We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Thursday, January 21. 2021
I have posted several times about my Food Bank work. I'm not doing this to say "Hey look at me aren't I so giving?" After all, I'd barely done any work over the years with them, aside from donations and occasional assistance at the pantry.
I'm a firm believer in giving back in some form, and doing it quietly. In the Bible, Jesus made it clear you shouldn't promote your good works in order to promote yourself, and I believe that. My grandfather also felt this way, his donations always came from "A Friend" and no other ID was provided. I tend to do this, as well. Anonymity (or some degree of it) here helps reduce the impact of me promoting myself via 'good works'.
On the other hand, drawing attention to needs, and providing useful information about charitable works is not easily done without a reasonable voice. To a degree, I give some celebrities a pass when they promote their 'good works'. A lot depends on just how they are doing that work. If they make it about themselves and what they are doing (Ed Begley, Jr. and his incessant BS about how 'green' he is would be an example - he's wealthy, so it's easy to be 'green' and it's a means by which he can draw attention to his declining celebrity status), then I tend find their points less credible.
Continue reading "On the Nature of Charity"
Wednesday, January 20. 2021
My weekly time at the Food Bank has been very enlightening. Yesterday was different, I did something I wasn't used to doing. "Separating and stocking" it was called. Normally I pack food into boxes for shut-ins, SNAP supplement, or other family assistance. Some of that food is donated by large supermarkets or food producers, unsold stuff that hasn't quite hit expiration. Most is purchased by the bank itself, from donations. A commenter had asked where the food came from, and I have learned that a good portion is purchased, another good chunk donated.
Yesterday I learned about another big portion of it. Individual donations. When you clean out your pantry and drop it off at your local Food Bank, it goes into a bin and when there's enough volunteers like me spend hours unpacking and sorting. It's astounding, to be honest. For several reasons.
First, and I say this because we don't tend to think about it, and we mean well, but a good portion of the food donated is useless. Not the majority, but a noticeable minority of it.
To explain why, and maybe help save other volunteers time and effort, it's worth noting how the food is broken out. There are about 20 separate boxes, among them: Coffee & Tea, Cereal, Rice & Pasta, Canned Protein, Condiments, Baking Goods, Snacks, Drinks, Water, Peanut Butter, Vegetables, Fruit, Soups and Broth, and Peanut Related products. There are more, but these are the main ones.
There are at least 3 reasons I noticed for why food is tossed. First - boxed foods often are donated partially opened. Even if there is a wrapped package inside, many banks will reject the food immediately. Particularly if it includes individually wrapped packages without expiration dates on them. And that's a second reason - Expiration Dates. While a canned good dated Oct. 2, 2020 is acceptable until 2022, a boxed good with the same date is not always. It may have a 3-6 month acceptable shelf life, and if it is baby food it must not be past expiration.
These may seem somewhat questionable guidelines for food freely donated, but trust me, the artichoke hearts I picked up 3 years expired were not in the least appetizing. I may have eaten them if I'd stored them in my refirigerator at home, but realizing the nature of the situation (as my supervisor said) is such that maybe a year ago we MAY have been willing to push some limits, but right now we can't afford to.
In addition, I picked up 2 twenty pound bags of rice. Some of the rice spilled out, and I knew that bag had to go (who wants to attract rats and insects? That's the third reason...resealed boxes/bags. The first bag I threw out. The second wound up getting tossed when a supervisor noticed a hole which someone had taped over.
One other thing I learned had to do with peanuts. As you probably realize, anything that had peanuts in it, or was prepared in a facility with peanuts, was put in the "Peanut" box. What you may not realize is how much food is prepared in facilities that handle peanuts. I handled 3 different kinds of Ramen packages. The most well-known brand, Top Ramen, was a "Peanut" product. The others were Soup and Broth, but I was shocked at all the items that wound up in "Peanuts". Sometimes you just don't think much about it.
While I am always proud that we manage to prepare weekly food boxes for people, often up to 750 in a 3 hour shift, yesterday was another kind of learning experience. When I donate food in the future, I'll be sure to box it, separate it and make sure the expiration dates are acceptable. I'm sure I meant well donating a jar of olives that was 3 years past expiration, but I had no idea I was probably making someone do the work I should have done and just tossed them. Or that half open box of mac and cheese, which I taped closed, and which someone could have used. That someone being me...not someone else.
