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Wednesday, Jan 31, 2007
NY Times accuses Pres. Bush of felony
Mike writes that Bamford blasts Bush:
Last August, a federal judge found that the president of the United States broke the law, committed a serious felony and violated the Constitution. Had the president been an ordinary citizen -- someone charged with bank robbery or income tax evasion -- the wheels of justice would have immediately begun to turn.
Had Pres. Bush been an ordinary citizen, he would have been innocent until proven guilty. By the time that a judge said he broke the law, he would have already had a jury trial.

Bamford is just another lying Bush-hater. Of course no judge found that Bush committed a felony. The American justice system doesn't even work that way.

If Congress disapproved of the NSA wiretap program, then it could de-fund or ban it. But Congress approves of the program. Even the current Democrat Congress.

Tuesday, Jan 30, 2007
Nader wants impeachment
Ralph Nader argues:
About two years ago, a poll showed 52 percent of Americans would favor impeachment if they learned the President was lying about the reasons for invading Iraq. That number is probably larger today, ...
Count me in with the majority. Lying to get the country into war is one of the worst crimes a president can commit.

And yet Pres. Bush was re-elected in 2004 and only the lunatic fringe discusses impeachment today. There is a simple explanation -- Bush didn't lie.

The next time you hear someone say that Bush lied, demand to see the exact quote of the lie. To make it easy for you, here is Bush's 2003 SOTU speech. This is the speech that laid out the case for the Iraq War, and was widely criticized mainly for saying:

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
This is maybe the most scrutinized sentence in political history. The whole Scooter Libby trial stems from arguments about the validity of this sentence. It now appears that the White House is trying to make Libby the scapegoat for any related controversies.

Nader was on MSNBC plugging his new book on what a good job his parents did rearing him, of all things. He credited his parents with the important task of picking out his childhood friends.

George writes:

Why are you defending the Iraq War? It has not achieved any of its goals. Even Bush admits that we are losing the war.
No, Bush does not admit that we are losing the war. The main war goals have been achieved: We defeated Iraq; we brought Iraq into compliance of UN WMD resolutions; we removed Saddam Hussein from power; we have eliminated the threat of Iraqi state-sponsored terrorism; we held free elections in Iraq; we freed the Kurds; and we have set an example for other nations who do not side with us in the war against terrorism.

Supposedly some neocons hoped that the war would result in 1000 years of peace and harmony in the Middle East. That has not happened. I am not sure if anyone actually believed that would happen or not.

Monday, Jan 29, 2007
Hillary Clinton and the height of irresponsibility
AP reports:
Davenport, Iowa - Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that President Bush has made a mess of Iraq and it is his responsibility to ``extricate'' the United States from the situation before he leaves office.

It would be ``the height of irresponsibility'' to pass the war along to the next commander in chief, she said.

``This was his decision to go to war with an ill-conceived plan and an incompetently executed strategy,'' the Democratic senator from New York said her in initial presidential campaign swing through Iowa.

``We expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office'' in January 2009, the former first lady said. ...

``I am going to level with you. The president has said this is going to be left to his successor,'' Clinton said. ``I think it is the height of irresponsibility and I really resent it.''

It is the "height of irresponsibility" for H. Clinton to blame the Iraq War decision entirely on Pres. G.W. Bush. We had a very open and public debate before going to war. There was an international consensus that Iraq had to be punished. H. Clinton voted for the war.

Mohammedan terrorism against the civilized world is not going to end in 2009 no matter what Bush does.

I guess Hillary thinks that she will be the next president, and doesn't want any foreign policy messes. I don't think that she is up for the job.

Saturday, Jan 27, 2007
Praising Barack Obama
The Wash. Post reports this over-the-top praise (from this AP story):
In 1990, [Barack] Obama became the first black president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, a position that usually falls to the student with the sharpest elbows. ...

"... he was certainly the most all-around impressive student I had seen in decades," said Laurence Tribe, a constitutional scholar at Harvard for whom Obama served as a research assistant.

Obama analyzed and integrated Einstein's theory of relativity, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, as well as the concept of curved space as an alternative to gravity, for a Law Review article that Tribe wrote titled, "The Curvature of Constitutional Space."

My brother Andy worked with Obama on the Harvard Law Review, but I do not have any inside info.

