Shots In The Dark
Monday, December 31, 2007
  Gawker on Kristol
Gawker has such a funny (and accurate) take on the New York Times' hiring of Bill Kristol as a columnist, I'm just going to quote the whole thing:

You know what? Appointing Bill Kristol as a New York Times op-ed columnist is pretty much the worst idea ever. Guess what? We all already know what the one-time chief of staff for Dan Quayle thinks. We've heard it all. Are we expecting great original thoughts from someone who really thought the Iraq war was a totally super idea? "His work will undoubtedly be provocative in this election year," said editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal in the press release. No, actually, we can doubt that, as it'll be exactly what we expect it to be. There have gotta be younger, more interesting, better-thinking conservatives than this. (And it's not a fear of "opposing viewpoints," for Chrissakes. He's just a ninny.)

He's also arrogant, patronizing, wrong, and dangerous.

Other than that...

The link above refers to Andrew Rosenthal of the Times saying that opposition to Kristol's hiring was based on "this weird fear of opposing views." Rosenthal obviously has a high opinion of the intelligence and open-mindedness of Times readers. What a jerk.
 
  One Reason to Look Forward to 2008
Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.

As IMDB describes it,

Follows the cross-country adventures of the pot-smoking duo as they try to outrun authorities who suspect them of being terrorists when they try to sneak a bong on board their flight to Amsterdam.

The first movie, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, was inspired....and the trailer is brilliant!
 
  Harvard on the Defensive?
On the Globe op-ed page, Steven Roy Goodman isn't buying that Harvard's motivation for expanding financial aid is really about generosity.

Sure, Harvard was now going to spend a little more money to make sure that admitted students would be burdened with slightly lower tuition bills. The underlying story, of course, is the university's effort to make sure that Congress doesn't mandate that universities spend 5 percent of their endowment funds every year, as private foundations are required to do.

Fascinating. A couple of years ago, Harvard's announcement would, I think, have prompted only huzzahs. Now there is abundant skepticism about the university's motives.

I have been writing for some time that Harvard's enormous wealth is creating a real public relations problem for the university, and reactions like Goodman's are some evidence of that: When you have $35 billion in the bank, people just don't trust you.

Could Harvard's announcement be a preemptive move? The numbers tell the real story. Harvard estimates that it may spend an additional $22 million to assist families earning between $60,000 and $180,000 a year. ... Even if the initiative does total $22 million, compare this with the figure Harvard could be required to pay if Congress mandated that Harvard and other universities spend 5 percent of their endowment income. Five percent of $35 billion is $1.75 billion
.

I have a feeling this debate isn't going away....and Goodman poses some provocative questions.

All this talk about the announcement helps Harvard and other universities sidestep the real questions. Why does an institution of higher learning have $35 billion in its back pocket anyway? Why has it become customary for universities to spend only a small fraction of their interest income - and not even the endowment funds themselves - for daily operations? Why do American taxpayers continue to subsidize schools that increasingly operate like for-profit companies - and less like tax-exempt educational foundations that are charged with educating the next generation?

The first two of those questions seem eminently answerable to me: good fundraising and money management, and fiscal prudence. But the third question, about why American taxpayers subsidize schools that increasingly operate like for-profit corporations, is a tougher question to disregard...especially as Harvard moves to make more and more money off marketing its scientific research and discoveries.
 
  Harvard and the Ripple Effect
In the Boston Globe, Linda Wertheimer follows up on Jonathan Glater's Times piece of a couple days ago, looking at the consequences of Harvard's recent decision to enlarge its financial aid policies for families making up to $180,000 a year.

Most of the colleges doing away with loans belong to an exclusive group of roughly three dozen schools with sizable endowments - $35 billion, in Harvard's case. Their shift is increasing pressure on less-affluent colleges to come up with new strategies to sweeten financial aid for a wider group of students, some of whose families have been calling admissions officers asking whether they would be offering no-loan aid deals, too.

...Yet, even if all colleges could afford to eliminate loans, several admissions and financial aid directors say they would be reluctant to change a long-held tradition of holding students and their families responsible for part of college costs if they can afford to contribute.



Is it possible that students who don't have to pay for college would feel less invested in the experience and value it less? Sure it is.

"Philosophically, one of the dangers is we've made debt a four-letter word," said Lee Coffin, the dean of admissions at Tufts, which this fall eliminated loans for students from families making less than $40,000 a year and will not extend the offer to higher-income families. "I wonder what it will do to a generation that will go to college without any personal sacrifice. You start taking loans away, and you start saying, 'Here's a free ride.' "

But it also seems possible that many students who got a free ride to Harvard would come out of those four years with a deep sense of gratitude to the institution, perhaps one that would result in financial contributions down the road—especially without those pesky loans to pay off.

It's fascinating to watch this debate that Harvard has sparked. This is a good conversation to be having, especially because we don't talk enough about higher education (and education generally) in this country. Drew Faust deserves some credit for helping to spark this debate—and not feeling that she has to dominate it.
 
Sunday, December 30, 2007
  Go Giants!
I wish I'd flown Jet Blue to Florida instead of Delta, because that way I could have watched the Giants and the Patriots play last night. Instead, I was urging my cab driver to find the game on the radio—he couldn't—and rushing upstairs to my apartment to turn on the last four minutes, in which the Giants scored a touchdown and could have tied the game if they'd recovered an onside kick. But it sounds like it was a heck of a game. Congratulations, Patriots. But more congratulations for this particular game, if not the whole season, go to the Giants, for putting up a fight and refusing to fold.

As for the post-season....well, the Patriots looked beatable, didn't they? Wouldn't a rematch be nice?
 
Saturday, December 29, 2007
  NYT for Boring
The New York Times has hired Bill Kristol as a columnist for 2008.

What a surprising and original choice. No wonder that newspaper is doing so well!
 
  Bush Goes Green—Not
After seven years of environmental disaster, George Bush is now trying to prove that he cares about global warming, and a White House spinner claims that the president's position has "evolved."

Sure, I believe that.
 
  The Worst of 2007
The Washington Post has a list of the worst movies of 2007. (Great idea!)

The consensus choice?

"Because I Said So," starring Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore.

Yes! I happened to see that movie on HBO—well, I agreed to see it—and it was so excruciatingly, unbearably bad, I wanted to write Diane Keaton and ask her to pay me for having watched it. The scene where Keaton tries to use the computer, somehow types in the URL for a porn site, and her golden retriever gets all fired up...excruciating.

Other winners: "The Number 23," "The Reaping," with Hillary Swank (I saw that one too!), and "Norbit."

