On Shaking The Dust From One’s Sandals


Portugal is not a shithole.  I think I can say that impartially, since I’ve acculturated long ago, and wouldn’t go back there to live if you sent wild horses to drag me that way.

It feels profoundly uncomfortable to most Americans.  I can say that too, because I am an American, because it was built not with the dictates of the free market — I’ll sell you anything so long as you buy it — in mind, but with other dictates, including pride, appearance and a lot of other stuff.

This is why the faucets run like diuretic gerbils, the electrical boards in houses suck (and no the excuse of global warming wouldn’t wash for a minute in the US) gas and energy in general are prohibitive, and service… isn’t what you’d call wonderful.  All of which add up to profoundly uncomfortable for Americans — and yes, I know my Portuguese readers are going to say we’re spoiled, and darn tooting we are.  You ain’t whistling Dixie. And we mean to continue being spoiled — but still not a shit hole.

Not that I’m going to punch out anyone who calls it such.  I’m just going to assume they have no experience of real shitholes.

You see, you can judge a country’s status as an … ah…. excrement sinkhole by figuring out “Migration out or in?”

In Portugal this picture is complicated.  They are suffering “brain drain” as their youngest, brightest and most educated decamp for Germany, England, or even Brazil (where the picture is also complicated) but at the same time they receive immigrants from Africa, Brazil, South America, China and, weirdly, Russia (I’ve never figured out if these are descendants from people who took their crappy cars when the wall came down, and drove until they hit the ocean (or drove/walked till they hit the ocean) or whether they’re a fresh migration.  I know the first existed, but I haven’t sussed out the other particulars.)

So, Portugal is not a shithole.  What it is is a country so tied down by regulations, rules, and the ever present weight of tradition (Portugal, like many Baltic countries produces way more history than it can consume locally) that it works at cross purposes to itself.

Looking at what Portuguese (at least some) can do abroad, in terms of insane amounts of work and sometimes success, one assumes that if Portugal could eschew its perennial fascination with socialism, it would … well…. I don’t know, but it would be scary for good or ill.

I mean for a country tied up with socialism (first national, then international) for the best part of a century, it’s not doing badly at all.  Look at it this way: it hasn’t gone Venezuela.  And the gentleman in the back who just said that’s because they can’t do anything efficiently, not even socialism, is just being mean.  Yes, the Portuguese have been locked in a tragic fight throughout history with their traditional enemies, the Portuguese, but that’s no reason to look down on them.

On the serious side, and what this is leading to, what would I do if Trump said “We don’t need more immigrants from that shithole, Portugal?”

Gulp. Then get on the phone and calm dad down, because he’s 86 — and even if he’s freezing through one of the coldest winters in their history, because their electrical boards suck, being now designed to prevent global warming, and therefore unable to accommodate say a hair dryer and a washing machine running at once, much less a heater in every room — he’s very proud of his country and very patriotic and we wouldn’t want him to do himself harm by being so mad.

And then I’d shrug.  Portugal is not a shithole, true.  But there is also no reason to seek out immigrants from Portugal IN PARTICULAR.

Mind you, the US doesn’t.  The “diversity visa lottery” LOOKS FOR immigrants from failed states.  For those purposes, Portugal is lumped in with Europe, and therefore it’s almost impossible to immigrate from there, which is why the Portuguese brain drain is going to places like Germany and Great Britain.

In fact, one of my teachers who spoke five languages, and whose husband was a fully trained electrical engineer, had been on the waiting list for 10 years when I was 18, and I bet you they haven’t made it here, yet.

But you know, that’s the whole point.  I don’t think Visas should be handed out to Portuguese particularly because Portuguese are cute and colorful and produce great wine, or whatever the reasoning.

I think, if we’re going to take in immigrants, we should take them in according to their usefulness to the US.

I happen to know we have a massive shortage of engineers, for instance. So, say, if it’s determined that Portuguese engineering schools/engineers pass muster and the US decides to import a few?  That’s fair.  Same with engineers from all other countries.  Of course, it will depress younger son’s future wages, but you know, fair is fair and engineering graduates are too few by far to replace retiring engineers.

So what is my justification?  What do I do for the nation?

Ah.  I came in a different way (though at the same time I had an offer for teaching at an East Coast college while finishing my doctorate, and if I hadn’t fallen in love with Dan, I’d have come in that way for a while at least.)

But I am very conscious of gratitude to you for taking me in and letting me be one of you.  Portugal is not a shithole.  It just never fit me right, like a prickly garment that does its job, but is not quite comfortable.

I feel much better in America.  And I’m very grateful.  And I try to do what I can to justify taking me in.

So far?  I’m probably still at a deficit.  Sure, we pay taxes, and we haven’t taken public assistance, but that’s the bare minimum.  And I raised two boys who will probably be productive citizens.  And of course I write books which make at least some money/create some wealth.  And I try to fight the good fight in the culture war.

Are these remarkable achievements?  No.  They’re the bare minimum to pay my way.  I want to do more, and now that we’re dealing with some long-standing physical issues, I just might manage it.

The point of it though, is that I’m conscious of which way this relationship runs.  I owe the nation a debt, and I’ll do my best to pay it back.

It might never happen, but I will try my damnedest.

For I was a stranger, and you took me in.  And I owe you.


313 thoughts on “On Shaking The Dust From One’s Sandals

  1. I don’t think you’re still running a deficit. You’re contributing more than the cost of keeping you. 🙂 Sounds like a surplus to me.

    But here’s an idea. For every immigrant we decide to accept, perhaps we could forcibly strip the citizenship from one current citizen who’s a drain on our resources. I haven’t worked all the details out (the idea just came to me), but I think it’s worth considering.

    1. Unfortunately that would be those of us with disabilities… We go first in that kind of program. But I know you don’t mean that… still… you know how people think.

      1. As I say, I haven’t worked the details out. But for those with disabilities, are they covering their medical bills themselves without government assistance? If so, they’re not a drain on our resources. If not, are they contributing in other ways? As I said about Sarah, “contributing more than the cost of keeping”…

        1. Why don’t we become mercenary and start translating people to their monetary worth to the system?  That way whoever is in charge of the sorting can justify the elimination of ever so many nuisances.

          No, no thank you.

        2. The problem with that Idea is that the “Diversity is our strength!” politicians would try to boot out productive white bad thinkers. Kick out some whitey with a good job. Then the good job could go to a vibrant POC.
          Don’t you dare be giving them ideas.

          1. Yup.

            There have been attempts to identify the belief in religion as a psychological disorder. I am sure that the kind of people who suggest that will also argue that adherence to conservative ideals is equally so.

      2. Nope. The disabled are much more beneficial than the criminal. At the very least, having a neutral impact rather than the destructiveness of the latter.

        Dr. Pournelle, if he were still corporeal, might even agree that the disabled are of greater value than the bottom 10% of the currently employed workforce. Especially in the teaching professions.

        Man, I miss Jerry. I miss a lot of folks who aren’t here anymore.

          1. Yes, but Dr. Asimov once wrote a column advocating the killing of all disabled babies. I know this, because I have a disabled friend who took his magazine and wrote him a very angry letter back. He responded apologetically, but I don’t know if he ever apologized in his column.

            The only reason one should remove citizenship is for treason that is annoying enough, and if we’re not going to shoot people for treason anymore.

            1. He fully believed Ehrlich and the whole overpopulation meme. It informed a great deal of his writing, I think.

              1. For me, it was the 4th book of the Foundation Trilogy some years back. Some years later, my son gave me an elegantly bound copy of the trilogy, and the third book didn’t work for me. Heinlein still works for me.

                1. The Second Foundation Must Be Destroyed!!!!!

                  The Second Foundation IMO sounded like would-be Elders Of Zion. IE The Secret Masters of The World (Galaxy) . 😦

            2. And depending on his reasons, he might even have been right. Certainly he wasn’t advocating something that many ancient societies did on a regular accepted basis. e.g. Sparta. Of course that runs into the slippery slope problem: How disabled? At what age? Who decides?
              Note that I come from a background where it is acceptable to kill in self defense, and kill certain categories of people by order of the President and officers appointed over me.

            3. I would have some respect for Asimov had he the courage of his convictions to defend his argument even in the face of such a challenge, even with as weak a response as “I’m sorry if I offended anybody” mealymouthed regret. But it doesn’t sound as if that’s the response your friend received. Backing down in private without a public retraction is simply chicken-poop.

        1. I miss him horribly. I keep thinking “I need to write to Jerry about that.”
          But you know, not this side of eternity.OTOH he and RAH are probably having a heck of a discussion.

