Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

November 4, 2008

There is hope!

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:05 pm

At some universities, this would qualify a professor for tenure!

Professor ousted after tearing down McCain yard signs

The St. Olaf (Northfield, Minn.) professor who, in a well-read Huffington Post item, recounted tearing down McCain campaign signs has resigned.

Per the Northfield News, it appears that Philip Busse was forced out.

St. Olaf spokesman David Gonnerman issued the following statement Monday afternoon:

“The St. Olaf College administration first learned of Phil Busse’s self-admitted theft and destruction of campaign signs on the morning of Oct. 31 as a result of his posting on the Internet.

“The St. Olaf administration immediately referred the matter to local law enforcement authorities and commenced an investigation of its own.

“Mr. Busse has tendered his resignation and is no longer affiliated with St. Olaf College.

Busse has been charged with misdemeanor theft.

Here’s a link to the original Huffington Post article. Some excerpts:

By early October, however, there were no McCain-Palin campaign signs on the eastbound stretch of Highway 19. It wasn’t because loyalties had switched, but because I pulled them out.

Sure, I understand that stealing a sign will not change anyone’s mind, and, most likely, will only embolden McCain supporters’ disdain for liberals. Even so, yanking out the signs and running like a scared rabbit back to my idling car was one of the single-most exhilarating and empowering political acts that I have ever done.

Today, national politics amounts to slick TV ads and choreographed stump speeches. A vote often feels like a raindrop in an ocean. But this illicit act of civil disobedience was something visceral. It was unscripted and raw expression. It was a chance to stop talking about theories and projections and get my hands dirty. Of course, I realized there was the very real chance my antics in rural Minnesota would be met with a shotgun, or at least a hockey dad tackling me.


But unlike stealing a lawn gnome or a plastic pink flamingo, I admit, stealing a lawn sign is a more heinous crime. There is moral and ethical guilt. I believe in free speech, and also believe and encourage political expression. I guess I could argue that I was flexing my free expression to say “shut up.” But that would put me at the same low-level of political discourse as Bill O’Reilly, who consistently steamrolls over anyone who disagrees with him. If I need to justify my actions, I could argue that I was trying to achieve some great public service for rural voters. In his 2004 book, What’s The Matter With Kansas, Frank Rich explains that working class and family farmers, like these in Minnesota, increasingly vote conservative and against their own interests. By pulling out the McCain signs, I was hoping to curb the impression for passing motorists that family farmers in Minnesota supported McCain. Or, at least that’s the most high-minded explanation that I can offer.

Mature? No. Illegal? Yes. Satisfying? Definitely.

Well, that’s at least one honest Obama supporter!

November 16, 2006

Milton Friedman, Z”L

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:36 pm

Milton Friedman, the world’s greatest exponent of economics, has passed away.

Reuters reports:

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 16 (Reuters) – Milton Friedman, the free market economist and winner of a 1976 Nobel Prize, died on Thursday morning of heart failure, a spokeswoman for his family said. He was 94.

Friedman’s ideas played a pivotal role in forming the governing philosophies of world leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

He preached free enterprise in the face of government regulation and advocated a monetary policy that called for steady growth in money supplies.

The influential economist died in a hospital in the San Francisco area, the spokeswoman said.

More extensive obituaries — no doubt written years in advance — are available from several different sources, and no doubt more are coming.

October 16, 2006

Bombing — For Free Tuition

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:22 pm

I few days ago, I posted the story of an unemployed fellow who robbed a bank to get arrested, so he could live rent-free in jail until he was old enough for social security benefits.

Now, we hear from that young Palestinians are carrying small bombs through Israeli checkpoints to get arrested — so they can get an Israeli high school diploma while in prison! The Israeli radio broadcaster Arutz Sheva reports:

Faking Attacks in Order to Graduate: Correspondent Haggai Huberman reports on a new phenomenon among the Arabs of Judea and Samaria: Youths carry knives or small bombs across checkpoints in order to get themselves arrested so that they can study for high school matriculation exams at the State of Israel’s expense.

Sitting in jail for a number of weeks or months is a small price to pay, and the returns are significant: A high school diploma, and a high social standing as a “freed terrorist.”

Huberman notes that earlier this week, IDF soldiers reported that they had thwarted an attack in the northern Shomron when they arrested two 19-year-old boys carrying two pipebombs of one kilogram (2.2 lbs.) each. However, the IDF later concluded that the boys were merely trying to get arrested for the purpose of matriculation exams, and that the pipebombs were not designed to cause significant damage.

Hat tip: James Taranto, who adds: “Or maybe they wanted 72 dates to the prom.”

October 10, 2006

Edmund Phelps

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:32 am

I would not be an eocnomics blogger if I did not mention that this year’s Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics is going to Edmund Phelps. But I can’t give a better explanation of, or collection of links to, his work than Tyler Cowen’s.

September 29, 2006

Finding God in the Genome

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:00 am

The book I mentioned here should be available by now.

