New York Times discourages women from working

“My Generation Thought Women Were Empowered. Did We Deceive Ourselves?” (nytimes) is a 71-year-old woman’s tale of suffering at the hands of men in the workplace:

When I started out in journalism in the 1970s, … My first job was at the London bureau of a prominent international wire service. When I walked in the newsroom, the all-male staff gaped at me as if I were an oasis in a desert. … I felt lonely, in need of a friend. I suppose this is why I responded when one reporter began to engage me in conversation. My hopes rose — until I felt the hand slowly sneaking up my thigh. I dispatched him with an elbow in the torso. And the guy who grabbed my butt the next day got a swift back kick into the kneecap and a couple of four-letter words.

When you get older, gender discrimination gets easier, somewhat predictable and sometimes even funny. But it doesn’t stop — even if you’ve published four books and had a long journalism career. When my last book came out, I was interviewed by a certain talk show host, before he was stripped of his job because of gross sexual misconduct charges. I had hardly opened my mouth before he fell asleep. During the rest of the interview, he kept nodding off while the camera judiciously avoided him. When I left the studio, he had popped awake for his new guests. I saw him waving his hands enthusiastically while speaking with two high-powered male journalists.

I herald this latest female generation for their courage in revealing their humiliations for the chance to change society. We, the earliest female newswomen, were tough, ambitious, even cocky about our talent, but over the years, our self-confidence was often irreparably harmed. Our generation might have been smart, but there was much we just didn’t get. Grateful to win a place in the hierarchy of power, we didn’t understand the ways that gender degradation still shaped our work lives.

Suppose that young female readers of the New York Times assume that this story is representative of women’s experiences in the workforce, i.e., humiliation, groping, and irreparable harm. Why would a rational woman then choose to enter the workforce?

Now that everyone can agree that “news” is more about promoting an agenda of some kind, can we infer that the NYT’s agenda is to discourage American women from working?

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

New York Times readers evaluate the homewrecker

“An Optimist’s Guide to Divorce” is a nytimes article by a woman who was having sex with a married man. The married guy decided to leave his wife and two young daughters in favor of the author, thus putting her into what would have been called the homewrecker category back in the 1950s when the morality of an action was evaluated from the children’s point of view (i.e., should their home be wrecked or not). The twist is that the left-behind wife almost immediately forgives both husband and homewrecker, thus enabling the mistress-turned-girlfriend to describe the resulting mashup of adults and children as a family: “I can’t tell her how much this family we all have forged means to me.”

The hundreds of comments are interesting as a guide to how Americans (well, at least coastal Hillary-supporting Americans) view the issue of marital commitment.

[My own comment:

“It was as if I had been saving my maternal love for Rose and Alice, who were then 7 and 3.”

It could get exciting at the daycare if Alice tries to explain this to the other toddlers, e.g., “My Dad really needed to have sex with some new women and that’s why he and Mom decided to spend my college fund on running two households, family court professionals, etc.”

This article does highlight that the only standard by which a lot of urban Americans evaluate the morality of an action is “Will it make me happier?” Under that standard, though, why are there any limits to what you can do at your children’s expense?


How should Americans think about this? Here is a NYT Pick:

Stop judging/shaming Josh and Elizabeth’s actions and start embracing the fact that people are capable of parting in a way that is loving and kind. Studies show it isn’t divorce per se that hurts kids — it’s conflict.

(The “studies show” comment is consistent with 1970s Americans wanting to back up their personal desires with “science” and advice from clinical psychology (paid-by-the-hour) professionals. Studies by research psychologists (paid by universities and grants) that we read for Real World Divorce show that children on average are harmed more by an American divorce than by the death of a parent. And even if the two parents don’t make too much use of the winner-take-all New York family law system for the next 18 years (until the 3-year-old turns 21 and is no longer a potential cash source for one parent), there is no question that Dad and Mom running two households and being out on Tinder dates will reduce the resources available to the children.)

