kitzmiller versus dover, 2005, a review       (24 March, 2007 08:53:59 PDT)
Bob Bradford, I knew him a tad                 (8 January, 2006 10:47:33 PST)
New Orleans flooding - who's responsible (8 September, 2005 20:55:21 PDT)
Election predictions, 2004                           (6 November, 2004 14:52:59 PST)
None dare ... call it conspiracy                    (29 October, 2004 21:24:39 PDT) - Update (14 April, 2007 21:55:00 PDT)
The power of hoodoo                                 (26 September, 2004 15:14:08 PDT)
Film treatment - The Lord of the Rings      (4 January, 2004 20:44:16 PST)
Thoughts of The Federalist on the onset of Geroge Bush II (19 November, 2000 20:24:07 PST)

kitzmiller versus dover, 2005

See here for references:
A couple weeks ago I heard on Science Friday and also the Skeptics 
Guide to the Universe, commentaries that referred to the recent court 
case pertaining to teaching of evolution in the public schools.  It 
sounded interesting, so I looked it up on line and found the 
transcripts at the address noted above.

So for the last several days, every evening or so, I found myself 
picking up the narrative of the trial, mostly with the Behe cross-
examination, and then the final opinion delivered by the trial Judge, 
John Jones, US District Court in Pennsylvania.  I suppose one must be 
a bit deranged to be entertained by court transcripts, or perhaps 
there must be good transcripts that one just comes across and anyone 
would appreciate their significance.   In the course of this reading 
I was reminded of the Gish/Doolittle debate on the ISU campus (CY 
Stevens auditorium, maybe?), back in 1980 or so.

I picked up the trial in the middle, so there were legal foundations 
discussed early in the trial that I did not witness, per se, but it 
was not hard to pick up the flow, nonetheless.  I did not keep notes 
as I was reading the transcript, so if you don't want to follow the 
links above, you'll have to take my memory for what it's worth in 
what follows.  At any rate, the trial kept my attention for several 

The lying of leaders of the school board, under oath, as pointed out 
by the judge in his opinion at the conclusion of the trial.  Lying 
about prior discussion they had regarding creationism in the apparent 
hope that when they just changed the terminology to "intelligent 
design" no one would notice.  Lying about their interest in advancing 
scientific discussion, when they admitted knowing nothing about 
science or even what ID was supposed to represent.

I was particularly drawn to the testimony of the defense expert 
witness, Michael Behe, who is associated with the Discovery 
Institute.  Michael Behe's testimony was filled with his comments to 
the effect that experiment and findings in evolutionary biology were 
either non-existent, impossible to show evolutionary explanations for 
his examples of "irreducible complexity", or just not convincing.  
During his cross-examination the plaintiffs' attorney pressed him on 
this point, presented into evidence a stack of peer-reviewed articles 
and texts, which 1) he had not read, 2) he did not think needed to be 
read, and 3) he believed were not persuasive anyway.  He was asked 
about a previous challenge to his theory, and prior admission in 
print years earlier of a flaw in his reasoning that he would have to 
address in "future work";  of course no such future work has come out 
of him.  His one paper in a peer-reviewed journal that even touches 
on his claim addressed an evolutionarily insignificant time frame and 
only one evolutionary pathway.  His whole foundation of irreducible 
complexity goes in the wrong direction, asking whether the item would 
function if a part was removed, while evolution starts from some 
prior state that was either passive or did something and is modified 
from there.

There area few points of humor in the proceedings.  Behe has only 
about four particular examples of "irreducible complexity" which he 
brought up time and again;  his testimony goes on for a couple days 
so we hear those remarks repeatedly.  The cross-examination focused 
on a couple of these in detail and at one point well in to it, Behe 
again mentioned one of the others.  This is where the plaintiffs' 
attorney remarks something like "I had sworn a blood oath with my co-
counsel to not bring up this point again, and now you have made me do 

The primary text that the school board wanted to introduce, "Of 
Pandas and People", has a darkly amusing aspect.  Plaintiffs found 
earlier drafts which showed that there was a wholesale substitution 
to replace "creationism" with "intelligent design", that was done 
immediately after a prior court decision had shown creationism to 
violate the establishment clause of the first amendment.

I don't recall exactly now whether it was a portion of Pandas that 
Behe wrote, or a different work, but he tried to equate that writing 
to something from a peer-reviewed journal, when the supposed 
reviewers of Pandas knew virtually nothing about the text.  Behe 
admitted that the plausibility of intelligent design grew greater if 
one was predisposed to religion.

