The President's Priorities
There's been a lot going on in the 02138 zip code lately, including a basketball recruiting controversy and a debate over segregated gym hours for Muslim women.
But President Drew Faust has been an absent figure during these campus controversies. I joked the other day that she was on her book tour, which was, in retrospect, overly snarky of me. But where has she been?
Young scientists' careers are being stifled by flat funding for biomedical research, Harvard's president told a US Senate committee this morning.
The problem may be real, but the report on which Faust's testimony is based, Broken Pipeline, is a joke; it's a glossy brochure, more photos than text, based on the anecdotal stories of 12 junior researchers, produced in conjunction with the "integrated health system" Partners Healthcare. It looks like a corporate annual report, only with less information.
I don't mean to deny the validity or import of the problem. But I do think that the fact that the president of Harvard is testifying before Congress, waving corporate brochures as evidence, even as she stays mum about issues happening at Harvard College says something about the evolving role of the university president.
(I don't think even Larry Summers testified before Congress while president of Harvard.)
What are her priorities? Scientific research. Why? Because that's where the big bucks are.
Except that then she has to push for more money for scientific research, because, well, that's where the big bucks are. And around and around we go.
This prioritization might not make such a big difference in terms of the College if Faust had appointed strong FAS and College deans.
I don't know a lot about Michael Smith and Evelynn Hammonds. But the posters on this blog (and to be fair, it's a self-selected group) do not see them that way.....
¶ 10:07 AM3 comments
On Wednesday a close ally of Mrs. Clinton, Geraldine A. Ferraro, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee in 1984 who was on the Clinton finance committee, resigned from the campaign after being criticized by Mr. Obama’s advisers, among others, for her recent comments that “if Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position” as a leading presidential contender.
The thing is, Ferraro wasn't necessarily wrong. After all, if she hadn't been a woman, she wouldn't have been a vice-presidential contender. (She certainly didn't get there on the merits.)
Similarly, if Hillary wasn't a woman, she wouldn't be getting so many votes from women.
But the Clinton campaign has been repeatedly introducing the race card in odd and worrisome ways into this primary battle, and the fact is they just don't have any credibility on the matter any more. Things have reached the point where you can not give Hillary and her attack dogs the benefit of the doubt whenever they speak on race.....
¶ 8:18 AM5 comments
She left “a broken family” at age 17, having been abused, according to the MySpace page, and has used drugs and “been broke and homeless.”
But this should be taken with a grain of salt, because she's trying to get into the music biz.
....On the Web page is a recording of what she describes as her latest track, “What We Want,” a hip-hop-inflected rhythm-and-blues tune that asks, “Can you handle me, boy?” and uses some dated slang, calling someone her “boo.”“I know what you want, you got what I want,” she sings in the chorus. “I know what you need. Can you handle me?”
This is all getting surreal: We live in an age where a prostitute is identified and interviewed because of her MySpace page....and there are dozens of comments of support—"Hang in there!" "We got your back!" And so on.
The funny thing is, she hasn't taken down her page, which is linked to above. I think we can expect to see Ms. Ashley Alexandra Dupres in the pages of Playboy in a month or so, with a single coming out at about the same time....
The Religious Debate Continues
Two articles in the Crimson touch on whether two recent events at Harvard have manifested institutional promotion of Islam at the expense of the rights and beliefs of others.
No doubt, the week’s events have broadened some horizons, and exposed some in our community to facets of a religion with which they were not previously familiar. This is certainly a good thing. However, it should be asked if other, more important concerns have been overlooked.
The adhan contains a very specific and prescriptive religious message, the authors continue: God is the greatest, Mohammad is the messenger of God, and so on.
We cherish the fact that it is possible to discuss our differences with our classmates and neighbors without that discussion erupting into conflict and sowing the seeds of division and disrespect.
We believe that the adhan, issued publicly in a pluralistic setting, does indeed sow those seeds of division and disrespect.
....To the extent that this statement is a profession of faith, it is benign; however, by virtue of its content, it is also a declaration of religious superiority and a declaration against all beliefs that conflict with those two statements.
The authors of this piece do not believe that there is no lord but God. Nor do we believe that Muhammad was God’s prophet. In fact, we do not believe in prophets. We expect that our statements might be offensive to some, and for that reason, we believe that it wouldn’t be appropriate, in the name of spreading awareness about our beliefs, use a public address system to declare to everyone in Harvard Yard that God is imaginary, that prayer is a waste of time, or that Muhammad was not a prophet.
This is the kind of indepence of mind and spirit that I find quite inspiring. It is not easy at Harvard to stand up and say that the embrace of pluralism does not extend to accepting the broadcasting of a particular belief, particularly one which tells you that your beliefs are wrong. These students respect the specific words of a particular faith enough to say, I disagree with it, and I'm offended by the way that its language seems to denigrate my beliefs, and Harvard shouldn't be sanctioning such speech by blasting it from the steps of a building—particularly one which is supposed to represent the promotion of reason and pluralism.
Certainly one can disagree with the argument; I'm sure there are posters here who would say, it's a one-time thing, imagine the administrative challenges of saying no, hearing the adan is educational, and so on. (Imagine the protests if you rejected a request to broadcast the adan! The cries of discrimination!)
Perhaps Harvard should now broadcast prayers of all religions from the steps of Widener. After all, having broadcast one prayer, wouldn't it now be discriminatory to say no to others? Perhaps a Latin Mass? Or maybe Christmas carols? Or, as the writers suggest, perhaps they should get the right to broadcast their statement of atheism: There is no God, prayer is a waste of time, etc., etc.
On the other hand, there's a serious argument that such religious displays are a reasonable compromise, and we gain more from tolerating them, even if we find them irksome, than by prohibiting them.
Some of those arguments are worth taking seriously.
Still, God love the dissenter who puts pen to paper and, in a grand American tradition, says, Get your religion out of my face.
