got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That's just outrageous," DeLay told Fox News Radio. "And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous." ...

"The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior," DeLay said in a statement.

Kennedy should definitely have to answer. If he was going to search the internet, then at least he should have been able to find the facts about who was executing juveniles, and who was not.

Monday, Apr 18, 2005
Evolution debate on TV
The TV show Uncommon Knowledge just had an evolution debate. The evolutionist said this:
Massimo Pigliucci: Philosophers of science have shown that science actually works by competing theories. It never works by somebody getting up and say well, you know, this is wrong and that's the end of the day.
He is wrong. One of the biggest scientific discoveries of the last several years was that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. It showed that all the existing relativity models were wrong, and no one has found a good competing theory. You can find 100s of articles on this subject under the name "dark energy", but no one has a clue as to what the dark energy is.
Peter Robinson: So as a working scientist then, you have absolutely no qualm about saying to students look, this is a theory, this is a theory, this is a theory. They all have their limitations. Science is always in the making. Now would you also however have no qualms about including a paragraph or two on intelligent design?

Massimo Pigliucci: I do have qualms for the simple reason that at the moment, and as far as I can see forever, but at the moment certainly intelligent design is not a scientific theory and as such, should not be brought up in a science class.

Intelligent design theory may soon have some practical applications. There is now be technology for designing viruses that are not similar to anything occurring in nature. If a new disease like HIV shows up, then we are going to want some scientific procedure for determining whether it was designed or whether it evolved.

It is amazing how evolutionists claim to be scientists, but when they are confronted with certain issues, they dogmatically rely on dubious definitions and principles from the philosophy of science.

At least he was honest enough to admit that the single common ancestor theory is unproved:

Massimo Pigliucci: We don't know, first of all, if there was one common ancestor or a pool of common ancestors, if we go all the way back to the origin of life. That is under debate and it's not a crucial component of modern evolutionary theory. It would work either way.
Bob writes:
Is your argument is that "the single common ancestor theory is unproved" is because we may have more than one common ancestor?
The single common ancestor theory says that there was at least micro-organism that lived billions of years ago and is the direct ancestor of all living bio-organisms on Earth today, including plants, animals, people, bacteria, and fungus. The pool theory, as I understand it, says that there was no such single organism.

I doubt it. Bob keeps telling me that he is going to show me some rock-solid proof. I've never understand how anyone could even claim to have such a proof, based on what we know today.

For an explanation of how the ancestor pool theory might work, check out Carl R. Woese's 2002 paper On the evolution of cells.

Sunday, Apr 17, 2005
Lame editorials defend judges
Here is a silly Georgia editorial:
Some of the words spoken by the first lady of neo-cons, Phyllis Schlafly, should be a deep embarrassment to her numerous followers. Schlafly is reported to have said that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Ronald Reagan appointee and Republican moderate, should be impeached for forbidding capital punishment of juveniles.

Does this mean that this woman, who spends most of her time fighting abortion rights, is saying that older children should be put to death if they do something wrong?

This piece of information is so alarming that it makes us think we didn't get the whole story.

First, Phyllis Schlafly is not a neo-con. The "neo" in neo-con means that they are distingushed from conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly.

Second, she only spends a small fraction of her time on the abortion. Nearly all of her writings are on other subjects.

Third, criticizing Justice Kennedy's opinion does not necessarily imply that she is for or against the juvenile death penalty. She thinks that such executions should be based on US law, not on trends overseas, as Kennedy ruled.

Yes, this Gainesville newspaper didn't get the whole story, but they would not have understood it anyway.

Friday, Apr 15, 2005
NY Times and intolerance
The NY Times has another hysterical editorial on the courts. This time it accuses Sen. Frist of "intolerance" because he wants votes on judicial nominees and opposes filibustering them. The editorial says:
The message is that the Democrats who oppose a tiny handful of President Bush's judicial nominations are conducting an assault "against people of faith." By that, Senator Frist and his allies do not mean people of all faiths, only those of their faith.
What does this mean? All I can figure is that the NY Times is complaining that Frist does not explicitly say that Jews are being persecuted.

One of the cases before the US Supreme Court today involved the Ten Commandments, and Frist is on the side of Jewish law. It is the filibustering Democratic party that is attacking the Ten Commandments.

Tom Sell freed
After 8 years in federal prison without a trial, Tom Sell accepts plea bargain. In an unusual plea, he still maintains that he is innocent.

