Mask mandates and individual liberties

The number of in-flight clashes between passengers and airline crews in the U.S. increased lately. 

Clashes over what? Masks. Safety instructions. The crews infringing on passengers’ individual liberties and inalienable right to assault flight attendants.

The FAA–that’s the Federal Aviation Administration–logged 1,300 reports between February and some unspecified time, presumably in early May. Before that, it took ten years to collect that many incident reports. So either there’s something in the snack packets they’re handing out or some portion of the population’s gone feral.

What happens to airline passengers who tear their masks off, throw their mashed potatoes, and hurl miniature liquor bottles at flight attendants? They’re fined, and the fines can be hefty. Four people are facing fines of $70,000 each. (They have thirty days to appeal, which is why the wording there is a bit weasley.)  An Alaska state senator was banned from Alaska Airlines flights for “violating [the airline’s] mask policies,” which I think translates to refusing to wear a mask. Or possibly eating it in mid-flight. Because sometimes a person just has to stand up for her liberties. 

In spite of the recent changes in mask mandates, masks are still required on planes and in airports in the U.S. 

Irrelevant photo: Yet another rhododendron. They stay in bloom for a long time. It’s not my fault that I’ve been posting a lot of them.

What else has increased?

The number of British children swallowing magnets has grown  fivefold in the past five years. That probably means five times as many kids swallowed magnets in the past year as swallowed them five years ago, but you can’t trust me around numbers, which is why I’m tiptoeing through the words.

In about half the cases, the kids need surgery because the magnets didn’t find their own way out.

How do we explain the increase? Are magnets more attractive than they were five years back? Are they coming out in new flavors or is someone advertising them to kids on the cartoon shows? Are the kids swallowing one magnet and before they know what’s happened it’s convinced others to jump in and join it? You know what magnets are like.

The most likely answer is None of the Above. Kids are also swallowing coins and button batteries. This is why the relevant experts spend so much time fussing at parents about kids’ nutrition. Get them to eat their broccoli and it’ll distract them from those lovely magnets. If nothing else, they won’t have the time to look through the cabinets and kitchen drawers.

Toys that use magnets are legally required to display a warning, but the thing about kids young enough to swallow them is that for the most part they can’t read. The oldest kid to have swallowed a magnet was sixteen. He or she has an excuse, though: Laws be damned, lots of manufacturers don’t display the warning.

So would a warning stop a sixteen-year-old who wanted to swallow a magnet? All my instincts say no. I was sixteen once. Tell me not to swallow a magnet and I just might’ve swallowed it to prove my point. Whatever my point would have been. It could easily not have been clear to me either.

It’s when kids swallow multiple magnets that the situation, in all seriousness, gets dangerous. So kids, if you’re going to swallow a magnet, please, it’s one to a customer. 

Have you ever wondered why my career in public health messaging didn’t go anywhere?



And what’s decreased?

A German car parts maker called Mahle is working on an electric car engine that doesn’t use rare earth metals. In other words, this may be a sustainable engine that’s actually sustainable. 

It also doesn’t use magnets. Hands up: Who knew that the current crop of electric cars does use magnets? 

Okay, you’re smarter than me. I didn’t have a clue. If my keys start flying out of my pocket and gluing themselves to cars as I walk past, I’ll know why. 

In addition to being more sustainable, the new design is more efficient and longer lasting. It uses (I’m going to quote here, because I haven’t the faintest fucking idea what they’re talking about) “powered coils in its rotor, transferring power to the spinning rotors using induction, which means they never have to touch and that the motor has no surfaces that will wear out.”

The won’t wear out part I understand completely. Also the not touching part, and the keys not flying out of my pocket part. Also the part about the rare earth metals. Because the thing about rare earth metals is that–well, see, they’re rare. 

Do you ever have one of those days when you feel like you have to explain everything?

The cars should be less expensive than the current breed and the batteries should last longer. They’re expected to go into production in two and half years. And if you feel an itch to explain that business with the rotors, you don’t need to. The truth is I almost understand it, which is enough for me to get buy. It’s just that I don’t trust myself to turn it into anything more reader friendly.


And what’s happened that has nothing to do with the arbitrary theme I’ve imposed?

Somebody broke into Arundel Castle, in West Sussex, recently and stole about £1 million worth of goodies before the cops got there.( They tripped a burglar alarm on the way in but were fast enough for that not to matter.) I’m not sure you need to know this, but in case you do, the castle’s in West Sussex and is–for reasons I’m not going to try to understand, never mind explain–the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Norfolk. Which is a whole ‘nother place from Sussex. Maybe it’s traditional among the English aristocracy to sit their ancestral seats in places other than the sites cited in their titles. How would I know? 

What you do need to know is that if anyone tries to sell you a golden set of rosary beads, they might not be as good a buy as they seem. They belonged to Mary Queen of Scots–she was clutching them when she was executed–and will be pretty recognizable. 


61 thoughts on “Mask mandates and individual liberties

  1. A doctor writes: Children are using these small powerful magnets to give the impression that they have had tongue piercings. The magnets are about half a centimetre in diameter, they stick together on top and beneath the tongue. If they are inadvertently swallowed, they bond in the intestine…along with other swallowed magnets, forming chains or bracelets. These can trap loops of intestine, causing problems.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I was a trainee teacher I had an incident when a Year 8 pupil swallowed a “squeeker” – it was part of a squeeky clown’s nose that lots had kids were wearing for a chraity event called “Red Nose Day”. He had to go the ER but was told to let nature take its couse! It was very hard to take his plight seriously! Of course, as a more experience teacher I would have ordered the kids to put all red noses away and conviscated any I saw or heard. I have never envied flight attendents their job and what Ihave just read has not changed that one jot. I dont understand why people are so rude.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a funny story about the kid swallowing a squeeker. I can’t help imagining it making all sorts of noises that I’m sure it didn’t make as it worked its way through, so yes, I can see why it was hard to take his crisis seriously. And I can imagine how pissed off the wrong set of parents would’ve been if you hadn’t.

      Why people are so rude? I think they look around and figure that they can be–that some set of people doesn’t have the power to keep them in line and so they don’t have to act like decent human beings. My partner and I were on a plane once in a row with a woman who was being horrible to us–the details don’t matter–but I was struck by the flight attendants feeling that they had to apologize to us for her, when they’d don’t nothing. Except, I suppose, refrain from tossing her out the emergency door. I’m glad they–or someone–has/have the power to issue fines. Being in a job where you supposed to be unfailingly polite invites assholes to act like the assholes they are.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Is this maybe one of those cases where William I gave aristocrats lands in two separate places, so that they would care about the interests of the whole country?

    Liked by 1 person

    • All joking aside, I didn’t take the time to look into the history. But if the roots in two places does date back that far, I’d be genuinely surprised if William’s motives were that noble.


      • I’m currently on the third book of Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell trilogy. There is a huge cast, but one of them is the Duke of Norfolk. His son is the [something] of Sussex (I can’t remember the title). So maybe it’s a bit like the royals, giving their sons two bit titles, like ‘Prince of Wales’ etc, until padre pops off and son can move up the line?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Entirely possible. I remember sinking under the weight of names and titles in a Shakespeare play that we read in high school. Every one of the protagonists had a name, and title, a geographical name, and I have no idea what else because I had no idea who was who since they were called by all of them interchangeably. It was like reading a Russian novel if you don’t know enough Russian to connect the formal names to the full names to the many nicknames.

          Liked by 1 person

    • If I didn’t still have friends and family there, I might thing you had. But no, they seem as sane as they were before we left. It’s an odd thing, though, seeing a country from the inside and the outside. When a dear friend went home to New Zealand with her baby, one of the things that went into her decision was that she didn’t want to raise her child in such a violent country. And I remember thinking, Violent? We’re not that violent.

      Twenty yeas later, I’m prepared to admit that she was seeing something real that I couldn’t.

      Seeing a country from the outside, though, it’s easy to judge it by the extremes–the things that hit the headlines.

      Liked by 1 person

      • What’s in the headlines today is the surge in gun sales during the pandemic. Why the hell would a pandemic make you think you should go out and buy a gun? Not something that portends to better days ahead.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Rare Earth Elements aren’t really rare, but, since China controls the market on them, they ate costly. They are used in just about every modern electronic contrivance (computers, cellphones, etc.) which is why China makes them expensive.

