Going to Abilene

How are group decisions made?

(I had the following experience in what we called “charm school,” where various interpersonal skills were taught to us nerd techies.)

The short video was titled, Going to Abilene, and it explained something about human group decisions. The narrator was the husband, visiting with his new bride, at her parents’ farm, for the first time.

It’s hot, isolated, quiet. In a lull in the on-porch conversation, the paterfamilias mumbles something about, ‘we could have dinner at the restaurant in Abilene.’

‘Did you ever get the air conditioning fixed in your old station wagon?’ And the conversation goes on, and eventually, they do go to Abilene for dinner.

The restaurant in Abilene turns out to be four tables at the back of the drugstore.

After they all return, the narrator voices-over: ‘Ninety minutes each way in Texas heat.’ The paterfamilias remarks, ‘We could have stayed here on the porch and had cold cuts.’

It turns out nobody wanted to go to Abilene, but each went along with the others. Asked why he brought the subject up, the father-in-law, says, ‘I was just makin’ conversation.’

Going to Abilene meant, for the rest of that course, (and for the rest of my life,) coming to a group decision that nobody actually wanted as first choice, if at all.

I am reminded of a scene in Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger, wherein a mob stones an old crone falsely accused of being a witch. Satan mocks the three boys, and tells them that, while sick at heart, they threw stones – as did almost everyone else – because everyone else was going to, and could see them if they did not.

The United States of America is, imho, going to Abilene.

Although sick at heart, delegates will vote for Donald Trump to run for president.

Although sick at heart, delegates will vote for Hilary Clinton to run for president.

I need not itemize Trump’s interesting qualities. His say-anything, attack-with-noise approach is obvious to any not smoking his particular Trump brand of hallucinogen.
While there is more, that’s enough to make me question this candidate’s decision process.

I need not itemize Clinton’s interesting qualities. Her fabrications (caught by Trevor Noah) about her eMails, and the ‘chastising’ verdict. The new revelations that her party conspired, apparently, to sandbag Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Clinton is connected.
While there is more, that’s enough to make me doubt this candidate’s integrity.

They could both be in thrall to their handlers.
That seems unlikely in both cases; both are strong personalities, in the same sense that mustelids have strong defenses. (Some can kill prey much larger than themselves; a new measure of weight in politics.)

Now the American People, having allowed this momentous choice of leader to come down to these two candidates, must vote (or not vote) and face the consequences.

The result could be worse than three hours in a hot station wagon with a crummy sandwich as intermission.

The result could be (Trump’s promises) breaking of all trade treaties and weakening of all American allies’ trust in the USA coming to their aid. An ineffective government bound to persecute minorities.

The result could be (Clinton’s apparent ability to prevaricate and manipulate) a government run by the insiders that got us the crash of 2008. Trade deals that only help big business.

Hobson’s choice.

You’re going to Abilene, my American friends. Have a nice trip.

The dumb question: there are two:

How are group decisions made?
How are good group decisions made?

Last Days

“We are in the last days of the Roman Empire.”

Richard Ketchum was a brilliant teacher, head of Communications and English at Humber College. He was originally from the United States of America.
He knew exactly which country I was speaking of.

It took longer than either of us expected.

“There’s a lot of ruin in a nation.” This by Adam Smith, quoted in a book on the collapse of ancient civilizations. I have it in mind that a British leader quoted this also. Thatcher?

There are signs of impending disaster around the globe. I will list some scary ones that I happen to see.

Turkey is moving toward martial law and dictatorship. To circumvent election term limits, its leader is moving power to his new post.

Syria is a mess. Warring factions kill civilians. Russia and the West bomb et cetera on apparently discordant definitions of ‘sides.’

The annexation of Crimea in the Ukraine has had only sanctional effect on Russia. Since Vladimir Putin is a hero for standing up to the west, economic sanctions do not weaken his hold on power.

Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal. Once ‘PIGS’ and still in economic shock.

Bolivia. Civil war. Disguised as rebel factions.

Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela. Economic disasters and food shortages, government debts unpayable.

