THE STUDENT WEEKLY SINCE 1969
The Commencement Issue
Inside: The economy, politics, and the best of the year.
06.04.09 vol. xl, no. 24 The Indy picks the best of the year.
independent THE HARVARD
President Diana Suen ‘11 Cover art by FAITH ZHANG
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Peter Bacon ‘11 Rachael Becker '11 Andrew Coffman ‘12 Caroline Corbitt ‘09 Truc Doan ‘10 Ray Duer ‘11 Pippa Eccles ‘09 Jessica Estep ‘09 Nicholas Krasney ‘09 Markus Kolic ‘09 Allegra Richards ‘09 Andrew Rist ‘09 Jim Shirey ‘11 Alice Speri ‘09 John Beatty '11 Levi Dudte '11 Steven Rizoli '11
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As Harvard College's weekly undergraduate newsmagazine, the Harvard Independent provides in-depth, critical coverage of issues and events of interest to the Harvard College community. The Independent has no political affiliation, instead offering diverse commentary on news, arts, sports, and student life. For publication information and general inquiries, contact President Diana Suen (firstname.lastname@example.org). Letters to the Editor and comments regarding the content of the publication should be addressed to Editor-in-Chief Sam Jack (email@example.com). Yearly mail subscriptions are available for $30, and semester-long subscriptions are available for $15. To purchase a subscription, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Harvard Independent is published weekly during the academic year, except during vacations, by The Harvard Independent, Inc., P.O. Box 382204, Cambridge, MA 02238-2204. Copyright © 2008 by The Harvard Independent. All rights reserved.
11.09.06 11.02.06 • The Harvard Independent 06.04.09
WEARING YOUR H
Reflections from a graduating senior. By ALLEGRA RICHARDS
ear Classmates, Parents, Friends and Alumni and That Relative You Didn’t Know You Had, At the end of college we are given advice that will stick by us when we leave and stay with us as we move forward. I’ll get to that eventually but first I’m going to talk about a challenge that every single college student faces: laundry. We all have a laundry story — that time you accidentally put money in the wrong machine and sent someone else’s load through the wash again, or the time you accidentally pressed ‘permanent press’ instead of ‘delicates (no one’s ever thanked me for that) or the time you took someone else’s underwear, or the time someone else stole yours. That’s something my parents never prepared me for. Despite not being prepared for laundry, we owe our parents a lot. They were there for us when we all thought we were the ‘Admissions Mistake.’ My parents were there for me in high school when Harvard was still a dream. When I brought up Harvard, my guidance counselor would drop phrases like “military service” and “taking time off”; and phrases like “safety school” and “New Haven.” It’s been quite a ride, ’09. Before I got here, I wondered what we would have in common but I soon discovered that there were many things we shared: a passion for learning, an unstoppable ambition to grow, a ruthless will to win at beer pong, a desire to sexile, and an agreement that French Fries are a breakfast food and that mornings don’t start until 11. Freshman year was a year of firsts: your first roommate, your first realization that
you’re on your own, your first college party. If you were like me, you tried to blend in with your peers. You did what every deer-in-the-headlights freshman does: you declared pre-med. Then you got your first B (or C...). Shortly thereafter you dropped out of the life sciences to break out of your shell and try something new and off the beaten track. We told ourselves we could definitely handle six classes, five extra-curriculars including Varsity Crew, while curing cancer and running the Boston Marathon. As sophomores, we moved into our new Houses, picked concentrations and began to get our bearings. Junior year went by in blur of ignorant bliss of what was to come. And then it happened. We woke up one day and we were seniors. All of the sudden we had to worry about things like loans, and insurance and how to boil water without a set of easy to follow instructions. Senior year was a time for reflection - we went to class, but our minds were otherwise occupied. We sat in section and made sure to structure our one point around the single page we read at breakfast. We said things like, “Um, well I think you’re missing the point here. Yes, I get your argument about post-colonial aestheticism but if you had read page 3 of the introduction clearly, you would know that what the author REALLY meant was...” Uh huh. Yeah. Riiight. Then we sat back and rolled our eyes at the freshmen, with their highlighters and mocha lattes, who actually read the books (amateurs) and who made legitimate comments. We know how to handle ourselves on this campus.
But soon we will make our way out into the ‘Real World,’ which can be a dark and scary place; kind of like Dunster. And once you get there, you can tell it’s been there for a long time but you’re not sure why anyone would want to live there; also kind of like Dunster. Imagine a life without tutors, without Brain Breaks and paper extensions, a universe with a 40-hour work week where Wikipedia won’t help you. You’re probably wondering by now what thoughts I’m going to leave you with before we leap, or more aptly are shoved, wide-eyed, into adulthood. I wasn’t planning on this part, but according to Wikipedia’s entry on Commencement speeches, that’s what we’re here for. I have no doubt that we will all succeed (except for my roommates, who will all mooch off of the only one of us that got an i-banking job this year). So all I have to say is this: do what makes you happy. If what you’re doing doesn’t make you happy, quit. If there’s a recession, quit and go to law school. If law school doesn’t make you happy, you’ll know you’ve really grown up. Also, remember that not taking the conventional path opens up opportunities in disguise. I’m not exactly sure where I heard that, but that’s what I keep telling myself when people ask me why I majored in English. Finally, be good to your parents. They might not have prepared you for everything, but they brought you into this world and they could take you out of it. Now this is where I get a little bit serious for a second. We’ve shared a lot over the last four years, and we’ve made a lot of friends along the way. If you haven’t
shared a lot because you haven’t made a lot of friends, man, this has been the most expensive 4-year summer camp ever. But think about it, chances are the people sitting on either side of you will be the leaders of tomorrow and you’ll still share all of this. And you won’t be the only ones. Alumni sport Crimson attire at The Game; students wear Harvard sweatpants to the dining hall, proud family and friends are quick to run to the Coop to pick up a souvenir cap with a big ‘H’ on the front. And, more often than you would think, you run into someone you don’t know, someone you’ve never met, and you notice Crimson lettering on their jacket. You do ‘the nod,’ because you know they know what’s what. You have no idea who this person is, but they sure will know the difference between ‘major’ and ‘concentration. Leaving is hard, but in 5, 10, even 50 years we will still wear that crimson H and we will still have those memories. So as you pack up your winter coats and Beirut tables, put away your books and say your goodbyes, tomorrow celebrates our initiation into a global Harvard nation of friends, of roommates and of classmates. We’re a part of a group of lawyers, bankers, doctors; of House Masters, professors and tutors; of presidents, soldiers, movers and shakers who share Harvard with us. So don’t be shy as you go forward, wear your H on your sleeve, because, Class of 2009, we did it. Congratulations. The Indy wishes Allegra Richards ’09 (allegra.Richards@post.harvard.edu) all the best.
The Indy congratulates its graduating seniors! Edward Chen, Economics
Nicholas Krasney, Physics
Caroline Corbitt, History and Literature
Markus Kolic, Government
Pippa Eccles, History of Art and Architecture
Allegra Richards, English
Jessica Estep, English
Sally Rinehart, Visual and Environmental Studies
Ben Huang, Physics and Mathematics
Andrew Rist, Classics
Caitie Kakigi, Anthropology
Alice Speri, Literature
The Harvard Independent • 06.04.09
The End of Easy Street Finance-bound seniors face an economy in turmoil. By ADAM HALLOWELL
ESS THAN TWO WEEKS AFTER THE ONSET OF A FINANCIAL crisis
headlined by the bankruptcy of major investment bank Lehman Brothers, Harvard students preparing for careers in finance continue their job search in an uncertain economic climate. The U.S. government took over management of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage market’s two largest firms, on September 7. It later extended an $85 billion loan to insurance giant AIG in return for 80 percent ownership of the firm. The rescue came on September 16, one day after Lehman’s Chapter 11 filing and Merrill Lynch’s acquisition by Bank of America. Along with the collapse of Bear Stearns in March, Lehman’s bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch’s sale left only Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley among the ranks of big investment banks. Those two firms agreed on Monday to be treated as traditional bank holding companies in exchange for stricter regulation, in what the Guardian called “the end of an era for Wall Street” — and, by extension, the end of an era for job-hunting Harvard students. “With this wild amount of money you hear people being paid on Wall Street, those days are probably over,” said Robin Mount, the Interim Director of Harvard’s Office of Career Services, who maintained a cautiously optimistic view of the Class of 2009’s application prospects. Mount described a new level of seriousness this fall at drop-in sessions and résumé roundtables. “In other years, people were busy text messaging and sending e-mail, but this year people were really paying attention. They were doing their best to polish themselves up.” “Always this time of year we see people weighing their options,” she added. “This year we’re just seeing a much higher stress level.” Mount said that financial firms’ interest in hiring Harvard students remained high. Though the big investment banks had already pared back their recruiting and will focus their efforts on their interns from this summer, 37 financial firms will be represented at OCS’s Career Forum this Friday. However, recognizing that a turbulent financial scene makes it more important than ever for students to put their best foot forward, Mount recommended that interested students bring their résumés to the forum and dress in business casual. The roots of this month’s financial upheaval lie in the subprime mortgage crisis, a drama involving several of the big names in recent news. In the American mortgage market, individual mortgages were bought in a secondary market by financial companies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, privately-owned enterprises which had been created by Congress but since privatized. Pools of these mortgages were divided up into standardized “mortgage-backed securities” (MBSs) and bought by investment banks, securities powerhouses less tightly regulated than conventional retail banks. The housing bubble of the early 2000s saw soaring prices and record levels of construction. Many of the new homes were bought using “adjustable rate” mortgages (ARMs), in which the interest rate can increase or decrease over time based on the market’s interest rates, rather than being fixed for the life of the mortgage. Because of both the structure of such loans and the high price of housing, these mortgages were riskier than the average pre-bubble mortgage. Still, homeowners and investors were confident that the mortgages were safe because of two prevalent assumptions: rising home prices would allow buyers to refinance their mortgages at more favorable terms, and low interest rates would prevent widespread defaults on ARMs. High investor interest in MBSs maintained a reliable flow of capital to the mortgage market.
But after the housing bubble peaked in 2005, housing prices declined, interest rates increased, and the number of mortgage defaults rose ominously. As Professor Martin Feldstein wrote in a March 2008 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, a homeowner whose home price falls below the value of his mortgage has “negative equity” and faces “a strong incentive to default, even if he can afford to make the monthly payments.” Furthermore, the complex nature of the mortgage market — and of MBSs in particular — made it difficult to negotiate with homeowners to forestall defaults. As mortgage payments to financial companies dried up, a “credit crunch” ensued in the summer of 2007 as banks found it more difficult to make loans and thereby drove interest rates up higher. Continuing defaults left many financial institutions holding mortgages that turned out to be overvalued (unsellable at their assumed price), and fears rose that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and investment banks might not be able to maintain solvency. Concerns about the stability of the financial system soon spread overseas. In fact, the first casualty of the crunch was Northern Rock, a British commercial bank, which saw customers withdraw 1 billion pounds in a one-day bank run on September 14, 2007. Foreshadowing similar actions in the United States, the Bank of England extended an emergency loan to the bank and, in February 2008, effectively nationalized it. In New York, Bear Stearns faced similar problems after being forced to write off its two subprime hedge funds in July 2007. Unable to amass enough funds to offset the losses, Bear Stearns’s stock plummeted from a high of over $170 a share in early 2007: the troubled firm was bought by JPMorgan Chase on March 16, 2008, for only $2 a share (later increased to $10 a share). JPMorgan Chase’s bid was supported by guarantees from the Federal Reserve, which, along with government regulators, took action in March to prevent further damage.
