Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Beware Female Banksters

This really isn’t a feminist blog but there seems to be a lot of anti-women stuff going on right now. In my last post on the infamous Belvedere Vodka commercial, I was mentioning about the world being in a post feminist reactionary period where Republican primary candidates are talking about making the American government small enough to fit in a vagina while their June Cleaver wives stood by their man and baked cookies for the cause so I thought that a little video on them would be a clever intro to this post. Actually I’m probably going to meet some of them up close when I travel to my oldest daughter’s convocation at UBC in Vancouver this May. Her boyfriend’s whole family will be at a private post convocation party with my family and they come from the mountains in the western part of North Carolina. I’ve already been given orders not to talk about politics, religion, history and especially family history. Mentioning my daughter’s United Empire Loyalist ancestors would not go over well -”Oh, by the way our ancestors were shooting at your ancestors two hundred years ago.” Sort of a cross border Hatfield and McCoy since they live in the southern spur of the Appalachian Mountains.

by Browse more Economy infographics.

The purpose of this post is to analysis a new discussion paper from the Deutsche Bundesbank which was released today. The bank is continental Europe’s de facto central bank and is affectionately known as “Buba.”
The title is “Executive Board Composition and Bank Risk Taking” which is a bureaucratic style for saying how did the European banking community get in such a f#cking financial mess and who do we blame. The lead investigator was Allen N. Berger from the Wharton financial institutes center at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Berger was a former senior economist in the financial services section of the US Federal Reserve and is a well respected expert in financial services with such riveting publications as ''The Dominance of Inefficiencies over Scale and Product Mix Economies in Banking'' and ''Debt Maturity, Risk, and Asymmetric Information''. His academic background includes a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley, 1983, a M.A. in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley, 1979 and B.A. in Economics, Northwestern University, 1976. The discussion paper abstract is below:
“Little is known about how socioeconomic characteristics of executive teams affect corporate governance in banking. Exploiting a unique dataset, we show how age, gender, and education composition of executive teams affect risk taking of financial institutions. First, we establish that age, gender, and education jointly affect the variability of bank performance. Second, we use difference-in-difference estimations that focus exclusively on mandatory executive retirements and find that younger executive teams increase risk taking, as do board changes that result in a higher proportion of female executives. In contrast, if board changes increase the representation of executives holding Ph.D. degrees, risk taking declines.”
They had a pretty good data set using the “entire population of German bank executive teams between 1994 and 2010” but I wasn’t happy with their regression analysis formulas. Basically older male PhDs like Mr. Berger were good and lead to lower risk while ingénues lead to higher risk. They also stated that affirmative action programs like the recent non-legislative resolution from the European Parliament to insist on 40% of supervisory and executive positions in large European firms be filled by women would lead to poorer corporate outcomes.  This post may not have the visceral punch of my “rape is fun (not) “post but it’s just as important. If the position taken in this paper with respect to women becomes the consensus position of European banks then it will be the greatest failure of feminism for mathematically inclined women in Europe since Sonya Kovalevsky was refused admittance to German universities in 1870.

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On second reading of this post, I realised that most of my readers have probably never heard of Sonya Kovalevsky, the greatest female mathematician before the twentieth century.  She was born to a Russian aristocratic family in 1850 and first learned math at a very young age in the family nursery where a shortage of wallpaper at the time lead to her father papering the room with pages from his calculus book.  She wanted to learn about the equations so she self taught in an early version of homeschooling.  At the time, women were not allowed to study at universities in Russia so at the tender age of 18, she had a marriage of convenience with a Vladimir Kovalevsky so she could travel abroad to Germany and study at the University of Heidelberg. Sonya was still not allowed to pursue a PhD in German universities so she was privately tutored by Karl Weierstrass at the University of Berlin and she received her PhD in 1874 becoming the first women to receive the advance degree from any university. Today she is mostly known for her mathematical work on the theory of partial differential equations and the rotation of a solid body about a single point. She was the first women member of the Russian Academy of Sciences as well as an esteemed novelist who wrote “The Sisters Rajevsky” and “Vera Vorontzof.” The first book was a fictionalized bildungsroman of herself and her sister in Russia. I wonder if C. has read it.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Rape is fun (not)

