Monday, February 28, 2005

Can't Do the Time....

In Eugene, Oregon, even when you have done the crime:

The continuing saga of Lane County's jail bed shortage brought the release last week of a career burglar who served 12 1/2 years in prison following a murder during a 1983 Florida break-in.

Michael William Duska, 44, got out of Lane County Jail because of overcrowding on Tuesday. That was one day before he was scheduled to be in court to get a 34-month prison sentence for burglaries in Lane County - including one on Christmas Day during which a homeowner with a gun confronted him, according to a police report.

Duska did not show up in court to get his sentence, prompting a judge to complain that he should have stayed in jail.

That's easier said than done in Lane County, says sheriff's Capt. John Clague, who manages the jail, where officials must release inmates virtually every day to comply with a federal court order controlling over- crowding.

To make required releases they use a new assessment tool that weighs more than 50 aspects of an inmate's history, living circumstances and current charges to determine an inmate's risk of failing to appear in court, committing more crimes and violent behavior.

The assessment replaces the former "matrix" system, which took into account only the inmate's current crime and past record.

Duska scored high on the possibilities that, if released, he would fail to appear in court and commit more crimes, Clague says.

Duska ordinarily would not be released, based on his risk level, Clague says.
But with 340 jail beds - not counting 119 idled by budget cuts - someone had to go. To hold

Duska would have meant releasing someone even more risky, Clague says.

"It continues to tell the story: There is not enough jail space to hold people who are a risk," Clague says.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Former President Quarrels With His Treasury Officials

The little woman would be guuud!, says the guy who owes her a bunch:

TOKYO (AP) _ Former president Bill Clinton said Sunday his wife, Hillary, would be an excellent choice as the first female leader of the world's most powerful nation.

...."I don't know if she'll run or not," he told the network, but added, "She would make an excellent president, and I would always try to help her."

...."If she did run and she was able to win, she'd make a very, very good president," Clinton said Sunday.

When asked which of the two was more talented, Clinton was not as direct.

"I was in it more so for a long time I was better. But I think now she's at least as good as I was," he replied.

Connoisseurs of Clinton Administration Human Resources, know that at least one Deputy Ass't Treasury Sec'y disagrees:

My two cents' worth--and I think it is the two cents' worth of everybody who worked for the Clinton Administration health care reform effort of 1993-1994--is that Hillary Rodham Clinton needs to be kept very far away from the White House for the rest of her life.

Heading up health-care reform was the only major administrative job she has ever tried to do. And she was a complete flop at it. She had neither the grasp of policy substance, the managerial skills, nor the political smarts to do the job she was then given. And she wasn't smart enough to realize that she was in over her head and had to get out of the Health Care Czar role quickly.

So when senior members of the economic team said that key senators like Daniel Patrick Moynihan would have this-and-that objection, she told them they were disloyal. When junior members of the economic team told her that the Congressional Budget Office would say such-and-such, she told them (wrongly) that her conversations with CBO head Robert Reischauer had already fixed that.

When long-time senior hill staffers told her that she was making a dreadful mistake by fighting with rather than reaching out to John Breaux and Jim Cooper, she told them that they did not understand the wave of popular political support the bill would generate. And when substantive objections were raised to the plan by analysts calculating the moral hazard and adverse selection pressures it would put on the nation's health-care system...

Hillary Rodham Clinton has already flopped as a senior administrative official in the executive branch--the equivalent of an Undersecretary. Perhaps she will make a good senator. But there is no reason to think that she would be anything but an abysmal president.

MoDo Misfires Again

NY Times Op-ed columns continue to be above fact checking:

An irritated Mr. Putin compared the Russian system to the American Electoral College, perhaps reminding the man preaching to him about democracy that he had come in second in 2000 according to the popular vote, the standard most democracies use.

The Academy doubts that 'most democracies' use any standard at all. Tony Blair is not the Prime Minister because he stood for election on his own, but because his party--Labour--holds the most seats in Parliament. Each Member of Parliament stood for election in his (or her) district, and many didn't win majorities in those districts. Variations on this system are common in former parts of the British Empire.

Europe's Continental democracies often are proportionally representative democracies, some with a separately elected head of government, some with a parliamentarian prime minister.

Wethinks the lady doeth protest Condi's wardrobe too much to bother to think the issue through:

Mr. Bush and Condi Rice strut in their speeches - the secretary of state also strutted in Wiesbaden in her foxy "Matrix"-dominatrix black leather stiletto boots....

Holland's Growing Export Industry

Its natives:

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Paul Hiltemann had noticed a darkening mood in the Netherlands. He runs an agency for people wanting to emigrate, and his client list had surged.
But he was taken aback in November when a Dutch filmmaker was shot and his throat slit on an Amsterdam street.

In the weeks that followed, Hiltemann was inundated by e-mail messages and telephone calls.

"There was a big panic, a flood of people saying they wanted to leave the country," he said.

....This small nation is a magnet for immigrants, but statistics suggest there is a quickening flight of the white middle class. Dutch people pulling up roots said they felt a general pessimism about their small and crowded country and about the social tensions that had grown along with the waves of newcomers, most of them Muslims.

....Those leaving have been mostly lured by English-speaking nations such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, where they said they hope to feel less constricted.

...."Our Web site got 13,000 hits in the weeks after the van Gogh killing," said Frans Buysse, who runs an agency that handles paperwork for departing Dutch. "That's four times the normal rate."

....To Hiltemann, the emigration consultant, what is remarkable is the type of Dutch people leaving. "They are successful people, I mean, urban professionals, managers, physiotherapists, computer specialists," he said. Five years ago, he said, most of his clients were farmers looking for more land.

Buysse, who employs a staff of eight to process visas, concurred. He said farmers continued emigrating as Europe cut agricultural subsidies. "What is new," he said, "is that Dutch people who are rich or at least very comfortable are now wanting to leave the country."

Friday, February 25, 2005

Sob, Sob. They're Even Going After AARP. Sob, Sob.

Is there no end to their villainy?, says Paul:

The slime campaign has begun against AARP, which opposes Social Security privatization. There's no hard evidence that the people involved - some of them also responsible for the "Swift Boat" election smear - are taking orders from the White House. So you're free to believe that this is an independent venture. You're also free to believe in the tooth fairy.

Putting aside that the 'Swift Boat' election smear consisted in telling the truth about 'war hero' John Kerry's military career, let's take a trip down memory lane with Paul and the AARP:

AARP Gone Astray

This is a good bill that will help every Medicare beneficiary," wrote Tom Scully, the Medicare administrator, in a letter to The New York Times defending the prescription drug bill. That's flatly untrue. (Are you surprised?) As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, the bill will force millions of beneficiaries to pay more for drugs, thanks to a provision that cuts off supplemental aid from Medicaid. Poorer recipients may find previously affordable drugs moving out of reach.

That's only one of a number of anti-retiree measures tucked away in the bill. It contains several Trojan horse provisions that are clearly intended to undermine Medicare over time ....

