Beijing Olympics 2008 Medals Recap with Per Population Analysis

Beijing 2008 OlympicsThe Beijing 2008 Olympics have come to an end today Sunday, August 24th. It is hard to imagine that 303 events are crammed into the past 15 days. The kick-off and finale were works of art (if well ‘orchestrated’ in the most generous of terms). And, true to form, China hauled in the largest number of gold medals (51), followed by the USA (36), unaccustomed to playing second fiddle. Aside from chronicling the winning countries in this post, I have chosen to analyse the results according to population. There are many striking facts to these results — the best of which I will attempt to highlight.

Herewith the Top 20 winners, ranked by number of golds. The standout performance after the Chinese clearly belongs to Great Britain with 19 golds.

Olympics 2008 Beijing Medals Table
I choose a second table below to demonstrate the number of medals won per population member (a medal per pop measurement). In the below chart, I have taken the Top 30 (this time), ranked by the most medals from the smallest pool of people. The chart shows the total number of medals won (2nd column), the ranking according to the total number of medals G/S/B (3rd col), followed by the percentage of golds won out of the country’s total medals. Finally, I cite the country’s 2008 population (according to the US Census Bureau). In the last column, you have the population divided by the number of medals, showing — by some way of voodoo statistics — the pool of people that ‘created’ the winners. The Bahamas (2 medals) take the honours here with 1 medal per 153,000 citizens, followed by the miraculous Usain Bolt’s Jamaica (11 medals) and then Iceland (1 medal) taking the bronze place (considering its tiny population). Slovenia, Australia (6th place overall in the total medals haul as well) and New Zealand round out the top 6. Of the top medal scorers in the table above, GB scrapes in at 26th with 1 medal per 1.3 million citizens.

2008 Olympics Medals per Pop
For the record, under this calculation, China landed 68th (13.3mm/pop), the US came in 45th (2.8mm/pop), Russia was 37th (2.0mm/pop). India was plum last of the medal winners with 383 million per pop.

And, for another viewpoint, the non-medalling countries with the largest population (a sort of hall of shame, if it weren’t for the political and social strife):

Pakistan 172 million (6th largest)
Bangladesh 153 million (7th)
Philippines 96 million (12th)
Congo Kinshasa 66 million (18th)
Burma 48 million (26th)

And among the major upsets that I observed from a US standpoint anyway, the US getting only a bronze in baseball and having both the US men and women failing to qualify for the 4x100m. There were many others certainly. However, aside from having a war begin and end within the timeframe of the Olympics (with Russia’s invading Georgia’s [30 medals] South Ossetia and Abkhazia) and China’s internal silencing and manipulated PR campaign, the largest other surprise that I can come up with is the low level of doping scandals. Lo siento Rafa, but Nadal escaped again… along with surely many hundred’s of others.

All in all, a fairly vivid affair. And, for the foreign companies that invested in advertising to the Chinese, presumably a winning gamble. Your thoughts?

Turkey dramatically defeats Croatia in penalties in Euro 2008 Quarter-Finals

Euro 2008 Quarter Finals Croatia v TurkeyTurkey produced miracle #3 of the Euro 2008 tournament by beating Croatia in the quarter finals in the most unlikeliest of circumstances. After regulation, the match was 0-0. Some might ask how a 0-0 game can be exciting. Well, sometimes, it just needs to have high stakes, a bit of woodwork, luck and the definitive need for a victor. The Turks had 56% of the possession and yet also had 4 bookings to 0 for Croatia. Meanwhile, the Croats had 15 (7 on target) total shots to 10 (4 on goal) for the Turks.

Then came the magic of overtime. Unlike ice hockey, it is not sudden death in football. There are twoTurkey downs Croatia in penalties Euro 2008 extra halves of 15 minutes. Twenty-nine minutes into OT, that is to say 1 minute before the end of extra time, Ivan Krasnic of Croatia scores with the head, 1-0. Jubilation. The Croatian players could taste the semi’s. After all, after 119 minutes of scoreless football, another score would be utterly improbable. At 120 minutes, the sidelines announce 2 minutes added on for injury time. With the clock ticking down at 121’50” the Turks rifle a long distance free kick that lands more-or-less on the foot of Senturk who pummels the ball with his left foot into the top left hand corner of the goal. The final whistle blows as soon as the ball soared into the back of the net. A scorcher, beautiful under any circumstances. Unfathomable in this moment.

