Political Correctness Gone Mad

by Henry on December 28, 2009

Perhaps the recent terrorist outrage in the skies will bring the delusional opponents of group profiling to their senses. But I fear not. It should be a cut and dried case. A member of a group that is notoriously associated with terrorist violence and fundamentalist political beliefs tries to set off a bomb in a plane and only fails because of sheer luck. The nabobs of political correctness will try to convince us yet again that there are many strains of thought among these people, that most of them are non-violent, that compulsory cavity searches will alienate them and so on, and on, and on. But the PC mafia will be ignoring these people’s plans to build temples that dominate our major cities, and actions taken deliberately to flout our common norms. A strong country has a strong culture that it is willing to defend against the enemy – and a willingness to ignore the natterers of multiculturalism when its citizens’ lives are in danger. We were lucky this time. We may not be so lucky the next.

{ 133 comments }

1

rea 12.28.09 at 3:04 pm

Send them all back to where they belong–driving trains.

2

mistersquid 12.28.09 at 3:32 pm

This issue needs more development and thought than the glancing irony of this post.

3

goldie 12.28.09 at 3:33 pm

I protest the use of my alma mater as the prime example of a terrorist nursery. The vast majority of MIT graduates reject the violent tactics adopted by a vicious few of our brethren. We will of course dominate you in the end because of the superiority of our values (not to mention our intelligence). But until then, we wish only to coexist in peace and harmony with our imperial overlords, who occupy the banks of the Charles to our west. The rents you willingly pay to our technology cartel will eventually bankrupt you, and unlike you, we are patient and content to worship our deities in obscurity while awaiting the ruin to which your hedonistic ways will ultimately lead you.

4

Steve LaBonne 12.28.09 at 3:35 pm

This terrorist-breeding group also seeks to destroy our nation’s scientific prowess with its embrace of creationism.

5

Ted Lemon 12.28.09 at 3:59 pm

All hail Athena! We are not concerned about your puny targeted screenings. As you are no doubt aware, we get what we want – we can carry machines with high-energy-density storage onto airplanes with impunity. On many flights, we even have full access to the Internet in our chairs in the sky. Resistance is useless. Bow to Athena’s might!

6

Jared 12.28.09 at 4:22 pm

And they ALREADY have nukes!

7

Thomas McDonald 12.28.09 at 4:41 pm

Well said Henry.

8

M. Gordon 12.28.09 at 4:45 pm

Perhaps off topic (way, waaaay off topic…) but can I just say that I’ve never understood why everybody seems to think that William Safire’s comment about the “nattering nabobs of negativism” was the cleverest turn of phrase ever. It’s not elegant, poetic, concise, or even witty. It’s what you would come up with if you had a thesaurus and too much time. I’m all for using obscure and interesting words to convey shades of meaning, but this phrase, to use the parlance of our time, is made of fail.

9

dsquared 12.28.09 at 5:02 pm

I note that we have not seen any condemnations[1] of this outrage from the so-called “moderate” engineers.

[1] using this phrase in the normal columnists’ sense – ie, “we” meaning “I” and “have not seen” meaning “have not looked for, and intend to ignore any that are pointed out to me”.

10

tomslee 12.28.09 at 5:23 pm

Plus they have these cult-like initiation ceremonies and secret insignia, written about by Rudyard Kipling no less.

11

Another Damned Medievalist 12.28.09 at 5:24 pm

Gosh, I’m glad I looked at all the links before commenting! I thought the world had gone a bit carnivalesque for a moment… well done.

12

tomslee 12.28.09 at 5:25 pm

“intend to ignore any that are pointed out to me”

- or point out that they are the exceptions that prove the rule.

13

Joaquin Tamiroff 12.28.09 at 5:32 pm

“I protest the use of my alma mater as the prime example of a terrorist nursery.”

<a href="http://tech.mit.edu/V105/N15/nye.15o.html">An MIT commission is being established to study the impact of military funding on MIT’s educational and research environment. The commission will include students and faculty members. A broad coalition of student organizations and individuals publicly endorsed the creation of this commission in The Tech ["Students should look into funding," March 19] and at the March 20 faculty meeting.”

14

Joaquin Tamiroff 12.28.09 at 5:34 pm

Sorry for the accidental bombast. Tag error.

15

Russell L. Carter 12.28.09 at 6:06 pm

Who are my wife and I supposed to denounce? I’ll happily denounce Brett Bellmore, last seen crapping out his banal engineering libertarian fantasies on samefacts comment threads with the identical graceless style he began with a decade ago. But he doesn’t seem to be especially terroristy in a tangible way. I suppose we could denounce the poorman, but he seems to be non-tangibly-terroristy and funny and on the Right Side.

Sort of inside gearhead baseball, but said wife and I have puzzled over this weird tendency of a very few of our cotrainees to (set out to) fuck shit up. I mean, we gearheads are all essentially taught to take all that enlightenment science goodness and build things with it. Hopefully useful things (like toilet paper, say), but often not (cf military industrial complex). Consider two other ways of training people. You could end up like D^2, knowing a gigantic amount of stuff about how to make money with money (among many other things). Is that more useful than toilet paper? Less/more damaging than the military industrial complex? Or, my personal favorite, lawyers. All one has to do is routinely peruse the rightcoast and volokh to detect certain, ah, antisocial pathologies on constant display from very highly educated people. And no one can disagree that lawyers provide nothing but gigantic net loss to society. (well, ok, IMHO) Yet as it happens these two kinds of training don’t seem to lead to detectable amounts of FSU inclinations.

Maybe (some) engineers as a side effect of their training get a little bit too much of that CAN DO with REAL STUFF attitude, and decide that a little bit of chemistry here or a little application of machinery there will speed up getting to where ever it is they want to go. Or not.

16

rea 12.28.09 at 6:23 pm

no one can disagree that lawyers provide nothing but gigantic net loss to society

Well, if you’d care to try a society without laws, there’s always Somalia.

17

Castorp 12.28.09 at 7:12 pm

“but can I just say that I’ve never understood why everybody seems to think that William Safire’s comment about the “nattering nabobs of negativism” was the cleverest turn of phrase ever.”

People don’t think it is clever. I can assure 99% of people using it are doing so ironically. Like you we think it is “not elegant, poetic, concise, or even witty.” It is funny though. In the sense of, let us all laugh at Safire and Agnew.

18

JanieM 12.28.09 at 7:37 pm

Joaquin Tamiroff @ 5:32 p.m. — Since what looks like a link isn’t one, can I make a guess that the passage you quoted was about the creation of the commission that in the end published a report entitled, “Creative Renewal in a Time of Crisis,” circa 1970 or so?

