Sunday, September 4, 2011

Gift Box; Books, Fruits, and Nuts...

DragonCon ??? A sci-fi fanatic acquaintance stumbled across this and emailed the link. This parade was held in Atlanta? I wonder what they do in the convention hall – fire-breathing workshops? - lady troll mudwrestling? And what is served in their foodcourts? I hereby declare that the Left Coast is no longer the land of fruits and nuts, that distinction is now bestowed on Georgia. I use to think that the Civil War re-enactors were a little ‘dinky dau’. Maybe they are the same people expanding their horizons.

Fall Reading List – One new book on order titled: ‘How the Helicopter Changed Modern Warfare’ by Walter Boyne. It has some good reviews. This I understand is a history of the development of military rotary wing aviation and of the evolution of their use and tactics and not a technical discussion on aerodynamics. Coming in the mail soon I hope. I am not an aviator myself but have had a love and hate relationship with helos since I took my first ride 50 years ago over the pine savannahs and sawgrass swamps of Camp Lejeune in the passenger seat of an HOK-1 (later renamed OH-43), the one with the side-by-side intermeshed twin rotors. I would hope it covers Brute Krulak pushing the vertical envelopment concept in the 1940s when everyone else considered helos as only good for observation and search-and-rescue. The author Boyne is one of the founders of ‘Air and Space’ magazine and a pre-eminent aviation historian so I am expecting a good read. This should be on your list Al, but then you probably already have a copy.

Plus some used books I picked up from the annual book sale at our local library listed below:

I already started on Asprey’s bio of ‘Frederick the Great’, but am only through the first chapter about his youth. What a strange relationship with his father. I thought the English royals had toxic family relationships but they were nothing compared to this household.

Also a bio of Cervantes the author of Don Quixote – how could a jarhead like me resist the life story of a Spanish Naval Infantryman who was reportedly at the Battle of Lepanto.

A bio of Graham Greene the novelist, occasional spy, friend of Kim Philby and Charlie Chaplin, and critic of American imperialism.

The memoirs of Vincent Sheean, foreign correspondent who interviewed Abd el Krim in the Rif War of 1920s Morrocco, Sun Yat Sen and Borodin in China, and who covered the Spanish Civil War, Italian invasion of Ethiopia, and the occupation of Sudetenland.

Barbara Tuchman’s ‘The March of Folly’ – I think she needs to update with a new chapter on Junior Bush.

And I have to confess some spy thrillers, I cannot stay away from LeCarre and Alan Furst, plus a few of Stuart Kaminsky’s Moscow detective mysteries. I am addicted, I use them as in-betweens of more serious reads.


  1. Mike-

    Thanks for the link to the Boyne book. My first "Vertical Envelopment" was also 60 years ago at Lejeune, as a fire team leader transported in that God awful HR2S (CH-37 for the Army guys).

    Being at the far end of the logistics chain, will have it shipped to my daughter, who will then forward it. Will be interesting to see a "Blue Suit" aviator views the subject of helos.

    I have been slowly working my way through "Mussolini's Rome: Rebuilding the Eternal City", by Borden Painter. It's available in eBook format from Barnes and Noble for free! In light of the thread on "Empire" this is an very interesting read, as Mussolini was working on using architecture, renovation, development and restoration to make the new Rome the showpiece of Italian Fascism, and a symbol of the heritage and continuance of Roman mastery from the time of the Caesars to the Fascist regime. I have had to get out all my maps of the city to follow the details. However, the underlying story of using the city to bolster his imperial image is quite interesting.

    BTW, that Kaman Huskie (OH-43/HOK) was a very interesting design. Besides the unique rotor configuration, the directional aspect of the rotor system was controlled by trim tabs on the rotor blades, not push pull tubes to vary pitch.

  2. "What a strange relationship with his father. I thought the English royals had toxic family relationships but they were nothing compared to this household."