It was good knowing we sorted 524 boxes of these various foods. They are sent to local food pantries for distribution, or used in local food kitchens.
One last thing I noticed while I was there was the number of meals served each year. This past year, 2020, the number more than doubled.
Part of that was due to the ill-considered and misguided lockdowns which cost us jobs and productivity. But every year from the year it was founded, the Food Bank has seen the numbers of meals served increase. This past year may wind up being an anomaly. I hope it is. But it's worth knowing that volunteers are needed, and if you have it in you to spend a few hours a week, it's worth it. Hopefully I can convince my next employer that this is an important thing I do and get 3 hours a week to continue doing the volunteer work. I recommend it. As much as I I'd like to say I'm doing it because I ike to help people, the reality is I'm doing it for me. It makes me feel good. That's pretty much why we do most of whatever we do in life, and I'd never recommend doing it if you find it annoying or a pain in the ass. I have learned a lot, I can say that.
Sunday, January 17. 2021
Five Points is a bit of an interest of mine. We stopped there on the second Urban Hike, I've read several books about it, and I find its history a useful guide. Knowing about Five Points allows us to see how far we've come economically, spiritually, socially and politically. It is an indication of how much we've improved our lives, in a broad, general sense. When people say "things never are getting better" I remind them of Five Points. I'll mention Dickens. I'll mention the death of a president's son due to a staph infection in the 20th century (remember, a president in 1924 was getting some of the best medical care at the time). There may be some places in the U.S which are bad, but it's hard to say they are as bad as Five Points was, even in a relative sense.
It is easy to look back over periods of our life and see some things, particular to ourselves individually, and say "things are worse" while ignoring larger trends which clearly point to overall improvements. This is one reason small sample sizes should be considered, but not used as yardsticks. Many fall in for small sample sizes to 'prove' points which are often untrue.
All that said, Five Points is a wonderful place and time to learn about. The horrors of its existence, but also the great gains and learnings which took place during and after its existence are what make the U.S. a great nation. My own ancestors, the Irish, made up a good portion of the people living there. At the time, the Irish could realistically call themselves 'discriminated against' - but life was so much better than where they came from, all they focused on was moving forward. This isn't to say any discrimination should be supported or approved. Certainly not. But there are ways to recognize life is improving and getting better while also pushing back on behaviors and opinions which are misguided and drag us all down.
Having read Tyler Anbinder's excellent book, I'll recommend this virtual book talk. As I mentioned early on, some good things have come out of lockdowns. Not many, but virtual events of this and other type have been quite wonderful.
Friday, January 15. 2021
Parler being dumped by Amazon Web Services wasn't the first shot. Gab was in 2018. Gab is still around, though it is private now and subscription only. That may be the future for Parler and others like it which fill a need.
But going private isn't the only solution, there are other solutions. But private is probably bes. However, being aware and adept at meeting the Progressive/Leftist challenges to free speech is essential. I am particularly fond of The Mises Institute's approach.
This is a space in which I'm uniquely informed and aware. I've been seeing this slowly developing for years, and it's been a growing concern. I've been told for years "oh it will never get that bad" and now it really is that bad. Many said Net Neutrality was necessary because the provider of the pipes would throttle, reduce and limit ability for sites and apps to work. Ironically, the purported supporters of Net Neutrality are the very same businesses who are throttling free speech - you know, the free speech they felt Net Neutrality was required to prevent OTHERS FROM THROTTLING THEM. Except, they will argue, 'this is different'. It's not. And Net Neutrality would have given these tech oligarchs more power to do this very kind of thing.
That said, because all this has happened slowly at first, then suddenly (due to the Capitol incident), Hemingway's description of bankruptcy fits these moves restricting the freedoms on speech very well. When it's taken, unlike bankruptcy - which is usually noticeable, this is going largely unnoticed and unmentioned. Or, at least, it's being done in a manner many consider 'acceptable'. Because the main beneficiaries are the very groups doing damage to free speech - the tech oligopolists. Who know 'better than you' about how things should be done, how you should live your life, and what you can or should say.
