Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What the Islamic moderate believes

The leader of the Ground Zero Mosque is a moderate follower of Islam, by all accounts. This means:
To briefly summarize the case against Rauf, the most important points are that he seems to praise much of the ideology of Iran’s repressive theocratic regime, refuses to admit that Hamas is a terrorist group (which should be a no-brainer even if you think that Israel’s policies in Gaza are unjustified), claims that the US was “an accessory” to the 9/11 attacks, and sometimes draws a kind of moral equivalency between US foreign policy and Al Qaeda. Weiss also points out that Rauf took part in a bogus “peace organization” organized by a prominent Malaysian anti-Semite.

As Young notes, there are also more positive attributes to Rauf’s record. For example, he has denounced the 9/11 attacks, criticized some radical Islamist groups, praised the US Constitution, and urged Muslims to respect women’s rights.
Glad to hear he denounced the 9/11 attacks. It is useful to distinguish moderates like him to the extremists and terrorists. But let's not confuse his views with those of Christian Americans.

Update: Just today, Hamas has claimed credit for the terrorist murder of four Israeli civilians, in order to protest the pending peace talks. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Ground Zero Muslim center may get public financing. So your tax money could be supporting a group that supports terrorists.

Also, Rauf refuses to criticize the recent Hamas attack, saying "The issue of terrorism is a very complex question".

Monday, August 30, 2010

Shrinks with past lives

The NY Times reports:
In one of his past lives, Dr. Paul DeBell believes, he was a caveman. The gray-haired Cornell-trained psychiatrist has a gentle, serious manner, ...

In that earlier incarnation, “I was going along, going along, going along, and I got eaten,” said Dr. DeBell, who has a private practice on the Upper East Side where he specializes in hypnotizing those hoping to retrieve memories of past lives. Dr. DeBell likes to reflect on how previous lives can alter one’s sense of self. He, for example, is more than a psychiatrist in 21st-century Manhattan; he believes he is an eternal soul who also inhabited the body of a Tibetan monk and a conscientious German who refused to betray his Jewish neighbors in the Holocaust.

Belief in reincarnation, he said, “allows you to experience history as yours. It gives you a different sense of what it means to be human.”
Apparently these beliefs are common among shrinks, women, and Democrats:
According to data released last year by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a quarter of Americans now believe in reincarnation. (Women are more likely to believe than men; Democrats more likely than Republicans.) Julia Roberts recently told Elle magazine that though she was raised Christian, she had become “very Hindu.” Ms. Roberts believes that in her past life she was a “peasant revolutionary,” and said that when her daughter sits in a certain way she knows “there’s someone there I didn’t get the benefit of knowing ... It’s an honor for me to continue to shepherd that.”
Some of these same people believe in space alien abductions.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Examples of linguistic relativity documented

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis says:
The linguistic relativity principle, or the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis,[1] is the idea that differences in the way languages encode cultural and cognitive categories affect the way people think, so that speakers of different languages think and behave differently because of it. A strong version of the hypothesis holds that language determines thought and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories. A weaker version states that linguistic categories and usage influence thought and certain kinds of non-linguistic behaviour.

The idea was first clearly expressed by 19th century thinkers, such as Wilhelm von Humboldt who saw language as the expression of the spirit of a nation.
This became very politically incorrect, because of the possible implication that some nationalities could be superior to others in some respects. Eg, Ronald Reagan claimed that the Russian language had no word for "freedom." The whole idea that Russians might be less free because of some linguistic limitation was very offensive to some people.

Now the NY Times reports:
Eventually, Whorf’s theory crash-landed on hard facts and solid common sense, when it transpired that there had never actually been any evidence to support his fantastic claims. The reaction was so severe that for decades, any attempts to explore the influence of the mother tongue on our thoughts were relegated to the loony fringes of disrepute. But 70 years on, it is surely time to put the trauma of Whorf behind us. And in the last few years, new research has revealed that when we learn our mother tongue, we do after all acquire certain habits of thought that shape our experience in significant and often surprising ways.
The article goes on to describe examples, including color, gender, and direction.

