New York Times readers evaluate the homewrecker

“An Optimist’s Guide to Divorce” is a nytimes article by a woman who was having sex with a married man. The married guy decided to leave his wife and two young daughters in favor of the author, thus putting her into what would have been called the homewrecker category back in the 1950s when the morality of an action was evaluated from the children’s point of view (i.e., should their home be wrecked or not). The twist is that the left-behind wife almost immediately forgives both husband and homewrecker, thus enabling the mistress-turned-girlfriend to describe the resulting mashup of adults and children as a family: “I can’t tell her how much this family we all have forged means to me.”

The hundreds of comments are interesting as a guide to how Americans (well, at least coastal Hillary-supporting Americans) view the issue of marital commitment.

[My own comment:

“It was as if I had been saving my maternal love for Rose and Alice, who were then 7 and 3.”

It could get exciting at the daycare if Alice tries to explain this to the other toddlers, e.g., “My Dad really needed to have sex with some new women and that’s why he and Mom decided to spend my college fund on running two households, family court professionals, etc.”

This article does highlight that the only standard by which a lot of urban Americans evaluate the morality of an action is “Will it make me happier?” Under that standard, though, why are there any limits to what you can do at your children’s expense?


How should Americans think about this? Here is a NYT Pick:

Stop judging/shaming Josh and Elizabeth’s actions and start embracing the fact that people are capable of parting in a way that is loving and kind. Studies show it isn’t divorce per se that hurts kids — it’s conflict.

(The “studies show” comment is consistent with 1970s Americans wanting to back up their personal desires with “science” and advice from clinical psychology (paid-by-the-hour) professionals. Studies by research psychologists (paid by universities and grants) that we read for Real World Divorce show that children on average are harmed more by an American divorce than by the death of a parent. And even if the two parents don’t make too much use of the winner-take-all New York family law system for the next 18 years (until the 3-year-old turns 21 and is no longer a potential cash source for one parent), there is no question that Dad and Mom running two households and being out on Tinder dates will reduce the resources available to the children.)

How do (self-proclaimed elite) Americans think about this? Here are some reader picks:

(RE from NYC) How am I not surprised that it’s the mother who swallows her own happiness, pride, and security for the good of her family? … it does raise (again) the infuriating question of why women always sacrifice their own lives, their own joy, to fix the catastrophes that the men around them make.

(S Tahura from DC) If he knew he was unhappy, he should have filed for divorce before approaching other women, rather than waiting for the next best thing to come along so he could make a convenient jump.

(Sharon from NY) I’m single, never married, in my late 40s, and I get hit on by married men all the time. They tell me I’m a “breath of fresh air.” Know what I tell those men? “Go home to your wife. Get some marriage counseling. If you’re still not happy, get a divorce.”

(K10031 from NYC) My ex left me for the love of his life. He’s now on his fourth marriage. Just saying.

(Karianne from Washington, D.C.) Another affirming example of Everyone Who Has An Affair Thinks They’re The Exception. See also: It’s Not An Affair, It Was Meant To Be and Everybody Is Happy It Turned Out This Way And Our Happiness Validates It.

(Moxie M from Boston) You know the old saying: when a man marries his mistress, he creates a job opening? I hope you plan on being as gracious as Beka.

(Stormi D from Cambridge, MA) I think that what bothers me most about this piece is its lack of discretion. Professor Covington’s students don’t need to know all the intimate details of her love life, and Beka (even if she said OK to it) and the children don’t deserve to have their personal business laid out for the world to see. This is not a sweet and charming story; it is disturbing on so many levels. I miss the days when people had some boundaries.

(Alison from NY) I’m not sure why Beka is wasting all her energy on trying to “forge” a good relationship between the author and her kids. Much more likely than not, Josh will have replaced the author within 3 to 5 years (if not sooner), so this will be all for naught and cause even more confusion and disruption to the kids. … She was a temporary and easy escape from his reality. Once she becomes his reality, he will seek another escape. It’s part of the other woman’s delusional fantasy that SHE is special and of course he would never cheat on HER.

(Jenny from SF) There is nothing wrong with breaking up when the love is gone in a relationship. Josh does not need to stay in an unhappy marriage.