    Mike, near as I can tell, the Brits actually had some of the saner family relationships in Royals history. Consider the Turks where the successor needs to kill or neuter all of his brothers as soon as he takes the throne. Now THAT'S a GREAT way to raise a family.

  3. The Sheean book sounds fascinating. The inter-war period may be among the most complex and entertaining eras in recent history, what with the collision between Western industrial society and those in Africa and Asia virtually unchanged since the 14th Century; airships versus spear-armed camelry amid the usual panoply of human whack-a-doodle peculiarity. Warlords, spies, despots, adventurers, fascist bastards, ruthless commissars, incompetent reformers...and let's not forget the women.

    Sounds like fun.

  4. Al –

    How do you like those E-Books? We bought our middle daughter a Kindle last Xmas and she loves it. But I like the feel of turning pages and cannot picture myself converting. Plus I get most of my reads in used bookstores at cheaper prices than she gets for her electronic versions.

    Your ‘Mussolini’s Rome’ sounds like an interesting read. I will keep my eye open for a copy . . . or, maybe convince my daughter to get an e-version and borrow her Kindle. You are never too old they say to try something new. That memoir of Vincent Sheean I mentioned in the post above says on the jacket that he visited Rome in 1922 when Mussolini’s Black Shirts were first starting to take over the streets.

    I remember the HR2S. Were’nt those godawful clamshell doors up front a problem. Kinda reminds me of the old Globemaster fixed wing transport of the 50s and early 60s, or maybe I am thinking of the Guppy or C-5?? Never rode in the HR2S myself but did many trips in the back of a HUS-1. I note from Wikipedia that the HOK and the HUS are still flying in various civilian configurations, but not the HR2S. You have to wonder how often those trim tabs on the HOK rotor blades wore out and needed to be replaced. My twilight tour in 82 was as a helo Group S-2 and I recall every daily staff meeting the CO would start out by checking on rotor blade inspection results and blasting the supply officer for the lack of availability of the new abrasion-resistant blades. And that was long before our adventures in middle-eastern desert sandstorms.

  5. Pluto -

    You are right. And in addition to fratricide, sometimes the harems got involved. They induced still-birth in their rival's pregnancies, used poison or bribed eunuchs to drown infant rivals of their own sons. I think eventually the Ottomans and some Arab monarchies moved to the system in use in the Saudi Kingdom today where after death the ruler is succeeded by a brother and not by a son.

  6. Chief -

    Speaking of the inter-war years. I had meant to add to your previous post regarding the interim between the Spanish American War and the Spanish Civil War. Some speculate that the rise of liberals, anarchists, and communists in Spain in the 20s and 30s was due to reaction of the repressive measures used by Spain against Cubans and Filipinos. They also speculate that Spanish fascism grew out of the same experience but of course with completely different conclusions and after-effects. Makes you wonder what is in our future.

  7. Pluto -

    "Agnatic Seniority" is what finally developed with the Ottoman line of succession and is in use by the Saudis today.

    Hmmm, wonder if there is a modern day corollary with political parties instead of brothers, nephews and cousins?

  8. Hey all,

    Sorry I've been absent recently and haven't posted in the Empire thread - been very, very busy.


    I didn't think I'd like ebooks, but now I buy them exclusively and read them on my iPhone. It enables me to read pretty much everywhere, plus the e-format allows for searches which is always valuable. I have to thanks Seydlitz because my first ebook was Washington Rules which I bought and read at his prompting.

  9. Mike-

    I wasn't initially hot on the idea of eBooks. We started on eBooks using our iPod Touch and the Barnes & Noble NOOKbooks app(daughter works for them and typically sends B&N gift cards as gifts), simply because English language books are very expensive here. Figured we'd give it a try, and it worked like a champ. Adjustable fonts, so you have a very readable text, just less of it per screen. And, very handy for travel and the beach.

    Last trip to the States, we picked up a NOOK Color. Great for the wife to read some magazines she likes. Also provides a web browser and e-mail function, so a handy travel companion.