Good. I believe that he was innocent, but that he was never going to get a fair trial.

Another idiot law prof
John sends this LA Times rant from leftist judicial supremacist Prof Cass R. Sunstein:
In the last half-century, conservative politicians have mounted three dramatically different attacks on the federal judiciary. The first attack, in which they emphasized the need for judicial restraint, was principled and coherent. The second, which called on judges to consider the original meaning of the Constitution, was more radical but still had honorable goals: to promote stability, neutrality and the rule of law. The third attack, however, is the most worrisome: a large-scale challenge to judicial independence, and we are now in the midst of it.
The rest of the column on to alternate between calling the judicial critic conservatives and radicals. He says, "Originalism is a radical program".

He seems confused about the conservative complaints, and does not address judicial supremacy. Supremacist judges are at the root of the problem. Either he does not understand the conservative complaints, or he is deliberately misrepresenting them.

Thursday, Apr 14, 2005
New missing link
Here is some evolutionist claiming to have found a missing link.

Be sure and look at the picture of the mangled skull before the computer reconstruction.

La Raza hate mongers
A La Raza advocate writes in the Si Valley paper:
The post-modern Mexican diaspora can be said to have begun in 1848 when the sovereign country of Mexico was dispossessed of more than half its territory by the United States. ... They will always seek their way back home.
I hope someone figures out a way to ship these unhappy radicals back to Spain, Siberia, Africa, or wherever their ancestors come from.
Florida felons still cannot vote
John reports:
The 11th Circuit, en banc, has voted 10-2 to uphold the ban on felon voting contained in Florida's state constitution. http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/200214469op2.pdf

The en banc decision reverses the panel decision which wasr criticized in this column.

The same issue is being reheard by the 2nd Circuit en banc following the Supreme Court's denial of cert to the panel which upheld New York's statutory ban on felon voting.

Yes, convicted felons are second class citizens.
Rushdie is anti-American
I just heard a goofy theologian named Bishop John Shelby Spong say on Fox News O'Reilly Factor:
The only good thing about the Islamic terrorists -- the only good thing -- is that it forced us in the West to recognize that we have also been terrorists towards the Jews, towards the Moslems during the Crusades, towards the heretics.
Who is "we"? I thought that the Crusades were a just set of wars that kept invading barbarians out of Europe. It was not terrorism.

Salman Rushdie has turned anti-American:

Rushdie -- infamous for living for years under threat of death after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's 1989 pronouncement that his novel "The Satanic Verses" was blasphemous -- said he believes U.S. isolationism has turned not just its enemies against America, but its allies too.

"What I think plays into Islamic terrorism is ... the curious ability of the current administration to unite people against it," Rushdie told Reuters in an interview.

Rushdie said he found it striking how the "colossal sympathy" the world felt for the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been squandered so quickly. ...

Rushdie said his latest novel, "Shalimar the Clown," will be published in September.

"I decided to murder an American ambassador," he said of its plot, in which a U.S. envoy to India is killed after he retires to America.

He is lucky that America does not issue a fatwa against him.

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2005
Cohen bashes Bush again
Lying Bush-hater evolutionist Richard Cohen accuses Pres. Bush of dishonesty:
... intellectual honesty counts for less and less. Thus, you have political leaders from George Bush on down refusing to say whether they put any stock in evolution ...

Back in 1999, Bush was asked whether he was "a creationist" and he responded by not responding: "I believe children ought to be exposed to different theories about how the world started." ...

This proves you can go to Yale and learn nothing -- not about evolution, mind you, but about intellectual integrity.

Cohen goes on to recite the usual nonsense about Galileo and Scopes, as if they proved that religious folks were always wrong about scientific matters.

Bush is right. Evolution tells us nothing about how the world started, and children ought to be exposed to different theories. Only narrow-minded evolutionists like Cohen want to censor the scientific truths.

Explaining the Soviet Gulags
John sends this hysterical rant by law prof Erwin Chemerinsky:
Constitutional scholars of every political stripe must explain that it strikes at the very heart of our constitutional government for Congress to enact laws and preclude judicial review of their constitutionality or for members of Congress to threaten impeachment of judges for rulings they dislike. Political leaders across the ideological spectrum must denounce the venomous attack on the federal judiciary that has occurred in the last few weeks.