          1. Jerry is telling Heinlein ” there’s thos portugese chick… man, wait till she gets here, she’s gonna talk your ear off” and Ginny is going “Sarah? oh, yeah. I told him about her.”

        1. Send those guys. We’d be doing them a favor. After all, they’ve spent their entire educational careers talking about how horrible the US is and how wonderful other countries, especially non-Western ones, are in comparison. I’m sure that there isn’t an “African Studies” graduate who wouldn’t leap at the chance to trade Cambridge for Mogadishu.

    2. “one current citizen who’s a drain on our resources. I haven’t worked all the details out (the idea just came to me), but I think it’s worth considering.”

      I think those are called violent felons. And I know there are some sub-moronic, corruptocrat progressives in a couple of states trying to give voting rights to incarcerated felons.

      1. Well, transporting our convicts rather than housing them does have a historical precedent…

        But I think the afore-mentioned corruptocrats deserve consideration as candidates too…

          1. Only let them take the clothes on their backs. They’ll find it tough to throw rocks one they run out of air.

            1. Nuh-uh. I want to go to Mars. They can get the boot. Give ’em a nice rubber boat, some food and water, and their choice: Atlantic, Pacific, or Gulf. Come back and the Coasties get to have target practice.

          2. Oh, we’ll give them a fine oxygen plant. They’ll just have to maintain it, together with the rest of the infrastructure that makes their life on Luna possible. After a couple of generations they’ll make GREAT citizens. But they might be a little pissed.

        1. > Well, transporting our convicts rather than housing them does
          > have a historical precedent…

          Mars needs people.

        2. I’d make it volunteer. If you want to leave this country and renounce citizenship, we’ll pay your ticket, and give you a modest start up (say 10k).
          Beware only your grandkids will be eligible for American residence/citizenship, and as proof of goodwill, it will expedite the process, if they bring us your decapitated head.

          1. That is similar to the deal I’ve offered in discussions on reparations for slavery. I’m all for them if they acceptance means:

            1. You immediately renounce your citizenship.
            2. You have 6 months of legal residency after which you must leave.

            I’m sure state can work out a deal to pay various nations that were the home of the ancestors of the African diaspora to take new citizens.

            1. Geeze, Herb, I would expect you to have a good appreciation of how much debt these [redacted] could run up and skip out on in six months.

              1. Free market, RES. I’d expect that it would be a public legal notice, akin to death notices, so that the vultures could demand their kidney. Or spinal fluid, etc.

          1. What would happen if you posted bounties on convicted felon illegal aliens.
            Wanted. Dead or Alive. $10,000.00
            Or is that too high? Some would just enjoy it as a hobby.

            1. Too high. $10,000 is the P.U.F.F. bounty on a brand newly turned vampire or werewolf. And 10K is the P.U.F.F. for 5 zombies. I’d have to go with making the base bounty on felon illegals the same as an ordinary shambler. You can modify it by +$500 if convicted, +500 for assault, +1000 for a rapist (That should make President Trump happy), and +1500 if a murderer (+500 per person killed.)

    3. Funny, because while typing my comment below, and before reading this one, I was pondering the age-old question of “If you had one superpower”. And I thought “What if I could swap any two people, anywhere in the world, who were comparable in some way? Hmmmm….”

      I contemplated “For whom would I swap Hillary?” I was thinking things like “Even though Bhutto is corrupt, she is an improvement over HRC. Nah… too close, still. Is there a woman politician/leader somewhere else in the world with whom I could swap Clinton?”
      Then I wondered if there were any software engineers in, say, Hungary, who would be close enough to Zuckerberg, but had, perhaps lived through the Communist era and really treasured privacy?”

      This could be a really fun, very American superpower, if I used it wisely………………

      1. I’d have swapped Hillary, or even Obama, for Putin. If Vlad had been an American citizen, he’d probably have beaten both Hillary and Trump for the election.

        1. > he’d probably have beaten both Hillary and Trump

          Literally beaten them. Like with batons.

          At the danger of being a arm chair psychiatrist, sociopaths are awful people. Megalomaniacal sociopaths even more so.

          1. The trick is convincing them that your success conditions are actually theirs, thus harnessing the megalomania for your own ends.

        2. But you have to make them “comparable” to play the game. So, if the Iron Lady were still alive, she would be fair game for Hillary. But Putin can go topless without getting arrested (or making people gag), so he’s not. Unless you can show some other level of “comparable”, of course. 🙂

          And, of course, I want ones who would be a really good American, not just a better one (because that’s a pretty low bar).

            1. Putin is murdering scum. Unfortunately, he’s cleverer about it than the Clintons, and less concerned about being caught. Shooting is too good for him.

              OTOH, trading him for a Russian monk might be entertaining. A little austerity, prayer, chastity, and silence might do him good.

              1. Hmmm. He’s a product of, and a survivor of, the system he’s in over there. Yes, he’s effectively a tyrannical dictator, but even he has political constraints.

                1. They are both on the way out. They have no skin in the game, so no reason to bother playing along with Trump. Whereas media good will might be worth a bone or two during retirement, or for their heirs.

                2. I keep hearing that Flake has been, is, or will be comparing President Trump to Stalin. I’m not sure where you draw the line between absurd exaggeration and outright lies, but I think he’s crossed it. Who is Trump’s Beria? His Blokhin? Where are his gulags? How many leading Democrats, journalists, and feminists dare not speak a word critical of Trump for fear of vanishing into a mass grave somewhere, sometime in the middle of the night? I’m not sure how Flake manages to equate a sarcastic tweet with a bullet to the head, but I can certainly tell the difference.

                  1. Q: Who is Trump’s Beria? Who is Trump’s Blokhin? A: Check out the advertisements on USAjobs.gov The problem is, the advertisements demand both proven experience and a lack of criminal convictions. The positions have been very hard to fill.

                    Q: Where are the gulags? A: We have been having trouble siting them. The first problem is logistical. Where in the US can you ship people and supplies, yet not be easily accessible by private rescue parties? Beyond that is environmental impact paperwork and the like. Just ship ’em to Antarctica you say. Raytheon management says that it isn’t in the contracts.

                    Q: Where are the people intimidated into silence? A: They were about to hit the ground running with a ‘Opposing Trump is racist against Jews’ campaign, but then some judges conspired to stop key executive orders.

                    1. > yet not be easily accessible by private rescue parties?

                      3 miles due east (or west, or north, or south) of Mellicks Trading Post/Sleetmute AK.

                      > Beyond that is environmental impact paperwork and the like. Just
                      > ship ’em to Antarctica you say. Raytheon management says that it
                      > isn’t in the contracts.

                      Does Raytheon still have that contract? I heard there were…problems with their behavior. I mean worse than normal. Dirtbags.

                      Besides Raytheon would just write an rider to cover it if they thought the money was there.

                      Hmmm…they might be hiring for next summer (Antarctica summer) I should see if anything is open…

                  2. Wellllll … he has and he hasn’t.

                    Flake didn’t ‘compare’ anyone to Josef Stalin; and stop using ‘compare’ that way, it’s annoying
                    by David Freddoso
                    “`The enemy of the people` was what the president of the United States called the free press in 2017. Mr. President, it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies. It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase `enemy of the people,` that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of “annihilating such individuals” who disagreed with the supreme leader.”

                    — — — — — — — — —

                    Whether “comparing” Trump to Stalin it is a superficial and banal criticism, akin to denouncing demands for a sound fisc or that trains run on time because those were also advocated by (respectively) Hitler and Mussolini.

                    The proper response to Trump accusing the Fourth Estate of being a Fifth Column is to rebut the implicit argument, not engage in ad hominen denunciation. Whatever Stalin said against a Press that refused to advance his lies seems hardly comparable to a Press that refuses to report accurately, that focuses on trivia and gossip. Whether shoving little old ladies into or out of the paths of buses, of course, they’re shoving little old ladies about.

                    1. So, merely a vile and groundless insinuation. Standard ugly fare in politics, but given his family heritage, I had once thought better of him.
                      Sadly, he’s not the first Arizona politician who has managed to tarnish his family name.

                      As for the “free” press, the behavior of the major legacy media for the past year, not to mention the past twenty, increasingly suggests that they are captive to the Democratic National Committee. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. In bed together? Joined at the hip?

                    2. But Flake did alter what POTUS said – Flake said it was the “Free Press”, but the twitage itself was in fact that the ‘Fake News Media’ was.

                      Rather large difference there, I think. UnlessJeff thinks that the terms “Fake” and “Free” are synonymous, he pulled the old O straw man trick, changing the terms so as to argue with what nobody was proposing.

                      The actual (revised) twitterage words:

                      The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!

                      I don’t see the word “Free Press” in there, Jeff.

