Harvard Kneels To Jack Welch and G.E.

After the recent revelations by The Wall Street Journal that Suzy Wetlaufer, the editor of the Harvard Business Review , was romantically involved with former General Electric chairman Jack Welch, it seemed only a matter of time before the Review would announce her resignation. After all, she had reported and written a story on Mr. Welch while she was becoming intimate with him, and had only told her colleagues about her behavior after Mr. Welch’s wife Jane called her and questioned her objectivity. One does not need to take a course in journalistic ethics to see that the only way for the prestigious Review to maintain its credibility was to show Ms. Wetlaufer the door.

But after a flurry of lobbying and lawyering by Mr. Welch, Harvard has chosen to keep Ms. Wetlaufer in power. While she will no longer have direct managerial control as editor, she will keep her office and full-time status under the title “editor at large.” Two senior editors of the Review resigned in protest, and one of the Review’s executive editors, Nicholas Carr, released a statement attacking the university’s new agreement with Ms. Wetlaufer as “a masterpiece of ethical fecklessness” and an insult to the other members of the staff.

How can Harvard justify its support of an editor who demonstrated such arrogant disregard for journalistic objectivity? This is where the story–which began as a sort of a “tut-tut” sex tale, with details like a long first-date lunch at “21,” and suggestions that the 66-year-old Mr. Welch was perhaps not Ms. Wetlaufer’s first experience of mixing business with pleasure–becomes truly seedy. When the affair became public, and Ms. Wetlaufer stood in danger of losing her $277,000-a-year job, Mr. Welch roused himself on behalf of his 42-year-old paramour: He guided her to Boston’s most prominent lawyer, Robert Popeo, who had represented G.E. when the company ran into trouble with PCB contamination, and he was an active participant in Ms. Wetlaufer’s discussions with her legal team. But surely even Jack Welch–negotiator that he is–could not browbeat Harvard University into compromising its ethics? As it turns out, Mr. Welch and Ms. Wetlaufer had a willing audience: It just so happens that James Cash, chairman of the Harvard Business School Publishing Corp., which publishes the Review , serves on the board of–you guessed it–General Electric, which pays its board members a substantial fee . The Wall Street Journal reports that Mr. Welch and Mr. Cash spoke by phone when the controversy first surfaced. Mr. Cash claims they talked about golf. Meanwhile, Ms. Wetlaufer’s spokeswoman has confirmed that her client and Mr. Welch continue to be romantically involved.

Any reasonable person would have to conclude that Harvard University, rather than protect the integrity of one of its publications, has chosen instead to appease Mr. Welch and his girlfriend. One wonders how the professors at Harvard’s business school will explain this curious management decision to their students.

McCall Campaigns in Israel

New York State Comptroller Carl McCall, a candidate for Governor this year, has just returned from a well-publicized trip to Israel. His interest in Israel in an election year is not surprising–political candidates in this diverse state often visit the native lands of ethnic voting blocs. Governor George Pataki has spent enough time in the

Dominican Republic to apply for citizenship.

Here’s the problem: According to Mr. McCall’s spokesman, the visit “was clearly not political.” Oh, no? Certainly not! Why, as Comptroller, Mr. McCall must make important investment decisions with state pension money. The state has, according to the spokesman, “significant investments in Israel.” So Mr. McCall dropped by to get the lay of the land, to see how people were feeling, and to get a sense of how those investments are doing. Politics? No, sir. This was state business. And that means Mr. McCall’s campaign won’t be picking up the tab for the trip. The bill will be sent to the state’s pension fund and State of Israel Bonds.

Mr. McCall’s record as a careful, prudent public official has not been A-plus. Political contributors have been rewarded with substantial business from the state pension fund, and too often in an untimely fashion . We all know why he made the trip, why he visited the Western Wall, and why he even broke with protocol by visiting a settlement on the West Bank. (He wished to “share solidarity” with the settlers, many of whom are former New Yorkers, the Comptroller’s spokesman said.)

This was a political trip, designed to appeal to New York’s Jewish voters. It wasn’t subtle; all the more reason to admit what is in plain sight. Mr. McCall is doing exactly what candidates in New York have always done. He looks foolish denying the obvious. How dumb does he think New York voters are?

Even if Mr. McCall really was interested only in New York’s rate of return on its investments in Israel, that begs a question: Aren’t those investments–which amount to just 0.0607 percent of the pension fund–merely political sops anyway? Would a prudent chief fiscal officer regard Israel as a safe investment for pension money? Probably not.

Drunk Monkeys

While most humans accept that monkeys are evolutionary cousins of ours, we tend to take pride in how far we’ve evolved, with our sophisticated social, verbal and intellectual skills, high levels of self-awareness and nuanced emotional states. But new research from McGill University reveals that, when it comes to cocktail hour, the difference between man and monkey gets smaller with each martini.

The researchers gave alcohol to 1,000 green vervet monkeys, and reported that the monkeys mirror humans to an uncanny degree in their drinking habits. Some were teetotalers, while others were either social drinkers, steady drinkers or binge drinkers. Most were social drinkers–they drank in moderation, and only in the presence of other monkeys, and never before lunch.

But when the lights went down ….

“A cage full of drunken monkeys is like a cocktail party,” said researcher Frank Ervin, who was in charge of the study. “You have one who gets aggressive, one who gets sexy, one who thinks everything’s funny, and one who gets really grumpy. The binge drinkers gulp down the alcohol at a very fast rate and pass out on the floor. The next day, they do it all over again.”

No word yet on whether the monkeys have organized their own 12-step program.