Here is one striking difference:
These two sets of directions may describe the same route, but they rely on different systems of coordinates. The first uses egocentric coordinates, which depend on our own bodies: a left-right axis and a front-back axis orthogonal to it. The second system uses fixed geographic directions, which do not rotate with us wherever we turn.
The terminology is misleading. The difference is really between relative and absolute coordinates. The relative coordinates depend on the context, which may or may not be your own body. Most languages have grammars that allow phrases to have a meaning that is relative to the context. Apparently language limitations make it hard for some people to understand directions that are relative to a context.

Another article in the same paper gives other psychological evidence that people from "Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic" nations think differently. They have different perceptions and values.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sending pills instead of truth

The trapped Chilean miner have some amazing self-disciple. AP reports:
COPIAPO, Chile – Each of the 33 miners trapped a half-mile underground lived on two spoonfuls of tuna, a sip of milk, a bite of crackers and a morsel of peaches. Every other day.

They were so careful in eating what was supposed to be a two-day emergency supply that when the outside world finally reached them 17 days after a mine collapse, they still had some food left.

The discipline the men have already shown will be essential during the four months it may take rescuers to dig a hole wide enough to get them out of their shelter. The first communications with the trapped miners, now able to talk through a fixed line with their rescuers above – show how determined they have been to stay alive.
I would treat these miners as some of the most rational and courageous people on Earth. But instead, the shrinks have persuaded the authorities to treat them as if they were crazy. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
Psychological help will be of great importance, mostly because of the long wait for a rescue.

Families said late Wednesday that antidepressants would be sent to the miners.

The notion of being trapped underground for up to four months, as has been suggested by some Chilean officials, is what the families of the miners say worries them the most about the men staying optimistic. Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter said that it would be detrimental to tell the miners in detail how long it might take to dig them out — although he said they are aware it will take some time.
This is cruel. This is torture. They are trapped underground, and they will soon figure out that the authorities are systematically lying to them about their prospects, and sending them antidepressant pills instead! The miners should be told the straight truth.

Lesbians for birth defects

This LA Times story says that homosexual activists are offended by a drug therapy that reduces birth defects. When pregnant women take the drug, the baby girls are more like girls. I thought that would be a good thing.
"Most clinicians speak about this treatment as ambiguous-genitalia prevention," said Dreger, who co-wrote an editorial about the treatment in a July publication of the Hastings Center, a bioethics organization. "Others suggest that you should prevent homosexuality if you can. But being gay or lesbian is not a disease and should not be treated as such."
So the article says that some homosexual activists are offended at the use of this drug.

Their attitude is weird. Child malnutrition causes kids to be shorter than normal. Short people also complain about being discriminated against. But the short people do not complain about efforts to reduce malnutrition.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Explaining polls on Obama's religion

Political scientist Brendan Nyhan tries to explain why Americans increasingly say that Pres. Obama is a Moslem. His research paper says:
This study applies psychological research on the ineffectiveness of negations to the misperception that Barack Obama is a Muslim. We test two approaches to correcting the misperception -- a misperception negation ("I am not and never have been of the Muslim faith") and a corrective affirmation ("I am a Christian"). Our experiment has several innovative features, including a focus on the effectiveness of a candidateAs attempts to correct a misperception (rather than a neutral source) and the use of video-based corrections as experimental manipulations. ... Overall, the realistic nature of our experiment makes an important contribution to the study of misperceptions and attempts to correct them.
His basic premises are that people are stupid, Obama is a Christian, and that people should blindly accept statements from authority.

A flat denial by Obama has to combined with his numerous statements in support of Islam, and his support for building a mosque near the 9-11 WTC site.

Conspicuously absent from his research is the possibility of Obama affirming Christian beliefs. With Americans doubting his Christianity, it would be very easy for him to explain his Christian beliefs, if he has any.

There is no more reason to believe a bald self-serving denial from Obama as there is to accept one on Rod Blagojevich. If people find Obama's explanations confusing and insincere, then that is a sign of their intelligence, not their stupidity.

