Friday, September 30, 2005

Prevailing wage

Pres. Bush has suspended the Davis-Bacon Act for the Gulf Coast devasted by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This means contractors will not have to pay prevailing wages to their workers. Kirk Pickerel, guest columnist for the AJC, who happens to be president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contactors Inc., points out that "the hardest-hit communities have little familiarity with federal prevailing wage laws, like Davis-Bacon, because they have enacted no similar state laws. Louisiana, Missiissippi and Alabama are among 20 states that have cosen not to have state prevailing wage laws..."

Wow, what a recommendation! Three of the poorest states in the nation don't have prevailing wage laws. Surely the rest of the nation should follow suit, so their economies can have the same obviously helpful benefits. I can see why Mr. Pickerel thinks suspending this rule is wonderful. It is because he is such a wonderful humanitarian that he wants to make sure the illegal immigrants who were left homeless and jobless by the hurricanes get work. It has nothing to do with the opportunity he will have to make windfall profits out of other people's misery. (This is sarcasm, for those who are sarcasm-impaired.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Short memory?

I never stop being amazed by my fellow humans.

Hurricane Katrina devasted a large portion of the Gulf Coast, including New Orleans, just a few weeks ago. I has been pointed out that the destructiveness of the hurricane was greatly increased because of the degradation of wet lands, marshes, barrier islands, and shore lands which used to serve to decrease the strength of storms. Since then, beaches in Florida have been washed away by hurricane Ophelia. Global warming is raising the sea levels by melting glaciers and ice caps, and because warm water occupies more volume than cold water.

So now we read that Georgia House leader Glenn Richardson (a Republican) is fighting to build a vacation home on 3/4 of an acre of beachfront land which a accumulated on the edge of St. Simons Island, on the Atlantic Ocean border of Georgia. The Monday, Sept. 19 issue of the AJC quotes him as saying "If the Supreme Court says we can [build], we will. If the court says we can't, we'll probably just deed it to our children. Sooner or later, there's something going to be built on that property."

What he is ignoring is the question of whether it is morally right for to build on this land. Having the desire and power to do something doesn't make it the right thing.

At some point a hurricane will hit this land, damaging if not destroying anything built here. Will Richardson then seek, or at least accept, government money to reimburse his losses. Since he has such a sense of entitlement to get what he wants, I would bet the answer is yes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


In defense of disregarding warnings of danger, we still see refernces to the Y2K computer date problem, and statements that it turned out not to be a problem at all. That is totally false. Thousands of people like me worked for several years to find and fix these date problems. I personally looked at every line of scores, maybe hundreds, of computer programs. IT people had tried for years to get management to allocate time and funds to start working on the problem, but could not get the resources until disaster was near. If we had had the resources to start earlier, much of it could have been doen as part of other projects, or during slack periods, and would have cost less.

Almost any program that contained date calculations or comparisons needed to be fixed. This includes payroll programs (eg., calculations of vacation pay), savings account and loan interest, annuities, time clocks.

In fact, there were problems because of date computations that did not get fixed, including a malfunction at a nuclear power plant, but even those which were reported in the newspaper got small articles in back pages, where few people saw them.

Then. after people like me saved the economy of the world from crashing, we were thown on the trash heap.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Bill O'Reilly and the poor

A recent column by Bill O'Reilly says that to cure poverty, "American middle and high school students should be required to watch videotape of the poor people stranded by Hurricane Katrina." The teachers should tell the students that the government failed to protect the poor, and ask two questions "Do you want to be poor? And do you believe the U.S. government can protect you if you are poor?" Supposedly, this will result in children deciding to become good learners. But poor children don't have to see a video of the results of poverty; they live it. They know what it's like to be hungry and cold because of lack of money. They know what it's like to have to move frequently because they are evicted for lack of rent payment.

