Archive for January, 2013

The New Depeche Mode Song

Posted on January 30th, 2013 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Their first single off the new album, Delta Machine (out 3/26), is called Heaven, and LA’s KROQ premiered it this morning.

It’s a ballad! And it’s good.

You can listen to it here.

Meanwhile…the anticipation builds.

Monday Evening Video

Posted on January 28th, 2013 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

A new song from a band called Everything Everything I’m starting to listen to…some quite cool dancing (I think that’s dancing) around the 2:50 mark.

The Dream Team of Larry Summers and Chrystia Freeland

Posted on January 28th, 2013 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Here’s a great picture of Larry Summers wearing what appear to be fake Timberlands workboots while being interviewed by Chrystia Freeland, who hired Summers as a columnist for the FT, at Davos last week.

(I can’t support the boots-and-suits look, but to be fair, LHS is looking pretty fit and trim; rumor has it he’s excised the Diet Cokes—which, ironically, are fattening—from his diet.)

Here are some other pictures of Larry Summers being interviewed by Chrystia Freeland.




I Get Press Releases

Posted on January 28th, 2013 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

From a press release I just received:

This 5-minute video interview with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) includes clips on the following:

He believes “Obamacare” is the “greatest assault on freedom in our lifetime.”
The size, scope, and cost of government is unsustainable
Why the U.S. is at a financial and cultural “tipping point.”
Parallels between the novel Atlas Shrugged and today.

I don’t know about you, but I’m torn between health care legislation being the greatest assault on freedom in our lifetime and the parallels between “the novel Atlas Shrugged” and “today”. Great stuff!

Harvard’s Angry Alum: Don’t Crucify the Cheaters

Posted on January 28th, 2013 in Uncategorized | 13 Comments »

In an unusual development, the same Harvard alum who has put Drew Faust on his payroll is now publicly criticizing the Harvard president and other university officials for their handling of the massive cheating scandal.

The Crimson reports that Staples founder Thomas G. Stemberg, class of ’71, has written a letter to Faust, a couple deans and the Corporation members criticizing the university’s handling of the cheating scandal as “Orwellian.”

Since Stemberg could simply have picked up the phone and called Faust to say this, as she was cashing her six-figure Staples paycheck, the fact that he put it in writing and distributed the letter rather widely suggests he wanted to make his opinion public. Which also suggests that he’s the one who sent it to the Crimson.

(Stemberg seems to have a habit of writing angry letters. He once allegedly wrote to his 12-year-old son that “It will not be possible for you to be part of our family in the foreseeable future” because the boy, scion of the first of Stemberg’s three wives, had allegedly misbehaved during the divorce. There are two sides to every story, particularly in two messy divorces, but it doesn’t really sound like Stemberg is a great role model for any young person. Here’s a good backgrounder on how Stemberg got Mitt Romney to testify for him in court. Talk about Orwellian.)

Anyway: Stemberg’s gripe seems to be that some of the students involved really cheated, and some of them only kinda cheated, and Harvard is being mean to the latter group.

Stemberg classified the students embroiled in the scandal into two different categories: those who “clearly went too far, literally cutting and pasting their answers,” and those who “did no more than write answers from notes that were derived in the collaborative atmosphere the class encouraged.”

“Notes that were derived in the collaborative atmosphere”! That’s rich. “Derived” notes. Who comes up with this stuff? I bet it was in a collaborative atmosphere.

Stemberg knows that this is how things are because, as the Crimson puts it, “he personally knows” some of the students involved, and apparently has had lengthy conversations with them about whether they cheated or not.

Or maybe he knows it because he’s a wealthy donor who put the president of Harvard on his corporate board and can find out things that regular alums can not.

Oh, the plot thickens.

On one level, here you have a classic case of an alum who think it’s his right to butt in because a) he has put the university president on his payroll and b) he gives a lot of money to sports programs.

Stemberg is co-chair of “Friends of Harvard Basketball,” a group whose very existence raises some interesting issues, i.e., why does there need to be a group called Friends of Harvard Basketball?

Here is another co-chair of FOHB. I’m shocked, he’s a private equity guy who used to be the assistant to the founder of Boston Concessions Group, which of course is Joe O’Donnell, who has his hands in pretty much every Harvard pie.

Follow the money, follow the money, follow the money….

And here is a Bloomberg article about the various wealthy donors who ponied up to support the Harvard basketball program.

As Carmen Scarpa, the HOFB co-chair put it,

The project has paid off like a good investment, according to Carmen Scarpa, a partner at Boston-based private equity firm Tudor Ventures Group LLC and a reserve point guard from the class of 1986.
“We put some money behind a good management team and now we’re seeing the fruits of that,” said Scarpa, 46, who was on the committee that recruited [coach] Amaker

So much time, effort and cash just to get five guys on a court playing basketball…

On the other hand, maybe Stemberg has a point. Maybe Harvard is handling the situation poorly. It’s hard to say without access to the same kind of information that he has. So we will keep an open mind on that.

But what do you want to bet that the kids he’s sticking up for just happen to be…basketball players?

And thus the stink of corruption settles onto a basketball program that once was happy being competitive in the Ivy League but now feels it has to go head-to-head with Duke, UNC, UNLV and so on.

Former Harvard College dean Harry Lewis is quoted by the Crimson as lamenting the fact that this episode hasn’t been used as a—what’s the expression?—teachable moment.

“I continue to be principally troubled that we’re not having, haven’t had yet, and there’s no indication that we’re going to have, a faculty conversation about how faculty conduct their courses,” he said.

