Archive for December, 2010

Will the Winklevi Never Give Up?

Posted on December 31st, 2010 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

The Times reports that they want reopen the settlement they received from their anti-Facebook lawsuit, jopardizing the $150 million or so that it’s now worth.

…they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the principle — and vindication.

“The principle is that they didn’t fight fair,” said Tyler Winklevoss during an interview at a pub here recently. “The principle is that Mark [Zuckerburg] stole the idea.”

His brother, Cameron, chimed in, “What we agreed to is not what we got.

This seems either the height of principle or the height of foolishness, or some combination of both. The twins may actually lose their money, which suggests that they are either really honorable or that they don’t particularly need it.

As for vindication—well, they will probably never get that, and it’s arguable that they should. I’m inclined to agree with them that Zuckerburg stole the grain of the Facebook idea, but who’s to say whether they would have taken it to the level that he clearly has. I doubt that anyone could train for the Olympics and build a hugely successful company at the same time.

They disagree.

When asked if they could have turned ConnectU into a site with hundreds of millions of users, like Mr. Zuckerberg did with Facebook, the twins replied in unison, “Absolutely.” They added that Mr. Zuckerberg deserved some credit for “not screwing up” and expanding Facebook into a community of 500 million users. But they believe the fame and fortune is undeserved.

Tyler Winklevoss said: “Mark is where he is because we approached him to include him in our idea.”

But that’s clearly not true…

New York Mag on Marty Peretz

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

The weekly profiles Harvard’s man-about-campus and his recent troubles.

Over this past year, Peretz’s distance from the magazine has been extreme. Even to many within The New Republic,where he has been known mostly as a bullying voice on the phone, Peretz has come to be seen increasingly through the lens of The Spine. “When Marty’s name came up at TNR, it was more often than not in a mocking context,” says one former staffer. “People made fun of his blog items for being bigoted and for being incoherent.” After the controversy over his September blog post, some on the staff started pushing for Peretz to give it up.

Whatever Peretz’s problems, how can you respect someone whose checks he signed not having the balls to put his name to such a nasty quote? Gross.

Meanwhile, a New York Times Magazine profile is in the works….

(Full disclosure: Peretz gave me my first job out of college, something for which I’ll always be thankful, and I spoke—on the record—for that Times piece.)

More on Harvard and ROTC

Posted on December 21st, 2010 in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

The Globe reports on Drew Faust’s announcement that Harvard will now welcome ROTC to its campus—though its unclear whether the Pentagon will actually establish a program there.

“At Harvard, ROTC has been like the crazy uncle in the attic: We know he’s up there but we don’t want to tell anyone that he’s there,’’ said Paul E. Mawn, a 1963 Harvard graduate and retired Navy captain who is chairman of Harvard Advocates for ROTC.

A potential barrier to Harvard getting its own unit is lack of student interest, Mawn said. Until several years ago, he said, students were not even allowed to list ROTC as an activity in the yearbook or post related fliers around campus.

I’m calling bullshit on this one. Really? You couldn’t put up ROTC fliers around campus? I don’t believe that for a second.

Anyone out there know the truth about Mawn’s claims? And why does Globe reporter Tracy Jan let factual allegations, inserted into the story by an alumnus, stand without determining their truth?

Sloppy.

It would be ironic if, after all this fuss from conservatives about Harvard banishing ROTC, the military decided it wasn’t interested in having a program there….

“There is an attitude among some senior people in the Pentagon that elite Ivy League universities threw us out when we were at war, so why should we bother with them now,’’ he said. “It’s a lot cheaper to train an officer in Podunk, Okla., than spending $50,000 sending someone to Harvard or Yale.’

Again, I question the reporting: Other than being a slightly curmudgeonly, potentially paranoid alum, who the heck is Paul Mawn and does he really know what senior people in the Pentagon think?

If he does, Tracy Jan should tell us how. And if he doesn’t, Jan  shouldn’t let him make claims about things he has no way of knowing.

I miss the Globe sometimes.

Quote Of the Day

Posted on December 20th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

“I feel bad for my kids, because their mistakes are on the front page of the National Enquirer, which really sucks for them.”

—The ever-articulate Sarah Palin.

The only problem here—well, not the only one, but a major one—is that Palin delivers this lament on her television show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” which prominently features her children, including two not of legal age, one of whom (Trig) couldn’t possibly give informed consent.

No one ever accused Sarah Palin of self-awareness.

Here is my question, and it’s a serious one: Is there a more irritating person in the world—yes, the world—than Sarah Palin?