1-1. Penalties.

The deflated Croats miss three of the next four penalty spots, two absolute misses and one saved by the Turkish Captain (and substitute) goalkeeper, Rüştü Reçber. The Turks ruthlessly knock in their spot kicks, including a Senturk right-footed execution.

So, in a veritable three-peat, Turkey is through, and Croatia, the former giant killer, is out. The Turks pulled off a last gasp win against Switzerland, 2-1, scoring in the 92nd minute to avoid a draw.  And then they made a sensational come-from-2-0-behind victory over the Czechs (down 2 goals with 15 minutes left). They scored three goals in the last 15 minutes to qualify for the quarters. For added drama, their goalie is ejected in the very last moments of the game.

Having visited Turkey and understood the intensity of the rivalry between the Istanbul football teams, I know the utter passion for football in Turkey (there is nothing more torrid than an encounter between Fenerbahçe v Galatasaray).

Not three, without four? Can the heavily yellow-carded Turks overcome the stalwart Germans in their first ever Euro semi-final? Clearly, the Turk coach, Fatih Terim, will have a difficult choice to make in goal.

Philadephia Flyers’ Losing Streak Continues

Philadelphia Flyers 2008Well, Philly fans, here we are in the midst of another stinging Philadelphia Flyers’ losing streak. The Philadelphia Flyers are now winless in a franchise-tying 10 games in a row, have lost the services of LW Simon Gagne (“A”) for the season and now have lost their star center and leading scorer Mike Richards (2nd “A”) for 3 weeks. These injuries come on top of Lupul and Downie (RWs) and 3 defensemen, including tall lumbering Rathje and ex-Captain Hatcher. In all, 8 players are injured at the time of writing.

After getting 2 points in each of 14 out of 19 games (with 2 Overtime loses and 3 regulation losses) in the span Dec 22 until Feb 5 and rocketing into first position, the Flyers switched gears and have since plummeted into the dark depths of a streak where nothing goes right, including this last loss against the Panthers where they conceded the tying goal in the last 4 seconds of regulation time. They now lie in 9th position, below the last available playoff spot and tied with the New York Islanders.

If it is any consolation, the league leading DETROIT RED WINGS are presently accompanying the Flyers in their horror trip, as the Red Wings have lost 8 of their last 9 games. Yet, they still lie in first place overall in the NHL, with 89 points, six points ahead of the 2nd place Dallas Stars, and 11 points ahead of the Eastern Conference leading Senators. Doesn’t actually make me feel any better; but, the feeling in the locker room must start to feel like the feeling in the Flyers’ locker room with one big difference: no matter what happens, the Red Wings will still make it into the playoffs, even if they are also suffering from a large contingent of injured players, including the supremely talented Lidstrom.

When a team hits this type of losing streak, even as professionals, they must figure out how to get out of the funk, without the team starting to snap at each other…and the blame game getting in the way of lucidity. A team in the midst of such a streak needs to stay cohesive, look for and build on the small wins, even in the losses. The team needs leadership. The challenge they will have, at least over the next couple of days, is knowing that the composition of the locker room is probably about to shift radically.

With the trading deadline about to fall (Feb 26 at 3pm EST), you can only imagine that the Flyers will be active in the market in an effort to stay in the playoff hunt. What of the future of Daniel Briere who has managed to take his career -5 +/- rating coming into the season to a frightening -28 (-23 this season thus far)? Even if Coach Stevens says Briere cares, it is tough to look beyond the statistics and the $52MM package. Darren Pang talks here on Fox NHL of how he expects the Flyers to be shopping, including trading the now-injured Richards. It would be a shame to throw away talent needlessly for this season which started out so promisingly. Not that the Flyers are ready to build a Stanley Cup team, but with Gagne’s career hanging in the balance, I believe that the salary cap restrictions and regulations make the options limited for any quick fix.

