Saturday, October 29, 2005

1.5 outta 7 ain't bad

This morning was the Virginia Tech Regional Mathematics Contest. For many, it's a preliminary for the Putnam.

I had two and a half hours to complete seven problems. The idea of these math contests is that any clever student with a few math undergrad courses under their belt can solve every problem. The catch is that you've got to be really freaking clever.

So how did I do? Well, I think I really nailed the second question. I looked at the third problem for a little while, writing out several of its cases, but I just couldn't really wrap my head around it. I worked for the remainder of the time on the fifth problem, a limit in three dimensions. I proved that if the limit exists, it must be zero, but I couldn't prove the existence of a limit.

The important thing to remember is this: If you're ever in need of a premutation (p(1),p(2),…,p(20)) of (1,2,…,20) such that k + p(k) is a power of 2 for k = 1,2,…,20, I'm your man. And I'll even prove its uniqueness for you.

Friday, October 28, 2005

victor's justice

Saddam's trial littered with due process, fairness concerns

Joshua Karstendick is a pre-junior majoring in mathematics and computer science, and he'd like to hear from you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

don't forget this one

For the first time in a long time, I wrote an opinion piece for The Triangle, which was on the subject of my last entry. It will be published Friday, and I hope to post a link to the online version then.

Remember the One Campaign? Around the time of Live 8, I signed their petition and joined their mailing list. Political groups oftentimes send out form letters for congressmen and senators. I sent one of those out once on aid for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. Senator Specter has recently replied, and I'd like to reprint his e-mail in its entirety.

Dear Mr. Karstendick :

Thank you for contacting my office regarding the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria (Global Fund). I appreciate hearing from you.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is nothing short of a global emergency. This hideous disease has claimed the lives of more than 25 million people, including 4 million children, and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that 39.4 million additional people are currently living with HIV/AIDS. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell poignantly described AIDS as "more devastating than any terrorist attack, any conflict or any weapon of mass destruction....AIDS can destroy countries and destabilize entire regions."

The Global Fund represents an innovative approach to foreign aid benefiting those affected by this affliction. The Global Fund, a public-private partnership headquartered in Geneva , Switzerland , was established in January 2002 with the assistance of the United States Government. Grants from the Global Fund can stop AIDS, TB and malaria in their tracks by providing desperately needed treatment, expanding prevention efforts, and supporting public health infrastructure development.

The Global Fund has already approved more than $3.1 billion in grants covering 313 programs in 127 countries. These funds will ensure life-saving treatment is afforded to at least 1.6 million people living with AIDS and will provide voluntary counseling and testing to an additional 52 million people. Programs are already providing treatment and other essential services to thousands of people living with HIV in Ghana , Haiti , Honduras , Rwanda , Thailand , and other countries. However, the Fund will remain viable only through continued financial support from the U.S. and other international donors.

The Global Fund also addresses the greatest killer of those with AIDS - tuberculosis. Treating TB in people with HIV is the best way to extend people's lives from weeks to years. In countries most highly affected by AIDS, 60% of those with TB are HIV positive. TB is an airborne infectious disease and therefore the treatment of TB is critical to protecting public health worldwide.

In my capacity as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) and as a senior member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, I have consistently strived to increase U.S. contributions to fight against HIV/AIDS. In May 2005, I joined some of my Senate colleagues in writing to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee urging them, in conjunction with my Labor Health and Human Services and Education subcommittee, to provide a total of $3.7 billion for all international HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria programs in FY 2006. Of this funding, I urged that $800 million be directed toward the Global Fund. During consideration of the FY 2006 budget, I cosponsored an amendment (S.A. 169), which directed that funding should be appropriated at this level.

In FY 2005 I requested $3.6 billion in funding for global AIDS, including $1.2 billion for the Global Fund, $350 million for all sources for global efforts to control TB, $30 million for UNAIDS and $36 million for the World Health Organization. Ultimately, Congress pledged $2.9 billion for global initiatives to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria including $437.8 million for the Global Fund.

