Archive for May, 2005

Great Bird of Truth

Posted on May 31st, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Like me, Andrew Furman is psyched about the discovery of an ivory-billed woodpecker in the swamps of Arkansas. Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, he waxes eloquent about the ornithological implications. But he’s most struck by the fact that a group of seven scientists, naturalists and researchers kept the bird’s existence secret for almost a year until they published their news on April 28th. To him, such collegiality and self-selecting isolation from the capitalistic rat race are vanishing from university campuses.

He writes: ” I fear that we are increasingly deaf to such wisdom, as academies of higher learning adhere more and more to corporate models of productivity and accountability, and as knowledge is reduced to a mere commodity. Students, the consumers in the equation, pay for knowledge, and professors are expected to provide it. My hope is that the childlike ebullience of certain oddball professors out and about on our campuses Thursday morning, April 28, might serve as a corrective to that unfortunate view. For at our best, we are all — students and professors alike — ardent seekers of knowledge, knowing all the while that the ivory-billed, though we may glimpse its splendor, will remain forever elusive.”

The ivory-billed woodpecker as a metaphor for the quest for knowledge. Deep! I like it. Next, someone’s going to find a white whale.

Showtime: Part of the Left-Wing Media Conspiracy

Posted on May 31st, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

According to me, anyway. Here’s my piece about why Showtime is the anti-Bush channel, written for the website

What Would Tom Friedman Say?*

Posted on May 31st, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

In India, five of six winners of a prestigious scholarship are female scientists.

Telegraph of India columnist Ayswaria Venugop writes, “Not that the achievement would change either Summers’s opinion — although the gentleman did say sorry — or the “innate differences” between the sexes that he talks of, but it surely is indication that, like in several other areas, women are slowly breaking through the scientific glass ceiling.”

The achievements of women in science in non-American cultures has always been one of the most obvious pieces of circumstantial evidence against Summers’ women-in-science theory. Ironic that Summers, who is a great proponent of students traveling overseas, would not have noticed that female scientists are not always discriminated against elsewhere as they are in this country.

*New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who has traveled to India many times, is a great friend of Larry Summers.

Darwin and Larry Summers

Posted on May 31st, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

A curious piece in Canada’s National Post argues that the attacks on Darwin and the criticism of Larry Summers are both religiously based, just from different ends of the political spectrum.

“Intelligent Design is linked with the ‘fundamentalist right,’ while Mr. Summers came under attack from the ‘egalitarian’ left. In fact, both are essentially religious positions,” writes columnist John Foster.

How’s that again?

Well, “the attack on Mr. Summers… seems to come from evangelical academics who are uneasy with the implications of neo-Darwinism for their socialist-inspired faith in an egalitarian society of equal results rather than equal opportunities.”

Like many arguments in support of Summers, this one rests on a caricature of the Harvard faculty—its intellectual composition and its motives. I’d argue that this kind of caricature has been deeply damaging to Harvard.

It’s certainly not Summers’ fault (and, in fact, he may be sympathetic to it, particularly now). But as I’ve written before, a ringing defense of the faculty coming from the Harvard president would be more than appropriate—it would go a long way towards winning support from that constituency.

Plenty of Men are Morons, Too

Posted on May 30th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Just so you know that I’m equal-opportunity cranky.

And By the Way

Posted on May 30th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Don’t you just love that line from Fields: “If gays were warmly embraced…..”

I’m not sure if that’s Freudian, but it’s definitely some kind of slip.

Some Women are Morons, Part II

Posted on May 30th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

In today’s Washington Times, Suzanne Fields writes what must be one of the stupidest Memorial Day columns to mar the pages of an American newspaper.

“War is hell,” she begins.

(Apparently no one has ever said that before.)

After describing a trip she made to see wounded veterans—in the future, all trips by newspaper columnists to see wounded veterans should be off the record, so that they can’t milk the experience of visiting those poor guys for a lousy newspaper column—Fields then goes on lambaste Ivy League colleges for denying ROTC the right to recruit on campus.

Those colleges don’t like the military’s discrimination against gays, she says. “But that’s simply a smokescreen; if gays were warmly embraced other reasons would be quickly found.”

Pardon my French, but that’s just bullshit. If the military lifted its ban on gays, sure, you might have a few 1960s-stragglers who’d continue to protest the military’s presence on campus. But the vast majority of students and professors would be happy to have ROTC back. Even if it’s only because of the awkwardness of appearing anti-military at a time when everyone wants to “support our troops.”

