Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Other Side of Minimum Wage

As we careen through the next election cycle, glancing off of every special interest group wrestling for dominance on social media, none has as widespread appeal as the question of increasing the minimum wage.  The issue attracts a lot of interest because it affects both sides of the commercial world. Theoretically, laborers want the minimum wage to increase, while employers generally don't want to be told how and what to pay their employees.

The entire issue is grossly misunderstood by the general public, who tend to confuse minimum wage with the living wage.  The minimum wage was designed strictly for entry level, unskilled jobs that used to be filled by young kids who were still living with their parents. The primary benefits of the minimum wage were twofold: the employee got to earn while he learned and the employer got a chance to test cheap labor for a possible future hire.  A living wage, on the other hand, is simply a government statistic, a calculation to give policy wonks and economists a benchmark against which they can ply their models.  Much like the poverty line, the living wage moves up and down, usually according to whichever political party happens to be at the controls.

Personally, I think the original purpose of the minimum wage is still the best one. But it only works when both employer and employee understand that it's a starting wage. The whole idea is that the better the employee does, the more productive he becomes. The more productive he becomes, the more profitable the business is, allowing the employer to reward the employee that much sooner with a higher wage.

Unfortunately, that's not how things have worked out. Because somewhere along the way, people decided to forego their apprenticeships and decided they were entitled to have the higher wages right off the bat. They wanted the higher wages sooner because they wanted the lifestyle afforded by higher wages sooner, too.  Cars, apartments, groceries, insurance, medicine -- it all costs money. It's stuff that can't be had on a minimum wage and anyone who expects otherwise is simply detached from reality.  However, sticking with the program actually works if your expectations are properly aligned.

Ah, I can hear the objections now. "You're so elitist! Check your white privilege!"

Sorry to disappoint you, but even if I were elitist, it wouldn't change the truth. Long before I ventured into elitism, I worked several minimum wage jobs until I found the one that clicked.  It worked. But it doesn't work that way anymore.  Not because the model is flawed, but because the people's expectations are.

Today, I was at a local Chipotle restaurant.  The staff was in a cheery mood and inadvertently turned up the music to a deafening level. I politely asked them to turn in down a bit. One of the girls touched the dial, but didn't lower the volume.  So I politely asked again. This time, there was a noticeable drop in the level, so I thanked her, but not before a rotund, beastly assistant manager began lecturing me about talking to the employees with respect, "or I'll have to ask you to leave." I was bewildered and responded there was no cause for her interference.  Needless to say, the situation escalated. I was not about to have my taco bowl experience ruined by some uniformed half-wit. At this point the dope, whipped out her cell phone to call someone. "Call a cop," I responded as I continued with my lunch.  When I was almost finished, she waddled over to me with a "to go" package and asked me to leave yet again. I told her I'd leave when I was good and ready. Then she launched into an automated response to anything else I might have said: "Thank you. Have a nice day sir." Over and over, whether I spoke or not, the refrain was the same.  "Thank you. Have a nice day sir."

This is an employee who probably cannot be fired. This is an employee who should never have been hired, but was given the benefit of the doubt and paid a minimum wage until she proved her worth and value to the company. But she's failing that test and actually costing the company money.  Someone like this should be paid a minimal wage until she either makes the grade or flunks out, keeping the employer's risk to a minimum. 

Now take that same circumstance and apply it to a local micro-business. The local mom and pop hardware store has a completely different structure than Home Depot. One wrong employee could drive away enough business to kill it. It has far less financial stamina and much higher risk of failure.  Should that little Main Street store -- even with as many as three or six locations -- be subject to the same arbitrary pay scales as a national brand? Especially in an environment that makes it practically impossible to fire an employee, even with good cause?

The American system of enterprise is not an entitlement program. The guy down the street will hire, but only what he can afford to hire. If you make it too expensive for him to hire, he simply won't hire. But if you allow him to invest his money -- and a minimum wage employee to invest his time -- the partnership can and does work out well for both.

Oh yeah, work. Now there's a concept. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Myth of Compassion

At the time of this writing, the United States is in real turmoil. Not since the Vietnam war era has the nation been as divided in its opinions and perspectives. You can call them the Left and the Right, the Red and the Blue or the Liberals and Conservatives. It really doesn't matter. What you have are people lining up against each other with an increasing amount of intolerance.