Harvard law prof Laurence H. Tribe thanks Barack Obama for assistance on this paper:

The Curvature of Constitutional Space

Twentieth-century physics revolutionized our understanding of the physical world. Relativity theory replaced a view of the universe as made up of isolated objects acting upon one another at a distance with a model in which space itself was curved and changed by the presence and movement of objects. Quantum physics undermined the confidence of scientists in their ability to observe and understand a phenomenon without fundamentally altering it in the process. Professor Tribe uses these paradigm shifts in physics to illustrate the need for a revised constitutional jurisprudence.

This is wacky stuff. No one has integrated relativity with the uncertainty principle. Curved space is not an alternative to gravity. The idea that objects are affected by local fields was well entrenched before relativity. While quantum physics does include an uncertainty principle, it greatly boosted the confidence of scientists to understand the natural world. The full article is not freely online, but I'll try to get it to see if it is as stupid as it sounds.

Update: I found the article here. It is worse than I suspected.

Libby on trial
Against conventional wisdom, I am still predicting that Scooter Libby will be acquitted.

Martha Stewart was sent to prison for lying to cover up what may have been an insider-trading crime. That underlying crime was never proved or prosecuted. I didn't agree with that, but the case against her seemed much stronger than the case against Libby. In Libby's trial, there is pretty conclusive proof that there was no underlying crime, that Libby did not cover anything up, and that Libby's testimony is consistent with the demonstrable facts. Libby's recollections appear to differ from those of a couple of reporters about telephone conversations in 2003, but some or all of these folks may simply be mistaken.

Perhaps prosecutor Fitzgerald has some ace up his sleeve that has not been revealed yet. So far, I have yet to see some literal quote from Libby that is contradicted by some demonstrable fact.

Fitzgerald does have evidence that Libby knew about Joe Wilson's wife working for the CIA before discussing it with reporters, and that it was part of Libby's job to rebut Joe Wilson's accusations against the White House.

Supposedly Libby told FBI agents and the Fitzgerald grand jury that he learned about Wilson's wife from reporters. Since we now know that the reporters really did know about Wilson's wife independently, it is possible that Libby learned about Wilson's wife from both Cheney and the reporters. So whether Libby actually misled the grand jury is going to depend on whether Fitzgerald explicitly asked Libby whether he had separately learned about Wilson's wife from White House sources.

My hunch is that Fitzgerald knew all along that Libby first learned about Wilson's wife from the White House, and that the reporters first learned about Wilson's wife from Armitage. Fitzgerald was just trying to set a perjury trap by quizzing Karl Rove and Libby before the grand jury. Fitzgerald decided that he could make Libby look bad based on some ambiguous statements, and deliberately did not ask a clarifying question. If so, then Libby is innocent and should be acquitted.

I previously attacked Libby's indictment for failing to quote Libby telling a lie. Also here. In case you don't think that it was fair for the White House to rebut Joe Wilson, be sure to read Joe Wilson's Top Ten Worst Inaccuracies And Misstatements.

Now Fitz's latest theory for Libby's motivations is that Libby was worried that he would be falsely accused of violating a nondisclosure agreement (NDA). At the same time, Fitz offered Ari Fleischer immunity against similar accusations if he would testify that Libby knew about Wilson's wife. I don't think that a jury is going to find this very persuasive.

Friday, Jan 26, 2007
Smoking Gun for climate change
USA Today reports:
WASHINGTON [AP] -- Human-caused global warming is here, visible in the air, water and melting ice, and is destined to get much worse in the future, an authoritative global scientific report will warn next week. "The smoking gun is definitely lying on the table as we speak," said top U.S. climate scientist Jerry Mahlman, who reviewed all 1,600 pages of the first segment of a giant four-part report. "The evidence ... is compelling." ...

The first phase of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] is being released in Paris next week. ... The full report will be issued in four phases over the year, as was the case with the last IPCC report, issued in 2001.

If this is so important, why aren't all 1600 pages being released? According to IPCC's own documents, the delay is because the science is still being manipulated to conform to policy recommendations and conclusions:
Changes (other than grammatical or minor editorial changes) made after acceptance by the Working Group or the Panel shall be those necessary to ensure consistency with the Summary for Policymakers or the Overview Chapter.
Yes, this is a smoking gun all right. Real scientists just publish their data and leave the policy decisions to the policymakers.
Jimmy Carter pushes goals of terrorists
The Wash. Post reports that Jimmy Carter has finally apologized for this:
In particular, some students challenged Carter on a sentence that has brought him much grief. On Page 213 of his book, Carter wrote: "It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel."

