Natura non facit saltus
Debunking the Paradigm Shifters
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Friday, Jan 31, 2003
John sends this story about the world's smartest person, according to an elite IQ test.
Volokh's blog has discoverd the Prof. Dini, who refuses to write letters of recommendation for creationist students. It is amusing to see people defend this religious bigot with statements like this:
Is it possible to be a good MD and a good Creationist? I would suggest that the answer is no.
Meanwhile, Steven Pinker says the school should teach more evolutionary biology instead of foreign languages.
The Slate explainer tries to describe some of the problems with software patents, and repeats a common myth:
Until the early 1980s, the courts generally considered software to be nothing more elaborate than applied mathematics, and thus not patentable. That's why the geeks behind such pre-'80s computing wonders as the first-ever database, word processor, and spreadsheet missed the boat: ...I reality, there were software patents in the 1970s, and the inventor of the spreadsheet program received a patent on it. It pre-dated VisiCalc.
Roger Schlafly wroteI don't think Kennedy's dissent makes much sense. Note that only Rehnquist signed onto that opinion.At 0159 PM 1/25/2003 -0500, Aschlafly@aol.com wrote We'll see if Bush handles this problem, of his own creation, by shirking the conservative agenda, such as the partial-birth abortion bill. John, are you still confident (as you stated on 12/25) that Bush/Frist will pass the bill?Contrary to Andy's predictions, Bush reiterated his call for a PBA ban in the SOTU. Frist voted for the bill in the past (Oct. 1999), and there is every reason to expect him to put it through this year.What is conservative about a partial-birth abortion bill? Under which of Congress's enumerated powers can Congress do this?The proposed bill would only apply in those areas of federal jurisdiction where Congress's constitutional authority to legislate is already recognized, such as interstate commerce, federal territories, and federally funded programs.Why pass a law that the SC has already found unconstitutional?1. The proposed federal law is not identical to the state law that the SC rejected in 2000 by a 5-4 vote.
John's real gripe is with Roe v. Wade. The central holding of Roe v. Wade is that one physician can indeed be allowed to decide, unilaterally, and arbitrarily and without evidence, that late-term is medically necessary. There is no standard of medical necessity that goes beyond the abortionist's unsubstantiated, uncorroborated wish. Re-read Roe v. Wade, and don't get fooled by the dicta about trimesters.
I can see why John would disagree with Roe v. Wade, but that's the decision, and it has been repeatedly upheld for 30 years. It just does not leave any room for banning PBA.
You are not really addressing John's argument that "Roe v. Wade legalizes abortion only if and when it is medically necessary to preserve a woman's health." He says the PBA is not necessary.To understand that argument, you have to read the definitions. Roe defines health to include the woman's physical, emotional, and psychological health. And the medical judgment is solely in the hands of the physician who does the abortion, and he cannot be accountable to anyone for that decision. Burger's Roe concurrence says:
For my part, I would be inclined to allow a State to require the certification of two physicians to support an abortion, but the Court holds otherwise.IOW, medical necessity is defined by one physician's unilateral opinion. As long as there is a woman who wants an abortion, and there is a physician willing to do it, then they have a iron-clad constitutional right to do it. There is just no way around it, unless Roe is reversed. Law attempting to regulate or restrict late-term or partial-birth abortions are just exercises in futility.
Thursday, Jan 30, 2003
Liza writes: "For those of you who deny any Iraqi link to al Qaeda, here is some evidence from William Safire."
Assuming everything Safire says is true, Iraq is still a relatively minor center of al Qaeda activity. Of the major al Qaeda attacks on the United States, none originated in or were directed from Iraq, and none of the major actors were Iraqis. There's much less al Qaeda in Iraq than in Saudi Arabia or Egypt; less, perhaps, than Germany, France or Britain. Hence, the Safire column proves too much. If he is right that low-level "links" justify a U.S. war with Iraq, then, a fortiori, we should be at war with at least a dozen other countries - the entire Arab or even the entire Muslim world. A war with Iraq is estimated to cost $60 billion and absorb all U.S. military forces (including reserves and National Guard units). Winning the war means the U.S. will have to lead (and pay for) a reconstruction lasting many years in the future. I don't think we can afford it.Liza responds:
The difference is that the Iraqi government, at least according to Safire, is actively encouraging, harboring, and financing the al Qaeda enclave in Iraq. The governments of Germany, France and Britain are certainly not doing likewise in their respective countries. As for Egypt and Saudi Arabia, I doubt there is evidence of government support, although there may be money going from individual princes and the like to al Qaeda.
Not sure if this site is for real. It claims that a company has this mission statement:
Create value for our customers by delivering innovative IP based services in a cost effective manner, that illustrates our commitment to a win-win solution and establishes a relationship based on mutual trust and satisfaction. Cultivate our relationships with our extended teams, strive for continuous improvement and offer an environment that encourages our team members to achieve their full potential while demonstrating our winning attitude.
