Contrary Thought

August 29, 2013

Guns Equal Murder???

Filed under: Culture,Current Events,General,Guns,Politics,Rants — contrarythought @ 8:46 pm

If you run correlations between Percentage of Gun Ownership in each state and Gun Murders in each state (adjusted for population) you will find how well gun murders are explained by the amount of guns in each state.  (Data from Wikipedia

Guns and Gun Murders

There is no correlation! (If there were it would be negative – More guns = less gun murders – But statistically there is NO CORRELATION)

If you run correlations between Gun Murders in each state (adjusted for population) and The Restrictiveness of the states gun laws you will find out how well gun murders are diminished by the restrictiveness of the laws in each state.  (Data from Wikipedia

Gun Laws and Gun Murders

There is no correlation! Stricter laws do not equal less gun murders.

If we are really going to try to fix the problem we need to run the numbers and be realistic about what the real cause of the problem is. The numbers show us that guns don’t equal gun murders and restrictive anti-gun laws do not equal a reduction in gun murders. SO WHAT DOES?

If we are going to solve the problem, if we are really going to reduce the number of gun murders, this is the question we need to answer.  What does correlate to an increase in gun murders?


January 17, 2012

The Loss Of Those “Good Manufacturing Jobs”

They say that manufacturing is going away and that is a crisis. Manufacturing jobs can be pretty good jobs or they can be the hottest, loudest, dirtiest, most unpleasant jobs. I worked in the family company as a machinist when I was young. While it paid well for an 18 year old with no experience and a limited education it was hot, loud and dirty. A few years back my wife (for family reasons) took an entry level service industry job. But it still pays pretty well for an entry level job and it is cleaner, quieter and in a far more pleasant environment than most entry level manufacturing jobs. But service jobs are “bad” and manufacturing jobs are “good”.

Or maybe it is the loss of manufacturing jobs as a whole that is bad.

Later I worked in sales and management for our family business. It sold equipment to industrial companies so I was on the front line of the beginning of the collapse of the industrial economy in this country. We lost a lot of money. It wasn’t pretty and we should surely be among the people who are bitter over the shift from an industrial economy. We should certainly believe that a shift from an industrial economy is a crisis.

But before America led the world in the industrial revolution the world economy was agrarian. When everyone was a farmer the industrial revolution was scary also. All those farmers couldn’t figure out how we weren’t going to starve to death when we gave up the farms and started building and selling widgets to each other. A move from an industrial to an information based economy is just as scary and hopefully it will be just as successful.

I lost a lot of money when the industrial economy started going down but eventually saw where things were going and shifted my career. I had to start over to some degree but am now doing very well (better than I was in upper management in manufacturing) and having a great time (coming up with information based solutions is more challenging and more fun that coming up with physical solutions). Hopefully the change from Industrial Economy to an Information based Economy will mimic the success of the change from Agrarian to Industrial…though change is always scary.

December 26, 2007

The Worlds Like School

The Web Marketing Guy sent me this quote from a P. J. O’Rourke Book The CEO Of The Sofa. It is very fitting as we find ourselves in another election year.

“Pretend the entire world is our school and all the prominent people are students in my class. What’s everybody up to? The popular kids are out having fun. The smart kids are reading Adam Smith. The ambitious kids are working nights and weekends. The talented kid are playing sports and rehearsing for the school play. I’m drinking beer behind the Dairy Queen. And the insufferable twits? They’re running for school government.

It works for me…except I was behind McDonalds drinking Bourbon.

February 18, 2007

This Country Was Built On Immigration (Illegal Immigration?).

Filed under: Culture,Current Events,General,Life,Media,News,Politics,Rants — contrarythought @ 5:44 pm

I don’t understand the arguments currently going on regarding immigration. Immigration has always been a part of this country and it always will be but doesn’t there need to be a distinction between legal and illegal immigration? As a mater of fact to make sure people reading this will understand I am making a distinction I will capitalize ILLEGAL for the rest of the post.

Right now there are parts of the country that are debating weather we give ILLEGAL aliens free state provided health care and even social security.

How about parking in a fire lane. Yea, it’s ILLEGAL but if you do decide to do it we’ll give you a free car wash. “J” walking…we won’t give you a ticket but instead you get a coupon for Footlocker. You break into someone’s house…they better offer you a snack.

Even if we get away from the idea that we should reward ILLEGAL immigration, if we refuse to punish it at all, we are essentially decriminalizing it. For all intents and purposes that makes all immigration legal.

