On the Value of Hard Work

Yesterday, I encountered this image:



So, recently I earned a Bachelors of Science in Nursing. I didn’t have any scholarships this time. I took out student loans which I plan to pay off as quickly as possible. I wasn’t living with my parents, who have regrettably both passed. I worked my butt off for this degree. I put in long hours studying. I earned it fair and square.

Moreover, I got up off my butt and attended a job fair right before classes ended. I made the effort to dress for a potential job interview, took copies of my resume, and came home with a job offer. That’s right, my job was lined up before I even finished. Hard work paid off, right? Of course it did.

And while this is all true, it ignores certain things that are luck. I had the good luck to notice an ad on Facebook for that job fair, and more good luck that my employer was considering new grads that day. I am lucky enough to live in a city that has multiple accredited nursing programs. Through a combination of luck and work, I actually was accepted into two different programs. If I lived in a small town, I might have had to relocate to get into a nursing school. If I lived in California, I might have had more competition for a seat, and may have had to get on a long waiting list.

Those problems are relatively easy to overcome, sure. Just a little extra hard work, a little extra money, maybe a little extra time.

I am further lucky that I read and write well in English. Sure, learned skills. It turns out that I was lucky enough to be born into a middle class household in a middle class suburb that had good enough schools. My road to this place would have been more difficult had I been born into poverty, living in an inner-city neighborhood with a crappy school system. A matter of a few dollars and a few miles changed the potential course of my life.

And frankly, I was lucky enough to be born in the United States. There would be no road to where I am had I been born, for example, in Afghanistan. My educational and career opportunities in such a place would have been sharply limited.

Sociologists have a term for these little turns of luck: “life chances.” While hard work is very important, sometimes it is overwhelmed by circumstances.

Or, to put things very simply, there’s a very famous little girl named North West. It is very unlikely she will ever want for money. Hard work, or lucky enough to be born to the right family?

In Closing: Happy Thoughts of Peace for Munich; Glenn Greenwald; the TSA could use some house cleaning; yes, obesity is bad; drug tests; how sad that we need a law to enforce common sense; teen abortion; cop killers (thanks, Mikey!); unpaid internships are a bigger scam than I thought; time to rethink the War on Terror; pet adoption; senseless violence. Have a peaceful weekend, folks. It’s crazy out there.

The Shorties on the Train

What do Dave Johnson and Donald Trump have in common?: Both agree that we have infrastructure that needs to be fixed. But I’m not hearing mainline Democrats or Republicans joining in. It’s not a brave political statement to say “Maybe we could put some people to work fixing some roads.”

Speaking of American Politics: I’m not the only one who noticed it’s crazy out there. Hillary has her share of foot-in-mouth disease. And Bernie is closer to the true center — the one that wants decent jobs and affordable healthcare — than anybody in the establishment wants to admit (which is why Trump is more welcoming to Sanders followers than Hillary; see the speech text above).

The Noose Gets Tighter: The Senate failed by ONE VOTE to pass a law allowing the FBI to look at your browser history for funzies. Remember come November. Meanwhile, US Customs wants to know the social media accounts of people entering the country. Because no terrorist is smart enough to say “no I don’t have Twitter” or give a username more generic than the one they use to keep up with the latest ISIS jihabi memes. Meanwhile, the TSA is still pushing their “get out of the security line free” card as a way to shorten lines at the airport. One user gave the ringing endorsement of “not so hard as signing up for Obamacare.”

Free Electronic Music: Moby wrote himself some yoga and meditation music. He decided to share. Very nice of him.

Not sure what to say about Brexit: So here’s one of the more intelligent things I’ve read on the issue.

Obligatory Economy Item: Wages have been stagnant for over 40 years when adjusted for inflation. Maybe some of these ideas could help. Oh, and don’t let anybody scare you about Social Security. Forbes is hardly a “liberal rag,” and they say that the latest scaremongering is way overblown.

I believe

I believe that both political parties have lost their minds. They’re both so far out of touch with what their voters want and need that they may as well run the country from Mars.

I believe that the no-fly list as it exists today — with many ways on, no clear way to get off if there’s an error and no accountability — is a dumb idea exceeded only by PreCheck. PreCheck is proof that the whole process is Security Theatre, and that some people are willing to pay for convenience. It assumes that nobody ever hides radical tendencies, nobody ever becomes a Bad Guy, nobody ever goes crazy, and certainly nobody ever has their identity stolen. Oh yeah, and the current long airport security lines? They may well be designed to manipulate you into paying.

I believe that making the no-fly list into a no-gun list is also stupid. Funny how nobody suggested the idea until we had some Muslim mass shooters. The problem is that none of them were actually on the list. In fact, this last asshat was actually removed from the watchlist. Twice. Yet now sensible ideas such as universal background checks are being conflated with this bad idea.

I believe that the Second Amendment — along with the rest of the Bill of Rights — was written by men who overthrew the legal government.

I believe that, since it costs 18 times as much as life in prison (not just a little bit more, but 18 times more!) and there’s the possibility of making a mistake, there is no reason to support the death penalty. Conservatives should oppose it on fiscal grounds. Liberals should oppose it on fairness grounds. The end.

I believe that Obamacare is neither as good nor as bad as everybody says. I further believe it could be greatly improved by allowing people to buy in to Medicare: a public option that means I don’t have to enrich for-profit insurance companies to follow the law.

I believe that a social safety net is a good thing. Don’t believe it? You don’t even need to read Les Miserables to understand how that works, you can now watch it.

I believe immigration is hopelessly messed up in this nation. That is partly due to quotas, which are both artificially low and outright discriminatory against people who are not white and English speaking. Illegals need to “go to the back of the line“? That line is something like 17 years long. Talk about a sick joke.

I believe that America’s largest employers, including and especially the military, deserve to know that any high school graduate from any school in the United States has certain skills in reading, writing, and math. However, I believe that Common Core is not that standard.

I believe in school choice. I also believe that taxpayers should not pay for your choice if it is not a public school. And as many rules as get forced down as a condition of receiving funds? Parents should not want money that could have strings attached later.

I believe it’s entirely possible that I’ve become so liberal that I’ve come around the other side of the spectrum and somehow become conservative. In fact, I actually agreed with Glenn Reynolds about something. I suppose there’s a first time for everything.

Pride and Prejudice and Shorties


My tabs are getting out of hand. Apologies for the sparse postings. Studying is seriously impeding my ability to goof off!

On the GOP: Be Afraid! And a few words on poverty.

On why making the No Fly List also a No Gun List is really a bad idea:  It’s absurdly easy to be put on the list, even if you aren’t even in preschool yet. There’s no due process to get off it. And exactly how many mass shootings have been committed by people who were already on the list? Judging from media coverage, I’d say that number must be very close to zero.

Dumbing Down: Even Sesame Street is dumbing down America and making us feel less safe.

What you should really be afraid of: Unexpected expenses: 63% of us are in deep financial doodoo if the transmission dies, the water heater springs a leak, or some other $500 expense pops up.

Another unfortunately rational fear: Death by law enforcement.

Close with something cheerful: Vegas and Sledge Hammer!

Tilting at Windmills

Today’s 2016 Election news — and remember, despite the clown car of candidates, the actual election is still over a year away — is perhaps the only time that Jim Webb will be the top story. He’s dropping out of the race. The next part is just bizarre. Reuters put this best:

Former U.S. Senator Jim Webb said on Tuesday he will drop his long-shot bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination and explore an independent run for the White House.

Yeah. Low in the polls, but he claims that’s because Anderson Cooper is a big meanie who let Hillary talk twice as long as him. So even though by his own admission independents don’t win, he thinks he’s got a shot.

Maybe he should invest in lottery tickets instead. They’re a better bet.

In Closing: Love this guy’s art; it’s in the stars; Bronies are now apparently a subject of scholarly research; at the very least, taxpayers should not be funding unsafe activities for children; I still think PreCheck is a bad idea if the TSA is really trying to stop terrorists (and a brilliant one if they are really trying to control the masses); on the economy; oops! and pizza alternatives — most can be made vegetarian, a few can probably be done vegan, some can be done gluten free.

The Atticus Shorties

Indiana: Taken to absurdity (as if it weren’t already there).

Won’t Somebody Think of the Children: testing, 1, 2, 3….

Things People Say: to women.

I bet I know a way to create some jobs: repair some bridges.

Sobering Statistic: On average, 3 people were killed every day in March — by police.

Aw, you know I wouldn’t skip this part: a few choice NSA and privacy links for you, and one bonus TSA item.

Both ends of the spectrum: top and bottom.

A few choice words: on Christianity. Bonus track from the Pope.

I Don’t Know How I’ve Overlooked This: Sandwich Monday.

And Let’s Finish with Vegas under a Full Moon: Enjoy.

Music Monday: Oh Yeesus.

