Lauren Weiner has some criticisms and recommendations for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences:
The most recent crop of inductees is interesting. Among the choices for 2009 were Robert Gates, Colin Powell, appellate judge Harvie Wilkinson, historians James McPherson and Robert Caro, Emmylou Harris, Dustin Hoffman, James Earl Jones, Dame Judi Dench (honorary only, because shes a foreigner), Nelson Mandela (ditto), dance masters Bill T. Jones and Edward Villella, translator Edith Grossman, Thomas Pynchon, Tobias Wolff, and political theorist Danielle Allen.
Whats Allen doing there? Premature at best. Nor am I a big fan of John Doerr, another 2009 inductee. Doubtless hes done a fine job as a Silicon Valley financier, but his recent notoriety comes from his climate alarmism. In his public speeches he extols the burning of food (that dumb ethanol idea) as the solution to global environmental problems. Weak picks from past years include such boringly ubiquitous Beltway types as Norman Ornstein and Marvin Kalb, people like Justin Kaplan who mainly seem well-connected, Russell Banks, who writes bad novels, and Robert Venturi, who adorns his buildings with tacky architectural flourishes.
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