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Sunday, Apr 30, 2006
National Popular Vote
There is a new movement for a National Popular Vote (NPV) for president of the USA. Some of the more populous states would form a compact to throw their electoral vote to whatever candidate they believe to receive a plurality of votes, nationally.

One of the virtues of the Electoral College is that it requires a majority to elect anyone. Germany just elected its leader last Sept. with 35% of its vote, and Canada with 35% in Jan..

Under the USA Electoral College system, third parties are discouraged because they have to carry a state to get even a single electoral vote. Usually they have no hope of that, and few people waste their votes that way.

The main problem with third parties is that they can prevent a majority, and make it difficult to elect a President that everyone will recognize as the rightful winner. Suppose there are 3 candidates, receiving 46, 45, and 9 percent. The one with 46% could be declared the winner, but what if the other 2 candidates were ideologically similar? Then we'd have a president that 54% of the people voted against.

The NPV proponents will probably spend most of them time arguing that it is wrong that someone can win a majority of the popular vote but not get elected. I wouldn't mind so much if their proposal just favored those with a majority of the votes. Instead, the primary effect is to help those candidates who cannot get majority support.

In 1948, 1960, 1968, 1992, 1996, and 2000, no one won the popular vote. In 2000, Gore won a plurality of the votes. There is no consensus on who got a plurality of the popular votes in 1960. Perhaps Nixon would have been elected in 1960 if NPV had been in effect.

Andy writes:

I don't attach as much significance to the plurality v. majority issue. People who favor democracy don't care about that. People who favor the Electoral College don't care much about that either. It seems like a red herring.
John writes:
I agree with Roger (not Andy) about the significance of "majority vote" vs. "the most votes." An essential feature of our present Constitution is that nobody can be elected president without obtaining an absolute majority of something -- either the Electoral College, or state delegations in the House of Representatives.

Thursday, Apr 27, 2006
Naming the Lacrosse accuser
Crystal Gail Mangum is the 27-year-old stripper who launched a hysterical attack on the Duke lacrosse team. I got the name from The Johnsville News, which has a lot more detail. Another blog spells her name as Crystal Gail Mangum and has some other info. See also tdaxp.

I really disapprove of the way that the legal system and the MSM branded the boys as racist rapists on very flimsy charges, and protected the accuser from being held accountable for what she has done.

I just listened to a radio talk show host go into a big rant against the prosecution and defense lawyers for attempting to try the case in the press. I agree with him about the prosecution, but I think that it is the duty of the defense lawyers to defend the lacrosse boys both in the press and in the courts. They have alibis and other reasons for saying that the accusations are false. Nobody is giving the boys their presumption of innocence, so they'll have to publicly prove their innocence or their lives will be ruined.

George writes:

Why are you naming a rape victim? Won't that discourage other rape victims from coming forward?
I don't think that she is a rape victim. Naming her is like naming Katelyn Faber, Kobe Bryant's accuser.

Monday, Apr 24, 2006
Anger control classes considered harmful
British news:
Anger management courses for convicted armed robbers, wife beaters and stalkers are being axed by the prison and probation services following an official inquiry into the murder of the city financier John Monckton.

Home Office instructions sent to the probation service say that anger management courses are counterproductive and actually help violent offenders who make premeditated attacks to manipulate the situation to their advantage.

Too many people assume that such psychobabble classes are beneficial. They may be harmful.

Sunday, Apr 23, 2006
Judges Interfere With Elections
John writes:
Remember the nutty decision of a 9th Circuit panel that stopped the California recall (later reversed en banc)? Now the same logic has been picked up by the 6th Circuit, which throws out Ohio's entire voting system just 2 weeks before the primary at which Ken Blackwell (defendant in this case) is running for governor.

Thanks to the 5-year Senate filibuster that blocked Bush's 4 nominees to the 6th Circuit, the case drew an all-Democrat panel. The majority opinion was written by a Jimmy Carter judge.

Some people are going to say that if the US Supreme Court can interfere in an election like the 2000 presidential election, then so can other judges. But Bush v Gore did not change any votes or election procedures. It merely said that the courts had insufficient cause to interfere. OTOH, these judges justify taking radical action by quoting Earl Warren's memoirs!