And I love the fact that, while some professors pooh-pooh the issue, denying its import, three students stand up and say, no, there's a principle here, and no matter how small or fleeting the incident overlying the principle, it is important to speak up and say what's really going on.
That said, the Crimson also reports on Ola Aljawhary ’09, a young woman who is chair of the Harvard Islamic Society’s Islamic Knowledge Committee and has become a sort of unofficial spokesperson for Muslim women in the segregated-gym story.
“It’s become sort of an invasion of my personal space and privacy,” Aljawhary said. “My mental space is so cluttered by all these requests, but I don’t want anyone to say there’s a lack of transparency, or that I declined to comment. I’m now seen as the ‘it’ girl, the go-to-person, and it’s gotten intense.”
Aljawhary was not in the original group of six women who asked for men to be banned from the QRAC during certain hours. You have to give her credit for nonetheless recognizing the importance of responding to media interest in a frank, non-Harwellian way, acknowledging that transparency is healthy and promotes greater understanding of important issues.
Meanwhile, has a single Harvard official publicly addressed the matter?
"I’d be flattered by all the attention it if it weren’t so negative. All of it’s pretty derogatory, pretty degrading, personally hurtful,” she said. “We should be able to accommodate the minorities within reasonable limits. Otherwise, you’re saying they should just shut their mouths.”
It's unfair to read too much into a single newspaper quote, but Ms. Aljawhary's interpretation of the matter doesn't impress. No one is telling anyone not to speak; quite the contrary. A civilized conversation about this debate would be a healthy thing. (It would have been even better if it had taken place before the implementation of the gym segregation.)
The Crimson should solicit an op-ed from someone—it could well be Aljawhary—who can make a more reasoned case for the segregated gym hours.
¶ 7:11 AM17 comments
Ms. Hammonds says that though she has enjoyed working in the provost's office, it is time to move on.
"While I've felt that this work has been very interesting and very challenging, it's really taken me away from the students, and I wanted to get back to working with undergraduate education and undergraduate life," she says.
.....Her chief priorities as dean, she says, will be to put into effect the college's newly approved general-education curriculum and to improve outdated student housing.
That is a big issue, isn't it? I know that Yale has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade or so renovating its colleges. Does Harvard need to do the same?
¶ 7:02 AM9 comments
Bradley's book tells the story of the game, of course, but tells it with rare flavor, alternating chapters on each inning with others offering rich perspective. Even during his chapter on the "Top of the First," he devotes some pages to the birth of free agency in ways that enables even those of us who lived through the era to better appreciate the context of the times. He demonstrates a solid grasp of the hitters and the pitchers and their tendencies during the season, as well as the unfolding "game within the game" strategizing and how adjustments are made batter-by-batter, depending on circumstances. The detail gets down to the level of describing New York catcher Thurman Munson's batter's box rituals. Bradley's profiles of key players are rewarding.
Here's a line that makes me particularly happy, since it's something I was striving for—and it may come as a surprise to some regular readers:
If he favored one team or another, it's not evident.
The Greatest Game is probably not in physical bookstores yet, but it is available on Amazon, etc.
Some Thoughts on Mr. Spitzer
Last night I started wondering whether, in the matter of Eliot Spitzer, we weren't all repeating the rush-to-moral-judgment mistakes of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
The questions, after all, felt so familiar. How could Silda have stood alongside him like that? How could a politician be so reckless, so arrogant? What could make a man in that position risk everything? What a bastard Eliot Spitzer must be....
As someone who was, at the time, pretty moralistic about Bill Clinton, then later came to regret that attitude, I wish we could remember some of the moral nuances that the country eventually arrived at, some of the insights about the connections between political success and personal desires.
How could Silda have stood alongside her cad of a husand? How could Eliot have cheated on her?
Well, who are we to say what goes on inside a marriage? Even as all the pundits tut-tut at Silda for standing by her man, unless we are privy to the inner life of Eliot Spitzer and Silda Wall, we simply can not judge. (And why is the impulse to judge apparently so much more powerful than the impulse to try to understand?)
As for Spitzer's carnal desires....well, this is a man who's clearly hugely ambitious, energetic, and driven. Is it so impossible that, as with JFK and Bill Clinton, men who embody these characteristics often find that they carry a proportionate amount of sexual desire inside them?
And isn't it possible, in a way, that we should want this from our leaders, because if they don't have that passion inside them, maybe they shouldn't be running one of the biggest states in the country?
I'm not saying there aren't plenty of better options, or that this is a simple black-and-white matter. On the contrary: I'm saying that maybe we need to calm down, take a deep breath, before we have this guy tried and convicted in the court of public opinion.
Now, please don't misunderstand me: I'm not sanctioning adultery, nor the use of prostitutes, particularly because governors shouldn't commit crimes, no matter how minor.
(Prostitution, so far as I can tell, only hurts people when it's illegal. And frankly, if I were a woman and you gave me a choice between, say, working in a coal mine or hooking at $5k an hour—extreme choice, I know, but you take the point—I might just take the $5k. I certainly wouldn't criticize those who did.)
(Second point: Shouldn't everyone who believes in abortion rights support legalized prostitution? How can one believe that you have the right to abort a fetus but not the right to sell your body for sex?)
What I am saying is that we shouldn't entirely judge Eliot Spitzer because of the way he treated his wife and kids. (The Times reports that she is actually urging him not to resign!) We should primarily consider him in terms of how good a governor he's been.
(Unfortunately, the answer to that is, not very good. But then, he was a pretty great state attorney general, and he was apparently visiting prostitutes at the time then, so there doesn't seem to be any negative correlation between Spitzer's sex life and his job performance.)
I'll cede that moral leadership is part of public life, and that it's important. But it isn't everything. There are plenty of great leaders who are personal hypocrites. Martin Luther King cheated on his wife, but we all think of him as a great man, and we are right to do so.