Yet the bill has a good chance of passing, thanks to an endorsement from AARP, the retiree advocacy organization, which has already begun an expensive advertising campaign on the bill's behalf. What's going on?

....AARP has thrown its weight behind an effort to ram the bill through before Thanksgiving. ....

Many of AARP's members feel betrayed. ....

Over the years AARP has become much more than an advocacy and service organization for older Americans. It receives more than $150 million each year in commissions on insurance, mutual funds and prescription drugs sold to its members.

And this Medicare bill is very friendly to insurance and drug companies. ....

So do AARP executives support this bill because they hope to share in the bounty? Maybe, but it probably runs deeper than that. Once an advocacy group becomes as much a business as a service organization, its executives are likely to start identifying more with industry interests than with the groups they are supposed to serve.

....Am I being too cynical? How could I be? ....

So it should come as no surprise that Medicare "reform" appears likely to be another triumph for the coalition of the bought-off — a coalition that, sadly, includes AARP.

My heart is crying, crying

[Crocodile] teardrops

My pillow nevers dries

[Crocodile] teardrops

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Woman In Black...Wowing the Troops

Posted by Hello

Our Gays Can Beat Up Your Straights....

Says 90 lb non-weakling Ann Coulter:

The heretofore-unknown Jeff Gannon of the heretofore-unknown "Talon News" service was caught red-handed asking friendly questions at a White House press briefing. Now the media is hot on the trail of a gay escort service that Gannon may have run some years ago. Are we supposed to like gay people now, or hate them? Is there a Web site where I can go to and find out how the Democrats want me to feel about gay people on a moment-to-moment basis?

And, about using a pen name, Ann points out that he's not alone, as Larry King (Zeigler), Geraldo Rivera (Gerry Riviera or Rivers), and Michael Savage (Weiner) do also. Not to mention George Orwell, Mark Twain, Voltaire, and (possibly) William Shakespeare.

Democrats running for President have been known to do so under other than their given names: Gary Hartpence, John Kerry (Kohn), and one of them even got elected; Bill Clinton (Blythe). The three of them would be welcome guests on Air America's 'Randi Rhodes' (real name unknown) program.

Liberals keep telling us the media isn't liberal, but in order to retaliate for the decimation of major news organizations like The New York Times, CBS News and CNN, all they can do is produce the scalp of an obscure writer for an unknown conservative Web page. And unlike Raines, Rather and Jordan, they can't even get Gannon for incompetence on the job. (Also unlike Raines, Rather and Jordan, Gannon has appeared on TV and given a series of creditable interviews in his own defense, proving our gays are more macho than their straights.)

Gannon didn't write about gays. No "hypocrisy" is being exposed. Liberals' hateful, frothing-at-the-mouth campaign against Gannon consists solely of their claim that he is gay.

Barnie Frank was unavailable for comment.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

This Is Your Brain, On Sex

Does size matter to Larry Summers and/or his critics?

Scientists working at Johns Hopkins University, recently reporting in the "Cerebral Cortex" scholarly journal (1), have discovered that there is a brain region in the cortex, called inferior-parietal lobule (IPL) which is significantly larger in men than in women. This area is bilateral and is located just above the level of the ears (parietal cortex).

Furthermore, the left side IPL is larger in men than the right side. In women, this asymmetry is reversed, although the difference between left and right sides is not so large as in men, noted the JHU researchers. This is the same area which was shown to be larger in the brain of Albert Einstein, as well as in other physicists and mathematicians. So, it seems that IPL's size correlates highly with mental mathematical abilities.

Not to worry gals:

Another previous study by the same group led by Dr. Godfrey Pearlson (9) has shown that two areas in the frontal and temporal lobes related to language (the areas of Broca and Wernicke, named after their discoverers) were significantly larger in women, thus providing a biological reason for women's notorious superiority in language-associated thoughts. Using magnetic resonance imaging, the scientists measured gray matter volumes in several cortical regions in 17 women and 43 men. Women had 23% (in Broca's area, in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) and 13% (in Wernicke's area, in the superior temporal cortex) more volume than men.

These results were later corroborated by another research group from the School of Communication Disorders, University of Sydney, Australia, which was able to prove these anatomical differences in the areas of Wernicke and of Broca (3). The volume of the Wernicke's area was 18% larger in females compared with males, and the cortical volume the Broca's area in females was 20% larger than in males.

And the reason for the above differences:

According to the Society for Neuroscience, ... "In ancient times, each sex had a very defined role that helped ensure the survival of the species. Cave men hunted. Cave women gathered food near the home and cared for the children. Brain areas may have been sharpened to enable each sex to carry out their jobs". Prof. David Geary, at the University of Missouri, USA, a researcher in the area of gender differences, thinks that "in evolutionary terms, developing superior navigation skills may have enabled men to become better suited to the role of hunter, while the development by females of a preference for landmarks may have enabled them to fulfill the task of gathering food closer to home." (2) The advantage of women regarding verbal skills also make evolutionary sense. While men have the bodily strength to compete with other men, women use language to gain social advantage, such as by argumentation and persuasion, says Geary.

....During the development of the embryo in the womb, circulating hormones have a very important role in the sexual differentiation of the brain. The presence of androgens in early life produces a "male" brain. In contrast, the female brain is thought to develop via a hormonal default mechanism, in the absence of androgen. However, recent findings have shows that ovarian hormones also play a significant role in sexual differentiation.

One of the most convincing evidences for the role of hormones, has been shown by studying girls who were exposed to high levels of testosterone because their pregnant mothers had congenital adrenal hyperplasia (4). These girls seem to have better spatial awareness than other girls and are more likely to show turbulent and aggressive behaviour as kids, very similar to boys'.

The ball is now in the Reality Based Community's court.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

How To Lie About Math Aptitudes With Statistics

The FLUBA Committee on Bizarre Attempts of Academic Self-Parody notes this morning:

The Math Test Score Upper Tail: Is There Reason to Believe That Sociology Swamps Biology?


In 1992, 2.8% of Asian-American women who took the Math SAT scored 750 or above.
In 1992, 2.1% of white men who took the Math SAT scored 750 or above.
In 1992, 0.4% of white women who took the Math SAT scored 750 or above.
In 1992, 0.2% of African-American men who took the Math SAT scored 750 or above.

Yet, when we visited the cited source for the above, we found:

Scores by Sex

In 1992, more females than males took the SAT; however, the mean score for males was 43 points higher than that for females. (See figure 1-7.) See also appendix table 1-18.

In addition, females are underrepresented among the highest scorers. ....

Which can be seen on this graph. The actual numbers for 1992, of those scoring between 750-800, being:

Total number of students: 14,132
Males......................................11,027 (2.2% of all tested)
Females...................................3,105 (0.6% of all tested)

So, just who is J. Bradford trying to kid? The usual suspects in the comments section?

We'd of thought that's so easy to pull off, that there's no sport to it. (Hint: Asians are only about 3% of the U.S. population, and there is a ceiling of 800 that conceals the real variances.)

