SL 694

Just some links this morning. More this afternoon.

“What the Rich Won’t Tell You” — Rich people in NYC are uncomfortable talking about their wealth. Conspicuous consumption is old school.

Hillary’s new book seems like a very bad idea to me, too.

Campus rape policy is a disaster.

Parents aren’t letting their kids study literature.

Instead of killing yourself doing marathons, do a 5K. Your knees will thank you.

I haven’t read TNC’s new article about Donald Trump and white supremacy yet. It’s generating lots of love and hate on Twitter.

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54 thoughts on “SL 694

    1. It’s the most nuanced and thoughtful and honest analysis of the election that I’ve read so far. Looking forward to his book We Were Eight Years in Power that will be published on October 3rd. Between the World and Me was excellent too.

  1. Laura said:

    “Parents aren’t letting their kids study literature.”

    I haven’t done this for real yet, so this is all armchair parenting for the moment, but my current expectations are:

    –take all the fun classes you want, but make sure your actual degree has some sort of commercial or professional application
    –or, alternately, do a fun major, but take some courses with a commercial or professional application

    About the German colleges–at least when my sis did Fachhochschule (?) starting in the late 90s, her German college insisted that an American needed two years (!) of American college as a prerequisite for the German degree (with the option of going back to a lower level German institution to make it up). They thought that you needed American high school plus two years of American college to equal German high school. They didn’t actually explain this to sis until she was well into her German program–so proceed with caution.

    1. “They thought that you needed American high school plus two years of American college to equal German high school.”

      I’ve heard this notion from a lot of western Germans, and it’s always been bullshit.

      1. I believe they were graciously willing to accept one year of a German junior college (not sure the terminology) as a substitute for two years of American 4-year-college.

    2. I’m not particularly interested in my kids getting the kind of Gramscian deconstructionist left-propaganda crap which it is my notion that contemporary English classes contain. Literature classes with careful reading and thinking about character development and the culture of the time, that I’d be thrilled if they took.

      1. I’m all in favor of multiple lenses, but I highly doubt that undergraduates reading “Paradise Lost” are equally exposed to sympathetic expositions of Puritan ideology and feminist critiques of Milton’s portrayal of Eve. In an Ivy League classroom, or the typical Park Avenue salon, the former would be much more countercultural than the latter, which is why the herd of independent minds isn’t offering it.

        Then again, maybe no one is reading “Paradise Lost” in the first place. It might “trigger” the snowflakes, same as “Metamorphoses.”

  2. ““What the Rich Won’t Tell You” — Rich people in NYC are uncomfortable talking about their wealth. Conspicuous consumption is old school.”

    Somewhat related–I was at a birthday this past weekend for a 5-year-old classmate of our youngest. It was a great party with great themed food, treats and decorations. I was kind of kicking myself for being such a big slacker with our kids’ parties–right up until I opened up our local glossy, which had a feature on this family’s home. It turns out that it’s a double-doctor family with one spouse being a surgeon, so even with our family being well-off, we’re just not even on the same playing field as they are financially. It doesn’t make any sense to draw comparisons or try to keep up with that.

    1. Hasn’t that always been a new wealth/old wealth distinction? New Money flashes it, and Old Money thinks it’s gauche. The classiest thing in North America is to drive a 1998 high end Mercedes while wearing a decades-old threadbare bespoke blazer.

      Going to a fancy WASPy college, people thought I was much richer than I was because I dressed a bit bohemian and wore expensive-ish (e.g. JCrew + range, not actual designer) brands I bought for cheap at thrift stores.

      1. I have recently met two people who were sat down and told their families were rich just before getting married. Before that, they had no idea. One memorably said roughly “I don’t see why I need a prenup, all I own is a car and a dog.” In fact, she was set to inherit something like nine figures. Her parents lived frugally, and raised the kids that way.

      2. Yeah, I was raised that frugality was a moral virtue, and waste was a sin. When I see people with new and expensive stuff or doing expensive things, my first instinct is to feel pity for them, like they have a problem they can’t control. I judge people very harshly if it appears they don’t know how to “eat bitter” (suffer hardship stoically), as the Chinese say. In the process of becoming an adult though, I learned how far outside the American norm my way of viewing the world is.

      3. MichaelB,

        “One memorably said roughly “I don’t see why I need a prenup, all I own is a car and a dog.” In fact, she was set to inherit something like nine figures. Her parents lived frugally, and raised the kids that way.”

        Wow, how do you hide that sort of thing?