That is nothing new. The left has always framed the right as money-grubbing and selfish. The right has always pegged the left as entitled with their hands out.  The conservative position is that self-earned wealth is the only true means to advancement. The liberal position is that too may people lack access to the means to earn that wealth themselves.

It gets worse. The left portrays the right as greedy, with no compassion for the less fortunate. Throughout their speeches, liberal leaders pepper their rhetoric with phrases like, "the one percent don't care about the other ninety-nine percent." Another favorite is, "They make millions and pay less taxes than you do or pay no taxes at all."  These phrases are, ostensibly, designed to contrast the compassion on the left with the lack of compassion on the right.

It's the Millennial version of "I feel your pain."

Compassion is an interesting concept.  Somehow, it always gets attached to pity and confused with empathy. I find that intriguing, because when you ask most folks, they'll tell you they have compassion for the poor, the disadvantaged and the less fortunate. But in reality, compassion has nothing to do with social standing or economics. It's a human quality, completely detached from any economic or political cause. One feels compassion for another because something reaches into the soul to elicit concern for the other. Yet in politics, compassion is viewed as the exclusive domain of the poor and disadvantaged, as if it's some sort of moral merit badge that has to be earned.

Personally, I have no stake in either side's game. What I find interesting is the that left's plea for income redistribution too often boils down to one basic sentiment about their adversarial one percent, which goes something like this:

They've got more money than they'd ever need. Fuck 'em.

If you doubt the accuracy of that observation, try Googling videos that feature the word "Occupy" in the title or description. You'll see thousands of clips with protesters and political candidates echoing the very same sentiment, if not the exact words.

Yet these are the same people who present themselves as the faction filled with sensitivity to others.  They base their entire campaigns on their deep, abiding sense of compassion . But when I hear their harsh haranguing, I can't help asking if their compassion is all that universal.  Does their compassion for other human beings, regardless of race, color or creed apply to people who are also tremendously wealthy?

Stay with me on this, because I think I smell a real case of hypocrisy here:

If the left feels justified in proclaiming, "They've got more money than they'd ever need -- Fuck 'em," that's hardly the voice of compassion and seems to undermine its credibility. It suggests that only those it deems worthy are deserving of any of the human qualities that it reserves for its own.  And that leads to a slippery slope: How poor or disadvantaged does one have to be to qualify for compassion? How do we treat people in the 1.5%? Or the top 2%?  Who sets these arbitrary limits, anyway?  

This strategy is a huge tactical error, as well. After all, how could a brusk, exclusionary attitude like that meet with an opposing response any more compassionate than, "Our families had to earn every nickel we have -- Fuck you"

Seems to me that you can't have it both ways.  You want to be liberal? Fine. You want to be Conservative? Also fine. But if you're claiming to be compassionate, let your actions speak for themselves. Be consistent.  Show the same compassion to your adversaries that you do to your allies.  I haven't yet met the person who genuinely expressed his compassion for another human being by telling him to go fuck himself.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Non-Sequitur News

It's a sad time for the state of communications. The media, which was once known as the Fourth Estate, has decayed from its prominence as a bastion of free speech and degenerated into a universe of digital soapboxes, where "just published" gets confused with legitimate, truthful reporting.  This is not a new observation. Ever since the internet reached puberty, the Fourth Estate has filtered the news as they dumb it down for mass consumption. This is also nothing new.  What is relatively new is the alarming increase in Non-Sequitur news.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, and those who think they know what a non sequitur is, let's agree to define it in its most accurate terms.  If you're a Merriam-Webster fan, it goes like this:

An inference that does not follow from the premises; specifically : a fallacy resulting from a simple conversion of a universal affirmative proposition or from the transposition of a condition and its consequent; a statement (as a response) that does not follow logically from or is not clearly related to anything previously said

Essentially, what this means is that  at an increasing rate, people are having discussions and making their points using reasoning that simply doesn't make any sense. Their logic doesn't flow from one point to the next. They simply post the latest meme on their Facebook page, accompanied by some "Right on, bro" comment and leave it at that, no matter how bizarre or untrue the sentiment may be.

