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Haiti Relief at Williams

Hat tip to Will Slack ’11:

To the Williams Community,

The devastation in Haiti and especially the horrible human suffering there have touched us all. The news has been almost heart-stopping.

No Williams students were in the country at the time but at least one student appears to have lost family members. On a special online discussion group set up for alumni, many have reported that their family members are safe but that is not true for all.

A news story about an alumnus now providing medical help there, Hernando Garzon ’84, can be read at .

Students, faculty, and staff are organizing Williams-based responses. You can follow the plans and join in through .

Many organizations are taking donations to support relief efforts, including:

The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund at
The American Red Cross at
Partners in Health (Paul Farmer’s organization) at
The Boston Foundation (where donations are being matched dollar for dollar) at

I trust that in this time of such unimaginable human suffering we will each of us be moved to do all that we possibly can to help.

With regards,
Bill Wagner
Interim President

1) Why can’t the College create an RSS feed and/or archive of all the e-mail that goes out to all-students or other public (essentially) lists? We won’t always have Will Slack around to keep us informed! I don’t expect Williams to spam every alumnus or parent with this sort of appeal, but it should make it easier for interested alums/parents to stay informed. At some point, the College will probably do this, five years after we first suggested it. (I see that this particular letter is listed at the President’s page, but a) I would like a record of all communication like this, not just selected letters and b) there is no way (?) to be informed of new letters unless you screen scrape that page every day.

2) Garzon would make an excellent Bicentennial Medal recipient. From that article:

The images streaming from Haiti were bleak: buildings collapsing into heaps of dust and rubble, the wounded spilling into chaotic streets and hospitals too badly damaged by Tuesday’s devastating quake to treat the thousands of injured and dying.

Dr. Hernando Garzon, a Kaiser Permanente emergency physician in Sacramento, monitored the devastation and began packing his bags with sutures, antibiotics, painkillers.

“They’ll need a lot of help,” he said. “It looks like total chaos.”

On Wednesday afternoon, he was bound for Port-au-Prince, the devastated capital of the impoverished Caribbean country.

“It’s terrible. It’s a big disaster,” said Garzon, who flew out of Sacramento International Airport to join a small team from Relief International.

3) Here is the alumni discussion/e-mail group devoted to Haiti. (You will need an alumni login for access.) The fact that it has 3 posts, 14 subscribers and was last updated 11 days ago tells you all you need to know about the success of the College’s new discussion groups.

4) I think it is praise-worthy of the College to highlight Garzon’s activities and tell us about the campus community webpage about Haiti relief. But am I the only one who finds it somewhat suspect that Williams is presuming to tell me that the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund is a good place to send donations, as opposed to the dozens (hundreds?) of other charities raising money for Haiti? Wagner should have just left that part out of the letter.

5) And, even if you think that it is appropriate for the College to specify specific charities in this context, you would want the chosen organizations to be beyond reproach, the best of the best. Here are two simple tests: First, does the charity have a long history of working in Haiti and/or places like it? Second, the charity should spend a minimal amount on fund-raising and administration (especially CEO pay). Most of the money raised should be used for, you know, doing good.

I think that one of the 4 charities listed fails both these tests. How did it end up in Wagner’s letter? Follow the sleaze . . .


Ground Rules: Trolling and Community Control

Offered, again, for the Community’s consideration:

Donath provides a concise overview of identity deception games which trade on the confusion between physical and epistemic community:
“ Trolling is a game about identity deception, albeit one that is played without the consent of most of the players. The troll attempts to pass as a legitimate participant, sharing the group’s common interests and concerns; the newsgroups members, if they are cognizant of trolls and other identity deceptions, attempt to both distinguish real from trolling postings, and upon judging a poster a troll, make the offending poster leave the group. Their success at the former depends on how well they — and the troll — understand identity cues; their success at the latter depends on whether the troll’s enjoyment is sufficiently diminished or outweighed by the costs imposed by the group.