Don't get me wrong. Tech in't bad. Social media isn't bad. It's not inherently evil. It is ambivalent to morality. But individuals themselves can be good or bad, and as a result can have overbearing and long-lasting impacts on our realities. I'm sure Gutenberg was not loved by leaders of the day and "War of the Worlds" certainly sent many scurrying to talk of the damage radio can do. TV was described as a "vast wasteland" and Bill Gates felt there was little commercial value to the internet.
What is happening now requires individual awareness and action. It does NOT require fighting or violence. Just intelligence and smart, cordial and meaningful action. The Progessives are just starting, in my view. I don't believe violence will help solve issues - it will be used to justify positions. But being louder, smarter and more aware will make a difference.
Sunday, January 10. 2021
Mrs. Bulldog and I went into the city to meet our boys for brunch and decided to visit the "new" Penn Station which is formerly the US Post Office (across the street from the "old" Penn Station and Madison Square Garden). It is designed to handle what were very crowded spaces in Penn (ugh...some nights were unbelievable, especially when trains broke down) and provide a bit of a 'link' to the past as the old Post Office's architecture and interior were somewhat similar to the original Penn Station, which was destroyed (tragically) years ago.
I have included 2 pictures. I am not impressed. The open interior, with glass ceiling that lets a ton of light in, is excellent. What was formerly an interior parking area is now the main part of the terminal. Beyond that, as Mrs. Bulldog said, "The great train halls of Europe need not worry of competition."
It is antiseptic, utilitarian and lacks a soul. Clean (though new), bright, cheery - these are all positives, but in terms of originality and whimsy, there is none. I found nothing interesting or inspiring. Where Grand Central has all kinds of angles and views to catch your eye and keep you interested, Moynihan Train Hall has none. It's boring and uninspired.
But maybe it's not supposed to be inspiring. Millions will pass through there on the average week, mostly commuters to Long Island and New Jersey. Who needs to be distracted?
Continue reading "Moynihan Train Hall"
Friday, January 8. 2021
Hopefully calm will be restored as the nation moves back toward some semblance of whatever it is we consider 'normal' for the last 9 months. I hope things continue to improve as we move out of the Covid scare and fear mongering (yes, Covid is real, I had it as have many friends, but no it's not so bad for 95% of the people who get it). If we can move past all this, my job opportunities may improve.
Then again, who knows? I know few of you are on Facebook, but I am (or was). It allowed me to reconnect with friends and family and it's a useful tool. I've also shared Maggie's articles there with my friends, and met many other people who I share interests with. I am well aware of the privacy issues, but I know how to navigate them (part of my everyday job) and manage them effectively. There is, however, one thing I can't manage. It's the real problem we're facing today. It's the reason I deactivated my Facebook recently (after letting people know how they can reach me if they want/need to).
I am aware of many HR Departments doing sweeps of social media to find things out about people. I have heard several stories of pro-Trump people losing job offers. This doesn't surprise me at all in NYC today. The shift here has been significant from not just hating Trump to full-fledged belief that anyone who supports him is a deranged psychopath. I have never been a Trump supporter, but that doesn't mean anything because I've never hated him, either. It's best to hate him with the passion of a thousand suns in order to win approval with many organizations today.
I haven't loved him, haven't hated him, I've merely tolerated him, and realized his persona was a massive problem but that he was accomplishing some good things. I was for honesty and balance of thought and reason. Today, you can't be that way. You have to be a true believer, or at least not come across as a believer of "the other side". In other words, it is almost a requirement to be Progressive to be "acceptable". Such is the nature of modern definitions of Diversity - be like us or you're not acceptable. I'm all for Diversity. Diversity of thought, and respect for other views, without accepting the enforcement of those views on others by law, social shame, or other means of behavioral modification (brainwashing via education, for example).
Continue reading "A Dose of Reality"
Wednesday, January 6. 2021
"Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusets? And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it’s motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20. years without such a rebellion. The people can not be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independant 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure."
Jefferson would have shrugged off today, much as he shrugged off Shay's Rebellion and (more or less) supported the Whiskey Rebellion (later repealing that stupid tax). He also supported the French Revolution, not for what happened, but for its original principles.
People can't always be well informed - and certainly with nonsense information spewing from not only the 'mainstream' media but also from myriad other 'sources' like Qanon - we need more than ever to look back through history and put things in perspective both ideologically and historically. Few people remember 1954 and Puerto Rican nationalists shooting up Congress. Today's events may have been wrong and lawless, but they are not at all unusual or necessarily misguided in the larger scheme of US history.
