Friday, September 29, 2006

Blame the phone company

I am amazed at how much the press is blaming HP for using phone company pretexting to trace boardroom leaks. I guess that the press is so excited because reporters had their privacy violated. But it was the reporters' own phone companies that betrayed them by releasing their personal phone records. I think that about 95% of the blame should goto the phone companies, as they could very easily institute policies that prevent this sort of thing. Apparently the phone company profits from spying on people and using the info to allow others to spy, and if we need new laws, they should first restrict the phone company spying.

The Si Valley paper says:
The testimony left Congress members trying to figure out who was to blame for the company's troubled boardroom leak investigation. Adding to their difficulty, 10 witnesses at the hearing invoked the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. A former HP security manager and seven private investigators declined to testify, as did Kevin Hunsaker, a former top HP lawyer who headed up the team of leak investigators.

At the start of the hearing, HP General Counsel Ann Baskins announced her resignation from the company and then invoked her Fifth Amendment privilege against testifying.

Subcommittee members expressed disbelief that nobody at HP's top level stepped forward to say the practice, legal or not, was unethical and should have been stopped.
AP reports:
Cingular Wireless LLC, the nation's largest cell phone provider, on Friday sued a private eye caught up in the scandal over the Hewlett-Packard Co. leak investigation, seeking to make him pay for allegedly obtaining customer call records under false pretenses.
Cingular is owned by what used to be called the Bell System. Verizon has filed a similar lawsuit.6y

Congress can start by blaming itself. It passed privacy laws that suited big businesses but were ineffective for consumers. There are a lot of simple things that the phone companies could do. They could give the customer the option of not keeping old records. They could only send records to the billing address. They could summarize all account activity on the next bill, so the customer would at least know that his records were accessed. They could require confirmation from the phone number associated to the account. There are just a few ideas that don't cost any money.

If I were that private detective sued by the phone company, I would subpoena the executives who adopted the policies that encourage pretexters. My hunch is that the phone company has business reasons for tolerating pretexters.

Update: Here is someone blaming the phone companies.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Brain scans show women really are hysterical

NY Science Times reports:
Hysteria is a 4,000-year-old diagnosis that has been applied to no mean parade of witches, saints and, of course, Anna O.

The word hysteria derives from Greek for uterus, and ancient doctors attributed a number of female maladies to a starved or misplaced womb. Hippocrates, far right, suggested marriage as a treatment.

But over the last 50 years, the word has been spoken less and less. The disappearance of hysteria has been heralded at least since the 1960's. What had been a Victorian catch-all splintered into many different diagnoses. Hysteria seemed to be a vanished 19th-century extravagance useful for literary analysis but surely out of place in the serious reaches of contemporary science.

The word itself seems murky, more than a little misogynistic and all too indebted to the theorizing of the now-unfashionable Freud. More than one doctor has called it "the diagnosis that dare not speak its name."
It says that whole generation of psychotherapists and others have been brainwashed not to call women hysterical. Their bible, the DSM-IV, changed the name to "conversion disorder" so as to not offend women.

Now they are doing brain scans on hysterical. Maybe they'll figure something out. Freud never did.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Mathematically modeling politics

Here is a goofy academic political science paper:
In this paper's introduction we [Lustick and Miodownick] mentioned the contrast between predictions by American policy-makers that a powerful cascade among Iraqis toward democracy and against the Saddam regime would be triggered by the American-led invasion. That did not occur.
This is gibberish, and wrong from the start. There was a powerful cascade toward
democracy. Just look at how many voted. There was an insurgency, but not in
support of the Saddam regime. The Saddam regime was defeated in the first
couple of months of the war. After that, there was no Saddam regime for anyone
to support.

Naming the evildoers

This NY Times SHERYL GAY STOLBERG op-ed by Sheryl Gay Stolberg struggles with finding a good term for Mohammedans who support terrorism.
SHORTLY after terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush's speechwriters began grappling with a linguistic puzzle: What to call the enemy? In the five years since, Mr. Bush has road-tested an array of terms: evildoers, jihadists, Islamic extremists, even "Al Qaeda suiciders."

But no phrase has crashed and burned as fast as the president's most recent entry into the foreign policy lexicon: Islamic fascists, or, Islamo-fascism. ...

David Frum, a former speechwriter for Mr. Bush, said the president turned to "evildoers" right after Sept. 11, 2001, in part because it translated well in Arabic and in part because it appeared in Psalm 27, which Mr. Frum says is one of the president?s favorite psalms. ("When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh.")

