1500-hour airline pilot minimum increases inequality?

Regional airlines were recruiting desperately at Oshkosh (EAA AirVenture) this year. It occurred to me that the newish 1500-hour hour minimum imposed by Congress for airline pilots imposes an access barrier to this high-paying career. In Europe, for example, a young person of modest means can pay for 140 flight hours, plus some sim time, and begin his or her career in the right seat of a Boeing 737 (see previous post on a flight school in Ireland).

In the U.S., however, the aspiring airline pilot has to somehow tough it out through 1500 hours of starvation wage flying, which could take years. The American child whose parents are financially comfortable, on the other hand, can build 1500 hours in the family Cessna or Cirrus, can relocate to a busy flight school and work happily for $15-20/hour, etc.

Thus we have politicians claiming that they’re passionate about reducing inequality, but meanwhile they are writing regulations that ensure its persistence. Intensive regulation has always favored those with the most resources, e.g., big companies or rich individuals.

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Social justice at Oshkosh (EAA AirVenture)

Like seemingly every other American enterprise these days, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) has added social justice to its mission. Thus, at least a portion of its time and effort is devoted to highlighting the achievements of members of victim groups. The largest group of victims to be celebrated at Oshkosh is women. Each person who shows up at Oshkosh identifying as female is given a free T-shirt and asked to pose for a group photo:

Anyone whose parents own an airplane can learn to fly easily. Anyone whose credit card has an ample limit can learn to fly easily (flight schools are not so flush with cash that they would turn away someone based on race, gender ID, or LGBTQIA status). Thus, the group victim photo (above) turns out to be a photo of wealthy white women and girls.

A 1:00 PM P-51 “Warbirds in Review” talk involved towing a vintage $3 million P-51 in front of some bleachers and seating two P-51 combat veterans next to an interviewer. A standing-room-only audience assembled in the hot Wisconsin mid-day sun. One pilot had flown roughly 100 combat missions in the P-51. The other had flown a combined total of more than 400 combat missions in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. With the perfectly restored airworthy P-51 airplane in front of the crowd and these two guys who could tell us about their combat experience, what questions were asked? “What was it like to be black in 1940 when segregation prevailed?” (Answer from Charles McGee, Tuskegee Airman: “I went to high school in the North and we didn’t have segregation.”) By the time we bailed out at 1:35 PM, not a single question had been asked about aviation and we hadn’t gotten to the aviators’ first flying lesson, much less learned anything about the fire-breathing P-51. These guys were not experts on being black in the U.S. in the bad old days, any more than any other African-American of the same age.

Boeing still hasn’t fixed the 737 MAX system design and software, but they were all-in on diversity at their Oshkosh pavilion:

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Science is Settled: one characteristic cannot be inherited genetically

She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity by Carl Zimmer says that almost everything is heritable and that genetics is the mechanism for heritability. However, there is one big exception… intelligence.

Why does this matter? The book reminds us that the idea that a lack of intelligence will render a person dependent on welfare goes back at least to the 1930s:

The Great Depression was reaching its depths when [Henry Herbert] Goddard came back to Vineland, and he blamed it largely on America’s lack of intelligence: Most of the newly destitute didn’t have the foresight to save enough money. “Half of the world must take care of the other half,” Goddard said.

The idea that intelligence could not be explained by heredity is similarly old:

[British doctor Lionel] Penrose entered the profession as a passionate critic of eugenics, dismissing it as “pretentious and absurd.” In the early 1930s, eugenics still had a powerful hold on both doctors and the public at large—a situation Penrose blamed on lurid tales like The Kallikak Family. While those stories might be seductive, eugenicists made a mess of traits like intelligence. They were obsessed with splitting people into two categories—healthy and feebleminded—and then they would cast the feebleminded as a “class of vast and dangerous dimensions.” Penrose saw intelligence as a far more complex trait. He likened intelligence to height: In every population, most people were close to average height, but some people were taller and shorter than average. Just being short wasn’t equivalent to having some kind of a height disease. Likewise, people developed a range of different mental aptitudes. Height, Penrose observed, was the product of both inherited genes and upbringing. He believed the same was true for intelligence. Just as Mendelian variants could cause dwarfism, others might cause severe intellectual developmental disorders. But that was no reason to leap immediately to heredity as an explanation. “That mental deficiency may be to some extent due to criminal parents’ dwelling ‘habitually’ in slums seems to have been overlooked,” Penrose said. He condemned the fatalism of eugenicists, as they declared “there was nothing to be done but to blame heredity and advocate methods of extinction.”

