Archive for January, 2010

Wall Street Loses Its Appeal

Posted on January 29th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

The Globe and Mail reports that, at least for now, the day of college grads flocking to Wall Street like money-hungry, brain-dead lemmings is over.

Every time an ambitious young thing decides to harness his or her brain cells to design Wall Street’s next black-box trading model, there is one less person searching for solutions to global warming or starting a company focused on health care innovation. Most of the great leaps forward in finance only benefit small groups of people who are already rich, rather than creating jobs and wealth for the many. And that’s when things go well.

Agree with this thesis or not, the sentiment is clearly becoming conventional wisdom. Wall Street has an image problem. Does it matter?

Justice Alito, Wuss?

Posted on January 29th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

The Washington Post reports on the State of the Union’s awkward moment, when Obama criticized the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and Justice Alito clearly shook his head and muttered something like, “Not true.”

Obama led the fight against Alito’s confirmation, and there are sign that Alito hasn’t forgiven him for it.

He was a notable no-show when President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden accepted Chief Justice John G. Roberts’s invitation to pay a courtesy call on the court. Alito was the only member of the court not to attend the afternoon event, even though he had been at the court in the morning. He has not explained why he was absent.

Clarence Thomas, of course, is much the same way decades after his confirmation—petty, petulant, still sulking over the fight over his confirmation. What is it with these guys?

Here’s what Obama said of Alito back in the day:

When it comes to his understanding of the Constitution, I have found that in almost every case, he consistently sides on behalf of the powerful against the powerless; on behalf of a strong government or corporation against upholding American’s individual rights.”

Apparently Alito can dish it out but he can’t take it.

Quote of the Day

Posted on January 29th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

“A lot of women when they hear the word ‘pad’ are going to think about feminine hygiene.”

Robin Bernstein, a corporate speechwriter on Long Island, speaking about possibly embarrassing associations of Apple’s new iPad.

(Here too an interesting question: The Times quoted her because she said something about this on her Facebook page. Does that make her  a meaningful source? Or just some random woman?)

On the Road Again

Posted on January 28th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

If the sleet has stopped here in Oklahoma…I’ll be on the road tomorrow, but will post as I can.

Tea Party People, Meet Creationists

Posted on January 28th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

The Guardian of London reports on the rise of creationism at British and American universities.

“There is an insidious and growing problem,” said Professor Jones, of University College London. “It’s a step back from rationality. They (the creationists) don’t have a problem with science, they have a problem with argument. And irrationality is a very infectious disease as we see from the United States.

How Was the State of the Union?

Posted on January 28th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 15 Comments »

I missed it; I’m in Okahoma (long story), and last night I took in a game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Chicago Bulls (see players, cheerleaders, below).

But my sense is that Obama didn’t make any grand changes in his style or agenda, but simply reemphasized a focus on the economy. About right?



A Writer’s Passing

Posted on January 28th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

I’m very saddened by the death of Louis Auchincloss, one of the most astute and insightful writers of the last century and, more to the point for me, the father of one of my closest friends.

Others more qualified (and more objective) than I will discuss Mr. Auchincloss’ literary legacy. To me, he represented a kind of cultural intelligence to which I always aspire (but will never attain); Mr. Auchincloss was a deeply learned man who seemed to know everything there was to know about literature, art, and history. He was a gracious, if sometimes (through no fault of his own) intimidating host—it was hard not to be intimidating when you were that smart and that worldly—and one of the most enjoyable conversationalists one could ever hope to sit down at a meal with, which is a wonderful and fading art. Perhaps unexpectedly for a man of his background, Mr. Auchincloss was always more interested in the truth of a situation than the propriety of it.

He was, of course, a man out of his time in recent years—the years of reality TV, YouTube and Twitter. He was in his ninth decade; how could he not be? Yet American culture needed him, even if we didn’t always realize it, even if the vast majority of Americans had no idea who he was. We need what he represented. We are moving forward without history, and that is why the loss of Louis Auchincloss is such a deep one. He carried history within him, and he was also a piece of it. The only remaining figure of his type is Gore Vidal, and Vidal of late has not been himself.

In knowing Mr. Auchincloss a little bit, I was fortunate enough to see a model of intelligence and scholarship. I could never hope to equal that model, not by a longshot, but he provided me with a sense of what a mind could do, and once one has that sense, it becomes harder to settle for the surface of things.

Apparently the Whole Watergate Thing Was Lost on Them

Posted on January 27th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Four conservatives are arrested for trying to wiretap the phones of Democratic senator Mary Landrieu.


Posted on January 27th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 11 Comments »

“People lined up to shake her hand [at the ice cream social],” says a Harvard employee…. “It showed that she was of the people, not riding in a limo, not jetting off to Davos,” both things Summers had done.

—quoted in “Drew Faust and the Incredible Shrinking Harvard,” by yours truly, June 2009 issue of Boston magazine

Harvard…will hold a reception [at Davos] with remarks from President Drew Faust; Julio Frenk, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health; and Mohsen Mostafavi, dean of the Graduate School of Design. Michael Porter, a business professor; David Bloom, a global health professor; and David Ellwood, dean of the Kennedy School of Government, are among the Harvard faculty speaking on panels.

Oliver Staley writing on, today

To be fair, the presidents of Yale, Brown and Columbia are also at Davos. But given the financial devastation at Harvard—and the popular mood in Massachusetts, as indicated by the election of Scott Brown—is this really where Drew Faust should be spending her time? (And Harvard’s money?)

How quickly Drew Faust has warmed to the presidential lifestyle….

Go West, West Man

Posted on January 25th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

In the Times, Cara Buckley interviews Cornel West, who sounds like he leads an unusual life indeed….

NO BREAKFAST I haven’t had breakfast on a Sunday since 1984.

WHAT HAPPENED IN 1984? We won’t go into that. It was a special Sunday. But I always have water. It’s decaf coffee from Monday to Thursday.

HITTING THE BOOKS Downtime is reading; I’m always reading on the plane, whatever the reading is for course work the next week. I’m also always rereading the classics, Plato, St. Augustine.

EVER READ FLUFF? I might pick up Time or Newsweek and take a peek.

PREPPING FOR CLASS I try to shoot to be home by 8 or 9 at night. I like to get home and wash my clothes. I have to read all night; I have to be real fresh for class. I like to read two or three hours every night. Right now I’m reading Robert Brandom, one of the great pragmatic American philosophers. I read until 2, 2:30 a.m. I don’t really need that much sleep.

IN THE COMPANY OF GREATS I’ve been married three times. I’m married to my calling, but I’m not married to a particular woman. I have no pets. My apartment is full of books and records, the light of Toni Morrison and John Coltrane. And Chekhov, everywhere.

Sounds a bit lonely to me. Anyone know what happened in 1984?