Update April 2, 2012

I removed the "rape" ad picture which was originally at the top of this post today. I figured that if a major company published an ad for public consumption and general distribution with no copy write notice then it was fair game under the Canadian "fair use" laws for reproduction. I'm very careful about vetting everything that I put up on my blog and checking for copyright use or restriction of use since I'm very respectful of content and especially small blog original content. I discovered today via Huffington post that the big time ad agency for the Vodka company had purportedly stolen online video without the permission or knowledge of the owners and modified one of the frames for their own purposes changing its original intent i.e. the ad which I'd displayed so I decided to occupy a higher moral ground than the company which had originally published the offending ad  although the Globe & Mail still has it in their archives and has not issued at this time a correction or apology. You can watch the original video in the link below and notice that the real context is totally different than what the ad implies.

By now everyone knows that the Belvedere Vodka Company which is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA launched the opening salvos in their new marketing campaign (?) “rape is fun” with the implicit comment “and especially after a drinking a few shots of our product” last Friday (March 23, 2012); however, they had to retreat after a counter barrage from the general public with feminist groups leading the charge. The company removed the offensive commercial the same day and on their website, the company president, Charles Gibb stated “(the ad) is completely inappropriate and contrary to the values of the company.” They also made a generous donation to RAINN, the non profit anti-sexual violence group called Rape Abuse & Incest National Network. According to the Globe & Mail newspaper, the company had outsourced its digital marketing since 2010 to a marketing agency, Last Exit which is based in New York City. Branding is very important to companies and commercials such as this one would not be released without approval from senior management after many strategy sessions and research including focus groups.

Browse more data visualizations.

The Last Exit agency on its website says “As experts in the digital medium, we combine strategic insight and creative excellence to drive our clients' businesses forward through accountable marketing campaigns, delivered with a no-nonsense, straightforward and professional attitude”  and “Results are everything and the rapidly evolving world of digital demands a unique plurality and versatility of skills and knowledge. Last Exit continues to meet these challenges by building a team of renowned industry experts from brand strategy and identity, research and analytics, ad planning and creative development, social media and mobile, experience marketing and PR, user experience design and technology.” While there appears to be some ambiguity in the source of the particular commercial, the target group – young white middle class males – must have shown acceptance in focus groups to the suggestion that drunkenness is an excuse for sexual aggression and women are just getting what they deserve and/or really subconsciously want due to their behaviour. The Toronto slutwalk started when a police officer said that if women didn’t want to be raped then they shouldn’t dress like sluts. This is a typical “blame the victim” justification. Still in the world of macho ad agencies, someone must have had second thoughts. I thought that by 2012 some feminist reflection must have infiltrated these bastions of male privilege. Sometimes I think that we live in a post feminist reactionary period fronted by pink dressed  Republican wives who stand by their man and bake cookies for the cause. This is not the first time that rape has been used to advertise products. Dolce & Gabbana, the Italian luxury fashion house, in their infamous “gang bang” campaign used it to flog their wares with a significant increase in sales. Perhaps this was a source of inspiration to these jerks.

For further study:

An article by Charlotte Hilton Anderson on the D&G gang rape print ad entitled “Dolce & Gabbana say Women like it Rough” which is based on a research report in the The Journal of Consumer Research .

Sunday, 25 March 2012

First Amendment

As usual the mass media is AWOL on a very important state level attack by a Conservative controlled legislature on constitutional rights. This one involves a new bill (SB 469) by the Georgian state legislature which was given second reading on March 13th, 2012 in the State House. This legislature has moved very quickly through the legislative process – the Georgian State Senate gave first, second and third reading as well as passing the bill between 29th February and March 7th of this year- and seems to be destined to be passed into law before the full intent of this bill is understood. You can read the bill in its entirety here and the introductory summary is below:

