Tales of Subsidized CoffeeCare

So I saw that Bob Martin—someone I don't personally know—posted a note from Dana Puopolo—a person neither of us knows—which he in-turn copied from Brian Krewson's status. I thought it was pretty good, but I changed it from a soda machine to coffee to try and make it just a little more relevant. I rewrote the story a bit, but it's largely Krewson's work.

So imagine you are working for a company that doesn't have coffee on the premises. Instead, there are vendors outside that sell coffee and, if you want it, you get your coffee from one of them.

Jane posts a suggestion: all the other companies give their employees coffee so why can't we? Management asks people and nearly all your colleagues say they want coffee inside, but some don't want it for free because some people drink more than others and they would rather have higher pay than to have it free for everybody. Also, the coffee vendors get wind of this idea so they go to management and suggest they sell coffee inside instead of on the street.

Management likes this suggestion. To appeal to supporters of Jane's original suggestion, they add that the lowest-paid employees will get reimbursed 80% for one cup a day of the cheapest coffee, and everybody else will need to buy their own. (And, since coffee makes everybody more productive, people who don't want any coffee will have to pay a fee for their lower productivity.)

Once again, they put it to a vote, and when the poll came back, the majority of your colleagues said "yes": this was an acceptable compromise. So management sets up a department to handle the coffee vendors, and within a few weeks, there's coffee for sale in the break room.

Among the people who said "no" was Bill in accounting. He felt that this went too far: offering coffee inside was a waste of company resources, and worse, giving a discount to low-pay employees discouraged them from working harder. He campaigns throughout the office to get the coffee vendors kicked out.

Well, management decides "OK, we'll ask again" and again, the majority of people say "yes, lets keep the coffee for sale inside just as we agreed." Bill continues to campaign, and management continues to ask the employees, and every time, the answer is in favor of the coffee. This happens, lets say… over 40 times. Eventually, Bill says "OK, I'M NOT PROCESSING PAYROLL ANYMORE UNTIL THE COFFEE IS REMOVED", so nobody will get paid unless management removes the coffee vendors.

What should we do?

Answer: Fire Bill and get someone who will do the fucking job.

Bonus: Bill tells everyone that he was willing to "negotiate", to come to a solution where everyone got their payroll checks, but only so long as that negotiation capitulated to his demand to remove the coffee vendors. Bill is clearly an asshole.

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Tom Richards Budget Cuts "Voice of the Customer"

Today in Lake Riley Lodge at Cobb's Hill Park (Norris Dr. at Culver Rd., although the City claims it is at 100 Norris), Mayor Thomas S. Richards was on hand to discuss the City budget and take requests to cover a deficit at Voice of the Customer 2012 meeting with for the Southeast portion of the city. I had trouble getting Tieson to behave so I left late, then went to the wrong lodge, and finally arrived a bit late. And then I had to leave early on top of it! But at least I got to say my piece — whether it's heard or not is out of my hands.

Richards and his staff outlined the situation and attempted to lead the audience to avoid cuts to police (e.g., paraphrasing, "the school budget is out of our hands, and many people say, 'don't cut the police force' so we can consider those two biggest bars on the graph off-the-table.") He also avoided mentioning the millions of dollars of tax exemptions on certain commercial properties in the city — but thankfully Alex White was there with a brochure describing exactly that. Relatedly, there didn't seem to be line items for equipment costs for the police (e.g. how much does a patrol car cost for a year?) except for the mounted patrol which, I guess Richards wants to eliminate. I also noted that there was a budget item for the pension fund in addition to paying for pensions in the cost of individual employees.

So I migrated to the Public Safety table and made suggestions that the extreme surplus of police officers should be reduced. I attempted to outline a system that used conviction rates as a benchmark: officers who arrest people who are then convicted of those crimes are "good cops" (who we should keep) and officers who, say, arrest people in a park illegally and don't get convictions are "bad cops" (who we should let go). Another person at the table brought up the security cameras, and I dovetailed jeir suggestion that we eliminate them unless there is proof they work (specifically: being admitted as evidence in court, since we were sold them on the claim that if someone commits a crime, jeir face is on camera and jee can be arrested.)

But my genius suggestion was that we could create a health plan that any city resident can buy into (expanding from all city employees) which, since it's a larger pool of participants, will further reduce costs. And it will provide a valuable service to citizens (and particularly small-business owners in the city) as an inexpensive, quality health plan.

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The Value of a Human

As one who detests hypocrisy, I can't help but be angered by the simultaneous belief that all human beings are valuable, yet it is the dollars they earn that defines their value in society.

There is a widely spoken belief that all people are valuable. For instance, you can't run down a person with your car whether he's rich or poor. And helping strangers is generally seen as good, and hurting them bad.

Yet when it comes to the policies we make to guide our actions, it's a different story. If you have too little money, you don't deserve comforts, health care, a place to live, clothing, food, or even water. In fact, you can be so poor that you are not permitted to simply exist: you must pay for the land you stand upon, or pay whoever owns it to exist there.

So simultaneous with the spoken belief that people are valuable is the belief that existing without working for money makes you a drain on society — that society would be better if you did not exist.  This belief has been with us for generations and it is nearly impossible to imagine an alternative. I mean, consider how birds eat berries for a lifetime, but a human is not afforded the same right: the human must work for money to buy berries.

