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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Don Throws Tomatoes at Me

Here's a post from today at Cafe Hayek (I assume that since it's an "Open Letter" to me that I have every right to reprint it verbatim):


Open Letter to Commenter Bret Wallach

Bret Wallach

Mr. Wallach:

I close my recent “Elemental Case for Free Trade” with the following ethical argument: “if you work and earn income honestly, that income is yours to use as you choose.  You may use it to buy tomatoes from your neighbor or to buy tomatoes from a farmer in Mexico.  It’s your money.  It belongs neither to the state nor to any domestic producer.  Yet protectionist arguments rest on the premise that your tomato-growing neighbor has some positive claim on your income.  If you are prohibited from buying tomatoes from Mexico, or – more commonly today – penalized with a tariff for doing so, the state is insisting that domestic tomato growers have an ethical claim on part of your income.”

You disagree with my argument.  That is, you apparently believe that the state acts ethically if, in its efforts to increase sales made by existing domestic tomato growers, it penalizes you for using your own income to buy foreign-grown tomatoes.  Do you, then, also believe that the state would be acting ethically if, in its efforts to increase sales made by those same domestic tomato growers, it penalized you for using your own income to buy potting soil, fertilizer, and tomato seeds that you use to grow your own tomatoes?

If you believe that there’s nothing ethically objectionable about Uncle Sam penalizing you for spending your income in ways that cause the sales of some domestic producers to be lower than otherwise, surely you then have no objection to Uncle Sam penalizing you for growing your own tomatoes.  Nor must you object if Uncle Sam were to penalize you and other Americans for buying used rather than new cars (or, indeed, for putting off buying new cars by keeping your existing cars in good repair) – or for buying previously owned rather than newly build homes – or for growing beards rather than shaving daily (think of all the sales that Gillette loses because more men today wear facial hair!) – or for recycling aluminum cans and plastic cartons – or, indeed, for doing anything with your own resources that Uncle Sam judges to wrongfully reduce sales made by its favored domestic producers.

Do you, in short, believe that you have an ethical right to grow your own tomatoes with your own resources if you choose – a right that trumps other tomato-growers’ insistence that you instead buy your tomatoes from them?  If so, how do you square this belief with your insistence that it is ethically acceptable for the state to penalize you and others for spending parts your incomes on the purchase of imports?

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030


I'll (most likely) respond to Don in the next few days.

The gross simplification of Don's philosophy is "BUT FREEDOM!" where freedom to do as you see fit, as long as it's peaceful and voluntary for all parties, trumps (nearly) all other considerations. The gross simplification of my philosophy is "WHEN IN DOUBT, CHOOSE FREEDOM!" and that means that I basically believe that some ends can sometimes justify some means that might restrict peaceful, voluntary freedom, but the case for doing so has to be really strong. I think there's a lot of overlap, but I think that the hairs we split are important to some degree.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Exceptionally Exceptional

In Deploracism, Clovis made the comment below. It raises enough questions that I figured it deserves a post all its own.

Well, [Americans don't actually enjoy equality before the law], I don't think the word "exceptional" [wrt American Exceptionalism] means what you think it means.

Also, ideals which you are supposed to never live up to aren't "ideals", they are only ink over dead trees. After all, living by one ideals is what is supposed to be exceptional.

As an Air Officer, you took an oath to abide by the Constitution. Why the heck did you pledge your life to something you don't believe in??

"Exceptionalism" is exactly the right word. The US is exceptional in the sense that being American is all about a set of ideals, not ethnicity, religion, place of birth, etc. Compared to Japan, Europe, or anywhere else I've been, that is very much the exception.

Moreover, the US is exceptional in another dimension, perhaps less apparent at first glance: the imposition of constraints on government. The Constitution says nothing about what government must do, but goes into some detail what it may not do: impose religious tests for office; limit the ability to write, speak, read and hear; restrict meaningful self defense, usw. In other words, Americans have rights through negation -- natural law, expressed in the Declaration, implemented in the Constitution, strictly limits what a legitimate government may do.

Of course, there are numerous, often wide, gaps between "ought" and "is".

The Declaration and many parts of the Constitution express "ought". Everyone ought to be equal before the law, be completely free to speak, own a gun, not be subject to religious tests for office, etc.

So, in essence, the Declaration and Constitution amount to a governmental moral code, without which it would be far more difficult, if not impossible, ascertain illegitimate governance. Moreover, the gap between is and ought provides a basis for a moral arc to history.

Over time, the circle of moral regard has widened. People take a very different view of what constitutes moral behavior to those qualified to be within their group, as opposed to those outside it. So long as black Americans were considered an inferior version of humanity, they were outside circle of moral regard: it was perfectly fine to treat them in ways that would never be remotely acceptable for white Americans. But as reality intruded, it became progressively more difficult to maintain the notion that blacks aren't just as human as the rest of us, and just as increasingly difficult to continue excluding them from the circle of moral regard. This, in turn, created a gap, not new in reality, but newly perceived, between ought and is. And, therefore, the organic, and exceptional, imperative to close that gap.

Imperfectly, yes. Slowly, yes. Undoubtedly the knock-on effects will burden us for generations to come. But the imperative meant that black Americans, over the last 40 or so years, have gained complete legal parity with white Americans, while avoiding, to an astonishing extent, the violence oppressed groups have had to engage in elsewhere in order to lift their oppression (e.g., South Africa).

This is exactly why these ideals aren't ink smeared on dead trees.

So long, of course, as people understand and appreciate the timeless enlightenment principles embodied in the Constitution.

Unfortunately, that is far from the case. Hillary!, Trump, and the New York Times have all advocated "No Fly, No Buy". That is, if someone's name appears on the No Fly list, they may not purchase a gun. Only those who either don't believe in natural rights, or believe in unfettered government power, can possibly push such a thing. Our very existence entails the right to meaningful self defense, just as it entails the right to think, believe, speak, and hear freely. Advocating abridging such a right outside the due process of law is manifest proof that whoever does such a thing either doesn't understand, or is happy to willfully disregard, the very basis for our society.

Hillary!, Trump, the New York Times, and Harry all believe the political class is entitled to control political speech and, therefore, political thought. Unfortunately for them, since the US Constitution is based upon the concept of government that is legitimate only to the extent that it defends natural law, it is easy to see all of them for the tyrants they hope to be.

Hillary! is a pathological, ironically inept, given all her practice, liar. She clearly is a pandering sexist, and, as if that wasn't enough, a rapist enabler. Her house should have been raided, and she should be in jail. Trumpster is the distillation of ADD and Asperger's, leaving out all the good parts: whenever he gets bored, he sets himself on fire. At any given moment, it is almost impossible to tell whether his prodigious gift for arrogance is more, or ever so slightly less, appalling than his irremediable ignorance. He wouldn't know the Constitution if it smacked him upside the head, and is no more inclined to protect and defend it than a cat is a mouse.

Yet, despite all that, I'm confident the Republic will soldier on. Why? Because of that other source of American exceptionalism: the balance of powers. The differing sources of political power, tenure, and authority just about guarantee that no matter which of these complete knuckleheads wins the election, the other two branches will frustrate their manifest stupidities.

So there you have it: is and ought; the very real difficulty of having a moral code without some objective basis; and, the unique ability of Constitution to frustrate the fever dreams of arrogant, ignorant, idiotic, perverted, stupid, boneheaded, should have been strangled at birth politicians.

Which is to say, damn near all of them.

Those are reasons enough to pledge my life to defend something I believe in very much. No matter the gap between aspiration and reality.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Singing for Mom

My sister and I went back to upstate New York for our Mom's 80th birthday. My mom seems to have pretty much everything she wants so it's hard to figure out what to get her. So, my sister and I recorded, A Cappella, a song of love for her which we delivered on an MP3 player and small speaker so she can hear us sing it whenever she wants.