Ecuador. Selling out the Galapagos Islands because the government is broke.

Costa Rica. Going that way soon.

Japan. In a slump for decades.

Brexit. Economic uncertainty. Currency fluctuations. Recriminations and political division.

Now is the time when a national leader with global reach and uniting persuasiveness is required. Instead we get this:

Trump. The politics of division. The statesmanship of ‘say anything.’ The diplomacy of personal attacks (and say anything, hopefully divisive, in them.)

Trump. Who today said he might pull the US out of the protection of NATO countries.

Trump who would build a wall and (somehow) make Mexico pay for it. Trump who would (with gracious exceptions to specific political figures) prevent Muslims from entering the United States.

Trump, the disuniter. Trump, the international non-leader. Trump, the surprise low-card winner.

We are in the last days of the Roman Empire. America’s day of influence is ending.

The rest of the world, or that portion that counted on US influence and steadying power, can totter along unaided. America will be far too distracted to give a damn.

Given the vast reservoir of anger at home, tapped and fanned by the Trump campaign, this will be a bloody sunset in the West.

Given the economic inequality, with clearly defined losers much more numerous than the easily found winners, it will be a long and dark night.

Have a nice day.

Batesian Trumpery (the ills of evolution and learning)

Operant Conditioning. (Those who bore easily can skip to Batesian Mimicry below.)

A chicken can be trained to an astounding degree. Using a computer, video monitoring, and feeding machinery, a caged chicken is rewarded with a grain of food when it moves toward a keyboard in its roomy cage.
The chicken learns to do this when hungry.
Next, the chicken learns to actually touch the keyboard.
Next, the chicken learns to press a key.
Next, the chicken has to press the ‘n’ key.

and so on.

Eventually, the chicken will type a short sentence when it is hungry.

A professor teaching this to a class discovered one day that he was crowding himself into one corner of the lecture room.
OK, he asked the class, what’s going on? Class spokesperson: When you move toward that corner, we sit up, smile, pay attention, and take notes. When you move away from that corner, we ignore you, chat, and drop our pencils.

My point here: The chicken knows how to get fed. It has no idea what it just typed. The professor knows how this works, but it works on him just the same.

That’s Operant Conditioning.

Batesian Mimicry. The standard example is the Monarch butterfly, and its copiers. (Viceroy being one I can name.)
Monarch caterpillars eat milkweed leaves. Other insects cannot manage the toxicity. Monarch adults still carry that toxin, and taste bad to birds etc. Birds learn not to eat butterflies that look like Monarchs.

Another Batesian Mimicry example is the coral snake. This snake is very venomous. There is a shortage of antivenom. The snake is not aggressive, fortunately, and is shy. However, a bite is deadly serious.
Other snakes resemble the coral snake, and ‘get a free pass’ from potential predators as a result.
(There is a recent Nature article on this snake and its mimics.)

The normal case in Batesian Mimicry is, the mimics are a lot scarcer than the real thing. Thus a bird is likely to have met a real monarch before deciding to try a viceroy.
With the coral snake, this is not the case. In its range, there are generally a lot of mimics. This is thought to be because of the huge cost of messing with the real coral snake. Worse than just a bad taste.

Let me point out that the mimics of the monarch butterfly and of the coral snake have no idea what they were naturally selected for.

On to Donald Trump.

I will be generous and assume the Donald’s behaviour is the result of operant conditioning. He may have learned to behave outrageously by being successful at it. He may not be aware that he has ‘learned’ anything he can’t articulate.

Small persons driving large SUVs tend to behave badly in traffic. I think that’s the result of operant conditioning: they’ve gotten away with a certain range of bending of the rules of fair play while driving. They are probably unaware of what they have been trained to do.
(One could argue that they are actually being Batesian Mimics of other aggressive drivers. You can draw your own conclusions here.)

I will be generous and assume the behaviour of the Republican party, including the run-up to the convention, and the convention itself, is the result of operant conditioning.
(One could argue that it is actually Batesian Mimicry: only those behaving in a certain way have been uneaten by the party insiders in the past, so upcoming candidates are naturally selected to behave in that certain way.)