Update: There is also a poll showing that many people doubt Obama's birth:
The president celebrates his 49th birthday Wednesday. On the same day, a new national poll indicates some Americans continue to doubt the president was born in the United States. According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, more than a quarter of the public have doubts about Obama's citizenship, with 11 percent saying Obama was definitely not born in the United States and another 16 percent saying the president was probably not born in the country.

Forty-two percent of those questioned say they have absolutely no doubts that the president was born in the U.S., while 29-percent say he "probably" was.
Maybe some of the people are just expressing a belief that Obama does not share traditional American values.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Faiths likely to encourage violence

Law prof Volokh writes about a new Time mag poll:
So 46% of Americans believe Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence against nonbelievers — which, as best I can tell, is an accurate belief. I don’t think most Muslims support violence against nonbelievers. But it seems to me that Islam as we see it in the world today is more likely than most other major faiths to encourage violence against nonbelievers, ...
A reader sarcastically adds:
Exhibit A: Christianity — Founded by a peaceful rabbi teacher who taught his followers to love your fellow man, even your enemy.

Exhibit B: Islam — Founded by a pedophile WARLORD sand murderer who PERSONALLY led his followers on campaigns around the desert where they robbed, killed, raped, and pillaged other villages and people. He taught his followers that anyone who denies him should be killed, and that their duty from now until the end of time is to take over the entire world until its all under their totalitarian religious pseudo-state control by either conversion, slavery, or death of all the peoples of the world.

Yeah, you guys are right...I see no difference there either. I can’t imagine why the followers of Islam are so different than the followers of every single other religion on the planet.
Of greater relevance is what those followers are taught today. I wonder why only 46% believe that about Islam. Perhaps they attribute some of the violence to Arabic culture and teachings of Mohammad that are not properly considered part of the Islamic faith.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

In defense of Dr. Laura

Everyone is attacking the radio talk-show host and advice-giver Dr. Laura Schlessinger for using the N-word on the air. I wonder how many of them are even aware of the methodology that she has using for decades.

The typical pop psychologist operates by showing empathy. If a patient complains that her husband has acquired a drinking problem, the shrink will first try to say how he feels her pain, and then suggest that she join a support group. The idea is that she will feel better and learn to cope better if she connects with others who understand her.

Dr. Laura's approach is radically different. She is not really a psychologist at all, and does not do psychological therapy. She operates by abruptly confronting callers, and challenging them to take personal responsibility for their actions. So if a caller says that her husband has started drinking to much, Dr. Laura might ask, "Why did you marry an alcoholic?". The question is rude and offensive, as it is unlikely that the caller married an alcoholic or that she deserves blame for her husbands imperfections. But the question is designed to force the caller to express why she did marry the man, and what she can do about the problem. Dr. Laura has a very low tolerance for callers whining about their spouses.

All of this makes Dr. Laura's radio program infuriating. A lot of people hate it. Some people must like, as she is on a lot of radio stations. All of her regular listeners must surely know what they are getting.

A caller complained about relatives using the N-word. Dr. Laura said that black comics on HBO use the word all the time, and that:
If you're that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor, don't marry out of your race.
Yes, of course this is rude and offensive. Just like every other radio show where she uses her methodology of confronting people about their personal responsibility choices. This one just happened to push a racial hot button.

As Dr. Laura would say, if you don't want to have your beliefs challenged, then don't listen to an offensive radio program.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Orangutans are not remotely like humans

Helene Guldberg debunks ape mindreading:
Time and again, we are told that humans are not that special after all: abilities previously thought to be uniquely human are now purportedly evident amongst the great apes. ...

Take the example of vervet monkeys. Groundbreaking research by Robert Seyfarth and Dorothy Cheney in the 1980s on vervet monkeys in the wild showed a seemingly sophisticated method of communicating about the proximity of predators. Living on the edge of the savannah, vervet monkeys have many predators. Their chance of survival would therefore be greatly increased if they were able to respond appropriately to different vocal warnings. Indeed, it was found that the vervets have specific alarm calls for specific predators: the alarm call for an eagle is different from that for a leopard, which in turn is different from that for a python. ...