I installed a new 17" LCD monitor, along with my CRT monitor. I can now have a desktop twice as large. It is a good setup for people who use a lot of open windows, as I do. But there are a fair number of Msft glitches. Eg, some Msft programs like to open their main window on one monitor, and often put the dialog boxes associated to the window on the other monitor. Even worse, it sometimes tries to center the dialog box in the middle of the two screen, so half is on one and half on the other. I get the impression that no one at Msft ever tested Windows2000 on a computer with 2 monitors.
John sends this Wired article about Xupiter being a malicious program. Don't get tricked into installing it.
Glad to see that the Patent Office is tightening up on the silly gene patents that it has been issuing. Boston Globe story.
Mike complains about Bush's pronunciation of nuclear and peninsula. He says, "After his speech I couldn't get my teenager to say the word correctly with any consistency."
Eisenhower, Carter, and Clinton mispronounced nuclear the same way. See Slate.
I think that the anonymous person who posted the recent Microsoft worm known as SQL Slammer did the world a favor. The worm does not do any damage to files, or anything particularly malicious. It was let loose on a Friday night, so businesses had all weekend to reboot and patch their servers. Disruption to business activities was minimal. The vast majority of the machines hit would probably have not installed the security patch otherwise, and would have left their servers open to much more malicious attacks.
The history of computer security problems is such that Microsoft and others do not act based on warnings about what might happen. It is not until there is an explicit attack threatening people that appropriate measures get taken.
Tuesday, Jan 28, 2003
Michael Fumento (or someone pretending to be him) sends this article he wrote on ADHD in The New Republic. He criticizes Phyllis Schlafly and other conservatives who are skeptical about giving ritalin to kids for behavior problems.
Fumento is one of the better journalists who tackles tough scientific issues. He attacks these so-called myths:
The chemical effect of cocaine and ritalin on the brain are extremely similar. A recent Slate article explained:
Both cocaine and methylphenidate, the generic name for Ritalin, are stimulants that target the dopamine system, which helps control the brain's functioning during pleasurable experiences. The two drugs block the ability of neurons to reabsorb dopamine, thus flooding the brain with a surplus of the joy-inducing neurotransmitter. According to animal studies, Ritalin and cocaine act so much alike that they even compete for the same binding sites on neurons.A JAMA article says similar things. This is nothing new -- the DEA has known it for years and classified both as Schedule II drugs.
The question of whether ADHD is a real disorder gets bogged down into the definition of a disorder. As Fumento says, virtually all mental disorders are diagnosed without benefit of a lab test. What qualifies and doesn't qualify as a disorder to the psychiatric community would surprise the average person. But putting that question aside, it is important to understand that there is no objective test for ADHD (or ADD). Fumento mentions genes and brain scans and it sounds like hard science, but none of that is used to diagnose ADHD. According to official pediatric guidelines, the diagnosis is subjective and dependent on reports from parents and teachers on behavior during the preceding 6 months. And the symptoms are things like "Often not listening to what is being said." Even getting a second opinion may not be very useful, if the physician is relying on the same possibly-distorted reports from parents and teachers.
If stimulants have been known to be good treatments for ADHD since 1937, as Fumento says, we still need an explanation as to why ritalin usage has been going up so dramatically in the last 15 years. A recent Eagle Forum newsletter said:
MORE YOUTH RECEIVING PSYCHIATRIC DRUGS. A new study by Julie Zito of the University of Maryland in Baltimore, published and analyzed in the latest issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, finds that the number of American children being treated with psychiatric drugs tripled from 1987 to 1996, and shows no sign of slowing. By 1996, over 6% of American children were taking drugs such as Prozac, Ritalin and Risperdal. The researchers say the trend may partly reflect better diagnosis of mental illness in children, but they fear it indicates cost-saving techniques by insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry. Michael Jellinek, chief of child psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, who reviewed the study, says, "The medicine may help the symptoms but not address issues of self-esteem, interpersonal relationships and family relationships ..." Ms. Zito puts it this way: "Other than zonking you, we don't know that behavioral management by drug control is the way to learn to behave properly. If we are using drugs to control behavior, that doesn't change the underlying problem if someone doesn't know how to get along with their peers." Washington Post, 1-04-03.
Here is a Wired article about software code going to waste.
John sends this article about official reports that a database of gun ballistics is unworkable and impractical.
John sends this article on the California budget crisis, and how it is really caused by irresponsible spending increases in the last 3 years. It has some specific suggestions. Too bad we couldn't elect a governor with the will to carry out suggestions like these.
Johns sends this UK science article saying that Earth-like worlds circling stars in orbital zones suitable for life may be few and far between in the cosmos, according to new research. Interpretations of Drake's formula may have to be revised.
Those convicted of the NY Central Park jogger rape and beating have been released based on DNA evidence that supposedly exonerates them. Based on media reports, this is probably the biggest case of innocent people being convicted of a serious crime.