The legal foundations have quaint references.  Among them are the two 
"prongs" of the "Lemon test", which refer to a prior Supreme Court 
decision (Lemon) that defined "purpose" and "effect" as points at 
issue in determining whether a particular government action 
"establishes" religion in violation of the 1st amendment.

The final decision captured in the Judge's opinion was a thorough 
indictment of all parts of intelligent design and the attempts by the 
school board to introduce this in the science classrooms.  Taking 
what he describes as the "belt and suspenders" approach, Judge Jones 
appeared to deal with every prior precedent and showed how this case 
violated all defined legal criteria, and furthermore concluding ID is 
not science to begin with.    The science teachers in the school 
refused to comply with the Board instruction to introduce ID as an 
alternative to evolution, so in practice the school administrators 
came in at the start of each session to read the statement, each 
sentence of which Jones showed to establish religion.

I don't know whether the school board was ever charged with perjury, 
but they should have been.  As it was they were forced to pay the 
attorney fees, and hopefully this complete defeat will keep down 
similar attempts in other jurisdictions.

Sunday March 24 I found this in my morning news read:
"The two-day event will feature well-known supporters of intelligent design. Dr. Michael Behe is the author of Darwin's Black Box and was a key witness in 2005 at a federal trial that produced a ruling that intelligent design was religion rather than science."
They don't give up.
Addendum (24 March, 2007 10:36:07 PDT)
An argument made during the trial was the point by the defense that they need to supplant the foundation of science that requires testability, that requires a theory be possible to refute.  They want to allow scientific explanations to invoke supernatural forces, and grant that ID will never be accepted as science until that foundation is removed.
What they think will happen after that is anybody's guess.
My impression is they oppose evolution solely because it flies in the face of literal readings of their received wisdom, that they can not stand evidence to stand against their faith, and don't really care what it takes to reject the evidence.  They think their philosophy can drive the universe rather than the other way around.
<BEGIN philosophical aside>
There is a sense in which I support the notion that philosophy drives the universe, in as much as it drives how one interacts with the universe on all levels, which in turn has certain consequences in the world around us.  The fact that those consequences are somewhat predictable returns me to the sense of the statement as originally written.
<END philosophical aside>

Bradford Dies, Liberty Survives (8 January, 2006 10:47:33 PST)

I discover in my post-holiday reading that R W Bradford has died of illness.

I recall my first connection to the man - it was though the money and currency newsletter and precious metals exchange he operated in Michigan back in the 1980's.  What drew me was his avowedly libertarian take on global politics and economics, and how that might suggest future values for gold and silver moneys, from both the specie and numismatic value considerations.  The newsletter was always entertaining, his margins were always very small, deliveries extremely reliable, and as a result as a small provision against the dark times I have a small hoard (as he would put it) of Austrian 100 Coronas, British sovereigns, and US 90% silver coin.  By the way, Gold really does have a fantastic "ching" sound when it is struck.

But after those initial contacts, and based on my enjoyment of his newsletter, I became a founding subscriber to Liberty, the magazine he published after removing himself from the metals exchange, and it has been reading Liberty that I have since found more valuable.

Liberty published on a huge range of topics, with many different contributors, capturing perspectives across a broad swath of the libertarian landscape, with scope from global realpolitik to life in small backwaters, including historical analysis, current events, movie and book reviews, some fiction here and there, pointed cartoons sprinkled through the pages, and "Terra Ingognita" wrapping it up with oddities drawn from news sources scattered everywhere.   Liberty provided a home for analysis and discussion of philosophical foundations, political strategy and tactics, broad and focused cautions over the concentrations of power, and celebration of the vast differences among us, all with a perspective that on one level or another valued the individual's right to choose one's own path.

Which is not to say the editorial policy was all goodness and light, or that contributions were never in conflict;  far from it.  But those differences of opinion made the content all the more valuable to me.

And Bradford did not soft peddle problems in the movement, with the LP in particular;  informative reporting from the conventions, and the pre- and post--election analysis was insightful and quantitative in a way that blew away fallacious assumptions and exposed (oft-missed) opportunities for the party.

