Los Angeles Fire Department struggles to add Women to their Firefighter Rolls

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 5th, 2014

Week in Review

Men and women are different.  Men are bigger and stronger.  Which is why women have easier physical requirements than the men at our service academies.  Because it’s very important to have more women in the military.  Apparently.  So they make it easier for the women.  But it’s just not our service academies that are desperate to have more women complete training successfully.  Even the Los Angeles Fire Department has been struggling with this (see Only female in LAFD’s class of firefighter recruits resigns by Ben Welsh and Robert J. Lopez posted 4/2/2014 on the Los Angeles Times).

The only woman selected for a controversial class of Los Angeles Fire Department recruits has resigned in the latest setback to a decades-long effort to increase the number of women in the department’s ranks…

“I didn’t feel like it was ultimately the job for me,” Juergens said in an interview Wednesday. “But I was very welcomed and offered support and encouragement along the way…”

… despite repeated efforts at reform, the percentage of female firefighters remains at just under 3% — the same as in 1995…

“We can debate what percentage of female recruits is possible, but 0% is absolutely unacceptable,” Robb said…

The city has asked Rand Corp. to help overhaul firefighter screening and hiring procedures, as well as examine the practices of the training academy.

“We want to make sure we hire the most qualified firefighter candidates possible and maximize their chances of success,” Robb said.

In other words, the city has asked Rand Corp. how they can make the training easier so more women stay in through completion.  I mean, what else could the problem be?  Men are able to complete training.  So the training is not impossible.  And they’re not making it harder for the women.  This recruit said that she ” was very welcomed and offered support and encouragement along the way.”  I sure hope they’re not doing this for the male recruits.  For if they don’t have what it takes people would want to know that during training.  Not at a fire where they may imperil their fellow firefighters or the people they’re supposed to save.  No, to make sure only the best make it through any training program it should be more like this (WARNING: This movie clip is rated R and is not suitable for the workplace.  It has offensive language and violent content.  Including a suicide.  Some may find it very disturbing).

Running into gunfire or into a burning building goes against every fiber in your body.  But if you complete training as stressful and horrible as this there’s nothing you feel you can’t do.  And no matter how horrible it is at least it isn’t as bad as your training.  This is why so few people complete good training.  Because training is hard.  It’s not supposed to be easy.  It’s supposed to prepare you for the worst.  Not nurture and encourage you.  For if you’re running into gunfire or into a burning building who do you want at your side?  Someone who was treated nice during training who was supported and encouraged?  Or someone who went to hell and back?  Someone so mentally and physically strong that they will be there for you no matter how bad things get?

Firefighter training is not as difficult as Marine training (incidentally, the drill instructor in the movie clip ad-libbed a lot of those lines.  R. Lee Ermey was a real drill instructor who served a tour of duty in Vietnam).  But making it easier for women to complete training is not going to make better firefighters.  It’s going to allow less physically and mentally strong people make it through training.  Which can’t make the good people of Los Angeles feel safer.  At least not those who may need a firefighter to rescue them one day.

And there’s nothing wrong with 0% of female recruits completing the training and joining the fire department.  It just means 100% of the recruits who did are highly qualified.  As well as male.  That’s all.

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Women to Serve in Combat despite having Lower Physical Standards and Private Rectal Exams in Training

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 9th, 2014

Week in Review

Women are just as capable as men in combat.  According to people who say women should be allowed into combat roles so it doesn’t limit their chances for promotion.  Which would be all right if they went through the same training as men did.  But they’re not.  The Marines have lowered their physical requirements for women entering combat roles (see The Marines have Lower Physical Requirements for Women they’re Integrating into Combat posted 1/5/2014 on PITHOCREATES).  And the service academies have lowered physical standard for female cadets (see Lower Standards for Women in Service Academies may play Role in Sexual Harassment and Assault posted 1/12/2014 on PITHOCRATES).  This unfairness to men even extends to the military physical exam (see Men, Manliness, and Being Naked Around Other Men by Richard Senelick posted 2/3/2014 on The Atlantic).

I was already in medical school when I took my military entrance physical for the doctor draft. It was high school all over again. Grown men of different shapes and sizes, lined up to be poked and prodded. No one ever forgets being told to “bend over and grab your ankles.” With the increasing number of women in the military, I decided to research the current military physical exam. The article contains a section, “For Women Only,” where it proudly states that, “your visit with the physician will be in a private room.” Not so for the men, apparently. Six paragraphs down under a section titled “Do”, it says “Wear normal underwear. You will be sorry if you don’t!” Once again, a man’s modesty is a joke.

Why can’t women line up in their underwear, bend over and grab their ankles like the men do?  Are they too dainty to have a rectal exam in front of other women.  Like the men have to?  If so perhaps they are too dainty for combat.