"The sentence was worded in an absolutely improper and stupid way," Carter said. "I apologize to you and to everyone here . . . it was a mistake on my part." ... But Carter insisted that one botched line in his book should not drain his larger argument of its power.

Jimmy Carter's larger argument is that Mohammedans should be able to gain Israeli land by committing terrorist acts. While Carter apologizes for his wording, he refuses to repudiate his implicit endorsement of terrorism.

On Carter, the Jewish Holocaust whiner Deborah Lipstadt writes:

It is hard to criticize an icon. Jimmy Carter's humanitarian work has saved countless lives. Yet his life has also been shaped by the Bible, where the Hebrew prophets taught us to speak truth to power. So I write.

Carter's book ``Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,'' while exceptionally sensitive to Palestinian suffering, ignores a legacy of mistreatment, expulsion and murder committed against Jews. It trivializes the murder of Israelis. Now, facing a storm of criticism, he has relied on anti-Semitic stereotypes in defense.

I previously blogged about the phrase "speak truth to power".

Wednesday, Jan 24, 2007
Another claim that Bush is anti-science turns out to be a hoax
Michael Shermer writes:
In last week’s eSkeptic , we published highlights from a press release issued by PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility), a Washington D.C.-based environmental watchdog group. That press release, dated December 28, 2006, was headlined:

Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology

The first sentence of the release reads:

Washington, DC — Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees.

Unfortunately, in our eagerness to find additional examples of the inappropriate intrusion of religion in American public life (as if we actually needed more), we accepted this claim by PEER without calling the National Park Service (NPS) or the Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) to check it. ...

Understandably, many of our readers were outraged by both the duplicity of the claim and our failure to fact check it. One park ranger wrote us:

You’re a day late and a dollar short on this one. As a national park ranger, I found most of PEER’s findings to be bogus. So have others: http://parkrangerx.blogspot.com

PEER is an anti-Bush, anti-religion liberal activist watchdog group in search of demons to exorcise and dragons to slay. ...

I believe we were duped by an activist group who at the very least exaggerated a claim and published it in order to gain notoriety for itself, or worse, simply made it up.

To that end I apologize to all of our readers for not fact checking this story before publishing it on eSkeptic and www.skeptic.com.

I attacked this hoax here 3 weeks ago.

I have checked out about ten of these mainstream stories that the Pres. G.W. Bush administration is anti-science. All have been hoaxes so far.

Update: Jonathan Adler relates this to left-wing anti-science biases.

Sunday, Jan 21, 2007
Kitzmiller, One Year On
John Derbyshire wrote:
It was just a year ago this month, on December 20, 2005, that U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III delivered his opinion in the case Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, a crushing blow to the Intelligent Design [ID] movement. ...

All the depositions and court transcripts in the case are now on the Internet, and very devastating they are to the ID cause. And as devastating as what is there is what is not there — the court testimony of leading ID-er William Dembski, for example. ...

I don’t see how anyone can read these transcripts, or Ms. Forrest’s account, without concluding that the whole ID business is riddled with dishonesty. Two of the [pro-ID] defendants in the case were actually discovered to have lied under oath when making their depositions, and were scolded by the judge for it. Lesser degrees of shiftiness, like Dembski’s as noted above, are all over the place. I daresay there are some honest and sincere people pushing the ID agenda; but taken as a whole, it is all a bit shabby and ignoble. Read those transcripts, or just Barbara Forrest’s article, and tell me I’m wrong.

Derbyshire is wrong. Dembski is allied with the Discovery Institute, the leading proponent of ID. But they did not agree with the lawsuit, and did not participate in it. It is wrong to call Dembski dishonest for failing to participate in a lawsuit in which he apparently disagreed.

More importantly, the alleged lying under oath did not involve the merits of ID. And no one was charged with perjury, so there was no judicial resolution of whether anyone lied.

Much of the trial was devoted to determining whether the school officials had any religious motivations for their decisions. I don't do mindreading, so I don't have opinion about their motivations. The school officials were interrogated about their religious beliefs, and allegedly a couple of them attempted to cover-up evidence that might be used to link their religious and scientific beliefs. I didn't follow the details, as I didn't think that they should have been on trial for their religious beliefs anyway.

Derbyshire is smart enough to form his own opinion about ID. He is wrong to reject ID based on some judge's opinion of the motives of some minor Dover PA school officials who were not even following the advice of the leading ID advocates.