How do (self-proclaimed elite) Americans think about this? Here are some reader picks:

(RE from NYC) How am I not surprised that it’s the mother who swallows her own happiness, pride, and security for the good of her family? … it does raise (again) the infuriating question of why women always sacrifice their own lives, their own joy, to fix the catastrophes that the men around them make.

(S Tahura from DC) If he knew he was unhappy, he should have filed for divorce before approaching other women, rather than waiting for the next best thing to come along so he could make a convenient jump.

(Sharon from NY) I’m single, never married, in my late 40s, and I get hit on by married men all the time. They tell me I’m a “breath of fresh air.” Know what I tell those men? “Go home to your wife. Get some marriage counseling. If you’re still not happy, get a divorce.”

(K10031 from NYC) My ex left me for the love of his life. He’s now on his fourth marriage. Just saying.

(Karianne from Washington, D.C.) Another affirming example of Everyone Who Has An Affair Thinks They’re The Exception. See also: It’s Not An Affair, It Was Meant To Be and Everybody Is Happy It Turned Out This Way And Our Happiness Validates It.

(Moxie M from Boston) You know the old saying: when a man marries his mistress, he creates a job opening? I hope you plan on being as gracious as Beka.

(Stormi D from Cambridge, MA) I think that what bothers me most about this piece is its lack of discretion. Professor Covington’s students don’t need to know all the intimate details of her love life, and Beka (even if she said OK to it) and the children don’t deserve to have their personal business laid out for the world to see. This is not a sweet and charming story; it is disturbing on so many levels. I miss the days when people had some boundaries.

(Alison from NY) I’m not sure why Beka is wasting all her energy on trying to “forge” a good relationship between the author and her kids. Much more likely than not, Josh will have replaced the author within 3 to 5 years (if not sooner), so this will be all for naught and cause even more confusion and disruption to the kids. … She was a temporary and easy escape from his reality. Once she becomes his reality, he will seek another escape. It’s part of the other woman’s delusional fantasy that SHE is special and of course he would never cheat on HER.

(Jenny from SF) There is nothing wrong with breaking up when the love is gone in a relationship. Josh does not need to stay in an unhappy marriage.


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

How Times Have Changed

One of my favorite little books is called Hey Skinny! Great Advertisements from the Golden Age of Comic Books, which pretty much describes the contents exactly. It is a hodgepodge of cheesy ads from the mid 1940s to late 1950s for all manner of junk, and it’s eye-opening to see via these come-ons just how […]
Slope of Hope

New York Times complains about the lack of dark-skinned executives at other companies

“Tech’s Troubling New Trend: Diversity Is in Your Head” (nytimes) complains about the lack of dark-skinned employees in “leadership roles” at technology companies. It becomes interesting when viewed alongside this page showing portraits of the executives who manage the New York Times.

Comments on this article can be interesting, e.g.,

After 20 years in one field I decided change careers and go into tech. I enrolled at my local university and learned multiple programming languages. I’ve taught entry level classes and volunteered at conferences, including a diversity conference. This is what I have to say about diversity in tech: diversity ends at 40. I can’t get an interview, let alone a job. But those in theirs 20s that I taught? Yeah, they have jobs. Tech is not interested in diversity except to tick off boxes.

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Awesome New York Times day for computer-helicopter nerds

Yesterday was a great one, unlikely to be repeated, for computer and helicopter nerds. The front page of the New York Times carried

I would have been able to die happy if they’d also run a Canon versus Nikon piece…

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

The End Times in Texas: media portrayal versus reality

Based on media reports, a world-ending hurricane is visiting southeast Texas. I checked in with friends in Houston. Two said that they were at home and planning to go to work on Monday. Here’s my exchange with a pilot who lives just north of Houston:

  • Are you in your concrete bunker (i.e., house)?
  • Yes. We have food, water, guns, and sex toys. All set.

Readers: what are you hearing from friends in the drenched and wind-blown region?

