Words And People

Idiocy On Parade

You may be aware of the story that the folks responsible for buying equipment in Los Angeles County have objected to the use of the terms master/slave on equipment.

Someone apparently looked at a videotape system and filed a discrimination complaint.

To avoid legal complications, the following notice was sent:


Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2003 14:21:16 -0800

From: “Los Angeles County”

The County of Los Angeles actively promotes and is committed to ensure a work environment that is free from any discriminatory influence be it actual or perceived. As such, it is the County’s expectation that our manufacturers, suppliers and contractors make a concentrated effort to ensure that any equipment, supplies or services that are provided to County departments do not possess or portray an image that may be construed as offensive or defamatory in nature.

One such recent example included the manufacturer’s labeling of equipment where the words “Master/Slave” appeared to identify the primary and secondary sources. Based on the cultural diversity and sensitivity of Los Angeles County, this is not an acceptable identification label.

We would request that each manufacturer, supplier and contractor review, identify and remove/change any identification or labeling of equipment or components thereof that could be interpreted as discriminatory or offensive in nature before such equipment is sold or otherwise provided to any County department.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation and assistance.

Joe Sandoval, Division Manager

Purchasing and Contract Services

Internal Services Department

County of Los Angeles

This caused a bit of an uproar.

The person who sent the memo tried to spin his way out of it, saying that it was “nothing more than a request” and that “I do understand that this term has been an industry standard for years and years and this is nothing more than a plea to vendors to see what they can do,” he said. “It appears that some folks have taken this a little too literally.”

Well, when you’re the guy responsible for buying megaamounts of equipments for one of the biggest cities in the U.S., and you say something is “unacceptable,” why, yes, vendors who have or want big contracts will tend to take you quite literally.

This is especially true when you have your IT staff looking for those words, and taping over the words “master/slave” and write “primary/secondary” whenever they make a service call.

The person who wrote the memo said he had gotten a few dozen emails on this.

Here’s one of them:

—– Original Message —–
From: Edward Stroligo

To: [email protected]

Sent: Monday, November 24, 2003 7:41 AM
Subject: Is the following true?

From http://www.reason.com/hitandrun/003490.shtml . According to this, Joe Sandoval, manager of purchasing and contract services of the county’s Internal Services Department sent out the following notice containing the following:

{Portion of text from memo already reproduced above}

Is this true? Given that every single computer hard drive, CD-ROM drive, CD-recorder, etc., uses the “master/slave” technology (or abbreviations like “M/S” would it not be difficult/expensive to implement this policy?

Please also note that in the computer world, various connectors and plugs are described as “male” and “female,” and it is not uncommon for computer documentation to describe taking a male connector and plugging it into a female receptacle. If master/slave is deemed culturally insensitive, perhaps this terminology is, also.

I even got a reply back:

From: “WebMail”
To: “Edward Stroligo”
Subject: Re: Is the following true?
Date: Tue, 25 Nov 2003 15:41:00 -0800

Thank you for your comments. I have forwarded your comments to the two departments that gave direction on this issue, as well as to the county supervisors for their information.

Oh, oh. If you’re an LA vendor, and you get a memo soon saying you have to rename male and female plugs something else, I’m sorry!

The Real Core Problems…

Pandering To Idiots…

webpage with many profound examples of idiot-proofing is any proof.

If I’m not appeased one way or the other, I’ll also chew up the time of the courts and agencies, too, at just the cost of my own time and effort.

Talk about asymmetric warfare.

If I really want to be taken seriously, all I need to do is round up as many like-minded idiots as possible. Then I become a political force.

What is going on here? This is what happens when you remove rationality and judgment from the process. This is what happens when you substitute subjective feelings and political power for objective reasonableness.

When you toss out the rational, what do you have left?

But what is the result of all this? We have empowered idiots and idiocy. So long as someone is upset about something for some cause (I dare not use the term “reason”), these people are empowered.

We have made the emotional state of being offended the trump card in societal affairs. It does not matter what rights other have, so long as you’re offended, people need to stand up and pay notice. Otherwise, you get called an -ist by the social fascists, it gets repeated by the media, and you get into one mess of trouble.

The Solutions…

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