And yet the convicts are probably not innocent. They confessed, and nearly all of the reasons for the jury thinking that they were guilty are still valid. This report concludes that they were guilty as charged, and prosecuted and convicted properly.
This article explains how Title IX has been bad for men's sports, like wrestling. Title IX was intended for equal opportunities in education, but it has turned into stupid sex quotas.
Monday, Jan 27, 2003
An evolutionary theory shot down. The textbooks say that human childbirth is painful and difficult because of our large evolved brains. But apparently that theory has been shot down, and they now have goofier theories.
I happened to notice my kid watching Sesame Street or some other such show on the local PBS affiliate, and instead of the regular show, it had a pitch aimed at kids to get their parents to donate money! It was also filled with lies about PBS funding.
Sesame Street is a big moneymaker. The PBS stations got their licenses under promises of noncommercial TV. They shouldn't be showing commercials, and they shouldn't be trying to manipulate kids into pressuring their parents to send money. Do not give! Those who give are only making the problem worse.
Why not give to your local PBS station? I happen to know that our local station is completely dependent on donations, and their pitches couldn't possibly be as bad as those for junk food like McDonald's. PBS is non-profit.McDonald's is selling nutricious meals that I can either buy or not buy. PBS is a tax-supported broadcaster that I have to pay for whether I like it or not. The only reason that it looks like they need subscriber money is because that is how they juggle the books. The Sesame Street profits are spun off into a separate entity. The stations spend whatever money they can raise.
InstaPundit reports that the Ninth Circuit has gone back and removed citations to Michael Bellesiles. A very poorly reasoned anti-gun opinion had cited the disgraced historian. I guess the idiot judge realized that he had embarrassed himself.
Liza sends this Safire column on Iraq links to al Qaeda.
John sends this article on Why VHS was better than Betamax. I agree. VHS was better because it had essentially the same quality and twice the record time. A 2-hour tape was a whole lot more useful than a 1-hour tape. Other VHS advantages are discussed here.
The idea that Betamax was better is one of those myths that is often used to support some dubious point. Eg, it is used to show that network efforts sometimes cause an inferior product in the marketplace. Another example might be MS-DOS or the Dvorak keyboard. But these are also myths, and don't prove anything.
Sunday, Jan 26, 2003
The EFF has good comments on how the Copyright Office should grant some DMCA exceptions. These exceptions would partially restore fair use in a couple of narrow areas.
USA Today just published the most accurate story on the expected Bush nomination to the Supreme Court. It describes how Gonzales is unacceptable to conservatives, and (unlike AP and NYT) mentions Emilio Garza as a candidate.
Here is a Wired article on The Race to Kill Kazaa. The principals are spread thru different countries. Even if the corporation is shut down the software and the P2P network is likely to live on.
Saturday, Jan 25, 2003
Here is a list of the year's worst science stories.
Here are some radical quotes from famous environmentalists. Like: "Everything we have developed over the last 100 years should be destroyed."
eMoo points to a Wash Post article explaining that once again, we have a peace movement that has been taken over by commies.
A 3-column spread on the front page of Friday's New YorkTimes confirms what Andy told us a couple of weeks ago BUSH'S STEADY DECLINE IN PUBLIC APPROVAL.and John responds:
That's pure NYT propaganda. Here's the truth about Bush's public support, from Andy's favorite newspaper, USA Today.Andy responds:
Roger replied, "Of course his poll numbers have dropped. ...."I am not sure if they are referring to this NY Times article, or another.
A feminist group rates TV shows. Some of their favorites are low-rated shows about women who have figured out that they can eliminate men from their lives. As expected. But they give the lowest score (F) to Fear Factor! Fear Factor is the most sexually egalitarian show on TV. Each show is a contest to do 3 scary stunts. The last episode involved standing still while being covered with thousands of honeybees, and running on stilts on a high platform. Often they also have to eat bugs or something else. The contestants are always 3 men and 3 women. The rules are carefully designed so that the men and women have an equal shot at the prize. They often involve some athletic skill, but not just raw strength. Much more important is the ability to focus on the objective without being psyched out by the scary set-up. I suppose that they could think that it is demeaning to eat bugs or to do some physical stunt, but the men and women do them equally. (Thanks to VikingPundit's Smarter Harper's Index for the link.)
A Microsoft bug is shutting down the internet this morning. The problem is:
Microsoft SQL Worm: By sending a specially-crafted request to UDP port 1434 with the first byte set to 0x04, a remote attacker could overflow a buffer and cause the SQL Server service to crash or execute arbitrary code on the system with the same privileges as the SQL Server. In addition to email, latency, isp and site outages, VoIP systems are failing now.It even knocked out Bank of America ATM machines.
Update: Good technical descriptions are here and here. Brief advice: block ports 1433 and 1434.