The Fed provided increased liquidity to banks while proposing greater regulatory oversight of their activities. But worries over the summer focused on whether Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be able to cover their estimated $5.2 trillion in mortgage-related debt. (In comparison, the U.S. national debt is about $9.8 trillion.) Fearing that a massive loss of confidence in the firms could threaten the U.S. mortgage industry itself, of which Fannie and Freddie control about half, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson supported the beleaguered companies by pledging loans. In a move authorized by Congress, Paulson also negotiated the right to intervene in the firms with taxpayer money, though he hoped that investors would be heartened enough that carrying it out would be unnecessary. “If you have a bazooka in your pocket and people know it, you probably won’t have to use it,” he told a Senate committee on July 15. But the markets ultimately called Paulson’s bluff, and on September 5, the Treasury Department announced a plan to take the firms into government “conservatorship.” Little more than a week later, on September 15, Merrill Lynch and Lehman also collapsed from the continued strain of their MBS holdings. Merrill Lynch sold itself to Bank of America, its commercial-bank rival, at a fire-sale price of $50 billion. In contrast, Lehman failed to find a buyer. When Paulson refused to bail out the firm, it filed for bankruptcy, becoming the largest firm to do so in U.S. history. Even AIG, primarily an insurance corporation and thought to be above the fray, saw its financial division’s subprime holdings raise doubts about its solvency too. Facing possible bankruptcy, the insurer struck a deal with the Fed for an emergency loan which saw the government gain a major equity stake in the firm. At OCS, Mount agreed that the tectonic changes in the financial landscape have altered the job prospects of many seniors. However, since the damage has so far been largely contained to housing securities, the picture still looks bright for many small investment banks. “Some of the smaller ‘boutique’ firms such as Jeffries are in fine shape,” Mount said, adding that hedge funds and private equity groups were also tending to hold up well, depending on their strategies. Some ethical issues surround the government bailouts, which prop up the ailing firms by putting taxpayer funds at risk. Many economists worry that the government intervention constitutes “socialism for the rich” by shielding bankers from the downside consequences of their actions. “If financial institutions are deemed too big and too complex to fail, their managers will have an incentive to make them big and complex,” The Economist magazine wrote in an editorial published on August 7. “Why not take risks, if you know that central banks will intervene only in falling, not rising, markets?” But the bailouts are justified as being necessary to prevent investors and bank customers from losing confidence in the security of their investments and causing a major financial panic by withdrawing all of their investments at once. A panel discussion of the financial turmoil, “Understanding the Crisis in the Markets: A Panel of Harvard Experts,” is planned for this afternoon at 4 p.m. in Sanders Theatre. Faculty members to speak include Robert Kaplan, Jay Light, Gregory Mankiw, Robert Merton, Kenneth Rogoff, and Elizabeth Warren. Some students in the audience in Sanders will likely also attend the Career Forum on Friday, held in the Gordon Track and Tennis Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They’ll be trying to figure out how the next twist in the markets will impact their chances, and Mount and the rest of the OCS staff will be alongside them. “Really we’re just trying to keep ahead of things,” she said, “to be prepared.” 06.04.09 • The Harvard Independent
Another Brick in the Wall Facebook discourages meaningful human contact. By ANDREW COFFMAN
P INK F LOYD ’ S “N OBODY Home” knows that Roger Waters claims to have “amazing powers of observation.” But who would have guessed that these powers could go as far as clairvoyance? Waters recorded those lyrics as part of his brainchild and magnum opus The Wall, which relates the story of Pink, a rock star who isolates himself from the rest of the world to avoid pain by putting up a figurative wall. Now nearly thirty years later, the world’s youth has followed suit and put up its own, much more literal wall: the Facebook wall. This past week heralded the official switch from the old Facebook to a new, updated version, a move which stirred the anger of many users. The level of backlash perhaps should make us take stock of how the Facebook institution has changed and corrupted our means of communication. The website’s classification as a “social networking site” belies its in fact isolating and solipsistic effect. In the same song, “Nobody Home,” Waters as Pink laments his lack of communication with his estranged wife: “When I try to get through / on the telephone to you / there’ll be nobody home.” In today’s world, he clearly could have just Facebook chatted with her. If she were out and about, she probably still would have been on Facebook Mobile. Perhaps, though (and this is a ghastly prospect), she just generally prefers to avoid phone conversations. Indeed, the ease of using the Facebook chat feature or the wall makes conversation in person, or even over the phone, unnecessary and sometimes undesirable. We can talk to people without actually having any human connection, which can be a godsend for people looking to avoid awkwardness and stress. Whereas Pink is painfully denied communication with his wife and as a result withdraws himself from any further relationships, we are voluntarily denying ourselves a critical aspect of communication and slipping slowly behind the defenses of profile pictures and walls. It seems that Pink would have thrived in this sort of Facebook-driven environment. Mini-feed update: Pink wrote on your Wall: “Hey you, out there on your own, sitting naked by the phone, would you touch me?” Status update: “Pink has become comfortably numb.” Pink has posted a discussion topic in the group Congressman Ron Paul for President 2008: “Should I trust the government?” Pink edited his About Me: “I’ve got a little black book with my poems in. I’ve got a bag with a toothbrush and comb in. When I’m a good dog they sometimes throw me a bone in.” NYONE WHO HAS HEARD
The Harvard Independent • 06.04.09
However, Pink’s wall is not only a means of isolation, but also a vehicle for self-deification. As he sits behind his wall cut off from everyone else, he develops the persona of a fascist dictator, the ultimate perversion of rock star status. While I will not assert that Facebook brings out the Hitler in all of us, it is worthwhile to note the site’s encouragement of egotism. The wall feature is a quite peculiar means of communication, in that all posts can be publically viewed, depending on security settings. Why not use the private messaging or instant messaging features, instead of publicly displaying one’s own wit or emotions for the world to see? Does everyone need to know about the crazy night you enjoyed and the hijinks that went along with it? Can the discussion of last weekend with your bro not be left for a oneon-one? Yes to the former question, no to the latter, if you want to prove to all your friends that you know how to enjoy yourself. And so I arrive at the paradox of Facebook: while linking people to each other, it allows for the individuals to create and cultivate an inflated selfimage, thus leading to the existence of individual egos butting heads under the pretense of networking. After all, why do we friend nearly every single person we encounter? Most of us are not even friends with the overwhelming majority of our Facebook friends. I have yet to meet anyone who can manage to have meaningful relationships with over 1,000 people. Perhaps I am just missing something. But the more friends you have on Facebook, the more real friends you appear to have, and the better you look. Each person you add can view your interactions with others, and can help strengthen your social status. Apologies to Waters, but that new friend is all in all just another brick in your wall, even if he does not post on it. I perhaps have erred on the side of hyperbole in this article, just as the people bewailing the arrival of the new Facebook have. Still, it is important to remember Waters’ words at the end of the album, after Pink has put himself on trial and torn down the wall: “All alone, or in twos / the ones who really love you / walk up and down outside the wall.” If we cannot bring ourselves to tear down our own Facebook walls, then at least we can be mindful of the inanity, if not danger, of abusing Facebook. Hopefully Waters will not prove entirely prophetic (and so I come back to where I came in…) If you try to get through on the telephone to Andrew Coffman ’12 (acoffman@fas), there ’ll be nobody home.
Over intersession, I ate a living animal — and it was delicious. By DIANA SUEN
O THERE ONCE. WALK AROUND, ENJOY IT, BUT never return,” a random man warned me ominously. My boyfriend and I were on our way to Provincetown, the town at the very tip of the Cape. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably echoing similar sentiments as that mysterious man. “Cape Cod in the winter? Really?” Well, in my defense, the New York Times had just published an article about Provincetown on its “Frugal Traveler Blog” just a few days before we would arrive so there had to be something to make up for the fact that the city’s practically a ghost town in the winter. The article offered advice on enjoying the scant food, lodging, shopping, and entertainment available, but what really caught my eye was the oyster shucking. On his visit to Provincetown, the “Frugal Traveler” had bought eight oysters at the local Provincetown Stop & Shop and shucked them himself. And yes, he swallowed them raw. I had never eaten oysters raw before. It seemed uncharacteristically violent — when people say they ate raw oysters, they actually mean they ate live raw oysters — and just generally gross. Back home, my family occasionally eats steamed oysters with black bean and scallion sauce, and even then, it’s quite an adventure. My mom and I used to fight for the oysters with the smallest bulges. Less nasty digestive stuff, we reasoned. I figured if I thought cooked digestive stuff was bad, raw digestive stuff had to be just plain disgusting. Plus, I could imagine the oyster sliding down my throat, squirming and convulsing in its struggle for life. Sometimes, though, if you want to be a bad ass, you need to make some sacrifices. I sent that article to my boyfriend and we agreed. We’d walk around and enjoy the view, but to really enjoy this intersession, we knew we had to shuck some oysters ourselves. When we arrived at Provincetown, we looked up grocery stores in the area. The bad news was that none of the Google results listed the Provincetown Stop & Shop. And the even worse news was that most of the stores weren’t even open and wouldn’t be for another four months. Forget oysters — this was now a struggle for survival. Luckily, when we called stores to check for hours (and, more pertinently, months) of operation, we found out that one of the grocery stores was actually still open, and it had a new name. There it was, our Provincetown Stop & Shop. Crisis averted. We made the trek over and found our greenishblack, calcified oysters in the seafood counter. After debating how many to purchase, we decided that half a
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Llama at the Lectern A paragon of post-modernity. By LEVI DUDTE
T BEGAN INNOCENTLY ENOUGH.
