Monday, October 30, 2006

Daylight saving time

[Note the lack of citations in the criticism section.]

Daylight saving time (DST), also known as summer time, is a widely used system of adjusting the official local time forward, usually by one hour from its official standard time, for the spring, summer, and early autumn periods. The term Daylight savings time, although commonly used, is technically incorrect.

DST is most commonly used in temperate regions, due to the considerable variation in the amount of daylight versus darkness across the seasons in those regions.

Governments often tout it as an energy conservation measure, on the grounds that it allows more effective use of natural sunlight resource in summer time. Since there is less darkness in the "waking day", there is less use of electric lights. Some opponents reject this argument (see below, Criticism).

Europeans commonly refer to the system as summer time: Irish Summer Time, British Summer Time, and European Summer Time. This is reflected in the time zones' names as well, e.g., Central European Time (CET) becomes Central European Summer Time (CEST)....

Rationales for DST

One of the major reasons given for observing DST is energy conservation. Theoretically, the amount of residential electricity needed in the evening hours is dependent both on when the sun sets and when people go to bed. Because people tend to observe the same bedtime year-round, by artificially moving sunset one hour later, the amount of energy used is theoretically reduced. A 1975 United States Department of Transportation study showed that DST would theoretically reduce the country's electricity usage by 1% from March to April, if implemented during these months.[3] These numbers have been supported in Mexico, which began implementing daylight savings time in 1996. Evaluations show a national savings of 0.7% of national electric consumption (1.3 billion KWh TWh) and reduction of peak load by 500MW[4].

Part of the reason that it is normally observed only in the early spring, summer, and early autumn instead of the winter months is that the amount of energy saved by experiencing sunset one hour later would be negated by the increased need for artificial morning lighting due to a later sunrise. During the summer most people would wake up after the sun rises, regardless of whether daylight saving time is in effect or not, so there is no increased need for morning lighting to offset the afternoon drop in energy usage. Another reason for not observing daylight saving time in the winter is concern about children walking to school in the dark.

Another argued benefit of DST is increased opportunities for outdoor activities, including shopping in tourist areas. Most people plan outdoor activities during sunlight hours. Other benefits cited include prevention of traffic injuries (by allowing more people to return home from work or school in daylight), and crime reduction (by reducing people's risk of being targets of crimes that are more common in dark areas).

When the U.S. went on extended DST in 1974 and 1975 in response to the 1973 energy crisis, Department of Transportation studies found that observing DST in March and April saved 10,000 barrels of oil a day, and prevented about 2,000 traffic injuries and 50 fatalities saving about U.S. $28 million in traffic costs.

Criticism of DST

DST is not universally accepted and many localities do not observe it. Opponents claim that there is not enough benefit to justify the need to adjust clocks twice every year. The disruption in sleep patterns associated with setting clocks either forward or backward correlates with a small increase in the number of fatal auto accidents,[5] (cf. above estimate of net decrease in fatal auto accidents of 50) as well as lost productivity as sleep-disrupted workers adjust to the schedule change.[6] It is also noted that much effort is spent reminding everyone twice a year of the change, and thousands are inconvenienced by showing up at the wrong time when they forget.[citation needed] Since DST exchanges morning daylight for evening daylight, late sunrises occur when DST is in effect either too far before the vernal equinox or too far after the autumnal equinox and darkness in the morning can be undesirable for early risers like schoolchildren and workers who must awaken at 6:30 a.m. or earlier.

There is also a question whether the decrease in lighting costs justifies the increase in summertime air conditioning costs. Workers arriving home to an empty house during hotter hours will need to use more energy to cool their house.[citation needed]

It is also speculated that one of the benefits—more afternoon sun—would also actually increase energy consumption as people get into their cars to enjoy more time for shopping and the like.[citation needed]

DST's twice-annual shifts in recorded time cause legal and business-operational complications, as shown in the following examples. During a North American time change, a fall night during which clocks are reset from 2 a.m. DST to 1 a.m. Standard Time, times between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. will occur twice, causing confusion in transport schedules, payment systems, etc.[citation needed] DST's annual autumn shift in recorded time—which causes an hour of the same numerical name to be recorded twice—also means that people born during one of those two hours have no way to know which of standard time or DST was used to record the time of their birth, unless someone such as a parent makes a note of it; birth certificates rarely keep track of this. A British politician, Lord Balfour, noted the legal complications in British law: "Supposing some unfortunate Lady was confined with twins and the first child was born 10 minutes before 3 o'clock British Summer Time. ... the time of birth of the two children would be reversed. ... Such an alteration might conceivably affect the property and titles in that House."[7]

Daylight saving time also causes much confusion with international business, people who commute across time zones, and computer networks that span multiple time zones. One particular problem for scheduling systems is that it makes the length of a day variable. Each year there is one 23 hour day and one 25 hour day, causing display and time tracking problems, especially when coordinating events between time zones.