Update: Some of Microsoft's own servers were down -- they didn't apply their own patches. The problem here is not that Microsoft programmers are prone to bugs, but that they have an attitude that favors insecure products.
What does this sentence mean?
This season, Rice caught 92 passes for 1,211 yards, placing him sixth in the league in receptions, ahead of scores of receivers who are almost half his age.Usually, "almost half" means slightly less than half. But Rice is age 40, and there are no NFL players under 20.
The article mentions Rice's knee surgery. I had the same knee surgery, from the same surgeon. (But I am not playing pro football!)
Alan Nunn May died. He was a British scientist who sold US atomic secrets to the commies. He only served 6 years in jail for it.
Friday, Jan 24, 2003
Apparently some people think that network sabotage will be a legal and profitable business. This Wired story describes a company called Overpeer and its this patent application for putting deliberately degraded music into P2P networks.
Here is a wacky NY Times editorial:
The physicist Stephen Hawking warned last year that computers are improving so rapidly there is "a real danger" they will ultimately "develop intelligence and take over." He called for urgent development of technologies to link human brains with computers, thus putting computers on our side rather than against us. Let's not forget that HAL, the evil computer in "2001: A Space Odyssey," easily bested an astronaut in chess before going on to kill him and most of his shipmates. So our hopes are pinned on Mr. Kasparov to keep the enemy at bay just a little bit longer.Watch out for those chess-playing computers, because next they'll be lip-reading and locking you out the pod doors!
Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter has turned into a war critic, and now complains about sex arrest publicity. The charge was fairly trivial, and he was not convicted, so I can understand him being annoyed. But Ritter said: "So I'm sticking to my ethical and legal obligations not to discuss this case. I wish other people had done that." How could he possibly have an obligation not to declare his innocence? Something's fishy here.
Thursday, Jan 23, 2003
An Economist editorial favors a 28-year maximum on copyrights:
Copyright was originally the grant of a temporary government-supported monopoly on copying a work, not a property right. Its sole purpose was to encourage the circulation of ideas by giving creators and publishers a short-term incentive to disseminate their work. ... Starting from scratch today, no rational, disinterested lawmaker would agree to copyrights that extend to 70 years after an author's death, now the norm in the developed world. ... The 14-year term of the original 18th-century British and American copyright laws, renewable once, might be a good place to start.
I just ran across the censored chapter (a copy is also here) to Kevin Mitnick's book. Briefly, Mitnick served 5 years in prison because the NY Times demonized him, and the reporter personally profited by a million bucks on a book and movie deal. Here is the Wired story.
An MIT survey says the top inventions are the toothbrush, the car, the personal computer, the cell phone, and the microwave.
Matt Blaze has gotten publicity for a technique for making master keys to ordinary door locks, in the case that many locks are keyed to one master key, and someone has access to a lock and a (non-master) key.
Matt's article is here. The article has a nice explanation of cylinder locks. His method was well-known to locksmiths and to those who know how master keys work.
Briefly, here is the story. Master keys are typically physically the same as regular keys, except that the cuts are higher at 2 or 3 or the pin positions. You you get some blanks, and copy a regular key except that one cut is left high. You file that position down until the key unlocks the lock. Repeat for each of the 6 or so pins. Then merge the info and cut a master key. For more details, see the paper.
Wednesday, Jan 22, 2003
We were all taught that American Indians are descendants of Asians, who supposedly migrated through Alaska. This theory falls under Roger and Joe's "can't think of a better (materialistic) theory" category, I suppose. Well, our textbooks omitted the fact that American Indians have uniformly different blood type than Asians! Indians are type A and O; Asians are B. Bell Curve is a problem for the migration theory, too. Funny how textbooks omit the contra-evidence for materialistic theories.I don't know about the blood type differences, except that materialist scientists do look at blood types as well as many other characteristics in order to help understand the history of migrations. Blood types of American Indians and other groups are discussed here and here.
PBS just broadcast a show about how DNA has been used to very precisely track human migrations. Apparently an Asian tribe has been identified as the source of the American Indians.
The oldest known human in N. American is Kennewick Man, and he was dissimilar to modern American Indians. So it may well be true that American Indians were not the first human in American, but rather they came and killed an existing population of settlers.
Tuesday, Jan 21, 2003
Could the Eldred 7-2 loss have been the worst defeat in recent history for a petitioner before the Supreme Court? I searched cases last year and this year where the Supreme Court affirmed the decision below, and almost all feature four dissenting votes (presumably the four who granted cert.). One exception concerned a compelling need to resolve a blatant Circuit split, non-existent in Eldred.You refer to State of Illinois v. Telemarketing Associates, 01-1806. The case is described here and here. This AP Story has a link to the Illinois supreme court decision being appealed. This is an attempt to reverse a bad US SC opinion: RILEY v. NATIONAL FEDERATION OF BLIND, 487 U.S. 781 (1988).
