Saturday, November 30, 2002

NY Times has an article on parents who reject vaccination. It portrays the parents as misguided wackos without giving many of the valid reasons for not vaccinating. According to the article, the only states with exemption rates greater than 2 percent are Michigan, Washington and Wisconsin. About 1% of the population gets medical exemptions. So the number of people avoiding exemptions is very small, and not enough to affect herd immunity.

There is also an op-ed on a court that is currently considering sealing evidence about vaccine injuries, and preventing it from being used in lawsuits. The author is vice dean of NYU law school, and he sees no excuse for such secrecy.

The article on vaccine exemptions implies that parents are ignorant for thinking that vaccines cause various injuries. But then why is the govt covering up the evidence? I think that it is reasonable for people to refuse vaccine until the govt has more reasonable vaccine policies.

My reply:
Subject: Reasons for avoiding vaccines
Besides the listed reasons for parents refusing vaccination for their kids, there is also the fact that some parents have lost confidence in our vaccine authorities. Just in the past several years, the authorities have had to reverse themselves on mercury preservatives, oral polio, whole cell pertussis, rotavirus, Lyme disease, anthrax, etc. The committees are dominated by vaccine industry researchers with conflicts of interest. Crucial information is withheld from the public. Policies are heavy-handed and seem to defy common sense, such as the recent smallpox vaccine decision. It just isn't possible for some federal agency to decide what is best for everyone, and for everyone to agree with those decisions. It is amazing that those dissenting from official vaccine schedule (and getting non-medical exemptions) number less than one percent.

Friday, November 29, 2002

John and Andy are both quoted in this story about an upcoming Supreme Court case about forced psychotropic drugging of a defendant in a mundane fraud case. The drugging appears to me to be pure vindictiveness on the part of the judges and prosecutors, because the defendant Sell is nonviolent and has already served more than his maximum sentence.
A Swiss firm says the bin Laden tape is a fake. I was surprised at how quickly everyone accepted it as authentic. Bin Laden may be dead.
A report on a mercury vaccine study says:
Dr. Michael Pichichero, a pediatrician and immunologist at the University of Rochester, said he and his team studied 61 infants between 1999 and 2000 who had received thimerosal-containing vaccines. While traces of mercury showed up in initial blood tests, the element was completely cleared within 30 days.

30 days?! Am I supposed to be encouraged by that?

So if I had given my kid HBV vaccine at birth, as I was pressured to do, my kid would have had mercury in her blood for 30 days!

Mercury is poisonous. It is not known what levels of mercury cause harm. Subjecting a newborn to 30 days of mercury intoxication seems like a bad idea to me, even if most kids seem to recover.

Meanwhile, Bush is planning to re-introduce the smallpox vaccine. The obvious thing would be to just make it available to anyone who wants it. No one in the US govt is smart enough to know what smallpox vaccines are needed, if any. The plan is to force certain military and hospital personnel to get the vaccine, and not allow others to get it. The policy is dictatorial and foolish.

JG writes:
Of course! [we are supposed to be encouraged] (These are *experts* telling us this, for heaven's sake!) ...and hey, don't discount the fact that they studied a whopping 61 kids. (sarcastic comment)

Pichichero is a consummate vaccine apologist. He has financial ties to (hold your breath!): Abbott; Bristol Myers Squibb; Eli Lilly Co.; GlaxoSmithKline; Merck & Co.; Pasteur Merieux Connaugh; Pfizer; Pharmacia Upjohn; Schering; Wyeth-Lederle. He's also a proponent of pertussis vaccination for adults.
Andy writes:
Many, including conservatives, are giving GWB credit for the recent election. I just don't see the evidence for it.

Talent's performance was almost identical to his race in 2000, but with Carnahan a weaker opponent and the office of Senate being more St. Louisan friendly. Wellstone would have beaten Coleman, and the bad publicity from the funeral likely enabled Coleman to win. Georgia was demagoguery.

Ron Paul, who courageously opposes misguided Administration policies, won with a stunning 68%. He'll be on Rush Limbaugh tomorrow.

Incidentially, no one has explained the flame-out of Buchanan's anti-immigation, America First approach. The immigration issue is important, but it's not the #1 issue for anyone. Hence it's impossible to build a party on it. People who oppose immigration are all over the political spectrum. Gather them in a room, and then start mentioning other issues, and they scatter. In contrast, select people based on their views on abortion and you can predict their views on most other issues, such as church and state and education.

I see a change in media reporting on human cloning. First they were excited about it, hoping it would legitimize "playing God" and pro-abortion issues. But now, with claims that someone is actually doing it, the media are not so happy about it. Enormous outrage is going to result if a cloned child has any problems. It is the ultimate materialistic folly for someone to want to clone himself.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Andy writes:
Husband, allegedly a frequent gambler, takes rich wife on hiking trip in Utah. She then mysteriously falls off a cliff, with a witness providing incriminating testimony. Prosecutor says husband even checked out the site 2 months earlier. Looks to me like a slam dunk for the State.

Well, guess what. The feds insist on handling the case, with the U.S. Attorney charging the husband with interstate domestic violence under VAWA. He then tries the case himself amid media hoopla. Seats a jury that has not one, but two potential holdouts. Even takes the jury up the mountain to view the site, a mistake in critics' view. 10-2 vote for conviction turns into a 12-0 acquittal. Thank you VAWA and federalization of crime. See for coverage.

Just as the 2000 election changed Ashcroft for the worse, it looks like the 2002 election has changed GWB for the worse. First he attacked the religious right over Islam; then he rammed through Homeland Security bill; then he appointed Kissinger; and now he's letting in Mexican trucks. GWB may think he's politically unstoppable. LBJ, and maybe Bush the First, thought that too. Do we have to rely on the Left to block him?

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

The NY Times reports:
The Bush administration asked a federal claims court on Tuesday to seal documents relating to hundreds of claims that a mercury-based preservative in vaccines, thimerosal, has caused autism and other neurological disorders in children.

There is no excuse for conceal evidence about health effects of vaccines. The public has a right to know.
The C++ Boost library now has date-time library. The Boost library is supposed to be very good, but I think it suffers from seriously warped C++ thinking. The date functions have 60 include files. Some of the functions throw exceptions that the caller must handle. And with all the complicated functions, it doesn't do the basic necessities very well.
Henry Kissinger is going to head a commission to investigate 9/11?! It is a very odd choice. The Left thinks that he is a war criminal. The Right thinks that he is a puppet to certain international interests. Nobody ever trusted him but Richard Nixon, and Nixon is dead. Kissinger came to the US as a child in 1938, but still speaks with a very thick German accent. Couldn't Bush find someone who was better respected? If the purpose of the commission was to quiet the conspiracy theorists, then it is going to fail miserably. When Kissinger is involved, I expect a cover-up.

Update: Kissinger says the NY Times "will apologize for this editorial when our report is submitted." What a joke. The submission of a report will not prove anything. The question is whether the public will believe what Kissinger says. If Kissinger can defend the secret bombing of Cambodia, then he can defend a lot of other secrecy.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Andy writes:
Roger reduces to a tautology the assertion that "Roe v. Wade is settled law." Under Roger's view, the word "settled" adds nothing to the sentence.

It obviously does convey a strong message: the speaker doesn't think or want Roe v. Wade to be overturned.

Roger writes, "Saying a law is settled says nothing about whether it might be changed in the future."

Quite the contrary, saying something is "settled" means it isn't going to change. E.g., "settle down", "immigrants settled in this area", "sediment settled at the bottom of the lake", etc.

There is no chance that a speaker who declares that "Roe is settled law," as Gonzales apparently did at CNP, will vote to overturn it. Bush needs to know that he will be held politically accountable for appointing someone like that, as I think Bush the First was. Moreover, statistically, a judge content with Roe v. Wade will likely vote liberal on many other issues, as Souter has.

No, the word settled adds plenty. There are other laws that I consider unsettled. Eg, to use John's example, I think the War Powers Act is not settled law. Some people say that it gave the Pres. powers that he wouldn't otherwise have, and that the limits on presidential power are void because they are unconstitutional. Others say just the opposite. Presidents and Congressmen have very different interpretations. No court has really decided the matter, and it is not clear that anyone would pay attention to the courts on the matter anyway. It is unsettled law.

I don't think that saying Roe is settled law conveys an endorsement of Roe. It is merely acknowledging the obvious facts. It is like a Democrats who concedes that Bush won the 2000 election, but might want to vote him out at the next opportunity.

