Economist Removed from Plane for Algebra

by on May 6, 2016 at 11:47 pm in Economics | Permalink

Guido Menzio an economist at the University of Pennsylvania–author of Block Recursive Equilibria for Stochastic Models of Search on the Job among other papers–was pulled from a plane because…algebra is suspicious. From FB:

Unbelievable…

Flight from Philly to Syracuse goes out on the tarmac, ready to take off. The passenger sitting next to me calls the stewardess, passes her a note. The stewardess comes back asks her if she is comfortable taking off, or she is too sick. We wait more. We go back to the gate. The passenger exits. We wait more. The pilot comes to me and asks me out of the plane. There I am met by some FBI looking man-in-black. They ask me about my neighbor. I tell them I noticed nothing strange. They tell me she thought I was a terrorist because I was writing strange things on a pad of paper. I laugh. I bring them back to the plane. I showed them my math.

It’s a bit funny. It’s a bit worrisome. The lady just looked at me, looked at my writing of mysterious formulae, and concluded I was up to no good. Because of that an entire flight was delayed by 1.5 hours.

Trump’s America is already here. It’s not yet in power though. Personally, I will fight back.

Algebra, of course, does have Arabic origins plus math is used to make bombs.

Addendum: here is the Washington Post on the story.

1 Cliff May 7, 2016 at 12:01 am

Everything bad that happens is Trump’s fault.

2 prior_test2 May 7, 2016 at 12:12 am

Hillary for prison, right?

3 Cliff May 7, 2016 at 12:28 am

?? Non-sequitor?

4 prior_test2 May 7, 2016 at 1:18 am

Ah – well, the point is that both presumptive presidential candidates are despised, loathed, and denigrated by a significant number of their fellow citizens. To decry that one has become the focus of attacks is to really miss the forest for the trees at this point.

And that this web site likely would have nothing but fulsome praise for Scott Walker if he had received the Republican nomination, I’m sure we can all agree would have just been a coincidence. One based on policies, and decorum.

This web site is rarely a leading indicator of anything – but it performs quite well in providing confirmation of certain things.

Just like Trump is unlikely to garner much evangelical Christian support, it now seems unlikely that a well funded part of the libertarian movement will support him much either.

5 dearieme May 7, 2016 at 7:12 am

The difference is that Trump is despised for what he might, perhaps, do; Hellary for what she’s spent a lifetime doing.

6 Jan May 7, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Don’t really know what you’re talking about, huh? Big surprise.

7 anon May 7, 2016 at 12:37 am

Another example of the amazing mental leaps people perform to project their base fears onto a presidential candidate they don’t like.

8 Dave May 7, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Way to miss the point. He’s saying that the sort of people who are stupid and paranoid enough to be freaked out to that extent by mathematical formulae are the same sort of morons who would vote for Trump. What’s more, he’s right.

9 JWatts May 7, 2016 at 4:20 pm

Well you have no evidence that this was the case. But hey, why let facts get in the way of your personal narrative.

10 Lonelylibertarian May 7, 2016 at 8:38 pm

Problem is the whole idiotic “see something – say something” campaign is from Bush and renewed by Obama.

It encourages idiots – but it also permits relatively easy abuse.

Take off our shoes and snitch on your neighbors
We have become a nation of sheep

11 Jamie_NYC May 8, 2016 at 9:43 am

In all fairness, I saw this guy’s picture – I would suspect him of terrorism just for being on a plane…

12 Jeff May 7, 2016 at 9:39 pm

>>He’s saying that the sort of people who are stupid and paranoid enough to be freaked out to that extent by mathematical formulae are the same sort of morons who would vote for Trump.

People like that will vote for *any* populist candidate, not just Trump. I sadly know a couple of people who fall into this category who fervently believe that good old Bernie is the solution to everything.

The problem here is the mindset that the world is really very simple and the first candidate someone latches onto is the One True Solution.

13 Joan May 7, 2016 at 1:21 am

Trump is a symptom, not the cause.

14 Troll me May 7, 2016 at 3:18 am

Mostly true. But he legitimizes a lot of stuff that I believe is not desirable to be legitimized. When the presidential candidate is saying stuff like he says, a lot of other people will think it’s OK. And never mind that a very small share of what Trump says actually passes a fact check, in the rare instances where it is a clear enough statement to be subject to fact checking.

15 Thomas May 7, 2016 at 5:13 am

Go look at Pew global polls on Muslim attitudes toward suicide bombing, murdering apostates, and sharia law and get back to us, you uninformed feeler.

16 Simon Hibbs May 7, 2016 at 5:23 am

I cannot stand ‘whatabout’ arguments. “I’m not going to address your actual point, I’ve got nothing to say against it that’s relevant tight now. I’m just going to point at something else that’s also worrying and pretend it’s relevant.” It’s the ultimate intellectual sellout.

17 Simon Hibbs May 7, 2016 at 5:31 am

> you uninformed feeler

Flag again!

18 Troll me May 7, 2016 at 5:17 pm

If Saudi soldiers were patrolling the streets of London, from my vantage point across the ocean, I might not have an unfavourable view of British suicide bombers.

I don’t think it’s an effective strategy. Because it leads to backlash. But turn the tables and let me know what you think.

Anyways, Muslims in America don’t actually commit a whole lot of violent crimes. Especially the newcomers. Especially if you exclude all FBI- and CIA-facilitated, uh … yeah, well, Congress will get right on top of that and make sure we get real answers on those questions, right?

Apparently Trump wants to re-open the 9-11 investigations, or at least declassify some of the hidden findings. Something I agree with him about for a change, although it’s not clear to me that the president has the authority to let the public know what is being hidden from them.