In fact, further research shows that the caller’s vocalisations are not ‘intended’ for other animals. ...

In The Language Instinct, evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker persuasively takes apart many of the ‘preposterous’ claims made about apes’ and other animals’ language abilities. He stresses that we all have a tendency to anthropomorphise – thinking that animals are capable of a lot more than they are in reality. ‘People who spend a lot of time with animals are prone to developing indulgent attitudes about their powers of communication’, he writes, giving the example of his great-aunt Bella who ‘insisted in all sincerity that her Siamese cat Rusty understood English’.
It is funny how animal researchers are similar to that great-aunt Bella, and do not recognize their own mindreading limitations.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More people say that Obama is a Moslem

Half Sigma writes:
The Washington Post says, “The number of Americans who believe -- wrongly -- that President Obama is a Muslim has increased significantly since his inauguration and now account for nearly 20 percent of the nation's population.”

I still believe that Obama is an atheist, who is sympathetic to Islam because he was raised in an Islamic environment, who pretends to be Christian in order to get votes. There probably wasn’t a checkbox on the survey for that answer.
The figure is 24% according to a Time mag poll, with just as many being unsure. That means about half the population is unconvinced that he is a Christian.

People are called Jews if they grew up in a Jewish household and keep a Jewish name, even if they are really atheists. Obama's father and step-father were Moslems, and his mother was an atheist. He has a Moslem name and he has lived as a child in a Moslem country. He frequently supports Moslem causes, such as building a mosque in lower Manhattan.

I am sure that people would be happy to accept Obama as a Christian if he were to attend Christian church, say Christian prayers, and/or promote Christian ideals. The main reason for calling him a Christian is that he claimed to belong to a Christian church during his campaign. But then later he appeared to be unfamiliar with what goes on in that church every Sunday.

It is not just the right-wing Christians who doubt Obama's Christianity. Lots of leftist atheist sites do also. Eg, see Raban's article.

Update: Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne writes:
Many Americans are morons ... I still think he’s an atheist ...

We can write off the 18% as fools, since anybody who’s been alive for a year should know the incontrovertible evidence that Obama’s not a Muslim, but the 43% disturb me a bit, too. Who hasn’t heard of the Jeremiah Wright affair? And if you did, how could you not take in that Obama was attending a Christian church?
Simple. The Wright affair was about Obama denying that he heard the hateful and anti-American messages that Wright was regularly preaching in that Church, and Obama disassociating himself with the church.

Coyne says that he is disturbed that 43% don't know that Obama is a Christian, when Coyne himself does not believe that Obama is a Christian. Coyne offers this Christopher Hitchens video as proof that Obama is an atheist. Coyne is effectively classifying himself as a moron or a fool.

Half Sigma explains:
The attitude of the liberal MSM annoys me. The tone of articles will be, “Americans are stupid because 20% of them think that Obama is Muslim, even though we know he’s Christian because he says he is and we all know a politician would never lie about such a thing.”

Actually, what people consider someone else’s religion to be is more complicated than that. Obama was born a Muslim (as evidenced by his middle name, Hussein, after the grandson of Mohammed and an important early figure in the spread of Islam), his adopted father was a Muslim, and he was considered a Muslim in Indonesia.

As I stated above, what a person’s religion is considered to be is rather complicated, but generally people are ascribed to the religion of their birth and upbringing unless they make a convincing display of converting to another religion. ...

Also, people generally don’t default into atheism and agnosticism, so a person born to Methodist parents is still considered to be a Methodist even if he hasn’t been to church in the last five years.

Also, depending on the religion, merely attending church services doesn’t always count as a religious conversion. For example, Jews would consider a Methodist who attends Synagogue every week to be a Methodist who’s attending Synagogue every week; he doesn’t become a Jew until he undergoes a formal and rigorous conversion process.

Complicating the issue of Obama’s supposed conversion to Christianity is that Obama’s “church,” led by Jeremiah Alvesta Wright, is not unanimously considered to be a real Christian Church. Some may think of it as a political organization where God and Jesus are occasionally mentioned, kind of like a radical leftist version of the Republican National Convention. Furthemore, it’s not clear that Obama ever underwent any formal conversion process at this “church.”