Part of the reason for this public humiliation in training is because of the lack of modesty in combat.  If you have to poop during an artillery barrage and you’re hunkered down in your foxhole guess where you’re going to poop?  In your foxhole.  Even if there is another soldier or Marine in it with you.  You may try to defecate in your helmet and dump it outside your foxhole.  If you want to risk getting your arm blown off.  And you’re probably not.  So when you feel the call of nature you are going to drop trou, squat and poop while close up and personal with someone else.  With that poop remaining in you foxhole with you and your buddy.  And the thinking is if you lose all modesty in basic training you’ll have no problem pooping while hunkering down in a foxhole with someone else.  Or doing other unpleasant and/or embarrassing things.

Will a female soldier or Marine who has her basic training rectal exam in a private room be able to do this?  Or does she think she’s just going to hold it in until she gets to a proper bathroom off the line?  Either women and men meet the same standards.  Or they should not serve together in combat.  For the enemy only makes one type of war.  Not one for men.  And another less strenuous and more modest one for women.

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Autopilots and Lawyers take Flying Time away from Pilots, Increase Stalls

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 3rd, 2013

Week in Review

Flying has never been safer.  Air craft incidents make the news because they are so rare.  Such as two planes clipping wings on the tarmac.  And any crash is on the news 24 hours a day.  Because they are so rare that statistically they just don’t happen.  But as rare as they are they still happen.  And planes fall out of the sky (see Crash investigator urges stall training for pilots by Bart Jansen posted 10/30/2013 on USA Today).

A federal crash investigator urged a conference of aviation safety officials Tuesday to better train pilots to avoid stubborn problems such as stalls.

Earl Weener, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, recalled four separate fatal crashes over the past two decades that he said involved stalls, with pilots basically pulling the plane’s nose up too much until the aircraft fell to the ground.

“The question in my mind is why did the crew continue to pull back on the elevator all the way to the ground,” Weener told about 300 people attending the Flight Safety Foundation’s International Aviation Safety Summit, rather than leveling off to regain power and speed.

Lack of training is feared to be one culprit…

A NASA study of voluntary reporting by pilots found stalls 28% of the time while cruising at high altitude, Weener said. And an airline database study by the International Air Transport Association found 27% of stalls occurred while cruising, he said.

But a survey found only 26% of airlines trained for high-altitude stalls – even though 71% of stalls occur when the autopilot is typically engaged, Weener said.

Lack of training?  With 71% of stalls happening while flying on autopilot try lack of flying.

Most accidents today are pilot error.  Is it because we have bad pilots?  No.  It’s because we’re not letting them fly.  In the risk-averse world we live in today we try to avoid all risk.  We have autopilot systems that are so sophisticated that they can fly a plane without a pilot aboard.  In our litigious society airlines feel machines will make fewer mistakes than people.  So they have the machines fly the plane most of the time.  While pilots monitor the systems.  Entering set-points into the flight computers.  While the computers fly the plane.  And when there is a problem pilots try to get the flight computers working.  Instead of taking the controls themselves.

Before pilots turned flying over to the machines they flew the planes.  They felt the planes.  They listened to the planes.  And flew by the seat of their pants.  If there was an odd vibration they felt it.  If there was an engine problem they heard it.  And if the plane stalled they felt it in the pit of their stomach.  And instinctively pushed forward on the column and applied full power. 

Today, because of lawyers, airlines want pilots to fix the autopilot.  Not take the controls.  So the machines can start flying again as soon as possible.  As they feel they are less likely to make a mistake than a pilot doing some real flying.  Unfortunately, a machine will only fly as well as a human can tell it to fly.  By entering those set-points.  And if the human makes a mistake at data entry the computer will assume that the human didn’t make a mistake.  And follow those instructions exactly.  Even if the plane flies into the ground.  Or stalls and falls out of the sky.

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A Nice Boss and an Easy Life will make you Soft and Fill you with Apathy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 14th, 2013

Week in Review

The movie Full Metal Jacket made R. Lee Ermey a star.  Who, you may ask?  Gunnery Sergeant Hartman.  Oh, that guy, you say.  Yes, he was a real ass.  A mean, callous, heartless bastard.  But he was good.  He trained his Marines so hard and so well that they would rather face the enemy on the field of battle than train with him.  That’s why the Marines are so good at what they do.  Their training is so intense and their DIs are so good that actual combat can be easier than training.  Which is how you want to train your Marines because combat is a stressful, exhausting, frightening, horrific hell on earth.  And you want to send people into combat who already have been to hell.  So they can take whatever the enemy throws at them.

