Get Thee Behind Me!

I’ve just jettisoned yet another asshole client, one I’ve carped about here before. Mister Perpetual Crisis, I believe, is how I referred to him. If not then I should have, because the guy is a one man clusterfuck of extraordinary magnitude. I could go on and on, and by now you know that I have that capacity, but I just don’t feel like it. The guy’s assholery just isn’t worth any more of my mental energy and I already spent a few hours after I told the guy to blow away being all pumped up for a confrontation that never came, so now I’m just done and glad of it.

I’m kinda hung up just the same. When this guy first contacted me, he was looking to have some custom software developed and the specifications he had for it were very clearly in the realm of extreme performance. I told him that I could do it, but with a caveat: The code would be inaccessible to all but a rare few who possess very deep knowledge of the technology and extraordinary working memory capacity. It’s just the nature of the beast — to get that kind of performance you’ve got to go right to the extreme edges of the abilities of both machines and programmers. I play in that realm all the time as it’s my favorite place to be, but I always recommend to my clients that they should go some other way if at all possible because the result is essentially a vendor lock-in scenario. There are other programmers who do this kind of work successfully, of course, but good luck finding one. It’s far more likely than not that what you’ll find are programmers who don’t yet know but are about to discover their own limitations.

The guy said that his performance specifications were concrete and he could accept that in order to meet them he’d have to accept code that most programmers cannot grok. But now I feel bad for delivering it to him. I don’t really care one way or the other if the client CEO goes bankrupt, but he’s got employees who depend upon the paychecks he signs to make their lives comfortable and for them I feel bad.

Oh well.

Another Day In Paradise

For the few minutes I was there, I was the only customer at the pot shop in Ski Town today. I’ve never seen that before. It was novel, and getting in and out quickly was convenient, but I like chatting with the locals and people-watching the tourists so it was a bit of a disappointment, too. I wouldn’t mind chatting with the tourists, too, but they’re usually of a mind to keep to themselves. The locals are just, well, locals — Colorado mountain folks are friendly. Heck, it can take an hour to pick up a loaf of bread at the Dinkytown market.

I just went and threw fifty bucks at Bernie for his campaign. I’ve donated to outfits like the Cousteau Society, Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, and so on many times, but Bernie’s the first political candidate I could get fully behind. Later on I’ll go donate again and buy a couple of t-shirts and lawn signs, mainly just to raise Dinkytown eyebrows. :D

We’re getting more rain this week to keep the fire danger down. :) I just hope it continues through the fire season, as a long hot, dry spell would just turn the lush undergrowth into tinder. It’s too late to undo the early growth anyway… fingers crossed.

I remember having something interesting to say but not what it was. I must be THC deficient after two or three weeks without. It’s actually because I didn’t get enough sleep last night, but it’s more fun to say that I’m THC deficient. And it’s not necessarily so far-fetched as it sounds. But I’m too pooped to carry on, so I’m going to correct any such deficiency as I might be experiencing and watch Fast Times At Ridgemont High. The author says the book and movie were based upon an undercover thing he did down around San Diego somewhere, but it could just as easily have been the high school Amethyst and I attended. Ah, the strange old days…

In Defense Of Social Democracy

Way back in the not so much dark but just kinda foggy ages, when I was in high school (and the fog was the marijuana smoke rising from behind the wood shop), we learned about history and government and other things under the umbrella of “social studies”, and actually discussed those things openly, right there in class. We didn’t just study the lessons, and we didn’t restrict our discussions to just what was in the textbooks. We expressed, discussed, and debated our own viewpoints even when they contradicted the analyses of the scholars who wrote the texts, and we didn’t declare that any one of them was right or most right. I imagine a teacher would be hauled out of class and strung up in front of the school for permitting such things to occur today. 1976, our nation’s bicentennial year, brought an interesting and somewhat peculiar election — all on the same day we elected Jimmy Carter and, there in California, approved a ballot proposition that the conservatives had labeled a “tax revolt”. I was among the first to be harmed by the nascent neoconservative-neoliberal-evangelical troika that was growing in power then; the state cut education funding and the evangelicals took over the school board in 1977. It altered the trajectory of my life. That’s another story so enough said about that for now.

With taxes being so hot a topic then, we talked about taxation at length and in unusual depth for a high school class. I don’t remember his exact words, but in essence what our teacher said was that taxes and government spending are the truest measure of a democratic society’s values. Money being a finite resource, those things the culture values most will be well funded and considered unassailable, as what was in those days considered the “third rail of American politics”, Social Security retirement benefits were, and as military spending is today. Those things that the culture cares little about will receive limited funding and will be considered expendable, as we see today in social programs for the economically disadvantaged. And, of course, those things the culture doesn’t care about at all will get no funding at all. It seems as obvious as balls on a tall dog to me, but there are many I’ve spoken with who just can’t grasp the concept. All they know is that taxes are bad and government worse, and people who accept money or services from the government are layabouts who are unwilling to earn what they get.