But evildoers has a kind of comic-book sound, and in any event, Mr. Frum says, it isn't specific enough. He suggests Mr. Bush find an Arabic phrase to popularize ? so long as it does not involve the word jihad, a term with a negative connotation in the United States, but positive overtones in the Muslim world.

Peter Beinart, the editor at large of The New Republic, has his own solution: "jihadi salafi," which he loosely translates as "someone who would use violence, and ultimately state violence, to bring about a utopian vision of Islam." So what if no one knows what it means.
Michael Medved prefers "Islamo-Nazi", because of the way that they want to exterminate the Jews. But that term also suffers from sounding like a comic-book epithet.

All of these terms have problems. It is impossible to choose a term that is both accurate and inoffensive. There are many millions of Mohammedans who believe ina terrorist Jihad, and that Koran 9:6 instructs them to kill infidels.

I say that if there are Mohammedans who don't believe in a violent jihad against infidels, then let them come up with terminology that distinguishes them.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Something's Missing on Campus

Carrie Lukas writes:
Students returning to Rutgers University will find that over the summer the university cut six teams: men's heavyweight and lightweight crew, men's and women's fencing, men's swimming and men's tennis. Why did men?s athletics take the brunt of what university officials characterize as a necessary cost-cutting exercise? Title IX.

An Associated Press article explained, "Rutgers' commitment to Title IX guidelines forced it to eliminate more men's programs. The current female-to-male ratio at the university is 51 to 49 percent, [Rutgers athletic director, Robert] Mulcahy said, adding that the opportunities for women in sports must be within 2 percent of that ratio to comply with Title IX. 'That means almost all the cuts have to be in men's programs.'" ...

According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly half of high school senior boys reported participating in an athletic team compared to one in three girls. But twice as many girls contributed to their school?s newspaper or yearbook. Nineteen percent of girls compared to 12 percent of boys participated in an academic club. Thirteen percent of girls compared to 8 percent of boys took part in student council. Nearly one third of senior girls participated in a play or musical performance compared to just two percent of boys.
So why aren't they eliminating school newspapers and yearbook, if they really believe in such a peculiar notion of equality.

Dance without touching

Dance news:
I am sitting outside a Starbucks in Ealing, west London, talking about the decline of Britain?s classical dance. 'We have lost a generation of dancers', says Jeffery Taylor, a former dancer and now dance critic for the Sunday Express. 'There has been a huge erosion of standards with political correctness.' ...

One problem is the virtual ban on teachers touching students. Child protection policies now mean that male tutors touching female dancers is 'virtually prohibited'; students need a letter from parents in order to permit limited touching in certain circumstances; and classes must be observed 'to make sure that there?s no indiscretion'. ...

Another of Taylor?s laments is the non-judgemental current creeping into ballet. Just as touching is now banned, so too are the physically punishing regimes that were once the mainstay of ballet training. 'Today it?s almost official: you never tell a child what to do unless they are willing to do it.' This just doesn?t work.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Ted Turner goes senile

CNN reports:
Alternately combative and humorous, Turner spoke nine years after his pledge to donate $1 billion to the United Nations over 10 years ...

Often contrarian, Turner called it a "joke" that Bush demanded that Iran abandon any ambitions for nuclear weapons while at the same time hoping to ban all such bombs.

"They're a sovereign state," Turner said of Iran. "We have 28,000. Why can't they have 10? We don't say anything about Israel -- they've got 100 of them approximately -- or India or Pakistan or Russia. And really, nobody should have them. ...

"Men should be barred from public office for 100 years in every part of the world. ... It would be a much kinder, gentler, more intelligently run world. The men have had millions of years where we've been running things. We've screwed it up hopelessly. Let's give it to the women." ...

"I am absolutely certain we would not have made it through the Cold War without the U.N.," Turner said. "When Khrushchev at the U.N. took his shoe off and hit podium he was so mad, but he had a place to let off steam. If the U.N. hadn't been there, that would have been war right then."
I think that the UN should let Ted Turner come in and bang his shoe on the podium until he finishes letting off steam.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Experts complain about outmoded practices

Andy sends Harvard news:
When Lawrence H. Summers speculated in January 2005 that "issues of intrinsic aptitude" contributed to the lack of women in science and engineering, he added, "I would like nothing better than to be proved wrong."

