Saturday, October 29, 2005

Wal-Mart CEO calls for minimum wage increase

Neat! Just 9 days after my post about the evidence that maintaining the current low minimum wage is not good for the economy, the AJC had an article about the Wal-Mart CEO urging Congress to raise the minimum wage: "Our customers simply don't have the money to buy basic necessities between paychecks."

Friday, October 28, 2005

Hurricane cycles

Everybody has surely noticed the increase in recent years of the numbers of severe hurricanes. In fact, we have now surpassed the previous record of all tropical storms and hurricanes in this area of the world, as we have used up all the names on the prepared list, and have gone on to tropical storms Alpha and Beta. Those who deny the impact of global warming on the earth (who are often funded by the giant oil company Mobil-Exxon) quickly attributed this to a natural cycle of 25-30 years. Then a researcer looked at the data since 1970 (i.e., for the last 35 years), and found a large increase in the number of severe hurricanes in since 1990 that was unprecendented in the earlier years. Well, the resourceful natural cycle proponents immediately started talking about cycles of up to 50 years. If the data turns out to show that the last ten years has an unprecedented number of hurricanes since whenever, the natural cycle proponents will claim a longer cycle.

Free will or not?

Some people deny the need to change habits that may harm their personal health by asserting that it's God's will how long they will live. They also deny the need to change habits that affect the environment by invoking God's will. I notice that when they want a job, they don't wait for God to provide them with one; they take personal responsibility. They look at want ads, etc., and fill out application forms.

Similarly, some people are claiming God is punishing the world by various natural calamities, including tsunamis and hurricanes. But when a bus carrying children to or from church camps is in an accident, killing and injuring the children, or as recently happened, a little girl who was walking to church was killed by a car, nobody is such a jerk as to ask what God is trying to tell people.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Earthquake prediction

Well actually, "prediction" is too strong, but it makes a better title than "quess".
I suspect that global warming will change the distribution and/or frequency of earthquakes and volcanoes, because when glaciers and ice caps melt, their weight will be relieved and transferred to the oceans.

Taking from the poor to give to the rich

The current Congress and President are truly awe-inspiring! Now they want to finance the cleanup of hurricane Katrina, which has resulted in many people being homeless and jobless, by cutting Medicaid and food stamp benefits. This is especially timely (sarcasm) because of the predicted doubling of home heating costs due to damage to gas processing plants by Katrina. Of course, much of the money will go to no-bid contracts that will enrich big companies, including Haliburton, that contribute to the Republicans.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Role of government

Certain people argue that the role of the federal government should not include helping areas devasted by catastrophe, such as hurricane Katrina. There is certainly a role for private agencies. However, the need for an effective federal response to oversee efforts was shown by the experience of a medical team from Atlanta which went to New Orleans to help. They were told for days to go someplace, only to find out when they got there that they were not needed at that place. No private agency has the resources to comprehensively track where aid is needed in such a situation. Unfortunately, FEMA was not at that time up to the task, because the people currently running the government think the government should be helping their political supporters and rich business owners, rather than victims of disaster.

Not an illustration

In the Sept. 28, 2005 AJC, Leonard Pitts (whom I respect) reports on a claim by a Britain named Ged Scott, who was on vacation in New Orleans when the city was devasted by hurricane Katrina. Ged claims that some policemen refused to help a group of women stranded on a roof because they wouldn't show their breasts. Mr. Pitts said that Ged's claim "received considerable play in British newspapers." Doing a Yahoo search on "Ged Scott" showed that it did indeed receive attention in the British press. The articles I saw did not appear to make an effort to ascertain whether this claim was true, or if Ged was even in New Orleans. Mr. Pitts himself admits that when he first heard the story, he assumed it was an urban legend. He goes on to cite it as an "illustration of the utter banality of evil." While it is possible that Ged's account is true, I would say it cannot be used to "illustrate ... evil" unless it is better documented to be true. It might turn out to be a better illustration of human gullibility!