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Even New York Times readers don’t want Australia’s refugees

“Australia’s Desperate Refugee Obstinacy” shows that Roger Cohen and his colleagues are brave enough to sit in the Manhattan offices of the New York Times and denounce the hard-heartedness of people on the other side of the planet. What’s interesting, though, is the Readers’ Picks section among the comments. It seems that even the loyal Hillary supporters who read the New York Times aren’t supportive of taking in these “asylum-seekers and refugees.” (I put in my own comment, making my standard offer:

If Mr. Cohen would like to house one of these families in his apartment or house for at least one year, I’ll be happy to pay for the airfare from Nauru.

So far Roger Cohen hasn’t emailed to accept.)

The top pick:

I believe these refugees are predominantly from the Middle East, hence they had to travel through SE Asia, eventually to Indonesia, in order to board the rickety boat that people smugglers are using.

I know people here won’t like me for asking this, but I genuinely wonder if they couldn’t stay and feel safe in any of the countries they passed through, such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore or Brunei? If your only concern is flight from danger present in your native land, then any of these countries would have been enough to provide that sanctuary until events settled back home. But they had to come to Australia, after paying close to $ 10,000 to people smugglers. I genuinely wonder, if their motive wasn’t to improve their lot in life by coming to a wealthy democracy, why do they do this?

Another highly voted one:

Iran is not at war, and these people are not escaping persecution. They just want a better standard of living, but couldn’t get to Australia by legal channels. Why should Australians let them in, just because they tried to sneak in through the back door? How is this fair to people who emigrate legally? Pushing to the front of the queue should not be rewarded.

Separately, I wonder if the Great Migration of the 21st Century is going to relieve some of the media pressure on Israel. If scolding other countries for their resistance to immigration consumes the average journalist’s sanctimony budget, how much will be left over to complain about what Jews in Israel are doing?

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Eisenhower biography reminds readers why a lot of folks hate America

Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith helps explain why the country with the most Social Justice Warriors is perceived in many parts of the world as acting out of expediency and greed rather than as part of a search for justice. Eisenhower kicked off a new policy of having the CIA run covert operations to overthrow elected governments, typically to protect American commercial interests and typically with the public story that it was part of a fight against global Communism. The 1953 coup in Iran was the first example, with a Guatemalan coup to protect United Fruit Company assets shortly afterwards (Eisenhower had received a cable from his friend William Prescott Allen: “Yes, Guatemala has a very small minority of Communists, but not as many as San Francisco.”) Smith characterizes Eisenhower as a political genius, but points out that in this case he failed to see the long-lasting consequences of being discovered.

I’m wondering if in the long run the Chinese will be seen as the honest foreign power. The Europeans are tarnished by their colonial history. We’re tarnished by the above and other adventures.

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Where New York Times readers don’t want to follow Europe: Legalized prostitution

The comments on “Should Prostitution Be a Crime?” (New York Times) are interesting. Generally the Times readers, at least the ones whose opinions are featured, admire virtually everything about Europe. Single-payer and/or government-run health care? The French can do it, so obviously so can we. Tuition-free public universities? Denmark does it, so obviously so should we.

Prostitution is apparently legal in England and Germany and decriminalized in Denmark. Could the U.S. learn from these countries’ experiences, either positive or negative? Apparently not. Reader comments, at least the highly rated ones, don’t generally mention these rather significant examples. (The article itself does mention some foreign countries where the laws are different, but the readers don’t seem to be interested in these experimental results.)

I think it is interesting that Americans, or at least Times readers, imagine that it would be straightforward to choose the best and then import a complex bureaucratic system such as government-run health care, but that it would be impossible or uninteresting to choose then import the most successful system of regulation for what happens between two individuals. Americans are like Europeans when they’re running a hospital or a university, but are completely different after hours?

[Separately, I wonder if it is our fondness for legal process that keeps us from legalizing prostitution. We seem to like it when lawyers can get paid every time college students or co-workers have sex.  See “Lincoln Center President’s Abrupt Departure Was Prompted by a Relationship” for how $ 1200/hour lawyers were brought in after two co-workers at a non-profit org had sex:

To investigate, Lincoln Center enlisted outside counsel — Jeffrey S. Klein, chairman of the employment litigation practice group at Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

Although the inquiry determined that the relationship had ended by the time Mr. Bernstein was confronted and that it appeared to be consensual, the sources said, it violated Lincoln Center’s policies about senior management dating subordinates. The organization declined to provided a copy of the policy.

