Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Paid Anti-Trump Protesters -- Confusing the Matter

Conservative groups have long claimed that protesters at left wing and anti-Trump events have been paid, with George Soros usually given as the source of the funds. Now a mainstream newspaper is verifying the claim, sort of.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, some people at protesters are being paid. But the claim is that they are being paid by their normal employers, some of which are allowing employees to go to protests on company time.

The protester claims are important because conservatives claim there isn't a huge grass roots left wing protest movement, and the "paid protester" claim implies that a few activists are creating these protests using people off the street who may not agree with the protest's ideas but want a some money.

However, this article doesn't validate the usual protest claim. It says companies are giving employees social-justice or similarly named time off work. But it appears most companies specify a certain number of days per year. This makes social-justice time off another name for personal time off which other companies will provide so employees can deal with things like doctor's appointments without using vacation time.

So it appears some protesters are being paid, but they're just collecting their usual salary or wages. The same as taking a vacation day or calling in sick to go to the protest, just under a different name.

Unfortunately, this confuses future paid protester headlines. It's easy imply protesters are being paid by activists to show up when they're actually just taking paid time off from work. So "paid protester" headlines are still no more meaningful than they were when there was no specific evidence.

Monday, May 8, 2017

How did we ever survive?

One of today's headlines is about studies which find that grandparents, who are increasingly raising children, may be putting the kids at risk because of outdated views on child safety. Yet the most interesting comment is at the end of this article:

Although the study focused on grandparents, Adesman [study author] and Altmann [a pediatrician] both recognize that other groups can make the same mistakes. In a previous study, Adesman surveyed pediatricians (PDF) and found that only 24% answered all 12 questions about basic safety information correctly.
In her practice, Altmann hears many of these health myths from new parents and grandparents alike.
"I'd love to see this study redone and given to the parents; I think people would be surprised," she said.
These comments point out the problems with this study. First, apparently most pediatricians don't know child safety rules. Second, the study wasn't also done on parents. For all we know, parents are just as bad or worse than grandparents when it comes to child safety. After all, grandparents succeeded at least once in raising a child in the past while new parents don't have any sort of track record. But the headline is about grandparents' "out of date" child raising methods.

Another assumption in the linked article is that "more grandparents are taking on child care roles." Is this really true? Grandparents have always helped with parenting and have always taken on the task of raising children when parents are unable to. There may be a larger role for grandparents today because they are in better health on average than in the past, but it isn't clear that a larger proportion of children are being raised by grandparents (and accurate data probably doesn't exist).

All of which brings up the irony of modern child safety rules. If we total up all child safety advice, from car seats and seat belts to plastic caps on electrical outlets, one wonders how any children actually lived to adulthood in the past.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Are the airlines suddenly starting to kick passengers off of planes?

After the incident when United had a passenger physically dragged off a plane we're seeing numerous reports of passengers being taken off planes. The latest involved Delta and a family with a 2 year old.

So have the major airlines suddenly decided to be mean to passengers? Why the sudden rise in incidents?

It seems obvious that there hasn't been any rise in the number of passengers removed from planes. The change is that the national media is now paying attention. In the past a passenger removed from a flight might have made local news and become part of the "insensitive airline"' lore.

But today passengers removed from airplanes are popular news. For the next few weeks or months we'll see a bunch of news stories. Congress gets a chance to hold hearings, introduce "passenger rights" bills, and possibly pass a new law resulting in a new set of unintelligible regulations.

Here is a reason to be careful with news reports. Is there really a new problem or are we just seeing high profile reports of longstanding practices?