My own nomination: "Knocked Up." Uh-huh: Katharine Heigl is really going to try to make it work with Seth Rogen, just because she got drunk one night and slept with him. The politics of this movie—which literally could not bring itself to say the word "abortion"—were Neanderthal, as Heigl herself admitted in a recent Vanity Fair profile. (It's also the only movie I know of which accepted product placement from a porn site.) Was there a more inane, more offensive, and just plain stupider movie of 2007?
 
  Romney: Abort! Abort! Abort!
In the Globe, Frank Phillips reports that Mitt Romney approved a tax-exempt bond for a Planned Parenthood clinic last year, just two months before he left office and began talking about his anti-abortion stance. (I guess we can now call this a wide stance.)

A Romney spokesman said that the loan was made by an agency that does not report to the Massachusetts governor. That's technically true...but in Romney's case, it doesn't sound actually true, as Phillips writes.

While Romney's campaign said the agency that authorized the deal, MassDevelopment, is an autonomous authority, it was controlled by Romney appointees. Several of its 11-member board were top officials in the Romney administration, including Ranch Kimball, the chairman who was also Romney's secretary of economic development.

Whatever happened, this isn't going to help Romney now, just five days before the Iowa caucuses. Ouch! Someone timed this leak well....a Massachusetts Democrat? Oppo researchers for another campaign?
 
  Harvard Un-Levels the Playing Field
Harvard's decision to extend financial aid to students from families earning up to $180,000 a year appears to have some unintended consequences (or were they intended?), according to an article in the New York Times. Jonathan Glater reports that the increased financial aid is putting pressure on smaller colleges to match Harvard, and, by creating greater competition for middle-class kids, may actually take aid money away from low-income students.

Officials at colleges without anything like Harvard’s $35 billion endowment say a rush to give tuition discounting to the middle and upper middle class at institutions like theirs could end up shifting financial aid from low-income students to wealthier, make pricing seem even more arbitrary and create pressure to raise full tuition to pay for all the assistance.

...Some administrators say there will now be pressure to provide more merit aid to relatively wealthy high achievers, reducing the amount available to poorer students.

It could lead to schools’ doing this sort of thing because they want to be part of the top group,” David W. Oxtoby, president of Pomona College in California, said of Harvard’s move. If that meant those colleges had to reduce the number of their low-income students, Dr. Oxtoby said, “that would be terrible, exactly the wrong outcome.

[Glater should have noted that Oxtoby was a candidate for the Harvard presidency.]

In the piece, Harvard dean of admissions Bill Fitzsimmons admits that a significant motive for the university's decision was to compete for middle-class kids whom Harvard wanted but who weren't applying because they felt they couldn't afford to go.

"People were voting with their feet,” Dean Fitzsimmons said.

This is all very interesting. Presumably one of Harvard's motives was also to deflect attention away from the rising-much-faster-than-inflation tuition it charges, but the move seems to have backfired.

Jonathan Burdick, dean of admissions and financial aid at the University of Rochester, where costs are nearly $45,000, said: “Harvard has made it harder for everybody. They’ve given fuel to the argument that colleges are charging more than they should.”

Of course, parents and students are going to be grateful for Harvard's move, and they should be, not just because of how it helps them pay for Harvard, but because it suggests that there ought to be more pressure on colleges to lower tuition, or at least help families pay it, and creates something more of a free market in college tuition.

What is irrefutable, though, is that the race here goes to the wealthiest; Harvard is playing this game with vastly greater resources than any other university.

How long will it be before there are serious calls for income redistribution? Perhaps a luxury tax like baseball's?
 
Friday, December 28, 2007
  Let's Hear it for the Underdog
Anyone else rooting for the Giants to beat the Patriots?

I'm delighted that Giants coach Tom Coughlin isn't going to rest his starters for the playoffs...
 
Thursday, December 27, 2007
  Death of a Leader
Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated after speaking at a political rally near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

Witnesses said Ms. Bhutto, who was appearing at a political campaign rally, was fired upon at close range by a gunman, and then struck by shrapnel from a blast that the government said was caused by a suicide bomber.

This is just terrible news—bad for the prospects for peace and democracy in Pakistan, bad for the United States. The only people who will benefit from this act of violence are those who sow hatred and thrive on chaos—Osama bin Laden and his protectors in the Pakistani intelligence services.

In the Globe, Bhutto is remembered by Harvard classmates and local Pakistanis.

In the Washington Post, American presidential candidates react to the news.

Newsweek also remembers Bhutto.

George and Laura Bush extend their condolences, hang out at the ranch.





 
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
  The Laxness of the Blogger
Don't want you all to think that I've fallen off the face of the Earth—I'm just on vacation, somewhere that has really terrible Internet access.

Back soon!
 
Thursday, December 20, 2007
  What Would Reagan Say?
“The Bush administration is moving forward with a clear national solution, not a confusing patchwork of state rules. I believe this is a better approach than if individual states were to act alone.” [Italics added]
EPA chief Stephen L. Johnson, explaining the EPA's ruling that 17 states do not have the right to establish their own carbon dioxide limits from cars.

Whatever happened to the Republicans' faith in state's rights over the acts of the national government? This is the clearest, most literal statement I've seen of the Bush administration's betrayal of conservatism; its hatred for environmentalism has trumped its belief that the federal government should let the states do their own thing. No wonder the party has become incoherent.

By the way, ever since the Bush administration commenced, I've been fascinated by the anonymity and lack of qualification of his cabinet chiefs. (Yes, I'm dorky that way.) During the Clinton administration, I knew who all the cabinet heads were because they were busy making policy and because they were serious people who had accomplished quite a lot in life. I can think of only a couple of the Bush cabinet heads.

Who is EPA chief Stephen L. Johnson?

This from Wikipedia:

Johnson attended Taylor University, receiving a B.A. in biology followed by a master's degree in pathology from George Washington University. Before working for the U.S. Government, he held a number of positions in laboratory and bio-technology companies. He was also the director of Hazelton Laboratories (now known as Covance).

Not exactly logical preparation for heading the EPA, wouldn't you say?

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Johnson was criticized for his support for using human subjects in pesticide testing. In April, a hold was placed on his confirmation vote after he refused to cancel the Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study, which advocated recording the effects of pesticides on children from infancy to age 3. On April 8, Johnson canceled the study. His nomination was confirmed by the Senate on April 29.

Let's just think about that for a moment, shall we?

George Bush named as head of the Environmental Protection Agency a man who wanted to use human subjects, children younger than age 3, in pesticide testing.

The mind reels......

Oh, and if you don't know—Taylor University? It's an evangelical school.