Monday, October 17, 2005

When optimism fails

Optimism is w orshipped in this country. Indeed, there may be a genetic bias towards optimism in our country because we are mostly descendents of immigrants, whom we would expect to be mostly optimists. I know from experience that those of us who are more realistic are often criticized harshly. People often cite statistices showing that optimists are happier and healthier. But the definitions of "ooptimism" in these studies is not that of the general public. The optimists in the studies do not assume that all is and will be well. They believe that they can cope when things do not turn out will, and that they can influence (not necessarily determine) their lives. In fact, in long-term studies, people who were described as cheerful when they were children turned out to have a lower life expectancy.

Now, I'm not saying we don't need optimistic people. We need a variety of different kinds of people to fulfill various functions in society. Which is my point.

An example of a situation where optimism was a drawback are the people who choose to stay in areas which are predicted to be hit hard by hurricanes, when they had the means to escape. They are sure it won't be that bad. In the case of Katrina, they were wrong.

Do low wages make for prosperity?

The Republicans oppose the raising of the minimum wage, saying it would hurt the economy. The desire to gain the fruits of another's labor w/o paying a decent price is an example of the pervasive welfare/slave-holder mentality in our country; maybe it is human natiure? What has been the benefit of our decreasing minimum wage, allowing for inflation - increasing numbers/percentages of people in poverty and near-poverty, with the resulting lack of retail sales.

During the late 1990's, there were thousands of computer workers fixing the Y2K problem. This was a necessary endeavour to leep the economy from crashing, but added lilttle value to companies (except for the occasional hitherto unknown bugs we found as part of the extensive review of all programs). That was also a time when the economy was doing well. Once the Y2K conversions were done, and large numbers of people were laid off at the beginning or early in 2000, the economy immediately slowed.

Not saving enough

I notice that the same people who criticize Americans for not saving enough are the same one who encouraged people to keep spending during the recent recession, who oppose rasing the minimum wage, defend outsourcing of American jobs to foreign countries, and block attempts to decrease illegal immigration.

The number and percentage of Americans who are living in poverty or near-poverty and/or do not have health insurance has been increasing. For many people, it is a problem to pay for neccessities, much less save.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Do as I say

Has anybody else noticed that if a parent is unkind to his/her children, people will say sympathetically "They can't help it, that's the way they were raised." Whereas, if a person was mistreated terribly by their parents for many years, people say it shouldn't have any effect on them (outside of how they treat their own children). Parents hold themselves blameless if their children turn out badly, but take credit if their children turn out well. Is it really fair or logical that we expect children to behave better than adults?

Declining population

There have been predictions that the declining population in European countries will cause problems in supporting the retired population, because there will be fewer people to support each retired person. Supposedly, prosperity depends on an ever-increasing population. This is, of course, ridiculous. At some point, all carbon atoms in the world would have to be tied up in human bodies! The population of the U.S. has been increasing, due immigration of young workers, supposedly a positive thing, but it hasn't had the positive effects the "experts" keep predicting.

I have not seen anybody figure in the fact that a declining population should lead to smaller housing costs. Of course, this will hurt some people in the immediate future, but will make it easier for young people and those who rent. Also, real wages would be expected to increase. Food costs should decrease. Less money would be needed for schools. Age discrimination in jobs should decrease. The net results of a declining population might end up being positive.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

How many number 2 leaders?

I had decided not to make a habit of commenting on illogic in the letters to the editors, at least of publications for the general public, such as newspapers; I would have to spend too much time writing about them, and any readers of this blog would be likely to see most of the fallacies themselves. But being a mathematician, I can't resist those which involve a misunderstanding or misuse of math, of which there have been several recently.

Several people have commented on the fact that there have been several reports by the U.S. government that the "number 2 Al-Qaida leader" has been killed or captured. In fact, Mike Luckovich had a cartoon making fun of it Sun., Oct. 2, 2005. Well, I don't know whether the claims that these people were all the no. 2 leaders were accurate, but they are not illogical. As soon as we get rid of the current no. 2 leader, someone else will take his place, as long as there are at least 2 Al-Quda members.