Reflections of 2017, and looking to 2018

Ah, December 31, the year is about done, and there are some thoughts clanking around my head. Time to extract them before the temptation to eat myself into a coma wins the battle.

Number 1 – Work

It has been a good and busy year at work. I am currently in the certifications group at Cisco, and while it is product management, it is different from my prior roles. In many ways that is refreshing, as it brings new challenges, and opportunities.

I started the year as a contractor (or C-Worker, short for contingent worker), but in July I was converted into a full time employee, a pretty significant development. That reduced some (ok, a LOT) anxiety in my status. Being a contractor had some benefits (as in, 8 hours are done, turn off and unplug), but unpaid holidays and unsubsidized healthcare really made it touch and go. Continue reading →

2017 Predictions

Ah, the year clicks over from 2016 to 2017, and suddenly everybody weighs in with their predictions for the new year. I guess I should do some similar weighing in.

So, Swami Anderson places his clenched fist upon his turban, and predicts …

Politics

President Elect Trump has selected some truly awful, unqualified, and potentially corrupt cabinet members. From Jeff “The KKK is ok except for their drug usage” Sessions for Attorney General, to Betsy “wouldn’t know a public school from a dumpster fire” DeVos, to Ben “I once lived in public housing, so I know best” Carson for HUD, it is a truly awful set of advisors.  Of course they will all sail through confirmation. Continue reading →

Waking up in a Libertarian US

The Gadsden Flag

A dream sequence of waking up in a Libertarian USA

Joe Conservative wakes up in the morning and goes to the bathroom. He flushes his toilet and brushes his teeth, mindful that each flush & brush costs him about 43 cents to his privatized water provider. His wacky, liberal neighbor keeps badgering the company to disclose how clean and safe their water is, but no one ever finds out. Just to be safe, Joe Conservative boils his drinking water.

Joe steps outside and coughs–the pollution is especially bad today, but the smokiest cars are the cheapest ones, so everyone buys ‘em. Joe Conservative checks to make sure he has enough toll money for the 3 different private roads he must drive to work. There is no public transportation, so traffic is backed up and his 10 mile commute takes an hour.

On the way, he drops his 12 year old daughter off at the clothing factory she works at. Paying for kids to go to private school until they’re 18 is a luxury, and Joe needs the extra income coming in. Times are hard and there’re no social safety nets.

He gets to work 5 minutes late and misses the call for Christian prayer, and is immediately docked by his employer. He is not feeling well today, but has no health insurance, since neither his employer nor his government provide it, and paying for it himself is really expensive, since he has a precondition. He just hopes for the best.

Joe’s workday is 12 hours long, because there is no regulation over working hours, and Joe will lose his job if he complains or unionizes. Today is an especially bad day. Joe’s manager demands that he work until midnight, a 16 hour day. Joe does, knowing that he’ll lose his job if he does not.

Finally, after midnight, Joe gets to pick up his daughter and go home. His daughter shows him the deep cut she got on the industrial sewing machine today. Joe is outraged and asks why she doesn’t have metal mesh gloves or other protection. She says the company will not provide it and she’ll have to pay for it out of her own pocket. Joe looks at the wound and decides they’ll use an over the counter disinfectant and bandages until it heals. She’ll have a scar, but getting stitches at the emergency room is expensive.

His daughter also complains that the manager made suggestive overtures towards her. Joe counsels her to be a “good girl” and not rock the boat, or she’ll get fired and they’ll be out the income.

His daughter says she can’t wait until she’s 18 so she can vote for change or go to the Iraq War.

They get home and there’s a message from his elderly father who can’t afford to pay his medical or heating bills. Joe can hear him coughing and shivering.

Joe turns on the radio and the top story is a proposal in Congress to raise the voting age to 25. A rare liberal opinionator states that it’s an attempt to keep power out of the hands of working class Americans. The conservative host immediately quashes him, calling him “a utopian idealist,” and agreeing that people aren’t mature enough to make good choices until they’re at least 25.

Joe chuckles at the wine-swilling, cheese eating liberal egghead and thinks, “Thank God I live in America where I have freedom!”

Continue reading →

The New Republican Healthcare Plan

The new republican plans for health care sure sounds like “just die quickly, and quietly” Well, as we expected, once the Republicans captured the White House (well, in 29 days now), their first order of business will be to repeal the ACA.

They have been talking about repealing it and replacing it for 6 years now, bloviating at every opportunity, and doing fuck-all in the House with 54 attempts to repeal or defund portions of the ACA (or the pejorative “Obamacare”) so this isn’t a surprise.

However, some of the rhetoric coming out of the Paul Ryan camp is interesting. Suddenly, instead of shutting it down on day 1, they are talking about repealing and delaying for 2 – 3 years until they can devise a “replacement” for it. Yeah, that sounds do-able. Continue reading →

The Death of the (insert name here) Party

In the run up to the 2016 Presidential election, I heard pundit after pundit, and commenter after commenter bleating about how Trump’s candidacy was going to be the end of the Republican party. The fact that they nominated (with a full throated roar) such a terrible candidate, a narcissistic, racial pandering, xenophobic, serial sexual harassing, and in general boorish candidate, surely, this would destroy the Republican party.