Monday, February 21, 2005

Go Directly to Jail...Do Collect $500 Million

She who laughs last:

Incarceration has worked a miracle on Martha Stewart's bottom line, restoring the disgraced domestic diva to billionaire status. She has watched her fortunes soar while serving a five-month jail sentence, during which she was forbidden by law to conduct any business.

The 63-year-old homemaking queen will emerge from prison on March 6 more than $500 million (£264 million) richer on paper, after shares in her retail and publishing company soared on the back of a new reality television deal and higher licensing fees.

Shares in Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia slumped as low as $8.25 in May, as she awaited sentencing after her conviction for lying to investigators about a personal stock deal. That prompted headlines such as "Martha Inc can't survive".

Last Friday, however, the shares closed at $34.99, valuing the company at $1.74 billion. Stewart owns just less than 60 per cent, giving her a stake of about $1.02 billion.

....Executives at her company told the New York Times that licensing fees for the daytime show were "trending significantly higher" than those for Stewart's original show, Martha Stewart Living, when her popularity was at its peak.

....according to her friend Barbara Walters....who visited her recently... Stewart had lost 20lb, was in "good spirits", had made friends with prisoners and taught yoga classes.

It's All Greek To These Harvard Girls

No, not the fainting tenured scientists, the undergrads:

...sororities of the traditional state-college variety have taken root at Harvard, a place where for years the biggest social event for women was the annual Take Back the Night rally. Kappa Alpha Theta, the sorority of Laura Bush and Lynne Cheney, was the first to arrive on campus, in 1992. Delta Gamma followed in 1994, and Kappa Kappa Gamma opened its chapter in 2003. ....And far from being catty and exclusive, they strive to welcome any woman who might hope to join.

The fact that Harvard students - in legend among the most intellectual and sophisticated in the country - are embracing the traditionally middlebrow values of sororities might seem jarring. To the undergraduates involved, however - many of whom refer to each other as "girls" - the new groups are a key to their Harvard experience. Membership seems driven by a renewed interest in the potential benefits of deeply rooted social networks....

The rise of sororities coincides with a boom in women-only private clubs in general at Harvard. In recent years four new private clubs for women have been founded - so-called finals clubs named the Bee, the Isis, the Sabliere Society and the Pleiades - which are less self-consciously wholesome than the sororities and emphasize partying (and exclusivity) over field trips and charity work.

....Alexandra Robbins, a Yale graduate and the author of "Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities," said the rise of women's clubs at Harvard was a reflection of a trend on Ivy League campuses in which "secret groups and Greek groups are experiencing a huge comeback."

Ms. Robbins attributed that comeback to the current political landscape, which on the surface suggests that membership in secret societies can pay dividends in status and distinction down the road.

"If you think about it, three of the presidential candidates were members of Yale secret societies - Bush, Kerry and Lieberman - and Dean was in a fraternity," she said. "If you're an ambitious Ivy League woman, it's probably not surprising that you'd want to counter what's clearly a thriving, successful old-boys network. The future is always in the back of an Ivy League student's head."

....Many sorority members are Southerners or Texans whose mothers and grandmothers were members at Southern schools. Mindful of the reputation of sororities for cattiness, they go out of their way to emphasize their welcoming nature. The Kappas bill themselves as fun-loving and responsible, the Thetas as warm and friendly.

The women's finals clubs are more overtly exclusive, and their members tend to come from big cities like New York, Los Angeles and Miami.

....Harvard has marginalized the men's finals clubs, and this is hampering growth of the women's clubs and sororities. In 1986 the university ended its ties with single-sex clubs, going so far as to cut off heat to the finals clubs buildings from the university's steam system, and decreed that except for sports teams and choral groups, no same-sex groups could meet or advertise on campus.

Because the sororities cannot advertise their rush season on campus, recruiting is done by e-mail, with upperclass members scrounging for e-mail addresses for entering women each school year. In fall 2004, one sorority was chided after it held a meeting at a residential hall.

"The policy was put in place to protect women," Miss High said. "I would argue we don't need that protection anymore."

Yeah, it's not like they can't add 2 + 2, and get 4.

Head-Bang Away, J Bradford

But don't let that math prodigy daughter emulate you (thanks to Katie Newmark):

In general, men have approximately 6.5 times the amount of gray matter related to general intelligence than women, and women have nearly 10 times the amount of white matter related to intelligence than men. Gray matter represents information processing centers in the brain, and white matter represents the networking of - or connections between - these processing centers.

This, according to Rex Jung, a UNM neuropsychologist and co-author of the study, may help to explain why men tend to excel in tasks requiring more local processing (like mathematics), while women tend to excel at integrating and assimilating information from distributed gray-matter regions in the brain, such as required for language facility.

....The study also identified regional differences with intelligence. For example, 84 percent of gray-matter regions and 86 percent of white-matter regions involved with intellectual performance in women were found in the brain's frontal lobes, compared to 45 percent and zero percent for males, respectively. The gray matter driving male intellectual performance is distributed throughout more of the brain.

According to the researchers, this more centralized intelligence processing in women is consistent with clinical findings that frontal brain injuries can be more detrimental to cognitive performance in women than men. Studies such as these, Haier and Jung add, someday may help lead to earlier diagnoses of brain disorders in males and females, as well as more effective and precise treatment protocols to address damage to particular regions in the brain.

[The FLUBA's emphasis above]

Larry Summers could not be reached for comment.

Gidget, Gonzo, Go

The FLUBA Committee on the Passing of Cultural Icons notes that cute-as-a-bug's-ear actress Sandra Dee went to that big Moon Doggie in the sky over the week-end.

LOS ANGELES — Actress Sandra Dee, the blond beauty who attracted a large teen audience in the 1960s with films such as "Gidget" and "Tammy and the Doctor" and had a headlined marriage to pop singer Bobby Darin, died yesterday. She was 62.

....She died of complications from kidney disease after nearly two weeks in the hospital, said Steve Blauner, a longtime family friend. Blauner said Ms. Dee had been on dialysis for about four years.

As did Doonsbury's Uncle Duke:

Hunter S. Thompson, the acerbic counterculture writer who popularized a new form of fictionalized journalism in books such as "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," fatally shot himself last night at his home, his son said. He was 67.

.... He wrote the 1972 drug-hazed classic, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

Besides the 1972 drug-hazed classic about Mr. Thompson's time in Las Vegas, he also wrote "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72." The central character in those wild, sprawling satires was "Dr. Thompson," a snarling, drug- and alcohol-crazed observer and participant.
Mr. Thompson is credited with pioneering "gonzo journalism" — a style in which the writer made himself an essential component of the story.

Which reminds the FLUBA; just what's the big deal about Jeff Gannon, again?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

And After We Wrap 'Em, We Can Ship Them To a Polling Station and Have Them Vote For Governor

Washington state's disaster relief agencies are a little more inventive than its counties' elections departments:

The Thurston County Coroner's Office recently won approval to purchase a machine able to shrink-wrap human remains. The process would make it easier to transport a large number of bodies.

After the bodies have been autopsied and identified, they would be zipped into body bags, placed on a plywood trays and covered with cardboard lids.