I urged the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations to substantially increase the President's budget for Child Survival and Health Programs to accommodate at least a $1 billion contribution to the Global Fund in FY 2004. Additionally, during debate of the FY 2004 Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, I supported an amendment ( S.A. 1966) to add $289 million to combat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria worldwide. This amendment passed the Senate bringing the total for HIV/AIDS funding to $2.4 billion, $400 million above the President's request.

On May 16, 2003, the Senate passed the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (H.R. 1298). This bill, which became law on May 27, 2003 , directs the President to establish a comprehensive, integrated, five-year global strategy for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, H.R. 1298 authorizes $15 billion over five years for international AIDS programs. On July 10, 2003, I voted in favor of an amendment ( S.A. 1174) to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2004 (S. 925), which affirms Congress' commitment to providing assistance to combat AIDS globally. This amendment passed 78-18.

With the rapid expansion of HIV/AIDS in heavily populated nations such as India , China and Russia , there is a potential of having 100 million infected people by the end of the decade. The challenge the world faces against HIV/AIDS is daunting, but it is a fight that must be met head on by a united global front. The United States , in an unparalleled health aid initiative, has pledged its firm support to battle this crisis.

Thank you again for contacting me. The concerns of my constituents are of great importance to me, and I rely on you and other Pennsylvanians to inform me of your views. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office or visit my website at


Arlen Specter

Now that's how government should be.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

kangaroo court

The following is from Hussein Goes on Trial for Crimes Against Humanity, an article in today's Times:

Few legal organizations outside of Iraq and the United States accept the trial as anything more than a display of "victor's justice." Both Human Rights Watch and the International Center for Transitional Justice, respected groups based in New York, issued statements this month condemning the shoddy research and shaky legal framework that form the backbone of the trial, apparently pieced together for expediency's sake.

Mr. Hussein is being denied effective counsel. For example, there is "an order preventing his lawyers from bringing pens and paper into the courtroom" Ibid. He is also being tried under an ex post facto law. For a discussion of some of the due process violations, see the Saddam Hussein Trial Blog.

Mr. Hussein is not getting a fair trial. Consequently, the Iraqi people and the rest of the world are not getting justice.

Friday, October 14, 2005

'if only they knew how real this life really gets'

I whipped out my tape measure this morning to size up that nipple hair of mine. It's a little over 2 inches long. I think with enough training, discipline and a daily regiment of not cutting it, I have a real shot.

This afternoon, I'm journeying to southeast Philadelphia to UPS to pick up my DSL modem from Verizon. That means I should be online this evening. If I'm not, I'll scream. Loudly. I can't take these computer labs anymore — the lack of preferences, privacy concerns, scarcity. It will be so nice to be able to check e-mail from the comfort of my own home again.

My professor for the Contitution and Judicial Process is a prosecutor in Delaware County. He usually grades our weekly papers, which are due Tuesday, before class on Thursday night, but he didn't have time this week. His excuse? He was in federal court all week.

I'm going to digress here. I remember from the mountain of college brochures I received in high school that many of them were proud to boast that 85, 90, 98 percent of their professors have PhDs. It sounded like a great idea at the time, and many students bought it. I'm glad, however, that I came to Drexel University. My political science course on law is not taught by someone with a PhD in political science who's read up on legal theory; it's taught by a lawyer, a prosecutor. When he taught us the structure of the federal and Pennsylvania courts, he was speaking about places he's presented cases, not places he's read about. The software engineering course required for the computer science major is taught by a software engineer, a consultant who's overseen multi-terabyte databases and legacy software decades old — but who only holds a master's degree. Why wouldn't you want to learn about a profession from someone who excells at it?

This Saturday, Atmosphere is performing at the Trocadero. They're a hip-hop group from Minneapolis. You might have heard their hit single last year, "Trying to Find a Balance." You can read their bios from MTV, VH1 and Rolling Stone. Tickets are only $19. If you'd like to join me, please give me a call or e-mail me.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

believe it or not

Fark posted a link about the world record holder for longest nipple hair.

That guy has never cut his nipple hair, and now he's in the 2006 Guiness record book. This got me thinking, because I trim mine, but they're already around one or two inches. If I refrain from trimming them, could I best this bloke?