Even if a country did sterilize every feebleminded citizen, Penrose warned, the next generation would have plenty of new cases from environmental causes. “The first consideration in the prevention of mental deficiency is to consider how environmental influences which are held responsible can be modified,” Penrose declared.

The author finds some cases in which children with severe physical disorders, e.g., PKU, have impaired intelligence. From this he reminds us that it is wrong to believe that “our intelligence is fixed by the genes we inherit.” (Is that truly a comforting idea? I would have been as smart as Albert Einstein, for example, but I watched too much TV as a kid and didn’t work hard enough as an adult?)

We would be as tall as the Dutch if only we were smart enough to build a bigger government (2nd largest welfare state, as a percentage of GDP, is not enough to grow tall!):

The economy of the United States, the biggest in the world, has not protected it from a height stagnation. Height experts have argued that the country’s economic inequality is partly to blame. Medical care is so expensive that millions go without insurance and many people don’t get proper medical care. Many American women go without prenatal care during pregnancy, while expectant mothers in the Netherlands get free house calls from nurses.

How do intelligence distributions change over time, given that environment is supposed to be a huge factor?

Intelligence is also a surprisingly durable trait. On June 1, 1932, the government of Scotland tested almost every eleven-year-old in the country—87,498 all told—with a seventy-one-question exam. The students decoded ciphers, made analogies, did arithmetic. The Scottish Council for Research in Education scored the tests and analyzed the results to get an objective picture of the intelligence of Scottish children. Scotland carried out only one more nationwide exam, in 1947. Over the next couple of decades, the council analyzed the data and published monographs before their work slipped away into oblivion.

Deary, Whalley, and their colleagues moved the 87,498 tests from ledgers onto computers. They then investigated what had become of the test takers. Their ranks included soldiers who died in World War II, along with a bus driver, a tomato grower, a bottle labeler, a manager of a tropical fish shop, a member of an Antarctic expedition, a cardiologist, a restaurant owner, and an assistant in a doll hospital. The researchers decided to track down all the surviving test takers in a single city, Aberdeen. They were slowed down by the misspelled names and erroneous birth dates. Many of the Aberdeen examinees had died by the late 1990s. Others had moved to other parts of the world. And still others were just unreachable. But on June 1, 1998, 101 elderly people assembled at the Aberdeen Music Hall, exactly sixty-six years after they had gathered there as eleven-year-olds to take the original test. Deary had just broken both his arms in a bicycling accident, but he would not miss the historic event. He rode a train 120 miles from Edinburgh to Aberdeen, up to his elbows in plaster, to witness them taking their second test. Back in Edinburgh, Deary and his colleagues scored the tests. Deary pushed a button on his computer to calculate the correlation between their scores as children and as senior citizens. The computer spat back a result of 73 percent. In other words, the people who had gotten relatively low scores in 1932 tended to get relatively low scores in 1998, while the high-scoring children tended to score high in old age.

If you had looked at the score of one of the eleven-year-olds in 1933, you’d have been able to make a pretty good prediction of their score almost seven decades later. Deary’s research prompted other scientists to look for other predictions they could make from childhood intelligence test scores. They do fairly well at predicting how long people stay in school, and how highly they will be rated at work. The US Air Force found that the variation in [general intelligence] among its pilots could predict virtually all the variation in tests of their work performance. While intelligence test scores don’t predict how likely people are to take up smoking, they do predict how likely they are to quit. In a study of one million people in Sweden, scientists found that people with lower intelligence test scores were more likely to get into accidents.

