Archive for May, 2009

A Columnist Says Goodbye

Posted on May 31st, 2009 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

After 1250 columns, my friend Marc Fisher, a great newspaperman, bids adieu to his Washington Post column.

The beauty of a column is that you can dig up the story, then say it straight: You can expose the cynicism that leaves D.C. school kids worse off at the end of their education than they were at the start, then you can call that system a criminal enterprise. You can reveal the narrow-mindedness that threatens to put mentally retarded people out on the street and then push until embarrassed officials do the right thing. You can keep hitting the same note until a school principal with a phony doctorate is removed….

Congrats to Marc on a singular achievement.

David Ortiz Watch, Resumed

Posted on May 31st, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

He was 0-4 with two strikeouts last night, as the Sox lost to Toronto, 5-3, and fell 1.5 games behind the Yankees, who beat Cleveland, 10-5

Am I the only one who wonders why the Globe doesn’t even point this out? 

This is one sign of how Boston remains a small, charming/insular, parochial/combination of both town. If A-Rod were hitting abuckeighty, and the Yankees were falling out of first place thanks to a series of losses in close games, the NY press, for better or worse, would be screaming bloody murder….

Saturday News

Posted on May 30th, 2009 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

At Harvard, the Neiman Foundation program makes some cuts…an excellent night in baseball: The Sox lost, 6-3, to the Jays, as David Ortiz went 0 for 4; Bostonfell out of first place, as the Yanks crushed the Indians, 3-1 (if the Sox fail to make the playoffs by one game, what will Francona’s decision to keep playing Ortiz look like then?)….20% of Harvard Business School grads are taking the”MBA oath,” a voluntary pledge saying that the goal of a business manager is “to serve the greater good”; the Times, natch, misses the real story, which is that 80% of HBS grads aren’t taking it…. Drag Me to Hell is terrific, if you like that sort of thing, and who doesn’t….and the Sotomayor nomination is getting trickier than President Obama probably expected. 

Harvard on

Posted on May 29th, 2009 in Uncategorized | 22 Comments »

That magazine’s website has a nice write-up, “How Harvard University Almost Destroyed Itself,” of my article in Boston mag

Boston Magazine has a long, shocking piece about how the people running the world’s greatest university almost bankrupted the school through a series of very dumb financial decisions after a decade of unbelievable growth in the endowment. Reading the litany of horror — making bad decisions in the stock market, paying for buildings they couldn’t afford, learning to hate Goldman Sachs — it occurred to me that Harvard has never seemed more like average Americans.

Blogger Derek Thompson writes optimistically:

Harvard’s expansion might slow, but even if the endowment simply stopped growing, the school could continue spending at its current levels for another 20 years.

It’s an odd argument: So far as I can tell, he means that it would take that long to spend the endowment to zero, so Harvard’s good for 20 years anyway. I’m not sure anyone should find that reassuring.


“Stop Namedropping, Shadow”*

Posted on May 28th, 2009 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

I have no idea why this is funny, but it is. Darn funny. Thanks to my LA-based friend Greg for sending it.

Also: How can you not love LA?

P.S. Now that you’ve watched this, I should add that it’s highly unsuitable for work.

* Could also be called “Employees Only. Or Angelina Jolie.” Watch closely.

Forst and Faust in a Lovefest

Posted on May 28th, 2009 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Harvard Mag interviews both Drew Faust and Ed Forst on the subject of Forst’s departure, and they are both very complimentary of the other!

Forst on Faust: “From before I started, through today, and through August 1, Drew Faust has been a big supporter of me, of me coming here, of what we tried to do together, what we have in motion.

Faust on Forst: “He was enormously important to me this year…he’s been great to work with.”

But who’s on first?

(Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

In all this mutual cooing, the question is never answered: If Forst is really leaving of his own volition, isn’t it kind of crummy to bail on an exec v-p job after less than a year? Crummy enough so that it’s hard not to suspect reasons for leaving other than the need for a decent bagel?

The Yankees Are In First!

Posted on May 28th, 2009 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Okay, they’re tied with the Bostons. But still….you’ve got to start somewhere. The Yankees look like a completely different team than when they lost five straight to the Sox earlier in the season, and the Red Sox look not so hot. (That’s what’s great about a 162-game season, right? Mood swings.)

David Ortiz went 0-4! (Though you’ll find no mention of that in the Globe, which has become the official David Ortiz cheering section.

He struck out on three pitches in his first at-bat, the last an 89 mph fastball that Slowey left up and over the middle of the plate.

Yesterday Nick Cafardo wrote an entire column about Ortiz without once mentioning the s-word.

Instead, it’s filled with self-aggrandizing lines like, “Before the game, I told David Ortiz…..”


There’s no question in my mind that Ortiz is costing the Red Sox games, and now that the Yanks are right up there in first along with them, it’s a bigger deal than it used to be. How long can Terry Francona stick with him? Or is time to stick a fork in him, because he’s done?

For Yankee fans, it’s win-win. Unless Theo Epstein goes out and finds some great young replacement….

Does Larry Summers Have a Problem?

Posted on May 27th, 2009 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

He keeps falling asleep in meetings. This time, apparently, it happened during a meeting with the President.

Harvard’s Economic Crisis in Boston Mag

Posted on May 27th, 2009 in Uncategorized | 51 Comments »

Yours truly wrote a piece on Drew Faust and the financial crisis at Harvard for this month’s Boston magazine. It’s called “Drew Gilpin Faust and the Incredible Shrinking Harvard.”

The piece begins by quoting Faust’s Commencement address about a year ago.

If the endowment weren’t so enormous, Faust concluded, the university would face a choice: Seek more money from alumni and the federal government, or “do less—less research, less teaching, at a lesser level of quality.”

Nobody, of course, really expected that to happen. But today that is exactly the choice Harvard confronts.

In the piece, I tried to sum up what is at stake for Harvard in this particular moment.

While the failed presidency of Lawrence Summers generated  more headlines, this quiet crisis is actually a greater threat to Harvard. The university has been so rich for so long that most of its denizens can’t remember a time when money was a concern. While Harvard officials are doing their public-face best to downplay the problem, the numbers don’t lie, and this economic crunch will leave the school a profoundly changed place. Harvard will have to become smaller and academically more modest, and as it does it will chafe at having grand plans without the resources to fund them. For the first time in decades, it will worry about merely paying its bills. The university will have to decide: If it is no longer so rich that it doesn’t have to make choices, what does it really value? What are its priorities? It won’t be a comfortable debate.

“We are in trouble,” says one Crimson professor. In the aftermath of deep and damaging cuts, “there is a real chance that Harvard will no longer be considered the best there is.

I hope the article adds to the discussion. See what you think.

What Would Happen if Nokia Tried to Open an App Store

Posted on May 27th, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Apparently, it would suck

Sometimes you only really appreciate Apple when you see how its competitors try to do the same thing and botch it completely; Apple makes this stuff so easy that one almost takes it for granted.