Signs of the Electoral Times
As some regular readers may know, I've long been arguing that it doesn't matter who the GOP and Democratic presidential nominees are, and that the press has been paying too much attention to the personalities of this campaign and not enough to underlying electoral, demographic, psychographic and economic trends which strongly suggest a Democratic victory.
(Partly because it's in the media's economic self-interest to highlight the horse race aspect of the campaign—it's good for business.)
Two recent events strengthen my feelings.
One, in a New York state assembly special election, a Democrat just beat a Republican in a district that is "overwhelmingly Republican."
Now the state GOP is in danger of losing control of the assembly for the first time in decades.
I think you can consider that defeated assemblyman the canary in the coalmine of the fall elections.
Event number two is George Bush's statement yesterday that the country isn't in a recession. I understand that there's a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't quality to any statement the president makes about the economy. But this statement is going to kill the Republicans. It will make Bush look even more out of touch with the country than he actually is, and they will be forced either to reject the president or defend him, both unfortunate options.
I'm not saying the Democrats should be overconfident; I am saying that the forces underlying the electoral mood have been building for eight years, and I don't think the press is explaining them well......
¶ 11:45 AM9 comments
I know we shouldn't speak ill of the dead - but am I the only person who found Buckley close to unreadable a lot of the time? I never read his fiction, but his nonfiction was packed the endless sentences, ridiculously long words, and meaning that sometimes took several reads to excavate. I don't know how many times I finished a Buckley column with the thought: what on earth was he trying to say? But then, my gold standard for prose style is Orwell. Never use a long word when a short one will do is not exactly advice Buckley followed.
Orwell is a high standard, but Andrew's right: When Orwell wrote, one got the feeling that his words were used in the service of something greater than himself; when Buckley wrote, one got the feeling that he wasn't sure there was anything greater than himself.
Five years ago, the Red Sox probably would have been all in. The Yankees certainly would have. But the war between Boston and New York has entered a new phase.
That phase has to do with greater cultivation of minor league talent and savvier statistical analysis.
Meanwhile, Red Sox fans have undergone an identity crisis after the team's two World Series wins. The Sox spent $51 million last year on Daisuke Matsuzaka's negotiating rights alone and $70 million on desultory outfielder J.D. Drew. During the 2007 World Series, just after Alex Rodriguez opted out of his New York deal, Boston fans—who would have welcomed the third baseman before the 2004 season, when a trade with the Rangers fell apart at the last minute—desperately chanted, "Don't sign A-Rod!" In other words: We don't want to be any more like the Yankees than we already are.
No offense, Sox fans, but in some ways your team already is the new Yankees. Dubious signings like J.D. Drew, sky-high ticket prices (the highest in baseball), fans for whom anything but a Series victory is untenable—that small-town charm of the BoSox is gone, baby, gone.
And maybe that's all right; maybe winning a couple World Series after all those decades is worth some subtle and probably not so great changes in the team's character.
But Sox fans still like to posit that the Yankees are the "Evil Empire," and these days, that just ain't so—at the very least, there are now two such dominions.
¶ 9:38 AM6 comments
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Chelsea on My Mind
What would we say about an aspiring politician, born into privilege, who works at a hedge fund, hangs out with celebrities, and refuses to talk to the press?
Well, first of all, she sounds like a Republican, right? And second, we'd be skeptical of someone whose every act seems to manifest contempt for the more democratic aspects of American democracy.
Chelsea Clinton turns 28 in a few days—around the same age her father was when he ventured into electoral politics for the first time, in 1974, waging an unsuccessful campaign for a congressional seat in Arkansas—and she is, at long last, plunging into the family business, moving from prop to propagandist.
Maybe. But would she make a great public servant?
You'll laugh, but the presidential daughter I'd prefer to go into politics is Jenna Bush. She teaches at a charter school in Washington, she wrote a book about teenagers and HIV, and instead of hanging out with poncy Brits at Oxford, or attending fashion shows with Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna, she's getting married.
...and in this sense his passing should be lamented by anyone nostalgic for those days when ideas and the “life-of-the-mind” still mattered.
Oh, I don't know about that.
For a couple of reasons. While Buckley certainly gets credit for resuscitating American conservatism, can we think of any particular idea that is associated with him? A single book, other than God and Man at Yale?
And if, truly, one goes back and picks that book up, its immaturity is striking, and it is difficult to imagine that such a poorly edited book could have acquired such a reputation. (One suspects that its reputation depends upon the many, many more people who have read about it than have actually read it.)
Buckley wrote dozens of books after GAMAY. Without checking Wikipedia, can you name one?
In fact, when you get right down to it, would one really even call Buckley an intellectual?
A wordsmith, certainly. A provocateur. A partisan.
But isn't it lowering the bar to call him an intellectual?
Intellectual life these days, Golding says, has been degraded "by such loutish mediocrities as Christopher Hitchens and Ann Coulter," which strikes me as unfair to Hitchens, who, whatever one may think of him, operates on a significantly higher level of thought and rhetoric than does Coulter.
But as Golding acknowledges, Buckley himself wasn't immune to loutish behavior, as in this remark to Gore Vidal (who is, in fact, far more of an intellectual than Buckley).
He famously lost his temper on national television and blustered, in his droll blue-blood Connecticut brogue, “Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.”
This from the man who would subsequently suggest that gays be tattoed to stop the spread of AIDS....
For many people, Buckley had a seductive WASP persona (despite the fact of his Catholicism). He had family money! He sailed! He'd been in the CIA! He had lockjaw!
Sailing, he wrote, can have so many rapturous moments.
In fact, if Buckley had been a liberal, conservatives would have ridiculed him for exactly these rich-boy sentimentalities, and they wouldn't have been entirely wrong in doing so.
Imagine if John Kerry waxed so rhapsodically about yachting.....
The truth is that Buckley was someone who was born into privilege and seems to have impressed people simply by how comfortably he settled into that life. The sight of a man so utterly at home in his own identity is powerful, especially to young people seeking to find an identity of their own. Nothing seduces the young like self-confidence.
But as someone who knows some small part of that world—like BB, my father attended Millbrook School, and he was roommates with Reid Buckley, Bill's brother, at Yale; it's also fair to say that I had, in some measure, a WASPy upbringing—I have a somewhat different, if less romantic take.
I'm more impressed by WASPs who challenged their culture, their background, who reached out to those less fortunate than they.
There are lots of erudite, learned WASPY types; my father and his Yale friends weren't as prolific or accomplished as Buckley, and certainly not as self-promoting, but stylistically they were similar enough. It was a generational thing—Yale men in the post-war era.
And there are lots of WASPs, from FDR to John Kerry, whose definition of helping others went beyond inviting people to join them on their sailboats.
Perhaps I am missing something, but such efforts do not leap out from the narratives of William F. Buckley's life that we are now reading.....
¶ 7:31 AM5 comments
In Iraq, the Sunnis aren't Shining
The Washington Post reports that Sunni volunteer forces—the one's we're arming in preparation for and promotion of a future civil war—are abandoning their posts.
U.S.-backed Sunni volunteer forces, which have played a vital role in reducing violence in Iraq, are increasingly frustrated with the American military and the Iraqi government over what they see as a lack of recognition of their growing political clout and insufficient U.S. support.
The problem is that we've armed them to help maintain order...and now they're feeling their oats.
"They should make me stronger. They should not weaken me," said Kassim, a former commander in the Islamic Army, an insurgent group.
...The predominantly Sunni Awakening forces, referred to by the U.S. military as the Sons of Iraq or Concerned Local Citizens, are made up mostly of former insurgents who have turned against extremists because of their harsh tactics and interpretation of Islam. The U.S. military pays many fighters roughly $10 a day to guard and patrol their areas. Thousands more unpaid volunteers have joined out of tribal and regional fealties. U.S. efforts to manage this fast-growing movement of about 80,000 armed men are still largely effective, but in some key areas the control is fraying.
Consider that: We are propping up a mostly Shiite government...at the same time that we are arming 80,000 Sunni soldiers, many of whom are former insurgents/terrorists.
U.S. commanders and 20 Awakening leaders across Iraq. Some U.S. military officials say they are growing concerned that the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq has infiltrated Awakening forces in some areas.