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

5 Trade Ideas for Monday: Boston Scientific, Cincinnati Financial, New York Times, Varian Medical and

Written By: DragonFly Capital

5 Trade ideas excerpted from the detailed analysis and plan for premium subscribers: Boston Scientific, Ticker: $ BSX Boston Scientific, $ BSX, has trended higher since a […]
Dragonfly Capital

New York Times and Piketty show that rich people are the most energetic?

“Our Broken Economy, in One Simple Chart” (nytimes) shows that the highest-income Americans are also the ones with the “largest income growth.” I wonder if Thomas Piketty and friends followed individuals over time or just looked at brackets of income that contained different people from year to year. If they followed individuals then these data suggest that the most energetic and motivated Americans are the richest. Instead of slacking off and enjoying their yachts, Gulfstreams, and 7 luxury homes worldwide, they are doing something that gives them a 6% pay raise every year.

If they didn’t follow individuals, though, aren’t the stated conclusions wrong? Suppose that the income of rich people is highly variable, e.g., inflated one year due to selling a company and comparatively depressed the next year. In that case, from simple volatility and economic growth you might see that the high end of the income scale was doing well (how else did those people get to the high end of the scale?) but it wouldn’t be the same people year after year. Similarly, for those with low income, someone who goes onto a diet of SSDI and OxyContin might have the same income as last year’s consumer SSDI/OxyContin.

[Separately, the chart note suggests that it includes “transfers and non-cash benefits” for the poor, but I wonder how that is possible. Ever since the Clinton-era “welfare reform,” simple cash transfers have been a small component of modern-day welfare in the U.S. The non-cash stuff is tough to track and value. When a new apartment building is constructed, for example, the developer may be required to hand over 10 percent of the units to a government housing ministry for distribution to the poor. The value of these units are not on the government’s books. And if real estate prices go up, does the person who lives in a free apartment in Manhattan experience a boost in income according to Piketty and friends? Collecting child support and alimony is a big part of the U.S. economy and there are no convenient authoritative sources for the total cashflow (generally from higher-income defendants to plaintiffs with lower wage income).]

The article came to me from a hedge fund manager friend:

First, there has always been a distribution of income and we know it is skewed right. It pretty much has to be, if income is bounded by 0 but not limited on the upside. Allowing for negative income tax rates (the earned income credit) creates some weird growth rates. Overall, growth rates are compressed for people receiving income-based transfers when those transfers are progressive.

There is a tautological aspect to the results. People whose income rose the fastest (e.g. Steve Jobs) ended up in the 1% or the 0.1% because of that growth. So it shouldn’t be surprising that people who now have the highest incomes also had faster rates of growth in that income. That is how they got into the right tail. Few people complain when Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg leapfrogs into the high income brackets but it really bothers economists like Thomas Piketty that the averages behave different from the averages of other income brackets. Remember, we are measuring how fast the average moved, not how fast the income of a third-generation trust baby’s income rose over that period. Their income may have determined the average in 1980 but they are not part of the tiny super-high income brackets any more. Those brackets are reserved for people who grabbed the brass ring and held on for a meteoric rise in pay.


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Even New York Times readers don’t want Australia’s refugees

“Australia’s Desperate Refugee Obstinacy” shows that Roger Cohen and his colleagues are brave enough to sit in the Manhattan offices of the New York Times and denounce the hard-heartedness of people on the other side of the planet. What’s interesting, though, is the Readers’ Picks section among the comments. It seems that even the loyal Hillary supporters who read the New York Times aren’t supportive of taking in these “asylum-seekers and refugees.” (I put in my own comment, making my standard offer:

If Mr. Cohen would like to house one of these families in his apartment or house for at least one year, I’ll be happy to pay for the airfare from Nauru.

So far Roger Cohen hasn’t emailed to accept.)

The top pick:

I believe these refugees are predominantly from the Middle East, hence they had to travel through SE Asia, eventually to Indonesia, in order to board the rickety boat that people smugglers are using.