So Eliot Spitzer has socially and maritally inappropriate sexual desires. That isn't great.
But so did Bill Clinton. And while his successor, George W. Bush, doesn't seem to have that personal failing, which one would you prefer as president?
¶ 6:58 AM11 comments
The announcement was actually made by Rob Jackson, a former coach of Ben-Eze's; the player himself declined to comment.
Last week, I predicted that Ben-Eze, whom coach Tommy Amaker seemed to think would be accepted, would be hung out to dry in the wake of the bad publicity, and this may very well be what happened—that a player who was likely to get admitted was sacrificed in the wake of bad press.
...what has happened at Indiana this winter doesn't even come close to being the saddest story in college basketball this season. That dubious honor belongs to Harvard.
Feinstein mentions Amaker's recruitment of "six players whose basketball pedigree is far higher than that of past Harvard players," then adds.....
The real culprit in this story, though, is the athletic director— just like at Indiana. Bob Scalise has a lot in common with [Rick] Greenspan: He's arrogant and self-righteous and not nearly as smart as he thinks he is.
Feinstein is not gentle on Scalise—or Harvard.
Now, having been outed by the Times, Harvard is trying to back-pedal....
A Harvard flak named Alan J. Stone told Thamel: "We can say that any statement about someone being admitted to Harvard who is not qualified would be absolutely inaccurate, as is any suggestion that standards have been lowered for basketball. Harvard's admissions criteria are -- and remain -- very high. They have not changed at all."
Stone's last sentence must be a lie—unless Scalise was lying when he told [Times reporter Pete] Thamel that Harvard was willing to lower academic standards for Amaker.
....Amaker didn't speak to Thamel. He hid behind a statement, which is embarrassing.
Downright Harwellian, you might say.
To be fair, it's possible that, regarding the specific case of Frank Ben-Eze, Amaker was treating Ben-Eze's admission as if it was definite when it wasn't, or that Ben-Eze just decided to go somewhere else where basketball was more valued.
It's also possible that Hillary Clinton will run a clean, positive campaign for the next six weeks, and that the people of New York will decide that we don't care how much he spent on prostitutes, Eliot's our man!
For Harvard, the departure of Ben-Eze from the class could help raise its Academic Index, a complicated formula that establishes minimum standards for athletes to be admitted to Ivy League programs. Ben-Eze, a native of Nigeria who played for Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Va., has not attained the 171 index minimum.
No one at Harvard comments, though it's not clear whether reporter Pete Thamel asked anyone at Harvard to do so (which is a little odd, frankly).
I'll let Feinstein wrap it up:
But let's tell the truth here. Harvard fired a good man [former coach Frank Sullivan] without just cause. The school is trying to claim it is still "Harvard," when clearly it is not. It is rolling in the mud with everyone else in college athletics. And right now, it is not a pretty sight.
Well, let me actually pose a question here: Where is Drew Faust in the midst of all this mess? Still on her book tour?
Harvard has taken a big hit in this matter, and she has been as quiet as a country mouse. I guess her handlers have convinced her—did it take much?—that it's more important to stay out of this mess, preserve her pristine reputation, than try to explain just how Harvard went so wrong here.
Power Couple, As It Were
Another of 02138's "Power Couples," Cass Sunstein and Martha Nussbaum, are in the Globe today.
Sunstein has declined to talk about his relationship with [Samantha] Power, but it's no coincidence that the celebrated legal scholar has decided to ditch the Windy City and accept a position at Harvard Law School.
...As for Power, she's apologized for calling Clinton a monster, but this is hardly the first time she's used hyperbole to make a point. In an interview with 02138 magazine, she referred to Obama as "charming and hot" before quickly adding "but please don't lead with that."
¶ 8:02 AM2 comments
Like the Clinton campaign, the Yankees were filled with clashing egos, and fell far behind their opponent—14 games by late July.
That's kind of like losing 11 primaries in a row - they were basically written off," said Richard Bradley, author of the forthcoming "The Greatest Game: The Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Playoff of '78," and a former executive editor of George magazine.
"But the Red Sox made a couple of mistakes, had a couple of injuries, and they could never quite put the nail in the coffin," added Bradley in a not-so-subtle allusion to Barack Obama.
The Yankees/Red Sox race went down to a one-game playoff. Will the Clinton/Obama competition go to the convention?
¶ 7:48 AM0 comments
Spitzer's End Not too long ago, Eliott Spitzer and his wife, Silda Wall, were on the cover of 02138's "Power Couples" issue, and profiled inside.
The affidavit says that Client 9 met with the woman in hotel room 871 but does not identify the hotel. Mr. Spitzer stayed at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington on Feb. 13, according to a source who was told of his travel arrangements. Room 871 at the Mayflower Hotel that evening was registered under the name George Fox.
The Globe Sides with the PatriotsThe Boston Globe profiles Matt Walsh, the former Patriots assistant who may or may not have damaging videotape implicating the Pats in further spying on other teams.
Walsh seems to have made some mistakes in life, such as a stupid and risky prank he played in college.
But this Globe article is a nasty piece of work, one-sided and filled with anonymous smears. For example, the piece reports that he "has exaggerated or misrepresented elements of his online biography."
We learn considerably further down in the article that the source for this is anonymous Patriots officials.
And the piece opens with a pretty damning quote:
"He sounded like a loose cannon," said the coworker, who asked not to be identified to avoid entangling his new employer in the controversy. "He was very bitter about how things ended with the Patriots and he seemed like he was keen on using whatever he had to get back at them by going public and really trying to damage the team."
Hmmmm. Pretty tough quote to open with given that it's coming from an anonymous source who may still be in the NFL.
In fact, I could pretty easily re-mix the piece and, with the exact same information, come up with an article whose theme is that the Patriots are trying to isolate, smear and intimidate a former employee turned whistleblower.