The people who deny that Roe is settled law are like the Democrats who refuse to concede that Bush won the 2000 election.

Andy writes:

>Roger reduces to a tautology the assertion that "Roe v. Wade is settled law." Under Roger's view, the word "settled" adds nothing to the sentence.

Roger replied, "No, it adds plenty. There are other laws that I consider unsettled. Eg, to use John's example, I think the War Powers Act is not settled law ...."

That's not analogous. Roe v. Wade is a Supreme Court decision, while the War Powers Act has never been tested before the high court.

Declaring a Supreme Court decision to be "settled law" means that the speaker doesn't expect or want it to change. That position is unacceptable to millions who voted for Bush. If that is Bush's view, then middle class Catholics should return to the Democratic Party and evangelicals should stay home.

Liza wrote, "I feel certain that John Ashcroft would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned even though he said something like 'Roe v. Wade is settled law' at his confirmation hearing. I agree with Roger on this issue."

Ashcroft also testified: "I believe Roe v. Wade, as an original matter, was wrongly decided." Did Gonzales said that before CNP? I doubt it.

At any rate, post-2000 Ashcroft is very different from pre-2000 Ashcroft. Liza's feelings are based on pre-2000 Ashcroft, but that disappeared as the Carnahan race humiliated him. Ashcroft has done almost nothing conservative since. It's a tragedy, because it wasn't Ashcroft's fault that Missouri moved to the Left. The NRA also was humiliated by Missouri's surprising shift Left, and it hasn't been the same since on the conceal-and-carry referenda.

John sends this story about a human catapult gone wrong, and this about a Home Depot scam. The guy would buy a light fixture with a swapped price label, and then return it for more than he paid. Actually, he got coupons that he then had to sell at a discount. He made a million bucks or so. You'd think that Home Depot would have caught on a lot earlier.
John sends this story about how Europeans operating the huge telescope in Chile might take pictures of the Apollo lunar lander in order to convince skeptics that we really did land on the Moon.
ETS is the supposedly non-profit that produces the SAT and other popular tests. CNN says that its managers earn $2M a year!

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Gumma comments on whether the Bush counsel is a conservative:
I heard Gonzales speak to the Council for National Policy. He said that Roe is settled law and that the President has the right to go to war without action by Congress. "nuff said.

Roe is settled law. There is a binding precedent that has been repeatedly upheld. The significant legal disputes have been resolved.

Andy writes:
Roger writes, "But saying that Roe is not settled law is like claiming Gore won the 2000 election or that the Giants won the 2002 World Series. It is using wishful thinking to deny the facts."

No, those analogies do not work at all. Unlike your examples, the reversal of Roe can be guaranteed within 5 years simply by appointing 3 conservative justices to the Supreme Court. There is no disputing the logic. So Roe no more "settled" than, say, that the Republicans will control Wellstone's Senate seat for the next 6 years.

Now, Bush may appoint a non-conservative like Gonzales, but we can try to prevent that. The Senate may filibuster a conservative Justice, but that merely delays it.

John writes:
Other branches of govt do *not* have to go along with Roe. That is my whole point. Only lower courts are bound by the decision.

I would agree to call the decision "settled law" if everyone understood that "settled law" merely means that it is binding on lower courts. Unfortunately most people, apparently including Roger, think "settled law" means more than that - that it is the "law of the land" which all branches of government must accept, enforce, and defer to.

Read what Lincoln said about the Dred Scott decision. He said that decision was final and binding only on the particular parties to the case. But he said the rule of law expressed by the Supreme Court justices in their opinion was not binding on members of the co-equal branches of government, who remained free to adopt a different rule and act accordingly.

Likewise with abortion: the President and Congress are free to repudiate and disregard the central holding of Roe. They are free to pass laws and operate the government on the principle that there is no individual right to abortion.

I am not suggesting that other branches of govt defy a Supreme Court decision; only that they are not bound by the opinion. There is a huge difference, as Lincoln explained.

There are many things Congress and the President can do to restrict abortion that are not specifically prohibited by any Supreme Court decision. For example, they could greatly extend the scope and reach of the Hyde Amendment, which the Court has already upheld in principle. If the Hyde Amendment were taken to its permissible limit, the practical effect would be nearly the same as overruling Roe.

Another example: the issue of whether a ban on partial-birth abortion is permitted by Roe v. Wade came down to a single question of fact: whether the use of that technique is ever "medically necessary."

The Supreme Court, of course, does not find facts. It must accept the factual record produced in the trial court below. In Stenberg v. Carhart (2000), the 5-4 majority accepted a lower-court finding that PBA can sometimes be medically necessary.

But Congress also finds facts. The PBA ban passed by the House (H.R. 4965) found as a fact that PBA is "never medically necessary" and "never necessary to preserve the health of a woman." It's a good bet that bill will pass both houses and become law in the next year. Anyone seeking to challenge the law in court will have the difficult job of trying to disprove that factual finding.

Sorry, but the idea that legislatures are going to find critical loopholes in Roe is nuts. About 20 states have passed some sort of PBA law, and every single one has been knocked out by the courts. Roe is absolutely emphatic that a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion throughout the entire nine months, and that it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks is necessary. If Congress passes another PBA bill, it is sure to be knocked down by the courts.

Roe defines the health of the woman as the physical, psychological, or emotional health, as determined solely by the woman and the abortionist. The decision is not reviewable by anyone, or even reportable to anyone. This aspect of Roe has been repeatedly upheld, and is central to Roe. It does not matter what opinions some Congressmen might have about the health of a woman, however they might define it. Roe requires that any ban on late-term abortion must be struck down.

It is possible that some Supreme Court of the future will hold differently, but don't hold your breath. The Supreme Court would have to admit that the central holding of its most famous case was wrongly decided and must be reversed. Entire chapters in constitutional law textbooks would have to be scrapped. The court's credibility would be damaged for a very long time, as people would assume that the court could arbitrarily change its mind about any of its opinions.
John sends this Salon story about how Sen. Jesse Helms saved web radio for 6 months. Notice also how NPR got a secret sweetheart deal for its small affiliates that is not available to other small noncommercial radio stations.

It seems to me that the music labels should not be bargaining collectively. It is monopolistic. The RIAA is nothing but a criminal restraint of trade. And if the labels are making such monopolistic deals, then the deals should be public and available to anyone.

Furthermore, I don't think that any NPR affiliate should be allowed to call itself noncommercial or use radio bands that have been set aside for noncommercial use. NPR's All Things Considered broadcasts commercials. And I don't just mean pitches for donations. It has paid pitches for commercial products.

This story says RIAA has convinced the Naval Academy to search student computers and seize them if they have MP3 files on them. It seems to me that Navy students should be allowed to listen to music.

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Friday, November 22, 2002

Here is the latest silly example of Zero Tolerance in the schools.
Wacky theory of the day. Some physicists think that the Earth was hit by strange quark matter in 1993.
Here is a good list of exciting college football finishes.
The Miss World contest is bailing out of Nigeria. The Nigerians had to change their standards of beauty in order to be competitive in the contest, but when someone suggested that one of the beauties might have been a suitable wife for the prophet Mohammed, the rioting started. The newspaper apology blames technology for allowing the remark to be published.
New research indicates that undercorrecting myopia may be a mistake. This goes against conventional wisdom, and I find it surprising. I'd like to see an explanation.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Another abuse of copyright law. Wal-Mart and others are using the DMCA to try to stop web sites from publicizing advance info about their sales. I guess Wal-Mart is worried that some folks will postpone a purchase if they know that a post-Thanksgiving sale price might be less. This isn't what copyright laws were designed for.
Microsoft's security model is broken. About once a week, Msft acknowledges a new security problem in which adversaries can take over your machine. This Msft Security Bulletin suggests telling Windows not to trust software signed by Msft! You have to keep resisting checking that box that says, "Always trust content from Microsoft Corp.".