Sometimes the first assignment in my constitutional class has been for students to read a copy of the Stalin-era Soviet Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. My students are always surprised to see that the Soviet Constitution has a far more elaborate statement of rights than the American Constitution. I also assign a description of life in the Gulags. I ask how it can be that a country with such detailed statements of rights in its constitution could have such horrible abuses.

The answer, of course, is that in the Soviet Union no court had the power to strike down any government action. An independent judiciary is indispensable to protecting our most precious freedoms. The DeLays and Cornyns who attack the federal courts forget that tomorrow, they may be the ones who need the protection of independent federal judges.

No wonder American lawyers are so brainwashed. They had law profs who told them that the difference between the American and Soviet political systems is that we have supremacist judges who are appointed for life.

Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005
Harry A. Blackmun, judicial supremacist
Andy sends this example of judicial supremacy.
The court was only one front in the struggle for women's rights during those years. Congress approved the proposed Equal Rights Amendment in 1972 and sent it to the states for ratification. If three-quarters of the legislatures ratified it, the amendment would accomplish what Ginsburg's brief had asked the court to do in Reed v. Reed and make discrimination against women subject to strict judicial scrutiny. Soon, the highly charged politics of the amendment and the uncertainty within the court about how far and how fast to move the law converged in a new case. Frontiero v. Richardson was a suit by an Air Force officer for the right to claim her husband as a dependent for the purpose of obtaining housing and medical benefits, although the husband was not financially dependent on her. Under the laws governing military benefits, a serviceman could automatically claim his wife as a dependent, regardless of their relative circumstances, while a woman could claim her husband only if she brought in more than half the family income.

''This must be stricken down,'' Blackmun wrote in his notes before the January 1973 argument. The question is ''by what route and how far.'' That, indeed, was the question: whether to accomplish the goals of the Equal Rights Amendment by judicial decree and make its ratification unnecessary.

This is from Linda Greenhouse in The New York Times Magazine.

Judicial supremacist Bruce Fein writes in the Wash. Times:
Mr. Viera explained that, "[Stalin] had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'No man, no problem.' " Mr. Viera's harshness was echoed in different moods and tenses by conservative grandees Phyllis Schlafly and Michael P. Ferris. The former insisted the Constitution does not mean what the Supreme Court says it means, and insinuated its true meaning lies with her or others blessed with constitutional epiphanies. That principle would justify popular disobedience to Supreme Court decrees, like the South's massive resistance to Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and the bombings of abortion clinics in defiance of Roe v. Wade (1973). The rule of law would wither and a revolutionary state of nature would ensue if the Supreme Court were not accepted as the final arbiter of constitutional questions ...
Fein is wrong. The US Constitution means what it says, not what some court says it means.

The Constitution says:

This Constitution, and the Laws ..., shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, ... [Art. VI]
Note that it is the Constitution that is the supreme law of the land, not the supreme court's interpretation of the Constitution. The Constitution also specifies the oath of office that presidents have to take:
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: - "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." [Art. II]
Note again that the President's duty is to the Constitution, not to the supreme court's interpretation of the Constitution.

What I am saying here is not original or revolutionary. It is how the law books have described our political system for 200 years. It is the Rule of Law, as most people have always understood the term.

But there is a group of judicial supremacists like Fein who don't really believe in the Rule of Law. They believe in a Rule of Judges, where an elite court is empowered to make law based on their own supposed wisdom, and contrary to the text of the Constitution and the will of the people. If Fein wants the Rule of Judges, then he should lobby for a constitutional amendment to make supreme court decisions the supreme law of the law.

Fein's "popular disobedience" examples are absurd. Nobody thinks that the Constitution permits bombing abortion clinics. Consider this analogy: If a soldier receives an unlawful order from his commanding officer, what should he do? The correct answer, under American law, is that a soldier should refuse an unlawful order. Fein would probably argue that it would be chaotic and unmanageable if mere soldiers were allowed to interpret the law themselves. But that is the way the American system has always worked. Rule of Law means that the written laws are binding, not the interpretation of some elites who think that they know better.