THE FIRST half of the 20th century was an especially tough one for the human race. We had just finished putting ourselves through two world wars. (The first turned out to be inadequate.) Intellectuals everywhere found themselves clambering out from under the wreckage of war, that collective human mechanism of ultimate irrationality: selfdestruction. In stepping back into the light of day, these thinkers, be they physicists, philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, novelists, painters, poets or otherwise, remained irrevocably covered in the soot of memory, sullied by a common past as humans that somehow all had managed to play cogs in their own demise. So, understandably, they tried to brush themselves clean, to shake free from the debris and detritus of a global rupture in the (teleo)logical progress of humanity and to begin anew. The dust of conflict, however, would simply not wash out of the relatively innocent ideas they had fancied before a pair of international wars. Physics had frightened itself at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, sociology in Germany, and philosophy across the entire European continent. Art resumed its attempts to craft the aesthetically pleasing or interesting, pasting together the broken fragments of postwar newspapers and photographs, texts and images, and calling these new creations collage and pastiche, Dada and surreal. Our collective memory could not erase the pain we had inflicted upon ourselves. Our ideas became
permanently dirtied, splintered and afraid of their own reflections. But what better way to emerge from such a shattered scene than to embrace its very causes? Here we witness the birth of postmodernism, a word that can smirk even with the full knowledge of its roots in collective trauma, in modernity. Embrace the inevitable chaos and irrationality that constitute your existence, postmodernism whispered, and you too can laugh again. Do not fear collective demise. Simply understand our recent brush with apocalypse and relinquish responsibility. Now fast forward about fifty years. Postmodernism is a richly developed framework for understanding our state in history, our position relative to our past. Its scope spans virtually all knowledge. One genealogy of this span begins with philosophy (from Frenchmen with names like Jacques Derrida), passes through literature, and extends to film. What film have you (you educated and affluent Harvard student, you) seen that best embodies this sweeping Zeitgeist that must surely frame your entire existence? The answer, which also happens to be the punch line of my thesis, is The Emperor’s New Groove. Though it appears to be a children’s film (released by none other than Disney in 2000), this ostensibly simple tale with a single moral arc can probably teach you more about postmodernism than most anyone can. (This thesis is not hyperbole, but it may
be deceptive. So let’s work through a solid counterexample that you might propose before we proceed to examine The Emperor’s New Groove in light of my claim. The mind of seminal postmodern author Thomas Pynchon is more thoroughly steeped in the ideas and experiences of a postmodern world, we can assume, than a gaggle of children’s movie script writers. However, Pynchon’s mind, being so saturated in the confusion and chaos that is postmodernity, defeats itself in the process of attempting to offer such an understanding to others. Ask anyone who has been tempted by the mystique of his Gravity’s Rainbow and they will unanimously urge you to flee from its illegible and endless pages. We can say assuredly, then, that the more any mind grasps postmodernism, the less it is able to impress such an understanding upon others. We need a shallow, playful mind to introduce us to this massively illogical system. Cue the talking llama. Or myself, as the case may be.) The film’s plot, a short moral arc that traces the em otional development of an Incan emperor-turned-llama-turnedemperor-again named Kuzco, houses schematic discontinuities that combine with an layered, non-linear narrative perspective to inculcate the unsuspecting mind to the endlessly flexible conundrum that is postmodernity. Kuzco narrates his own tale, exhibiting as the narrator the same emotional construct present in his onscreen character. His voice opens the film,
introducing us to a story that we assume will produce the narrator’s present state. That is, Kuzco’s role as narrator presumes an awareness of the conclusion of the film and thus necessitates that he be a developed version of the character we see on-screen. Not so here. Kuzco the narrator attempts to predispose our opinions of the characters onscreen in accord with his own, a conflation of subjective and the objective voice. But Kuzco has fun with the duality, interceding in the action of the film when evidence arises that might lead the viewer to place blame rather than praise on his bad llama self. The climax of the film is conditioned upon another impossibility: the survival of Kronk and Yzma, Kuzco’s foes. Kuzco stares, bewildered by their presence at the very moment of his possible salvation (changing back into a human). Kronk concludes that he and Yzma probably had died early in the film, but that this problem did not change the fact of his renewed presence. An illogical but motive storyline. Postmodernism. I first saw the film soon after it was released and it remains a personal favorite. Its flexibility and humor are illogical, but somehow intuitive, an endlessly explored postmodern paradox that is surely the foundation of the film’s comedic appeal. But don’t think too hard. I’m just a talking llama. Levi Dudte ’11 (ldudte@fas) took Miss Narca’s postmodern interpretive dance – two semesters.
OYSTERS CONTINUED FROM PAGE 5 dozen would be a good amount. At three each, it would be enough to give us the full oyster-shucking experience but not so much that we would feel ridiculous in case we really hated them. We prepped ourselves on the proper oyster-shucking technique by watching a how-to video by a Legal Sea Foods chef we found on YouTube. He advised to use an oyster knife, dish-towel, and a protective glove. Dish-towel, we had. Oyster knife and protective glove? Well, we figured we could improvise. Now, the process for shucking an oyster is actually remarkable simple. You orient your oyster so that its bulge extends downward and you hold it down on the other side. You then wiggle your oyster knife into the “natural hinge” of the oyster – the pointed end of the oyster – and turn your knife, working it like a lever, until the oyster pops open. Oysters are connected to both the top and bottom shell of the oyster though, so you have to run the knife all around the shell, making sure to separate it at the top. Once you’ve done that, you can open it all the way and there’s your juicy oyster, sitting in its porcelain shell and clear, salty brine.
Unfortunately for us, we didn’t have the special oyster knife that would make the process easy. Instead, heeding the advice of the man behind the seafood counter, we tried using a butter knife. The butter knives we had were much thicker and larger than the oyster knife we saw in the video but still, we enthusiastically set ourselves upon the task of forcing the knife into that natural hinge. It didn’t work. Instead of opening up the oysters beautifully, we found ourselves breaking off chalky pieces of the oyster shell and not in places that could help us reach the oyster either. The chalky pieces that fell off were the excess side parts of the oyster shell, and our oysters remained as tightly shut as ever. We rummaged through the kitchen drawers and imagined using steak knives, corkscrews, and spatulas to open the oyster, but none of those seemed useful for the task at hand. Then we remembered that we had brought along a Swiss Army knife. The blade was sharp and pointed, much like the oyster knife. The only downside was that it was retractable and therefore slightly more dangerous. We quickly tried prying open one of the oysters. The
blade slipped into the natural hinge quite easily this time, and when we turned it, the oyster popped open just as the video had said. It was tougher to separate the oyster from the top of the shell than we imagined – we ended up accidentally slicing the top part of the oyster – but there it was, our gorgeous, glistening oyster, just waiting to be consumed. We added a bit of lemon juice and Tabasco, stared at each other with determination, and swallowed it whole. Delicious. We went through the rest of the oysters like they were nothing, and when we were done, we felt so satisfied. We had overcome the ultimate battle of man versus nature. We had shucked those oysters, we had eaten those oysters, and I had gotten a battle scar to prove it. (Much to my finger’s dismay, the retractable blade did, in fact, retract.) It was worth it though – the oysters were that good — it was an experience worth repeating. Diana Suen ‘11 (dsuen@fas) returned for a dozen more oysters the next day.
06.04.09 • The Harvard Independent
Why So Serious? Why Iron Man surpasses The Dark Knight. By FAITH ZHANG
ET’S BEGIN WITH A SIMPLE STATEMENT: MOVIES THAT ARE
all doom and gloom fail to please me – and, for the record, unrelenting darkness is no more realistic than slapstick comedy. This is only a tiny part of why Iron Man is better than The Dark Knight, but it’s a start. It doesn’t help that Christian Bale playing Batman is unspeakably boring, which is probably the fault of the script and not his fault, although it doesn’t help that he’s really a rather bland sort of handsome. The problem with this incarnation of Batman is that the viewer gets no insight into him whatsoever. We know that his parents were killed, that he loves Rachel Dawes, and that he’s afraid of bats – but these things are too few to build a real personality out of, and we get no sense of his internal life, if he even has one. It’s unfortunate that the Joker, the villain, is so much more compelling than the hero of the piece. I do understand that half the point of Batman is that he’s too – too what? Too dignified, too damaged, too dead on the inside, take your pick – to do anything just for the fun of it, but I got over the strong and silent type a long time ago. Half the time they’re silent because they have nothing worth saying, and I will admit that I much prefer a hero who wears a maniacal grin and cannot refrain from making wisecracks whatever the situation – I am above all things a fan of snark. All of this is not to say that Tony Stark is the ideal hero – he’s a hedonist and a womanizer, and the sequel to Iron Man will apparently be involve his struggle with alcoholism. But he’s such a vividly drawn character: he talks to his robots and has programmed his house to talk back, he has an amusingly complicated relationship with Pepper, his personal assistant, and he so clearly appreciates both the trappings of wealth and the suit that gives him superpowers. Batman arguably has better gadgets than Iron Man – call their suits even, but Batman gets extra points for the Batmobile, although perhaps a few have to be subtracted for the tacky bat theme. And yet Iron Man clearly enjoys exactly what the audience also enjoys about superhero movies: how cool it is to be able to have these gadgets and fly and leap tall buildings in a single bound. It’s refreshing to have a hero who doesn’t take himself too seriously, who can have principles without finding it necessary to martyr himself. He is no one’s idea of a savior or a paragon of virtue, but he is a person, with all the glorious messiness it implies – and when in costume, he doesn’t find it necessary to talk in a voice that sounds like he has a throat disease. Here’s the thing: at the bottom of it all, Iron Man is a story about truth and responsibility. It opens with Tony Stark discovering the truth about exactly where the weapons his company manufactures are going and what they’re being used for – whom they’re hurting – and it ends with him tossing away the smooth denials handed to him and telling the truth about who he is. In between, Tony, armed with his newly discovered idealism, manages to rescue himself, take responsibility for what his company has been doing, rescue a few other people, and build a shiny, shiny metal suit. He sees what’s happening, decides what needs to be done about it, and then does it himself – he builds the suit with his own two hands. There is something to be said for a hero who makes his own gadgets and can’t quite resist telling the world about it because he thinks it’s just too awesome to keep to himself. The Dark Knight is exactly the opposite: a story about The Harvard Independent • 06.04.09
lies. It’s not just that the lie of Batman’s identity runs throughout the movie; that one can be dismissed as standard for superhero movies, although a quick census of recent ones – Fantastic Four, X-Men – shows that this isn’t always the case. It’s that every time there’s an opportunity to tell the truth, a lie is told instead. The Joker, of course, lies over and over again; when the Joker demands Batman’s identity, Harvey Dent steps up instead of Bruce Wayne. Write those off, too, as villainy or expediency; but it is one grand final lie that simultaneously ends the movie on a needlessly melodramatic note – a dark knight? Really? That’s the kind of title I would’ve found so romantic at about the age of eleven – and makes absolutely no sense. If it really is necessary to hide the fact that Harvey Dent became Two-Face – a point which I contest – why not blame his deeds on the Joker? (Why is Batman so determined to make himself a martyr?) Do Batman and Commissioner Gordon really expect everyone to believe it, when Two-Face has walked the streets with one side of his face still clearly recognizable? And, most importantly, why exactly is it that Harvey Dent’s deeds need to be kept from the general public? Here we’ve come to what is perhaps the central problem I have with The Dark Knight: two men of highly questionable qualifications decide to keep the truth from the public – why? It might be more palatable if it were framed as a matter of being unwilling to posthumously dishonor a good man who fell from grace, but that’s not the case; instead, it’s framed as a decision to protect the public from knowledge too dangerous to disseminate. This is a concept that I find problematic in nearly any context; I’m willing to accept that certain things – nuclear secrets, for instance, or the identities of CIA agents – ought not to be in the public record, but outside these very narrow categories, I believe that there is some inherent value to truth. In the context of The Dark Knight, I find the idea that learning the truth about Harvey Dent will – what? Push the people of Gotham into a dark puddle of despair? Destroy public faith in a white knight that seems to have actually accomplished very little? Ridiculous, never mind