19 Thomas May 7, 2016 at 5:58 pm

Simon, you aren’t very smart. The entire point of this Muslim-Trump meme is to suggest that Muslims aren’t disproportionately likely to engage or facilitate terrorism. That meme is wrong.

20 Thomas May 7, 2016 at 6:00 pm

Troll me – learn about selection effects and get back to us. The current immigrant criminality argument is embarrassing.

21 So Much For Subtlety May 7, 2016 at 3:30 am

Trump Derangement Syndrome strikes early. Although he agree he is a symptom not a cause.

We can link this to previous discussions of Putnam and French slums. If this economist was Amish, among other Amish, he could write what he liked. But he is not. He is of Italian origin among a vibrant and diverse multicultural society. Or in other words, we all have to be suspicious of each other because anyone might be a terrorist. The government even encourages us to b e suspicious of other people – See something, report something, pay them millions of dollars in compensation.

If Trump was elected a generation ago, had built his wall and banned Muslims coming to America, if America was still White-bread Brady-Bunch-land, this would not have happened.

22 carlolspln May 7, 2016 at 6:28 am

The Kennedys, Richard Speck, MLK & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Manson#Manson_Family

Those were the good, old days!

23 anon May 7, 2016 at 7:19 am

You are backing a dumpster fire.

24 Nike47 May 7, 2016 at 4:52 am

Thanks for the heads up, Cliff. I was beginning to come the same conclusion.

25 Brian Donohue May 7, 2016 at 7:09 am

Thanks Obama!

26 JWatts May 7, 2016 at 4:23 pm

I think we can safely blame all bad things that happened on Obama’s watch on Bush. And now Trump.

27 Boonton May 7, 2016 at 9:16 am

Everything bad that happens is Trump’s fault.

the women who had the economist pulled from the plan…
65% chance she is a Trump supporter

30% chance Hillary

5% Sanders

28 Turkey Vulture May 7, 2016 at 10:31 am

False. Trump hates women and so he has no female supporters.

29 prior_test2 May 7, 2016 at 11:54 am

Trump loves women – as long as they look like contestants in a beauty pageant.

30 The Other Jim May 7, 2016 at 10:18 am

Obama has been running the USA for 7+ years, but when you meet a psycho here, it’s “Trump’s America.” Remember that.

31 The Original D May 7, 2016 at 10:58 am

Trump is the king of online trolls. If he becomes president, imagine all his subordinates in the executive branch wanting to impress the boss.

32 Jamie_NYC May 7, 2016 at 5:45 pm

Remember how Trump keeps repeating: “If you see something, say something.” Well, this is what that slogan leads to!

No, wait, I read that on the NYC subway… But my milk went sour in the fridge – that one is totally Trump’s fault!

33 El Gringo May 7, 2016 at 12:02 am

Makes sense how it’s Trumps fault. After all, Obama *has* been semi-retired for a while now.

34 Troll me May 7, 2016 at 3:19 am

Has Obama done anything that would contribute to such paranoia?

35 So Much For Subtlety May 7, 2016 at 4:04 am

Troll me May 7, 2016 at 3:19 am

Has Obama done anything that would contribute to such paranoia?

Obama has spent almost eight years presiding over a security state that tells people they should be suspicious of their fellow Americans and report them at the slightest suspicion.

So yes, everything he has done has contributed to it.

36 Simon Hibbs May 7, 2016 at 5:29 am

I’m a Brit so commenting as a spectator. But although I largely like Obama and think he’s done some useful work, his utter complicity in the American governemt’s selling out of privacy and communications security is deeply disappointing. I still think he was the best choice on offer at the elections, none of the other credible candidates would have done any better, but it is sad.

37 chuck martel May 7, 2016 at 11:31 am

” I still think he was the best choice on offer at the elections”

Three hundred million souls pacing the amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesty and BHO, originally destined to be the evening news reader at a mid-market television station in a place like Memphis or Toledo, is the best available for the task at hand.

38 octopi May 7, 2016 at 7:59 am

You see, when Trump spews all kinds of hate speech and lies every time he opens his mouth, he’s merely a symptom of a deeper underlying malaise.

Obama, on the other hand, when he “presides over” a system that he has to battle and take on, it’s his own fault.

39 Troll me May 7, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Obama certainly did not drive any of that. But nor did he stand up against it. I find his words and actions to not be very paranoia inducing, and in that sense is not conducive to the security state easily manipulating the public to allocate more resources to them and accept even more infringements of privacy, law, etc., than have already happened.

But I do find it very disappointing (sometimes in the direction of a moderate degree of suspicion) that he’s been altogether uncritical of that aspect of the situation, notably including regular failures to speak out on behalf of whistleblowers, let alone formal protections for them, who alert the public to various violations perpetrated by the security state.

40 El Gringo May 7, 2016 at 11:02 am

“Has Obama done anything that would contribute to such paranoia?”

He’s relentlessly attacked the rights of Americans (especially, but not limited to 4th amendment) while showing little to no interest in protecting us from outside threats. So, um, yeah, we have reason to be paranoid.

41 The Original D May 7, 2016 at 3:37 pm

I thought Obama loved Muslims, probably is one, and wants Sharia law?!

42 Troll me May 7, 2016 at 5:25 pm

Much like the reply to SMFS. He hasn’t done much to stop that. But has he actually done anything which contributed to that? maybe I’m just not aware, but in that sense he seems to me rather more as a passive actor.

I believe it is Congress and the Senate which hold the powers to force investigations of abuses and enact legislation to formalize or curtail these violations. However, I DO believe that we should expect the president to be on their case demanding that they do THEIR jobs in these regards.

