Archive for November, 2011

A Harvard Student (re)Considers I-Banking

Posted on November 29th, 2011 in Uncategorized | 44 Comments »

A few weeks ago, Yalie Marina Keegan explained her ambivalent feelings about the flood of Yalies into investment banking.

Now, writing in the Crimson, Harvardian Peter Bozzo considers the same question: Why do so many smart, creative people, who never thought a bit about becoming a banker before coming to Harvard, end up doing just that?

His answer complements Keegan’s essay, which suggested that investment banks are just much, much better at seducing recruiting young people than many other potential employers are.

Bozzo writes that Harvard, for its part, is very, very good at funneling young people towards i-banking.

much of the answer has to do with the resources devoted to career counseling for students whose interests point them toward occupations outside the world of finance and consulting. Certainly some students enter this world because of the financial benefits, but for others it’s simply the most visible and defined career path after graduation. Students can meet with recruiters and interview on campus; the Office of Career Services provides extensive counseling for undergraduates pursuing finance or consulting careers….

As much as she has prioritized anything, Drew Faust has emphasized a re-orientation of Harvard students away from reflexive entry into finance and towards a greater diversity of occupations. Sounds like reorienting the Office of Career Services might be a tangible way of making that happen…

The Cain Conundrum

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

Back on November 2nd, I wrote this:

When Herman Cain reacted to the exposure of his sexual harassment past by denying it, then attacking the accusers, I thought to myself, Why? That’s just a red flag for people who know the truth to tell it, at which point he’ll be proved a liar.

Last night an Atlanta woman named Ginger White announced that she had had a 13-year affair with Herman Cain.

Why did she come forward now?

According to the Times,

Ms. White said she came forward after seeing how Mr. Cain, a businessman who lives in Atlanta, treated the women who had accused him of harassment.

“It bothered me that they were being demonized,” Ms. White said. “I felt bad for them.”

As does about half the country.

Cain denies entirely that he’d had an affair with her, and when asked about the fact that she presented records of 61 phone calls and texts from him, said that he was “trying to help her financially.”

To be sure, Ms. White hasn’t led a perfect life: She’s an unemployed single mother who has filed for bankruptcy, been evicted from apartments, and once had a restraining order filed against her after an accusation of stalking.

But putting the pieces together…isn’t this the kind of woman that Herman Cain hits on? The kind he can help with gifts and promises of a job; the kind over whom he has a power advantage.

Heck of a president this guy would make.

And a final point: What does it say about Herman Cain that a) either he was in denial about all this stuff coming out, or b) he just thought he could lie and smear his way through it when it did?

Is Niall Ferguson Racist?

Posted on November 28th, 2011 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

I have no idea…but Ferguson is now threatening to sue writer Pankaj Mishra and the London Review of Books for suggesting as much.

From the Guardian:

At the heart of the controversy is Mishra’s interpretation of not only Ferguson’s latest book but also his body of work in general, which has sought to challenge the view that western empires were entirely negative in their impact, and argues that colonialism could have positive effects as well.

And this is from Mishra’s takedown of Ferguson, which, one must say, is pretty dishy reading:

The reception a writer receives in a favourable political context can be the making of him. This applies particularly well to Ferguson, whose books are known less for their original scholarly contribution than for containing some provocative counterfactuals. In Britain, his bluster about the white man’s burden, though largely ignored by academic historians, gained substance from a general rightward shift in political and cultural discourse, which made it imperative for such apostles of public opinion as Andrew Marr to treat Ferguson with reverence. But his apotheosis came in the United States, where – backed by the prestige of Oxbridge and, more important, a successful television series – he became a wise Greek counsellor to many aspiring Romans. He did not have to renounce long-held principles to be elevated to a professorship at Harvard, primetime punditry on CNN and Fox, and high-altitude wonkfests at Davos and Aspen. He quickly and frictionlessly became the most conspicuous refugee from post-imperial Britain to cheerlead Washington’s (and New York’s) consensus.

Later in his essay, Mishra quotes F. Scott Fitzgerald as a means of characterizing Ferguson:

‘Something,’ Nick Carraway says of Tom Buchanan, ‘was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.’

Ouch.

Feguson promptly fires back, calling Mishra’s piece “a personal attack that amounts to libel.” And they’re off….

I don’t know Ferguson’s work well enough to judge Mishra’s claims that Ferguson is an apologist for white-centric empire, but I do know that Ferguson hasn’t learned one thing yet from his time in America: We don’t sue people here over negative book reviews. Why? Because threatening to sue someone for libel for allegedly implying that you are racist makes you look like an ass.

I understand: It’s a very painful charge. But a libel suit isn’t the way to rebut it.

One final note: Reading this vicious intellectual back and forth reminds me of a question I’ve wondered for decades: Why does the NYT Book Review have to be so goddamn dull?

Was Dominique Strauss Kahn Set Up?

Posted on November 28th, 2011 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

In the New York Review of Books, Edward Jay Epstein makes the case—and it’s not a bad one.

Be Glad You Don’t Live in Kansas

Posted on November 28th, 2011 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

After a teenager upset that Governor Sam Brownback had cut the state’s arts funding 100 percent—yes, 100 percent—tweeted a disparaging comment about Brownback, the governor’s office got in touch with her principal, who demanded that the young woman write a letter of apology to the governor.

The girl, who knows her rights, refused.