Since I wrote about A Cappella singing the other day, I thought I'd share the recording with y'all.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Conjecture Explaining Downward Pitch Drift of A Cappella Singing Groups

I've been doing some barbershop singing lately, both in a chorus of about 30 men and also a quartet. I'm still learning the ropes so (fortunately) there are no recordings of me (yet) doing this particular form of music. But if you're curious about the sorts of things we sing, the following video shows Ringmasters, a really excellent quartet, performing one of the songs we're working on (both the chorus and the quartet I sing with) and is a good example of "modern" barbershop music.

Because there are no instruments to anchor the pitch, even a top notch group like Ringmasters will end the song at a slightly different pitch level than they start with. In this case, my "pitch pipe" tells me they end very slightly sharper than they started. They're so close that my ear couldn't tell and I needed an electronic tuner to discern that.

While a group can end either sharp or flat, the vast majority of a cappella groups end flat a majority of the time. This is especially true for bigger groups and often I can easily tell that with just my ear and without any sort of electronic help.

The question is why flat and not sharp? I've not found any of the answers to be compelling. Therefore, I've crafted my own conjecture, but I'm pretty confident that it's at least part of the explanation since it matches my experience recording music. On the other hand, it's so simple and obvious that I would've thought that it would be a common explanation, but I haven't seen it.

When we speak and sing, we usually mostly hear ourselves via internal pathways. In other words, our vocal cords flap about and the vibrations from that flapping are transmitted via our flesh and blood and bone up to our hearing apparatus. There's also reflected sound from the vibrations coming out our mouths (and noses to some extent) and then bouncing off of surfaces around us back to our ears. However, most of what we hear under typical conditions is received by our ears via the internal pathways.

Many of us who are past the half-century mark may have never heard ourselves speak or sing until we were teenagers or older. There simply wasn't all that much access to recording equipment and the early consumer recording devices had dismal accuracy when playing back a recording. I remember being SHOCKED when I first heard what I sounded like. It sounded nothing like I sound to me via my internal pathways.

In particular, I sound slightly sharper to myself via the internal pathways than I do via the external pathways. When singing along with instruments, I always sound very slightly flatter during playback than I expect given what it sounds like to me during recording.

It's very slight. So slight that it's hardly out of tune. The perception is more a matter of the other definition of "flat": dull; lifeless; low-energy. Whereas being very slightly sharp is perceived as alive, brilliant, and exciting! A somewhat related fact is that classical instrumental groups were tuned to ever higher pitch levels over the centuries:
During historical periods when instrumental music rose in prominence (relative to the voice), there was a continuous tendency for pitch levels to rise. This "pitch inflation" seemed largely a product of instrumentalists competing with each other, each attempting to produce a brighter, more "brilliant", sound than that of their rivals.
Another experiment that confirmed that I sound sharper internally than externally is what I call the "wall trick." To hear myself better from external reflections, instead of singing into a room, I'll stand facing a wall, about a foot away. It looks kinda silly, but instead of hearing myself mainly internally, I'm also able to hear the external reflections and it gives me an idea of what my pitch and tone sound like to the rest of the world. Recently, I sang a single note into a tuner while walking towards the wall. I maintained the same pitch the whole time. As I got closer to the wall, I sounded progressively flatter even though the tuner said I was singing the same pitch the whole time.

So both record/playback and external reflections confirm that I sound a tiny bit flatter externally than internally. I suspect, but haven't yet proven, that's true for most people. After all, people are similar physiologically, and I think the effect is due to our internal transmission filters being slightly more high-pass than the external transmission filters which probably are more affected by the resonating cavities that form our vowel sounds. Well, that's my conjecture anyway. I really don't know why. All I know is that internally I sound sharper than externally.

When we start a song in an a cappella group, someone blows the root of the key on a pitch pipe or electronic equivalent. If I sing my note and it sounds right to me internally, it will sound very slightly flat to those around me. Everybody around me will also do the same thing and sing very slightly flat. I'm going to sound flat to everyone else and everyone else will sound flat to me. But we want to align so we'll all adjust incrementally downwards a little tiny bit. And then we all sound flatter to each other so we adjust downward again. And again. And again. They're all tiny adjustments, minuscule really. But over the course of a whole song, all those increments add up and the group might end up noticeably flat, maybe even a half-step. Maybe even more. Even for very accomplished groups.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Today's attempt at witticism is to coin a new word:


1.a belief or doctrine that certain worldviews held by various groups of people in the United States determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that the progressive worldview is superior and has the right to dominate or that the worldview held by white male conservatives/libertarians is inferior to the others and deplorable.
2.a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine;discrimination.
3.hatred or intolerance of white male conservatives/libertarians.
This was taken from the definition of racism and modified very slightly. Whereas racism is considered evil by many, deploracism is wholeheartedly embraced by the ruling class and considered to be the height of morality by that class to the point that a presidential candidate (Clinton) enthusiastically noted that her opponent's supporters were a "basket of deplorables." That statement was quickly defended and embraced by many mainstream media outlets. For example, from the venerable NY Times: "What Clinton said was impolitic, but it was not incorrect."
No, probably not incorrect, but it does leave a problem. There are an awful lot of us deplorables and it might not be terribly easy to dominate and oppress us. To have a large part of the population at odds with right thinking people is likely to tear the country apart. It might be possible to find compromises that would allow everybody, even the deplorables, to peacefully coexist, but the rampant deploracism embraced by the ruling elites excludes that possibility.
Angelo M. Codevilla, a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute and professor emeritus of International Relations at Boston University, believes that the conflict between the elites and deplorables has ended the United States that was once a constitutional republic:
Over the past half century, the Reagan years notwithstanding, our ruling class’s changing preferences and habits have transformed public and private life in America. As John Marini shows in his essay, “Donald Trump and the American Crisis,” this has resulted in citizens morphing into either this class’s “stakeholders” or its subjects. And, as Publius Decius Mus argues, “America and the West” now are so firmly “on a trajectory toward something very bad” that it is no longer reasonable to hope that “all human outcomes are still possible,” by which he means restoration of the public and private practices that made the American republic. In fact, the 2016 election is sealing the United States’s transition from that republic to some kind of empire.
I've noted in the past that I've felt that I've gone from citizen to serf in my lifetime and Codevilla's description of those like me as subjects is close enough - I'm definitely NOT a stakeholder:
In today’s America, a network of executive, judicial, bureaucratic, and social kinship channels bypasses the sovereignty of citizens. Our imperial regime, already in force, works on a simple principle: the president and the cronies who populate these channels may do whatever they like so long as the bureaucracy obeys and one third plus one of the Senate protects him from impeachment. If you are on the right side of that network, you can make up the rules as you go along, ignore or violate any number of laws, obfuscate or commit perjury about what you are doing (in the unlikely case they put you under oath), and be certain of your peers’ support. These cronies’ shared social and intellectual identity stems from the uniform education they have received in the universities. Because disdain for ordinary Americans is this ruling class's chief feature, its members can be equally certain that all will join in celebrating each, and in demonizing their respective opponents.
As noted above, there's nothing new in the stakeholders considering us deplorable. In fact, deploracism is the unifying core of Progressive politics:
Progressivism’s programs have changed over time. But its disdain for how other Americans live and think has remained fundamental. More than any commitment to principles, programs, or way of life, this is its paramount feature. The media reacted to Hillary Clinton’s remark that “half of Trump’s supporters could be put into a ‘basket of deplorables’” as if these sentiments were novel and peculiar to her. In fact, these are unremarkable restatements of our ruling class’s perennial creed. [...]
If trying to persuade irredeemable socio-political inferiors is no more appropriate than arguing with animals, why not just write them off by sticking dismissive names on them? Doing so is less challenging, and makes you feel superior. [...]
Hillary Clinton’s attack on Trump supporters merely matched the ruling class’s current common sense. Why should government workers and all who wield the administrative state’s unaccountable powers not follow their leaders’ judgment, backed by the prestige press, about who are to be treated as citizens and who is to be handled as deplorable refuse? Hillary Clinton underlined once again how the ruling class regards us, and about what it has in store for us.
Being one of the deplorable animals is an uncomfortable position to be in.
How far will our rulers go? Because their network is mutually supporting, they will go as far as they want.
Things have often turned out poorly for societies' deplorables and I suspect it will turn out poorly for us as well. The conflict will intensify and I believe that by the end of this century the United States will be unrecognizable and there will potentially be a lot of bloodshed, not only within our borders, but all over the world since the United States is still an important player in holding together western civilization.
We have stepped over the threshold of a revolution. It is difficult to imagine how we might step back, and futile to speculate where it will end. Our ruling class’s malfeasance, combined with insult, brought it about. Donald Trump did not cause it and is by no means its ultimate manifestation. Regardless of who wins in 2016, this revolution’s sentiments will grow in volume and intensity, and are sure to empower politicians likely to make Americans nostalgic for Donald Trump’s moderation.
I guess the good news is that I probably (hopefully) won't live to see the worst parts of the revolution. Too bad for future generations though.