The colour pattern of the butterfly and of the snake become the de rigueur colour pattern of many individuals in the struggle for success.

The expectations, and judgemental reactions, of one’s party faithful become feedback like the professor’s students. You go along, or find yourself in a corner. You may not know why.

One final comment on evolution. If you agree that a Viceroy looks like a Monarch, and that other snakes look like coral snakes (but only where coral snakes are recently found), then you might ask this dumb question:

What if a trait were highly attractive, and that attraction was wanted? Is it conceivable that an exaggeration of a successful instance would be more successful than the original?

Do the antlers of male elk evolve toward the maximum practical size? Does the orchid that looks like a bee (to get pollinated) look like a particularly sexy bee? Do women emphasize a blush with blush? Do fourth-grade bullies need to outdo their followers?

My conclusions from all this:

  • The Republican Party does not know how it has been operant-conditioned. Even by its own past successes.
  • The successful nominee may not know what traits he picked up to get there, or why.
  • Donald Trump may not know what his handlers can get him to do. Neither may they.
  • A significant portion of the American public have voted for electors who will vote for a Presidential candidate whose main theme is payback and takeback.

I do not know what Donald Trump will do as President, should he attain that high office.

I hope not to find out.

We have not learned to pull together as a people, not in any country, and not in the USA. Society has not evolved to help the downtrodden, not in any country, and not in the USA.

That means:

Divisiveness can, apparently, be attractive.
Concentration (of power, wealth) can be its own reward.

Thus it’s all operant conditioning, and Batesian Mimicry. Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

Game Theory, for politicians

The ancient board game Go has just been mastered by a computer. The world’s champion human player lost most of the games in a match.

Go is a game with simple rules that allow long combinations of moves to be calculated. Thus it is perhaps more complex than chess.

What’s special about Go is the “ko” rule.

It is not permitted to make a move that recreates the immediate preceding position. (Some jurisdictions don’t allow any preceding position, same player to move, to be recreated.)

This rule comes into effect when a captured stone, by being replaced, captures the stone that captured it.

Boring, you say. Perhaps; but what happens in the game can be quite interesting.

Winning a ‘ko’ situation can decide a lot of territory for the victor. So having to move elsewhere creates a challenge.
The solution: make a threat at least ‘as large’ as the territory at risk at the ‘ko’ situation. The opponent will, presumably, answer that threat; then the ‘ko’ position can be retaken.

The other player may use the same tactic: make a threat, and then retake.

All this to explain what a ‘ko threat’ is.

In a game of go, a threat that can adequately be countered is not actually made. Instead, it is saved in case it’s needed later in a ‘ko’ battle.

Politicians do this all the time. I will give a few examples.

Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was accused, I think during the Airbus scandal, of accepting a bribe that was paid into his Swiss bank account. Government parties asked Swiss authorities for substantiating evidence about that account’s activity.

Mulroney was a lawyer. He sued the government for the wording in the standard request letter. (This letter’s wording had been used multiple times, and was probably used while Mulroney was Prime Minister.)
It was claimed that the wording was, I think, defamatory. As I recall, Mr. Mulroney won the suit.
(His triumph was mute: he never disclosed his Swiss bank account deposits.)

My point here: the weakness of the government’s standard request letter was kept by Brian Mulroney for later use as a ‘ko’ threat. A sort of get-out-of-jail card.

Relevance in the US Election?

Hilary Clinton’s eMail server has been discussed for ages. This tempest has now been fully let out of the bottle, to mix metaphors. Why now?


Expect more. More revelations. More saved attacks.

Tangled Web

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave
when we consort with a partner with long hair.”

(author anonymous by request.) (gender removed for political correctness.)

“They were always arguing that we
were either the devil’s puppets or
God’s marionettes, so when I said,
‘What’s the difference? The latter
has us by the long hairs, the former
by the short…'”

(misquoted from The Crimes of Bernard, from memory.)(Checked and fixed. It’s Alan Dugan.)