The real issue I see coming out of what's going on in DC is not what has happened. What occurred in DC is not that different from what's been going on all summer. It's not right, it's uncalled for, and it doesn't matter who you support. It's just lawless behavior and it should've been stopped in the summer - just as it should be stopped here (and I'm sure it will be). It's wrong that the media spent the whole summer telling us riots were 'peaceful' protests and didn't care about the destruction of businesses and livelihoods. That was wrong. The only thing we 'lost' here was a few hours and a slowdown to the certification.
As a result, the credibility of our journalists has reached a new low. Today was wrong - we cannot pretend that this kind of behavior is acceptable regardless of who we want in office. But we've been told all summer that rioting is fine. It just matters what you're rioting 'for', I guess.
The REAL problem, as I see it, is that finally the politicians have a taste of what they've wrought...and they will use it to insulate themselves further from the people. And that will be a very bad situation. These politicians have outsourced their riots to other cities for years. They've never felt the wrath of the people. Now that they have, they are blaming the people for the problems they, the politicians, have created. You can be sure they will find ways to continue to distance themselves from us rather than realizing this is just the start of the people demanding our PUBLIC SERVANTS act like what they are, rather than acting as our overlords.
Saturday, January 2. 2021
I don't support vandalizing anything, or anyone's property. But in this case, it's hard to deny that Nancy didn't somehow get what she deserved. Pelosi's apologist position, promotion of leftist causes, and general lack of interest in pushing back against the extremes of her own misguided ideology have repercussions, and if there is anything which is true in life, it's that leftists eat their own faster than they destroy their enemies.
Maybe I'm jumping the gun, but 'Cancel Rent' and 'We Want Everything' (presumed to be about stimulus checks, though I think it is more than that), are not what I'd expect to see from right-wing protests. I'm sure the media will spin it that way, somehow, because the Left is never dangerous or wrong when modern media analysis is engaged.
It's too bad she didn't see this coming. But I did believe a Biden win would embolden the Left to become more aggressive and violent, and that still seems to be true.
I'm sorry Nancy has to learn the hard way. Destroying property is always wrong. But she's done her fair share of damaging property throughout her tenure...but has done it 'legally'.
Friday, January 1. 2021
All our lives have been impacted. All our lives have changed.
Some more than others. But the most annoying and problematic part is economically. The US was a nation of small businesses. It may be again, but not nearly to the degree we were prior to Covid. The main outcome of the lockdowns and distancing is that larger firms have benefited.
When this started, and people commented how lockdowns would kill businesses (and, as I pointed out, hurt landlords and even renters, depending on legislation in your given state or locality), I read mocking articles, and heard statements from pundits which put forth a concept: "Isn't Capitalism about entrepreneurship, ingenuity and risk-taking? Won't these all come back, what are you worried about?" These were designed to taunt believers in Capitalism and push a misleading agenda of Leftist/Progressive economic thought.
Continue reading "How Our Lives Have Changed"
Thursday, December 31. 2020
I literally read all the comments, which came to 76 (not counting my own, and a few other, comments which were not specifically about work).
Everyone had very different specific circumstances and jobs, or 'jobs' as the case may be, but what interested me is that few seemed to be mentioned in a grudging or unsatisfied/disappointed manner. My own comment to Mrs. Bulldog was that I remember my first job fondly because of the odd circumstances which led to me getting it, but also because I remember little else about that summer, and the work itself only lasted the month of August. But we had our own room at the resort if we wanted to spend the night, and we could use the pool as long as we didn't annoy guests and were respectful.
It was also the first summer where I really learned about music and girls, which had previously never been primary interests. Girls and music do seem to go together pretty well. The girls at the resort were impressed that we had money, and that we worked. The parents still couldn't know we were interested in them, though.
Commenters mentioned roofing (something I did on a few holidays), picking fruit or vegetables (which I had to do in my mom's garden), babysitting (which I did, too), paper routes, flipping burgers, and a variety of other things which I have less experience in.
It's my view that if people let their work define them, it becomes a limiting factor. If our work is just part of who we are, we control our outcomes. We can choose to be what we want and who we want. I see a lot of that in our comments. We've all done many things and each seems to have mostly good memories of what has been done. I can only think that the young people today who complain, protest and make demands simply have not worked hard enough to know that you're happier when you produce rather than when you demand things.
