Tuesday, July 14, 2009

You Can Usually Only Equalize Downwards

The problem with trying to equalize is that you can usually only equalize downward.

If you are going to try to equalize the chances of women getting jobs as firefighters then you are going to have to lower the physical requirements of height, weight and upper body strength. That means that you are going to have more firefighters who are not capable of carrying an unconscious person out of a burning building.

If you are going to have these lower physical requirements be the same for both women and men, that means that you are not only going to have women who are not capable of carrying someone out of a burning building, you are also going to have men who are likewise incapable of carrying someone to safety.

Most activities do not exist for the sake of equality. They exist to serve their own purposes-- and those purposes are undermined, sometimes fatally, when equality becomes the goal.

~Thomas Sowell


At 7/14/2009 8:51 AM, Blogger Deborah said...

Amen to that! In my stupider days, I was a feminist who thought that women should be able to do anything men could do, even if "allowances" had to be made. Then I grew up. Now I believe that women should be allowed to do almost anything that men can do, but only if they can do it without compromising the functional standards of the job. I don't want women firefighters who can't carry a person out of the burning building. I don't want women park rangers who can't carry the gear they need when they go on a search and rescue mission. I don't want women Special Forces commandos who can't handle the physical requirements of the training, which are based on the physical requirements of the job. Just like I don't want male, female, white, black, or any other ethnicity doctors who can't pass med school, lawyers who can't pass law school, pharmacists who can't keep the drug names straight, etc. In my mind, it's all about an individual's ability to do the job, not about that person's sex, race, religion, politics, sexual orientation, or whatever else you want to use to divide society.

At 7/14/2009 10:16 AM, Blogger Hot Sam said...

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At 7/14/2009 10:16 AM, Anonymous Γερώνυμος Αμάτι Nώνυμος said...

Although when speaking theoretically, practice is usually equivalent to theory, when speaking from practical experience, theory is seldom equivalent to practice.

At 7/14/2009 10:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The average weight of a man is 189.9 pounds--I looked it up. Since that's average, many will be heavier. A huge number of very fit males cannot pick up 190 pounds of dead weight (unconscious) from a floor much less carry it out of a burning building in turnout gear. Are we going to limit the job applicant pool for firefighters to just weight lifters and pay the wage premium for such a limited and selective group accordingly?

Yes, I hope a single firefighter can carry me out of burning building if I am unconscious, but I am heavier than the average—just slightly :), and I don’t expect it. Just for fun, put on your heaviest coat, and winter hat and gloves to simulate a firefighter’s turnout gear, find something your weight, put it on the floor, and see how far you can carry it.

I agree standards must not be lowered too far, but who gets to set the "acceptable" standards? All of these factors were said about GM skilled trades when we started letting females into the trades the 1970s. Many are still there and doing a fine job. It’s amazing how standards can be subtly written by those in power to exclude those who are not in power.

At 7/14/2009 11:05 AM, Anonymous Benny The Free Marketeer said...

I might be able to accept quotas if they would extend into professional sports. Imagine the NBA being 80 percent white, 10 percent Hispanic and 10 percent black. I wouldn't feel so left out anymore.
And I might accept federal program and regs if we would just mandate a National School of Baseball Broadcasting (NSBB).
The free market has completely failed in the world of baseball broadcasting. Once you get past Vin Scully, there nothing but insipid banality.
So, we need a national school that trains a couple hundred broadcasters a year, in the Vin Scully model. The broadcasters are paid $100k a year to train at the school--that should bring lots of promising students.
I don't understand how baseball announcers get paid so well, and perform so poorly.
Speaking seriously (and I hate to do that), I think the answer lies in the fact that baseball announcers are part of a regional monopoly in every city they are in. I can't listen to the Dodgers on another radio or TV outlet, one with better announcers and less commercials. I have one choice, and that is Radio 790. Or Channel 9.
I am a captive audience. The result is baseball broadcasting has become one long comemrcial, featuring brainless blabber for hours.
Where is thefederal government when you need them?

At 7/14/2009 11:40 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"A huge number of very fit males cannot pick up 190 pounds of dead weight (unconscious) from a floor much less carry it out of a burning building in turnout gear"...

Hmmm, well Walt G a lot of physical strength is necessary to accomplish a lift & move but one needs technique also...

All technique and no physical strength is a lose - lose situation as you might expect...

"I don't want women Special Forces commandos who can't handle the physical requirements of the training"...