If you want an unusual insight into a weird subset of web users, start an innocent blog like this one. The compulsion to comment oddly is out there. Some of my un-favourite offerings included these words:

  • SEO Tools
  • monetize
  • spin content

Then there are the enormously long comments that ramble insanely. I suspect here the spammer is guessing that some ‘key word’ will get past some ‘automatic accept/reject’ engine. (This blog has a standard engine for the acceptance decision: me.)

Once in a while something really odd and original will tempt me. For example, the other day a comment began something like this:

It seems like your website ate my last comment, so I’m making it shorter.

Cute. But if a test message to your eMail bounces, there goes your comment too.

Back to tangled web.

I will not automate comment acceptance decisions. I will do it manually.

I will not ‘spin content’ by stealing text and running it through some sort of synonym-switcher. All my posts are done ‘manually’ (actually in my head or from scratch notes.)

I will not allow one of you, who has not the courage to give out their actual eMail, to appear on this website. (Your eMail is requested by the site. Your confidentiality is assured. Just don’t put anything ‘secret’ inside your actual comment text.)

I think that’s pretty straightforward.

Untangled enough? Consort with some of these web denizens, and let me know how you make out.

Comments? Include a real eMail, and have something to say. Please.

Tory Sale

We’ve been sold, down the river, and up the creek. We’ve been sold out by our Mayor. This in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Transit Planning is the euphemism for the current screw up. We have a history of doing this in Toronto.

First example, the Sheppard subway (Stubway to its detractors.) Four stops. Running special short trains to make the emptiness a bit less obvious. A billion dollars at the time of its construction.

Second classic, the UPX. (Union – Pearson Express train.) Done in time for the Pan AM games, this train runs from the airport to south-central downtown. Designed for executive travellers on expenses who don’t like cabs, for some reason.
It cost about twenty bucks and had a ridership a third of break-even. So the geniuses that thought it up decided to cut the price by half or more.
A small calculation shows that now we need six-plus times the ridership to break even. We got a small ridership increase.

What these two ‘proven track record’ projects show is this:
– pandering for votes causes bad transit investment choices
– bad transit investment choices later prove themselves in low usage and high subsidies and/or losses
– bad transit investment choices waste critical resources: money and time.

Now we have a much more egregious pandering for votes in a bad transit investment choice: the one-stop Scarborough subway.

Seven stops of LRT would have been paid for by other governments.
Seven stops of LRT would have had higher ridership than a one-stop subway.
Seven stops of LRT would have servedĀ  more higher-density neighbourhoods.
Seven stops of LRT would have made sense.

Amazingly, it is brilliant to replace a not-overloaded LRT with a definitely underloaded subway. It is even more brilliant to reduce that subway to a single stop. It is even more brilliant to pay for that subway with magical thinking, ‘paying it forward,’ and eventually higher taxes.

The real brilliance will turn up when the subsidy for this subway becomes public. I’ve seen it said that maybe eighteen dollars per ride will be required. From us, the idiots in Toronto outside of Scarborough (and outside of City Council) who have to pay for this in increased taxes. While we get nothing; actually less than nothing.

We pay for this in the loss of projects that could have been done with the extra couple of billion dollars.

And we wait for those projects while the arguments finally cease. And while the stupid project gets resources.

This is about John Tory. The only decision of moment he made in recent memory, this one is also his albatross. He got council onside in this stupidity. I suspect it took magnificent, Machiavellian manoeuvering to get more than half of council to bend over. I suspect that pet projects were either enabled, or suddenly not threatened with being disabled, in several councillors’ ridings.

Finally, let me apologize for the title of this blog entry. Tory Sale is a poor anagram for
Sorry Tale.

You’re looking for the dumb question? This is it:

are we Torontonians, voters and citizens, as dumb as our Mayor and City Council?

We must be. They’re getting away with this anal product.

Windows 10 upgrade: a small warning

If you’re in a hurry, scroll down to Warning. This is background:

There are several computers in this house. My son maintains ancient ones so the grandkids can play games on machines nobody really cares about.

