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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Using Common Sense In Your Plans

I was speaking with  one of my sons on Friday.  He made a comment about how it was good news that the California unemployment rate had dropped - albeit slightly - during the month of November.

Without having seen the information source he used, I blurted out, "No way."

"That's what I read, dad.  That's what the headline said."

This son of mine is one of the most politically-aware and inquisitive 22 year olds you'll ever meet.  He generally gets the details on an issue and makes up his own mind.

He got lazy this time.

I jumped on the Internet and there was the headline blaring, "California Unemployment Rate Shrinks."

Hmm.  I still don't believe it.  I clicked the link and got a story from the LA Times.  Not shockingly, the headline reported the "facts" as ciphered and cajoled by the government.  The actual information told a very different story.  The first two sentences revealed -
California's employment misery continued in November, as employers sliced 10,200 more workers from their payrolls.

The statewide unemployment rate fell slightly to 12.3% last month from 12.5% in October, according to figures released Friday by the Employment Development Department, but only because thousands of discouraged workers have left the labor force or even moved out of state.
My son, like the overwhelming majority of Californians and Americans, just read the headline.  A single click of the headline revealed an entirely different story.  But that's too much trouble for too many Americans.

We all know that Information is Power.  The more good information you have, the better decisions you can make about your life and plans, and the better off you'll be.

But how do you know that the information you're receving is valid?  How do you know it's any good?  There is an old acronym called GIGO - Garbage In, Garbage Out.  If you rely on faulty information, your resulting plans will also be faulty.

Personally, I think that what the LA Times did with their headline borders on the criminal.  It could not have been further removed from what is actually happening, as their own story indicated.  At the very least, they are doing their readers a huge disservice (which is why I don't consider myself on of their regular readers).

I'm not going to get into the politics of the whole Global Warming deal (well, not just yet!), but this story in the Wall Street Journal ("How to Manufacture a Climate Consensus") is a great "Insider View" of what kind of data and information manipulation is at play with this incredibly important issue.

These "scientists" not only manipulated data, they also boycotted the scientific journals and destroyed the careers of scientists who dared to present an opposing view.

Yet people and governments are making multi-billion (trillions?) dollar decisions based upon this information.  How do you ensure the information you're using is of the highest quality?

Accept The Challenge

The depth and breadth of your personal safety and preparedness plans are driven by information.  All good plans have "trip wires" that set parts of a plan into motion.  If the information you're relying upon is faulty, you can very easily waste valuable time and resources.

Complacency - it will kill you.  You must be committed enough to take the extra bit of time necessary to research an issue.

Skepticism - will save you.  Question everything.  Assume the information provider has some sort of agenda or personal interest to sway you to their way of thinking.  Especially if that way of thinking currently coincides with your own.  Don't be a sucker!

Diversify - Develop alternative sources of information, including first-hand investigations.  You must read views and data on both sides of an issue before making a decision.

Use your Common Sense -  Do the "facts" as presented make sense?  Trust your gut.  Just because everyone seems to be agreeing to something does not mean it is true.  That in and of itself should have you questioning the item.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.


Julie said...

Good points. I find that headlines rarely reflect reality but you're right most people don't take the time to actually read the articles and do a bit more research to find out if they're even correct (or the full story).

Chief Instructor said...

It seems like the MSM is more concerned with painting a rosy picture than in reporting a story accurately. I don't trust them as far as I can throw them!

peter said...

View the change in California Unemployment Trends over the last six months using Heat Maps:
California Unemployment this month (BLS data):
versus California Unemployment levels six months ago:

Chief Instructor said...

Peter, the one that is really dramatic is the October 2008 compared with the October 2009. While the 6 month change is noticeable - especially in the highly populated areas - the 12 month change is a gut punch.

Anonymous said...

Think Speak. We get that here all the time. They say "Unemployment situation improves!" Then when you read it, what they mean is we lost 10 gazillion jobs in Georgia during this month a year ago, and now we are only losing 5 gazillion, so that's good news!

Chief Instructor said...

Hermit, that drives me nuts. Or when they say, "the decline wasn't as bad as projected". Well, if some bureaucrat projected 20% losses and it was "only" an 18% loss, we win!

ThinkSpeak indeed.