If instead it’s contemporary with now, all I can say is (without accent marks, because my html doesn’t extend so far,) plus ca change, plus ca meme chose.

19

JanieM 12.28.09 at 7:40 pm

Argh. …plus c’est la meme… My French is not only scant but very rusty.

20

jlw 12.28.09 at 7:47 pm

And bombing isn’t the only way they are trying to destroy us. An alarmingly large number of engineers are climate change deniers.

I work for an engineering society and have to deal with their crank letters about this.

21

kid bitzer 12.28.09 at 7:59 pm

just *slightly* seriously:

perhaps what we’re seeing is merely that underdeveloped countries are sending a lot of their youth to the west in order to be trained in useful things, and engineering is one of the things they consider useful?

i mean–suppose we looked at the total number of foreign students studying in the states or europe. how many of them are studying, say, french literature? (or analytic philosophy?) now how many of them are studying engineering?

the apparent prevalence of engineers in the young disaffected foreigners who try to blow stuff up set is probably just the result of their total numbers.

(and sure, a lot of young foreigners are also sent west to study accounting, business, and finance. but those professions have their own methods of terrorism–they already did more damage to the west during ’08-’09 than any bomb-laden terrorists could do).

22

hellblazer 12.28.09 at 8:04 pm

(last time I asked my colleagues, I *think* they told me it was “… plus ça reste le même” or “… plus ça reste egal”)

Anyway, I see your Pantsbomber and raise you probably the USA’s most (in)famous geometric function theorist

23

hellblazer 12.28.09 at 8:06 pm

@kidbitzer – not sure your tongue-in-cheek last para gets the profile of the Financial Engineers of Destruction quite right (age/nationality just for starters)?

24

kid bitzer 12.28.09 at 8:12 pm

hb–note that the subject of the verb “did” is “those professions”.

tho if the bond rating agencies and banks *had* been infiltrated by al qaeda, could we tell the difference? i remember when the ira got off their “billion dollar bomb” in the city. one billion looks trivial not that we’ve lost trillions.

25

kid bitzer 12.28.09 at 8:13 pm

“not” s/b “now”.

26

tired of blogs 12.28.09 at 8:58 pm

Not wholly unrelated anecdote and question:

I’ve served on several juries over the years, and in every case the jury happened to contain an engineer. These engineers have always bought the prosecution’s case in its entirety, asserting that it makes more sense than the defense’s case. That’s probably almost always true (especially with cases that go to trial), but that’s not what the judge is asking them to decide. They have uniformly, it seems to me, been very uncomfortable in considering rival explanations of an event and admitting that sometimes more than one might be a reasonable take on things. [nb. I was on the engineer's side on two trials and on the other side in two trials.]

My anecdotal data may be flawed, but if anybody agrees with me, is it because of the training that engineers receive? (And what about it, exactly?) Is it because of the kinds of people drawn to engineering in the first place?

And, per the original thread, is this at all connected with engineers’ nefarious terrorist ways?

27

Gerry 12.28.09 at 9:22 pm

I’ll happily denounce Brett Bellmore

According to my physician, this should be done daily, preferably before breakfast, for optimal mental health.

28

Derek Wall 12.28.09 at 9:27 pm

Worrying that some of them work in the nuclear industry.

29

Steve LaBonne 12.28.09 at 10:02 pm

Worrying that some of them work in the nuclear industry.

Eh, Homer Simpson will kill us with incompetence before nuclear-power engineers get a chance to kill us with malice.

30

Maurice Meilleur 12.28.09 at 10:59 pm

Apropos #29, remember that a sufficient level of incompetence is indistinguishable from malice. The Bush years taught us that. But given the outcomes of this latest attack and of Richard Reid’s shoe bomb, perhaps the reverse is sometimes true as well.

31

Nur al-Cubicle 12.29.09 at 12:11 am

Well, the Engineering School of my alma mater refused to participate in the first Earth Day.

32

nzuckerman 12.29.09 at 2:33 am

I can’t decide which is dummer: the post or the comments.

33

Jake 12.29.09 at 3:18 am

They have uniformly, it seems to me, been very uncomfortable in considering rival explanations of an event and admitting that sometimes more than one might be a reasonable take on things.

My anecdotal data may be flawed, but if anybody agrees with me, is it because of the training that engineers receive? (And what about it, exactly?) Is it because of the kinds of people drawn to engineering in the first place?

I think it’s just the nature of the work. As an engineer, you solve problems. “I don’t know” is rarely a useful answer, but it’s fine to say “it’s either X or Y so we’ll fix both”, “I really had to dig into this one, but now I see it’s X”, or “I’m pretty sure it’s X so let’s try that.” On a jury the suspect either did it or didn’t do it so you can’t choose both and you can’t go get more information to help you decide, so your only choices are to make your best guess or to say you don’t know.

34

tomslee 12.29.09 at 4:17 am

“They have … been very uncomfortable in considering rival explanations of an event and admitting that sometimes more than one might be a reasonable take on things.”

There are not many postmodernist engineers, and even fewer successful ones.

35

Alan 12.29.09 at 5:11 am

Damn those engineers. Especially on the internet, which requires computers, telephone exchanges, electricity transmission lines, microwave transmitters, hydroelectric power stations, plastics …

If you don’t like engineers, get your next meal without them: go hunt a rat by candlelight and grill it over a pile of burning sticks.

On a more serious note, maybe one reason engineers are over-represented in jihadist activities is that, unlike poets, political scientists, philosophers or economists, engineers can give practical effect to their ideas.

36

a.y. mous 12.29.09 at 9:11 am

Nothing new.

http://www.google.com/trends?q=the+lost+symbol%2C+suicide&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=0

Notice that the spike fits? You see, everybody hurts. Everybody dies. Some blow up, some just blow.

37

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.29.09 at 9:42 am

Three words: Alexei Nilych Kirilov.

38

Zamfir 12.29.09 at 10:20 am

Just as when the original study came out, I am suprised by the number of people who easily agree that engineers are likely terrorists, based on some anecdotes about engineers who are presumably not terrorists.

Is there something about engineers that makes them particularly disliked, or would any other profession just lead to different anecdotes?SO instead of “engineers don;t read enough books” we would get “Doctors are used to hurting people for the greater good”, “lawyers have a limited view of morality”, “managers are used to treating people as means to an end”?

39

Hidari 12.29.09 at 10:52 am

‘On a more serious note, maybe one reason engineers are over-represented in jihadist activities is that, unlike poets, political scientists, philosophers or economists, engineers can give practical effect to their ideas.’