Tuesday, December 29. 2020
I took a survey today about working, and first jobs. One question asked the age of your first job:
Prior to 15
Once I started working, I never stopped. I had a job every summer, sometimes during school, always on breaks or holidays (ski resorts needed lift operator assistants during these periods) afterward. I'd sometimes offer to work off the books and under minimum wage if it meant I could get the work. I know I got most of the tax money back since I was a student, but that never bothered me. Money in the pocket beats waiting for it after April.
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 17:24 | Comments (86) | Trackbacks (0)
Sunday, December 27. 2020
I contracted Covid back in March. 2 weeks of coughing and headaches, no fever, and a general haziness for about 2 months afterward. I'm fine now, no long-term issues to speak of. I am heading in for some medical checkups since my insurance is ending soon. If you're over 50 and understand the prep process, you know what I'm talking about. At any rate, the doctors had me take a Covid test last week as a precautionary measure. It's a smart move, and of course I came up negative.
Thing is, I was visiting friends last night, and a few other people stopped in. We wound up spending a few hours together. This morning, one sent us a text telling us he'd awakened with a fever. Later he texted that he'd been tested and came up positive.
Most of the people there last night already had Covid, so we're fairly confident we should be in good shape. We'd all been tested and had the antibodies. There are no guarantees, but I'm fairly confident most of us will be fine. There wasn't a ton of interaction, touching and no coughing. But we were indoors, and Mrs. Bulldog has not had Covid yet. So she will go get tested in a few days. Meanwhile, we will quarantine for a few days...
Except I have that procedure on Tuesday morning. So I shot them a note to let them know, and will follow whatever measures they ask me to engage.
This is how things should be handled. Rather than locking down, we can take steps to manage ourselves properly. Lockdowns haven't stopped the spread, they've merely created a false impression that viral outbreaks can be 'stopped' or 'prevented' with policy. Except the policies haven't stopped anything, and often have only led to worse overall situations.
Saturday, December 26. 2020
Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? My son says no. I say yes. My brother says yes, the director John McTiernan says yes, and a host of others say no.
Others play Solomon and split the baby. It's not a movie with a Christmas theme, but does include the element of Christmas. So, "no, but..."
Another way of looking at this is to ask if there was a message regarding "the system" in Die Hard. It was based on a book which was clearly anti-capitalist in nature, and McTiernan states it was supposed to be anti-capitalist. Frankly, I think he lost on that score. The proletarian nods don't really add up well. Capitalism had been so successful in providing more for all that by the time the movie was made some of the items he felt delineated 'wealth and privilege' from 'working class' were no longer meaningful. They are even less so today (assuming our economy had not been locked down, which has only exacerbated some of the divisions of wealth which were barely noticeable before).
That said, the most noticiable delineations of class today are not wealth-related, but power related as our "leaders" lock us down and lecture us on how to behave, only to go do the exact opposite things which they suggest we do. The real 'class warfare' today is power vs. the lack of it, not whether one has more money than someone else. Of course, that was always the nature of 'class warfare', but Leftists love to obscure that fact with a veneer of basic economic BS that only people with common sense can see through. McTiernan, therefore, fails miserably in his goal of making a legitimate anti-capitalist story. Mainly because there is no legitimate anti-capitalist story to be made. Unless you are a "trained Marxist" and know how to create one out of whole cloth. (For what it's worth, the term "trained Marxist" always made me laugh. I studied Economics at The New School, which tried very hard to push the Marxist agenda, and I read quite a bit of Marx, Hobsbawm, Gordon and a host of other Marxist garbage. So I'm a "trained Marxist" and one of the things every single Marxist professor said was "Marx left no blueprint, only an idea with no path forward and no clear goal except revolution." That's why Marxism and Leftist thought is such utter BS. Unlike Classical, Neo-Classical, Monetarist or even Austrian schools of thought, Marxism is just an idea and not a fully-formed one, but full of childish and misleading binary concepts. Though I will credit Marx with completely shifting the study of History in a very meaningful and useful fashion.)
