Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Blame Gerrymandering

June 25, 2013

We have gridlock in congress. We aren’t electing moderates, but ideological extremes. I think one solution is to eliminate gerrymandering.

When districts are gerrymandered, the party that has the majority in the state tries to put all the people of the opposite party into as few districts as possible. This means that the people who are elected in those districts are running from the center of their party, not the center of their state. The majority party has safer districts, meaning that they do need to appeal as much to the other party.

The center tends to make both sides unhappy. Nevertheless, I would like the country to be run from the center. Real issues can be addressed, without the fringes vetoing it. Sometimes both fringes will kill a reasonable compromise. I addressed gerrymandering before in a post. I will give an alternate solution.

If a straight lines that connects two parts of a district encloses parts of other districts, those parts are defined as “Places that should be in the district.” If the “places that should be in the district” exceed one fifth of the district, than the district is not acceptable. Maryland is clearly gerrymandered by this definition. Note: the Chesapeake Bay isn’t in another state, and thus doesn’t count, but parts of Virginia and West Virginia are on the left of the image and Delaware is on the right.

Maryland

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How Should Social Security Be Improved?

April 29, 2012

First, make the social security tax be on all income, not just salary. This would add to the revenue stream immediately.

Second, eliminate the cap on the income. As income goes beyond the maximum to contribute, which is about $110,000 per year, Social Security is still collected. No matter how much income someone has, social security is taken from all of the income.  However, a person who contributes twice as much to social security doesn’t get twice as much income. He gets one and a half times the income, and further contributions would lead to a lower rate of return.  People would still get something from the additional money, but not a proportional amount. This would mean the NFL player who goes broke later in life can still look forward to a reasonable amount of income.

I have no idea as to whether this would solve the problem, but it would help.

The good old days weren’t good

January 28, 2012

“… the productivity of U.S. workers has increased fourfold since the 1950s. Put another way, as of 2000, employees work one hour to produce what it took four hours to create a half-century ago. Meanwhile, the buying power of wages has remained stagnant…” 

I don’t believe it. Not that I don’t believe the figures. I am sure that someone figured out that it would take the same number of hours to buy a 1950 car as a 2011 car. But the average age of a car on the road today is over ten years, and in the 1950’s five-year-old car was an old car, while the wealthy changed their cars annually. Tires? They advertised tires that lasted 3,000 miles. Housing? Only movie theaters had air conditioning, and coal furnaces weren’t unusual.

Medical costs have gone way up, but so has life expectancy. Neither mammograms nor colonoscopies existed in 1950. The polio vaccine was first tested in 1952 and the measles vaccine came in the next decade.

If we wanted a 1950’s lifestyle we could do it much cheaper than they did it then, but it wouldn’t be a safe or comfortable society. Not only did 1950’s cars not have airbags, they didn’t usually have seat belts. But don’t worry, we wouldn’t drive them as fast, because Interstate Highways didn’t exist. Air travel was for the rich, and jets were for the military, not for civilian travel.

Instead of cell phones, in the 1950’s people used operators and often had party lines. Calls outside of a small area were very expensive. Of course, there were no personal computers.

Perhaps the rich get richer, but the lower middle class lives much better today than most people in 1950.

The Social Dance Around Politics

January 2, 2012

There is no one in my life who agrees with me completely about all issues. Or at least I assume there is no one, since I don’t compare opinions with most people. I just returned from the gym and had conversations with two people. We don’t talk about anything controversial. The only thing I know that I agree with them about is that exercise is good.

Politics comes up with some people, but most people skate around the issues. There is a dance where one person makes hesitating steps to move toward a topic and the other person either follows or leads in another direction, depending upon whether they wish to go that way or avoid the topic. There is one person in my life who won’t follow the lead away from a topic, and that makes for social difficulties, since we often disagree. Most people are surprisingly adept at the dance. I’ve known people for decades and spent many hours socializing with them, but have no idea of their opinions on many topics.

In the long run, most of the time it doesn’t matter. I don’t expect to agree with everyone.

“Jobs that help other people the most”

September 18, 2011

Sadly, the degrees in least demand — and that pay the least — lead to jobs that help other people the most. Counseling, psychology and social work are among these. from the Washington post, 9/18/11

This article is advocating staying in college and states that petroleum engineers make $120,000 and guidance counselors make $40,000. Counseling helps people more than petroleum? If a community had no counselors at all, would it be better off than if it had no gasoline? Please understand that I am not trying to say that social workers, psychologists, and counselors don’t do good. I believe they do, but they do it one person at a time.

A petroleum engineer might ultimately be responsible for bringing energy to millions of people. They wouldn’t receive that kind of salary if they didn’t. I’ll limit myself to part of a paragraph to explain how our lives are enriched by transportation. Just briefly, bananas are cheap and plentiful and grown in another country. I routinely buy things from Amazon and they are shipped from all over the place. Most people are not limited to living within a walking distance of work. It is not unusual for couples to commute in opposite directions. If I don’t like the local grocery store, there’s another one within an easy drive that is happy to have my business. And petroleum is used to create electricity and make plastics as well.

Our society is rich enough to afford petroleum engineers and social workers, and I am happy that the ones that benefit people more are paid more.

A plague on both your houses!