                    3. Well … the press in the US is free. But free has never meant they weren’t partisan. When the 1st Amendment was drafted and ratified, the very first thing you did to sway public opinion was to run your own newspaper. Even Jefferson said the most reliable part of a newspaper were the ad, and he ran an attack machine on John Adams.

                      Yet free has never meant honest or friendly. By and large the press is the enemy of all we hold dear, and has been for a long time. For over a century my family has held a dim view of the press, and what’s passed since then has only worsened that opinion. It’s a peculiar mix of bias and incompetence, with all the bad habits of a dung beetle with none of the endearing qualities.

                    4. I’ve come around a little to being more sympathetic with what Flake said. Considering my ‘Trump was suborned by communists because two of his wives were born in the USSR’ thing, I can see Melania and/or Ivana as justification for thinking that the word choice was a deliberate Stalinistic reference.

                      Yet, I understand that Flake voted to confirm Lynch, among many other perfidious acts of cooperation with the Democrat. One could say that Flake is a flawed messenger, but correct about Trump’s flaws. One could also say that Trump is a flawed messenger, but correct about the media’s flaws. On the gripping hand, the media is an extremely flawed messenger, and I’m not convinced that they are correct about anyone’s flaws. The heated rhetoric isn’t good for institutions, but things are a mess. Maybe the best we can hope for is an imperfect solution, and kicking the can down a ways.

              1. Thank the Gods of Old, New and To be.

                <Lives in Arizona now and has to deal with a lot of their shit.
                Fun factoid: Flake's cousin in my landlord. That last name is very accurate.

            1. After over 25 years on the internets I think my brain has developed a reflexive protection for my mind’s eye.

              All I see are 2 dirty (unmatched) tube socks and a grungy jock strap.

      2. PM Aung San in Myanmar or PM May of United Kingdom, either could be swapped for Clinton but I don’t know any Hungarian software engineers to suggest replacement for Zuck.

        1. Teleportation with a sufficiently sophisticated control system could do just about anything.

            1. Yeah the Flingers (interstellar teleporters) in Kevin O’Donnells “Journeys of Mcgill Feighan” could do some nasty stuff because it was assumed they also had to be able to adjust large differences in velocity. Sublight ball bearings anyone?

              Although I’ve also thought sufficiently capable telekinesis could essentially give you ALL Superman’s powers except the heat rays.

              1. I remember reading a short novel back when I was about 15 or 16 about a TK who discovered his ability outside the interstellar TK cabal. They cut mountains of stone telekinetically moving a wire through them. Moved starships by their minds. And they used ball bearings as weapons. Gah. I can’t remember the title or the author.

        2. Lay on hands and cure any person of anything would work.

          Ya cain’t cure stupid.

          I might opt for the power to make people see Reason, but I am not sure I’ve seen it myself in over thirty years.

        1. Mmmmmmm …. yeah – port them to their “ideal” universe without any privilege (because they hate, Hate, hate privilege!). Let the socialists experience the true withering of the state and the holier-than-thous get their theocratic wonderland.

          1. I think they’d hate that one for only a short time, as the way thy define “privilege”, the universe would have to be cold. As in 0K cold.

    4. I have suggested your idea as part of any amnesty deal. We only amnesty illegals with a document-able work history and no welfare and Mexico must take one long term welfare recipient in exchange.

      But I’m straight (ha,ha), white, male, etc, etc, etc and thus evil because of my skin color and genitals (as all the anti-racists and anti-sexists tell me).

      1. Herb, it isn’t because of your skin color and genitals, it is because you fail to acknowledge your privilege accruing from your skin color and genitals, It isn’t that you’re a bloke, it’s that you aren’t woke.

    5. You know, the interesting bit is…
      If they managed to turn this around, and swapped out all the good Americans for immigrants… the Americans would then turn around and make wherever they were into a much better place.

      That’s one of the things about being an American. It’s not a passive thing. It’s about making freedom.

            1. You made me edumacate myself again. Had to google Hilsch tube. Does seem like a good hidey place for Maxwell’s Demon.

      1. “That’s one of the things about being an American. It’s not a passive thing. It’s about making freedom.”
        At least it is true of some Americans still.

    6. No. Members of our tribe are members of our tribe. We can be selective about who we adopt; we can only exile those who have chosen another tribe over ours.

      1. Which would be about 80% of the current Democrat Party, and about 30% of the current Libertarian Party, just from their public statements.

        1. Probably higher in the actual libertarian PARTY. At least in my state, reasonably sane (in the definition of understanding reality) individuals turn into frothing loons within months of joining. My husband and I watched several friends go that way. It seemed to start with ‘spoiling for a fight’ and morph into ‘anyone who advocates anything other than total anarchy or asks me to explain my stance as something reasoned rather than tautological is an enemy and a traitor and must be utterly destroyed.’

  2. In my humble opinion your value to America turned net positive right about the time you decided to come out of the closet and declare as a rabid libertarian. Not to mention your modest effort to bless the country with soon to be doctor and degreed engineer.

    1. I agree. Amanda does not see her entire worth. After all, I was born here, all I’ve done is grow up, using taxes (granted that parents contributed to), then pay taxes. Amanda did not have any (US) taxes expended on her growing up, pays taxes as an adult, her writings, and future doctor and engineer. I too have a contributing to society offspring (who I am proud of and loves what he does), but not on the level of a doctor or engineer. But I do understand her gratitude.

      1. It is Sarah not Amanda. This is Sarah’s blog, and Sarah posted this one. Amanda just guest blogs a lot.

  3. Number one: Never sell yourself short on what you’re doing for America. You may perceive yourself as barely breaking even on cost-benefit to the U.S.. However, those of us whose opinions are based on more than ivory tower fantasies have you solidly in the black when it comes to national civic value.

    Number Two: “I think, if we’re going to take in immigrants, we should take them in according to their usefulness to the US.”
    HOME RUN! Everybody do the Wave! Go Sarah! Go Sarah!

  4. “This is why the faucets run like diuretic gerbils, the electrical boards in houses suck (and no the excuse of global warming wouldn’t wash for a minute in the US) gas and energy in general are prohibitive, and service… isn’t what you’d call wonderful. All of which add up to profoundly uncomfortable for Americans — and yes, I know my Portuguese readers are going to say we’re spoiled, and darn tooting we are.”

    You know, I’ve never quite understood the mentality where wanting something to work right is being spoiled. I expect hot water to come gushing out when I turn the tap to hot EVERY SINGLE TIME. And I can deal with it certainly if I’m in a house with a small hot water heater where things need to be rationed a bit, but it’s still a problem. I’m hoping some smart person with a desire to be wealthy is working on that problem. Similarly with my electrical outlets, my heaters, etc.

    “Service” sort of falls into a different category since that involves other people, and the question of what the job of “waiter” or “cashier” involves may differ from culture to culture. I could see that asking a waiter to be prompt in bringing your check when he wants to take a smoke break could be considered as insulting in France as asking the waiter to give you a foot rub would be in the US. That may be the sort of thing you just have to put up with.

    1. Waiters giving foot rubs… that sounds like a profitable niche market, as long as they wash their hands thoroughly between rubbing feet and serving food.

      1. There are already food and drink establishments that will give you a lot more than a foot rub…………………..

            1. Having to see other people having sex would cause me to lose my appetite. Then there’s the sounds and smells! Yuck!

    2. All of which add up to profoundly uncomfortable for Americans — and yes, I know my Portuguese readers are going to say we’re spoiled, and darn tooting we are. 

      When I contract for a service such as power or water I fully expect to receive that service and receive it consistently, hour-by hour-day-in-day-out-year-round service.  Not only that, but there damn well better be a good reason for it being interrupted.  A disaster.  Like a major ice storm, or hurricane.  (Other parts of the country you could add wild fires, tornadoes and earthquakes to the list.)  I am thankful to live in such a place at such a time.

      Those who have resigned themselves to having their infrastructure being inconsistent have accepted living in the second world.  There is a whole lot worse, but it could be better.  It may be symptomatic of the fact that I am an American, but I think, why not aim for improvement?

      1. The first world is a place where if you ask someone the last time they flipped the switch and the light didn’t come on, or they turned the tap and the water didn’t flow… you either get a funny look or they need to think about it a while – unless there was something recent or really big that interrupted general service. Storms here can get roads closed… but it’s still unusual for the power to fail – and that’s perhaps the most vulnerable of the services.

        1. If you are paying for a service and not getting the service, something has gone wrong or somebody isn’t doing his job.

          Some people are special snowflakes, but service for money is a reasonable demand. I’m not a charity organization; and if I were, my utility company is not a proper object of charity.