the way that the decision seems contrived merely for the purpose of pushing Batman farther outside the bounds of society and thus make him cooler. Or put it this way: who is Batman to make such a decision? He’s merely the person who happens to be there at the time, merely the strongest vigilante in a city apparently swarming with vigilantes. At the beginning of the movie he takes out both a group of mafia thugs and one of copycat Batmans, and one of them asks why it is that he has the right to do what he does when they don’t. “I’m not wearing a hockey mask,” is Batman’s growled response, which is a beautifully flippant answer and the closest he approaches to wit in the entire movie, but is also symptomatic of a deeper attitude within the Batman movies: namely, that Batman gets to be the hero, the arbiter of right and wrong, because he’s handsome, rich enough to buy the shiny toys, and the titular character. This is to some degree a problem with the idea of masked superheroes in itself, but I would argue that it is much less of one in Iron Man because Iron Man is much less wrapped up in its own self-importance – Tony Stark is permitted to be a little ridiculous and much more human, and he does get called out on it, in contrast to the rather perfunctory condemnations of Batman as a vigilante. The Dark Knight is all about the stand of a single man – well, perhaps three, counting Harvey Dent and Commissioner Gordon – against the forces of disorder, and it is apparently only they who are capable of making a difference; this is why the line “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain” makes sense. In Gotham, the only options are hero, villain, and member of the faceless masses. But Iron Man portrays a world in which there are other options, where people can be individuals and have meaningful agency without gadgets or superpowers, without being heroes – for instance, there is Christine Everhart, the reporter who is something of an antagonist to Tony without being anything like a villain, or Pepper Potts, who is able to get the information that Tony can’t. Iron Man is not nearly so heavy a movie as The Dark Knight, and yet it simultaneously manages to be populated with a richer cast of characters and avoid the ideological muddle that is the end of the The Dark Knight. Here’s the thing: The Dark Knight very nearly had a good point to make about how bad things sometimes happen to good people and how it’s impossible to control every factor to keep that from happening, and how even knowing this you have to go on with your life as if you do have some control – because it’s either that or you become like Two-Face, who is so reluctant to accept this that when finally forced to confront reality by Rachel’s death, he breaks and leaves things that matter up to chance. It’s unfortunate, then, that this message gets lost in a mess of ideology about symbols and saviors and Christ-figures. In the end, though, even if The Dark Knight had managed to avoid the pitfalls it fell into, I’d still rather watch the movie that lightens darkness with humor and tells me that I can still accomplish things without being a hero or a villain – because I want to believe that, even if bad things do sometimes happen to good people, I still have power in my own life. I’ll leave it to others to wait for a self-declared savior. Faith Zhang ’11 (fhzhang@fas) isn’t holding out for a hero. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Best of In
By INDEPENDENT GRAPH
From the cover of the April 30 Sex Issue.
For Andrew Coffman's article on Facebook and Pink Floyd i
From Sam Jack's article on a new portrait of Shakespeare in the April 30 Sex Issue.
From the special center spread in the February 12 Valentine's Day Issue.
06.04.09 â€˘ The Harvard Independent
HICS AND DESIGN STAFF
in the September 25 issue.
For Brian Shen's article on Harvardwood in the November 13 issue.
From the April 23 Captured and Shot.
John Harvard and House mascots, from the cover of the March 19 Housing Day Issue. The Harvard Independent â€˘ 06.04.09
A Time for Change
10 things the Republican Party must do to win in 2010 and beyond.
STOP SULKING. ENOUGH WITH THE socialism jokes, and the mildly racist and bigoted comments about Obama. America is not dead and freedom is still alive and well. Democracy is like a pendulum. As high school AP Democracy teaches, it swings to the left once in a while. Obviously, losing hurts and there is no way to sugarcoat it. The most inclusive and moderate Republican on the national ticket in recent history lost and the Democrats have increased their margins in both the House and the Senate. But the Republican Party will rebuild and we need to heed John McCain’s words, “I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating [Obama] but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together, to find the necessary compromises, to bridge our differences, and help restore prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger better country than we inherited.” At the end of the day the optimism and hope that we have as Americans are powerful forces we can use to rebuild this country and the Republican Party. 2. Rebuild and repackage the “Grand,” “Old” Party. First off, any party that has a monicker with the words “grand” and “old” needs repackaging. George Bush was called a “Brooks Brothers Republican” for a reason. But the fact is, for too long the Republican National Committee has been built on networks of lobbyists and K Street interests (interests that multiplied as the 8 years under Bush passed). It is time to refocus attention on the party outside the beltway; the 56,376,672 voters that went for McCain. We need more leaders that come out of working classes because they are the best spokespeople for the party. Our national leadership is already undergoing a major facelift but it’s still too hard to tell which way it will go. The House Republican leadership will be sacked. Adam Putnam, the photogenic Florida Republican and GOP Conference Chairman has already resigned his post effective November 5 and the Republican Party has to make the choice: to lurch rightwards or lean towards the center. Signs are that the more right-wing element of the party led by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, will take over Putnam’s position, which does not sit well with voters who backed McCain’s more maverick style. At the end of the day, the jumping off point is our common platform and agenda but we need more eloquent, more attractive, and dare I say it, more diverse spokespersons for the party. 3. Build coalitions. In the last four years alone, as president of the Republican Club and Right to Life, I have witnessed the
By JEFFREY KWONG
transformation of the campus conservative movement into a more dynamic, diverse, and welcoming presence. Here on campus, conservatives are fighting for pregnancy and infant services on campus alongside Radcliffe Union of Students and the Women’s Center. We have co-sponsored events with BGLTSA, and this month, we have a political debate on LGBT issues and the roles conservatives are playing in battling homophobia and promoting equality. In the last year, the Republican Club has featured three anti-poverty speakers challenging conservatives on issues of social justice. Conservatives nationwide need to take this example and build ethnic, religious, cultural, and gender coalitions that deliver votes. It’s not about pandering; it’s about having an open door, reaching out and collaborating on common agendas. That is the key to winning at politics. 4. Support LGBT rights and equality. The 2008 CNN exit polls show Sen. John McCain received at least 1.3 million votes from gay and lesbian Americans or about 27% of the LGBT vote, an increase from 19% support for President Bush four years ago. As a gay Republican, I know that the Republican Party continues to be the home of some individuals with bigoted and homophobic views, but the party as a whole is increasingly accepting and embracing LGBT issues. Surprisingly, at the 2008 Republican National Convention, more Republican delegates support recognition of same sex couples (49%) than do not (46%), and the Republican Party continues to attract the attention and votes of gay and lesbian voters in this country. Let’s stick with the values of Lincoln and make our big tent party open to gay and lesbian people that share the same dreams, values and hopes as all American families. 5. Emphasize fiscal conservatism and forget about Iowa and the ethanol subsidies. I am a Republican first and foremost because of fiscal issues. At the Harvard Republican Club, I found out that many members were not coming to meetings because they thought the club and party nationwide put too much emphasis on divisive social issues. We need to take the spotlight off social issues and highlight big-tent issues like the economy and fiscal spending. The Republican Party as a whole has lost its way when it comes to watching the deficit and cutting the budget. The deficit hawks like Susan Collins will play a formidable role in the near future to lead our party back to its ‘Econ 101’ basics — stopping spending and government crowd-out! 6. Speak to urban America. It is a fact of demography that the coasts will continue to serve as magnets for population growth. Our generation especially lives in a dynamic,
energetic, and New York-centric world that idolizes diversity and metropolitan culture. The Republican Party needs not only to maintain the suburban bases that hug our city centers but start an offensive to appeal to urban America. As a native San Franciscan, it is always amazing how “liberal, urban” voters still manage to vote with the GOP on various issues on the ballot. It’s because urban voters, like their rural counterparts are sensible. In 2008, SF voters supported a plan to reinstate the JROTC in high schools despite protests from peaceniks, rejected a measure to legalize prostitution, and even said ‘no’ to a measure to invest in renewable energy and make the local electric company “city owned.” The Republican Party can appeal in big cities with a tough-on-crime agenda, a plan to cut property taxes and other fees, and emphasize school reform. The Democrats cannot be given an eternal free ride in the cities of America. 7. Change our world view. Americans are increasingly seeing themselves as a part of the global family. Alarmists have charged that younger generations are less and less patriotic, and Bill Bennett often cites a survey that found most college students do not consider American values superior to those of other cultures and nations. That should not be surprising but as Republicans, we need to be more aware of these sensitivities and embrace a more global outlook. Issues like climate change, free trade, and curbing human rights abuses in China and the Sudan immediately come to mind as good issues for the Republican Party to tackle. 8. Be intellectual and sharp with our ideas. Americans are smart and want truth in advertising. The Karl Rove tactics of utilizing divisive wedge issues need to suffer a painful death. My mother can smell bullshit in political ads from a mile away (and she is an English language learner) and so can the average nurse, busboy, or florist. Americans don’t just agree with Simon Cowell on American Idol because he’s mean — it’s because he is telling the truth! The same logic applies to American politics. We root for the common ideals of fair play and humility and know “truthiness” when we see, hear or feel it. Our collective ability to detect half-truths about a candidate’s alleged atheism or ties to a suburban hooker is amazingly honed and accurate. The Republican Party needs to be better than scare tactics and robo-calls and embrace truth in advertising. We can use facts and figures to present our ideas. Americans are not afraid of conservatism; they just want it presented in a way that is pragmatic and sensible. George W. Bush despite all the demagoguery surrounding him, especially in liberal circles, still rates high in terms of “authenticity” compared to most American presidents and
leaders. We need a combination of George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan’s personalities and a good dose of honest intellectualism. Common sense is not dead and the Republican Party needs to know how to be sensible in the way we market our ideas and people. 9. Think less economically and more spiritually. This seems contradictory especially given #5 above, but hear me out. Americans to this day admire George W. Bush for his work on PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). When Michael Gerson came to the IOP to speak on PEPFAR, it was astounding how many in the room had teary eyes as Gerson recalled his trips accompanying President Bush to AIDS-ravaged African villages. We empathize with dying AIDS orphans. In the words of Michael Ignatieff, we abhor pain and torture because we as humans feel pain and understand pain. As a whole we appreciate the call for a higher power and a higher purpose. We are the largest charitable givers as private citizens in the world for a reason and that’s because it makes us feel good. As Republicans, we need to be more spiritual and compassionate in the way we create our policies and communicate our message. Increased funding for healthcare, education, and the environment increases the credibility of Republicans and at the same time, there are market-friendly and market-responsive ways to achieve these “higher” goals. 10. Be excellent leaders and role models. When asked, “What are you doing for the Asian American community,” Secretary Elaine Chao told a group of Harvard Asian Americans at the IOP once that, “I am doing the best I can for the community by doing a good job.” She nailed it. Republicans need to do the same – the Ted Stevens and Mark Foleys of the GOP need to be kicked out of the party. Americans do look at leaders as role models and leaders need to be moral ethical, and good. Is that too much to ask for? In conclusion, in order to win in 2010 and beyond, Republicans need to continue to innovate and define ourselves in terms of America in the 21st century. We have gay marriage in two states, alternative fuels are now a necessity — not an innovation — and more Americans are finding themselves members of a global world with a global worldview. In order for conservatism to win again, we need to be better spokespersons for our movement and our party. Elections are always around the corner. Jeffrey Kwong ’09 is a Government and East Asian Studies concentrator in Winthrop House. He is President Emeritus of Harvard Republican Club and President Emeritus of Harvard Right to Life. 06.04.09 • The Harvard Independent
