Wednesday, March 21, 2018

In the 21st Century, the German military still provides honor guards for decorated WWII personnel

The other day, the blogster had a chat with OMG (old mustached German, you may remember him from earlier posts) and found out that the German military, including the happily reunified one, has quietly provided honor guards at the funerals of highly decorated World War II Wehrmacht folks through the decades. These honors were extended to former WWII personnel, irrespective of whether they later joined the newly formed democratic Bundeswehr or not.

According to Wikipedia, the number of honor guards between 2000 and 2011 was just over 100, adding up the three different flavors of honor guards.

Of course, high ranking later politicians, like former Chancellor Kohl get one too, said OMG.

Oh, I thought they were Kohl's funeral to make sure he was safely boxed up, the blogster quipped in a fit of reverence.

OMG raised an eyebrow but continued to talk.

Turns out, he once served as a community outreach officer at a large Bundeswehr installation. Part of the job was coordinating honor guards for funerals of highly decorated Wehrmacht and Bundeswehr veterans.

To qualify, a WWII man had to have been awarded a "knight's cross" or equivalent, such as the 'Deutscher Orden'. Being the military, the different versions of honor guards are well regulated and usually go smoothly, except for, well, possible issues with the pesky swastika the Nazis stuck on every medal.

In Germany, it is a felony to display a swastika in public (unless you are a museum). Of course, violations of the policy have occurred, sometimes reported, more often unreported like one incident in which a West German general pulled a bunch of flags from a museum and various Germans and Allies saluted those flags.

But the Bundeswehr was well prepared for funerals of old WII folks and has maintained collections, throughout the country, of all the highest Nazi medals with their swastikas dutifully removed.

The standard 'small honor guard' of six soldiers plus a drummer and a trumpet player for decorated folks includes a medal and awards cushion, carried by an active soldier, displaying the medals during the funeral procession and at the grave site.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well. OMG explained, one day he kind of dropped the ball when some old geezer explained he was intimately familiar with the honor guard procedures and that he, the geezer, would take care of the cushion.

I arrived literally a couple of minutes before the ceremony, OMG explained, and checked the uniforms, the flag and the helmet on the casket and the medals cushion. Imagine my horror when I saw that a big Order of Germany was sitting in the center of the cushion with its swastika! I mean, we have had press and photographers at such funerals, imagine the uproar.

The blogster figured there was simple solution. Just remove the medal, and you are good.

OMG was  lot more creative. I checked my wallet, he elaborated, and found a 2 Euro coin. I took it out, put it on top of the swastika, and it fit. It covered it. I instructed the carrier to lift the cushion to be perfectly horizontal, not facing slightly down as usual. And I told him not f***ing move.

OMG was very pleased with his workaround.

So, folks, if you ever need to bury some old Nazis and show off their decorations, make sure to have a 2 Euro coin on you.

Even better, keep some chewing gum handy.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The myth of envy of the poor towards the rich and the rich folks' demand for gratitude

Germany just saw another storm in a beer mug about its poor. This is an annual ritual when charities and social service NGOs publish their annual reports, but the current episode was started by thoroughly average 'conservative rebel' Mr. Spahn when he claimed that people on the means tested basic social benefits program did not go hungry.

With great empathy, he added praise for food banks as "a great way to avoid that perfectly edible food gets thrown into the trash".

Faced with sarcasm and outrage, the gentleman decided to highlight the cost of social programs, declaring them highly desirable and adding that there are no unlimited funds, and that it is all about providing the right level of services without ignoring tax revenues.

Pointing out, as some did, that Mr. S. happily voted for an automatic increase of compensation of German federal MPs while insisting that any increase in benefits is subject to an annual review, would not sway anybody.

Neither would pointing out that the German poor, including those on the means tested bare bones benefit Hartz IV, have about the same tax burden as the very wealthy relative to their income.

The blogster finds two perennial aspects of the debate very revealing: alleged envy towards the wealthy and a more or less clearly stated demand of gratitude towards the "top earners of our well financed social state".

A commentary by one of the folks of conservative daily Die Welt can serve as a wonderfully phrased example of the mantra of envy. Declaring Germans to be "world champions of envy", the author bemoans that the recent arguments about Hartz IV and food banks on the one hand and upset about the compensation of the chief of automaker VW were being instrumentalized and clearly showed the alleged envy.

