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Thursday, Mar 30, 2006
A Feminine Mystique All Her Own
NY Times article:
A political organizer and syndicated columnist who campaigned against the equal rights amendment, Phyllis Schlafly is still at war with the feminist agenda. ...

Recently, a biography of Phyllis Schlafly, the Missourian who traveled the country battling the equal rights amendment with a hairdo like a treble clef, arrived to make a case for its subject as one of the most influential figures in modern American political history. Among critics who found this thesis convincing, some faulted the book, saying it failed to reconcile the discrepancies between the antifeminist positions Mrs. Schlafly maintained and the accomplished professional life she has pursued. The book, "Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade" (Princeton University Press), is a flattering portrayal but also an impersonal one, largely because the author, Donald T. Critchlow, a historian from Mrs. Schlafly's hometown, St. Louis, conducted his research in archives. The two never sat down for a talk, ...

"In the scale of liberal sins, hypocrisy is the greatest, and they have always considered me a hypocrite," Mrs. Schlafly said. She has never told women, she said, that they shouldn't or couldn't work.

No, the biography is impersonal because it is about her political life and influence.

Accusations of hypocrisy in conservatives in almost always rooted in a misunderstanding of someone's position.

Saturday, Mar 25, 2006
Powers of Courts Curbed Over School Funding
The NY Sun reports:
ALBANY - In the latest twist in the legally tangled New York City schools funding case, the order handed down yesterday by a state appeals court means that it is ultimately the governor of New York and legislators, not the judicial branch, that will determine how much money is needed to ensure that the city's students are offered a proper education.

The 3-2 ruling makes it more likely that the next governor, and not Governor Pataki, will be the final arbiter in a case that spans more than a decade, involves billions of dollars in taxpayer money, and does not appear to be over. ...

While the court did not specify an exact sum, it recommended that the city public schools receive a range of additional annual operational aid of between $4.7 billion and $5.63 billion and $9 billion in capital money for construction projects and repairs.

Yes, the legislature and governor should be the ones to tax and spend school money. The courts have been infiltrated by judicial supremacists who want to run the schools.

Thursday, Mar 23, 2006
New Dino Fossil
Scientific American reports on a 151 myr old dinosaur fossil:
In a paper describing the fossil, published today in Nature, Luis Chiappe of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and Ursula Gohlich of the University of Munich classify Juravenator as an early member of the coelurosauria family that eventually evolved into birds, but one that lived later than some of the early feathered representatives. In fact, the discovery of feathers in a wide variety of coelurosaurs had led experts to posit that the entire clade had the downy covering. But Juravenator's skin impressions--seen in the middle of its tail and on its hind legs--show only scales.

This could mean that feathers evolved, were lost and then regained in the lineage or that the creature shed its coat during different seasons, the researchers write. Or it could be that Juravenator is more primitive than they suggest, argues Xing Xu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing in an accompanying commentary. "Whatever the explanation, our knowledge of early feather evolution has been enriched by the discovery," Xu writes. "Juravenator may complicate the picture, but it makes it more complete and realistic."

Funny how feather evolution theory can be completed by a find that doesn't make any sense.

Wednesday, Mar 22, 2006
Rejecting earthquake insurance
John sends this Seattle story:
Californians have built vast metropolises atop seismic faults, but 86 percent of the state's homeowners have no quake insurance, a proportion that has crept upward as memories of past quakes fade. The number of uninsured was about 65 percent in 1996.

"It's a game of Russian roulette," said Norman Williams, an assistant deputy commissioner at the state Department of Insurance.

Earthquake insurance is a lousy deal. If you have 15% equity in your home, and your policy has a 15% deductible, then you are really just insuring your mortgage company.

Tuesday, Mar 21, 2006
Patenting ideas
Tony Mauro of Legal Times writes about the Supreme Court patent case:
But Jonathan Franklin, lawyer for LabCorp, which challenged the patent, said that if Metabolite’s patent is upheld, then “Einstein could have patented E equals mc squared.” By patenting the correlation that makes the vitamin-deficiency test work, Franklin said, Metabolite has “pre-emptive sweep” over all other tests, past and future, that draw conclusions from blood tests. Physicians who draw similar correlations in their work would also be infringers, Franklin suggested.