Trolls can be costly in several ways. A troll can disrupt the discussion on a newsgroup, disseminate bad advice, and damage the feeling of trust in the newsgroup community. Furthermore, in a group that has become sensitized to trolling — where the rate of deception is high — many honestly naïve questions may be quickly rejected as trollings. This can be quite off-putting to the new user who upon venturing a first posting is immediately bombarded with angry accusations. Even if the accusation is unfounded, being branded a troll is quite damaging to one’s online reputation.[10]”

Susan Herring et al. in “Searching for Safety Online: Managing ‘Trolling’ in a Feminist Forum” point out the difficulty inherent in monitoring trolling and maintaining freedom of speech in online communities: “harassment often arises in spaces known for their freedom, lack of censure, and experimental nature.” The broadly accepted ethic of free speech may lead to tolerance of trolling behavior, further complicating the members’ efforts to maintain an open yet supportive discussion area, especially for sensitive topics such as race, gender, sexuality, etc.


Chronicling Mark Taylor

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently ran a long feature on idiosyncratic former Williams professor Mark Taylor. Williams gets relatively scant (but warm) mention:

His pedagogical focus seems of a piece with the small and intimate environment of a New England institution like Williams College, where he taught until 2007 and was the sole professor unattached to any department (it is one small irony that he left the quads of Williams for the research-oriented campus of Columbia). And given his Williams background, with its small class sizes and predilection toward teaching, it isn’t difficult to imagine how nothing could be more an anathema to him than the stereotype of the professor as a claustral Casaubon oblivious to the needs of students.

The piece otherwise emphasizes his fascinating and circuitous scholarly biography and his idiosyncratic and provocative predilections.


The Prisoner in the White House

At my request, Norman Birnbaum ’46 will be sharing some of his articles with EphBlog. Here is the first. – DK

After a year in office, the President seems—rather like most of his predecessors—a prisoner in the White House. The New York Times, not conspicuous for its irony, has just written that, other matters permitting, he hopes to do something about unemployment.

Failure to reverse it would indeed make his re-election very difficult in 2012, and is likely to result in large Republican gains in the Congressional elections of November 2010 when the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate will be at stake. The victory in the special election to choose a successor to the late Senator Edward Kennedy in Massachusetts (held exactly one year after the President’s assumption of office) of an unknown and not visibly gifted local politician who campaigned as exponent of the ordinary people’s virtues against the vices of the political elite, shocked the Democrats—who became aware of the danger too late to avert it. The President’s approval ratings in the public opinion polls are not worse than that of many of his predecessors at this period of the Presidency (at the end of January, half the public thought he was performing to their satisfaction) –but the contrast with the large expectations he evoked earlier, the returned confidence of the Republicans and demoralization and pronounced division amongst the Democrats, is very striking.

The relationship between domestic and foreign policy in American Presidencies follows no very standard pattern. In general, a President whose standing in domestic matters is high is freer to maneuver in foreign affairs. That is not always the case, and Lyndon Johnson, a very successful and major domestic reformer, knew that the Vietnam War was unwinnable but did not act on his insight because he feared being attacked as weak. Yet in 1964 he had won a very convincing victory against his opponent, Senator Goldwater (whom he charged with planning to do what Johnson promptly did in 1965, expand the war in Vietnam.) Nixon, per contra, entered the White House in 1969 with a reputation for unmitigated bellicosity, and proceeded to open relations with the People’s Republic of China (refused by the US, absurdly, since the Communists’ assumption of power two decades earlier), engaged in serious negotiations with the Soviet Union, and in effect abandoned our south Vietnamese client state to its fate. As the last President Bush became increasingly mired in what struck an American majority as an interminable and for many, unnecessary, war in Iraq he found that despite his re-election in 2004, he had no majority for his domestic priorities, permanent and structural rather than incidental reductions in expenditure for the American welfare state.

The Obama Presidential majority of November 2008 clearly sought a new beginning in our politics, but how many of the President’s voters shared his complex and differentiated foreign policy perspective is not at all clear. He took his election as a mandate to announce policies which would have been inconceivable under Bush and unimaginable had McCain won: reconciliation with the Islamic world, new beginning of cooperation with China and Russia, an end to hegemonic bullying in the western hemisphere, an invitation to the European Union to propose its own initiatives in world politics (of which it proved incapable), US cooperation in serious measures to control environmental destruction, a new US initiative to bring Israel and the Palestinians to a settlement, and negotiations with Iran on its nuclear project. Read more


Mac Rx: Take 2 Tablets and call me in the morning …

There are two major events scheduled this week:

1. An announcement that will shake-up the world and effect our economy and way of life.

2. The State-of-the-Union address

Edited to post actual tablet/Jobes shot from The New York Times


Calling PTC, Come In PTC . . .

