Looking at Gender Gap, Claudia Goldin Sees: “Lots of Evidence of People Making Rational Choices”

(p. A2) Cornell University economists Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn found that after adjusting for factors such as education, experience, occupation and industry, the remaining, “unexplained” gender gap in 1998 was nine percentage points. Women also are likely to interrupt their careers, often to start a family, and such breaks can derail promotions and raises.

“When you first see the numbers, you would say there is a glass ceiling,” says Harvard University economist Claudia Goldin. “And yet when you scrutinize the data, you find lots of evidence of people making rational choices.”

For the full commentary, see:
CARL BIALIK. “THE NUMBERS GUY; Not All Differences in Earnings Are Created Equal.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., APRIL 10, 2010): A2.

Environmentalist Blue Planet Prize Winner Lovelock Endorsed Nuclear Power


“The scientist James E. Lovelock during an interview at the Algonquin Hotel in New York.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. D2) Few scientists have elicited such equivalent heaps of praise and criticism as James E. Lovelock, the British chemist, inventor and planetary diagnostician who has long foreseen a clash between humans and their planet.

His work underpins much of modern environmentalism. The electron capture detector he invented in the 1950’s produced initial measurements of dispersed traces of pesticides and ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons, providing a foundation for the work of Rachel Carson and for studies revealing risks to the atmosphere’s protective ozone layer.
His conception in 1972 of the planet’s chemistry, climate and veneer of life as a self-sustaining entity, soon given the name Gaia, was embraced by the Earth Day generation and was ridiculed, but eventually accepted (with big qualifications), by many biologists.
Dr. Lovelock, honored in 1997 with the Blue Planet Prize, which is widely considered the environmental equivalent of a Nobel award, has now come under attack from some environmentalists for his support of nuclear power as a way to avoid runaway “global heating” — his preferred alternative to “global warming.”
In his latest book, “The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back — and How We Can Still Save Humanity” (Perseus, 2006), Dr. Lovelock says that any risks posed by nuclear power are small when compared with the “fever” of heat-trapping carbon dioxide produced by burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels.

For the full interview, see:
ANDREW C. REVKIN. “A Conversation With James E. Lovelock; Updating Prescriptions for Avoiding Worldwide Catastrophe.” The New York Times, Science Times Section (Tues., September 12, 2006): D2.

“Modern” Humans Have Existed for at Least 100,000–and Maybe 200,000–Years

(p. 9) A group of geneticists headed by Rebecca Cann and Alan Wilson, using mtDNA and a sophisticated “molecular clock,” traced modern-human ancestry back to isolated African populations dating to between two hundred thousand and one hundred thousand years ago. Inevitably there was talk of an “African Eve,” a first modern woman, the hypothetical ancestor of all modern humankind. Most archaeologists gulped and took a deep breath. Cairn and her colleagues had taken Homo sapiens into new and uncharted historical territory.
. . .
(p. 10) The genetic case for an African origin for Homo sapiens seems overwhelming. The archaeologists have also stepped forward with new fossil discoveries, including a robust 195,000-year-old modern human from Omo Kibish, in Ethiopia, and three 160,000-year-old Homo sapiens skulls from Herto, also in Ethiopia. Few anthropologists now doubt that Africa was the cradle of Homo sapiens and home to the remotest ancestors of the first modern Europeans–the Cro-Magnons. The seemingly outrageous chronology of two decades ago is now accepted as historical reality.

Fagan, Brian. Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2010.
(Note: ellipsis added; italics in original.)

Action Hero Reagan Made Sure Message Could Be Heard

BuckleyReagan2010-09-01.jpg “William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan in 1978, following their debate over the Panama Canal Treaty.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 23) On the night that William F. Buckley met Ronald Reagan, the future president of the United States put his elbow through a plate-glass window. The year was 1961, and the two men were in Beverly Hills, where Buckley, perhaps the most famous conservative in America at the tender age of 35, was giving an address at a school auditorium. Reagan, a former Hollywood leading man dabbling in political activism — the Tim Robbins or Alec Baldwin of his day — had been asked to do the introductions.

But the microphone was dead, the technician was nowhere to be found and the control room was locked. As the crowd began to grumble, Reagan coolly opened one of the auditorium windows, stepped onto a ledge two stories above the street and inched his way around to the control room. He smashed his elbow through the glass and clambered in through the broken window. “In a minute there was light in the upstairs room,” Buckley later wrote, “and then we could hear the crackling of the newly animated microphone.”
This anecdote kicks off The Reagan I Knew (Basic Books, $25), a slight and padded reminiscence published posthumously this past autumn, nine months after Buckley’s death.

For the full review essay, see:
ROSS DOUTHAT. “Essay; When Buckley Met Reagan .” The New York Times, Book Review Section (Sun., January 18, 2009): 23.
(Note: bold in original.)
(Note: The online version of the review essay was dated January 16, 2009.)

