Thursday, August 31, 2006

Galileo and extraterrestials

this is an audio post - click to play

Climate change deniers audio

this is an audio post - click to play

Climate change deniers

ABC 20/20 listed the top 7 threats to life on Earth as
global warming, disease epidemics, nuclear war, asteroid impact, super volcanoes, black hole collision, and gamma ray burst. It used the term Climate change deniers and compared them to holocaust deniers and those who denied the health hazards of cigarettes.

Where are those people? Can you show me one person who denies that climate change ever occurs? There are those who are skeptical that CO2 emission limits will avert a catastrophe, but no one doubts change. Many embrace change. Some say that global warming will be a net benefit for agriculture.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


A reader complains about my use of the term Mohammedan. He says that his dictionary says that the term is archaic, and not favored by Muslims.

I am just using the word in its ordinary dictionary meaning. I realize that there are those who are inventing new terms like Islamist, Islamic Fascist, Islamofascist, Islamonazi, Jihadist, etc. None of these terms have generally accepted definitions yet, and they are not favored by people who call themselves Muslims. Perhaps I'll use one of those terms as well. I will continue to use the term Mohammedan because it is the most accurate and inoffensive term I can find for the followers of Mohammad.

I found this in the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia:
After Mohammed's death Mohammedanism aspired to become a world power and a universal religion. ... Mohammedanism now comprises various theological schools and political factions. ...

It is hardly necessary here to emphasize the fact that the ethics of Islam are far inferior to those of Judaism and even more inferior to those of the New Testament. ...

Religion and the State are not separated in Islam. Hence Mohammedan jurisprudence, civil and criminal, is mainly based on the Koran and on the "Traditions". ... Slavery is not only tolerated in the Koran, but is looked upon as a practical necessity, ...

In matters political Islam is a system of despotism at home and aggression abroad. The Prophet commanded absolute submission to the imâm. In no case was the sword to be raised against him. The rights of non-Moslem subjects are of the vaguest and most limited kind, and a religious war is a sacred duty whenever there is a chance of success against the "Infidel". Medieval and modern Mohammedan, especially Turkish, persecutions of both Jews and Christians are perhaps the best illustration of this fanatical religious and political spirit.
This is not an objective source, of course, but might be representative of the Catholic view in 1910.

Stop the fetal sharks

Slate's Human Nature column is back with these news items:
SAT scores suffered their biggest drop in three decades.
Hordes of horny men will wreak havoc across much of the world, according to a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Key reason: systematic abortion of female fetuses.
Tall people are smarter than short people, according to an analysis of two studies.
Scientists are trying to stop fetal sharks from eating each other in the womb.
Pro soccer players are freezing their babies' stem cells to cure their own injuries.
Australia's most populous state plans to restrict cosmetic surgery on teens.
The FDA approved Plan B for sale to adults over the counter.
The fetal shark story is good material for comedians.

In other news, liberals are failing to reproduce enough to maintain their political influence. They need immigrants, I guess.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New intolerance law

WorldNetDaily reports:
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has tossed out all sexual moral conduct codes at colleges, private and Christian schools, daycare centers and other facilities throughout his state, if the institutions have any students who get state assistance.

The governor yesterday signed a bill that would require all businesses and groups receiving state funding -- even if it's a state grant for a student -- to condone homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality.

There is no exception for faith-based organizations or business owners with sincerely held religious convictions, critics note.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Airtight alibi and negative DNA test

A kooky, publicity-seeking DA charged John Mark Karr, but now has to release him because of an air-tight alibi and a negative DNA test.

Sound like the release is a no-brainer? I would think so, but the Duke lacrosse players are still being prosecuted. The NY Times reviewed the entire case file, and says:
Mr. Nifong, the district attorney, has said that a woman?s identification of her attackers -- even without physical evidence -- is enough to send a rape case to a jury.
As the article explains, the Duke accuser (Crystal Gail Mangum) was not really even able to identify her alleged attackers.

The racist and pro-prosecution biases of the above NY Times story are exposed in this Slate article.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Is religion making us fat?

Chicago Sun-Times reports:
"America is becoming known as a nation of gluttony and obesity, and churches are a feeding ground for this problem," says Ken Ferraro, a Purdue sociology professor who studied more than 2,500 adults over a span of eight years looking at the correlation between their religious behavior and their body mass index.

