Just Following Orders

Friday, November 4th, I was traveling to West Virginia to visit a college friend. Shortly after crossing the state border, I crested over a hill and noticed a police cruiser sitting in the median. Being an admitted speed demon, I naturally tapped my brakes but I still can’t remember exactly how fast I was going. I kept traveling and after about a mile or so, I notice blue lights in my rear view. I pull to the emergency lane on the left – as does the truck in front of me. I turn down my stereo and place both hands on the wheel, fingers up and visible. The office knocks on my passenger window, and I roll it down. He asks if I know the people in front of me. I admit that I don’t and he tells me to stay put. He walks up to their passenger side and tells them it’s OK to leave.

The officer walks back to my vehicle and requests my license, registration, and proof of insurance; standard operating procedure. Being a libertarian, I have an aversion to interacting with police but I’m always cooperative and respectful. But I’m also aware of recent events in the country – of standard traffic stops such as this ending poorly so I’m a little on edge. He asks where I’m traveling to and if I know why he pulled me over. As I’m stammering through the answers, he asks if I’m OK and why I’m nervous. I can’t admit to any fear and continue my best to be cooperative. Then he asks if I have any weapons, drugs, paraphernalia, or anything dangerous in the car. I usually keep a pocket knife on me but I’ve never had an officer ask me to hand it over. I hear his radio chatter and he asks for a clarification. I can’t hear what dispatch is saying but he leans back down and states that I have a prior assault conviction on my record and for me to clarify again if there is anything dangerous in the car. If I wasn’t scared before, I am now. Also thoroughly confused – I have no assault priors. Aside from the occasional speeding ticket, my record is clean. I have had no previous encounters with law enforcement.

He tells me to keep my hands on the wheel and steps back to his cruiser. I look in my rear view and a second cruiser has pulled up. Two more officers have stepped out and they’re talking. Officer #1 returns to the passenger window and asks, “If I was to have a canine unit sniff around the car, is it going to find anything?” I tell him no and that I do not consent to such a search. A second officer knocks on my driver window and I lower it. She asks again if I have anything dangerous in the car. My heart is racing at this point and I’m fearing for the worst. I admit to the pocket knife and she tells me to put it on the roof of my car. I do so, and she confiscates it then tells me to step out of the vehicle. I slowly get out and I’m ordered to walk to the rear of the vehicle. Then I’m given a confusing set of orders to put my hands behind me, clasped like I’m praying but to put my palms towards the officer. After some struggling to comprehend how to perform such an act, I feel the cold steel of handcuffs on my wrists. Then I’m told to sit on the guard rail.

I’ve never been in handcuffs before. They’re heavy. My wrists hurt. It’s cold outside and I’m just in a t-shirt and jeans. I can see “Kenova Police” written on the side of the cruisers. The three officers surround me and start asking me questions; Officer #2 taking the lead. She’s wearing a camera so I do my best to answer into the camera – for the record, and hopefully, for my safety.

“Where are you headed?”

“Huntington, ma’am.”

“Where are you coming from?”

“Lexington, Kentucky, ma’am.”

“Do you live in Lexington?”

“No, ma’am. I live in Georgetown.”

“Do you work in Lexington?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Where do you work?”

“[company name redacted], ma’am.”

“I’ve never heard of it. What do you do?”

“We make [product redacted]. I’m an engineer.”

“Engineer!? That’s a big deal. Don’t they background check for that?”

“Yes, ma’am. They do.”

“So tell me about this assault charge. What was it? Bar fight?”

“I’ve never been arrested for assault.”

“That’s not what I hear.”

Officer #3: “I figured engineers were straight laced. Assault and two counts of delivery of a controlled substance?”

Officer #2: “So he was dealing?”

Officer #3: “That means it was bagged up and ready to go.”

Officer #2: “So what’s the deal, man? Building [product redacted] isn’t enough?”

“I’ve never assaulted anyone and I’ve never sold drugs.”

“So you’re saying we’re lying?”

I just stared at her for a moment then looked back at the ground.

“We got a canine on the way. We can avoid a lot of mess. Just tell us what’s in the car.”

“I have my backpack full of clothes. I’m staying the night. Typical car stuff. I have no weapons aside from the pocket knife I surrendered. And I have no drugs or paraphernalia.”

Officer #3: “What’s your social identity number? Let me double check we have the right person.”

This must have been the good cop routine like from the TV shows. They tried to buddy up with me in hopes of a confession. That’s how I interpreted it because an SUV with lights and sires comes flying down the road and pulls up behind the two cruisers. I knew this would be the bad cop routine. West Virginia State K9 was printed on the side. I had gone from locals to state troopers. If Kentucky state troopers are any indication, I knew it was about to get that much worse.

He was tall, with a high and tight hair cut. Had to be ex-military. He started grilling me with the same questions and I gave the same answers. I feel my heart beat racing, adrenaline coursing through my veins, and I’m sputtering answers to the best of ability while crying. This can’t be real. It’s one of my worst nightmares. I knew I was going to jail, or someone is going to be jittery and shoot me. All for what? An empty car? Drugs that don’t exist? A weapon that doesn’t exist?