I look after three (or four) of these machines. Two of them were on Windows 7. I decided to upgrade for these, probably common, reasons:

  • Windows 10 has a good reputation from some sources. Beta bugs did get fixed.
  • Windows 7 will be deprecated and lose support.
  • The free upgrade offer may actually expire. or not.
  • Windows 7 Updates took forever.
  • Reminders of Windows 10 were really annoying, intrusive even.

I have been ‘change control’, ‘iteration manager’, ‘test manager’, and been called other things, on large data processing projects. I do not take change lightly. I try to cover all bets and make sure I can recover from unexpected mishaps.

So, I potentially replaced my ancient WinXP netbook with a v. nice Asus Zenbook. Running Windows 10. I used this to learn Win10 first, so I could find stuff and know how to change things.
Part of this was making a backup (on a USB 3 hard disk drive) and making a recovery CD (on a USB CD/DVD drive.)

I used Backup and Restore (Windows 7) to do this.

I am morally certain that I was ‘at the point’ of recovery after figuring out how to get the Zenbook to actually boot from the Recovery CD.

So I thought I knew how to back up Win10.

This is where things got interesting.
I did the Windows 10 upgrade on my wife’s desktop PC. Win10 had never been ‘reserved’ on that machine. But it updated without question. There was a hiccup and rollback due to ZoneAlarm, so I told ZA to go away and retried the upgrade. Success. (Win10 said ZA would not work in Win10, but knew it would as it was running on the Zenbook. Win10 is a mixed experience. ZA got running OK.)

Eventually, everything seemed fine and stable on this desktop. I did a backup onto the internal second disk drive. I made a Recovery CD so the initial Win10 situation could be reverted to, if necessary, later. This using “Backup and Restore (Windows 7)”
I should mention that, not that long ago, I did recover this machine from a Win7 Recovery CD and a Win7 backup on the same internal second disk drive.

Upgrading my own desktop was a bit trickier. I’d been offered, almost tricked into, upgrade to Win10 after ‘reserving my copy,’ and then that noise stopped. Windows Update said there were no updates. Upgrade to Win10 was not on offer. This on the machine that reserved the upgrade months ago.
There is a downloadable helper from Microsoft that did, in fact, pull down the upgrade. I turned off ZA before starting and turned it back on afterward.

Then I did a Win10 backup (similar: internal second hard disk; create recovery CD).

Then I made what I thought was a big mistake and decided fix it by rolling back to the early point in Win10.
This is where the warning comes in.

I could boot from the Win10 Recovery CD. But I could not use it: at one point, it presents a blue screen listing keyboard choices and asking me to make one.

There is no way to provide input to this screen. Not mouse, not keyboard.

I shut down the machine, switched to the original Acer keyboard , and tried again. No dice.

There is an option to hold shift while clicking on Restart (in the Win10 power menu.) This boots some sort of rescue mode. It leads to the same blue screen where a keyboard choice can not be made, and the screen cannot be exited. BRS time.

OK, so I tried booting my wife’s very similar desktop from the Win10 Recovery CD made there. Same result: blue screen of keyboard options that cannot be chosen from.

Warning. If you upgraded to Win10 from Win7, there is a very real chance that you cannot boot from the recovery CD and actually recover from a backup.
My sample is small, but 2 out of 2 feels like ‘good’ odds.

Solution: Try and see if you can actually boot the recovery CD and get to the point of cancelling the restore.
– if you can, you’re done. Back up whenever it would hurt not to keep what you’ve got.
– if you can’t, do what I did. Buy a backup package. I picked one based on PCMag and other website accolades. There was a 3-machine discount on the already reduced price.

I am now backed up.

I hope you are.


In the long ago, as a mere programmer in the IBM Canada Laboratory, I observed that all projects assumed that the Lab computer team’s backup (weekly) was sufficient.

I am a bit of a bastard. I carefully backed up one or two of our project’s disks, then ran into the computer room panting and said we’d lost a drive. Please get it back. ASAP.

It turned out that practically no project could recover from the backup. The reason was quite innocent:

Backup was done onto tape. Jobs were initiated and controlled by JCL: card decks. Each project had a set of card decks for each disk pack they used. The card decks were in sets of three, which were rotated by operations staff, so there were always two good backups even while the third was being created.

