Archive for May, 2014

“Must the Red Sox Always Appeal to the Lowest Common Denominator?”

Posted on May 30th, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

So writes the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy, criticizing the team’s choice of Manny Ramirez to throw out the first pitch in a game honoring the 2004 world champion Red Sox.

Let me see if I have this straight: Manny Ramirez hit like Jimmie Foxx for 7½ seasons in Boston, but it turned out he was cheating with PEDs the whole time. His name appeared on the list of 104 players who tested positive in 2003, and later he was twice suspended for failing drug tests. He’s the only big league star who got caught three times….

But hey, I’m a bad guy for suggesting that David Ortiz also used steroids in 2004 (and subsequently)?

Quote of the Day

Posted on May 30th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

“Let’s be honest, Harvard Law is the best of the Harvard graduate programs. The Business School is full of crooks. The Divinity School is just a bunch of weird virgins. The School of Design is for European burnouts. And don’t get me started on the Kennedy School. What kind of a degree do you get from there? Public policy? Okay, right. You mean a masters in boring me to death at a dinner party.”

—MIndy Kaling speaking at the Harvard Law School commencement

Aretha!

Posted on May 30th, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

I agree with the commenters below; this is wonderful. (I got choked up about two notes in.)

Will Nick Kristof Be Forced to Resign?

Posted on May 29th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I have long been skeptical of Nick Kristof’s tales of sex trafficking horror. It’s not that I think this is a non-existent phenomenon, and no amount of trafficking is tolerable. It’s just that I’ve never believed this is a widespread phenomenon rampant with torture and brutality as Kristof has enthusiastically, almost voyeuristically transcribed it in columns such as this one:

After the beatings and shocks, Sina said she would be locked naked in a wooden coffin full of biting ants. The coffin was dark, suffocating and so tight that she could not move her hands up to her face to brush off the ants. Her tears washed the ants out of her eyes….

I’m sorry, but I call bullshit on this; I just don’t buy it. (Her tears washed the ants out of her eyes? That’s a nice touch.) It sounds like something out of the Salem Witch Trials—a fantastic story made up to impress a willing listener, a white, privileged man who confidently considers himself both judge and jury, confessor and healer.

Now one of Kristof’s main sources, a woman named Somaly Mam, the bulwark for so much of what he has written about sex trafficking, turns out to be a fraud. And not only is she a fraud, but she persuaded others to go along with her in spreading tales of horror.

This devastating Newsweek story lays it all out.

In 2009, Nicholas Kristof wrote in The New York Times about a girl named Long Pross, who had finally summoned the strength to tell her stunning story of sexual slavery. He reported that a woman had kidnapped Pross and sold her to a brothel, where she was beaten, tortured with electric wires, forced to endure two crude abortions and had an eye gouged out with a piece of metal by an angry pimp. Pross, Kristof said, was rescued by Mam and became part of her valiant group of former trafficking victims fighting for a world free of sexual slavery.

Pross’s story was completely made up, coached by Somaly Mam. But here’s what Kristoff wrote without the slightest skepticism.

She was kept locked deep inside the brothel, her hands tied behind her back at all times except when with customers.

Brothel owners can charge large sums for sex with a virgin, and like many girls, Pross was painfully stitched up so she could be resold as a virgin. In all, the brothel owner sold her virginity four times.

Pross paid savagely each time she let a potential customer slip away after looking her over.

“I was beaten every day, sometimes two or three times a day,” she said, adding that she was sometimes also subjected to electric shocks twice in the same day.

Kristof, by the way, is the same columnist who turned his column over to Dylan Farrow so that she could make wildly implausible and completely unsubstantiated attacks against Woody Allen. There is a common denominator: In both (all) cases, Kristof abandoned his critical judgment. As a general rule, he replaced it with a primitive, white man’s burden racism—those emerging market, dark-skinned people are capable of anything, no matter how vile!—and an inflated sense of his own saintliness.

This puts the Times in a very tricky position. The newspaper should investigate the veracity of Kristof’s work just as it once did Judy Miller’s. But it probably won’t—there is a constituency of people too invested in this victim mythology who don’t want to admit that Kristof is profoundly wrong. And, of course, it’s tricky because of the very real problems that do exist for women and girls around the world. I don’t think it’s wrong, though, to wonder if Kristof isn’t in the realm of a Rick Bragg or Jason Blair or Stephen Glass, a fabulist whose dramatic inventions were directly tied to his own journalistic success.

Kristof himself is in Nigeria, reporting on the kidnapped schoolgirls. Though he has a blog to which he regularly contributes, he has said nothing about the Somaly Mam revelations. Never mind the past; there is always a new victim for Saint Nick to save.

Not What Harvard Wants on Commencement Day

Posted on May 29th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 28 Comments »

A front-page New York Times story saying that Harvard has been surpassed by Stanford in every category that defines the “brand” of the modern university.

