Natura non facit saltus
Debunking the Paradigm Shifters
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Friday, Feb 29, 2008
Family court tries to make a religious choice
Law prof Volokh writes:
I just got the trial court opinion in Kik v. Kik, the latest Michigan appellate case that counted a parent's greater religious observance as a factor in favor of the parent's custody claim. ...Most of the other family court criteria seem unconstitutional also. As one reader said:
One parent's (even both parents') preference for religious observance should at best be treated like any other recreational activity. Some parents regard going to to see the Red Sox as sacrosanct, but its ridiculous to suggest that the allocation of season tickets should be determinative in a custody dispute.Yes, it is ridiculous, but there are comments from other lawyers who think up contorted justifications for such nonsense. The worst ones are those who think that judges are forced to resolve issues like this. They are not. The judge can and should just refuse to meddle in issues that are the responsilities of the parents.
Global warming propaganda is not working
Paul Kellstedt, Sammy Zahran and Arnold Vedlitz examined results from an original and representative sample of Americans and found that “more informed respondents both feel less personally responsible for global worming, and also show less concern for global warming.”This result seems reasonable to me. The bad effects of global warming are nearly always much less than what people expect. Myself, I was very surprised to learn that the IPCC consensus was that sea level would only rise two feet in the next century. Yes, the more I learn about the subject, the less I am concerned.
The NY Times blogger John Tierney adds:
Paul Kellstedt, the lead author and a professor of political science at Texas A&M, told me that previous researchers found that a campaign to increase public understanding of genetically modified foods didn’t lessen public fears, and that more widespread “scientific understanding” of research on embryos actually diminished support for that research. “What those two studies show, and what ours does, too,” he said, “is that more information given to the mass public does not automatically translate into more support for what are (in the public’s mind) controversial areas of scientific research. In fact, more information, in all three cases, seems to have the opposite effect, creating opposition to the research area in question.”This makes sense to me. Science public relations proponents are dominated by leftist intellectuals who are always arguing that the stupid public would adopt their leftist goals if only they were more educated. So they oversell their views with dumbed-down science.
Thursday, Feb 28, 2008
Correcting Misperceptions About Evolution
Prominent blogger and leftist-atheist-evolutionist PZ Myers writes:
'Evolution is a theory about the origin of life' is presented as false. It is not. I know many people like to recite the mantra that "abiogenesis is not evolution," but it's a cop-out. Evolution is about a plurality of natural mechanisms that generate diversity.This is part of a discussion on how scientists can correct misperceptions about Evolution.
The trouble with this view is that there is no good scientific theory about how life started here on Earth. Life could have been planted here by space aliens, for all anyone knows. This quote shows that evolutionists like Myers are willing to use the term in a sense in which it is just a scientifically meaningless buzzword.
Why the Clipper chip died
Cryptologist Matt Blaze argues:
First, the Clipper Chip itself was abandoned not because of concerns about privacy (although it certainly became a lightning rod for criticism on that front), but rather because it was found to have serious technical vulnerabilities that had escaped the NSA's internal review process and that rendered the system ineffective for its intended purpose. I discovered and published in the open literature the first of these flaws ...No, those flaws were minor and insignificant. I really doubt that they were any big surprise to the NSA. As I recall, Blaze's biggest point was that a 16-bit checksum should be a 32-bit checksum. If that were really the problem, the NSA would have just corrected it.
The Clipper chip was part of a Clinton administration plan to spy on the private lives of American citizens. It was even part of the Hillary Health Care Plan where it was supposed to be used to monitor peoples' health records and make sure that they were not getting anything beyond what has been rationed by the feds.
The Clipper chip was a hot political issue among civil libertarians on the internet, and it was threatening to become a liability for Al Gore and the Democrats in 2000. The Republicans were against this spying, and had blocked the Clinton administration's proposals in Congress. As Blaze acknowledges, the G.W. Bush administration has been pro-crypto.
A good history of the Crypto wars can be found in Steven Levy's Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government Saving Privacy in the Digital Age.
Tuesday, Feb 26, 2008
Obama's legal views
Barack Obama's main expertise is in law, as that is the subject of his Harvard degree and he spent ten years teaching it at the Univ.o f Chicago. So you would think that he would be bragging about how he can improve the courts by making better appointments. Instead, all we get is silly stuff like this:
We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that's the criteria by which I'm going to be selecting my judges.He voted against Roberts and Alito, so he ought to be able to point out errors in their legal reasonings. He has not been able to do that.
