James Damore, the backstory

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One of the best days of my winter was meeting a Ph.D. in Systems Biology from Harvard. Were my dreams coming true? Yes! She had, in fact, overlapped with the Google Heretic, James Damore.

Americans like a world in which bad stuff never happens by chance. If we hear about someone who got lung cancer we want to know “Did he smoke?” Journalists thus dug around at the time that Google was casting out its heretic until they found some people willing to declare that Damore had been unlikable back in grad school. I grilled his former colleague for details. “He’s the last person I would have expected to end up identified as anti-woman,” she said. “We all thought that he was a nice guy.” Had he been interested in differences between the human sexes when at Harvard? “No, not at all. He never mentioned anything on the subject,” she explained.

I wonder if this is more evidence for the research psychologists’ findings that personality is mostly situational. We think that people have stable and certain personalities, but that is mostly because we typically see these folks in the same environment day after day. The “hard worker” who inherits $10 million, for example, may turn out not to have a work-oriented personality at all!

Thus Damore was fine at Harvard, but once he got to Google and received daily homilies from the priests of gender diversity, he hit the academic journals for papers on differences between the (human) sexes and wrote the memo that got him fired.

[Separately, here’s a Facebook posting of mine from the first week of the Harvard class:

Had a James Damore (TM) School of Sexual Dimorphism lesson today. Asked if the room was too warm, all of those born with XY chromosomes shouted “YES” and those with XX then drowned them out with “NO.”

Only two friends were brave enough to click “Like”. Compare to 30-40 who will “Like” a photo of a todder and/or retriever.]

In some ways the most interesting part of my conversation with the Google Heretic’s comrade in Systems Biology was that she with her Ph.D. summarized his 10-page memo, stuffed with academic journal citations, in the same inaccurate way as American journalists: “women are not as good at programming as men.” (I think an accurate short summary would be “on average, women are not as interested in the stare-at-a-screen-all-day-for-30-years programming job as men.”) This should be a good lesson to any future James Damore: Americans are not going to understand what you write, nor will they try to understand, but instead will map it to the simplest concept with which they’re already familiar. Even the best-educated Americans will then tend to adopt the mob view of the uneducated journalists. (Debra Soh, an academic in this area, wasn’t swayed by the consensus view and wrote “No, the Google manifesto isn’t sexist or anti-diversity. It’s science,” but she is Canadian.)

Related:

  • “The More Gender Equality, the Fewer Women in STEM” (Atlantic), with a fancy chart purportedly showing that women are less likely to become nerds if a society opens all of the doors (note the differences between similar countries, e.g., Switzerland and Germany, where potential child support and alimony profits are very different (data), so they probably would want to adjust for differing revenue opportunities in marriage and/or out-of-wedlock pregnancy)

Who has seen the Black Panther movie?

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My virtue-signalling Facebook friends (i.e., my Facebook friends) are posting pictures of themselves preparing to see Black Panther. What’s unusual about these photos is that they feature both the white social justice warrior and a person of color (unlike any other photos that they’ve posted for the preceding year or two!). Thus this is a photographic version of “some of my best friends are black”: “some of my best friends are black and we like to go see black-themed movies together”. (Not to be confused with my own standard virtuous statement: “Some of my best friends are extremely rich black people.”)

Here’s a post from a virtuous friend:

Taking the kids to see Black Panther this morning… so we gave [Marlee] (our 6yo) a 10 min primer on pre-revolutionary slavery, emancipation, the civil war, the civil rights movement, and the launch of the BP comic.

From a private Facebook message exchange:

Did you see [our mutual SJW friend] doubling up on black achievements? Celebrating black panther. Two things every good liberal must do: (1) go see Hamilton and post 3 times about how amazing it was; (2) then do the same for Black Panther (the movie).

Since I refuse to spend more than $15 to see Hamilton I need to wait for the movie version (or a high school version?) and I haven’t seen Black Panther yet so perhaps readers can help with reviews of both!