Living in Paris, I miss the ability to watch the games live and to share the stories with my old colleagues with passionate hockey players and fans in Montreal. A trip through Montreal at the end of month will be very welcome, once I get over the ribbing of the drubbings the Habs have dished out to the Flyers this season.

Great Teachers in my Life

Great TeachersI remember the great teachers in my life as if it were yesterday that I was sitting in their classroom and reveling in the learning. I have been blessed to have had six standout teachers whom I will honour today in the post below. The real take away for any reader of this post is what are the defining characteristics of a great teacher? And, secondly, it is the questions: what have you done to say thanks to those teachers? For the most part, teaching is a often a thankless and low-paying job and there is little way to understand the long-term benefits and/or realisations (ROI) brought about by a great teacher. My call to action for you? Call him or her; write a letter; make a special visit…now before it is too late. And if you need a special motivation, read Mitch Albom’sTuesday’s with Morrie.” You might find the urge.

So, who were my inspiring teachers?

I will start with John Peake (or JSBP). Nominally, John was my housemaster, history beak (teacher) and sports coach at Eton College. But, he was also the man responsible for cultivating my passion to learn, who showed me how to teach and live with zeal, humour and sensitivity. I shall always remember the day he led our class outside onto a muddy field to re-enact the falling of the British Square [first time in its history] to the Zulus in the Boer War. And, in the annual athletics competition, our house always excelled. This was in large part because John knew how to motivate every single boy to participate. He also had a habit of attracting some of the better talent, if I say so myself. In so doing, I credit John with laying the foundation for always wanting to be the best I could be. JSBP REMEMBERED

Secondly, I think back to how lucky I was to have known Patrick Jordan (aka PJFJ), the headmaster at my [now defunct] prep school, The Old Malthouse (OMH), down in sunny Dorset. After all these years, I have to thank Patrick for my passion for rugby and athletics (including throwing the javelin). He also was passionate about his Triumph cars which he delighted in sharing with us. Patrick went on to become a highly successful headmaster at Packwood Haugh.

Thirdly, I cite the theatrical Michael Kidson (MGMK), my history teacher for many divisions (classes) at Eton. His theatrics–sometimes hystrionics–always kept us at attention, if not on edge. Michael laid into us with vigour, I shall always remember his criticism of my “woolly” English. Flying wood blocks notwithstanding, he was as generous and kind a man as you will ever find.

Fourth, I cite Colonel Ozzie Ostock, my history teacher from the Old Malthouse. With his authentic Colonel’s handlebar moustache, Mr Ostock brought history to life with his anecdotes. He would tell us vivid tales of WWII and was responsible for having at least one war hero (that I can remember) come present to us in the Gym. Managing to corral the zany energy of a roomful of 8-9 year old boys, he started me on my journey of twelve years of studying history–and a lifetime since. He is responsible for my love the film “The Dambusters”, the story of an eccentric scientist’s invention that devastated three German dams in the Ruhr Valley (Ruhr and Eder rivers). Here is a “fan site” out of England: Dambusters.co.uk.

Anil Gaba - Great TeacherThe most valiant award, however, goes to my statistics teacher, Professor Anil Gaba, at INSEAD. If you knew me, you would know that this could not have been my favourite topic. But, through wit, real case examples and a great deal of patience, he systematically, and single-handedly, made statistics stick. Also, Anil created a favourable environment for social interaction. A soulful individual. Anil is now Dean of Faculty at INSEAD (Singapore campus).

Finally, I would like to remember Professor Terry Des Pres, holocaust scholar and my freshman English teacher at Colgate University. While his classes borderlined on Dead Poet’s Society material, wearing every day the same outfit, Terry excelled in the ‘happenings’ in his own home. Reminiscent of a Salon environment, we would stay endless hours debating and sharing stories, especially on one occasion with his great friend John Irving. Here is the NY Times article covering his premature death in 1987, and a nice writeup in the Colgate Scene on-line.

