Monthly Archives: December 2015

Peace on Earth, please


At this time of year, many people tend toward one of two extremes:  Charity and understanding or contempt and bitterness.  For those that tend toward the latter, I think the holiday season makes some people quite literally  crazy.  The stress of holiday events, traffic, and family tensions can definitely take its toll.

In a decidedly unscientific approach, I believe that I have observed this phenomenon in the social media posts that I have casually observed over the past few weeks.  My personal Facebook news feed contains a blend of both uplifting posts and downright negative rants.  To be sure, the current political season and climate is fanning the flames of negativism on social media.  To me, it hit bottom when I noticed a particular politically-themed post (not unusual) that someone had shared, and though it elicited a few comments both pro and con, one particularly negative post contained two “f-bombs” as it declared the original poster and all supporting commenters to be a–holes, before ending with the phrase, “Have some respect.”  I call that irony – and I’m sure that it’s totally lost on the foul-mouthed commenter.

How did we become so jaded, so mean-spirited, and so presumptuous – at least in our social media activities?  It’s enough to depress someone who is trying to enjoy the holiday season and spread the good cheer.  A while back, I posted about the potential personal liability of what we say and post online.  The natural knee-jerk reaction is to begin policing all online comments according to some set of standards, but the freedom of speech and expression of ideas is the cornerstone of the Great American Democratic Experiment.  The animus that I see online and in the news that is directed at people simply because they post or say something that others find offensive, is, well, offensive.  (More irony, I suppose.)  What ever happened to decorum?  What ever happened to civility?  What ever happened to respect?  Can’t we have just a little more peace on earth (or at least on Facebook), especially at this time of year?

For the good of my own holiday state of mind, I think I’m going to take a social media holiday for the next few weeks.  Perhaps, if we all did that, we’d rediscover some of the manners and mutual respect that we seem to have lost as a society.  Are you with me?

[Editor Note:  I’m serious.  I will be taking a holiday break from this blog and most other social media until after the 1st of the New Year.  I wish you and yours a peaceful, safe, and love-filled holiday season.]

The Drones are Coming


Christmas Day is just two weeks from today, and there are reports that drone sales could exceed one million units this holiday season.  That’s quite a few unmanned aircraft about to be unwrapped in the morning and flying over the neighborhood by Christmas afternoon.  And that’s just the hobbyist market.  If recent reports are accurate, we’re not far from the day when commercial drones will be zipping around delivering packages, monitoring city streets, and scanning crowds.  Quite simply, drones are about to become as commonplace as sparrows in the sky.

Naturally, this introduces new risk management and insurance issues to be settled.  There are currently no mandatory standards for training or certification for drone hobbyists, and very little for commercial drones.  There is talk of requiring all drone pilots to register their drones so that they can be held accountable for any troubles they may cause.  That’s a start, but there have already been many reports of drones encroaching on restricted airport airspace, and I have a sneaky suspicion that it may take a major drone-induced accident to push many of the regulatory and risk management issues to the forefront.  I hope not, but at my age, that has been my historical observation.

As I understand these flying gadgets, they do have some built-in safeguards.  The technology can keep them from flying above 400 feet, and geo-fencing can keep them out of areas where they shouldn’t be.  Like any other technology, it may not be (probably isn’t) foolproof.  I’m seeing some parallels to the 1984 film “Runaway” starring Tom Selleck in which our hero Tom was battling against rogue robots that were being reprogrammed for nefarious purposes by the villain (played by KISS rock star and mogul, Gene Simmons) to carry out his evil plan.   Some of today’s drones even resemble the evil little “spider robots” that were prominent in the 1984 film.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that drones are about to take over the world and do the bidding of villains, but let’s be realistic.  For all the entertainment value and commercial value that drones will bring to us, they will also bring significant challenges and new risks.  It’s not that far-fetched to imagine rogue drones being used for terrorist purposes to frightening effect.

So on that cheery note, enjoy your new drone on Christmas morning.  Just be careful and responsible out there.


Unhappy Customers


Insurance has long battled a negative public image.  Let’s face it.  Insurance is an intangible product that provides nothing that even remotely resembles instant gratification (to which our 21st century society seems to be addicted), and which we hope we never need to use but expect ironclad full coverage protection if/when we do need to use it.  What could possibly go wrong?

This is a troubling reality because the insurance product does more good for society than almost any other product when disaster does strike.  Insurance rebuilds lives and businesses.  Insurance soothes when pain runs deep.  Insurance quite literally saves lives.  Of course, that’s when everything works as planned, which is most of the time.  When insurance professionals properly match insurance coverages with client needs and takes the time to sell consultatively.  And when consumers take responsibility for understanding their risks and risk tolerances and seek to be informed purchasers rather than assuming that the insurance industry is packed with employees capable of mind-reading.  When it all works, it is beautiful.  When it doesn’t, the press kicks into high gear to vilify greedy and mean-spirited insurance companies.

I recently came across an article that specifically highlighted the rise (or decline, if you prefer) of the health insurance industry to among the most-hated industries in America.   The article cited work done by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, and quoted its director, David VanAmburg – who just happens to be my former college roommate and longtime friend.  David does good work, so I place significant credibility on the ACSI’s findings.  The natural inclination is to blame the increase in customer unhappiness with the health insurance industry on the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ObamaCare), but the ACSI findings didn’t find any direct evidence of this, though Mr. VanAmburg acknowledges that the influx of insureds under the ACA could be straining health insurers’ customer service resources.  Most of the complaints seem to arise from bad experiences with health insurer call centers and the (limited) choice of insurance plans – many of which are saddled with higher premiums and higher deductibles.

For all the good that the insurance industry does for people and society, we clearly have our work cut out for us.  Rebuilding lives that are torn apart by accidents and disasters, getting business back open again after a fire, providing the resources to care for the sick and injured, are all noble and admirable benefits provided by the insurance industry.  How can any industry that provides such benefits be among the “most hated” industries?  We’ve got some work to do.

On a sidenote, I recently blogged about federal government budget cuts in the crop insurance program.  Being the economic libertarian that I am, I questioned whether or not these budget cuts were really so tragic to the crop insurance industry or the agricultural interests they served.  Well, it’s all a moot point now, assuming President Obama signs the recently passed highway bill which restores the $3 billion that was initially cut from the crop insurance subsidy program.  Eh, what’s another $3 billion in a half-trillion dollar budget deficit anyways?