    From the American Geological Society: “Rare earth metals are actually not as rare as their name might imply. They are critical to high-performance optics and lasers, and essential to the most powerful magnets and superconductors in the world. Rare earths are simply more expensive to mine than most metals when not mined with environmentally harmful chemicals. These metals are also traditionally not as profitable in the markets.”

    According to everyone’s favorite source (wiki) one of those elements, cesium, is the 25th most abundant element in the earth’s crust, it’s just not found in large pockets. (I can vouch for that, I have some pretty large pockets in my hiking pants and have never found any cesium ore in them.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The mask wars over here ARE insane – but now that you are excused if you’ve had your shots…the people who were bitching in the first place would never lie about having heir jab…so many of us with both shots are still wearing masks of course.(We may be crazy but we aren’t stupid.)

    Naturally, getting into a sealed metal tube with limited air circulation could not be any sort of health risk. How silly ! But I don’t think snacks and meals are a big draw on flights any more.

    Liked by 2 people

    • No, I don’t think they are. And it doesn’t sound like the company (as in your fellow passengers) is either.

      I’d still be wearing a mask myself. I think it’s too early to back away from them. Way too early.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. What used to scare me most on a plane was turbulence. Now it might just be “turbulent” passengers. I count myself lucky that our flights to/from Palm Springs were uneventful. I wish the airlines would band together and “ban together,” meaning you get banned from one US airline, you get banned from them all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was about to agree and then I remembered reading about some passengers who’ve been banned not by airlines but by regulatory agencies (mostly or entirely in the US–at least the ones I read about). Some of them happen to have names very much like people who are on terrorist lists, including one guy whose name was used as a pseudonym by a much-wanted guy called Someone One-Armed because he was missing an arm. The guy who got banned demonstrably had two arms, but that wasn’t enough to convince Whoever to let him on a plane.

      But yes, if you set a demonstrable standard–not having only one arm, but say, if you assault a flight attendant or refuse to follow safety instructions, including those involving masks you’re out–it might work.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I loved this. I watched a horrifying video on the news the other day – of a woman practically knocking lumps out of an air hostess. It never occurred to me that being an air hostess is a dangerous job (apart from the obvious, planes falling from the sky thing, but luckily, that doesn’t seem to happen too often.).
    I’d go with feral, but not just in the US, the whole world over unfortunately.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. My word!

    Swallowing magnets??? What on earth would make that seem appealing?
    Also, the fact people are assaulting flight attendants because they don’t want to comply is depressing and stupid. 😪

    Thanks for sharing. Much love from the US

    Liked by 1 person

    • As a couple of readers let me know, swallowing magnets is a byproduct of wearing them on your tongue so that you look like it’s pierced. I’m not sure which idea makes less sense, piercing your tongue or pretending you did. Or swallowing magnets. It’s a strange old world we live in and probably always was. But its depressing and stupid aspects do seem to be coming faster and with less space between–although I’m grateful that they’re still interrupted by flashes of hope.

      Stay well over there.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. The won’t wear out part I understand completely.

    This sounds great, but unless and until our broken global economic system gets fixed, it’ll be a non-starter (please excuse the pun), as these widgets won’t be able to compete financially with things that wear out :(

    Liked by 1 person

    • Initially, there’ll be plenty of demand. Later–unless something changes the system we live with, and I haven’t given up hope for that–they’ll build in a way for it to wear out.


      • But… WHY should anything be designed to wear out, especially when it’s designed not to do so? I fear I’m misunderstanding your point. Unless it’s that our economic system is fundamentally broken — in which case, I agree with you.

        Liked by 1 person

          • I’m pretty sure it was Adam Smith. Oh, no, wait: I think he was the one that said that growth couldn’t go on forever, and that the economy would need to stabilize at some point. Such a pity the ‘experts’ in economic theory seem to have forgotten that point (and, hey, look at me: I’m not even an economist, let alone someone who claims to be an ‘expert’ in the field…).

            Liked by 1 person

            • With all due respect to expertise, experts in economics haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory lately. At least not the ones who get listened to. (I did try to read Piketty on the theory that he was probably saying something worth hearing, but I sank pretty quickly.)

              Liked by 1 person

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