At any rate, to me Die Hard is very much a Christmas movie and very much a pro-capitalist one. After all, Hans Gruber himself, like so many Marxists before him, only cared about the power he was managing (his gang) and the money he was trying to collect, and was utilizing a facade to perpetrate his crime...you know, like BLM and Antifa today. These movements are cargo cults, full of images that seem to 'make sense' but cannot ever effectively achieve the goals they have set for themselves because they are inclined only toward one thing. Perpetual Revolution.
Friday, December 25. 2020
The USS George Washington handles Christmas well.
Merry Christmas to all! As a contributor thank you all for the kind wishes of a Merry Christmas (it was - I got 2 bottles of whiskey, a book on bourbon, some honey roasted macadamia nuts, a gift card for a massage and a flying lesson) that you left on on BD's card.
But the real gifts are those I've seen here - the caring and love which I believe are natural gifts of our audience. Despite claims by some in our nation that our 'system encourages' greed, hatred, selfishness and a host of other issues, I mainly see kindness, love and charity from all of you. It may not disprove the claims of those who want to undermine our system and way of life - but I know all of us will continue to speak out for truth and fight for what is right and what is ours.
I'd like to personally thank Bird Dog for inviting me to start writing years ago. My first "post" was on Sept 22, 2011 - actually it was an essay that Bird Dog posted on one of my favorite topics, Economics. So this will be my 10th year writing for Maggie's. I'd also like to thank Dr. Mercury, who has come and gone a few times over the years, and I hope he is well - out there somewhere. He encouraged me to write after I'd posted some comments to a few of his posts, gave me writing advice, and made the intro to Bird Dog, for which I am eternally grateful.
Without Maggie's, I wonder if Mrs. Bulldog and I would be doing as much hiking as we are now. That all stemmed from our Urban Hikes - sadly missed in 2020 - which I have come to look forward to every year. I love meeting our readers and sharing time with them, getting to know them. Hope we meet more this year (hopefully we can begin hike planning soon).
What I like most is that our readers are inquisitive, interesting, and independent. We don't always agree on everything, and that's OK. Who wants to be the same as everyone else?
I'll share an email I sent to a large number of former co-workers who I respect and will miss going into the new year. I think it's a nice mix of realism and optimism. Hopefully you will share these thoughts, too. Mrs. Bulldog and I wish you only glad tidings:
Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Boxing Day, Festivus or nothing at all, it is the holiday season and I hope you have an enjoyable time with your friends or, more likely given the times, your family...more to the point, your nuclear family. It's been a strange and wild year in many respects but the prospects for the new year are always good. We entered 2020 with bright eyes and bushy tails and soon found the tails singed and eyes blinded a bit, but we've worked our way through it all and it's time to latch on to new cliches for 2021.
No lights at the end of a tunnel, no dawning of a new day. Just optimism that we can leave 2020 behind and take the best parts of it forward with us.
Have a great holiday season. All the best.
Thursday, December 24. 2020
Wednesday, December 23. 2020
Friends of mine have barraged me with commentary on the "disaster" that Florida is, particularly with regard to Covid. Anecdotally, I was told urban (and this seems to confirm) ICUs typically range from 55-80% full at any given time, depending on seasonality. The current occupancy rates, in some places, are in the 90s, so while that is very high, it's worth noting ICUs are usually very full. The real concern is the ability to expand, as needed. I believe, based on the response in April, this is something our system can handle fairly effectively. I'm not being too relaxed or naive. I'm not diminishing or putting down the efforts of our medical personnel. I am applauding them for their efforts, their hours, their professionalism, and creativity as they have found many solutions and treatments along the way to help mitigate and ease many of these issues. That is the beauty of not only our medical system, but our overall economic system. Flexibility and ingenuity.
Our friend the Manhattan Contrarian has presented his excellent piece on why Florida has made New York look silly and misguided in the midst of all this.
I doubt the media will present the story as MC has. I applaud our friend MC for presenting the facts. After all, he lives near the center of the echo chamber.
I'll toss in one more point of comparison - New Jersey, which like NY has similar governance, though a much smaller population (8.9mm) than Florida (21.5mm) and New York (19.5mm). Covid cases have reached 440k in NJ, about in line with where Florida is as a percentage, but it has almost 19k deaths - similar to Florida (older and with a larger population). Comparatively speaking, New York City alone has roughly the same population as New Jersey, but has had roughly the same number of cases as New Jersday (390k) and more deaths (24k).
