Finally: a President who values logic!


At his press conference today, President Obama championed logic – what a novel idea! – in the otherwise purely political debate over the ramifications of “the public option” for medical insurance being developed in Congress. Here’s what he said in response to the concern that the public plan might drive the private insurance companies out of business-

THE PRESIDENT: Why would it drive private insurers out of business? If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care, if they tell us that they’re offering a good deal, then why is it that the government — which they say can’t run anything — suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That’s not logical.

Now, I think that there’s going to be some healthy debates in Congress about the shape that this takes. I think there can be some legitimate concerns on the part of private insurers that if any public plan is simply being subsidized by taxpayers endlessly, that over time they can’t compete with the government just printing money.

So there are going to be some I think legitimate debates to be had about how this private plan takes shape. But just conceptually, the notion that all these insurance companies who say they’re giving consumers the best possible deal, that they can’t compete against a public plan as one option, with consumers making the decision what’s the best deal. That defies logic, which is why I think you’ve seen in the polling data overwhelming support for a public plan. All right?

Any president who first notes the logical inconsistency of his opponent’s positions, but then goes on to recognize that one of those positions does raise a concern that needs to be addressed (i.e., that the public plan must compete fairly with the private ones), and finally uses the word ‘conceptually’ to summarize his point, is sure to warm the cockles of a philosopher’s heart. It certainly did mine.

Meet Katie


Here is the latest addition to the family: Katie, our four-month-old Sheltie pup-


And here is a “Mother & Daughter” portrait (note the matching hair color)-


Katie is our first dog, and at least on our first day together, it seems we’ve lucked out.

FEMA: Spelling and Grammar Disaster


I recently received FEMA’s “National Flood Insurance Program Summary of Coverage” with my flood insurance policy statement. I usually ignore government documents unless I really have to read them, but tonight was an exception: an inexplicable impulse to be a responsible home-owner drew my eyes to the page, where I immediately noticed two odd spelling errors. This made me curious enough to read the entire document with some care, and I found 10 (count ’em, 10) spelling or grammatical errors on the first two pages alone.

Now, I know that FEMA employees are probably overworked and underpaid, like most government employees. Heck, I’m a government employee myself, so I can empathize. But when the first 2 pages of a basic (and no doubt widely distributed) 4-page document contains 10 spelling and grammatical errors, you have to wonder what is going on over there.

Here is the first page of FEMA’s “National Flood Insurance Program Summary of Coverage”. I’ve highlighted the errors in yellow:


1. “…Form. which is…” should be “…Form, which is…”
2. “Your mortgage company require that..” should be “Your mortgage company requires that…”
3. & 4. “…of tow or or more…” should be “…of two or more…”
5. “…above” should be “…above.”

Here’s the second page:


6. “…choose different deductible…” should be either “…choose a different deductible…” or “…choose different deductibles…”
7. “…are covered of the backup is…” should be “…are covered if the backup is…”
8. “Refer to you policy…” should be “Refer to your policy…”
9. “…overage…” should be “…coverage…”
10. “…decks. patios” should be “…decks, patios…”

Notice that none of these errors are of the sort a spelling-checker would detect, although a simple grammar-checker probably would. My guess is that the writer, not having the patience to proof-read the document him/herself, left the job to a mere spelling-checker.

Given that FEMA is now a branch of Homeland Security, one can only hope that such carelessness (dare I say incompetence?) is unusual.

By the way, I don’t think that the writer should singled out for criticism here. Whoever appointed the writer to do this job without checking the quality of his or her work should also be reprimanded. And maybe the professors who gave the writer passing grades in college – surely the writer of such a document would have a college degree – should also be chastised.

Or, am I – a now prickly college professor myself who has grown weary of seeing similar problems in my own students’ writing – just making a mountain out of a mole-hill?

Where I’ve Been Lately…


You may have noticed a distinct slowdown in posts here lately. That was due to a much needed vacation in Honolulu, my old home town. Here are a few images from the trip-

Kailua beach

From the end of the Pauoa trail

Honolulu – Diamond Head (Laeahi) in the distance

Sunset from Kai’mana Beach