Now, according to a National Academy of Sciences expert panel, Summers? wish has come true. The expert panel said in a report released yesterday that "bias and outmoded practices" -- not biological differences -- explain why women continue to be underrepresented on the hard-science faculties of universities and colleges.
No, he wasn't proved wrong. He was fired for raising the question. Now it is difficult to find academics who are not intimidated. But read this rebuttal. The expert panel consisted almost entirely of women who have benefitted from affirmative action appointments.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Prof Yau demands correction

Woit reports:
Shing-Tung Yau is fighting back against the New Yorker article "Manifold Destiny", which was very critical of him, essentially claiming he was trying to steal credit for the proof of the Poincare Conjecture from Perelman. He has hired a lawyer and set-up a web-site. The web-site includes a long letter from his lawyer to the New Yorker, making his case that the article has many inaccuracies.
I previously criticized the New Yorker article below.

I've heard people say that the New Yorker magazine has a high reputation for accuracy, and I've wondered why they say so. They have traditionally paid by the word, and liked long tedious articles that are chosen for stylistic reasons. The Poincare Conjecture article is more interested in gossip than substance. It misses the big story and tries to create an artificial controversy over who should get how much credit. I hope Prof Yau succeeds.

The print edition shows a big cartoon of Yau trying to steal Perelman's Field's Medal. But that is absurd, as Yau already has his own medal and is not eligible for another. He was never against Perelman getting a medal, as far as I can tell.

The New Yorker article was coauthored by Sylvia Nasar, the overrated author of A Beautiful Mind, the unauthorized biography of mathematician John Nash. I thought that she was very unfair to Nash in some ways in that book. It also had too much gossip and not enough substance.

Update: The New Yorker responds:
"Contrary to Dr. Yau's assertions, the article is nuanced and fair, and was prepared using ethical standards of journalism," the magazine said in a statement. "Dr. Yau, his supporters and his point of view were given ample space in the article." ...

But The New Yorker said the article was the result of four months of reporting and hours of meticulous fact-checking. The authors spent over 20 hours interviewing Yau, conducted approximately 100 other interviews with people in Yau's field and even traveled to China to research the story.
The time spent just makes the New Yorker all the more culpable.

Update: Another Chinese mathematician is offended by the way the article describes Chinese mathematics as technical and unoriginal. Other mathematicians comment here.

Mirror neurons cause brainwashing susceptibility

According to this research, there are two kinds of people -- empathisers and non-empathisers. The empathisers have a "mirror neuron" in their brain that causes them to have Pavlovian responses. Those people are particularly susceptible to Madison Avenue brainwashing.
Mirror neurons, known to exist in humans and in macaque monkeys, activate when an action is observed, and also when it is performed. Now new research reveals that there are mirror neurons in humans that fire when sounds are heard. In other words, if you hear the noise of someone eating an apple, some of the same neurons fire as when you eat the apple yourself.

So-called auditory mirror neurons were known only in macaques. To determine if they exist in humans Valeria Gazzola, at the school of behavioural and cognitive neurosciences neuroimaging centre at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, and colleagues, put 16 volunteers into functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners and observed their brains as they were played different noises. ...

Journal reference: Current Biology (vol 16, p 1824)
This could help why some people are so easily brainwashed, and others are not.

Ward Defends the Mohammedans

I just listened to left-wing kook KGO radio host Bernie Ward read this article, including this:
The Muslims who have objected so vociferously to the Pope's denigration of Islam have accused him of "hypocrisy", pointing out that the Catholic church is ill-placed to condemn violent jihad when it has itself been guilty of unholy violence in crusades, persecutions and inquisitions and, under Pope Pius XII, tacitly condoned the Nazi Holocaust. ...

We simply cannot afford this type of bigotry. The trouble is that too many people in the western world unconsciously share this prejudice, convinced that Islam and the Qur'an are addicted to violence.
This is nonsense. The Mohammedans spent 800 years trying to militarily invade Europe and destroy Christianity. Now they are trying to do it with immigration and terrorism. To the extent that the Europeans have defended themselves, they did the right and honorable thing. The Pope never condoned the Nazi Holocaust. Catholics got killed too.

Bernie Ward is a failed Catholic priest trainee who is bitter towards the Catholic Church. He says nasty things about it at every opportunity. He gets away with it because he claims to be a believer himself, but he has his own goofy theology that a lot of Catholics would not recognize. He just uses a controversy like this as an excuse to attack the Catholic Church.

The only other time I listened to B. Ward in the last 6 months, he was ranting about being caught in some traffic jam that he blamed on bicyclists. He also said that he wanted to run over some bicyclists in his Lexus, and was mad that the city was wasting money paying cops who prevented him from running over bicyclists.

The above article in the UK Guardian is followed by many thoughtful comments that rebut what the author says.