Voilà, my list of top six Great Teachers is complete. There were, however, other great “moments” Great Teacher - Mark Rosekindin teaching that I would also like to remember, including Professor Mark Rosekind, an FSR*, at Yale University, teaching us about sleep (and dreams). And, on this one occasion, on my suggestion, we decided to hold an entire class outside (on a beautiful spring day). Since the class had somewhere over 100 students, that was a trickier enterprise than might be imagined to do spontaneously. I set up my amplifier and microphone outside our dorm room window and all the students sprawled out on the grass in Silliman College square. And it was the surprise of my sleeping roommate that gave me this priceless memory: There Bert was, sleeping in mid-afternoon and, in the midst of his dreams, he heard through his window a mellifluous Californian accent speaking about sleep and dreams. Professor Rosekind was also great at keeping our full attention by hatching spontaneous studies of his students who dozed off in his class. See here for Mark’s site at the National Sleep Foundation. And here, no less, a blog about Dr Rosekind with one of his podasts. (*Famous Sleep Researcher).

I should also thank my English teacher and sports therapist “Uncle” (aka Unkie) at The Hotchkiss School for giving me another memory of a lifetime. As he walked in this one spring day, the whole class spontaneously broke out singing the Grateful Dead’s “Loose Lucy” in a capella from beginning to end. And his priceless answer at the end: “why me?”

So, why these teachers? The attributes that blare out like a coach’s megaphone on crisp winter morning are: being passionate, being real, being interactive. As Todd Whitaker says in his book “What Great Teachers Do Differently,” great teachers focus on expectations, while the mundane teachers focus on the rules. And, in every case, they were also great listeners and always available for discussion after hours. As you can see, I did the rounds when it came to schools. But, no matter where, there always was at least one teacher that stood out a cut above. Make sure you remember the one(s) that stood out for you!

For further reading on the topic, if you got inspired, here are a selection of other sites and articles about Great Teachers:

TIME magazine feature on How to Make Great Teachers (i.e. how to overcome the low pay de-motivation)
Great Schools website features the Great Teachers’ qualities
Oprah did a show on Great Teachers featuring Mr Clark’s essential “rules” for Children

Australian Open Tennis 2008

Australian Open Tennis 2008This would appear to be a great Australian Open 2008. Even though I haven’t been able see anything other than a few measly highlights, two comments come to mind:

1/ Bravo to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the discovery of the tournament… and hopefully, the beginning of a new era for him. And good luck against Roger (unless Djokovic pulls out the jokervich). mrgreen

2/ The Eastern Revolution. I don’t know where I have been recently, but I missed the complete overtaking of women’s tennis by the eastern European countries. Some statistics from this year’s Australian Open tournament:

  • In the singles, ten out of 16 women in the fourth round were from Eastern European countries.
  • In the singles semi-finals, all four women were from E Europe, with 2 from Serbia.
  • In the doubles final, three of the four participants were from Eastern Europe and none of those three even figured in the fourth round of the singles competition.
  • And, just veering back to the men, 5/16 in the fourth round were from Eastern Europe and 2/8 in the quarters… 1/4 in the semis… final?

I haven’t dared to evaluate the juniors, but it seems like something of a monopoly, no?

And I do just have to wonder about the nagging issue of doping, still.

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UPDATE ON MONDAY JANUARY 28th…

Well, on the men’s side, Novak Djokovic pulled off the win against Federer and then saw off Tsonga in a closely contested 4-set final match (see the BBC report here). It was the first ever Grand Slam men’s singles victory for a Serb. Kudos. As Djokovic said in his post-victory conference, it was a strange match with ups and downs; but “[t]he difference is if you stay focused in the end.” This was a great example of the importance of psychology since, as the favourite between the two suprise finalists, Djokovic had to get over a blistering start from Tsonga. As for Jo-Wilfried, a great tournament having laid claim to some heavy scalps along the way, including 9th seeded Andy Murray in the first round, then Gasquet (8th seed, no respect!), Youzny (14th) and last but not least the big-armed Nadal (2nd). Not bad for the 38th ranked player.

On the women’s front, Maria Sharapova took the honors over Ana Ivanovic, avoiding a Serbian sweep in the singles. Note that Serbian Nenad Zimonjic (and female partner Sun) won the Mixed Doubles title. Also, local boy, Bernard Tomic, won the Junior Boy’s Title… but you know that with such a name, he might just also have some Serbian blood.