I can only hope.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

slaying the dragon of bad originalism

Hooey; or, Why Paper Money Is Unconstitutional is a good yet simple refutation of originalism, the constitutional philosophy of the likes of Justice Scalia and Judge Bork.

The title of this post is taken from a book by Harry Jaffa that was cited in my textbook for PSCI 360, The Constitution and Judicial Process. I finished my paper for this week around 10 a.m., five pages on why Scalia is wrong regarding the application of natural law. If anybody asks for it, I'll post it, but otherwise, I won't. I think jurisprudence is fascinating, but I guess others don't.

Does anyone care that an unqualified crony is on her way to getting Justice O'Connor's seat on the highest court in the land?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

four triangles

As promised, here's my review of Serenity — after it's been mangled by several copy editors. Enjoy the review, and go see Serenity, the best sci-fi movie in the 'verse.

Serenity benefits from strong characters

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I hold these truths to be self-evident

I told Kayla I might let her see my first paper for The Constitution and the Judicial Process, PSCI 360, if I received a good grade for it. Well, I've gotten an A, so I think I'll share it with everyone. The prompt was the following:

Most of the selections you read in chapter one (Winthrop, Madison, Plato, Aristotle, Jefferson, Cicero, Bracton, Locke) presume the existence of natural law. What is natural law? How do we know what is right and wrong under natural law? Are you convinced natural law exists?

Then consider the "Problem" on page 4. If God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai, they establish law superior to natural law because they are found not in human reason but commanded directly by God to humankind. Would John Winthrop or John Adams object to what Judge Moore did? Do you?

In case you don't know who Judge Moore is, he's the guy in Alabama who thought it was a great idea to post the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. I hope you enjoy the paper.

Among the authors in the first assignment, all believed in a god and most believed in natural law, reasoning it to be a consequence of all humans' position as children of God. Bracton, Milton, Hobbes and Locke reached essentially the same conclusion: All humans are created equal. This, whether the consequence of God or other reasons, is the basis of all natural law. That which is wrong under natural law is that which seeks to treat humans unequally. Judge Moore's displays, as they did seek to elevate Christians over all others, are thus wrong according to natural law.

Winthrop believed that differences among humans are the result of God's “most holy and wise providence” (2). As such, he gladly would have a government provide preferential treatment to Christians over all others; indeed, he was on his way to establishing just such a government when he delivered “A Model of Christian Charity.” His characterization of that government as a “citty upon a hill,” although that term has in recent decades taken on a more uplifting sense, is elitist; those who are not Christians, Winthrop does not want on his hill.

Winthrop's elitism and self-righteousness is also seen in St. Augustine. He assumes that the best object of the love of a people is God and thus reasons that the best people are those who love God, but he doesn't stop there. He goes on to say that for any city where God does not rule, “it is devoid of true justice” (15).

Winthrop and Augustine's reasoning is fallacious for it assumes an entire religion to be true. Proving the existence or non-existence of the Christian God or any other god, if such is even possible, is outside the scope of jurisprudence. Fortunately, such assumptions are unnecessary, i.e. one can reason about natural law while assuming far less, indeed without assuming any god at all. Winthrop and Augustine would surely have supported Judge Moore's displays as “obeying His voyce and cleaveing to Him” (3) and loving God “as God ought to be loved” (15). Such opinions are irrelevant, however, as they are not supported by reason.

Aristotle and Cicero mentioned natural law, but only went so far to say that is universal. Aristotle said that natural law “has the same validity everywhere and does not depend upon acceptance” (7). Cicero echoes this, saying “I find that it has been the opinion of the wisest men that Law is not a product of human thought, nor is it any enactment of peoples, but something eternal which rules the whole universe by its wisdom in command and prohibition” (11). Although they describe natural law as universal and above the law of humans, they do not go so far as to define what is natural law. As such, it is difficult to decide their opinions on Judge Moore's displays, but as they lived in ancient Greece and Rome, respectively, it is even more difficult to argue that they thought religious idols to be wrong. Because they believed in deities, they likely believed that honoring them publicly was a just action of a government. Such a belief in deities, however, renders such a conclusion invalid.