Nowhere in the debate has there been any question as to whether this envy is even real. The blogster cannot claim to be the ultimate authority, but it* has lived among poor Germans, and it has read up on the definition of envy: "painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage". 

And guess what?

It has not found "the desire to possess the same advantage". Ever. Also not among the poor in India. Or those in the United States.

What it has found, though, is the desire of the poorer folks to have enough money to get to the end of the month without skipping meals in order to feed their children, without fear of using too much electricity, without praying that the old car will make it into the next month.

Which is not the same as the desire to possess the same advantages as those who are well off.

In fact, resentment often goes in the other direction. Why do they need a smartphone, is an often heard question in the debate over benefits levels.

The commentary in Die Welt really shines in its use of impersonal statements to buffer increasing inequality. The gem is "modern capitalism accelerates the differentiation of society". 

In short, "modern" is the new modern, and we are not seeing inequality but "differentiation". It comes as no surprise that "there are more and more rich people in this economically successful country. Still not enough, but there is improvement in times of growth."

Lamentably, "it does not matter how much they pay in taxes, how comprehensive their contributions are for social security, how many jobs they create or secure: hardly anybody has any sympathy for the rich."

We all, the blogster included, use umbrella terms like "capitalism" and others, but we should be weary of turning to impersonal usage to nefarious ends.

On a positive note: the blogster would love to pay a million or more Euros or dollars in taxes every year, because it would mean a more than comfortable income. If you meet modern capitalism, ask him to help out a hard working blogster. 

* In praise of gender neutrality.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The incessant demand that people engage in "lifelong learning" is classist balderdash

Note: The blogster has wanted to use the fun word balderdash for years but either didn't find the courage or an opportunity. So, using it before the end of 2018 felt really good and righteous.

The trigger for this post on lifelong learning was yet another article leading with the famous, though ill-defined, statement that Americans go through seven careers over the course of their lives.

The interview with a very smart German who made it big in Silicon Valley emphasizes the need for lifelong learning to master these careers and the changing work place. It explains the philosophy and uses of the well-known online learning platform Udacity, which the interviewee just so happened to co-found.

If you happened to read earlier posts by the blogster on learning, you might wonder why it* would deride "lifelong learning" as classist balderdash.

The reason is as simple as it is, admittedly, slightly sarcastic.

The vast majority of individual and institutional proponents of the concept of lifelong learning behave as if it were a recent discovery, brought on by the huge changes of the last few decades. They pretend that requirements such as mandatory continued education credits in a variety of professions, from nursing to teaching to the transportation of hazardous materials are great new inventions.

The only thing new about these requirements is that they are increasingly being formalized, with defined curricula and more or less accepted standards. The ZEIT article advances proof of this in the form of Udacity "nanodegrees", which are really a fancy term for the much older certificate of proficiency, or similar quaint nomenclature.  

Never mind the article, it represents just the latest embodiment of the privileged educated classes suddenly discovering a concept because they find themselves affected by it.

Because, guess what. lifelong learning has been an integral part of the human experience since the frigging dawn of time.

The illiterate peasants and workers of just a couple of lifetimes ago engaged in lifelong learning with or without the knowledge of their betters. Frequently, it didn't register because it was not written down. Or better: it was not written down by them. It became common knowledge only when some educated person showed up, observed, and wrote it down - and generally was given all the credit for it.

Probably the biggest reason why the current privileged demanders of lifelong learning feel that they discovered a new paradigm is, as so much of what is wrong, rooted in 19th Century industrial society. In the latter, the industrial workforce didn't show much lifelong learning, did it?

Because we worked them to death with 12 hour days, 6 days a week, and zero vacation days.

Compare that to Europe around the time of the Plague: 60 odd holidays in the UK, for example.

The positive takeaway at the end: Please, do learn as much in your life as you can and feel good with. Don't stop. And when you get oldish, say over 50, and some researcher all of a sudden discovers that learning doesn't stop then, smile. They don't know it any better because their view of the ordinary people is very similar to the experience we have when a first world person visits a 'not do highly developed' country for the first time.

* Gender neutrality rocks.

Friday, January 12, 2018

"Merit based" immigration - the new buzzword of xenophobes and racists

The frequent use of the term "merit based" to describe an immigration system in general or when addressing real or perceived shortcomings of the US immigration system really deserves only one comment.

Evil.

That's a harsh word for the blogster to use at all, so why is the sedate, gender neutral author of this post so upset with a word as positive as "merit"?

Because it* recently realized that the xenophobes of the world have found the immigration equivalent of the "death tax". Do you remember the term from the days US Republicans were throwing it around in every soundbite, on every Sunday talk show, in every article penned?

A disingenuous, emotionally loaded word playing on envy and fear, that's what the death tax was, and what merit based immigration has become. In the heightened state of racism and greed which characterizes the presidency of Donald Trump and GOP congress, merit is the new weapon to keep undesirables out of your country.

Leave it to Mr. Trump to make it blindingly obvious in his Norway remarks, as expressed in this and other tweets:
5h5 hours ago
The significance is bigger than “shithole.” The president’s supporters are pushing hard for a “merit-based” immigration model, but Trump today didn’t say he wants more doctors, engineers or scientists. He said he wants “Norway.” And Norway is not a skill.

Now, some may ask, if it is so obvious, what's the problem?

The tweet offers a glimpse, stating "doctors, engineers or scientists". These professions are perfect examples of the positive connotation of the term merit. Nobody would seriously object to bringing high value immigrants from these and other equally important fields into the US. Democrats and Republicans alike are advocates for premium immigrants, although not all engineers are good engineers to some. Just specify "software engineers", and you can see many GOPers and some Dems think Indian and become much quieter.

Merit, in the above tweet and in the wider discussion, is generally equated with skill. The poster child immigration systems of merit advocates are the Canadian and Australian systems, so let's have a cursory look at them.

One of the main criteria of the Aussie system turns out to be age, with the limits being 45 or 50, and some exemptions.

So, age is a skill, but being Norwegian is not, right.

There are regional incentives, too. If you are not a big city person and don't mind the cold, Canada gives you bonus points for migrating to Newfoundland.

Which, to the blogster, does seem to be a true skill.

Hey, there is merit in being young and willing to tough it out in Newfoundland, doesn't that support calling a system "merit based" instead of skill based, or points system? In a sense, yes, but it also expands the term merit from the praised "highly educated, hard working" to plain old economic need or outright emergency. If your country has an Express Entry list of skilled occupations with "railway carmen/women" and "agricultural contractors" in addition to the doctors and engineers, you are talking more skills than high minded "merits". And for a US audience, nothing says agricultural contractor better than undocumented Central American - the very definition of what the GOP and Trump view as undesirable.

Canada and Australia have a pragmatic approach to "merits", or skills, even if their leaders don't stress the merits of rail carmen or well diggers in their major speeches.

In reality, every single person who comes to the US on a visa has at least one merit: a return ticket, because a billion or more humans are utterly unable to ever afford a flight to the US.

Or take Germany, where conservatives rail against "uncontrolled migration". Ask a German citizen who marries, say, a Thai whether that Thai person can simply board a flight and move to Germany.

The answer is no.

A German and an American spouse on the other hand, how does that work?

Board a plane.

Oh, and if the Thai person passes the language test, he/she can come too. Language is a skill, Germans would agree, especially when it comes to mastering their language. Both the hypothetical Thai and the unicorn American have to demonstrate enough funds or income that they won't be a burden to the state - a merit the billion or so humans living on two dollars a day can only dream of.

Of course, that's not what the proponents of merit based immigration mean, hence the label evil.

* That's how we do gender neutrality here.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Inequality - you get what you measure

The World Inequality Report has been making the rounds in the media, and a variety of experts and commentators have written about the claim that we are witnessing a level of inequality today that the world last saw in 1913.

The range of interpretations shows not only the known biases of the writers, but demonstrates perspectives on the data that allow for completely opposing views all the way to declaring the claim of huge inequality overblown, or even a "fairy tale".

The main, and most simplistic line of dissent is based on pre-tax income versus income and benefits after accounting for redistribution, expressed by the GINI coefficient. Using the German GINI index values based on disposable income for the last 10 years, the country is in a pretty good position compared to others.

The "huge inequality is a fairy tale" article in today's ZEIT makes exactly that argument.

The author goes even further, stating that there was almost no income tax in 1913, while today's highest incomes in Germany are subject to an income tax rate of 47%. Also according to the article, the share of income of the top 1% in 1913 fell from 18% to 13%.

Add to this the author's correct statement that on a worldwide scale, the number of people living in absolute poverty has declined from 40% in the early 1980s to 10% today, and one could be tempted to accept his conclusion.

The gentleman is fully aware that different methods for measuring inequality produce different outcomes - only to leave aside some major drivers of said huge inequality.

For example, the top marginal rate on income in Germany was higher not long ago, at just over 50%.

Unknown to most. German effective tax rates for low income earners and high income citizens are almost the same, at around 25%. High indirect taxes, such as a national sales tax at 19% (with some essential goods at 7%), and a variety of other indirect taxes basically equalize the relative tax burden on the poor and the rich. What the poor do not pay in income tax is taken via indirect taxes, some of which are "taxes on taxes", for example when sales tax is charged on electricity rates which already include a special tax on power.

Capital income is taxed at a flat rate of 25%, and generational transfer of wealth is largely tax exempt. Both substantially increase overall inequality.

There can be no doubt that we live in a world that is much better off than the world of 1913 in so many respects, from low infant mortality to better medical care, to smartphones.

But in the Germany of 2018, more pensioners have to use food pantries to make ends meet, and this alone shows the "huge inequality is a fairy tale" claim to be shaky at best.

From the perspective of "different measures", the blogster likes to point out that the overall "life gap" between average people and the 1% is greater today than it was in 1913.

Nobody could receive an organ transplant in 1913, no matter how rich they were. The CEO with a bad heart enjoyed a marginally better prospect of survival than the worker with heart troubles.

Dying in childbirth was as much a life threatening prospect for queens as for maids. While both queens and maids do better today, the CEO can buy himself a new heart in most countries, the worker can not.

Dismissing stunning inequality as a fairy tale also ignores the fact that humans have the means and the resources to provide people in poor Asian, African, or American communities with more than one pair of shoes, education, and healthcare.  

Not doing so is a choice, and no relatively good national GINI coefficient can gloss over this.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Crowdsourcing - the Soylent Green of Tech: It's People!

Regular readers will know that the blogster is not above exploiting a cheap trope, but some dystopian images are better and more fun than others.

Let's hope the headline of this post is one of them.

Wikipedia has a well written article about the origins or crowdsourcing, including what they call historical examples that "in retrospect" could be called crowdsourcing.  Standard definitions still emphasize the nature of the work as "a type of participative online activity". The blogster, on the other hand, sides with those who consider the internet a tool and a means of communication, hugely important and far reaching, but a tool nonetheless.

The advantage of this is that we can focus on the people engaged in this activity and are less likely to fall for the glossy PR and the paid enthusiasts promoting crowdsourcing.

The difficulties associated with crowdsourcing are well known, and the Wikipedia article describes issues with quality, finding the right contributors, sorting through completed tasks, as well as ethical implications of low pay.

Since crowdsourcing is being used in a wide variety of sectors, results are also tied to a sector, even to specific projects within a sector, making general assessments a foolish undertaking.

Therefore, the blogster limits its* observations to paid online work, the kind of work you would do mainly to make a few extra dollars, and a few of the main issues for the workers.

1. Unrealistic compensation estimates
Not a single one of the piece work compensation projections encountered did prove realistic. They all were too high, even after allowing for a learning curve and adjusting for a "less than perfect" worker. True, sometimes lower productivity is caused by a single factor, such as a website that has a habit of failing, not saving, or the like. But unless fixed, that is what you will live with.
Coming up with realistic hourly compensation based on per task work is not trivial, but the fact that not a single one out of about 20 was anywhere near accurate gave the blogster pause.

If you decide to take per task work, cut the compensation dangled in front of your eyes in half.

2. Communication
That's the aspect which justifies the "It's People!" part. Communication is hard at the best of times, but when it comes to crowdsourcing, it often becomes very painful and costly to the workers.

If you doubt that it is a daunting effort to tell workers what the goals of a project are, to describe each task in a manner that is complete and reduces human error to the minimum, and to do so using language which often accommodates non-native speakers, hey, give it a try.

Just like on social media and in other encounters lacking visual and vocal cues, communication in a crowdsourcing setting can have lots of unintended effects. It is no coincidence that supervising personnel are constantly told to be polite and helpful.

When you write instructions for an online crowdsourcing project, it is wise to look at each step from two distinct angles. The first and obvious one is whether a step or detail wis correct.
The other is less clear: try to understand how a step can fail, how a statement can be misunderstood.

One recent example the blogster saw concerned two online bug testing projects. In the first project, the instructions to the "crowd" of about 45 people said "3 bugs only, no reproductions".