Again, Wikipedia:

Students, faculty and staff are required to sign the "Life Together Covenant" (LTC) upon joining the University.[8] Community members pledge to adhere to certain standards of conduct and refrain from certain behaviors, including social dancing (excepting marriages taking place off of school property and choreographed or folk dance), premarital sex, homosexuality, smoking, and the consumption of alcohol, with the intention of strengthening the community as a whole.

January 2009 can not come fast enough......
 
  Larry Summers on the Economy
At the Brookings Institution in Washington yesterday, the former Treasury secretary and Harvard president lamented the Bush administration's handling of the economy, and warned that the US could be headed for some grim economic times......
 
  Lee Bollinger on Manhattanville
Here is Lee Bollinger's statement on the New York City Council's approval of Columbia's Manhattanville development plan:

Dear fellow member of the Columbia community:

I am very happy to say that this evening by a favorable vote of the New York City Council the way has been cleared for Columbia to pursue building a new campus in the seventeen-acre area known as Manhattanville in West Harlem. Few among us can have escaped knowing, at least in general outline, the idea of a new campus in this area just north of the Morningside Heights campus. I will not, accordingly, belabor this announcement with any detail. But, just to give a sense of the importance of what the City's process has now permitted, we should bear in mind that, when the University assembled in 1896 to lay the first cornerstones for the new campus on Morningside Heights, it dedicated a space of roughly the same size as Manhattanville.

To reach this milestone we have participated in a very rigorous review process with our City, which has involved the efforts of hundreds of people, among them our neighbors in Harlem, government officials, elected representatives, and members of our own community of faculty, students, staff, and alumni. Now, after five years and innumerable discussions, negotiations, plans, documents, hearings, and votes, we have arrived at a significant turning point on the matter of space for the University to grow--for our generation, I should add, as well as the next.

Our new campus, which will meet the highest standards of architectural and urban design, and environmental sustainability, will house our schools and academic programs, as well as provide over 800 units for faculty and graduate housing. The long-term opportunities for Columbia and the people who live and work in our community and our City are barely imaginable to us at this early moment. Perhaps what we can best say at this point is that the course of knowledge will be our guide.

At the beginning of next semester, I will offer more information about and proposals for where we go from here. For now, my deepest thanks to everyone involved in bringing this to fruition.

Sincerely,

Lee C. Bollinger
 
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
  Columbia Gets the Green Light
The New York City Council has approved its development of Manhattanville, which the Times boldy calls the "largest development project in recent memory."

Thanks for the helpful factoid, NYT. It could be nice to know exactly what was the largest development project before this one, but never mind. "Recent memory" is pretty informative.....
 
  Fascinating Shark News
In Australia—I think Geelong is in Australia—a shark attacked a kangaroo that was swimming some 250 feet offshore and ate it.

Where to start?

This video treats the subject with all the reverence it deserves.
 
  Quote of the Day
"I want to state clearly without qualification: I did not take steroids, human growth hormone or any other banned substance at any time in my baseball career, or in fact, my entire life. I am disappointed that my 25 years in public life have apparently not earned me the benefit of the doubt, but I understand that Senator Mitchell's report has raised many serious questions. I plan to publicly answer all of those questions at the appropriate time in the appropriate way. I only ask that in the meantime people not rush to judgment."

—Roger Clemens

It's as categorical a denial as you can make. Anyone buying it?
 
  Columbia and the New Slavery
Here's a story I've been meaning to blog about: An African-American psychotherapist is suing Columbia and Citibank on the grounds that the interest rate for his student loans constitutes "slavery."

The lawsuit, filed in New York state Supreme Court by Brian Baxter, 57, charges the Ivy League university colluded with the banking arm of financial services giant Citigroup Inc. to lure him to its "preferred lender," which then charged exorbitant student-loan interest rates that he is still paying off 10 years after graduating.

...
"It's modern-day slavery," Baxter said of the alleged collusion.

"I should not be financially enslaved for the rest of my life -- and that's what the corporate giants are trying to do," he told the New York Post.

This is, of course, part of the ongoing and deeply offensive diminution of the term "slavery," and it sounds like someone who just hasn't been very successful—or responsible—in life refusing to pay his debts. Not just refusing to pay his debts, actually, but hoping to turn them into profit.

Which reminds me that I recently had a conversation with a Columbia grad who, when I told her that I supported the Manhattanville Project, accused me of being a Republican.

Ouch. That wounds.

I replied that the hysteria of the opposition to Manhattanville, and the offensive and cynical use of the race card by its opponents, was the kind of financial self-interest masquerading as liberalism that discredits liberalism.

The same is true here. Are there issues with student loans and the way that they were managed by Columbia and other universities? Indeed there are. But....modern-day slavery? Brian Baxter should be ashamed of himself.
 
  One Establishment Powerbroker, Meet Another
The Times weighs in on Harvard's aid plan today with an editorial that, honestly, says absolutely nothing. But just to be fair, I'll quote it.

Although Harvard is often a trendsetter, it is not clear that many other schools can afford to follow. Its endowment of $35 billion is the largest of any university. Most other colleges rely heavily on tuition and fees and can’t readily give up that income. There are more than 60 colleges that have endowments that exceed $1 billion that ought to move at least partially in the same direction.

A bold call to arms!

Meanwhile, on page one, Sara Rimer discovers that some schools, including some Ivy League schools, have begun putting courses online.

Revelation!

Next they'll report that some college courses are available on iTunes.

(To be fair to Ms. Rimer, I suspect the timing of that was her editors' choice, not hers.)

It's not hard to understand why the Times is going through such struggles: It's bogged down by a culture that says, It's not news until we report it. And at one time, that was basically true. It's not any more, but the Times hasn't recognized that, and certainly hasn't adapted to it. It is slow, slow, slow.....
 
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
  Who Says Harvard Students Aren't Activist?
Harvard student Alyssa Aguilera writes the Times to suggest that, for all the good press about its financial aid practices, Harvard still pays its workers diddly-squat.

(That's a technical term meaning "not enough.")

Harvard service employees (janitors, food-service workers, security guards and so on) are in a constant battle with the world’s wealthiest university to update contracts with wages and benefits that meet living wage standards, and are on par with neighboring schools.

Aguilera mentions that she went on a hunger strike in protest of these issues, which is ironic, because if every student at Harvard did that, then the food service workers wouldn't have jobs!
 
  How Journalism Works
A fascinating piece by David Kirkpatrick in today's Times on Mitt Romney's relationship with his dad, George W. Romney. But as I read it, I couldn't help but feel that I'd read parts of it before.

Then I realized that the reason for that was because I'd written parts of it!