August 4, 2006

Shop Talk

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:35 am

The Economist magazine has an article on economists with blogs.

Hat tip to Megan McArdle, who writes for The Economist, blogs at Asymmetrical Information under a pseudonym, and is currently guest-blogging at Instapundit.

June 30, 2006

Shark Abortions

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:04 pm

Are Abortions Sad? Well, if they are accidental abortions of sharks:

SARASTOA, Fla. (AP) — The likely world-record hammerhead shark caught in May weighed 1,280 pounds because it was pregnant with 55 pups — the most scientists have ever seen.

“Although we are thankful that the fisherman gave this unique specimen to Mote, and we are learning a lot about this species from this large female shark, we were saddened to see so many unborn pups inside her so close to birth,” said Dr. Robert Hueter, director of Mote’s Center for Shark Research.

Would a director of human (e.g., medical) research say the same thing about unborn humans? In public, if he wanted to keep his job?

Recall also my previous post about the pro-life movement for dolphins.

“We ask fishermen not to kill sharks for sport and to remember that shark populations have been severely depleted by overfishing. Very large sharks like this hammerhead are often pregnant females that help maintain the status of the species’ population into the future. We advocate release of these large sharks and the tagging of them whenever possible.”

Is there similar concern for maintaining the human population?

If you ask the folks in the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, the concern is precisely the opposite! (Their motto: “May we live long and die out.” I am not making this up.)

June 28, 2006

Would You Donate Your Virginity to Science?

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:07 am

It seem like the old concept of “donating your body to science” for medical research has taken a whole new turn.

The New England Journal of Medicine just published a paper by a group of researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle studying whether condom use affected the probability of infection with Human Papillomavirus Infection (HPV), in which the researchers essentially asked female virgins to lose their virginity and report on their condom use at the big event, and for the subsequent 2-4 years. Furthermore, they failed to inform participants of all the risks of participating in the study — and in fact never even attempted to obtain consent of any kind, let alone informed consent, from more than half the subjects whose behavior was studied.

I’m sure you don’t believe me — no reasonable person would — so I’m going to quote directly from the article. (Italics in the original, boldface added.)

By the way, I don’t like the mainstream media’s practice of quoting anonymous “researchers” or claiming a study was done by a “university” rather than faculty, staff, or students acting on their own initiative, which is almost always what it is. The researchers have names, so I’m going to name them so they can take credit or blame. They are: Rachel L. Winer, Ph.D., James P. Hughes, Ph.D., Qinghua Feng, Ph.D., Sandra O’Reilly, B.S., Nancy B. Kiviat, M.D., King K. Holmes, M.D., Ph.D., and Laura A. Koutsky, Ph.D. All are from the Departments of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, or Pathology, or the Center for AIDS and STD, University of Washington, Seattle. And the authors state that the works was “Supported in part by grants (RO1-A138383 and T32-AI007140-24) from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.” Which means if you pay taxes in the United States, you paid for this study. The title of the article is “Condom Use and the Risk of Genital Human Papillomavirus Infection in Young Women” and it appears in the June 22, 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 354, No. 25, pp. 2645-2654.

Now fasten your seatbelts, this is going to be um, an interesting ride:

ABSTRACT

Background To evaluate whether the use of male condoms reduces the risk of male-to-female transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, longitudinal studies explicitly designed to evaluate the temporal relationship between condom use and HPV infection are needed.

Methods We followed 82 female university students who reported their first intercourse with a male partner either during the study period or within two weeks before enrollment. Cervical and vulvovaginal samples for HPV DNA testing and Papanicolaou testing were collected at gynecologic examinations every four months. Every two weeks, women used electronic diaries to record information about their daily sexual behavior. Cox proportional-hazards models were used to evaluate risk factors for HPV infection.

Study Design

We restricted eligibility to female University of Washington undergraduates who were 18 to 22 years old and who had never had vaginal intercourse or had first had intercourse with one male partner within the previous three months.

Now pay attention — they are later going to change that “within the previous three months” to within the previous two weeks.

In addition, the women had to have a cervix, could not be pregnant, had to be in good general health, and had to be able to provide written informed consent. Since the goal of the study was to enroll a population of healthy women (rather than women presenting to the student health clinic with gynecological problems), between December 2000 and June 2005, we mailed invitational letters to 24,201 women who met the age criterion and who released their names to the registrar.

Let’s restate that: These researchers mailed letters to more than 24,000 female college students asking if they’ve ever had sex, and if not would they like to for a medical study. (And if they’d just started very recently, it wasn’t too late.)

Questions for the peanut gallery: (1) If you were a female college student between the ages of 18 and 22, how would you feel about getting a letter like that. (2) If you had a daughter who was a female college student between the ages of 18 and 22, how would you feel about her university’s registrar releasing her name so she could get a letter like that from her university’s faculty?

Given the restrictive eligibility criteria, we assumed that the number of participants would be low in relation to the number of letters mailed.

Translation: We don’t think much of the morality of our university’s female students.