The second project said: "20 bugs, no more than 2 reproductions".

You can see where the fail was, right?

The first number, 3, meant 3 bugs per tester. The second, 20, meant a combined total of 20 bugs for all testers.

Needless to say, the second project saw twice the number of bugs filed, and this despite an intervention by a supervisor when the limit was reached. Of course, you could implement a technical solution for the second case, a maximum limit after which the system locks the project and prevents additional submissions.

But such a technical hard stop did not exist in the system.

It is anybody's guess, how many frustrated participants will not come back for another project like this one.

Coming back to the Soylent Green image, crowdsourcing can feel like the movie. There is an opaque, shadowy power structure insisting everything is fine. People disappear for no apparent reason.

And even if you get on top of the garbage truck, you are not safe.

* Gender neutrality is important to us.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

It is 2017, abortion is not legal in Germany, and a doctor is in court for saying she offers the procedure

All three claims in the title of this post are true.

The one that will become patently untrue in a little over a month from now is the first one. Unless the world ends before that.

The other two will continue to be true in 2018.

To the blogster, much of what constitutes the legal system in any of the countries where it* has lived, has elicited more WTF moments than the tweets of a certain president.

"Abortion is not legal in Germany" was one such moment. A few minutes of research showed that the statement is correct. The German penal code is nice enough to have kept the same number for the paragraph that has governed abortion from the times of the newly formed country to this day: paragraph 218. We quote the first part of 218 below under ** and ***.
There are minor differences, from funky spelling in 1982 to a reduction of the maximum sentence from 5 to 3 years, or a fine.
But both versions are clear: a felony it is.

Leaving aside the fact that abortion in the first 12 weeks was legal in East Germany, the basic legal view has been consistent, which leads to the question how German women do get abortions today without the sort of international outcry we see when women in other countries with a felony statute run afoul of the law.

The legal trick is in paragraph 219, which states that no prosecution according to 218 will take place if the pregnant women undergoes specialist consultation and then waits for three days before having the pregnancy terminated. This post does not detail the exact requirements and times, you can look them up elsewhere. Instead, we go to paragraph 219a, which explains the third item of the post title.

"A doctor is in court for saying on her website that she offers the procedure". On 21 November 2017, gynecologist Kristina Haenel from Giessen, Germany, was sentenced to a fine of 6000 Euros for violating § 219a of the penal code, which prohibits "advertising" of abortions. Legal experts have questioned the wide scope of the provision, which basically covers providing any sort of information on terminating a pregnancy outside of the narrow confines of prescribed consultation or medical publications. At first glance, the statute may seem reasonable because it penalizes the activity if it is performed "for financial gain". But courts have held that even doing it at a loss still constitutes "financial gain".

What did the gynecologist do to warrant a felony conviction?
On her website, she lists services offered by her office. Abortion is just a one word bullet point link to an email form where the public can request a flyer.

This outdated provision has been used for decades by self-proclaimed "pro-life" organizations to file reports against individual doctors or organizations.

Mrs. Haenel has indicated that she will fight the conviction in the hope of getting the absurd provision taken up and eliminated by the legislature.

* The blogster does gender neutrality.
**  [1. Januar 1872–8. Juni 1926]  
§ 218.
(1) Eine Schwangere, welche ihre Frucht vorsätzlich abtreibt oder im Mutterleibe tödtet, wird mit Zuchthaus bis zu fünf Jahren bestraft.
***  [16. Juni 1993]
§ 218. 
Schwangerschaftsabbruch.
(1) Wer eine Schwangerschaft abbricht, wird mit Freiheitsstrafe bis zu drei Jahren oder mit Geldstrafe bestraft.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Look ma: virtually no East Germans in the country's elite

November seems to be Germany's "Quick, let's write about East Germany Month" for a couple of great reasons:

One, the Berlin Wall/Iron Curtain came down on 9 November 1989, signalling momentous change in Europe.

Two, 9 November 1989 made it so that the Nazi pogroms of Kristallnacht of 9/10 November 1938 were pushed back in public discourse and that the end of Word War I with the armistice of 11 November 1918 lost even more of what little import it had in Germany.

Just for the sake of completeness, the 11th minute of 11th hour of the 11th month is also the traditional start of the carnival season in large parts of Germany.