Also, what do folks who were members of the Black Panther Party back in the 1960s and 1970s say about this movie and all of the white think-gooders (they can’t be do-gooders because they never do anything other than post on Facebook!) going to see it?

[One interesting data point is that there is a substantial discrepancy in critic score versus audience score for this movie on Rotten Tomatoes. The identified-by-name virtue-signalling critics give the movie 97 percent while the anonymous audience, without the opportunity to signal virtue, rates the movie at 77 percent.]

Cannibal Queen by Stephen Coonts

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I  have finished The Cannibal Queen, a book indirectly suggested by a reader in a comment on A 48-state tour of the U.S. by light aircraft. Stephen Coonts, a former Navy A-6 Intruder pilot, does a much more ambitious 48-state tour. He flies an open-cockpit Stearman biplane. There is no attitude indicator if he gets into a cloud. There is no GPS or moving map or even a VOR or ADF. It is all sectional charts, looking down at landmarks, and calling ATC for help if lost.

Coonts pretty much admits that he wrote the book because he got a contract to write the book (and because he wanted to deduct the cost of the Stearman and the trip?). The writing seems a little forced and it isn’t clear what the story is.

Coonts describes the U.S. in 1991 as beginning to collapse under the weight of government regulation, e.g., with fuel providers at small airports being forced out of business by EPA requirements to dig up fuel tanks. He writes that a specific individual “is the FBO” at an airport and decries the corporatization of FBOs (airport gas stations) that was then in progress. Coonts doesn’t think that a pilot should be greeted by a young front desk worker with no experience behind the stick or yoke. Today, of course, the FBOs have been rolled up and are mostly owned by foreigners (see BBA Aviation and Jet Aviation, leaders by gallons pumped and headquartered in the UK and Switzerland respectively).

Much of what Coonts writes would offend young Americans today. He assumes that a woman’s appearance and age, rather than her professional achievements and commitment to social justice, will have a big effect on the extent to which men will want to have sex with her. (Coonts describes himself as part of the no-fault divorce generation, and an ex-wife appears in the book?) Disney World 10 years before 9/11: “Here’s the casbah in Tangiers without the dirt and squalor and Moslem fanatics ready to slit your throat!” Coonts ridicules a “a professor of political science at some little college here in New England” for starting a sentence with “As an intellectual…” He doesn’t anticipate that this style of discourse would take over first the liberal arts college and then the nation as a whole:

I like going to classes because I can learn a lot. About the students, I mean. Here the great arias of self-involvement—far more operatic than Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro”—wind their way through the boxy little classrooms as professors eagerly facilitate our growth as social beings and master complainers. I learn how to speak effectively within my new milieu. I master an Oberlin technique called “As a.” “As a woman, I think …” “As a woman of color, I would speculate …” “As a woman of no color, I would conjecture …” “As a hermaphrodite.” “As a bee liberator.” “As a beagle in a former life.” Only what will I say? Whom will I speak for? I raise my hand. “As an immigrant …” Pause. All eyes on me. This isn’t Stuyvesant; here immigrants are a rare, succulent breed, even if the ones present usually have parents who own half of Lahore. “As an immigrant from the former Soviet Union …” So far, so good! Where can I take this? “As an immigrant from a developing country crushed by American imperialism …” As I speak, people, by which I mean girls, are looking at me and nodding. I have shed every last vestige of the Hebrew school nudnik and the Stuyvesant clown. The things I say in class are no longer meant to be funny or satiric or ironic; they’re meant to celebrate my own importance, forged in the crucible of our collective importance. There is no room for funny at Oberlin. Everything we do must move the human race forward.

— from Gary Shteyngart’s Little Failure: A Memoir

Beginning pilots who suffer from motion sickness will be pleased to know that Coonts got through his primary training in the U.S. Navy only with the aid of Dramamine.