A reader sends this other UK Guardian article:
Quoting Byzantine emperor ... It was a gratuitous reawakening of the most entrenched and self-serving of western prejudices -- that Muslims have a unique proclivity to violence, a claim that has no basis in history or in current world events (a fact that still eludes too many westerners).
No basis?! Who are the terrorists and suicide bombers?
An elderly Catholic nun has already been killed in Somalia, perhaps in retaliation for the Pope's remarks; churches have been attacked in the West Bank. How is this papal stupidity going to play out in countries such as Nigeria, ...
Papal stupidity or Muslim proclivity to violence? The article says that the Pope has insulted Jews, homesexuals, and others, but they aren't murdering nuns in response.
The second is a more disturbing possibility: namely, that the Catholic church could be failing - yet again - to deal with the challenge of modernity.
Is he joking? It is the Mohammedan world that fails to deal with the challenge of modernity, not the Catholic Church.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Foreign language ballots

A suburban Si Valley paper published this op-ed:
In Colonial America, Colonizers usually imposed their language onto the people they colonized, forbidding them to speak their mother tongues - whether it be French, Spanish, Native American or German/Dutch. Many students were demoted, humiliated or even beaten for speaking their native language. Nowadays we have mandates from the government to allow immigrant citizens to be able to vote in their native language.
I dispute this. American colonizers colonized land, not people. They were allowed to speak whatever language they wanted.
... The Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 - which was originally passed to assure that all Americans can take part in elections - has recently been revisited. It now requires counties to add languages to elections materials ...
No, it was passed to punish the South, and it continues to promote bigotry.
We may do well to remember that a large part of our country's success - and its delight - is due to the contributions of immigrants, such as the building of the transcontinental railroad by Chinese, often under dreadful conditions. And more locally it is worthy to note that in 1996 about one-fourth of all Silicon Valley high-tech companies were founded by an immigrant, and those companies contributed $28 billion dollars in revenue and 67,000 in jobs according to the San Jose Mercury News. Knowing this, and the fact that multi-language election material is financially minimal, we should embrace this service with open arms, just as the Statue of Liberty has embraced all new Americans.
To get to those figures, you have to count Intel as being cofounded by a Hungarian and Sun Microsystems as being cofounded by a German. But we have no ballots in either German or Hungarian, as they are forbidden by the Voting Rights Act.

Immigrants who become citizens have to learn english. Those Si Valley immigrants who cofounded companies all spoke english. Those who participate in American politics speak english. The foreign language ballots are unnecessary and destructive.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Murderous and compromised history

The Times of London reports:
The president of Germany's central council of Muslims went further, saying that Catholicism's murderous and compromised history left it with no moral leg to stand on to criticise other religions.

"After the blood-stained conversions in South America, the Crusades in the Muslim world, the coercion of the church by Hitler's regime, and even the coining of the phrase 'holy war' by Pope Urban II, I do not think the church should point a finger at extremist activities in other religions," said Aiman Mazyek.
Good, let's compare histories. It is the Aztecs who were the sadistic cannibals, not the Christians. The Crusades helped save Europe from the evil Mohammedan empire. Hitler was not a Catholic; the Mohammedans have much more in common with Hitler. It is the Mohammedans who believe in systematically exterminating the Jews. A holy war was a just war for freedom; a Mohammedan jihad is an excuse for terrorist to murder innocent civilians.

I'd rather compare the religions today. Mohammedans today defend killing infidels; Christians do not.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Mohammedanism spread by the sword


In a major speech on Tuesday at Regensburg University, Benedict delivered a long, scholarly address on reason and faith in the West. But he began his speech by recounting a conversation on the truths of Christianity and Islam that took place between a 14th-century Byzantine Christian emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, and a Persian scholar.

"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," the pope said.

"He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached,' " the pope said.

While making clear that he was quoting someone else, Benedict did not say whether he agreed or not. He also briefly discussed the Islamic concept of jihad, which he defined as "holy war," and said that violence in the name of religion is contrary to God's nature and to reason.
And so the Mohammedans are going berserk again. Some are even threatening to kill Christians until the Pope apologizes. They are trying to prove the 14C emperor correct.

I am not trying to blame Mohammedans for what Mohammedanism did centuries ago, but they are still are still dominated by those who believe in carrying on a jihad against infidels.

