26 February 2009
I posted earlier on the dire financial straits in which The New York Times finds itself. Now it appears The San Francisco Chronicle might be headed in the same direction. Some claim that the SFC will survive, but one has to wonder: How long can either paper continue to sustain the massive losses (reportedly $1 million per week for the SFC) and still stay in business?
25 February 2009
22 February 2009
This is a truly shocking revelation about the Bernard Madoff scandal: apparently Madoff never made any investments with the money he received. It is unclear whether Yeshiva University in particular will suffer any more because of this revelation, but this epic fraud seems to get more outrageous by the day.
18 February 2009
Theodore Dalrymple's latest book, Not with a Bang but a Whimper: The Politics and Culture of Decline. I am a regular, even faithful, reader of Dalrymple's, believing as I do that he is one of the greatest contemporary essayists in English. Intelligence, wisdom, wit, erudition: they are all on spectacular display in his writings. If you have not had the pleasure of reading his work, I highly recommend it to you. You might start with his book Life at the Bottom. You have a treat in store for you.
On My List: I have heard very good things about Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending's The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution.
In case you are interested in keeping track, as I am, The Wall Street Journal has published a helpful, interactive map plotting Bernie Madoff and the various ways his fraudulent schemes have affected different people and organizations, here. (The connection to Yeshiva University is in the lower right of the map.)
11 February 2009
10 February 2009
Over last Christmas break, Boston College placed crucifixes in all the classrooms. Some faculty are apparently offended by it, and one presumes at least some students are as well. When I was a student at Notre Dame, I remember crucifixes were in all the classrooms, and at Georgetown University, where I am visiting this year, there are crucifixes in many though not all rooms. At Yeshiva University, my home institution, there are mezuzahs on all of the doorways.
Despite not being raised a Catholic and not being Jewish, I am not and have never been offended by the displays of religious icons at these institutions. Indeed, I am gratified by them, because it means to me that they take their religious identities seriously. I was also required to say Catholic prayers in high school, but that was okay by me too--it was a Catholic high school, after all.
I have no problem with institutions--religious or otherwise--displaying symbols of and signs representing their mission. As long as they are not coercing others, I think they have every right to make public displays of their beliefs. Indeed, if I am offended by anything, it is institutions that do not have the courage of their convictions. If you believe it, then believe it.
The Wall Street Journal editorializes today on Mary Schapiro, the new Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, here. They are not happy that she does not wish to address the SEC's failures of the recent past, including in particular those of Bernard Madoff, who swindled many investors, including my home institution of Yeshiva University, out of a lot of money.
The final paragraph of the story is quite interesting:
If Ms. Schapiro seeks to learn from the SEC's recent history, she might start by considering the most basic lesson from the Madoff incident. Private market participants spotted the fraud, while SEC lawyers couldn't seem to grasp it. Rather than giving her staff lawyers still more autonomy, she should instead be supervising them more closely, while trying to harness the intelligence of the marketplace. Meantime, investors should remember that their own skepticism and diversified investing remain their best defenses against fraudsters.
Is the Journal suggesting that "private market participants" are better at policing the market than the state regulatory agencies are?
The economy is not good, and my home institution, Yeshiva University, is feeling the pinch. Not only has its endowment suffered like those of other institutions, but it is also reeling from its close former association with Bernard Madoff. One result is that the university announced yesterday that it is laying off some 60 staff members from its various Manhattan campuses.
Yeshiva University recently released a video of its president, Richard Joel, discussing the university's financial plans for next year. See the short video here.
09 February 2009
"Universalism and collectivism are by necessity systems of theocratic government. The common characteristic of all their varieties is that they postulate the existence of a superhuman entity which the individuals are bound to obey. What differentiates them from one another is only the appellation they give to this entity and the content of the laws they proclaim in its name." --Ludwig von Mises, Human Action (first published in 1949)