I say Don't sign. The US SC opinion is a bad one, and ought to be reversed. It essentially says that commercial, for-profit, telemarketers can lie and defraud people at will, without any fear of state action against fraudulent business practices, provided that they claim that percentage is going to charity. I am all for free speech, but why shouldn't for-profit telemarketers be subject to the same sort of anti-fraud regulation that all the other businesses have to respect?
The Brennan opinion says that if telemarketers have to tell
the truth about where the money goes,
"the disclosure will be the last words spoken as the donor closes the door or hangs up the phone."
So this is a justification for the telemarketers to mislead the public?
The RIAA is forcing Verizon to disclose the identity of an alleged peer-to-peer pirate.
Evolutionists say we're all descended from aardvark-like creatures.
Monday, Jan 20, 2003
The NY Times discusses keeping convicts off the internet:
The issue emerges just as Kevin Mitnick, the hacker once called by the government "the most-wanted computer criminal in U.S. history," is poised to start using the Internet again. Mr. Mitnick served five years for breaking into computer networks of major corporations and stealing software; he was released from prison in January 2000. As a condition of his probation, he has not been allowed to use the Internet — a restriction that expires today.Of course it doesn't explain that Mitnick's crimes were actually very minor, and he only became considered such a notorious computer criminal because of grossly exaggerated stories in the NY Times.
Sunday, Jan 19, 2003
eMoo has amusing item about a film by a UC Davis art prof.
Lessig responds on his blog to criticism that he failed to argue the Eagle Forum position in the Eldred copyright extension case.
In oral argument before the Supreme Court, Lessig said: "Nothing in our Copyright Clause claim hangs upon the empirical assertion about impeding progress. Our only argument is, this is a structural limit necessary to assure that what would be an effectively perpetual term not be permitted under the copyright laws."
It sounds to me like he was abandoning the "progress" argument, and betting the farm on the "limited times" argument.
Lessig responds, on his blog:
Not quite. We did reject the argument made cogently by Eagle Forum that “progress” should be an independent substantive limitation on every copyright act. We believed (and again, about this we were right) that it was unlikely the Supreme Court would open every copyright statute up to the question — does this promote progress. So we appealed to “promote progress” as a way to interpret the scope of “limited times.” The “limited times” that the constitution permits are those that promote progress.Andy responds:
Roger circulated Lessig's defense of diluting conservative arguments in Eldred. But Lessig and his several dozen professors avoid mentioning their fatal flaw they abandoned the conservative wing the of the Court. This case was never winnable without conservative support, as demonstrated at the Court of Appeals. Yet the law professors refused to make conservative arguments in their brief or at oral argument. They sought better government (in their personal view), not limited government. They implicitly sought recognition of communal property. They even lost the support of two justices they must have had to attain certiorari!And John responds:
I agree - but to be fair, I don't think our brief adequately dealt with the points that turned out to be insuperable stumbling blocks for the conservative justices.
John continues his debate with Andy:
Andy wrote:Andy responds:John wrote, "Congress does not (and probably cannot) preclude review against a claim that a statute violates the U.S. Constitution or other federal law."I disagree. Congress has not (and probably cannot) preclude federal court review of the Medicare program under the DP clause or any other clause of the U.S. Constitution. The problem with such a suit is not that federal courts are precluded from hearing it, but that THERE IS NO VALID due process argument against a Medicare payment decision. Congress has virtually unlimited power under the spending clause. In creating the Medicare program, Congress set up an administrative procedure for resolving claims. That is all the "process" that is "due" so there is nothing left for a court to decide. Anyone who doesn't like how the Medicare program works is free to opt out, so there is no other constitutional issue.
So only 3/17 of those confirmed were solid conservatives? And only about 3/7 of those waiting to be confirmed are demonstrably solid conservatives? Overall, that's only 25% of Bush's appellate nominations.
Sound recordings are not supposed to be "works for hire", so the author gets the copyright. Lee posted this tale of how the law was changed, and then changed back.
The RIAA did have its way, for a few months at least, when the definition of "work made for hire" in 17 USC 101 was changed to include sound recordings. Unless the work is created by an employee within the scope of his or her employment, only certain types of work can be works made for hire, no matter what an agreement says. And works made for hire are not subject to the termination right.
Saturday, Jan 18, 2003
Approval ratings do correlate well with electability. Torricelli was a recent example here in NJ. Likewise, Clinton's approval ratings were abysmal at the time of the Republican landslide in 1994. So I disagree with Roger's and John's pooh-poohing the significance of approval ratings. Reagan, incidentally, holds the record for the highest approval rating of a president at the time of leaving office.
Andy sends some political comments:
Washington Post says conservatives now have the upper hand for the imminent GWB pick for S.Ct. Article says Bush has gotten the message that Gonzales is unacceptableI don't think that those approval ratings translate into votes very well. A lot of people answer those poll a just a request for an opinion on the last thing Bush did. There are people who approve of some specific Bush action, but would never vote for Bush.