Friday, September 23, 2016

"Run Them Down"

In a real life variation of the Trolley Problem, there's the question of what to do when folks around you are rioting and attacking your vehicle. Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee Law Professor, and the blogger and tweeter known as Instapundit had a simple answer (via a tweet): "Run Them Down." That promptly got his twitter account suspended, his weekly column with USA Today either cancelled or suspended, and he is now being investigated by the University of Tennessee for possible punishment. Sometimes three words are really powerful!

I guess I really am deplorable because I can't even begin to understand why what he said is wrong. If one or more of my wife or kids was in the car with me and I felt they were in significant danger from violent rioters, I would do anything I could to get them to safety and if that involved running down 1 or 10 or even 1 million rioters to do so, I wouldn't hesitate and I wouldn't feel guilty afterwards even as I spent the rest of my life in jail or ended up in the electric chair for doing so. And I can't begin to imagine why any other husband and father wouldn't do the exact same thing.

If it was just me in the car? I don't know. I'm not sure my own safety would motivate me to run anybody down just to save my own skin.

One of the interesting issues with the Trolley Problem and other related problems is the following:
Greene and Cohen analyzed subjects' responses to the morality of responses in both the trolley problem involving a switch, and a footbridge scenario analogous to the fat man variation of the trolley problem. Their hypothesis suggested that encountering such conflicts evokes both a strong emotional response and a reasoned cognitive response, and that these two responses tend to oppose one another.
My experience and knowledge tell me that in the heat of the moment, the "strong emotional response" usually wins. The emotional response affects the lower mammalian/reptilian brain and that part of the brain is between the cognitive part of our brains and motor control and the lower brain can completely lock out the upper brain if it so "chooses" under strong emotional stimulus. It's instinctual and reactive and when a split second decision needs to be made it makes it and not always in agreement with what the cognitive portion of the brain would choose if it had more time.

The Trolley Problem and its variant are usually applied to strangers. I'd like to switch it around a little. The trolley is headed for your child or spouse tied to the tracks and you have an instant to decide whether or not to pull a lever to divert the trolley where it will instead run over 1 stranger who is tied the tracks. Or 5 strangers. Or 1 billion strangers. What if you and your spouse or child happened to discuss this ahead of time and they said that they would feel so guilty about the strangers' deaths that they wouldn't want you to pull the lever to save them? In each case, you have 1 second to react.

I don't think you can know the answers to any of those questions. Sure, you can cognitively think about them and know what you would logically decide. But, in the heat of the moment, your logical brain isn't the one to make the decision. I think that a lot humans, possibly myself included, in the heat of the moment, would end up pulling the lever and saving our child or spouse in all of the above cases.

I believe that our lower, primitive brains are actually always in control or at least exert a constant pressure and that the cognitive brain that we consider to be "us" is mostly just a tool used by the primitive brain. Some of the whispering pressure from the primitive brain is obvious: eat, mate, etc.

But some of the whispering pressure is more subtle and hardly even noticeable but has a profound effect on behavior. It sorts people by importance and makes even your cognitive brain react differently to the Trolley Problem when the people are known to you and at different levels of importance. For example, instead of strangers, it's your mother, or cousin, or friend, or important colleague, etc. And it's not just how you react in the heat of the moment, but how you provide for some, criticize others, cut yet others slack, hire others who really aren't the best objective choice, etc.

One Libertarian question is what's really the difference between trading with one of your countrymen and trading with someone in China. Objectively, there may be little difference. However, our lower brains may simply view strangers in China as less important than strangers in our own nation. We can say that's an immoral view, but if that's innate, and I think it is, at least for many people, we're really just saying that (many) humans are innately immoral.

Or deplorable.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Worth A Thousand Words?

Or so they say of a picture.

Knowing some of our regulars here take a very skeptical stance towards global warming, AKA climate change, I can only give them the latest Weapon of Mass Diffusion, a xkcd infographic (it is just too big to embed it here).

Graphic communication is sure effective. But is it convincing enough? You tell me.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Basket of Deplorables

More than a few people have questioned me when I've said that I don't really feel there's a place for me in this country anymore.

Well, the likely next president of the United States, soon to be President-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton, has described me as a member of a Basket of Deplorables:
"You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the 'basket of deplorables.' Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it."
I readily admit that I'm arguably all of those things (and "you name it" would cover it even if not). I've certainly been called racist, sexist, homophobic, and Islamophobic and I have little doubt that Clinton would consider me so, even if I'm also arguably NOT those things.


Causing or being a subject for censure, reproach, or disapproval; wretched; verybad:

Given that the future leader of the country views me like that, I think it's perfectly reasonable to feel that I'm not welcome in my own country and don't fit in, pretty much by definition.

Hillary's Health

Some people are concerned that Hillary Clinton isn't particularly healthy. For example, she apparently fainted today during a 9/11 ceremony.

I'm not concerned at all. In fact, if you guaranteed me that she was so unhealthy that she would die shortly after taking office, I would vote for her in a heartbeat. Kaine may not be my first choice for president, but I prefer him to either Clinton or Trump. By a lot.

Is that a politically incorrect thing to say? Oops, sorry! :-)

100,000 Page Views

I'm a round numbers kinda guy.

Great Guys Weblog has just passed 100,000 page views, whatever that means!

Yay, us!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

My Nat Geo Special

Trigger warning: This post is both very long and excruciatingly dull. Travel writing is something best left to experts. I am not one.

[This trip happened nearly a year ago. Letting that amount of time elapse will have done the story no good whatsoever. Although it has given me a greater appreciation for those pocket notebooks that real writers carry with them where ever they go.]

Ironically, I never particularly had the goal of getting around. Traveling — meh. Yet somehow that thing that I don't care much whether I do keeps happening. I have been across the US by car or bus 31 times, lived in a couple dozen places across the US, as well as England twice and now Germany. Some of that is side effect: travel is going to come with the military pilot territory. But the rest I, through long chains of very improbable circumstance, happened upon: my wife, whose love of travel rivals that of fire for gasoline, and FedEx, which is a gasoline gusher.

TOSWIPIAW had already been to Africa three times, and decided my none times could no longer stand. Besides, we were already in Europe, which is right next door [not really, not where we were going, but her instinctive feel for maps doesn't deviate from the breed standard; besides, her traveling gland was painfully swollen.]