IQ is correlated with longevity:

But Deary’s research raises the possibility that the roots of intelligence dig even deeper. When he and his colleagues started examining Scottish test takers in the late 1990s, many had already died. Studying the records of 2,230 of the students, they found that the ones who had died by 1997 had on average a lower test score than the ones who were still alive. About 70 percent of the women who scored in the top quarter were still alive, while only 45 percent of the women in the bottom quarter were. Men had a similar split. Children who scored higher, in other words, tended to live longer. Each extra fifteen IQ points, researchers have since found, translates into a 24 percent drop in the risk of death.

The author reports that twins separated at birth have almost identical IQs, despite completely different childhood environments. With most other personal characteristics, this would lead to the conclusion that intelligence was mostly heritable. Instead, however, Zimmer points out that if heritability is not 100 percent then it would be a mistake to call something “genetic”:

Intelligence is far from blood types. While test scores are unquestionably heritable, their heritability is not 100 percent. It sits instead somewhere near the middle of the range of possibilities. While identical twins often end up with similar test scores, sometimes they don’t. If you get average scores on intelligence tests, it’s entirely possible your children may turn out to be geniuses. And if you’re a genius, you should be smart enough to recognize your children may not follow suit. Intelligence is not a thing to will to your descendants like a crown.

To bolster the claim that intelligence is not heritable, the book cites examples of children whose mothers were exposed to toxic chemicals during pregnancy. Also examples that staying in school for additional years raises IQ (a measure of symbol processing efficiency).

Here’s an interesting-sounding study:

In 2003, Eric Turkheimer of the University of Virginia and his colleagues gave a twist to the standard studies on twins. To calculate the heritability of intelligence, they decided not to just look at the typical middle-class families who were the subject of earlier studies. They looked for twins from poorer families, too. Turkheimer and his colleagues found that the socioeconomic class determined how heritable intelligence was. Among children who grew up in affluent families, the heritability was about 60 percent. But twins from poorer families showed no greater correlation than other siblings. Their heritability was close to zero.

(Do we believe that heritability is zero because identical twins and siblings both have highly correlated IQs? Earlier in the book, the author describes how hospitals and doctors often misclassify twins.)

Buried in the next section is that this finding is not straightforward to replicate (“Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”):

If you raise corn in uniformly healthy soil, with the same level of abundant sunlight and water, the variation in their height will largely be the product of the variation in their genes. But if you plant them in a bad soil, where they may or may not get enough of some vital nutrient, the environment will be responsible for more of their differences. Turkheimer’s study hints that something similar happens to intelligence. By focusing their research on affluent families—or on countries such as Norway, where people get universal health care—intelligence researchers may end up giving too much credit to heredity. Poverty may be powerful enough to swamp the influence of variants in our DNA. In the years since Turkheimer’s study, some researchers have gotten the same results, although others have not. It’s possible that the effect is milder than once thought. A 2016 study pointed to another possibility, however. It showed that poverty reduced the heritability of intelligence in the United States, but not in Europe. Perhaps Europe just doesn’t impoverish the soil of its children enough to see the effect. Yet there’s another paradox in the relationship between genes and the environment. Over time, genes can mold the environment in which our intelligence develops. In 2010, Robert Plomin led a study on eleven thousand twins from four countries, measuring their heritability at different ages. At age nine, the heritability of intelligence was 42 percent. By age twelve, it had risen to 54 percent. And at age seventeen, it was at 68 percent. In other words, the genetic variants we inherit assert themselves more strongly as we get older. Plomin has argued that this shift happens as people with different variants end up in different environments. A child who has trouble reading due to inherited variants may shy away from books, and not get the benefits that come from reading them.

Poverty in the cruel U.S. crushes children! But, measured in terms of consumption, an American family on welfare actually lives better than a lot of middle class European families. The author praises the Europeans with their universal health care systems, but 100 percent of poor American children qualify for Medicaid, a system of unlimited health care spending (currently covering roughly 75 million people).

If unlimited taxpayer-funded Medicaid isn’t sufficient to help poor American children reach their genetic potential, maybe early education will? The book quotes a Head Start planner: “The fundamental theoretical basis of Head Start was the concept

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Majestic equality between Democrats and Republicans

Anatole France famously noted “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.”