That ideology would never have created the interstate highway system, NASA, or most of the other grand and useful things we have accomplished through collective action. It used to be that the richest nation on Earth acted like it, but now we’re just a nation with a handful of obscenely wealthy people.

The rest of us who can, and who probably long ago did, wrap our heads around the concept that taxation and government spending are the truest measure of our society’s values can and probably already have taken the view that social democracy is nothing more than taking care of our own. We all learned in our history classes, most of us in history classes in public schools paid for by the taxpayers of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, that rampant greed has destroyed every empire in the history of the western world. Their greed drives their expansion until their enormity becomes unsustainable, then they collapse. How many nations, though, have been destroyed by compassion? I’m having trouble thinking of one.

We’re already spending vast sums of money, we’re just doing it in ways that most of us now see as wrongheaded and bad for us. A few examples of very many:

Every Walmart “supercenter” in the country is costing us, the taxpayers, between about one million and about 1.75 million dollars per year just for the benefits we have to provide to their workers because their employer won’t. They won’t even build a store unless the local government gives them huge tax breaks and free infrastructure upgrades, things like new streets and traffic signals, widened streets, and so on. It seems ludicrous that we bribe the single richest family in America to come to our towns to drive out all of the smaller stores owned by local residents so that we can pay between $3,000 and $6,000 per worker, per year, for the benefits Walmart will not provide to those workers, benefits they must have just to survive.

You can’t really call it “earning a living” when you aren’t even paid enough to sustain your body so you can continue working. I imagine that it’s a terrible blow to one’s self esteem to have to take food stamps in order to have the strength to go to work for an employer who doesn’t even value you enough to pay you a wage that will sustain your physical body with food.

National Forest timber sales actually cost the taxpayers money — what the timber companies pay is less than what it costs us to give them free roads and remediate the damage they do in cutting. We’re essentially paying them to ruin our forests. The loss is so great that it would actually be a lot cheaper for us to put every one of those timber workers on the government payroll to maintain the forests. Only about four or five percent of the lumber we use each year comes from National Forests anyway, so more efficient use and, where practical, alternative materials, would completely make up for the lost production. The point being: We choose to pay timber companies to tear up our forests, and it costs us more than if we just hired all of those timber workers to work for us to make our National Forests healthy and whole again and then keep them that way. It’s just a decision: How are we going to spend our money? Do we really want to pay someone to destroy our forests?

We subsidize oil companies. Oil companies! The richest people on Earth can’t afford to operate their companies without welfare payments? It’s just a decision. Right now, today, oil prices are falling due to massive production in the US that was made possible by subsidies and exempting energy extraction companies from environmental protection regulations that the rest of us must abide by. Ain’t that some shit? We give them welfare, let them poison us, and the net result is that their investments don’t perform as well as they did before we gave them welfare. Sure, it makes our gasoline a little cheaper — it’s a clearance sale. They have to get rid of it before it goes bad. There’s so much natural gas being produced that we can’t use it all, and the excess is exported. In many oil fields the natural gas is just flared off (burned) because the cost of capturing it can’t be recouped at current natural gas prices. We’re giving them free money while they’re throwing energy away. Talk about perverse incentive.

It’s really the wrong way to go about mitigating anthropogenic climate change. I just can’t look at my grandkids, or the children of Dinkytown, or the children of any other place on Earth, and say “Fuck you, kids. I want lower gasoline prices today so badly that I am going to force you to endure famine and death by starvation in your lifetime to get it”. It’s just a decision. How do we want to spend our money?

That’s all social democracy is, deciding that we’re going to spend our money taking care of our own rather than taking care of the very richest few. Right now we tell our poorest that we can’t help them while we’re telling our richest that they can have all we’ve got. People are suffering and dying for no reason other than our horrible decisions about how to spend our collective wealth. We had no excuse for not knowing what was coming; we all were compelled to attend the schools that taught us all essentially the same things — surely the terms Gilded Age, Robber Barons, Yellow Journalism, Great Depression, and New Deal ring some bells? Weren’t we all told that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it? I remember all of those things, anyway, and I was stoned at the time. It seems amazingly stupid to conclude that your teachers were lying and your television telling the truth, don’tcha think?