Well, that might be the translation if the researchers thought that morality and sex were related. I’d bet it never occurred to them to consider that possibility, so they did not actually intend that to be a smear on the female student (er,) body. I don’t know if that makes the claim more or less insensitive.

We also provided informational flyers to contraceptive counselors at the student health clinic. Of the 243 eligible women who responded, 210 agreed to participate (86.4 percent). The protocol was approved by the institutional review board at the University of Washington.

One might conclude from this sentence that what they “assumed” in the previous sentence was in fact correct — that there were only 243 female students out of 24,201 who met the “restrictive eligibility criteria” (never had sex, or at least not until two weeks ago). In other words, that 99% of University of Washington female undergraduates were sexually active more than two weeks ago.

However, we could also give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that some significant percentage of the students either didn’t want to start having sex, even for the sake of “science,” or just had better taste than the researchers. In fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to find any statement that’s true of 99% of any large group of undergraduates.

Later in the report we find this little gem — students were excluded from the study if they didn’t cooperate by losing their virginity:

Excluded from the study were 65 women who reported having had no vaginal intercourse, 3 women who did not record any information in their diaries regarding sexual behavior, and 60 women who reported having first had intercourse more than two weeks before enrollment.

They even have a neat little chart explaining all this.

Normally human research subjects are paid a small stipend for their trouble. I wonder if those enrollees who didn’t have sex still got paid. (If not, the researchers were arguably violating laws against prostitution — they were paying women to have sex.)

Of course, this all sounds very “scientific”:

Marginal Cox proportional-hazards models were used to determine risk factors for HPV infection. Data from diaries were summarized into risk-factor variables during the eight months before HPV testing, since most infections associated with a first partner (before the report of a second partner) occurred within eight months after a woman first had intercourse. Data recorded less than 20 days before a given visit were excluded, because 20 days was the shortest observed interval between the time a woman first had intercourse and the detection of an incident HPV infection in this study. The time to an event was measured from the time a woman first had intercourse to the report of infection with each type of HPV or the last clinic visit, with each woman contributing at-risk time for each of 37 HPV types. Analyses were stratified according to the type of HPV, assuming common relative hazards across HPV types while allowing the baseline hazards to vary. Robust variance estimates were used to account for correlation within subjects. Analyses were restricted to intervals in which intercourse was reported.

Yes, they use fancy terms like “time to an event” and “measured” and — my favorite — “Marginal Cox proportional-hazards models.” (Get your mind out of the gutter — “Cox” refers to the world-famous British statistician, Sir David Cox of Oxford University. And yes, it is a real type of statistical model.)

What sort of data did they collect?

Potential risk factors included the total number of instances of vaginal intercourse (continuous variable), the number of new partners (0, 1, or >1), the frequency of condom use by partners (<5 percent, 5 to 49 percent, 50 to 99 percent, or 100 percent), the partner’s circumcision status (circumcised, uncircumcised, or unknown), and the partner’s number of previous partners (0, .1, or unknown). The frequency of condom use was calculated by dividing the number of condoms used for vaginal intercourse by the number of instances of vaginal intercourse during the eight-month study period. If multiple new partners were reported during an eight-month period, the circumcision status and previous number of partners were summarized.

Now hold that thought for a minute and go back to a statement made earlier:

The protocol was approved by the institutional review board at the University of Washington.

Now this is kind of interesting. It happens to be a federal law (actually a regulation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services) that every institution that does any federally-supported research, and does any research on “human subjects” — that is, any research involving people in any capacity other than as researchers — have an institutional review board (IRB), and that all research projects involving human subjects be submitted to the IRB for approval. The IRB is supposed to make sure that, in the words of the Department of Health and Human Services, “Human Subjects Research Must be Guided by Ethical Principles.”

But whose ethics are they supposed to use?

By the ethics of most religions practiced in the United States, people aren’t supposed to have sex outside of marriage, most 18-22-year-olds aren’t married, and of course they are want data on the number of partners, which has to be greater than one for some significant fraction of of the women to produce statistically valid results. So the researchers are clearly aiming for behavior that a significant fraction of people regard as unethical.

Obviously, then, then don’t mean those ethics.

Perhaps then, they mean more “modern” ethics, by which it’s OK for anyone to have sex with anyone who agrees, as long as they use “protection.” But the whole point is to see if the “protection” works, by seeing the the effects are different for those who use it than for those who don’t. To do this, the researchers depend on some fraction of their subjects having unprotected sex. And it has to be a large enough fraction to generate statistically significant results.

Obviously, they can’t be encouraging condom use any more than they could be encouraging abstinence — either one would ruin their research!

What they mean is, “(a) The Belmont Report: Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, or (b) other appropriate ethical standards recognized by federal departments and agencies that have adopted the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, known as the Common Rule.”

The Belmont Report was written in 1979 by government-appointed commission made up of three medical doctors, two lawyers, two non-physician scientists, a professor of bioethics, a professor of Christian ethics (is that constitutional?), and the then-president of the National Council of Negro Women. The report described three “Basic Ethical Principles”: Respect for Persons, Beneficence, and Justice. And it described three “Applications” of these principles: (1) Informed Consent, (2) Assessment of Risk and Benefits, and (3) Selection of Subjects.