43 Anon May 7, 2016 at 12:21 am

Not surprising .Who can predict what x and y are upto?

44 Mark Thorson May 7, 2016 at 12:26 am

This election is going to be about smart vs. stupid. Don’t assume smart is going to win.

45 Cliff May 7, 2016 at 12:29 am

Okay. Is it smart or stupid to say that this has something to do with Trump? I expect a whole lot of stupidity out of the anti-Trump crowd . I’ll probably vote libertarian again but I’m not going to be saying stupid shit for the next 6 months.

46 El Gringo May 7, 2016 at 11:03 am

I agree. Hillary has a chance.

47 MikeP May 7, 2016 at 3:46 pm

Not really. The FBI has all her 30,000 deleted emails. Get ready for bombshells.

48 Josh May 7, 2016 at 9:33 pm

Never happen. Incriminating papers from the forties are still heavily redacted. Nobody feels like we should be allowed to know anything interesting.

49 JWatts May 7, 2016 at 4:27 pm

“This election is going to be about smart vs. stupid.”

Which side represents “smart” again?

50 Nick_L May 7, 2016 at 12:37 am

I would have found it hard to resist doodling big explosions for the rest of the trip. I also suspect that for the rest of his travelling days, the number of random checks that Mr. Menzio experiences will be curiously higher than the average.

51 Troll me May 7, 2016 at 3:26 am

I think you understand the situation rather well. At “too many” borders, when my passport is run through, I get a funny look or double take from the guard, who then has a quick few seconds talk with a superior/manager, who takes a look at me and waves the guard on to do nothing. Except in America, where I find I get asked a lot more questions than most other people passing through – well, at least they aren’t as dick-ish as they were a couple years ago.

If tempted to doodle explosions, you could just explain that you’re interested in good deeds done by America to evil people. Preparations for a Hollywood animation, or what have you … (but you might be detained for a psych evaluation, “delusions of grandeur” and all, if you are too confident about your prospects for cartooning success)

52 Thomas May 7, 2016 at 5:17 am

Sorry you look like most terrorists. I guess we should treat you like you treat black men in gang banger clothing knocking on your window at night – no questions asked. Just kidding, you are a giant hypocrite who wants everyone to expose themselves to higher risk so you can feel special. Thanks for making Trump happen.

53 Nick_L May 7, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Really the whole thing is gold, Am I the only thinking this should have have happened to Taleb? And why wasn’t he wearing his badge – the one that says “Kiss me, I’m an economist”. And the lines – “When can we take off again?” I can’t tell” “You can tell me, I’m an economist”; “She says your a terrorist” “Surely you can’t be serious” ” I am, and don’t call me Shirley” Oh, I’ll see myself out..

54 Troll me May 7, 2016 at 5:37 pm

I guess you hate freedom or something.

Or … are you willing to welcome the police state to protect you from things that are less dangerous than slippery bathtubs?

I don’t want to feel special. I want on-paper legal justification with 100% due process, for entry onto any list, with the ability to find out which lists you might be on, and more specifically, how the hell you get off them.

You remember that saying … freedom … something something … security. I tell you, I deserve a hundred times more of both than you do. But the reality is that you will enjoy more of BOTH through no effort of your own.

Anyways, you’re pretty obviously trolling me too. I guess you think it’s fun or something?

55 Thomas May 7, 2016 at 6:06 pm

You don’t seem to be comprehending my message. The idea that we shouldn’t profile is insane. It increases everyone’s risk to make you feel better, and to top it off, you surely profile on a personal basis.

56 Harun May 7, 2016 at 4:50 pm

and my Taiwanese wife was detained by French policewomen of Arabic origin for being “suspicious.”

Yes, Asian people shouldn’t be in train stations in France, apparently.

57 Adrian Ratnapala May 7, 2016 at 12:37 am

Ok, I guess I agree with the crouwd saying that AT shouldn’t have brought Trump into this, if only because it has distracted the comment thread. But what about the story itself?

Personally I don’t expect to live in a world where minor officials know what algebra is. But I would like to live in a world where people can go about their business. I see the problem here is the idea that aviation officials can stop people for pretty much arbitrary reasons.

I was surprised though that the flight was delayed instead of him just being forced to miss it. Not exactly a good thing — but at least it incurs a significant cost on the airline.

58 Cliff May 7, 2016 at 12:57 am

Yeah I mean what do you do when someone is scared for an irrational or unclear reason? Just let them off the plane? Can we really allow gut instinct to delay a flight for 1.5 hrs? I guess this doesn’t happen that often, so maybe we can. In the FB thread there is also a picture of the guy wearing an Arafat scarf (he admits he literally calls it “the Arafat scarf”) so maybe that played into it.

59 Thomas May 7, 2016 at 5:20 am

You are misunderstanding the left. The problem isn’t the arbitrary authority of the government to impede random citizens without any reasonable suspicion. The problem is when that authority is applied to people who look like minorities. Take every third southern white man off of a plane and the civil rights crowd would be cheering – this is about racial warfare, not right and wrong; the left doesn’t believe that right and wrong exist.

60 Urso May 7, 2016 at 7:18 am

The Trump thing is part of the quote, not a Tabarrok comment.

61 Turkey Vulture May 7, 2016 at 4:10 pm

“Not exactly a good thing — but at least it incurs a significant cost on the airline.”

The airlines might be overly-cautious as a direct result of the incentives created by our laws, not because there is some inherent reason for the airlines to over-react. In which case it would seem better to alter the underlying laws than to impose countervailing costs on the airlines for going too far in the direction that the laws have forced them to go.

“More than a dozen years after the Sept. 11 attacks, a last major piece of litigation against the airline industry and other defendants moved toward an end on Tuesday, as the Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald revealed that it would settle its lawsuit for $135 million.