Post-War Freedom, Not FDR’s New Deal or War, Ended Great Depression

(p. A17) Roosevelt died before the war ended and before he could implement his New Deal revival. His successor, Harry Truman, in a 16,000 word message on Sept. 6, 1945, urged Congress to enact FDR’s ideas as the best way to achieve full employment after the war.

Congress–both chambers with Democratic majorities–responded by just saying “no.” No to the whole New Deal revival: no federal program for health care, no full-employment act, only limited federal housing, and no increase in minimum wage or Social Security benefits.
Instead, Congress reduced taxes. Income tax rates were cut across the board. FDR’s top marginal rate, 94% on all income over $200,000, was cut to 86.45%. The lowest rate was cut to 19% from 23%, and with a change in the amount of income exempt from taxation an estimated 12 million Americans were eliminated from the tax rolls entirely.
. . .
Congress substituted the tonic of freedom for FDR’s New Deal revival and the American economy recovered well. Unemployment, which had been in double digits throughout the 1930s, was only 3.9% in 1946 and, except for a couple of short recessions, remained in that range for the next decade.
The Great Depression was over, no thanks to FDR. Yet the myth of his New Deal lives on. With the current effort by President Obama to emulate some of FDR’s programs to get us out of the recent deep recession, this myth should be laid to rest.

For the full commentary, see:
The economy took off after the postwar Congress cut taxes.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., APRIL 12, 2010): A17.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

Our Cro-Magnon Forbears Adapted Readily to Extreme Climatic Change

In the passage that follows, Brian Fagan describes our best guess at the landscape of part of France about 18,000 years ago, and then describes how the landscape dramatically changed in a short period. (We usually do not know exactly how short—maybe as long as a few hundred years, maybe as short as a month.)

(p. xiv) There would have been black aurochs with lyre-shaped horns, perhaps arctic foxes in their brown summer fur feeding off a kill, perhaps a pride of lions resting under the trees. If you’d been patient enough, you’d have seen the occasional humans, too. But you would have known they weren’t far away–informed by the smell of burning wood, trails of white smoke from rock-shelter hearths, the cries of children at play. Then I imagined this world changing rapidly, soon becoming one of forest and water meadow, devoid of reindeer and wild horses, much of the game lurking in the trees. I marveled at the ability of our forebears to adapt so readily to such dramatic environmental changes.

Few humans have ever lived in a world of such extreme climatic and environmental change.
. . .
(p. xvi) The story of the Neanderthals and the Cro-Magnons tells us much about how our forebears adapted to climatic crisis and sudden environmental change. Like us, they faced an uncertain future, and like us, they relied on uniquely human qualities of adaptiveness, ingenuity, and opportunism to carry them through an uncertain and challenging world.

Fagan, Brian. Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2010.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

“Disrespectful to Take Money from One Man’s Pocket and Put It in Another’s”

WestsideCommunityCenterColoradoSprings2010-08-30.jpg“A March fair to raise private funding for community centers, held at Westside Community Center, was sparsely attended.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A1) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.–Like many American cities, this one is strapped for cash. Tax collections here have fallen so far that the city has turned off one-third of its 24,512 street lights.

But unlike many cities, this one is full of people who are eager for more government cutbacks.
The town council has been bombarded with emails telling it to close community centers. Letters to the local newspaper call for shrinking the police department and putting the city-owned utility up for sale. A commission is studying whether to sell the municipal hospital. Another, made up of local businessmen, will opine on whether to slash the salaries and benefits of city employees.
“Let’s start cutting stupid programs that cost taxpayers a pot of money,” says Tim Austin, a 48-year-old former home builder now looking for a new line of work. “It’s so bullying and disrespectful to take money from one man’s pocket and put it in another’s.”

For the full story, see:

LESLIE EATON. “Strapped City Cuts and Cuts and Cuts.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., APRIL 13, 2010): A1 & A16.

Energy Department Wastes Energy

(p. A17) WASHINGTON — Like flossing or losing weight, saving energy is easier to promise than to actually do — even if you are the Department of Energy.

Its Web site advises that choosing new lighting technologies can slash energy use by 50 to 75 percent. But the department is having trouble taking its own advice, according to an internal audit released on Wednesday; many of its offices are still installing obsolete fluorescent bulbs.
And very few have switched to the most promising technology, light-emitting diodes, which the department spent millions of dollars to help commercialize.
Many of the changes would generate savings that would pay back the investment in two years or so, according to the report, by the department’s inspector general.
In one case, the Department of Energy made most of the investment by installing timers to shut off lights at night when it moved into a new building in 1997. But it got no benefit: as of March of this year, it had not bought the central control unit needed to run the system.

For the full story, see:
MATTHEW L. WALD. “Energy Department: Make Thyself Fuel Efficient.” The New York Times (Thurs., July 8, 2010): A17.
(Note: the online version of the article is dated July 7, 2010, and has the title “Energy Department Lags in Saving Energy.”)