George writes:

The Kitzmiller judge was correct to examine the motives of the school officials. The Supreme Court Lemon Test has held that ID is unconstitutional if the school officials had a religious purpose in reading a couple of paragraphs about ID to the students.
That is basically correct, but see also Scalia 2000 dissent.

Friday, Jan 19, 2007
Weinberg on Dawkins
The distinguished physicist Steven Weinberg has a new review of Richard Dawkins' God Delusion.
In the early days of Christianity, the Church Fathers Theophilus of Antioch and Clement of Alexandria rejected the knowledge, common since the time of Plato, that the Earth is a sphere. They insisted on the literal truth of the Bible, and from Genesis to Revelation verses could be interpreted to mean that the Earth is flat. ...

The more radical idea that the Earth moves around the Sun was harder to accept. After all, the Bible puts mankind at the centre of a great cosmic drama of sin and salvation, so how could our Earth not be at the centre of the universe? Until the nineteenth century, Copernican astronomy could not be taught at Salamanca or other Spanish universities, but by Darwin’s time it troubled hardly anyone. Even as early as the time of Galileo, ...

Here Weinberg is perpetuating some false myths about Biblical literalism, as you can read here.

This stuff is strange coming from Weinberg. He wrote in the Preface to Gravitation and Cosmology

There was another, more personal reason for my writing this book. In learning general relativity, and then in teaching it to classes at Berkeley and MIT, I became dissatisfied with what seemed to be the usual approach to the subject. I found that in most textbooks geometric ideas were given a starring role, so that a student who asked why the gravitational field is represented by a metric tensor, or why freely falling particles move on geodesics, or why the field equations are generally covariant would come away with an impression that this had something to do with the fact that spacetime is a Riemannian manifold.

Of course, this was Einstein's point of view, and his preeminent genius necessarily shapes our understanding of the theory he created. However, I believe that the geometrical approach has driven a wedge between general relativity and the theory of elementary particles. As long as it could be hoped, as Einstein did hope, that matter would eventually be understood in geometrical terms, it made sense to give Riemannian geometry a primary role in describing the theory of gravitation. But now the passage of time has taught us not to expect that the strong, weak, and electromagnetic interactions can be understood in geometrical terms, and that too great an emphasis on geometry can only obscure the deep connections between gravitation and the rest of physics.

Other physicists have begged him to retract his statements that the geometrical interpretation of gravitation is just an analogy.

As with most physicists, he gives too much credit to Einstein. It was Marcel Grossman who persuaded Einstein that the gravitational field is represented by a metric tensor, and David Hilbert who persuaded Einstein that the field equations should be generally covariant. I believe that Einstein had previously published papers that were contrary to these ideas. I am not sure who had the idea that spacetime is one four-dimensional entity, but it is often credited to Minkowski and Poincare. I do not believe that it was Einstein.

More importantly, Weinberg is doubting a fundamental principle of Relativity (Gravitation) as most physicists understand the theory. If the Pope said something similar, he would be attacked by the scientific community as failing to understand the lessons of the Galileo trial.

The Catholic Church never opposed the teaching of the Copernican model; it merely objected to certain interpretations of it until those interpretations could be supported by evidence. Weinberg's objection to the standard geometrical interpretation of gravity is even goofier. He thinks that it will be an obstacle to some quantum theory of gravity, but he has no empirical evidence for his thinking. There just isn't any way to understand gravity without geometrical arguments.

His denial that the strong, weak, and electromagnetic interactions can be understood in geometrical terms is really strange. The Standard Model theories for these are all gauge theories that derive from geometrical ideas of Hermann Weyl. The field strength for all of these are quantified by curvature tensors. They caught on big in particle physics when tHooft and Veltman proved that they were renormalizable. Weinberg got his Nobel Prize for having the good fortune of publishing a paper on an electroweak gauge theory model before it was known to be renormalizable.

In his book review, Weinberg goes on to attack Dawkins for failing to distinguish between Christians and Mohammedans. Weinberg concludes:

Dawkins treats Islam as just another deplorable religion, but there is a difference. The difference lies in the extent to which religious certitude lingers in the Islamic world, and in the harm it does. Richard Dawkins's even-handedness is well-intentioned, but it is misplaced. I share his lack of respect for all religions, but in our times it is folly to disrespect them all equally.
He's right that it is folly to equate Mohammedans with Christians. Christians are making the world a better place, and Mohammedans are making it a worse place. Anyone who cannot see that has his head in the sand.