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Some scientists are trying to create a new form of life. I suspect that they are going to find that it is a lot more difficult than it looks.
The McCain-Feingold campaign finance limit law is now in effect, pending a test of its contitutionality. Some people say it limits free speech. The legal briefs contain confidential testimony, and public versions are heavily redacted. SF story. Wash Post story and editorial. Sounds like even the court case is an abridgement of free speech.
Michael Jackson held his kid over a balcony, and some people want him prosecuted for child endangerment. The man is weird. His plastic surgery is creepy. Some people doubt whether he really fathered the kid. But this story is just fodder for the tabloids and not something for legal authorities to waste any time with. It is none of anyone's business.
I didn't know that there was a Schlafly Library in St. Louis.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

John sends this Boston article about Harvard Law school wanting to adopt a speech code. Problems include a professor's comment that feminism, Marxism, and black studies have ''contributed nothing'' to tort law.
Simson Garfinkel reviews Kevin Mitnick's book. Mitnick was supposedly some sort of super-hacker who could start a nuclear war with his computer. Now it turns out that most of his stunts were based on social engineering -- talking some clerk into breaking security procedures for him. Mitnick served several years in federal prison but it is hard to figure out what actual harm he did to anyone.
Here is McCullagh on the proposed Department of Homeland Security.
New pictures show canals on the Sun! Click this CNN story, and open the Gallery. It was big news about 100 years ago when someone announced the discovery of canals on Mars. The word channel would have been more precise. Will people read this and think that the Sun is populated? More pictures here.
My kids and I watched the Leonids meteor shower last night. It was not as good as predicted. There was a big flurry of meteors at 2:30 am California time, but it didn't last long. I saw about 25 shooting stars. Last time I saw over 100.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Andy writes:
McCain stops Bush on Homeland Security Bill, apparently. After many here, plus Novak, declared post-election Bush to be unstoppable, tonight McCain just said no. (Novak, in his column today in the NY Post, says post-election Bush is giving orders to Congress and steamrolled Hastert and Lott on the Bill.)

John and Roger assured us that any Republican who stands up to Bush now will get the Bob Smith treatment. OK, let's see what Bush will try to do to the guy who trounced him in most of the open primaries in 2000.

Many conservatives loathe McCain, leaving them without leverage against Bush. I say, let's see what McCain and anyone else has to offer. Bush has to earn our support. Feds took over airports today. Is that something we ever wanted?!

On immigration, here's a simple question. Can you name five immigrants to the U.S. who made significant contributions? I've looked at lists, but don't see as many as five. There is one, however, who did make an awesome contribution. Hint: he immigrated from Scotland. Anyone know?

John replies:
I predict that when the Senate votes on Tuesday, there will be more Democrats supporting Bush than Republicans following McCain.
Here are some possibilities for the Scot:
Alexander Graham Bell
Andrew Carnegie
John Paul Jones
Allan Pinkerton
John Witherspoon

George Will just wrote a column saying that we should let an immigrant be president of the US.

Andy writes:
Senate has confirmed 98 out of 131 of Bush's judicial appointments, according to AP. Has anyone checked these confirmed judges out? The statistic suggests that less than 25% of Bush's appointments are good!

AP tonight: "U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson gave Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who had the 5,300-pound granite [Ten Commandments] monument installed in the state building, 30 days to remove it." Let's hope Chief Justice Roy Moore defies the order, including federalism reasons. Maybe we should consider weighing in on his side.

Alexander Graham Bell was the immigrant I had in mind. John's other Scots are not in the same league. Bell's story is a remarkable one. Does anyone here know if anyone else had a similar invention at the same time? There was a bitter patent dispute, which I think was ultimately decided 5-4 by the US Supreme Court.

There were several court disputes. Supposedly someone named Gray
filed a couple of hours later.

Besides the priority dispute, there was a big dispute on the broadness of the claims. Bell had an inferior technique for transmitting voice, but won in court a broad claim covering the rival technology. Bell's company then used the rival technology and had a monopoly. It was probably the most valuable patent ever granted.

Here, NY passed a resolution crediting some Italian-American for
inventing the telephone.

IMO, the truly great inventions are not the ones that were simultaneously invented by 5 other people. Apparently all the ideas were in the air. If Bell hadn't gotten the patent, the public would still have gotten telephones just as quickly from the other inventors.
Somebody asks whether the text of patents is copyrighted, or in the public domain. I say the patent documents are in the public domain, based on court holdings that all binding laws are in the public domain:
[The 1888 US Supreme Court case] Banks represents a continuous understanding that "the law," whether articulated in judicial opinions or legislative acts or ordinances, is in the public domain and thus not amenable to copyright. Recent 5th Circuit opinion

Also, the US Patent Office says:
Patents are published into the public domain as part of the terms of granting the patent to the inventor. As such, they are not subject to copyright restrictions. ...
Bob has some sarcastic comments:
This [Bobby Fischer story] is a great idea for a screenplay! The FBI could figure out what crimes people are going to commit in the future, then arrest and convict them before they do any harm. Maybe they could figure out who the evil-doers are going to be by using those profilers who decided that the unibomber had an eighth grade education and that the DC sniper was an angry, white male.

FYI use of opiates to treat pain does not cause addiction. The fact that JFK was so physically ill and appeared to be in such good health may be the result of the therapeutic effects of having sex with four different women a day. My back is killing me!
I didn't realize that the pro-abortion forces did so poorly in the last US election. In close races between a pro-abortion and anti-abortion candidate, the anti-abortion candidate usually won. George Will reports:
National Journal surveyed the won-lost record of 20 interest groups in competitive House and Senate races this year. The six most successful were all conservative: United Seniors Association, National Rifle Association, Club for Growth, National Right to Life Association, BIPAC (the Business-Industry Political Action Committee) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The five least successful were all liberal: EMILY's List (feminist), the Brady Campaign (gun control), NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League), ATLA (Association of Trial Lawyers of America) and the AFL-CIO.

The six conservative groups' cumulative won-lost record was 132-36. The liberal groups were 36-117.

Zogby polls indicate that anti-abortion votes were crucial in Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, NH, and elsewhere. Supposedly, NARAL only won 1 out of 20 races that it focussed on, and its only victory was against a pro-abortion Republican.
Stupid liberal argument of the day. Airport security screeners are being replaced federal workers who are American citizens. The SF CA paper reports:

The ACLU's Rosenbaum said the law's exclusion of screeners arose from "the same mentality that led to the Japanese internment, that you're classifying a group of legal noncitizens as inherent security threats."

Sounds like a completely wacky argument that no one would take seriously. Throwing someone in a concentration camp is a far more drastic action than denying a non-citizen a security job. Even the Japanese internments were upheld by the US Supreme Court. But wait -- the ACLU filed a lawsuit and somehow found the right judge for the case:
U.S. District Judge Robert Takasugi of Los Angeles issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the citizenship requirement.
But after a brief hearing Friday, Takasugi issued an order saying the government has not established that "the exclusion of all noncitizens is the least restrictive means to further the governmental interest in improving aviation security."
Takasugi, who was assigned the case by random draw, spent three years in an internment camp for Japanese Americans in World War II.
Wacky details from chess champion Bobby Fischer's FBI files were released. Story here. The FBI suspected that the commies tried to recruit him. His mother's husband was named Fischer, but he wasn't really Bobby father. Bobby has made anti-jewish remarks, and both of his real parents were jewish. His mother was paranoid, but the FBI really was spying on her.

It all sounds ridiculous, but Fischer eventually did become strongly anti-American. Maybe the FBI was right that he was a traitor in the making.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Pres. JFK was a junkie. His poor medical condition and dependence on drugs has been covered up for a long time, but a number of details just leaked out. The NY Times reports:
In December 1962, after Jacqueline Kennedy complained that he seemed "depressed" from taking antihistamines for food allergies, he took a prescribed antianxiety drug, Stelazine, for two days. At other times he took similar medications regularly.

The records show that Kennedy variously took codeine, Demerol and methadone for pain; Ritalin, a stimulant; meprobamate and librium for anxiety; barbiturates for sleep; thyroid hormone; and injections of a blood derivative, gamma globulin, presumably to combat infections.

In the White House, Kennedy received "seven to eight injections of procaine in his back in the same sitting" before news conferences and other events, Dr. Kelman said. ...

For much of his life, Kennedy also suffered from severe and potentially dangerous bouts of diarrhea, which doctors suspected might have been from ulcerative colitis. Repeated examinations did not confirm that. Their ultimate diagnosis was spastic colitis, which today would be described as irritable bowel syndrome.

Kennedy took antidiarrheal drugs like Lomotil for relief, and he lost so much weight and strength from his ailments that he received the male hormone, testosterone, to build up his muscles. He also had high blood cholesterol, often in the range of 300, once at 410, which is twice the level now considered desirable.