In a handful of details, written in consecutive paragraphs, the Times simply lifted my reporting.

Below, in Roman type, here's what the Times writes today, and in italics, what I wrote in the spring 2007 issue of 02138:

At Harvard, Mitt Romney carried an old leather brief case bearing his father’s initials, GWR...

“He only had one thing that was even possibly an affectation,” says Phillips. “He carried his dad’s briefcase with him everywhere he went. It was brown leather, totally scratched and scuffed, the initials ‘GWR’ in gold in the middle. It looked like it had been through World War I and World War II and the Cold War. It was the only sign he gave of a link to being from a politically or economically privileged family…


....and wrote a seminar paper on a car maker and its dealerships — an issue his father had faced.

As we spoke, [professor emeritus Detlev] Vagts walked over to a file cabinet and pulled out a 30-year-old folder—papers from the seminar Vagts taught, “Law and Business Problems.” Romney’s was still there. Titled “Dual-Distribution in the Automobile Industry,” the paper considered the practice by which manufacturers sell products through both company channels and independent distributors.

Later, Mr. Romney arranged a private meeting for his father with William F. Weld, then governor of Massachusetts.

George Romney talked about volunteerism — a personal passion — for an hour, but his son’s reaction is all Mr. Weld remembers. “He sat there hunched forward a bit with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands just beaming at his father from a distance of two or maybe three feet,” Mr. Weld recalled. “It was undiluted hero worship.”

“His father’s a complete lodestar for him,” says former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. In early 1995, Romney brought his father to visit then-Governor Weld; George Romney wanted to talk about volunteerism, a longtime cause. “I was sitting behind the desk that later became Mitt’s desk, and George talked for a solid hour,” Weld says. “Mitt was just sitting there looking at his father, just beaming the whole time. He didn’t say a word, he was so proud.

Well, at least Kirkpatrick did enough work after reading my story to call up Bill Weld and get his own quote.

It's a small point, but this lack of credit-giving is typical of the arrogance of the Times: When you lift three consecutive, highly specific facts from another piece, idiosyncratic facts that haven't been reported elsewhere—and then you write them in consecutive paragraphs—you really ought to say, according to a profile of Romney in the magazine 02138.

Why don't Times reporters follow that basic practice? Two reasons. One, they're arrogant and don't think they have to. And two, they want you to think that they did all the reporting.

In the pre-blog era, they could get away with this stuff....
 
  More Skepticism about the Mitchell Report
The Baltimore Orioles have released a statement urging baseball fans to read the Mitchell report with skepticism.

The Baltimore organization said it supported baseball’s efforts to rid the game of performance-enhancing drugs but took issue with how Mitchell decided to include names in his final report.

As to the information and allegations contained in the Mitchell report, the Orioles caution observers to resist the temptation to accept collective judgments based upon unsubstantiated allegations,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, in the Times, Murray Chass argues that George Mitchell did a terrible job investigating steroid use in baseball.

The report talks about the widespread use of steroids, but by now we know that, albeit belatedly. What we don’t know is how widespread the use was, and Mitchell can’t tell us because he doesn’t know.

Was it the 5 to 7 percent who tested positive anonymously in 2003? Was it the 50 percent estimated by Ken Caminiti? Was it the 85 percent that José Canseco said? The Mitchell report doesn’t tell us. The report doesn’t define “widespread use.” There is, I would say, a large difference between 5 percent (about 40 players) and 85 percent (about 680).


And here's the problem that, from a journalistic point of view, stands out in my mind: Mitchell's reliance upon a handful of sources to draw sweeping conclusions.

Two-thirds to three-fourths of the approximately 90 names in the Mitchell report came from Kirk Radomski (Brian McNamee, who gave Mitchell the names of Clemens and Andy Pettitte, was a Radomski customer). Most of the others came from the Balco case and the Albany County district attorney’s investigation into Florida pharmacies and clinics. Still others came from baseball’s list of suspended players.

Pretty lame, for a guy who took 20 months investigating. And Mitchell only got McNamee because the Feds leaned on him.

Sadly, the Mitchell report seems to raise more questions than it answers. And one of them is still, how compromised was Mitchell himself?
 
Monday, December 17, 2007
  Apparently They're Following Dick Cheney's Example
Tens of thousands of soldiers have been cheating on the Army's online testing program for years. The Army has known about it...and done nothing.

I think one of the real impediments to good journalism about the Iraq war has been the overwhelming "we support the troops" mantra that makes independent thought impossible. We should consider the fact that our troops are fallible and join the military for lots of different reasons. This isn't exactly the greatest generation at work......
 
  I Should Have Written That Blog
This morning I read a piece in the New York Sun about a conservative student at Princeton who was apparently beaten by two masked men because of his anti-homosexual views.

Hmmmm, I thought to myself. That doesn't sound right. It's the conservatives who do the bashing, not the gays. I bet he's making it up. I should blog about that.

But then I thought, Oh, don't be so cynical. Maybe some tough gays just went to town on the guy.

Turns out I was right the first time.

He made it all up!

A student at Princeton University who said he was beaten unconscious by two black-clad assailants Friday has said that he fabricated the assault, and that he sent e-mail death threats to himself, three other Princeton students, and a prominent conservative professor at Princeton, Robert George, police said today.

Can anyone say, "self-hating"?

Oh, and speaking of making it all up...what's up with that noose-on-the-doorknob story at Columbia?
 
  Harvard Gives the Most
The Chronicle of Higher Education has ranked educational institutions by the percentage of their employees giving to presidential campaigns—and Harvard is on top by a lot, with more than double the #2 university.

1. Harvard U., $281,050
2. Stanford U., $135,850
3. Columbia U., $120,350
4. Georgetown U., $105,150
5. U. of Chicago, $92,902
6. Northwestern U., $78,450
7. New York U., $74,350
8. U. of California at Berkeley, $71,976*
9. U. of California at Los Angeles, $65,980*
10. U. of Southern California, $63,950

It's an intriguing list. Where are Yale and Princeton, for example? MIT?

What these schools appear to have in common, in this context, is that they're all in cities with a tradition of political involvement—Boston, New York, Washington, Chicago, LA—where constituents are likely to be politically engaged and presidential campaigns are likely to engage in serious fundraising. Makes sense, right? If you're Barack Obama, you're more likely to hold a fundraiser in New York or Cambridge than New Haven or Princeton...

One wonders if, in the university context, significant presidential giving is a good or a bad thing. Is such engagement with the political world appropriate or excessive?
 
  A-Rod: No on 'roids, Eh on Boras
Some weeks ago, there was discussion on this board about whether Scott Boras had mishandled A-Rod's contract negotiations with the Yankees. (I thought that this episode was Boras' first big mistake, others disagreed.)