I know people don’t want to make the tough decision. Keeping restrictions on immigration and not enforcing them is easier and nicer. Certainly most of the people sneaking into this country are doing it to better their situation and provide for their families, but making all immigration legal would be an economic disaster and cause societal chaos. Punishing ILLEGAL immigration seems mean. So the most open minded among us decide to do neither. They would never try to make all immigration legal but won’t enforce punishing ILLEGAL immigration…an amazing solution. But it does give them the entirely illogical moral high ground.

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February 11, 2007

People Trust The Government More Then Private Companies

Filed under: Culture,Current Events,General,Life,News,Politics,Random Thoughts,Rants — contrarythought @ 7:23 pm

When problems with social security, health care, airport security or other national issues come up, many people say that we can’t trust them to private companies. They say government must take this over so that we can trust it will be done right.

Even though we all know of the $1000 toilet seat that the government buys and have experienced the DMV and the post office it would seem that people still trust government most to solve problems. From what I have gathered from discussing this with many different people, they trust government because they feel they have some control through the election process.

The government is just a bunch of people, just like any other company. We feel we have little control or oversight over private companies. On the other hand since we elect government officials, we feel we have quite a bit of control and therefore oversight over government actions. Though the government has oversight over business WE have oversight over government through electing its officials.

There is a little problem with this. If you think you have much control or over government agencies through the election process you may be in for a depressing surprise. By the governments own account there are “nearly 2 million civilian employees” in the federal government, not including the postal employees. Government documents from 1995 put the number of elected officials of the federal government at 542, which shouldn’t have changed much if at all today. Here is how it breaks down.

“The Federal elected officials includes the 540 members of Congress: 100 Senators, 435 Representatives, a resident commissioner from Puerto Rico, and 1 delegate each from the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. Also included under other elected officials are the President and the Vice President…”

If every one of them brought in 100 of their own people and let 100 of their predecessor’s people go (the number is probably more like 10 or 20 but I’m not really sure) we would only be changing just over fifty thousand of the two million people in our ELECTED government. We control less than 3% (probably a lot less) of the federal government through elections. Not much control or oversight.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that your vote isn’t worth anything. Your vote can change the general direction of the government, judicial appointments, taxation, some spending priorities and some other things.

The people we elect do hold oversight committees on important government agencies. How much control would you feel you have over a company or a group of people if you had a meeting with them once or twice a year or for that matter even once a month*. Does anyone reading this, that works for almost any size company, only see their boss every four weeks or less.

Our control and oversight of government agencies is an illusion. Our trust in these agencies should be limited to our faith in them functioning without any direct oversight by the American people. This may be the best explanation for the $1000 toilet seats and the efficiency of the DMV or the post office.

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January 27, 2007

Oprah what were you thinking…

Oprah is certainly famous. She is a very rich person. It can’t be the money or fame. By most all accounts she is a very nice person so she didn’t do it to be purposefully sadistic. Unlike a lot of stars she has put her money where her mouth is.

Oprah’s Angel Network takes donations and gives 100% of that money out to charities. They can give away 100% because she covers all the administrative costs out of her own pocket. I won’t go into all the other charitable activities she has been involved with here it should suffice to say she has been named by Business Week as one of the countries top 50 most generous philanthropists.

So why would she do this? Most rape victim’s names are kept anonymous by the press and media to keep from making their personal violation worse. A very personal thing has been taken from them by force at the hands of a sadistic predator. To make that public deepens the wound. Why would she take a 15-year-old rape victim and parade him in front of the world a few days after his release from his tormentor?

His parents must have wanted the fame or money (I don’t know whether Oprah pays her guests) and I find that repulsive. But what did Oprah get? Did she need the rating? I am sure that she got big ratings, thought I didn’t watch personally.

So his parents got fame or money and Oprah got ratings and more money what did this kid get? He certainly got fame. What would it do, in the long run, to a young boys emotional state to be famous for being kidnapped and raped? I of course was once a 15-year-old boy and I have two young boys myself. I can’t for a moment image what this type of fame would do to them or would have done to me.

There is a lot of crap on TV, Tom Cruise jumping on the sofa and professing his new love is a good example. The sadistic aspects of Idol and the embarrassing lengths people in reality TV shows in general go through for their 15 minutes of fame are other great examples. But this is totally irresponsible. Oprah should be embarrassed to be a small part, let alone the instigator of this emotional train wreck.

What the hell was she thinking? What the hell was everyone involved thinking?

