Daily Edition April 24, 2014

Official Portrait of Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Justice Sotomayor is the Court's first Hispanic justice, and its third female justice.

Eight years ago, the State of Michigan approved a proposition barring affirmative action in public education, employment or contracting. It – Proposition 2 – won a 58 percent majority. (Note: Michigan is roughly 81 percent white, 14 percent black, and 4 percent Hispanic.) The next day, opponents filed a federal lawsuit claiming the measure as unconstitutional. This week, the Supreme Court upheld the state’s amendment (6-2). In the majority of the decision was Justice Scalia who wrote that courts should resist involving judges “in the dirty business of dividing the nation into racial blocs.” Justice Sotomayor, the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice, loudly dissented.

Eight states now ban the use of race in college admissions. Asked on NPR about whether the drop in black student matriculation at University of Michigan was due to new laws, Columbia University President Lee Bolinger said: “Yes. I mean that’s a given.”  (Bolinger was president of Michigan during some major affirmative action battles in the past.) Although Hispanics are the largest minority group on the nation’s college campuses, a milestone first achieved in 2011, significant drops in the enrollment of Hispanic students have been recorded in the eight states banning race as a consideration, including California (where 49% of college-aged residents are Hispanic), Texas (45%), and Florida (27%).


William Ackman

William Ackman

Michael Pearson, the CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, had never heard of the company before he was asked to look over its troubled business. Pearson was at the time a powerhouse consultant for McKinsey & Co. He saw so much opportunity at Valeant that he decided to run the place. It’s not a decision that just anyone can make–but Valeant is run by financial wizards like Mason Morfit at ValueAct Capital (a large Valeant shareholder) and the wizards recognized the wisdom of Pearson, who saw how the company could change strategy. Pearson exchanged R&D for M&A–a real private equity kind of move. Valeant shares are up 800% since Pearson started his buying spree just over six short years ago.

Now Pearson is looking to buy again, and no one’s happier about it than William Ackman–who managed to pay Pearson both his number one and number two compliments at a dual presser on Tuesday. Ackman’s number one compliment is to call Pearson a billionaire, which on paper he is. Number two in the hierarchy of William Ackman compliments is to note that Pearson has earned his riches by increasing shareholder value, a phrase that is allegedly printed on Ackman’s pajamas. Pearson’s compensation–and therefore his billion(s)–is totally tied to the stock price of Valeant. That’s what Ackman, who owns a tidy percentage of Allergan, wants his Allergan brethren to know: if they allow themselves to be purchased by Valeant, their interests will be in line with the CEO’s interests. The price is $46 billion. Expect everyone to keep a straight face during negotiations: Allergan’s chief moneymaker is Botox.


Win Bassett (photo: NCSU.edu alumi blog)

Win Bassett knows more about beer than anyone else at the Yale Divinity School. Though almost every sentence in history contains some ambiguity, we’re pretty certain about that opener: Bassett’s beer biography includes writing for All About Beer, Beer West Magazine, and Beer Advocate–as well as stints as executive director of the North Carolina Brewers Guild and secretary of the American Guild of Beer Writers. The man knows from alpha acids and myrcene oil, and can wax about an ale’s “green onion spiciness” and “garlicky twang.” But he’s hardly all about the beer. Back to the Yale Divinity School thing–for Bassett, that’s just piling on the education. He’s  already a lawyer. And that’s after magna cum laude performances in pursuit of dual bachelor’s degrees in electrical and computer engineering. Win Bassett can make you a beer, wire your business, and prosecute your enemy (he’s a former Assistant District Attorney.)

But it’s as a writer where Bassett shines. He’s published essays in The Paris Review, The Atlantic, Guernica (oh, is that a good one) and too many other excellent places to count–on subjects from Osip Mandelstam to Beck to death (hey, he’s a divinity school student–it’s a big topic). There’s poetry, too. In one particularly moving and representative piece for The Roanoke Times, Bassett quotes Walker Percy’s assertion that “Lucky is the man who does not secretly believe every possibility is open to him.” Yet it seems Win Bassett must believe just that. Or perhaps his seemingly peripatetic path is more straightforward than it looks, grounded simply in faith and family (as he hopes; see essay) and of a piece with humble purpose, not voracious appetite. At the pivot points, at least, the Win Bassett life seems quite orderly in its procession: it was all that effective prosecution of criminals that led Bassett to Yale, where his work is focused on prison ministry. Putting people in prison, he discovered he’d rather keep them out. Provide them new wells of opportunity. Beer (be’er), by the way, is the Hebrew word for well. @winbassett