Now A-Rod comes out and says that Boras screwed up:

A-Rod clearly was upset at the advice of Boras to opt out and the way it became public during Game 4 of the World Series. "I was angered, upset, shocked, in disbelief," Rodriguez said. "It was like a bad nightmare."

He also says, by the by, that he's never used steroids.....
 
Friday, December 14, 2007
  More on Mitchell
Tim Marchman of the New York Sun, a little-known gem of a baseball writer, has a smart column about the Mitchell report in today's paper.

A list of all the conflicts of interest that prevent Mitchell from credibly playing an independent role in baseball is tucked away near the end of his voluminous report. Consultant to Boston Red Sox ownership, a former director of the Florida Marlins, and former chairman of Disney at a time when it owned both the Anaheim Angels and ESPN, Mitchell is a member of baseball management as surely as anyone now living. He was also a member of the 2000 Blue Ribbon panel, which produced a notoriously owner-friendly report on baseball economics and prompted Mitchell's former colleagues in the Congress to intervene in baseball labor disputes in various ways.

...
The real takeaway here, though, is that despite using questionable means to questionable ends, Mitchell can present literally no evidence of his key claim that "the use of steroids in Major League Baseball was widespread." This assertion is stated flatly, as fact, but his entire report contradicts it.

Marchman goes on to point out that the report paints the players in vividly unflattering terms but consistently suggests that the owners—which is to say, the people who hired Mitchell (who is, after all, a lawyer)—were trying to do the right thing throughout.

...
The problem, in this telling, is that the owners have simply been too virtuous for their own good, that if they'd just not been so nice they would have been able to nab the missing 48.5% of drug-addled players that their very expensive investigation wasn't able to find.

And as I keep saying to my colleague, Bom Kim, a Red Sox fan, this report wouldn't pass for good journalism: It's based on interviews with one trainer, one batboy, some stuff from the Barry Bonds investigation, and various news accounts.

I'm not saying that anything in the report is wrong, just that what is not in the report is probably far more important than what is in it. And it seems like there's quite a lot that isn't it.
 
  More of A Million Little Writers
Jacob Hale Russell's 02138 piece on the widespread use of researchers/ghostwriters at Harvard, "A Million Little Writers," gets picked up today's Chronicle of Higher Education

The article seems to be generating more public conversation outside the Harvard campus than on it....
 
  The Mitchell Report
Like a lot of Yankee fans, I am dismayed by the news that Andy Pettitte was a steroid user, though not entirely shocked; he's close friends with Roger Clemens, and that suspicion has long hovered over the Rocket. (Just ask Mike Piazza.) The other Yankees named in the report aren't really central to the team—Kevin Brown (that explains him punching a wall), Gary Sheffield, and so on. They were hired guns.

But also like many Yankee fans, I am skeptical about the paucity of Red Sox players mentioned in the Mitchell report. The only one of import: Mo Vaughn, and he hasn't played with Boston for a decade. (He's retired now.) Ortiz? Ramirez? Other Red Sox who suddenly had terrific years in, say, 2004?

We'll never know. And, one suspects, a big reason we'll never know is because George Mitchell is a director of the Red Sox.

How baseball could have asked a man who's affiliated with one team to conduct this investigation, I'll never understand, but it's probably evidence of Bud Selig's general incompetence.

"Take a look at how the investigation was conducted," said Mitchell. "Read the report. You will not find any evidence of bias, of special treatment of the Red Sox or anyone else, because there isn't. They had no effect -- none whatsoever -- on this investigation for this report. As for players, I remind you that it is common now for players to serve many clubs. Many of the players named on this report played for many years with other clubs, including the Red Sox."

Oh, balderdash. The Red Sox dodged a bullet when Mitchell was named to head this investigation, and they must be delighted with the report. (They should be.)

The Times genuflects before the Mitchell aura, raising the issue of Mitchell's potential bias, then merely saying, essentially, that everyone respects George Mitchell. (Which, frankly, ain't necessarily so.)

When of course, every decent journalist would know that appointing a director of one team to run such an investigation compromises the thing from the start.

“Judge me by my work,” Mitchell said. “Read the report.”

To be fair, I haven't done that yet. (It's 400 pages long.)


Still, Mitchell's conflict of interest should have prevented him from heading this investigation, and if Selig et al think that this report has closed a chapter on steroids, they are wrong. The question of whether it whitewashes the record of baseball's dominant team of this decade will remain.
 
Thursday, December 13, 2007
  The Vice-President Goes Crazy
Did Dick Cheney really mock Democratic congressmen John Dingell and John Murtha for their fealty to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi?

He did.

The House's senior Democrats "march to the tune of Nancy Pelosi to an extent I had not seen, frankly, with any previous speaker," Cheney said. "I'm trying to think how to say all of this in a gentlemanly fashion, but [in] the Congress I served in, that wouldn't have happened."

Asked if these men had lost their spines, he responded, "They are not carrying the big sticks I would have expected."

Ohdeargod.

But wait—there's more, from the full interview in the Politico.

But throughout the interview, Cheney left no doubt that he takes pride even in some of the most-criticized policies of the Bush administration, including the wiretapping of suspected terrorists, and the long-term imprisonment and aggressive interrogation of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It really is time for Dick Cheney to depart this world and leave it to those of us who are trying to save it from the mess that he and his cronies, such as the president, have created.

Secret Service, I am not suggesting that anyone kill Dick Cheney, nor am I thinking of it myself. Unlike the vice-president, I do not believe that anyone should play God other than God.

I just think there's a serious case to make that the world would be a better place without Dick Cheney in it.
 
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
  Speak Now, or Forever Hold Your Speech
Or something.

Drew Faust said today, according to the Crimson, that she would consider creating a committee to investigate free speech at Harvard.

Faust’s announcement at the meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences came in the midst of an ongoing clash between anthropology professor J. Lorand Matory ’82 and law professor Alan M. Dershowitz. Matory has claimed that critics of Israel like himself “tremble in fear” from repercussions for their views and urged his colleagues to pass a one-sentence affirmation of “civil dialogue.”

....Dershowitz told the professors that a research assistant had identified 54 events held at Harvard with anti-Israel perspectives since the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004.

I wonder if it was one of the research assistants described in 02138's piece, "A Million Little Writers," which discusses, among other things, Dershowitz's reliance on research assistants?

The meeting was bogged down by countless amendments, vote counts, and quibbles over nitty-gritty details of the rules of order. Landscape studies professor John R. Stilgoe quipped, “I’m very happy...we decided not to broadcast these,” referring to the Faculty’s rejection of a proposal to broadcast meetings over radio.