Capture Osama bin Laden? Hell, we're giving his soldiers weapons.....
¶ 7:19 AM0 comments
Quote for the Day"We both have trouble answering questions in English."
Jason Giambi Makes His Play
My favorite underdog Yankee, 37-year-old Jason Giambi, is having a great spring. I couldn't be happier. Giambi, an eminently likeable guy who is still the only person to have voluntarily apologized for using steroids, is a great hitter and a better first baseman, IMHO, than he gets credit for. I love watching Giambi at the plate; he has one of the great eyes for the strike zone in all of baseball, and almost never swings at a bad pitch. For a power hitter, that's rare indeed. When Giambi takes a pitch and the umpire calls a strike, the ump is almost always wrong.
Mr. Buckley irrevocably proved that his brand of candor did not lend itself to public life when an Op-Ed article he wrote for The New York Times offered a partial cure for the AIDS epidemic: “Everyone detected with AIDS should be tattooed in the upper forearm to prevent common needle users, and on the buttocks, to prevent the victimization of homosexuals,” he wrote.
Let's just play with that, shall we?
Public safety commissioner Theophilus "Bull" Connor irrevocablyproved that his brand of candor did not lend itself to public life when.....
Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker irrevocably proved that his brand of candor did not lend itself to public life when.....
Please. Bill Buckley might have endeared himself to the intelligentsia with his swashbuckling lifestyle (the result of inherited money), his prolific writing, and his extensive vocabulary.
But is there a civil rights issue in the last sixty years—McCarthy, segregation, anti-gay discrimination—on which he did not first take the wrong stand?
Thought for the Day Is it a coincidence that at the beginning of the Bush presidency, Americans (some of us, anyway) hated everything French—remember "freedom fries"?— and that at the end of the Bush presidency, French actress Marion Cotillard wins the Academy Award for best actress—and all of our hearts in the process?
"I'm totally overwhelmed with joy and sparkles and fireworks and everything that goes like 'boom boom boom'....."
Bill Cunningham, who is host of “The Big Show with Bill Cunningham,”...lambasted the national news media, drawing cheers from the audience, as being soft in their coverage of Mr. Obama compared to the Republican presidential candidates, declaring they should “peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama.” [emphasis added]
McCain subsequently apologized for Cunningham's implication that Obama is Muslim—and what a shame that that's considered an insult—though Cunningham did not.
But will the Republicans start using this sleazy tactic frequently? I heard Georgia Republican Jack Kingston say it on "Real Time with Bill Maher" last week, and it was so egregious—"Barack Hussein Obama," the congressman said, and he might as well have been saying "Barack Hitler Obama." I wanted to hit him. Or throw something at my TV. But since it's a brand-new, 46" flat screen, which I bought to watch the Giants' glorious victory over the Patriots, I restrained myself.
Anyway, might I also point out that the phrase "peel the bark off" is itself pretty disturbing. I've never heard it applied to a person—I've never really heard it applied to anything, frankly—and a quick Google search doesn't turn much up. But when you consider the source, it's a violent image, and the fact that bark is dark lends it racial overtones.....
You just know that if the Republicans are saying this stuff once in a while in public, they're saying it a hell of a lot more behind closed doors......
¶ 11:08 PM2 comments
Here's one thing about pitchers that come up from the minors: Not only are they cheaper than hired guns like Roger Clemens, but....you like them more! Watching these young players grow and develop over time gives fans the chance to bond with them, something that's been missing from the Yankees in the (George) Steinbrenner era.
¶ 8:37 AM1 comments
By retaining Constantine as a tenured professor, and by keeping the alleged "sanctions" applied against her secret, Teachers has demonstrated that it cares as little about its reputation as Columbia cares about its own.
Now, all the right-wingers in New York (a small but enthusiastic group) like to tee off on Columbia, which does have some nutty lefties but really just happens to be a high-profile university in a big media town. (Imagine if Harvard were in New York. Yikes.)
But the Constantine situation is tricky. If Constantine did, as I believe, fake the noose incident in order to negate anticipated accusations of plagiarism, then she has put Columbia in a very awkward position.
After all, the incident has already prompted a number of demonstrations, some involving local African-American politicians. And Columbia, which is moving to develop its land in west Harlem, can't afford a racial controversy—something that Constantine surely knew if and when she hung a noose on her office door. If the university fired her, you can imagine what would happen—it'd be the Bonfire of the Vanities, or Tawana Brawley, all over again.
A sad consequence of Ms. Constantine's work on her own behalf, I suspect, is that colleges across the country may become more reluctant to hire African-American professors: Because if a blatant plagiarist can invent a race-based incident to successfully avoid being fired, then colleges may be more cautious about hiring black professors, on the grounds that if they ever need to fire the person, they won't be able to.....
Which means really that the same people who picketed on Ms. Constantine's behalf now ought to be picketing against her.
And which will surely make conservatives say that, well, that's what you get when you hire someone because of his or her race, rather than on the merits.
What a tragic mess.
Here's what I think will happen: Columbia will have to pay Ms. Constantine to make her go away. And she will take the money and run.
¶ 7:37 AM5 comments
How did that sickly-sweet "Falling Slowly" win the Oscar for best song? I'd never heard any of the songs before, but this one, "Raise It Up," from the movie August Rush (who knew there was such a thing?) is way better....
And listen to that 11-year-old girl sing! That's just miraculous.
Is Facebook Over?According to techcrunch.com, the number of Americans visiting Facebook has plateaued in recent months, and dropped by about 800,000 in January....
This would fit with my theory that Facebook has two big problems: People really don't trust its privacy protection, especially whenever you allow another app to access your information.
And probably more important, there's just too much crap on Facebook: Funwalls, Superwalls, Entourages, Movie quizzes, passing along karma....every time you log in, someone is (often inadvertently) asking you to join some new group. It grows tedious fast....
¶ 7:07 AM2 comments
Monday, February 25, 2008
A Desperate Hillary Goes Negative
The Clinton campaign appears to be trying to suggest that Barack Obama is, in fact, a terrorist, by circulating a five-year-0ld picture of Obama dressed in traditional Somali garb while on a trip to Africa.
For the Clintons, the more things change, the more they stay the same.....
¶ 11:30 AM8 comments
Jimmy Kimmel Responds
All of you who were offended by Sarah Silverman's satirical video—you know, the one in which she describes her intimate relationship with Harvardian Matt Damon—prepare to be offended again.
Because Jimmy Kimmel, Silverman's boyfriend, isn't taking it lying down.
Blogs: Bad for the CommunityThe Crimson reports that there's a new gossip website at Harvard, "Gossip Geek," though it doesn't actually bother to link to the site, and the print version doesn't even list the URL.
Seems pretty tame to me, but some students apparently are up in arms, complaining about the photos posted on the site. ... acting Dean of the College David R. Pilbeam said the administration is “making efforts” to protect students from the site.
Secretary of the Administrative Board Jay L. Ellison has recommended that those affected file a police report with Harvard University Police Department in order to expedite administrative response.
“I think these [blogs] are bad, and bad for the community,” said Ellison in an e-mailed statement. “Indeed, even if what is said is true there is never enough context in these type of things to fully understand what happened.”
A police report? Harvard really wants to promote the idea that posting a photo of someone in a public place is a crime? You can hear the laughter all the way from Stanford.
That idea would have interesting implications for Facebook, whose founder, Mark Zuckerberg, Harvard hopes will be a huge donor one day.....
More to the point, this is one of those times when Harvard and its students want to have it both ways: The university wants its celebrity status, promotes its celebrity status, markets its celebrity status...but then, when people respond by treating Harvard and its denizens as if they are celebrities (Gossip Geek=the TMZ of Harvard), university officials say, well, we don't want that part of celebrity....
When you are the most famous university in the world, and you spend enormous effort and money trying to achieve and retain that status—or when you attend Harvard for fundamentally that reason—you can not have it both ways.
¶ 8:10 AM10 comments
Standing Against the Surge
Thanks to "the surge," the Iraq war has become almost a non-issue in this presidential campaign. We've been told so often that "the surge is working" that we've all pretty much come to believe it, and the ramifications have been significant: If the surge weren't working, one has to think that John McCain, its greatest defender outside the White House, would not be his party's imminent nominee.
