June 23, 2012

NYT's sexless victims of sexual abuse

Here's the first online page of a two-page article in the New York Time on a case of sexual abuse of children that has garnered a lot of attention in upscale New York circles. 

I've highlighted the Times' monomaniacal use of the sex-ambiguous terms "student" or "students" to denote the victims without mentioning whether they were male or female. Normally, I excerpt, but here's the entire first page so you can see the contortions:
Retired Horace Mann Teacher Admits to Sex With Students 
Caption: Mr. Lin, in a 1984 yearbook, is a former English teacher at the Horace Mann School who said he had sex with "maybe three" of his students. 
Tek Young Lin was revered at the Horace Mann School. He was different from other teachers — a Buddhist who carefully tended to his elaborate gardens, a chaplain and a cross-country coach. He was so beloved that the English department chairmanship was named in his honor. 
Since the publication of a New York Times Magazine article about sexual abuse at the school, accusations against former teachers who are still alive have surfaced online. 
But there was something else about Mr. Lin: a focus he placed on certain students, a fascination that some said looked like infatuation. 
Last week, in an interview, Mr. Lin, now 88, acknowledged that there was something to those whispers. He said he had had sex with students, “maybe three, I don’t know,” crossing boundaries he said were not so clear years ago. 
“In those days, it was very spontaneous and casual, and it did not seem really wrong,” he said. 
A New York Times Magazine article this month that exposed sexual abuse at Horace Mann, a preparatory school in the Bronx, has spurred thousands of alumni to express their feelings online and a number of victims to reach out to one another. Two law enforcement agencies have opened Horace Mann abuse hot lines. The school has pledged to “work together to understand what may have happened and why,” and last week, after accusations against Mr. Lin began to surface in online postings, Horace Mann removed his name from the English department chairmanship. 
The teachers named in the magazine article, which recounted abuse that occurred 20 or more years ago, are all dead. But since its publication, some graduates of the school have made accusations against former teachers who are still alive, including Mr. Lin. 
Because of New York’s statutes of limitations, it is unlikely that Mr. Lin could be prosecuted or sued for any actions that occurred when he was at Horace Mann; he retired voluntarily in 1986. 
The Times has interviewed three former students who described inappropriate contact by Mr. Lin. One said he refused Mr. Lin’s request for sex; another said there had been physical contact, but no sex. One, who said he was 14 or 15 when the inappropriate contact began, said that Mr. Lin had sexual contact with him several times over several months, and that they had had a relationship that lasted years. 
Mr. Lin, who lives near Santa Cruz, Calif., said no coercion had been used. “The only thing I can assure you of was that everything I did was in warmth and affection and not a power play,” he said. “I may have crossed societal boundaries. If I did, I am sorry.” 
Thomas M. Kelly, the head of school, declined to comment directly on Mr. Lin’s statements, but a spokesman for the school’s public relations firm said: “If what Mr. Lin has told The New York Times is true, the conduct in which he says he engaged was appalling. We urge him to cooperate with law enforcement authorities.” Mr. Lin said no authorities had contacted him. 
In the phone interview, which lasted about a half-hour, he cited his fading memory and his advanced age. He recalled facts like the names of four of his five headmasters and provided details about one particular encounter, most of which were confirmed by the student involved. 
Mr. Lin was articulate in the interview, sometimes philosophical and a bit puzzled by the resurfacing of the past. “I’m surprised they remember,” he said, referring to the students. “It was all so casual and warm.” 
The era had not yet come when a teacher would be viewed automatically with suspicion for inviting a student to his home. Sexual scandals in institutions like the Roman Catholic Church and Pennsylvania State University were still decades away. 
Mr. Lin himself said he had acted “occasionally out of impulse,” adding, “In those days, the ’60s and ’70s, things were different.” 
All three students cited Mr. Lin as a positive influence in their lives, even today, and seemed reluctant to speak, not wanting to hurt the reputation of a man who had opened their eyes to philosophy and literature, and whose strict grammar rules they remembered today. 
Mr. Lin, whose Web site says he was born in the East Indies, came to the United States as a teenager in 1941, enlisted in the Army and served in the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency. According to Michael Lacopo, the final headmaster under which Mr. Lin served, he was working at Macy’s after the war and responded to an advertisement for Horace Mann. [Highlighting mine]

Did you notice which words are left off the first page, such as "boys," "youths," "males," etc. Obviously, there was no room for them because they had to squeeze in "student/s" a few more times. 