A Minnesota Christmas
Lidiya Petrova/ INDEPENDENT
The Coleman and Franken campaigns are both getting nothing but coal in their stockings. By MARKUS KOLIC
HE HOLIDAY SEASON CAN BE TOUGH ON A
lot of people. There’s the homeless and destitute, who spend the weeks before Christmas wandering frigid city streets begging for scraps. There’s the recently widowed and orphaned or the perennially lonely, who are reminded of their tragic loss by every bright-eyed TV commercial. And there’s the woeful college student, who as Christmas break approaches must trade his lifestyle of total irresponsibility and hedonism for one of marginally less irresponsibility, enduring days or even weeks of caring family hospitality and delicious homemade food. The horror. But all of those ashen-faced holiday sad-sacks can take heart this Christmas season, because today at least, there’s one group in America suffering more greatly than they; no matter how joyless or heartsick your Christmas might be, you can still take comfort in the fact that you don’t work for the Al Franken or Norm Coleman campaigns. Can you imagine? Maybe you can’t, because you have never heard of these men. The backstory is this: Coleman, a generic Republican U.S. Senator representing one of the country’s most idiosyncratically liberal states, faced a challenge from comedian and author Al Franken. Despite widespread skepticism, and an increasingly bizarre series of attacks over obscene things he’d written for Saturday Night Live decades earlier, Franken pulled even in the polls. As the Obama wave crested on November 4, Minnesotans watched with anxiety to learn who they’d elected to the Senate. And the answer appears to be: nobody. They’re still counting. Over a month later, they’re still counting. And recounting. And challenging and debating and suing. Everyone else in the world has long since come down from the 2008 election high; but not Minnesota. Now, if you withdrawalstricken political junkies out there find that idea appealing, consider how stressful it must be for Minnesota’s campaign community. Organizers across the country, especially on the Democratic side, spent unbelievable amounts of time and energy on this campaign. Innumerable young people put their friends and family aside, traveling long distances to unimaginably obscure places, in hopes of electing their chosen candidates. Now, whether they won or lost, at least these people have closure in their lives; Franken and Coleman partisans still wake up every morning in a cold sweat, wondering whether today is finally their blessed day. The statewide vote count vacillates unpredictably — Coleman by 120! Franken by 65! Coleman by three and a half votes! — and both sides find The Harvard Independent • 06.04.09
new ways, every time, to declare victory. It’s an emotional rollercoaster even for the casual observer; the campaign staff must be on the verge of PTSD by now. It’d be better, I guess, if this ongoing recount wasn’t so completely bonkers. There have been a lot of wild recounts in American history, to be sure — but most of them happened in the 19th century, involved like a total of five votes all from white landowners with thick sideburns, and were settled by a gentlemanly round of fisticuffs. The paradigm, since then, has changed a little. (Although — I’d love to watch Norm Coleman and Al Franken fight for their Senate seat. Jesse Ventura could referee!) It’s the age of mass democracy now, and people vote by the millions on high-minded ideological terms; so, much like in the Florida debacle of 2000, it’s really jarring to see our grand democratic experiment reduced to retirees fiddling endlessly with scraps of paper. And in Minnesota, after Al Franken fought so hard to shed his comedic background and take on an air of senatorial gravitas, it must be maddening to see his election decided by — this is true — whether or not a ballot is invalid because it says “LIZARD PEOPLE” on all the write-in lines. (You can see this, and other questionable ballots, at the website of Minnesota Public Radio.) What a purgatory Minnesota will be this Christmas! If the lawsuits go as predicted — and they will, if that Minneapolis precinct doesn’t find those 133 ballots it mysteriously “lost” — this thing could go on well into January, or worse, be kicked upstairs to the U.S. Senate for an inevitably arbitrary and partisan final decision. Meanwhile, the poor unfortunates in the Franken and Coleman camps will continue to suffer. So I ask you: if you’re in the Twin Cities this holiday season, and you see a glassy-eyed Dickensian wretch wandering the streets with a telltale campaign sticker on his lapel, don’t be afraid. Go right up and give him a big hug, and maybe a morsel of bread to eat. Sing him a soothing Christmas carol, preferably a good one like “Frosty the Snowman” and not an annoying one like “Little Drummer Boy,” because these people are likely to be kind of high-strung and a little violent. Just do something — because for those of us who are privileged enough to know who both our senators are, in this season of charity and hope, a smiling gesture and a pat on the head for the godforsaken politicos of frozen Minnesota is really the best gift we can give.
Abandon “Abstinence-Only” Kids deserve to know the whole story. By RIVA RILEY
EX EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES IS IN A SORRY STATE. THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION
supported abstinence-only sex ed campaign has proven painfully ineffective: the pregnancy rate of teenage mothers has increased for the first time in 14 years. Furthermore, the United States has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies among industrialized nations. As someone who has sat through lessons in abstinence-only sex ed, I have seen in a painfully obvious way how it fails high school students. Despite the fact that I attended a public school, the sex education offered was primarily abstinenceonly, and during one terrible lesson a girl who was then pregnant was forced by our oblivious teacher to participate in a skit. In the skit, the girl had to read lines praising the effects of remaining abstinent until marriage and how it is the best course of action and everyone should comply with it. Of all the uncomfortable things I can imagine, this one stands out in its cruelty to the young woman the system had failed. Abstinence-only education is fatally flawed. Would it be best if adolescents waited until marriage to have intercourse? Absolutely. Will they wait until marriage? In general, they will not, and teaching them abstinence-only standards is like teaching people to be cancer-free: it does not actually prevent anything from happening. My school even paid for a religious organization to come to class and expound on the virtues of abstinence while dismissing condoms as “risky” and “unreliable.” I was offended as a sophomore in high school, and a freshman in college I am furious. How could a school fail its students in that way? How could it willingly lead us down a path with a glaring trap rushing at us? I am not sure if my school truly believed it was doing the best thing for its students — maybe it did. What I do know, however, is that these sorts of campaigns are utterly ineffective. Martha Kempner, spokeswoman for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, remarked that “Abstinence-only was an experiment and it failed.” This much is clear from statistical evidence and anecdotal accounts, and not telling students about contraception and safe sex can be wholly dismissed as absurd. Leaving aside the social implications of this issue, however, and the fact that high rates of teenage pregnancy are detrimental to society, lying to students about the effectiveness of condoms and other contraception is unacceptable. It is just as bad as teaching students that money grows on trees or evolution is a myth. Private schools can teach whatever they please, but public schools exist to educate their students and get them ready for the world beyond, and lying to them about the biology of reproduction and contraception should be considered a crime. At my school, the crime was particularly heinous because the school had a competent group of science teachers; it was only the politicized arena of sex education that suffered. Abstinence-only sex ed should be eradicated because it teaches students material that is simply wrong, and they do not deserve to be lied to. If we are to hold ourselves to some standards of ethics in education, then we have to present the facts to both secondary and elementary school students in a realistic and objective manner. Riva Riley (rjriley@fas) had terrible health class experiences.
Markus Kolic ‘09 (mkolic@fas) thinks that in the event of a tie “Lizard People” should be declared the winners. email@example.com
STIMULUS or STIMU-LESS? We need the stimulus to shock our economy back into life.
By SUSAN ZHU
HE STIMULUS PACKAGE HAS SOME BAD
parts. That much I won’t argue. And the way in which Democrats have executed its passage seems a bit ruthless and unkind, but only because we’ve forgotten how the Republicans did things before the 2006 elections. What’s more, there actually has been a good deal of compromise on the legislation. Despite the faults of the stimulus package, there are a lot of things right with it. And the benefits by far outweigh the detriments. I’ve never understood those who live solely in the short term (see: Mission Accomplished in Iraq and Britney Spears’ marriages). Yes, the economy needs a pretty effective jolt right now, but what’s wrong with having that jolt come with supportive wires to keep the machine working in the long term? The banks are getting their money — 2.5 trillion dollars’ worth — from Geithner’s bailout plan. Personally, that’s more than I’d like banks to get without hardball strings attached, like, say, not to use it to throw corporate parties to congratulate themselves on receiving a bailout (I’m no Andrew Jackson, but I’m also not a fan of the Wall Street atmosphere). To then turn around and attack the stimulus package because it has appropriations for such long-term recipients as education, energy infrastructure and health care is absolutely ridiculous. For one, there are provisions, like tax cuts and public works projects, that are certainly geared towards short-term recovery. The projects are reminiscent of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which created thousands of new jobs while increasing government spending. If my Ec10 memory serves me correctly, government spending, used in conjunction with tax cuts, can ameliorate a sour economy. For another thing, this “pork” is more than just Democrats taking revenge on Republican spending during the Bush years. The pork includes money to deliver clean and safe drinking water to areas in the West that have been devastated by drought, among other worthy projects. From a political standpoint, the Democrats really only have the first two years to get major legislation through. The Republicans could always achieve a midterm election victory. So the Democrats are working to get their “sissy liberal reforms” in, even if it means squeezing them into a stimulus package. The “sissy liberals” are requiring that medical records become electronic before they go extinct, to eliminate the headaches that patients have to go through; administrative failures that can cost lives. They’re helping states pay for Medicaid, because as more people become
unemployed and poor, more people qualify for the already-burdened program. They also put in 1.2 billion dollars to increase the quality of care for veterans, a largely forgotten population whose experiences in war should not be punished with mediocre care. The Democrats want to work on infrastructure projects such as increasing broadband access across America. This doesn’t seem very important to those of us who sit comfortably in our wireless-enabled dorms, but today’s communications network is just as important as the rail network was in the 19th century. There’s money to repair the nation’s highways, which not only creates jobs, but actually is quite important to public safety (remember the bridge collapse in Minnesota?). There’s also money for our public transportation, which, to anyone who has ever been to Europe, seems an antediluvian sham. The economy isn’t just about banks and Wall Street. It’s about developing the infrastructure and technology to support the entire country and promote long-term growth. The Dems are also giving money to schools for repairs and renovation. What does construction have to do with the economy, you ask? Well, let’s not even look at the creation of construction jobs, that’s a little too obvious. Last year, in Gov 1368, “The Politics of American Education,” Mayor Bill Purcell, now the Director of the IOP, gave a guest lecture. As mayor of Nashville, he had given schools money for repairs and renovations. Why? Because if students are cold in school, if they have rainwater dripping on their heads, if they generally have to learn in a miserable environment on top of everything else they have to go through, then their education isn’t as effective as it could be. Seriously. The package also seeks to provide money for Pell grants, the under-funded federal program that allows poor students to attend college; for IDEA and special education programs; and for Title I grants. In the long term, as Harvard’s own Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz wrote, it’s the “education gap” between the US and its competitors that has been a significant factor in our country’s economic success. As the economists argue, America only reached its eminence due to emphasis on educating the masses at a time when other great powers were still busy pillaging for short-term gains and educating only the crème de la crème. The stimulus package has already been negotiated, and compromises have been made. The state governors wanted billions
CONTINUED ON PAGE 6
Bloated spending causes deficit heartburn, not relief.
