This page is from the original Don't Let Me Stop You blog. We have moved to a new site: Visit DLMSY on WordPress.

Friday, June 24, 2005

What Karl Rove Said

A lot of attention has been focused on Rove's remarks in a speech in New York City. Thanks to the New York Post Online Edition you can read what he said in context, rather than relying on soundbites.

Sounds pretty accurate to us. A bit on the blunt side, but he's got nothing on Howard Dean or Little Dickie Durbin on that score.

MoveOn has denied opposing the invasion of Afghanistan, as Rove said, but Byron York has the goods on them. The Post also has a good editorial on the speech and the furor.

Statues Disrobe

Ashcroft and Statue
We've all heard the story of former Attorney General John Ashcroft and his statuesque friend at the right. We know how the prudish Ashcroft had the statutes covered to hide their nudity because they made him uncomfortable. Now that Alberto Gonzales is in charge, the AP tells us, it's time to let the good times roll:
Ashcroft Gone, Justice Statues Disrobe: "WASHINGTON - With barely a word about it, workers at the Justice Department Friday removed the blue drapes that have famously covered two scantily clad statues for the past 3 1/2 years.

The drapes, installed in 2002 at a cost of $8,000, allowed then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to speak in the Great Hall without fear of a breast showing up behind him in television or newspaper pictures. They also provoked jokes about and criticism of the deeply religious Ashcroft.

The 12-foot, 6-inch aluminum statues were installed shortly after the building opened in the 1930s."
Silly, childish Ashcroft uncomfortable around nude statues, now there's something all right-thinking people can chortle about. With the story now so well-established, the AP reporter, Mark Sherman, lets us in on a little more of the joke:
"In the past, snagging a photo of the attorney general in front of the statues has been somewhat of a sport for photographers."
Indeed it was. We daresay it was a bit of a sport for reporters to write sneering stories about Ashcroft based on the pictures, too.
"When former Attorney General Edwin Meese released a report on pornography in the 1980s, photographers dived to the floor to capture the image of him raising the report in the air, with the partially nude female statue behind him.

The first attorney general to use the blue drapery was Republican Richard Thornburgh, attorney general under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He had the drapery put up only for a few occasions when he was appearing in the Great Hall, rather than permanently installed as it was under Ashcroft."
So the sport extends to Republican Attorneys General in general. But there's even more to the story than that, as Jay Nordlinger tells us in this farewell article about Ashcroft on National Review Online:
"The war aside, this AG has been swimming in bad raps. Maybe the baddest of them all has been Breastgate. Surely you are familiar with the statues that live in the Great Hall of the Justice Department: the Spirit of Justice (a lady) and the Majesty of Law (a gent). (Spirit has a nickname, by the way: Minnie Lou.) Because these statues are partially nude, they are noticed only during conservative Republican administrations. Minnie Lou and her one exposed breast became famous when photographers gleefully took their picture with Ed Meese, as he announced President Reagan's report on pornography back in the mid 1980s. The presence of the Breast was thought to have 'stepped on' the administration's 'message.' Washington liberals are still yukking about that one today.

The Breast was pretty quiet during the eight years of Janet Reno. As one peeved administration official puts it, 'No cameraman was ever at Reno's feet, trying to get a shot of her with that thing.' But Minnie Lou's outstanding feature stormed back with Ashcroft. When President Bush visited the Justice Department to rededicate the building to Robert Kennedy, his advance men insisted on a nice blue backdrop: 'TV blue,' infinitely preferable to the usual dingy background of the Great Hall. Everyone thought the backdrop worked nicely -- made for 'good visuals,' as they say. This was Deaverism, pure and simple. Ashcroft's people intended to keep using it.