Some of these are serious drugs. I doubt that Kennedy would have been elected if the public knew the facts.
The WashPost says Bush is considering a domestic spy agency, like UK's MI5.
New laws are limiting the liability of vaccine makers. Eli Lilly is currently lobbying for a law to protect itself from damage lawsuits over the thimerosal in vaccines. See MSNBC story.

Sen. Schumer complained that the vaccine immunity amendment to the homeland security bill (that just passed the House) would never stand on its own. He's right. The same is true of his own amendment to the bankruptcy bill that denies bankruptcy rights to abortion protesters.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Andy writes:
I'm sure everyone here took American history. Here are three "easy" questions:

1. Which 20th century president had the most consistent track record in picking conservative judges? How did he do it?

2. What defining political crisis for Ronald Reagan, and his handling of it, was almost identical to the defining political moment for Calvin Coolidge?

3. What basic Republican policy alienated Southerners and farmers for 100 years, until Reagan rose to power?

John answers:
1. Trick question because it gives Reagan credit for "picking" Bork and the "good Ginsburg" instead of Anthony Kennedy.

2. Firing essential public employees for participating in an illegal strike. Coolidge got the vice presidential nomination in 1920 as a result of his popular statement, "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, anytime."

3. If you are referring to the tariff, I disagree with your analysis. The process of replacing tariffs with income taxes, as the primary source of federal revenues, was Democrat policy for most of the 20th century. Reagan had nothing to do with it.

The person most responsible for eliminating this "basic Republican policy" was Cordell Hull, who was one of the most important liberal Democrats of the 20th Century. As a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, Hull was the principal author of the federal income tax (1913) and federal estate tax (1916), both of which were signed by Wilson and greatly expanded by Roosevelt.

Cordell Hull was a lifelong proponent of world government. As early as World War I, Hull was trying to put the U.S. in a world trade organization. Later he was Roosevelt's longest-serving cabinet member, Secretary of State for 12 years. As such he was called the father of the United Nations and for that reason received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Unlike many of today's conservatives, Hull understood that so-called free trade requires world government financed by income taxes.

Andy replies:
Q.1 asked which 20th century president made the most consistently conservative Supreme Court picks. Reagan is NOT the correct answer. He picked one conservative (Scalia) and but two only occasional conservatives (Kennedy, O'Connor).

John's answer about Coolidge and Reagan is superb. John's answer about tariffs is interesting, but the Republican Party stood for PROTECTIVE tariffs until Reagan. Its purpose wasn't just to finance the federal government.

The bankruptcy bill in Congress, 5 years in the making, has just been killed over the abortion issue. This may be a sign that the abortion issue is completely taking over all national politics, as the slavery issue ultimately did. If Bush (Karl Rove) thinks he can switch sides with a liberal Supreme Court pick like Gonzales and survive, he's mistaken.

Saw Gore on TV today. I thought he looked terrible, and sounded desperate in suggesting he'd pick Lieberman or Hillary as VP. Now I think that the Dems will nominate Lieberman as their candidate instead of Gore in 2004. Lieberman cleverly beat a very popular incumbent Senator, and if Bush alienates his base then we could have a real race.

John replies:
Plus Bork and Doug Ginsburg. Plus 200-300 judges on the lower federal courts, who were actively screened for their conservatism.

Economists distinguish between "protective" tariffs from "revenue" tariffs for purposes of analysis, but that's just abstract theory. In fact, ALL tariffs have two purposes - to produce revenue and to protect domestic industry - and BOTH purposes are beneficial.

Before Cordell Hull, nearly all federal revenue came from tariffs. Now it's about 1 percent. I know of no basis to think that Reagan made a major change of direction in the Republican party's traditional position on trade. Reagan took several "protective" actions as president.

The abortion issue did not and could not defeat the bankruptcy bill by itself. Check the vote (Roll Call 478). The bill was defeated by an unusual coalition of 87 mostly anti-abortion Republicans combined with 155 mostly pro-abortion liberal Democrats. I don't see that coalition forming on the next Supreme Court nominee.

Gore has come out in favor of single-payer health care. Since the Republican Congress never delivered the health care reforms they promised in 1994, an opening is created.

Andy writes:
It's dawned on me: Gore is a casualty of Election 2002. He's a scapegoat for the Democratic debacle. Moreover, the shock left Dems in no mood to accept the status quo of a Gore rerun.

Reagan's record on judges is 2nd best for the century, and maybe the best. The other contender for best is Harry Truman, who put 4 judicial conservatives on the Supreme Court. His picks were so good that 2 of them invalidated his own order to seize the steel mills! Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952). Moreover, Truman picked 'em amid a sea of socialist and communist intellectuals of the time.

John wrote, "The abortion issue did not and could not defeat the bankruptcy bill by itself. Check the vote (Roll Call 478). The bill was defeated by an unusual coalition of 87 mostly anti-abortion Republicans combined with 155 mostly pro-abortion liberal Democrats. I don't see that coalition forming on the next Supreme Court nominee."

Abortion has risen to the dominance of slavery 140 years ago. That 87 House members would repudiate their leadership and vote against their constituency (bankers) because of a tangential abortion issue is probably greater than the effect of slavery on voting. Note that all 50 Democratic Senators refuse to vote for the new bill because of abortion. The abortion issue has become a tsunami.

You're right that the same coalition won't form next summer in reviewing GWB's nominee, but the issue will be even bigger then. If GWB picks a pro-choicer like Gonzales, then GWB's constituency revolts; if he picks a pro-lifer, then the Senate liberals may filibuster. This is politics comparable only to the mood of the late 1850s.

John wrote, "I know of no basis to think that Reagan made a major change of direction in the Republican party's traditional position on trade. Reagan took several "protective" actions as president."

Nothing significant that I can think of. Reagan's embrace of "free trade" represented his repudiation of protective tariffs, on which the Republican Party was based for 100+ years. ("Free trade" does not mean trading with illegitimate governments.) It helped Republicans capture the South for, I think, the first time as a challenger for the Presidency. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the South's opposition to the Republican Party for 100+ years had as much to do with this tariff issue as with racial issues.

The Economist and others have written about a French pair of twin physicists who have published some apparently bogus papers in theoretical string theory. The fact is that a lot of dubious papers get published. String theory has very little contact with the physical world, and draws crackpots into the subject. Volunteers referee papers. The papers look like junk to me. Some junk slips thru.
Leonids are back Monday night. Actually, about 2:15 am the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 14. See NASA story. They were great last years. This year, the only problem is a full moon.

If you want a planetarium program, I recommend StarCalc. It is Russian, free, and excellent.
Princeton's new president sent a letter to all alumni bragging about she fired an admissions director for improperly accessing the Yale admissions web site. Here are alumni letters on the subject. I agree with the John F. McNiff ' 64 letter and some of the others critical of the Princeton president's decision. If anyone was at fault, it was the Yale admissions office for not having reasonable privacy safeguards for their applicants. All the Princeton men did was to do a harmless test and notify Yale of its website insecurity. McNiff says:
Practical and legal considerations have made it clear that the primary responsibility for keeping private things private lies with the owner/operator of the database. In the nonacademic world, databases are tested relentlessly by site sponsors themselves, by competitors of site sponsors, by competitor software makers, by independent consultants, by official "watch-dogs," and, yes, by hackers. The operators/sponsors of Internet sites usually welcome security break-ins that are "benign" as to intent, that do no harm, and that are voluntarily reported to them. ... Princeton's idea of a solution — blame the messenger — is truly unhelpful.

The new Princeton president probably thought that this was a test of her ability to handle a crisis, and she wanted to show that she was taking the high moral road. I think she failed miserably.
I just heard popular San Francisco talk-show host Bernie Ward (KGO, 810AM, M-F10pm) just deny that arab suicide bombers were terrorists. If they are not terrorists, who is? He defended the suicide bombers as people who were legitimately fighting for a cause in a manner that they know how. If they are terrorists, he argues, then so are the Americans of the Boston Tea Party, Nelson Mandela, and Israeli soldiers who have incidental civilian casualties while hitting a military target.

