Why aren’t there more shootings at U.S. airport immigration facilities?

Mom and I finished our cruise trip with a TAP Portugal flight from Lisbon to Boston. In every other country that I can remember visiting the people who check passports are unarmed. If there is a perceived likelihood of armed conflict with deplaning passengers there might be one or two specialist soldiers or police officers walking around. At Logan Airport, however, every immigration or customs official was armed with a pistol. Thus there were roughly 100 people with guns confronting the arriving passengers. If this situation is replicated all across the U.S., I wonder why there aren’t more shootings. Presumably it is unlikely that an arriving passengers will actually have a gun, but why wouldn’t there be at least occasional shootings of unarmed passengers by officials saying “I thought he was pulling out a gun”?

[Separately, if you ever do fly TAP Portugal, make sure that you sign up for specific seats towards the front of the aircraft. It seems that TAP operates a three-class service, but the middle class (where you probably want to be) was apparently unknown to our travel agent (Frosch). TAP sells Business for crazy $ $ . They have a regular Economy for which you pay the Economy fare and then go to their site and pay an extra 25 euro or so to get a seat with a normal amount of legroom (maybe like JetBlue’s worst seats). Then they have a Steerage class in the back for people who are 5′ tall and/or desperately poor and unable to afford the 25 euro. We let Frosch handle everything and of course ended up in Steerage.]


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Family dynamics of the luxury cruise

Last year Mom and I were cruising on Royal Caribbean, whose slogan could reasonably be “cheaper than staying home and a lot more organized.” This year it was Crystal from Lisbon to the Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, Morocco, and back to Lisbon. Crystal Cruises is a higher-end operation, about $ 1,000 per day for two people in a balcony room, and therefore attracts a wealthier demographic.

Median age of a passenger was probably close to 70 years and median wealth was “sufficient to blow $ 20k+ for a little over two weeks, including airfare and maybe some hotel stays on either end.”

A common concern and source of disappointment for many of these financially successful 70-year-olds was the comparatively unsuccessful trajectories of now-adult children. The Son Also Rises: economics history with everyday applications says that we should expect a lot of correlation in success through multiple generations of a family, but the statistical phenomenon of regression to the mean is not revoked. So if the Crystal passenger had been the most successful member of his or her family, Gregory Clark’s research suggests a significant probability that the children of that passenger would achieve at closer to the mean level for the extended family. The still-married-to-their-original-sweethearts parents also fretted about how their children hadn’t been able to replicate that stability. The explanation for the divorce lawsuits and children raised by just one parent was generally a change in character quality. Young people had inferior characters compared to old people. Nobody mentioned the updates to U.S. family law as a possible reason why a 50-year-old American’s domestic life might have unfolded very differently from that of the 80-year-old parents. The mother of a physician, for example, talked about how a young woman had lied about being on birth control and was now harvesting child support from her son. She never looked at the question of whether or not the 1990 child support guidelines made this a rational economic strategy. Although both she and her son live in a state that provides for potentially infinite child support revenue, the choice of becoming a child support profiteer was seen as a sign of bad character, not evidence of economic rationality.

Most of the passengers were organized into apparently heterosexual cisgender couples. There was a bimodal distribution in age gap among the couples. The first marriages typically involved a gap of less than 5 years. For those men against whom a divorce lawsuit had been filed, the second marriage seemed to be to a woman roughly 10 years younger. “The wives are a lot better looking than the husbands,” said one first-time Crystal passenger.

The ship advertised an LGBT gathering one afternoon and it turned out to be 7 men with an average age of about 55 and all but one traveling in a couple. Our host was the cruise director, a former onboard dancer who had worked his way up in the Crystal career ladder. Readers will be proud of me, I hope, for refraining from pointing out the cruise line’s failure to welcome the transgendered with “all gender restroom” signs” (the public restrooms on the ship were divided simply into “men” and “women”).

[Are you skeptical that I would fit in at an LGBT event? Keep in mind that I was traveling with my mother, listening to Broadway show tunes every night, and looking forward to an Elton John tribute concert on the last night of the cruise.]

I also attended a semi-official “singles” gathering. Nine people showed up, all women. How did they get to be “single”? Most had been successful divorce plaintiffs 10-15 years earlier, which led one passenger to quip “That’s how they’re able to afford Crystal.” This was only partially correct. These plaintiffs had obtained alimony and/or child support orders sufficient to provide them with a luxury lifestyle at the time of their original lawsuit. However, their revenue from the discarded husband had not been adjusted to compensate for inflation in the price of comfortable downtown hotel rooms, three-star restaurants, etc. Therefore their alimony checks were not sufficient to fund a truly luxurious lifestyle by today’s standard. They had thus sought to supplement their alimony and/or child support profits by tapping into the spending power of rich boyfriends. Unfortunately, the guys who met their minimum income and wealth requirements were apparently falling short in terms of personality and age. Thus the singles gathering ended up being a round-table discussion of the shortcomings of these men and why the most recent romance had fizzled.

