Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Journal on Why Harvard Football is So Good

Posted on November 20th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

In the WSJ, Matthew Futterman takes a crack at explaining how Harvard’s football team has become such a powerhouse.

His answers include:
1) An alumni booster program that pays for a lot of the football program’s expenses
2) Harvard’s generous financial aid program, which allows the university to give athletic scholarships while pretending that they aren’t athletic scholarships (Okay, Futterman put it somewhat differently)
3) The sales pitch that if you go to Harvard, you can play for a serious program and get a Harvard education if football doesn’t work out
4) A commitment to play big-time football

As a result, Harvard is 9-0 this year—only Yale, at 8-1 is close, and we’ll see what happens on Saturday—and has an offensive line averaging 6’5″ and 287 pounds. The roster includes 13 players from Texas and 13 from Georgia.

So all of this makes sense in terms of explaining how the football program at Harvard got so good; it doesn’t do so much at explaining why and what the consequences of that are. Are you trying to tell me that those 13 football players from Texas come close to Harvard’s traditional academic standards? If so, I have some derivatives to sell you. (Y’all know what Texas football is like, don’t you?) And what kind of impact does the presence of all these intellectually under-achieved behemoths on campus have? In my very limited experience, big-time recruited athletes at Yale (there weren’t very many) produced a lot of cynicism among the other students, who sensed that these kids really didn’t fit in very well and struggled academically.

Harvard has already had one academic scandal with a significant athlete connection. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time till there are more. Meanwhile, one imagines the number of “gut” classes growing.

(And yes, to the inevitable people who say, “I know a brilliant comp sci major who’s also a star running back”—certainly those people exist. But they’re the exception.)

And I go back to the question of why—of what real benefit is it to the University to have a high level football program? When I was at Yale, our athletic programs were, you know, pretty good, but we were never going to be Ohio State—and that was just fine. In fact, people kind of liked the idea that there was still one place in college sports, the Ivy League, where athletics were not the be-all and end-all of campus and alumni life.) Now Harvard has started an athletic arms race—in basketball, football, and elsewhere, I’m sure—and other Ivy League schools are playing catch up. But to the best of my knowledge, there’s never been any campus debate about this, no presidential direction, no outpouring of alumni frustration over the state of college athletics. And yet the culture of the college—and the Ivy League—is changing as a result.

Sure, it’s nice to have a basketball team that gets a lot of attention. But is it worth lowering academic standards and opening the door to the same kind of corruption that top-tier NCAA schools seem generally happy to tolerate?

Patrick Witt Speaks Out

Posted on November 3rd, 2014 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

At last! The Yale quarterback who was so grossly treated by Richard Perez-Pena—in a story that perhaps should have been a career-ender for Pena—in the New York Times—as detailed at length on this blog—has written in the Boston Globe about his experience of being kinda-sorta accused of sexual assault.

in the hopes that my painful and humiliating experience might yet produce some good by improving the final measures adopted, I offer my own story as a real-life example of how this well-intended policy can produce disastrous consequences if it remains detached from the most basic elements of fairness and due process that form the foundation of our legal system.

..When I demanded that fact-finding be done so that I could clear my name, I was told, “There’s nothing to clear your name of.” When I then requested that a formal complaint be lodged against me — a process that does involve investigation into the facts — I was told that such a course of action was impossible for me to initiate. At any time, however, my accuser retained the right to raise the complaint to a formal level. No matter, the Committee reassured me, the informal complaint did not constitute a disciplinary proceeding and nothing would be attached to my official record at Yale.

…Days after the initial meeting with the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, I received a phone call from the Rhodes Trust informing me that they had received an anonymous tip that I had been accused by a fellow student of sexual misconduct. Next came a call from my summer employer, who, having received a similar anonymous tip, rescinded my offer of full-time employment upon graduation….

This is exactly why the current hysteria about “rape culture”—a term so over-broad and unproven that is hard to take seriously—is so dangerous. Because in politicians’ efforts to get reelected redress a wrong, and universities’ desire to avoid being scapegoated in the press, the rights of the accused are being shredded. The process Witt describes above—one not unlike what happens now at Harvard and elsewhere—should not inspire confidence in anyone who follows this issue that justice was/is done. It sounds like a Kafka-esque nightmare in which you haven’t really been accused of anything so you can’t actually defend yourself from something.