The trays would then be pushed through the machine and come out in shrink-wrapped packages. The wrapped bodies would be easier to carry than body bags and less disturbing for workers, county Coroner Judy Arnold recently told The Olympian newspaper.

....Emergency officials around the region began discussing the idea after the terrorist takeover of a Russian school in September and December's tsunamis, which killed more than 120,000 in Southeast Asia.

Photos of both events revealed the dead lying on the ground or being tossed into pickups.

The emergency officials want to avoid dealing with numerous limp and hard-to-carry body bags, especially in a situation where volunteer workers may not be used to handling human remains, Arnold said.

The shrink-wrapped bodies could be moved with forklifts, and the extra plastic covering would seal in biohazards such as anthrax in the case of bioterrorism.

The entire machine could be wheeled on a trailer to other parts of the state or taken by helicopter, Arnold said.

...."You know, it's neat, but it's kind of creepy," she said. "It's one of those things you spend a lot of money for and hope you never have to use it."

Friday, February 18, 2005

Harvard Doesn't Have the President Its Faculty Deserves...II

Now that we've seen what some Harvard scientists think they've read (in the immediately preceding post) from Larry Summers, let's let him speak for himself:

....I am going to...attempt to adopt an entirely positive, rather than normative approach, and just try to think about and offer some hypotheses as to why we observe what we observe without seeing this through the kind of judgmental tendency that inevitably is connected with all our common goals of equality. It is after all not the case that the role of women in science is the only example of a group that is significantly underrepresented in an important activity and whose underrepresentation contributes to a shortage of role models for others who are considering being in that group. To take a set of diverse examples, the data will, I am confident, reveal that Catholics are substantially underrepresented in investment banking, which is an enormously high-paying profession in our society; that white men are very substantially underrepresented in the National Basketball Association; and that Jews are very substantially underrepresented in farming and in agriculture. These are all phenomena in which one observes underrepresentation, and I think it's important to try to think systematically and clinically about the reasons for underrepresentation.

Which seems quite reasonable, but some--as reported in the NY Times--apparently don't agree:

"What bothers me is the consistent assumption that innate differences rather than socialization is responsible for some of the issues he talks about," said Howard Georgi, a physics professor who has been part of a successful effort in Harvard's physics department to recruit more women for tenured positions.

"It's crazy to think that it's an innate difference," Professor Georgi added. "It's socialization. We've trained young women to be average. We've trained young men to be adventurous."

Apparently the Times was too short of space to include Professor Georgi's evidence for his belief. But, back to Larry Summers:

...the relatively few women who are in the highest ranking places are disproportionately either unmarried or without children, with the emphasis differing depending on just who you talk to. And that is a reality that is present and that one has exactly the same conversation in almost any high-powered profession. What does one make of that? I think it is hard--and again, I am speaking completely descriptively and non-normatively--to say that there are many professions and many activities, and the most prestigious activities in our society expect of people who are going to rise to leadership positions in their forties near total commitments to their work. They expect a large number of hours in the office, they expect a flexibility of schedules to respond to contingency, they expect a continuity of effort through the life cycle, and they expect-and this is harder to measure-but they expect that the mind is always working on the problems that are in the job, even when the job is not taking place. And it is a fact about our society that that is a level of commitment that a much higher fraction of married men have been historically prepared to make than of married women. That's not a judgment about how it should be, not a judgment about what they should expect. But it seems to me that it is very hard to look at the data and escape the conclusion that that expectation is meeting with the choices that people make and is contributing substantially to the outcomes that we observe. ....

Another way to put the point is to say, what fraction of young women in their mid-twenties make a decision that they don't want to have a job that they think about eighty hours a week. What fraction of young men make a decision that they're unwilling to have a job that they think about eighty hours a week, and to observe what the difference is. ....

To buttress conviction and theory with anecdote, a young woman who worked very closely with me at the Treasury and who has subsequently gone on to work at Google highly successfully, is a 1994 graduate of Harvard Business School. She reports that of her first year section, there were twenty-two women, of whom three are working full time at this point. That may, the dean of the Business School reports to me, that that is not an implausible observation given their experience with their alumnae.

[The FLUBA's emphasis, in the above]

That's the economist Larry Summers, talking above. Making a point about opportunity costs, and speculating that it might likely be that men and women have different values about alternate uses of eighty hours of their time in a week. Which, when combined with casual observation of differences in the ways men and women choose to spend their leisure hours, rings true.

Then there were his remarks about abilities:

It does appear that on many, many different human attributes-height, weight, propensity for criminality, overall IQ, mathematical ability, scientific ability-there is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means-which can be debated-there is a difference in the standard deviation, and variability of a male and a female population. And that is true with respect to attributes that are and are not plausibly, culturally determined. If one supposes, as I think is reasonable, that if one is talking about physicists at a top twenty-five research university, one is not talking about people who are two standard deviations above the mean. And perhaps it's not even talking about somebody who is three standard deviations above the mean. But it's talking about people who are three and a half, four standard deviations above the mean in the one in 5,000, one in 10,000 class. Even small differences in the standard deviation will translate into very large differences in the available pool substantially out.

That seems pretty clear. Summers is stressing that what is true for the average man or woman, might not be at all the case for very far above average people. Though, reading the reactions to what he said, it would be easy to conclude that many scientists at top level institutions aren't all that smart, really.

Harvard Doesn't Have the President Its Faculty Deserves...

...if this New York Times article on reactions to the release of the transcript of Dr. Larry Summers' remarks at a recent NBER conference on the gender discrepancy at top flight universities' math and science programs, is representative:

Several professors said Thursday that they were only more furious after reading his precise remarks , saying they felt he believed women were intellectually inferior to men.

Everett I. Mendelsohn, a professor of the history of science at Harvard, said that once he read the remarks, he could understand why Dr. Summers "might have wanted to keep it a secret."

"Where he seems to be off the mark particularly is in his sweeping claims that women don't have the ability to do well in high-powered jobs," said Professor Mendelsohn....

...some faculty members said they were already drawing the conclusion that Dr. Summers believed that innate differences were a significant reason for women's lack of success in math and science careers.

"What bothers me is the consistent assumption that innate differences rather than socialization is responsible for some of the issues he talks about," said Howard Georgi, a physics professor who has been part of a successful effort in Harvard's physics department to recruit more women for tenured positions.

"It's crazy to think that it's an innate difference," Professor Georgi added. "It's socialization. We've trained young women to be average. We've trained young men to be adventurous."

The FLUBA Committee on Reading Incomprehension Among Scientists at Top-Tier Universities has some of its own thoughts on what is crazy to think, Georgi.

And, not one to miss an opportunity to appear foolish, Rap Artist (and Princeton professor) Cornel West chimed in:

On Thursday, after the transcript was issued, Dr. West volunteered his reaction to the latest imbroglio.

"I've been praying for the brother, hoping he would change," Dr. West said in an interview. "It's clear he hasn't changed, I feel bad for Harvard as an institution and as a great tradition. It was good to see the faculty wake up. The chickens have come home to roost."

