Category Archives: Politics

The Letter of the Law vs. The Spirit of the Law

In the wake of the “Affordable Healthcare Act” there appears to have been quite a few people whose “current” healthcare coverage was canceled by their providers citing the fact that the coverage they currently have does not comply with the new law.  In place of their old coverage they are offered new coverage at 3 to 4 times the cost of the old coverage.

Now unless you’ve been hiking the Himalayas for the last year and your “sat phone” battery was dead you have probably heard the President say many times that “if we like our current health care coverage then we can keep it”.  Well, apparently that is not quite true. Many stories are surfacing where people had their “current” coverage cancelled.  How could this happen?  After all, The President of the United States and leader of the free world promised this would not happen.  As always there is more than one way to look at something.

The Letter of the Law

The well funded insurance company gets a battery of lawyers to scour the large and necessarily complex affordable healthcare law in search of loop holes through which they can increase their revenue by canceling existing coverage that is less profitable under the cover of the new law.  They immediately send cancellation notices to these policy holders.

The Spirit of the Law

In this somewhat fantastical version of the same story, once the loopholes are found the CEO of the company says, “Wait a minute, I just heard the President say people can keep their coverage if they like it.  Don’t cancel their policies until I contact the White House and tell them about this so they can close this loophole.”

Based on mercenary considerations and political persuasions could we have predicted the actual outcome?  Come on folks, let’s all start pulling the cart in the same direction.    I’m just saying!

Critical Thinking

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Two days ago I was having dinner with some friends and family.  Predictably politics crept into the conversation.  At that time it was revealed to me that President Obama has no less than 80 aliases and as many social security numbers.  I thought at first it was a joke.  But no, it was declared to be true by several people at the table.  When I asked where this information came from, just as predictably I found out it was “on the internet”.

Consider this.  If I send an email to everyone declaring that a new elementary sub-atomic particle exists it would be very difficult, probably impossible for the recipients to prove that it “does not” exist.  Never the less it is not sufficient for me to declare the “possibility” that such a particle exists just because it cannot be disproved.  To be taken seriously I have to provide some evidence that this particles exists.

In the Wild West free-for-all world of the internet this is not always the case.  It seems that anyone, no matter their political party affiliation, can make a declarative statement with no evidence to support it and when it is read and passed on by like minded people it just takes on a life of its own.  Very soon you find yourself seated at a table with a group of very smart people, some with post-graduate educations repeating what they read like it was chipped in stone.

Please, keep your minds open.  Think critically.  The world we live in depends on it.

 

The Fiscal Cliff

Daniel Flower / Foter / CC BY

Is there anyone besides me who is tired of the government using movie disaster metaphors in an attempt scare the s**t out of us.  How about a spread sheet or a business plan and if they’re afraid we might not be able to read them maybe they should teach us.  This is another example of the dumbing of America.  It’s an affront to me and should be to you that the government uses sound bites like “The Fiscal Cliff” to describe what happens if you spend more than what you have for decades.  It’s about the same as the airlines describing a plane crashing into the ocean as a “water landing”.  Let’s start calling things by their real names.

Should we just put old people on an ice flow.

TheeErin / Foter / CC BY-ND

Thursday, November 29, 2012

“Five years ago, managers at Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) realized that with Germany’s graying population the average age of their workers would jump from 41 to 46 by 2017. So they decided to make it happen sooner.

In 2007, the luxury automaker set up an experimental assembly line with older employees to see whether they could keep pace. The production line in Dingolfing, 50 miles northeast of BMW’s Munich base, features hoists to spare aging backs, adjustable-height work benches, and wooden floors instead of rubber to help hips swivel during repetitive tasks.  read more.. By Christian Wuestner – Sep 6, 2012 5:01 PM CT

The preceding article was posted last September on bloomberg.com.  A similar article can be seen in Car and Driver magazine as well.

We spend a lot of time agonizing about the aging population and their enormous drain on the economy, namely Social Security and Medicare (funded by taxes these same people paid).  The solutions always seem to be tax more and payout less.  How about keeping the aging population productive longer by reconfiguring the workplace much the same as BMW and others have done.    The United States has always been a model for the rest of the world regarding the skilled productivity of our workers.  The experience and productivity of our aging workers can once again lead the way by providing guidance to young people entering the workforce.  We shouldn’t be waiting for “old people” to retire so their positions can be filled by young people coming into the workplace.  Rather we should see the young people coming in as expanding the workforce and gaining valuable insights from their older co-workers.  Happy Holidays!