Franklin is a partner at Hogan & Hartson, the former employer of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. Because of that connection, apparently, Roberts recused himself in the case and left the courtroom as the argument began.

John says that Roberts recused himself from (potentially) the most important patent case in 25 years.

I think that lawyer needs some better arguments. It is not so obviously bad if Einstein had been able to patent E=mc2.

Suppose it were really true that anyone who thinks of a new formula for generating energy could get a US patent on it, and collect royalties on the energy generated for the next 17 to 20 years. Then Einstein would have had the exclusive rights to nuclear bombs and power plants from 1905 to 1922. Nuclear power didn't even start to become feasible until 1945. What exactly would have been the harm?

Einstein did not foresee the practical utility of his formula, so he would not have been eligible for a patent even if the Metabolite patent is approved. The first one to figure out that the formula could be used in a fission chain reaction to generate energy was Leo Szilard and he did patent it. If the patent system provided him with an incentive to figure out a new energy source, then why is that a bad thing?

I am not saying that I agree with the Metabolite patent claim. I think that it ought to be rejected. But the Einstein analogy is a stupid legal argument.

Banker conviction overturned
Court news:
A federal appeals court yesterday overturned the obstruction-of-justice conviction of Frank P. Quattrone, the investment banker who rose to prominence in the 1990's technology boom, and granted him a new trial.

An appeals court ruled that a judge gave flawed instructions to the jury during the obstruction-of-justice trial of Frank P. Quattrone, pictured in 2004.

A Case in Point: Andersen Ruling Could Aid Appeal of Former Banker (June 1, 2005) The ruling, a rare reversal of a jury verdict, is considered a big setback for the Justice Department, which had sought to portray Mr. Quattrone as a symbol of Wall Street excesses during the boom years. ...

Like the case against Martha Stewart, who was convicted, the charges were not about questionable financial activities themselves, but about impeding an investigation into those activities.

Gary Kennedy, a computer software CEO, just proved his innocense after a long battle with federal prosecutors.

Quattrone seems to be another victim of the "coverup is worse than the crime" mentality. The feds couldn't find anything he did wrong, except that he once sent a short email suggesting that others follow standard document destruction policies. The documents hadn't been subpoenaed, but the feds said that he had reason to believe that the feds would want them preserved.

The biggest problems for Quattrone in his first 2 trials were that he made a fortune during the dot-com boom, and when he testified in his own defense, he appeared to know less about criminal prosecutor prosecutors than the average juror who watches the TV show Law And Order.

There are legitimate business reasons for deleting documents, and Quattrone may well have not known how criminal grand juries work. I am impressed by the determination of Kennedy and Quattrone to prove their innocense.

Sunday, Mar 19, 2006
Right to confront witnesses
Tomorrow SCOTUS will hear argument in two separate cases in which a man was convicted of domestic violence on the basis of out-of-court statements of a woman who never appeared in court to be cross examined.

Read about the cases at Umich.edu, Northwestern.edu, SCOTUS, SCOTUS, and law.com.

Both men had public defenders in at trial and their convictions were upheld by the supreme courts of Washington and Indiana respectively. In both cases, amicus briefs supporting conviction were filed by the U.S. Solicitor General and several VAWA-funded domestic violence agencies. The SG requested and received permission to participate in oral argument. These cases will provide a good test of whether or not Roberts and Alito are justices in the mold of Scalia and Thomas.

I agree. These cases will be crucial tests of how faithful Roberts and Alito will be to the Constitution.

The issue seems clear-cut to me. Suppose someone calls 911, accuses you of a crime, and fails to testify at trial. Should the state be able to convict you based on the 911 tape?

This seems clearly contrary to your 6A right to confront witnesses against you. I don't even see any other argument.

Bill Gates lobbies for cheap labor
David Broder writes:
[Msft CEO Bill Gates] decided to add his personal voice to his Washington office's lobbying effort to expand the number of foreign-born computer scientists allowed to work in this country under a special program known as H-1B visas.

In an interview sandwiched between his meetings on Capitol Hill, Gates told me the "high-skills immigration issue is by far the number one thing" on the Washington agenda for Microsoft and for the electronics industry generally. "This is gigantic for us." ...