Since we already had favorable experiences with Overseas Adventure Travel (Antarctica (me), Costa Rica, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos) we decided to fatten their bottom line once again. They do small group — 12 to 16 people — expeditions, and get off the beaten path. The downside, for me anyway, is their NPR tone, and way too much participation in the local. I loathe them for their staginess, forced familiarity, heavy handed suggestions for donations, and eating guinea pig (Machu Picchu).

For the record, my wife thinks me a misanthrope. I think she is leaping, okay half-stepping, to a conclusion.

To be there, we had to get there. While the trip is no longer admirable feat, Johannesberg, South Africa is about as far away from Germany as it is possible to be from anyone place to any other place and still stay on the planet.

Making matters far worse was Heathrow security. Perceptive minds may be flashing question marks here. Knowing I live in Germany, those very same perceptive minds quickly realize that I had to get through security in order to get to Heathrow.

Yes, indeed that is true. And absolutely no barrier to that full employment scheme for petty tyrants known as airport security. (Donald Trump has made a lot of mileage on immigration; why he hasn't thought to aim his verbal scattergun at the TSA is a singular mystery. Loathing of the TSA, which does a necessary job about as badly as it is possible to imagine, and then even worse, is universal. Hillary! wouldn't stand a chance.)

Ten minute security line in Düsseldorf. Hour flight to Heathrow. Hour and twenty minutes getting re-securitied, which gave me plenty of time to observe passive-aggressiveness in action. The screeners concern for people missing flights was amply confirmed by their glacial pace. If there was ever a group of people that needed punching good, hard and often, this was them.

Which is why our two hour layover was rescued from being 20 minutes too short by a twenty minute late departure. Even after passage of a year, my blood goes right to the boiling point just thinking about it.

(Side note. Last week I went through screening in Cologne. A screener deemed my clear plastic bag too big — never mind the very sparse contents thereof and sent me off to get another bag, and the back of the line. Finally making it through, the same screener, now at the X-ray machine, deemed my travel size can of shaving cream a suspect nuclear weapon. I stand for a few minutes while they get an explosives swabber, who swabs my stuff and tells me to wait. No surprise there. While waiting, I put my laptop and iPad back in their respective places. He comes back to tell me I'm good to go, then gets indignant: where were my computers?! And started in to giving me a sound lecture, only to come to a quick stop. Might have had something to do with murder in my eyes. Every time Harry extols how wonderful socialism is, all I have to do is recall airport security. A few days ago in Keflavik, I had a 3.07 oz deodorant applicator confiscated because it exceeded the 3 oz limit. Just like it had done dozens of times before. And despite the easily ascertainable fact — the applicator being transparent — it was very nearly empty. Hillary!, The Donald, here's a pro-tip. Want to be president? Stop talking about Syria and start talking about the TSA.)

Aaaannnnddd twelve and a half hours in an A380 later, we are in Jo-berg, with a day and a half to kill before heading off into the bush. The first half day we put to excellent use, hanging around the hotel pool and having a contest as to see who could run up the biggest bar bill.

The next day was entirely different. We hired a local guide to give us The Tour. I'm old enough to remember apartheid, and to also think that was a pretty mean thing for the government to be doing.

Pretty mean doesn't begin to say it. Despite having had a current events knowledge back in the day, there is nothing like seeing it in person, even nearly 30 years removed. The institutionalized awfulness was crushingly pervasive, and mostly left me with this question: what the hell were they thinking? I get the trap that is so easy to fall into — judging our forebears by our standards. But still. Did none of the Afrikaners think "What if we got this wrong?"

The next morning started the main program: 21 days, divided pretty equally among four bush locations, plus a stop at Victoria Falls and then Cape Town.

First stop, the Jackalberry Lodge in the Thornybush Game Reserve.

Let me translate that into English: Four star glamping in the African answer to a dude ranch.

Our subsequent accommodations were far more spartan — no air conditioning.

Perhaps that isn't enough detail. Twenty-odd years ago, some enterprising people fenced off roughly 400 square miles of South African savannah, then, with some degree of forethought, stocked it with roughly the right amount of the right kinds of animals to provide a roughly self-sustaining answer to the Wild Kingdom safari park.

The place was so big that there was never the impression of being inside it. Except for the very stout electric fence that surrounded our compound.

Note the stanchion on the left supporting the electric fence separating TOSWIPIAW from Very Large Animals.

This fence, surrounding the entire compound, except for where it met a lodge at the far side, was very effective at keeping predators out, less so with elephants who, fortunately, didn't want in, and not at all against the various variants on the impala who simply leapt the thing to get at the salad bar within.

So it was something of a surprise coming out of the, ummm, glent? — in the morning in search of coffee, only to round a corner and be confronted with a half dozen animals the size of elk built like gazelles and crowned with very twisty horns. Perhaps my murderous gaze was sufficient to convince them they were in a very dangerous place indeed, between me and my first cup of coffee. Or it might have been pure coincidence.

Either way, I got my coffee.

As it happened the glent we were in stopped the gap between the ends of our electric fortification. And it had a back porch that opened onto the savannah. We were warned, in a suitably stern and forthright manner that so long as we stayed on the porch, we were OK. But beyond that lie monsters.

I took them at their word.

Later that afternoon, I was in our glent, and heard some rustling about. Poked my head out and saw this:

Mind you, I never strayed from the porch. Nonetheless, I got yelled at. Not entirely sure what I did wrong, but frightening the elephant probably wasn't high on the list.

The next day started what was pretty much the routine for then next 16 days. Get up early, park our glamping butts in a couple Toyota land cruisers and spend four hours bouncing over perfectly horrid roads hoping for Sightings. At about the halfway mark we'd stop for coffee and a snack. Repeat in the late afternoon, only with adult beverages instead of coffee. The driver and guide were conspicuously well armed. Something to do with predators, apparently.

Ready to head 'em up and move 'em out. Harry, trigger warning: the tan case contains a high powered rifle.

Whereupon we see things:

Lions on a union break.

And elephants who want our trail more than we do.

There's a bit of a story here. The guides are very strict about protocol. The animals can't, or don't, distinguish between the Land Cruiser and the people in it. So long as we sit down and shut up we are just a — something — to these creatures that isn't the least bit relevant to their daily lives.

So when that big ol' elephant came up, we did as instructed: sat on our hands, and kept our lips zipped. Well, it just kept coming at us, until it used the left rear corner of our Land Cruiser as a sratching post. That happened to be where TOSWIPIAW was sitting, and she had to practically climb into my lap to avoid coming very much eye to eye with the elephant's eye. Since, for some reason, TOSWIPIAW had a death grip on our camera, I couldn't get the video.

My wife didn't get yelled at.

On our evening drive, we learned that it is all fun and games until …

And so on, for another couple weeks. The glaring suspicion should be, I should know, because it kept occurring to me, was that eight hours a day on spine crunching roads might get a bit repetitious.

The companies that run these trips aren't staffed by fools. They know that full well, and right at the point where repetition is starting to rear its ugly head, they hauled us off, by bush plane, to the next glamp where the same routine was very different.

In that spirit, let's move on to … Chobe National Park in Botswana. This glamp marked a change from our first stop. Instead of walled and air conditioned lodgings, surrounded by wires carrying very many of Edison's very best volts, we had soft sided A-Frames and not heck all of a fence.

The consequence being that, after dark, we were not allowed to move from the common area to our glents without an armed escort. Something about predators. Along those lines, we got some instructions, among them being: "If you have an emergency, give three blasts with the air horn on your nightstand, and turn on your porch light. Everyone else, stay in your glents and keep the lights off."

Emergency equipment, flanked by industrial strength bug stuff. We quickly found the best approach was to leave the light on, then go all fire hose on it.

Seemed sound advice, as we were unpacking that mid-afternoon. Not five minutes later: BLAT BLAT BLAT from the next glent over.