"If religious leaders and organizations neglect this issue, they will contribute to an epidemic that will cost the health-care system millions of dollars and reduce the quality of life for many parishioners," he says.

Ferraro's most recent study, published in the June issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, is a follow-up to a study he published in 1998, where he found there were more obese people in states with larger populations of folks claiming a religious affiliation than elsewhere -- particularly in states with the most Baptists.

So it's not surprising that Ferraro's latest study found that about 27 percent of Baptists, including Southern Baptists, North American Baptists, and Fundamentalist Baptist, were obese.
BMI is not the best measure of obesity, but this is a curious result.

Boys hurt by female teachers

Research news:
Boys learn more from men and girls learn more from women.

That's the upshot of a provocative study by Thomas Dee, an associate professor of economics at Swarthmore College and visiting scholar at Stanford University. ...

Dee says his research supports his point, that gender matters when it comes to learning. Specifically, as he describes it, having a teacher of the opposite sex hurts a student's academic progress.

His study comes as the proportion of male teachers is at its lowest level in 40 years. Roughly 80 percent of teachers in U.S. public schools are women.

Dee's study is based on a nationally representative survey of nearly 25,000 eighth-graders that was conducted by the Education Department in 1988. Though dated, the survey is the most comprehensive look at students in middle school, when gender gaps emerge, Dee said.

He examined test scores as well as self-reported perceptions by teachers and students.

Dee found that having a female teacher instead of a male teacher raised the achievement of girls and lowered that of boys in science, social studies and English.

Looked at the other way, when a man led the class, boys did better and girls did worse.
This trend is going to continue. The public image of male elementary school teachers consists of weirdos like John Mark Karr, the accused JonBenet Ramsey killer. Even if it turns out that Karr never hurt anyone, men who match his profile won't get hired, and schoolboys will get shortchanged.

I have girls, so I don't really mind personally that the schools have a feminized curriculum. But we also need educated boys.

Americans suspicious of Mohammedans

Poll news:
A 2006 Gallup survey of American public opinion found that "many Americans harbor strong bias against U.S. Muslims".
22% say they would not like to have a Muslim as a neighbor.
34% believe U.S. Muslims support al-Qaeda.
Only 49% believe U.S. Muslims are loyal to the United States.
39% advocate that U.S. Muslims should carry special ID
There is some justification for questioning the loyalty of Mohammedans. recent Pew poll:
Fully eight-in-ten (81%) British Muslims think of themselves as Muslims first rather than as British.
Killing infidels has been a core Mohammedan belief for 1400 years. I'd like to see some polls on how many Mohammedans endorse that view, and how many repudiate it.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

New Yorker bashes some mathematicians

Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber try to create an artificial controversy over who solved the Poincare Conjecture in this New Yorker article. The article has some seemingly damaging gossip, but see this message board where a couple of mathematicians claim that they have been misquoted.

One of the main New Yorker claims is that Shing-Tung Yau pushed thru a Chinese paper on Perelman's theorem in an attempt to cheat Perelman out of credit. It seems to me that Yau did Perelman a favor. The Chinese paper credits Perelman, and probably helped Perelman get the Fields Medal. The New Yorker should have stuck to telling the math story.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The collapse of Collapse

J. Adler writes:
Scientists, archaeologists, and others have begun examining the claims of Jared Diamond's best-selling Collapse, and some are finding that many of his claims do not hold up to serious scrutiny.

For example, Diamond claims that the collapse of the Rapa Nui on Easter Island provides "the clearest example of a society that destroyed itself by overexploiting its own resources." Yet Diamond's account is contradicted by the available archaeological evidence, ...
I have expressed skepticism about Diamond's work in the past. He has broad sweeping theories about things that happened 1000s of years ago in faraway places with no written records, and yet he is dead wrong about things that happened in the USA in the last 50 years. The political correctness of his conclusions are just a little too convenient. He get uncritical praise from the leftist-atheist-evolutionists, and his books have been big sellers. It is about time that he gets some criticism.

Multiple orgasms trap benefit cheat

British news:
WHEN Ruth Byron told women?s magazines and television chat shows about a condition that caused her to experience up to 40 orgasms a day, the Department of Work and Pensions took a keen interest.

For the 50-year-old woman spoke not only about living with persistent sexual arousal syndrome -- but also with a 22-year-old lodger.

Benefit fraud investigators carefully monitored media coverage about Byron and realised that Simon Leach, the man she claimed was her lodger, was in fact her lover. They found that she had been overpaid £6,097 in housing and income benefits after lying to the department.