I think we all ought to pause and recognize that several members of the Williams wrestling team have faced off against Division I competition of late and competed very well, winning a number of matches.


Comment Guantanamo

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Student Lens 13: In and Around Williams

Trivia: does anyone know what year Thompson Memorial Chapel was built and how many religions on campus are affiliated with it now?


Thaler ’74 Winter Study Class

Great story on Jeff Thaler’s ’74 Winter Study class, discussed at EphBlog last year.

Their lives so far couldn’t have been more different, yet Jason Rapaport and Alain Nkulu have fostered a spirit of brotherhood in a few days that could close a million-mile gap.

Rapaport is a Williams College student who is living with Nkulu and his family this month. Rapaport’s stay is part of a unique winter study program, started by a Portland lawyer, that offers first-hand knowledge of the modern immigrant experience.

Nkulu, 39, is a former veterinarian who hails from Lubumbashi, a city of 1.3 million people in the wartorn Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was jailed and sentenced to death for opposing the ruling party and came to Portland in 2007 seeking political asylum.

Rapaport, 20, grew up on a 2,000-acre cattle ranch in Big Timber, a one-street town on the southeastern plains of Montana. A junior history major, he has already been accepted to medical school and plans to study international health care.

As different as the two men are, they have found similarities in the ways that their families came to this country.

Rapaport is Jewish – the first Jewish person that Nkulu, a devout Christian, has ever met. Rapaport’s grandparents fled Germany during the Holocaust. They came to the United States with nothing and settled in Kansas City, Mo.

“They had to build themselves up from square one,” Rapaport said. “So, we’re both relative newcomers to this country, and we both want to make America a stronger place.”

Rapaport is one of six Williams College students who are living with local immigrant families and working with students who are learning to speak English in Portland’s public schools.

The monthlong program was developed by Jeff Thaler, a 1974 Williams College graduate who is a lawyer at Bernstein Shur in Portland. Four students participated each of the past two years. This year, nine students signed up for the program, so he had each one write an essay and picked the top six.

“That’s how many I can fit in my wife’s minivan,” Thaler said. “With all of their luggage, it was tough. It’s a lot of work, making arrangements with the host families and the schools. But I’ve been very moved by the people I’ve met.”

Read the whole thing. Kudos to Thaler. Other excepts and a photo below.
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Faculty Felons?

Are there felons on the Williams faculty? Former professor Bernard Moore claims (pdf) that there are.


1) !?!?!?!?!?!?!!?

2) The only felon (?) that I can think of is Professor John Eusden (now emeritus) who was involved and, I think, arrested (and charged? and convicted?) during his participation with in civil rights protest marches with Martin Luther King, Jr. Doubt that this is what Moore has in mind . . .

3) Which faculty members does Moore have in mind? I have no idea. Since he was only at Williams for 14 months, it is unlikely that Moore had meaningful conversations with more than a handful (20?) of other faculty members, almost all of whom would have been in political science. Do faculty members brag about their rap sheets in such a context, demonstrating their street cred to the new hire? Is Moore just making stuff up?

4) How would EphBlog investigate this claim? We have a list of faculty members, but I have no idea how to use “public records” to search for someone’s prior felony convictions. Suggestions?

5) If the College has knowingly hired (and continues to employ!) felons, then Moore might have a point . . .

6) If you are a Record reporter working on this story, EphBlog is spelled E-P-H . . .


Sondheim at Williams

Two articles describe this weekend’s Stephen Sondheim event in Chapin.  It’s a shame that no podcast of the event is available.  One particularly nice reflection from Sondheim is described in the North Adams Transcript article:

Sondheim held back tears during a college event Saturday night in Chapin Hall, as he talked about the influence his alma mater had on his decision to become a composer and lyricist in the American theater.

“Williams changed my life,” the 1950 graduate said.

Sondheim, who began at the college as an English major, spoke about taking classes taught by Robert Barrow, who was a music professor at the time.

“He did something revolutionary. He took the romance out of music,” Sondheim said.

Barrow taught that everything was about how music works and how it’s an art, he said.

Around the same time Sondheim was taking his first class with Barrow, he also took an art class in which the professor taught how art was a structured and conscious effort.

“Since I have a puzzle mind, it hit me at the right time,” Sondheim said.

He said those lessons came back to him when he worked on “Sunday in the Park with George.”