One might make many criticisms of the actions of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. However, I think even his fiercest critic would not wish to accuse him of being able to give practical effect to his ideas.

40

dsquared 12.29.09 at 12:23 pm

#35: they say that engineers don’t have much of a sense of humour either.

41

JoB 12.29.09 at 12:32 pm

Touché ;-)

On a less serious note, one might want to profile that group of young adults that do not have the approval of their father. Banning that group from air travel quite possibly will deal with the climate issue as well.

42

g 12.29.09 at 12:32 pm

nuzckerman, thank you for making that decision just a little bit easier.

43

g 12.29.09 at 12:32 pm

Damn. nzuckerman, not nuzckerman, of course. Sorry.

44

magistra 12.29.09 at 12:41 pm

Is there something about engineers that makes them particularly disliked?

I don’t dislike engineers in any way, but they have tended to become symbols in various kinds of cultural wars. So, for example, in the UK, there is a frequently expressed political view that universities should be producing more engineers/scientists and fewer people studying ‘ornamental’ subjects such as history, as well as the remains of the “two culture” divide. I think in the US there is a similar cultural opposition of practical, pragmatic, useful engineers to wooly, useless people studying liberal arts. When you add to that the right-wing view that it is people in the humanities who are somehow ‘responsible’ for terrorism, then it’s not surprising to get a bit of backlash schadenfreude when it’s engineers who prove to be the actual terrorists. Myself, I think Kid Bitzer @21 is probably right – that the students who get to study overseas are predominantly in such fields.

45

JoB 12.29.09 at 12:45 pm

44- there always is the chance, magistra, that we didn’t choose to become symbolic, & even, that we didn’t choose to be in this group, or that the representation of us finding other people woolly is partly or entirely due to the woolliness of a certain group of non-engineering-degree-holders.

46

engels 12.29.09 at 12:50 pm

the woolliness of a certain group of non-engineering-degree-holders

Sheep?

47

Zamfir 12.29.09 at 12:59 pm

Magistra says: I don’t dislike engineers in any way, but they have tended to become symbols in various kinds of cultural wars.

I had never looked at it that way, although I have to say I missed the part where the humanities where held responsible for 9/11 too. I guess it does explain some of the gleefulness in the responses.

48

magistra 12.29.09 at 1:01 pm

JoB@45 – I should have made it clearer (though the ‘becoming symbols’ implies it), that I wasn’t saying that most engineers had chosen to fight these kind of culture wars and engaged in this kind of stereotyping themselves. But they do tend to get used as the poster child of certain anti-liberal/anti-intellectual arguments, just as plumbers do (at least in the UK): thought this usage is mainly, I suspect, by people who would never be able to or want to be a plumber or engineer themselves.

49

JoB 12.29.09 at 1:05 pm

46 – in wolf’s skin then, no doubt.

48- no problem, I was just saying …

50

Ebenezer Scrooge 12.29.09 at 1:09 pm

As a former gearhead who went into financial services, I’ll make a few observations:
1. It’s not the training. Please explain to me the difference between engineers’ and experimental physicists’ training that is responsible for any odd characteristics of engineers.
2. I think that it is more a matter of subsequent employment. Chemists, like engineers, tend right. Both typically work for the Man. Biologists and physicists, who are more academic creatures, tend left. I don’t know much about computer types, although this ignorance reveals my age.
3. Magistra (#44) is correct. Engineers have become symbols in various kinds of cultural wars. The funny thing–at least in the USA, the meaning of the symbol has switched. In the prewar era (WWII? Vietnam?), engineers were a kind of lefty symbol. High-grade proletarian hero with clipboard, and all that. Now, they’ve swapped.

51

JoB 12.29.09 at 1:17 pm

“who went into financial services”

I rest my case.

52

Steve LaBonne 12.29.09 at 1:46 pm

Please explain to me the difference between engineers’ and experimental physicists’ training that is responsible for any odd characteristics of engineers.

The fact that physicists (to be a full member of that profession we have to be talking about Ph.D. level training here) are taught how to do science i.e. how to try to discover new things about nature, with all the accompanying potential for blind alleys and false starts; whereas engineers are taught to take take the results of past science as given and use them as a tool. (That’s meant entirely descriptively with no pejorative intent.) Yes that’s a gross oversimplification, but as a life scientist I’ve seen exactly that kind of difference in mentality between researchers and physicians, and their respective training. (And one does see a fair number of M.D. creationists who fancy themselves scientific experts but really have little grasp if how science is done, much like the more notorious engineer creationists.) I also see the same thing in my current life, among forensic “scientists” who really have a less than adequate grasp of science.

53

JoB 12.29.09 at 3:14 pm

“(That’s meant entirely descriptively with no pejorative intent.)”

The humour just keeps on coming.

If it’s not funny it’s at least folly.

54

tomslee 12.29.09 at 3:23 pm

Please explain to me the difference between engineers’ and experimental physicists’ training that is responsible for any odd characteristics of engineers.

Not training, but as someone who has worked with both I’d say engineers are more religious as a group than natural scientists, presumably because they don’t get exposed to the science vs religion debate as much or because studying natural sciences tends to turn people away from religion.

55

kid bitzer 12.29.09 at 3:46 pm

again, could we just see some numbers here?

set aside the issue of overseas students, and just focus on u.s. and u.k. citizens:

how many physics ph.d.s are there? and how many people who have a degree that entitles them to be called engineers?

i honestly don’t know, but i imagine the numbers differ by at least an order of magnitude.

56

Steve LaBonne 12.29.09 at 3:52 pm

If it’s not funny it’s at least folly.

You deny there is a difference between studying a subject at the frontier of knowledge and mastering its established results for use as tools? You deny there is a difference between fundamental research and applied science? Or are you trying to deny that such differences of emphasis are capable of producing any differences in outlook?

The joke’s on you if you can’t do any better than a content-free dismissal.

57

Steve LaBonne 12.29.09 at 3:55 pm

P.S. And as an applied scientist myself why would I be interested in disrespecting applied disciplines? Surely one can point out that science and engineering are two different things while being fully aware that they are both important.

58

Steve LaBonne 12.29.09 at 3:58 pm

P.P.S. By the way, it is a known fact that engineers in academia are much more likely to be religiously observant in a traditional way than are any other academics. Surely this striking fact requires some explanation. Part of that explanation may require looking into the family backgrounds of the kinds of people who end up in various disciplines, and part may involve the training they receive on the way to their professional careers.

59

JanieM 12.29.09 at 4:30 pm

Steve LaBonne: Part of that explanation may require looking into the family backgrounds of the kinds of people who end up in various disciplines, and part may involve the training they receive on the way to their professional careers.