Tailwheel pilots will be comforted to learn that this former military aviator is never able to land the Stearman consistently. After landing weapons-heavy A-6 planes on aircraft carriers, Coonts is terrified when the wind kicks up to 20 knots and/or is not directly down the runway. One practical tip that Coonts supplies is to give up on wheel landings. He says that it is better to groundloop after a slow three-pointer than to crash after a fast wheel landing: “Scrub off every knot you can before you put her on the ground, then if things go to hell, all you’ll have to worry about is a scraped wingtip and damaged pride.”

What about those awesome Blue Angels pilots in air shows? Coonts describes the one “ex-Angel” he knew as being ineffective in combat. According to Coonts, there was no real role for fighters in Vietnam due to the fact that that the North Vietnamese didn’t present a realistic challenge. So that the fighter pilots wouldn’t have to sit on the sidelines, the U.S. turned fighter planes into bombers with a feeble capacity. The ex-Angel was shot down and killed on the last day of combat in Vietnam. He made multiple passes over the same target to drop 1 out of 6 total bombs at a time. This gave the enemy time to hone its anti-aircraft aiming skills.

The book highlights some big changes in American society since 1991. The author is from northeastern West Virginia and stops there to visit his parents during the trip. This is now the heart of the taxpayer-funded opioid “epidemic,” but there is no suggestion in the book that, just a few years later, a huge percentage of folks in that region will be on SSDI and OxyContin. Coonts visits the Confederate Air Force, a bunch of World War II veterans keeping World War II planes flying. Today the veterans are dead and the group has renamed itself the Commemorative Air Force. Coonts doesn’t foresee the inability of Americans to tolerate anything named “Confederate” nor that the occasional disputes about black Americans’ position in U.S. society would become far more frequent, public, rancorous, and litigated. Coonts also misses the impending gender war. He writes about women as though they are adults, capable of deciding whether to have sex with men (even in a Boulder, Colorado college fraternity party context!), capable of working in any career, etc.

Coonts accurately predicts the statistical decline of American entrepreneurism. He attributes a shift toward big enterprises to the development of a “license Raj” government that would make operating a small business impractical (see Economist and also “Why young people don’t like the Republican tax plan: they are planning to be W-2 wage slaves”).

The author’s political views seem inconsistent. He sees the federal government as essentially incompetent and insanely wasteful (“Uncle Sugar”), partly based on his experience in Vietnam and partly based on observing regulatory trends. But then he admires Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American arguably most responsible for turning the U.S. into a government-directed economy (see some of my postings on The Forgotten Man, e.g., U.S. economy may not be tough enough to survive incompetent government (July 2008, just a few months before the U.S. did collapse!)). He proposes that FDR’s image be chiseled into Mt. Rushmore.

So… if you’re passionate about aviation and wandering around the huge continent that we stole from the Indians, the book is worth the investment.

More:  read The Cannibal Queen.

Meet for coffee on Saturday morning in Seattle? Or Sunday at the Flying Heritage museum?

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The dreary world of the software expert witness sometimes intersects with a fun city to visit. This weekend it will be Seattle! Who would like to meet for coffee on Saturday morning, February 24, at or near the Fairmont Olympic hotel?

Alternatively, what about an excursion to the Flying Heritage museum up at Paine Field? I’m planning to go up there on Sunday morning to see what all of my Windows license fees have paid for!

Comment here and/or email me if interested in getting together.

Unusual combination of American passions for diversity and litigation

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“IBM sues Microsoft’s new chief diversity officer over non-compete agreement” (GeekWire) is a story covering America’s current twin passions:

IBM has filed suit against one of its longtime executives, Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, alleging that her new position as Microsoft’s chief diversity officer violates a year-long non-compete agreement, allowing the Redmond company to use IBM’s internal secrets to boost its own diversity efforts.

The suit, filed federal court in New York today, describes McIntyre as one of the company’s “most senior executives with knowledge of IBM’s most closely guarded and competitively sensitive strategic plans and recruitment initiatives,” including “confidential strategies to recruit, retain and promote diverse talent.”

The suit against McIntyre signals the growing significance of diversity initiatives in major tech companies.

The article contains the full 31-page Complaint.

