Tuesday, February 11, 2014

American Generosity

So there I was, watching TV on a Sunday afternoon, when a news item crawled along the bottom of the screen. It said that a 49ers fan who crashed the Seahawks post-Superbowl party turned out to be a 15-year old ward of the state who lives in an homeless shelter. It also said a GoFundMe page had been set up for him. GoFundMe is a fundraising site. So I started thinking, Americans are so generous when a poor person manages to make himself stand out from the rest. Waitress got stiffed by obnoxious guests, we raised money for her. When a bus monitor was insulted by her students, we raised a LOT of money for her. A homeless man with a great voice enthralled us all a few years ago and we all came to his aid.

The point is we Americans are very generous when it comes to this kinds of one-on-one giving. But what if we decide that in addition to helping poor people on an individual basis, we come up with a systematic way to raise ALL poor people? I am talking about social welfare programs. For some reason those never really get the generous side of Americans. Instead we make all sorts of excuses. We say there's fraud involved in the process even though the level of fraud in food stamp program is less than 3%. Meanwhile, that waitress that was insulted by her guests? Turns out she lied about everything. So why is it that fraud in individual giving (i.e. funding people one at a time) doesn't discourage us from coming to the aid of the next waitress but we use the relatively low level of fraud and waste in govt programs for the poor as an excuse to cut those programs?

Americans are generous people. I just wish we would extend that to ALL the less fortunate. It'll be cheaper and way more effective. So next time a politician wants to cut a social welfare program, say Head Start to provide pre-school for poor children, why not imagine the back story behind all the beneficiaries of the program: the single mom trying to make ends meet; the precocious 3-year old whose parents can't afford pre-school; the ex-drug addict trying to keep it together for his son because the mom is dead from a drug overdose. So instead of thinking of those abusing the system (i.e. Ronald Reagan's infamous welfare queens and young bucks), let's personify these programs and maybe we'll find it easier to advocate for those programs. After all, how many of us will refuse to give to a hungry child?

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Spot the difference

When I was growing up, there used to be a game called "Spot the difference" in the newspaper. That and the sports section are just about the only parts of the paper I read (the cartoons back home tended to be more political than funny). Basically, you are given two pictures with slight differences between them. Your task is to spot the differences between the two pictures. Sounds pretty simple, right? Except some are really tough because the differences are where you least expect them to be.

Which brings me to the reason for this post. Grocery shopping these days has become an exercise in spotting the difference. Except here, your hard earned money is at stake, you are forced to play and the game is rigged. See if you can spot the difference between these 2 packages of flushable wipes from Costco:


If you can't spot the difference, here's a hint:



You still what happened there? The package went from 6.8 x 5.9 inches to 7.1 x 5.1 inches. That's a difference of almost 4 square inches per wipe (40.12 inches - 36.21 inches = 3.91 inches). And the price? Remains the same. But don't worry, the new smaller version comes in "New! Decorative Packages".


I love Costco, I do but this is why I think American companies have an adversarial relationship with their customers. Their #1 goal is to separate us from our money...providing good value is a distant #2. This is not the first time this has happened...in fact it's so common now consumer advocates call it "grocery shrink ray".

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Happy Birthday from who?

So my birthday was last Saturday. Mixed in with all the "happy birthday" calls and posts on Facebook was this:



That's my insurance company sending me an email to wish me a happy birthday. Maybe something is wrong with me but I found this to be a useless waste of time. My relationship with Liberty Mutual is strictly cash (or in this case, electronic payments from my bank). We are not friends so why the pretense? I got the email and I was hoping they'll include some discount in it. But no, nothing of the sort. Just a happy birthday wish. What am I, 3 years old?

Monday, May 06, 2013

Personal conviction versus Public policy

When it comes to public policy, you almost have to have 2 approaches: one for your family and one for the general public. Take sex for example. Most parents probably have "no sex before marriage" as the goal. But when you are talking about public health, you have to be pragmatic and know that you won't get 100% compliance. So what happens to the kids that miss the goal? Unplanned pregnancies, self esteem issues etc Even if you have just 1% failure rate, that's a whole lot of people that you haven't planned for.

Take abortion, even pro-choice people know this is a life-altering decision. Sure, as a Christian/Muslim, you may abhor abortion but what about the non-Christians/Muslims in the population? Are you not going to plan for them? If you close all abortion clinics (or make it extremely difficult for them to remain open), maybe that'll force some people to have their rape/incest babies but do you think others won't try risky means to abort the baby? So what happens in that case? You end up with Kermit Gosnell, back-alley abortions and other unsafe abortions methods.

Take alcohol, just Google prohibition if you don't already know.

Marijuana: I have never smoked it but how is it any more dangerous than alcohol? And yet we have people in jail for possession. Just legalize it, stigmatize it, prevent them from marketing it to kids and tax the heck out of it. It already worked for cigarette smoking.

Guns: I don't own guns and have only shot a rifle once. I think it should be legal but why the f**k are we allowing them to market to kids? Why should you be able to own a lethal weapon when you can't even be left at home alone?

Gay Marriage: Yes it's against your religion but again, what about those who don't share your religion? Should they be subjected to your religious beliefs? That's not what the United States stands for...this is a country that gives asylum to people from countries that practice crap like that. The ironic thing is that all these Christian fundamentalists are no different than the Islamic fanatic they consider their mortal enemies. Both of them want the same thing: impose their religion on everybody.

Now I am not an anarchist and by no means am I saying everything should be allowed (although that's the premise of what looks to be an intersting movie) but if what we are doing isn't working, why not do something radical and change things up? What's the worst that could happen? Maybe abortions become "safe, legal and rare". Maybe young kids realize that you can get pregnant from your first time. Maybe we stop putting young people in prison for smoking weed. We allow any 2 people that love each other to get "married".

Monday, April 08, 2013

Reply All?

In 2013, why does Microsoft's Outlook.com have this option? :


The only option in that dialog ought to be "No".