In the section on Informed Consent, the commission stated:

Most codes of research establish specific items for disclosure intended to assure that subjects are given sufficient information. These items generally include: the research procedure, their purposes, risks and anticipated benefits, alternative procedures (where therapy is involved), and a statement offering the subject the opportunity to ask questions and to withdraw at any time from the research. …

Voluntariness. An agreement to participate in research constitutes a valid consent only if voluntarily given. This element of informed consent requires conditions free of coercion and undue influence. Coercion occurs when an overt threat of harm is intentionally presented by one person to another in order to obtain compliance. Undue influence, by contrast, occurs through an offer of an excessive, unwarranted, inappropriate or improper reward or other overture in order to obtain compliance. Also, inducements that would ordinarily be acceptable may become undue influences if the subject is especially vulnerable.

Now one interesting question is to what extent the consent given by the young women involved truly met the requirements above. I’m sure the staff was able to explain their purposes unambiguously. And they probably explained the “research procedure” quite well, if by that one means the procedure for filling out the electronic diaries — if not the procedure for, um, generating the information to put in the electronic diaries. This latter procedure was, by the nature of the requirements for the study, something with which the subjects were, um, necessarily unfamiliar. In fact, some of the “risks and anticipated benefits” were also something with which the subjects were necessarily unfamiliar. Obviously, the risk of HPV infection was there — that was the whole point of the study — and I’m sure the researchers could explain what that entailed, as well as the risks of other sexually transmitted diseases.

But what about the other “risks and anticipated benefits”? Prior to obtaining consent, did the researchers fully inform the subjects as to the emotional risks of engaging in sexual intercourse (a) for the purpose of a study, (b) if not for that purpose alone, then with the study in mind, ( c) with or without a committed relationship, (d) with the commitment level of the relationship formalized or not formalized in any particular way (e.g., marriage), (e) with more than one partner within the time frame of the study? What about the risks of increased emotional trauma when a relationship breaks up, if that relationship involved sexual intercourse? Did they fully inform the subjects of all this? I kind of doubt it.

And what about the “anticipated benefits”? Prior to obtaining consent, did the researchers fully inform their virgin subjects of the physical pleasures of sexual intercourse? What about the emotional pleasures that come from that form of intimacy? (Which, one might argue, turn negative without the appropriate level of commitment.) What about the benefits of parenthood, as opposed to the risks of pregnancy?

An even more interesting question is, did they get informed consent from the “male partners”? The study doesn’t mention that at all. They have copious detail about how the female subjects were recruited and screened, but the “male partners” are only mentioned when they (and their previous partners) are counted, and when it is asked whether they were circumcised. As far as we know, they were not informed of anything by the researchers — the researchers may not have even asked who they were. They female subjects were simply set loose in Seattle to involve unknowing males in a “research study.”

You might laugh, but this is precisely the sort of think the Belmont Commission was meant to address. One of the motivations for appointing the Belmont Commission was the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which 600 black men, 399 of whom had syphilis, were “studied” by being given medical care that, unbeknownst to them, did NOT include treatment for their disease. Neither they, nor their wives were informed the had syphilis, and they were “studied” until they died — in part to see how long it would take.

In this case, they aren’t even telling the male partners that they are part of a study. They are collecting personal information about them — such as whether the are circumcised, and the number of previous sexual partners they’ve had — and they are studying them in an environment in which the researchers know they are at risk at least for HPV, not to mention other things, and the are not informed of the risks, they are not informed they are being used for a study, and no consent of any kind, informed or not, has been obtained.

In short, this study is not only unethical from a “traditional values” point of view; it is also unethical from a “secular bioethics” point of view.

The fact that the University of Washington’s IRB was willing to approve this study calls into question whether the entire IRB system is just a bureaucratic rubber stamp for whatever some voyeuristic researchers want to do.

June 14, 2006

Finding God in the Genome

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:00 am

Lots of people say that religion and science are in conflict. Many say that science proves that religion is wrong, or that God does not exist. Many also say that religious beliefs are an impediment to scientific understanding.

I’ve never understood any of those claims. I found studying chemistry and physics in high school and college to be a window into the profound wisdom that went into creating the universe. And I fail to see how anyone encountering Euler’s formula fails to see something beyond human construction

And now, one of the world’s top biologists — Francis Collins, one of the mappers of the human genome — has put this all together in a new book. The Sunday Times [of London] reports:


The scientist who led the team that cracked the human genome is to publish a book explaining why he now believes in the existence of God and is convinced that miracles are real.

Francis Collins, the director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, claims there is a rational basis for a creator and that scientific discoveries bring man “closer to God”.

His book, The Language of God, to be published in September, will reopen the age-old debate about the relationship between science and faith. “One of the great tragedies of our time is this impression that has been created that science and religion have to be at war,” said Collins, 56.