I asked for an example of a case on whether copying an entire out-of-print book was considered fair-use under copyright law. Paul supplies: Worldwide Church of God v. Philadelphia Church of God, Inc., 227 F.3d 1110 (9th Cir. 2000). The case is a dispute between two religious factions following the death of Herbert Armstrong. Armstrong's last work was supposed to be inspired. But after distributing millions of copies, one of the factions used copyright law to try to suppress the book. You can read about the case here.
That case is instructive because it was narrowly decided. The district court judge said that it was fair-use, and a 2-1 appellate majority said that it was not. Note that the alleged infringer was not just copying one book for himself. It was republishing 1000s of copies and distributing them to the public.
Meanwhile, the entire text of the disputed book is readily available on the internet, and that is apparently fair-use. You can find it here.
Remember, when "It's a Wonderful Life" entered the public domain, it seemed to drive all other programming off television around Christmas time. When they figured out that the original story and the music had not entered the public domain, because their copyright had been renewed, the public was spared having to see it on every television channel.Now there is a novel argument. I get 150 channels on my satellite connection, and there is some duplication. It doesn't bother me a bit.
California courts have redefined rape. A boy and his girlfriend were having consensual sexual relations, when the girl said, "I should be going now" and "I need to go home". The boy continued for a minute and a half before stopping. The California courts say that this meets the definition of rape, and the boy was convicted.
Think about that next time you hear a girl complain about rape. Unless you know the details, the crime may have been a minor one.
Update: Here is a feminist law prof essay arguing that stranger rape of a virgin should be legally just the same as a wife changing her mind about her mood during the act.
Here is an example of an unenforceable shrink-wrap software license. The NY Times says:
New York court has ruled that Network Associates, a maker of popular antivirus and computer security software, may not require people who buy the software to get permission from the company before publishing reviews of its products. ... the company's software included an unenforceable clause that effectively violated consumers' free speech. The clause, which appeared on software products and the company's Web site, read: "The customer will not publish reviews of this product without prior consent from Network Associates Inc."Microsoft and Oracle also use clauses like this. The copyright extremists defend the ability of software companies to make whether license restrictions they want.
I just heard a leftist radio host trying to explain why the Left is protesting the coming Iraq war, but did not protest the Yugoslavian wars (in Bosnia and Kosovo). He said that the Yugoslav war had the more nobel purpose of stopping an evil tyrant who was committing genocide, and it had the backing of Europe.
I see it as just the reverse. The Yugoslav wars only had the backing of NATO, and not the UN or the US Congress. NATO was supposed to be a defensive alliance. Yugoslavia did not attack NATO. Without a declaration of war from Congress, the war was unconstitutional. We were intervening in the internal affairs of another country that had no bearing on us. The so-called genocide was grossly exaggerated.
On the other hand, the US is defending its (oil and other) interests in Iraq, and has the endorsement of Congress and the UN. We already fought one war with Iraq when it attacked our oil supply, and now we are enforcing the terms of the cease-fire. By punishing Iraq, we protect ourselves against future attacks, and demonstrate that we are willing to follow thru to protect our interests.
Friday, Jan 17, 2003
Joe wrote, "There are plenty of smart people in science and economics who defend Reagan, asbestos, DDT, free enterprise and so on."Now I am missing Andy's point. Is he complaining about the opinion of scientists on nonscientific matters? Or on scientific matters?
Go ahead and scrutinize relativity. Lots of physicists do. But if you espouse crackpot theories, then you run the risk of people thinking that you are a crackpot.
I took a look at some recent Scientific Americans for mentions of relativity. The Sept. 2002 issue [p.93] says that advances in clock technology have been so great that GR effects cause the clocks to give different times on different floors of the building.
The Oct. 2002 issue has a cosmology article "The Emptiest Places" [p.56] that implicity assume GR in many places.
The Nov. 2002 issue has an article titled "Revising Relativity" [p.27] and the Dec. 2002 issue has "Throwing Einstein for a Loop" [p.40]. The careers of the researchers looking for modifications of relativity don't seem to be suffering any.
Lee wrote, about the copyright extension:
As for the various constitutional arguments made by the petitioners, the Court found that they relied on "several novel readings" of the constitution that were "unpersuasive." ...It is unfortunate that the plaintiff relied on those novel readings, instead of the obvious textual argument that Congress only has the power to promote progress with copyright law. Ginsburg said:
petitioners do not argue that the Clause’s preamble is an independently enforceable limit on Congress’ power. See 239 F.3d, at 378 (Petitioners acknowledge that “the preamble of the Copyright Clause is not a substantive limit on Congress’ legislative power.”Lee also wrote:
While one might not agree with this practice, as Justice Ginsberg said (quoting Justice Holmes) -- "a page of history is worth a volume of logic."What she meant by that was that if the Sonny Bono extension is unconstitutional, then the 1976 extension and others are probably unconstitutional for the same reasons. No precedent threw out those extensions, so she is just going to let Congress extend copyrights forever. Any work created after 1925 now has a perpetual copyright. A NY Times editorial said:
In effect, the Supreme Court's decision makes it likely that we are seeing the beginning of the end of public domain and the birth of copyright perpetuity.