He has his free speech, but I think that people should boycott KGO sponsors. A terrorist is someone who kills innocent civilians for the purpose of terrorizing the population. The Boston Tea Party did not kill anyone. I don't know whether Nelson Mandela killed anyone, but no one ever considered him a political prisoner, so he may have been a terrorist. It is not terrorism for soldiers to be killing other soldiers in a declared war. If the Israelis are hitting military targets, then it is not terrorism.
Here is a story about a possible new DVD technology. There are a number of other technologies being researched for boosting DVD storage capacity, such as blue lasers. I don't know why people are so excited about writing DVD discs. With current technology, a DVD only holds about 6.5 times the capacity of a CD-R, and CD-R discs only cost about 10 cents. The writers are also cheap. You can even write a VCD video on a regular CD and get quality roughly comparable to VHS and playable on most DVD players. The DVD discs are a lot more expensive, and I am not sure they will catch on in there present form. I'd rather wait for higher-capacity DVD discs, or use other media such as Firewire hard disc drives.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Jane warns that the Homeland Security bill that the US House just sent to the Senate has some objectionable medical provisions. She says:

  • Similar to defeated state Emergency Health Powers Act (MEHPA)
  • Gives HHS Secretary unlimited power to declare bioterrorism emergency
  • Plus unlimited power to vaccinate, quarantine?
  • Tell Congress and White House to remove this section.

The bill also promises up to life terms for computer intrusions that "recklessly" put others' lives at risk. Maybe Bill Gates should be worried, as most computer intrusions are caused by reckless Microsoft features.
John sends this story about the Austrians inventing Mickey Mouse 700 years ago.
Andy writes:
Today GWB lashed out at the Christian right, and alienates his grassroots by supporting Islam. Bush probably thinks he no longer needs conservatives. After all, there is little to no pressure by conservatives on Bush, and it is badly needed. Reagan was criticized by conservatives more than Bush is, despite Bush's far more liberal record.

Roger writes, "25?! There are probably 25,000 better than what we've got on the US SC."

Maybe so, but there are only a handful who have the expected credentials for an appointment by Bush to the Supreme Court. The person must have been appointed by Reagan or the first Bush to the Court of Appeals. The only exception would be White House counsel Gonzales, who may maneuver himself into contention (and he's unacceptable). Moreover, the person should have born after, say, 1944.

I surveyed the top third of the Circuits for this appointment: D.C. Circuit, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh. I could only find 7 judges who met the above qualifications (and not obviously disqualified for other reasons)! They are:

D.C. Cir.: no one.
Fourth Circuit (VA): Michael Luttig, Karen Williams
Fifth Circuit (TX): Edith Jones, Jerry Smith, Rhesa Barksdale, Emilio Garza
Seventh Circuit (IL): Frank Easterbrook.

What are the odds that GWB picks another Souter? Pretty high, I'm afraid.

Roger writes, "I bet that most of the SC judges in US history did not come from the US court of appeals."

7 out of 9 of the current SC Justices were appointed from the federal Court of Appeals, including 6 out of the last 6 appointments. It is highly unlikely that Bush will select from elsewhere, though he may unacceptably pick Gonzales from the White House (citing the selection of Rehnquist as procedural precedent).

Roger wrote, " Weren't O'Connor and Souter state court judges? I don't think Rehnquist and Warren were even judges at all. ..."

O'Connor and Warren were picks to fulfill campaign promises, not a situation GWB faces. Souter was a recently confirmed federal appellate judge, but that approach is not acceptable now because the Senate has only been confirming liberal-leaning judges. There are no Rehnquists in the White House, so that precedent is unacceptable also. Also, I think Rehnquist was a replacement choice rather than a first pick, which guaranteed him an easy ride.

I just checked out the Tenth Circuit, which is Cheney's old hunting grounds. Not a single appellate judge meets the selection criteria!

So out of the 5 top Circuits, there are only 7 candidates for the Supreme Court. And that's without even investigating their background or what they've written.

In the next few months, conservatives should be publicly vetoing some of those 7 candidates who look like future Souters. No need to endorse anyone, but there is a need to veto some.

Roger writes, "There is precedent for non-judges and non-lawyers."

Attach a probability that GWB will do that. Less than 1%?

Roger writes, "Gonzalez was a state appeals judge."

Yes, and now he's GWB's top attorney in the White House. He's got a 20% chance of being picked, which is as high a chance as anyone else. Conservatives need to strenuously veto him now, rather than complain after the fact.

Roger wrote, "Any Repub who kills a big nomination would get the Bob Smith treatment."

Right, which is why we need not fear moderate Republicans straying on a conservative pick. What we should be fearing and preventing is a moderate pick by GWB in the first place.

Republicans in Congress are not going to hold GWB's feet to the fire. Unelected conservatives have to do that.

I see that Daschle is finally advocating something, and Pelosi was elected. Looks like the Democrats have concluded that "me-too" is a losing strategy. No kidding. Daschle and Pelosi should out there on the extreme, attacking Bush every day with the help of the press, and then Gore can appear like a very reasonable guy. This will soon get interesting. GWB will need conservatives to win in 2004.

John sends this Wash Times column about judicial appointments. It says that Reagan appointments made the DC Circuit a "voice of authentic judging". I disagree. Because of their idiotic rulings, ten years of Msft litigation has failed to resolve the fundamental questions at issue. Eg, what can Msft bundle with the operating system?

Andy comments:
Already, John read a recent article in the Washington Times by a self-described conservative (Bruce Fein) who (1) praises conservative judicial appointees, (2) encourages Bush to replace Rehnquist with an Hispanic (e.g., liberal Gonzales) and (3) insists that Roe v. Wade cannot be overturned. Got that? As a purported conservative, he seeks to defend and preserve the illogical Roe v. Wade, and beats the drum for Souter-like appointments by Bush.

Conservatives are captured by RINOs (CINOs? -- conservative in name only). There is no meaningful conservative pressure on Bush for Thomas or Scalia-like appointments to fill the expected vacancies. The odds of Bush replacing Rehnquist with someone like Souter rises each day. Conservatives originally backed Bush for one simple reason: the Supreme Court. It's not looking like it was worth it.

Fran Eaton's internet operation in Illinois is very impressive. Every day I receive and read hard-hitting, insightful email about Illinois political news. She demands answers from Illinois politicians, and her operation is followed by talk radio. (You can subscribe at Occasionally I see interesting stories about Alton.

My view is that the internet is the reason for the country moving markedly to the right the past two elections. TV news is significantly less influential now. Internet influence on politics will only continue to grow, and it is far more substantive than TV or even the newspaper.

I agree with him that Roe v. Wade is likely to be undisturbed. He cited Miranda warnings where Rehnquist believed that the original Miranda case was wrongly decided, but when Rehnquist got a chance to reverse it, he voted to extend it instead. He might do the same with Roe if given the chance, and so might his replacement.

A hard-core pro-lifer might say that a fetus is a person under the 14A, and any abortion is unconstitutional. No one with that view will be allowed to wear a robe.

Reversing Roe requires Stevens, Rehnquist, and O'Connor to all retire in the next year, and to all be replaced by Scalia clones. Not likely. Bush already has a record of appointing pro-abortion judges (like Gonzalez).

Andy writes:
Roger writes, "I agree with [Bruce Fein] that Roe v. Wade is likely to be undisturbed. ..."

Bruce Fein implies that he doesn't think Roe should be disturbed, even though it is illogical and contradicts the unanimous Supreme Court decision in the physician-assisted suicide case. It's as though we have to forever pretend 2+2=5 because some people like it that way.

What isn't going to last forever is the 50-50 split in Congress and the Court on Roe. It's either going to swing pro-Roe, and cause the overruling of court decisions in related and analogous areas, or it's going to swing anti-Roe, and overrule it. The country's leadership isn't going to remain balanced on the fence forever, any more than the compromise over slavery could last forever.

If Bush follows Fein's advice and picks a pro-abortion judge like Gonzales, then I bet Lieberman beats Bush in 2004.

As any student of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in Illinois know, Douglas was a master at riding the fence on the slavery issue. Then, in Freeport, Lincoln asked him this simple question: given the Dred Scott decision, can a territory exclude slavery before becoming a state? If Douglas answered "no", then he was finished in Illinois, a free state. So Douglas said "yes", but that ended his support in the South. The Democratic Party split, and Lincoln was guaranteed a win in 1860 without even campaigning in the general election.

Fein thinks Bush can survive in picking a judge who supports preservation of Roe. Impossible. The growing pro- and anti-abortion forces won't permit a fence-straddler. The bankruptcy bill's demise just demonstrated that.

Roger writes, "Fein says: 'But Roe vs. Wade (1973) will remain undisturbed.' It sounds like a prediction, not an opinion of what he thinks ought to happen."

Predictions often reflect preferences. But to remove any doubt, Fein gives his reason: "the right to an abortion has become too firmly fixed in American culture to be altered by nine unelected judges in lieu of a constitutional amendment."