For additional info:

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-08-07/its-time-to-see-older-workers-as-an-asset

guns, guns and more guns

LINUZ90 / Foter / CC BY-SA

Several weeks ago there was a shooting at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices in Long Beach, CA.  The first question you might ask is how did an armed man get into the Federal building?  The stunning answer is this was a shootout between armed ICE agents, during an employee performance review obviously gone bad.  With one agent dead and another wounded I think it is fair to ask whether anybody, agents or otherwise should be armed in the workplace.  Are they armed because they expect gun play in a federal building that already has armed security and metal detectors at the entrances?

In most if not all states a weapon can be carried in the open with no training and a simple permit that may require a background check.  Even the background check can be easily and legally circumvented by purchasing the weapon from a private party.

I think this shooting is a cautionary tale.  These ICE agents were in fact “well trained”, yet this simple dispute turned deadly and irreversible because these men were armed.  If the agents were not armed I think any reasonable person would have to agree the outcome would have been much different.

Any discussion involving the individuals right to be armed always brings the second amendment front and center.  Anyone who is convinced that they know exactly what the framers meant when they drafted the second amendment should be obliged  study the endless stream of court cases that have been argued all the way to the supreme court.  I can say with some certainty they could not have conceived of a society where 44 million people own 192 million firearms, 65 million of those being handguns.  In 1791 the available guns were single shot muzzle loading rifles made by gunsmiths.  Also keep in mind that most of our laws are based on the principle that collective freedoms should supersede individual rights.

I also think it’s time we got over the idea of the infallibility of the framers and think that possibly if they were exposed to the weapons that are available today they may have been a little more careful about the way they structured of the second amendment.

When is black not black

Recently I received a forwarded email that included several glib statements and an unflattering photo-shopped picture of President Obama.  The sentences are included at he end.  The author challenged me to read the sentences and think of a reason why I shouldn’t pass them on.

With that thought in mind I got out an old textbook that has a chapter on propositional logic.  Compound propositional sentences express logical relationships between the simpler sentences that compose them.  If my explanation is not clear (very likely) you can find many references in your library or on the Internet.  These methods are important in the process of critical thinking and help us see where authors and/or advertisers are trying to lead us.  In fact we often apply them without thinking about it.

The sentences often include or imply the following connectors.

“and”, “or”, “if…then”, “if and only if”, “not”

example:

Assumption 1:  All Cats are black.  Assumption 2:  John has a cat.

This is an easy one.  I make two assumptions, one that all cats are black, and two that John has a cat.  From these two assumptions the only conclusion I can reach is that “John’s cat is black” (if..then).  Based on the assumptions I made this is a logically true statement even though in the ‘real’ world all cats are not black.  This example brings up a very important concept in propositional logic.  That is, a conditional sentence may be logically true even if one or more of the assumptions is not valid.

It is our job to go beyond the structure of the sentences and try to determine if the underlying assumptions are actually valid in the real world and if the conclusion we draw from those assumptions is also valid.  In a future blog entry I am hoping to provide a professional analysis of each one of these sentences,  In the meantime I encourage everyone to look at each one carefully.  Remember that your own bias will weigh heavily in your analysis so just try to apply the rules of logic.

My point here is that it’s important that we all evaluate everything we read so we can see where the author is trying to lead us.  We ask our children to use critical thinking when evaluating what they see and hear yet we are so easily manipulated ourselves by hasty generalizations, irrelevant conclusions, non sequiturs and other fallacious arguments designed to obscure the real issues and problems.  Party affiliation aside I think we owe it to future generations to not let ourselves be seduced by a few sound bites or glib sentences.

In conclusion, what can I say about a photo-shopped picture of the president to help illustrate the author’s version of future events.  I assure you I can find many pictures of past presidents, republican and democrat alike that do not require Photoshop to illustrate their ‘actual’ short falls.

Happy Holidays

Dean

PS   More to come.

Sentences to analyze:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity, by legislating the wealth out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them; and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work, because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

Following these sentences was a photo-shopped picture of President Obama standing in a barren landscape with the caption “My work is done here”.

Wealth Transfer!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A few days ago a loyal reader of my blog brought up an interesting point, what about credit card users who pay their balance on-time each month.  If you have a card that gives cash rewards, airline miles or any other form of incentive you actually benefit from the use of the card if you pay on time and in full each month.

In my original post I was talking about the use of credit cards in general and how they increase the price of the goods that we purchase.  What I did not consider or mention in that post was the price of goods goes up for everyone including the cash buyers.  But because the cash buyers do not benefit from the credit card incentives there is an implicit transfer of money from the cash users to the credit card users.  The subject is covered nicely in this white paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Good Eye Amy and keep those cards and letters coming.  More on actual fees in a future post.