As her mother puts it—pretty eloquently—”If she wants to tweet her opinion about Gov. Brownback, I say for her to go for it and I stand totally behind her.”

(Thanks, Huffington Post.)

The Woes of Wall Street’s Unemployed Youth

Posted on November 22nd, 2011 in Uncategorized | 16 Comments »

The Times has a piece about how young people, especially Ivy Leaguers, are either getting laid off from Wall Street or aren’t getting hired by Wall Street.

At Harvard Business School, where a relatively high 39 percent of this year’s graduates went into finance, compared to 34 percent last year, there has been a “heck of a lot more anxiety” about next year’s hiring season, according to William A. Sahlman, a professor of business administration.

Some of that anxiety is, apparently, caused by the “morale-crushing” impact of Occupy Wall Street, “which has made a villain of a once-lionized industry.”

(Blogger: Hilarious.)

Even for someone like myself, whose living depends to a certain extent on Wall Street, it is hard to feel sorry for these people. (The commenters certainly don’t.) I think it’s because no one has ever given a credible reason for wanting to work on Wall Street other than the desire to make boatloads of cash….

Seven Minutes of Errol Morris

Posted on November 22nd, 2011 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The documentarian, who is one of my favorite journalists, has a short film about “the Umbrella Man” on the Times website.

(No, I didn’t know the reference either. But it’s fascinating.)

Absolutely worth watching. And a great example of things the Times can do to broaden its brand and reach and show that, while journalism can take many different forms, it still requires curiosity and intelligence and standards and, most of the time, money.

Tuesday Morning Zen

Posted on November 22nd, 2011 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Seine, 11.19.11

The Seine, 11.19.11

Why Do We Care about Rhodes Scholars?

Posted on November 22nd, 2011 in Uncategorized | 25 Comments »

I was listening to NPR yesterday morning and heard a short piece about the new class of Rhodes Scholars. Among them was Ronan Farrow, a son of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, who graduated from Yale Law School when he was 17.

It was the second time in recent weeks that Rhodes Scholars had been in the news, following all the coverage of the Yale senior, Patrick Witt, who had to choose between his Rhodes Scholarship interview and quarterbacking his team in the Yale-Harvard game. (Perhaps unfortunately for him, he chose the latter.) That story was all over the press. (Here, it is “aggregated”—i.e., rewritten—by the Huffington Post.)

In fact, that Huffington Post story prompted Harvard “professor” David Gergen to comment, “If character counted on scoreboard [sic], Yale has already won against Harvard. Patrick Witt showed selflessness we should applaud.”

Because skipping your Rhodes interview is an almost unthinkable sacrifice.

As I heard the NPR piece, I couldn’t help but think of this latest class of Rhodes Scholars, Who cares?

It has been decades since Rhodes Scholars have had any particular import or relevance to our culture. Increasingly, being a Rhodes Scholar means simply having a dated and pointless line on your resume. Well—not quite pointless; the point of it is to add a line to your resume.

And yet, students labor for years to become Rhodes Scholars, Harvard practically has a training camp for breeding them, and universities round the country tout their winners in press releases.

My anecdotal impression is that most people who care about winning Rhodes Scholarships, and most people who win them, tend to be pretty privileged already. Quite frequently they attend privileged institutions, and they win a scholarship that allows them to attend another privileged institution. After which we generally never hear from them again.

So why do we care? Maybe it’s just force of habit; maybe it’s some sort of class thing, an obsession of the 1%. (Oxford! England! Etc.)

One Harvard student, asked by the Crimson about the benefits of becoming a Rhodes Scholar, gave the prototypical Harvard answer: It’s great networking.

“There’s an incredible community of former Rhodes Scholars you get to join,” he said

Another student worked as a research assistant for history prof and Oxford grad Niall Ferguson, which, I’m sure, had nothing to do with her winning a scholarship to Oxford.

Congratulations to these young people on their achievements. But wouldn’t it be great if we paid as much attention to people who came from more challenged backgrounds and just won, you know…scholarships?

More on the Yale Accident

Posted on November 22nd, 2011 in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

As Harry Lewis points out below, the Times has a good piece looking on the challenges of regulating partying at the Harvard-Yale game, and tailgating in particular. The main difference between Yale and Harvard here? It seems to be that Yale allows U-Hauls and kegs and Harvard does not.

Harvard has tended to have tougher rules; it does not allow kegs at the tailgating, for example. It has also banned U-Haul trucks in recent years because of the damage they were causing to the fields where the tailgating was held. The trucks also caused another problem: Students had a habit of climbing them and turning their roofs into impromptu dance floors.

Meanwhile, the Yale Daily News reported that the U-Haul in question was carrying several kegs. But fraternity brothers of driver Brandon J. Ross insist that Ross had not been drinking before driving the truck.

And the Crimson has a nice piece on victim Nancy Barry, who sounds like she was a lovely person. What a terrible shame.

I can imagine that there will be plenty of legal recriminations from this accident, but I hope that those don’t lead to unthinking policymaking. The Game is a ritual whose customs should be appreciated, if modernized. I can certainly see the case for banning U-Hauls. (A relatively modern development, so far as I know; they weren’t in use for tailgating when I was at Yale in the ’80s.)

And I gather that Yale has instituted a wristband system to designate people who are allowed to drink. What about creating a different-colored wristband for people who volunteer to be designated drivers?