All in all, a great tournament with some revelations in the men’s side. Still, I ask myself when are they going to start getting serious about cleaning up the drug trade?

Births out of wedlock

In France, it was announced (see here in the NY Sun!) by INSEE, the Paris-based national statistics agency, that in 2007, for the first time, the number of babies born out of wedlock eclipsed 50% (hitting 50.5%). That sent me scurrying across the web to find comparative stats. I was not sure, but I assumed that France was not alone in that trend. And that is an understatement. The trend is international. And quite a statement on the plight of marriage, as well as on the state of society.

Here is what I found out.

In the UK, this BBC report from 2004 said that the rate in Britain had reached 42%. But it is Sweden that leads all EU countries with around 53% (see Eurostat graphic to right). Sweden (red line on top) was already at 52% in 1995. France (green line) has been the second highest in Europe since the mid-1980s. Some good info on this Demographic Blog, and a comprehensive recent post on Demography Matters.

In the US, per 2005 CDC Gov stats, the percentage is 36.9%. Who makes up that 37% is not easy to piece together. But, already on the immigration front, courtesy of the Center for Immigration site, I have the following details and quotes:

  • Hispanic immigrants have seen the largest increase in out-of-wedlock births — from 19 percent of births in 1980 to 42 percent in 2003. This is important because Hispanics account for nearly 60 percent of all births to immigrants.

  • In addition to the 42 percent rate for Hispanic immigrants, the illegitimacy rate is now 39 percent for black immigrants, 11 percent for Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 12 percent for white immigrants.

  • There’s no indication of improvement over the generations. Among natives, the illegitimacy rate is 50 percent for Hispanics; 30 percent for Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 24 percent for whites.

  • There is no evidence that illegitimacy is related to legal status. Illegitimacy is common in many immigrant-sending counties. According to the UN, in Mexico and Canada the illegitimacy rate is 38 percent; in El Salvador it’s 73 percent; and it’s 86 percent in Jamaica

Per this CITY, Hispanic Family Values article, there is clearly a lot of concern with regard this trend of births out of wedlock in the Hispanic community. And I quote from this article, “[E]very 1,000 unmarried Hispanic women bore 92 children in 2003 (the latest year for which data exist), compared with 28 children for every 1,000 unmarried white women, 22 for every 1,000 unmarried Asian women, and 66 for every 1,000 unmarried black women. Forty-five percent of all Hispanic births occur outside of marriage, compared with 24 percent of white births and 15 percent of Asian births. Only the percentage of black out-of-wedlock births—68 percent—exceeds the Hispanic rate.” This NPR podcast deals further with the situation for Black Americans.

Perhaps another area that deserves highlighting is the appallingly high number of teen births in the US. This article from Breitbart.com says the following:

“The birth rate among teenagers [in the U.S.] declined 2 percent in 2005, continuing a trend from the early 1990s. The rate is now about 40 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19. That is the lowest level in the 65 years for which a consistent series of rates is available. The U.S. teen birth rate is still the highest among industrialized countries.”

Looking at births out of wedlock, in general, the most critical issue may just be the existence of a loving couple to bring up that child. But between the high numbers of teen births and the high divorce rates, not to mention out-of-wedlock births, there is surely a new paradigm shift underway in terms of the composition of family. Apparently, Gen Yers are placing high(er) esteem on traditional values of family and are now looking for guidance and mentors. It would seem that there is a lot of work to be done on all fronts to create a successful concept/image of long-term marriage, new economic models and incentives and, above all, EDUCATION for what is, as far as teen and out-of-wedlock births are concerned, an over-weighted phenomenon in under-educated classes.

Worldometer

Check out Worldometers, a live feed that supposedly tabulates as it happens a whole slew of events and activities in the world, including a host of ecological stats on food, water, energy as well as numerous health issues. I was passed this link by François (merci) and literally spent minutes glued to the numbers ticking over. When you observe the number of deaths or births happening as you watch, you tend to feel a little like you are participating. Yesterday, the 23rd January, was a special day because my sister in Guam delivered a 5kg son to the world. BRAVA biggrin and welcome Nathaniel Broderick. Meanwhile, today, it is our son’s birthday… another year ticks by. Happy Birthday Oscar! razz

Regarding Worldometers, it “is managed by a team of developers and researchers with the goal of making world statistics available in a thought-provoking and time relevant format to a wide audience around the world.” As my friend Jean-Marc reinforced in a recent brilliant presentation this week: check the green and blue lines (in the google search) and [especially for any www information] check your source. Worldometers’ site presents its sources as the most reliable out there. These include UN, WHO, etc. and certainly, without double-checking, that seems official enough.