I would add a third part to examine, and that’s temperament. Or is mentioning inborn qualities a can of worms I shouldn’t (have) open(ed)?

I went to MIT a long time ago (and majored in literature, but core requirements involved a minimum of a third of one’s course work being in math, science, or engineering). My son graduated from MIT more recently. My kids’ dad went there as well. I worked there for several years after I finished grad school (elsewhere). So I’ve been around the place a lot, and in various roles, but always as a somewhat fringe kind of character.

Whenever I walk back onto campus after a long gap, the same feeling washes over me: this is paradise on earth for people who love solvable problems. The messier, less “solvable” human kinds of problems? MIT people are no better at those, on average, than anyone else, and some of them are worse, because they think their brilliance at engineering should work just as well on a different kind of problem.

Yes — these are both vast generalizations, and personal impressions. But as has been noted often recently, this is a blog thread, not a scientific journal.

And just because the more serious side of the thread keeps making me think of it, there’s this.

60

JoB 12.29.09 at 5:01 pm

Steve,

To use somebody else’s words:

“could we just see some numbers here?”

To assert that something is a well known fact is something else than to be a well known fact. You have given no evidence in support of the claim that a certain group of people deserves to be picked out in a certain way. The burden of proof surely can’t well be on me to do the reverse. I guess that was more or less what the post was about.

61

bianca steele 12.29.09 at 5:09 pm

I don’t have a lot to say on this subject, because I don’t have an engineering degree but a BA, I don’t have an MS either, and software engineering is arguably different from “hard” engineering fields (including in being stronger outside of academia than inside). Also, a lot of people in software were basically self-educated regardless of what degree they had. And I’ve worked with such a wide variety of people that I can’t generalize. Either extreme is bad: either thinking we can’t do anything because we don’t have Ph.D.’s, or thinking we have everything we need and don’t need to be creative and learn new things. The combination–thinking we are screwed because we can’t learn new things and we know the wrong things–is also bad.

Also, I find magistra’s comment offensive. It’s just the case that in our culture engineers are considered low-class or something? That’s supposed to be an explanation? Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising people who are talked not only about, but to, in that way, might become alienated (which is not to condone what they do afterwards). And what does that imply in our culture or in some other?

62

engels 12.29.09 at 5:17 pm

could we just see some numbers here?

Did you look at the old posts linked here, which discuss a paper by Diego Gametta — a quantitative study which attempts to explain what its authors claim is the disproportionate representation of engineers within violent extremist movements?

63

JanieM 12.29.09 at 5:21 pm

Re JoB’s comment to Steve: I thought the post was “more or less about” how the leap to stereotyping is so selective. If a surprisingly large number of people who attempt to blow up airplanes are both engineers and Muslims, there’s a broad swath of people (another generalization) who are all too happy to notice the “Muslim” and ignore the “engineer.”

64

Steve LaBonne 12.29.09 at 5:22 pm

That’s exactly what I was going to cite (since I can’t find a link to the Carnegie survey from which the data were drawn.) I wouldn’t want JoB to have to go to all the trouble of Googling so here it is. It also shows academic engineers to be much more conservative politically than other academics.

65

JanieM 12.29.09 at 5:23 pm

And just to clarify: the point I took from the post, and think is interesting, is about the people who do the stereotyping, not about the engineers.

66

kid bitzer 12.29.09 at 5:31 pm

@62–
oops! no. didn’t read it. will now, and look for background rates.

67

tomslee 12.29.09 at 5:44 pm

Here is a letter in today’s Globe and Mail.

Surely it’s time for profiling. The howls of outrage from some would probably be drowned out by the sighs of relief from others. And maybe the planes would run on time again. — Colin Proudman, Toronto

Mr. Proudman is undoubtedly right, and we should keep engineers off our planes. I’d write to agree with him, but I had a letter published last week. Any takers?

68

Steve LaBonne 12.29.09 at 5:47 pm

And just to clarify: the point I took from the post, and think is interesting, is about the people who do the stereotyping, not about the engineers.

Yes, of course; a semi-serious discussion has developed but it’s kind of off-topic.

69

JoB 12.29.09 at 5:51 pm

63 – indeed, but both generalizations are generalizations

64 – your 52 is unsupported by your link, it’s feeling rather than fact

70

Steve LaBonne 12.29.09 at 6:09 pm

your 52 is unsupported by your link, it’s feeling rather than fact

The illogic is in your comment, not mine. I was floating a very tentative (part of) the possible explanation for the data observed by Gambetta. More to the point, I was mainly responding to a challenge simply to point out differences in how physicists and engineers are educated. The account I gave of that is, I believe, correct and applicable to training in any pair of pure vs. applied fields (I gave the example of biomedical research and medical practice, an area in which I have personal experience as a former research scientist who has taught in a medical school.) What sort of “numbers” would be relevant to a descriptive account fo educational practices?

71

bianca steele 12.29.09 at 6:53 pm

One more contrarian comment: Engineers take more math than anybody else besides math and physics majors: basically, they are required to take the math department’s entire curriculum up to where you get into stuff only academic mathematicians care about. Their program is one “weed out” course after another. That’s why they are able to move immediately after graduation, very often, into any field that requires math skills, such as financial services. They have to work hard and they have to be smart, and are among the very few people in the world who know how to solve a differential equation. That seems at least as important as anything like a “can do” spirit.

72

JoB 12.29.09 at 7:15 pm

70: your 52 has no ‘floating’ nor a ‘tentative’; but are you now suggesting that what you asserted is mere storytelling that is true (hopefully beyond your personal subjectivity) in a way that doesn’t admit of any quantitative verification?

As per 71, it takes a lot of pure stuff to do anything wortwhile of an applied kind – but I would not count financial services as enormously worthwile ;-)

Ah yes, I’m not denying a lot of my brethren are d1ckheads. How about your family?

73

dilbert dogbert 12.29.09 at 9:25 pm

Full disclosure: BS Mechanical Engineering and MS Engineering Mechanics (What ever that is)
Love the engineer jokes! Keep em coming.
Civil Engineer makes targets
Mechanical engineer blows them up
I’ve got a lot of “blows things up” to account for in the next life. I built a few targets that were not very life enhancing also.
My experience with the engineering community is that it is very heterogeneous – a full spectrum of humanity. I have some relationships with the CPA, Accountant, bookkeeper groups and they are the same grab bag of humanity.
Happy New Year

74

Ebenezer Scrooge 12.30.09 at 1:25 am

Steve @ 52:
I agree with your distinction between M.D.s and biomedical Ph.D.s–they’re very different creatures. (M.D.-Ph.D.s are firmly on the Ph.D. side of the divide.)