Betabrand's Dress Yoga Pants

If you think yoga pants should only be worn in the gym, well, we have bad news for you. Betabrand, maker of the popular prototype Gay Jeans, is offering Yoga Pants in a dress-pants-style for the office. It’s their most popular crowdfunded product ever. That’s right, someone (Sarah James) submitted the idea for yoga pants with pockets, and voila, Betabrand made ‘em.

Not only has the staff at Betabrands been successful in raising money to manufacture innovative apparel (Chef Jeans with apron-fabric pockets!) but they’re also excellent at coming up with product names. Who doesn’t want to show up at a party as Karate Casual? Or at work wearing a Corporate Ladder Climbing Pants and/or a Corporate Hooded Blazer?

This is how five different people wear their Gay Pants. 


ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and Univision aren’t often on the same side. But they’re in league against a company called Aereo, a Barry Diller-backed tech company that may or may not be stealing their shows. It’s a big enough deal for the Supreme Court to decide–and the Court is trying to be especially careful with its Aereo decision. A wrong move, some justices fear, could hamper the growth of the cloud computing space just as it’s booming. They don’t want to make a decision that in the process of stamping out Aereo–if it’s found to be in violations–also rains on the cloud at large.

Aereo is a clever company, built to challenge the copyright law. If you want network TV on your device, you just have to rent a little “dime-sized” antennae from Aereo, and it’ll capture the signal and stream it to you. Cool right? The term the Court has to consider is whether this constitutes a “public performance” of the show, for which the networks must be compensated. “Re-transmission” fees for “publicly performed” shows put the “net” in networks, bringing in some $3 billion a year. Aereo doesn’t pay the networks anything, operating as an antennae farm and storage facility–with individual antennas linked to each customer so that it can claim it’s just a service featuring the kind of antennas people can buy for themselves at Radio Shack. (Aereo just happens to send–not to say “re-transmit”–the show along from there.) The multiple antennas, instead of a few large ones, can be seen as simply a way to get around copyright law. Justice Roberts said the Aereo business model was “based solely on circumventing legal prohibitions.” But there’s actually nothing illegal about that. Can people capture something that’s free, keep it on a drive somewhere, and then watch it when they want? Yes. But can companies capture, keep and deliver upon request? The Court will decide.

The first 2Paragraphs of:

My Face For The World To See by Alfred Hayes Books, Classic

by NYRB Classics

It was a party that had lasted too long; and tired of the voices, a little too animated, and the liquor, a little too available, and thinking it would be nice to be alone, thinking I’d escape, for a brief interval, those smiles which pinned you against the piano or those question which trapped you wriggling in a chair, I went out to look at the ocean.

There it was, exactly as advertised, a dark and heavy swell, and far out the lights of some delayed ship moving slowly south. I stared at the water, across a frontier of a kind, while behind me, from the brightly lit room with its bamboo bar and its bamboo furniture, the voices, detailing a triumph or recounting a joke, of those people who were not entirely strangers and not exactly friends, continued. It seemed silly to stay, tired as I was and the party dying; it seemed silly to go, with nothing home but an empty house.

–Alfred Hayes

julie albin

Julie Albin with Buddy

Seekers of all things Italian often have an inevitable tendency to focus their admiration on the country’s usual suspects: Tuscany, Northern Italy, Amalfi Coast, and even the island of Sicily. But when was the last time you overheard someone gabbing away about all of the wonderful things they love about Puglia? Fair enough, much of this particularly flat region can be as barren as the landscape on Mars. It also doesn’t help that there is no major Italian city for hours. But believe it or not, where the aquamarine waters of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas meet along this bright limestone coast are some of Italy’s most stunning beaches, delicious seafood, and archaeologically rich history. And the region’s blessings don’t end there. There is wine…darn good wine.

