Saturday, August 04, 2012

Links and Notes

* Peter Kalkavage discusses Plato's Timaeus at "The Imaginative Conservative"

* Problems with plagiarism of research in Europe.

* Kim Rhode has become the first American to win gold medals in five straight Olympic games. She won two golds in double trap shooting before that event was eliminated, and has won three golds in skeet shooting since (during the time she was getting golds in double trap, she also took a silver in skeet).

* An interesting post discussing Philipse's criticisms of Heidegger at "waggish"

* People have been talking about this paper purporting to show that the 'women and children first' rule was never prevalent in shipwrecks, and that it was really 'every man for himself'. It's an interesting argument, but, unfortunately, like a lot of social science research it doesn't actually show what it claims. The basic idea is that women had a much less likely chance of survival in a shipwreck. However, we already know that there were factors other than passenger and crew behavior that affected women's survival rates. Clothing is a big one; it's been known for quite some time that in many fast-descent shipwrecks many women drowned because they couldn't dress and get to the lifeboats in time. Women's clothing in the nineteenth century and even into the early twentieth century was more difficult to put on and was heavier to wear than men's clothes. Lifeboat rules are not going to help anyone who can't even get to the boats quickly enough for them to matter. This is one of the factors affecting crew survival, for instance; crew, being better drilled, more familiar with the ship, and more likely to be already prepared, tend to be much more capable of reaching lifeboats in the first place -- even if they wait until the last possible minute, they are much more likely to be actually there to take advantage of the last possible minute than some of the passengers. I would in fact be surprised if 'women and children first' rather than 'first come, first serve' were the general rule, but odds of survival are not the right measure for this type of question, because there are too many factors affecting odds of survival that can't be isolated from passenger and crew behavior.

* A good discussion of the famous Euler-Diderot anecdote.

* A discussion of cliodynamics at Nature

* An interesting post on the complications of maintaining Naval Station Guantánamo Bay (the naval station is distinct from the detention camp) at "Gunpowder and Lead"

* Medieval business ethics

* You may have heard about the furor that arose when Vante CFO Adam Smith scolded a Chick-fil-A worker as his form of protest and then put it up on YouTube; both he and the company were deluged with irate responses from people with whom it touched a nerve and he was fired. He's since apologized, both in public and (more importantly) personally to the worker in question, and as this hasn't had quite the public airplay as the original furor, I thought I'd give a link to it. It's a bit sad that he lost his job over it, although as a CFO he should have had a better understanding of how franchises work. The rules for protesting a franchising company are pretty simple:

(1) Except for (usually) corporate training stores, the local store has no connection with the corporation except that they pay fees and royalties for building on the brand recognition of the franchising coporation, in return for which they have to conform to certain conditions, which vary considerably, depending on the franchise. It's also a pretty heavy commitment; local owners can't usually back out very easily, and can never do so cheaply. Therefore, the only complaints directed at the local store should be about things that were specifically done by the local store. Complaints about the corporation should be directed at corporate headquarters.

(2) The only real way to protest a franchising corporation is by letting them know, directly or indirectly, that there are a lot of regular customers who are seriously disappointed and are considering withdrawing their patronage. Corporations really do need to know that you are a source of income; that you are not a rare exception; and that this is a big issue. This is also a reason for directing complaints and protests at corporate headquarters: they're the ones who need to know, and simply relying on the nightly news to inform them would require a massive protest, because they need to have some sense of the extent of the disapproval, and news sources will generally be too vague and inconsistent. But companies aren't really going to budge for protests they can't see, or boycotts from people who wouldn't be buying their produce anyway.

(3) And one thing you should never, ever do is harrass or bully ordinary workers. (And if you do, you should take a page from Smith's book and apologize personally.) The primary reason people work at franchise is that they really and truly need the money and cannot afford to be picky. They are also easily replaced, especially these days. If you have a problem with someone's working at a particular franchise, offer them a better-paying job, because that's the only thing that shows any clue about what they actually deal with. The difficulties of working in fast food and quick casual can be exaggerated, but workers in such places already have to put up with an extraordinary amount of nonsense without getting any payment proportionate to what they have to handle. Those who have worked in such places know exactly the sort of thing I mean: even very good places have days that are just awful. And if you've never worked for such a place, you really do need to think about how you act toward such workers.

* As I've said before, I don't vote major party in presidential elections, so that leaves me with a somewhat more complicated set of choices. There are two other parties that currently have ballot access in states that would, in principle, allow them to take the election, and one other party that has wide enough ballot access that it could, in principle, affect the election significantly. And they all have their presidential nominees now. They are (with their electoral vote access):

Libertarian (364 Party Ballot): Gary Johnson

Green (347 Party Ballot; 42 Write-In): Jill Stein

Constitution (202 Party Ballot; 15 Write-In): Virgil Goode, Jr.

Gary Johnson I've actually heard of before; I finished high school in New Mexico and he was just starting to be Governor of New Mexico then. He was pretty popular -- he didn't raise taxes, did a lot of infrastructure building, and still left the state in better fiscal shape than it had been when he began. Very much a fiscal conservative / social progressive type. Jill Stein is a Massachusetts doctor best known for political activism. In fact, she was recently arrested for a sit-in; nothing shows the difference between major party culture and third party culture better than the fact that the arrest is currently front and center on the Jill Stein for President website. Virgil Goode is a former congressman from Virginia. For a while he was a conservative Democrat, then an independent, then a Republican. I don't really know anything about him, but he seems very much the social conservative kind.

So basically between now and the election I'll be looking at these to see if any of them are not too painful to vote for. But at first glance it's a better third party slate than we usually get, so there might be something interesting.


  1. Have you explained in another post why you won't vote for the major parties for president?

  2. I'd have to go back and check myself; I remember mentioning it, but I don't remember if I've ever explained it or not.


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