And we’re supposed to believe that this state of affairs is preferable to social democracy? That the wealth of the wealthiest nation in all of human history should be concentrated in the hands of fewer people than the number who die every year because they can’t get medical treatment in the richest nation on Earth? That’s one of the costs of doing things the way we’re doing them: We decide that in order to make these people richer than they already are, we will starve those other people and when they get sick we will let them die. It’s not even for so indefensible a purpose as making you and I rich or even slowing our own economic slide — it so that the already rich can get richer.

Social democracy doesn’t do that. It tells the rich that it’s okay for them to be rich, and it’s okay for them to get richer, too, but they have to give back in proportion to what they take out in exchange for the sacrifices made by commoners who have made and continue to make their riches possible. It’s not about stealing from the rich as they’ve been stealing from us since 1981, it’s just about not letting them steal from us any more. It’s not like there were no rich people prior to Reagan.

A brief aside: There can be only one purpose for NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP, Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, GATT, the WTO, World Bank, and IMF: The economic colonization of the entire world by the financial elites. There is no other purpose which can be served by those things. They are the tools of world domination, and because of them the legitimacy of our government is at risk. If the principals of the Declaration of Independence are rendered meaningless, the Constitution itself will soon follow.

It’s a sorry state of affairs when you’ve created a nation in which money spends people.

Bernie In Denver

We’re a bit too far away from Denver to make the trip without an extraordinarily compelling reason, so I was glad to finally find a high resolution video of Bernie’s stop:

The only one’s who’ll be surprised when Bernie wins are those so out of touch with the electorate that they don’t deserve to represent it or to put their mugs on the television to speak to it. :)

Rock on, Bernie!

Swinging Left For Now

Okay, now, this is well beyond anything resembling reason: Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn To Live As Exiles In Our Own Country is the title of an article in Time magazine, or at least on their web site. How the heck does your neighbor’s marriage make you an exile? The author doesn’t say. What he does say, buried in a long diatribe that proves his own ignorance of the United States and his own holy text:

We are going to have to learn how to live as exiles in our own country. We are going to have to learn how to live with at least a mild form of persecution.

I take that as a good sign, actually. The more liberty spreads, the more the neoliberal-neconservative-evangelical troika rails against it. That’s just fine with me — the more they expose their true agenda, the less support they receive from the public. The American public is majority Christian, so they’re not rejecting Christianity as the author of that whackadoodle article claims. What they are rejecting is the oppressive and anti-democratic radical ideology that is espoused by the neoliberal-neoconservative-evangelical troika, which will inevitably lead to its collapse. There will still be neoliberals, neoconservatives, and evangelicals, but they won’t be in league any more because there will be no power to be gained by it.

No, I’m not conflating the Supreme Court with the public. The public is swinging leftward again, and it is during those leftward swings of the pendulum that civil rights are expressed, expanded, and codified while distribution of wealth and income becomes less unequal. During the rightward swings, civil rights are suppressed and income disparity increases. During the 1940’s, for example, we were in a leftward cycle and Encyclopedia Brittanica Films created this gem of a classroom film which, though simplistic of necessity given its target audience, is based upon lots of good social science:

Our recent past, according to that film, has been one exhibiting many characteristics of despotism. With each passing day there are fewer who’d argue the counterpoint, and that’s just the way things have always worked in our constitutional democratic republic. The pendulum swings inexorably from one side to the other and back again in a cycle with a period of about four generations, right around 90 years depending upon the relative sizes of the generations. We have been living in the world the Baby Boomers created, and just now my generation, the tail of the boom known by some as Generation Jones, is coming into power and beginning to reverse the grotesque excesses for which the Boomers have always been known. Later, those born in the early days of the 21st century will take power and undo as much of the work we’re doing now as they can. Or we might thwart them by making so much progress that legislation and constitutional amendment prevent them from imposing a more despotic rule. That is my hope, though I expect to be quite dead before they take power, and don’t really want to live to see the second coming of Reagan anyway.

Maybe we’re about to have the second coming of FDR. I’d like that. I remember those pre-Reagan days when even Nixon was more socialist than any modern Democrat save Bernie who’s never been a party line Democrat anyway. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long, long time and hope hope hope and hope some more that it’s not a false start.

Hillary, dammit, just get your power crazed ass out of the way and let the rest of the country get on with their lives already, huh? You’ve had a good run but your time is through. Away with you now. The world has moved on.

Today the president of the wealthiest and mightiest nation in world history signed into law acts that pave the way for a treaty which will ensure that millions more working class American jobs will be offshored to low wage havens in Asia, and while doing so he joked, “This is so much fun we should do it more often”.

Anyone who’s not disgusted by this travesty has no human compassion.

Someone on a site other than this one posted: “If you don’t like what I wrote, or are offended by it, don’t read it!”. And thought it a suitable deflection of criticism rather than an invitation for more.