“Why you crying, son?”

“I’m scared, sir.”

“Why you scared?”

“I thought this was a traffic stop.”

“It is. And you’ve got priors for assault and selling narcotics so look at this from our position.”

“I haven’t done anything. I have no priors.”

“If you’ve got nothing to hide, then why you scared? Huh? Been watching too much news? You a cop hater?”

I don’t hate cops. I just don’t fully trust them. I have a couple friends in law enforcement and even they have told me that they can tell that the system is broken. And as it currently stands, from what I can tell, this is a result of the War On Drugs. My nervousness due to recent events set off “red flags,” as they put it, that I might be under the influence of something or have something to hide. I have nothing to hide. But that doesn’t void my right to privacy.

“Look son, there are some bad cops out there. I’ve seen them. But that’s maybe 2% of them. Nothing bad is going to happen to you. Just tell us what you’re hiding.”

2% you say? I’m supposed to just believe that? I’m supposed to understand why they have me in cuffs, sitting on a guard rail, freezing my ass off but they can’t understand why I might be scared? The lack of logic and self awareness on their part is mind numbing. The empty threats and false information do nothing to calm me. While he’s laying into me, I can see in my peripheral the other three officers laughing amongst themselves.

“I’m not hiding anything. I have no priors. I just… I just want everyone to go home.”

“That’s what we’re trying to do. But I need to know why you’re so scared.”

“BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO GET SHOT!”

I don’t know why I said it. Frustration I suppose. Perhaps part of me had accepted my fate and just wanted to get it over with. If you’re gonna shoot me, then shoot me. If you’re gonna arrest me, then arrest me. But toying with me over a false history is embarrassing at best – a violation of civil liberties and a blatant abuse of power is more appropriate though.

“No one gets shot around here. Now if you run, we sic the dog on you. Have you threatened me tonight?”

“No sir.”

“Have you threatened these other officers tonight?”

“No sir.”

“Then you have nothing to worry about.”

Eric Garner died at the hands of police and he wasn’t shot. I’m not trying to dig myself a hole at this point. I just want to get out alive.

“Look, I don’t wanna have to get my dog out… risk him getting hit by a car and search your vehicle over… only to find you’ve been lying to me.”

“I have nothing to hide.”

He sighs then walks over to the SUV, retrieving the dog. The locals walk me further away from my car, and noticeably out of view of the dash camera. Officers #1 and #2 set my backpack on the hood of their cruiser and start going through it. The state trooper walks the dog around my car, having him sniff around every door, nook, and cranny. Officer #3 keeps giving me weird looks then has me spit my gum out. Obviously, I’m chewing up evidence or something. Then he takes a flash light and looks in my mouth. Never mind I’ve been talking the entire time. The state trooper walks the dog back to his vehicle then tells me to walk down to him.

“Look… let’s talk. Just me and you. You can be honest with me. I don’t have a camera on.” The lack of camera doesn’t help my nerves but they’ve demonstrated that they don’t care. “You’ve got a history. See this from our perspective.”

“I have no priors. I’ve done nothing.”

“So you mean to tell me that someone with your license number, your social, your finger prints, and your address was booked for assault and distribution of a controlled substance? That sounds like elaborate identity theft.”

“Maybe it is, sir. Or maybe someone at dispatch got the wrong information.”

“This is your last chance. What are you hiding?”

“I’ve got nothing. I claim nothing.”

I’m ordered to take my shoes off. They start digging through them, looking under the insert and all. They drop them to the ground and tell me to put them back on. I wiggle my feet in the best I can. The state trooper, officer #1, and officer #2 start searching through my car while officer #3 watches over me. All I can do is wait. Cold. Shivering. My hands are going tingly from the weight of the handcuffs. Waiting for the inevitable planted drugs. I think about how to let anyone know where I am. My friend who is expecting me. My girlfriend. My friends. My family. I can’t even cry anymore. My body is going numb all over from the mental exhaustion. I keep looking to check their progress. At what point does anyone start to listen?

They vacate my vehicle and all meet in front of the first cruiser, talking. Officer #3 walks over to me to confirm my social. I tell him the numbers again and inform him that my card is in my wallet. They go back to talking and at one point, all four are talking on their cell phones. The state trooper walks back to me again, looking very puzzled.

“And you swear your record is clean?”

“Yes sir. In fact, I would like to know when these supposed charges were laid against me.”

“2009 and 2011.”

“I was in school in 2009. I was spending my days in the CAD lab, learning the software. 2011, I was working a shitty retail job.”

He goes back to his phone call. I can’t hear anything at all that’s being said.

“Have you lived anywhere aside from Kentucky?”

“Ohio. I can give you the addresses.”

“Not Illinois?”

“I visited Chicago for a week several years ago. Never lived there.”

He walks back to the group. They continue talking then the state trooper walks back to his SUV and drives off. I catch bits and pieces of the conversation. They keep looking at me.

“You OK? You got this?”