“To amend Chapter 6 of Title 34 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to labor organizations and labor relations, so as to provide that certain provisions prohibiting mass picketing shall apply to certain private residences; to provide for an action to enjoin unlawful mass picketing; to provide for punishment and penalties; to provide for injunctive relief; to provide for public policy concerning refusal or decision to withdraw from a labor union or employee organization; to provide for certain contract and agreement employment rights; to provide for the development by the Department of Labor of employee rights information; to provide certain posting requirements by private employers; to provide for enforcement; to provide for changes to agreements and contracts permitting labor organizations to deduct fees from employees' earnings; to amend Code Section 16-7-21, relating to criminal trespass, so as to provide for both criminal trespass and criminal conspiracy; to provide for punishment and fines; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.”
In plain English this bill eviscerates the first amendment rights, freedom of speech and right of peaceful assemble. The bar is very low. Anyone who “engage(s) in mass picketing at or near any place, including private residences, where a labor dispute exists in such number or manner as to obstruct or interfere with or constitute a threat to obstruct or interfere with the entrance to or egress from any place of employment or the free and uninterrupted use of public roads, streets, highways, railroads, airports, or other ways of travel, transportation, or conveyance” or has the “effect of interfering with the resident's right to quiet enjoyment” is guilty of “a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature" which translates as a felony conviction of up to one year and “subject to a civil fine of $1,000.00 for each day of the violation.” Although the wording specifically refers to a labor dispute, it can be construed as applying to any peaceful assembly such as an Occupy event which has any of the subsequent effects stipulated in the above quotes since the prohibition applies to “An employer or other person or entity that is the target of an activity prohibited under subsection (a) of this Code section.” The bill which was a reaction to the Occupy Atlanta sit-in at the ATT&T Atlanta headquarters on Feb. 13th and introduced a week later is designed to deal with a potential American Arab Spring.

The bill’s sponsors i.e. State Representatives. Don Balfour (R-Snellville), Bill Hamrick (R-Carrollton), Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), and Ross Tolleson (R-Perry), are all members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). From Wikipedia:
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a politically conservative501(c)(3) nonprofit policy organization, consisting of both state legislators and members of the private sector, mostly representing corporations. ALEC's mission statement describes the organization's purpose as the advancement of free-market principles, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty. Among other activities, the group provides a venue for private individuals and corporations to assist politicians in developing what it considers model laws serving the economic and political aims of its members. ALEC also serves as a networking tool among state legislators, allowing them to research the handling and "best practices" of policy in other states.

ALEC currently has more than 2,000 legislative members representing all 50 states, as well as more than 85 members of congress and 14 sitting or former governors who are considered "alumni". ALEC also claims approximately 300 corporate, foundation, and other private-sector members. A list of ALEC leaders in the states includes 73 Republican lawmakers and 7 Democrats.

The chairmanship of ALEC is a rotating position, with a new legislator appointed to the position each year. The current chair of ALEC is Noble Ellington, a former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives. Day-to-day operations are run from ALEC's Washington, D.C. office by an executive director and a staff of approximately 30.

The Georgia initiative is a test case and it is hoped (my conclusion) to roll out equivalent state legislature nationwide this year with the silence of the mass media and the preoccupation of the public with the 2012 national election cycle.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

No Comment 5

Occasionally I come across a particularly egregious example of sexist commercial advertisement and as a courtesy to my feminist readers, post it under the rubric of No Comment.  I thought that I reached the nadir with the Yorkie chocolate bar video but now the previous post seems pretty tame to this French anti-smoking campaign poster from the Les Droits des Non-Fumeurs, a French NGO dedicated to the rights of non-smokers.  From Wikipedia:
Droits des Non-Fumeurs (DNF) or Non-Smokers' Rights Association is a recognized non-governmental organization which has been working since 1973 to protect the rights of non-smokers in France. DNF also works to ensure proper implementation of the Evin law.  The association has eight regional offices which provide local contact information and help to anyone wanting more information about tobacco control legislation. DNF helps users in their efforts and answers their questions about France's tobacco legislation. Meanwhile, DNF is also working on three major projects in the part of the Cancer Plan, launched by the President in March 2003. On 17 December 2009, DNF issued a report addressed to the Minister of Health and Sports regarding the growing tendency of smokers and establishment owners to flout the smoking law of 15 November 2006, which entered into full effect 2 January 2008, following a transition period in 2007.
For those of you who don’t speak French, the caption at the bottom of the poster says, “Smoking is to be a slave to tobacco.” This is the sort of Gallic sexism that the French feminist group, Les Chiennes de Garde, with their motto “contra les insultes  sexistes publiques” have been fighting against since  their founding in 1999 by Florence and Isabel Alonso Montreynaud. Smoking among French youth has been increasing in the last few years but the solution is not these kind of ads.