Worldometers starts with a stat du mois, this month it is toxic chemicals released by industries worldwide into our air, land, and water this year (tons).

Other categories include Education and Media, Government & Economics… And among the list of numbers you can watch ticking over, there are the “cumulative hours waited for web pages to download this year” (which surely is a misleading number because it will have difficulty to account for the geometric surge in high speed lines). But otherwise, the site is appropriately thought provoking.

Others who have blogged on Worldometers include Vicar in Yeovil, Saravanan in Singapore, Prathiba in Chennai India, the Gaol House Blog (UK)… Certainly garnering worldwide readership!

Norway quota for women on corporate boards

A bold decision

I read with interest about Norway’s legislated quota for women’s presence on publicly traded private limited liability (“ASA”) corporate boards. The improvements in equality on boards in Norway were not coming fast enough*, so, in 2005, the government put in place a minimum quota of 40% of women on every ASA corporate board by the end of 2007, with consequences if not met. In the last six months of 2007, it is estimated that 400 additional women were voted onto corporate boards, making Norway by far and away the country with the highest representation of women on boards. Quoting from GlobeWomen.org, “In its 2007 study, Women Directors in the Fortune Global 200 Companies’ released in Berlin at the June Global Summit of Women, Corporate Women Directors International reported that only 11.2% of corporate board seats are held by women in the 200 largest companies in the world.” The successful implementation of the Norwegian law has been observed by many other countries (including Canada, Spain) seeking similar diversity. I note that Sweden apparently balked on a similar quota initiative five years ago.

A 40% target

Having been set the objective of 40% female representation on boards, the targeted Norwegian companies are now on average at 37%, at parity with the 37% of their women parliamentarians, although below the true parity achieved in PM Jens Stoltenberg’s current cabinet (8/16)**. The very least one can say is that the Norwegians are putting their money with their mouthes are…and with great courage. I was able to find, for example, many sites with stats on gender equality (including this one at Statistics Norway).

I was intrigued by a blogger’s following explanation for the strong presence of women in Norwegian society:

usini wrote (find in the comments section): “I think that one has to be very careful not to generalise from the particular. Women in Norway always had quite a strong position politically, because, so I believe, of the economy being based on fishing and sea-faring which meant that a lot of men were absent when decisions had to be made. Thus a solution which is suitable for them may not necessarily apply to other cultures.”

One of the items to watch closely in the near future will be how the Government deals with non-compliant companies. This Guardian article identifies the scope of the problem with 111 yet to comply and 5 companies that still have zero women on their boards. Clearly, closing down those companies will be an explosive solution. The second evolution to watch carefully is how the board members are re-elected… When/if a woman leaves a board, will she systematically have to be replaced by another woman?

Sensitive topic

This quota law was naturally a topic of great sensitivity. Quotas are a generally reviled policy. And most of the commentary I have read on this particular policy are predictably unfavorable. Certainly the ambition of going from 6% to 40% was enormous, if also artificial, over such a short period of time. As much as some Norwegian unions might have been delighted by the quota, most of the private sector was up in arms and there is probably continuing concern that foreign companies will look less favorably at installing in Norway. As reported by the Centre for Corporate Diversity, there was also concern that some of the 500 concerned companies would change their ASA status to avoid this law. That particular concern has proved unwarranted. Meanwhile, even the Norwegian Gender blog, authored by Ragnhild Sohlberg, has put up reservations as to the success and/or desirability of a quota system. Susan Gunelius at Women on Business also issued reservations against quotas. In any event, finding qualified talent in those numbers over such a short time frame does not appear healthy–and one has to imagine some negative fallout in the first few years. Nonetheless, I applaud the courage of their convictions.