“I don’t see that as necessary at all and I think it is deeply disappointing that the shrill voices that occupy the extremes of this spectrum have dominated the stage for the past 20 years.”

For Collins, unravelling the human genome did not create a conflict in his mind. Instead, it allowed him to “glimpse at the workings of God.”

“When you make a breakthrough it is a moment of scientific exhilaration because you have been on this search and seem to have found it,” he said. “But it is also a moment where I at least feel closeness to the creator in the sense of having now perceived something that no human knew before but God knew all along.”

“When you have for the first time in front of you this 3.1 billion-letter instruction book that conveys all kinds of information and all kinds of mystery about humankind, you can’t survey that going through page after page without a sense of awe. I can’t help but look at those pages and have a vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse of God’s mind.”

Collins joins a line of scientists whose research deepened their belief in God. Isaac Newton, whose discovery of the laws of gravity reshaped our understanding of the universe, said: “This most beautiful system could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.”

Although Einstein revolutionised our thinking about time, gravity and the conversion of matter to energy, he believed the universe had a creator. “I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details,” he said. However Galileo was famously questioned by the inquisition and put on trial in 1633 for the “heresy” of claiming that the earth moved around the sun. [Though Galileo didn't actually question the existence of God, nor the fact that he created the universe. --DR]

Collins even takes on evolution, making an argument I’ve been making for over two decades::

“I see God’s hand at work through the mechanism of evolution. If God chose to create human beings in his image and decided that the mechanism of evolution was an elegant way to accomplish that goal, who are we to say that is not the way,” he says.

And it’s not like Collins is trying to justify what he was taught in childhood:

Collins was an atheist until the age of 27, when as a young doctor he was impressed by the strength that faith gave to some of his most critical patients.

“They had terrible diseases from which they were probably not going to escape, and yet instead of railing at God they seemed to lean on their faith as a source of great comfort and reassurance,” he said. “That was interesting, puzzling and unsettling.”

He decided to visit a Methodist minister and was given a copy of C S Lewis’s Mere Christianity, which argues that God is a rational possibility. The book transformed his life. “It was an argument I was not prepared to hear,” he said. “I was very happy with the idea that God didn’t exist, and had no interest in me. And yet at the same time, I could not turn away.”

His epiphany came when he went hiking through the Cascade Mountains in Washington state. He said: “It was a beautiful afternoon and suddenly the remarkable beauty of creation around me was so overwhelming, I felt, ‘I cannot resist this another moment’.”

I’ve been hiking in mountains — and I can totally believe that.

(Hat tip: Clayton Cramer.)

April 11, 2006

The “Straw man of presumed innocence”

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:45 am

Here’s a small sample of the unbelievable idiocy of the politics of the Duke lacrosse incident. This from a Duke faculty member:

Racism doesn’t require DNA testing

Deborah Sebring

I don’t get it. What does DNA have to do with racism, misogyny, serving alcohol to minors or blatant disrespect for one’s community? Just for a minute, forget about DNA testing or even the question of rape. There are established and profoundly disturbing dimensions of this incident being effectively shielded by the straw man of protecting the presumed innocent. By now we’ve all heard the 911 tape and read a neighbor’s confirmation of racial epithets hurled that night. Not much question about that one. And I am sick to death or hearing the alleged victim-a young black woman, student, mother-summarily referenced only as an “exotic dancer” while a mob of drunk, out of control men is described as the “the highly successful men’s lacrosse team.”

The “straw man of protecting the presumed innocent”? Does she prefer that there would be a presumption of guilt, rather than of innocence? What if the races were reversed — suppose a white woman accused a bunch of black athletes of raping her. Would that have “disturbing dimensions … shielded by the straw man of protecting the presumed innocent”? Would she presume guilt in that case? Would she want to “forget about DNA testing” that might exonerate black athletes of charges of raping a white woman?

Or does the presumption of innocence apply only in certain circumstances, based on the race of the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrators?

(La Shawn Barber has some thoughts along similar lines.)

Somebody’s got some ‘splaining to do!

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:42 am

So, nearly the entire Duke mens’ varsity lacrosse team was accused of raping a woman — or more precisely, 46 out of 47 players were accuesed of being among the three to rape this particular woman. As a punishment, a few games, and then the rest of their season was cancelled (that is, forfeited), their coach resigned (was he fired?) even thought he wasn’t even there when it (allegedly) happened, protests and vigils were held all over campus, and there were ugly allegations of a racist conspiracy from the race hustlers both on and off campus, since the alleged rapers were white and the alleged rapee was black. Never mind how it could be racist when practically no one was supporting the accused players; in fact, all 46 were regarded as guilty even though they woman only claimed that 3 of the 46 touched her.

Then, there were some inconsistencies in the timing of the alleged events.

And now it turns out none did. The DNA tests have come in, and not a trace of even a single player’s DNA was found anywhere on the woman’s body.