Some studies do show that changing the clock increases the traffic accident rate.[8] Following the spring shift to DST, when one hour of sleep is lost, there is a measurable increase in the number of traffic accidents that result in fatalities.

People who work nights often have an extra hassle logging how many hours they worked, since it will be either one hour more or one hour less than the simple difference in start/stop times.

DST is particularly unpopular among people working in agriculture[9] because they must rise with the sun regardless of what the clock says, and thus the people are placed out of synchronization with the rest of the community, including school times, broadcast schedules, and the like.

Other critics suggest that DST is, at its heart, government paternalism and that people rise in the morning as a matter of choice because many people enjoy night-time hours and their jobs do not require them to make the most of daylight. Different people start their day at different times (office workers start their day later than factory workers, who start their day later than farm workers), regardless of daylight saving time.



[How to know how to do it.]
A heuristic is a replicable method or approach for directing one's attention in learning, discovery, or problem-solving. It is originally derived from the Greek "heurisko" (εὑρίσκω), which means "I find". (A form of the same verb is found in Archimedes' famous exclamation "eureka!" – "I have found [it]!") The term was introduced in the 4th century CE by Pappus of Alexandria.

The study of heuristics is sometimes called heuristic, but more often called heuristics. Heuristics, in this sense, is treated as a singular, like physics or mathematics.[1]

The mathematician George Pólya popularized heuristics in the mid–20th century, in his book How to Solve It. He learned mathematical proofs as a student but he did not know, nor was he taught, the way mathematicians arrived at such proofs. How to Solve It is a collection of ideas about heuristics that he taught to maths students – ways of looking at problems and formulating solutions.

How to Solve It describes the following common and simple heuristics:

  • If you are having difficulty understanding a problem, try drawing a picture.
  • If you can't find a solution, try assuming that you have a solution and seeing what you can derive from that ("working backward").
  • If the problem is abstract, try examining a concrete example.
  • Try solving a more general problem first (the "inventor's paradox": the more ambitious plan may have more chances of success).

Adjective: (e.g. "is it heuristic?") applies to research or intellectual pursuits. For example, a good theory or idea may be heuristic in that it attempts to find something out or stimulates further investigation. When critiquing theories in the sciences good theories tend to be heuristic....


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tết Offensive

[Will this month's surge in American deaths in Iraq become a turning-point propaganda victory for the insurgents? An analogue:]
The Tết Offensive (January 30, 1968 - June 8, 1969) was a series of operational offensives during the Vietnam War, coordinated between battalion strength elements of the National Liberation Front's People's Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF or Viet Cong) and divisional strength elements of the North Vietnam's People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), against South Vietnam's Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), and United States military and other ARVN-allied forces. The operations are called the Tết Offensive as they were timed to begin on the night of January 30–31, 1968, Tết Nguyên Đán (the lunar new year day). The offensive began spectacularly during celebrations of the Lunar New Year, and sporadic operations associated with the offensive continued into 1969.

The Tết Offensive can be considered a crushing military defeat for the Communist forces, as neither the Viet Cong nor the North Vietnamese army achieved any of their tactical goals. Furthermore, the operational cost of the offensive was dangerously high, with the Viet Cong essentially crippled by the huge losses inflicted by South Vietnamese and other Allied forces. Nevertheless, the Offensive is widely considered a turning point of the war in Vietnam, with the NLF and PAVN winning an enormous psychological and propaganda victory. Although US public opinion polls continued to show a majority supporting involvement in the war, this support continued to deteriorate and the nation became increasingly polarized over the war.[1] President Lyndon Johnson saw his popularity fall sharply after the Offensive, and he withdrew as a candidate for re-election in March of 1968. The Tết Offensive is frequently seen as an example of the value of propaganda, media influence and popular opinion in the pursuit of military objectives....

In total, the United States estimated that 45,000 Viet Cong and PAVN soldiers were killed, though this figure may be significantly lower due to the nature of overclaims. About 6,000 were captured, with the number of wounded being unclear. The USA, ARVN, and allied Australian and South Korean forces suffered 4,324 killed, 16,063 wounded, and 598 missing....

The Viet Cong's operational forces were effectively crippled by the Offensive. Many Viet Cong who had been operating under cover in the cities of South Vietnam revealed themselves during the Offensive and were killed or captured. The organization was preserved for propaganda purposes, but in practical terms the Viet Cong were finished. Formations that were referred to as Viet cong were in fact largely filled with North Vietnamese replacements. In reality, this change had little effect on the war, since North Vietnam had no difficulty making up the casualties inflicted by the war.[12] The National Liberation Front (the political arm of the Viet Cong) reformed itself as the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam, and took part in future peace negotiations under this name.

The Communist high command did not anticipate the psychological effect the Tết Offensive would have on America. For example, the attack on the U.S. Embassy was allocated only 19 Viet Cong soldiers, and even the expenditure of this force was considered by some VC officers to be misguided. Only after they saw how the U.S. was reacting to this attack did the Communists begin to propagandize it. The timing of the Offensive was determined by the hope that American and South Vietnamese forces would be less vigilant during the Tết holiday. It was purely coincidence that it occurred at a time when it would have maximum effect on a U.S. presidential Election....

That the Communists were able to mount a major, country-wide assault at all was a blow to U.S. hopes of winning the war rapidly, and starkly called into question General Westmoreland's now-infamous public reports of the previous progress in the War. Likewise, the optimistic assessments of the Johnson administration and The Pentagon came under heavy criticism and ridicule.

Seeing the complete collapse of the PAVN/Viet Cong offensive, the lopsided casualty ratio, the lack of a popular uprising in support of the attacks, and the failure of the attacking forces to gain and hold significant territorial assets, Westmoreland considered it an appropriate opportunity for a counteroffensive action. He put together a request for 206,000 additional troops to prosecute the war in the wake of the Offensive, a move that would have required mobilization of the U.S. Reserves.

While this was being deliberated, the request was leaked to the press and published across three columns of the Sunday edition of The New York Times on March 10, 1968. Then-Lieutenant Colonel Dave Palmer later wrote in Summons of the Trumpet: "Looked upon erroneously but understandably by readers as a desperate move to avert defeat, news of the request for 206,000 men confirmed the suspicions of many that the result of the Tết Offensive had not been depicted accurately by the President or his spokesmen. If the Communists had suffered such a grievous setback, why would we need to increase our forces by 40 percent?"

Many people, both at the time and in retrospect, have criticized the U.S. media for the negative light in which it portrayed both the war in general and the Tết Offensive in particular. Earle Wheeler, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, complained of "all the doom and gloom we see in the U.S. press" after Tết.

The most famous example of an anti-war attitude on the part of an influential press figure was Walter Cronkite's special report on the war of February 27, 1968. After touring the ruined streets and battlefields of the Tết Offensive and interviewing discouraged soldiers and officers in the field, he directly criticized the military leadership and the Johnson administration: "We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest cloud." He concluded by saying that the U.S. was "mired in a stalemate" and called for a negotiated end to the conflict.[14]

Days after the publication of the New York Times story concerning Westmoreland's request for additional troops, President Johnson suffered a staggering setback in the United States Democratic Party New Hampshire Primary, finishing barely ahead of United States Senator Eugene McCarthy. Soon after, Senator Robert F. Kennedy announced he would join the contest for the Democratic nomination, further emphasizing the plummeting support for Johnson's Administration in the wake of Tết. Although some have asserted Johnson's lack of support implied the public sought disengagement from Vietnam, others have suggested it was Johnson's failure to prosecute the war effectively that caused his decline at the polls. On March 31, Johnson announced he would not seek reelection, and announced a halt to the bombing of North Vietnam.

Also in March of 1968, Johnson announced that General Westmoreland would be replacing General Harold K. Johnson as Army Chief of Staff. Although technically a promotion, few doubted that Westmoreland was being "kicked upstairs" in response to Tết...[15]


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Jack Thompson

[The warrior.]
John Bruce “Jack” Thompson (born July 25, 1951) is an American attorney and activist against obscenity and violence in media and entertainment, based in Coral Gables, Florida. Thompson describes himself as a Christian conservative and a Republican.[1]

After an initial foray into politics, Thompson concentrated his efforts on activism against obscenity, particularly obscenity in rap music and broadcasts by radio personality Howard Stern. More recently, he has focused on violence as well, particularly in the content of computer and video games and their alleged effects on children....