Student Lens 12: In and Around Williams


300 Level Courses

A anonymous Williams professor asked me about 300 level courses. Some students take a lot. Some take few. What does the data show?

Excellent question! My class played around with this topic on Friday. (I am always eager to answer questions from Williams professors.) Thanks to the Registrar for providing us with the data. Alas, I don’t have permission to publicly share the data, so, if you have other questions, please ask them in the comments. Basic answer:

See below for more discussion and another chart.
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Ephblog Shortcut Keys

For posters too busy to write out responses to some of the more annoying rhetorical techniques commonly employed on this blog, I present these handy shortcut keys.

  • The instant classic, iterating to agreement
  • Two options for the frequently-needed beating a dead horse
  • The strawman, and his cousin, the red herring
  • To keep David in check, this is handy when Ephblog threatens to transform into KaneBlog, and this, for when it devolves into a Page Six-style gossip rag
  • Of course, we need a troll icon
  • Another Ephblog favorite: moving the goalposts
  • When we need to rant at another poster, who better than Pacino [warning: NSFW]
  • Uncomfortable learning (although I bet Swart could do better …)
  • The false dilemma
  • David found this one: appropriate when someone gets out of line and needs to be bounced
  • For responding to comments so incredibly dumb that a substantive rejoinder is pointless. 
  • And finally, reserved for those special moments when we just can’t take it anymore, I present this classic

Ground Rules (prologue)

I invite all participants in this forum to consider the example of the Ground Rules of Deep Springs College, as they may pertain to our personal conduct herein:

The Ground Rules

The Student Body has maintained two self-enforced ground rules since 1917: the first prohibits the use of drugs and alcohol; the second prohibits leaving the valley during academic terms except for ranch or college business, religious services, or emergencies. The two rules are intended to preserve the intensity and integrity of a student’s experience at Deep Springs. Besides forcing serious and often difficult discussion among the students over the merits of a seriously sober and intensely focused educational experience, the ground rules represent a long tradition of making difficult sacrifices for a cause that all who come to Deep Springs believe in.

The Student Body discusses and votes on the ground rules each year, forcing serious consideration of the purpose of Deep Springs, the nature of the community, and the importance of civil law. The ground rules are demanding, but in following and enforcing them the Student Body protects the purpose of Deep Springs.

I am not going to withdraw from this Forum because of the behavior I have seen– I am going to change it. We are all, capable of better than this.


The Canon at Clark …

(received this am and published here as requested)

Dear Prez of EphBlog:

This weekend I had what Jungians might consider an experience of synchronicity. I thought you & EB readers might be interested because it relates to an Eph.

I finally went to see The Red Book (J.C. Jung) . For those not familiar with it, here’s a link to a NYT article.

The NYT link also has other related links, including one about its history, a recently published facsimile, and the exhibit at the Rubin Museum, where I saw The Red Book.

Accompanying the exhibit was a red hand-out, a chronology of Jung’s life. As I read through the years, remembering what I know about him, I noticed this entry for 1909: “Jung visits the United States on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Clark University….”

What? No mention of Freud. Granted they became rivals. (Think Oedipus Complex) But, I thought the journey to Clark was really because of Freud. Maybe, it was another year. So, I head home to double check.

Surprise: 2009, of course, is the centennial of that 20th anniversary, and Clark University has a great commemorative web page. Yes, Freud was honored, as were many other famous scholars. And, he gave a series of famous lectures during that visit. There’s also a famous photo.

So, what does this have to do with Eph-dom? Well, the organizer of the conference was the first president of Clark University, G. Stanley Hall, who was also the first president of the American Psychological Association, and graduated from Williams in 1867.

I originally learned about Hall’s connection to Williams unexpectedly because I once wandered around the Math Library in Bronfman, which is adjacent to some psychology department offices. By the offices I found a display case filled with artifacts related to Hall. He earned his doctorate under the tutelage of William James, another bigwig of psychology, philosophy too, also the brother of James and Alice.

I, and probably anyone who’s taken the equivalent of Psych 101, should recognize Hall’s name. I associate him primarily with being a pioneer or “founder” of psychology in America. I guess it shows what one can learn in a large lecture course with a classic textbook and supplemental reading. Does anyone know how he’s presented in Williams version of this course?