Obviously, the opening of the Wall is a convenient date to publish not just the trivial but also the thoughtful about the part of the country that is home to just under 20 percent of its population.

We all know about the crimes of the Stasi, the feared apparatus of state oppression, the doping in sports, the prison industry producing cheap goods for the West. We hear little about the fact that a full one third of businesses in East Germany were privately owned. And even less about the fact that some owners found out they were millionaires because they had hoarded so much inventory in the face of supply shortages.

This became part of the past on 9 November 1989. From thereon out, everything would be wonderful.

Freedom and blooming landscapes would be the future.

Many things happened, and books have been written about that. So, yes, the autobahns in the East are a driver's wet dream, as the blogster has pointed out before. You can tell even today where the border was because, going East, the freeways widen and straighten out.

But this year's main topic goes to the heart of the matter: the almost complete absence of East Germans at the top levels of leadership in Germany more than 25 years after the Wall fell.

This fact has been obscured because Angela Merkel, the country's chancellor for over a decade and going on two decades, grew up in the East. Germany even had a president from the East.

But outside of that, the elite is thoroughly Western, and there is no improvement in sight.
For example, 105 out of 109 department chiefs in the federal government are Westerners.

Sociologists are now accepting the marginalization of the East in the 1990s as a fact, attributing that period largely to the "lack of qualified personnel" in the aftermath of the fall of the Wall and the challenges of reunification.

Today, though, claims the continued marginalization is "self marginalization" misses the point.

Complaining that East Germans don't want to put in the hard work needed to advance into the top levels of power and industry ignores what the complete dissolution of a country does to its inhabitants, it ignores the resilience of power networks once entrenched.

What's left?

The rhetorical question asked by ZEIT whether a quota for East Germans should be established.



Friday, November 10, 2017

Germany's working poor: Almost 1 in 10 Germans cannot pay their bills anymore

In the 'stream of semi consciousness' that is the reporting in German daily news on economic issues, the country's working poor drift in an and out of focus.

Mostly, they remain out.

The frequent claim that the media are giving bad news too much attention does not seem to hold up when it comes to debating the problems of those who work full time and still are over their heads in debt.

The latest short blip that tells us 1 out of 10 German adults cannot pay their bills anymore is only days old. The data are interpreted in somewhat different ways, with the more liberal ZEIT online pointing out that overall increase in the number of indebted households has slowed down.

The conservative WELT, however, sounds the alarm, calling the phenomenon "the erosion of the German middle class" because almost all of the increase over the past year has occurred in what German economists call "the backbone of society", the quasi mythical had working middle.

The main reasons for getting trapped in unmanageable debt are unemployment, family crises (separation, child support), and loans. Unlike in the US, unpaid medical bills are not a cause of major debt.

According to experts, reckless consumption is also not a factor.

Oh, and the numbers are expected to continue to rise, so expect calls to reduce the tax burden on the middle class.

Very soon, the question what to do about rising household debt will be replaced with the usual arguments, for example, blaming poor immigrants for the woes of the German middle class.

Squabbling over what to do with the surplus tax revenue is a much sexier topic than asking why the poor in this country face the same relative tax burden as the wealthy. For those of you who don't know how this is done: indirect taxes, like high sales tax, and other speciality taxes, like taxes on electricity, insurance policies, and a slew of others accomplish this, while giving those who pay high income taxes the opportunity to feel oppressed and exploited.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Trump's Twitter outage - a reminder of social rank and the dreaded loss of control

Every now and then the blogster feels like telling teens that their impression that adults mainly muddle through in life is fundamentally correct.

It is also basically true that human societies have been trying to reduce the muddling through with some degree of success.

That's why we have formal education systems, accreditation, bar and board exams, and similar structures. Yes, the blogster is aware of the fine moral and philosophical underpinnings of schooling and training, but that was apparently not why mandatory schooling was introduced on a large scale in the 1800s.

Sporadically, we are reminded that control can be lost easily, that an unremarkable, lowly individual can press a single key on a computer keyboard with worldwide ramifications.

On 11/2/2017, a Twitter employee did just that. He or she deactivated the account of "realDonaldTrump" for a few minutes.

And the former employee was offered praise, pizza, and drinks.

6h6 hours ago
Ted Lieu Retweeted Katie Couric
Dear Twitter employee who shut down Trump's Twitter: You made America feel better for 11 minutes. DM me & I will buy you a Pizza Hut pizza.