About which, he may be right. Does the faculty of Harvard prefer to associate with the scholar Larry Summers, or Cornel West?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Just Internalizing My Positive Externality, Guys

Having benefitted from some free tutoring for my college economics classes, I know that it's socially optimal to give free stuff to internalize a positive externality. Too bad I don't live in Washington D.C.

Posted by Hello

'How About I Endanger the Act?'

Well, homemaker Martha is going to be serving 'home detention', why not let another master criminal be punished by lobbying to repeal the law he violated:

Washington -- More than a year after he was convicted of violating a federal endangered species law, Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lawrence M. Small is still negotiating with the Justice Department over exactly what kind of "community service" he must perform as part of his sentence.

The Smithsonian's chief executive wants to use the 100-hour punishment to lobby Congress to change the "outmoded" law he violated, while prosecutors argue that Small's proposal doesn't match the severity of his crime.

In court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Raleigh, N.C., where he was convicted Jan. 23, 2004, Small said that "using my 100 hours of community service obligation to 'get educated' about the Endangered Species Act is highly constructive and totally appropriate."

Small wrote his probation officer that his community service should "take advantage of my 40 years of experience in large, complex institutions and the vantage point provided to me by my position at the Smithsonian Institution."

That kind of service "might well produce a more significant result for society than having me read for the blind or hammer nails for Habitat for Humanity."

Small provided a list of books he would read and lawmakers, environmentalists and private sector officials he would meet with to discuss endangered species issues. The ultimate goal of his community service, Small said, would be to use his stature to start "the process of modernizing" the Endangered Species Act, which he called "an outmoded law that doesn't work very well."

Federal prosecutors strongly disagreed.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Oh, What a Tangled Web...

Who was it who said the cover-up is worse than the crime?

...far from resolving the problem of the network’s credibility, the independent report commissioned by CBS appears instead to be leading to a confrontation, with defenders of both the ousted CBS staffers involved in the debacle and top CBS management asserting two different truths from the same document.

Mr. Howard and two other ousted CBS staffers—his top deputy, Mary Murphy, and CBS News senior vice president Betsy West—haven’t resigned. And sources close to Mr. Howard said that before any resignation comes, the 23-year CBS News veteran is demanding that the network retract Mr. Moonves’ remarks, correct its official story line and ultimately clear his name.

Mr. Howard, those sources said, has hired a lawyer to develop a breach-of-contract suit against the network. Ms. Murphy and Ms. West have likewise hired litigators, according to associates of theirs, and all three remain CBS employees and collect weekly salaries from the company that asked them to tender their resignations.

Either Josh Howard is going to end up being paid off so well he never has to work another day in his life, or all the dirty little secrets at CBS are going to be exposed through litigation. Such things as retired Col. William Campenni has already exposed.

Now, For Some Exploding Driveway News

Kids in Delaware might want to think twice about dribbling a basketball in front of the hoop over the garage door:

Prepare to be shell-shocked: Ordnance experts are scrambling to defuse driveways that have the potential to explode.

The U.S. Army is investigating incidents of unexploded World War I-era munitions showing up in clamshells used as paving material for driveways and parking areas in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

The ordnance was dredged up over the past 18 months from the ocean floor during mechanical clam harvesting operations off the New Jersey coast, in the vicinity of Atlantic City, said Robert Williams of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is conducting the investigation.

More than 300 munitions — mostly British and French-made hand grenades, but at least one 75 mm projectile containing a chemical agent — have been recovered from 18 driveways and a Delaware clam-processing plant.

Last February, a Bridgeville, Del., resident discovered 32 corroded — but live — hand grenades while spreading crushed clamshells delivered to his property. Subsequent similar discoveries triggered the investigation.

The Army Corps of Engineers is examining at least 100 driveways, Williams said.

No homeowners have been injured, but three servicemen from an explosive ordnance unit at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware were hospitalized in July after detonating the projectile, which contained potentially lethal mustard gas.

Either the Army or the Navy dumped the ordnance at sea, Williams said, but the investigation's chief priority is not to determine how and why the material got there, but where it is located. The harvesting was done about 20 miles offshore.

"It's something that happened 60-70 years ago," said Williams, project director in the Corps' Baltimore district. "Right now our main focus is not who did it but where this stuff came from and where it went. We're worried about kids playing kick the ball in the driveway."

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

As Every Alien Pen Hath Got My Use

Including, soon, Mongolia.

For Mongolians, E Is for English, F Is for Future

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia - ....Even here on the edge of the nation's capital, in this settlement of dirt tracks, plank shanties and the circular felt yurts of herdsmen, the sounds of English can be heard from the youngest of students - part of a nationwide drive to make it the primary foreign language learned in Mongolia, a landlocked expanse of open steppe sandwiched between Russia and China.

"We are looking at Singapore as a model," Tsakhia Elbegdorj, Mongolia's prime minister, said in an interview, his own American English honed in graduate school at Harvard.

"We see English not only as a way of communicating, but as a way of opening windows on the wider world."

Its camel herders may not yet be referring to one another as "dude," but this Central Asian nation, thousands of miles from the nearest English-speaking country, is a reflection of the steady march of English as a world language. Fueled by the Internet, the growing dominance of American culture and the financial realities of globalization, English is taking hold in Asia, and elsewhere, just as it has in many European countries.

...."I need 2,000 English teachers," said Puntsag Tsagaan, Mongolia's minister of education, culture and science. Mr. Tsagaan, a graduate of a Soviet university, laboriously explained in English that Mongolia hoped to attract English teachers, not only from Britain and North America, but from India, Singapore and Malaysia. Getting visas for teachers, a cumbersome process, will be streamlined, he said.

Mr. Tsagaan spins an optimistic vision of Mongolia's bilingual future if he can lure English teachers. "If we combine our academic knowledge with the English language, we can do outsourcing here, just like Bangalore," he said.

And help provide for the retirement of Baby Boomers.

Bulls-eye!, Paul

This morning's scream is for Howard Dean:

It doesn't represent a turn to the left: Mr. Dean is squarely in the center of his party on issues like health care and national defense. Instead, Mr. Dean's political rejuvenation reflects the new ascendancy within the party of fighting moderates....

We couldn't agree more with the part about Dean being in the center of his party. Though the FLUBA Committee on Irony remembers when it was the conservatives who stood: athwart history, yelling Stop.

The Fighting (and kicking and screaming) Moderates are battling to remain forever in a part of the 20th century circa 1935-70. The Golden Age.

From the highland beyond the bridge to the 21st century, we raise a glass of champagne (not ditchwater), and say to Howard, Paul, Hillary, Nancy, Harry: Here's looking at you, kids.

Monday, February 14, 2005


When even Chicago and New York take privatizing transportation assets seriously, it may be an idea whose time has come:

ALBANY - Faced with a giant projected budget gap and a wobbly credit rating, the city of Chicago decided to pull the trigger last year on a plan it had been contemplating for nearly a decade: the privatization of an eight mile toll road known as the Skyway.

A Spanish-Australian consortium paid Chicago $1.83 billion to operate the road and collect tolls on it for 99 years. It was the largest cash transaction in city history, easily closing the projected $220 million budget shortfall.