But two pieces of journalism—one interesting, one important—suggest it's time for us to reconsider the success of the surge.
In Slate, Michael Kinsley argues that the surge was presented to the American people as a way to bring soldiers home, and by that standard—George Bush's standard—it's a failure.
President Bush laid down the standard of success when he announced the surge more than a year ago: "If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home."
...Lately, though, Gen. Petraeus has come up with another zenlike idea: He calls it a "pause." And the administration has signed on, meaning that the total number of American troops in Iraq will remain at 130,000 for an undetermined period.
In other words, the president has played us all for suckers.
In Rolling Stone, an Arabic-speaking correspondent named Nir Rosen writes an enlightening story, "The Myth of the Surge," explaining that the surge essentially means we are arming both sides of the divided country, the Sunnis and the Shiites, thereby laying the foundation for the civil war that we're trying to avoid.
Now, in the midst of the surge, the Bush administration has done an about-face. Having lost the civil war, many Sunnis were suddenly desperate to switch sides — and Gen. David Petraeus was eager to oblige. The U.S. has not only added 30,000 more troops in Iraq — it has essentially bribed the opposition, arming the very Sunni militants who only months ago were waging deadly assaults on American forces. To engineer a fragile peace, the U.S. military has created and backed dozens of new Sunni militias, which now operate beyond the control of Iraq's central government.
Even before the Americans leave, these militias are taking justice into their own hands—and we're giving them the weapons and the money to do it.
The article also prints one of the most depressing photos I've seen in some time: two grinning American soldiers, standing next to a beheaded Iraqi, propped upright, whose head they've plopped back on his neck.
We all know that there are tens of thousands of physically wounded Americans coming back from this war. If we included mental health issues in the roster of the wounded, how large would that number grow to be?
¶ 7:49 AM0 comments
Friday, February 22, 2008
Sex Week-Apparently It Pays Off
The Crimson may joke, but it sounds like the presence of Vivid Entertainment actresses (i.e., porn stars) Monique Alexander and Savanna Sampson certainly made it sex week for some Yale guys....
I am outraged by the President's memo that summarized the outcomes of a "neutral" investigation that I used the work of others without appropriate attribution. The premature, vindictive, and mean-spirited action taken by the administration to release a statement to the faculty regarding the results of this biased and flawed investigation reflects not only a profound lack of sensitivity and due process, but it also may have sufficiently "poisoned the well" for any fair and objective review of the matter.
Wow—that is clever. The first investigation was so flawed that it actually makes any further investigation impossible. That's pretty much the definition of two birds with one stone right there.
Now, we love damning the man as much as the next 20-something pipsqueak, but when Columbia takes a fine-toothed comb to your oeuvre and finds five years' worth of academic dishonesty? Might be time to cut your losses, maybe update your resume and check out the listings on monster.com.
The only difference is that Madonna Constantine isn't a twenty-something pipsqueak, but a tenured African-American woman who may have invented a horrific racial incident in order to portray herself, in her words, as the victim of a "witch-hunt."
¶ 8:50 AM2 comments
Like a PrayerThe New York Sun reports that a colleague and a student of Madonna Constantine's have written letters supporting her against the accusation that she is a multiple plagiarist.
(And—and this has gotten little attention—she allegedly ripped off her own students.)
"These accusations are not believable," Ms. [Barbara] Wallace wrote. "I absolutely believe this is just an attempt to besmear her name and reputation."
Ms. Wallace noted in her letter that she is the only other black female professor with tenure at the school.
The injection of race is predictable, heartbreaking, and entirely unnecessary. Because of course, accusations of plagiarism, a crime that has nothing to do with race, don't have to be taken on faith; people can look at the evidence and decide for themselves.
I suspect that for legal reasons Columbia can't release its report on Madonna Constantine—but she could release it herself. (Don't hold your breath.)
"The truth is that I am not a liar, nor am I a cheater," Ms. Constantine wrote in a two-page statement released yesterday that accused the president of Teachers College, Susan Fuhrman, of "blackmail and intimidation."
Yale's Bad Sex?
The Crimson teases "Sex Week at Yale," commencing its story on the subject with the lede, "Sex at Harvard is a year-round activity. At Yale, it lasts a week." The headline: "Yale Grants Self One Week of Fun."
If I may stick up for my undergraduate alma mater...
Might I remind the Crimson that Yale is now wrapping up the legendary "Feb Club," an entire month of late night, sub rosa parties? That is every single night of February..... It was February 1978. Students packed into a stairway in Calhoun College, clogging the entryway in search of alcohol and entertainment. They had come for what would be one of the best-remembered parties of Feb Club that year — the “Skip and Go Naked Party.”
Far be it from me to suggest that Feb Club leads to any sexual activity. (And no, I wasn't at Yale in 1978.) For me, it usually led to the flu.
(Sadly, I gather that the absurd alcohol restrictions which now pervade this country and its colleges have made Feb Club a less inclusive activity. A shame.)
My point, and I do have one, is that everyone knows that Yale has a better social life than Harvard, and, well, let's just say that Yale doesn't need to have a "Last Chance Dance"....
¶ 8:14 AM0 comments
The Patriots’ pattern of illicitly videotaping the signals of opposing N.F.L. coaches began in Coach Bill Belichick’s first preseason with the team in 2000, a former Patriots player said. The information was put to use in that year’s regular-season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Belichick’s debut as New England’s coach.
...The Patriots appear to have continued the practice of taping opposing signals for seven years.
As much as I tease, I'd be sad if this were true, which it sure sounds like it is. There's been a lot to like about the Patriots over the last few years, and they've been a ton of fun to watch.
But Belichick is a pretty unpleasant guy, and none of this sounds out of character for him....
League officials and owners are trying to sweep this scandal under the carpet. Don't they know about the cover-up being worse than the crime?
And if you read the Times article linked to above, it sounds like this really is a big deal, because the other coaches quoted really sound offended and pretty pissed off.
[San Francisco offensive coordinator Mike Martz] took exception to the theory that the Patriots could not have gleaned much information from taping the walkthrough. He said indeed they could, but added that was not the point.
“For somebody to say that, it’s kind of disgusting,” Martz said. “The whole point is if they really cheated. To say he took some steroids and it did help or it didn’t help, that’s never the point. The point is, to all these high school coaches and high school kids and college kids, that if they did cheat, that’s the point.”
My prediction: This will eventually lead to Belichick's resignation and perhaps (temporary) suspension from football. The NFL will be forced to hang him out to dry.
¶ 8:03 AM6 comments
McCain has famously prided himself on being friendly and accessible to reporters, but that didn't stop campaign manager Rick Davis yesterday from releasing a fundraising letter calling the Times part of "the liberal attack machine." Radio host Laura Ingraham said the episode should teach the senator that the major newspapers are run by "partisans" and "piranhas."
In all fairness, it's not just conservatives who aren't crazy about the story. Lots of folks wonder if the Times should have published it, given that the piece relied on anonymous sources and had no direct confirmation of an affair.
The Times is doing a progressive thing, one that is very unlike the Times and suggests that it knows it's out on a limb here: It's making its reporters and editors (sort of) available for reader questions on the story.
But I do laugh about the way the Times summarizes the story:
A recent New York Times article examined a number of decisions by Senator John McCain that raised questions about his judgment over potential conflicts of interest. The article included reporting on Mr. McCain’s relationship with a female lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee led by Mr. McCain.
...even as Congress presses wealthy colleges and universities to spend more of their endowments, they continue on a fund-raising streak that will widen the wealth gap in higher education.
...Stanford University had an exceptional year for fund-raising in 2007, collecting $832 million in private donations. Harvard, too, reaped a bounty, with $614 million in gifts.
Stanford pulled in $220 million more than Harvard. That's interesting, isn't it?
The numbers are sure to fuel the unease of those who argue that universities are turning into fund-raising machines, with university presidents spending more and more of their time cultivating donors, aided by development teams, consultants and marketers who scour alumni lists.
...John Longbrake, a Harvard spokesman, defended the way the university uses its financial resources. “Harvard and many other universities make enormous contributions to our nation in research, scholarship, medicine and the arts due in large part to the resources we raise and invest,” he said.