Your Government is Spying on You

Posted on December 20th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

A few months back, the Washington Post did an incredible story about the web of secret government organizations that have sprung up in the wake of 9/11—a larger secret bureaucracy than anyone could keep track of, the Post discovered, or was even trying to keep track of.

Today the paper reports on a different but related phenomenon: How local and state governments, securitized (my word) in the wake of 9/11, are spying on Americans and reporting what they find to the secret bureaucracy described above.

In “Monitoring America,” the paper reports,

Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators.

The system, by far the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the nation’s history, collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing.

The government’s goal is to have every state and local law enforcement agency in the country feed information to Washington to buttress the work of the FBI, which is in charge of terrorism investigations in the United States.

This is important reading.

RIP, John McCain

Posted on December 20th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Time’s Joe Klein writes his eulogy.

McCain distinguished himself doubly this weekend, opposing the Dream Act and leading the opposition to “Don’t Ask,” despite the very public positions of his wife and daughter on the other side of the issue. I used to know a different John McCain, the guy who proposed comprehensive immigration reform with Ted Kennedy, the guy–a conservative, to be sure, but an honorable one–who refused to indulge in the hateful strictures of his party’s extremists. His public fall has been spectacular, a consequence of politics–he “needed” to be reelected–and personal pique. He’s a bitter man now, who can barely tolerate the fact that he lost to Barack Obama. But he lost for an obvious reason: his campaign proved him to be puerile and feckless, a politician who panicked when the heat was on during the financial collapse, a trigger-happy gambler who chose an incompetent for his vice president. He has made quite a show ever since of demonstrating his petulance and lack of grace.

What a guy.

(Spotted on AndrewSullivan.com)

Peace at Last

Posted on December 20th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Atlantic reports on how the Ivy League is “[making] peace with ROTC.”

Because it’s not just Harvard that exiled ROTC in protest of the military.

At Yale University, College Dean Mary Miller told the student-run Yale Daily News Saturday: “We’re very excited and pleased with today’s results. This [decision in Congress] allows us to make the recommendations we wanted to make” to allow ROTC programs to return to the Yale campus for the first time since 1969.

And Columbia president Lee Bollinger puts it well:

“This is an historic development for a nation dedicated to fulfilling its core principle of equal rights. It also effectively ends what has been a vexing problem for higher education, including at Columbia — given our desire to be open to our military, but not wanting to violate our own core principle against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” he said.

In about a year, I expect we’ll wonder why there was ever such a fuss about letting gays be soldiers.

Smart Phones that Spy on You

Posted on December 19th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

The Wall Street Journal reports that over half of smart phone applications they tested were transmitting personal information about the phone operators to advertising agencies and other companies without user knowledge or consent.

An examination of 101 popular smartphone “apps”—games and other software applications for iPhone and Android phones—showed that 56 transmitted the phone’s unique device ID to other companies without users’ awareness or consent. Forty-seven apps transmitted the phone’s location in some way. Five sent age, gender and other personal details to outsiders.

This is less than surprising, but still depressing.

Both the Android and iPhone versions of Pandora, a popular music app, sent age, gender, location and phone identifiers to various ad networks. iPhone and Android versions of a game called Paper Toss—players try to throw paper wads into a trash can—each sent the phone’s ID number to at least five ad companies. Grindr, an iPhone app for meeting gay men, sent gender, location and phone ID to three ad companies.

I’m surprised that Apple would allow this, particularly because its ability to control the apps sold for iPhones should differentiate their apps from Androids–a real marketplace advantage….

The World Changes

Posted on December 19th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

As several commenters below have noted, the Senate repealed the odious “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy yesterday, paving the way for gays to serve openly in the U.S. military.

I’m not a fan of Joe Lieberman, as you may know, but he deserves props here; he’s been a forceful advocate of repeal. (Just to remind you of why I can’t stand him: He also suggested that the New York Times should be prosecuted for publishing articles related to the Wikileaks documents. Argh.)

Unfortunately, at the same time Republicans in the Senate blocked what has become known as the Dream Act, legislation that would establish a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the country as children. Drew Faust has been a supporter of the bill.

Still, the DADT repeal is a watershed in the nation’s civil rights history…

“I don’t care who you love,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said as the debate opened. “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.

…and marks the for-all-intents-and-purposes end to John McCain’s career as a credible public figure.

“I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage,” Mr. McCain said. “And we could possibly and probably, as the commandant of the Marine Corps said, and as I have been told by literally thousands of members of the military, harm the battle effectiveness vital to the survival of our young men and women in the military.”

