Thursday, March 31, 2005

World's Most Rambling Post -- Contact Guinness

The last time I was in traffic court [No, I don't drive particularly fast. My vice is always driving about the same speed and tending to ignore speed limit signs that occasionally are below the setting on my absent-minded auto-pilot. But, where was I? Oh yes...] The last time I was in traffic court there was a young couple there. It seems they had gotten into an argument about which vehicle was faster, her Volvo or his Jeep, and had decided to find out.

I was reminded of this story by an issue of Ben Stein's Diary -- yes, that Ben Stein; you can no longer win his money but you can read his diary at The American Spectator. (TAS requires a subscription for the full text of most of their articles but they appear to be dangling Stein's Diary as full-text bait, trolling for readership.) Ben Stein is always an interesting read and in this installment he relates how he and his son, Tommy, got into an argument (on Stein's 60th birthday) about which car was faster, Stein's Caddy or Tommy's Subaru...

I used to be a regular reader of Stein's diary but I let my subscription to TAS go and I haven't kept up with it. I Googled for it because I remembered an entry in his diary from a long time ago and I was curious whether he was still writing it. In that long-ago diary entry, Stein had some potentially inflamatory ideas about race relations -- things that many people secretly believe but nobody can say. The politically incorrect observations were part of a story in which an unspecified friend came to visit Stein in his house and expressed the unfashionable opinions. The exposition was punctuated by protestations from Stein such as "I can't believe you're saying that!" and "Get OUT of my HOUSE!"

Ben Stein is a very smart man. Ben Franklin was also a very smart man. Lawrence Summers at Harvard is a third very smart man. Summers was recently invited to speak, off the record, at a conference on “Diversifying the Science and Engineering Workforce.” He was asked to "stimulate debate" and he did -- big time. Summers, like Stein, wanted to encourage people to think about a contentious issue where the "official" view does not entirely entirely explain the observed data. But, unlike Stein, Summers neglected to isolate himself from the controversial parts of the inquiry. Instead, he got out his kite and launched it into the thunderstorm. And he has called down the lighning.

Like I said, Ben Stein is a very smart man. I admire him greatly. I also admire Ben Franklin and I am glad he avoided electrocution, because the kite and thunderstorm thing was brilliant and stupid, both at the same time. I might be tempted to admire Dr. Summers if it weren't for the terribly wicked things he has said and done. For more insight into the Summers fiasco at Harvard I offer this link to a stern scolding of Summers by a justifiably irate feminist member of the Harvard faculty. [OOPS! wrong link!! Sorry, can't seem to find the one I intended.]

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