          1. Aye. Mother’s friend (now of 94) spent his post-war worklife keeping the lights on (“…and the meters spinning!”). $SISTAUR seemed a bit surprised, for a moment, that he worked many a Christmas and other holidays, at all hours. “If the wires are down, they gotta be put back up – whatever day or time it happens to be.”

            At one place we lived, lightning took out the telephone connection. The local phone company came out right away and laid a temporary line just resting on the ground, to keep our service going. It was a few days before things were buried proper, but there was little more than transportation time between them being informed of a problem and having something to at least get by in place.

            1. I remember the year I got called out every paid holiday. It happens.
              Alas, I fear a change in service priority is in the wind. The bean counters are in charge and confuse cheap with cost effective. This leads to the well known phenomenon of spending ten dollars to save a dime.

          2. It is snowing outside. As I sit here reading these posts in my warm house, having had a nice warm shower, and looking forward to nice hot dinner — oh yes, I agree.

            Still, once you have a quarter inch of icing it can bring down power and telephone lines. The recent record prolonged deep freeze produced damage to water mains and pipes in parts of the southeast. The floods after Hurricane Floyd some of the municipal water plants had to be shut down and decontaminated. I except that there can be unavoidable problems. I expect them to be the exception and that when they do occur such problems will be addressed as soon as possible.

            1. Not just the Southeast. We had a mess of waterline breaks back two weeks ago, all over town, when it got below 10F for two days straight. Redquarters lost water twice. We now have potable water in storage.

              1. 2 and 3 liter soda bottles are PET plastic, virtually impervious to air. And if you nose around, you can find plastic stackable storage pallets that hold eight of them at a time.

                If your tap water is reasonably drinkable you can simply refill soft drink bottles and use those.

                Our tap water is nearly undrinkable, with more chlorine than the average public swimming pool, so we have some flats of bottled water for drinking and pallets of 2-liter bottles with tap water for washing, etc.

                1. Whole house carbon filters to get rid of the chlorine are much less expensive than bottled water. I have a filter pitcher at work I use to get the chlorine out. After a year on well water, I found city water didn’t taste as good. After a few years, I found city water undrinkable. Well, drinkable in an emergency….

              2. We’re in second world territory. (The local store sells a T-shirt: Highway sign: $TOWN_NAME 12 miles
                End of the world 9 miles.)

                There’s a major feed (125KV line,I think) that runs about a hundred miles from US-395 to US97 by us. Every major storm takes it out for an hour or more. As I recall, the longest it’s been out has been 5 hours. Our backup solar system is sized to keep refrigeration running, though keeping the batteries charged in winter would be iffy. OTOH, our worst outages are from thunderstorms. I’ve had to use it a few times at night to run the CPAP machine.

                I just set up the pumphouse so that I can run it from a generator if necessary. The pump is small enough so that I can use an elderly generator. One of these days, we want to put it offgrid.

                Scepter (the gas-can people) make a 5 gallon water can out of heavy polyethylene. These are a lot sturdier than the Reliance(?) ones sold, but you don’t have a handy spigot. I put 3/8s of a teaspoon of bleach in the jug with our well water, and it keeps for drinking. We heat the pumphouse, and the water line is down 3′, so barring an extended Al Gore visit, we should be safe from freezing..

        2. I had an 11 hour power outage about 4 months ago after somebody crashed into a pole in the subdivision around 11 PM, a 50* hour power outage after, IIRC, Hurricane Ike in 2008, a 19 hour power outage after a tornado in 1999 took out a line of about twenty poles along the road, and a 12 hour power outage during a winter storm.

          * Some friends had to wait 7-10 days before they got their power back. It wasn’t that the Cincinnati area got hit very hard, but rather that so many local crews had been sent south to deal with the severe damage down there, leaving a major shortage of crews for days.

          1. That was the problem in Flat State in 2007. Many of the crews had gone to OK and AR because they had ice storms in November. Along came December and an inch of ice. Although I giggled madly when the radio announcer listed all the closings: “Our Lady of the Snows – services cancelled due to winter weather.”

            1. During Irma restoration, a rumor got out that we had sent our crews West to assist power restoration from maybe Harvey. Except we hadn’t. Nope, all our crews were at home putting up power lines. The problem was there was so much torn down. For over thirty years I’ve worked hurricanes, tropical storms, tornadoes, and ice storms, and have never seen damage of this extent. We ended up having more outside help than our own crews, and it still took us from Monday to Sunday to get on all the electricity where there was no damage that required the customer to hire an electrician.

              The SOP is for utilities to recall crews should their own area get hit by a disaster. We’ve come close to doing that a couple of times, but Irma wasn’t one of them.

            2. > Many of the crews had gone to OK and AR because they had ice storms in November.

              Because the incompetents who took over what used to be AP&L don’t keep their rights-of-way clear. They don’t cut anything back until a tree actually takes a power line down.

              When you have thousands of miles of wire, that means outages are inevitable. And why so many people here have generators, because the outages are sometimes measured in weeks, not hours.

          2. Longest we’ve been out is a little over 4 days after the BIG ice storm in NY a few years back. Even on the coldest day, running the generator 30 minutes every 4 hours is enough to keep the house warm. A 5 KW generator can run the boiler, well pump, a few lights, and any ONE small cooking appliance. Toaster oven, hot plate, microwave… If I can get out of the driveway and to a gas station WITH gas, I’ll run it continuously. Hot water is heated from the boiler, so not a separate load.

            Funny thing I believe I’ve mentioned before on this blog. In 1999 retail sales of portable generators were 4-5X normal. Every retailer adopted a stringent return policy on them. None of the generators ended up being returned, and they didn’t appear in the for sale sections of local newspapers. Y2K made preppers, at least partial preppers, out of a lot of people.

            1. When we moved into the present house we replaced the electric cook top with a gas model that can be lit with a match should there be a power outage. It is marvelous how much ambient heat a gallon of cider gently mulling in a Le Creuset Dutch Oven generates.

        3. Generally, everyone I know has experienced a power outage in the last two years…

          … almost always lasting less than an hour or two.

          Stuff happens, especially places where there are still unburied lines running about*. But when it’s fixed quickly… and there’s an automated cell phone call letting you know when it will be back on, and it’s usually OVER the time it actually takes… that’s a pretty healthy sign.

          *My neighborhood has buried lines (ca 1980 builds). A lot of places around here don’t—and rather infamously, the Sonoma/Napa area doesn’t. They think that’s what started the horrible fires.

          1. Heh. There was the afternoon that Murphy dropped by, and a fifteen minute outage turned into about four hours. If it could go wrong, it did. I don’t like giving outage estimates for that reason.

          2. I’m not so in favor of the automated calls.  After one recent storm took out our power in our area we were being regularly called to be updated on the progress of repairs.  Fine, but ours was back on in less than a half hour and we were getting calls throughout the evening.  The last call came in a couple of hours before I had to wake up.  Groggy, I had instinctively turned on the light so I could find the phone in the pile of stuff I had knocked over groping to answer it — only to be told what I already knew — I had power. 

            1. The city, every utility, and Comcast all feel free to robocall us mercilessly. The city subscribes to some kind of service from out of state that keeps calling from different numbers.

              So we finally turned the ringer off on the landline.

              The city/county “emergency services” love to hammer texts at our cellphones, but we have texting turned off (which Verizon really hates to do, and keeps turning back on). There are maybe six people with our cellular numbers, which we guard jealously. If we don’t recognize the number, we don’t answer. We still get a bunch of those every day.

              1. If we don’t recognize the number, we don’t answer.

                Shortly after first getting a cell phone I discovered that the number had belonged to several people before me. One had been a bail bondsman, interesting calls, occasionally troublesome and often at odd hours. I discovered another when someone left a phone message to inform him that as he had yet to return from his leave of absence or contact his employer he was fired. (I expect this is the same person who failed to pick up their laundry from the cleaners.) Then there was the message informing me that the caller and family was unexpectedly in the area and was going to be dropping by for dinner. (Someone must have gotten a surprise.)

                After a while the amusement level waned and I stopped reviewing any message or answer any call from a number I did not know.

              2. What’s really bad is that the telemarketers have the same equipment that allows the call to appear from different numbers…. and that can include your number, your doctor’s number, etc. Can’t block that one

        1. On that note, an hour ago I was reading about the demise of Thistle, Utah due to a landslide. A town wiped out, four months of disruption to a major transcontinental railroad, eight months disruption of two US highways, total abandonment of a railroad branch – and months of consequent business disruption for everything from farms and mines to tourist businesses and ranches.