July 24, 2011

And both your parties, and both the executive and legislative branch of the government. Find some kind of compromise. Raise the debt ceiling. Both sides are intransigent, and not only will the American public suffer if some kind of agreement is not reached, but potentially the whole world. I can’t believe how irresponsible the government is.

July 24, 2011

OK, Shakespeare actually wrote, “A plague a’ both your houses!”

When one death seems more tragic than many

January 16, 2011

“In 2007, there were 37 countries in which at least 10% of children under five died,” according to Wikipedia. The death rate for children under 5 in the USA is under 1%, and that is considered high for an industrialized country.

I am not remotely trying to suggest that people should not get upset about the recent tragic death of Christina Green in Arizona, but why does her death elicit more emotion than the previous paragraph? It is more upsetting, at least to me, yet my mind tells me that the numbers should mean more. Am I incapable of generalizing?

A politician trying to use deaths to promote gun control is more likely to use individuals rather than numbers. Before the recession, our newspaper led an article about low unemployment by writing a paragraph about someone who was still unemployed, and it often starts articles that are about statistics with examples of individuals.

I am more interested in the numbers. I want to know how many, what percent, how has it changed, and what factors effect how accurate the numbers are. Yet I am more influenced emotionally by the story about the individual. The fact that many people react this way will encourage stories to be about individuals rather than numbers.

If there ever is a year when New York, NY has only one murder, the story will focus on that murder, rather than the astonishing fact that a city that normally has hundreds of murders only has one.

Voter Fraud

September 18, 2010

My husband worked at the polls during the primary Tuesday. Because there were not enough workers, they eliminated two-man control of the voting books. This meant that anyone could come in, give a name, and the election judge could pretend to look them up, “confirm” who they are with their birthday, and allow them to vote. The judge would have to give the name of a registered voter who had not voted, but if it were done late in the day, the chances are high that the voter would not show up.

I am not suggesting there was voter fraud, but there was definitely the opportunity for voter fraud. Only ten percent of the registered voters voted in the primary in this precinct. For those of you who think the primary doesn’t matter, consider Delaware, where the current viewpoint of pundits is that the Republican primary threw away a secure Republican victory and possibly threw away Republican control of the Senate.

The checks on voting are not just there for show. Making fraud easy is a terrible way to run a democracy. Even though my husband was the man with the book, and there is no way he would allow fraud, he was angry that the rules were changed to make fraud easier.

Gaming the system

August 12, 2010

Without a calculator, find the correct answer to 58 X 471

a) 27317

b) 27318

c) 918

Answer c) is too small. The correct answer should have a one’s digit of 8, because 8 X 1 = 8, which eliminates answer a). This is only slightly a math problem. Any student who spent time on a test actually doing the multiplication would be wasting his time. A better problem would include d) None of the above, which has the virtue of making the students actually check to see if b) is correct.

Recently my students were working on their homework in groups and I was circulating and helping them.

“I want help with problem 6,” said the first student.

“Are you on problem 6 already?” asked another student.

“She’s here,” the first student responded. That explained it. The odd numbered problems had answers in the back and this student was doing the even numbered ones while he could get help.

I am not just teaching math, I try to teach some common sense. Sometimes I encourage my students to game the system and it shocks them. It can be as simple as recognizing that in a matching problem, all you have to do is match; any additional work is unnecessary.

Of course people rarely need to be taught to figure out the angles. They want to see old tests and they want me to tell them as much as possible about each test. They also come up with creative ways of working the system. One student told me he was going to go to school for a year without working to ensure he received more money when he applied for a scholarship. His ability to do that suggests that he really did not need a scholarship to get an education.

I know someone who was at first not on social security because she was a teacher. She had worked several short-term jobs before she was a teacher and needed only two more years. She took a Saturday job to get the minimum amount of social security.

Many years ago there was a story about a welfare recipient who won $100,000 in a lottery. He spent it within three months so he could return to getting welfare payments. That kind of gaming the system annoys me and most people who hear about it.

But back to mathematics, I must assume that my students understand how testing works. They should learn the strategies that make the test easier, because they will be compared with students who have figured that out. Because of that, I rarely give multiple choice questions because teachers who give them are

a) lazy

b) overworked

c) both of the above

d) none of the above

Religious Argument

August 8, 2010

My husband defines a religious argument as an argument that generates a lot of heat, but never changes anyone’s mind. I recently had a discussion on an Amazon forum about arguing with people who will never be persuaded by logic. The other poster said she put forth the arguments hoping the lurkers would realize the truth.

Most people can be persuaded by logic about something they don’t care about. Unfortunately, there are a few people who have such a high opinion of their own opinions that they have difficulty changing their minds about anything. For them, logic only works like water on a rock: very slowly. Sometimes logic convinces these people only if they haven’t yet formed an opinion.

The majority of people have at least a few beliefs that will generate religious arguments. Listen to computer experts talking about the best computer or the best programing language and you will hear some of them. At least in this case, there is the possibility of there being an objective truth. When you talk about the quality of a book or movie, you are getting into a realm where there may be no truth.

There are hot button issues, such as homosexuality and abortion where most people have opinions and few can be persuaded by logic. There are personal issues, such as whether a certain lifestyle or relationship is good. Then, of course, one thing that generates a religious argument is, well,  religion.