I know people here won’t like me for asking this, but I genuinely wonder if they couldn’t stay and feel safe in any of the countries they passed through, such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore or Brunei? If your only concern is flight from danger present in your native land, then any of these countries would have been enough to provide that sanctuary until events settled back home. But they had to come to Australia, after paying close to $ 10,000 to people smugglers. I genuinely wonder, if their motive wasn’t to improve their lot in life by coming to a wealthy democracy, why do they do this?

Another highly voted one:

Iran is not at war, and these people are not escaping persecution. They just want a better standard of living, but couldn’t get to Australia by legal channels. Why should Australians let them in, just because they tried to sneak in through the back door? How is this fair to people who emigrate legally? Pushing to the front of the queue should not be rewarded.

Separately, I wonder if the Great Migration of the 21st Century is going to relieve some of the media pressure on Israel. If scolding other countries for their resistance to immigration consumes the average journalist’s sanctimony budget, how much will be left over to complain about what Jews in Israel are doing?

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Silicon Valley sexism exposed by the New York Times

The Times story that I thought was interesting for what it revealed about how Americans think with numbers seems to have struck a nerve.

Here’s a Facebook post by Jason Pontin, former editor of MIT’s alumni magazine, Technology Review:

It should go without saying (but obviously does not) that the behavior described in the article is unacceptable at every level. This is not the culture that technology needs if it’s to really serve humanity. Megan Smith has often told me, “You play the whole team” when you attack a really big problem. But a significant number of powerful men were harassing the team.

I responded with

If I ask people to contact me if they love Michael Bolton as much as I do, and 24 people from Silicon Valley respond that they enjoyed listening to “When a Man Loves a Woman” while relaxing with VC friends, will you be convinced that a significant number of the Silicon Valley “powerful” are huge Michael Bolton fans?

Owen Linderholm, whose LinkedIn describes him as a “Senior Content Strategist at WePay” and living in the Bay Area:

If 24 people were murdered by men in silicon valley would that be a significant enough number for you? It’s significant because what they did is significant not because it is statistically significant with a large enough p-value.

I took the bait:

The NYT article describes conduct going back to 2009. So that’s an 8-year period. There were certainly a lot more than 24 murders in Silicon Valley during those 8 years (just one year). …  can we infer from these data that part of Silicon Valley “culture” is murder? You would probably try to figure out the population so that you could turn the total number into a rate and then you would compare the murder rate in these cities and towns to murder rates nationally.

Owen and then Jason:

You really are deliberately obtuse aren’t you. Were those murders by silicon valley luminaries?

I mean, some of these people are a). Very well known; b). Have spent the last decade piously positioning themselves as “allies” to women entrepreneurs and feminism in general.

My response:

Now you sound like the Women’s Studies major who is shocked to learn that one of the guys in her college dorm was feigning interest in feminism when really what interested him was her body.

There was another sub-thread spawned by Steve Atlas, linking to a Fortune article:

“You Won’t Believe How Many Women in Tech Say They’ve Faced Sexual Harassment”

Trae Vassallo took the stand during Ellen Pao‘s discrimination case against Kleiner Perkins … Afterwards, she says an “overwhelming number” of women approached her to share their own stories of harassment. … The survey includes just over 200 women—most of whom have at least 10 years of tech experience—sourced from Vassallo and Madansky’s networks. … A whopping 60% of the women who participated reported experiencing unwanted sexual advances.

[Actually, Vassallo and Pao’s stories suggest that Kleiner Perkins did not use sex as a basis for promotion. Vassallo’s testimony at the trial was that a Kleiner partner tried to have sex with her, but she refused. She was not promoted to “senior partner.” Pao testified at trial that the same Kleiner partner, who happened to be married, tried to have sex with her and she agreed. Pao also was not promoted to “senior partner.” So the two women (maybe inadvertently) participated in a controlled experiment.]

My response:

Here’s my survey. Me and this guy that I know surveyed 200 people from our networks. We discovered that 100 of them are FAA-certificated pilots, 70 of them with airplane ratings, 30 with helicopter ratings, 20 dual-rated, and 12 type-rated for at least one turbojet-powered aircraft. From this I infer that roughly 50 percent of Americans have FAA pilot certificates and that about 15 percent of Americans enjoy flying helicopters.