But Roe was promulgated by "nine unelected judges in lieu of a constitutional amendment"! Surely Fein agrees the Court has the power to reverse itself, as it has done in for many other big issues like segregation and mandatory pledges.

Anyway, how about explaining the recent concession by Leahy/Daschle to allow 2 conservative judges to be confirmed now? They were approved by the committee on voice vote so that no liberal Senator had to go on record supporting them.

The two judges had prominent Senate sponsors. It looks like a ploy to induce Bush to pick a Senator or someone with close Senate ties for the Supreme Court. Such a pick is more likely to be a Souter than a Scalia.

John responds to Andy:
Is Andy predicting civil war?

Lincoln rode the fence just as much as Douglas. As it turned out, Lincoln was more successful - so it would be more accurate to say Lincoln was the "master" at riding the fence.

It was the Democratic party split that enabled Lincoln to become president. Specifically, when the 1860 Democratic convention nominated Douglas, Southern delegates walked out and held another convention at which a pro-slavery Southerner was nominated.

I don't foresee any similar Democratic split in 2004.

The bankruptcy bill was defeated in the House by a unique left-right coalition. That bodes nothing for the Senate which must confirm judicial nominees. Despite the two additional Republican Senators, there is not a pro-life majority in the U.S. Senate.

Yes, Andy is getting carried away here. Abortion just isn't that big an issue. Abortion law is just not going to change significantly in the foreseeable future. If I were appointing judges, I would pay more attention to dozens of more important issues.

John responds to Andy again:

On abortion, John writes, "I don't foresee any similar Democratic split in 2004."

No, of course not. It's the Republican Party constituency that threatens to split if GWB picks another Souter. That's arguably what happened after Souter himself was picked! But now, the focus is 100 times greater. And unlike Bush I, who was elected by a wide margin, GWB's thin support was based on the Supreme Court.

There is no Republican party constituency that threatens to split from GWB in 2004, because doing so would guarantee the election of a pro-abortion Democrat.

John concludes, "The bankruptcy bill was defeated in the House by a unique left-right
coalition. That bodes nothing for the Senate which must confirm judicial nominees."

The Senate will confirm GWB's picks to the Supreme Court. That's not the issue. The issue is who those picks will be. If GWB picks a Souter, then his core constituents in the country, the House, and the Senate will abandon him, as the core House Republicans just did on the bankruptcy bill.

I hate to repeat myself. The votes are just not there in the Senate to check Bush or abandon him. Look what happened to Bob Smith.
As to overturning Roe, Roger writes, "Reversing Roe would be a gigantic admission of error. It is now the SC's most famous opinion. Law profs teach it as one of the pillars of constitutional law. It has been repeatedly affirmed for 30 years. ..."

I doubt any of that really matters to a single Justice, or to anyone else. Roe is equivalent to "2+2=5", and it will fall as soon as 5 Justices look at it logically.
On trade, John writes, "You still have not cited any specific way in which Reagan embraced free trade or repudiated protective tariffs, and I deny it. "
OK, here is a specific way: Reagan signed the US-Canada Free Trade Agreement on Sept. 28, 1988.

Canada!!! That is so non-controversial that is doesn't deserve the name free trade. When people talk about free trade, they mean trade with third-world dictatorships in Latin America and the Far East whose wage or cost levels are about 2%-5% of the U.S.

John writes, "Almost all U.S. world trade is with illegitimate governments!"

Not true. Our largest trading partner, Canada, is legitimate. So are Europe, Japan, India, Mexico, etc. Yet GWB insists on spending much of his time trying to boost trade with illegitimate China, Saudi Arabia, etc.

The main difference between China and Saudi Arabia on the one hand versus India and Mexico on the other hand is that the latter countries select their "president" via mass democracy. To call that the test of legitimacy is a liberal idea, a neocon idea, not a conservative idea. There is much more to government legitimacy than just having one mass election every 8 years to "elect" your dictator.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Wacky censorship claims. These two kooks think that they have been censored.

An author of a book about the CIA complains in a NYTimes op-ed that an innocent citizen asked his publisher not to print (false) allegations that he was a commie spy.

A lawyer visiting Stanford Law school complains that she was denied the designation Visiting Mentor as she speaks to law students. She is under indictment for terrorist activities, and supports communist repression.

Update: I sent this letter to the Stanford management, to help counter an email campaign in Stewart's behalf.
Please don't make Lynne Stewart a law school "Mentor". If reports are correct, she is a supporter of terrorism and communist repression. She has also been indicted for a rather serious crime. She will get her day in court. In the meantime, she is unfit to be a role model or mentor for anyone.

Here are some of Stewart's controversial statements:
I don’t believe in anarchist violence but in directed violence. That would be violence directed at the institutions which perpetuate capitalism, racism and sexism, and at the people who are the appointed guardians of those institutions, and accompanied by popular support.

I don’t have any problem with Mao or Stalin or the Vietnamese leaders or certainly Fidel locking up people they see as dangerous.

It's the first time I've been censored in this way.

Apparently the feds have caught her supporting terrorist activities. If she is guilty, I hope she gets a long prison term.
The Santa Cruz city council passed a resolution opposing federal anti-terrorist legislation. Santa Cruz politics is dominated by left-wing kooks. The Mercury News today said:
Even Councilman Mark Primack, who in the past has accused the council of wasting its time by discussing national and international issues, joined his colleagues this time around.
As a ``child of the McCarthy era,'' when suspected communists were summoned before Sen. Joe McCarthy's House UnAmerican Activities Committee, Primack said he was appalled at throwing around words like ``patriot'' and ``homeland'' to rally political support.

This a typical wacky leftist reference to Joe McCarthy. It does not even make any sense. It wasn't "Sen. Joe McCarthy's House UnAmerican Activities Committee" -- Sen. Joe McCarthy was in the US Senate and the House UnAmerican Activities Committee was in the US House of Representatives. McCarthy had nothing to do with the committee.
JG disputes my entry saying that people can dress up at the devil on Halloween. She says that has not been allowed in Colorado Springs for the last 10 years. Her local paper said:
Want to raise a holy ruckus? Go to school as a devil
If you asked villagers to name the toughest thing to do around here, you’d get plenty of answers.
Driving more than a half mile without snapping an axle in a pothole.
Airing out the room after a City Council meeting.
Shoveling out the room after an El Paso County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Explaining why, during a drought, the Broadmoor golf course was used as the location for an episode of "Baywatch." But without doubt the toughest thing to do, the single hardest job, the most inconceivably difficult task, is this: Dressing up in a little devil costume, complete with the funny little red horns, then trying to get through the front door of your Colorado Springs elementary school on Halloween.
Few kids make it.
Generally, such brazen attempts to enter one of our village’s schools on Halloween in a red costume results in a frantic counterattack as our educators swarm the offending child, wrestling him to the ground and wrapping him in rosary beads before the young Beelzebub can make any of his classmates’ heads spin completely around.

She also sends this story about a mother made her son stand on a street corner with a sign around his neck saying: "I didn't do my homework". The police investigated, and reported her to the state Department of Social Services.

She also agrees with my comment, "Sunstein is an idiot.":
Darn right! In addressing U of Chicago Law School grads at their hooding ceremony last June, he enumerated the various rights of American citizens: the right to health care, the right to a "good" job, the right to an education... Richard Epstein actually laughed (afterwards, unfortunately).

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Here is a list of 100 top songs according to votes by British music fans. It is a good list. One striking aspect is that there is hardly any music from the last 10 years. Think about that when you hear that music sales are down. We've hardly even had any good new music in the last 10 years.

Update: Andy comments:
Roger's blog links to the top 100 songs of all time, in the eyes of the British.

Since many of you are Anglophiles, I thought it worth making a few observations. The list includes 14 (!) songs by the Beatles, yet not the song that Americans consider to be their best: "Revolution". In fact, the Encyclopedia Britannica doesn't even use the term "Revolution" to name what happened here circa 1776-81. This linguistic defect is probably related to the Brits' belief in the divine right of their monarchy.

The list has other oddities. Brits love John Lennon (twice on list, including #2 spot), but nothing for Paul McCartney, who once sang against British rule in Ireland. U2's Bloody Sunday didn't make the cut either. I could only identify 5 black performers on the list, in contrast to American sentiments. Brits have a bizarre liking for Abba, which lands 5 spots. Springsteen, in contrast, has none.