Why the linguistic gymnastics?

Well, we can't have people thinking this is a gay thing (because it is).

A Scots-Irish Perspective

From the BBC:
The EU should "do its best to undermine" the "homogeneity" of its member states, the UN's special representative for migration has said. 
Peter Sutherland told peers the future prosperity of many EU states depended on them becoming multicultural. 
He also suggested the UK government's immigration policy had no basis in international law. 
He was being quizzed by the Lords EU home affairs sub-committee which is investigating global migration. 
Mr Sutherland, who is non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs International and a former chairman of oil giant BP, heads the Global Forum on Migration and Development, which brings together representatives of 160 nations to share policy ideas. 
He told the House of Lords committee migration was a "crucial dynamic for economic growth" in some EU nations "however difficult it may be to explain this to the citizens of those states".

Meanwhile in Britain ...

The left is moving in the opposite direction on immigration. From the London Evening Standard:
Ed Miliband 
Labour leader [i.e., Shadow Prime Minister of Britain]
22 June 2012 
I am the son of immigrants and proud of it. My father arrived here as a boy to escape the Nazis. My mother came to this country just after the war as another Jewish refugee. In London, they found each other, a place to work and a home. 
I would not be here now if it was not for Britain’s historic role in welcoming people from overseas. 
And the London I love and where I grew up is a more brilliant, vibrant place because people from every single country have come here to live, work and play. Our food, arts, sport, music and business are all massively enriched by it. And because we are a global multi-ethnic city we have earned the right to stage the Olympics next month.
So I am going to be true to my family’s story and to that of our country by recognising that Britain has benefited from immigration — economically, socially and culturally.
But I also have to be true to the many people I have met who worry about immigration and feel let down by politics on this issue. So we need a grown-up debate which begins with an honest assessment of what has happened. 
For too long we assumed those who worried about immigration were stuck in the past — unrealistic about how things could be different, even prejudiced. 
Britain was experiencing the largest peacetime migration in recent history partly because of global factors like the lower cost of travel but also because the last Labour government severely underestimated the numbers who would come here when the EU expanded. 
We were too dazzled by globalisation’s impact on growth and too sanguine about its price. We lost sight of who was benefiting and the people being squeezed in the middle who were losing out. And, to them, Labour was too quick to say: “Like it or lump it.” 
But they were ahead of us in seeing some of the costs of migration as a whole. Rapid changes in population led to pressures on scarce resources such as housing and schools. Some areas were not equipped to cope in the short-term and it brought to the fore questions about entitlements. 
There were also problems with the pace of change in some communities. 
Ties of solidarity and community are not built overnight, and sometimes migration ran faster than the time it took to build them. These are vital questions because they are about how we choose to live together. Labour’s policy review will learn from what has happened because proper controls over who comes into our country and fair rules on entitlements are essential. 
But an effective immigration policy must also reform how our economy works so that it works for all working people in Britain. Although immigration has benefited our economy overall, there have been costs as well as benefits. And where those costs and benefits fall is related to class. 
Those people getting a conservatory built for their home were probably better off because of immigration. But many working in food-processing, hospitality or construction — maybe even building conservatories — were probably worse off because of immigration. ...  
There is nothing wrong with employing a Polish builder, a Swedish child-minder or a French chef. Nor is there anything wrong with people from other countries coming here to work legally. 
Large-scale immigration has collided, however, with a labour market that is too often nasty, brutish and short term. I have heard stories like that from my Doncaster constituency where East European migrants arrived to work in a local chicken factory for long hours at less than the minimum wage while sleeping 19 or 20 to a house. 
That is not good either for the migrants or for the people who used to do these jobs. ...
If there are wonderful examples in our country of firms who invest in training their local workforce, it is also the case that the ready supply of temporary, low-wage migrant labour has pushed too many other businesses further into taking a short-term, low-skill approach. 
There are even recruitment agencies serving them that are effectively open solely to migrants: boasting their workers are Polish, denigrating the talents of people already living and working here, locking local talent out of opportunity.  
We need a new approach that acknowledges that immigration always has costs, as well as benefits, and understands that we cannot solve concerns about it unless we change our economy. 
For too long we have had a phoney debate about immigration which has ignored how our economy works, ignored the costs and sometimes ignored the benefits. And we have ignored the real concerns of working people. 
Too often politicians only speak about this issue to close the conversation down. 
Today I am setting out a new direction for my party on immigration. It will be only the start of a much longer conversation with the British people.