Bob Bennett - world's worst lawyer
DC lawyer Bob Bennett is plugging his new book, and getting wide praise for being a great lawyer. I don't know why. He bungled his most famous case, Jones v Clinton, worse than anyone thought possible. He could have just defaulted on the case, and Clinton probably would have only had to pay $50K or so. Instead, he mishandled the deposition, got Clinton impeached, and ended up paying a huge settlement.
Monday, Feb 25, 2008
Academics for gun control
Chicago eggheads Gary Becker and Richard Posner post their arguments for gun control laws. These guy are supposed to be so smart, and yet they seem baffled as to why any would have guns or why guns might serve a legitimate purpose. They want to get rid of guns the way that a lot of people want to discourage smoking cigarettes -- with very high taxes, regulation, and propaganda campaigns.
Sunday, Feb 24, 2008
Digital files on discs
The NY Times reports on movie studios trying to save the DVD:
Fox DVDs, starting last month, now come with an additional disc holding a digital file of the title. ... “This puts the DVD at the center of the digital revolution and returns the business to a growth trajectory,” ... the packaging of digital files with standard DVDs “has the real potential to steal the thunder from the Internet delivery of movies.” ... Today, digital files on discs; tomorrow, mass downloading straight from the Internet.Will someone please tell the NY Times that DVD discs only have digital files on them. The first "D" in "DVD" stands for "digital". Putting digital data on a DVD is not something new; that's all that has ever been on DVDs.
Swedism manhood suffers from UN resolution
News from Sweden:
Sweden's chief heraldists remain dissatisfied with a decision by the Nordic Battlegroup to remove a lion's penis depicted on its coat of arms.This is a followup from last month. Our proud military symbols should not be emasculated by some silly UN resolution.
Fancy schools are a waste money
The London Times newspaper reports:
Middle-class parents obsessed with getting their children into the best schools may be wasting their time and money, academics say today. They found that children from privileged backgrounds excelled when they were deliberately sent to inner-city comprehensives by parents opposed to private schooling. Most of the children “performed brilliantly” at GCSE and A level and 15 per cent of those who went on to university took places at Oxford or Cambridge.This is more evidence that fancy private schools are overrated.
Saturday, Feb 23, 2008
Debate over taping confessions
The NY Times reported last year:
Eight states, by law or court action, mandate taping of interviews with suspects in at least serious felony cases, turning a tape recorder or video camera into an important tool in convictions, like DNA tests, fingerprints and ballistics. More than 450 law enforcement agencies in major cities and smaller jurisdictions also require the taping of certain interrogations.Wow, I didn't know that the feds were so stubborn on this issue. I knew that interviews of Martha Stewart and Scooter Libby were not recorded, but I didn't know that this was a blanket federal policy.
If I were on a jury, I don't think that an unrecorded confession, if I knew that the police had deliberately not recorded it out of fear that the jury would be offended by the interrogation techniques.
The argument that taping is not possible when agents are on the road is bogus. The voice recorders are extremely cheap and convenient.
Solar panels a loser
The Si Valley paper reports:
Installing solar panels on homes is an economic "loser" with the costs far outweighing the financial benefit, a respected University of California-Berkeley business professor said Wednesday.The solar power industry is driven by govt subsidies.
Thursday, Feb 21, 2008
Florida teaches evolution
USA Today reports:
Students in Florida must be taught that evolution is a theory and not a settled fact, according to standards that the State Board of Education just approved in Tallahasee. ... The compromise language approved today cites 'the scientific theory of evolution,' making it officially a theory rather than a settled fact.The actual standard says:
Standard 15: Diversity and Evolution of Living Organisms A. The scientific theory of evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology. B. The scientific theory of evolution is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence. C. Organisms are classified based on their evolutionary history. D. Natural selection is a primary mechanism leading to evolutionary change. ...I wonder what will be taught for some of those topics. There really isn't much in the way of scientific explanations for the origin of life on Earth. Human ancestors are thought to have diverged from chimps about 6M years ago, but there is very little agreement about which fossils are really human ancestors.