Americans like Frank Sinatra view George Harrison's "Something" is the greatest rock love song, but the Brits ignored it in favor of another Harrison song.

NY Times Magazine tells the story of how one the top USA vaccine advocates, Neal Halsey, became a critic when he discovered that thimerosal (a mercury compound) in vaccines could be causing an epidemic of autism.
And then suddenly in June 1999, during a visit to the Food and Drug Administration, a squall appeared on the horizon of Halsey's confidence. Halsey attended a meeting to discuss thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative that at the time was being used in several vaccines -- including the hepatitis B shot that Halsey had fought so hard to have administered to American babies. By the time the dust kicked up in that meeting had settled, Halsey would be forced to reckon with the hypothesis that thimerosal had damaged the brains of immunized infants and may have contributed to the unexplained explosion in the number of cases of autism being diagnosed in children.

Making matters worse, the latest science on mercury damage suggested that even small amounts of organic mercury could do harm to the fetal brain. Some of the federal safety guidelines on mercury were relaxed in the 90's, even as the amount of mercury that children received in vaccines increased. The more Halsey learned about these mercury studies, the more he worried.

The article explain how others in the vaccine establishment wanted to cover up the mercury problem. Paul Offit, a vaccinologist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said: ''In some instances I think full disclosure can be harmful''.
Idiot law prof of the day. Cass R. Sunstein writes an op-ed in favor of the courts letting Congress do whatever it wants, regardless of Constitutional restrictions:
A Republican-controlled Senate has nothing to gain from judges who would read the Constitution to restrict its powers. And the nation itself has a great deal to lose.

Sunstein argues that 20th century conservatives have supported Oliver Wendell Holmes's idea that the Supreme Court should never strike down a law of Congress, but became activists when they got a majority. He says, "But the new judicial activists are beginning to dominate. Since 1995, the Supreme Court has struck down at least 26 acts of Congress on constitutional grounds."

Sunstein is an idiot. Holmes was not a conservative. Conservatives have always believed that the Constitution puts limits on the Congress as well as the other branches. Throughout the 20th century, conservatives have advocated the court upholding those limits.

Sunstein says that it is a "most damaging myth" that anyone could speak for the Constitution itself, as opposed to some personal political view. If he is right, then constitutional govt is a big sham, and the Constitution should be scrapped. What good is it, if it is impossible to interpret? He says that Republicans should be worried that if judges enforce the Constitution, then it might limit what a Republican President and Congress can do. Bingo! That's the whole point of having constitutional limits on govt.

Unfortunately, we really don't have judges who have the guts to strike down acts by the President and Congress. Sunstein claims that 26 acts have been struck down, but none had much significance. Nearly all of them were symbolic acts of no practical consequence. None have been comparable to the great activist rulings of the Warren Court, such as the decisions that forced drastic changes in schools, state legislatures, and police procedure.
Not only is Earth due for another Ice Age, but it looks like the magnetic poles are about to flip. Where are the environmentalist?
The Animal Liberation movement is doing better than I thought. NY Times Magazine says:

Earlier this year, Germany became the first nation to grant animals a constitutional right: the words ''and animals'' were added to a provision obliging the state to respect and protect the dignity of human beings. The farming of animals for fur was recently banned in England. In several European nations, sows may no longer be confined to crates nor laying hens to ''battery cages'' -- stacked wired cages so small the birds cannot stretch their wings. The Swiss are amending their laws to change the status of animals from ''things'' to ''beings.''

Even in the US, Oklahomans just voted to ban cockfighting. (It is still legal in just a couple of other states.)

Silicon Valley is usually in the news for technology products. Today, it is wild pigs. The pigs are pests, but they are good to eat. Even the environmentalists consider them pests, because they are non-native. The obvious solution is to hunt and eat them. The only reason we have a wild pig problem is because anti-hunting zealots have eliminated most of the hunting. We also have mountain lion problems for similar reasons.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Here is the federal Total Information Awareness (TIA) program to catch terrorists by spying on everyone. NY Times story here. Forbes says tiny sensors could also spy on cars and other things.
Astro news. The Leonids meteor shower is supposed to be good the night of Nov. 17. Unfortunately, the moon will be full. Supposedly, the best part will be at about 2:30 am Calif time. In Aug. 2003, Mars will be the closest it has been in 73k years.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Slate accuses Bush of telling a lie, but actually it is Slate's Timothy Noah with the faulty arithmetic. If the Education budget is increased by 18.5% one year, and then 15.8% the next, then the latter increase is the bigger dollar increase.
Reuters reports that a 78-year-old former nun got sent to jail (in Canada) for paddling misbehaving kids in her day-care place.
This guy wrote the book on stupidity. Then they caught him at it.

I am a little skeptical about these prosecutions based purely on intent. It is ok to throw people in jail if they truly have criminal intent, but I don't know how anyone can be sure about the criminal intent unless these is some genuine criminal opportunity, at least.

Update: The Smoking Gun has the legal document. It should be enough material for a new book.
NASA cancelled plans to rebut the theory that the Moon landing was a hoax. Too bad. The moon hoax folks are pretty wacky, but I'd be interested in explanations for some of their so-called evidence, such as non-parallel shadows in Lunar pictures.
The biggest threat to Microsoft is the Open Source movement. Read about leaked halloween papers here. Meanwhile, the Open Source movement continues to be identified with Richard Stallman and his kooky leftist politics. He is forever trying to explain his meaning of the word free. Free as in free speech, not free beer, he'd say. He is working on an operating system called Gnu Hurd that will be truly free. But Gnu Hurd is just a toy and BSD is already a polished operating system that runs Yahoo and many other big sites. And BSD is more free than Gnu Hurd will ever be.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

This story says TiVo is in trouble: "In a neighborhood of 200 homes, only one on average has a TiVo. More U.S. homes have outhouses (671,000) than TiVos (504,000 to 514,000)."

To me, TV is unwatchable without a TiVo or equivalent. I watch what I want, when I want, and I never see commercials. It is so easy to use that my 5-year-old can program it. It is amazing to me that most people don't get one.
John sends this Wired story:
Forced Vaccines Haunt Gulf Vets
In a 1994 report called Human Experimentation and Other Intentional Exposures Conducted by the Department of Defense, the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs seemed to agree.
"The results of our investigation showed a reckless disregard that shocked me," said Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV. "The Pentagon ... threw caution to the winds, ignoring all warnings of potential harm, and gave these (investigational) drugs to hundreds of thousands of soldiers with virtually no warnings and no safeguards.
"If that wasn't bad enough, they administered these drugs and vaccines in such a way that there is a very good chance they wouldn't have even worked for the intended purpose."
The committee also found that consent was not part of the inoculation program.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

John writes:
Several races remain in doubt.

In SD, Thune is behind by 528 votes. The Libertarian candidate got 3,064 votes. An official recount will be held on Nov. 25.

In AZ, Salmon is behind by 25,000 votes. All ballots cast on election day have been counted, but 221,000 early ballots are yet to be counted. The Libertarian got 17,000 votes and another independent candidate got 71,000 votes.

In AL, Riley was losing by about 3,000 votes last night. Today, one county changed its reported vote totals, subtracting 6,334 votes from the Democrat. Now Riley is leading by 3,195 votes. The Libertarian got 23,000 votes.

In OR, Mannix is losing by 20,000. The libertarian got 56,000 votes.

In CA, the governor's race was deceptively close: Davis 47%, Simon 42%. In reality, there was never any possibility that Simon could actually win. Simon probably got every vote that any conservative could possibly get, while a million Democratic voters expressed their disappointment with Davis by staying home.

Here is the remarkable red-blue map of California.

California voted overwhelmingly Democratic, but it was really just a few coastal cities that did it. Outside of LA, the Democrat and Republican candidates for governor were dead even. San Francisco voted 66% for Davis (D), with the Green Party getting 16% and outscoring the Republican.