But I don’t think that the engineer-physicist distinction is similar. Engineers–at least the ones I’ve known–are used to blind alleys and false starts. The good ones are very interested in the physics or chemistry of what they’re doing. Like scientists, they’re in the business of expanding knowledge. They have different criteria for desirable new knowledge, but I’m not sure that this matters.

And to pursue this further, most experimental physical scientists do a lot of engineering-style tinkering. There are exceptions to this: my Ph.D. advisor’s grad students didn’t trust him within 15 feet of the apparatus. But he could dream up very pretty experiments that he couldn’t perform himself in 100 years. Mediocre scientists are cookbook people.

Hmmm, you may be right after all, if good engineers tend further left than bad engineers. And maybe bad scientists tend further right than the good ones. Although this doesn’t explain the rightward tilt of chemists as well as employment. Which was my point in @50.

75

bad Jim 12.30.09 at 3:52 am

Engineers are also over-represented among climate change deniers. They are also overwhelmingly male. At least in the U.S., the curriculum is front-loaded, an explicit process of elimination, encouraging competition and discouraging breadth of education, permitting existing beliefs to persist unchallenged.

I do wish to defend my clan against the charge of humorlessness. EE’s, at least, are addicted to humor; no one takes April Fools’ Day more seriously, and you should never take any article or press release with that date at face value if it originates from that quarter.

76

roac 12.30.09 at 4:09 am

Love the engineer jokes! Keep em coming.

OK, I like the one about the astrophysicist, the molecular biologist, and the engineer debating “What is the greatest invention of the human race?” The astrophysicist says it’s the radiotelescope. The biologist argues for the electron microscope. The engineer says, “No. no! Mankind’s greatest invention is the thermos bottle!”

[blank looks]

“”It keeps hot things hot and cold things cold!!”

[further blank looks]

“But how does it know??!”

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bad Jim 12.30.09 at 5:31 am

roac, that was a blonde joke. Here’s an engineer joke.

French Revolution. The Terror. Three suspects ride the tumbril to the guillotine, and, resisting to the end, agree to die facing the descending blade. The priest goes first, the lever is released, the chop drops and stops halfway. A miracle! The crowd cheers! The priest goes free!

Same thing the second time. Don’t like it? Get a more patient story-teller.

The third was an engineer, looking up at the engine of death. It drops and stops just short of his throat. He calls out, “Wait! I see the problem!”

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tomslee 12.30.09 at 3:02 pm

More on Gambetta and Hertog at Slate: http://www.slate.com/id/2240157/

79

kid bitzer 12.30.09 at 3:31 pm

and this recent one:
http://xkcd.com/670/

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James Conran 12.30.09 at 4:29 pm

Doesn’t Hayek have an essay where he suggests that engineers are the greatest threat to (catellaxy-based) civilisation? I seem to remember reading it and thinking that when he said “engineer” he meant “the engineer” or “the engineer’s mentality” (like being a fox or a hedgehog), and it gradually dawning on it that he really just meant engineers.

81

James Conran 12.30.09 at 4:32 pm

OK here it is: http://mises.org/story/2782

“The application of engineering technique to the whole of society requires indeed that the director possess the same complete knowledge of the whole society that the engineer possesses of his limited world. Central economic planning is nothing but such an application of engineering principles to the whole of society based on the assumption that such a complete concentration of all relevant knowledge is possible.”

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bianca steele 12.30.09 at 5:22 pm

83

Sam C 12.30.09 at 6:09 pm

It’d be interesting to compare Hayek against engineers, to Popper against artists and for piecemeal engineering, in social design (he said vaguely, not actually planning to do it…).

84

bianca steele 12.30.09 at 6:31 pm

Trying again, with matched quotation marks: Veblen

85

Bongo Bains 12.30.09 at 7:28 pm

Henry’s a bit over-the-top on this one – even a tad Fox Newsish. The London Telly likewise, comparing Al Qaeda with the Third Reich no less.

This dumbass effort by the unbelievably inept and poorly trained Abdulmutallab is being spun into chapters of needless add-on with serious loss of perspective in some quarters. Obviously there are security matters to consider but the histrionics this incident has inspired is evidence of other political fish-to-fry… little to do with a pragmatic appraisal of the actual threat.

There are maybe… 200 alleged Al Qaeda members in Yemen. I say ‘alleged’ because really Al Qaeda is about as real as a mirage in the Rub al-Khali.

Al Qaeda is in large part a media invention. It doesn’t exist in the form of an “international” terror organization with tightly knit cells and communications networks “spanning the globe” etc etc – fave Islamo-fascist bogeyman of the Hannitys and Becks of this world. Old grainy footage of bearded dudes using gym equipment somewhere in Afghanistan gets replayed endlessly by Fox. Why? Because that’s all they’ve got. A lot of this hype is really silly shit, but it’s amazing how many otherwise smart and informed people kinda buy into Al Qaeda comic book scenarios.

The disparate groups that claim to act in AQ’s name are driven not so much by visions of the caliphate as poverty, alienation and other factors – most of which have eff all to do with the ambitions of bin Laden. The AQ links on the part of alleged affiliates would require separate case-to-case consideration in order to figure out just what those supposed connections mean in real terms.

The concerns of these groups whether in Algeria, Indonesia, Yemen or elsewhere are mainly local. Claiming – as Fox News routinely does – that an attack by one of these outfits on their own turf is ‘Al Qaeda at work’ (the inference being threat to the US) is a bit like claiming that a provisional IRA car bomb in Belfast back in the 70′s was evidence of the Celtic World Revolutionary Movement in action in its drive to create a global celtophate.

This Nigerian youth – who by the way is a huge Liverpool FC fan – fell under the spell of a few loonies and fucked up his mission in about as incompetent a manner as it is possible to conceive.

Hauling up the Nazis as some people are doing in the wake of this episode and calling for profiling measures is a bit like riddling decoys full of lead. It might make you feel good but it’s not going to solve the problem.

Worries about theocracy and extremism never seem to include Zionism in certain circles – it’s always the dreaded Muslim threat. During the Gaza campaign hundreds of Jews in the UK, a number of them prominent academics, signed a petition that appeared in the Guardian drawing a direct link between the abomination in Gaza and Nazi tactics during WW2. Militant Zionism is just as racist and deluded in its “chosen” conceit as the Aryan supremacist fantasies the Nazis. There are many theocratic lunatics in Israel – a few of them were on the front lines in Gaza handing out leaflets to the troops and evoking visions of the Children of Israel while casting the Palestinians as modern-day Philistines.