Related:

Erica Garza is the smartest American?

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If we exclude the folks who bought Bitcoin in 2010 (calculator), I used to think that the smartest Americans were those who maximized leisure and social time without the tedium of work, e.g., by bubbling to the top of the waiting list for public housing in San Francisco, Manhattan, Cambridge/Boston. There are, of course, some crazy rich people who have even better material lifestyles than folks on welfare in these parts of the U.S., but they may have (a) inherited money from a parent, (b) worked like a slave, or (c) taken a lot of risk such that they might easily have ended up middle class and exiled to the suburbs. None of these actions are evidence of intelligence.

It’s Valentine’s week so maybe it is time to consider Valentine’s Day-related occupations. From “The Dark Origins Of Valentine’s Day” (NPR):

From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.

The Roman romantics “were drunk. They were naked,” says Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile.

The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival — or longer, if the match was right.

“A Recovering Sex and Porn Addict Tells All” (nytimes) concerns a young American, Erica Garza, who might have fit in well with the old school Valentine’s Day. If her book is a big financial success should we declare her to be the smartest American?

Ordinarily, Roman-style Valentine’s celebrations with a bunch of non-famous people is not lucrative. Back around 1990, an MIT undergraduate told me about her freshman year roommate having sex with 25 different men. When I pointed out that MIT was in session for only 26 weeks per year, the girl responded that her roommate “had a cold one week.” There was no hint that these freshman year lifestyle choices had led to wealth. (This was before young people needed to be drunk before having sex, so there was also no post-sex litigation tail with each of the 25 guys. Maybe the upcoming 25th-year class reunion will be awkward?)

Getting close to a Hollywood star and then writing about it has been moderately lucrative at times. But writing about encounters with a series of nobodies was not lucrative. Roxanne Ritchie and Susan Gilbert wrote about “36 men they claimed to have slept with” (The Tech, July 26, 1977) and earned nothing other than “formal probation” (double-secret probation for the women? The male editor of the on-campus publication in which the article appeared was suspended).

Having sex with a high-income partner and then harvesting child support can be worth $millions in California, Massachusetts, New York, or Wisconsin, but one may need to take care of a child for at least a few hours per week. Earning more after tax than the median college graduate as a result of one night spent with a married dentist is evidence of being smarter than average, but perhaps not “the smartest”.

I haven’t read Erica Garza’s book, but if she did actually make money from watching porn, having sex with a lot of new friends, and then writing about it, does that give her a credible claim to be the smartest American alive?

What will people do for love?

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It is still Valentine’s Week so let’s consider the extremes to which people will go for love. Beautifully Cruel is mostly a story about Tracey Richter-Roberts and the lengths to which she was willing to go for cash and personal sexual fulfillment, but buried within is an interesting story about what others are willing to do for love and/or sex.

Context: Ms. Richter-Roberts sued her first husband and accused him of sexually abusing their toddler son in order to secure custody and child support cash. The second marriage, to an Australian, proceeds in a similar fashion:

Not a year into the marriage, Michael said later, Tracey was screwing around on him, having repeated affairs. This, mind you, fit into her MO; she had done the same to John Pitman. The marriage, almost from the first few months of Michael being in the States, was in shambles.

“Tracey went back to their home [from the office],” Ben [the local prosecutor] continued, “took a bubble bath and, an hour after the [fight with the husband], called the cops on Michael. When the cops got there, Tracey told her fictitious version of events and then had Bert make a statement that he, Bert, had been abused by his [step]father, Michael.” Michael spent the night in jail. Because of Bert’s allegations, Child Protective Services (CPS) conducted an investigation, which Tracey wasn’t expecting. This addition to the truth, if you will, wound up being the beginning of a situation Tracey would soon find herself in with no way out. CPS reports are, by law, given to the biological parents. So John Pitman, Tracey’s ex, received a notice that Michael had abused Bert (which was untrue). When she realized what she had done, “Tracey had Bert lie [again] and tell Child Protective Services he wasn’t referring to Michael when he said his father hit him, but rather his biological father, Dr. Pitman,” Ben Smith added. Thus, Pitman received a notice of the allegation of abuse against Bert by Michael—but also that he, too, was once again the target of a child abuse investigation. This after Pitman had fought and proved false two sexual abuse claims already by Tracey. This became, in effect, the catalyst that sparked Pitman’s filing for a change in custody in late 2000—a filing on Pitman’s behalf, Ben Smith went on to claim, that facilitated Tracey’s new plan to now make sure that Pitman lost this new child custody case.