By MARION LIU
SPENT THE SUMMER AFTER MY JUNIOR
high school at a nerdy science camp, one where campers proudly donned the tees of their dream colleges. With the financial crisis burdening state governments nationwide, current juniors from Pennsylvania may never experience the joy of making ice cream from liquid nitrogen or pulling all-nighters in the computer lab. For that, I am truly sorry. Seriously. But I am not about to join the bandwagon of Obama-worshipers and throw a house party to rally support for the stimulus bill (for hors d’oeuvres ideas, visit: OrganizingForAmerica.com). I firmly believe that throwing money at a problem is rarely the solution. In this case, the stimulus package agreement passed by Congress does little to stimulate the economy; instead, it inflates the government and encourages bad spending habits. On his bully pulpit tour of America, Obama promised investments in renewable energy, education and infrastructure. A House version of the bill allocated $14 billion dollars to renewable energy sectors, a seven-fold increase from current expenditures. This is received as great news by the “Green is the new Crimson” crowd, but the benefit to the economy in the here and now is still mysterious. Increasing spending in the green sector can only mean subsidizing green jobs even further without stimulating real growth; the rewards of green industries will not be reaped until at least a decade from now. Perhaps there’s something to this as a long term plan, but it’s misleading to call this expenditure “immediate stimulus.” Everyone loves conservation, but a stimulus package passed under circumstances of great urgency is not the best place to address environmental needs. The same argument can be made with education. An additional $15 billion dollars for Pell Grants will certainly make paying college tuition easier for people our age, but unless we are each leaving college to start our own global business, the impact on financial markets is minimal. Pumping more cash into liberal pet causes during a time of crisis undermines the integrity of those programs and portends possibilities for mismanagement. Outrageous spending habits and fiscal irresponsibility are what got us into this mess; surely a little conservatism can’t hurt now. And finally there are the infrastructure investments, which I always thought were euphemisms for pork. But that cannot be! Obama has ordained this stimulus bill kosher and the messiah of hope never YEAR OF
lies! So I guess that means the $255 million dollar polar icebreaking ship is an irreplaceable part of our national growth and development. Pork is nothing to be ashamed of. I am a huge proponent of pork as a tool to grease the wheel of legislative progress, but it seems as though the grease has been slathered on without any wheels actually turning. This stimulus can hardly be called a bipartisan effort with only a handful of Republicans (as in you can count them with one hand) supporting it. Pork for pork’s sake when America faces rising unemployment rates and a looming $1.3 trillion dollar deficit is just immoral. I agree that a stimulus package of some sort is necessary. If Obama had followed the three T’s of stimulus hailed by Larry Summers: timely, targeted and temporary, then his campaign slogan of hope might look more feasible. As it stands, the benefit from the many programs under this bill will not immediately be felt, their purposes are not singularly targeted to bring about relief, and an expansion of government on this scale would be hard to wean off as expectations exponentiate. Bottom line: this stimulus bill is more about the three P’s: permanent pet projects. Can you blame Commerce Secretary nominee Judd Gregg for stepping down because of ideological difference surrounding the stimulus? Obama thinks the current crisis is next in history to the Great Depression (his memory of the 1980s might be fuzzy due to admitted marijuana use). But if BHO thinks he can be the next FDR with his new “New Deal” package, then he better start consulting some history books. Most economic historians agree that the increase in federal spending relative to the size of government during the 1930s did little to ameliorate the Depression. “The standard view among economic historians...is that the most important thing FDR did to get us out of the Depression was abandoning the gold standard, which freed the Federal Reserve to follow a more expansionary monetary policy,” according to Ec10 god Greg Mankiw. For FDR, the increase in money supply came with the onset of WWII, not the building of dams by the TVA. Of course money doesn’t just flow from the mouth of the Mississippi. We could sit and argue the effectiveness of tax cuts until our mouths turned blue, but the truth is, even the Obama Administration knows that tax relief is necessary to build confidence
CONTINUED ON PAGE 6 06.04.09 • The Harvard Independent
Butter Battles T
The changing place of student protest at Harvard.
GREAT BUTTER REBELLION 1766 HE
The first recorded student protest at Harvard College, according to the 2004 book “Harvard A to Z,” took place in 1766. Asa Dunbar, the grandfather of Henry David Thoreau, stood up in the dining hall (there was only one, at the time) and said, “Behold, our butter stinketh! — give us, therefore, butter that stinketh not.” Reportedly, half the student body agreed with Dunbar’s sentiment, and left the dining commons in protest. Shortly thereafter, President Holyoke suspended half the student body, demanding that the instigator of the protest be named. But the students refused to back down and eventually Harvard acknowledged the rancid butter problem and lifted the student suspensions. The Great Butter Rebellion of 1766 set a couple notable precedents. For one, it kicked off a centuries-long tradition of Harvard students protesting and fretting about their food service, which seems to have been, in reality, adequate since time immemorial. The Butter Rebellion was followed up a few years later with the ‘Cabbage Rebellion.’ Just this year, a group of Eliot House students protested their, err, situation, by dining pants-less. I shudder to think what President Holyoke would have thought of that. More importantly, though, Harvard’s first protest was a success. The students stood, they shouted, they walked out, they circulated a petition, and “Old Guts” (the students’ sort-of-affectionate nickname for President Holyoke) had to give in. And what an appropriate victory it was! The elite class in waiting demanded what was theirs by right, and in so doing, achieved brief respite from the four year purgatory of penury and discipline which was a prerequisite of membership in that class. Dunbar’s success in adjusting the power structure must have provided some satisfaction to him in his old age, in reminiscing years later about his victory in The Great Butter Rebellion. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m sure the butter was bad.
Vietnam Protests in ‘69 From talking to and reading the words of former students and other individuals who were around Harvard in 1969 and the years leading up to ‘69, it seems to me that the student protest — or rebellion — of that year has produced similar feelings of nostalgia and self-satisfaction even in those who were not directly involved in the Administration Building takeover and the other more outré acts of acts of civil disobedience. Students for a Democratic Society, the organizers of the protest, demanded that the ROTC program be abolished at Harvard, and the current ROTC students offered alternate university funding. Why should Harvard, the argument went, be aiding the US government in prosecuting a war which the majority of the Harvard community opposes? A reasonable enough argument on the face; certainly at least as legitimate as the argument underlying the Butter Rebellion: “we should get what we pay for.” Allowing for inflation over the last two hundred odd years, the degrees of civil disobedience involved could even be seen as about equivalent: In 1766, some students left dinner early without permission; in 1969, 500 students occupied the Administration Building and carried an assistant dean bodily from the building. Both acts were outrageous to the delicate sensibilities of their respective times. The responses of the administration also had similarities: Pusey’s and Holyoke’s desire to punish outflanked, in both cases their ability to punish. Holyoke, unable to pin down the agent provocateur was unable to make any punishment stick. Pusey had to settle for three expulsions (mostly of students who actually engaged in physical assault) and a couple dozen suspensions. There’s been a great deal of continuity over the past couple hundred years, really. Protest and Activism Today Perhaps there is still some continuity, but a number of things have changed
IN FAVOR OF THE STIMULUS PACKAGE CONTINUED FROM PAGE 5 of dollars more than they’re getting to stabilize their states’ economies. Obama’s own planned tax cuts had to be slashed down to a smaller number. Schools saw billions in repairs and grants taken away. In this economy, everyone has to make sacrifices. It’s time the Republicans learn that. As the Obama administration has already said, economic recovery won’t happen fast. The economy, they said, still has yet to reach rock bottom; is not on an upward path at the moment. But in the meantime, in the face of media criticism, The Harvard Independent • 06.04.09
since the seventies. President Faust seems more receptive to protest and student activism than most of the past presidents of Harvard. Last year, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences co-sponsored a sort of protest, “Mt. Trashmore.” 400 bags of waste were piled on the lawn in front of the Science Center. Apparently there are plans for a repeat performance this year. The Undergraduate Council has grown in size and influence since the sixties and seventies as well, and now boasts committees on college life, house life, student affairs, and undergraduate education, plus student-faculty committees on Gen Ed, libraries, athletics, advising, food services, and the Ad Board. On top of all that, many of the concentrations have student advisory committees; I’m an English concentrator, and let’s just say that there’s been no lack of encouragement to join the English concentration advisory committee. Still, last year a group of concerned alumni from the class of ‘67 wrote an open letter to President Faust calling for the creation of “a Task Force to Investigate the Causes and Propose Possible Cures for Political Apathy and Careerism at Harvard College During these Deeply Troubling Times for the Nation.” “Undergraduate life at the College today is not giving due encouragement to civic courage and political engagement,” the signers of the letter said. The letter-writers meant well; perhaps they were under the influence of the nostalgia I described above. Their suggestion, however, was ridiculous: a university-sponsored task force studying ways to facilitate protest? Often, presumably, protest against the university? Any increased protest activity resulting from such a task force would be farcical and, ultimately, would stifle whatever real, grassroots protest might otherwise have bubbled up. The whole-hearted institutional embrace of green initiatives has certainly made eco-activism at Harvard less vivacious, even if more effective. It’s not very ‘radical’ to sign up with the House
By SAM JACK
Administrator to be the “green rep” for Leverett House. The reason for the protest climate has little to do with administration inaction and a lot to do with student attitudes. Current students at Harvard have a whole range of venues for expressing their opinions and engaging in activism that didn’t exist in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Anyone with an opinion and a bit of free time can start a blog and get their friends and colleagues reading it. The proliferation of e-mail lists means that it is no longer necessary to meet in person to engage in debate; even as I’m writing this article, several different e-mail lists are erupting into the latest iteration of the perennial debate over ROTC and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It also seems that much of the activist energy at Harvard has been directed away from street protests and towards symposia, panels, lectures and presentations. Hardly a day goes by without my receiving an invitation to attend some meeting or another on a salient issue. Perhaps these habits of activism are more effective; certainly the symposium-planners and blog-writers are putting themselves at less risk of seeming ridiculous. The scorn that many Harvard students exhibit towards the tactics of the Student Labor Action Movement and other protestoriented groups, however, is misplaced. Brian Bolduc’s April 20 column in the Crimson offered objections that are largely stylistic; Bolduc mocked their “Greed is the New Crimson” slogan and pointed out that it was terribly, terribly rude for them to hand President Faust a letter. The Crimson’s “FlyByBlog” also got in a few shots. Bolduc was right about some of SLAM’s hyperbole, but if SLAM scaled that back a bit, my feeling is that they would still come in for mockery, because street protests are supposed to be for the powerless and the insane. We Harvardians are not the powerless — we hold symposia. Sam Jack ‘11 (sjack@fas) believes in the right of every Who to eat their bread butterside-up.