Furthermore — get this — there was no DNA of the victim in the room where the alleged rape was supposed to have occurred. And there was no DNA of anyone else either — in fact, the test results indicated the alleged victim had not had any kind of sexual contact with anyone in the recent past.

Now, let’s see if the candlelight vigils are cancelled, and if anyone apologizes to the team. I’m not holding my breath — in fact, the DA says he’s still going to prosecute!

District Attorney Mike Nifong has said he would have other evidence to make his case should the DNA analysis prove inconclusive or fail to match a member of the team.

“I believe a sexual assault took place,” Nifong told The News & Observer of Raleigh on Monday. “I’m not saying it’s over. If that’s what they expect, they will be sadly disappointed.”

He would not comment about the results to the AP.

Earlier he said that they used to prove rape cases before there was such a thing as DNA evidence, so if the DNA evidence didn’t match, he’d just prove it the old way — you know, “he said, she said, she wins.” The trouble is, he doesn’t seem to realize that DNA evidence works both ways — it’s more or less impossible to commit a rape without leaving DNA evidence. The fact that it’s not there is as close as you’ll ever get to proof that the crime did not occur.

Meanwhile, someone has soem explaining to do. That’s because the state crime lab said, based on evidence taken from her body at the emergency room, that there was no evidence the alleged victim was raped at all. Yet, according to a warrant sworn out by the police,

A Forensic Sexual Assault Nurse (SANE) and Physician conducted the examination. Medical records and interview that were obtained by subpoena revealed that the victim had signs, symptoms, and injuries consistent with being raped and ….

(If you want the gory details, look here. This is a family blog!)

The bottom line is, either this is the most incompetent state crime lab imaginable, or someone somewhere between the emergency room and the police department is blatantly lying. And it looks like the latter.

Now here’s something really interesting — the world champion of DNA evidence is Peter Neufeld of “The Innocence Project,” which searches the entire country for death penalty defendants who can be exonerated by DNA evidence. They keep hoping that they’ll find someone who’s been executed who can be proven innocent, so they can get rid of the death penalty, but so far they’ve just found some people who haven’t been executed yet, and gotten them off death row. They claim that DNA is the best way to prove innocence. Or at least, when the defendant is a non-white on death row. When the defendants are white scholarship athletes at an elite college, suddenly DNA isn’t so useful anymore:

“The truth is if you speak to crime lab directors, they will tell you that in only a relatively small number of cases is there any DNA evidence,” said Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project.

I’ve been a cautious supporter of The Innocence Project in the past, because like any decent person, I really, really don’t want to see innocent people punished. But their hope of finding an innocent person who’s already been executed ahs always struck me as kind of creepy — clearly, they care more about the principle that the death penalty is bad than they do about the welfare of innocent people wrongfully convicted. But now we find out that it’s only if those innocent people are the right sort of innocent people.

La Shawn Barber has more long-term perspective.

March 16, 2006

Lawless Law

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:35 pm

Some names for things are just too funny. For example, there something called the Lawless Finance Workshop in Economics & Law.

As if a “Lawless” workshop in “Law” weren’t bad enough, the topics on the schedule include “Money Laundering,” “Illegal and Informal Credit Markets” (that is, loan sharking), “Corruption,” and “Insider Trading.”

The seminar is at a university in Italy. I wonder if the language barrier had anything to do with the odd name. I kind of doubt it, since most European academics have good English skills, at least in writing. Or maybe those things aren’t considered so “lawless” in Italy? There have been quite a few financial scandals in the government over the past few decades — many involving people still in office now. ;-)

The workshop was yesterday. I just got the ad for it today. It’s just as well.

March 7, 2006

George Mason: 1, All Other Law Schools: 0

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:41 pm

Practically all the law schools in the country just lost a unanimous Supreme Court decision regarding whether it’s Consitutional to require law schools that receive federal funding to allow the military to recruit on the same basis as other employers. (The Court says it is, 8-0.)

Todd Zywicki notes that the George Mason School of Law was the only school to argue on the winning side.

There’s also an interesting article in the current issue of National Review on the GMU law school; it’s excerpted here and here.

GMU is basically one of the few law schools in the U.S. that is not monomaniacally leftist. The article points to one way they have taken advantage of this fact to increase their ranking, even in a world in which ranking depends on part on the approval of those other, leftist, law schools:

But Daniel Polsby, the dean of the George Mason University School of Law, is different. … [H]e’s actually looking forward to the U.S. News survey [ranking law schools]. “We hope to move up a few places this year,” he says. That would certainly be in keeping with a decade-long trend: Mason vaulted from 71st place in 1995 to 41st in 2005 — an impressive achievement given that these rankings tend to remain static from year to year.

Whereas his competitors were obsessed with signing big-name free agents in hot fields such as feminist legal theory, [earlier Dean Henry G.] Manne quietly assembled a team of undervalued unknowns. “If the market discriminates against conservatives, then there should be good opportunities for hiring conservatives,” says Polsby. This is exactly the sort of observation one would expect a market-savvy law-and-economics scholar to make. Manne and his successors were able to act on this theory, and though Mason has in recent years expanded its recruitment of non-economics specialists, it has stuck by the core observation that law schools routinely overlook raw talent.

At the same time, the GMU law school has climbed the U.S. News rankings. Some years have been better than others: In 1999, as a result of poor data collection, there was a temporary but eye-popping dip to 113th. Slowly but surely, however, Mason has shed its status as a “safety” school for students who couldn’t gain admission elsewhere. In 2001, it broke into the top 50 — a group that U.S. News describes as “first tier” — and it hasn’t looked back. Since 2003, Mason has floated between 38th and 41st. It probably would do even better but for the particular ways U.S. News calculates worth: Forty percent of a school’s ranking is based on reputation, as determined by judges and lawyers (15 percent) and law professors (25 percent). “If we had Dartmouth or Princeton’s name,” says Polsby, picking two well-regarded schools that don’t have law programs, “we’d be a top-20 school overnight.” And by weighing the opinions of law professors so heavily, U.S. News gives liberals a lot of influence; Mason almost certainly pays a price for the perception that conservatives aren’t exactly an endangered species in its faculty lounge.

January 5, 2006

Artistic Intelligence

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:08 am

Ever heard of “artistic intelligence”? When I was in middle school, where self-esteem is more important than knowledge or ability, the teachers used to tell us that there were all sorts of “intelligence,” and maybe people who weren’t good at math or writing or science or history had more “artistic intelligence” to make up for it.

I wonder if this is what they were talking about:

An artist who chained his legs together to draw a picture of the image hopped 12 hours through the desert after realizing he lost the key and couldn’t unlock the restraints, authorities said Wednesday.

Trevor Corneliusien, 26, tightly wrapped and locked a long, thick chain around his bare ankles Tuesday while camping in an abandoned mine shaft about five miles north of Baker, San Bernardino County sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Ford said.

“It took him over 12 hours because he had to hop through boulders and sand,” Ford said. “He did put on his shoes before hopping.”

The artist, who is from the area, often sketched images inside mines in the Southwest. He had finished his drawing Tuesday when he realized he didn’t have the key.

Corneliusien finally made it to a gas station and called the sheriff’s department, which sent paramedics and deputies with bolt cutters. His legs were bruised but he was otherwise in good health, Ford said.

The artist did not have a listed phone number and could not be reached for comment.

And the drawing?

“He brought it down with him,” Ford said. “It was a pretty good depiction of how a chain would look wrapped around your legs.”

Se, he was a good artist! And he was able to rescue the drawing!

Of course, if he only had normal intelligence, he would have just wrapped the chain and not used a lock in the first place — but that would have comprimised his “artistic integrity”!

January 4, 2006

The Benefits of Higher Education

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:48 pm

Dr. Romy reflects on the benefits of having a Ph.D.

December 29, 2005

Dogmatic Inconsistency

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:06 pm

Dr. Sanity quotes Stephen Hicks in Explaining Postmodernism on one of my favorite subjects — which I call syllogistic hypocrisy:

Using contradictory discourses as a political strategy

In postmodern discourse, truth is rejected explicitly and consisteny can be a rare phenomenon. Consider the following pairs of claims.

  • On the one hand, all truth is relative; on the other hand, postmodernism tells it like it really is.
  • On the one hand, all cultures are equally deserving of respect; on the other, Western culture is uniquely destructive and bad.
  • Values are subjective–but sexism and racism are really evil.
  • Technology is bad and destructive–and it is unfair that some people have more technology than others.
  • Tolerance is good and dominance is bad–but when postmodernists come to power, political correctness follows.

There is a common pattern here: Subjectivism and relativism in one breath, dogmatic absolutism in the next.

And to be a right-thinking (which is to say, left-thinking) person in they eyes of NPR, the New York Times, or a typical university faculty, you have to believe all those pairs of things.

You also have to believe a lot of other odd things, like:

  • Homosexuality is genetic, but gender is socially constucted.
  • A woman has a right to do what she wants with her own body — unless she wants to get breast implants.
  • A woman is capable of choosing whether to allow her child to be born or have an abortion, but can’t be trusted with deciding where to send that child to school.
  • Christmas is religious, but Hannukah is merely cultural.
  • Tolerance of diverse viewpoints is important — and everyone who doesn’t believe that should be silenced!

Please add more examples in the comments!

UPDATE (1/1/06):

James R. Ament at Cave of the Curmudgeon links here and adds this example:

I remember listening to a comedian, some years ago, cracking a joke about how those hypocritical conservatives want to protect every fetus but then can’t wait to kill people by engaging the death penalty. He got the audience to laugh; which is to say, he knew his audience. I remember thinking at the time… Didn’t this joker see the corollary – The hypocricy of wanting to save some child rapist murderer while advocating the killing of 1.5 million innocents per year? Yea, funny.

December 26, 2005

Is this Religious Neutrality?