Our group of 15 included two women traveling by themselves. One of them saw a spider in her bathroom. To be fair, spider might not begin to say it:

It was near as darnnit to hot, but separated from miserable by a admirable lack of humidity. Starting around 10 pm, I saw lightning on the horizon, and suspected we might be in for a show. Sure enough, two hours later the temperature started dropping like a greased safe. And that can only mean one thing: lots of meteorological sturm and drang. The wind, conveniently aligned, was blowing rain right into our glent.

Being Mr. Man, it was up to me to go outside and figure out how to make that stop. Despite the darkness, I found the lashings that released the drop down covers.

And came back in to find a millipede the size of Clovis's forearm crawling down the mosquito netting on TOSWIPIAW's side of the bed.

This is not an insignificant problem, because I have to break the news without getting deafened by an air horn. Having managed that task, made far easier by TOSWIPIAW being a very steady hand, I then had to be Mr. Man again and get the thing out. A trash can — the sure sign of glamping — was at hand, so I slid it up and dislodged the millipede into the can.

Where it landed with a prodigious thump, before getting unceremoniously launched into the aforementioned sturm and drang. Which had, by this time, been even more dranged by a pride of lions not a hundred yards away expressing their displeasure with the lightning (I presume it wasn't the millipede).

I could go on, but not profitably. Pictures at this point will say far more, and annoy you far less, than anything I could write.

Save for a few parting shots.

Once upon a time ago, I read The Wealth and Poverty of Nations.

The accident of natural circumstances can't be ignored. The southern third of Africa — an area a good chunk as large as the continental US — has no meaningful natural barriers, no navigable rivers, the tsetse fly, and malaria. If the entire world was like that, civilization would never have happened.

Oh yeah, and one other thing. Nature's great insecticide: winter. I'm not bug phobic, but after having been concussed for the third time by an onrushing dung beetle (imagine an iridescent VW Beetle — the original one — with wings, and an iridescent paint job, but bigger) I was starting to get my fill of things that were at least six times larger than they should have been. Most of the women were on the verge of going spare.

The night after our fun with weather, and its rain, we got treated to the ground termites and their airborne mating ritual. In their billions. These things are the size of your thumb, and come in the kind of swarms that belong in nightmares.

Except they don't bite, nor much care for anything else than their regenerative part in the circle of life. The next morning, they are have all gone to ground, leaving only piles of wings behind. Those, that is, that haven't been captured by the locals, to be boiled and eaten as a delicacy the next day.

Having a sensitive palate, I declined, since they couldn't possibly go with gin & tonic.

Our tour leader was a native Zimbabwean. He went into great detail about Mugabe's rule. Yes, Ayn Rand was a wretched writer, but she was on to something.

He mentioned, without my asking, Bret, that family sizes had plummeted during his lifetime, from more than 6 to right around 3.

25% of children have lost both parents to AIDS.

Our only real experience with Africa outside the bush came in Livingstone, near Victoria Falls. That place is properly poor. I'd far rather be there than in the late stage Soviet Union.

Going out on a limb here, but I don't see fried caterpillars having the same market making power as, say, McDonald's french fries.

Capitalism is an amazing thing. It provided people the means with which to start significant businesses — setting up and provisioning a glamp in the bush is no mean feat. It makes people want to please others, and others appreciative of being pleased.

For the most part, the scenery in southern Africa is quite monotonous. So flat that rivers peter out before they get anywhere, and trees that rarely get more than a dozen feet tall before elephants flatten them. Cape Town was entirely different, as abundantly blessed in scenic pulchritude as the surrounding millions of square miles are deprived.

Am I glad I went? Yes. Would I go back? Ummm. Probably not. I can see where Africa, and the people, could get under someone's skin.

But not mine. Probably.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

...but not for thee

In just the last couple of years a new feature of discussions with progressive friends has been not just stronger differences of opinion, but a growing intolerance for the mere expression of any difference of opinion.  There is an authoritarian feel to this new attitude.  Another more recent concern voiced in these discussions is the strong desire to get the money out of electoral politics, especially for their opponents.

This was on my mind as I read the recent Kimberley Strassel book,  The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech.  Strassel has written the "Potomac Watch" column in the WSJ for many years and has consistently demonstrated excellent writing and reportage.  Those high standards are on display in this book.  The storytelling is quite compelling and builds and builds.  If you are even slightly interested in this matter, I highly recommend this book.

Here is a review by Peter Berkowitz:
Perhaps most alarming has been the administration’s leadership in the left’s war on free speech and the closely associated rights of assembly and association. The result has been to impair people’s ability to express their political preferences and expose government folly, subterfuge, and criminality.

“All throughout history and all across the planet,” Kimberly Strassel soberly observes, “government officials have used state power to silence critics.”

But changing times give rise to novel tactics. In her chilling book “The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech,” Strassel describes “the new attempt by left-leaning organizations to” not only “shut down conservative speech” but also to “silence anyone who proves a threat to their ideology.”
In practice, campaign finance laws are often wielded to muzzle opposition voices. This is sometimes accomplished by outright criminalization of financial support for dissenting speech. Another technique is to compel disclosure of membership in, or support for, political parties and civic organizations, which enables corrupt government officials and ruthless private citizens to identify and strong-arm opponents. Strassel’s riveting reporting shows how the left has honed such methods to a fine art.
 The most notorious instance of the left’s efforts to use government power to intimidate political opponents during Obama’s presidency was the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting, beginning in 2010, of some 300 small, often Tea Party-affiliated conservative organizations that had applied for tax-exempt status. The IRS’s job was to ensure that applications had been filled out correctly. But at the behest of longtime Democratic Party partisan and then-director of the IRS’ Exempt Organizations Unit Lois Lerner, the agency delayed action on applications for months, which in many cases stretched into years.
 Operating through government offices as varied as the Justice Department, the FEC, the Security and Exchange Commission, and the Milwaukee district attorney’s office, Obama-era Democrats sought to punish those who dared to dissent from their agenda on issues ranging from the size and scope of government to climate change, same-sex marriage, and public sector unions. The aim was not to refute opposing views but to use the force of law and threat of public humiliation and financial ruin to deny individuals their rights to engage in political speech and action.

Tyler O'Neil on the matter:
"It's out-and-out harassment, it's out-and-out intimidation, it's out-and-out abuse of government powers," the Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel told PJ Media after a panel on free speech. "When you're sicking the federal bureaucracy on people and they have the power to give you non-profit status or not, to silence your speech, that's not just bullying — that's robbing you of your constitutional protections. I think it does go beyond bullying."

Bernson explained that "anonymous speech is a right," and turned to the example of the founding fathers. "The Federalist Papers were published anonymously, and would not have worked otherwise." The AFP staffer suggested that if it were publicly known that one of the authors (Alexander Hamilton) was an immigrant, the papers might not have succeeded in defending the new Constitution.

Free speech is a fundamental right, and the Left's assault upon it cannot be dismissed. From "John Doe" to RICO to "safe spaces" to campaign finance, there is no denying it. Republicans and conservatives are not blameless, but these attacks should be infamous and well-known. This is how the Left operates, and how they attempt to shut down the debate. Let us all speak out against it.

Here is a video  of Strassel from a speaking event about the book and the matter.