It has not gone unnoticed by states and cities in similar straits.

In New York, where health-care costs eat up a larger and larger share of tax revenue each year, state officials have followed the Skyway project with interest. As a sign that Governor Pataki liked what he saw, the executive budget he issued last month included a proposal allowing for the privatization of toll roads, bridges, and tunnels.

The governor's proposal is thought to be a potential cure-all for two areas where giant sums of money are urgently sought: the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is projecting a budget gap next year more than twice the size of the one that sent Chicago into privatization talks, and public education, where billions are needed to satisfy a recent court order in the lawsuit brought by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

Boys Beat Girls At Trivia As Well

In a Boston Globe Op-ed demonstrating only that you don't have to be smart to to be president of a prestigious university, John Hennessey, Susan Hockfield and Shirley Tilghman, again beat the carcass of Larry Summers' entirely pedestrian observation on the discrepancy between men and women's performance at math:

Extensive research on the abilities and representation of males and females in science and mathematics has identified the need to address important cultural and societal factors.

Speculation that "innate differences" may be a significant cause for the under-representation of women in science and engineering may rejuvenate old myths and reinforce negative stereotypes and biases.

Why is this so important? Our nation faces increasing competition from abroad in technological innovation, the most powerful driver of our economy, while the academic performance of our school-age students in math and science lags behind many countries. Against this backdrop, it is imperative that we tap the talent and perspectives of both males and females. Until women can feel as much at home in math, science, and engineering as men, our nation will be considerably less than the sum of its parts. If we do not draw on the entire talent pool that is capable of making a contribution to science, the enterprise will inevitably be underperforming its potential.

As the representation of women increases in every other profession in this country, if their representation in science and engineering does not change, these fields will look increasingly anachronistic, less attractive, and will be less strong. The nation cannot afford to lose ground in these areas, which not only fuel the economy, but also play a key role in solving critical societal problems in human health and the environment.

And on and on it goes in that vein, begging the question to the bitter end.

The FLUBA Committee on Anything You Can Do... notes that last week the television game show, Jeopardy!, initiated its Ultimate Tournament of Champions to see how last year's millionaire champion Ken Jennings would compare to previous stars. 144 former champions in all will compete.

Fewer than 20% of them appear to be female according to the roster on the show's website.

And, of the seeded former champions (such as Chuck Forest and Million Dollar Master Brad Rutter) only one of nine is a woman. The Tournament's ultimate winner will take home over $2,000,000.

Those Wedding Bell Blues

It's Valentine's Day, and those crazy lovebirds Mary Kay and Vili, make it official:

Mary K. Letourneau, the former Burien elementary school teacher who had an illegal intimate relationship with one of her sixth-grade students, plans to wed the man she was convicted of raping.

Letourneau, 43, and Vili Fualaau, 22, plan to wed April 16, according to an online bridal registry.

....The relationship, which began when Fualaau was a student in Letourneau's class at Shorewood Elementary School in 1996, has endured despite their 22-year age difference, Fualaau's unsuccessful 2002 civil suit against Letourneau's former school district and her 7 1/2-year prison sentence for child rape.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

A Rose By Any Other Name...

Will be confiscated by the religious authorities:

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — In gift and flower shops across Saudi Arabia, the flush of red has started to fade.

Each year shortly before Feb. 14, the country's religious police mobilize, heading out to hunt for - and confiscate - red roses, red teddy bears and any signs of a heart. In a country where Valentine's Day is banned, ordinary Saudis find they must skirt the law to spoil their sweetheart.

The Valentine's Day holiday celebrating love and lovers is banned in Saudi Arabia, where religious authorities call it a Christian celebration true Muslims should shun.

The kingdom's attitude toward Valentine's Day is in line with the strict school of Islam followed here for a century. All Christian and even most Muslim feasts are banned in the kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, because they are considered unorthodox creations that Islam does not sanction.

Beyond the ban, it is a challenge for unmarried couples to be together on Valentine's Day or any other day because of strict segregation of the sexes. Dating consists of long phone conversations and the rare tryst. Men and women cannot go for a drive together, have a meal or talk on the street unless they are close relatives. Infractions are punished by detentions.

Valentine's items descend underground, to the black market, where their price triples and quadruples. Salesmen and waiters avoid wearing red. Though taboo, Valentine's Day still gets a fair amount of attention in Saudi society.

"Female voices demand the release of the red rose," read a headline in Sunday's Asharq al-Awsat. Women complained to the paper no one had the right to ban flower sales.

Sheik Abdullah al-Dakhil, head of the religious police, known as the muttawa, in Thumama, a town outside Riyadh, told Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper that "despite awareness campaigns and the confiscation of flowers, chocolate and other items, there were 15 infractions" for Valentine's Day indiscretions last year.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Bradford Is Sweet On Barbara

Berkeley's J. Bradford DeLong thinks Senator Boxer is smart to listen to him. And what conclusion does the senator draw:

So clearly, Social Security is not in crisis, is not bankrupt, and is not collapsing.

Yes, there is a challenge we should address.

Have we ever faced a similar Social Security challenge before? Yes. During the Reagan presidency in 1983. Working together, Democrats and Republicans, we resolved the challenge then just as we can do now. So why would an otherwise optimistic George Bush turn into a prophet of pessimism on Social Security?

Oh, maybe because he's aware that; 1. The 1983 tax increases and benefit cuts did not resolve the issue (hint: we're right back to being challenged).

And that, 2, Social Security taxes have been raised by a factor of over 14, for some people, over the years of its existence, and that hasn't solved the problems yet.

That's right, when Social Security began, the tax rate was 2% on a maximum of $3,000 of income, for $60 in taxes.

In 2004 dollars that would be about $787. However, not only has the tax rate been increased to 12.4%, the maximum income taxed has also been raised to $90,000, giving a max tax of $11,160.

Without resolving the fundamental problem.

Not to mention the opportunity costs to the workers who have been deprived of alternate investment uses of their taxes.

Wethinks the lady doeth protest too much.

Names We Never Expected To See In The Same Sentence

The first flag of surrender to the laws of economics is up (at Semi-Daily Journal):

I would like to thank Dean Baker, Barry Eichengreen, Paul Krugman, Tom Maguire, Peter
Orszag, Robert Waldmann, and people who wish to remain off the record for helpful discussions
and comments.

The FLUBA Committee on the Paranormal has placed a suicide watch on the usual suspect.

Friday, February 11, 2005

It Shall Be a Crime To Drink Cheap Beer

If the Democrats in the Oregon legislature have their way, but it already is a crime to give beer to minors, and worse, a blunder, if the legislators know about it:

SALEM - You know you're off to a rough start as a lobbyist when legislators call the cops on you for handing out free beer to minors.

Especially when you're trying to boost the beer tax to stop underage drinking.

So went Thursday's lobbying kickoff for the "Dime A Drink" coalition of activists, who held a news conference and then visited state representatives' offices to pass out beer. The 12-pack cartons were labeled with $4.99 price tags to illustrate how Oregon's beer tax makes the alcoholic beverage an affordable "gateway" that leads to alcohol abuse problems.