Fein complains:

Contrary to the revolutionaries, the chief justice has applauded judicial independence as the crown jewel of the Constitution.
Yes, Rehnquist's latest complaint is in his 2004 year-end report. He is a judge, and he likes judicial power. He does not like being held accountable, and does not like the idea of impeaching judges for not doing their job properly. He says:
there have been suggestions to impeach federal judges who issue decisions regarded by some as out of the mainstream. And there were several bills introduced in the last Congress that would limit the jurisdiction of the federal courts to decide constitutional challenges to certain kinds of government action.
He then goes on to say that judge Samuel Chase was acquitted in 1805, and so all judges should be acquitted today. What he doesn't say is that there is anything illegal or improper about Congress acting to limit the jurisdiction of the courts on certain matters. What the conservative now want to do is to remove court jurisdiction on a couple of matters where the courts have not traditionally had any jurisdiction and where there is no good reason why they should have jurisdiction. There is nothing revolutionary about it.

Andy writes:

Fein's article is the worst piece of writing and reasoning I have seen in a while. He repeatedly misspells someone's name (Farris), repeats a silly compound negative (unreluctant), makes absurd analogies, commits grammatical error in his first sentence (antecedent of "its" is unclear), recycles another newspaper article from the same town and, substantively, says nothing coherent.

FYI, previously Bruce Fein railed against Roy Moore. This is the new split in politics: those who worship the judiciary as though it were Almighty, and those who feel the judiciary should be held in check.

I am still trying to figure out Bruce Fein. Here are some scathing attacks on judicial supremacists on the Supreme Court:
Justice O’Connor invented an exception to the color-blind mandate of the Fourteenth Amendment under the bogus banner of intellectual diversity. ...

Justice Kennedy’s recurring flights of imagination were vividly captured in his Zen Buddhist–like opinion ...

Like Justice Kennedy, Justice Breyer believes he has been licensed to improve on the handiwork of the Founding Fathers. Their felt need to tamper seems dumbfounding. ...

Associate Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg ... do not subscribe to the Constitution and its 27 amendments in accord with the original meaning and purpose of the authors.

The same article attacks supremacist decisions:
The Supreme Court thus assumes a grave responsibility when it holds that a politically explosive issue is constitutionally nonnegotiable. Thus, Chief Justice Roger Taney presumed to solve political divisions over slavery with his odious Dred Scott opinion. Instead the holdings that blacks were not U.S. citizens and that Congress lacked power to prohibit slavery in U.S. territories accelerated the Civil War.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Roe is first cousin to Dred Scott.

But his only remedy is to appoint better judges.

John sends this Fein column attacking supremacist judges:

Justices usurp lawmaking choices when they manipulate interpretation to overcome perceived deficiencies in legislation. That explains Justice Thomas' dissent, joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Scalia and Anthony Kennedy. Justice Thomas worried that "[u]nder the majority's reasoning, courts may expand liability as they, rather than Congress, see fit. ... [T]he majority substitutes its policy judgments for the bargains struck by Congress, ...
Hmmm. So Fein seems to be against the courts expanding their jurisdiction beyond the limits set by Congress. And yet he is also against Congress redefining those limits in order to correct bad decisions in the past. He position doesn't make much sense to me, except that he believes that appointing better judges will solve some of these court problems.

Monday, Apr 11, 2005
Not just Phyllis Schlafly anymore
John send this Wash. Post article by Ruth Marcus:
Railing against activist judges is nothing new in American politics. ... But the current uproar is particularly worrisome -- both because of the extreme nature of the restraints being proposed and the degree to which such sentiments are being voiced not by a powerless fringe but by those in positions of authority: It's not just Phyllis Schlafly anymore.
Her book on supremacist judges was published last summer.

A lot of people are getting fed up with judges for a lot of different reasons. What made her book unusual is that she attributes most of the problems to a systematic ideological error, and she recommends practical remedies to help restore a proper balance of power.

Sunday, Apr 10, 2005
Judicial term limits
Liza writes:
This WSJ op-ed for Sup. Ct. term limits was quite persuasive. But why limit term limits to the Supreme Court justices? Wouldn't they be helpful with lower federal judges too? I can remember a crotchety old federal district judge in St. Louis who made life miserable for lawyers for decades. He could be as outrageous as he pleased and knew no one could do anything to him.
The article suggests a constitutional amendment to limit tenure to 15 years, as that is about the historical average for supreme court judges.
Google answers
You can now Google What is Phyllis Schlafly known for?, and get the response:
Phyllis Schlafly
Property: ... an American conservative political activist known for her opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment ...
According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phyllis_Schlafly
Google has some other facts pre-programmed also.
Richard Cohen, Bush-hater
The lying Bush-haters are still claiming that we fought the Iraq War under false pretenses. They could never find an example where Bush lied, but they point to misleading stories in the NY Times and the Wash. Post, and so they assume that falsehoods must have been leaked to those papers.