Here are selections from extended excerpts:
January 21, 2010, is when the Supreme Court ruled on a case known as Citizens United. To listen to President Barack Obama, or Senator Harry Reid, or any number of self-proclaimed “good government” organizations, this decision mattered because it marked a new tidal wave of “dark” money and “shadowy” organizations into elections. It supposedly gave powerful special interests new control over democracy. Citizens United didn’t do any of that. But it did unleash a new era. It set off a new campaign of retribution and threats against conservatives. Citizens United launched the modern intimidation game.
They encouraged, explicitly and implicitly, the IRS to target and freeze conservative groups during election years. They called out conservative donors by name, making them the targets of a vast and threatening federal bureaucracy.
They also cleverly cloaked all this behind a claim of good government. Citizens United, they said, threatened to put powerful and nefarious forces in charge of democracy. And therefore all of their actions and tactics were justified in the name of the people.
As Thomas rang out in closing, “I cannot endorse a view of the First Amendment that subjects citizens of this Nation to death threats, ruined careers, damaged or defaced property, or pre-emptive and threatening warning letters as the price for engaging in ‘core political speech, the primary object of First Amendment protection.’”
Few people outside of Clarence Thomas remembered the ugly history of the NAACP, or McIntyre, or the risk of exposing Americans to retribution. Citizens had instead refocused Americans on the threat of “dark money” (undisclosed money)—and Democrats intended to use that to their favor.
The Democratic Party as a whole is now adopting this proposal to overthrow the First Amendment. It won’t happen anytime soon—passing an amendment to the Constitution is hard. But the fact that Democrats are trying to marks a radical shift in the political culture. The left is done with debate.
Then again, there’s a good case to be made the left isn’t planning on there ever being another moment when the other side is in power. Their intention is to make sure they forever own the debate. That’s the point of shutting down speech. That’s the point of the intimidation game.
Instead, the laws that were designed to keep the political class in check are being used to keep the American people in check.
The entire concept of disclosure has in fact been flipped on its head. The American people know almost nothing about the working of government. Instead, disclosure is trained on the electorate, allowing the government to know everything about the political activities of Americans.
At the very least, it’s time to rethink the levels at which citizens are required to disclose contributions. They need to be dramatically raised. If the left’s argument is that democracy is at risk from “powerful” players, then it can have nothing to fear from the donor who gives $5,000 or $10,000 or even $20,000 to a candidate or party. That is peanuts compared to the more than $70 million that billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer spent in the 2014 elections to (unsuccessfully) retain a Democratic Senate. It’s a simple fact that in today’s big-money political arena, no politician can be “bought” with a mere $10,000. The current disclosure requirement of $200 is primarily designed to ensure that every citizen’s political activity is known to the federal government.
It’s time for the courts to wake up—and to recognize Clarence Thomas’s prescient observations about where today’s disclosure and speech law regime has left the country. It’s time for the courts to recognize that we are once again in an environment in which average citizens are afraid to speak.
Mostly, it’s time for Americans to speak up. The intimidation game only works if its targets let it. When citizens blow the whistle on abuse and stand up to it, they are by definition rejecting intimidation. They inspire others to come to their defense and to speak out themselves.
My personal preference is for a very expansive version of free speech.  Not everyone feels that way.  There are also plenty of people interested in free speech for me, but not for thee.

Goose, meet ... uhh ...

The Dept of Education is on the case against fraudulent degree mills:

ITT Educational Services announced on Tuesday that it is shutting down its more than 100 ITT Technical Institute campuses immediately, accusing the federal government of unfairly stripping it of eligibility for student aid.
It's an abrupt move that will impact 35,000 students who are currently taking classes on campuses and online throughout the United States. Many of them are now left without a degree and saddled with student debt.

ITT said it also eliminated the jobs of the "overwhelming majority" of more than 8,000 employees on Tuesday.
Last week, the Department of Education barred the school from allowing any new students to use federal loans to pay for ITT -- and the school promptly stopped new enrollment.

I'm sure we will be reading in the newspapers any minute now that the Dept of Education is also shutting down Grievance Studies departments across the nation.


Monday, September 05, 2016

Wait. What?

Your mileage may vary, but for me this was a Wait, What? moment:

Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun.

Bollocks, I immediately thought. That's just an internet myth. Except …

You can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife.

Now try changing the adjective order.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Is it too much to ask?

The term "media bias" is familiar, used mostly by conservatives in reference to the tone and selection of stories that reflect progressive prejudices. To a certain extent, that is unavoidable. I don't expect the NYT to cover the same range of stories as the WSJ. The former will run 1,000 LGBTQ stories to every one in the latter, and the WSJ is going to skew far more towards business and economic reporting.

So far, so good.

But then there is the kind of bias that should flunk Journalism 101. Well, if I taught Journo 101, in any event. (So what follows is a pilot telling reporters how to do their jobs. When it's the other way around, the result is always rubbish. No reason to suspect any different when the shoe is other footed.)

By that, I mean always when doing straight reporting, and to a significant extent even in Op Ed pieces, the writer needs to include all the facts appropriate to the story's level of detail. A perfect example is the Michael Brown shooting in Fergusen. When referred to in the NYT, the late Mr. Brown is always referred to as an "unarmed teenager".

This is a perfect example of selecting from a set of facts at the same level as detail, so as to skew readers' conception of the situation. Omitted facts? Six foot five inches, 250 lbs, attacked the officer, tried to take the officers' weapon, battered a store clerk after shoplifting, shot charging the officer. Every time the NYT prefers one of those facts to the others, it is a violation of journalistic ethics. Or at least it should be, since persistently leaving out equally important facts is lying by omission.

Recently, the NYT ran Shooting in North Carolina Draws Comparisons to Trayvon Martin’s Death , which appeared in the US News section; that is, it is allegedly straight reporting, and not an Op Ed.

A man saying he was acting on behalf of a neighborhood watch program fatally shot a young, black man.

If that sounds to you like the 2012 case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, which ignited a broad discussion on race relations in the United States, you wouldn’t be wrong. But this similar scenario played out in a case this week in Raleigh, N.C.

The reason that would sound to the rest of us like the that, is because the young black man was shot while attacking the white Hispanic [sic] man. Except not anything like that:

Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas, 20, was shot and killed just before 1 a.m. on Sunday, the police in Raleigh said. Chad Cameron Copley, 39, was charged with first-degree murder after the police said he fired a shotgun from inside his garage at Mr. Thomas, who was outside Mr. Copley’s home.

Where are the similar details about the Zimmerman/Martin case?

But wait, there's more. Chicago Has Its Deadliest Month in About Two Decades . The lead sentence:

In a city wrestling with a rise in gun violence …

Let's think about that for a second. Guns are violent? If so, then are they equally violent everywhere, or just especially in Chicago. This year, so far, is the deadliest in the last 20. Did guns suddenly get more violent?

Hey, wait a minute, if violent guns are the problem, then Chicagoans need to go elsewhere and buy non-violent guns. After all, those elsewheres are easily enough found, they aren't the places that murder 90 people a month.

Of course, the other way of looking at it, is the real story, the important story, really isn't gun violence, but rather conditions in black areas of Chicago that make them far more violent than almost anywhere else in the US. Of course, dealing with conditions is hard, and doesn't lend itself to promoting an agenda.

Today, on the NYT's front page is Flooding of Coast, Caused by Global Warming, Has Already Begun

Completely absent from this story is any record of changes in sea levels, the rates of change, how long the change has been going on, or any other causes of sea level change.

After a few seconds poking around, I found the Tybee Island Sea Level Rise Plan .

The full tide gauge record at Fort Pulaski indicates that long-term
sea-level rise is largely responsible for the increased number of tidal flood events on US
Highway 80.

The island has already experienced approximately 10 inches of sea-level rise since
1935 …

A graphic on page 17 shows that sea level has indeed increased — by a foot in the last 100 years, with a linear trend.

Why aren't those details in the NYT story?

It may well be that the WSJ commits similar serial crimes against Journo 101, and that because of my prejudices, I'm blind to them. But, despite that, I somehow doubt it. Also, it seems to me that the NYT has gotten markedly worse in this regard over the last year or so.

Why is it asking too much for reporters to report?

Friday, September 02, 2016

Is This Right?

The following cute bit of humor is going about at the moment:

Hahahaha, as my daughters would text. Obviously, a really, really nerdy bit of humor, therefore right up my alley.

