Saturday, June 29, 2002

One topic of conversation that made the rounds in the "blogs" was what to make of the fact that 57% of new studends at colleges are female. This was an interesting political rorschach test -- everyone dressing up a single point of data with their political views. The interesting thing to me is why anyone would believe that in the absence of discrimination, men and women would choose to go to school in equal measures. There are a lot of reasons why they wouldn't. From my personal experience, the average 18 year old girl is a lot more into school than the average 18 year old boy. Males also have a lot of respectable career paths that don't require a college degree available to them. They can go into the military, work in construction, became a police officer, a prison guard or firefighter. Sure these fields are now at least technically open to women, but there aren't a lot of women who choose to do these jobs. For example, not one of the NYC firefighers murdered on September 11 was female. Traditionally female jobs, like teaching and nursing, now require at least a college degree, and often a masters degree. Even the secretaries where I work are mostly taking classes part time, because a promotion to an office manager or similar position requires a degree. It can't be doubted that there are certain fields that appeal to women over men, and if you need a degree to get that job, you'll find more women in school. For example, vet schools used to be almost entirely male. In the mid 80s, they were 50% male. Today, they are more than 70% female. Another factor that must be driving up the percentage of women in school are the older women returning to school. There are a lot of older women I know --- in their 50s and 60s -- who have gone back to school to get degrees. These were women who missed out on going to school 30 or 40 years ago because they bought into the old stereotypes about women. Now their kids are raised and they have some time, so they're getting that degree that they regret not having. There numbers are large enough that it might skew the data. On the other side of this is the fact that colleges have become "feminized" and are no longer places that welcome males. I've never heard a prospective male college student express that concern. In my experience, the overwhelming majority of college students just ignore the campus politics that so capture the attention of the nut case ideologues. The only trend that's hard to ignore is that fraternities have taken a beating in the last ten years, but that wasn't the result of the feminists who hate frats. It was the risk management laywers from universities and national fraternities that killed fraternites. In response to multi-million dollar hazing lawsuits, they not only banned hazing, but they banned pledging. In response to lawsuits, the national fraternities banned alcohol in the frats altogether. What fun is there in joining a fraternity if you can't drink beer and you can't haze the pledges? Not much apparently, because frats are a lot less popular now. But that had nothing to do with feminists, it was Ronald Reagan and Elizabeth Dole's successful effort to raise the drinking age to 21 nationally that forced the schools and the national fraternities to crack down on traditional fraternity behavior. So joining a frat is now pretty boring. But I doubt anyone is skipping college because you can't drink beer and raise hell anymore. From what I've seen around college campuses, that's going on as ever, but the participants meet in smaller groups and don't wear letters on their chests.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

The very first thing I want to rant about is Tyco. Enron and WorldCom are dominating the news of illegal corporate behavior, but a story I read about Tyco has stuck with me. Now I'm going to say some unkind things about Tyco's execs, and since I'm a left leaning type, some visitors to this site (if they ever come) may not believe me. Don't take my word for it (on anything) But you don't need to trust me on this one. Just take a look at Tyco's own website. Here's the story about the "independent" director who took $20 million out of the till. And here's the story about the company lawyer who took $35 million. These two looted $55,000,000 from this company, and it's not discussed anywhere in the news! Whether Martha Stewart got $5,000 in wrongful gains is more interesting to the talking heads. But here is the real kicker about the dirty dealings at Tyco. If NY State had not gone after Dennis Kozlowski for his tax fraud, this looting would have just continued as business as usual. The board is now doing the right thing and suing the bad guys (thanks to Al Gore's lawyer, David Boies), but if they had refused to do so, the shareholders of Tyco had no recourse. As a disgrunted shareholder of Tyco, I could not go to court to try to force those directors to return the millions of dollars that they were stealing from the company. The reason why is because Tyco reincorporated in Bermuda in order to escape taxes. That tax scam had a nice side benefit for the directors and officers. Unlike Delaware or the other U.S. states in which american companies are usually domiciled, Bermuda does not allow shareholders to sue the directors or officers for damaging the company. The shareholders have no rights in Bermuda because under Bermuda law directors do not owe any duties to the shareholders. So there was nothing to stop these guys from scratching each others' backs with $20 million here, $35 million there, and another $150 million there. And guess what happened? But what really bothers me is this guy Frank E. Walsh, Jr., who thought it was a fair deal for the company to give him $20 million for making an introduction of one of the people on his rolodex to Tyco. Whenever gross corporate abuse like this is criticized, the knee jerk republican reaction is -- "class warfare" -- your just envious of the rich. I'm no more envious of this guy than I am of a bankrobber who makes off with a big score. These people are so used to throwing other people's money (my money in fact) to each other that they think a $20 million "finders fee" for making an introduction is a fair trade. This guy already owes a duty to this company because he agreed to serve on its board. He already gets paid for that service, and he's supposed to be loyal to the company. So a finder's fee seems pretty dubious to me, but $20 million! For introducing your country club buddy? The sense of entitlement is so shocking to me.
The scrub team begins.