      4. AmyP, truthfully, from what I have seen (I met members of the family because my firm does work for them and their business), they really do live frugally. Probably the people reading this would have been clued in that there was more money in the family than it otherwise appeared because she went to a good private college without loans. But when you’re young, that’s not as much of a clue so it may pass without a lot of investigation. Otherwise, though, the parents worked at their company which was run out of an office which… did not break the bank to maintain… and they lived in a respectable, but thoroughly middle class house. If you went to the office, the parents/owners drove cheaper cars than lots of employees. By all outward appearances they looked like people making a comfortable income to raise a family in the North East, but not a lot more.

        Nevertheless, the business was very profitable. Where did the money go? Basically, they put it all into various savings. Brokerage accounts. Between the business value, and decades of saving most of the profits, they have a lot of money.

      5. MichaelB said,

        “Probably the people reading this would have been clued in that there was more money in the family than it otherwise appeared because she went to a good private college without loans. But when you’re young, that’s not as much of a clue so it may pass without a lot of investigation.”

        Yeah, that’s a tip off (especially if they did it for multiple children), and you’re totally right that it might not register on a young person.

        Plus, well-to-do people often fret about money, which can be misleading.

      6. Sending your children to college without loans would certainly indicate a seven figure net worth, but not nine!

        However, in my experience, most people who are very rich (i.e., nine figure rich) do spend money commensurate with their financial status, but discreetly. (That is why Donald Trump stands out, and is more apt to be found hanging out with celebrities than with fellow real estate developers or with financiers or tech moguls.) If MichaelB’s friends really live like UMC members, that is a little unusual.

      7. My grandfather had friends with seven-figure wealth who lived like hoboes (i.e. eating cat food), so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about multi-billionaires who live like UMC people.

      8. That kind of sounds like mental illness, but, to be fair, I’ve never tried cat food and maybe it’s great. Cats seems pretty content.

  3. Campus rape policy is a disaster.

    Is it? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but I sure don’t find the linked article all that persuasive. The most amazing thing about it is its complete absence of data on the scope of the problem and whether it’s been exacerbated by the recent policy changes. Has there actually been an increase in the number of people accused of rape whose process rights have been restricted as a result of these policy changes? Who knows! I certainly don’t after reading this article. There are some juicy anecdotes though, so there is that.

    Also, why are journalists so willfully bad at basic descriptive statistics? This is ridiculous:

    And while some college administrators express concern about due process, that concern does not always appear to be top of mind, even though lawsuits are piling up. Some 170 suits about unfair treatment have been filed by accused students over the past several years.

    “Several years.” Is that three, five, seven? And is that an increase from the past? Maybe it’s a decrease! The author simply couldn’t be bothered to figure out and report on that very important detail.

    1. As best I can figure out, most working journalists would consider the sort of work that I, and I think scantee, would consider worth reading to be “not journalism at all.” Gathering statistical data from reliable (including internet) sources and analyzing it is simply not what journalists do. Journalists interview people and find compelling personal stories.

      1. Isn’t Columbia offering a new master’s program that teaches journalists to analyze data? They are also charging $140K for the program – that sounds like a Univ. of Phoenix level rip-off.

      2. Tulip said:

        “Isn’t Columbia offering a new master’s program that teaches journalists to analyze data? They are also charging $140K for the program – that sounds like a Univ. of Phoenix level rip-off.”

        OH MY GOODNESS!

        If it’s worthwhile, one of things you’ll learn is, “I shouldn’t have paid $140k for this.”

      3. That’s insane! Are they hoping newspapers will pay for journalists to take it? Because if so they picked the wrong industry.

    2. Magazine editors love statistics used in the right way. It does make the story more credible. My editor at the Atlantic is always pressing me for more numbers. But I’ve been known to go overboard on numbers. In that case, she walks me back. Readers are bored by numbers. Some numbers go a long way.

      Here’s what journalists and editors can’t do. They can’t do their own statistical analysis. Sometimes it’s because they don’t have the training, but it’s usually because they don’t have the time/staff/resources to do it. That’s where academics and think tanks come into play. We rely upon them for those numbers. Sometimes articles must be written without numbers. Numbers might not yet exist, because academics haven’t had the time/resources/opportunity to do that research yet. Sometimes those numbers don’t exist, because colleges — in this case — aren’t keeping track or aren’t disclosing that information.

      A story without numbers isn’t necessarily false. If the story relies on experts who devote their lives to the subject, it still can be a credible story. Of course, a story that relies on experts plus interesting anecdotes plus numbers is the best kind of story. It’s just not always easy to have all those pieces together at one time.

      1. I don’t think that journalists need to know advanced statistics (personally I think all people should be required to take a stats class in HS or to graduate college), but I also agree that there need to be actual numbers. Words like “several” or “many” or “most” are fine for blog comments or casual conversation, but not used to discuss data. I expect news stories to say thing like, “in 8 years, the number of assault reports on campus has gone from 4,000 to 10,000 incidents, a 150% increase over that time period.” (I made that up).