    If you have an iPod Touch or iPhone, or an Android smart phone, you can download the Barnes and Noble app, open a B&N account (no obligation) and try a free book or two, of which there are thousands. Can do the same with Amazon's app and books.

    I am going through books like a hot knife through butter! Mostly light reading, but several military histories as well.

  10. We got our daughter a Kindle this past Christmas and she loves it. She rides the "T" (Boston subway) to work and uses it then. So we went ahead and bought the hardware for her, but then told her she was on her own when it came to the software (reading material). I view these Kindles, Nooks, etc., as being kind of like ink jet printers, where the real money is made in ink cartridges.

    I do not have an IPhone, an IPad or any other so-called "smart" devices. We have always been the last on the block to get newfangled stuff and that's not changing as we age. We can't figure most of it out anyway. So we do the local library, AKA your tax dollars at work. They've got the usual check-in/check-out plus they sell paperbacks for not much. I'm a "friend" of the library and I donate regularly. I strongly believe in libraries. There are a lot of folks who can't afford to pay $150 for an E-reader and then purchase books they can get for free at the library.

    The community of old farts where I live has a book exchange where you can go in and drop some off and pick some others up. Plus we've got excellent Good Will stores here with pretty extensive collections of used books for sale. I've got lots of books available.

    I used to buy books. Lots of books. When I was in the D.C. area, the Pentagon bookstore was known as a great place to get the usual best sellers, but also some pretty arcane stuff about politics, government, military topics. Bought a lot of stuff there.

    Twenty years ago, after we'd moved from the D.C. area to San Jose (corporate move, meaning we didn't pay), I looked at all of the stuff the movers had dropped off in the house we'd bought. And I realized: I'd done some built-in shelves in my last house, but had nowhere to do that in this new one. And then I realized something else: my employer paid to move all of these books and I will never read them again. Like who gives a shit about reading Kissinger's memoirs again? Who gave a shit the first time, for that matter?

    So the San Jose Public Library got more than 20 book boxes in donations from me. The librarian couldn't believe it; she remarked that they only got stuff like this from estates. "This is my estate," I said, "All you have to do is support my tax write off with a good receipt."

    After my mother died (my parents were big bookies and still had a lot of them), I donated almost everything (e.g., kept a couple of first editions of Jack London; I'm not stupid).

    My philosophy: Books are to be read by the maximum number of people. They do no one any good when they sit on shelves in our houses. Be honest: Ask yourself if you will ever re-read that wonderful book about world or military affairs copyrighted 2000. Also ask yourself if squirreling away books that gather dust and take up room in your house is consistent with the wonders of the Internet. For example, encyclopedias are going the way of the Dodo bird. I gave away the old Brittanica. Why do I need hundreds of pounds of books when a key stroke or two will suffice?

    Whenever I hear about how well Amazon does, about how great e-books are, and then I look at how deserted our libraries seem to be, I have to wonder just how bad economic times really are. But then, I'm a strange guy: I thought Starbucks, which sells inferior coffee for outlandish prices, would maybe go out of business when the recession hit. Nope. Turns out that $3 latte is more important than the old 401K.

  11. Andy and Al -

    I'll try it but am too much like Publius to convert. It is not just the new technology. My bride claims I get more pleasure from browsing old bookstores than I do from reading those that I buy. Could be, but I tell her it is better than buying dust collectors at the antique stores like her and her cronies.

    Publius -

    The Seattle area libraries seem to be crowded all the time. It could be our weather and not a thirst for knowledge. Got rid of my encyclopedias years ago also. But I do not trust Wikipedia 100%. And although most major online encyclopedias like Brittanica want a subscription fee, our library allows access to them and to several databases.

    Concur with your comment that: "Books are to be read by the maximum number of people. They do no one any good when they sit on shelves in our houses." When I first retired I had roomfuls of bookcases. Now just a shelf or two with mostly books waiting to be read. After reading I generally donate them to the State Veterans Home along with past issues of Golf Magazine (after I cut out any lesson on how to get rid of my banana ball).