I'm not saying this because I believe that the Pats did anything wrong; I have no idea.
It's just that this is a man's reputation at stake, and this is a textbook example of bad journalism.
¶ 8:02 AM1 comments
The biggest puzzle is whether Harvard is lowering its vaunted academic standards to snare some top players. Two former assistant basketball coaches have suggested that their teams had to meet higher academic standards than the latest group of recruits. It is hard to unravel the truth, given that the information is confidential. Just trying to figure out how those standards are set seems to require a Ph.D. in mathematics.
An Informed Opinion
Several items down, in the "Harvard: Men Not Allowed" post, Harry Lewis just wrote the italized comment below.
Since some of you asked that comments which continue a meaningful discussion be highlighted (as opposed to lost under the weight of new posts), and since Harry puts this better than I did, I'm going to post it here:
Richard is right. The analogy with Jewish students reserving a room breaks down because student organizations can't exclude any Harvard student on the basis of race, gender, or religion. (Only recognized organizations can reserve rooms, and to get recognition your organization must have "a constitution and by-laws whose membership clause shall not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability.") So the Jewish students group couldn't reserve a room and exclude non-Jews from the meeting. Nor could the Black Students Assn hang a "blacks only" sign on the door when they hold their meetings. In this situation the opposite is happening. At the behest of certain students, Harvard is hanging a "women only" sign on the door of the gym during certain hours, and that seems to me a departure from Harvard's practice since 1977, when it assumed responsibility for the nonacademic side of women's lives and forced desegregation of all officially recognized activities [with two exceptions only: athletic teams and choral singing groups]. This exclusion has arisen through a curious alliance of religiously conservative students with the "All Genders Welcome" Women's Center, but the same principle would be at stake here however it came about. I do understand the feelings of those who think this is a trivial compromise and no one should worry about it, but it's a violation nonetheless of a principle that has been sustained honorably for a long time (and, at times, only with some pain, but I'll skip those details!).
¶ 9:31 AM12 comments
Well! My thread about Harvard's decision to set aside women-only gym hours at the request of Muslim students seems to have provoked some strong feelings—and some misunderstandings.
Let me clarify, and then perhaps we should move on. Or at least elevate the tenor of the conversation.
I raised the issue because I dislike expressions of religion that come at the expense of someone else, whatever the religion is. To my mind, the best religion is the kind that goes inside a church, temple, synagogue, whatever, then shuts the doors and leaves the rest of us alone. And I speak as someone who was raised in a strong religious tradition with which he is fully comfortable.
In banning men from a gym to protect the sensibilities of Islamic women, Harvard made a choice that glossed over a tension between the imperative of religious tolerance and the rejection of common secular values—community, non-discrimination, mutual co-existence—that bind this country together. In a secular democracy, is it acceptable for members of one group (race, gender, faith, whatever) to say that they don't want to do something next to members of another group? And is it appropriate for a university to foster such separatism, particularly when it comes at a cost, no matter how tiny, to someone else?
These are questions on which reasonable people can disagree. But—and I think this is important—they are questions about which there should be a debate, and there was no debate, at least not publicly, about this segregated-gym decision before Fox News reported on it. (And no, that doesn't make Fox the evil empirical news organization. It's a legitimate story.)
If you believe that what happens at universities is important, as I clearly do, then you should welcome this debate. The process of community-wide discussion is at least as instructive as what takes place inside a Harvard classroom. But—and anyone who cares about Harvard should lament this—official Harvard usually squelches these debates, because it fears that they may be interpreted as "bad publicity," and therefore hurtful to the brand. Harvard diminishes its own educational potential because it lacks faith in its power to engage in constructive conversation.
Where, for example, is that university-wide discussion on the importance of Ivy League athletics? You'll find an articulate, thoughtful version of it on Tim McCarthy's blog, or perhaps in the writing of Harry Lewis or decades-old letters by Derek Bok or a Crimson columist. You might even hear it during Morning Prayers at Memorial Church. You may find it in 02138 or Harvard magazine. But you won't hear it from Harvard's designated leaders, its anonymous decision-makers, or its highest-paid functionaries. A shame. Where is the confidence in the values of a great university?
Now, I'm sure that I haven't always raised these issues in the clearest or most constructive way, and, even though it isn't always fun to hear, I welcome your pointing that out. This blogger has no monopoly on knowledge or clarity, and part of the reason why I enjoy doing this blog is because I learn so much from its readers. I'd suggest only to anonymous posters that whatever failings I have as a writer and a blogger don't make me a misogynistic asshole with my head up my ass.
If you were writing that comment about someone else, I'd delete it, on the basis of my longstanding policy: Don't abuse the protection of anonymity to write things you wouldn't say publicly (unless there's some fear of reprisal).
I cut people more slack when they're commenting on me, because I'm pretty thick-skinned about this stuff and, what the hell, it comes with the territory. (Plus, as a matter of principle, I strongly prefer not to delete comments unless it seems absolutely necessary.)
But, really—how cheap and churlish it is to throw stones when you lack the character to identify yourself.
I'd also remind folks that if I link to an article, or quote someone saying something provocative, it doesn't mean that I'm endorsing that article or that quote, only that I find it topical and thought-provoking.
As to the question of whether Standing Eagle or Richard Thomas should start their own blogs—fantastic! They're both eloquent and thoughtful participants to this one (though I do think Standing Eagle's a little cranky over the decline in Barack Obama's fortunes) and I'd happily read anything they wrote. Plus, we'd finally get to find out who Standing Eagle is, anyway.
The real question is not whether they should start a blog, it's why haven't they started one already?
Quote of the Day
“I’m a passionate multiracialist and a very poor multiculturalist...I don’t think that we can accommodate cultures and ideologies that make life very difficult for half the human race: women.”