All the examples in the speech are about white immigrants from Europe, whereas the respectable mainstream approach in America is to always racialize the discussion of immigration into totally Who? Whom? terms about the Vibrant v. the Racist, so that helps the British Labour leader make this speech, but still ...

I wrote about the rapid rise and quicker fall of an earlier Miliband ideas man, Lord Glasman, back in 2011.

June 22, 2012

Minnesota tax dollars at work

Who says government can't create good jobs? Check out what Duluth is up to. Being up close to the Canadian border makes them more moral, as D.P. Moynihan would say.

June 21, 2012

Romney not clear on concept of 8.1% unemployment

From the WSJ:
Mitt Romney promised Latino leaders a long-term fix for immigration policy and short-term relief for immigrants in a speech Thursday that was notably softer in tone than when he was battling to win the Republican presidential nomination. 
In a calibrated attempt to attract Latino voters without alienating some in his own party, Mr. Romney spoke of bipartisan solutions he would pursue as president. He pledged ... to let those with advanced degrees remain in the U.S. ...

Now, that's some brilliant politicking, Mitt: With your speech to Latino leaders today, you've definitely picked up some of that crucial voting bloc of Hispanic American citizens who are closely related to illegal immigrants with advanced degrees. You just keep listening to what the WSJ and NYT tell you and you can't go wrong.

June 20, 2012

Contra Marco Rubio, 70% of people in Mexico are overweight

It's a cliche that illegal immigrants are fleeing starvation. Yet, Mexico has more overweight residents than even notoriously fat America. From The Economist in 2010:
SEVENTY metres (230 feet) long and slathered with cream and cheese, the world’s biggest enchilada was cooked up in a suburb of Mexico City on October 17th. The 1.4-tonne lunch was certified by Guinness World Records,* then devoured. 
If Mexico is not careful, Guinness may soon award it another title. In the obesity stakes, the United States takes the cake. But Mexico comes a close second, and has a higher proportion of merely “overweight” citizens than do the gringos. Seven out of ten Mexican adults are overweight, and three out of ten are obese, according to a recent study by the OECD. In Chile and Brazil, the two other Latin American countries in the 40-country survey, just 22% and 14% fell into the chubbiest category. 
Moreover, the problem is expanding. In 2000 some 20% of Mexican primary-school girls were overweight; by 2006 27% were. Diabetes is the top cause of hospital admission after childbirth, and the second-biggest cause of death.

* By the way, former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda complained about Mexico's obsession with getting in the Guinness Book of World Records. From my review of Castaneda's book Manana Forever?
CastaƱeda points out that Mexico’s main distinction in international competition appears to be concocting, with government support, pointless new feats for the Guinness Book of World Records, such as Most People Dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. He quotes another Mexican political scientist, Carlos Elizondo: “Why such an obsession with this? For the same reasons we dislike competition. These records are based on noncompetition. … Nobody else in the world cares.”

Video: Steve Sailer on Human Biodiversity

Here's a 13-minute interview of me shot by Craig Bodeker back in 2010 at the H.L. Mencken Club meeting. I was pretty rocky in the beginning, but it came out okay:

Diversity before Diversity: Cheech Marin

Everybody knows these days that the 35 million or so people in the country of Mexican descent are making "extraordinary contributions", as President Obama explained last week in his amnesty speech. Granted, he did not name any making extraordinary contributions. And, indeed, the number of American-raised high achievers of Mexican descent appears to be remarkably low at present relative to their numbers.