  12. There are classics that I have read and re-read, and those I consider worth keeping; I don't want to take the time to haul ass down to the library to find that both copies of "Kim" or "Roughing It" are checked out.

    But for the current-events stuff; military, political, and economic, the library is aces. And I'm a sort of Luddite in that I LIKE the dead-tree media. I can't carry a smart phone because I need mine for work, I work outside in the rain all winter, and the waterproof iPhones cost the heavens and the earth. But I can carry a paperback in the truck and it's always there, never needs charging, and I can get the same virtues out of it as an e-book.

    Not better, just simpler (for me) and less spendy.

    And our Portland libraries seem to be doing fine. 'Course, we regularly vote them levies to fund them...

  13. Mike and FDChief are on my wavelength. And I didn't mean to convey any impression that our libraries are deserted; they're not, but I still have to say that I'm a little perplexed at the number of people (and they're all over these military blogs, BTW) who drop some serious coin at Amazon. Somebody mentioned Washington Rules. Well, Andy Bacevich is a great guy with a world view very much like my own. However, I didn't buy his book. My library had it. Andy has to deal with that just as the newspapers have to deal with the Internet. In passing, I'll note that I believe strongly in newspapers and I do get my local paper in the driveway every AM. And then I get the NY Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe on line. I fear we'll ultimately drive the newspapers in print form out of business (Christian Science Monitor is now only on line), but what do you do in a world with $3.50 a gallon gas and more than ten percent unemployment?

    I'm lucky. I live in an upper middle class area where most folks are pretty literate (my life experience convinces me the two go hand-in-hand), so I'm able to find reading material to feed my voracious appetite pretty cheaply. However, if I were in Al's shoes (or those of Seydlitz, from whom we haven't heard), I would have gotten a Kindle long ago. It's got to be a godsend for an expatriate, just as the Internet really helps fill in the blanks left by the old International Herald Tribune. One wonders, in fact, how the old Tribune does these days when one can go on line and get the parent NYT instantly.

    "Vertical envelopment." Arggggh. That goes with "autorotation." Been there, done that. I don't like helicopters.

    Mike: here are some important things to know about golf:

    - The only sure rule in golf is - he who has the fastest cart never has to play the bad lie.
    ~ Mickey Mantle

    - Sex and golf are the two things you can enjoy even if you're not good at them.
    ~ Kevin Costner

    - I don't fear death, but I sure don't like those three-footers for par.
    ~ Chi Chi Rodriguez

    - Swing hard in case you hit it.
    ~ Dan Marino

    - My favorite shots are the practice swing and the conceded putt. The rest can never be mastered.
    ~ Lord Robertson

    - Give me golf clubs, fresh air and a beautiful partner, and you can keep the clubs and the fresh air.
    ~ Jack Benny

    - There is no similarity between golf and putting; they are two different games, one played in the air, and the other on the ground.
    ~ Ben Hogan

    - I never pray on a golf course. Actually, the Lord answers my prayers everywhere except on the course.
    ~ Billy Graham

    - If you watch a game, it's fun. If you play at it, it's recreation. If you work at it, it's golf.
    ~ Bob Hope

    - While playing golf today, I hit two good balls. I stepped on a rake.
    ~ Henny Youngman

  14. My wife still uses the library for her light reading, though she reads on her iphone too. Mainly we go to the library for the kids though.

    At first I was quite skeptical of my iphone, but now I am a true believer to the extent that I don't know how I managed without it. On the one hand, I'm not quite square with the how important this little electronic device has become, but on the other hand, it's given my wife and I lot of great features to organize our busy lives and improve communication. Texting, for example, has turned into a godsend for us. The ability to read books is a bonus.

    I should also mention that there are apps that contain literally thousands of books that are no longer copyrighted. All the classics plus a lot of other good stuff.

    Like everyone else, it seems, I'm getting rid of many of what used to be a large collection of books. We pare down every PCS and this next one I intend to get rid of most of what's left which will be donated to the local library.

