Thursday, April 2, 2015

Quality of Life and Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY)

What is Quality of Life and how is it related to Standard of Living? How should Health-Related Quality of Life play into decisions by individuals, health insurance plans, and government subsidized health care decisions? In particular, how are Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY) calculated and used to approve or disapprove a given medical procedure by a government or private insurance system?

These are important questions that can have no definitive answers. However, they are well worth discussing in a collegial, rational, and fact-based way.

I presented this Topic to The Villages Philosophy Club in 2012 and updated it for a presentation on 3 April 2015 to the same group. Our meetings draw around 50 people, mostly retirees in their 60's, 70's and 80's.

Participants evaluate which beneficial factors in the "PERSONAL", "PEOPLE", and "THINGS" categories they judge to be the most important factors leading to high Quality of Life. They also use a questionaire called "EQ-5D" to estimate their individual Health-Related Quality of Life levels.

We then discuss the results and the implications for making individual Health Care decisions.The results of our selections and evaluations in 2012 are posted below.

You may view and download the updated, 2015 PowerPoint slides here.

Also see:
END OF LIFE Honest Brokers, not "Death Panels".

"Runaway Trolley" applied to END OF LIFE issues.


After researching this question on the Internet, and thinking about my own country, community, family, and life, I came to the conclusion that Standard of Living is only one contributor to a high Quality of Life. It is definitely possible to live at a moderate Standard of Living so long as you have other beneficial factors in your life. I came up with a list of some 21 beneficial factors, seven having to do with PERSONAL aspects of our lives, seven with PEOPLE in our lives, and seven with THINGS in our lives, as follows:
⃝ Higher Education and Knowledge
⃝ Honest, Hard-Working Reputation
⃝ Satisfying, Rewarding Career
⃝ Travel, Hobbies, Recreation and Leisure Time
⃝ Robust Health and Long Life
⃝ Emotional Well-Being
⃝ Strong Religious Faith

⃝ Loving Parents, Grandparents
⃝ Loving Spouse, Children, Grandchildren
⃝ Loving Siblings and Extended Family
⃝ Great Teachers, Clergy, Bosses, …
⃝ Loyal Friends and Good Neighbors
⃝ Cooperative, Competent Co-Workers
⃝ Competent and Friendly Service People
⃝ Freedom and Human Rights
⃝ Stable and Secure Finances
⃝ Comfortable, Safe Home and Community
⃝ High-Tech Electronics and Entertainment
⃝ Fine Food, Fancy Furnishings, High Lifestyle
⃝ Excellent Healthcare
⃝ Golf, Swimming and other Sports Facilities


During my presentation to The Villages Philosophy Club in 2012, nearly 50 people participated in the survey. Each member was asked to vote for his or her top ten items and the scores were tallied and are graphed below to determine the most important in each category and the most important ten in the whole list.

The top "THINGS" items were:
-Freedom and Human Rights, and (tied for second place)
-Stable and Secure Finances, and
-Excellent Healthcare

The top "PERSONAL" items were:
-Robust Health and Long Life, and
-Emptional Well-Being

The top "PEOPLE" items were:
-Loving Spouse, Children, Grands, and
-Loyal Friends, Good Neighbors

The overall top ten items were the ones with their numbers highlighted in pink:

They are:
1-Robust Health and Long Life
2-Freedom and Human Rights
3-Stable and Secure Finances
4-Excellent Healthcare
5-Loving Spouse, CHildren, Grands
6-Comfortable/Safe Home/Community
7-Emotional Well-Being
8-Loyal Friends, Good Neighbors
9-Travel, Hobbies, Recreation, leisure
10-Loving Parents, Grandparents


The Human Development Index (see
2014_UN_Human_Development_Report)is a 2014 UN publication that considers life expectancy, literacy, education, standards of living, and other aspects of Quality of Life to come up with a score for each country. Not surprisingly, the highest levels are found in the US, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, Australia, Chile, and Argentina. The lowest in Central Africa and parts of Asia.

