Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

January 19th, 2005:

Math is hard

Just for the record, in my junior year of college, I took an upper level math class (Real Analysis, in case you’re curious) in which I was the only male. That includes the professor, who happened to be my major advisor. While I knew the composition of this class was not a common one, it never occurred to me that there was anything unusual about it.

That’s pretty much all I have to say about Lawrence Summers’ silly statement. Oh, and that my daughter is going to grow up to think there’s nothing unusual about my Real Analysis class, either. For more on the subject, see Bitch PhD and PZ Myers. Via many bloggers, including Kriston.

Let’s keep it right here

The trials of Rick Causey, Jeff Skilling, and Kenny Boy Lay will not be moved to another venue.

Despite their plea to be tried outside of Houston, a federal judge ruled today that the fate and future freedom of ex-Enron chieftains Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling will be put in the hands of a Houston-area jury.

U.S. District Judge Sim Lake found that the two former top executives and their chief accounting officer, Richard Causey, all accused of multiple counts of fraud and other felonies, could indeed find a fair jury among the citizens of Harris County and 13 adjacent counties.

“Although news coverage about Enron’s collapse, this case, and these defendants has been extensive, the court is not persuaded that it has been so inflammatory or pervasive as to create a presumption that there exists a reasonable likelihood that pretrial publicity will prevent a fair trial,” Judge Lake wrote in a 24-page opinion.

Though the judge cited several instances of the Houston Chronicle and other media columns and feature items poking fun at the defendants, the judge said “isolated incidents of intemperate commentary about the alleged crimes and their perpetrators do not rise to the level of ‘inflammatory’ where, as here, for the most part, the reporting appears to have been objective and unemotional.”

Lake said “the facts of this case are neither heinous nor sensational” as he said were most of the cases cited by the defendants requesting the case be moved.

Lord knows the blogging community has done its part to mock the defendants, but apparently we just weren’t intemperate enough. We’ll do better next time, I promise.

Blogrolling update

Since Bloglines is my tool of choice for blogreading, I don’t update my blogroll as frequently as I should. I finally did so today, adding some sites that were long overdue for the sidebar. When I get in a frenzy like that, I tend to overlook things, so if you think you belong there but you’re not, please let me know. Thanks.

No room in the pen

Once again I got those overcrowdwd penitentiary blues.

Texas prisons are running out of beds more quickly than expected and may need to lease space in county jails by March. But there is no money in the prison system’s budget to pay the jails.

Prison officials confirmed Tuesday that they may need to ask lawmakers for an emergency appropriation to get through fiscal 2005, which ends Aug. 30.

That sound you hear is the so-called budget surplus being kissed goodbye.

Robert Black, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry, said the governor asked TDCJ last year to begin identifying potential leased space and to assess whether the Legislature needs to build facilities.

“The governor was aware of this certainly last year,” Black said.

Black would not say whether Perry will call for new prison capacity when he gives his State of the State speech Jan. 26.

In 2001, Perry proposed spending $95 million to construct facilities to house 1,000 inmates who need to be segregated from the general prison population and 800 “geriatric” inmates. At the time, his staff said the prison capacity would be needed by 2004-05.

Lawmakers questioned whether the beds were needed and said it was more important to raise pay for prison guards.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, objected to Perry’s proposal at the time and is again questioning whether new prisons are the answer. Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, discussed prison crowding Tuesday with TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston.

Whitmire is concerned that 46 percent of the 77,000 inmates who were sent to prison during fiscal 2004 were there because their parole or probation had been revoked.

“It’s just unbelievable. We almost sent as many people to prison for violating probation and parole as we did by sending them directly from court,” he said.

“It sounds tough, but it’s not smart because we’re out of space. And we’re going to spend millions of dollars that we don’t have for additional capacity that we could be using for drug and alcohol treatment,” Whitmire added.

We do seem to have the same approach to prison overcrowding that we do with traffic congestion, don’t we? Build more, and when it all fills up again, build more. Scalability? Never heard of it.

Here’s a site that has a few ideas for how to handle this problem without building more prisons. Check it out.

It’s like high school all over again

Omigod! Carole says that, like, Rickie totally dissed her and all. As if!

Her name missing from an invitation letter to an upcoming Texas Republican Party fund-raiser, state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn cried foul Tuesday and blamed the perceived snub on Gov. Rick Perry.

Spokespersons for Perry and the party dodged responsibility for the omission, the latest flap to erupt between the governor and the comptroller, who is eyeing a challenge to Perry in next year’s Republican primary.

The event, which will benefit the state party, is scheduled for Feb. 22 in Austin. With ticket prices ranging from $5,000 to $25,000, it is being billed as a tribute to Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick.

An invitation letter mailed this week was signed by all other elected statewide officials except Strayhorn, members of the judiciary and the two U.S. senators from Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn. Hutchison also is considering a race against Perry.

Mark Sanders, a spokesman for the comptroller, said Strayhorn wasn’t invited to sign the letter or attend the event.

“The governor is doing the party a disservice by excluding the top vote-getter in the state last time (the 2002 election) and one tough grandma who has proved herself to be one phenomenal fund-raiser,” Sanders said. “His fear of her presence is a truly self-absorbed disservice to the electorate.”

Luis Saenz, director of Perry’s political committee, said the event was the Republican Party’s business.

“The Republican Party of Texas knows best how to raise money from true Republicans,” he said.

Next thing you know, she won’t be allowed to sit at his table in the cafeteria any more. This is, like, so harsh, you know?

Another Enron movie

No, not a sequel to The Crooked E, but a documentary called Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, based on the book by the same name.

The movie, which will have its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah later this month, will likely show in Landmark Theaters such as the River Oaks and Greenway and maybe others too, [filmmaker Alex] Gibney said Tuesday.


“Using insider accounts and incendiary corporate audio and videotapes, Gibney shows the almost unimaginable personal excesses of the Enron hierarchy and the utter moral vacuum that posed as corporate philosophy,” reads the press release about the distribution deal.

It promises “a harrowing denouement” as audiences hear traders pull profits from the California energy crisis and offers understanding on how Enron executives’ avarice “had a shocking and profound domino effect that may shape the face of our economy for years to come.”


“I have high expectations,” said Philip Hilder, the Houston lawyer for ex-Enron executive Sherron Watkins, who penned the now-famous memo predicting corporate scandal. Hilder and Watkins were interviewed for the film.

“These filmmakers seemed to understand the significance of the Enron story, and I expect they will treat it in an important manner,” Hilder said.

Sounds interesting enough. Look for it in Houston in the spring.

Spector is in

Former State Supreme Court Justice Rose Spector has officially entered the race for the now-vacant HD121 seat in San Antonio. There’s two Republicans and an independent as well. Like Greg says, the demographics aren’t favorable, but anything can happen in a race like this. I’ll echo the kudos for whoever recruited Spector for this race, and hope this is the beginning of a more aggressive challenge-every-seat trend. Meanwhile, stay tuned for a Texas Tuesdays profile of Spector.