So people who think that Obama is still a Muslim may have a legitimate basis for their belief. ... Certainly, many Christians legitimately believe that Obama does not share their values and therefore they don't consider him to be Christian.
He is right, and the morons and fools are the ones who do not understand this.

Update: Half Sigma now says:
How Obama describes his religious beliefs can best be classified as unitarian universalist. As I’ve written before, unitarian universalism is the religion of the elites. Unitarian universalists believe that the major religions of the world are inspired by God and therefore they are all good and one can get closer to God by following the beliefs of any religion.

Obama explains that (1) he doesn’t believe in a literal Heaven or Hell; (2) he doesn’t believe that belief in Jesus is a path to salvation; he only believes that Jesus was a teacher of moral values; (3) he admires Ghandi who is a famous univeralist;
This is all stuff that an atheist politician might say. I can understand someone not wanting to call him a Christian.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blago verdict on one minor count

The trial of Rod Blagojevich just ended, and failed to convict on all the substantive charges. AP reports:
The count on which Blagojevich was convicted, one of the less serious counts against Blagojevich, included accusations that he lied to federal agents when he said he did not track campaign contributions and kept a "firewall" between political campaigns and government work.
This is another boondoggle from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. He claimed to have wiretaps to prove that Blago tried to sell Barack Obama's US Senate seat. Nearly everyone (but me) was impressed by Fitzgerald's case, and Blago was impeached and removed from office.

The weakness in the case was that the feds never found any evidence that Blago every took a dime in a corrupt transaction.

Apparently Blago used the terms "track" and "firewall" loosely while he was defending himself. The statements were not even under oath. I don't like lying politicians any more than anyone else, but it seems to me that the conviction is on a rather trivial charge, compared to the media witchhunt that Fitzgerald orchestrated.

This is the same Fitzgerald who tried Scooter Libby on grand accusations of a White House conspiracy to punish political enemies who expose bad Iraq War policies. But Libby was also acquitted on all the substantive charges, and only convicted on making one minor misstatement of no consequence. Libby did not even have any obvious motive for the misstatement, and it appeared to be just a memory mistake.

The curious thing about Blago is how many people are persuaded of his corruption, without being able to say just what he did that was corrupt. I think that they are engaging in faulty mindreading.

Male and female ability differences

Here is yet another argument in the endless nature-nurture debate:
Men instinctively like the colour blue and are bad at coping with pain, we are told, while women cannot tell jokes but are innately superior at empathising with other people. Key evolutionary differences separate the intellects of men and women and it is all down to our ancient hunter-gatherer genes that program our brains.

The belief has become widespread, ... In fact, there are no major neurological differences between the sexes, says Cordelia Fine in her book Delusions of Gender, which will be published by Icon next month. There may be slight variations in the brains of women and men, added Fine, a researcher at Melbourne University, but the wiring is soft, not hard. "It is flexible, malleable and changeable," she said. ...

John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus: "A man's sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results. A woman's sense of self is defined through her feelings and the quality of her relationships"
The author, Fine, has published research in Neurofeminism, whatever that is. An article on neurosexism complains about the ethics of books that say that women have superior mindreading skills, because such ideas might reinforce stereotypes. I doubt that she has much science to back up what she says.

Meanwhile, here is some plausible new research on sex differences. The article is complete with a picture of the attributes that make a hitchhiker likely to get picked up.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fooled by monkeys

A big-shot psychology professor has been accused of mindreading monkeys:
Marc Hauser, a Harvard academic who gained prominence with the publication of a book on the origin of morality, has gone on leave after an investigation by the university into problems with his research. ...

The journal Cognition published an article by Dr. Hauser and others in 2002 saying that tamarin monkeys could learn certain rules much as human infants do. The journal is about to run a retraction ...

