My Facebook Wall: August 2011

My friends’ prompts and responses are written in italics.

8/3: “Dickens in his cheapest cockney utilitarianism was not only English, but unconsciously historic. Upon him descended the real tradition of “Merry England,” and not upon the pallid mediaevalists who thought they were reviving it. The Pre-Raphaelites, the Gothicists, the admirers of the Middle Ages, had in their subtlety and sadness the spirit of the present day. Dickens had in his buffoonery and bravery the spirit of the Middle Ages. He was much more mediaeval in his attacks on mediaevalism than they were in their defenses of it.” -G.K. Chesteron. Quote unearthed by Michael Potemra.
8/3: I’ve been trying to receive the refund I was promised for my payments into the Japanese pension system since December. The government writes me every four months to say something was missing from my previous application. If they just called me on the phone, we could resolve everything in two minutes, but on the bright side, every time I re-apply, the yen-dollar exchange rate is more in my favor.
10/15: My refund finally arrived. As of now, one dollar is 76.9 yen. From Aug. 2008 to July 2010, I paid the equivalent of five thousand six hundred sixteen dollars and seventy-eight cents into the Japanese Pension Service.
8/6: What’s ironic about the state funding contraception is that the low birthrate contraception has made possible is one of the two major reasons (along with increased life expectancy) that our population has aged and Social Security and Medicare are now insolvent.
8/6: Director Joe Johnston must have thought “Would this be too cheesy? …Wait a minute, this is CAPTAIN AMERICA! NOTHING could be too cheesy” at least two dozen times during filming, and that’s what made the movie so much fun.
8/7: Man classifies his favorite authors with a Venn Diagram: ”I think of all writing being from the head (pros: cerebral, conceptual; cons: didactic, dry), the mouth (pros: language, poetics; cons: empty banter, pure form), and the heart (pros: empathic, intimate; cons: sentimental, emotional).”
8/11: Even if the London riots were intended to be an SOS, damaging innocent people’s livelihoods by destroying and stealing their property would be unacceptable.
8/12: Rome police arrest Colosseum “gladiator” gang: I remember taking a picture with one!
8/12: When I read, time melts off like grease from a George Foreman grill. When I exercise, my head says “Two more minutes? Think of everything you could be doing with that time!! I’m going to make you feel spent at the next :00 just for considering it!”
8/15: Now comes the part of my life where I circle China: HK-Yunnan-Xi’an-Beijing-Shanghai starting in 36 hours. Peace be with you all, and I wish an early 生日快樂 to everyone born between 8/15 and 9/15.
8/17: Hong Kong crosswalk lights make an insistent drum-tapping sound when they’re green as if to say “Come on, everybody’s waiting for you! Why don’t you cross the street already?!” I think they do the same thing at Purdue. But my understanding was that it was for assistance of the visually impaired, who cannot see the sign.
8/20: Ridiculous question: I cannot speak unbiasedly because I make fun of community theater quite often. But, in your travels, how often have you seen similar things in the countries to which you have traveled? Because, in my opinion, despite my detrimental feelings toward their quality, they play a positive communal role. Feel free to extrapolate, in your answer, this concept to other areas of logical continuity.
My Response: I think community theater is a fine hobby. I’ve seen street performances of puppet shows before but haven’t seen fliers for community plays…there are community musical and dance performances, but Western-style theater is not yet an Eastern tradition.
8/21: If you want to have a nice time in China, I recommend Yunnan!

A Discussion about the Median Wealth Gap (8/7)
James: “The median wealth of white U.S. households in 2009 was $113,149, compared with $6,325 for Hispanics and $5,677 for blacks.”

Friend 1: Back in ’07 Hispanics had a lot more wealth than they do now: most of their wealth was in homesteads out in California. Of course, that’s all gone now. That is the primary reason for the record high gap.

Friend 2: Yeah, I looked up the Survey of Consumer Finances when I saw that report. The wealth gap is much larger than the income gap, and it has also increased more than the income gap has. Interestingly, if you look at other races (anybody who is not white, black, or hispanic, which I interpret as mostly including asians) the median wealth is actually slightly larger (though almost the same) as that of whites.

James: Yes, Asians outperform whites on income and performance metrics. The primary driver of the black and Hispanic wealth decline is the collapse in housing values, as Casey adduced. “From 2005 to 2009, inflation-adjusted median wealth plunged two-thirds among Hispanic households and 53% among black households, compared with just 16% for white households…The median value of directly held stock and mutual funds dropped 32% for Hispanics and 71% for blacks.” Quotes cited from this article which is more data-driven.

Friend 3: There is also another dynamic at play – age. The median ages also differ – for Whites it is 38.3, Asians 35.3, Blacks 31.3, and Hispanics 27.4. Granted, this is individual rather than household data and the age of the difference in ages of the heads of household may be less due to more children in Black and Hispanic families. Five to ten extra years of work to pay off debt and accrue wealth can make a rather marked difference. It is not nearly enough to explain away the gap, but is something that should be taken into account. This also partly explains why housing hurt these groups disproportionately – younger borrowers have less equity on average and so the drop in home prices destroyed a larger share of that equity.

Friend 4: A few thoughts:
1) This statistic describes an outcome, but the reasons are probably many.
2) Thomas Sowell discusses the use of “household” statistics.
3) It would have been interesting to see how the data breaks down when controlled for single-parenthood. Many an economic “gap” is explained by this unfortunate social arrangement. It is also a hard problem to solve.

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