It's an interesting point worthy of being discussed. When does tolerance turn into moral ambivalence, or worse? (We Americans certainly have no hesitation in condemning the practice of female circumcision, for example.) When does our tolerance of competing value systems lead us to compromise our own values in fundamental ways?
Unfortunately, in other statements on Islam, quoted in the article, Amis appears to have lost his mind and advocated unconscionable measures (which he nows says was simply the articulation of an irrational "urge").
¶ 6:23 PM7 comments
The Price of PowerThe Times has more on Samantha Power's resignation from the Obama campaign for calling Hillary Clinton "a monster."
While [Power's] comments were unauthorized and immediately condemned, they also drew attention to other remarks Ms. Power made in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, saying that as president, Mr. Obama would not necessarily follow through on the plan of withdrawing from Iraq that he had presented as a candidate.
Bizarrely, the Times doesn't say what those comments were. But here's the BBC link to her interview with Stephen Sackur. (Videos of the interview are in the right-hand column.)
Power comes off as smart, thoughtful,informed, compassionate, certainly more deliberate than the "monster" remark would suggest—but also pretty clearly off-message.
Sackur: So the 16 months [withdrawal plan] is negotiable?
Power: It's the best case scenario.
Sackur: It's the best-case scenario.
Power: It is...
Sackur: So we needn't take it seriously at all....
Here's something that caught my eye on watching the interview, and also reading Power's interview with the Scotsman: She gave these interviews ostensibly while she was on tour promoting her new book about UN diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello.
And this is where someone—the Obama campaign, I think—screwed up.
Because with all due respect to Sam's considerable biographical prowess, writers do not typically get sent overseas to promote their book about a UN diplomat, nor do writers of such books typically land lengthy television interviews on the BBC.
Powers was obviously booked to do these interviews because of her connection with Obama.
(In the BBC interview, you can see precisely how much she spoke about her book: Zilch. At least in the excerpts shown.)
Did the Obama campaign sign off on this book tour?
Because it would have been obvious to anyone who gave it a moment's thought that as soon as Power stepped onto those interview sets, the questions weren't going to be about Sergio Vieiro de Mella, but about Senator Barack Obama.
And when you're on a book tour, you're tired, you're run-down, you're stressed out, and sooner or later you're going to say something you shouldn't....
Samantha Power speaking at an Obama rally last month. (Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times)
Dent and Torrez, you'll remember, are inextricably linked; it was Torrez who gave up Dent's three-run homer in the famous 1978 playoff which is partly the subject of my book, "The Greatest Game."
I wondered to myself what it must be like to be Torrez, sitting two seats away from the player who popped a three-run homer off him in 1978 to vault the Yankees past the Red Sox in the dramatic playoff game....
At first, the group was concerned about making George Bush jokes.
But after one show in San Diego in 2004, a group of Navy pilots approached him and told him: "We're fighting the war to preserve the right to criticize the people in power. You have to do it. That's real comedy."
By the time the Axis tour got going in earnest in 2006, there was no holding back. In fact, the comics say, the anti-Bush material goes over about as well with American audiences as it did with Arab audiences during the group's tour last fall of Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Dubai. "He's united the world in laughter," Obeidallah says.
It appears that Professor Sunstein may be part of a new "power couple" -- in the most literal sense. Rumor has it that he's romantically involved with Professor Samantha Power -- a beautiful, brainy professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, who is roughly 15 years his junior. She is a Pulitzer Prize winner who has also been profiled in Men's Vogue (see glamorous photo, at the top of this post). What's not to like?
Martha Nussbaum gave the blog a quote which it seems important to repeat here:
Cass Sunstein and I want to inform you that, although, as I said, we separated some time ago, no third parties were involved in the separation on either side -- although of course we are dating other people now. It was a completely different issue, which we have not been reluctant to discuss with our friends and colleagues, but which really doesn't belong on your blog. Yours sincerely, Martha Nussbaum
"Iowa on Steroids"
Barack and Hillary prepare to fight it out in Pennsylvania.
"We operate from the assumption that Pennsylvania is Clinton country," said Mark Nevins, Clinton's state spokesman....
Meanwhile, the Clinton deviousness continues.
Clinton's advisers fended off renewed demands by the Obama campaign for Clinton to release her recent tax returns. "I, for one, do not believe that imitating Ken Starr is the way to win a Democratic primary election for president. But perhaps that theory will be tested," said Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson.
The nerve of the Clinton people—saying that asking for them to reveal relevant information to the American public is "imitating Ken Starr."
But in fact, I think it's a bad tactic for Howard Wolfson (whose political genius has always escaped me). First, it reminds us of how, when on the defensive, the Clintons always devolve into a paranoiac, us-versus-them posture, in which they are entirely right and everyone else is entirely wrong. Even more than Bill, Hillary is prone to this reflex; it's no coincidence that her inner circle is known as "Hillaryland."
Second, it reminds us of a time in Bill Clinton's presidency we'd all rather forget.
Obama—and the press—should continue to make this reasonable demand of Clinton. 'Fess up, Hillary!
A Crackdown on Diversity?
With the appointment of "diversity dean"—the quotes are intended to suggest the term's Harwellian*implications—Evelynn Hammonds as dean of Harvard College, and the institution of an anti-male athletic policy, one has to wonder: Is Harvard entering a new era of political correctness?
A number of commenters below were skeptical of Hammonds' qualifications to be dean of the college and worried that the choice reflected politics more than merit.
Standing Eagle wrote: I search Prof. Hammonds' bio in vain for anything that might suggest she is qualified to lead a liberal-arts college....
And another commenter pointed out: Now we have two deans from the same small department, which happens to be the same department in which Faust's husband is appointed....
* Harwellian: a term combining the words "Harvard" and "Orwellian."
