Immigration & The Wall; Facts Please?


So having had the obligatory Chinese dinner on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day found my analytical brain pondering the motivations for the governmental shutdown, The Wall, and more broadly, the alleged perils posed by immigrants.  Endeavoring not to be biased regarding the purported need to defend my safety, security and nest egg, I wielded the foremost weapon of truth at my immediate disposal:  the Google search.


I started by Googling “statistics illegal immigration crime border wall”, to see if facts and/or scholarly accounts support (or otherwise discuss) some sort of causal correlation between illegal immigration and crime, or at least violent crime.  I restricted the results to the last 90 days, then the last 30 days, after the all-time results were unsupportive of the President’s basic contention.  I changed up the search words, but the finding was inescapable.


The readily available facts do not support the President’s argument that illegal immigrants are people to be feared and loathed. Articles within the last 90 days in such centrist publications as “Business Insider“,  “The Sociological Quarterly“, “The CATO Institute” and the emag “Politico” failed to demonstrate or present any facts in support of the President’s premise.  In fact, as laid bare in the hyperlinked articles, the opposite seems true, at least statistically.
Still seeking to give a President and his Administration the benefit of the doubt, I used my Googling skills to dig further. Trying not to be pejorative about it, I Googled “Evidence supporting Trump border wall necessity.”  I tried that over different date ranges too. A December 11, 2018 Washington Post op-ed summed up the collective upshot of some half-dozen scholarly articles published within the last 30 days, that no facts exist to support the basic contention that illegal immigrants brng an increase in crime and other sociological ills.

I know that some allege that President Trump’s views originate from thinly veiled racism and xenophobia.  Google searches with those words yield rich rewards and many cogent interpretations.  Many people apparently have written about his alleged racism and/or xenophobia. Fairness and balance are hard to find with those words in the search, though I did try articles saying he was not a racist or xenophobe.

Back to the wall.  I am not and never will be a politician.  I do not viscerally understand political promises, their importance and the failure of their lack of fulfillment in the eyes of one’s supporters.  Seemingly the Trump campaign promise of a border wall remains important to certain members of the conservative media and thus, to him.  For otherwise, his position has not been logically supported and defended with any facts I can find in a Google search.


Facts I can find.  Via a Google search.  Yeah, maybe I have a wee methodology problem.  So tonight, I innocently asked my family at dinner, “Do you think a Google search is intrinsically politically biased?”  I got a resounding chorus of, “Have you had your head in the sand?  It’s a common allegation by the President and his political allies.”  So circular as it may be, I set about to Googling the bias of a Google search.
“Is Google biased?”, sure enough, returned a plethora of web sites, articles, views and opinions.  Sifting through might be the topic for another blog. For now, my son’s view (he is a Computer Science major) seems fair enough: Google searches reflect the cross-section of their user population.  People who search on Google may be younger and more educated, and therefore possibly more liberal, than society as a whole. Maybe.


Meanwhile, we still have a government shutdown over an expensive political promise not kept, given that Mexico will not pay for it after all. Alas.



Betting on Better Bed-Buying

Few industries are more full of customer confusion, deception and trickery than bedding sales.  We try to venture into a mattress store as little as possible.  In fact, when last we visited one it was for a “Y2K” sale. January 1, 2000 found us buying a mattress to replace a waterbed that had sprung leaks thanks to the claws of an aggressive and somewhat mean-spirited cat.
Despite advertised so-called sales, on that first day of new millennium we needed a new mattress and felt the sharp salesman had far too much of the upper hand.  The terminology required an insider’s knowledge to ferret fact from fiction, the names of the manufacturers all sounded similar (they all started with “S” like “sleep”) and up-selling and other pressurizing tactics ruled the day.  We swore we would never buy a mattress again.
Nearly 18 years later, we slowly reasoned that our now-aging Triple-S-Sensual-Sleep-Slumberland-Supreme no longer owed us anything.  For one thing, it no longer seemed all that rectangular, in part because we may have been lazy about occasionally flipping it as suggested. We recalled our foreboding sense of “gotcha” at the mattress store two decades previously and reasoned there had to be a better way.
Consumer Reports (which covers only cars more extensively than mattresses) affirmed the accuracy of our worst nightmares: trickery, thievery and buyer deception abound in a yesteryear industry chock full of sharp, commissioned salespeople desperate to hit the quota that qualifies them for the cruise (or whatever). Comparison shopping on price, store-to-store, is all but impossible because model names and numbers change for the deliberate purpose of thwarting such efforts.  Worse, many times the mattress one picks on the showroom floor and the one that arrives at your home differ in materials, workmanship, durability, feel, etc. (with no way to prove it).