A NY Times editorial says:
For many Muslims, holy war -- jihad -- is a spiritual struggle, and not a call to violence. And they denounce its perversion by extremists, who use jihad to justify murder and terrorism. For many Muslims, holy war - jihad - is a spiritual struggle, and not a call to violence. And they denounce its perversion by extremists, who use jihad to justify murder and terrorism. ... [Pope Benedict XVI] needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology, demonstrating that words can also heal.
Note what the NY Times does not say. It doesn't say that anything the Pope said was false, or that Muhammad spread anything new that was not evil and inhuman. It doesn't deny that Mohammedanism was spread by the sword. It doesn't even say that most Moslems are against murder and terrorism; it just says that many of them are.

That's right. Many Moslems are indeed peaceful and do not believe in jihadist murder of infidels. But I don't think that appeasing murderers and terrorists is going to heal anything.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Anonymous accusations

UK news:
An innocent man jailed for a sex attack was dramatically cleared after it emerged that his 'victim' is a serial liar with a long history of crying rape.

But because of laws that protect her anonymity, judges are powerless to name and shame her, leaving her free to make more false accusations against blameless members of the public. ...

Mr Justice Tugendhat admitted, however, that similar tragic cases could follow because of the lies of the woman, Miss A.

"Parliament does not seem to have contemplated this situation.

"There appears to be no means of displacing her entitlement to anonymity."
No, it is not news that women make false accusations. I am sure that the UK Parliament deliberately ignored the possibility out of some sort of feminist political correctness.

Lying to adopt

Reuters reports:
Smith, a former Catholic priest who left the Jesuit order to pursue life as an openly gay man, temporarily went back into the closet and sought approval to adopt as a single parent to avoid being disqualified based on his sexual orientation.

[His boyfriend] Tan only became the child's second father in the eyes of the law after they brought the child to San Francisco and registered with the state of California.
Did he also lie about being a Catholic priest, because some people think that priests are likely to be pedophiles? He also had an incentive to lie about drug problems and other problems.

Germany forbids homeschooling

Brussels Journal reports:
Last Thursday the German police arrested Katharina Plett, a homeschooling mother of twelve. Yesterday her husband fled to Austria with the children. Homeschooling is illegal in Germany since Hitler banned it in 1938.
I usually ignore stories with some gratuitous reference to Hitler, but I do think that homeschooling is a human right.

Update: The EU upheld the ban.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Danger of wearing a helmet

British research:
CYCLISTS who wear helmets are more likely to be knocked off their bicycles than those who do not, according to research.

Motorists give helmeted cyclists less leeway than bare-headed riders because they assume that they are more proficient. They give a wider berth to those they think do not look like "proper" cyclists, including women, than to kitted-out "lycra-clad warriors". ...

During his research he measured the exact distance of passing traffic using a computer and sensor fitted to his bicycle.Half the time Dr Walker, of the University of Bath, was bare-headed. For the other half he wore a helmet and has the bruises to prove it.

He even wore a wig on some of his trips to see if drivers gave him more room if they thought he was a woman. They did.

He was unsure whether the protection of a helmet justified the higher risk of having a collision.
This explains how an obvious safety measure can actually increase danger. Motorcycle helmets have additional safety risks, such as decreasing visibility for the rider.

It also may help explain why motorists are often so eager for laws requiring bikers to wear helmets. The helmets give the motorists excuses to ignore the safety of the biker.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Rosie gone nuts

Rosie O'Donnell said on her TV show:
And just one second, radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America.
No, radical Christians do not go around killing infidels.

Update: Michael Medved on Sept. 14 is citing TV shows like this and Oprah's as evidence that men are smarter than women. Men just wouldn't pay attention to such nonsense.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Protestors hang Bin Laden effigy

AP story:
CULVER CITY, Calif. - Activists hanged an effigy of Osama Bin Laden across the street from a Southern California mosque Sunday to protest radical Islam on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

With a crowd of about 100 people shouting "Remember 9-11!" and "No more Jihad!" two men on the back of a pickup truck slipped a noose around the neck of a dummy wearing a Bin Laden mask and strung it up, while the crowd pelted the effigy with shoes.

The protest was organized by the United American Committee, a group that says it promotes awareness of internal threats facing America.

About 70 counter-protesters described the King Fahd Mosque as a peaceful center for area Muslims and yelled "racists go home!" during the ritual. A group of clergy joined hands with some of the mosque's worshippers and stood in a circle in front of the mosque.

"I think it's crazy," said mosque spokesman Usman Madha. "We have never encouraged extremism. We were the first mosque that condemned the Sept.11 atrocities and we kicked out a few people that protested that condemnation."
If the mosque really condemned the atrocities, then it would join those who wanted to string up Bin Laden. It did not.