A tough spot for Longbrake to be in: What he says is, of course, true. But it's not going to satisfy those who look at those numbers and see only a growing inequity, or see that the university is becoming something else—the UniCorp. Or maybe the corpiversity. I'm not sure which.
¶ 5:15 PM0 comments
Witnesses said that at least 100 people broke into the Embassy and torched some of its rooms. One protester was able to rip the American flag from the facade of the building. An estimated 1,000 demonstrators cheered as the vandals, some wearing masks to conceal their faces, jumped onto the building’s balcony waving a Serbian flag and chanting “Serbia, Serbia!” the witnesses said. A convoy of police firing tear gas was able to disperse the crowd.
As previously discussed on this blog, this has the potential to be a real mess.
¶ 4:44 PM0 comments
David C. Battenberg, 27, of Metairie, and Diego A. Perez, 18, of New Orleans, are charged in a federal criminal complaint with being involved in a conspiracy to distribute and posses heroin, cocaine and other controlled substances.
The blog's kinda serious today, so here's a video that reminds you that, even in the age of the money culture, New York can still be pretty cool. (Tip of the hat to my friend Kristen, who posted this on her Facebook page.)
The Improbability of CoincidenceBoth the Times and the Post today have stories about John McCain's close relationship with a female lobbyist.
Think that's a coincidence? The only question is where the leak came from. (The Times, which posted the story first, sources the piece to "former campaign associates"; the Post, following up, identifies one as John Weaver, "McCain's closest confidante until leaving his current campaign last year." Wonder what McCain did to him to make him so vengeful?)
[Vicki] Iseman, 40, who joined the Arlington-based firm of Alcalde & Fay as a secretary and rose to partner within a few years, often touted her access to the chairman of the Senate commerce committee....
(I love that: rose from secretary to partner "within a few years." Ain't democracy grand?)
Either way, it's a double-and-a-half whammy. A double because it suggests that McCain was having an affair and that his ethics are compromised; a half because the fact that she is 30 years younger than he and blond kinda reminds you that McCain cheated on his first wife and very, very subtly subverts the credibility of his current one.
Iseman could not be reached at her home or office last night. But she told the Times via e-mail that "I never discussed with him alleged things I had 'told people,' that had made their way 'back to' him."
If you can translate that, do tell. (I wonder if Ms. Iseman was a good secretary?)
I will pay any commenter ten dollars if he/she can compellingly explain why the words "told people" and "back to" are in quotes.
(Note, by the way, how tortured the Times piece is: the paper doesn't want to come out and say that it's writing a piece about a politician and a blonde, so it couches the story as a meditation McCain's "self-confidence on ethics." Hah! The editors must have been wracking their brains to come up with that rationale.)
Politics is a tough business, eh?
Lobbyist Vicki Iseman: Who says Washington lacks style?
Fred Thompson leers at his wife, who kind of looks like Vicki Iseman.
The college, in statements to the faculty and the news media, said an 18-month investigation into charges against the professor, Madonna G. Constantine, had determined there were “numerous instances in which she used others’ work without attribution in papers she published in academic journals over the past five years.”
...The college said Dr. Constantine was being penalized, but did not say what the penalty was. A spokeswoman for the college, Marcia Horowitz, said Teachers College did not have set rules governing plagiarism or how it should be punished.
[A teaching college doesn't have rules on plagiarism and its punishment? Note to Columbia: Fix that.]
Like state senator Clay Davis on The Wire, Constantine, caught in the act, unabashedly throws down the race card. Dr. Constantine, in an e-mail message to faculty and students on Wednesday, called the investigation “biased and flawed,” and said it was part of a “conspiracy and witch hunt by certain current and former members of the Teachers College community.”
“I am left to wonder whether a white faculty member would have been treated in such a publicly disrespectful and disparaging manner,” she wrote.
She added, “I believe that nothing that has happened to me this year is coincidental, particularly when I reflect upon the hate crime I experienced last semester involving a noose on my office door. As one of only two tenured black women full professors at Teachers College, it pains me to conclude that I have been specifically and systematically targeted.”
It's so sick and cynical, it's almost brilliant: the same people who investigated her for academic misconduct....want to hang her!
Mr. Giacomo [Constantine's lawyer] said that despite objections and further documentation, the college did not change its position [on the plagiarism accusation]. He said he now considered it “not a stretch of the imagination” to suspect the noose was “an additional way of intimidating my client.”
When told of these comments, Ms. Horowitz, the spokeswoman for the college, said, “Accusations that the college had anything to do with hanging the noose are totally absurd and totally untrue.”
Oh, So That's What Happened Will the Patriots and their fans never admit that they were soundly thrashed by the Giants?
Now we learn that Ellis Hobbs, the cornerback whom Plaxico Burress beat for the Super Bowl's winning touchdown, was hurt with shoulder and groin problems. And Pats fans are seizing on that information to say, Why was he covering Burress? Things could have been different.
Except that they wouldn't have been. Having watched the Giants all season, I can assure you: covering Plaxico Burress from around the five-yard line is almost impossible. He's fast, he's got great moves, and he's 6'5". He must have caught that exact same pass in that exact same spot in the end zone half a dozen times over the course of the season.
Let us all take a deep breath, concede that the Giants were the better team, and savor the sweet taste of righteous victory.....
¶ 7:40 AM2 comments
The Apple, The Tree, and So On
Quote of the Day:
"We'd rather be Darth Vader. Let them be the underdog."
—Yankees senior vice-president Hank Steinbrenner on the Yankees' and Red Sox's relative status.
¶ 7:25 AM0 comments
Today, the organization—Harvard Medical International (HMI)—operates in over 30 countries on five continents, providing consulting services and bestowing Harvard’s imprimatur on medical schools and hospitals from Dubai to Dresden. In exchange, the non-profit funnels its excess revenue back to Harvard Medical School (HMS), which pocketed over $1.5 million in the year ending June 2006, according to tax filings.
The problem, apparently—or allegedly, I should say—is that HMI's original mission was conceived of as educational, not a profit-oriented health care-delivery service.
“The change was slow and gradual,” Hyman, the provost, writes in an e-mailed statement. “Over time a number of faculty and members of the administration recognized that major aspects of HMI’s effort were moving away from the University’s core mission.”
But here's my question: Even if this mission creep did occur, what's wrong with it? What distinguishes HMI from any number of profit-oriented activities Harvard sanctions that take advantage of the Harvard name? One Day University, for example....
(And to be fair, there are probably 100 better examples in the medical and business schools that I'm just not aware of.)
Let's face it: Everyone at Harvard is trying to make a buck off the Harvard name in ways that have little or nothing to do with "education." Where is the line drawn?
As the piece points out, Larry Summers certainly never had a problem with HMI; in fact, he helped it evolve in exactly the way that the man he hired as provost is now objecting to.....
¶ 8:06 AM5 comments
Our relationship to the Internet is entirely made up of our relationship to browsers and Web sites. And you know what? They suck.
They're boring, one-dimensional, and unoriginal. Who decided that all Web sites should have a top nav bar and be rectangular in layout? Who decided they should abdicate any sense of design and be white and clean and uncluttered? No one did, and that's the point. It just happened, because the creators of the Internet were thinking about other things. Because the creators of the Internet are a very distinct subspecies of humanity:
Geeks, engineers, and boys. And because the DNA of the Internet is entirely male, it exudes the best and worst of what males have to offer.
I think this is a very important idea, and have long waited for someone to turn the filter of gender studies onto the web—onto the question of industrial design in general, for example.
(Herewith I reveal my inner geek: I am obsessed with industrial design. Ask me sometime about the noises that microwaves make, or trucks in reverse, and ten minutes later you'll still be regretting it. A few years back I told a friend that I wanted to write a book about noise, and he's still laughing. But, really, it would have been a cool book.)
On the plus side—[the Web is] brilliant, complex, competitive, audacious in how it's changed our way of organizing experience. On the negative side—it's linear, utilitarian, cold, emotionless, disconnected.
....Because boys and geeks and engineers—and, by the way, I've spent my life among all three and love all three—don't naturally select for emotionality (they'd rather play video games) or exploration of inner life (they'd rather watch porn) or being in deep relationship with other people (they'd rather build Web sites till all hours), the Internet is singularly devoid of these colorations of humanity.