"Most legislators have no idea how cheap beer is," explained the group's leader, Howard Scaman, as he left a half-case of beer cans with a legislative staff member.

The problem with distributing low-end beer to lawmakers' offices was that many are staffed by interns who aren't yet 21 - which left Scaman open to charges of furnishing alcohol to minors, said Rusty Wolfe, a senior trooper with the Oregon State Police assigned to security in the Capitol.

Speaking Of Not Having a Clue...

A SWEDISH police officer has confessed he robbed a bank and later investigated the crime himself, telling reporters at the time police had no clues.

A court in the central town of Bollnas has officially charged the 36-year-old with the armed robbery on December 17.

The amount of money stolen was not disclosed but was described as sizeable. Colleagues became suspicious when he bought a new car in mid-January, in cash using banknotes from the robbery, the court said.

Funny You Should Mention Mexico, GT

Container ship in Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico. Located on the Pacific Coast about midway between Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta.

Secret Economic Agent GT, commenting at Just One Minute, sneered at the suggestion that Americans might find investment opportunities beyond their own borders. Especially in Mexico. Seems the Mexicans have a contrary opinion:

The main purpose of the Manzanillo API [Port Authority] is to offer to all of their clients and customers, port infrastructure and quality services, to create attractive conditions for new business through private investment, which allows for new specialized terminals and installations.

In the port of Manzanillo, up to 100% of foreign investment is allowed, through Mexican businesses, which is why we welcome you and would be glad to show you the opportunities of investment.

Some people have crossed the Bridge to the 21st Century.

Posted by Hello

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Ann Says: 'White Man Speak With Forked Tongue'

At the University of Colorado:

In light of the fact that [Ward] Churchill's entire persona, political activism, curriculum vitae, writings and university positions are based on his claim that he's an Indian, it's rather churlish of him to complain when people ask if he really is one.

But whenever he is questioned about his heritage, Churchill rails that inquiries into his ancestry are "absolutely indefensible." Churchill has gone from claiming he is one-eighth Indian "on a good day" to claiming he is "three-sixteenths Cherokee," to claiming he is one-sixty-fourth Cherokee through a Revolutionary War era ancestor named Joshua Tyner. (At least he's not posing as a phony Indian math professor.)

A recent investigation by The Denver Post revealed that Tyner's father was indeed married to a Cherokee. But that was only after Joshua's mother –- and Churchill's relative -– was scalped by Indians. By now, all that's left of Churchill's claim to Indian ancestry is his assertion: "It is just something that was common knowledge in my family." (That, and his souvenir foam-rubber "tommyhawk" he bought at Turner Field in Atlanta.)

Over the years, there were other subtle clues the university might have noticed. Churchill is not in the tribal registries kept since the 1800s by the federal government. No tribe will enroll him –- a verification process Churchill dismisses as "poodle papers" for Indians.

In 1990, Churchill was forced to stop selling his art as "Indian art" under federal legislation sponsored by then-representative — and actual Indian! — Ben Nighthorse Campbell, that required Indian artists to establish that they are accepted members of a federally recognized tribe. Churchill responded by denouncing the Indian artist who had exposed him. (Hey, does anybody need 200 velvet paintings of Elvis playing poker with Crazy Horse?)

In the early '90s, he hoodwinked an impecunious Cherokee tribe into granting him an "associate membership" by telling them he "wrote some books and was a big-time author."

A tribal spokeswoman explained: He "convinced us he could help our people." They never heard from him again — yet another treaty with the Indians broken by the white man. Soon thereafter, the tribe stopped offering "associate memberships."

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Solution To NY City's Education Crisis...

...could be found in the Colorado desert:

BRANSON, Colo. - With no grocery store or gas station and a population of 77 souls, this desert village seems an unlikely home for a fast-growing public school that has enrolled students from all across Colorado.

There are just 65 students attending Branson's lone brick and mortar school, but there are an additional 1,000 enrolled in its online affiliate. And with the state paying school districts $5,600 per pupil, Branson Online has been a bonanza. Founded in 2001, it has received $15 million so far.

And right on cue, the education establishment is there to make trouble:

The school district has used the money to hire everyone in town who wants a job, including the mayor, who teaches 15 students via e-mail. It has broadcast radio commercials statewide to recruit students and built a new headquarters here. But if the school has been financially successful, its academic record is mixed, and the authorities have put the school on academic probation.

Branson Online is one of at least 100 Internet-based public schools that local educators have founded nationwide in recent years, often in partnership with private companies, and many online schools share Branson's strengths and weaknesses, experts said.

The federal Department of Education does not keep track of enrollment numbers, but in a January report the department noted the emergence of scores of online public schools and said they were experiencing "explosive growth."

"Cyberschools are the 800-pound gorilla of the choice movement, although vouchers and charter schools get a lot more attention," said William Moloney, education commissioner in Colorado, where state financing for online schools has increased almost 20-fold in five years - to $20.2 million for 3,585 students today from $1.1 million for 166 full-time students in 2000.

....But the schools are beginning to draw scrutiny. ....

A report on online schools nationwide, issued last May by the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, a nonprofit group based in Illinois, concluded that states should monitor the academic and other performance of Internet schools more closely. "The rapid expansion of K-12 online learning threatens to outpace the development of appropriate state-level policies," it said.

Several Colorado superintendents have criticized Branson Online for enrolling their students, thereby taking money away from their districts. Others just say the quality of the education is questionable. Glenn Davis, superintendent of the Huerfano School District in Walsenburg, said that although he had lost a few students to Branson his main concern was that online schools had become magnets for low-achieving students.

Looks like the hicks in the sticks might have something Mayor Mike should look into.

If It Was a Movie, It Would Have Starred Greer Garson

And the FLUBA Committee on There Will Always Be an England, isn't sure the plot of this Brit Obit wasn't made into a film:

Lady Aitken, who died on Monday aged 94, was the widow of the Tory MP Sir William Aitken and steadfast mother of the fallen former Tory minister Jonathan Aitken and the actress and director Maria Aitken.

... in the late 1990s she emerged into the limelight during the series of events that led, in 1999, to Jonathan being sentenced to jail for perjury, after he was forced to admit he had lied in court during a libel action against the Guardian over a hotel bill at the Paris Ritz - in an attempt to cover up a business meeting with Arab friends.

Lady Aitken never faltered in her devotion to her only son. When, in 1995, he admitted to having had an affair with a prostitute shortly after his marriage, she dismissed press criticism of him, adding: "This is the way men behave. It's just human nature." When it emerged that he had fathered a child with Soraya Khashoggi, the former wife of Adnan Khashoggi, she welcomed her new grandchild into the family.

After his failed libel action against the Guardian in 1997, Lady Aitken declared that the whole thing had been a "muddle" caused by the incompetence of her daughter-in-law, Lolicia.

When Lolicia subsequently filed for divorce, Lady Aitken said (somewhat to her son's dismay): "As far as I'm concerned, it's the best thing to come out of all this, and cheap at the price. She doesn't cook for him and she spends most of her life in health farms or at airports."