I seriously doubt that Dawkins's even-handedness is well-intentioned. I am not a mindreader, so I cannot say for sure. Dawkins is on the warpath against all religion, and he cherrypicks examples of the misguided beliefs of a few in order to condemn all believers. It is appears to me that his even-handedness is a dishonest ploy to blame good people of the offenses of a few.

The problem with the Islamic world is not religious certitude. Plenty of devout Christians and members of other religions have just as much certitude, but they don't promote suicide bombers. The problem with Mohammedans is that they teach Evil.

Trying to punish global warming skeptics
A US Senate blog reports:
The Weather Channel’s most prominent climatologist is advocating that broadcast meteorologists be stripped of their scientific certification if they express skepticism about predictions of manmade catastrophic global warming. This latest call to silence skeptics follows a year (2006) in which skeptics were compared to "Holocaust Deniers" and Nuremberg-style war crimes trials were advocated by several climate alarmists.

The Weather Channel’s (TWC) Heidi Cullen, who hosts the weekly global warming program "The Climate Code," is advocating that the American Meteorological Society (AMS) revoke their "Seal of Approval" for any television weatherman who expresses skepticism that human activity is creating a climate catastrophe.

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2007
Colleges conspire for price discrimination
Some high-status colleges have formed a new group:
The Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE) is an institutionally supported organization of 31 private colleges and universities. COFHE schools are united in their commitment to [conspiring to share secret financial data in order to cooperate in price discrimination policies].
No, it doesn't exactly state its mission this way, but it says the same thing in other words. Its main propaganda booklet brags about some of their prominent graduates:
The individuals profiled in this collection span a broad range of ages, backgrounds and accomplishments; but they have three things in common. They attended some of the nation's oldest, most prominent and best endowed colleges and universities. They came from lower- and middle-income families and paid for college through a combination of work and financial aid, most of which came from the institution they attended. And in their lives and careers, they have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to the service of others.
But the alumni profiles do not necessarily match this description. The Phyllis Schlafly profile says:
Phyllis began college early, transferring from a Catholic college to Washington University in 1942, where costs at the time were kept artificially low for St. Louis residents. She supported her education by working as an ammunition tester on the night shift at the St. Louis Ordnance Plant, firing rifles and machine guns, and as a laboratory technician, investigating misfires.
She did work to support her college education, but she never received any work or financial aid from Washington University. It is not true that the fees were artificially low for St. Louis residents, and she paid the same fees that any other student paid who was not getting aid.

The booklet appears to be false about some others as well. It says Syreeta McFadden's college choice was "made possible by federal financial aid." So she got tax money, not college generosity.

The COFHE booklet is also dishonest because it suggests that the profiled alumni are endorsing the college price discrimination policies. They did not. They probably don't even know the purpose of COFHE.

I am surprised that the colleges don't get more criticism for their price discrimination policies. Those policies are not justified by listing 50 prominent alumni who may have had difficulties paying for their college tuitions.

Friday, Jan 12, 2007
Catastrophic global warming is a hoax
This is from the editorial by Donald Kennedy wrote this editorial in the 5 Jan 07 Science Magazine.
The Senate's Environment Committee gets Barbara Boxer of California, a huge contrast to incumbent James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Boxer finds the scientific evidence on climate change convincing, along with most of the rest of the country. Inhofe, on the other hand, is a conspiracy theorist who calls global warming a grand hoax.

Here is what US Senator Inhofe said in floor speech:

Over the past 2 hours, I have offered compelling evidence that catastrophic global warming is a hoax.
Science Magazine is a respectable scientific journal, but it has not published a correction.

I would welcome Science Magazine publishing a rebuttal to Inhofe. I'd also like to see evidence that Boxer understands any scientific issue at all. Instead, Science Magazine is just another propaganda source that distorts and misstates what its ideological enemies are saying.

Where I live, not too far from Barbara Boxer's home town, the past couple of days have been the coldest in eight years.

Update: More recently, Inhofe comments on the politics of polar bears.

Monday, Jan 08, 2007
Evolutionist censorship in Wikipedia
The Wikipedians are threatening to ban me again. Not for any actual edits to Wikipedia, but for comments on the Talk:Intelligent_design_movement page.

At issue is the neutrality of the Intelligent Design Movement entry, which starts:

The intelligent design movement is a neo-creationist campaign that calls for broad social, academic and political changes derived from the concept of "intelligent design." Chief amongst its activities are a campaign to promote public awareness of this concept, the lobbying of policymakers to include its teaching in high school science classes, and legal action, either to defend such teaching or to remove barriers otherwise preventing it.[1][2] The movement arose out of the previous Christian fundamentalist and evangelistic creation science movement in the United States[3]

The overall goal of the intelligent design movement is to "overthrow materialism" and atheism.

