In POW camps, officers could impede survival
Clifford G. Holderness is a professor of finance at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, and his particular interest is the behavior of large shareholders in public corporations. He is also a World War II buff.
Seven years ago, he was browsing through the National Archives’ online World War II Prisoners of War Data File. As Holderness explained recently in an interview, the usual scholarly method of inquiry is to shape questions first, and then seek data for illumination. Joined by Jeffrey Pontiff, holder of the James F. Cleary Chair in Finance, Clifford took the opposite tack. With the POW data in front of them (augmented by the Archives’ World War II Army Enlistment Records), the two settled on a question: “Is a hierarchy that is optimal in one environment [the battlefield] still optimal in a related but different environment [a prison camp]?”
In an article forthcoming in the journal Management Science—”Hierarchies and the Survival of Prisoners of War during World War II”—Holderness and Pontiff examine the fate of approximately 123,000 Americans held by the Axis powers in 280 camps. One out of 10 prisoners died in these camps overall, most from starvation or disease, some by execution.
After weeks of controversy over “Selma” and especially the scenes of head butting between Martin Luther King and Lyndon Baines Johnson, I was a little surprised when I finally saw the movie during this MLK day weekend (I do not live in a city that was graced with the pre-release). As I quickly learned, “Selma” is not essentially about MLK or LBJ. It is, of all things, about Selma.
Its 42-year-old director, Ava DuVernay, says of the film: “It honors the people of Selma, but it also represents the struggle of people everywhere to vote.” This it does faithfully and movingly. “Selma” illuminates a struggle—a movement of church ladies, teenagers, and old men—that materialized in a small town long before King entered the picture.
Still, there are questions. These begin with the portrayal of Johnson but extend to other gaps in the film—including what I’ll describe for now as the case of the missing yarmulkes. ...read more
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What a CEO can Teach a Pope
“Someone, somewhere has a better idea”
In the days leading up to the election of Pope Francis, Thomas J. Reese, a noted Jesuit priest and scholar at Georgetown University, was widely quoted as saying that the next successor to Saint Peter needs to be “Jesus Christ with an M.B.A.” That’s a colorful way of putting it, and probably not many Roman Catholics would want a Vicar of Christ to talk like a VP of Strategy. It would be more than curious to hear a papal address about the church’s “core competency” or its need to “ideate” and achieve “synergy.”
Still, Reese’s point is well taken.
Off the Charts
Bang the violin, beat the piano—and lose the cowbell
At the end of a rehearsal for a December 10 concert in Gasson 100, conductor Stephen Drury nodded toward the 11 players—a mix of Boston College students and professional musicians—and declared, “That was a noisy, chaotic mess.” Coming from Drury, one of the foremost practitioners of avant-garde classical music, it was a compliment.
Failure to Communicate
The Vatican Diaries
After turning the last pages of The Vatican Diaries, I noticed an Associated Press item that began, “The Vatican praised President Barack Obama’s proposals for curbing gun violence.” The report was based on a radio commentary by the Vatican press secretary, Frederico Lombardi, S.J., on Jan. 19. Those who read John Thavis’s vivid recollections in The Vatican Diaries will have cause to be at least initially skeptical whenever they hear that “the Vatican” said this or that definitively about anything.
Recently retired as the longtime Rome bureau chief of Catholic News Service, Thavis argues that the popular image of the Vatican as a monolith, eternally on message, is a myth. On the contrary, it “remains predominantly a world of individuals, most of whom have a surprising amount of freedom to operate—and, therefore, to make mistakes,” he writes.
Re-enter Father Lombardi.