Makes me wonder Deborah how many people who were pushing the need for females in combat were swayed by the movie GI Jane though I know the push for females started well before '97?

At 7/14/2009 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no sacrifice too great for the racist left to cast upon the altar of "diversity", including the security of our nation. Bruce Fleming, an instructor at the Naval Academy, penned this piece for a local Annapolis paper outlining the madness underlining the acceptance process for admissions. The graduates of this academy will be making life and death decisions and potentially determining the fate of the nation. This is a real life example of the "equalizing" Thomas Sowell talks about.

A vote of "qualified" for a white applicant doesn't mean s/he's coming, only that he or she can compete to win the "slate" of up to 10 nominations that (most typically) a Congress(wo)man draws up. That means that nine "qualified" white applicants are rejected. SAT scores below 600 or C grades almost always produce a vote of "not qualified" for white applicants.

Not so for an applicant who self-identifies as one of the minorities who are our "number one priority." For them, another set of rules apply. Their cases are briefed separately to the board, and SAT scores to the mid-500s with quite a few Cs in classes (and no visible athletics or leadership) typically produce a vote of "qualified" for them, with direct admission to Annapolis. They're in, and are given a pro forma nomination to make it legit.

Minority applicants with scores and grades down to the 300s with Cs and Ds (and no particular leadership or athletics) also come, though after a remedial year at our taxpayer-supported remedial school, the Naval Academy Preparatory School.


Once at Annapolis, "diverse" midshipmen are over-represented in our pre-college classes, in lower-track courses, in mandatory tutoring programs and less challenging majors. Many struggle to master basic concepts. (I teach some of these courses.)

Of course, some minority students are stellar, but they're the exception. Despite being dragged toward the finish line, minorities graduate at about a 10 percent lower rate than the whole class, which of course includes them (so the real split is greater).

Hometown Annapolis

It should be mentioned that some minority candidates are exceptional and deserve to be there. However, their hard work and abilities are forever tainted by the assumption that they received special consideration because of their race. Pathetic.

At 7/14/2009 12:10 PM, Blogger QT said...


I completely agree with you. Most women have realized that they don't have to do heavy physical jobs to prove they are good enough.

The women's liberation movement addressed many important issues in the past but seems to have grown out-of-touch with women. I guess that's a good thing. Women have achieved a level of independence and confidence outgrowing the women's lib movement.


Not all unconscious victims will be men. Faced with a heavy victim, isn't it common practice to place your arms under the victims' and around the chest and drag the victim?

The number of women who want to inhale carcinogenic chemicals and risk their lives on a daily basis is limited at best. One can either perceive this as inequity and lower the bar to attract more female candidates or one can recognize that lowering the bar will create greater risk for firefighters who graduate.

One of the primary goals in firefighting is minimizing the risk to personnel.

At 7/14/2009 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You don't necessarily have to lower the bar with proper training and equipment. If a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) exists, a thorough job tasking criteria can be written and supported for the job description during a job analysis that legally allows discrimination by gender. This is not my area, but a competent HR department can write a job description that will pass a court challenge if such a need can be proven.

It doesn't matter if you are male or female; you are owed a safe working environment by your employer. This is my area. Don't for a minute believe that OSHA requirements are adequate to protect you—they are not. It often boils down to digits for dollars.

At 7/14/2009 12:41 PM, Blogger Hot Sam said...

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At 7/14/2009 12:46 PM, Blogger Deborah said...

1, that movie actually is what got me thinking about the position I had assumed that I held. It was as a result of the reflection inspired by that movie that I changed my mind, despite the actual bias of the movie.

At 7/14/2009 1:05 PM, Anonymous Rand said...

If someone cannot pass the physical requirements to be a fireman or a member of the Special Forces, perhaps they should consider a different career path, like lawyer or community organizer.

At 7/14/2009 2:39 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"There is no sacrifice too great for the racist left to cast upon the altar of "diversity", including the security of our nation"...

Gosh! That comment reminds me of someone...

That same someone might have something to do with our present sterling economic condition...

At 7/14/2009 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh! That comment reminds me of someone...

So, what, you don't believe that the left worships at the altar of "diversity"? I guess Denial isn't just a river in Egypt.

At 7/14/2009 3:01 PM, Blogger QT said...


With all due respect, how can a fire dept. possibly create a safe working environment out of a burning building or a wildfire? Wildfires have flames 200 ft high while burning buildings can become structurally unstable. A home can burn to the ground in a mere 20 minutes. It is not reasonable nor even possible for any public agency to assure a safe working environment under such conditions. Workplace safety depends upon being able to control the working environment.