Cantor had accused American Airlines of negligence in allowing five terrorists to board the plane in Boston that crashed into the World Trade Center’s north tower, killing 658 of Cantor’s almost 1,000 employees in New York.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/nyregion/cantor-fitzgerald-settles-9-11-lawsuit-for-135-million.html

62 Dan Lavatan May 7, 2016 at 7:22 pm

They should have gone to trial, let alone discharged the liability in bankruptcy.

That said, we need a sec trans that will fine airlines a million dollars per incident, and every passenger (other than the busybody) should sue the airline and the busybody, and then boycott the airline for 5 years.

We also need to get rid of all flight attendants, the sooner the better.

63 stephan May 7, 2016 at 12:37 am

She thought he was a member of the Al-Gebra network and carrying weapons of math instruction.

64 triclops May 7, 2016 at 12:42 am

I love your comment!

65 Adrian Ratnapala May 7, 2016 at 12:53 am

Now that really would be big news.

The pedagogic branch of the Al Jebr network has been trying without success even to produce weapons of moderate instruction for centuries now.

Anyway, I wonder what happens to pedagogs when they are discovered on commercial flights.

66 Mark Thorson May 7, 2016 at 1:58 am

Keep them away from the kids!

67 Troll me May 7, 2016 at 3:34 am

Both awesome 🙂

68 kimock May 7, 2016 at 7:26 am

It is possible that he has a lisp.

69 Axa May 7, 2016 at 8:04 am

I’ve been trying all my life to convince others that MATHFOBIA is a real condition but no one believes me…..no I know I’m not alone.

70 LonelyLibertarian May 7, 2016 at 7:45 pm

Best comment of the year????

71 Adrian Ratnapala May 7, 2016 at 12:48 am

Algebra is indeed named after a great Arab algebraist, but it does not originate there. Mathematicians were making algebraic arguments before that. Whereas the notation we now use comes from Europe.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_of_mathematical_symbols_by_introduction_date

Before that, Diophantus and Brahmagupta both had what the wikipedia calls a “syncopated” notation. But due to typical wikipedia inconsistency, I don’t know what that means.

72 Bill May 7, 2016 at 12:52 am

“Economist detained by FBI for suspected abduction and abuse of mathematics”

73 Bill May 7, 2016 at 1:27 am

“Economist traumatizes disturbed woman on airplane with bullshit macroeconomic models”

News at 6

74 Urso May 7, 2016 at 7:19 am

Economist hijacking a plan, “First, assume we have a bomb…”

75 anon May 7, 2016 at 8:59 am

That is too applied. First, assume a plane.

76 prior_test2 May 7, 2016 at 11:56 am

Nah, just assume a hijacking, and fill in the details later.

77 Antony Davies May 7, 2016 at 1:27 am

If he were doing macro modeling, she would have been right to be concerned.

78 Rising May 7, 2016 at 2:31 am

because trump came up with the see something say something slogan which earnest citizens take to heart for the sole purpose of amusing the smarty pants set. If Americans are so stupid why don’t you go teach in Saudi Arabia? Might be fun sitting in in Agee beheadings.

79 Thomas May 7, 2016 at 5:23 am

It’s unfair expect the same level of ethical behavior from brown cultures as white cultures. That’s called cultural genocide by the legions of Clinton supporters.

80 Thomas P. May 7, 2016 at 9:45 am

I see, the solution obviously is making America more like Saudi Arabia. Well, bin Laden agreed.

81 Troll me May 7, 2016 at 3:37 am

I’ve had such experiences while editing economics manuscripts while on a plane. But it never went that far.

Paranoia in America (and, I think at this precise moment in time, to a lesser degree in allied countries) is reaching new heights with every passing month and year. And, in my opinion, most of this paranoia revolves around all the wrong issues. Of course, there is no possibility that massive state data collection and invasions of privacy of the entire citizenry (in a general absence of due process to boot) could possibly be abused. There are precisely zero historical analogies which may warn us about where that could go.

82 Thomas May 7, 2016 at 5:24 am

Good thing Clinton will not encourage all that.

83 Troll me May 7, 2016 at 5:41 pm

I see her as the status quo candidate. I don’t think she will encourage it, but not much to stop it.

However, her comments on “overclassification” give me a very small degree of optimism in that regard.

84 Cliff May 8, 2016 at 12:39 pm

Excuse me if I question the honesty of a position that is 100% self-serving and part of an attempt to avoid criminal charges

85 chuck martel May 7, 2016 at 11:43 am

The assumption is that the benevolent government that’s in charge of all the information collected on its citizens will endure forever. Of course, that’s never been the case. When the new guys take over the first thing they do is scour the records for information on their subjects that will be of use in their maintenance of power, just as the Bolsheviks did that of the Okhrana.

86 Troll me May 7, 2016 at 5:43 pm

I think the only safe assumption when establishing data systems on the public is “how could this be abused if somehow they elect a Hitler, Stalin or worse”. No matter the intentions, the present level of data collection is a recipe for bad stuff (understatement) – if not now, then later.

87 Josh May 7, 2016 at 3:40 am

Algebra doesn’t have Arabic origins, though the word “Algebra” does. This story probably didn’t happen, by the way.

88 Brian Lucey May 7, 2016 at 3:59 am

So your saying he’s a liar?

89 Urso May 7, 2016 at 7:21 am

I’m sure the story happened. It’s too easily disprovable. Did the story happen in the *exact same way* this guy is laying it out on facebook, wherein he is perfect and blameless? That’s a different question.

90 Brian Lucey May 7, 2016 at 9:33 am

Perfectly blamelessly minding his own business ?