In many ways, the trick for the Norwegians will now be to validate the new status to show that corporate performance is at least as good as in the past (if not better) in order to encourage other companies (such as Luxottica, which has committed to 30% of women in management positions) if not other governments, to follow suit. Proving that the performance has otherwise been altered by a higher presence of women will ultimately fall to the numbers and bottom line. The question is whether the benchmarks and interpretation of those numbers will be clear.

Looking at the global playing field, it is interesting to note how a smaller country can become, in a certain fashion, the experimental laboratory for other bigger countries. Not that the context in any country can perfectly translate for other countries, but this policy and its successful implementation could surely give rise to new initiatives in other countries. Its failure would only reinforce the “I told you so” against quotas. In the same vein of looking at “small” country initiatives, I am tracking Norway’s actions on the ecological front (including this Green Prison initiative in a prior post) where they are pioneers as well. The least one can say is that they are attempting to bring about change. And since the end is desirable…to what extent does that justify the means? Any thoughts?

Other blogs on this topic:

Yvonne Roberts speaks out in favor on Guardian Unlimited. The comments are quite heated.
Ibibo Blogs – One blog supporting the notion that Quota works…
Fresh Inc. — 40% of business school students in Norway are women.
NYT Article from Jan 2006 — Women more reasonably represented in politics & media…
Mises Blog - The Ludwig von Mises Institute is the research and educational center of classical liberalism, libertarian political theory, and the Austrian School of economics. Even this post inspired a lot of debased, inflammatory comments (from 2005)…
Reinvention Inc... where I picked up the story about Spain following Norway’s example (not on the imposition of a quota, but an incentive to have higher female representation. In 2006, Spain had under 4% female representation on corporate boards.
CareerDiva – with a balanced comment section to date (just 5 comments).

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* The initial request from the Norwegian government was made in 2002, with a non-binding law established in 2003. In the following three years, the percent of women present on boards rose from a poor 6% to an ‘average’ 11%. I read a 2003 article from Time magazine on the topic… makes for good recent retrospective information.

** I found a blog posting on Writes Like She Talks, referring to a Huffington Post posting from 2006 that discusses the representation of women in politics across the world, where the USA ranked 67th. Write Like She Talks has an updated blog site now, here.

Happy No Smoking & New Year

No Smoking this New YearGlad to usher in a new year and, with it, the beginning of smoke-free hotels, bars and restaurants in Paris. But, as this BBC article explains, Paris is not the only place to take on new year resolutions. Eight German states, including Berlin and heavy drinking Bavaria, have now taken on a similar ban, with three more to follow during the year. The subject has evidently taken on a different spin in Germany where enforcement will be somewhat more lenient than in France due to, what I have to imagine are mediatised, links with Hitler’s Nazi regime’s crackdown on smoking. In France, the “leniency” was accorded all the way to the end of January 1st, 2008.

After reading up on the smoking bans, I was interested in the smoking populations in Europe and per the BBC site, it says that 45% of the adult population in Greece is smoking. Naturally, the more painful number would be evaluating how that statistic translates into children smoking. Of the 13.5 million smokers in France, as cited in the BBC article, how many are not adults (I hesitate to use the word kids)?

Thanks mostly to wiki, I have calculated that there are just over 50 million 18+ years olds in metropolitan France. Then, if one were (mistakenly) to take the 13.5 million as all being adults, that would give France a 27% adult smoking ratio (I assume an adult is still considered 18+). Double checking what statistics I could find on adult smokers, I discovered this NationMaster site, whose source is the World Health Organization, which claimed a wholly different picture, with 34.5% of smoking adults in France — and this is only marginally less than the 35% cited for Germany (in line with the BBC’s “one third of Germans” who smoke). The worldwide weighted average of adults smoking is 27.5% per the NationMaster site. For good reading, try the Herald Tribune’s article on the Future of the [smoking] Cafe Society!

Stateside, Chicago has also just put in place a revised no-smoking inside law to usher in the new year, too — this new law was to snuff out loopholes. There are just 23 states in the US that have imposed on indoor smoking. That is quite surprising to me.