So great is the demand for such skills in the burgeoning high-tech world that in August 2005 the last of the visas available for fiscal 2006 were issued. That means a 14-month shutdown of the program, until October of this year. "It's kind of ironic," Gates told me, "to have somebody graduate from Stanford Computer Science Department and there's not enough H-1B visas, so they have to go back to India. . . . And I have people who have been hired who are just sitting on the border waiting." ...

Opposition to the H-1B program grew during the dot-com bust, when groups representing domestic electrical engineers and computer technicians argued that foreigners were taking away their jobs. ... Gates said, "If you're graduating from a reasonable university in this country, with a degree in computer science, you have many job offers."

John writes:
Congress should force Microsoft to publish a list of every H-1B visa they have ever used, with job description, salary history, where the employee came from and what happened when the visa expired.
Gates's comments are revealing. The American construction, agriculture, and other industries also have Mexicans sitting on the border wanting jobs, but that does not justify unlimited immigration.

Gates really wants to hire smart college graduates who have taken several courses in computer science. He is not looking for the sort of people who have special experience and skills that have always been used to justify the H-1B program.

The supply of college graduates in a given field rises and falls corresponding to demand. There is never a shortage, as students are keenly aware of their job prospects. Msft prefers foreigners because they can be hired more cheaply, and because they are less likely to jump to another company if their visas requires Msft employment.

Saturday, Mar 18, 2006
FCC censorship
Someone insisted that I watch the PBS News Hour to get the facts on FCC censorship. I did, but it didn't actually show the teenage orgy scene that drew the recent FCC fines. To get the real story, I had to watch Fox News.

I get 150 satellite channels. 5 of them are subject to the FCC rules forbidding sex scenes and the 7 dirty words. The big majority of the other 145 channels won't say the 7 dirty words either, for other reasons. If you want to hear the 7 dirty words, buy some rap music. If you want to see sex scenes, porno videos are easily available. You can also get cable and satellite channel with pornography.

I think that complaints about FCC censorship are pretty silly. The teenage orgy scene was clearly inappropriate and against the rules. No one has any trouble getting porn if he want it.

The PBS show kept referring incorrectly to FCC regulation of over-the-air broadcasts of radio and TV programs. But the satellite radio and TV is broadcast over-the-air, and is not regulated for indecent content.

Thursday, Mar 16, 2006
Testing IQ in babies
The Freakonomics economist looked at IQ testing data on babies less than one year old, and found no evidence of average racial differences. Other studies found differences in kids as young as three.

I don't know how significant this is. It would be more interesting if someone actually found a way of reliably measuring intelligence in a baby. The above study would rate a baby as smart if it babbled a lot, but babbling may not be the best measure. A lot of smart kids were not babbling babies.

Sunday, Mar 12, 2006
Abolish the Lemon test
A reader writes:
Somewhere this week, I think in Michigan, I ran into a guy who worked at Discovery Institute. He knew absolutely everything about the Dover case. I said, WHY did you guys oppose what the board did, since the statement they ordered to be read to the students was completely innocuous.

He said, "That's right; it was innocuous. We opposed it because, even before the board voted to adopt the statement, members were on record as stating their religious motive, and we knew it could not pass the Lemon test."

The Lemon test ought to be abolished. Under current court precedents, religious folks holding public office have to conceal their beliefs or their actions become unconstitutional.
More people believing in evolution
Nicholas Wade writes:
Some geneticists believe the variations they are seeing in the human genome are so recent that they may help explain historical processes. "Since it looks like there has been significant evolutionary change over historical time, we're going to have to rewrite every history book ever written," said Gregory Cochran, a population geneticist at the University of Utah. "The distribution of genes influencing relevant psychological traits must have been different in Rome than it is today," he added. "The past is not just another country but an entirely different kind of people."
Perhaps evolutionists are coming around to admitting that humans are still evolving.
Quantum critical phase transitions
George Chapline theorizes that dark matter and dark energy might be explained by stars having shells undergoing a quantum critical phase transitions that make them look like black holes. I don't know whether his theory can explain dark buzz.

Saturday, Mar 11, 2006
When deleting a file is a federal crime
Computer crime news:
What: International Airport Centers sues former employee, claiming use of a secure file deletion utility violated federal hacking laws.

When: Decided March 8 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

Outcome: Federal hacking law applies, the court said in a 3-0 opinion written by Judge Richard Posner.