91 jk May 7, 2016 at 5:07 am

Cruz, Rubio, Fiorina et. al. were stalwarts of intellectualism.

Andthey certainly have good things to say about the academy!

92 Thomas May 7, 2016 at 5:11 am

Trump’s America… what a turd. If the left had its way, we would only investigate 80 year old wheelchair-bound white women while boarding planes. Hey, author, sorry some people are stupid but that doesn’t change demographic reality.

93 Casper the Friendly Ghost May 7, 2016 at 6:38 am

You’re the toughest guy on this thread

94 David K May 7, 2016 at 8:36 am

“Demographic reality”

That is, the race war that is occurring entirely within your mind.

95 Thomas May 7, 2016 at 6:10 pm

Blowing up planes is a pastime unique to one phenotypically identifiable culture at the moment.

96 gg May 7, 2016 at 6:07 am

“Algebra, of course, does have Arabic origins plus math is used to make bombs.”

Technically, the *name* “algebra” has Arabic origins. The *concept* of algebra, however, is older than that, and most, if not all of modern algebra is actually post-Arabic.

97 Rich Berger May 7, 2016 at 6:31 am

So we are taking his word for it? Seems like he might have an ax to grind. Alex, too.

98 Thomas Taylor May 7, 2016 at 11:51 am

But not, thanks God, not you.

99 Minkius Maximus May 7, 2016 at 6:43 am

Hey wait a minute, Obama is in charge not Trump.

This Orwellian America is the results of Bush-Obama era, at this very moment Trump actually is even not the official GOP candidate.

Islam-phobia, russian-phobia, chino-phobia, political and military pressure on Europe, new cold-war rising, tolerance on brutal behaviour of the police, Ucrainian fascist coup d’etat, political destabilization of the South-American governments, meddling in UK referendum, political and economic threats if Europe and Asia do not accept TTP and TTIP slavery. All of that are consequences of Bush and Obama “non-populist” administrations.

100 Wick May 7, 2016 at 7:22 am

Is this substantiated? FB link is dead and can’t find any other reporting on this…

101 Artimus May 7, 2016 at 7:45 am

I agree. Most commentators are getting worked up and no one has even read the entire FB posting. Dead link and just a partial copy and paste from Alex. Rather sloppy on Alex’s part as well.

102 Axa May 7, 2016 at 8:06 am
103 Artimus May 7, 2016 at 8:40 am

Thanks Axa but I was hoping for something more substantial than a retweet.

104 Cliff May 8, 2016 at 12:41 pm

I believe this was the full Facebook post. I did see it before it was taken down.

105 mikeInThe716 May 7, 2016 at 8:05 am

Ignorance regarding math maps to morons on both the Trumpian “right” and Luddite Left. As someone familiar with the public school Math wars, the later group is the greater menace 2 society.
Although, probably not on airplanes.
A possible benefit of a president Trump may be the gutting of Retard Math Mandates from federal educrats… And I’m a Never Trump guy…

106 Steve Bryan May 7, 2016 at 12:46 pm

My criticism of the original post would be that it identifies anti-science/anti-intellectual tendencies specifically with Trump. The bigger problem is that those attitudes have been spreading throughout the Republican party for many years now. Trump is the result of the bad faith choices made for electoral expediency, not the cause.

The Republican Party richly deserves the Trump phenomenon since he has seized the attitudes and ideas that have been increasingly promoted and packaged it in a pseudo populist guise. Sadly, we all have to live with the consequences. We are left with one fewer ‘safe’ choice for president.

107 TMC May 7, 2016 at 11:05 pm

“The bigger problem is that those attitudes have been spreading throughout the Republican party for many years now.”

Some have said the Republican part has moved further to the left. Now you’re complaining about it?

108 Bill C. May 8, 2016 at 12:39 am

I think one issue with your point is that many on the right (republicans) do not consider academia to be that great of a source of intellectualism. As an engineer, a top 1-3% SAT scorer, and other bullshit metrics that indicate that I am smart, I DO NOT respect someone just because they are patient enough to spend 5+ years of their life getting a PHD. I have money to make and things to do (both of which are foreign to academics).

There of course is a portion of the republican party that is anti-intelectual (even by my definition). But then again, look at the democrat base…

109 AnonLurker May 8, 2016 at 11:14 am

Anti-public education does not equal anti-intellectualism, and the latter is a problem with _both_ party bases. Otherwise Obama would not have to give a speech saying that getting good grades doesn’t mean you’re acting too white.

110 Wick May 7, 2016 at 8:23 am

Thanks Axa – but I’m looking for some kind of fact-checking beyond Guido’s post. Re-tweets and copy/paste from FB don’t count. Let’s not get hysterical either way. But if this is true/substantiated, it’s a terrifying indicator of the current psychological state of (a portion of) our country.

111 Brian Lucey May 8, 2016 at 2:33 am

Widely reported. Unchallenged. But keep your head in the sand by all means

112 alexa-blue May 7, 2016 at 8:33 am

Presumably these delays cost money that’s paid for by everyone else?

113 Turkey Vulture May 7, 2016 at 8:43 am

“See something, say something.” – President Donald Trump, repeated at regular intervals 2001-2016

114 Turkey Vulture May 7, 2016 at 8:54 am

It really is amazing how much power Trump has had in creating the American security state, and specifically all of our search procedures and our policies about suspicuous behavior. And over the minds of the citizenry. All without even holding any governmental position! Given this, it may be dangerous to give him actual Presidential power, since he can already essentially act as President and More without the office. With the office it is looking like he will be Super Hitler.

