"When properly administered, vacations do not diminish productivity: for every week you're away and get nothing done, there's another when your boss is away and you get twice as much done." -- Daniel B. Luten

Random Thoughts

These United States

I'm now old enough to almost qualify as an old fart. Old enough to remember (dimly) the days when the Cold War was really scary and we all expected a nuclear war with the Soviets. Old enough to remember "The Sixties" very well, and to have participated to the extent I could as a young teen. So what do I think of these here United States? I think we're losing our minds, that's what. Since the election of the now-sainted Ronald Reagan in 1980, we've spent most of our time pursuing fantasies of one sort or another, often while doing really terrible and/or stupid things (for example, paying Guatemalan death squads to kill nuns). And always while making the rich richer and the powerful more powerful -- to a howling chorus of assent from the poor dopes who are getting screwed the worst.

The America of my childhood had many faults, but from the end of WW II to about 1970, it really did seem like the country was run for the middle class, and even the upper reaches of the working class. And if you kept your nose clean, worked hard, and had a modicum of luck, you would do fine. I graduated from high school the year things really started to go down the toilet with the first oil embargo, and I have to say that my life has been a crap shoot. The kind of career my father had, 37 years with one company followed by a comfortable retirement, seems all but impossible. I frankly don't know how I'll ever retire, since I pretty much lived in what most people in the US would consider poverty until well into middle age and have never worked a day at an employer with a pension plan.

There has been almost nothing too absurd to be believed in the United States for the last generation. My favorite, I think, is still that the Soviets were going to invade the United States through Mexico, as featured in the film "Red Dawn" But take your pick. They will greet us as liberators. The inheritance tax is the same as the Holocaust. NAFTA will bring prosperity to Mexico and jobs to the United States. Ketchup is a vegetable.

Yeah, as an old sorta hippy, I would say this, but certainly one of the things you can trace it back to is the Vietnam War (which was both a symptom and a cause of our losing touch with reality). In retrospect, the famous Domino Theory was one of the least idiotic of all the idiotic ideas we've embraced in the last 40 years. Coulda happened, I suppose. All of SE Asia coulda gone commie, although I'm not sure how much of a difference it would have made in the end except to people living there.

It sometimes seems like that conflict set off our current war between what one of GW's aides scornfully called "the reality-based community" and those who think that reality is whatever they say it is ("Paging King Canute!"). You would think that the way the Vietnam War turned out would have proved the long-haired weirdos right and moved the country in that direction. But instead, it seemed to provoke the opposite reaction. Back towards John Wayne manliness (never mind that both Wayne and Reagan spent WW II in Hollywood) and a major revival of America's always lurking anti-intellectualism.

I think much of the rhetoric we've seen on the right in the last generation is quite sincere (if sometimes quite mad). But I also think it's no coincidence that as the Right became the dominant force in America after 1980, we've gone more and more towards the model of the Gilded Age of the late 1800s. Risk has been shifted from the rich to the rest of us and rewards have gone increasingly to those at the very top of the pyramid. Consider the recently deposed CEO of Home Depot, who was basically fired for doing a really crappy job even by the most narrow economic definition (the stock price declined consistently throughout his reign). What did he get? A pink slip and a $250 million dollar settlement. A quarter of a billion. A dynastic fortune in return for screwing up. Some day 100 years from now, some trustafarian will be soaking up the sun on some exotic beach somewhere thinking "Boy, I never have to work because my great-grandfather got fired from Home Depot!"

Ain't that some shit?

As I write this in June, 2007, it seems to have occured to the 70% of the country who are not irreversably insane that maybe reality isn't whatever some fake cowboy from Connecticut says it is. But we sure have spent a very long time wallowing in complete bullshit, and I imagine it will be a while before we can wallow our way out of it, if we ever do. And by then, the cheap oil will be running out, and that's a whole nother story...

And then there's this.
Last Updated July 11, 2007