Let me be clear: I'm not talking about people disagreeing with each other or differing in their political or ethical viewpoints. It's America. You get to feel the way you do for whatever reasons you wish. However, in this age of dumbed-down information, non sequiturs are everywhere you look. People are linking powerful statements to specious facts that have no logical connection, resulting in strange conclusions that sound really good but are in fact, totally meaningless and often preposterous.

Before I go any further, you should know that this is where things can get politically incorrect. Buckle up.

Back in the sixties, when ethnic pride was in its formative stages, there was a lot of discussion about racism, specifically viewed through  the lens of black America. Back then, when just about all of white America's conversational efforts on topics like racism, income inequality and sociological pathologies had been exhausted, a common retort from black participants was, "You've got to be born black to know how it feels!"  This was, apparently, the impenetrable argument to which non-black people had no counter argument. For one thing, it was true:  If you're not born black, you don't know what it feels like to be black. Unfortunately, that observation had nothing to do with the arguments at hand. If the black on black crime rate is way higher than white on white crime rate, for example, "knowing what it feels like to be black" simply has no place in the discussion, because the discussion isn't about "what it feels like to be black."  On the other hand, being tailed by a cop as you're "driving while black" may have everything do to do with born black.  So I get it.  Nevertheless, for decades, the "you don't know how it feels" argument was abused as an effective non sequitur to shut down discussions because non-blacks accepted its illogic.  It didn't make any sense, but non-blacks felt so guilty about it, they simply gave in.

It gets worse.

These days, you can't get too far into the news without stumbling over stories having to do with "underrepresentation" and "over-representation," both of which are non sequiturs themselves. Take the case of underrepresentation, specifically with regard to race.  If you believe the United States census, specifically Race and ethnicity in the United States, "white Americans are the racial majority, with a 77.7% share of the U.S. population. African Americans are the largest racial minority, amounting to 13.2% of the population. Hispanic and Latino Americans amount to 17.1% of the population, making up the largest ethnic minority.  

Those are facts. Those are the numbers. Another number is this: The Senate of the United States is composed of one hundred members. If you believe the myth of the non sequitur, this means that 77.7% should be white, 13.2% should be black and 17.1% should be Latino. But that doesn't flow logically at all, for a couple of reasons:

Taken to its extreme, the strict logical interpretation of those numbers would have no way to account for the fractional representations, meaning that the country couldn't achieve true representation until the Senate chambers housed members of mixed races ( a .7% white, a .2% black and a .1% Latino) .  Okay, so that's a little much. But the other logical flaw is that even if the Senate were composed along those lines, it wouldn't at all guarantee anything, to anyone. Of course, it sounds great in theory. It sounds as if blacks would push the black agenda and Latinos would push theirs.  But if you really believe that, all that proves is your own racism.  You're not giving those individuals the respect for their ability to think for themselves.  You may really believe that one issue is logically linked and causal to the other,  but they're not. It may be convenient and expedient to make that connection, but the connection isn't there.  There's no logical linkage between race and representation. If there were, the Civil Rights Act -- passed by a white Congress -- would never have made it to a vote. But it did. And it passed.

You and I can agree on some issues. We can disagree on some others. That's totally fine. It's how things work. I care less about what you think than why you think it.  It has to make sense, even if we disagree. In my travels, I go hunting for non sequiturs but I never have to  venture too far. I always bag more than the limit.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Refugees From Reality

These are tough times if you're an immigrant. Throughout the world, people are running away from their homes, most with good reason. In the muslim world, Sunnis and Shiites are going all out to eradicate each other, armed by various political factions with their own specific agenda.  In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees have mobilized to the north and west, crowding Europe with the largest mass movement since the Second World War.

But those aren't the only people on the move. In the western hemisphere, migration is a distinctly one-way affair as well, with innocent Latinos and Hispanics fleeing for their lives, too. They all venture north, terrorized by lawless regimes, often at great risk to their own lives.

It's difficult to put aside emotions when the media is flooded with stories, graphics and video of the danger and terror these millions of victims face.  It's easy to open your heart and think, "We're so fortunate. We have so much. We need to provide these people with a safe harbor."

I don't disagree.  But I do have a question or two.

It's one thing for refugees to escape rampant murder and pillage, seeking a safe place to wait out the storm. It's quite another for them to abandon their homelands forever.  So people in host countries aren't out of line when they ask how long will it be before the crises in the refugees' homelands are ended? And when those crises do end, will those immigrants return?