The story that that a guy in Virginia had abused a boy in Iowa ends up having some legs and Ms. Richter-Roberts wasn’t able to stop all of the gears from turning:

Tracey’s attempts to portray Pitman as sexually abusing Bert had failed. Every single exam, every single accusation she had ever made against John Pitman over the years—thus subjecting Bert to several colonoscopy-like exams for sexual abuse—had been proven to be nothing more than unfounded nonsense, trumped up by a woman hell-bent on destroying a man and his reputation so she could keep the cash flowing. None of it worked. Tracey had made it all up, according to the state and several investigations into the alleged abuse. The court was going to side with Pitman and his new motion to gain custody of Bert.

Thus, the obvious solution to all of Tracey’s problems—potentially losing custody of Bert and all of that money associated with custody, at a time when her husband’s computer company was hemorrhaging money they did not have—was written in a narrative by a local special-needs kid. If Dr. Pitman was arrested and charged with conspiracy, Tracey’s life—that is, as she saw it—would turn around.

She persuaded a 20-year-old neighbor, Dustin Wehde, to come over to her house, write a diary in a pink(!) notebook talking about how he had been hired by the first husband to kill the man’s son, and then shot the kid 9 times, purportedly in self-defense. The diary was conveniently left in the kid’s car, which he parked in the driveway during what was supposedly a home invasion (the second husband was away on a business trip). Despite all of the inconsistencies and absurdities in the heavily armed woman’s story about how she happened to kill an unarmed young man, it took the authorities 10 years before they arrested her and put her on trial.

Here’s the love story part of the book:

Thirty-year-old John Pitman, in his fourth year of medical school, was working a rotation at the hospital one night as a medical student, when he crossed paths with a woman claiming to be a radiographer, who caught his eye. She was simply breathtaking then: long, dark, thick mane of hair, all teased up into a 1980s metal-band do. She wore loose-fitting hospital scrubs and smelled of the sweetest perfume. She smiled and seemed nice. “Tracey . . . Tracey Richter,” she said. Tracey was twenty years old; John Pitman nearly ten years her senior. With her perfectly sculpted body and full face, high cheekbones and plump lips some women pay lots of money for, it was clear to John, like many men Tracey had come in contact with, that she could have chosen any guy she wanted.

Later, John would assess the dating portion of their relationship and find that Tracey had represented a picture and persona of a woman who’d had a tough life at home, didn’t get along with her father, and seemed to yearn for the sympathy that narrative would get her.

When they got back [from skiing in Vail], John and his roommate were in the kitchen talking about the incident earlier. The roommate was saying if Tracey, like everyone else, had taken skiing lessons, then the entire situation could have been avoided. But Tracey had refused to take the lessons. Tracey must have been eavesdropping, because she came storming into the kitchen at that point. She had heard what the roommate said and was clearly pissed. She got right into the roommate’s face. A vile, angry look washed over her. “It was wrong of you to expect us to wait for you,” the roommate said. “You are acting like a crybaby!” Tracey became enraged and charged the man, sticking him in the face with her right hand, and then striking him “fairly hard . . . sending” his glasses “flying across the room.”