Only branch has acted unilaterally
A Slashdot reader writes:
Each branch has different powers, but none can exercise significant power without the consent of at least one other branch. Yes, there are areas where each has latitude to act unilaterally, but major initiatives generally require the consent of at least two branches. And before you say "Bush went to war on his own," recall that Congress has the power to limit or end funding for the war whenever it wants to. It may not have the will, but it has the power.He is exactly correct. Surprising, for a nerd site.
Tuesday, Feb 19, 2008
Mrs. Obama's chip on her shoulder
Steve Sailer writes:
Newsweek has a long article on the wonderfulness of Mrs. Obama, but she sounds like she's got a log-sized chip on her shoulder from lucking into Princeton due to affirmative action. ...I attended Princeton a few years before Mrs. Obama, and it had peculiar racial policies back then. It recruited a lot of black students, but they didn't really socialize with the white very much. A lot of them, like Mrs. Obama, would take classes just for blacks.
This blog claims to have some excerpts from Mrs. Obama's senior thesis:
“I wondered whether or not my education at Princeton would affect my identification with the Black community. I hoped that these findings would help me conclude that despite the high degree of identification with Whites as a result of the educational and occupational path that Black Princeton alumni follow, the alumni would still maintain a certain level of identification with the black community. However, these findings do not support this possibility.”…
Sunday, Feb 17, 2008
Human Culture Subject To Natural Selection
Here is some goofy research from some leftist-evolutionist Stanford profs who sound like they don't really believe in evolution:
But Nina Jablonski, chair of the Anthropology Department at Pennsylvania State University, said she is sold on the research. "This paper is revolutionary in its approach … one of the most significant papers to be written in anthropology in the last 20 years," she said.So what did their research really find? They found that Polynesian canoe technology gradually improved over time. Because the islanders were considered to be too stupid to know what they were doing, the authors assumed that inferior designs were eliminated by natural selection, in analogy to biological evolution.
It is amazing what sloppy work passes for good research in this field. Because the authors make some wacky and unsupported left-wing conclusions, it gets raves from politically correct academics like Jared Diamond.
Update: Ehrlich gives an interview on the subject.
Girl has 4 kidneys
18-year-old Laura Moon has four kidneys. She would like to become a live donor, but she cannot legally choose a worthy recipient, and she cannot legally be compensated. I hope that she keeps all her kidneys, as I don't think that it would be ethical for any physician to remove her kidneys under the current system. Physicians should only be acting to benefit their patients.
Here is a funny comic on the Drake equation for extraterrestial intelligence.
Law requires teaching climate change
The San Jose paper reports:
A Silicon Valley lawmaker is gaining momentum with a bill that would require "climate change" to be among the science topics that all California public school students are taught.The bill adds climate change to a list of 7 other environmental topics, such as "Energy conservation". I certainly hope that schools are teaching the first law of thermodynamics, with or without this law.
California has already passed SB 777 to require schools to comply with various LGBT objectives. It remains to be seen how the schools will implement this nonsense.
Saturday, Feb 16, 2008
ID for illegal immigrants
Bruce Schneier is against a national ID card for several reasons, including:
And there are security benefits in having a variety of different ID documents. A single national ID is an exceedingly valuable document, and accordingly there's greater incentive to forge it. There is more security in alert guards paying attention to subtle social cues than bored minimum-wage guards blindly checking IDs.But Schneier is all in favor of Giving Drivers Licenses to Illegal Immigrants:
Some states have considered a tiered license system, one that explicitly lists immigration status on the licenses. Of course, this won't work either. Illegal immigrants are far more likely to take their chances being caught than admit their immigration status to the DMV.This is wacky. Where I live, it is usually pretty obvious who the illegal aliens are. They don't speak English. And if it is good to have different kinds of ID, then let's have an ID just for illegal aliens.
Friday, Feb 15, 2008
Lessig endorses Obama
Law prof Larry Lessig is thinking about running for Congress, and is endorsing Obama. His main argument is that Obama always opposed the Iraq War, and that Hillary Clinton might swiftboat him:
Barack Obama took to the streets of Chicago and made a strong call to stop the entry into this war. ... he had the moral courage to stand up for what was right in the face of very strong political opposition. ... A man who opposed the war at the beginning,But it is not true, and Obama deserves to be swiftboated for it.