If you're following this, stick with me, because it gets more interesting.

There's no question but that once arrived in a host country, it's only natural that immigrants put down roots, if only as a matter of survival. Refugees arrive with their families, who need food, shelter and schooling, just like anyone else. Along with the establishment of those roots comes a network of friends, employment and family, which in relatively short order becomes a socio-economic structure of support that's far more oriented to permanence than its original short-term purpose. As a result, many more immigrants choose to stay in their adoptive refuge than to return home.  And the longer they stay, the more permanent their stay is likely to be.

It makes sense that immigrants should choose to stay. I know I probably would.  But the untold cost of their choice never gets reported by the media.  Specifically, politicians and media choose to ignore that the real problem with immigration isn't the refugees, it's the warring factions in their homelands. Unless and until those warring factions have either been removed or resolved, no sane refugee would ever want to return.

All of which brings into question the solutions for removing those warring factions. By now, it should be clear that none of these embattled countries and failed states are capable of, or even motivated to restore peaceful security to their citizens. In the shrewdest sense, their agenda and goals are more easily achieved by the removal of their opposition, whether by escape or murder. Everywhere you look, these failed states show no sign of restoring any kind of former civility and thus far, no native opposing forces seem up to the task of removing them from power.

This leaves host countries with two choices: They can either accept the flow of immigrant refugees and crowd their own borders until there are no more to accept, essentially draining the populations of the war torn states on a permanent basis. Or the host countries can deploy armed forces of their own, rooting out the war lords in hopes of establishing the security that would lure the refugees back home.

I can hear the Facebook rants now, decrying the latter proposition as merely one more tool by which Dick Cheney can line Halliburton's pockets.  Or some idiot diatribe about how America is only happy when it's at war. That's nonsense. Refugees and immigrants know there's a real problem at home. People in host countries need to help them out.  But the real way to help is by our giving them a solution.

When you think it all the way through, we should be helping them get back home, not necessarily providing them a new one.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Why I'll Never Hire You

It doesn't matter which political philosophy to which you subscribe, the hard, cold truth is that seven years after America's worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression, its economy might be off life support, but it's hardly thriving.  Government agencies tally up the data on a monthly basis, producing meaningless (and often baseless) statistics designed to measure just how well or poorly the economy is doing.  One of their favorite numbers is the unemployment rate.

I'm not here to justify one man's figures against another man's numbers. There are infinite ways to calculate the unemployment rate, producing a range of "reliable" results from 5% to 25%, depending on the extremist view to which you subscribe. I don't believe any of them. What I do believe is that the jobs lost in the Great Recession are never coming back. Not because there's no need for workers, but because beyond NAFTA and TPP, employment itself is a daunting, if not impossible, proposition.

Most people believe that businesses employ people in order to keep the business moving. The employees are the arms and legs that propel products and services through its pipelines for eventual consumption and profits.  Unfortunately, there are a lot more reasons not to hire employees, to which few people pay any heed.  I've put together a little list of those reasons, just in case you were wondering why nobody wants to hire you:

1.  I have to match your Social Security payments.  You know all those deductions taken out of your paycheck on a regular basis? Roughly 7% is what you pay into Social Security. Bet you didn't know that I, as your employer, have to match that with another 7% I pay out of my own pocket. That's makes you 7% more expensive than your salary would imply.

2. I have to pay you even when you're sick. If you're on salary and not working, I still have to pay you, which actually costs me twice as much, because I have to pay someone else your going rate to do the work you're not doing. That means my costs can double at any time, unpredictably, throwing the viability of my business into question.

3. I can't fire you, even if you do a bad job.  Even if I hire you on an "at will" basis, labor laws are such that if I fire you -- even for just cause -- you can sue me for back pay and punitive damages. Just the threat of a lawsuit will cost me time and money.

4. You can sue me if I provide a negative reference.   If you leave my company after a less than stellar performance and your next prospective employer calls me to verify what you put down on your resum√©, I can't make one negative comment, even if it's to dispel any blatant lie you may have composed. If I do, I can be sued for "costing you a potential job."

5. You might have a baby.  I can invest all kinds of time, training and money into you in hopes of retaining a long-term, productive employee for my business, only to have you get pregnant and either take leave or simply quit. There's no way I can recoup my costs from you. I just have to find someone new -- at my cost.