Now, Richard Cohen of the Wash. Post says:

Shortly before the United States went to war in Iraq, I was in contact with a former member of the U.S. intelligence community. This is what he told me: Saddam Hussein had no nuclear weapons program, no chemical or biological weapons program to speak of and no link to Al-Qaida. He said that if America invaded it would cost us ``perhaps 1,000 casualties'' and would lead to prolonged ``terrorism and harassment.'' I thanked him very much for his views -- and urged the United States to attack anyway.
The Wash. Post and NY Times did not print this info, because it was a distraction from their pro-war messages. Cohen has no regrets, and goes on to say:
The United States was going to war. It is now clear that the decision to do so was made shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks -- maybe even the next day. History may well decide that this was the correct decision, that it eradicated terrorism and spread democracy throughout the Arab world and Middle East -- just as the neocons intended.
So you might expect Cohen to conclude that Bush boldly took decisive action when necessary, accurately informed the public and the news media, and is on track to succeed in one of America's greatest foreign policy ventures. Nope. Cohen does back-flips to somehow blame Bush. Read it yourself to see how Bush-hating can blind a Wash. Post columnist.

George writes:

Those quotes are out of context. Cohen is quite critical of Pres. Bush. Cohen says that Bush lied.
Yes, Cohen is a lying Bush-hater. Eg, Cohen recited this old canard:
I knew that the most alarming case against Saddam -- that he was an imminent threat to the United States -- was a lie.
In fact, Pres. Bush did not say that Iraq was an imminent threat, but rather he said that we need to act before it becomes an imminent threat. Here is a discussion at SpinSanity, a neutral site.

Bob writes:

I can't comment on Richard Cohen. I do not find his writing useful, so I haven't read what he has to say. There are two fallacies in the argument against Cohen. What Bush said or didn't say is only part of the issue. Bush is responsible for what his high ranking subordinates said about the war. Cheney, Runsfeld, Rice, and Powell all made false official statements on behalf of the Bush administration. The statements were based on information from one source who was described in the most recent report as a liar. Others including Hans Blix, Scott Ritter, and various US intelligence officers disputed the administration claims and turned out to be correct. The fact that Bush knew there was doubt about the statements and sent his subordinates out to make the statements instead of making them himself is evidence of bad faith on Bush's part. The second point is that one can consistently support the war in Iraq and be critical of the way Bush got us into the war. It is a fact that once a country has the capability to make WMD, it is impossible to remove that capability short of annihilation, which we would like to avoid. Instead of stressing that point, the Bush administration cited stockpiles of WMD and factitious mobile bioweapon labs.
I hope Pres. Bush had some doubts about the WMD evidence. A lot of other people did. I do think that people should judge Bush on what he said, and not so much on what the NY Times, Wash. Post, and neocons said.

Friday, Apr 08, 2005
WTC collapse
John sends a New Scientist article on Fireproofing key to Twin Towers' collapse. Andy writes:
Lo and behold, federal investigators say that the WTC collapsed due to inadequate fireproofing. Well, no kidding. Too bad not a single university scientist or engineer will criticize the lack of asbestos. And I thought the legal profession was bad! Scientists and engineers are great ... as long as they are not with a university.

The evolution v. creationism debate has an effect on medical research. Evolution, for example, brought us the vestigial organ bias that caused everyone over 60 to have their tonsils ripped out. Also evolution bias brings all this wasted funding of genomes, so that someone can make the meaningless claim that our genes are similar to animals'. Virtually no fruitful therapies have come of this.

But recently I discovered another difference between the evolutionists and their critics. Evolution critics such as Wells and Johnson question that HIV causes AIDS. I haven't read up on this issue but do wonder myself, given that Magic Johnson was forced out of basketball in early 1992 with a diagnosis of HIV and yet seems as healthy as ever 13 years later.

No one doubts that AIDS has caused the death of many. I do wonder about this dispute over whether HIV causes AIDS, and what evolution bias has to do with it, if anything.

It is funny how the WTC articles never mention asbestos. The WTC was designed to use asbestos insulation, but had to stop using it during construction. I doubt that asbestos would have made much difference, but the investigators should certainly look at the question.

Magic Johnson is presumably taking the same anti-AIDS drugs that have kept 1000s of infected people alive. I just heard a health official claim that HIV infection rates are up because the drugs are sufficiently successful that people don't worry about AIDS quite so much anymore.