          1. I was living in the county at the time. It was after a couple of exceptionally wet winters. There were (much smaller) mudslides all up and down the base of the mountains. Given the local geology, it wasn’t really preventable. The disaster was only partly the mudslide itself. It dammed the Spanish Fork river and created a lake, which flooded the town. The lake was drained before it overflowed. The natural dam created by the mudslide was deemed not sufficiently stable (although I cynically think the bigger reason was because putting a lake there wasn’t in the regional land use plan.) While I was working with the Utah highway department in the region, some 15 years later, the high-water mark of the lake was still visible, along with several abandoned houses.

    3. I am constantly astonished at the high quality of service I get merely by being halfway nice to people. I agree with something David Mitchel said on Q.I. “If you’re working in a store for minimum wage, of COURSE you’re in an awful mood!”, and yet it doesn’t seem to benthe case much of the time.

      But when they’re having problems with the register (those are called ‘point of sale systems’, and that’s abbreviated POS for a reason) I don’t bark or figet. I say ‘take your time’ (it helps to go slow with the stupid things).

      I just don’t get the ‘all service is awful’ thing in the US.

      1. I used to work retail. Working minimum wage for me was better than sitting around the house. I was living at home with my father and all my major bills were covered. Wages from my job covered transportation and snacks. This was a long time ago. Before PCs and the ‘Net.

  5. Right now we have a Democrat mouthpiece, who increasingly reminds me of Hillary, who is having a hissy fit over building new electric generation. Meanwhile, we’ve had some tight days capacity-wise already this year, with at least two more ahead. Does he know? Would he care? Probably not. But if we had insufficient capacity, I’m sure he and his Democrat comrades would push limits on personal use of electricity in the name of “Global Warming,” but it would be to cover “We don’t have enough electricity to go around, and we’re not going to generate more.” It’s the same as the “In order to serve you better” song and dance when a company curtails a service.

    Would be surprised if Portugal doesn’t have midnight electricians. Here the midnight electricians will go so far as to install their own transformers and lines to grow houses.

      1. Wow, a Yankee Screw Driver.

        I have one of my dads from days of yore.

        They don’t make them like that anymore.

        1. I figure to keep collecting them for when the power goes down permanently.
          Only good thing to ever come from the Yankees.

    1. Sadly, that would require a way to keep Regressives* out. As shown in Texas and our host’s current state of Colorado, a lot of people are moving out of California due to how it’s screwing itself over with being leftist but then bring the attitudes and beliefs in favor of the same system that made California crap in the first place.

      * There’s nothing of “progress” in wanting to revert to a pseudo-feudal society where only a few Elites(tm) lord it over peasants who have little to no say over much of anything.

      1. Hence my suggestion yesterday to build a wall on the California border. Although checkpoints on the state line where roads cross from California would be more appropriate – after all, that’s what California did in the 30’s, screening potential immigrants coming from points east.

        1. Those checkpoints are still there, or at least they were last time I had to go the People’s Democratic Republic of California. They were disguised as “agriculture inspection stations.” Which didn’t stop them from rooting around in our luggage like they were the Stasi.

          1. I’ve never had trouble. They ask if we have any fruit or vegetables, we say no, and we go on. I *am* annoyed at an out-of-state visitor we get who has a habit of bringing in all sorts of fruit & vegetable goods and PLANTS, some of them from farm stands, because the ag stations are there for a reason, and that reason is called “invasive pests.”

            If you ever have to go through one of those checkpoints again, just make sure you’re very definite about the “no fruits or veggies or plants.” Anything you’ve bought from a store and, say, cut up or otherwise processed doesn’t count. They’re worried about bugs.

          2. Think it was Arizona that turned back a long haul trucker friend because they discovered a fireant on his trailer. Going to a business convention in Florida, noticed an agricultural check station at the Georgia – Florida line and a sign requiring all trucks to stop.

        1. A decade or so ago aquantances of mine here in the Glorious Bear Republic were quite proud of their not being registered to vote, as it got them out of the jury duty rotation at the time. If they were to flee to the free states for economic reasons, withholding the franchise would have little impact.

        1. Our best defense from Californicators* in Deepest Oregon is Winter. When we moved here from Silly Valley, most people thought we’d last a year. They didn’t know that $SPOUSE was born in British Columbia and that I grew up in snow country. They figured we were staying after a couple of winters.

          (*) It also protects us from Those Better Than Us from the west side of the Cascades

      2. The thing is most of them think they’ll be in the Elites not the peasants so for them it would be an improvement thus progress.

        Fools never seem to learn that such systems promote for the ability to engage in violence from Medieval France to the USSR.

  6. What do I do for the nation?

    But I am very conscious of gratitude to you for taking me in and letting me be one of you.

    Ah, but see, that’s what you do. You’re an American, whether you lived here or not. THAT is what you do for the nation.

    I’m actually not a fan of letting in those who’ve “proven” themselves “valuable”. I say let them in if they truly want to be an American, with all that entails, regardless of their success or education at home. Their successes and failures will add to our nation in positive ways.

    The key, obviously, is the meaning of “be an American”. To us USAians, the meaning is a lot different than it is to the globalist progs and their elitist abettors.

  7. Ones like you, and the ones I knew in the army. You’ve earned your way. You do something else that you don’t cover explicitly. You remind the folk here, or drive it home to those who know but don’t think about it, that we’ve got a good thing, but that the good thing can go away if we don’t protect it.

  8. I know some native born (hell, some are relatives) who have done worse, especially by the “pay taxes and not on welfare for extended periods” minimum.

    I think even more than usefulness the question needs to be “can become American”. First and foremost, in this day and age, “speak English” should be required before you come here. While that would have been a bit much even 50 years ago in this century it isn’t much.

    The more and more I heard why we should take all these immigrants the less and less I’m inclined to. The more I see the example of our hostess the less and less I want to give a bigger and bigger pass to people not willing to rise to that standard.

    Then again, more and more I want us to become a truly propositional nation, which would mean eliminating native born citizen and downgrading birth here to merely native residence, and making all citizenship earned somehow.

    1. the question needs to be “can become American”

      making all citizenship earned somehow
      Uh oh. Here comes the Heinlein proposal. 😉

      1. Not strictly, but my fundamental complaint against the propositional nation argument isn’t immigrants but the fact that people who reject America (say the last two Democrat presidential candidates) are automatically born citizens. As long as that is the case we are not propositional and it is easier to argue citizenship should be limited to blood and soil (after all, that is all Hillary and Obama brought to the table).

      2. Heinlein did have a point. (I’m assuming you’re referring to the Starship Troopers story where to gain the right to vote you had to volunteer for service, and the Government put you anywhere they wanted until your service was done.) Point being that you had to pay your dues, and support the system before you had the right to start trying to change/improve the system.

        1. The thing that got me about the class discussions in Starship Troopers is that none of the students got the obvious answer as to “why has this system lasted for so long?” And that answer is that anyone who was dissatisfied with it, and who had any drive to do anything about it, was already herded into the system itself, where they could either work on the change from within, or be thoroughly tagged and monitored.

          That system was specifically geared to make use of people with any ambition at all. It captured the critical mass and made them part of it. There wasn’t a big enough percentage of people who both cared about government and were angry about it left outside of it.

          1. “The thing that got me about the class discussions in Starship Troopers is that none of the students got the obvious answer as to “why has this system lasted for so long?””

            Actually, in the H&MP class Rico had at OCS, one of his fellow candidates did bring that up and he had already worked out the same answer. The high schoolers never did.

      3. I’m not at all that sure about the whole Heinlein Starship Troopers concept, to be honest. Having been career military, I’m a little dubious of the virtues of the institution, in terms of making for good governance/responsible citizens. I’m actually of the opinion that maybe we ought to be doing the exact opposite, and making any form of government employment an automatic ban on ever getting the franchise to vote, simply because people have an alarming tendency to do things for their own benefit, and veterans ain’t actually that much different from the general run of human being.

        What I would like to see, however, is a clear sign-on for what’s in the constitution before becoming a fully enfranchised citizen. This BS where you’re automatically a citizen if you’re born here…? Nuh-uh; baby, I want to see a signature on the dotted line, where you indicate that you understand and are willing to contractually abide by the rules laid out in the Constitution. You have to take an oath to become a citizen, if you weren’t born here. Something similar should be demanded of those who are born here, if only so that you can say “Yeah, you knew the damn rules… No excuse for breaking ’em…”.

        1. I endorse this. You can accept your majority with an oath when you reach 18ish, or stay in your minority – without certain privileges. Not sure what those would be (besides voting).

        2. Same mistake so many make, the military isn’t all there is. In the book he talks about jobs outside the military. People that aren’t suited to the military go to other jobs. And you don’t get to vote until you have completed your service.