An advance woman on his team had the bright idea of buying the backdrop: It would be cheaper than renting it repeatedly. So she did -- without Ashcroft's knowledge, without his permission, without his caring, everyone in the department insists. But ABC put out the story that Ashcroft, the old prude, had wanted the Breast covered up, so much did it offend his churchly sensibilities. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, ever clever, wrote that Ashcroft had forced a 'blue burka' on Minnie Lou. Comedians had a field day (and are still having it). The Washington Post has devoted great space to the story, letting Cher, for example, tee off on it -- as she went on to do on David Letterman's show."
So who's immature here, John Ashcroft or the ones pointing, laughing and saying "boobie?" Anyone taking any bets on how long before Minnie Lou's breasts start appearing in photos of Alberto Gonzales?

Technorati: ,

George Will on Kelo

George Will has an interesting take on the Kelo v. New London decision, through the prism of "judicial activism" vs. "judicial restraint"
George Will: Damaging 'Deference': "Liberalism triumphed Thursday. Government became radically unlimited in seizing the very kinds of private property that should guarantee individuals a sphere of autonomy against government.

Conservatives should be reminded to be careful what they wish for. Their often-reflexive rhetoric praises 'judicial restraint' and deference to -- it sometimes seems -- almost unleashable powers of the elected branches of governments. However, in the debate about the proper role of the judiciary in American democracy, conservatives who dogmatically preach a populist creed of deference to majoritarianism will thereby abandon, or at least radically restrict, the judiciary's indispensable role in limiting government."
He has a point. If judicial "restraint" means sitting by and doing nothing as the government encroaches further and further into the lives of the people, it's no improvement on "activism." This is not just a matter of semantics, but the meanings of the terms do obscure the issues somewhat.

Conisder a situation where decades or even centuries of case law precedents exist. Generally, courts are expected to give great weight to the decisions of prior courts and regard them as settled law. However, if previous judicial activism is reversed, is that decision "activism" or "restraint?" Depending upon one's definitions of the terms, either one might be descriptive. In our own view, reflexively letting prior "activism" stand would be to condone it, creating a "one-way street." Not only is this not a winning strategy, it doesn't make any sense to insist that "restraint" means always letting bad precedents stand, unless the objective is to discredit the idea of "judicial restraint."

If the precedents have greatly reduced the limitations on government imposed by the original constitutional language, how much respect is due these precedents? Is is "activism" to return to the original meaning of the constitution? Will suggests that it is, and that does conform to the normal meaning of the word. Certainly, those opposed to restoring prior limits on government power will call such a ruling "judicial activism."

In the Kelo case precedents have now stripped away essentially all restraint on the power of eminent domain. This has been done incrementally, gradually, with looser and looser interpretations of "public use." Justice Clarence Thomas called for revisiting several previous rulings on "takings" with an eye toward reversing them, and we applaud him for that. A case can be made for calling this "restraint" rather than "activism" in that "restraint" is being retroactively applied in reversing previous "activism."

A better term for this philosphy is "originalist," as Thomas bases his arguments on the original language and meaning of the constitution. We tend to also think of it as "judicial restraint," although as Will points out, this can get confusing. In any case, there is plenty of original language supporting the intent that the courts can and should restrain the power of the federal, state, and local governments.

Technorati: , , ,

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Sage Advice

From Ann Coulter:
"Here's a foolproof method for keeping America safe: Always do the exact 180-degree opposite of whatever Jimmy Carter says as quickly as possible. (Instead of Guantanamo, how about we close down the Carter Center?)"
Sounds like a plan.