If Obama really was against the war, he failed to have to courage to say so in his most famous speeches, and in the US Senate. He was apparently afraid that the war would be popular, and only said silly things like "I'm opposed to dumb wars." If the war had turned out to be popular, he would have just said that he was glad that the Iraq War was not a dumb war.
A big problem with John Kerry's campaign for President was that his big selling point was his Vietnam War experience. But that experience did not hold up to scrutiny.
I think that it is going to be similar with Barack Obama. He and his supporters will constantly talk about his war opposition, but he will be exposed for the naive coward that he is. Obama is good at speaking meaningless platitudes, but that's about all.
Lessig claims that Hillary lied about Obama removing the 2002 speech from the web site, but I am not sure Lessig is correct. Look at this backup of Obama's site. It appears to me that the speech was there in 2003 but not 2004 or 2005.
Thursday, Feb 14, 2008
Guns in space
Russian citizens are not allowed to own guns, unless they are in space:
Right now Russian Cosmonauts carry a gun on their Soyuz space capsule, which is attached to the space station.NASA expert James Oberg has more.
Wednesday, Feb 13, 2008
ABA wants to ban guns
The Amer. Bar Assn. supports gun control in the DC gun case:
Stare decisis is directly at issue in this case. This Court and other courts have interpreted the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms as related to maintenance of a well-regulated militia. See, e.g., United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939); ...The US Supreme Court is just considering saying that the 2A protects an individual right, a position that is consistent with everything the Supreme Court and Congress have said for 200 years, and consistent with numerous state constitutions. The only inconsistency would be with certain lower federal court decisions of the last 40 years.
If the ABA is so much in favor of stare decisis, then it should be against all the death penalty appeals and a lot of other appeals.
Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008
Judges trying to decide a child's religion
The NY Times reports:
Across the country, child-custody disputes in which religion is the flash point are increasing, part of a broader rise in custody conflicts over the last 30 years, lawyers, judges and mediators say. ...But judges do unnecessarily take on these custody disputes. Mediation cannot solve the problem as long as a dissatisfied party can still get court orders.
The only solution is to just remove such disputes from the jurisdiction of the court. The court has no business getting involved.
Sunday, Feb 10, 2008
Judge blamed for not preventing abuse
A Mercury News Special Report documents some abuses by the California juvenile dependency courts, and says:
Dependency court judges must promptly make the most critical of decisions. Err one way, and a child may be sent home to a dangerous situation. Err the other way, and children are separated from their families for a life just as chaotic and fearsome. Growing evidence shows disruption can be worse for many children than remaining in their homes with the appropriate support services.I don't know about that case, but there is considerable scientific doubt about whether there is any such thing as Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). I don't know whether there is or not, but I do think that it is absurd to expect judges to prevent SBS by taking babies out of their homes and putting them in foster care.
Saturday, Feb 09, 2008
A Choice, Not An Echo
Mark Silva write for the Chicago Tribune:
“And the reason is simple,’’ Huckabee said, alluding to the title of a book by Phyllis Schlafly which inspired him as a younger man.
Convicts lose parental rights
Here is Texas news:
A Williamson County jury has decided to terminate forty-two-year-old Phil Rian’s parental rights. Rian, who was convicted in August of having an affair with a sixteen-year-old boy, will now have no contact with her two young children. The twelve men and women deliberated for approximately four hours before coming to a unanimous verdict yesterday afternoon. The jury also decided to terminate the children’s biological father’s parental rights. Timothy Nagel is currently incarcerated in California on drug charges.At least she got a jury trial. I don't think that any other state bothers with jury trials when they terminate parental rights.
Several psychologists testified they believe Rian to have bi-polar disorder, a diagnosis Rian rejects. She did not, as the therapists suggested to her, go to a psychiatrist for additional treatment for the chemical imbalance.I hope the jury wasn't unduly influenced by this, because there is no proof that any mental disorder is caused by a chemical imbalance. Nor should they be listening to therapists on the subject of drug treatment, when the therapists are not even licensed to prescribe drugs.
Friday, Feb 08, 2008
Broken families, broken courts: How rushed justice fails our kids
The Si Valley paper has a special series on the state's juvenile dependency courts, a little-known arm of the justice system deciding the fate of families whose children have been removed by social workers.