What happened, according to the court: Jacob Citrin was once employed by International Airport Centers and given a laptop to use in his company's real estate related business. The work consisted of identifying "potential acquisition targets."

At some point, Citrin quit IAC and decided to continue in the same business for himself, a choice that IAC claims violated his employment contract.

Normally that would have been a routine business dispute. But the twist came when Citrin dutifully returned his work laptop--and IAC tried to undelete files on it to prove he did something wrong.

IAC couldn't. It turned out that (again according to IAC) Citrin had used a "secure delete" program to make sure that the files were not just deleted, but overwritten and unrecoverable.

Weird. Posner is supposed to be a smart judge, so he should understand that using a secure deletion program is a normal and preferred practice whenever returning a laptop computer. Posner just invented a new federal crime based solely on the notion that an employee ought to go out of his way to let his employer spy on him.

Thursday, Mar 09, 2006
Few believe scientific theory
New poll:
WASHINGTON: A Gallup Poll released Wednesday suggests about 53 percent of Americans reject the theory of evolution as the explanation for the origin of humans.

Instead, they believe God created humans at one time "as is," the survey showed.

About 31 percent of respondents said they believe humans evolved, but God guided the process. Only 1.2 percent said they believe the scientific theory of evolution and "God had no part."

There's the problem with teaching evolution. The evolutionists want to teach something that only 1% of the public believes.

Meanwhile, evolutionists have been puzzling over this for many years:

Humans and chimpanzees have in common more than 98 percent of DNA and 99 percent of genes. Yet, in looks and behavior we are very different from them.
These statistics are frequently used by evolutionists to argue that humans are just animals who are not much different from chimps. Now it turns out that some of those genes are expressed differently, and have different effects in humans. No word yet on whether God has a part in it.

Wednesday, Mar 08, 2006
Lawyers promote homosexual agenda
Christopher Arriola writes, as the local Bar Assn president:
The Santa Clara County Bar Association is dismayed at the Los Altos City Council's exclusionary actions against gay students at Los Altos High School. ...

The city recently denied the Los Altos High School Gay/Straight Alliance's request for a declaration of a Gay Pride Day in the city. ...

The Los Altos City Council is not only misguided but also may have violated federal law. In Romer vs. Evans, The U.S. Supreme Court held that a Colorado law that denied gay people any protections was an unconstitutional violation of their 14th Amendment rights to equal protection. ...

Much like Colorado, the Los Altos City Council has no legitimate purpose to its actions, other than it does not want to hear the concerns of a certain group of people. In this case, it is all the more egregious because the wound was not simply in violation of their own stated mission or even directed at a "class of persons" but at their own children.

No, the Los Altos mission is not to promote homosexuality. It is absurd for the Bar Assn to claim that the US Constitution requires "Gay Pride" days.
Paris Hilton restrained
Celebrity news:
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- A court commissioner has signed off on an unusual restraining order against celebutante Paris Hilton, ordering her to stay at least 100 yards away from an event producer who claimed she threatened him -- unless they're at a party together.

Brian Quintana was granted the three-year restraining order against Hilton last month after he testified that the celebutante harassed and threatened him after their friendship soured.

Usually men are the targets of these silly orders. Judges hand these out without paying much attention to the rights of the parties.

The girlrobot blog thinks that I am infatuated with Paris Hilton. No, that's backwards. I am just preparing to get a restraining order in case Paris insists on visiting me too often. <g>

Tuesday, Mar 07, 2006
California Supreme Court rules on oral sex
California news:
Sacramento (AP) - California's justices overturned state law requiring adults 21 years or older who are convicted of having oral sex with 16- and 17-year-olds to automatically register as a sex offender for life.

The California Supreme Court, ruling 6-1, said the law, first adopted in 1947, was unconstitutional.

The majority said that the law was too harsh or unfair because adults 21 or older who are convicted of having sex with minors ages 16 and 17 are not automatically required to register as sex offenders.

The case is People v Hofsheier 3/6/06 SC, and was from Santa Cruz. The court was unable to see a rational basis for distinguishing between voluntary oral copulation with a minor and voluntary sexual intercourse with a minor.

The case is strange. Of course there are rational distinctions. The California legislature deliberately made a distinction. The court should have followed the statute.

George writes:

Are you endorsing lifetime registration for such a petty offense? Maybe the judges were looking to avoid such a drastic penalty in this case.
No. This particular defendant will probably still get lifetime registration, as the trial judge can still order it. He is a sexual predator of underage girls, so he may deserve it as much as others who have to register. My complaint is with the court overriding the legislature based on its own opinion about oral sex.
Ashley Cole
If you Google Ashley Cole, the British soccer player, you get a special section for links where he denies that he is gay.

I don't know what Google is trying to do here, but it looks like it is just trying to promote false rumors.

As usual, Google argues that the alternative search terms were generated automatically. Google is not being completely honest. It employs 100s of people who monitor user searches and manually enter data that guides searches like this one. Somebody decided that pages with gay rumors justify a separate section.

More humans evolving
NY Times reports:
Providing the strongest evidence yet that humans are still evolving, researchers have detected some 700 regions of the human genome where genes appear to have been reshaped by natural selection, a principal force of evolution, within the last 5,000 to 15,000 years.

The genes that show this evolutionary change include some responsible for the senses of taste and smell, digestion, bone structure, skin color and brain function.

Many of these instances of selection may reflect the pressures that came to bear as people abandoned their hunting and gathering way of life for settlement and agriculture, a transition well under way in Europe and East Asia some 5,000 years ago. ...

The finding adds substantially to the evidence that human evolution did not grind to a halt in the distant past, as is tacitly assumed by many social scientists. Even evolutionary psychologists, who interpret human behavior in terms of what the brain evolved to do, hold that the work of natural selection in shaping the human mind was completed in the pre-agricultural past, more than 10,000 years ago.

"There is ample evidence that selection has been a major driving point in our evolution during the last 10,000 years, and there is no reason to suppose that it has stopped," said Jonathan Pritchard, a population geneticist at the University of Chicago who headed the study.

Politically correct evolutionists have been refusing to acknowledge that humans have been evolving, especially when people mention skin color and brain function.

Meanwhile, London scientists have discovered an unevolved Turkish family called The Family That Walks On All Fours.

Monday, Mar 06, 2006
Parental notification laws
This pro-abortion NY Times article says:
For all the passions they generate, laws that require minors to notify their parents or get permission to have an abortion do not appear to have produced the sharp drop in teenage abortion rates that some advocates hoped for, an analysis by The New York Times shows.

The analysis, which looked at six states that introduced parental involvement laws in the last decade and is believed to be the first study to include data from years after 1999, found instead a scattering of divergent trends. ...

Since the United States Supreme Court recognized states' rights to restrict abortion in 1992, parental involvement legislation has been a cornerstone in the effort to reduce abortions. Such laws have been a focus of divisive election campaigns, long court battles and grass-roots activism, and are now in place in 34 states. Most Americans say they favor them.

The Court did not recognize any states' rights to restrict abortion. It requires a constitutional right to abortion throughout the entire 9 months, just as it ruled in 1973.

The purpose of those laws is not to reduce abortion, but to allow parents to exercise their traditional role in directing the upbringing of their children. The opposition has come from radical pro-abortionists who tell wacky stories of how these laws are going to have all sorts of dire consequences. The NYT analysis shows that there have been no such dire consequences.

Sunday, Mar 05, 2006
Evolving blonds
Most evolutionists are in denial about whether humans are evolving. When they do comment on human evolution, they say wacky things. For example, The London Times reports:
The study argues that blond hair originated in the region because of food shortages 10,000 to 11,000 years ago. Until then, humans had the dark brown hair and dark eyes that still dominate in the rest of the world. Almost the only sustenance in Northern Europe came from roaming herds of mammoths, reindeer, bison and horses. Finding them required long, arduous hunting trips in which numerous males died, leading to a high ratio of surviving women to men.

Lighter hair colors, which started as rare mutations, became popular for breeding, and numbers increased dramatically, according to the research, published under the aegis of the University of St. Andrews. ... However, the future of the blond is uncertain.

A study by the World Health Organization found that natural blonds are likely to be extinct within 200 years because there are too few people carrying the blond gene. According to the W.H.O. study, the last natural blond is likely to be born in Finland during 2202.

It seems to me that blonds are still popular for breeding.

Update: Snopes says that I was fooled by an urban legend, and that WHO never predicted blond extinction.