Dr. Hauser is a fluent and persuasive writer, and his undoing seems to have been his experiments, many of which depended on videotaping cotton-topped tamarin monkeys and noting their responses. It is easy for human observers to see the response they want and so to be fooled by the monkeys. ... cotton-topped tamarins were said to recognize themselves in a mirror. When he received the videotapes, Dr. Gallup could see no evidence that this was the case.
I don't want to accuse him of fraud, because his work is probably typical of bogus research in the field. I could say that he relied on instinctual monkey morals for his research practices, but that would be a cheap shot. I do think that it is a little odd that the NY Times refers to him as an "academic", "writer", and "researcher", but not a professor. His Harvard web page identifies him as a professor. The newspaper is usually conscientious about getting titles right. It does refer to one of his critics as a professor, and link to an article saying Professor Is a Label That Leans to the Left.

Hauser is famous for arguing that morality is a hard-wired instinct that not ground in any religious teaching. He argues:
One problem is that we cannot, without lapsing into tautology, simultaneously say that God is good, and that he gave us our sense of good and bad. For then we are simply saying that God meets God’s standards. ...

These studies provide empirical support for the idea that, like other psychological faculties of the mind, including language and mathematics, we are endowed with a moral faculty that guides our intuitive judgments of right and wrong. These intuitions reflect the outcome of millions of years in which our ancestors have lived as social mammals, and are part of our common inheritance. These facts are incompatible with the story of divine creation.
I say that bogus mindreading is the hardwired instinct. He is naturally fooled by those monkeys.

Update: Harvard has reprimanded Hauser, after a three-year investigation.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Evolutionist reads the mind of God

I often criticize people for leaping to faulty conclusions from mindreading. They usually do not appear to even realize that they are engaging in mindreading.

Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne writes about some students calling him an a**hole:
I asked for clarification, and the teacher sent me a short explanation, including a reconstructed dialogue with a female student who was apparently horrified by one statement in the book: “If a designer did have discernible motives when creating species, one of them must surely have been to fool biologists by making organisms look as though they evolved.” ...

There is of course a trace of satire in what I said, but what students really object to, I think, is the cognitive dissonance it creates in them. Indeed, why would God have done that? And what kind of God would have done that? A duplicitous one? And so they take their dissonance out on me.
He is mindreading God as well as the students. It is more likely that the students were offended by his mindreading.

Coyne's response is that he is the biology professor, so he has a right to insult religious students. His colleague's response was to give a lecture on misstatements that have been made by creationists. Neither of them address the students' point that it was unnecessary to make such an outlandish statement about God's motives. Coyne could have made all his points about the evidence for evolution without being an a**hole who makes gratuitous attacks on the motives of others. God, in this case, as well as the students.

A reader comments:
I have some very good friends who are staunch YECs. After various discussions I think I’m now pretty close to them agreeing to read a book about evolution, to be recommended by me.
I obviously want this book to be ONLY about the mechanics, so to say, of evolution, and NOT contain even the slightest hint of creationism-bashing (because, that’s where they would stop reading. Whether that’s dumb or not, I don’t want that to happen). My problem: I can’t find such a book! There’s ALWAYS, no matter how mild, a sneer in there towards creationism.
It is funny how these scientists cannot stick to the science.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Obesity is genetic

The San Francisco same-sex marriage case ruling is filled with fact-finding such as this:
Individuals do not generally choose their sexual orientation. No credible evidence supports a finding that an individual may, through conscious decision, therapeutic intervention or any other method, change his or her sexual orientation.
The supposed proof for this is statements like these:
Herek: “It is certainly the case that there have been many people who, most likely because of societal stigma, wanted very much to change their sexual orientation and were not able to do so.”

Kendall: “I knew I was gay just like I knew I’m short and I’m half Hispanic. And I just never thought that those facts would change.”
There is actually stronger scientific evidence that being fat is predetermined. There are millions of fat people who have wanted very much to lose weight, but have accepted themselves as fat. Furthermore, there is evidence that obesity is genetic:
According to Thomas Bouchard’s 1990 article in Science, the R correlation for weight between identical twins reared apart is 0.73. and for twins reared together, 0.83. So like IQ, weight is predominately genetically determined. A more recent scholarly article discovered, based on identical twin studies, that change in BMI as an adult is also strongly genetically influenced. (In other words, when one identical twin gained weight in his adult years, so did the other.)
Of course obesity is also completely determined by whether calories consumed exceeds calories expended.