“Yeah, I’ll handle him.”

Officers #2 and #3 get in their cruiser and drive off. Officer #1 calls in front of the cruiser. Here it comes. I’ve heard Miranda rights in movies and TV shows but… I’ve never heard them in person before. I sulk to the front of the cruiser and wait. I feel his hands then I hear the cuffs release. I turn to face him and he says I’m not under arrest. I drop to my knees sobbing, raking my hands through the dirt. I can’t remember much of what he said. I vaguely remember the same spill about seeing things from their perspective and a scare story about a toddler calling 911 on their parents who have overdosed.

You fucking dick head. You absolute jackass. You put me in handcuffs and searched my car because of a hunch? Or was it blatantly false information so you could get federal dollars to hunt drugs? All this started with a speeding ticket – which I was still given. For a mere 10 miles over the limit. Of course I can’t say this to him. I’m almost home free but goddamn if I’m not roiling with anger. He asks if I’m good to drive and I just nod. He gives me my backpack and wallet. I get in my car, call my friend, then drive off – staying 5 under the limit the entire time.

Sure, things could have been worse.

Sure, I’m alive.

Sure, I could pursue this with a lawyer.

But what’s the point? What difference would it make? There are families of people shot by police who have received nothing. And what am I fighting? I lose an hour of my evening because of “well, we’re following orders.” It’s the the principle of the matter. This is the power of the state over you, the citizen. I was pulled from my vehicle and restrained for being scared.

“I don’t apologize to anyone but I’m gonna apologize to you for wasting your time tonight.”

Apologies don’t make up for the abuse of rights and liberties you exhibited. But I know better than to expect anything. Because that’s the operating motto of the state: “Fuck you, that’s why.”

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Thank You, Gubment, For Protecting Me From My Allergies

I suffer from allergies; namely dust, mold, and pet dander. I’ve been on immunotherapy (allergy shots) for over 5 years with great success. However, I have found additional relief in OTC drugs, one of which is Claritin-D. A small part (5 mg) of the pill is Loratadine which acts as an antihistamine. But the majority is pseusophedrine sulfate (120 mg) which is a decongestant (the D in Claritin-D). If you’ve watched even one episode of Breaking Bad, you know that pseudophedrine is a key ingredient in the manufacturing of methamphetamine. Because of this, there are federal and state laws in place to regulate how much a person may buy in an attempt to control illicit production.

In a classic example of unintended consequences, though, I join a group of people whose health concerns have taken a backseat to the warring crusade against drugs. As the social conservatives clutch their pearls, I am told that a runny nose is a small price to pay to ensure that little Timmy is never offered a crack pipe on the playground after school. The state will never see me sneeze, or attempt to plug my leaking dam of a nose with kleenex; much less, recognize the epicenter I live near. No, what they saw was a dimwitted Jesse Pinkman wander into his local Kroger in an attempt further destroy the moral core of this country.

I don’t use meth – never have, never will. And I’ve never cooked it – never have, never will. And despite my convictions that it’s a dumb thing to do, it’s not in my right to tell you what to do, or to use coercive means to obtain a desired result. While I don’t have hard numbers – if X is the number of meth cooks stopped by this legislation, and Y is the number of allergy patients who benefit from the sinus clearing capability of pseudophedrine – then I bet you dollars to doughnuts, Y > X any day of the week.

So praise to be to the Controlled Substances Act and the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act! And in addition, all related Kentucky state level legislation. In their absence, a less oxygen deprived man would be typing to you today.

pseudo

No, Wage Negotiation Does Not “Hurt” The Employer

I normally hate giving in to pigeonholes, but it’s a facet of American culture that the vast majority of the country engages in… so I’ll temporarily do the same for the sake of ease of understanding.

  • I’m a millennial
  • I’m an asshole
  • My sense of humor knows no boundaries
  • I enjoy #RealTalk a little more than any person should
  • I’m really efficient at my job so that sometimes leads to some bouts of boredom

All of these converge – especially the last one – at a website called Post Grad Problems. Short, entertaining articles that encompass some of the employment woes experienced by the younger generation. I personally enjoy it, but it’s not for everyone and that’s a-ok.

So anyways…

They recently published a fantastic article about why you shouldn’t take work home with you. And like any other person, I shared it on the Book of Faces because I felt it contained good advice for anyone of any age. Typically, if a comment thread even forms, it’s filled with laughter and casual banter. But every now and then, someone gets their jimmies rustled and finds an issue with (what I believe to be) common sense advice. In the aforementioned article, there is a segment about not sharing your salary numbers with your coworkers for the sake of maintaining the peace. Again, I feel this is common sense. However, just a couple days ago, an article from The Atlantic made its rounds on my feed, arguing that salary silence is illegal and might hide malicious intent from the employer and you might be getting stiffed and you deserve a “fair wage”… blah blah blah. And every “unbiased, enlightened, and informed” John Green progressive suddenly had another weapon against those damn capitalism loving Republicans.

A friend from high school – whom I barely talk to – felt ballsy enough to step up to the plate:

By employees being open about their compensation it gives them far greater power in the negotiation process and doesn’t hurt anyone but the employer [sic]

The following is my response that I felt was worthy of sharing…

Almost verbatim from that Atlantic article. Hmm…

The underlying assumption is that everyone brings the same thing to the table and they don’t. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. My office is a prime example of that. For the longest time, technicians were people who had been promoted up from production, maintenance, etc. It’s only been recently that management moved away from that approach and started hiring college grads. Why? I don’t know and I don’t care. It was their decision. But it ended up with a very eclectic group that is highly versatile.

One of my coworkers has been with [company name redacted] for over 20 years. He earned his way up from maintenance. He’s skilled in a lot of areas but the one that sticks out to me is PLC programming. I know some basics of ladder logic but he is an absolute mastermind. It’s amazing watching him work. The paint line went down for a few minutes one day for a small repair. During that window, I watched him tweak the code real quick. When the line went active again, the robot movements were exponentially smoother. No one told him to do it. He had so much knowledge of the process that he was able to recognize a problem before it happened. Cool shit, right? And you wanna know what blew his mind? My CAD skills, and that I picked up CATIA – a software I’ve never touched before – in a mere 2 weeks. My department needs PLC guys and CAD guys. And is there a pay discrepancy? Oh sure. Because the weight of each skill is different depending on the project and what is necessary to get the job completed.

As far as college education goes (because it’s a PGP article), the education level is different despite accreditation. My degree was certified by ATMAE, Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering. They have a list of minimum requirements that a school must meet in order to receive their seal of approval. I emphasize that it’s the MINIMUM requirements; not ideal requirements. Where does EKU stand in the metaphorical distance from the minimum? I have no clue. It very well could be the bare minimum. On the other end of the spectrum, the university’s standards could be so high that if they wanted to, they could go for ABET certification – Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. – the same board that certifies the BIG [regional] engineering schools like Louisville and Purdue. The same degree from different schools could have different levels of merit. There are so many factors that go into it, it’s impossible to name them all.

However, if you’ve been at your job a while and you’re kicking ass and you feel deserve a raise, 9 times out of 10, all you have to do is ask. When you’re initially hired, the company is making an investment. If you quit or you get fired, that costs the company money. It’s lost time that can’t have a price put on it; overtime pay to other employees to pick up the slack; extra paperwork for HR; recruiting costs for a replacement; etc. It’s not a cheap endeavor. If a raise is what it takes to keep talent on the team, they’re more than likely willing to make that investment. They get a better return.

“Doesn’t hurt anyone but the employer” is a cringe-worthy statement. If you’re in the salary negotiation stage of an interview, then you (more or less) got the job. For starters, there are websites like salary.com and glassdoor.com that you can investigate before going into the conversation. People anonymously submit their compensation along with a company review. They’re fantastic tools that give you an edge in the negotiation process. But ultimately – why do you want to “hurt” your potential employer? Especially during a recession with a saturated job market. Consider yourself lucky you’re even in that position. Salary negotiations don’t “hurt” anyone. We act as consumers. We want a quality product at the lowest price. It’s human nature. In a company’s interview process, they are the consumer. They are looking for quality labor and skills and are willing to spend up to X amount of dollars. Naturally, lower is better but it is understood that for quality – exceeding expectations – comes at a price. This is why you hear about “competitive wages” as a selling point for job openings. They’re willing to pay more to get the better talent. It’s not a conspiracy – it’s nature. They know going into that conversation that there will be haggling on the price. You want more, they want less. Where can you meet in the middle so that a mutually beneficial exchange takes place? That mutually beneficial exchange – whether in an interview or in the produce aisle at Kroger – is the basis for our economy.

Hope that clears it up.

What Does “Buy Local” Really Mean?

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I’ve seen this picture passed around a few times on social media; especially around November and December with people doing Christmas and other holiday shopping. The message is riddled with as many good intentions as it is with fallacies. On the surface, it proposes a common sense plan to revitalize the economy and help the citizens prosper. However, it is steeped in protectionism and misleading concepts. It can best be broken up into 3 areas: 

“If each of us spent $100 a year… it would put an extra $3 million year into our economy”

Obviously, due to space constraints on a chalkboard sign, no sources are cited for the dollar amounts, where they came from, or why they were chosen. So right off the bat, it is important to regard the sign as more of a good idea than a golden truth. However, we can do some simple math to get a starting point:

$3,000,000 invested / $100 per person = 30,000 persons to achieve this goal.

30,000 people works out to a small town, and “our economy” (more than likely) specifically refers to the town’s economy. Is this what defines “local” when describing a local business? The township or village? What about the county? Some major cities sit on multiple counties – i.e. New York City occupies five different counties. Is that still local? Here in the Bluegrass, we have a Kentucky For Kentucky campaign that helps promote businesses and attractions in the state. Is that still local? What about Toby Keith insisting his purchases say “Made In America”?