Bob sends

There is information aimed at the general audience about new medicines derived from venom. For example: SciAm.com, PBS, NY Times, venomdoc.com.

The effects of the acceptance of evolution on medical research have been manifestly positive. The blame for poor medical practice such as unnecessary tonsillectomy is the result of the hubris of doctors. A proper understanding evolution would have led doctors to ask why tonsils evolved and to answer that question before adopting routine and unnecessary removal.

Wednesday, Apr 06, 2005
Computer proofs
The Economist magazine has a nice article on computer-assisted math proofs. It says:
A 1998 paper which proved another long-standing conjecture using a computer, by Thomas Hales, of the University of Pittsburgh, has only recently been accepted by the Annals of Mathematics, perhaps the field's most prestigious journal, and is scheduled to be published later this year. ...

Although the Annals will publish Dr Hales's paper, Peter Sarnak, an editor of the Annals, whose own work does not involve the use of computers, says that the paper will be accompanied by an unusual disclaimer, stating that the computer programs accompanying the paper have not undergone peer review. There is a simple reason for that, Dr Sarnak says -— it is impossible to find peers who are willing to review the computer code. However, there is a flip-side to the disclaimer as well —- Dr Sarnak says that the editors of the Annals expect to receive, and publish, more papers of this type—for things, he believes, will change over the next 20-50 years.

Joel Hass and I published the first computer-assisted proof in the Annals Of Mathematics. We were getting a little impatient when the Annals editors scrutinized the paper for three years, but I guess we should be happy compared to Hales. The Annals did eventually publish the paper with no disclaimer.

Tuesday, Apr 05, 2005
Nonresident students kicked out
John sends this Si Valley story:
SUNNYVALE (KRON) -- Some 300 students heading into one of the five high schools in the Fremont Union High School district were sent home early and for good Monday.

"We asked them to come to the office, we called their parents and told them they don't go to school here anymore," said Superintendent Steve Rowley.

The school district is enforcing a policy that limits enrollment to only those students who can prove that they live in the district.

I don't see any good excuse for this. Under California law, school districts get tax money in proportional to the number of students. There is no reason to exclude students from other districts, unless the school is literally out of space.
NY Times leftist foolishness
The NY Times defends judicial supremacy:
When the federal courts took the case but ended up agreeing with Florida's courts, federal judges became the next target. Mr. DeLay issued a veiled threat, saying: "Congress for many years has shirked its responsibility to hold the judiciary accountable. No longer." Asked whether the House would consider impeachment charges against the judges involved, he responded, "There's plenty of time to look into that."

Several bills pending in Congress seek to tell the courts how do their jobs. House Republicans have introduced a resolution declaring that international law should not be taken into account in interpreting the Constitution, something the Supreme Court did just last month in striking down the death penalty for offenders younger than 18. Last year, during a controversy over the "Ten Commandments judge" in Alabama, Senator Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, introduced a bill to bar the federal courts from applying the First Amendment when officials cross the boundaries between church and state.

Great. I hope these efforts to limit the judiciary are taken seriously.

Meanwhile, Krugman's column has his usual hysterical attack on Republicans:

It's a fact, documented by two recent studies, that registered Republicans and self-proclaimed conservatives make up only a small minority of professors at elite universities. But what should we conclude from that? ... One answer is self-selection ...
Larry Summers got into a lot of trouble for giving that answer to explain female representation among professors.

Then Krugman goes on to rant about how the Republicans and conservatives are anti-science and anti-scholarship.

This is just nutty. Conservatives are much more interested in scientific facts and scholarly inquiry. In most public policy debates, it is usually the conservatives who argue in terms of hard facts and logical analysis, and it is the liberals who rely on emotional arguments and namecalling.

Occupational risks
The Si Valley paper actually had a couple of sensible letters:
Lack of engineers quite rational

Carol Bartz (Op-Ed, March 24) repeats the familiar assertion that there is a tremendous shortage of engineers and that more female students should be encouraged to choose engineering as a career.

As a teacher at Stanford University, I can assure CEOs like Bartz that students are actually quite rational in their career choices. Engineering used to be the choice of risk-averse people because companies hired engineers for life and then paid them pensions. Does anyone at Autodesk (Bartz's company) get a pension? How many people has Autodesk laid off during the past few years?