Although formerly a major source of bulk wine used to make Vermouth in Northern Italy or to “fatten” up wines in France, in recent years Puglia’s wine production has undergone a substantial makeover to focus more on quality and less on quantity. The region’s rising stars feature reds from three traditional grape varieties: the rustic and earthy Negroamaro, the ripe and lush Primitivo (a much earlier version of Zinfandel), and the more elegant Uva di Troia. Those adventurous enough to visit the area will find it sporadically freckled with lush vineyards where they can meet these boutique producers, taste fantastic wine, and finish the afternoon sipping on coffee prepared in a moka pot. So before you overlook Puglia and write it off as ‘The Wasteland of Italy,’ give this humble yet charming state a chance to prove just how much it can offer. Just keep an eye out for snakes!

Julie Albin is an American wine connoisseur currently residing in San Francisco. Her far-flung travels have taken her from Tibet to Tanzania, and she has visited wine producers in France, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, South Africa, and Australia. She is the former Wine Specialist and Marketing Director of the San Francisco Wine Center and also writes for Connoisseur


ariel bag

With spring comes spring cleaning. I approached my garage yesterday thinking it’s time to make space for the bicycles and garden tools that have been hidden away all winter. The garage is the place where time hides out, too–ours is filled boxes of clothes that the kids have outgrown, half empty paint cans, projects forever on hold, plus all the other stuff that accumulates over a winter spent indoors. But what got me thinking was all the bags-of-bags that for some reason I have had a hard time discarding. Part of the problem is that now, at least here in France, when you go into a grocery store you bring your own bag or buy one of theirs – to bring back the next time. That’s not really a problem of course, it’s good for the environment apparently, but if half the time you forget to return with a bag, you accumulate dozens and in my case, millions of bags. What most people do, including me, is stuff one bag in the other (again and again) and toss it in the garage – so you have one when you need one. I have millions, and not just grocery store bags, I have bags of bags from Ikea, and plasticized bags from every shop in Paris. You never know when I might need one… My garage was starting to look like the Pacific Ocean garbage patch.

It was a personal challenge to throw out a very solid colorful Disney store bag with light blue fabric cords: I’ve been holding it unconsciously since my daughter was 5, she’s 16 now. We bought an Ariel figurine. I remember her euphoria and how crowded the Disney Store was on the Champs-Élysées. We had developed the habit of taking a walk along the Champs on Saturday mornings when the weather was nice. Ariel was irresistible. Bags have a history and despite the fact that they’re just bags, they try desperately to maintain value. They don’t want to be discarded. If I mention to my daughter that I threw out an Abercrombie & Fitch bag, now containing the Disney Store bag (which contains others), I risk the wrath of an adolescent girl. So I hid them – at the bottom of the garbage can. Au revoir, bags. You held a lot, even empty it turns out.

Jeff Hildebrand lives in a 400-year-old stone farmhouse in the French countryside. He trades futures and options, and blogs about it at Brandnet.com. He worked as a developer in New York’s Silicon Alley in the 1990′s.

BEAT PELE - PELE and COSI PRODUCTIONS Bring Fans Closer Than Ever Before to the Action With the Launch of Pele: King of Football

Pele promoting his app

Will soccer-loving Americans travel to Brazil for the FIFA World Cup this summer? Pelé says, Sim! (That’s Portugese for yes.) The soccer legend is encouraging Americans to travel to his native land by flashing that charismatic smile in ads for big sponsors including United Emirates. It will take some convincing. Although Rio de Janeiro is home to the Estádio do Maracanã, the largest stadium in the country (it held nearly 200,000 fans for a FIFA World Cup Finals match), the city is plagued by rampant violence. Federal troops were sent to help deal with violent attacks targeting the city’s police just last month. And in order to avoid protest, FIFA announced that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will not make a speech at the opening ceremony. (At a recent match, he was booed by fans who took to the streets denouncing corruption and the cost of preparations for the World Cup.)

Pelé is doing his best in the States to promote the beautiful game and the Copa do Mundo. Last week at the Soho Apple store in Manhattan he launched the app “Pele, The King of Football.” Each time a player shoots and scores, he/she is automatically entered into a drawing for a pair of tickets to the real World Cup in Brazil. He is also promoting the sport with a new book, “Pele: Why Soccer Matters,” published by Celebra (the celebrity imprint of Random House that focuses on mainstream Hispanic authors). For those Americans who do decide to travel to Brazil for the World Cup, be sure to have your passport and a visa. You will not be allowed in the country without both.

adPelé in an advertisement for United Emirates