Couldn't agree more. The only technology company that seems to have any awareness of this is Apple—how many men do you see with iPod nanos—and even Apple is still primarily male-oriented.
Herskovitz's essay trails off a bit after this with a discussion of how quarterlife tried to create a more gender-balanced atmosphere online. But still...pretty thought-provoking.
¶ 7:43 AM0 comments
Obama celebrated at a boisterous Houston rally attended by an estimated 19,000 people.....
Wait. Stop. Rewind.
Can we take a moment to agree that that is a remarkable number? Can one imagine Hillary Clinton addressing an enthusiastic, unpaid crowd of 19,000?
John McCain certainly isn't thinking much of Mrs. Clinton's odds.
In his speech after the Wisconsin vote, McCain all but dismissed Clinton as a potential adversary, focusing his rhetorical fire on Obama as offering an "eloquent but empty call for change."
Who thinks that, should Hillary lose this nomination campaign, she will run for relection to the Senate in 2012?
I ask because, like any New Yorker, I've always wondered whether she's much interested in being senator except insofar as the job was a stepping stone to the presidency....
Second question: Who thinks that, in the next two weeks before the Ohio and Texas primaries, Hillary is going to get desperate-dirty, and we'll suddenly see some piece of dirt about Obama that we've never seen before...?
¶ 7:28 AM8 comments
No one was injured, but the attacks were emblematic of the determination of the Serb minority in Kosovo, particularly in the exclusively Serb area around this city, to resist the idea that a new international border has been created.
"This is Serbia," said Dragan Mitrovic...
The Washington Post article above doesn't mention that the "exclusively Serb area" is that way only because the Serbs in Kosovo live isolated and protected by the UN, or else the Kosovars would kill them....
Western diplomats are urging Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership to maintain tight control of its own population so it does not respond to what international officials fear will be an escalating series of provocations. The goal of the international community appears to be to maintain stability so that the Serb community can exhaust its anger. Kosovo is 90 percent ethnic Albanian.
Kosovo should be free, but Westerners should have no illusions about the threats posed by both sides here....
¶ 7:22 AM0 comments
Madeleine died of a heroin overdose, and because she was a well-liked girl, and because her parents have been counselors in the New Orleans school system for two decades, and because of everything that has happened in New Orleans in the past several years, over 1,000 people attended her funeral. Underneath a massive live oak, known as "the Tree of Life," in Audubon Park, there is a makeshift memorial for Maddie; her friends and classmates sometimes come to the tree to sit in its branches or on its roots and think and talk and remember.
For my family and for New Orleans, the ramifications of Madeleine's death continue. I won't go into the family stuff, because it's not my place. Suffice it to say that such a profound loss makes those close to it question everything—to look back and wonder what went wrong, how such a thing could have happened. And of course these are questions that are almost impossible to answer in anything deeper than a clinical sense. One of my cousins and I spoke at length about the concept of "closure." Is such a thing possible? Is it desirable? How does one achieve it? Why does one seek it? Really what we were talking about was how one can continue after the death of a child.
Over the weekend, there were two arrests made in the case, and so these and other questions will start to be discussed more publicly.
Madeleine's death has resonated in part because New Orleans is a struggling place and the question of its future is so urgent. If the city is in any way a threat to its children, how can the city have a future?
My cousins, who love New Orleans passionately, urged me to tell people that much of what has been written about it is untrue; much of the city survived Katrina with relatively little damage, and in places such as the French Quarter and the Central Business District, you'd never know that such a horrific event happened.
But as my cousin George put it, New Orleans, which was always a divided city, has become even more so after the storm. The fortunate remain, for the most part, fortunate; the poor are worse off than they were before.
My cousin Allen took me on a tour of the 9th ward, the area hardest hit by flooding, and it was a scene of astonishing desolation. Rows and rows of homesites where once were houses and now only concrete foundations remained.... Many houses left abandoned and hollowed-out since Katrina, still with the markings on their door indicating that rescuers had found a body within. As I said to Allen, it reminded me of Kosovo after the war, except that in Kosovo they were rebuilding with incredible fervor, and here, in this ward, rebuilding was spotty at best, and the area remained a wasteland. One would not want to be walking there at night....
Anyone with a heart can not help but wish for New Orleans to survive. It is a place of incredible mystery and magic and history and power and beauty, one of the great treasures of this country. But it's a terrible truth that, whether or not New Orleans survives, some of its most vulnerable will not.
¶ 8:26 AM9 comments
“Don’t tell me words don’t matter,” he said in his remarks. “ ‘I have a dream.’ Just words? ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.’ Just words? ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ Just words? Just speeches?”
The passage was similar to one used by Mr. Patrick in response to similar criticism.
Imagine—one African-American leader using similar language to another African-American leader when discussing a legendary civil rights speech. Unthinkable!
The Clintons must really be desperate....they are being shoved off the national stage, and they are scratching and clawing to hold on. The problem is, every sleazy attack like this reminds people of why they support Obama rather than Hillary in the first place....
¶ 8:13 AM2 comments
Serbs and Albanians live divided in Kosovo, separated by centuries-old hatreds and more recent bloodshed. Standing awkwardly between the two, compelled to prop up the very barriers of separation, are the bureaucrats and soldiers of the United Nations. More than a year after the NATO bombing, the world has turned its attention elsewhere. George W. Bush has even called for the return of the 7,000 American troops in the region. The U.N., meanwhile, is struggling to keep the peace in a desolate part of the world where violence has never been conquered.
Kosovo is a small place and it's a small story for most Americans, but it would be a mistake to forget how much blood was shed in Yugoslavia during the 1990s....
¶ 8:00 AM0 comments
Faust's work has accomplished the rare feat of bridging the steep divide between the ivory tower and mainstream readers. Its commercial success has caught the eye of publishers and academics alike, who say its brisk sales and widespread public attention are strikingly rare for an academic, and nearly with out precedent for a sitting university president....
...Those in the book industry are divided over how much the Harvard spotlight has boosted sales. Some say her visibility as president of the world's most famous university has given the book a unique platform, while others doubt the name carries much cachet beyond the academic community.
The correct answer to that question? Obviously, Faust's position as Harvard president has been enormously helpful to the book's sales. I mean, don't be silly. This Republic of Suffering has been reviewed in places that would never have reviewed it if Faust weren't the president of Harvard—for while the Harvard name may not make the general reader want to buy it, it does make all the Harvard graduates in the media want to review it.....
That said, more power to Drew Faust. It takes a lot of work and a lot of luck to launch a book onto the bestseller list, and it's a welcome sight to see such a serious work up there with some of the more nakedly commercial stuff.
¶ 7:49 AM2 comments
A New Orleans Dinner Crawfish! About 40 pounds of them, dumped in a wheelbarrow (alive). The chef (my cousin Allen) then dumped in about sixteen ounces of salt, whose introduction into the fresh water causes the crawfish to void themselves. (No one wants to eat that.) They're then rinsed off and boiled in a pot with corn on the cob, potatoes, spicy sausage, spicy seasoning and still more salt. Tasty!
Valentine's Day in New Orleans
I'm headed south for Valentine's Day, folks—going to visit my family in the Big Easy. I'll blog as I can. (I've determined it's possible, though not easy, to blog from the iPhone.)
Meantime...Happy Valentine's Day!
Here's hoping that you've found your true love, or are about to. Sure, it's a fake holiday. But it's a nice one, don't you think?
¶ 1:04 AM4 comments
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Another day of light blogging, thanks to the National Magazine Awards.
¶ 7:16 AM1 comments
Hundreds of professors voted unanimously for the change at a faculty meeting that culminated several months of meetings debating the move.
...Under the plan, Harvard officials will create an office and repository for professors' finished papers run by the university's library that would instantly make them available on the Internet. It would probably be called the Office for Scholarly Communication.
Would someone at Harvard please do the obvious thing, and initiate a university-wide plan to help professors set up their own web pages, so that they don't need an "Office of Scholarly Communication" (that's really what you're going to call it? Sheesh.) but can simply post their papers on their websites?
(And no, I don't mean the "meet the professor!" webpages that currently exist, but actual, functioning webpages which would allow the professors to post their own work, link to other sites and articles, and blog.)