John finished medical school in June 1987. The University of Colorado was up next. “I’m going back to Chicago, John,” Tracey said one night before they were scheduled to leave. She’d made up her mind. “I’ll decide while in Chicago whether I’m coming out to Denver or not.” What could he do? They packed and left for Chicago. John told Tracey he would drop her off and head to Denver. If she wanted to come out, great; if not, was there anything he could do to change her mind? It seemed as though they had been through so much. Tracey was a lot to deal with. Very needy. Very sensitive. Very dramatic. Tracey had always wanted dogs, as did John. They both wanted a home. As they were driving out to Chicago, John indicated he had something to say. He wanted to give the relationship one more shot. “Will you marry me?” Tracey accepted.

In early 1991, Tracey had spent thousands of the family’s dollars on breast implants. It was April 1992 and Tracey was showing off her new breasts to a friend and the Pitmans’ new babysitter, Monica (pseudonym).

Tracey had been working at a medical facility and “began an affair with a man” who worked there. She blamed him, claiming he was obsessed with her and one day cornered her in a dark room and forced himself on her. She loved the attention, at first, she later admitted. It was something she was not getting, according to her, at home. So she “had intercourse with him” two times and then “called it quits,” leaving her job. At home, to John, it was a different story. “I’m being sexually harassed,” [#MeToo] she told him. Tracey said the guy was someone closely connected to the owners of the company. “He is possibly even following me. He asked me out one day and I refused. Since I said no, the company has been complaining about my job performance.”

Monica found an issue with Tracey’s mothering skills. “Bert was often dirty and/or inappropriately dressed,” Monica reported later. Because of this and several other things Monica uncovered about Tracey, their relationship deteriorated. The one major problem Monica had was that Tracey got involved with several “shady characters” she had met at the strip clubs, both male and female strippers who used drugs “and possibly engaged in other illegal activities.” Tracey seemed to be drawn to people like this.

Beyond those incidents, there were all the men, Monica said, claiming Tracey was not only having an affair with a guy she worked with, but a male dancer and another man—all at the same time. “She even sold one of their dogs and told John that it had been run over by a car,” Monica told authorities.

When Tracey found out Monica was onto her, she spun it and claimed Monica couldn’t be trusted because she was having an affair with John at the time.

“I wish you were dead,” Tracey said one night to John during a fight. “I wish that you had gone to Desert Storm [the husband was in a military program] and died.” She slapped him across the face.

TRACEY GOT A NEW JOB and worked part-time during the day. John felt a bit less stressed; however, he worried what she was going to do next. Then the behavior started all over again. He never saw any of the money Tracey earned, nor had he any idea what she did with it.

Then she fell in with a new group of people—and with that came another affair. John suspected this when, with Tracey working what was only about twenty hours a week, she was never at home. She was always out, gone, always hiring a babysitter. … When he did run into Tracey at home or talked to her on the phone, John would ask where she was going. “Work,” Tracey would say. But she was dressed like a $500-an-hour hooker—dolled up in tight, short skirts, wads of makeup lathered on her face, skintight blouses showing off her large breast implants.

Tracey was sleeping with a man—maybe even two or three—fairly regularly by this point, even buying him gifts. Skis. Weekend getaways. All on John’s credit cards, mind you. When John questioned the charges, Tracey gave her husband the guy’s name and said he must have stolen the numbers from her pocketbook at work. John called the credit card company, which then tracked the man down. Of course, he said Tracey had bought the items for him. He told the credit card company he and Tracey had been dating for four months.

By March 1992, after John suffered a nasty back injury while sledding with Tracey and Bert, having been in a back brace for three months, the marriage, hanging on by a thread as it was, deteriorated into dust. At this point, Tracey did not even hide what she was doing anymore. She did whatever she wanted, went out whenever she wanted, slept with whomever she wanted, spent whatever amount of money she needed. Each job Tracey took on always turned into a drama and ended with her leaving or being fired “on a note of controversy,” John later said in a report.

By early summer 1992, Tracey agreed to move to Chicago so John could begin a plastic surgery fellowship at Northwestern University. Perhaps this was the final chance for their marriage.

Then John thought about something else: before leaving for Toronto [for a medical conference], Tracey had demanded he “up [his] life insurance.”

John decided to call the private investigator his parents had used to look into the credit card theft in Vail. … “I’m concerned for your safety, Mr. Pitman,” the PI said. John was now scared. “I think I should put her under surveillance,” the PI suggested. “Okay,” John agreed. Within two days the investigator came back with some news. Tracey had spent two nights in one guy’s apartment, a “bodybuilder type.” She had spent the entire time with the man.

While in Chicago, John had his private investigator continue surveillance and report back. Tracey moved around a lot, always seemingly involved in something reprehensible. A lot of the men she interacted with during her day “appeared to be bodybuilders.” One of her favorite dresses to wear out at night was a “tight black evening dress, long black gloves, [with] high heel pumps.” On several occasions, the PI followed Tracey into adult bookstores, where she’d spend time buying sex toys and condoms and oils and then head off to a motel, where a man would soon meet her. She’d spend a few hours inside and the man would leave. A while later, another man would arrive and enter the same motel room, spend several hours and leave.

“Tracey had stolen one of Dr. Pitman’s prescription pads,” Ben Smith added. “That’s how she was able to obtain the steroids.”

So here’s a guy who was smart enough to be a plastic surgeon, rational enough to get the U.S. military to pay for his medical training, capable enough to serve as an officer in the U.S. military, etc. Yet he couldn’t resist marrying a woman whom he knew to be violent and tried to hold onto the woman as a wife despite knowing about her multiple affairs, incompetence/neglectfulness as a mother, involvement with criminal activities, etc.

I’m not in love with the way that the book chops up the timeline or the way in which the author TELLs readers that this woman has lied when the facts easily SHOW the lie. And that one person would be willing to lie in order to get what she wanted isn’t surprising. But the book is fascinating when you think about people on the other side of the “trade” as Wall Streeters would say. Why were so many people, especially men, buying what this woman was selling? After, literally, a life of crime, here’s the scene at her murder trial:

Tracey was now engaged to a man who sat in the courtroom every day. She “blew kisses at him” and signed the words “I love you,” a courtroom source recalled.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to interview that man and ask him, in a country of 327 million souls, why would he choose to be engaged to an accused murderess who had already been convicted of a variety of lesser crimes?

More: read Beautifully Cruel

MIT and Slavery

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You might think that a school that offered its first classes in 1865, after the end of the Civil War, didn’t have a dog in the “which college can be guiltiest about slavery” fight. But you’d be wrong!

This week I got a letter from Rafael Reif, the president of MIT:

At MIT, we face facts, and we turn passionately toward the future. Today, however, we must attend to some newly uncovered facts from our past. A distinguished member of our history faculty, Professor Craig Steven Wilder is the leading authority on how the emergence and growth of American colleges and universities is entwined with the history of slavery. Last spring, I sought Craig’s advice on how MIT could best explore its historical connections in this realm. Based on our conversation, SHASS Dean Melissa Nobles and I immediately endorsed his proposal: to develop an ongoing undergraduate primary-research course, to be called “MIT and Slavery.”

Already, they have uncovered a range of evidence showing how MIT’s early decades were shaped by the post-Civil War process of reconstruction … Perhaps the most jarring finding: an 1850 Virginia census document, which shows that before William Barton Rogers moved to Boston to found MIT, he and his wife, Emma, held six human beings as slaves.

In the 157 years since MIT’s founding, we have often celebrated William Barton Rogers for his creative vision as an educator and his tenacity in pushing to establish MIT. With this new evidence, and our ongoing commitment to learn more about the links between the institution of slavery and technical institutions like MIT, today we must start thinking together about how to tell a more complete version of our history.

One “bad fact,” as the litigators say, is that the no-longer-known-to-be-neighborly Mr. Rogers’s name is engraved in stone (concrete?) on the main MIT building (funded by George Eastman about 20 years prior to his suicide).

Tomorrow at 1 pm the self-flagellation begins at the MIT Media Lab, 6th floor. The event will be streamed live as well and folks can ask questions, e.g., “How big a memory hole do you need for stuffing in a dead guy like Rogers?”