The Homework Myth

Seattle paper:
According to a University of Michigan study, the amount of time our kids spend on homework has increased 51 percent during the past 25 years. Elementary school students, in particular, are carrying home a far heavier load of work than in days past. Out-of-class assignments are now regularly handed out for holidays and vacation periods as well.

Has it done any good? According to Time magazine and a pair of new books, there is plenty of evidence that suggests it has not.

A Duke University researcher has found all that extra at-home study has made no appreciable difference in the academic performance of grade school students. Too much homework, in fact, may produce lower test scores, according to several studies. In countries such as Japan and Denmark where students outperform their U.S. counterparts on achievement tests, teachers generally assign less homework.

Besides stressing out American families, all the added drudgery may well be killing kids' interest in learning.
The same may be true about some schoolwork as well. Some homework detracts from more worthwhile activities.

Update: Here is another article questioning homework:
Vigorous scrutiny of the research, they argue, fails to demonstrate tangible benefits of homework, particularly for elementary students. What it does instead, they contend, is rob children of childhood, play havoc with family life and asphyxiate their natural curiosity. Learning becomes a mind-numbing grind rather than an engaging adventure.

In an era of more rigorous academic standards and vertebrae-straining backpacks, most American schools seem to be assigning more homework in earlier grades. For two decades, experts have propelled this trend with dire warnings that students in nations such as Japan are besting Americans because they diligently do more homework.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Trying to rationalize gun control

I just watched Saul Cornell on C-SPAN2 plug his book on the Second Amendment (2A).
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
He didn't mention that he was funded by the gun control lobby, but it was pretty obvious that he wanted gun bans. His main claim was that the 2A were taken seriously, then (almost) everyone would have a machine gun, but that neither side of the gun debate wants us to live like Israel and Switzerland.

His biggest argument was a 200-year-old case in which Charles Austin shot someone in a prominent dispute, and was acquitted on grounds of self-defense. Cornell says that Austin never claimed that he had a 2A right to own a handgun. But no one ever accused him of illegally owning a gun either.

I think that able-bodied and civic-minded American men should own guns, and that we are a freer country as a result of the militia having guns.

Most of Cornell's arguments were just stupid. Austin didn't have to cite the 2A because no one disputed his right to have a gun. The interviewer did not ask any tough questions, but several of the callers made him look like an idiot.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

As close to human as any animal you can get

The Boston Herald reports:
WASHINGTON - The House brushed aside objections from horse doctors and the White House and voted Thursday to outlaw slaughtering horses for meat. ...

Sweeney argued that the slaughter of horses is different from the slaughter of cattle and chickens because horses, such as Mr. Ed, Secretariat and Silver, are American icons.
"They're as close to human as any animal you can get," said Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C.
Added Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn.: "The way a society treats its animals, particularly horses, speaks to the core values and morals of its citizens."
The DNA comparisons say that the chimps are the closest to humans, and the evolutionists say that humans diverged from chimps about 6 million years ago. Horse connections go a lot further back.

Selling soap

According to this scientific study, the best time to sell someone soap and toothpaste is right after subjecting him to a story about some unethical lawyer backstabbing a colleague!

Chronological snobbery

I found this definition:
Chronological snobbery is the presumption, fueled by the modern conception of progress, that all thinking, all art, and all science of an earlier time are inherently inferior, indeed childlike or even imbecilic, compared to that of the present. ...
The young physicist Ranger in Worlds Apart epitomizes chronological snobbery. See, for example, the following pontification:
You see, I have the advantage of knowing something of what is actually going on. I don't know much about the history of science and still less about the history of pre-scientific thought. What I do know is, that three or four hundred years ago for some reason or other the human mind suddenly woke up. I don't know who started it--Bacon, Copernicus, Galileo, or someone--and it doesn't seem to me to matter. The point is, that for some reason people began to look at the world around them instead of accepting traditional theories, to explore the universe instead of just sitting around and thinking about it. First of all they discovered that the earth wasn't flat ... and that it was not the centre of the universe, as they had been dreaming, but a rapidly revolving and whirling speck of dust in empty space. Almost overnight about half the ideas men had had about the universe and their own place in it, turned out to be mere illusions. And the other half went the same way, when scientists began applying the new method--practical exploration--to other fields of inquiry--mechanics, chemistry, physiology, biology, and, later on, animal and human psychology and so forth. Everything that had been thought before, from the beginnings of civilization down to that moment, became hopelessly out of date and discredited. I suppose it still has an interest for antiquarians and historical specialists and similar types, but apart from that. ... [WA 13-14)
A related concept is Presentism. A good tipoff is the mere mention of Galileo or the Flat Earth.