SCOTUS to Kelo: Drop Dead

It's a sad day for America. The US Supreme Court severely restricted the property rights of ordinary citizens in its decision in the Kelo v. New London case:
Institute for Justice: Property Rights Cases: New London, CT: "Washington, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a blow to home and small business owners throughout the country by allowing the government to use eminent domain to take homes so that businesses can make more money off that land and possibly pay more taxes as a result."
Tycho and I have written about this topic previously, when hopes were still high that The Court would protect citizens from thieving, local governments. Sadly, instead the previous protections have been gutted. SCOTUSblog has more on the story.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the abortion that is the majority opinion. He was joined in his treachery by Justices Steven Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, David Souter, and Anthony Kennedy. "Swing voter" Kennedy, showing once again that he is not a reliable vote against ever-expanding government, wrote a separate, concurring opinion, apparently trying to soften the blow slightly.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote the dissent, which was joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Justice Clarence Thomas. It reads in part:
KELO V. NEW LONDON: "Over two centuries ago, just after the Bill of Rights was ratified, Justice Chase wrote:
"'An act of the Legislature (for I cannot call it a law) contrary to the great first principles of the social compact, cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority... A few instances will suffice to explain what I mean... [A] law that takes property from A. and gives it to B: It is against all reason and justice, for a people to entrust a Legislature with such powers; and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done it.' Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 388 (1798)" (emphasis deleted).
Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded--i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public--in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings 'for public use' is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property--and thereby effectively to delete the words 'for public use' from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Accordingly I respectfully dissent.


Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result. “[T]hat alone is a just government,” wrote James Madison, “which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.” For the National Gazette, Property, (Mar. 29, 1792), reprinted in 14 Papers of James Madison 266 (R. Rutland et al. eds. 1983)."[emphasis added by Abe]
Exactly right, and very well-put. While joining Justice O'Connor's dissent, Justice Thomas also wrote a separate dissent:
KELO V. NEW LONDON: "Long ago, William Blackstone wrote that 'the law of the land... postpone[s] even public necessity to the sacred and inviolable rights of private property.' 1 Commentaries on the Laws of England 134-135 (1765) (hereinafter Blackstone). The Framers embodied that principle in the Constitution, allowing the government to take property not for 'public necessity,' but instead for 'public use.' Amdt. 5. Defying this understanding, the Court replaces the Public Use Clause with a " '[P]ublic [P]urpose' " Clause, ante, at 9-10 (or perhaps the "Diverse and Always Evolving Needs of Society" Clause, ante, at 8 (capitalization added)), a restriction that is satisfied, the Court instructs, so long as the purpose is "legitimate" and the means "not irrational," ante, at 17 (internal quotation marks omitted). This deferential shift in phraseology enables the Court to hold, against all common sense, that a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a "public use."

I cannot agree. If such 'economic development' takings are for a 'public use,' any taking is, and the Court has erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution, as Justice O'Connor powerfully argues in dissent. Ante, at 1-2, 8-13. I do not believe that this Court can eliminate liberties expressly enumerated in the Constitution and therefore join her dissenting opinion. Regrettably, however, the Court's error runs deeper than this. Today's decision is simply the latest in a string of our cases construing the Public Use Clause to be a virtual nullity, without the slightest nod to its original meaning. In my view, the Public Use Clause, originally understood, is a meaningful limit on the government's eminent domain power. Our cases have strayed from the Clause's original meaning, and I would reconsider them."
Thus, Justice Thomas would go further and consider narrowing previous decisions that have opened the hole that the majority just drove its big-government-truck through. Good for him. He goes to considerable length in developing his arguments, which we summarize with this quote, "The most natural reading of the [5th Amendment, 'Takings'] Clause is that it allows the government to take property only if the government owns, or the public has a legal right to use, the property, as opposed to taking it for any public purpose or necessity whatsoever." Readers are invited to read his entire, well-written dissent. Contrary to claims in the racist rantings of Harry Reid, Thomas thinks and writes quite well, thank you.

Note which justices are on the side of "the little guys" and which are favoring the "powerful special interests" in their decision. The court liberals are happy to let government take the property of the politically weak and give it to the well-connected. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Technorati: , , ,

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Is Apology a Lost Art?

People in the public eye often say or do stupid things that lead to calls for them to apologize. Sometimes these even result in apologies, but often the "apology" is quite a bit less than a real apology. It may come with a giant "but," or there may be an "if" that all but invalidates it.