For example, economist Bryan Caplan is highly excited by the Time cover story by Jose Antonio Vargas entitled "We Are Americans: Just Not Legally," calling Vargas "the Rosa Parks of U.S. immigration law." Being 100% irony-free, Caplan doesn't notice that the media, in their endless search for a glib Spanish-surnamed mouthpiece for Mexican illegal immigrants has, after all these years of looking, only managed to come up with a Filipino! (Perhaps unsurprisingly, the media's choice for the voice of Mexican undocumented workers is not just Asian, but gay, too.)

But, as all East Coast academics and pundits would reply if this line of unsettling thought ever occurred to them, the shortage of high-achieving Mexican-Americans is because Mexicans just arrived here in the United States.

What's that you say, that there were millions of Mexican-Americans in the Southwest a generation or more ago?

Well, yes, but they were so virulently discriminated against until recently that none of them could ever accomplish anything in life.

What's that you say, that high achieving, popular Mexican-American celebrities were hardly unknown a generation ago?

Well, then ... shut up.

So, let me continue with another intermittent installment of my series on popular Mexican-American stars of my youth, such as Pancho Gonzales, Lee Trevino, Nancy Lopez, Anthony Quinn, and Anthony Munoz.

When I was at Notre Dame H.S. in Sherman Oaks, CA from 1972-1976, the comedy records of Cheech and Chong were hugely popular, as they were across the country. But there was a particular appeal at Notre Dame because Cheech Marin (1946-) was, just like us, a Catholic middle-class Valley Dude.

Cheech's dad was an LAPD cop, his mom a secretary, and he graduated in the early 1960s from our rival Bishop Alemany H.S. in Mission Hills, about 15 minutes up the San Diego Freeway from Notre Dame. Cheech went to Cal State Northridge (I think it was then called San Fernando Valley State), where he was a Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity boy, and graduated with a degree in English. He got into drugs and comedy, made some movies with Chong like "Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke" (by including their names in the title of their movies, that relieved their fans of having to remember the name of their latest flick, which kept them from wandering into the wrong film at the multiplex) and on his own like "Born in East L.A." and has since been a steady presence on-screen as an affable and amusing character actor.

Test Prep gains by race

Chris Hayes argues in his new book Why Elites Fail the real reason that blacks and Hispanics are making so little progress over the generations at qualifying on their own merit for selective academic institutions is because rich whites are hogging all the test prep.

Education Realist, who is in the test prep business, has a post linking to various recent studies of the popularity and effectiveness of prepping for admissions test by race. Here's one table (with score increases out of 1600, not 2400):

Use of Test-Prep Courses and Gains, by Race and Ethnicity
Group% Taking
Test-Prep Course
Post-Course Gain
in Points on SAT  
East Asian Am.
Other Asian
So, unsurprisingly, East Asians try the hardest at and get the most benefit from test prep, while whites, who are more likely to have heard and believed ETS's propaganda that test prepping is insignificant, try the least hard and get the least benefit. In the middle, blacks and Hispanics benefit from all the racial uplift programs for them.

This doesn't disprove Chris Hayes' assumption that Upper East Side whites are benefitting from test prep. My guess is that the big losers in this game are naive flyover folks. 

The Wisdom of Marco Rubio

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Cuba), prominent Vice-Presidential Timber, has written (according to Matthew Yglesias in "The Wisdom of Marco Rubio on Illegal Immigration"):
"Many people who came here illegally are doing exactly what we would do if we lived in a country where we couldn't feed our families," he writes in An American Son, which was released Tuesday. "If my kids went to sleep hungry every night and my country didn't give me an opportunity to feed them, there isn't a law, no matter how restrictive, that would prevent me from coming here."