The 2013 Where to be born index (formerly Quality of Life Index in 2005) 
(see for 2013 update) by the respected British magazine The Economist . They consider: 
Healthiness: Life expectancy at birth
Family life: Divorce rate
Community life: High rate of church attendance or trade-union membership
Material well being: GDP per person
Political stability and security: Political stability and security
Climate and geography: Latitude (warmer and colder climates)
Job security: Unemployment rate
Political freedom: Political and civil liberties
Gender equality: Average male and female earnings

Again, the US, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, and Australia get high scores, but, surprisingly, the top country is Switzerland (was Ireland in 2005 version). The US comes in 16th, between Germany and the United Arab Emirates (was 13th, just after Finland and ahead of Canada in 2005 version).

The Happy Planet Index (see is a 2015 update of the 2012 effort that "is not a measure of which are the happiest countries in the world: [but rather a] Measure of the environmental efficiency of supporting well-being in a given country, and of the Subjective life satisfaction, life expectancy at birth, and ecological footprint per capita."

The US comes in at a dismal  #105 in the 2015 rankings, and is in the worst category along with much of Central Africa and Russia. The best three countries in the 2015 ranking is Costa Rica, with a "Happy Planet Index" that is twice that of the US.


How should Quality of Life impact health care decisions? Government agencies, including the US Centers for Desease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) have considered this question for decades, and their decisions are currrently affecting your health care availability, and will do so more and more in the future.

The US CDC website (see has links to many Health-Related Quality of Life pages, as does the UK NICE website (see

Health-Related Quality of Life is measured by several different questionaires, inluding the SF-36 and EQ-5D. The SF-36 (see consists of 36 multiple-choice questions. The EQ-5D (see has five multiple-choice quesitions. The result is a personal score that ranges from 1 (for perfect health) to 0 (for death). It is possible to score as low as -0.5 (worse than death).

In 2012 the members of The Villages Philosophy Club took the EQ-5D survey and the average personal score was 0.88, indicating a pretty healthy group. Around 40% of us reported PERFECT HEALTH with a score of 1.0. About 30% reported NEAR-PERFECT HEALTH with a score of 0.88. About 22% (including me) reported the next level down with a score of 0.76. About 4% reported a score of 0.62, and about 2% each reported 0.47 and 0.33.

When a health care decision is to be made between alternative treatments, consideration is given to an estimate of the level of Health-Related Quality of Life that will most likely result from each treatment alternative, as well as an estimate of how long the patient is likely to live if given that treatment. The result of multiplying Health-Related Quality of Life by Years of Life is called the Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY).

In the UK, if a given treatment alternative costs less than about 30,000 pounds per QALY, and if the doctor and patient want that alternative, it is approved and paid for by the National Health Service. If the desired alternative is more expensive than about 30,000 pounds per QALY, it is denied, and a lower cost (and more cost-effective) alternative is approved. 30,000 pounds is equivalent to about $40,000 - $50,000.

Please feel free to comment. I would love to have an interactive discussion. Click on "Comments" just below my name, type your comment, then choose "Name/URL" and enter your name or nickname (URL not required), and then "Publish". If you are not an "Authorized Author" it may take a day or so for me to moderate your comment and then it will appear.)

Ira Glickstein

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pi Day - 3/14/15 (π) = 3.1415926...

Today, 3/14/15 at 9:26am was the best date and time to celebrate the most important trancendental number: Pi (π) = 3.1415926..., the ratio of the circumference of a circle and its diameter. There are 2π radians in a circle, and 4π steradians in a sphere.


Today, our local newspaper, The Villages Daily Sun, had a column about Pi Day that included a bit of information about my professional experience with Pi.


Pi is featured in Chapter 3 -The Value of Pi in my free online novel The Hawking Plan" by Ira Glickstein Note: I wrote the novel in 2008 before "Google Glasses" were announced. The novel takes place in 2052 and the "read-WINS" mentioned are the future version of Google Glasses. The Worldwide Information System (WINS) is the successor to the World Wide Web (WWW).