That Fortune would publish this article without the journalist or editor noticing the absurd methodological flaws that would be plain to a middle school student in Singapore explains why America needs H-1Bs. Just imagine how much money you could lose hiring anyone associated with this survey or the people who couldn’t see the flaws.

I then linked to a couple of articles about the Gates Foundation wasting $ 1.7 on “small high schools” due to incompetence with math/statistics:

Jason Pontin came back:

I’ve deleted the modifier “significant” but you’re fooling yourself if you think this isn’t a problem. You’re like those fools who think it matters that the police are as statistically likely to shoot an unarmed black man – when African Americans are stopped far more often. So, too, I’ve never talked with a female entrepreneur who doesn’t have a story like this.

So it all ties back to Black Lives Matter? I checked in with a neighbor who has raised about $ 50 million in the venture capital world (two startups plus a fund). It turned out that she had never been approached for sex by a VC, but that she had been approached for sex by her boss when working at a large bank (she said “no”). Of course, this is the Boston-area VC world so things might be different in Silicon Valley, but Pontin was Boston-based when editing Technology Review.

One Facebooker reasonably asked “So many women bail out of high tech. Why?”

Could the answer be “Most women were never dumb enough to be in high tech in the first place and the smart ones certainly wouldn’t be taking startup risk.”

At a party on Saturday night a graphic artist/designer for a Boston-area financial services firm described programming as “dull and unpleasant.” Her theory for why most of the coders at her employer were from India with “They need a population of more than 1 billion before they can find enough people who only care about money and don’t care how dull and unpleasant a job is.”

“We know Silicon Valley is broken, so let’s fix it” (CNBC) describes a couple of women as “industry leaders.” One is GM lifer Mary Barra, who never tried to raise VC money or work in high-tech. The other is Sheryl Sandberg, who never tried to raise VC money or work at a small high-tech company (Sandberg joined Google when it was already hugely successful and Facebook in 2008 when it was already worth at least $ 15 billion (October 2007 value)). [Separately, the article has a subhead of “Silicon Valley’s moral high ground belies its rampant problems with sexism.” Moral high ground? The journalist and editors are convinced by some anecdotes of “rampant problems with sexism” in an area where total employment is 1.5 million?]

A friend recently attended a wedding. The bride was marrying an already-rich guy. My friend and his wife shared a table with three Harvard MBA women. None of them were working. All had married already-rich guys. (See “Litigation, Alimony, and Child Support in the U.S. Economy” for references to the effect of marriage and family law on women’s labor force participation, e.g., “only 35 percent of women who have earned MBAs after getting a bachelor’s degree from a top school are working full time”.)

If Silicon Valley has truly developed a culture in which women regularly have sex with VCs in order to get funding or jobs (and the subset of the sisterhood that refuses to participate in this quid pro quo is therefore disadvantaged), why are we only hearing about it now? A friend’s private message:

this is the time for sexual beta-males to come out and pounce on alpha males in groups

Since I don’t live or work in Silicon Valley it is tough for me to offer an opinion on what the “culture” might be, other than people try to make money so that they can afford $ 5 million starter homes. But I remain fascinated that major newspapers and magazines, people whose job seemingly depends on being smart, and college-educated Americans all uncritically accept inferences made about a sizable industry (at least 23,000 startups in Silicon Valley as of 2016) based on 24 anecdotal reports where the journalists had to reach back through 8 years to gather enough material for one article.


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

New York Times discovers that it is expensive to live in Boston

“How Homeownership Became the Engine of American Inequality” (nytimes) advocates for a seemingly sensible economic policy (getting rid of the mortgage interest deduction), but I can’t see how the cited stories support the author’s argument. Here’s my published comment on the piece:

Affecting stories. And of course subsidizing unproductive investments in housing is a sure way to kill per-capita GDP growth (a worker who lives in a larger and nicer house does not get more work done), so it is hard to imagine a more counterproductive policy for an indebted government (which needs economic growth to pay off $ 20 trillion in debt) than the mortgage interest deduction.