Here's an interesting graph:

California v. Texas: U2 property rights

From my new column in Taki's Magazine:
The struggles of even the best-connected California celebrities to nail down every last one of the permits they need to build on their own property helps demonstrate why differences in topography drive Californians toward voting for environmentalist Democrats and Texans toward pro-business Republicans. ... 
In Southern California, U2 guitarist The Edge (born David Evans) has been battling for a half-dozen years to build five mansions on his 156 acres of ridgeline overlooking Malibu’s Surfrider Beach, an average of one home per 31 acres. His well-heeled neighbors have gone to war to prevent him from taking such liberties with their view. 
California and Texas are the two largest states in the Electoral College, so it’s worth considering the bedrock reasons they vote the way they do. Having lived in both California and Texas, my guess is that their divergent politics are shaped by the shape of their land.

Read the whole thing there.

June 19, 2012

Kanazawa on the disadvantages of intelligence

I admire Satoshi Kanazawa's lively intelligence, although I'm not totally persuaded to trust every idea he comes up with. From The Economist:
... less intelligent people are better at doing most things. In the ancestral environment general intelligence was helpful only for solving a handful of evolutionarily novel problems. 

I look out my window and see mourning doves and crows. The doves seem pretty stupid and the crows appear smarter. Presumably, they both have their evolutionary advantages and disadvantages. Still, it took a lot of natural selection just to get up to being as smart as a dove -- try building a robot bird. 

June 18, 2012

"Why Elites Fail"

From The Nation
Why Elites Fail 
Christopher Hayes | June 6, 2012

This article is adapted from Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy [1], © 2012 by Christopher Hayes and published by Crown Publishers, a division of Random House Inc.

In 1990, at the age of 11, I stood in a line of sixth graders outside an imposing converted armory on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, nervously anticipating a test that would change my life. I was hoping to gain entrance to Hunter College High School, a public magnet school that runs from grades seven through twelve and admits students from all five boroughs. Each year, between 3,000 and 4,000 students citywide score high enough on their fifth-grade standardized tests to qualify to take Hunter’s entrance exam in the sixth grade; ultimately, only 185 will be offered admission.  ... 
But the problem with my alma mater is that over time, the mechanisms of meritocracy have broken down. In 1995, when I was a student at Hunter, the student body was 12 percent black and 6 percent Hispanic. Not coincidentally, there was no test-prep industry for the Hunter entrance exam. That’s no longer the case. Now, so-called cram schools like Elite Academy in Queens can charge thousands of dollars for after-school and weekend courses where sixth graders memorize vocabulary words and learn advanced math. Meanwhile, in the wealthier precincts of Manhattan, parents can hire $90-an-hour private tutors for one-on-one sessions with their children. 
By 2009, Hunter’s demographics were radically different—just 3 percent black and 1 percent Hispanic, according to the New York Times. With the rise of a sophisticated and expensive test-preparation industry, the means of selecting entrants to Hunter has grown less independent of the social and economic hierarchies in New York at large. The pyramid of merit has come to mirror the pyramid of wealth and cultural capital. 
... But this ideal, appealing as it may be, runs up against the reality of what I’ll call the Iron Law of Meritocracy. The Iron Law of Meritocracy states that eventually the inequality produced by a meritocratic system will grow large enough to subvert the mechanisms of mobility. Unequal outcomes make equal opportunity impossible. The Principle of Difference will come to overwhelm the Principle of Mobility. Those who are able to climb up the ladder will find ways to pull it up after them, or to selectively lower it down to allow their friends, allies and kin to scramble up. In other words: “Who says meritocracy says oligarchy.” 
Consider, for example, the next “meritocracy” that graduates of Hunter encounter. American universities are the central institution of the modern meritocracy, and yet, as Daniel Golden documents in his devastating book The Price of Admission, atop the ostensibly meritocratic architecture of SATs and high school grades is built an entire tower of preference and subsidy for the privileged: 
At least one third of the students at elite universities, and at least half at liberal arts colleges, are flagged for preferential treatment in the admissions process. While minorities make up 10 to 15 percent of a typical student body, affluent whites dominate other preferred groups: recruited athletes (10 to 25 percent of students); alumni children, also known as “legacies” (10 to 25 percent); development cases (2 to 5 percent); children of celebrities and politicians (1 to 2 percent); and children of faculty members (1 to 3 percent). 
This doesn’t even count the advantages that wealthy children have in terms of private tutors, test prep, and access to expensive private high schools and college counselors. All together, this layered system of preferences for the children of the privileged amounts to, in Golden’s words, “affirmative action for rich white people.” 