Joe asks the rhetorical question of how "hundreds of brilliant physicists, who grapple with this stuff every day, have missed" the flaws in relativity.Joe answers:
There are plenty of smart people in science and economics who defend Reagan, asbestos, DDT, free enterprise and so on. Environmentalism -ever hear of Bjorn Lomborg, Julian Simon, Fred Singer, Richard Linzen, Peter Huber, Gary Becker? Look, there's a leftward tilt in the media (that is being challenged successfully, by the way). What I don't see is any credible physicist offering alternatives to GR that do a better job predicting things. Sure, there a doubters. Fine. Let them formulate their own theory.Andy is really off in wacky territory. There was no error found in Wiles' published in proof. Only in a preliminary draft. There are no questionable techniques in it. The proof could be translated into just about any axiom system.
Andy claims that no one can criticize relativity, but then relies on relativity critics to cast doubt on the theory. Which is it?
Those 2 relativity postulates just represent one way of deriving the properties of special relativity. It happens to be a popular derivation for historical, pedagogical, and experimental reasons. Both postulates can be tested directly, and have passed all the tests. But there are other ways of understanding special relativity. (Special relativity just means relativity without either acceleration or gravity.)
There might not be good abstract reasons for believing those postulates, but the experimental evidence is overwhelming. That is the ultimate test, of course -- does the theory agree with experiment?
When Andy was questioning relativity, I thought that he was referring to subtleties of general relativity. But no -- he is questioning the basics of special relativity!
Relativity is central to most of 20th century physics. It is basic to understanding electromagnetic waves, atom bombs, quantum field theory, nuclear fission and fusion, particle accelerators, GPS, all of the cosmological models, etc. There just is no viable alternative.
Thursday, Jan 16, 2003
Here is the whine of an SF race-baiting columnist:
Said Shaq, "Tell Yao Ming, 'Ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-so."Some people have no sense of humor.
Juan at Volokh's blog agrees with Andy that Lessig blew the copyright extension case by eschewing the argument in the Eagle Forum amicus brief.
SkyLink makes a universal remote garage door opener, and is being sued by Chamberlain. The gist of the complaint is that Chamberlain has a patented system of "rolling codes" to make it harder for an intruder to mimic and repeat a code, but SkyLink figured out a way for the remote to send a re-sync signal so that the same opener code can be used over and over.
The problem here is that Chamberlain has an insecure garage door system, and is trying to use the DMCA to thwart competition. This is an example of how the DMCA is anti-consumer. I should be able to buy a replacement opener from another maker.
I asked my 5-year-old what she learned in school yesterday. She said she learned about Martin Luther the King and how he had a dream about dark people all drinking from the same drinking fountain, and how he said the world was round while everyone else thought it was flat, and how they killed him for it, so now we have a holiday.
The only thing I can figure is that the teacher was talking about holidays, and my kid got Columbus and King mixed up. But it is really just as silly to say that Columbus proved that the world was round to people who thought that it was flat. George writes:
What do you mean? -- Columbus did prove that the Earth was not flat.No, Columbus did not prove any such thing. He did not sail around the world. All he did was to sail to some faraway island, and came back the way he went. Besides, everybody already knew the world was round.
The complete failure of Lessig and dozens of top law professors in Eldred shows the futility of playing for the political "middle". Their entire brief was tailored for O'Connor. As in politics, this strategy caused losing the conservatives, and then losing the "middle" too.Yes, QM contradicts GR and GR contradicts QM. Yet both theories have been experimentally verified to great accuracy. Both theories are right and wrong at the same time. No one has figured out a way to reconcile GR with QM. The situations where the theories disagree are outside the experimental domain, so we have no idea what happens there, and we may never know.
GR is not contradicted by the variation in physical constants, the overall flatness of the universe, binary pulsar data, the Economist article I referenced earlier, GPS data on a website Roger circulated a few months ago, or the logical incoherence of relativistic mass. Andy is just spouting nonsense.
Modifications of GR and QM get proposed all the time. But there is a set of principles and observations that are at the core of each of these theories that will be an essential part of any new theory.
The penguin story is amusing, but not unusual. Lot's of animals travel in packs, following the leader.
Wednesday, Jan 15, 2003
John sends this story about a scientific dispute over the history of the Black Sea. 5 years ago, some scientists published a new theory that the Black Sea was fresh water until it was dramatically flooded with sea water 7.5k years ago. Their theory made a convincing case that the flood was the origin of the Biblical Noah flood. Now some other scientists dispute whether any such flood ever took place.