      2. B.I. said,

        “I don’t think that journalists need to know advanced statistics (personally I think all people should be required to take a stats class in HS or to graduate college), but I also agree that there need to be actual numbers. Words like “several” or “many” or “most” are fine for blog comments or casual conversation, but not used to discuss data.”

        Yeah.

        One fact that is really important (and ignored on both sides of the argument) is that national sexual assault rates are way, way down over the last 40 years, at the same time as awareness is way, way up.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_in_the_United_States

        “Over the last four decades, rape has been declining. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the adjusted per-capita victimization rate of rape has declined from about 2.4 per 1000 people (age 12 and above) in 1980 (that is, 2.4 persons from each 1000 people 12 and older were raped during that year) to about 0.4 per 1000 people, a decline of about 85%.”

  4. I mostly agree. At the same time, it’s not like I’m expecting a peer-reviewed journal article or for all journalists to be skilled research methodologists or statisticians. It would be great however if editors pushed journalists a little bit harder to use some data to establish plausibility for their assertions. Using the quoted example above, the author of this article needn’t be a mathematician to change that statement to something even the tiniest bit more meaningful, like, “There has been a 50% increase in the number of due process lawsuits over the past five years.”

    I perfectly willing to believe there are many problems with campus rape policies, but for me to take her argument seriously I really need more data about the scope of the problem and whether it is worsening. Absent that, this just reads like fear-mongering.

  5. I don’t doubt there are issues with our higher education system, but rankings like that seem pretty useless. What does it mean to be the “best” university? For whom? My guess is they randomly shuffle around the top universities just to keep interest in their own list. Outside of Oxbridge and some other prestige schools, UK schools are in pretty big trouble, with massive cuts and massive tuition increases, and a similar desire to turn former universities into glorified technical schools by cutting liberal arts.

    China is attracting top talent because the government is pouring billions of dollars into higher ed, something we’re pretty uninterested in doing. As part of expanding their soft power reach around the globe, the Chinese government is funding tens of thousands of students from the developing world to study in China and learn Chinese. Even in my podunk backwater, there were students from Central Asia and Africa on full Chinese government scholarships. My first year of research in China, the Chinese government funded me to the tune of $5,000 (via my US govt fellowship).

  6. Also, count me unexcited about Hillary Clinton’s book. The last thing I want to do is relive the 2016 primary. I also only care about the general election insofar as actual crimes or injustices happened, like voter suppression among black voters, or Russian hacking. And then, I care about it in terms of punishing the people involved and making sure it doesn’t happen again in the future.

    1. yes. I am going to steadfastly ignore the book. I think there’s a weird market of political consultants and those who like elections as a reality show. But really, can they be a real market? I’m guessing the book is a loss leader to a speaker circuit. Did you know that Karl Rove & Howard Dean have a paired dueling (with words, I might actually pay to see them speak with swords) schtick?

      1. Who is going to buy this book, if not us? I have no desire to relive anything about that election – it’s just too depressing – but if I did, it’d have to be with a 538-style book that analyzed the data (this seems to be a theme today). I was a Hillary fan, but I agree with everyone who thinks it’s absolutely time for her to leave the stage.

        I buy $6 bread from time to time, if I feel like supporting the breadmakers who sell at my local coop, or even (if I’m out of town in a big city) at Whole Foods. Bread is one thing that’s worth spending money on. I know from my own experience making sourdough that it is very time-consuming and messy, and when it’s good, it’s amazing.

      2. I’ve bought $6 bread and I’ll do it again. It’s no different from getting a $25 bottle of wine instead of two cases of Genny cream ale. Each has it’s place and time.

        A full-sized loaf of pumpernickel costs at least $5 at a bakery and I’m not going to put the brie on Wonder Bread. If you want food that isn’t junk and want the person who made it to be paid a reasonable wage, it’s going to cost money.

      3. At my local supermarket, even the shitty bread is like $2-3 a loaf, and if you want high fiber it can be up to $5 for pre-sliced bread in a plastic bag. I don’t buy much bread, but when I do I buy it from the local bakery and it’s actually pretty reasonably priced at about $3.50 a loaf. At the local bakery near my mother’s house, a large loaf costs $8, and a half sized one $4. I wouldn’t regularly buy $6 bread, but it’s not something I would hide from a maid.

        Since I can’t get through a loaf by myself, I usually buy wasa crackers or rice cakes, things that I can eat one and then let sit for a month without them going bad.

      4. B.I. said,

        “Since I can’t get through a loaf by myself, I usually buy wasa crackers or rice cakes, things that I can eat one and then let sit for a month without them going bad.”