These psuedo apologies are frequently taken at face value today. As the famous 1971 episode with Dick Cavett and Lester Maddox shows, this was not always the case:
On the Media: "DICK CAVETT: Well the thing that really started the trouble, I guess -- it might have gone off as a sort of strained but pleasant, ironic show -- was for some reason I chose to say -- in going to commercial -- a question that began with 'Of the bigots who voted for you--'

BROOKE GLADSTONE:[LAUGHS] For some reason, that caused trouble.

DICK CAVETT: Yeah. I don't know why. I mean I asked everybody that but-- [LAUGHS] [LAUGHTER]

Anyway. The next thing I hear from Lester is-- [MIMICKING] You've got one minute to apologize! You've called all the people of Georgia bigots - and the people of Georgia are not bigots!

And this went on for a bit, and then I finally said -- all right. If I've called anyone a bigot who isn't a bigot, I apologize. Well, Lester saw through this and pulled out or -and exited.

And then Truman had the wit to say: [MIMICKING] You know, I went to his--restaurant and I-- ate there, and I had the chicken. And it wasn't finger-lickin' good. [LAUGHTER] I bet you thought I had Truman right here, talking into the phone. [LAUGHS]"
Both Maddox and Cavett knew that "If I've called anyone a bigot who isn't a bigot, I apologize," is no apology at all.

When he had no other choice, Trent Lott issued this pseudo apology for his foolish remarks reminiscing about "the good ol' days" when Strom Thurmond was a segregationist: - Lott apologizes for Thurmond comment - Dec. 10, 2002: "'A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embraced the discarded policies of the past,' Lott said. 'Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement.'"
Note the suggestion that the whole thing was a misunderstanding by some people, rather than what he really said and the implications of that.

This week we have Dick Durbin's pseudo apology for trivializing institutionalized mass murder and comparing American servicemen to Nazis, Stalinists, and Khmer Rouge killers: - Politics - Durbin Apologizes for Nazi, Gulag, Pol Pot Remarks: "'I am sorry if anything I said caused any offense or pain to those who have such bitter memories of the Holocaust, the greatest moral tragedy of our time. Nothing, nothing should ever be said to demean or diminish that moral tragedy.

'I am also sorry if anything I said cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military. ... I never ever intended any disrespect for them. Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line. To them I extend my heartfelt apology,' Durbin said, choking on his words."
Although Senator Frist (and others) immediately accepted the "apology" (probably with a huge sigh of relief), it's really not much of an apology. Note what he doesn't say: that he sees that his previous speech was offensive and that he regets saying those things. It's all, "I'm sorry if..." He threw in a few tears with the delivery, but it's hard to escape the idea that what was really upsetting Durbin was having painted himself into a corner.

When Teresa Heinz Kerry suggested that Laura Bush didn't know much because she had never had a real job, Heinz Kerry knew she had gone too far. As apologies by public figures go, hers was pretty darned good: - Teresa Heinz Kerry apologizes for Laura Bush comment: "In a statement issued Wednesday, Heinz Kerry said: 'I had forgotten that Mrs. Bush had worked as a school teacher and librarian, and there couldn't be a more important job than teaching our children. As someone who has been both a full-time mom and full-time in work force, I know we all have valuable experiences that shape who we are. I appreciate and honor Mrs. Bush's service to the country as first lady and am sincerely sorry I had not remembered her important work in the past.'"
Nebraska Democratic Party Executive Director Barry Rubin did a respectable job with his apology for calling Carlos Castillo a "Tio Tomas", although it took Rubin a few days of stonewalling to get around to it:
Lincoln Journal Star: "'I want to extend my apology to each and every person who was offended by my comments,' Rubin said in a news release.