Friday, Apr 21, 2006
Unholy alliance opposes ID tags
This story describes industry gripes about difficulties forcing Americans to carry ID tags that can be passively read:
[Marc-Anthony] Signorino said the political climate in New Hampshire has made it especially difficult for the industry to make a case for itself. The Granite State has been particularly active on the ID front. House lawmakers there last month passed a bill to reject a 2005 federal mandate for standard driver's licenses.

"We're scared to go to New Hampshire," he said. "They have gun racks on their motorcycles. They don't want anyone telling them what to do." ...

The movement against RFID and federal driver's licensing standards has garnered support from all areas of the political spectrum, according to [RFID industry lobbyist Robert] Atkinson.

He said an "unholy alliance" of groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Eagle Forum, which is led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, has choked the ability of the technology industry to gather political support. "This isn't a group of fringe players," he said.

Funny. I guess that the industry thinks that there is an unholy alliance of people who don't want to be treated like cattle.

Thursday, Apr 20, 2006
Free speech for certain views only
Volokh writes:
Tyler Harper wore an anti-homosexuality T-shirt to school, apparently responding to a pro-gay-rights event put on at the school by the Gay-Straight Alliance at the school. On the front, the T-shirt said, "Be Ashamed, Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned," and on the back, it said "Homosexuality is Shameful." The principal insisted that Harper take off the T-shirt. Harper sued, claiming this violated his First Amendment rights.

Harper's speech is constitutionally unprotected, the Ninth Circuit just ruled today, in an opinion written by Judge Reinhardt and joined by Judge Thomas; Judge Kozinski dissented. According to the majority, "derogatory and injurious remarks directed at students' minority status such as race, religion, and sexual orientation" -- which essentially means expressions of viewpoints that are hostile to certain races, religions, and sexual orientations -- are simply unprotected by the First Amendment in K-12 schools. Such speech, Judge Reinhardt said, violates "the rights of other students" by constituting a "verbal assault[] that may destroy the self-esteem of our most vulnerable teenagers and interfere with their educational development."

I wouldn't mind if the school banned all homosexuality-related T-shirts, but it is promotes one particular political view, then it should allow alternate views.

Judge Reinhardt is famous for being a pro-ACLU leftist activist judge who is frequently overruled by the Supreme Court.

Update: UCLA law prof Volokh points out that in 2002 Judge Reinhardt decided that "First Amendment judicial scrutiny should now be at its height" for people like Taliban sympathizers. But not for anyone who thinks that sodomy is shameful, I guess.

Wednesday, Apr 19, 2006
Humans are still evolving
A reader recommends this NPR interview of Nicholas Wade plugging his new book Before The Dawn. (The NPR link is flaky and I could not hear the interview.)

I blogged earlier about a NY Times article in which Wade said:

It had been widely assumed until recently that human evolution more or less stopped 50,000 years ago.
So I guess that Wade has gotten religion on this subject, and is now trying to convince all the other evolutionists who deny that humans are still evolving. Wade says that Iceland was only settled by humans 1000 years ago, and the people there have evolved already.

There are people who find the concept of human evolution very unsettling. If humans are still evolving, then some people might be more evolved than others. I think that their concerns are a little silly.

No sign of supersymmetry
NY Times reports:
Physicists are a bit frustrated that their results keep agreeing with the Standard Model and so far show no hint of supersymmetry.
It is funny how so many physicists can believe in supersymmetry when there is no hard evidence for it.

Friday, Apr 14, 2006
Another missing link
Science news from Nature:
NAIROBI (AFP) - Four-million-year-old remains in Ethiopia have provided the first hard proof of a link between two key stages of human evolution by bridging the gap between pre-human species, paleontologists said.

"For the first time, we found fossils that allow us to connect the first phase of human evolution and the second phase," Dr Berhane Asfaw, anthropologist and co-research director of the project that found the remains, told a news conference Wednesday in Addis Ababa.

"The fossils represent unambiguous evidence for human evolution," he said. ...