That said, the author picked people who live in one of the world’s most expensive housing markets (Boston area) and they have kids and they want to have each child in a dedicated bedroom. Absent fellow taxpayers (many of them childless working drones) giving them subsidized housing, how was that ever going to work unless one parent had a high income?

There are some Americans who can afford to have kids with a moderate-income co-parent and a comfortable-sized house/apartment. There are some Americans who can turn a moderate income into a comfortable-sized house/apartment in a high-cost area. What this article shows is that the intersection of these two groups is non-existent without an ample helping of tax dollars contributed either by (a) those who have a higher income, or (b) those who don’t have kids.

Readers: Can you see a way in which eliminating the mortgage interest deduction would make housing in prime urban areas more affordable for low-income people who want multi-bedroom units? If killing the deduction slowed construction of new housing, wouldn’t the price of existing housing actually go up? And how does the mortgage interest deduction have a significant effect when we have (1) a growing population (due to immigration), (2) a demonstrated inability to construct new urban environments that are attraction?

[Separately, if you bought a house in Detroit or Cleveland 15 years ago you’ll be pleased to learn from the NY Times that “homeownership … is a proven wealth builder”]

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Is it bad to sell options premium in low volatility times?

In this video, we review the myth that trading in low volatility times is unfavorable. Most options traders complain when volatility is low because they are getting paid less well for options risk. But the evidence seems to show that low volatility times are actually more profitable than high volatility times. Read more […]
SMB Capital

U.S. has ten times more retail space (per capita) than Germany

We are a nation of mall rats, according to “What in the World Is Causing the Retail Meltdown of 2017?” (Atlantic)

By one measure of consumerist plentitude—shopping center “gross leasable area”—the U.S. has 40 percent more shopping space per capita than Canada, five times more the the UK, and ten times more than Germany.

Now it is clear why our Ft. Lauderdale rental condo (more than $ 4,000 per week) contained a $ 20 set of Farberware knives:

In 2016, for the first time ever, Americans spent more money in restaurants and bars than at grocery stores.

Maybe don’t buy that commercial REIT right now…

Once autonomous vehicles are cheap, safe, and plentiful, retail and logistics companies could buy up millions, seeing that cars can be stores and streets are the ultimate real estate. In fact, self-driving cars could make shopping space nearly obsolete in some areas. CVS could have hundreds of self-driving minivans stocked with merchandise roving the suburbs all day and night, ready to be summoned to somebody’s home by smartphone. A new luxury-watch brand in 2025 might not spring for an Upper East Side storefront, but maybe its autonomous showroom vehicle could circle the neighborhood, waiting to be summoned to the doorstep of a tony apartment building. Autonomous retail will create new conveniences, and traffic headaches, require new regulations and inspire new business strategies that could take even more businesses out of commercial real estate.

Readers: What do you think? For every current robocall will there be a visit to our driveway tomorrow by a robovan? The doors will open and a loudspeaker on the roof will say “Dear Homeowner: please come out and look at the solar panels you could add to your roof”?

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

The young genius who wrote Black Lives Matter 100 times for his Stanford application essay

I’m kind of awed by the young genius described in “Student gets into Stanford after writing #BlackLivesMatter on application 100 times” (CNN). Can we think of a better example of someone able to get into the mind of a modern day university bureaucrat?

I wonder if genius will inspire imitators. What better way to assure a college that you’re not going to rock the groupthink boat than to clutter one’s application with references to “progressive activist” events? As there is no way to verify attendance, an applicant could play Xbox all through high school and fabricate an impressive resume of activism. Can the Stanford admissions officer question the statement “I went to the Boston Women’s March”? Impossible! Even if the officer happened to be in Boston and happened to attend the march, he or she could not know about everyone who attended. Telling details can be cribbed from media or Facebook reports. Why didn’t you get an A in Calculus? “I was too busy protesting Trump.” Why weren’t you elected president of any groups in your high school? “I was too busy knitting a pussy hat.”

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog