Archive for the Law Category

Employment Duration Indexed Minimum Wage

Posted in Law, Money on December 23, 2016 by daviddiel


Minimum wage vs rental prices (Ref: U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders Facebook Page)

When considering minimum wage proposals, some may ask, why not let the free market decide? And the answer is that the employment market is far from ideal. Two of the classical market problems are information asymmetry and lack of liquidity. I present a simple proposal below that addresses both.

With regard to information asymmetry, employees may not be aware that the market can bear a greater wage than they might otherwise settle for. With regard to liquidity, the market needs to push employers to reduce their utilization of low-wage workers in permanent positions. In the job market, liquidity means unemployment, so my proposal is to set the bar low for initial employment and then raise it incrementally. I call this the employment-duration-indexed minimum wage. For example:

1st month = $5/hr minimum
2nd month = $10/hr minimum
3rd month and beyond = $15/hr minimum

The key idea here is the structure, not the specific wage levels that would change over time. This structure would enable internships, seasonal odd jobs, trial periods, and young people getting started. This rule would be enforced for the cumulative lifetime work of each person on a per-company basis. That way, large companies like McDonalds and WalMart could not skirt the law by firing and re-hiring, so they would end up paying $15/hr for the vast majority of their workforce.

This rule would increase employee turnover, but if this pushes people to find a role in the workforce where they create greater value and earn more, instead of settling, then they will be better off and require less government assistance in the long term.

For background, this idea came from thinking about two different perspectives that are both true:
1. If I agree to work for you for 8 hours on a Saturday at $2 per hour, it does no harm whatsoever to the rest of the society. Assuming that I include this on my income taxes as required by law, I will actually end up donating a few dollars to the government which it definitely would not have received if I had stayed home and watched TV instead.
2. It is a fact that long-term low-wage employees end up utilizing government welfare programs far more than those who earn 2-3 times the minimum wage. Additionally, when the minimum wage is raised, it turns out that the vast majority of employers are able to create higher valued positions, and employees who were pushed out of low-wage jobs migrate to these positions. However, creating a higher barrier-to-entry has a harmful effect at the low end of the market.

MLS My Home is a scam

Posted in Law, Money on March 25, 2016 by daviddiel

On Feb 28, 2016, I paid $149.95 to list a rental property on the MLS (Transaction ID XXXXXX5945). Soon after, I was contacted by a licensed Realtor who wanted me to sign additional paperwork in order to list on the MLS. I did not want to sign his paperwork, so I asked MLS My Home for a refund.

According to their webpage, “As long as your property has not already been listed on the MLS or, you may cancel your order by calling customer support at (888) 476-XXXX during normal weekday business hours between 9:00am and 5:00pm EST.”

By phone and by email, I asked the representative three times to process my refund, but she refused. The rental property has not been listed on the MLS or This is consumer fraud, plain and simple.

Potential customers need to understand that the folks at MLS My Home do not think it is their job to list your home on the MLS. They apparently charge a fee to put you in contact with a Realtor who may or may not list your home on the MLS. However, I never heard from the realtor who represents MLS My Home. Instead, they referred me to a third party. What waste of time and money! Run away as fast as you can!

A solution for the Black Lives Matter movement

Posted in Law, Money, Psychology on January 16, 2015 by daviddiel

Some protesters blocked I-93 yesterday to remind us all about the tragic deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Their campaign has grabbed a lot of attention, but the protest messages have focused on race and skewed interpretations of the facts. In response, I would like to offer up a clear solution that would prevent deaths while maintaining the rule of law going forward.

Before you scroll down to see my proposed solution, try to put aside the arguments that you may have heard about race, prejudice, and controversial details of the case. Consider the possibility that an entire society could be so caught up in drama that we failed to see the forest for the trees.

The big picture is that our laws are based on a system of excessive punishment for minor sins. Many people believe that no crime should go unpunished, and that heavy handed punishments for small crimes will prevent larger crimes. This notion, sometimes implemented as a Broken Window Policy or Stop-and-Frisk Policy, was an experiment in human behavioural psychology that has turned out to have unintended consequences.

Michael Brown was suspected of stealing cigarillos and possibly blocking traffic. Eric Garner was suspected of stealing by breaking cigarette tax law and possibly loitering. These are bad behaviours, but in reality they are no big deal.

Some of you will immediately think that it is heresy to say any crime is “no big deal.” If that is you, then please take a deep breath and reconsider whether you want to support laws that cause small crimes to escalate to the level of deadly force.

When faced with arrest, both Michael Brown and Eric Garner had been conditioned to expect to be physically pushed down, handcuffed, held for hours, made to fill out numerous forms, stripped of their clothes and other belongings, locked in a poorly air-conditioned cell, fed low quality food, delayed receipt of medications and medical care, forced to post bail or remain locked up, forced to attend a court hearing, then either further imprisoned or excessively fined, and they would have a public record of shame to follow them for the rest of their lives.

The solution is simply to match the severity of punishments to the severity of crimes. These men should have received a fine on the order of a traffic ticket. A small financial crime, on the order of tens of dollars, should illicit only a relatively small financial penalty. For example, the fine could be capped at ten times the amount stolen plus a reasonable processing fee. More importantly, these men should not have had to fear arrest, because petty theft should not be an arrestable offence. The fear of excessive punishment was the key element that triggered their defensiveness, anger, and eventual bad decisions that led to their deaths.

The cops were merely stuck in the middle between abusively harsh laws and two desperately poor men. Reasonably limit the penalties for small crimes, especially crimes borne out of poverty, and these kinds of tragedies will eventually stop happening.

Real immigration reform means forms that can be saved

Posted in Law, Money, Software on July 7, 2013 by daviddiel

There are many aspects of the US immigration system that need improvement. However, most people are unfamiliar with the types of frequent injustices faced by immigrants. Besides insane waiting times that destroy families and fees verging on extortion, there are also long forms that you must fill out that do not let you save your data.

Every year, more than a million people fill out DS-230 Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (previous versions authored by “Butch”). This form is supposed to take about 1 hour to complete. Of course, it takes much longer than that, because you have to find the information to put in the fields. That’s when things get tricky, because you need to go look things up, but you can’t save the form. Furthermore, you know that one mistake could result in months of delay to your application process. As a result, tens of millions of hours have surely been wasted over repeated attempts to fill out this form correctly, all because somebody didn’t check a box to allow the form fields to be saved.

This is one small example, but it illustrates how a little bit of unaccountability in government can lead to lots of suffering for immigrants. Other examples include inability to change address, inability to renew a driver’s license, and inability to change employers, all of which have terrible repercussions. There is currently no appeal court for immigrants.

DNA data storage or rise of genetically modified humans?

Posted in Faith & Science, Law, Money, Music-Movies-Media, Software, War on January 27, 2013 by daviddiel

I’ve noticed several news stories and advertisements lately regarding the future of data storage. Apparently, researchers at the European Bioinformatics Institute have stored and retrieved a few digital files in DNA. That’s interesting on many levels, yet the sales pitch seems to be focused on the hard drive market. Here are some example articles:

Why DNA Will Someday Replace the Hard Drive

Storing Shakespeare and “I Have a Dream” in DNA

New technique stores terabytes of data on DNA with 100% accuracy

Depending on your background, and your level of trust in scientists, you might interpret this news as a another step in the advancement of technology. It could enable lighter cell phones, thinner notebook computers, and smaller data storage centers. All of those things could be true, but the discussion is missing a very important and serious application: People will be able to store and print all forms of life, which will inevitably include genetically modified humans. Once a DNA sequence is printed or cloned, it has already been shown using sheep, that it can be inserted into an egg, and a surrogate mother can grow and bear the child.

From what I have read, a person’s DNA represents about 6 GB of data. Therefore, your genetic code, which is a large part of what makes up who you are, would probably fit on your cell phone using today’s technology. It would not be surprising if most people reading this blog have their DNA sequenced within the next 20 years. It is not a stretch to think that some of you will request to store your sequence on a reliable form of digital media, like a Blu-Ray disc, for example.

Then what? What if you could send your DNA out for a little touch-up, deleting a few flaws and disease markers here and there? What if your DNA could be virtually mated with anyone who you choose? Would you want to have a child made from a modified version of yourself and your favorite movie star? What if you could add or select features, such as better metabolism, greater intelligence, or a particular eye or hair color? Could all of this be used to make super humans or warriors?

My moral compass says that we should not go down this path. But, somebody’s going to do it anyway. Let’s just be honest and recognize that the target market for this technology is biological elitists who want to make super-babies, not those who are overburdened by the size and weight of their personal electronics.

What led to the Adam Lanza school shooting?

Posted in Education, Law, Music-Movies-Media, Psychology, War with tags , , , , , , , on December 19, 2012 by daviddiel

Regarding the school shooting last week in Connecticut, I have been asking the questions: How did this happen? What factors led to the outcome?

Here are the elements that I think were critical:

1) Lanza had access to weapons that he knew how to use. The weapons didn’t have to be guns. They could have been mining explosives. But his killing pathology must have developed through training that matched the weapons.

2) Lanza probably trained through first person shooter video games. The pattern of aiming at a person, pulling the trigger, feeling no remorse, and targeting another person for pleasure is not innate, but learned. The creation of such games is partly funded by war money.

3) The school did not have armed security personnel. In this case, the principal acted heroically to try to stop Lanza, but failed because he did not have a sufficient weapon. An armed police officer on staff, or any adult present with a concealed weapon and proper training, might have stopped the rampage.

4) Lanza had an episode of a mental dysfunction that got out of control. This case particularly points to a childhood developmental disorder, based on who he chose to kill. Lanza’s immediate fear of treatment triggered a trap loaded with biological predispositions and parenting mistakes.

Steps could be taken on all of these issues, but #2 can be addressed for free without passing legislation. All we need to do is boycott video games and movies that trivialize murder. Which video games or movies would you boycott in honor of the Sandy Hill Elementary victims? Answer in the comments below.

Insurance Deductibles

Posted in Law, Money on October 24, 2010 by daviddiel

Suppose your best friend were to come to you tomorrow and say that he was being chased by the mafia, and he needs to leave the country and never return. He doesn’t want to burden you too much, but he is asking for whatever you can afford without any expectation to be paid back in the future. How much would you give him? Your insurance deductibles should be at least on par with this number.

Variable Insurance Coverage

Posted in Health & Food, Law, Money, Sports and Recreation on October 24, 2010 by daviddiel

How much insurance is covering you right now? Without even putting a dollar value on it, how many types of coverage do you have? Did you make these choices, or were they chosen for you?

Sitting here in my apartment, I am double covered. If I walk over to my yoga mat, I am triple covered. But, if I walk down the street and hold up a protest sign, then I am completely exposed to the financial disaster known as medical liability. These circumstances are not of my choosing, and the existing health insurance laws in the US, Massachusetts in particular, actually prevent me from buying full 24/7 coverage without adding it on top of all of my other insurance.

Allow me to explain the marvel of injustice that insurance companies have conspired to create.

I rent an apartment just outside of Boston. As far as I know, every landlord in the area requires renter’s insurance for the property, and mine requires medical liability for myself and others.

I work at a company which provides substantial health coverage. If it were up to me, I would customize this insurance plan by making all of the deductibles equal, and raising them to something like $10000. It would be sad to pay such an amount, but wait a second… In the past four years of employment, my company has paid much more than that amount for insurance instead of putting it into my paycheck. I should cancel this plan, and get one that suits me better, right? No, not really. Strangely enough, if I turn it down, then I only get roughly 1/4 back in my pay check, or 1/6 after taxes.

I’m also a yoga instructor, so I’ve got yoga insurance. The government didn’t make me buy it, but every landlord and studio requires it, so again it’s a forced move. It covers me while doing or teaching yoga as well as my students and the venue. The standard coverage is probably enough to pay for hundreds of funerals in case somebody explodes and takes down the whole building.

Oops, I forgot something. Gosh, that always happens at just the wrong time. Did you read the fine print in the insurance document that your employer sold you? I did, and it says that I am not covered while participating in a protest. It’s hard to avoid the feeling that I have been manipulated here. Either my company or I would have to take on substantial financial burden for me to be covered while holding up a sign that reads “I protest the current senate bill” versus a sign that reads “I like the color blue”.

Finally, I can’t drive a car without insurance, so I’ve got that too.

All of this forced insurance coverage begs the question “What does society want to protect me from?” The answer: Doing yoga on the roof of my car while parked in the garage of my apartment complex. For that, I am quadruple covered.

A solution to the gay marriage dilemma

Posted in Law on December 3, 2009 by daviddiel

Another day, another outcome in a string of up and down votes on gay marriage at the state level:

NEW YORK — Opponents of gay marriage celebrated a decisive vote in the New York State Senate, where a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage was defeated 38 to 24 on Wednesday.

The unexpectedly wide margin was delivered in a relatively liberal state where the other chamber of the legislature has thrice approved the measure and the governor, David A. Paterson, had been poised to sign it into law. The vote prompted pronouncements that the momentum for gay marriage had been not only halted, but also effectively reversed. Same-sex marriage is legal in Iowa, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and, most recently, New Hampshire, where it goes into effect Jan. 1.

Americans obviously have no consensus on this issue, so I have a solution: How about if the US government grants only civil unions to both gay and straight couples, so that the term “marriage”, with all of its religious history, can be reserved for religious institutions to define as they please? This would provide equality under the law without treading on a word that has a sacred, yet different, meaning to various groups of people.

Man thinks independently, loses party support

Posted in Health & Food, Law on October 28, 2009 by daviddiel

Here is news for the Democratic party: The fact that the current health care system is broken does not mean that everybody agrees with their proposals to change it. Joe Lieberman apparently disapproves of something in the bill, and the party immediately turns to ask So Why Was It We Didn’t Kick Joe Lieberman Out of The Caucus?

He has been pissing inside the tent for a decade, at least. His treachery was capped off by his opposition to Barack Obama in the 2008 general election. His whole raison d’etre is to harm the Democratic party… he does not believe in any kind of party loyalty.

No candidate wins his seat by promising to be a loyal slave of his party. When somebody thinks for himself and comes to a different conclusion than his party, I do not call that treachery. Many Americans have died to defend individualistic freedom, an idea worth more than all of the drugs and treatments the government will ever provide.

A party that does not tolerate independent thinking among their members does not deserve to run my country.