"All (three species) were able to be found in one place, proving that evolution is a fact," Asfaw said. "Successive records that we see here prove that the Afar region is the origin of human kind."

It is pretty crazy to call these fossils hard proof of anything. They are small-brained with no known connection to humans. Some people speculate that they might be human ancestors because they might have been able to stand up a little better than the typical chimp, but the evidence is extremely weak.

Thursday, Apr 13, 2006
How the Government Creates Child Abuse
Stephen Baskerville writes:
Just in time for "Child Abuse Prevention Month," the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) publishes its annual contribution to obfuscating the causes of child abuse.

Operatives of the child abuse industry often wax righteous about the "scandal" of child abuse. "We cannot tolerate the abuse of even one child," says an HHS press release. But the real scandal is the armies of officials who have been allowed to acquire -- using taxpayers' dollars -- a vested interest in abused children.

Devising child abuse programs makes us all feel good, but there is no evidence they make the slightest difference. In fact, they probably make the problem worse. Child abuse is largely a product of the feminist-dominated family law and social work industries. It is a textbook example of the government creating a problem for itself to solve.

He's right. Govt programs to prevent child abuse are actually causing more abuse than they prevent.

Monday, Apr 10, 2006
Harmful programs
Human Events rates The 10 Most Harmful Government Programs:
  • 1. Social Security
  • 2. Medicare
  • 3. Income Tax Withholding
  • 4. McCain-Feingold
  • 5 (Tie). Contraceptive Funding
  • 5 (Tie). Farm Subsidies
  • 7. Medicaid
  • 8. Affirmative Action
  • 9 (Tie). Earmarking
  • 9 (Tie). Davis-Bacon Act
    Cosmic Landscape v Evolution
    The blog Not Even Wrong cites this:
    Of course, the anthropic principle is in some sense a tautology: we must live where we can live.

    Natural selection is a tautology in much the same sense: survivors survive. But in combination with a mechanism of populating a spectrum of universes or genotypes, these ‘tautologies’ acquire great power.

    Thus we should seriously consider the possibility that there is no other selection mechanism significantly constraining the cosmological constant. Equally we should not stop searching for such a further principle, but I think one must admit that the strongest reason for expecting to find it is not a scientific argument but a psychological one (footnote): we wish fundamental theory to be as we have long assumed it would be.

    Again, the Darwinian analogy is notable.

    This is from evolutionists, not creationists.

    Sunday, Apr 09, 2006
    Kerry exaggerates his vote count
    I just watched John Kerry on Meet The Press. He is certainly the master at forcefully saying nothing. He said that he takes full responsibility for mistakes made by his 2004 campaign, but refused to say what they were.

    Tim Russert started the show saying that Kerry won 48.3% of the popular vote in 2004, and Kerry said that he thought that he won 49.2%.

    The 2004 election tally is a strange thing to dispute. If we cannot agree on that, then I don't know how we could agree on Iraq WMD. I checked CNN, WikiPedia, and National Archives. They give slightly differently figures, but they all imply that Russert is right and Kerry is wrong. It is hard to understand how Kerry could make a mistake like this. Perhaps he was thinking about Bill Clinton getting 49.2% of the vote in 1996.

    In other J. Kerry news, he continues to show that he is not afraid to mention religion:

    Not in one phrase uttered and reported by the Lord Jesus Christ, can you find anything that suggests that there is a virtue in cutting children from Medicare.
    Meanwhile, Kevin Phillips says:
    Now that the GOP has been transformed by the rise of the South, the trauma of terrorism and George W. Bush's conviction that God wanted him to be president, a deeper conclusion can be drawn: The Republican Party has become the first religious party in U.S. history.

    We have had small-scale theocracies in North America before -- in Puritan New England and later in Mormon Utah. Today, a leading power such as the United States approaches theocracy when it meets the conditions currently on display: an elected leader who believes himself to speak for the Almighty, a ruling political party that represents religious true believers, the certainty of many Republican voters that government should be guided by religion and, on top of it all, a White House that adopts agendas seemingly animated by biblical worldviews.