    I hate to say it, but I think the days of having a public library in almost every neighborhood are numbered, just like the days of having a local post office are numbered.

  15. Publius,
    I have no electronic items.I don't even have a music set up or cable.
    I also do not buy books except at the used bookstore and then return them after reading.
    I used to use libraries as a place of quiet and calm . I hid out in libraries, but no more. They are no longer calm since homeless people use them during daylight hours as a shelter. Since we do not provide an alternate they create their own shelters.The toilets are weird in this day and age.I've written on this at RAW.
    I too am a patron of the library- friend is the word we use.
    As for books my local County Super of Education calls me the guy with a book, and i call him the guy without a book. Reading is not revered in dirt florida. Reading is not he way out -winning the lottery is the escape route.
    I won't convert to electronic means unless an asteroid hits earth.
    Mike, i knew you could do it. I'm glad that i twisted your brain/arm.

  16. "I think the days of having a public library in almost every neighborhood are numbered, just like the days of having a local post office are numbered."

    While I agree that you're right, I can't find it in my heart to accept that we're making a good decision. Certain things are useful for citizenship beyond the mere fiscal balance sheet. Libraries - and post offices, and public schools - help citizens connect with each other and their polity. Remove them (or degrade them) and you hasten the return to the feudal/plutocratic divide with the knowledge and thus the power following those with the lucre to acquire them. I think of our late friend Charles, whose campaign to bring the Bushevik bastards was largely run out of his local libraries.

    Just another day in the Dumbing of America. Nothing to see here folks...move along, move along.

  17. Publius - Long ago, when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft.
    Today it's called golf. - Will Rogers

    Chief - I hope those days of fewer libraries and public schools do not arrive until long after I am gone. But I fear it has already started due to budget cuts. Our library system was closed for 8 days instead of just the Labor Day weekend. And no the librarians were not on paid vacation during that time. Thankfully you could still access them online. But that is not available to a large portion of our citizens.

    I had not read Twain's 'Roughing It' that you mention. Thanks for the tip. The library here has it but it is checked out with a waiting list. But I put it on hold, as I also did with Al's current read: 'Mussolini's Rome. With this post I was actually hoping to get more tips on good reads from this august group instead of turning it into a discussion of 'e-' versus 'paper'.

  18. Chief,

    It comes down to society's needs. I think by the time my kids are my age, libraries will be replaced with something else because books will be mostly electronic. Same with post offices. Already my local post office is deserted the few times a year I go there to mail a package or a certified letter. If I barely need to use the post office now, what's it going to be like in 40 years? And just to be clear, I do think postal "service" will stick around in some form, but stand-alone brinks-and-mortar post offices are probably going to go away.

    I don't think this has to do with any dumbing of America - it's simply the inevitable change due to technology.

  19. Ranger, I know you have a computer and you're damned good at it. So you're not the Luddite you purport to be. I actually have an IPod the kid got me for Christmas a couple of years ago; I keep it plugged into the car radio (you know my old car) mainly because I can't even get it to work properly when I'm taking an AM walk. So that's my electronics: computers, IPod. Thought about an IPad for the wife and for trips, but we've got an old, crappy laptop and as I've proclaimed: I am tight. Plus she doesn't want it and that's good enough for me.

    I think Andy's right about libraries and post offices. Our library has cut back hours and I suspect they'll keep doing so. The good news with libraries is that many are developing an electronic download capability, a la Kindle, which would address my tightwad tendencies. Bad news there is that there will certainly be some legal action from copyright holders due to the sheer volume of folks who will be able to "check out" the latest best seller. But I mostly read crap anyway, so I'm happy even with older mysteries, etc. And I can wait six months for a best seller to get stale.

    I get energized about the libraries. Our public services are going to shit, but the least these clowns who run our governments can do is keep the damned libraries open. I can live with some potholes, but when I look at all of the kids in the library on school afternoons, I know how important they are.