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January 22, 2007

The Demise Of Google – Just Call Me Nostradamus

Google won’t die with a bang. As a mater of fact, it won’t die at all, but it will fade, eventually into irrelevancy. That can happen quicker then you think.

Google had its purpose…OK…it has its purpose. It took a huge jumble of information and made it available. It did it cleaner, faster and better than those first “portals” and search engines of the early Internet era. But the web has evolved and our uses for it have too.

At first the Internet was just a storage area for information. It was like that drawer you have, in your kitchen, that has the telephone book and the menus of local restaurants and your address book and all the other bits information you pick up or write down on scraps of paper. We all hate sifting through that drawer and the web version of that drawer was enormous. Google sifted it for us and sorted it on the table so we could find the slip of paper we we’re looking for. It did it faster and without the clutter that other “portals” of the time had. But the web isn’t that drawer anymore.

The Internet grew from that drawer into a room full of info and now a town full of commerce and information and social functions and more. The web now holds retail stores and restaurants and libraries and meetings and parties and…well you name it. Google still sorts it fast and clean but it sorts it like that drawer. It sorts all those things the same way.

Google sorts by what it considers relevant. All of those who strive to be at the top of those sorts know what I mean. Google sorts the entire web by what it considers relevant content and votes. Votes being links into a site by sources that are graded for their relevancy and content being text or words in the pages of the site. Here lies the problem that will be Googles undoing. Maybe this quiz will help.

Which has more/better content? A) A Library B) A Supermarket C) A Cruise Ship D) A Hospital. It all depends, of course, on whether you’re bored, hungry or injured. Not to Google. It sorts this new landscape of the web…this town…as if it is that information stuffed into that drawer.

The more sites, representing different sectors of society, populate the web the more there will be the need for search engines that sort those site using data applicable to their sectors. Think about it this way, Google is looking for content, text on index pages. So shopping sites need to have a considerable amount of text high on the page to rank well in a search.

This means that when you are looking for a big screen TV, Google wants you to get a page of text. I will agree that they want it to be text about big screen TVs but personally I want to see TVs…lots of them…really big TVs…like movie screens…sorry…what was I talking about…oh yea. I would guess by the way retail store merchandise that they feel most people agree with me. I have never seen the front of a big screen TV section of a Best Buy sporting lots of text or flyers. The same holds true for sites from all sorts of other sectors of society. If you do find all products on the index page of a web site from a Google search, the web site was probably designed to trick its way around Google.

Google will be picked apart on all its flanks. Industry specific engines with creative industry specific algorithms will slowly take over the search industry. Think about it. Does it make any sense that we go to the same place to find information on printer drivers that we do to find where to buy rice noodles.

As it stands everyone is looking for some conglomeration of big companies to knock off Google. The model for search that is assumed today has already become outdated. A one size fits all approach fits the new web like…well…like one size fits all stuff usually fits. It is just fine if you don’t have ANYTHING else. When some innovative people among us stop chasing Google to catch their breath they will realize they are chasing an anachronism. The demise of Google will come as they start to develop creative niche search engines. And frankly I can’t wait…

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January 16, 2007

American Idol…Sadistic Crap

Filed under: Arts & Entertainment,Culture,Current Events,General,Rants — contrarythought @ 7:50 pm

American Idol is a perverse cruel show. How can anyone who has ever been humiliated by some sadistic bastard watch that piece of crap show. They say themselves they do “Tens of thousands auditioned in the seven cities”. Out of all those they can’t find (only) good singers? I know…we all know…they pick some losers on purpose to make it interesting or funny or whatever. They convince some delusional nitwit that they have a shot and then humiliate them on national television. What kind of sick twisted bastards sit around their family rooms and laugh at this sadistic crap. Maybe the millions of people who get a kick out of these first episodes are the same shit heads who pulled peoples shorts down during gym or shoved nerds into lockers in high school. Now they take some time out of torturing their pets to laugh at some talentless dupes on national television.

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January 14, 2007

The Minimum Wage Myth

Filed under: Business,Culture,Current Events,General,Politics — contrarythought @ 6:28 pm

People generally believed that the minimum wage helps the poor but it may just hurt the people it is intended to help. We should all take a minute to think about it.