This is an interesting idea, because it will surely undermine the traditional peer review process, but might just make an entire audience of readers into peer-reviewers. (But we'll see if the OSC website has a "comment" function. I'll happily be proved wrong, but I'll bet you the answer is no.)
The point I want to make about the Harvard proposal is that it can be seen as a move to undercut nonprofit publishers as well as the commercial behemoths (if it is truly a proposal to post all Harvard faculty articles on the university Web site). Depending on the details, it might also be a proposal to bypass peer review, unless Harvard plans to set up its own peer-review process. What social science and humanities faculty have to debate is the merits of entering the world of preprint article circulation that has served the scientists so well. Our scholarship is, I think, significantly different that that of the scientists. Both copyright and publisher peer-review have a long and useful past in our world, and we would do well to think through the implications of abandoning them — though it is hard to imagine that this is what Harvard actually has in mind.
¶ 6:36 AM9 comments
Quote of the DayAt the end of this campaign I intend to reveal my identity in order to make a fool of Adam Goldenberg, who seems to think that movement conservatism will always be around. He and students like him will learn PRINCIPLES in the next month.
—Standing Eagle, from the Mitt Romney post below
Will the mystery finally come to an end? Will the world really learn Standing Eagle's true identity? Or is the winged one just toying with us?
“In place of a closed, privileged and costly system, it will help open up the world of learning to everyone who wants to learn,” said Robert Darnton, director of the university library. “It will be a first step toward freeing scholarship from the stranglehold of commercial publishers by making it freely available on our own university repository.”
Might I suggest a compromise?
Allow the journals to publish first, but retain the online rights that allow the author to publish their pieces online—even, gasp, on their own (currently non-existent) websites—after the journal is, say, off-stand, or a month, whichever comes first.
That way you don't put these journals out of business. (Although perhaps there's an argument that you should....)
¶ 7:34 AM3 comments
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Quote of the Day
(Well, yesterday, actually.)
If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding surrender to terror.
Surrender to terror?
Mitt Romney's father, George Romney, was a principled man and a fine public servant. How sad he would be to hear such demagoguery coming from his son....
¶ 11:46 AM4 comments
The Clintons really are annoying sometimes.
Now Hillary Clinton is threatening to pull out of an MSNBC-sponsored debate, and Schuster is eating crow and hoping to save his job.
"I used a phrase that was inappropriate," Shuster said, adding that "all Americans should be proud of Chelsea Clinton" and pay credit to the way Hillary and Bill Clinton raised her.
I'm not particularly proud of Chelsea Clinton, thanks very much—how's that hedge fund going?—and feel no particular need to credit Hillary and Bill Clinton for the way they've raised her. Seems like they've done an about-average job. Whoo-hoo.
Granted, Schuster's remark was a stupid one, patronizing and sexist. And sort of inexplicable—is Mitt Romney pimping out his five sons, who were all his campaign errand boys? It's not like Chelsea would be the first candidatial kid (like that?) to campaign for her parent.
But the reaction of Hillary and her proxies actually reinforces the idea that Chelsea, who's pushing 30, isn't old enough to stick up for herself—that even as an adult making a career in consulting and finance, she has to be protected like a little girl.
Clinton supporter Ellen Malcolm, president of EMILY's List, which supports pro-choice female candidates, was equally outraged and sent a scathing letter to the head of MSNBC. "The halfhearted apology by Mr. Shuster this morning fails to even acknowledge the insulting nature of his comments," she wrote.
"Your tolerance for this behavior speaks volumes about the corporate culture of MSNBC."
Huff, huff. From the head of a PAC, no less.
It's this kind of thing that really makes Democratic voters weary of the Clintons—the self-righteousness, the self-importance, the humorlessness. You know what? If Chelsea's going to be out there campaigning, she's going to take a few shots, and some of them will be cheap shots. Isn't that what Hillary called "the fun part"?
Sometimes you just want to throw up your hands in psychological exhaustion with the Clintons and say, Please, please—go away. Just go away.
¶ 11:21 AM17 comments
I know Nicole slightly, and she is a really smart, impressive, formidable and likable woman. She'll be great.
“The Harvard Club has been ready for a female president for a long time, and in no way do I feel like a token,” she says. “I don’t look at Harvard, or at being affiliated with the Harvard Club, in any way as snooty; the challenge is to respect the club’s tradition while broadening the membership to make it resemble Harvard itself.” Which is? “Diversity at its best, racially, socioeconomically, gender-wise, you name it.”
I would add diversity of thought to that list; I resigned from the Harvard Club after its board refused to host a reading or discussion of Harvard Rules, because, they claimed, it was critical of Harvard.
(This was the second time this happened: the Harvard Book Store refused to host a reading because it feared jeopardizing its relationship with the university. So much for the virtue of independent bookstores.)
That was not, I thought, the behavior of a confident club associated with a confident university, but of a place anxious about its status and willing to act in ways contrary to the spirit of a university to try to preserve it.
But with Nicole as its president, the club is sure to change for the better....
¶ 11:08 AM4 comments
A Plug for Joe Henry
On Thursday night I saw the singer/songwriter Joe Henry at the Joe Allen Room in the Time-Warner Center. (You will not easily find a more beautiful view of New York than through that space's floor-to-ceiling window, looking out across Columbus Circle all the way across Central Park South.)
Henry is an American singer, and I mean that in the deepest sense of the phrase. He is not a popular singer, though I wish he were more popular. He does have a connection with pop culture, in that he he is married to Madonna's sister. And he introduced a song with a Madonna reference, telling a story about how they wrote a song together and decided it'd be interesting if they each recorded it in their own different styles. "I did it as a tango," Henry said. "She did it as...a hit." Sweet.
Joe Henry is obscure enough that there are only a handful of YouTube videos about him, and this song, "Trampoline," is a few years old. Listen to his new record, "Civilians," and particularly the songs "Time Is a Lion" and "Our Song." The latter uses an imagined sighting of Willie Mays in a Home Depot as an exercise in considering national decline, though Henry probably wouldn't put it that way. It's a work of poetry, and those of you out there who are Dylan lovers might see a kindred spirit. Otherwise, this is music to put on when you're home alone on a cold night with your significant other, drinking a fine cabernet...
In the grand tradition of female makeover films, from "She's Out of Control" to "The Princess Diaries," Tom Putnam's "The Hottie and the Nottie" stars a perfectly adorable girl in the role of the unattractive misfit. Also, Paris Hilton is in it.
YB should disclose his agenda: He does not visit TMZ.com and perezhilton.com and is otherwise not compelled to cogitate on the daily-unfolding events of Ms. Spears' life. He does pretty much like every song he's ever heard released under her name--and he loves more than a few--and is reasonably confident that, if said life had taken another path, she could have easily been one of many southern girls who drops her flimsy garment on a nearby chair then proceeds to gyrate and bend over in front of YB's face for $20 a dance. YB will leave the psychological spelunking to the authors of the articles discussed below, and wish Ms. Spears well.
Well, that is a lot of bad juju, it's true. And let's not forget Tom Brady, for hanging out in New York, or Bob Kraft, for joking that the Pats would deign to keep it close in order to improve Fox's ratings.
But the correct answer is: None of the above.
The Giants just kicked their butts!
And the fact is that saying somehow the Pats are cursed is still giving the team too much credit, which is another sign of Patriot-related overconfidence.....
Giselle's fault? Nah. The Patriots lost because they were facing a team of destiny.
"One Day University"
Have you all heard about it? Or seen the full-page ads in the New York Times?
One Day University is basically like a highbrow Learning Annex in which professors from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia and elsewhere rent themselves out and use their school's brand names to make money.
Here's an event in Wellesley in which the Harvard professor is Robin Kelsey, described as "Derek Bok Center Award for Excellence in Teaching, 3-Time Winner." (Which is sort of insufficient praise to Kelsey, who is actually an associate professor, but One Day University likes to emphasize that its professors are "award-winning.")
For those who feel they missed out on an Ivy League education, there's this: The University of Maryland is bringing leading professors from Harvard, Yale and other top schools to teach classes, and students won't need SAT scores or prerequisites to get in.