Anyway, Happy New Year, Health and Happiness to all smokers and non-smokers alike.

Taxi economics in Paris

This is not a Grinch who stole Christmas or a post about Uncle Scrooge, but it does have to do with money (economics) and service…

During the last public transport strike in Paris in November, I avoided as best I could taking a taxi. Aside from the staunch traffic jams and eco-guilt*, I was not keen on padding the taxi driver’s pockets. Instead, I hoofed it as frequently as I managed my timing. Adding the practical (exercise) to the ecological.

One day, I was forced to cab it. Not that it was quicker, but the bags obliged. I happened upon a talkative and, possibly frank, driver. We struck upon the topic of profitable rides. What is a profitable ride for a Parisian taxi driver? By the judge of how many rides I have been refused, I assumed there was an unwritten rule not to take passengers like me, whatever I may look like.

As we may yet enjoy more strikes in Paris in the new year (are you kidding me about the subjunctive?), I recount what I was told about a taxi driver’s profit motive. There are no fast rules as the traffic will vary with great inconsistency. [I did not get to discuss the different fare zones according to time of the week, area of Paris].

For the trip to the main Charles-de-Gaulle Roissy Airport (27km north-east of Paris), the typical fare is 45-50 euro for 35 minutes work–“well worth just heading back into town empty,” said the driver (rather than waiting the 2-3 hour wait at the airport). I can infer that 45 E for 70 minutes (minimum) translates into a good hourly rate (38.6E).

Naturally, as with any trip, the fare and duration depend entirely on the traffic. The driver recounted that intra muros Paris with the strike in full swing meant 30E for a 60-minute fare stuck in traffic. Plus, there is no “rest” (as in need to deal with a client). And there is the added stress of the constant gridlock and unhappy co-drivers.

That said, the economics of the taxi have been steadfastly manipulated. Courtesy of a Vox on-line article entitled, “The price of suspicion,**” I discovered that there used to be 25,000 taxis in Paris…in 1925! I quote from the article: “For fear of competition, those concerned latch on to a Malthusian system (25,000 taxis in Paris in 1925, 15,000 in 2005) – of which we know the result; users can’t find a taxi when they need one, and drivers practically have to bleed to death to get the famous taxi-badge – a clear example of a lose-lose outcome.” Clearly, market supply has been carefully strangled.

From another article, “Paris Capitale Taxis,” I find the statistic that, “…in 2005, each day 15,200 taxis carried more than 350,000 customers, i.e. 190,000 trips per day.” This means that each taxi (the car itself, as many cars are driven by multiple drivers), has 12.5 trips per day on average. If the average ticket (including tips) were about 13E (1 ride to the airport and the remainder at 10E), the daily revenues would be 185E or 55KE over a year containing an arbitrary 300 work days.

I am not in a position to know the costs for the driver (cost of the license currently estimated at around 200KE, fuel, insurance, amortization, etc.), so this is not an economist’s analysis. What I wanted to do was get into the taxi driver’s psyche–his/her top of mind profit motive.

Meanwhile, I still can’t figure out the reason why the counter must be set to begin at 2.10E, yet the minimum fare is 5.60E. Why not just begin at 5.60E and let it sit at that price until such time as the distance warrants the uptick? It just doesn’t make sense to have a metre read 4E at the end of an ultra short (and totally profitable) trip and yet be obliged to pay 5.60E minimum anyway.

In any event, there is talk of change of the regulations…as per this recently published French Journal de Dimanche article “Revolution en vue pour les taxis parisiens” in order to encourage more taxis back into Paris. The JDD article says that there are now 15,600 taxis in Paris. Hopefully, the new year’s resolution will also include making more as well as nicer cab drivers.

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*As with many expressions I make up, I think I’m being orginal, but it turns out, as usual, that the term eco-guilt has been broadly used across the Net. I cite a couple that I enjoyed:
Coffee, tea… eco-guilt? A not so complementary view of Virgin Atlantic’s ploy…
The twitch of Eco-guilt… the guilt of enjoying a holiday in a non eco-friendly location such as Dubai

**This article, written by Professors Algan and Cahuc, presents a (very cogent) history from which has growns the current state of affairs in France (worth the read).