Yesterday Byron was sentenced to a two-year community rehabilitation order and told to pay £50 costs after she admitted four counts of benefit fraud.
Okay, her secret is the 22-year-old man. I didn't know that the welfare authorities monitored orgasms.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Removing the proof-based support

Today, Mihir Bellare presented a paper with this abstract:
HMAC was proved in [2] to be a PRF assuming that (1) the underlying compression function is a PRF, and (2) the iterated hash function is weakly collision-resistant. However, recent attacks show that assumption (2) is false for MD5 and SHA-1, removing the proof-based support for HMAC in these cases. This paper proves that HMAC is a PRF under the sole assumption that the compression function is a PRF. This recovers a proof based guarantee since no known attacks compromise the pseudorandomness of the compression function, ...
The paper actually had some legitimate arguments for the security of HMAC, but this abstract makes him sound like a charlatan to any mathematician.

First, he claims to prove that something is a PRF assuming that it is already a PRF plus another assumption. Then he admits that the proof is invalid, by using the euphemism "removing the proof-based support". Then he again claims to prove that something is a PRF assuming that it is already a PRF. The last sentence is the silliest.

What is a "proof based guarantee"? Does he have a proof or not? It sounds like he is saying that he seems to have a proof because no one has found a counterexample yet. If he really had a proven guarantee, then he wouldn't be worrying about the known attacks.

String theory predictions

Harvard string theorist Lubos Motl writes:
Recall that Edward Witten, another Fields medal winner and the guru of the string theorists, has deduced from the mathematical structure of string theory that the 21st century mathematics will be dominated by string theory, raising the eyebrows of his less predictive colleagues. Only people without any intuition and without any knowledge of contemporary theoretical and mathematical physics can suggest that string theory can't make predictions.
I commented that this is a feeble example of a prediction, and Motl responded:
Dear Roger, it is by no means the only example.

String theory predicts supersymmetry below the Planck scale, 6 or 7 extra dimensions below the Planck scale, the detailed properties of all particles and interactions as a function of a finite set of discrete input parameters, black hole thermodynamics in agreement with Hawking calculations including infinitely many corrections to these black holes, possible properties of axions, candidates for dark matter, and so forth, and so forth.

String theory is the dominant idea underlying theoretical physics and much of mathematics, and it will be increasingly so as this century and millenium continues. It is the only framework different from ad hoc effective field theories that can be used to organize new insights that will be seen in the future and the only framework that can be used to make predictions beyond effective field theory.

I think that string theory will continue to be an influential branch of Mathematics, but it has not made any predictions about the physical world. Nothing below the Planck scale is observable. Supersymmetry makes some predictions, but the reasons for and against believing in supersymmetry have little to do with string theory.

String theory certainly does not predict "the detailed properties of all particles and interactions" as it doesn't even predict any properties of any particles. The axion is a speculative candidate for dark matter, but it didn't come from string theory and string theory has little to say about it. If it turns out that axions do not exist, then the string theorists will be unfazed.

If Motl really had some observable predictions, he'd be posting them, and not just abusing those who disagree with him.

Update: Motl's response is to say, "whole classes of string theory do predict axions" and to call me a creationist. No, I am not a creationist. The article tries to give properties of axions in order to solve the cosmological dark matter problem, but those properties contradict what the cosmologists say is necessary.

It is amazing how sensitive string theorists are about whether their work is scientific. I think that Motl brings up creationism so that he can say that they are more scientific than the creationists. That is not saying much. If he were really doing scientific work, then he would just point to it, and drop the silly name-calling.

Don't marry a woman with a career

Forbes magazine says:
How do women, careers and marrage mix? Not well, say social scientists.

Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career.

Why? Because if many social scientists are to be believed, you run a higher risk of having a rocky marriage. While everyone knows that marriage can be stressful, recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children, and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it. A recent study in Social Forces, a research journal, found that women -- even those with a "feminist" outlook -- are happier when their husband is the primary breadwinner.
This is standard stuff, but Forbes caused such an uproar that it pulled the column until one of its feminist editors could write a rebuttal.