"Follow the science" is a real thing, but not the way Progressives present it. For them, it's really "Follow the politics, which pretends to be science."
It's getting worse.
Over the years, California has proved itself incapable of managing such basic things as water or even electricity. The misguided desires to centrally plan everything, and overtax people to do it, will kill the state. This is a given.
California has succumbed to politicians' worst instincts and is not only taxing people to death, but chasing business away, and enforcing social ideas that are (to put it mildly) out of touch with humanity and reality. It should not be surprising that so many people are leaving for places like Texas, Montana or several other states which are outside the deep blue Progressive belt of shame.
Cali, which I used to visit regularly for business, is nice. I'd consider living there...at one point in time. Not so much now.
Monday, December 21. 2020
Sunday, December 20. 2020
Last week I spent some time working as a volunteer at the local Food Bank. I figure I'll put my time to good use and help others, and so I've been signing up to volunteer there. I was amazed at what I did, and how it was set up.
What struck me are how priniciples of good business and manufacture can be utilized for more than just businesses and provide great value. The gains and innovations that come from free enterprise are useful and widespread - and it's not just about making a profit, it's about being efficient. Efficiency - that's where the value is. Adam Smith noted this in his writings over 250 years ago, as he talked about the division of labor and how valuable it was (his pin factory description comes to mind).
When modern Wokesters discuss the gains of our economy they diminish and degrade all aspects of capitalism, right down to free enterprise and division of labor. The division of labor is at times described as 'mind-numbing' and 'unfulfilling'. They love to talk about the 'dignity of labor', and yes working is dignified. But from their perspective the 'dignity' is in doing ALL the tasks required to reach an end result. Yet here I was at the Food Bank utilizing this division to help people in a big way, and feeling very fulfilled in doing my small, 'mind-numbing' role.
We have boxes of food stacked behind an assembly line - cans of tuna, boxes of mac and cheese mix, cans of fruit, pancake mix, etc. As our team arrived, we positioned ourselves between the boxes and the assembly line. First person in line took an empty box, put some food items in, passed it on to the next person who put in one or two items, all the way to the end where the last person put in a flyer with information on SNAP, taped it shut, and stacked it on a pallet that was then lifted and loaded to a truck when it was filled. I personally handled putting 3 items into each box, and noticed that others struggled to open the food boxes.
I saw some box cutters nearby, grabbed them and during down moments ran from stack to stack ripping them open so the process wouldn't slow too much. After 3 hours our team of 6 had assembled almost 700 boxes of food - a week's worth of food for 700 families.
3 hours of work doing, basically, one thing - loading 3 cans/boxes of food out of one box into another box. If I had to do this on my own, I calculated that maybe it would have produced about 20 boxes an hour or 60 total per person. We'd have had to open all the boxes ourselves, shift the food, make sure the right quantities of each were added, put in a flyer and then tape it shut. Maybe 30 per hour or 90 boxes over 3 hours. At what may have been our extreme best efforts alone, we'd have completed 540 boxes. As a team, as an assembly line doing 'mind-numbing' and 'unfulfilling' work, we may have fed almost 160 more families.
Leftists would claim their worldview applied 'properly' would eliminate the need for Food Banks. Of course, history has proved them wrong many times and they are simply ignorant of this fact. My experience says that the surpluses of capitalism and free enterprise - donated to the Food Bank, which we were repacking (some of it was name brand foods!) - more than supplements the presumed shortcomings of the free enterprise system. Could we do more? Certainly we always can do more.
But for me it was a lesson in good business practice and economics, and one I truly enjoyed.
As a side note, the woman working next to me was a younger Hispanic woman who was very chatty. She obviously volunteered often, as she knew many of the full time workers on the forklifts. She told them she'd lost 150 pounds. I looked at her with surprise. She replied "I'm 5'4" and have 3 kids and I'm a single mother. The weight was killing me, so I chose to lose it. And I did." I congratulated her and asked what she did for a living. She replied "I run my own trucking company out of my house, I have 5 trucks and if I need to drive I will, but I've got full time workers now. I also help others in my neighborhood sell their crafts online." I was surprised and said "You still have time to volunteer here?" She said "I'm a workaholic, what can I say? I have to keep moving."