AGAINST THE STIMULUS PACKAGE CONTINUED FROM PAGE 5
the stimulus package is on its way. It has short-term provisions for quick job creation, tax cuts, and government sending. Just as important, though, the stimulus package gives money to long-term causes that will guarantee America’s economic growth. There’s no way you can expect an economy to survive if it can’t grow in the long-term. Susan Zhu ‘11 (szhu@fas) always appreciates some well-cooked gastronomic stimulus.
in our markets. Which makes it hard to explain why tax cuts constitute around 36% of current bill, less than what Obama had originally proposed and substantially less than what is sufficient to re-instill consumer confidence and stimulate spending. $757 billion dollars is a lot of money and it would be nice if it did something for the average working American. As enriching an experience as nerd camp was, I am sure I would not be worse off in life if five weeks of my life spent
learning about shifting time frames were replaced with bumming around at home. But I know there are families around the country who are suffering because the relief and leadership they desperately need are missing in Washington. The campaign’s over. Stop organizing house parties and start fixing the economy, Mr. President. Marion Liu ‘11 (mliu@fas) would prefer a plan to send all of the US’s debt to Jupiter on a big rocket.
The Price of Fame Debating the worth of professional sports. By BRANDEN ADAMS and ANDREW RIST
VERYONE’S GOING CRAZY OVER THESE
presidential debates, so the Indy Sports team has decided to have their own debate (but with much lower stakes). Still, though, it’s about a topic of great importance: the value of sports and the money that should be spent on them. Two intrepid sports writers, Branden Adams and Andrew Rist, will argue about this topic for an undetermined amount of time with no moderator, no rules, and no clear resolution in sight. Enjoy. Branden: When asked what he wants to be as an adult, the typical 5-year-old replies “astronaut or basketball [or baseball or football or soccer] player.” Is he naïve, underdeveloped? Will he grow out of it? Some do; some don’t. But at this moment in every youngster’s life, a particularly egregious flaw of modern American society exposes itself: the unquestioned and inexplicable desire to overexert one’s body for an always monetarily extravagant and sometimes morally reprehensible lifestyle. Why will many of our children’s heroes die before their time? Score below their peers in college? Most importantly, live in penthouse suites while more suitable role models wallow in near poverty? Andrew: There’s nothing wrong with a five-year-old wanting to be a professional athlete. There’s nothing wrong with a 15year-old wanting to be a professional athlete, not intrinsically. If a child wanted to become a pro-basketball player for the cars, the bling, and the hos, then that would be twisted, but there is nothing wrong with wanting to become the best at something. In fact it is quite common, especially in children. Who grows up wanting to be okay at something? How could you blame them for wanting to be like someone who excels? Branden: Equating success and hard work is a particularly American conception of the processes that create wealth or points in the public imagination. Sports fans — especially and quite extremely, Olympic fans — entertain the notion that all athletes began on equal ground with slight variances in height, weight, and genetics. Consequently, we often believe that any person who started or was placed behind the starting line deserves special accolades. However, we never question the huge head starts that many receive. (Pardon the sports metaphors in this piece. Perhaps I should be more thankful to the wide world of sports for providing so many sexual innuendos, metaphors, and euphemisms.) As in the world of reality, so with the world of sports,
those who succeed are often the competitors with the best support system, the most trainers, and least obstacles. That is to say, those who work the hardest are not rewarded the most. Andrew: I would be willing to bet that the world’s not fair. I mean, I’m not sure, but I would have to guess so. We still admire the greatest scientists in the world, though many of them probably went to good schools and were probably born with a better innate scientific mindset, but that’s true for every profession and every person, except investment bankers (they all suck). We can still recognize and applaud the leaders in their fields for being the best. The thing about hard work is that it’s really hard to divine judging from results because of the intrinsic inequality of human experience. What they can divine is those who are the best in their fields. Now they can’t rank them with absolute certainty; hell, they’re not even as good at it as the BCS. But in a general sense they know and admire those who are the best, and watching the best do what they do best is one of the best reasons to watch sports. Branden: For the sake of argument, let me take issue with Andrew’s comment on investment bankers. I’m talking about you, Joe the I-banker. Just kidding. Should we presume that because human experience is currently unfair that it is and must always be so? What about the superiority of human design and reason? We’ve dammed the world’s largest rivers, left the planet to another terrestrial body, but we can’t discover the social origins of the pectoral muscle on Michael Phelps’s shoulder? What’s with that? Andrew: Can we agree that the two of us aren’t going to solve social injustice in a few hours? Let me lead with this instead. Sports, though perhaps not of any palpable, measurable value to society, contributes to the value of human experience immeasurably. People watch the games to see the best athletes perform and to throw their hearts behind one team and live and die with them — and as long as there are advertisers who think that they can funnel these fans into other pursuits like drinking and buying cars, and those advertisers are willing to pay loads of money to TV stations, which will then pass the profits down to the teams, then it is perfectly acceptable to pay these athletes high prices for their very specialized form of labor. Branden: Indeed, the free market
justification holds true in the realm of sports. There is a popular demand to view sports. This desire is reflected in the huge salaries of sports stars. But free markets aside, it is a bit absurd that as men make $10,000 to swing on one side of the green monster, construction workers speed by on the other side of the wall on I-95 making hardly a pittance after a 12-hour day at work. This absurdity could not be justified by anything other than free market capitalism and consequently is not justified at all. Andrew: Why do we have to justify it, though? Sports players aren’t hurting anyone (in most cases), and they are in the position to be role models for kids. In my book you would have to justify not paying them what the market will bear. There are certainly justifications. Some sports have salary caps to make sure that teams aren’t hurt because their owners can’t afford as much as Jerry Jones or Mark Cuban, and similar reasoning goes into the prohibition of giving college players benefits outside of scholarship, room, board, and books. You should notice too that the money not spent because of salary restrictions are still spent on the teams; they’re just spent on coaches’ salaries, which aren’t restricted, or fancy facilities. Paying athletes less won’t raise the salaries of construction workers (unless they get hired to build these new facilities); all it will do is force team owners to be more creative with their money. So to sum up my somewhat rambling segment, the free market will push its way around restrictions, and there’s no real, good reason to have them in the first place. Branden: Perhaps a luxury tax on such careers could be instituted to encourage justice. Earning $10,000 to delicately move one’s wrists, arms, legs, and body (I don’t mean to demean the skill with which this is done; I set my high school’s record for strikeouts) is a crime that should either end on its own terms or be punished in the form of a tax. That said, sports heroes are national heroes. They are national heroes because, as John McCain in his faux populist style points out, the American worker is the best in the world. The athlete is a very deft manifestation of this scientific and calculated work ethic that makes the American worker the best in the world. But the true best worker is not awarded a $10 million signing bonus; rather, he is awarded another day on the job. This extreme divergence is not considered wrong in the American ideology. We must reexamine the criminality of the luxurious salaries of athletes in the context of their diversion from the ideal and then try to
create that ideal through a luxury tax. Andrew: All you’re going to do by levying a luxury tax is discourage people from becoming professional athletes and lower the quality of sports. Some of these people aren’t that bright. Your tax might force them to become oil rig workers at best and unemployed criminals at worst (Pacman Jones is most of the way there already). You’re not creating any positive benefit to society. Even the brightest pro-football players (let’s say Tom Brady) aren’t rocket scientists. A huge paycheck isn’t the only thing that’s keeping Tom Brady away from curing cancer. If you create a market in which it’s undesirable for him to be a proathlete, all you’re doing is forcing him into some middle-management job, where he doesn’t get to date super-models. Who wins there? All a luxury tax like that will do is destroy sports as we know them. I for one am pro-pro-sports, and I’ll let Branden have the last word. Branden: Professional athletics have existed for a long time, and for a long time, there was no such thing as the $10 million salary. In 1930, Babe Ruth was asked by a reporter what he thought about his salary, $80,000, being more than President Hoover’s, $75,000. He replied, “But I had a better year then President Hoover.” Jokes aside, however, the $5000 difference between Ruth’s and Hoover’s salaries has exploded since then. The president now makes $400,000 whereas Alex Rodriguez brought in $28 million in 2008 alone. Without taking the nostalgic stance, this shows that sports can and did thrive before players made approximately 6000 percent more than the leader of the free world. The extreme commodification of athletic power has been made possible by an influx of corporate sponsorship. Today, the most noticeable and prominent features at Fenway Park are the giant Coke Bottle and the glaring John Hancock signature. These scars on the sports landscape detract from the true value of sports, that of well conditioned and stupendous athletes doing what they do. Athletes can train and be successful on a presidential salary, even in a bad year. Perhaps what we risk losing with luxury taxes is not sports as we know it, but rather a few more asinine episodes of MTV Cribs. If that’s not enough for Tom Brady, then a mid-management salary will never be. Branden Adams ’11 (badams@fas) will tax Tom Brady till it hurts. Andrew Rist ’09 (arist@fas) will just take Giselle. 06.04.09 • The Harvard Independent
The Game of Love Don’t let OJ jade you; some pro athletes do find true love. By HAO MENG
F LIFE WERE REALLY PERFECT ,
Y ALE would cease to exist, steroid users would have their foreheads imprinted with shiny asterisks, and I would be able to take my lovely girlfriend — without social ridicule — to a romantic Cubs game instead of a showing of He’s Just Not That Into You for Valentine’s Day (actually having a girlfriend would be nice as well). Unfortunately, life hasn’t given most of us fresh lemons; so when we try to immerse the very best of gooey, mushy, and syrupy (yum?) romance into the world of sports, we’re often met with not only a disapproving response, but also a warning-filled picture of Dennis Rodman marrying himself in a wedding dress. Lesson learned? Not quite. Truth be told, genuine romance flourishes in sports just as naturally as girls lose their inhibitions at the sight of John Mayer. With so much attention devoted to robotically analyzing mock drafts and contract negations, we tend to forget the simple fact that famous athletes, too, are capable of falling in love. When they do, more often than not, it’s a pleasant sight, and one certainly welcome amidst all the sports cynicism surrounding A-Rod, a drunken Sir Charles, and “incompetent” Super Bowl referees. So with the upcoming Valentine’s Day in mind, here’s a look at some of the most beautiful, entertaining, and genuine sports relationships still in existence today. “I’m hot, you’re hot, let’s make some hot babies” David Beckham and Posh Spice: Since 1997, this power duo has been a guilty pleasure for girls and guys alike. Whether it’s because of Beckham’s exotic tattoos (read: the godly body they’re located on) or the former Spice Girl’s sultry legs, we consistently find ourselves irrationally enthralled by the couple. Yet, despite the intense media attention, their marriage has lasted for nearly ten years and continues to remain strong. In fact, the hopelessly romantic Beckham surprised his wife with a second wedding just last year. They ended up both crying, and Posh later The Harvard Independent • 06.04.09
