Archive for June, 2011

And Just Like That…

Posted on June 30th, 2011 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

…the Yankees are 2.5 games up on the Sox.

I’m not quite sure how the Yankees are doing it—what a ragtag bunch of pitchers they have!—but it must be a little demoralizing for Boston to have been playing so well for several weeks, including beating the Yankees eight out of nine games, and not only not have established a decent lead in the AL East, but actually have fallen into second.

Let’s hope so, anyway.

Ka-Ching!!! II

Posted on June 30th, 2011 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Larry Summers continues his post-Washington buckraking: As Harry Lewis first posted below, the former Harvard president has joined the technology venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

He tells the New York Times:

“It seemed like an ideal connection,” Mr. Summers said in an interview with DealBook on Wednesday. “I expect to be more involved in Silicon Valley, I also have many friends at Stanford, so I look forward to learning about technology and hopefully being able to contribute.”

“Anyone who cares about the performance of market economies has to be deeply interested in the innovations of information technology,” he added.

That is a nice touch there at the end—the suggestion that it would be derelict of him not to “be deeply interested”—i.e., make a lot of money off—information technology.

Anyone know who his friends at Stanford are?

As Richard Thomas noted below, Sheryl Sandberg, a ubiquitous presence in Summers’ life, apparently arranged the introduction to Netscape founder Andreessen.

When Mr. Summers expressed his interest in technology to Ms. Sandberg earlier this year, it was Ms. Sandberg who arranged the meeting with her friend, Mr. Andreessen.

That is an inadvertently amusing line—”when Mr. Summers expressed his interest in technology to Ms. Sandberg.” The two have known each other for 20 years. It just came up now?

A more accurate description would be that Sandberg and Summers have been scratching each other’s backs for many years now—since at least the time when Sandberg worked at Google, and she and Summers had a private meeting in which they committed Harvard, without a single discussion with any other member of the Harvard community, to the Google Books Project.

Perhaps responding to the suggestion on this blog that he is cashing in on his government service, Summers also tells the Times,

“I don’t want to be a Rolodex man or a door opener,” he said. “I am interested in making contributions as a thinker.”

This may actually be true; I can’t see Summers comfortably playing the role of business glad-hander the way that, say, Bob Rubin might. But it is, in my opinion, simultaneously naive/arrogant/wishful thinking on his part to think that his door-opening facility isn’t the primary reason for his being paid whatever huge amount of money Andreessen is paying him. Tons of people think a lot about the Web on a pretty high level. They’re not being snapped up by VC firms because of a mutual friend’s introduction.

I keep coming back to the Stanford remark: Is Summers paving the way for a move to the West Coast? On the one hand, it seems unlikely. He has a pretty good gig at Harvard—probably a half-million dollar salary for no mandatory work, and clearly he’s going to be spending less and less time on campus—and his wife has tenure there.

On the other hand, he does like to play tennis, and he’s taking up golf—two things which are nicer to do in Palo Alto than in Cambridge—and in some ways Stanford seems a better cultural and psychological fit for Summers than Harvard.

Is a dual job offer even now being prepared within John Hennessy’s office?

I’m not sure any current president would really love to have Larry Summers floating around his campus, but…you never know.

Larry Summers Should Read This

Posted on June 29th, 2011 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Me too, unfortunately: Diet Coke makes you fat.


Michele Bachman versus the Swedes

Posted on June 29th, 2011 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Washington Post has an interesting article on why Sweden has recovered from the economic crisis much faster and much more strongly than the US has.

The overarching lesson the Swedes offer is this: When you have a financial crisis, and Sweden had a nasty one in the early 1990s, learn from it. Don’t simply muddle through and hope that growth will eventually return. Rather, address the underlying causes of the crisis to create an economic and financial system that will be more resilient when bad times return.

Are we learning from our financial crisis? On the campaign trail in New Hampshire, GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachman just endorsed a one-year federal income tax moratorium. In other words, no American citizen would pay a dollar in federal tax for a year.

The Boston Globe reports that Bachman has also said that…

As president…her top priority would be improving the economy by cutting government spending and lowering taxes. She said she would reduce corporate taxes, eliminate the capital gains tax, and “put a nail in the coffin of the death tax.

Given that no one’s having a lot of luck cutting spending in any meaningful way—that darn Medicare, etc.—how exactly would Bachman pay for her massive tax cuts favoring corporations and the wealthy?