Okay, but shouldn't Hayes' article mention the single most important word in the demographic transition of Hunter College High School over the last 20 years: "Asians"? Here's a school on Manhattan's Upper East Side, the largest concentration of rich white people in America, and there are now more Asians than whites attending it. The New York Times article Hayes cites, but doesn't quote, makes this clear:
As has happened at other prestigious city high schools that use only a test for admission, the black and Hispanic population at Hunter has fallen in recent years. In 1995, the entering seventh-grade class was 12 percent black and 6 percent Hispanic, according to state data. This past year, it was 3 percent black and 1 percent Hispanic; the balance was 47 percent Asian and 41 percent white, with the other 8 percent of students identifying themselves as multiracial. The public school system as a whole is 70 percent black and Hispanic.

It's fun to talk about test prep as "affirmative action for rich white people," but the test prep freight train is being driven by Asians (who have been test prepping for over a thousand years, by the way), which is a fact that the media ought to get around to acknowledging.

The false promise of cyberspace

Aaron Renn makes an interesting argument in City Journal:
Many of Chicago’s woes derive from the way it has thrown itself into being a “global city” and the uncomfortable fact that its enthusiasm may be delusional. Most true global cities are a dominant location of a major industry: finance in New York, entertainment in Los Angeles, government in Washington, and so on. That position lets them harvest outsize tax revenues that can be fed back into sustaining the region. Thus New York uses Wall Street money, perhaps to too great an extent, to pay its bills.
Chicago, however, isn’t the epicenter of any important macro-industry, so it lacks this wealth-generation engine. It has some specialties, such as financial derivatives and the design of supertall skyscrapers, but they’re too small to drive the city. The lack of a calling-card industry that can generate huge returns is perhaps one reason Chicago’s per-capita GDP is so low. It also means that there aren’t many people who have to be in Chicago to do business. Plenty of financiers have to settle in New York, lots of software engineers must move to Silicon Valley, but few people will pay any price or bear any burden for the privilege of doing business in Chicago.

In my day, Chicago was the probably the best place to be if you were in the consumer packaged goods marketing services business. But, you didn't have to be there. You could be anywhere there was a big airport with lots of direct flights to other cities.

I wonder whether wealth is becoming ever more squeezed into single industry-dominant cities? Despite the rise of cyberspace, industries seem to be flocking at least as much as ever to a single city. For example, the term "Silicon Valley" was coined around 1971 and within a few years, important people around the world were saying to each other: We should be the New Silicon Valley. Vast efforts went into these projects, and, yet, the main outcome has not been two, three many Silicon Valleys, but that Silicon Valley's one traditional competitor for tech startups, suburban Boston's Route 128 has fizzled out. In the 1970s to 1990s, people normally grouped Route 128 with Silicon Valley, but now almost nobody does anymore.

Lots of theories have been put forward for why Route 128 was crushed by Silicon Valley, such as the more staid culture of Boston or Massachusetts' stronger enforcement of non-compete provisions in  employment contracts. Perhaps, though, the essential reason was that the way things work these days is that it's best to have just one hub for an industry, and Silicon Valley had better weather than Route 128.

But, also consider magazines. Most journalism comes out of New York and Washington D.C., but for a century and a half, the Atlantic Monthly was based in Boston. And why not? There are a lot of highly literate people in Boston. And this had the beneficial side effect that the kinds of topics that the Atlantic worried about ("genteel foreboding" was its calling card), were not always the same things as what the rest of the gang in NY and DC were currently worried about. Then, about a decade ago, the magazine was moved to D.C. 