Regular Reader of EB,
Parent ’12


Draft and Comments

Here is the latest draft of my students’ paper for my Winter Study class. (Only two students are left.) Here are my comments. Feel free to chime in if you have suggestions for the students or for me.


Wagner Letter?

The Trustees are meeting this week-end. Last year, at this time, I guessed about what they would decided and was (mostly?) correct. This year, I have a much worse sense of things. My speculation:

1) There will be a letter from Bill Wagner on Monday which discusses the Trustee meeting and some of the decisions that have been made. Falk will be mentioned in the letter, but he won’t sign it.

2) Stetson/Sawyer and Weston Field renovations stay postponed. There is just not enough money to do these right now. (I could be wrong about Stetson/Sawyer. I think that Professor Brown has mentioned that, if the College does not act, a lot of the work with regard to permits and whatnot will need to be redone.) I have no problem with these delays. If anything, Stetson/Sawer should be rethought. The College will not need to store tens of thousands of books and journals in the middle of campus a decade from now.

3) Continued crack-down on visiting professors. These are easy to cut and (I think) a poor use of resources. The only exceptions will probably be for languages.

4) Continued increase in class size from 538 to 554, as we already documented. This is a bad idea. (How much happier were you with a single rather than a double?) But the money is too easy to pass up and, when push comes to shove, the people who run Williams don’t really care if 40 extra students go from singles to doubles. However, I bet that this change is not mentioned in the letter. Why alarm the little people?

5) Salary freeze will be mentioned. I don’t have a good sense of whether or not this will be ended or maintained. Predictions? The fairest would be to end the salary freeze for those making less than $75,000 or whatever. But that is just my progressive outlook shining through again . . .

6) I hope that there won’t be any changes with regard to financial aid for international students. Might the College step away from need-blind? Perhaps. Apparently, this has been a hot topic at recent faculty meetings. My guess would be no change, just because the market has bounced back so strongly since last year.

What other topics might be mentioned?


Historical Perspective on Citizens United

Good essay from Prof. David Kaiser:

Political speech was free, or almost free, when the first amendment was passed, in two different ways: not only did the law now protect it, but the production and distribution of written materials (the only ones then available) was extremely cheap. In the early nineteenth century, yours truly might have started and turned out a weekly broadsheet almost as easily as I now turn out this blog. The point is not whether material like Hillary can be produced–of course it can, although it testifies to the decline of American political discourse in the last half century–the point is who will have the money to advertise it and broadcast it on cable television. Just as Anatole France remarked that the law impartially forbade both the rich and the poor from sleeping under bridges, the law now impartially allows David Kaiser, the heads of Citibank and Goldman Sachs, and Glenn Beck to make their views available on television to audiences of millions. The problem is that only three of them will be able to do so. The reformers of the 1900-80 era did not need rocket science to figure out that increasingly expensive modern forms of communication would obviously give incredible advantages to the rich and powerful and thus had to be regulated to give ordinary citizens a chance to be heard. A 5-4 Supreme Court majority has now thrown out a century of tradition and returned us to a form of political Darwinism (see my earlier posts on social Darwinism several years ago, easily located by a search at the top of the page.)

The current crisis in American life, I have been saying here now for five years, will lead either to a kind of New Deal revival or to a return to the Gilded Age. Karl Rove understands this and cited William McKinley as his political hero. The court just brought us immensely closer to a return to McKinley’s age.

Those like me who never have and never will abandon the New Deal principles they learned in their youth inevitably mourn the likely eclipse, for the rest of our lifetimes, of those principles. But once again my training as a European historian at least enables me to say that things could be much, much worse. Although the Republicans have frequently bent the law (most notably in 2000 and again this week), they have successfully undid the work of our parents and grandparents mainly through legal means. There is no Fascist movement or dictatorship on the horizon (although one could still emerge.) It was the America of the Gilded age to which my paternal grandfather came around 1900, making my own life possible. The liberal tradition will survive, even if will only be revived years after the Boom generation has passed from the scene. (I do not exclude the possibility that my own side might still prevail even in this crisis, but it does not look at all likely.) If the Founding Fathers managed to design a system that can preserve essential liberties and survive even severe swings to the right and left, they will still deserve our thanks.

Emphasis mine. Read the whole thing here.