Someone using the alias FeloniousMonk, and his evolutionist cohorts, use the page to badmouth Intelligent Design (ID), citing ID critics like Barbara Forrest. They say that the ID advocates like the Discovery Institute have no credibility, and an encyclopedia should not trust them about what their own opinions are. Instead, Wikipedia should rely on people like Forrest. Forrest is credible because she was an expert witness at the Kitzmiller v Dover trial, and the Discovery Institute lost that case, they say.

I pointed out that the Discovery Institute was not even a party to that lawsuit. It did not agree with the legal and political stances taken by the ID advocates in the case, and did not support them.

FeloniousMonk wrote:

"Barbara Forrest's opinion is just her opinion." Yes, that is the Discovery Institute's spin on it since they lost in court, but in actuality Barbara Forrest's opinion is testimony that the judge accepted and affirmed in his ruling. And reading the Discovery Insitute's spin, you're left with the impression that the judge agreed with their objection to Forrest's testifying as an expert. But in fact, Judge Jones denied this motion. These and many number other equally damning examples is why accepting source material from the Discovery Institute at face value is problematic. They have no credibility outside of their own movement. ... The fact remains the Dover trial is the first and only analysis of the claims of ID's proponents in a US court. ...

Yes, technically it was the Thomas More Law Center that lost the case ...

There is no shortage of examples showing why accepting source material from the Discovery Institute at face value is problematic. Again, they have no credibility outside of their own movement, as noted in the Dover trial ruling.

Someone using the alias KillerChihuahua added:
Roger, we know you have a blog. Keep this kind of thing on your blog. Don't attempt to re-argue a court case on this talk page, and stop attacking editors. You are wearing out my patience, and I am sure the patience of others here. I am inches away from blocking you for constant low-level trolling and disruption combined with personal attacks, and have no issues with doing so if you continue. You are throwing constant road blocks into any attempt at coherent discussion on this page.

In case it is not clear, you are directly insulting FM and indirectly insulting everyone who is here to work on an article, and not here to listen to your personal interpretation of Kitzmuller. ... This thread being hijacked by you for your usual brew of unsubstantiated rumour, ...

All I said about Kitzmiller v Dover was that the Discover Institute was not a party to the case. I did not try to re-argue the case. I also acknowledged that Forrest and the judge criticized ID in the case, and that Forrest may have had some influence on the judge. That's all. These are indisputable facts.

I post this as an example of narrow-minded evolutionists who have enough influence to control Wikipedia. They cannot stand to even have objective facts posts to a discussion page about an evolution-related article. And they will not allows the views of the ID advocates be accurately described on a Wikipedia page on the ID Movement.

George writes:

But the Discovery Institute has not gained the respect of the scientific establishment, so their scientific views do not have to be taken seriously. Some of their members are known to have religious views that may cloud their scientific judgment. Wikipedia doesn't have to give a soapbox to every crackpot.
Whether the ID advocates are crackpots is beside the point. Encyclopedias have articles on goofy religions, superstitutions, failed ideologies, and other nonsense. If the ID Movement is important enough to merit an article, then that article should describe what the movement actually teaches. Where there are sharp divisions within the movement (as there apparently are between the Discovery Institute, Thomas More Law Center, Young Earth Creationists, and others, the article should properly distinguish those views.

The Wikipedia article has a section title "Criticism". Criticism should go in the Criticism section.

Judge is surprised by lawyer study
Morris B. Hoffman, a Colorado state trial judge, writes this an NY Times op-ed:
Sixteen years as a state trial judge have left me with a deep respect for the professionalism and competence of the public defenders who handle felony cases for indigent criminal defendants in my courtroom. ...

So when two economists from Emory University, Paul Rubin and Joanna Shepherd, agreed last year to collaborate with me on an econometric study of how effective public defenders really are, I had to guard against confirmation bias. ...

If it is true that public defenders achieve substantially worse results for their clients than private lawyers, that fact should be troubling to us all, quite apart from whether the difference is the product of underfinancing, government inefficiencies or both.

But our results suggest a more benign explanation, and a less drastic solution than spending more on public defenders or privatizing the system. ...