In Closing: a few words on mass surveillance and encryption; a record warm temperature; antibiotics; an interesting idea (hell, I’d be happy to go back to plain old fashioned metal detectors and no effing Pre-Check); the truth about the Estate Tax and why George W Bush couldn’t find a single widow who lost the family business to pay it to sit in the balcony at the State of the Union Address in 8 years; and some cool places to visit.

About Time

For the longest time, it seemed like the only person truly trying to bring attention to the flaming bag of feces on America’s doorstep known as the Trans Pacific Partnership was Dave Johnson. Thank [deity] he’s so tenacious. Well, now he’s getting some traction. Here’s from today’s New York Times:

Under the accord, still under negotiation but nearing completion, companies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings — federal, state or local — before tribunals organized under the World Bank or the United Nations.

Let me translate that for you: a company doesn’t like a law. They can sue the city/county/state that made the law in a UN Tribunal! While the feds or a state might have the funds to fight that, your city or county is effectively bullied into compliance with corporate demands. Say goodbye to environmental regulations, fracking bans, efforts to curb corporate abuses. Kneel before your corporate overlords!

Yeah, I’m not a fan of the NYT’s 10-hits-per-month thing either. But I’m glad that a Serious News Source is pointing out reality.

In Closing: not sure how many of us have the patience to make rice this way; zombies and you; “His life story is so ridiculous that if they made a movie about it, nobody would believe it is true”; while I don’t agree with all of it, I have to admit that it works (and would work so much better with a public option!); one meeelion people have “get out of the security line free” cards (that’s one out of every 320 people in our nation, the rest of us better bathe and watch how we yawn!); the Supreme Court had to say “um yeah, you should follow the law.”

Not So Simple

So, just to make sure you’re up to speed before we get rolling. Uber put together service in Nevada arguing that they’re just a technology service that happens to connect consumers to people who are willing to drive them in private cars for a fee but they’re so not a taxi service. It looks like a duck and quacks like a duck but somehow it isn’t a duck. Nevada courts said “What you’re doing is illegal. Stop it!” Some days later Uber said “Ok fine, we’ll stop breaking the law but we’ll bury you under a petition until you let us do whatever we want, bwahahahaha!”

Since then, Uber has had a couple of little assault problems in other states, which is unfortunately nothing new. In one country, Uber has decided they don’t give a darn about being banned. Yeah, way to show how much you want to follow the law by simply ignoring it.

Got that? Ok.

Today the Review Journal published an article that begins by saying all Nevada has to do is copy-paste some other state’s laws to make it all good. Later down, concessions are made that yeah, we kinda have to address the public safety issues. And sorry, the safety issues do go beyond what kind of insurance they are required to have and what kind of background checks drivers need. Keep in mind that Nevada requires background checks and fingerprints on hand for a whole bunch of professions (including real estate agents and casino workers), so I’m one of the people who thinks its reasonable for Uber drivers to give them up too. Most of the coverage I have seen doesn’t mention that in Nevada, taxi drivers have commercial drivers licenses and have to pass a DOT physical every couple of years. Further, taxis get regular professional maintenance, which is something you can’t count on from one of the independent contractors using private cars for Uber.

So the short version is that the  only easy fix is for Uber to follow the same rules that taxi companies currently follow in Nevada. Anyone who believes otherwise doesn’t understand the problem (or doesn’t want to).

In Closing: Tardigrade; “Nobody’s paying attention anymore? Good! Scrap the plans to scale back mass surveillance”; translating Joni Ernst.

Bad Habits: Firearms Edition

So, 2014 set a shameful record: most guns in carry-on bags seized by the TSA. Worse yet, over 80% of them were loaded. No shock that the rootinest-tootinest gun-totinest airports were DFW, Atlanta, and Sky Harbor. Not because they’re kinda southernish, but rather because they are big hub airports. For the record, it appears that there were 30 guns found at Vegas’s McCarran Airport, 9 unloaded and 21 loaded. It is unknown/unknowable how many weapons might have been missed by the TSA.

Now, who are these people who forget they’ve got a loaded gun in their carry-on bag? It’s not like guns not being allowed on airplanes is a new thing and people are just forgetting they have to check them now. It’s been the rule as long as I can remember, and I remember when Madonna was a hot new artist.

So if you’re in the habit of carrying a firearm, please do yourself and everybody else a favor: make sure it is secure so that it can’t be accidentally discharged, and lock it up at home before heading to the airport.

In Closing: Starbucks; Measles has arrived in Vegas; minimum wage and racism; cats in glasses; and perspective.