The central theme of the recent book Packing the Court by Prof. James MacGregor Burns is the undemocratic and unconstitutional rise of Supreme Court power. He writes (emphasis mine):

In retrospect, the court has far more often been a tool for reaction, not progress. Whether in the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century or the Gilded Age at the turn of the twenty-first, the justices have most fiercely protected the rights and liberties of the minority of the powerful and the propertied. Americans cannot look to the judicial branch for leadership.

Confronted with what he calls “unelected and unaccountable politicians in robes”, Burns proposes that the only way to break judicial power is for the democratic branches of government to challenge it, either through a constitutional amendment, or a somewhat more daring strategy:

Confronted by a hostile court repeatedly striking down vital progressive legislation, a president could declare that there is no place in a modern democracy for unelected judges to veto twenty-first-century laws. The president would announce flatly that he or she would not accept the Supreme Court’s verdicts because the power of judicial emasculation of legislation was not – and never had been – in the Constitution. The president would invite the partisans of judicial supremacy to try to write that authority into the Constitution by proposing a constitutional amendment. Through their representatives in Congress and the state legislatures, the American people would be given the choice denied them in 1803: to establish in the Constitution the power of judicial supremacy, or to reject that power. Only by this route could judicial rule be legitimated, “constitutionalized.” In the meantime, until the matter was settled, the president would faithfully execute the laws the Supreme Court had unconstitutionally vetoed.

It would be a risky strategy, an open defiance of constitutional customs and the myths and mysteries that have long enshrouded the court. Traditionalists would be outraged. Professors of law would express their concern in learned treatises. Powerful interests with a stake in the status quo – business groups, conservative lawyers, and their supporters in the political class – would spearhead a campaign of opposition. There might even be demands for impeachment. In the ensuing turbulence, though, the president would have an enormous strategic advantage. He would need only to sit tight. The burden would be on his adversaries to initiate the new and momentous amendment to the Constitution and to obtain a mandate for judicial rule. For once it would be the foes of reform, not the reformers, who would have to go through the constitutional hoops of amendment, with all the traps and delays.

Above all, it would be a test of leadership, of the president’s ability to mobilize followers behind a transformational goal, as FDR had so markedly failed to do in 1937. He would present the idea for what it was – a revolutionary challenge to judicial business-as-usual, to minority rule by a handful of judges, a fight for the Constitution as the people’s charter, not a lawyer’s contract.[…]

If judicial rule was not ratified by the people in the amending process, the Supreme Court’s exclusive grip on constitutional interpretation would be broken. Shorn of its supremacy, the court would still retain crucial tasks. It would still be called upon to interpret ambiguous statutes, adjust conflicting laws, clarify jurisdictions, and police the boundaries of federal-state power – virtually all of its present responsibilities except that of declaring federal laws unconstitutional. It would simply be brought closer to the role the Framers originally envisioned for it.

Quotation above taken from the Epilogue, “Ending Judicial Supremacy”, to Prof. Burns’ book.

Burns seems to expect that a constitutional crisis of this magnitude will occur at some point in the future, perhaps in the near future. With Citizens United, the opportunity for the democratic branches of govt. to reform judicial power may have occurred before even he would have expected it. What are the chances that the Democratic leadership in Congress and the White House will challenge the court?


Feed Us Happy-Talk

I enjoyed this letter in the Transcript.

To the Editor:

A year ago, if we had read in the paper that employers were hiring again, that health care legislation was proceeding without a bump, that Afghanistan suddenly became a nice place to take your kids, we would’ve known we were being lied to. Back then, we recognized that the problems Obama inherited as president wouldn’t go away overnight.

During his campaign, Obama clearly said that an economy that took eight years to break couldn’t be fixed in a year, that Afghanistan was a graveyard of empires and would not be an easy venture for us.

Candidate Obama didn’t feed us happy-talk, which is why we elected him. He never said America could solve our health care, economic and security problems without raising the deficit. Instead, he talked of hard choices, of government taking painful and contentious first steps towards fixing problems that can’t be left for another day.

It’s time for Americans to realize that governing is hard work and that a president can’t just wave a magic wand and fix everything.

Ellie Light


Indeed. The College Democrats ought to invite Ellie Light to give a talk on campus. I bet that it would be very interesting . . .


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Townie Wingnuttery: PTC on MA-19-JAN-2010 election

UPDATE::PTC had emailed me these comments first and I had drafted a post. I’m going to stand as proxy here for PTC, a bit. — Ken

PTC e-mailed me these further comments on Coakley’s loss. I hope that we can focus more on the substance and less on the personalities. — DK UPDATE 2: As proxy, this is my thread for now, and I’m going to set some groundrules. The first groundrule is: no namecalling. Got it?

