Sunday, November 29, 2009

I Can't Drive 55

I just got back from vacation. I kept humming the Sammy Hagar song "I Can't Drive 55" as I drove 75 mph. On one section of the road there was an 80 mph "speed limit test section". I was wondering how they test this. Maybe they count the number of accidents to see if it makes a difference.

I still remember getting a speeding ticket years ago on this same road. I was the third car in a row of cars in the slow lane. The highway patrolman only stopped me. If I remember correctly, the ticket was for going 18 mph over the speed limit (73 mph). I think the spot I stopped is now marked with a 75 mph speed limit sign. I've always been ahead of time.

I decided to research a little the old 55 mph speed limit. I thought it was Jimmy Carter that pushed for the lower speed limit (he was a big preacher about the energy crisis). I was surprised to find it was the previous liberal president, Richard Nixon. He actually wanted a 50 mph speed limit!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

CNN, Glenn Beck, Connect the dots

In July I wrote about how I thought Glenn Beck focused only on negative news and not positive news here.

This morning I turned on the T.V. to watch a little news. The first station to come up was CNN. Fedricka Whitfield was the news anchor. Occasionally I watch different networks to get different viewpoints. It was interesting the stories:

1. A CNN poll indicates that a majority of Americans are in favor of the public option for healthcare.

2. A judge in a court case found the Army Corps of Engineers liable for the Huricane Katrina flooding.

3. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat Senator from Louisiana announced her support to vote the health care bill through committee.

My apologies to Glenn Beck, who always says to connect the stories. That idea he's right on. All three of these stories are connected, but CNN missed it. Thanks to my new, favorite news aggregator (sorry Drudge), this news story that I read on Thursday makes the connection. Harry Reid's changes to the healthcare bill that vaguely include “certain states recovering from a major disaster...during the proceeding 7 fiscal years” apply to only one state: Mary Landrieu's Louisiana. That's a pretty expensive way to buy a vote. Since American tax payers are now on the hook for Katrina, is the Army Corps of Engineers off the hook?

I wonder how CNN worded their question for their poll: "Would you rather have a public option with the healthcare plan or move to Pakistan and have their healthcare?"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Solution for the US Post Office

I was getting our mail after work and as usual, most of the mail was junk. So as I walked back to our house, I thought of a solution to the post offices budget woes.

Raise the bulk rates on junk mail.

This would result in some combination of two things :

1. Increase revenues for the post office due to all the junk mail.

2. Decrease the amount of junk mail thus decreasing the burden on the post office. This would most likely reduce cost (Think how many fewer airplanes and big trucks need to cart the junk mail around the country). There would also be an environmental benefit due to creating less trash in our landfills and reducing carbon emissions.

Just a thought.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


I'm currently reading "Nonsense: Red Herrings, Straw Men and Sacred Cows: How We Abuse Logic in Our Everyday Language" by Robert J Gula. I think this book should be required reading for all high school and college students. Anyone in the media or politics should be required to read it every year. At least this is the conclusion I've come to after reading only 1/3 of the book. Here some of the "abuses" and examples of how they are happening today.

Emotional Appeals

Appeal to Pity (argumentum ad misericordium) - Instead of giving carefully documented reasons, evidence and facts, a person appeals to our sense of pity, compassion, brotherly love.

Example from News: We need to provide health care for all Americans, end discrimination against pre-existing conditions and stop insurance companies from dropping people who are sick. "No one should go broke because they get sick". [1][2]

Problem: Limited (or no) facts or evidence that this is happening.

Appeal to Guilt - You have it good, so shouldn't you help those less fortunate

Example from News: "We need to spread the wealth"[1 at 4:42]

Appeal to Fear - "If you don't do X then Y will happen (and Y is bad)"

Example: Pass TARP or else banks will fail and economy will crumble, pass the Economic Stimulus or else unemployment will rise, pass Cap & Trade or else we'll destroy the earth, "...
health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year." [1]

Appeal to Hope - "If you do X, Y may happen. Therefore, if you want Y to happen, do X (and Y is good)". Example: [1]

Appeal to Sincerity - The person presenting the argument seems very sincere, therefore we should trust them. Example: [1]


Appeal to Status/Bandwagon -
  • You can gain status by making this choice
  • Anyone of importance is doing the same thing
  • "Everyone is doing it"

Example: every poll, pollster, and [1 at 2:03]

Repetition - The theory is that if you say something often enough, people will eventually believe it.

Example: Google Search -

  • "global warming facts" -> 35,500,000 hits
  • "health care reform needed now" -> 21,700,000 hits
  • "obama hope and change" -> 108,000,000 hits
  • "economics stimulus package new jobs" -> 10,200,000
Oversimplification - Takes a complicated issue and looks at a from a narrow viewpoint.

  1. Global Warming is caused by man made carbon dioxide emissions. Natural cycles, solar variations, ocean CO2 absorption and emission, etc. are all ignored.
  2. Our current health care crisis is caused by greedy insurance companies (specifically executives). Poor health habits, over regulation, and many other issues are basically ignored.

Name Calling - Use names with strong negative emotional associations for people you don't like or who oppose your position. These terms should be first defined and then evidence should be provided.

  1. Tea Party protesters are "Un-American, Astro-turf, teabaggers" (Until April 15, 2009, I never new that teabaggers was a sexually obscene term).
  2. If you don't agree with Obama, you are a racist.

It's late so I'll have to comment on the Chapter 6, Irrelevance another time.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Purple is Good

Several years ago my company had an all hands meeting. At the time, we had grown so large that there wasn't a room or other space large enough to hold the meeting. The solution for this problem was across the street, at the local mega church. We already had an agreement to share parking lots for overflow, but letting us use their meeting hall was a very generous offer.

On the day of the meeting, we all walked in mass across the street. I listened to others conversations as we walked for this interesting event. One surprising comment made by an older man was that this would be the first time he ever stepped into a church.

The corporate vice-president was visiting to give the presentation. The one thing that stands out is a chart he put up. It had a grid of colored boxes, each apparently representing a different area of our business. The colors were red, yellow, green and purple. I guess when you're put in charge of a very large organization, it's hard to know the details so you need a high level summary.

The vice-president could apparently tell that we were confused by this chart so he explained to us "Purple is good". I chuckled quietly and was a little embarrassed for him.

It reminded me of a joke I once read:

The president asked the director for status on a project.
  • The director asked the manager.

    • The manager asked the lead.

      • The lead asked the engineer.

      • The engineer replied "This project is crap!"

    • The lead thought, "I can't tell that to the manager", so he toned it down a little and said "This project is cow manure!"

    The manager thought, "I can't tell that to the director", so he toned it down a little more and said "This project is fertilizer!"

The director thought, "I can't tell that to the president," so he toned it down even more said "This project promotes growth".

Purple is good.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fun Theory

How do you change behavior?
1) Pass Laws
2) Tax bad behavior
3) Give financial incentives for good behavior.
4) Threaten physical harm or go to war to change behavior

This is one of the best ideas I've heard about in a long time.
5) Make it fun