This isn't a solely modern phenomenon. The headquarters of American automobile manufacturers were widely spread out a century ago, but then consolidated in Detroit by about a half century ago as Studebaker of South Bend, IN died out.

To get to the top, you have to be, physically, where the top people are. 

I think this is tied into the much discussed growth of inequality. Notice two contradictory trends in modern life: the growth of economic brusqueness, with MBAs feeling ever less regret about pulling the trigger on big layoffs, outsourcing, and insourcing versus the growth of Sensitivity and Niceness in daily life.

How do people reconcile these two trends? Well, I don't think they do. Instead, they tend to be more brusque toward the people they only deal with as numbers on a spreadsheet, and more sensitive and nice toward people whose names they can associate with a face. 

The career advice implications are unsurprising: now, more than ever, you want to get a job where you go out to lunch with the powerful people.

Update: Commenter Bostonian cites a study confirming this intuition:
This article from the Review of Financial Studies is consistent with what Steve writes. 
Trade-offs in Staying Close: Corporate Decision Making and Geographic DispersionAugustin Landier
Stern School of Business, New York University
Vinay B. Nair
Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
Julie Wulf 
We investigate whether the geographic dispersion of a firm affects corporate decision making. Our findings suggest that social factors work alongside informational considerations to make geography important to corporate decisions. We show that (i) geographically dispersed firms are less employee friendly; (ii) dismissals of divisional employees are less common in divisions located closer to corporate headquarters; and (iii) firms appear to adopt a “pecking order” and divest out-of-state entities before those in-state. To explain these findings, we consider both information and social factors. We find that firms are more likely to protect proximate employees in soft information industries (i.e., when information is difficult to transfer over long distances). However, employee protection holds only when the headquarters is located in a less populated county, suggesting a role for social factors. Additionally, stock markets respond favorably to divestitures of in-state divisions.

June 17, 2012

"Moonrise Kingdom"

I finally saw a Wes Anderson movie with an audience, and I was rather surprised to find that about half the crowd found Moonrise Kingdom consistently funny, which has just left me more puzzled than before. I had made my peace with the idea that while Wes Anderson movies (e.g., RushmoreThe Royal TennenbaumsThe Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou -- not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson movies like Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood) look like they are going to be funny, that the reason they aren't funny is because that's the director's plan, that while I don't know what he's trying to do, it must be something far more ethereal than humor. But now I find that half the people who go to Wes Anderson movies think they are hilarious, so I don't know what to think. Are his movies actually as funny as they seem like they would be and I just don't get the joke because of some deficiency in my personality? Or is humor really that hard? Or is Anderson some kind of genius at being not funny?

 Granted, if I worked hard in writing about Moonrise Kingdom, I could make this intensely whimsical story about an adolescent boy and girl who run away together on a summer vacation island in Rhode Island in 1965, using his expert Boy Scout skills to elude search parties, sound funny. 

On paper, for example, the casting is hilarious. The two saddest men in show business, Bill Murray and Bruce Willis, compete for the heart of the girl's mother, Frances McDormand. (The screenplay is co-written by Anderson and Roman Coppola, whose sister Sofia directed Murray in "Lost in Translation" as a depressed action movie star, presumably based on Willis [here's my review of "Lost in Translation"], so it's particularly amusing to see them cast together. Or at least in theory it's amusing. On screen, it's just kind of sad.) 

The stylish social worker who swoops in by sea plane to take the boy off for electroshock therapy is played by the aristocratic white witch of Narnia, Tilda Swinton, daughter of "Major-General Sir John Swinton, KCVO, OBE, DL, Lord Lieutenant of Berwickshire." How much did they pay social workers in Rhode Island in 1965, anyway?

The usual response is that humor is just a personal thing, that either it strikes you as funny or not and there's nothing you can do about it. Actually, though, I don't find that true. Over the years, I've put a lot of effort into teaching myself to get jokes, that if lots of other people find something to be funny, it probably is if you think about it right. I find this good for the soul. This exercise also has the side effect that things that aren't supposed to be funny, like most newspaper articles, start sounding hilarious. Just put the ellipses in the right places and they turn into self-parody.

But Wes Anderson still defeats my best efforts.

The rules are different in NYC (Cont.)

A slide show in the New York Times about a public school in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn: "Hopes for Diversity at a Brooklyn School." The accompanying article is entitled "Integrating a School, One Child at a Time," about federal tax dollars being used to desegregate Brooklyn public schools.
During a kindergarten ballet recital at Public School 257, in Williamsburg,  Prairie Jones [a little blonde girl] had a question for the dance instructor. Kylie Cao, to Prairie’s left, is the only Asian student in the kindergarten. 
The school was named a magnet school of the performing arts in 2010, with a mission, under the federal magnet program, of diversification. P.S. 257 is still predominantly Hispanic, despite its recruiting efforts.

This terminology may seem puzzling to readers familiar with the currently conventional uses of the words "diversity," "integration," and "desegregate" in the New York Times, as a euphemism for More Non-Asian Minorities: e.g., the Miami Heat are diverse, but UC San Diego is not diverse. Sure, this might be a little puzzling to the Man from Mars, but we're all 21st Century grown-ups here and we're familiar with how words are used these days.

In this case, however, the NYT is using terms like "diversity" and "integration" according to their old-fashioned dictionary definitions: a school becoming less Hispanic is becoming more diverse and more integrated, which is Good. 

How come? Because we're talking about Williamsburg here. There is very little that subscribers to the New York Times care about more than the possibility that certain public schools in Brooklyn will become non-NAM enough for subscribers to send their children there. After all, putting two kids through private school in New York from K-12 costs about a million bucks. But if enough white people can send smoke signals to each other to agree upon which public schools they'll all flock to, then ca-ching!

Rodney King, RIP

Rodney King, age 47, was found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool.

King wasn't the best swimmer, but he was a tough guy. He could take a licking and keep on ticking. If you had just led two dozen policemen on a 100mph chase, and now the adrenaline-crazed cops were all over you, you'd probably stop fighting back and give in after the eighth or twelfth baton blow. Not Rodney King.

One fact that isn't part of the standard narrative is that the cops who whomped on him had to be tried twice (the concept of double jeopardy not applying in this case), and the second jury only unanimously agreed that a single one of the scores of blows landed on King was unjustified beyond a reasonable doubt. From the L.A. Times on 4/23/1993:
Jurors also played and replayed the best evidence in the case--the videotape of the beating that had been taken by an amateur and enhanced by the FBI. 
"We went through it frame by frame, slow-motion, fast-motion, God I don't know how many times we watched that thing," Juror No. 9 said. 
The tape, made by a bystander, could not answer all their questions. It was blurry at one crucial moment after King was struck and fell to the ground. Some jurors said they could see Powell using his baton to bash the fallen King in the head. But others had difficulty seeing head blows, even when the tape was viewed frame by frame. 
All could see a powerful blow that Powell later landed across King's chest. King was on the ground at the time, on his back. 
"That chest blow was unreasonable and we felt it was not to effect an arrest but just to hurt the guy," No. 9 said. "That convinced about a third of us."

King was a battler.

Chicago's Decline

Aaron M. Renn writes about what he calls Chicago's "demographic disaster" in City Journal:
Begin with Chicago’s population decline during the 2000s, an exodus of more than 200,000 people that wiped out the previous decade’s gains. Of the 15 largest cities in the United States in 2010, Chicago was the only one that lost population; indeed, it suffered the second-highest total loss of any city, sandwiched between first-place Detroit and third-place, hurricane-wrecked New Orleans. While New York’s and L.A.’s populations clocked in at record highs in 2010, Chicago’s dropped to a level not seen since 1910. Chicago is also being “Europeanized,” with poorer minorities leaving the center of the city and forced to its inner suburbs: 175,000 of those 200,000 lost people were black.

The second Mayor Daley took a striking number of vacations in Paris, and brought back some highly publicized good ideas, like floodlighting bridges over the Chicago River at night just because it looks cool. I suspect, however, that the most important idea he brought back from Paris was that Americans were nuts to let violent poor people push them out of their own great cities.