Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Dreaming Up Saturday Quote

The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity."

Glenn Gould (and why isn't he up there?)
click for full photo of mural in Eureka, CA Oct. 2015 by William Kowinski

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

“It is not fashionable nowadays to say that one’s life has moments of piercing beauty, or that it brings hours which are not merely recompense, but ample and bounteous reward for all the anxieties and dark moments. But I am not a fashionable person, and I am saying that now.”

Robertson Davies

Monday, October 26, 2015

Could they really be doing something?

Rumors of a possible budget deal between the White House and congressional leaders has become a New York Times story which suggests the deal is close to completed.

Apart from avoiding potential upcoming unpleasantness over the debt ceiling as well as funding the government, the two year deal also reportedly remedies the scheduled 50% rise in Medicare B premiums for many seniors (including me).  The Times:

The prospective agreement would also prevent expected increases in out-of-pocket costs for millions of Medicare Part B beneficiaries. The increases would have been caused by the rare absence of a cost-of-living increase in Social Security for some beneficiaries, because of unusually low inflation.

The headlines will say that cuts are made in Medicare and Social Security but these appear to be technical and administrative, and do not affect benefits, including to the disabled.

The story does not deal with political prospects for its passage by Congress.  So stay tuned.

Update: As of Monday evening, according to the Washington Post, the deal has been taken to Republican members in the House and Senate.  Conservatives have signaled that they aren't going to contest the debt ceiling hike this time, but no word yet on the other elements of this two year budget deal.

Update 2: As of late Monday, a CNN story says a number of Republicans are upset by the deal, but the story agrees with earlier stories that probably there are enough Republicans to join with Democrats to pass the deal, which the current House Speaker John Banal will likely bring to the floor on Wednesday, just before Paul Ryan is nominated as the next Speaker.

Update 3: Just before midnight Monday House GOPer leaders introduced the budget deal bill on the House floor, ensuring that it will come to a vote no later than Wednesday, according to the Washington Post. (As you recall from Civics, spending bills must originate in the House.) The provision preventing the Medicare premium rise from going into effect is in this bill.

Update 4 Tues: The Washington Post summarizes the provisions in more detail, while the New York Times narrates how the deal came about--a combination of the unique circumstance of a Speaker leaving, and President Obama's firmness in budget priorities, backed by congressional Democrats.  According to the Post, the rise in Medicare premiums will be $18 a month, instead of $54.  Still an unusually large jump in premiums.  The House is expected to vote on the package Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday.  It's expected to pass in both houses.

Update Wednesday: The House passed the bill with only 79 Republican votes, 266-167. No major changes in it were reported.

Update Friday: After a nightime fillibuster by Rand Paul and other GOPers, the budget bill passed the Senate on Friday, and President Obama announced he would sign it.  The immediate effect is to avoid the government running out of money in a few days, and another preposterous fight over authorizing the US to pay its debts.  But the Medicare provision remains in the law.

The joke's on who exactly?

Last week we had Back to the Future day--and I suppose it must be Back to the Future week--as the present caught up with the future envisioned in the past, and Marty McFly arrived in our time.

So there were many articles (and of course, listicules) comparing the envisioned 2015 in a Back to the Future movie,with this one, otherwise (and dubiously) known as "the real one."

One of the apparent misses in that vision was the 2015 gas station, in which robot arms fuels a car.  Maybe something like that happens with recharging electric vehicles, but no, we don't have robot arms pumping gas, sorry, got that one wrong.

Well, such a clueless comparison misses the entire joke, begun in the first Back to the Future movie, in which Marty returns to 1955.  One of the amazing sights he sees is an automobile pull into a gas station, and four uniformed attendants run out to gas up the car, check the oil, clean the windshield, etc.

Such things really did happen in the 1950s.  Maybe not three or four attendants, and maybe just a uniform shirt and/or cap, but one or two attendants did routinely take your gasoline order, clean the windshield, ask if you'd like the oil checked and take a look under the hood at your request.  Attendants did that in the 1960s and 70s, too.  Pumping gas was a respectable if not always enviable job, especially for young men.

But there were fewer and fewer gas jockeys anymore in the 1980s, after the oil shocks and gas lines and skyrocketed prices.  And pretty soon there were none. Drivers were expected to pump gas into their own cars, first as a money-saving option, then as the only option.  A task previously considered best left to professionals, and then as menial labor, not to mention dirty, smelly and possibly unsafe.

So the joke was, way back in the primitive 1950s, you didn't have to do that.  While in the modern 1980s you didn't have gas station attendants, you were your own attendant.

 And in the similar scene set in 2015 with the futuristic car fueled from robot arms, it was pretty much the same joke.  Because in 2015, we're still pumping our own gas. We don't have gas station robots because we don't need them. We are the gas station robots.

We're the mindless dummies pumping gas into our own cars to make more money for the oil companies and station owners.  Like those robots, we work for free.  But even better, we pay for our own maintenance.  We are the damn joke.