The rebuttal is particular lame, but I am guess that it won't matter much to those who were offended by the original column.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Pack your gel-filled bras

TSA says:
We encourage everyone to pack gel-filled bras in their checked baggage. We recognize the sensitivity of the issue and we are reaching out to key women?s medical associations to assist passengers and make information available to them while respecting their privacy. Passengers with medical gel prosthetics will be permitted through the security checkpoint.
So I guess that you have to be missing a natural breast if you want to get thru with a gel bra. I'll try to remember to load up my suitcase with gel-filled bras next time I fly!

The Upside of Marrying Down

Meghan Daum writes in an LA Times op-ed:
I called Linda R. Hirshman, a former law and philosophy professor and the author of "Get To Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World." Her 92-page book, which describes an epidemic of highly educated, privileged women dropping out of the workforce to raise children and then never regaining their professional footing, outlines a plan to counteract this syndrome, including "consider a reproductive strike." ("Have a baby," she writes, "just don't have two.")

I thought Hirshman might have something to say about the idea of "marrying down." What if the aspiring female CEO or any college-educated female married a plumber or a sanitation worker? Would his lower-stress job allow him to participate more equally in child care and housework? Is our class-consciousness keeping us from finding the supportive partners we deserve?

Hirshman says no. Like that famous (now disproved) Newsweek statistic about how women over 35 are more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to ever get married, Hirshman believes that the New York Times article was designed "to scare women into behaving themselves by not seriously pursuing careers." She said she thought the story was statistically insignificant ? there really aren't all that many less-educated, unmarried men. "If you look closely at the numbers," she said, "you can see that they're talking about a tiny percentage." Moreover, women's higher rates of college attendance do not translate into higher professional status ? so the divide is a false one.

"Women go to college because they're obedient, they get good grades, they turn in their papers on time," Hirshman said. "But so many people go to college today that it is equivalent to what high school was in the 1950s. It guarantees you nothing."

Hirshman believes that the only way to rise professionally is to get on a career track and stay on it, something she thinks women are not encouraged to do.
Now there is some nutty theorizing. If obedience explains school success, why doesn't it explain career success? Is any woman really going to refuse to have a second kid because of Hirschman's theory? The article mentioned percentages going from 6 to 18 percent in 25 years, which sounds statistically significant to me.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Mathematics is outrunning cognitive capacities

Science writer John Horgan writes:
At its best, writings about advanced mathematics describe it as a mysterious, magical realm, tangentially linked to the world in which we live. Only a few strange, obsessive souls have the wherewithal to gain entrance to this realm, and even fewer return bearing with them a precious truth. Or purportive truth, because the vast majority of us -- and even a majority of trained mathematicians -- must take these claims of mathematical revelation on faith.

These thoughts are brought to mind by "Elusive Proof, Elusive Prover: A New Mathematical Mystery" an article by Dennis Overbye in the Science Times. ...

Several experts have amplified Perelman?s rather short, cryptic writings into 1,000 pages of detailed argumentation, which other mathematicians are trying to evaluate. Is the proof proven? No one can say for sure yet. We must await the verdict of the cognoscenti.

This episode bolsters my conviction that mathematics is outrunning the cognitive capacities of ordinary and even extraordinary humans.
If you look at it that way, Math outran ordinary cognitive capabilities 100s of years ago. Even people with doctoral degrees in the sciences rarely have any clue about 20th century mathematics. Mathematics advanced in the 20th century as much as Physics, Biology, and a lot of other subjects, but the public is unaware.

It might seem like the newspaper is dependent on the verdict of the cognoscenti, but Math is more transparent and open than just about any other intellectual activity. Perelman did not need any special status or credentials to post his work; the public got it at the same time that the experts did; there is no proprietary experimental data that is being held back or anything like that; and no one has to take anyone's word for anything.

If you want to know whether the Koreans really cloned dogs or whether the latest antidepressant is really better than Prozac, you have to trust those who claimed to do the experiments. But no one has to trust Perelman for anything. His work stands for itself.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pew poll gets conservative response

The Pew polls tend to have a left-wing bias, but its latest poll shows some conservative views.

66% said that abortion should be illegal under various circumstances. Only 31% said that it should be always available, as under current law, or "generally available", whatever that means.

The poll asked, "Do you strongly favor, favor, oppose, or strongly oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally?" This is a strange question because gays and lesbians have always been able to marry legally. No marriage license application asks for anyone's sexual orientation. A more neutral question would be, "Do you strongly favor, favor, oppose, or strongly oppose allowing same-sex marriages?" Nevertheless, opposition is holding steady at 56%.