¶ 7:40 AM9 comments
Harvard: Men Not Allowed
The debate over Harvard's plan to prohibit men from using a gym while women are using it, which some of you thought was only an issue because a) it was Harvard and b) Fox News was making it an issue, is sparking a growing controversy. Google shows 214 articles (many of them the same AP story) about the new discriminatory policy, which creates an establishment of religion at Harvard. (The argument for women-only hours is that it is necessary to protect the sensibilities of Muslim women. It's okay to raise your son to be a suicide bomber...but don't work out next to him!)
(Which, when you think about it, makes a certain amount of sense.)
Harvard University has banned men from one of its gyms for a few hours a week.
A school spokesman says the trial policy went into effect last month after a group of six Muslim women asked the university for the special hours.
An Associated Press reporter who went to the gym during the restricted hours on Monday did not see any Muslim women entering....
There's also a vigorous debate on the subject taking place at a New York Times blog. The debate does not go well for Harvard.
I like the poster who says....
I am older and not at Harvard, but if I was, I would strongly consider an act of civil disobediance and refuse to leave the gym.... The establishment of a pro-religious, anti-male policy for six hours a week may, as a practical matter, not seem like such a big deal. But it is wrong as a matter of principle—the exercise of religion should never come at the expense of those who do not practice it—and it is a slippery slope. What pro-religion request will be next? Will the next one be not a request but a demand?
And a final thought: If the pro-religion request were anti-female instead of anti-male, would Harvard have allowed it?
Well, all right, one last thought: If the religion in question were not Islam, would Harvard have caved as it did? Is the university afraid of Islamic protest/violence?
¶ 7:15 AM14 comments
Thursday, March 06, 2008
'Fess Up, Hillary
Barack Obama is apparently going to start hitting Hillary in the face.
Good! He should. Hillary's trying to hide something here, and it's ridiculous that, so far, she's gotten away with it.
¶ 7:38 AM3 comments
Harvard Basketball Under InvestigationIn the Times, Pete Thamel follows up his weekend piece on Harvard basketball with the news that the university and the Ivy League are going to investigate whether Harvard has committed recruiting violations. (Sorry, this came out yesterday.)
“The admission of Harvard athletes represents the highest levels of Ivy League principles and practices,” Harvard’s dean of admissions and financial aid, William R. Fitzsimmons, said in the statement. “Any reports to the contrary are inaccurate and premature as students are not admitted until the end of March.”
Doesn't look good for those academically marginal players who were possibly going to get in until Thamel broke the story.
Ivy League coaches and athletic directors will now surely take note of how many of the six players who have publicly committed to Harvard will be admitted.
I agree with the point—but still, that line from Thamel strikes me as a little bit of editorial—what?—sarcasm? Guidance?
Not sure it belongs in the piece, at least as written: "Ivy League coaches and athletic directors....."
¶ 7:29 AM1 comments
Change is Gonna Come
Big news, folks: After three years, RichardBradley.net is getting a makeover.
In honor of The Greatest Game coming out, I'm working with a web designer to give the site a new look.
But I need your help. What do you like about the site? What can't you stand? What would make it better for you?
Since the Yankees won three consecutive titles in 1998, 1999 and 2000, no team has repeated as champion. Francona said that streak proved how difficult it is to win across a challenging season and how a team has to be “really good” and “kind of lucky.”
The formidable Red Sox, who overwhelmed the Colorado Rockies to win the World Series last season, look like they could be the team that duplicates the Yankees’ feat....
Of course this is premature, since she's hardly locked up the nomination, but it's a brilliant idea, because a Hillary-Barack ticket would be so strong and, IMHO, a sure thing to win. So she can subtly plant the idea in people's minds that it's okay for Barack to finish second, taking some of the steam out of his supporters' sails....
¶ 11:39 AM8 comments
A career .284 hitter with 20- to 30-home run power, Drew was signed to take care of right field, both defensively and as a key hitter in the lineup, in the No. 5 spot, where he would protect Manny Ramírez. He didn't.
Though he did come up big late in the season, especially in Game Six of the ALCS.....
Last week, some Ivy coaches expressed skepticism over the league's ability and incentive to handle recruiting issues at Harvard. They cited multiple instances that popped up over the summer that brought no action from the league.
¶ 7:06 AM0 comments
The MSM will hastily try to tell you what this all means. It was the telephone ad; women voters; Latino voters; doubts about Obama; NAFTA; focus on the economy; late-deciding voters; and so on.
Myself, I don't think the MSM has a clue what's going on, and I'm continually impressed by how unsophisticated its analysis is.
Last night, for example, I was watching Bill Schneider on CNN talk about how late-deciding voters were breaking for Hillary by something like a 3-1 margin. That's a potentially important fact. But what Schneider never bothered to mention was how many late-breaking voters there were, and which way they had been leaning before last weekend. Had they once been solid Hillary voters who actually started to consider Obama? Or were they Obama defections? Were they people who didn't usually vote in primaries? (Probably true in Texas, whose primary hasn't mattered much for decades.)
Another example: The political analysts are so quick to break voters down into race. What an sadly American instinct! It would be fascinating to see them apply other filters: slicing up the electorate by income, region, age, political opinions, and so on. Race is surely relevant, but the media's obsession with it ensures less focus on the other demographic elements that could influence a person's vote.
Here's another bit of conventional wisdom that seems dead wrong to me: Every day the Democratic primary goes on is a good day for John McCain.
You hear this boilerplate from every talking head on TV.
I'm not so sure.
For one thing, this kind of ongoing primary fight has never happened in any of these reporters' careers, so no one really has any prior knowledge on which to base this conclusion.
Second, every day the campaign goes on, Obama and Clinton dominate the news, and McCain, I suspect, will find himself struggling to compete with that. He's already sounded sort of pathetic as he tries to shoehorn his way into the Democratic debate.
Third, polls have consistently shown that Democratic voters very much like both their potential picks. So an ongoing campaign needn't be a bloodbath (unless Hillary sees her victories as an endorsement of her go-negative strategy).