'Our party is one of inclusion and outreach,' he said.'I'm afraid that in my effort to defend the rights of those Nebraskans who were denied the right to vote in the November election I may have offended those I was seeking to protect.'"
Rubin had also called Castillo on the phone to "offer my apology for offending him" in person, but Castillo would not take the call. We note that apologizing for "offending him" is not quite the same as apologizing for "making offensive remarks," as it still suggests the problem was with the target not the remark.

Howard Dean's "Confederate Flag remark" passed without a true apology, although he retroactively claimed he had already apologized: - Dean: 'I apologize' for flag remark - Nov. 7, 2003: "Dean didn't apologize for his remarks that night, stressing that his intentions were to bring together races that have been divided by the Republicans since the late 1960s.

On Wednesday, he said he regretted any pain that his comments may have caused to Southern white and African-American voters 'in the beginning of this discussion' on race.

In his remarks at Cooper Union in New York, he said he didn't condone the use of the Confederate flag and asserted that there is only one flag -- the American flag.

On Thursday, Dean said the regret he expressed was an apology.

'I got off to a pretty clumsy start by making references to the Confederate flag and that was a painful reference for a number of people and I regret that and apologize for it.'"
Some might contend that the last sentence here represents an actual apology. We'd say it all depends on what the meaning of "that" is.

Eason Jordan of CNN, who resigned after the quietest firestorm in history, was said by some to have apologized here for stating repeatedly that American forces were "targeting" journalists in Iraq: - CNN executive resigns after controversial remarks - Feb 11, 2005: "'After 23 years at CNN, I have decided to resign in an effort to prevent CNN from being unfairly tarnished by the controversy over conflicting accounts of my recent remarks regarding the alarming number of journalists killed in Iraq,' Jordan said in a letter to colleagues.' [...]

Several participants said he told the audience that U.S. forces had deliberately targeted some journalists. But Jordan strongly denied that he had made such a suggestion and said he did not believe journalists had been deliberately targeted. In his letter to staff on Friday, he said he had 'great admiration and respect for the men and women of the U.S. armed forces,' noting that he was embedded with them in Baghdad, Tikrit and Mosul. He said he has also spent time with U.S. soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in Afghanistan, the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the Persian Gulf.

'I never meant to imply U.S. forces acted with ill intent when U.S. forces accidentally killed journalists, and I apologize to anyone who thought I said or believed otherwise,' Jordan said."
We re-read the entire article searching for an apology, and this was as close as we could get. It still misses by a mile. Considering that Jordan and CNN blocked the release of the videotape of his remarks, it's hard to credit his version of events.

When we screw up, we say, "Sorry Boss. I made a mistake and the project is delayed," or "Sorry, Honey, I forgot to do that job I promised to do this weekend." We also have learned to do it sooner rather than later. It would be nice if our public figures could do the same.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Cheer Up, Conservatives

Sometimes we get discouraged about the slowness/timidity of the Republican Congress in actually implementing Republican ideas. We also wonder if Republicans really have any interest in actually cutting government, now that they control it. Two Brits who write for The Economist, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, remind us of positives in this article from OpinionJournal:
"Conservatives whinge that George Bush has presided over a huge increase in federal spending. Social Security reform is stalled. A plan to deprive the Democrats of the power to filibuster Supreme Court nominees failed at the 11th hour, when seven Republican Senators defected. America is confronting protracted resistance in Iraq. And, needless to say, liberals remain firmly in charge of the commanding heights of American culture, from the Ivy League to the Hollywood studios.

All true. But it is time for conservatives to cheer up. Fixate on a snapshot of recent events and pessimism makes sense. Stand back and look at the grand sweep of things and the darkness soon lifts. There are two questions that really matter in assessing the current state of conservatism: What direction is America moving in? And how does the United States compare with the rest of the world? The answer to both questions should encourage the right."
The article is just full of reasons for optimism, so you know you want to read the rest.