Fire fighting personnel have to deal with all kinds of hazardous situations ie. using the jaws of life without setting off airbags potentially injuring the victim or the firefighter. The life of the victim often depends upon timely extraction complicated by the very safety devices that are designed to protect the car occupants.

Even when the order is given to withdraw to a safe distance, there can still be accidents and loss of life. Fuel containers are a perfect example. The standard practice is to try to keep the fuel tank from overheating and to withdraw to a safe distance if the tank is in danger of exploding.

There have been several incidences of firefighters being killed by exploding fuel tanks in recent years. In an incident in Quebec, 2 firefighters were killed and a third injured when a fuel tank exploded. The firefighters had withdrawn to a safe distance behind a small farm building 150 ft. away from the fuel tank and were killed/injured by scrapnel when the tank exploded. Proper procedures had been followed yet the men were killed.

At 7/14/2009 3:09 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"So, what, you don't believe that the left worships at the altar of "diversity"?"...

Hmmm, where did I say that I didn't believe that?

I think it was 'diversity personified' that I was refering to when I mentioned 'someone'...

Nice try though...

At 7/14/2009 3:51 PM, Blogger QT said...

The law of unintended consequences:

L.A. Fire dept. has spent millions trying to recruit female firefighters. Interestingly,
56% of the lawsuits in 2006 came from the female firefighters who represented less than 3% of the workforce.

At 7/14/2009 4:12 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Hey QT thanks for that link regarding the L.A. Fire Department...

Good stuff!

At 7/14/2009 4:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Jobs are risky. And some more so than others. Proper risk assessment would probably not have a lone firefighter rescuing a 200-pound-man out of a forest that is flaming 200-feet-of-fire in the air. We work 100-feet off the floor in my job. When I started in the 1970s, we did the job without fall protection equipment, but we wear full body harnesses now. We would still break a few ribs or more from the sudden stop from a fall and swinging into something; however, we probably would not die now. My other job was hitting asbestos off old pipes with no personal protection! Improving safety is a continuous process.

The people you mentioned only assumed they were a safe distance away from the fuel tanks. Hopefully, they learned from the experience and changed their procedures to their new risk awareness.

You are correct about jobs being 100% safe, but if you can reduce the risk 1% or even 0.5% that 1-out-of -100 or 1-out-of-200 reduction could save you or someone you care about a lot of pain. If you represent people in a safety capacity, what would you do or pay to lower that risk? How much would you pay to save your own finger, eye, or life? Probably more than your employer would be willing to pay. Workers pay for their jobs with their lives every day; many of those deaths could be avoided.

At 7/14/2009 9:44 PM, Blogger Marko said...

Speaking as an experienced employment attorney, I think the federal government should get out of the business of telling businesses how to treat their employees. Problem solved. If you own the business, it is only your business why you hire people. If you discriminate on the basis of non-work related characteristics, you are a dumb ass and your business is more likely to fail. That is the only penalty that should matter.

When the government enters this arena, it skews the results, causes other types of discrimination, and ultimately wastes resources and makes people poorer.

This post likely means I will never get to be a Supreme Court Justice. Oh well.

At 7/14/2009 10:17 PM, Blogger Hot Sam said...

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At 7/14/2009 10:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to see worse than "equalizing downard" in action, look no farther than the military academies. At the USMA Academy they don't even try - they flat out have one standard for females and one for males. Every male takes boxing and wrestling. To legitimate martial arts where one can get hit in the face or thrown on their head. Females take "self defense." Also, the female standard for a perfect score on the Army Physical Fitness Test is a failing score for males in the same age bracket.

Equal? Not quite.

At 7/14/2009 11:00 PM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

What is sometimes not appreciated is that too often the physically sub-par "worker" in strenuous jobs is a threat to their coworkers.

For instance, it's not too important how fast (as in sprint) a military ground-pounder can run -- it's important how LONG and fast they can move with gear to advance or retreat. If a grunt is slow and/or weak, the others have to carry their load for them, or slow their movement as a unit to the least mobile grunt, or leave the laggards behind and have less firepower when conflict arises -- not good choices.

Firefighters don't want a relative weakling as a coworker on a fire, but are often pressured not to say so. To complain about the "weaker sex" is to risk charges of sexism and sexual harassment.

Not to say women can't do such jobs -- but the standards should be rigorous for whoever applies, regardless of gender. No double standard - and no dropping of the standards for all to accommodate the unqualified.