Off the grid

My current computer in my home office
The other side of my home office

Today was the hottest day in 74 years for this date with the temperature in Toronto reaching 24.5 degrees Celsius (76 F)at 2 p.m. and only 1.1 degrees  cooler than the all time record for March which was recorded on March 28, 1945. Maybe there is something to global warming and last summer was the hottest one in a long time with a maximum temperature of 38 C in downtown Toronto. I’ve been off the grid for a month since my home computer died due to a malfunctioning mother board and my car became immobilised by a dead starter motor. I decided to test a simpler life without a computer or a car but not as an OTG purist, foraging the neighbourhood for nuts and berries while tapping maple trees for syrup and trapping urban rodents. Taking the public transit makes me realise the bubble in which I live separated from the diverse population of this very cosmopolitan city. Sharing a confined space with the global village makes me appreciate the variety of my home town with many languages from Urdu to Mandarin spoken as I hung from the bus straps. I also tried out the new local bike trails which are separate from the road system and have special bike crossing signals when you have to cross the roads. Fortunately my hard drive was fine so it retained all the accumulated data but the Sony repair center had to order a new mother board from Japan so it took a month to fix. Below is a infographic on internet usage. My non computer time usage enabled the notable accomplishment of tasks on my “things to do” list such as house work, research, the videos which my children gave me for Christmas, deciding on a model of car as well as purchasing it, etc.:

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My current computer which I bought three years ago is Sony LT “all in one” model with a 22” screen, 2.4 GHz Intel cpu,4 GB memory, 1 TB hard drive, wireless keyboard, blue ray drive with burner, NVIDA  graphics card and a TV tuner which can save programs to the hard drive. I looked at the latest Sony LT model with a 24” touch screen, 3D capable with glasses, more memory and a bigger hard drive but feel that I want to wait for the next generation in a year or so before I upgrade.  I found the 3D a bit over the top with no current applications except games and I’m not a gamer although I went through that phase many years ago. Maybe after they start to release 3D movies, it might be more interesting. Going to the local mall, I checked out the new iPad at the apple shop and was quite impressed but it did seem to be very warm for my taste.
My old car - lots of room for the bike but poor fuel efficiency
I also decided to buy a new car since my Dodge grand caravan didn’t like to pass too many gas stations and the price of gas in Toronto is twice the price of only ten years ago. My requirements were 1) better fuel consumption, 2) air conditioning, 3) automatic transmission, 4) reliable, 5) good safety record and 6) most of all - I could get my bike in the back of the vehicle. My final choice was a Honda FIT LX which is half the size of the old vehicle and I’m quite happy with the car although my current bike which doesn’t have quick release tires is a tight fit. The smart idea is to fit the bike to the car so I’m thinking about a new lighter bike with quick release tires or a folding bike. My preference is for a regular bike so I did do some exploring of the local bike retailers and an acceptable one costs about $500 (CD) plus 13% HST. For those of you who aren’t Canadian, HST stands for harmonized sales tax and is a composite provincial and federal value added sales tax. The sales taxes used to be separate but reason prevailed and they were combined not too long ago ;however, the downside was that the composite tax now was levied not just on goods but also on services. There is an offset where people whose taxable income on their annual income tax return is below a certain point get a refund for the HST tax by mail or by direct deposit in their bank account. Some items such as food don’t have the tax so you can get strange situation such as buying five doughnuts at Tim Horton’s and paying sales tax because it’s a restaurant service; however, if you buy six doughnuts then you don’t pay tax because the half dozen counts as food.
My Honda FIT LX
My bike just fits
The Honda FIT had a fuel economy of 28 mpg while the Dodge Grand Caravan had 20 mpg so I got an increase in fuel economy of 40% and with an increase in fuel cost of 100% in the last ten years, this represents a large savings in my fuel expenses. Although there have been ups and downs in the price of gas with a large drop in the 2008 recession, the trend is definitively up with a high correlation over time in a linear regression of the data from 2002 to 2012 with an outlier during the recession being deleted from the data set. You can see from the infographic below that as soon as the price of gas declines, the public goes back to buying low fuel economy cars.