Each card deck mentioned a specific tape drive; these were mountable and had ‘volume serial numbers’ on them and could be distinguished by the operating system. Thus every disk pack was backed up on one, of a set of three, 2400′ tapes, one each week.

What nobody realized was, eventually the growing disk contents would exceed the capacity of a single tape.
At this point, the backup program would cause the system to ask the operator to mount a labelled scratch tape, which he or she would do.
Using the same scratch tape for the latter part of everyone’s backup.
Thus there was only one complete backup: the last one run that week.

Later that same IBM Canada Ltd. laboratory ran a simulated disaster, wherein every project lost a disk. Recovery was, er, ‘interesting’ to watch.

My point here is twofold.

  1. The only real backup for a running system is a second running system. Anything less is hope: that recovery can be done, that compatibility has not been lost, et cetera.
  2. If you’re in the ‘hope’ category, test the recipient of your faith. Do this when it’s cheap (new machine, for example) so you know how to recover when the chips (and machine) are down.


Is a ‘Literary Review’ a Giffen good?

A Giffen good, is (or is often thought or said to be) a good for which demand rises when the price rises.

(This is the simplistic way I heard Giffen Good explained in Economics 101. It is possible that Sir Robert Giffen meant something more complex, but the idea has stuck in my mind this way ever since. Example: a mink coat. A low price implies it’s crap. Example: my wife’s uncle selling an antique cuckoo clock. When it didn’t sell, he doubled the price. Second doubling: a sale.)

There are goods whose perceived (and therefore effective) value increases with the difficulty of achieving them. Rarity of an item is an example; distance of acquisition another, and complexity of creation a third.)

Availability of literary reviews? I’m beginning to think so.

I have done over 100 Kindle Book Reviews as a KBR team member. I pretty much do every one the same way. In particular, I respond to the requestor indicating successful arrival of their .mobi file.

I then remind that I am a ‘tough, but fair’ reviewer.
Then I give the estimate of when I will get to the submitted work.

Often this latter delay is many weeks. Four or five is common. I generally have a queue of several open requests, and I don’t work full-time at this. I get to the work when I feel alert and interested. I read the entire work every time, often more than once. I go back to my notes and check specific points. And I write the review. For free.

I always let the author see a preview of the review before posting it on Amazon (or anywhere else requested.)

Generally my feedback experience is like this:

  1. the author is willing to wait, always
  2. the author accepts the review, almost always

For point 2, one author wanted a small change. I thought about it, and the integrity of the review, and reluctantly decided it was OK. Then he wanted a second, slightly more questionable change. I refused both the change and the original or modified review.

I learned something from this: A review is what it is. It is not a negotiation. I can accept rejection of my opinion, especially as it happens quite rarely. No problem. I will not publish a rejected opinion. I will not modify an opinion.

For point 1, I lied. There was one exception. It went like this:
I had an almost-empty queue and said, maybe a week.
The author said, he’d try other reviewers.

I haven’t heard back. That’s OK too.

Since I like to end with a dumb question, here it is.

Did the easy availability of this one review lower its apparent value? Giffen good?

Self- as AutoMoron (and, a Sicko insight)

I mean self- as in self-regulating.

Automoron is a term I propose (like oxymoron) to indicate a word or prefix that, by being there, pretty much denies what comes immediately after.

Examples of self-regulation, self-investigation, self-auditing, self-inspecting, are all to common and generally have the same automoronic effect: lax regulation, shallow investigation, cursory auditing, flattering assessments.

Doctors investigating each other is one anti-favourite of mine.
The Special Investigations Unit investigating serious police actions is another.

I am going to apparently change topic here, but it will all make some sort of coherent sense at the end.

No matter what you think of Michael Moore and his video Sicko, you should watch the part where a woman doctor of significant achievement and standing is crying while testifying to the US Congress.

“I think of how often I wrote those fateful words: Denied.”