6.  I never know when you'll leave for another job.  It's a market economy, I get it. Which is why I can't ever be sure you're going to stay with the company or be lured away by a competitor. Since there's no real allegiance, I have to stand ready to replace you, usually in less than two weeks, because nobody wants an employee who's leaving in two weeks to spend those two weeks poisoning the rest of the crew.

7.  The government makes me pay health benefits if I have more than 25 employees. Same argument as Social Security, which chews into my business's profitability with no tangible benefit to me.  As a result, I may have to raise my prices and lose market share.

8. The government regulates the minimum hourly wage I have to pay you. No matter how unenforceable or ridiculous its programs are structured, the government dictates the minimum amount I can pay my employees, never taking into consideration how my business operates or whether it can afford it. Again, I may have to raise my prices and lose market share.

9. Any minority can sue me at any time.  No matter what you look like or where you come from, if you decide there aren't as many of your ilk in my company as you think there should be, you can sue me for discrimination -- even if your work product is inferior to those who occupy the positions you seek.  That costs me time and money -- and maybe even my business's work product quality, which ultimately can tank my entire enterprise.

Those are just nine quick reasons that give business owners pause to think before they hire. And when they do, they often arrive at two conclusions that don't involve employees:

1.  It's smarter to outsource with independent contractors.
2.  Software never calls in sick.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Political Brands 2016: Donald Trump

Every few presidential elections, the American public is treated to an event about as rare as a total eclipse: An independent candidate mounts a serious effort to claim the presidency.  Over the last century, nobody has done it successfully, but they have done effective jobs in determining who did win it.

In 1980, John Anderson launched a bid that nobody saw coming, especially that stupidest president of them all, Jimmy Carter.  Back then, Carter was an inept incumbent who'd basically tripped his way into office by essentially not being Richard Nixon. The American people were sick and tired of Watergate and "the establishment's" dishonesty and promotion of corporate interests.  Sound familiar?  

Jimmy Carter was the "people's president" in 1976, but by 1980, he'd left America in shambles and himself as a worldwide laughing stock.  Ronald Reagan stepped up to run against Carter, with Reagan's main theme being the restoration of America's greatness, lifting its economy, stronger defense and getting America back to basics. Okay, does that sound familiar?

John Anderson entered the race as an independent, whereupon Carter refused to take the national stage when it came time to debate both Reagan and Anderson -- a high profile Democrat refusing to discuss issues.  Well, that should definitely sound familiar.  Eventually, Reagan crushed Carter, but Anderson finished with 7% of the national vote -- after securing Carter's reputation as a sissy during the election.

It happened again in 1992, when businessman Ross Perot -- maybe the shortest man to run for the office -- stood on the stage and twanged about "getting back to basics" while Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush battled it out on the usual waffle-worthy issues.  Perot's arguments were, to be honest, pretty lame. They were simplistic, but they were different enough for him to claim 19% of the national vote -- enough to steal support from Bush and allow Clinton to steal the victory with only 42% of the vote.

So independents don't have to win elections to make a difference.  They just have to influence them. Enter Donald Trump.

While media and leftists love to hate him, everyone needs to pay close attention to him, because he's the perfect fed up candidate.  Like Perot and Anderson, Trump has struck a chord with a broad cross-section of the American public who are tired of dealing with problems not of their making.  They're not gay.  They're not transgender. They're not immigrants. In fact, they're not anything other than simple, basic, hard-working Americans who feel forgotten except when it comes time to pay for somebody else's bill.

Are they justified?  Maybe. But the fact is that they feel justified and nobody is taking up their cause.  Nobody is vocalizing their thoughts or speaking on their behalf -- except for Donald Trump.  Sure, some people submit Bernie Sanders is doing that, but they're wrong: Sanders tells them what he wants; Trump tells them what they feel

Think his hair looks funny?  Happy his business partners terminate relationships?  The media is totally being played by Trump, completely misunderstanding that every time a sponsor drops him, ten more line up to do business with him because they know he speaks for millions of likewise fed up voters. They claim his "brand" is destroyed, but that only proves their ignorance about what branding is and how it works.  

Laugh it up, kids. You may not like him, but Trump is the catalyst that's getting everyone talking about issues nobody really wants to discuss, in very specific terms they'd prefer to avoid. 