On the subject of natural law, Bracton states “that natural law is a certain due which nature allows each man” (24). He says that it is that which “God himself, taught all living things” (24). Although it is not explicit, there is an underlying theme of equality here, for each man is due natural law. This equality is conducive with Bracton's aim to codify English common law. Bracton would not, however, go so far as to condemn Judge Moore's displays, for he was a man of God, but such a decision is biased and not founded on reason.

Milton is more explicit than Bracton regarding man's natural state of equality. He says, “No man who knows aught, can be so stupid to deny that all men naturally were born free, being the image and resemblance of God himself, and were, by privilege above all creatures, born to command and not to obey” (59). Milton, like Bracton, was deeply religious and likely would have supported Judge Moore. England had then and to this day has a national religion established by the government, which Milton likely favored. Like Bracton, his view is biased and unfounded on this issue.

Hobbes believed that humans without government would be in a state of nature, which one today might rightfully call a state of anarchy. Hobbes reasons that “because the condition of man ... is a condition of war of every one against every one – in which case everyone is governed by his own reason and there is nothing he can make use of that may not be a help unto him in preserving his life against his enemies – it follows that in such a condition every man has a right to everything, even to one another's body” (62). Although life in such a state is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” (67), it is completely equal. Hobbes explains this equality in the opening of “Leviathan” when he says, “Nature has made men so equal in the faculties of the body and mind as that ... when all is reckoned together the difference between man and man is not so considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he” (61).

Hobbes discusses civil laws and liberties but lists very few prohibitions on legitimate government actions. “As for other liberties,” Hobbes says, “they depend on the silence of the law” (66). He gives the example of forcible entry, saying that there was a time when it was legal, but now after a statute, it is illegal. Hobbes here places too much trust in governments to uphold the rights of citizens. He should have recognized that as a consequence of his own statement regarding the natural equality of all men, there spring forth many inalienable rights. But since he did not, it is likely that Hobbes would have supported Judge Moore's displays or any other establishment of religion that was not explicitly forbidden by statute. Fortunately for Americans, we have such a prohibition in the First Amendment.

Locke also believed in a state of nature common to all men, “a state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man.” He goes on to explicitly call it “a state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another” (79). Locke arrived at the logical conclusion of this, that humans possess certain inalienable rights. Foremost among them, he listed the rights to life, liberty and property. When Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he borrowed from Locke, listing some of those inalienable rights to be “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (94). Although they disagreed on property, the most important idea is there, that as a result of natural law, i.e. all humans are created equal, we all have certain rights that cannot be violated. Because of this recognition, Locke and Jefferson and other Founding Fathers such as Adams would side against Judge Moore's displays, for they violate the right to liberty, to be free from government establishments of religion.

We see here a progression of Western thought. Aristotle and Cicero recognized that natural law existed. St. Augustine, Bracton, Milton and Hobbes defined it as equality of all humans in their natural state. Locke and Jefferson logically extended this to mean that all humans have certain inalienable rights. These rights include the right to be free from government establishments of religion, because they are unequal for they seek to place one class of people, in this case Christians, above all others. Therefore, Judge Moore's displays are wrong under natural law.

The professor said it was "well-done and thoughtful. You have grasped an important point: the existence of natural law is not dependent on one’s recognition of a God or supreme being Since natural law is by definition discernable in nature through reason, one need not be a believer in God to recognize it. On the other hand, a believer would identify God as the creator of all things and thus of natural law as well."

Of course, the real reason I came to that conclusion is through sheer determination. I would never allow something as important as natural law to have its basis in religion.

I have that class again tonight, and in the next essay, I get to explain how Justice Scalia is all wrong about natural law. Good times.

I'm interested in what other people think about natural law. Does it exist? What is it? How should it be applied?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Make that 20 credits. I added an independent study with a CS professor doing research in computer security. I just couldn't pass up an opportunity like that.

According to Verizon, my DSL will be turned on in a week. That will be such a welcome change over spending so much time in computer labs and at The Triangle.

So, I rejoined The Triangle. I'm just editing copy and writing a little bit for now. When my review of Serenity is published Friday, I'll post a link to it. In short, go see Serenity.

Today in Real Analysis, Prof. Smith proved the existence of the square root of two.

It's lonely at school.