115 RPLong May 7, 2016 at 9:20 am

Maybe he was attempting to divide by zero…

116 Thomas P. May 7, 2016 at 10:49 am

+1

117 Boonton May 7, 2016 at 9:49 am

The problem here is formality. In a less formal system the woman would have raised her concerns, the Stewardess, possibly even the Captain would have briefly chatted with the man. You would have gotten someone with an education who would have recognized math and then the decision would have been made this is no big deal and they would move on their way.

With formality, though, once someone says something the system must stop and only a ‘decision maker’ can clear the math as non-threatening.

118 Dan in Euroland May 7, 2016 at 11:28 am

A very good point.

119 Simonini May 7, 2016 at 9:52 am

“Obama’s America” and “Thanks, Obama” have been a punchline to mock conservatives who supposedly blame everything on Obama for the past 8 years. Now leftists are unironically blaming ever minor inconvenience on a man who hasn’t even been elected yet.

120 TJB May 7, 2016 at 10:31 am

The lady was stupid, not evil. You’d think someone as smart as Guido Menzio would be able to tell the difference. I suspect his “motivated reasoning” probably carries over into his work as well.

121 Turkey Vulture May 7, 2016 at 10:33 am

Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

122 Joël May 7, 2016 at 3:29 pm

Is there really any difference between malice and stupidity? Some famous philosophers, and myself, think not.

123 Boonton May 7, 2016 at 11:23 am

The problem isn’t the stupid lady, it’s the system that placates stupid people. So yea that about sums up Trumpism. making the system work on behalf of stupid.

124 derek May 7, 2016 at 11:35 am

The problem with your thesis is that Trump isn’t in charge. This sounds amazingly similar to the college safe space nonsense. The most brilliant man in the universe ( if you doubt it just ask him) has been running the security apparatus for 7 years including the people responsible for airline safety.

The stupid people are in charge right now.

125 Turkey Vulture May 7, 2016 at 11:53 am

We must keep the lower orders in their place. They really aren’t even people. That we grant them any rights at all is just benevolence by the enligthened elite.

126 Wick May 7, 2016 at 10:32 am
127 David Verchere May 7, 2016 at 10:36 am

Some economics has done WAY more damage than terrorism….maybe that lady knew her algebra and decided to report a purely mathematical model that had no empirical data. 🙂

128 Troll me May 7, 2016 at 6:03 pm

It’s the politicians who latch onto whichever theory/research that gives them a veneer of credibility when they move forward. I’m not sure that it’s correct to blame the economists themselves. It would be like blaming a health sciences researcher for a political decision to implement some program which, among many thousands of papers, happened to be promoted in a few of them.

129 Per Kristen Jakobsen May 7, 2016 at 11:11 am

Well, everyone that is in the business knows that doing math can sometimes create really scary-looking formulas…..

130 Keith May 7, 2016 at 11:20 am

So Mr. Menzio blames Donald Trump for something that literally happened in Obama’s America.

This makes perfect sense. Using a rational expectations model, the stewardess forecast the future probability that Trump would be elected. Sure, it took her awhile to apply that Kalman filter, but she managed. Once she had the probability distribution on Trump being elected President, she calculated that reporting Mr. Menzio would increase her probability of getting a cushy Federal job in a Trump presidency, resulting in a solid psotive expected value in reporting Mr. Menzio for his math.

That’s why Mr. Menzio is clearly rational to blame Trump. If you don’t understand this, and believe that Mr. Menzio may have allowed social status signaling to get in the way of his rationality when he blamed Trump, well then you’re clearly not one of the enlightened.

Oh, and why haven’t we hard what Alex thinks of the TPP?

131 prior_test2 May 7, 2016 at 1:22 pm

You clearly are not a loyal reader.

132 derek May 7, 2016 at 11:31 am

From Baldingsworld. Obviously Trump is the cause.

Self censoring of economic and financial reporting in business community is wide spread. I was told point blank by a senior executive from a major financial institution that they no longer publish any report that is remotely critical of the Chinese economy or markets. Of course this is not put in the employee handbook but that is unofficial policy. We already know this is happening to Chinese reporters but his is increasingly happening to economists. To argue that Chinese doesn’t censor economic data is simply delusional.

Why bother with formulas is the input data is unreliable?

133 David W May 7, 2016 at 11:38 am

Does it matter that he was doing math? Suppose he was writing his plan and notes, in Arabic or code, on how to attack a flight just like this one. Stopping the plane *still* would be the wrong answer, no? It’s just a piece of paper and a pen, after all, not a bomb or a weapon. No immediate threat.

If they want to follow up with an investigation later on, they can. They know his seat number, which means they know his name, address, means of payment. Have the informant, or maybe the stewardess, take a quick picture of him and his notes (out in public, after all). At the destination, ask the scared woman to give a statement on what she saw. That has to be enough information to start an investigation, if you need one.

134 Turkey Vulture May 7, 2016 at 11:58 am

If this econonist actually cared about improving the system this is what would have been said, or would at least be the main type of topic being addressed here. Instead he wants to signal his ideological purity to his peers and his seeming derangement to the commoners.

135 Troll me May 7, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Hindsight.

136 Dave Barnes May 7, 2016 at 11:55 am
137 prior_test2 May 7, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Apparently, the Washington Post article is beneath notice – the fact is, Menzes is a foreigner, the sort of person who would write something that could easily be interpreted as undermining the goal of making America great again – ‘“What might prevent an epidemic of paranoia? It is hard not to recognize in this incident, the ethos of [Donald] Trump’s voting base”’.

One can even believe that in a future which Trump can at least envision, Trump will handle this sort of troublemaker in proven fashion Trump – either by having Italy build a wall at its own expense, or simply banning any and all people who could be considered Italian from entering America.