The thread has turned into a silly debate about a blogger, rather than the issues at hand. Although I do appreciate the fact that the exchanges with HWC have made it one of the most posted threads in ephgblog history… I do wish someone would speak more to the issues that lost Coakley the election.

Yes I know… how many threads has PTC hijacked with some townie wingnuttery? I am no one to talk… I know, I know!

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Future of Education

Steve O’Grady ’97 on the future of education:

When I arrived at Williams for my undergrad education, one of the first tests I took was to determine whether or not I needed remedial math. In what the Vatican has since acknowledged as a miracle, it was determined that I did not. So when I say I hadn’t done math since high school, I mean I had not done math since high school. Apart from basic arithmetic and the occasional baseball formulas, anyway.

A quick spin around the web turned up a wealth of resources, but most were either too advanced or too simple, and they were all too boring. Some math I like more than others, and algebra wasn’t high on my list. So it was going to take something reasonably interactive.

At which point I thought of my iPhone.

Searching the app store for “algrebra” turned up dozens of applications; after a bit of research, I picked one by Modality called AlgrebraPrep: Factoring, for a reasonable cost of $2.99.

And was absolutely blown away.

Read the whole thing. What is the point of a lecture class at Williams if high (higher?) quality instruction is available for pennies?


Coakley reflects on loss

From The Boston Globe:

(thanks to nuts for the link)


As long as Frank Rich mentions it …

“Theater’s impact on the news and politics is more and more pronounced than it’s ever been. It’s almost all theater. This is something I’ve written about a lot. Whether it be the propaganda, in my view, used by the Bush administration to sell the war in Iraq and declare victory as a “Mission accomplished” playlet, you might call it or Barack Obama setting up those Greek pillars to give his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in Denver in 2008
from ,

Roman Scandals (1933) MGM, Frank Tuttle-director, Busby Berkely-choreographer, story by George S Kaufman

Notice the similarity to the Denver acceptance set when the long shots begin about 3:32.

Cantor in black face. Real blacks shown as slaves and mostly in non-integrated shots. This was true into the 40’s. Bing Crosby being the first who did ‘integrated’ long shots and two-shots.

The bad old days, But still available for reference today.

And furthermore:

The Goldwyn Girls – look for Lucille Ball and Paulette Goddard in the line-up of lovelies.

Gregg Toland was the director of photography. Oscar-winning and pioneering new techniques, Toland was a fixture at MGM. When the studio was trying to increase revenue from its lot by making commercials in the late 60’s, we used him for three commercials for 3M.

Some will find surprising dialogue and shots in this clip. That is because The Johnson Code wasn’t sworn to until 1934 and Scandals had finished production for a release on Christmas 1933. Mr Johnson was also the father of the Hollywood Black List, which was very much alive in ’56 and BBDO still had production responsibility for several client shows. This was in the days when clients actually had their names on shows and commercials were typically one-minute long. This now seems like watching Dr Zhivago – you need an intermission.


Data From the Provost

Huge props to Provost Bill Lenhart and the rest of the Williams Administration for making this excellent collection of data publicly available. (Hat tip to Will Slack ’11.)

1) There is so much good material here, I don’t even know where to begin. I will devote next week to an item-by-item discussion. Contain your excitement.

2) At first glance, this data looks highly detailed and comprehensive. I could imagine that this is almost exactly the same as the information that the Trustees are looking at this week-end. True?

3) As longtime readers know, I (and others at EphBlog) have been complaining/campaigning/cajoling for years in order to encourage Williams to be more transparent. This is exactly the sort of material that we had in mind. Anything (or, almost anything) that is presented at a faculty meeting or to the Trustees ought to be made public.

4) The more information that members of the College community have about Williams, the more informed their opinions will be. More informed opinions lead to better discussion and debate, which leads to better decision-making and results. But that is too wordy! EphBlog needs a handy slogan which encapsulates this argument. Suggestions? Transparency for excellence?


Yale Admissions Video

From a longtime reader:

I know you like to compare/contrast these things.

Personally, I find it cheesy – sounds like Rent

I have not had chance to view this, but I love the idea of alumni/students collaborating on independent projects. At the same time, if I were running the Admissions Office, I would devote my limited resources elsewhere.