          1. I think Heinlein is on record stating that military service was something like 5-10% of total civil service? It’s not explicitly stated in the novel, yet a hard number for the entire Mobile Infantry is given at one point. With the statement, everyone drops, everyone fights. From Generals to quarter masters and cooks. Everyone is MI first with additional responsibilities after.
            I believe the number given was in the hundred thousands? For a stellar based confederation it was a surprisingly low number and not enough slots for everyone to complete their civil service requirement in the MI.

    2. Would you settle for speaks English on all official occasions? My father’s family came here 90 years ago and spoke Yiddish at home but spoke English to anyone not of their community. They also required their children to learn and speak English. They were law abiding respectful citizens who were overjoyed that they were living in America.

      1. Ability to actually speak English is all I want. I don’t care what they speak at home (although the kids need to learn English) but in this day and age the ability to function: read job ads, fill out job applications, fill out government forms, read menus, and so on should be an upfront requirement to get residency.

        1. I’m not certain, but methinks many Amish, whose families have lived here for generations, still speak their unique variety of German at home and to each other. They seem to be an exception to the rule that generation 1 speaks the language, gen 2 understands the language, gen 3 knows the swear words…

          1. My understanding is they speak a dialect of German among themselves. That is the key point. They make no demand that everyone around them learn it and do business in it.

            The same is true of the Amish near Ciudad Chihuahua that make that excelletn Chihuahua cheese. They speak German among themselves but Spanish when dealing with the general populace.

    1. I would argue he is putting the blame for discouraging assimilation on the wrong group. The discouragement pre-dates the Alt-Right and is arguably one of the principle causes of it. I suspect if we hadn’t witness “press 2 for Spanish” go from something relevant on the border to being a national norm the Alt-Right would have had a lot more trouble getting traction.

      1. That gets…complicated. Rabid xenophobes have always been one of the major complications for assimilation, because they can cause people to say “they’ll never accept me no matter how hard I try, so why bother?” (For examples of how this can work elsewhere, see SP 1-4.)
        However–and this gets to your point–what happened in the 1970s was that a bunch of people said, “Why should we expect people to assimilate to us?” and then proceeded to establish themselves in media, education, and politics.
        At which point the rabid xenophobes and rabid xenophiles worked in tandem to disincentivize assimilation.

        1. I won’t argue that. I just argue that claiming Hispanic non-assimilation in the US in the 20 teens has any casual connection to the Alt-Right is at best wrong and at worst backwards.

  9. What it is is a country so tied down by regulations, rules, and the ever present weight of tradition (Portugal, like many Baltic countries produces way more history than it can consume locally) that it works at cross purposes to itself.

    Many years ago a local bar and pin-ball establishment wanted to do some repairs and up-grade place for better function and atmosphere.  One of the things they discovered in the process was that the necessary wall treatment for the bathrooms in order to comply with the building, health and the fire codes were at odds.  The owners had gumption, so they plowed through legal work to get it all sorted out.  The place was greatly improved once they were done.  Still, if they had been fully aware of what it would entail before they started they might not have started in the first place and simply hobbled along with what they had.  

      1. How, I wonder, does one make a pin-ball machine ADA-compliant? Oh, sure, that deaf, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pin-ball, but how about that guy who lost his hands to an IED? How do you make a pool table ADA-compliant for the guy in the wheelchair?

        The heck with it! Let ’em go bowling, instead!

        Or play miniature golf.

  10. A few days ago I had to fill out a form that asked a series of questions, one was if I had ever renounced citizenship, alas there was not a [X] HELL NO! option, merely [X] NO (and YES, of course). Change that? I don’t think so.
    Slow ox? Yeah, can sure be. Utterly stupid ox? Nope.

  11. The other day, I was looking through my content section on Amazon (where it lists all my kindle books), and noticed that when ordered by author there were only a couple authors who I’ve read more than yours. Mostly only Larry Correia and Christopher Nuttall had as many (that dude is a book writing machine!) Personally, I’m happy we have you here in America. If writing books that entertain and make people happy isn’t enough reason for you to be here, I don’t know what is!

  12. I’ve been to Portugal for work (mostly Lisbon). I was a little flustered at being told in no uncertain terms not to drink the tap water, only bottled. The only other European place I was ever warned about this was the European side of Istanbul. Even 25 years ago, when it was still considered a Third-World country in some quarters, you could safely drink the tap water in Israel.

    1. In the mid 1990s I was assured in Germany that no one drank the local tap water because “it comes from the Rhine.” Well, I did and I’m still here. No car = not walking crates of glass bottles 3 km to and from a 7th floor apartment!

      1. LOL. I’ve always drunk tap water anywhere in Belgium, Holland, Germany, France,… and yes, I’m still around 🙂 And that includes Cologne, though I would *not* recommend drinking the eponymous eau de toilette 🙂

  13. You was stranger? Stranger than now?

    Not likely you would have come in and stayed as a language professor — you think the SF/F closet was uncomfortable!

  14. A reminder of when call countries “shitty” was permissable:

    A different media reaction when Israel was described as ‘sh–ty’
    When a French ambassador described Israel as a ‘sh—y little country’ – and polite society defended him
    By Tom Gross
    Daily Telegraph (London)
    January 16, 2018

    Donald Trump’s reference to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “s—hole countries” has rightly been condemned the world over.

    Bookstores have put out display tables using the banner “Books from s—hole countries”. The word “s—hole” was projected, using enormous letters, alongside a poop emoji, onto the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

    “This is CNN Tonight. I’m Don Lemon. The president of the United States is racist,” is how CNN host Lemon began his prime time broadcast. “Have you no sense of decency?” asked James Fallows in The Atlantic, adding that we are now living in a “s—hole era”.

    “Donald Trump Flushes Away America’s Reputation,” ran the headline of the New York Times editorial. The New York Daily News’ front page was filled by an enormous cartoon replacing Trump’s body with a pile of excrement.

    Equally strong words have been used in the British media about the president’s use of the S-word (which, for the record, Trump has not admitted using).

    But if one recalls the last time the representative of a major western government used the S-word to describe an entire country, the media reaction was very different.

    When then French ambassador to London, Daniel Bernard, told guests at a dinner hosted by writer Barbara Amiel (who was a Telegraph columnist at the time) in December 2001, that Israel was a “sh—y little country,” some journalists rushed to his defense or even praised him.


    1. You can tell a lot about the principles of the Left by their double standards.
      No principles and no standards.

  15. > we have a massive shortage of engineers

    There is no shortage of engineers in general. The shortage is of engineers who are willing to work for the kind of wages paid to a convenience store clerk.

    “Why should we pay good money for employees when we can just hire some place in New Delhi for as long as we need them?”

    Your newbie engineer who wants to make enough to live on… he’s probably not working as an engineer.

    1. I’m not a big fan of imported engineers or health professionals. From anywhere. Especially health professionals from first world Europe educated with the idea that the elderly have a duty to die. Even the best of the English speakers among them I’ve had the misfortune to work with have trouble understanding problems that are not from the textbook. Seems their learning stops when they get their formal education.

    2. Yeah, I was an IT programmer/analyst, until that was outsourced. Went to grad school, got the CPA, worked as pseudo-IT in the accounting department because IT was now so useless that user areas were setting up their own applications. When that got hit with outsourcing, I didn’t lose my job, but I was one of the ones taking on everyone else’s, including the stuff that was supposed to be done by the outsource contractors, only they were incompetent, for no additional pay. I was the seventh person to quit in a year from a 20 person department.

      1. I’d also point out that there’s a difference between “people with an engineering degree” and “engineers.” I’ve heard a lot of stories about people whose BS in electrical engineering apparently didn’t include the ability to, for example, diagram a basic circuit.

          1. Don’t doubt it. I’ve just heard enough of these tales of “oh, there are plenty of unemployed engineering graduates” at the same time my husband is desperately trying to hire an even halfway competent candidate.

      2. If we’d stop offshoring so much engineering work to India, Singapore, Poland, etc. maybe it would be an appealing field again. The office I work at has maybe 40% the number of engineers and 30% the number of designers it had when I started, for the same quantity of work. Why? Because much of it is being shipped overseas. Probably 75% of the IT software developers are now offshore personnel, as well.

      3. Possibly relevant to an engineer shortage- my 2nd eldest graduated about 12 years ago with an EE Degree. He was a white male veteran, as was one other in his graduating class, who both graduated at just about the 1/3 point in the class. They were the last two people in the class hired; all the females and minorities were hired before graduation day. He was actually hired when the company that hired him let go all the recent graduates they had that weren’t performing… As far as he can tell, none of the female graduates are working as engineers today. He’s not sure of numbers on the non-Asian minorities, but suspects the same is true.