Life is hard.  It’s not as hard as combat.  But it can overwhelm you at times.  And if you grew up in a pampered cocoon life will chew you up and spit you out.  America’s military is the best in the world.  But America has grown soft.  Because we pamper our kids today.  Give them participation trophies instead of letting them win and lose.  To know the thrill of victory.  And the agony of defeat.  To borrow the opening from the Wide World of Sports.  Could the current generation produce the citizen soldiers that took out Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany?  Could we even pry them away from their smartphones long enough to go through basic training?  Probably not.

Making life easy is not good.  For it makes us weak.  That’s why we have the expression ‘That which does not kill us makes us stronger’.  Courtesy of Friedrich Nietzsche.  The more arduous the journey the more we learn and stronger we grow.  That’s why Gunnery Sergeant Hartman was such a mean, callous, heartless bastard.  To give his Marines the best chance of survival.  Because that journey with him was so arduous.  If you want to bring the best out of someone you can’t make life easy for that person.  Whether it be going to combat.  Or building a career (see Your Nice Boss May Be Killing Your Career by Greg McKeown posted 9/4/2013 on the Harvard Business Review).

Over a twelve-month period I have gathered data from 1,000 managers about their experiences at over 100 companies including Apple, Cisco, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Novel, and Symantec. I wanted to understand the conditions under which people did the very best work of their careers. What I expected to find were examples of over managing, controlling, tyrannical managers. About half of the participants confirmed this assumption. The other half surprised me: what they described were managers who were nice but weak.

I once spent two days running a strategy session with just such an executive. He spoke with a soft, quiet voice. He never interrupted anyone when they were speaking. When he walked into the meeting he had a “nice” word for everyone. Every time the team became “positively frustrated” and ready to make the change necessary to get to the next level he would stand up and say sweetly, “Oh, I just wanted to remind you all of how far we have come.” And after a few more sentences the spark of aspiration was gone from the room. He unintentionally signaled the status quo was plenty good enough. There was no need to try harder or change how things were going. He reminded me of what Jim Hacker (the fictional politician in the English cult classic “Yes, Minister“) said to his bureaucratic colleague, “You really are a wet blanket, Humphrey, you just go around stirring up apathy.”

Apathy.  Yes, that’s what you get when work (and life) gets too easy.  When life gets too easy people get lethargic.  They get soft.  And become a less likely candidate for a high-stressed position that will help them up the corporate ladder.  And it is the same for the welfare state.

Everything that weakens an employee because work is too easy is true when we make a person’s life too easy with a generous welfare state.  They get lethargic.  Soft.  And fill with apathy.  Which is why when you make welfare too comfortable people are less willing to get off of welfare.  And when they do they parallel what a worker gets with a nice boss.  The worker gets a dead-end career.  While the person on welfare gets a dead-end life.

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Government Officials want Businesses to do their Social Duty after making it so Difficult for them to Earn a Profit

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 27th, 2013

Week in Review

You know a country is intervening too much into the private sector economy when they start saying things like this (see Hiring UK workers ‘more important’ than profit, Matthew Hancock indicates by Peter Dominiczak posted 7/26/2013 on The Telegraph).

Mr Hancock, the business and skills minister, has said that companies have a “social duty” to employ young British workers rather than better-qualified immigrants.

He said that employers should be prepared to invest in training British staff rather than simply looking for “pure profit”.

“During the last boom there was a lot of recruitment from abroad and, in fact, youth unemployment went up, even during the boom.

“This is about a change of culture. I’m arguing that it is companies’ social responsibility, it is their social duty, to look at employing locally first.

“That may mean that they have to do more training. It may mean more training in hard skills, in specific skills. Or it may mean training in the wherewithal, the character you need in order to hold down a job.

Of course, the question that gets begged to ask is this.  Why do the immigrants have better training in hard skills, have better training in specific skills and have the character to hold down a job?  Why is it that the British youth is not as employable as these immigrants?  Is it the British educational system?  What exactly are these other countries doing better than Britain that their people are better qualified for these jobs?  Or is it that these immigrants are just older and more responsible and desperate for work?  As there is no generous welfare state in their country to support them in their unemployment?  Has the government created an environment where businesses have to turn to better-qualified immigrants?

If Mr. Hancock thinks business should hire people based on social duty instead of what’s best for the bottom line then why doesn’t he show these businesses how it’s done.  Let him create a business that hires based on social duty instead of profit.  Of course, without profit it will require Mr. Hancock to use more and more of his personal funds to finance business operations.  Such as paying to train those unqualified workers.  But I’m guessing he won’t do that.  Because he’s a government official.  And will only risk the taxpayers’ money.  Force businesses to take greater risk with their money (by operating at a lower profit level due to higher taxes and regulatory costs).  But he won’t risk his money.  No.  Anything but that.  But he’s perfectly okay with everyone else risking theirs.

Perhaps this is the reason why these immigrants are better qualified for these jobs.  People in government managing the private sector economy who don’t know the first thing about business.  But think they do.  And have no idea of just how ignorant they are.

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