Monday, August 09, 2010

HP blackmail

The SF CA paper reports:
Jodie Fisher, 50, identified herself through her attorney as the independent marketing contractor whose allegations eventually caused Friday's stunning resignation of Mark Hurd, CEO of HP.

"I was surprised and saddened that Mark Hurd lost his job over this," Fisher said in a written statement released by Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred. "That was not my intention."

Fisher said she has reached a private, out-of-court settlement with Hurd, but did not disclose the financial terms.
No, her intention was a private shakedown. She collected unauthorized payments and benefits from HP, and a private payoff from Hurd. HP says that her complaint has no merit, and she is satisfied with the monetary payoff.

I wonder how often rich executives get blackmailed like this. Maybe they should either avoid female golddiggers, or have witnesses present.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Purpose of marriage

Law prof Nelson Lund explains the purpose of marriage:
Until very recently, same-sex marriage was unknown in human history, and it is opposed today by many progressive leaders, like Obama and Clinton. Can this be explained only by irrational prejudice or religious zeal? No. Only unions between men and women are capable of producing offspring, and every civilization has recognized that responsible procreation is critical to its survival. After the desire for self-preservation, sexual passion is probably the most powerful drive in human nature. Heterosexual intercourse naturally produces children, sometimes unintentionally and only after nine months.

Without marriage, men often would be uncertain about paternity or indifferent to it. If left unchecked, many men would have little incentive to invest in the rearing of their offspring, and the ensuing irresponsibility would have made the development of civilization impossible.

The fundamental purpose of marriage is to encourage biological parents, especially fathers, to take responsibility for their children. Because this institution responds to a phenomenon uniquely created by heterosexual intercourse, the meaning of marriage has always been inseparable from the problem it addresses.

Homosexual relationships (and lots of others as well), have nothing to do with the purpose of marriage, which is why marriage does not extend to them. Constitutional doctrine requires only one conceivable rational reason for a law, and the traditional definition of marriage easily meets that test.
Judge Walker's ruling for same-sex marriage is based on the premise that no rational person could believe this argument.

There is indeed a trend to eliminate the above purpose of marriage. The idea is that with DNA testing, massive national databases, and draconian family court laws, fathers can be forced to take financial responsibility for their children. Feminists argue that no non-financial responsibility is needed, as single moms can raise kids as long as they get enough welfare, food stamps, medical care, and forced child support payments from the biological dad.

It is an open question whether a civilization can be built on such an idea. That appears to be where we are headed, so I guess that we will find out. The evidence so far is that the kids reared by single moms do worse by every available measure.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Ten Reasons to Love the Bomb

J.R. Dunn writes:
Amid all this, it has become difficult to grasp the simple fact that nuclear weapons have benefits -- that they may well be, in Ray Bradbury's words, "The most blessed invention ever devised." But such benefits do exist, as the record clearly shows.
He does not even mention nuclear power generation, which is still the safest and cleanest method of large-scale power generation. No other carbon-free technology is competitive. It also does not mention medical and other applications of nuclear technology.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Rational basis for marriage

A San Francisco federal judge says that there is no rational basis for marriage being between a man and a woman. If you want to see the contrary view, you can read the high court opinions in other states. For example, the dissents in Connecticut explain it clearly.

Here is a CNN video about a counseling student being kicked out of school for her religious views on homosexuality. It is amazing to see someone defend the thought police police on TV. The argument that her personal beliefs disqualify her from being a counselor are silly. She could have personal beliefs about war, drug use, dogs, adultery, and an assortment of other topics, and those beliefs could conflict with those of her patients, but no one claims that she cannot study counseling for any of those reasons.