Iraq Rebels Battling Foreign Terrorists

There's some very postitive news on the situation in Iraq, and, oddly enough, it's from the New York Times. (H/T Best of the Web). The bad guys are fighting each other.
Marines See Signs Iraq Rebels Are Battling Foreign Fighters - New York Times: "Marines patrolling this desert region near the Syrian border have for months been seeing a strange new trend in the already complex Iraqi insurgency. Insurgents, they say, have been fighting each other in towns along the Euphrates from Husayba, on the border, to Qaim, farther west. The observations offer a new clue in the hidden world of the insurgency and suggest that there may have been, as American commanders suggest, a split between Islamic militants and local rebels. A United Nations official who served in Iraq last year and who consulted widely with militant groups said in a telephone interview that there has been a split for some time.

'There is a rift,' said the official, who requested anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the talks he had held. 'I'm certain that the nationalist Iraqi part of the insurgency is very much fed up with the Jihadists grabbing the headlines and carrying out the sort of violence that they don't want against innocent civilians.

'The nationalist insurgent groups, 'are giving a lot of signals implying that there should be a settlement with the Americans,' while the Jihadists have a purely ideological agenda, he added. The insurgency is largely hidden, making such trends difficult to discern. But marines in this western outpost have noticed a change. For Matthew Orth, a Marine sniper, the difference came this spring, when his unit was conducting an operation in Husayba. Mortar shells flew over the unit, hitting a different target.

'The thought was, 'They're coming for us. But then we saw they were fighting each other,' he recalled during a break in Monday's operation. 'We were kind of wondering what happened. We were getting mortared twice a day, and then all of a sudden it stopped.'"
This could be a hugely positive development. At the very least they are doing the work of the coalition and the ING/IP forces for us. Obviously, the foreign jihadis are not interested in a peaceful, democratic Iraq, but perhaps that is starting to look good to local insurgents.

Global Warming

Contrary to what we hear from Algore and other proponents of the Kyoto Treaty, the science of global warming is far from settled. This is one of the main reasons Pres. Clinton never submitted the treaty for ratification. Today's Wall Street Journal (subscription only link) looks at some data in "Kyoto by Degrees."
Global Temperature Chart
"So what would be a fair representation of how most scientists view the climate of the past 1,000 years? We'd suggest the graph nearby, which we reprint exactly as it appeared in the first report of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (hardly a group of oil-funded hacks) in 1990. It shows that our own warming period is neither unique nor all that hot.

There are other reasons to doubt the global warming alarums. For example, the computer models that predict it suggest the upper atmosphere should have warmed substantially in recent decades. But data from weather balloons and satellites don't match the projections.

There's also the matter of the alleged melting of the Antarctic ice cover, threatening a catastrophic sea level rise. In fact, recent data suggest the ice is thickening and temperatures are dropping in most of the continent. Finally, an increasing number of scientists are concluding that variations in solar radiation associated with sun spots -- that's right, the heat of the sun -- play a major role in Earth's climate.

To add it all up, the Earth is slightly warmer than it used to be a century ago, but no one knows why. Even if fossil fuels were the cause, Kyoto would make little difference, especially with China and India understandably bent on oil-fueled growth to lift their citizens out of poverty. And a warmer Earth may not be any worse than a colder one, certainly not for the longer growing seasons it would allow in the world's temperate zones. None of this justifies passing, for the first time, limits on greenhouse gases that would impose hundreds of billions of dollars in compliance costs on American energy production."

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Escultura Still Riding Dead Horse

Just when we thought it was safe to go back on the internet, The Manila Times publishes another column by Dr. Edgar Escultura. Once again Escultura is claiming that he has refuted Dr. Andrew Wiles' proof of Fermat's Last Theorem (FLT). We have six previous posts at Don't Let Me Stop You on this topic, so it is at considerable risk of beating our own dead horse that we embark upon a seventh. The most recent post has links leading to the others. Alternatively, use the Google or Technorati search boxes on this page and "Fermat" to find the entire list.

