Some countries that haven’t fallen into ‘I Love Lucy’ disarray despite having a skirt in charge

Every once in awhile, a person in my orbit says things about how “catty” older women can be. Or how annoying women’s voices are because they are “squeaky.” Or how people “get things for ‘being a woman.'”

Because, you know, men in power are always so fair-minded and reasonable, always, and men never have irritating voices or anything. And men? Men just earn everything they get. If men get anything, it’s because they fricking earned it. Especially if that man is white because he’s had to struggle against the monumental odds of those far-reaching affirmative action regimes. Why, men never don’t get a job just because they weren’t the best candidate that day. That’s just crazy talk! Unless, well, another man got the job. But if a women or a person of color gets the job or the promotion instead, we all know what happened, don’t we? Because the idea–the very idea–that a woman might be more meritorious than a man–I ask you.

Who puts these things in my head?

The appointment of Christine Lagarde to the head the IMF has me reflecting. With her appointment, there is the offchance hopes that despite “being catty” (as we all know), she won’t disgrace the organization by spending her time acting like a knuckle-dragging horndog or assaulting hotel staff being-a-fair-minded,powerful-voiced-masculine-dude-he-man-we-can-all-respect like her predecessor Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

I’ve been thinking about the number of female heads of state; these are only a selection:

Mary McAleese, President of Ireland since 1997, through the boom and bust.

Tarja Halonen, President of Finland

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia

Pratibha Patil, President of India, aka the world’s largest democracy

President Cristina E. Fernández de Kirchner, President of Argentina

Quentin Bryce (I love her name; why can’t my name be that cool?), Governor-General of Australia

Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Prime Minister of Bangladesh

Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia

Laura Chinchilla Miranda, President of Costa Rica

Roza Otunbayer, President of Kyrgystan.

Edited to add: Quibblers abound! I got the following by email from sharp-eyed reader Kevin:

As it turns out Julia Gillard is not a “head of state” but rather a “head of government.”

Queen Elizabeth II is Australia’s head of state. Technically, the Governor-General is not the head of state either, but rather the Queen’s representative. Though, he or she acts on behalf of the Queen in the her absence. So I’ll let that one slide. Nevertheless for your information, it is QEII who signs Aussie laws.

Ok,yes, but I rejected monarchs due to the heredity nature of the post. But I was fast and loose with the word “state” rather than “government.” Why this is important is not readily apparent to me, but that’s probably just me.

The Economist on privatizing Amtrak

The Economist says the same things I did a bit ago (only The Economist does so more concisely and clearly) about Senator Mica’s proposal that they privatize the Northeast corridor. There are some problems with the Economist’s argument, though:

Critics of Mr Mica note that Amtrak’s profitable north-east corridor operations subsidise less popular, less useful routes elsewhere in the country. Thus, selling off the north-east corridor could provoke a “domino effect,” leaving other, less profitable routes at risk, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) warned earlier this month. But that argument, which Mr Rahall apparently sees as a defence of Amtrak, is actually a bit of an indictment of the company. Economics, not nostalgia or politics, should determine where Amtrak operates. Right now, it’s often the opposite. Is it really necessary that Amtrak service Dodge City, Kansas (pop. 27,340)?

Ok, yes, it’s easy pickings to make fun of stops along the lines of the Dodge City types. Sure, no, they don’t really merit a stop, yeah, whatevs. But you can only carry the logic so far.

Network economics tends not to be like simple micro; there are useful hierarchies within networks, and it’s not always apparent where the efficient spatialcutoff for distributed, low-volume customers are, whether that means providing cable tv to low-density suburbs or Amtrack to Boston when the DC-NYC corridor probably pays the freight while NYC to Boston may not (it’s a matter of convention to lump the East Coast together, but it may not be the case that the whole of the corridor runs a profit, or enough of a profit that you’d want to run the whole corridor.) There comes a point where you can and do make money cross-subsidizing from your trunks to your distributors.

We’ve got history to work from: Amtrak didn’t start out as a gummint project. When the US deregulated intercity rail, the first thing all the rail companies did, besides jump up and down, was ditch their intercity passenger service because they couldn’t make any money on it. That’s why Amtrak doesn’t own its own tracks, and one of the reasons why, as a service, it’s running at a major disadvantage. Maybe everything has changed in the interim, but…

Edited to add:

Please see comments for the Transportationist, David Levinson, giving a history of Amtrak. I didn’t mean to say that Amtrak arose from the ashes of deregulation (but I wrote it that way…sloppy writing)…I meant to say that nobody has wanted the job of running anything remotely related to intercity passenger rail for about 50 years (though there are many HSR hopefuls), even though freight rail has stayed on as a profitable enterprise (except when I invest in it rrrrrr–not that I am bitter). Amtrack become an gummint problem after intercity passenger service was a lousy private sector problem. So why it would change at this point I have trouble understanding.