Thompson first met Janet Reno in November 1975, when he applied for a job as an assistant State’s Attorney in Dade County. He was not hired.[5] In 1988, he ran for prosecutor against then incumbent Dade County State Attorney Janet Reno. At the time, Thompson was involved in a feud with local radio host Neil Rogers and Reno had declined his request to prosecute Rogers.[6] Thompson was instrumental in getting the FCC to fine Miami radio station WIOD $10,000 for airing such parody songs as “Boys Want to Have Sex in the Morning” on Rogers’ show.[2] Thompson also sued the station for violating a December 1987 agreement to end on-air harassment against him. Thompson had complained to the station after Rogers solicited homosexuals to join Thompson on his vacation; Rogers aired Thompson’s address and phone number. Thompson claimed one of the terms of his agreement with the station was that it would pay him $5,000 each time his name was mentioned. For the next eight months he recorded all of Rogers’ broadcasts and documented 40,000 mentionings of his name, so he asked for $200 million in the suit.[7]

Thompson gave Reno a letter at a campaign event requesting that she check a box to indicate whether she was homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual. Thompson said that Reno then put her hand on his shoulder and responded, “I’m only interested in virile men. That’s why I’m not attracted to you.”[8] He filed a police report accusing her of battery for touching him. In response, Reno asked Florida governor Bob Martinez to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate.[9] The special prosecutor rejected the charge and concluded that Thompson did it as “a political ploy.” Reno was ultimately re-elected with 69% of the vote. Thompson repeated allegations that Reno was a lesbian when she was nominated as U.S. Attorney General, leading one of her supporters, lieutenant governor Buddy MacKay, to dismiss him as a “kook.”[8]

In 1990, after his election loss, Thompson began a campaign against the efforts of Switchboard of Miami, a social services group of which Reno was a board member. Thompson charged that the group was placing “homosexual-education tapes” in public schools. Switchboard responded by getting the Florida Supreme Court to order that he submit to a psychiatric examination. Thompson did so and passed, and since then has stated on more than one occasion that he is “the only officially certified sane lawyer in the entire state of Florida....”[10]

Thompson came to national prominence in the controversy over 2 Live Crew’s As Nasty As They Wanna Be album. (Luke Skyywalker Records, the company of 2 Live Crew’s Luther Campbell, had previously released a record supporting Reno in her race against Thompson.)[11] On January 1, 1990, he wrote to Martinez and Reno asking them to investigate whether the album violated Florida obscenity laws. Although the state prosecutor declined to proceed with an investigation, Thompson pushed local officials in various parts of the state to block sales of the album, along with N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton.[12] In sending documents to opponents, Thompson would frequently attach a photocopy of his driver's license, with a photo of Batman pasted over his own, just to make sure they knew who they were dealing with. Thompson said, "I have sent my opponents pictures of Batman to remind them I'm playing the role of Batman. Just like Bruce Wayne helped the police in the movie, I have had to assist the sheriff of Broward County." He also wore a Batman wristwatch.[13] Thompson compared Campbell to the Joker.[14] Thompson also said, “I understand as well as anybody that the First Amendment is a cornerstone of a free society — but there is a responsibility to people who can be harmed by words and thoughts, one of which is the message from Campbell that women can be sexually abused.”[2]

Thompson also took issue with another 2 Live Crew song, "Banned in the USA." Thompson sent a letter to Jon Landau, manager of Bruce Springsteen, whose song "Born in the USA" was to be sampled by the group. Thompson suggested that Landau "protect `Born in the U.S.A.' from its apparent theft by a bunch of clowns who traffic toxic waste to kids," or else Thompson would "be telling the nation about Mr. Springsteen's tacit approval" of the song, which, according to Campbell, "expresses anger about the failure of the First Amendment to protect 2 Live Crew from prosecution."[15] Thompson also said, "the "social commentary" on this album is akin to a sociopath's discharging his AK-47 into a crowded schoolyard, with the machine gun bursts interrupted by Pee Wee Herman's views on politics."[16]

The members of 2 Live Crew responded to these efforts by suing the Broward County sheriff in federal district court. The sheriff had previously told local retailers that selling the album could result in a prosecution for obscenity violations. While they were granted an injunction because law enforcement actions were an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech, the court ruled that the album was in fact obscene. An appellate court reversed the obscenity ruling, however, because simply playing the tape was insufficient evidence of the constitutional requirement that it have no artistic value.[17]

As the debate continued, Thompson wrote, “An industry that says a line cannot be drawn will be drawn and quartered.”[18] He said of his campaign, “I won’t stop till I get the head of a record company or record chain in jail. Only then will they stop trafficking in obscenity.”[19] Bob Guccione Jr., founder of Spin magazine, responded by calling Thompson “a sort of latter-day Don Quixote, as equally at odds with his times as that mythical character was,” and argued that his campaign was achieving “two things...: pissing everybody off and compounding his own celebrity.”[20] Thompson responded by noting, “Law enforcement and I put 2 Live Crew’s career back into the toilet where it began.”[21]