Once President Obama signs the bill, it will presumably have rapid ripple effects—such as the return to Harvard of ROTC.  That action will ease a profound social tension for the university, whose stand on principle cost it amidst the broader culture, and for its president, who gets to oversee an act that costs nothing but brings enormous rewards. One thing you have to say about Drew Faust: Her life has been marked by a propensity to be in the right place at the right time.

Is it possible, by the way, that by the time November 2012 rolls around, the American public will realize that Barack Obama has been the most effective, active, accomplished American president since FDR??

Re Cliff Lee: A Reader Responds

Posted on December 15th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

My piece on Cliff Lee’s inappropriateness for New York prompted an impassioned response from one reader, who found it so “upsetting” that he sent me a long and eloquent email. I’ll quote:

I know why you haven’t been hired as a sportswriter—because you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Guilty as charged!

But…having said that….this would put me squarely amidst the ranks of the vast majority of sportswriters. So not necessarily a disqualification.

The writer then went on to establish that Lee has pitched exceedingly well in big (i.e., World Series) games, one of which was in New York.

Since 2006, including his WS start, Lee, in Yankee Stadium (the only place where there is pressure according to Yankee’s fans), has put up this line:

37 2/3 IP, 32 Hits, 9 Runs, 7 Earned Runs, (1.67 ERA), 5 BB, 26 Ks.

The writer then said that was “most disturbing” about my post was my ad hominem attack on Lee and his daughter, who is pictured below wearing a bow which makes her look rather like the sled-pulling dog in the Grinch that Stole Christmas.

2094596710_2b787c300a_o

That was pretty mean. But in my defense, I wasn’t making fun of the girl; she looks very nice. I was making fun of the parents who put that bow in the girl’s hair. But, okay—I’m sorry. I feel bad about that. From what I read, the Lees are amazing parents.

The writer concludes, “You should apologize for this silly post.”

Done. Sort of.

Because you see, I can’t apologize for the whole thing. Much of it was tongue-in-cheek, the outraged lament of a Yankee fan wondering where his team will find a decent third and fourth pitcher. (I thought the hyperlink to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure was a pretty good hint.) No one likes rejection. Especially not for—gulp—Philadelphia.

But I wasn’t entirely kidding. I do think the Yankees would have seriously overpaid for Lee, and I’ve seen too many pitchers get hurt or just fall apart in later years to feel comfortable with a seven-year deal.

I also think that Lee would not have been happy in New York. Yes, he may rise to the occasion and pitch well in big games. (Not, if I recall, in the first game of this most recent World Series, though.)

But he never felt like a good fit for the Yankees. The fact that he is a good friend of C.C. Sabathia speaks well of him; Sabatthia seems like a lovely guy. Still, the Yankees have had bad luck over the decades with players who didn’t fit in at the Bronx Zoo, and Lee seemed like one of those players.

(And yes, correspondent, that list includes Randy Johnson. Whatever his numbers were during his stay here, he was an odious presence, a nasty person who never warmed to New York and New York, for our part, was delighted to see him go.)

As to the commenter below who doubts the sincerity of my feeling that I’d rather have players I enjoy rooting for than root for a team stocked with mercenaries who have no affinity for this city—balderdash. No matter how good that team is, it’s tough to root for.

There is a misperception, unfortunately perpetuated by the idiocy of George Steinbrenner, that Yankee fans are unsatisfied if the team doesn’t win the World Series every year. This was Steinbrenner’s addiction, not ours, and it is silly. Yes, we want a competitive team; at the prices we pay for tickets, that’s the least we should get. But we also want a team that we can like.

After all, who are the players that Yankee fans love? Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Pettite, probably in that order. All homegrown, all with the team for well over a decade. A-Rod, no matter how well he plays, will never bask in that same fan-love. Robbie Cano, a local, will.

Following that are free agents like Nick Swisher who take to New York—they love being here, they love being a part of the Yankees and their remarkable team history, they’re good with the press, they hit the town from time to time. (Even A-Rod has gone a bit New York, what with dating Madonna and Cameron Diaz. Think they would date a Padre or a Brewer? You’re right, they wouldn’t.)

So Cliff Lee has returned to Philly? Well, I admit, I worry about the Yanks’ pitching. But I don’t lament Lee’s absence. The Phillies may now be favored to win the World Series, the Sox favored to win the AL East. We’ll see what happens. Meanwhile, the Yanks have $150 million more to spend developing their future—even if we have to wait till next year.