It is amazing how stupid judges can be. Judges are impressed with public defenders because they help the justice system run smoothly. The public defenders have as much incentive to please the judge as to get their clients free. Without public defenders, we'd have a lot more cases of defendants without lawyers, and judges hate that.

Next, this judge argues that it should be "troubling to us all" if lawyer money actually buys something of value. Of course money buys something of value. That's the way it always is, and that is the only way the economy could work. Higher priced services have to offer something of greater value, or no one will pay the higher prices.

Yes, I have sometimes wondered how some particularly high-priced lawyer could be worth his fees. I have wondered the same about high-priced chiropractors and other service professionals. But they must somehow persuade their customers that they are worth the big bucks. And their customers are either foolish or they are deliberately paying a premium for those services because of some perceived value.

This judge is like someone who is used to delicious home-cooked meals from his wife, and suddenly discovers that other people pay for meals at restaurants. He thinks that people could just stay home and eat better meals. Then he finds that some people like the meals at the high-priced restaurants better, and he thinks that everyone should be troubled by this revelation. He is an idiot.

Sunday, Jan 07, 2007
Climate is a mental construct
The NY Times quotes Michael MacCracken, trying to explain why Europeans are more agitated about global warming than Americans:
Climate is a mental construct.
His web site warns about effects to California:
In addition to water resources, the projected changes in climate would be very likely to have detrimental effects on California’s agriculture. For example, the higher temperatures under both emission scenarios will shorten the ripening period for grapes, significantly degrading the quality of the resulting wine. Rising temperatures are also projected to lead to reduction in milk production by as much as 7-10%.
Okay, so maybe global warming will help other states and countries to compete with California wines.
Anthropogenic earthquakes
Wired reports:
The most powerful earthquake in Australian history—December 28, 1989, magnitude 5.6, epicenter Newcastle, New South Wales, killed 13 people, $3.5 billion damage—was caused by human beings! Too much coal mining (coal..Newcastle...heh) which apparently uncorked a local fault line.
The vegan diet is unhealthy
Dilbert argues vegetarians are healthier, as long as they eat soy protein and take B12 and omega-3 supplements. Most of India is vegetarian, and this is sometimes used to argue that meat is not needed in the human diet.

But east Indians aren't that healthy. They have a billion people, and they've only won 14 Olympic medals. That is less than Ireland. Even Jamaica has 43.

Furthermore, Indians get their vitamin B12 from animal feces:

It is true that Hindu vegans living in certain parts of India do not suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. This has led some to conclude that plant foods do provide this vitamin. This conclusion, however, is erroneous as many small insects, their feces, eggs, larvae and/or residue, are left on the plant foods these people consume, due to non-use of pesticides and inefficient cleaning methods. This is how these people obtain their vitamin B12. This contention is borne out by the fact that when vegan Indian Hindus later migrated to England, they came down with megaloblastic anaemia within a few years. In England, the food supply is cleaner, and insect residues are completely removed from plant foods (16).

Saturday, Jan 06, 2007
Immigrant Innovators
WSJ reports:
Start-up engineering and technology companies that had at least one immigrant founder produced $52 billion sales in 2005 and employed about 450,000 workers, according to a study by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and Duke University.

The study surveyed 28,776 engineering and technology firms that were started between 1995 and 2005, and found that one-quarter had either a chief executive or a chief technology officer who is an immigrant. Of those, one-quarter had Indian-born founders. The biggest share of the start-ups is in California, where almost 40% of new engineering and technology companies have immigrant founders. ...

But the effort to allow in more skilled legal workers was overwhelmed by questions about illegal immigration, and that’s not likely to change when the new Congress takes up immigration. Some business supporters would like to see a separate skilled-immigrant bill pass quickly before the current shortage of employment-based visas puts a crimp in the economy. But most immigration groups oppose that approach, fearing that support for a bill to also help unskilled legal immigrants and the estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants would fade if skilled workers are taken care of first.

The WSJ wants more H-1B visas for foreign workers, but this is really a phony argument. The H-1B visas don't allow the foreign workers to start companies.

There are foreign entrepreneurs that come to the USA because they are frustrated by difficulties in their home countries. Maybe we should have an entrepreneur visa for those people. But H-1B visas are not for entrepreneurs. The H-1B visas are mainly used by big companies to cut their labor costs, and get employees who will not leave to join start-up companies.