        The freezer is excellent for keeping baked goods nice until you need them. We have similar issues in our household with muffins, and what we do is freeze them and dole them out individually as needed (for example in kid lunches), rather than needing to dispose of two dozen muffins over two days. I do the same with Panera’s bagels. I don’t know if you have Panera’s in your area, but it’s $6.99 here for 13 on Tuesday.

    2. BI, let me try and sell you on the idea that you should care about the 2016 primary, and in addition let me throw in the 2017 Virginia governor primary, and that they should be making you into a crusader for ranked choice voting. Seems to me that these events show a real problem in the process – the Reeps got a candidate who most of them didn’t want and didn’t take seriously in the Presidential primary, and in Va the Reeps were only a couple thousand votes away from nominating a Trumpista (Corey Stewart) even though 58 per cent of the primary vote was against him. On the Dem side, they nominated the second most disliked Presidential candidate of my lifetime and thus threw away an election which should have been a gift to them. I don’t think ranked choice primary voting would have saved the Dems from their disastrous nominee – the relentless Clinton campaign to cut off the oxygen from any serious challenger to Herself was part of the Dem problem as was their desperate shortage of plausible governors to run, ranked choice would not have saved them.

      1. BI, let me try and sell you on the idea that you should care about the 2016 primary, and in addition let me throw in the 2017 Virginia governor primary, and that they should be making you into a crusader for ranked choice voting.

        Who, exactly, was preferable to Trump? Cruz? Kasich? Christie? Much as I hate Trump, I doubt that any of these would be much better, from the point of view of my desired outcomes. We’d still have the odious Gorsuch in the stolen court seat and they’d have a much better chance of blowing up our tax code and stripping all the financial regulations as they would do it more competently than Trump did. Plus, they would have a much better chance of being re-elected in 2020.

        No, the problem is Republicans and not the candidates that first-past-the-post supposedly “forces” them to elect. Republicans have agency; they didn’t have to elect Trump.

  7. There seems to be less to the kids-aren’t-majoring-in-humanities article than the headline suggests. I clicked through to the piece, and then to the data from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and it shows that the percentage of humanities majors has dropped to 12 percent, the same percentage as 1987, after peaking since then at only 15 percent. In that same time, there’s been a slight rise in fine and performing arts majors. Contrary to that writer’s informal survey of his public-policy students, I see good news in the fact that the numbers have stayed relatively steady even as the price tag has increased at more than twice the rate of inflation since ’87 and the population of the country has increased by a third since then. The academic humanities don’t appear to be in better or worse shape than usual. The big variable for me is whether the “the humanities” means the same thing to people in 2017 as it did thirty years ago.

    1. “I clicked through to the piece, and then to the data from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and it shows that the percentage of humanities majors has dropped to 12 percent, the same percentage as 1987, after peaking since then at only 15 percent. In that same time, there’s been a slight rise in fine and performing arts majors.”

      Ooooh.

  8. I started the “rich” article and then stopped reading it. There is a class of new rich who are still hidden about their wealth. But they don’t try to hide six dollar bread from nannies.

      1. I can also see that going to great lengths to hide wealth might seem more insulting than simply being upfront about it. The Golden Mean of wealth display, so to speak.

      2. B.I. said,

        “I can also see that going to great lengths to hide wealth might seem more insulting than simply being upfront about it.”

        Yes. Among other things, it suggests that you think the person you are dealing with is stupid.

      3. Yes. Among other things, it suggests that you think the person you are dealing with is stupid.

        Right! There was a funny comment on the NYTimes article along the lines of, “I removed the Bentley decals from my limousine and replaced with Hyundai ones, but I’m not sure if my chauffeur is fooled.”

  9. I have weird money guilt as a grad student, I inherited money from my grandparents and invested it at a good time, and it’s done quite well. I’m also very good at saving money and have benefited from years of compound interest, even if recently it’s not much. Even though my income and life style are 100% grad student, I never have to worry about enough money in the bank to cover rent, or stress over the fact I get paid in random lump sums a few times a year rather than a steady year-round paycheck. I have friends who have trouble paying student life fees or rent before the quarter starts, and I make sympathetic noises and demure. OTOH, I have grad student friends who come from money or have spouses with real jobs, and likely they have much more money than me but they also don’t talk about it.

      1. $147,000 for a master’s degree in journalism? That’s insane. The annual tuition at Columbia Law is only $65,000, and I guarantee that even young lawyers make more than almost any journalist.

    1. There must be some catch to this. That is MBA-level pricing, not private master’s program pricing (as the article notes). Is this designed to catch bored offspring from the global billionaire class? Is this a form of internal money laundering, where they don’t actually want students to take the course? I doubt that anyone sat down and thought this was legitimately a good idea for a master’s program.

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