I wish the Crimson had quoted Faust, because it's a little hard to know how serious her statement is, or if it's just a palliative.

If it's serious, she's making a big mistake (this has been a not-so-hot day for DGF).

A committee to investigate free speech?
 
  Drew Faust Walks It back
According to the Allston Brighton Community blog, Drew Faust has issued a statement denying the Boston Globe piece of this morning.

I was quite surprised to awake to a front-page headline in Wednesday's (Dec. 12) Boston Globe declaring "Harvard Rethinks Allston." Let me be clear: Harvard is not "rethinking" Allston. I am unequivocally committed to moving aggressively and ambitiously forward, and to making our unfolding plans a reality.

And so on.

Just one problem: It was Faust herself who said...

"For the last several years, the university leadership has been in transition. I can own a project and look at it in a deliberative way. . . . We're looking at everything again."

"We're looking at everything again" sure sounds like re-thinking, no? And in her statement Faust doesn't make any attempt to deny that she gave the above statement; she doesn't even acknowledge it.

So what happened?
 
  Drew Faust Reconsiders Allston
Linda Wertheimer, who is starting to break some real news in the Globe, reports that Drew Faust is reconsidering some of Larry Summers' plans for the Allston campus.

The president of Harvard University, Drew Faust, showing restraint on a major expansion that her predecessor relentlessly promoted, plans to reexamine proposals to move two graduate schools and other operations from Cambridge to a new campus across the Charles River in Allston.

A $1 billion science complex, which will house a stem cell institute, will stay on track for a ground-breaking early next year. But everything else, including plans for building four undergraduate dorms in the Boston neighborhood, will be reviewed, Faust said in a phone interview Monday.

Well. This is interesting. Reconsidering Allston would appear to be Faust's most independent action since taking over from Derek Bok/Larry Summers as president, and in Wertheimer's article, Faust suggests that she thinks the process by which Summers conducted Allston planning was fundamentally flawed.

She said the university will take pains to consult more widely and deliberately with faculty and community members and, if necessary, revise the plan before giving the final version to the city next fall. Several professors have expressed concerns that the current Allston plan could dilute the cohesive quality of student and academic life on the Cambridge side of the river.

"For the last several years, the university leadership has been in transition," Faust said. "I can own a project and look at it in a deliberative way. . . . We're looking at everything again."

A curious quote: First, Faust suggests that Harvard's leadership has been in transition for several years, rather than just one or two (which is true, by the way, and good for her for saying so).

But more interesting is the almost plaintive assertion, "I can own a project..." Did anyone doubt that? And if so, was it the audience or the speaker?

Here is perhaps the most important point: Faust's decision of what to move ahead with and what to put the brakes on may be exactly the wrong one. (And in framing the decision as a referendum on Larry Summers' decision-making process, she deftly changes the subject from what decision she made to why she made it.)

James Watson, who has been discredited on other fronts in recent weeks, wrote about the Allston expansion in the pages of 02138 some months back. Watson's argument: Building a massive science complex in Allston was the wrong way to go and could be a massive waste of money.

No one at Harvard, so far as I have seen, read, or heard, has rebutted that argument.

So while Wertheimer's article shows a president taking command, the reverse may really be true; Drew Faust may, in face, be caving in to entrenched bureaucracies which don't want to move to Allston, while plowing ahead with an expenditure of untold billions for a science effort whose merit has never been publicly debated......
 
  Post of the Day
You don't have to be a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowing, nor do you have to be an FAS faculty member to see that the carving up and diminishment of FAS proceeds apace. Faust/Smith have been put in place to do with a smile and a nod what LHS/Kirby could not accomplish.

—From "Harvard Shares the Wealth."
 
  Quote of the Day
“If he painted his penis, that would be an amazing thing. There needs to be more fine art."

—Martha "Martabel" Wasserman, the new editor of H-Bomb, the Harvard sex mag (and why not?), in the Crimson.


113007-h-bomb.JPG
 
  Yale Plays Catch-Up
Bloomberg and the Hartford Courant report that Yale plans to follow Harvard's lead and expand financial aid for middle-class families, although the specifics of its plans won't be announced until January.

The governing board for Yale, located in New Haven, Connecticut, met last week to discuss the enhanced program, university spokesman Tom Conroy said in a telephone interview yesterday. The change is occurring ``irrespective of any other institution's announcement,'' he said. Conroy couldn't supply details about the initiative, he said.

It is a fair criticism of Richard Levin's tenure as Yale president, I think, that he has followed Harvard rather than led with new initiatives. In the Yale-Harvard rivalry, chalk up a big win for Harvard.....
 
  A Life at Harvard
Zeph Stewart, whose passing was noted by others earlier on this blog, is remembered in today's Boston Globe.

"Zeph cared about every part of Harvard, and every part of classics in particular," said Richard Thomas, a professor of Greek and Latin at the university. "He was brilliant in a very quiet way. He knew a great deal, but he wasn't ostentatious about his knowledge, and he had an aesthetic sensibility that it was wonderful to be touched by."

Thomas and others remember him eloquently, and he sounds like a man who deserved that eloquence.



ZEPH STEWART
 
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
  A Million Little Writers in WashPo
02138's story on Harvard professors and their researchers/ghostwriters, "A Million Little Writers," gets a nice write-up from magazine columnist Peter Carlson in today's Washington Post. (Scroll down to find the item.)

The magazine 02138 covers Harvard University generally in a breathless and fawning manner. But the current "Sex! Greed! Scandal!" issue contains a wonderfully acerbic exposé that reveals how some of Harvard's hotshot celebrity professors actually produce their books: They do it "with the help of a small army of student assistants who research, edit and sometimes even write material for which they are never credited."

I'm not sure that all of you would find 02138 is fawning and breathless, but never mind...

If Harvard students handed in term papers written by somebody else, [author Jacob Hale] Russell points out, they would be subject to expulsion. Apparently, the rules for their professors are more forgiving.
 
  The Yankees Sign a Relief Pitcher
LaTroy Hawkins, formerly of Colorado. And it's a good move.
 
  The K-School Gets a New Name
The Crimson reports that the John F. Kennedy School of Government is changing its name to the Harvard Kennedy School (it's like two icons for the price of one!). It also has a new slogan: "Ask what you can do."

Schools have slogans?

I wonder what the biz school slogan would be? "Ka-ching!"

Or the college slogan: "Why stop now?"