Some might argue that Bachman is a GOP extremist, staking out positions to appeal to her Tea Party base. Huh. In other fiscally responsible news, Republicans are threatening to walk out of debt ceiling negotiations because Democrats are insisting on addressing the following issues:

Specifically, the Obama administration was looking at a rule that lets businesses value their inventory at less than they bought it for in order to lower their tax burden, a loophole that lets hedge-fund managers count their income as capital gains and pay a 15 percent marginal tax rate, the tax treatment of private jets, oil and gas subsidies, and a limit on itemized deductions for the wealthy.

So the GOP is going to the mat for tax breaks for hedge fund managers and private jet owners.

How do voters not get the problem here?

Dead Jackass

Posted on June 24th, 2011 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

The late Ryan Dunn had a blood alcohol level of .196, or about 2.5 times the legal limit of .08%, when he crashed his Porsche at around 136 miles an hour the other night, according to the police report. He’d apparently had two beers and six shots.

He also had 23 prior driving infractions, ten of which were for speeding and one of which was a DUI.

It’s terrible that this happened, of course. (Couldn’t someone have intervened somewhere along the way?) But there’s such an odd tension here: The stars of the Jackass movies became rich and famous adults for acting like children—doing incredibly stupid and dangerous things, mixing the creative powers of a grown-up with the recklessness of a kid. And that part of our culture which declines to mature relished seeing its immaturity reflected—and sanctioned—onscreen.

In that context, Ryan Dunn’s death can be seen as a consequence of behavior immortalized in reality filmmaking, for lack of a better phrase, transferred to…mortality. He “acted” in real life the way he did in his films, and he died because of it. It’s a modern-day version of James Dean—only as unromantic and banal as reality TV itself. Look at the stretch of road where the crash happened in the video below. Not exactly dramatic, is it?

Ryan Dunn died as he lived. Now his fans and co-stars are lamenting his loss. But weren’t they, and the lifestyle they championed, part of his problem?

A Digression on Glen Campbell

Posted on June 24th, 2011 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

When I was growing up, my parents had a Glen Campbell record. I don’t know why. Their taste ran to classical, with some 20th-century composers such as Gershwin and Scott Joplin thrown in. But before I was old enough to buy my own records, I used to listen to that Glen Campbell album; I remember his “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” We had a pretty crummy stereo—I suppose most of them were back then—and the record was so scratched it had more crackles and pops than a bowl of Rice Krispies. But that “Dock of the Bay” was a good song, and I’d listen to it, then pick up the tone arm of the turntable, move it back and listen to it again.

So now, about 35 years later, I read that Campbell, now 75, has Alzheimer’s, and he’s embarking on a “farewell tour.” So many bands advertise going on farewell tours, when of course they don’t mean it at all; this instance adds an affecting dose of reality to the term. The man really is saying goodbye.

His wife, Kim, told People magazine, “Glen is still an awesome guitar player and singer,. But if he flubs a lyric or gets confused onstage, I wouldn’t want people to think, ‘What’s the matter with him? Is he drunk?’ ”

Campbell himself added, “I still love making music,. And I still love performing for my fans. I’d like to thank them for sticking with me through thick and thin.”

I haven’t listened to Glen Campbell since I was 10 years old, but I think this is pretty brave and it makes me think of him singing, “I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away.”

Crime Really Doesn’t Pay

Posted on June 24th, 2011 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

As the LA TImes reports, Whitey Bulger’s life on the lam was not nearly so romantic as we might have once thought.

Bulger quickly conceded to authorities that he was Whitey Bulger — not Charles Gasko, as everyone knew him — but he seemed addled, befuddled by all the commotion…

His apartment was a half a mile from the ocean at 1012 3rd St. But it was rent-controlled, perhaps 800 square feet, and faced the other direction, toward a truck rental shop and a nursing home. An exit sign cast a green hue over his door, and the dim overhead lights in the hall emitted a constant hum.

Some nice reporting here.


Posted on June 23rd, 2011 in Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

Larry Summers has joined the board of Square, a tech start-up that designs software to facilitate credit card transactions on phones.

The appointment comes as other technology start-ups try to strengthen their political ties….

Thursday Morning Zen

Posted on June 23rd, 2011 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Providence, RI, headed south. (Photo taken with iPhone and Hipstamatic)

Providence, RI, headed south. (Photo taken with iPhone and Hipstamatic)

The “Serengeti” off California’s Coast

Posted on June 23rd, 2011 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Marine researchers tagged 4, 063 fish (big ones, mostly) off the coast of California and followed their movements for ten years.

The study….reveals the eastern Pacific Ocean is akin to Africa’s Serengeti, teeming with wildlife and crisscrossed by migration corridors used by sharks and seabirds. But the census’s greater value might be in advancing knowledge of a largely uncharted underwater world on which we increasingly depend.

Very cool—it’s work like this that may help to save our oceans.