Ken Lay conviction vacated; average joes pay penalty

October 22, 2006

Oh, the Justice Department promises to use civil cases to try to get back from Ken Lay’s estate some of the money he pirated, in order to compensate the little fishes who lost their retirement funds, college funds, houses and more in the Enron collapse.

But Ken Lay is still dead, and it is still true that he stole from the poor to pay the wealthy.  Quite apart from revenge, those who suffered most from Enron’s collapse wish Lay had lived.

Please note that, among many other things the current Republican Do-Nothing Congress left undone, Congress adjourned without passing a change in the law that would have allowed Lay’s victims to get compensation.  Congress’s adjournment let Ken Lay’s crimes go unpunished:

Prosecutors offered no counter-argument in the case, but had asked Lake to hold off on a ruling until next week so Congress could consider legislation from the Justice Department that changes federal law regarding the abatement of criminal convictions. Congress recessed for the elections without considering the proposal.

Arrgh, as Charlie Brown might say.

Justice and the public schools: Nobel for Andy Fire

October 22, 2006

You know what? It’s not easy tracking down the elementary and high school records of Nobel winners! Most biographies of Nobelists skip from “born in the city of . . .” to “Ph.D. at . . . ” without noting elementary, junior high or high schools. I’ve noted before, I track this issue half-heartedly as a 30-second response to the claim that private schooling is vastly superior to public schooling. Can’t tell that from Nobel winners.

I know Andy Fire, the 2006 Nobel winner in Physiology or Medicine, attended public schools. From the op- editorial in the Daytona Beach, Florida, News-Journal, I know that Fire attended Hollenbeck Elementary School in Sunnyvale, California. I also know he was picked on by bullies. The full story is below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

History as a part of science

October 22, 2006

Santayana’s line at the top of this blog is a key justification for what historians do. Avoiding bad results by studying history is not only an exercise in diplomacy and economics, however. Knowing what happened in the past often offers windows into what is happening today, in economics, diplomacy, education, agriculture, transportation, health care, a hundred other fields, and in wildlife management — and what we should do about it

Ralph Maughn’s Yellowstone region-specific blog is one of my late favorites, Yellowstone National Park being part of my childhood in so many way. My wife and I honeymooned in Yellowstone (in January — have you ever had Old Faithful in the moonlight, with only you and a dozen bison as witnesses, no other humans?). My oldest brother is interred there, after a career that saw him finally achieve recognition in the desert southwest — he still preferred the Yellowstone.

Human observation of the area is too recent to make a lot of long-term predictions. We simply do not know how the enormous ecosystems in that relatively small area behaved in response to natural and artificial changes in the past. So we read these articles talking about change with trepidation. Do they show trends? Is this the future that must be, as Scrooge asked the third angel?

Articles in the Jackson Star-Tribune probably will not be picked up by the news syndicators and published in a dozen newspapers nationally, let alone a hundred or more. News of our National Parks, our national treasures, often is limited to the regions where they are. But they affect all of us. The Yellowstone area strides two river drainage systems, the Missouri to the Atlantic, and the Columbia to the Pacific. It is a centacosm (too big for a microcosm) of what is happening worldwide.

To Yellowstone, we are Scrooge. If only the path we need to pursue to be the new Scrooge were clear, decisions would be easier. And so we study history, seeking sources for history of natural things that can tell us what happened 500 years ago, 1000 years ago, and longer ago.

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