Art & Illustration

Plagiarism trumps racism.

Should someone be forced to resign if they’ve plagiarized work that helped them get the job they have?

I say ‘yes’, if the plagiarism is material (I heard of a revered professor who was hauled before her university’s Senate because she copied writing from a long ago paper she’d written, but failed to cite that passage even though she was copying from herself. That’s not material).

But what if the plagiarist is a female University president? Is that sexism? Possibly. But also not material.

What if that university president is Black? Is that racism? Possibly. Again, not material.

And what if that plagiarist is the first Black woman President of the most famous university in the world? Is that racist-sexism? Or sexist-racism? Or both? Or neither? The point is, it doesn’t matter.

Some critics have claimed that if Claudine Gay were a white man, she’d still have her job. I doubt that.

Her family still owns and runs the largest concrete plant in Haiti, and she attended Phillips Exeter, the most elite private school in America, before studying at Princeton and Stanford, then getting her Ph.D. at Harvard in 1998. Claudine Gay is a child of privilege.

In 2021, Robert Caslen, the white male president of the University of South Carolina, resigned not because he’d plagiarized parts of his thesis, but because he, a retired Army general, had copied large parts of a commencement speech. Then last July, the white male Canadian -born president of Stanford, Marc Tessier-Lavigne , resigned not because he’d fabricated results of his lab tests, but because “ there was apparent manipulation of research data by others.”

But the person we should really ask about how issues of race, gender and religion can get confused with competence is a former Harvard President from 2001 to 2006, the very rich, white and powerful Larry Summers.

In the words of Wikipedia, Summers resigned…. in the wake of a no-confidence vote by Harvard faculty, which resulted… from Summers’s conflict with Cornel West , financial conflict of interest questions regarding his relationship with Andrei Shleifer, and a 2005 speech in which he offered three reasons for the under-representation of women in science and engineering, including the possibility that there exists a “different availability of aptitude at the high end …”

None of the above is plagiarism. But is it material?

You bet.

But as Summers said to the Harvard faculty after one of his more acrimonious sessions with them: “At least I understand now where you and I differ. I believe achievement is the route to self-esteem. “You believe self-esteem is the route to achievement.”


1. Alone but not lonely. More and more of us are playing board games alone . I don’t mean online games, but board games. Tabletoppers. You can even play the throne of games, Monopoly , by yourself. In 2000, Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone made loneliness a pathology for America at large. But maybe playing alone just means fun doesn’t have to be shared. Even dining alone .

That said, the Men’s Shed Movement is booming. Why? “Men tend not to be as diligent about making and maintaining friends, they are less comfortable being open about their emotions and can tie too much of their identity into their work, leaving them adrift in retirement,” said The Globe and Mail .

2. Schmattas from Succession. You can now bid to own everything from clothes to watches, trophies to cranberry juice, all used on set during the filming of Succession.

Speaking of wretched excess, I felt like a true schadenfreuder when Wayne LaPierre resigned as head of the National Rifle Association as he faces a corruption trial in Manhattan this week. LaPierre once spent $40,000 on clothes at a Zegna boutique in Beverly Hills. He also showed he can’t shoot worth beans. But the best news of all is, membership in the NRA tumbled from nearly six million five years ago to 4.2 million today, revenue has fallen 44 percent since 2016, and legal costs have soared to tens of millions a year.

3. Luxury cruise, unheard of price. Pamper yourself on a week-long Mediterranean cruise on the 312-passenger Star Legend from Rome to Barcelona via Windstar Cruises. The March 17 sailing is just US $1,899, for the best suite available when you book, with no single supplement. Details from Lynn Elmhirst at

4. “Meaningfully fewer.” What does that mean? Is it like “vanishingly small”? I ask because Amazon Prime wrote to tell me that, starting January 29th , their movies and TV shows will include ads. It said: “We aim to have meaningfully fewer ads than linear TV and other streaming TV providers.” But for me, brought up since COVID on ad-free streaming, “meaningfully” means “1”. Thus ends not the golden age of television, but of uninterrupted television watching.

5. Just passing through. Here are 26,000 hidden places to visit this year. That’s 71 per day or 3 every hour.

Speaking of rapid-travel, do you have your Mobile Passport Control app? It can shorten your wait at US Immigration in 33 US airports. MPC is not Global Entry which offers some similar benefits but costs $100, requires an in-person interview, and has an application backlog of up to 11 months .

And a new bike trail , 7,600 kilometers neatly dividing Europe on dirt roads from Grense Jakobselv in Norway to Cabo St Vincent in Portugal.

6. What have we done?! And too close to the sun. Germany’s Deutsche Telekom has donated a frightening campaign on the profiles of social media for kids and teens.

Dubai’s growth in 40 years from a patched desert to the home of Supertalls is impressive and possibly blasphemous.

7. There she goes. First a reading list on women adventurers. Next, the story of one tough Inuit woman, Ada Blackjack. Finally, a CBC interview 11 years ago at the Canadian Country Music Awards with a young country singer, Taylor Swift.

8. Pretty pictures. First, a history of the world , according to Getty Images. Second, now that it’s over, the 20 Best Film Performances of 2023. Plus a drone light show we all missed over the holidays. Finally, the International Landscape Photos of the Year. Best photo? From Canadian Blake Randall, birch trees reflecting in the water.

9. I told you I was sick. It seems hypochondriacs die because they think they’re sick. As Medscape notes: “ Hypochondriasis is linked to an 84% higher risk for death for those with the disorder and a fourfold increased risk for suicide . ” ”

10. Gotta sing. Gotta dance. Especially when you gotta go as well. Plus Tea for Two at The Proms, and how to make a popsicle stick piano.

11. What I’m liking. Women’s Pro Hockey. It was born on New Year’s Day in the old Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. As Jane Jacobs said: “New ideas need old buildings.”



This is not an argument for travel, which Mark Twain claimed is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. You’re way beyond that.

This is a pitch for travelling with Jean and me and our friends who are oddly like you. In other words, familiar people and unfamiliar places.

Next year we’ll be travelling with our friends a lot. Here are the trips, in chronological order, with links to all the details you need to learn, think about and join. And of course if you have any questions, just e-mail me at

  • We’re also organizing a trip to the top of the world with Weber Arctic in the summer of 2025. E-mail me if you’re interested.

As we often say, adventure is not in the guidebook and beauty is not on the map.

Bob & Jean

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