Although U-Md. officials are promoting the Ivy League to entice students, the school's professors don't seem to mind.
The founders of One Day University "have found the University of Maryland to be on par with the Ivy League, and that's a really important message to send out to our community," [U-m dean Judith] Broida said.
I can see why the professors and, especially, the aspiring professors would want to do this—it's fun, and it's a little extra income, and let's face it, it's nothing compared to the deals the science and business and law school people cut.
But is this rent-a-professor traveling show really good for the brand? It's hard to look at the full-page ads touting "Ivy League professors" (!) and think that the answer is yes.
¶ 7:59 AM20 comments
Ouch! That HurtsCurt Schilling is out until at least the All-Star Break with a partially torn rotator cuff, probably.
Not good news for the Sox, especially because that kind of thing, in a 41-year-old pitcher.....
¶ 7:56 AM1 comments
They include: To Coco or not to Coco? Can Josh Beckett be better (or even as good) as last year? Will opening in Japan hurt the Sox the way it seemed to the Yankees? Did the Sox waste their off-season by standing pat?
¶ 6:53 AM1 comments
We would like to establish TheFinalClub.org as the most trustworthy portal for high-quality academic exploration based on innovative approaches to online education and a community of dedicated thinkers.
I have to admit, I'm not totally sure what that means....and the site does seem like it's intended to be a feeder for the founders' for-profit company, Veritas Tutors. (Not quite stealing the Harvard name...but kind of!)
Again, I point out to Harvard humanists: Blog or die. If you don't participate in this online discussion, it will march ahead without you. And for a constituency with justifiable worries about its relevancy in the broader culture—if you don't believe me, just Google "Paris Hilton and Harvard"—why unilaterally disarm?
There are a number of things that make Drew Gilpin Faust different from those who've come before her as head honcho of America's flagship university.
..."This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War" is the culmination of a scholarly career that Faust's historian peers laud as unusually productive and original. If you're looking for what separates her from the Harvard pack, that career is an essential starting point.
Interesting! You'd think a Harvard president had never written a book before.
And this is to take away nothing from Drew Faust—her book sounds fascinating, and I'm looking forward to reading it. The University is wisely using it as an excuse to get her out there doing some press.
(But it's worthy of remark about such pieces that, because they're pegged to her book, they say virtually nothing about Harvard, and often what is said is slightly derogatory: If you're looking for what separates her from the Harvard pack.... No one from Harvard, oddly, other than Faust is actually interviewed for this piece.)
In any event, there's something silly about such ahistorical writing about a historian.
¶ 6:16 AM0 comments
The Mystery of Science
An interesting piece in the Crimson: undergrads are abandoning science, even, perhaps especially, those who say they are considering concentrating in the sciences.
As Harvard prepares to stake its future—and at least $1 billion of its funds—on the sciences, undergraduates are fleeing the discipline in large numbers, opting instead for concentrations in the social sciences and the humanities.
...Interviews with students who switched to the social sciences or humanities reveal that the disillusionment is driven by a number of problems in the University’s science curriculum—from large, impersonal introductory courses to the time-intensive nature of the disciplines and the highly competitive peers.
Does this really have much import for Allston? I doubt it. I've never gotten the sense that the intended science complex really has much to do with undergraduates, anyway....it's about big-bucks scientific research, not teaching undergraduates.
¶ 6:09 AM2 comments
I'm am sometimes respectful of, sometimes fascinated by, and sometimes turned off by Harvardian obsession with titles. And so in this case I respectfully ask, What is a professor?
Is it someone defined by his teaching abilities? His publications? His relationship with students? Or is it simply a technical term?
And if you define it that last way, are you being accurate, but not true—if you know what I mean?
¶ 11:38 AM38 comments
Drew Faust Fights Business Week
The Harvard president continues to insist that Business Week misquoted her in saying that smaller/less "well-endowed" schools than Harvard would be "wise" to focus on the humanities rather than the sciences.
In this letter to Business Week, Faust alleges that the magazine's "mischaracterization of my beliefs through out-of-context quotations and erroneous insinuations has created a serious misimpression of my views."
...I did not say and emphatically do not believe that our leading public universities, which have been so important for so long to the nation's scientific enterprise, should somehow cede the field to well-endowed private institutions.
[Emphasis added, and not just because I'm occasionally immature; I am amused by the, um, length to which Drew Faust goes to avoid saying the word "rich," or even just "wealthy." The phrase "well-endowed"—in this context, anyway—harkens back to the world of advertising, and specifically the phrase "nicely equipped," which Dodge introduced to describe the Dodge Neon about a decade ago. But I digress.]
Editor's note: Upon review of the tape-recorded conversation between our reporter and President Faust, we believe we reported her comments fairly.
Asked specifically how lesser endowed universities can survive, given the resource advantages of the Ivy Plus schools, President Faust identified the decision of some institutions to "emphasize social science or humanities and have science endeavors that are not as ambitious as those of some of the institutions you've been talking with...." She concluded that "those kinds of balances are one thing," by which we understood her to mean that such balances are one thing the institutions could do to survive.
President Faust did not, however, say such schools would be wise to use that strategy, a word we used (without quotation marks) to characterize her comments. We appreciate her clarification of her remarks.
In the Crimson, University spokesman John Longbrake says this about that editor's response: “We’re pleased that the magazine has acknowledged that the quotes from President Faust were taken grossly out of context,” he said, “and further that they recognize that the author’s choice of language mischaracterized the tone and meaning of her conversation.”
"Grossly out of context"? That isn't quite what the magazine said, either, though I can't blame Longbrake for putting that spin on it.
So it's a bit of a gray area. It sounds to me like Drew Faust probably did mean that "lesser endowed" universities would do well to scale back their science investments, and the truth is, she's probably right—they can't keep up. As Michael Kinsley once pointed out, this is the definition of a gaffe: Telling the truth. But the magazine might have made this suggestion a little more explicit than she put it.
No one's really the winner here, but Business Week doesn't come out smelling like roses, because, as the Crimson reports, the magazine has declined to release the tape of its interview with Faust, saying it has a policy against doing so. That's complete and utter bullshit. What possible rationale could there be for such a policy other than, "We don't want to have to defend our editing process"?
Here's my own policy when it comes to editing interviews: I'm very aggressive with transcripts, and I frequently, though not always, cut and edit heavily. But no edited quotation can change the intent, context, language, and meaning of the quote; it has to reflect the intention of the speaker. There's no scientific basis for determining that, but your conscience is a pretty good judge. Business Week's refusal to release the transcript makes the magazine look like it has something to hide.
¶ 9:13 AM3 comments
All teasing aside, I have no idea what's going to happen in New York today, but if the visibility of supporters means anything, Obama will take the primary here....
¶ 5:58 AM7 comments
Monday, February 04, 2008
And Speaking of the Rich Greg Mankiw...
...to whom I've often given props, for being one of the few Harvard profs who actually steps down from his podium to blog, thus sacrificing some of the magisterial distance many Harvard professors like to create between themselves and students....
Welcome to The Tim Zone, where you'll always know what time it is. This blog is a common sense appeal to the best within all of us--courage, compassion, conscience. There's one ground rule: debate but don't hate!
Early posts range from an appreciation of Black History Month to thoughts on the Super Bowl.
(Did I mention that the Giants won?)
Looks like it's going to be interesting...especially since Tim, whom I've known for some time and wrote about in Harvard Rules, is not known to be shy about expressing himself.
Anyway, this is great news. At this rate, there will be several Harvard professors blogging within the next decade.
...America’s already stratified system of higher education is becoming ever more so, and the chasm is creating all sorts of tensions as the less wealthy colleges try to compete. Even state universities are going into fund-raising overdrive and trying to increase endowments to catch up.
I wrote in the last issue of 02138, "Harvard's billions are undoubtedly a blessing. But in ways that no one seems to have expected, they are also becoming something of a burden."
If I may pat myself on the back, in ways that I didn't expect, that statement seems to be increasingly true—especially as federal attention to and pressure on this issue grows.
“These institutions continue to build up their kitties,” said Representative John F. Tierney, Democrat of Massachusetts. “They say it is the schools’ money. But it is not all the schools’ money. Some of it is. But when a donor gives them money, he is able to give more because he is not paying taxes. So some of what they have is federal money, every student’s money, every family’s money.”