    The guy in charge of the USPS wants to do renegotiate some contracts with carriers, close a bunch of offices and eliminate Saturday deliveries as a means of addressing a large deficit. I'm down with that, but apparently even the Republican deficit freaks are too cowardly to find it in their hearts to cut back on the postal service to which Murricans have become accustomed, so it's unclear just what'll happen.

    Cautionary note to those who think the USPS can go away without a trace: I recently had to send something fairly time sensitive from my Hilton Head area locale to Cambridge. Two-three days is what I was looking for. Instead of trusting USPS, I sent a package of less than one pound via UPS. $22. USPS would have been about $5.

    So in response to Andy, I'd say, yeah, electronic may hit the sweet spot 75% of the time, or even more, but man, when you need that old fashioned brick and mortar, you really need it. My bottom line is that what we're seeing now is just the long, slow decline of our society. In the world of system engineering in which I once lived, the term was "graceful degradation," meaning various components could fail, but the overall system was sufficiently robust that it could continue to operate, albeit often at a less than optimal pace. That's us now: graceful degradation. We're lucky those bridge builders back in the 30s, 40s and 50s were better than they ever thought.

  20. Have to throw my hat in the ring with Publius. relying solely on technology for services such as libraries and the postal service would become an undue burden on the lower economic classes. Make them have to accept direct deposit pay, for example, and the fees associated with a checking account, ATM withdrawal fees and the like are regressively burdensome. Our grandson had a part time job that paid by deposit into an ATM only access account. He had to withdraw all but a couple of dollars of each pay check in one transaction (typical $2.00 or higher fee per ATM transaction) to keep from eating up his paltry pay in fees. So even the best case scenario, it cost him $2.00 or more every payday to collect his pay! Progress?

    Won't even begin to address the loss and costs to many as the USPS retrenches.

  21. Al,

    I don't know why anyone would use a banks with those kinds of fees. There are lots of options out there and some of the best ones are with credit unions. Why doesn't your grandson get a USAA account or switch banks?

    BTW, have you tried cashing a check recently? Unless you are at physical branch for a bank that you have an account with, you will be paying more than $2. Plus many places will put a hold on all or part of the money until the check clears.

  22. Andy-

    He has no choice in the matter. The employer, a national chain of retail stores, pays only by direct deposit to a debit card account of their particular payroll service. He only pays ATM fees, as it's not a bank where he has a "native" ATM where he lives (it's a one branch bank in the southeast), so all withdrawals of cash are charged "other bank" ATM fees.

    It's a totally automated system. He clocks in and out at a point of sales (POS) computer (formerly called "cash register"), which sends his hours worked to corporate HQ and the payroll service. He gets his "pay statements" via the POS computer the first time he logs in after payday. Pay is deposited to this debit card account and he can only access his pay via the debit card making purchases or ATM withdrawals. He gets no paper statements for the debit card account. Must check it on line. If an employee wishes, there is the ability to check the account using a store POS terminal. Weirdest system I have ever seen, but very "efficient" - for the employer.

    BTW, fewer and fewer banks are offering truly "free" checking. Generally requires either a minimum balance or a direct deposit paycheck. How many small businesses can afford the admin costs of direct deposit service?

    My point is that there are several "innovations" that are, in all reality, quite burdensome on lower income people. Access to money, bill paying and the like, via electronic means requires the cost of hardware and then access (broadband or dial up connection). 22% of the population is still not "connected".

  23. Al,

    It sounds like this is what he's got? If so he should be able to open a regular bank account and setup a regular direct deposit.

    The problem with checks is that unless you have a bank account, you're going to fork over a ton of money to a check-cashing service to get it cashed or go to walmart (if there's one nearby) to get it cashed for $3. I don't see how that's any better than the electronic option.