While I respect Harry’s idealism, in addition to agreeing with him, I don’t think he should be surprised. This is not a conversation that would advantage many of the people affected by it.

But I also think that there’s another conversation that needs to be had—this one on the impact of big money and big-time sports at Harvard, as manifested in its basketball team.

And one thing that’s absolutely clear: Drew Faust is now compromised by her $300k a year paycheck from Staples, just as this blog predicted she would be.

To avoid any hint of conflict of interest, she should step down from that corporate board immediately. This is the biggest test of her presidency. The right thing to do is clear.

Bloomberg Trashes Bob Rubin

Posted on January 24th, 2013 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Writing for Bloomberg Business Week, William Cohan argues that Bob Rubin’s influence remains undiminished—and that that is a terrible thing.

Not only was Rubin secretary of the Treasury under President Bill Clinton, but the next three secretaries in Democratic administrations — Lawrence Summers, Tim Geithner and (assuming he is confirmed) Jacob Lew — have Rubin’s fingerprints on them. This is a cause for grave concern — assuming, of course, you care about whether it’s right for Rubin to have such a long stretch of political influence.

I do, and here’s why: When Rubin was an arbitrager at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in the 1980s, and again when he was in the executive office of Citigroup Inc. (C) in the 2000s, he was one of the leading purveyors of the kind of irresponsible behavior that led to the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008. Not only has Rubin refused to take a shred of responsibility for his actions, but he has also managed to win the hearts and minds of two of our last three presidents. That’s no mean feat, and it says much about the cozy relationship between Washington and Wall Street.

And it gets harsher from there. This is one of the toughest condemnations of Bob Rubin that I’ve yet read. Whether it has any more impact than any of the others….

George Orwell Would Be So Proud

Posted on January 23rd, 2013 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

‘SUBWAY FOOTLONG’ is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway® Restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length.”

The Subway corporation, responding to consumer complaints that its “footlong” Subway sub isn’t actually 12 inches long.

Of Whales and Dolphins

Posted on January 23rd, 2013 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

According to Science magazine, marine researchers have discovered a group of sperm whales in the north Atlantic that has “adopted” a dolphin with a spinal deformity.

….behavioral ecologists Alexander Wilson and Jens Krause of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin did not expect to find a mixed-species group when they set out to observe sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) some 15 to 20 kilometers off the island of Pico in the Azores in 2011. But when they got there, they found not only a group that included several whale calves, but also an adult male bottlenose dolphin ( Tursiops truncatus). Over the next 8 days, they observed the dolphin six more times while it nuzzled and rubbed members of the group (see slideshow). The sperm whales seemed to at least tolerate it; at times, they reciprocated. “It really looked like they had accepted the dolphin for whatever reason,” says Wilson, who was snorkeling nearby. “They were being very sociable.


The scientists aren’t sure why the whales have come to accept this dolphin, given that there’s no obvious environmental advantage from the relationship. As for the dolphin, it’s possible that because of its spinal flaw, it couldn’t keep up with other dolphins, and so opted to hang out with the slower-moving whales for purposes of protection and, perhaps, companionship.

Quite cool.

Oh, CNN…You Suck

Posted on January 23rd, 2013 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

My wife and I were trying to catch some inaugural coverage on Monday, so naturally we turned to CNN, where we heard…extensive discussion of the dress that Michelle Obama was wearing. Seriously? Yes. A breathless debate about which of the many dresses the first lady had available she was going to choose, and then…breaking news…a phone call from some unknown dressing room…a reporter framed by a dress rack…and…oh no!…massive disappointment that Obama chose the same designer she’d chosen four years ago, leaving CNN’s Alina Cho with very little to say. (She was shocked. Shocked. And I’m not making that up.)

I suspect the arrival of former Today producer (and Harvard grad) Jeff Zucker at CNN probably has a lot to do with this idiocy, but in any case, it was embarrassing to watch. And they wonder why people get their news from Comedy Central.

Jon Stewart noted the same thing, but puts it much better than I could.

Cheating and Cons at Harvard

Posted on January 23rd, 2013 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

First, the cheating: The Crimson reports that Harvard officials will soon issue the university’s report on the massive cheating scandal that has raised questions about the impact of big-time athletics on the university’s academic standards.

The completion of the investigation marks a turning point for the scandal that Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris called “unprecedented in anyone’s living memory” when it was first announced at the end of August. Over the past semester, the Ad Board investigated approximately half of the undergraduates enrolled in last spring’s offering of Government 1310: “Introduction to Congress” for plagiarism and inappropriate collaboration on a take-home final exam. Administrators said that each case would be resolved on an individual basis.

Unprecedented in anyone’s living memory, yes. But what about their dead memory?

(Oh, Dean Harris, “unprecedented” would have worked just fine.)

Meanwhile, Fox News (yup, Fox News) reports that the Harvard Theological Review has delayed the publication of an article about Karen King’s controversial discovery of a document she interprets as suggesting that Jesus was married. The delay, according to Fox, casts doubt on the veracity of the papyrus fragment in question.

Kathryn Dodgson, director of communications for Harvard Divinity School, confirmed to that testing and analysis of the fragment, including examination by independent laboratories with the resources and expertise necessary to produce reliable results, is still under way.

“Publication of Prof. King’s paper has been delayed, so that the results of the testing may be incorporated,” Dodgson wrote in an email.

I so wanted that story to be true, but the consensus seems to be that Professor King has been the victim of a con. Or else she’s right…and she’s becoming the victim of an anti-truth conspiracy!

My prediction: As Harvard pushes further into the world of online education, cheating is going to become a much more common and pervasive issue for the university….but that is really the subject for another post.