The poll found that 64% favor teaching creationism along with evolution in public schools. The poll didn't say, but presumably an additional 30% or so are either against teaching evolution or think that evolution should be taught in a manner that is respectful of religious beliefs.

The poll had some questions on stem cell research, and none of the responses were inconsistent with Bush administration policy. I can only assume that the Pew folks were afraid that most people would agree with Bush policies, if the question were asked directly.

Before the age of consent

The BBC reports:
Nearly a third of 16 to 24-year-olds lost their virginity below the age of consent, a survey has suggested.

The BBC Radio 1 poll also suggested 43% of young people had had at least five sexual partners with one in five having more than 10.
I guess that the UK age of consent is 16. The poll finds that about 72% lose their virginity before age 18, California's age of consent.

Experts are made, not born

Science writer John Horgan writes:
A pat for Philip E. Ross, whose article in the August Scientific American, "The Expert Mind," states that the "preponderance of psychological evidence indicates that experts are made, not born."

Ross?s article focuses on chess, called "the Drosophila of cognitive science" because it serves as a testbed for theories of cognition. Phil has written a lot about chess; as his bio points out, he plays himself, and his teenage daughter Laura is "a master who outranks him  by 199 points." The article presents evidence that motivation and hard work more than innate ability explain success in chess as well as in other fields, such as music, mathematics and sports.

The article seems to contradict The Bell Curve, which I?ve been thrashing lately.
The article has some interesting info, but it is wildly implausible and politically correct in its main thesis. It says:
At this point, many skeptics will finally lose patience. Surely, they will say, it takes more to get to Carnegie Hall than practice, practice, practice. Yet this belief in the importance of innate talent, strongest perhaps among the experts themselves and their trainers, is strangely lacking in hard evidence to substantiate it. In 2002 Gobet conducted a study of British chess players ranging from amateurs to grandmasters and found no connection at all between their playing strengths and their visual-spatial abilities, as measured by shape-memory tests. Other researchers have found that the abilities of professional handicappers to predict the results of horse races did not correlate at all with their mathematical abilities.
No, there is a huge amount of evidence that champions in an assortment of fields have had innate advantages. Ross must be wearing blinders not to see it.

More curious is Ross's argument against innate talent. The only way I can make sense out of his argument is if he is making two implicit assumptions: that certain mathematical abilities are innate, and that all other innate talents are correlated with those abilities.

These are the assumptions that drive leftist egalitarians nuts. Instead of contradicting The Bell Curve, Ross seems to have more extreme pro-IQ biases.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How harmful is prejudice?

Stanford Prof. Ben Barres, who is supposed to be an expert on sex prejudice because he is a transexual, writes:
I am simply saying that to tell young people that they are innately inferior is deeply harmful. It is presently scientifically impossible to sort out with any degree of certainty the effects of social forces and prejudice, which are more than amply demonstrated to be large, from any possible innate effects. Therefore any faculty member who pronounces in a classroom that a whole group of people is wired to be inferior is causing great harm without having strong evidence to back his contention.
If it is really scientifically impossible to figure out the effect of prejudice, then how does he know that it is so harmful to tell people that they are inferior?

This may sound silly, but when a prof. says that something is deeply harmful, then he should be expected to quantify that harm. In some cases, it is beneficial to tell someone that he is inferior. If telling someone that he lacks the talent to become a professional athlete, then he might redirect his energies into some more productive goal.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Time exposes string theory fad

Time magazine reports about String Theory:
The public, meanwhile, has been regaled for years with magazine articles breathlessly touting it as "the theory of everything." Brian Greene's 1999 book on the topic, The Elegant Universe, has sold more than a million copies, and his Nova series of the same name has captivated millions of TV viewers. ...

[Woit and Smolin] argue that string theory (or superstring theory, as it is also known) is largely a fad propped up by practitioners who tend to be arrogantly dismissive of anyone who dare suggest that the emperor has no clothes. ...

Since then, however, superstrings have proved a lot more complex than anyone expected. The mathematics is excruciatingly tough, and when problems arise, the solutions often introduce yet another layer of complexity. Indeed, one of the theory's proponents calls the latest of many string-theory refinements "a Rube Goldberg contraption." Complexity isn't necessarily the kiss of death in physics, but in this case the new, improved theory posits a nearly infinite number of different possible universes, with no way of showing that ours is more likely than any of the others.

