Category Archives: Inner Space

Harvard Chief Doesn’t Stand Up to His Own Standards

  • NYTimesFuror Lingers as Harvard Chief Gives Details of Talk on Women “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, part of a faculty group that sharply criticized Dr. Summers’s leadership at a meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on Tuesday. “There’s an implication that they’ve taken themselves out of that role. But he brings forward no evidence.”

My opinion, of course, is that this guy is totally off base.  The fact that he is the leader of one of the most prestigious Universities in the US makes this all the worse.  Additionally, if you judge him according to the standards of his profession, one of education and research, he should be driven out of practice.  As any researcher or professor knows, you cannot make statements to your peers without providing evidence.  The Harvard Chief stated repeatedly that he might be wrong and that someone should prove him otherwise.  However, that is not the duty of the collective community.  If you are going to make statements, especially ones so controversial, it is up to you to provide evidence to back them up.  This applies to anyone in any industry or organization.  This fault alone is enough to remove him from a leadership role.

News by your Fellow Man

There’s a new kind of news online, and it is created by anyone who has something worthwhile to report.  Wikinews is a collaborative news services, created by the people who brought us the Wikipedia.  Wikinews has had some success with the story of an explosion in Belize.  It will be interesting to see how well it works for the long term.  Something to keep an eye on – and perhaps to contribute to if you have something newsworthy to broadcast.

Tsunami uncovers archaeological remains

  • BoingBoing: Tsunami uncovered ancient artifacts As a result of the December 26 tsunami, archaeologists have discovered stone structures from the 7th century AD off the coast of India’s Tamil Nadu state. For three years, archaeologists have been conducting underwater expeditions to explore the remains of an ancient port city there. The latest finds, including the granite lion seen here, were partially uncovered after the tsunami caused the coastline to recede. The tsunami also desilted a mostly-obscured giant rock relief of an elephant on the nearby Mahabalipuram temple.

This just shows the amazing force the tsunami had to move earth and water which hadn’t been moved for centuries.

I’m not sure Budget is the correct word…

  • John Kerry: Statement by John Kerry on the President’s Budget There’s nothing fiscally responsible here. It’s textbook Washington bait-and-switch budgeting that puts special interests ahead of families. The administration is sweeping under the carpet the huge costs of some of their most reckless policies, and is doing next to nothing to rein in out-of-control spending in Washington. It will cost $1.6 trillion to make the President’s tax cuts permanent, but there’s not a penny in the budget to pay for them. It will cost $1.9 trillion to privatize Social Security accounts, but there’s not a penny in the budget to pay for that ideological blunder. Americans are spending $5 billion a month in Iraq, but there is not a penny in the budget to fund the war. The numbers simply don’t add up, and the American people deserve better.

That’s about what I thought of the budget.  Also, apparently most presidents prepare a 4-5 year budget while this one has only prepared 1 year.  And he also has not included all the costs as shown in Kerry’s statement above.  We can only hope that Congress makes things slightly better, but don’t hold your breath.

Apparently I can’t add

NYTimes: Harvard Chief Defends His Talk on Women The president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, who offended some women at an academic conference last week by suggesting that innate differences in sex may explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers, stood by his comments yesterday but said he regretted if they were misunderstood. About 50 academics from across the nation, many of them economists, participated in the conference, “Diversifying the Science and Engineering Workforce: Women, Underrepresented Minorities, and their S. & E. Careers.”  He discussed several factors that could help explain the underrepresentation of women. The first factor, he said, according to several participants, was that top positions on university math and engineering faculties require extraordinary commitments of time and energy, with many professors working 80-hour weeks in the same punishing schedules pursued by top lawyers, bankers and business executives. Few married women with children are willing to accept such sacrifices, he said.

Not only are Dr. Summers’ comments short-sided and bigoted, they don’t even make sense in a scientific sense.  If you take his comment about working 80-hour weeks, that means that he is judging S&E ability based upon whether or not you become a “top position” in a University.  So all the real world working scientists, engineers, etc. apparently don’t count in his assessment at all.  Plus, apparently men don’t care as much about their family and children by his statement.  Also, does this mean that if there are gender differences for S&E ability, that men without this ability are somehow not as manly?  In our family, there are three daughters of a computer science teacher and an English teacher.  Two of us are S&E majors – one a computer engineer and the other a chemist.  The third is an art teacher.  In our small subset of the population, who all had the same elementary and secondary education, we were more likely to go into S&E.  Perhaps the reasons are more linked to education and the fact that women are just reaching higher positions in the workforce and universities in order to encourage the younger generations?

Perilous Times

Geof Stone, author of In Perilous Times and law professor at the University of Chicago, is guest blogging on Lawrence Lessig’s blog. He has some interesting thoughts on war and the suspension of civil rights. He already has several blog entries about various American wars, starting at the Civil War. The comments on the entries are interesting as well. Even if you disagree with him, it is quite thought provoking.

Maybe Someone Needs to Cut Up Their Credit Card?

  • The EconomistThe disappearing dollar THE dollar has been the leading international currency for as long as most people can remember. But its dominant role can no longer be taken for granted. If America keeps on spending and borrowing at its present pace, the dollar will eventually lose its mighty status in international finance. And that would hurt: the privilege of being able to print the world’s reserve currency, a privilege which is now at risk, allows America to borrow cheaply, and thus to spend much more than it earns, on far better terms than are available to others. Imagine you could write cheques that were accepted as payment but never cashed. That is what it amounts to. If you had been granted that ability, you might take care to hang on to it. America is taking no such care, and may come to regret it.

So while normal people have a hard time making their mortgage payments and getting by, and we have executives running around swindling money from stock holders, the US govt is no better with their rampant credit abuse.  Maybe it’s time for someone to cut up their cards…

Doom & Gloom?

  • Boston Herald: Economic `Armageddon’ predicted. Stephen Roach, the chief economist at investment banking giant Morgan Stanley, has a public reputation for being bearish. But you should hear what he’s saying in private. Roach met select groups of fund managers downtown last week, including a group at Fidelity. His prediction: America has no better than a 10 percent chance of avoiding economic “armageddon.” Press were not allowed into the meetings. But the Herald has obtained a copy of Roach’s presentation. A stunned source who was at one meeting said, “it struck me how extreme he was – much more, it seemed to me, than in public.” Roach sees a 30 percent chance of a slump soon and a 60 percent chance that “we’ll muddle through for a while and delay the eventual armageddon.”
  • Now I try to be as positive as the next American. But this Administration’s blatant disregard for the economics of our unborn grandchildren really has me concerned about our own economic future. With the upward spiral of the national debt, and many wondering if we’ll ever pay it all back by the time we’re done with this war, I wonder if we’re not about to see the 70s and 80s all over again. Is it time to trade in the gas guzzling SUVs for a fuel efficient hybrid compact? Maybe not quite yet, but I think I’ll hold on to the mortgage rate I have and hunker down with as little debt as possible. At least for 4 more years….