At 7/14/2009 11:09 PM, Blogger QT said...


The investigation of fuel tank explosion was an interesting case.

The previous procedures recommended approaching the fuel tank from the side rather than the ends because fuel tanks failed along the welded joints (ie. at the end). The investigation revealed that improvements in welding technology improved the joints so that they do not fail. Overheated fuel tanks can now explode in any direction and there is no safe method of approach. The recommended safe distance has been doubled based upon 5 incidents involving fatalities.

If employers are as unconcerned about the health of their employees perhaps, you could explain why workplace fatalities continue to fall to historic lows.

At 7/15/2009 9:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I never said employers are not concerned with their employees' health. Employers will, however, subject their employees to conditions they will not tolerate themselves. Over the years I have had many decision-makers’ refusals to do a job when challenged that it is not safe. My handing them the workers' tools and asking them to perform the "safe" job has resulted in many "safe" jobs being made safer. I suggest you not say to me that a chemical is safe enough to drink unless you want to be presented with a glass to drink after lunch!

Spending $5000 on a piece of safety equipment takes on new significance when it might be your finger cut off instead of someone else's! I am not arguing that the trend data show jobs are becoming more unsafe--only that they can be made safer.

Admittedly, I tend to think more in the workers' favor than the financial interests of the company—that’s my job. And I realize strict safety enforcement could hinder a company when compared to less prudent competitors. But really, what good is a job if you are dead or injured?

At 7/15/2009 10:53 PM, Blogger Audacity17 said...

We just need 1 standard. If a woman can do it, fine. Forget debates about who sets the standard and why.

At 7/16/2009 7:33 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> The average weight of a man is 189.9 pounds--I looked it up. Since that's average, many will be heavier. A huge number of very fit males cannot pick up 190 pounds of dead weight (unconscious) from a floor much less carry it out of a burning building in turnout gear.

Are we going to limit the job applicant pool for firefighters to just weight lifters and pay the wage premium for such a limited and selective group accordingly?

Walt, you're not usually an idiot but here you are one.

First off, if you think that firefighters don't physically train themselves to such arduous tasks as lifting their own body weight in a so-called "firemen's carry" then you're being clueless. Go visit your local firefighting station -- one thing many of them have is a weightlifting room, with basic weightlifting tools like a universal machine.

Firefighter training is very arduous, and includes both mental and physical demands that are high. It includes experiential training which makes thinks like checking the temperature of a door before opening it, recognizing specific explosive dangers and being able to report on observable causes or indicators in passing. There's a reason the Sotomayor case is relevant to hiring, promoting, and retaining talented and qualified firefighters.

Further, a firefighter who can run into a burning building but not get you out when you are unconscious from smoke inhalation is generally not going to save your ass.

"You don't expect it"? Well, I do. I think they get paid far too little for risking their lives to save my ass, and greatly appreciate that they do, but it's what they train to do, and there's a reason for it. I have no problem with a woman being a firefighter -- just as long as she passes the exact same demanding and non-watered-down physical regimen and capabilities that men are expected to (emphasis on the term "non-watered-down").

At 7/16/2009 7:47 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...


I concur.

Not so for an applicant who self-identifies as one of the minorities who are our "number one priority."

I think that, in the end, what this is going to do is to cause everyone to start claiming racial preference and just DARE anyone to challenge them on it.

I'm as whitebread as they come, and, historically, would never claim "racial disadvantage".

OTOH, I am fully half-Italian, so my Iowa-bred mongrel WASP great Grandfather would not allow my mother to bring me, in swaddling clothes, into his house, saying (pardon the offensive racist epithet): "You're not bringing that nigger baby into my house!"... My great-grandmother unhappily closed the door in my mothers' face. So claiming such privileges are clearly "open" to me, LOL.

But I do believe it's going to come to that. Since we are a polyglot, it's going to make it increasingly difficult to make such distinctions because, once everyone claims them, they are hardly in any position to demand "proof". You know that if they did, there would be a massive hue and cry.

And if they start making such distinctions based on appearance in an interview, then...

The thing is, it's becoming increasingly clear that these insane PC practices have to be abused, to the point where everyone, not just those who are egregiously harmed by them, grasp that they have become useless.

So do it.

Check off "Asian" on your race box.

Apply to the UNCF, despite five generations of traceable Scottish and Germanic ancestry.

Put them in the position where they have to actually say: "Funny... you don't LOOK Jewish."


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