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:02 pm

Richard John Neuhaus’ column “While We’re At It” in the back pages of the journal First Things is basically a “printed blog” that pre-dated the online blogs. In the January 2006 issue (not online yet), he writes:

Student from Christian high schools are having a hard time getting accepted at the University of California, Riverside. The university deems some of the high school courses to be biased in favor of Christianity. The curricular review extends to religion classes. “Religion and ethics courses are acceptable,” says the university, “as long as they do not include among its [sic] primary goals the personal religious growth of the student.” If only we were makeing this up.

In 1968, Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas wrote: “The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and non-religion.”

The University of California, Riverside is a public — that is, government — university. And this does not look like “neutrality … between religion and non-religion” to me. Where is the ACLU when you need them?

More detail on the controversy — and the lawsuit — here and here. The issue is not limited to Riverside, but to all 10 branches of the University of California. From this article by Mark Earley:

Calvary[ Chapel Christian School]’s science classes are also not up to snuff, according to UC. A textbook by Prentice Hall, Conceptual Physics, is considered acceptable—which is why Calvary is using it. But the textbook they used to use, titled Physics for Christian Schools, contains exactly the same information. The difference? There’s a Bible verse and theological preface for every chapter. And according to UC chemistry professor Barbara Sawrey, the verses alone disqualify the textbook.

Talk about condemning yourself out of your own mouth! These comments make it clear that shutting down the Christian viewpoint is indeed what UC is up to.

November 14, 2005

The Political Theory of … Harry Potter?

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:40 pm

Instapundit point to an article forthcoming in the Michigan Law Review by Benjamin Barton of the
University of Tennessee College of Law, which explores the political, public choice (economics) theory in the Harry Potter series:

This Essay examines what the Harry Potter series (and particularly the most recent book, The Half-Blood Prince) …

… [G]overnment is controlled by and for the benefit of the self-interested bureaucrat. The most cold-blooded public choice theorist could not present a bleaker portrait of a government captured by special interests and motivated solely by a desire to increase bureaucratic power and influence.

Folks, I’m not making this up. An abstract of the article is here. But I have the sneaking suspicion that perhaps Professor Barton was just trying to justify all the time he spent reading Harry Potter books as “work.”

And they wonder why I’d rather be a tenured professor…. ;-)

October 14, 2005

Official Faculty Law Blog

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:04 pm

Anyone who reads a lot of blogs know that a lot — really a lot, considering — of law professors blog. And now, The University of Chicago Law School has an official faculty blog. The introductory post is here.

I don’t know why they’re hosting it on Typepad, thought. I happen to know from personal experience that that university has enough computing power to handle it in-house.

October 7, 2005

Suicidalism

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:41 pm

Eric S. Raymond, who is so famous in certain circles (e.g., free/open source software) he is known simply as “ESR,” has a fascinating, and brilliant, post on a subject most people would have considered outside his expertise. But he gets is right, so right it puts the well-known “experts” to shame. It’s also pretty much just what I’ve been thinking, only I didn’t know how to say it.

In short, he’s found the conceptual link between Soviet Communism and Al-Qaeda-style Islamofascism — and it’s not just that they both oppose America:

The most important weapons of al-Qaeda and the rest of the Islamist terror network are the suicide bomber and the suicide thinker. The suicide bomber is typically a Muslim fanatic whose mission it is to spread terror; the suicide thinker is typically a Western academic or journalist or politician whose mission it is to destroy the West’s will to resist not just terrorism but any ideological challenge at all.

But al-Qaeda didn’t create the ugly streak of nihilism and self-loathing that afflicts too many Western intellectuals. Nor, I believe, is it a natural development. …

Consider the following propositions:

  • There is no truth, only competing agendas.
  • All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.
  • There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.
  • The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.
  • Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
  • The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)
  • For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But “oppressed” people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
  • When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.

These ideas travel under many labels: postmodernism, nihilism, multiculturalism, Third-World-ism, pacifism, “political correctness” to name just a few. It is time to recognize them for what they are, and call them by their right name: suicidalism.

Trace any of these back far enough (e.g. to the period between 1930 and 1950 when [the KGB's] Department V was at its most effective) and you’ll find a Stalinist at the bottom. Among the more notorious examples w[e]re: Paul de Man — racist and Nazi propagandist turned Stalinist, and fonder of postmodernism; Jean-Paul Sarte, who described the effects of Stalinism as “humane terror” and helped invent existentialism; and Paul Baran, who developed the thesis that capitalism depended on the immiseration of the Third World after Marx’s immiseration of the proletariat failed to materialize.

Al-Qaeda didn’t launch any of these memes into the noosphere, but it relies on them for political cover. They have another effect as well: when Islamists characterize the West as “decadent”, and aver that it is waiting to collapse in on itself at the touch of jihad, they are describing quite correctly and accurately the effects of Western suicidalism.

In other words, we are potential victims of terrorism and other extremist attacks not just because “they” want to kill “us,” but because some of “us” don’t think “we” deserve to live. Well, those folks no doubt think they deserve to live, but not the rest of the Westerners.

Read the whole thing. Really.

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