The US Supreme Court has also ruled against same-sex marriage already in Baker v. Nelson 1972, and in older cases:
Murphy v. Ramsey, 114 U.S. 15, 45, 5 S.Ct. 747, 29 L.Ed. 47 (1885) (recognizing “the idea of the family, as consisting in and springing from a union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony; the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization”).
Here is a summary of part of that CT dissent:
Justice Zarella used the rational basis test to examine the state's marriage laws. He determined that the state's interests in promoting and regulating procreative conduct are legitimate and limiting marriage to opposite sex couples is rationally related to the advancement of those interests. The interests he suggested could have motivated the legislature were that:

1. the power of biological ties means that heterosexual families are most likely to achieve stability and successfully perform the childbearing function;

2. children do best when they are raised by a mother and a father;

3. the benefits and social status associated with traditional marriage encourage men and women to enter into a state of long-term, mutually supported procreation that is conducive to procreation and responsible child rearing on the part of biological parents; and

4. limiting marriage to a man and woman accomplishes vital social goods, while the institution of civil union promotes the legitimate interests of those who enter into it
A Zarella excerpt is also here.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Lousy car sound system

A current GM Buick car ad brags that it has a 40-gigabyte hard drive.

I wonder if anyone is impressed by this. The current market value for such a drive is about $6. It would be far more useful if GM made a system that allowed us to plug in our own electronic devices and use them the way we please. Even when some fancy $50k luxury car supports an Apple ipod, it is often so crippled as to be nearly useless.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

High fat diet wins again

The LA Times reports:
The fascination with low-carb versus low-fat diet continues; the latest news comes from a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine released today that found that people on both diets lost about the same amount of weight over two years. However, the low-carb group had an edge in raising HDL (good) cholesterol and lowering diastolic blood pressure.
Part of the fascination is that these research studies regularly prove that the American Medical Assn. and most mainstream physicians have been almost entirely wrong in most of the dietary advice that they has given over the last 50 years.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Doctor gagged for doubting shaken baby syndrome

NewScientist magazine reports:
A PATHOLOGIST in the UK who argues that the trademark triad of symptoms of "shaken baby syndrome" (SBS) can have an innocent cause has been prevented from testifying in court as an expert witness. The restriction could stand until January 2012.

Yet, according to researchers and lawyers contacted by New Scientist, there are serious doubts about the safety of many shaken baby convictions. This is despite the fact that the triad of symptoms has been taken as evidence of murder for 40 years. ...

Since then, biomechanical studies using dummies as surrogates have concluded that shaking alone doesn't cause the classic symptoms. ...

No independent witness has ever seen a shaken baby with such symptoms, ...

A central tenet behind the original concept of shaken baby syndrome is that the abuse would sever bridging veins that drain blood from the brain and direct it back to the heart via a channel in the brain.

Research is now showing that the bridging veins of infants are strong and seldom break when subdural haemorrhages occur.
This shows how the medical establishment can line up in favor of a witchhunt. We should not be sending parents to prison for this until someone proves that the crime is even possible.

There are a few cases where the perp admitted to shaking, but that does not prove that the shaking caused the injury. Perhaps the child was already unconscious, and someone was shaking to revive the child.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Schools are doomed to damnation

A California newspaper complains:
Sandra Nichols: Why 1,000 schools are doomed to damnation ...

In its infinite wisdom, the California Board of Education has approved emergency regulations and deemed the 1,000 schools utter failures from which parents can rescue their kids via "open enrollment," transferring them to other schools.
This is damnation? Any parent ought to be able to transfer his child out to another school. California law allows such transfers, and the tax money goes with the child. Someday, being forced to attend a particular state school may be seen as a human rights violation. Everyone should have a choice.
Students in more affluent school districts with well-educated parents have distinct advantages over students in poverty-stricken communities. Library cards, computers, Internet connections, ...
Library cards are free to all residents, even the illegal aliens. Students with computers and internet connections in the home have been shown to get lower grades in school.
Look at the schools on the list of 1,000 and you will find schools impacted by the real culprit, poverty. ... Public schools do not have entrance exams. They are open to all. There will always be children who learn slower and achieve less. This is a reality we can't ignore.
No, the public schools are not open to all. Students often have to attend an assigned school, and cannot transfer to another public school.

Yes, poor students will do worse in school, on average, no matter what. So? Is that a reason to block poor students from transferring to another public school?