The word “local” has a different connotation depending on who you ask. Most importantly, though, where the border of “local” lies will greatly affect how that $3 million is spread out. A handful of businesses on Main Street in Small Town, USA? That would be a nice boom to the locals. The same amount comes out to pennies for Kentucky’s 4.4 million residents though. So without defined metrics, the statement is empty.

“…on local businesses instead of chain stores…”

This can be boiled down to 2 of the 5 W’s: Why should I buy local? And I want more than “because your neighbor. ” Specifically, what is the difference maker between small/local business and a chain, and why should that be important to the consumer? The beauty of this question is that there is no objectively, measurably true answer. It all depends on the subjective value on the customer; what they want for their dollar. Personally, I prefer small, “hole in the wall” restaurants over chain restaurants. That’s not to say that I hate chain restaurants. I just prefer one over the other. Sure, I can get a Big Mac for less than $5. But I would prefer a Big Tolly with pepper jack, bacon, jalapenos, and salsa with a side of cheese fries and an Ale-8-One to drink for a few dollars more. For the person on a budget, though, the Big Mac is probably the better option. The most important part is that’s not up for me to decide. It is solely for the consumer.

To expand on the first point made earlier in regards to “local” and borders, what makes a chain store inferior to a local business? Do the Wal-Mart and McDonald’s employees not live in the same town as those from Jim’s Soda Shop? From the cashiers, to sales associates, to shift managers, and even the store manager. Sure, the dollars keep flowing upward to the corporate office, but the aforementioned people still earn a paycheck just like everyone else. And in turn, they spend their dollars in town and also contribute to helping their neighbors. Much like the Wal-Mart corporate office, small business owners re-invest their profits back into their stores. They add more variety of products; hire another worker or raises current worker’s wages; they save up and open another location across town. All of this on top of what they take home, pay-wise, and how that money is invested: paying off the mortgage; contributing to their kid’s college fund; building a deck on the back of the house… things that contribute to their happiness and well being. It doesn’t matter who does the hiring – local employees means local dollars.

If local is defined as a small business with no corporate office and whose owners live in the community, then some products absolutely, positively cannot be bought from a local business. Bananas are grown in Southeast Asia, Africa, and parts of Central America. You won’t find them at a famer’s market in Montana. Ford’s heavy duty trucks and Toyota’s Camry and Avalon are made in Kentucky. If you live in one of the other 49 states and drive one of these vehicles, you didn’t support a local business. How many parts of your computer or smartphone were made in Silicon Valley? The argument boils down as such: for what consumer products is it ok to purchase locally, and what products is it ok to purchase from outside the region?

“…it would create thousands more jobs every year.”

I wish I could say “citation needed” and leave it that. And my fellow Austrian readers are probably nodding their heads in approval. Yes, as mentioned in part 2, business owners reinvest in their stores. This means expansions and hiring. I’m not disputing that. Refer back to part 1 though: without defined metrics, we have an empty statement. Obviously, $3 million reinvested in New York City or across the state of Kentucky won’t do squat. It’s a drop in the bucket. But even if the $3 million was concentrated on Main Street, it is a stretch to say that thousands of jobs would be created. Depending on the business, capital investment may be the best move; more efficient machines for more efficient service. Perhaps a service oriented business, like a barber shop, would do well with a labor investment. Whatever the business owner chooses, know that it is for the best interest of the customer.

Final Thoughts

Despite popular opinion, there isn’t some kind of wall between chain stores and local stores. Wal-Mart has recently started teaming up with local manufacturers (relative to store location). On the flip side, small business owners may use Office Depot for supplies or a large bank for their business loan. The best thing for the customer is for them to pursue what they view as the superior product or service for the best price. Through price signaling and demand, the businesses that please the largest portions of the public will remain open. Those concerned about small businesses should look at regulations, wage laws, price floors and ceilings, and other arbitrary demands coming out of the local, state, and federal levels. Large corporations who have amassed the money necessary for certifications, and who are politically connected, will find it easier to meet Uncle Sam’s demands. The small business owner is lucky to stay afloat.

Further Reading:

Subjective Value

Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk on Subjective Value
Robert Murphy on Subjective Value

Regulations

Strive To Help Entrepreneurs Thrive
How Excessive Regulations Stifle Small Businesses
John Stossel: “I tried to open a lemonade stand.”  (Don’t let the Fox News tag discourage you; Stossel is very libertarian.)

#Regulation @ Reason Magazine
#Regulation @ The Mises Institute

Bias: It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

bias /ˈbaɪ əs/ noun – a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned

Bias. While it is not a word exclusive to politics, the political realm is where it is tossed out the most. Used to describe news channels, pundits, politicians and more, “bias” has become a vulgar epithet intended to discredit the opposition. But if you read through the provided definition, there is nothing inherently negative about “tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion.” It is very much subjective and dependent on the person using it.