  24. I don't see the disappearance of the POs as an "inevitable change" or due to technology, either. People still need to get, if nothing else, legal notices through the mail, and I still would rather send a package first class through the PO for a couple of bucks than spend a double sawbuck on the damn UPS (who, if I send it to a rural address, will contract with the USPS to deliver it, anyway).

    I see it - and the desuetude of the libraries, rather, as what Publius sees it; the deliberate abandonment of those people and places We the Majority find inconvenient. Poor people, rural people...all those goobers in the flyover states? No e-mail? No Kindle? Too bad for you, loser!

    We seem to have no qualms paying for pantsloads of useless weaponry, but to keep the public facilities that provide a tenuous connection to the world for the poorer and weaker and more isolated Americans? Hah! Why on earth would THAT ever matter?

  25. Just to clarify, I don't think the postal service will go away, but I think most post offices will.

  26. Andy-

    His employer only offered the paycard, at least to part time employees, who are the numerical majority of the store staff, and typically high school and college kids. He worked for the firm for three years (Sr in HS and 2 yrs while in college). His major complaint was that since he could only draw money in cash or purchases, there was no way to deposit it in his USAA checking account by mail or scanner, unless his dad gave him a check in return for cash. He called it "checking my cash".

    The company is a youth oriented operation with a couple of thousand stores in the US. Grandson did some web research on the firm handling the payroll operations, and one of their selling points is their competitively low charge for the "total package" payroll service, as they openly state that the earnings on the payroll monies that remain on deposit help to keep client costs down. Grandson did a conservative ballpark estimate on the average amount of funds "floating" on deposit in the paycard provider's accounts. He figured a typical part time staffing of 250 manhours/week/store at $8/hr for 3,500 stores for a $7 million weekly payroll. He figured that the bank also earned "swipe fees" when the card was used to make purchases as well as earning potential on the funds that are not yet withdrawn at any point in time.

    They get around laws prohibiting fees to collect pay simply by not charging fees themselves, but since the bank has no branch offices, every ATM withdrawal is subject to the dispensing machine's "other bank" fees.

    It is not only a technological "advance", but it enables the payroll process to capture earnings directly from "disbursed" payroll funds technically in the employees' possession, but still in the processors' bank account, as well as processing fees when the employee uses the card as a debit card for a purchase. Nice work, if you can get it.

    Direct deposit does not afford the post payday earnings of paycards. In fact, when the wife's employer (major US airline) was in the process of going to direct deposit, the CEO jokingly told employees that they were moving as quickly as possible, even though, with his reputation as a tightwad, it pained him to lose the "float" earnings inherent in a check based payroll for 100,000 employees.

  27. Andy: I should expand a little on my flip comment of the above.

    I said the "dumbing of America". I should have said the "RE-dumbing of America".

    Because I'll posit that for most of our history most of us have been as ignorant as stumps. Education beyond basic readin', writin' and figgerin' was reserved for a relatively small portion of American society from Independence until after WW2. To some extent it was leavened by the vigor of our social discourse - you HAD to get a little learnin' to take part in American democracy in the 19th Century (whether or not you could vote was another issue entirely, especially if you had the personal problem of being black, yellow, red, or lacked a penis). But for most of our history knowledge, and most of our public business, was restricted to the "rich, the well-born, and the able".

    For a relatively brief period - I'll say starting in the mid- and continuing into the end of the 20th Century - we experimented with trying to bring a much wider group of people into American public life; poor people, darkish people, women people. And to a great extent - to an extent unpleasant to the white guys who form the strong right arm of the Republican Party - that has succeeded. It had to do with a vast expansion of things like libraries and colleges, fueled by things like integration and the GI Bill. It, to a great extent, created the mass democracy we all grew up in.


    I think that tide is receding.

    And I think that a hell of a lot of what we're seeing all across the political, economic, and social spheres has to do with that.

    It's both cause AND effect; the transfer of wealth upwards, the loss of social mobility, the defunding of public institutions that discouraged the former and enabled the latter.

    And the "electronic revolution" has hurt there, too.