Fourth, I wonder how state party machines will benefit from actually getting to work before a general election—will they be more smoothly oiled machines come Election Day than if they had only symbolic primaries, as in 2004, 2000, and so on?
This Democratic primary doesn't seem to have diminished the stature of these two figures—quite the opposite.
This idea that an ongoing debate that attracts record numbers of voters and viewers is bad for the Democrats—I'm not so sure. Isn't it worse to have an early lock on the nomination and leave people with no reason to pay attention to you?
¶ 6:47 AM7 comments
Is this..... a) a historic choice b) nepotism c) a sign of Harvard's commitment to diversity d) an uninspiring choice e) an inspiring choice f) FAS dean Mike Smith's choice, or.... g) Harvard president Drew Faust's choice?
The Office of Faculty Development and Diversity—created in the wake of the controversy surrounding Lawrence Summers’ comments on women in science—employs a “research assistant” named Mae Clarke whose publicly available job description sounds strikingly like that of a ghostwriter. The diversity office website says: “Ms. Mae Clarke serves as the primary Research Assistant for Dr. [Evelynn] Hammonds who is working on a manuscript of the history of race in medicine and science in the United States. Ms. Clarke’s responsibilities include organizing, drafting, and editing materials for the preparation of the manuscript and related papers. She … will serve as copy editor for drafts of chapters. Ms. Clarke also supports production of other written works.”*
Clarke is on sabbatical and couldn’t be reached for comment, and—through a spokesperson—Dr. Hammonds declined to comment. In other words, Hammonds used a ghost-speaker to avoid answering a question about her ghostwriter.
It will be interesting to see how she handles plagiarism cases that come before the Ad Board!
Quote of the Day
“I’m not saying like I did it right.”
—Fabulist Margaret Seltzer, author of a "memoir," Love and Consequences, about her life as a half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child among gang-bangers, running drugs for the Bloods—a book which, it turns out, doesn't contain a lick of truth.
As far as I can tell, there is more than enough stupidity out there to go round. When it's a writer with a dumb idea for a column, the idea is that an editor will exercise better judgement. I'm not an oversensitive feminist. But as a rule, "women are really stupid" columns aren't funny even when written by women.
Richard Bradley is a Yankees fan—but don't hold that against him. His new book, The Greatest Game: The Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Playoff of '78, is a sensitive examination, and includes a rare interview with Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski. Bradley argues that Bucky Dent's infamous pop-fly homer unfairly tarnished a brilliant Sox team, noting of Yaz, “There really is such a sadness in him about that season.”
Possible violations include visits to potential recruits by Kenny Blakeney just before he was hired as an assistant coach. Those visits exceeded the contact allowed between a college’s representatives and recruits during that period. In another incident, Mr. Amaker spoke to a potential recruit and his parents during a period when the NCAA limits contact between coaches and possible players.
Another questionable aspect of Harvard’s recruiting involves academic standards.
And on the other hand....
Harvard, which has never won an Ivy League title in basketball, said it had determined that Mr. Amaker’s speaking to a potential recruit and his family was not a rules violation. The university’s athletics director is looking into the alleged contact involving Mr. Blakeney.
...Mr. Amaker...released a statement saying, “individuals who know our staff understand the high principles under which we operate."
Three months after head coach Tommy Amaker led Harvard basketball to victory over Big Ten opponent Michigan, the new hire is making national headlines again. This time, however, Amaker is facing questions about his staff’s recruiting tactics and academic priorities after signing the most highly touted recruiting class in Ivy League history.
...Any infractions would have to be reported by the University to the NCAA, and there is no indication that Harvard has done so.
“I haven’t read the story,” Amaker said, “and I don’t have anything else to add on top of what has already been said by the University."
"I haven't read the story?"
Deny, deny, deny.....
According to an admissions office statement, “The admission of Harvard athletes represents the highest levels of Ivy League principles and practices. Any reports to the contrary are inaccurate and premature as students are not admitted until the end of March.”
Hmmmm. I think some student-athletes who were pretty sure that they were getting into Harvard may suddenly have to think about other options.....
Here's a question whose answer I don't know, but others might: When Harvard's athletic recruits receive a letter saying that they are likely to be admitted, as the players in question apparently did, how frequently are they, in fact, admitted?
Or perhaps a better way to phrase it is, After receiving such a letter, how frequently do they not get admitted?
¶ 7:44 AM5 comments
The change was prompted by a request from the Harvard College Women's Center, which was approached by six female Muslim students, said Robert Mitchell, communications director of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
I can't tell from the article, and I don't know enough about Islam, but it doesn't sound as if there's any actual Islamic prohibition of women working out with men.
It appears to be an issue of comfort level.
"This is just yet another of what we thought was a reasonable request for some special times because of religion, not because of gender," [FAS spokesman Robert] Mitchell said. But of course it's a larger issue. Isn't there a difference between, say, tolerating the use of the burkha, which affects no one other than the wearer, and creating women-only time slots which discriminate against men?
The free exercise of religion is not supposed to come at the cost of those who do not practice it.
If Muslim women at Harvard are truly uncomfortable working out in the presence of men, they should join a private gym or buy an exercise DVD.
¶ 6:47 AM18 comments
Sunday, March 02, 2008
In Which Tom Jones Rocks
Now that British music of the late '80s/early '90s is stuck in my head, perhaps it's time to revisit this EMF classic, "Unbelievable." The first 30 seconds are skippable, but kind of sweet. The performance of the song, with Tom Jones singing, is so over the top, it's just great. Favorite moments: When the kids storm the stage to dance, and when the EMF singer is having so much fun listening to Tom Jones that he starts to laugh during his rap.....
The commenters, just for the record, vigorously disagree.