As tempting as it was (being a fairly liberal, mostly Democrat voting person) to back in the impending demise, and hapless wandering in the dark of the Republicans, daring to hope that even gaining the 20 or so seats in the house for a complete Democrat rout, I had to step back. Continue reading →

How Gullible are the Progressives

With all the recent focus on “fake” news and how much reinforcement happens in the echo chamber on Facebook, with the heavy bias for the conservative point of view, one would think that the progressives would be a bit more cautious, but alas, that appears to not be the case.

The past few days, my Facebook timeline has been loaded with bogus stories about how two computer scientists claim that the results in Wisconsin, Michigan (which hasn’t certified yet) and Pennsylvania look anomalous, and that we should inundate the US DoJ to initiate a review, with a phone number. Continue reading →

The Middle Class – The Industrial Revolution

The last post I explored the rise of the talented, educated professional and how their roots were in the guild system. This time, I will start with the industrial revolution, and how that upended the rising of that middle class.

The Industrial Revolution

While the shift from craft based manufacture of goods was well underway in the mid 18th century, the trend accelerated mightily with the development and commercialization of the steam engine.

{A whole book or series of books on the use of steam motive power to drive machines that wove, milled, pressed, etc. Very germane to the topic, but obvious in hindsight, it will be ignored for this brief treatment}

Continue reading →

Leaving Arizona – Part II – the politics

I moved to Arizona in 2003 to take a job. Landing in Tucson, solidly in the southern part of the state, I grew to love the area. Fabulous weather (albeit blazingly hot in the summer), quirky neighborhoods, and outstanding outdoor activities like hiking, and biking.

I lived in Tucson for almost 10 years, and while I enjoyed it, there are problems with the area. Civic planning is at best an afterthought. Poor growth policies and pathetic allocation of greenspaces was a frustration. Still, it was home.

2012 found us moving to a suburb of Phoenix for my job. It was a culture shock to say the least. Urban sprawl everywhere, yet with some clear planning so that the neighborhoods are well laid out. Plenty of green space reserved. Adequate distribution of shopping and restaurants. It “feels” like a real city, where Tucson felt like a town that just kept bursting at the seams.

While I lived in Tucson, I was aware of how bizarre the politics of Arizona are, but we lived in a pocket of rationality. Moving to Phoenix was a culture shock. Arizona has always been a Republican leaning state, with some characters that make you facepalm often. You get this front and center in the valley. Intolerance, bigotry, hatred are front and center.

I used to read about places in the deep south and shake my head at their antics, but Arizona seems to want to outdo them at every step. I shouldn’t be surprised at a state that didn’t observe Martin Luther King‘s birthday until the loss of tourism dollars made it really painful (they were denied the 1993 Superbowl due to their backwards-ness)

Things that should be no brainers, like shoring up public education, improving the lot of the residents, and promoting freedom and equality are ignored, instead the politicians here want to punish gays, and hispanics, protect the unborn (or restrict women’s reproductive freedom), promote the propagation of firearms, and in general hassle brown people.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio is hailed by the constituents here as a great man, but he is a walking liability, and is probably costing the state more in defending his inane tactics at the federal level than the cost of illegal immigrants. All the rest of it is just being mean, trying to extend the old white male domination.

Oh, and making it legal for anyone without a felony conviction to be able to just carry a concealed handgun, no permit required. Fairly often, there is a push to allow college students to carry concealed on campus. Yeah, barely out of their teens, lots of emotional issues, and rampant alcohol (and drug) use goes great with deadly weapons. SMH.

On concealed weapons, it is really bizarre here. Getting a concealed permit is easy. Take a class, pass a background check, and some pretty easy marksmanship test, and you are golden. While I think it should be a bit mroe strenuous (particularly the safety and marksmanship part) I am cool with that.

However, a while back the legislature made it legal for anybody with a clean record to carry concealed. No background check, no safety training, no basic shooting skills. Sigh. Anyone who thinks that random people should be able to just carry a weapon anywhere should be required to watch a class of their fellow citizens who are taking the extra step of getting a CCW permit do their shooting qualification. Some of the worst marksmanship I have EVER seen, and they are the “good” ones who are taking the effort to get the permit. They would have trouble hitting the side of a barn from the inside.

Summary

Arizona has a lot of good things going for it. However, the politics are a bit wacko. In most of the backwards states (like Texas) the tide of demographics will reduce the power of the old white male bigot. Alas here, while demographics are changing, a unique phenomenon seems to happen. Being a destination for retirees, we seem to be replenishing our dying racists with imports from the north faster than the population browns.

This leads to some of the most insane policies, and laws from our legislature. Things that make most rational people shake their heads in wonder.

There are plenty of sensible people here, it is just that their voices are squashed via gerrymandering, and the inanity of legislature.

There are some signs of progress. Last election saw Joe Arpaio coming ever closer to losing his office, we often have a democrat in the governor’s mansion to balance out the wackos, the racists, and the homophobes that seem to win local seats.

I am under no delusions, California has its own problems, but 11 years in Arizona has given me a new appreciation for my home state.