138 Turkey Vulture May 7, 2016 at 12:12 pm

The quote confirns that he is a dick.

139 Turkey Vulture May 7, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Notice the complaintant is a woman. Another recent story about someone seeing something and saying something involved a woman who spoke arabic hearing another person speaking arabic and talking about ISIS and martyrdom (she presumably is a bigtime Trump supporter and is a respresentation of the Trump ethos too). Imagine if he had instead attributed the behavior to the “ethos of women” instead of Trump voters. Seems like he would have as much or more of a basis for this claim than the one he has actually made. How would that be going over?

140 prior_test2 May 7, 2016 at 1:13 pm

Unfortunately for your example, the woman sitting next to him was apparently not only unaware of what he was writing, but also the reality that he was an Italian. Meaning that he is undoubtedly more familiar with how people from other regions around the Mediterranean look, leading one to suspect that he would be a lot more likely to be able to identify a suspiciously scribbling Islamic terrorist with a rabid hatred of America’s freedom than his seatmate.

Because as it turned out, this was just another typical day at the American security theater follies.

141 Harun May 7, 2016 at 1:53 pm

Typical days don’t make the WaPo.

This was atypical. Which is why it is news.

142 prior_test2 May 8, 2016 at 12:22 am

‘Typical days don’t make the WaPo.’

No – typical people don’t make the Washington Post. A well connected Ivy League economist, however, has a much better chance of drawing attention to what happens.

143 Cliff May 8, 2016 at 12:47 pm

Yep, every day flights are delayed because of people doing math on the plane, Trump is just suppressing it

144 Alvin May 7, 2016 at 3:25 pm

My guess is that every single one of these airline (false positive) complaints is made by a white American woman.

145 prior_test2 May 7, 2016 at 12:19 pm

‘fashion Trump’ actually sounds interesting in some lyrical fashion, but of course ‘Trump fashion’ was intended.

146 Dave Cohen May 7, 2016 at 12:39 pm

“Trump’s America is already here. It’s not yet in power though. Personally, I will fight back.”

This paragraph shows perfectly how mentally ill these liberals have become. Trump is not even in the office and hasn’t done a thing yet these mentally unstable leftists are already blaming him for what their black messiah is doing.

Unbelievable.

I will fight too, to end this liberal fascism.

147 prior_test2 May 7, 2016 at 1:17 pm

As an Italian, Guido Menzio undoubtedly knows what fascism is and how it defined itself. Whether he would try to gently correct your ignorance, or just snort in derision is impossible to judge.

(And to be clear – Trump is only about Trump. In this regard, any criticism of him being a ‘fascist’ is completely misplaced, though one can likely expect this web site to quote people talking about Trump and fascism in the months ahead.)

148 Troll me May 7, 2016 at 5:56 pm

Similarly disgusting that conservatives are already aligned against Clinton.

God forbid people would say in advance that they plan to hold the same position both before and after an election.

149 Thomas May 7, 2016 at 6:16 pm

Most dishonest poster here.

150 TMC May 7, 2016 at 11:14 pm

That is a poor comment, Nathan. He also could have blamed Clinton, but actually she may have been involved with some of this BS.

151 Turkey Vulture May 7, 2016 at 12:56 pm

2012 report from Trump’s FEMA:
“Improving the Public’s Awareness and Reporting of Suspicious Activity”
https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1818-25045-6132/suspiciousactivitykeyfinding_508_.pdf

“The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individual and Community Preparedness
Division partnered with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) on a project to
research and develop a strategy to improve the public’s awareness and reporting of suspicious
activity.”

“This research effort complements other national efforts like the Nationwide Suspicious Activity
Reporting (SAR) Initiative (NSI) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “If You See
Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign. The “If You See Something, Say
Something™” campaign was originally used by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority
(MTA), which has licensed the use of the slogan to DHS for anti-terrorism and anti-crime efforts.
As part of the campaign, DHS has partnered with multiple private sector partners, sporting teams,
transportation agencies, states, cities, colleges and universities. ”

Under “Research Methodology”:
“Preventing terrorism is a responsibility of every American, and requires an alert and informed
citizenry that is ready to report suspicious activity that may be indicative of a terrorist act or terrorism
planning. With this core understanding, IACP began reviewing contemporary and historical research,
literature, trends, and practices related to community-based terrorism prevention efforts in the
spring of 2010. ”

Trump’s America.

152 prior_test2 May 7, 2016 at 1:21 pm

‘Trump’s America.’

Well, it is the America that Trump is living in – and please point to where he is opposed to such fearmongering.

After all, who takes anyone seriously who suggests banning American citizens from entering the U.S. based on their religion – I’m sure you can find a link to the Bush or Obama administrations suggesting such a thing, right?

Trump’s America.

153 Harun May 7, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Refugee policy allows for discrimination. Immigration policy also has national quotas.

Cubans yes. Haitians no.

Persecuted religious minorities to the front of the line, etc.

Some Americans were put on no-fly lists which is a quasi ban, based on religion.

One of those dudes claimed discrimination. Ended up being caught trying to enter Syria to join ISIS.
Another Malaysian lady was just a box checked by error.

I notice you stopped with Bush and Obama. Why not go back to FDR and Japanese-Americans?
For citizenship, they ask you about the Nazi party and the communist party. Again, discriminatory.
What if they asked about belief in the Caliphate? or Sharia law? Would that be allowable?

I’m against entry bans of Muslims, citizen or not, but its not like smaller scale stuff has been done that’s kind of similar.

154 Turkey Vulture May 7, 2016 at 2:12 pm

For concreteness:

https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/n-400.pdf

See Part 12:
“10. Have you EVER been a member of, or in any way associated (either directly or indirectly) with:
A. The Communist Party?
B. Any other totalitarian party?
c. A terrorist organization?”