Update: John sends this link on the low Calif turnout. Gov. Davis got 1.7M fewer votes than he got last time.
It is well-known that native American cultures suffered from disease after Columbus, but it now turns out that native American health had a pre-Columbian decline. From last week's NY Times:
What had not been clearly recognized until now, though, is that the general health of Native Americans had apparently been deteriorating for centuries before 1492.
That is the conclusion of a team of anthropologists, economists and paleopathologists who have completed a wide-ranging study of the health of people living in the Western Hemisphere in the last 7,000 years.
... The researchers used standardized criteria to rate the incidence and degree of these health factors by time and geography. Some trends leapt out from the resulting geography. Some trends leapt out from the resulting index. The healthiest sites for Native Americans were typically the oldest sites, predating Columbus by more than 1,000 years. Then came a marked decline.
"Our research shows that health was on a downward trajectory long before Columbus arrived," Dr. Richard H. Steckel and Dr. Jerome C. Rose, study leaders, wrote in "The Backbone of History: Health and Nutrition in the Western Hemisphere," a book they edited. It was published in August.
Someone asked about vaccine exemption law. In Europe and Japan, vaccination is voluntary, for the most part. In all US states, vaccines are required for school, unless exempted for medical or religious/philosophical reasons. 15 states have philosophical exemptions available. 2 states do not even allow religious exemptions.
In Arkansas, religious exemptions were available by statute in the past; a judge recently denied a Catholic kid an exemption because she is Catholic; litigation is still pending. Other states have religious exemptions.

The Texas religious exemption law says:
A signed affidavit must be presented by the child's parent or guardian stating that the immunization conflicts with the tenets and practices of a recognized religious organization of which the applicant is an adherent or member. This exemption does not apply in times of emergency or outbreak declared by the commissioner of health or local health authority.

New York: Here is a NY court decision allowing one kid to have an exemption, and denying it to another.
Andy predicts:
I'd say Rehnquist resigns in June, with Bush probably appointing conservative Edith Jones and confirming easily.

Either Stevens or O'Connor probably resigns before the 2004 elections, with the Senate still in Republican hands. Filling that vacancy gives 5 votes to reverse some pro-abortion decisions.

When the other resigns during Bush's second term, and maybe Ginsburg resigns also, Roe v. Wade is toast.

Stanford has a funny idea about who should be a mentor for its law students. Next week it will be Lynne F. Stewart, who is an indicted terrorist and supporter of commie repression. See Volokh for the story.

Update: Volokh reports that Stanford has rescinded the invitation because "Ms. Stewart has expressed sympathy for and tacit endorsement of the use of directed violence to achieve social change".

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Randy Johnson just won his 5th Cy Young award at age 39. His won his first at age 32. Usually strikeout pitchers peak at a much earlier age.

At Halloween, you can dress up as a devil, a witch, Saddam Hussein, a vampire, the Grim Reaper, etc. But some Univ. of Tennessee fraternity boys dressed up as the Jackson Five and Louis Armstrong, and they are being punished because they had white skin. Racially sensitive, the administration says. I think that the administration needs some lessons in free speech.
Here is somebody's list of politicians who push net-unfriendly laws.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Andy reports that the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a St. Louis dentist who was ordered to be forcibly drugged in order to stand trial for overbilling Medicare. For more info, see the Eagle Forum brief for Sell. The SC docket announces:
Petition GRANTED. The motion of petitioner for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is granted. The motion of Law Office of Julie Ruiz- Sierra for leave to file a brief as amicus curiae is granted. The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted limited to the following question: Whether the Court of Appeals erred in rejecting petitioner's argument that allowing the government to administer antipsychotic medication against his will solely to render him competent to stand trial for non-violent offenses would violate his rights under the First, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments.

Did the defense lawyer write this? I would have said psychotropic drugs instead of "antipsychotic medication". The proposed drugs do not have a proven medicinal or antipsychotic effect. I also would have mentioned the 4A "right of the people to be secure in their persons" and 8A "nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted". The feds will say that the drugging is not punishment, but it seems clear to me that the motive for the drugging is punishment from a vindictive cruel judge.

This is good news for Sell and those who opposed forced psychiatric drugging. I doubt that the SC would hear it, unless it was willing to reverse the case. My impression from reading the judge's opinion is that he was acting out of petty vindictiveness. It is a real scandal that a judge would be drugging someone he doesn't like.
Latest anti-Napster propaganda. The Mercury News reports:
A comScore Media Metrix study reveals that while traditional retail music sales are off 6 percent for the first half of the year -- online sales fell 20 percent over the same period. ... The Recording Industry Association of America, the labels' Washington, D.C., trade group, said the study reaffirms what it has been saying all along -- that piracy undermines the marketplace for legitimate, online music.

This is misleading because the "online sales" figure just includes online CD sales. Going online to have a CD shipped is going obsolete because it is being replaced with direct downloads of music. The market for online music is booming, even as the big music labels try to stifle it. The real complaint is that the big labels don't control the online music market the way they control the retail CD market.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Andy writes:
Roger writes, "Only the feds have access to all the info, have competent personnel, and can do a multi-state investigation. I say, let the feds finish the investigation, and then let VA or whoever else prosecute."

Only the feds "have competent personnel"??? Most high-profile investigations and prosecutions by the feds have been mishandled and/or politically distorted. Unlike state prosecutions, there has been no elected federal official to hold accountable for the mishandling, which guarantees perpetuation of the problem.

It's long overdue to hold politicians who appoint federal prosecutors and judges accountable for their conduct. Sununu should have been held accountable for Souter; US Senators should be held accountable for their selection of US Attorneys.

Television soundbites, which have dominated elections for 40 years, do not permit such accountability. But the internet does. Good information disseminated on the internet should increasingly influence close elections.

Roger writes, "If Human Events (HE) is not conservative enough for you, what are you going to read instead?"

Newspapers and magazines are nothing more than news filters of information readily available on the internet. They are only useful if the reader has confidence in the objectivity of the filter. HE is losing that. For example, it wouldn't surprise me if Sununu's team has been using HE to discredit Bob Smith, and that angers me.

The choice is not HE or another news filter. It's HE versus spending time getting news directly from the source -- the internet and emailed news.
Here is a site protesting H1B visas.
This Science News article explains how no election system can be perfect, and they all lead to paradoxes. Here is a Discover article (2000) that also discusses election paradoxes. This page explains Arrow's Impossibility Theorem.

The problem with the Science News article is that it goes on to say that other voting systems are superior to the US system. But it is not clear in what sense they are superior, except in the subjective opinion of certain advocates. The other systems also have paradoxes and defects. If there were an objectively superior system, then it would be worth considering. But the supposed experts cannot agree on what system is best. That is a clue that it is just a matter of opinion.
Some folks were charged with the crime of using the internet too much. I think that it would have been more more appropriate for the ISP to just cut off service, if the customer was using more bandwidth than the contract allows. Or just bill the customer for the usage.

Saturday, November 02, 2002

Friday, November 01, 2002

The DC federal judge has rubber-stamped the proposed Microsoft settlement. No surprise. I had to figure that this judge was incompetent to critically analyze the settlement when it has taken her an entire year to review it.

It is amazing that Msft's legal strategy has paid off. Its plan:

  • Use confidentiality agreements to conceal illegal business practices.
  • Rely on completely silly legal arguments, such as claiming that copyright law makes Msft exempt from antitrust law.
  • Rely on completely silly technical arguments, such as claiming that the browser was integrated into the OS.
  • Deny every adverse allegation, no matter how obvious or substantiated.
  • Hope that the feds won't be able to cope with the burden of proof.
  • Submit faked evidence. When it is exposed, claim that it was all a mistake.
  • Coach all witnesses to play dumb in depositions.
  • Prolong and delay at every opportunity, so that any remedy is obsolete by the time it is ordered.
  • Assume the judges will never understand any technical issues, even if the issues are at an 8th-grade level.
  • Baldly say that changing technology necessitates their behavior.
  • Repeat meaningless slogans like "freedom to innovate".
  • If the judge catches on, launch a character assassination on the judge.

Liza writes:
Roger says, "One reason educated women don't have any kids is that they become the 2nd wife to some more successful man who doesn't want any more kids."

What a generalization! On what data does Roger basis his sweeping statement that educated women are likely to become second wives and have no kids?

It is true that more-educated women tend to have fewer children than less-educated women, but I doubt that the majority of them are second wives to men who don't want more children.

I agree with this NY Times op-ed that confessions to police should be videotaped. We should have a rule of evidence that confession are only admissable if the whole interrogation and confession are videotaped. But his main example is the NY Central Park jogger case where a women was raped and beaten to death by a gang, and several youths confessed and were convicted. Now the convicted want out because of a DNA mismatch. But the convicts who confessed may still be completely guilty. It was known all along that some of the gang got away. Apparently the DNA matches one of those that got away. But those in the gang who participated in the murder are still guilty. They were convicted by a jury that realized that the worst perp might have gotten away.