Lincoln Center officials confronted Mr. Bernstein, who agreed to resign and was paid a sum of money according to the terms of his contract, which are confidential.

Perhaps there should be a tax on sex. Given our socialized systems of criminal justice, medicine, etc., those who are abstinent are paying a high price to support the costs of cleaning up (legally and medically) after those who are not abstinent. Abstinent students pay higher tuition to support university-run kangaroo courts that decide whether or not to expel students who’ve had sex. Abstinent citizens pay Obamacare taxes to provide medical treatment for those who have contracted sexually transmitted diseases. Abstinent citizens pay taxes to support criminal prosecutions that follow sexual encounters (see Missoula for what it must have cost the taxpayers to investigate the activities of two college students behind a closed door). Abstinent employees and shareholders pay for corporate investigations such as the above (Mr. Bernstein and his ladyfriend had some fun; Mr. Klein billed enough to pay the property taxes on his house in the Hamptons; the rest of the workers at Lincoln Center got what?).]


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

New York Times readers can agree to hate Clarence Thomas

“It’s Been 10 Years. Would Clarence Thomas Like to Add Anything?” is a New York Times article from February 1. The 1000+ comments are interesting due to the confidence with which NYT denounce the Supreme Court judge as incompetent and/or stupid. Clarence Thomas also comes in for criticism from readers who believe that he lets his clerks do the hard work while he skates.

As it happens, my life as an expert witness brought me into contact with one of Thomas’s former clerks. This attorney was tops in his class at a first-ranked law school and is now one of the top patent litigators in the United States (i.e., he leads cases where fees on both sides may exceed $ 30 million and hundreds of millions of dollars may be at stake). His portrayal of Thomas was more or less the opposite of the readers’ comments. Thomas was brilliant, funny, collegial, and a good manager of the clerks. Thomas did most of the legal analysis and relied on the clerks to fill in details. In other words, at least according to one expert who had an entire year to see what was going on, Thomas excelled at the portion of the job where the law is actually made (though of course the other justices don’t necessarily agree with him).

Why would Times readers assume that, simply because Thomas disagrees with them regarding the interpretation of the Constitution, Thomas is therefore stupid, lazy, and incompetent?


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

European readers: How do you understand the Paris attacks? How will it affect you?

Deepest sympathies, of course, to anyone living in Paris or otherwise directly affected by the recent attacks. Not much more can be productively said, I don’t think, from 5,500 kilometers away.

This posting is really a question for European readers. Please comment on how you understand these events. Are they part of a trend or grand plan? If so, how does life in France or Europe change?

Americans: How does the Web format of today’s newspapers strike you when an event like this occurs? In the old print world, coverage of a tragedy like this would occupy the entire front page and the reader wouldn’t be asked to contemplate the diurnal or trivial as well as the tragic. The site, however, has the news from Paris sharing with summaries of and links to articles such as “In Ireland, Milk Chocolate Reigns,” “Build Your Thanksgiving Feast,” a piece on fantasy sports, “Meet the Instamom, a Social Media Stage Mom,” etc.

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Ad-blocking: a sign that web publishers don’t care about readers

Ad-blocking has been in the news lately. To me this is a sign of just how abusive web publishers have been. For the sites that I have run over the decades(!), whenever someone would propose a form of advertising I would preface my response with “Remember that everything on the page has to be something interesting to and useful for the readers.” If the proposed ad could not reasonably be expected to interest a reader then it couldn’t go on the site.

This is not a new idea. Look at New Yorker, for example. The ads are generally interesting and feature great photography. Maybe you don’t want to buy a $ 10,000 outfit but the ad is entertaining for a few moments.

At we didn’t have any ads at all until Google Ads became available because that was the first system that put reasonably relevant-to-the-content and relevant-to-the-readers ads on pages.