The dysfunction permeating the dependency courts is unknown to most people. Cloaked in confidentiality designed to protect children's privacy, the system allows few outsiders in, holding hearings so secretive that the law provides for criminal charges if clients or lawyers discuss them.I am glad to see that system get some exposure. The people who work in that system are the most evil people I have ever met.
Firing people with nutty ideas
Bad Astronomer writes about Iowa State University firing Guillermo Gonzalez.
As I said before, that is 100% the correct decision. Tenure is given for many reasons, but one criterion is how well the candidate will represent the University. Supporting Intelligent Design would reflect very poorly on ISU. They know that, so they dumped him.His previous post promoted the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Now there is a wacky project that should embarrass a university. Even if the galaxy is populated by intelligent races, there are overwhelming reasons for believing that the project will fail. Those who subscribe to a goofy unscientific belief in SETI are just as embarrassing as the creationists.
Thursday, Feb 07, 2008
DC gun case
I have heard gun control advocates argue that we don't have any individual Second Amendment gun rights because the Supreme Court has never said that we do, that only the Supreme Court is entitled to interpret the Constitution, and that not even the NRA has argued in court that we have Second Amendment gun rights.
No more. The US Supreme Court is hearing a Second Amendment gun case, and here are the DC v Heller case filings.
The NRA doesn't believe in waiting around for the Supreme Court to tell us that we have rights. We have constitutional rights that you can learn by just reading the Constitution. The Second Amendment was written to protect our individual gun rights, whether the court agrees or not.
Wednesday, Feb 06, 2008
She calls herself Hillary
The Bad Astronomer blogger wife writes:
Has anyone else noticed that newscasters and commentators seem to feel it is perfectly appropriate to refer to Hillary Clinton as "Hillary" while referring to every other presidential candidate by their last name, or first and last name? ...Just look at Hillary Clinton's web site. Her campaign slogan is “Hillary for President”.
She is embarrassed by her husband. She would run as Hillary Rodham if she could get away with it. Her political success is entirely dependent on Bill, and she refuses to give him credit.
Mrs. BA says that she refused to take her husband's name, and refuses to open mail addressed that way. Sigh. People should just call her Mrs. Bad Attitude. Hillary's core constituency is feminists like her.
Friday, Feb 01, 2008
Blue-eyed Humans Have A Single, Common Ancestor
Here is some new research:
ScienceDaily (Jan. 31, 2008) — New research shows that people with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor. A team at the University of Copenhagen have tracked down a genetic mutation which took place 6-10,000 years ago and is the cause of the eye colour of all blue-eyed humans alive on the planet today.The title is a little confusing, because the usual evolutionist dogma is that all life on Earth had a single common ancestor. Also, we are all descended from apes, and apes all have brown eyes.
Just a couple of months ago, Craig Venter claimed that we do not have the technology to look at someone's DNA and determine whether or not he has blue eyes. Somebody is wrong here.
Unless there is more to the research than the article explains, I don't see how it can prove that the mutation only occurred once. It claims that there is a blue-eyes switch on a particular gene, but it seems to me that if the mutation occurred once, it could have occurred several times. Perhaps the single-mutation theory could be proved if the switch were linked to unrelated DNA data that is shared by blue-eyed people, but the article does not say that.
The article goes on:
The mutation of brown eyes to blue represents neither a positive nor a negative mutation. It is one of several mutations such as hair colour, baldness, freckles and beauty spots, which neither increases nor reduces a human’s chance of survival.This is the sort of nonsense that comes from evolutionists who don't really believe that humans are evolving. Blue eyes are common in low-sunlight areas like Norway, and rare in sunny countries. It seems likely that blues eyes have been a survival advantage in Norway, and a disadvantage in Egypt.
There is just one other primate with blue eyes, the blue-eyed lemurs of northwest Madagascar. No monkeys or apes do.
USA and the Kyoto protocols
I just heard the NPR morning radio news say:
The United States is alone among industrialized countries in rejecting Kyoto limits on greenhouse gases.I don't see how the USA is any different from the other countries. Pres. Clinton signed the Kyoto plan, and the US Senate rejected it as a treaty. That is more or less the same as what the European countries. The USA has exceeded the Kyoto limits, and so have all the other countries. So what is the substantive difference?
At least the Europeans didn't repudiate Kyoto. They passed a cap-and-trade scheme to give incentives for reducing emissions.