Before we get into the "meat," such as it is, of Escultura's arguments let's cover some background information. The Wikipedia article on FLT is a good, general review of the history of the topic. Wikipedia articles are "living" documents, and readers may submit additions/corrections to any article. The editors for that page then decide whether or not to incorporate the suggestions. A review of the "Discussion" and "History" tabs for the Wikipedia page shows that the editors have explicitly rejected Escultura's claims.

The equation of FLT is: x^n + y^n = z^n
where x, y, z and n are all variables representing positive integers (1, 2, 3, 4, ...). The "^n" notation indicates that "n" is an exponent (e.g. x^2 = x * x; x^3 = x * x * x; etc.). For n = 1 it is easy to find x, y, z groups that satisfy the equation. For n = 2 we have the Pythagorean Theorem, relating the lengths of the sides of right triangles. There are groups of x, y, and z that satisfy the equation for n = 2. For example 3, 4, 5 -> 9 + 16 = 25, which is true.

Fermat suggested that for n = 3 or greater, there are no groups of x, y, and z for which the equation is true. He proved it for n = 4, and proofs have been made for some other specific values of n, but the general case (n = 5, 6, 7, ...) remained unproven for 357 years. Since there are an infinite number of values of "n" to examine, and for each "n" an infinite number of x, y, z groups to examine, proving the general case is obviously difficult.

Note also that there are two separate issues at stake here:
  1. Is FLT true?
  2. Is the proof of FLT supplied by Wiles and Richard Taylor valid?
If an error in the Wiles and Taylor proof were found, the proof would be invalidated, but FLT itself might still be true. It would merely be, once again, unproven. Indeed, an earlier proof in 1993 by Wiles and Taylor was found to contain an error. The revised proof, published in 1994, overcame that problem.

On the other hand, if a single set of x, y, z (positive integers) and integer value of "n" greater than 2 can be plugged into the equation and give a true result, then FLT itself would be proven false. In such a case it would be clear that there must be an error somewhere in the Wiles/Taylor proof of FLT, and it would only be a matter of finding it.

With that completed we move on to what Dr. Escultura says in his latest Manila Times column:
"The central issue here is whether FLT is true or not. The answer is quite categorical: it is false. This is established by countable counterexamples published in several renowned journals, particularly, Nonlinear Studies, Vol. 5, No. 2, September 1998, pp. 227-254. Those who understood the issue including most mathematicians refuted neither the conclusion nor the counterexamples."
So Escultura claims that FLT itself is false, and that he has "countable counterexamples" that establish this. We can't see the significance of "countable" in this, but whatever. A single group of integers (n, x, y, and z) that fit the equation would refute FLT, definitively, forever. So why does he not provide a single example from his "countable counterexamples" in his column? Four integers is all it would take. Where are they?
"Andrew Wiles came into the picture only because he earlier claimed that he had proved this conjecture. He published his work in Johns Hopkins University's Annals of Mathematics, 1995, a local US publication. The counterexamples proved that (a) FLT is false, (b) Wiles is wrong, (c) Fermat's conjecture is false and (d) the Annals of Mathematics erred in publishing Wiles' erroneous proof."
So Nonlinear Studies is a "renowned journal," while Annals of Mathematics is just "a local US publication," according to Dr. Escultura. We note that NS has been published since 1993 and is located in Daytona Beach, Florida. On the other hand AoM has been published since 1884, giving it a 109-year headstart on earning "renown" among "local US publications." The online archiving and indexing service for scholarly journals, JSTOR, selects the best journals in a wide variety of scientific disciplines. They don't cover NS, but JSTOR says about AoM, "It is widely regarded as one of the main mathematics journals in the world." Readers are invited to follow the links to each journal's site for further information.

We note that AoM has not published any retraction/correction of Wiles and Taylor's paper in the 6 1/2 years since Escultura's paper. If the NS paper discloses any groups of four integers that represent counterexamples to FLT, it has certainly taken quite awhile for mathematicians around the world to plug them into their calculators.