If we can simply require pay levels, why don’t we just make the minimum wage $20 an hour? Imagine that. No one in the country would earn less that $40,000 a year. The problem of course is some jobs are not worth $20 an hour. If the minimum wage were set at $20 an hour, millions of jobs would just go away. Any job that is only worth $5 an hour would be illuminated or automated. If the minimum wage were $20 an hour how much do you think a meal at McDonalds would cost. Would you pay $17.50 for a Big Mac Value Meal? Fast food would go away or the jobs would be automated. Either way the jobs would be gone. Do you think people are better off with a $5 an hour job or none at all. The same thing is also true, albeit to a lesser degree, when the minimum wage is moved to $7 an hour. If the job isn’t worth $7 an hour it goes away. If it can be automated for less than the equivalent $7 an hour the job will be gone.

Automation doesn’t just happen in big heartless companies. Many jobs are being automated now; bank tellers replaced with ATMs, Receptionists are replaced with automated phone systems. Lets take a look at automated grocery store checkouts. The bar code scanner has made checking out so much simpler that we can do it our selves. If the minimum wage goes to $7 an hour don’t be surprised to see those automated checkout lanes offer a discount (in truth it will be the rest of the prices going up to pay for the wage increase). Is it worth paying someone $7 an hour to swipe product by the scanner. The lanes that have people scanning your stuff will become more expansive. Wouldn’t you take a discount to scan your own groceries? Next time you see one of those self-help checkout lanes think about the minimum wage.

The worst part is it isn’t rich corporate head whose jobs would disappear, it is the very people the minimum wage is suppose to help. If they haven’t been fortunate enough or don’t have the capacity to get a good education then they can’t get a job for $10 or $15 an hour. Raising the minimum wage could mean eliminating the only job they can get. Say goodbye to many “first job” job opportunities.

The usual response to this is that the companies should have the compassion (or however you want to phrase it) to just pay these people more. But companies function just the way we do. You pay for what a product is worth not what the seller deserves. If you found out your gardener had a Doctorate in physics or had a heart rending hardship you wouldn’t just start paying them $40,000 a year to cut your grass. You can’t afford to live your life that way and companies can’t afford to function that way either.

Aaron Feuerstein became famous when he kept workers on the payroll after a 1995 fire destroyed his company, Malden Mills, main factory and they couldn’t produce product. The media loved it but the company of course couldn’t afford it and eventually declared bankruptcy…I know…you never heard that part on the news. Luckily for the workers the people who bought the company and brought it out of bankruptcy kept it in the area. His folly, however well intentioned, could easily have created an opportunity for competitors to gobble up the name and customer base and eliminate or move the production jobs over seas. Some people believe he did it for the positive media attention but even if he meant well his short-term compassion could have led to long-term hardship for the workers. They are very lucky they didn’t lose their jobs permanently.

The steel industry is another example of what happens when you force a company or industry to pay more for a job than it is worth. Steel unions forced high pay for even simple jobs. That forced the industry out of the country. Airline industry pension funds are now showing strains for the same reasons.

The same thing can happen on a much smaller scale. If you manage to talk a future boss into paying you a lot more than that position is worth don’t count on it being a long-term career move.

The impending minimum wage increase will be cause for celebration among affluent politicians but it will just end up hurting the youngest and least educated among us. If you can understand this, if this makes any sense to you, pass this blog along. Email it to friends and family or just explain it to them yourself. If we reward politicians for empty or even damaging legislation because it sounds good they will keep passing bad laws.

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January 5, 2007

Bush Lied About Social Security?

Filed under: Current Events,General,George W Bush,Politics — contrarythought @ 9:22 pm

Virtually all the “Bush Lied” blogs and web site talk about how “Bush lied” about social security, just as the say he lied about WMDs, to create panic so he could enact his nefarious solutions. No one in the press takes the time to point out the problem with this so I am going to give a little quiz, as I did in the Bush Lied About WMDs blog. Both Bill Clinton and George Bush talked about the crisis in Social Security during their State of the Union speeches. Here are the main assertions by both about the point at which the system falls apart. Can you tell me which is which?

“Today, Social Security is strong. But by 2013, payroll taxes will no longer be sufficient to cover monthly payments. And by 2032, the trust fund will be exhausted…”


“…in 2018, Social Security will be paying out more than it takes in. By the year 2042, the entire system would be exhausted…”

I understand the short-term advantages in convincing people that your political opposition is a liar. God knows republicans spent the entire Clinton presidency trying to convince people of his dishonesty. But in the information era the truth will come out eventually, for better or worse. Any of those who are willing to say Clinton lied about Social Security also, will at least be consistent. Otherwise whether you are cognizant or not you are a political pawn.

To avoid the “you took that out of context” claim, please read both of the Presidents’ speeches.

Bush’s State of the Union speech

Clinton’s State of the Union speech

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