That lack of specificity hasn't slowed down the string folks. Maybe, they've argued, there really are an infinite number of universes--an idea that's currently in vogue among some astronomers as well--and some version of the theory describes each of them. That means any prediction, however outlandish, has a chance of being valid for at least one universe, and no prediction, however sensible, might be valid for all of them.

That sort of reasoning drives critics up the wall. It was bad enough, they say, when string theorists treated nonbelievers as though they were a little slow-witted. Now, it seems, at least some superstring advocates are ready to abandon the essential definition of science itself on the basis that string theory is too important to be hampered by old-fashioned notions of experimental proof.

Arab group has ties to terrorists

A reader complains that I should not lump terrorist Mohammedans in with moderate groups like CAIR. CAIR has issued statements denouncing terrorism.

I can't really figure out if CAIR is for or against Mohammedan terrorism. CAIR has taken offense of Pres. Bush's criticism of Islamic terrorists, and there are many who say that CAIR has ties to terrorists. See this article.

Steve Sailor lists the names of the 19 men arrested for terrorist plotting:
Abdula Ahmed Ali, Cossor Ali, Shazad Khuram Ali, Nabeel Hussain, Tanvir Hussain, Umair Hussain, Umar Islam, Waseem Kayani, Assan Abdullah Khan, Waheed Arafat Khan, Osman Adam Khatib, Abdul Muneem Patel, Tayib Rauf, Muhammed Usman Saddique, Assad Sarwar, Ibrahim Savant, Amin Asmin Tariq, Shamin Mohammed Uddin, and Waheed Zaman.
He says that the West should just disconnect from the Mohammedan world.

I just watched CAIR spokesman Nihad Awad on Fox O'Reilly say:
Eric Rudolph is a Christian abortion bomber who has been convicted. He aspires Chistianity. He did it in the name of Christianity. You ... will never claim that he is a Christian terrorist.
No, Rudolph is not a Christian. He planted a couple of bombs, but he did not do it in the name of Christianity. No Christian groups ever supported him or what he did. Rudolph was living underground for a couple of years, and for a while it was suspected that some Christian group was supporting him, but it turned out that he got no such support. Some of the Western media did call him a Christian terrorist, and even O'Reilly conceded the point, but they were wrong.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Seeing Stonehenge

An Englishman wrote a comment below on how he is ashamed to be British, watches TV documentaries on how stupid Americans are, brags how Europeans make fun of Americans, and asks if I have ever been to Stonehenge.

European attitudes can be hard to take sometimes. No, I don't have to see some big ancient rocks to conclude that European culture is decaying.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bush: U.S. still at risk of attack

USA Today reports:
Green Bay, Wis. (AP) - President Bush said Thursday that a foiled plot to blow up multiple flights between Britain and the United States shows "this nation is at war with Islamic fascists." ...

The president laid the blame for the would-be attack squarely on al-Qaeda-type terrorism.

"This nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation," he said, his remarks carried live on television.
I just call them Mohammedans. I don't know if they are fascists or not. Glad to see the President acknowledge that we are at war with them.

George writes:
You shouldn't mention the religion of the terrorists. Inflammatory statements by people like Ann Coulter could be annoying to Mideast Moslems, and might possibly be used by alQaeda as a recruiting device. We should pretend that there is nothing wrong with the Moslem religion, so that the good Moslems can side with us.
I'm told that alQaeda recruits by telling Mohammedans that the West is dominated by Christian weaklings who will not stand up for their beliefs, and that a few bombs will intimidate us into submission. If the terrorists were convinced that we were willing and able to strike back at the core of their evil institutions, then they would not be committing terrorism.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Developing new energy sources

Stephen L. Sass writes:
If there is anything to be learned from history, it?s that we need to face the harsh reality of fossil fuel scarcity and begin something like a Manhattan project to develop clean, economical, and preferably sustainable new sources of energy.
Prof. Sass wrote an excellent book, "The Substance of Civilization: Materials and Human History From the Stone Age to the Age of Silicon", but this comment is a little strange. The Manhattan Project has already developed an energy source that is cleaner, more economical, and more sustainable than fossil fuels. There have also been many other big govt energy projects, such as fusion power, that have been big failures. He should be suggesting that we take more advantage of the one Manhattan Project that was actually successful.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Kids cannot keep score

CNN reports:
(AP) -- Penny Grossman cringes each time a student mentions a birthday party during class at her Boston, Massachusetts-area preschool. The rule there, and at a growing number of America's schools, is that parties and play-dates shouldn't be discussed unless every child in the room is invited. ...