“11. Have you EVER advocated (either directly or indirectly) the overthrow of any government by force or
violence?”

“12. Have you EVER persecuted (either directly or indirectly) any person because of race, religion, national
origin, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion?”

“13. Between March 23, 1933 and May 8, 1945, did you work for or associate in any way (either directly or
indirectly) with:
A.The Nazi government of Germany?”

155 prior_test2 May 8, 2016 at 12:19 am

You do know that form does not apply to American citizens, right?

156 Troll me May 7, 2016 at 5:54 pm

Quotas are usually based on reciprocity. Which, among other things, is why there is a special price for Americans coming to China and it’s twice the price of anyone else.

157 Thomas May 7, 2016 at 6:17 pm

The left are massively dishonest hypocrites. Troll Me is a perfect example.

158 Harun May 7, 2016 at 1:42 pm

Why do we have the “see something, say something” policy?

Because we had multiple events where people saw something but didn’t want to report it for fear of being seen as racist.

Maj. Hassan was handing out business cards with “soldier of god” on them and doing powerpoints on jihad.

San Bernadino killers neighbors said they’d seen suspicious things, but feared to report them as being racist.

There are probably more examples. So, the authorities attempt to undermine this “mind your own business” mentality a bit to get people to speak up.

What’s going to happen? A lot of false positives. And maybe some actual tips.

In this case we have a false positive that will lead to massive reinforcement again of “don’t report: they will call you racist or dumb.”

To me, its interesting how the media and social media delight in jumping on these incidents. Social shaming is very much fun, and as usual we have half the facts. Like the Arabic speaker situation, where it was a fellow Arabic speaker who was worried, not the usual imagined fat white Trump voter.

This is like AIDS testing. It was sort of shameful, so people avoided it. So we made it fast, easy, and anonymous for a reason. We don’t let people socially shame people who get tested for AIDS. This economist just got back a negative test. Be happy.

159 prior_test2 May 7, 2016 at 1:47 pm

This Italian citizen just got a taste of what America is becoming (or has already become) – and he finds it disturbing.

160 Harun May 7, 2016 at 1:55 pm

Italians should maybe worry more about their own (in)justice system where prosecutors create fanciful tales of demonic sex games to convict innocent Americans.

161 Roy LC May 7, 2016 at 3:22 pm

And this is a country that spent several years prosecuting geologists and imprisoning some of them for failing to predict an earthquake failing to predict earthquakes, something that has only been done once in history.

The pilot was at least embarassed for not recognizing a differential equations.

162 prior_test2 May 8, 2016 at 12:15 am

So, an Italian should not be concerned that the U.S. (which hard as it may be to imagine for Americans, still stands in considerable esteem world wide as a society with greater freedom and prosperity), is starting to resemble something that he might be familiar with?

163 Troll me May 7, 2016 at 5:48 pm

What about pre-crime false positives that get you on lists that you a) cannot know about and b) cannot get off?

It has gone too far.

164 Andreas Moser May 8, 2016 at 2:54 pm

What does this have to do with fear of being racist?
If you are racist, you are racist.
If someone calls for jihad, report them.
If someone scribbles with a pen on paper, you gotta be stupid to think that this would bring down a plane.

165 Thurston May 7, 2016 at 3:11 pm

I take some solace that the suspicious (aren’t they all?) economist was ““treated respectfully throughout” and “[t]he woman [who reported the mysterious math] never reboarded to the flight”. Based on the post piece this is a travel fiasco that can’t be blamed on the TSA.

166 edmeasure May 7, 2016 at 3:36 pm

The NYT says he was doing differential equations. Come on Alex, which is it?

167 Joël May 7, 2016 at 3:38 pm

In mathematics, specifically in the field called Algebraic Geometry, there is an important construction called the blow-up (of a point) of a surface, which roughly speaking produces another surface where the specified point has been replaced by a curve, the rest of the surface being unchanged. This applies to the simplest surface of all, the plane.

There is a story running among mathematicians about two algebraic geometers (that’s how we call them) coming back home from a conference, and talking, in the line for their flight, like “well, you just have to blow-up the plane, and…”. The story
ends up by their being arrested, etc. I had always thought that it was apocryphal. Now it seems at least plausible.

168 Artimus May 7, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Thanks for adding the WP link Alex.

169 Neeraj Krishnan May 7, 2016 at 5:37 pm

Billions more have been terrified by mathematics than have by terrorists.

170 Andreas Moser May 8, 2016 at 2:51 pm

And yet billions more have been terrified by fear.

171 Jeffrey Deutsch May 7, 2016 at 10:58 pm

This isn’t about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or any other power broker. It isn’t even (mainly) about racism, airlines or terrorism in particular.

America is becoming a paranoid, “Worst First” thinking society where the only thing we’re not paranoid about is increasing arbitrary government (and government-by-one-remove) power.

(Whether or not this particular incident turns out to be a valid example of same is another matter.)

All that having been said — Good points, Harun.

172 jon lebenns May 8, 2016 at 10:48 am

Were you using a weapon of math instruction? (also known as the TI 84)

173 Andreas Moser May 8, 2016 at 2:50 pm

“Health and safety gone mad,” as our British friends would say.

174 bob May 8, 2016 at 10:43 pm

sorry, not clicking on a wapo link for ANYTHING, let alone for information.

175 Michael May 10, 2016 at 5:25 am

The woman was obviously terrified enough to do what she did. That’s not Trump’s America, whatever that means to you. That’s the result of not knowing who to trust anymore and being scared for her life. Probably not the America she wants to enjoy, either.

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