Thompson wrote another letter in 1991, this time to Minnesota attorney general Hubert H. Humphrey III, complaining about the N.W.A album Efil4zaggin. Humphrey warned locally-based Musicland that sales of the album might violate state law against distribution of sexually explicit material harmful to minors. Humphrey also referred the matter to the Minneapolis city attorney, who concluded that some of the songs might fit the legal definition if issued as singles, but that sales of the album as a whole were not prosecutable.[22] Thompson also initiated a similar campaign in Boston.[23] Later, Thompson would criticize the Republican Party for inviting N.W.A member and party donor Eric “Eazy-E” Wright to an exclusive function.[24]

In 1992, Thompson was hired by the Freedom Alliance, a self-described patriot group founded by Oliver North, described as "far-right" by the Washington Post. By this time, Thompson was looking to have Time Warner, then being criticized for promoting the Ice-T song “Cop Killer,” prosecuted for federal and state crimes such as sedition, incitement to riot, and “advocating overthrow of government” by distributing material that, in Thompson's view, advocated the killing of police officers.[25] Time Warner eventually released Ice-T and his band from their contract, and voluntarily suspended distribution of the album on which Cop Killer was featured.

Thompson’s push to label various musical performances obscene was not entirely limited to rap. In addition to taking on 2 Live Crew, Thompson campaigned against sales of the racy music video for Madonna’s “Justify My Love.”[26] Then in 1996, he took on MTV broadcasts for “objectification of women” by writing to the station’s corporate parent, Viacom, demanding a stop to what he called “corporate pollution.”[27] He also went after MTV’s advertisers and urged the U.S. Army to pull recruiting commercials, citing the Army’s recruitment of women and problems with sexual harassment scandals....[28]

More recently, Thompson has heavily criticized a number of video games and campaigned against their producers and distributors. His basic argument is that violent video games have repeatedly been used by teenagers as “murder simulators” to rehearse violent plans. He has pointed to alleged connections between such games and a number of school massacres. According to Thompson, “In every school shooting, we find that kids who pull the trigger are video gamers.”[29] Also, he claims that scientific studies show teenagers process the game environment differently from adults, leading to increased violence and copycat behavior.[30] According to Thompson, “If some wacked-out adult wants to spend his time playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, one has to wonder why he doesn’t get a life, but when it comes to kids, it has a demonstrable impact on their behavior and the development of the frontal lobes of their brain.”[31] Thompson has described the proliferation of games by Sony, a Japanese company, as “Pearl Harbor 2.”[32] According to Thompson, “Many parents think that stores won’t sell an M-rated game to someone under 17. We know that’s not true, and, in fact, kids roughly 50 percent of that time, all the studies show, are able to walk into any store and get any game regardless of the rating, no questions asked.”[33]

Thompson has rejected arguments that such video games are protected by freedom of expression, saying, “Murder simulators are not constitutionally protected speech. They’re not even speech. They’re dangerous physical appliances that teach a kid how to kill efficiently and to love it.” In addition, he has attributed part of the impetus for violent games to the military, saying that it was looking “for a way to disconnect in the soldier’s mind the physical act of pulling the trigger from the awful reality that a life may end.”[34] Thompson further claims that some of these games are based on military training and simulation technologies, such as those being developed at the Institute for Creative Technologies, which, he suggests, were created by the Department of Defense to help overcome soldiers’ inhibition to kill.[35] He also claims that the PlayStation 2's DualShock controller "gives you a pleasurable buzz back into your hands with each kill. This is operant conditioning, behavior modification right out of B.F. Skinner's laboratory."[36]


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

1983 Congressional page sex scandal

The 1983 Congressional page sex scandal was a political scandal in the United States involving members of the United States House of Representatives.

On July 14, 1983 the House Ethics Committee concluded that Rep. Dan Crane (R-Ill.) and Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) had engaged in sexual relationships with minors, specifically 17-year-old congressional pages. In Crane's case, it was a 1980 relationship with a female page and in Studds's case, it was a 1973 relationship with a male page. Both representatives immediately pleaded guilty to the charges and the committee decided to simply reprimand the two.

However, Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) demanded their expulsion. On July 20, 1983 the House voted for censure, the first time that censure had been imposed for sexual misconduct. Crane, who tearfully apologized for his transgression, lost his bid for reelection in 1984.

Studds, however, stood by the facts of the case and refused to apologize for his behavior, and even turned his back and ignored the censure being read to him. He called a press conference with the former page, in which both stated that the young man, who was 17, consented. Studds had taken the adolescent to Morocco to engage in sexual activity, and therefore did not break any U.S. laws in what he called a "private relationship."[1] He continued to be reelected until his retirement in 1996....