(Which we should do, of course…by doing things like providing them with the armored Hummers they need, paying them decently, and not letting them be ripped off by sleazy insurers preying on their fears before they go to Iraq.)

Discrimination against gays is something these universities take seriously, even if Fields doesn’t.

But here’s my favorite part of Fields’ column:

“Patriotism remains a tough sell on some of our most ‘prestigious’ campuses. Yale and Brown, along with Harvard and Columbia, have no ROTC program. Perhaps it’s tradition. Though New England took pride in its abolitionist sentiment, far fewer Harvard students rushed to enlist than their Confederate counterparts on Southern campuses when war broke out between the state….”

I certainly agree that Harvard students should do their part in wartime, and that it’s important for Harvard that it feels the trauma of war just like any other part of America.

But to say that Southern slaveholders who rushed to war to fight for slavery were greater “patriots” than Harvard students were…. Well, that suggests that Fields’ understanding of history is as silly as her interpretation of current events. After all, given that Harvard volunteers were fighting for the Union and Southern men were fighting to secede from it, then by definition, every Harvard soldier was a patriot, and every rebel was…not.

The Ethicist, As It Should Be

Posted on May 30th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

One of my favorite columns in the New York Times Magazine is “The Ethicist,” by Randy Cohen. I don’t know who Randy Cohen is and I’ve never really understood who made him Mr. Ethics—well, obviously, the Times did—but why anyone made him Mr. Ethics is what I really mean.

Anyway, I love “The Ethicist” because it gets my blood boiling. Every week I read it and think what a complete drag life would be if everyone acted the way that Randy Cohen suggests. (Like Canada.) Sometimes he’s just wrong. Other times he’s probably right, but there’s something so goody-goody about his advice—maybe it’s the schoolmarm-ish way he delivers it—that you want to go out and do the exact opposite of what Cohen recommends.

With that in mind, herewith the first in a series: Providing alternative answers to the questions people write to the Ethicist. Because, after all, it’s not like the Times has a monopoly on ethics.

Today Steven Tanzer from Bayside, New York, writes about his son, who wrote an essay for his school’s essay contest, which had a $750 prize. “After the deadline, the school announced that because only one student had applied for the scholarship, it was extending the deadline.” The guy’s son protested, as one might. Tanzner asks: “Was it ethical to extend the deadline?”

Cohen’s answer: Your son “doesn’t have much of a case.” He bases this conclusion on the premise that the school was awarding the prize to the “best” essay, which implies more than one—”good, better, best,” Cohen says. So the school was right.


The student fulfilled the stated terms of the contest. His essay, relative to the other entries, was not only the best; it was good compared to all the others, and it was better than all the others. It’s not his fault that the other kids were too busy checking out Internet porn to bother scratching a few hundred words on a sheet of notebook paper.

In denying him the money, the school is changing the terms of a contract after the fact. That’s like scheduling an exam for Wednesday and then giving it on Tuesday.

If the school doesn’t pay up pronto, the kid should sue, making the point that even school administrators ought to keep their word—a valuable lesson for school administrators. The suit would attract lots of national publicity, and the kid would one day become a great defender of the rights of the oppressed.

Now, isn’t that a better outcome than Cohen’s, in which the school’s sleazy behavior goes unpunished and a little boy learns that you’ll never make any money writing?

Surely We Have Women Who Are Idiots

Posted on May 30th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Did you see this line blaring out from the cover of yesterday’s New York Times Book Review?

“Surely we women have a gene—in addition to those saucy, but ill-mannered, hormones—for theatrics, so frequently do they puncture our inner lives and decorate our outer ones in operatic robes.”

It’s from a review by someone named Toni Bentley of a Mary Wollstonecraft biography.

Now, I know that Bentley is trying to write as pretentiously as she can—those saucy, but ill-mannered, hormones!—but still…..

Do women really need another woman saying that they have a gene for theatrics?

There are moments when I feel sorry for Larry Summers. Imagine if he—or any other man in a public position—had made such a remark?

Go Yanks!

Posted on May 27th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

I’ll be out of town for a couple days over the holiday weekend, so posts may be scarce. But don’t forget: the Report Card is coming soon! And there’s still time to vote. Give your grade to President Summers at the end of his first four years by e-mailing me (on background) at

Meantime, the Yanks and the BoSox play three big games, staring with Randy Johnson vs. Tim Wakefield. The Yanks are now in second place, the Sox in 4th. My prediction: They will both move up one by the end of the season. Let’s hope it starts tonight! (Sorry, Harvard readers….)