    Our generation has adapted to electronic media, but we LEARNED how to use the dead-tree forms. Card catalogs, periodical reviews, tracking footnotes and references. Dictionaries, encyclopedias...we learned the function before the form changed.

    From what I've seen teaching at both high school and college level, if it ain't in Wikipedia, about 87% of all students can't or won't find it.

    Those paper book skills have degraded very, very badly. Electronics makes good consumers; analysts? Not so much. And, of course, the ones worst affected are the ones whose parents are not very literate themselves...helping return us to the place where the wealthy have not just the money, but the knowledge, too.

    So when you add on closing branch libraries - where poor kids MIGHT have gone to help escape the electronic cul-de-sac - as part of this problem.

    And I think you're right - the libraries and the post offices will close and never re-open. And I think that will help us another jog or two down the Road Back to the Gilded Age.

  28. Al,

    So this ATM card is the only way he can get his pay? He can't do direct deposit, or a an electronic transfer to a regular bank account, or demand a paper check? If that's the case, I'd be calling his state attorney general. Based on my limited research, it's illegal in most states to not offer at least one of those options.


    Well, it doesn't have to be that way. Part of education should be teaching people how to do proper research. I didn't learn that in high school and I barely learned it in college. It wasn't until my intelligence training that I began to figure it out and it wasn't until graduate school (where the first required course was called "research methods") that I became a decent researcher. This goes back to a lot of my criticisms of the education system which seems to be a couple of generations behind. My kids don't need to learn cursive or the dewey decimal system or card catalogs any number of other things I had to learn in school. Most of the "dead tree" stuff didn't help me much and it's certainly not going to help my kids. How is it going to help them to learn the card catalog or dewey decimal system? We shouldn't assume that the way we learned things is any better or even necessary for them.

    Secondly, you are assuming that libraries and post offices won't be replaced by something else. The fact is that they are already being replaced and that trend is only going to continue. I think you guys should consider that advocating for maintaining these old institutions is, in fact, advocating for a two-tiered "gilded age" where the poor are forced to use inadequate legacy institutions while the rest of us have moved onto something else. Instead of doubling-down on existing models, maybe we need to transition from subsidizing these old methods to subsidizing the new methods so that everyone can access them.

    That is going to be a long process. Traditional libraries and post offices and a lot of other things are going to be around for quite a while because they still serve their communities, but I look at my kids and their peers and I see the writing on the wall. I don't think you're doing the poor any favors by sticking them with 1950's tools while the rest of us are buzzing along in the 21st century.

  29. Al - I would bet a donut against a dozen that the 3,500 store chain that your grandson works for gets a healthy kickback from the firm that does its payroll ops.

  30. Mike-

    I'm sure the get it in either cash or reduced payroll charges.

  31. For fewer Post Offices I read that to mean in rural areas, probably blue rural areas since the Republicans rule the House. But now that I think about it, they will probably shut down some Post Offices in inner city areas also.

    In Washington State we vote by mail in the general election, there are no polling places, at least in my county. And many here in rural areas and small towns use a PO Box at the local post office as they are concerned about tweakers ripping off their mail from a streetfront mailbox, or because they live far off the beaten track down dirt roads where the postman does not deliver. The end result will be voter suppression.

    Lots of other of my poorer neighbors use postal money orders instead of a checking account to pay their bills.

    But then the corporate world will probably flood in, for example the UPS subsidiary "Mail Boxes ETC" is just one of many waiting in the wings for this to happen. So your first class 41-cent Forever stamp will have a (ahem) small surcharge - just a tiny one. Right!!! It will double or triple when the post offices start getting scarce. The same with fees for money orders. It would be interesting to see a list and dollar value of congressional contributions by UPS and the rest of that industry.

  32. Sounds like it's a good time to modernize our election system which is one of the most backward in the developed world.

  33. Andy: Sounds like it's a good time to modernize our election system which is one of the most backward in the developed world.

    Since suppressing turn out is a major goal of some political groups, why would we want to modernize?

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