Help from and for Incoming Wounded
Info on Places To Be Avoided

MASH & Recon

Stories and discoveries from
comrades, about shady characters, bad deals,
especially unfriendly corporations,
places where the climate
-- enviromental, economic or social --
is becoming hostile,
news from the old front.

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The Rules of Drinking and Ensnarement

Besides the inherent hazards in alcohol, young people today have a new, pernicious form of entrapment to deal with when they have a drink at parties or on dates. The assumption that you will know when another drink will make you vulnerable is false as some who have faced the trap can tell you.

The trap in this case was supposedly devised to protect people from the risk of encountering a drunk driver. The concept was that a police officer could stop drivers with very little cause, by any standard, and subject the driver to an examination to determine if they´d exceeded the statutory alcohol limit. The level at which drinking begins to impair driving skills beyond some licensed standard is not easy to determine subjectively compared to the straightforward way we have of judging when we´re exceeding the statutory speed limit.
A recent example involves a young man who was graduating the next day and was now finished with the extended period during which he had had to work part time to earn a living, work a second shift to fulfill an internship and attend classes at night carrying a full time course load, barely having time to spend with friends or pursue his interest in martial arts. Normally when he partied with friends he was the designated driver, but this night was special.

At the end of the evening his spirits were high as he drove home. He was a careful driver, even held a CDL license and had earned excellent driver awards at his place of employment. The kids on the school bus he drove loved him. He bought them candy on the first day of school and treated them to pizza on their last day. They drew him pictures and cards and their parents openly appreciated his attention to their children´s wellbeing each day.

But the week before, there had been an incident involving a seriously drunk driver and tonight the police were running a sweep at the exit ramp near the scene of the previous altercation. They claimed the reason they pulled the young man over was that they had noticed him ´swerve´ as he approached the exit ramp. The young man denied any such swerve had happened but that was a futile defense as it was one word against the word of a police officer. So he kept his peace.

The young man was ordered to get out of the car and subjected to three preliminary tests to determine if they were permitted to subject him to the breathalizer. A local attorney pointed out that most people find several of those tests difficult under ideal circumstances, much less under the duress of such a confrontation and you´re allowed only one strike.
For example, try reciting the alphabet backwards, now, without mumbling and hesitating. No peeking at the title. Unless you´ve experimented with this before, it is awkward and disorienting, even in the comfort of your safe, warm home much less in a surprise situation standing in the cold of the middle of the night by the side of a highway being accused of being dangerous by a uniformed police officer.

Or try standing on one foot at the side of the road when you've been up for twenty hours straight working two shifts, going to class and partying with friends. Particularly when you've already failed the first, and patently unfair, test and must not fail another or you risk the invasion of your privacy, with serious consequences if you´ve mis-estimated your blood´s alcohol level.
In this case, those consequences included losing his job at a time when his education loans and the expenses of starting his new career were at a peak. The pressure must have been horrendous. How could he possibly begin a new career with no driving privileges, another couple thousand dollars in fines, fees, and expenses plus the albatross of no standard form of identification for financial transactions and employment applications?
What is such a situation where you are expected to meet a demand you have no way of reliably predicting than a form of betrayal? Betrayal of the compact of trust between citizens and the legal/justice system. How can young people, especially those with little experience, protect themselves from arbitrary, unknowable limits with such ruinous consequences?

Individually, you can learn the alphabet backwards and try to recite it before driving after a party. Practice standing on one foot and check your balance occasionally during the evening compared to your normal standard. Try tipping your head back. If your balance shows any sign of unsteadiness with your head back, consider waiting before facing traffic. One of the better tests is to check how smoothly your eyes track your finger as you slowly sweep that finger back and forth in front of your face. Any sign of jerky eye movement means it´s not time to hit the road yet. And most important, when driving home, do not let your eyes wander from the road ahead of you, to get a bite to eat or adjust the radio, and focus on maintaining constant speed, for the slightest sign of wavering in your speed or steering, or even forgetting to turn your lights on, can be the start of your next nightmare.

Collectively, inform your friends, to protect them from unfair ensnarement. Help out those who've been the victim of sweeps. And most effectively, make sure there are designated drivers for everyone you care about. Volunteer cheerfully whenever needed. Take the undue moral righteousness out of political pitches aimed at scapegoating everyone labeled by this practice and make your votes and judgments based on individual cases, not labels based on ensnarement.

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Awaiting Definity...

Alarm & Odds


At a recent meeting of a local women´s group here in the city, a young woman who was a software training center administrator mentioned an imbalance she´d noticed in her work. She reported that for every woman sent for company-paid training in that midwest city, there were 9 men sent. A ratio of 9:1.

Thirty years ago this would not have been alarming because the numbers of women in math, science, information technology and quantitative business were so small. But a check of the major local university´s graduates over the last few years shows that the gender balance, while not redressed entirely, is considerably improved. Of all the university´s groups from which the companies could draw staff with the typical minimum requirements seen in company ads, only the small pool of engineers remains skewed like the scene 30 years ago. The other areas range from 30-45% women at the undergraduate level.

Companies would have this more balanced pool to draw from for their software employees.

If there were gender-bias in educational counseling or in corporate hiring, the numbers of women in software could become skewed away from the proportion studying in those fields. A check of recent industry counts though shows that the proportion of women in Information Technology is 30% of the IT field. Depending on the likely range of available women in the local group, the bias in company-paid training necessary to explain the observed 9:1 ratio would be somewhere from 3:2 to 4:1, not in favor of women of course.

Or in terms of probabilities, given an employee pool that´s 30% women, as in the case of Information Technology, the apparent bias means the probability that a man will receive training is a shade under four times more likely than if the individual were a woman.

The object is not to propose quotas; those would not be sensible for small groups. Without more specific data, there´s no way to test hypotheses with statistical legitimacy anyway. Given the current climate, the bias is not likely "within" any company.

Whether it´s bias within organizations or whether it´s that companies with higher percentages of men consider their employees worth training, the result for women is the same.

In a field like software, the liability of outdated skills makes the individual particularly vulnerable. This is not surprising to anyone in the field, so such an imbalance within an organization is not an oversight, not after 30 years of Title VII.

Considering that the mathematical models simulating systematic bias suggest that even a persistent 1-2% bias can totally undermine equity in corporate careers (see
Valian´s Model and Its Implications), imagine what a major, strategically targeted bias will do.

Anyone who thinks the playing field has been leveled is not very good at numbers.

After 30 years of attempts at enforcing Title VII, can there be any doubt that women´s required investing in themselves should be guided by their projected path to self-employment. Research is clearly needed for a definitive answer. But the bottom line is the same. Wait and see, at your peril. Or seek opportunities for desirable training on your own and plan on being your own boss. beacon

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