Scottish program to spy on private homes

UK news about closed circuit television:
CCTV will be installed at the homes of abused wives to protect them from violent partners, as part of a council scheme to protect vulnerable families.

The 12-month Safe As Houses pilot project, to be launched later this year, will give families the option of having the security measures such as CCTV, solid core doors, reinforced window and door frames, extra locks and bolts and external mailboxes installed.
This is in a country that does not allow its citizens to own guns or to use deadly force to defend themselves in their homes.

A reader cites this study that men are more likely to be victims:
DURHAM, N.H. -- A 32-nation study of violence against dating partners by university partners found that about a third had been violent, and most incidents of partner violence involve violence by both the man and woman, according to Murray Straus, founder and co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire. The second largest category was couples where the female partner was the only one to carry about physical attacks, not the male partner.

Straus' new research also found that dominance by the female partner is even more closely related to violence by women than is male dominance. These results call into question the widely held belief that partner violence is primarily a male crime and that when women are violent it is self defense.
The Scottish program is only for women who claim abuse, and is only to entrap men.

Friday, September 08, 2006

UK bans Bible quotes

UK news:
[Evangelical Christian Stephen Green] faces a court appearance today charged with using 'threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour' after his attempt to distribute the leaflets at the weekend 'Mardi Gras' event in Cardiff.

A spokesman for the police said the campaigner had not behaved in a violent or aggressive manner, but that officers arrested him because 'the leaflet contained Biblical quotes about homosexuality'....

Aimed at demonstrating Biblical disapproval of homosexual sex, they included from the Old Testament Leviticus 18.22, 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination'.

The leaflets also quoted Romans 1:25-27 from the New Testament, to the effect that homosexuals are given to 'vile affections'.
There is no free speech in England, if you can't quote the Bible calling something an abomination.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

This Can?t Be Love

NY Science Times reports:
Sexual cannibalism became a hot topic of debate among biologists in 1984. Scientists from Cornell and the University of Texas at Austin proposed that it evolved because the males of some species could get an evolutionary advantage from being eaten. Their bodies could nourish the mothers of their offspring, raising the odds that those offspring would successfully hatch and grow up to produce their own offspring, thus carrying on the father?s genes.

The late Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould attacked this argument, calling it a prime example of how biologists had become "overzealous about the power and range of selection by trying to attribute every significant form and behavior to its direct action."

Dr. Gould argued that sexual cannibalism was too rare to be significant. It is possible, he said, that females eat their mates simply because they mistake them for prey.

Subsequent research refuted parts of Dr. Gould?s argument. Some sexual cannibals, including female Chinese mantises, actually eat a lot of males. "One study estimated that 63 percent of the diet of females are male mantids," Dr. Brown said. "So they?re the main food source."
Gould would believe what he wanted to believe.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Female sex abuse

Prison news:
Roughly half of all sexual impropriety reported in U.S. prisons and jails last year was perpetrated by correctional staff, not inmates. Female staff were the offenders in two-thirds of the prison cases, and two-thirds of the victims of prison staff were male inmates, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Wow. I knew that a lot of men get raped in prison, but I didn't know that female prison guards were among the perps.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Faked stem cell research

Stem cell researchers and other cloning advocates are always telling us how scientists can do the research ethically if only they get more govt money.The funny thing is that we keep hearing stories of corruption, faked research, and too much money in the field. The WSJ reports:
Almost two weeks ago, Advanced Cell Technology Inc., of Alameda, Calif.,announced that its scientists had produced stem cells "using an approach that does not harm embryos." ...

But many stem-cell scientists remain skeptical of Advanced Cell's claims. 'The really unfortunate thing about that paper is that they really didn't do the experiment' that garnered all the media attention, says Jeanne Loring, a stem-cell researcher at the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, Calif.
It turns out that the researchers killed all 16 embryos it used for the experiment.

New California laws

California is busy passing new nanny state laws, such as this:
From 1 October 2007, manufacturers must place warning labels on all equipment capable of receiving Wi-Fi signals, according to the new state law. These can take the form of box stickers, special notification in setup software, notification during the router setup, or through automatic securing of the connection. One warning sticker must be positioned so that it must be removed by a consumer before the product can be used.
and this:
The California Wireless Telephone Automobile Safety Act of 2006, the bill's formal name, says: "A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving." ...
Using a hand-held phone would be allowed only in emergency situations, such as calling 911.
The new rules wouldn't take effect until July 1, 2008.
I think that it is safer to drive with one hand on the wheel. The other hand is for shifting, eating, and using electronic devices.