Coakley Will Run For AG

Despite (because of) her loss on Tuesday, Martha Coakley ’75 will run for reelection at the Massachusetts Attorney General.

Despite being stung by her devastating loss to Republican Scott Brown in the US Senate race, Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley will return to work this week and seek reelection in the fall, aides said.

“She loves her job,” said Coakley spokesman Corey Welford. “It allows her to take on issues she feels passionately about, to fight for people in the state.”

“She is going to run for reelection. Many of the issues she discussed during this campaign are issues she’s already fully engaged in as attorney general — holding Wall Street accountable, taking on predatory lenders, fighting to make health care more affordable for all our citizens,” Welford said.

Does the heavy involvement of a state attorney general in Industry X tend to raise or lower prices in Industry X? Any historians out there?


Throwback Game

Wednesday, I made the offhand suggestion, during an unrelated discussion, that the basketball team stage an annual throwback game (against an opponent that would otherwise generate little interest) in Lasell Gymnasium, America’s oldest basketball gymnasium.  My comment, in turn, generated some excitement / nostalgia among readers who recalled the uniquely intimidating atmosphere for games played in Lasell.   [Note: I have since discovered that at least one women’s varsity game was played in Lasell in recent years].  One of those memories, from Vicarious ’83:

The Williams-Amherst games were especially raucus. One year we were hosting the ‘Herst and during a time-out an Amherst fan, dressed in colonial garb, came onto the court to lead The Defectors in a cheer. Suddenly, a heroic Eph jumped out of the stands, stole Lord Jeffy’s tri-corner hat, and dashed out of the gym. Lord Jeff gave chase but an alert ticket taker closed the door behind the Eph and pulled the velvet rope up at precisely the right time – sending Lord Jeff sprawling. The resulting ovation made it impossible for us to hear anything the coach was saying.Lord Jeff never made it back into the gym, and later in the game the home crowd started chanting: “Where’s Lord Jeff?, Where’s Lord Jeff?”

(I honestly can’t remember whether we won that game or not.)

This New York Times article likewise provides a sense of life in the old Lasell:

It’s so small that only 600 spectators can squeeze into the bleachers, which are so close to the court that fans sitting in the front row have to be reminded not to stretch their legs. If they did, their feet would trip players scooting up and down the sidelines. There’s room upstairs for 400 standees, but they habitually hang over the railing of an encircling track and pose another threat to players, who are always in danger of being doused by a spilled soft drink. Because of the fire laws in Williamstown, Mass., the school has to count heads carefully to make sure the crowd never totals more than 1,000.

Craziest detail:

Then there are the sideline hoops that allow the gym to be divided into two practice courts. The nonretractable rims stick out over the regulation court and have been known to deflect passes during a game, although that’s considered a minor hazard

by Lasell standards: Until they were removed in 1928, a series of pillars a few feet inside each sideline gave special meaning to the term ”standing pick.”

Love this quote from (present day) AD Harry Sheehy:

As Coach Harry Sheehy put it, ”I’m sure all those anonymous donations to the new gym are from opposing coaches.”

Anyone have more stories from the old Lasell hoops games?  Better yet, any photos?  I believe this court (not positive, but I think so) is still used for J.V. games.  How cool would an annual varsity game (maybe even complete with throwback uniforms — because who doesn’t love short basketball shorts) be were it held in this venue?  Could be staged as some sort of charity event.  Students would, I’m sure, happily bring back the “eat our dust” chant

Speaking of hoops, be sure to check out the free webcast of Williams in Little Three action, at Wesleyan tonight.  Women’s game at 6, men’s game at 8.  The men’s game, in particular, should be an exciting, up-and-down affair, as the two teams combined for nearly 200 points the first time they played this year.


Listen To My Students

Interested in applied statistics? Come listen to my students’ presentation of their Winter Study project!

Monday January 25, 2009

Quantitative Equity Research: A Winter Study Project
11:00 a.m., Schapiro Hall 241

Andrew Liu ’11 and Nai Chien Yeat ’13 will present their paper “The 52-week High and Momentum Investing — A Replication of George and Hwang (2009).” This work was completed for SPEC 29: Applied Data Analysis. Recommended for those interested in how quantitative portfolio managers conduct research and make decisions.

A good time is guaranteed for all!


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