Notable among that work was his criticism of the presidential campaigns in 1992 and 1996 by Harry Browne, which were hobbled by huge staff expenses and conflict of interest problems that may not have had any airing were it not for Liberty.  As much as I admired Browne for having written "How I found freedom in an unfree world", 
and who had previously been an editor on Liberty's masthead, my esteem for him dropped considerably in the face of Bradford's dispassionate analysis of campaign fundraising, FEC filings, and LP HQ minutes.  Browne's stonewalling in response to these criticisms did not improve his standing in my eyes (and has colored my impression of all his subsequent activity).  But Bradford's point was not to tear down, but expose correctable weakness in the movement, which criticism I found to be very constructive for improving the prospects for liberty.

In recent years I have not been up to date in my reading, but once I sit down to it, I continue to find most of every issue to be engaging at some level, and it is a rare article that I skip entirely.

I have R W Bradford to thank for that

I hope the future editors continue to produce such a varied, intelligent, and entertaining magazine.

New Orleans flooding - who's responsible (8 September, 2005 20:55:21 PDT)

Here's a related article from 2001 Scientific American that has been floating around the office recently.

Today I finally took the time to read it, and find the content quite similar to the 2004 article referenced below (flood is inevitable, wetlands restoration is essential, ...).

And these are just the popular press acknowledgments of the risks, so clearly the hazards were clear for years to anyone paying attention.

<begin rant>
So, who's "job" is it to pay attention?  I would start with the people closest to the action.

An unattributed source mentioned the national Sierra Club opposition to precautionary measures;  one could infer their homes weren't at risk and one might question the legal standing of such organizations to the disposition of local concerns.  The NGM in October 2004 (http://www3.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0410/feature5/ )
mentioned local fish farmers opposition to mitigating steps;  I presume they were among those flooded out when the levy broke, so perhaps there is a just god (too callous?  let me tell you about the man who enters a talent agent's office to describe a new act ...).

National politics has an attention span of about a month, while projects like this require attention over decades.  So why are any of us surprised that Bush and the FMEA screwed the pooch?  It's a huge bureaucracy led by politicos and will always be that way.  Meanwhile people make plans expecting the FMEA to help out somehow in all their local emergencies.

New Orleans has floods which are very predictable.  Cliff's earlier post clearly revealed who had the most economic interest at stake - the port system and shippers, while the other references show huge economic interest by oil and agriculture concerns.  They are the ones who had the most to lose, but I'm not overly surprised they did not make it happen - why pay for insurance if the feds will bail you out?
<end rant>

Unattributed source:
"The national Sierra Club was one of several environmental groups who [successfully] sued the Army Corps of Engineers to stop a 1996 plan to raise and fortify Mississippi River levees.

The Army Corps was planning to upgrade 303 miles of levees along the river in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. This was needed, a Corps spokesman told the Baton Rouge, La., newspaper The Advocate, because “a failure could wreak catastrophic consequences on Louisiana and Mississippi which the states would be decades in overcoming, if they overcame them at all.”

But a suit filed by environmental groups at the U.S. District Court in New Orleans claimed the Corps had not looked at “the impact on bottomland hardwood wetlands.” The lawsuit stated, “Bottomland hardwood forests must be protected and restored if the Louisiana black bear is to survive as a species, and if we are to ensure continued support for source population of all birds breeding in the lower Mississippi River valley.”

In addition to the Sierra Club, other parties to the suit were the group American Rivers, the Mississippi River Basin Alliance, and the Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi Wildlife Federations.  The lawsuit was settled in 1997 with the Corps agreeing to hold off on the work while doing environmental impact studies."

Film treatment of The Lord of the Rings (4 January, 2004 20:44:16 PST)

I (again) largely agree with Bill's review of the final LotR film.  I'd give it a B overall; a good execution, but the departures from the book were at times incomprehensible, especially in as much as they diminish the humanity of some of the major characters. 

Better than the second film, though, in that regard, as I found to be worse in The Two Towers the side track of Aragorn going over a cliff on the way to Helm's Deep, how the ents were enticed into attacking Isengard, and the appearance of elves rather than rangers just prior to the battle at Helm's Deep (and what happened to them in the third film - bad continuity there).  Not to mention the treatment of Legoloas skateboarding down the stair, firing arrows all the way (which was just juvenile direction), or Aragorn kicking in frustration the ashes of the burned orcs (juvenile characterization).

As for missing the scouring of the Shire, more would have to be done with Saruman for that part of the tale to be explicable, but the way they _did_ end up handling the return to the shire was consequently anticlimactic, and perhaps only served to make it clear to viewers unfamiliar with the original that there would be no sequel.