Good for Patrick Witt for speaking out now. I’m sure he will get hate mail from many Harvardians. That’s a shame. It can not be easy to defend yourself against an accusation you don’t even know….

Is Elizabeth Warren Running for President?

Posted on October 23rd, 2014 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

She’s opened the door just a bit

Myself, I think she should. Try as I might, I just don’t like Hillary. And I think an uncontested Democratic race would be a disaster for the Democrats.

Harvard at its Best

Posted on October 23rd, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

A nice story in the Times about a kid from a truly rough background—living on the streets of Rwanda, sleeping in a garbage dump—who winds up at Harvard. Really inspiring, and good on you, Harvard.

Has Naomi Wolf Gone Nuts?

Posted on October 6th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Vox reports that the Yale educated feminist—her most recent book is a history of the vagina—is spinning conspiracy theories about ISIS videos and the US using ebola as a pretext for a military takeover of American society….

George Magazine in Retrospect

Posted on October 5th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

As one of the original editors of George, the political magazine founded by John F. Kennedy Jr., I’ve long maintained that, behind its celebrity factor, George was a smart and influential magazine. The idea of a mainstream magazine premised on the convergence of celebrity and politics felt, at the time, quite radical to me; these days, I don’t think anyone would blink an eye, which is probably proof that John had put his finger on something true about American culture.

So I was pleased to see Charles P. Pierce, writing in the current issue of Esquire, agreeing with that estimation:

Once upon a time and not that long ago, and don’t let it be forgot, there once was a glossy magazine named George. It was founded and edited by the late John Kennedy Jr., who was, by all accounts, a more than decent bloke. Its conceit was that there was no essential difference between politics and show business or between political celebrity and all other forms of celebrity. (I think we all can agree that JFK Jr. was something more than an authority on that last part.) Its first issue featured model Cindy Crawford dressed as George Washington, who once had only Parson Weems as his personal celebrity biographer. Sadly, in March of 2001, its last issue had Kennedy himself on the cover, the editor having died in a plane crash on July 16, 1999. Despite some contemporaneous ur-snarkery from Spy, it’s hard now to conclude that the basic premise behind George was wrong. (By 2005, Tom Brokaw, the man who invented World War II, was moderating a ten-year retrospective on the magazine at Harvard, although that might have been just a Kennedy thing.) The entire world of political journalism has come around to George’s fundamental philosophy.

Pierce doesn’t entirely mean that as a compliment; his essay is really about what a piece of rubbish Politico (“George’s bastard child”) is, which is basically true.

Of course, back when George—and John—were still around, Esquire was one of their most frequent critics….

And Republicans Swear They Don’t Have a Woman Problem

Posted on October 3rd, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

The Detroit Free Press reports on a Republican ad targeted at women which compares Michigan’s two gubernatorial candidates to wedding dresses.

Apparently the Republican one is a better fit, the Democratic one comes with added costs, etc.

Must be seen to be believed.

(A tangential but amusing note—the woman getting married “just” graduated from college. In other words, she’s doing exactly what the GOP thinks she should.)

My Idea of Hell

Posted on September 24th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Listening to Lena Dunham give advice.

“I was like, so into counting almonds that I don’t think I got laid that entire time….”

But you feel free.

Tuesday Morning Video

Posted on September 23rd, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

From the fantastic second album, This is Your Girl, by Alt-J; the song is called “Every Other Freckle.”

I Hate the Homeland

Posted on September 23rd, 2014 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

And it’s because I’m a patriot.

I’ve never liked the term “homeland” as applied to the United States. It came into use after 9/11 and, to me, it always felt militaristic, jingoistic, insecure and nativist. I have always suspected it was Dick Cheney’s idea.

On Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall agrees with me. He actually traces its introduction into our lexicon back to the Reagan era push for a “Star Wars” missile defense system.

….our addiction to this new word – utterly alien to American English and foreign policy discussion – does tend to lock us down into a fortress America mindset with all the tendencies toward authoritarianism and militarism the posture brings with it. We already have a word – mainland. Or as [Chris] Matthews says, Why not just America?