Recently, I was happy to learn about Ford’s announcement of the production of the Focus RS for their 2016 model line up. This innocuous statement displays my own bias. While I don’t claim to be a library of knowledge on the history of automotive racing, I know enough (on that, among other things) that this simple statement sparked my excitement. The “RS” moniker, for most manufacturers, means “Rally Sport.” Rallying is a fast paced and exciting form of off road racing utilizing high horsepower turbocharged 4- and 5-cylinder engines, performance suspension, and all wheel drive transmissions. While this car isn’t ready to race from the factory, it will be half-way there if similar vehicles are any indication of the Focus’ competition. Combined with a working knowledge of the partnership between Ford and the legendary Cosworth in the racing world, my biased opinion is that the Focus RS will be quite the pocket rocket and find its way to my garage – hopefully, some day soon.

That’s all that bias is. I heard a statement, compared it against what I know or assume to be true, and formed an opinion. I’m sure someone is out there who completely disagrees with me based on their own biased opinions, and that is perfectly ok! Disagreement encourages research and discussion. The result of which is progress that benefits everyone. How boring would be if everyone blindly agreed to everything? What if everyone was ok with walking everywhere? Someone had to say, “I disagree! I want to travel faster!” Animals were then harnessed and carriages built. And in the last century, the development and refinement of the automobile. What awesome stuff!

Particularly in the political realm, how did bias come to have such a negative, derogatory implication? Your guess is as good as mine. And it’s not just negative or derogatory. In context, it is used to convey that something is objectively wrong or incorrect. It happens all over the spectrum:

“You’re free to use any news source except Fox because they’re too biased.”

“Typical HuffPo bias…”

“Apparently Fox is running a story on reporting bias in media. Talk about irony.”

“Leave it to MSNBC to talk about their own biases than report facts.”

All of these are examples that I’ve personally seen or heard. Particularly in the first example (a former professor of mine at UK, by the way), bias is used to imply that Fox is objectively and measurably wrong. Are they? It depends on who you ask. I am neither defending nor condemning Fox News. The same can be said for MSNBC in the last comment.

We rely on news channels because – let’s be honest – we’d rather get reports on ISIS in the comfort of our homes than hunkered down behind a wall in Syria, avoiding AK47 gun fire. We expect the news channels to present things clearly, truthfully, and objectively. However, as demonstrated above and especially in light of the Brian Williams fiasco, we know that this doesn’t always happen. International stories, violent incidents, political policies, and even local reporting can incite a range of emotions, reactions, and discussions. Attempting a discussion amongst the static from the Godwins and Poes of the internet can be equally unnerving.

The point is… It’s not about whether or not a news source is objectively correct; it’s about recognizing that A) the anchors, reporters, executives, etc. have their own opinions that will inevitably ooze into the segments and B) every single person on the planet is guilty of confirmation bias. We hate being told when we’re wrong or having to admit when we’re wrong. It’s human nature. Some of us handle it better, but overall, we hate it because it’s uncomfortable. In an attempt to minimize that, we seek out information that reaffirms our beliefs. This is confirmation bias. Re-read the previous examples and you’ll recognize it. Anytime you hear someone say something along the lines of “I like MSNBC (Fox) because it’s honest reporting – unlike Fox (MSNBC) which is too biased for me.” It’s not about honesty – it’s about someone authoritative (an adjective sometimes used for news anchors) sharing a similar opinion as truth. This is why the left prefers Maddow, the right prefers Limbaugh, and libertarians (like me) prefer Stossel.

After the Trayvon Martin incident, there was *a lot* of speculation and interpretation. Even a court trial can only do so much. During the ordeal, I kept saying, “Only three people know for a fact what happened that night: Trayvon, Zimmerman, and God. One is dead, one has testified, and the other is choosing to sit out for some reason. All we know after that is what is presented.” Enter – biased news anchors, and with them, their interpretations and opinions. Where would we be without them? Like I said before, someone has to say “I disagree” and present their evidence to the contrary. It’s with that evidence of the contrary that changes are made – progress is made – innovation is bestowed upon us. People dig and provide details that weren’t initially presented.

And we’re all better off – and better informed – because of it.

Further Reading: Hostile Media Effect

Oh yeah….

Before someone asks…

Here’s your meme:

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Metal Monday – 02/23/15 Edition

Today we’re getting loud, heavy, and chunky. Extra Chunky Chips Ahoy cookies. A level that only 3 down tuned 7 string guitars can provide: Whitechapel. This song came out last year and I wish I had discovered it sooner. In an interview for DiMarzio pick ups, guitarists Alex Wade, Ben Savage, and Zach Householder explain that they all contributed equally to this song – that it represents the very core of what the band is and who has influenced them. A phrase I’m happy to hear, and a core concept that needs to perpetuate on future albums because this beautiful masterpiece has my fist in the air from beginning to end.

Liberty themes abound in the lyrics about American citizens marching upon Capitol Hill. Hope you enjoy it as much I do.