John sends this story about a man sentenced to 3 years probation for killing a dog. The man owned the dog, and killed the dog after it bit his 2-year-old son on the nose. What's the problem? Of course the dog have been killed. If my dog bit a toddler on the nose, I'd also kill the dog. While on probation, the man cannot own a pet or drink alcohol and must complete anger management programs, undergo a mental exam and perform community service.
With all the talk about how terrible it is that innocent people may have been scheduled to be executed, remember this: There is no example in modern USA history of an innocent man being executed. Sure, it could happen. When it does, the anti-death-penalty will raise that example in every debate. But so far, it hasn't happened.
Bob thinks I am being unfair here. He says that once someone is executed, then no court will revisit the question of guilt or innocence, so we don't know. Well, people debated the guilt of Sacco and Vanzetti, long after their 1927 execution.
You get spam for the the Nigerian advance fee scheme? I get so much that I am inclined to block any email that has anything to do with Africa. According to this story, the spammers have cheated people out of $85M.
The Slate legal columnist Lithwick has another stupid rant against conservatives. She complains that Clarence Thomas is writing a book. No, that's ok, because other Supreme Court judges have written books. She complains that the rumor is that the book "will reveal at least something of his personal and political opinions" and that his friend Rush Limbaugh is likely to quote from it on his radio program!
Lithwick is also trashed by Volokh. He says he is a fan of Lithwick's writing, but it seems like his comments on her content are always scathingly critical, and deservedly so.
Another blog says:
What cheap shots. Thomas has been subjected to more unfair criticism and mudslinging than any other Justice in history (Lithwick's column, ironically, is the latest example). ... Who could blame him for wanting to avoid media venues that he knows will be highly unfriendly? One might as well sneer at someone for declining to undergo a root canal without anesthesia.Meanwhile, other judges write completely indefensible opinions and avoid public scrutiny altogether.
Soon, we could all be wearing RFID tags that can be read by a radio-frequency scanner 15 feet away. It is somewhat like a bar-code, except that it contains more info and could be invisibly embedded into clothing.
More and more kids are being put on psychoactive drugs. And it is not just ritalin -- it includes prozac and a lot of others. Here is a Pediatrics editorial and a NY Times story.
I have resorted to writing some primitive blog software. There are lots of good and free blogging systems out there, but none are completely satisfactory for various reasons. Blogger would be ok if it weren't so flaky.
Blogging alternatives include Blogger, GreyMatter, MoveableType, LiveJournal, bzero, Blosxum, GLUE, OutBlog, Radio UserLand and others.
Eisenhower critics said that if we're going to have a golfer in the White House, then we might as well have a good one. The same could now be said of GWB. If we're going to have someone who (1) spends all his time on Iraq, (2) appoints people who think Roe v. Wade is settled law, and (3) expands government, then we might as well have a good one. I.e., Lieberman, who outpolled GWB last time.
Here's my final exam for my Constitution course given to 19 homeschoolers. They will ace this exam, but I doubt top high school or college students could score 60% on it.
John sends this story about Simson Garfinkel and Abhi Shelat buying a bunch of used computer hard disk drives, and finding a lot of personal info. Part of the problem is that it is really not easy to delete data from disk under Msft Windows and to be sure that it is gone.
The Supreme Court upheld the copyright extension, 7-2. Bad news. Wash Post story. AP story. Lessig's blog says:
When the Free Software Foundation, Intel, Phillis Schlafly, Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase, Kenneth Arrow, Brewster Kahle, and hundreds of creators and innovators all stand on one side saying, “this makes no sense,” then it makes no sense. Let that be enough to move people to do something about it. Our courts will not.
So what went wrong? Lessig failed to win over the conservative camp on the SC. As I see it, the problems were that Lessig:
The conservatives have voted to find a number of laws to be constitutional, but only the net impact is negligible.
This page acknowledges that it was the Eagle Forum brief that persuaded the only lower court judge who voted against the copyright extension.
The Tennessean quotes Phyllis Schlafly.
The story of Phillip M. Adams shows how the courts are susceptible to crooked expert witnesses. First he makes $9.5M as a plaintiff's witness in a class action lawsuit against a computer maker claiming that floppy drives occasionally lost data. Then he flipped sides, and collected $27.5M as a consultant and witness for HP.
The RIAA says that it has agreed not to seek mandatory DRM laws. It didn't want to face the computer companies teaming up with consumer organizations standing up for traditional consumer rights with regard to the use of recordings.
Blogger has been buggy lately. If this page has had problems for you, it is because of software and servers outside my control. I am currently investigating switching to other blogging systems, but all the ones I've looked at so far have other problems.
Meanwhile, I am having to replace my Microsoft mouse. Maybe I've had bad luck, but I've had problems with every Microsoft mouse I've ever used. I've never had trouble with mice made by Logitech and others.