I’m not going to labor the obvious except to say Israel is a massive provocation and as it is presently constituted an ongoing goad for terror. American policies vis-a-vis Israel need to change. Until fundamental shifts occur in American policy and until issues are addressed in a just and equitable manner across-the-board – it is unlikely there will be an end to terror in the skies and elsewhere no matter how many nudie scans, profiling measures and body searches are put in place.

86

Substance McGravitas 12.30.09 at 7:39 pm

Click the links.

87

Bongo Bains 12.30.09 at 7:48 pm

TY – just did. I get the irony but this is equally about the BS that has surfaced in the wake of the incident.

88

Bongo Bains 12.30.09 at 8:16 pm

Agree with #2
“This issue needs more development and thought than the glancing irony of this post.”

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bianca steele 12.30.09 at 9:03 pm

I think Popper must have misread the original study. The 60% of immigrants to America who are terrorists who are also engineers must be from before the researchers controlled for nationality, because I can’t believe they ignored such an important factor as the overrepresentation of engineering as a profession among Asian-Americans generally compared with Americans overall. I stopped reading there.

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magistra 12.30.09 at 10:34 pm

Bianca@84 – the reference to Veblen is interesting, as showing another of the different symbolic roles that the Engineer can take on, and also showing that hero-worship of the Engineer hasn’t historically been purely a right-wing process. I think the earliest idea of the Engineer as symbol was of him as a hero of capitalism, summed up in Matthew Boulton’s line from the late eighteenth century: “I sell here, sir, what all the world desires to have—POWER.” I’d presumed that the engineer as socialist hero was dervived from Lenin’s idea that “Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the entire country”, but it’s obviously earlier.

I suspect that the Engineer as hero is generally more common in countries where there is a perceived need to ‘tame the wilderness’: engineers in the UK tend to be treated rather dismissively, not helped by the general lack of distinction made between relatively lowly technicians and professional engineers. But I think in the US, the Engineer has also been taken up by right-wingers as a positive symbol of the anti-intellectual: someone who is highly intelligent, but not tainted by the liberal arts. (I don’t think this stereotype of engineers is correct, but I think it is commonly held).

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magistra 12.30.09 at 10:36 pm

Bianca@84 – the reference to Veblen is interesting, as showing another of the different symbolic roles that the Engineer can take on, and also showing that hero-worship of the Engineer hasn’t historically been purely a right-wing process. I think the earliest idea of the Engineer as symbol was of him as a hero of capitalism, summed up in Matthew Boulton’s line from the late eighteenth century: “I sell here, sir, what all the world desires to have—POWER.” I’d presumed that the engineer as soci*list hero was derived from Lenin’s idea that “Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the entire country”, but it’s obviously earlier.

I suspect that the Engineer as hero is generally more common in countries where there is a perceived need to ‘tame the wilderness’: engineers in the UK tend to be treated rather dismissively, not helped by the general lack of distinction made between relatively lowly technicians and professional engineers. But I think in the US, the Engineer has also been taken up by right-wingers as a positive symbol of the anti-intellectual: someone who is highly intelligent, but not tainted by the liberal arts. (I don’t think this stereotype of engineers is correct, but I think it is commonly held).

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tomslee 12.30.09 at 10:51 pm

This issue needs more development and thought than the glancing irony of this post.

Well yes, I don’t imagine Henry intended it as the last word on the subject. And remember Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals #5 (updated for a nonsexist age): “Ridicule is our most potent weapon”.

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Bongo Bains 12.30.09 at 11:15 pm

Assuming “they” get it.

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bianca steele 12.30.09 at 11:42 pm

Hi Magistra,
That’s very interesting, especially finding out how things are seen in England.

No offense, but what is important to me is less how things can be seen “symbolically” by the authors of magazine articles than how they are actually seen by engineers and the people with whom they actually interact every day, whether they are religious or not.

95

Joaquin Tamiroff 12.31.09 at 12:15 am

The Engineer is a hero of modern revolution.

96

bianca steele 12.31.09 at 12:21 am

Sorry, magistra, I overreacted. Re-reading your post, you didn’t say there was only one way to talk about it.

97

Henry Farrell 12.31.09 at 2:34 am

Bongo – you need to settle on criticizing me for being like the loons at Fox News, or for being overly flip and ironic about the loons at Fox News. I really can’t be doing both at the same time.

98

bad Jim 12.31.09 at 3:29 am

The writer is the engineer of the human soul. – Stalin

99

Jack Strocchi 12.31.09 at 6:59 am

The scariest people in the world are Pakistan’s Islamist nuclear engineers.

100

Substance McGravitas 12.31.09 at 7:15 am

You know not to trust anything from World Nut Daily, right?

101

Jack Strocchi 12.31.09 at 8:11 am

Substance McGravitas@#98

You know not to trust anything from World Nut Daily, right?

I don’t “trust anything” from any source, whether it be WND or CT, unless I get independent confirmation. Both the Indian press and the liberal American media appear to take the Al Quaeda-Aq Khan link seriously.

Most of my (far better qualified) journalist friendsroutinely remark that Pakistan is the most likely place for the GWOT to go postal. They should know, having been almost killed there.

102

thompsaj 12.31.09 at 9:16 am

what about DeNiro in Brazil? I bet engineers love that role, I know I did.

103

JoB 12.31.09 at 11:38 am

tomslee, you deserve this for insisting .. Let me assume that access to higher education is still a world-wide problem, albeit that the problem’s depth is correlated with an over-all poverty of the nation in which said education is on offer. My hypothesis is: that said problem is comparably less regarding access to engineering forms of higher education; and specifically so if you consider the access of poor people from poor nations.

If my hypothesis would be correct the sampling of the population of scientists & liberal arts majors with respect to that of engineers would be flawed by something that has not essentially to do with engineers or their mindsets or other ocult powers for rightsiness. It would be flawed because the engineer’s sample would be a closer approximation of a non-group-specific sample where any other sample would tend to be dominated by the children of rich people of rich countries (the double conditional is of importance here) that themselves enjoyed a higher education.

PS: Hayek is, as often, right – we need to avoid sociolgists and politicians looking at the human problems as, basically, engineering problems, but this issue imo is more related to a misunderstanding of engineering by people like Hayek than by engineers taking up a role of decision maker in society (I would venture the hypothesis that engineers are a vastly underrepresented educational group amongst are politicians, their consultants, & the academia that gives policy advise) – the best example of engineering approach to societal change is agalitarianism

104

tomslee 12.31.09 at 5:03 pm

JoB – Surely we are talking at cross purposes. The post was poking fun at the idea of group profiling by highlighting how ridiculous it would be if applied to another group that, for whatever reason, is over-represented among terrorists. Some of by best friends are engineers.