Whitechapel – “Our Endless War”


Let’s go

America our wasteland
Where death is entertainment
The place where moving forward means you turn the other direction
A place where reality existed
And we still continue to bleed

Red, White, Blue for ourselves and who?
And they still hold the truth so we say
FUCK YOU
My country tis of greed, sweet land of idiocracy

THIS IS OUR ENDLESS WAR

While we still have liberty
Lets take back our justice for all
We can march at sundown upon capitol hill
We’re calling you out
Come face us now and see your true war
Let’s take it back
We the people have spoken against

OUR ENDLESS WAR

There is nothing left to prove
We’ve spoke our minds risked our lives
Make your move
Tread lightly, choose your words wisely
Or we will refuse to bleed

Red, White, Blue for ourselves and who?
And they still hold the truth so we say
FUCK YOU
My country tis of greed, sweet land of idiocracy

While we still have liberty

SHUT IT DOWN

50 states united as one
But we still cant find a solution
Where have we gone
It seems that our motto to live by
When your chin deep in shit
duck, breathe and die!!!!! [2x]

LET’S TAKE BACK OUR JUSTICE FOR ALL

We can march at sundown upon capitol hill
We’re calling you out
Come face us now and see your true war [2x]

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again
This world is ours
Let’s take it back and give them their war

LET’S TAKE IT BACK

We the people
Have spoken against

OUR ENDLESS WAR

My country tis of greed, sweet land of idiocracy

A Hug For The 1 Percenters, From A 99 Percenter

The Occupy Wall Street movement may have lost most of its steam but animosity towards the rich and affluent in America is still alive and well. Predominantly from the extreme left (though political allegiances hardly mean anything anymore) the extreme wealthy are expected to “contribute to society” and “pay their fair share” through extensive taxes on their companies, personal income, capital, and anything else to make their existence burdensome. They “hoard” their money away in Swiss bank accounts, or purchase rare opulent treasures that many would consider unnecessary. These modern day Scrooge McDucks, with monocle and top hat, have had their reign and now must pay the piper. What is their punishment to be? The government is to tax the ever living bejesus out of them to fund social welfare programs. Their wealth needs to be redistributed because it’s fair – because majority of people are much much lower on the totem pole and struggling to get by financially.

Having said that, I love rich people. Yes, you read that correctly. I love rich people. Filthy stinking rich. To quote the great philosopher Jay-Z, “fuck rich, let’s get wealthy.” I’m talking about people with so much money that you can smell it on them. They wipe their asses with Benjis. They drive cars so rare, you’ve never even heard of them. They own 15 different homes and they’re more hidden and secure than U.S. military bases. Since I adore these people, I must be wealthy too, right? I must be sitting a few rungs from the top as well.

False.

Full disclosure: I’m broke. Not impoverished, but I still keep my belt tight. My head is barely above water. Know what I make? $15.40 an hour. A mere 40 cents over the minimum that Democrats want. And let me tell you something: it’s nothing to shout about. First of all, thanks to taxes and overpriced insurance, I only take 2/3 of that home. Despite “earning” more than twice the minimum wage – on paper – I take home $10 and some change an hour. Factor in that I gas up twice a week because my employer is an hour of interstate driving away and it quickly becomes apparent that “living wage” is a very subjective phrase. Last I checked, working full time, I fall into the 4th quintile income bracket. I’m barely above poverty and I’m using (one of) my college degree(s) too.

So what gives? Why don’t I get some assistance that I “rightfully deserve?” I may not be in the bulls eye of the demographic that the Dems want to help, but I’m still on the board. I should marching with the Occupy protesters. I should be writing letters to my Senators and Representatives, urging them to do something about this damn evil income inequality. I contribute just as much to society, right? I should be compensated accordingly.

Here’s the thing: none of the above can truly help me.

Imagine I’m trying to climb the income ladder, except I have a broken leg. And it’s nasty too. Compound fracture. Not a clean break but multiple pieces. I’m going to need corrective surgery, a titanium rod, and physical therapy – ALL on top of 6 months in a boot. Government assistance (let’s call it what it is – wealth redistribution) is somewhere between a band aid and a roughly assembled tourniquet. Yeah, it’s something, but in the grand scheme of things… it doesn’t change my situation. I’m still crippled. I could maybe advance up the ladder but it’s going to take a while and it’s going to be very painful. I want my leg to be in one piece and functional. The wealthy 1%ers, in this analogy, are somewhere between the actual surgeons and the administration of the hospital performing my surgery. They’re the ones directly contributing to me getting better.

At the core of it all is risk management. You may call it cost-benefit analysis. All decisions – especially economic decisions – carry risk. As you accumulate wealth, that risk becomes smaller because the loss to you is smaller. Imagine a used Chevy Cavalier for sale for $1,000. To someone making minimum wage, $1,000 is risky. Saving up that amount of money is difficult. What about reliability? Will the car break down five miles down the road? Those are the risks for someone making low wages at an entry level job. However, as they learn valuable skills and move up in the company, their wages increase because they’re more valuable. At $7.25 an hour – federal minimum wage – the Cavalier is a risky decision. What about at $8 an hour? $10 an hour? Salaried and making $40k a year? As the wealth accumulates, the margin of acceptable risk also increases.