“It may be time to change tax policy,” Mr. Tierney added.
Uh-oh! That would be very, very bad for Harvard.
Also troubling for Harvard, in a subordinate kind of way, is the fact that Larry Summers has completely defined this issue as his, rather than Drew Faust's. The Times (online, anyway) has a photo of Summers with the caption, "While he was president of Harvard, Lawrence H. Summers used endowment returns for expansion, financial aid and research."
Okay, so it's not the best picture of him, but that's not important. What's interesting, and what Drew Faust and her handlers should be concerned about, is the fact that he has become so publicly identified with this issue. Would Faust not talk for this article? Or did the Times not even bother to call her?
Dr. Summers said that when investment returns were particularly high he believed spending at wealthier universities should go higher, too. “There is a temptation to go for what is comfortable,” he said, “but this would be a mistake. The universities have matchless resources that demand that they seize the moment.”
The Times might have wanted to speak to an FAS professor to see how Summers' spending priorities affected other areas of the university. But as I've previously written, the Times and Larry Summers have a long and loving relationship.
And Summers is very good at using that relationship. Note how his quote—"a temptation to go for what is comfortable"—is ostensibly about endowment spending, but could easily refer to Drew Faust as opposed to, say, himself.
Smart guy, that Larry Summers.
That said, the money issue comes at a particularly tricky time for Harvard: As it prepares to go public with a massive fundraising campaign to pay for Allston. How will donors feel about giving more to the world's richest university, by far?
¶ 4:39 PM6 comments
Sure, beaver jokes during the Super Bowl aren't appropriate. (And not really that funny, anyway.) But on the other hand, shouldn't someone at Fox have mentioned that maybe it's not that cool to run ads featuring crass and offensive ethnic stereotypes?
One of the fun parts of watching the Super Bowl, of course, is watching the ads, and there were some nice ones: the Budweiser Clydesdale ad comes to mind, in which a horse is trained by a Dalmation after he doesn't make the tryout for the Clydesdale team. I also liked the E-Trade ad in which a baby talks about buying stocks online, and how he hired a clown with the profits. "Bobo, there. And, uh, I really underestimated the creepiness." Pretty funny.
But there were some amazingly offensive ads as well, and I say amazingly not just to indicate the depth of their offense, but to register astonishment that in the entire process of creating these ads, nobody thought to say, "You know what? It's not funny any more to make fun of people speaking with foreign accents."
For lots of reasons. But also because, you know, it's not like 98% of Americans could speak Chinese or Hindi.
Salesgenie.com did it twice, and I'm not sure which of their ads was more offensive; after some thought, I'd give it to the ad which featured two pandas, Ching Ching and Ling Ling, with the most stereotypical Chinese accents, having trouble with their "Bamboo Furniture Shack."
There are only two options here: That no one involved was troubled by this racism, or that they knew it was racist and thought they'd benefit from the controversy. Either way—gross.
¶ 9:31 AM0 comments
Quote of the Day
"We promised Fox we'd keep it close for a half."
More on the Super Bowl
One of the reasons last night's victory is so satisfying is because Pats fans have been so arrogant. (Some, though not all, of the posters on this board will know whereof I speak.)
I didn't talk to or read about one who was the slightest bit worried about the Giants, even though the Giants beat two excellent teams, the Cowboys and the Packers, and one very good one, the Buccaneers, to get to the Super Bowl.
Even now, reading the press coverage in the Globe, the Giants aren't getting the respect they deserve; they didn't beat the Patriots, the Patriots "lost." As the Globe's Dan Shaugnessy writes,
It was clear the Patriots were not playing their best football at the finish. Brady was far from perfect in the flawed finale and spent a good part of the Super Bowl on his back.
Hmmm. Does anyone remember that the Giants led the league in sacks? Maybe it wasn't that the Pats weren't playing their best, but that the Giants were...better? Has Tom Brady felt so much grass all season long?
Here's Ellis Hobbs: "We choked. We choked at the end."
Well, no, you didn't. Hobbs actually got beat by Plaxico Burress for the game-winning touchdown, but hey, Burress has beaten lots of people this season.
Or maybe it was Brady's injury: You have to wonder if Brady's ankle, the subject of so much speculation leading up to this game, was worse than his team let on.
Or maybe the Giants were just better. Hard to believe, I know, because they clearly weren't a better team for 2/3 of the season. But for the last five games, were they consistently better than the Patriots? Yeah, I think they were.
Yet, it was obvious New England's franchise quarterback was laboring. Brady's gait was rigid, his mobility was limited, and, when he stepped back and was assaulted by New York's blitzing defenders, he was unable to sidestep the pressure. Brady said afterward he was 100 percent.
Oh, nonsense. First of all, Brady's not a running quarterback anyway. Second, the Giants defensive line was awesome—give them credit. Third, the Giants had their own injuries to deal with, not to mention three starters out with broken legs. (Jeremy Shockey would have been nice to have on your side, don't you think?)
Here's Randy Moss: "I think their secondary was ordinary, not taking anything from them. They don't have Pro Bowlers, but they do play good together. They had a good game plan."
Giants fans will laugh at this damning with faint praise, because a few weeks back, Cowboy fans were trash-talking the fact that 12 players on their team were going to the Pro Bowl and only one Giant was. For all of his vaunted "I'm glad to be in New England" spirit, Randy Moss has yet to learn the importance of playing as a team. And where does Moss, who had an unimpressive five catches, get off slagging the Giants defense? They held the Patriots to 14 points.
But still New England won't give the Giants credit. "The pressure no doubt got to them," reads another Globe story. Gee, given that the NFL and sportswriters all over the world wanted the Patriots to win, do you think the Giants felt any pressure?
Meanwhile, the Patriots' dynasty feels like it's over—especially because it more and more appears built on cheating.
Over the weekend it was reported that the Patriots illegally taped the St. Louis Rams' walkthrough the day before Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans six years ago. The Patriots vehemently denied the new allegation.
I'm sure they do. But does anyone really believe them? And why exactly did the NFL destroy the videotapes from this year's cheating scandal?
Understand, Patriots fans, this game really did mean more to us than it did to you. This city has needed a championship for over six years now. I still remember volunteering at a church down by Ground Zero, serving food to Ground Zero workers, back in October 2001, listening to the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in the World Series and thinking, This can't be happening. New York needs something good to happen. We have to win the World Series....
But not only did that happen, but then came 2004, and I was in the stands at Yankee Stadium for Game 7 as Kevin Brown proved his worthlessness and Johnny Damon came to the plate and I thought, If Joe Torre were smart, he'd bring Mariano Rivera in right now.....
That was a glorious season for the Sox and they deserved it, absolutely. But for Yankees fans....heartbreaking.
It's been a tough time for New York in a lot of ways. We needed this Super Bowl.
One Day to Go
I don't know about Boston, but this town is in the grip of Super Bowl fever; I'm not sure I've seen New York as excited about a sports event since the Yanks beat the Braves in the 1996 World Series. We were underdogs then and we're underdogs now...but then, as the Times points out, the Gints weren't even supposed to be close back in late December when they played the Pats and lost 38-35, and that game has completely inspired the team since.
Do the Giants stand a chance tomorrow? Well, none of the experts on HBO's "Inside Football" think so, and it's true that the Patriots are an incredibly good team.
Hillary, Barack, and the Rest of Us
So I watched the Democratic debate/lovefest last night, and my overwhelming impression is how impressive both these candidates are. I thought Hillary did a little better job than Barack—she seemed to control the pace and tone, mostly, and her command of detail is remarkable. More than with Barack, you get the feeling that you could throw her a question about absolutely anything, and she'd have an answer.
But really, these are two highly intelligent, thoughtful people, both of whom are capable of actually listening to a question, thinking it over, and responding with a multi-layered answer.
When a questioner referred to them as a dream ticket, it was hard not to agree. But of course it's virtually impossible to imagine Hillary running as the veep half of the ticket.
Regardless, I maintain my belief that either one of them beats any Republican. And in a strange way, both seem to have more gravitas than Mitt Romney or even John McCain, who really has been a Washington insider for too long.....
¶ 6:41 AM7 comments