Escultura continues:
"Wiles' admission of error registered on my guess [sic] book confirmed by two more messages of his and reinforced by a message from Wiles' former collaborator, Richard Taylor, was a graceful exit and a bonus to the resolution of FLT. It neither adds to nor subtracts from the resolution of FLT. However, those who did not understand the issue but were disappointed by this turn of events raised a side issue: whether the message was a hoax. They had hoped for a disclaimer from Wiles that never came."
He is still claiming, with no evidence whatsoever, that anonymous entries in his web site guest book are from Wiles. As we noted previously, anyone can post there under any name they select. In fact, a specific denial from Wiles did come in email correspondence with Alecks Pabico.
Not everyone was pleased by this outcome. Mr. A. Pabico of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, a small outfit at the University of the Philippines, called me posing as a mathematical enthusiast. The first few words of our conversation quickly revealed he wasn’t; he was fishing for some skeleton in my closet. Unsuccessful, he pointed to a typo and an error in detail in Rony Diaz’s May 5 article on FLT in The Manila Times as major mathematical blunder. He used them as basis of an article in the PCIJ website entitled, “Anatomy of a Hoax,” where he claimed that Wiles e-mailed him a disclaimer. What? Andrew Wiles sending a disclaimer to a total stranger who is not even a mathematician?
This seems to us a gross mischaracterization of Pabico's article, but judge for yourself whose writing is more credible. In any case, Pabico contacted Wiles by email at an address from the Princeton Univ. website. They exchanged several messages, and Wiles categorically denied being the author of the entries in Escultura's website guestbook. Escultura seems to suggest some imposter might have broken into Wiles' email account at Princeton, intercepted all of Pabico's messages, and sent forged replies for the sole purpose of preventing Wiles from authenticating the guestbook entries. Since Pabico initiated the contact with Wiles through a Princeton email address, this information is as good as Pabico's word, which is far better than any anonymous guest book entry.

Escultura then attempts to authenticate the previous, obviously forged, "Wiles" guestbook entries with this, obviously forged guestbook entry:
"As a former collaborator of Andrew Wiles (on the FLT proof) I have to congratulate you with your spectacular discovery. Andrew and I are of course delighted to acknowledge you as a far greater luminary of science than we could ever hope to be. We kneel before you in humbleness and would be honored to offer you our feeble efforts in further developing your alternative theory of mathematics and FLT. Sincerely, R. Taylor"
Give us a moment here to stop laughing and catch our breath. There, that's better. What's next, a guestbook entry from Pierre de Fermat himself affirming Escultura's brilliance? The failure of Fermat to disclaim the entry can then "prove" that it's authentic.

We will skip the rest of Escultura's article, which describes his alternative mathematics system. We will note, however, that Escultura's "refutation" of FLT is only valid in the special mathematical universe he has created, at best. Since FLT is cast in the standard number system, disproving it by changing the rules is not much of a feat.

P.S. We thought this story couldn't get any wackier, but then we re-read the comments thread with Alecks Pabico's article. The Manila Times has just published an article saying Escultura has been nominated for a Nobel Prize in physics:
"TWO members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences confirmed in separate messages that Prof. Edgar E. Escultura has been nominated for the 2005 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Dr. Johannes Hieber told Escultura that 'we have read your work on the Grand Unified Theory and deem it worthy of a nomination for the Nobel Prize for Physics.'

Dr. Lars Jonhagen in an e-mail that Escultura received on June 15 said: 'You, sir, have demonstrated such a high level of understanding of Physics and, as such, your nomination is very special.'
At this point we're betting these "messages" from the Academy were actually posted in his "guess book." Reading between the lines here, it seems that once again Escultura is the sole source the Manila Times contacted about the claim.

Technorati: , , , , , ,