I tease. But it's true that the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard is a mouthful, and if a slogan helps the school define and market itself, well, so be it. The K-School has some of the most idealistic people at Harvard and a sense of community that's unusual for the university, and it's hard not to wish it well.
 
Monday, December 10, 2007
  Harvard Shares the Wealth
Drew Faust and FAS dean Michael Smith announced a substantial expansion of Harvard financial aid policies today, designed to lighten the burden of a Harvard education for middle-income families.

The new formula creates a sliding scale of payment by income level for families making less than $180,000.

Families with incomes above $120,000 and below $180,000 and with assets typical for these income levels will be asked to pay 10 percent of their incomes. For those with incomes below $120,000, the family contribution percentage will decline steadily from 10 percent, reaching zero for those with incomes at $60,000 and below. For example, a typical family making $120,000 will be asked to pay approximately $12,000 for a child to attend Harvard College, compared with more than $19,000 under existing student aid policies. For a typical family with $180,000 of income, the payment would be approximately $18,000, compared with more than $30,000 today.

The new policies will also eliminate loans as a source of aid and eliminate the consideration of home equity in determining a family's ability to pay for college.

“We want all students who might dream of a Harvard education to know that it is a realistic and affordable option,” said Faust.

The Times approvingly writes up the announcement.

The initiative appears to make Harvard’s aid to students with household incomes of $120,000 to $180,000 the most generous to be offered by any of the country’s elite private universities.

But there seems little doubt that part of the reason behind this is outside pressure—whether it's a Business Week story on the growing wealth inequity between "Ivy-Plus" universities and state schools, or Congressional consideration of a law to mandate what percentage of a university's endowment must be spent on financial aid.

(The Globe, which seems to consider its website something to work on after the next day's paper is printed, has nothing.)

On a quick reading, this seems like an important move for Harvard, whatever the motivation, and terrific press for Drew Faust. Your thoughts?
 
Sunday, December 09, 2007
  Napoleon's Big Adventure
My friend Nina Burleigh has written a new book, "Mirage: Napoleon's Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt," that gets a terrific review in today's Times book review.

Mirage is about Napoleon's ill-fated occupation of Egypt in 1798, which didn't go so well for the little general—or his soldiers.

In “Mirage,” Burleigh’s description of a young army overdressed for the sweltering heat (in Alpine wool uniforms), afraid and unable to communicate with the increasingly hostile locals, also has echoes of the present. Her principal subject, however, is not the military but the 151 “savants” Napoleon took along — geologists, mapmakers, naturalists, artists, even a musicologist.

....Burleigh, a journalist and the author of “A Very Private Woman,” a well-received account of the 1964 murder of the prominent Washington figure Mary Meyer, hurtles in less than 250 pages through the three grueling years the savants spent in Egypt, peppering her tale with multitudes of facts, digressions and anecdotes.
....

It sounds like a fascinating book, and I'm not just saying that because Nina's an old friend....
 
  Sunday with Peter Gomes
In the Globe, columnist Sam Allis visits with Harvard minister Peter Gomes to talk about God.

[Gomes] is, on the subject of Christianity, a font of knowledge, humor, and edge.

A font of edge?

Well, never mind. Gomes has a new book called "The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus," and he has recently been named preacher to the Henley Royal Regatta, though why a crew race needs a preacher, God only knows. Allis, however, has come to challenge him on matters of faith.

I recently stumbled on "The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality" that buoyed my spirits no end. While this manifesto contains nothing particularly new, it stands as a refreshing breath of foul air against the irritating piety of religious tomes that blow onto the scene in droves.

A refreshing breath of foul air against the irritating piety of religious tomes that blow onto the scene in droves?

If Sam Allis is metaphorically challenged, Reverend Gomes is eloquent as always. But this is an odd column. Allis says that atheists are fine, Gomes says that there must be something more, and that about wraps up the column, the Boston Globe's idea of a learned disquisition.
 
Friday, December 07, 2007
  Drew Faust Disses Public Universities
Business Week has an important piece about the growing wealth of "Ivy Plus" (the Ivy League, plus Stanford and MIT) universities.

Called "The Dangerous Wealth of the Ivy League," the article examines the growing wealth gap between Ivy Plus-schools and public universities, especially with states freezing or cutting their support of public higher education.

More than before, impressionable students and ambitious parents have come to view college as a form of conspicuous consumption. ...The increasingly plush Ivy Plus model casts into sharp relief the travails of America's public instituions of higher learning, which educate 75% of the country's college students. While the Ivies, which account for less than 1% of the total, lift their spending into the stratosphere, many public colleges and universities are struggling to cope with rising enrollments in an era when most states are devoiting a dwindling public share of their budgets to higher ed.

...The wealth gap between the Ivies and everyone else has never been wider. The $5.7 billion in investment gains generated by Harvard's endowment for the year that ended June 30 exceeeded the total endowment assets of all but six U.S. universities, five of which were Ivy Plus....

One consequence of the wealth gap: Ivy Plus schools are increasingly able to raid public universities for their best and brightest scholars. Moreover, Ivy Plus schools are able to fund campus expansions and research ventures that public universities can't in the current budget climate.

When Business Week asked Drew Faust for her thoughts on this phenomenon, she responded that non-Ivy Plus schools should "really emphasize social science or humanities and have science endeavors that are not as ambitious" as those of Harvard and its peers.

Ouch. One knows what she means, and good for her for tackling a tough question, but it's very hard to make such a remark without coming across as patronizing. Nice little public schools, you should build up your creative writing departments. And a pat on the head to go with it.

The question that Faust's response begs, I think, is—well, there are more than one. Do rich universities have any societal obligation to poorer ones? (Because after all, not everyone can go to Harvard.) Is it a good thing for scientific research to be so heavily concentrated on seven or eight campuses? Does such a concentration benefit the universities involved more than it benefits the average American, who is, after all, generally paying for this federally-funded research? And what happens to a place like Harvard when it becomes so heavily financially oriented toward big science? How does that focus change the university and turn it into something quasi-educational, quasi-corporate?

As so often seems to be the case, one gets the sense that none of these big questions are publicly discussed at Harvard....because to express any reservations in public might slow down the money train.
 
Thursday, December 06, 2007
  Department of Pretentious Writing
From Jerry Saltz's Art column in the December 3 issue of New York magazine:

Urs Fischer has reduced Gavin Brown's Enterprise to a hole in the ground, and it is one of the most splendid things to have happened in a New York gallery in a whle. Experientially rich, buzzing with energy and entropy, crammed with chaos and contradiction, and topped off with the saga of subersion that is central both to the history of the empty-gallery-as-a-work-of-art but also to the Gavin Brown experience itself, this work is brimming with meaning and mojo.