Glenn Sacks writes:
The California Assembly just passed a domestic violence bill which deliberately perpetuates the state's harmful policy of excluding men and their children from receiving state-funded domestic violence services. Under AB 2051, only "battered women" are eligible for the shelters, hotel vouchers, counseling and legal services the state provides victims of domestic violence. We're calling on California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to veto this misguided legislation.

I want all of you to write to the Governor to tell him to veto AB 2051 by clicking
here. By filling out the form you will be sending a fax to the Governor.
I submitted mine. I hope the Governor vetoes a bunch of these bills. He is in a tough reelection battle.

Update: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a socialized medicine law and a law requiring pro-homosexual propaganda in school textbooks.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Video gamer needs professional intervention

Saturday's Dear Abby had a letter about a 14-year-old girl who is addicted to porno novels, and a college boy who is addicted to video games. Dear Abby said the girl is fine as long as she is being raised to "respect feminist principles", but the boy needs "professional intervention", whatever that means. Sigh. Goofy advice.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Wikipedia on DES

On the Wikipedia Cryptography page, someone changed:
A popular book[40] claims that IBM independently re-discovered differential cryptanalysis and that the technique was kept secret at NSA's request, but the account published by IBM[38] makes no such claim.
to:
IBM discovered differential cryptanalysis independently[40] and kept the technique secret at NSA's request.
and justified it with:
If a fact is supported by a reliable published source, then it can be presented as fact on Wikipedia. You can call it "Levy's rumor", or a "goofy NSA theory", or an "anti government conspiracy theory", or "wrong" until you're blue in the face, I don't care. The only thing that will convince me is an actual rational argument as to why Levy, a published prize-winning author, cannot be trusted as a reliable source. Argument by repeated assertion is not convincing.
Steve Levy wrote a book on Crypto with a lot of interesting info, but his only source for the above statement is the account published by IBM. It would be very strange if IBM wrote a whole article bragging about how it knew about differential cryptanalysis and used it to improve the design of the Data Encryption Standard (DES), but neglected to mention that IBM invented it.

It appears that IBM's design of a new encryption standard had weaknesses, and the NSA told IBM's team about some attacks so that IBM could improve the design. A lot of people were suspicious about the NSA's involvement in DES back in the 1970s, but DES was a tremendous success, and none of those suspicions were ever substantiated. Whatever influence NSA had, it was overwhelmingly for the better.

Some conspiracy theorists just won't let go of their anti-govt paranoia, regardless of the evidence.

Benefits of parental notification laws

California is considering ballot Proposition 85 that requires parental notification of abortions in some cases. It is commonly argued that such laws are ineffective because many teenagers tell their parents anyway or that laws do not restrain teenage behavior. But here is research
that tries to quantify the effect:
Thomas Stratmann, who, with law professor Jonathan Klick, has pushed the idea of the rational teenage sex drive. Their hypothesis is that if teenagers really did think about the consequences of their actions, they would have less risky sex if the cost of risky sex went up. They discovered a very specific source of that higher risk: "In some states, there are abortion-notification or -consent laws, which mean that teenagers can't get an abortion without at least one parent being informed or giving consent." If teenagers are rational, such laws would discourage risky sex among teens, relative to adults.

Klick and Stratmann claim to have found evidence of exactly this. Wherever and whenever abortion-notification laws have been passed, gonorrhoea rates in the teenage and adult populations start to diverge. When it becomes more troublesome to get an abortion, teenagers seem to cut back on unprotected sex.
The abstract says:
Using gonorrhea rates among older women to control for unobserved heterogeneity across states, our results indicate that the enactment of parental involvement laws significantly reduces risky sexual activity among teenage girls. We estimate reductions in gonorrhea rates of 20 percent for Hispanics and 12 percent for whites.
There will be plenty of opposition to Prop. 85, as it failed before, but I haven't seen anyone explain any empirical evidence of harm.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Dog gets protection order

Dog news:
A powderpuff dog named Bebe has become the first pet in New York to be awarded a domestic protection order. ...

The order was issued at Queens Criminal Court under a new state law designed to protect animals from domestic violence. ...
The attack allegedly happened when [Mr] Fontanez was dog-sitting Bebe for Mr Lopez. Mr Lopez told Fontanez to be out of his flat in South Ozone Park by the time he got home.

When Mr Lopez returned from work, he found Bebe hurt.
I really don't think the courts need to intervene when a man asks his gay lover to dog-sit his bichon frise. The man can just get another dog-sitter or lover or dog or something.