    He says Bush is only concerned about money, oil, security, and God.

    I don't know why this should be so upsetting to Phillips. We are not a theocracy just because our President is concerned with money, oil, security, and God. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton talked about God more than Bush does.

    Joe writes:

    I think there is only one reason Kevin Phillips is quoted by anybody. It's that he wrote a book about the emerging Republican majority about 30 years ago, so now, 20 years after he has become a total flack for the left, he can be quoted by the MSM as a conservative - and of course he just has nasty things to say about conservatives.
    Joe is correct.

    Friday, Apr 07, 2006
    Libby followed instructions
    LA Times reports:
    WASHINGTON -- President Bush personally authorized leaking long-classified information to a reporter in the summer of 2003 to buttress administration claims, now discredited, that Saddam Hussein was attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction for Iraq, according to a court filing by prosecutors in the case against former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. ...

    The court filing by Fitzgerald makes no allegation that Bush encouraged or authorized the disclosure of the identity of Plame to anyone. Bush has previously said that he would fire anyone in his administration who was involved in the outing of Plame.

    No, Bush never said that. He said:
    Listen," Bush said in response to a reporter's question in Chicago on Sept. 30, 2003, "I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action.

    "There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington," Bush said then. "And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of."

    Bush has always punished leakers, Bush's statement was just a restatement of what everyone would expect. But Bush and Cheney have the authority to declassify information, so an authorized disclosure would not have been a leak of classified info.

    I continue to think that no crime was committed here.

    We don't want the President to goto war based on secret reasons. We want the White to declassify and release the necessary evidence. Once the NY Times and Valerie Plame's husband Wilson published an article claiming to have inside info that one of Bush's reasons for war was mistaken, then it was entirely appropriate that the White House release the info and the surrounding circumstances because Wilson was lying.

    Thursday, Apr 06, 2006
    Lawrence Krauss: Science under attack
    Lawrence Krauss is a respected physicist and science popularizer, but he cannot resist taking leftist evolutionist political positions, and accusing anyone who disagrees as being anti-science. This blog agrees 85% with him, but says:
    After he explained that science should never advocate things that cannot be defended scientifically, because it is not right and moreover it diminishes the power of science, he listed approximately five principles of the scientific ethos (or even the scientific method), and one of them was "egalitarianism".
    Krauss went on to say Bush was anti-science on the subjects of global warming, stem cell research, and missile defense.

    Wednesday, Apr 05, 2006
    Missing link fish
    NY Times reports:
    Scientists have discovered fossils of a 375 million-year-old fish, a large scaly creature not seen before, that they say is a long-sought "missing link" in the evolution of some fishes from water to a life walking on four limbs on land.

    In addition to confirming elements of a major transition in evolution, the fossils are widely seen by scientists as a powerful rebuttal to religious creationists, who hold a literal biblical view on the origins and development of life.

    ... They said this should undercut the creationists' argument that there is no evidence in the fossil record of one kind of creature becoming another kind.

    One creationist Web site (emporium.turnpike.net/C/cs/evid1.htm) declares that "there are no transitional forms," adding: "For example, not a single fossil with part fins part feet has been found. And this is true between every major plant and animal kind."

    Let's assume that these evolutionists are correct, and that this fossil is the first fossil found with part fins part feet. Then why is it that creationist web sites were the only places to have this info that was completely correct? The evolution textbooks should have been willing to admit that this gap existed.

    George writes:

    The creationists will never be happy with a fossil that fills a gap. They'll just say that now there are two gaps: one before and one after this new fossil.

    Monday, Apr 03, 2006
    Forcing Ritalin
    Quebec news:
    Gabriel Lavigueur was suspended from his South Shore school on March 20. His mother, Danielle, says his Ritalin was causing insomnia, loss of appetite and aggression. Published: Sunday, April 02, 2006 The case of a 12-year-old Longueuil boy suspended from school when his mother refused to give him Ritalin has sparked concerns over who is in charge of the medicine cabinet.
    There have also been reports that American schools have pressured kids to go on ritalin.
    Study rejects benefits of light drinking
    The LA Times reports:
    If you think a glass of wine is good for your heart, think again.