We are creatures with few instincts who inhabit many different environments; we need to learn almost everything we need to know to survive. People learn how to live by observing the culture we live in. Those who don't are likely not to survive. It is automatic - it has to be. Segregating people in low-income neighborhoods teaches them the habits of poverty. It teaches them hopelessness. Tv, movies, and pop music don't provide good alternative role models on how to achieve a better life.

What children, and grownups, need is to see and experience what does work. Something that has worked is subsidizing housing for poor families in middle-class neighborhoods. Welfare mothers in such environments tend to eventually get jobs, because that is what the people around them are doing. Their children have access to decent schools and see role models who know how to achieve success. They are around people who use good grammar (well, at least relatively), and speak with a middle-class accent. They learn to fit in with the middle class.

Of course, with the current economic situation, with the middle-class shrinking, and increasing rates of poverty, and the increasing gap between the ultra-rich and everybody else, there is no guarantee that children raised in a middle-class neighborhood will end up middle-class, but they will have a much better chance.

A way that individuals can help is by becoming a mentor to one or more poor children, or to tutor poor children. However, if you choose to become a mentor, you must be committed. A study of a mentoring program, where the mentors were middle-class men, found that the children who had mentors actually did worse. on average, than those who didn't. The reason turned out to be that the men would mentor for awhile, then get busy with other things, and drop out of the program. The boys had become attached to the mentors, and losing them was another loss in their lives, and damaged them even more.

Friday, September 16, 2005


I was as shocked as anyone by the recent case where a man who was securely fastened to a restraint chair, was shocked numerous times with a Taser at the Gwinnet County jail. He lost consciousness, never revived, and was taken off life support 2 days later. The Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter has chosen not to seek indictments in Williams' death.

The SCLC has called for and end to the use of Taser stun guns by police, because some people have died after their use. That doesn't make sense to me. If a Taser is used instead of shooting someone, or knocking them unconscious, it would surely cause fewer deaths and brain damage.

The problem is when it is used inappropriately, as in the Williams case. This was a case of torture by the police, and it is inexcusable that Porter has chosen to let the police get away with it. The Gwinnett police said they continued to shock Williams because he continued resisting and trying to get away. Some police forces have required police who carry a Taser to allow themselves to be shocked by it, so they can experience the effects, to avoid frivolous use. Some police have objected. A policeman who had been shocked by a Taser said it was so painful, he would have done anything to get away from it, and that that Williams continued to try to escape because of the pain. I don't know whether the Gwinnett County police require those who use Tasers to experience the effects themselves. If not, they were less guilty, but not innocent; even if you have not experience a Taser shock personally, you have to expect it to be quite painful for it to be strong enough to be useful.

Driving barefoot

The AJC Q&A column got another query recently about whether it is legal to drive barefooted - it is. What I don't understand is whey do people care? What dire problems do they think driving barefooted will cause? Why don't they do something useful with their time.

When I am wearing flip-flops, I take them off while driving because I'm afraid they might get caught when I am changing pedals (my cars have always had manual transmissions). My current car is my first with air-conditioning. When I had to commute a long distance in the summer time in a car w/o air conditioning, I would take off my shoes to stay cooler. When I have to drive with uncomfortable shoes, I take them off. In all cases, I am improving my driving safety.

It has been said that Puritans are people who are haunted by the fear that someone, somewhere is having fun. Maybe it would be more accurate to say they are afraid that someone, somewhere is not as miserable as themselves.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Be prepared

Also in the current issue of the Atlanta "Creative Loafing", in the News of the Weird column, about the leak-safety standards for the proposed nuclear waste depository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain. The editor of the column seems not to think the proposed standards of leak safety for a million years are unreasonable. In reference to the fact the the EPA would regard the facility as safe for only 10,000 years, the editor noted that this is "almost five times the length of time since the birth of Jesus". In regards to the proposed standards, he made the following comment - Context: Science had not even discovered radioactivity 110 years ago.

The reason we need such standards is because of the long time that the nuclear waste will be dangerous. If we choose to put it in a place that will leak long before it has lost its danger, we will be endangering future generations. It would be hard to stop such a leak.