        Seems the attempt to bring diversity into engineering fields brings diversity into engineering schools. But not so much 10-20 years after graduation.

        BTW, since the number of graduates with engineering degrees seems to be increasing each year, and we didn’t use to have a shortage, seems kind of hard to believe there’s really a shortage. https://www.asee.org/papers-and-publications/publications/college-profiles/15EngineeringbytheNumbersPart1.pdf is one reference to that. One way is to create an artificial shortage is by putting in a job requirement that Americans might not have, allowing you to say- The job can’t be filled! We need H1b visa holders!” I ran into the narrow job description a few times in my non-degree required field and know exactly how it works.

        1. > narrow job description

          I once saw a want ad in InfoWorld or PC Week. Some company wanted a new IT guy The requirements included expertise in several ancient mainframe and mini scripting languages, end-user PC support with various word processors and databases, fluent technical Japanese, four to six months per year in Japan, relocation to their main corporate site in Minnesota (no moving compensation), and a bunch of other stuff, with compensation “up to $35,000.” Which was laughable even then.

          They didn’t really want to hire anyone, I expect.

      4. People who think about becoming engineers or programmers, look at the market, see the H1Bs, the outsourcing, etc. and decide that maybe something else would be better.

        I’ve been a SAP ABAP programmer for a long time, and I am sick and tired of bean counters and management thinking of programmers as all the same easily replaceable, cogs in the IT machine. They are so stupid that a Programmer who has been with the company for 30+ years is retiring and they wait until AFTER they leave to post the job. They don’t see that they have lost anything. Stupid )(*&&*%*%&$%#*)&*_)*

    3. > > we have a massive shortage of engineers

      > There is no shortage of engineers in general.

      Depends on what kind of Engineer you mean. There are lots of mechanical engineers, the market is a bit full of them (or at least it was 2-3 years ago). Electronic Engineers? That’s good money right there.

      > The shortage is of engineers who are willing to work for the
      > kind of wages paid to a convenience store clerk.

      Most of them in the Denver area are making more than I am, and I don’t come cheap. Those that are making less aren’t making a *lot* less, and the one or two I’m thinking of have been working for the same company for over a decade–since they graduated college.

      1. A fair number of EEs retired around Y2K when the dot-com bust coincided with the outsourcing trend. I got hit in the summer of 2001, though that case was when the company (Agilent, formerly part of HP) bailed out of semiconductors altogether and sold the product lines. I was lucky; found a well-paying consulting job that lasted 9 months (client went bust) that gave me enough money to finish the house so we could leave California.

        I that case, a large number of semiconductor companies left California, frequently using an overseas fab vendor and probably doing production offshore. There weren’t a lot of jobs for hardware types then and there, and I suspect a fair number of EE students saw the writing on the wall and shifted concentration. Any semiconductor hardware EE jobs in 2002 would have required an engineer to move or learn RF, or both. OTOH, software was growing, as well as eBay.

        I’m sure there’s still a semicouductor company actually doing production in Silicon Valley, but I couldn’t name any names. Hell, the equipment vendors are long gone. The ICs I was responsible for are now being made somewhere in SE Asia or Taiwan, and likely also in the PRC. The companies I’m familiar with are now doing sales and maybe design in California, but it ain’t Silicon Valley. Not any more.

      2. From a long career in the semiconductor side of SV:

        MEs here get unemployed more often, and take longer to find new gigs.

        EEs with digital circuit design experience get caught in layoffs at about the normal rate, but get new jobs with some alacrity, especially if they have specific expertise (i.e. coding VHDL).

        But if you want to find an EE that gets tracked down with job offers as they are leaving the outplacement training session after a layoff, look to Analog Design EEs.

  16. When you turn a phrase, you really do a great job. This is one of your best:

    Portugal, like many Baltic countries produces way more history than it can consume locally

    Thanks for that

        1. Who was displaced by whom. Also, the parties in the Balkans seem much better at carrying long-term violent grudges.

        2. Tell ya what… If you see no difference between the Balkans and the Baltics, here’s a little experiment for you: Find yourself a Serbian. Go out of your way to insult and/or piss that Serb off. Should you manage to somehow survive that, and come out of the experience without having started a multi-generational feud that would make the Hatfields and McCoys look sane, then try doing the same with, say, an Estonian.

          Having done that, try to tell me there’s no real difference. The Serbs have neither forgiven nor forgotten things that went down back in the 13th Century. The Baltics, by comparison? They’re willing to move on, and forget a lot of what happened back during the 19th Century. Some of what happened in the 20th is negotiable, while for the Serbs? LOL… They’re still willing to cut throats over what happened in the 14th Century…

      1. Eh, depending on where you are on the Baltic, there’s more than enough history to make people sigh for the peace and quiet of, oh central France.

          1. Yep. $ANCESTORS were Danish or German until they said something rude in Plaatdeutsch and moved to Jutland.

        1. Egads yes. The Baltic, the Balkans, Russia, and the Austrian-Hungarian empire all got mixtangled together for a few centuries there. I’m still working on sorting it out.

            1. I wondered why my Western Civ course in medieval history mostly ignored Italy after Roman times. I discovered later that was likely because it was about four and a half kinds of mess, compared to the British and French.

      2. I’m going to blame my fingers.

        It can be difficult to type accurately when your two middle fingers are often pointed upright.

      3. (To the tune of GOLDFINGER) BADDDDFINGERS, it’s the hand, the hand with the lousy touch, a rotten touch….

    1. I’m not sure just how true it is, but I have claimed that the difference between Americans (of old, anyway?) and many others is that many others want to manage problems so that they can be in control of things, while Americans want to solve problems so they don’t have to bother about them any more.

  17. Some of the best Americans I’ve ever met, the ones who really get the Constitution and individual responsiblity, weren’t born here. You. The gal from Cuba who spent her childhood being beaten up by Castro soldiers (she has some major stories!). The young man from India who pounded the table, exclaiming how in American, everyone gets a fair chance, it doesn’t matter who your parents are or how rich you are. The guys from Nigeria and Jamaica saying how un-racist America is. Warms my cynical heart.

    1. The guys from Nigeria and Jamaica saying how un-racist America is.

      Those are the guys being denounced at Ivy League schools for taking Affirmative Action slots meant for American African-Americans, not these beneficiaries of Third World Privilege!

  18. “Portuguese have been locked in a tragic fight throughout history with their traditional enemies, the Portuguese”

    OK, that’s funny.
    (From a fellow former Manitoid.)

  19. HBO? Really? I guess I still won’t be renewing our subscription to them, for the twentieth (?twenty-fifth?) year in a row.

    Wolff’s ‘Fire And Fury’ to Be Made into a TV Series
    By Sarah Hoyt
    You guys know – because I’ve explained it before – why it is that, in our culture, dying institutions and entertainment corporations tend to roll left before they die.

    For those coming to this late, it is because – the left in the long march, having completely taken over all entertainment and news reporting – if your magazine, newspaper or tv station were in financial trouble, you had one last-ditch chance of making yourself employable again.

    If you staked out a position far to the left of all your peers, there was an out-chance that people seeing your organization go out in flames wouldn’t even look at your spectacular mismanagement but simply say, “well, he was too daring and tried to move too fast. It’s sad, but it’s the price of living in this corrupt capitalist society.” They’d then hire you again, and with luck, hire you for a better position than then one you had before.

    I watched a science fiction editor perform this trick three times in a row once.

    Does the trick still work?


    Which brings us to this:

    Michael Wolff’s ‘Fire and Fury’ to Become TV Series.

    Yes, you read that right, Fire and Fury, the book that has so many inaccuracies it can’t be taken seriously; the book that was so “urgent” it wasn’t even properly copyedited; the book that most people are reading to point at and laugh is going to become a [HBO] series. …

    1. Okay – more careful reading indicates the HBO connection is an instance of bad writing by Hollywood Reporters and that no network has offered actual money for this product.

        1. Probably, yes. I also realized that while the Hollywood Reporter spoke of a “Seven-Figure Contract” that (Hollywood accounting being what it is) that might only mean a small advance with promise of seven figures if it ever gets on the air.

          1. Is it wrong of me to hope any contract he signed involves one of those Hollywood Accounting gimmicks, and Michael Wolff ends up with small cash payment and a percentage of the profits that never appear now matter how well it does?

            1. That’s why you always try for a points of gross, and you get offered posing of net, as there will never ever be any net.

    2. HBO has sort of a weird business model for TV. On most stations, things live and die by ratings. A show with good ratings gets advertisers and thus makes money. A show with bad ratings fails to get the advertisers and thus gets cancelled. Fair or unfair, at least it’s objective.

