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.

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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

Fleecing of America

Stunt of the Litter / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I haven’t posted for a while so I thought I would start off with something simple.  This is another example of something that appears to simplify our lives but in fact is pilfering money from our pockets.  What am I talking about?  Propane cylinder exchange.  There was a time where we would take our 20# barbecue cylinder to a gas station to be refilled when we felt they were getting low.  We would then pay for the amount of propane that was required to fill the tank.  What do we do now?  We bring the tank that is low to a propane exchange where we exchange it for one that is full.  But wait a minute, the tank we bring in is not always empty so what happens to the extra fuel? Do we get credit for the LP gas remaining in the tank, which could be easily measured by weighing the tank.  Of course not.  Instead we give them a partially filled tank and pay full price for the filled tank we receive in exchange.  This is the equivalent of bringing your car to the gas station, completely draining your tank into the stations bulk tank and then refilling the car where part of the fuel is the same stuff you just donated to the station for free.  I’m just saying!

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”.

Is the Computer mightier than the pen

 

Recently I’ve been hearing people lament the loss of some USPS services while at the same time using their computers to send and receive emails.  While contemplating this paradox a very simple truth hit me.  If you get communications in whatever form from someone close to you the method shouldn’t matter.  To me, if someone I love takes the time to compose and send a text message it means just as much as if they sat down and wrote it with pen and paper.  It just gets to me a lot faster.  I know most of us would not give up air travel in favor of covered wagons just because that’s the way we used to travel.  Sure, eliminating some USPS services is going to be an inconvenience for some people but over time when finally we have to look at a Norman Rockwell painting to remember what a postman looked like and we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.  Meanwhile we have to be tolerant of everybody whose fear is causing them to cling to their pens and pencils.  We have to help them overcome their fear of the new technology and usher them into the brave new world.  Remember, telling someone you love them and are thinking about them transcends the communication medium.  Texting and emails are hear to stay, at least until the next technology outdates them.

Happy Holidays

Here’s todays conundrum   Are we saving too…

Here’s todays conundrum.  Are we saving too much or spending too much?  Depending on which talking head you listen to the answer could go either way.  One head says we should save like our grandparents and pay cash for everything.  Another head says that we are now saving to much and smothering the economy.  After all 70% of our economy is driven by consumer spending.  In the halcyon days of the early 2000’s we were racking up mortgage and credit card debt, spending money we didn’t have like we would never have to pay it all back.  Oops, we were wrong.  I don’t have to rehash the mortgage meltdown or the upcoming credit card and student loan fiasco.  It’s sufficient to say that as a society we have lost our financial way.  It’s popular to blame big banks, but we were the ones buying the houses we could not afford and we knew we couldn’t.  We were the ones swiping our credit cards for our morning cappuccino.  It’s time to take responsibility for our own behavior.  Remember, there would have been no mortgage meltdown if we would have all behaved responsibly.  Let’s all think twice before we buy the next dodad or trinket we really don’t need.