Take Valentine's Day: At some schools, a second-grader can't offer paper valentines or heart-shaped candies to a short list of pals and secret crushes anymore. They give cards to everyone or no one at all.

Or sports: In many towns, scorekeeping no longer happens at soccer or softball games played by kids under 8 or 9. Win or lose, every player in the league gets a trophy at the season's end.
I think that this trend is silly.

Why the world hates the Jews

Michael Medved tries to explain:
Many of the bitter controversies in every corner of the globe inevitably raise the same ancient question: why does the world hate the Jews?

This central, primeval charge that arrogant Jews seek global dominance originates from three distinct historical factors:

1- The emphasis on the "Chosen People" concept in the Bible
2- The prominence and prosperity of Jews in most nations in which they?ve established significant communities, and
3- The startling successes of the State of Israel in the mere 60 years of its existence.
Some comments add some additional reasons.

In a free country, it is your right to hate whomever you want. It is funny how it is politically correct to hate Israel, but not acceptable to say anything negative about Jews.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Too pretty to do math

I was going to buy this shirt for my daughter, but the store now says, "We apologize, but IM TOO PRETTY TO DO MATH is no longer available for purchase."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Purpose of marriage

I always thought that the (secular) purpose of marriage was to make a binding agreement to be jointly responsible for any resulting children.

There are also religious and spiritual purposes to marriage, but the law does not necessarily have to be concerned with those.

The marriage agreement only needs to cover natural children, and not adoption. Any adoption would require the new parents to sign a separate adoption agreement for the care of the adoptive child.

But the marriage law has gotten completely disconnected from parental rights and responsibilities. In California, the family court decides visitation and custody rights, and orders child support, without even considering whether the parents were ever married or not. There might be some states where marriage makes it easier for a father to get some custody rights, I don't know. But marriage never makes custody rights automatic, and it never has a bearing on child support.

With nearly all states having so-called no-fault divorce, the marriage contract is never binding on anything related to the kids. It only affects certain financial matters in case one party bails out. The law even makes it impossible to make any binding agreements about the kids. No matter what any contract says, custody is determined by what the judge says is in the best interest of the children, and child support is determined according to a formula.

The same-sex marriage debate is just a symptom of how marriage law has lost its purpose, not a cause.

Here is a Focus On The Family page with arguments defending "natural marriage". It says:
The Public Purpose of Marriage ...
Marriage is a common good, not a special interest.
Every society needs natural marriage -- as many men as possible each finding a woman, caring for and committing himself exclusively to her -- working together to create and raise the next generation.
No society needs homosexual coupling. In fact, too much of it would be harmful to society and that is why natural marriage and same-sex coupling cannot be considered socially equal.
These arguments are lame, and are easily rebutted by the gay lobby. Conspicuously absent is the argument that marriage is a joint agreement of responsibility for resulting children.

My theory is that Dobson and others like him are unwilling to make a stronger case for marriage in terms of child-rearing responsibilities because they want unwed fathers to pay child support, and they want divorced moms to get custody of the kids. Once they take those positions, then it is no longer the marriage that creates any rights or responsibilities for the dad.

If the marriage is not creating any parental rights or responsibilities, then they are left with weaker arguments for marriage, and the gay lobby can easily match those arguments. So can various others who want polygamy and other arrangements, as Robert P. George point out.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A leader, not an actor

Phil Angelides is running ads for California governor against Arnold Schwarzenegger. His latest ad brags that he "ended state investments in tobacco companies" and that he is "a leader, not an actor".

I guess he means that state pension fund stopped buying Philip Morris stock. I don't see what is good about that. The state makes many millions of dollars from cigarette taxes. If it were immoral for the state to make money from cigarette smoking, then maybe the state should stop collecting all those taxes. As it is, the state is in the cigarette business as much as Philip Morris. Perhaps I should end my investments in the state of California.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Israel occupies Mohammedan land

I stumbled upon this image. Some of those countries are not Arab, but they are all Mohammedan.

I think that it is a little odd that people are picking on Mel Gibson for verbally abusing a Jewish cop who was arresting him. Aren't there 100s of millions of people who hate the Jews? There are plenty of people who falsely blame Jews for various wars, including prominent Hollywood big-shots like Steven Spielberg.