Sixties Sh-t

The Beach Boys came up on somebody’s play list this week end and an early 30 something friend lamented; “Not that Sixties Shit!”

Now I’m a child of the Sixties and Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys are musical geniuses. But it got me thinking. Yes, there is some stuff from the Sixties that is truly shity and I remembered this.

It’s dated 1971 but as Hunter S. Thompson observed the 60’s didn’t really end until Nixon beat McGovern in 1972.

The voters in Alabama go to the polls today to decided between someone who prosecuted the murders of four young Black girls and a serial child molester. I’ve learned not to make predictions these days.  But Alabama senior Senator Richard Shelby gave bedrock Republicans permission to not vote for Moore.

“(W)e call it a tipping point,” Shelby said. “I think, so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip — when it got to the 14-year-old’s story, that was enough for me. I said I can’t vote for Roy Moore.”
Shelby said on “State of the Union” that he’s not sure who will win the close election race in Alabama, but he added that “the state of Alabama deserves better” than Moore.
Taking this seat from the Republicans makes a true Senate majority so much more likely in 2018.
There have been a lot of bitcoin in the past week.  It’s price – of just under $17,000 is leading to speculation about whether there is a bubble. That’s up from a price of $4,000 in October. I had an conversation with a friend who has five bitcoins wroth about $85,000. Professionally, I give investment advice to people. How would you answer his question; “What do you think I should do?. At one time I had 15 bitcoins but gradually cashed them in”. Didn’t I a say a few paragraphs ago I don’t make predictions. You can bet the moment he acts on any advice from me to cash them in for more conventional investment they would double again.
 Got to get up early and see how the new “used” Snow Blower works.

The Smartest Man in the Room

I’ve come to believe when one has lived long and accomplished much we should not mourn their passing but celebrate their lives. And that’s what I want to do here; celebrate the amazing life of David W. Adamany.

This is not an obituary. You can easily find several including here and here with a summary of his remarkable career in urban higher education.

It was my great privilege to serve for 16 years on the Board of Governors of Wayne State University. For 8 of those years David was the University’s President. It was once observed that the only real role of a university board is to choose the President. That’s an exaggeration but there’s some truth to this. Boards are involved in matters of broad policy but it’s the President who runs the show. David ran quite a show and I had a ring side seat.

David was the smartest man I’ve ever known. He had a keen intellect, near photographic memory and an incredible ability to instantly analyse any situation. But my admiration came from his values. These were the overall context and motivation for his work. He believed in excellence. He practiced it himself and demanded it of everyone else. He believed in the University’s urban mission and took to heart the fact that many of Wayne’s students were the first in their family to go to college. Without  Wayne State a university education would not have been available to many young Detroiters. Less than a dozen years earlier I was one of those kids.

The chairmanship of the Board was usually for a one year term and rotated among the members. As it turned out I was the Chair when David’s predecessor resigned. I co-chaired the search committee. This was 1981 and the the country was in it’s worst recession since the great depression. As the saying goes when the country gets an economic cold Detroit gets pneumonia. Wayne State faced deep cuts in it’s funding. This was not an attractive job in the national academic community.

I first met David in the Marriott hotel across the street from the Rosslyn Station of the Washington D.C. Metro.  There is a reason I remember this. The Board flew to Washington to interview several candidates. At National Airport while the other board members were lining up at the Taxi stand my colleague former Michigan Governor George Romney (yes, Mitt’s dad) punched me on the shoulder and said with a grin, “Let’s take the Metro. I think we can beat them to the hotel”. Now George had also served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and knew Washington a lot better than I did. Off he ran carrying his suit case with me trailing behind. We didn’t beat them but we came close. When we emerged at the top of the 207 foot escalator (one of the of World’s longest), their cabs were pulling up to the hotel entrance.

When the Board unanimously decided to offer David the job it fell to Executive Vice President Ed Cushman and me to return to Washington to negotiate the terms. We spend most of the day in David’s condo near DuPont Circle. As we talked about the University and economic conditions in Detroit David quoted to us the Michigan State Constitution, the terms of our union contract with the AAUP and the University’s Code of Procedures. This was my first real exposure to this renowned Constitutional Scholar who never, EVER, showed up unprepared. He was intrigued by our offer but he had a dilemma. He candidly explained that he was sitting on a offer to serve as Provost at Princeton. “I can spend a few years at Princeton and then be a President just about anywhere. I can also serve as President at Wayne State during this recession and never get another job”.

In hindsight I’m not surprised he chose us. The work was harder and the challenge was greater – and that was David.

David Adamany and me at my final meeting as a member of the Wayne State University Board of Governors.

David Adamany and me at my final meeting as a member of the Wayne State University Board of Governors.

During his tenure as Wayne’s President David was the subject of much gossip about his personal life.  The prevailing “wisdom” of the early 80’s was that it would be very difficult for an openly gay man to lead a major institution dependent on the legislature and donors for its success.  It’s not that David lived life in the closet. His particular version of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was more like “don’t brag, don’t deny”.  The Board of Governors knew. But we were so overwhelmed by his leadership in that very difficult time no one thought it was relevant.

We are inevitably shaped both positively and negatively by the people we are fated to meet. My work and friendship with David Adamany is one of my life’s blessings.

Sing We Noel

So much news this week end.

The most disturbing is the shooting of four teenagers at Noel Night in Midtown. This is a holiday event attended by thousands of people. Our first thoughts are to those who were injured.The good new is that none of the injuries are life threatening. But that does little to mitigate the extraordinary disappointment that a 45 year old family tradition would be tarnished by gun violence. It’s unlikely that the shots were random. But we don’t know. Detroit bashers will have their moment. But most of the Twitter Traffic is upbeat. Andrew Ellison captures the consensus.

The United States Senate passed the what the Pod Save America guys call the Donors’ Relief Act.  I hope rank and file Republicans will someday realize that they constantly vote against their own economic best interests. Good Grief!

And finally the news that Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has plead guilty to lying to the FBI. Slate Magazine does a very good deep dive on the implications for Flynn, Trump and, interestingly, Vice President Pence.  They have this hopeful conclusion.

The prisoner’s dilemma is a famous problem in prosecutions and in academic game theory. A prisoner (or more illustratively in this case, a defendant) knows if he holds out against making a deal, and if all his co-defendants in other jail cells also hold out, they will all go free. However, if he holds out and another defendant confesses and implicates him, he will get a much worse sentence. If everyone confesses, everyone gets something in between.

So, the dilemma here is whether to assume everyone is holding out or whether to assume someone else is confessing to get a better deal. Up until now, only a very small figure—Papadopoulos—had confessed, not enough to make any central figure rethink his assumptions.

But now that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller, all bets are off. Everyone knows the next few cooperators will get deals, but the later you cooperate, the worse deal you get. The last (and biggest) co-conspirators get no deals at all. Flynn’s deal could be a moment that breaks the silence, and opens the gates for others to cooperate with Mueller to get a deal while there are still deals on the table.

Happy Monday everyone. I bought a wreath with lights for the front door. I’m not sure what kind of decorating I’m going to do inside, but I need to do my part to lighten up the outside so the neighborhood sparkles for the holiday.