Perhaps the TV miniseries format would allow these flaws to be avoided.

The power of hoodoo (26 September, 2004 15:14:08 PDT)

It is "Monkey Business", or maybe "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer", that has Cary Grant perform the following exchange with some stuffed shirt grup:

"You remind me of the man"
"What man?"
"The man with the power"
"What power?"
"The power of hoodoo"
"You do"
"Do what?"
"Remind me of the man"
... and so on.

What the hell - see them both.

None dare (29 October, 2004 21:24:39 PDT)

None dare ... call it conspiracy (because maybe this really is a hoax).

"It" being whether the real story of the 9/11 Pentagon crash has been revealed.

Actually there are lots of people who would call it conspiracy, but not me yet...

Usually my response to conspiracy theories is skeptical, from the standpoint that keeping things secret is pretty hard when there are lots of people involved.  Nonetheless, a few weeks ago I promised myself to scour the web for images of the Pentagon on 9/11, to see if I could find any showing aircraft debris consistent with a 757 crash.

Try this to begin with.  I kept the sound down when watching it - apparently there is a rocking sound track, though

Here is some of what else I found.

Links offering more or less support or skepticism to the theory that a missile struck the pentagon that day:  asile, cnn, freedomfiles, oilempire, montalk.

This note about a famous person on AA 77 (discredited in other sources)

And some specific photos, including from defenselink, some clearly enhanced, but it is hard to see a 757 in any of them:  
army.mil/.../evacuate.html (appears from perspective of the approaching aircraft, but the intervening light poles remain standing)

and then ...

This from Reuters: "The video, which Al Jazeera said it received at its Islamabad office on Friday, even came replete with an English-language translation for its full 18 minutes. The Arabic broadcaster only aired about five minutes of the tape.   A State Department official said Washington had asked Qatar's government to stop Al Jazeera airing the tape.   A spokesman for the channel said the tape was too newsworthy to ignore, but declined to say what was in the 13 minutes it did not air."

Missing 13 minutes?  Excerpts from the speech are here, but where is the entire transcript?


update (14 April, 2007 21:55:00 PDT)

I have come to a revised perspective on this topic, based on further 
reading, namely a perspective more inclined to believe the standard 
model for the disaster of 9/11/2001, in regard to the collapse of WTC 
7 and the Pentagon attack.

[Not that I'm staying awake at night pondering these points.  I just 
came upon the following and remembered having written about this way 
back, so I figured I should allow myself some personal revisionism]

First, WTC7.  Not mentioned below, but separately discussed, has been 
the question of what explained WTC7 collapsing, when it was not 
struck in the attack, and video of the North side showed no reason 
for it to fall.    I found the following through a couple other 
links, which shows the damage to WTC 7 being very severe on the south 
side (the side facing WTC 1 and 2 - photos on the link below are from 
the north side), and that "pull" remarks are all about pulling people 
out of the area because it looked like it would collapse.
The photos of large fires burning in the building also are way 
different than suggested by video of the north face.

As for the pentagon, this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVDdjLQkUV8) links to a dynamic model of the last few seconds of flight, and has lots of photos of damaged airplane parts.    This video is of a statement by an eye-witness of that attack, newsman Mike Walter (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycPUDktZpCU).

Election predictions, 2004 (6 November, 2004 14:52:59 PST)

I saw [LP Presidential candidate Michael] Badnarik in Seattle last year.  At the time I deemed his approach was too obtuse for the electorate, but supported his campaign.  One of my approaches this year was to point out the workings of the Electoral College, noting that Kerry was bound to win the west, so people around here could vote on the basis of factors other than simply the fear someone worse would get elected.

As for my predictions, some of you know that last spring I bet a couple people that Bush would be re-elected.  Not a pleasant prospect (Kerry's most noted advantage was that he was not Bush), but I thought the bet could be a hedge against the worse outcome.  Unfortunately I expect substantially greater loss in civil liberties than my financial gain from these wagers.  No doubt Kerry would have proceeded along a similar path, but my best hope was that the R's would retain control over congress and we'd have deadlock for four years.

I also tracked the Iowa Electronic Markets for the outcome prediction, which had been showing Bush to win for months.  As I watched the results come in on Tuesday I admit to some denial.  I looked at the Florida results and thought that clearly Kerry would prevail there, even as my eyes saw the preponderance of red counties.

Go see "Team America".  It will be even more relevant 4 years from now.

All Rants copyright John R Palmer, except where attributed elsewhere