The surplus of engineering jobs she cites doesn't exist around here.

Why should my students major in a field where they will be stuck in a cubicle, only to be laid off every four years, while the folks from marketing are off playing golf with customers?

Christopher R. Moylan

Clerks have it worse than cops

I take strong objection to Donald DeMers, president of San Jose's police officers union, overblowing the hazards of being a policeman (Letters, March 29).

He states officers worry that they may not return home after working a shift. Well, Donald, get hold of yourself. Police work isn't even among the 10 most-hazardous jobs.

According to insurance company statistics, timber cutters, commercial fishing crews, pilots, ironworkers, roofers, electricians, farmers and truck drivers are all more dangerous jobs. Not in the Top 10, but more dangerous than being a policeman, is night convenience-store clerk. You don't hear them whining.

Let's give police officers their due, but not shame them by perpetuating this myth.

Carmen W. Rowe

We should assume that when people decide to be engineers, cops, teachers, or nurses, they are making rational decisions about what is best for them. If there were more demand for engineers or teachers, then people would fill the demand. Currently we have surpluses.

Monday, Apr 04, 2005
Evolution debate
Chris writes:
The entire debate over evolution to which you refer is the “JFK Assassination Theory” of science. Ignore the huge pile of evidence that clearly and unambiguously deals with all of the issues but require work to learn and understand. In fact, pretend it does not exist. Point at the tiny fraction of evidence, which is poorly understood or unclear, and use that to attack the entire edifice secure in the knowledge that most people will take the simplistic outlook that “where there is smoke, there is fire.” Work with the understanding that in our contemporary know nothing culture will welcome attacks on those who deal with science. Many people see education and understanding as negative personal traits and scorn those who have these abilities.

Individuals will embrace those who cater to their ignorance and believe that it is not important that they have anything other than a negative opinion of those who understand the science. This tide of popular stupidity calls those who try to hold back the seas of ignorance rude and blasphemous. The ignorant mob ridiculed and mocked as an elitist anyone who attempts to present the facts is who should allow individuals the right to believe as they wish.

This is the culture war and we are losing.

Here is a NY Times reader who wants to declare war on religion:
Science, Faith and Fossils
Published: April 5, 2005
To the Editor:

"An Unexpected Softness" (editorial, March 28) speculates that "we're not likely to wake up one morning and read that some embryonic Tyrannosaurus is waiting to be hatched on a remote tropical island."

True. More likely, we will wake up and find that financing for scientific research will dry up because science offends the beliefs of religious fundamentalists who are willing to actively disrupt anything that runs counter to their faith. While we fight the hard war to resist pernicious religious fundamentalism in the Middle East, we are actively surrendering to it at home.

Robert Stern
Englewood, N.J., March 28, 2005

Is there some religion that opposes digging up T-Rex bones? I have heard that there are a few goofy creationists who believe that dinosaurs lived a few thousand years ago, but I would expect that they would be happy to hear that some T-Rex bones were found that have soft tissue in them as if they were not so old.

Meanwhile, this NY Times columnist seems to have his own funny ideas about the history of science:

It's a Flat World, After All
Published: April 3, 2005

In 1492 Christopher Columbus set sail for India, going west. He had the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. He never did find India, but he called the people he met "Indians" and came home and reported to his king and queen: "The world is round."

Columbus found the New World, but he did not discover that the Earth was round.
High qualify preschool
John sends this LA Times letter:
Re "Study Touts Benefits of Universal Preschool," March 30: The Rand study based its claims of cost savings on "high-quality" preschool programs, and that is my major concern. California has proved itself incapable of providing high-quality elementary, middle or high school programs. Why should we believe it will do better with preschool? I think it is justified to demand that California significantly improve what exists before tackling more.
Sandy Whaling

Sunday, Apr 03, 2005
Gun laws
It used to be that outrageous over-publicized gun crimes would spur some gun control proposals in various legislatures. But this NY Times article says that some recent events have had the opposite effect.
Instead of calling for new restrictions on guns after the Minnesota shootings, the coalition, which includes 45 groups, simply asked for "a dialogue on the role of firearms in America."

Opponents of gun control have had victories in Congress, which let the ban on assault weapons expire last fall, and in states, where the push to allow concealed handguns has been gathering momentum for two years. Since 2003, five states, most recently Ohio, have approved laws allowing people to carry concealed weapons.