I was very impressed with her motivation and generosity. People like her make our nation great. They are the best of us. I don't see anyone in Washington who could match her in terms of tenacity, willpower, desire and a generally good nature. An inspiring story as I prepare for the new year.
Friday, December 11. 2020
h/t to Cafe Hayek
Thursday, December 10. 2020
One of the weird things about a layoff is extraction. I have a long runway before I'm actually no longer with the company. I'm still working, mainly with the people who I have to complete projects with or transition those projects to. I'm never a fan of companies that show people the door the minute they are let go, unless it is for cause or if that person works in a particularly sensitive area. Giving people time allows them to prepare, and help the people they are leaving prepare. It's easy to be bitter and say "I'm giving them nothing" but that's counterproductive. Best to leave on a high note and focus on the future.
In the meantime, I'm not really working as much as I had been. I was literally told I can do whatever I want and handle it all as I see fit. So I'm doing what's right for myself while doing what's right for the people I worked with and respect.
Continue reading "Winding Down"
Monday, December 7. 2020
Over the last few months, I've been posting less than I have in the past. There have been a variety of reasons for this, but the primary one is the work-from-home environment is a difficult one for what I do. I could delve into the details of the last 9 months, but it's not worthwhile. Let it suffice to say it's been a slog, and getting covid in April didn't help.
My job simply became exponentially more difficult. One would think work-from-home would improve things. I thought it may, and in some ways it did. But mostly it made my job more of a job. Much of what I do requires interacting with people, getting responses, creating policy and making sure that information is shared properly. Zoom, Slack, texts, - these tools don't make up for walking into an office and having a conversation. Not to mention, the primary thing work-from-home has done is to increase the number of meetings everyone has, so free time to chat is rare. I found myself working earlier in the morning and later in the evening. My 24/7 job became 24/7.
Despite this, I felt good. Early complications eventually led to a point where things were starting to make sense again, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. All that ended last week when I became part of a company-wide layoff due to covid. I know this is a happy holidays wish. Bear with me. I'll get to that
I'm just one of millions without a job. But there are so many others without so much more. I'm just a statistic.
A good friend of mine died of pancreatic cancer 2 months ago. His family is working, they were prepared and well-enough off, but they will be spending their first Christmas without their father/husband/brother/son. He was the most optimistic person I knew, even as the end approached, he had a smile and kind word for everyone. I'm sure he was scared, but he did not show that side to anyone. I choose to honor his legacy by being more like him in that regard. I have worked hard to keep the smile on and be positive. The stories of his final days were so uplifting, but so in character for him. While the sense of loss is great, in some ways that may have prepared me for what was to come. In a good way.
Another close friend lost his son. He died recently due to a drug overdose. The story, as in other cases like this, is long, complex and fraught with ups and downs. Mrs. Bulldog lost her brother 22 years ago before the holidays and while it's never easy to lose someone close, the holidays amplify the sense of loss. I have spoken with my friend and was pleased to hear how well he was doing. He is working. He is positive about his and his family's future. While the loss is still unreal to him, he remains committed to creating something positive. My friends and I are also doing some other things so we can leave a legacy of hope and solace in his son's name.
Long before I lost my job I'd say to anyone I spoke with that I have a feeling something really good is going to happen. The loss of the job isn't it, though one could probably make a case for it being a happy situation. I know something better is right around the corner. I have prospects, I have resources. So my loss, unlike millions of others through this covid disaster, is not completely unfortunate. There are so many others worse off. Mine are first world problems. I'll constantly remind myself of this, and keep looking out for others, and helping where I can. We all need a little bit of George Bailey in us.
Giving to the food bank, a kind word, a helping hand, whatever is needed. We tend to do these during the holiday season. That's not the only time we should. I told my friend that after his son's death I called my boys to tell them I loved them. Like holiday giving, these are not one-time things. These are things we need to do more often. But reminders are useful and provide kickstarts when we forget, fall behind, or get distracted.
In spite of my 'bad' news, I'm keeping things in perspective and realizing I have it pretty good. It's been a rough year, a strange year, but I'm convinced better times are ahead. Optimism is a force multiplier. Look out for those who need assistance, and do what we can for them. I hope all of you are doing well and have a great holiday and that 2021 is a prosperous one for all of you and your families.
2021 can, and will, be a year of peace and renewed prosperity if we choose it to be so.
Sunday, December 6. 2020