1. Thamel is never one to let the facts ruin a zesty story .... but did you notice that, buried below all the snide comments is the muted concession that after all the "lowering of standards", the grades and SAT scores for the Harvard basketball team will still be higher than at any of the other Ivies - including Princeton, Penn and Yale?
Actually, the article doesn't quite say that; it says that before Amaker arrived, Harvard's basketball team had the highest average academic index of any of the Ivy League schools. That could still be true this year should the really low-ranking kids choose to go elsewhere and a few very high-scoring kids come to Harvard.
¶ 5:55 PM1 comments
Sunday Morning Musicology
Instead of going to church this morning, I was thinking about what a great period for music the early 1990s was, and in that context, who could not think of Primal Scream's classic album "Screamadelica"?
This song, "Movin' on Up," is a nice example. It's a blatant Rolling Stones rip-off, with elements of soul, house, and Washington D.C.'s go-go added in. Plus, it has some of the most endearingly goofy dancing by a lead singer you'll ever see.
I'm imagining an after-midnight party at an abandoned Manchester factory with a lot of Ecstasy.....
The group of six recruits expected to join the team next season is rated among the nation’s 25 best. This is partly because Harvard Coach Tommy Amaker, who starred at Duke and coached in the Big East and Big Ten conferences, has set his sights on top-flight recruits. It is also because Harvard is willing to consider players with a lower academic standing than previous staff members said they were allowed to. Harvard has also adopted aggressive recruiting tactics that skirt or, in some cases, may even violate National Collegiate Athletic Association rules. [emphasis added]
...Two athletes who said they had received letters from Harvard’s admissions office saying they would most likely be accepted have described tactics that may violate N.C.A.A. rules, including visits from a man who worked out with them shortly before he was hired by Harvard to be an assistant coach.
...Yale Coach James Jones said he had seen an academic change at Harvard. “It’s eye-opening because there seems to have been a drastic shift in restrictions and regulations with the Harvard admissions office,” he said.
“We don’t know how all this is going to come out, but we could not get involved with many of the kids that they are bringing in.”
University spokesman Alan Stone offers this rebuttal:
“We can say that any statement about someone being admitted to Harvard who is not qualified would be absolutely inaccurate, as is any suggestion that our standards have been lowered for basketball. Harvard’s admission criteria are — and remain — very high. They have not changed at all.”
Mr. Stone's comment does not address the points above, and in the context of the information presented in this article, is not credible.
But note how carefully crafted it is: He says that Harvard's admissions standards haven't changed. He doesn't say whether those standards have been violated.
(The first part of Stone's statement is misleading, but technically correct: the athletes in question have received letters saying that they are likely to be admitted, but have not officially been admitted.)
Harvard is recruiting players whose ratings on the Academic Index, a combination of GPA and SAT scores, fall below the 171 minimum for Ivy League athletes.
Amaker, meanwhile, doesn't speak on his own behalf. (Perhaps he wasn't allowed to.) Instead, he released a statement that says, in part, "We work within the spirit of Harvard and the Ivy League."
Careful language, almost surely vetted by Alan Stone: within the spirit of.....
What's dismaying about this story is not so much that these incidents happened. Amaker's a new coach with a mandate to revitalize the program; perhaps he's just made some beginner mistakes. (Though, with many years experience in the NCAA, he's no beginner.)
But why does Harvard always have to deny, deny, deny? Come on, people. You are a great university. You are better than this. If you've made mistakes, say so—shit happens, and we all understand that. What they don't understand is the officials of a university that should be setting an example of leadership sounding like Karl Rove.
(Sorry about the language, but I get all worked up about this.)
And even the Washington lessons are not well-learned: As anyone who's spent time there knows, the cover-up is always worse than the crime.....
¶ 9:53 AM9 comments
More Women's News
I've been a little Tina Fey-ed out the past few months (I think the American Express ads put me/her over the top), but this Weekend Update appearance by her, in which she reports on "Women's News," is just brilliant.
My favorite line: "I want to watch that show, 'Starsky'!"
My second favorite line:"At the end of the school year, you hated those bitches...but you knew the capital of Vermont!"
A Book Plug
I've just finished reading my friend Neal Gabler's remarkable biography of Walt Disney, and want to urge all of you interested in 20th-century American culture to read it. Walt Disney is beautifully written and exhaustively researched; it's also a compelling read, whether as a narrative or as a path to a greater understanding of our popular culture. It's certainly made me add all those Disney classics to my Netflix list....
What's Wrong with Women?
A Washington Post columnist goes on an anti-female screed,* including mysteries such as:
1) Why do women scream and faint in Barack Obama's presence? (Five women have fainted at Obama rallies since September.)
2) Why are women obsessed with Botox?
A female friend of mine plans to write a horror novel titled "Office of Women," in which nothing ever gets done and everyone spends the day talking about Botox.
3) Why is Hillary so lame?
She has proved that she can't debate ...She has whined (via her aides) like the teacher's pet in grade school that the boys are ganging up on her when she's bested by male rivals. She has wept on the campaign trail, even though everyone knows that tears are the last refuge of losers. And she is tellingly dependent on her husband.
4) Why do women read such lame books, like Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love?
(Blogger note: I haven't read E,P,L, so I won't call it lame, but it's true—every single woman in New York City has read this book.)
5) Why do they watch chick TV?
I swear no man watches "Grey's Anatomy" unless his girlfriend forces him to.
6) Why do they drive so badly?
Women really are worse drivers than men....
7) Why are women dumber than men?
The theory that women are the dumber sex ... is amply supported by neurological and standardized-testing evidence. Men's and women's brains not only look different, but men's brains are bigger than women's....
Crazy talk, right? Complainants should vent their frustrations to the author, Washington Post columnist Charlotte Allen..... ________________________________________________________________
* Just for the record, the blogger does not endorse these assertions. Generally speaking, he thinks women are swell.
¶ 9:12 AM2 comments