But here's the thing, I don't think the top one is fully correct.  For example, if I go to Wolfram Alpha and enter lim 1/(x-8) as x->8 it responds with "(two sided limit does not exist)" because you get infinity if you approach it from greater than 8 and decreasing and minus infinity if you approach it from less than 8 and increasing as shown in the following plot.

What do my nerdy readers think? Is it not quite right? Or is it okay? Is the default to always approach the limit from the positive side decreasing? Or from the side that gives you positive infinity? Or what?

Monday, August 29, 2016


While researching the previous post about the University of Chicago, I came across this testimony to the bankruptcy of the social sciences, from, of all places, the UoC: Behavioral economics helps boost fuel and carbon efficiency of airline captains

The large-scale study, which incorporated data from more than 40,000 unique flights, found significant savings in carbon emissions and monetary costs when airline captains were provided with tailored monthly information on fuel efficiency, along with targets and individualized feedback. The behavioral effects of such interventions are currently estimated as the most cost-effective way to prevent a metric ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

This is what the study (hidden behind a paywall) had to say for itself:

Understanding motivations in the workplace remains of utmost import as economies around the world rely on increases in labor productivity to foster sustainable economic growth. This study makes use of a unique opportunity to “look under the hood” of an organization that critically relies on worker effort and performance. By partnering with Virgin Atlantic Airways on a field experiment that includes over 40,000 unique flights covering an eight-month period, we explore how information and incentives affect captains’ performance. Making use of more than 110,000 captain-level observations, we find that our set of treatments—which include performance information, personal targets, and prosocial incentives—induces captains to improve efficiency in all three key flight areas: pre-flight, in-flight, and post-flight. We estimate that our treatments saved between 266,000-704,000 kg of fuel for the airline over the eight-month experimental period.

Unless Virgin Atlantic Flight Operations is hopelessly negligent, this cannot possibly be true.

At my airline, flight plans specify the most economical available altitude and airspeed. Flight Management Systems are exquisitely tuned to use the best power setting for takeoff and climb, and are equally focused on attaining the best descent profile.

The Flight Operations Manual sets out criteria for Auxiliary Power Unit usage, single engine taxi, speeds and configurations on departure, and energy management on arrival.

All of this is backed up by frequent line checks, quality assurance observations, and continuous data downlinks.

The requirements and guidance are clear; the only variable is pilots' skill in achieving them within the context of the operational environment.

Spoiler alert: performance information, personal targets and prosocial incentives — uhh, oh never mind — have nothing to do with that.

Which is why I'm quite certain this is the last anyone will hear of this seminal! study!

Restating the Seemingly Obvious

The NYT ran a story last week about the University of Chicago's unambiguous refusal to coddle its students, or allow the heckler's veto:

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” John Ellison, dean of students, wrote to members of the class of 2020, who will arrive next month.

So what. A restatement of, particularly in the university setting, should be the glaringly obvious.

Except, as any mild familiarity with that clown car we charmingly refer to us a liberal arts education, it is instead a pointed reminder to any potential students to look elsewhere for cosseting and indoctrination.

Except for the reflexive nod in the direction of journalistic bias — in what regard is The Federalist conservative? — the story is pretty well balanced. Along the way, they quoted Kevin Gannon — aka The Tattooed Professor — who teaches history at Grand View University in Des Moines. Trigger Warning: Elitism, Gatekeeping and Other Academic Crap certainly let me know what to expect, and I was not disappointed.

There are several paras of bloviation and cant, and the assumption that the University of Chicago's letter was an effect without cause.

Then, and I'm sure you, too, saw this coming from a semester away:

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the backlash against so-called “political correctness” in higher education has intensified in direct variation with the diversification of the academy, areas of scholarship, and-most significantly-the student population.

Because racism and sexism.

Then he provides the rationale for trigger warnings:

For every ginned-up hypothetical scenario of spoiled brats having a sit-in to protest too many white guys in the lit course, there are very real cases where trigger warnings or safe spaces aren’t absurdities, but pedagogical imperatives. If I’m teaching historical material that describes war crimes like mass rape, shouldn’t I disclose to my students what awaits them in these texts? If I have a student suffering from trauma due to a prior sexual assault, isn’t a timely caution the empathetic and humane thing for me to do?

Aside from the obligatory nod in the direction of racism — progressives must have a quota to fill — he calls into question either his professional competence, or his students' intelligence. Could be both How so? If Prof Tats is competent then his syllabi will describe the course and associated materials in sufficient detail to let students know what they are getting in for. Syllabi are themselves trigger warning.

Competently prepared that is.

Meaning students don't need trigger warnings. If they exercise sufficient due diligence, that is.

And that is before getting to the information problem: how are professors to know their students' sensitivities?

But wait, there's more. Just as coercion follows socialism, so censorship follow progressive academics:

To move from the hypothetical to the real, the Virginia Tech students who protested their university’s invitation to Charles Murray to deliver a lecture weren’t some sort of intellectual gestapo, they were members of a community calling out other members’ violation of the community’s ethos. Murray is a racist charlatan who’s made a career out of pseudoscientific social darwinist assertions that certain “races” are inherently inferior to others.To bring him to campus is to tell segments of your student community that, according to the ideas the university is endorsing by inviting Murray, they don’t belong there. This isn’t a violation of academic freedom. It’s an upholding of scientific standards and the norms of educated discourse-you know, the type of stuff that colleges and universities are supposed to stand for, right?

Translated: disagreement is verboten.

Prof Tat has no qualms about stopping other people hearing about something with which he clearly has no knowledge.

Not that has ever been a barrier to progressives; after all, every idea they have is true because they have it.

Perhaps the UoC was really just engaged in trolling, as both the story and various comments charge. Alternatively, the UoC may have perceived a coming collapse of universities as a concept, and wants to distance the UoC brand as much as possible.

Oh, and providing fair warning that students whose SJW zealotry inclines them towards thought policing, to either restrain that zealotry, face expulsion, or go elsewhere.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

What's that Saying about Having and Eating Cake?

Near as I can tell, the NYT has decided to emulate that young adult amateur webzine, Slate.

Clearly, it is time for a fisking.

In other words, journalism, to the extent it ever existed at the Paper of Record, has now descended to clickbait. To wit: When the Pilot is a Mom: Accommodating New Motherhood at 30,000 Feet.

Boarding a flight can feel like stepping into a time capsule — men typically fly the plane, while most flight attendants are still women. [And the rest are gay. Just saying.] Which is why a female pilot from Delta Air Lines did something dramatic at a union meeting recently.

I think there is a term for this antecedent — men fly the plane, women are flight attendants — and the consequent is, uh, ummm …

Standing before her male colleagues, the captain unbuttoned her uniform, strapped a breast pump over the white undershirt she wore underneath, and began to demonstrate the apparatus. As the machine made its typical “chug, chug, chug” noise, attendees squirmed in their seats, looked at their feet and shuffled papers.

… just on the tip of my tongue … savor it, and there it is! Yes, the famous non sequitur, right up there in the annals of journalistic foolishness with the Fox Butterfield Effect.

It was the latest episode in what has proved to be a difficult workplace issue to solve: how to accommodate commercial airline pilots who are balancing new motherhood.

With? Enquiring minds want to know about the unmentioned counter poise. Balancing with what? Melons? Cantaloupes? Peaches? How is it the author didn't write, nor the editor insist upon "how to balance new motherhood with being a commercial airline pilot"?

This is a sure sign of clickbait. Superficial attention seeking is rarely overly bothered with silly details like syntax and reason.

But the flight deck of a jumbo jet isn’t a typical workplace. Pilots are exempt from a provision in the Affordable Care Act requiring employers to accommodate new mothers. At 30,000 feet, the issue touches not only on pilot privacy, but also aircraft safety.

