Short And To The Point has a new address

Stupid email client servers

So, as you may have noticed, I had to move platforms. This is because gmail (which most of you use) began flagging my old system (Mailchimp) as exclusively commercial so the 4 newsletters all ended up dumped into your “Promotions” folder, and you never read that. I never read it either.

That meant that a newsletter with about an 80% open rate suddenly found itself with a 20% open rate. I’m sure that some of that can be chalked up to it being summer, I kind of hope that it’s more about the email sorting monster trying to get me.

Now, at 20% is when I probably quit doing this. I know that most of you probably skim this, but I enjoy doing this because it forces me to read further and wider to find interesting things to share with you. It also forces me to read less straight political drumbeat coverage and dive a little deeper. I know that doing this has made me smarter and given me new perspectives. All that said, it takes time to put one of these things together, and I will admit that I’m a little less interested in doing that if no one is reading it. That would make me sad. I like putting this little digest together. It’s become a good part of my weekly rhythm. I’m going to the trouble of moving this over to a website and losing a bunch of trusty tools because I have realized how much I enjoy this. I hope you enjoy it too.

I hope that this email actually reaches you and I hope you like the new home. It comes with an archive so everything will now be in one place forever.

God help me, I think it also comes with a comments section.

Also, I don’t think I’ve ever said anything one way or the other about this, but if you like this thing, then please share it and tell other people to give it a try. It’s always fun to meet and annoy new people.

This Week in Our Dumb World

When Endowments Chase The Big Bucks

First and foremost, this was a fascinating look at endowment investing, and I absolutely learned a lot. That said there are some things to remember.

The first thing to remember when you read this article is that these are non-profits. Almost everything that you read about in here is a non-profit. Just want to remind you that when you imagine the amount of money flowing in and out of these gigantic endowments and foundation funds.

The second thing to remember is how many studies show that teacher salaries are flat-lining even as the use of adjuncts and lecturers is on the rise. I’m not casting judgment on the many people who are working hard to help their schools and their family foundations, but when you read about the constant outflow of millions of dollars to consultants and managers in the name of competition and the fund, you kind of get the impression that there’s an awfully lot of money going somewhere other than the actual administration of the school. Now, I understand that it’s expensive to run a competitive university, but I think it’s worth asking whether it’s good to have a finance arms race among non=profits and whether that actually serves any kind of mission other than enrichment.

The impetus for stampeding into private assets is the same for institutions great and small, in Marshall’s view. “FOMO. They look at the returns we’ve posted, and their bosses are saying, ‘Why don’t you have that?’ They’re sad.” Many public pension leaders face a math problem where the only solution is private equity. As one public fund staffer recently told Marshall, paying out retirees as promised requires a 7 percent annual return, and the only way the expected-return model spits out 7 percent is by putting 30 percent into private equity. “Personally, I think it’s crazy,” says Marshall. “But I guess that’s their job. Whether they think it’s crazy or not is totally irrelevant.” 

If a $2 billion charity tries to be Yale and fails, it’s the charity’s problem. If five $100 billion-plus public pension funds do that, that’s everyone’s problem. 

How Far Do You Go To Save A Fish?

Since Our Idiot President is currently threatening the endangered species act, this seemed like a good idea to dive into something that, to me, highlights how valuable and important this is, even as it is occasionally impractical.

The Devil’s Hole Pupfish (the species in question) exists in exactly one place in the entire world. It is an accident of nature that it exists at all. It is things like this that remind me that we are all just stewards of this planet. The world has been here for thousands of years before us and will be here thousands of years after we are all long dead. To take something singular and special from this world is a profound crime and a complete betrayal of that job of stewardship. The job to protect what we can and give as much as we can to those who come after.

Or I guess we can kill everything for our own glory.

Sometimes I cannot believe the choices that people make.

Because there are so many endangered species, society is forced to make difficult choices about which ones to protect, and to what lengths we should go to save them. Climate change has quickened the pace of extinction, and already the number of critically endangered species exceeds our ability to save them all.

The Devils Hole pupfish, serene, obscure and tiny, has survived a very long time in an unkind place, just one drunken night or one jug of poison away from oblivion. It is a wonder, to be sure. But how far do you go to save a species like this? For Wilson and the others at Death Valley National Park, it means surrounding this biological wonder with an impenetrable cage. Biologists occasionally feed the fish and clean out Devils Hole as if it were a giant aquarium. They even have a backup population held in a huge climate-controlled tank nearby, insurance against outright extinction. Protecting the species means harsh punishment for anyone who kills even just one fish, according to Patrick Donnelly of the Center for Biological Diversity, which offered a $10,000 reward for help in identifying the drunken skinny-dipper and his friends. “We desperately wanted justice for this. If they didn’t get the book thrown at them, what’s stopping others from doing whatever they want and eliminating an entire species?”

PS: You are so lucky that I did not include the heritage foundation article defending the cuts to the Endangered Species act as being better for animals. I’m choosing not to subject you to the blood boiling nonsense, but suffice to say that one of their points was how much these animals would benefit from a cost-benefit analysis.

Queerness and Champions

I meant to include this after the USWNT won the World Cup and it got lost in the shuffle. It’s brief and beautiful and you should read it.

This means so much to thousands of people. “Pride” is such an apt word for LGBT+ celebrations because it’s what so many of us lacked for huge chunks of our lives. It’s important for everyone, of any sexual orientation or gender identity, to feel some pride in who they are. That’s often a lot harder for queer people than it is for cisgender, heterosexual people. And seeing openly queer athletes become the best in the world at something like soccer, that’s so visible and so important to most of the world, helps a lot of people find some pride in themselves on days when it’s hard to muster any at all.

But for people who are closeted or questioning, it’s often hard to see themselves reflected in the most proud, vocal players. Megan Rapinoe, bless her, might not inspire someone who is unsure about whether or not they can ever live their life out, to everyone, all the time. It’s easy for someone who has not yet connected with a queer community or figured out some essential truths about themselves to look at Rapinoe and think, “she’s awesome, but I could never be like that.” Not everyone has it in them to be that brash, that confident.

Which is why Kelley O’Hara and what she did on Sunday are so important. After winning the World Cup, O’Hara walked up to the stands and kissed her girlfriend.

What I’d Say To The Martians

In a just and noble world, this Jack Handey essay would be required reading. Instead we live in this world.

Sorry.

I admit that sometimes I think we are not so different after all. When you see one of your old ones trip and fall down, do you not point and laugh, just as we on Earth do? And I think we can agree that nothing is more admired by the people of Earth and Mars alike than a fine, high-quality cigarette. For fun, we humans like to ski down mountains covered with snow; you like to“milk” bacteria off of scum hills and pack them into your gill slits. Are we so different? Of course we are, and you will be even more different if I ever finish my homemade flamethrower.

You may kill me, either on purpose or by not making sure that all the surfaces in my cage are safe to lick. But you can’t kill an idea. And that idea is: me chasing you with a big wooden mallet.

You say you will release me only if I sign a statement saying that I will not attack you. And I have agreed, the only condition being that I can sign with a long sharp pen. And still you keep me locked up.

Williamina Fleming

Williamina Fleming worked as a maid in the home of Professor Edward Charles Pickering, who was directorof the Harvard College Observatory. The story was told that Pickering frequently became frustrated with the performance of the men working at the HCO and, reportedly, would complain loudly: "My Scottish maid could do better!" 

CUT TO

During her career, Fleming discovered a total of 59 gaseous nebulae, over 310 variable stars, and 10 novae.