Perhaps the “ecosystem” (as the VCs like to say) has been permanently damaged by the glut of page views available from Facebook, et al. Nonetheless my first response to “consumers are taking the trouble to install ad blockers” is that publishers are violating what should be the first principle of publishing: include stuff that readers want/need.


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

What do readers in Silicon Valley make of the Ellen Pao case against Kleiner Perkins?

Silicon Valley friends: What do you make of the lawsuit by Ellen Pao against Kleiner Perkins? (USA Today) The standard employment discrimination case, to my mind, starts with the principal-agent problem. It is another way for managers to cheat shareholder-owners, the same way that they might by moving the company headquarters to a different suburb in order to shorten their commute. The managers indulge their personal preference for hiring buddies, people that they think will be fun to work with, etc., regardless of the fact that more qualified workers are available at a lower price. But the Kleiner Perkins partners are compensated strictly according to their funds’ performance. (Perhaps still the standard “2 and 20″ structure where they get 2 percent of the fund every year just for showing up and then 20 percent of any profits, even if the profits are driven by inflation and the fund underperforms the S&P 500.) So if Pao’s allegations are true, i.e., that she was doing a great job and producing profits, the greedy venture capitalists stand accused of intentionally making themselves poorer simply so that they would not have to look at an additional woman in the office (25 percent of Kleiner Perkins partners are female, according to Wikipedia, but it is unclear what the percentage would be for the entire office). Econ 101 would predict that those partners would have been happy to have a green Martian in the office if he/she were making money for them.

I haven’t set foot inside Kleiner Perkins for about a decade so I don’t feel qualified to comment on the likely merits of the case. What do Silicon Valley readers think?

Sidenote: Pao is married to Buddy Fletcher, a former hedge fund manager who was a successful plaintiff against Kidder Peabody, initially alleging race discrimination. Wikipedia says that prior to his marriage he was “in a same-sex relationship with Hobart V. ‘Bo’ Fowlkes Jr. for over 10 years” so presumably his lawyers had to choose between alleging that Kidder Peabody discriminated against him because of his skin color or his sexual orientation (at the time).


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Happy New Year to my readers!

Happy New Year to my readers!

Here’s a picture from plague-ridden Boston of our healthy 1-year-old and a stocked fridge. Hoping for more of the same in 2015…


And so that this blog doesn’t become indistinguishable from my Facebook feed…. let’s talk about what we’re (realistically) hoping to see in the aviation, technology, and economics world during 2015.

I’ll start off…

  • the long-delayed Icon A5 amphibious seaplane delivered to customers (see my review from 2010).
  • an announcement (but not a delivery) of the BendixKing AeroVue retrofit flight deck for the Pilatus PC-12 (currently King Air only)
  • that the flight recorder from MH 370 will be found (I predicted to friends that it would be found in January 2015 so I hope that it will be found very soon indeed)
  • a little progress toward the ground-based copilot idea that I wrote about in September 2008. (Could have been useful for preventing a lot of the aviation accidents that occurred in 2014, actually, which might motivate action (oddly enough probably to add a third pilot to the two-pilot airline crew rather than my idea of supplementing the single-pilot private flight).)
  • sufficient progress on OLED that there will be a consumer-priced 4K OLED television announced by the end of 2015, which I think will pave the way for a 4K OLED desktop computer monitor (in the meantime maybe this LG 31″ IPS LCD monitor that my friend Gary loves is the best option).
  • despite the fall in oil prices, continued gradual progress in electric cars, solar power, and wind power (due to investments made years ago coming to fruition)
  • a further reduction in the percentage of the U.S. labor market where wages are set by a market. Employers will increasingly either be hiring people they wouldn’t otherwise have hired (due to government-established quotas) or they will be paying some of their workers more than a market-clearing wage (due to government-established minimum wages or anti-discrimination orders, e.g., people who call in sick a lot will get paid the same as people who never call in sick due to new requirements around sick leave). This should result in a fall in the percentage of Americans who are working, as companies substitute capital for labor, but the effect will be masked for a few years by the fall in commodity prices. (Why this prediction? It is based on the 2014 election. Voters don’t seem to care what percentage of Americans are working, but are very concerned that every American who does work gets a package of wages and benefits that seem subjectively fair.)

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog