I had an exchange on Facebook just now regarding my rainy day post. A friend congratulated me on my ability to save that much loose change. She had, she said, only managed a jar with $60 in it at one time. It got me to thinking again about something that was in the back of my thoughts as I wrote that post.
I have a decent well paying job. An amazing one actually. I work for the Space Telescope Science Institute. We operate the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA, and I am part of the teams working on developing the Science Operations Center for the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope. I have no college degree, just decades of experience developing business application software and I was hired on to do just that initially…the Grant Management System for Hubble Space Telescope grantees. Even the pursuit of science needs business systems software to track money and progress. That’s what I do. It probably puts me at the low end of the wage scale compared to the experienced flight software developers and the scientists and astronomers. But it’s still a Very Nice income and the benefits package is Very Very Nice and the work environment I live in on a day to day basis is both exciting and deeply soul satisfying. I am a very lucky person.
Even so, looking over that post and the expenses I listed I can’t help but be disturbed at how far out of reach the life I have may seem to others. To myself it just seems like a basic middle class life. And I don’t have a family or kids to support. It’s just me. But as I typed out that list of expenses for the quarter, I could feel the lives of some of my friends tapping me on the shoulder. It was uncomfortable. They all know I was there myself once, and I didn’t think I would ever make it out of living in a friend’s basement, and mowing lawns to make ends meet. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life until I got that phone call asking me to go for an interview for a contract programmer’s job. I’ve been there. But it was still uncomfortable. I hate what’s happened to our country and the working people in it since Reagan promised everyone a shining city on a hill.
The house adds a lot of expense. But I get some pretty big tax breaks just for owning it. That’s not something I approve of out of self interest. Home ownership was a dream I had from childhood. Mom could have bought us one back in the early 60s but the banks wouldn’t lend to a single divorced Woman With Child, even if she had the down payment money and a steady and sufficient income; and that was perfectly legal discrimination back then. I believe that home ownership is a stabilizing social force, that gives people the chance to own a piece of their community and thereby a stake in it. So that’s the kind of thing I think government should encourage. But the thing is it’s not about owning property, it’s about having that stake in your community and the Right just doesn’t get that way of thinking. So home ownership is elevated because…Property Rights! But jobs that pay the sort of wages necessary for home ownership are not considered important. Property is important, people’s lives are not, and community is…is…Communism! And nowadays I don’t think they want us peons to own our own homes anyway. They want those of us who have one to sell them to the banks via reverse mortgages. God forbid working class families get to inherit tangible property.
So yes, the house adds a lot of expense. But you can view that against the value of the house and how it fixes me as part of my community. It’s not rent money just going down the drain. I know how that is…apartment life was all I knew until I bought the house. Its…my home. The car is another major expense and you can argue that it’s indulgent, but I didn’t buy it because I wanted a status symbol, I bought it because I like having solid things in my life and that’s how they build them. My brother, who knows the value of solidly built things, was saying the last time he visited that if I take care of it I should easily get another 25 years of use out of it. That’s the plan.
But look at how much all that was. It’s stunning to a guy who grew up in the 60s. I just ran the numbers through an online inflation calculator. $4100 bucks is, so it says, the equivalent of $727 in 1972 dollars…the year I graduated from High School. Now that would have been huge to a teenage boy in 1972, I worked an entire summer in 1971, at a fast food joint for $1.78 an hour, to buy a $500 Canon F1, but I would have expected to be able to easily afford it once I got a good job.
But wages have no where near kept up with inflation. That’s what’s killing the U.S. work force today. I am not a wasteful spender, but I do try to buy things that will last and that costs more in the short term. Still…it’s disturbing how much I spend on everyday stuff and how far above the spending power of most folks that is. And I am not living a fabulous lifestyle, just your basic white collar office worker lifestyle. Well..okay…it’s a technical/engineering profession I’m in. That raises the bar a tad. But not all that much really. This isn’t the lap of luxury here.
And I’m glad I bought the house when I did. No way, even on the income I have now, could I afford a house in this area. Even renting would be more expense than I’d care for. When I first moved to Baltimore rents were easily a week’s take home pay. Now I’d have to spend nearly half a month’s income for something basic, small, but good. It’s scary.
@cafedotcom: “Michigan Gov. Vows to Drink Flint Water, Cribbing PR Strategy from “Fear Factor””
Swell. Now somebody ask him if he would he make his grandchildren drink it too.
by Bruce |
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May 21st, 2015
Cheating Is When You Lie To Get What You Want
Arrogance is thinking you’re entitled to someone’s trust anyway. This came across my Facebook stream just now…
“And for the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you. It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t have a conversation about it even.”
Never mind that the science regarding global warming is about as solid as it gets, here’s the thing about that. Jacob Bronowski in his magnificent book and BBC series on the history of science, The Ascent of Man, devoted an entire episode to the difference between truth and dogma, titled Knowledge or Certainty. He begins with the face of his friend, Stephan Borgrajewicz who, like himself, was born in Poland. And he asks us, how well, how precisely, can we describe this man’s face? He asks a painter to render it, and says…
“We are aware the these pictures do not fix the face so much as explore it; that the artist is tracing the detail almost as if by touch; and that each line that is added strengthens picture but never makes it final. We accept that as the method of the artist. But what physics has now done is to show that that is the only method to knowledge. There is no absolute knowledge. And those who claim it, whether they are scientists or dogmatists, open the door to tragedy. All information is imperfect. We have to treat it with humility. That is the human condition; and that is what quantum physics says. I mean that literally.”
Science, says Bronowski, “…is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known; we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. ”
The arrogance that Bush is accusing those of us to believe the science of isn’t about the measured, careful judgements of the evidence of global warming. The arrogance we’re being accused of is to even think that science can tell us things about our world, about our universe, that the dogmas of the mob he represents cannot. There are two sides to this argument and it is not over the science, It is an argument about the nature of knowledge. One side believes that knowledge is something that is received. The other, that knowledge is something that is discovered, and which can always be challenged and discarded as new facts emerge. Whether it is religious dogma or political dogma, the practice of science rejects wholly the belief that any knowledge is certain, absolute, and can never be questioned.
That is the arrogance Bush means: that we think we can question for ourselves what the pulpit, the party leadership, the corporate interests tell us is true, and reject it if the evidence does not support it. That is not arrogance though it may seem like it to the authoritarians. It is humility. It is understanding and accepting the human status, that the god’s eye view is not ours, not anyone’s, not humanity’s to have, that every prophet who says thou shalt not question is a false prophet, that our lot in life is we must always ask ourselves what do we know, and how do we know it.
Prove to us that our understanding of global warming is incorrect. And if you can’t then tell us what authority you would have us follow, who says the fate of the human race and planet earth is of less importance than our blind obedience.
by Bruce |
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This is the gutter’s response to the head of the the National Institutes of Health’s comments the other day that a decade or more of republican assaults on science and research has had consequences. Oh no, says Erickson…we were simply reigning in all that wasteful spending on frivolous things like why lesbians are overweight.
Of course, obesity is a health concern, and it’s a fact that Americans are generally heavier now than in decades past, so that makes it a public health concern. And if we can get a handle on the causes of obesity we can improve the health of Americans and Americans can live longer and healthier lives and hopefully it reduces public spending on health care. But Erickson’s kind don’t think that way. To really understand how they think, you have to get past the gratuitous insult to lesbians in what he’s saying. Because beneath that what he seems to be saying is he really thinks it’s tragic the money didn’t go to an Ebola vaccine.
And if that doesn’t make you laugh out loud you haven’t been paying attention to Erickson and his kind, because without a doubt if that money Had gone to Ebola research he’d have been loudly bellyaching about all that money being spent on Africans and the republicans in congress would have gleefully cut the funding for it…ostensibly on the grounds that the money should be spend on the health of Americans instead. But of course…Africans!
Because disease doesn’t matter unless it’s killing people who matter, and black Africans don’t matter any more than homosexuals matter. And when disease Does start killing people who matter, then it’s Why Aren’t You Doing Something!!!
by Bruce |
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Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said that a decade of stagnant spending has “slowed down” research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases. As a result, he said, the international community has been left playing catch-up on a potentially avoidable humanitarian catastrophe.
“NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It’s not like we suddenly woke up and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,'” Collins told The Huffington Post on Friday. “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”
“I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”
ISLA VISTA, Calif. — A deadly attack by a gunman obsessed by grievances toward women near the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara, has touched off an anguished conversation here and on social media about the ways women are perceived sexually and the violence against them.
Years ago, when I was still making a living as a freelance architectural model maker, I worked often for a firm located in a business park located between Rockville and Gaithersburg, two big and growing suburban cities in the massive Montgomery County Maryland sprawl. I had no car at the time but the Metro subway had a stop I could get off at and walk to the firm’s offices easily, if I cut across the King Farm.
Anyone who grew up in the Rockville area in those days will remember the King Farm. Developers ate it some years ago and now it’s all ugly rowhouses, condos, parking decks and a faux town center. Back then it was this wonderful anomaly of wide open green space tucked between a growing busy sprawl. It was so huge that at night, it created its own dark sky. I used to love working late at the firm’s offices and then walking in the dead of night down a little access road that cut across the King Farm to the Metro on the other side of Route 355. There were little worker’s shacks off to one side of the road…four of them I think…and the main farm house and barns not too far from them. You could feel the history of the place. And the sky above was bright with all the stars you never saw at night in the city.
One day while working on a model, I was talking with the architect, a young Turkish woman who designed one of the most beautiful art deco buildings in Silver Spring. This one…
She asked me how I managed to get around without a car and I told her how I did it, and then went off on a tangent about how beautiful the sky was at night over the King Farm, and how lovely it was to walk down that little road at night at the end of the day…just you and the stars and the quiet, peaceful night…
…and she looked at me sadly and said, “I could never do that.”
by Bruce |
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May 2nd, 2014
Sliding Into The Trench Of Republican Governance
Baltimore got a little rain earlier in the week. And by a little I mean about half a foot over a couple days. It was the same system that spawned tornadoes that killed a bunch of people in western south, and it seems generally part of the same disturbed weather patterns we’ve been having here in North America, thanks to the energy companies and republican reticence to do anything about preventing ecological catastrophe that might take money out of the pockets of needy billionaires. But lurking in the weather that’s been pummeling us is something else besides the looming effects of global warming. Ironically, the pulpit thumpers are right, our civilization is crumbling. Well…in a manner of speaking…
I point my finger at two culprits, but maybe they’re both one and the same: That Randian-libertarian notion that taxation is theft, plus that government regulation of the marketplace is also a kind of theft and anyone who advocates it is a moocher who wants a free lunch. I swam in libertarian waters for most of my twenties, until Reagan cured me of it, and I’m here to tell you there are a lots of useful tools in that pool who really believe the invisible hand of the marketplace will create a Heaven on Earth if we would only let it. Well…right up there is your Heaven.
My little village made the network news about this one! It’s not like other parts of the city aren’t falling apart too, or for that matter other parts of other cities all over the country, but you can see how something like this unnerves even people who don’t live in the slums. Tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, my God those things can happen to the nice neighborhoods too. What strikes you listening to the chatter is how the little details that make things make better sense go missing from the conversation of people you don’t live in the vicinity. I saw several people talking about how Baltimore streets are sinking. Well, yes and no.
One thing to understand about Baltimore is it kinda straddles the boundary between the coastal plains and the Maryland piedmont…those lovely rolling hills of Maryland. (Our oddly shaped little state is very diverse in its geography, and there is beauty everywhere) Parts of the city are actually way higher up than other parts but you don’t really notice how big the elevation changes are because they are gradual in most places, unlike say San Francisco, and you don’t see the grade change until you get somewhere you can look a distance. The streets and sidewalks gently slope up and down, up and down and the walk isn’t difficult and you look back and you notice the city core off in the distance is now almost entirely below you. The north-western part of the city is in the hills and the rest of it is on the coastal plains. That’s how my house can be something like 60 feet higher than the Jones Falls River even though on the map I look like I’m right next to it.
Which all means laying tracks for a railroad through all this can be a tad complicated, particularly when your running stock are steam engines which don’t do steep grades all that well. A little history…
In the 1890s what was the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, the first common carrier railroad company in the U.S., dug a bunch of tunnels and trenches through the city including one really big tunnel going under Howard Street, to connect with points north from its Camden station because that was actually the less expensive way to do it, compared with a surface line through the center of the city or going around the city. This is why now you might be walking along a city street and suddenly there’s this deep trench on the other side of a cast iron fence and it’s not one of our little rivers down there, it’s a set of tracks coming out of a tunnel.
Building those tunnels and trenches bankrupted the company shortly after the lines opened up, and it was in receivership for about three years because the economy tanked and all their profit forecasts went down the tubes. It’s tough to run a railroad in bad economic times. It costs money to cut the grades a train can run, and lay some tracks down, let alone cut tunnels and dig trenches out of the middle of a large city. And then you have to maintain all that.
But money is tight these days…for some reason…and everyone in the city who was here when the Howard Street tunnel caught fire in July 2001 knows what is going to happen now. People were complaining about the retaining wall that collapsed last Wednesday, years before this, and CSX kept telling them there was nothing to worry about. If it was ever inspected at all in the past decade I’m guessing someone didn’t want to tell the board of directors their yearly bonuses would need to be spent shoring up a hundred plus year old stone wall. Now CSX is probably going to sue the city for damaging its tracks and the city will sue CSX back for damaging its street…and so on and so forth. And none of it needed to happen. But it did, because what was fifty years ago a reasonable rate of return on investment is woefully inadequate today. We want our double-digit returns and we want them now.
So the factories close and there is less for the rail companies to carry. So the businesses close because workers don’t make enough to buy things like they use to and there is even less for the rail companies to carry. So the economic heart of the cities shrivels, and with it, the city itself.
Maintenance is expensive. The city has a hard time keeping its infrastructure in good shape because it’s lost the massive industrial economic base it once had like a lot of old east coast cities did. But look around…the problem is Everywhere…
(Reuters) – More than 63,000 bridges across the United States are in urgent need of repair, with most of the aging, structurally compromised structures part of the interstate highway system, an analysis of recent federal data has found.
Meanwhile the banks and Wall Street keep demanding instant and ever higher returns on investment, and Grover Norquist wants to shrink government to a small enough size he can drown it in a bathtub. But government is a communal thing as in Community, and what is being whittled down to size is that sense of community, that we are all fellow Americans…neighbors. It is America Norquist and his pals are drowning in that bathtub, so they can feast without being presented a bill. And everyone is putting off maintenance because the money done all trickled up and the rising tide didn’t so much lift all the boats as sink the cars. And nature doesn’t care why you didn’t shore up the wall and improve drainage around it.
by Bruce |
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There’s been hand-wringing and eye-rolling among the Texas GOP this week over Ted Nugent calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel.” The real question is, why now?
Because the rest of the country started taking notice, that’s why. But as usual the corporate news media only looks at it superficially, lambasting republicans for hitching Ted Nugent to their wagon while focusing almost exclusively on his “subhuman mongrel” crack at the president. Yes, yes, it’s telling in its in-your-face racism. They’re not even dog whistling at the base anymore. But that was hardly all there is to find in the catalog of Nugent’s wit and wisdom.
Christ almighty you’d think the Family Values party never bothered to listen to his music, hear the lyrics, or even just glance a second or two at the album cover for “Love Grenade”?
And then there’s this lovely little ditty…
Well, I don’t care if you’re just 13 You look too good to be true I just know that you’re probably clean…
Jailbait you look fine, fine, fine… It’s quite alright, I asked your mama Wait a minute, officer Don’t put those handcuffs on me Put them on her, and I’ll share her with you
Now get back to me about how you’re all against the gay agenda because homosexuals prey on children.
What were they thinking you ask? Oh I know what they were thinking. They were thinking inside that comfortable cocoon that Fox News and Talk Radio and their right wing billionaire money teats built for them. That gentleman’s club at the edge of town where they can let the masks come off and say all the things they really mean without decency and humanity getting a word in edgewise. Sometimes they forget the cocoon they live in is not the world they live in, and then the rest of the country sees them hugging the likes of Ted Nugent like he’s their soul brother. But that’s only because he Is their soul brother.
Take advantage of a 13 year old girl for her body…take the food out of her mouth because you wanted another yacht…the difference between the Wall Street men and the duck dynasty boys is the cost of their toys…
From Politico today, which I will not link to because…Politico…
Reince Priebus: President Obama’s ‘culture of hatred’
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus ripped President Barack Obama for creating a “culture of hatred” in which Democrats are likening the GOP to the Ku Klux Klan.
“It’s the culture that the president’s cultivated here. A culture of dishonesty, a culture of hatred,” Priebus said Monday on Fox News’s “Hannity.”
You don’t say… A culture of hatred…
like the ku klux klan…
And your problem with cultivating hatred for votes is…what exactly?
by Bruce |
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October 12th, 2013
This came across my Facebook stream just now…
Big tax cuts for the rich and big business, two wars on the card, and now they’re bellyaching about paying for it. But no. They’re bellyaching that the democrats won’t let them make the poor, the sick, the elderly and the unemployed pay for it.
Republican North Carolina state legislators have proposed allowing an official state religion in a measure that would declare the state exempt from the Constitution and court rulings.
The bill, filed Monday by two GOP lawmakers from Rowan County and backed by nine other Republicans, says each state “is sovereign” and courts cannot block a state “from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.”
Arguments about religion are usually arguments about Who’s In Charge rather than arguments about religion. Same thing with arguments about Intrusive Government. Reverence allegedly paid to God is actually directed at the Tribe, in whose name God serves. Figure they’ll be holding a conclave down there somewhere in the old confederacy to elect the first Baptist pope any day now.
After the recent revaluations from former Florida GOP members that all that talk about voter fraud was itself fraud, you’d think people would finally stop listening to the rhetoric, and pay more attention to the behavior.
Yes, yes…they yap about “smaller government all the firggin’ time, but you need to understand what is meant in the first place by “smaller government”. It was never about reducing its staffage or its costs. Size is a relative matter.
What they’re talking about isn’t size, it’s power…specifically the power of the federal, not state level government. They want it small enough it can’t enforce equal rights laws. They want it small enough it can’t stop Wall Street and big corporations from raping the middle class. They want it small enough it cannot defend the rights of women, minorities, the poor, and the powerless. That is all that was ever meant by the term, “small government”.
This seems like beating on a dead horse…probably everyone knows by now that WalMart pays food stamp wages…but there’s a point here that needs constant hammering on. If you like WalMart’s Low, Low Prices! fine…except WalMart workers are living on food stamps and probably other public support too, and that’s a large part of how WalMart keeps its prices down (another part is their pressure on companies to manufacture goods in low wage countries abroad, thereby costing American families their livelihoods and decimating this country’s industrial base). So…the difference between what you paid for your WalMart goods and what they would actually cost if WalMart simply paid its workers a living wage is the part paid for by food stamps. If you shop at WalMart, you are on the dole too. Except you could probably afford not to be.
So who’s the lazy bum wanting a government handout here, because it isn’t the WalMart worker.
by Bruce |
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November 7th, 2012
Moral Nihilism Isn’t Only Believing In Nothing…
I just finished watching Rachel Maddow deliver a smokin’ hot riff on republican shock and confusion, as displayed on Fox last night, that the numbers they were certain were going to go massively in Romney’s favor didn’t. She showed clips from past Fox News predictions of a Romney landslide, showed that stunning live TV moment that’ll almost certainly go down in television history, when Rove got angry that the Fox News vote analysts called Ohio for Obama. Then…brilliantly…she added that no, the polls were not skewed, Obama was born in Hawaii, he didn’t raise taxes, the deficit hasn’t gone up, unemployment figures were not cooked, Saddam didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, climate change is real, evolution is real, FEMA isn’t building concentration camps…
…and god I hope I can get my hands on a video clip of it because it really said it all…especially how at the end of that grotesque litany of decades of republican right wing and religious right hallucinations she said that it is profoundly damaging to our democracy when one party is trying to cope with things as they really are and the other is living it it’s own detached insular fantasy world.
We need, she said thumping her pulpit, honest, good faith arguing and debating about policy…real argument not phony crap ginned up just to drive people to the polls or satisfy the pathetic conceits of religious and political fanatics…because it is in that honest debating of the issues that we have the best hope of finding answers that work. By cocooning in their own fantasy world the republicans have made that honest, good faith arguing and debating nearly impossible.
She said she hoped the shock of that collision with real numbers and real reality last night might break the bubble. I’ve heard others expressing this since last night, but I am not so sure. But there is the problem we face as a nation. It’s the problem we need to address before we can really and truly get down to addressing any of the others. The polls were not skewed. The unemployment numbers were not rigged. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Climate change is real. Evolution is real. FEMA is not building concentration camps. Homosexuals are not demon possessed tools of satan. Two plus two equals four. If any of this distresses you be assured that reality does not care about what you believe or about you. It just is what it is. You need to care about reality. If you can’t bring yourself to do that critically, honestly, with your eyes wide open, without letting your cherished preconceptions blind you to simple facts, don’t be bellyaching about the moral relativism, hedonism, nihilism whatever of the world around you. The nihilist is you.
by Bruce |
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