At this point, Democrats fear him because he's a force that could send shock waves through the Republican platform.  Republicans fear him because they don't want another Independent handing the election to Hillary Clinton.  So don't kid yourself.  Trump is more effective than you think.

Of course Donald Trump will never make it to the finish line, but at this very moment, millions of marginalized voters are actually beginning to pay attention. And if he's the guy that mobilizes interest, how bad of a thing can that be?

Monday, June 22, 2015

It's not National. It's Local.

I was at lunch the other day, where a friend tied up a waiter while perusing the menu for life-threatening entrees. Does this one have gluten? Are there any artificial colors in that one? How much MSG is in that one? Does this have red dye? What about sugar? High-fructose corn syrup?  It went on and on until the waiter wisely determined his order wasn't going to be worth the tip.

I looked at my pal. He was a wreck. Totally consumed with issues that didn't really concern him, but were destroying his life anyway.  This is a well-educated guy who's a total media victim.  Completely helpless when it comes to discerning which news he should listen to and which he should ignore.  The stress of dealing with all the valueless news is making him ill.  He's not alone.

Take note of today's date, because years from now -- maybe even weeks from now -- much of what you read here will be forgotten, nudged out of the headlines by other stories. I, on the other hand, will likely be remembered for being insensitive, out of touch or just plain ruthless.

I don't care. This is too important to simply ignore. 

This is more important than the stories currently consuming the United States of America.  It's more dangerous and more harmful to you, your families and your physical and emotional welfare.

At this writing, the country is focused on the bizarre shooting and murders of nine church members in Charleston, South Carolina.  A sick, twisted kid stormed into a church and blasted away.  Around Dannemora, New York, two brutal murderers are still on the run after escaping from one of New York's most heavily secured prisons. After almost two weeks on the run, nobody knows where they are. And throughout the country, every single media outlet is updating and over-analyzing these stories as if they're vital to the country's -- and your own -- survival.

But they're not vital to your survival, because these are local stories happening in places where you don't live.  Without detracting from their sadness, danger and tragedy, the fact is that the shootings in Charleston affect a very tiny community and touch a few hundred lives at most.  It's their tragedy, but it's being treated as if it's a national issue. It's not.  And don't start with the old, "it's part of a larger issue" argument.  Just because a local story is reported by national media doesn't make it a national story.  It's simply a local story promoted for its sensationalism.  Every day, unfortunate people fall into threshers or off building ledges. Banks are robbed and cars are stolen. People get murdered as a matter of course, but we don't hear or read much about those because they happen in places to people we don't know.  They're local stories. 

National stories are issues that genuinely affect an entire nation. Who's running for president? What country is threatening us? Should we put a man on Mars? How should we change the Federal tax system? What's the solution to American poverty? Is the bird flu a real epidemic?  Should the internet be regulated?  Those are national issues, because they affect everyone, everywhere.

Back in the Neolithic Age, journalism reported the news by classification. Television, radio and print divided their stories into International, National, Regional, Local and Human Interest. No matter how sensational the item, it was placed in the proper context for more accurate reporting.  Today, that's no longer the case.  Like AYSO soccer, where every kid gets a trophy simply for showing up, every local story is now thrust into national prominence regardless of its relevance to the rest of the country.  The result is that people misconstrue local events as national in scope. They worry about it.  They stress over it, for no rational reason at all.

A crazed killer in one small city is not justification for unleashing fear and stress on an entire country.  Race-based police conflicts, hand-picked and broadcast 24/7 does not equate to an all out, national police-driven race war.  Two escaped convicts in New York won't be holding the country hostage any time soon.  But when reported as national news, these local stories might seem to do all that and more.

They're not national stories. They're local. And because they're local, each comes with its own causes and effects specific to its local community, so it would be a huge mistake to assume that simply applying the lessons of one local story to an entire nation would be helpful, let alone appropriate.  Yet that's exactly what's happening today.  Right at this moment, pundits and politicians and legions of Facebook quarterbacks are deciding their futures -- and possibly yours -- based on isolated events that have no bearing on where you or the rest of the country lives.

That's what happens when the media confuses nationally-reported local stories with legitimate national news.  Cancer doesn't happen to everyone. All cops aren't out to kill you. Live a little more. Fear a little less.

Screw the cholesterol. Order the steak.