And alliteration, apparently.

(My question: Can a thing buzz with entropy? Or be topped off with subversion?)

The work of art in question is, literally, a big hole in the ground.


 
  It's a Man's World at MIT
In the Globe, Linda Wertheimer investigates the problem of gender inequity at MIT.

Just one out of 25 faculty members granted tenure this year at MIT is female, a gender imbalance that appears to contrast with the university's decade-old effort to boost the status of women.

[Blogger journalistic pet peeve: "appears to contrast"? Come on, Linda. I know you don't want to look like you're editorializing, but of course it contrasts.]

The point was brought home recently when the school's in-house newspaper published a portrait gallery of the faculty members granted tenure this year; among the sea of male faces was the lone woman.

...[Nancy] Hopkins, an outspoken critic of former Harvard president Lawrence Summers for his remarks about women's ability in the sciences, said it was unnerving to see only one woman among the newly tenured professors featured in last month's Tech Talk newspaper."It's a shock. I don't have a thousand words as good as that picture," said Hopkins.

There's no simple villain here, not at a university with a female president. But according to Wertheimer, university officials "will investigate impediments to women receiving tenure."

Note the implicit assumption in that quote—it's important. If there aren't as many women getting tenured as men, it's because there are "impediments" to women receiving tenure. Yikes. That's like a judge opening a trial by telling the defendant that he's guilty, and this trial is going to find out why.

The questions that, in part, precipitated the demise of Larry Summers continue to plague academia. In a small way, perhaps, Summers can take comfort from that.
 
  Foner v. Dershowitz
In the Crimson, Columbia historian Eric Foner lays a smackdown on Alan Dershowitz, and in pretty convincing fashion.

Here's the back-story: In a November 20 Crimson editorial, Dershowitz lambasted "hard-left radicals "led by Professor J. Lorand Matory" as hypocrites who believe in free speech except when that speech is "pro-Israel."

Who, other than Matory, are these hard-left radicals and "political cronies" at Harvard? Dershowitz doesn't bother to say. Is there more than one? Wouldn't a fair-minded editorialist feel compelled to mention at least another of this band of free speech-hating anti-Israelites?

Apparently, they were easier to find at Columbia.

At Columbia University, on the other hand, a group of professors—who are generally in sync with their extremist colleagues at Harvard—are complaining that Columbia’s President, Lee C. Bollinger, has too much freedom of speech when it comes to the Middle East. A campaign is underway to rebuke Bollinger for expressing his personal views about the Iranian dictator, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Led by well-known radicals such as Eric Foner—who complained that Bollinger’s harsh description of Ahmadinejad was “completely inaccurate”—these politically correct censors want to muzzle Bollinger. They also want to muzzle students, alumni, and other “outsiders,” who have legitimate complaints about the Middle East Studies Department, which has become a wholly owned subsidiary of radical Islam.

Strong stuff, albeit without any particular evidence to prove it—a fact that Foner points out in his response.

I don’t know what the standards of proof among law professors are, but among historians it is customary to present facts to bolster an argument. I defy Professor Dershowitz to cite any statement of mine that is “against Israel.” My criticism of President Bollinger revolved around the part of his speech that seemed to commit Columbia University to support of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, and to blame Iran for the violence there. When introducing a foreign head of state, the president of a university is not simply expressing his “personal views,” as Dershowitz claims, but speaking for the university.

Lest anyone actually believe Dershowitz’s misrepresentation, I am categorically in favor of the broadest possible freedom of speech for everyone, whether I agree with them or not.

I think Foner has a good point. Several of them, actually. Moreover, there's something odd and disturbing about the stigmatizing language Dershowitz uses in his op-ed—all this talk about "hard-left radicals," "political cronies," "extremist" and "well-known radicals." It sounds like something you'd hear Joe McCarthy say back in the 1950s. Both Matory and Foner are pretty liberal, but the way Dershowitz describes them, you'd think they were sitting in the back of a labor demonstration waiting to set off bombs, or setting fire to Henry Kissinger's office, or some such act of anarchism and violence. Dershowitz is smart enough to know exactly what he's doing, and smart enough to know better.

Historians do appear to have higher standards of proof than do lawyers.
 
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
  Meanwhile, in Baseball
Will the Red Sox land Johan Santana? Yeesh. Aren't they good enough already?

Truth be told, I'm pleased that the Yankees didn't give up the farm (system) to land the pitcher, as great as he is. Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, starting centerfielder Melky Cabrera—these young players could all be stars in a year or so.

The Red Sox, however, have such pitching depth, they can probably afford to make a deal involving young pitching. But if I were them, I wouldn't give up that Jacoby Ellsbury; that guy looks like the real thing.

Still, without the Yankees involved, the Twins would seem to have only the Red Sox to deal with, and since Santana will be a free agent after next season, they have incentive to trade him now, while they can still get something for him. You'd have to say it's looking good for Boston....
 
  Home
I'm back from Mexico, where I split my time between diving, eating, sleeping, and keeping abreast of the Facebook situation. (We won. Here's the court ruling.) It was a fantastic vacation—well, a long weekend, really, but still fantastic. Arrive Thursday, dive for three days, return Monday. The water was heaven, and the marine life incredible: a very rare blue parrotfish, almost extinct because restaurants serve it as grouper; moray eels, including one four or five feet long, swimming in the open water, which you don't see often; huge barracuda; crabs as big as my outstretched arms. But often in diving it's the little things that are most exciting to see: a fish cleaning-station, where certain species go to have their skin pecked clean of algae by other fish; or a fireworm, also known as a bristle worm, a long caterpillar-like worm covered with poisonous bristles. (Found one of those; never saw it before.) At one point, our dive master actually pulled out a magnifying glass to help my dive buddy and I see something....

Most exciting, though, was to see how the reefs of Cozumel are rebounding from the devastation inflicted upon them by Hurricane Wilma. I dove there just a few months after that hurricane, and it was like an oceanic ghost town; the reefs were awash with sand, and the coral looked gray and barren. Now the life is really starting to return—there are new sponges, new anemones, new growth all over. And the color is back: vivid reds, blues, purples, yellows, unlike anything one can see on land.

And then, on the return from the last dive on Sunday, our boat was suddenly surrounded by dolphins, an entire pod of them, swimming effortlessly inches under the bow as we chugged along, turning onto their sides to look up at us (or so it seemed, anyway), then turning and diving into deeper water. They gave us up eventually and we made our way back to the marina, but as we looked out toward the open ocean, the dolphins were still there, swimming and breaching, the lowering sun reflecting off their backs.

Heaven.
 
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Name: Richard Bradley
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