Dawkins allows one reason for believing in God
Cosmic Variance quotes Richard Dawkins:
Susskind (2006) gives a slendid advocacy of the anthropic principle in the megaverse. He says the idea is hated by most physicists. I can’t understand why. I think it is beautiful - perhaps because my consciousness has been raised by Darwin.
This is part of an argument for atheism. Because Dawkins had his consciousness raised by Darwin, he believes that there is no respectable argument for God from the biological sciences. But at the same time, he argues that certain remarkable coincidences in nuclear physics and cosmology go give legitimate reasons for believing in God.

There are 100s of scientific facts that seem necessary for human life on Earth. Some are biological; some are not. Some have natural explanations; some do not. Dawkins seems particularly narrow-minded about the biological ones, and particularly gullible about the non-biological ones.

This is an example of an expert arguing outside his expertise. Dawkins is an expert in evolutionary biology, and is mainly known as a popularizer of Darwin. He doesn't know so much about theology, cosmology, politics, or physics.

Changing the rules of science
In an IEEE interview, physicist Lee Smolin said:
String theory is not a theory in the sense that Newtonian mechanics or quantum mechanics is. It’s not defined by the statement of two or three principles that are expressed in the basic equations of the theory -- which are then solved to yield examples and predictions. Instead, there are several approximation procedures and approximate arguments that describe an infinite number of cases, which are all conjectured to be solutions of a fundamental theory that has never been written down. ...

Once it became undeniable that string theory comes in an infinite number of different versions, which all give different predictions, some people, like Leonard Susskind and Steven Weinberg, unfortunately began to argue that, on the basis of other reasons -- the mathematical beauty of the theory, et cetera -- the theory was so compelling that we should consider this a situation where the rules of science should be modified. ...

Brian Greene [author of The Elegant Universe, the best-selling 2003 book on string theory] believes the majority of string theorists agree with me that a scientific theory must make falsifiable predictions and that if string theory ultimately fails to do so, it will fail to be a scientific theory.

Evolution theory has related problems. It hardly makes any predictions, and just about any scenario can be held up as an instance of evolution is action. Prominent evolutionists complain bitterly about being held to a falsifiability standard that all other scientists are held to.

Wednesday, Jan 03, 2007
Grand Canyon science and Bush
Here is another complaint that the Bush administration is anti-science.
Washington, DC — Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
In fact, this controversy was resolved in 2004. The American Geological Institute wrote:
According to an October 15th [2004] article in the Washington Post, the controversial book Grand Canyon: A Different View, Tom Vail's biblical explanation for the formation of the Grand Canyon, has been moved from the natural science section to the inspirational section in the Grand Canyon National Park bookstore. This complies with a letter signed by the presidents of AGI and six of its member societies ...
The official Grand Canyon bookstore website offers books on American Indian mysticism and the canyon, but not Vail's book.

The science books all say that the canyon is millions of years old. The PEER Bush-haters are not satisfied with this, and want to censor Vail's overtly Christian book.

Update: The NY Times now reports that the Park Service promised a "review" but never did a "formal review" of the book, and has no written reports on it.

That seems appropriate to me. It is the Park Service, not the Censorship Service. Someone needed to verify that the book was of legitimate interest to people visiting the Grand Canyon, but that's all. They certainly don't need to do a formal comparison between particular Christian and American Indian beliefs for a book in the Inspiration section of the bookstore.

Tuesday, Jan 02, 2007
String Theory is like the Anthropic Principle
Theoretical physicist Lubos Motl writes:
There are very smart people who believe ... I personally encourage them to think about their networks of ideas. On the other hand, most of us are making it clear that almost no one wants theoretical physics to write quasi-religious papers with some mathematics that has nothing to do with the actual arguments or measurable quantities and whose goal is to encourage some philosophical viewpoints by permanent repetition.

... But it is unlikely that someone will convince the physics community that this hypothesis is correct unless he will offer some non-trivial results that provide us with a strong consistency check or that are even directly related to observable quantities. ...

When a crackpot proposes that the value of theories in physics should be judged by their agreement with some philosophical dogmas from the 17th century - that were a part of bad physics already in the 17th century but they are now proposed to control the 21st century (!) physics - and the only argument is that these misconceptions sound "nice" to the crackpot, no serious physicist takes such a crackpot seriously. Physics hasn't worked like that at least for 300 years. Philosophical prejudices no longer dictate what is true and what is not true about natural sciences.

Can you figure out what he is saying? He is arguing that one untestable theory (String Theory) is better than another (Anthropic Principle). It is not better because of any physical experiment -- that would be relying on 300-year-old philosophy.