105

lemuel pitkin 12.31.09 at 5:26 pm

I would venture the hypothesis that engineers are a vastly underrepresented educational group amongst politicians, their consultants, & the academia that gives policy advice

Necmettin Erbakan.

Wen Jiabao and Li Peng.

H. D. Deve Gowda and A. P. J. Abdul Kalam.

Etc.

In much of the world, an engineering is one of the most common academic backgrounds for a senior politician. But then, you were talking about real countries, right, not dinky little places like Turkey or India or China?

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lemuel pitkin 12.31.09 at 5:29 pm

I would venture the hypothesis that engineers are a vastly underrepresented educational group amongst politicians, their consultants, & the academia that gives policy advice

Necmettin Erbakan.

Wen Jiabao and Li Peng.

H. D. Deve Gowda and A. P. J. Abdul Kalam.

That’s five minutes worth of recent heads of state/government with engineering backgrounds. But then, you were talking about real countries, right, not dinky little places like Turkey or India or China?

107

Joaquin Tamiroff 12.31.09 at 6:42 pm

“Turkey or India or China?”
The Engineer is a hero of modern revolution and “progress.”
The military are engineers of war. Military utilitarianism.

As far as lasting policy is concerned (and a recent discussion of Brazil is a good example) the problem is not an engineered society but one where bureaucracy leads but does not serve: where government supplants community. The US will become more like Sweden when Americans become more like Swedes. It’s not just laws but people.

A good engineer who is also a good politician knows the meaning of the word “overdetermined.” A good engineer who doesn’t is a bad politician but, may be a good leader in a crisis. It’s not either or. Acknowledging Hayek’s observations does not mean India should have had an open trade policy. I’ve always thought God was smart kill off Moses when he did but it was nice to have him around for a while.

108

Anon 12.31.09 at 7:36 pm

Agree on the political correctness gone mad, not on its applicability to this case. Here, the simple question is: how do we best mitigate, thrwart, and eradicate fringe, radical extremist, sovereignless, international terrorism?

Perhaps the more foolish thing we can do is to take steps to seemingly de fringe, de radicalize, and de extremitize, when we need to do the opposite. Anything that conveys that this is a battle against fanatical Islamic extremism, which is very different from the basic Islam that makes up the world’s second most popular religion, and not against that basic Islam, or Muslims, therein, is strategically good. Anything that does the opposite is strategically, very ill advised.

Stop with the chest pounding. This isn’t an issue of getting all self rightous about protecting Americans. This is an issue about isolating, marginalizing, exposing, and eradicating the actual enemy, while working to lessen further enemy invovlement by exposing the fringe, psychotic nature of it. Profiling and other such steps, at this point, may be a gift to our actual radical fringe enemies, because it would serve to help accomplish the opposite.

109

Bongo Bains 12.31.09 at 7:43 pm

#97 : Bongo – you need to settle on criticizing me for being like the loons at Fox News, or for being overly flip and ironic about the loons at Fox News.

Henry – some fish are slippier than others.

Irony may be a “potent weapon” but the average loon reading your post might take you for a tea party original – even after clicking a link or two. Some of them are so irony-challenged even a line that departs from the literal can throw them off, unless it comes with a jingle. Course I know you weren’t in any sense playing both sides of the fence… just saying.

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virgil xenophon 12.31.09 at 7:57 pm

Henry@97.

Come on, Henry, multi-task! Give it the good ole college try! :)

111

bianca steele 12.31.09 at 8:31 pm

I haven’t read Hayek: if he opposes an engineering approach to social policy, why? Because it attempts to re-engineer society based on propositional knowledge derived directly from abstracted academic studies, or because the “knowledge” it’s based on is different from the propositional knowledge possessed within universities?

The footnotes to the passage James Conran links to have some peculiar features. I’m not saying I’d dismiss out of hand works published in Germany in the early 1930s concerning the genius of the 19th century German. Marx wasn’t an engineer either.

112

bianca steele 12.31.09 at 9:12 pm

Also, I was wondering whether engineers can be part of the New Class. It’s not like there weren’t any journalists and stockbrokers before.

113

tomslee 12.31.09 at 9:38 pm

if he opposes an engineering approach to social policy, why?

Because knowledge is widely dispersed, and engineering (which implies an engineer) would require that knowledge to be collected/centralized.

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bianca steele 12.31.09 at 11:01 pm

Okay, if knowledge is in the wrong place, that’s no good. But his description of the engineer doesn’t describe engineers. He relies almost entirely on the supposed fact that the engineer (like the architect) never begins physical work until he has a fully formed, completely articulated idea of what the work will be; and further, on the supposed fact that having such an idea is impossible unless the individual has a full knowledge of every single physical fact and of the cost of every single item, and also has all of those resources at his fingertips. So the work of the “engineer” described by Hayek is some trivialized textbook problem.

He contrasts the “merchant” who delegates everything to the people who know things and never tries to force them.

If you name the prototypical engineer “Ransom Olds” and the prototypical merchant “Alfred P. Sloan,” I guess it’s not a bad description, from a hundred yards away. What’s more important, the details of the analysis, or that the upshot is “engineers are socially dangerous”?

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Phillip Hallam-Baker 01.01.10 at 12:59 am

Timothy McVeigh was neither a Muslim, nor an engineer, he was just a redneck veteran who had bought into some very kooky theories, quite likely with pharmaceutical assistance. He murdered a couple of hundred people.

Nor were the Italian Fascists who set off the Bolongna bomb in the hope that it would be attributed to communists and enable a repressive state.

Profiling is bad policy because the profiles are ineffective. No country can afford to profile the only type of terrorists who present an existential threat – their own citizens. Bin Laden is not going to change the government in the US, but there are elements that are being drawn to the Tea Party banner that are explicitly making that threat. Orly Taitz of the birther loonies called for an armed insurrection only this week.

116

Chris E 01.01.10 at 3:12 am

8 of the 9 members of China’s ruling council are engineers – which lends all sorts of interesting speculations about the ways of negotiating with them.

But generally terrorists tend towards being engineers, because typically the disaffected middle-class youth sent out by the developing world tend to be made to study something ‘useful’ by their parents – if they were actually any good at science they would have been pushed into medicine, if good at maths then accountancy would beckon.

Of course, when they return home and still can’t find employment they get even more disaffected, and by then have the practical skills to not blow themselves up in the sort of cack-handed manner we have gotten used to by now. Seriously, the middling to bottom universities in the UK are chock full of foreign engineering students most of whom would strangle themselves accidently if given string.