Riding a wave of interest in technology, Stanford University has become America’s “it” school, by measures that Harvard once dominated. Stanford has had the nation’s lowest undergraduate acceptance rate for two years in a row; in five of the last six years, it has topped the Princeton Review survey asking high school seniors to name their “dream college”; and year in and year out, it raises more money from donors than any other university.

No one calls Duke “the Stanford of the South,” or the University of Michigan “the public Stanford,” at least not yet. But, for now at least, there is reason to doubt the long-held wisdom that the consensus gold standard in American higher education is Harvard

Ouch.

This is, in my opinion, the converge of two trends: the growth of Silicon Valley and the tech economy, and in Cambridge, a quarter-century of either disastrous or uninspired presidential leadership….

Sheryl Sandberg Confirms that “Leaning-In” is Meaningless Self-Serving Pap

Posted on May 28th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

She’s delivering the commencement Class Day speech at Harvard. How exciting! But she refuses to meet with female workers at a Cambridge hotel who are trying to unionize.

Because that’s sort of icky. And, you know…they don’t go to TED. So they’re not really powerful. And they can’t help her.

Seriously—regular readers of this blog know that I’m a Sandberg skeptic and I think her book is a shallow attempt to address a serious issue. She may not feel that she knows enough about the union drive to weigh in; she may disagree with it. But someone who expects to be taken seriously on issues of women and work owes a group of female workers—who actually have formed a “Lean-In” circle—a more honest response than “sorry, I’m too busy.” If you write a book that’s intended to be a femi-festo, you can’t just ignore the relevant issues whenever they become a little inconvenient.

Sorry I’ve Been Away

Posted on May 27th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

…but I do have a good excuse.

Please welcome Reid Michael Bradley, who was born last Tuesday at 4:06 AM, thanks to the heroic efforts of his mom and a fine medical team at the Northern Westchester Hospital.

photo

We are all very happy and very tired.

While Skip Gates Enjoys NYU-Sponsored Luxury…

Posted on May 19th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

…emerging market laborers live and work in virtual slavery while building NYU’s Abu Dhabi outpost.

As the recipient of NYU’s largesse—a direct gift from the same president, John Sexton, who has pushed the NYU Abu Dhabi project—Skip Gates is now complicit in modern day slavery. For someone whose life and work are so deeply invested in exploring the terrible wrong of American slavery, this is problematic at best.

Virtually every one said he had to pay recruitment fees of up to a year’s wages to get his job and had never been reimbursed. N.Y.U.’s list of labor values said that contractors are supposed to pay back all such fees. Most of the men described having to work 11 or 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week, just to earn close to what they had originally been promised, despite a provision in the labor statement that overtime should be voluntary.

The men said they were not allowed to hold onto their passports, in spite of promises to the contrary. And the experiences of the BK Gulf strikers, a half dozen of whom were reached by The Times in their home countries, stand in contrast to the standard that all workers should have the right to redress labor disputes without “harassment, intimidation, or retaliation.”

Some men lived in squalor, 15 men to a room….

Skip Gates heavily subsidized apartment, which he apparently only uses on occasional weekends, has two bedrooms. Or, put another way, enough room to house 30 Bangladeshi workers…

The Boston Globe on HarvardX

Posted on May 18th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

The Globe runs a long and well-reported piece on the growth of Harvard’s online education program.

I’ve become a cautious supporter of MOOCs, because the idea of providing access to Harvard courses to anyone in the world (well, anyone with an open Internet) is so clearly an outstanding thing.

But I do worry that as their production values increase, and the financial rewards of reaching more people off-campus than on become clear, professors will focus more on their online courses than their classroom work. And rationalize it: Just listen to neuroscientist David Cox:

Because the program offers his automated feedback tailored to students’ answers, Cox said, it offers more personalized instruction than he can give in a lecture hall, especially when Harvard students tend to be “mortified of asking a dumb question.

“Automated feedback” allows for more personalized instruction than he can give in a lecture hall? That raises an eyebrow.

So I wonder if we can imagine a day—not next year, but maybe five years from now, maybe ten—when Harvard classrooms are ghost towns, populated by professors going through the motions and a handful of students who insist that actually going to class in person still counts for something.

One can envision a campus of students all sitting in front of their monitors watching…

“Why Divestment Fails”

Posted on May 16th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Writing in the New York Times, UCLA finance professor Ivo Welch, who co-authored a study on the impact of divestment upon South Africa, writes about the impact, or lack thereof, that divestment will have on the coal industry. The occasion for the op-ed, of course, is Stanford’s decision to divest from fossil fuel companies and pressure to do so at other campuses, such as Harvard.

my co-authors and I found that the announcement of divestment from South Africa, not only by universities but also by state pension funds, had no discernible effect on the valuation of companies that were being divested, either short-term or long-term.

Granted, Welch writes, economic impact is not the only reason to divest from a country or industry. “Morals matter.”

Would I have divested from South Africa? Yes, but I would have had no illusion that doing so would have made a difference.

Welch concludes that if Stanford wanted to make a difference, it should actually buy more energy stocks, so that it would have greater leverage over how energy companies conduct their businesses…