Indeed, it isn't. Not merely because it isn't in all regards, but also because most flight decks aren't jumbo jets, and that non-jumbo flight decks are just as atypical as the jumbo kind. Never mind that at 30,000 feet, when it comes to balancing safety and privacy (Annalyn, did you see what I did there?), precisely no one should give even a tinker's damn about privacy.

“The airlines have maternity policies that are archaic,” said Kathy McCullough, 61, a retired captain for Northwest Airlines, which merged with Delta in 2008, who has advocated on behalf of the pilots to Delta management. “I am so glad that they’re stepping forward and taking a stand.”

One reason for the lack of rules is that women make up only about 4 percent of the nation’s 159,000 certified airline pilots — a number that has been slow to rise over the past decade or so.

Reality: thanks to patriarchal attitudes — and I'm being serious here — women were excluded from professional flying simply because they chose their plumbing poorly. In the early 1970s, overt discrimination started waning to the point where now poorly chosen plumbing has become brilliantly chosen plumbing: any woman with even the minimum qualifications will get an interview. And, absent glaring disorders on the order of uncontrollable drooling, will get hired. Consequently, the percentage of female airline pilots has skyrocketed from zero all the way to four. And stayed there. (Trigger warning: contains specious reasoning and sexist assumptions as means to avoid the readily apparent.)

(Fun facts: 96% of airline pilots are male; roughly 0% are gay. In contrast, of flight attendants, 78% are female, the rest gay. Because patriarchy.)

At Delta, a group of women pilots have banded together through a private Facebook page and have approached their union with formal proposals for paid maternity leave — unheard-of at the major airlines — because they say they would like to stay home to breast-feed their babies. At Frontier Airlines, four female pilots are suing the company for discrimination, seeking the option of temporary assignments on the ground while pregnant or nursing.

Oh noes, the dreaded private Facebook page.

There are reasons that paid maternity leave is unheard of at major airlines. Chief among them is that all pilots are treated the same, regardless of plumbing choice. My airline is typical. Pilots get one month sick pay per year. Unused sick pay accrues in a "disability bank". Pilots requiring more than a month sick time in a year can draw from their disability bank until it is zero. After that, they don't get paid.

Male, female, doesn't matter.

Just as with temporary ground assignments. No medically distressed pilots get them, male or female. Why? They don't exist. In yet another symptom of going full click-bait, the "journalist" never bothers to ascertain what these mythical beasts might be, instead taking as given that they roam airline rosters in large, slow, easily caught herds.

More than 40 years later, the major carriers still haven’t resolved this issue. They set their policies for pilots based on the collective bargaining agreements negotiated by the unions. But women of childbearing age account for just a sliver of union membership, so maternity leave and breast-feeding policies have not been at the top of union agendas.

Plus, some members oppose the proposals, citing the costs. One local union leader told several women in an email: “Having a child is a personal choice and asking the rest of us to fund your choice will be a difficult sell to the pilot group.”

I'm not sure why, but just as nearly all pilots are male, almost all are conservatives, and about the only ones who don't own guns live in places that don't allow them. Yours truly, for instance.

So it shouldn't come as a stunner that this is a group particularly inclined towards seeing compulsory payment for others' choices as socialism in a C-cup.

Female pilots can begin to lose wages months before a baby is born. Most contracts at major airlines force pregnant pilots to stop flying eight to 14 weeks before a baby’s due date.

I'm not at all certain from which data dumpster that comes, since the citation is glaringly absent. But it is decidedly whiffy. My airline allows pregnant pilots to use vacation whenever they choose. From the 21st week through a month after delivery, they may use available sick leave, then accrued long term disability, and unpaid leave of absence. And $200 for a maternity uniform.

My airline has nothing to say about when pregnant pilots stop flying. That is a fitness-for-flight issue. So long as a pregnant pilot is able to fulfill the requirements of the job, some of which are inherently not pregnancy friendly (E.g., being able to move the flight controls through their full travel, a particular issue for shorter women. It's amazing what the patriarchy can do.)

While their proposals differ, all say they aim for one thing: to avoid situations in which pilots have been leaving the cockpit in mid-flight for as long as 20 minutes, the amount of time often required to pump breast milk.

Hey, I have an idea. Let's introduce that evergreen journalistic trope, the person in the seat. Except let's make it the mother with her newborn in 17D: "The First Officer has a baby. How happy are you that she is taking a twenty minute break from the cockpit*?"

I'm guessing not happy at all. Obviously, in the new NYT clickbait world, some new mothers' opinions are worth more than others.

Consider what it took for First Officer Brandy Beck, a 41-year-old Frontier Airlines pilot, to pump breast milk. Once the plane was at cruising altitude and in autopilot mode, she would seek the agreement of her captain to take a break. In keeping with Frontier policy, the remaining pilot was required to put on an oxygen mask.

Next a flight attendant — to prevent passengers from approaching the lavatory — would barricade the aisle with a beverage cart. Then the attendant would join the captain in the cockpit, in keeping with rules that require at least two people in an airline cockpit at all times.

Odd. The NYT doesn't seem particularly inclined to wonder why it is OK for women to have a condition requiring absence from the flight deck for 20 mins at a whack, whereas a man similarly indisposed would lose his medical stat.

And what to do about the patriarchal Capt that says "Not only no, but capital NO"? (If I was that Capt, I would have agreed, and told the FO that if she didn't call in sick before the next leg, I'd remove her from the trip.)

Frontier’s management has argued that extended breaks from the cockpit raise safety issues. The company has not offered an in-flight alternative for breast pumping …

Gee. Ya think? And what alternative might there be that doesn't involve flying over fantasy land at a million feet?

Ms. Beck said that after nearly 20 years in the aviation industry, she assumed she could keep her job and nurse her baby. “I guess it never came to light in my mind that I couldn’t do both,” she said.

That would be a fool's conclusion, the kind that would shame even a village idiot. But, for the impressionable, the consequence of feminism: women can have as much as they want of what they want. Choices are for chumps.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued no official rules for pilots who pump in-flight. But Alison Duquette, a spokeswoman for the agency, said that “leaving the flight deck for 20 minutes would not be acceptable” under most circumstances.

What the FAA really meant to say, and which it would if women were held as accountable for their actions as men is that for FO Beck to fly knowing she had a condition requiring her absence from the flight deck for 20 minutes is a knowing violation of FAR 117.5, Fitness for Duty.

Oh, and that most circumstances include all of them not involving a divert worthy medical emergency.

And the Delta and Frontier pilots know they are pressing an issue that still plagues a group long dominated by women: flight attendants.

This year, a flight attendant for Endeavor Air, a regional airline owned by Delta, filed a discrimination complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, claiming the airline failed to provide reasonable breaks or private places to pump breast milk in her workplace. The commission is investigating.

Have any of these people ever been in an airplane? Even once?

“This is part of breaking down the cockpit door — that’s the glass ceiling here,” said Ms. Grossman, a professor at the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “How do you make a job work when it was designed without you in mind?”

Here's a lifestyle pro-tip. Reality wasn't designed with any of us in mind. Not only are doors not ceilings, but life, even for women, really does involve choices.

One would think that actually having a choice would be a good thing, compared to having none at all. Men, if they want to live happily with a woman have two choices: wage slave, or wage slave. But a woman can do pretty much whatever she pleases, and the zeitgeist insists that pleasing herself has no costs. She should be paid as much as those who did not take leaves of absence, her needs should be accommodated, no matter how impractical, foolish, or unfair those accommodations might be.

I have an idea. When presented with a fork in the road, take it. And accept the consequences.

* When I was at Northwest, there was a massive disappearing of every instance of "cockpit" from all flight manuals, to be replaced with "flight deck". On account of the obvious phallocentric connotations. Except that it derived directly from nautical term from the days of sail referring to a well deck where the tiller was located, and, because of the inherent confines, was also where cock fights were held.