Not all of the single females on the ship had gained wealth through divorce. One lady of about 60 had been the higher-earning spouse. She got sued by her husband and had been paying him alimony. She was not looking for a new mate. Another had earned her fortune by founding and managing a couple of matchmaking services. The latest has men as the only paying clients because “women are too emotional; they complain that ‘I didn’t pay you to get rejected’ after unsuccessful dates.”

One of the more amusing conversations was between the expert matchmaker and a 40-something career woman who asked “Aren’t men looking for their intellectual equals?” and “Wouldn’t these successful men rather have a somewhat older woman with an education and a successful career than a younger woman with nothing but looks?” The answer was that her clients were essentially indifferent to a woman’s educational and career attainment; they wanted beauty and an agreeable personality. “The more successful the woman the harder it is to find a match for her,” said the expert. “There must be some guys out there who aren’t that shallow,” said the career gal. Of course that was my chance to interject “I haven’t met one.”

[I asked how it was possible to operate a matchmaking operation for truly affluent men. Instead of incurring the risk of not getting picked for a marriage and walking away with nothing, why wouldn’t some women try to get pregnant on the first date and then harvest child support? The matchmaker was intimately familiar with California family law, its unlimited child support guidelines, and the challenge of reaching the 10-year marriage bar in order to collect alimony: “That’s why all of the women dating or married to Hollywood stars try to get pregnant as soon as possible.” Her staff tries to screen out women with mercenary motives via interviews and research into the family background. The goal is to find women who want to get married and stay married, but certainly some of the women labeled “family-oriented” by the professionals have turned out to be more cash- and litigation-oriented. The service guarantees introductions, not a litigation-free long run.]

The worlds of business and real estate have so much volatility that they generate a lot of rich old guys and there were a handful of three-generation groups on the ship, each one funded by a patriarch. The adult children couldn’t imagine being richer than their parents and a few of them, after seeing me and my 83-year-old mother together, said “it is so nice of your mom to take you on this trip” (i.e., they assumed that mom was funding our adventure).

[Separately, you might ask if the extra cost for Crystal is worth it compared to Royal Caribbean. The Indonesian-owned and LA-managed (through this month by CEO Edie Rodriguez; going forward by Tom Wolber) Crystal is an impressive operation, but so is Royal Caribbean. For me the main difference is that Royal Caribbean is like a floating city while Crystal is a small town. On the 2,500-passenger Serenade of the Seas we would run into people we knew a few times per day, but we were typically surrounded by strangers. On the 900-passenger Crystal Symphony we were almost always in a room with someone we’d met before.]

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

God is Dead

That’s something I’ve got in common with Private Pyle: he wants to be different. For whatever reason, I’m a contrarian to the core. Indeed, one of the appeals of messing around with personal computers back in 1980 was that practically nobody else was doing it (in case you hadn’t noticed, the unusualness of microcomputers vanishes […]
Slope of Hope

Bottom of the Third

As we close out September, the bearish month of the year (ha! woo ha! ha ha ha!) and, in turn, the third quarter, let’s see where the big indexes stand percentage-wise in 2017. Here’s the Dow Composite: The turbocharged NASDAQ Composite: The likewise powerful NASDAQ 100: And, one of the strongest sectors of all, semiconductors: […]
Slope of Hope

Inspiration for young people to become lawyers and bureaucrats

“Billionaires, Bruised Egos and the Death of a Grand Project” (nytimes):

For Barry Diller, the turning point came at a Sept. 5 settlement meeting with the small band of opponents who had tied up his plans for a $ 250 million park and cultural center in the Hudson River for more than two years.

Instead, Mr. Diller said, after all the questions, “I ended the meeting so depressed.” He had grown “disillusioned” about the project in the spring, when a federal judge revoked the permit for the pier, stopping preliminary work. When settlement talks began in July, he was “uncomfortable” sitting down with the people who had used the courts to wage a war of attrition against the project.

With that phone call, Mr. Diller ended a six-year saga that had cost $ 40 million before construction had started in earnest.

Whatever the merits of this project might have been, it should be inspiring to young people that $ 40 million in revenue was generated for lawyers and bureaucrats.

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Oil’s Triangle

Oil, as represented by the USO fund below, had been inside a symmetric triangle for many months. It had broken beneath it, but it’s managed to claw its way back up inside. The dividing line is at $ 10.70, which is just about the midline of the triangle. Breach that, and oil will gather even more […]
Slope of Hope