There has been a progression which started with centralized currency (or before), and ratcheted up with the Industrial Revolution. It was then that people became interchangeable parts to a system. And more importantly, that they could be sorted and ranked in value as to the supply and demand of their particular skills. Profit-centric farming is another ratcheting step although subtler: farmers are taught to think of their animals not as living things but as "product". From there we have companies who teach their managers that people are not humans with lives and value, but as "human resources" — conceptually equivalent to a vehicle or a bolt.

I think it's time we formalize this and dispense with the hypocrisy. Rather than having an outmoded caste system that permitted individual merit within a caste, we should simply rank people based on dollars. Each persons lifetime earnings will be extrapolated linearly to their expected lifespan. That is the worth of a person. An alternative but equivalent comparison can be made with jeir average dollar-per-hour rate.

For instance, Warren Buffet's net worth in 2008 was $62 billion (according to a quick check of Wikipedia), so on average over his lifetime, he earned about 2 million dollars a day or about $90,000/hour. Compare that, say, to someone earning minimum wage in New York ($7.25/hour), 40 hour weeks, from age 18 to 65 — a lifetime total of $700,000. Basically, then, if a minimum-wage earner were to detain Warren Buffet for 8 hours (whether deliberately or not), Warren Buffet could kill them and it would be considered fair because the equivalent monetary damage was done — after all, there would be no way for the minimum-wage earner to repay Buffet's loss.

And what of the confusion in making things safer? If an airline can prevent one additional crash at a cost of, say, $10 million, is it worth it? With this system, the airline can examine the expected total earnings of each passenger, and tally for each flight. If the worth exceeds the cost of the upgrade, it can be considered a good investment.

In the end, we can simplify everything in life by moving to a true dollar-based morality. It's clear that it is desirable — I mean, if human lives were valuable, we would have universal health care just like every other first-world country, yet we have constant debate that it will be used too much by poor people. The same goes for social services and even immigration. If we valued human beings as human beings, any person living in the boundaries of the U.S. of A. would be afforded the same rights and responsibilities, yet we cling to a nationalist system to ensure that some people are as valuable as unwanted insects.

So spread the word and calculate your own worth so you can know whether you're better than your neighbor. What a wonderful world this will make!

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Thoughts on Complicated Issues

Dealing with complicated issues is a complicated issue. I find that it is impossible for a non-expert to rationally debate a complicated issue. Instead, it all comes down to belief.

Take global warming, for instance. There are people in the world who have spent their lives studying this: climatologists. As scientists (the real climatologists anyway) they posit a theory, test it against empirical evidence, publish the results, and let their peers (other real climatologists) analyze, critique, and collectively approve or reject it. The Wikipedia article references a separate page that cites hundreds of scientific organizations who collectively agree that the world is warming overall, the climatological system is changing, and that these changes are attributable to human activities. More conclusive, though, is that aside from four groups who stand by non-committal statements, "no scientific body of national or international standing has maintained a dissenting opinion" (the last was the American Association of Petroleum Geologists who updated their stance in 2007 with a non-committal statement.)

However, I am not a climatologist by any means. As such, I'm left to judge by belief alone: I believe that climatologists have studied this issue and agreed that humans are causing climate change, and that these climatologists do not have sufficient ulterior motives to lie. I don't think it's possible to predict exactly how these changes will manifest themselves, but as a believer that humans are well-suited to the current climatological situation, I can't see any change being likely to give advantage to us — almost all climatological changes will be unpleasant to our situation.

Some people choose instead to believe what they hear through the media, or from someone they respect (regardless of their true expertise as a climatologist), or from a celebrity or public figure, or from their personal experience, or from their non-climatological-expert analysis. Some believe much more strongly in the predictions than the assessment. But in all those differences, people are trying to debate with insufficient information. Belief is irrational and can't be debated: all that can be done is to explain one's rationale and listen to another's rationale and decide for yourself whether you want to change your mind.

Health care, on the other hand, has three sets of experts: one for the health facet, one for the money facet, and one for the moral facet: I have not encountered rigorous scientific analysis from any group, nor on the system as a whole. Doctors (while their medical practice is scientifically based) can only say that most people will live a comfortable life and may need temporary corrective care to maintain that, that any corrective effort is exponentially less severe the earlier it is started, and that a few people will require more constant care to permit a comfortable existence. Insurance companies and nations with nationalized health systems provide data indicating cost; as best I can tell, any system has approximately the same cost across its whole population. Finally, philosophers can provide the moral facet by asking, "is health valuable?" The answer transcends the other two groups as doctors' Hippocratic oath implicitly declares it so, and it is certainly a lucrative proposition as no parent would keep any wealth or a specific possession in preference to their child's life and health.

Without the benefit of a quality analysis, we are left to muddle through argument without full knowledge, again leaning on belief. Do we have more faith in government or corporations (as if they are different masters)? Should we help strangers? Will people we don't know exploit our generosity? Would we be willing to watch our own child die? Would we wish that on someone else?

My point of this exercise is to say that we all select where we get our knowledge and we use our beliefs to decide which knowledge informs our decisions. Implicit in that statement is my own belief that rational, reasoned discourse is the superior form of changing opinions.

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