117

Jack Strocchi 01.01.10 at 3:56 am

Chris E@#115

8 of the 9 members of China’s ruling council are engineers – which lends all sorts of interesting speculations about the ways of negotiating with them.

The comparison between “Arabian”, American and Asian attitudes to technocracy is instructive. Chinese engineers are the group most likely to rescue us from the global warming, with a little help from their economist friends. I am a big fan of the engineer selection bias in the PRC’s Politburo, who are already leading the way to technological solutions to carbon pollution. According to the New Scientist every member of the most recent Politburo was an engineer, although the writer seems to assume the PRC’s governance success occurred despite, not because, of this HR recruitment policy:

CONTEMPORARY China is a nation led by technocrats. The current generation of leaders is made up mostly of graduates from some of China’s leading universities, typically trained in science and engineering. Until this year’s 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which closed on 22 October, every member of the central bastion of power – the Standing Committee of the Politburo – was an engineer by training.

For those in the west, where lawyers dominate the political establishment, China provides an intriguing contrast. How did the country come to be led by a cohort of technocrats? Does their technical mindset define the way they rule? Do they govern as engineers and scientists? And, most importantly, do they govern well?

By contrast America is mis-ruled by over-lawyered cliques of political lobbyists and financial manipulators. And “Arabia” has few opportunities for the technologically competent.

The best hope for “Arabia” is for women to take more power. As has happened in Algeria. They would certainly appreciate it if their tech-savvy and ambitious menfolk concentrated on building things rather than blowing them up.

118

dr ngo 01.01.10 at 5:30 am

I don’t know where it fits into anyone’s argument, or the Grand Scheme of Things, but among engineers who have taken important political roles one should not forget “Ir.” (Ingenieur) Sukarno of Indonesia.

119

JoB 01.01.10 at 11:30 am

tomslee, fair enough but if it was just ‘good fun’ to you it wasn’t necessarily so to others.

lemuel, not fair enough – first it was a hypothesis and thanks for what I didn’t know but second I did differentiate between rich and poor countries and you imputing to me the kind of ‘it’s only BRIC-countries’-approach is unfair; in my hypothesis it is normal that in developing countries the overrepresentation of lawyers and humanities is not yet an element of the system. Maybe it would be a good historic study to check whether there is a decaying proportion of leading politicians from an engineering background as such a country develops? Maybe my hypothesis was wrong but plausible enough to avoid an innocent bystander of this discussion to go away feeling slightly aroused against us.

So: not fair enough. Not fair at all. I protest!

120

Dave Weeden 01.02.10 at 4:54 pm

The future of bloggery: first as parody, then as Guardian article. I hate this decade already.

121

" theterroristswonduringtheBushadmin" 01.02.10 at 4:57 pm

how about profiling those who aren’t a terrorist threat and excuse them from full body-cavity searches? —which, if they aren’t next in the series of humiliations, are in line with the prevailing insanity.

Should feeble grand-mothers who are retired elementray-school teachers from Topeka be subjected to the same rigors of inspection and “proof of identity” (which I understand shall now have new and stricter measures applied–LOL!–please prove your identity again!) as those who correspond to the most likely terrorist-profile as indicated by actual events?

122

Jack Strocchi 01.02.10 at 11:06 pm

Racist comment deleted.

123

Walt 01.02.10 at 11:29 pm

Jack, I’m sorry that we don’t oppress the Muslims enough for your liking, but please don’t try to goad us by waving the bloody shirt of our national tragedy.

124

Jack Strocchi 01.03.10 at 1:16 am

Moderator@#121 said:

Racist comment deleted.

Say what? My comment was there were “no ethnic stereotypes to be seen” in the make up of the 911 bombers. This proposition, read literally, is the anti-thesis of racism.

My comment was intended as a put-down of the down-side of GW Bush’s politically correctness when applied to ethnic profiling if suspicious characters. It was not a put-down of Arab ethnics in general. Or are the politically correctors an endangered species who are now off-limits to all forms of satire, reductio ad absurdum.

To treat sarcasm about “political correctness gone mad” as “racist” and worthy of censorship would seem to undermine the posters original point, about the supposed deadly earnestness of the politically incorrect. Not to mention the basic unfairness of the accusation in relation to the present commenter.

125

Ted 01.03.10 at 5:39 am

Very telling observations about the educational background of China’s governing class. Quite disturbing geopolitical implications when we realize the US governing class has little other than Lawyers and English Lit./soft Social Studies grads. Why is US governance such a Science-free zone?

126

Ted 01.03.10 at 6:08 am

This whole riff is based on a false/non-existent analogy. Firstly, the Islamists do not scream “Calculus Akba” in their turns as video-stars and Splodies, but “ALLAH Akba”. Geddit? Secondly, universities in the Islamic world are not renowned for their departments of Classics, History, Economics, Linguistics, Media Studies and so on. They are basically still Medieval with their overwhelming emphasis on Theology (which also means Law/Jurisprudence) and Natural Philosophy (Philosophy, Math, and Engineering). That’s about it for the “educated” in the Muslim world. To conflate these with MIT students is silly and low-rent.

127

Substance McGravitas 01.03.10 at 7:58 am

Ted, you know nothing about universities in the Islamic world.

128

JoB 01.03.10 at 10:12 am

SMG, how do you know Ted doesn’t know?

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AlanDownunder 01.03.10 at 10:27 am

For heavens’s sake, stop this stereotyping. All it will do is drive more of them to extremism, which would be disastrously counterproductive.

Not that I’m suggesting we must essay the impossible by trying to understand them. Just don’t piss them off gratuitously, and humour them if harmlessly possible.

ps: Your anti-PC trope is not merely dangerously misguided, the way it equates our basest instincts with commonsense. It is also boring.

130

Jack Strocchi 01.03.10 at 12:03 pm

And now they have <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/30/world/asia/30mine.html?_r=2&ref=world&pagewanted=allstolen a march on us in the Great Game.

They have learned by our mistakes, and will only Invade-Invite-Indebt the World when it is in their own long-term interest to do so.

131

Joaquin Tamiroff 01.03.10 at 3:34 pm

“All it will do is drive more of them to extremism, “
“Them.”
I suppose you mean Israelis or the BNP
Maybe Max Rodenbeck can teach you something.
Or may you should just watch some “Islamic News.” Like maybe Al Jazeera?
It’s better than CNN America. Odd.

132

Substance McGravitas 01.03.10 at 5:04 pm

SMG, how do you know Ted doesn’t know?

Time spent reading about universities in “the Islamic world”. (I should have had scare quotes in my original response.)

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AlanDownunder 01.03.10 at 9:55 pm

Joaquin, you’re writing before you’re reading.

By “them”, like Henry, I meant them.

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