Thirty-five states now require the authorities to issue permits for concealed handguns to most applicants as long as they do not have criminal records, and two, Alaska and Vermont, allow concealed weapons without a permit. Eleven others allow the local authorities discretion in issuing so-called concealed carry permits. ...

The police and prosecutors have tended to oppose allowing concealed handguns. But Mr. Bucher, the district attorney in Wisconsin, said that was starting to change. As recently as two years ago, he was speaking out against the concealed-handguns law in Wisconsin; in 2000, he testified against it, arguing that the risks to the police during traffic stops would outweigh any potential benefits.

Now, he said, he believes that the legislation can address his concerns, and that the potential benefits are real.

It is good to see anti-gun ideologues being persuaded by factual evidence.
The natives are getting restless
Political correctness alert:
DENVER, Colorado (AP) -- Colorado Gov. Bill Owens apologized for saying "the natives are getting restless" during a conference on tribal gambling. ...

Richard Milanovich of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in Palm Springs, California, said he "couldn't imagine" any person of stature making that kind of remark.

What is he saying -- that only midgets and cripples can refer to American Indians as natives?

Saturday, Apr 02, 2005
Slate on the law
Slate columnist Dahlia Lithwick is known for her idiotic legal commentaries, and now she has a non-review of the book Men In Black. She complains:
The argument here is not new. In fact, one of the reasons it's impossible to call Men in Black a work of legal scholarship is that there is not an original piece of analysis in it. Levin is railing against the Supreme Court for being a bunch of "activist judges" that "now sits in final judgment of essentially all policy issues, disregarding its constitutional limitations, the legitimate role of Congress and the President, and the broad authority conferred upon the states and the people."

I can understand completely why the serious legal thinkers of this world have no interest in engaging with Levin on his legal scholarship.

I can also understand why Lithwick does not make a serious attempt to refute anything in the book.

Friday, Apr 01, 2005
France v Google
This Economist magazing article says:
Now President Jacques Chirac wants to stop this American cultural invasion by setting up a rival French search-engine. ...

The answer is the vulgar criteria it uses to rank results. "I do not believe", wrote Mr Donnedieu de Vabres in LE MONDE, "that the only key to access our culture should be the automatic ranking by popularity, which has been behind Google's success."

Yes, France is losing the popularity contests.
Ms. Wheelchair stripped of title for standing up
CNN reports:
APPLETON, Wisconsin (AP) -- Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin has been stripped of her title because pageant officials say she can stand -- and point to a newspaper picture as proof. ...

Candidates for the crown have to "mostly be seen in the public using their wheelchairs or scooters," said Judy Hoit, Ms. Wheelchair America's treasurer.

"Otherwise you've got women who are in their wheelchairs all the time and they get offended if they see someone standing up. We can't have title holders out there walking when they're seen in the public."

It appears that the problem is not that she is capable of standing, but that she allowed herself to be photographed publicly standing up.

I've already been tricked by several April Fools stories this morning. Even Scientific American says:

There's no easy way to admit this. For years, helpful letter writers told us to stick to science. They pointed out that science and politics don't mix. They said we should be more balanced in our presentation of such issues as creationism, missile defense and global warming. ... you were right, and we were wrong.

In retrospect, this magazine's coverage of so-called evolution has been hideously one-sided. For decades, we published articles in every issue that endorsed the ideas of Charles Darwin and his cronies.

I think that the Sci. American admission is a joke and Ms. Wheelchair is not. I'll post a correction, if necessary.
Judge Birch, supremacist
Judge Birch (11C federal appeals judge) starts his denial of the Shiavo appeal with:
An axiom in the study of law is that “hard facts make bad law.” The tragic events that have afflicted Mrs. Schiavo and that have been compounded by the resulting passionate inter-family struggle and media focus certainly qualify as “hard facts.”
and proceeds with the usual supremacist reliance on Marbury v Madison:
It is axiomatic that the Framers established a constitutional design based on the principles of separation of powers. See Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137, 176 (1803) (noting that separation of powers is one of the governmental principles “on which the whole American fabric has been erected”). The Framers established three coequal but separate branches of government, each with the ability to exercise checks and balances on the two others.
The full sentence is:
That the people have an original right to establish, for their future government, such principles as, in their opinion, shall most conduce to their own happiness, is the basis on which the whole American fabric has been erected.
You know that the judge is a supremacist when he quotes gibberish like this. He is ignoring the legislature, making bad law, and acting like judges are supposed to do that.