claimed that it was the second best day of her life — after the first wedding. I don’t know about you, but true love in my book doesn’t get much better than David Beckham actually believing he has to impress his wife. Tony Parker and Eva Longoria: If you’re tall, dark, and handsome, it’s likely that you’ll have a shot at an attractive spouse. But if you’re also gifted with a charming French accent and ridiculously good basketball skills, you might as well get used to sleeping in the same bed as #1 of Maxim’s 2006 Hottest Female Stars List. Such is reality for the nimble Spurs point guard, Tony Parker, and his sultry wife, Desperate Housewives’ Eva Longoria. Luckily, they don’t let their combined beauty detract from their loving marriage. Parker says Longoria is the “best thing in [his] life,” while Longoria claims that Tony has been “nothing short of the perfect husband.” Take from that what you may, but if you want to be immature and have some fun, make sure to put the phrase “in bed” at the end of the couple’s endearing proclamations of love. After all, what’s unsaid can often be true. Tom Brady and every sexy model in the world: Enough said. “That’s cool! You play sports too?” Nomar Garciaparra and Mia Hamm: Remember Nomar and his idiosyncratic routine where he taps his feet like a dancer before every swing? Well, it was apparently attractive enough to impress soccer darling, Mia Hamm. Married since 2003, the couple remains very much a united team; in talking about their twin daughters, Mia reveals, “They sleep in different rooms right now, so I have the monitor for one and [Nomar] has the one for the other. When my monitor goes off, I go. When his goes off, he goes.” Now if Nomar could only apply that sense of successful teamwork to his baseball skills… Yao Ming and Ye Li: I never understood those girls around 5’2” who
fantasized about one day marrying the 7’6” Yao. One, he’s not exactly your stereotypical handsome prince, and two, any PDA would most likely involve a short arm wrapped around Yao’s thigh. Fortunately for Yao and the rest of us, he’s now happily married to Ye Li, a 6’3” Chinese basketball player. Their love story is definitely beyond cute. Hampered with practices and competitions, the two rarely got to see another. To make up for it, Yao often snuck Ye out to midnight movies, while simultaneously finding every opportunity to give Ye cartloads (literally) full of stuffed toys. Who knew that the “Great Wall of China” was such a softy? Maybe Shaq secretly watches Hallmark movies too. Matt Treanor and Misty MayTreanor: I can tell you three things about this lovely marriage. Matt and Misty have been successfully working around Matt’s baseball schedule and Misty’s beach volleyball schedule since 2004. Misty and Matt each have the expression “M^2” tattooed on their arms to express the loving connection they share with one another. Matt can’t possibly be a George W. Bush fan, especially after Bush’s hand became friends with Misty’s buns of steel during the Olympic Games. Lessons learned Kobe Bryant and Vanessa Bryant: There’s no denying that Kobe has treated us to some of the most brilliant basketball performances in recent history. Yet, he never gets enough credit for teaching married men an important fact: The current going price for sleeping with a complete stranger is a four million dollar diamond ring. Kobe, thank you tremendously for your continued wisdom; You are so far beyond your years. Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson: What’s the lesson learned here? Kindhearted guys like Romo who give homeless people movie tickets and fix tires for old people stuck on the side of the road are still susceptible to falling for dim-witted blonde bombshells.
Hopefully, Romo will change Simpson for the better and eventually persuade her to stop doing things she’s terrible at — like singing. Anna Kournikova and Enrique Iglesias: Oh wait, I forgot, this is an article about relationships involving athletes. My mistake. Just watch Iglesias’s music video, Escape, to get an idea of their relationship. Good people still make good marriages Kurt and Brenda Warner: As if Kurt Warner didn’t do enough things right in life, he’s also quite the compassionate husband. In an interview with Gordon Robertson, Brenda Warner offers the following thoughts about her loving husband — thoughts that I think effectively reflect the couple’s genuine love for one another: “The first night we met, after we danced that night, I told him, ‘I just want you to know I am a divorced mother of two, so if I never hear from you again, I will understand.’ That’s the way it usually worked. The next morning, he showed up with a rose and wanted to meet the kids. He fell in love with the kids a lot sooner than he fell in love with me. He looked at us as three blessings instead of just one. I just kept waiting for the man that I deserved, and God blessed me with him.” So on this Valentine’s Day, don’t be afraid to implement a bit of sport flair into whatever you’re planning for that special girl. Take her to a ballgame, shoot some hoops with her, or if you have a body like David Beckham, simply take off your shirt and kick a soccer ball back and forth. Just remember, as long as you don’t pull a Kobe, Valentine’s Day is yours to enjoy. And who knows, if you’re daring/stupid enough to ask her to marry you on the Jumbotron, she just might say “yes.” If life were perfect, Hao Meng (haomeng@fas) ’11 would have a body like David Beckham and a girlfriend like Eva Longoria. firstname.lastname@example.org
Topsy-Turvy in the MLB East The usual suspects aren’t the ones leading the pack in the AL and NL East—for the moment. By JIM SHIREY
its season, Major League Baseball’s two best teams hail, respectively from the American League East and the National League East. Surprise surprise. There’s no doubt in my mind – and no doubt in the minds of most – that baseball’s Eastern divisions are its strongest, so it makes sense that teams from those divisions would already be distancing themselves from the competition. What doesn’t make sense is exactly which teams are doing the distancing. You won’t find the 2008 Word Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies at the top of the NL East: so far, they’re positively middling. Nor will you see their opponents in that Series, the Tampa Bay Rays, leading the AL East in anything except losses. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets – all of last year’s contenders, all the teams thought to have a chance this year, are someplace other than at the top. The AL East standings, actually, look rather more like they might have near the end of a given season three or four years ago than at the end of last year’s: Boston and New York near the top, Baltimore hovering around .500, Tampa Bay in the cellar. Wait a second, you say – where’s Toronto? Oh, right. Leading the division. With the secondbest record in baseball. So how are the Jays doing it? For starters, they’ve scored more runs (99 through Wednesday) than any other team in the bigs. Not bad for a team being led in average, RBI and home runs – and in almost every other offensive category – by their second baseman. Second base is not exactly where one usually looks first for run production; it’s not one of the two positions (catcher and shortstop) where defense is actually more important than offense, but it’s probably next on the list. Just don’t tell that to Aaron Hill, who is playing absolutely out of his mind. But runs aren’t everything. The third-highest scoring team in the AL, the Cleveland Indians, also has the league’s worst record. So for actual starters, having Roy Oswalt – and a superbly effective Roy Oswalt at that – helps tremendously: the Jays won all of his first three starts. Even more impressive and even more wacky, perhaps, is the best team in baseball so far this year: the Florida Marlins. That’s right, folks. Florida’s young, powerful offense (they’re third
LMOST THREE WEEKS INTO
in the league in runs and tied for third in home runs, behind St. Louis and the Colorado Rockies, who play, after all, on top of a mountain), and their young, solid pitching (also third in the league and first in the division, in ERA) have earned them a higher winning percentage than any other team in the sport. The Marlins, of course, might just be due. The ballclub won its first World Series in 1997, just its fifth season of existence. Six years later, in 2003, the Fish did it again. Six years after that, here we are in 2009. Those two championship years were the only two in which Florida has ever made the playoffs; otherwise, they’ve been nonfactors. Another playoff appearance, or even another Series, after another six years would be beyond strange. But it might also be proof of something I’ve suspected for a long time: the Baseball Gods do exist. And they’re out of their minds. From a somewhat less metaphysical standpoint, the Marlins also might have had a little outside help: they’ve notched more than half (6 of 11) of their total season wins and scored more than half (45 of 83) of their total season
runs against baseball’s worst team, the Washington Nationals. The lowly Nats are so out of sorts that some of their players donned jerseys with the team name misspelled for a game last week. The “Natinals” episode was apparently an honest mistake, but it’s endemic of the confusion and impotence that has characterized their season so far. Maybe all those runs – and a few of those wins, including three in which the Washington bullpen blew late-inning leads – were a little easier to come by for Florida than some others. Toronto might be getting a hand as well, albeit a little less directly. C.C. Sabathia, savior of the Yankees’ beleaguered rotation, has started with a fizzle in his new city, going a mediocre 1-1 with a 4.81 ERA. The stars of the Red Sox are beginning to show their age, and the team has already lost two shortstops (Julio Lugo and Jed Lowrie) and one very important pitcher (Daisuke Matsuzaka) to injury. Last year’s American League Champions, the Rays, have been inconsistent on the mound and at the plate, losing a bevy of close games. The Jays are playing well, but it doesn’t hurt that everyone else is playing poorly.
There is, of course, no reason to expect that things will go on this way for much longer. Baseball players have a habit of regressing to long-term means, and as they go, so go their teams. Hill, for one, is hitting about eighty points above his four-year career average. We’ll see if he and the rest of Toronto’s freakishly productive lineup can keep it up. Maybe they can, but the odds are they can’t. The Marlins, for their part, just endured a three-game sweep at the hands (and the bats) of the Pittsburgh Pirates, scoring just six runs in the series and giving up eighteen. If their pitching proves inconsistent, as it might, even their reliably potent offense won’t be enough to keep them in contention, much less at the top of their division. So don’t worry too much, you fans of perennial winners. This column, like this first few weeks of the season, probably won’t mean anything in the long run. Give it about 145 more games, and the baseball world will surely have righted itself, at least in its toughest divisions. I almost guarantee it. Almost. Jim Shirey ‘11 (shirey.jim@gmail) always dreamed of playing for the “Natinals.”
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
06.04.09 • The Harvard Independent