Also, the context is exactly why we need standards that will mandate safety for the length of the dangerous radioactivity of the nuclear waste; given the history of human society, there is no reason to assume that a society that understands the risk will continue to exist for a long period of time.

Occupational deaths

The Atlanta "reative Loafing" reported in the current paper (Sept. 8-14) that occupational deaths are on the rise in Georgia. Ben Ross of the Atlanta regional office of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration was quoted as saying that part of the increase can be attributed to "the tremendous amount of construction going on and more immigrant workers entering the work place."Ross says language barriers and improper translations often cause instructions to be misinterpreted, resulting in accidents.

That's probably true, but I suspect that the caps on liability payments passed by the Republican Congress and President Bush are also having the predicted effect of allowing business owners to be more lax in regards to the safety of their emplyees.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


copyright 1992 Patricia M. Shannon

Some people envy those who are able
to turn off their minds and believe in a fable.
Just think how happy they will be
if they ever get a lobotomy!

Are men smarter?

I've noticed that the same people who say that we can't expect men to contain their urges are also the ones who think men should be in charge of the world.

A few days ago, a radio talk show host on Air America said that men are better than women in every area, because men are more likely to score at the highest levels on tests of intelligence, etc. What he carefully didn't mention is that men are also more likely than woman to score at the lowest levels on these same tests as women. So we would be equally justified in saying that men are worse than women in all ways.

Actually, women on average score higher than men in some areas, including the ability to "read" a person's emotions accurately from their facial expressions.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Welfare religion

The outpouring of help for victims of Hurricane Katrina is great! Thanks also go to the many offers of help from other countries. The incompetence of our government is depressing.

One of my customers made a reference a few days ago to "the end times". This invoking of God in connection with the hurricane seems to me another example of human arrogance, narcissism, and laziness, and how people shift our own responsibilies onto God. There were natural disasters, including hurricanes, before there were humans, and certainly thoughout human history, and in areas that had no humans. Does anybody really think there were no tornados, hurricanes, or floods in the Americas before humans arrived here? We have made things worse by our own actions, and our refusal to inconvenience ourselves to deal with the results of our actions, esp. in the area of global warming, which President Bush (a human being) has finally acknowledged is real and is being caused by human actions, but for which he has refused to offer real solutions becuase he said it would hurt the economy. He greatly reduced funding for such things as strengthening the levees of New Orleans, and for emergency health services to deal with disasters, in order to provide tax relief fot those who were able to become super-rich with the previous tax structure, and to fund "homeland security" and the war in Iraq. Well, homeland security should surely include security during natural disasters! It was human beings that voted Bush into office, or at least enough of them did to allow the voting shenanigans of the Repulicans, esp. in Ohio, to tip the balance.

Some people are saying that God is punishing New Orleans for decadence. There have been several very damaging hurricanes that hit Pensacola in recent years. I lived there for more than a year in 1992-1993, and it is a very religious area. I believe it has a record number of churches per capita. A large percentage of the radio stations are Christian.

A young woman told me some years ago that if God wanted to, He would make a miracle to prevent the effects of global warming. What a welfare mentality! It is the same kind of thinking people use when they choose more immediately dangerous behavious, such as smoking and not wearing seat belts - they say that they believe they will die "when their time is up". Well, judging by average lifespans, God prefers people who take care of themselves. Thinking that God will protect you from youself makes as much sense as expecting him to save you if you choose to jump off a skyscraper. When Jesus was taunted by the devil to throw Himself off of a mountain, because God would save Him, He said not to tempt God.

This lack of reality-based thinking in favor of wishful thinking (aka positive thinking and faith) is also the reason so many poor children and youths don't take education seriously. The boys have faith that they will be rich entertainment stars (usually sports or music). The girls are sure they will marry a man who supports them, so they can be housewives, despite the fact that they don't know any grown woman who were able to do that! And who are the men who will be available to them? Those boys in their classes who are neglecting their own education, of course.

The last think we need is for leaders who make reality-based reasoning a negative term.