I’m recently back from Seattle, a city controlled by and populated by righteous Trump-hating Democrats. They are fulsome in their expressions of support for the vulnerable, especially the homeless, who have literally nothing. The only thing that stops them from funding homes for these homeless individuals is their refusal to reduce their personal consumption of new cars, vacation trips, morning avocado toast, etc.

What’s the result? Next to my $325/night gleaming new hotel (Hyatt Regency), itself adjacent to the gleaming new office towers of the Amazon HQ(1?), a woman was begging on the sidewalk, a 5-year-old child in her arms, just as one might see in India. The nearest Bank of America promised safety for the LGBTQ, but couldn’t insure its own safety without a Latin American-style armed guard next to the front door (he in turn was wearing a bulletproof vest).

Walking around downtown at sunset, I passed a homeless person settling down in a building alcove every few minutes.

Given the apparent lack of any assistance other than kind words, thoughts, and prayers that these folks are getting from Democrats, is it fair to say that their life experience would be the same if everyone in Seattle were tomorrow replaced by Republicans? If so, does that show a “majestic equality” between nominally different political philosophies?


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Is LGBTQIA the most popular social justice cause because it does not require giving money?

Seemingly at least half of the retail stores in Seattle have an overt expression of support for the LGBTQIA community, e.g., a rainbow flag.

Americans identifying as LGBTQIA are not half of the population, right? Why would stores managed and staffed by cisgender heterosexuals hang rainbow flags outside of Pride Month? Maybe folks in Seattle are unusually big-hearted and sympathetic to the vulnerable and victimized? Evidence against that theory is the enormous population of homeless who wander the streets and receive no assistance or attention from passersby. The good citizens of Seattle will step over a homeless person to get into a Tesla and drive to the rainbow flag shop. I didn’t see any store with a sign admonishing customers to do more or care more for the homeless or the poor.

I’m wondering if LGBTQIA is the most popular social justice cause because there is no obvious connection between saying one is passionate about supporting LGBTQIA and having to donate money. If someone says “I care about the poor” and then buys a Tesla instead of a Honda Accord, a friend might ask “Why didn’t you give $70,000 to the poor and drive a Honda rather than your fancy Tesla?”

Readers: What do you think? Is there another reason for LGBTQIA to have overtaken all other social justice issues in visual prominence?

Let’s look at some photos…

The basics:

Bank of America welcomes the LGBTQIA as long as they don’t have pets with them. (The bank also had an armed guard wearing a bulletproof vest next to the front door, just like in Guatemala.)

Speaking of pets, LGBTQIA dogs are welcome at this vet:

Hungry? LGBTQIA-friendly pizza, Mexican food, and ice cream are available:

Inspired? LGBTQIA-friendly art supplies:

Need to visit a friend? Don’t forget to stop at the government-painted rainbows:

(What if a driver is cited for failing to stop at one of these rainbowed crosswalks? Can he/she/ze/they claim that he/she/ze/they did not realize it was a crosswalk?)

The government uses tax dollars to promote LGBTQIA at the local college and police station:

Record store, indoor cycling, and pinball parlor:

Mathematical proof of LGBTQIA-ness:

A T-shirt for a Pride-filled five-year-old:

Let’s compare this to another social justice attempt. From the Seattle Art Museum gift shop:

A great collection pf literature to be sure, but someone who visited on the morning that I did might ask “If you are dedicated to racial justice, why didn’t I see any black patrons or employees?”

Finally, the obligatory departure images…

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Immigrant-Employing, Gay-Loving, Muslim-Respecting

From a July trip to Washington, D.C.:

This particular outlet of Nando’s Peri-Peri is in Chinatown. Note that while Christianity and Judaism are respected to a lesser degree (smaller font) than Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Buddhism are not respected at all.

If Bernie Sanders makes the 15-block trek from the Capitol, he will be pleased to see that the restaurant promises to pay equally, regardless of “ability”.