      But with HBO, the real question for each show is “How many marginal subscribers does this bring in? How many people who wouldn’t subscribe otherwise will subscribe in order to see this?”

      Now, my guess is that the answer for Wolff would probably be “not enough”; it’s hard to imagine the type of person who would subscribe for that but wasn’t already subscribing to see John Oliver or whomever their latest version of the “show an out-of-context clip of a Republican and laugh at him” alleged comedian is. However, knowing Hollywood, a miniseries of Wolff’s book is pretty much a shoe-in for as many Emmys and Golden Globes as they can nominate it for, so maybe HBO goes for it in order to keep their reputation for “daring, award-winning” television.

      1. While I agree with your reasoning, I think it imperative to rephrase your conclusion, a la Game of Thrones:

        … maybe HBO goes for it in order to keep their reputation for “daring, award-winning” television with tits.

        1. That was included in the “daring” part. These are people who think anything related to sex means that they are bravely defying the Puritans who run the country.

    1. Couple of other money quotes from that article (and I think I read about her in 2015 the first time she was turned down .. lefties never learn).

      “Tanja Suter, the president of the local Swiss People’s Party, claimed Ms Holten has a “big mouth” and that residents did not want to grant her citizenship “if she annoys us and doesn’t respect our traditions”.

      Local residents in Switzerland often have a say in citizenship applications, which are decided by the cantons and towns where the applicants live rather than federal government.”

      1. That would actually be a horrifying approach in an American context, given the continued existence of California. Imagine California with another ten-twenty Electoral College votes. [shudder]

  20. There’s a shortage of engineers partly because it’s a damned hard row to hoe. I’m an aerospace engineer, and Virginia Tech in the early ’80s had a brutally hard engineering program. As in 65% losses.

    On the other hand, if there’s a real demand, those of us who are approaching retirement can be persuaded to stay on for a suitable bonus. I don’t even insist on cash…the right to horsewhip certain members of Congress will suit me nicely. Or other Valuable Considerations…I’ve noticed that managers tend to think only in terms of money.

    1. My younger son keeps having to stay in school longer, because the school doesn’t run classes with less than 6 enrolees. So many people have dropped out of engineering, that in the last two years, it’s hard to make quorum.

      1. Interesting. That’s why I wound up taking the class in General Relativity. They needed eight warm bodies for the class to run. It proved interesting enough that I didn’t drop it.
        Maybe your son’s school has figured out hot to keep kids from gaming the system that way? If not, what sort of bribe would you need to offer up to five people to enroll and drop once the class was underway?

      2. What type of engineering? EE? Mechanical? Aerospace? Chemical (the BIG money major…but even tougher than Aero)

              1. Hmm…five or six years ago would have been better. Timing isn’t everything, but it helps. Right now, hypersonics are the Next Big Thing.

          1. No, just motivated. Aerospace is ME plus aerodynamics, stability, and control. EE is a different subject entirely. But tell him to shut up and graduate already so he can start making money. Let someone else pay for his future education. 🙂

            And be ready for him to move. The combination of ME/Aero makes him a prime candidate for propulsion systems. Aero/EE for guidance and control. Not sure what work there is in those fields in Colorado. Pro tip: If he’s a country boy, he could do worse than flight test.

            FWIW, my B.S. is in Aerospace & Ocean Engineering. Minored in History. Then Naval War College…and the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

      3. The smallest BSEE class I had was Quantum Electronics, with 7 or 8 enrolled. I was the only undergraduate. Didn’t hurt that the professor had the patent on the Red LED. (Thanks, Nick Holoynak.)

    2. Engineering seems to be something you grok or you don’t. Thinking that you might like to be an engineer and having the ability to do the work are two different things. Even then, the ability to do the work isn’t the same as the ability to think like an engineer. I’ve seen some engineers who shouldn’t have been in the business.

  21. Once upon a time I emigrated to America. I brought a bunch of money with me and got a degree. I followed all the rules. I got my PT license and got a job and paid taxes.

    For ten years, I tired to negotiate the US immigration service. As Mexicans and Somalis and all sorts of people with zero skillz or education got Green Cards to cut lawns and pluck turkeys, I, a licensed medical professional, got -nothing-. I was constantly told that if I lost my job, I had to immediately leave the country. Or I could be barred from re-entry if I went home for Christmas. Or I could be scooped up by the cops and dumped in Mexico because I didn’t have my papers with me. Some of those things were true, some were not, but even high priced lawyers couldn’t tell me which. Because it would change from month to month.

    So after ten years of the INS fucking with me, I went home. Because Canada, for all its problems, is still a pretty good place to live. Lucky me, right? I would hate to have been in the position that America was my only hope for a half-decent life. That would have been Bad.

    Understand my friends that -none- of the above has anything to do with -Americans-. All of it was bureaucracy, unionized public employees and socialist government. Your government does not do you any favors.

    1. AH, yep. The INS is one of the worst sh*tholes of the Federal government. Unfortunately, it got that way because of dishonest and totally incompetent politicians passing immigration laws that make zero sense unless your looking to line your pocket with green.

    2. Your government does not do you any favors.

      We keep trying to tell it that, but we’re constantly drowned out, labeled “racist” and denounced as “deplorable.”

    3. Good grief.

      Given the bloggers’ general sympathies, I tend to assume the periodic posts on tumblr about how to avoid/thwart the ICE are in defense of people who are in fact not supposed to be here and probably never were in the first place, but this is a valuable reminder of the nature of the bureaucracy.

  22. “For I was a stranger, and you took me in. And I owe you.”

    I think the tipping point for a lot of Americans who hadn’t really thought seriously about the immigration debacles was the spate of stories about legal and illegal people outright dissing America and being highly ungrateful for the opportunities they enjoyed here.

    Here’s someone who also speaks hard truths about other countries:

    1. I’m guilty of cherry picking verses but here it goes.

      The Bible is actually definitive on the subject of illegal immigration.
      John 10:1-42
      “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.”

      And the consequences of those invasions were the loss of property and the rightful inheritances of the people living there.

      Mic 2:2
      “They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud people of their homes, they rob them of their inheritance.”

      While the punishment for theft wasn’t death, it did require many-fold restitution. Depending on where you’re looking, anywhere from 4 to 7 times the value taken.

      Illegal immigration is wrong. It is wrong to ignore it, it is wrong to not punish it, it is a crime against all of the people of the United States. And anyone who tries to forgive it is hurting both the citizens and legal residents of this country. And they’re not really doing the illegals any favors either.

  23. Sarah at PJM on the “Fire and Fury” sitcom deal:
    “I wonder if it will play on the gorilla channel?”

    I trust it will have the same box-office as the Dan Rather docudrama “Truth” (heavy on the drama, but it was about a document).

  24. Six years in the US Navy. Had the same job now for seventeen plus years straight.

    I still owe to the US of A.

    And I tell people routinely that I am incredibly lucky (sometimes I use the word “blessed”). Why? Because I was born in the United States of America in the latter half of the 20th century.

    You’re doing fine just with your blog and PJ posts, Sarah. You have, to use your own word, contributed.

  25. > I owe the nation a debt, and I’ll do my best to pay it back.
    > It might never happen, but I will try my damnedest.
    > For I was a stranger, and you took me in. And I owe you.

    That is precisely how we feel.

  26. My question is – if everyone who’s a nice person leaves these “#$!+hole” countries – who’s left behind to clean them up and turn them into decent places to live? Does the US get to say “Once they’ve knocked themselves down to a few thousand survivors, we get to go in and declare it a new state for our flag?” Maybe we should divide them up by how many refugees were taken in among the various countries? Of course – once the refugees left and we take it back over, they don’t get to go back there on *our* dime. They helped make it a $#!+hole, and didn’t clean it up. So F’em.

  27. My paternal ancestors came here from Ireland in the 1850s. They were then run out of Massachusetts by the local Know Nothing group who at least warned them that their house would be burned so they could flee. My maternal grandparents came from Sweden early in 1900 and were scammed by a setup in Wisconsin that preyed upon newcomers. In the end both sets produced great children and grandchildren, etc who contributed to their communities. The Irish group produced the Harvard Class of 1880 salutatorian (who told the assembly that their treatment of Catholics was shameful), and the Swedish group produced a State Senator who got a bill passed in 1954 called the Quiet Title Act, to wreck the scam. I *think* the deal is that lots of places can be terrible but here in the US ideally, you can find new ways around old troubles. The trouble lately is, as others have said, that people want to bring their bad ideas with them. I think Sarah gets acquitted of that easily.

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