Jim, the narrator, is recalling his discussion with Luke about apparent factual errors in the Bible. Luke is an Engineer, and a Christian who believes the 1611 King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is the literal word of God. Jim is a Rabbi and Historian who is not a literal believer.

Here is the key excerpt:
I put on my serious face. “Luke, you’re an engineer, surely you know the value of Pi?”

“Well, Jim, Pi is the ratio between the circumference of a circle and its diameter. Twenty-two sevenths is a very good approximation to three significant figures. Pi is equal to a bit over 3.14.”

“How about Pi equals three?” I challenged. “Is 3.0 a good approximation for Pi?”

“Well, if you were building a circular pool in your backyard and you had a space of ten cubits by ten cubits to put it in, the outside diameter of the pool would be ten cubits. Given that, it would be a good approximation that the distance around the inside of the pool would be about 3.0 times the diameter, which would be thirty cubits.” Luke emphasized the words “cubits” and “outside” and “inside.”

“Why did you give a pool as an example?” I asked in amazement. “Why are you talking about cubits? Why did you make such a big deal pronouncing ‘cubits’ and ‘outside’ and ‘inside’?”

“Because I happen to know you were referring to 1 Kings 7:23, where King Solomon had a swimming pool made that was ten cubits across and thirty cubits around. Bible critics generally cite that as an example that God didn’t know the actual value of Pi or didn’t guide the hands of those who wrote the scriptures.
"There’s a very easy explanation. When you build a swimming pool, you need to know the outside dimensions so you’ll have enough space to fit the thing in your backyard. You also need the inside dimensions to know how big a circle you can swim inside. The ten cubits was an outside measure and the thirty cubits was the distance around the inside. Look at the verse on your read-WINs:”
1 Kings 7:23 And he made the molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and the height thereof was five cubits; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.
“OK, I’ve got it and you are correct about the wording Luke. However, doesn’t the ratio between the inner circumference and the outer diameter depend on the thickness of the pool wall? I happen to know a cubit is a bit less than a half-meter (about 18 inches). Concrete pool walls are a bit less than a quarter-meter thick which is about half a cubit (about nine inches). Let’s do the math and see if the numbers match. OK, I’ve got it on my read-WINs. If the outside diameter was ten cubits and the wall was half a cubit thick, the inside was a bit over twenty-eight cubits around – not thirty! – so God was off by almost two cubits!”
“Jim,” Luke said with a big happy face, “King Solomon's pool was not made of concrete; it was made of brass so the wall could be thinner. Check 1 Kings 7:26 'And it was an hand breadth thick.' Look up a hand breath” in Biblical measures. OK?”
“OK, I’ve got it on my read-WINs. A digit was about two centimeters. A hand was five digits, or ten centimeters (about four inches). A cubit was twenty-four digits, which is a bit less than a half-meter. Given that the outside diameter was ten cubits, and the wall was a hand thick, the inside circumference comes out to be 30.1 cubits. Wow! – 30 cubits around is good to two significant figures. I’m impressed!”
“Jim, I may not know them off the top of my head, but I firmly believe any apparent error or contradiction you or I or anyone else may find in the 1611 KJV has an explanation.”
[Later that day]
"OK,” said Luke. “I’d like to revisit the supposed Pi equals 3.0 issue. I am quite pleased, and I think you were too, with the explanation I gave you this morning, precise to two significant figures. However, if we go back to the original Hebrew, we get an even better approximation! Please don your read-WINs and bring up the English and Hebrew for 1 Kings 7:23.”
“Fine,” I replied, “Here it is.”
1 Kings 7:23 And he made the molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and the height thereof was five cubits; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.
כג וַיַּעַשׂ אֶת-הַיָּם, מוּצָק: עֶשֶׂר בָּאַמָּה מִשְּׂפָתוֹ עַד-שְׂפָתוֹ עָגֹל סָבִיב, וְחָמֵשׁ בָּאַמָּה קוֹמָתו וקוה (וְקָו) שְׁלֹשִׁים בָּאַמָּה, יָסֹב אֹתוֹ סָבִיב
“I don’t read Hebrew well,” said Luke, “But I know you do. See the Hebrew word in parenthesis? What does it say and mean?”
“It is Vuv Kuf Vuv, pronounced ‘vikav’ which means ‘a line’.”
“Great!” said Luke, “What is the word before that one?”
“Well,” I replied, “Hebrew is read from right to left, so the word before ‘vikav’’ is to the right of it and is Vuv Kuf Vuv Hay or ‘vikavh.’
"Hey! Look at that, it is the same word but spelled incorrectly. It has the letter Hay, the Hebrew letter for ‘H,’ at the end. The parenthesis signifies that our oldest manuscripts have a spelling error. The letter Hay does not belong at the end of that word.
"Our scribes are forbidden to correct a spelling error, because, according to our literal believers, this may be some special message from God. So they kept the ‘vikavh’ and, in parenthesis, added ‘(vikav)’ which is the correct spelling for ‘a line.’ It would be as if, in English, the oldest manuscript mispelled ‘a line’ as ‘a lineh,’ so it would appear in the printed text as ‘a lineh (a line).’ So, where are we going here?”
"We are going,” said Luke, “To expose the hidden message about Pi from God in this supposed error! What is the numerology, the so-called ‘gematria’ for each of these words?”
“OK, Luke,” I replied, “As you apparently know, in Jewish numerology, Hebrew letters are also used as numbers. Put on your read-WINs and link them to mine. Let me bring up the conversion table for gematria on my read-WINs. Here it is, up to four hundred. Each group is in the following order: Hebrew Letter, Name of Letter, Sound of Letter, and Numeric Value according to Gematria:”
א, Aleph, (silent) = 1; ב, Beth, B = 2; ג, Gimel, G = 3, ד, Daled, D = 4; ה, Hay, H = 5; ו, Vuv, V = 6; ז, Zion, Z = 7, ח, Chet, CH = 8; ט, Tet, T = 9; י, Yud, Y =10; כ, Kaph, KA = 20; ל, Lamed, L = 30; מ, Mem, M = 40; נ, Nun, N = 50; ס, Samech, S = 60; ע, Ayin, (silent) = 70; פ, Pay, P = 80; צ, Tzadik, TZ = 90; ק, Kuf, K =100; ר, Resh, R = 200; ש, Shin, SH = 300; ת, Tau, T = 400.
I figured the values and said, “Vuv Kuf Vuv is 6 + 100 + 6 = 112. Vuv Kuf Vuv Hay is 6 + 100 + 6 + 5 = 117. OK?”
“No,” replied Luke, “It should be 106 and 111.”
“106 and 111?” I asked. “OK, if you leave out the first Vuv, which is equivalent to the word ‘a,’ and just count the Hebrew word for ‘line,’ you get Kuf Vuv which is 100 + 6 = 106. Kuf Vuv Hay is 100 + 6 + 5 = 111. OK? Where are we going here?”
“Great, get a good grip on your chair!” said Luke expectantly, “Now divide 111 by 106 and multiply by 3.0. What do you get?”
“I get 3.141509. WOW! That’s almost Pi, isn’t it? Let’s see, Pi is 3.141593. WOWIE KAZOWIE! The first five figures are the same! But, if you round the numbers, they match to only four significant figures, 3.1415 vs. 3.1416. That’s one significant figure better than the way you showed me this morning and also one significant figure better than twenty-two sevenths. Fantastic!”
“I take that as proof God knew the true value of Pi when the first book of Kings was written in Hebrew and He hid the value in what appears a mere spelling error! Are you impressed or what?” 
"I must admit I am im…press … surprised,” I said very carefully, “But it’s just another coincidence. What I am impressed with is the ingenuity of the minds of human true believers in coming up with these imaginative explanations.”

Ira Glickstein 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Blog MILESTONE - Over a Quarter Million Page Views!

The Virtual Philosophy Club, my main Blog, has just passed the 200,000 page view mark! Including my three other Blogs (Curb Your Enthusiasm (2,034 views), Life, Liberty, and Technology (10,402 views),  and The Hawking Plan (my free online novel) 42,289 views) the total sum stands at nearly 255,000 page views.

Add to that my postings as a Guest Contributor to Watts Up With That, the world's most viewed Climate Blog,  that earned 290,629 page views, and my online writings have garnered over a half-million page views. (In addition, an unknown number of my Watts Up With That postings have been republished on other Blogs, most likely adding at least 100,000 additional page views.

The point of this is that I, an ordinary person, with a PC and web access, have reached hundreds of thousands of people with my views as a "Citizen Journalist", see: Guardians at the Gate are GONE - Freedom of the Press !!!,  and The Blogosphere - Millions of Citizen Journalists.

I've also posted videos on Vimeo and You Tube that have garnered thousands of views.

Other than the cost of Internet access, and electricity for my PC, all this activity has not cost me a single dime. (On the other hand, it has not earned me a penny either).

Ira Glickstein

Monday, March 2, 2015

Loving a Different America

[From Billlifka, reproduced by prior permission]

Past NYC Mayor and Presidential Candidate, Rudy Giuliani, has many speaking engagements. I’ve heard him and he’s good.

However, he goofed in a recent oration by expressing his belief that President Obama doesn’t love America. 

A firestorm erupted, especially in the media and in hastily organized interviews of Liberal politicians.

A few Conservative pundits and politicians went beyond a concerned tut-tut when cornered by the media. In saying bad things about Obama any speaker will be called unpatriotic and, in consideration of his skin color, a racist.

I think the Mayor was in error for saying what he said but I think he was half right.

Giuliani’s problem was he failed to define his terms properly, a common custom of politicians. I agree with the many indignant leftists that it’s impossible to know what’s in a person’s heart. On the other hand, I think a person’s words and actions provide compelling clues to cardio-content.

I believe Mr. Obama loves the America he knows. 

I believe he has no liking at all for the America that I know and is doing his best (or worst) to eliminate that America. 

In that intent, he has many powerful forces as his allies, along with many dupes. Many of the allies don’t love my America and many of the dupes haven’t a clue. Mr. Obama’s America was defined by associates who hated my America, from his boyhood through college and his years in Chicago before becoming U.S. Senator. They guaranteed his America would be very different than mine. In the White House, he’s surrounded by sycophants who have experienced an America similar to his and, certainly, would not oppose their idol’s viewpoint on anything. He has been coddled by the intelligentsia, media, entertainment industry, race profiteers, some professional black athletes and leaders of various organizations aiming to get special presidential favors from him. These include the usual activist groups and the heads of large unions and large corporations. Mr. Obama has never had to take responsibility for his lies, deceptions, obfuscations, illegal acts or mistakes, a few of which have been catastrophic in impact. He is protected from punishment by his political team, ideological admirers and the complicit media. ...

Regardless of their feelings toward him and his policies, Generals and Admirals kowtow to him as if their jobs depend on it, which they do.

It appears Mr. Obama leads an exemplary family life. 

This provides deniability for charges that his frequent White House guests are foul-mouthed rappers who denigrate women and other entertainment industry celebrities who achieve fame by presenting immorality as acceptable and commonplace behavior. He socializes with multimillionaires whose patronage will guarantee his own economic well-being after white House years while pushing for higher taxation, knowing he will grant offsetting favors for these rich friends in return for political contributions. He transfers the property of hard-working middle class citizens to make life more pleasant for needy folks, a goodly number of whom could jettison their neediness if they’d work.

All-in-all, Mr. Obama has a pleasant life in his America; it’s no mystery that he loves it. 

The America I know is very different but I love it too. 

As a Cub Scout saluting the America flag, I learned that war clouds were gathering over the rest of the world and our nation was relatively safe from war on its continent. My father’s salary placed us slightly above the poverty level (if there had been such distinctions at that time) but we were happy he had remained employed though the Great Depression years. We suspected the hard times didn’t come from some defect in America (it was worse in other parts of the world). There were crazies who ranted against the banks and corporations but normal people didn’t listen to them; banks were the source of loans and corporations provided the jobs. As kids we understood that, as poor as we were, we had a good shot at personal prosperity if we qualified for a good job and worked hard at it. This chance had nothing to do with our economic or social class. It did depend on a good education and we had an equal shot at that also. We learned to be good people (morally) if we were to advance ourselves and were motivated in that direction by the carrot of heaven and the stick of hell.

I began to understand one price of Americanism as older cousins returned home to recuperate from war wounds. It was our responsibility to go to the aid of friendly countries as two of them had come to America’s aid in its founding war. In the smaller war to follow, I donned a uniform of my country and was proud to serve on active duty. That pride is one element of my love. In all the armed engagements since, I am reminded of that pride and love by the exploits of our troops. Freedom is not free. There will be future wars to test our pride in and our love for America.

I had studied history in school and read many history texts for personal interest and enjoyment. Whether American, European, Modern, Medieval or Ancient, all readings increased my love for a country which was so unique to all locations and all time. I learned more about America, how it came to be and what it is. It’s a place, of course. More than that, it’s a group of people. Since the people are all colors, religions and descended from all parts of the globe, it’s more than people. I concluded that America is a concept expressed in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States and the first ten amendments to that Constitution and put into practice by very ordinary people.

These ordinary people have implemented the concept in an extraordinary manner which is not to say their execution has been without faults. There’ve been many, including the manner in which African/American citizens eventually were granted the equality to which they were entitled.

Underlying the concept and implementation of America were three societal foundations:

  • JudeoChristian morality (behavior),
  • A market economy and
  • Representative democracy. 

These are the major ingredients of the America I love along with the limited central government that is defined in the body of the U.S. Constitution. I’m quite certain that Mr. Obama and his cohorts (including the mostly Progressive bureaucrats in the Executive Branch) have been intentionally attacking each of these in major ways and with dismaying success and turning the America I love into the America that Mr. Obama loves. Extremist Muslims have formed brigades of believers willing to die for their religious/political ideology by repetitive and restrictive teaching of their young. So also, Progressives are in the majority in American professions that influence the young (ages one to thirty). Mr. Obama’s America is at war with my America and I wonder which America you choose to love?


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Which Way Is UP?

Based on a prescient suggestion by my wife, Vi, I've come up with a simple way to quickly figure out which way is UP on the connector when you plug a cable into your Cellphone, Tablet, PC, or other device. And, it even works in the dark!
Unless you have extraordinarily sharp eyes and look very closely for the special symbol embossed on the connector, it is impossible to figure out which side of these flat connectors should be UP when you connect it to your Cellphone, Tablet, or PC. I asked my wife if she had some nail polish that I could dab on the UP sides of these connectors and she suggested that a small strip of tape would be easier to see and perhaps even feel.

BINGO!!! I happened to have some Velcro tape that comes with very powerful adhesive. Velcro works because there are two types of surfaces involved. Paraphrasing Wikipedia, the word Velcro is a Portmanteau of two French words:
  • Velour ("velvet"), LOOPS - A mat of tiny hair-like loops that feel smooth to the touch, and
  • Crochet ("hook"), HOOKS - Tiny plastic hooks that feel rough to the touch.
As the first three photos show, I cut small rectangles of Velcro HOOK tape and pasted them onto the UP-facing sides of the Cellphone, Tablet, HDMI, and USB connectors. Even if it is dark or I don't have my reading glasses on, a quick touch tells me the rough side should face upwards.

There is a strong visual cue if you use light-colored Velcro tape on black connectors, and dark-colored Velcro tape on white connectors. However, even if (as the second photo shows) the connector and the Velcro tape are white, you can generally see the glint of the rough texture of the Velcro HOOKs. Of course, Velcro comes in white and black and and other colors so you have your choice.

As the fourth photo indicates, you can paste a strip of the Velcro LOOP tape onto the surface of your charger, so you can easily wrap the cord and secure the connector. I'm sure you will find interesting places to paste the Velcro LOOP material to hold your Velcro HOOK material connectors.

I hope manufacturers of flat connectors will catch onto this idea and include Velcro HOOK pads on their products.


Here is a great idea* I offer free to any manufacturer who may wish to use it.
In addition to adding a Velcro HOOK pad to flat connectors, why not also provide a micro-spotlight?

Manufacturers could design an Adapter Tip for Cellphone, Tablet, HDMI, and USB connectors with both a Velcro HOOK pad and a micro-light, and sell them for a couple dollars each.

When you plug your connector into the Adapter Tip, the micro-light will confirm that the connector is "live" (that is, the charger or PC or other device attached to the connector is on and working) . In addition, the tiny spot-light will help you locate the socket. After the Adapter Tip is connected to your device, it could be designed to extinguish the micro-light, which will confirm that it is plugged in securely. Alternatively, there could be a micro-switch to turn the light on when desired.

Of course, the best implementation of this idea would be if manufacturers included both the Velcro pad and a micro-light on all connectors for all new devices.

Ira Glickstein

*I did a Google on "lighted connector" but could only find power cords with a light feature. Furthermore, the lights appeared to be designed to indicate that the power cord was "live" and not to help the user find the socket and plug it in.

Monday, January 19, 2015

I am Charlie - Je Suis Charlie

The most recent issue of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo has sold over 5,000,000 copies, amid great controversy, yet, as far as I know, an image of the cover has NOT yet been published by many major US TV news organizations! The cover image has been shown on TV by Fox News and CBS, but not yet by CNN, MSNBC, NBC, or ABC as far as I have been able to confirm.
The graphic shows the original French edition (left) and my English translation (right), with Voltaire's famous quotation superimposed.

By its own admission, Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Weekly) is a "Journal Irresponsable" ("Irresponsible Journal") and its stock in trade is satire of various religions and other deeply held beliefs. I certainly do not wish to encourage publication of such divisive material, yet, along with Voltaire, I have to defend the right of publication of such material in a free society.

What do you think?

Ira Glickstein

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Moral Foundations - "The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt

[From Billlifka, Graphics by Ira. Click HERE for previous Blog postings about Jonathan Haidt's work on moral foundations and how they differ for "liberals" and "conservatives". In his earlier work, Haidt had only five "channels of morality". Here, he has added a sixth: "Loyalty/Subversion". He seems also to have changed "Liberals" to "Progressives." NOTE: When you click, you will see this current posting on top, so please scroll down to the others. They have some sparkling back and forth discussion in the Comments sections. ENJOY! and THANKS Bill! Ira.]

Continuing their attempts to teach an old guy new tricks, a young relative gave me a book by Jonathan Haidt, “The Righteous Mind; Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion" 2012, Pantheon Books.

A few words about the author may encourage Liberals and discourage Conservatives. Such preliminary thoughts should be dispelled as Haidt’s findings are revealed. Haidt’s grandparents were Russian Jews who worked in New York’s garment district sweatshops and were drawn thereby to Socialism, FDR and the Democratic Party. Haidt attended Yale where he became a Liberal and an atheist. The Yale culture convinced him that Liberalism was absolutely ethical and the Republican Party was for war, big business, racism and Evangelical Christianity. Clearly, it was the Party of evil.

His continuing studies at the Universities of Chicago and Pennsylvania only verified this opinion. His specialty is Moral Psychology and it seems most of his associates in this field are of the Progressive and atheistic persuasions. One might ask why he has pursued a life of research and teaching on morals and be surprised that it has led him to conclusions that aren't exactly what one might expect.

His book is a long plod through research projects but the author’s writing style is appealing and he almost convinces readers of the possibility that Progressives and Conservatives could act together in a constructive manner and that atheists and religionists might coexist and even talk to each other civilly. Most of the book is devoted to the evolution of morality. Regardless of the true source of morality or differing moral views from group to group, Haidt concludes there are six foundations (categories) to all moral codes: Care/Harm, Liberty/Oppression, Fairness/Cheating, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, and Sanctity/Degradation.

After reading the definitions, I concluded the divisions were reasonable. The surprising thing was Haidt’s conclusion from his research into how three political beliefs (and believers) rate in each of these moral foundations. The following array illustrates the contrasting moral focuses of Progressives, Conservatives and Libertarians based on Haidt’s research:

Foundation................. Progressive Conservative Libertarian
Care/Harm................. 45% .......... 16.66% .......   5%
Liberty/Oppression..... 25% .......... 16.66% ......... 65%
Fairness/Cheating....... 15% .......... 16.66% ......... 15%
Loyalty/Betrayal.........   5% .......... 16.66% .......... 5%
Authority/Subversion...  5% ...........16.66% .......... 5%
Sanctity/Degradation....  5% .......... 16.66% .......... 5%

The differences in moral focus of the three political groups provide a good explanation for why respective group members fail to reach agreement on national policy. If 45% of Progressive thought is having concern for the downtrodden, they will propose welfare actions much more than Conservatives think is rational. Conservatives aren't heartless; one sixth of their moral code is focused on care or absence of harm to the downtrodden. However, they value other moral aspects equally and fear lesser focus on these will destroy the “Social Capital” of America. If 65% of a Libertarian’s political concern is for individual freedom, he may well appear to be a rabble-rouser to a Conservative, although both may vote as Republicans.

Some of Haidt’s research aimed at finding the extent to which Progressives, Moderates and Conservatives could empathize with members of the other groups. He found that Moderates and Conservatives could imagine themselves inside each other’s head and also within the heads of Progressives. Progressives could not do the same for either Moderates or Conservatives. Haidt didn’t include Libertarians in these particular studies but I believe they, like Progressives, would find it extremely difficult to empathize with the other groups, they’re having such a high focus on one or two moral foundations to the near exclusion of the remainder.

It shouldn't be understood that every Progressive will be 45% focused on Care/Harm nor will every
Conservative be exactly balanced across the moral range. Some Progressives have more equal balance
and some Conservatives will be somewhat unbalanced. (That’s a straight line for the loyal opposition.)

However, Haidt used an averaging of individual scores and I accept his characterization of the groups as a whole. The finding doesn't mean that Progressives are good because they are overly focused on Care/Harm nor does it mean they are bad because they have little focus on three of the six moral categories. It just means that the respective moral codes of different political groups vary and this should be considered in any attempt to attain bipartisan action on policy and process.

In theory, one can visualize how this could be done with numbers. Imagine if Progressives want to push through legislation that is very strong on category one rationale. Conservatives may well be repelled by such a proposal quantitatively, if not qualitatively. One response would be to deny all parts of the Progressive proposal. Lines would be drawn causing much talk and no results except hard feelings.

Another approach might be a compromise proposal by Conservatives to support the Progressive ideas if they accepted Conservative proposals in moral categories four, five and six, each having about one third the impact of the Progressive proposal in category one. If quantified so neatly, the math is obvious but the point is by “horse-trading” on issues not directly opposed, agreement might be reached in a spirit of accommodation.

Some lawmakers and some citizens believe compromising with the opposition is fundamentally wrong. That may be a correct point of view, at times, but such times and issues should be few and far between. If large percentages of the American population are directly opposed on a key issue, the only options are: 1. Reach an accommodation. 2. Avoid going either way. 3. Fight it out; violently, if necessary. A #2 choice may not be possible, given the situation. If #3 is an only resort, American society will have failed. Political implications of differing emphases in moral codes will be continued in future notes and essays.

Grampa Bill