For same car, what’s the margin of risk for someone clearing $100k a year? Probably zero. The car can be purchased easily. Any necessary repairs can taken care of just as easily. But now enters the second element of a financial decision: subjective value. What is the value of this car for someone making minimum wage compared to the doctor/lawyer/etc clearing six figures a year? For the former, it is access to mobility in the world. This may open up their opportunities to pursue a job with better pay or benefits. They value getting from Point A to Point B more than they value leather seats, touch screen navigation, and panoramic sun roofs. For the big wig, the ability to obtain transportation is nothing short of guaranteed. The questionable reliability of the aforementioned Cavalier is not a risk for them. They can afford factory fresh with the expectation of a long service life.

Because of these guarantees, they can afford to accept a new kind of risk – innovation. Most people would consider a person who earns six figures to have “made it” in life. They can live comfortably and also pursue new adult toys. In contrast to the Chevy Cavalier, let’s look at Mercedes-Benz. I’m a big fan of German engineering – Benz, BMW, Porsche, and Audi. Not just any Benz model – let’s look at the S65 AMG luxury sports sedan. Starting at $222k before options, it is a tour de force of automotive engineering. The S65 boasts many luxurious creature comforts and amenities such as 12 way adjustable power seats with memory settings – front and rear, touch screen stereo, rear seat entertainment screens, automatic sunscreens, and even a small refrigerator in the rear arm rest. All of these were unimaginable 50 years ago. Much less, the idea that a car could cost more than a house. But remember subjective value: at this level, the consumer obviously values the comforts more than just getting from A to B.

Of all the luxuries and technologies offered in the S65, I want to focus on one that isn’t exactly brand new: turbocharging. For my not-so-mechanically inclined readers, a turbocharger is a device that harnesses the kinetic energy of the spent exhaust gasses in an engine to spin a set of fans that feed more air into an engine than it would normally draw in. More air in the cylinders means more fuel can be mixed in for a bigger boom and more power. The best part is that it only operates when needed. Cruising on the highway under a light load, the engine will return fuel economy as expected for the given engine size. But stomp on the gas, and the exhaust flow spins up the fan, causing an exponential increase in air flow and consequently, horsepower. With this technology, small four cylinder engines can have power outputs that rival V6s and and even V8s. The S65 doesn’t use turbos for mere efficiency though. No, the S65 features a massive 6.0L V12 engine with TWO turbos. It offers a whopping 700+ pound/foot of torque and over 600 horsepower! So not only are you getting from point A to point B in style, but you’re getting there pretty damn fast too.

As I mentioned before, turbocharging is nothing new in automotive engineering. The first turbocharged vehicle made its debut in the early 1960s. It is a proven technology. It can be found in quarter-of-a-million dollar luxury sport cars (the S65 in this case) down to the very affordable Ford Fiesta, a daily beater that offers a lot of bang for the buck (approx. $15k). Turbos did not start out as a perfect technology though. Someone had to take a risk with the first turbocharged car in 1960-whenever. Profits from the sales went into engineering and R&D. Time passes and then advertisers were able to say, “You know that thing you like? We made it better.” Thanks to advances and developments in material choice, engine tuning, and overall engine design, companies like Volvo (known for turbocharging much of its fleet) have developed a reputation for amazingly reliable vehicles that exceed well over 200,000 miles on the odometer during their lifespans. The consumer wins with a reliable product. The producer wins with a pay day. To paraphrase a quote printed on a former employer’s pay stubs, “A satisfied customer made this check possible.”

As I previously mentioned, the S65 offers extravagant amenities…

  • 12 way power seats with memory
  • seat massage
  • seat ventilation
  • power sunshades in the rear windows
  • rear refrigerated storage
  • 12″ touchscreen technology center (radio, navigation, WiFi, etc)
  • rear seat entertainment screens

Compare these against the commonplace turbo. Now, in 2015, someone takes a risk with the new conveniences and technologies. In turn, Benz uses the profits from the sale of an S65 to reinvest into R&D and engineering. Is there a cheaper motor option for the power seats? Is there a material that improves the efficiency of the seat ventilation whilst still providing an elegant appeal? Is there a faster, smarter CPU for the in-dash technology center? Without someone willing to take risks, those questions may not be answered. Thankfully, there are people willing to accept that risk. Risks, along with other needs, wants, and desires, fuel innovation. Innovation not only creates jobs, but perfects risky technology (like the turbo in the 60s) into bomb proof reliability staples (see Volvo) at an affordable price (Ford Fiesta and Ecoboost).

So for the rich, the elite, the wealthy, the affluent, the connected, the powerful… The people of this country with big demands and even bigger bank accounts… Thank you for taking risks. Thank you for never being content with what you have. Thank you for treating luxury like a necessity. I’d hug you all if I could. Sue me, I’m an affectionate person. Because of your purchasing decisions, I (and many others) have future job prospects to look forward to. And maybe I’ll drive to that job someday in a budget daily beater Ford that offers 12 way power seats with massage, a touchscreen dash with WiFi, and a refrigerator unit that keeps my Kahlua mocha latte nice and chilled.

OH!

…..and a turbo.