    The belief that moderate drinking reduces risk of a heart attack is based on flawed data and is most likely wrong, according to a study released today.

    A couple of glasses of wine aren't going to hurt, the study found, but they aren't going to help, either.

    ``Our results suggest that light drinking is a sign of good health, and not necessarily its cause,'' said epidemiologist Kaye Fillmore of the University of California-San Francisco School of Nursing.

    The findings were released online in the journal Addiction Research and Theory.

    Fillmore's team identified 54 papers that examined the health effects of drinking. They found that the vast majority of the papers included significant numbers of people who had recently quit drinking with the group who abstained from alcohol. Many of those people did so because of advancing age or serious illness, and might have faced a greater likelihood of disease and death.

    Seven of the studies had only long-term abstainers.

    All seven of those studies showed no benefit from moderate drinking.

    This should rebut some of the pro-alcohol propaganda.

    Sunday, Apr 02, 2006
    Chasing the Babe
    The San Jose paper says:
    Just ask Aaron, the only man so far with the audacity to pass Ruth. He was greeted with a barrage of racist hate mail. In 1974, the year he became the home run king, Aaron was asked about someone breaking his own record.

    ``Believe me, I'll be pulling for him,'' Aaron replied, ``and I hope they give him as much hell as they have me.''

    Wish granted.

    Yes, wish granted. The attacks on Barry Bonds are far worse than the attacks on Aaron ever worse.

    George writes:

    I don't know why you want to make excuses for Bonds. Bonds used steroids. He has admitted his amoral disregard for the integrity of baseball by saying, "I don't know what cheating is."
    No, Bonds was saying that the MLB rules on performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) were ambiguous, and it is debatable whether his alleged use of the "cream" and the "clear" was cheating. Some people probably think that Lasik surgery is cheating. No one knows whether MLB and the public will eventually consider Bonds a cheater. Bonds cannot know either.

    Paul Campos defends Bonds against various arguments that he cheated, and that the strongest argument against Bonds is that PEDs are dangerous. But there are no studies on the adverse health effects of the "clear" (THG), so I don't know how Bonds or anyone else could be so certain of its danger. Maybe it is no worse than taking a vitamin supplement.

    Teaching evolution
    The LA Times reports:
    LIBERTY, Mo. — Monday morning, Room 207: First day of a unit on the origins of life. Veteran biology teacher Al Frisby switches on the overhead projector and braces himself.

    As his students rummage for their notebooks, Frisby introduces his central theme: Every creature on Earth has been shaped by random mutation and natural selection — in a word, by evolution.

    The challenges begin at once.

    "Isn't it true that mutations only make an animal weaker?" sophomore Chris Willett demands. " 'Cause I was watching one time on CNN and they mutated monkeys to see if they could get one to become human and they couldn't." ...

    Such challenges have become so disruptive that some teachers dread the annual unit on evolution — or skip it altogether.

    In response, the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science is distributing a 24-page guide to teaching the scientific principles behind evolution, starting in kindergarten. The group also has issued talking points for teachers flustered by demands to present "both sides." ...

    Frisby hopes the exercise will make an impression on students like Chris Willett, who offered this rebuttal to evolution: "I think it's kind of strange that they can find all these dinosaur fossils from what you say is millions of years ago, but they can't find any transitional human fossils."

    Frisby promised to show the class several fossils that document the halting and gradual evolution from apes to humans. Then he reminded them not to expect equal numbers of human and dinosaur remains, because hominids emerged only recently, while dinosaurs ruled the planet for nearly 200 million years.

    At that, sophomore Derik Montgomery snapped to attention. "I heard that dinosaurs are only thousands of years old, like 6,000. Not millions," he said.

    "That's wrong," Frisby responded briskly. "What can I tell you? You can't believe everything you read."

    Sprawled out across his chair, Derik muttered: "You can't believe everything you hear in here, either."

    Frisby put up his next transparency.

    Most science teachers just love it when students ask questions. If someone doubts that dinosaur fossils are millions of years old, then they get an opportunity to explain the scientific evidence.