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Socialism begins at home: Bernie Sanders staff demands $15/hour

Article from Newsweek:

Campaign workers for Bernie Sanders have taken aim at one of the senator’s key policies in his 2020 presidential run — raising the federal minimum wage. According to The Washington Post, some members of Sanders’ campaign team have been lobbying to raise their wages so that they make the $15 hourly rate that the Vermont senator has frequently called for both on the campaign trail and in Washington D.C.


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LGBTQ+ as a hierarchy

Pride Month is over, but I am not quite ready to return my attention to Black Lives Matter and other social justice causes.

From a deeply closeted New York Deplorable (she runs a small business and therefore is unable to cheer for bigger government and higher taxes with appropriate enthusiasm):

I couldn’t help noticing that the purportedly Native American Two Spirit is at the bottom and therefore implicitly inferior to all of the white European ways of being LGBTQIA+ that are above. Also, Intersex is two notches better than Nonbinary. Who made that decision?

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If black Americans get reparations for their stolen land…

… do they have to then turn the money over to Native Americans? (perhaps allocated by Sachem Elizabeth Warren?)

“Black People’s Land Was Stolen” (NYT):

in addition to invoking the 40 acres black people never got, the reparations movement today should be talking about the approximately 11 million acres black people had but lost, in many cases through fraud, deception and outright theft, much of it taken in the past 50 years.

These property holdings could have provided a foundation for black wealth-building in post-Jim Crow America. Instead, they became a source of riches for others. Rather than helping to close the racial wealth gap, blacks’ landholdings became a key force in widening it.

By 1910, black people claimed ownership of nearly 16 million acres in America.

As often, though, whites undermined black property ownership by more subtle means. White tax assessors routinely overvalued black-owned land, forcing black property owners to bear a heavier tax burden than whites (to pay for services they didn’t receive) and slowly draining families of earnings. If black-owned property became valuable or a black property owner challenged white supremacy, local officials could simply declare the property tax-delinquent and sell it at a tax sale.

These continuing practices, more than the government’s broken promise of 40 acres and a mule 150 years ago, explain why black families today have 10 cents to every dollar held by white households and why that gap continues to widen.

Suppose all of the above is true. Wouldn’t it make more sense to restore land ownership to the Native Americans?

[Separately, the idea that multi-generational wealth can be assured with a one-time injection of land has been tested in the U.S. and is chronicled in the book The Son Also Rises. From a chapter of Real World Divorce:

Is the focus on cash transfers for the benefit of children supported by research? “What Happens When We Randomly Assign Children to Families?” (Sacerdote 2004; National Bureau of Economic Research), a study of Korean children adopted by American parents, suggests not. It turns out that there was a low correlation between the ultimate income of a child and the income of the parents. Adoptees brought into homes with $25,000 per year in income had the same family income, as adults, as adoptees who had grown up in homes with $200,000 per year in income. There is a stronger correlation between the income of biological children and their parents, suggesting that genetics is more important than environment when it comes to career attainment.

The Son also Rises (Clark 2014; Princeton University Press) contains a survey of the academic literature regarding the effect of family wealth and unearned cash transfers on children. In 1832 there was a land lottery in Georgia where winners received a parcel of land roughly equal in value to the median family wealth at the time (i.e., the typical winners ended up with twice as much wealth, about $150,000 extra in today’s money). How did the children of the winners do?

They were no more literate than the children of losers. Their occupational status was no higher. Their own children in 1880 (the grandchildren of the 1832 winners) were again no more literate. Worse, they were significantly less likely to be enrolled in school than the grandchildren of the losers. … Wealth is not statistically higher for lottery winners’ children…

Clark also reviews a study of Cherokee Indians who, starting in 1998, received substantial boosts to their income from casino profits. For children who had not been living in poverty, “there was no measurable change in any educational outcomes, including high school graduation rates…” This was despite the fact that a child who graduated high school would immediately become eligible for his or her own $4,000-per-year payment.

The professor writing for the NYT, Andrew Kahrl, states confidently that black Americans today would be way richer if ancestors had obtained all of the land that they were promised 150 years ago, but he cites no research to bolster his opinion.]

Finally, I think it is interesting that the New York Times publishes a piece in which annual property tax is characterized as a slow draining away of rightfully obtained wealth!

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