She had been hired by a US health insurance firm to manage claims. At first, there was a general understanding that some ten percent of claims are bogus. Then there was publication of every worker on the floor’s claims rejection rate. Then there was pressure to make a ten percent rejection rate. Then it became like a quota system.

Then the rejection rate required kept being increased.

It was her job, a professional physician, to find ways to deny a claim, ways that might either stick, or discourage the claimant from trying for redress.

Now I am returning to the original topic of self-inspection.

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, or WSIB, is an Ontario government body that, in the words of its own website,

Oversees workplace safety education and training, provides disability benefits, monitors the quality of health care, and assists in early and safe return to work.

WSIB was recently challenged for the way in which it rejects claims.

This work is contracted out.
It is performed over the telephone.
Claims are rejected when no face to face interview has taken place.
The rejection rate is now about fifteen percent.

WSIB ‘audited itself’ and discovered that it’s practices in this regard are perfectly OK and are fair to the claimants.
I wonder if they conducted this self-inspection by telephone without meeting any of the contractors who reject injury claims by telephone.

What’s really got my attention here is the fifteen percent rejection rate.

  • This is a public number (like the ten percent starting rate in the US health insurance testimony)
  • Contractors cannot possibly be motivated to increase their client’s costs.
  • Rejection by telephone seems to be to be the flimsiest possible evidence on which to assume (and essentially convict of) application fraud
  • 15% seems high. More than one in seven claims is bogus?
  • Bonuses in large organizations, including large bureaucracies, is based on increased income and/or reduced costs.
  • Could there possibly be pressure to raise that 15% bar?

I think we need a real audit of

  • this rejection rate
  • this method of assessing claims
  • this method of assessing how we asses, at WSIB

Comments? usual rules apply.

Self-, as in Self-Identifying (or, Question of Gender?)

What is a valid characteristic to be used to ID individuals?

I forget which country, but it is in the Caribbean. There, official citizen ID states skin colour; there are four specific choices.
I think this is reasonable as a means of identification. There is no discrimination involved in a country of longstanding mixed population, which this one is. It is simply identification, like hair colour.

Not all jurisdictions have this ease of identification; not all characteristics have this acceptability in our home (Canada, USA, EU for instance) countries.

In Canada there is some debate now as to what can be used as identification. Many surveys want your income. Some do not have a ‘prefer not to say’ choice, causing some of us to prefer by dissembling.

Some individuals wear bracelets that identify ‘personal’ characteristics, such as blood type and allergies.

My drivers’ license lists my qualification (GM), age (not to be disclosed here), hair colour, height, eye colour, preferred language, gender, and birth date.
Weight and skin colour are left out. ‘Balding’ is left out because it is not true yet.

What are the valid uses of ID characteristics? Let me suggest a few easy ones:

  • Legality of driving a vehicle
  • Sensitivity to antibiotics
  • Blood transfusion requirements

Now for some slightly more intrusive ones:

  • Cashing a cheque
  • Being recognized: crossing a border, boarding an airplane
  • Purchasing restricted goods (alcohol, marijuana soon)
  • Picking up or accepting a package

Now for the scary ones:

  • First-guess at ID in a disaster zone
  • Targeted criminal (or terrorist or activist)

And finally:

  • Using the washroom

I think that legal ID should have the option to omit, or include: skin colour, weight, et cetera.

Hair colour and eye colour are suspect with dye/wig jobs, and coloured contacts.

Gender is the real challenge in identification. Especially in the washroom and change room

It’s a bit like a mulatto in a highly segregated country trying to use either the ‘white only’ or ‘black only’ facility. There will always be a bit of suspicion that an individual is trying to ‘pass’ for something that some of us think that person is not.

Being in ‘the middle’ of what is perceived as a binary choice is (pardon the tautology here) a dilemma.

So it turns out that all of this leads to a dumb question.

On an official ID card or document, if gender can be chosen by the individual to be Male, Female, or Not Said, where does that leave us:

  • In the washroom
  • In the change room
  • In gender-specific activities or privileges (ladies’ discount night, for example)

I have no answers.

Coherent replies will appear here. Usual rules. Surprise me.