....She was born Penelope Loader Maffey on December 2 1910, the only daughter of the first Lord Rugby, who was to become Governor-General of the Sudan and Permanent Secretary of the Colonial Office. Earlier, he was private secretary to the Viceroy of India and Governor of the North West Frontier province, and Penelope spent her early years in India, where three of her siblings died in childhood.

Aged seven she was sent to prep school in England, and went on to Sherborne School for Girls. Her parents had a house, Anmer Hall, on the Sandringham estate, where as a teenager Penelope bred cocker spaniels. When one of her dogs caught a pheasant right under the nose of the King, she expected a dressing-down, but he seemed to want only to talk to her about their shared interest in cockers. She was later asked to lunch, aged 16, and remembered Queen Mary "sitting bolt upright with high ruched collars and the house party all dressed in their finery. I was sitting on the left of the King because that was the side he could hear. Because I was young and pretty he was very nice to me."

....In 1938 she met William "Bill" Aitken, nephew of the media baron Lord Beaverbrook and at the time a financial journalist with the Evening Standard. A shy Canadian, Aitken had just volunteered as a pilot in the RAF.... they were married that year at St Peter's, Eaton Square.

....In 1944 the family's house in London was bombed and Bill Aitken was badly wounded in a Spitfire crash.

.... in 1964, Bill Aitken died aged 58, leaving his family facing crippling death duties, exacerbated by a stock market crash, which almost wiped out their fortune. It seemed that Jonathan, then in his first year at Oxford, would have to make his own way in life.

....When [her son] entered the government in 1992 as Minister of Defence Procurement, she was on hand to take photographs of him holding his ministerial red box.

She remained loyal throughout the slow torture of his downfall and subsequent "rebirth" as a Christian; she employed his friend from Belmarsh, Spider Aguda, as her chauffeur, whom she would introduce by saying: "Meet my wonderful bullion-robber friend." She also remained a great lover of parties, and of men.

Pempe Aitken is survived by her son and daughter, whose revival of Terence Rattigan's Man and Boy opened to rave reviews on the night that she died.

Mayhem Round-up

The FLUBA Committee on Man's Inhumanity to Man notes:

BOISE, Idaho -- A member of a punk clique surrendered Wednesday for scalping another member, apparently as punishment for her disrespectful behavior toward women, police said.
The victim, a 16-year-old girl whose hair was cut in a mohawk, survived.

Marianne Dahle, 26, accused of tying up the teenager and cutting away a 6-by-8-inch section of her scalp. She allegedly used a 4-inch knife to cut away the crown and back portion of the scalp.


SAN FRANCISCO -- A man who spent less than seven years in jail for setting his son on fire two decades ago could be locked up for the rest of his life for illegally possessing a handgun.

Charley Charles, known as Charles Rothenberg when he burned his 6-year-old son in 1983, was found guilty Tuesday of the handgun charge, a conviction that could send him to prison for life under California's tough three-strikes sentencing law.

....Charles, 64, said he needed the gun as protection from vigilantes bent on retaliation for the crime against the boy, who grew up severely disfigured.


INDIANAPOLIS -- Investigators found human remains in a basement under fresh concrete after a brother and sister told them they had killed their mother and grandparents, authorities said Wednesday.

Investigators worked into early Wednesday digging up concrete in the grandparents' small, wood-frame home on the city's east side, and a forensic anthropologist was brought in to help gather evidence.

Kenneth Allen Jr., 29, and his sister, Kari Allen, 18, had been pulled over for speeding Tuesday in Missouri. In the car, officers discovered bloody clothes and bedding, as well as jewelry, cash, credit cards and the driver's licenses of two older people in Indiana, St. Charles County, Mo., Sheriff's Lt. Craig McGuire said.

The FLUBA COMIM counts its blessings.

As The Worm Turns

Mexico rescues an industry:

The world nearly lost a peculiar piece of Mexico's cultural tradition this week after the government, without regard to drinkers anywhere, targeted the lowly worm at the bottom of the mezcal bottle for extinction.

....The effort to remove the worm came amid concerns of the worm's high fat content.

If you make it to the bottom of a bottle of mezcal, a fatty worm is the least of your problems. But officials say they were worried that fat globules alter the chemical composition of mezcal, made from the blue agave cactus, the same raw material used to make tequila.

After learning of the anti-worm legislation, mezcal producers swung into action, lobbying and producing studies that show that the worm poses no health risks. The government reversed course, saving not just the worm, but in all likelihood the mezcal industry.

"It would have been devastating," said New York-born Douglas French, who exports Oaxacan mezcal, with a scorpion instead of a worm, to the United States. "It's an old beverage for Mexico, but it's new for the world and its trademark is the worm."

French estimates that sales, especially for mezcal exported abroad, would have plunged without the worm, perhaps as much as 70 percent.

... the worm has been imbued with all sorts of powers: Some believe it can cause hallucinations; in Japan, drinkers believe the worms to be aphrodisiacs and demand multiple worms in their bottles. For Mexicans and tourists alike, eating the worm can be a rite of passage.

Down and Down He Goes...

...round and round he goes
In a spin, loving the spin....

Paul--White Magic--Krugman, is an old-fashioned kinda guy:

President Bush isn't trying to reform Social Security. He isn't even trying to "partially privatize" it. ....the goal, as with his tax cuts, is to undermine the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt.'s foolish to imagine some sort of widely acceptable compromise with Mr. Bush about Social Security. Moderates and liberals want to preserve the America F.D.R. built. Mr. Bush and the ideological movement he leads, although they may use F.D.R.'s image in ads, want to destroy it.

But, old-fashioned is no qualification for an economist. Social Security being 19th century technology--like the horse and buggy--imported from Bismarck's Germany via FDR's New Deal in the 1930s.

Since then, we've split the atom, invented jet engines, sent men to the moon and back, developed bar codes that allowed the creation of the modern retail superstore, and have computerized and internet-ized such simple tasks as writing letters, and visiting the library.

Yet, the author of Ricardo's Difficult Idea can't seem to grasp that his own work on international trade can be applied to a nation's pension system.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Anything Rhyme With Pocket Protector?

Only somewhat less ridiculous than a geriatric rock show at halftime of the Superbowl; Geeksta Rap:

It's all because of Rajeev Bajaj, a 39-year-old chemical engineer from Fremont, Calif., who is either going to become the def jammer of the science and technology domain or the poster boy for excruciatingly embarrassing nerdiness.

Bajaj recently spent $15,000 of his own money forming an independent record label and hiring musicians to perform four rap and hip-hop songs he wrote in praise of the engineering profession. He hopes his debut album, "Geek Rhythms," will convince America that engineers indeed are cool.

We can answer that for ourselves here. The FLUBA Committee on Fascinatin' Rhythm isn't going to forget the Gershwins anytime soon:

I made the calculator and computer, too,
'cause math is not something everybody can do...
I am an engineer.
Respect my mind.
So bow down when u see me downtown.