[In other news, MIT will be hiring professors to teach “Christianity before the birth of Jesus” and “Scientific results from NASA robot exploration of the Planet Vulcan“.]

Related:

None of us is as dumb as all of us: NYT committee looks at opioids

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The New York Times assembled a committee of “30 experts” to come up with ways to “solve the opioid crisis” (report) by spending $100 billion in tax dollars.

None of these folks offered the idea of “stop creating new addicts by buying opioids with tax dollars”! They don’t like opioids, but they want the U.S. government to keep buying them.

I find this interesting as an insight into the cognitive processes of Americans.

Related:

La Broheme

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Happy Valentine’s Day.

What could be more romantic than an operatic love story? A friend’s daughter is singing in La bohème soon. What if we were to update the story for the 21st century? Suppose that Bro culture meets Puccini: La Broheme.

La bohème La Broheme
Marcello is painting while Rodolfo gazes out of the window. They complain of the cold. In order to keep warm, they burn the manuscript of Rodolfo’s drama. Asher and Beckett complain of the cold. In order to keep warm, they turn on the Xbox.
Benoît, landlord, arrives to collect the rent. Asher and Beckett text their parents, reminding them to pay the rent.
 The girl says her name is Mimì and describes her simple life as an embroiderer The girl says her name is Juno and describes her simple life brewing craft beer.
 As the men and Mimì dine at the cafe, Musetta, formerly Marcello’s sweetheart, arrives with her rich (and elderly) government minister admirer, Alcindoro, whom she is tormenting. It is clear she has tired of him. … Alcindoro leaves to get Musetta’s shoe fixed, and Musetta and Marcello fall rapturously into each other’s arms. … The sly Musetta has the entire bill charged to Alcindoro. As the men and Juno do shots at the bar, Zora, who formerly hooked up drunkenly with Beckett, arrives with Fenton, whom she met when adopting a pit bull.
 Alcindoro returns with the repaired shoe seeking Musetta. The waiter hands him the bill and, dumbfounded, Alcindoro sinks into a chair. All five of the young people charge the bill to their parents.
Mimì hides and overhears Rodolfo first telling Marcello that he left Mimì because of her coquettishness, but finally confessing that his jealousy is a sham: he fears she is slowly being consumed by a deadly illness (tuberculosis) … Rodolfo, in his poverty, can do little to help Mimì and hopes that his pretended unkindness will inspire her to seek another, wealthier suitor. Juno hides and overhears Asher telling Beckett that he can’t remember why he left Juno because he was too plastered. Asher says that that he hopes Juno can get a good Obamacare policy on the exchange because she has a really nasty-sounding cough.
Marcello and Rodolfo are trying to work, though they are primarily talking about their girlfriends, who have left them and found wealthy lovers. Asher and Beckett are trying to talk, but they keep getting interrupted by Instagrams from college classmates.
Musetta suddenly appears; Mimì, who took up with a wealthy viscount after leaving Rodolfo in the spring, has left her patron. Musetta found her that day in the street, severely weakened by her illness, and Mimì begged Musetta to bring her to Rodolfo. Zora suddenly appears. Juno has been bitten by her pit bull.
To Mimì’s delight, Rodolfo presents her with the pink bonnet he bought her, which he has kept as a souvenir of their love. They remember past happiness and their first meeting—the candles, the lost key. To Juno’s delight, Asher presents her with the Apple Watch, which he has kept because, though useless, it was too expensive to throw out.
Schaunard discovers that Mimì has died. Rodolfo rushes to the bed, calling Mimì’s name in anguish, weeping helplessly as the curtain falls. Shamed by Ellen Pao‘s tales of debauched conversations aboard Gulfstreams, Asher and Beckett declare that they are “woke feminists” and spend the rest of the opera weeping helplessly. Juno and Zora wander off in search of powerful men with whom they can have sex and then later complain of a “power imbalance.”

I have a feeling that this could be improved substantially with suggestions from a young person who is actually familiar with Bro culture!

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