Consumer Reports also advised that it is both possible and increasingly popular to buy bedding online.  Before you say “How can I buy a bed without flopping myself onto it in the mattress store,” rarely do you get the time to really experience how it might be, the mattresses on the showroom floor may differ from the ones delivered to your home, and at the store you have the salesman pressure as well as the press of other customers hurry your decision.  Trying it in the store simply does not provide the objective insight one thinks.
Online direct-to-consumer manufacturers also can provide a higher-quality mattress at less cost because the costs of floor planning inventory, bricks-and-mortar rent, on-premises sales staff and the like are not built into the price. There are many, and the reviews are right-on-top-of-one-another, scores-wise. After much research online, we came to select the Ghost Bed Luxe.
Now why there are competing on-line brands “Ghost Bed” and “Casper” (as in the “friendly ghost”) is something it probably takes an industry insider to know; my patience stopped before researching this unlikely coincidence. Later I learned that several of the e-commerce bedding manufacturers have been warring with one another legally – see Casper Sues the Friendly Ghost? No matter, three days after completing the online purchase (with the very helpful chat box person, who steered me to certain unpublished promotions which lessened the cost some $150), our Ghost Bed arrived.

ghost bed

Though Queen Bed in size, somehow the air within its memory foam had been evacuated for shipping.  It came in a box (an 89 pound box) about the size of two cases of office copy paper.  Inside the box was the bed, tightly wrapped in much heavy plastic.  We positioned the bed where it would be (atop our existing box spring), cut the plastic wrapping and watched a miraculous re-inflation process (now I know how those under-seat life preservers work on airplanes). In a minute or two, the mattress was 8 or 10 times its volume, within an hour it was over 95% full size, and in less than 24 hours was full size and firmness.  Looking at it, sitting, lying or sleeping on it, you simply never would know it was shipped compressed like that.
A few nights ago, our Ghost Bed had its maiden voyage. We are total fans. Summer will tell whether its embedded cooling gel makes it cooler to sleep on, but we believe the advertising.  So yes, you can safely and confidently buy bedding online. Total fan; overslept as evidence. We heartily recommend Ghost Bed (both Luxe model and not) if you are in the market for a new mattress. The pillows (made of the same synthetic marshmallow-like fluff) are outstanding too.

ghost pillow.JPG

Small Business Health Insurance Jenga

Every year our business faces its version of open enrollment. Every year the cost of providing health insurance to our employees rises a few percent, which we always chalked off as the cost of doing business. Many things go up a few percent a year.
This year seems different and not in a good way. A couple of weeks ago I learned that if we do nothing (in terms of changing companies, policies, how-much-the-company-pays and the like), our cost will go up by over 11%. A little of that is aging, but a lot of that is well, both political and the fact that the insurers have us all by the you-know-what.stress

So within the little part of the insurance universe that we actually control, all 3,000ish square feet of it, we set about somehow limiting the damage to our employees, their dependents and ourselves. Screaming at Congress was quickly found to be ineffective, and hollering at our insurance carrier was met only with profit-glazed giggles. They know they have won. The only question is, by how much.


Armed with spreadsheets and some out-of-the-box thinking, this morning we unveiled a new set of company policies, practices and explained in detail, their underlying rationale. Rather than hoots, hollers and a flurry of resignation letters, the discussion went quite well. Looks like I lucked into the ’employer mensch” award once again with the following:

boss cup

1. Sticking with the traditional Blues. We’re not rocking employees’ worlds by making them find new doctors and other health care providers.


2. Offering a cafeteria of plans, which the Blues call “Bronze” up through “Platinum” like Olympic Medals. Getting past the gallows humor that they should be called things like “transparent” and “wiffle ball” for what they seemingly do not cover, employees like choice and I like not making theirs for them.


3.  We did away with all the silly formulas that determined employer contribution and payroll deduction.  No longer is how much anyone does or does not pay dependent on their marital status, the color of their car, the phases of the moon or which plan they deign to choose.  There is one variable, that is fair, equitable and objective and it works like this:

As the employer, we pay a certain fixed percentage of your gross pay toward your health insurance.  If you choose an affordable plan, our contribution covers most.  If you choose a lavish plan, our contribution helps some, but payroll deduction makes up the difference.  That percentage is the same for all employees.


So far, no one has rushed to quit, scream or stage a sit-in by the coffee pot.  As the employer, we have certainty of expense, and perhaps, a relatively happy work force. It easily could have been worse. Maybe we’ve dodged this bullet for one more year.



Lament of a Recurrent Gout Sufferer

With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, to the tune of “The Sounds of Silence”

Hello gout flare, my old friend
You’ve come to torment me again
Because high purines softly creeping
Crystals formed while I was sleeping
And these crystals that are planted in my toe
Cause me woe
Now I’m limping, in silence


From restless sleep gout woke me up
Wondering on just what I did sup
‘Neath the halo of a nightlight lamp
My diet I would again revamp
When my toes were stabbed by the flash of a gouty ouch
Made me a grouch
I bit my tongue, in silence
And in the bathroom not that I saw
Ten thousand crystals, maybe more
Gout attacking without speaking
Non-sufferers hearing without listening
We’re writing blogs that people never read
No one indeed
Suffer the gouty, in silence
“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Crystals in joints can grow and grow
Hear my words that I might teach you
Cry my toes that I might need you”
But my words, like silent crystals formed
And echoed
In my joints, in silence
And the sufferers bowed and prayed
For a cure for the dismayed
And the gout flashed out its warning
In the crystals that were forming
And the gout said, “The words of the genes are written in DNA
That is the way”
And they laughed, in the toes of silence
(Time to quit my day job? Or to hire a copyright infringement defense attorney?)